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Changing winds

Chapter Text

The house is small and well looked after. It looks like an actual house, where an actual family might live and that makes Greg hesitate. He looks around, hoping to find some sort of clue that will let him know he’s at the right place, but he finds none. He bites his lip, wondering if he should just go ahead and knock, but in all truth he’s nervous and the normal appearance of the house is just making it worse.

God, this must be one of his worst ideas.

His stomach chooses that moment to make a soft rumbling sound, reminding him he hasn’t eaten since last night and that his last meal wasn’t what he’d call satisfying either: half a loaf of old bread and half a pint of milk.

Right. That’s exactly why he’s here.

There’s no shame in it, he knows. It’s not what he’d have chosen to do with his life, but then he doesn’t know what he’d have chosen if he had a choice. His parents are long gone and he can’t continue surviving at his aunt’s expense, so he must find a job and what sort of work can a 16 year old like himself, with no form of education and without a trade can do?

He had heard one of the men at the market singing praises to Madam Hudson’s house and her treatment of her workers, so Greg had figured he’d try his luck. He’s been told he’s attractive more than once and even has gotten a few offers as he has gotten older so…

It’s not shameful, he reminds himself, even if he never expected to turn into a prostitute.

He fidgets on his feet once again, unsure of his next step. He might have gotten the address wrong and the idea is both upsetting and a relief. If he’s at the wrong place, he can rethink this whole situation and-

“Are you going to come in, boy?” a voice asks him, startling him. There’s a woman standing behind him, looking at him with an amused expression. He blushes furiously and the woman lets out a small chuckle, shaking her head. “First time?”

“I… I actually…” He fidgets, unsure and the woman stares at him with an expression of intense concentration, as if she was trying to read into his very soul. “You see, I’m not sure if…”

“Ah,” she says, nodding to herself thoughtfully, her eyes roaming over Greg’s form. “You’re looking for a job. Bit young, aren’t you?”

“I’m sixteen,” he says, standing up as tall as he is, refusing to continue showing how nervous he is. The woman hums, still watching him closely and Greg keeps his chin up, telling himself he has no reason to feel self conscious, although he certainly does.

“I can’t possibly in good conscience give you a job in the house while this young,” she tells him finally, pushing past him. “Come back in a year or so.”

Greg hurries after her, grabbing her by the elbow gently. “Please, mam. I can’t- I need a job.”

The woman observes him once more, before shaking her head. “You should look elsewhere, kid.”

“I have,” he argues quietly, letting go of her arm. “But… well. You know how it is.”

The economic situation in town is precarious at best. Ever since the invasion, none of the local business have gone back to being what they once were. Those who once were rich merchants now can barely meet their and their families’ needs and business owners can no longer hire help; all jobs go to family members since every member needs to earn their keep.

Greg’s aunt has made do with what little she makes as a seamstress, but work is scarce and she struggles to pay rent and feed them every month.

The woman sighs, running her fingers through her hair. “I can’t afford to hire any sort of help,” she tells him. “A whore house might be one of those few business that always attract clients, no matter how bad things are, but all the boys and girls do their share of housework so I can afford better working conditions for them all.”

Greg nods; he had assumed as much. “I understand. I do realize what kind of work I’m offering myself to do.”

The woman pursues her lips. “I don’t like it,” she tells him, crossing her arms over her chest. “You’re a child.” She looks in the direction of the town, once full of life and hope and now practically desolated. “But considering one of my boys is leaving for another town…” Greg’s face lights up and the woman looks at him, gaze full of pity. “Do you even have some experience, boy?”

He shrugs. “I’ll learn.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about,” she says softly, shaking her head once more. “God. When did the world come to this?” she murmurs to herself, turning her gaze towards the north, where the Emperor’s home raises proudly among the ruins of what once were the kingdom’s main market.

Greg was born 10 years after the invasion, so he has no clue what the town used to look like or what life used to be, but he has heard the tales. He doesn’t think remembering the past and longing for it really helps, though.

“Mam?” he prods gently, placing a hand on her arm to get her attention. “Is that a yes, then?”

The woman sighs, looking at him once more before nodding dejectedly. “So be it. Do you have any family in town you’ll need to inform of your new living situation? You understand you won’t be able to visit very often.”

Greg nods. “I told my aunt where I was going. She’s not expecting me to come back.” His aunt had looked sad and perhaps pained, but also relieved. She had taken care of her sister’s son to the best of her ability, but it had certainly taken a toll on her and now she’ll be free of that particular burden.

“Good,” she says, gaze soft and infinitely sad. “I’m Madam Hudson, by the way,” she says, walking towards the house and Greg follows eagerly, helping her with the bags she’s carrying.

“Greg Lestrade,” he introduces himself. “Pleased to meet you, Madam.”

She smiles self deprecatingly. “We’ll see, kid. We’ll see.”

Chapter Text

Greg wakes up to someone shaking him by the shoulder. He opens his eyes slowly, unwilling to relish sleep just yet and glares at whoever dared to interrupt his sleep, earning himself a huff from his companion.

“Sal, it can’t possibly be time to wake up yet,” he says, rubbing his eyes sleepily while Sally opens the curtains. As Greg predicted, it’s still dark outside, which means he still has at least an hour to sleep. “Sal, come on. I know it’s my turn to help you with breakfast, but-”

“Madam Hudson has a visitor,” she interrupts him, voice pitched low so they won’t be overheard. “From the Palace,” she adds hastily and Greg holds back a groan. “Now get dressed and come downstairs with me.”

Normally Greg would protest at being ordered around, but he realizes the urgency behind Sally’s actions. It’s not uncommon for them to receive clients from the Palace: soldiers, the occasional diplomat, the very rare Councilman. Rumor has it Madam Hudson used to work at the Palace for some Lord, but a bit of a scandal and a bastard son had her kicked out, although with enough money to live comfortably and a few connections, which is how she came about her own “business”. Clients from the Palace are a bit tricky though: some of them are pretty decent (and they give generous tips), but they’re mostly impatient and can be downright scary if things don’t go their way.

Barbarians, at the end of the day.

He slips into the kitchen shortly after and Sally is already brewing coffee. Greg occupies himself by cutting fruit while eggs boil and once the food is ready he helps Sally take the plates to the receiving room, where a small group of soldiers look up at their entrance. Greg recognizes a couple and offers them small uncertain smiles, following Sally’s lead and hurrying out of the room as soon as the food has been served.

“What-”he begins, but gets interrupted by Sally pushing a tray with a kettle and a pair of cups onto his arms and steering him off towards the Madam’s quarters. “Sal?”

“I’ll see to the soldiers,” she tells him. “Madam Hudson is talking to some sort of noble. Careful where you step.”

Greg bites his lip but nods. Nobles are, without a doubt, the worst kind of clients. Entitled assholes that see them as little more than warm bodies and Greg isn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to entertain one, but he figures better him than one of the younger ones.

As he makes his way towards Madam Hudson’s rooms, he briefly thinks of his first year at the house, when he was much like a nervous mouse, easily scared and intimidated; it’s been 10 years since he first came into Madam Hudson’s house and while life hasn’t been exactly easy, it hasn’t been as difficult as he anticipated either, although there are days…

“-wouldn’t want to cross me again.” Greg comes to an abrupt stop after opening the door, startled by the look of utter hatred on Madam Hudson’s face. The man she’s with is holding her by the arm harshly, his expression full of contempt. The woman huffs, pulling away and gesturing for Greg to come forward, her eyes never leaving the man’s.

“Everything alright?” Greg asks, coming to stand discreetly next to her, ready to intervene should the need arise. The other man looks at him, a slight frown on his face and Greg holds his stare evenly, despite the fact that the man exudes an inconvenience-me-and-you’re-dead aura.

“Everything’s fine, darling,” Madam Hudson tells him, patting his hand gently. “Off you go.”

Greg hesitates, not wanting to leave her alone with the undoubtedly dangerous man, particularly not after seeing she’s already bruising from the tight grip he had on her arm when he first entered. It’s unwise to cross a noble, he knows, but-

A slow smirk spreads across the man’s face, sending an unpleasant shiver down Greg’s spine. “I rather think this one might do, Martha. He certainly has fire in him.”

“Not in a million years,” Madam Hudson bites out, straightening her spine and Greg frowns, wondering what’s going on. The man chuckles, leaning back on his seat.

“Slavery is not legal in our fine Empire, Martha. You’re not the boy’s owner; surely he can decide for himself if he wants to come with me?” The man’s smile is lazy, as if he already knew what’s going to happen. “Besides, if you were to intervene… the consequences could be quite severe.”

Greg thinks he wouldn’t want to go anywhere with the horrible man and he’s about to say as much when the man turns his attention back to him, his eyes burning into Greg’s, making another unpleasant shiver run down his body. “I’m Lord Magnussen, the Emperor’s Chief Adviser,” he introduces himself, a fake smile on his thin lips. “The Emperor has commissioned me to find a coming of age gift for his youngest son.”

Greg arches an eyebrow. “As you’ve just said yourself, my Lord, that slavery is illegal in the Empire.”

The man laughs, an odious sound that makes Greg want to turn around and flee. “Indeed. But personal prostitutes are, and that’s exactly what brings me here. It’s a well known fact that Madam Hudson’s house hosts some of the very best prostitutes in all the Empire.”

Greg blinks, surprised by the proposal. That’s… well. On one hand, the youngest Prince must be as insufferable and pompous as any other noble. On the other hand, just one client for the rest of his life, while living at the Palace…

It’s somewhat tempting, he must admit. Madam Hudson’s expression though- “Perhaps his lordship would allow me a few words with my boys and girls, so they might know what to expect, should they be given this honour,” she says, tone full of venom and Greg’s frown deepens.

“You may, of course, Martha dear,” the man says, a nasty smile on his lips. “But you don’t need to talk to anyone else. I’ve already decided I like this one.”

Madam Hudson makes a face, but doesn’t protest and she and Greg watch as the man stands up and exits the room, heading presumably towards the kitchen to fetch his soldiers. Greg turns to the woman, unsure and she pursues her lips, evidently troubled.

“I can not stop you if you wish to go with him, of course,” she tells him slowly, licking her lips nervously. “And if I must be honest, I’d rather have you going than anyone else; I know you’ll make it through. You’re a strong one, Greg.” She smiles at him sadly, cupping his face between her hands. “In many ways, it’ll be an easier life. And in many others, it’ll be challenging.”

Greg nods slowly, unsure of what he’s feeling. He’s curious, despite himself, but what’s troubling him is- “Who is that man, Madam Hudson? And why do you dislike him so much? He’s not worse than the average noble.”

The woman huffs, shaking her head. “He’s far worse than any other noble, don’t be fooled for a second. If he wanted you for himself, I’d never let you go Greg, no matter the price I’d have to pay for my defiance. But the Prince… well. I’ve heard good things from him.” Her eyes are a little misty and a soft dreamy smile has made her way to her lips. “You’d be in good hands, I think.”

Greg nods once again. He’s happy here, he can honestly say that, but the prospect of living at the Palace, at the mercy of just one client, who apparently isn’t quite an asshole… well. It does sound nice.

“I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me,” he murmurs, pulling her into a tight embrace and the woman lets out a small unhappy chuckle.

“Oh, nonsense.” She pulls away, patting his cheek gently once. “Good luck, my dear boy. Now go packing; I want that horrible man out of my house as soon as possible, before he terrorizes everyone in here.”

Greg smiles and hurries out of the room, wondering about what awaits him.

He’s not thrilled at the prospect of traveling with that awful noble, but the future… the future seems bright enough.

Or so he hopes.


 

The journey back to the Palace is thankfully short and Greg isn’t forced to interact with the odious noble anymore. He’s given a horse, although he thinks he could have walked the whole way and they’ll be at the Palace before midday. The few soldiers accompanying them keep sending Greg speculative and appreciative glances, but it’s something he has become used to, so he barely notices. He keeps his eyes trained on the road, his mind going through the morning’s events.

It’s a most unexpected turn, but it’s not unwelcome. The truth is that while he hadn’t minded his life at Madam Hudson’s house, he had also known it couldn’t possibly last forever. He’s getting older and while retirement is still far away from his future, he figures that living at the Palace at the service of one of the Princes will allow him to make some savings for the future.

He’s a bit nervous about what awaits him at the Palace, though. Madam Hudson might have heard good things about the youngest Prince, but he might be as bad as any other noble when it comes to servants. Greg thinks he’ll endure and he doubts there’s anything the Prince might want that he hasn’t done before, so he supposes he ought not to be concerned.

He thinks back to his first time. He had been nervous as hell and all of Madam Hudson’s assurances had done little to calm him down. In retrospective, he can honestly say it hadn’t been bad, not by far. He had actually somewhat enjoyed it, once he had relaxed enough to actually pay attention to what was happening. He had never seen that particular client again, since he apparently had a thing for virgins, but Greg hadn’t cared one bit.

Afterwards it had gotten easier. As Madam Hudson often said, it was always easier when he found his clients attractive, but even when he felt no attraction towards them it wasn’t horrible either. Madam Hudson was very careful with who she admitted into her house and at the slightest sign of trouble, the client was thrown out and banned from coming in again.

That’s not to say he never went through a particular… unpleasant experience, but it was far from as horrible as he had feared.

Now of course he won’t have anyone’s protection and he’ll have to adapt to the Prince’s whims, but he’s certain he’ll survive. And if things go particularly awry he can always quit; he doubts he’ll be allowed to leave so easily but then, as Lord Magnussen said, slavery is illegal and for all their faults, those barbarians seem to adhere to their laws.

He’ll be fine, he tells himself as they finally reach the Palace’s doors.

Everything will work out for the best.


 

Lord Magnussen instructs a soldier to take him to the healing quarters and Greg follows silently, trying not to openly gape at his surroundings. The Palace seems even bigger from inside and every space is richly decorated. Greg’s stomach turns unpleasantly at the thought that this whole thing has been made at the expense of his people, condemning them to a life of borderline poverty, but he supposes he ought not to think much about it or he’ll end up driving himself mad with guilt and/or bitterness.

There’s nothing to be done, after all.

The healing quarters are somewhat more austere than the rest of the Palace, but not by much. The soldier tells him to wait and then disappears through one of the doors, leaving Greg standing by an examination bed.

He looks around, staring at the various instruments lying on the various trays across several tables. He comes across a bookshelf and examines it wistfully: Madam Hudson taught him to read and he became quite proficient, although he had little chance to read both due lack of time and reading materials.

He hears a door opening and turns around in time to see a woman entering the room. She holds herself with quiet determination, back very straight, hair pulled into a ponytail to keep it away from her eyes. She looks at him and offers him a perfunctory smile, before gesturing for him to approach the bed.

Of the few good things that can be praised about the barbarians, is their treatment of their women. They have the same rights as any man and they are expected to attend college as any other male (assuming, of course, they survive the coming of age trials), so it’s usual to see them holding important posts. This one, for example, is the Chief Doctor from the Palace; he can tell by the small tattoo on her arm..

“Hello,” she greets him politely, after he has come to stand in front of her. “I’m Dr. Molissa Hooper, although you might call me Molly,” she offers, her tone friendly, her smile much more honest. She has fair skin, as most of their people do, as well as red hair. It’s a completely odd trait among Greg’s people, but the barbarians’ haircolor tends to go from fiery red to dark blond and either green or blue eyes.

“Pleased to meet you, Dr. Hooper,” he says, reluctant to use her name even though it’s been offered. “I’m Greg Lestrade.”

“The pleasure is mine,” she returns, shaking his hand and startling him a bit. “Now, let’s get on with your examination, shall we?” She turns around, heading for one of the tables to take one of the utensil filled trays. “Please take off your clothes and lie on the bed.”

Greg does as he’s told, feeling slightly self conscious due the woman’s formal tone. Madam Hudson made sure they saw a doctor at least twice a year, but Greg has never particularly cared to be looked at and probed everywhere. It seemed terribly impersonal and detached and made him feel weird.

Molly smiles reassuringly before starting the examination, making notes for herself in a small notebook. She explains he’s supposed to come see her every two weeks and Greg can barely hold back a groan at the prospect. The woman chuckles, amused by his reaction and continues doing her job, evidently not bothered by Greg’s nakedness.

She’s a doctor, of course, but he’s not quite used to have a woman examining him that closely.

She hums to herself as she finishes making notes, instructing him to dress once more. Greg proceeds to do so and just then the door opens once more, allowing a man and a woman in.

The man is a soldier, judging by his complexion and Greg can’t help to stare at all the hard muscles. He’s handsome in a traditional sense and the uniform fits him like a glove, which Greg is certain makes him stand out in a crowd. The tattoo on his arm signals his rank, but Greg isn’t familiar with it. It doesn’t really matter, he supposes, but he’s a bit curious at why the man looks so angry right now and he also gets the impression he’s not the kind of man you want to cross.

Slightly cowed by the man’s evident fury, he turns his attention to the woman. She’s tall and slender and a soldier too, her own uniform emphasizing her pleasant figure and her also well defined muscles. Her hair is dark shade of blonde and it falls freely around her face, obscuring her features, making it hard to read the expression on her face. Greg wonders briefly if the effect is intentional and then gets distracted by the fact the man is talking.

“I’ve heard the most unbelievable rumor,” the man tells Molly, eyes fixed on her, but the woman barely bats an eyebrow.

“And you’ve come to make sure it’s not true?” the doctor asks calmly, returning the man’s gaze steadily. “Sorry to disappoint, Captain Watson, but it is true.” Her expression softens a little as the man tenses further and she gently places a hand on his shoulder. “Sherlock knew nothing of this. The Emperor was merely… pleased by his performance at the Trials and wanted to reward him.”

The man’s eyes flick towards Greg and he makes sure to keep his eyes down, as he’s been trained to do. He’s not quite sure who this man is, but he evidently holds a good position at the Army and it won’t do to displease him.

His performance, ” the man scoffs, turning his attention to Molly once more. “Did he miss the part where Sherlock nearly fainted after killing his opponent?”

“But he did kill him,” the other woman protest, making him turn to her, looking more annoyed now. “Really John, you can’t possibly-”

“Do not tell what I can or cannot do,” the man snaps angrily and the woman rolls her eyes dramatically. Molly covers her mouth discreetly, hiding her smile and Greg wonders what are they about. “I’m talking to Mycroft about this,” he announces, before storming out of the room.

“Of course he is,” the other soldier says, rolling her eyes once more. “Sorry about that,” she apologizes, offering Greg a winning smile that he returns somewhat hesitantly. “So you’re the Prince’s prize. Lucky boy.”

Greg flushes and the woman laughs, delighted. Molly bats her arm playfully, making her giggle some more. “You’ll have to excuse John,” the redheaded tells him. “He’s… he’s not happy with the Emperor’s idea of a gift for his son.”

“Mostly because he was hoping to be the one taking the Prince’s virginity, you see,” the other woman tells him with a wink and Greg stares at her, surprised by her candor. Molly lets out a scandalized exclamation, batting her arm once more.

“Anthea! If someone heard you…”

“Oh, come on. You’d have to be blind to not notice the looks those two send each other,” she argues, crossing her arms over her chest before turning her attention back to Greg. “You’re tough competition, of course.” She winks once more and Greg tries to smile, but fails miserably.

He certainly doesn’t want to get between any couple, really.

“It’ll be fine,” Molly assures him, placing a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t listen to her, she’s just trying to mess with your head.”

“I’m trying to warn him,” Anthea protests, but she’s smiling a little too much like the cat that got the cream to be entirely reassuring. “But Molly is right. You’ll probably be fine.” She shrugs non committedly. “As usual, Mycroft will come up with something.”

Lord Mycroft,” Molly corrects and Anthea sends an annoyed look in her direction. Greg decides to tunn out their bickering then, figuring he’s not going to learn anything useful anymore.

This whole arrangement could be a bit more complicated than he anticipated.

What is he going to do?


 

Molly calls for a guard to take him to his new room, although it’s not really his, but the Prince’s. It’s bigger than your average house, though, so Greg figures they’ll be able to avoid each other as much as they want.

And he’s beginning to suspect he’ll spend a ridiculous amount of time staying out of the Prince’s way. If what the women have hinted it’s true, then the Prince had no wish for a prostitute and Greg is more of a burden than anything else. He’s not quite sure what will happen next: he’s technically a gift from the Emperor and not even his sons have enough authority to reject a gift without paying dearly for the insubordination. Which means…

Well, Greg has no idea what it means.

He tries to take his mind off his particular dilemma by looking around the quarters. The sumptuous bed takes most of the room, unsurprisingly enough, but there are several couches and loveseats distributed all around. Greg figures he can sleep on one of them, if it all comes down to it: they certainly look comfortable enough.

There’s a small desk close to the window and scattered papers all over it. The Prince is far from organized, apparently, not caring one bit about whether his notes might end up lost. There’s also a huge bookcase right next to the desk, taking most of the wall and Greg consoles himself with the thought that at least he’ll have a lot to read.

Assuming, of course, he gets to stay. He dreads to think what might happen to him if the Prince insists on sending him away: he’s fairly certain the Emperor won’t be pleased with him either, although it wouldn’t be really his fault.

He sighs, running his fingers through the books’ spines. And he thought this change might be for the best.

He continues examining the room, finding a door that leads to a bathroom. The tub is huge; big enough to fit at least 5 people, Greg estimates. He looks in the direction of the room once more, being reminded of the new clothes he also has been given and considers the merits of taking a quick bath and changing into a new outfit. It seems wasteful to him to fill the tube when he won’t get to relax in it for a while, but there’s no shower available and he thinks it’ll be a good idea to make a good impression on the Prince, so…

The bath also does wonders for his nerves, relaxing him immediately and despite his intention of being quick about it, he ends up lingering for a bit, simply soaking in the warm water. As he watches the sun sinking in the horizon through the window, he forces himself to snap out of his relaxed stupor though and hurries to drain the water and dress, scowling a bit at his new clothes.

A little more revealing than what he’s used to, really.

He makes a face as he stares at his reflection on the mirror, but he has little time to examine it closely since right then he hears the main door opening and he takes that as his cue to hurry towards the room and find himself a place to sit and try to look inconspicuous, which might be a little difficult with his current outfit.

But he shall try his best.

Chapter Text

It turns out he didn’t need to worry about being inconspicuous, since the Prince it too focused on the document he’s reading to notice anything at all. Greg thinks it’s a real miracle he hasn’t misstepped or collided with anything; he seems completely oblivious to the world at large: he’s muttering to himself, brow furrowed and Greg figures he might as well use this time to stare unabashedly.

The Prince is tall and incredibly thin, to the point of being unhealthily so. He lacks the muscles his people develop due years of martial training and Greg can’t help wondering how he managed to survive this long: it really doesn’t matter that he’s the Emperor’s son, tradition dictates that no special considerations are to be made for anyone.

The Prince is quite an oddity and the more he stares at him, the more curious he finds him. He’s as pale as every other member of his people, but his hair is a mess of dark curls, completely exotic. His eyes are an odd shade of grey, far too pale, and while attractive, he’s not exactly traditionally so. His high cheekbones are quite eye-catching, but his face has too many angles for him to be consider actually handsome.

Definitely not Greg’s type, if he must be honest, but he supposes it doesn’t really matter.

Why it doesn’t matter remains to be seen.

“What-?” the Prince begins, finally having noticed his presence and Greg offers him a sheepish smile that he’s not completely convinced it’s proper, but that he finds himself incapable of holding back. The Prince blinks very slowly, his eyes dropping to Greg’s clothes and he lets out an annoyed groan, rolling his eyes.

Before he can say anything though, the door opens once again, allowing Captain Watson in.

Greg drops his eyes to the floor right away while the Prince turns to the newcomer. He can feel the man’s eyes on him and he tries not to squirm, but he suspects it’s more or less a lost cause.

“John, I assure you I didn’t- I mean, you know I don’t...” the Prince says right away, sounding a bit anxious and Greg risks a quick glance upwards. The soldier is looking at the Prince now, gaze soft and that seems to reassure the younger man somewhat. “You know I wouldn’t,” he repeats, dipping his head a little and Greg finds the gesture somewhat odd (he’s a Prince, after all and he expected him to be a little more… arrogant, he supposes).

“I know, love,” the Captain murmurs, placing his hands on the man’s shoulders in a reassuring gesture. “I’ve already talked to Mycroft.”

The Prince smiles brightly, leaning down for a kiss and Greg looks away once more. Well, it seems the doctor and her companion were incorrect on something: he very much doubts the Captain hasn’t already claimed the Prince’s virginity.

Not that it’s any of their business, of course. In fact, Greg shouldn’t be even thinking about it, although he can’t help wondering…

The door opens once more, dragging Greg’s attention away from his musings. He manages to stop himself from openly ogling the newcomer, but it’s a very near thing.

The newcomer is just as tall as the Prince, but there ends any comparison that could be made: his sole presence demands attention and his very stance suggests power. Greg finds himself attracted right away and he struggles to look away to gather the other men’s reaction to the entrance.

“Ah, good!” the Prince exclaims cheerfully. “Now that you’re here, you can see to this mess dear father has created.”

The other man rolls his eyes dramatically, stepping closer and Greg’s is hard pressed not to overly stare at the way his muscles flex with every step he takes. Those damn uniforms soldiers wear should be all kinds of illegal: how is one supposed not to stare when there’s that much skin exposed?

Greg has a very healthy libido, thank you very much. And he’s not ashamed of it, far from it actually; he has found it very useful considering his occupation, but he’s not one to oggle people, no matter how attractive they are. It’s just not polite.

But then again those damn skirts aren’t decent.

“Brother dear, father simply wanted to… repay your efforts,” the newcomer declares calmly and Greg forces himself to stare at the far wall. He’s not ogling the Heir, he’s definitely not!

The Prince scoffs dramatically. “It’s not the sort of reward I’d have chosen myself.”

“Indeed,” Captain Watson agrees, pulling the other man closer. “The Emperor-”

“The Emperor knows nothing of your relationship and that’s on everyone’s best interest, is it not?” the Heir argues darkly, glaring at the soldier. “You will not be as foolish as to alert him of it because of this, will you?”

A huff and Greg can tell this conversation isn’t going as any of the men wanted. “Mycroft, you can not expect-” Watson begins but interrupts himself when the older man raises a hand, although he continues glaring.

“Refusing a gift from the Emperor would not only be rude, it’d be punishable,” the Heir declares solemnly and Greg finds himself nodding along, although he knows they’re not paying any attention to him. “We will not invoke his ire.”

“Then what do you propose we do?” the Prince asks petulantly and Greg dares to look at the Heir once more, curious of his answer, only to find the man is already looking at him. His gaze is intense and Greg finds himself incapable of looking away, his stomach flipping funnily.

When the other man looks back to his companions, Greg feels oddly disappointed. He refuses to dwell on the feeling, telling himself to focus on what’s happening. His whole future hangs from what the Heir is about to say, after all.

The older man sighs, biting onto his lip and Greg is most definitely not thinking about what it’d be like being the one doing the biting. “Well, I don’t think father will be exactly surprised if I was to take away your gift for my own purposes. Pretty standard older brother attic.”

The Prince huffs, amused. “You? You’d never be so base .”

“You and I know that, of course, but father doesn’t. He won’t find anything strange in such behavior,” the Heir argues calmly, crossing his arms over his chest. “What do you think, John?”

The blond shrugs, sparing a quick glance in Greg’s direction. “Works well enough, I suppose.”

Greg thinks it’d be polite of them to ask for his opinion (he agreed to certain conditions, after all and they’ve been somewhat changed) but he also knows saying as much will get him nothing but raised eyebrows. It seems all nobles are pretty much alike and, as far as they’re concerned, he’s a lot like a pet.

Not a very flattering comparison, truth to be told, but accurate enough.

“Good,” the Heir declares, gesturing for Greg to come forward. “I’ll leave you to your devices, then,” he announces, turning around and exiting the room without waiting to see if Greg is indeed following. But of course he is, because what else is he going to do?

Halfway to his new room, it occurs him he has left both his old and new clothes behind. He doesn’t think it’ll be a problem, not really, but it distresses him somewhat.

His eyes land on the Heir once more and he feels an uncomfortable rush of arousal. He must admit he’s somewhat thrilled at the developments, although he’s still a bit annoyed he wasn’t consulted on the matter. He has learned not to expect better, of course, but hope dies last, doesn’t it?

He’s lead to another room and once inside he realizes it’s twice as big as the previous one, the bed somehow even more sumptuous. He takes a deep breath, reminding himself of what he’s supposed to be doing here and turns around to face his new client, smiling coyly.

“I do apologize for my somewhat rude handling of the situation,” the Heir tells him, once he has closed the door behind him, not quite facing him. “But the circumstances are a bit… troublesome, let’s say and I required a quick and efficient solution. I realize though that you should be allowed an opinion on the matter and so I must ask for it now.”

Greg blinks. Well, that’s unexpected.

“Well, I mean, I don’t want to get in between what seems like a perfectly happy couple,” he says and the other man scoffs, making Greg’s lips curve upwards briefly. “So… I don’t mind, not really.”

I like you much better is something better left unsaid, he suspects and so he simply smiles winningly.

He then reminds himself this isn’t just some random noble; he’s the next Emperor and he should probably be extra formal with him. Then again…

“Good then,” the Heir says, nodding to himself. “Now, how may I call you?”

“My name is Greg Lestrade, my Lord,” he introduces himself politely, bowing. In truth, he hadn’t expected to even get asked his name, but the Heir seems… well, different from what he expected, to say at least.

“Gregory,” the older man says, with a small inclination of his head in acknowledgement. “You might take one of the couches,” he informs him calmly, brushing past him, expression completely blank now. “You’re free to roam around the Palace and the gardens during the day, but I’d advise you to come back before dinner. You’re expected to dine with me, which we’ll do to avoid any suspicions and should anyone come knocking in the middle of the night you better hurry to get into my bed, but the rest of the time… well. Feel free to do as you want.”

Greg finds himself blinking once more as he wonders if this is an elaborated dream. “Are you… aren’t you…?” he trails off awkwardly, gesturing between the two of them, suddenly overly conscious of his revealing outfit and how little effect it seems to have on the other man.

The Heir scrunches his nose and Greg’s heart sinks for some reason. “No, not really. I don’t… I’m not really a fan of bought pleasure.”

Greg nods slowly. He supposes he understands, somewhat, but he can’t completely shake off his disappointment. “As you wish, my Lord,” he says, voice completely steady, bowing low and the other scrunches his nose once more.

“Mycroft will do,” he informs him, waving a hand dismissively as he makes his way towards his desk, dropping himself at the chair. “When we’re alone, of course.”

“Of course,” Greg agrees, under his breath, unsure of how he feels about calling the Heir by his given name. It doesn’t seem very proper and Greg knows for a fact nobles are fans of property.

Mycroft does seem different, somehow. Of course it’s a little early to tell for sure but-

He steals a glance at the man from the corner of his eye as he pretends to look around the room.

It’s going to be an interesting experience, at the very least.

Chapter Text

Maybe it’s true that you never know what you have until you’ve lost it.

Life had never been easy for Greg, not by far, but he made do. He had little to no time for relaxation, but in many ways it made it more bearable: he certainly had no time to get all philosophical about his existence and what he was doing with it.

Now though, he has far too much time. And he finds himself often getting distracted by existential thoughts that are completely useless: there’s little (or nothing) he can do to change the world he lives in, so what’s the use on overthinking it?

He sighs, pushing the book he had been attempting to read away and looks around the room, trying to find something to distract himself with.

The library is somewhat dark, considering the many bookshelves that reach the ceiling of the room. It can feel oppressive, if you stop to consider it for long and while Greg isn’t exactly claustrophobic he can sometimes get anxious at the feeling of the tall rows of books closing over him.

He closes his eyes and counts to ten very slowly. The sensation recedes and he can open his eyes once more, his nerves under control once more. He looks at his book once more and wonders if going back to his reading it’s the best he can do.

There’s nothing much he can do at the Palace, truth to be told. Back at Madam Hudson’s house, he always had some chore to perform or actual work to do, so he didn’t get to sit around and do nothing for long periods of time. Here though there are servants to attend to every thing he could possibly need, although he has managed to find himself a couple of chores to do, even though he’s not quite certain Mycroft approves.

Of course, the Heir is a little remiss about doing them himself, so he keeps his thoughts to himself.

He sighs, his thoughts going to Mycroft as they usually do nowadays, a line of thought as useless as his existential crisis. There’s no use on denying how terribly attracted to him Greg is, but he has already figured that crush of him is going nowhere. It couldn’t possibly go anywhere, even if the Heir was inclined to make use of Greg in the capacity he’s been hired. Greg hasn’t decided what’s worse: this domestic but completely platonic life they share or having the other man in a physical way, but nothing else.

“A library is an odd place for a prostitute,” a voice announces next to him, startling Greg out of his musings and making him stare at the newcomer. Prince Sherlock is staring at him curiously, head slightly tilted to the side, eyes narrowed.

“I’ve been given no other duties to perform, my Lord,” Greg replies pleasantly, offering the younger man a pleasant smile. He looks even skinnier than the last time Greg saw him and he wonders how’s that: Greg’s has gained more than a few pounds since he first came here, since his meals are hearty and well balanced.

The Prince hums, still studying him and Greg feels a bit like an insect under a scientist scrutiny: insignificant and incapable of escape. “Yes, I can see that,” his interlocutor agrees thoughtfully, before nodding decidedly to himself. “Follow me,” he orders and turns around, not waiting to see if Greg will comply.

He doesn’t have to, he doesn’t think. It’s been explained to him that he only needs to comply to Mycroft’s wishes and should the Emperor require something of him, then he should obey too but everyone else has no authority whatsoever over him.

And yet, it’s not like he’s doing anything more important, is it?


 

The Prince guides him towards the healing quarters, that have become quite familiar to Greg due his bimonthly doctor’s appointments. Molly is sitting at her office, revising some documents, but she looks up when she hears them enter the room. Sherlock ignores her, simply crossing the room and opening the far door and Greg follows somewhat hesitantly. The doctor offers him a small smile and he feels reassured enough to follow the other man more confidently.

They’ve arrived to a big room with a lot of medical equipment and a slab in the middle of it, where a dead body is lying. Greg scrunches his nose at the smell, but the Prince looks far from bothered and he watches him curiously.

“What- what are you doing?” Greg asks after a while, since the Prince starts cutting the man open and pulling out organs carefully on trays. He’s not quite sure how he feels about the whole ordeal and he’s not quite sure he wants to stay for whatever this is.

“It’s my belief this man was poisoned, but he presented the most curious symptoms. I’m trying to figure out exactly what was he given and, if possible, the quantities,” he explains, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world and Greg is being particularly dense by asking.

“Right. And why am I here?” he asks after a while, since the Prince carries on with his work as if nothing had happened. Sherlock sighs dramatically and puts down his instruments, glaring.

“To help me with some menial tasks. It should save me some time,” he explains simply. “It’s not like you were doing anything, anyway.”

That much is true.

Still, when Greg thought of finding himself some sort of hobby, this was far from what he had in mind.

“You can leave, you know?” Molly says, peeking through the half open door. “Sherlock lost any right he might have had over your time the minute he asked big brother to solve his little issue.”

Sherlock pouts, narrowing his eyes at the woman. “Don’t you have work to actually do, Molissa?”

She huffs, but doesn’t comment and disappears from the door. Greg stares at it for a beat, considering his options, but he immediately notices the sad resignated aura emanating from the Prince.

He looks a lot like a kicked puppy, actually.

Oh, dammit it. “Alright,” he says, shoulders dropping in resignation and he wonders if Sherlock’s mood was just an act, judging by the way he immediately brightens up. “What do you want me to do?”

He doesn’t know why, but the Prince’s bright smile doesn’t seem to bode well for the future.


 

He hears the room’s door opening and he sits up, a smile already on his face and he quickly scowls at himself for reacting like an overexcited puppy, happy his master is finally home.

God, what’s wrong with him?

Mycroft walks into the room with his usual calm and detached air. There’s a light sheen of sweat covering his face and his clothes are quite dirty, which suggest he spent the afternoon sparring. Greg’s mouth waters at the thought and he promptly chides himself: he needs to do something about this silly crush of his.

The Heir glances in his direction and nods at him politely before going to pick out clean clothes and sliding into the ensuite bathroom. Greg watches him go, heat pooling at his abdomen and he sighs, covering his face with his hands.

He thinks he might be slightly sexually frustrated. Dear god, he definitely never thought that would happen to him.

He considers this for a bit. It’s true he had gotten used to a certain amount of physical contact and while love and sex might be completely different things,the brain has ways of fooling the heart into believing there’s some affection in the aftermath. It’s an illusion, of course and it’s foolish to overindulge in it, but the truth, Greg is willing to admit to himself at least, is that it’s too precious to completely shatter it. He had had co workers that had told him it was better if he could detach himself of his body and not pay attention to his treacherous hormones, but Greg had never believed that. He had enjoyed those few minutes afterwards when he could indulge in the illusion of being loved, even if he had never allowed himself to entertain it later.

He might be a little reckless, but he’s not a total idiot and as every prostitute knows, you should never fall in love with a client. It just won’t end well.

He never had, of course, but the illusion of it had been a pleasant distraction from his everyday struggle. Now however, while he has no proper struggles anymore, he doesn’t have that sweet fantasy either.

He’s not quite convinced the change was for the better.

He wonders what he misses: the company, the illusion, the sex for itself?

He sighs once more, picking up the book Sherlock has given him and forcing himself to pay attention to his reading. It’s too technical and quite boring at parts, but he had figured it couldn’t hurt to do as the Prince said. If nothing else, it certainly gave him something to do.

He eventually becomes aware of someone watching him. He looks up once again to find Mycroft sitting at his own desk, staring at him curiously. The way the brothers have to gaze at people as if they could read into their very soul is more than a bit unsettling, but there’s something different in the way Mycroft is looking at him, although he couldn’t possibly say what exactly. It feels… intense, yes, but there’s a certain heat behind it-

Although maybe that’s just wishful thinking?

He stares at the other man who blinks and hurries to look away, as if embarrassed of being caught staring. Except that can’t be the case, of course, so- “Is there… was there something you needed?” he asks gently and Mycroft shakes his head, although he interrupts himself mid movement, as if something had occurred to him.

“Why are you reading a book on poisons?” he asks finally and Greg blushes suddenly, thinking how it might look to an outsider.

“Oh,” he says, not entirely eloquently but Mycroft doesn’t look wary at all. He might even be somewhat… amused? “It’s just… Sherlock said… I mean, Lord Sherlock said-”

“Ah,” Mycroft interrupts, raising a hand to silence him quite effectively. “Yes, I should have imagined my brother was involved somehow.” There’s certain wistfulness in the way he says it that makes Greg’s heart ache, although he can’t understand why. “Very well. I shall only ask you to keep an eye on him and don’t let him do anything… reckless.”

“I very much doubt there’s any way to stop the Prince from doing something once he has made up his mind,” Greg feels obliged to point out and the older man lets out a soft chuckle.

“That much is true, indeed,” he agrees, gaze soft. “I’d still ask you to try your best.”

Greg nods, because there’s nothing he can say to that. Besides, despite how little he knows the Prince, he has discovered he does enjoy his company: he can be a bit… petulant and a know-it-all, but not so bad deep down.

And then there’s the fact that Greg’s lonely.

The Heir nods to himself, expresion blank once more and he turns to the various documents on his desk. Greg had been reading them earlier and organized them in what he thought was order of importance, but now it has occured him maybe he should have left them alone. It’s just-

“You organized this,” Mycroft says, looking at him over his shoulder and Greg nods slowly, hesitant. The other man observes him for a beat before turning his back to him once more, not exchanging another word.

Greg sighs.


 

Sherlock’s… experiments tend to get a little out of hand, more often than not, so it’s a real miracle Greg always manages to make it back to “his” quarters in time, after cleaning the spectacular mess the younger man can create.

Today, however, he’s not quite as lucky.

As he makes his way back to the Heir’s chambers, drenched in some disgusting liquid he’d rather not know what is, after something Sherlock was working on literally exploded, he’s well aware of the many eyes on him. It wouldn’t bother him, because he doubts he’s the first person that has been dragged into Sherlock’s madness and ended up like this, but some overheard conversations between the Palace’s habitants (both servants and nobles) have lead him to believe there’s a lot of speculation about what his real relationship with the younger Prince is.

He’s not quite sure why everyone seems so convinced there’s some sort of enmity between the brothers and why they seem so willing to believe they’re deliberately trying to mess with each other’s head. What’s more, he’s not sure why neither of them seem to care about dissipating these rumours.

He sighs when he finally makes it to Mycroft’s quarters, relieved to get out of people’s sight, although he knows the gossip mill will be wild come tomorrow morning. Nothing to be done, of course, but he wishes-

“You look in a desperate need of a bath,” Mycroft informs him calmly, not looking up from what he’s writing and Greg huffs, going to pick his nightgown before heading towards the bathroom. Mycroft is watching him from the corner of his eye, he can tell, but he doesn’t say anything else and Greg figures he ought not to say anything either.

He soaks in the warm water for what feels like a lifetime, allowing his tense muscles to relax. After the original explosion, he must admit he panicked a little and it didn’t help that Sherlock got knocked unconscious. He had called Molly, barely managing not to get hysterical and the doctor had called for Captain Watson, who had sent the darkest of glares in his direction.

A little overprotective, he thinks and it really wasn’t Greg’s fault, so...

He finally forces himself out of the tub, since his skin is getting wrinkly. He’s thirsty, he realizes and perhaps a tad famished, but he knows that by now whatever was left of Mycroft’s meal has been taken away. He sighs, wondering what he can do as he makes his way back to the bedroom.

Mycroft is still sitting at his desk, mulling over something apparently, chewing on his lower lip absentmindedly. Greg holds back a groan as he feels the usual flame of arousal and tries to avert his gaze as quickly as possible.

This family is going to be the death of him.

And speaking of family… “Why does everyone seem so convinced that you and your brother hate each other?”

Mycroft hums, not really paying attention and Greg sighs, figuring he’s not going to get an answer. He holds back a sigh and goes to inspect if there is, by some miracle, any food left.

“I saved you a couple of apples,” Mycroft tells him, not looking up from what he’s doing. “Water, some milk, some cheese and bread. It’s not much, but as I told you before, we can’t risk alerting people of what’s really going on and I’m supposed to be annoyed at you and my brother.”

He stands up to reveal the promised food hidden behind a stack of books and Greg smiles thankfully, before taking a seat at the low table to eat. Mycroft goes back to his documents and Greg considers posing his question once more.

He understands (more or less) the need of deception regarding their situation, but having the whole Palace believe the brothers actually hate each other seems a little extreme to him.

“My brother was always been… difficult,” Mycroft says suddenly, startling him a bit. “He has never believed in tradition, usually finding ways around the things he really didn’t want to do or that he thought he shouldn’t have to. It was a cause of constant friction with the Emperor and our mother.”

He seems lost in memories and Greg abandons the food in favour of listening to the story and studying his facial expressions: this is the most expressive Greg has ever seen him. “I don’t… I do know what’s expected of me and I do my best to follow the traditions, but I do agree with my brother that there are certain things that shouldn’t… I…” He bites his lip harshly, as if regretting having said as much. “But had I openly agreed with him, things would have gotten very ugly with my father, very quickly. It seemed better let him believe that me and Sherlock weren’t in the best of terms.”

Mycroft leans back on his seat, linking his fingers beneath his chin in a thinking pose. “There are many secrets I can’t share with my brother, nor can I let him know how much I agree with him; he’ll never keep his mouth shut as he should. So he’s… antagonistic and I don’t think he trusts me, but he doesn’t really hate me, at least I don’t think so. He knows I’m useful when he gets in trouble, in any case.” He smiles wryly and Greg clenches his jaw to hold himself back from saying something. “We argue a lot in public, but I must admit I usually provoke him precisely to give off that impression. It’s… safer, you see? If people, and particularly the Emperor, were to think we actually get along well, they’d question just how much I agree with him and that could never possibly end well.”

It makes an awful lot of twisted sense. “It can’t be easy,” Greg points out. “I- I think you care a great deal for him,” he adds and regrets it a second later. He shouldn’t forget his place and speak out so freely; he should remember-

“I do,” Mycroft agrees, his expression sad. “Which is exactly why I must encourage the impression that I don’t.”

Greg doesn’t know what to say to that.


 

“You know you don’t need to do that,” Mycroft tells him as Greg finishes laying out his clothes for the day. He nods approvingly at the items, having already made sure they all look presentable and he turns to face the Heir, a small smile on his face.

“It’s not trouble,” he tells him and hurries to look away since the older man is only wearing a towel wrapped around his waist. “It drives me crazy not having any actual chores to perform.”

Mycroft hums. “House chores are the servants work,” he argues calmly and proceeds to get dressed, completely unbothered by Greg’s presence as he usually does. Meanwhile, Greg makes sure to keep his eyes on the ceiling. “The small chores you perform- cleaning after we have finished eating, making the bed, getting my clothes ready, whatnot- I’m supposed to do that. It wouldn’t do for a warrior to be completely dependant on servants when he’s away, fighting.”

Greg nods absentmindedly. “Back at Madam Hudson’s I was in charge of breakfast twice a week and helped with dinner almost every day. I washed clothes twice a week too and everybody cleaned after themselves, not to mention we were supposed to keep our rooms clean and… why are you looking at me like that?”

Mycroft is staring at him very intently, thankfully already dressed now and Greg stares back, curious.

“I didn’t know you came from Madam Hudson’s house,” he explains quietly, finishing putting on his sandals. “I should probably inform John,” he murmurs to himself, but Greg manages to hear him.

“Why?” he asks, curious and perhaps a tad concerned.

The Heir stares at him for a beat and then shakes his head. “It’s not really my story to tell,” he says, not looking directly at Greg. “If he wishes to speak to you… he’ll probably explain. But then, John can be…” he trails off, waving a hand vaguely and Greg can’t help smiling.

“So,” he says, seeing Mycroft is almost ready to leave. “I should probably… Lord Sherlock must be waiting for me. He was quite frustrated that last night explosion interrupted his work.”

Mycroft’s lips curve upwards very briefly. “Of course,” he says, nodding his head. “Just… what I told you last night. Keep it to yourself, please.”

Greg nods solemnly. He was planning to, actually. He realized he had been made confidant in a well guarded secret and he understood Mycroft’s reasons for keeping it, so he’ll honour the trust placed on him. “You have my word.”

Mycroft bites his lip, evidently considering his words and then nodding. He’s not the type of man to share his confidence with just anyone, that’s easy enough to see and Greg isn’t about to betray his trust.

It’s the decent thing to do, never mind Greg’s personal feelings on the matter. Not to mention how stupidly hopeful the whole thing makes him feel.

He slides out of the room before he can do or say something to betray such feeling. It’s not like that , he knows.

And yet, he can’t help to hope.

Chapter Text

The happy chattering coming from inside the healing quarters lets Greg know Molly isn’t alone.

This isn’t exactly unusual: in a place where sparring matches are considered a perfectly normal hobby, people are bound the get injured. Considering it’s Friday, a day where a lot of people seem to have enough spare time to entertain themselves with a little fighting, Molly usually has a lot of patients.

So Greg tries to schedule his visits on any other day, but this week has been a bit hectic, with Sherlock dragging him around the Palace and around the town collecting soil samples. He has yet to learn why exactly they’re collecting them, but he has also learned not to never expect an actual answer from the Prince.

He sighs, knocking on the door of the main examination room, from where he can hear Molly’s voice coming from. There’s a pause in the enthusiastic chatter and the door opens, revealing the doctor and Lady Anthea, who looks like she’s trying very hard not to break down laughing.

A most odd look, in all truth. He has seen the woman around Mycroft’s quarters often enough to know she’s as sober as the Heir. She looks like a completely different woman like this, with a smile brightening her face, her hair pushed into a ponytail showcasing her attractive features.

Greg might be a little jealous of her, given all the time Mycroft spends with her on regular basis. Seeing just how even more attractive she gets when she’s actually smiling… well. He’s not quite sure how he feels about that.

“Good evening,” he greets politely. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but-”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Molly says, pulling him inside but not closing the door behind him. “Anthea was just leaving.”

“Was I?” the other woman asks, one eyebrow raised, looking more amused than anything else.

“I thought you said you had to see Lord Mycroft,” Molly points out and the other woman huffs, waving a hand dismissively. “Anthea, you really need-”

“Oh, alright, alright,” the woman protests playfully. “You’re such a worrywart, Molls. Mycroft would never mind if I showed up late.”

That’s not exactly true, since Mycroft does care a great deal about punctuality, but he seems to have a soft spot for Anthea, so she gets away with a lot of things most people wouldn’t.

Yet another reason why Greg might be slightly jealous.

Molly looks ready to protest, but Anthea slips out of the room before she can. The doctor huffs, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at the door, although there’s no actual heat in it. She finally sighs, perhaps a tad wistfully and turns to face Greg once more.

“Alright, let’s see how you are doing. Clothes off and onto the bed, please.”

Greg complies, well used to the routine by now and no longer feeling self conscious at Molly’s scrutiny. The doctor smiles, going through the usual motions and Greg stares at the ceiling, lost in thought. “You and Lady Anthea seem to be around the same age,” he points out and Molly nods absentmindedly. “Were you friends at the Academy?”

Molly’s lips curve upwards sarcastically. “You know, I spent the night before my Trial praying I wouldn’t get paired with her,” Molly says, noting something down.

“Because she was your friend?”

Molly chuckles humorlessly. “Because I knew I could never beat her. I had enough trouble as it was,” she says, her mouth twisting. She looks at Greg from the corner of her eye and then she shakes her head, smile self depreciating. “There are days when I forget you’re not one of us and then you go and make comments like that.” She huffs, darkly amused. “I suppose it’s not easy to understand for an outsider.”

“What do you mean?”

The woman sighs, continuing with her examination as if she hadn’t heard and Greg wonders if she’s going to ignore his question. Molly always seems willing to talk and he has come to enjoy their conversations, even if sometimes they’re a little silly. Right now though- “You don’t make friends at the Academy,” Molly declares darkly, pushing an errant lock of hair back, her lips curving in an expression of disgust. “Not among your peers, in any case. Not when the likelihood of having to kill one during your Trial is so high.”

Greg can’t help the shiver that runs down his spine. He also sometimes forgets these people aren’t like him. They’re all have killed at least once, if only to guarantee their own survival. He finds it hard to imagine someone like Molly actually doing such thing and being perfectly alright with it, but it doesn’t change the fact…

“It’s a dark subject, Greg,” Molly says. “Don’t think about. Most of us don’t.” Her lips curve upwards in an attempt of a smile, but there’s too much bitterness in her tone and her eyes for it to feel anywhere remotely honest.

“I’m sorry,” he says, patting her hand awkwardly and the doctor nods tightly, going back to her job, oddly quiet and pensive. Greg does feel bad for bringing up such an uncomfortable subject but, despite himself, he finds himself curious.

He doesn’t think that’s a good thing.


 

Greg is aware someone is watching him, but he’s doing his very best to ignore the unpleasant sensation of being observed. He can’t find his mysterious stalker and all things considered, he supposes it’s not that weird that people stare, considering he’s a frequent subject of the gossip going around the Palace.

These people obviously have too much time in their hands.

He sighs, putting his book down and figuring he should go back to “his” quarters. In all honesty the book isn’t that interesting, but Sherlock has disappeared god-knows-where (literally. He tried asking everyone he could think of and yet nobody knew where exactly the Prince had gone to) and so Greg was left with nothing to do, not wanting to distract Molly from her actual occupations and not having anyone else he likes enough (or trusts enough) to spend any actual time with.

The minute he stands up though, is the minute his observer decides to show himself.

It’s definitely not someone Greg was expecting.

“Captain Watson,” he greets politely, bowing his head a little. The man makes him nervous, despite himself and the fact that the only times they have interacted it’s been with Sherlock standing between them doesn’t really help. The soldier evidently has some jealousy issues and Sherlock is either completely oblivious or he enjoys provoking the older man. Greg is inclined to believe it’s the second, but-

“Mycroft tells me you come from Madam Hudson’s house,” he tells him, his voice oddly quiet and perhaps a tad shaky. Greg frowns, but nods. “How… how is she?”

Greg blinks, more than a tad surprised. “Fine? I mean, she’s… last time I saw her, she was in perfectly good health,” he says slowly, puzzled by the way the other man holds himself. There’s a tension in him Greg can’t understand and he looks like he wants to ask a million questions, but has no idea where to begin.

“That’s… that’s good,” the other says, biting on his lip harshly. “I… you see, the thing is I…” He bites his lip once more, looking away. “She’s a good woman, I’ve been told,” he says, not looking at Greg directly and he gets more and more intrigued (and confused). The man scowls, displeased.

“She is,” Greg confirms, since it’s evident Captain Watson is having a hard time organizing his thoughts. He’s not sure why it seems important to reassure the man, but it certainly feels so and Greg knows better than to ignore a gut feeling. “She’s… a very good one.”

The other man nods tightly. “I… I’m sorry I’ve been so rude towards you,” he tells him, the change of subject so sudden that’s quite evident something about the previous conversation has put him on edge. “Surely you can see why, though.”

To a point, Greg supposes he does. “It doesn’t matter,” he says, shrugging. “No hard feelings.”

The soldier nods again. “Right. We should… Maybe we should start over,” he says, offering his hand for Greg to shake, expression a bit closed off, but eyes soft and eager. “Captain John Watson. You might call me John, of course,” he adds with a small reluctant smile. “In private, in any case.”

Greg smiles hesitantly. These people are odd and he’s not quite sure he’ll ever understand them. But since he supposes they’re going to be part of his life for a long while (seeing his supposed arrangement with Mycroft), he supposes it’s for the best if he attempts to be friendly.

God, when this his life turned into this?


 

Greg has many things in his mind.

This isn’t unusual; he has always had a very active mind but his many day-to-day preoccupations usually took most of his time and so he could happily ignore his curiosity. Now though he has far too much time and the more he gets to know the people around him, the more questions he has.

They’re curious people, these barbarians. He never thought much of them, seeing them as nothing but clients and not sparing a single thought on their culture or their beliefs, since they seemed so… well, barbaric and definitely not something he wanted to know about. And yet-

“How are students paired up for their Trials?” he asks Mycroft one night, while the Heir seems to be in a relaxed mood, doing nothing but cleaning his weapons with an absent minded look on his face.

Mycroft hums, continuing with his work, apparently considering his answer. “First based on their size and weight,” he begins, not looking up. “While in a real battle you don’t get to choose your opponents and you might end up facing someone much bigger and stronger, in the spirit of giving everyone a fair chance of surviving, opponents are chosen so they’re evenly matched. Other considerations like weapons skills, resourcefulness and speed pay a secondary role on the choosing.”

“What about gender?”

Mycroft chuckles, but he doesn’t sound amused. “There’s no difference in the training between men and women, so it doesn’t play a role in the choosing. But most women get paired with other women due their size and their weapon skills; they tend to favour daggers and small swords, rather than axes or more heavy weapons.”

Greg nods. “It seems… The Trials, they’re not… why…?”

“Why do we do it?” Mycroft asks, finally looking up at him, his gaze intense. “It’s our belief that every man, woman and child should be able to defend our lands if the need arise and help conquer new lands, so the Empire might continue to grow. If we’re to continue being such a powerful Empire, there’s only place for the best of us.”

Greg bites the inside of his cheek, not sure he wants to ask the question resonating inside his head. “Do you personally believe so?”

Mycroft sighs, looking away once more. “The Empire was born in lands far away from here. This place is rich in water and fertile soil, so food is never escarce. But back from where we originally came… it was an efficient solution, once upon a time, to keep the population low and there was a constant need to fight, since the surrounding Kingdoms weren’t exactly… considerate.” He chews on his lip gently, his movements having stilled completely. “But that was a long time ago.”

Greg feels like he should say something reassuring, but he has no clue what. “What about the conquered lands? The people living there-”

“We don’t interfere with the way they choose to organize or live,” Mycroft interrupts. “The situation here is a bit… complicated , since the Empire’s Capital was moved here, a much more agreeable place to live and thrive, but we don’t… I do realize our treatment of the locals has been far from fair.”

Well, at least he recognizes it. He wonders… “Is this the sort of issue you don’t agree with the Emperor’s approach, but have to pretend you do?”

Mycroft lets out a half choked laugh, smiling at Greg. “My brother has a much more… radical idea of what should be done on the matter, but I do agree with some of the points. Of course, no one of the old nobility will ever even consider there’s something wrong with the current arrangement.” He sighs, leaning back on his seat. “Change won’t be easy.”

But that sounds like a promise that there’ll be.

Greg smiles. He knows things aren’t exactly good at the town and he knows everyone hopes they’ll get better someday, although until now, he had always believed there was very little chance. But the more he gets to know Mycroft and the people that surround him, this younger generation…

Well, he’s hopeful.


 

“-the impact it could have! It’d be… it could be…” Sherlock trails off, expression completely blessed out and Greg smiles, the younger man’s happiness contagious. He isn’t quite sure what he’s been going on about for the last ten minutes or so, since there were too many technical terms thrown about, but Molly and John are nodding enthusiastically as he continues explaining his current work and so he supposes it’s really something important.

Soon enough though Sherlock’s whole focus is on John, who’s grinning at him enthusiastically, expression completely adoring and Greg’s heart might ache a little at the sight. What he’d give to have someone gaze at him with so much open affection…

He shakes his head, telling himself he needs to stop being silly. He’s always been a hopeless romantic, he knows, something completely inadvisable in his line of work (although he’s not quite sure it continues to be his line of work and of course, he’s not sure what his new occupation is either). But he’s getting worse, he thinks, because he has indulged in the illusion things have changed, although they haven’t, not quite. He might not be having sex with anyone right now, but he’s technically still hired as a prostitute and he should know better than to fantasize about things he can’t have.

Most troubling that his wish for romance, of course, is the fact of who he frequently imagines as his partner. That could never possibly work, for far too many reasons and just because Mycroft is so bloody nice to him, it doesn’t mean…

He gets startled out of his thoughts by Molly’s hand on his arm, urging him out of the room, since John and Sherlock seem to be in the middle of a very intense staring session and he suspects it’d be better to leave them alone. He smiles at the redhead and follows her out, making sure to close the door after him.

It’s rather silly of him to be jealous of those two.

And yet he can’t help himself.


 

That night, Greg is having difficulty falling asleep.

Mycroft sits at the low table where they usually have dinner, revising some apparently very important documents, muttering frustratedly to himself. Greg doesn’t think he has chosen the most comfortable position for such activity and is fairly certain his back is going to be killing him very soon, but he has given up on attempting to talk to him, since the man seems too lost in his own thoughts to care about whatever might be happening around him.

He sighs, staring at the ceiling in frustration. The lights are making it hard for him to fall asleep, but that’s not the only problem. He knows it’s ridiculous, but a part of him is worried about the other man’s well being and it’s obvious he’s very worried about something right now. Greg wishes there was something he could do to help, but-

Mycroft looks up right then, frowning a bit and staring at the door intently. Maybe he heard something outside, although the doors are too heavy for that to be possible. Then again…

“Quick,” the Heir orders, hurriedly hiding the documents beneath the rug, much to Greg’s surprise. “Come here,” he adds, when Greg just blinks at him confusedly and he hurries to obey, although he’s still unsure what’s going on.

Once he’s at the other man’s side, Mycroft pulls him downwards, quickly arranging him so he’s sitting on his lap. Greg blushes right away, but before he can say a single word Mycroft’s lips have descended upon his and his mind shuts down, making it impossible to think, let alone protest.

In any case, he reminds himself, he doesn’t have a right to protest.

The door opens just then, startling Greg and making him pull away on pure instinct. Mycroft makes a protesting sound that Greg isn’t quite sure how to interpret and he remains where he is, unsure of what the hell he’s supposed to do in this situation.

“I do apologize for barging into your rooms so rudely, Your Highness.” Greg looks over his shoulder, having recognized the voice, but incapable of moving much due the tight grip Mycroft has around his waist. The situation is weird and Greg shouldn’t feel so thrilled at the possessive grip, but he can’t help himself. “But something of the most utter importance has come up.”

Mycroft huffs. “And it couldn’t have waited until tomorrow?” he asks, his tone full of disdain and Greg would frown, not used at all to such tone, if it wasn’t for the fact that Mycroft is now kissing his jaw and he’s having a hard time keeping track of their surroundings. “I’m in the middle of something, as you can see.”

There’s a small pause, no doubt while the other man considers his answer and Mycroft continues nipping at Greg’s neck and jaw, making him shiver. He’s not really fond of having an audience, but it wouldn’t be the first time-

“I’m afraid not, Your Highness,” Lord Magnussen interrupts once more and Mycroft lets out an annoyed huff, pushing Greg off him with little delicacy, starling him more than he’d be willing to admit but he holds back any form of protest.

“Very well,” the Heir announces, standing as tall as he is, a dark look on his face. “This better be important, Counselor,” he declares ominously, heading towards the door without looking back and Greg’s left staring as the door closes noisily behind the two men.

Just what the hell was that about?

Chapter Text

In the romance novels Greg might or not might have read once long ago (alright, maybe not so long ago), when the tragic heroine happened to fall asleep in the dashing hero’s bed (no sex involved), she usually ended up waking up to the dashing hero sleeping beside her, arms wrapped around her waist, curled close as if they were meant to be.

Considering Greg’s luck, he’s not sure why he’s surprised by not waking up like that.

Mycroft is asleep next to him, though. He looks tired, but peaceful, his whole body perfectly relaxed. Greg itches to slide closer, hoping mere instinct will have the other man pulling him close, but he knows better than to do something quite as foolish and instead he gets up slowly, careful not to jostle his bed partner.

He’s not sure how long ago Mycroft came back and to be completely honest, he’s not quite sure how he ended up in his bed either. He remembers sitting on the cold floor, trying to make sense of what had just happened, feeling oddly dejected at the brusque way Mycroft had pushed him away and then… he thinks he might have sat on the bed, figuring it was better to find a more comfortable surface to sit on if he was going to continue despairing at his life choices.

He must have fallen asleep at some point and it’s impossible to say if the completely comfortable position he woke up is the result of his own search for comfort or if he was moved during the night. In all truth, he’d like to think it’s option number 2, but he knows option 1 is, by far, the more plausible one.

He sighs, going to grab some clean clothes, with the firm determination of taking a bath and then put this whole nonsense behind. Mycroft’s actions of the night before don’t have to mean a single thing and Greg shouldn’t even expect an explanation, so he’s not about to ask for one.

Still…

He lies on the tub, staring at the ceiling and letting the warm water wash away his dark thoughts. He’s melancholic and that can’t possibly be good. He knows he’s a fool for allowing himself to forget what exactly he’s doing here and letting himself think things could be somehow different.

But they are, aren’t they? He has an inkling of what Mycroft might have been attempting to do last night, but what frustrates him is his own reaction to the kiss. He had wanted… oh god, how he had wanted…

There was a moment, right after Mycroft had asked if the issue that had came up couldn’t wait until the morning, when Greg had been fervently praying the answer would be yes, it could wait . But if that had happened, he has the slight suspicion Mycroft would have still let go of him the minute Lord Magnussen had stepped out and that, Greg thinks, would have been just as devastating for his poor, stupid, hopeless heart.

He needs to remind himself he’s not a tragic heroine in a romance novel and so he’s not going to get the boy at the end of the tale and they won’t ride into the horizon, towards their promised happy ending.

Boy, he has it bad.

What is he going to do?


 

When he finally emerges from the bathroom, Mycroft is just beginning to wake up. The Heir looks around the room, peering sleepily at his surroundings, evidently still tired. He smiles at Greg, an honest open smile that makes his heart skip a beat and while he returns it, he hurries to look away.

He tells himself not to stare at the adorable way Mycroft stretches out, yawning exaggeratedly. He looks younger and softer and Greg just wants to climb into bed with him, attempt to straighten his hair and kiss him slowly, gently, lovingly.

Good lord, what’s wrong with him? “Did last night meeting run a little too late?” he asks, managing not to sound too bitter. “I didn’t hear you come back.”

Mycroft observes him in silence, an absentminded but contented smile on his lips and Greg blushes a little under the scrutiny. It feels… intimate, somehow, although he’s well aware that that might just be his enamored brain, interpreting signals that aren’t really there.

“Last night?” Mycroft asks, yawning one more, expression unguarded. “I don’t-” he interrupts himself abruptly, opening his eyes very wide and nearly falling onto the ground in his attempt to leave the bed quickly. “Oh, last night!” he repeats, perhaps a tad aghast and Greg stares at him, confused. When Mycroft notices, he immediately straightens up, expression as blank and collected as ever. “I must apologize for my actions last night,” he tells him, bowing his head a little. “It was necessary not to alert Lord Magnussen of the real situation we finds ourselves in.”

Greg shrugs non committedly, as if he honestly couldn’t care less. “It’s fine, Mycroft. You’re technically paying me for that sort of stuff.”

Mycroft’s expression seems to close off further before he nods and heads directly into the bathroom, not sparing yet another glance in Greg’s direction. He wonders if he said something wrong and promptly tells himself not to be foolish: all the wishful thinking in the world won’t change a thing.

With that thought in mind he leaves the room, figuring he might as well attempt to carry on with his day as normal.

It’s nothing but a normal day, after all.


 

Nothing has changed and yet it seems like everything has.

“You’re an idiot, Greg Lestrade,” he chides himself darkly, leaning against a wall in a deserted hall leading to the gardens. He feels cranky and so he has avoided spending any time around other people, certain that it won’t end well. “It was just a kiss,” he continues to himself, growing more and more annoyed at his own foolishness. “Nothing you haven’t done a hundred times before,” he hisses, punching the wall in frustration. “You can’t go losing your mind over a single kiss.”

“Experience has taught me that that can be a little difficult, depending on your partner,” a voice announces next to him, making Greg jump, startled. Sherlock smiles innocently, eyes bright with mischief. “Love tends to cloud our judgement,” he says, still smiling. “I rather hope this person you kissed and promptly lost your mind over wasn’t my brother.”

Greg groans, hiding his face behind his hands. “I know, I know. It’s going to end badly.”

Sherlock seems to consider this for a beat and Greg wonders just why is he having this conversation with him in the first place. “ Badly wouldn’t even begin to cover it,” the Prince deadpans and Greg groans more.

“You’re very reassuring. Truly, you have a gift for it,” he whispers darkly, crossing his arms over his chest and Sherlock smirks at him, before his expression softens.

“I do like you, Lestrade. I don’t think I’d find such a helpful assistant anywhere else, so it’s truly in my best interests you keep your head over your shoulders.” He smirks once more as Greg sends an unamused glare in his direction. “If you wish to talk about your romantic woes, I can suggest you try Molly. If you want to be distracted from them… well, you can follow me.”

And with that he leaves, just as silently as he came. Greg considers his options and finally follows, having decided that talking won’t do him any good.

Whatever Sherlock has in mind will probably be more much distracting.


 

Sherlock leads him to the Armory, which happens to be deserted at this time of the day. The Prince picks up a pair of wooden swords out of nowhere (literally. Greg didn’t even think they had those) and hands one to his companion before stepping outside to a small practice camp.

Greg looks around nervously, unsure if this is a good idea, but Sherlock is evidently expecting him to practice with him and Greg supposes he’ll indulge him. He doesn’t actually know how to fight, not with swords at least. He learned to pull his weight in a hand-to-hand combat, because it can be quite useful when you’re dealing with a heavily drunk client, but swords and other weapons aren’t readily available in town, so…

“You’re holding it wrong,” Sherlock informs him with a dramatic sigh. “Here, try this,” he steps closer to correct both his posture and the way he’s holding the sword and then proceeds to instruct Greg in basic movements, mostly protective ones. Greg never thought this sort of stuff could actually interest him, but some undeterminable time later he finds himself enjoying the exercise, all his previous concerns having faded to the back of his mind for the time being.

Sherlock is quite good, much better than Greg ever thought, considering his absolute lack of muscle and the rumors he has heard concerning the Prince’s Trial. He moves quickly and with an elegance that seems more fitted for the dance floor than a battlefield, but each strike is effective and he keeps Greg on his toes, never quite managing to predict his attacks and block them effectively.

Finally, when his muscles feel weary and he can no longer hold his sword without his arms shaking violently, Greg concedes defeat. Sherlock huffs, since it was very evident he was winning the whole time but he puts the swords away, leading Greg back towards the Royal wing.

“You didn’t expect me to be any good,” he says emotionlessly as they walk down the hall, ignoring the curious glances they receive and Greg shrugs non committedly.

“You’re not… with all due respect, you don’t look much like a warrior,” he admits and Sherlock hums, nodding.

“I’m not,” he agrees quietly, his hands folded behind his back. “But I learned to hold a sword before I learned to write, so… years of practice make you a decent fighter.” Greg nods, sensing there’s something the Prince wants to say, but can’t quite bring himself to. “During my Trial… I’ve always thought it’s a barbaric practice and I’m certain you’d agree with me.” He looks at Greg pointedly and he nods almost imperceptibly. “I had planned not to attack, just defend myself. A sort of… protest, if you will. Of course everyone- and I mean everyone - advised me against it, but I swore I wouldn’t be swayed.” He snorts, smiling unamusedly. “As it turns out, the moment my opponent came to me with the very obvious intention of killing me, years of training and pure survival instinct took over.” He shakes his head, looking away. “It’s truly barbaric.”

Greg nods, uncertain of what he can possibly say or why Sherlock is sharing this tale with him, but unwilling to ask. “I… I’m not quite sure why I’m telling you this,” the Prince confesses, a bitter smile on his lips. “I guess… I’m just saying you should be careful. We’re very different people, Lestrade. Regardless of how nice my brother might be acting towards you, he’s what he’s.” He shrugs non committedly. “Things will go badly for you if you forget he’s not like you. Could never be, no matter what.”

With those ominous words the younger man heads towards his quarters, leaving Greg in the empty corridor staring at him and thinking of what he has just been told.

It doesn’t bode well for the future.


 

He eventually makes his way back to “his” chambers, determined to put this whole nonsense behind. Sherlock is right, of course and in any case, it’d be most unwise of him to attempt to pursue anything with the Heir. Besides, Mycroft doesn’t seem to have any interest in him in that sense, so…

Lost in his thoughts as he is, he fails to notice Mycroft is already in the room and he has company. Lady Anthea lounges on the bed, in a position that seems to accentuate every one of her curves, her long hair falling loosely around her face, her expression somewhat… seductive? but it quickly becomes amused when he notices it’s Greg the one at the door.

Mycroft for his part is standing by his desk, looking like he had been in the middle of a grand speech and had interrupted himself due Greg’s interruption. He blushes a little, bowing his head. “I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?” he asks, figuring he can leave for a while, if Mycroft so wishes, although he’s dying to take a bath.

Mycroft dismisses his concern with a wave of his hand, gesturing for him to carry on. Greg nods and hurries to pick up clean clothes, well aware of the pair of stares on him. When he passes next to Anthea she sends him an appreciative glance and he smiles coyly on reflex, frowning a second later after realizing what he has just done. The woman chuckles, shaking her head and Greg is vaguely aware of Mycroft narrowing his eyes at them, so he spares a quick glance over his shoulder.

Mycroft is indeed staring at him, but he looks mostly curious, Greg supposes due his appearance. He’s well aware he’s sweaty all over and so he hurries into the bathroom, suddenly feeling self conscious, making sure to close the door after him.

As he waits for the tub to fill with warm water, he wonders what’s going on between Mycroft and Anthea. The woman is around often enough for Greg to suspect they’re friends or something close to it, but considering what he has just seen…

He shakes his head, telling himself he’s being foolish.

It’s none of his business, in any case.


 

When he comes back into the bedroom Anthea is still sitting on the bed, although she has adopted a more comfortable position. Mycroft is sitting on one of the couches, glaring at the wall as if it had personally offended him.

Greg is not quite sure what to do with himself.

Anthea pats the space on the bed next to her, gesturing for him to join her. He spares a quick glance in Mycroft’s direction, but the Heir pays him no mind and so he hurries to obey, although he feels terribly unsure. Anthea smiles at him and shakes her head when Greg attempts to speak, expression fond.

He really doesn’t understand what’s going on.

“I still think we should attempt to stop it,” Mycroft says suddenly, startling Greg a little. Next to him, Anthea tenses almost imperceptibly. “Not openly so, evidently, but surely we can get a few of the Guild's’ Leaders to say something.”

Anthea opens her mouth to reply and closes it a second later, going very still as if she’s waiting for something. Mycroft rolls his eyes and the woman huffs out a laugh before coming to straddle Greg in just one fluid move.

Anthea pushes him against the mattress, expression so intent and focused that Greg finds himself incapable of even attempting to protest. Before he can attempt to try to make sense of the woman’s actions he’s being kissed and this time his instinct kicks in right away, making him attempt to push her off despite his initial surprise.

This isn’t… he’s not…

Anthea holds him by the wrists, pushing his arms upwards so he can no longer attempt to push her off. The odd angle he’s in makes it hard to attempt to buckle his hips to throw her off, but before he can even attempt such move, the door opens, prompting him to lay still.

So this is how it’s going to be now, isn’t it?

“Counselor,” Mycroft’s voice greets and Greg manages to take a peek from over Anthea’s form. “Have you taken upon yourself to interrupt my pleasure at any given chance?”

Anthea chuckles, but it sounds wrong and she moves off him, coming to stand next to the bed as if nothing had happened at all. Greg’s head is still spinning and he feels more than a tad breathless, so he doesn’t quite dare to move just yet.

“I do apologize, your Highness,” Lord Magnussen says, his expression betraying nothing. “It wasn’t my intention to interrupt you once more, but I’m afraid you’re presence is needed once more.”

Mycroft and Anthea exchange a quick look that seems to go unnoticed by the older Lord and then Mycroft turns to him once more, nodding tightly. “Let’s us go, then.”

“Lady Anthea’s presence is not quite necessary, your Highness,” Lord Magnussen says calmly. “She could stay,” he adds, sending a significative glance in the direction of the bed and Greg forces himself to keep his calm. Just because Mycroft hasn’t seen fit to make use of him in his capacity as a prostitute, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t and “sharing” him with a friend of his would be quite normal.

Mycroft clenches his jaw and Anthea hurries to move to his side, squeezing his arm once while she laughs dismissively. “I don’t think so, my Lord,” she says, turning to Magnussen. “His Highness has never been the sharing type. Not when he’s not around to enjoy the spectacle,” she adds with a wink that makes Greg feel vaguely uncomfortable.

Lord Magnussen nods in agreement and opens the door, holding it open for them. Mycroft prompts Anthea to exit first, his hand on the small of her back and Greg’s heart sinks for some reason at the sight.

Lord Magnussen turns to look at him before exiting, leering, and Greg forces himself not to flinch in disgust, waiting for the door to close before collapsing onto the bed, refusing to think much about how… used he feels and all the reasons he shouldn’t feel like that.

Good lord, things just keep getting better and better, don’t they?


 

“I must apologize once more for my actions last night.”

Greg holds back a sigh, keeping his back to the door. He takes a deep breath, willing himself to calm down before turning around to face Mycroft, a non committal smile on his lips. “It’s perfectly fine,” he informs him with a shrug. “I understand what you’re doing.”

Mycroft sighs, moving closer to him. “It’s a silly but useful trick we’ve been using for quite some time,” he explains earnestly and Greg wonders briefly why he seems to care about what Greg might feel at the situation. “But I’m very sorry you’ve gotten dragged into my distraction schemes twice already.”

“It’s fine,” Greg repeats, folding his hands behind his back so Mycroft won’t see the way they’re shaking. “And as I said, it’s more or less what I’m getting payed to do. Even if it wasn’t meant as a distraction, it’d be fine.”

Mycroft frowns, now standing very close to Greg and he wants to take a step back, but he forces himself to stand still. “It’s not,” Mycroft protests softly. “I don’t… I don’t really think of you like that. What I mean is…” he trails off awkwardly, chewing onto his lip and Greg forces himself to look at anything but the other’s lips. “I’m sorry,” he finishes lamely and Greg nods tightly.

It really doesn’t matter, nevermind what his foolish heart seems to think.

It’s all fine.

Chapter Text

Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it.

It’s a funny saying and, until today, Greg had never thought much of it. He had read it in a couple of novels and heard it a few times, but he had never actually thought one can come to regret something you desperately wanted. It seemed plain silly to him.

And now he sees why the saying exists.

His previous attempts of getting up have been frustrated by Mycroft’s stubborn grip around his waist, not to mention the leg throw over his hip, effectively huddling him close. It’s not an uncomfortable position, not really, but it’s wreaking havoc in Greg’s heart and he rather wishes he could escape the situation, without alerting his bed partner that they ended up like this in the first place.

The more time passes though, the more convinced he becomes that it just won’t be possible.

He sighs, thinking back to how he got in this situation in the first place. Lord Magnussen’s visits at night had become so frequent and the hours so unpredictable, that more often than not they ended up struggling to get into a believable position in time for the man’s entrance. In truth, the Lord shouldn’t just barge into the Heir’s quarters without at least knocking first, but Greg has come to understand that the man is confident enough of his position as the Emperor’s main Adviser to even trespass such rules.

And so Mycroft had suggested they should share the bed, to make things easier. It hadn’t been weird, not exactly, although Greg had been very careful to stay in his side, hugging his knees close to his chest and avoiding at all costs moving in his sleep. It made for some restless sleep, of course, and from what he could see, Mycroft didn’t fare much better, although eventually, they had gotten used to it.

And now…

Well, here they are now.

It could be worse, he supposes, but he’s still miserable. He so wishes this meant more than it does, although at the same time he knows it’s a foolish notion. Even if, by some miracle, Mycroft felt the same way, they could never actually be together. Even if marriage and children aren’t expected from either Prince (although it’s heavily encouraged), Greg is as far from acceptable partners as they come.

Some things are just not meant to be.


 

There’s a flower arrangement at the lab.

It’s nothing elaborate, just a few flowers that Greg can’t identify, but that look pretty together. It’s a small thing, easily overlooked if it wasn’t for the fact that the rest of the room is sterilely white, not a spot of color elsewhere, not to mention it doesn’t quite seem like it fits in that particular place.

Sherlock is humming happily to himself, working on whatever new experiment has gotten his attention and Greg is “helping” him on autopilot, his eyes stubbornly fixated on the flowers, despite his attempts to ignore them. He tries telling himself it’s nothing special really and yet not quite managing to convince himself of it.

He rubs his breastbone absentmindedly as the tries to ignore the flowers once more. He has a lot of experience when it comes to the most physical aspects of “love”, but little to none when it comes to romantic gestures. Back at Madam Hudson’s there hadn’t been any rules against dating, but Greg had never seen the appeal: a relationship with someone outside the house was doomed to fail from the very beginning, because no matter how much people said they didn’t mind, it always turned out they did; he had seen it often enough for him not want to test it himself. As for one of his co workers… well. Greg had been the youngest, but that hadn’t been the main issue: he just didn’t see them like them that.

As he stares at the flowers once more, he can’t help thinking what it’d be like to receive such a gift: it’s something small and inexpensive, silly perhaps and yet-

“Anniversary gift,” Sherlock informs him, making Greg tear his eyes away from the flowers, turning to face the younger man. “Sentimental, really, but…” He shrugs, turning back to his experiment while his cheeks acquire a light red tone.

Greg attempts to smile and fails miserably. Sentimental it might be, but he can’t help longing for such a gesture, even if… “How long have you and John been together?”

The Prince hums, shrugging once more. “It depends on what you mean by together. There are no actual rules against dating while at the Academy but it’s not exactly encouraged either. Considering… everything , people tend not to get too close to anyone.”

Greg nods thoughtfully. “But you and John have been friends for a while.”

Sherlock considers this for a beat, turning to look at the flowers once more. “I was twelve when we met. The anniversary I mentioned… that’s what we celebrate.” He smiles wistfully, eyes glazing over. “I think I was in love pretty much from the start, but it took a while for us to be on the same page. John was always quite popular with the ladies, you see,” he explains, expression a little sad. “And I didn’t know… I wasn’t quite sure what I was feeling.”

Sherlock keeps staring at the flowers and Greg smiles a little, wondering what that might be like. He never experienced a crush, certainly not when he was a teen, although he suspects that what he feels for Mycroft is pretty similar to it. Perhaps that’s why he feels so strongly about the older man: because he’s missing certain experiences.

“Of course we can’t really tell anyone about our relationship,” Sherlock says suddenly, startling Greg a little. “If the Emperor was to find out…” He gestures vaguely, waving his hand and Greg frowns.

“Why exactly is it a problem?” he asks, honestly curious. “I mean, it’s not like… you’re not expected to marry a woman and produce children, are you?”

Sherlock laughs at that, shaking his head. “Oh, good lord, no! Can you imagine that?” he asks cheerily. “No, that’s not… I mean. No. No one would raise an eyebrow if I decided I wanted to marry a man, that’d never be an issue. And John has a good position in the military, so that wouldn’t be a problem either,” he adds, still smiling somewhat. “The problem is… well, John’s parentage it’s a bit problematic.”

“Why?”

Sherlock stares at him for a beat, tilting his head. “Hasn’t John asked you any questions regarding Madam Hudson?” Greg nods, his frown deepening in confusion. “But he hasn’t explained why he’s interested?” Greg shakes his head and Sherlock hums. “Well. Let’s just say John is the illegitimate son of a rather powerful Lord, but the least it’s said on the subject, the better. For everyone, really.”

Greg blinks as his mind attempts to process the new information and what it implies. He thinks back to the rumors of how Madam Hudson got the resources to start her small business and his jaw nearly hits the floor in surprise while Sherlock rolls his eyes dramatically. “Not a word about it, Lestrade,” he warns seriously. “It’s not a subject John cares for and anyone else… well. As I said, the least it is said on the matter, the better.”

Greg nods numbly, mentally going through every conversation he had with John on the subject of his ex employer ever since that first stifled encounter at the library.

Well, he’s definitely not going to bring up the subject with John, not ever.

He wouldn’t know what to say in any case.


 

Life, as it usually does, goes on.

Sharing his bed is not something new for Greg, although it was never quite like this and it certainly didn’t involve nightly innocent cuddles. They always go to sleep with their backs turned to each other but they somehow end up cuddling at some point of the night, only to roll back to their respective sides somewhen later, judging by the way they wake up in the morning. Greg both treasures and dreads those moments when he lies awake in middle of the night, basking in the warmth of his bed partner, indulging in the illusion that he’s there because he’s actually wanted, cherished, loved.

And then of course comes the day when his control slips further and he gives into his foolish longing and does something that will change everything both in the best and the worst ways. Later, Greg won’t be able to tell what exactly motivated him to do as he did, but at the moment, it seems perfectly logical.

It had been a perfectly ordinary day, only that an unfortunate explosive experiment had sent Greg earlier to “his” room, since the lab had been filled with unpleasant odors and Molly had practically kicked them out. Sherlock, frustrated by the mishap, had stormed towards his quarters, loudly complaining about the world’s general incompetence and Greg had spent the afternoon quietly reading, bored out of his mind.

And so when Mycroft comes back, looking for all intents and purposes like he’s about to collapse out of tiredness, Greg moves swiftly to his side, evidently not thinking clearly, aching to do something to help him relax, his foolish indulgence in silly daydreams making him think it’s perfectly alright to do what he’s about to do.

He places his hands on the Heir’s shoulders, who freezes immediately. Undeterred, Greg starts massaging the tense muscles, careful and gentle, making sure to keep his touch pleasant. They don’t talk, but the other man relaxes bit by bit and Greg can’t help beaming with pride at the though he has managed what most people would consider impossible.

The Heir lets out a soft pleased sound and Greg forces his mind out of the gutter. Mycroft has shown no intention of bedding him and there’s no reason to believe that that has changed, especially over something like this, and it wasn’t really his intention anyway, so it’d be better for him not to get any crazy ideas. Still-

He’s not quite sure what happens next: one second he’s masagging the man’s shoulders and the next he’s pinned against the wall, being thoroughly kissed.

Well. This is certainly an unexpected development.

He returns the kiss enthusiastically, pulling the other man close, his hands gripping his hips greedily. He then reminds himself that while enthusiasm might not be frown upon, he’s a prostitute, so he shouldn’t be taking quite as many liberties with the Heir. At the end of the day, he’s here to please and his own enjoyment of the act should be the last thing on his mind.

Mycroft doesn’t seem to mind all the groping though, judging by the sounds he’s making. Greg lets out a surprised squeal as the other grabs him by the underside of his tights, pressing him against the wall and encouraging him to lock his legs around his waist. The feeling of the other man’s arousal is heady and he lets out a series of downright filthy moans, incapable of holding himself back any longer, clawing at his partner's back in an attempt to pull him closer.

“Too... many… clothes…” he pants, somewhat incoherently, earning himself a low chuckle from his companion. Mycroft doesn’t relish his hold though and Greg supposes they won’t be having any actual sex after all; they’ll just continue rutting against each other until they’re satisfied (or rather, until Mycroft is) and he supposes he can live with it, but he really wants-

Then again, it’s not about what he wants and he’d do well to remember that.

“Please…” he pleads, although he’s not sure exactly what he wants, constantly reminding himself this isn’t about him or his wants; his a bloody professional after all. And yet- “Oh, god, my lord, please…”
Mycroft growls, biting down on the conjecture of his neck and shoulder and Greg lets out a wrecked moan. “My name,” he hisses, lapping at the mark he has just left, “call me by my name.”

At this point, there’s not a single thing Greg wouldn’t be willing to do to have Mycroft continue doing what he’s doing, but the idea of being allowed to call the Heir by his given name in the height of passion is quite arousing for some reason: as if they were equals and not-

His partner’s pace increases and Greg loses what little self control he still had, chanting the other’s name as a prayer. This seems to please the Heir immensely, since he ruts against him even more eagerly, kissing down his jaw and neck, panting and moaning the whole time.

The world turns blank as his orgasm hits him, his whole body going boneless. Mycroft continues kissing him enthusiastically, but more lazily now, sated and relaxed against him. Greg still has his legs locked around his waist, although he figures he really needs to stand on his own two feet if he doesn’t want them to topple down on the cold floor.

He’s still holding Mycroft close, though, his hands gripping tight at the back of his shirt and Mycroft’s own hands gripping his forearms as they both try to catch their breath. It was amazing and unexpected and Greg doesn’t know what to do now.

Finally, Mycroft pulls away, the movement sudden, as if he had been burned and Greg can’t help feeling like a part of him is being torn apart. The Heir looks away, evidently avoiding his gaze and Greg’s heart might break a little bit more. “I… I didn’t mean to…” he pauses, still not meeting Greg’s eyes and so blind to the pain reflected in there. “I’m going to take a bath now,” he informs him, before disappearing through the door leading to the bathing room. Greg keeps his eyes down until he hears the door closing and then sighs, running his fingers through his hair.

Dear god, what has he gotten himself into?


 

Mycroft’s bath seems to take ages and Greg is half tempted to flee the room, but forces himself to stand his ground. What he did was foolish, but it wasn’t wrong (or he doesn’t think so at least) and so he goes through his evening routine as if nothing had changed (and when he stops to think about it, nothing really has).

Some endless time later, Mycroft finally steps out of the bathroom and heads straight for the bed, which makes Greg relax a tiny bit. It seems they’re going to pretend nothing happened and that’s fine by him. It’s fine, really, except-

Well. Better not to think about that.

But as he lies in bed that night, being extra careful of not moving a single inch, painfully aware of Mycroft doing the same thing on his own side of the bed, Greg wonders how he managed to fuck up so spectacularly. It seems these last few months have made him foolish, reckless, completely idiotic. He always knew how to keep his feelings out of his work and now…

The problem might be that he doesn’t actually know what his bloody role here is. He’s not sure if what happened a few hours early means something, anything at all and he so desperately wishes he could know what Mycroft is thinking. Does he regret it? Does he wants to do it again?

Greg knows he’d love to. But more than the physical release, he wishes it could mean what he so desperately wants to believe: that while his love and his longing is useless, it’s not one sided.

Then again, that might hurt even worse.

God, what is he supposed to do? Everything’s a mess, including his feelings and he’s not quite sure he can keep doing this for any longer.

But what he can do then?


 

The flower arrangement still sitting at the lab is not helping the matters.

It’s ridiculous, he knows, but it feels like a sharp reminder of all those things he can never have, but he can’t help longing for. Falling in love was never among his plans, but he can’t deny he sometimes indulged himself in what he believed were harmless daydreams of such thing coming to pass. He never imagined unrequited love could be this painful; it feels as if his heart has been torn out of his chest and stepped all over and the worst part is that it doesn’t show signs of abating any time soon.

“Alright, that’s quite enough,” Sherlock announces, pushing his work away abruptly, sending an scating glare in Greg’s direction, which in turn makes the older man flinch a bit. The Prince rolls his eyes dramatically, but then his expression seems to soften (if only the slightest bit) and he sighs. “I told you; for your own sake, you should have kept your distance.”

“I know,” Greg whispers dejectedly. He’s well aware he has no one else to blame but himself and he also knows he doesn’t want to discuss the matter, particularly not with his crush ’s little brother.

Sherlock, of course, seems to have his own ideas. “It’s not you,” Sherlock assures him, hesitating before patting Greg’s hand awkwardly. “Really. It’s him, totally him. My brother isn’t… he isn’t cut for these things. And you have gone and not only stupidly fallen in love with him, but went all the way in and slept with him which you know only makes the illusion of feelings to grow. Your hormones are playing a dirty trick on you but you really really need to take a step back and forget all about that nonsense.”

“It’s not quite that easy,” Greg protests, although of course he knows he’s right. “I never… I never felt this way about anyone.”

Sherlock’s eye roll is so dramatic Greg is a little concerned he’ll manage to roll his eyes out of his skull. “Of course you hadn’t. But if it’s not reciprocal, of what use is to you?” he asks rhetorically and Greg sighs, staring at his hands. “I must insist you desist on this crazy endeavor. It won’t end well and I really really don’t want to look for a new assistant.”

Greg chuckles, patting Sherlock’s hand back. “Right. How inconsiderate of me.”

“Awfully so,” the Prince agrees with a small sad smile. “Now, let’s go to the Armoury. Your quiet aura of despair is not way conducive for my research.”

Greg smiles and follows after the younger man, telling himself life could be, without a doubt, much worse.

But the thought isn’t as reassuring as he’d want.

Chapter Text

Against all of Greg’s hopes, things don’t go back to normal.

It’s ridiculous the lengths Mycroft will go to avoid him these days, sometimes not showing at their shared chambers until way past midnight and leaving well before the sun has even raised. It’s painful, yes and also uncomfortable, making Greg terribly aware of just how badly he messed up.

He wishes he could fix it somehow, but short of going back in time, he’s all out of ideas.

He lies in bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to keep his mind blank, but failing miserably. He keeps going back to those few precious moments when everything seemed to be going fine and groans loudly when he notices his body is taking an interest in his memories of the shared pleasure. It’s been very long since Greg has had any actual sex and considering just how used to it he was, it probably plays a role in his current situation, but the emotions the act seems to have brought forward triplicated certainly plays the biggest role.

God, he really needs to do something about this.

He listens to the door opening and forces himself to remain very still, keeping his breathing steady so he doesn’t give away the fact that he’s not actually sleeping. He can hear Mycroft walking around the room, illuminating his way with a single candle, managing not to collide with anything based on years of living in the same space and no real change having come to past.

The other man finally makes his way to the bed, dropping himself at Greg’s side, careful not to jostle the bed too much. Greg would huff indignantly, but that would give him away and he’s not exactly keen on letting Mycroft know just how affected he’s by this whole ordeal.

Although maybe that’d be a good thing. Maybe, if Mycroft knew-

Don’t be ridiculous he chides himself, closing his eyes tightly, careful to keep his breathing rhythm intact. He’s angry, frustrated and upset; alerting his companion of his current state of mind will probably do them no favours but-

He just wants things to go back to normal.

But he’s not sure that’s possible.


 

He wakes up abruptly, his body going tense and ready to fight on pure instinct, since there’s a sudden weight on top of him, pining him against the mattress. He blinks, confused more than anything else and in the darkness of the room he can’t recognize his attacker, so he tries to push him off, but has little success.

“Hush,” Mycroft’s voice comes from the shadows, his warm breath ghosting over Greg’s ear, making him shiver, his body relaxing instantly. He’s still confused, of course, but not scared and the minute he feels Mycroft’s lips over his, he relaxes further, kissing back enthusiastically, just as a few days ago, locking his legs around his partner’s waist, bringing their bodies closer and Mycroft moans, a low and positively filthy sound that makes Greg’s blood boil instantly.

Just then, the door opens, startling both men and making them pull away immediately, as two people being caught doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

Which, once he finally gets his wits about him, Greg notices is exactly how they shouldn’t have reacted.

Mycroft sits up, just as regal as ever, his expression still masked by the darkness, but his disdain and frustration clear in his tone. “Lord Magnussen. I do not take kindly to your continued interruptions.”

The man at the door lets out a small scoff and Greg can feel Mycroft tensing next to him, anger now radiating from him in waves. He wonders briefly just how light Mycroft’s sleep is for him to have noticed Magnussen’s approach and then proceeds to chide himself for making foolish assumptions, when he should have assumed the stolen affections were yet another performance for the sake of others.

“I’m deeply sorry,” the noble is saying, although he sounds far from it. “But your presence is truly urgent, Your Highness.”

Mycroft huffs and Greg feels him leaving the bed. He listens to Mycroft presumably looking for his nightgown, the only light in the room the one Magnussen is holding by the door and then the two men are out of the room, neither even bothering to tell him a single thing.

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, willing himself to remain calm. He’s upset, mostly and he can feel hot tears spilling over his cheeks, which make him angry with himself. He hates how quickly he forgot all about his heartbreak and reacted so instantly to Mycroft’s advances, especially now, after realizing the man was just playing a role again.

He doesn’t think he can keep doing this. He’s certain attempting to leave his employment won’t be easy or pleasant, but he’ll have to try. He can no longer keep doing this, whatever this is, not when his heart is at stake.

Mind made up, he sits up and lights up a lamp, deciding to do some reading while he waits for Mycroft, since he’s determined to figure things out tonight. He won’t wait a second more, because if he hesitates now, it’s very likely he’ll end up convincing himself it’s all fine.

But this way of living can’t be healthy.

Can it?


 

Mycroft comes back some time later, the little light from his candle providing enough illumination to let Greg know he’s frustrated and angry. It’s probably unwise to broach the subject right now, but he reminds himself he can’t keep postponing the inevitable.

And yet- “What was the matter this time?” he asks, although he doesn’t expect a full answer. When this sort of thing happens, Mycroft isn’t exactly in a talkative mood, although he certainly gives him some answer, usually vague, but understandable enough.

Tonight, however, is evident Mycroft wasn’t expecting him to still be awake, judging by the way he startles. Greg sighs, rubbing his temples tiredly. “Should we light up the lamps?” he asks, already getting up and searching for the matches on the bedside table.

“That would suggest you expect this to be a long conversation. In all truth, I’m rather tired-”

“I’m sorry,” Greg interrupts, lighting up the oil lamp closer to him. “But this really can’t wait.”

He can’t see Mycroft’s expression, but he can tell he’s not pleased. He doesn’t protest though and goes to sit on one of the couches, putting more than enough distance between them and Greg sighs once more, before continuing lighting up a couple of lamps.

Once he goes back to sitting on the bed, Mycroft just stares at him expectantly and Greg holds back another sigh, staring intently at his hands. “I don’t think… I don’t think I can keep doing this,” he confesses softly and he wonders if the half drowned gasp is just in his imagination, but doesn’t dare to look directly at his companion. “I… what happened the other day was… I’m not sure what it was. But it has made me realize I don’t… this whole charade we put on whenever someone happens to walk into us is… I’m not really comfortable with it. I mean- I’ve been hired for certain work, I know that, but I can’t quite keep my distance from our actions and my emotions when I don’t have a bloody clue of what exactly are we doing.”

There’s a lengthy pause following his words and Greg finally dares to glance at Mycroft, who seems to be lost in thought. “The other day… I can’t quite say why things got out of control so quickly,” the Heir murmurs finally, staring at the wall, carefully avoiding Greg’s eyes. “I don’t- I usually don’t have a problem distinguishing between the things I pretend to want for other people’s sakes from what I actually want and as I’ve told you, pretending to be sexually involved with someone has been a method I’ve used several times to disguise my true actions, but with you... it hasn’t been easy. You’re a very attractive man, Gregory.” He bites his lip, his cheeks acquiring a slight red colour and Greg can’t help preening a little. “But as I also told you before; I don’t… I don’t want a bought partner.”

“What about a willing one?” Greg asks, surprising even himself and Mycroft looks up immediately, but his eyes are guarded and Greg gulps, licking his lips nervously. That might have been a bit forward of him and he’s not quite sure it’s wise (in fact, he’s fairly certain it isn’t, but-)

“You don’t know what you’re offering,” Mycroft murmurs darkly, but he has stood up and stepped closer, his moves slow and well measured, making Greg think of a large predator getting ready to attack.

The image shouldn’t be as arousing as he finds it.

“If you want me,” he says confidently, although his mind is screaming at him for his reckless behaviour, but he simply holds the other’s stare as steadily as he can. “You can have me.”

The exact sequence of events that follow is a little difficult to pinpoint and in all honesty, Greg isn’t sure who makes the first move. He just knows that ever since their little… encounter a couple of days ago, the air has been charged between them, waiting for the slightest spark to light an uncontainable fire.

Mycroft has come to loom over him on the bed and then they’re kissing; the kiss is perhaps a tad more gentle and hesitant than the last time, but not by much and it’s certainly far from chaste. One of them let's out of whimper (or maybe it’s both of them) and Greg finds himself clinging to the other man, needing to be close to him as desperately as a drowning man needs air.

“Please,” he pleads, letting his forehead rest against Mycroft’s. “I want- I want-”

Mycroft nods, apparently understanding his senseless babbling and he pushes him against the mattress. It never occurred Greg that his clothes are designed to be easily removed, but he’s quite thankful for the fact right now, since he’s naked fairly quickly. Mycroft continues kissing him, making no move to get rid of his own clothes and so Greg attempts to do it himself, except the older man pushes his hands away stubbornly. “Please,” Greg attempts to plead, “I want to feel you.”

Mycroft hums, his lips trailing down Greg’s neck. “All in good time,” he murmurs, holding Greg’s hands over his head. “Now stay still,” he orders, sucking a mark onto his partner’s jaw. Greg groans, his hips rolling upwards on their own volition, searching for friction, attempting to break free from the other’s hold, which prompts an appreciative chuckle from his lover.

“Still, I said,” Mycroft murmurs, his voice a low seductive rumble. “I think I might need to tie you down next time,” he adds, his lips traveling southwards and Greg’s eyes roll back at the mere idea.

Mycroft lets go of his hands, but it’s evident he’s expecting him to keep them still and while Greg might be currently a bit dizzy with desire, he’s a professional (even if he’s not quite sure he’s supposed to act as such), so he keeps his hands up. Mycroft smiles appreciatively before leaning down to press a trail of kisses down his chest and stomach.

Greg’s beyond surprised when Mycroft takes him into his mouth, his hips pushing upwards before he can even attempt to control them. He fights to keep still, but his hips have their own mind apparently and so he just makes an effort not to choke his partner, who doesn’t seem to mind his eager reaction.

He can’t believe this is happening.

The sensation soon becomes too much, to the point where Greg isn’t quite sure he can’t hold himself back anymore and then feels Mycroft’s finger tracing his entrance. He lets out a half choked moan, his hips pushing upwards once more and the other man hums in appreciation.

He’s certainly not going to last like this. He attempts to drag his partner back upwards, so they can kiss once more and let him recover a little, but Mycroft seems to have other plans. He continues his ministrations, despite Greg’s warnings and soon enough Greg is coming with a loud moan.

He lies completely boneless, attempting to catch his breath, vaguely aware that his lover has taken himself in hand and is finishing himself off. Greg thinks he should help, but the minute he attempts to, Mycroft pushes his hands away once more. All for the best, really, since he honestly doubts he could do much in his current state.

Mycroft kisses him once more, this time soft and languid and Greg can’t help smiling into the kiss. His partner finally pulls away, only to drop himself on the other side of the bed, a contented smile on his lips and Greg curls closer to him, basking in his warmth.

That was much better than he ever imagined.

In fact, he never actually thought it could be like this. He has had a few clients who didn’t mind sucking him off while they prepared him, but for the most part they didn’t care much about Greg’s own pleasure. But with Mycroft…

It had been as Greg has always assumed sex went between actual partners. He treated him as if Greg mattered, as if his pleasure was just as important as Mycroft’s, perhaps even more important and now, as the afterglow starts to fade, it leaves him baffled, unsure of what exactly this all means. Their conversation took a rather unexpected turn and there are far too many things left unsaid, not to mention he has no clue whatsoever what he has gotten himself into, but he’s not about to complain. He did enjoy what has just happened and he does want it to happen again (several times, if possible) although a part of him (the logical, sensible part) informs him he has just digged a deeper hole for himself.

But here, warm in Mycroft’s arms, he can’t bring himself to care.


 

Greg wakes up feeling warm and content, so he snuggles closer to the source of warmth. He’s vaguely aware of a hand running through his hair and he hums contently, pressing a quick kiss against his partner’s shoulder, earning himself a light chuckle.

He blinks awake, offering Mycroft a bright smile. The older man attempts to smile back, but he doesn’t quite succeed and Greg wonders if he has made a mistake yet again. If that’s the case he knows he really needs to leave now, because he doesn’t think-

But then Mycroft is kissing him once more and this time they aren’t interrupted by the door being opened, so Greg assumes everything is fine. He smiles into the kiss, pulling the other man closer and soon enough Mycroft has rolled on top of him, his erection prodding at his hip and his smile widens, before his partner pulls away, breathing harshly. “I really need to go,” Mycroft murmurs, still trying to catch his breath. “I don’t have time for this.”

Greg pouts, but doesn’t protest and allows the other man to leave the bed, watching him go mournfully. He’s a bit disappointed, there’s no denying that, but he promptly reminds himself that today’s developments are a good thing: it shows Mycroft doesn’t regret what happened last night and they have somehow stumbled into a new arrangement, although considering the lack of actual discussion of what it implies, it might be troublesome.

And yet-

He smiles to himself as he continues lying on bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling at total ease for once in his life. It might not be the epic romance he always dreamed of, but there’s no denying he’s happy. He feels light and bubbly and while he realizes it might be a little too soon to start celebrating, he does feel hopeful.

If only good things could last.


 

“You’re somehow even more stupid than I originally thought.”

Normally Greg would at least frown at such statement, but instead he just beams brightly at Sherlock, which in turn makes the younger man scowl darkly at him. Greg chuckles, amused and pats the Prince’s shoulder, his expression not changing one bit.

“You do realize you’re in for a disaster, right?” Sherlock asks, looking honestly troubled and so succeeding in damping Greg’s mood a tiny bit. “There’s simply no way in hell it could ever work.”

Damn the boy and his tendency to point out the truth. Can’t he see Greg is trying very hard to enjoy it while it last, all the while pretending there’s no immediate end nowhere near in the future? “It’ll be fine,” he says, although he doesn’t quite believe it and Sherlock scoffs, but doesn’t insist and Greg supposes that’s the best he can hope for.

And so he gets back to “helping” Sherlock at the lab, neither bringing the subject up once more, both pretending everything is perfectly fine.

The question is, how long can the pretense last?

Chapter Text

“You were serious about tieing me up.”

Mycroft chuckles, finishing the knot, making sure the rope isn’t cutting Greg’s circulation and that it’s not actually hurting him. It’s not exactly the sort of situation Greg could have ever before imagined feeling comfortable in, but it certainly feels right with Mycroft.

“I rather like the idea of having you at my complete mercy,” his lover informs him before kissing him once, chastely, on the lips.

You already have me at your mercy, Greg thinks, but doesn’t say. It’s true and not, because they still haven’t discussed what they hell are they doing, although in all truth Greg isn’t in a rush to find out. He really should know better than to indulge in the illusion of this actually meaning something, but-

Before he can sour his mood with his own dark thoughts, he becomes distracted by Mycroft kissing him once more. The kiss is slow, heated, but in no hurry to grow into something more. He allows himself to enjoy the moment, telling himself he’ll deal with his silly emotions later.

Mycroft’s hands travel across his body, his touch feather light and Greg squirms. He has always enjoyed running his own hands across his partner's’ bodies, learning every inch, watching what makes them squirm and sigh and moan.

Mycroft seems to share his approach to sex and he’s not quite sure what to think about that. Focusing on the other is a good way to keep distance, contradictory as it might seem. It’s a way to remind oneself not to get emotions involved, because they’re not supposed to be involved.

Still, he can’t shake the feeling that that’s not quite it. It might be a gut feeling or wishful thinking, but Greg thinks the attention has a loving feel. Mycroft looks into his eyes the whole time, smiling every time he manages to make Greg produce a particularly loud noise, evidently enjoying teasing him mercilessly.

“This is all kinds of unfair,” Greg says breathlessly. “You should let me do it to you someday.”

Mycroft’s eyes shine with promise. “I’ll hold you onto that,” he tells him, before kissing him again, making Greg’s head spin. When Mycroft takes him into his hand he lets out an inhuman sound, his hands twitching with the want to touch too and his partner smirks, before taking a nipple into his mouth.

Greg isn’t quite sure how much time passes, but it feels like a lifetime. The sweet torture is just close to unbearable, his whole body aching for release and yet completely incapable of doing something to encourage his partner to give it to him, other than keep on pleading.

Mycroft is quite through with preparing him and while Greg would normally appreciate it, he doesn’t have enough presence of mind to care right now: he just knows he needs something and he needs it now.

Mycroft holds his legs up, preventing him from urging him to move by pressing his heels onto the small of his back, leaving Mycroft completely free to set the pace, which is maddenly slow. Greg whimpers and pleads and finally begs, but the other man pays him no mind, evidently enjoying Greg’s cries.

“Oh, please, please, Mycroft, please,” he urges, frustrated he can’t even hold onto his lover, his erection pressed between them and yet aching for more friction.

“What do you want, Gregory?” his partner asks softly, leaning closer so he can kiss the underside of his jaw. “Isn’t this enough?”

It is and it isn’t. It’s hard to think, let alone try to explain and Greg glares, although there’s no actual heat in it and the other man chuckles once more, kissing him quite thoroughly before finally picking up his pace, taking Greg into his hand once more, pumping him in rhythm with every thrust, promptly sending him over the edge and he continues fucking him through his orgasm until he finally lets out a groan, practically collapsing on top of Greg.

Well. That’s… that’s…

That’s quite something.

Mycroft nuzzles him gently, still not moving and Greg finds he’s quite content with the weight of the other man on top of him. He thinks he could actually fall asleep like this, feeling safe and warm and so ridiculously happy.

He has it bad, doesn’t he?

“Did you enjoy it?” his partner asks him as he rolls off him and Greg can’t hold back a disappointed groan that makes the other chuckle softly once more, as he presses a quick kiss to the top of his head.

“Fishing for compliments?” he asks breathlessly. “That’s beneath you, Mycroft.”

He feels at ease, as if there wasn’t a single thing wrong in this world. He imagines this is how utter bliss must feel and he wonders if he’ll be lucky enough to continue experimenting it for a long while.

He’d like for it to last the whole eternity, of course, but that might be too much to ask.

Mycroft doesn’t comment, instead pulling him into another kiss and Greg allows himself to imagine there’s some actual affection in that kiss, allowing him to bask in the warmth of the afterglow and the illusion of love.

He knows he’ll end up hurting himself in the long run.

But it doesn’t seem to matter right now.


 

“You look troubled,” Greg comments, aiming to sound off handed, but he’s in fact concerned. Mycroft barely looks up from the document he’s revising, his meal having gotten cold long ago and Greg bites his lip, telling himself not to press.

“It’s a small matter of… last minute preparations. For that issue Lord Magnussen keeps interrupting us over,” he says finally, putting the document away. “It’s not a pleasant subject and in all honesty, I spend much of my day arguing over the subject to be particularly interested in continuing discussing it with you at night.”

Greg shrugs non committedly, fidgeting with his fingers. “I understand. If there’s any way I could help though…” he trails off awkwardly, wondering if he’s overstepping. He occasionally reads Mycroft’s documents when he’s organizing them, but he always makes sure to not pay too close attention. It’s none of his business, really and while he can’t completely suppress his curiosity, matters of State are not something he should concern himself with or even think about giving his input.

Mycroft sighs, placing a hand over Greg’s gently, stilling his movements. “It’s not that I wouldn’t appreciate your opinion, Gregory. But it’s not… It’s not something I wish to discuss.”

Greg nods, smiling a bit. “Of course, it’s fine. You’ve got a bunch of advisers anyway, so it’s not like-”

He gets interrupted by Mycroft’s disdainful scoff and he arches an eyebrow, curious. “Please,” Mycroft says, rolling his eyes. “Most of those idiots can’t tell up from down. I keep Anthea around because she does have some common sense, but as for the rest of my so-called advisors… I’d be getting rid of them if I was named Emperor tomorrow.”

Greg chuckles, shaking his head. “If you don’t like them then why do you keep them around now? Isn’t that your choice?”

He’s not quite sure what the expression on Mycroft’s face indicates, but it’s gone before he can properly analyze and classify it. “Positions in the Council aren’t heredable, but there are certain expectations about the sort of people that make it to such places. Nobles close to my father expect their children to be included among my own choice of advisers and it would be most unwise of me to let them know just how much I don’t like them.”

“Why don’t you like them exactly?” Greg asks, tilting his head to the side. In his experience, most nobles are pretty much the same and so while he understands Mycroft’s frustration, he doesn’t think there’s much to be done on the subject.

“They don’t think,” Mycroft sneers, leaning back on his seat. “It has never occured them to question the current order; if it works or not, if it’s fair or it isn’t… it doesn’t matter to them. As long as it doesn’t affect them personally, they’re perfectly fine with letting things stand as they are.”

Greg nods thoughtfully. “And there’s nothing you can do right now, is there? Not until you’re the Emperor?”

Mycroft shrugs. “I do have a voice in the Council, but not a vote. Technically, I can influence any decision being made, but ultimately the actual power to make a choice resides in my father. Letting him know I don’t agree with him will do me no favours and it’ll only alert other nobles that they don’t really want me as their Emperor; not if they expect to keep all their riches and privileges.”

Greg leans closer, placing a hand on Mycroft’s arm, startling him a bit. “You’re doing the best you can,” he assures him earnestly and he does believe it. These months of getting to know the Heir, away from the pressure of the expectations placed on him, have convinced Greg that Mycroft is indeed a good man and he’ll be a good Emperor. Better, wiser, fairer than his father or anyone else before him.

Mycroft’s eyes are fixed on his hand, a strange look on his face that Greg doesn’t know how to interpret, but before he can say anything Mycroft has already pulled him forward, making him awkwardly land on his lap, before kissing him chastely. “You trust me entirely too much, Gregory. I don’t think I deserve it.”

“Nonsense,” Greg argues cheerily, smiling as he leans in for another kiss. “I dare to think I know you well by now; the real you, I mean. You’re a good and honorable man, Mycroft.”

The Heir smiles at him once more, one hand coming to cup his face tenderly, as if he was made of porcelain and could break at the slightest pressure. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” Mycroft murmurs, resting his forehead against Greg’s. “But I’m so thankful you came into my life.”

Greg’s heart swells and despite knowing he should be more careful, he can’t help to feel hope filling his every pore.

Life is going well.


 

He can tell there’s something wrong the minute he walks into the lab due the ominous aura permeating the room. Sherlock is sitting at his usual place, arms crossed over his chest, expression dark, while John and Molly seem to be having a entirely silent conversation based on dark looks and rolled eyes. Anthea, sitting by one of the windows, is staring outside absentmindedly, the only one apparently completely at ease.

Greg hesitates, unsure if he should say or do something. He slides in, trying to look inconspicuous, taking a seat next to Sherlock who spares a quick glance in his direction before going back to observing John’s and Molly’s conversation.

“You’re both being over dramatic,” Anthea announces some undeterminable time later, standing up elegantly, rolling her shoulders back and standing as tall as she is. “We’ll all be perfectly fine.”

“It’s a military excursion, Anthea,” John argues darkly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “The amount of things that could go wrong-”

“Oh, please,” the woman interrupts him, rolling her eyes dramatically. “I know you don’t particularly care for Mycroft’s approach to leadership, but even you have to admit he’s a brilliant military strategist. The only trouble we’ll have will be arriving at the agreed destination in time. Why, with the way the negotiations with the Council are going-”

“Mycroft might be a good military leader, but there’s absolutely no need for this battle!” Molly snaps, turning to face the other woman angrily. “It’ll cost us resources and lives and there’s absolutely no need-”

“It’s tradition,” Anthea interrupts, eyes narrowed. “Tradition dictates every Heir shall lead a military excursion at least once in his life. If anything, Mycroft has managed to organize a very beneficial one, minimizing the bloodshed.”

“But there’ll be bloodshed,” John argues and Anthea comes to stand right in front of him, holding his angry stare.

“We’re soldiers, John. If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have joined the military in the first place.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake Anthea! Molly is a doctor, she has no business at the front-”

“Doctors are always-”

“That’s not the point! The point is-!”

“Enough!” Sherlock exclaims, standing up abruptly and managing to silence the arguing parties right away. “Anthea is right,” he declares, turning to look at John. “Even if my brother had no interest on leading a military excursion, tradition dictates he must. There’s nothing to do but obey.”

John has narrowed his eyes, but doesn’t argue, although he clenches his jaw. Next to him, Molly looks just as frustrated and Anthea nods approvingly, smiling a bit at the Prince, who of course ignores her.

“It’s a bit out of the blue, isn’t it?” Molly murmurs finally, not looking at the others, rubbing her arms absent mindedly. “I don’t think-”

“Let’s get this very clear,” Anthea interrupts sharply, her tone leaving no place for argument and Greg can’t help shivering under the intensity of her gaze. This woman has little to do with the one he has become used to and he’s not quite sure how to reconcile both images inside his head. “What we think or don’t think matters not. We’re duty bound to do as we’ve been ordered.”

Molly’s lips are a very thin line, but she doesn’t argue. John is glaring, but he nods tightly and Anthea nods to herself, apparently satisfied with their acquaintance, for the time being. “Alright then. We leave in two days, so make whatever preparations you need.” And with that she’s gone, slamming the door after her.

Molly is the first to move, collapsing on one of the chairs. Greg half stands up, ready to help, but Sherlock places a hand on his arm, signaling for him to stay where he is. Meanwhile, John has already kneeled in front of the woman and is talking to her in low tones, his voice a soothing rumble that seems to help Molly calm down.

“Damn it,” the doctor murmurs finally, leaning back on her seat, covering her forehead with her arm. “What now?”

John sighs, standing up and moving to Sherlock’s side. “As Anthea said, we’ve got no choice but go and fight,” he declares, glaring at nothing in particular. “I don’t like it anymore than you do, Molly.”

Sherlock scoffs, grabbing John’s wrist and tracing soothing circles over it. “I honestly didn’t think Mycroft would do it. It’s not his style to go looking for trouble where there isn’t. And we’ve been at peace with our southern neighbors for so long…”

“Not exactly,” John murmurs, staring at Sherlock mournfully. “They’ve just stayed down because they know they can’t actually defeat us and we haven’t tried to attack them because it would be just too costly.” He looks away, biting the inside of his mouth. “But of course your brother had to go and find a way to take over their lands that’s not quite as violent.”

“The stakes are high, though,” Sherlock comments thoughtfully. “I see why they’d agree, but us?”

John shrugs. “You know your brother. He always has a card under his sleeve.”

Sherlock hums, stilling his movements on John’s wrist, expression thoughtful and Greg just observes them, feeling wrong footed. He never imagined… there was nothing that suggested…

But it’s obvious this whole plan has been going on for a long time. He understands why Mycroft wouldn’t bring up the subject with him, but he can’t help feeling a bit… betrayed. There’s also the fact that a military excursion implies there’ll be new territories conquered and Greg can’t help feeling a bit horrified at the notion.

Surely Mycroft wouldn’t… but then, Anthea said it was part of the tradition, so maybe…

He clenches his jaw, forcing himself not to let his uncomfortableness show and simply continues sitting where he is, expression guarded, half listening to the conversation going over him.

What exactly does this all mean?


 

“You’ve heard about the invasion, I take it?”

Greg sighs, slowly putting his book away and sitting up straighter. Mycroft’s smile is sad and self depreciating, but he moves to Greg’s side without hesitation, taking a seat next to his feet on the bed. “I just don’t understand,” Greg confesses softly, taking his companion’s hand gingerly, tracing circles over his knuckles. “You said… I thought you said you didn’t approve of the whole taking over other kingdoms.”

Mycroft sighs, intertwining his hand with Greg’s. “I don’t. But the tradition dictates I should at least lead one military expedition before I can be named Emperor. While I technically have time since father is relatively healthy, there’s no use on continuing delaying the inevitable.” He leans to kiss Greg’s forehead tenderly, squeezing his hand once. “Besides… the way the current battle has been arranged, there’ll be little loss of resources and human lives. It’ll be bloody, battles always are, but not as destructive as an actual war could be.”

“What exactly does this battle entails, then?”

His companion sighs once more, pulling Greg close and he goes willingly, snuggling against his partner’s side. “A small battalion from each side will fight til death,” he says solemnly, running a hand down Greg’s arm. “It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the other option.”

Greg shivers, pressing his body closer to Mycroft’s. “The winner takes it all, I suppose?”

Mycroft nods, kissing the top of his head. “It was a golden opportunity for the Southern Kingdom; it’s a great chance to gain more lands with minimal bloodshed.”

“But you don’t think they can actually win.”

“I know they can’t,” Mycroft deadpans. “It’ll be messy though.”

Greg isn’t sure what he can possibly say to that, so he just nods and closes his eyes, feeling slightly sick in his stomach. He doesn’t want to think about the upcoming battle and what it implies and he can’t think about it without feeling guilty somehow.

He thinks of Sherlock’s words, that feel like they had been spoken an age ago: he’s not one of them and regardless of how Mycroft treats him, he’s not like him. This is just another sharp reminder of just how different they are and that life isn’t nowhere near as perfect as Greg would like to believe.

“We should probably get some sleep,” he murmurs softly, kissing Mycroft’s cheek. “If you have to leave in a few days, you’d better be well rested.”

Mycroft is watching him funnily, but he doesn’t comment and simply gets up to get changed for bed. They haven’t had dinner, but somehow Greg doesn’t think either of them is particularly hungry and both are all too happy to ignore the dark clouds looming over them.

Not for the first time Greg wonders just what exactly did he get himself into.


 

Since Greg is still unsure how he feels about the whole ordeal, he studiously avoids thinking about it. He’s good at pretending nothing has him worried; a very useful skill he has improved over the years. It might not be healthy, but he feels like it can’t be avoided.

There’s nothing he can do to change the current circumstances and worrying himself sick will benefit no one.

So he carries on as if nothing had changed, spending his mornings with Sherlock, following him around and making sure he doesn’t end up hurting himself and leaving as soon as either Molly or John show up. He doesn’t want to listen to them discussing the upcoming battle and he escapes back to his rooms, burying his face in a book and forcing himself to pay attention to whatever he’s reading.

And if at night he curls a little closer to Mycroft and clings a bit tighter to him when they have sex…

Well, it really doesn’t matter.


 

The morning Mycroft and the rest are scheduled to leave, it’s raining heavily.

Greg stares at the rain through the window, his mood seemingly in perfect accord with the gloomy weather. He sighs, resting his forehead against the window and trying to stop himself from thinking about what’s going to happen in a few hours.

“It’s too cold for you to be wandering around naked,” Mycroft murmurs against his ear, coming to stand behind him and wrapping his arms around his waist. Greg hums, leaning back, letting his head rest against his partner’s shoulder.

“It’s not a good day for traveling,” he comments and Mycroft sighs before pressing a quick kiss against the side of his neck.

“Come back to bed,” he suggests, grabbing him by the wrist and pulling him towards the bed. “I probably should rest, but since we’re not going to see each other in a while…” he trails off, half smiling and Greg attempts to smile back, climbing into his lover’s lap once he has sat down on the bed.

“I’m going to miss you,” he confesses quietly, kissing him slowly and gently, dragging it as much as he possibly can, not sure if he wants more.

Finally, Mycroft pulls away and rests his forehead against Greg’s, breathing harshly. “I really don’t deserve you,” he murmurs, but Greg isn’t quite sure he was meant to hear it, considering how low his voice is. “I’ll be back before you know it,” he says a bit more loudly and Greg bites his lip, unsure of how to answer that.

He’s quite unsure about a lot of things, unfortunately.


 

He stands on the sides, watching the small battalion getting ready to leave. They stand at the main square, right in front of the Oracle’s temple as tradition dictates. The Emperor and his sons stand at the front, Mycroft looking perfectly calm and collected while Sherlock fights to keep still. Greg can tell he’s looking for John among the soldiers, but there are quite a few and Greg can’t see them all from his position and he suspect neither does the Prince, which has made him anxious no doubt.

It’s still raining, the clouds looming darkly over the group and Greg wonders if that’s some sort of sign. He forces himself to stay still and continues observing the procedures, growing more worried with each passing second despite constantly reassuring himself it’s all going to be fine.

Or as fine as it can be, he supposes.

Finally, the door leading to the Oracle’s temple opens and silence falls among the one minute ago noisy group. The Emperor has turned to receive the Oracle, who is now descending the slippery stairs, her long dress and cape trailing after her, making her look incredibly elegant and collected, despite the harsh climate conditions.

The Emperor bows his head lightly, while Mycroft and Sherlock bow with their whole bodies. The Oracle nods at them before approaching Mycroft, placing her hands to the side of his face, stepping impossibly closer, not a single inch between their bodies.

Ridiculous as it is, Greg can’t help to feel slightly jealous.

The woman steps back shortly after, rising her hands to the sky and pronouncing some words in what Greg believes is the Old Language, although the roar of the pouring rain makes it hard to hear. Whatever she says must be a good thing though, judging by the victorious cry that rises from the congregated soldiers.

Mycroft bows to the Oracle once more, before taking his place at the front of his battalion, his father and brother having already stepped aside. He says something that gets lost in the noise, but Greg summarizes he’s ordering them to start marching, because that’s exactly what the group does, between cheers and yells, all drowned by the continued pouring rain.

Greg watches them go, heart heavy and spares a quick glance in Sherlock’s direction, who looks quite tense. He wonders briefly what would happen if Mycroft wasn’t to come back and promptly dismisses the thought as too dark. He turns back to stare at Mycroft’s retreating back, although he’s barely visible by now and he closes his eyes, praying he’ll come back perfectly safe despite the guilt that the prayer makes him feel.

When he looks at Sherlock once more, he finds the Oracle looking in his direction. She’s too far away, but he somehow can tell she’s looking directly at him, which makes an unpleasant shiver run down his spine despite him not understanding what’s so unnerving about the woman’s gaze.

The Oracle smiles.

Chapter Text

Patience, it is said, is a virtue.

A virtue Greg always thought he possessed, but then he hadn’t dealt with an anxious Sherlock, who is waiting with baited breath for his lover’s return and therefore is in a horrible mood, snapping at everyone and being overly rude to those who dare to step in his way.

So he doesn’t feel exactly guilty when he finds himself actively avoiding the young Prince: for the sake of his own sanity, he needs to put some space between them. It’s in everyone’s best interest really, since he very much doubts murdering the younger man would help his situation one bit.

He sighs, leaning against a wall, partially hidden from anyone walking down the hall, waiting for the “danger” to pass. Sherlock does eventually pass, muttering angrily to himself and Greg does feel a pang of guilt, but quickly shoves the feeling away. It might not be nice, but Sherlock isn’t being nice either, so he supposes they’re even.

He steps out of his hiding place with a small frown on his face, wondering what he can possibly do to entertain himself and avoid Sherlock some more. He doesn’t relish the idea of going back to his chambers, since they feel entirely too big and too empty since Mycroft’s departure and the library or the gardens are places where Sherlock will have no trouble finding him, so…

“Mr. Lestrade,” a voice says from behind him, startling him. He turns around to face an older gentleman, dressed well but not sumptuously . A buttler of some sort, based on the way he holds himself and his impeccable manners.

“Eh… hello,” he greets awkwardly, feeling wrong footed. Servants at the Palace largely ignore him and most nobles don’t give him more than a passing glance, so he’s not quite sure how to interact with people here. His… relationship with the other inhabitants of the Palace isn’t exactly regular, so they’re not a good guide of what’s appropriate and what’s not, so maybe-

“Please follow me,” the man tells him calmly, obviously unperturbed by Greg’s nerves. He turns around and starts walking towards the city, not bothering to check if Greg is following or not.

He has a gut feeling he really shouldn’t, and normally he’d listen to it, but in the end, his curiosity and boredom get the best of him and he hurries after the older gentleman.

Thinking destiny isn’t fixed is a comforting thought.

But it’s completely false.


 

The man has brought him to the Oracle’s temple and Greg stands outside, his stomach knotted with nerves. There’s no official religion in the Kingdom and the invaders have never been deeply religious people (or not that Greg knows, in any case), but the Oracle’s temple has existed since the Capital was founded.

Oracles are born and they die in their temples, passing the title from mother to daughter. Every Oracle has a single child that inherits her duties, although they’re not allowed to marry or even go outside, except for ceremonies. Till Mycroft’s departure nearly a week ago, Greg had never actually seen the Oracle; all he had were rumors to go by.

Oracles supposedly know what will come to pass; they see the past and the future and their word is sacred: if an Oracle is opposed to something, regardless of it being an order from the Emperor himself, her word still takes precedence, which is why her blessing was asked for the military excursion.

One can not simply walk into the Oracle’s temple; one must be invited and while it’s considered a great honour, Greg doesn’t think this applies to his particular situation. He’s an outsider and he doesn’t quite believe the folklore surrounding the Oracle’s powers, so-

The door opens and the buttler gestures for him to step inside. Greg gulps, but obeys, nearly jumping out of his skin when the door closes after him. He looks back at the door for a beat before gathering his courage and walking further into the room.

There’s a sort of altar at the end, the sculpture of some forgotten god there. The Oracle sits on the floor, her legs in the lotus position although her body is pressed forward, so her chest and forehead are touching the floor.

It looks like a pretty uncomfortable position, truth to be told.

Greg continues advancing, nervous despite himself. He keeps telling himself there’s nothing to fear here and yet, at the same time-

“Gregory Lestrade,” the Oracle says, standing up with well practiced fluid moves. She’s a few centimeters taller than him, he thinks, although she’s standing on a platform, so it’s hard to tell for sure. She’s wearing a simple dress today, the colour of a cloudless sky, which makes her look even paler than she is. As she steps closer to him, Greg becomes aware of how familiar she seems; her eyes are a different colour, but the shape and the intensity of her stare is something Greg has become quite familiar with.

The Oracle pushes her long black hair away from her face and smiles at him, opening her arms as if she was going to hug him and Greg takes a step back on pure instinct, worrying a second later he has misstepped somehow.

The woman however, simply smiles. “I’m Eurus,” she introduces herself regally, her smile lingering on her lips. “The East Wind. Last Oracle of the Empire.”

Greg nods, unsure of what that last part might mean but not thinking it matters particularly. “Well, you know who am I already.” He offers her a small smile and she nods, face devoid of emotion but the smile firmly in place.

“I do. I also know you’re much more important than you think,” she tells him solemnly, lowering her arms. “Destiny can’t be changed, but certain events may vary, if the correct conditions present themselves,” she lectures, starting to walk around him, like she’s surveying him. “Since my birth, I’ve known of my brother’s death for the sake of change; for years, I’ve thought that destiny immutable. And then you walked in,” she pauses dramatically, clapping her hands together behind her back. “An unexpected, but welcome prospect.”

Greg blinks, growing more nervous with each passing second. “Your… brother?”

The Oracle hums, resuming her pacing around him. “Of course, Oracles aren’t really the product of human unions, so you could argue I don’t have a real father and therefore no siblings, but depending on what you’d choose to believe, the Emperor is my father.” She shrugs, expression bored. “Due to some… incidents in my childhood, I’ve always considered myself his daughter.”

Greg just stares, processing the information, his heart constricting painfully in his chest. “Which one of your brothers do you mean?” he asks, despite already knowing the answer in his heart.

Eurus stops, a slow smirk spreading across her thin lips. “I only have one brother, Mr. Lestrade,” she argues calmly and Greg frowns, wondering what the hell is that supposed to mean. “That’s not important, though,” she continues after a beat, smiling pleasantly but vacantly once more. “What matters is that you can actually save my brother from his glorious death,” she spat the last words as a curse, her face twisting in disgust and Greg watches her in silence, his heart beating furiously now.

“How?” He has questions, hundreds of them, but that’s no doubt the most pressing one. Everything else he can find out later or never at all, he doesn’t care, but if there’s a way to keep Mycroft safe-

“Now, that’d be cheating,” the Oracles says, her eyes shining with mischief and Greg opens his mouth to protest, but she silences him by raising her hand. “I can not tell you what will come to pass, Gregory Lestrade. I can see the future, but I can not reveal it, not without deadly consequences. I’ve already risked too much by talking to you.” She looks away, before dramatically marching back to her place on the platform, sitting down on the cold floor once more. “I did not believe his destiny could be changed. But now that I’ve seen you… I couldn’t stay silent.”

“But-” Greg protests, already stepping closer, but the woman is resuming her previous position and for some reason he doesn’t quite dare to interrupt her. “I don’t understand,” he confesses softly, standing as close to the platform as he dares, Eurus’ back to him.

“Knowledge of the future is a double edged sword,” Eurus says slowly, bowing her body forward. “I will tell you this, though: you’ll save my brother from his glorious death , Mr. Lestrade or you’ll doom him to an unspeakable fate.”

She doesn’t say another word and Greg doesn’t dare to come any closer. There’s something about the woman and this place that unnerves him greatly and so, sparing one last glance at the Oracle, he exits the temple as quickly as he can.

He has much to think about.


 

Everything in town looks… different somehow.

Greg had considered heading straight back to the Palace after his odd visit to the Oracle’s temple, but his mind was filled with too many questions and he figured a little walking around would help to clear his head. In all truth, however, it has made things more confusing.

He’s worried about the Oracle’s words, of course, but the more he walks around the town where he was born and raised, the more other thoughts start sneaking in. He always knew life for the locals was difficult, meeting the month’s end took titanic efforts, people were constantly tired and overworked and yet-

He doesn’t think he ever realized how bad it really was. He supposes he had become used to it, blind to certain things, but now that he has a point of comparison…

No one in the Palace looks this tired and despondent. Servants have a lot of work, of course, but they don’t look this worn out. There’s a certain… depressive aura surrounding the whole place that Greg can’t reconcile with his memories of his earlier years.

Has it really always been this bad? Or has something happened lately?

He realizes he has no clue. He has been living in a pretty little bubble, where his biggest issues were his troubling feelings. Being faced with what used to be his reality feels a lot like a punch to the gut and he realizes he needs to sit down, since he feels a bit dizzy.

He walks into one of the old pubs where he and his co workers used to hang out on the slow days. He takes a seat in one of the corners, half wishing he had brought a cape or something so he didn’t stick out quite as much. He’s praying no one will recognize him and approach him, since he doesn’t think he’s in the mood to talk to anyone. He’s still processing what he’s currently feeling and he wouldn’t benefit from sharing his thoughts with anyone.

The barmaid approaches him and while she knows him, she doesn’t do anything other than take his order. Greg asks for a beer and attempts to merge with the shadows of the corner, his eyes traveling across the pub, not paying much attention to anything but reassured by the familiar place.

“Well, look at what the cat dragged in,” a voice says next to him and Greg quickly looks up to come face to face with Sally. The woman smiles brightly at him, an honest smile that of course makes it impossible for him to even attempt to turn her away, despite his wish for solitude .

“Hey Sal,” he greets pleasantly while she takes a seat in front of him and asks for a drink. “Fancy meeting you here.”

She shrugs, eyes twinkling with amusement. “I’m not the one who left for greener pastures,” she says and while there’s no actual reproach in her tone, Greg can’t help to feel a stab of guilt. “Life’s treating you well, I see.”

Greg bites his lip, unsure of what to say. It’s true, of course, but it feels wrong somehow to acknowledge it out loud. Sally huffs, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back in her seat. “There’s no shame on getting used to good things, Greg. It’d happen to any of us,” she says, tone perhaps a bit wistful. “It must be quite a shock, coming back here after having gotten used to your new life.”

He chuckles humorlessly. “You have no idea. I just… it feels so different. There’s so much I don’t know if I didn’t use to notice or…” he trails off, unsure. He wasn’t planning on sharing quite as much about his moral dilemma, but he always got along well with Sally. She’s a good listener and her no nonsense attitude is quite reassuring, but he’s not quite sure this is a good idea.

She smiles sadly at him, picking up her drink and examining it absent mindedly. “People adapt the best they can to their circumstances,” she musses darkly. “It’s not that you didn’t notice, it’s that you choose not to. It made it more… bearable, I suppose.”

Greg nods thoughtfully. “I suppose you’re right,” he agrees quietly, avoiding her eyes, uncertain of what the look on her face means.

“It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” she asks, leaning closer, grabbing his wrist so suddenly it startles him badly enough to jump a little. “How different things would be, without the Empire? How much better our circumstances could be without the invaders around?”

Greg squirms a bit on his seat. He guesses everyone thinks about that every now and then, but it’s not the sort of thought one voices out loud, not if you don’t want to get charged with treason. There might be some segregation between the locals and the invaders, but even the slightest rumor that hinted at a rebellion-

“Sal, I don’t think-”

“You’re in a privileged position, Greg,” she murmurs urgently, leaning even closer to him. “You could be of so much use for the Resistance.”

“What… what are you talking about?” he questions, not quite daring to imagine what she’s hinting at. He could not possibly… and surely Sally isn’t suggesting…

“You understood me perfectly,” she argues, her eyes burning into his. “If you’re willing, I could contact you-”

“Sal!” he exclaims, standing up abruptly and drawing quite a lot of attention. He blushes immediately, regretting his outburst and drops himself on his seat once more, trying to ignore the gazes now fixed on them. “You know that’s crazy. You can not possibly be involved in something so… so…”

The woman smiles amusedly, studying him closely. “It’s funny how easy it’s to get used to good things, isn’t it?” she asks, her tone slightly disdainful. “But make no mistake, Greg. To them, you’re still no more than a pretty pet. What do you think will happen once the Heir bores with you?”

It hits a little too close to every one of Greg’s insecurities and so it leaves him incapable of answering for a beat. “It… that’s… it doesn’t matter,” he argues, placing a hand over hers. “What you’re suggesting, Sal, what you’re involved in… it’s plain suicidal. You need-”

“Someone needs to do something,” Sally argues, pulling her hand away, her eyes hardening. “We can not continue like this. Did you know just a few days ago a military group left the Capital to go conquer some new lands? How can we continue letting them get away with that?”

“But Sal, even if… even if you’re right, there’s no way we can… how can you even think-?”

“It’s scary, I know,” she interrupts him, her expression calm, but there’s a fire burning inside her soul that’s easy to see in her eyes. “And dangerous. But it can be done. There’s a man that-” she interrupts herself, biting her lip harshly. “Nevermind. Forget I said anything.”

Greg stares at her, feeling completely torn. “Sal, I… I don’t know what to tell you.”

She smiles self deprecatingly, standing up. “Just think about it, will you? You could really help a great deal,” she tells him, her smile back on place although there’s something in the way she looks at him that Greg doesn’t particularly care for. “Take care, Greg.”

And with that she’s gone, leaving Greg with a thousand thoughts chasing each other inside his head.

Good lord, when had his life turned into this?

Chapter Text

Greg is most definitely not thinking about any conspiracies to overthrow the Empire.

He’s not, because the mere idea is simply ridiculous and suicidal and while Greg would agree he sometimes makes some… questionable decisions, he’s not a complete idiot. He knows there are certain things that are better left well alone.

And yet-

He is in a privileged position. If he wanted to get involved, he’d no doubt be very useful. Deep down, he suspects it’s the right decision: he has always known that the current order isn’t right, but he had never stopped to think about what he could do to change it, if there was anything at all he could do, other than keep on trying to survive.

Now though…

He bites his lip, pondering his feelings on the matter. What is exactly holding him back? Fear? Well, yes, it certainly plays a role, but the more he thinks about it, the more convinced he becomes that that’s not, not even by far, the main reason.

His eyes land on the half made bed and he bites his lip harshly. Maybe he needs to rethink his previous statement about not being an idiot, because he definitely is. He likes Mycroft, there’s no denying that and he knows the Heir is a good man, but there’s no denying either that as much as he might be willing to change things, change might not be quite as easily accomplished, no matter what.

Then again…

His loyalty should lie with his own people, shouldn’t it? He knows first hand how tough things can get and while he can’t claim his life has been exactly horrible, it was far from ideal. It’s definitely not what he’d have chosen if the circumstances had been different: while he was never mistreated or badly hurt, the truth is that it wasn’t easy either and there were certain times… certain clients…

He shivers as he tries to shake some particularly upsetting memories away. Could things be really different if the Empire was overthrown? Does he honestly believe that if the invaders were gone, other people like him, other teens like him, could be spared of making the sort of choices he had to?

Damn it all. He honestly doesn’t know what to do.

He’ll have to make a decision, though. He knows he can not simply pretend that the conversation with Sally never happened and he can not go back to his blessed ignorance of how different things are here and back in town. He can not, in good conscience, carry on like this.

Another thought assaults him then and he bites his lip harshly, his heart skipping a beat. What did Eurus say? Something about Mycroft dying for the sake of change and Greg being able to stop that. Could this be what she meant?

Cold dread fills his every pore at the mere idea. Regardless of what he chooses to do, he could never possibly tell on the rebels. He very much doubts Mycroft would resort to violent measures to stop them, but he can’t tell for sure and the truth is that every previous attempt to overthrow the Empire hasn’t ended well for anyone involved. He might not choose to help but he refuses to be the cause anyone’s death.

And yet-

What if that is what the Oracle meant and his silence costs Mycroft’s life? He recalls Sally’s words and they stung even more: he might be just a convenient partner for the Heir, but he’s stupidly in love with him. He can not make his peace with his death, not when it’s in his hands to stop it.

But his conscience would never let him damn innocent (well, relatively so) people, no matter what. He can not tell Mycroft what he knows but he must find a way to keep him safe, although he has no idea how. He supposes this is what Eurus meant about knowing the future being a double edged sword: if he didn’t know he could stop Mycroft’s death, he wouldn’t even be contemplating…

But he’s not contemplating that, is he? He couldn’t possibly. It’s simply not right.

But what is he supposed to do then?


 

By the time news of the victory over the neighboring Kingdom come, Greg is no closer to making a decision, but he has definitely driven himself half mad with doubt and guilt.

The news isn't surprising, not really, but it startles him how bad it makes him feel. There was nothing he could have done to change Mycroft’s mind on the subject, he knows, but he somehow feels responsible for the death and the struggles that will now befall on the newly conquered territory. He curls alone in bed and tries very hard not to think about what has happened and what it means, but it’s of little use. He knows that there was nothing he could have done, but he can’t help wondering if there is something he can do to stop it from happening again and if there is, is he willing to pay the price?

He realizes with some horror that he’s not. It’s the stupidest thing ever, not to mention selfish and cruel, but he has come to realize that he can not think clearly and make what should be the right choices when Mycroft’s well being is on the line. It’s pathetic, really, but-

He’s such a mess. His feelings are all over the place and the guilt eats him alive night and day, but he can not bring himself to make the decision that, deep in his heart, he knows is the right one.

Or is it? He knows after all that Mycroft is a good man and he means to change things, but can he? Will he really, once he’s the Emperor? Who is to say that all other former Heirs haven’t had the same good intentions? Who can say for sure he won’t change his mind?

Why does Greg trust him so blindly?

You trust me entirely too much, Gregory. I don’t think I deserve it.

He bites his lip harshly. He knows he’s being a fool, but he doesn’t want to think about it. He wants to believe things can change and will change without any blood being spilled. He needs to believe so.

But the doubt lingers and his soul can’t rest. A decision must be made.

Whatever that might mean.


 

It’s another rainy day when the small battalion comes back.

Like most of the Palace habitants, Greg is at the main square waiting for them to arrive, a lump in his throat, worried despite himself. He’s fairly certain that if something had happened to Mycroft they’d already know, but he can’t shake off the feeling of something being wrong and he probably won’t be able to until he finally sees him again.

The Emperor and Sherlock stand by the Oracle’s temple stairs, both richly dressed although their clothes are drenched in rainwater. Sherlock looks anxious, shifting his weight from one foot to another and Greg experiences a quick flash of guilt: he hasn’t seen the Prince in the last week, no longer avoiding him due frustration, but because he couldn’t make sense of his tangled emotions and the last thing he wanted was for Sherlock to figure out something was wrong, therefore worrying him further. The poor thing was already deadly worried about his lover’s fate, Greg couldn’t possibly trouble him with his own issues.

Not to mention of course the nature of his issues.

He sighs, figuring there’s nothing to be done now. In any case, he doubts he’d have made an enjoyable companion , considering just how confused he was (is) and his mood was sour enough without having to deal with Sherlock’s own bad mood, so…

Yes, it was probably for the best.

After what feels like a lifetime, but he doubts was more than an hour, the small group becomes visible in the distance. He can tell other people have noticed too due the sudden increase of tension in the air. A lot of these people had some family member going on the military excursion and so they’re all anxious to see if they’re fine. Greg shifts his weight from one foot to another, his own anxiety making him itch to do something and yet he doesn’t think he’s as nervous as everyone else. After all, he’s more or less certain Mycroft is fine while everybody else…

Well. There’s no way of telling for sure if their family members survived, is there ?

He can’t imagine this whole ordeal is very pleasant on them and yet nobody seems to think there’s anything particularly wrong with military excursions. But then, they don’t seem to see anything wrong with teenagers having to kill one another in order to “graduate”, so he supposes there’s that.

God, there’s something wrong with these people.

He shivers suddenly, the unpleasant sensation of being observed making him nervous. He looks around and his eyes soon find the Oracle’s, who is now standing just outside her temple’s door, looking down at the crowd with an almost bored expression, although her eyes seem to fix on Greg for a couple of seconds before she looks away once more. Greg chews his lip, their little encounter replaying in his mind and once more he wonders what the hell is he doing.

The answer, once again, is that he has no clue.


 

As it turns out, there were minimal loses, although there are several injured soldiers. Greg thought the welcome back ceremony had been going pretty well actually, until Sherlock had practically jumped from his place at the platform and rushed in between the group of incoming soldiers, startling everyone. At first Greg hadn’t understood what was going on although he had been aware of a few scandalized murmurs all around him and then he had finally spot John among the soldiers and his blood had run cold.

The man looked on the verge of collapsing; he was deathly pale and there was dried blood covering all of his tunic, although of course it was impossible to tell if it was his or someone else’s. Judging by the way both Molly and Anthea were supporting him though, Greg had assumed he had been badly injured.

Sherlock had practically tackled the poor man to the ground, which would no doubt aggravate his injuries, but John hadn’t seem to mind one bit. They had clung to one another as if life depended on it, blind and deaf to everyone around them. Greg had caught sight of Mycroft’s displeased expression, but the Emperor had looked quite enraged. The ceremony had therefore been cut short, the Oracle looking thoroughly amused by something and then the Emperor had practically dragged Mycroft into the Palace, after sending one last dark look in the direction of his younger son, who reminded oblivious to the world at large, although it was evident John was trying to get him to let go, if only so they could move their affectionate reunion elsewhere .

The crowd had dispersed shortly after and Greg had found himself on his way to the healing quarters. There are a lot of people going around and it seems like every doctor in the nearby towns have been called in, but Greg knows his way around the wing well enough to avoid most of the commotion and soon enough he’s standing outside Molly’s private office, where he assumes John has been taken now.

“-utterly foolish,” Anthea is saying when he opens the door and everyone in the room turns to look at him right away, making him feel self conscious. After realizing it’s just him though, Anthea goes back to glaring at John and Sherlock, the first is awkwardly sitting on the bed while Sherlock remains plastered to his side, glaring back at Anthea.

“Well, excuse me for giving a damn about my boyfriend,” Sherlock says sulkily, wrapping his arms around John’s middle. “And it’s Mycroft’s fault, anyway. He promised he’d bring him back in one piece.”

“To be fair, he’s still in one piece,” Anthea points out, earning herself another heated glare from the Prince. “It was a very close call, of course, but such is the nature of battles,” she adds, narrowing her eyes, daring Sherlock to say something. The younger man huffs, but doesn’t protest, instead choosing to bury his face in John’s neck.

Greg stands there awkwardly, unsure of what to think of the whole exchange. He knows Mycroft didn’t want the Emperor to know about John’s and Sherlock’s relationship, but he supposes there’s nothing to be done about it now. He doesn’t think it’s that bad, but then he’s no expert in politics, so…

“I’m glad you’re all back,” he finds himself saying, without really meaning to. Not that he doesn’t mean it, of course, but there are certain things that should be left unsaid, he thinks.

Particularly considering…

They all look oddly moved, though and so he relaxes minisculely. Molly pulls him into a hug and soon enough Anthea joins them. It’s awkward, truth to be told, but it’s nice and Greg suddenly realizes that as worried as he had been about Mycroft, he’s not sure how he’d have reacted if something had happened to these people. Different as they are, he does care for them.

Which of course makes his situation all the more complicated.


 

When he finally makes it back to his quarters, Mycroft is already there, looking quite enraged. Greg closes the door behind him, careful not to make much noise and approaches the older man hesitantly, nervous but happy to be with him again.

“As I predicted, Father is more than a bit enraged about Sherlock’s… relationship, ” he says, clenching and unclenching his fists. “All things considered though, I suppose the circumstances of the discovery were… favorable. Father is too pleased about the victory and the acquiring of new territories to worry overly much.”

Greg nods slowly, uncertain if he should say something, gently placing a hand on Mycroft’s shoulder. The other man turns to him them, wrapping his arms around his waist right away and Greg can’t help the pleasant shiver that runs down his spine.

The kiss is slow and languid and Greg marvels at how happy it makes him feel. It hasn’t been that long since they saw each other and yet it feels as if it’s been a lifetime since they were together. He presses his body closer to his companion’s and Mycroft hums in appreciation, his hands gripping his thighs and pulling him upwards, encouraging him to wrap his legs around his hips.

They stumble towards the bed, kissing each other desperately. As usual, Mycroft takes control and while it hadn’t bothered Greg before, it suddenly makes him think of Sally’s words. It’s certainly the worst time to be thinking about such things, but then he supposes it’s only natural; funny how one single conversation can make you rethink your whole life.

He lies down, making sure to keep his hands up, letting Mycroft do as he pleases. His companion doesn’t seem to notice the change in the air, but Greg is well aware of it. He’s suddenly very aware of his role here: he’s a prostitute, not a lover and he really should have never forgotten that, because now-

He notices Mycroft has pulled away and he frowns, sitting up. The other man is standing by the bed, watching him funnily, a curious expression on his face that Greg isn’t sure how to interpret. He attempts to smile flirtatiously, but fails miserably: his heart is just not in it.

“Something has happened,” Mycroft announces, moving away, crossing his arms over his chest. “Something has changed.”

Greg doesn’t move and doesn’t even contemplate to answer. There’s nothing he can say, not really and he’s afraid that if he does open his mouth to speak he’ll end up revealing much more than he intends to say.

Mycroft narrows his eyes, approaching him once more, softly placing his hands on his shoulders. “I want to know what’s troubling you.”

Oh, where to start? Should he tell him about the Oracle’s words and her prediction about Mycroft’s death? Or perhaps he should tell him about the conspiracy he has accidentally found out about and how torn he feels about what he should do? Or maybe he should confess he’s a fool who has forgotten his place and has fallen madly in love with a man who could never return his reward?

Somehow he doesn’t think that’d be a good idea.

“It’s nothing,” he murmurs, looking away and Mycroft’s eyes narrow further, tightening his grip on his shoulders.

“I’ll know what you’re thinking, Gregory,” he says, tone low and demanding. “I order you speak your mind; I won’t tolerate any foolish secrecy.”

Greg almost laughs at that, because the wording is yet another sharp reminder of his situation. He’s in no position to negotiate, he’s expected to do as he’s ordered. He has no freedom and he’s been a fool for believing…

But nevermind that. Mycroft might demand anything he wants from him, but his personal business is exactly that, personal, and so he’ll keep his silence if he so pleases.

“It’s none of your concern,” he replies evenly, holding the other’s stare. “It’s a personal matter.”

It seems it was the wrong thing to say, judging by the way Mycroft’s grip on his shoulders tightens further, his fingers digging into the flesh hard enough to bruise, but Greg forces himself to endure it stoically, reminding himself his body is pretty much the other man’s property, but his mind is his alone.

“Very well,” Mycroft says finally, letting go of him and it takes every bit of Greg’s self control not to rub his now tender skin. They stare at each other, a silent battle of wills and then the Heir looks away once more, clenching his jaw. “Get out,” he orders and the words sting much more than Greg is willing to admit, but he forces himself to obey.

This is definitely not how he thought their reunion would go.

But then, he was operating under the illusion their arrangement meant something to both of them. It’s better like this, he supposes, since now he at least knows exactly where he’s standing.

It still hurts like hell, though.

Chapter Text

There’s someone poking at his ribs very gently, but insistently, so despite his tiredness, Greg has no choice but to give up on sleep and open his eyes slowly and very reluctantly.

Molly smiles sheepishly at him, coming to sit on the edge of the couch. Her eyes are soft and full of something that looks an awful lot like pity, making Greg’s stomach turn unpleasantly. He knows she means well, but it’s not pleasant to have people pitying you, particularly not people you actually care about.

“Sherlock told me I’d find you here,” she says, attempting to smile. “He’s worried about you, although he’d never admit it aloud and considering he’s allergic to talking about feelings… well, he figured I was a better option.”

Greg huffs, his lips curving upwards despite himself. “I’m fine, really,” he argues, sitting up and rolling his shoulders back. Sherlock, still glued to John’s side in the healing quarters, had offered Greg the use of his bed, but Greg had prefered to sleep on the couch.  However, he has become accustomed to sleeping in beds and regardless of how big and comfortable the couches in the royal quarters are, they leave him stiff.

Molly sighs, pushing her hair away from her face. “You’re really not,” she comments softly, biting her lip. “I’m not sure what I can tell you, though. It’s not… I don’t think there’s anything I can tell you that you haven’t thought about already.”

Greg chuckles humorlessly. “I’m a damn fool,” he says self deprecatingly. “I should have known better.”

Molly’s eyes soften further and he looks away, disgusted with himself. He hadn’t known what to do with himself last night, so he had gone looking for Sherlock. The Prince had offered him a look that clearly said I warned you but hadn’t spoken other than to offer him to spend the night at his chambers, while he decided what he wanted to do. Greg, who had been feeling like crap already, had felt even worse at the pity on the other man’s eyes, but he had taken him up his offer, telling himself things would be better in the morning.

“We’re not…” Molly interrupts herself, biting her lip gently as she considers her next words. “None of us is particularly fond of Mycroft,” she continues finally, expression wary, as if worried Greg will say something. “Except Anthea, of course. Although she’s more loyal, than anything. She believes in him and would do anything for him,” she hesitates once more chewing on her lip. “For a very long time, everyone believed he’d make her his wife and he still might, I suppose, although…” she trails off, not quite looking at Greg but probably well aware of the pained expression on his face. He has always known his love was doomed to be unreciprocated and yet, hope dies last, doesn’t it? “But that’s not the point. My point was; the reason we’re not very fond of him is because he’s a son of the Empire through and through. He’s not a bad man, but he’s… he has a very specific set of beliefs and self imposed rules. I... Everyone with eyes can see he cares for you, in his very Mycroftian way, but… he’s what he is.”

This isn’t the first time Greg has heard something like that about Mycroft and he feels the urge to defend him, but he also knows she might be onto something. “I… I don’t know what to tell you, Greg,” she continues with a small sad smile. “If you decide to stay, you need to know you can’t change him. He might care for you, but he won’t be changing his ways and he’ll be the Emperor one day so... Don’t hurt yourself by believing it’ll be different some day.”

Greg bites his lip harshly, using the physical pain to distract himself from the fact that his heart is shattering into a million pieces. Molly clenches her jaw and nods to herself, satisfied with having said her part and she stands up, heading for the door. She hesitates there once more, looking over her shoulder at Greg and then she shakes her head, finally stepping out of the room, carefully closing the door after herself and leaving Greg feeling just as confused as before.

There are far too many things troubling him, but the most pressing one is the depth of his feelings. Last night’s conversation got way out of hand, but he supposes he can understand Mycroft’s reaction to a point. And if he wasn’t so stupidly in love, it wouldn’t have mattered at all. But the problem is that he cares entirely too much and Mycroft…

Well.

And Molly is right. Mycroft’s feelings for him are unlikely to change and Greg’s own feelings are only likely to grow if they carry on like this, so he really should run away while he still can. It’s bound to hurt, of course, but the more time he waits…

He bites his thumb as he considers his options. A part of him does want to run away and never look back, but another part of him, a very big part of him, can’t stop thinking about conspiracies to overthrow the Empire and the Oracle’s cryptic prediction. He can’t help feeling that if he runs now, something very bad will happen.

In the end, there’s really no choice to be made.

Damn his foolish heart.


 

When he finally makes his way back to his quarters, he’s thinking he’ll get some time to gather his thoughts before he has to face Mycroft, considering the Heir spends most of the day away from his chambers. It’s just his luck that exactly today Mycroft decided to deviate from his usual routine and therefore is still at the room when he arrives.

They stare at each other for a while, the air thick with tension between them and Greg fidgets awkwardly, unsure of whether or not to walk in. The other man finally looks away and Greg’s heart sinks a little.

There’s a little something he failed to consider, apparently: he might want to stay, but does Mycroft want him to?

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, finally walking into the room, feeling like he’s intruding. He awkwardly starts picking up his stuff, wondering if he should start packing and what he’d do if-

“I should apologize for last night,” Mycroft says suddenly, startling him badly enough to make him drop the clothes he’s holding. He turns around sharply, so he’s facing the other man and he gulps after seeing Mycroft’s intent expression. “I didn’t… I could have reacted better.”

Greg’s heart skips a beat, feeling his hopes raising right away and he curses his stupid romantic heart once more. “It’s no matter,” he murmurs softly, looking away once more and picking up the clothes he has just dropped. “You’re within your rights-”

“Don’t,” Mycroft interrupts, standing up and Greg freezes on the spot. “I don’t… I’ve told you before I don’t… you’re not…” He takes a deep breath and Greg holds his, his heart beating erratically inside his chest. “While it’s true that you’ve been hired for a certain job, I don’t expect you to… what we do, is out of your free will, correct? It’s not… you’re not… I have no right to your body or your mind, Gregory. I’d never… I don’t want you to think I expect you to obey me; it’s not… I’d like to think our relationship isn’t like that.”

Greg’s treacherous heart is soaring with happiness and he feels light headed. Is it true, then? Does their little arrangement mean something to Mycroft too? Does this mean his feelings aren’t entirely one-sided?

Well, that’s perhaps presuming too much, but Mycroft’s words certainly suggest- “It’s fine,” he repeats, the lump on his throat making it hard to speak, slightly overwhelmed by all the feelings those few words have provoked. It’s pure foolishness to continue entertaining all this nonsense, he knows, and yet-

Mycroft observes him in silence for a couple of beats, before stepping closer to him and wrapping his arms around his waist. The embrace is awkward since Greg’s body is filled with tension and he’s still holding a bunch of stuff to his chest, but soon enough he relaxes, dropping his things, his whole body melting against the familiar warmth of his lover.

God, he’s such a fool. He knows this won’t end well, he knows there’s nothing for him down this road but heartbreak and yet how can he let go of this? Even if it’s just temporary, even if it’s bound to end…

How does the saying goes? Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all?

He’ll come to realize the saying is mistaken.

But by then it’ll be too late.


 

“Your level of stupidity is off the charts,” Sherlock informs him very seriously and Greg offers him an embarrassed smile. He had considered staying away for a few days, well aware the Prince would know he and Mycroft had reconciled the minute he laid eyes on him, but after last night, he had thought it’d only be polite to pay the younger man a visit and keep him some company since John is mostly asleep nowadays. “Have you learned nothing at all?”

Greg shrugs non committedly, but his lips curve upwards involuntarily as he recalls what happened just a few hours earlier. This second reunion definitely went better and while they might have been a bit overeager and he’s likely to be sore for a few days, he’s happy.

Sherlock watches him in silence, eyes narrowed and then he shakes his head, looking away. “You have no idea what you’re getting into, Lestrade,” the Prince says darkly, gaze lost in the horizon. Greg opens his mouth to protest, but gets silenced by the dark glare Sherlock suddenly sends in his direction. “You think you do, but you have no idea what’s coming.” He stands up, pacing around the small waiting room, clenching and unclenching his hands. “Or perhaps you do,” he muses out loud, abruptly stopping on his tracks. “What did Eurus tell you?”

Greg’s blood runs cold at the reminder of the Oracle’s prediction. And then- “What do you know?” he asks, heart beating madly inside his chest. If Sherlock knows something… perhaps…

“What do you know?” Sherlock counters, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m the one asking the questions here.”

Greg snorts, crossing his arms over his own chest. “We’ve reached an impasse, then. You can’t order me to do anything.”

Sherlock glares, narrowing his eyes further at him. “He’s really going to get himself killed, isn’t he?” Greg’s jaw drops and Sherlock shakes his head, running his fingers through his hair, taking Greg’s silence as confirmation. “Damn it. I knew it. The bloody fool!” He’s already reaching for the door and so Greg hurries to place himself between the Prince and door, effectively keeping him trapped inside the room. “Move, Lestrade.”

“No. Not before you tell me what’s going on.” Sherlock clenches his jaw, looking quite determined to push Greg out of the way if necessary, but of course he won’t budge: if there’s the slightest chance Sherlock can somehow help him figure out how to save Mycroft-

Just then the door opens, startling them both. Molly appears at the threshold, looking quite surprised at the position she finds them in , but Sherlock takes advantage of Greg’s momentary distraction and hurries to escape. It takes Greg a beat to react, but by the time he exits the room too, the Prince is nowhere in sight.

What the hell has just happened?


 

He looks for Sherlock in all his usual hangouts without any luck, although to be honest he didn’t expect to find him. The Prince is quite good at hiding and if he doesn’t want to be found, he can disappear quite nicely.

He had considered waiting at the healing rooms: in all likeness, Sherlock will come back to check on John at some point, but he can’t quite sit still and Molly kept staring at him funnily, obviously curious about what happened before her entrance and Greg really didn’t want to tell her what had happened, so in the end he left for his own rooms, trying to figure out what Sherlock can be possibly hiding.

When he enters the room all his thoughts come to an abrupt halt though, since he finds the Prince there, standing in the middle of the room, jaw clenched tight, expression thunderous, his whole body very tense. Mycroft sits at one of the couches, looking just as tense as his brother and perhaps a tad more infurited  than the younger man.

“It’s plain nonsense,” Sherlock states, his eyes flickering briefly in Greg’s direction. “I’ve always told you so and now we have proof, so-”

“There’s no proof,” Mycroft argues, leaning back on his seat. “Even if you believe Eurus can actually see the future, you don’t know what she saw.” He turns to Gregory, a light frown on his face. “Would you tell us what she said exactly?”

Greg opens his mouth to speak and realizes he can’t. He frowns and tries again, with the same result, growing more confused by the second since he realizes he actually physically can’t. His voice gets trapped inside his throat every time he tries to speak and so he finally gives up, frustrated.

Mycroft sighs. “Right. It involves my death somehow though, right?”

Greg nods, unsure if he can vocalize as much and not wanting to try, since now his head is aching pretty badly. Mycroft stares at him for a beat and then shakes his head, turning to Sherlock once more. “This changes nothing, though,” he says, enunciating very clearly and silencing the Prince with a look when he looks ready to argue. “My decision has been made. And it’s for the greatest good, so…”

Sherlock glares, but doesn’t protest, instead turning around to exit the room, stomping his feet like a frustrated toddler. In his eyes though, Greg can easily read his concern and he bites his lip, wishing he could tell him he can apparently save Mycroft somehow.

“What’s going on?” he asks, turning his attention back to Mycroft, stepping closer to him. “What does Sherlock know?”

The Heir seems to be lost in his own thoughts, gaze unfocused and Greg sighs, coming to crouch right in front of him. Mycroft blinks, as if he had forgotten about his presence and Greg tries to keep his frustration at bay. He attempts to smile but all he manages is a grimace and Mycroft offers him a small tired smile.

“You don’t need to worry,” Mycroft tells him, his hand cupping his face very gently, his thumb tracing his cheek lovingly. “I don’t want you involved in this. And before you protest: I don’t want you involved because it’s something very… dangerous. I don’t want you to get caught in the crossfire.”

That sounds… troubling. “Mycroft, I-”

“Gregory, please,” the other man pleads, resting his forehead against his. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“But I-”

“Please,” Mycroft repeats. “No one other than my brother knows what I’m planning and I intend to keep it that way. It’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that knowing will put you in immeasurable danger.”

Greg’s heart clenches painfully inside his chest and he shakes his head, unwilling to let the matter go. Eurus’ words resonate inside his head and if only he could tell Mycroft what he knows-

“Please,” Mycroft says for the third time, tone actually pleading and Greg’s heart constricts further. “Trust me on this.”

Greg closes his eyes and nods. He doesn’t like it, not one bit and he’s not about to simply forget all about this conversation, but he’ll have to figure out some other way to keep Mycroft safe, since the stubborn man refuses to let him help.

It’s time for more drastic measures, it seems.

Chapter Text

Greg gulps nervously as he stares at the imposing structure of the Oracle’s temple. He has always thought the place looks all sorts of ominous, but the feeling is increased tenfold by the fact that tonight there’s no moon and of course the temple lacks any sort of proper illumination, at least on the outside. For the life of him he can’t quite remember how the place looked on the inside and so he hopes there’ll be light enough to guide him so he won’t end up stumbling and breaking something (something like his neck, for example).

With one last look at his surroundings, making sure there’s no one in sight, he hurries upstairs and sneaks into the temple as stealthily as he can.

The place is bathed in soft light coming from a few candles distributed all around the walls. It takes him a bit to become accustomed to the low light, but he eventually notices the figure sitting/kneeling on the floor in front of the altar.

Greg frowns, wondering if the poor woman spends her days in that position. It can’t be good for her back or any part of her really and his sudden wish to do something to help surprises him a little. Then again, she’s related to the man he desperately loves, so he supposes…

“You do know that coming into the Oracle’s temple without being summoned is an offense punishable by death, right?” the woman asks, sitting up straight and looking over her shoulder at him. She doesn’t look bothered, just a bit curious and perhaps a tad amused.

“Yes, well… I was hoping you wouldn’t call your security on me.”

Eurus arches an eyebrow in a gesture so familiar Greg can’t help to feel a wave of fondness for her. She reminds him mostly of Sherlock, with her dark hair and her endlessly-amused-by-you-simple-mortals aura, but she has certain expressions that are mostly Mycroft’s.

“There’s no security in the Temple,” she says, slowly standing up. Her legs shake a little, signaling she has been indeed in that uncomfortable position for a while but she rises a hand, effectively halting him when he attempts to approach her to help. “It is assumed no one is stupid enough to try to sneak in.” She smiles, a small but somewhat cold thing that makes Greg shiver. “Apart from seeing the future, Oracles do have other interesting gifts.”

Greg frowns, still unsure whether or not he believes all this seeing-the-future thing, but then he remembers his complete inability to speak of what she told him the other day and any doubt vanishes almost immediately.

“I needed to speak to you,” he says, holding his chin high, trying to look unbothered by her previous words and the Oracle smirks lazily, nodding.

“Speak, then,” she orders, waving a hand, that vaguely amused expression back on her face.

“Mycroft and Sherlock asked about what you told me. I couldn’t tell them a word.” Eurus nods, like a very tired but very patient parent indulging an overly curious kid. “Why?”

“They’re not meant to know,” she explains calmly, linking her hands in front of her, expression now blank, but eyes shining with mirth. “They might have come to their own conclusions and knowing them, they probably stumbled into a very logical and plausible theory, but you can not confirm or deny it. I told you before I couldn’t share with you my visions, although I could tell you a small bit of information. That’s because that particular… prophecy, let’s say, concerns you.”

“It concerns Mycroft too, though,” Greg argues. “He’s the one who’ll die, after all.”

“He can not stop his own death. You can. The prophecy then concerns you and you alone,” Eurus argues back calmly. “In fact, regardless of what you end up doing, my brother will willingly walk towards his death. What happens after that is entirely on you, though.”

A shiver runs down Greg’s spine and he shakes his head, attempting to shake the unnerving feeling away. “How? I know you said you can’t tell me that, but there must be something you can tell me. Mycroft and Sherlock seem to know something-”

“They do,” Eurus agrees, closing her eyes briefly, a pained expression crossing her face. “Or they think they do.” She opens her eyes once more and they seem to bore into Greg’s, reading into his very soul and he gulps nervously. “The rebellion will triumph. Nothing could possibly change that,” she announces and Greg’s breath catches as he stares at the Oracle with open wide eyes. “My brother is a fool and a self sacrificing one for that matter. If you wish to save him, you must find out what exactly the rebels are planning.”

“But I can’t… I couldn’t possibly…”

“I didn’t say you have to tell anyone what they’re planning,” Eurus interrupts sharply, suddenly standing entirely too close and grabbing him by the shoulders. “You just need to figure it out, Greg. If you want my brother to live, you must save him from himself.”

“I… that’s not… that makes no sense! How-?”

Eurus opens her mouth to speak, her grip on his shoulders tightening to the point of hurting and he realizes she can’t speak, just like he couldn’t a few days ago, when he tried to tell Mycroft and Sherlock about their conversation. “I can not tell you more,” she says finally, letting go of him and pulling away a little. “Save him, Greg. You’re the only hope.”

Greg nods stiffly. God knows he’ll try.

He couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t.


 

His meeting with Eurus didn’t turn out as helpful as he had hoped, but he did learn a few new things, although he’s not quite sure what to do with this new information. It’s not like he can simply go looking for Sally and deceive her just so he can find out exactly what the rebels are planning. His conscience would never let him do such thing.

But-

What is he supposed to do then?

He realizes with certain dread that he has no choice but to meet with the rebels. He can’t in good conscience promise he’ll actually help, but he can tell Sally he wants to meet with them to know what exactly they’d expect of him and then he’ll have to figure out something.

He scrunches his nose in displeasure, frustrated he has to resort to such cheap tricks, but he also knows that it’s the best he can do given the circumstances. He wonders if Mycroft and Sherlock know something about the rebellion; he has the impression Eurus implied they do, but in any case he knows he simply lacks the ability to fool either of them into talking. Both brothers are entirely too perceptive to not notice his real intentions, no matter what.

He gulps nervously, thinking he wasn’t made for deceit.

And yet-


 

Sally seems thrilled at his unexpected appearance at the house and Greg’s stomach turns unpleasantly, and he promptly reminds himself he has no other choice. Although it’s late at night and the woman would normally be working, there seems to have been some sort of lull at the house and so she can easily sneak out and drag him to a shady pub on the outskirts of town.

Greg keeps looking around him, fearful someone will see him. Of course Mycroft has noticed his absence by now, he doesn’t delude himself into thinking maybe the Heir won’t notice his little escapade, but if he was to learn where he was or with whom…

Well. He would expect an explanation Greg certainly can’t give.

The pub is small and crowded, the people meeting there looking quite… disreputable. Greg is suddenly very glad of the heavy cloak covering him although he worries it’s a little too fancy. He eyes Sally’s much simpler but work-appropriate clothes and he silently prays they’ll make it out of there without any trouble.

Before he can open his mouth to say something (he’s not quite sure what, but something along the lines of let’s get out of here ) a massive man appears in front of them, blocking their path and Greg takes a deep breath, willing himself not to panic. He can fight if needed and he certainly has fought off men thrice his size before, but-

“Sal,” the man greets, the bright smile on his face making him less intimidating and the woman returns the greeting cheerfully, offering the man a quick hug and a peck on the check.

“We’re here to see Mr. Smith,” she whispers conspiratorially, although she doesn’t exactly keep her voice low. Greg frowns, growing more uncertain with each passing second and the huge man observes him for a beat, narrowing his eyes, making Greg reconsider the wiseness of his actions.

The man finally nods, signaling for a door that was practically hidden behind his bulk. Sally smiles at him once more before sliding through the door, Greg following her closely, not wanting to be left behind.

The door leads to a small and austere room. There’s a man sitting by the desk, his back to them but something about him just makes Greg feel on edge right away. He’s an older gentleman, just as pale as most of the invaders, missing parts of his hair. When he hears the door closing he turns around, surveying them quickly before a slow smile spreads across his lips. “Ah, Sal. I knew I could count on you.”

There’s something about the words or the tone or the man’s general presence that makes Greg wary. He’s always been good at reading people and so he trusts his instincts when they tell him this man is nothing but trouble.

He stays silent while Sally and the man talk, watching him closely. He seems vaguely familiar, but he can’t figure out why and it’s not until the man introduces himself that Greg finally puts two and two together.

Culverton Smith. One of the Palace’s architects, disgraced after some sort of scandal involving the murder of some noble had come to light. He had managed to escape justice by some miracle, or perhaps not a miracle at all: the locals had heavily sympathized with him, since he had (allegedly) murdered the noble because he was tired of the way he abused him and his co-workers. The story however had never completely made sense to Greg, although he could have never explained why exactly.

Greg nods in greeting, a fake pleasant smile firmly in place, unsure of what to think. If this man is the rebels’ leader he suddenly feels less guilty about deceiving them, although a quick look in Sally’s direction makes the guilt come back. In his opinion, Culverton Smith is a dangerous snake, but he seems to have won over good honest people, including people Greg would consider friends.

Damn, this keeps getting trickier and trickier.

“-not something overly dangerous,” Smith is saying and Greg forces himself to pay attention. He’s supposed to be figuring out what the rebels are planning; he has no time to waste thinking about whether or not Smith’s involvement makes any sense. “Just keep tabs on the Heir and share your findings with us; nothing strenuous at all. You see, with my knowledge of the Palace and its secret passages, there’s really not much else we need but the Heir has always been… secretive, let’s say. So even with the labour of our current inside men… he’s a little hard to keep track of. But based on what we know, I’d say you’d have no trouble with that, would you Mr. Lestrade?” He smirks knowingly and Greg presses his lips together as he meditates his answer.

“Inside men, you said?”

Smith’s smirk widens. “Now, Mr. Lestrade, surely you understand there are certain things I can not trust you with, at least not just yet.” He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, smirk firmly in place. “But their reports on you and the Heir’s… relationship seem most promising.”

Greg gulps nervously, fidgeting a bit with the hem of his cloak. He doesn’t like Smith’s mocking tone and he likes the idea of rebels so close to Mycroft to keep track of their relationship even less . Of course their reports might be based on the Palace’s general gossip, but he somehow gets the impression that’s not the case.

“What are you exactly hoping to accomplish, Mr. Smith? Why are you doing this?”

The man smiles, leaning back on his seat once more, linking his fingers beneath his chin. “Why, just to restore the rightful order, Mr. Lestrade,” he says calmly, sounding actually honest but Greg just knows he’s not. “Isn’t that what we all want?”

From the corner of his eye he can see Sally nodding and he bites the inside of his mouth to keep himself from saying something he might regret. He realizes he’s going to need to play along, at least for awhile, at least until Smith trusts him enough to share his exact plan with him. He still doesn’t think he could tell on the rebels, because it’s likely Smith won’t be among those that would get caught and punished and Greg can’t reconcile himself with the idea of being the cause of someone’s death.

“Very well,” he agrees finally, bowing his head a little, earning himself another smirk from Smith which makes his stomach clench.

Why does he get the feeling he’s going to regret this?


 

“You know, all those times I said you were an idiot? Well, clearly I didn’t know how big of an idiot you were,” Sherlock announces, appearing out of thin air, nearly giving Greg a heart attack. He thought he had managed to sneak back into the Palace unnoticed, but that’s clearly not the case.

Then again, he’s fairly certain the younger Prince shouldn’t be roaming the empty halls at this time of the night. “Sherlock-”

He can’t finish the phrase, since he’s suddenly pushed into a small alcove and pinned to the wall, Sherlock’s grip oddly strong for someone so skinny. “Listen to me, Lestrade. I don’t know what dear Eurus has told you, but you must understand she doesn’t have your best interest at heart. You’re playing with fire and you’re going to get burnt. Stop this nonsense while you still can.”

“Too late for that,” Greg replies, a small ironic smile on his lips. “I can’t, Sherlock. I just can’t.”

The Prince narrows his eyes at him and then pursues his lips in annoyance, letting go of his wrists. “You actually care for him, don’t you?” he asks, although Greg thinks it’s more of a rhetorical question. “Well, this certainly complicates things.”

“What do you mean?” Greg demands, grabbing Sherlock by the arm when he attempts to flee. “Sherlock, please. I just want to help. I just… I can’t simply let this go. If there’s something I can do-”

“But that’s exactly the thing, Lestrade,” the Prince interrupts, tone actually sorrowful. “All you’ll do is make it more difficult.” He takes advantage of Greg’s confusion at his words to escape, leaving the older man alone in the dark alcove.

What is that supposed to mean?


 

Mycroft is indeed awake when he slips back into their bedroom. The room is dark and Mycroft has his eyes closed, but Greg can tell he’s wide awake, has been for a while, awaiting his return. Gulping nervously he climbs onto the bed, lying on his side, his back facing Mycroft and a few seconds later the older man has curled behind him, wrapping one arm around his waist and pulling him close.

Greg closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, willing himself to calm down.

His partner presses a kiss against the nape of his neck, his grip around his waist tightening, pulling their bodies closer. “I don’t like secrecy,” the Heir murmurs softly, his warm breath making Greg shiver. “But I do understand the need for it from time to time. I just ask you to be careful and keep yourself safe.” He kisses him again and Greg can’t help a small whimper. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” he confesses, his tone so low Greg isn’t quite sure if he just imagined it.

Which is why he doesn’t say out loud what he’s thinking.

He doesn’t know what he’ll do without him either.

Chapter Text

One would think that being an active member of a rebellion would be more interesting.

Of course, Greg is a reluctant member of the rebellion and so he supposes that accounts for his constant nerves and the drowning guilt, but it doesn’t explain how ridiculously boring the whole thing can be.

Maybe boring is the wrong word. It’s just… there’s nothing happening really.  There’s no change to his everyday life and yet he constantly feels like there’s something that he should be doing. He gets an occasional note from Sally, asking to meet, but they’re infrequent and so he hasn’t had the chance to get much insight into the rebels’ plans.

He knows he mustn't draw any special attention upon himself, not from the rebels and even less from the people at the Palace but sometimes…

The lack of activity is driving him insane. He keeps on worrying about something happening and him not being prepared for it and at the same time he’s thankful everything is quiet, although the dread continues to grow inside him. He’s getting restless and that can’t possibly be good, but-

What can he possibly do?

He’s been feeding the rebels as little important information as he can; just enough to showcase his use and keep anyone from suspecting anything. It has become increasingly clear to him that there’s a wide network of spies working undercover at the Palace and that makes him horribly nervous. They might not know a lot about Mycroft’s actual movements, but they do know an awful lot about the going ons inside the Palace, things that Greg is fairly certain no servant (or no regular servant at least) would know and so it makes him think there’s someone among the nobility feeding the rebels information too.

He always thought Mycroft was a bit paranoid, with all the hiding and different personas he had going on, but he’s beginning to see why he’d do it. The Heir has probably known all along about the conspiracy and Greg’s only question is why he hasn’t done anything to stop it just yet.

And then he remembers what Mycroft said about the need for change and Eurus’ words about Mycroft being a self sacrificing fool and his heart clenches painfully inside his chest. Surely… surely Mycroft wouldn’t…

In fact, regardless of what you end up doing, my brother will willingly walk towards his death. What happens after that is entirely on you, though.

Well. That could be problematic.


 

Smith’s smirk doesn’t get any less unnerving, no matter how many times Greg sees it. The man makes him deeply uncomfortable and he has to constantly remind himself why he’s doing this, so he doesn’t end up turning tail and running as fast as he can. He doesn’t understand why the other rebels seem to trust him so blindly, although he’d admit the man is a good actor: he certainly knows what to say and how to say it to gain people’s sympathy.

And no, it’s not that Greg is biased. It’s just that he has a special gift for seeing through people. Like he knew right away Mycroft was a good man, he knows Smith is not to be trusted.

At least he likes to believe so.

The idea that Smith might be actually honest in his wish to change things for the general population’s benefit seems ludicrous to him, but from time to time he wonders if he’s not seeing what he wants to see. Later he tells himself that his doubts are just Smith’s smooth lies getting to him and yet-

There’s something wrong with the current order, there’s no denying that. Change is very much needed. The way to achieve that though… well, that’s where it gets tricky, doesn’t it?

“Truly remarkable, Mr. Lestrade,” Smith says, as Greg finishes with his last report and he attempts to smile, although he fears it’s more a grimace than a smile. “You truly are an invaluable asset.”

“You’re too kind, my Lord,” Greg argues softly, bowing his head a little, feeling vaguely nauseous as the words slip past his lips and so he presses his lips tightly together.

“Oh, please,” Smith protests, waving a hand. “We’re all equals here,” he adds, an indulgent smile on his lips that makes Greg’s skin crawl. “We’re very far from the Palace.”

Greg nods, unsure if he can speak without ending up saying more than he intends and smiles pleasantly, this time with a little more success. From the corner of his eye, he can see Sally’s proud smile and his stomach turns unpleasantly once more.

It’d be so much easier if he didn’t know some of these people so well. He has come to learn that several guys from the brothel have been recruited for the resistance too and he supposes it makes an awful lot of sense, considering just how often they end up dealing with nobles that might be a little drunk more often than not, but of course that has just made his own situation more difficult.

“I should probably head back to the Palace,” he announces, figuring he needs to go before the guilt overwhelms him. He also knows he needs to spend more time around the rebels if he’s hoping to learn a bit more about their plans, but sometimes-

He had his doubts about bringing you in, but I was quite convinced you were one of us,” Smith tells him, smiling like a proud parents whose child has proven to be a prodigy. “I knew you weren’t foolish enough to have actually gotten emotionally involved with our dear cold hearted Heir.”

Greg’s heart skips a beat. “He?” he asks, aiming to sound casual and he thinks he succeeds although he has to admit he has a hard time figuring out whether Smith believes in him or not.

Smith’s smirk is back, a dark thing that promises all sort of trouble. “Yes, of course. Our secret… weapon . The one with the power to actually bring peace to our land.”

Greg’s heart is beating very erratically and so loud he’s afraid everyone in the room can hear it. Finally, a clue about the Resistance’s plan! “I don’t understand,” he confesses, his heart in his throat.

“No,” Smith agrees, watching him closely. “I suppose you don’t.” He dismisses him with a wave of his hand and for a man who believes everyone are equals, he certainly behaves like your average Lord.

But Greg isn’t thinking about any of that, too focused trying to figure out the meaning of his words. Who is this mysterious he and what role does he play in this whole drama?

He wishes things were a bit clearer.

And you know what they say. Be careful what you wish for.


 

The Temple is as dark as ever, although the moonlight coming through the window helps a bit. Not that Greg really needs light to guide himself inside the Temple anymore, considering how frequent his visits to Eurus have become, although he suspects the woman is starting to get annoyed and so he supposes maybe he should stop but-

He just finds it reassuring having someone to speak to, someone who knows what he’s doing and why and who won’t attempt to talk him out of it.

Tonight though, he’s not the only visitor.

Eurus is sitting at her usual place, but in a much more comfortable position, a few pillows having been laid on the cold ground. Sherlock sits in front of her, on top of the pillows too, his back ramrod straight, his gaze fixed on some point in front of him as he chews viciously on his lip.

Not an scene he was expecting, really.

Eurus looks up at him, expression middly exasperated and stands up in one fluid movement, disappearing shortly after through a hidden door. Greg frowns, but figures there’s no use in following her (and it’s probably all sorts of improper) so he sits on the ground, next to Sherlock and waits.

“I really wish you wouldn’t get more involved,” Sherlock says finally, still staring at the far wall. “It won’t end well for you. But if you really want to know what I know… I’m ready to talk.”

Greg stares at the younger man for a few moments, his pain evident despite his blank expression. Instinctively, Greg knows that if he does hear what Sherlock has to say, things will never be the same . And while he does want to know, the prospect of change is always scary.

“I’m listening,” he says finally and Sherlock seems to collapse into himself, so Greg slides closer to him. The Prince covers his face with one hand, hidding his haunted expression, and Greg’s heart aches for him, but he doesn’t take back his words.

“Tradition dictates the older child of every Emperor is the rightful Heir to the throne,” Sherlock begins a few seconds later, his emotions apparently back under control and he lowers his hand, although he still doesn’t look at Greg. “Younger siblings can challenge that right though, after the current Emperor passes away. If they do, who inherits the title is resolved by a fight to the death,” he pauses as Greg muses over his words. Surely Sherlock wouldn’t- “I never could,” the Prince says, finally meeting his eyes. “Even if I wanted to, I’ve got no right to the Throne.” He bites his lip, drawing blood, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “Mycroft and I are just half brothers, you see. We share the same mother, but not the same father and therefore I’ve got no right to the Throne.”

Greg frowns as he considers Sherlock’s words. He remembers Eurus saying she just had one brother and now he understands what she meant. Monogamy is not exactly the rule among the Empire’s subjects, but it never ocurred to him that the Emperor would agree to rise his wife’s other child.

Still, that doesn’t explain much. “Then Mycroft is the only Heir,” he states hesitantly and Sherlock sighs, running his fingers through his hair.

“Most couples don’t have more than a child or two at most. Emperors are not the exception to the rule and in fact it’s always been considered ideal that they just have a single child, so their right to the Throne can not be called into question,” Sherlock explains, pulling at a loose thread from his tunic. “The current Emperor though… he had a brother. A brother who… he was not particularly ambitious, but he made the fatal mistake of falling in love with a local woman; a prostitute in fact. He wished to marry her, but such thing would never be allowed, since Princes do require the Emperor’s blessing to marry and so he… when the previous Emperor died, he figured his only chance to be with the one he loved was to challenge his brother.”

Greg nods along, although he really doesn’t see the point of the whole story. He didn’t know any of this, of course, but he doesn’t see-

“He didn’t win. The woman he loved had had a child and after his death, she was sent away and the baby had to stay behind; you know we believe Emperors are descendants of the gods, so… the baby’s life had to be spared and since he was the Prince’s son, it was thought better to have him raised among the nobles. Because it’s just been a generation, this child still has a right to the Throne and could challenge Mycroft, even if he’s nothing but a bastard.” Sherlock stops his narration and takes a deep breath, as if bracing himself for a particularly difficult revelation. “The woman was given enough money to live comfortably and start a business of her own, so she opened a pleasure house in the city.”

Greg’s eyes open wide as the pieces start falling into place. “Madam Hudson.”

Sherlock doesn’t reply, but he presses his lips together. “If this child, who is now a man, was to win against my brother, the rebels would see him as a rightful leader since he’s, technically, one of them and they’ve been lead to believe he’ll bring the changes they seek. And since we’re nothing but traditional, he’d face no opposition among the nobility. It’d be a very peaceful transition, although in my opinion it’s ridiculously naive to think the changes the rebels are hoping for will come to pass as easily.” Sherlock pauses once more, chewing on his lip again and drawing yet more blood. “I know John means well. But he lacks the insight and the… let’s call it skill set to be a proper Emperor. My belief is that Smith has been feeding him tales of how it’d be for the best, in the hopes of being able to manipulate him into doing his bidding once he’s the Emperor.”

“Assuming he can kill Mycroft,” Greg feels obliged to point out, although his mind is still reeling with the new revelations.

Sherlock arches an eyebrow. “Mycroft is, as you’ve probably noticed already, a self sacrificing fool. He believes in doing anything for the greater good.

“But if Smith-”

“Mycroft trusts John isn’t quite as manipulable as Smith seems to believe. And of course, he’s counting on me to influence his decisions.” He smiles self deprecatingly and Greg just stares dumbly at him.

“You can’t be serious. How can you… knowing this, how can you… you and John…?”

“Oh, you think our relationship developed naturally? Don’t be naive, Lestrade.”

“But… but… you love him, don’t you? You’re not just using him-”

Sherlock laughs bitterly, a horrible and broken sound that sends unpleasant shivers down Greg’s spine. “It’s not quite that easy. I’m not… I believe he approached me initially as a means to get closer to my brother, keeping a closer eye on his movements. I told you before that we’ve been friends since I was twelve and that’s true but the… shift in our relationship happened much later and by then I already knew…” He bites his lip again, looking away. “I do love him and- well, I just hope the feeling is mutual.”

Greg’s heart aches at Sherlock’s confession, since it strikes a little too close to home. He understands what it’s like, not being sure if you’re just useful or truly loved. He has always liked the younger man, but now he has a sense of kinship with him that makes this whole conversation even more painful.

“So you’re not going to try to stop this,” he says after a beat and Sherlock sighs, shaking his head defeatedly. “I really don’t understand how you people think.”

“I know”, Sherlock says, a small sad smile on his lips. “Which makes you even more foolish. How can you love a man you don’t understand?”

But Greg does. Or at least he thinks he does, but maybe Sherlock is right. “Thank you for telling me this,” he says, going over in his mind his few meetings with Smith and all he has learned about the rebels. He understands some things now, but not everything and he certainly has no clue how is he supposed to stop Mycroft from going to his death willingly.

Sherlock nods and he stands up swiftly. His lips are still bleeding a little and his eyes might be a little red and puffy, but Greg doesn’t comment and simply lets him go, trying not to think too much about what the Prince is going through. He feels his pain keenly, but he truly can’t understand why he’s doing what he is doing . It’s clear he loves his brother and until now, Greg would have never questioned his deep love for John, but now-

He supposes that’s not really any of his business, though.

“The sharp sting of love,” Eurus says, appearing back and startling Greg. “Lucky I, that will never have to feel it,” she says, smiling, but Greg thinks she looks more wistful than anything else. “Poor Sherlock. His heart is too tender to endure this strain and yet… he manages.”

“It’s crazy,” Greg deadpans, startling a half hysterical laugh from the Oracle.

“We’re all crazy here,” she says with an enigmatic smile, before shrugging casually. “They’re all doing what they think best. It’s… it has a certain logic.”

“It’s not right.”

Eurus hums. “There are many things that aren’t. They mean well and… make no mistake, Greg , t he rebels are ready to fight and they will have no qualms about getting involved in a war that will cost them dearly. John winning the fight against Mycroft is the outcome that would cause the fewer deaths.”

“You mean to say that if… if somehow John was to lose the fight, the rebellion would-”

“I told you the rebellion will triumph,” Eurus states calmly and then frowns. “They’ve been carefully manipulated, so they’ll follow their… leader’s input. Smith is very good at what he does and he does have some extra help.” She pauses, considering her next words. “In all truth, it’d be best for everyone if John does become the Emperor. Mycroft is right in believing he’ll be able to shake off Smith’s influence although it won’t be…” she trails off, making a face. “I can say no more,” she explains and Greg sighs, nodding dejectedly.

“If that’s true though- I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t attempt to save Mycroft.” The mere idea is painful and Greg knows deep down that he could never do such a thing, no matter what it might mean, but-

Eurus’ frown deepens as she stares at him intently. “I’m afraid I haven’t been completely honest with you,” she says softly, looking down and staring at her feet. “I… I want you to save my brother. Ever since I saw you could change his destiny, I-” she interrupts herself, biting her lip harshly. “But regardless of what you do… you should know this, Greg: you’re doomed.”

The words hang ominously over them in the entirely too quiet room and then Greg lets out a humorless chuckle.

Doesn’t he know it.

Chapter Text

Retrospectively , attempting to confront John on what he had learned was probably a bad idea.

It’s a little too late for regrets though and so Greg figures the best he can do is attempt to get the other man to calm down so they can actually talk. Breathing would be nice, too.

Unfortunately, the fact that his windpipe is being crushed is making the whole talking thing a bit difficult, but Greg is nothing if not resourceful and he has spent a good part of his life shaking people off him, so he eventually manages to push John off, even if he has to resort to the dirty trick of kicking him between the legs.

John doubles over, making a pained noise and Greg tries to catch his breath. His lungs ache fiercely and so does his throat, so he rubs the tender zone while keeping a close eye on his… opponent .

Against Greg’s prediction, John doesn’t immediately try to attack him once again after he has recovered. He just stands there, staring at him curiously, as if he were an overly complicated puzzle he doesn’t know how to begin to solve and Greg offers him a small reluctant smile.

“How did you find out?” John asks finally, stance completely relaxed and so Greg figures he’s safe for now.

“Does it matter?” he asks with a small shrug. “John, you can’t seriously-”

“No,” John interrupts him sharply, taking a step closer and Greg steps back on instinct. “You can not seriously be taking his side. Not after… Greg, you must know things out there aren’t… they’re not right.”

Greg sighs, running his fingers through his hair. “That much is true,” he agrees quietly. “But there must be another way to fix it. At least… I mean, Mycroft isn’t… he doesn’t agree with the current order either, so-”

John’s bitter laugh interrupts him mid sentence and he takes another cautionary step back. He’s not quite sure he could outrun the younger man, but he thinks he’s going to need to try if-

“It’s really not that simple,” John argues with a shake of his head. “You know nothing at all. Mycroft is… there’s a reason why all the nobles like him: he’s the perfect little Heir. Even if he wanted to change things, he’d face much more backslash than I ever possibly could. Everyone expects something from him; do you honestly believe they’ll let him do the exact opposite of what it’s expected?”

“He’d be the Emperor,” Greg protests, quietly, not quite sure of what John’s point is.

The soldier smirks. “You seem to think Emperors are untouchable. If what you say is true and Mycroft attempted to change things, it could get very ugly very quickly.”

“And they wouldn’t, if you were the one who became the Emperor?”

John sighs, looking at Greg as if he’s being deliberately dense. “Mycroft has built several alliances over the years. He owes favours, all sort of them, and people would expect pay back. Change under his rule, even if possible, would be extremely slow,” he pauses, looking away. “You never bothered to really look, but if you had, you’d know the situation is… precarious in the streets. The people have been clambering for change for a long while and they’re not willing to wait any longer.”

“But-”

“Do you think I’m working with Smith out of my own free will?” John sneers, scrunching his nose in displeasure. “Of course not. But the man is useful and if there’s something he knows how to do it is to get people on his side. It’s not… ideal and I’m well aware it’ll take me a while to be able to completely shake him off once I’ve succeeded in my endeavour, but in the meantime… I’m afraid I need his support with the masses.”

Greg frowns as he turns the new information over inside his head. It certainly explains Smith’s presence and it’s reassuring to know John doesn’t actually trust the dangerous snake, but it’s little consolation in the great scheme of things. “What about Sherlock?” he asks, unsure if he really wants to know the answer.

“What about him?” John demands warily, expression turning dark and once more approaching Greg threateningly. He gulps, but forces himself to hold his ground although he’s ready to start running if the situation demands it.

“You think he’s simply going to… shrug it off, pretend it doesn’t matter? You know him well enough to not have bought into his and Mycroft’s act of strained brothers. Heck, when I first came into the Palace...”

John is biting onto his lip viciously, not holding Greg’s stare. “I can’t afford to get distracted by that.”

Greg’s heart clenches painfully inside his chest. “So it’s true? You don’t actually love him, you’re just using him?”

John moves with a speed Greg didn’t even know it was possible for a human being to move with and the pressure on his windpipe is back and his back has impacted painfully against the ground, making him promptly regret his words. He really should consider not provoking the other man, although-

“Don’t you dare,” John hisses angrily and Greg’s world is starting to turn dangerously dark, but he lacks the energy to attempt to fight the other man off once more. “That’s not it,” he says, letting go of him and Greg takes a deep breath, not daring to sit up just yet and just observing the other man warily. “Damn it,” John murmurs, mostly to himself. “I knew it was a bad idea to get you involved.”

He recalls Smith’s words after their last meeting and Greg makes a face. If John has been the source telling Smith about his and Mycroft’s relationship, a lot of things are starting to make much more sense.

“I did agree with Smith it was far fetched to believe you had actually developed feelings for him, but considering what I’ve seen… I mean, I firmly believe he does have feelings for you and Mycroft is not one to pursue something hopeless so it wasn’t really a stretch of the imagination…”

Under any other circumstances, Greg would be over the moon at John’s words, but right now he has much more pressing concerns. “There must be another way,” he insists, pleading now and John turns to look at him once more, his eyes full of pity as he shakes his head once.

“I’m afraid I don’t really see any other way,” he tells him sadly and then sighs, looking away briefly before looking at him again. “Are you going to be difficult about this? Because I really wouldn’t want to hurt you, but I can’t risk you telling Mycroft.”

Greg would laugh, because Mycroft already knows and seems perfectly fine with it, but he manages to control himself. Still- “If I promise I won’t say a word, are you going to believe me?”

John frowns, considering it, watching him closely. Greg supposes he could attempt to run away, but he doubts he’d manage to outrun the other man now and in any case, better to stay on his good side.

“I don’t think-”

“Oh, stop it,” Sherlock says, appearing out of thin air apparently. John turns to him, startled, a look of horror on his face. “He’s totally going to confront him over his suicidal tendencies,” he states calmly, eyes fixed on John and one hand resting on a dagger hanging from his belt. John’s eyes slide to the weapon and he tenses, but he doesn’t reach for his own sword. “But that should be none of your concern.”

“What do you mean?” John asks warily, taking a step back and Greg looks between the two lovers, wondering what he’ll do if they actually attack each other.

Sherlock chuckles unamusedly, shaking his head. “John, you know me better than anyone in this world. Do you think it doesn’t hold true the other way around?”

John pales a little and reluctantly reaches for his sword. Sherlock tenses almost imperceptibly and Greg looks around, trying to find a way to stop this from spiraling out of control.

But then John drops his hand back to his side and takes a deep breath, looking at Sherlock once more. “I do suppose it was foolish of me to assume you wouldn’t find out. Or that you wouldn’t care enough if you did.”

“Foolish indeed,” Sherlock agrees quietly, letting go of his own weapon and stepping closer to his lover. They stand in silence for a long while, just staring at each other, the air tense between them. “Oh, John,” Sherlock murmurs as he collapses against the other man and John holds him close immediately, whispering something against his ear, that makes Sherlock let out a half hysterical giggle.

Greg stares at them for a beat before deciding to give them some privacy. He smiles a little, hopeful despite himself, thinking Sherlock might talk John out of his plan or give him some options, although back in the Temple he had seemed quite resigned to…

Well, better not to think about that.

And Sherlock is right. He thinks it’s best if he confronts Mycroft about his suicidal intentions, even if he’s fairly certain he knows how that conversation is going to go.

But he should at least try, right?


 

To say Mycroft is annoyed at his brother’s interference would be the understatement of the century. Greg watches him in silence, nervous due how angry the other man seems, but he forces himself not to show it.

“He had no right,” Mycroft hisses angrily, pacing around the room like a caged tiger, tension evident in his every move. “Absolutely no right. What did he think it’d accomplish, anyway?” he murmurs darkly to himself. “John is one of the worst liars ever, he won’t be able to fool Smith...”

Greg realizes Mycroft has completely forgotten about his presence and he sighs, running his fingers through his hair, feeling desperate and frustrated.

“I assume your brother was hoping I’d be able to talk you out of this mad plan,” he argues and glares when Mycroft turns to look at him once more, looking startled. “You can’t seriously think you’ll-”

“I have much more self control than my brother,” Mycroft tells him quietly. “I’m determined to lose that battle; I won’t fall prey of my insistics-”

“That’s not what I’m worried about and you know it!” Greg snaps angrily, shouting now. “I couldn’t care less about this whole succession nonsense! I just don’t want you to die!”

Mycroft’s lips curve upwards briefly, a fond look on his face. “It’ll be fine, Gregory. I’ve already made the proper arrangements to ensure you’ll be-”

“Oh, bloody hell Mycroft!” Greg cries out, stepping closer to him. “Do you think I give a damn about that? I don’t- I can’t- I don’t want a life without you!” he exclaims, grabbing the other man by the shoulders.

Mycroft’s eyes are very wide and there’s something in his gaze Greg isn’t quite sure how to interpret. But then his expression closes off and he grabs him by the wrists, making him let go of his shoulders. “You’re forgetting your place, Gregory.”

The words hurt more than a stab to the heart would, or at least he imagines so and he immediately shakes the other man’s hands off, taking a step back. His heart is aching inside his chest and for a moment he’s not quite sure what to do. But then, from the corner of his eye he catches sight of Mycroft’s expression and he realizes the other is attempting to push him away in a crazy attempt to… what? make it easier for him to let the matter go?

“You’re not pushing me away,” he states darkly, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “You’re not.”

Mycroft looks shocked for a beat and then his expression quickly morphs to one of pain. “Gregory, please don’t make this harder than it has to be. It’s difficult enough as it is, if you… please just forget about it.”

Greg chuckles humorlessly, once more approaching the other man. “You know I can’t do that. I can’t- No, I won’t-”

“It needs to be done,” Mycroft interrupts him, a sad wistful look on his face. “I can’t… I won’t change my mind. I can’t.”

Greg takes a deep breath, stepping even closer, cupping Mycroft’s cheek gently. “You can’t possibly ask me to simply let you do this. There must be another way.”

“There isn’t,” Mycroft argues, stepping back and looking away. “And I must.”

“Mycroft, even if- I mean, Sherlock is already talking to John and I’m sure you could all figure out something that didn’t… It’s not like you’re running out of time.”

It’s Mycroft’s turn to chuckle humorlessly. “You truly know nothing about politics, do you?” he asks him, not unkindly, a small sad smile on his lips. “Emperors don’t make it pass their 50’s. It’s a matter of efficiency.” He smiles a bit more as Greg’s jaw hits the floor, horrified by the implication. These people are… well, he doesn’t know what they are, but sane is definitely not it. “So you know… even if you could talk me out of this-”

“No, no, no!” Greg interrupts sharply. “You can’t- that’s not-” He takes a deep breath, willing himself to calm down. “Let’s not… let’s focus on the now,” he says, figuring that can be another battle for another day. “Mycroft, I- Please don’t ask this of me.”

“Gregory, I- you must understand that it’s for the greater good. What’s one life in exchange for hundreds, maybe even thousands? We must stop a war and this is… this is the best way I can think of.” He takes his hands in his and places a soft kiss on top of them. Greg’s eyes are a little misty, but he forces himself to remain as stoic as possible. “Believe me I’d rather not… before I met you, I didn’t…” he trails off, not meeting Greg’s eyes. “In any case, I could never be with you as I want to. I don’t… I know we’ve talked about this before, but our situation isn’t exactly conducive for what I actually want from you and I can’t… I’ve allowed myself some indulgences because… I’m sorry. I should have-”

“Don’t,” Greg protests quietly, stepping closer. “I… I just want you alive.”

Mycroft kisses him then and Greg realizes that’s the end of the conversation. He wants to push him away, demand they continue their talk, demand they look for other solutions but deep down he knows it’s useless. It’s not right and it’s probably all kinds of unhealthy, but he figures he might as well attempt to forget about the issue for a while and concentrate on enjoying the moments they do have together.

God, has he actually resigned himself to this outcome? Eurus said he was the one who could save Mycroft, but he’s out of answers right now. Maybe later… maybe…

Focus on the now, he tells himself.

He still has some time to come up with a plan. Not much, but some. Something will come up.

Or so he hopes.

Chapter Text

“There must be something…” Greg mutters to himself, picking up yet another book and skimming through it. “What am I missing? What am I not seeing?” he continues murmuring to himself, growing more frustrated with each passing second. He has spent an immeasurable amount of time at the library, trying to come up with some form of solution that would allow Mycroft to step back without anyone having to die, but so far he has had no luck.

He’s beginning to believe he won’t have any.

He’s running out of time, although he avoids thinking about that. Panicking won’t help at all and worrying about the little time he has left will do nothing but frustrate him further. All he can do is keep on searching and perhaps keep on praying that a solution will come up right in time.

He sighs, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He has spent all his free time at the library and he sometimes feels like he has read every book on politics here, but it seems that that won’t be enough. He wishes he could ask for somebody’s help, but Mycroft is dead set on continuing with his plan and Sherlock just shook his head sadly when he asked for his help. Of all the people that know about the conspiracy, the only one left is John and Greg knows for a fact that he’ll be no help.

He wonders briefly if John has told Smith something, but he quickly dismisses the thought. He’s fairly certain the soldier and Sherlock have come to some sort of agreement regarding that and he has the impression he really doesn’t want to know the details.

He sighs once more, leaning back on his seat and covering his eyes with his arm, his body sagging in defeat. It’s been a long day and he wants to go back to the bedroom and forget all about this mess in Mycroft’s arms for a little while, but…

“Damn it,” he murmurs, chewing on his lip thoughtfully. If things continue like this, his time with Mycroft is quickly running out and he supposes he should enjoy it while he still can, but the mere idea of losing the other man…

No. He can’t resign himself to that. No matter what the others say, he knows there must be another way.

He just needs to keep on looking.


 

“If there was some way to… I don’t know, get Mycroft to abdicate-”

He gets interrupted by Eurus humorless laugh, followed by Sherlock’s snort. They’re both staring at Greg with matching pitying expressions that Greg couldn’t care less for.

“Abdicate?” Eurus asks. “Oh, sure, because there would be nothing shameful in that.” She huffs, shaking her head. “You still don’t understand a thing, do you?”

Greg growls, growing more annoyed with each passing second. He truly doesn’t understand the way these people think, but he believes it’s all a bunch of nonsense. Of what use is someone’s pride if that someone happens to be dead?

“He’s like a dog with a bone, don’t you think?”

Greg ignores Eurus’ statement as he continues pacing around the small room, still talking to himself. The Oracle smiles, gazing at him with a fond look, but there’s some sadness in her eyes. Greg thinks she has resigned herself to the fact he won’t manage to save Mycroft and he can’t help but feel annoyed at her lack of faith.

She was the one who put him up to all this saving business, after all.

“There must be something we’re missing!” he snaps angrily, stopping his desperate pacing. “I can’t… I simply won’t…”

Sherlock isn’t looking at him, his expression a bit lost, eyes fixed on some point on the wall. He looks… haunted, Greg would say and he wonders just what exactly he and John have been discussing lately.

Eurus shrugs, dropping herself on her usual place on the floor. “Short from knocking Mycroft out and dragging him out of the city to a hidden location, I don’t think there’s anything left to do,” she says, tilting her head to the side, thoughtfully. “I might have a potion that could work nicely for that effect. A bit unnerving, truth to be told, since it mimics death very closely, but it’ll knock him out for a while so…”

Greg stares at her, open mouthed, not quite believing she hadn’t said something to that effect before. What’s more, how is that he hadn’t come up with that idea sooner?

“It’d never work,” Sherlock says, sighing dramatically. “Don’t you know my brother at all? He’d never forgive you for it. His pride simply couldn’t take it.”

Greg snorts, annoyed. “I don’t care much for his pride, to be honest,” he murmurs, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “It’s really not a bad idea. And I think I could live with your brother being angry at me if it means he’s alive to do so.”

Sherlock stares at him funnily for a beat, before shaking his head. Greg rubs his temples tiredly, thinking this is an useless exercise. “So, this potion?” he asks, turning to Eurus once more. The woman is staring at the ceiling, a vacant expression on her face and apparently not paying attention anymore. “Eurus?”

The woman looks at him, the intensity of her stare making Greg’s skin crawl and then she blinks, the look of utter concentration gone in a second. Greg frowns, confused and his confusion just grows at the smile that spreads across the woman’s lips.

“Oh,” she murmurs. “ Oh, ” she repeats and she stands up in one fluid movement, disappearing through one of the secrets passages. Greg frowns some more and when he turns to Sherlock for answers, the Prince looks as confused as he is .

They wait for the Oracle’s return in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. Greg hadn’t expected to find Sherlock here tonight and he’s more than a little puzzled by what his presence means. He had thought the Prince resigned to what was going to happen, but perhaps…

Eurus comes back finally, cradling something close to her chest. She smiles brightly at him, presenting him with what she’s carrying, which turns out to be a small vial filled with a transparent substance that Greg very much doubts is water.

“Is that…?” he asks, picking up the vial gingerly, almost afraid to break it. Sherlock has stepped closer too, watching the potion curiously, the scientist in him no doubt dying to know what exactly it contains.

Eurus grins and yet her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Greg frowns, turning his full attention back to her but then Sherlock snags the vial from him and he hurries to attempt to recover it.

“Sherlock!”

The Prince ignores him, holding the vial way out of his reach, taking advantage of his height. Greg huffs, crossing his arms in front of his chest and continuing to watch him frustratedly. He hopes Sherlock will be careful and he does trust him to hand it back but…

He supposes he’s just a little on edge.

“Interesting,” the Prince says, and Greg arches an eyebrow questioningly but the younger man doesn’t elaborate. Eurus is looking at him with a curious expression on her face, but she quickly turns back to Greg, grinning once more.

“Well, good luck with that,” she says cheerfully, something in her tone hinting she’s not quite as pleased as she’s attempting to look and Greg can’t help the feeling of dread. There’s something… something not quite right.

But then Sherlock hands the item back and his eyes land on the small vial once more and he forces his dark thoughts away.

He has a plan now.


 

It’s not a very good plan, truth to be told.

There are several variables Greg needs to take into consideration if he wants it to work and there are certain things he can’t control. He realizes he should have interrogated Eurus on the potion’s use a bit more thoroughly, because he has no idea about what the adequate dose would be, if he can mix it with something, if it has any taste at all. He considers taking a small sip himself and promptly dismisses the idea; it would be very hard to explain if things went wrong and he can’t risk Mycroft suspecting anything.

The Emperor’s birthday is just two days away from now and he doubts he’ll be able to sneak out of the Palace once more, not without attracting inconvenient attention. And in any case, he doubts he can actually wait for the Emperor’s death before he can put his plan into motion. He has yet to figure out how the challenge works; for all the reading he’s been doing, there’s actually a lot of things left unwritten. Tradition and all its rules, it seems, passes down from parents to children and no one has seen the need to write it down.

He taps his fingers against the table, contemplating the still untouched food as he waits for Mycroft’s return. He’s unsure if he wants to put his plan into motion tonight or if he should wait until tomorrow- he has no idea how long the potion’s effects last and in any case, he has yet to secure transportation somewhere far enough for Mycroft not to attempt to come back. Sherlock has promised to do something about that, but so far he has received no news from the Prince.

God, why is everything so complicated?

It really would be much easier if he could get Mycroft to play along with his plan. But Sherlock and Eurus are right of course: he’s too proud to agree to this deception, even if he’s willing to participate in another. Surely allowing John to kill him is a deception of sorts too? And yet…

He sighs, playing with the small vial distractedly. He understands very little of how this whole business works, but what matters to him is the end result. He can’t let Mycroft get himself killed, although he realizes what he’s doing will get the other man angry at him. But needs must and whatnot, so…

He takes care of hiding the vial once again and sits down to wait for the other man, still haunted by his dark thoughts. He’s nervous, there’s no denying that and he’s terrified of what will happen if his plan fails.

Sadly, all he can do is hope for the best.


 

He wakes up with a start, unsure of what woke him up. He blinks sleepily, looking around the room but not really seeing and so getting startled by a thunder. Ah, so that’s what woke him up…

Greg closes his eyes, determined to go back to sleep, attempting to snuggle closer to his bed partner, just to find he’s alone in the entirely too large bed, although there are several pillows on Mycroft’s usual place. He huffs, slightly annoyed, cursing all this silly hiding and sneaking around they’re both doing.

Just another day, he tells himself, rubbing his temples tiredly, still sitting on the bed. He considers the merits of standing up and finding something to entertain himself with, but he ultimately dismisses the idea. His eyelids feel heavy and while he knows he won’t be able to fall asleep once more, at least he can rest for a bit.

With that thought in mind, he prepares to lie down once more when a lightning strikes close by, the noise too loud in his ears, but his blood runs cold at the sight the few seconds of light reveal.

Mycroft is casually sitting by the fireplace, although the fire is out, a thoughtful look on his face as he absentmindedly plays with a small glass vial. Greg curses, his plan no doubt now ruined and he regrets he didn’t think of a better place to hide the potion.

Then again, he supposes Mycroft knows the bedroom better than him.

With a sigh, he abandons the comfortable bed and goes to sit next to his partner. He makes his way through the near complete darkness, careful not to stumble into the furniture and drops next the Mycroft, not quite daring to speak just yet. He can feel the other man watching him, but he doesn’t say a word.

For what feels like a lifetime they just sit side by side, close enough to touch and yet not touching. The air feels tense between them and Greg isn’t sure what he can say to defuse said tension. It’s just-

“Did Eurus even bothered to explain how this works?” Mycroft asks finally and Greg takes a deep breath, bracing himself for what’s likely to turn into a fight. “Did she tell you that the wrong dose will result in actual death?”

She didn’t, although Greg had suspected as much. No substance that can imitate death can be non lethal. He shrugs non committedly and then it occurs to him Mycroft can’t see him, although it doesn’t really matter, does it?

“I’ve run out of time,” Greg murmurs dejectedly, squirming a bit. “I couldn’t think of anything else to do.”

Mycroft moves and Greg sighs, burying his face in his hands. God, what-

“Come back to the bed,” the other man says, his hand on Greg’s shoulder. He hesitates for a beat and then he obeys, figuring there’s no use in fighting a lost battle. If this is how it ends, he wants to enjoy what little time he has left.

And so he follows his lover back to bed and allows him to cuddle him, both soon drifting back to sleep.

Anticlimactic, isn’t it?


 

Greg is too young to have ever been witness to a change of Emperor and he’s not quite sure what to expect of the ceremony. There’s no announcement about the previous Emperor’s death, the people are just summoned for the coronation ceremony. What happened to the former Emperor’s body or how he died shall forever be a mystery, although he’s been assured it was a very painless procedure.

Greg is fairly certain he doesn’t want to know.

Sherlock explains to him that the method was designed centuries ago to make the whole transition more efficient and to avoid having a half mad old man as Emperor. Greg isn’t convinced he buys into the explanation, but he has learned there’s not much point in attempting to see sense into these people’s beliefs. They’re just too different.

He sits on the bed as he watches Mycroft get his clothes ready for the next day and he rubs his chest absentmindedly, attempting to chase the pain there away. He’s having a hard time trying to keep himself from getting emotional, but his heart is breaking into a million pieces and he can’t help to feel defeated.

He finally becomes aware of Mycroft having finished his preparations when he comes to kneel in front of him. They stare at each other in silence, words not quite enough to communicate what they’re feeling and he closes his eyes when the other man leans in for a short kiss.

“I’ve made arrangements for you to live a comfortable life after… after, ” Mycroft tells him, cupping his cheek gently and Greg bites his lip so he won’t reply. “I don’t… I don’t regret what has happened between us, but I wish I could spare you some pain. In that sense, I wish I hadn’t been so weak.”

“Mycroft-”

“No, listen to me, please. I- I knew there was nothing I could offer you. Even if… even if I was to become Emperor, I knew I could never have you as anything other than a prostitute. I didn’t… I knew it wasn’t fair on you, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted, but I… I couldn’t resist.”

Greg closes his eyes. “It’d have been enough,” he murmurs softly and his partner shakes his head.

“No. It wasn’t right. I don’t… I wanted a true partner, not a bought one and even if you had agreed… even if you wanted me too, I knew we could never be true equals. I don’t regret our time together, but I do regret the circumstances.”

Greg remains silent, unsure of what he can possibly say to that. He supposes there’s truth in his words, truth he remained willfully blind to and he would have continued to, if only-

“I just have two requests for you, my love,” Mycroft says, holding Greg’s stare. The younger man closes his eyes once more, a bit overwhelmed by the words, but nods once. “First, I want you to forget all about this nasty mess and move on afterwards.” A near impossible request, but Greg nods anyway. If it pleases Mycroft to believe such lie, he supposes he can let him do so. “And secondly… would you allow me to take you to bed one last time?”

That startles a laugh out of Greg, because how could he say no? Even after… even after everything, he still desperately wants whatever he can have, even if he knows it’s just going to make things much more difficult tomorrow.

He’ll never learn, will he?

Chapter Text

Each kiss tastes a little bit like desperation, but considering the circumstances, Greg supposes it’s just natural. Still, considering this is their last time together, he wants it to last as long as possible.

He pushes Mycroft onto the mattress, pinning him down while he kisses him thoroughly. The sensation is both familiar and alien; it simultaneously feels like this is the first time they’re doing this and like they’ve been doing it forever. He moves slowly, cautiously, reverently, almost hesitantly at points and his lover lets him do as he pleases, something not quite usual in their couplings. Mycroft prefers to keep control, never quite letting Greg intervene much. Tonight though…

The older man seems to be memorizing every inch of his skin, judging by the way his eyes travel his body intently. Greg feels desperate, like there’s just not enough time and he supposes that in some way that is true. They have all night long, of course, but that’s all.

He sighs, resting his forehead against Mycroft’s collarbone, breathing him in. If this night could last forever he would be happy forever more, but knowing things are coming to the end makes all the pleasure bittersweet. He wishes-

But then, there’s no sense in wishing for the impossible.

He prepares himself, not quite as thoroughly as usual and while Mycroft protests, Greg ignores him. He just wants them to be as close as possible as soon as possible and so what’s a little uncomfortableness? He’s probably going to regret it tomorrow and in the days to come, but then, there are many things he’s going to regret soon enough.

He knew this arrangement of theirs could never last long term, but he never imagined quite such a bitter end. It feels like such a waste and yet he understands Mycroft’s reasons for doing what he feels he must, but…

It’s not usual for him to be on top and it takes him a bit to settle into a pleasurable rhythm. Mycroft lets him set the pace, his hands on his hipbones, a light touch that ’s more reassuring than anything, not urging him on even when it’s clear he’s aching for it.

Greg rests his forehead against his companion’s, uncaring of the not quite comfortable angle and the way his neck starts protesting almost right away. Mycroft rearranges them a little, so he’s sitting a bit more straight and they can kiss more comfortably. Greg thinks for a beat that it’s a true pity he didn’t get to ride the other man that often, because this positions is not only highly pleasurable but it feels terribly intimate, with them at the same eye level, eyes locked.

“I love you,” his partner mutters as they both approach the peak of their pleasure, his arms coming to wrap themselves around Greg’s waist, pulling him even closer. “I love you so much.”

Greg bites his lip so he won’t say the words back. He knows he’ll break if he does and that somehow feels unfair. He resents Mycroft a little for choosing to tell him that now too, because how can he expect him to simply let him walk towards his death tomorrow? How can he expect Greg to ever move on?

And so he comes without a sound, drowning the words he longs to say in a passionate kiss, desperately wishing a miracle may come to pass.

He doesn’t have much hope left, though.


 

The coronation ceremony is to take place at the Academy’s stadium. There’s a whole section reserved for the noble families and the general population occupies the rest of the stands, arranged pretty much as they’d be for a graduation ceremony, according to Sherlock. A small podium has been built up in the middle of the stadium and a somber looking sort of priest stands there, next to a display cabinet of sorts that holds the Emperor’s crown.

There’s excitement in the air and the stadium has been decorated richly. The nobles wear elegant robes and the general population wears their nicer clothes, creating a startling visual image. If Greg was in a slightly better mood, he’d probably appreciate the beauty of it, but as things are, he’s blind and deaf to everything but his despair.

A murmur raises from the crowd as the Oracle enters through one of the main doors. Next to him, Mycroft tenses and Greg squeezes his partner’s hand. He thinks they could still escape, if the Heir so wanted, but he also knows that’s not going to happen. He sighs, resigned, contenting himself with standing as close as possible to the other man.

Sherlock is standing somewhere behind them, although he has left them enough room to talk with some privacy if they so wished. But there’s nothing left to say and so Greg just stands in silence, willing himself to reign his emotions in.

They’re standing in one of the hallways that lead to the center of the stadium. Mycroft explained that there are two of them and during graduation ceremonies, each fighter waits in one of them. Today there’s supposed to be no one at the other hallway, but John is probably already there, waiting for the right moment.

Greg takes a deep breath, feeling as nervous as if he was the one who’d be fighting. He turns to Mycroft once again and opens his mouth to say something, he doesn’t know what, when the music starts playing.

He closes his eyes, resigned to what is to come. He lets go of Mycroft’s hand and steps back, not daring to meet the other man’s eyes for fear of crumbling down. He can feel Mycroft’s eyes on him, but soon he hears him walking away and he wills himself to stay calm for a little longer.

It’ll be over soon.

It’s no consolation, though.


 

Greg keeps himself very still at the stadium’s entrance, wishing he could turn around and forget all about this wretched affair, and yet compelled to stand his ground. He forces himself to watch the scene developing in front of him, his heart in his throat, still praying for a miracle he doubts will come.

“Does anyone here challenge the Heir’s right to the Throne?” the priest finally asks and Greg has to close his eyes for a beat, not wanting to see and yet-

“I do,” John steps in right on cue and Greg can hear a murmur rising from the crowd, but his whole attention remains on the two men at the center of the stadium. The words being said get lost in the confused mess ; his emotions are roaring and his heart all but stops when John and Mycroft are handed their respective swords.

He can’t watch the fight, not without feeling sick and so he focuses on everyone else. Sherlock is still standing on the platform and he has moved closer to Eurus. He looks tense and his eyes are fixed on some point in the horizon, far away from the fight, just as incapable as Greg of watching. Eurus’ face is completely emotionless, but Greg notices the way she keeps clenching and unclenching her fists, while her eyes follow the combatants intently.

Time passes and finally, after what feels like a lifetime, there’s a roar rising from the crowd. Sherlock looks about to collapse and Eurus grabs him tightly by the arm, helping him to stand still. The Oracle looks perfectly unmoved, her usual calm facade back and after making sure Sherlock is not about to faint, she steps down the platform, approaching the victor.

Greg hasn’t dared to see what has happened, but now he can’t continue escaping reality. He follows Eurus’ moves but has to look away the minute he spots the huge puddle of blood. He runs, incapable of facing the spectacle, not wanting to see what has happened, refusing to give up on the hope that somehow Mycroft might have survived.

But there’s no way to escape the truth.


 

He lies on the bed that always felt too big when he was alone and that will now always feel that way. He’s not quite sure what the protocol is; he never quite dared to ask Mycroft about what would happen afterwards . He knows there’s a commotion going outside, he has heard soldiers coming and going the whole day, but he doesn’t care about a single thing. He is an empty shell and he wonders if he’ll ever feel anything at all.

He supposes he can stay here for a while. He’ll have to eventually pick himself up and leave, because he knows he simply can’t stay in the city, let alone in the Palace. He’ll go far, far away and attempt to keep his promise to Mycroft.

He already knows it’s a lost cause, but he has to try.

He wonders briefly what will happen now with the Empire. He wishes he was strong enough to stay and see with his own eyes if the change was indeed worth the live of his beloved, but he knows deep in his bones that doing so will do nothing but hurt him further. There was a time when he’d have loved to watch things change and help in any way he could, but now…

Well. Many things have changed, haven’t they?


 

“Are you sure you want to leave?” Sherlock asks, although Greg can tell he already knows the answer, so he doesn’t bother to reply. The Prince sighs, running his fingers through his messy curls, gazing at the horizon. “I suppose I understand. I wish… I wish things could have been different.”

Greg chuckles humorlessly; that’s two of them. “How are you and John doing?” he asks, because he does care for the younger man and he supposes he likes John well enough, despite everything.

Sherlock bites his lip, not meeting his eyes. “As well as you’d expect. There’s much to do, so we haven’t… neither of us has allowed ourselves to linger on what has happened.” He sighs once more, sounding sad. “It’ll be awhile before we go back to what we were.”

Greg closes his eyes, trying to stop himself from feeling jealous of their circumstances. Things might be rough for a while, but they still have each other while he…

Well.

“Goodbye Sherlock. Take good care of yourself.”

He turns around and starts walking away, each step more difficult than the previous one. There’s a part of him that wants to stay, if only because at least here there are people he’d call friends, but his heart feels too heavy and he’s not sure anyone could really understand what he’s going through. Perhaps Sherlock does, in some way, but the Prince has his own troubles and Greg doesn’t want to burden him with his.

Someday he might be able to look back and not feel like he’s been stabbed. Someday he might be able to return to the city to see the changes that are supposed to take place for himself and maybe even help in whatever way he can. He just needs some time.

After all, time is supposed to heal all wounds, isn’t it?


 

The cottage is tucked far away from the capital, in a small farming town near the mountains that has little interest in outsiders and that has so far given Greg the peace and quiet that he needs.

The place had a small garden where the previous owner grew a few vegetables and Greg has attempted to continue taking care of it. Some days he feels too weak to even contemplate leaving the bed and so most of the garden has died by the time winter comes. He doesn’t particularly care, since he gets most of the food at the small local market; it’s not like he’s lacking money nowadays.

He’s not lacking anything but a will to carry on, truth to be told.

Still, he soldiers on. He tells himself he can’t simply give up because the man he loved is now dead; he’s no tragic heroine in a novel, withering away in the face of adversity.

In time, the pain will pass. Somedays it’s just a little harder to believe it, but deep down he knows he’ll be fine someday. Not happy, certainly, but maybe content.

It’ll be good enough.


 

There’s a woman coming down the small road leading to his cottage. She is on horseback, so she’ll be here any minute now and yet Greg can’t summon enough energy to even be curious about who she is or what she might want. No one visits him and so the woman’s presence is quite an oddity.

He supposes she could be lost or just passing by, but either way he can’t be bothered to get up and come out to greet her.

When she’s close enough though, he finally recognizes her and so he forces himself to go out to meet her. Eurus has changed quite a bit since the last time he saw her: her skin has tanned and she has put on weight, but she still has that mysterious air about her that makes him somewhat wary of her presence.

“What a surprise, to find the Oracle so far away from the capital,” he says slowly, uncertain of what she’s doing here. The woman stares at him for a few seconds, as if she didn’t quite recognized him and then dismounts, coming to stand right next to him.

“There’s little use for an Oracle in an Empire that doesn’t abide to the old rules,” she replies calmly, shrugging casually. “I’ve been dismissed from my duties.” She looks upwards, squinting at the sun and smiling briefly. “I figured it was my chance to see the world.”

Greg can’t help smiling at the honest thrill in Eurus’ voice. He supposes it wasn’t easy or fun to be confined at the Temple, even if she never lacked anything. “I’m glad things have worked out for you,” he says and realizes he means it, not a trace of bitterness in his tone.

Maybe he’s indeed getting better.

“I suppose they did,” she agrees quietly, turning to look back at him. “Sherlock asked me to check on you and I promised I would. I also promised I’d share with you any news from the capital you’d care to know, although I don’t expect you to be ready to care just yet.”

Greg chuckles humorlessly, shaking his head. “Not right now,” he agrees quietly and the woman offers him a small smile. “I think I’m doing better, though, so you can tell Sherlock that.”

She nods thoughtfully, still watching him closely. “Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to,” she says, her tone wistful. “Sometimes we don’t get what we want, but sometimes… sometimes there are better things waiting for us down the road.” Greg wishes he could believe her, but he finds he doesn’t. “I think I made a mistake with you.” She frowns, as if thinking very hard about something. “Don’t lose hope just quite yet, Gregory Lestrade.”

Greg frowns, but the woman has climbed back on her horse and is now guiding it away. He stares at her for a beat, wondering about her words and then shrugs to himself, figuring it doesn’t really matter.

He’s doing well and he’ll continue to get better.

It’s just a matter of time.

 

Chapter Text

When Greg wakes up on that fatidic morning, his first thought is that he has lost his mind.

It’s not such a bad thing, he reflects, if this is what losing his mind entails. He could certainly live with it, if it means seeing the man he loved and lost lying next to him when he wakes up.

Mycroft’s eyes are closed, peacefully asleep. He looks relaxed, something that wasn’t the norm back at the Palace and therefore another proof that what he’s seeing is nothing but the product of his imagination.

He reaches out to touch the apparition, but thinks better of it, retreating his hand before it can make contact. Touching it might shatter the illusion and while it can not possibly be healthy to indulge in the image conjured by his mind, he can’t bring himself to care at the moment.

Eventually, Mycroft’s eyes flutter open and they fix on Greg. They share a small, relaxed smile and Greg wishes he could slide closer to the other man, but he knows that’s impossible. His hallucination might stay even if he touches him, but he doubts he’ll survive his heart being shattered once more when his hand passes through the apparition.

“Good morning,” he murmurs instead, still smiling, although his voice quivers a little. Mycroft watches him in silence for a beat and Greg wonders if the hallucination can even speak at all.

“You’re taking this remarkably well,” Mycroft tells him finally, still watching him closely, eyes narrowed. Greg chuckles a little, shrugging.

“I suppose it was just a matter of time before I lost my mind. I read somewhere grief might do that to you,” he replies easily, once more reaching for the other man. He looks so real, but he knows he can’t be really here. He stops his hand a few centimeters away from the other’s face and waits.

“Ah,” Mycroft says, nodding to himself, grabbing Greg’s hand and placing it against the side of his face. “I’m afraid that’s not the explanation for my presence.”

Greg blinks, confusing emotions raising. He traces Mycroft’s cheekbone with his thumb, then his eyebrows, his nose, his lips. He seems real alright, but maybe Greg’s mind just likes to play particularly sadistic games on him.

“You’re not dead,” he murmurs finally, almost in awe but not quite since his stomach is twisting unpleasantly. It’s been almost two years since he left the Palace. After all this time… “You were always alive.”

Mycroft nods mournfully and Greg is out of the bed and the house a second later. The air is warm, even with as early it is , and he closes his eyes, willing himself to keep on breathing despite the fact his throat feels tight. He covers his mouth with his hand to keep a scream in, but he’s incapable of holding back his tears.

After all this time…

Having lost his mind would have been a much preferable explanation.


 

He has to come back into the house eventually, if only because he has no idea what else to do. Mycroft is sitting at the kitchen table, staring at nothing in particular, seemingly lost in his thoughts, but still looking more relaxed than Greg has ever seen him.

He takes a deep breath, moving past the other man and entertaining himself with cooking breakfast. He’s not hungry, not really, his stomach is still rolling unpleasantly, but he needs something to do with his hands so he won’t end up strangling his former lover.

“How-” he begins, but interrupts himself by biting his lip. Does he really want to know?

No, he doesn’t think so and at the same time, he needs to. If he’s ever going to be able to put this behind them, he needs to understand what happened.

He looks over his shoulder and finds Mycroft watching him closely. The air between them feels charged and something in Greg aches at how uncomfortable he feels. He had never felt this way around Mycroft, not even in the early days of their acquaintance and to think that now…

But then, the man has been pretending to be dead for the last two years or so, so there’s that.

“You sort of gave me the idea,” Mycroft confesses, not quite meeting his eyes, fidgeting a bit. “With the… umm… the potion Eurus gave you.”

Greg turns his attention back to breakfast, forcing himself to keep on breathing. “Did I? How?”

He hears the other sigh and is hard pressed not to turn around once more. “The potion is a very dangerous substance. The wrong dose can cause all sort of secondary effects, not to mention actual death, which is why it surprised me so much she had given it to you without any proper explanation.” A pause followed by another sigh. “I… I might have arranged for John to stab me with a sword drenched in it. If we did it right, I would appear dead without actually being dead.”

Greg has to turn around at that, just to make sure he’s not hallucinating. Mycroft licks his lips nervously, looking away from him. “A stab on a non lethal place-”

“But the blood-”

“Well, yes… there was a lot of blood involved. And there was a chance John would miss the appropriate stabbing place, so all in all… it was a dangerous gamble. I nearly died out of blood loss, but Dr. Hooper proved herself to be a competent physician…”

Greg clenches his fists, forcing himself to keep on breathing. “You told Molly...”

“Well, yes, we needed a doctor-”

“...but you didn’t tell me,” Greg finishes darkly, willing himself not to lose his temper. “Why bother with such an elaborate ruse, anyway? You could have simply drank the potion and…”

“It would have seemed a bit too convenient. The last thing we wanted was to raise suspicion-”

“Why not tell me, though?” Greg demands angrily, feeling tears gathering at the corner of his eyes. “Why let me believe you were… you actually… it’s been two years, Mycroft!”

The older man looks appropriately chided, staring at the floor now. “As I said, there was a chance I didn’t actually make it. I didn’t want… I thought it was less cruel.”

Greg laughs bitterly at that, because what else can he do? “Sure. Letting me mourn you is less cruel than letting me to cling onto hope. Right. Very logical.” He shakes his head, frustrated with himself. “You should have told me. I could have handled it.”

Mycroft makes a face, but doesn’t comment. He continues staring at the floor, looking contrite. “And why did it take you so long to show up here?” Greg asks finally, once he has managed to calm himself a little so his voice won’t shake as much.

“That’s… well. I stayed to help with the transition as much as I could, overseeing a few things and arranging others. It’s not like John had any idea of how actually rule, not to mention he had to handle Smith and even with Sherlock’s input…”

“Sherlock knew you weren’t dead, I assume.”

A long pause. “Yes. He… he wasn’t sure I was going to make it when you left the Palace, though , so he decided to let you go without saying a thing.” Greg nods, perhaps a tad angry with the Prince, but he thinks the one he should be really mad at is the man sitting in front of him. “Anyway… things took a bit longer to settle down than I thought they would; I couldn’t risk my death to have been for nothing and so I… I did everything I could to make things easier for John. And when things started to get back to normal… it had been a year already. I didn’t… It felt wrong. As much as I longed to see you again… you deserved the chance to move on with your life and I couldn’t-”

Greg laughs humorlessly once more, shaking his head. “I know I promised you I’d try to move on, but did you honestly think... ?”

“You deserve better,” Mycroft interrupts him. “I deceived you, Gregory. I let you believe a cruel lie for a very long time, to show up then… to destroy whatever measure of peace you had achieved… It would have been terribly selfish of me.”

“Why now, then?” he demands, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. “Finally decided you didn’t mind being selfish after all?”

“If you want me to leave-”

“No, and that’s exactly the bloody problem!” Greg snaps angrily, slamming his hands against the table, startling Mycroft by how close he has come to stand. “I don’t want you to leave me ever again,” he confesses softly, almost reluctantly. “That’s the problem.”

“Gregory-”

“I just… I want to understand what’s going through that funny brain of yours.” Mycroft smiles without humor, hesitantly reaching for Greg’s hand.

“I thought… I wanted to see you again, my love, you must believe that. But I also thought you deserved better than me and I feared that once you had experienced being your own man, not tied down to anything or anyone…”

“You thought I wouldn’t want you anymore because I don’t… because I have financial stability?”

Mycroft pursues his lips, scrunching his nose in displeasure. “Something like that. Our relationship was born under… undesirable circumstances. You were forced to spend time with me and even though you gave me your consent several times, I doubt you ever felt like you could actually deny me something.”

Greg chews on his lip thoughtfully. The truth is that there’s nothing he’d deny Mycroft, but it’s hard to tell if the fact that he was paying him had much to do with that. Now though…

“What changed?” he insists, carefully coming to sit on his partner’s lap, making Mycroft gulp audibly.

“Eurus came to visit you. She said… she suggested you might be missing me more than I gave you credit for.”

Greg snorts, unsure if he ought to feel insulted. He understands Mycroft’s hesitance and, to be fair, what he says makes an awful lot of sense even if Greg had carefully avoided thinking much about it.

“Well, now that I’m actually a free man, free to make my own decisions without a worry in the world,” Greg says,pressing his lips to the side of the other man’s jaw and sucking softly. “I’m telling you I still want you. Now and forever.”

Mycroft sighs as Greg continues kissing him, wrapping his arms around his waist and pulling him close. “Despite everything? Despite… despite how unfair and cruel I’ve been to you?

Greg pulls away a little, letting his forehead rest against Mycroft’s. “I’m angry at that, I’m not going to deny it,” he says softly, tracing circles on the back of his partner’s neck. “There’s a lot we need to discuss and if we’re going to make this work you better never pull that shit on me ever again, but…” He shrugs, biting his lip gently. “I’ve missed you terribly and I’m reluctant to let my anger get in the way of what could be a very happy reunion.”

Mycroft laughs at that, pressing a chaste kiss to his lips. “We shall have that talk,” he promises earnestly. “But there are other things I’d rather be doing right now too.”

And with that he stands up, bringing Greg up with him and heading towards the bedroom.


 

They kiss and kiss, desperate and eager as if both are afraid the other will disappear. All things considered, it wouldn’t be exactly surprising if one did.

In all fairness, Greg thinks, he’s entitled to his mistrust. He’s been lied to and while he supposes he understands the reasons behind it (more or less), he doesn’t like it one bit. “You really can’t do that to me again,” he warns, biting down on Mycroft’s lip harshly. “I’ll never forgive you if you do.”

“But you’ll forgive me this once?” the other man asks, pressing him against the wall while he continues kissing him thoroughly, one hand sneaking beneath his sleepwear and caressing his thigh .

Greg groans. “I’ll try,” he says honestly, because that’s the most he can promise under the circumstances. He’s thrilled at having Mycroft back, of course; as used to his life without Mycroft as he was becoming, he continued missing him horribly, but that doesn’t mean he’s not angry at the deception. It’ll be awhile before he can completely forgive him and even then…

Well, he doesn’t want to think about that just yet.

“I love you,” he says when Mycroft starts undressing him, remembering how their last time went and figuring now is a good time to say those words he didn’t get the chance to say before. Mycroft stops immediately, pulling away a little and gazing into his eyes intently, as if he was trying to peer into his very soul.

“I don’t deserve you,” Mycroft murmurs, pressing their foreheads together, taking a deep breath. “But I love you too. And I’ll do everything I can to win back your trust and be worthy of your love.”

Greg thinks he should argue the worthy part, but it’s hard to think considering Mycroft is back to undressing him and all he can think about is how they need to be naked right now. There’s a lot of talking they need to do, but he supposes it can wait for later.

Things aren’t perfect, not right now anyway, but they have each other at last and they’re free to do as they want.

And that’s what matters, isn’t it?