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With Patience He Stands Waiting

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Though the mills of God grind slowly;
Yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience he stands waiting,
With exactness grinds he all.

Longfellow

*

Shortly after the Irene Adler business, Mycroft invites James Moriarty in for a chat. He sends four of his best, and he sends Anthea. That is as personal as his attention gets towards people in Moriarty's position.

He doesn't consider the matter again for some time. It re-enters his sphere of concern with a brief text from Anthea, which reads in its entirety:

jim is a problem

Generally, Anthea's messages contain everything he needs to know about a situation. If Anthea can't summarize it in 160 characters, a full report won't help him. He presses the intercom button and has his driver divert from their course to a certain building in Lambeth.

*

Mycroft watches Moriarty through the one-way glass. Most people, by this stage, are curled into a corner. Moriarty is sitting in the center of the floor, cross-legged, straight-backed. He is facing the far wall, back turned to the door.

"What have got from him so far?" Mycroft asks.

Ian looks discomfited, insofar as Ian ever permits emotion to mar the wax mask of his features. He is tall and perilously thin, enjoys playing football at weekends and watches Glee and snooker on television. He does not especially enjoy causing other people pain, but he is very good at it.

"Not very much," Ian says, after a conspicuous pause.

Mycroft waits politely.

"We...had a bit of a chat about Glee a few days ago," Ian admits.

"Is that all?"

"Yes, sir."

"And how did you extract this vital communication from him?"

Ian looks at his shoes. "He asked if they were renewing it for another year."

Mycroft feels a headache coming on. He presses two fingers to the center of his forehead and tells Ian he'd like to observe a session.

*

Mycroft doesn't watch Ian work very often. He doesn't like it. Even with the refinements Ian has brought to the job, it is an unsubtle tool, a club where Mycroft prefers a scalpel. Events progress far more smoothly when the object of your attention doesn't even know he's been cut until it's too late to stop the metaphorical bleeding.

In addition to the crudity of it, metaphorical blood is the only sort Mycroft is comfortable with. He hides it well these days. No one but Sherlock would guess, and Sherlock will not ever see this room, with its sloping cement floor and drain placed precisely under its one metal chair.

He watches through the glass, hand light on the handle of his umbrella, and does not avert his eyes. No one is here to see him, but he needs the information. What he learns is that this will never work. Moriarty sits through it without a word. Even his flinches away from the knife look calculated, a bone thrown to his interrogator.

Mycroft steps inside. He dismisses Ian. He walks around Moriarty, around and around, and stops at last behind his back. He meets Moriarty's eyes in the mirrored glass. Runs his fingers through Moriarty's matted, unwashed hair.

Moriarty's eyelids dip, a moment of surprise, or merely the semblance of one. He pushes his head more firmly into Mycroft's touch, and Mycroft strokes through his hair. Moriarty's head falls back to rest against his hip.

It's a good start. They are laying ground rules. Mycroft's pulse picks up, just a little. He can tell already that this will be a good game.

"You're filthy," Mycroft tells him. "Really quite disgusting."

Moriarty grins up at him, blood in his teeth, remains silent.

"You do know who I am?" Mycroft asks.

"The Ice Man," Moriarty says, stretching the sibilant to a low hiss.

"Very good." Mycroft walks to the door, taps on it. When it opens, he looks over his shoulder. "Come along. Bath time."

*

The bathroom is small, spare, and white. Mycroft sits on a wooden bench and watches Moriarty disrobe.

There is scarcely an inch of his body that is untouched by Ian's attentions. The cuts have clearly been tended to. None appear to be infected. Many of the larger bruises have faded to yellows and greens.

Moriarty runs the bath high and hot. When he gets in, he slips entirely under the water and looks up at Mycroft with eyes wide open. The blood in his teeth dissolves and spreads a red haze between them. He stays under long enough that Mycroft assumes he's meant to worry about him drowning himself, but anyone who's spent this long with Ian not just unbroken, but apparently unaffected, isn't suicidal. Mycroft watches until he comes up for air.

Moriarty washes his hair twice, conditions it twice, scrubs himself all over. He lets the water drain away and sits naked on cooling porcelain and looks to Mycroft for the next move. Mycroft hands him a towel.

His muscles flex and shift as he stands. He is truly well built, beautifully designed and put together. Spare, compact frame, solid walls of muscle across his stomach, chest, and sides. He steps out of the bath and drops the towel. He waits.

Mycroft looks up at him, twirls his umbrella gently with two fingers. "I rather thought you'd be more fun than this," he says.

A flicker of irritation disrupts Moriarty's placid expression.

"Sherlock led me to expect more than stoic silence."

Moriarty tips his head and smiles at him, but there is a hunger in his eyes now.

"He said you might be the third most dangerous man on Earth," Mycroft tells him.

"The third!" Moriarty roars. "The third! Does he put himself at the top of that pretty little list, oh no, of course not, baby knows his limits, so it's you, isn't it? It's big brother, the bogey man under England's bed, the stolid, the dependable, the omniscient Mycroft Holmes. Do you still faint at the sight of blood, darling? Hm? Yes? Other people's or only yours?"

Mycroft revises his opinion of the man's intellect precipitously upward, and a cold feeling settles in his stomach. "Not for years," he says, evenly.

It stops Moriarty for a moment. Mycroft can see the pause, the click of mental gears engaging as Moriarty's mind slides out of neutral and picks up speed.

And then Moriarty drags his thumbnail up the inside of his forearm, gouging the flesh, until blood wells up bright red in the furrow.

Mycroft glances at his watch and rises. "I'll be back. Be more interesting next time," he says.

"I'm not here to amuse you, Ice Man," Moriarty says. Blood runs in little ribbons over his pale skin and catches in the hair on his arm. "Mr Ice. Ice-T, Ice Cube."

Mycroft contemplates and discards a dozen answers in the space of a second. He looks at Moriarty's bloody arm, his face, his arm again.

"You'll find toothpaste and toothbrush in the cabinet," he says. "Someone will be along shortly to escort you back to your room. Is there anything you want?"

Moriarty throws his arms out, his head back, and the blood runs up toward his shoulder. He stays there, posed, silent and ecstatic, until Mycroft turns and walks away.

*

The next time Mycroft visits, Moriarty is in the facility's small medical section. Ian meets him at the door to the ward.

"He leaned into my knife," Ian says. "Sir, I'm not getting anywhere, and I don't believe I will. I'm sorry, but if I may I'd like to move on to another client."

Mycroft nods. "Speak to Whalen. Tell her I'll be handling Moriarty's interrogation personally from here. Have her put you on Davies or Kaspar."

Ian nods and turns away. Mycroft enters Moriarty's room.

The cut is on his inner thigh. The knife caught the femoral artery, and without prompt medical intervention, he would certainly be dead. He is sitting up in bed, hospital gown sliding off one shoulder, whistling a high and tuneless trill.

"Impatient?" Mycroft asks.

Moriarty laughs and laughs, high as his whistling, controlled hysteria. He is so mad that Mycroft can taste it in the air, sweet and thick. He's moved closer to Moriarty's bed without realizing. He can see exactly what fascinates Sherlock here.

"You remind me of him," Mycroft says.

Moriarty's laughter cuts off like Mycroft has finally found the correct switch. Mycroft sits on the edge of his bed.

"When Sherlock was four, Mummy read him a book in which a child jumped off the roof holding a parasol and drifted gently down to earth. He insisted it wasn't possible. Mummy laughed and said it was magic."

"He jumped off the roof himself to prove it," Moriarty says, leaning in, eager.

"With Father's umbrella. Broke his ankle and his arm. And when Mummy came out and knelt by him, crying..."

Moriarty smiles. "He said 'I told you so.'" He closed his eyes. "I told you, I told you. I was right, and you were wrong." He gives the words a little lilt that is almost song and, for a moment, he looks happy.

*

That is how it starts, and that is why Mycroft keeps coming back. They are alike, his brother and his madman; there is no denying it. The likeness pleases Moriarty, makes him bubbly and childish. In his best moments, he reminds Mycroft unbearably of Sherlock when he was young, when Mycroft could still smooth the world out for him, make things simple, make him smile.

It is seductive, and Mycroft is seduced. He sees it happening. He's not stupid. He's trading away pieces of his past (Sherlock's past) for, in the end, almost nothing.

It's an indulgence on his part, very nearly his only one. He's getting nothing of use; Moriarty is getting nothing of use. (And even as he tells himself that, he imagines Sherlock's reaction if Moriarty ever asks him about jumping off the roof, or about the dog Sherlock brought home when he was six, or about the time he set the kitchen on fire trying to fry eggs by himself.)

There's no harm done. (But he knows there is.)

*

Next time, Moriarty is seated in the metal chair, unbound and more or less clean and uninjured.

"Look, Ma. No blood," he says, and wiggles his fingers and toes at Mycroft.

"Congratulations," Mycroft says.

Moriarty rises out of his chair. The movement is somehow unnatural, like gravity has no hold on him.

"Did you tell them not to hurt me anymore?" Moriarty says. He moves closer, something between a swagger and a slink. "Should I say thank you? Where's Coach Sue? I miss him dreadfully. Does he miss me? I bet he does. I bet I'm his favourite."

"He asked to be reassigned, in fact. He felt he wasn't getting anywhere with you."

That should appeal to Moriarty's pride, and indeed, it seems to. Moriarty laughs and spins around once, arms outstretched.

"And now you're handling me personally. Do you even know what you want to know? It's been ages since anyone's asked me an actual question. Ask me something, go on. Anything. I'll tell you, just this once, so make it good."

It's a good move. There is no one question Mycroft can ask about his operations that will be particularly useful, even if Moriarty answers honestly. Useless possibilities tick through his mind, but there is one thing he wants to know.

"How long have you been watching Sherlock?"

Moriarty claps his hands together and jumps up to stand on the seat of the chair. "Not bad not bad not bad at all!" he crows. "Could be better, but could be so much worse. You know about the shoes?"

Mycroft nods. He was away at school when Carl Powers died, but Sherlock wrote him about the shoes and the police and unfairness of it all. He still has the letter. It's in a plastic file box with all of Sherlock's other letters, in the spare bedroom.

"I saw him then, I saw him so clearly, such a quick, bright little light, but even then he was on the side of the angels, so I waited and I waited for the world to turn him dull or turn him black and then poof!" Moriarty hops down to sit in the chair, composed and calm once again. He shrugs. "I lost track of him for a while. You know how it is, things to do, people to kill."

"And then?"

"And then he started poking around the edges of my business. I had to do something."

"Irene Adler," Mycroft suggests.

Moriarty draws his feet up, bare toes gripping the edge of the chair. "They would've been so fab together and gawd does your little brother need to get laid! I was trying to do him a favour."

"Unsuccessful."

"Was it?" Moriarty tilts his head like a bird. "Maybe. There's more than one way to fuck a virgin."

"You're here. I can't imagine that was your aim."

Even as he says it, he can imagine it all too well. Moriarty grins broadly at him. Mycroft leaves before he makes another, more costly mistake.

*

Normally, when Mycroft has a bad day he goes to the Diogenes Club. He sits by the fire and reads in the gratifying knowledge that no one will speak to him, that tea or brandy will be available at the press of a silent bell, that he will not, for the span of an hour or two, be required to deal with people.

Today, he goes to visit Moriarty. It's a bad idea. Moriarty requires him to be in top form, and he's not. Whatever minor battle they fight tonight, he will lose.

But he is so tired of dealing with idiots.

The non-idiot population of London consists of Moriarty and Sherlock, and of the two, Moriarty feels like the safer choice. There's something wrong there, beyond the usual fraternal strain. Mycroft can't be bothered to work it out now. He has Moriarty in a cell. Moriarty is the one he will go to see.

He sits in the chair this time and waits for Moriarty to be brought to him. Moriarty greets him with a little wave and leans against the wall, shoulders back, hips out.

"Tell me something," Mycroft says.

Moriarty eyes him, runs a hand through his hair from back to front so it stands up in sharp little spikes. He opens his mouth and gives Mycroft names, dates, locations for half a dozen key operations in Europe and Asia, massive crime rings that are causing problems on a global scale.

Mycroft does his best to look like he expected this...gift. He lets Moriarty approach, stoop over him.

"Bad day at the office, sweetheart?" Moriarty asks.

"Yes."

Moriarty raises his eyebrows. "Not in the mood for games?"

Mycroft is disappointed. It's all a game. Honesty is just a variation, and Moriarty should know that. He looks at Moriarty for once without composing his expression. He suspects there isn't much there, without his normal masks. Probably he looks tired.

Moriarty's breath is hot and sweet, scented faintly with cinnamon. Someone's been giving him sweets. Mycroft could almost laugh.

"I'd like to bite you," Moriarty murmurs. The words gust warmly over Mycroft's forehead and down his cheek. "I'd like to leave a scar on you. A good, deep pit that'll never grow back. Some things you don't get over in a life of trying." He pauses and licks the underside of Mycroft's jaw, right back to his ear. "I'm one of them."

The bite is sharp, but not as deep as Mycroft expected. It doesn't even break the skin.

Moriarty sinks down to sit on his heels. He lays his hands on Mycroft's thighs. "Tell me something," he says.

Mycroft shrugs out of his jacket. He unfastens his left cufflink and rolls up his sleeve to the elbow. He displays for Moriarty the scar Sherlock has already left on him. It is white now, ten years later. You can see the marks of individual teeth, but there is also a mess of dug out flesh that the doctors could not entirely repair.

Moriarty stares at it. His hands hover over it like it has a gravitational force he can't resist.

"His twenty-first birthday," Mycroft says. "I found him naked in Regent's Park, sitting on the grass with his feet in the water. It was January. I could feel the heat coming off his skin from a foot away. I tried to get him in the car. He bit me and ran away." Mycroft swallows. He's never told anyone this. Not even Sherlock, who almost certainly doesn't remember it. "He didn't know what he was doing."

"I would," Moriarty says, sing-song and serious at once. "I would know exactly what I was doing if I gave you something this pretty."

He cradles Mycroft's arm in his hands and bends his face to the scar. He licks it, sucks it. His lips and tongue are soft and slick and hot. Mycroft can smell cinnamon in the air, and his skin will smell of cinnamon when Moriarty is done.

The suction on his skin makes his pulse speed up. Teeth catch at the rough edges of the scar. He fights not to shift against the hard metal of the chair. Moriarty bites him again, but again, it doesn't break the skin. It's just a sharp, hard press of teeth. Bruising, but not scarring. Even so, Mycroft's breath stutters out of him.

Moriarty sits back. His lips are pink and wet. His cheeks are faintly flushed, and his loose trousers are stretched outward by his cock.

Mycroft rolls his sleeve back down. Saliva sticks the cotton to his skin. He rises. Moriarty watches him until he's out of the room, and then stares at the one-way glass. Mycroft watches him for almost twenty minutes and in that time realises two things. The first is that he came tonight wanting to lose this battle in their war. The second is that he's not at all sure he did.

*

He goes to Moriarty's room, instead of having him brought to the interrogation cell. It has a cot, a blanket, lights that are always on, cameras that are always rolling. Mycroft has watched the footage.

Moriarty sits perfectly still for six, eight, twelve hours, and then hurls himself at the walls, bangs his face against the glass panel in the door, gets out his cock and humps the floor with groaning, animal noises. He wears his blanket like a cape, stands on his cot, sings God Save the Queen.

What sanity he had is going fast, and that is, as Anthea said in the beginning, a problem.

"Hi!" Moriarty says brightly, when Mycroft enters his little world. "Decided to let me go yet?"

"You know I can't do that."

"Ah-ah-ah," Moriarty says. He makes little circles with his forefinger that decrease in size until he homes in on Mycroft's nose and taps it gently. "You know you have to!"

"Do I?"

"Yeah." And just like that the act is gone. Moriarty's face is serious, and his voice drops an octave. Or this is the act. "Power vacuum. Mother fucking black hole."

It's true. Even now, Moriarty's empire is trembling. No one person can replace him, and he has been at the top so long and so thoroughly that a return to normal is impossible. It will be a disintegration to change the face of the world, or at least the underworld.

"You've got half the so-called legit leaders of the world acting like the big bad wolf, and everyone's house is made of straw. You are Napoleon, and I am Russia. You can't afford another front."

"I'm taller than Napoleon," Mycroft says, mildly.

Moriarty laughs, one of his less insane ones, maybe with some genuine amusement. He lays his hand on Mycroft's cheek. "But you're still one man, and I'm always going to be Russia," he whispers.

Mycroft shouldn't let Moriarty touch him again. He shouldn't have turned the cameras off. He shouldn't be here at all. He is so obviously compromised at this point that everyone in the facility must realise it.

"Russia is no longer what it was. Empires fall."

"And are reborn," Moriarty says. He sweeps his arms out to the sides and brings his palms together as if in prayer. "Once again, the sun never fucking sets on the British Empire. What happens when you die, lover? You know what Seb told me when we realised you were going to drag me in here?"

Mycroft shakes his head.

"Don't kill him. That's all he said. Don't kill him, Jimmy, the world will fall apart." Moriarty drops his hands to his sides and rolls his eyes. "You have that much power, and it doesn't even get you off, does it? God you're dull."

"You have nearly as much, and it doesn't excite you either. You'd like it to, but it doesn't."

"Doesn't it?"

"No."

Moriarty's mobile face fades into blankness. He looks as tired as Mycroft feels. "Then what's the point of it?" he says. "Don't lie. Don't."

"There is no point," Mycroft says, as gently as he can. "You know that."

Moriarty smiles like a skull. He clearly does know. For Sherlock, the immediate intellectual puzzle is enough, as long as one succeeds another in quick progression. For Mycroft, the more long range his plans become, the more realizes how futile they are. People die. Empires fall. The world moves on. The stars burn out and grow cold and fade to nothing.

There is a pause. Neither of them looks away.

"You've brought me a present," Moriarty says. He nods to Mycroft's trouser pocket. "Is it a knife? All the better to carve you up and eat you with, my dear?"

"Not a knife, I'm afraid."

Moriarty slides closer and slips his hand into Mycroft's pocket. His fingers bypass the small box and push inward. "Did you buy me sweeties?" he says.

"Not sweets."

"Hmmmm. Feels like..." He pushes, gropes, rubs up and down the length of Mycroft's erection. He tips his face up and gives Mycroft a little smirk. "Feels hard as diamonds. Did you bring me some ice, Ice Man?"

He pulls the box free without waiting for an answer. He opens it, and his eyes flick to Mycroft's face immediately. "You're letting me go. Today?"

"Tomorrow."

"The wheels of justice grind slowly, do they?"

"'The mills of God', is the correct quotation."

Moriarty grins. "The mills of Mycroft Holmes. With exactness grinds he all." He snaps the box shut on the little silver tie pin. "What are we doing today then? Am I meant to express my gratitude?"

"Do you have any?" Mycroft asks, genuinely curious.

Moriarty screws up his face in a parody of consideration. "It is a nice tie pin. Sweet little fox. Antique?"

Mycroft nods.

"I've got on my knees for less. Okay, lie. But I've definitely killed people for less, lots less. I could not kill you. That's gratitude."

"You're not going to kill me anyway."

"Why not? What do I care if the world falls apart? Might be fun."

"You want me to watch whatever you have planned for Sherlock."

Moriarty closes his eyes and smiles. "You know, I actually could suck your dick for saying that. Yes, I do. It is going to be beautiful. But that's not what you want."

"I don't want anything."

Moriarty plants a hand in the centre of his chest and backs him up until his shoulders hit the wall. "I told you not to lie," he says, soft and lilting. He cups the back of Mycroft's neck and fans his fingers out wide. He leans up and rubs his face along Mycroft's jaw like a cat. He still smells of cinnamon, and of cheap soap and shaving lotion. "Go on," he says. "Tell me the truth. What do you want?"

Mycroft closes his eyes. This is what he came here for. This is why the cameras are off. To back out now would be cowardice, and he'll still pay for what he's done.

"I don't know," he admits.

"You want me to tell you." Moriarty's smile is audible, and it has teeth.

Mycroft swallows. His nails scrape lightly over his palms. "Yes," he says.

"Yeah. I can do that." He backs off a step and snaps his fingers. "On your knees to start."

Mycroft raises his eyebrows.

"I know, dull. But it sets the mood. Go on."

Mycroft folds himself awkwardly down onto his knees. It's not a position his trousers or shoes were designed for. The fabric stretches tight across his thighs, and the soft leather of his shoes folds into sharp creases that dig into the tops of his feet. He looks up at Moriarty and feels merely uncomfortable and a bit ridiculous. This is not what he was hoping for.

He sees only a blur as Moriarty winds up and kicks him in the side of the head. If he were wearing shoes, Mycroft would probably be unconscious. As it is, he sprawls on the smooth, white floor, dizzy, head pounding. Moriarty is on top of him, weighing him down.

He pins Mycroft's wrist to the floor, and there is a sharp flash of pain. It rips a noise from Mycroft that he can't recognize as his own voice. He looks over and sees the silver tie pin shoved into his palm. He knows it's gone all the way through.

"Breathe," Moriarty tells him. His face is inches away from Mycroft's. "Relax. Don't clench that hand. It'll fuck up your tendons."

Mycroft breathes in quick, open-mouthed pants. There is a little blood staining the edge of the wound red, but not much. He can taste blood in his mouth, and when he wipes his other hand over his face it comes back red. He stares at it. The rooms starts to revolve gently.

"Hey!" Moriarty snaps his fingers an inch from his face, and Mycroft's attention refocuses on him. "Jesus, I can see why you farm out the torture. You are seriously shit at this whole violence thing. You paying attention now? Yeah?" He pats the uninjured side of Mycroft's face. "Don't faint. I will shove that pin right through your eye if you do."

"They would kill you," Mycroft croaks. It seems a miracle that he's got his voice working again at all.

Moriarty shrugs. "I'll still do it."

Mycroft believes him. He nods. It hurts. His necks aches. His jaw throbs. The pain in his hand has gone from sharp to horribly dull. He can feel his pulse in his whole hand and halfway up his arm.

"There's really no one watching," Moriarty says.

"No."

"Mistake."

"No."

Moriarty bares his teeth. "Sure?"

"Quite."

"Good boy. Stay." Moriarty leans in and licks over the cut on his cheek. Mycroft can feel his tongue against the raw edges of the wound. It makes his stomach twist, but it's not entirely unpleasant. There is something so very sharp and immediate about all of this, something that feels entirely new to Mycroft.

Moriarty sits back and looks him over. Shakes his head. "Look at you. You wouldn't last a week in this place."

"I am aware."

Moriarty stretches out along Mycroft's side, feet kicking in the air. He rests his head on his crossed arms, confidingly close, as if they are children at a slumber party.

"Do you kiss?" Moriarty asks.

"Not as a habit. I have done."

"Why? Not because you wanted to."

"Partially. The first time. After that, it was occasionally a good way to bring someone round to my way of thinking."

Moriarty gives him a glint of teeth and wiggles closer. "Bring me round then."

"You're not susceptible to emotional manipulation."

"Everyone is, if you do it right."

"Not this sort."

Moriarty shrugs. Mycroft leans in and presses their lips together, half expecting Moriarty to bite him. He doesn't. His mouth is soft and warm. His lips part easily, and Mycroft dips his tongue between them.

"Maybe," Moriarty murmurs, "you should've tried this first. Maybe you could've kept me as a pet. Your tiger on a leash. I know you've thought about it. You might've been good enough. Why didn't you try?"

The last question is accompanied by an almost wistful expression and a hand around his neck. Moriarty doesn't squeeze, not yet, but the threat is literally palpable. Mycroft swallows and feels his throat move against Moriarty's palm.

"Because if I had succeeded, I would eventually come to believe you were safe, and you will never be safe."

"What's the worst thing you've done?" Moriarty asks, right against Mycroft's lips.

"Worst in what way? On a scale of personal betrayals, of violence, or of eventual ramifications?"

"Bet I've done worse."

"I'm not sure you have."

Moriarty does bite him this time, lunges forward and closes his teeth over a fold of skin under Mycroft's jaw. It doesn't break the skin, but it's bruising, grinding. Mycroft can smell Moriarty's sweat, his hot breath. He can feel the tile slowly warming under them. Moriarty worries his skin like a dog, and Mycroft is aware of every twist and pull.

Mycroft grabs his hair and yanks. Moriarty growls as his teeth slide away from Mycroft's neck. They stare at each other. Moriarty's eyes are huge and mad, and Mycroft is harder than he can remember being in his life.

"Fuck it," Moriarty says. "I don't know what you want from me, but I know what you're getting."

In one move, he's on all fours over Mycroft, yanking at his belt and trousers, pushing his own down and off. He shoves two fingers into Mycroft's mouth, and Mycroft sucks at them. They taste of salt, and Mycroft imagines he can feel the ridges of Moriarty's fingerprints sliding across his tongue.

He wets them as thoroughly as he can in preparation for what he thinks is coming next, but when Moriarty pulls them back, he spreads his own legs. Mycroft watches him reach back, the awkward angle of his wrist, the sharp twist, the way his mouth goes slack as he penetrates himself.

Mycroft grabs his thigh and digs his nails in until Moriarty refocuses on him. The skin under his hand is pale, sparsely covered with dark hair. Mycroft's nails leave viciously red tracks on it. He drags them down the inside of Moriarty's thigh. Moriarty's attention is all on him again, and that's the way he wants it.

Mycroft's cock is hard between them, dark, shiny at the tip. He can't remember wanting anything as savagely as he wants this. It barely seems like sex to him, or maybe this is what sex is meant to be like, what it's always like, for people who aren't him.

Moriarty holds his gaze as he shifts forward, takes Mycroft's cock, and sinks down onto it. It must hurt with so little preparation, but it doesn't show on Moriarty's face. Nothing shows there. His lips are parted, and his eyes are dark, shadowed by the angles of his face and the harsh overhead lights.

Moriarty strips off his shirt and leaves himself naked, spitted on Mycroft's cock, feet slipping against the smooth floor, hands moving restlessly over his thighs and then starting to claw at his own chest. "Fuck," Moriarty says, and then shouts it. "Fucking fucking fuck!" He tips his head back, and his eyes catch the light, make him look more human and less like a dead thing.

Mycroft breathes hard. He is transfixed. He takes Moriarty's wrist and holds it tight.

"Does it hurt?" Mycroft asks. He wants it to hurt. He wants to leave an impression.

"Yes! Fuck. Yes." Moriarty drops his head again, breathing hard. He shifts in Mycroft's lap, almost squirming. He hisses as Mycroft's cock slides deeper.

"Move," Mycroft tells him.

Moriarty raises his head slowly and meets his eyes. Some of the sharpness is gone from his gaze. He licks his lips. His thighs strain, and he lifts himself up an inch, slams back down. The friction is hot, harsh, almost painful with nothing but saliva to ease the way. His internal muscles clamp down hard on Mycroft's cock.

It makes Mycroft grit his teeth and thrust up. Moriarty's free hand slaps down on Mycroft's chest, and he groans. It's a low, feral sound.

"I could keep you instead," Moriarty says. His head is bent, and the words are bursts of heat on Mycroft's skin. "Keep you in a box. Bring you out for parties."

Mycroft reaches up and holds the back of his neck as he fucks up into him. Moriarty bends further. His head drops so Mycroft can no longer see his eyes. He reaches for his cock.

"Again," Moriarty says. "Again. Harder."

Mycroft does it again, and again, and it's not enough. He wants Moriarty on his back, pinned, caught. He can barely feel the pain from his injured hand now, and he flips them easily. They land awkwardly. Moriarty grunts. Mycroft slips from his body. His knees slide on the floor as he finds the angle and starts to shove his way in again.

His forearm lays across Moriarty's chest like a bar, holding him down. All his weight is braced on it. Moriarty's chest heaves and the claws at Mycroft's shoulders and then at his neck, sharp nails digging in. Mycroft fucks him without mercy, and Moriarty swears and cries out and pulls him closer.

Gooseflesh prickles along Mycroft's spine, even as his balls grow tight and his cock throbs. He can smell the sharp scent of sex all around them, hear the wet slap as their bodies come together. Moriarty is breathing in animal grunts, and Mycroft can hear himself telling him to take it, just take it.

He almost wants Moriarty's hand around his throat again, but he doesn't need it. This is dangerous enough: the glint of Moriarty's teeth, the heat of his breath, his body allowing Mycroft inside.

The end is coming too quickly. Part of him wants to pull out, to wait, but that is impossible. He feels carried along as if by an undertow, caught and helpless to turn aside from this even for a moment. Moriarty's chest is slippery with sweat, and his arm slides across it nearly up to his throat. Mycroft sinks low over him and thrusts with his thighs, with his stomach muscles, shuddering as he forces his way deeper.

Moriarty's hands are on his arse, pulling him in. He's meeting every thrust so brutally that their hip bones glance off each other and grind into softer skin. Mycroft winds a hand in his hair and pulls his head up until their eyes meet. He shoves into him again and again, feels the pleasure wind tighter and sharper. He has no idea how must look as he comes, but he feels without restraint for the first time in his life.

When he can pry his eyes open, he sees Moriarty watching him with a fixed hunger, hand a blur on his cock. Half a second later, Moriarty comes in hot spurts over his stomach and Mycroft's trousers. Flecks of it spatter across Mycroft's arm.

Moriarty stares up at him and pants. His expression doesn't change as Mycroft pulls out and kneels beside him, no wince or betrayal of discomfort. Mycroft does wince when Moriarty catches the wrist of his injured hand and brings it closer to his face, but he doesn't pull away.

Moriarty catches the head of the pin between his teeth and yanks it free. Mycroft smothers a cry with the palm of his good hand and remains like that, head bent, breathing through the pain. When he looks up, Moriarty flashes a grin at him and licks blood off the pin. Mycroft has to restrain himself from rolling his eyes.

"I'll make you a deal," Moriarty says.

"No deals."

"Don't you even want to know what it is?"

"Does it involve keeping me in a box and bringing me out for parties?"

Moriarty claps his hands together. "It could! A gilded cage. I'd feed you and pet you and never let you get bored."

"It wouldn't work."

"Why not?"

"Because I am also dangerous. Because you would forget."

Moriarty's face sobers. "Yeah. You're not as fun to play with as Sherlock is either."

"I know myself too well."

Mycroft puts himself in order as best he can before he stands. His trousers are stained and wrinkled and so is the bottom of his shirt and his waistcoat, but his suit jacket hides much of it, and his overcoat is waiting for him in the hall.

"Will you require medical attention?" he asks. "Or would you prefer to wait until tomorrow and make your own arrangements?"

Moriarty grins up at him from the floor, naked, arms crossed behind his head. "If I say yes, they'll know what you did."

"They know anyway. I don't employ fools."

"I'll wait." Moriarty walks the pin along his knuckles. "You could do anything to me, couldn't you? No one here would stop you."

"Yes."

Moriarty rolls to his feet. "That's kinda hot."

He wipes himself clean with his t-shirt. Mycroft watches for a moment and then turns to go.

"Wait," Moriarty says.

He's close. Mycroft can feel his body heat against his back. "What?"

"Kiss me again."

"Why?"

There's a brief pause. "Because I want you to," Moriarty says. It's defiant and mocking at the same time.

Mycroft turns, and Moriarty is right there, still naked, smelling of sex. Mycroft stoops to kiss him. He means it to be brief, but Moriarty's mouth is hot and sweet and yielding in a way that nothing about Moriarty has been so far. Mycroft cradles the back of his head and licks into him until Moriarty's hands are fisted in his shirt and there is sweat gathering along Mycroft's spine.

They break apart to gulp in air, and Moriarty leans in and bites Mycroft's lower lip, hard. Mycroft yelps in pain. He tastes blood again.

"Remember me," Moriarty says.

Mycroft replies with perfect honesty: "I will never forget you."

He leaves then, and he doesn't look back. He has less than twenty four hours before Moriarty is released, less than a day to pay for his sins.

His first stop is a small, private clinic where they treat his hand, lip, and jaw. They draw blood for the first of several blood tests, because god knows what Moriarty has and might have given him. For the first time in his life, Mycroft watches the needle slide into him and the blood drawn up and feels nothing at all.

He pokes his tongue into the inside of his lip where Moriarty's teeth scraped the flesh away. Outside, there is only bruising from the bite. Inside, he can still taste blood.

He returns home, showers, dresses. He is about to call Sherlock, when Sherlock calls him. He wants access to the Baskerville facility again, and he's willing to bargain for it.

"Twenty four hours," Sherlock says. "What do you want?"

Mycroft is quiet too long. He knows what he has to say. He doesn't want to say it, but he needs Sherlock's full attention, and this will get it. Sherlock makes an impatient noise that will be followed by something sharp. Mycroft cuts him off.

"Absolution," he says.

He expects either sarcasm or deduction. Those are the only things he gets from Sherlock now. Instead there is a long pause, and then Sherlock says: "Tell me."

Mycroft tells him. Whatever is coming will envelop Sherlock completely, his life, his friends, his world, and Mycroft will stand outside it all, as he has always done. He will observe, watch for patterns, for errors, hope he sees them in time.

Moriarty won't simply kill Sherlock. Whatever he has planned, it won't be that easy. That's not how Moriarty's mind works. Sherlock will have to work with Mycroft now, no matter how angry he is. He'll need that external viewpoint.

Mycroft is forced to wonder if that wasn't at least part of why he did it. Worse, he has to question his own motives in regard to the half-formed ideas spinning through his head, all of which seem to presuppose that the desired outcome is not merely Sherlock alive and unharmed, but Moriarty alive as well. Maybe he only wants to prevent unnecessary chaos. Maybe it's more than that. He'll have to watch himself.

"You're an idiot," Sherlock tells him.

Mycroft closes his eyes and smiles. He agrees. "That's not a useful observation at this stage."

"Facts are always useful." There is a long pause. "All right," Sherlock says. "This is what we'll do."

Mycroft listens. It is a logically flawless plan, cold and hard and brilliant. It will sever every human connection Sherlock has made in his life. Sherlock clearly has no idea how difficult that will prove to be for him. No idea what the consequences will be when he returns, no idea, even, that there will be consequences.

There is nothing Mycroft can do to protect him, from himself or from Moriarty, nothing Sherlock will allow him to do. He can't soften the blow. He won't be able to comfort Sherlock when that moment arrives. He can only stand and wait for what will come. Given how he's handled matters of late, perhaps it's for the best.