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Finding One's Place

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Summer

How he landed himself in this situation, Mycroft isn’t entirely sure. But he’s outside, caught in a sudden downpour of torrential rain, and in his arms he cradles a weak, shivering, wounded dragon—a real dragon! This one is small, smaller than how he imagined dragons to be—it’s the size of a domestic cat—but still! He didn’t even know they still existed on this side of the mountains.

Just a bit more and he’ll be at the west wing of the castle. Oh, bother legwork.

Mycroft finally reaches his living quarters with a racing heartbeat, a lack of breath, a couple of thick and thin cotton cloths, and a dollop of honey solely set aside for medicinal purposes, which he purloined along the way.  For the time being, Mycroft leaves his goods and sodden cloak at the foot of his bed, and then uses his free hand to heap pillows and blankets into the centre. He makes a shallow indent and then slowly lowers the injured creature onto its right side.

The wound is situated on the haunch of the dragon’s left leg—clean cut, not deep, a tiny bit of swelling. He’s no physician, but even he can identify what constitutes as something nasty and serious and what doesn’t. Goodness knows he’s had enough exposure from the creative experiments his younger brother, Sherlock, insists on conducting, even if it leaves the poor boy with all sorts of cuts and burns and singed hair tips.

After using one of the cloths to wipe down the leg (the other he rubs over his hair to remove the excess water), Mycroft gently rubs a thin layer of honey over the affected area. Its antibacterial properties should help clear up infection and inflammation. He goes through the rest of the motions with practised ease. He’s used to doing this: applying honey to the wound, spreading honey on a small square of thin cotton for the dressing, wrapping another cloth around the dressing to keep it secure. Once the final knot is tied, he looks at his handiwork with a bit of pride and confusion.

So, dragons exist here.

So, dragons can get hurt too (whether by mortal or mystic means remains uncertain).  

So, without understanding why, he’s committed himself to nursing a dragon back to full health.

Well, despite all the priming he’s been subjected to over the twenty years of his life as crown prince, once again, he’s reminded that there is still a lot to learn—about the world, and about himself. And what better place to start than the beautiful, mystical creature in front of him?

Silver scales and silver mane on a long, slender, serpentine body boasts a bright, lustrous shine that puts the best blacksmith’s newly forged weapons to shame. In hindsight, it was the silver that grabbed his attention then, and it is the silver that grabs his attention now. A pair of ears and a pair of horns protrude from the base of the head—he expected those, just like he expected the talon-like claws on the extremities of the dragon’s two limbs. There are other things he wonders about, though. 

He wonders how large the dragon’s wingspan is when outstretched.

He wonders what colour eyes will stare back at him when he sees them for the first time.

He wonders many things, and eventually exhaustion catches up to him and he falls asleep in his day clothes, curled around the heap of blankets cocooning the wounded being.

 


 

It’s hard work keeping the dragon hidden from the prying eyes and hands of Sherlock, but Mycroft manages.

Two days pass, and the dragon drifts in and out of consciousness. Mycroft dutifully changes the dressing several times each day. On the third day, his patient regains full consciousness. Rich, brown eyes stare at him, wide and alert, and he feels compelled to talk.  

“You’ll need to be here for a couple more days to recover completely. Calling you dragon seems rather impersonal. I wonder, do you have a name?”

Dragons are rumoured to be intelligent, wise, creatures with magical abilities, yet he’s still startled—and a little pleased—when he receives a response in the form of a resounding, masculine voice in his mind.

Not a human one.

“Perhaps—would you be averse to being called… Gregory?” The name rolls off his tongue easily, and now he can’t imagine calling the dragon by any other name.  

Mhmm, sounds nice when you say it.

“Gregory it is, then.”

The dragon stretches and then snuggles further into the warm comfort of pillows and blankets. His wound is almost healed; still, exhaustion retains its firm grip on him.

Thank you.

 


 

The day Mycroft sees the full width of Gregory’s wingspan for the first time is the day he is well enough to fly away. He leaves with a promise to come back again.

To Mycroft’s surprise, and delight (although he will never say that aloud), Gregory keeps true to his promise, using his ability to speak straight to Mycroft’s mind, often calling him out to the outskirts of the castle grounds, hidden by the foliage provided by the trees. During the times Mycroft’s schedule allows it, Gregory takes him beyond the castle grounds, wings flapping lazily as he waits for his human companion to catch up. The dragon shows him countless natural wonders, so well hidden that Mycroft wouldn’t have been able to find it on his own. Despite the sweet-smelling scent of the lily of the valley, or the peaceful time spent by a small brook, or the feel of soft, springy grass under his feet, Mycroft’s favourite part is the pleasant company and conversation Gregory willingly provides.

It’s a nice change to be conversed with like a regular human being; his status as crown prince doesn’t offer much in the way of honest interaction. Rather, he finds himself bombarded with people thirsty for power or ambition, trying to curry favour with him for one reason or another.

If he thinks about it, within the hierarchy of all beings—mystical creatures included—Gregory dwarfs his status by far, yet treats him as an equal. Mycroft supposes that’s why he’s developed some kind of easy rapport with him—it’s free of politics; a breath of fresh air.

And when Gregory is away, Mycroft so does loathe admitting it, but it gets lonely without the company and witty banter he’s become accustomed to having.

 


 

Very little in Mycroft’s life catches him unaware.

Gregory’s transformation into a large, wingless, four-legged dragon fits into that ‘very little’. It is also unexpected. Regardless of the change in shape and size, Gregory remains equally stunning. Moonshine pales in comparison to the brightness of his silver scales and mane.

Once you’re done staring, hop on my back.

He may be shocked and in awe at seeing Gregory’s transformation for the first time—how could he not be? He’s a beautiful creature; a real force of nature—but that doesn’t mean he’s entranced to the point of losing his wits. He supposes mounting Gregory must be similar to mounting a horse, so he murmurs a quick apology before grabbing a handful of the silver mane to hoist himself up.

Scoot up. Hold on to my horns, unless you want to fall off.

Mycroft obeys, drawing his knees in close to Gregory’s scaly sides to firmly anchor him in place. 

Ready?

Before Mycroft can ask any questions, they’re ascending. The cold wind brushes past Mycroft’s cheeks, and he’s glad he had the foresight to wear his cloak, the only thing keeping him warm in the chilly, summer evening. Eventually they reach a higher altitude and are almost parallel to the ground.

Lower your body and lie on my mane, Gregory instructs.

From his new vantage point, he feels more secure and more comfortable. Gregory’s mane is soft and warm and smells like sweet, fresh air with a hint of rain. Below them the beautiful landscape stretches out in all directions as far as the eye can see. It’s breathtaking.

I believe this is your rightful inheritance, Prince Mycroft.

Mycroft stiffens. He hasn’t revealed anything about his status to Gregory.

Oh, come on. It wasn’t hard to guess. Castle, extravagant bedchambers, everyone waiting on you hand and foot… Mycroft, you have a bloody painting of yourself hanging in the corridor.

That startles a laugh out of him. “That is an atrocious painting.”

I agree.

“I beg your pardon?”

This time it’s Gregory who laughs. It’s a low rumbly noise, and Mycroft can feel the vibrations through his chest.

They captured your snooty expression, Prince, but nothing of your kind, strong personality.

Mycroft buries his face into Gregory’s mane to hide a growing smile and reddening cheeks. Suddenly the evening doesn’t seem as chilly any more.

 


 

Autumn

“Mikey, you must allow Sir Isembert to guard you.”

Mycroft scrunches his face in distaste at the nickname, but decides there are more pressing matters to attend to.

“Mummy, I assure you, I am fine.”

“Perhaps this time.” The queen frowns. “This is the third time you have been kidnapped by a dragon. The same dragon, Mikey! They’ve stayed away from this side for a century, and now they’re back and…”

He knows what his mother is thinking. The legends about dragons that have been passed down through the ages paint them as bloodthirsty, greedy creatures, capable of inflicting destruction through the forces of nature. Prone to kidnapping humans, who were never seen afterwards. Maybe it is true, for some of them, at least. But not his. Not his.

Still, there is no way he can tell his parents he found a dragon in the woods, wounded, weak, and curled up in its smallest, weakest form. That in an unexpected act of compassion, he nursed it back to health and now, that very dragon is flying him places, showing him places he’s never seen before. That the three times his parents know of are the only ones to reach their ears.

And so, he lies instead.

“If it wanted to kill me, it would have done so already.” He watches his mother’s lips draw together in a firm line. Ineffective. A different line of argument, then. “I’ll be careful, Mummy.” Not to get caught again, he adds silently. “You know how well I’ve done with my swordsmanship and archery. Need I remind you that I bested Sir Isembert in a duel yesterday?”

The queen rubs her temples, heaves a sigh, and then nods. “Be careful, Mikey.”

 


 

He has one foot out the window when he spots a mop of dark curls peeking out from behind his bedpost. This could take a while, he realises, so he puts both of his feet back on the ground and faces the partially hidden figure.

“Sherlock, what do you want?”

“You’re not getting kidnapped.” It’s more of a statement than a question, so Mycroft sits down on the edge of the bed and pats the space next to him, feeling the bed bounce slightly as Sherlock scrambles up on it, eagerly.

“I’m not,” Mycroft agrees. He was expecting some kind of outburst about how dragons are dangerous creatures, but what comes out of Sherlock’s mouth next is a surprise.

“I want to meet her.”

In hindsight, it really shouldn’t have been. Sherlock constantly yearns to learn more, a feeling with which he is familiar.

“Him, Lockie. And no.”

“Why not?” Sherlock sharpens his gaze. “I’ll tell Mummy.”

“And I shall inform her the exact fate of the glass-stained window in the—“ 

 “—that was an accident!”

“As was the small explosion in the pantry last week, I’m certain.”

Sherlock bites his lip and glares. “Why you?”

“I’m not sure,” Mycroft admits. “Gregory—he, he’s different. He’s not here to steal treasure or draw blood or cause devastation or anything like that.”  

The curtains are flapping violently now, and Mycroft has never been more thankful that his parents made the decision to relocate his and Sherlock’s living quarters following one of Sherlock’s experiment-related mishaps. From the looks of it, the dragon is getting impatient, so impatient that he has transformed into his full form, manipulating the evening wind at his own behest.

“I must go, Lockie.” Mycroft lets his hand fall on Sherlock’s curls and ruffles them briefly. “I can’t promise you can meet him—I’ll have to ask him first—but I will tell you about him when I get back,” he promises.

“Wait! What type is he?”

Mycroft smiles and gestures to the curtains. “Can’t you tell?”

 


 

Even on the calmest of nights, the very presence of Gregory brings the wind. Mycroft doesn’t understand it; Gregory doesn’t even have wings in his large dragon form. Yet there he stands beneath the trees, firmly planted on his four legs, and the wind howls around him. His silver mane tapers off after his hind legs, and the tip of his tail is covered in the same, fine silver strands, all thoroughly mussed by the wind. His long, serpentine body, save for his tail, stays still, and his brown eyes search out Mycroft’s.

The future king, late? The kingdom will fall.

“Your sense of humour, or lack thereof, never fails to amuse me, Gregory.” 

Gregory releases a puff of air, and his mouth curls in amusement.

“Hm?”

Today would be nice.

Mycroft gives Gregory’s ear a playful tug before grabbing a handful of mane to pull himself up on the dragon. After a gentle pat to Gregory’s neck—he’s always sorry for pulling on Gregory’s beautiful mane—Mycroft shuffles forward so that he’s close enough to grasp the twin horns that protrude from the base of the dragon’s head.

Hold on tight.

He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the first blast of wind that rushes past his face as they rise up into the sky, riding on the coattails of the wind. Nor can he describe how flying with Gregory makes him feel.

It’s exhilarating, liberating, marvellous.

His heart thrums loudly in his chest, and he’s not sure whether it stems from excitement, or the sheer trust and intimacy Gregory freely offers him in allowing him to share the experience of flying.

Feather-soft touches of Gregory’s mane tickles Mycroft’s chin and neck, and the mixed scent of air and rain assaults his senses. He laughs and hears a rejoining low rumble from the dragon. In an instant, the day’s pressures and worries wash away.

Sometimes they glide along the air currents, with mountains, rivers, meadows, and lakes passing below them. Tonight, however, the dragon manoeuvres lazily in the sky, performing half rolls and side slips, and the scenery becomes a blur of muted autumn colours and shapes.

“For goodness’ sake, Gregory,” Mycroft chides softly, though he’s enjoying the change of pace as well. “One day you’ll have me falling off your back if you keep up like that.”

I wouldn’t let it happen.

Mycroft considers this for a moment, becomes aware of the pockets of air cushioning him for the first time, and then murmurs, voice filled with wonder, “You’re right. You wouldn’t.”

Gregory’s loyalty amazes him. His own trust in Gregory’s loyalty amazes him even more.

 


 

Winter

In his smallest, most portable form, with wings furled, Gregory’s size is hardly impressive. He is in this form when Mycroft first finds Gregory, and when Sherlock first meets him.

Gregory is perched on Mycroft’s shoulder, with wings slightly outstretched and tail wrapped loosely around the nape of his neck. Mycroft feels like he should be protecting his dragon friend from Sherlock—goodness knows what kind of experiments Sherlock would dare try on Gregory—but instead, he feels like Gregory is protective of him. Possessive, almost. Now that’s a thought. As an older brother, he’s used to being the protective one, so to have the tables turned is something new, something different, but not repulsive. Maybe even welcomed. He absentmindedly strokes the end of Gregory’s tail, hoping  everyone will emerge from this evening unharmed.

“Sherlock, this is Gregory. Gregory, this is my younger brother, Sherlock.” 

Sherlock eyes him dubiously and Gregory stares right back at him, unfazed.

“Those webbed wings can’t even make the curtains move,” Sherlock declares loudly. He hasn’t forgotten how the heavy curtains billowed forcefully on the evening he caught Mycroft sneaking out. “Show me your real form!”

Mycroft sighs. “Lockie, be nice. This is Gregory’s real form.”

Well, one of them anyway.

“Nonsense. You would crush him when he takes you flying.”

Sherlock, be nice.

Gregory’s voice thunders in both of their minds, and Mycroft resists the urge to laugh. Sherlock has immediately switched from disbelieving mode to more-inquisitive-than-usual mode.

“How did you do that? Teach me!” he demands.

Sorry, buddy, trade secret.

“I don’t think Lockie would be able to survive without hearing his voice, anyway.”

Sherlock scowls. He stomps over to Mycroft’s bed and sits down on the edge, a sign he’s about to engage in a colossal sulk.

Gregory hops off Mycroft’s shoulder onto the bed. He offers one of his feet to Sherlock for inspection as a peace offering.

You can look, but no experiments, okay? We do this on my terms.

Sherlock nods, dark curls bouncing up and down.

“And no forcing or taking, Lockie. You will ask Gregory nicely,” to which he will reply no, hopefully, Mycroft adds silently.

“Okay.”

Needless to say, Gregory does not emerge unscathed, and Mycroft looks slightly frazzled around the edges. Sherlock, on the other hand, leaves the room with four strands of silver hair, three scales, two dragon claws, and a big, satisfied smile on his face.

 


 

Despite Sherlock’s tendency to hound Gregory for more specimens for his experiments, the two of them spend more time in Mycroft’s living quarters. There is no longer any reason for Gregory to hide from Sherlock, and  Sherlock’s resources and access to his non-dragon-related experiments have been restricted by the winter weather. It doesn’t help that he’s prohibited from having the fireplace going without his personal help to supervise him. Mrs Hudson tends to bustle about and occupies herself with cleaning, and several of Sherlock’s experiments have perished an accidental death at her hands. The arrangement suits Mycroft too, as the days become colder and colder, until it begins to snow. It’s warmer when they’re together. Sherlock provides warmth with his boundless energy, and Gregory, well, Mycroft suspects he’s to thank for the speed with which the heat from the fireplace spreads around the room.

Sherlock and Gregory are both occupying Mycroft’s bed—Gregory in his favourite spot, and Sherlock rolling around aimlessly at the head of the bed.

“You’re all hot air and no fire, you fake dragon,” Sherlock grumbles. “If you were a real dragon, you’d be able to make a big ball of fire.”

You know, you could just admit that you’re cold.

“I’m not!”

You are.

“I’m not,” Sherlock cries out, jumping off the bed to stamp his foot for good measure.

“Children, must you do this in my room?” Mycroft groans. He's hunched over his desk, poring over a stack of official documents. One hand cradles his head and the other holds a quill pen.

“I am a thirteen year old with intelligence that surpasses everyone in this room,” Sherlock retorts indignantly.

You are thousands of years too early to be calling me a child, snooty Prince.

Mycroft sighs and resigns himself to Gregory and Sherlock’s banter as background noise for his tedious task at hand.

The fireplace at the end of his chamber is simmering, the sun is setting, Sherlock and Gregory are napping, and Mycroft is finally done. He considers throwing another log in, but decides against it, opting to join the other two for a short nap before dinner is served instead.

There is a warmth that permeates the room and envelopes him—one that has nothing to do with the crackling of the fireplace or Gregory’s assistance in dispersing warm air throughout the room.

 


                                                                             

Mycroft can’t deny that he misses Gregory’s large form and the impromptu flights across the land, but he can’t deny that a wakeup call in the form of Sherlock’s elbow or foot jabbing his side or a dragon tail tickling his nose is glorious in its own way.  

 


 

Spring

The first time Gregory allows Mycroft to see his human form—well, almost-human form—he is thoroughly captivated. Even in his human form—perhaps because it’s his human form—Gregory is a sight to behold.

The face still retains distinct dragon features—a smattering of scales across his cheekbones; delicate, pointy ears; and short horns protruding from a mop of messy, silver hair. From the neck down, however, the body takes on an entirely human appearance. Mycroft’s mouth goes dry and he speedily removes his cloak and throws it over the dragon. This is definitely not the way he expected to verify that Gregory unquestionably appears human in all other aspects.

Once he’s positive his dragon-disguised-as-human friend is decent, he risks a look, only to see Gregory grinning boyishly at him.

“You’re… you’re young.”

“I am a relatively young dragon, Mycroft.”

Oh. Forget about Gregory’s age, heck, he can only focus on the smoothness and fullness of Gregory’s voice. It’s the same voice he heard in his mind, yet somehow… different. After a moment he remembers, oh, right, he has a conversation to participate in.

“No, I mean, I didn’t expect you to take on an appearance close to my own age.”

“I didn’t think you’d want to be seen with an old man,” Gregory says, with a sniff.

Mycroft thinks Gregory would look equally handsome were he an old man, but he keeps his thoughts to himself.

“Do all dragons possess the ability to, to… you know,” Mycroft waves his hand about instead of completing his question.

“Most have three preferred forms—a small dragon, humanoid, and their large form. It’s within our abilities to change into anything, though.” He smiles wistfully before he continues speaking. “Now you’ve seen all of my preferred forms.”

Mycroft feels a little flattered, embarrassed, even, but he tries to hide it by murmuring, “God forbid Sherlock catches wind of that ability of yours, or else another stressful experience shall befall us all.”

Gregory laughs—a rich, clear sound that Mycroft mentally files away in the same compartment as his voice.

“Hey, he’s not a bad kid; just a little rough around the edges.”

 


 

The warmer temperatures mean Sherlock spends more time in his own bedchambers or outside to explore or collect specimens for his experiments.

A few days later, Sherlock proves to live up to his reputation as a little rough around the edges, and Gregory navigates the situation without the loss of any appendages, so, all in all, a success.  A loud announcement from the young boy in question informs Mycroft, Gregory, and probably every other servant in the nearby vicinity that he’s on a mission to collect fungus from the nearby pond.

Mycroft doesn’t miss the small dragon ear that perks up.

“If you are intending to take on your human form, Gregory…” Mycroft gets up from his desk and rummages around for a robe. He doesn’t trust himself to handle a repeat of last time. “Here.” 

Gregory waits until Mycroft is facing the other direction before transforming, and then slips into the garment easily.

“Much better.” Gregory stretches out on Mycroft’s bed, using his toes to tug on the drapes hanging from the bedpost, simply because he can.

“What is?”

“Hearing my own voice, obviously.” He grins. “No; I see and feel things from a different perspective like this. I like it.”

“Another one who likes hearing his own voice, then.”

“And here I was under the impression that you like hearing my voice more than I do.” 

Whether or not Mycroft’s deep-seated appreciation for surpasses Gregory’s own, well, that’s another matter. There’s no doubt that he likes hearing Gregory’s voice, though. No doubt about it at all. Before he can counter with a quip of his own, Sherlock bursts into his room and his eyes fall on Gregory.

“HA! I KNEW YOU WERE HIDING ANOTHER FORM FROM ME.” Sherlock paces back and forth, twirling his cape emphatically on every turn. “I knew the strands of hairs on the ground were too long to belong to your dragon form!”

“Should I be flattered or creeped out by your extensive knowledge on my hair lengths?”

“You have grey hair like an old man but you don’t sound like one,” Sherlock observes.

“Hey! It’s silver, not grey.”

“I believe I need some samples to verify that.” Sherlock sticks his nose up in the air and pushes his hand towards Gregory expectantly.

“Oh, you manipulative, little critter,” Gregory says good-naturedly. Nevertheless, he pulls out a few hairs and hands them over.

Mycroft’s chest tightens as he watches Gregory handle and interact with Sherlock. What has taken him thirteen years to learn—and he still continues to learn—has only taken Gregory a few months.

“I’ll also need some nails,” Sherlock wheedles.

“Sherlock,” reprimands Mycroft. “Do not take advantage of Gregory’s kindness.”

“You take advantage of him.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“He takes you flying! I haven’t seen that form yet,” Sherlock whines. “Why you? It’s unfair!”

“That is because…”

It’s been several months since Sherlock last asked him and he still doesn’t have an explanation for why, well, why Gregory takes him flying. Why Gregory has chosen to befriend him. Why Gregory stays.

“The crown prince’s privilege.” There’s a teasing lilt in Gregory’s voice. “And your older brother’s special.”

“Hmph. I will be back!”

 


 

Surprisingly, it takes Sherlock two days to carry out his invasion of Mycroft’s room. As usual, he trots in, the loud sound of the doors moving dramatically heralding his presence. He spots the dragon nestled in his favourite spot on Mycroft’s bed.

“Oh good, you’re here. Transform into your human form for me! I need more samples for my experiment.”

“Lockie,” Mycroft sighs. “One, Gregory is not one of your experiment subjects. Two, would it really hurt you to say please?”

Sherlock stubbornly juts out his jaw. At last he acquiesces and mutters, “Please.”            

Gregory’s tail thumps the bed lazily, in mild contemplation, and then without warning, he changes into his human form.

“Ugh. Mycroft, put some clothes on your dragon boyfriend!” Sherlock shouts from his hiding place behind Mycroft’s desk.

Oh, the horror. There is no way Mycroft can deal with all three of them in the same room right now.  And dragon boyfriend! Where on earth did he get that idea? Although, they have been spending a lot more time together, as of late…

“Out, Sherlock!”

Sherlock doesn’t need to be told twice.

“And you, Gregory,” Mycroft admonishes, and tries to throw a pair of breeches and a loose undershirt in his direction without actually looking at him. “Must you?”

There’s the rustling of cloth, and then a mess of silver hair pops out of the undershirt.

“I must,” he replies, grinning broadly.

“You can change into anything, so surely you can afford to add some clothes to your transformation,” Mycroft sniffs.

“I could. But then I wouldn’t be able to wear your clothes.” Gregory makes a big show of smelling the sleeve of his shirt. “It smells like you—all fancy and nice.”

Mycroft feels the tips of his ears going pink. He can’t think of anything to say in return.

 


 

Gregory takes them to a field of forget-me-nots that evening, some distance away from the castle. It feels like it’s been an age since they’ve traversed the night sky together.

Can I have your cloak?

Mycroft nods. He hands it over in understanding, facing away to give Gregory some privacy. (He refuses to admit that he turns away for his own sanity, too.) When he turns back, Gregory is lying down, gesturing for him to lie down next to him. They lie there, staring up at the starry sky blanketing them, and the night stretches on. This feels natural; this feels safe. Mycroft can’t help the smile that spreads over his face when he feels Gregory’s hand cover his. He reaches out and brushes back a lock of hair falling messily over Gregory’s forehead, and then asks the question that has been weighing on his mind ever since Sherlock asked him, ever since he met Gregory.

“Why me?”

“Why not you?”

“Tut tut, answering a question with a question. Poor form, Gregory.”

“Guilty as charged.” Gregory chuckles. “Fine; you’re kind, charming, witty, oh, and did I mention, you smell nice?”

They glance at each other and laugh.

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Gregory.”

Gregory yawns and curls around Mycroft. “Good, because I’m already where I want to be.”

And Mycroft realises with a smile that he, too, is where he wants to be.