Everything started with a murder. To be fair, with Sherlock Holmes it always did. Funny thing though, John mused as he stood at the side of the crime scene, that it was not what actually attracted the attention of the consulting detective. DI Lestrade did. Not for long, but enough to leave John very confused. He looked around, not really taking in all the blood and an image of Sherlock dashing about from the victim's car to the body and back. Instead, he found himself occupied with thoughts about the talk he had with the consulting detective merely five minutes prior.
"Lestrade is wearing a new shirt." Sherlock announced as soon as they neared the barrier of yellow tape.
John followed his friend's gaze and looked at the DI in thoughtful consideration.
"So?" He frowned, glancing from one man to the other. Lestrade, he noticed, was wearing an ordinary white shirt as he always did. "Why does it matter?"
"It does not," Sherlock replied shortly, ducking under the tape and, ignoring Sergeant Donavan's glares, headed to the lifeless body.
John's confusion, now spiked with curiosity, grew.
"How do you know it's a new shirt? And really, why can't a man buy a new shirt? Is that a crime?" He asked sarcastically.
"The significant fact is that he did not buy this particular shirt," the detective explained, ignoring John's tone. His voice was businesslike with the shade of keenness it always took when the detective was making deductions.
By that time they were two steps away from the object of their conversation, John dropped the subject and asked a question about the murder instead. He would not put it past Sherlock to continue discussing Lestrade's private matters right in front of the DI. Fifteen minutes later, as Sherlock was finished with his deductions and they were leaving the crime scene, John decided to make another attempt at understanding his genius friend. The subject bothered him. Why would his 'Married-To-My-Work' roommate be interested in a small detail like Lestrade's shirt? And, seriously, why did the man who had no interest in relationships whatsoever have to always look so handsome? But that was not important at that moment, John reminded himself.
"So about the shirt?" The doctor mumbled, a feeling of awkwardness sweeping over him as soon as the first word left his mouth.
"Shirt?" Sherlock asked distractedly. They were standing in an alley just behind the corner from the murder scene; the detective's eyes were glued to the ground.
"Lestrade's shirt," John said with more confidence.
"What about it?"
"How do you know it was new? And how did you know he did not buy it himself?"
"Lestrade has got a new lover." Sherlock stated confidently as if it explained everything. If anything it only served to confuse John more.
Sherlock tore his eyes from the ground, straightened to his full height and, with an exasperated sigh, started explaining:
"Lestrade always wears the same type of shirts. Plain white, the same brand."
"He's wearing white today."
"Yes, but the material is different. Better. Higher quality. More expensive. I noticed this even from afar."
"Which means..?" John prompted and after a moment decided to make a guess. "He decided to buy a better shirt? Got a pay raise?"
"Lestrade isn't a type of a person to waste money on everyday clothes. But if you need more proof I noticed the label when he was crouching over the body. It's classy." He stressed the last word disdainfully. "Not something even a DI could afford."
Sherlock quieted as he lowered down onto one knee and picked up a piece of paper from the ground.
"Maybe it was a present?"
"It's one size smaller than it should be. Can't you see? It's so obvious I wonder why the whole department isn't rumoring about it."
"So it belongs to someone else?"
"Yes." Sherlock replied, already uninterested in the discussion as he examined a piece of paper with the miniature magnifying glass.
"And?" John inquired, prompting his friend to keep going.
"Which means Lestrade borrowed it from his lover when he was leaving his house in the morning. He took a white shirt, not wanting to attract the attention of his colleagues possibly because he is a private person but more likely because his lover prefers to keep at least some level of secrecy. Also this lover is more conservative and significantly richer. As I said: classy. Just like Mycroft," Sherlock gave that example with a wince. "Plus, judging by the way Lestrade can't concentrate on the case I'd say things are going rather well with his lover."
"That's interesting," John commented for a lack of a better word. "Why do you find it important, again?"
"It's just an observation." Sherlock replied. He quickly pocketed the piece of paper.
John nodded, accepting the explanation it was normal for Sherlock to be observant about random things. And then, something he did not pay attention to at first returned to the forefront of his mind:
"Wait. Did you say 'he'?"
"Well, the last time I checked Lestrade was a man."
John decided it was for the best not to ask what the checking involved in favor of pressing a more important matter.
"The lover," he clarified.
"Yes," was the only thing Sherlock said as an answer.
"Lestrade's lover is male." John felt like an idiot for repeating that but he had to make everything clear.
"Yes," the detective repeated, then threw a final glance around the alley and headed back, John following close behind.
"You know this how?" The doctor asked, despite any common sense. The situation was bothering him just a bit.
"I have known this man for more than five years. Obviously I had noticed that at some point. And I doubt he'd be wearing his female partners' blouses."
"That's beyond the point." John replied and then, falling into step behind his friend, unsurely asked the back of his head. "Did you ever..?"
"Well " John found himself unable to continue despite his curiosity.
Sherlock glanced at him, not faltering his purposeful stride.
"What?" He asked again, a little more forcefully.
When John looked away, knowing for sure that the detective had noticed his slight blush and thus feeling all the more humiliated, Sherlock smirked and replied easily:
"No. I have never."
John just nodded, letting the man know that he had heard the answer.
"I wonder who Lestrade's lover is though. Who'd be able to stand him for a long time?"
"Surely it's much easier than dealing with you," John muttered under his breath. At least now he knew that Sherlock was interested in the mystery itself and not in what it might reveal.
"Can you deduct it?" John asked.
They were still not far from the crime scene; from that distance the figure of the DI was visible. Sherlock followed John's gaze, eyes narrowing as he stared at Lestrade.
"Well, this man should be very patient," Sherlock said, but John knew it was just an insult to Lestrade. "Private person, prefers to keep his personal matters away from the public eye. Which should not be that easy for him, since he's obviously very rich. Also influential. Most likely from an old-fashioned family. Rich family but probably gained the power himself."
"All that from a shirt?"
"The shirt. But mostly from Lestrade's persona and attitude." Sherlock commented, turning around and heading away from the crime scene and to the main road. "But the shirt was the trigger. That brand. You see, it's very expensive because it's tailored. I've seen it when-"
Sherlock stopped abruptly. John stopped as well and watched the detective closely. With an unreadable expression he turned around, movement jerky and tense, and rushed back to the crime scene.
"Sherlock?" John called out half-heartedly, used to these epiphanies, and followed his friend. It must be something about the case, he decided. So, without hesitation he followed.
The consulting detective crossed the road, as always not caring for the traffic, and strode to the yellow tape and yanked it up harshly, Donavan's angry protests falling on deaf ears. His actions seemed more angry than excited, which was the first clue hinting that something was off. The second clue came much sooner than John expected, and before everyone wanted.
"How much do you earn, Lestrade?" Sherlock suddenly asked, his tone so serious and expressive that it actually made the DI turn away from the body and stare at the consulting detective.
"Excuse me?" He asked, sounding only slightly scandalized.
"Sherlock, it's not appropriate." John scolded almost in a whisper but was unsurprisingly ignored.
"I asked how much do you earn. Enough for a living? Well, obviously enough since the DI is a good position. Enough to buy anything you actually want?"
"I don't see how it concerns you." Lestrade protested, on the verge of becoming angry. He stepped away from the puddle of blood on his left, stepping over it carefully and heading towards one of the police cars. Sherlock followed him.
"Fine. I suppose that doesn't matter much," the consulting detective dismissed the question in favor of moving on to another. "Why did you get divorced?"
"What? How do even know..?" Lestrade turned around sharply, now surely irritated.
"All your staff talked about your divorce for weeks. If I'm not mistaken," he said in a voice that screamed 'And I know I am correct. I simply cannot be mistaken'. "That happened year and a half before. So why did it happen? Did you cheat on your wife?"
"No, I did not!" Lestrade retorted angrily. "We were both busy with our jobs so it didn't work out. Now tell me why you are asking all these questions!"
Sherlock nodded and stared pensively at the angry face of the DI.
"Would you die for the one you love?" Sherlock asked.
John gaped at the contradiction between the deep meaning of Sherlock's question and the absolutely emotionless voice in which the question was asked. His gaze kept wandering from one man to the other and his brain didn't even bother trying to process what was going on.
"Hmm, I probably phrased it wrong. Would you do anything that is in your powers to protect a person dear to you?" The voice was still cold but somehow Sherlock's expression softened as he waited for the answer.
Lestrade looked back at him with a frown, then heaved a sigh and replied dejectedly.
"Of course," it turned out heavier than he wanted. Lestrade looked away, avoiding Sherlock's eyes. "So why all the questions?"
Sherlock frowned, probably deciding if it was worth answering. John, still not comprehending where the conversation was heading, scrutinized his face and gauged the DI's reaction. Sherlock seemed fixated on the thoughts running through his head, and not in the usual way when the doctor knew that his friend had a plan or had already figured out the mystery. His actions were actually spontaneous, but not in a cold calculative way more like he acted upon emotional impulse. Sherlock groaned in frustration and started pacing, torn in his own internal contradiction.
"Why are you wearing Mycroft's shirt?" He turned around and asked angrily and loudly as soon as he caught up with the DI.
John, who had begun pacing as well, recoiled in shock, which could have looked comical with the way he stumbled, stopped and then stumbled again before taking a step back, finding his balance and freezing. But no one was paying him any attention at that moment. Lestrade stared at the younger Holmes with wide eyes, his right hand in the air with a phone clutched tightly as he started dialing a number. A few police officers abandoned their tasks in favor of their own surprised staring.
It's a good thing he didn't shout 'Mycroft Holmes', John thought distractedly as he waited for the oncoming disaster.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Lestrade asked, more shocked than actually angry, though the swearing in front of his subordinates surely gave away his worry. He shut the phone in his hand with a snap.
"This," Sherlock waved his hand erratically in the general direction of the white shirt. "Is my brother's!"
Oh no, he said it, was John's next thought.
"Sherlock," he called out to the consulting detective. "I'm sure that's just a rushed decision. Even if it is the same brand it doesn't necessarily belong to Mycroft." He finished lamely, trying not to attract attention to the name but failing fabulously.
"I know it does." Sherlock retorted confidently. He looked calmer now and just glared at Lestrade, using his impressive height as an advantage.
"What do you want from me?" Lestrade asked tiredly, walking away again, out of the crime scene and away from other people.
Sherlock went after him, even though John attempted to stop him with a gentle touch to his elbow and a plea to leave it be. The consulting detective didn't listen to him and only tugged on John's hand to make him follow.
"I want to be sure."
"Sure of what?" Lestrade snapped.
"That you can make him-" Sherlock broke off, his eyes growing wide and mouth hanging open.
John looked at him, unblinking as not to miss any tiny detail, any clue; he frowned and tried mentally to finish his sentence. Was Sherlock concerned about his brother? That was simply impossible
In their mutual shock, anger and anxiousness, the three men failed to notice a slick black car making an appearance. It stopped not far away and a familiar figure with an umbrella emerged.
"What a gathering," a cool voice announced pleasantly and all three men turned to look at the new arrival at the scene.
Mycroft Holmes, the very subject of their disturbing conversation, was walking up to them while casually swinging his umbrella with every step.
"Good morning, gentlemen." He greeted upon stopping and looking around, frowning against the sun a little. He smiled when his eyes stopped on John and then Lestrade, but his expression turned neutral as soon as his eyes locked with his brother's.
"You look agitated," he commented, choosing the word very carefully.
"I'm fine," the younger Holmes replied with defying arrogance, pulling up to his full height.
"Well if you say so " Mycroft said, his tone still holding a hint of disbelief.
"Yes. Now I have to go," Sherlock gave a slow bow as a goodbye and, without waiting for John, turned on his heels to retreat.
"I actually wanted to talk to you, Sherlock." Mycroft called after him, raising his voice only slightly.
"Oh, please," Sherlock twisted on the spot abruptly and walked backwards shouting to his brother. "Don't pretend like you came here out of your concern for me and not to see your boyfriend."
The last word was said loudly and clearly, punctuated by a mocking drawl.
John didn't even need to look at Mycroft to know he was glaring menacingly at his brother's back. He faintly heard how the older Holmes commented to Lestrade:
"Well, that went fairly well."
And John accelerated his steps, his mind blank but for the one mind-blowing thought: DI Lestrade and Mycroft Holmes were lovers.