Chapter 1: Don't Let Him Get Too Close
Jim shouldn't talk that way about Sherlock.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Jim knows the effect he's having on Mycroft, so he doesn't relent.
Mycroft is shaking. It's slight, and otherwise he looks composed. His words sound nearly as gentle as ever when he speaks—nearly. Because he was prepared for ranting about his brother. He was prepared for comments about torture and how to best kill Sherlock nastily. That would have been fine.
It is not fine at all to hear about the way Jim wants to have his brother sexually. It is not fine to hear him suggest how he thinks Sherlock would react, how he would be in a moment of passion. He's barely comfortable with the idea of sex himself, Mycroft, and here's a lunatic making comments about his brother (who is even less comfortable) that he's not supposed to react to.
And despite the fact Mycroft can't remember a time when he'd reacted more to a psychopath than he currently is, Jim seems to think it's not good enough, taking a different tack.
All he accomplishes by giggling at Mycroft and insinuating he wants his little brother sexually is a roll of Mycroft's eyes. It's a thorough defeat in the Game of Reactions, a game Mycroft intends to never slip up during again.
The idea of Mycroft's affection being anything but brotherly is laughable and naive, and Mycroft rather likes the idea of Jim Moriarty being laughable and naive. Sexual want is possibly the most the poor man can feel for anyone. He doesn't understand love, and that's his issue, not Mycroft's.
Mycroft, of course, worries for Sherlock, and he texts, Don't let him get too close, as a precautionary measure.
Pity. I'd rather thought we could become best friends. Have a pint. CHAT. -SH
It's not what Mycroft means, but he never clarifies.
Bootsnblossoms has created a beautiful cover for this fic!
Chapter 2: Thinking of You
Mycroft receives a gift from Jim.
Mycroft receives a well-constructed cross stitch with the words, I will have your brother under me. Does that excite you? The words are surrounded by delicate flowers, and the cross stitch makes Mycroft smile in amusement. He's not above finding amusement in dark matters; he has to cope with life somehow, and he doesn't really deal with light-hearted affairs.
He can't help but remember, as he spots the card that came along with it which only says, "Thinking of You," the way Moriarty had texted him that he really wanted his attention.
He'd said it like that, that he wanted Mycroft's attention. Well, he had it now.
Away from the conversation in the cramped room, Mycroft can think more clearly. Perhaps it's all just talk, all just another ploy for attention, just a childlike man screaming, "LOOK AT ME!" when the world would prefer to be doing other things.
Jim Moriarty is a pathetic little thing. No, he really is. He may be terrifying, but terrifying and pathetic often go hand-in-hand, Mycroft thinks.
People who are desperate for attention annoy Mycroft. Although, he reflects, they are usually not desperate for his, just everyone else's. He swallows, knowing it's a damning thought, the first stop on a slippery slope of caring.
He hangs the cross stitch as a reminder that Jim Moriarty is going to be at large until he's six feet under.
Chapter 3: Aesthetically If Not in Meaning
Mycroft and Jim talk about what it means to have a heart.
The two men are silent at first as they size each other up from across the table. Mycroft's appearance is as put-together as a framed puzzle, and he radiates calm. Jim looks tired, as well he should, with how his stay has been going, with how he's been treated and what's been on his mind.
"I received your gift. It's rather beautiful, aesthetically if not in meaning. Thank you," Mycroft says.
Jim smiles a bit shyly and shrugs. "I had it made custom."
Mycroft folds his hands together and rests them on the table. "Yes, I don't imagine that particular pattern has a large place in the market." His eyes glint with humor at the thought.
"You'd be surprised," Jim says, running fingers over his hair to try and smooth it down. The dark circles under his eyes enhance the sweet shine of his gaze and make him look just a bit more harmless.
Mycroft weaves his fingers together, focusing. "But enough about that, Professor Moriarty—or Jim, if you prefer?"
"Jim? Isn't that a bit forward?"
Mycroft reaches into his coat pocket for his mobile, casually pulling an image of the cross stitch up on the screen. He holds the phone out so Jim can see it. "You sent me this cross stitch. You tell me."
"Jim is good," Jim admits with a bit of a grin. "I prefer it. Especially from worthy lips." He eyes Mycroft's mouth.
"Yes, I'd heard you generally prefer it. Jim, then." He puts his mobile back in hiding. "What is your fascination with my brother?"
"Well, it's hard to say."
Mycroft chuckles. "And why is that?"
"Well aren't we pushy? I guess I'd have to say that's because it's hard to say," there's a sharp edge to his voice that Mycroft savors.
"You mean to say that you are not sure why?" asks Mycroft innocently.
Jim sighs heavily, rolling his eyes for a drawn out moment. "Nothing so simple. I have conflicting motives. On the one hand, he's wildly intelligent, interesting, gorgeous, and I think he's going to break easily. Not as easily as ordinary people, but easily enough. On the other hand, he has a heart, despite what you say about him. And that's rather troublesome. Boring."
"You hoped he'd be like you," Mycroft says. It's mostly a guess. Jim sits very still, eyeing him as he continues. "He follows his heart just like any other person. I hadn't thought he was capable, but John Watson is an impressive man. More impressive than you."
"Well, that's a lie," Jim says. "You think I'm rather impressive. Don't say you don't. We both know I am."
"You look like hell just spat you out," Mycroft points out. "And, for now, you're rather at my mercy, don't you think?"
Jim taps his fingers on the table, his eyes burning with interest. "I think I rather like being at your mercy. Did you ever consider that? Because then, I can surprise you. I'll turn on you, use your brother against you. That's the other reason I'm interested in your stupid brother."
"Stupid now, is he?"
"Heart. Remember? Led by his heart, now. Didn't used to be."
"No, he didn't."
"But you, Mr Holmes, have always been led by your heart."
Mycroft nods. "When it comes to Sherlock, at least."
"It suits you," Jim says, looking Mycroft up and down, what part of him he can see. "And I think my cross stitch looks rather nice on your wall."
"It serves as a splendid reminder." Jim leans forward, interested in the meaning behind the statement. "It reminds me I'll need to take care of you sooner rather than later."
"I like sooner. You know I hate to wait." Jim pouts.
"Mr Moriarty, tell me this. Is it more pathetic to follow one's heart when it's down to the wire, despite the disadvantage, or to use one's heart so little it shrivels up and leaves him unable to relate to anyone? There's no one quite like you; you're right. No one wants to be like you."
Jim doesn't respond right away. His gaze is hot and searching, questing.
"Your heart is in there, rattling around, useless," says Mycroft. "It makes you a wonderful consulting criminal, but shit at everything else life has to offer."
Jim sits up on the edge of his seat as if drawn forward by the words, especially by the curse he's never heard come from the man before, not even when he'd had him shaking. "You know I'm incapable. I know it too. So why bring it up?" He tilts his head. "Are you interested in me, Mr Holmes?"
Mycroft rises to his feet, chuckling softly. "Like one might be interested in a rather stupid insect, yes. I never said you were incapable of using your heart. And wouldn't I know all about hearts?"
Jim clenches his jaw. He looks thoughtful, but he blazes. His eyes swim with things beyond the interrogation room.
"Good day, Jim. I believe it's nearly supper time." Mycroft exits and closes the door behind him, at which point he leans back against it and hopes he planted some seeds, seeds that might grow in the fertile mind, if not the barren chest.
Chapter 4: In the Same Boat
Sherlock comes to visit Jim. Sherlock and Mycroft have tea.
Mycroft gives Sherlock the option of how he wants the meeting to go.
"You're going to be watching either way," Sherlock says. "No point in trying to keep things private between Jim and me." His bright gaze holds Mycroft's slightly too long, until it becomes clear he does care one way or the other and that what he wants is for Mycroft to be there.
Mycroft steps inside first, quietly protective.
"Ah, here's the lovely couple! Was so hoping you'd show up, Sherlock. Sweet little Sherlock, the Virgin. How's life on the outside going?" Jim's smile is wide. "Not so well? Clearly you missed me. I don't blame you."
"Missed you? Hm." Sherlock perches regally in the chair opposite Jim. "No. Wish you'd go missing? Yes. But you're rather tied up, so I don't see how that's possible. It's a shame."
Jim licks his lips. "Came to see me all tied up? Miss Adler clearly made her mark on you. More than once, I'd wager."
Sherlock looks at Jim imperiously. "Well, seeing as I was in the neighborhood and Mycroft invited me down, I figured I'd throw the mad dog a bone and say hi. I've been working the case of a disappearing rabbit who glows. Far more interesting than your puzzles and semtex." Jim actually looks a bit offended at that. Sherlock takes in Jim's haggardness. "You look painfully unremarkable out of your Westwood. How's Mycroft been treating you?"
"Well," Jim flashes his teeth as he smiles at Mycroft, "Guess I'd have to say he's been...attentive. He's been keeping me up, seeing to it that I get a regular...pounding. Just look at me," he gestures to his body. "It's been sensual, even romantic. He's a sweet-talker, even thinks I'm capable of affection. I made him a cross stitch. Show him, dear. Go on."
Sherlock rolls his eyes and Mycroft studies Jim's face in depth. He takes out his mobile and shows the picture to Sherlock. Sherlock looks surprised, confused.
"As you can see, our friend Jim here is quite the comic," is all Mycroft says in explanation.
"And you hung it on the wall?" Sherlock asks with a hint of disgust.
Mycroft shrugs and puts the mobile away.
"He thought it was funny," Jim says. "But look at you, Sherlock. Your care is showing. How is that little heart of yours doing?"
"I've not got one."
Jim sighs. "The thing that makes your caring pitiful is that you're embarrassing about it. Makes me feel bad to know we have so much else in common. At least Big Brother here uses his heart to his advantage. He almost makes caring seem interesting."
Sherlock raises a brow, clearly doubting that anything Mycroft could do could be called interesting, much less that.
"I'm getting out soon, Sherlock," Jim says. "You're starting to disappoint me. Likely I'm going to have to unbuild your little empire, brick by brick." Sherlock looks doubtful. Mycroft looks thoughtful.
Jim puffs out his chest. "But, I need more information first, which puts us all in the same boat." He smiles pleasantly with eyes that remain dead. "After all, isn't information what I'm here to spill, spill out all over the cell floor after you've used and abused me, Mycroft?"
"You do that and I'll make you clean up after yourself," Mycroft says with a hint of humor that makes Jim's eyes flash to life.
Jim sits up a little straighter, smirking, somehow...lit. "Yes, I bet you're rather fastidious about the state of your cells."
"Well, I can't have your tainted 'secrets' all over the room, can I? Others might need to use it afterward. We must be considerate." He chuckles briefly, then continues. "And speaking of manners, my brother and I are going to need a moment alone. Do excuse us." At the quirk of Jim's lip he adds, "I'm sure you can well imagine what we'll be doing."
Jim giggles at Mycroft and shyly looks at the brothers. "Well, come back soon. I don't have all day. Oh wait. Yes I do. How boring." He glows when he's genuinely tickled. It suits him, Mycroft thinks.
Mycroft ushers Sherlock out of the room.
"Do it," Sherlock says. "I want you to tell him whatever he wants to know about me."
"Are you sure?" Mycroft sips at his tea slowly. His head reels with terrible scenarios.
"Perfectly sure. Think about it: We'll be the ones in control of what he learns. We'll know what he knows. You'll have to do it without me, though."
Mycroft puts the cup in its saucer and sighs. "Yes, I suspect it wouldn't mean much coming from you. There'd be no betrayal there."
"And no guilt. He likes to see you react. Maybe you should have warned yourself to stay away from him, instead of constantly worrying about me. He just wants to kill me, not...whatever else. And he wants you for...the rest. But, you can handle yourself," Sherlock says kindly. Then he frowns and adds, "I think."
Mycroft nods, touching his fingers to his lips in consideration. "I'm not quite sure either, brother," he says with a rueful smile. "But we'll press any advantage we have, yes?"
"Yes." Sherlock stands. He pauses and says, "You should burn the cross stitch."
Mycroft chuckles heartily. "It's disgusting, yes," he admits. "But you have to admire the craftsmanship. I do find it rather funny. You were right about that."
"Hoorah for me," Sherlock says, lip curling. Mycroft stands and pats him on the back in reassurance as they go to join Jim once more.
Chapter 5: Symbolism
Mycroft and Jim discuss sex and old resentments. Jim has tea.
Rated M for innuendo and a violent threat. Implied past abusive incest.
Jim has written Sherlock's name over and over in his cell.
"I see you've redecorated," Mycroft comments calmly, though worry lies underneath. "May I ask why?"
"You just did," Jim points out. "So, I suppose the question is whether or not I'll answer. And I will." He smiles. "I'm going to catch him, of course, and likely I'll kill him. But there's more to the symbolism than that."
"Oh?" Mycroft tilts his head slightly, always one for symbolism.
"I thought to myself, why spill my secrets out all over the cell when I can spill yours? It didn't take much, either, did it? You were dying to pulse that out all over me. You've ruined me, and I rather like it. I can't think of anything more filthy than a virgin with a heart getting his life story pulled from his brother until it just flows right into a consulting criminal oh so deliciously."
Mycroft swallows, unable to keep from flushing. Talk about forward. Mycroft remembers with faint disgust the way Jim had talked sexually about Sherlock, but there's more to this than getting a rise out of Mycroft. Jim actually seems...no. Interested?
"You do know what I'm implying, don't you?"
"Ejaculation," Mycroft answers quickly. "And in that last, anal intercourse."
Jim sits forward and grips the edge of the table. "Good! Very good. I don't think I could get your brother to say that under the utmost torture, and here you are. It's leaking right out of you in sweet dribbles. I can taste it."
"Pre-ejaculate." Mycroft studies his nails. Jim's right, of course. Sherlock never would have played into the sexual dialog. But Mycroft's never been Sherlock.
"I like that you're familiar with sex." Amusing, that. Interest, yes, genuine interest. Someone is playing along with Jim, so Jim is lighting up. Mycroft likes it perhaps a bit too much.
"Not so familiar as you are, I'd wager," Mycroft murmurs, somehow managing to make it sound like he's got less to be ashamed of than Jim has.
Jim laughs. "You know, you can say it."
"That I'm nothing but a slut. Used goods, ready to be used again." Jim licks his lips pointedly. "I am, you know. Promiscuity comes with the territory."
Mycroft rolls his eyes. "Psychopathy must be physically trying." He refuses to acknowledge Jim's offer of filth, even though a large part of him rather wants to. Jim is touching on his taste for danger, for the unclean. Jim is...desirable.
Jim grins broadly. "You know, I'm tickled you told me so much about Sherlock. It was fascinating, the resentment, the bitterness. You were so exciting, so dark. You really are rather human, for all your power. I get off on seeing your darkness."
"Mm. And did your trousers become wet with secrets, Jim?" Mycroft asks with equal parts laughter and disdain. Their little game is new and exciting, but also childishly cliché. He's not sure who's winning the game anymore. The game is changing.
"Yes. But you didn't clean them up for me," Jim pouts, and Mycroft swallows again because he likes the tone of the voice, because he likes the look in the large, impossibly dark eyes.
"Yes, well." He shrugs. Jim feels like he's won something. He really hasn't, so Mycroft's not bothered by the intensity of the expression. "There's always next time." He gives Jim a sly grin, and it could be seen as a strange gesture, coming from Mycroft, but Jim giggles, stifling the sounds with his hand in a becoming way. Mycroft needs a drink.
"Maybe next time, I'll break out of my restraints and come pay you back for all your stories about Sherlock. I do love story time, Uncle Mycroft."
Mycroft chuckles, suddenly knowing. He's not sure why he hadn't noticed before. "You and incest. History repeating itself, I presume?" Jim looks stricken for a quick moment. Mycroft has gotten to him, has seen inside. It's not a difficult deduction, though he's a bit sad to have to make it. Psychopath or not, it's not okay. It's not actually funny, no matter what the game says.
"You gave me information too, if you'll recall. That was payback enough," Mycroft says soothingly, reassuringly. He's displayed his power, but he wants Jim to be sure of what kind of man he is, even when in power.
Jim's got that fire in his eyes again. His voice is full of warning signs, signs Mycroft sees and takes into account. "Do you know what I'd do if I was on the other side of the table with you right now?"
"No." Mycroft folds his hands politely. "Please tell me, Jim."
"I would bite your cock off, gnaw into it with my teeth. I'd preserve it, if it could, just to laugh at it. And if I couldn't keep it, I'd eat it." He grins.
"I rather believe I found a sore spot, Jim," Mycroft says. No need to press any further; he's won thoroughly. "Let's have a change of pace, shall we? Would you like some tea?"
Jim pauses, breathes in slow with great effort, trying to release enough anger to speak in a normal tone of voice for a moment. The prospect of tea helps. "Mug or cup?"
"Cup. One of my own."
Jim raises an eyebrow thoughtfully. "I'd love one," he says. Just as Mycroft thought.
And Jim decidedly doesn't smash the cup. He only closes his eyes and moans softly, heat warming up his body and caffeine warming up mind.
""Thank you," Jim murmurs. He opens his eyes to see that Mycroft is heading to the door. His hand tightens dangerously on the cup. "Wait!" he demands.
Mycroft turns slowly, in no hurry to obey. "Jim?"
"Thank you," Jim says. He puts actual gratitude behind it, a dribble of tea skating across his chin, past the stubble Jim has stated he hates.
Mycroft smiles cautiously. "Well, you're welcome, Jim. Leave the cup there when you're finished, won't you? If you want any more, you only need ask."/p>
Jim almost looks like he wants to ask something else. He settles for sighing and watching Mycroft as he leaves.
The tea in the cup doesn't have the same body-warming, mind-caressing effect when Mycroft isn't there to watch Jim drink it, for some reason.
Jim watches the rest of the tea dribble out onto the table as he tips the cup.
Chapter 6: A Cup Without Any Mates
Jim is released from Baskerville. But he has unfinished business with Mycroft.
Rated PG-13 for violence.
Mycroft is informed that Jim wants to see him before he's released, but Mycroft refuses. He reads the alerts about increasingly violent behavior, watches the video footage, and eventually releases the man, but only when Jim seems to tire himself out, when the fight in him seems to be at bay.
Jim managed to make a friend out of one of the interrogators, Harrison, by calling in a favor (a robbery, nothing more). In turn, Harrison had the cross stitch ordered and swiped the cup for Jim to hold onto. The cup hadn't had much sentimental value, being part of a set Mycroft kept around for when he grew tired of sharing mugs, but he's not quite sure how to feel about the fact Jim has it.
And while the cup is no huge loss, it is an interesting one. Likely, Jim will smash it or degrade it somehow. Or simply use it for tea, though Mycroft believes Jim Moriarty would never have use for a cup without any mates.
Jim does seem a bit sentimental, so Mycroft can also envision Jim using the cup in much the same way he uses Jim's cross stitch, as a reminder. It seems fairer that they each have something pretty to remind them of Baskerville and of their increasing need to do away with each other. It's a bit, as Jim said, romantic.
What Mycroft does not expect Jim to do with the teacup is exactly what he does.
Mycroft has had a long day at the office. He settles on the sofa with brandy, discards his shoes, sees that the umbrella and coat are put away. He parts the curtains so he can watch the sunset.
He can't quite decide what to make for dinner, but he figures he'll be inspired once he's in the kitchen. He sets to work removing his jacket, rolling up his sleeves, and reaching to turn the burner on.
He hears movement behind him. For a moment, he thinks it's either Lucille or Anthea. Lucille cleans the kitchen, so she's no stranger to it, and, as Anthea has had dinner with Mycroft and has even stayed the night before, she's no stranger to it either.
Mycroft's phone buzzes suddenly in his pocket, and he doesn't hear so much as a, "Hello, sir," from his guest. He slowly turns around. His tea set is being arranged by Jim Moriarty.
"You know," Mycroft says, ignoring the way panic wants to well up inside of him, "when I said you should ask for more, I did mean that you should ask someone who was around at the time. I hope you didn't feel you had to wait for me." He nervously awaits a response. He suspects Jim at least has a knife on him.
Jim turns around, leaning against the workspace. "Brought your cup back. And, even if I did feel I had to wait for you, I know you didn't feel you had to wait for me. Pity." There's a hard kind of glint in Jim's eye, a tension behind his small, forced smile.
Mycroft registers Jim's hurt and merely says, "Thank you for returning the cup."
Jim sets his jaw and takes a step toward Mycroft. It takes everything in Mycroft for him to stand his ground and not flinch at the approach or look away. "Would you like some help with dinner?" Jim breathes.
Mycroft shrugs elegantly. "If you don't mind taking orders."
"Not if they spout from worthy lips," Jim says, eyes flicking to Mycroft's mouth.
"And do they?"
Jim chuckles despite himself. "Yes. I'll say." He leans in just a centimetre or so. "All this talk is making me rather hungry." A lick of pink lips that Mycroft doesn't want to be watching, but he is. The lips part, a sliver of space coming between the curves of them.
Jim is suddenly so close that the scent of mint gum prevails over all others. He feels the heat of Jim's breath. Mycroft doesn't pull his head away, nor does he lean in. It's Jim's game, Jim's rules, and Mycroft's watching with widened eyes.
It's Mycroft's phone.
"You can get that, you know," Jim murmurs, standing up straight again. He smiles, seeing the desire, displaying it himself. "You can tell them to come get me. I'll go. I'll even go quietly."
Mycroft studies Jim and decides it isn't likely that Jim will be quiet about it. The fight may have left when he was in the cell, but it's coming back, and it's coming for Mycroft. "Can you really help with dinner?" Mycroft says pleasantly.
Jim smiles. "Sure I can. I cook for myself too, most of the time. Oh, the lonely lives we lead, Mr Holmes." He leans a bit closer.
"Indeed," Mycroft says, finding himself more concerned with the state of his kitchen than with the faint possibility Jim might poison the food.
Jim and Mycroft sit with a plate of mushroom chicken tagliatelle and glass of wine each. It's almost pleasant, but there are too many unspoken thoughts between them as they eat. On the third call, Mycroft rolls his eyes and texts that he has everything under control. It's nice to be worried about, but at the moment he has a psychopathic guest and rather good food.
"Release has been good for you, Jim," Mycroft says casually, making a show of putting his phone away. "Your tension has eased. I even notice a healthy glow about you."
"Are you trying to make me giggle?" Jim says. "I like your innuendo, dear. It's sweeter than mine, isn't it? Affectionate. Oh, am I blushing?"
"I rather think you are," Mycroft says with surprise.
"Do you have anything planned for after dinner, darling?" Jim's eyes glitter darkly, and Mycroft's not sure why. He has to admit he likes the fire in Jim, though.
"A tour, perhaps?" Mycroft offers. Yes, that would be polite, wouldn't it?
"Why not? I've seen the floor plans of your house, and the odd picture, but this'll be nice. I must say I look forward to seeing your suits. You might just have one of the most impressive wardrobes I can think of, right down to the cuff links and tie pins."
Mycroft thinks it's heavy praise indeed. "Thank you."
Jim hops up. "Let's go," he says, and he starts to head up the stairs. Mycroft has no choice but to follow.
Jim's praising the suits, and Mycroft can't help but be pleased. And then Jim leans in again. "Oh, don't be afraid," Jim says with glittering eyes. "What do you think I'll do, spoil you? You're not the virgin." He tilts his head. "Or are you?"
Mycroft swallows and by doing so gives himself away. Not a virgin, perhaps, but close. He opens his mouth as Jim takes hold of his tie, but he settles for closing his eyes and leaning his head down just slightly. It's an invitation. He wants Jim to kiss him. He can admit that to himself. Just one kiss. Haven't they both earned it?
The kiss is pressed to the corner of Mycroft's mouth, the corner only. And, suddenly, there's a playful tug at his tie.
But it stops being playful. Time pauses, Mycroft understands, and then there's not enough air, and not in a romantic way. Mycroft chokes, eyes flying open. He's miscalculated. Jim is Jim; what had he expected?
He starts to fight Jim off, uses his not inconsiderable strength, but air is in faint supply and Jim pulls harder at the tie, kneeing Mycroft in the stomach hard enough that air whooshes out, and Mycroft wheezes, trying to catch breath that isn't coming to him.
"You made a mistake, dear," Jim says with viciousness, his free hand clawing at the back of Mycroft's neck, his face close. He almost looks as if he'd like a proper kiss after all. Just when Mycroft no longer wants one; joy. "You should have said goodbye. Now I'm going to say goodbye to you."
Mycroft's fingers struggle weakly to loosen the tie, slipping on the taut silk. He's collapsing, sinking to the ground, and Jim's going with him, still holding onto the tie, looking pleased. Jim straddles his thighs as his vision greys. It's the most intimate Mycroft has been with anyone in a very long time.
"Goodbye, Mr Holmes," Jim says with a grin, a giggle bubbling up inside of him and escaping as he feels Mycroft slip away and go all soft and limp.
Chapter 7: Uncomplicated Things
Mycroft has a friend who will always look out for him, and Jim is jealous.
Rated PG-13 for language.
Jim strokes Mycroft's cheek. It feels so smooth, so soft. Vulnerable, even. And very still. He presses his own cheek to it and closes his eyes. He contemplates whether or not he should press his lips to it instead in a kiss, in a claiming kiss, in one of affection.
Ultimately, he decides not to. He wants Mycroft conscious for that; he'd probably blush beautifully at the contact if he was. Though, come to think of it, he already looks fairly red. Best to ensure his health, the poor, sad old dear. Jim wants him to stick around. He isn't aiming for murder, just punishment.
He's just starting to loosen the tie when he hears someone race up the stairs. It's likely a woman because the shoes clearly have heels and wouldn't that just be tedious if the person wasn't a woman? He finishes taking the tie off, smoothing his hand over the bruising that's already starting to occur on the pale neck. He's made a pretty necklace just for Mycroft. Or perhaps it's more of a collar. Both appeal.
"Hands off," she says.
"I was just saying goodbye to him," Jim huffs, pushing himself to his feet. He looks at her. She has touchably smooth hair, a sweet mouth, and large eyes full of steely confidence. "All in all, I think this evening went rather well." He licks his lips. He does love a woman who knows how to handle a gun.
"Well enough to be worth your new-found freedom, Mr Moriarty?" She trains the gun on him, gesturing for him to get further away from Mycroft's body, to come toward her, her steady hand beckoning him closer. "If you ever want to see him again, I'm going to need your hands behind your back, and no funny business."
Jim grins, shrugs sheepishly, and turns around with his hands behind his back. He makes a face when she secures plasticuffs around his wrists. He much prefers metal. There's something traditional, respectable about metal. He's worth more than cheap, ugly plastic.
"Sit on the bed," she says. In a matter of minutes, she's used Mycroft's belts and a couple of the less expensive ties to make sure Jim won't have an easy time of going anywhere. Satisfied, she hurries to Mycroft, turning him onto his side, unbuttoning his jacket and vest, clucking softly with concern.
There's been a change in her, from cold and annoyed to soft and concerned. She cares deeply for Mycroft. Jim takes in her ring, and the fact Mycroft wears one too. The woman runs the edge of a perfect nail over the marks that are Jim's, not hers. Jim feels affronted.
"He's fine, you know," Jim says. "I know what I'm doing."
She's all business again, still kneeling next to Mycroft. She nods at the gun next to her. "I'd take you out if I thought it was what he wanted. But don't think my reluctance means I won't change my mind if you make to harm him."
"And what if I make to harm you?"
"In that case, we'd have to see." She raises an eyebrow. She's very pretty. He wants to kill her for daring to touch the bruising. He wants to punish her for flaunting her plain ring that looks like Mycroft's. He tries to focus on other things.
After what seems like much too long, Mycroft, now looking a much more normal color, opens his eyes blearily and moans, lifting clumsy hands. One goes to cover his eyes, the other to rub at his throat.
"Shh," the woman soothes, and Jim blazes at her from his spot on the bed because how dare she?
Mycroft moans and curls up a little, which is impossibly sweet. "I meant to say goodbye and get out of here," Jim says. "She had other plans."
Mycroft rubs at his eyes, meeting Jim's gaze. "This is more familiar, isn't it?" he says in a whisper Jim almost can't make out. "The restraints, I mean."
"I like yours better. Hers aren't fancy," Jim pouts. "How's the throat?"
Mycroft sighs, then groans. He looks at Jim with his pretty blue eyes.
"That bad, huh?"
The woman reaches her hand out to touch Mycroft's bruises again, and Jim speaks up.
"Hands off!" he bites out in his loudest voice. Mycroft flinches and rubs at his temple, but it's worth it because Jim startles her and she lets go, staring at him.
"Who is she, Mycroft? Who is this stupid bitch? If you tell me she's...if she's special to you, I swear I'll—"
"What, kill me?" Mycroft whispers. He laughs hoarsely. "Clearly, my darling Jim, you wouldn't." With the woman's help, he sits up.
Jim thinks he recognizes her as Mycroft's PA, but that doesn't mean they're not married; no, that'd just be convenient, actually. And Mycroft seems to prefer uncomplicated things. Uncomplicated things can still be interesting.
"I might!" Jim yells. "Would you like to fucking test your little theory? You'd look so nice in your coffin. I'd even offer to do the eulogy."
Mycroft laughs breathily, then holds his throat with a wince. "Oh Jim, not now." Mycroft allows the woman to help him up, very slowly.
"Where are you going?" Jim demands.
"Away from the psychopath who tried to choke him, is where we're going," she says, and looks at him as if he's stupid. She takes the gun, aids Mycroft in standing and walking as he recovers, closes the door behind them with a finality that makes Jim want to spit.
Jim is in Mycroft's bed, but nothing's how he imagined it.
Anthea presses a cool cloth to Mycroft's forehead, having him lie back, willing the paracetamol to work its magic as quickly as possible. "This isn't like you," she points out, sighing.
Mycroft closes his eyes, feeling safe as she speaks. No, she's right; he's not being himself. He's acting like an adolescent, the same thing he'd judged Sherlock for doing when faced with the strange force that is Jim Moriarty.
"Wouldn't have thought he'd be so jealous over me," she says lightly. "You should rest. I'll take him in."
Mycroft gazes up at her apologetically. "Thank you, but there's no need. He's earned the right to leave or to stay." He lets his eyes drift closed again; he doesn't need sight to know that her horrified, you're-putting-me-on-aren't-you?-please-say-you-are! expression is well in place.
"When I feel well enough," he adds, "I'll be the one to release him. You'll want to make yourself scarce. If you were planning on staying here, arrange new plans. It's too risky for you to stay." He opens his eyes. "But thank you, for all your assistance this evening. You often have more sense than I do."
She sighs and chews her lip. "Well, please be careful, sir." She throws all of her concern into the single sentence. In many ways, she's one of the few who truly understands him, which means she has every reason to be concerned.
Mycroft is surprised to find Jim has worn himself out with his racing thoughts. He's resting, still sitting up, still restrained.
Mycroft begins to remove the restraints, returning the belts and ties to their proper places. Jim stirs awake slowly, very quiet and still as Mycroft finishes his work. All that remains are the plastic cuffs. "Plastic doesn't suit you," Mycroft comments hoarsely, and he rather enjoys the way Jim looks, as if he's mystified that Mycroft understands. He's not just saying it; metal is more suited to Jim.
This is not a good idea, releasing Jim, but they're establishing trust, as they'd started to at the prison, and Mycroft wants to see what becomes of the unique situation, he desperately wants to see. He should be put off, considering the fact he's still weak from the tie, but he's just...intrigued, so intrigued.
"I have a knife in my pocket," Jim says. "Go on and get it. Right hand side." He seems so calm, too calm.
Mycroft unbuttons the custom-made suit jacket and finds the knife, opening it, using it to remove the plasticuffs. When the cuffs hit the floor, Jim smooshes them into the carpet with the soles of his shiny shoes.
"So, what happens now?" Jim asks, furrowing his brow slightly. He seems to enjoy having someone else make the rules of the game for once. Lost souls often do.
Mycroft closes the blade and hands it to Jim, placing it firmly in his left palm, giving him back his control. They're evenly matched. "Now, you can stay if you'd like."
Jim's frown deepens. "Okay. But why?"
Why? Because it's interesting. Because Jim looks awfully sweet when he's confused and affected. Because Mycroft likes the reminder of danger he feels with every word and swallow, because Anthea's away, because Jim returned the teacup and nearly kissed him twice.
Mycroft smiles and says, "Well, why not?"
Jim grinds the useless plastic that had restrained him into the soft carpet just a bit more.
"Would you like one of my tie pins?" Mycroft whispers, confident.
Jim still looks very confused. "Sure," he says, then seems to shrink a bit, hunching his shoulders. "What's the catch, though?"
"The catch is you have to actually wear it sometime," Mycroft says pleasantly. His voice is still full of the hoarseness Jim has caused and, strangely, Jim almost thinks he feels bad about causing Mycroft pain. He shakes his head to try and clear it.
Mycroft offers his hand to Jim to help him up. Together, they head to the tie pin collection. Jim fights against the part of him that screams that he doesn't deserve one.
Chapter 8: "I Can Really Have This?"
Jim and Mycroft get ready for Jim to spend the night.
It's a gold little flying goose, and it looks suspiciously sweet in Jim's palm. He glances up. "I can really have this?"
He's not quite sure why Mycroft's nod and smile unnverve him. He's a bit clumsy as he takes the pin in his hands, and he feels relief when Mycroft takes it from him to pin it in place himself.
Mycroft catches Jim's gaze as he adjusts the tie, tightening the knot just slightly. Jim holds his breath, wondering if he'll be choked.
No, the man's simply straightening his tie. Jim looks away. He can't say thank you. If he says that, he feels like Mycroft will change his mind and decide to choke him after all.
"Come to the mirror," Mycroft says, tugging him toward it.
Jim looks at himself, really looks at himself. He's changing somehow, and he knows it. He's in Mycroft Holmes's bedroom with a goose tie pin, for God's sake, and he feels confused and hopeful. He's almost glowing.
And Mycroft Holmes is leaning forward. Jim watches their reflection with widened eyes. Mycroft presses close so that his lips nearly brush Jim's vulnerable ear and he says, "You look very handsome, Jim."
Jim's fingers clench and he swallows. He turns his head slightly, leaning away so they won't make contact. He stares at Mycroft.
Oh, it's not as if Jim's never been told he's handsome before. But this man shouldn't be telling him that. This man should be slapping pretty metal cuffs on him and sending him back to prison for beatings. Both of them are being idiots, true idiots.
"I could get you something," Jim blurts out. He's not even quite sure where it comes from.
"You already did, Jim." Mycroft steps away, leaving some space between them, wondering when they got so close in the first place. Jim misses the closeness. Mycroft does too.
Jim frowns, confused. What did he get him? He would remember if he'd bought Mycroft something, wouldn't he? Maybe he was losing it. Too much time spent with Mycroft in his stupid house. Maybe Mycroft had put something in the food.
Oh. Right! The cross stitch. The one about incest. But it isn't as funny anymore because Mycroft knows too much about Jim. Mycroft wants to flay him open and peek inside, and Jim's just letting him. He's been invited to stay the night, and he fully intends to. It's too interesting an opportunity to give up, and Mycroft must know that.
"I could get you something else, then," Jim says with a shrug. "I'll think of something, eventually. I'm a fairly apt gift giver. You must be good at it yourself."
Mycroft's lip quirks, and Jim's eyes linger there for a moment. "I've been told that," Mycroft admits.
Mycroft looks up at the mirror suddenly, and Jim catches him eyeing the bruises.
"If you don't want people to stare, you shouldn't let them get close enough to make their mark. Rookie mistake," Jim explains simply with a shrug.
Mycroft rolls his eyes. "One I hope to not make again."
Jim's eyes light up with mischief and he looks Mycroft up and down for a moment. "Your PA needs an attitude adjustment," Jim informs. "And she's too familiar with your home. One might think she was...special to you. Is she?"
Mycroft looks puzzled. "Special like...romantically? Did you think she was? Why?"
"Her affection, her willingness to kill and die for you." Things Jim isn't sure he could ever provide for anyone. And she'd done it so easily. In heels, no less. "Not to mention, the rings you two wear."
"Ah. The rings." Mycroft shows Jim his ring. In fact, he takes it off and hands it to Jim. Jim curls his hand around the ring, forming a fist around it. He wants to throw it, to step on it, to step on her.
"Don't worry yourself, Mr Moriarty. It's often advantageous to appear to have a spouse, so that's our only aim." Mycroft says simply.
"Worry? Pah." Jim makes a face, but he loosens his fist, eyeing the ring as it sits in his palm.
"You seem to be getting ahead of yourself," comments Mycroft.
Jim chooses to focus on the ring, putting it on, turning his hand a bit to see it catch the light. He could be married if he wanted to be. He can be anything he wants, fill any role. He's a chameleon, and the world is his to manipulate.
Mycroft busies himself with heading over to the tie pin collection and arranging it to account for the new gap. He ignores the naked feeling at the base of his right ring finger and lets Jim have his strange moment of sentiment. "Time to turn in soon, I think," Mycroft says.
Jim fiddles with the ring. "Are you going to kill me in my sleep?" he asks, looking over. It's an actual question, not just a joke.
"You may lock your door, if you wish," Mycroft says. Jim has nothing to fear from him, unless Jim causes him to have to use the gun he has stashed for emergency situations.
"My door? Why not our door? What if I want to cuddle? I may not look it, but I'm a cuddler."
Mycroft's brow furrows. He busies himself with getting a pair of pyjamas for Jim. "I may look it," Mycroft says, "but I am not a cuddler. And you are not sleeping next to me. That would be...inappropriate." Not that the situation isn't already miles away from appropriate.
Jim exchanges the ring for the silk pyjamas a little testily.
Mycroft puts the ring back on, watching Jim follow the movement with his dark eyes. "If you go to the toilet down the hall, you can change. There will be a cabinet on the left-hand side with toiletries, as well as anything else you might need for a night's stay."
"What, you're in there?" Jim teases. "Cause I'm going to need you." He reaches out and nearly touches Mycroft's cheek, fingers hovering inches away. "I don't mind changing in front of you. I don't mind being...inappropriate."
Mycroft's smile could only be described as forced as he repeats, "If you go to the toilet down the hall, you can change."
Jim pouts at him, but he goes.
It's a bit intimate, isn't it, wearing someone else's pyjamas? Jim opens the cabinets, tests the water pressure in the shower, admires how clean the tiles are with a satisfied sigh.
He tries not to think about how Anthea probably stays over all the time.
Back at Mycroft's room, Jim catches a quick glimpse of naked back as Mycroft pulls his shirt on. Mycroft turns slightly to look over his shoulder, feeling a tingle of sensation travel along his spine at the longing in Jim's eyes. Jim must be very used to just having what he wants. Mycroft won't be one of those things Jim gets, but it's nice to be wanted.
Mycroft heads over to help Jim hang up his suit and tie. Jim and Mycroft both realize they don't know what they're doing, not in the slightest. But they're doing something, anyway, something new.
Jim pouts. "How familiar this is. Sleeping all alone, just waiting for someone to come break the monotony."
Mycroft smiles carefully. "While I don't like to keep people waiting, you and I both know that nothing can happen."
"I'm flattered, my dear. 'We can't' is very different from, 'Get away from me, Jim, I don't like you.'" He gazes up at Mycroft with hope that Mycroft wishes wasn't there. He rather likes the look.
"And you won't hear it," Mycroft declares, earning himself a raised brow from Jim. "But there are lines that we're not going to even try crossing. Things are already very messy, wouldn't you say? And neither of us are very fond of messes."
Jim sighs, pulling away, scratching at his head and looking elsewhere.
Jim sighs. "Some messes are fun," he points out. "Organized messes, I suppose. Like," Jim swallows, "I can't help but wonder what it'd be like to wear that matching ring instead of her." It's the first time he's ever seriously entertained the idea of being legally tied to someone like that.
Mycroft starts to laugh, and then the laughter builds, the tension of the moment fueling it. He doesn't realize his misinterpretation until, expecting Jim to at least be smirking, he sees an untapped sort of fury light up Jim's face, animating it. Mycroft's expression shifts. He's wary, stunned.
Jim wishes, for a fleeting moment, that he'd pulled harder on the tie, waited longer to untie it, done some permanent damage with his hands, anything. Part of him feels he's got to deal with this kind of direspect, with this embarrassment, this...rejection.
Mycroft clears his throat. "I ought to apologize," he says. "I hadn't realized the...gravity of the situation."
Jim puts his cool mask in place. "I've really managed to surprise you, then. Now I'm surprised."
"Yes, you have." Mycroft says carefully. He watches Jim start to pace. " You may have a choice of any room you'd like. I'm sure one will be suitable." At the way Jim's head whips around and he looks like he's already made a decision, Mycroft adds, "My own room is, of course, the exception."
"Well, I could make it good, you know," Jim says very quietly. "I could make it worth the mess."
The truth is, Mycroft wants to feel Jim pressed close, He's heavily attracted to the man in a physical sense, and he keeps getting such strange reactions from him.
"Because we'd be rushing things," Mycroft says.
He shows Jim a few of the rooms. Jim decides upon the one with Mycroft's old model ships and cars decorating it. Mycroft is secretly pleased.
Jim steps forward, hesitant. "Would you tuck me in, if I asked?" He gazes curiously at Mycroft.
"If you'd ask," Mycroft agrees.
Suddenly, Jim wraps himself around Mycroft and sighs, leaning into it, letting his eyes close.
When they pull apart, Mycroft watches Jim get into the bed. They find the silence eerily comfortable. Jim's smile is open as he says, "Thank you, Mycroft."
Mycroft returns the smile politely. "No trouble," he says.
Jim giggles. "You're such a liar." Because he's choked Mycroft and upset his PA, and those are naughty things to do.
"Will you kiss me goodnight?" Jim asks. He feels stupid for saying it. He's going to be rejected. He's going to be laughed at. It's not a good idea, asking for a kiss, especially not after...after how that last one'd ended up. It'd serve him right, it'd make sense , if he didn't get another chance. He still wants one, though.
"That wasn't part of the plan." Mycroft tilts his head. "We agreed to tucking you in." He stares at Jim for a long moment. He gives up on the scrutiny; all he sees is impishness and sincerity.
So he takes Jim's hand in his own, raises it to his lips. He lingers for a moment, eyes gazing into Jim's until Jim flushes and turns his face away.
Jim gasps and giggles again, watching as Mycroft leaves. He's too adorable for his own good, and oh-so-luckily not in Mycroft's bed. It's a small miracle in a strange night, but Mycroft will take his miracles as they appear.
Chapter 9: Force of Habit
It's quite a morning after.
Rated PG-13 for language and threats of violence.
"I said OPEN THIS DOOR!" Jim screams, pounding at it with his fists. "Don't you dare make me pick this lock!"
Mycroft blinks awake and rolls over to check the time, flicking the alarm off because, well, there's no need for it anymore. Mycroft is a sound sleeper, so Jim must have been yelling for a while. Jim sounds rather worked up.
"I WILL PEEL YOUR SKIN AWAY FROM YOUR NECK IN STRIPS! GET OUT HERE OR YOU'RE DEAD TO ME!" Jim huffs. There's the sound of Jim kicking the door. "Mycroft!" He kicks again with a groan of impatience, and then there's a thunk likely caused by Jim throwing his shoulder against the door. Mycroft stands quickly and walks over.
Mycroft steps over to the door and is about to unlock it when he hears Jim storm away, his bare feet pounding down the stairs. He opens the door, hearing Jim mutter more threats as his voice gets farther away.
There, on the ground just outside Mycroft's bedroom, is a tray that holds a full cup of tea and a plate with eggs, fried bread, and even black pudding. "Jim?" he says, though he realizes Jim can't hear him.
Jim is beyond hurt. He feels rejected, he feels like he isn't trusted. He feels played. Mycroft needs to try and talk to him. He walks past the tray, rubbing at his eyes, walking down the stairs. He finds Jim in the sitting room, pacing. Jim doesn't look up when Mycroft says his name.
"Why would you lock your door?" Jim finally spits out. Mycroft carefully steps toward Jim to comfort him, but Jim rushes past, heading up toward Mycroft's room. Mycroft can't think of what Jim could possibly want there that wouldn't be untoward when he remembers: Jim's suit.
"I made you a stupid breakfast," Jim says, looking twitchy and irritated as Mycroft enters the room. He's clumsy as he dresses.
Mycroft takes the tray into the room as a show of good faith and begins to eat Jim's breakfast. "It's very good, Jim," he praises carefully. It's cooked to perfection, and Mycroft feels comforted, oddly cherished. Even if he isn't, not really. That would be impossible, or nearly so.
"Oh, don't give me that. Don't you give me that," Jim says. He runs a hand through his hair. "You don't get to lock your door and then say that to me. But eat up, dear. Enjoy it. It'll be your last."
"Jim," Mycroft says softly, pleading. "How was I to know you'd bring me breakfast?"
"My suit was in here. Why would you lock the door?"
"I didn't realize that at the time," Mycroft says. "Forgive me, Jim. Force of habit."
"No, I've seen your lock. No, you don't lock it often at all. Well fuck you!" He looks as if he wants to rush at Mycroft, wants to hurt him. His hands clench dangerously just in front of him. "You know what you are, Mycroft Holmes?"
He braces himself. "What am I?" Jim's right. Locking the door wasn't a habit, though forgetting about the suit really had been a mistake. There's no good way to tell a sensitive lunatic that you locked your door for protection after the job he'd made of your throat.
"A liar. And I know enough of those, so just stay away from me."
Mycroft carefully does not point out that Jim broke into his house, that Jim is the one who could do the staying away. He understands why Jim feels betrayed. He'd probably feel the same way. Well, no, he probably wouldn't. "You're a very good lock pick. You could have opened my door this morning." It's a weak effort, but one nonetheless.
Jim laughs. He laughs and laughs, and it's a sad laugh, there's something forlorn and dark about it and he lowers his head and doesn't move for a moment. His lip quivers.
Mycroft looks away, eating more of Jim's breakfast. He hopes doing so will put Jim more at ease.
"You don't get it, do you? What would that prove? We already know I can pick a lock. No," he unpins the goose from his tie with an annoyed expression, "I don't want to see you or your stupid geese," said as he throws the golden pin across the room, missing Mycroft by not much at all, "in my way, ever again."
Mycroft swallows. "Thank you for breakfast, Jim. Ring me if you change your mind about the pin."
"Oh!" Jim huffs, rolling his eyes, turning around. "Oh!" He runs out of the room, down the stairs, leaves the house.
Mycroft closes his eyes and sits quietly, processing everything that's just occurred. The breakfast plate is still only half finished. The house seems empty already; Jim fills up a lot of space for someone so cuddly and adorable.
Things are better this way, he finally remembers, opening his eyes. Things were never supposed to be easy or romantic.
But there's something highly surprising about the way Jim has opened up when shown a little kindness, a little mercy, things he's surely had before but not from someone he finds "worthy". And Jim finds Mycroft worthy.
Mycroft finishes the breakfast off and decides that, despite the early hour, a bit of a drink can't hurt. He leaves the goose pin on the floor, not because he forgets about it but because he doesn't think it belongs with the others anymore. It's Jim's.
Chapter 10: Metallic Crash
Mycroft doesn't expect to see him again, but Jim is always a surprise.
Anthea is texting away angrily in the corner as John assesses the bruising. John sits back and says, "It looks normal, very normal." He reaches for his drink. "So, what happened then?"
Mycroft glances at Anthea. John glances at Anthea too. "It was something stupid, wasn't it?" John asks her.
Anthea looks at John approvingly. Mycroft sighs and says, "You wouldn't believe it if we told you."
John gives up trying. "Well, you'll be fine, provided this doesn't happen again. It could have been a lot worse. Keep taking paracetamol and don't have any, I don't know, screaming rows with Sherlock."
Mycroft chuckles. "How is Sherlock?"
"He's good." John takes a sip, nodding. "He thinks about Moriarty a lot, though, so I worry."
"Ha! Yes, I wouldn't wish that on anyone," Mycroft says with gravity and a hint of humor, both of which are lost on John. But, of course, they would be. John looks to Anthea for help, but she's typing at her poor keyboard even harder.
"I suppose I'll finish this drink and be off. I'm glad you called me, though. Always good to make sure."
Mycroft smiles. "Anthea called on you. I had no part in it."
"Oh. So, you, ah, trust my expertise, do you?" John hopes. Mycroft wonders if Anthea might indeed feel something for John. At the very least, she finds him as trustworthy as Mycroft does, which is very.
She quirks her lip, not looking up. "Thank you for coming, John." The fact she doesn't look up makes Mycroft think yes.
When John leaves, Anthea tells Mycroft again that she thinks it was stupid to keep Jim there for the night. He smiles and lets her speak. She doesn't know the hurt Jim had displayed. There's a lot more to Jim than Mycroft had assumed. More than anyone had, Jim included.
Jim is out there all alone and scared now.
Mycroft raises Jim's surveillance status and finds that the man goes on holiday almost immediately after The Breakfast Fiasco. Good for him. Mycroft wouldn't mind going on holiday as well, to be honest, but there's no time.
Jim continues his business from abroad, but much less of it, which means he's trying to take a proper break. Mycroft misses him, but he misses him less with each colleague's comment on the state of his neck, misses him less with each time he avoids stepping on the goose tie pin, and with each time he doesn't. He pushes Jim to the back of his mind. It's better that way. That's the way it's supposed to be, after all. That's appropriate.
"I suppose it was the thrill of his trust in me, or of my discovering something in him that no one else has seen," he tells her finally. He finds it hard to look at her.
"I suppose I can understand." Her look still says it was stupid, and she's got him there.
"I was trying to use the idea that he could care as an advantage. I thought he might find it interesting, distracting even. And he did." He smiles ruefully at nothing, "And I did too. Far too interesting. I'm actually fond of him, if not of what he does."
"Your heart is too big, sir," she comments.
"Yes," he agrees.
Mycroft doesn't usually wake up in the middle of the night, but a metallic crash, the light of a torch, and the sound of a soft curse do the trick nicely. He's immediately on the alert. He moves very quietly to reach for the bedside table, opening the drawer he's engineered to make no sound, reaching inside to where the gun sits. Just as he's drawing it out of the drawer, he realizes the intruder is on the ground with the spilled tie pins.
It's Jim. Who else would it be?
"I told you to ring me," Mycroft says with annoyance. It sounds harsh in the room's dark and quiet. He should be sleeping, not talking to childish lock pickers.
"Oh, come off it," Jim says, rising to his feet and finding his way to the main light. They blink away the brightness and eye each other. "That's not how this goes anymore, and you know it. Before, all the calls and the texting, it was build-up. It's just weird, now. We've had our night of passion."
Mycroft gets to his feet, bending to pick up the pin. The sooner Jim has it, the sooner he can get to sleep. The sooner they can return to being less than what they could have been.
Jim sighs. "You didn't even pick it up? I'm just that forgettable, I suppose." He's not sure why he's surprised. This is the Iceman, after all. He may have tiny little buttons all over that Jim knows how to push, but that doesn't mean he'd want to see Jim again. He probably doesn't want anything to do with him, actually, considering their opposite ends of the law.
Except...there's that certain way he laughs at Jim's jokes and the way he tilts his head and offers Jim whatever he can afford to give that makes Jim think...makes him think it'd be worth the risk of rejection to press the Iceman's little buttons just a little more.
"Not at all, Jim." He steps closer carefully, holding out the pin at arm's length. "It's simply yours to do with as you please. I've no use for it."
Where's the catch, the stupid little catch? Why can't Jim see it? Is it even there?
"Well, go on, then," Jim says quielty. "Pin it on me." He waits for Mycroft to step in to do so before he says, "You know, I kind of want to kill your PA, but I'd just end up starting an employee assassination war, and that sounds boring."
"Yes, it rather does," says Mycroft.
"Would you like to do something together that isn't boring, then?"
"Like a date?" Mycroft furrows his brow. Surely not.
"Yeah," Jim says. "I often wonder about how you'd show me a good time."
They spend the day sight-seeing and eating crap food. Phone calls are ignored, colleagues reassured, and Mycroft buys Jim a Union Jack baseball cap that he begs for with large eyes.
When they're looking at the crown jewels lazily, admiring them, Jim says, "I bet I'd look amazing in that throne, wearing that crown. I was born to be a king. Don't you think I was born to be a king?"
Mycroft can't quite decide what the hunger in Jim's eyes is meant for as he nods. "Yes, you were, and the crown would suit you. But then, you'd look good in anything." He tugs at the brim of the cap playfully.
Jim gives him a little kiss for that, pressing close. "Remind me to send you a picture."
"Of me in my new cap, darling. Do keep up."
It's much later that Mycroft realizes what Jim means when he says it.
He laughs more than The British Government probably should when he sees the picture of Jim in the crown.
Chapter 11: Some Major Capacity
Jim calls from prison and then pays Mycroft a visit as Richard Brook.
Rated PG-13 for language.
Mycroft receives a call from the prison.
"Hello, Jim." Mycroft wonders, not for the first time, if he's the only friend Jim has.
"You were wrong about me. I don't care about you. I tricked you." Those are Jim's first words to him. Mycroft tries to imagine what trick Jim is referring to. Everything, most likely.
"Like the other day. I'm not interested in dates, I just needed inspiration." Ah. It's one way of looking at things, and Jim is pushing for it rather hard. But Mycroft doesn't think it's the entire truth.
Mycroft is someone Jim would chose to look to for ideas; that's interesting. Mycroft can tell, simply knows that Jim cares for him in at least some major capacity, so he doesn't feel played. He feels touched, actually, that Jim has to try so hard to deny it all. Pathetic, dangerous, and touching, Jim is.
"You also needed a cap," Mycroft teases. Jim had worn the cap when he went in to wear the jewels. Perhaps it was a device for getting Mycroft's attention. Perhaps Jim just liked the cap.
"You watched the surveillance, did you?" Jim sounds pleased. "And did you like what you saw?"
Did Mycroft enjoy the way Jim had danced, the way he'd lit up? "Yes."
"You are pathetic, aren't you? What was the best part, do you think?"
"'Get Sherlock'. And I liked the thing with the gum." Mycroft won't say that the best part was Jim, in all his graceful, intelligent glory. He won't say that the best part was how he looked in his t-shirt.
"Are you jealous of the attention I've been giving him, your brother?"
Mycroft doesn't respond. He recognizes the difference between the way Jim treats him and the way Jim treats Sherlock. Mycroft's only feeling about it is concern. He worries for Sherlock's safety, but not his own. He's certainly not jealous, though he'll let Jim think that he is. Jim likes the attention.
"I don't actually care for you, you know. You were wrong," Jim repeats. "Not that I care for him either." His voice sounds searching. He wants Mycroft to tell him that he's capable, or else tell him he's not. He wants a definitive answer. Mycroft can't give definitive answers about Jim's heart if not even Jim can.
"I'm not always right, you know," Mycroft says with a chuckle. "I have off days. You not being able to care for people, it's not such a loss, is it?" He wants to know how important it is to Jim, if Jim will let him know.
Jim gives a strange, sad little sigh. Mycroft wonders at the sound. Is Jim mourning his lack of a heart, or is he just disappointed in Mycroft for not giving him a proper answer?
"You care about things too much," Jim says. "I'm going to kill your brother." Then, he adds as an afterthought, "If I don't kill myself first." Jim hangs up, and Mycroft honestly wonders if Jim just might.
Mycroft swallows the guilt he feels for not saying that Jim, his emotionally responsive Jim, can feel things, or at least that he believes Jim can. If he absolutely had to choose one way or the other, that would be his answer.
Jim makes more friends in prison, like he did with Harrison at Baskerville. He does a few jobs that way. It's preferable to Jim being bored, Mycroft supposes, thinking of Sherlock and how idle hands become the devil's playthings.
The trial goes very well for Jim, and very poorly for Sherlock, who Mycroft worries for. He thinks he sees where Jim is going to go with it all, with what he's learned of Sherlock's history, with Sherlock's rude personality.
It's almost poetic. But, at the end of the day, Mycroft's first priority will always be Sherlock. He can't remember it ever being anything else.
Mycroft isn't terribly surprised to find Jim in his sitting room, but the ensemble is a change.
"I guess you're wondering why I look like this," Jim says, standing and showing off his dressing gown, running fingers through his messy hair. "I look very different, don't I?"
Mycroft smiles a false smile. He's guarding himself this time. Sherlock is on the line, after all. "To what do I owe the pleasure, Jim?"
"Richard. It's Richard Brook," Jim says, gesturing to himself. "Do you like it?"
Mycroft translates it easily. "Ah. As in Reichenbach." It's something to do with the brick-by-brick unbuilding of Sherlock, then.
Jim giggles. He puts his hands over his mouth and turns around in a circle, glowing at Mycroft. He's touched and tickled and glad he's come to visit, glad also that Mycroft never increased security on the house. "You're so good. You're ever so good. Sometimes I feel like you're the only one who gets me."
"Sometimes I rather think I am," Mycroft says coldly, seating himself on the sofa. "Now, why are you here?"
"Ugh. My new roommate." Jim sits heavily, leaning in conspiratorily to add, "She's dull."
Mycroft breathes a sigh of relief. This is doable. This is not about Sherlock, at least not directly. "Why are you wasting the rest of your short life with dull people, Jim?" Mycroft asks, curious. It's also a bit flirtatious, the statement, because of the implication that Jim has people who are less dull that he could be spending it with, and they both know Mycroft is at the top of that list.
"It's important to the story, the plot," Jim says with a long-suffering expression. "I'm the poor little actor, sleeping with her for room and board." He rolls his eyes. "She makes me do the shopping, and she makes me help proofread, and I don't even like her much." He scooches closer, leans against Mycroft's shoulder, sighing. "I'd stay with you if you'd get me closer to Sherlock. You're much more fun."
Mycroft can't recall ever being called fun before. "We don't care for each other," Mycroft reminds Jim, and himself as well.
Jim sighs, nuzzling close. He turns, burying his face in Mycroft's neck, satisfied at the small gasp the movement causes. The contact thrills both of them. "She makes me fuck her. It's part of the deal. But I wish it was you instead. Imagine!"
Mycroft is; he can't help it. He's imagining. He curls his arm around Jim and they stay like that, even though they shouldn't. He murmurs, "I wish you weren't a criminal, Jim."
Jim goes stiff in his arms and pushes himself away from the warmth they're both coming to want. He turns away, sulks in his dressing gown, and it so reminds Mycroft of Sherlock that he pats Jim on the shoulder in apology, even if he's not at all sorry he said it. "Hungry, my dear? We could do dinner."
"Let me just inform her," Jim says distractedly as he watches Mycroft take off his jacket and roll up his sleeves. "You know, when I cook at home, I put on casual clothes to do it, but you just roll up your sleeves and go for it. I think this is the most skin you ever willingly show anyone. Seems a shame. You do have a nice-looking back, if I recall."
"I'm quite sure you do," Mycroft says, trying not to let on how thrilling it is to hear Jim bring that up. He himself can recall the heat of Jim's gaze on his skin, the sensation of both wishing Jim had been a little later in coming in and that he'd been a little quicker and seen yet more skin.
Mycroft adjusts his tie a bit, but Jim knows he's showing off his bare arms. Jim doesn't think it's on purpose, though; he thinks Mycroft is wanting Jim to see more of him, is wanting to be on display, but at the same time he's a little shy, Mycroft.
"Come and join me in the kitchen when you're done dealing with the reporter," Mycroft says, voice sensual. Alright, maybe not quite so shy. Jim quickly clears things up with Kitty, shucking his dressing gown and joining Mycroft in the kitchen.
"In your role as Richard Brook, are you and the reporter dating?" Mycroft asks. It's more conversational than anything because he's not really the jealous type, at least not in this case. Jim is tied to him because Jim wants to be. It's not Mycroft who keeps calling and breaking in.
"Oh god no. Mycroft, you're going to make me ill," Jim says, and laughs. He smoothes at his hair a little with his hands, to no avail. "No, I guess I'm really more of a rent boy, if anything. I'm rather good at sex, you know. I could probably make a living that way, and not just with stupid people, with someone interesting. Like you."
Mycroft laughs. "That would be something, wouldn't it? We didn't even last twenty-four hours last time you were over. You choked me into unconsciousness with my necktie and threatened me when I locked my door."
"Yes, but I made you breakfast too." Jim looks eager, staring at Mycroft. He wants a reaction, a specific one. Mycroft's not sure what it is he wants.
Mycroft leans against the workspace, looking at Jim curiously. "Yes, you did. But isn't that a bit beside the point?"
It was the wrong thing to say, apparently. "Oh, of course, Mycroft," Jim says, huffing out a breath. "Of course. When I actually do something nice, it's beside the point." His voice is growing more heated. "Well, you know what? I hate your stupid point!" Jim roars as he begins to pace the kitchen. "You did this to me, you know. You reached inside like the puppet master and started to pull out my insides. Things I'd left there long ago, things I'd kept locked away. You thought it'd be amusing to see everything that's inside of me. But who the fuck are you to judge me, when you go around doing that to people? At least I just orchestrate crime. Crime pays with money. You get paid in what, satisfaction?"
Mycroft watches Jim pace, saying nothing. Anyone, even someone with poor skills in observation, would be able to see how Jim was affected, would be able to tell Jim had a heart and that it was a shattered little heart, one he'd protected for so long until Mycroft had picked his way through all the locks and sat inside and had dinner.
As Mycroft considers the situation with sorrow, aching for Jim, Jim suddenly charges toward Mycroft. He grips at Mycroft's vest, tugging him forward. "Your brother is going to die because of what you've done to me. No one has ever given me hope. Did you know that? You told me I could...that I could be...." He roars, shoving Mycroft backward. Mycroft is glad the burner has not been turned on, because he suddenly finds himself half across the stove.
"I may be defective. I may be the only one like me. But there are people like you, Mycroft. I know all of them; I work with them. I know what you are, and you don't intimidate me. You don't get to me. No one ever gets to me!" Jim says with eyes that glisten. "Do you hear me? No one ever gets to me!"
Mycroft pulls out a handkerchief and sets it on the workspace. Jim lowers his head, staying very still. His face wars between anger and sadness as if he's not sure how to respond to the gesture.
"I wasn't wrong, Jim," Mycroft says. He waits for a moment to see if Jim will respond. When it appears he won't, Mycroft heads up to his room to allow Jim a dignified exit.
Mycroft receives a single text message from Jim when he's alone in the house again.
I've decided not to believe you. You're a very good liar, but I can trust my instincts. Alas, poor Sherlock. You knew him so well
Chapter 12: A Lot to Come Clean About
Sherlock and Mycroft plan together. Jim shoots himself.
"We really need to talk, and, no, I'm afraid it can't wait," Mycroft says in greeting. "I take it John is out?"
"You should know he is," Sherlock says with a wave of his hand. "Come in, come in."
"One can never be too careful."
"Especially you." Sherlock frowns in concern. "John tells me you were recently choked with your necktie. What happened?"
"More important things first, dear brother," Mycroft says with a swallow, knowing he has a lot to come clean about.
"And those are?" Sherlock settles on the couch like Jim on the throne, adjusts his dressing gown like Jim-as-Richard-Brook. Mycroft is hit by memories he doesn't care to be having.
"I'm here because I know you'll need to be very careful." He sighs, settling himself down across from Sherlock. "We need to do some more planning regarding Jim. Much more."
Sherlock raises a brow. "You still call him Jim, do you?"
Mycroft looks away. "What I call him is unimportant. We both know the code is a fake, yes?"
"Yes," Sherlock confirms.
"Good. But let's not let him know that we know. Let's not let anyone know that we know." Sherlock tilts his head in interest. "It's going to be our excuse. It's now the reason I beat Jim. It's something you are going to look as if you're figuring out. Played correctly, it'll mean we can get a confession out of him."
"Are you sure we can get one?" Sherlock raises an eyebrow. "How are you sure?"
"He likes the attention, of course. Speaking to you will give him purpose. He likes getting one over on worthy opponents, and you fit that description. He's told me he's going to kill you. I won't let him." He feels like a poor date for telling and a poorer brother for waiting so long.
"You talk to him often, do you?" Sherlock jokes, but at the graveness in Mycroft's expression, he sobers. "Mycroft, are you, of all people, playing with fire? Tell me you aren't making poor decisions regarding Moriarty."
"We'll have to plan this out very thoroughly," Mycroft says in evasion. He'll talk about his personal ties to Jim in time. "He was much more stable at the pool. He's been thrown into chaos now. It's my fault, I admit. And I'll do anything to help you face him."
"You'd do anything anyway," Sherlock says with a roll of his eyes. "So were you dating, then? I always thought you two had some things in common. But he strapped semtex to John, or did you forget? He broke into my flat, twice that we know of. He blew up a woman for describing his voice."
Mycroft sighs. The look of disgust on Sherlock's face is deserved. In fact, he'd deserve it if Sherlock kicked him out of 221B. "I can't take back what's already happened. I can only say I'm sorry and offer you my regret. He's been different. But now he's angrier than ever. I let him down."
"You would, wouldn't you?" Sherlock eyes him, but he seems to accept that while something happened between Jim and his brother, kicking Mycroft out would just prolong the planning. "You didn't sleep with him, did you?" he cautiously asks.
"No!" Mycroft says quickly. "This is what happened, Sherlock. He showed up in my kitchen in retaliation for my not saying goodbye at Baskerville, and then he spent the night in one of the guest rooms. I locked my door, a fact which, upon discovery, caused a tantrum. He'd expected my complete trust, but I am not quite that trusting."
Sherlock stares at Mycroft in stunned silence. "Your regret is what you offer me, hm? Well, I'll take it," he says. "Tell me what you expect of him. Tell me what you've learned. And help me plan my death."
Mycroft sinks into the couch further. "Of course, brother," he says.
Sherlock pauses and asks, "Was he the one that choked you with the tie?"
Mycroft laughs. "Yes, brother dear. He was." He doesn't say that he'd thought he was going to be kissed.
They come up with the idea for the fall together. Sherlock will ask Molly for help and text Jim that they should meet on the roof about the code. Jim is creating the metaphorical fall, so they'll create a real one, if it comes to that, and it's likely to. Jim isn't relenting. He wants to end Sherlock's world, and with it Mycroft's. He's in pain, and he needs someone—Sherlock—to feel as alone as he feels.
"Perhaps I could just make up with him," Mycroft says quietly.
"Mycroft, do you actually expect that to work? This is Moriarty."
Mycroft sighs. "Possibly not." At the look on Sherlock's face he says, "Probably not. Plus, you really are in his way, if he wants to keep being the consulting criminal."
"Killing me for job security. And he nearly gave that life up for you," Sherlock says, amused. "Imagine."
Mycroft quirks a lip. "He did a lot for me, Sherlock. Did you know he chose breaking into the crown jewels as one of his acts of power because he knew it would amuse me?"
"He did?" Sherlock actually seems to find that interesting.
"We'd just been to see the display together. Our first and only 'date'." He sighs when Sherlock wants further explanation.
Mycroft tells Sherlock Jim is working with a reporter named, as he finds out from her articles, Kitty Riley. He tells Sherlock Jim is disguising himself as a poor actor, dishing out the things the brothers decided Mycroft should tell him. He doesn't find it important to tell Sherlock that Jim is rooming with her because her flat is the last place he expects Sherlock will show up, even as a fugitive. From reading her articles, Mycroft can tell that Kitty has been utterly taken in by Jim. Jim is more charming a man than Sherlock realizes, and Kitty more desperate to prove herself as a friend, lover, and protector.
The idea that Sherlock and Jim came face-to-face in her flat is disturbing to Mycroft, but they both come out of it alive.
When there are no options left, the brothers plan for Sherlock's jump, but not for Jim's insurance of the jump.
They also don't plan for Jim's death.
Mycroft's heart wrenches at the sound of a gun firing up on the roof. He can't see anything from where he is, waiting in a nearby alley. The most important person in the world and another he wishes wasn't nearly that are both up there, high above on a roof, and he doesn't know which one received the shot.
Then, Sherlock comes to the side, clearly uninjured. Mycroft should feel relief, and he does. But there's something else, a quiet dread that's gnawing at him. Is Jim hurt? Is Jim dead?
He's offered a chance to see the body, but he doesn't take it. He looks at the photographs, though.
Sherlock tells Mycroft he got the confession recorded on his phone, and Mycroft tells him the phone is secured. The plan went off well, but it is extremely regrettable that they aren't to tell John. They can't risk it.
Jim's death is regrettable as well. Sherlock and Anthea understand what he's going through, but the rest of the world doesn't even think Moriarty existed. Somehow, that hurts more. Mycroft only ever met Richard Brook the one time.
Mycroft finds Sherlock clinging to him when they meet. Sherlock whispers in his ear, "I hate this. You know, he still believes in me."
"Of course he does, brother," Mycroft soothes, running a hand along Sherlock's back. "You are the best of friends. The loyalty between the two of you is astounding."
"I'm sorry he shot himself," Sherlock says, nosing the side of Mycroft's face like a child. "You and Jim were becoming friends. Or more."
Mycroft feels a fresh twinge at the words. He misses Jim. "Mm. I'd thought he might do that. I should not have messed with his emotions. I'm very sorry he did it so close to you, Sherlock. There was nothing you could have done."
"I'm still sorry." Mycroft realizes Sherlock is worried about his loneliness and not about whether he could have prevented Jim's death.
"Don't worry for me; it's you who deserves all the worry." Mycroft brushes his hand through Sherlock's sweat-damp curls. He's not had a chance to shower, though he did wash off most of the fake blood.
"I hate worry," Sherlock says, finally pulling back. He wipes at his eyes with the back of his hand.
"I love you, Sherlock," Mycroft says. "If I knew how to stop worrying for you, I still wouldn't do it. I feel you're safer when I worry." Mycroft receives a smile for this, though he's not sure why.
The realization that Jim has been shot is one thing, the realization it was suicide rather than self-defense is another, and the photographs are hard to look at for long.
But when Mycroft finally breaks into tears is when he learns he's been listed as Richard Brook's next of kin.
Chapter 13: Perish the Thought
Mycroft has dinner with someone he hadn't expected to and sees something he wishes he hadn't seen.
Mycroft doesn't tell Anthea about being named Jim's next of kin. Jim wouldn't have wanted her to know, and it's something Mycroft has to take care of alone. It's his own stupidity, his own poor decisions, his own grief.
Mycroft's grief makes him feel very isolated. John already doesn't want anything to do with him, and that's without knowing Mycroft is mourning the man who nearly had him blown up. Greg Lestrade is a nice man, and fairly easy to talk to, but he wouldn't be able to understand either, Mycroft thinks. He's too good, too upstanding.
Only Sherlock really gets it, some, and Sherlock is off doing things only a dead man can do. Molly and Mrs Hudson aren't people he would feel comfortable discussing Jim with. It all leaves Mycroft feeling truly alone. The entire rest of the world thinks Mycroft's brother was a suicidal fraud and that Jim Moriarty was a character invented to trick everyone.
There's a death he's supposed to mourn, but it's the one he's glad the public believes happened. There's a death he's supposed to be glad about, supposed to count as a victory for Sherlock, but he feels sick with the loss. There are nuances to Mycroft's situation, and he hates each and every one of them.
For once, he'd like to be experiencing a straightforward type of emotional scenario. It would be very nice if, for instance, Jim had been a regular boyfriend, a regular person, one who'd never dealt with semtex hugs and kisses of asphyxiation. If Jim had been normal, if what they'd had had been normal, Mycroft could grieve normally. And the world would grieve with him. "Oh how tragic," everyone would say. "Oh, I'm sorry, Mr Holmes," they'd say. And their flowers and condolences would make him feel better and not worse.
Mycroft must have the worst judgment in the world, to have fallen for someone who blew up an old woman, who dealt in shadows with a cheshire grin and hands that didn't mind tugging at a tie to punish romantic interests. Miss Molly Hooper, somewhat of an expert at reading Sherlock, had noticed enough of Jim to drop him after a few dates (three) without thinking of him as her boyfriend. Mycroft and Jim had only had one proper date and it had left Mycroft secretly hoping they could one day even consider using the term "boyfriend". There are reasons why dating isn't really Mycroft's area.
He drinks a little more and works a little less and tries to swallow the parts of his grief that don't seem to leave through shed tears. He feels a hollowness, a lack of trust in himself. He may have a superior mind, but emotions are the great leveler. Jim's life ended. Mycroft's heart was broken. Mycroft just needs to wait a little longer to recover, just needs to get Richard Brook's things and relax. Now, after the fall, after Jim's death, Mycroft feels it's alright to take a holiday, even if there isn't time.
The flat is easy enough to find. It's a flat that Sherlock says he came face to face with Jim-as-Richard-Brook in. It's a flat that Jim and his reporter had sex in multiple times. It's a place Mycroft doesn't really want to be. Mycroft has to be places he doesn't really want to be every day of his career, so it's really not much of a change, but it also makes it not much of a holiday.
He introduces himself and explains he's there for Richard's things. He has a flattened cardboard box in his hands and hopes Richard's things will fit inside.
"I met your brother a few times before he died," Miss Kitty Riley tells Mycroft. "I'm sorry for your loss," she adds quickly. He can tell she means it, a bit, but it's mainly her trying to be polite. Because Richard's who she believed in. She'd been convinced she was helping her new friend and lover as well as furthering her career in a way that benefitted the world. It had been a heady combination of being the one woman with the whole truth and being someone close to Jim. She'd gotten caught up in Jim. He can't bring himself to be too upset with her. He'd gotten caught up in Jim also.
Mycroft's not too fond of the way she speaks of Sherlock, however.
"I met him in the loo the first time," she admits.
"The gentlemen's loo?" Mycroft clarifies, curling his lip slightly when she nods with enthusiasm.
"Oh yeah," she says as if it makes perfect sense. And there might be a hint of flirtation in the tone too. "He was rude to me. Told me I repel him."
Well, imagine that.
"I'm quite sure that he was rude," Mycroft says. "But perhaps you could have waited for him outside. Going into the gentlemen's loo for a scoop is a bit not good, don't you think? What of privacy and decorum?"
She tilts her head. "You're not much like your brother, are you?"
"No." But enough like him to understand why Kitty Riley could be repellant.
"He was here too, you know."
Mycroft acts surprised. "Was he really?"
"Yeah. Came in to tell me his side, but I'd already gotten all the juicy details from poor Richard. I told Richard that Sherlock and his 'friend' John Watson wouldn't do anything to hurt him with me there as witness. John Watson was really taken in by Sherlock's tale, though. He was very angry. I felt a bit bad for him. He and Sherlock made to chase Jim, but he got away. They got him in the end, though." She sighs.
"Yes. Poor Richard," Mycroft says, just barely able to hide his amusement. She's not at all clever. She must have been easy pickings, once Jim-as-Richard-Brook put on his puppy dog expression. Once he took off his clothes.
"Anyway, next of kin, huh? Funny he never mentioned you."
"Well, he mentioned you. He was a man who was very alone. We had a thing once, Richard and I. He'd been to see me a few times lately to catch up."
"Well," she says finally, "I didn't know him very long, but I'm really going to miss him. Let me help you get his things."
He sees a connection between them, one he can't ignore despite that he wants to leave as quickly as possible and never enter the flat again. It was her simple arrogance, after all, that had led to the article, and she was the last person Jim Moriarty had ever slept with. But she and Mycroft had both been with Jim for short periods of time that had meant a lot. They'd both had Jim as a houseguest. For these reasons and no other, he lingers slightly. He lets her talk, and he listens as he places things in the box.
There are some toiletries, including a slightly-dull razor and deodorant. He doesn't need either of these things; they're disposable. Well, they should be. But he finds he wants to properly analyze everything Richard left behind from the privacy of his own home, including toiletries.
There are a few changes of clothing in a suitcase Jim brought, including underwear. Mycroft will carry the case out to the car once he finishes filling it up. Mycroft isn't sure why touching Jim Moriarty's false identity's underwear should have his cheeks heating up, especially with the man dead and all, but it happens and he ignores it best he can. "How did he come to live with you?" he asks her, wishing for a distraction.
"He was about to be evicted. Too bad he didn't tell you. I bet you could have protected him. I was protecting him." Mycroft refrains from commenting that she did a poor job of that; saying so would be rude and untruthful.
It's all his fault that Jim is dead. He could have left Jim alone. Jim would have stayed safe, and he would have wished that Jim would fall into danger, and that would have been normal and good. Mycroft's heart is indeed too large. His heart frequently embarrasses him and causes him to make poor decisions. He's not like Sherlock, who has a better grip on such things, no, not like him at all.
"What's in here?" he asks of a little leather diary in the night stand. He's certain she would have looked inside if it was Richard's.
"It's only an address book," Kitty says with disappointment, pulling it from the drawer, opening it. She hands it to Mycroft. "There're only a few in here. Nothing else."
"Thank you, Miss Riley," Mycroft says, studying the addresses. There would be no reason for Richard Brook to write addresses like that. It doesn't make sense. Mycroft recognizes that the street of one of them would mean it belonged to a large house. Another belongs to a restaurant near Kitty's flat. A first date, perhaps? Another belongs to Mycroft's house. The final address is 221B Baker Street.
"You can call me Kitty, if you'd like," she says. "Most do. Anyway, is there going to be some sort of a funeral or memorial service I can attend?"
"I don't know," Mycroft says honestly. He catches her gaze. They both would like there to be a funeral or service. They would both like to attend, to cry over Richard like it's normal. He opens the diary. "Was this restaurant important to you and J-Richard?" he asks. She doesn't seem to register the slip.
"Yeah. Yeah, I took him there the first night he moved in."
Mycroft packs a few more things away and says, "Would you like to go there now? My treat."
"Why?" she asks warily.
Ah. No, not as a date, Miss Riley. No. Perish the thought.
"We could go in remembrance of Richard," he offers. He wants her to say yes. There are kinder and more insteresting people he could take out to dinner, but this is the one person in the world who misses Jim like he does, if with nuanced differences. Sod nuances; this is the one woman who could possibly understand the effect of puppydog gazes and what it had felt like to kiss Jim, to embrace him, to tuck him in.
She relaxes. "Alright," she says. "You're nearly done gathering it all. Shall we finish? I can carry the box if you get the case."
"Thank you," Mycroft says with a cautious smile as they finish up. Maybe she's not all bad. She had wanted to protect someone she saw as vulnerable, ater all, even if the someone had been far from it.
Or had he? Mycroft had thought of Jim as vulnerable too. Jim had been vulnerable around him. What difference did it make if Jim played a part or was his true self, if the vulnerability had hints of being genuine? Or perhaps Jim Moriarty was separate from even the Jim he'd known. Perhaps Jim had put on an act for him and had played him just like the rest.
Mycroft suddenly realizes Kitty has finished collecting Jim-as-Richard-Brook's things. "Thank you, Kitty," he says with a swallow.
She lifts the box, waiting as Mycroft does up the zip on the case and lifts it by the handle. "So," Kitty says, "do you date men exclusively, or would you consider taking me to dinner to be a date as well as a type of memorial?"
Mycroft eyes her. She's interested in him, a little. He tries to keep his smile at least somewhat light as he says, "My dear, I think Richard was the only individual I've ever intended to date." He looks away with a bit of a wince after the words are out, understanding how ridiculous they are, even if she does not.
It's a sweet little place, a bit romantic, with wide windows looking out into the street. He likes the atmosphere. They sit and share about Jim. She tells Mycroft of Richard's lack of interest in his appearance, and all Mycroft can think of is Jim's impeccable taste in suits and the way he'd looked in the tie pin. Mycroft hadn't noticed the tie pin among the things from the flat, actually, but Jim presumably owned the nice home that he'd left the address for in the diary, so it was likely there.
Mycroft is probably expected by Jim, Jim who is now dead and gone, to settle affairs with all of his things. Mycroft should feel no obligation to a dead consulting criminal, but he does anyway.
Kitty tells Mycroft about how good Jim was at proofreading, even if he'd hated doing it. He'd been so desperate to prove to her that staying with her meant something to him, she says. Jim really must have made himself look pathetic, Mycroft thinks, imagining that he possibly would not have fared much better against Jim at his most pathetic.
Mycroft tells her that "Richard" was a good cook and made him breakfast one morning. She says it's a pity Jim never did that for her. Somehow, Mycroft feels he's won Jim with the victory, despite Jim being dead, despite Jim having had actual sex with her and only ever having kissed Mycroft.
Mycroft tells her that "Richard" once took one of his cups just to have an excuse to return it. That makes her giggle. She tells Mycroft about how Richard was a big fan of James Bond, and she says he looks sweet in his DVD as The Storyteller.
"I've never seen it, you know," Mycroft says. "He wouldn't let me. Said I'd tease him. But you wouldn't mind if I borrowed the DVD, would you?" He attempts to charm her with his smile.
"No, I wouldn't mind, Mr Holmes," she says. "When you drop me off, come inside and I'll get it for you." She looks at him with a gaze that hints that he could have more if he followed her in. He doesn't want more. He barely wants as much as they currently have.
"That would be splendid," he says. "I suppose it's not nice to tease the dead, but I find myself ready to do so."
Just as they're finishing up, Mycroft sees someone peering into the restaurant at the diners a few tables down. He peers past Kitty, ceasing to hear her words as she goes off on a tangent about journalism.
It doesn't look like just anyone. Mycroft knows who it looks like. He's tempted to stand and walk over, both and make sure it's Jim and to make sure it isn't. The suit isn't one he's seen before, but it's so Jim. Mycroft realizes Kitty has just asked him a question. He looks at her, answering, "I believe so, yes."
It's the right thing to say, and she relaxes a little, satisfied. Mycroft looks at the figure outside again, ignoring all other passersby. The height is right. It looks so like him.
"Something wrong?" Kitty asks.
Mycroft dabs at his mouth with his napkin and says, "Please excuse me."
He crosses the restaurant to get to the loo, staring at the figure as he gets closer. He's going to pass in line with the man. He'll be able to see his face clearly. The man awknowledges his staring by shifting uncomfortably, turning heel, and walking away.
It feels like losing Jim all over again.
Mycroft shakes his head at himself in the mirror above the sinks. There's hope and there's stupidity, and that was stupidity. Mycroft's not above the idea that he may have just seen a ghost. He believes that sort of thing does happen. However, he finds it more likely that his mind, powerful thing it is, might be playing tricks. He doesn't want it to be his mind; he'd rather it be reality's fault. But it wouldn't be unheard of, taking into account family history.
He says nothing of the incident to Kitty, though he finds it harder to concentrate than it had been before the figure had shown up. They head back to her flat and she retrieves Jim's DVD for Mycroft. They part ways. It's not so bad, even a bit friendly. She has her merits as a person, if not as a reporter.
Jim-as-Richard-Brook is very charming as The Storyteller. Mycroft laughs and drinks a little as he watches. It's a good end to an evening full of memorial moments. This is another, but it's fun, full of laughter and drink.
Mycroft sorts out all the things "Richard" left behind, kneeling and laying them out in his empty sitting room as the DVD plays. He finds wall decals that spell out "make believe". Interesting. Perhaps he'll place them in the room with all his old models, the room Jim had slept in.
He reaches into the pockets of all the clothes, including the dressing gown Jim had worn when visiting as Richard; it's seen the sitting room before. There's nothing in the right-hand side pocket of the dressing gown, but in the left Mycroft finds the handkerchief he'd left on the workspace for Jim. It hadn't been merely crumpled and squished into the pocket. It had been cleaned and folded neatly. He'd kept Mycroft's handkerchief, but, not only that, he'd kept it nice. Mycroft feels oddly touched, until he lifts the folded fabric and realizes it contains a light, metal object of some sort.
Mycroft rolls out the large white square of cloth on the sofa next to him and finds a key inside. It must belong to the large house the diary contains the address of. Yes, it looks like Mycroft is meant to sort out all of Jim's affairs.
It's cruel of Jim to expect that of him as he mourns, Mycroft thinks, but then, Jim was always cruel. And to be fair, Mycroft is supposed to be made of ice.
Chapter 14: Fall Business
Mycroft and Anthea look through the things in Jim's house. They're surprised at what they find.
Mycroft's not typically one for stealing, especially from people in mourning, but he purposefully forgets to return the DVD to Kitty.
He goes out suit shopping with Anthea, which means he sits on a bench and waits for her to appear in something so he can comment and critique. It's her favorite thing to do with him off hours, and she's demanded he join her because she's worried about him. As she should be, he thinks.
Jim hasn't stopped haunting him. He's seen Jim at the shop, vegetable-hunting in a plain t-shirt, and he's seen Jim at the park, jogging. As he sits on the bench waiting for Anthea to emerge again, Mycroft looks pointedly at Anthea's bags. He thinks he sees Jim in a shirt and blazer and fancy trainers over at the men's section, but as ever, "Jim" ignores him as if he doesn't recognize him, then looks unsettled by Mycroft's staring.
Wouldn't it just be the icing on the what-is-my-life-becoming? cake if Mycroft was turned in for suspicious behavior? Perhaps it's just some man who looks uncannily like Jim. Jim could have even been a twin, for all Mycroft knows.
Mycroft decides he needs to end his holiday and begin work again. That should help his mind settle.
Suddenly, he realizes Anthea's in front of him, sporting a suit with a nice cut.
"Mm. Attractive," he tells her. "Turn round. Yes, I like it. Look at where it hits you there," he points. "I think it's lovely. May need to be taken in at the waist, just a tad."
She smirks, looking over her shoulder at him. "Well, that's fine. Thank you. But I was actually asking if you're alright."
"Are you?" she persists.
He reaches out his hand to take hers. She grips gently, turning around to face him. "No, Anthea," he says very seriously. He shrugs. "I'm not alright."
She furrows her brow at him. "Okay," she says. Mycroft's been in need of some support, and she's been trying hard to be that for him, but he's had things he needed to do alone. She's glad he's reaching out, finally, and not shutting her out.
"I'm not alright at all," he says quietly, eyes an intense and honest blue. "Could you please make me an appointment with a highly-recommended grief therapist?"
She raises an eyebrow. "Happy to, sir. It should go along way." She pauses. "This isn't typical of you," she adds as she pulls out her lifeline and begins to find him the best therapist possible. "But it's good. It's very good."
"Well, Anthea," he says, focusing on the pattern of the suit she's tried on, "I find I'm not myself." He looks up to find "Jim" again, to have Anthea look too, but the man is gone. It hurts to never receive a sign of recognition, to never hear so much as a "hey".
Anthea notes that Mycroft looks tired, despite being on holiday. "Really, sir? Then who are you?" She teases, but he doesn't laugh. She tries to think of last time he laughed, but she can't remember when it was. "An appointment for Wednesday at two. Is that alright?" She reaches for his hand again, holding it for another moment.
"It's quite fine, dear. Now go and try on that dress, if you wouldn't mind?" He raises a brow.
"Right away, sir," she says carefully. She does love to shop, and he does love to comment.
Mycroft's first day back at work includes no incidence of seeing Jim. The next day, he's rather pleased with the therapist and with the prescription for medication he receives. He's very hopeful. Sherlock calls him later in the afternoon to catch up, and the sound of Sherlock's voice goes a long way in cheering him. Mycroft has forgotten, though, that Sherlock can pick up verbal clues in a phone call nearly as well as he can. He almost wishes they'd decided to text.
"You sound frightened," Sherlock says with surprise. "In general. Nervous. Has something happened?"
"Just all of this fall business," Mycroft says. He squirms in his chair, glad Sherlock can't see him. "Don't worry yourself."
"Anthea says you've started seeing a grief therapist." Ah. She's always doing that, informing Sherlock of things. Only the really important things, luckily. But there's not much use hiding now. Not that he can't fight it a little for show.
"Yes. I think the idea has merit, don't you?" Mycroft says cautiously.
Sherlock's in no mood to let it go. He's probably bored with all the waiting and planning he's been doing. "What are you afraid of, brother? You sound scared, not sad."
"I believe I'm seeing things," Mycroft admits.
Sherlock is stunned into silence. Mycroft closes his eyes for a moment, afraid of what his brother will say. He doesn't want Sherlock to be upset with him, but he'd like even less for Sherlock to be upset for him.
"Things? People?" Mycroft doesn't answer. "Jim?"
Mycroft sighs heavily. "Yes, Jim," he says, ignoring the way his voice catches on the name. "I see him. It's impossible, I know. The prescription might help. You're better off not caring too much, Sherlock." He lets the fear come through; why stop it? "Care about John, that's alright. But don't worry about how human you are; you've got a better grip on it than I have."
"But Mycroft, you know it's like Jim said. You're a bit heroic about it. You let your care fuel you. It actually works when you do it," Sherlock admits.
Mycroft runs his fingers over his lip. "What should I do if I don't stop seeing Jim everywhere, Sherlock?"
Sherlock laughs. "Mental illness is not a death sentence, brother. You go forward. You move on."
Mycroft breathes a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Sherlock."
"When I come home, I'd better not find you feeling sorry for yourself. You owe it to me, for your terrible taste in men."
Mycroft misses Sherlock. "It will be nice to see you again. I'm doing my best to keep an eye on John," he assures Sherlock. "I'm trying to watch everyone."
"Good. Keep watching everyone. And if you have to watch a Jim Moriarty who isn't even there, well, you're just being impressive then, aren't you? Just, don't go bragging about it. Might not end well."
Mycroft chuckles, pressing the phone even closer to his ear. Sometimes, Sherlock's the only one who knows just what to say.
"I'm afraid to go alone," he admits to Anthea, who turns to him, curiosity piqued. "To Jim's," he clarifies. "What if I don't like what I find?" Then, he corrects the statement, looking away. "What if I like what I find?"
"We'll go together," she says. "It won't be so bad."
"Won't it?" He sighs. He has no idea what to expect of the place, except that it will be large and likely orderly and very Jim. He doesn't want to have to decide what to do with whatever he'll find.
She rolls her eyes. He's overthinking the situation, isn't he? "No, it won't. How about tomorrow?"
"We'll do it now, I think," Mycroft says suddenly with a faint smile, liking her surprise at his statement. "Let's call it a day and head over. We'll get it over with."
She almost hesitates, wanting to get some food in him because he'd worked through lunch, but ultimately she keeps quiet and they grab their coats and make their excuses. Once in the car, Mycroft pulls the diary out of his pocket and reads the address to the driver.
He unlocks the door with the key he'd found in the handkerchief, the key he'd been meant to find. The house is large and very full of things. Jim Moriarty had been a dedicated collector. Mycroft estimates that some of the interesting things like the mummified hand on display haven't been obtained strictly legally. He doesn't like that he's impressed with this fact more than annoyed.
He finds it's not at all as bad as he was fearing. There are too many interesting things there for him to focus on his feelings for Jim. He finds another copy of The Storyteller TV show among Jim's DVD's and pulls it from the shelf, deciding he'll have Kitty's copy returned as soon as possible.
Mycroft is impressed with the stereo and music collection, as well as with the way the music is organized. Anthea comments on the state of the top-of-the-notch kitchen set-up and the impressive collection of knives.
They go to Jim's bedroom next, both admiring the bed as they enter. The wardrobe is something Mycroft's been looking forward to seeing, and Anthea too, actually, so they open the door to it right away. She's confused when Mycroft puts a hand over his mouth and reels back. His eyes are wide. He looks terribly affected, and she can't figure out why. The clothes look normal to her. She's obviously missing something. "Sir? Mycroft?"
Mycroft turns to walk to the bed, sitting on the edge of it as he continues to stare. Anthea is quickly at his side. "Is there anything I can help with? What's wrong, sir? Do you...see him now?" Clearly, she and Sherlock have been keeping up.
Mycroft shakes his head. "Please go look in the other rooms." He tries to fight the tremble in his voice. "I'll finish looking at the things here."
"I think I'll go look in the kitchen some more, if it's all the same. Is it possible I could get my hands on some of those knives?"
Mycroft waves her off with his hand. "Yes. Go on, Anthea," he says, and she does.
Alone, he covers his face with his hands until he has the strength to stand and turn back to the wardrobe. A hanger sports the same blazer and shirt Mycroft had seen on the "Jim" who was browsing the men's section. The utterly recognizeable fancy trainers the "Jim" had worn are displayed in the organized shoe section of the shelves.
He lifts one of the trainers, inspecting it, then places it back and runs a hand over his face again, sucking in a breath. The suit Jim had worn while standing outside the restaurant is there as well. Mycroft thinks he'd recognize it anywhere, after reliving the image so many times in his head.
Mycroft sobs once, a deep gush of air and feeling, and he scrubs at his hair. Is Jim alive?
If Jim's alive, what's his game? Is he trying to drive Mycroft to insanity? Is Mycroft dreaming?
Mycroft turns to see Anthea at knife point. Jim is holding the knife. It could be Jim's twin, if the man wasn't staring at Mycroft in that desirious, teasing way Jim had come to stare at him. It doesn't look as if it's an expression easily faked. Mycroft doesn't understand why Anthea is calm enough to wait and see how things play out. She hasn't turned tables on Jim about the knife. It makes no sense to Mycroft. He steps closer, coming round the side of the bed.
"Why'd you have to bring her?" Jim says, screwing up his face in an all-too-familiar way. "Don't tell me you've gotten together now, Mycroft. I can't take it; I'll vomit all over her." He makes a dramatic gagging noise.
"But never mind that. What the hell are you doing alive?" Anthea demands, nudging Jim impatiently. And it's a good question, actually, but it's all a bit much. Mycroft's head is reeling. Before Jim can even begin to reply to Anthea, which he seems raring to do, Mycroft has properly fainted.
Chapter 15: Slap Him a Bit
Mycroft and Jim discuss the future.
Rated PG-13 for language, innuendo, and mild violence.
Mycroft is close enough to the bed that his limp body catches on it and slides into an awkward seated position rather than falling flat on the floor. Jim rests the knife against Anthea's skin but doesn't press. He pauses for a moment in consideration, then lets the knife fall to the ground, darting to Mycroft's side and kneeling.
Anthea joins him as he begins checking Mycroft's vital signs, pulling out her mobile and making to dial for help, but Jim jerks the phone out of her hand so quickly, so harshly that her hand stings. "What are you doing?!" Jim demands. Anthea shakes the sting out of her hand, scowling back at him. "We can't have people poking through here. Do I look like a man who can afford questions right now, Anthea?"
She narrows her eyes. "What you look like is a prison bitch, if you don't give me back my mobile."
Jim lets go of her wrist and slides her phone artfully across the floor toward the knife. "Oops! Sorry, dear, but I simply can't." He reaches up onto the nightstand for a thin self-help book, using it to fan Mycroft a little. "I'll bet he didn't eat enough today."
"And whose fault would that be?" Anthea snarks, beginning to undo Mycroft's jacket.
"Yours, obviously. Isn't it your job to, like, make sure he functions?"
"Don't blame me," she snaps. "This is your fault entirely for the murder of his brother and your posthumus public appearances. You could at least've had the decency to stay dead. The world likes you better that way," she says. "Except for him, of course. The one man dumb enough. Good news for you. Though, no telling now, since you did kill his brother."
Jim makes a face at her, but can't help but appreciate her point, the way she's telling him more or less that Mycroft does feel a lot for him. He watches in silence as she unfastens the restrictive clothing. He recognizes the need for her actions, but he wishes he could shoot her for getting so up close and personal with her boss. "Shouldn't we, like, slap him a bit?" he asks.
"You'd like that, would you?" she raises an eyebrow. "Do you get all of your medical advice from television? Because you're obviously a complete moron." Jim's eyes flash at the term. "You don't slap fainted people, Jim. Come, help me get him into position. I need him on his back."
"I'll bet you do," Jim says darkly. "'Oh, that feels good, sir!'" he mocks in a high pitched voice, moving his hips as an illustration. "'I'm riding the second-most dangerous man in London!'" He gasps and squeals.
"And you're the first?" she asks, dubious, when he stops. He shrugs and smirks.
"Hilarity aside, Jim, I need his feet up too," she continues after a brief pause. "And I need his head to the side. That's how it's done. Help me. You care about him, so prove it."
Jim grumbles to himself as he helps Anthea position Mycroft.
"Better," she comments.
"For your sake, you better hope he is," Jim says.
Anthea rolls her eyes. She can almost see what Mycroft sees in him.
"You know, I saw you two at the store. I always wanted a boyfriend I could shop with." Jim sounds thoughtful.
She eyes Jim. "Boyfriend? You?"
"Who doesn't want a boyfriend?"
She has no answer for that, and shrugs.
"You're not together, right?" He leans toward her, his eyes wide.
She quickly avoids saying they are; a joke like that might turn very dangerous. "For the last time, Jim. I'm his PA and his friend. What do you want from us, awkward sex? My resignation?"
"No, I actually think I believe you." Jim sits back on his heels, satisfied.
"I think I'll be his boyfriend, then." He claps his hands together, "Now! Leave us be. I'm sick of your face."
Anthea curls her fingers into the sad-looking bun at the back of her head. "Are you serious? After what you've done to him? He's been a wreck. In therapy, questioning his sanity." She tilts her head at Jim, frowning. "I see now that you have to ruin absolutely everything you touch. You really do. I almost feel sorry for you."
Jim is about to unleash an angry response when she adds, "I'll leave you with him for a bit. Though, there's a price to pay."
Jim frowns slightly. "Er. Okay? And what is it?"
"I want your kitchen knives." Anthea stands, bending to collect the knife near the door as well as her mobile phone.
"Fine," Jim says easily. "Now fuck off."
Anthea lingers in the open doorway. "I'll be down making him something to eat. If he starts to wake on his own, slowly help him sit up." She lifts a finger in warning. "No slapping," she says seriously.
Jim rolls his eyes. He hates her. He really does. Though at least she'd known what to do about the fainting.
Moments after Anthea's exit, Mycroft opens his eyes and groans.
"Eaaasy, love," murmurs Jim. He crouches over so he can get a good look at Mycroft's face.
"Jim?" Mycroft furrows his brow.
"Yes, it's actually me," Jim says breathlessly, studying Mycroft's face intently. Jim carefully positions Mycroft so he can help him sit up in a moment, lowering his legs. "I didn't plan to show up so soon, no, but...but she was here, and I just get tired of seeing you two together. I got upset," he admits.
"I don't understand," Mycroft says. He's referring to what Jim did to Sherlock, to Jim being alive, to Jim leaving him the key, to everything except why Jim would think he and Anthea were together because they've been over that, haven't they?
"You two looked touchingly cozy at the store the other day, with her showing off, with you both holding hands." Ah, so Jim thinks they started something while Mycroft was grieving Jim. "And then you bring her here. No girls allowed, Mycroft. This is my house. Rude." His lip curls in amusement. He slowly helps Mycroft to sit up against the bed. "I want you. I know that now." Jim looks at Mycroft in consideration.
Mycroft clears his throat. "I'm not happy with you," he says. "Let's make that clear." Not happy is, of course, an understatement. Jim's deceit and his willingness to kill Sherlock finally mean something again, now that Jim's alive to pay for his mistakes, to learn from them.
"You're glad I'm alive though," Jim says with a sparkle in his eyes. "Every man should get a chance to see how he'll be mourned. You care for me. You," he pauses, then sighs out, "love me. You were devastated." He looks positively gleeful, leaning in closer. "And you liked me haunting you."
"Could you get Anthea?" Mycroft asks, voice firm. He tries to pull away from Jim. He's not in the mood for playing, and certainly not for kissing.
"You say you're angry, but I bet you'd melt if I kissed you. Would you melt? I think you'd melt." Jim giggles, reaches up to brush fingertips over Mycroft's lips for a moment, then returning his hand to his side. "Kiss me. You know you want to." He feels drunk off Mycroft's presense, the one man who's always treated him so well.
Mycroft still feels a little weak, but he manages a nice punch despite it. It is satisfying.
Jim enters his kitchen, huffing, hand covering the side of his mouth. He's absolutely seething. Anthea lets a wide smile have its way with her face.
"He hit you. Good for him," she says with approval.
Jim ignores her, putting some ice in a bag and pressing it to his cheek. He sulks heavily, and Anthea thinks he actually looks rather cute that way. "You deserve it, you know," she says. "You deserve any hell Mycroft wants to put you through. And more, if it were up to me."
Jim rolls his eyes. She thinks he does know.
Mycroft comes down the stairs after a while. "Evening, dear." he says to Anthea, ignoring Jim.
"I'm fixing something for us all to eat," Anthea tells him.
"I'll help you," Mycroft says. Jim makes a sound of protest.
"This place'd be nice if it didn't come with the owner," Mycroft says lightly, not caring to look at Jim's reaction. Then, his face hardens a bit. He decides the silent treatment will prove to be a stupid choice with Jim; it might bore him. "How's that feel, Jim? I've seen you take much more." He does slowly turn then, just to peek. It feels good to see Jim sitting with a pout, to see him paying for something.
"I'm not pretty anymore," Jim pouts. He pulls the ice away. The cheek is a bit swollen. Mycroft hates that he likes Jim at his poutiest. He reminds himself that Jim believes he really killed Sherlock, and yet he doesn't seem to feel sorry. Anyone who doesn't care for Sherlock has no place in Mycroft's life.
"Impossible," Mycroft says. "Your face will always be the prettiest part of you." Jim looks down at the table. "Unless, for some reason, you feel remorse?" Mycroft says softly, warmly. "Perhaps your heart could prove me wrong."
Jim catches his gaze, hardly breathing as he listens to Mycroft's soft voice. He sounds gentle again. Jim starts to relax. He puts the bag of ice down on the table. He sits up straight.
"Are you sorry for what you did?" Mycroft takes a step closer, raising a brow.
"What did I do?" Jim breathes.
"You know precisely what you've done. You've gone so far as to celebrate it, I'm sure, like it's a victory." Mycroft's voice becomes quiet and dangerous. "You killed my dear baby brother, Jim. He was the most important person in my world. You were becoming important as well, but you blew it."
"I didn't kill him! He killed himself," Jim says quickly; his eyes are wide. "Didn't you hear it from the papers?"
"Ah yes," Mycroft says with a chuckle that doesn't reach his eyes, "the papers. Funny thing, those stories, when you know the truth." Jim tilts his head at that. Mycroft must be bluffing. The only person who knew was Sherlock. "Sherlock recorded your conversation on his phone before he died."
Jim leans forward, burying his face in his arms at the table. A quiet, "Oh," escapes his lips.
"I've played it, over and over. I know everything, absolutely everything," Mycroft says. "Did you know that John Watson is my friend? Did you know I spend time chatting with Detective Inspector Lestrade? Did you know Mrs Hudson sends me sweets? No, I'll bet you didn't know that. But now you do."
Jim lifts his head only enough to see Mycroft with his wide eyes.
"Put yourself in my shoes, Jim, if you even can."
"I can!" Jim sputters. "I can do that."
Jim feels like he'd felt when he'd stared a little too long at the bruising he'd given Mycroft, like he had when Mycroft gave him the tie pin. He feels low and undeserving. Killing Sherlock had been exciting. He'd been thrilled to lower his enemy, to take everything from a man so that he wasn't the only man without a thing to his name, without Mycroft.
But to be Mycroft, to have a brother to care about, to protect so fervently, and then have him taken away, by a love interest no less? It couldn't have been easy.
"Do what you will with me," Jim whispers. "I need to pay." There's something miserable in his gaze, as if he's capable of understanding some of the pain he's caused. Mycroft's heart swells at the possibility. But he can't let himself become distracted. He can't guess this time; he has to know Jim for sure.
"Is that what it was all for?" Mycroft asks, raising his voice. "Did you just want me to do with you what I would, to punish you? You had to kill a man to feel like I'd do that? Talk about a lack of trust, Mr Moriarty." He tsks. "Perhaps what I should do with you is lock you up for life, keep you alive and well-fed, but never deign to see you again. You are the scum of the earth."
Jim sits very still, looking empty and beaten.
"You really thought I'd want to sleep with my brother's murderer, so long as I didn't know?" Mycroft says it harshly, but he's mainly curious.
"Yeah. I did think that," Jim says with a helpless shrug. "A miscalculation. That thought isn't fair to you, though, is it?" Jim rises. He walks to Mycroft and kneels at his feet, looking up at Mycroft rather than down at the floor. "I'll do anything," he admits, "if you'll only come visit me while I'm locked up. Once a year? I'll even try not to run away."
Mycroft sighs, running fingers through Jim's hair. "You are ridiculous," he says. He steps toward the sink to wash his hands, leaving Jim kneeling in the middle of the floor. Jim studies the tiles.
Mycroft realizes there may be a way to fix everything, to have his cake and eat it too. "I know what I'd like you to do," Mycroft says, turning round, causing Jim to look up at him so quickly there's a twinge in his neck.
Jim rubs at his neck as he stares hungrily at Mycroft, who has one hand behind his back. "I want you to help me unbuild your empire," Mycroft says, quietly, self-assuredly. "Brick by brick. If you can't do this, you really don't have any place in my life."
A shiver goes through Jim as he weighs the price of his own fall against being in Mycroft's good graces.
"You will need to cooperate. You will need to prove to me that you care for me and for the well-being of the people close to me, including Anthea here. You will come work for me, and I will protect you. You have a brilliant mind, and we'll put it to good use. I'll do my best to keep you from being bored. If you prove yourself, Jim, you can have all I'm offering. You can have me. You can have a place in my life, forever."
"Forever?" Jim tilts his head, suddenly suspicious. "And what place would that be? Politician? Errand boy? Personal slave?" There's a fire in his eyes again. Mycroft just wants to toy with him. Mycroft never loved him—or worse, he did and no longer can. It's over. It's properly over.
Mycroft holds out the hand that isn't behind his back. "Place your hand here," he demands, and Jim easily complies, laying his hand on top of Mycroft's with the palm facing up. "Close your eyes."
Jim obeys again, shivering once more. He wonders if his palm'll be cut open. He wonders if his wrist will be slashed. Or perhaps Mycroft will just hand him his key back and tell him he's kidding and that he actually never wants to see Jim again.
Jim's eyes pop open as he feels the slide of metal along his ring finger. He stares at Mycroft.
"No," Mycroft says. "None of those things."
Jim is wearing Mycroft's plain gold wedding band. There's a strange ringing in his ears. He stares at the ring, touches it with wonder. Mycroft says something more, but he's unable to pay attention.
Tears come to Jim's eyes, and he sobs lightly once, then again. It doesn't burn his chest or his throat. It feels like such a natural cry, just pouring out of him. He feels full, full when he'd always felt empty. He leans forward suddenly, wrapping his arms around Mycroft's waist, resting his cheek against his thigh. He mutters a frenzied mantra, the sound muffled against the fabric, his voice sounding thick and harsh.
Mycroft curls his fingers in Jim's hair and tilts his head back, meeting his gaze with gentle eyes, trying to hear what Jim is saying.
It's, "Bless you."
Mycroft doesn't say it, but with a tear in his own eye, he echoes the sentiment.
Chapter 16: Null Game
Jim stays at Mycroft's for a few nights.
Rated T for innuendo and sexual situations.
With one arm still around Mycroft, Jim furiously begins wiping at his eyes. Anthea is staring at the two of them, just standing and staring. Jim curls his arm around Mycroft again, tugging him even closer, nuzzling his thigh before resting his cheek against the fabric of the well-made trousers, meeting her gaze.
Mycroft recognizes the possessive quality to the gesture, and of course the sensations of his thigh being nuzzled and of hands pulling him closer are uncommonly enthralling, but none of it's in any way appropriate, so he needs it to stop. He clears his throat. "Jim, dear, I think she gets it. Let's go have a seat."
Jim, eyes suddenly searching Mycroft's, smirks heavily, expression slowly curling from desperate and a little sad into that of the proverbial cat who got...well. Slowly, his tongue makes its way out of his mouth and slickly paints itself across his lips once, twice, inexorably catching Mycroft's gaze. "Sorry, dear," Jim whispers hotly. "Didn't realize I was making you...uncomfortable." As he pulls his arms away, he lightly brushes his fingers over the curve of Mycroft's hips, stroking. "I accept your...generous offer," he says. "All too willingly. It's all very exciting, isn't it?"
Mycroft swallows and takes a measured step backward, detachedly offering his hand to help Jim up. Jim stays on his knees for a moment, digging his fingers into Mycroft's hips a bit more as he meet's Anthea's gaze. He tugs Mycroft back toward him. No one has ever tempted him so fully before. And it's oh so fun to press Mycroft's buttons.
Anthea bites at her lip in amusement, but Mycroft noticeably reddens, pushing Jim's hands off of his hips with force. "I told you to stop," he growls. He makes his way to the table to sit, ignoring Jim and Anthea both. There's no reason for Jim to push him like that. He'd been very nice to Jim about asking him to the table.
Jim grins as he gets up, but he's more cautious as he approaches. Mycroft still doesn't look at him, so he sits down and comments, "This ring doesn't quite fit me."
"For God's sake," Mycroft snaps, looking at him. "It's symbolic. Hand it back, if you'd prefer." He holds his hand out for it. Jim swallows.
"Right, no, I know that," Jim says, rolling his eyes. He fiddles with the ring a bit, but doesn't remove it from his finger. He shyly looks up, feeling just a bit of remorse for continuing his little possessive game when Mycroft had wanted him to stop. "I will get a real one though, won't I? An interesting one." He seems to be...he's batting his eyelashes at Mycroft.
"If you decide that's what you truly want." Mycroft lowers his eyes to look at the table again. "You've embarrassed me," he says, quietly so Anthea can't hear.
"Yeah. So?" Mycroft had watched him as he was beaten, had punched him, had made him beg and promise to give up his criminal empire.
"I don't want it to happen again," Mycroft says simply. "In fact, I'd like an apology. It doesn't have to be now, but, yes, I'm actually upset."
Jim presses his finger to his bottom lip slowly. "Hmm. So the Iceman flushes, does he? I rather like that."
"Anthea, you may leave us for now," Mycroft says, catching her eye.
Anthea nods and takes hold of her new knife set, heading out to the sitting room to explore more of Jim's things. The oven timer will go off in a few minutes, but Mycroft and Jim are more than capable of taking a bake out of the oven.
Mycroft holds his hand further out for the ring, insisting.
Scowling a little, Jim takes the ring off and puts it in its owner's fine palm. "Spoil sport."
Mycroft puts the ring on, resting his head heavily in his hand. In the past few weeks, Jim has twisted Mycroft's trust into shapes he doesn't even recognize.
"Oh, come on," Jim says. "Anthea didn't mind. She thought it was amusing." Something about the room seems heavier without Anthea's presence. Being alone with Mycroft is bringing a lot of feelings to the surface.
Mycroft doesn't say anything in response, and Jim finally sighs. "Well, I don't like to apologize, so get used to it," he says. "I already did enough apologizing for a year over there, on my knees, my actual knees, Mycroft."
Mycroft puts on a terrifyingly sweet smile. "Ah, I was unaware you could see into the future and apologize for the things you're sure to do. How clever of you. Or do you mean to suggest that your apology was such a fine one that you get freebies now?"
Jim makes a face and reaches for his ice, resting it against his cheek again. "Don't forget; you hit me. And I agreed to help you." His eyes dare Mycroft to push him. It's always about the past with Mycroft, like Jim isn't clever enough to make the future be different.
Mycroft sighs. He looks at Jim, poor, pathetic Jim. "Yes, I did. You were being an arrogant prick, if you'll recall. But I am sorry to have hurt you, if not sorry that perhaps you might have learned something, for once."
"Hey. Hey, don't. Don't you write me off like that, Mycroft Holmes," Jim says dangerously, shaking his head and pointing his finger at Mycroft. "You fucking know better."
Mycroft takes in a deep breath through his nose, letting it out slowly. He rises to his feet "Alright, I won't," he says. "I apologize if your efforts to be...companionable...have been...discounted." He takes in another deep breath, letting it out in a sigh. "I'm sorry to have hurt you, and I am, in fact, grateful for the willingness you seem to have to...."
"Say it," Jim challenges.
Mycroft cautiously continues. "Change...for me."
"Good." Jim smiles slowly as he watches Mycroft for signs of insincerity. He leans forward across the table, furrowing his brow. "Are you finally admitting that I'm capable of something other than destruction?"
"Changing," Mycroft says in amusement as he sits back down, choosing the seat next to Jim this time. "Is it true, Jim dear?" He smiles with a bit of hope.
"Well, you'll think whatever you want, but...yes, it is. I told your brother my biggest weakness was that I'm changeable. He didn't take me up on it. You have, though. That's the thing about ice." He shifts closer, running a finger along Mycroft's jawline. "It can take what I have to offer."
Mycroft coughs politely at the touch and pulls slightly away. "Do you miss him at all?" Mycroft asks, still struggling to wrap his head around the idea that Jim wants to change, and that he wants Mycroft to do the changing. The reality has been hinted at before, but now it lies shining and present, on the table like so many cards. "Do you regret his death?"
Jim folds his hands together in front of him and considers the questions very carefully. "He was interesting, wasn't he? And he did tell me something I quite enjoyed hearing."
"Oh? What was that?" Mycroft asks, curious, but ready to bring the point up again if Jim is just avoiding the subject.
"That I don't have to be an angel to be on the side of the angels."
Mycroft raises a brow. "No, I suppose not." Not surprising that Sherlock should think himself a non-angel on the side of the angels, and entirely lovely that Jim wants to be the same, but Jim still needs to show that he feels remorse for what it appeared he'd done to Sherlock. Though, perhaps not immediately. Perhaps he could have a bit of time to get used to being with Mycroft before changing in that way.
"So, what do you say, Jim?" Mycroft asks, eyeing the oven's timer. "Shall we call Anthea back in here and have dinner?"
Jim reaches for Mycroft's hand and holds it for a moment. "Sure," he says, eyes intent. Yes, he's no angel, but perhaps they'll get along despite that.
"Are we going? Or am I to leave you here?" Anthea asks as she gathers her new knives and the tupperware Jim's filled up with some of her bake.
Mycroft shakes his head. "I can't stay."
Jim rests his hand on Mycroft's shoulder. "Yes you can. If you'd like to, I mean." He licks his lips, giving the shoulder a squeeze. "I've got guest rooms, if you're still against sharing a bed."
Mycroft shakes his head. It's not that. "There are too many things here," Mycroft says, looking around. The novelty of it all, the scope of it all overwhelms him.
"Okay, so we'll just go to yours. Please, Mycroft? Please?" Jim leans in, wrapping his arms tightly around Mycroft. "You have new toothbrushes in stock and you have nice pyjamas," he whines.
Mycroft smiles at Anthea over Jim's shoulder, sighing. "Alright, Jim. Please, let go," he says, his smile widening when Jim lets go and gives him some space. "We'll take you to my place again. I suppose you quite liked it."
"I'm not too attached to this place, to be honest," Jim says, gesturing to the large sitting room. "It definitely serves its purpose, but my money is going to run out, now I'm dead."
"You're going to be alive again, don't forget," Mycroft says a bit coolly. "You'll be working for me. You should at least be able to afford something reasonable."
"Unless I stay at yours," says Jim, grinning.
Not convinced that sharing permanently would be a good idea, Mycroft considers his words carefully. "Two kings and two castles works," he says. "I'm unsure about two kings and one castle."
"Oh honey, you know we're more like emperors." Mycroft shows no reaction. "Anthea, what do you think?" Jim asks.
Anthea frowns slightly at the fact Jim is actually asking her, but she answers him. "I think you've got plenty of time to try it either way," she points out. "Now, carry these to the car for me," she orders, handing Jim the tupperware and Mycroft the knives.
Jim practically bounces as he turns out the lights and locks up, unable to hide his excitement about staying at Mycroft's again. As they reach the car, he holds his breath, waiting to see whether Mycroft will sit in the front next to Anthea or not.
He decides not to! Jim gets in the back with Mycroft and embraces him for a moment, closing his eyes. Mycroft gives him a squeeze.
"If I hear you've choked him again, I'll come after you," says Anthea as they fasten up and she starts the car.
"I don't doubt it," Jim says with a quirk of his lip. He turns and looks back at his home through the window, watches it get farther away before they turn the corner and he can't see it anymore. A sudden slight frown comes over his face. The situation is becoming very real, isn't it?
The drive is longer than Jim would have liked, but he gets so lost in Mycroft's closeness that he finds himself following Mycroft up to the house soon enough. He's let in for the very first time, rather than having to pick the lock. "Welcome, Jim," Mycroft says with a smile.
Jim loses three games of chess before asking if Mycroft has more board games. Mycroft leads Jim up to the attic.
"Bit creepy, the attic. Not going to kill me and store my corpse up here, are you?" Jim licks his lips. It's a joke, but underneath the joke rests Jim's inherent paranoia. It's Mycroft Holmes, after all.
"I might. Would you like that?" Mycroft jokes. He turns to look at Jim, who is fascinated by his mouth. "Honestly, Jim. Sometimes I think you can't decide which you'd rather I do: kiss you or kill you."
"Don't flatter yourself," Jim says, tearing his eyes away. "I wouldn't let you kill me." It's obvious that that isn't entirely true.
Mycroft spots an old cardboard box he thinks is the right one, kneeling to open it up. "Looks like there are a few games in here," he says, motioning Jim over.
"Don't suppose you have folks over a lot, do you?" Jim says with a laugh. "Everything interesting is put away. If I'd have remembered your place was so boring, I'd have brought some stuff of my own."
"I should do model building again," Mycroft says thoughtfully. "I rather liked that."
"And you like old popular music, questionable films, classic literature, and rather dull biographies. And sitting and thinking. You sit and think an awful lot, don't you?"
"Yes," Mycroft says, starting to dig through the box, acting as if he's not impressed with Jim's observations, even though he is.
"Boring," Jim says, then looks at the old game boxes. "Admirals! We've got to play it," he says, crouching down. "Does it actually have all the pieces?"
"Yes," Mycroft assures him, pulling out the slightly battered box, handing it over. "One more, do you think?"
Jim reaches into the box and shifts aside some of the games and abandoned toys. "Microdot," he says decisively.
Mycroft quirks his lip. "Alright. Admirals and Microdot is is, then."
"Is it missing any pieces?"
"No, or at least I don't believe so. These two were mine, you see. Sherlock's games...well, you can imagine."
"He lost half of what was in his, I bet."
"Yes. Some of them are even missing the board, or else the board has holes in it. He wouldn't throw them out at the time, though. Sherlock and I need to...needed to...go through these old things," Mycroft says, hoping the slip doesn't register with Jim. He lets out a breath of relief when it doesn't seem to. Jim's still looking at the box of games.
As they descend the stairs, Jim says, "If you want, I'll sort through it all with you."
"That would be nice of you," Mycroft says, touched by the thoughtfulness, by the gentleness in Jim's voice. Still, it's uncertain how long the good feelings will last.
Jim moves his pieces into attack with a sensuality in his touch and his gaze that are entirely unwarranted. It's kind of cute. Even with Jim being a bit distracting, the first game is a null game (with only their admirals left), and the second is a clear victory for Mycroft, partly because he's still got a knack for it and partly because Jim is getting bored.
"I'm getting tired of looking at little wooden blocks," Jim says, shoving the Microdot box forward. "Let's have a go with this."
Mycroft glances at the clock. "Alright," he says. He pushes the Admirals pieces and board out of the way and opens the Microdot box.
"Looks like you lost one after all," Jim points out almost immediately as he looks at the jumbled mass of colored pieces. "Yellow wire cutters."
"Ah. Good thing we don't have any friends," Mycroft jokes, which gets a smirk out of Jim.
They begin to play as red and blue. Jim takes care to have their fingers brush more than necessary as they share the magnifying glass that, honestly, isn't really necessary, but Mycroft wants to do the thing properly.
Jim ends up winning, though it's really not surprising. Jim is enthusiastic about the game the entire time, while Mycroft keeps yawning.
"Well played. Shall we head to bed?" Mycroft asks.
"Yes, but let's do it together. Can we cuddle this time? I really want to." He puts on his best pout.
Mycroft shrugs. "If it just stays at that, I don't see any problem. I have felt a bit lonely since I started grieving." Here he calculates an awkward glance at the floor, part of his continuing test regarding Jim and Sherlock. "So I wouldn't mind the closeness."
Jim frowns a bit, eyeing the cards in front of him. Sherlock is dead. Mycroft's little brother is properly dead, and he's the one that caused it. He wishes he felt sorrier, and also that he felt nothing at all, but neither are true. He's stuck somewhere in between what he'd like to feel and what he should like to feel.
Mycroft puts the games away, glad for Jim's help. "To bed, then," Mycroft says, stretching, noticing Jim hungry gaze.
Jim is pleased to get the okay to use Mycroft's bathroom. Mycroft grabs him one of the extra tooth brushes to use, and he takes a quick shower. He changes into a pair of Mycroft's pyjamas again. They're a few inches too long, but it all just feels a bit cozier that way.
Jim flops onto the perfectly-made bed and rests his eyes as Mycroft takes his turn in the bathroom. He opens his eyes when the weight of the mattress shifts. Mycroft's sitting on the edge of the bed, frowning at Jim. "I'm sure you can tell which side is mine," he says.
Jim feigns innocence. "No, I can't. Which one?" Of course he can tell; anyone with eyes can see Mycroft's slippers and book and lamp.
"That one. Budge up," Mycroft says, flicking on the lamp and crossing the room to turn off the main light.
Jim smirks. "Well. You'll just have to move me, then."
Mycroft raises an eyebrow. "I'm tired," he says.
"And I've at least earned your hands on me, moving my body into position," Jim says, licking his lips. "You know you'd like to touch me. I even smell all nice and clean."
Mycroft looks tempted for a moment. He eyes Jim carefully. "Well, I still need an apology," he points out. "About earlier."
"Seriously?" Jim sits up, glaring. "It was just Anthea."
Mycroft rolls his eyes. "Imagine you have a friend, Jim, just one. Imagine, I don't know, that Sherlock's alive and you two have hit it off. All of a sudden, after we've had some sort of epic breakthrough together, I make a pass at you and don't stop when you ask me not to, while he's watching. Imagine you're embarrassed about it."
"Okay! I get it!" Jim says, suddenly furious. "Don't talk about him! Let it go." He rolls over to the proper side of the bed, as far away from Mycroft as possible. "I'm well away now, dear. Maybe I'll just stay over here on the edge, since the thought of cuddling me is so appalling. I might even fall off and get a bruise to match where you hit me."
Mycroft carefully gets into his side of the bed with a sigh. "You don't appall me," he says gently. "I was upset at the time, and I do think I'm owed an apology, but it was perhaps rude to bring up my brother again." He swallows. "And I wouldn't prefer you all the way over there. We can be closer, if you'd like. I invited you here knowing that you'd wish us to be."
"Not anymore," Jim scoffs. "Cuddle yourself, dear. Fuck yourself. Hell, you could fuck your hand and I'd still stay over here. Just try me. You're not as tempting as you think."
Mycroft yawns, stifling it with his hand. "No, thank you. Anyway, the offer still stands, but I won't ask again." He flicks the lamp off, letting his eyes close.
Slowly, Jim inches closer. Mycroft shifts from his position on his back to lie on his side. Soundlessly, he extends his arm, pulling Jim closer. Jim sighs out a breath, wrapping his arms around Mycroft a bit awkwardly. He leans in and sniffs at Mycroft's neck, the skin more exposed in the silk pyjama shirt than it ever is in Mycroft's usual state of dress. Mycroft's handsome hand strokes through the hair at the back of Jim's head soothingly.
Jim brushes the tip of his nose against the bare skin. "You smell good too," Jim murmurs.
Mycroft's breath quickens. He barely moves except to stroke at the back of Jim's head and stare into the darkness with anticipation. Jim presses a kiss to the skin. "So good," he continues.
Mycroft swallows. "Bed time, love," he says softly, reluctant to speak and cause the sensation to stop, but he knows he's got an early morning and he's not completely comfortable with the idea of crossing any more boundaries with Jim, not on their first night as offical...co-emperors.
Jim leans in to touch his lips to Mycroft's ear. "I want you," he whispers. It sends a shiver through Mycroft's whole body. Mycroft closes his eyes.
"Bed time," Mycroft says again, blinking his eyes open again.
Jim sits up, leans well over Mycroft to try and reach the lamp, but finds he can't.
Mycroft gets the lamp for him, blinking at the light. "What is it, Jim?"
"Don't you want me?" Jim says, his brow furrowed.
"Yes. Soon. But not just yet." He stifles another yawn.
Jim, still sitting up, reaches for the hem of the pyjama shirt, sliding it off with an incredible amount of defiance in his eyes. Mycroft glances for a moment at Jim's torso, his mind supplying the figures for Jim's measurements as well as secretly joying in the sight of him. But it's late, and the relationship is tenuous.
"I want us to build up more trust first," Mycroft says kindly. "The last thing I want for our future is regret."
Jim sets his jaw and glares at Mycroft.
"But you want to!" Jim protests.
"I don't just do everything I want."
"I do!" Jim says. "You could if you felt like it. Don't blame me if you're all...responsible. You're on the side of the angels. You have rules. You have customs." He grimaces.
"So do most criminals," Mycroft points out. He gestures for Jim to come close. "I'm not upset with you, beyond wishing you'd respect my feelings and that you'd feel some remorse for the wrong things you've done. About this, though, about sex, I'm not upset."
Jim flops down onto the bed, pressing into Mycroft's arms, burying his face in his shoulder. "What is it, then?" he asks, almost sounding a bit sad.
"I'm not ready. I don't think you are either. You wouldn't be here if I didn't mean for this to last. I want it to. Do you want it to?"
Jim pulls back to look at Mycroft. "Well, of course I do! I couldn't stay away, could I? I could have gotten away from my old life for good, found some place to settle down where no one knew me. I could even have killed myself. But you've been...." He swallows heavily. "Mycroft, you've actually been good to me," he says with an earnestness his eyes shouldn't even be able to imitate.
"Return the favor and let me have some time, then," Mycroft says, quirking his lip. "I've been patient, and you can be too."
"Patience! Patience isn't something I possess," Jim groans, settling down against Mycroft, who rests a hand on his bare back. The hand stays still, reassuring him of Mycroft's steadiness, reminding him of that elusive thing called patience.
"I think things will be better for us if we just slow down and take it bit by bit. Sometimes, things worth doing take a while."
It comforts Jim slightly, but not much. Mycroft flicks the light off.
The next evening, after Jim's spent the day poking around Mycroft's attic (with his permission) and bothering Lucille as she works, Mycroft comes home looking tired again. He's spent the day working particularly hard on a solution to a new terrorist threat. Jim is dying to have something interesting happen, but Mycroft is ready to greet sleep like an old friend again.
"Not tonight," Mycroft says. "We could kiss, if you like?"
And Jim kisses him. They're close, and Jim had insisted on being shirtless again so he can feel the silk of Mycroft's shirt against him, and he's more than a little ready to take things much further. He plays with the hem of Mycroft's shirt, lifting it a bit, only for Mycroft to push his questing hand away.
The look in Mycroft's eyes is heated but unyielding. "I said kissing," Mycroft says warningly. He's panting slightly and his pretty lips seem to beg for more attention, but Jim won't chance it, though he's dying to press right up against the limit Mycroft set.
"Fuck you too," Jim snaps. He pulls away and turns to face the opposite wall, leaving space between them.
"Jim," Mycroft says with a sigh, more out of obligation than out of actually wanting to press the issue again.
"By the time you're ready to do more than kiss, we'll be old and impotent," Jim grouses.
Mycroft quirks his lip. "We won't be," he promises.
"I don't believe you."
"And that's precisely why we can't have sex yet," Mycroft says.
Jim turns around to look at him again, studying his honest expression. Alright, maybe he does believe Mycroft, a bit. But it doesn't make a man used to getting what he wants any less inclined to try and get what he wants.
I think we'll use the surname you used while dating Miss Hooper. Is that alright? What was it?"
"Langeweile," Jim says after a moment of angry silence.
Mycroft chuckles, which makes Jim smile despite himself.
"Always bored, are we? Poor, dear Jim."
Jim feels nearly giddy that he's once again been understood. When Mycroft falls asleep, Jim moves over to cuddle with him, finding it incredibly easy to be so very close to him and wondering what that means for his future.
Chapter 17: Personal Day
Mycroft wakes up late, then gives Jim a bath. Jim wants some space, but he'll keep in touch.
WARNINGS: This part starts right out with unwarranted sexual contact. It isn't done with malice, but it happens. I want to stress this point while also not blowing it out of proportion in the overall story, and without spoiling everything. But if it sounds like it might bother you, I want you to be very aware that it is here. No surprises. There is also not much sympathy for the victim of the contact when feelings are high.
I'd also like to say that Jim does start to remember old trauma, trauma hinted at in chapter 5 when Mycroft suggests that Jim was sexually abused in the past. Jim's remembering does not get explicit, nor does it get past the idea of "hands where they don't belong", but it happens.
This part starts right out with unwarranted sexual contact. It isn't done with malice, but it happens. I want to stress this point while also not blowing it out of proportion in the overall story, and without spoiling everything. But if it sounds like it might bother you, I want you to be very aware that it is here. No surprises. There is also not much sympathy for the victim of the boundary crossing when feelings are high.
I'd also like to say that Jim does start to remember old trauma, trauma hinted at in chapter 5 when Mycroft suggests that Jim was sexually abused in the past. Jim's remembering does not get explicit, nor does it get past the idea of "hands where they don't belong", but it happens.
Mycroft wakes up when the sun is already out, which is his first clue something is wrong. His second clue is that there's a hand in his pyjama bottoms. There should never be an unwarranted hand in his pyjama bottoms. He grasps Jim's wrist. "Stop," he says, voice rough with sleep but his intention very clear.
For a moment, Jim doesn't seem to want to listen. He keeps at it with a quiet chuckle that makes the hair at the back of Mycroft's neck stand up. "Jim," he says. After a couple tugs at Jim's wrist with a sleep-weakened grip, Mycroft closes his eyes tightly and turns his head away.
There's a bit of a squeeze, and then Jim's hand stills very suddenly.
Cautiously, Mycroft opens his eyes again. Jim's looking at his face.
Jim yanks his hand out of the pyjama bottoms with a hard swallow. "But didn't you...wasn't that okay?" he gasps.
Mycroft says nothing, but there's no small amount of anxiety in his eyes. He has no idea what Jim will do if he says the wrong thing. Jim looks so vulnerable, so easily broken. So easily provoked. And, honestly, he feels frightened by Jim's lack of respect for his boundaries.
Jim gasps in a breath and starts shaking his head. His eyes glass over slightly and he stares straight at the headboard. He'd felt the want in Mycroft's flesh. He'd seen him like it, hadn't he?
Jim's eyes widen for a moment, and something breaks inside his gaze, something pours out of him, long-ignored and ugly. He blinks, looking lost and awed. Memories Jim doesn't want come to the surface. He buries his face in his hand. "Fuck you, Mycroft Holmes," Jim says heatedly, looking up suddenly.
Mycroft is taken aback. Running a shaky hand over his mouth, he sits himself up, watching Jim carefully. He swallows once, twice, trying to decide what to say. "For?" he finally manages.
"Fuck you. Fuck you fuck you fuck you, you utter SHIT!" Jim's righteous indignation rolls off of him as he uncoils and stands on the floor of the bedroom. "No," he says, "no, shut up. Don't look at me like that." His voice cracks heavily, betraying his raw emotion.
Mycroft tilts his head, curious, still looking sorry. Jim ignores him, getting up to dress in haphazard haste.
Mycroft takes in a deep, shaky breath and turns to view his alarm clock, but it isn't there. "Jim, my clock has gone missing," he says, trying to keep his voice fairly calm. It sounds shaky, though, just a bit.
"Clock's by the tub," Jim says, flinching. He glances at Mycroft, sees the concern, feels bile start to rise. "STOP IT!" he says.
"Stop what? I'll stop," Mycroft says, nervously rubbing at his ear.
"Don't," Jim swallows, "don't pity me," he spits out.
They were supposed to go into work. Mycroft had been so excited to show Jim around, but the idea of working for Mycroft still intimidates Jim. On top of the judgment he'll face from petty people, he's not quite ready to betray everyone he worked with as a consulting criminal. He also can't remember the last time he worked in an office.
Jim had thought he could get one last day with Mycroft before they had to go in, so he'd taken care of the clock and called Anthea.
"I'm concerned about you," Mycroft says quietly.
"Don't be! Hate me!" Jim demands, running fingers over his face. It feels like there are hands on him, large, dirty hands he hasn't felt for so long.
"I can't," Mycroft says a bit miserably.
Mycroft is better than Jim! He should be angry, not sad, he shouldn't be scared and loving like only an idiot would be, no!
no no no NO NO NO NO Jim's too wired to stop thinking about hands where they shouldn't go, too weak to leave their grasp, too damaged to stop the rising bile.
He vomits, hot and acrid, and it soils his half-buttoned shirt, and it trails from it, down, down, onto the floor near his feet. There's a trail of spit from his mouth and it's this, all the mess of it that makes Jim sob, and then he shrieks, and he leaves reality behind for a terrifyingly blank moment, writhing in his ruined shirt, trying to get away from the mess and no no NO, now it's on his hands and he's gagging at the smell and he needs to be away from it or he'll die, he'll just be lost forever in a world of pain.
Mycroft is there, suddenly, supporting him, leading him to the bathroom and shushing him, but Jim isn't shushing, he's screaming, and the screams echo in the bathroom and sound increasingly hoarse, but he's still doing it, and gentle hands undo the buttons til he's free, and the taps are turned on and the clothes are going away and he's starting to quiet, finally, to finally quiet a bit.
The shrieking stops and only the sobbing is left, so he sobs as the last of his clothes come off and he's eased into the tub by Mycroft's surprising strength.
Mycroft wipes at Jim's lips and chin with a flannel, then presses it into one of Jim's shaking hands. Clumsily, Jim wipes at his neck and chest, then hands the flannel back without looking Mycroft in the eye.
Mycroft runs his fingers gently through Jim's hair as the tub fills. It's nice. It's actually nice. But he kind of doesn't deserve it. But it's so nice.
Jim suddenly reaches out, grasping the front of Mycroft's pyjama shirt near the collar, pulling him closer to the tub. Mycroft raises an eyebrow. "G-gum," Jim begs. "My pocket." He releases Mycroft, sinking into the water, leaning his head back against the tub. Mycroft returns with his own mobile and the pack of gum in record time, getting a piece of gum out when Jim says, "Hey."
Mycroft looks up at Jim. "Yes, Jim?"
"Join me?" Jim says, voice quiet and a little hoarse. He feels that he's himself again. If there's anything he's learned by now, it's that Mycroft won't kick him when he's down...much.
Mycroft winces, but decides to strip down and join him. He offers a piece of gum to Jim first. Jim takes it and puts it in his mouth, grateful. He closes his eyes and chews, only opening them again when he's in Mycroft's embrace, bare skin to skin. "I'm sorry," Jim croaks out. He sighs. "Sorry."
"I know," Mycroft says. "Get the tap, would you?"
Jim manages it, chewing his gum, settling against Mycroft again. "You're a good boyfriend," he says tiredly. "I'll keep you."
Mycroft runs his hand through Jim's hair again. "You are too," he admits.
Much of Jim's tension seems to melt away at that. He's been trying so hard. Jim can list so many things he hasn't done while staying with Mycroft. He hasn't put out a hit, he hasn't called up anyone from his old empire and told them he's alive, he hasn't even thrown a chair. He even avoided harming the neighbors' cat when it crept into Mycroft's garden! He's actually changing. Changing for the better? Well, Mycroft's not quite sure of that yet.
Mycroft gives Jim a proper scrub, and Jim begins to fall asleep. "Gum," Mycroft says, holding his hand out for Jim to spit his gum into.
Jim winces and does so, commenting, "Gross," but his eyes close soon enough. He rests in the warm water, letting sleep overtake him.
Jim wakes while Mycroft is on the phone.
"No, I'm sorry," Mycroft says. "I can't come in today." He shifts slightly as he listens to the response, his free arm around Jim.
"Yes, very important," Mycroft continues. "I need a personal day." He tightens his grip on Jim just slightly. Jim wonders if Mycroft really means it, if he really thinks he's important.
"I'd be happy to discuss anything over the phone, but my hands are tied about coming back to the office today. I'm afraid I can't. Yes, you have a good day too," he says. "Tell her hello when you see her." He tosses the phone onto the carpeted floor, within reach if he'll need to answer it again.
"Jim, dear," Mycroft says, "are you faring any better?"
Jim doesn't feel much like talking. He shrugs. He pulls Mycroft's hand to his lips and gives it a kiss, then carefully starts to get out of the tub.
"Are you staying?"
"No," Jim says. "Can't. Too many...thoughts." He runs a hand through his hair.
Mycroft's phone rings, and Jim reaches for it. An unlisted number. He hands the phone to Mycroft, who ignores the call.
"Who was that?" Jim asks.
"It's not important at the moment," Mycroft says. "Are you sure you won't stay?"
"Can't," Jim repeats. "Could I borrow a shirt, though?"
"Of course," Mycroft says, getting out and grabbing a towel for himself, tossing another to Jim, who's dripping all over the carpet. Mycroft wraps the towel around his waist and goes to find a shirt for Jim.
"Thanks," Jim says as he takes the shirt. The reality of the fabric in his hands is both touching and a bit cloying. There's something almost too domestic about borrowing a shirt, isn't there? They don't share shirts, do they? He finishes dressing and coaxes Mycroft closer. "Kiss goodbye?"
Mycroft, still wearing only a towel, pulls Jim close, leaning in. It's sweet and light, and leaves Mycroft wanting a lot more as he watches Jim leave. Perhaps he should just get dressed as well and head back to work after all.
Well, he'll call Sherlock back first.
Jim pauses on his way to the door. "I'll be back," he says. "Eventually."
Mycroft tilts his head slightly, wondering what he means by "eventually." "Goodbye," he calls after Jim.
"Why did you ignore my call?! I could have been in trouble," Sherlock gripes.
Mycroft rolls his eyes. "You didn't leave voice mail, Sherlock. And you didn't text."
"I suppose you were in a meeting, then."
Sherlock pauses. "You're not even at work, are you? Where are you?"
"Home," Mycroft clears his throat. "And brace yourself, brother. I've got to tell you something you aren't going to like."
"And that is?" Sherlock asks, always in favor of getting bad news over with.
"Moriarty isn't dead."
Sherlock is silent for a good moment, as if unsure he's heard correctly. "Excuse me?"
"Jim Moriarty isn't dead," Mycroft sighs.
Sherlock's tone is stilted as he asks, "And when did you find this out?"
"Two days ago, when he showed up at his place while I was trying to put his affairs in order. I'm not losing my mind...yet," he adds. "Since then, he's promised to help me unbuild his empire, brick by brick."
"He didn't!" Sherlock gasps. "How did you manage that?"
Mycroft grins, rather pleased with himself for his request to Jim. "He offered to do anything to get past the guilt he's beginning to feel for threatening my friends and killing my dear little brother. He wants to prove himself, which is not surprising. But it's surprising that, so far at least, he's succeeding."
"You were with him when I called, weren't you?" Sherlock says quickly.
"Yes. He's been staying here."
"In our childhood home?" Sherlock demands with disgust. "Why?"
"I don't know. He just has," Mycroft says. "We played Admirals and Microdot after he grew bored of chess."
Sherlock considers this for a moment. "Not my first choice of the games from the attic, but preferable to chess, yes. So, what, after holiday you just decided to just take off work again? I thought you were busy."
"Oh, I am. Jim drowned my clock and called me in late today. He left only moments ago."
"Left? Where's he going? Is he still running his business? He should be behind bars."
"He's on our side, for now, Sherlock. Much more use to us here than in prison."
"He nearly had John killed. And he ruined my life."
"Yes, and I'm very sorry. I hope someday that he will be sorry too. Someday soon."
Sherlock seems to calm at that. "So, he doesn't know about me?" he finally asks.
"Of course not. Do you think me stupid?" Mycroft asks, almost offended that Sherlock would think he'd spill his secret to Jim.
"A bit, yes," Sherlock says.
Mycroft sighs at that. There's not much arguing against his stupidity, if he wants to be Jim's boyfriend. "Yes, a bit," he agrees. "You know, he said you told him something that inspired him."
"He said you told him that you were on the side of the angels, but that that didn't mean you had to be one."
"I did say that," Sherlock says quietly.
"He took it to heart."
"He killed himself just after. Or, well, he made it look as if he did. I can't believe I never checked for a pulse."
"No, don't do that," Mycroft says firmly. "It was a terrible situation. He had your friends under the aim of highly-trained snipers and he faked a suicide right in front of you. You're not to blame for any of this."
Sherlock takes in a deep breath and lets it out again. "Thank you, brother."
"Besides, I'm rather glad he's alive," says Mycroft. "And yes, I know that makes me stupid. But having him help you out without knowing it will help keep you safer. I know that's not a huge concern of yours, but it is of mine."
"Yes, I think it's important to see how this all plays out," Sherlock agrees. "It should prove interesting."
"Yes," Mycroft says. "Now, how about an update, brother?"
"Of course. Hang on, let me grab my notes."
Mycroft is disappointed to find that Jim doesn't show up at the office the next day, but he can't say he's surprised. Jim actually doesn't come back for a whole week. But he does check in.
"Hey, it's me."
"Jim!" Mycroft can't hide his excitement, so he doesn't bother. "Hi. Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Jim says. "I'm healthy, and I'm not alone. I'm not even bored. I'll see you soon, alright? In the mean time, I want you to do something for me."
"And what's that?"
"I want you to look the other way. You do this for me, and I'll come back to you. I promised I would, if I wanted to be your boyfriend. And I do."
Mycroft considers it. "When you return, you will tell me as much of what you got up to as you think is fair to me."
Jim says, "Okay. Deal." He says it carefully but firmly.
"I'd wish you luck, dear," says Mycroft, "but I'm not sure I want to."
"No, you probably don't," Jim admits. He hesitates for a moment. "I think I really do care about you," he says.
"I think you do too. Take care of yourself, alright? Or you'll really get it from me," Mycroft teases.
"Get what, exactly?"
"I don't know," Mycroft says honestly, grinning. "Alright, goodbye. Call me whenever you'd like. If I am unavailable, leave a message and I'll get back to you."
"Okay. I can do that. Later, Mycroft."
"See you later, Jim."
Mycroft slips his phone into its designated pocket and pulls the pack of gum Jim left on his bathroom floor out of another one. He unwraps a piece and stares at it as it rests blue-flecked and sparkling in the shining wrapper. He's unable to remember the last time he chewed a piece of gum as he folds it up and puts it into his mouth. He lets the heavy flavor of wintergreen remind him of Jim as he returns to the case file he's been perusing.
Chapter 18: Plus One
Jim wants to have a friend for dinner, and he invites Mycroft. Mycroft receives mixed signals.
It's a bit later than he usually likes to take calls, but he loves to hear from Jim.
"Can we talk about us?" Jim asks. "I'd like to talk about us, if we can?"
Oh, so it's rather important, actually. Mycroft sits up straight, brushing off the front of his jacket. Previous calls had all consisted of what could be considered small talk. "Absolutely," he says. "Anything you like."
Jim pauses. "Do you know why I keep coming back to you, besides the caring?"
Mycroft sits, rubbing at the base of his throat in anticipation as he says, "Why is that, Jim?"
"I think you believe in me. It's so stupid," Jim says with a hint of self-loathing. "What angel would believe in me?"
"I'm no angel, Jim," Mycroft says softly, though he's flattered by the comparison. "And I do know that many would call me stupid for believing in you. But I honestly feel that redemption is available to anyone willing and able to empathize and change. Life is nothing if not surprising."
Silence on the other end. Mycroft doesn't try to fill the silence; he lets it be. They're in deep territory now, and it's rather nice, if uncharted.
"You know, Mycroft, I killed a child before I turned 16." Mycroft tilts his head slightly. He imagines a young, angry Jim, one unable to take more teasing. It was a premeditated murder, clearly, and that deserved some sort of punishment. It was, however, planned by someone who was by no means an adult.
"Yes, I know." Mycroft pauses. How to put it and not make it sound like he finds murder acceptable? "I believe that an unfinished mind can kill and not fully realize the implications and consequences of such an action."
Jim takes in a shuddery breath. The line goes dead.
Mycroft swallows and puts his mobile away for the moment, guessing that Jim won't be calling back before morning.
"Mycroft?" Jim says softly into the phone at lunchtime the next day.
"Jim, dear. Are you alright?" He'd worried a bit, when Jim hung up. He'd thought maybe Jim would do something rash. Perhaps he still would. Perhaps he already had.
"I've never met an angel before who understood."
Mycroft doesn't contest the label this time, but it does make him wonder whether Jim is playing at something.
"I'm not looking for penance," Jim says slowly. "I'm too far gone." At this, Mycroft shifts the phone slightly against the side of his face. "Sometimes I just want to die, but not as much since I met you. You've given me hope; you really have."
"You don't seem too far gone to me," Mycroft says honestly.
"Oh...oh dear," Jim says softly, almost brokenly. "Well, you would say that, wouldn't you? Oh, you're the biggest angel of all. What am I doing?" He's so quiet, so far away.
"I'm glad you called back, Jim. Again, we can talk about anything. I don't mind. I like talking to you. I rather like you alive." He doesn't add that he wants Jim to come back to him. It's nearly been a week, and that shouldn't be a long time, but everything is so new and tenuous. His home feels unaccountably empty again.
"You really think that after everything I've done, I can just...change?"
"You said it yourself," Mycroft points out. "So, yes. I see you doing so well already. Just picture this, Jim, for a moment: You're on your deathbed. Which will you regret not having done more of? Causing trouble as a consulting as a criminal, or connecting with people, talking to them and feeling for them? Because I think you can. I'll admit I didn't think so at first, but I was wrong about you."
"It really was a ploy, then, when you said it."
"Yes. I'm sorry. It was tactical, before it became personal."
"I believe you. We were both taken by surprise, I think. If you're looking for blind devotion, I can't give it to you. But I don't think you are. Will you hate me if I can't be everything you want to shape me into? Will you abandon me?"
Mycroft has thought about this before in quiet moments. "Even if I have to visit you in prison for the rest of our lives, I would make time. Only if you wished it, of course."
Jim lets out a sigh. "I like that," he says, sounding relieved. "Don't feel obligated, though." He swallows, "Maybe the only reason you care for me is that I have potential. Potential means nothing if nothing comes of it, though."
Mycroft adjusts his tie's knot, closing his eyes. "I fell for you before I was certain you could change." He lets the hand on his tie remain there. Perhaps he shouldn't have told Jim that.
"I fell for you when you started to play along with me," Jim says, sounding a bit more comfortable. The silence that follows sounds comfortable too.
"You're still looking the other way, right?" Jim says quickly, and then the comfort is gone.
Mycroft opens his eyes and tenses slightly. "Until you return to me, yes. That was the deal, that you come back. You seem to still want to."
"I'll be with you in a few days. I do want to come back. It's just, I've a friend I want you to meet."
"Oh?" Mycroft doesn't really like the sound of that. He narrows his eyes.
"Yeah. Thought maybe we'd all do dinner."
"I'm not trying to press, mind, but I do wonder when you plan to return. For...scheduling purposes," Mycroft teases a bit.
"Just a few more days, I think. "
"Shall I cook or will you? Or were you intending on sitting at a restaurant?" Mycroft asks.
"He'd be more comfortable at my place; I'm certain of it. How's Sunday? Is Sunday good? Let's do Sunday."
"I'll write it down." He can't help but smile a bit, even if the idea of Jim having a friend makes him a little apprehensive and the idea of eating with said friend makes him a little annoyed. "Any chance you'll tell me some of what you've gotten up to? I look forward to some kind of report."
"Oh, Mycroft," Jim says as if the topic is boring. "I just did a couple odd jobs here and there. I took it easy. One last go before married life. You know how it is. Plus, I needed some space."
Mycroft clears his throat softly. "I don't expect blind devotion from you, I hope you know."
"Oh?" says Jim.
"I expect enough loyalty and trust between the two of us that we can work together to create your new life; that's all. The 'side of the angels' has many openings. We're not perfect. Everyone has their flaws, their skeletons in the closet—some more literal than others." He takes in a deep breath. "Change isn't easy, Jim. It never is. But a friend can make all the difference. If you want it and you work hard, I'll support you. And I hope your friend will too."
"He'd do anything for me," Jim says with a hint of reluctance. "There's no question about that." He pauses. "I'll see you Sunday, alright?"
"Mycroft?" Jim asks.
"You were a good older brother, weren't you?"
"I certainly hope I was," Mycroft says with a swallow. The closer Jim gets to feeling remorse about Sherlock, the more grateful Mycroft is that he's somehow managed to hold onto both of them, despite the world thinking they're dead.
Mycroft prefers to go into first-time meetings with the security of having studied up on all parties involved. Dinner with "Jim plus one" is therefore unsettling before he even enters, but more so when "plus one" appears to be both devastatingly handsome and vaguely familiar. He's definitely one of Jim's old crowd, a sniper from the looks of him. Blond, squinting suspiciously at Mycroft, muscled, rugged, steady, he unnerves Mycroft just a bit.
Jim comes out of the kitchen. "Mycroft! Hi! I'd like you to meet Colonel Sebastian Moran, expert marksman and a highly loyal right-hand man."
Mycroft bows slightly, extending his free hand, the other holding the handles of a bottle-sized paper bag. "Colonel Moran," he says. The colonel's grip is a bit too tight, the hand strong.
"And this is Mycroft Holmes, the man who holds my future. But," Jim jokes, "I could still fly away if I wanted to."
"You wouldn't get far," Sebastian says, releasing Mycroft's hand to mime shooting Jim down. He chuckles darkly.
Jim saunters over to Mycroft's side, pressing him down into a comfortable chair with a hand at his shoulder. He leaves the hand there for a moment. "Oh, I don't know about that. Not sure he could do it, if it came to that."
Mycroft swallows. He doesn't want to have to go through such a test. He's not quite sure of what the outcome would be. He should never be allowed to get close to people. Much too late, in this case.
"Welcome back to my place, Mycroft. Dinner's almost ready. Is that for me?"
Mycroft hands Jim a paper bag containing a bottle of wine. "Yes, it is," he says slightly awkwardly, glancing at Sebastian.
Jim looks between them both, senses the awkwardness, and quirks his lip. Mycroft eyes Jim suspiciously before he gets a lapful of ex-consulting criminal. He holds Jim steady on his lap out of reflex, not trusting himself to do much else.
"Seb, dear, go and fetch the photo album," Jim says, resting against Mycroft. He's hooked his legs over Mycroft's, sitting sideways. He wraps an arm around Mycroft's shoulders.
Sebastian looks for a moment as if he isn't going to do it. He has a set jaw, looking at the way Jim is draping himself across The Iceman's lap like he belongs there. He rises, though, and stands dutifully.
As Sebastian heads to the bedroom to get an album of likely questionable photos, Jim grins widely at Mycroft and says, "Hope this isn't a problem. I did miss you."
Mycroft swallows. "Jim, dear, this hardly seems polite," he says, but he doesn't want to move Jim quite yet. They do fit together nicely. And he doesn't mind the idea that Jim is claiming him, that he won't really be sharing Jim with this Colonel Moran after all.
"Mm. 'Polite', not 'appropriate'? I'm growing on you."
Smoothly, Mycroft works a hand between them, reaching into his suit pocket for Jim's half-empty pack of gum. He offers it to Jim as a change of subject.
"You ate some. Naughty naughty," Jim grins, folding the pack into his hand, but making no move to get up.
Mycroft feels oddly warmed by the teasing and the observation as they wait for Sebastian in silence for a little while. He wants Jim to observe him, to call him out on taking gum, or to just watch him at all. Being with Jim has made him realize how lonely he's really been. He gently brushes fingers over Jim's cheek, receiving a warm smile in turn.
"If you'd pack neater, this wouldn't happen," Jim calls loudly toward the stairs when he feels too much time has passed. Mycroft's hand goes back to holding Jim in place.
Sebastian's stature is impressive as he comes back down the stairs, a small album in his hand. He holds the album out to Jim, who makes a pretty little pout. "Hand it to me properly, Sebastian."
Sebastian sighs, setting the album in Jim's lap.
Jim opens up the album. "Have a seat, Seb. We're going to have story time."
"You do realize that's Mycroft Holmes," Sebastian groans. "Cripes, Boss."
Mycroft blinks. Yes, he is Mycroft Holmes. He briefly tightens his grip on Jim. "Is this my report?" he asks, wondering if Jim is indeed going to let him in on what he's been up to.
"Could be," Jim says with a smirk.
With the photographs, Jim takes Mycroft through the previous week of his life, his last week as a consulting criminal. It's been well-documented. There are images of hits (which make Mycroft swallow or run his fingertips over his lip), images of meetings with criminals, images of Jim on the phone, images of domestic things like going to the shop with Sebastian for knives and groceries.
"Sebastian's in charge now, though he's not a genius," Jim says, patting the blond head. Sebastian looks mildly offended, but allows the touch and says nothing back.
"Shouldn't you not be telling me this?" Mycroft asks, glancing from one criminal to the other.
"Well, that's the thing, see. He's the best sniper ever. He was exceedingly loyal to me, and I just want to give him a chance. Can we keep him?"
Mycroft's brows raise. "That remains to be seen."
"He can help us. I know he can." Jim reaches out and strokes Sebastian's cheek. Mycroft sets his jaw. "He's been a little hard to convince, though," admits Jim. "Sebastian, you little sex kitten, go turn off the oven." He lightly smacks Sebastian on the cheek.
Sebastian rolls his eyes and heads toward the kitchen. Jim takes the opportunity to settle against Mycroft and flip to the last pages of the album. They're photos he hadn't show Mycroft just yet. Jim and Sebastian star in all of them, and in undeniably compromising positions. There's no doubt about what they're doing. Mycroft clenches his jaw as Jim shows him. Jim is studying his face.
"Looks like you had a lovely week. I suppose this is the bachelor party," Mycroft says with just a slight hint of bitterness. He resists the urge to push Jim off of his lap.
Jim smirks, shutting the album. He rises from Mycroft's lap and stands in front of him for a moment, resting a hand on each of his shoulders, smirking. "You said you'd look the other way."
"Only you would ask someone to look the other way and then bring him pictures," Mycroft says coolly, trying to hide as much of his hurt as he can. He'd been worried about Jim after his terrible wake-up call, and Jim had been having the time of his life setting up crimes and shagging the hell out of his right-hand man.
"Oh, that's not true, dear. I'll bet Sherlock would do it too."
That's actually a rather good point. Sherlock would. Actually, he's done it before. That was more in fun than anything else, though. This is more serious. It's nice to hear Jim think of Sherlock more and more often, though mostly all Mycroft is feeling is a disquiet in his stomach and chest that wants to spread and swallow him up.
"Mm, but not that type of picture, Jim," Mycroft says with a hint of disgust.
"I don't actually care about Seb that way, not like I do about you," Jim says almost gently. Then, the hands on Mycroft's shoulders that had grounded him are gone, the album is set next to him carelessly, and Jim is in the kitchen with Sebastian, a place that seems a million miles away.
Mycroft could really use a drink.
But not wine.
He actually considers leaving while Jim and Sebastian spend time doing God knows what in the kitchen, but he does some deep breathing and tries to relax. Jim is trying to make a fool out of him, or trying to make him jealous, or...he's not even sure what's going on, for sure, but he doesn't like it. He's had a lot of patience so far, even though he knows that realistically no one can change so dramatically in just a few short weeks, even a genius. There are bound to be hiccups.
But it's still not nice to have one of those hiccups be images of Jim and Sebastian together. He can vaguely hear Jim and Sebastian discussing something in hushed tones, but he uses the moment to gaze at the pictures from the album again, not caring to eavesdrop. The collection of photographs does clear up a rather lot of things about current events, but the last few images, upsetting as he finds them, raise more questions than they answer.
Mycroft gets out his mobile and pauses to make sure Jim is still in the kitchen.
Sebastian and Jim do come out of the kitchen, and they've been kissing. Dinner looks fine, but Mycroft can't say he's very hungry. He's not exactly a fan of mixed signals, especially not from ex-consulting criminals. Or is he just a consulting criminal now? It shouldn't really be surprising, should it? It shouldn't really hurt.
Jim and Sebastian set out the food, and then Jim sits by Sebastian. Mycroft's main focus is on picking at his steak and kidney pie (apparently one of Sebastian's favorites). He hears Jim giggling, though, so he can't ignore the conversation entirely. He does register that they're joking about hits and recounting their time together.
"Jim's actually pleasant company," Sebastian jokes. "What have you done to him, Holmes? Brainwashing? I haven't even been threatened once."
Jim rolls his eyes and orders, "Sebastian, go make yourself useful and grab the pudding, would you?" When Sebastian leaves, Jim turns to Mycroft. "You're not eating. Don't you like it?"
"It's good. More than good, actually. But I'm not very hungry." He pauses. "I thought we were boyfriends? That's what you said last week."
"Yeah, well, Sebastian knows I'm alive now, so that throws a little kink into things, don't you think?" Jim says. "I'm coming back to you, whether we're dating or not, aren't I?"
"Yes," Mycroft says simply, nodding. He picks at his dish some more. It's true; Jim dating him had never been part of the deal.
"Maybe you'll like the pudding," Jim says with a hint of regret. The hint of regret is what causes Mycroft to look up and try to meet Jim's gaze again. Jim quickly looks away and swallows. Okay, guilt. That's good. That's promising.
"Good to see you again," says Mycroft with a sigh. "Mixed signals and all."
Mycroft manages to eat the Irish plum pudding, but he's still rather ready to leave. He'd thought he'd be meeting a friend of Jim's, not Jim's new boyfriend, or old boyfriend, or whatever.
"So, I start work with you tomorrow, don't I?" Jim says. "I already picked out my suit."
Carefully, Mycroft says, "You should wear the tie pin. For luck. You will, won't you?"
"I should!" Jim agrees. "Seb, Mycroft gave me a tie pin when I stayed at his. It's a little golden goose. I'll show it to you tonight."
Sebastian's staying over then, is he? Mycroft doesn't know why he should find this surprising. Jim won't break his promise of helping; Mycroft knows because he's got more than one form of insurance now. He buries the hurt of rejection as best as he can until he says his goodbyes.
As he's being driven home, he leans against the window and ignores all of Anthea's questions. He doesn't even say a proper goodbye to her, which is rude, but she realizes something bad has happened. She frowns as she watches him unlock the door and head inside the too-large house.
She pulls out her mobile.
Chapter 19: Big Surprise
Jim spends his first week working for Mycroft.
Mycroft rolls his eyes at his new alarm. He doesn't find it as easy on the ears as the previous one had been, but he'd had the old clock for years before Jim had sent it for a swim in the tub and couldn't find the outdated model easily enough to think it was worth bothering.
He pushes himself through his morning routine, checks his texts to make sure he didn't simply dream that he'd confirmed Jim's place at the office, eats breakfast. Food is sitting a lot better now that the shock of Jim's rejection is mostly behind him. The sting is still there, but he'll handle it best he can, which will be fairly well.
This is the second time Jim has completely crushed his dreams of any kind of future together, the first being when he'd faked his own suicide. This is much crueler, and much more purposeful. No matter; all hearts are broken, Mycroft reminds himself. It's not as if what he's experiencing is unique, at least not nearly as unique as when Richard Brook had been Jim had been dead and it had seemed to be Mycroft's fault and he'd been sad and not happy like the rest of the world would have been had they even known.
He sends a driver to pick Jim up. No point in spending the extra time just to give a lift to a random colleague.
Mycroft has never really been too keen on himself in comparison to the attractiveness of other individuals, but it stings a bit more when he thinks of Sebastian's handsomeness and apparent skill in bed. Mycroft has seen the man naked in photographs, and he'd rather not have, but it's Jim's punishment to him, so he'll take it. Punishment for what, he's not sure, but it's part of their history now.
He misses when all they had between them was sexual innuendo and the odd cup without any mates.
"So, what business did you have to attend to last night?" Mycroft asks Anthea.
Anthea quirks a lip. "I took Dr Watson out for a coffee."
Mycroft raises an eyebrow. "Okay. And how did that go?"
"Rather well, actually," she says with a bit of a shy smile. "He said he wasn't really interested in starting anything. Still mourning and all, you know? But he did say he'd think about it."
"Poor Dr Watson," Mycroft says with a sigh. He can't help but glance over and feel a bit of jealousy at Anthea's luck with romance.
"He's going to be okay, I think. And maybe, if I see him a few more times, he'll want to talk to you again," she says gently.
He sighs again. "Thank you, Anthea. My guess is, he won't. His loyalty was to Sherlock, not to me, not really. But thank you."
"Something happened last night," Anthea says before much silence passes.
"Leave it," Mycroft says, voice raised slightly.
Anthea makes a face at his cutting her off and pulls out her Blackberry for the duration of the ride to the office.
At the office, Mycroft gets in early. He checks that he has the images he'd taken the evening before safely stored on his laptop. When satisfied that he does, he puts the laptop away and begins working on reading some reports. He looks up when Jim is ushered in, tamping down on the urge to reveal that Jim is trapped, right in his office, right in his palm, right there like he said he'd be.
Mycroft's palm feels suspiciously empty, for all of that. He feels possessive of Jim, now the shock has worn off, even though he doesn't own Jim, even though Jim's his own man, Sebastian's man. He has ways of knowing Jim will stick around. Otherwise he'd face prison, and prison isn't a kind place to people who get bored.
Jim looks like he hasn't slept much, which makes Mycroft think about the pictures in the album that he didn't keep record of. He tries to remind himself that sexual attraction might be the most Jim can feel for someone, but it doesn't ring true anymore. He doesn't think it will ever ring true again. He wants it to, in a way, even if that would be bad for his plans.
Because it's not just about sex. It's about...hurting Mycroft, perhaps; he can't tell, but either way, it isn't fair. It's not fair. He wants to ask why Jim doesn't like him anymore. He wants to bare his soul in the most unhelpful of ways. Instead, he studies the pen on his desk and tries not to imagine how easy it would be to pick up his lamp and throw it in Jim's general direction. Not exactly professional, no, but he's aching inside, and Jim doesn't care what he thinks anymore. It'd be nice if he did.
He gestures for Jim to sit and calls in Anthea, not really caring to be alone with Jim any longer. Those few seconds of memory were torture enough.
Jim rolls his eyes when Anthea comes in. "Okay, so, here I am," Jim says. He gestures to the little golden goose. "Even got this on."
Mycroft chuckles quietly. Of course he does, little brown-nosing shit. Yes, it was Mycroft's suggestion he wear it, and yes Mycroft has his reasons to want it on him, but let's not act like it wasn't some horrible chore to dig it out of wherever it had been hiding and sport it just to humor an ex-lover who could barely even be called that.
"Looks nice," Anthea comments with a smile, and thank God she's a much better actor than Mycroft could hope to be at the moment because it doesn't look nice; that's the last thing it looks. "I think what we're going to start with," she says, eyeing Mycroft to make sure she's got it right, "are meetings, plainly and simply." Mycroft nods as he imagines ripping the pin off and ruining the tie, so she continues. "You're going to sit with the members of a special team, and you'll tell them all about life as a consulting criminal. They're here to help plan and to help act on some of the plans. You get the final say, since you're the expert, but you still answer to Mycroft, as well as to his superiors."
"You have superiors?" Jim teases.
Mycroft tilts his head in acknowledgement. All his superiors would love to get their hands on Jim.
Anthea and Mycroft lead Jim (Langeweile, according to his ID badge) to the conference room. Mycroft introduces Jim, explains again what the point of the group is going to be, and lets Jim have the floor. He watches for a little while as the men and women ask Jim questions. Jim glances at Mycroft from time to time for reassurance, which he quietly offers best he can. He leaves when he really just needs to get away from Jim. The room will be under surveillance, of course, so he needn't stay.
"You can stay if you like," he tells Anthea, but she shakes her head and follows him out.
"I called Jim last night," she says on the way back to Mycroft's office.
"Oh?" he says, tensing a little. It doesn't escape her notice.
"Yes. He asked me to make sure you were okay."
"You don't need to lie for my sake, Anthea," Mycroft says as they enter. He finds his seat heavily.
"Like I'd lie to make him sound good," Anthea scoffs. It's a good point; she's hardly ever accommodating to anyone but Mycroft and, apparently, John. "It's the truth. He was concerned. Something happened last night. He wouldn't say what."
"I won't say what either. Leave it," Mycroft reminds her. He's not ready to admit what happened. He feels like a failure. At least he got Jim into the office without having to rely on his forms of insurance. Much as he'd wanted to.
The week passes with Jim coming in separately from Mycroft and checking in with him when he gets to the office. He makes a point to try and join Mycroft for lunch. Mycroft allows it, but he isn't the best conversationalist. He sees Jim deflate a bit whenever things get awkward, and he likes that he causes the deflating, which makes him feel guilty but also very good. Jim doesn't owe him dating. He doesn't owe Jim conversation.
Mycroft does answer a few questions about the information-gathering the group is doing, including how much information is relevant for certain topics, what the purpose of certain questions may be, and how to read the expressions of one of the group's men in particular. Mycroft answers him with a sufficient lack of emotion, and he's rather pleased with himself for that. It's preferable to the urge to shout at Jim and degrade him.
Sometime during the day on Wednesday, Jim has told the men and women of the group as much as they can all think of at the time. They start to form plans of action for taking down Jim's old empire.
"Do they know about Sebastian?" Mycroft finds himself asking as Jim and he end up taking tea at the same time. He asks more for the plan's sake than for Jim's.
Jim suddenly gets very still, staring into his cup. "I'm going to have to tell them," he says quietly.
"I thought he wanted to come work with you. No?" Mycroft sets his cup down, eyeing Jim. "Are you alright, Jim?" he asks a bit cruelly, hoping to find out just how much Jim is affected by the thought of Sebastian's future hanging in the balance.
Jim looks up, sighing heavily. "Hold on," he says, taking out his mobile. He presses a finger to his lips as the phone rings. Mycroft stands, closing the door. An employee who knows nothing of Jim's group is in the small room as well, but it's no matter. She isn't paying attention. He wouldn't even care if she was.
"Hi. Yeah, okay, do me a favor. Pack up all your stuff." Jim glances at Mycroft again. "Are you stupid, Moran? You heard me, and if you leave anything, I'll make you eat it next time I see you."
There's a pause where Mycroft sits again and the woman who isn't really listening finishes her break, shutting the door again behind her with a nod to Mycroft on her way out.
What's Jim playing at now? Sebastian and he are together, and, from the looks of the photographic evidence etched forever in Mycroft's mind, rather happy about it. It must be Paradise.
Jim's going to use Mycroft to give Sebastian an in, and Mycroft's going to fall for Sebastian's willingness to change, and Jim and Sebastian are going to work side-by-side like Mycroft was going to with Jim, only they'll work even closer together and they'll have everything that was never supposed to be theirs. Mycroft's hand tightens on china that did nothing to him. China doesn't bruise, nor does it lose trust and run away like an ex-consulting criminal might be inclined to do.
Okay. Deep breath. Sebastian is packing. Soon, he'll have finished, and Jim will orchestrate the next step. Mycroft will be listening. Things will make sense again.
"Okay, good!" Jim says. "Of course I have a point, Moran! And the point is, fuck you. What did I tell you on the first day of work, Sebastian? I said don't fall in love with me." Jim shifts uncomfortably in the chair, ducking his head a bit. "Well, what do you think happened? I grew bored," he says bitterly. "Go, just go. Yes, I'll still be around if you need help with the consulting." He rolls his eyes at Mycroft conspiratorially, as if they could possibly be in on anything together ever again.
"Oh, FUCK OFF!" Jim yanks the phone away from his ear. "He's begging, Mycroft, he's begging," he says with disgust. He lets out a loud groan of frustration, pulling the phone back to his ear. "Sebastian, you are not to call me for the next twenty-four hours. Yes, that includes texting!" Jim hangs up. Mycroft raises a brow. Jim meets his gaze, then squares his shoulders. "All taken care of now. He wouldn't accept my offer."
"I'm sorry," Mycroft says calmly, sure there's at least something in all of the mess that he's sorry for. "You dumped him, did you?" He was wrong; things still don't make any sense.
Jim rolls his eyes. "That might not be the worst of it, either. I might have to turn it up a notch. He's so loyal."
"No hardship, I'm sure." Mycroft stands, itching to concentrate on something that won't cause his mind to reel. "More tea, Jim?"
"Yes, thanks," Jim says a little absently.
"Mind telling me what that was all about?" Mycroft asks as he pours.
"It's not like it really matters," Jim says. "But, I have no one else to tell." He puts his mobile away. "Sebastian had two choices. He could have joined us. I wanted him to. I really wanted that for him. If he'd done that, I would have let him down easy."
Mycroft frowns. He understands that the other option was leaving. In that case, Jim would have been cruel, as he'd been. But, if he'd joined them, why would Jim have had to let Sebastian down at all? "I don't understand," Mycroft says.
Jim looks up at him, a bit incredulous. "What's not to get? That's the other option. You just saw me take it."
"I don't understand why you would've had to let him down at all, if he'd joined us here. He could have helped; you're right. If he'd been willing."
Jim frowns. "Oh. Okay."
"You don't understand after all," Jim says. "Alright."
"Jim, don't," Mycroft says firmly. "Don't do that. Just tell me."
Jim sighs. "I would've let him down easy so we could all just work together. I'm not interested in Sebastian that way. I told you, you're the only one I have any feelings for. Well, those types of feelings," he says, making a face.
Mycroft closes his eyes for a moment, then opens them. His hand finds his cup again. "Don't be cruel. Be honest with me. It's the least you could do, the very least."
"I am being honest," Jim says with a shrug, but his eyes are intent. "Sebastian said no, so I made it easy for him to go. You're right; I don't like messes. I don't want him pining after me. I have to betray him, even if I don't want to. I promised."
"You still feel you owe me?" Mycroft asks, gripping the cup. "That sounds kind, Jim. Where'd you learn kindness so quickly?"
"Oh, Mycroft," Jim sighs. He shakes his head slightly, indicating there's more Mycroft doesn't understand. "Look, I thought if I gave him what he wanted, he'd come join us." Jim stands, pacing a little around the small room. "I panicked, I'll admit. You can't exactly take back returning from the dead. He could have told everyone about me, and we'd have lost a big advantage. But, he didn't do that." He scratches at the back of his head. "Caring...sucks," he says honestly.
Mycroft quirks his lip. "This is a rather tricky situation, isn't it?" It's rather like Jim getting a taste of his own medicine.
"I tried to get him to trust you," Jim says, sighing. He stops pacing, staring at Mycroft. "So, I hurt him. And, no, don't say it. I hurt you too, and I know that." Does he? Mycroft narrows his eyes in thought. Is it possible?
"In the end," Jim continues, "I didn't even save him. He's going to suffer for the sins of my empire. We could have had it so much better. Ordinary people are let downs, all of them."
Sebastian seems promising. And, honestly, anger aside, Jim is much more reliable if he feels he has something to live for. The sniper would suffice. Pushing for Sebastian's presense is the right thing to do, so he'll do it.
"I'm not sure he's so ordinary." Mycroft slowly rises to his feet and walks toward Jim. "What if you apologized to him and asked him one more time? We'll ask him together. One last try. It's important to you. After all, what's a man without his 'sex kitten'?" He raises an eyebrow.
"I know people who will never stop, no matter what things The Iceman can offer," Jim says slowly. "Sebastian's not one of them."
Mycroft swallows. "Tonight, we fix this. Don't feel like you have to spare my feelings. I'm not weak. I'm far less weak than you've ever imagined, I'll bet."
"No, you aren't weak," Jim admits. "And I care about you still, I hope you know." Mycroft freezes, stares openly at Jim, but Jim looks away as he goes on. "I thought it'd help you, if you resented him. I didn't want you caring about him in case...in case he didn't want to join us." Jim bites at his lip. "I knew you wouldn't resent me, not like you should. You care for me."
Mycroft looks away. This can't be true, can it? Jim couldn't have thought he was helping, could he?
"That's it. That's all of it," says Jim, spreading his hands out at his sides in emphasis. "I manipulated everybody. Big surprise."
Mycroft clears his throat, looking at Jim. No, it's not a surprise, is it? But the reason behind the manipulation, if it's the real reason...is very new. "You know, I thought you were being a selfish prick."
Mycroft shakes his head. "You tried to help people. Isn't that a victory?" He waits, watching Jim. Eventually, Jim looks up.
"Alright...so maybe we can go back to talking to each other again, like it's not some great chore? He thinks we're just friends, but we're not even that, now. I can tell. You won't even look at me."
"You're changing, Jim," Mycroft says, tilting his head curiously. "You're caring about things."
"You're changing me," Jim says. Mycroft opens his mouth to protest, but Jim adds, "Don't stop."
"I won't," Mycroft quickly promises, feeling the old familiar thrill run through him. Is he helping Jim? Is he chipping away at the dangerous threat Jim poses to the world?
"I'm here now," Jim reminds him. "I want to be. You're going to care about me again; I'll make you." Something in Mycroft's eyes, something cold and deadly, causes Jim to falter. "Anyway, I trust you. I think you'll always protect me." Jim reaches for his tie, fiddling with the tie pin a bit. "And...I tried to return the favor, didn't I?" he says with surprise. He looks up, his gaze searching.
"Jim, I have no idea what you're doing, or what you're going to do," Mycroft says tiredly.
Jim stares down at the little golden goose. It's all a bit much. He almost wants to fly away. Mycroft puts a hand on his shoulder, grounding him. Jim looks up to see Mycroft eyeing him suspiciously.
Jim licks his lips. "Anthea was so worried about you. I really hurt you."
Mycroft jerks his hand away, taking a step back. He chuckles, pain clear in his expression. "Yes. In that part of your plan, you were exceedingly successful."
Jim stares at him, eyes wide. "I'm sorry," he says softly.
"I cheated on you. I broke your heart. I thought I was helping, or at least helping myself. I wasn't, though." Jim swallows. "You don't trust me anymore, do you? No, you don't have to tell me." He pats Mycroft's arm. "I'm starting to learn how to pick up on that."
Mycroft taps his fingers against his lip. "Thank you for the apology," he says.
Jim blinks. "No problem," he says, not quite able to remember a time before Mycroft that he'd apologized for anything and actually meant it. And now here, between apologizing for putting his hand on Mycroft where it didn't belong and apologizing for breaking his heart and making him jealous, he's done it twice. Funny, that.
"You've wanted to punch me again," Jim says with amusement. "And, you know? I don't blame you. Maybe I'll get you a present," he says thoughtfully.
"It won't make up for anything," Mycroft says suddenly, voice bitter.
Jim reaches for Mycroft's arm again, brushing fingers across the material of his suit. "We'll see, dear," he says. "I'm here, after all. Not going anywhere. We're stuck together for now. And I like the sound of that."
Jim gives Mycroft's arm a squeeze before making his way out of the break room.
Mycroft texts Anthea that he's going to need a longer break. And a brandy.
Chapter 20: Attention-Seeking Behaviors
Chapter 20: "Attention-Seeking Behaviors"
As Mycroft and Sebastian find common interests, Jim tries to get Mycroft's attention in various ways. Eventually, it works.
Rated PG-13 for language and a threat and themes of violence/abuse.
The colonel has a tie around his neck, but it's untied. He steps back to let Mycroft in.
Jim is in the sitting room, fast asleep on the couch and in his clothes from the night before. "I tried waking him," Sebastian says, sounding unconcerned. A longing, quiet expression takes over his face after a moment though, giving him away. He looks how Mycroft's felt about Jim in the past, if not how Mycroft feels about Jim now.
Jim is the man who thinks bombs are a spot of fun when he gets bored, who thinks strapping them to a child is no big deal. And, at the same time, infuriatingly enough, he's the same Jim that showed Mycroft how pleasant it could be to sleep in someone's arms, only to take that pleasantness away.
It doesn't matter that Jim once made Mycroft breakfast. Why should that matter? He shouldn't even think on it.
When Sebastian suggests Mycroft try to wake Jim up, Mycroft nods and does his best. "Get up," he says, stepping closer to Jim. "You have work today," he says firmly with a hint of a growl. He nudges him firmly. "Up, now!"
Jim rolls over a bit, groaning. "Fuuuuck. Who decided upon five day work weeks again? I'll kill 'em."
"I could go into a history lesson, but it's much too early for that, and I can assure you they thought five was preferable to seven." He leans over and shakes Jim properly. "Get up. Now. I don't give out personal days for poor decisions."
"Poor decisions...what?" Jim blinks his eyes open, frowning.
"Your little night at the movies," Mycroft says. He gestures to the mess on the table before crossing his arms. "Come on. Up. You just have time for a quick shower. You've got to keep making a good impression, for now. You're clever enough to know that."
Sebastian is staring at the two of them in awe. Mycroft catches his gaze for a moment, then looks back at Jim.
Jim closes his eyes. He yells aloud, a cry of frustration that startles Mycroft slightly, then finally opens his eyes again, sitting up quickly. "Parts of it are so boring, Mycroft!" he complains with a rage he saves for boredom.
Mycroft clucks his tongue and smirks, actually enjoying Jim's frustration. "Only you would get bored with a group of people hanging on your every word. Into the shower. Now," he says.
Jim quirks his lip, looking Mycroft up and down with eyes that are suddenly rather alert. "Maybe you could join me. The bath felt nice."
Ah, yes. They've actually been in the tub together before, naked, pressed together. Not that it had been sexual at the time. Mycroft sets his jaw. "You will be quick about it, Jim," he says firmly.
Jim slowly reaches out and takes Mycroft's hand again, grip firm as he pulls it to his lips and kisses the back of it. He maintains eye-contact, gaze burning with amusement and affection, and Mycroft struggles not to be taken in by the mocking (wouldn't it have to be?) gesture. "Sure," Jim says. "As you like it." Suddenly, Jim squeezes the hand to the point of pain, only to release it when he sees Mycroft flinch. He smiles prettily then and bounces off toward the stairs.
Narrowing his eyes, Mycroft shakes out the pain and wipes at the back of his hand with a handkerchief, even though Jim can't see him do it.
"Sometimes, there's really nothing I hate more than that slippery bastard," Sebastian says thoughtfully with a nod to Mycroft, his tie now finished with a rather good knot. "I thought he would kill you for waking him up," Sebastian adds, heading to the kitchen to put tea on.
"Colonel," Mycroft says as Sebastian comes back into the room. "I'm in over my head, aren't I?" Why is it, again, that he wanted Jim to come and work for him? Sure, it's preferable to Jim being in prison, when he's so useful out and such a threat in, but is it worth it, really?
"Actually," Sebastian admits, "I don't think you are." He gives Mycroft a sad, begrudgingly admiring look. "I'm no match for him; he's never wanted me to be. But you, 'Saint Mycroft'...."
"You think he finds me to be a match?" It's a thought Mycroft used to hold to, but he hasn't been so sure lately.
"Well he didn't swing a fire poker at you, now did he?" Sebastian picks up and brandishes the misplaced poker for emphasis before putting it back in its proper place. He rubs at his back, grimacing.
"No, I suppose not." Mycroft will give him that. "Are you alright?" he asks with a pang of sympathy.
Sebastian sighs, pulling out a cigarette. "I'll have Jim look it over tonight." He pulls out another for Mycroft. "Fancy a smoke break?"
"Yes, actually." On the way out the front door, Anthea texts Mycroft to ask if all is well. He responds that it is.
"What did you watch last night?" Mycroft asks, curious, as they stand on the front stoop.
Sebastian tells him they got through most of Diamonds are Forever, half of Rent, all of A Fish Called Wanda, and that Jim finally fell asleep partway through Hamlet. It sparks a light discussion about James Bond and musicals that, surprisingly, lasts all the way from the sunlight and cigarettes to the sofa and tea. Before they realize it, Jim is ready and it's nearly time to leave for the office.
Jim, who has clearly been listening in, stares at them oddly for a moment, then says to Sebastian, "You in a tie is just weird. You might get a haircut. And did I really hear you say you didn't mind Rent? You don't mind anything, Sebastian. It's ridiculous." He reaches out, scratching blunt nails over a small bit of Sebastian's cheek. "You've missed a spot shaving here. Didn't your father ever teach you anything before he left?" he says in mock sympathy.
Sebastian's whole body stiffens at the mention of his father. He swallows, shaking his head at Jim in disbelief before heading to the bathroom for a last-minute swipe with the blade.
Mycroft sighs. "Just what was the point of that?"
"No point; he's just boring," Jim says with a grin. "I missed you in the shower, you know."
"I'm sure," Mycroft says dryly. "Why bother to wash your own back if it can be helped?"
"Surely there are more interesting parts of me than just my back," Jim teases. "Though, who knows if you'd be able to find them," he lowers his voice to a stage whisper, "considering how things were between us." Jim turns to look over his shoulder at Sebastian, grinning. "Sebastian here would have found more than my back. Already has, before. You'd know."
Sebastian and Mycroft's eyes meet. They understand the pain of Jim's little twisting motions on the knives in their hearts. Sebastian gives a little shrug as if to say, "That's Jim."
"I'm going to get you something," Jim says thoughtfully on the way to work. Mycroft's on the left, with Jim on the rightt and Sebastian between them. "And it'll be good," Jim adds.
"You persist in thinking I can be bought, Jim? How ambitious of you," Mycroft says, looking out the window.
"We'll have to see, won't we?" Jim singsongs, then chuckles darkly afterward. "I hope you'll be ready."
"I just hope it's returnable," Mycroft says with a snort. He doesn't want a gift from Jim if it's a good gift. He doesn't want to feel flattered by Jim again in any realm. What's the point?
"Hey, Holmes," Sebastian says after a minute. "Why'd you have him ask me to join just one more time?"
Mycroft considers what his answer should be. "I thought you'd be good for both Jim and the operation. And by the way," He clears his throat. "I don't believe you're as in over your head as you might think," he says with a bit of a guarded smile. What he means by saying this is that there are at least some ways in which Sebastian is a match for Jim.
"Hm. Could be true, Saint Holmes," Sebastian says with a nod of his head, seeming to understand. He smiles a little sadly, then shakes his head. "My hat's still off to you."
"'Hat's off to you,'" Jim says. "What's that mean? What are you guys talking about?"
"Need-to-know basis, Jim," Sebastian says, though he turns and smirks at Mycroft.
Jim grits his teeth and viciously digs his heel into the toe of Sebastian's shoe, elbowing him in the side. He goes back to thinking about what he should get Mycroft soon enough.
Mycroft watches Jim and Sebastian interact with the group for a bit. He appears to be right about Sebastian's usefulness in both realms (with the group and with Jim). He can't help but be annoyed with Jim, though, who is frequently lashing out at Sebastian, which isn't professional.
Jim continues to try and talk Mycroft's ear off at lunch, and Mycroft carefully tries to keep up more than he had been; he'd promised talking wouldn't be a chore. It's still not easy between them. It's fairly easy for Mycroft to talk to Sebastian, however, a fact which makes Jim narrow his eyes dangerously.
"I have music. Records, even."
"I might go have a listen, then," Sebastian says.
Mycroft searches Sebastian for sincerity, pleased when he finds nothing but. He smiles and pictures them listening to swing records together in his lonely house. "You should."
"Classic stuff, and great for dancing, if you have the knack. I don't."
"I actually took lessons," Mycroft admits. "In my youth."
Sebastian stares, a wry grin on his face. "You were terrible, weren't you?"
Mycroft nods, a bit pleased with the assessment. "I wasn't good at all, despite putting in a decent amount of practice." Mycroft had accidentally injured a partner, actually, which made the girls in the class avoid him. It had been humiliating, but he'd still liked the idea of properly learning how and had stuck with it, improving, if only a little.
Suddenly, Jim's standing at Mycroft's side, hand clamped on his shoulder.
"I bet you're more of a ballroom dancer, aren't you, Mycroft? Except," he slides a hand along Mycroft's clothed arm, "these big, awkward limbs of yours get in the way, don't they?" Mycroft contemplates pulling his arm away, staring at Jim with calm disapproval. "It'd go all wrong, Sebastian. It'd be nothing like dancing with me."
"Not that you'll ever know, now," Mycroft says smoothly. "Because wouldn't that be up to me?" Jim still hasn't released his arm.
Jim finally pats the arm and walks away, murmuring, "I'll get what I want soon enough, Mycroft."
Mycroft narrows his eyes at the threat.
Mycroft is informed that Jim has managed to impress the group (who are easily impressed) as well as Mycroft's superiors (who are not). Jim's not impressing Mycroft though. It's only Thursday, and he's already come into Mycroft's office on multiple occasions just to waste his time.
There's no question that it's on purpose. The glint in Jim's eyes gives him away. He's like a pesky little brother, or a bullying child waiting for Mycroft to screw up, and at the same time something of all the men who have tried to win Mycroft's presence in their bed is in there as well. Mycroft doesn't have to sway to any of that because he doesn't sway to lusty men or bullies and Jim is not his little brother; in fact, Jim killed his little brother, or at least thinks he did and doesn't regret it which in many ways is the same thing.
Mycroft is spending the week at the office to help Jim get adjusted, but he expects professionalism and respect from Jim. Respect does not include questions Jim can answer for himself, moments where he won't say a damn thing at all and will just smirk at Mycroft until he's shooed away, and moments spent trying to engage Mycroft in small talk when he's clearly got something important he's working on.
On Friday, Jim begins to bother Mycroft with a series of questions about what he's working on. After a pause to weigh his options, Mycroft does explain a bit of it, which, to Jim's credit, seems to genuinely fascinate Jim. "Well, I say you're brilliant," Jim says, then turns to head out of the office, adding, "Brilliant, brilliant Mycroft Holmes."
Mycroft is suddenly unsure that he should have told Jim what he was working on, swallowing at the part of him that longs for Jim to be his partner so they can be brilliant together. That's all after, if the empire unbuilding goes as planned, and the signs point to success. It's a bigger "if" than he'd like.
"Are you going to pay attention to me?" Jim says on the phone. It's Saturday.
"I am paying attention, Jim," Mycroft says with a sigh.
"Well then why aren't I good enough for you anymore?" Jim demands.
Mycroft closes his eyes and gathers the strength to give an honest answer through the pain of his rejection. "It's okay, Jim," he says quietly, eyes still closed. "It's okay to be honest with me."
"Okay then," Jim says. "Pay attention to me. I'm desperate, actually desperate, for your attention."
"Please don't," Mycroft says, Jim's words acting as little fresh stabs of the knife. The first conversation they'd ever had was over Jim wanting Mycroft's attention. But it isn't like that anymore.
"I am desperate! I still want you," Jim says with a vicious undertone. "And I'll get you, cause you like it when I want you. I'll win you over, Mycroft." The tone gives Mycroft chills.
"Oh, am I some prize?" Mycroft snaps.
"You could be!"
"You're free to see Sebastian, Jim." These words don't really hurt. He thinks that, now he knows Sebastian and Jim, they'd do alright together, if Jim cared for him, and surely he could, if he wanted. Probably.
Jim heaves a put-upon sigh. "You really aren't getting it. I don't want to see Sebastian."
"Well, then you're free to see anyone at all. You're even free to be single for the rest of your life, for all I care."
"Don't you act like it's not tearing you apart, Mycroft. You can't fool me. I can see the loneliness in you, painted all over you. We share that loneliness, remember?"
Sharing, as if sharing's a thing Jim actually does!
"Wrong. We may have shared it once, but you stole it all away. I was second best, remember? And don't you dare try to justify that, not with all the plots to 'save Colonel Moran' in the world. If I mattered to you, you would have proven it without showing me...photographic evidence." He feels petty and spiteful saying it, but it still stings. He hates that he's supposed to be so grown-up about it all the time.
It doesn't matter that Jim's never really had an interpersonal relationship he's valued before. It doesn't matter that he isn't used to keeping friends, isn't used to things being equal. He still should have stayed with Mycroft! Mycroft wouldn't have broken Jim's heart, would he?
"No, we're the same!" Jim says furiously. "You and I, we're a pair. You can't deny that we fit. I'll prove it to you. I'll prove it to you until you've got no other thought in your head except how perfect we are. I've given up so much for you. Do you think that was really all just some whim, some moment of fancy?" His tone is vicious.
To be fair, Jim really has given up a lot of things. Mycroft sucks in a breath through his nose, feeling the tingle of flattery dance across his chest as he remembers how many things, only to disappear when he realizes he's falling for Jim's lines. No, he can't give into Jim's manipulation.
"You're a very good liar, Jim," Mycroft murmurs, "but I can trust my instincts."
"Clever, clever," Jim says mockingly. "You're always doing that, using my words against me. It may be hurtful, but I like it. Proves you actually listen."
Mycroft shifts his eyes a bit. "Does it?"
"Oh, it does, dear, it really does." I'm gonna go now, Mycroft, but...youshould pay attention to me." There's a threat in the tone, somehow. "Or...."
"Or I'll engage in attention-seeking behaviors. Do you hate attention-seeking behaviors? Seems like the kind of thing that'd just get to you. You're enjoying Sebastian, and that's okay, but not if I'm not first on your list. I have dibs."
"On me?" Mycroft says, incredulous.
"Uh, DUH!" Jim yells into the receiver. "Don't act like this is news to you!"
Mycroft says nothing, ignoring the ringing in his ear from Jim's outburst, not sure what the correct response is, not sure if he even wants to be having the conversation at all.
"Oh, fuck you," Jim says without much bite, hanging up.
Mycroft holds his mobile in front of him and stares at it for a moment before pocketing it.
There's a big kink in Mycroft's mission after his conversation with Jim, though not an insurmountable one. As he arranges to have it dealt with on Sunday, including a couple meetings he could have done without on his day off, he pretends he doesn't understand what happened. Jim happened, after he'd told him the basic idea.
Yes, Jim is proving to be less trustworthy than Mycroft had hoped, but at the same time he could have ruined Mycroft's mission entirely, and he didn't. Something held him back, and that something, whatever it is, is promising. But that doesn't make Jim's behavior less annoying.
That night, after tossing and turning and thinking entirely too much about Jim, Mycroft has a dream. It's a wonderful dream, if simple. He and Jim are next to each other on the sofa. They hold each other, watching the news on the telly, just home from a day at the office where they'd solved a crisis together.
Jim says, "You did good, Mycroft."
Mycroft says, "Well, you make me a better man, Jim."
He wakes up, alone, and as the simple dream is slipping away, he jots down a note that he'll have to look into the possibility that Jim might make him a better man. When they're getting along, of course. There's that bit in their way, at the moment. Perhaps Jim will stop trying to get his attention in negative ways soon. He can always hope. He hopes too much, actually, but it's too late to stop now. Or is it too early? No matter, he's got to keep at it for now.
Sometimes, hope is stupid, but sometimes it's all a man has, once a decision has been made.
Mycroft notices something on Monday that makes him even more annoyed. Sebastian is limping. He hasn't been on a mission since Mycroft has seen him, so it's not business-related, and he's even more submissive to Jim, so Mycroft draws the conclusion that Jim hurt him.
"Jim," Mycroft says, motioning for Jim to follow him to an area where they can speak freely.
"What?" Jim says teasingly. "Have I gotten your attention?"
"Yes, you have," Mycroft says. "What have you done to Sebastian?"
Jim rolls his eyes. "Seriously, Mycroft?" Mycroft stares straight at him, narrowing his eyes. Jim reaches up, patting Mycroft's chest. "Alright, alright, dear, don't get your tie in a second knot. I just gave him what he had coming."
"For doing what?" Mycroft asks with disdain.
"For letting me."
Mycroft raises an eyebrow.
"Sebastian and I are two consenting adults. If I'm going to rough him up and he's going to let me, who are you to stop me?"
"And would you hit me too, Jim? Is that how you treat the ones you care about? Ridiculous."
"Maybe I fucking do, Mycroft Holmes! Maybe I'm going to tie you up and order you about, and when you get mouthy I'll slap at your lovely face. Maybe I'll even cut you open and play with your flapping skin. Is that so wrong?"
Mycroft shifts uncomfortably.
"You'd let me, to an extent. I know your buttons, and I'll push them. I'll push them until you don't recognize yourself. Is that what you'd like, Mr British Government? Is it?" Jim leans forward, and Mycroft actually takes a step back, expression blank.
Mycroft says quietly, calmly, "While you work for me, you will not hurt your team members, not even Colonel Moran."
"You like him," Jim says, lip curling in disgust. "You want him." Actually, Mycroft doesn't, but Jim is a jealous one. "And that's a problem. I swear to you I'll hurt him if you don't stop acting like he's so damn precious. He isn't; you could have me! You can stop all this, Mycroft," he says with a bit of a whine, "you really can. You said I mean a lot to you. Don't I, don't I still?"
Oh! Oh, so that's Jim's game. Mycroft takes Jim back, or Sebastian gets it. Sebastian may be Jim's willing punching bag, but Mycroft won't let anything happen to him, no matter how serious Jim is about wanting him. The fact Jim is threatening the colonel makes Mycroft unaccountably annoyed. No, he may not be romantically interested in Sebastian Moran, but the man is actually very good company, and much better company than Jim currently is.
"I've taught you better," he says. Jim's eyes flare with indignation at that. "I'll see you at tea," Mycroft adds with disgust, leaving Jim in the room, rejected.
Later, Mycroft finds Jim has trashed the room. He has to cover for the damage, which luckily isn't too extensive, but it's rather annoying, and rather unnecessary.
Mycroft has another dream that night. He dreams of an entirely different sort of domesticity this time. He's abused. He lets Jim hit him, he just lets him, and it actually hurts a little, old pains he's actually felt being played upon by his subconscious.
And he feels low and deserving and he's...he's disappearing?
Jim spits on him, and he's disappearing, and then he's looking down at himself as Jim orders him around, it's an out-of-body experience, and there's less and less of him, like he's a wavery hologram that will soon be even less, and Jim is calling him "dear".
When he wakes, it takes him a moment to realize he was dreaming, the feelings weighing heavily upon his chest. He remembers the feeling of worthlessness, the notion that he deserved to be Jim's punching bag. That isn't what he wants. That isn't what will happen to him, nor to Sebastian. He won't let Jim get away with that.
Mycroft invites Sebastian to his home that evening, intending to find out how he's faring. He expressly tells Jim he's not allowed to come round, to which Jim claims he's got plans of his own. Mycroft's not sure if he likes the sound of Jim's tone, so he calls up Anthea and asks her to keep an eye on Jim, if she can manage it. She says it shouldn't be any trouble.
Mycroft puts on some records and relaxes with Sebastian a bit. After a while, he asks how Jim's been treating Sebastian. Sebastian recognizes his concern, and smiles a bit.
"He's got a lot of aggression, that one," Sebastian says, enjoying some of Mycroft's brandy. "Has to get it out somehow, so don't worry about me. Worry about him, though." He pauses. "I think you should take him back."
Mycroft stares at him. "But don't you want to be with him, Sebastian?"
Sebastian waves a hand in the air to highlight the insignificance of his attraction to Jim. "I've had feelings for Jim for a very, very long time, but I've always known it'd be this way. He's had plenty of opportunity to go after me like he's going after you."
Mycroft pours himself some more, shaking his head. "I can't take him back, Colonel. I'm sorry. He's starting to show his true colors. He's causing trouble, and he's hurting you. It's not rational to want to continue. He's dangerous."
"One thing you learn with Jim," Sebastian says, getting up to flip the record, "is that we've all got lots of true colors. You should definitely take him back, now he's getting all bitter. You'll soften him."
"Hardly," Mycroft bites out.
"No, really," Sebastian says, quirking his lip. "I swear it. You make him...better than himself. He's really willing to impress you. He's even going out with that assistant of yours tonight."
"Yeah. Actually, I guess part of that is spite. He got mad he wasn't allowed to join us, so he thought he'd spend time with your right-hand man instead." No wonder Anthea had said keeping an eye on Jim wouldn't be any trouble.
"What will they do?"
"Talk about you, I think. Can't imagine it'd get romantic. She's too loyal."
"Much too loyal," Mycroft says with a quirk of his lip.
"And you know what, Mycroft?" Mycroft leans in slightly, curious. "I think he is too."
Mycroft rolls his eyes, sitting back.
"Trust me." Sebastian scratches idly at the chair's arm. "I don't necessarily want to tell you that, do I? But I think you're good for Jim. It's your birthday soon, right? And he won't shut up about it. Bet he's asking your assistant what kind of stuff you like."
"I wonder what she'll tell him," Mycroft says thoughtfully. He's not used to getting much, so it should be interesting. Though, at the same time, Mycroft thinks as his expression sours, from Jim it could be anything from a disgusting cross stitch to a free assassination. What power does he really have over Jim?
Sebastian sets down his empty tumbler, standing. "I gotta go easy on the leg, but wanna try?" He gestures to the record player.
After a moment, Mycroft registers what Sebastian means, blinking in surprise. He stands as well, carefully removing his jacket. "I suppose so," he admits. He'd rather like to try, actually. Just because he couldn't keep up in dance class doesn't mean he hadn't enjoyed himself. "Might as well. Jim's not here to poke fun at us."
"Neither is your assistant." Sebastian says. "She's very pretty, you know. And...poised? Is she seeing anyone?"
"Sort of," Mycroft says. "Has her eye on someone anyway," he adds, referring to John.
"Too bad. Well, if that doesn't work out," Sebastian says lightly.
"I'll put in a good word," Mycroft says with sincerity, heading over to take the finished record off.
"Put on something good enough to make fools of ourselves to."
"That was my intention," Mycroft says with a quirk of his lip. "Move the table a bit, will you?" Soon, he finds himself swing dancing and laughing at himself with a man who also understands the incredibly annoying allure of Jim Moriarty.
Jim doesn't pull anything on Tuesday, which makes Mycroft a little nervous, especially since his birthday is Thursday and Anthea has confirmed that Jim really did ask about his interests. She won't even tell him what interests she relayed, just that they were minor things that shouldn't put the nation in any danger.
Mycroft has an important meeting over a late dinner and gets home well into the evening, finding Sebastian's car out front. His first thought is that perhaps Sebastian is hiding from Jim's sadistic attentions, so he's worried for Sebastian as he comes in, though he doesn't show it.
Sebastian is not in the sitting room. No one is in sight, though there's a pile of animal droppings on the floor in the entryway.
"JIM?" Mycroft yells, avoiding the spot.
"Kitchen, dear," Jim singsongs.
Narrowing his eyes and keeping his umbrella in a firm grip, Mycroft heads to the kitchen, unsure what he should be expecting.
"Why don't you have any cracked corn?" Mycroft hears Jim say, and he's stunned into silence when he can finally see into the room. He watches Jim fling open cabinets left and right as a goose, an actual goose, walks about on the floor a bit restlessly.
"Why don't you have any?" Mycroft shoots back. "And what is that?" He points at the goose with the tip of his umbrella.
"It's a present. The first present, because I'm most important." Or simply because Jim is two days early, thinks Mycroft.
The goose suddenly takes notice of Mycroft, makes a sound a bit like the gobble of a turkey, then darts forward, stopping in front of Mycroft. Mycroft takes a measured step back, looking alarmed.
"You can't be serious," he says.
But Jim is.
"Well, you see, this goose was giving Connick—you know Lyle Connick?—Connick's aunt some trouble. So I figured if I went and got it, you could fix it, and then you could keep it."
"You honestly figured I could keep it?" Mycroft just stares at the thing as it pokes into one of the open lower cabinets, finding only pots there.
"You fixed me, you can fix a goose," Jim says. "Gander, I mean. Damn thing already bit me. Take a look," he offers his hand.
"Yes it did," Mycroft says appraisingly, taking hold of the hand, eyeing the reddish-purple mark. "No less than you deserve. Now take the goose back, Jim."
"But it's a very rare type of goose. Special. See the coloring? Pretty, isn't it?" He grins, "Take a gander at that gander." He nods to it, and Mycroft is caught up for a moment in Jim's excitement. "And that pink beak there is particularly important."
Important. Right, there's a gander in the kitchen, and its pink beak is important. Priorities, Jim, priorities.
"You know what's important, Jim?" Mycroft says, taking another step back as the gander approaches, seeming to size him up. "It shit in the entryway! And what's more, it'll do it again, given time." He shakes his head in disgust. "Have some decency. I keep food in here."
"I know that. I've cooked in here before," Jim points out smugly. He clucks his tongue, trying to call the bird. The gander doesn't turn away from Mycroft, though. In fact, it rears its head and hisses.
"Jim?" Mycroft says, sounding a bit scared and, honestly, looking it too. The gander raises its wings up in a threatening gesture.
"Oh, like I know what to do!" Jim snaps. "I only know you're supposed to...Mycroft?"
Mycroft backs up, then starts to run back down the hall. The gander chases him, hissing, until he makes it to the sitting room and clutches his umbrella, whirling around. When Mycroft opens his umbrella like a shield, the gander pauses for a moment, then honks and flaps its wings, remaining still.
"What's it doing now?" Mycroft asks uncertainly, a curl of his hair falling out of place.
"Nothing," Jim says, and then laughs. He starts to giggle and cackle and Mycroft stiffens. "He's doing nothing at all, and look at you. I'm the one it bit, not you. But I'm no goose's bitch, Mycroft. You're a goose's bitch. Gander's bitch, I mean. Which I guess would make you a goose."
Mycroft scowls, lowering his umbrella cautiously until he feels it's safe to close it.
Jim moves to Mycroft's side, staring down at the gander. Suddenly, he hisses, and the gander takes a step back.
"What are you doing?!" Mycroft asks, still looking scared.
"It's called not being a goose, Mycroft, you little bitch." He shakes his head, chuckling a bit again. "Look at you. Oh, I like you like this."
Mycroft's eyes narrow dangerously as he goes very still, watching Jim with silent intent. Was this Jim's purpose all along? To scare him and laugh at him?
"What Connick's aunt said is that you're supposed to show them who's in charge. But you can't, can you, dear? You're letting it walk all over you."
"Shut up," Mycroft says.
Suddenly, Jim's arms shoot out at his sides and he stares the gander down. Mycroft watches, wondering if Connick's aunt was right. Jim starts to chase the gander, herding it back into the kitchen with surprising ease. Cautiously awed, Mycroft follows.
"Have one of your people get him some goose feed," Jim says, pulling out a chair at the table and sitting down.
Mycroft narrows his eyes, but sends a text. "I'm not keeping it," he tells Jim. "It's not up for discussion." He pulls out his handkerchief and dabs at his forehead, blowing out a breath.
"We'll share him, then," Jim says easily. "You like to share."
"I don't, actually," Mycroft says. "Especially not animals that belong in a pond somewhere, or else on the table. And especially not when you only brought him here to, ah, ruffle my feathers." He swallows, feeling used and laughable. "I'm not here to entertain you. This, all of this, is just stupid."
"Stupid, yes," Jim agrees, smirking, "But certainly not boring. This little guy is squawking around and hissing, upsetting you and shitting all over everything you love. I think I like him."
"Then I guess you're the stupid one," Mycroft says.
Jim cocks his head. "Oh? Why's that?"
"You wanted to get me to trust you, and this is how you went about it: You hurt your right-hand man, threatened my work, and made cracks about anything in me you saw as a vulnerability."
"Well don't forget that I also brought you a live animal that made you look like an absolute fool."
Mycroft's hands clench into subtle fists. "I'd thought you were some mastermind, but you're just a man desperate for attention."
"For you, that's all I've ever claimed to be," Jim points out.
Mycroft shakes his head slowly. "You're flying by the seat of your trousers, Jim. You are utterly impulsive, just like this one," Mycroft says, pointing to the gander with the umbrella he still holds, "Just like Sherlock was."
Suddenly Jim snaps his fingers. "I've got it."
"Got what?" Mycroft says, looking slightly startled at Jim's change of mood.
"A name for the gander." Jim grins widely. "Oh, that's good! That's perfect."
"Well? What is it?" Mycroft asks warily.
Jim chuckles. "I'll call him Sherlock."
Mycroft needs a moment to get his head around that one. "What?!" Jim picks his lock, gives him the world's worst gift (including literal shit in the front hall to greet him), and then he names said gift after the brother he "killed". Technically, Jim shouldn't have the right to even speak Sherlock's name, let alone mock him.
"Sherlock's the perfect name, don't you think?" Jim asks brightly, trying to catch Mycroft's eye.
Oh. Oh, there's a hint of remorse in Jim's glance, beneath the brightness, and Jim...Jim isn't completely cold about it after all, is he?
Mycroft chuckles again. He starts to go around the kitchen and close the cabinets, still chuckling. "You are absolutely ridiculous," he says, and chuckles some more, and then properly begins to laugh.
Jim's lip quirks and he chuckles too. "Maybe just a little," he says with a faint hint of a flush, quickly glancing at Mycroft with his dark, shining eyes.
Mycroft meets his gaze for a long moment, only pulled back from his creeping dreams and hopes when the gander starts to head toward him again. He stiffens, swallowing, moving farther away from Jim.
"Shut up," Mycroft says.
"I told you I'd get you something good," Jim grins. "You could almost trust me again."
"Good? This is the worst present I think I've ever received," Mycroft says with disbelief.
"Yeah, well, you'll remember it forever," Jim says, looking rather pleased with himself.
Glancing at Jim, Mycroft says, "Do you feel anything, about Sherlock's death?"
Jim scrubs a hand through his hair. "Feeling any way about it won't bring him back," Jim says with a shrug. "I'm a killer two times over now, only I knew better this time."
Actually, thinks Mycroft, feeling something is exactly what will bring Sherlock back. "At least you knew better this time," Mycroft points out just before the doorbell rings.
He answers the door to get the feed for the gander, and, reminded of the rather embarrassing mess the man who delivers the feed stares at for too long, he makes Jim clean the entryway when the man leaves.
Sherlock the gander certainly won't be staying long, at least not at Mycroft's, but the other one might be back in very little time, if Jim continues to hold promise.
"To my satisfaction," Mycroft nods at the site of the birds' accident. The floor sparkles, but he'd expect no less from Jim, who likes to be very tidy. "You know, Jim," Mycroft adds mysteriously, watching him gather the cleaning supplies up, "there are many messes that can be dealt with, if you only have the right tools at your disposal."
Jim grins. "Or if you can charm them off the man who has them."
Mycroft rolls his eyes. "Good luck with that," he says, walking away.
He heads into the kitchen before Jim, sighing when he arrives. "Don't put the supplies away just yet, Jim," he calls.
"Why not?" Jim frowns, fidgeting a bit in discomfort at the idea that he might have to clean something else.
"Your Sherlock had a shit in the kitchen too."
Chapter 21: Just Tea
Sherlock deals with boredom, and Jim and Mycroft have a night out.
Rated PG-13/M for sexual situations.
Mycroft wastes no time in finding an opportunity to excuse himself and call Sherlock, who has been texting all morning. "When you say 'urgent'," he says coolly, believing he already knows the answer, "is it a matter of life-or-death, or life-or-boredom?"
"Well, it all depends." Sherlock pauses for effect. "But, no, dead men don't die, do they? Mainly, I was just waiting on your delivery, which was late."
"Oh, yes," Mycroft says slowly, wryly, "I'm sorry that a field agent couldn't hand a dead man a stack of books and newspapers in a timely manner. Am I going to get a thank you?" There's a long silence. "Thought not." He sighs. "Why is it always me you bother, Sherlock? Why not Molly or Mrs Hudson?"
"I don't like the way they worry," Sherlock says after a moment, trying to sound offhanded about it. Hanging in the silence is the fact Sherlock prefers the way Mycroft worries.
"Try Mummy?" Mycroft suggests.
"Oh god, no!" Ah. She doesn't worry enough for Sherlock's tastes, Mycroft realizes. Nor for Mycroft's tastes either, really, when it comes down to it.
Mycroft smiles a bit to himself, feeling strangely pleased, but his tone is firm. "Well Sherlock, it's my first day out of the office since the new arrangement, and you aren't the only child I have to worry about being on their own today."
"Ah, of course," Sherlock says bitterly. A wall comes up inside of him around his heart. "You have Jim to preoccupy you."
Mycroft pauses, considering. It's actually been good for his health and his peace of mind to have Jim as a distraction from the trouble Sherlock gets into, not that Sherlock is ready to understand that. Mycroft knows Sherlock is jealous, though he has no reason to be.
"Soon," Sherlock adds airly, "I expect he'll have the power to really get the job done. What's a sharing of well-kept secrets between lovers?"
The implication that he'd give Sherlock up cuts deep and sits stinging inside of Mycroft, making his lip curl. Sherlock has always been his first priority.
Mycroft clears his throat. "I can't even be sure where I stand with Jim right now. It's...complicated."
Sherlock scoffs. "Complicated? Hardly. Insert tab A into slot B. Repeat indefinitely."
Mycroft's eyes narrow. "Already more than I thought you'd know on the matter. Now, what is it you want, Sherlock?" he asks, a bit exasperated.
"A willing ear! You're busy, obviously, but you can assign someone to the task. Preferably not Slot B."
"Sherlock," Mycroft admonishes, then, imagining Jim having mindless sex, he remembers Sebastian. "Actually," he says, "there's someone I'll need to put you in contact with, if I only learn that he can be trusted with your secret. As for now, though, suck it up. Or else play your old game of calling in corrections to the paper."
Sherlock sulks for a moment with a huff of breath.
"Did you hear me, Sherlock?"
After a moment, Sherlock hums in approval. "Actually, I might do."
Mycroft is glad Sherlock's found a solution for his boredom, at least for the moment. "Stay out of trouble," he says. "And I mean that, Sherlock."
Sherlock chuckles darkly. "And that's your advice, is it?"
"It's my demand. Unless you prefer raised surveillance, or else my taking you off the case entirely?" It's not even an empty threat, now he's got Jim and Sebastian.
"Really, I'm in trouble already, thanks to you."
Mycroft swallows at the horrible truth there.
"But here's my advice to you, Mycroft: Go back to torturing prisoners. You're not so hideous that you couldn't try to seduce someone who wouldn't try to kill me this time."
"Sherlock," Mycroft grits out.
"I believe they've just taken in that terrorist from the failed bombing attempt. He seemed lovely. Fancy taking him home to Mummy. In handcuffs, of course. And people think I'm the reckless one."
Sherlock's hung up before Mycroft can reply. Mycroft pities whoever will take Sherlock's corrections calls.
He doesn't mind going back to the meetings after all that, and by the time he and Anthea head home, he's feeling much lighter about where he stands with both Jim and Sherlock.
"Any plans for your birthday, sir?"
Mycroft smiles. "Oh, just the same as every year, Anthea. No sense in overturning tradition."
"But, sir," she protests quietly. "You can't mean that. I mean, you actually have friends now!"
Mycroft blinks. He looks out the window. It's a surprising thought, especially when spelled out. He does have friends. Well, he's always had Anthea, and their evenings out have always been nice, as well as their trips to his favorite pastry shop. But perhaps they can have a gathering of some sort this year, now that he has friends who don't work for him.
Actually, they do work for him.
"Did Jim say anything about plans?" she asks.
"I don't know," Mycroft counters, turning back toward her, "what did he say when the two of you went to dinner?"
Her lip quirks.
He feels embarrassed at his jealousy, and manages a bit of a shy smile. It's not Anthea's fault things with Jim have been hard. "We should see if we can't set something up with Jim and Sebastian."
"Maybe someday, we'll even have John over," Anthea says happily.
"Do you think he'd come, really?" Mycroft says, surprised. "Are the two of you finally together?"
"Oh, no, we're not," she explains quickly. "But he's at least been considering meeting with you again, and that's progress. It's been a while since Sherlock died, and he's starting to come to grips with it. We'll need to just keep it small tomorrow, but, hey," she smirks, "there's always Christmas."
Mycroft grins, picturing Anthea and Jim and Sebastian and Sherlock and John and Greg and Molly Hooper and Mrs Hudson over at his for Christmas, a time when he's usually alone. Not that they'd come, likely, and not that it wouldn't be awkward if they did, but it's a nice image all the same.
He answers the call, frowning slightly. "Miss Hooper?" he asks. "This is a surprise."
"Er, yes. Hi. I was just...I was just wondering...."
He waits for her to go on for a moment, then finally asks, "Wondering what?"
"Wondering if you're busy on Saturday," she rushes out.
He raises an eyebrow. "Not that I know of." He pauses. "Why?"
"I was just...I thought that, with Sherlock out there, and your birthday tomorrow...I mean, I wouldn't want to be without Sherlock on my birthday either," she blurts out.
Mycroft is surprised to hear that Sherlock has spent time with Miss Hooper on her birthday before, or at least that's the implication. "Saturday should be alright," he says, "but don't feel any obligation."
"Well, it's not entirely selfless of me," she says quietly.
"No," she sighs, "because I suppose part of it is that I'm a bit lonely too. I don't get out much, and when I do, it's usually with Sherlock. So, if you don't mind, I'll come by? Sherlock's told me where you live. Bit of a drive, but I can manage it, unless you'd rather I...didn't?"
Mycroft smiles to himself. "No. You're very welcome to come. Saturday?"
"Saturday," she says cheerily.
Thursday comes before Saturday (which is to be expected), and Sherlock calls him (which isn't). Sherlock usually avoids contact on Mycroft's birthday altogether.
"Mycroft," he says in a falsely pleasant tone. "How are you? How's Slot B?"
"Fine. We're not actually together now, you know, just...friends," Mycroft says with agitation. "He's coming over tonight, along with his right-hand man. And Anthea'll come too, of course."
"Ahhh," Sherlock says with implication, "greener pastures, this right-hand man? For Jim or for you?"
Mycroft's eyes narrow. "His name's Sebastian, if you really care to know, and neither of us are interested in him romantically. However," he says, voice softening, "I will admit that he's good company, and useful, and that I'd even like the two of you to meet."
"What?!" Sherlock sputters. "But...why?"
"He's Jim's second-in-command, Sherlock."
"Oh!" Quiet surprise.
"Quite. The new face of Jim's empire. The trick will be, of course, whether Sebastian will keep you secret from Jim. I think he just might, but we may need to test him first."
"That's the Mycroft I know," Sherlock scoffs after a moment. "No new friend left untested. No acquaintance left without paranoia."
"Shut up," Mycroft says, rolling his eyes. Sherlock is just being petty. Of course they need to make sure Sebastian is worthy of their trust. To do anything less would be, well, Sherlock levels of impulsive.
"I've been keeping busy, since you didn't ask," says Sherlock.
"Ah." That's a good sign, hopefully. "Did you call in some corrections?"
"Yes. Particularly to that rag that helped with my undoing. And, actually," says Sherlock in the tone of voice that indicates he finds something hilarious that most wouldn't, "the poor girl who answered calls at night before all this 'fall business' is still stuck doing it."
"The one who tried to flirt?"
"What do you think of her?"
"I hardly think of her at all," Sherlock says suspiciously. "Why?"
"When you're alive again, I could find her, if you'd like."
"Not interested," Sherlock dismisses. "She's stupid." He pauses, voice considerate as he adds, "Although, she does seem to remember me."
"I recall you saying she had such a pleasant voice that you actually enjoyed hearing it."
"I did say that," Sherlock concedes. "And, what's more, it's true. But she says stupid things, so it rather ruins the effect, don't you think?"
"Mm," says Mycroft.
"She does seem to admire me, though."
"She always did," Mycroft agrees.
"Women tend to do that, when I've not had the chance to insult them face-to-face."
Mycroft smirks. "Well, if that's all you've got going on, I think I'll find out what we're going to do to celebrate tonight. As for you...take care of yourself."
"I will," promises Sherlock, and the kind and honest response is Mycroft's birthday present from his little brother. For a day or so, he'll stay out of trouble.
Jim looks entirely too pleased with himself.
"Just the two of us?" Mycroft asks dubiously.
"Yes, just you and me," Jim says, holding out the tickets with a flourish. "And, of course, two tuxes. And our listening ears."
"Why not Sebastian?" Mycroft asks, frowning slightly as he accepts the tickets and inspects them. "And surely we've got room for Anthea? I'll pay for them to join us." This isn't what he's been imagining. He wants them all together, if they're going to go out for the evening. And he wants to go to the concert, really. He can't resist the pull of music and entertainment if the tickets have already been purchased.
He tries not to show the longing he's starting to feel. Things with Jim are still uncertain and uncomfortable, and time alone with Jim is surely one of the last things they need.
Jim shakes his head, looking slightly confused, which makes him appear more endearing. "It's supposed to be just the two of us."
"I don't really want it to be the two of us," Mycroft says with a bit of bite. "You'd like to make me happy, wouldn't you?" he presses.
"Yes, I'd like to make you happy," Jim says simply. "I'd like to make you happy enough to ruin your formal trousers, actually." Jim grins at the shock that displays itself on Mycroft's face before Mycroft hides it away with a swiftness that can only be due to practice. "It would be an easy task to accomplish, wouldn't it?" He pats Mycroft's cheek. "Although, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I believe we should work up to that. Let's do this properly this time, dating. What do you say?" He smiles, hopeful in a way he really has no right to be. "I'm okay, as long as you're mine."
Mycroft doesn't owe Jim anything except a willingness to help him take down his own empire. He doesn't owe him kisses, dates, or even a touch to the cheek.
But Mycroft thinks he owes it to Sebastian to give it another shot with Jim. Anthea seems to want him to try again too, for all she manages to appear neutral.
And it would piss off Sherlock, wouldn't it?
He hesitates, and then says, "Fine."
Jim stares at him for a moment. There's something blank and surprised about the expression that makes a warmth rise up in Mycroft's chest. He reaches out, pokes Jim in the chest. Jim scowls, eyes narrowing as he silently demands an explanation.
"Thought I'd somehow lucked out and turned you to stone. Turns out I'd just surprised you."
Jim smooths down his shirt, coughing lightly. "Well you have to admit: Your saying yes to me is surprising."
Mycroft quirks a brow. "Is it? What have I done to convince my favorite ex-consulting criminal that he's not just going to get me because he wants me?" he asks with real curiosity.
Jim grins. "Well, you haven't. This is just my latest manipulation, custom made for you, what with the size of your heart. I'll admit, though, that I wasn't entirely convinced I could win you when you were upset with me, but since you laughed at my gander, I've come to see you're going to be mine after all." Even Jim hadn't been entirely convinced. Mycroft's breath catches in his throat at the rawness, at the vulnerability in the revelation.
No, Mycroft probably couldn't kill this Jim, not unless Sherlock's life was directly at stake. But, just as Jim isn't going to be in much danger from Mycroft, Sherlock isn't going to be in much danger from Jim. The past is saying other things, but history doesn't go quite as far as Mycroft's instincts.
"You're all mine tonight, then, Mycroft? I can dress you up and show you off?" He looks so eager, so purposed, that Mycroft chuckles.
"Well, as a present, it beats the goose," Mycroft points out, his eyes sparkling.
Mycroft feels handsome, sitting next to Jim. He's unable to help but recall the way Jim had said he wanted to show him off. No one's ever wanted to show him off before; Mycroft hasn't even wanted to show himself off before. His soft smile holds for a very long time as he sits next to Jim and listens to the music swell and melt, feels it inside his chest and all around him, deciding that it's a very nice birthday turnout after all, even with just the two of them.
When it's all over and they're heading home in the car Jim has for them, they talk mainly about the concert, and when they reach Mycroft's house, he invites Jim in for some tea, making it clear that he actually means just tea.
Jim pays the driver and sends him away. "Tea sounds good," Jim says as he follows Mycroft inside. "I'm not going to push anymore, honest. I'd rather be patient and have you than have everything I want when it's someone else." He pauses. "For now, at least. But, you know me, more changeable than not."
Mycroft quirks a brow, feeling a sudden urge to tug Jim into his arms. He'd like to kiss him silly and nose his cheek, and just generally shower Jim with affection like he's been imagining doing ever since their first kiss, ever since Jim had stayed over and cuddled with him. He clears his throat. "Thank you. I appreciate that."
Jim smiles softly, and it makes Mycroft relax. Perhaps a bit too much.
He's thought about it, in the back of his mind, as a nagging thought he couldn't be rid of, but he hadn't really expected to just blurt it out. "Jim, once we've done everything it is possible to do in the bedroom, are you going to toss me aside?"
Jim stares at Mycroft.
Oh dear God. Mycroft's whining like a love-stupid teenager. He'll be lucky if he can get Jim into bed after an outburst like that!
Jim chuckles at first, only to slowly frown at the graveness in Mycroft's expression, a graveness that increases during the ensuing silence. Not much good can come of this bluntness, Mycroft fears. His question really had no place in a conversation between two very independent and very different adults.
"No," Jim says finally. "I wouldn't leave you once sex happened; sex is sex. Granted, I shouldn't have...shouldn't have slept with Sebastian and then left him. I mean, he's Sebastian, but, he does have...feelings? And, yeah, basically...it wasn't very nice, if he's my...friend." He narrows his eyes in deep thought on the last word.
"Have you apologized to him about any of it?" Mycroft asks with concern, a bit relieved and grateful to feel the focus of the conversation shift from his own insecurities to the past between Jim and Sebastian.
Jim scowls. "Why would I?"
After a moment of pointedly gazing at Jim and waiting for him to answer the question for himself, Mycroft steps away toward the kitchen to put the tea on with a roll of his eyes.
"No, I haven't," Jim admits, following. "It'd be a...wise move, though." It isn't said with much certainty.
"Yes, you'd best fix things while he still cares about and respects you," Mycroft explains. "He's gaining self-confidence now, and he's depending on you less."
"And whose fault is that?" Jim calls with a hint of disgust.
Mycroft crosses his arms and leans against the workspace, trying to appear casual. "I won't apologize for making someone feel welcome or worthwhile. And," Mycroft adds, staring Jim down, "you don't particularly want me to apologize, because you like me this way."
Jim takes a step back and sighs heavily, shaking his head in faint disgust. A quick, approving glance at Mycroft's form in its casual position at first makes Mycroft feel appreciated, but, when Jim speaks, makes him question it all, makes him feel cheap. Jim says, "I hate you, really." Mycroft swallows against the punch of the statement, the sting of the very idea, the sudden realization that Jim's eyes on him don't feel nearly as good when Jim says things like that and seems to mean them.
Jim smirks widely. "You aggravate me. You get under my skin and make me want to get under yours. I want to live inside of you, and I don't want to ever see you again."
Mycroft struggles to maintain eye-contact, wanting to look away, afraid of the smirk on the lips he'd still like to kiss. He's stupid. He's going to fall for Jim again and again, for all the same old tricks. He's made an employee out of Jim, but nothing more.
How could he have let this happen? He finally has to look away.
"I think they call that love," Jim says slowly with amusement. "It's disgusting, isn't it, Mycroft?"
Mycroft carefully looks up in surprise. Ah, so that's what he was saying, was it? He'd been trying to wind Mycroft up, to get him to reveal his feelings. Mycroft falters for a moment, just staring. Something soft and concerned comes over Jim's face for a moment, and Mycroft finally feels like he can breathe again. "Well, I like being under your skin too," Mycroft says softly. "I like getting to you, and I like that you trust me. And I'm starting to trust you too, despite your attempts to knock me off-balance. Bit childish, surely?"
Jim pauses, studying Mycroft's face for signs of insincerity, eyes dark and burning. Then he launches himself at Mycroft, wrapping his arms around him, kissing at him with an awkward desperation that Mycroft returns after a sigh against his questing lips. He grips at Jim in turn, and strokes his hair, and hums softly in an attempt to calm and reassure his...date. Not boyfriend just yet.
Jim breaks the kiss to nuzzle at Mycroft's cheek. "I forgot how much I seem to need you," he says a bit shakily. "Because I really do, seem to." His breathlessness thrills Mycroft.
Mycroft holds him, rubs circles on his back. Jim feels warm in his arms, and so close, and it's been too long since they've held each other, really. "We'll take things slowly so we can be wise about everything. We're different, but...."
"But?" Jim breathes.
"But you can't deny we fit. And you can't deny we've got chemistry." He kisses at Jim's temple. "At least, I certainly won't deny it."
"No! No, me neither." Jim buries his face in Mycroft's shoulder for a moment, giving him a squeeze. "You let me take you out tonight. Everyone could see who I had with me. Everyone knew you were mine. You've really not had many others, have you?"
Mycroft raises a brow. "What if I was to tell you I'd slept with hundreds of men? What would you say?"
"I wouldn't believe you," Jim says, grinning. "I think you're near enough a virgin."
"Well, then you'd be right," Mycroft admits, dropping the game. It wasn't going to have worked anyway. He could suggest he and Sebastian had gotten up to something, but that wouldn't be fair to Sebastian for a number of reasons.
"Sofa," Jim demands. "Come." He takes Mycroft's hand and leads him.
"I had a dream about us cuddling here," says Mycroft softly.
"Oh? Tell me more," Jim says.
"We didn't do anything except cuddle and watch the news, which detailed a political victory you and I had a hand in solving together." After he says this, he stiffens a bit, carefully settling down on the sofa.
"That sounds nice, actually," Jim says.
Mycroft's head turns and his eyes are wide and questioning, hopeful.
"I'd like to try for that, after all this mess I've made is taken care of. In fact, I demand we try it."
Mycroft looks at him with shining eyes, trying hard not to focus too much on the future he's honestly looking forward to as a very real possibility at the moment. "That sounds...nearly perfect," he manages softly.
"You deserve a nearly perfect future," Jim says, his eyes open and honest as well. "Happy birthday, Mycroft."
Mycroft reaches out for Jim, pulling him close for a passionate snog, feeling warm and cared for all over.
All too soon, the snogging gets irrevocably heated, and Jim changes his tune. "More than just snogging," he begs.
"We can't," Mycroft says calmly, ignoring his own rising passion. "Really, Jim. Let's take it slowly."
"But, please!" says Jim, mouthing at Mycroft's neck with little nibbles that make Mycroft's breath catch in his throat. "Nn, please, I just. I need to be inside you, all over you and your skin, please."
Mycroft swallows, moans softly against the feel of the lips still brushing at his neck. He shakes his head. "No, Jim. I'm sorry," he says slowly, trying to keep his voice steady.
"I've got it," Jim breathes, "We'll give you a birthday blow job." Mycroft feels himself twitch in response, and he flattens a hand over his face, shaking his head. Giving in isn't going to help him against Jim.
"I'm sorry, dear," Mycroft says honestly in a choked tone, moving his hand away, his eyes showing the depth of his regret and his determination. "Really, very...sorry."
"With anyone else, you would!" Jim pants. "I bet if, if, if Sebastian asked, or Anthea, you'd just," Jim licks his lips, eyes frantic, "you'd roll over and let them!"
Mycroft finds Jim's hands, one of which is on his chest, the other of which is at his hip, he finds them, coaxes them away, and moves them until he's holding them clutched in his own, hoping to calm Jim a bit. "Jim," he murmurs. "You are the only person I'd let give me a," he flushes, "birthday blow job...but, I'm afraid I'm still not going to let you. Not tonight."
Jim does calm. The frenzy dies down to a quiet longing. "Are you sure?" he asks, eyes such a lovely, wide sort of brown. "Are you really sure? God, I want to pound you," he purrs. "I want to see you come apart for me."
"I'm definitely sure. And, if you're patient," he swallows, licks his lips, "we'll get there."
Jim sits there for a moment, even after Mycroft releases his hands, looking down at his lap. Slowly, he manages to ease himself off of Mycroft, running fingers through his dark hair. He takes in the ruffled appearance of his clothes, clucking a bit at the state of them. He glares at Mycroft's arousal, then up at Mycroft's face, standing, pacing. Finally, he shakes his head at Mycroft. He seems embarrassed. And still half aroused. And gorgeous.
Slightly less gorgeous when he smashes an expensive vase on his way out.
Between the rejection and the vase, Mycroft thinks they're pretty well even, even from Jim's twisted point of view.
Chapter 22: Sweat and Gunpowder
Molly comes over, but she's got two guests with her, and Mycroft has two guests of his own.
"Oh, grow up!" Mycroft tells Jim over the phone in exasperation. "This has absolutely nothing to do with the vase and everything to do with your personal safety. It is a very private meeting and you will be at risk if you should show up. You do get that, don't you? Confidential information would be compromised. I can't let you attend."
"You really ought to know that things shouldn't be dangled in front of me if I'm not meant to have them." Jim hangs up.
Mycroft doesn't let on that the confidential information is Jim's being alive, and he never thinks to make Jim promise that he won't send Sebastian in his stead, so when Saturday arrives, Mycroft is vaguely impressed as he raises an eyebrow and lets the colonel in.
Sebastian takes a seat on the sofa. "Can you keep a secret, Sebastian?" Mycroft asks carefully.
Sebastian sits for a moment, looking around at Mycroft's sitting room, up at Mycroft. He asks with a spark of amusement, "Would anyone really say 'no' to you?"
"Mm. No, I suppose not," Mycroft allows, smiling a bit. "Today, I had been expecting one guest, but she's informed me she has two others with her. They're going to be asking me a few questions, and even though two of them personally knew Jim," here Sebastian's eyebrows rise, "it would rather set us back if they were to find out he's alive."
And here it is: Sebastian's first test. Things really will be alright, even if Jim's found alive, because Mycroft can still protect Jim and spin the situation to focus on Jim's new place in the "side of the angels" while not revealing Sebastian's new role as head of Jim's empire. It won't be the end of things. But it won't be nearly as easy.
The doorbell rings.
Mycroft breathes a sigh of relief when it's just Anthea, grasping her hand, tugging her inside. "We've got three guests over instead of just the one, plus Sebastian, who Jim sent over, and you, of course, my dear. Come, sit down."
Mycroft seats Anthea next to Sebastian just in case something sparks, leaving to put the tea on. When he returns, he overhears Sebastian warning Anthea not to let the guests in on Jim being alive. Bless him.
"Happy Birthday, Mycroft!" Molly says brightly.
"Thank you, Miss Hooper." Mycroft gracefully shows the guests in, guiding them to the sitting room, Molly in the lead and Mrs Hudson just behind.
When Sebastian catches sight of the third guest, he stands, eyes wide, and sort of freezes up. Mycroft arches a brow.
"Sebastian!" Kitty Riley says, nodding to the sniper. "Another old friend of Richard's. I should have known you'd be here," she teases.
"You two know each other?" Mycroft asks, wondering for a moment at Sebastian's sudden awkwardness.
Sebastian's hand suddenly shoots out and he offers it to Kitty to shake. "Kitty!" he bursts out, licking his lips in a nervousness Mycroft can't quite recall seeing from him. "You look...well. Gorgeous, actually. But that's not new, is it?"
Well! If Sebastian is attracted to Anthea and has been talking to her just fine, there must be some real history between Kitty and Sebastian. Mycroft shares a glance with Anthea, who is also surprised, and lets her hand linger when she shakes Molly's hand.
Kitty laughs. "You're no so bad yourself, Mr Moran," she says, giving him a slow once-over. "Tell me," she asks, "what have you been up to? I'd half expected to see you come round after Richard died. It's a wonder you weren't listed as next of kin, isn't it? This one was," she says, gesturing to Mycroft, who winces when Sebastian meets his gaze. "Who's he, then? Tell me everything."
Sebastian seems rather stung by the revelation that Mycroft was listed as Jim's next of kin, but he merely says, "Old boyfriend of Richard's. Richard spoke highly of him." He swallows, trying to ignore the stepped-on feeling that often comes when he thinks too hard about what happened with Jim.
"Sorry things never worked out for you with him," she says. "I know we were together, but I thought I could see a possible future there for the two of you, if things hadn't worked out. You were good to him."
"Yeah, I...was," Sebastian says a little awkwardly. He pauses, looking troubled by her sincerity. He tries to shake it off and smiles nervously. "So, Kitty, I heard Jim's information helped you gain popularity."
"I guess you could say that, yeah," Kitty says with a big smile. "Actually, funny you should mention. I'm here about the articles. I've got some questions for his brother." She nods to Mycroft with a confident smile.
"Oh?" Sebastian suddenly looks quietly concerned. "For an article?" He chews at his lip. "I still read your articles, you know. They're letting you do more exciting things."
"You have no idea," she says with a laugh. "I might tell you about it sometime. Haven't got many people to talk to, at least not people I'd trust."
Sebastian licks his lips. "You should! We should do something," he says quickly.
"Oh, er...anything," he says, and leads the way to the sofa. "Drinks, chatting. So did your success get you off call duty? You used to always get stuck on call duty."
Kitty feels herself blush just a little. It's actually very flattering to see so much interest in her work, especially from such a handsome man, even if she isn't, strictly speaking, his type, or so she thinks. Handsome men never give her the time of day, unless they need her help and protection. "Oh, I don't mind call duty much anymore," she admits. "I've gotten used to it. And sometimes I get regulars calling in," she giggles.
"Well, then I'm glad you're still made to do it," Sebastian beams. "If I was clever enough, I'd call in just to talk to you."
"You would not!" Kitty says with a laugh.
"I would!" he says, nodding.
"Same old Sebastian," she says, shaking her head. Her eyes shine a bit as she looks at him, and he jams his hands into his pockets and chuckles for a moment.
"I really...I mean, especially with Jim gone...I really would."
She looks at him curiously for a moment, seeing if maybe she's had him all wrong. He says nothing else, and in the silence after his statement, Mrs Hudson says to Mycroft,"Right, well, where can I set this?"
Mycroft looks at the box. "It's just that coffee cake you always like," she explains. Mycroft smiles softly, pleased that Mrs Hudson noticed his preferences. Sherlock sees her as a bit of a second mum and, sometimes, Mycroft can't help but see her that way too.
"Sorry, Mrs Hudson!" he says, taking the box from her and setting it on the coffee table. "Thank you so much." He lifts off the lid and takes a moment to appreciate the look of it and the sweet scent.
"Oh, Mycroft," Mrs Hudson says. "Happy Birthday."
She certainly came a long way, and he's not entirely sure why. "Have you come in Sherlock's stead as well?" His tone is teasing. Mrs Hudson and Molly have been in on Sherlock's secret since day one.
"Well, see, that's the thing," says Kitty. That Kitty should answer is a bit concerning.
"Oh?" Mycroft wonders what she means, his brow furrowing slightly. He's not sure why she's there, but supposes he'll find out soon enough. "Here, everyone find a seat," he encourages, managing to get Kitty and Sebastian next to each other, having Molly and Mrs Hudson take the other sofa and seating Anthea next to Miss Hooper. More than anything else really, this leaves his favorite chair for himself. He can see everyone well.
"What is it?" Sebastian asks Kitty. There's a longing expression on poor Sebastian's face as he stares at Kitty that Mycroft decides everyone except Kitty notices.
"Sebastian, would you come with me to the kitchen?" Mycroft asks before Kitty can respond. "Make yourselves comfortable," he encourages the women as Sebastian slowly stands and follows him.
"You know, you're really not getting anywhere with this," Mycroft offers as he bustles around.
"Hm? This?" Sebastian asks, looking around at the kitchen.
"No, sorry, not this this," Mycroft clarifies. "I meant with Kitty." Mycroft arranges the coffee and some plates for cake onto a second tray so Sebastian will have something to carry.
"God," Sebastian says, running fingers through his hair. "I...I try to...to be smooth, but...."
"Relax," Mycroft says, resting a steady hand on Sebastian's shoulder. "Your communication would be reaching her if she was more perceptive. She'll say yes if you ask her out, I think. She's been warm toward you and she trusts you very fully. Plus, she's a bit desperate."
Sebastian frowns slightly. "Did you deduce that? The, the desperation?"
"Oh, no." Mycroft chuckles. "When I was collecting Jim's things from her flat, we went to dinner as a sort of memorial, and she said she'd have liked it to be more."
Sebastian heaves a sigh, shaking his head. "That's you, though. And, seriously, look at you," he says, gesturing to Mycroft, pulling away from the hand on his shoulder. "Listen to you. You're rich, smooth, impressive. Why would she want me when there are men like you out there? She never wanted me before. She was always interested in 'Richard'."
"Well, I don't see Richard around, do you?" Mycroft says pointedly.
Sebastian shyly watches Mycroft replace the lid of the sugar.
"Jim was lying to her. He didn't even like her," Mycroft reminds him.
"No, he didn't," Sebastian concedes.
"You did, though. Doesn't that already mean you should at least try? You're handsome, after all, and you're very kind."
Sebastian's smile is very small and full of doubt, but it's at least present. He groans, staring hard at the coffee urn. "Jim said he based Richard off me, a bit, with the bumbling and the...obviousness. It's how I was with Jim for a while."
"Ouch," Mycroft says with sympathy. "Jim's a colossal prick, I know." He watches Sebastian's shoulders slump. "But, I rather think you win out here. Realistically, she liked those things about Richard, yes? So she might well like you too. You have much to offer her." Mycroft meets Sebastian's gaze steadily to indicate his sincerity, leaning in slightly. "You'd let her take care of you, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," Sebastian confirms. "Definitely. Undoubtedly."
"Then ask her out, because that's what she likes to do, caring. Jim wasn't for it, but she badly wanted to believe he was. She thinks you're gay."
Sebastian raises an eyebrow. "Oh. That explains a lot," he says.
"Yes, I'd imagine so."
Sebastian swallows hard. "It's not...it's not so simple as asking clearly enough that she'll understand."
"It's the...obsessing. I'd like to ask her, I would, and I'd like to eventually go out as more than friends, but I know that I get...attached to people." His expression is miserable, flaked with sparkling hints of Heartbreak By Jim. "I don't fall for people who fall for me. I just don't. At least, I never have."
Mycroft nods. "If things go south, you can feel free to blame me as much as you'd like," he says honestly, "but I think you should try it. There's no better time than the present."
Sebastian gets quiet and arranges the cups, thinks for a long moment. Finally, he says slowly, his voice a bit strained, "If you say it'd be worth it, I might as well give it a shot." He looks up at Mycroft with a wary sort of trust. Mycroft reflects on what he should say to further encourage Sebastian.
He clears his throat. "I want you to remember that you have attractive qualities that make you a valuable romantic partner. You're an expert marksman, one of the most loyal men I've ever met, a fine dancer, honest about yourself and your needs, and truly in need of some caring. Clinginess and obsession are due to thought patterns and behaviors that can be altered. Your character is already worth a long-term connection. Even your friendship with Jim lasted because of you."
Sebastian looks surprised.
"Didn't you know?" asks Mycroft.
Sebastian is silent again, but it's a thoughtful silence.
"If you get the tray with the coffee," says Mycroft, "I'll get the second tray."
Sebastian takes up the tray and follows Mycroft, looking more relaxed than he'd been before.
"Do you understand why we're here, Mr Holmes?" Kitty asks, taking some coffee. Good Lord, she's got that all-business manner about her. This is going to be aggravating.
"Miss Hooper may have mentioned."
"I think your brother might still be alive."
"Oh?" Mycroft says, unconcerned as he pours tea.
"I think I've spoken with him on the phone, actually."
Mycroft has to work very hard not to visibly tense or act surprised in any manner. This isn't good. She has a nice voice, really, and she obviously works for the newspaper Sherlock used to call. "Oh?" Mycroft says again. "The bill should be pretty steep, shouldn't it, if you're ringing him in hell."
Sebastian guffaws. Molly chokes on her coffee cake until Mrs Hudson pats her on the back with a warning look.
Kitty, however, rolls her eyes. "I mean it, Mr Holmes. There was a man who used to call corrections into the paper, and I think he was your brother. I recognized his voice when I met him."
"Cornered him," Mycroft corrects.
Kitty pauses for a moment. "Yes, I cornered him. I recognized his voice, his general disdain for humanity, and his need to be right. He wouldn't help me out, so I found someone who would. Richard and I took your brother down with the truth. And then Richard died. I'd thought Sherlock had died as well, but now I'm not so sure. So I've started investigating."
"Stopped by to have a look around his old flat," Mrs Hudson confirms.
"She checked out the lab too, and that's where I met her," Molly piped up, then murmured, "Mrs Hudson and I thought we'd bring her up here to, you know, find the truth out from you ourselves." The truth is, as Mycroft knows because Molly told him on the phone, they'd come with Kitty to help keep her under control and help keep Sherlock's secret, and also to bring Mycroft coffee cake and possibly a card of some sort.
And to fight off loneliness.
"So, Mr Holmes, what have you got to say about the fact I think your brother's started calling in corrections again?"
Mycroft looks levelly at her. "Is there proof of that? Did Sherlock ever confirm he was the man who was making those calls in the first place?"
"It's very fishy, and you have to admit that if it sounded like Sherlock, it was probably Sherlock. He may have had a nice voice worth copying, but not many people are willing to imitate his lack of social graces."
"You're doing a fair job," Mycroft says, and then catches Sebastian's fraction of a glare. He clears his throat, resolving to play nice. "Apologies, Miss Riley," he says. "But, I don't have to admit anything of the sort."
"Call me Kitty," Kitty reminds him. "If you know something about Sherlock, it's best to get it out, since we're all here. We drove quite a ways." She glances at Anthea. "And I'll bet your girlfriend has some nagging suspicions as well."
Anthea smiles. "I'm not his girlfriend," she says, "just his PA and friend." She glances intently at Molly, adding, "I'm single, and looking." Molly gives Anthea a slightly startled look. Anthea just grins and takes a sip of her tea.
"My mistake," Kitty says, then turns back to Mycroft. "If I had to guess, I'd think you might even know where he is."
Mycroft chuckles, setting his cup down, folding his hands in his lap. "Fine, you've caught me." Miss Hooper and Mrs Hudson shoot him stunned looks. Kitty is clearly beginning the emotional crescendo of unexpected triumph. "I know where Sherlock is. He's alive, though we had a spot of trouble the other day, annoying as he is. I've got a picture if you'd like to see it."
"Sure," Kitty says, smiling kindly and excitedly at Molly and Mrs Hudson. She waits with eager anticipation as Mycroft taps at the screen of his mobile.
"Look," Mycroft says, and as she registers what she's seeing, her face falls. Then her lip twitches slightly as her eyes narrow and she demands an explanation.
"This is a goose."
"This, Miss Riley, is Sherlock. The only Sherlock I've seen since your ex-boyfriend was found on the roof of Bart's and my brother was found off the roof of Bart's, so if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to be left to my memories and my goose and not be bothered by you anymore. I certainly didn't get in the way of your grieving Richard, did I?"
Mycroft notes that Sebastian looks rather thoughtful as he stares at the screen of the mobile, taking it from Kitty. He glances at Mycroft, then starts to poke around on the mobile. Mycroft keeps an eye on him, but he can't quite see what he's doing. He sees Anthea narrow her eyes and try to figure it out as well.
"You helped me with my grieving, actually," Kitty says, no longer interested in the mobile at all. "I think you stole my DVD, though, so, if you don't mind, I'll have that back?"
Mrs Hudson and Molly share a secret smile with each other, glad that Kitty seems convinced.
"By all means," Mycroft says gently. "Now, to you and to the rest of you, if there was anything I could do at the moment to bring Sherlock back to life, I'd do it. As it is, my hands are rather tied against doing the impossible. Perhaps I'll learn a few tricks in time." He rises to find Kitty's DVD for her.
"You'll all want more cake, won't you?" says Mrs Hudson in the silence that follows.
Molly gives Mycroft a sweet, hand-made card that he'll definitely be saving. He likes her dark humor and her steady hand with a craft blade. A year older, but you're not dead, the front of the card reads, and the inside has a pop-up corpse and reads, I'd know; I'm an expert. He genuinely laughs when he reads it. He's never understood why Sherlock tells her to keep quiet all the time. She sometimes says something strange, but so does Sherlock, and at least she doesn't try to put people off.
"Impressive work, Miss Hooper," Mycroft praises, and she blushes a bit. He passes the card around, and Sebastian laughs too. Sebastian's never met Molly before, though Jim told him a little about her. He mainly said she liked cats and Glee. Anthea laughs so hard she doubles over, staring at the card with a quirk of her lip that Mycroft would bet anyone indicated Anthea's attraction.
Mrs Hudson's card is fairly generic, but bless her that it says it's for a young man. She has a gift for him as well, a new pocket square that perhaps isn't up to his usual standard, but he'll love it all the more for that.
They all spend a while in overlapping conversations, the topic of Sherlock apparently settled, but not forgotten, as Sebastian takes out his own mobile and shows Kitty more pictures of the goose, who is apparently wearing some sort of a nappy now to keep from messing up Jim's house. The two of them talk about Richard, and Anthea asks Molly about work, looking more fascinated than Mycroft's used to seeing Anthea, but, then, the topic does involve death, and she's a bit like Sherlock in her morbidity.
When Mrs Hudson suggests they play charades, Mycroft's surprised to find himself so excited to play. It's been years for him, and even then he only played with people who were afraid to look ridiculous. This is a crowd he can trust not to mind looking ridiculous. Mycroft isn't very good at charades, but Anthea guesses his right eventually because she knows him well enough, and he laughs heartily at both Sebastian's apt portrayal of Hamlet and Mrs Hudson's very bad Great Expectations.
Just as Kitty, who is impressing Mycroft in that realm if not many others, takes her next turn, Mycroft receives a text stating that if Sebastian isn't sent home in the next five minutes, Jim's coming to fetch him.
You know, you're even better at shitting all over things than Sherlock is. - MH
The reply is delayed, but it comes.
Darling, I laughed so hard that you can now have 10 minutes. - Jim Moriarty x
Mycroft calls the festivities to a close, despite wanting them to last longer, and starts to clean up. Kitty and Sebastian haven't moved from their seats just yet as he starts to gather dishes along with Anthea.
"Kitty," says Sebastian, "I'd like to see maybe if we can't go to dinner sometime. I liked you, even back when we were both friends with...Richard."
"That'd be fine by me!" Kitty says with surprise. "I never thought you'd ask me!" She gazes at him thoughtfully. "Always thought you were gay, actually."
Sebastian chuckles in that darkly amused way of his. "You did? No, far from it, really. More like Richard sexual, but it's true I did fancy Richard," he concedes.
"I thought so!" Kitty beams. "A woman knows. Doesn't a woman know?" Kitty says, glancing at Anthea.
Anthea raises a brow. "Women? Mm, yes, probably. Bad reporters? Likely not," she says coolly, leading Mycroft into the kitchen, holding her own stack of dishes.
Mycroft simply follows. "You didn't catch Miss Hooper before she left. Do you think she was interested?" he asks.
"No," says Anthea with a shake of her head. "She's very sweet, though. But she has her eyes set on Sherlock."
"I'm somehow not surprised," Mycroft says resignedly. "Are you still holding out hope for John?"
She sighs. "A bit, yeah. Though he seems to have his eyes set on Sherlock too."
Mycroft feels a pang of sympathy. He's used to people finding his brother to be the more interesting one between the two of them. "Since you are looking," Mycroft offers, "Sebastian was asking after you. Though, now he's found Kitty, my hope's in them, seeing as she could do with a bit of...altering," he says honestly.
"Ha! Couldn't she just. My fist'd like to alter her face."
Mycroft beams at her. "It's nice to have people over, no matter the reason, isn't it?"
Anthea crosses her arms, smirking, leaning against the workspace. "We're not so lonely as we used to be, sir."
"No," Mycroft agrees, amused. "We really aren't."
Sebastian suddenly pushes into the kitchen with Kitty's cup and his own, smiling shyly. "I have a date," he says.
"Congratulations," Mycroft says.
"Best of luck! Hope between the two of you you break a leg," says Anthea, smirking.
"Thanks," Sebastian says brightly, ignoring the dig at Kitty. "I had a good time, even if Jim only sent me in to spy. Won't have much to tell, though. Today was a good time, a very good time."
"Now it's over, I don't mind saying that Jim is coming over to fetch you if you don't start heading home," Mycroft informs.
"I'll just bet he is," Sebastian says with a shrug. "Fuck him, though. He can whine as much as he wants, but I'm not going home to him this early. It's my day off, and I'm going to go shooting. I don't need anyone's fucking permission, least of all Jim's."
Mycroft raises an eyebrow.
"Shooting!" says Anthea approvingly. "See, now that's a proper celebration. After a day like this, I need some kind of destructive outlet. Can I come?"
Sebastian eyes her. "No reason why not. Bet you're good."
"I am," she says.
"And we need Mycroft along too."
"Won't Jim not like it?" Mycroft asks cautiously.
"Like?! What does Jim ever like?" says Anthea. "You, sometimes? Semtex? Geese?"
"I wanted to thank you, Mycroft," Sebastian says, fiddling with his shirt buttons, "for being, well...a good friend. You should come with me. What do you say?"
"Oh please, sir?" Anthea asks, looking her prettiest, begging him in that way she has where she still maintains complete control. He's never been able to figure out how she does that.
Mycroft quirks a brow, giving in and feeling his excitement start to grow. "Only, we should bring Jim."
"No you don't!" Anthea says. "Leave him be. He's a proper mood killer."
"Sometimes," Mycroft agrees. "But he's coming by because he's bored and lonely, isn't he? So we might as well let him cause some chaos in a safe environment."
"It does make sense," Sebastian agrees.
"I don't want him causing you trouble," Mycroft admits. "Are you okay with this?"
"Yeah. I've gone with Jim loads of times. And by the way, you'll like watching him."
"I will?" Mycroft frowns slightly. "Why's that?"
Why it is turns out to be that Jim is the worst marksman Mycroft has ever seen, and very whiny about it.
At dinner afterward, Jim says, "You know the real reason I wanted you to come home, Sebastian?"
"I wanted to apologize," Jim admits with a laugh. "I'm sorry for hurting you. Really. It's strange, feeling sorry for something. Isn't it strange?"
Sebastian offers his hand. "I forgive you," he says as they shake hands. "I...I can't believe you're saying it, but I forgive you. This really isn't like you," he blurts out before he can stop himself.
"It's definitely not like the old me," Jim corrects firmly. "But I can change if I want to. I can do anything I want to. I can out-conscience all of you," he says boldly, "especially her."
Mycroft rewards Jim with a large kiss that surprises him and makes him blush into his plate, and, all in all, it's a very good day of celebration. Somehow, Mycroft feels he's grown younger inside, if wiser at the same time.
He has friends now. A strange group of friends who smell of sweat and gunpowder, but perhaps all the best ones do.
Chapter 23: With Fresh Impatience
Jim wants to know where Mycroft has sent Sebastian, so Mycroft distracts him because he can't let him know. But Jim is not the only one who's curious.
Rated X/NC-17. I apologize for changing the rating of this fic.
After their late lunch on Sunday, Jim wastes barely any time sitting on the sofa next to Mycroft before he leans in close, his face near, his eyes sparkling with promises and mischief. "Honey," he says, flirtatious, reaching out to trace Mycroft's jaw with his fingertips.
With an open smile, Mycroft looks intrigued and comfortable. He coaxes Jim closer with a gentle hand at his back, allowing Jim to lean over him as he sinks back into the sofa. "I'm all yours today," he says innocently. He smirks slightly at the flash in Jim's eyes.
Oh, Jim likes the sound of that. He starts with sucking kisses to his jaw, little spots of sensation brought about by deceptively sweet lips. He moves the kisses to Mycroft's adorable cheeks, to his chin, like he actually appreciates them, and Jim's stubble is raspy because it's Sunday and he hasn't shaved. He'd woken late and pulled Mycroft out of his study, dressed casually and looking very comfortable. He'd thought maybe the stubble would help him look less put-together, would help Mycroft relax enough to spill, and it seems to be working. All he wants is the information he feels he's entitled to, as Mycroft's...man, but the snogging's not a half-bad bonus.
The sensation of the stubble feels nice, leaving little scratches and impressions on Mycroft's sensitive skin. Mycroft sighs before Jim's even met his lips. Oh, this really is quite nice.
As Jim edges closer to his mouth, Mycroft is almost afraid of how much he wants it, and Jim is more and more pleased with the turnout. Mycroft feels sweet tugs at his lips with cool, white teeth, feels spots soothed with flicks of a smart tongue, and Jim leans over him a bit more, which is what Mycroft secretly and desperately wants at the moment. There's a bit of a rush in Mycroft's ears, and it's lovely, really. He's done this before, of course, tugged someone over him, let go until his ears rushed and he saw where things ended up, but never quite with clever Jim Moriarty, who really must be fairly good at sex if Mycroft's already finding himself this...interested.
Mycroft maintains contact with the hand at Jim's back, and even urges him closer still, his other hand curling into the fine fabric of the sofa. "You really are delicious," Jim whispers truthfully, watching Mycroft try to follow him as he breaks away from the kiss naughtily and smirks in satisfaction. "Look at you, really look at you. Desperate. You want me to make you feel good."
Mycroft flushes. His cheeks pink up, his eyes wide and blinking for a moment. Send the rudest comments out at him, the most blatant innuendos and hints of darkness, and he grew calm and laughed and smiled. Talk about wanting to make him feel good, however, and he looked as if it didn't compute, looked unsure and...adorable.
"Just tell me something first," Jim says, finger extended to trace at Mycroft's lip. "Humor me." Mycroft squirms slightly in the pressing silence that follows.
"Er," Mycroft says, breathless. "What...what is it you'd like me to tell you?"
Jim laughs, then suddenly grows cold, fingers grasping at Mycroft's chin, forcing him to not turn his face away. "Why aren't you at the office tomorrow?" he barks, and Mycroft grimaces and tries to pull his face away. "The tittering old gossip mongers say you hardly ever work from home. So, would you care to explain what you're doing with my Sebastian?" he spits.
Mycroft blinks with wide eyes again, shifting his hips and coughing politely. "For safety reasons," he finally says, tingling mouth feeling heavy and slow, "I can't tell you." He licks his lips, glances away, looks back. "I just want everyone safe, Jim," he says with a hint of sadness.
Jim releases the grip on his chin in favor of stroking his cheek harshly, scratching slightly with blunt nails that serve as a warning. "Because it'll jeopardize your mission if you tell me?" he demands softly. "It all comes back to your mission."
Mycroft shakes his head. "No," he says, still a bit breathless. "It'll jeopardize you."
Jim's eyes fill with surprise and then pleasure at the statement. Mycroft thinks he's important? He sits back a bit, flicks the lobe of Mycroft's ear harshly. "So you're really gonna stay home tomorrow, and I'll have to go into work all alone, without even my Sebastian to comfort me?"
"I'm sorry, but, yes," Mycroft says. "You are free to text Sebastian. Text him all you like. Though, if you want to call, I'll have to set up a time that will be safe. This rule is important, and he agreed to it."
Jim leans in a bit, as if he's going to kiss Mycroft again. He strokes his cheek carefully, slowly. He smiles a bit, breathes against Mycroft's lips, lets his eyes close, nuzzles him. Mycroft's lust-addled distrust finally starts to wear down.
When Jim gets close enough that Mycroft's lips part and his blue eyes close with a flutter of lashes, when Jim traces his jaw with a fingertip and shifts as if to get closer and murmurs Mycroft's name, Jim suddenly turns the tables again, pushing Mycroft toward the back of the couch, pulling away, standing up, staring down at him with disdain.
Mycroft blinks his eyes open. "Jim?" He looks so sweetly puzzled that Jim almost doesn't want to leave.
"I do hope I've made you...aware of the situation," Jim says huskily. "After all, as a wise man once said, we don't always get what we want." Then he's gone, out the front door, and Mycroft sits up, straightening up his vest and jacket, delicately adjusting his trousers.
Just as Mycroft begins the effort to calm himself down by will so as not to afford Jim the victory, he receives a phone call from Jim. From the length of time, Mycroft would hazard a guess that the ex-consulting criminal is calling from the front porch.
"You know why I left, don't you?" Jim asks.
"My lack of trust, I suppose?" Mycroft says a bit dryly, unable to help but remember the way Jim had yelled about the lock on the door that first "morning after".
"My Sebastian is out there somewhere, Mycroft," Jim says very seriously. "He's doing something for you, and you've set up equipment to listen to a bug, and it's all related, am I right?"
"Yes, you're absolutely right," Mycroft says easily, "But you need to stay out of it."
"Mm, out of your little project, or out of your study in general, because we've not even fucked on the desk yet," he points out.
"We've not fucked at all," Mycroft corrects, biting at his lip as he continues to try and will himself back down.
"All the more reason," Jim coos. "But anyway, while I was there, I also happened to notice that you received birthday wishes from an ex of mine."
"I'm sure I did, Jim," Mycroft says dismissively. "You've many exes, after all."
"Ha ha," Jim says in sarcasm. "Molly Hooper, was her name. You might know her as Sherlock's doormat. It was a handmade card too. Should I be jealous?"
"No," Mycroft says, "but since when did your jealousy ever curb itself for the sake of a 'should'? Truth is, I don't think she'll ever quite get over Sherlock, especially now," he says, and it isn't a lie.
Jim is quiet.
"Is that all, dear?" Mycroft finally asks. "You can come back in the house if you like. There's a chill."
"Yeah, I'm coming back in," Jim admits. "I think I'd like to talk about something."
"But not about Sebastian?"
"Then, what is this something?"
"Er...Sherlock," Jim says with a sigh. He's been curious for a while, but he hasn't known how Mycroft will react. Things like this are always easier when he doesn't have to look Mycroft in the eye and doesn't have to avoid looking him in the eye either. "Will you tell me about him?" he asks, finding his voice gives away just a bit too much of his interest for his liking.
Mycroft frowns. "I don't understand. What more could you possibly want to know?"
Jim doesn't answer for a long moment. "Just details, is all," he finally says. "Just random stuff, whatever you'll tell me. I'm in the mood for a good story."
"Come inside, then," Mycroft says. "I'll even cut you a piece of cake."
Jim pauses. "Is it any good?"
"Yes, it is," Mycroft murmurs in promise. "Now, will you get off the porch and come inside? I was looking forward to spending some time together."
"You were?" Jim asks, and he sounds heartbreakingly sincere.
"Of course I was, you idiot," says Mycroft with a fondness-borne irritation that softens the insult.
In barely a moment's time, Jim hangs up, walking through the front door and back into the sitting room with ease. "How's the prick?" he calls with a grin as he seats himself next to Mycroft.
"I don't know; how are you?" Mycroft asks with a raised brow, and Jim snorts with surprised laughter.
"Better, now I'm inside," he says, sounding pleased to be with Mycroft again. "I don't like to be cold."
Jim scoots closer on the sofa and does his best to look sweet and adorable and, damn him, it works. "Tell me a story, Mycroft?"
"You already know a great deal. Be specific."
"Hmm," Jim says in consideration. "Tell me about a time where he did something so genuinely sweet it changed how you even look at him."
Mycroft raises a brow. "This wouldn't have anything to do with the fact you're trying to get on my good side and wrestle information out of me, would it?"
"Sort of," Jim says, "But, in general, it'd be worthwhile to know what sorts of things touch your heart."
Mycroft can't fault the logic. Jim comes and cuddles close, nuzzling into Mycroft's shoulder and neck, inhaling his scent.
"I'm sure I've dozens of examples," Mycroft says, tugging Jim just a bit closer even, wanting him to lean against him, to trust him, to depend on him. "For instance, I remember one time when he was eight and I was fifteen and, in a fit of anger, he ruined my maths homework. I was out with Mummy visiting a friend in hospital when he did it. I'd been worrying, which meant I'd rejected his efforts to convince me to play with him, which he didn't at all appreciate," Mycroft says with a quirk of his lip. "I returned to find my desk a shambles. The maths homework especially was unrecognizable. Between the lines of ink and the tears, and also the use of a large rubber he'd left right on the desk, my homework was beyond irrecoverable. It was almost artistic, really," Mycroft chuckles.
Jim hums. "So easy to get carried away with destruction, particularly artistic destruction."
"You two would've gotten along," Mycroft says with a twinkle in his eye, adding, "Eventually, anyway. In fact," he pauses, "you sort of did, despite being on 'opposite sides.'" He lets the thought hang before he continues. "At the time, I didn't think the destruction funny at all; I was livid. I'm good at maths, but it had still taken time, and of course I was still worried for my schoolmate. I was ready to box Sherlock's tiny ears, and he had to know it. And then, I noticed my textbook wasn't still on the desk either, and I assumed he'd hidden it. I'd have to find it later—after, of course, I boxed his ears."
"Of course," Jim says with a bit of fondness.
"I went to look for him," Mycroft says. "I couldn't find him in his room. He wasn't in Mummy's room, nor in the kitchen. Not even in the loo. Then, I remembered his clubhouse. It was the garden shed, really," Mycroft explains, "but he liked to call it that. He liked to hide out there and collect things like dead insects and leaves and such. Anyway. I listened at the door, and do you know what I heard?"
"What? Was he crying?"
"Yes, he was," confirms Mycroft. "Wracking sobs. Normally, he didn't cry much in guilt, even when very young, to which you probably can relate, so this surprised me. I knocked at the door. He told me to go away, but I said I wasn't going to do that and pushed inside. He was sitting there, red-faced and glaring, a messy pile of papers next to his elbow, crying large tears that dripped down right onto the pages of my open maths book. He'd been trying to do the assignment himself. Being eight, he wasn't making much progress. Any progress, to be exact."
"That is sweet," Jim admits.
"He did little things like that all the time, and I was always surprised." Mycroft strokes Jim's hair for a moment, saying, "Let's get you some of that cake. Then I'll tell you another."
Mycroft keeps to his promise of more good stories, and good stories, of course, come best when complemented by good drink, good cake, and good company. Mycroft and Jim even fell asleep cuddling on top of Mycroft's duvet. It's a lazy evening, and a perfect one.
Mycroft blinks his eyes open, noticing that Jim is gone and the bed is still warm. He stretches and rises, locating his jacket, buttoning his vest. He thinks about it for a moment before hanging up the jacket, glancing at himself in the mirror. Should he remove the vest too? Possibly not. He wants to seem more vulnerable, but subtly. He undoes his cuffs, rolling up his sleeves. He even puts the tie on again. This will have to do the trick.
He pushes open the door to his study silently. The sight of Jim, wearing the headset and eyeing the computer monitor, is a bit unsettling. Distracted by the task at hand, Jim doesn't notice Mycroft at first. It's only a matter of seconds now, really, until everything's ruined. Jim knows how to work everything; Mycroft's sure of it.
Jim notices him as he gets closer to the desk, sighs, and pulls the headset off one ear. "Here to force me to stop this, darling? That seems a bit dull. But, then again, so does not being challenged at all."
Mycroft shrugs like it doesn't bother him. He smirks, gently adjusts the sleeves where they're rolled up at his elbows, perfecting the way the cuffs lay. "I came to see if you'd like to come back to bed, actually."
Jim rolls his eyes, making a frustrated sort of scoff. "As lovely as your forearms are," Jim says coolly, "I've had enough cuddling by now. Satisfaction not guaranteed, with Mr Holmes."
Mycroft wets the part of his lips thoroughly with a pass of his clever tongue, slowly and delicately. "Doesn't that just make satisfaction all the more fun, Jim?" he murmurs.
Jim fondles the mouthpiece of the headset absently. He looks at Mycroft, searching for signs of falseness.
Mycroft gently tugs at his bottom lip with finger and thumb, letting his mouth open just slightly. "Well, if you think listening for a man more than a hundred miles away is going to...hit the spot any better than the mouth of your current beau, I admit I'll be surprised."
Jim's hand stills on the mouthpiece, his eyebrows rising, his eyes suddenly blank and still. It takes a fair moment for his poor mind to even start to formulate a proper response. "'Beau', yes, that sounds nice," he says faintly. "Oh, and mouth sounds even nicer. You're so wicked, offering me sex." His eyes flash to life, latching onto a thought. "But, is that really how low you think I am? Do I really have to betray Sebastian again in order to get your mouth around my cock?"
"It's not really betrayal if he's safer, is it?" Mycroft says gently. "You do realize, Jim, that I'm going to tell you about it when the time is right? You're letting yourself get sucked into paranoia."
Jim sighs, looking a bit sad about that. He knows he's prone to jumping to conclusions, prone to having thoughts of jealousy and betrayal and of everything coming to an end win out above the facts.
"Perhaps I can help suck you out of it?" Mycroft raises a brow, and Jim swallows.
"Well," Jim says slowly, "I wouldn't bet on it, considering." His voice hitches oddly as he stares at Mycroft's mouth, which is exactly where Mycroft wants him staring. "You see, I know someone's trying to take down my empire." He finally looks back into Mycroft's eyes. "Someone who isn't with us. So you certainly don't have things under control, do you? And helping's been utterly frustrating. It's like putting away dominoes I've set up so beautifully without even knocking them down, not even one." He sighs and takes off the headset, giving up the fight. "I assume you know what you're doing, with that mouth? If I'm not going to win this thing anyway."
"I do," Mycroft says cautiously.
"What's got you so nervous, then?" Jim pushes the chair back, tilts his head back slightly in curiosity.
Mycroft chews at his lip. "I'm afraid I lose myself in it," he says. "But, if it's you?" He hesitates for only a moment before admitting, "I don't suppose I'll mind much."
Intrigued, Jim rises to his feet and rounds the desk. He reaches out to cup Mycroft's jaw and brush a knowing thumb over Mycroft's tingling bottom lip. "Mmmmm, is that so?" he purrs. "Well, my cock hasn't been this interested since I can't remember when, even if you're an aggravating thing." Mycroft flicks his tongue out at the thumb, pleased to see heat consume Jim's entire expression. "I want to forget that Sebastian's all alone out there," Jim says with fresh impatience. "It's our night tonight."
Their night. Yes. Mycroft hums in agreement as he unfastens Jim's trousers, thumbs hooking into the waistband, fingers curling into the fabric as he pulls them down. "Oh," he murmurs in surprise. "You really are very interested, aren't you?" He blinks.
"Yes, weren't you listening?" Jim says with a bit of a whine. Both of them eye the bulge in his expensive-looking pants for a moment before Jim giggles suddenly, causing Mycroft to giggle too before kneeling.
Jim pulls at the waistband of the pants, freeing himself, reaching down and offering himself. Mycroft smirks, reaching up and accepting, a soft flush coming over his face at the warmth under his fingertips. Mycroft chuckles and glances up only to look away again, concentrating on Jim's prick, full of life and the promise of connection. His subconscious has never dared dream of this. He leans in for a taste, his tongue extending a bit, his eyes falling closed.
Jim's voice is deceptively soft and gentle as he says, "You should loosen your tie, don't you think?"
With a surprised shift of his hand on Jim's cock, Mycroft blinks and sits back on his knees, looking up. He clears his throat. Reluctantly releasing the somehow even harder prick, he reaches for the knot of the tie and feels a rush of nerves run through him at having to perform the unexpected task. Despite the rush in his ears, he makes very quick work of the tie, impressively quick work really, and all the while Jim's hand still cups his jaw with promise.
He tosses the tie aside without a second thought, asking, "Now. Can we get on with it?" with a hint of annoyance.
"I'll let you know if there's another problem," Jim says with a glint in his eyes that Mycroft chooses not to worry about just yet in favor of the prick still demanding his attention. He glances up, waits for a moment to try and see if he'll be stopped again, then carefully resumes his hold and strokes, hand even less sure here than it had been on the slippery tie, but certainly more pleased with its set task.
Daring to glance up and see if Jim's going to stop him again, he flicks his thumb over the head, rubs, but successfully fights the urge to sigh and nuzzle it and praise it because things are bad enough for him at the moment without all that. This is why he doesn't do this.
Pulling the foreskin gently back, he closes his eyes and silently exhales, extending his tongue to drag it willfully across the tip of Jim's cock, hearing Jim curse. He huffs out a breath in a silent chuckle and precedes to give clever, lapping licks before pressing a sucking kiss to the head.
"Vest too," Jim chokes out in as commanding a tone as possible.
Mycroft's soft, hazy dream world dissolves substantially and he glares upward to analyze Jim's reactions before he decides he's going to dare for another kiss, for a satisfying a lick, for two, not looking ready to comply. Jim bites his lip and says, "You're not listening, dear."
Pulling back with all the reluctance in the world, Mycroft narrows his eyes. "You keep this up and I'll simply kick you out and change all the locks," he challenges, licking his lips, then licking them again. Jim's never heard him become so serious about such a trivial little threat before.
"You really do want it," Jim teases breathlessly. "Imagine that."
Sleeves still rolled up to the elbows, Mycroft ignores Jim's comment and shirks the vest. He wonders how many people have wanted Jim this badly for being Jim. Possibly not many. Possibly just Sebastian and Mycroft. "Should I take this thing off too?" he sneers with a lack of bite, tugging at his shirt carelessly. "I'll get naked in my own study if that's what you really want. It'll be a first, I have to say."
Jim grins. "Just undo a few buttons and I'll stop." He watches as Mycroft narrows his eyes in suspicion and starts to stiffly comply. "You look more debauched with the shirt still on, see?" Jim reaches out to stroke fingertips over the chest revealed by the unbuttoning, his gaze appreciative. "I suppose it'd be a nice touch if I came on your shirt," he says thoughtfully.
"You'd better not." Mycroft's cool tone and expression indicate that such an artistic destruction would lead to an artistic sense of regret.
"Damn. Alright." Soothingly, Jim strokes his hands through Mycroft's hair again. "Maybe someday," he says. "But, come and finish what you started, dear. I want you, and I know you want me too."
"Oh, so that's not up for debate anymore?" Mycroft grouses.
Jim's voice is oddly soft as he says, "No, it's not."
Mycroft tilts his head slightly. Yes. It would appear that Jim, for all his power, isn't very used to feeling genuinely loved. "Here," Jim offers himself to Mycroft again, stroking a bit, tugging the foreskin back delicately, releasing it, giving himself one long, satisfying stroke. And, damn him, but it does make Mycroft want.
Feeling much more hesitant than before all the stalling, but not intending to let on too much, Mycroft reaches up to join Jim's hand on the cock and maintains eye-contact as gives the head of it another warm, steady lick.
"Don't be shy," Jim murmurs. "Mmm."
Mycroft takes a moment to hold Jim's gaze and make him want it before holding him steady. "You can let go now," he purrs. "I'll handle this on my own."
Jim, raising an eyebrow, slowly gives up control, leaving Mycroft to it. "Well, if you insist," he says, finding he's suddenly holding his breath in anticipation. Mycroft's hand moves then, the touch welcome as he strokes as Jim had stroked, as he proves just what a wonderful observer he is and how quick he is to learn something when he really applies himself.
The warmth of him is the best part, Mycroft believes, the life and the blood, the distracting precome, the pretty tinge of red. He sighs happily. Yes, he admits to himself. Yes, he's rather wanted to be exactly here, have his hand just here, just there, enveloping and caressing and exploring the topography of little raised veins, teasing the edge of the foreskin with fingertips.
As if remembering the "purpose" of it all, if sex between the two of them could ever have a single purpose, he licks along the shaft, receiving a pleasing groan, before beginning to pull him into his mouth. He sighs as he does so, his eyes fluttering shut without his permission, his own need making itself known to him, but faintly, in the background, as he's currently rather preoccupied with the feel and taste of Jim in his mouth.
Jim shudders. He watches Mycroft chip away at his sense of reality with sucks and licks, with invitations into promising warmth that envelops him, the way the grip is firm but reverent. And he's fascinated. He doesn't really push, though he can't help but start to shift, to roll his hips, to shudder and curse. Mycroft seems to like the cursing.
And Mycroft...Mycroft is trying to hold back moans, isn't he? Jim spreads his legs a bit more, Mycroft takes more in, but only to where he's comfortable because his hand's doing more than fine with the rest. Jim bites his lip at the electricity in the quick glances, in the licks, at the dependable warm wet that wants him.
Jim moans softly when Mycroft reaches up and cups his arse, when he pinches, kneads, caresses. He feels a bit weak at the knees, and he grins and curses and shifts, determined to make their first experience one Mycroft will want to repeat.
But then Mycroft encourages him! Oh, no, he's thought wrong. Mycroft wants him to take his pleasure! And he's thrusting, and it's hard not to lose it because Mycroft's so oddly sweet, even when sucking at his cock like that, no, maybe especially so, with his lovely face and his hair becoming tousled and his gaze alternating between I Need This Cock and I'm Embarrassed By How Much I Need This Cock, and before long, well...before long, Jim murmurs Mycroft's name as a warning, cupping his cheek with a shaky hand, and Mycroft pulls back just a bit, renewing the suction and the tonguing.
"Ah, yes!" Jim says, eyes rolling, hips thrusting. He moans aloud as he spends himself, and Mycroft is swallowing like he's forgotten how embarrassing it is, though he does look a bit pink in the cheeks, and that sight, too, is lovely, and Mycroft's lovely, and Jim's still touching his cheek, can feel the swallow, and Mycroft's gripping his arse in need and appreciation, and it's a melding of the two of them, a sort of extension of what they've built and yet so entirely new, this moment as he comes, as he spills, as somehow things change this time when he's had so many other orgasms.
Because there's only been one Mycroft.
And Mycroft releases him and swallows and a bit dribbles out of that sweet mouth, and he catches it on the back of his elegant hand, then licks it off automatically, and Jim groans at the sight.
Mycroft's face grows redder yet as he realizes what he's just done, what he keeps revealing.
"Holy shit," says Jim.
Mycroft cautiously glances up. He looks so pink and ruffled, so debauched in his shirt with the top buttons undone, looks unmistakably hard and lustful, and also a bit embarrassed of himself, and Jim just says, "Oh, you rude little cock slut," in a breathless and pleased voice, actually sitting down on top of the desk, gazing down, looking dazzled, looking smug.
Mycroft raises an eyebrow, giving Jim a long, pointed look, despite the lust practically dripping off of him. Jim frowns, losing the staring battle by blinking. "What is it?"
"Never been called that before," Mycroft points out, speech feeling foreign to his lips, on his tongue. "Not sure if I care for it." He reaches down to begin undoing the fastenings of his trousers with clumsy, needy purpose.
"I just call it like I see it," Jim grins, reaching down and stroking fingers through Mycroft's hair. He takes a moment to play with Mycroft's hair none-too-gently, mussing it before sliding off the desk and sitting on the floor, pulling Mycroft in for a kiss. He takes time to appreciate the fine taste of yet one more reminder of what Mycroft has just done as he reaches down and cups Mycroft firmly, giving a squeeze.
Mycroft's breath catches and he moans, and he breaks the kiss to stare down at his lap in tentative fascination as Jim slides the trousers down, and he helps a bit with the pants before Jim is grasping him and tugging and squeezing and flicking his thumb and moving in the most effective ways that prove to Mycroft he really must have done this quite a lot, and, for his part, Mycroft's gasping and panting and dripping, and then he's coming, just coming without a whole lot of preamble, and he moans headily and leans forward to rest his head on Jim's shoulder, sure that Jim won't mind, as his world explodes.
And Jim really, really doesn't mind. He wipes his hand on Mycroft's shirt, and Mycroft stiffens slightly as he realizes, but nuzzles into Jim some more anyway. Jim curls his arms around Mycroft, holding him, kissing his jaw.
In his coolest, most unflappably in-control voice, Mycroft breaks the silence: "This is the only time you ever ruin a shirt of mine on purpose."
Jim takes pause at the tone of voice, judges it for the power of the threat, sighs, gives a little shrug and nods. "No, you're right," he says. "I won't do it again, not on purpose. I...I was preoccupied," he admits. "I feel dazzled."
"Mm, so my daring plan worked," Mycroft purrs.
"Was the plan to dazzle me, then?" Jim says, cracking a smile, stroking Mycroft's hair a bit.
Just then, as they're relaxing, as they're sitting debauched and bare-arsed on the floor of Mycroft's study, the bell rings.
"Awful late for us to have a visitor," Jim says.
"'We' don't have visitors. I have a visitor." Mycroft sits up and begins to try and get his clothes into some sort of order. "I hope it's a patient one," he notes, hearing the bell ring again. He sighs. Jim hands him his vest and tie and he puts them on, then runs his fingers through his hair. The bell hasn't rung again. He hurries out of the study, shutting the door behind him, trusting Jim not to listen in, after all that. Hopefully he'll just right his clothes and come out in time.
Mycroft is making his way toward the entryway when the door, stupidly not having been locked since Jim made his way in from the porch, flies open with great intent. It's not a patient visitor at all.
Blazing with a quiet fury, she pokes him boldly in the chest and demands, "Just what the hell have you done with Sebastian?"
His jaw drops slightly as he stares down at the finger pressing into him, as he slowly looks back up to meet her commanding gaze.
Chapter 24: Suit Your Interests
Mycroft decides that Kitty showing up might be a blessing in disguise.
Rated PG-13 for language and references to sex.
Just as Mycroft's formulating a response, there's a noise in the direction of the study.
"Sebastian!" Kitty calls, pulling away. She passes Mycroft, but he grasps her arm with moderate force before she can cross the room, his gaze full of warning.
"We can call Sebastian right now and clear up this situation," Mycroft says easily. "It's really no trouble."
Kitty pulls away from his grasp, gaze heavy with suspicion. She doesn't move from the spot, but she calls out, "Sebastian? Sebastian Moran, is that you?" There's a daring hope in her that Mycroft sort of admires. The hope slowly starts to fade away in the silence.
"There," Mycroft says carefully. He watches her for a moment, watches her shoulders slump. She's in the same clothing as the day before, and her hair's down. He's never seen it down before, not that he knows much about her. "Sebastian's location is, regrettably, top secret. It is not, however, here."
"Okay." She turns around, away from the direction of the study like the sound itself breaks her heart, since it isn't Sebastian.
"Oh? Is someone else here for Sebastian Moran?"
Mycroft spins round, watching in suppressed horror as Jim strides into the room and stares at Kitty with wide eyes. "Kitty Riley! Imagine that!"
Jim Moriarty is The. Worst. Boyfriend. Ever.
"Richard!" Kitty gasps. She flounders wordlessly for a moment. "Richard," she repeats pointedly to Mycroft, frowning at him.
Mycroft settles for crossing his arms and glaring at Jim.
"I don't understand!" Kitty seats herself down heavily on the sofa without having been invited, fiddling with her sleeve in nervousness. She looks rather lost and somehow small. "He should be dead!" she spits at Mycroft, then stares at Richard in wonder for as long as she can before looking away.
Jim nods sympathetically. "Poor Kitty. Yes, I suppose this would be rather shocking. Would you like some coffee? One sugar and just a splash of cream," he says to Mycroft, offering his most winning smile.
Mycroft gives Jim his most icy stare.
Jim clears his throat. "I'm kidding, of course. Let me get that for you, Kitty! Just wait here."
"What's happening?" she asks of Mycroft once Jim has left. "I really...I really don't understand."
Mycroft sighs. Yet one more connection between himself and Miss Riley, this shocking revelation. "You're handling it better than I did," he says honestly. "I even fainted." He raises his brows, allowing her to decide whether or not to believe him.
"And when was that?" she asks with a sniff.
"Not too long after we met, actually. I'm...sorry."
"Yeah, I'll bet," she says bitterly.
"No," he says more firmly. "No, I really am. In fact...hmm, hold that thought," he adds a bit absently.
"Sure, I'll just sit here, holding all my thoughts, waiting for a dead ex to bring me coffee. I should just go," she says, shaking her head, actually hugging herself for a moment, but she remains there on the sofa. Mycroft decides that, yes, she might just go for it. She might just be crazy enough.
When Jim comes out with her coffee, she glares up at him. "You're cheating on me with Sherlock Holmes's brother," she says with disgust. "I actually mourned you, and look at you."
"I was...am faking my death," Jim points out, as if that makes it alright.
"Do you feel at all bad, Richard?"
Kitty glances at the mug in his hand, outstretched in offering. "Go add something to that," she says coolly. "Whatever you've got. Or, should I say, whatever he's got. Some kind of sugar daddy type thing going on?"
"You'd know, wouldn't you?" Jim says airily, but Mycroft notes how he grips the mug tightly and grits his teeth together as he makes for the kitchen again.
Kitty cheers up once Jim is out of earshot, leaning in toward Mycroft and saying in a harsh whisper, "So? What's this thought I'm holding onto?"
Ah, so they're just going to get right to it, then, are they? "I'd like to use your desire to see Sebastian as an excuse to go check up on him in person," he whispers.
Something in her softens, the hardness sort of dies away. "You'd...let me?"
"Er...why? I don't...I mean, why would you...do that?" She sniffles against the formation of fresh tears.
"Because we're on the same side. We always have been," he says simply, gently. "You'll have to be very good, though. You'll have to keep secrets, which I don't think is something you're terribly good at. No grey areas here."
She nods a bit absently. "And...Richard?"
"No," Mycroft says firmly. "He's not going to be happy with me, but," he shrugs.
"But? But what?"
"I've got to keep him safe," he says with a sigh.
"I'm in," she says quickly. "I'm...very in. I suppose we really are on the same side." She stands and reaches for Mycroft's hand so they can shake on it.
Jim comes back with the coffee then and sees them. "Shaking hands," he says with a bit of a mocking coo. "How lovely. Come on, what's all this about?"
Kitty takes the mug from Jim and sits back down on the sofa. "I don't owe you a bloody thing, Richard."
"What?" he actually looks confused.
"You cheated on me!" she reminds him with a shake of her head and a big swig of her coffee. "Finally came out of the closet, looks like."
"I'm not gay," Jim says, rolling his eyes. "I just didn't really care for you. But then, who could blame me?"
Kitty stares up in disbelief before beginning to carefully cover up her pain with righteous indignation. She's still a bit teary from Mycroft's offer, from the shock of Richard Brook being alive. "Wow," she says. "Wow. This is the real Richard Brook, is it?" Her hand tenses tellingly around the mug, as if she might throw it at Jim. Mycroft sees this. He knows the feeling. "I'm beginning to think there was no Richard in the first place!"
Mycroft clears his throat. "Perhaps we should begin packing."
She suddenly looks embarrassed, ignoring Richard for the moment. "We? I often keep an overnight bag with me, just in case," Jim rolls his eyes at that, Mycroft notes, "but I raced over here without thinking."
"That much is clear," Mycroft points out. "Now, I think you're about the size of my PA." He gestures to the mug. "Finish up." She takes a few swigs, then sets the mug on the table.
"Packing. Where to?" Jim says brightly.
"Kitty and I are about to go see Sebastian."
Jim claps his hands once, his dark eyes filling with intent excitement. "Really? After all that silly resistance, you've actually decided to take us there in person?"
Mycroft winces. "Oh, Richard," he says. Honestly, he's slightly disappointed in Jim, but also a bit touched at the excitement.
Jim's gaze buckles and he looks away.
"I think you misunderstand me," Mycroft says. "You're not coming, remember?"
Jim goes unnervingly blank.
"I'll show you to Anthea's room," Mycroft says to Kitty, not wasting another moment.
"She sleeps here, with you?" she asks.
"No, not often," Mycroft explains, biting his lip at the sound of Jim smashing the mug.
"It's top secret, but you're trusting me? Why is that, again?" asks Kitty, impressively unaffected by the sound of the mug's demise.
"Simply put? Getting back at Richard and trying to find out the truth are things that suit your interests."
She stares at him. "I suppose it makes a bit of sense," she says. "But what about your interests?"
He smiles. "That's top secret." He nods to Anthea's wardrobe. "There's a suitcase and some clothing in there, as well as in the dresser, including some that haven't been worn. I've got spare...well...everything, in the bathroom upstairs. No real rush, but I'd like to ease poor Richard's torment as much as possible." She doesn't look like she'd like to ease it, but they both know Mycroft is in charge.
When Mycroft's back at his own room, he finds Jim sitting on the bed. "I'm not invited. Still," he says, lip trembling with repressed anger, voice trembling with the same. "You don't even know her; how could you prefer her to me?" His eyes flash a bit more with each item Mycroft places in his suitcase.
"Go away, please."
"After such a nice blow job, you're really giving me mixed signals," Jim says, trying for humor, but he's too serious.
"I'll be back before you know it," Mycroft says with a sigh. "Really, I will. And you? You have your own place to haunt. You'll be okay."
"How do you know?" Jim demands. "What if I suddenly relapse into villainhood while you're off having a bitter threesome with my sex kitten and my reporter?"
"You don't even like them!" Mycroft says in exasperation.
"So?" Jim contemplates unpacking Mycroft's things, but he settles for fiddling with the zip of the case idly.
"Perhaps, Richard, you should let Kitty come with me and cool off. We don't want people finding out the truth about you just yet, do we?"
"Take me with you," Jim begs.
"I don't have to go in. I could stay at the hotel!"
Mycroft sighs. "Don't you understand what I'm trying to do here?"
"I'm protecting you, though, considering how you love danger, I'm not sure there's a whole lot of point. You need to not be with us. You've taught him well, so trust him. And you should know by now that I'm not interested in anyone but you."
"You could blow me again and prove it?" Jim pouts, interest shining in his eyes.
"I'll keep you updated, Jim."
Mycroft closes the suitcase and takes Jim's hand in his, stroking the knuckles gently with his thumb. "Please," he says. "Let me take Kitty to see that he's okay. She'll leave us alone after that, and we'll be together, and you'll be safe."
Jim wiggles his hand out of Mycroft's grasp, reaching up and pulling Mycroft close to him by cradling the back of his head and neck and pulling him down so their lips can meet. The kiss he steals is long and desperate.
When Jim has just pulled away, when Mycroft is feeling pleasantly warm and blinking open his eyes, Jim cracks him across the cheek with unexpected force. Making a soft moan of protest, Mycroft looks startled and rests on the bed on his elbows for a bit, furrowing his brow at Jim. He works his jaw for a moment.
Jim laughs aloud.
"Impressive," Mycroft says wryly. "Something to remember you by, I suppose?
Jim grasps Mycroft's chin, pulling him near again, leaning in, kissing the cheek, which stings rather more than Mycroft would like to think about, kissing it not once, not twice, but over and over until finally stroking the damp skin with his thumb.
"Yes," Jim confirms. "Something to remember me by."
"You're going to need to quit doing that," he complains.
"I'll see what I can do," Jim laughs.
Mycroft reaches for Jim's hand again, stroking the knuckles, his voice a bit faint as he tries to keep his head. "I'm having some of my men watch the house while I'm out. They'll take the equipment with them, too, since I can see how things are going in person now. I'd like to have Anthea come and visit you while I'm gone, if you're amenable."
"Fuck you," Jim says.
Mycroft decides it's a rather positive "fuck you", from what he knows of Jim. "Take care of yourself," he says gently. "Despite what you might think, you are important to me."
Jim awkwardly latches onto Mycroft, tugging him further across the bed, hugging him for a good few minutes, just grasping him and nuzzling until Kitty is standing in the doorway.
"I can hang back for a bit," she says awkwardly.
"No," says Mycroft, giving Jim one last squeeze before extricating himself from the tight embrace. "No, I'd say we're nearly done here."
Kitty politely stands and waits as the two men part, as Mycroft takes up his case and Jim stands and stretches. Jim leaves first, telling poor Kitty on the way out, "If you fuck him, I'll kill you."
Kitty sort of freezes. She looks to Mycroft, who sighs and tells her not to worry, that Richard is mostly just talk now.
By the time Mycroft is locking up, Jim is leaning against his own car.
"I'll be home before you know it," Mycroft calls over. "As will Sebastian."
"Okay," Jim says with a slight smile. "After all, I can trust you."
Mycroft wonders what havoc Jim is going to wreak while they're gone, what sort of revenge he can expect. He finds the thought is a more comfortable one than it should be. In fact, as thoughts go, it's almost downright cheerful.
"Don't do anything I'll make you regret," he says pleasantly in return.
Jim seems to like the response. He straightens up a bit and salutes Mycroft before they get into their respective cars.