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Summary: Lestrade is back at work, and a routine bit of legwork turns dangerous. For once it is only marginally Mycroft Holmes's fault. What happens later, well that's different. Very different. Very different indeed.

Rating: PG

Wordcount: 7600

This really is the final part of A Reliable Man. It does rely rather heavily on what has gone before, so it is important to read from the beginning:  Part One: First Encounter

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The first person Lestrade saw when he finally got back to work was his DCI who somehow managed to intercept him before he made it to the lifts.

Moe ran an eye over Lestrade and grunted. "I suppose it's all Official Secrets Act stuff and I'll never know why I was down a DI for damn near six weeks?" he said.

"'Fraid so boss." said Lestrade. "All I can say is I'm glad to be back with real coppers because that lot... well it was a bit of a bloody shambles."

"Two weeks stress leave would point to that, yeah. Well if they sniff around again, you tell 'em they can't borrow our things again if they don't look after 'em properly."

Lestrade grinned at that. "It's good to be back."

"Let's see if you still say that when you see the backlog!" said Moe, as the lift door opened.

Lestrade wasn't lying when he said he was glad to be back. After a couple of days of rest and relaxation he had run out of things to do and gone a bit stircrazy.

Well.. no... He now knew what that meant and whatever his boredom and aimlessness was like, it wasn't like that.

He'd had another meeting with Mycroft Holmes, who provided more coffee and pastries and an update on the ongoing investigation into the corruption in the specialist unit. Which was now disbanded, it appeared Holmes had found more than one problematic copper there and had moved swiftly. He'd assured Lestrade that the ones who had been clean had gone to other specialist anti-terrorist squads. Lestrade didn't ask about the ones who weren't. He just enjoyed the excellent coffee, the strange sweet pastries (Moroccan, Holmes had said) and the way the conversation ranged were it would. A pleasant afternoon in a sea of boredom.

But he was back at work now, and even routine wasn't as boring as leave had been.

(He might not say the same about a very long morning of meetings with HR about leave and compensation and medical reports and compliance training. Five weeks of admin bullshit in one morning was best
forgotten)

Donovan had dealt with the various cases they'd had on the go. Moe had decided to see how she would go and so hadn't split the work up amongst the other DIs but had let her get on with it and report to him.

Lestrade was happy with that. More visibility wouldn't hurt her, and neither would stretching her wings a bit. He made a note to take her out to a damn good lunch sometime soon in celebration of a job well done.

He was champing at the bit to get back into some real work, so he dived headfirst into the current workload. Which, despite Moe's warning, wasn't much - apparently the citizens of London had taken a bit of a break from knocking each other off. Aside from a knifing in Finsbury (consequences of an armed robbery, the gang squad was taking an interest) and a suspicious death-in-the-bath (which was waiting on the autopsy report - Donovan reckoned it really was a stroke or heart attack rather than someone copying George Joseph Smith), there was only the cleanup from previous jobs. Seems the team had gone from horribly overworked to light and easy while he'd been gone. As sometimes happened.

Amongst the cleanups was the finishing up of the murders of Geoffrey Maddox and Lyn Starling. The killer had been taken down with tasers and the odd baton, so was a bit the worse for wear. Add to that the inevitable insanity plea and they still didn't have a court date. Stanner was glad to hand the file back to him, noting there were a few odds and sods they still needed but on the whole the CPS wasn't interested until they knew if he'd be standing trial or off to Broadmoor in a funny coat.

Lestrade decided to finish it up and get it out of the way, besides he didn't want to go trampling over the work his people were doing on the current cases unless he had to. Donovan was doing a good job and he wasn't going to undermine her.

So he refreshed his memory of the two killings and worked out what would be needed to nail the case down properly, some information from Holmes about Maddox and a few stray documents from Starling's school that the previous team had missed.

Once that was done then his desk was clear and he'd be ready to take new jobs on.

Most of the rest of the day was spent chatting and catching up, he'd do the final legwork at the school and Holmes's office tomorrow.

Lestrade was way too happy to be back in harness to muse on how different he felt about seeking out Holmes over these killings compared to the first time.


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It was latish when he got to Holmes's office (this one off the Strand, he wondered how many the man had!) to be shown in by Anthea who offered him a smile and a cup of tea which he accepted with a grateful smile of his own, and settled down at the side table where he had an excellent view of Mycroft Holmes in action.

He was acknowledged with a glance and a nod by the man at the desk who was discussing something stiflingly bureaucratic by the sound of it. Holmes's voice was by turns fussy and stern, he sounded like a man who had been working at ledgers all day. (Or whatever the modern equivalent was, Lestrade wouldn't be surprised to find out there were bits of the government that still used ledgers.)

The conversation finished, Holmes sat back and composed himself. "I'm afraid I cannot be with you just yet Inspector, there's a Situation brewing. I do not expect it to take much longer."

He then turned to his computer, focusing as intently on that as he had on the phone call.

All coppers are people watchers, at least the good ones are. So Lestrade watched. He watched the way the long fingers wrote short neat notes on the pad, the minute changes of expression as Holmes worked the keyboard or spoke on the phone, the way he moved to reach for things.

An elegant man, very spare in his movements, neat by temperament and long practice rather than conscious care. Capable of strong focus on more than one thing, but then Lestrade knew that already.

Suddenly those blue eyes were focused on him.

"Inspector, what would your reaction be if someone told you they'd be in Brega to watch Arsenal play Brega?"

"I'd think they were being a bit hopeful. The qualifier's not till tomorrow and unless Seville do something silly Brega won't make the cut."

Holmes flashed that amazing smile, making Lestrade grin in return. "Thank you, that has made things much clearer. If you were considering betting on the football in the near future then I suggest that you don't. It is clear someone is very certain Brega will make the cut."

The phone rang, Holmes answered it with "Yes Minister" which made Lestrade grin again. He had no doubt Holmes was going to manipulate whichever politician was on the line as adroitly as the fictional Sir Humphrey did. He expected the words "That's quite courageous Minister" any moment.

What he got was "We don't know yet Minister. We do know our agents found him before he could abstract the physical files, but what else he has been able to pass on we won't be able to tell for some time. Yes, we are... talking to him now. The cover story we have given his embassy is that he's asked for asylum, they won't believe it of course but it is how these things are done."

"No Minister, we have that covered. Thank you."

He hung up with a fleeting expression of distaste and made another call. "Marcus. I have been talking with the Minister... yes, exactly. We will need some good headlines tomorrow, can you arrange something? No, I don't think that's possible, I'll see if MI6 can cover it. Send one of their fancy types in to make a bit of noise."

Lestrade tried very hard not to wonder what this Situation was. Or just what Holmes did in this office. There were more calls, Holmes's voice and manner changing subtly on each, as though he was a different man having each conversation. He had thought there was only one Mycroft Holmes, he was now wondering just how many there were.

They were all of them very much in control though. Even when the conversation seemed to be going round in circles Holmes kept his voice even and his breathing controlled although in the middle of that call he caught Lestrade's eye and flashed such an utterly fed up look at the phone that Lestrade nearly inhaled his tea.

Somewhere in the middle of it all the cups were refreshed, different files appeared and the old ones vanished. Lestrade was given a trickle of papers and DVDs relating to his case, discussing them with Holmes in the intervals between phone calls and sudden intent focus on whatever was on the man's screen.

It was after nearly three hours of this that Holmes sat up, patted his tie and cufflinks into exact place and looked at Lestrade. "I think it is all under control now. I do apologise for keeping you so late, would you care to have dinner with me?"

Lestrade's stomach agreed that it was bloody close to dinner time, and he accepted with thanks. He gathered up the various files to be stopped by a dismissive wave from Holmes. "Never mind those Inspector, I will have them sent to your office." What it was to have minions Lestrade thought. He'd be lucky to find a spare DC never mind being able to persuade one to deliver papers.

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The evening was warm enough that Lestrade removed his jacket and slung it over his shoulder as he walked with Holmes out into the open air.

Given what he'd been listening to he was somewhat surprised that Holmes was sauntering out into the open streets without any sort of entourage. Perhaps his security was following at a distance, Lestrade looked around to see if he could spot them.

"I don't have a security tail Inspector" said Holmes, reading him like a book as usual. "After all, I am just a civil servant with a minor role in the Government."

Lestrade looked sideways at him and snorted, a sound met by a slight twitch of the lips.

He felt a bit silly for wondering if he was in a spy movie, expecting some bad guy to materialise and stab the man next to him with a radioactive umbrella. Poetic justice or something... But the feeling wouldn't leave him and he was just that bit on edge as they made their way down Bedford St in search of dinner.

Which was why, when the fight broke out ahead of them, he reacted with much more than a raised eyebrow.

Nothing draws a crowd like a fight: all surrounding eyes were on the two yelling men. Lestrade's instincts flared because whatever draws eyes is very good cover for something else... And a closer look at the combatants ramped his paranoia to unbearable levels.

"The one in the khaki shirt was hanging about your office when we left" he said "and I think I saw him when I went in three hours ago. Let's get out of here now!"

"A diversion you think Inspector? Very well, we shall take this street"

They changed direction suddenly, swerving around a knot of people who had stopped for the fight and into a side street, Lestrade lengthening his stride to get as much room as possible between them and whatever that diversion was designed to cover.

They hadn't got more than a few yards in when swift footsteps sounded behind them.

He half turned to put himself between whoever it was and Holmes using arm and body to shove Holmes back and to the side, wondering as he did so if he was over-reacting to someone running for a bus.

The twist and step back saved him, perhaps the shove did too as the man in the brown suit coming at them starting that stereotypical upward knife thrust was startled by the movement and hesitated for a moment as his targets vanished.

Lestrade took advantage of the hesitation to sweep his jacket off his shoulder hard onto the knife hand, covering the blade and hindering the man's movement for a fraction of a second. Long enough to slam his right fist into the man's face with all his weight and his fear behind it.

As the man grunted and twisted back, Lestrade grabbed for the knife arm but got a handful of coat instead. He lurched forward trying to be inside the knife's range, the knife man sidestepped and whacked his left hand into Lestrade's head in some sort of karate chop. That dazed Lestrade so much he nearly missed his clutch at the man's hair and ears but he managed to get hands on him and pull his head hard forward for a sloppy but more or less effective Glasgow Kiss. Which made him see even more stars!

He staggered - nearly losing his balance - but managed to avoid the body as it dropped, thanking God he'd managed to nut the bastard before he'd been cut.

That there were two of them was unfortunate.

He saw #2 as #1 hit the ground, saw the hand and the blade and the face and the surprise as something long and black and pointed slammed past Lestrade's shoulder and into #2's throat.

Lestrade stood for a long moment, stunned.

Then his survival instincts took over, if there were two there might be three or the bods playfighting as a diversion might come looking and get into a real fight.

They had to get out of here now, into a building, somewhere defensible, the open street was danger. He turned to Holmes who had his foot on #2's knife hand and was examining the tip of his umbrella.

"We have to get off the street" he barked, trying to look everywhere at once.

"I have called for my people." said Holmes and if it hadn't been for the time spent Holmes-watching that afternoon, Lestrade would have said he was unconcerned.

Lestrade ignored the bodies, one down and out, one thrashing on the floor half choking and scanned the street for more. No one coming near, just someone with a shocked expression and a mobile phone taking video which would probably be on YouTube inside 30 minutes.

He'd no idea how long it would take for the police to turn up but he did know he'd have some explaining to do, this was going to be all over the papers. Never mind that though, he had to get Holmes somewhere safe, his "people" could pick him up there. They wouldn't thank Lestrade for letting Holmes loll about here being six foot something of clear target.

But how the hell could he get them out? There were more eyes upon them, more mobiles recording video, which meant he couldn't leave #2 lying there and risk front page headlines about callous coppers leaving men to die.

"At least get your back to a bloody wall!" he growled at Holmes as he dropped to one knee for a quick look. At least it seemed #2 wasn't going to die just yet, breathing was obviously difficult but he was breathing.

He pinned a nearby gawker with a look, ordered "Call an ambulance. Now!", and kept the look on him until the man fumbled for triple 9.

There was a disturbance off to the right, he shot up and stepped back in front of Holmes, wondering if he should take the umbrella for a weapon, now wouldn't that look good on the nine o'clock news!

The disturbance was the local uniforms and Holmes's people turning up at about the same time.

Lestrade flashed his warrant card but he needn't have bothered. Holmes was on his mobile, and before Lestrade could get much past giving his name the senior constable was taking an urgent radio message. Next thing Lestrade knew he and Holmes were being escorted by a couple of biggish men in snappy suits towards a familiar black car parked half on the footpath as though parking regulations were for lesser mortals. Which, he supposed, they were.

Once inside the car, he could more or less relax. With luck it would be all someone else's problem and he could hope that Holmes would cite National Security and Lestrade wouldn't have to fill in any damn forms.

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The house was fairly typical for the area: three stories of white stone and bay windows. And worth something like sixty times Lestrade's annual salary. Or more.

Lestrade got out of the car wondering if he should find the tradesman's entrance.

Holmes headed for the door, the car and its follower containing the snappy men in suits headed off for the Bat-Cave or wherever they came from. Lestrade followed Holmes through the door and into a panelled hallway, the rooms on either side furnished in Expensively Elegant..

He felt horribly out of place, as though he was tracking mud in on his big flat feet. Holmes read his mind as usual, dismissing the whole set up with a wave of his hand. "One must occasionally... play host to certain people.. The ambiance is expected. These rooms aren't used except for that."

They went through into a kitchen that was also expensive. But, Lestrade noticed, it was used. He'd been in places with top of the line everything where the only item in constant use was the microwave but he was fairly certain someone was cooking here regularly. It was neat but not photoshoot neat the way the outer rooms had been, and the copper bottoms of the pans showed definite marks of use and of age as well. The implements were not matched, there was a teatowel on the bench, crockery on the draining board, and a paperback book on the table.

Probably had someone to cook for him Lestrade thought. He clearly had the money for it.

Holmes waved him to a seat at the table, saying "There is still the matter of dinner Inspector, are you ah... ready to eat something?"

Lestrade realised he was more than ready and said so.

"In that case, please select from this, anything you wish although I suggest something from the pasta menu as it will arrive in reasonable speed."

The menu was Italian, the dishes recognisable, and the prices surprisingly reasonable for the area. Lestrade hesitated for a bit, finally choosing almost at random. Holmes didn't look at the menu as he ordered, which meant his hours were probably as irregular as Lestrade's. So who did the cooking and when?

Putting his mobile away Holmes opened a cupboard and said "Brandy Inspector?"

Lestrade thought a stiff drink was perfect! "Yes please" he said. "And some ice."

Holmes looked at him with a definite Posh Bastard expression: eyebrow raised, lips pursed with suppressed distaste.

Lestrade snorted. "Not for the drink. For this." he said, holding up his rapidly swelling right hand.

Holmes's face cleared and he brought the bottle of brandy - French, and Lestrade was only mildly surprised to see it was Armagnac not Cognac, after all why would Holmes do anything in any way normal - to the table. Pouring it into two balloon glasses he passed one to Lestrade and went to the pigeon pair fridge/freezer in the kitchen.

"This should be suitable" he said, as he reached for Lestrade's right hand. He held the hand for a moment, looking at the swelling and the grazes and flicking his eyes up to meet Lestrade's.

"But first it should be cleaned up a little, wait a moment if you will."

He vanished, returning a moment later with a first aid kit and a damp cloth. He took Lestrade's hand in his, wiping the grazes gently. Lestrade twitched as the antiseptic stung, and Holmes stilled instantly, looking up in enquiry then, apparently satisfied, went back to his work. Lestrade leant back in his chair, rather enjoying the gentle touch. Made a change from fixing it up himself or worse dealing with a snarky nurse's aide at the Yard who would scrub it with sandpaper if you were lucky.

Holmes placed a small plaster over the worst of the damage before gently laying a cold pack in a snowy white cotton cover onto Lestrade's abused knuckles. He held the hand for a moment longer before placing it back on the table, carefully resettling the pack, then narrowing his eyes as he looked more closely at Lestrade.

"I take it you have no obvious symptoms of concussion or other injury beyond those bruises?" he said, reaching out to ghost a finger over what felt like a thickening ear.

"Not even a headache. I'll ice it turn about with the hand and all will be right in the morning."

Holmes looked unconvinced but said nothing more about it.

Lestrade swirled the Armagnac in the glass, obviously working up to say something, Mycroft Holmes waited, willing him to speak.

"I haven't thanked you for backing me up back there." He looked up, clearly uncomfortable.

"Given... who you are, you'd have been sensible to take off. Call your people, get out of there. Not waste any time."

Mycroft looked at him, somewhat surprised. "You really think I should have left you to the second attacker? Saved myself and left you?"

"It's what most people would have done." Lestrade said baldly. "Run, or stayed back to leave it to the copper. Leave it to the ones paid for it. There aren't many would step in and risk their lives to save a bobby."

"Few people are capable of violence unless seriously provoked."

That's true, but it doesn't matter whether it's some bloke with a knife or someone yelling, or just talking at a party." Lestrade shrugged, clearly an old grievance worn smooth with time.

"The police... we are on our own. It isn't just the hours, it's how other people see you. You tell someone you are police and they look at you.. well... they search their conciences. They can only think 'police' they can never think 'man'.

Everything they do or say is tainted by 'he's a cop, have to be careful.' Silly jokes about handcuffs are the least of it. What hurts is they shut you out."

Lestrade laughed mirthlessly. "I suppose vicars have the same problem. But no one expects a vicar to beat them up."

"They expect police to?"

"Well.. maybe not quite that far but they do expect you to heavy them. Everyone has a guilty conscience you see.. It's the authority, the power. The fact we can do things other people can't and enforce laws other people think are stupid. Speeding. Smoking dope. They don't see the bodies and the ruined families, so to them the laws are stupid. And we are the bully boys, who should be going after real crims but will nick them instead. Most a vicar will do is pray at them."

Mycroft nodded, watching the play of light in the glass. Power was an uncomfortable thing for most people to come in contact with. He himself walked a careful line because the fewer people whom he dealt with who understood his power, the better. "Minor government official" was as much to soothe as to mislead.

"Once they realise the power," he said "realise how you are different... Some are afraid. And hate that they are. So pretend they are not but still distance themselves from you..."

He paused.

"It happens to everyone who has power. The greater the perceived power, the less you are a man and the more you are someone to be pleased. Or used... Or feared."

Another pause.

"Even if you would want them to feel none of those things."

Looking up from his glass, he watched Lestrade. He had not expected to have this conversation but now it was happening he could not shy away.

"There are times, Inspector, you have used your power suddenly and without warning because you have had to, correct? And, I expect, times you have abused it too. "

Lestrade looked at him, eyes narrowed a fraction, seeing where it was going, nodding warily.

"It happens" he said. "Every copper's been there. Personal gain, anger, even being so damn scared you just about piss yourself. Coppers understand that. It's why cops marry cops. They are the only ones who know. Who realise what the job is. The only ones who don't look at you like that. The hours, the stress, the temptations. No one else understands."

"Anyone with genuine power would understand I think."

The brown eyes hardened.

"Small abuses happen yeah. Those are easy. But big ones, well that's different. A bad cop is a bad cop."

They were both tense now. Talking around the subject. Neither willing to come right out and say it. Talk about what was between them. What had happened.

One of them might have, if the bell had not rung.

The food, in ceramic serving dishes and not plastic boxes, was excellent. The red wine was smooth and full.

The conversation was light and inconsequential and nothing about police or power or the abuse of same.

Lestrade left, soon after they had eaten. He did accept Mycroft's offer of a lift home and he did agree to say something if there were repercussions from the evening's incident.

Mycroft did not sleep for some time that night.

Lestrade took sleeping pills..

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Mycroft Holmes finished the last briefing report, closed the file, and decided he couldn't put the problem off any longer.

Inspector Lestrade.

He had to keep calling him that in his mind, keep his distance. He suspected that keeping that distance was not helping his...well... relationship was probably not the word, but it had to be done.

He had tried to suppress his feelings after they had overwhelmed him and brought disaster but it was clear that wasn't working.

They had formed some kind of working partnership but that was not enough. It just made the longings worse and forbade him to do anything about them.

Lestrade was either a tool or a friend and possible lover. He couldn't be both.

Mycroft laid out what he knew.

Lestrade was strong and honest, and perhaps a little short tempered. Brave and intelligent and searingly independent. Treated as a colleague he was co-operative and willing. Pushed he would fight back, or else withdraw and refuse.

Chained and hurting he had flinched from Mycroft's touch. Free and met as an equal he had accepted it and even welcomed it a few moments later.

Pressured and with, as Mycroft had thought, no place to run he had run anyway. Found a way to escape. In every encounter they had had where Mycroft had sought to control him, he had resisted and evaded the control. Until the pressure had been too much for either of them.

Mycroft Holmes was under no illusion as to where he stood compared to the majority of men. More intelligent, more able, more powerful than the vast majority, he could have sexual partners of any kind had he wished, even ones who would simulate strength if that was what he demanded. Ones who would resist if that was what he demanded.

But if he wanted Lestrade he could not demand. If he wanted that strength, that integrity, the man who did not lie to him or bow to him but looked after him and smiled to make his world sing... If he wanted him then it had to be as equals.

If he had learned anything from his twisted relationship with Sherlock it must be that.

But how to get Lestrade to understand that? To get past his obvious issues of class and money? And even if he did, that dreadful night where Mycroft had mistaken everything about his own feelings and had tried to take what could only work if given... that night was against him.

"How can you trust me?" he had asked, and the only possible answer had been understood but unspoken.

Trust cannot be demanded, it has to be earned. If Mycroft wanted Lestrade - and he did, he must face that and acknowledge it - then he must fully earn that trust.

If he could.

What he was about to do now would be the turning point. Lead to his desires, or shatter them and ruin everything.

Mycroft Holmes steepled his hands and looked past them into the middle distance, thinking.

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There are many ways the conversation could have gone.

In a car, discussing it in the abstract, not looking at each other.

In an office, discussing a case, discussing it as though they were not hoping the other would see the parallels.

Over dinner, light and easy, just barely touched on.

Instead it was in Lestrade's flat, with past horrors playing through both men's minds, and nowhere to run.

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Lestrade would have been earlyish home, well earlyish for him, except some brain dead bureaucratic snarl blew up out of nowhere and had to be sorted before he could leave.

He might not have much waiting for him at his flat but anything was better than that.

He remembered thinking that, remembered it in the sort of blinding clarity you remember a gun pointed at you.

Because, of course, he was quite, quite wrong.

Nothing in the letterbox, up the stairs, unlock and shoulder the door open balancing his briefcase and his coat in his other hand, step inside, look up, and see something much much worse than any administrative ballsup standing there looking at him.

The sofa. The table. The nightmare personified. Twice in reality so many times in his dreams.

He stopped. His breath stopped. His heart didn't stop, it hammered.

But life does go on, and after the first sharp sudden shock he recovered quite quickly. Practice he supposed.

Practice and the fact that this was not like the other times. Holmes was not sitting down, relaxed, aloof, in control, in charge. He had shot to his feet and was standing almost braced for bad news.

On the table was not a bottle of whiskey but a tangle of electronics.

For once Holmes did not offer his hand. Lestrade had got rather used to that odd habit, the offer of equality, the human touch. You don't know what you've got till it's gone.

They stood looking at each other. Lestrade tense and bewildered, Holmes tense and focused.

"This will be the last time. And this " Holmes said, pointing at the table "will not be replaced."

Lestrade stepped forward to pick up the tangle of wires. A lens gleamed in the light. A camera! A bloody camera! He searched the room looking for where it had been.

"In the Northwestern corner Inspector. On the top of the pelmet. Out of the way and close enough to a window for the transmitter to work."

Lestrade turned the tangle over in his hands. Small enough to be invisible if you didn't know it was there, but plenty big enough to show everything in the room with a fish eye lens. Every thing he did in here. On show to whoever the hell monitored Holmes's network.

He could feel his temper build.

"Since when?"

"Since the night I ah... discussed finances with you." said Holmes, holding up his hand in a calming gesture. Lestrade was not inclined to be calmed but he did let Holmes continue.

"The information was sent directly to me. My operatives have not seen it. I have destroyed all copies."

Lestrade threw the camera onto the floor, barely restraining himself from stomping it into shards.

"So 'no cameras' was a bloody lie was it? Every time I think I can trust you... But why? Why put it there, why remove it?"

Holmes looked down, examining his feet almost nervously. When he looked up he couldn't meet Lestrade's eyes. "I had it put it there.. after you gave me that resignation letter. You had bested me, and I... I needed to recover ground. I needed to know more, to watch you. To get the information I needed to control you. "

Lestrade said nothing. He couldn't trust himself to speak.

"And when I... when... well after... after that night I realised I couldn't control you without doing serious violence to myself. And... And that control wasn't what I wanted."

Holmes still was not able to look at him, the disjointed speech being delivered to the wall over Lestrade's shoulder.

"Then you were hurt and I used it to watch over you. Because I couldn't stand the idea you were hurt and I wasn't there to help. I told myself it was because Sherlock needed you. I wouldn't let myself think I needed you."

Lestrade watched Holmes's face. His hands. The usually arrogant stance was subtly different, the hands were still but it was the stillness of hard control not of calm.

Suddenly, baldly, Holmes said "I wanted you to need me, but now I know you don't. You can look after yourself. "

Lestrade dragged his eyes from Holmes, and sat down in the nearest chair, trying to absorb what he'd just heard. He wished he hadn't dropped the camera, it would have given him something to do with his hands. Instead he started manipulating the left with the right, falling automatically into the physiotherapy exercise while he tried to make sense of what Holmes was saying. Bending the hand back to the point of pain, resisting the pull, relaxing, watching himself do it. While his thoughts churned.

From the corner of his eye he saw Holmes examining his nails, fingers touching fingers in an almost nervous way.

Mycroft Holmes watched Lestrade as he sat there. Watched him but terrifyingly unable to meet his eyes.

The silence dragged on, Lestrade's right hand pulling his left monotonously, his expressive face showing nothing that Mycroft could read.

This was foolish he realised. A reasonable working relationship was all they would have, and as seeing as being in Lestrade's presence disconcerted him and upset his life and his thoughts and his digestion he couldn't really afford even that. He'd not understood just what the man was doing to him until it was too late. The signs in anyone else would have been perfectly clear, but who watches the watcher?

He would not walk out, he must stay until the bitter humiliating end.

It was the least he could do to repay Lestrade, to finish what he started. And then he must learn to do without, to go back to his calm ordered life in his calm ordered office. To forget the laughter and the easy conversation, the quick stunning smile, the strength and the competence and the comfortable silences and the way he felt when his hand grasped Lestrade's.

He could do it, people did it all the time.

He had to find once more that place where he was calm and content in his web of information and intrigue, calm and content in his circuit of home and office and club, in the ordered life of the intellect. Solitary and aloof.

The only life he'd had or wanted until now.

The only life he could have. Because why would this man want him? Want someone who had blackmailed him to resign his job of twenty years, forced him into sexual humiliation, deprived him of his privacy, left him in the hands of torturing thugs in order to gain information?

Mycroft Holmes stilled his hands and waited for the verdict.

Lestrade's thoughts were jumbled, incoherent. That dreadful night, he'd thought it was about power and so it was. That it had been about something else, that he hadn't known. But looking back... Looks and gestures and smiles and that habit of taking his hand. Had he dreamed Holmes had been by his bed in hospital or had he been there?

To be wanted, didn't everyone want that? But for what?

Touches and smiles, and light conversation. Easy laughter, easy silences, sudden intense stares from those blue eyes so unlike the dismissive alien glances he got from Sherlock. Genuine liking he thought, genuine care. Genuine respect. A man could get used to that.

But... but only sometimes. He remembered thinking it, the default was Posh Bastard and just look at his house. Sherlock slummed it because Sherlock didn't give a shit, borderline autistic, no social graces at all. This bloke had a house with reception rooms! When he had what he wanted, would he still want it?

Lestrade was no fool. He'd seen too many infatuations gone bad to trust in fairy tales. Even when (to his surprise, it was a night of surprises) he very much wanted to.

"Need me? For what? What am I to you? I don't fit in your life at all. As soon as there's anyone else in the offing you act as though I'm the bloody tea boy. I don't think you've called me by my name in all the time we've known each other, am I supposed to believe you want more than a bit of rough for the thrill of it?"

Holmes was looking at him now. "It isn't I'm ashamed to be seen with you, it is that I can't afford to be anything less than formal with you."

Lestrade snorted in disbelief. He stood up, needing to be eye to eye.

"What, because I'll ruin your reputation? To be seen with a bit of rough trade? Lose face in the club?"

"No. No! The formality enables me to be stable when you are there. It stops me focusing on my feelings. Without it I can't keep myself properly together. I want to be with you and enjoy myself... If I keep to formal interaction I can control myself. If I don't I can't. It isn't just you, I am formal and aloof to everyone. Even Sherlock. "

It was like a blinding light.

"It's how you keep sane isn't it. " he said slowly "The formality. That's the barrier you built between you and what you do... " He fumbled for words, working it out. "And you can't afford to make a hole in it, you can't afford to weaken it."

But then... "So why all this? Are you making a hole or bricking one up? If you need the formality, if you can't handle being around me, why are you here, why didn't you just remove that bloody camera and get on with your life?"

Holmes was looking everywhere but at him again.

"I used to think I couldn't afford you. Because you... you made me drop that barrier and forget myself completely." The next words were so soft he had to lean forward to hear them. "No one should ever forget themselves completely when they have a loaded gun in their hands..."

"I tried to distance myself, to get rid of those feelings. Wall them off or stamp them down or break them up. But I couldn't. I couldn't have what I wanted and I couldn't stop wanting. So I had to learn how to manage my feelings about you."

Lestrade didn't know what to say. The raw honesty was just not Mycroft Holmes, not as he knew the man. He kept perfectly still, perfectly quiet, wondering what Holmes would do when he came to his
senses.

Then the blue eyes were looking right at him, catching him, holding him. Lestrade was suddenly shockingly aware of Holmes's hands, his mobile mouth, the way the light caught his jaw, the line of his shoulder and arm down to his long elegant legs.

"After all... never mind what I did to you, what would you see in me? "

Honesty called to honesty. Whatever happened he owed Holmes that. But what did he see in Mycroft Holmes? Was he more than well dressed trouble?

"Sherlock, he has this intensity. This.. I suppose charisma is the word. He overwhelms you, But.. I once saw a kid's toy, it was a cross between a kaleidoscope and a telescope. you looked into it and saw the world around you distorted and broken into amazing images. It was incredible to look at... but you wouldn't want to live there."

"Your attention.. your... your charisma is as strong as his. But different. Not as blinding. More... I don't know, human?"

Lestrade looked embarrassed. "What do I see in you? You are intelligent and powerful and well.. you think I'm intelligent. No one's said that before. The thing you Holmeses, you and your brother, the thing you value most of all. And you think I have it. Enough that you listened to me as if I had things worth saying. You say Sherlock thinks it too, but you said it."

Holmes leant forward, almost eager.

"It has to be about equals. About respect between equals. I get people kowtowing to me every day. I get people trying to trick me, or make bargains. Tugging forelocks and sharpening knives. I don't want someone who thinks they are my inferior. I don't want someone who won't stand up to me. And... " he stopped. Lestrade waited, tense, not even breathing.

" and... I want someone who can look after me when I need it. How can someone who isn't my equal do that? how can they have the strength for that? How can I believe I'm safe with someone who isn't strong and capable and .. well.. you?"

Lestrade stayed still, eyes unfocused, absorbing that. ("Not like this, never like this" he'd said. Lestrade finally understood.)

He did look up when Holmes took his right hand in both of his, then turned it over, and gently stroked his long elegant thumb over the grazes on the knuckles.

Then opened his hands flat, so Lestrade's hand was no longer held, save by his own will.

Lestrade left his hand there, feeling the warmth, feeling the intensity of Holmes's... of Mycroft's gaze. He looked at their hands, knowing whatever he did now was final.

He met those eyes as he lifted his hand away from its resting place, back towards himself, saw hope change to uncertainty to sorrow and, he was sure, to acceptance.


Which was when he made his decision.

He lifted his hand to Mycroft's cheek, resting it gently there. The blue eyes looked at him, widening, and then suddenly closed... and Mycroft's face took on an expression of serene joy. He leaned into Lestrade's hand, concentrating on the feel of it, utterly content with this small thing,

Lestrade was stunned at the response. How the strength, the power, the intelligence were all still there, but all meaning nothing compared to the joy of resting his head in Lestrade's hand.

He framed Mycroft's face between his two hands, pulling him gently forward, stepping closer, knowing what he was proposing, knowing what he was accepting.

It was not a frantic kiss. They were too tired, too drained for that. It was gentle and full of promise and afterwards they just stood there embracing, the broken camera at their feet, forgotten.


-------------------------------------------------
Author's Notes:
This one took a long time, and there are a number of different beginnings, middles, and ends in the reject pile. Thanks to the ever-patient [livejournal.com profile] elfbert  for her encouragement over the months this series has taken. Thanks too to the people who commented and encouraged me and made me think I was doing something right.



The scene at the end was inspired by http://sherlockbbc-fic.livejournal.com/4777.html?thread=15115433#t15115433
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