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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" 2/2

"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.

~~

( Part one )

The dinner went well, amazingly well.

Once they’d ordered drinks and settled in at their table Greg let himself relax and enjoy the evening. Mycroft had taken a little longer to get comfortable- it didn’t seem like he did this very often either- but did, eventually.

By the time their meals arrive they’d managed to successfully carry a conversation without too many awkward pauses. He’d gotten Mycroft to smile twice (at least), more if not-quite-smiles counted, and Mycroft had made him laugh more than that. Mycroft hadn’t told Greg much about himself, and Greg hadn’t felt like discussing his (failed) past. But there were still lots of other things for them to talk about.

The entire dinner, even through desert, and another drink, they never ran out of topics to discuss. Sometimes Mycroft carefully evaded certain subjects with an abrupt but easy change of conversation, but Greg didn’t make a point of pointing it out. He could tell when there were things Mycroft couldn’t- or wouldn’t- talk about.

Even with his expensive suits, probably weaponized brolly, strange hours, and matchmaking assistant, Mycroft was so different from the government types Greg had interacted with before. Greg had respect for the law, and the government- that was why he had wanted to be part of the Yard and put criminals away. But he had a hard time when politics were made more important than making people safe. He was glad that, as far as he could tell, Mycroft took his job very seriously and was fully committed to it.

Of course Mycroft was much more than just his job. Throughout their dinner, which went by much faster than time usually did, Greg learned a lot of interesting facts about his dinner partner. He found out that Mycroft enjoyed reading, mainly non fiction but every so often he indulged in the classics; preferred tea over coffee but would drink coffee if it was necessary and he needed energy; listened to opera but preferred live classical music; was willing to try exotic food at least once; and never went anywhere without his phone even though he really did prefer to talk in person.

By the end of the evening Greg had become slightly tipsy- maybe a little more than- and couldn’t remembering enjoying himself more in the past few years. Mycroft was great company and Greg felt extremely grateful for the chance that had made Mycroft come into his cafe after whatever he and Anthea had gotten themselves into that night. Good things like this rarely happened to him anymore.

After they were finally finished with dinner they paid separately for their meals- even though Mycroft tried to convince Greg to let him pay for both- and said goodbye out on the sidewalk. Greg took a cab home and went to bed nearly right after, only to stay awake staring at the ceiling going over the dinner in his head for hours.

The next morning Greg opened the cafe more than an hour later than he normally did. He hadn’t thought it would be a good idea to try and open earlier since it had already taken him long to even get out of bed and stumble down into the cafe. Really he was only as awake as he was because of his wonderful personal coffee machine upstairs in his kitchenette. The thing was a miracle worker.

Of course some potential customers weren’t very pleased that he hadn’t opened on time, especially those who needed to be at work but needed coffee first. But Greg found he didn’t really care after the amazing night he’d had.

He quickly started serving those who had been lined up outside his door, and when they had all gone away happy he moved to making sandwiches. As he worked to make up the time he’d lost earlier that morning the thought crossed his mind- as it had before- that it would be nice to have another body around the shop. If he tried hard enough he could do everything on his own, but it would be nice to delegate.

Maybe he could finally convince Sally to come work with him. No, she loved her job and she was a great officer. He didn’t want to take her away from the outstanding work he knew she was capable of. So he’d just keep doing what he was, and carry on.

While he was arranging the sandwiches he’d made on a tray Greg heard the bell over the door ring.

Instead of looking up he called, “Be right with you!”

“What’s so interesting about you?” A sharp voice demanded critically.

Greg jerked, just barely avoiding hitting his head. He took a steadying breath then slowly looked up.

Perched there, like a bird of prey, was a scarecrow. Or what looked very like a scarecrow. A young man, barely a man really, glaring at him. But the glare was diminished by the wet wool coat dripping water and weighing him down like a stone. The rain had plastered the strands of his long dark hair to his head.

He looked so young, and soaked to the bone... and upset with him.

Greg mentally shook himself. “Sorry?”

“What, is so interesting about you,” the boy clipped out, not framing it as a question this time.

Greg straightened to his full height and rested his hands on the edge of the counter. “I’m actually very interesting. Once you get to know me.”

The boy scoffed as if he didn’t believe that for even a half second. “You own a cafe; and while that is not a typical occupation, it is not unique. You have no political influence, and are loyal to the government and your country. What interest could you possibly hold for him?”

“Sorry,” Greg said, confused. “Who are you talking about? And who are you?”

A pale gaze met his for a few seconds then swept down to his feet and back up. “A former officer of the Yard, unexpected. But still not an explanation. What could he possibly see in you?”

“Listen, I don’t know who you are, but you need to go.” Greg commanded angrily. He raised a hand to point across the room to the door.

That earned him a twitch of lips that could, once, be considered a smirk. “You don’t command me... Sargent. But I am going.” He paused for a long second. “Just know, you’re making a mistake.”

He turned away, as if making to leave; but then he turned back to consider Greg from a side angle. “It won’t last,” the boy told him, sounding very sure of himself. “One, perhaps two months at the most before he breaks it off claiming it isn’t working.” He stepped close again, leaning over the counter just slightly. “But the truth is,” the boy said quietly, eyes gleaming, “sentiment, and caring, are not an advantage.”

What the hell did that mean? And who was this boy to judge and make such comments about his relationship with Mycroft? How was it that his life had become so strange when he used to lead such an ordinary life?

Greg clenched his hands into fists again for a moment then pointed at the door again, a little more aggressively this time. Instead of saying anything, it didn’t seem like it’d worked so far, Greg just glared pointedly at the boy and hoped he would take the hint.

The boy smiled sharply at him, a look Greg definitely did not like. Then he spun around- a little dramatically in that coat even though it must have been heavy with rain- and finally left. Actually left.

After the door slammed closed with a soft ring from the bell Greg spent a few minutes staring out the windows. He tried to process what had just happened because, really, it had sounded like a warning- but about Mycroft? Surely there were more dangerous people out there in the world than Mycroft Holmes.

Finally Greg shook his head and slid his hand into the pocket of his trousers to pull out his phone. He’d programmed Mycroft’s number in a few days earlier, so all he had to do was press a few buttons before it started ringing on the other end.

He and Mycroft had had a few conversations over the phone during their brief acquaintance so far, one short the other longer, but the majority of their correspondence had been by texts; as much as Mycroft supposedly disliked texting.

On the other end the phone only rang three times before there was a click and someone picked up. “Good morning, Mr. Holmes’ office,” was his greeting.

“Hello Anthea, is Mycroft available?”

He could hear her smiling as she answered, “He’s doing paperwork at the moment, so I’m sure he would welcome a distraction. Is this just a social call, or is there a problem?”

“I... don’t know,” Greg answered honestly since he wasn’t exactly sure just what was going on. “Possibly a problem?”

Anthea didn’t speak right away; instead there was a long pause, more than a minute it felt like, before he heard a soft ‘click.’ “Lestrade?” She finally called, her voice softer and more reassuring now, “What’s wrong?”

He let out a slow breath, leaning forward so most of his weight rested on his elbow propped up on the counter. The tension and rush of worry he’d been experiencing faded now that he was talking to someone about it. “There, there was a man just in here, a boy really,” Greg started to say, a little shaken still and knowing he wasn’t doing a very good job of explaining. “He talked about Mycroft. I think he was warning me off him, but- he didn’t exactly say that. He said what we’re doing was a mistake, like he actually knew anything about it.”

Greg stopped, thinking over the very short, mainly one-sided conversation. “And he said a few times that he couldn’t see what was so interesting about me.”

If he didn’t think better of her Greg thought he’d heard Anthea curse softly under her breath. “Lestrade, what, exactly did this man look like?” She asked of him, sounding rushed. “Describe him to me.”

The sharpness in her voice confused him. He’d only called to learn if the man was a threat to Mycroft and if he needed to watch out for him again. He hadn’t expected her to so urgently demand questions from him.

“Anthea, I’m sure it’s all fine,” Greg quickly tried to reassure her. “I just wanted-”

“Gregory,” she almost but not quite snapped at him, cutting him off and using his first name for the first time. “Describe him to me.”

Greg was tongue-tied for a quick second; but then he did start describing as best as he could, pretending he was identifying a suspect. “Pale skin, really pale; taller than me since I had to look up; thin like he hadn’t eaten in a while; his eyes were blue or green it was hard to tell; long, scraggly black hair, longer than a lot of guys wear it.” Greg thought hard for a long second then remembered, “And he was wearing a long heavy coat, it looked like wool. And expensive.”

Anthea took a sharp breath. “I’m transferring you over to Mr. Holmes now. Tell him everything you told me. Everything.”

“What? Anthea-”

“It’s important, Gregory,” she admonished.

Then there was a mechanical ‘click’ and a second later Mycroft greeted him happily, “Gregory, this is a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect you to call so soon.”

“I wasn’t going to,” Greg replied without thinking then quickly backpedaled. “Not so soon I mean. But I was going to call, tonight. Probably.” He paused then added, a little calmer, “I was, honestly.”

“I believe you,” Mycroft replied sounding completely calm and maybe a little amused. He heard the sound of papers being shuffled. “As I said, it’s good to hear from you.”

Greg bit his tongue and thought for a second. He really was glad to talk to Mycroft but he didn’t want to bother the man. “Mycroft, if you’re busy-”

“Nonsense Gregory,” Mycroft chided, sounding surprised that Greg had even mentioned it. “I’m only signing paperwork. And while it is important; as I’m sure you’re aware from your years as an officer, doing so holds no entertainment at all.”

Greg laughed darkly. “You’re right; it’s not fun at all. And it never ends, there’s always stacks of it.”

“Even more when the government is involved,” Mycroft commented dryly, sounding tired. “I like to make sure everything is in order, just to be completely certain.” His voice sharpened. “I dislike mistakes.”

Somehow that didn’t surprise Greg at all. “Mycroft, I did call for a reason. Other than just to talk to you I mean. It’s probably nothing, but,” he sighed and resisted the urge to rest his head against the top of the counter. “It’s probably nothing, but apparently Anthea thought different since she told me to tell you about it.”

“Anthea?” Mycroft repeated, sounding taken aback. “Why?”

Greg shook his head. “I can’t even begin to understand the workings of your assistants mind. Or any females mind.”

“I see.” Mycroft replied. “One moment Gregory, please don’t hang up,” Mycroft told him just before there was yet another ‘click.’

“Anthea what is so important?” He overheard Mycroft ask his assistant. “Not that I don’t enjoy talking with Gregory, but-”

For the first time in a while Anthea actually interrupted her boss. “Has he told you why he called yet?”

“No,” Greg could hear the frown. “Is that what is so important?”

Anthea could be heard taking a deep breath. It was the most worried he’d ever heard her. “Judging by Lestrade’s description, it’s very possible he had a... ‘conversation,’ with him.”

There was a sharp intake of breath on Mycroft’s end. “Are you sure? It’s been a long time, why would he-”

“Talk with Lestrade, let him tell you,” Anthea advised. “And draw your own conclusions.”

“Yes, of course,” Mycroft agreed, then coughed as if he was clearing his throat. “Thank you.”

There was another ‘click’ then Mycroft asked him, “Gregory, what did this man look like? What exactly did he say? Tell me absolutely everything, and leave nothing out no matter how small it may seem.”

“Uhm, well,” Greg said, getting off to a good start. Finally he mostly just repeated what he’d said to Anthea. “I thought he was warning me off you, like he was threatening me if we kept spending time together. But now after I think about it it sounded more like a really strange take on the ‘break his heart and I’ll break you’ kind of speech you hear from siblings or fathers.”

From the other end of the line there was a long pause. Greg could almost hear Mycroft’s mind whirling. Then there was the sound of movement, a chair being pushed back, papers gathered, and over the noise Mycroft said, “Gregory, I’m coming over there. With traffic I’ll be less than a half hour. I need you to do me a favor and close your store for the rest of the day.” Before Greg could even think to protest Mycroft added, “I’ll make up any business lost for your trouble I promise.”

“I suppose I can do that,” Greg agreed sounding much more reluctant than he was. He went around the counter and to the front door to flip the sign. The place was already empty since no customers had come in within the last hour. The entire day had been worryingly slow. He’d barely seen anyone.

He heard Mycroft’s footsteps and the sound of a door closing. “Before I go, Gregory, one more thing. Did you see what direction he came from or what direction he went when he left?”

“Not where he came from, I wasn’t watching the door,” Greg admitted, feeling a little like he was letting Mycroft down given how worried the man sounded. “But I did see when he left, and he went... right.”

“Interesting,” Mycroft mused; “Thank you, Gregory,” he said warmly. “I’ll be there soon.”

“Anthea-” Greg heard Mycroft call before the dial tone sounded in his ear.

Greg sighed irritably and snapped the phone closed. Then he slid it into his pocket with a soft sigh. Even with Mycroft’s more than generous offer it wasn’t likely he’d lose much business closing this early, and he didn’t mind not having to deal with customers the rest of the day. The encounter with the boy, who ever he was- and he seemed important to Mycroft- hadn’t shaken him but Greg wasn’t sure he’d be able to concentrate the rest of the day.

The question was what was he going to do to keep occupied until Mycroft arrived.

Greg turned around, leaning against the sturdy frame of the door. As much as he hated cleaning, it was good to be in the habit of keeping his store clean- including all the washing and clearing tables and wiping up floors. So he might as well get to work.

It actually took Mycroft even less than a half hour before he was knocking on the glass pane of the door. Greg didn’t want to know exactly how Mycroft had managed that but he was very glad to see him.

Greg tossed the rag he’d been using down on the table and hurried to the door. Before he opened the door he wiped his hands on his trousers then pulled it open.

Mycroft looked up to greet Greg with a strained smile. “Hello Gregory. May I come in?”

“Course you can,” Greg replied quickly, holding the door open for Mycroft and waving him in.

Mycroft’s smile grew incrementally. “Thank you.”

Greg closed the door behind Mycroft then led him over to the counter. “Do you want anything? Still on me.”

“You can’t continue offering me drinks without also asking me to pay for them,” Mycroft chided while still sounding amused. And maybe a little surprised that Greg had offered. “It isn’t necessary.”

Greg waved him off. “It’s fine. I don’t mind.” He walk to and behind the counter and started to make the drink that was quickly becoming Mycroft’s. Even with his back to the rest of the room Greg heard Mycroft pull out the stool and sit.

They sat in comfortable silence for awhile, the only noises Greg taking down a mug and the tea and then the kettle as it heated. Finally it started whistling; Greg quickly picked it up and poured the steaming water into the mug along with the tea he’d put in earlier.

“Gregory,” Mycroft’s voice called softly, a shadow of hesitation in the word.

Greg put the kettle back down to stay warm and turned around. “Teas ready,” he announced. Then he saw Mycroft’s expression and stopped where he was, ignoring the hot liquid nearly burning his fingers through the sides of the mug. “Mycroft?” Greg asked curiously, continuing forward slowly.

Mycroft glanced up at him and exhaled. Instead of answering he reached out and took the mug Greg was holding out to him. He held it in his hands to warm them a little then raised it to his lips.

Greg waited patiently for Mycroft to take a long sip, then another, and yet another before he finally set the mug down. Greg was patient and didn’t push Mycroft for what was wrong now, or what else was wrong. Whatever this was about, it was important. Enough to make Mycroft very worried.

It took Mycroft longer to finally speak after seconds of tapping his fingers against the mug. “Gregory,” he said again. “Gregory, I-” Mycroft cleared his throat almost nervously.

Greg shifted restlessly; he leaned against the counter then quickly straightened again. “Myc-”

“What did he look like?” Mycroft said rapidly, almost blurting the question. “The man who spoke to you, what was he like?”

Greg shook his head. “I don’t- I already told you that Mycroft. I told you everything I remember.”

“No, that wasn’t what I meant,” Mycroft said. Suddenly he looked much older than Greg had thought. “I meant...” he paused like he was searching for the words. “When he looked at you, were his eyes clear? Focused? Was he slurring at all? Were there circles under his eyes? Was he shaking, twitching?”

“Mycroft...” Greg said lowly, because he knew full well what all of those put together meant. And Mycroft didn’t sound like he was worried about a possible threat, he sounded as worried as Greg had once been for those he cared about. “Just who is this boy?”

“Please Gregory; just tell me first,” Mycroft nearly pleaded softly.

It really wasn’t asking much. Not when Greg thought about it. “I didn’t see any of those things. He was speaking clearly, cutting really. He looked at me like he could read my mind, like he knew everything about me. And, he was thin, looked like he’d been in the rain for days. But not like he was on something. Just tired and definitely not taking care of himself.”

Mycroft looked like he was about to collapse where he was sitting on the stool. “Thank goodness,” he said on an exhale; the tension draining from his form.

“Mycroft?” Greg asked.

“The man was my brother, Sherlock,” Mycroft explained for him. “I haven’t seen him in several years, not since he left university before finishing his degree. He’s managed to stay out of my sight since then, although I’m certain he’s been in London.” Mycroft raised his head, nearly but not quite meeting Greg’s eyes. “You’re the first to see and converse with him in that time at least as far as I am aware.”

“Why me?” Greg asked, surprised. “If he’s been missing all that time, why would he come out of hiding to talk to me?”

“You said he warned you against continuing to spend time with me. He advised you wouldn’t be able to hold my interest because you weren’t interesting enough,” Mycroft stated in a way that made it sound like that was an answer itself.

“Yes?” Greg agreed but he didn’t understand what Mycroft was trying to get at.

Mycroft looked at him for a few seconds as if he could will him to understand by using force of will. Then his mouth twitched and Mycroft answered, “I believe that while he was staying out of sight and avoiding me, Sherlock was keeping an eye on me in return and monitoring my actions. Somehow it came to his attention that we were seeing each other and he wanted to see you for himself.”

Greg wasn’t sure if he should feel pleased about being such a part of Mycroft’s life that his brother was intrigued enough to check on him, or worried at how intrusive the brother was to come and personally see what he was like. Taking into account what the boy had said to him, it hadn’t sounded like a protective younger brother.

“So he came out from wherever he’s been hiding all these years just because we started talking?” Greg asked since the idea seemed very unreal. “Why didn’t he just go directly to you?”

Mycroft’s laugh was hollow, the corners of his eyes creased. “There’s a reason we haven’t spoken or seen each other in years, Gregory. Sherlock and I have numerous differences; the last time we were together we had a... severe disagreement.”

“What kind of ‘severe disagreement?’ Siblings argue all the time, it’s not unusual,” Greg told Mycroft while trying very hard not to be amused by all this. “Though I don’t think most take it to the point of not talking for years.”

“One where we had a very strong difference of opinion,” Mycroft said with a soft sigh. “We argued, as we often did; and soon afterwards Sherlock left university and disappeared.”

Greg being an only child, he didn’t completely understand the rivalry between many siblings. He also didn’t understand having a argument so awful brothers wouldn’t talk for years and one would vanish completely. He’d had his own fair share of thunderous arguments, especially with his ex-wife, but never any that bad. “What did you argue about?” Greg asked then added quickly, “If you’ll tell me.”

Mycroft twitched his mouth a little. “Sherlock hasn’t thought well of me since I ‘abandoned’ him when I left for university myself. He also didn’t take it well when I suggested he finish instead of running off to London and creating a career as a detective like he’d mentioned repeatedly.” He shifted and clasped his hands together. “Sherlock has never seen the point of what he calls tedious, pointless jobs. He’s unable to understand why I would want to work for the government ‘pushing papers’’ as he says.”

“But you’re not one of those people who push papers,” Greg stated plainly even though that was really just a hunch. He didn’t know for sure and Mycroft had never told him outright.

Mycroft finally smiled at him. “No, that’s true. But Sherlock and I haven’t been in touch and he’s not at all interested in what I actually do. He merely sees it as another tool to help my spying on him.”

Greg blinked. “Do you spy on him?” He asked puzzled. And a little worried.

Before Mycroft answered Greg reached out to take away the mug. It wasn’t empty like he’d thought, which made Greg realize he hadn’t seen Mycroft drinking the tea. But he still picked it up and turned to the counter behind him to make a fresh cup.

“I wouldn’t say spying,” Mycroft finally answered quietly. “I merely worry about him, and I like to keep an eye out for his wellbeing.”

“Mm,” Greg hummed as he started to reheat the water. After a long pause he asked, “Do you think he’ll show up again?”

Mycroft ‘hummed’ faintly, tapping the wooden surface of the counter. “It is possible. Sherlock has always been irrepressibly curious.”

“That’s all you think this is? Him being curious?” Mycroft knew his brother better than what Greg could just guess at about Sherlock. But this sounded like more than basic curiosity.

Mycroft’s reply was an answer, but not an answer to the question he’d asked. “I have Anthea looking for him and any traces or signs he may have left behind. Soon we’ll have the video from the CCTV cameras and can track him more easily through London. Sherlock may be talented at hiding, he always has been, but eventually he’ll reappear.”

“Good,” Greg affirmed a little strongly. “I’d like to have an actual, normal conversation with him.”

“I’m afraid Sherlock doesn’t approve of nor follows proper social conventions,” Mycroft warned in the tone of a harried older brother. “Most of your conversations with him are likely to follow the same vein, except for him possibly letting you say one or two more things. Never an actual discussion.”

“The least I can do is try,” Greg said as he poured out the newly heated water. “First impressions aren’t always the best.”

“Or the second, or the third,” Mycroft added in a quiet aside to himself. In a normal voice he said, “That is likely the reason why Sherlock did not find the police as welcoming as he’d hoped.”

Greg spun around at the mention of the police, careful not to spill the very hot water. “What about the police?”

Mycroft sighed in a way typically accompanied by an eye roll. “Ever since he read a news article in the papers when he was younger, Sherlock has been intent on becoming a detective consulting with the police to solve crimes.”

“A detective?” Greg repeated, setting the mug down before he hurt himself. “In the police?”

“Goodness, no,” Mycroft laughed. “Sherlock dislikes regulation just as much as he dislikes most normal social conventions.”

“A consultant then,” Greg was skeptical. He shook his head, “The Yard doesn’t bring on just anyone. Especially amateurs who think they’re smart enough to solve crimes on their own.”

“Exactly, hence our disagreement,” Mycroft replied with a slight nod. “I suspect he wasn’t pleased when the police refused his help. It’s likely why he tried to disappear even further.”

“Seems to have done a good job of it,” Greg observed. “It’s a shame he couldn’t work with the police like he wanted to, but it’s not typical for the yard to hire on consultants except in-”

“Yes, I know,” Mycroft interrupted quickly. “That is why I tried to stop him from following his intention to be a consulting detective, his own term; but it has been too many years since he listened to me.”

Greg set the mug down on the counter behind him, next to the kettle. “So because he couldn’t be a consulting detective, your brother disappeared? That sounds like a tantrum.”

“Sherlock doesn’t like to be wrong, ever,” Mycroft explained with a very faint smile. “He also dislikes being told no or being denied. In that vein my brother was very upset when I explained he couldn’t be a pirate when he was older.”

A few snickers escaped his mouth before Greg couldn’t help himself and broke out into giggles. He didn’t know the boy well at all, but he could not imagine the sharp tongued boy as a pirate. Especially with an eye patch and sword, in charge of a crew.

Mycroft looked like he was very close to joining in with the laughter, and only managing it by smiling instead. “Sherlock enjoyed adventure stories, it was one of the few ways to make him stay still for more than a minute or so.”

Greg snickered. “Your brother sounds very interesting.” He sobered slightly. “I’ll tell you if he shows up again, Mycroft. I promise. I won’t let him just disappear again. But you have to promise to talk to him and not force him into anything.”

“Gregory-”

“Mycroft,” Greg replied firmly.

For a few seconds Mycroft gave him that same searching look from before. Greg didn’t know what he was looking for, but he hoped Mycroft would find it. Finally Mycroft sighed and nodded, looking unsure but at least willing to try. “Very well. I promise I will try. But nothing is ever absolute when it comes to my brother.”

“I’m just glad you agree to try,” Greg soothed but then commented, “And if there are fireworks when you meet again, I want to be there for them.”

That earned him an honest laugh. “All right.”

“Perfect,” Greg declared. He raised the mug in the air. “Now why don’t I refill this for you, and you tell me all about your week at work.”

~~~

Exactly seven days, one night together, and a long lunch later, Sherlock showed up again.

This time it was during the lunch hour rush right as a steady stream of customers poured through the door to snap orders and requests at him. He’d already thought several times that he wanted the day to be over already.

He handed over a steaming cup of fresh coffee to his latest customer, kept the change as he was told, and made himself smile at the next person. He made that person a sandwich and a black tea, and handed it over. He didn’t get any thanks for that, of course. But luckily they were the last in line and hopefully the last in the current rush.

Greg leaned back against the counter, gripping the edge with his hands, just so he wouldn’t slump over it. Some days...

He let out a very long, slow breath and squeezed his eyes closed. A mug of tea would help fix this; or at least it would make a good start. A conversation with Mycroft would also probably help but he had said he’d be in meetings for most of the day.

Greg pushed himself off the counter with more effort than it should’ve taken. And as he raised his head Greg spotted a black scarecrow leaning against the wall just inside the door.

He froze, frowning even though it wouldn’t help him see better. He wasn’t old enough for glasses and he wouldn’t wear them. But it was like the idiot was purposefully standing just where it would be hard for him to see.

“You, Sherlock!” Greg called across the room.

The boy startled, like a dog that caught a scent. His head snapped up from where his chin had been resting on his chest, and he shook himself out in the long, dark coat, resettling.

He wasn’t soaking wet this time, but the coat still looked ridiculously big on him. The boy looked like he was wearing his father's, or his older brothers, clothes even though knowing Mycroft, Sherlock would only wear specially tailored clothes.

“When’s the last time you showered?” Greg asked after the boy didn’t say a word and just continued looking at him. “Or ate anything?”

Sherlock stared intently at him with a pale, scrutinizing gaze. His hands were pushed into the pockets of his coat and black strands of hair fell over his eyes. And he still didn’t say anything.

Greg bit his lip, trying very hard to keep his patience. “Come over here. Stop doing an impression of a lurking scarecrow. Or whatever it is you’re trying to be.”

The boy blinked owlishly at him; then he peeled away from the wall and with obvious great reluctance started walking slowly across the room.

It took him much longer than it should have so Greg took the time to tidy up the counter and bar. He turned around finally when the footsteps came to a halt followed by an impatient noisy sigh. As he’d expected Sherlock was now standing on the other side, arms crossed across his chest and very grumpy.

The boy looked seconds away from tapping his foot. “What do you want?” He asked in a clipped voice.

“Hello to you too, sunshine,” Greg retorted charmingly. “Good to see you again.”

Sherlock made a frustrated noise, bristling. “It’s him, isn’t it? He put you up to this.”

“If you mean Mycroft,” Greg said considering; “No, he didn’t. He didn’t put me up to anything.”

“Unlikely,” Sherlock replied argumentatively. “He’s always sticking his fat nose into everything. He won’t leave me alone.”

Spare him from mullish younger brothers, especially obstinate ones, who saw caring as overprotective. “You’re the one who came in here, and under your own will,” Greg reminded the boy. “You didn’t turn up because either of us told you to. We don’t even know how to get a hold of you, if that’s even possible, if we wanted to. You walked here on your own two feet.”

That reminder didn’t have any effect on Sherlock’s glare. Sherlock rejoined, “You are still spending time with him, and enjoying yourselves. He has clearly told you who I am.”

“Yes, all of that is true,” Greg allowed thoughtfully. “And your point is?”

Sherlock’s nose wrinkled. “You’re... close.” He said it like it was the most ridiculous thing ever. “He’s swayed you with the lies and empty reassurances he’s given you. You think you know him, but he’ll never tell you everything.”

The Holmes brothers apparently really didn’t get along. Mycroft had hinted something had happened to cause this, animosity, between them. But he hadn’t imagined this. What would it be like to be in the same room with them?

“This might surprise you, but I don’t mind that so much,” Greg confided in the boy. “Everyone has secrets. And they’re the ones to decide when they get told, if they get told at all.”

Something played across Sherlock’s face. “Aren’t some secrets better told than left in the dark while people go on pretending they don’t know?”

There was history there, Greg could tell. But with everything he’d seen during his time as an officer, he knew Sherlock was more than a little right and there was truth in his words. “If you want to get philosophical about it, sure,” Greg replied evenly. “Now, would you like a tea, coffee; maybe a sandwich?”

Sherlock scoffed. “I don’t need your pity.”

“No, you just look like you need a good meal and a few nights sleep,” Greg commented with a touch of sarcasm. He cast a glance over the worryingly thin body even wrapped in that coat. “I can at least help with the meal part.”

“I’m not hungry,” Sherlock snapped irritably.

Greg ignored him, as he had a feeling he’d be doing often. He started making a sandwich. “You will eat this, by the way. I won’t hear anything different.”

Stony silence was his answer.

He finished making the sandwich, placing the second piece of bread on top. When he looked up again Sherlock was still standing there scowling.

“Here,” Greg instructed, sliding the plate over. “Eat.”

Sherlock glanced up at him very briefly before he leaned over to look closely at the plate. “Is it edible?” He asked wrinkling his nose.

“It’s food,” Greg replied shortly; he pushed the plate even closer to the boy. “Now eat. And what did you say about tea or coffee?”

Sherlock lightly tapped the plate with his finger. “If you plan to force it down my throat, I’d prefer tea. No milk, two sugars.”

“Good,” Greg replied. He didn’t add that he wouldn’t actually force him to drink it. He just wanted him to.

He turned away to start the kettle again. And while the water heated he took down a new mug and his best tea.

With his back turned he could only hear Sherlock but Greg was relieved to hear the boy picking up the sandwich, nudging the plate a little. Greg smiled happily to himself. The boy was stubborn and pig-headed, but he had to give in to his body just like everyone else.

Since he’d been using the kettle so often that morning it didn’t take long to heat the water. It whistled at him so Greg picked it up, poured the water into the mug, and mixed in the tea. When he deemed it ready Greg added the two sugars- surprising the boy liked it sweet- and stirred it one last time with a spoon. Only then did he finally turn and deliver the steaming mug of tea to Sherlock.

The boy gave him a suspicious glance, barely a flicker, and reached for the mug. It was hot, probably burnt his fingers, but Sherlock didn’t even flinch. He raised it to his lips and took a testing sip.

A second later he blanched, nose wrinkling, and quickly set the mug back down with a clatter. “That’s absolutely awful. How can you possibly claim that’s tea?”

“It is tea,” Greg answered shortly, almost snapping. “And many of my customers enjoy it.”

Sherlock scoffed loudly. “Most people are idiots, almost everyone is.”

Greg didn’t reply, however much he was tempted to. He patiently bit his tongue and looked carefully at the boy. Sherlock was all irritation with the world and sharp, distancing words. But beneath that was just a boy, willingly isolated from the common folk, alone, and not allowed to do the one thing he wanted (other than being a pirate).

Greg didn’t want to have the boy disappear back to wherever he’d been the past few years. Sherlock did have a sharp tongue but it was just a defense and made Greg wonder when he’d started using it instead of trying to understand other people. Mycroft was better, more congenial, but Greg wondered if that came from working in politics or he’d just adapted better than his brother in his longer lifetime.

Either way Greg was more than willing to give Sherlock a chance; an opportunity to stay in the daylight with the rest of the population. “So you think you can do better?” He challenged the boy, taking away the mug since Sherlock apparently didn’t want it. Greg had a feeling Sherlock enjoyed challenges.

As he’d expected Sherlock’s mouth twisted into a prideful smirk. “Of course I can, no question.”

Just as he’d thought. “All right,” Greg said agreeably, interested. “What can you make then?”

A light came into Sherlock’s eyes, almost the same look he’d had during their first conversation when he’d made comments about Greg’s past. He opened his mouth to say exactly what Greg wasn’t sure.

“No, wait,” Greg quickly stopped him, holding up a hand. Sherlock placed a heavy worth on words, using them for everything- especially getting what he wanted and telling the truth no matter the consequences or harm. Greg could tell the truth, the honest truth, was important to Sherlock. And while Greg could commend that, sometimes it was better to withhold the truth.

Since Sherlock would, hopefully, be staying around for the near future Greg hoped he could convince Sherlock to express himself better than just using sharp words. He did have that giant, brilliant mind to figure it out with.

“I don’t want you to tell me, I want you to show me,” Greg decided confidently. He pointed at the kettle and then the coffee machine. “Go ahead.”

Surprise flickered in Sherlock’s eyes, he cast a narrowed glance between the two machines. “You trust me to, use your equipment? Just like that, without anything in return?”

Greg merely shrugged. “Go ahead,” he repeated.

Sherlock looked carefully at him for a moment; then he nodded and moved around to join Greg behind the counter.

Greg moved out of the way and relaxed against the counter, crossing his arms as he watched Sherlock flit about. He was a flurry of movement, graceful and every part of it controlled. Absently Greg wondered if he’d ever had dancing lessons. Sherlock took down two mugs, oddly, then opened one of the cupboards and stuck his nose in.

“What are you looking for?” Greg asked curiously.

Sherlock made an annoyed noise and reached inside the cupboard. There were soft clinking noises as he moved around the jars Greg kept on the first shelf of the cupboard. “You’ll have to restock all of your ingredients. These are completely useless. I don’t know why you have most of these, they don’t belong in drinks.”

“Thank you for your input,” Greg commented dryly.

Sherlock huffed before extracting his hand from the cupboard, holding one of the jars. He held it up to his eyes, nodded, and set it down on the counter.

As the kettle started making noises meaning it was almost ready, Sherlock took a step back and surveyed the counter. His head turned as his gaze swept back and forth along the counter before finally settling on the metal door to the small fridge Greg had had installed underneath. Sherlock bent down, opened the door, and pulled out a jar of milk before he kicked it closed.

In a familiar, orchestrated dance Sherlock poured the water into the first mug, added tea, and a spoonful of sugar. Into the second he combined a mixture of milk, tea, and whatever was in the jar he’d taken down. He picked up a spoon Greg had left on the counter, used it to stir the second mixture, then put it aside again.

Sherlock paused for a brief second, his shoulders tense and stiff; finally he turned around and held out the first mug to Greg.

Greg took it carefully in both hands and drew the mug in close to his chest. “Thanks,” he said before he lifted it to his lips. Greg was half tempted to sniff it first, just to make sure it didn’t smell off or strange, but that wouldn’t help with the trust he was trying to build with Sherlock.

He took a small, testing sip and was surprised by the rich flavor flooding his tastebuds. It was delicious and didn’t taste at all like the weak, flavored water tea could be sometimes. Greg took a larger sip, waited, and then swallowed. When he lowered the mug again he said appreciatively, “That’s really good, delicious.”

Sherlock smiled at him, a small real smile that lightened his features. Without a word he reached out and took the mug from Greg’s hands to replace it with the second mug.

Greg didn’t protest, just accepted it. This one was hotter to the touch than the first and he lifted it to his nose, only because it had a really good smell coming from it. A scent that was even better when he inhaled it.

Greg glanced at Sherlock over the top of the mug to see the boy watching him with an impatient, possibly worried, look.

He didn’t want to draw this out or make Sherlock annoyed enough to snap at him, so Greg raised this mug to his mouth. He took a testing sip again and this time was even more surprised at a rush of bitter tea, milk, and cinnamon sweeping into his mouth.

Greg swallowed and took a longer sip of the delicious liquid. It was bitter and sweet at the same time, and very refreshing. He knew Sherlock was waiting but it was so good that he drank most of it before finally lowering the mug.

When he looked up again Sherlock was watching him expectantly, poised against the counter.

“This is wonderful,” Greg told him with open honesty. “You came up with this yourself?”

After a moment of facial exercises Sherlock nodded. “Yes, among others.”

Greg frowned and took another sip of the drink. “You make your own drinks? And mix them yourself?”

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed; he sounded like he didn’t understand why Greg was asking such inane questions. “I enjoy experimenting.”

Greg laughed. “With drinks?”

When Sherlock just blinked at him Greg paused, considering. Finally he asked, thoughtfully, “Are there other drinks you’ve designed Mr. Mad Scientist?”

Sherlock looked confused at the term but the side of his mouth twitched. “Yes. But some I am still working on and they aren’t yet perfected.”

“And they’re fit for human consumption? You can drink them, and people like them?” Greg asked sensing it was a good question to ask since Sherlock might not have thought of it.

“Theoretically,” Sherlock confirmed. “I don’t typically allow other people to try my drinks. But I personally make sure they are all perfect myself.”

Well that settled it then. Sherlock might be a risk but Greg was more than willing to take the chance. “What would you think about offering your drinks here? The customers might like your experiments, it would be something new.”

The pleased look on Sherlock’s face flickered and then resettled into something more detached. “You’re offering me a place in your cafe. Why? I could be just as successful selling them on my own.” His nose wrinkled. “I do have a website I maintain where I take orders; along with other requests.”

“A website?” Greg echoed in surprise. “Well, why use a website when you can make and sell them in an actual shop?”

Sherlock made a ‘hmph’ sound. “Tedious. Boring. Needless interaction with the common population. Impractical.” He looked away.

“You wouldn’t necessarily have to interact with them,” Greg told the boy, trying to be convincing. “I can already tell that’s not such a good idea. All you would have to do is make your drinks here for each customer.” He paused, taking a deep, silent breath, and added, “And you would have a place to stay and a place to sell your drinks. It would help word spread about your drinks and, if people liked them, you could get even more customers. I’m trying to help you.”

The interest slowly growing on Sherlock’s face died suddenly and totally. “Pity,” he bit out. “I’m not one of your strays. ” With an icy glare at Greg Sherlock turned on his heel and strode quickly back towards the door.

“Sherlock, wait!” Greg called desperate. And, somehow, Sherlock actually did stop- for now. “It isn’t pity, I promise. And you’re not one of my... strays.” He waited until Sherlock slowly, so slowly, turned around again before explaining, “It’s... a mutual arrangement, beneficial for us both.”

Sherlock frowned at him, obviously still hesitant. He looked at Greg for a long, long time then finally asked, a vulnerable note in his voice, “Why?”

His offer wasn’t really that unusual, was it? He saw potential in Sherlock, for all his harsh words and sharp edges, and he wanted to see if he could help mold it. Hadn’t anyone ever believed in the boy before?

Greg searched for the words, for the right answer to Sherlock’s one word question. But finally he just replied, “Because I think you’re a good kid, and you make great drinks.”

That made Sherlock tilt his head to the side, and Greg could practically see the wheels in his mind turning as he considered. After what felt like a long time Sherlock pressed his lips together tightly, shook himself, and said slowly, “I’m willing to try for a short period, to see if this arrangement really can work.”

Greg smiled widely, happy that Sherlock was considering. “I can work with that.”

Sherlock smiled tentatively at him, but that light was in his eyes again. “So can I.”

They shook on it, and the next day Sherlock started serving his drinks in Greg’s cafe.
No looking back.

~~~ * ~~~ * ~~~

the end

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