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07/02/2024 05:09 PM 

sugarcube x aureaspuer┆friend or foe?

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Pack of Strays

07/02/2024 03:43 PM 


Taken PBs | Audition🐺  This is a drama-free zone. Venting about rl is fine, name-dropping others and being mean to anyone here is not.🐺  This server is invite only by Aeron, or Kai.If you would like someone to be added then speak to us first.🐺  Treat others how you want to be treated. Ffs. We are all adults, act like it.🐺  No hating on, or bashing members. That’s booty behavior.🐺  This is a SAFE space. Any abuse of that via gossiping about things said here or taking screenshots will result in a BAN.🐺  The Pack House channel is going to be IC  ONLY. Do not bring any rl stuff into this. That also goes for anything under the IC section.🐺  Please keep ALL negativity in the ven channel.  This is to be courteous to all members and their emotional bandwidths.🐺  Everyone is allowed 2 side Muses max. No more than that. 🐺  If you have any issues, they are to be brought to mods. Feel free to dm any of us. (Once read make sure to sign these rules using either a 🐺  or a 🧡  emoji. Thank you for your time.)

Pack of Strays

07/02/2024 03:39 PM 

FC List

Rules | AuditionTaken FaceClaims/PlayBysWe do not accept mirrors Noah Centineo Ian Somerhalder Virginia Gardner Dylan O'Brien

Pack of Strays

07/02/2024 03:34 PM 

Audition Template.

Rules | Taken PBsPlease message your completed audition to the group page so all mods can read it - or submit via our discord.Name: Your character's full nameNicknames: Your character's nicknamesAge: Your character's ageRL Age: Your actual age...Activity Level: How often are you online?Species: Werewolf, vampire, witch, etcAbilities: Your character's supernatural abilitiesRP Length: Banter, para, multi-para, novellaLimits: What won't you roleplay?Summary: Tell us a brief background of your characterSite: Please provide the link to your rpme if you have one (if you're applying on site please provide your discord.)Referral: Who referred you to the group?Playby: Your face claim - please include pic/gifSample: At least one paragraph of your writing in character. Yes, it can be previously written work copy/pasted or linked but we need a good example of your writing. Show us pieces/character studies/drabbles youre most proud of or give us an idea of why your character wants to find their paradise.


07/02/2024 02:30 PM 

OOC Rules
Current mood:  content

OUT OF CHARACTER1.) No Hard Feelings: There must be a clear separation between ‘in character’ (IC) and ‘out of character’ (OOC) behavior and knowledge. If your personal feelings begin to bleed into the roleplay, I advise that you take a break from roleplaying. If you continue to act based on OOC feelings, beliefs, disagreements or other information in character, especially in a toxic manner, then the roleplay is over.(2.) Writing Style: I am an adaptable roleplayer and lover of writing so I can work with you regardless of your style.(3.) Ask Me: There is no such thing as a stupid question. If there is anything you want to know before or during the roleplay or after you are free to ask me out of character.(4.) 18+ The owner of this account is an adult over the age of 18 so keep the story focus on a mature setting if you are of age to do so (18 and over). If you are below the age of 18 I will not engage in mature content with you.(5.) Setting: I don't mind adapting Aemond's personality to an alternate universe but only if it makes sense. Also, if you wish to engage Aemond when he was younger just inform me of your story ideas so we can discuss.(6.) Battles/Spars: Are optional. But of course, since this is Aemond we are talking about it shouldn't surprise you that he would enjoy a good fight occasionally. With that said it should be common knowledge that God modding is unacceptable. We can always discuss beforehand how the battle will go down and end if you so wish but if not remember that you do not control my character and I do not control yours.(7.) Original Characters: I am open to engaging with them. I always appreciate originality and creative story telling and original characters can often provide this. With that said I also appreciate and will enjoy interacting with cast of characters from HOTD or GOTs. Provided with the latter you can make the story make sense.(8.) Mirrors: I am on the fence with because although a myriad of stories can come from dealing with a doppelganger (Ie; Being spelled, cursed, ect.) I am uncertain of how much of a story I can possibly conceive with Aemond’s clone. Such magical events can occur in story as a distraction employed by a witch character. So, forgive me but unless you are someone I have roleplayed with and I have been in discussion with and given a detailed plan of action or side story you wish to commit to with me as your reason for interacting with me via a clone of Aemond, without that I will not bother.(9.) Bonds & Chemistry: Is important to building bonds of friendship and especially romantic stories between characters. We are all adults so lets not rush into anything spicy. I personally feel like Aemond got cheated out of some really good bonds from a romantic aspect as well as family and friends so here is an oppertunity to grow for him and for everyone else that wishes to engage and be involved with him.(10.) Rivalries: I welcome them with discussion of course. We all know how he feels towards his Strong nephews but if anyone portraying the Strong boys wishes to we can discuss just how their bonds and stories can go. I am open to keeping things just as they are in the show/book or changing it up so their feelings aren't as volitile or having a little bit of both. Again lets discuss! **If anything else comes to mind I will update this** 

Irresistible Bad Boy

07/02/2024 02:16 PM 

The dark side - Feat. Felix

Brayden used to be like everyone else. He was just trying to find his place here in this world. He was rich and he had everything he could want and more. However, there was something missing. He couldn’t figure out at first what he wanted, but he knew he’d never truly be happy just having the wealth. He wanted to travel and to find someone who was as bad as him if not worse. Then he decided to go on a spontaneous road trip and that’s when Felix entered his life.At first things were good. They became friends and understood each other. After they started falling for each other the toxicity showed on both ends. Felix couldn’t get over his long-lost love Oliver. Brayden was so sick of hearing about Oliver that he finally lost it. He was used to having control of situations, but Felix had complete control over him. This wasn’t a good thing for Brayden. He needed to be the one in control or it wouldn’t work. When he finally had enough and said he was leaving it was over. They both gave into what they wanted. Their relationship was toxic it was a love that was fighting and f***ing there was not an in between. He knew he should just leave before it got worse, but he couldn’t. He had never felt so alive in his life. This feeling is exactly why he stayed.He kept trying to stop Felix from being a killer, because truly Felix didn’t want that life. Oliver messed him up to the point he became that. This last fight with Felix broke him. He left Felix and refused to make up with him. That’s when he went to a bar where nobody knew him and picked up a random stranger. He knew this wasn’t the answer, but if Felix could do it, he knew he could. He brought the stranger back to a hotel room and pointed his gun at her. "So, this is what it feels like to have control of a situation. I could learn to live like this. Don't worry beautiful it won't hurt much." He looked down at her as he twirled his gun around. He knew how to use them, but he was never like this. The only one who truly could’ve put an end to it wasn’t around. He made sure nobody knew where he was. He finally picked up the gun aimed it and killed an innocent person. This new him he liked and hated all at once.The next day he had never felt so low. He went home and felt nothing but sorrow. Did Felix really trigger him to get like that? If so, this wasn’t something he could live with. He didn’t like being a killer. He had killed an innocent woman. She could’ve been a mother and he could’ve just left a child without one. He knew he needed to end this once and for all. Unfortunately, when he went to Felix to end it of course he was dragged back in. Immediately Felix and him made up and went back to their old ways. It was always the same, but at the end of the day he knew Felix knew him better than anyone. He hated what they had and craved it all at once. For now, he was going to keep quiet about what he did so he wouldn’t get a lecture. He didn’t think he’d ever get to that point again, but how wrong he was. This was just the beginning of becoming a serial killer like Felix. 

𝔖ᴀɴɢᴜɪs 𝔢𝔱 ℭɪɴɪs

07/01/2024 07:56 PM 

The Original Wolves

Disclaimer: The original werewolves for Sanguis et Cinis will slightly follow the background from The Originals. Besides Ansel, everything else was originally created by Elijah. Also if you have your own ideas regarding these roles, message us. We're pretty much open for their histories and personalities. If you have a question, feel free to ask.   Name: Ansel Ulrich Playby: Tom Cruise (Negotiable) Age: 50 | 1,000+ Species: Original Werewolf Personality: Ansel was a very strong, forgiving, and noble man. Despite knowing of the horrors his son had committed, he still wished to know him and bring him into his life. Ansel was also very devoted to his fellow werewolves, not wanting them to kill each other, even if it just meant the death of one he didn't even know. Ansel embraced his werewolf nature, delving into what it truly meant to be a wolf. As a father, he saw the best in Klaus, not believing that his son would kill him.   History: Ansel lived in the 10th Century, the leader of a pack of werewolves in the land that would one day become the town of Mystic Falls. A powerful chief, Ansel followed what are now known to the wolves as the 'old ways'. These include a more warrior-like culture for the members of the pack and embracing one's wolf form by killing a human during the 'Blood Moon'. The pack would also hold the life of its own as more sacred than anything.   At some point in the late 900s, a new family came to the New World: the Viking Mikael and his wife, Esther, a witch. They came with their friend, a powerful witch named Ayana, and their two children: Finn and Elijah. The death of their first child, Freya, from the plague led them to their exile from Europe. The new family quickly integrated themselves into the life of the village, with Ayana becoming the village healer. This peaceful coexistence would continue for several years to come.   However, the death of Freya had driven Esther and her husband apart. As Mikael continued to shun his wife, Esther began to take an interest in the young werewolf leader of the village. She would later tell their son Niklaus that he was greatly admired by his pack and the others for his leadership. Esther quickly found herself falling in love with Ansel, feelings he reciprocated. They began an affair, one which resulted in the birth of Niklaus.   Name: Alec Ulrich Playby: Brant Daugherty Age: 28 | 1,000+ Species: Original Werewolf Personality: Short-tempered, loyal, protective of his family History: Alec is Ansel's first-born son. In the village, he was friends with Klaus, not knowing that he was actually his half-brother. He and the rest of his siblings were fairly friendly with the Mikaelson family. They got along quite well. The village had a peaceful alliance with the wolves but when Klaus and Henrik went to see the people turn into the wolves on one full moon, one of the wolves ended up murdering Henrik. It ended up being Alec's sister, Lucia. Alec had always been very protective of his siblings but Lucia in particular since she was closer to his age. Lucia was afraid but Alec had always been there for her. After news hit the village that Henrik had died because of a werewolf, the relationship between the village people and the werewolves became strained. That relationship got even worse when Mikael had found out that Esther and Ansel had an affair and Klaus was the product of that affair. Alec felt betrayed by his father when he found out. It was short-lived when Mikael came and slaughtered Ansel's family.   Name: Lucia Ulrich Playby: Shelley Hennig Age: 24 | 1,000+ Species: Original Werewolf Personality: Lucia is the party type of girl. She always loves to have a good time. She is also loyal and faithful when it comes down to it but she just wants to enjoy her life. When it comes to her family, she would do anything to protect them. She is fierce. History: Lucia is Ansel's third child and his first daughter. She was born after Niklaus but she had no idea that she was related to him. She became close with Kol and the two of them had been good friends at the time. They both enjoyed to have fun and sometimes, they even got into some mischief together. When the full moon came, Lucia turned. But little did she know was that Henrik and Klaus were watching. She lost control of herself and killed Henrik Mikaelson, and this changed everything. Kol was forced to stop speaking to her. Alec comforted her and was there for her while she was dealing with the fact that she killed Henrik. After the incident, she changed. She became more guarded and closed off, not really letting people in. Not even her own family.   Name: Marcus Ulrich Playby: Robbie Amell Age: 21 | 1,000+ Species: Original Werewolf Personality: Marcus is the mischievous one in his family. He always loved playing tricks on people, especially his siblings. When it comes down to it, he is loyal to his family and he would protect them if he had to. Especially Octavia. History: Marcus is Ansel's fourth child. He was always closer to Octavia than he was with Lucia and Alec. He always felt that Alec was too serious because he was the elder child of the family. Marcus was always more laid back because he didn't have as many responsibilities as Alec did. Even though he loved his older brother, the two of them would constantly argue so he was more closed off. He only really allowed Octavia to know what was going on with him and the two of them trusted each other. He felt like he was more or less the black sheep of the family. Everything just got worse after Lucia killed Henrik. There were constant arguments going on within the family and Marcus wanted no part of it. He remained close to Octavia and when Mikael came to kill him and the rest of his family, he did his best to at least protect Octavia since they had been in the same room. But he ended up dying in the process and he suspected that his younger sister would be killed as well.Name: Octavia UlrichPlayby: Zoey DeutchAge: 17 | 1,000+Species: Original WerewolfPersonality: Curious, kind-hearted, caringHistory: Octavia is Ansel's youngest child. She became close friends with Rebekah and she was fascinated by Elijah because of the way he was. He was unlike most men in the village. When she and Elijah talked to each other, they always had great conversations. Elijah felt as if she was like another sister to him and he became very protective of her. Although things changed when Octavia's sister Lucia accidentally killed Henrik, it didn't change the fact that Elijah cared for Octavia. It had just been difficult for the two of them to actually see each other. Rebekah was devastated that she barely saw her friend anymore but she understood why their parents didn't allow them to see the werewolf family. Besides being close to Elijah, she was always close to her older brother Marcus. Marcus and Octavia always loved spending time with each other. They were together when Mikael came in to slaughter Ansel and his family. Octavia felt a sense of betrayal but there was nothing that she could do. She was powerless in her human form. When Elijah heard the news, he was devastated and he believed that they shouldn't have died just because his mother had been unfaithful.


07/01/2024 04:10 PM 


Disclaimer: I don't own Tokyo Ghoul and the series is not my creation. Chiharu, however, is my own creation for the universe. I tried to study up to the best of my abilities, but please excuse any inaccuracies in the overall functioning of things. While I do take a slightly AU approach to the series, I try and remain as accurate as I can.    one }} I'll pretty much write whatever length suits the response. Typically, you can expect 3-12 paragraphs from me depending on the storyline and what's going on. I even love a one-line banter on occasion.     two }} I'm all for discussions or just starting something to see what happens.  three }} I'd prefer my writing partners to be at least 18. Please understand my page, character and writing may contain dark, triggering content, such as: blood suicidal thoughts / behaviors self-harm extreme violence / implied sexual abuse mental illness If you have any specific triggers you would like to avoid, please don't hesitate to shoot me a message.  four }} I don't write smut or really do the whole romance thing either, but I'm always down for an awesome platonic storyline.   five }} This is a multi-storyline character, meaning a storyline with Person A will have no effect on an existing storyline with Person B unless it's discussed and agreed upon by all parties involved.    six }} I really shouldn't have to say this, but no OOC drama. IC drama is A-okay though.    seven }} I can either reply at lightning speed or snail speed and no in between. I apologize in advance. ;o; I'll always make sure to give writing partners a heads up on extended absences and hiatuses.   That's all I got for now. Thanks a lot to anyone who took the time to read this! 


07/01/2024 02:34 PM 

Optional Task 503

Task:Character Aesthetics(bold what applies)loves to paint and do any kind of art, wants to live at the seaside, knows a lot of random facts, shares food, messy notes, bullsh*ts an entire essay, graffiti, has their own distinct style, wants to live their life like they want to, mermaids, easily infatuated by love, smelling flowers, picnics in open fields, gets sad when thinking about the past, impressed easily, daydreaming in class, plucking fresh fruit, loves skirts and fashion, would die for their friends,soft blankets, cuddling the ones you love, always standing up for your friends, hopeless romantic, can be very distant, can be a little dramatic, pretty hair, dresses nicely, tries to be popular on social media, optimistic, humorous, house plants, oversized sweaters, soft hands, fuzzy socks, visiting big cities, snoozing your alarm clock, the color yellow, vanilla scented candles, aloe vera, fruit smoothies, baking cookies, the mom friend, loves the ukulele,cold aura, coffee is what keeps them going, probably haven’t slept in two days, actually a big softie, high-waisted jeans, cute pet videos, small apartments, has too many notebooks, often goes to the library, writing essays,  pastel markers, the smell of lavender, has a welcoming vibe around them, actually organized, scrunchies, neat notes, loves going to museums, probably into photography, neutral colors, handwritten letters, stardust, femme fatale movies,in love with female villains, sharp eyeliner, quick-witted, does things out of spite, do no harm but take no sh*t, in love with dogs, probably cries during sad movies but won’t admit it, easily excited, ripped jeans, old teddy bears, unsent love letters, mom-jeans, loves to sing, feels at home by the ocean, writes poetry, hard-workers, always up for deep conversations, probably did the stupid thing, open curtains, a soft breeze, confident in what they do,kill them with kindness, high ponytails, probably wants to visit paris once, not afraid to tell the truth, in love with cute animals, the one to lift others up, good at teamwork, the warm feeling of summer, dragons, cottages in the woods, in love with greek mythology, vintage t-shirts, really emotional but doesn’t want anyone to know, determined, moonlight, pretty handwriting, into the retro aesthetic, rainy days, doesn’t judge people, cats,always ready for an adventure, street smart, wants to travel the world someday, doesn’t easily trust people, alcohol, paintbrushes, can’t sit still, untied shoelaces, tangled up earphones, blasting music at midnight, eye-gazing, bonfires, competitiveness, hand veins, loud laughs, messy hair, sneaking out at 2 am, abandoned beaches, stray dogs, candle lights, body language, creaking floorboards, ouija boards, having no regrets, karaoke nights out


07/01/2024 11:45 PM 


Task:Character Aesthetics(bold what applies)loves to paint and do any kind of art, wants to live at the seaside, knows a lot of random facts, shares food, messy notes, bullsh*ts an entire essay, graffiti, has their own distinct style, wants to live their life like they want to, mermaids, easily infatuated by love, smelling flowers, picnics in open fields, gets sad when thinking about the past, impressed easily, daydreaming in class, plucking fresh fruit, loves skirts and fashion, would die for their friends,soft blankets, cuddling the ones you love, always standing up for your friends, hopeless romantic, can be very distant, can be a little dramatic, pretty hair, dresses nicely, tries to be popular on social media, optimistic, humorous, house plants, oversized sweaters, soft hands, fuzzy socks, visiting big cities, snoozing your alarm clock, the color yellow, vanilla scented candles, aloe vera, fruit smoothies, baking cookies, the mom friend, loves the ukulele,cold aura, coffee is what keeps them going, probably haven’t slept in two days, actually a big softie, high-waisted jeans, cute pet videos, small apartments, has too many notebooks, often goes to the library, writing essays,  pastel markers, the smell of lavender, has a welcoming vibe around them, actually organized, scrunchies, neat notes, loves going to museums, probably into photography, neutral colors, handwritten letters, stardust, femme fatale movies,in love with female villains, sharp eyeliner, quick-witted, does things out of spite, do no harm but take no sh*t, in love with dogs, probably cries during sad movies but won’t admit it, easily excited, ripped jeans, old teddy bears, unsent love letters, mom-jeans, loves to sing, feels at home by the ocean, writes poetry, hard-workers, always up for deep conversations, probably did the stupid thing, open curtains, a soft breeze, confident in what they do,kill them with kindness, high ponytails, probably wants to visit paris once, not afraid to tell the truth, in love with cute animals, the one to lift others up, good at teamwork, the warm feeling of summer, dragons, cottages in the woods, in love with greek mythology, vintage t-shirts, really emotional but doesn’t want anyone to know, determined, moonlight, pretty handwriting, into the retro aesthetic, rainy days, doesn’t judge people, cats,always ready for an adventure, street smart, wants to travel the world someday, doesn’t easily trust people, alcohol, paintbrushes, can’t sit still, untied shoelaces, tangled up earphones, blasting music at midnight, eye-gazing, bonfires, competitiveness, hand veins, loud laughs, messy hair, sneaking out at 2 am, abandoned beaches, stray dogs, candle lights, body language, creaking floorboards, ouija boards, having no regrets, karaoke nights out

Junhyun Yi

07/01/2024 05:26 PM 

Risk Taker; #001

::-webkit-scrollbar {width: 0px;} Risk Taker; Put em' up! I give it my all, so like it or not i'm going to shine, it's my time! Early hours of the morning and his phone buzzed waking him up, he was in and out of sleep already. Always on high alert from his personal choices he made regarding his family and love life. Then there were issues of his health, but he was getting a lot more bold now... He heard of the Risk Taker game and it had caught his attention. A member of the imperial Korean family, the crown prince, having to hold a stranger at gun point to take their cash? Then to just buy a snack with it?? He thought this game was harmless for the most part... For now... He'd play, if need be he'd see about changing the risk level. This was something he wasn't so risky for him. This wasn't like he was being blackmailed, he signed up for this...First thing first... He had to make himself unrecognizable. He was not about to have his face involved with this crime... So... Hat, a mask to cover most his face. All he had were medical related masks. They'd have to due. He hoped the rim of the hat and the mask would help hide his face if he kept the gaze low. Next were some clothes he didn't mind just tossing away when this was done. By the end of it he didn't want to be associated with the act whatsoever. Now... To get his hands on a gun. He hadn't touched one since he served in the Korean military. So at least nobody would accidentally get shot from the lack of knowlage. He had guards which meant he'd have to borrow for a bit... But what ever, he wanted to get this done and forget it. Once ready he shoved the items in a bag to get changed away from his house. Once he was ready... He went on the hunt, he had to choose wisely... Someone who may not put up much a fight, who may have a few dollars cash to throw into some vending machine to buy this snack. This was hard, it was early and there were still plenty different types to choose. So he decided on this random older looking lady. So once she seemed out of public eye on what ever little stroll she was on he struck. Cutting her off. He tried to keep the gaze down, but still he able to see. Changing his voice to try and be deeper than normal he demanded her wallet. It worked and the thing was dropped and he snagged it running off pulling enough cash to throw into a venting machine for a pack of m&ms. He managed to hide again and change into his regular wardrobe hiding the attire in his bag with the weapon and went into some random store turning in the wallet, claiming it was found on the street. With that... He got home, returned the gun he secretly borrowed and went to have the clothes he had done this in disposed of, so that nobody else would find them and try to link him to the crime.  Can knock me out but never break me down.

Iɳɳσƈҽɳƚ Wαɳԃҽɾιɳɠʂ

06/30/2024 07:01 PM 


The onyx pendulum  of night had broken away, shattering the impending storm and the morning star unfurled her blossoming petals still thick, heavy from the tears of the Gods above. The air filtered in from the balcony doors of their suite, squeaking on its rusted hinges  with each gusty wind that passed as the clean earthy scent of moist soil, slick blades of grass with the sweetness of honeysuckles fragrances each corner of  the room. He hadn't awakened just yet, and she was enjoying just watching him sleep. His wild eyes still tucked away under silvery lids and fringed black lashes that curled at the edges, capturing the essence of scattered stars that no longer had a destination or galaxy to dwell. Orphaned specks of magical dust, the making of every life that exists, burst and spiraled into orbit until they found her love walking along the cobblestone roads of Le Paris. Katherine's sweet summer time lips, ripe and red curled a half crescent moon thinking of herself in ythe same way as those specks are crying stars that burned too bright at times, sparkled in such a way and she was sure danced pirouette's around their father moon. She felt they were all orphans laying in bed, clustered in the safety of the other's arms forming four walls, a roof through their beating hearts and weaved threaded hands, fingers like puzzle paces finally aligning as one.Katherine's had always been drawn to the wildness of life. The untamed, ever seeking yearning in her soul.  She sometimes wondered if it was the gypsy blood flowing in her veins, laying dormant but still echoed in her bones. Or maybe it was how she was born. Her mother's bare back pressed along the bark of a willow tree as Katherine screamed to be brought to life. The pain, contraction's her mother had felt only subsided for a moment as a damning storm reigned down its soothing cool droplets of rain after a long day's work in the grueling hot summery heat. Perhaps that is when it happened. When the wild collided in her soul. From the moment she took her very first breath, the crackling of talon whip, lashing of lightning dazzling across the inky sky and thunder rumbling in annoyance as it slipped away from his hold. Her mother had told her that she cried for only a moment and, unlike her sister, Katherine's eyes opened wide and the infant, not even ten seconds old, watched the fireworks above and stilled, cooed in response as if she was trying to sooth the very storm.The first time she felt peace in her younger life, when she was just a little girl in the village in Bulgaria, was when the ballet came into her town. Her family did not have enough money to purchase the tickets for the show that would take place  in the old church, a short distance from her home. But the young girl, bouncing black tresses pulled into a high ponytail with a pink ribbon, still sprinted her way into town.  She had found an old chicken coop box that the farmer's would sometimes use when travelling with their livestock on the side of the road and she dragged it with her small hands and tiny fingers to the little window covered in dirt, dust and kicked up grass that plastered over the glass.Katherine gathered the hemming of her dress that she licked to moisten  just enough, and she rubbed away as much as she could and before her very eyes she could see an array of young girls dancing with such grace, poise as if they were a flock of synchronized dove's in the vast azure sky above leaping between clouds and spiraling around the sun.  Tears welled in her mocha coloured eyes like two spools of threading, golds shimmering as droplets, wishful dreams, curved down her butterfly blossomed cheeks into the silent cries emulating from her pretty pout and as the show drew to a close, she hopped off the box she stood and closed her sweet little eyes. She wanted to remember, cast into her mind every movement, flow of their legs, toes and hands. Every detail, etched in her mind, so she could practice and silence the storms she always feltHer younger life had not been an easy path and in many ways, imprinted on her later years and the same sanctuary, quiet she found in her soul would be the same that would lead her down a damning path until she met Erik, in the form of a ghost, then later young boy, and then man that would become her husband and her true saving grace.  Katherine practiced every moment she could, even evading her chores, having to wake up much earlier than the other's and steal a few spindles of ribbon from her mother's sewing kit and head to the mountain sides. The same ones she was born upon and the only place far enough away that she could not hear her father, or mother's voices or many arguments or fights. In the many times as she would use the ribbon's as handmade ballet shoes, wrapping, forming the same pointy tips she saw on the dancers' footing, she would pretend the willow tree was her mother watching, encouraging the beautiful little lass. She named her Gertrude, and it wouldn't be until many years would she fine tune her gifts. Ones given to her by her father's creed, gypsy roots she had not known or understood yet. Katherine always thought it was her vivid imagination. The voices she would hear, or the way the vining branches swept around her as she danced like silk guiding perfecting her each and everystep. She did not know the entire story of the day she was born. How her mother lost conscious, and it was the same Willow tree that swaddled and kept the newborn warm, dry until they were both found.Her family did not have very much, and often if any money was left over after the cattle, live stock was feed,  It was hardly dotted upon little Katherine, her two sisters or even her mother's breath. Her father, whose soul always seemed to be haunted, captured in a place, realm, Katherine could never understand. But she could tell by the plagued look in his eyes, almost like a steel cage, bars,  there was always something there, existing and tormenting his every step. She wondered if it was a Petrova curse that she would sometimes hear her mother speak of in shadowed cussing breaths. They all seemed to be haunted in one form or the next. But in Katherine's heart it was never frightful, scary as the one that would sometimes emerge from her father's hands. It's when he would drink when they took hold. Whatever entity he tried his best to shut away was suddenly released and took over his soul. This only encouraged the young girl to develop more of her craft and whenever the ballet would come into town she would be there too with her button nose perched against the glass.  It was when late one afternoon, and the sound of crickets engulfed the steamy summer's air. The show had just finished and the towns folk, and little ballerina's poured out of the old church's wooden staircase. Katherine had hardly heard them. She was too focused on perfecting her steps. Engraving into her memory as she did after every performance the beauty, flow of silk hugging each girl's poetic flowery steps.  It was when the female teacher would approach her, a smile so wide and bright it eclipsed even the tangerine petals of the sun. Her hair tousled in a loose bun on top of her crowning,  trendies of the most enchanting threads of yellow glinted around her face, echoing in the same style little Katherine now wore her hair in whenever she would go steal a glimpse at the show from her perched nest outside. Her own personal booth where she dreamed, sighed and laid in wonder with each of their steps. She hadn't even heard the music from the piano. The windows were much too thick, and she couldn't even hear one note. But the graceful steps almost played like a choir of angels in her ears and she thought it best after a while she couldn't hear the musician's long skilled fingers pressing the pearly keys as they danced around.  The instructor was so kind, and her face was almost snow-white and although in normal circumstances, Katherine would have run, but she felt drawn in by the kindness emulating from the woman's eyes. "Well, who are you little budding?" Her voice sounded like a wind chime as she spoke, and she touched the tip of Katherine's nose, causing her to giggle, squint in response. Katherine tried to swat it away and curtsied curtsied as she saw the other girls of the caroling as spoke in her own chiming voice back She wanted  to impress the woman very much, and a smile peppered across her cherub angelic face.  "I am Miss Katherine Petrova, but you can call me Kat!"   The instructor was quite smitten with the young lady and arched her brow watching the little princess put on her act, knowing it was to impress her, but she already saw her move with an elegance, flow dancers twice her age couldn't manage to perfect. It was as if she was a tiny doll held together, and orchestrated by professional strings. She knew she wanted Katherine to become one of her students or maybe even a protégé. She had not a family to speak of, let alone any children who could carry her respectable name, and she  could already see the bright burn of azure flickering in her dark wishful pearl eyes, a rare gem, light she knew she could weld into a bird never knowing land once she was properly trained.For a very long moment, the two gazed into the other's eyes, one seeing what she used to be when she was much younger. A deep, passion, love for the art that over time she lost along the way. It became more about business and young lasses means to ever gain power, money in her life. There were not many opportunities of a respectable nature then and often the dancers she would train, mold, lacked the true love, desire and infatuation in dance.  But when she gazed at the young girl,  she could see a part of herself in her fawn-doe eyes, and wanted with everything inside of her heart to pass all she knew into her dainty soul.  Little Katherine was overwhelmed with such glee and excitement that she couldn't help herself from swaying from side to side. But she knew to keep her manners and held the instructor's warm, inviting eyes. She felt as if she was in a dream as one of her wishes finally came true. The woman she admired through the murky window, seemingly out of reach, had finally taken notice of her when she least expected or could have known. In her mind, she thought of what she may have seen and hoped she perfected each movement and step because she so wanted to impress her and possibly become one of her gifted students travelling to other lands.   In her trail of thoughts, she suddenly frowned knowing, although she was noticed finally by the talented angelic woman before her, her family did not have the means to pay for such extravagances as her father would call it and young Katherine's gaze left the instructors as sorrow welded at once. She began to kick up the dirt beneath her worn second hand shoes that belonged to her sister a year ago. They were slightly bigger than her own feet, but Mama said they could not afford another pair until later in the fall. The summer had brought near drought over the lands and the God's she said, must have been angry and would not shed not even a single drop of rain. So many of their crops fell to dust, were ruined and unable to provide as much as the family needed. Her mother even volunteered young Katherine to play piano at the church she belonged to and often went to when she could be found if not at home, and although Katherine was reluctant to join, she felt an obligation as the parishioners provided her family with goods, meat, and milk until  her parents could once more fend and take care of their own.She always favoured the stars, rather than the glinting of the morning medallion, pure marigolds unfurling across a spilled painted azure vast sky. What enchanted her most was the ebony blanket in the evening hours when the tiny children would sparkle to life. Twinkling, twirling, never taking a true form as they danced sang wildly along father moon's dimmed watchful eye. The dotting of clouds like stepping stones in a stream such as the one behind her childhood home. When she would wander in the woods, which was quite often, she imagined it was not a body of water but the blanketed sky above and each stepping stone were the same clouds she would imagine herself leaping upon. The stars were her friends who came out to play with her long after her home would quiet down. Just the gentle breaths of sleeping spirits and the crackling fire could be heard in their cottage in the nights and that is when she would crawl out of her bed with a blanket curled around her and sit in the large window listening to the stories that would be told to her and enchant her mind. Katherine's mother was never one for fairy tale's. She did not dott upon her children in this way. Instead, she would read to them about farming, tending to a garden and recipes they can in the future prepare. She was a realist, she would tell them, and scoffed, stating she wished her mother had done the same. For look where fairy tales had gotten her in a marriage with a man who would become so intoxicated he barely could remember his name.But in her evenings, the gentle hand of night, young Katherine would hear fairy tales told to hear by the little children of the sky. The spoke of studs that had angelic wings and could take her away if she so pleased. Flying her up above, so she too could play alongside of them and hop between the clouds and misty dreams.  Sometimes she would almost say yes wanting them to send down your magical creature, so she too can play, and twinkle like fae dust and watch the lands from high above.To be cont.  

Katrina Petrova AU, POTO, Phantom if the Opera

Poisoned by privilege

06/30/2024 04:48 PM 

About Felix Catton

headcanon Felix isn't able to read . He pretends to know how to but he really don't. He can only read kids books and he laughs it off because he knows how stupid he is because of not knowing how to read like everyone else in his life and school. He never learned even when he's older.


06/30/2024 04:11 PM 

libero + condor one.

sh*t never ends     F***.How many years had he been dealing with this B.O.W crap? Far too long that was sure. Kennedy wasn't like the others, he signed up for the government, to help tackle the black market for bio-organic weaponry, not that he really had a choice in the matter. After escaping Raccoon City, after Claire went her own way to save her brother, Leon and Sherry had made it to the border, just a mere hour before the nuke that they sent to the city to eradicate it from the map and earth. They took Sherry, separated the two of them, he hadn't been able to get a message to Claire to tell her - it had happened so fast and the next thing he knew, was that the government offered him two choices.Join them, or be watched for the rest of his life.Leon being Leon, he took the only option that had the best case scenario, join them. He wasn't their enemy, they weren't Umbrella and it was the only way he could help stop Umbrella and anyone else who would try and destroy the world for their own greed. That, had been nearly fifteen years ago. The Raccoon City Incident had been a walk in the park after all the sh*t that Leon found himself in, he had gone to Russian, Europe (saved the President's daughter) the Harvardville Incident in which he and Claire had worked together for what felt like mere moments. He had several more incidents in which TerraSave joined up with the government in dealing and tackling some sensitive incidents, but sh*t. He was tired. More tired than ever - how much sh*t did he have to walk through just to come out the other end? Alive and to survive it all? A sigh escaped his lips as he waited in the corner of the bar - another mission had been sent his way already, despite the fact he had not long returned from one, he knew this one was big. Especially if they'd all been called in: BSAA, TerraSave and himself. That meant the others would be working with him, or rather the other way around. He was surprised to see Valentine on the mission brief, he hadn't worked alongside her yet, but this one regarding Alcatraz seemed to be the double edged sword. In just a few moments he'd been leaving this bar and heading on the next boat to the Prison, something didn't make no sense - whoever was behind this, wasn't stupid and yet, the way they were teasing with these experiments, made Leon think otherwise. At least he was glad to be working with the others. Sh*t, it really had been too long since he hadn't worked solo on something.    template credit.

writing, starter

Driven by Duty (Taken in RL, & RP)

06/30/2024 03:48 PM 

Break a Curse

Summary: With luck, they might survive their first date…   Dear Reader, this letter is to inform you of Cupid’s curse, which will fall upon you if you don’t pass this email on to twelve friends within twelve hours.   Mycroft Holmes didn’t believe in the curse and now he hasn’t had a second date in three years… because all his first dates end in disaster. Gregory Lestrade isn’t sure if the curse is real or not, but if dating Mycroft means occasionally getting assaulted with shrimp linguini or nearly electrocuted, it’s worth the risk. Armed with lucky charms and optimism, Greg will have to battle Russian mail-order brides, fire alarms and flying knives if he’s going to win the boy.   Notes: Based on the summary of 'Cursed by Cupid' by Wendy Sparrow. I wrote this in stops and starts.   The most interesting thing about the email is that it appears in Mycroft's inbox at all. The layers of electronic security and various administrative staff should have ensured it was deleted or quarantined long before Mycroft saw it. On the surface, it's a simple chain letter promising a reward for sharing this banality with others and threatening dire consequences if ignored. Mycroft reads it carefully to be sure there isn't a hidden message encoded in it, but their standard cyphers reveal nothing. It's merely a chain letter from an anonymously random email. There is something about the 5s and 8s in the email address that makes Mycroft suspect it's from Sherlock -- not something he can prove without investing significant time, but probable enough that he's comfortable with the assumption. Sherlock could be testing Mycroft's security, trying to find weaknesses he can exploit later. Or simply doing it to annoy Mycroft. Mycroft sighs. It's such a shame to see a bright mind wasted on pointless puzzles. Even if Mycroft was the type of person to know a dozen people on a purely social basis, he still wouldn't forward a letter espousing “romantic miracles” and “the love of your life”. Sneering at the threatened “Cupid's curse” upon all future attempts at romance, Mycroft deletes the email and thinks no more about it. *** Mycroft is not a superstitious man. Superstition is how the unobservant make sense of the world, pretending omens and rituals give them some control over perfectly logical results. The decline in his romantic life has nothing to do with an ignored email. It's a logical result of circumstances. As the scope of his role has increased, so has the confidentiality of information. He no longer works directly with a particular team; it's better to sift through multiple written reports to collate an accurate grasp of the situation. Overlapping information is the best way to ensure nothing is missed; multiple sources reduce unconscious bias. This means that he spends most of his days working alone in one of his offices or attended by minimal, well-known staff. The only meetings he attends in person are small committees of his peers. In short, he has fewer daily opportunities to meet strangers, so it's unsurprising that he dates less. And then there is Mycroft's natural inclination. He is no longer twenty and intrigued by taking a risk, nor willing to sit through four or five tedious dates to be certain the relationship will fail. He is no longer in his thirties, feeling his youth inexorably slipping away with his thinning hair and receding hairline; no longer desperate to grab at any opportunity, worried it will pass him by. The main comfort of his late forties is that he is comfortable with his own company. He enjoys his house, his club and his work, and living out his days alone no longer fills him with dread. His leisure time is too precious to squander on dates that will not go anywhere. He is more selective, and more than happy to cease a new acquaintance over dessert when it's obviously doomed. He hasn't had a second date in years because he knows who he is and has grown more adept at reading the flaws of others. Sherlock may tease him about being cursed, but Mycroft knows that's preposterous. *** “Do sit down, Quentin,” Mycroft chides sharply, frowning at the scene before him. He's starting to wish he'd picked a different restaurant. He likes Gauthier, but if this nonsense continues much further, he might not be able to come back here. “It's broken.” The words are muffled, both from the damage to Quentin's nose and the bloody napkin he's holding to it. Mycroft can still make out every outraged word. “He broke my nose. That's assault. I want him charged.” Mycroft looks over at the hapless waiter now surrounded by other staff. His apology is blazing in the creases on his forehead, the twist of his long fingers, his weight shifted off his left foot. “He tripped,” Mycroft says. It's as obvious as the waiter's love for tabby cats, his aspirations to be a sculptor and his Albanian grandparents. “He hit me,” Quentin insists, ignoring the fact that Mycroft is right. Mycroft already had his doubts about this date: Quentin's wine choices had been pretentious and his attempt to debate the Greek economy had been woefully simplistic. Knowing the man lashes out when his pride is hurt only supports those doubts. “Somebody needs to call the police. He needs to be arrested.” Mycroft could step back and let it happen, but the waiter will be fired and the court's time will be wasted. Instead, he makes a call. It connects almost immediately. “Lestrade here.” “Detective Inspector, this is Mycroft Holmes. I need to ask a favour.” Mycroft turns away from the table, rolling his eyes at the expression of vindication on Quentin's face. “There is a matter of an assault charge that I would prefer was handled quietly.” “Quietly?” Lestrade echoes. “You want me to come down there?” “If you would be so kind.” Lestrade doesn't argue or bicker. He only asks for the address and promises to be there as soon as London traffic allows. The speed of Lestrade's arrival means he must have used the siren to force his way through. It's a slight abuse of power that Mycroft appreciates. Lestrade walks into the restaurant like he's stepping onto a crime scene: not fussy, not showy, but certain he should be here. His shirt is open at the collar, his jacket unbuttoned beneath his trench coat, but he nods his way through the onlookers and people step aside. He's come on his day off, Mycroft realises, noting the day's worth of grey stubble. It should make him look scruffy but Lestrade looks ruggedly handsome instead. For an absurd moment, Mycroft wonders how rough it would feel against his fingertips. He blinks the thought away as Lestrade steps closer. “Thank you for coming.” “Where is he?” Lestrade asks, looking around the room. His gaze lingers on Quentin and the napkin pressed over his face before scanning the rest of the crowd. Mycroft nods at the poor waiter. “He tripped, collided with his nose,” he says, looking over at Quentin. “Not Sherlock?” “Not this time,” Mycroft says. “This was more of a personal favour.” Lestrade's brows shoot up at ‘personal’ and this time when he looks at Quentin, he pays more attention to the dinners between them, the casual glasses of wine and the small table for two. It's not obvious. It could be a working dinner but Lestrade mutters, “At least one of you dates,” under his breath, and then adds, “He wants to press charges and you don't want him to?” “If you could discourage him.” *** “So,” Sherlock says, fishing the broken heart from the board game between them. Sherlock prefers playing Operation because it gives him an excuse to show off his dexterity; Mycroft agrees because Sherlock brings out his competitive streak. At some point, Mycroft will stop letting his brother goad him into childish games he'll most likely lose. “I heard your last date required police intervention.” Mycroft rolls his eyes. There is no official record of that event, but Sherlock's information comes from a variety of questionable sources. “It was an expedient solution.” “It was the curse,” Sherlock replies gleefully. “It was an unfortunate choice of dinner companion.” Mycroft scowls at the pieces left on the board. He steadies his tweezers above the funny bone. “Nothing more.” *** Mycroft doesn't give much thought to the snippets of Latvian coming from the kitchen. The service industry across London is fueled by people working long hours for minimum pay, and those people are frequently immigrants with limited English. Hearing a foreign language from the back of a restaurant is expected. The date is better than expected. Paul is charming with a nice smile, and he talks about his position at the Wallace Collection with passion and admiration. They've discussed favourite painters and the sheer emotion in the latest exhibition, and it's all going well until Mycroft hears himself laughing a little too loudly at Paul's joke. “If you'll excuse me,” he says, standing up and making sure he feels the weight of his phone in his pocket. “I'll be right back.” It takes too much concentration to keep his steps steady as he takes the narrow hallway to the gents. He can feel his pulse hammering at his neck, the hot flush on his cheeks. He looks at the dimly lit wallpaper around him, the way the design shifts and swims in front of him, blurring and overlapping in endless repetitive patterns. He notes the way it makes him feel: amused and entertained. He wants to call Paul over, show him this wonderful wall. An entactogen, then. MDMA, perhaps. Something slipped into his drink to allow for quick metabolism into the bloodstream. He thinks of Paul, Paul's easy smile, Paul reaching across the table to run fingertips along Mycroft's palm. No wonder the date was going so well; they're both under the influence of something. It must have been a member of staff. Latvian. There was a corrupt general in Belarus with ties to Latvia, a general whose illegal arms deal fell through due to Mycroft. Despite Mycroft's excellent memory, the details are fuzzy. Right now, it's hard to think straight, let alone strategize. Mycroft pulls out his phone. Texts his assistant with the details, orders surveillance on the current employees. It's a risk for him to be anywhere near his office in this state, and Sherlock is in Scotland investigating missing emeralds. “Need me to rescue you from another bad date?” Lestrade asks and Mycroft doesn't remember dialling. But the phone is in his hand, and Lestrade's on the other end, and when he drags his free hand down the wallpaper, the flocking feels incredible under his fingertips. “With some urgency,” Mycroft says and manages to drag the restaurant's address from his memory. He relays it to Lestrade who hums as he writes it down. It's a pleasant sound. “You must have a lovely singing voice.” “Are you okay?” The sharp concern in Lestrade's tone sobers him a little. “Is that some kind of distress code?” “No, but it would be handy right now.” Mycroft can't remember where the kitchen is relative to this hallway. Doesn't know if he can be overheard. Doesn't know if he's said too much already. “I think I've had too much to drink.” Lestrade mutters something about lightweights but Mycroft can hear his keys jingling. “Fine, I'm on my way. Stay there.” When Mycroft gets back to the table, Paul is glassy-eyed. There's a sheen of sweat across his forehead. Now that Mycroft's looking for it, he hears the faster speech pattern and the touch of mania in Paul's voice. “It's an amazing piece,” Paul says fervently, after enthusiastically describing a light installation south of the river. “We should go see it.” “I'd like that.” He would. Mycroft wants to see Paul again, but it's unlikely. When Paul wakes up tomorrow, he'll subconsciouly blame Mycroft for this. There won't be a second date. “We should go right now.” “I can't,” Mycroft says but he's saved from explaining the situation by Lestrade walking through the doors. He's clean shaven this time, in a wrinkled shirt that he's worn all day and his phone in his hand. His amused smirk turns into an outright grin when he spots Mycroft. Mycroft wonders at the grin and then realises that he has listed somewhat to his right. He takes his weight off his elbow and sits upright. Paul's nice smile shines even brighter when he sees Lestrade. Mycroft understands it, of course, but it's still galling. Lestrade is not there to be leered at. “Paul, this is DI Lestrade.” He waves a hand between them. Gets distracted for a moment by the glide of his hand in the air. “Lestrade, could you explain to Paul the common effects of MDMA?” “What?” “MDMA. Ecstasy. Common effects.” Mycroft can't. He doesn't trust himself to explain the drugging without explaining the reason for it -- and that is far beyond what a civilian like Paul should know. Lestrade is now looking at Mycroft. He must see Mycroft's flushed cheeks, the loosened tie because he'd been desperately hot. “You were roofied?” he asks, suddenly serious and professional and devastatingly handsome. Mycroft nods and ignores Paul, who's staring at Lestrade's mouth but not paying any attention to the words spoken. “The drinks.” Lestrade frowns and starts rifling through his coat pockets. He pulls out an evidence bag, wonder of wonders, then takes the empty glasses from the table and seals them inside. “Okay, gentlemen, we're going to A&E.” *** The car ride turns Paul's pale complexion to the colour of chalk. He looks distinctly nauseated, so Mycroft stays in the back of the Vauxhall Astra while Lestrade takes Paul in. He wants to sleep this off but he doesn't feel the least bit tired. Instead, he watches the streetlights reflect on shop windows or runs his fingers over the car's upholstery. Leather seats would be easier to clean but Lestrade has the standard fabric option. No special requests. No special treatment. No expectation of higher recognition or higher rewards for doing his job and more. Mycroft has both hands flat against the seat, dragging his palms over the fabric just to feel it against his skin, when the car door opens. “Okay, got that sorted. They're keeping him for observation overnight, and his sister will collect him in the morning.” Mycroft scowls at the thought of Sherlock having to do the same. It seems wrong. He's supposed to be the sober one getting calls from a hospital; it's never been the other way around. Then he remembers Sherlock is in Scotland. Saved from that possibility. When he looks up, Lestrade is staring at him. “Yes?” “Your turn. Come on.” “No.” “No?” “A hospital has too many staff. Too many entrances. If this was a planned attack, I'd be too vulnerable there. Take me home.” Mycroft drags a hand against his forehead, trying to think through the haze in his mind. “No, my laptop's there. Too much information. Take me to a hotel instead. Somewhere they charge extra for WiFi in your room.” Mycroft fishes his phone out of his pocket. He holds it out to Lestrade who blinks and then takes it. “What's this for?” “Hold on to that for me. I shouldn't be left with… with…” He can't remember the words. They're there, he can hear them in a variety of languages, but in English that word is blank. Just a shape in his mind of keys and locks and files. “With means of contacting someone?” Lestrade asks, still leaning into the back seat through the open door. From this angle, he looks tired. Shadows catch on the soft bags under his eyes. He should sleep more, Mycroft thinks. He should have someone to kiss him on the cheek and suggest an early night. “Mycroft?” “Confidential information. No, that's not the right word. Sounds similar. Or similar meaning.” Mycroft shakes his head. His vision spins a little so he holds himself very still as he adds, “Classified. That's the word.” “Classified?” “The amount of information on that phone, the secrets I am privy to… I should not have access to them while I’m incapable of logical thought.” *** Mycroft's not entirely sure how he ended up on a sofa in Lestrade's flat. Oh, he can guess the turns Lestrade took and how long he had to wait in traffic, but he's not sure why. Yet he's sitting on Lestrade's sofa -- a deep grey-blue fabric, easy to accessorise, new but not terribly high quality -- being handed a pillow and a duvet. “I know you probably can't,” Lestrade says firmly, “but try to get some sleep. I'll come check on you in a bit.” *** Mycroft wakes up the next morning and quickly wishes he was still unconscious. His head is pounding. His tongue feels as if he's been licking carpet. He stretches out on the sofa and groans like a prisoner on the rack. He aches everywhere: his arms, his legs, his ribs, even his elbows. He feels clammy, skin tacky with sweat, and shirt damply stuck to his back. All in all, it's a disgusting feeling. He can't fathom why anyone would wake up like this by choice. He presses the palms of his hands against his eyes -- even his eyelids ache -- and tries to recall last night. It's blurry snatches of Lestrade muttering soothing nonsense, a cold flannel held against his forehead, fingers petting through his hair the way Mummy used to when he caught a cold. He remembers talking to Lestrade; the taste of sweet, milky tea. He can remember leaning against Lestrade, drooping until his head was on Lestrade's shoulder. Warm cotton against his cheek and the smell of laundry detergent and deodorant and human being, the same smells on Lestrade's pillow. He has no memory of what he said to Lestrade. Hopefully, it was nonsense ramblings and nothing especially classified. Although that is why he called Lestrade. The man has proven he knows how to keep a secret when necessary, and he understands that there is a lot of grey in the world. Alongside Miss Hooper, Lestrade stands as one of the few civilians Mycroft would trust with the nation's security. Mycroft pulls his hands down reluctantly. From the angle of sunshine coming through the tiny kitchen window, it's late afternoon. The kettle's been moved and there's the edge of a mug in the sink. Toast crumbs on the counter. Lestrade ate a quick breakfast quietly, no sign of lunch. He left some hours ago. As expected, there's a note on the coffee table. “Had to go to work,” says Lestrade's chunky block capitals. “Call me when you wake up. Greg.” There are years of filling out arrest paperwork in that handwriting, capitals used as an easier way of ensuring legibility, even spacing and a slight slant to his W’s. Mycroft places it down on the table before he can do anything as ridiculous as trace over the letters with a finger. He picks his phone up from the table and dials. “Hey,” Lestrade says, more gently than Mycroft probably deserves. “How are you feeling?” “Like death would be a mercy,” Mycroft replies candidly, “but it will pass.” “Your pulse was back to normal and you weren't running a fever, so I figured you were past the worst of it when I left.” The idea of Lestrade checking before he went to work… It makes Mycroft feel strangely bashful. “Have you been sleeping all this time?” “Yes. I just woke up,” Mycroft says and then wonders why he bothered elaborating. Lestrade doesn't need him to state the obvious. “If you want to stick around a couple of hours, I'll get takeout on my way back.” “No,” Mycroft says quickly. “I've abused your hospitality long enough. I am in your debt.” “As long as you hold up your end of the deal.” It sounds like a joke that Mycroft doesn't understand. “Deal?” “You promised me a knighthood.” Lestrade is clearly amused now. “You said people owed you favours and you could do better than an OBE.” Now Mycroft remembers snippets of last night's conversation. Remembers complimenting Lestrade and insisting on a way to thank him. Apparently, in the most ridiculous and pompous way possible. Objectively, he knows it's best that no real information was shared. But the idea that Lestrade thinks he's a fool, that Lestrade is laughing at him, sits uncomfortably in Mycroft's stomach. It's not beyond his abilities. He could orchestrate a knighthood if he wanted to. “It would take some months to arrange.” “Yeah? So I could be Sir Greg? Make the ACPO ranks pay attention to me?” “I think the Queen's representative would use your full name.” “I don't think Sir Gregory has the same ring to it. Makes me sound a lot older and a lot posher than I am,” Lestrade says with a chuckle. “So thanks for the offer, but no thanks.” “As long as you know your kindness was appreciated,” Mycroft says earnestly. A little too seriously given the awkward silence that settles between them. Eventually, Lestrade clears his throat and says, “Yeah, it's fine. Just be careful in future, right?” “Or stop interacting with the human race," Mycroft suggests glibly. "Sometimes, that feels like the easier solution.” *** For the next month or two, Mycroft makes it a personal priority to disassemble the support base of a particular general. He spends more time studying maps of Belarus than talking to people so it's unsurprising that his next date is almost three months after waking up on Lestrade's sofa. If Mycroft's being perfectly honest, accepting tonight's invitation had less to do with the man, Julian Peterson, and more to do with his last conversation with Sherlock. (Sherlock had looked him up and down, grinning. “Finally decided to give in and accept the curse?” Really, Mycroft had no other choice than to prove him wrong at the next available opportunity.) Julian is reasonably attractive: blonde hair turning white, a healthy tan, good features in a long face. He has nice hands, strong and a little rough from horse-riding. The type of man who has always been physically fit and has put effort into remaining so as he ages. He has the biceps and forearms of a man who spends time at the gym daily. He's objectively attractive, but more importantly, Mycroft is attracted to him. He would very much like to invite him home, to kiss him against the stair railing and let his fingers explore that carefully maintained physique. He might suggest it if Julian would only stop talking. The man barely pauses for breath, rolling from one self-absorbed story to the next. Tales of being a merchant banker, of buying his new Ferrari, of that time at Capri where the hotel had double-booked the executive suite and tried to bribe him with a complimentary room until the suite was available. It's bragging in the least interesting way possible. Mycroft smiled through the first few stories but now he's letting his mind wander, not that Julian’s taken any notice of it. Julian is attractive as long as Mycroft doesn't pay any attention to the things he's saying. He couldn't bear sitting through another evening of this, but he's sure he can keep nodding and get through the meal. Even if it's just a one night stand, it would be nice to be touched and feel desirable again. Maybe saying “just” a one night stand in disingenuous. Maybe it's expecting too much to find an attractive man who can both hold a decent conversation and enjoy Mycroft's company. Perhaps he should learn to be satisfied with two out of three. When Mycroft thinks back on the last few years, most dates haven't ended well enough to even include a kiss. Of the ones that have, half of those were awkward goodnight pecks, the kind that clearly signalled that no one wanted to repeat the experience. It feels like a very long time since he's felt any immediate pull of desire. Mycroft's so distracted by his own thoughts that he doesn't notice the waiter approaching with their meals. He startles as the plate appears in front of him and instinctively flings a protective hand in front of him. It catches the heavy white porcelain and sends the plate flying across the table, landing food down in Julian's lap. All three of them -- Mycroft, Julian and the waiter -- freeze in shock. Mycroft stifles the urge to laugh at the ridiculous situation. Julian slowly looks down at his lap and then snorts like an angry water buffalo. “Do you have any idea how much this suit costs?” he splutters, face going red. “Judging by the cut, it's one of Kilgour’s,” Mycroft says over the spluttering. From the way Julian's glaring, tonight is a lost cause. No point holding his tongue any longer. “I'd place it around £4,300.” While Julian takes a ridiculous fuss about dry cleaning costs and rushing off to the gents to salvage his suit, Mycroft asks for another serving to take home. If tonight is doomed, he should at least be able to enjoy a nice prawn linguini. *** Julian doesn't return to the table so Mycroft pays the bill and takes a surprisingly generous container home with him. He pauses outside the restaurant to fix his scarf and hears a familiar voice call out. “Hey! Mycroft!” When he looks behind him, there is Gregory Lestrade, trenchcoat billowing open as he strides closer. Of course, it is. A disappointing night wouldn't be complete without Lestrade witnessing it. Mycroft nods his head in greeting. “Sir Gregory,” he says and gets rewarded with a quick smile. “I haven't seen you in ages,” Lestrade says. It's one of those imprecise terms that makes Mycroft automatically translate into twelve weeks and four days. “Everything good?” “Busy, but nothing to worry about.” He almost asks what Lestrade's doing here, but there's a reflection of red and blue lights from an alley in the distance. Lestrade must be working. Lestrade's eyes dip down to the bag in Mycroft's hand. “At least I'm not catching you in the middle of one of those disastrous dates. It's a nice change.” “Not in the middle, no.” “Really?” Lestrade asks, not even trying to hide the grin on his face. Mycroft glances over his shoulder and spots Julian stomping his way through the restaurant. Length and pace of strides, the width of the restaurant, the indirect route that has to be taken… “I believe that's him now,” Mycroft says at the precise moment that Julian pushes open the doors, sends a scathing look at Mycroft and then stalks the opposite direction. There's a large wet mark on the front of his trousers. The timing is perfect. It's only made better by Lestrade's startled but honest laughter. “Christ. It went that well, huh?” “I did have high hopes for tonight.” Something flashes quickly across Lestrade's expression, a moment of sharp curiosity, there and gone. “It was going well?” “Not really. I spent the whole night listening to his tedious anecdotes.” Mycroft can't simply say: I disliked him but I wanted to use him for sex. There's no way to say ‘I put up with it to try to get a leg over’ that doesn't sound sleazy or pathetic. “But at least I have complex carbohydrates to comfort me.” “We've got a two-hour wait for SOCO, so I'm leaving the team to wait for them. Perks of being the boss,” Lestrade adds cheekily. “Do you want a ride somewhere?” Mycroft wants to go home. He wants to eat food he probably shouldn't, sit in his warm comfortable house and remind himself that there are far worse things than being single. Like having to listen to one more boring, pretentious story. “On the proviso that you help me finish this,” he says, rattling the plastic bag in his hand. “Honestly, it's all cream and pasta. I shouldn't be left alone with it.” “Deal.” *** He leads Lestrade straight into the dining room and then detours back to the kitchen to heat and plate the food. When he walks in, Lestrade's sitting at the table, one place left of Mycroft's usual seat at the head. It's a large table but sitting across the corner of it, they're close enough to brush elbows. It's nice. It means Lestrade doesn't have to speak loudly when he says, “Were you expecting company? Or is your place always this clean?” It's no cleaner than it usually is. “I believe clean is an absolute. It either is or isn't clean.” “No, it's a sliding scale,” Lestrade says, placing his form down to gesture to each end of the table. “Right from 'messy but mostly clean' to ‘Gregory Emile Lestrade, clean your room, we have visitors coming’. There's a wide range of acceptably clean between the two.” It's an easy conversation. Lestrade talks about his Mum and trudging dirty football boots into the house, and there's clear affection in his tone. Affection for his parents, for a childhood that he remembers fondly. It's rather charming and for a moment, Mycroft wishes his date had been half as interesting to listen to. He squashes that thought as soon as it occurs. Firstly, Lestrade has dated women since his divorce: most of them up to ten years younger than him and all of them decidedly pretty. If Lestrade had any interest in dating men, it would be foolish to assume he'd have any interest in dating Mycroft. Mycroft is clever, sharp and middling attractive where Lestrade is unfairly gorgeous and a genuinely decent man. He's a good man, a kind man; a man who works hard and expects no reward beyond the satisfaction in a job well done. Mycroft works hard because there's no one else who can do what he does, and there's little value in being wealthy in an unstable country; it's in his own best interest to keep everything running well. He's never fooled himself into believing he is either good or kind. “Look, can I say something?” Lestrade asks after he's scraped the last strand of linguini from his plate. “It's not a criticism, just… You remind me of a mate of mine, Dave. Known him since school, forever really, and he's always had a type.” “Go on.” “Girls at bars, girlfriends, it's always been blondes. But he's happily married now. His wife's a brunette.” Mycroft fails to see the point. “Was she blonde when he met her?” “No. That's it. Once he stopped looking for a girl who looked a certain way, he found the one,” Lestrade says, displaying his own romantic streak in the choice of words. The idea that someone post-divorce and post-heartbreak could still believe in one true love -- in finding one perfect soulmate -- seems remarkable to Mycroft. He's had no such setbacks and he's cynical of the entire concept. “I'm not sure I'm looking for the one. I think it would be nice to occasionally--” Mycroft stops himself before he can end that sentence in a truly pathetic way. It would be nice to have company, another warm body reading on the sofa. It would be nice to be held, to crawl into bed after a long day and fall asleep with someone's arm around you. It would be nice to get off with someone else's hand on his cock. They're all nice things to have in life but they're hardly necessary. “He had this idea in his head of what his future looked like, right? And restricting himself to girls who only fit that criteria meant he wasn't really giving himself a chance to fall in love. You can't fall for a checklist of attributes, it has to be the right person.” Lestrade reaches for his glass of water and takes a few deep swallows. “I'm just saying, you have a type.” Not really, Mycroft thinks. They all had different professions, grew up in different areas of England. There was limited overlap in their choice of hobbies and interests. “A type?” “It's always bespoke suits and money and posh,” Lestrade says plainly. “Which aren't bad things and I get that it gives you something in common, but maybe that's not who you're supposed to be with.” “Those are the circles I mix in. Those are the men I meet.” Those and people who work for him, but dating the staff is bound to end badly. “Then try something new. Or someone new,” Lestrade says, leaning closer. “Try--” The phone in Lestrade's pocket rings loudly and they both jerk back. Lestrade pulls it out, answering quickly. “Lestrade here. Yeah? They got there early? Mark that one in the books. Yeah. No, I'm on my way. Ten minutes? Twenty?” Mycroft stands up, glancing around the room to be sure Lestrade hasn't left anything. No, just his trenchcoat in the hall. Lestrade puts the phone away with an apologetic expression. “I've got to go. Right now.” “Thank you for the company,” Mycroft says, walking him out and fetching his trenchcoat on the way. “And I will give some consideration to your advice.” “Good. Just--” Lestrade frowns as he takes his coat, apparently unsure of what to say. “Keep in touch, yeah?” Knowing Mycroft's luck, he'll run into Lestrade after his next failed date. “Do take care.” *** While he can see the merit of Lestrade's argument, it's easier to agree with it than act on it. Stepping beyond one's comfort zone may be commendable, but contrary to popular movies, standing around in coffee shops, bookstores and supermarkets doesn't help Mycroft meet anyone. People don't start conversations with strangers. Most of the people in those places aren't single, and those that are have errands to run and are too busy to pay attention to anything beyond their phone. After trying each venue once, Mycroft gives it up as a bad idea. He feels humiliatingly self-conscious and somehow invisible at the same time. He calls Lestrade, hoping for a better suggestion of how people meet when it's not at galleries or play intermissions. He gets Lestrade's voicemail -- heralded by a very professional “This is DI Gregory Lestrade. Please leave a message at the tone” -- and doesn't react fast enough to end the call. “This is Mycroft Holmes,” he says, cursing himself for not hanging up. He barely had a reason to call. He certainly doesn't have a good reason for leaving a message. “I was trying to get a message to Sherlock. Don't worry, I'll call John Watson.” The good thing about having his metaphorical fingers in every pie is that there is always a minor issue somewhere that would benefit from Sherlock's investigative skills. It's an easy thing to call John Watson next, and offer paid work to Sherlock. (Surprisingly, Sherlock is bored enough to take it so that's one less thing Mycroft needs to address himself.) He gets dragged into a conference call with China that afternoon so he misses Lestrade's return call. Lestrade's message is relaxed. “Hey, it's Greg,” he says, “calling you back. Sherlock said he's busy doing something for you, so you must have got in touch with him. Call me back.” Mycroft considers calling back but it's the middle of the night. He waits until the next day but it goes to voicemail again. “Mycroft Holmes,” he says, and, “I was just returning your call,” and, “There's no pressing need for you to call me back.” Awkward is the kindest way to describe the stilted recording. Then there's a quick trip to Washington and Lestrade calls while he's in the air. “Greg here. I don't know how we keep missing each other. I'll try again later.” And then, “Just me again. Call me back, okay?” The next few days Mycroft is busier than he prefers, sorting out a few messes here and there. Every time he gets a spare minute, it's an unreasonable time in London. He has to wait until an hour before his return flight. It should be mid-afternoon in London, on a Saturday. Lestrade should be able to answer his phone. It goes to voicemail again. Mycroft's disappointed. He can hear it when he leaves the last message: “This is Mycroft. No need to call me back. We can declare you the winner in this game of phone tag.” It's silly. Orchestrating a convenient time to call does not oblige someone else to answer. It's a Saturday and he's not on call; of course, Lestrade would have plans for the day. When Mycroft gets off the plane, there's a missed call from Lestrade. He forces himself to ignore it until he has reclaimed his bags, survived airport traffic, and made it home in one piece. The background noise in the message is loud: chatting people, mostly deep voices, the drone of a TV and the clink of glasses; the unmistakable sounds of a pub. “Hey, Mycroft,” Greg says loudly, trying to be heard over the noise. He's had enough to drink that his accent's coming through, flattening his vowels. “I didn't hear my phone ring. Call me, yeah?” Mycroft plays the message twice more and then deletes it. He doesn't call back. They've both wasted more time on this than the conversation deserves. *** Since meeting someone in general public areas seems unlikely, it's only logical that Mycroft would fare better in a venue where people come to meet others. A venue where being gay was presumed. In short, a gay bar. The idea of going out to Soho seems trendy and uncomfortably close to home, so Mycroft chooses an establishment out in Stoke Newington. According to Google, the most popular hours are Fridays and Saturdays between 11pm and 2am, so Mycroft plans accordingly. In retrospect, it's not his best plan ever. There are two floors of dancing and bars, in spaces that would look dingy and worn if the lights were bright enough to see them. Judging by what Mycroft sees, the crowd is a mixture of gay and straight, groups loosely dancing in circles or couples gyrating together, but the majority of them of them are under twenty. Mycroft feels unforgivably old. Even if he'd been the right age, he's never enjoyed loud music thumping through his breastbone or been especially graceful on the dance floor. He can waltz and he can foxtrot but he's never had Sherlock's flair for it; he's certainly never pushed himself against a total stranger, using them as a pole in a stripper routine. There's no point coming here and leaving immediately, so he forces himself to stay. He sits at the bar, back to the wall, dance floor and doorway in his line of sight. He keeps a close eye on his drinks being poured, but after one glass of hideously cheap whisky, he orders water. He watches the young people drink and laugh, having fun, and he can't remember ever being so carefree. It's not in his nature. He watches them wistfully, wondering what it would be like to be... ordinary. To have a simple job, to only worry about your next pay cheque, to look forward to going out every weekend. It sounds terribly dull to Mycroft, to walk through life and only see the surface, but so many people seem content with it. There are several free seats to either side of him, and yet someone takes the seat right beside him. Dark hair and olive skin -- Arabic mother and Eastern European father -- long, straight nose and very dark eyes. He's older than the crowd in here but not significantly. Around twenty-nine. His smile shows crooked incisors. “Having fun?” “Not especially,” Mycroft replies. The young man looks confused; the music is too loud and he apparently doesn't read lips. Mycroft leans closer and repeats himself loudly. “No, not really.” “First time here?” “Probably my last,” Mycroft replies. The young man grins and says, “Mike.” “What?” Mycroft asks, instantly suspicious. He looks to the man's hands, but there are no telltale callouses, no signs of violence or weapon skills. He spends his days using a laptop keyboard. “I'm Mike,” he says, tapping a hand to his chest to emphasize the point. “You?” “Mycroft.” From the confused frown, Mike didn't quite catch the name. “Do you want to get out of here? Go somewhere we can talk?” It's absurd. Mycroft was in university when this boy was born. But he's also been sitting here for two hours, and he hates it, and he wants to leave. “Where?” “I know a place. Does great pancakes.” It's the pancakes that convince Mycroft. *** Over a fifteen minute stroll through quiet, fluorescent-lit streets, Mike doesn't say anything abysmally stupid. It's standard getting to know you conversation: employment, education, location. Or what did you study at school, where do you work, where do you live now and where did you grow up. All details that Mycroft could deduce, but the conversation is no more tedious than it needs to be. Mike asks about Mycroft's job (civil servant for the Department of Transport) and confirms Mycroft's suspicions about his own employment (aspiring writer, he says, but he really means unemployed). “It's such a modern concept,” Mycroft says because modern is sometimes the best word for immature and indulgent. “This idea of removing oneself from life in order to write. There are great books that were written while their authors held steady jobs.” “Maybe those great books would have been written no matter what,” Mike says, leading them inside to a cafe open unfathomably late. It's an unremarkable cafe inside, a collection of chairs and tables, with posters covering one wall. There are a few other patrons but it's mostly empty. They go to the counter to order -- tea and pancakes for Mycroft, coffee and pancakes for Mike -- and then take a table. “That is my point. If the book is extraordinary, it will be written. And if it is not,” if it is as mediocre as Mycroft suspects Mike's novel will be, given his brief description of it and his lacklustre enthusiasm, “surely it's better not to devote years of your life solely to that one thing.” The young man nods, considering it as Mycroft considers him. Mycroft likes his confidence, his turn of phrase, his highly photogenic mix of features. Educated to a university level, able to take advice from his elders without being awed by them. DCMS, Mycroft decides, they're always looking for media-friendly faces there. “I don't disagree in theory,” Mike says. “But getting work isn't that easy. I could go back to uni, finish the degree but I'm not sure an arts degree will actually help me find a job.” “Perhaps I could help, with a condition or two.” “How?” “I know a position that needs to be filled at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.” He doesn't know of a specific position, but he knows that Gerald Sanders owes Mycroft several favours and will find a vacancy somewhere. He can employ the boy as a casual; there's currently an underspend in the departmental budget that allows a little wriggle room on FTE. “Nothing glamorous, office work. I think it's casual with a view to becoming permanent.” “Really?” Mycroft pulls a pen from his pocket and writes on a spare serviette. Gerald's name and email address, and then his own name. He slides it across the table. “Email your resume to Gerald and mention that Mycroft Holmes recommended you. Ensure that your resume is honest. If I am vouching for you, there will not be a single untruth in that document. Understood?” “Yes, sir,” Mike says, responding to the tone of authority by sitting straighter and giving a sharp nod. “And…” “And?” Mike looks a little wary, dark eyes watching the serviette lying between them. “The condition?” “Do not lie on your resume. I believe I made that very clear.” “Oh.” The surprise and relief on his face makes it clear he'd worried the condition would be something quite sordid. Something he'd readied himself to refuse, despite the offer of employment. Mycroft thinks it a good sign of his character. “I appreciated the pancakes,” Mycroft says, “but you really are terribly young.” Mycroft looks up at the sound of the cafe door opening and sees-- No. It couldn't be Lestrade. How could it be Lestrade hurrying inside wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt? This sort of coincidence is unbelievable. No matter how hard Mycroft stares, it is undeniably Gregory Lestrade. Gregory Lestrade wearing loose grey sweatpants low around his hips and a blue T-shirt that's been put through the dryer so many times it's shrunk. It clings tightly across the small bulge of fat above each hip and the curve of belly; it also clings to the broad chest and strong shoulders, the lean muscles on his biceps. Not from a gym, Mycroft notes, but a clear sign that Lestrade spends less time behind a desk than he's supposed to, and more time chasing after Sherlock and forcibly arresting criminals. Mycroft looks away before he can be caught staring. He keeps his gaze on his cup as Lestrade stands at the counter. “Hey, Kristy, I'm out. Any chance you've got a spare litre?” “I'll check,” the cafe girl promises and heads to the back room. She comes back quickly with a carton of milk, and Lestrade passes her a few coins. “Thanks,” he says, tucking the milk under one arm. He turns to leave, glancing around the rest of the cafe, and stops, staring at Mycroft. “What the hell are you doing here?” “I could ask you the same question,” Mycroft replies calmly as Lestrade steps over to their table. “Yeah, but--” Lestrade stops when he notices Mike sitting opposite Mycroft. A quick narrow-eyed glance at his age and dress, and then it's covered with a friendly expression. “But I'm interrupting. I'll leave you to your night.” “No need. I was just about to go,” Mike says quickly and Mycroft's opinion of the young man increases when he stands and adds, “Thank you for the opportunity. I'll email my resume tomorrow.” Lestrade steps back to allow Mike to leave and then takes his seat. The milk stands to attention at the far side of the table. “This is a strange time for an interview.” “I don't think he intended it to be an interview,” Mycroft allows. “But I know a department that could use someone photogenic and smart enough to welcome guidance.” Mycroft places his cup back in its saucer. He's not expecting Lestrade's hand to dart out to catch the back of his fingers and pull Mycroft's arm towards him. His grip is firm and warm as he turns Mycroft's hand to show the ink stamp on his inner wrist. “Were you out clubbing?” he asks, amazed and doubtful. Lestrade releases his hand and Mycroft pulls it back regretfully. “Did you wear a blazer to a club?” “I wasn't going to wear a suit.” Tan trousers, plain white shirt, sports coat: it's as casual as Mycroft's wardrobe gets. He certainly wasn't going to buy new clothes for this social experiment. “This was your idea, you know. Meet people beyond my social circle.” Lestrade's expression is indulgent and amused and almost… fond. Mycroft is very good at noticing when someone is attracted to him; he's less familiar with the signs of being liked. “And how did that go?” Lestrade makes it sound like an inside joke, like he's laughing with Mycroft and not at him. “About as well as you'd expect. Apparently, twenty is the cutoff for clubs these days. Although to be perfectly honest, even if I'd been twenty I doubt I'd enjoy the experience.” Mycroft reaches for his cup of tea and then finds it surprisingly empty. “And you? Your flat is close to here, isn't it?” “Round the corner,” Lestrade says. “I couldn't sleep and I was out of milk, and this place is closer than the convenience store.” Mycroft is suddenly aware that Lestrade probably sleeps in those clothes -- has a flash of imagining soft, body-warm cotton and Lestrade's sleepy smile -- and that he has no good reason to keep the man from his bed. “Don't let me keep you. You should go home and enjoy your tea in peace.” Lestrade shakes his head. “I wasn't talking about clubbing,” he says, ignoring Mycroft's invitation to leave. “I'm unlikely to strike up a new acquaintance at a coffee shop.” Mycroft knows. He's tried. “No, I meant…” Lestrade sighs and scratches the back of his neck. Mycroft does not let his gaze waver, does not let himself memorize the play of arm muscles in that simple gesture. Really, it's quite inconsiderate for Lestrade to wander around in public dressed like that. “Me.” “What?” Mycroft asks, sure he's missed something. “Do you want to go to dinner sometime?” “Why?” Mycroft asks and then he realises. A date. Lestrade is asking him out. “I thought you were straight.” Lestrade raises an eyebrow at him. “Just because I married a woman doesn't make me straight.” “Yet you've only dated women since your divorce.” “Because I was carrying a torch for a guy,” Lestrade says grudgingly, “and it didn't seem fair to date men I wasn't interested in.” “Oh.” Given who Lestrade is, that would match his sense of decency. “I won't ask why, but I'm glad you've changed your mind.” “I didn't change my mind,” Lestrade says. “I just finally got the nerve to ask him out. I'm not sure he's said yes yet.” Mycroft reaches for his cup, stalling, then remembers its empty. He puts it back down and looks up to find Lestrade grinning at him. “Yes,” he says clearly and calmly. “I would like that very much.” *** Mycroft doesn't tell Sherlock. He doesn't need to. Lestrade is many things but he's not a deceitful man. “You should tell Lestrade about the curse,” Sherlock says, rolling another double onto the backgammon board. “I'm not going to tell him about something that doesn't exist.” “Police are superstitious,” Sherlock replies, tapping his piece around the board. “He'd believe you.” Mycroft picks up the dice. He shouldn't ask. He knows Sherlock's taunts are only childish attempts to annoy him. He should be smart enough to understand Sherlock's reasoning, even if he doesn't spend as much time around Lestrade. He rolls the dice and moves his pieces. He ignores Sherlock's pointed silence as long as he can. “Based on what evidence?” “He has a lucky tie for court cases.” “Hmm.” Admittedly, that does suggest a superstitious nature, a willingness to believe in lucky charms and curses go hand in hand. But it doesn't change the fact that curses do not exist and therefore, Mycroft is not cursed. “It's only fair to warn him,” Sherlock adds helpfully, then rolls another double. Mycroft would suspect loaded dice if he hadn't checked them himself. *** Mycroft is secretly charmed that Lestrade suggested Gauthier for their date. He likes their selection of dishes, interesting flavours, not too complicated, not restricted to describing themselves in trendy terms of fusions and nouveau cuisine. The host might give him an uneasy glance as he's shown to a table -- at the back, a little away from other patrons -- but that's only to be expected. Lestrade arrives right on time. Mycroft watches him follow the host across the restaurant. He's wearing dark jeans and a black shirt, and a soft-looking leather jacket. For a moment, Mycroft is reminded of his schoolboy crush on a local motorcycle-riding hoodlum, something he hasn't thought of in decades. That crush was doomed as soon as he talked to the boy and realised he was a cretin. Lestrade grins brightly when he spots Mycroft, and Mycroft allows a small smile in return. “Hey, I'm not late, am I?” Lestrade asks, sitting down. “No, I was early.” “Good. You can never tell with London traffic,” Lestrade starts, and then they're talking about traffic woes and unpredictable ETAs, about roadworks and ridiculous drivers. Lestrade's describing a dangerous right turn, moving the salt shaker to demonstrate, when a waiter looms beside them, and Mycroft realises they've been talking for fifteen minutes. “Oh, how about a glass of wine, white,” Lestrade says, opening the menu in front of him, “and we'll figure out what we want to order. Mycroft? Do you want a drink?” Mycroft shakes his head. “Water will be fine.” “Not a fan of wine?” Lestrade asks when the waiter leaves. “Not especially. I do enjoy a good whisky, but I enjoy it more without food.” Lestrade pulls a face. “Beer, yes. A good Guinness. I can't do whisky.” “No?” “I blame granddad's Drambuie. I stole the bottle. I was fifteen and a couple of mates and I finished the bottle. Wanted to die the next day.” “I am familiar with the feeling. Rather recently,” Mycroft says, and Lestrade gives a snort of amusement. “Was the infamous Dave part of these shenanigans?” “It was Dave's idea. Not that Mum ever believed me. I was grounded for a month,” Lestrade says, dark eyes glittering with mischief. Mycroft has the sudden urge to ask about every misdeed, every naughty exploit, to learn what Lestrade was like at eight, thirteen, nineteen. To know everything that doesn't get recorded in background files and career histories. Mycroft looks down at his menu. People do not ask for every possible scrap of information on a first date. That would be obsessive and invasive. “Perhaps we should work out what to order.” “What would you recommend?” Lestrade asks, and then there's a buzz. He fishes the vibrating phone out of his pocket, frowning at the number as he answers. “Lestrade here.” Whatever is said, it etches the frown deeper into his face. “But I'm not even on call. What about Peters and Singh?” There's a pause. Mycroft thinks that they didn't even manage a drink before the date was finished. It's still one of his better dates. “The flu? Both of them? And Jacobs sprained his ankle. Fine, I'm coming in, but this is overtime. I had plans,” Lestrade says pointedly, and then, “Yeah, I know. I'm coming in.” Lestrade hands up and puts the phone back in his pocket before he looks up ruefully at Mycroft. “I've got to go into work.” “I heard,” Mycroft says. “Go. I'll deal with the restaurant.” “I'm working next Saturday,” Lestrade says, standing up. Mycroft expects some unfeasible promise of calling, some well-meaning but vague future promise. “What about drinks on Sunday afternoon?” “Are you sure?” Mycroft asks, which is hardly encouraging. “Come on. You agreed to a date, and this doesn't count. We didn't even get to the food.” “Well, if this doesn't count as a date,” Mycroft allows playfully, “we will have to reschedule. If we say four o’clock on Sunday, I could make it.” “Four o’clock. I'll text you the place.” *** Mycroft arrives in Marylebone just before four, and wonders at Lestrade's choice. It's too far from his work or flat to be a local pub, yet he had specifically chosen it. It is comfortably close to Mycroft's place in Mayfair. Perhaps that was Lestrade's reasoning: somewhere they could walk back to Mycroft's. If that's the ulterior motive, Mycroft rather likes the idea. It's an old Victorian style pub, warm woods and a long bar, and unremarkable at first glance. A few patrons sitting at the bar, groups sitting at a few tables, but half the tables are empty. Relaxed chatter drowns out the acoustic background music, but it's not too loud to have a conversation. It's a Sunday afternoon and there aren't a lot of patrons, but there are only three women in the place, and they're all part of larger groups. The pairs sitting around are all men, in their thirties and older, but the body language is wrong. A little too close, a little too attentive, for straight men. Interesting. “Oh, you found it,” Lestrade says behind him. Mycroft glances over his shoulder to see Lestrade run a hand through his hair (damp from the showers outside, rain pattern across his sweater suggests a hunched run from his car). “Yes. I wasn't sure if you wanted to sit at the bar or a table.” “Do you have a preference?” “Either is fine,” Mycroft says. The bar would be more casual and set a friendlier tone; a table would feel more intimate, would allow for a conversation that wouldn't be overheard. He would be more comfortable sitting at a table, but either would be acceptable. “Table, it is,” Lestrade says, leading Mycroft to the far side of the room with a gentle hand on his back. It’s high on his back, between his shoulder blades. Mycroft only feels the lightest of pressures through his suit, and yet it catches him by surprise. There's nothing indecent or suggestive in the gesture; on the contrary, it's familiar and a little protective. Mycroft knows how to ward off an unwelcome roaming hand and how to defend his personal space with a withering glance. He's less sure how one welcomes a casual touch. If Lestrade notices him tense in surprise, he doesn't mention it. He just leads them to the table -- a few seconds walk, nothing more -- and then removes his hand. “What do you want to drink?” “Orange juice, please.” Lestrade nods and fetches drinks from the bar. It gives Mycroft ample time to decide Lestrade is wearing the same dark blue jeans he wore to their last date. This time, with a deep green sweater -- wool and silk blend, judging by the fine sheen, a few small snags showing it's been in Lestrade's wardrobe for at least a year -- and brown leather boots. Practical for the weather, but a flattering outfit nonetheless. Lestrade slides over a tall glass of orange juice. “Sure you didn't want whisky? They have some quality drinks here.” Given the age and disposable income of the clientele, Mycroft would believe it. The reason is much simpler than that. “You've already seen me incapacitated once. I would prefer to avoid a repeat performance. After all, dating is all about hiding one's obnoxious traits.” “You weren't that bad.” “I believe I fell asleep on your shoulder.” Mycroft adjusts his cuffs, allowing himself a brief respite from his embarrassment. “Hardly an appealing impression.” “You were adorable,” Lestrade says. Mycroft hasn't been called adorable since he reached double digits. “High as a kite, but adorable. Underneath all that cleverness and the fancy suits, you're a sweetheart.” The suggestion is preposterous. “I assure you I am not.” “Very, very deep down,” Lestrade says, grinning as he drinks his ale. Mycroft glances around the room, wishing he didn't have the kind of memory that would always remember Lestrade's tone when he called Mycroft sweet. “Why did you choose this place?” “I thought it might be your kind of place. Better than a nightclub full of twenty-year-olds.” “A little less obvious, with much older clientele?” “A little more discreet. Somewhere you can have a drink and relax,” Lestrade explains. “And I figured if you were out clubbing, you probably didn't know this place existed.” “Admittedly, I didn't do a great deal of research on the subject.”

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