He didn't turn his head away from the monitor in the headrest of the front seat as I slid into the car. At his wordless gesture, we pulled off into the darkness. His young and frankly ridiculously gorgeous secretary, who'd given me the name of Anthea the last time we met, turned slightly in the front seat to look at me.
"He's been like that all day," she said with a shrug of her amazing shoulders, then looked down at her mobile. "Sir, there's a new development." She twisted further in her seat to look at Mycroft directly behind her, peering around the seat. "A garden rake."
Mycroft looked up at her and took a long deep breath as if he'd forgotten how and just now remembered. He glanced around quickly, pale face and wide eyes, seeming to finally notice I was there, and nodding. "In Leicester Square?" he asked Anthea.
Anthea's fingers were flying over her phone's keyboard. "I'll know in a minute," she said and then turned to look at me. "Detective Inspector, just bear with us for now, things are a little…." She trailed off as her mobile beeped quietly and her fingers began flying again.
"I understand," I said, feeling somewhat superfluous. "It's not every day both Sherlock and John Watson go missing."
"And with the current state of affairs, it's very poor timing indeed," Mycroft said, sounding ever-so-slightly irritated. "I ought to be making sure the prime minister doesn't make a fool of himself — again! — not scouring the back alleys of London and hoping my brother and his partner haven't encountered a set of rascals they can't take in a fight."
"It might be more than that," Anthea said, looking up again from her phone. "The rake was propped up against the Shakespeare statue, inside the fountain. You know what that means."
To my surprise, Mycroft laughed, a sudden short bark, the laugh of a man who's been under tension for far too long and is perhaps seeing a ray of hope in the darkness. "Well, that's much better," he said, giving me a quick glance. "Greg, don't think I've forgotten you, I'll need you soon." His hand settled briefly on my shoulder, warm and comforting, but gone too quickly. Looking at him, I noticed that a little colour had come back to his face, and I relaxed back into my seat, wishing he'd put his hand back on my shoulder, and perhaps, soon, other places.
I've known Mycroft Holmes for nearly fifteen years, ever since I was approached by an agent who wouldn't tell me what organisation he represented. I was promptly whisked into a car very much like the one we were in now, and carried off to a secret government building under the cover of an early winter's evening, where a tall gentleman with a stately umbrella explained the situation. A dozen hours, a dozen coffees, and too many cigarettes to number later, I had helped Mycroft avert a crisis, and from that day my life was never the same.
Over the years, I'd helped Mycroft so much I began to feel like part of his family. In fact, it was on Christmas Day, six years ago now, when I got a call at 4 o'clock in the morning. The rest of that morning constituted my introduction to Sherlock, as Mycroft and I pulled him back to sobriety in time for Christmas dinner with ‘Mummy'. Nearly falling over from exhaustion, I went along at Mycroft's invitation to dinner — not like I had anywhere else to be — and to my surprise ‘Mummy' liked me, said it was about time she met her son's partner.
I tried to correct her on that, but Mycroft spoke over me, and then drew me out into the hall, and there, under some conveniently placed mistletoe, kissed me for the first time. It felt so natural and right to then let him lead me up the stairs to one of the opulent guest bedrooms. We weren't seen again for the rest of the evening, but I'm afraid we simply fell asleep with our clothes half off, arms around each other. It wasn't until afternoon on Boxing Day that we awoke together, and everything just seemed to fall into place.
And we've just carried on like that. We don't see each other often, and no one at work knows. We just live our lives, and we love each other in our own ways. Over the years I've learned how to read him, and he's learned how to help me.
Distracted, I'm surprised when the car draws to a halt. "We're here, Greg," Mycroft says, and I get out of the car and walk over to the fountain.
A garden rake is propped up there, in the water. I turn and look at Mycroft quizzically. "What on earth does that mean?"
"It's a signal in the Code," Mycroft says, and then I remember the odd language of signs and symbols he had invented with his brother in their childhood. Before Sherlock could talk, he and Mycroft had ways of communicating that they eventually began to refer to as the Code, back in younger days before Sherlock decided he didn't like his brother, or indeed, most of the human race. Now it was all insults on Sherlock's part, and all concern and frustration on Mycroft's.
I've heard Mycroft reference the Code before, but I'd never seen it used. Mycroft began to explain as Anthea snapped a picture of the rake on her phone. "The position is important: the rake is upright with the tines upmost and out of the water. That's comforting. Greg, could you get it, and we'll just check it."
Obligingly, I stepped up onto the ledge of the fountain, and reached for the rake easily. I handed it down to Mycroft and jumped back down. Anthea and Mycroft were both examining it closely, holding it between them.
Anthea's a gorgeous woman, that's always been apparent. She's been working for Mycroft for about two years now. Back when I first met Mycroft, his assistant was also his wife, Victoria. Sadly, she was murdered in 2001 on holiday with Mycroft in America. To this day he refuses to ever set foot in the US. No one knows what happened to the man who killed her, Jason Wyatt, but he was never tried, in fact he was never caught, was never seen or heard from again. I have my suspicions, and my fears.
Mycroft's next assistant was a young Welshman by the name of Ianto Williams. He performed impeccably and saved Mycroft's life on three occasions. I sometimes suspected that Ianto cared more for Mycroft than employees normally do, but Mycroft was wrapped up in grief and couldn't see this. Ianto retired in 2008 after saving Mycroft's life for the third time, which caused him an injury to the right arm that left it permanently weakened. I believe he went on to become a beekeeper somewhere on the south coast.
Anthea had used about seven different names and disguises in the time I had known her, giving everyone the impression that Mycroft was cycling rapidly through assistants. I think the identity she was currently using was the closest she had ever been to her real self, however. I had been introduced to a blonde, busty girl named Karen, then to James, suited and booted to within an inch of ‘his' life, then quiet, mousy Mary, then motherly Linda, then blond and baby-faced Adam, with scraggly blond sideburns and a penchant for carrying a large letter-opener around in a menacing fashion, then curvy Melissa, with her cloud of red hair and earth mother outlook. Finally with Anthea she didn't seem to be playing a part anymore — bits of all of those personalities mingled together indiscriminately. I liked her — always had — but especially liked her as she was now.
Anthea looked up. "I think I found it," she said, pointing to a small mark on the inside of one of the tines, in a rough S shape, as if it had been done with a knife.
"Good," Mycroft said. "Ah, here's the other," and pointed to an equally rough J on the outside of the same tine. "So Sherlock and John will be here at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning. They will not be in any danger, but danger will follow them closely." He turned to me. "Greg, I need you to position your men carefully here in the square. They must be undercover. Meanwhile, the three of us will while away the weary hours waiting for Sherlock and John." He turned, striding back toward the car. Anthea shrugged and followed, with the rake in one hand, mobile in the other. I pulled out my own mobile and began the first of several phone calls.
Later that evening we three sat around the table in Mycroft's stately house. I could feel the tension Mycroft was under thrumming through my body, apparent every time he touched me. He'd barely eaten despite both myself and Anthea encouraging him to do so. Anthea was tense too; she kept glancing at her phone by her plate as if anticipating the beep of a text message.
All my people would be in place in time, but I was still fairly tense myself. Sherlock and John Watson were out there, hunting down the self-styled Napoleon of Crime, and hopefully leading him or some of his people into a trap, but there was so much potential for things to go wrong. I had armed units ready alongside the undercover police officers and that in and of itself always made me nervous.
When you're under great tension but can't do anything about it, it's tempting to have a drink to relax yourself. But I knew the folly of that course and carefully abstained. Mycroft and Anthea did the same, but sober talk under these circumstances was depressing. After dinner, we gathered in the dim lounge, and Mycroft sat down on his long leather sofa, and motioned to me to join him.
I did so with a smile, and he put an arm around me, gently kissing my forehead. Anthea looked forlorn, standing off by herself, and I glanced at Mycroft quickly, half seeking his approval, half just his reaction, then gestured to her to sit down with us. Kicking her heels off, she sat down on Mycroft's other side, and with a flash of a wicked grin at me, put an arm around him, leaning into him.
I have no idea what television we watched. I was too busy watching the play of light on both their faces, too busy feeling the delicious pressure of Mycroft's arm around me, and watching him settle back into the sofa, gradually relaxing into us both.
It was getting late and Anthea seemed to realise this with a glance at her phone. "Oh, I should really go," she said, making a move to get up.
"No, don't — " I said at the same time Mycroft said, "Stay," and we both glanced at each other, as I suddenly realised he had Figured It Out, the way he tends to do, and he'd somehow managed to have both sides of an entire conversation with me despite the fact that I hadn't actually participated at all except with body language. Amused, I did the only thing reasonable under the circumstances: I leaned forward across Mycroft's lap and kissed her.
"Oh," Mycroft said, and there was a world of amusement and arousal hidden in that tiny syllable, along with a tinge of trepidation and fear. She laughed low in her throat and deepened the kiss, bringing a hand to my face. When she drew away, it was only to instantly turn to Mycroft and kiss him as well. He made a tiny almost-surprised noise and kissed back, his arm around my waist tightening, drawing me closer to him.
"Come to bed with me, both of you," Mycroft said, and, obediently, we followed him up the darkened stairs.
I was awakened by the beeping of a mobile phone somewhere in the vicinity. My hand flailed out to try and turn it off and encountered long thick hair instead. Opening my eyes, I saw Anthea lying next to me, just stirring softly as she reached for her phone.
"Time to get up," she said to me. Mycroft moved behind me, sliding an arm over my chest.
"Five more minutes?" he asked.
"Really no," she answered. "It's half 5 and we need to get going." He grumbled and moved away from me, out of the bed. I drowsed for a second longer, and then she got up as well. Bereft of heat on both sides, I pulled myself upright, noting a pleasant soreness in various places, and began to get dressed.
An hour and a half later, exactly on time, Sherlock and John, dishevelled and tired-looking, ran through Leicester Square into our waiting car at the other end. Sherlock took one glance at the three of us. "Mycroft! You, you — " he couldn't finish.
"Yes," Mycroft said, and the note of smugness in his voice could not be contained. "And I'm looking forward to many repeat performances."
And as shouts could be heard from the nearby square, and we, as I'd later discover, captured several of the infamous Moriarty's closest associates, John Watson looked from Anthea to Mycroft to me, and finally to Sherlock, and wasted not a second in pouncing on him and kissing him thoroughly. Sherlock spluttered and pulled away, but not very far, and the ghost of a smile started to creep over his face. I sat back and watched, sharing a smirk with Anthea across the car from me. I was looking forward to several repeat performances myself.