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January 2016

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BBC Sherlock fic: "The Broken Cup," aka "The coffee shop au"- Story one: "From Out of the Rain" 1/2

"From Out of the Rain"

Summary: Greg first meets Mycroft Holmes when he comes stumbling into the cafe drenched with rain and covered with mud after a night of unexpected legwork.

Then he meets the brother Sherlock when he looks up to see a boy glaring at him, soaked to the bone and demanding to know why he's so interesting.

One he enters a relationship with; the other he offers a job. And both become a part of his life.

~~


The day Greg met his first Holmes brother was surprisingly not the most momentous day in his life.

The first so-called momentous day was the one he’d become Detective Sergeant after all the hard work and determination he’d put in; followed closely by the day he’d decided to first sign up to be an officer. And of course he couldn’t forget the day of his wedding- that was one occasion he would definitely never forget.

Some days he did regret quitting the force and opening a café. It wasn’t the same as putting away criminals, wasn’t like it at all really, but he was still helping the public. This was just less public servant and more making sure the public was well-fed and caffeinated.

And that was enough, sometimes.

Sally did what she could of course, helping him around the café in her spare time when she wasn’t solving cases. He tried to make running the café as uncomplicated as possible, but there were days when he couldn’t do everything himself and needed help unless he finally gave in and throttled one of his paying customers.

Which would be unfortunate because the customers were the best part, really.

London was home to many different kinds of people, from all walks of life, and a lot of them came into his café. His regulars were his favorite; some days they stayed at the counter to talk with him for hours. He could have real conversations with them, exchanging troubles and successes for the day or week. In return he made a point of remembering their favorite drinks and the way they liked it so it was ready as soon as they walked in the door. It was the least he could do for a bit of company.

Living in the rooms above the café wasn’t awful either; there was no commute between his home and work so he was never late opening the shop for his early customers. He was also his own boss which meant he decided the hours for the café and never got into trouble.

If he had to be something other than a police officer, running his own café wasn’t such a bad second option. It was a job, and something to do that he enjoyed and still let him interact with the public. Sally still kept an ear at the Yard and told him what she could about the cases they worked on. This wasn’t what he’d imagined for himself ten years ago, but he was happy.

The night he met Mycroft Holmes it had gotten dark early and had already been storming for several hours. Rain was pounding away at the windows and flooding the streets outside. He’d been about to lock up since he doubted anyone would be out in the awful weather or would want to come into his café.

But as he was putting away the glasses he’d finished cleaning, the bell he’d installed over the door rang.

Greg straightened and turned around, wiping his hands on the apron tied around his waist. He was just about to call out a greeting when two people stumbled through the doorway, dripping water and covered in mud.

Greg stared for a few seconds before he recovered and hurried around the counter. “Are you two alright?”

The man, wearing the very nice suit with the sleeves and cuffs slathered in mud and the shoes now mostly the color of mud with hair slicked with rain, straightened.

“A towel would be welcome, if you don’t mind,” he requested pleasantly, as if he weren’t leaving muddy footprints on Greg’s floor or making small puddles of water every time he moved.

Greg blinked at the man who, given his wardrobe (without the addition of mud) and voice, was probably a banker or government worker; yet had managed to be so thoroughly covered with mud. Then Greg managed to form the words, “Right, just a minute,” and hurried back behind the counter.

He grabbed the nearest- cleanest- towel from where he’d left it hanging from a cupboard door. And, even though he hadn’t meant to listen in, he heard the man quietly ask his female companion, “Are you alright? They didn’t hurt you.”

“No,” a light, pleasant on the ears, woman’s voice answered. The smile was audible as she added, “They’re the ones who fared badly. Is your brolly all right?”

Just in case Greg also took the towel from next to the sink, hoping two would be enough. He was coming back around to the front as the man answered, “Not very well, I’m afraid. Fortunately I still have others that are better suited to these times.”

“Are you planning on doing more legwork in the future, sir?” The woman asked, running her fingers through her long dark hair causing drops to fall from the ends. “I only ask because I would like some kind of fair warning then.”

“Tonight was unusual,” the man replied dismissively. He picked at the mud on the sleeve of his jacket, glaring at it in distaste. “I will do my best not to repeat it, if only for the sake of our clothes.”

Greg walked up to them and held out a towel to each. “Here, you can use these to clean off,” he offered. “Do you want anything to drink? Water, tea, coffee?”

“Tea please,” the man requested as he patted his face with the towel. He turned his attention to the woman next to him. “My dear?”

“A black coffee would be wonderful,” she said, using her towel to dry her hair.

Greg nodded and went to make the drinks, giving them time to clean up. He had made a new batch of coffee a while ago so it was probably still warm, and tea was easy to make. It only took a few minutes before he was returning to his unexpected guests carrying two steaming mugs.

His guests had managed to clean themselves up a little more while he’d been gone, and had stopped dripping. The warm temperature in the room seemed to be helping bring color back to their skin, but they still looked like they’d been drenched with rain. Hopefully the tea and coffee would help.

Greg handed the coffee over to the woman first. She took it with a small, grateful smile then brought the mug to her lips to drink.

He gave the tea to the man next; “I hope you like it,” Greg said as the man took the mug and wrapped long fingers around it. “I guessed what you’d like.”

The man’s mouth twitched in what could have been the beginnings of a smile; he slowly, almost dramatically, raised the mug to his lips. Greg felt a strange rush of anticipation as he waited for the man to tell him his opinion.

The man took a long sip from the mug then paused for a few seconds, and took another just as long drink.

Greg was almost completely certain the man was teasing him; and once he thought about it for a brief moment, Greg found he didn’t really mind. After this day with few customers- and those who did come in weren’t in very good moods- it was refreshing to have someone actually enjoy his drinks and do more than just demand something from him.

Of course this man was nearly drenched to the skin from the rain and his shoes and clothes were covered with mud; but it was still nice.

Finally the man lowered the mug again to reveal a small, pleased smile. “Excellent,” he commented appreciatively. “Thank you very much.”

Greg smiled; so the man did like the tea after all. “Good, I’m glad. That you… liked it, I mean.” What was he doing? He never stuttered like this. To fill the silence he held out his hand and finally introduced himself. “Greg, Lestrade.”

To Greg’s relief the man took his offered hand and shook it. “Mycroft Holmes.” He lifted the mug, “Thank you again for the tea.”

“You’re welcome,” Greg quickly replied, mostly out of habit. “Is there anything else I can help you with? I mean,” he laughed a little nervously. “I probably don’t have any spare clothes that would fit you, but you can stay here until you dry off. Or the rain stops, if that happens.”

“That’s very kind of you,” the man, Mycroft, thanked him. “I’m sorry for stumbling in on you like this; and for our appearance. Tonight was… an irregularity.”

“It’s all right,” Greg quickly reassured. “This is exciting after the day I’ve had. Can I get you another tea? Drinking hot liquids will help you warm up.”

He reached out and took the mug from Mycroft’s hands, and then realized there was still some tea left inside. “Oh, sorry. I’ll just get you a fresh cup.” Greg looked over his shoulder at the woman. “Would you like more?”

“Yes, please,” she agreed amiably, handing over the mug.

Greg smiled at her, taking it. “I’ll be right back.” He went off to the kitchen again.

As he went back behind the counter Greg called to them, “Take off as much of your wet clothing as you feel comfortable. I’ll turn up the heat a little.”

“Thank you, Gregory,” he heard Mycroft reply. Then there was a quiet conversation between Mycroft and his assistant? -he’d never asked- that was lost over the sound of the machine and kettle whistling.

By the time Greg came back into the room carrying two more steaming mugs the conversation was over. Mycroft was trying to rub the mud drying on his shoes, and the woman had gotten out her mobile and was tapping determinately on the keyboard.

He watched the two of them for a second before turning and walking over to Mycroft. “Everything all right?” Greg asked, curious, as he handed the new mug over.

“Perfectly,” the man answered shortly and took the mug.

“Mm,” Greg said not believing him. He tried to hand the other mug to the woman but she was focused intently on her mobile. He was a little tempted to wave the coffee under her nose to see if that would make her react, but she could possibly actually be doing something important so he didn’t.

Mycroft looked like the government types he’d dealt with- had to cooperate with- during his years at the Yard; especially the important ones who took complete control of their investigations. Well, Mycroft had looked the part before he’d taken off his jacket and the waistcoat he apparently wore underneath. Now he looked… a little more human.

“You picked a perfect night to go out,” Greg commented with a hint of teasing. He suddenly shivered and wondered how long it would take the place to heat up properly. The thermostat could be finicky at times.

Mycroft exhaled through his nose, looking exhausted. “As I may have mentioned, we did not choose to take our impromptu journey tonight. A set of circumstances we’d been waiting for came together unexpectedly and we decided we needed to act right away.”

“Even though there were many other people also available to act,” the woman spoke up in between sips of her coffee. “Others more accustomed to legwork.”

Mycroft turned to give her a look. “I thought you would appreciate the return to legwork, albeit brief. You have talents wasted behind a desk.”

She just smiled at him, mouth tugging upwards. The mobile held in one of her hands abruptly chimed and she pressed one of the keys. “The car is less than five minutes away.”

Greg found he didn’t really want them, Mycroft especially, to leave. “The heat doesn’t seem to be coming on; I’m sure I have a spare jacket somewhere…” He walked into the back and to the small space next to the stairs leading up to his rooms above the café.

There were hooks drilled into the wall with jackets hanging in case of emergencies. Greg picked up the two closest to him then hurried back to his guests.

Mycroft was drinking the rest of his tea when Greg thrust the jacket at him. At his startled blink Greg explained, “Take the jacket; I wouldn’t want you to catch cold because I forgot to offer you a jacket.”

That earned him a quick flicker of a smile. Mycroft gave him a quick nod and took the jacket carefully. “Thank you, Gregory.”

Greg shook his head indicating it was no problem. He walked to the woman and, out of years of habit, helped her slide it on. She seemed distracted by her mobile; but Greg had the feeling she was merely humoring him.

After he stepped away she glanced up and said a quiet, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” Greg answered, wondering again what she was doing. He didn’t think she would tell so he turned his attention back to Mycroft- in time to see him not very elegantly pulling on the jacket.

When Mycroft noticed his gaze a few seconds later Greg was pleased, and a little surprised, to see a faint flush on his cheeks. Mycroft quickly- embarrassed?- shrugged on the jacket the rest of the way, covering the rolled up sleeves of his shirt. He cleared his throat and tugged at the jacket that didn’t fit him very well. “This is very warm.”

“One of my warmest,” Greg confirmed; “and perfect for this weather.” Suddenly inspired, he leaned closer and gave his best grin. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me exactly what you were doing out in the rain. What the legwork was for?” He asked, wondering if Mycroft would actually tell.

“No, Gregory,” Mycroft said after a slight pause. “I’m afraid that is classified government information.”

Of course it was, and he didn’t have any security clearance any more. If he asked Sally might be willing to look into it for him, but it would just be to satisfy his curiosity and he wouldn’t risk her career for that; and there was also the chance she’d tell him off for it.

Outside the rain drenched window a black car pulled up to the curb. The rear and front lights flashed once then a second later the woman’s mobile chimed again.

Mycroft turned his head towards the window even before the woman announced, “The car is outside.” Suddenly his expression went detached and when he spoke his tone was sharply polite. “Thank you for all your help, Gregory. Your tea was very refreshing and you were wonderfully accommodating.” The smile aimed at him was strained. “It was appreciated, especially on such a night.”

Greg was having a hard time believing this was how Mycroft was leaving their encounter, especially since it was likely they wouldn’t see each other again. People like them only met at rare chance times, not every day. And for Greg it had been a welcome change from his usual monotonous days making customers happy.

Mycroft was interesting; not only because he was so secretive about what he’d been doing out in the rain- tweaking Greg’s curiosity even more- but also because there was much more to Mycroft than he let show. And Greg wanted more than just the glimpse he’d gotten.

“Like I said, you’re more than welcome,” Greg said honestly. “I’m, glad you came in.”

Mycroft turned to him a last time, with a hint of his earlier, honest smile. “As am I.” Then he picked up the umbrella he’d left propped against the chair, and walked with the woman towards the front door.

She slipped out the door like a shadow and was gone.

Mycroft paused with one hand holding the door open to say, “Have a good evening, Gregory.” Then he was gone as well, leaving Greg alone again in his café.

Greg stood where he was for a while, staring at the closed door and the darkness outside the windows.

Finally Greg decided he could leave the rest of the cleaning up till morning. He took the used mugs into the kitchen, poured the rest of the water down the sink, then turned off the lights and locked the door before going upstairs.

Greg didn’t sleep very well that night.

~~~

Two days went by and, even though it was unrealistic, Greg still expected to see Mycroft again.

Five days passed and Greg told himself Mycroft had a very busy, important job and he was preoccupied with work.

Six days and Greg was well on his way to convincing himself it had just been a one off.

On the seventh day, two hours before he normally closed for the night, Greg looked up from reorganizing the register to find the woman who’d been with Mycroft that night standing on the other side of the counter.

Startled, he managed, “Uh, hello.”

She smiled at him, lips pressed together. “Hello.”

After the conversation didn’t go further than that, Greg asked on habit, “Would you like a drink? A coffee?”

“A coffee would be perfect, thank you.” She slipped a hand into the purse hanging from her shoulder. “I’ve been managing calls and crisis for most of the day.”

Greg slowly turned back to face her, mug in one hand. “So Mycroft’s- you’ve- been busy saving the world then?” He tried to contain his eagerness to hear the answer; she didn’t have to know, and he especially didn’t want Mycroft to find out, how disappointed he’d felt after not hearing from Mycroft after an entire week. It sounded stupid, like some kind of crush. It was all just because he’d really liked Mycroft.

“He’s been out of the country for most of the past week,” she explained as Greg poured the freshly made coffee into her mug. “Which means I’ve been playing his secretary.”

Holding the mug out to her he clarified, “So you’re not really his secretary?”

She laughed as if the idea was amusing. “Not in the usual description of the job, no. I do what I can to make Mr. Holmes’ life easier.” The woman took the mug from him and took a tentative sip. “That includes making sure he also remembers to have some semblance of a personal life; including acquaintances outside the politicians he interacts with for work.”

Greg wondered at that but said, “So you’re not here just for my coffee?”

“Not just, no,” she agreed. After another sip she pulled her hand from her purse, revealing a card held between two fingers.

When Greg didn’t take it after she held it out she frowned at him and shook her hand. He leaned over to look at it more closely then did take it.

He didn’t see her make a small, victorious smile and hide it behind her mug.

The card was fairly simple, thick stock, and more off-white than white. The only text on it was Mycroft’s name in plain print with a number underneath.

Greg flipped it over, wondering if there was something more on the back. But that was blank. Apparently Mycroft’s cards were just as mysterious as the man himself.

He looked up at the woman again to find she was looking amused. “Uhm, this is for...?” He asked confused.

“He prefers talking but will respond to texts, mostly,” she began, making it sound like an answer. “He should normally tell you if he’s going out of the country; if not, call me and I can tell you any unclassified information. It would also be good to text or call him every so often to stop him from getting lost in the work like he does. I may be his assistant, but I’m not his therapist.”

It sounded like getting involved with Mycroft, even as a friend, was a undertaking. But while his last relationship had taught him caution, Greg was also intrigued enough to give whatever this was a try. “It sounds like you take good care of him.”

“I try,” she countered. “But he doesn’t always make it very easy.” A thoughtful look crossed her face. “I feel I should also warn you that Mr. Holmes can be very... vigilant. You may find yourself looking over your shoulder.”

That was only a little worrying. “Uhm, alright then. Thank you for warning me?”

She nodded, looking oddly relieved. “I’ll remind him to call you in the next day or so. Unless something comes up he shouldn’t be extremely busy for a while.” She set her mug down on the counter. “Thank you for the coffee.”

“You’re welcome, it was the least I could do. Probably.” Greg carefully slid the card into his pocket. “Thanks for coming in, and for the card.”

“No problem at all.” She turned and started walking towards the front door. Strangely, no one else had come in since her. “I’ll be seeing you again soon I imagine, Mr. Lestrade.”

Then she slipped through the doorway and was gone, leaving Greg with the card burning a hole in his trouser pocket.

~~~

Two mornings later, just as he preparing to open by putting the clean mugs away in the cupboard and arranging the baked goods (although that was usually up to Mrs. Hudson), he heard someone clear their throat nearby.

Greg jumped, hitting his head on the top of the display. He cursed inelegantly and slowly stood up, pressing a hand to his head.

Mycroft Holmes smiled warmly in greeting, dressed in a full three piece suit with a brolly hanging off his arm even though it wasn't supposed to rain. “Good morning, Gregory.”

Greg stared before saying a somewhat strangled sounding, “M-morning.” He glanced over to the door. “How did you get in here?”

Mycroft’s smile turned mysterious. “I’m sorry I didn’t contact you sooner, there was an overseas matter I needed to take care of. But it’s settled now so I thought I would take the time to come see you.”

“Yes, your assistant said you’d been busy,” Greg said, sliding the door to the display closed. “She came in a few days ago.”

“How thoughtful of her,” Mycroft commented. “I’ll have to thank her somehow.”

Greg thought for a minute then suggested, “You could start by getting her coffee.” He glanced out the window over Mycroft’s shoulder. “Is she waiting in your ominous black car outside?”

That got him another smile. “No, she’s at the office managing everything in my place,” Mycroft explained. “Today I came on my own.”

“You have an incredible assistant,” Greg told him. “I’m glad to see you again.”

They stood there for what was probably longer than necessary smiling at each other.

Mycroft finally cleared his throat again and raised his hand above the counter, revealing the two hangers he was holding. “I brought the jackets you so kindly loaned to us.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” Greg protested, noticing the name of the expensive cleaners on the plastic covering the jackets. “I mean, thank you for returning them. But you didn’t have to get them cleaned.”

“Nonsense,” Mycroft declared as he handed over the jackets. “It was a simple reciprocation for your kindness.”

Greg’s mouth twitched. He took the hangers and started towards the back of the cafe by the stairs. “If you have the time, have a seat at a table. I’ll bring you tea and something to eat.”

“I’ve already eaten breakfast,” Mycroft called as Greg disappeared around the corner. “But tea would be wonderful.”

In a rush Greg hung the jackets on the hooks then returned to the main room. “I won’t take no for an answer,” he admonished, smiling at Mycroft as he stopped at the end of the counter.

Greg paused when he was level with Mycroft on the other side of the counter. “The pastries are all delicious, but if you have a sweet tooth I’d recommend the croissant.”

Mycroft almost looked like he’d blanched. “Why would think I have a sweet tooth?”

What a strange reaction. “Because the tea I gave you last time was sweeter than most,” Greg said doing his best to sound teasing. “It’s one of my favorites actually.”

Mycroft’s tense expression eased just slightly. “Alright then, I’ll take whatever you suggest.”

“Great,” Greg said enthusiastically. “Take a seat and I’ll get you something.”

Instead of turning from the counter and walking to one of the nearby tables, Mycroft merely moved down the counter and sat at one of the stools.

“You’re sitting... there,” Greg said slowly, surprised. “Okay, I’ll just get you your tea.”

“No hurry, Gregory,” Mycroft reassured, settling onto the stool. He rested the brolly against the side of the counter and unbuttoned his suit jacket.

Smiling to himself Greg started making tea, heating the water. He could stand to wait to open for awhile, at least until his regulars became impatient and caffeine deprived. Soon the kettle was whistling, ready. Greg made sure to use the same tea as he’d used last time for Mycroft, letting it steep until it was strong and flavorful.

Greg slowly turned step by step so he wouldn’t spill any and walked the short distance to where Mycroft was sitting now. He set the mug down in front of Mycroft and warned, “Careful, it’s probably hot.”

Mycroft gave him a raised eyebrow that made Greg realize he was being ridiculously obvious. “Right,” he coughed. “Well just enjoy it then.”

That earned him yet another smile, making Greg happy. After a minute Mycroft asked, sounding curious, “Aren’t you having anything?”

“No,” Greg replied with a bark of laughter. “The last thing I need right now is more caffeine.”

Mycroft tilted his head a little at him. “Not a morning person, Gregory?”

Greg leaned in against the counter, resting his hands on the edge. “Mornings aren’t my favorite, no. But I’m used to long nights, and even longer days. It’s how my addiction to caffeine started in the first place.”

Mycroft’s eyes narrowed for a very brief second, considering. He ran that pale, observant gaze over Greg. The comfortable, warm atmosphere in the room changed, making Greg tense up.

The next few seconds dragged by slowly, the sick feeling in his stomach growing.

When Greg was about to say something just for the sake of saying something, Mycroft finally blinked. Understanding dawned across his face as he said a quiet, “Oh.”

What? What had Mycroft seen or thought he saw? “Sorry?”

His confusion must have shown since Mycroft quickly smoothed his expression and smiled instead. “I apologize, I didn’t mean to worry you. I only meant since your previous occupation involved long hours and an uncertain schedule, you needed caffeine to stay awake. It also follows logically you would open a cafe, giving yourself a constant source of caffeine.” He added knowingly, “You enjoy sharing your love of drinks and giving people what they need.”

“The first step is admitting it,” Greg returned, teasing. But he regretted it after the there and gone again flicker in Mycroft’s eyes. He quickly continued, “You’re right, I’ve been drinking coffee for years. But, as long as its good coffee, it’s not such a bad thing.”

“I imagine,” Mycroft hummed. “After drinking your coffee I can understand why.”

Greg smiled, again feeling pride that Mycroft liked his tea. “Thank you.”

A loud pounding at the front of the cafe drew their attention. Greg turned first to see that a crowd had gathered outside the door in the last few minutes. One more impatient man had started pounding on the glass window in the door to try and get their attention.

Greg rolled his eyes; “If only I could still arrest them for disturbing the peace and generally being idiots.” He pulled away from the counter and start moving towards the door. “At least they’re not press.”

Mycroft watched him on his progress across the floor. “In my limited experience with the press it is best to be very selective with what details you allow them to know.”

Greg paused just as he was about to pass Mycroft. “You have experience with the press?”

“Only indirectly, of course,” Mycroft admitted with a slight shrug. “I am not fond of those kinds of people. But I can sympathize with you for having to play their games for many years.”

“It wasn’t easy,” Greg agreed then started walking again. When he was at the door he glanced over his shoulder to see Mycroft had turned around on the stool to watch him.

Greg smiled at Mycroft then reached out to undo the lock on the door with a soft ‘click.’ As soon as the door was unlocked the crowd outside calmed down and shuffled into the semblance of a line.

Good to know his customers weren’t complete animals. Greg waited for them to get in order before he flipped the sign hanging on the door to ‘open.’ Then, after a deep breath, Greg pulled open the door.

The first person rushed through the doorway then was quickly followed by the rest of the crowd. One or two people greeted him as they passed, but most were too intent on getting to the counter.

The secret of Greg’s cafe was that he did have the usual drinks typically served at cafes and other such places listed on the board on the wall behind the counter. But only his regulars and repeat customers knew how lenient he was about what drinks he would make. He could make the cappuccinos, espresso, lattes, and the rest perfectly. But he could- would- also make drinks customized to his customers taste and preference.

As he slid back behind the counter Greg glanced over at Mycroft one more time. The other man was facing the counter again, leaning forward, his fingers brushing lightly up and down the sides of the mug in his hands.

Greg nodded at the mug and tilted his head, hoping Mycroft would understand the silent question.

Mycroft apparently did; he slowly shook his head and with a glance indicated the crowd gathered at the counter. Then he looked away again and started tapping the lip of the mug with a fingertip.

Greg stopped himself at the sight because even though he didn’t know Mycroft very well, yet, that action seemed odd. He’d almost think that Mycroft was bored and wanted to leave, but until now Greg hadn’t gotten any indication of that. Mycroft could have left a long time ago- after he handed over the jackets, after Greg offered him tea, after the crowd came pouring in the door; but he’d stayed and talked and interacted with Greg like he really wanted to be there.

Maybe it was a nervous habit, even though Greg didn’t think Mycroft was the type to have nervous habits; or one of impatience or maybe just thoughtful. It could have not even been a habit at all. Maybe Mycroft didn’t even know about it, except Greg suspected Mycroft knew everything.

Greg made a mental note to himself to think about all this later when he had time. For now he walked over to greet his first customer of the day.

~~~

To his astonishment Mycroft stayed in the cafe and nearby him for the rest of the morning. He barely even moved from the stool he’d originally sat on.

Each time Greg looked over to see Mycroft was still there he felt a fresh wave of... something- happiness? He couldn’t be sure. But maybe.

He was just glad Mycroft had stayed even though Greg was sure he must have much more important things to be doing. It was nice having someone to talk to between waves of customers instead of taking the time to restock the cupboard with clean mugs or the display under the counter with goods. It did get lonely sometimes managing and running things on his own; lately the days when Sally came in were rare.

He didn’t like to admit it, but there were days when having only his lonely rooms upstairs to go home to made him reminiscent for his married days- even with how much of a mess his marriage had turned out to be. This cafe had been his attempt at a fresh start.

They were half an hour or so away from the usual start of the lunch rush, Greg was checking he had everything ready while keeping an ear out for if Mycroft said anything. While he was putting some sandwiches together Greg heard Mycroft call his name.

He stuck his head out through the open doorway to the kitchen and called, “Yeah?”

Mycroft was just standing from his stool and shrugging on a jacket. “I’m afraid I have to leave you; there’s a crisis growing at the office which Anthea can apparently not take care of herself.”

“Oh.” Greg tried to smile, but had a feeling it wasn’t one of his better attempts. “Well thanks for coming in. It was good to see you.”

Mycroft turned to look at him with the smile he didn’t seem to practice often. “And you, Gregory. I was very happy for your company.”

Greg found himself fighting back what could have been interpreted as an overly emotional request for Mycroft to stay. He wasn’t that needful for company; and the ‘crisis’ was probably actually very important. He didn’t want Mycroft to get into trouble or for the world to end just because he kept Mycroft too long.

So instead he said calmly, “Come again as soon as you want. It was nice having you here.”

Mycroft went very still in the midst of reaching under the counter. He slowly looked up at Greg with a expression Geg couldn’t really read but would, if he had to choose, call surprise.

“Thank you,” Mycroft replied, the words halting. “I’ll do my best.”

Mycroft straightened and tugged idly at the cuff on his jacket. “I believe you have my card and my number; if you’re free sometime this week you can call and we could arrange... a dinner, perhaps?”

“Yeah, yes. That’d be great,” Greg agreed maybe a little too enthusiastically. But he looked forward to spending more time with Mycroft again. And while going to dinner together could technically be called a date, Greg didn’t think Mycroft meant it that way. It was perfectly acceptable for friends to go out for a meal together. And Mycroft was someone Greg wanted to get to know better.

To his relief Mycroft didn’t seem put off by his eagerness. He actually smiled at little. “Wonderful, I’ll wait for your call.”

“And I will,” Greg reaffirmed. “Call, that is.” God, he sounded like a lovestruck teenager. “I’ll call you.”

The corners of Mycroft’s eyes wrinkled in a way Greg hoped meant he was amused. “I’ll be waiting.”

Then Mycroft turned around and went to the door. The bell hung on top rang twice before he was gone.

Greg didn’t realize Mycroft had left something behind until his next customer held a sleek black umbrella out to him and asked, “Did you know this was under the counter?”

It was a sign of some sort, or a promise. His old instincts from his days as an officer made it hard to be anything but practical, and his belief in romance had been tested thoroughly by his marriage, but... he was willing to try with Mycroft and test the waters.

~~~

Friday mid-morning Sally showed up at the store looking like she hadn’t seen her bed or had a wink of sleep in over a week. He’d be worried, he was, if not for her slightly unhinged smile and the spark in her eyes that meant a successful end to a rough case.

Sally’s traditional celebration method for a successful case was going home and sleeping soundly until the moment she was called in again. But that was only after a late night out, a very late one.

Back when he was her superior they’d gone out for many such celebrations together, although he’d never been able to completely keep up with her. They’d drifted apart after he’d left (resigned) and then started this cafe; but she still called him about the strange cases, to talk, or least often to go for drinks.

Apparently today was one of those days. She came up to the counter, skirting around the tables and his last customer drifting away across the room.

Sally grinned at him. “Boss-”

“Sorry Sally, I can’t-” Greg quickly apologized, cutting her off.

Her surprised reaction was a widening of her eyes and a half minutes hesitation. Then she frowned at him and asked, “What more important thing could you possibly have planned?”

He smirked at her. “I don’t just sit at home at night twiddling my thumbs, Sally. I’m not too old for a night life.”

She must have heard something in his voice because she laughed, a playful smirk twisting her lips. “Oh this is good. So what exactly do you supposed have planned?”

“I have,” he replied, drawing it out just to tease her, “a date in fact.”

This time she stared at him for a full minute, maybe more even. Finally she blinked. “A date?”

Sally sounded incredulous. “Yes, a date. A time when two people who enjoy each others company go out for food and drinks,” Greg clarified, doing his best not to sound too condescending.

Sally laughed at that, amused. “Right. So who’s the lucky girl? And where’s she taking you?”

“We’re going to,” Greg stopped when he realized he didn’t actually remember what the place was called. He pulled the notebook he was still in the habit of carrying with him out of his pocket and flipped it open. “Uhm,” he squinted at the name he’d written down and made an attempt to pronounce it.

Obviously he hadn’t mangled it too badly because Sally looked very surprised. “Really? Boss that place is fancy. There’s a waiting list for months. How did your date get a table?”

“I don’t know,” Greg said honestly, a little startled by this new information. He hadn’t expected Mycroft to invite him somewhere so nice. And that could be why Mycroft hadn’t exactly told him what the restaurant was like when he’d called to tell Greg about their reservation. Maybe next time they could go to somewhere a little more low-key; if there was a next time. “But I guess we are going there tonight.”

Sally smiled in an almost proud way. “Well you’d better have fun Boss. On your date.” She winked. “And I expect full details about how it turned out. Except if you turn it into a very late night, then call me much later.”

Greg shook his head at her. “I won’t be telling you either way, Sally. But thanks... for your ‘support.’”

This time her wink was much more suggestive. “Have fun!” Then she quickly turned around and left through the door.

At least he apparently had one person in favor of this, whatever this might turn into. And Sally knew about his last relationship, she’d been the one to help him through the fast downhill slide his marriage had ended in. That was probably why she was being so supportive.

~~

Somehow the conversation with Sally made him worry more instead of making him more relaxed as the ‘date’ grew closer. He hadn’t really been worried after Mycroft called, just curious to know how the two of them would get along when they were alone without any interruptions. If they were as compatible as Greg thought and hoped.

He hadn’t dated at all since the divorce and his resignation from the Yard, hadn’t even considered it. But he thought Mycroft was a chance, a good one, and worth everything.

~~
part two

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