Greg Lestrade reeled back, a hand clasping his cheek.
"He hit me!" he cried incredulously.
Mycroft wasn't looking at the D.I. He was focusing intently on Sherlock, on the change that had come over him when Lestrade had spoken.
Lestrade had met Mycroft in front of the flat. There was no word of greeting between the two men, only an exchange of glances and a hurried walk upstairs.
Greg had not believed Mycroft at first. He had thought it was a practical joke, and he was not amused.
"See here, Mycroft, if you really are him, it is not funny to mess around with people's emotions and hopes like this. Piss off," he had said, angrily.
Mycroft had not be perturbed, only calmly explained that it was not a joke. He did not joke, especially when it came to Sherlock. Greg had needed only a bit of persuasion after that seed of hope had been planted to agree to meet Mycroft here.
Now he was here, nervousness settled in his stomach. It had been almost a year since Sherlock's 'death'. He knew John had held on to the futile hope that his best friend was alive. He had sympathised with him, but shook his head at his denial. Now, he was having to rethink the last few months. Had John's hope really been futile?
He had not known what to expect, in this dingy place with a man he hardly knew. Even up until he entered the room he was sceptical.
Then, he saw him.
His first reaction was relief, and an unexpected rush of joy. Then he looked closer.
He took in Sherlock's coma-like state, his blank eyes. He managed not to recoil from that gaze, but his relief turned to horror all the same.
Mycroft was pleasantly surprised by his brother's condition: his people were nothing but efficient. Sherlock was at least clean now.
Greg moved closer, as if in a trance, hardly aware that he was moving.
This was Sherlock alright. But it was not the same Sherlock he had known for the past few years. This person looked more like the Sherlock he had taken from the drug dens of Soho and coaxed back to health.
He felt a peculiar tugging on his heart as he focused on the once-proud detective. Greg had always felt a curious connection to Sherlock, having been with him through his darkest days and watched him grow to be the disdainful, calculating, but brilliant genius he had been. He crouched just in front of Sherlock, oblivious to Mycroft's all-seeing presence in the background. He reached out a hand hesitantly, to touch the skin that had dulled to an unhealthy sheen, but pulled back before skin could touch skin.
"Sherlock," he whispered.
That was what had caused the change in Sherlock. His expression flashed from blank to terribly angry as his limp arms regained their strength and struck out. Just as quickly as it had happened, Sherlock went back to unseeing and lifeless. It had all happened astonishingly quickly.
Greg had been knocked back onto the floor by the force of the blow. Mycroft strode past the D.I, studying Sherlock intently.
"Yes, it would appear he did," he murmured distractedly. What had cause his brother to lash out like that? "I'm beginning to think bringing you here was not one of my better ideas, Detective Inspector," he added, finally addressing Greg.
"Greg, please," Lestrade answered. "And no, it was not a bad idea. At least it coaxed a reaction from him." His cheek had gone bright red, but nothing other than his pride had been wounded.
For the first time since they had arrived here, Greg allowed himself to survey the elder Holmes. This was not their first encounter, but the one time Greg had glimpsed Mycroft had been brief and he had been a bit pre-occupied shouting at Sherlock about paperwork, again. The older man looked more tired than before, his eyes showing signs of sleepless nights and vexing days. This situation with Sherlock had added years to his age. Greg knew better than to badger him with questions, but he was drawn to this mysterious man.
Mycroft looked at Greg keenly, his dark eyes gazing searchingly deep into his soul. Greg shivered. He wasn't used to being under such strict scrutiny. Sherlock barely remembered his name.
"You...care for my brother, don't you Gregory?" When Mycroft eventually spoke, it was with precision and careful thought, like everything he did.
The question caught Greg off guard. His other cheek began to heat up.
"No...no...not like that!" he managed to splutter. "I mean...yes, I care for him, as a friend. But no more than that."
This caused Mycroft's lips to quirk upwards in something reminiscent of a smile.
"Of course not, Gregory. I did not mean that. It's just..." he paused, his face pained. When he spoke again, he sounded older, sadder. "Sherlock has always been...difficult to get along with. Even as a child he never had many friends. Now, he needs them more than ever." He stopped, leaving Greg with the distinct impression that he had more to say.
"I know. While I was working with him there were times when he could be a right pain in the..." One look at Mycroft's face stopped his words in their tracks. Yeah, not the right time. Stupid fool, Greg, he admonished himself.
Sighing quietly, he tried again. "I understand. I can understand a lot more than you and Sherlock believe." He held out a hand to stop Mycroft's interjection. "He has friends now. Me, John, Molly, Mrs Hudson. We're here for him. John..." Once again he stopped. "You haven't told John, have you?"
"It would be too dangerous for both of them. I don't know what to do, Greg. I...I can't do this...I can't handle this on my own." Mycroft didn't know why he was saying this, to Greg Lestrade of all people.
This was the closest Greg had seen either of the Holmes brothers come to panic.
"It's ok, Myc. I'm here. We can sort this out. It's going to be ok." He used the calming tone of voice one uses when talking to a scared child. The nickname sorted of just slipped out. As soon as he said it, he wanted to take it back.
Mycroft whirled on him. "I don't need your pity, Detective Inspector! Don't condescend to me, don't try to patronize me with your silly little words. Words that mean nothing to me here," he snapped.
With that parting outburst, Mycroft flung open the door and disappeared down the stairs in an angry flurry of umbrella and suit.