For Mycroft, the most jarring thing about V-Day isn't that it happened. It isn't even the fact that a good quarter of the Parliament died along with a number of extremely vital officials and bureaucrats. The loss of lives and resources, while utterly bothersome, is something that he can overcome in time; replacing people is the easiest thing in the world so long as he still remains alive and functional. No, none of that truly bothers him.
It's that he did not see it coming. Sherlock did not see it coming. No one saw it coming.
Later, Mycroft tears through his network for answers to questions that he did not even know to ask before it was far too late. How, is in the forefront of his mind. How did this happen? How was it done? How was it done without him knowing about it?
A billionaire goes and not only concocts an utterly mad plan to annihilate what he can now only assume was intended to be a major portion of the world's population, and Mycroft didn’t know about it. The billionaire accumulates the tools and weapons to do it, testing them, creating whole new technologies, disguising them in cellular phones… and Mycroft didn’t know about it. And then, and then that self-same billionaire goes around and collects people – the famous, the affluent, the influential, and the markedly intelligent – and he either turns them to his side or he keeps them like pets, like rats in his cage… and yet, somehow, it failed to get Mycroft's notice.
Well, yes, Mycroft noticed the kidnappings – everyone noticed the kidnappings. Towards the end, Valentine was hardly being nondescript about it. But early on, when it was just one or two, no connecting factor linking them together, he'd thought it beyond his interest. A kidnapping of a rich businessman, a famous artist, a politician… how very banal, surely to be resolved in a couple of weeks. The intellectuals vanishing he never even noticed – a university professor not coming home from work just doesn't make the news at that same, irritating level. And it was so very irritating. It was in the news on a nearly regular basis, the words.
The disappearance of. The kidnapping of. The absence of. Insert name here, still missing after…
A monotonous droning of key words. Like all things, it grew old and worn very quickly. The first couple of missing person's reports were notable, the next four were a tad confusing, but by the time there were ten people missing, all of them on the news… A lot of those people who vanished, they never interested Mycroft – they didn't influence his life or his business, didn't factor into his work. What did he care about a missing singer or an investor?
He grew aggressively uninterested with it and he wasn't the only one. The whole thing was cleverly designed to make that very thing happen. There was brilliance in that, he has to admit as much. Because the kidnappings were constantly on the news and always in people's faces, they became familiar and commonplace and eventually people lost interest. Oh, another missing rich guy? Some singer vanished again? Is there anything new on the telly?
People grew tired of it. The news stopped making sales and eventually the media stopped reporting them as much.
When Mycroft really noticed, when it started being a bit too much, when the rate of missing people went from oddly tiresome to downright abnormal… then that was all people cared about. And it was brilliant. When they were eventually called kidnappings rather than random disappearances, that was it, that was all there was to it. The serial kidnapping of VIPs. By the time Mycroft finally took full interest, by the time Sherlock turned his attention reluctantly to it, by the time there were so many people missing that they simply couldn't ignore it anymore… it had already settled in.
The kidnappings themselves were the main thing, the biggest issue, the big mystery. That was what they tried to solve, drawing connections and coming up with profiles, trying to figure out what was the unifying factor among the missing people. They wondered about motives, especially since there wasn't a hint of blackmail. Why this PhD and why this film star, why this politician and this TV host – what was the point?
They were concentrated onto the kidnappings alone.
And so no one saw V-Day coming.
When V-Day occurred, Mycroft was in his downtown house. It was late, and he was aggravated – he and Sherlock had spent the evening arguing over the VIP kidnapping case, and with no John there to mediate, they'd gotten fairly energetic about it. They'd gotten loud and acerbic and very nearly violent, and the frustration in the air had been palpable even after Sherlock had flounced off, overly dramatic and theatrical.
Mycroft had been drinking utterly abysmal brandy and trying to calm his pulse down when he'd gotten the frantic call – several calls even, all of them overlapping and each of them horrified.
"Sir, they're dead, she's dead, she just," a breathless little civil servant, always so eager to please, nearly sobbing. "Her head, sir, it's… just gone, sir!"
"So far we count at least four in the Parliament – the Prime Minister among them. And at least one of the princes – the royal family isn't entirely accounted for, I'm waiting for the –"
"We're getting reports now, it's happening all over the world. We don't know if it's over yet, but as of now we count at least four hundred people worldwide –"
"Politicians, celebrities, businessmen – there's an entire club full of very important, very influential people dead in –"
The surprise of it very nearly froze Mycroft. The whole thing came entirely out of nowhere, no warning at all, no signals, nothing. Just sudden mass deaths of a lot of very important individuals, utterly out of the blue. It was easily the biggest shock he'd ever gotten. And that probably saved his life.
Because the surprise jarred him and made him startle, made him stop. Made him not move.
And then he wanted all of the facts first, he wanted to know how. How did it happen, what caused it – was it a weapon, a chemical, what was it? He discounted any sort of firearms instantly – too many closed rooms, too complete a destruction, and it was far too simultaneous – there wasn't a force on earth that could carry out a series of assassinations with this level of coordination, on this scale. So what was it – and more importantly, was it still happening?
As a great number of world leaders found themselves dead, meeting rooms and assembly halls splattered with their brains and fragments of their skulls, he hesitated because, simply enough, he couldn't afford to die. Already a quarter of his most important allies were confirmed dead, his power base was severely shaken – never mind Parliament itself – and if it was as bad as it seemed… he knew he would be needed afterwards.
It was a cold, pragmatic calculation that eventually kept him indoors, in his own home – which made him casually make his way to his panic room, where he locked himself in, safe and sound. Still connected enough to know what was happening, still in touch enough to give out orders, to try and pull his people together – but safe.
If he hadn't been so surprised, though, if he had seen it coming, if he had been expecting something, he might've left his house. He might've headed to work, to investigate for himself – the urge was there, but the fact that it was such a shock made him err on the side of caution. And thank god for that.
He checked on Sherlock, and found him at Baker Street, alive and well and as of yet unaware. Safe.
And then, barely a couple of minutes later, the V-Day wave was launched.
It didn't affect Mycroft, as he was secure in his panic room – but he saw it. He watched it with increasing disbelief through several monitors and listened to the cacophony over the speakers as the entire planet suddenly went completely mad.
It was beyond anything he'd ever thought possible.
He scrambled for an explanation – a chemical attack? Impossible on this scale. Perhaps one city, maybe even several cities – but this was global, this was everywhere. What could affect people everywhere all at once? Some sort of natural disaster perhaps – some sort of solar event, cosmic radiation that interfered with the chemistry of the human brain? So soon after exploding heads? Hardly likely and besides, there were no reports of any abnormal solar or cosmic activity of any sort.
It took him twenty second to land on wireless network – the only unifying feature shared by every corner of the world. The internet. But how? It simply wasn't possible for something as simple as radio bands to do something like this; the frequencies were far too benign for that. Unless there was something boosting it. Something amplifying it. Something…
Like mobile devices.
But knowing made no difference.
The world was going mad, and no one cared about why – no one had the actual capacity to give a shit about anything other than beating the closest person to them to death. And they did that. They did it with alarming ferocity, just tearing into each other without restraint and without remorse – heedless of their own injuries, pushing beyond their limits, utterly ruthless and, unless met by someone stronger than themselves, unstoppable. And even when they managed to kill the nearest person to them, it wasn't enough – no, they just went for the next closest person. And the next. And next.
For four minutes and twenty seconds, humanity did nothing but kill each other. And while there were isolated pockets where it didn't happen – places where the signal did not reach – it was an alarmingly global event, and there wasn't a town with above twenty thousand people that wasn't affected.
Four minutes and twenty seconds is a very long time. People have murdered a lot of people in less.
In four minutes and twenty seconds, hundreds of millions of people died.
Most of them children.
Later, they put it together. What few were left of them. Mycroft's network is full of corpses and what little of it is still left standing is too traumatised to be of much good. Almost everyone who survived had become a murderer against their will and even Mycroft can't scoff at their horror.
Even he could feel this.
"The Valentine Network," is the first thing Sherlock says when he, John, and Mary – all three of them with blood on their hands – come to stay at his house.
"The free SIM cards," John agrees, his knuckles white as he grips his wife's hand, both of them pale and coldly furious.
"Obviously," Mycroft scoffs and doesn't ask about Mrs. Hudson. Or where the Watsons were when the wave hit them. He already knows.
They talk it over and for once Mycroft doesn't say anything about Sherlock's appalling habit of pinning everything on walls. His brother utterly ruins Mycroft's living room walls, not only pinning useless pieces of paper, writing, and pictures, there, but he also finds it necessary to write all over Mycroft's wallpaper. Mycroft will have to have the whole living room overhauled after this.
He doesn't mind. He even joins in, adding a few pieces of information himself.
"I didn't pay them much mind – the cells involved were very minor and hardly threats," he says as he pins the incident in Uganda on the wall. "And while the chemicals used were worrisome, it was eventually revealed that their make up and production were far too cumbersome for anyone to manage a large enough amount to be an actual risk. The similarities with the wave, however…"
"So someone was testing it out?" John asks.
"Or experimenting, trying to figure out the perfect way to do it," Mary says, her lips tight. "They wanted a specific reaction."
In all honesty, it's ridiculously easy to figure it out afterwards. Richmond Valentine was behind it all, had been working for it for years, starting out with chemicals and working his way up until he figured out the precise neurological wave to trigger people's aggressive impulses while toning down their inhibitors – basically, pumping every man, woman, and child with enough anger to turn them all into raging murderers.
"Why?" John asks, plaintive and furious and exhausted all at once.
"To cut down the population, if we go by Mr. Valentine's beliefs," Mycroft says. "He's very vocal about his views on climate change and such, and believes that humanity was not only facing but is already experiencing an overpopulation problem. He believes that the only way to deal with the issues of climate change, pollution, and all the other things caused by humanity… is to deal away with humanity itself. Or at least a significant enough portion of it to make a difference."
And he'd definitely done that.
"What if it happens again?" Mary asks quietly, staring fixedly at the wall of evidence. She rests a hand on her belly, gripping the fabric stretched over the swell, and if she were a lesser woman, Mycroft supposes she'd be weeping and wailing right about then. "Will it happen again?"
"No," Mycroft says, drumming his fingers gently over his laptop and frowning. "At least not on the same scale. Word of the SIM cards is already spreading on the internet, and they're being destroyed by the thousands. And most of the satellites in Valentine's communications networks are being… commandeered, should I say. One of them has already been shot down, actually. This sort of thing will not work twice."
"Which is why it had to work perfectly this once," Sherlock mutters, very nearly wringing his hands.
But for all the things they can figure out, all the things they learn… none of it really matters.
The missing VIPs re-emerge a couple of days into the V-Day aftermath. They come out limping and wincing, flying planes that don't belong to them, their pilots just as confused as the kidnapping victims themselves. Not one of them remembers what the hell happened – all they know is that Richmond Valentine kidnapped them and held them, some of them for months on end, trying to get them to agree to his conditions…
And then suddenly they were on planes on the way to safety, without even knowing where they were flying from.
"It was the damnedest thing," one of them says on the news – a pop artist who was one of the first to actually give a full, in-depth interview on the matter. "I was there for… how long, three, four months? Stuck in that damn cell. Pretty sure I was either going to die there, or be stuck there fucking forever – or that if Valentine ever did release me, it would be after he forced one of those fucking implants on me. And then, suddenly… I was on a plane out of there? And no damn idea how."
No one can find Valentine's base – and Mycroft knows Sherlock tries very hard, he works on it day and night for nearly a week, and comes no closer to figuring it out. It could be on the damn moon for all anyone knows. All anyone can figure out about it – and that only thanks to the interviews from the kidnapped VIPs – is that it's in some snowy mountains, built into a mountain, and that it's about the size of a small town. Had to be, considering that it held over five hundred kidnapping victims in individual cells, enough staff to keep them all live, and who knew what else.
Did Valentine release the VIPs? Why did he hold them in the first place? The answer is both surprisingly simple and infuriatingly juvenile.
Valentine was keeping them safe. Protecting them from V-Day – making sure that they'd be around in his post-apocalypse world. Respected politicians, leading scientists, and inspirational artists, speakers, and spokespersons. The influential, the affluent, and the intellectual.
People who would be necessary in keeping the world together after Valentine blew it open – and they do, too. It takes a bit of time for them to recover from their ordeal, but once they do, they're all quickly in the spotlight. And while they speak vehemently and acidly against Valentine, they all preach just about the same message. Working together, staying calm, trying to solve the issue peacefully – let us not point fingers at our neighbours, because we have a common enemy and that enemy is Richmond Valentine.
It's made all the more powerful when people figure out that these people, the Five Hundred as they're called – even though there are five hundred and eight of them – are those who did not agree with Valentine. And the people whose heads exploded in grandiose and gory fireworks? Those were for. It's a sobering revelation, especially considering how many prime ministers, presidents, and world leaders in general got their heads blown up just a couple minutes prior to V-Day.
The question is, though… was that part of Valentine's plan? To kill all the people who agreed that the V-Day wave was a brilliant plan and were all for it? Did Valentine kill them and then release the Five Hundred – was that all part of his design?
Mycroft can't quite make sense of it. Because it's the death of those implanted world leaders and businessmen that is causing the greatest societal collapse now – their absence and their betrayal both. It's the reason why so many countries are now facing dire crises not only in the form of millions of their people dead, but also the utter destruction of any sort of public order in their governments. There are coups by the dozens happening worldwide – and some of them out of a strange form of self-defence because it’s the only way their countries might survive the V-Day aftermath.
Considering that Valentine was supposedly trying to save the world – to save humanity and human society – he's doing a damn fine job tearing it apart.
Two billion people. It's the sort of loss only a man of Mycroft’s intellect can fully grasp and even he has to pause to fully take it in; to take in not only the sheer overwhelming loss of it, but the implications.
Of course they don't have the full numbers yet. There are hundreds of counters online trying to nail down the true number – but two billion is the most commonly accepted estimate. Mycroft leans more towards two point two billion, but it's hard to be sure, since China is currently off line for most part and India has yet to report any sort of numbers at all. But the estimation of the best social analysts, taking into account things like age groups, family units, armed forces, the number of available weapons in any given place, average abilities and capabilities and so on, points towards two billion.
Two billion includes millions and millions of dead children worldwide, killed by their parents or elder siblings. It includes the elderly and infirm in the millions, killed by their attendants or simply their own attempts to cause destruction. It includes armed forces and law enforcement officers who gunned down their co-workers. It includes people out on the streets, in vehicles, driving over people. It includes doctors and nurses who had untold power over their patients.
The number will go up when the suicides start, Mycroft muses. They're not done dying yet.
But the implication of all those losses, that's the thing that frightens him the most – as much as anything can frighten him, really.
Because two billion lost lives is millions and millions of jobs going undone. The first and immediate loss is the transport industry – it collapses instantly. Trains stop moving, planes – what few of them still remain – sit on the ground, and trucks stop running. The postal system is in shambles and goods stop moving. Which then means that grocery stores stop being restocked.
The next loss is the health industry – though perhaps that was the first. What they need the most in the wake of V-Day is what works the worst. There isn't a doctor out there who hasn't become a killer and those few who still remain functional aren't even nearly enough to keep those injured during V-Day alive – never mind the rest. Hospitals are all blood splattered and people die by the dozens from lack of medical care.
There's hardly need to mention law enforcement. The few members of the police forces of the world that survived V-Day are hardly enough to try and maintain order in the post V-Day world. Honestly, Mycroft is ever so slightly impressed that most of them have the intelligence to not even try.
The economy collapses and money stops being valuable in most of the first world countries. The exchange of goods and services crumbles and those few people that don't resort to outright robbery get what they need by trade. Factories go dark and farms go unattended. The only reason necessary utilities don't go down is because the need for them is so dire that governments struggle to keep them operational. Still, power in London goes on and off randomly, sewers overflow with lack of maintenance, and water comes out lazy and slow from faucets. The internet stutters and the phone lines are clogged for days on end.
It's the end of the world as they knew it and it will take a while before they will see what the world afterwards will really look like.
One thing is for certain, however. It will be far emptier and far slower than the world from before – and Mycroft is not looking forward to it.
Still, he does what he can.
While governments abroad collapse in on themselves, into anarchy and chaos and some of them even into outright civil wars, Mycroft keeps the UK on its feet. He browbeats the new king into office, he force feeds him his speeches, and he makes sure the new, young king does his damn best to be inspirational. Mycroft navigates the shambles of Parliament and puts together some semblance of government and he collects every semi competent official he can into something like a serviceable force. He selects a suitable candidate amongst the ruins and sits her in the Prime Minister's seat and he forces it to work.
It's a lot of mad, desperate fighting, but the UK stays together, stays united. There are riots and fires in London, and Scotland is doing its damnedest to crack the island in two, and not a storefront is left unbroken all across the nation… but the United Kingdom carries on, carries itself through the first days, the first week and finally, into the true aftermath.
Two weeks after V-Day, the world starts to settle. The death toll is semi-confirmed to be around two point twenty six billion, and the financial death toll includes several governments, including pretty much the entire Euro-zone. There are too many conflicts and political issues to mention but at least no one has gone into war just yet – though there have been incidents. But for now they can almost see what the world after will be like.
The stock exchange is down, has been down for days and will be down for days further. The depression already looming over the entirety of Earth is catastrophic and even the best of economists can't predict how bad it will get, or how long it will last. Governments are actively encouraging people to rely on trade-based economy rather than relying on money – even major businesses are making such trade agreements.
But it looks like they might survive without World War III breaking out and the reason for that is very simple – they still haven't found Richmond Valentine. Every country on Earth is looking, every intelligence organisation is clawing at its walls to get answers – and no one's found anything. They've shut down his factories, they've torn down his entire corporation, questioned each and every worker still alive in his organisation, and yet no one has found the man himself – and no one knows of what else he might be capable.
Valentine looms over humanity like a great big boogie man and no one knows what he might do next. Everyone waits, breathless and wary.
And the other shoe never drops.
The clientele of the Diogenes club has diminished severely. It's three weeks since V-Day when Mycroft finally decides that he has had enough of his… colleagues and that he needs a break – and the beautiful thing about the Diogenes club is that no one bothers the patrons. Not unless they want to be bothered and they, largely, don't.
It's even more quiet than usual. Over half of the members are dead now – Mycroft looked into their affairs briefly, quite a number of them were done in by their own household staff, which was hardly surprising. The Diogenes club was by and large an elitist club with a lifelong membership for those who were given admittance and some of the members had been… getting on with the years. And sure there are still quite a number of the younger generation – Mycroft's generation – still remaining, but the great minds of the pre-Cold War era have been largely wiped out by V-Day.
A loss, but… well. He can't say he will miss them.
Still. The hall is almost empty when he gets there, the usually occupied seats left empty by their now deceased occupants. Lord Hardig, Lord Baddoc, Mr. Brent, General Ellis, Mr. King… all dead now. It would be mildly interesting to see what would happen to their fortunes now, considering the current state of economy. The pound might be doing a tad better than the now next to worthless Euro, but it was hardly worth much.
Funny thing, money. It requires people buying things to be actually worth anything.
Mycroft sighs silently and glances up as the attendant brings him a decanter, glass, and a couple of newspapers. The attendant leaves them at his elbow and exits with a silent bow, his footfalls whisper quiet on the rich carpets. Mycroft looks after him, up and down, takes in the line of his shoulders.
Poor young Edward – seems like he killed his mother during V-Day. He came back to work hoping that normalcy would help, would ease out the nightmares. His hands still shake, though, and he hasn't had more than two hours of sleep a night since V-Day. Seems like he's also broken up with his fiancée, though considering that he's still wearing his ring perhaps he thinks there's still hope there – though, there really isn't. She'd never been faithful to him.
Shaking his head, Mycroft pours himself a drink and then sips it slowly, basking in the silence, letting it permeate his mind and quiet some of the echoes of past conversations. Considering how many people were suddenly missing on Earth, it was very loud outside. Whether they speak or not, a lot of people are screaming out there and Mycroft is tired of having them all in his head.
Slowly, society is crawling away from the ashes of V-Day. They haven't had a power out in London for the last five days, and they've managed to get the mains back to full pressure. The bodies have reportedly all been cleared away. London alone has over a million dead – and they've finally stopped whining about the mass burials and cremations. How people thought that any society could give proper funeral rites to this many dead was beyond Mycroft, but it had been dealt with.
So far, so good – and if it continues on like this, hopefully there won't be any epidemics caused by hundreds and hundreds of dead bodies rotting everywhere.
Slowly, they've begun looking outward too. No one has the resources to be helping anyone right now, but the Five Hundred's constant promotion of international co-operation and charity is making an impact. The earth has a sense of unity it has never really had – they're bonded over a shared disaster and a common threat, and so find that working together is not as hard as it once used to be. Doesn't hurt that they all need help.
They all need manpower.
Funny, how unemployment was an enormous issue all over the world just a month ago – and now there aren't enough people to fulfil the crucially important positions.
Closing his eyes, Mycroft takes a breath and lets the thought trail off, lets his mind empty. He's been working nonstop for weeks now and it's taking its toll on him. The UK stands on firmer ground now than it did a couple of weeks ago. The government is semi-functional. The military is calling in reserves, reinstating retirees, building up strength. Law enforcement is doing more or less the same, filling up empty spots with well vetted volunteers. Hospitals are doing the same – there is still an outrageous shortage of qualified specialists, but people are at least being seen to by someone with some kind of training. Poor John has probably never been so busy.
Sherlock is still trying to hunt down Valentine, having imprinted on the damned tech billionaire as his new arch-enemy. It would be amusing if the man wasn't so outrageously dangerous. Dangerous and utterly elusive.
Four weeks and they still haven't heard a peep. It is truly getting on Mycroft's last nerve.
There is a quiet, near silent creak of the door opening and Mycroft opens his eyes, glancing towards the doorway. One of the attendants is showing in a young man in a bespoke suit. Mycroft glances at him up and down, taking in the fading cut on his lip, the attentively curious look, watching how he's shown in and to a chair. The young man looks around and then points at another chair instead, arching his eyebrows behind his heavy rimmed glasses in silent question – away from Mr. King's seat, and towards General Ellis' seat by the window instead.
The attendant hesitates, and then nods and the young man takes the heavy armchair by the window, sitting down slowly and not quite relaxing, his shoulders a little tense. And Mycroft…
Can't quite read him.
He's twenty three, perhaps twenty four, around one hundred and eighty centimetres – perhaps a tiny bit shorter. Light brown hair, blue eyes, lean figure. He's not quite adjusted to the suit he's wearing – twiddles with the cufflink absently, trying to adjust it minutely. A new suit? No, a new wardrobe, though the suit is interesting – the same tailor as the one Mr. King used. There are fading bruises on his knuckles, and when he moves his hand Mycroft looks at his palm, and barely manages to keep his eyebrow from arching. Calluses on his palms at the base of his fingers. Gymnasts' calluses.
The attendant brings the young man a decanter and a glass, and the young man nods. No paper – which is explained as soon as the young man shifts his coat, taking out a mini tablet from his inner pocket. After pouring himself a drink – scotch, how very interesting – the young man rests the tablet on his knee and idly pokes at it while drinking.
So, a first heir has arrived. Mycroft amuses himself for a moment eyeing the young man. He's not blood related to Mr. King, though he can see the situational inheritance. It's not merely the fact that this young man has the same tailor – the signet ring is the same as well, as is the shoemaker, and if Mycroft isn't entirely mistaken the young man even wears the same type of glasses – though Mr. King's glasses were tortoise shelled, while the young man has solid black. Both custom-made by the same creator.
An adopted grandson perhaps, or a protégé. Mr. King hadn't been very keen on sharing, whenever he'd frequented the Diogenes club – he never did leave the general lounge for any other reason than to take a call and even those rarely. Still, this young man is obviously his inheritor in some fashion and…
He's quite blatantly staring at Mycroft now, going as far as to push the glasses a little higher up his nose to peer at him through the lenses. Mycroft stares back – and this is oh so very against all of Diogenes’ traditions, the unspoken ones. The patrons did not make prolonged eye contact. They did not acknowledge if they were being stared at. They did not communicate. That was the whole point.
They are the only ones in the hall, though, and Mycroft has to admit – he did look first. So, after a moment of consideration, Mycroft cocks an eyebrow at the young man and lifts his brandy in a half greeting, half toast.
After a pause and a curious look, the young man nods and lifts his scotch in answer. They drink in silence.
That's the extent of the communication – the young man turns his attention away and back to the tablet, lifting it and idly working on something. Mycroft watches him for a while longer, trying to determine the relationship between the man and Mr. King, and not quite managing. And isn't that curious.
Eventually though, he turns his attention to the newspapers, and lets the banality of ordinary things soothe away some of the stress of the last few weeks, drowning his aching mind in the white noise of nonsense. There will be work once he's out of this place, there will be so much work, but for now he can calm down and let it all slide for a moment.
He meditates on people's stupidity the same way someone might meditate on a candle flame. It helps that the newspapers are once again tentatively reporting celebrity rubbish, seeing that there's nothing new to be reported on V-Day. Nothing has much changed. The world is still a mess, people are still trying to put it together, and the Five Hundred are still globally admired and respected. And Valentine speculations are still only that, speculations.
Even the apocalypse gets boring after a while – so, tentatively, there are new things. Old things. Stupid things.
Honestly, Mycroft has almost missed it.
He's halfway through the Sun when there's a buzz of a phone on silent, and with a frown he glances up just as the only other patron there digs his mobile out. The young man reads the screen and then stands up, offering Mycroft a nod as he passes him by. Mycroft can hear him answer just as the door to the silent room closes after him, a soft, "Yes?" that rolls off the tongue not quite as sharply as Mycroft had expected.
A single word isn't much to go on, but the inflection is fascinating. Lowering the Sun, Mycroft rolls the sound around in his head – a yes that sounded a little too much like yea. Too soft, too round – and yet not enough. The young man is trying for an accent that isn't quite sitting as well as he'd prefer? He might be drawing too many conclusions and yet… he was only getting adjusted to the suit. And scotch too.
Definitely not old money.
His interest piqued now, Mycroft folds the Sun and stands up, heading for the smoker's lounge. The moment he enters, there's an attendant there ready with his preferred brand of cigarettes and a lighter – he has a lit smoke in his hand before he's even managed to decide on a seat. He really does appreciate the efficiency of the club – how well acquainted they are with his tastes.
He's left alone as quickly as he'd been attended to, and crossing one leg over the other Mycroft settles down to watch the closed door to the silent room, where the young man went. The tobacco is sweetly acrid on his tongue, especially after the brandy, but it soothes out the tired listlessness inside into something more… natural. Still, his mind is working now, wondering.
A quaint little puzzle seems like just the thing to forget work stress for a while.
He's halfway through the cigarette when the young man exits the silent room, pushing his phone back into his pocket as he does. He's slightly more relaxed now and smiling faintly – a good phone call from a family member, Mycroft muses. Not a significant other, though. A sibling perhaps. Or a parent.
The young man notices him, glances at the hall, and then, with interest clear on the line of his shoulders, he turns to join Mycroft. There is an invisible barrier between the smoker's lounge and the main hall, and the moment the young man crosses it, Mycroft offers him a slight smile.
"A new face in this old place," he says, waving a hand slightly in acknowledgement. "Something of a rarity, I have to admit. Welcome to the Diogenes Club, Mr…?"
"King," the young man says, nodding. "Gary King," he adds and then tilts his head. "And you are?"
Mycroft looks at the hand the young man is offering, the signet ring on his little finger, the calluses. He stands up smoothly and takes the hand, holding it firm. The calluses are old, in the process of fading – not doing much gymnastics these days, this one. There are new ones, though. For workouts? Perhaps. He could be using dumbbells and yet…
"Mycroft Holmes," he introduces himself and looks down at the hand he's holding, at the signet ring, the shirt cuffs. It's almost annoying how few clues there are there – the shirt clean, the cuffs, though slightly askew thanks to the young man's recent twiddling with the cufflinks, are neat. And like Mr. King the senior, Mr. Gary King seems to favour stiff fabrics with his suit – there are no tell-tale creases.
How utterly annoying.
"Pleasure," the younger man says and then looks away as one of the attendant approaches them. Mycroft sits back down and watches thoughtfully. The attendant has a silver tray, several unopened cigarette packets displayed in neat rows for the new patron to choose his favourite from – young Mr. King looks them over, and chooses Lambert & Butler Gold before sitting down just across from Mycroft.
"Normally, you shouldn't talk even in here – the tradition allows a bit of… chit chat over a smoke, but it's not exactly encouraged," Mycroft says to him, as young Mr. King leans his head back, sucking a lazy breath through his freshly lit cigarette, what little tension was left bleeding from him. Habitual smoker, but not lately – that sort of bone deep satisfaction at the taste of nicotine only came after weeks and months of abstinence. "However… it doesn't seem we're bothering anyone."
"Yes," Mr. King says, looking at the general hall. "I don't suppose it's usually this crowded?" he asks, glancing at Mycroft and offering a wry little smile.
Mycroft gives him a look, trying to place the accent he's trying to smother. "There's usually something of a full house," he says. "But we seem to have lost a great number of our members as of late. As has everyone."
"As has everyone," young Mr. King agrees. "And now we have to deal with lesser replacements," he then adds, motioning idly at himself with the hand that's daintily holding his cigarette. Then he looks at Mycroft a bit more closely. "So, Mr. Holmes. Did you know my grandfather?"
"Your grandfather, Mr. King?"
The young man blinks at that. "Yes," he then says, and the little grin he cracks seems to be almost involuntary.
Mycroft eyes him, not sure if he ought to be disappointed with him or not. "Not as such, no. Obviously he was a member, as am I, but it is not as if we come here to converse," he then says. "I suppose he was one of the losses of V-Day?"
"Hm," the young man agrees, looking away, the smile fading a bit.
"And I presume it would be callous to ask…?"
Gary King glances at him and the hint of a frown comes to his face now. "Yes, it would," he says and straightens up slightly where he sits. "One would think that by now there would be some sort of etiquette about V-Day," he adds. "About asking."
"One would think," Mycroft agrees, watching him, taking in the subtle cues. Seems like the grandson killed his own grandfather – and doesn't feel particularly sad about it either. How very, very fascinating. "My apologies," he then says, still watching. "I was one of the lucky few who lost no one. I have yet to figure out how to… be kind about it."
"That is lucky," young Mr. King says, looking at him curiously.
"Small family," Mycroft shrugs. A small family that these days only includes a brutally lethal younger brother and parents that still use landline telephones. Plus his brother's extended family of course, but the Watsons are… they are the Watsons. "Well," Mycroft says. "My condolences and once again, welcome to the Diogenes club."
"Thank you," Mr. King nods, and drags another breath through the cigarette, holding it in. "I doubt I will be coming here too often. Not quite my scene, as it is, but… every now and then," he muses, eyeing the cigarette and then slowly letting the smoke trail out as he adds, "The service is excellent."
"That it is," Mycroft nods, watching him and he still hasn't managed to place the accent properly. He rather wants to ask, about that, about what sort of gymnast indulged in tobacco with such familiarity, but… he isn't Sherlock. The Diogenes club is one of the rare places where he can feel at ease in his own skin around other people and he'd rather avoid ruining it by making enemies with fellow patrons.
Still. Mr. Gary King is rather interesting. And he is most certainly not in any way related to Mr. Chester King, except by ties of… money perhaps. Definitely not blood and Chester King had had no hand in this young man's upbringing, not with his manners and the strangeness of his accent.
"If you don't mind my saying it, this place could use some younger blood," Mycroft then says. "Even if it is not quite your scene, there are places here where one needs not be… silent."
The young man blinks at him and then a smile curls at the corner of his lips. "What an enticing invitation, Mr. Holmes," he says, a little amused now.
"Is it?" Mycroft asks, taken aback suddenly. He's rather appalled by the notion that he might've just accidentally flirted with the younger man. Good god.
"I don't suppose you would mind showing me around, see those places where one needs not be… silent?" Mr. King asks, smiling a little wider.
Mycroft entertains the thought for a split second and then quickly turns his attention to his cigarette, sucking a sweetly calming breath through it. "Perhaps later," he then says.
"Perhaps," Mr. King agrees, watching him over his cigarette and then putting it out on the ashtray between them. "Well. Thank you for the company – and the kind welcome – Mr. Holmes," he says and stands up almost fluidly. "I think I shall go and… enjoy the silence again."
Mycroft arches an eyebrow at the somewhat dubious tone. "It's an acquired taste," he shrugs and smiles, wide and fake.
The young man snorts at him, swinging around a little, pushing one hand in his trouser pocket. "Yes. I have the feeling that a lot of things around here are an acquired taste," he says, looking Mycroft up and down and then, of all things… he winks. "Later, Mr. Holmes."
"Yes," Mycroft says, blinking sharply, his smile a little fixed now. The young man turns and saunters off, and lowering the cigarette to his lips again, Mycroft follows him with his eyes. "… Later, Mr. King."
"I need a plane," Sherlock says as he flounces into Mycroft's office, followed by a harried PA who, judging by the looks of her, did not quite let him in. "Get me a plane, Mycroft."
"Aren't you a little old to be begging for toys?" Mycroft asks without looking up from the screen on his laptop, waving a dismissive hand at the PA. "What do you need a plane for, little brother?"
"For a trip, obviously. Commercial flights are impossible to get right now," Sherlock says, throwing himself onto the chair across from Mycroft's desk, his coat lapels flying over the hand rests as he does. "I need to go to Kentucky."
Mycroft pauses at that and then finally looks up from the screen. "... Kentucky?" he sneers and leans back in his chair, taking Sherlock in. There's a new light in Sherlock's eyes and an excited little bounce to his knee – he's found something. Mycroft tilts his head a little, looking a bit closer. Sherlock is indeed prepared for a trip – he's even wearing gloves. "Kentucky," Mycroft repeats. "What did you find, Sherlock?"
Sherlock grins, wide and manic. "I have found religion, Mycroft."
"Oh indeed?" Mycroft asks, taking a split second to bask in the sheer absurdity of that notion. "That must be very… exciting for you."
Sherlock bounces his restless knee a couple of times and then leans forward. "There is – there was – a religious group in Kentucky about a month and half ago," he then says. "South Glade Mission Church. Congregation of about a hundred and fifty people who gathered around each day around noon to… get their hate on. They held rallies and protested at the funerals of national good-doers and their website is absolutely lovely. It is entirely possible that half of the comments on YouTube were written by their members."
"Sounds utterly… exhilarating," Mycroft says, closing his eyes and wishing he could purge the idiocy of this conversation from his head already. Every bit of space it is taking is an atrocious waste. "And your interest in this… bygone flock of sheep?"
"Six weeks ago, they killed each other in a most violent and vigorous manner," Sherlock says, grinning wider.
"As did two point twenty six billion other people."
"Yes. But the members of South Glade Mission Church did it eight hours before V-Day," Sherlock says, digging out his phone and unlocking it. He flicks through to a web browser and then throws the phone at Mycroft, who catches it with one hand, turning it around to see.
It's a forum post on a site with an utterly disgusting web design – detailing said massacre. Written at half past three pm local time, it placed the post just five and half hours before V-Day – and as it detailed the incident having taken place two or so hours ago, it did indeed put the incident in question at an earlier time.
"Written from a different time zone perhaps?" Mycroft asks, flicking through the post to the comments – there aren't any.
"Checked it – the site clocks only local time no matter where you post and it was written locally. I also checked the original poster – Jane Elizabeth Allen died later in the V-Day massacres, shot by her mother, Elizabeth Diana Allen, a known hunting enthusiast," Sherlock shrugs. Watching Mycroft. "It's the only post I've found about the incident."
"And you think it actually happened because…?"
Sherlock shrugs. "I can't know for certain until I get there, can I? I want to go and check out the local emergency services, see when the incident was reported in. Ms. Allen wrote in her post that she called the police the moment she saw the dead bodies at the church, which means that if it happened, then the phone call would've been logged somewhere. Who knows, there might even be someone alive who remembers the incident."
Mycroft looks at him thoughtfully over the phone and then throws it back. "I'll get you a jet," he says then, turning his attention to his laptop and quickly sending out the order. The V-Day investigation is still a global top priority, and it's well known that Sherlock is on the case, so he has no doubt he can arrange things. However… "It might take a couple of hours; even we don't have quite the capabilities that we used to."
"No one does," Sherlock mutters, and he sounds irritated about it. Leaning back, he eyes his phone and then shrugs, pushing it into his pocket. "How goes it on your end of things?"
"Surely you're still doing your own investigations. Have you found anything?"
Mycroft considers that and then shakes his head. "Nothing we haven't expected or already seen. Someone has systematically gone and destroyed every bit of information leading to V-Day, wiping out Valentine's databases and destroying his server farms," he says, and once the order for Sherlock's jet has been filed, he turns back to his original task. "In the investigations on the factories, it's also come out that there's been quite a bit of sabotage there as well – the method of producing the SIM cards has been wiped out quite thoroughly."
"Obviously," Sherlock says with a nod.
"And luckily. Imagine some other lunatic getting his hand on the techniques of their production – we'd have minor V-Days every other day," Mycroft mutters.
"And the satellites?"
Mycroft pauses at that and then sighs. "The wreckage was utterly unsalvageable," he says with great displeasure. They'd been trying to capture one of Valentine's satellites that MI6 had commandeered – the ISS had been slated to do a fly by just a week previous. Before they had managed it though, the damn thing had been destroyed by a missile. The same fate had quickly befallen all the other satellites – two of them had mysteriously fallen to decaying orbits and burned up in the atmosphere, one had crashed into a Russian spy satellite with an accuracy that should've been statistically impossible. The rest had been destroyed by missiles. Within an hour, Valentine's whole satellite network had been destroyed right under their noses.
Valentine had taken his sweet time cleaning the network up. But in the end, one could only assume that it had been only a matter of time – and it drove the point in for those still looking, still trying to find answers. Valentine was still out there and perfectly unwilling to supply any – and he'd made his position quite clear with the timing of the destruction. Just when they were almost there, almost close enough to some answers, he'd made a very pointed showing of his abilities.
Mycroft shakes his head and looks at Sherlock. "Anything else, Sherlock?" he asks.
"I'll text you the flight details once I have them. Will the Watsons be joining you?"
"With Mary just a couple of weeks from having the baby?" Sherlock asks with derision and stands up. "I'll send you a postcard from Kentucky."
"I'll look forward to it," Mycroft says and turns his attention back to the laptop. "Kindly close the door on your way out."
Sherlock flounces off the same way he'd entered – and of course he doesn't close the bloody door. Mycroft looks at it with resignation and then turns back to the laptop.
The profile of one Gary King is sitting on the screen, showing the image of a young man in a casual suit. Mycroft eyes the photograph thoughtfully, resting his chin on his knuckles. Gary King, adopted by Chester King shortly before V-Day – rather suspiciously so, actually.
"How very, very interesting," Mycroft murmurs.
With the situation normalising – for a given value of normal, granted, which is rather different from what it was before – it's a bit safer for Mycroft to enjoy some free time away from the office. While there is still much, much work to be done, the safety of the world is no longer hanging by a thread. So with some relief, Mycroft goes back to working relatively normal ten hour days – as opposed to the fourteen to sixteen hour days he'd been doing post V-Day. It does wonders to his temperament, something his co-workers seem to greatly appreciate.
He spends some of that time at the club – perhaps a little more than he previously did. Normally, he frequents the Diogenes club perhaps once or twice a week, usually on the weekends when the most important members tend to be present. Of course, now most of those most important members are gone, their seats still left unfilled, but in a way that only makes the atmosphere of the club.
And of course… there is the young Mr. King.
Gary King is by no means a frequent visitor at the club, nor is he in any way scheduled about it – after their initial meeting Mycroft has seen him only once, and that was barely in passing, Mycroft entering just as Mr. King was leaving. But that little meeting was far too intriguing for Mycroft to pass up any opportunity for further observation.
As Chester King's… heir, Gary King is now in possession of quite the sizeable fortune, even in the current state of economy. The fortune is locked in land and property, in shares in corporations that are still around and surviving while so many are collapsing in on themselves. He owns several small businesses around the UK, two of them in London, and is a partner in several more. And if the pound ever returns to something like its previous value, well… young Mr. King would be a millionaire, if not a billionaire.
Gary King is a very affluent young man – and he'd come to the Diogenes club wearing an utterly fetching set of bruises. A bruised cheekbone, a scraped forehead, and a fresh new cut on his lower lip that had turned it red and swollen. The smile he'd given to Mycroft in passing had looked absolutely raw.
It was impossible to not be curious.
But he had not seen the young man since, and eventually Mycroft had resorted to putting one of his newest staff members on duty watching the CCTV camera stationed just outside the Diogenes club's entrance. The moment she reports that someone matching Gary King's description has just arrived at the Diogenes club – in a taxi of all things – Mycroft decides that he'd rather have his dinner at the club that evening.
The Diogenes club is still rather empty – there is one old member there, Mr. Forrester who has fallen asleep in his armchair. Mycroft looks him over with little interest, taking in his tie, his cuffs, and the tell-tale signs of drinking and sleepless nights. Mr. Forrester's wife and grandchildren are all dead now and his only living son is on suicide watch – and Mr. Forrester looks to be returning to old habits again.
Shaking his head, Mycroft passes the general lounge and heads to the smoker's lounge instead, finding young Mr. King sitting there, leaning his head back against the backrest of the armchair where he's sitting, unlit cigarette hanging from his still slightly bruised lips.
"I find that smoking works better when one lights the cigarette," Mycroft comments, even as his own cigarette is being delivered to him.
"My doctor has had words with me," young Mr. King says with a tone of complaint and lowers his eyes with some effort to look at him. "Mr. Holmes," he says and takes the unlit cigarette from his mouth. "Good evening. You're around late."
"I ended up working rather later than I was meaning to," Mycroft says, accepting his lit cigarette and sitting across the young man. "And I did not quite feel like… cooking this late, and so thought I'd enjoy dinner here. It has been a while."
"I haven't had the pleasure of trying the food here," Mr. King says, giving him a thoughtful look and then straightening up. "Would you mind terribly if I joined you?"
"Not in the slightest," Mycroft says.
Young Mr. King has been working on his accent – it's sharpened considerably since the last time they talked, the consonants are firm and hard now. Lessons, perhaps. The suit sits on his shoulders a little easier now – albeit, it's a different one this time, a steel grey with white pinstripes, rather than the dark, solid black from before. Still well-tailored – the fabric still very stiff. Perhaps there is a purpose to that – a forgiving fabric for a beginner.
"So, your doctor had words about smoking?" Mycroft comments.
"Hm. Something about falling into bad habits," Mr. King says with a wry look about his face. "Well, there was something about lung cancer and detriments to physical fitness and whatnot."
Mycroft hums in agreement, taking in his bruises. They're on the mend, but that only makes them a little easier to read, as the haematomas have had the time to darken. The bruise on the cheekbone is from a fist, with the slightest impression of knuckles now visible. The lip was split along a barely healing cut, made by another close-fisted blow to the jaw. The scrape on the forehead is the most interesting of all – it's darkened now to a full bruise, and it is very severe. Caused by hard impact against an uneven surface – concrete or asphalt perhaps, or something equally rough. Someone slammed the young man's head against the ground at least twice, judging by the slight overlapping of bruising.
Whoever was beating Mr. King intended not only to harm – but to kill.
"Dangerous world out there, these days," Mr. King comments. "Full of desperate people."
"Hm?" Mycroft hums in question, arching his eyebrows.
The young man tugs at his swollen lower lip, brilliantly red with the bruise. "Some fool tried to rob me on the way to work," he says with a shrug. "No idea what he thought he could do with my wallet these days – it's not as if money is good for all that much right now."
Mycroft smiles at that, watching him over the curl of smoke from his cigarette. What a ridiculous little liar. "Well, I'm glad it wasn't worse than that. Did he make away with your wallet, then?"
"Oh, no. Someone happened upon the scene he was making," Mr. King says and turns his attention to the unlit smoke. His lips twist a little and he sighs. "Doesn't seem like the spirit of the thing is doing it for me – this is just depressing," he mutters and breaks the cigarette in half, dropping it on the tray. "I think I'll just enjoy yours second-hand," he then says, and leans in. He's not even trying to be subtle about it.
Mycroft smiles at that, shaking his head. "Don't you know that passive smoking is almost just as likely to kill you as active smoking?" he asks, and sucks a breath through the cigarette, shamelessly rubbing it in.
"Hm, yes," Mr. King agrees, leaning his chin on his hand and smiling almost sweetly at him over the glint of his signet ring. "But if it's smoking that kills me in this world and age? I think it'd be something of a victory, don't you think?"
Mycroft snorts and then, very deliberately, blows the smoke right at his face.
Sherlock spends four days in Kentucky, and calls Mycroft from the hotel he's staying at the moment his investigation bears any fruit.
The South Glade Mission Church congregation did indeed massacre itself eight hours prior to the launch of the V-Day wave – but aside from that… there's not much to go on. The church was cleared long ago, the bodies have been burned or buried and well beyond any sort of useful inspection. No investigation was done at the time of the massacre, and the local coroner never got around to fully examining the bodies – most of which had been sent out of the town because there hadn't been enough space at the local morgue for over a hundred and fifty corpses.
And then V-Day had happened and it had stopped being anyone's priority.
"Still, I managed to get my hands on some evidence collected from the church – and there were about twenty phones with Valentine's SIM cards there," Sherlock says over the video call, waving a little plastic bag full of said SIM cards at the camera. "Aside from that, all I got are the reports and rough estimations of how everyone died – the police did surface examinations before sending the bodies off."
Multiple stabbings, several bullet wounds, blunt force trauma by the dozens – and an explosion which is rather interesting. Mycroft goes through the photos Sherlock's taken from the now very much abandoned church, paying close attention to the back end, behind the altar. There was both fire and concussive damage there, indicative of a small explosive.
"Who brings a hand grenade into a church?" he wonders thoughtfully.
"An American," Sherlock snorts, shaking his head. "There's one interesting thing, though," he then says, leaning away from the camera and coming back with an obviously stolen file, which he leafs through. "One of the bodies was recovered from the front of the church, while everyone else was inside. The body then vanished from the morgue," he adds, turning the pages. "No one really looked into it, what with V-Day and all. But it was given a brief description, same as every other body."
"One would think that in this modern day and age people would think to photograph these things," Mycroft mutters. "What's the description, then?"
"A male in his early fifties, dark brown hair, glasses, cause of death is ballistic trauma to the supraorbital foramen," Sherlock shrugs. "But this is interesting – he was wearing a very fine tailored suit. It's actually written down exactly like that, a very fine tailored suit."
"Many people wear suits, Sherlock," Mycroft says flatly.
"A bespoke suit, in this place?" Sherlock asks, pointedly arching his eyebrows at him. "Besides, he was shot in the face in front of the church, while everyone else was killed inside."
Mycroft hums at that, leaning back in his chair. "And the body vanished?"
"Yes – they logged it in at the local morgue, because it was the first body recovered on-site, but a couple of hours later it was gone. No knowledge when it might've vanished. At any point between when the morgue was filled up and they started sending bodies out of town, and when the evening shift began – the window of opportunity of about an hour," Sherlock shrugs. "Of all the bodies, the one to vanish is the one that stands out."
"Hm," Mycroft nods and considers it. "An intelligence agent," he then decides.
Sherlock perks up, delighted. "Too old to be working for Valentine," he agrees. "But if he was too old to be working for Valentine, then why isn't he too old to be working as a secret agent?"
"The intelligence world works by different rules, Sherlock, and it isn't like what things may seem in the movies. There are very few foot chases, and hand to hand combat happens fairly rarely," Mycroft says, rolling his eyes. "The South Glade Mission Church was under surveillance, being what it was. But one can't really say that babysitting a hate group is a vigorous or taxing assignment. No, a slow assignment for an agent who's getting on in years. He was watching, witnessed some of the massacre, and then was shot by Valentine's people."
"A bespoke suit is a bit much for an FBI agent, don't you think?" Sherlock says.
"One can be an FBI agent, and still have fine taste, Sherlock," Mycroft points out with a smile. "And he wasn't an FBI agent, obviously not."
"He wasn't?" Sherlock asks, feigning surprise.
"The FBI had prolonged surveillance in place. If our man played part in that, then he would've built up an alias locally for his extended surveillance mission – but you have yet to mention a name for him, which means he was marked down as John Doe at best. The locals did not know him, and in a small town someone would've known him if he had been staying there for longer than a week," Mycroft shrugs. "There are other intelligence services that would've found the South Glade Mission Church worth watching. What with the way religious extremists tends to go, these days. Besides, the suit does give it away."
Sherlock concedes the point with a nod. "What intelligence service outfits its people in bespoke suits for an assignment like this, though, that's the question," he muses, shaking his head and then leaning away. "There was another interesting little thing that I found. This."
He holds another plastic bag up to the camera – it holds something golden in it.
"This is what took me so long to find," Sherlock says almost proudly, as he opens the bag and takes the ring out. He displays the signet ring to the camera. "The intern at the morgue stole it from the missing body – then took it to a pawn shop, and got barely a couple hundred bucks for it, the poor idiot. The pawnshop was robbed post V-Day, after the owner and manager were killed during the V-Day massacres. No one investigated the robbery and the robber was in plain sight on the surveillance tape. Took me barely an hour to find him, but then it took him almost four hours to find where he stashed the loot. Turns out he couldn't sell any of it later on – not many buyers, what with the dollar in the state it is in."
"How utterly fascinating. Show me that seal," Mycroft says sharply and Sherlock turns it to the camera.
"You know it?" Sherlock asks. "I've been looking into it for a couple of hours now, but I haven't found anything."
"It rather does ring a bell, yes," Mycroft says, narrowing his eyes. He's seen it in person even.
On the hand of the young Mr. King, when they ate dinner together at the Diogenes club.
And then there were three.
What the Watsons thought they were doing when they invited Mycroft to see their freshly born daughter, Mycroft has no clue. But he knows that Sherlock will be there, obviously, and he can't possibly pass on the chance of seeing his little brother interacting with a baby. And he definitely doesn't regret it, even if he does hate the smell of hospitals and the sounds and signs of people and suffering and sickness.
Because Sherlock flittering between the Watsons, looking like he's this close to wringing his hands anxiously, is just as amusing as he thought it would be.
"Surely you're not serious about the name?" Mycroft asks, peering at the baby held bundled up in John's arms. The good Doctor Watson is frankly glowing with delight, a sort of fatherly pride and love just oozing off him in the way that Mycroft has only ever seen in one man. His own father.
"What?" Sherlock asks, head coming up. "You've chosen the name?" he asks, looking between Mary and John and the little girl.
Mycroft rolls his eyes – it's obvious in the looks the Watsons share behind Sherlock's back when the man isn't looking. Fondness and exasperation and amusement combined into a full blown case of sheer sentimentality. It's almost unbearable to witness. The only reason Sherlock's missed it is because he's still busy with the Valentine case and because as Mary's time had grown nearer, Sherlock had started panicking more and more.
Almost as if it was he whose baby it was.
Well, in a way…
"What is it then?" Sherlock asks, straightening up and curling down all at once, anxious little twitches and posturing as he tries to decide between aloof disinterest and overeager curiosity.
The Watsons smile at him, already donning the unbearable, patronising mantle of parenthood and wearing it like a well-worn suit of clothing. They will be intolerable soon, Mycroft judges, full of mysterious smiles and knowing looks, condescending and utterly annoying. Well, maybe not as much as some Mycroft has seen in the throes of parenthood – they are, after all, the Watsons – but still. There was quite a bit of parental wisdom in Sherlock's future and Mycroft was fully grateful that he did not have to endure it like his brother would.
Rolling his eyes at the atmosphere of affection suffusing the room, Mycroft peers at the child again. Less than six hours in this world and she's finally starting to look something like a human, rather than the scrunched up space-alien newborns tended to look like. Dressed in hospital garb, she has a thin coat of blonde hair already on top of her head and judging by the looks of things, she's inherited Mary's nose and John's chin. Time would tell what that combination would produce.
"Well?!" Sherlock demands.
"Shirley," Mary finally says, just flat and humourless enough to make it sound like an accusation.
"What?" and now there is outrage and offence in Sherlock's voice as he whirls around to give her a hurt look. Mary Watson is truly a remarkable woman, Mycroft has to hand it to her – and just what John and Sherlock both deserve.
"Shirley Watson," John says with a snort, looking down at the baby. "That's her name. Shirley Martha Watson."
Sherlock opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. "Well," he then says, smoothing a hand over the lapels of his coat, trying very hard to not look ruffled and failing horribly. "Obviously."
Mycroft looks between then, between Sherlock and little Shirley – and good god, he can already imagine it. The Watsons are going all out with their madness, and they're already sizing Sherlock up for the duty of a godparent and that is nothing but an utter disaster in the making. Truly, there isn't a sane person in the family – though Mycroft has to give little Shirley the benefit of the doubt for now, seeing as she's a tad too young to actually make her sanity or lack thereof fully known.
He sees somewhere in his future the horror of Sherlock babysitting, and already makes plans to allocate budget to deal with the ensuing disasters. Even with the current state of the British economy, surely there is enough to put a bit aside for that. The risk far outweighs the cost, surely.
"Mycroft," John says and Mycroft reluctantly turns to face him. "Would you like to hold her?"
Mycroft pauses at that and then smiles his best, widest, fakest smile. "Are you quite mad?"
"Well, I'm not going to make Sherlock hold her, who knows where his hands have been," John snorts, eyebrows arching and then, despite Mycroft taking a couple hurried steps back, he offers the baby to him.
It's really rather difficult to refuse something like that.
He makes his displeasure and discomfort very well known, as John hands her over, supporting her tiny head and cautiously watching how Mycroft holds her. Mycroft scoffs at the concern – of course he knows how to hold a baby, it is not precisely hard and he's seen enough people doing just that this past hour alone to have observed a year's worth of parental tips.
And then there is a baby in his arms, waving her tiny hands about and peering up at Mycroft through bleary baby eyes. She doesn't see him, of course, her eyesight isn't nearly developed enough for that sort of thing, but it does look like she does. And somewhat distantly, Mycroft muses that he can understand why people get so attached to babies so quickly.
She's so very fragile. If he let go of her now, if he let her fall, she'd die. Just by holding her he's keeping her alive, saving her life. It's… a surprisingly sobering thought.
They all stare at him, Sherlock like a hawk about to descend with claws outstretched and the Watsons with great amusement – and trust which, really, he thought so much better of them. Mycroft clears his throat, looks down at Shirley and then back at John. "Well?" he asks. "Have I endured this long enough yet?"
"I don't know, godfather, have you?" John asks, folding his arms, smiling.
"You must be joking," Mycroft says flatly while Sherlock lets out a strangled sound of disbelief – except, no, John most certainly isn't. And neither is Mary, which…
Oh, it's Mary's idea, of course it is. And she looks smug as anything as it dawns on Mycroft, her plans and intentions. Sherlock is well and good as a godparent, certainly. His fondness for the Watsons make him an ideal candidate… in certain situations. But a man of Mycroft's capabilities and resources…
What could be better for a helpless and vulnerable child than a caretaker of such calibre?
"And what if I were to refuse?" Mycroft asks, sniffing slightly and watching John's expression closely.
"Then there's Sherlock," John shrugs.
"There's Sherlock already!" Sherlock himself objects.
"Precisely," Mary nods from her hospital bed, motioning first at Mycroft and then at Sherlock. "Godfather and godfather. I really can't think of a better arrangement, can you, John?"
"Nope," John says, and grins like a tiger at them. "I think it sounds just perfect."
Mycroft scoffs – manipulative little… He shares a look with Sherlock, who narrows his eyes in return and oh dear, it’s worked already, hasn’t it? They're going to end up doing this and they're going to make a rivalry out of it because they can't do anything together without it resulting in rivalry. Shirley Watson is going to grow up the most spoiled little brat in Britain and Mycroft is going to be directly responsible for it.
He lets out a disgusted noise and offers the baby back to John. The things he does for these people.
The Valentine investigation has, in the meanwhile, ground to a halt.
What had at first seemed like a simple avenue of investigation has proven to be increasingly difficult because young Mr. King seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth. And for all the investigating that Mycroft does, he can't find his trail anywhere – either where he comes from, where he might've been going, where he's staying, or what he is doing. The only lead he has is at the Diogenes club and Gary King's adoption by Chester King, except obviously that was nothing but a farce.
Of course he'd known that the adoption was a sham before. It was obvious, really. He hadn't truly cared before, though. No, Mycroft had… entertained the young man and his deception out of mild interest and curiosity alone, investigating it in his free time but hardly putting all his effort into it, not wasting any resources on the case.
His theories had ranged from a hacker who'd taken an opportunity to recreate a new, wealthy life for himself in their post-apocalyptic world, to an intelligence agent who'd been placed into a suitable and quite an advantageous position, and other similar speculations. It wasn't until Sherlock's visit to Kentucky, and the revelation of the signet ring, that Mycroft had truly started digging.
And found that the King family itself was quite interesting. He'd known before that Chester King, Gary's adopted grandfather, had had no heirs, no children, no living siblings, nothing, so it was quite easy for young Mr. King to claim the family for himself, with no one there to contest and with the chaos of V-Day covering all his tracks. And of course, Gary King seems to have no history from before his adoption, but that was obvious enough. However…
Chester King had been rather unusually unattached himself. There was a definite similarity between his history and Gary King's current situation – in that neither had much history to speak of. Chester King was bound by a single thing to any sort of past at all and that was the familial bond between himself and his own adopted father, Gregory King, who'd adopted Chester a good fifty years ago… quite close to his own death, in fact.
The King family itself was obviously nothing but a charade, but it was a very wealthy and very influential one, not to mention an old one. The whole family tree was linear, with short-lived fathers and adopted sons alone, and it had a history going back for nearly a hundred years. And wasn't that very interesting?
Mycroft would've loved to ask young Mr. King about it – never mind his connection to the intelligence agent that had died in Kentucky… except the young man hadn't been seen or heard of since he and Mycroft had shared dinner at the Diogenes club. And obviously the young man had no home address, no contact information, nothing – even the Diogenes club didn't know where he might be found because that was simply how the club was – it did not require those sorts of details for obvious reasons.
It is beyond infuriating to realise that there had been a person of this… magnitude right under Mycroft's nose and he hadn't even fully realised it. Yes, he had known that there was something about young Mr. King. But this? This sort of family history, and connection with V-Day itself, with Valentine, with a mysterious intelligence agent whose body had vanished into thin air…
Mycroft isn't utterly clueless, however. The King family, while strange and inexplicable, has its ties. Namely to the businesses it owns, the properties it possesses – things which are now in Mr. Gary King's possession. In London, that includes a number of flats and houses and two small businesses. A hat shop on St. James's called Lock & Co., and a tailor shop on Savile Row, called Kingsman. Probably where the young man got his own suits tailored.
Mycroft has of course sent an intelligence agent of his own to check the places out – the man had come out of the tailor shop with a very finely re-fitted suit and very little intelligence, and out of the hat shop with a new fedora and no answers. The managers of both shops say the same thing – that Mr. King is a fine benefactor, but he lets the managers run both shops how they see fit, leaving even their finances in the hands of his employees. An uninterested owner at best. And no, they actually have no idea where Mr. King lives – it had simply never come up, you know how these things go these days.
And no, there is no schedule as to when he visits the shop – honestly, he's only done so a few times so far.
So either Gary King has yet to fully settle into Chester's former position or he has no intention of doing so at all and is only using the King family as a front, temporary or otherwise. In either case, it only invites more enquiries. Try as he might, Mycroft can't find the young man's trail. Though he does send people to check out some of the other properties that Mr. King owns, it is quickly becoming obvious that the young man knows better than to reside in any of them.
All Mycroft can do is wait – and oh how he hates that.
And so the investigation stalls, with no results being seen at either Mycroft's or Sherlock's ends. Sherlock naturally takes it worse, growing more and more frustrated by the moment and eventually resorting to taking smaller cases on the side, still keeping an eye on the main issue but distracting himself from the lack of development. And Mycroft, well. He has bigger issues to worry about.
With the return of some semblance of stability and the way governments all over the world struggle to keep their respective economies afloat, there are new issues to deal with. While the horror of what happened keeps some people in check, there are always those looking to take advantage of a situation; and now that power is slowly being consolidated and governments are standing under their own power, the carrion birds are coming out.
The amount of favours people have given out in order to stay afloat in the post V-Day weeks is utterly appalling. The UK is not so badly off – that being largely thanks to Mycroft. The fact that his country didn't collapse in on itself like some nations did was because he did not let it. They stand on stronger ground than most do, but in the UK's government there are individuals who paid hefty prices for their current standings. And now that they have something worthwhile in their hands again, now that their political influence is actually influential again… debt collectors come calling.
Well, some of that is Mycroft's own fault – needs must, and to fulfil the needs of the post V-Day situation, he had been forced to do things and accept individuals he rather would've gone without. The Parliament had been put together from leftovers and packed tight by necessity, a garden sown out of questionable seeds on soil that was mostly badly composted shit. Of course it now grows full of weeds. And so… he starts weeding his garden.
Namely by ousting the idiots who sold their souls to the devils of corruption just to gain standing – or to keep their former standings.
If nothing else, it keeps him occupied for a while. He even goes out to personally chase some people off with a precise use of evidence, black mail, and threats. Thankfully, by now they've managed to fill up their ranks enough to bear the loss, and there are some new faces among the old ones – individuals who had excelled under the pressure of the post V-Day world, and have become something useful.
And now they have a bit of a clearer image of what they actually want from the government of this new age.
Politics is very different these days, not only in the UK but all over the world. Interests are different as well. What had been before the great motivator of all – capitalism – has been turned on its head and the trust that people had for large corporations is simply gone. In the absence of Valentine, every massive conglomerate has become his surrogate, an embodiment of all things that are wrong in the world.
Valentine was what everyone wanted to be, and the Valentine Corporation had been what every other corporation had tried to be. A multibillion business at the very top of the tech industry, outdoing itself in profits every year, or even every month. With that money had come influence and admiration – and greed. Everyone had fallen over themselves in order to please Valentine because men like him could make or break entire governments. That was just how much influence and money he had accumulated, simply by being one of the wealthiest men on earth, leading one of its most successful tech companies.
Richmond Valentine had, by default, the ear of every politician, every celebrity, and every scientist. If he asked, they all would join him for dinner. And they had, from world leaders to leading scientists. They all went to eat dinner with him, just because of the power in his invitation.
And the whole world knows where that got them.
Now… now things are different. Money doesn't buy as much influence as it used to because people fear another Valentine appearing. Not that anyone has that much money anymore, not really. The stock market still hasn't recovered – the crash is still ongoing, the depression has fully set in, and businesses are being strangled to death left and right. Not to mention that there isn't an economy left to support wealth such as that of Valentine's lot these days.
There is still a definite wealth gap, even this won't do much about that. But capitalism-based politics are dying painful deaths all over the world. Not to mention that the trust in technology has all but collapsed, and with it are collapsing a lot of the big tech moguls. So, all told, the world is still changing.
And in light of that, Mycroft is building a new government. And – not that he'd ever admit it out loud if anyone asked – he's rather enjoying it.
There's a definite sense of gratification in being able to install competent and good people in positions of power – rather than being forced to deal with incompetent, self-serving morons just because they were powerful enough to get said positions.
It's a new age – and if billions of people hadn't had to die for it, Mycroft would've called it a good age.
Mycroft regrets every decision he'd ever made that lead him to this.
"… Obviously you’d want natural fibres alone. I mean, especially in these days, who knows what sorts of stuff they put into toys without anyone watching," the unbearably chatty little housewife tells him while shuffling through the plush toys with distain. "There's no regulation happening these days – can you believe it? Just the other day I was buying some rice at the local store and there was nothing there but outdated packets. I mean, really, things have gone badly, but still, someone really should be looking into these sorts of things…"
Mycroft takes a slow, not entirely soothing breath and regrets so powerfully that really she should've been able to feel it in her spine – he certainly is. He's standing in front of an empty counter, waiting for the salesperson to come back from doing whatever they are doing – checking aisle four for a stand that had fallen over because this lovely example of womanhood had complained about it – and Mycroft regrets ever coming to this damn store.
He regrets giving into the Watsons, he regrets being as involved in Sherlock's life as he is because that was what led him to know John and Mary and what led them to decide that he'd make a fine godfather for their child. He regrets that, he regrets having a brother in the first place, he regrets everything.
"… But anyway – natural fibres, that's the way to go. None of this poly-whatsits stuff, who knows what sort of toxins are in there," the housewife continues with a little sniff of haughty importance. "And don't get me started on these things," she adds with another sniff, punching the belly of one particularly colourful toy – which starts singing – "Good grief. No, no, none of this for a baby, absolutely not, who knows what sort of things are in these things. My little Lena, you know, my thirty-two week old little girl – she can't stand these things anyway, smart little girl that she is…"
Mycroft is not a particularly violent person, but he's seriously starting to contemplate the benefits of it. He takes another breath and lets it out. "Madam, there isn't a single word you're saying that isn't causing me severe agony both to hear it spoken in your grating voice or to have them strung into sentences of such useless, insipid nonsense and if you could kindly shut your mouth, that would be absolutely lovely."
In the startled silence that follows, Mycroft takes a third soothing breath and then frowns as he hears another voice, a little more distant, coming from the other end of the toy store. A familiar voice. Male, young, not from the office – the accent is…
"… Sorry about that, luv – no, no, no need to cry, nope," the voice says, punctuated by what sounds like a toddler about to break into tears. "No, no, we're not cryin' now, you fuckin' – Jesus, sorry, Daisy, baby. Come on, we're gettin' toys, no need to start wailin' on me now, is there? See this here, this one's pretty, innit?"
Mycroft blinks and then abandons the woman, the counter, and his purchases, approaching the voice instead. In the third aisle from the counter, he finds a young man crouched on the floor, trying to entertain a little girl with a colourful doll, all the while kissing her cheeks and wiping her teary face.
She hiccups and takes the toy, pouting horribly as she does.
"There you go," young Mr. King says, grinning in the shadow of his white baseball cap, wiping her face gently with the sleeve of his colourful sport jacket. "We good now, hm?" he asks and kisses the little girl's cheek again before looking at the toy she's holding. "You want this one, yeah?"
She pouts harder, looking down at it and then shaking her head violently. Mr. King laughs at her softly. "A'right, not this one," he says and they put the toy back. Then he stands up, hoisting the toddler up to his hip as he does. "Come on, baby, let's go find somethin'… else…"
"Mr. King," Mycroft says as the young man stops to stare at him. "It's been a while."
The young man stares at him for a moment, blinking slowly behind his glasses. "Mr. Holmes," he says and shifts the little girl on his hip.
Mycroft arches an eyebrow at him and at his non-reaction, not sure what about it is more fascinating – the clothes, the behaviour, the toddler, or the heavy slur of a chav on the young man's tongue. "This is a surprise," Mycroft says slowly, considering how to approach this conversation. "We've missed you at the club."
"Sure you have," Mr. King says with a little snort, looking him up and down and narrowing his eyes. "What are you doin' in a place like this?" he then asks, like that is the most confusing thing about this whole meeting. "This really ain't your scene, bruv."
Mycroft sniffs a little at that, even as he digests the young man's accent. It's masterful – either that or actually authentic and that is even more bizarre than the concept that he might be faking it. "I've been invited to a christening ceremony and I was led to believe that I ought to be bringing a toy," he says, looking the young man up and down, trying to figure out how much of it is intentional and how much of it is habit. Is it an act, or…
"That's usually expected, yeah," Mr. King agrees. "How old is the babe?"
"A week or so – the ceremony will be next week," Mycroft says, still considering him.
"Bit too youn' for toys. But I guess it's for future," the young man says. "I suggest gettin' somethin' jingly – babies love that shit. Or hell, a mobile."
"Eggsy!" the little girl says, tugging hard at his jacket. "Bad bad!"
"Sorry, baby," Mr. King says to her, kissing her cheek and then turning to Mycroft with a shrug. "Shouldn't be swearin'."
"Indeed," Mycroft arches an eyebrow at the little girl. "Eggsy," he says slowly.
"Eh, it's a name," Mr. King shrugs and then walks towards Mycroft. "You picked somethin' out yet?"
"Yes, though I was forced to leave it behind by the attack of a woman with a most obnoxious voice," Mycroft admits. "And I might've chosen poorly. A mobile, you say."
"Yeah," Mr. King says. "Even if they have one, it doesn't hurt switchin' them around every now and then. Even babies can get bored starin' at one single thin' every night. Come on – the mobiles are this way."
Too intrigued to pass up the opportunity for more observation, Mycroft follows, his mind whirling through possibilities and theories. Whether the way Mr. King is acting is a charade or not, it seems to sit very comfortably on the young man's shoulders. He's utterly comfortable in his slang and clothing and even the initial surprise wasn't enough to throw him off or make him awkward. As they walk, Mr. King babbles to the toddler, pointing out toys as they pass them by and waiting for her to see something she might like – Mycroft's staring doesn't faze him at all.
Was the meeting a coincidence or not, that was the question.
"Here," Mr. King says, motioning at the aisle that has baby mobiles of various designs hanging overhead, crowding the space uncomfortably. "I'd go for colour over fancy design," the young man says. "By the time they can tell what the things on these actually are, it won't really matter much."
"Hm," Mycroft agrees, eyeing the toddler in his arms. She's waving longingly up at one of the mobiles – a starburst with planets hanging from its branches. Recalling John's old blogpost about Sherlock's understanding over celestial objects, or lack thereof, he smiles faintly. "That seems like a ringing endorsement," he decides and checks the packet with a matching image on the front.
"Mm-hmm," Mr. King agrees, watching him with thoughtful interest. Tucking the packet under his arms, Mycroft returns the favour. Overhead, the mobiles turn.
"Well," the young man says. "This is awkward."
"Is it?" Mycroft asks calmly, blinking at him.
"Yeah," the young man smiles wryly and bounces the toddler on his hip gently. "It is a bit."
"Hm," Mycroft answers. He has questions he'd ask but… this is most certainly not the place to start questioning someone about their involvement in something like the recent apocalypse. "Do you think you will be visiting the club any time soon?" he asks instead. "There are some things I'd like to discuss with you in private, if that would be at all possible."
"I bet there are," the young man says, considering him. "Yea, a'right," he then says with a nod and turns to leave. "I'll come around next time you do."
"Dinner?" Mycroft asks, arching an eyebrow curiously even as he makes a mental note of the easy confidence.
"It's a date, then," Mr. King nods and then hesitates, glancing at Mycroft over his shoulder, a thoughtful look on his face. "Bring the ring, yeah?"
Mycroft stops cold, definitely not having expected that, and with a satisfied nod the young man continues on, leaving him standing there alone under the baby mobiles.
In a rather pointed showing of his spying capabilities, Mr. King is already at the Diogenes club when Mycroft arrives. He sits in the smoker's lounge, reading a mini tablet with something shiny held loosely between his fingers. And when Mycroft approaches him, he blows a cloud of smoke at him.
"I thought you were quitting," Mycroft comments with an arched eyebrow, taking in the young man's attire – a rather severe double breasted black suit, with a red tie. Suited for battle, this one.
The young man looks at him for a moment and then smiles and tilts his right hand lazily, showing both the golden signet ring on his little finger and the thing he's holding casually between fore and middle finger. It gleams golden and metallic under the light of the nearby desk lamp. An electronic cigarette.
"How very new age of you," Mycroft comments with a slight sneer.
"Don't knock it until you try it, Mr. Holmes. It's surprisingly good, actually," the younger man says, his accent once again sharp and proper as he brings the e-cig to his lips and sucks twice – a small puff and then a long, slow drag. On the end of the thing is an impression of a circular symbol, and it glows fiery red for a moment. A single, slightly elongated K inside a circle.
Mycroft has seen that symbol before – Kingsman tailors use it.
He narrows his eyes. "You're early," he says then and sits down across from the younger man. "I ordered our dinner for later."
"You mean you're early. I came when I was called by the siren song of your presence," the young man says, infuriatingly at ease with the situation. He drags another lungful of vapour and holds it, watching Mycroft almost lazily. "Would you care for a puff?" he asks.
Mycroft hesitates, glancing to the side where an attendant is already approaching them with Mycroft's preferred brand. After a moment of consideration he holds a hand, stopping the attendant and accepting the golden device from Mr. King's fingers instead. It's warm against his lips, the impression of another's body warmth lingering. Mimicking the younger man's actions, Mycroft sucks quickly once and then again slowly.
It hits his throat very much the same as actual tobacco smoke – but there the similarities end. The surprise of the tang of lemon and honey on his tongue makes him nearly choke, and he stares at the e-cig in astonishment, coughing the vapour out as he does.
The younger man laughs at him. "Not at all alike, is it?" he asks, leaning his elbow onto the table between them.
"Honey and lemon?" Mycroft asks, feeling vaguely betrayed.
Mr. King shrugs. "A friend of mine mixed it for me – seems to be under the impression that I need a bit of soothing after actual cigarettes. There is a variety of flavour options though. I'm thinking strawberry for the next mix."
The elder man eyes him suspiciously and then tries the e-cig again. Now that he's a little more prepared, the taste doesn't choke him and he has to admit – it is rather pleasant, and not at all like actual tobacco. There is a slight aftertaste of the vapour – about sixty percent vegetable glycerine and maybe fifteen percent propylene glycol – which is a little strange, but it's almost entirely covered by the lemon and honey.
And then the nicotine hits, and Mycroft feels something in him loosening.
"Hm," he says, eyeing the device curiously. It's golden throughout – made of actual gold, of course – with a slight burnished shade at the end to play the part of a filter. It's heavy and solid in his fingers, and there is only a barely visible seam between the make-belief filter and the rest of the e-cig, where the thing could be opened for refill and probably for battery recharge.
"This is fine craftsmanship," he comments. "Custom made?"
"Naturally," Mr. King says.
Mycroft nods thoughtfully. He's never tried electronic cigarettes before and now he rather regrets that. The taste definitely agrees with him better than the tar of actual tobacco.
Mr. King laughs at him. "And we have a convert," he says, leaning his chin on his knuckles and smiling at Mycroft almost fondly.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say that," Mycroft says and hands the e-cig back. "Though it's certainly interesting," he admits and watches the young man take another drag, the encircled K glowing red as he does. "Perhaps we should convene in the private study – it is where I ordered our dinner to be laid out."
"Hm," Mr. King hums in answer and glances away – and it is only then that Mycroft realises that they're not alone.
A young woman steps out of the shadows behind the fireplace mantelpiece. Mycroft gets only a moment to observe her as she strides out of the room, but the moment is long enough. She wears a bespoke suit with slacks and oxfords without any hint of feminine re-design in the style aside from its perfect fitting on her. Light grey with a glen plaid pattern, with golden cufflinks and a dark grey tie, and a golden tie pin. On her nose she has dark red spectacles and on her arm she casually carries a black umbrella.
"She's one of mine," Mr. King says calmly, as she silently closes the door behind her. "She'll be checking the room for bugs and other security issues."
"Of course," Mycroft says, leaning back and turning to Mr. King. So, that was confirmation on at least some level of organisation – and it seems he's found the intelligence agency that does indeed outfit its agents in tailored suits. "One of yours," he then says and narrows his eyes.
"Yes," Mr. King agrees with a smile, and digs out a golden cigarette case from his inner pocket, slotting the e-cig into it and then pushing it back into his pocket. Then he stands up, picking up his own umbrella as he does so – and a light brown briefcase, which was sitting in the shadow of his chair, out of Mycroft’s view. "You didn't think I'd come here unprepared, did you?" he asks.
"I did not," Mycroft says, drinking in the clues and trying to put together a theory. "But you'll understand that neither did I." he might not have a bodyguard with him – but he has his own people in place, the least of which includes a sniper on the rooftop on the building opposite to the club.
Mr. King nods, smiling, and then motions with the umbrella. "Lead the way."
Mycroft leads him to the private study, where Mr. King's agent is already through checking the room. She's pulling the curtains shut just as they enter and at first Mycroft wonders if she missed the bugs. But then she walks to Mr. King who holds out his hand expectantly – and she drops a handful of fried monitoring devices in his palm.
"Good," Mr. King says, examining the bugs and nodding. "Thank you, Lancelot."
"If there's nothing else, sir, I'll be waiting outside," she says with a smile. She glances as Mycroft and her cheeks dimple. "Good luck."
And then they're alone, waiting on the food. The table has already been set, but the food won't be brought in for another seven minutes, so they sit by the cold fireplace instead, Mr. King setting the briefcase down by the chair and hanging the umbrella on its armrest. "Well then," he says, crossing one leg over the other, folding his hands in his lap, totally in control. "Let's talk, Mr. Holmes."
Mycroft eyes him in interest – the difference between this Mr. King and the one he'd observed at the toy store is utterly fascinating. Whether one façade was more real than the other is surprisingly hard to say. The young man wears both faces with ease.
"Yes," he says and then shifts, reaching for his pocket. "Let's talk."
He sets the signet ring on the little table between them, a little golden punctuation mark. Mr. King eyes it and his easy smile fades a bit, into the sort of fixedness Mycroft knows well.
"Who was he?" Mycroft asks.
The young man doesn't answer. Instead, he reaches out and takes the ring, turning it in his hand. "Doesn't matter now, does it?" he says, eyeing the seal. "He's gone."
"Alright," Mycroft agrees, watching him closely. "What was he doing in Kentucky, then?"
Now Mr. King rolls his eyes at him. "Please," he says, even as he tugs his own signet ring off and replaces it with the one Sherlock found in Kentucky. He looks at it with a mixed expression and then shrugs, tucking his own ring away. "If you really haven't figured it out yet, then I'm in for something of a disappointment. There will be answers soon enough, but first I want to know a bit more about you, Mr. Holmes," he says, turning his full attention to Mycroft.
"Meaning you don't already know? How very surprising," Mycroft says, narrowing his eyes. He knows, of course he knows. Any man with the capabilities to keep watch on Sherlock and to find out what he's found out would know.
"Yes, so please, do enlighten me," Mr. King smiles. "I am very curious about you."
Mycroft frowns a little at that, leaning back. "I did not come here to play tennis with secrets, Mr. King."
"No, you came here to accuse me of my involvement in the V-Day incident," the young man agrees, grinning. "And I might very well share some details of my involvement – but only if you're what I think you are."
"And what do you think I am?"
"You tell me."
Good grief, this is going to go on for hours if they're starting out like this. Mycroft sighs in annoyance and then considers the young man. "This façade you're putting up – it's the fake one," he decides. It's too precise and too well rehearsed – it lacks a certain natural flow. The young man hides it well, Mycroft wouldn't have known its true excess if he hadn't seen him at the store, but it's forced all the same.
"We all put on different suits of clothing for work," Mr. King shrugs and looks at him. "Do you want me to go back to chav then?" he asks, his tongue loosening. "I can do that, bruv. It's my natural form, innit?"
Mycroft snorts at that. "Whatever you find more comfortable," he says with a sneer.
"Ta, Mr. Holmes," the young man says and grins at him. "Now tell me about yourself."
"How about you do it instead?" Mycroft says, relaxing a little. "And then I'll confirm or deny as suits me."
The young man considers it. "A'right," he says, and looks him up and down. "I'll just skip your past a bit, because I don't really give a shit what you did pre-V-Day. I know you're not the civil servant they've you marked as in your papers and though your official position within the British government is minor, it's also pretty fuckin' vague. I know that the reason the UK didn't collapse is because you was workin' day in and day out to keep it intact – cheers for that, by the way, much appreciated."
Mycroft nods slowly at that, and the young man continues. "You've got your fingers in pretty much every pie out there. The MI6 is at your beck and call, but you're not precisely in the intelligence business. Nor are you in the political process. You're somethin' else," he adds, considering. "You and your little brother both."
"A fine compliment," Mycroft allows.
"Ain't it?" Mr. King snorts. "What's interestin' to me right now though are the people you've gone out of your way to put in office lately. The UK is pretty much the strongest nation on Earth right now, and it's all because of you, bruv. And you chose people with high moral standin'. That intrigues the fuck outta me. So," he finishes. "You gonna deny any of that?"
"No, it seems about right," Mycroft says, shrugging and looking at him curiously. "Did you join the Diogenes club solely to keep an eye on me?"
"Not solely, but you was the reason why I joined so early on," Mr. King shrugs. "You were already goin' out your way to actually do useful shit. I wanted to get a read on you."
"I see," Mycroft answers. "And do you approve?"
"You're alive, aren't you?" Mr. King asks, arching his eyebrows.
Mycroft pauses at that, blinking and then narrowing his eyes at the younger man – who meets his eyes without a hint of guilt. Instead, Mr. King smiles. "The world went to shit, Mr. Holmes," he says. "Governments started collapsin' left and right. Me and mine, we need the UK to be stable – it keeps things nice an' simple for us. If you was doin' damage? We would've gotten rid of you in a heartbeat."
The elder man considers that and then decides that it's an oddly pleasing thought. "So," he says. "What exactly is the nature of you and yours?" he asks. "You're not part of MI6. You're not part of any intelligence agency that I know of – and I know them all."
"Obviously not all of them," Mr. King says, shrugging, and then looks up as there is a knock on the door – the attendants, about to bring in dinner.
"Come in," Mycroft calls, and the staff members of the Diogenes club shuffle in to quickly serve the food. He keeps looking at the younger man as they do, considering him – considering the implications of both his knowledge and past intentions. Though really, far more interesting are his current intentions.
Mr. King had come to personally check him out, and he'd done that probably with quite a bit of off-screen research and espionage on the side. Then he'd stopped coming to the club, by all appearances satisfied by what he'd seen. He'd gotten what he wanted – confirmation of Mycroft's… abilities and intentions, perhaps.
So why agree to this meeting? Surely it isn't merely to get the ring back. Surely he knew that both Mycroft and Sherlock had documented the ring extensively – there is no burying the knowledge of it now. No.
It is all a test, it has to be. Everything from their past interactions to the meeting at the store to this and everything he's saying. It's all a test to see how Mycroft would react, how he would use the intelligence presented to him. The question was, what would Mr. King do with the test results? What did he want from Mycroft now?
"I do not work for people I cannot trust," Mycroft says, as the attendants shuffle around, the food laid out and ready for them.
"And I don't work for anyone," Mr. King answers and stands up. "Food," he says then, and picks up his belongings, carrying them to the table. Mycroft watches him go for a moment and then follows.
Dinner is, of course, absolutely excellent. They dig into it in thoughtful silence at first, trying it out and finding it pleasant. The disruption of the attendants is quickly soothed into near comfortable companionship and in its pleasant quiet, Mycroft asks again, "What was your agent doing in Kentucky?"
"Oh, come on, bruv," Mr. King answers with a snort. "Ask the actual question."
"Alright," Mycroft concedes. "How much did your organisation know about V-Day before it happened?"
Mr. King cuts into his steak and then shrugs. "We didn't know the actual goal of it before the incident at the church. We knew somethin' was going on. We was investigatin' some related incidents, chemical attacks and whatnot, and those led us to Valentine eventually. We knew there was somethin' happenin' at the church," he adds. "Somethin' Valentine related – a test of some kind. We didn't know what they were testin' before they actually did."
"And… your agent?" Mycroft asks slowly – because while the mortality rate of V-Day was a little over thirty two percent, the mortality rate at the church had been one hundred percent. No one had walked out alive.
"Killed about ninety percent of the people in the church. Valentine shot him in the head when he came out," Mr. King says, his lips pressing tightly together. He's quiet for a moment before sighing and shaking his head. "Tell your brother thanks for findin' the ring," he then says, lifting the hand bearing said ring. "Has a bit of sentimental value to me."
"I'll pass on your gratitude," Mycroft says, watching him closely. "So you knew about V-Day eight hours before it happened?"
"Six hours," Mr. King says. "We knew it was happenin', we didn't know when until a bit after the church incident."
"And you didn't feel like sharing this information with people?" Mycroft asks slowly.
Mr. King pauses and then looks up from his food. "Fuck load of good that would've done, bruv, and you fuckin' know it," he says, and bites into a piece of steak.
The elder man smiles grimly and turns his attention to his own food, slicing a potato in half. No, it wouldn't have done much good, and likely would have caused panic. At most some key individuals might've been able to find a safe place, but overall…
"Besides, we was a bit too busy tryin' to stop it," Mr. King shrugs.
"Pity you didn't," Mycroft sighs.
The young man pauses at that and then suddenly leans back sharply, giving him a searching look – as if not entirely sure if he meant what he said. It in turn makes Mycroft freeze and consider the words – and the implications of what Mr. King had just told him. They'd known and they'd tried to stop it and V-Day had still happened. And yet…
The V-Day signal was active for four minutes and twenty seconds – far too long by anyone's standards. Except perhaps those of a rich madman who engineered the whole thing.
"You did stop it," Mycroft murmurs, his eyes widening. "It was meant to be active for much longer, wasn't it?"
"For an hour," the young man nods. "Or however long it took for Valentine to cut the population down to his preferred numbers. Shit, we tried to stop it entirely but Valentine was just too damn good. We shot out one of his satellites but he fuckin' replaced it inside ten minutes – borrowed another from some rich buddy of his. Fuckin' mess."
"Jesus," Mycroft murmurs, lowering his utensils. "What sort of percentages was he aiming for?"
"Ninety percent, at least. He wanted to drop the population under a billion," Mr. King shrugs. "Was really aimin' to start over. Empty out the world for his chosen people – and whoever survived the cull."
Mycroft took a moment to imagine it, to picture the sheer destruction of it. The damage V-Day had done was already catastrophic. If the signal had been active for longer… Then he frowns and looks up at the young intelligence agent. It's all rather convenient, what he's telling Mycroft. A little too convenient. "You could be lying," he then says.
Mr. King smiles at that. "Yea, I could," he agrees and then reaches for his briefcase. "Luckily for me, though, I got proof."
He opens the briefcase at an angle that keeps Mycroft from seeing the insides, and takes a single thing out, flicking it to lie on the table between them.
It's a picture of Richmond Valentine, lying blood splattered and lifeless on a dark floor.
"When?" Mycroft asks, reaching out and taking the picture slowly. It looks authentic – but these days that doesn't mean much. "Where's the body?"
"The precise moment when the V-Day wave ended; and we have it in storage," Mr. King shrugs, closing the briefcase and watching him over the dinner spread out between them. "Take your time," he then says and smiles. "I can wait."
Mycroft scowls at him, and looks at the image again. Richmond Valentine has been dead for nearly two months now, ever since V-Day started and ended and left the world in ruin. Killed to end the V-Day wave – well, who knew how accurate and truthful that was. It isn't the issue here, though.
Mr. King's organisation has known. All this time, they've known. They'd been working at the V-Day incident as it happened. Known all about it. Mopped up after it, even. And if Richmond Valentine had really died just as the wave ended, then that means that it wasn't Valentine who released the Five Hundred. Mr. King's people released the VIP's… which means that it was Mr. King's people who tampered with their memories. Kept them from knowing where they'd been held, and who'd released them. Kept them in the dark.
Mr. King's people ended V-Day, and then they kept the world guessing about what actually happened and from knowing that the man behind it all was no longer a threat. They intentionally let the world think that Valentine was still alive.
Mycroft lowers the photograph and stares at the young man across from him, horrified and impressed all at once.
Mr. King smiles at him, lifting his wineglass in a toast. "To the threats of the new world, Mr. Holmes," he says, and drinks without waiting for him to join the toast.
"What do you mean the investigation is over? I'm barely even halfway through!"
Mycroft sighs, rubbing his fingers over his forehead. He's had a low-level headache ever since the meeting at the Diogenes club where Mr. King had oh so graciously dropped one of the biggest cover-ups in recent history in his lap – not to mention the seeds of the biggest conspiracy of the century. He does not have the head space to deal with Sherlock's whining now.
"I mean that it is over – it is being managed," Mycroft says, when it actually isn't. Mr. King and his people had done an admirable job keeping everything under wraps and under control – but that was more or less all they had done. They'd handled the issue, for as long as they had to. Managing it on the other hand…
That was going to be a whole different kettle of fish.
Sherlock narrows his eyes at him, leaning forward. "You found him."
Mycroft sighs. "Sherlock, can you for once in your life simply take my word and let it be?"
The look his brother gives him is answer enough and Mycroft concedes a point – it was ridiculous to even hope that. "It has been brought to my attention that some facts of the Valentine investigation and the V-Day incident have been… somewhat obscured," Mycroft says then. "I have been given the full facts now and there is nothing left for you to investigate. The situation is under control. Your services are no longer required."
Sherlock leans forward even more, narrowing his eyes a bit more, keen and sharp and alert. "Valentine is dead, isn't he?" he then asks.
Mycroft considers him and all the trouble Sherlock might cause if he doesn't give him at least something. Sherlock would run rampant, do his own investigating, and blow the cover-up wide open if given any leeway – if given any indication that it might be the… right thing to do. Having such a public spirited brother was utterly wearisome.
"Richmond Valentine has been dead ever since the V-Day incident, yes," Mycroft admits. "His body has just been delivered to a private facility under my control – its authenticity has been verified."
Of course that doesn't satisfy Sherlock in the slightest. "Who killed him?" he asks. "One of the hostages? His own people? Someone we don't know?"
"Someone I know, which is all you need to know," Mycroft mutters, because he has a terrible feeling that should Mr. King meet Sherlock personally… it would not turn out well for anyone. "I can give you some facts if you truly think you require them, but you must understand, Sherlock – word of it can't get out," he says. "As far as people know, Richmond Valentine is alive and well and still… scheming behind the scenes. And I wish to keep the public thinking that."
"The public and governments all across the world," Sherlock mutters and throws himself back in his seat so forcefully that the front legs of the chair come off the ground for a second. He's quiet for a moment, drumming his fingers against the armrest and thinking. "Whoever took care of him also mopped up after him," he then says. "The factories, the offices, the laboratories…"
"And the satellites, and the VIPs," Mycroft agrees with a sigh.
"Hm. And they're not your people. No one you have influence over. Someone you know, not someone you employ," Sherlock murmurs, watching him. Then he grins, wide and ferocious. "Well, this is an unexpected turn of events. What have you gotten yourself into, Mycroft?"
Mycroft gives him a flat look. "Are you willing to leave well enough alone, Sherlock?" he asks. "There will be no blog posts, no case studies, nothing. In fact, I would prefer if you'd relinquish your case files to me as soon as possible. Tie up all the loose ends."
His brother snorts. "Let me see Valentine," he says.
"He'd been cleaned up," Mycroft shakes his head, making a face. "Scrubbed clean. There's no evidence left, nothing to learn."
"Cause of death?" Sherlock asks, arching his eyebrows.
"Fine," the elder Holmes says with a sigh and then turns to his laptop, bringing up the autopsy files. Of course, they were the files of a second autopsy – Mr. King's people had already done their own invasive investigation, naturally. Still, the cause of death was plainly obvious.
Sherlock quickly launches to his feet and then comes around the desk to look on. Mycroft leans back and lets him flick through the images, and soon enough Sherlock comes to the same conclusion as he had. "He was stabbed through," Sherlock says. "A slender, long blade, entered from the back and came out from the front. A clean injury, until he fell on his back, which wrenched the blade aside, causing further damage. Massive blood loss. Death would've been quick."
"Hm," Mycroft hums in agreement. It was something of a strange death, considering the victim and the situation – but perhaps Mr. King's people had been pressed for resources. After all, they would've no doubt had to storm whatever base Valentine had been at to get to him – who knows. Maybe they ran out of bullets. Mr. King hadn't been particularly forthcoming about the details.
"In any case," Mycroft says. "There is nothing more to investigate."
"There's everything to investigate," Sherlock says and then, because he's a prat, he hops to sit on Mycroft's desk. "The people who got him, who are they? They've had Valentine for months and kept the truth from… everyone. From you, because you certainly didn't know anything more than I did. And then they gave him to you? Why?"
Because Mr. King's people weren't interested in managing worldwide conspiracies. They'd done what they thought was for the best and they'd done it well, but ultimately they weren't the sort of organisation that went about organising the political and social makeup of the world. They apparently took care of threats of Valentine's calibre and then they covered them up with no one the wiser. And they'd been doing it for nearly a century, if Mr. King's family line was anything to go by. God only knew what sort of incidents they'd been involved with, incidents no one knew anything about.
But this was different – the aftermath of V-Day was different. Whether they were equipped for it or not, they weren't in the business of handling these sorts of schemes.
So, when Mr. King had investigated Mycroft and found him suitable… he'd taken the whole Valentine debacle, wrapped it up in smoke and mirrors and then given it to Mycroft like the worst present he'd ever gotten. All of the facts – carefully edited of course – all of the evidence – handpicked, naturally – and of course Valentine himself. And with all those things the whole conspiracy that entailed V-Day and Valentine's supposed survival and ongoing threat.
Leaving the whole mess for him to manage.
Mr. King, Mycroft has come to realise, is a bit of a bastard.
"Sherlock," Mycroft says slowly. "Leave well enough alone."
That brings Sherlock up short and he looks at Mycroft, really looks at him, taking him in, eyes flickering up and down. "The people who did this –"
Sherlock stops, looking away sharply. "Risk assessment?" he then asks, his gaze flickering between Mycroft's eyes, as if one might be more forthcoming than the other.
"Neutral for now," Mycroft says and closes his eyes with a deep breath. For now. "Let's not tempt fate, however."
His brother hesitates but nods, reluctant and furious. "Fine," he snaps and hops off the desk. "Have fun with your new conspiracy."
"Oh, I will," Mycroft mutters, and winces as for once Sherlock closes the door after himself – by banging it harshly shut as he goes.
There are many things one could do with a scheme of Valentine's magnitude, especially in their current world. Mycroft now has in his possession one of the greatest weapons in existence currently; a threat that, while hollow, will make every man, woman, and child on earth jump. His very own weapon of mass destruction. And though it can't quite go off, the very knowledge of it is powerful enough.
Valentine is currently the lynch pin of the world, keeping every nation cautious and wary and working together, because in Valentine they all have a common enemy with no redeemable features. Better yet, Valentine is a single individual and not quite attached to any nation – they'd all been burned by V-Day, after all. But what makes the threat of Valentine so powerful is what he's already done – and the threat of another V-Day. Or something even worse.
Of course, none of those things will ever happen. But there are only very select few in the entire world who know that. Mycroft, four of his people who he'd reluctantly brought into the case, Sherlock, and Mr. King's people. For the rest of the world…
With Valentine and the intangible threat of his absent presence, Mycroft could very easily shape the world to his liking. He could influence politics, force policies – it would be tricky, it would involve threats and manipulation and most certainly engineered events, perhaps even terrorist attacks, but he could very easily do it. If nothing else, he could use Valentine to oust those he didn't care to deal with, faking connections and ties… subtly reshaping every government on Earth to his liking.
But he wouldn't, because he has his own Assured Destruction hanging over his head in the form of Mr. King. While Mycroft isn’t quite sure of the man's motives, he knows enough. After all, he is still alive – and the young man had made a point of mentioning why.
And yet, Mr. King had given Valentine to Mycroft. And his people had engineered the cover-up in the first place, had even gone so far as to destroy satellites rather than letting the secret get out. So it is not as if Mr. King is a guardian angel watching over the world in a state of benevolence.
Some manipulation is given, even necessary, to keep the pretence of Valentine's continued survival alive and believable. Mycroft can – and he most certainly will – take advantage of the opportunities handed to him.
It is only a question of limits.
In all honesty, Mycroft doesn't think he'd see Mr. King again. After all, the man has accomplished two missions concerning Mycroft now, first his threat assessment and then the handover of the Valentine case. Of course, Mycroft has no illusions about having seen the last of the man, not really. Though the fact that he can't see the surveillance he is under is a tad nerve-wrecking, he knows it exists. He wouldn't have been given his terrible gift if Mr. King doesn’t have a way to watch over how he made use of it, after all.
But he doesn't think Mr. King would personally get involved again, not unless Mycroft steps beyond his unspoken bounds, something he has no intention – nor any interest – of doing. And true enough, for a long while, he doesn't see a single sign of the man. Mr. King's seat goes empty at the Diogenes club for days, for weeks, and for a while it looks like it would remain empty.
That is fine. The curiosity and interest still burns somewhere in Mycroft's gut – if he could, oh, he would do everything in his power to unearth every secret Mr. King has. But unlike Sherlock, he knows control, and Mr. King isn't a beehive he's all too interested in poking. Not after having seen some of the man's capabilities – and what he's seen so far he suspects is only a fraction of the truth.
He is curious. He is not suicidal. There is disappointment in having no answers, and there is frustration… but he can swallow them all. There are more important things to concern himself with.
And then, out of the blue, Mr. King appears at the Diogenes club.
It happens when Mycroft isn't there, but he has the security feed from the club manned at all times now – he is informed within five minutes of Mr. King's arrival. He hesitates only a little before calling a driver and leaving the office. If he's concerned – if he's going through every decision he's made lately, every move he's made, everything he's subtly done with the power that came from knowing about Valentine… well. That is his business.
Mr. King sits in the general lounge when he arrives, idly reading a newspaper. He wears a different suit this time, a much less severe one, light grey with white pinstripes. Less hostile, Mycroft muses, though he can't help but notice the presence of the umbrella. Mr. King had carried one only once – when he'd handed the Valentine case over to Mycroft.
He doesn't seem to have a bodyguard with him, but then Mycroft hadn't noticed her at first last time either.
The young man glances up at him over the edge of his black-rimmed glasses and smiles. He folds the paper silently and then stands, grabbing the umbrella and following Mycroft out of the general lounge and to the smoker's lounge.
"Mr. King," Mycroft says, once they're private enough not to bother anyone.
"Mr. Holmes," the young man answers and smiles. "You look well. Ruling the world seems to agree with you."
Mycroft pauses a bit at that, clearing his throat. "I wouldn't… go so far as to say that," he says. "It has been… busy."
"I can only imagine," Mr. King says and takes a seat, motioning Mycroft to join him. "You can relax," he says as he digs out the golden cigar case and takes out the electronic cigarette from it. "I'm not here about that."
"No?" Mycroft asks and waves away the attendant who hesitantly lingers by the door. The man bows and leaves, taking the tray of cigarettes with him.
"No," Mr. King says, glancing at the door as the attendant closes it and then looking at Mycroft. "I see you've quit smoking."
"Not quite, but one must make the attempt every now and then," Mycroft says and glances at the golden device in the younger man's hands. "I see you haven't quit vaping."
For some reason that makes the young man grin, the line of his shoulders loosening. "I don't know why, bruv, but it sounds fuckin' weird when you say it," he says. He rolls the e-cig between his fingers. "And no, this shit backfired on me, big time. I'm hooked on this worse than I was on analogs," he admits and gives the device a mirthless look. "They don't regulate this shit, you know, so you can do it pretty much everywhere. It's just too fuckin' easy."
"… Analogs?" Mycroft asks, frowning.
"Analog cigs. The old fashioned shit, you know. I live in the electronic age now, bruv," Mr. King grins at him, and then sucks on the golden simile of a cigarette. The K symbol glows and Mr. King lets the vapour out in a slow, lazy trail. Then he blows a couple of rings, one inside the next, which Mycroft watches with some incredulity.
This man is one of the few people on earth that can make Mycroft nervous, and he's doing smoke tricks.
Mr. King grins at him. "I got a terrorist organisation for you," he then says. "If you feel up to it."
"Indeed?" Mycroft asks, eyebrows arching. There are terrorists aplenty these days – every religious fanatic and their mother are raving and ranting about the evils of man and the western world and capitalism. They've been so far restricted largely by the fact that travelling abroad isn't nearly as easy as it used to be. The whole planet lost about seventy percent of their commercial aircrafts during the V-Day disaster, and what commercial flights are available are strictly monitored.
Mycroft has had to deal with a few himself – but the terrorist activity in the UK has been refreshingly low. The MET had been enough to deal with one of the incidents, and Sherlock had gleefully covered the other. "I suppose something makes these terrorists special," he says slowly.
Mr. King smiles and sucks another lungful of vapour. "They're the dregs of Valentine's mercenaries," he then says, letting the vapour out slowly between words. "Got their hands on some of the chemicals that Valentine used in his early tests, when he was still figurin' out how to fuck the world over. They think they can use them to gain… whatever," he says and then shrugs. "We can take care of it, if it comes to it. But I thought you'd like to have them."
Mycroft stares at him. "You thought I'd like to have them?" he asks then with some disbelief.
"Yes," the young man says, smiling sweetly at him. "Can't say I never give you nothin'."
"And what precisely do you suppose I would do with these… terrorists?"
"Use them to cement the Valentine cover-up?" the young man asks and shrugs. "People are gettin' a bit complacent, now. It's been months, after all. A little incident ought to be just what you need to get things goin' again."
Mycroft leans back, sharply looking away from Mr. King. He can feel the young man's eyes on him, feel him watching – can feel him observing and judging. Mycroft can't meet his eyes, though – he can't… "I am not going to start leading my very own Operation Northwoods, Mr. King," he says tightly.
"No?" Mr. King asks quietly. "Glad to hear it."
Mycroft turns to look at him, and of course… the young man is smiling. He's always smiling. "Still," Mr. King says. "The threat of these people, it's pretty real. As far as we know, they haven't yet landed on a target – but they have the weapons. Enough chemicals to douse about eight city blocks, maybe more. It's not V-Day, but in the right place, at the right time…" he trails away and mouths lazily at the e-cig, watching Mycroft over it. "Stoppin' them before they do anything could be great publicity."
Mycroft swallows and relaxes a little. "And if you handled it…"
"There wouldn't be any publicity," Mr. King agrees. "So I thought I'd make the offer."
Mycroft nods slowly and considers it. "What can you tell me about them?" he then asks.
"Everythin'," Mr. King says, smiling, and then does just that, detailing their history, activities, members, and potential targets. It's a long, but succinctly put, list. "I'll have the necessary files delivered to you," he says and then tilts his head, considering. "They'll be at your house when you head home," he then decides.
Mycroft nods, not even bothering to entertain the urge to feel unease at the notion that the man knows where he lives. "Thank you. That would be most appreciated," he says instead, eyeing the younger man. "Why are you doing this, Mr. King?" he asks then. "Why offer me this opportunity on top of what you've already handed to me? There is no gain in it for you – your people could handle these terrorists with greater ease than mine."
"They could," the young man admits. "It's easier, when you don't have to worry about proper channels."
"Then why? I honestly thought you were done with me."
"Done with you?" Mr. King asks and straightens up from his lazy sprawl, leaning forward instead. "My dear Mr. Holmes, I haven't even started yet," he says, grinning. "Though, got to admit, I totally came here on false pretences. Well, the terrorists are real, but not really that important. I basically just grabbed the first excuse that came my way."
"… Oh?" Mycroft asks, arching his eyebrows and hesitating a little between leaning in and leaning back. The younger man's body language is… predatory. It is slightly concerning. "An excuse to do what?"
"To see you," Mr. King says, whirling the e-cig between his fingers, the gold gleaming enticingly under the soft light of the desk lamp. He smiles and there is something new in his eyes – something that burns in a way that the electronic cigarette doesn't. "I would very much like to take you out on a date, Mr. Holmes. What do you say?"
Mycroft is not nervous.
He has no reason to be.
For one, there was never any other answer he could've given except yes, of course, that would be lovely. Saying no to a man of Mr. King's calibre was not the wisest thing one might do. Also, in all honesty, he hadn't even wanted to decline, not for a moment. The curiosity was still very much alive and well within Mycroft and though the man's abilities and manipulations do make him somewhat uneasy, he can't possibly turn down the chance for further observation.
And for two, he has no reason to believe that Mr. King's invitation had been anything less than an honest one. The man hadn't bothered to be subtle about his interest, after all, and though there is a very real chance it is only another act… there is no reason for it. Mr. King's access to Mycroft is already unprecedented; his power over Mycroft is infuriatingly real. There is no cause for further acts; Mycroft is already under his power.
Of course, Mycroft still doesn't know the full extent of the man's powers, doesn't know the size or strength of his organisation, its true capabilities, its true strengths, but… well, after V-Day and the Valentine Conspiracy…
And, putting aside all of that… Mr. King is very handsome, his manners are both infuriating and enticing at once, and his habits are fascinating. He's young, absurdly so for the power he has and scandalously so to be propositioning men of Mycroft's age. But in a way, Mycroft can understand it – he'd been young once too, young and terribly attracted to power. And one of those things certainly has not changed.
Mr. King is not a political animal. He doesn't care for that type of authority. They are devils of two different hells, Mycroft and Mr. King. But that too only makes the man more alluring. He doesn't care for governmental power because it doesn't matter to him. It doesn't touch him. He's completely beyond those sorts of things.
And now, having been… given leave to appreciate it, Mycroft can't help but admit that it is very appealing indeed. It has been a very long time since he has met someone he honestly thought more powerful than himself – someone he cannot pressure, someone whose life does not hang on the balance of Mycroft's order. Everyone else Mycroft can make disappear with a single word. But not Mr. King.
Dating isn't something Mycroft does. Granted, it isn't something he's ever done. The closest he's ever gotten to such… frivolous activities are the numerous business dinners he's attended, but those are acted out to the tune of influence, not romance.
With Mr. King, they rather seem to be the same thing, though.
So no, he is not nervous.
Not in the slightest.
Mr. King is standing by a taxi cab when Mycroft steps out of his front door. The figure he strikes against the car is oddly mundane – a man in a fine suit, with bulky glasses, casually leaning his weight onto a black umbrella. It's the sort of clichéd image Mycroft himself favours – the standard, forgettable English gentleman, identical to hundreds, to thousands of similar men. It is only the youth that sets Mr. King apart, makes him peculiar.
"Evenin'," Mr. King says, smiling and looking him up and down – appreciative and shameless. "You look downright edible."
"I have changed precisely nothing in my usual attire," Mycroft says somewhat flatly – he's even wearing the exact same suit he wore the last time they talked, when the man had given him a bunch of terrorists as a courting gift.
"Precisely," the young man agrees, his smile spreading into a grin and then shifting and holding out something for him – a folder.
"What's this?" Mycroft asks, accepting it with a slight frown. It looks like work.
"Well I figured red roses might not go over too well, so," Mr. King shrugs.
Mycroft gives him a look and then opens the folder. Technically it is work – it contains a number of confidential documents and files on some of Mycroft's so called opponents in the Parliament, people he'd only begun suspecting of some level of foul play. Judging by the looks of it, some of his suspicions have been false alarms – others not so much.
"Well," Mycroft says and closes the folder. "It is certainly more useful than flowers."
"Thought as much," Mr. King smiles and holds the cab door open. "I hope you're not too hungry, because we've got a show to go to."
"Oh, do we?" Mycroft asks as he tucks the folder under his arm and steps forward, smothering the urge to sneer at the taxi. He'd thought better of the man, except…
He steps in and takes a seat – and the strangeness of the vehicle becomes immediately apparent. The seats are fine, real leather; every piece of metal visible has been polished to a shine; and the panel between the front and back of the taxi is made of hardwood. There is a monitor set into it, along with a little storage compartment with a set of glasses and a couple of bottles of extremely expensive champagne.
Mr. King rides in a custom taxi, apparently, with all the luxuries of an expensive limousine ready at hand – perfectly mundane and ordinary on the outside, and most likely bulletproof on the inside.
"I should've known," Mycroft muses, while the younger man takes a seat beside him, closing the door after himself.
"The theatre, please," Mr. King says to the driver, and then presses a button on the hardwood panel, which lifts a see-through glass between the front and back of the cab. "Would you like a drink, Mycroft?" Mr. King asks, motioning at the bottles. "There's just enough time for a glass before we reach the place."
Mycroft arches an eyebrow at the casual use of his first name. "I'd be delighted," he says, watching the younger man thoughtfully; watching as he opens the nearest bottle with an easy, elegant wrench of his fist – watching how the move makes the fabric of his sleeve go taut around the bicep. Silently, he re-estimates Mr. King's physical fitness. "What should I call you, then?" Mycroft asks as the young man pours. "Mr. King seems rather… impersonal for an outing of this nature."
"If you can stomach calling me Eggsy, that'd be lovely," the young man grins and offers him his glass.
"Eggsy," Mycroft says slowly, rolling the name around his tongue. "However did you come by that one?"
"Wasn't always… this," Mr. King says, motioning at himself. "Me dad came up with it – or I did, when I couldn't pronounce the thin' he tried to call me. It was long ago – but the name kinda stuck with me."
Mycroft considers that, watching him over the edge of his glass. "And you prefer it?"
Mr. King shrugs. "It's what I call myself," he says. "So yea, I reckon I do."
Mycroft nods slowly at that, and mentally reorganises the info he has on Mr. King, re-labelling everything. "Eggsy, then," he says, and holds the glass for a toast. "To preferred identities, perhaps?"
"That works," Eggsy grins, and they gently clink their glasses together and drink.
"I suppose this is the part where I ask you to tell me something about yourself and then you deflect every question?" Mycroft asks after a moment of nearly comfortable silence.
"It could be," Eggsy agrees, angling his body towards Mycroft, one leg over another, an elbow thrown over the backrest. "But I think I'd like you to tell me somethin' about me and then I'll confirm or deny as suits me. Do that deduction thin' you and your brother are so known about. I've been dying to see it."
Mycroft smiles a little stiffly at that, at the reference and at the insinuation both. "Most people find it invasive."
"Most people aren't in the business we are," the young man says, eyebrows lifting suggestively. "Come on, Mycroft. Deduce me."
It takes actual effort not to swallow dryly at that. Instead, Mycroft sets the champagne glass down and then leans back to observe the man. "Well, since you ask so very nicely," he says and holds out his hand. "May I?"
Eggsy offers his hands without hesitation.
"Hm," Mycroft hums, turning them, examining them, running his thumbs along the lines of the other man’s wrists, over his knuckles. "You're a former gymnast and still occasionally practice free running – right handed, but you can shoot ambidextrously. Technically you have no formal martial arts training, but you know combat and your rough style of hand to hand is more adequate for your work, most likely aided by your agility and speed. The adoption to the King family and all things involved with it changed your whole lifestyle, and you're still getting used to it…"
Eggsy lets out a delighted little sound as Mycroft lifts his hand to sniff at his knuckles. "You still smoke and recently you spilled tea over your fingers. You ate curry for lunch. You've also recently seen someone who's smoked marihuana, how very interesting," he says thoughtfully, sniffing at the young man's cuff and then straightening up a little and looking the suit over. It's been recently cleaned, very few clues there. "You have a small dog, a toy breed, short hair… a pinscher? No, a pug, I think," he nods at Eggsy's grin and then looks him over. "And you are terribly attracted to me," Mycroft can't help adding, smiling at the flash of heat in the young man's eyes.
"Doesn't take a genius to figure that out," Eggsy says, a little breathless. "Sheesh, that's hot as fuck."
Mycroft can feel a blush crawl up his neck – good god, is this what Sherlock feels when John does that? Granted, he doubts very much that the good doctor had ever been quite as… rough in his appreciation as this, but still.
"I was right about everything?" he asks, though naturally he was.
"Every little thin'," Eggsy agrees. "How'd you know I shoot ambidextrous? I don't do it enough with my left hand to have calluses."
"Not yet – but there is a faint scar on your left hand," Mycroft says, taking said hand and turning it. "Here," he says, running a finger over it. "It's from a slide I believe – it's recent, fading, but still visible enough if you know what you're looking for. Practice injury, I think?"
"Testing new weaponry – the slide was a bit sharp," Eggsy says, watching him almost eagerly. "And me not being used to the life of a King?" he asks, his smile widening into a broad grin.
"You fiddle with your signet ring, your cuffs, and your watch – first it was because you weren't used to wearing such things. Now it is because you can't help it – you're too smug," Mycroft says, turning the man's right hand instead, motioning at the signet ring. "You flaunt them now, especially the ring. Which, by the by, isn't precisely civil in polite company. But I suppose you're not exactly looking to be civil and polite, are you?"
"No. You're a smug little shit and entirely too fond of making everyone know it, too," Mycroft says, watching him. "You like winding people up, making them… frustrated. You're very good at it too."
"Fuck," Eggsy mutters, licking his lips. "If you were a bit younger I'd try to recruit the fuck out of you."
Mycroft scoffs faintly at that, looking down. "Not an appropriate fitness level for your line of work, hm?" he asks, leaning back and releasing the younger man's hands.
"Too set in your ways too," Eggsy says with mingled regret and appreciation. "Too many habits we'd have to train out of you, too much trouble. But on the other hand… if I did, then I couldn't do this." He adds, motioning between himself and Mycroft and smiling. "And I am lookin' forward to this."
"Oh, I know," Mycroft says, and picks up his champagne glass again, smiling against the edge of the glass.
They don't pay any attention to the theatre whatsoever. Mycroft isn't into that sort of entertainment in the first place, and Eggsy gets bored watching the actors on stage and so, within five minutes, it devolves into Eggsy pointing out people in the audience and Mycroft deducing them for his entertainment.
"What about that one?" the younger man asks, leaning in, whispering the words almost against Mycroft's ear. "Seems a bit fidgety."
"Hired escort," Mycroft says with barely a glance. "She came here in the company of a man who has since left her – I saw him earlier and judging by what little I saw of him, he is married and cheating on his wife. He saw someone he knew and bolted. She doesn't enjoy theatre one bit and wants to leave – but she's been paid to be here, and the tickets were already bought for her, so she's hesitating between trying to find enjoyment in an unusually easy night of work. And she's still a little uncertain whether he is coming back, so… she's forcing herself to stay."
Eggsy grins. "Lucky girl," he says and then nods at a couple a little to the left of her. "How about them? What can you tell me about them?"
"Married for thirteen… fifteen years. Childless," Mycroft says, eyeing the couple. "Formerly on the verge of divorce, but… I suspect V-Day changed things for them – they are closer now. They most likely lost people around them, loved ones, and are now finding support in each other the way they didn't before – the way they didn't need to. This looks to be their first outing in months, too – neither is used to wearing finery and neither came prepared for an extended viewing."
"They both need to take a piss?" Eggsy asks, grinning.
"Quite badly, yes."
He's definitely starting to see why Sherlock keeps John around. Eggsy's sheer, unhidden delight at everything Mycroft deduces is gratifying in a way such things have never been before. Mycroft grew up with Sherlock, after all – it only took a few years for him to grow sick and tired of the appeals of deduction, it being Sherlock's preferred form of entertainment when they'd been young. Eggsy isn't trying to outdo him, though, isn't demanding explanations. He doesn't care how Mycroft comes to his conclusions, doesn't demand every step of the deductive process to be presented for him to examine and contest. He's satisfied just with the result.
Slowly, Mycroft is relaxing into it, finding more than a bit of enjoyment in it – and Eggsy certainly seems to enjoy every moment, gleefully basking in the secrets of others. Apparently young Mr. King likes it when people show off to him.
Mycroft is very good at showing off when he wants to.
"Do you see the man over there – blue shirt, crooked collar, you can see a bit of a dark grey tie with white stripes underneath it?" he asks, leaning in to murmur in the younger man's ear – Eggsy shivers as he turns and nods. Mycroft smiles. "I think he’s planning something."
"Hm?" Eggsy asks with interest, leaning into him slightly. "Go on."
"He's stalking one of the actresses – the little brunette with the slightly uneven chin and lactose intolerance. He's been doing nothing but taking pictures of her this whole time, and he's captured video too. She knows him, is visibly aware of his presence, and she’s nervous about it," Mycroft says and glances over the audience. "But she hasn't told anyone about him – she's been backstage a couple of times but security hasn't been notified. Ex-boyfriend perhaps, or a distant relation."
"A'right," Eggsy agrees. "And he's plannin' somethin'?"
"He's been keeping one eye on the audience and the security this whole time, and I do believe he's marked the exits too…" Mycroft says and then frowns a little, his mind jumping ahead. "I do believe he has a bomb."
Eggsy blinks at that and then turns to look at him – as he does, Mycroft's lips graze his cheekbone. "A bomb," he says slowly as he arches an eyebrow. "Not a gun?"
"If he had one he'd be fiddling with it, and a homemade explosive device is easier to acquire in the UK than a firearm. Balance of probability. Also, he seems to be on the clock," Mycroft says, frowning. "As he takes a picture, he checks the time on it. And he's been doing it more and more as time goes on. Look, he's not taking pictures anymore, but he's keeping the phone up, despite the man on his right complaining about it."
"Hmm," Eggsy hums, considering. "How much time do you think there is?"
"Less than two minutes," Mycroft says.
"Perfect," Eggsy says and then pushes his weight against Mycroft for a moment, brushing his cheek against Mycroft's, the rim of his glasses pressing against Mycroft's cheekbone. "Hold that thought, bruv. I'll be right back." Then he stands.
Mycroft is then treated to a play of his own. Eggsy makes as if to leave, navigating his way through the audience and, somehow, without it seeming at all strange, making his way frontward. He snatches a paper coffee cup from someone's seat on his way, and holds it as if it's full, as if it's hot, and then makes his way to the bomber's row, and starts stumbling his way into it, murmuring apologies and flashing sheepish little grins at people – and then almost falls all over their bomber, the coffee cup falling in the man's lap.
There is a flurry of hushed apologies, Eggsy patting the man over in blatant horror as if he's worried about having scalded him with the coffee that didn't even exist – the act is very convincing. Then, a moment later, Eggsy is continuing on his way, hunched and embarrassed.
The bomber is left behind, sitting slightly slumped over. And when Eggsy joins Mycroft, it's with a backpack in hand.
"Did you kill him?" Mycroft asks with interest.
"Just knocked him out for a bit," Eggsy says as he sits down and opens the bag, tilting his head as he peers inside. Mycroft leans in to look – a simple, borderline juvenile design; a mix of basic household chemicals, a simple ignition trigger, and a timer taken from a digital alarm clock. Explosive radius of maybe five meters.
Eggsy dismantles it with an amused little snort by wrenching a couple of wires askew, stopping the counter and then looking at Mycroft with a smile – and under the dim lights of the theatre, he looks unbelievably fetching, a smug little shit that saved possibly dozen of lives by stumbling over people.
"You're great," Eggsy says with a sigh, full of satisfaction.
"You are ridiculous," Mycroft answers with a shake of his head and eyes the bag. "What shall we do with this?"
"I'll drop it back in his lap after the play's over and call in an anonymous tip to the appropriate authorities," Eggsy shrugs, leaning against his shoulder comfortably. "And then we have dinner."
They don't really watch the rest of the play either – fortunately, there are no other bombers in attendance, but there are plenty of little secrets in the audience for Mycroft to keep Eggsy fully entertained until curtain call. Altogether it is a rather pleasant show, and at the end of it Eggsy does as planned, dropping the remains of the bomb in the bomber's lap, and idly calling the police. He and Mycroft then leave in Eggsy's custom taxi, listening to the distant sirens.
The dinner is excellent too – though Mycroft can't entertain Eggsy the way he had at the theatre, as there is simply no way to whisper into the man's ear in a semi crowded restaurant, not without alerting the people around them. As it is, they're already attracting a fair bit of attention. Most of that is due to Eggsy – the young man is shameless; his interest in Mycroft is so obvious that even an idiot would've seen the outing for what it was.
"It doesn't bother you in the least," Mycroft comments, and he can't help but sound a little fond.
"Hm? Oh, that?" Eggsy asks, glancing at a nearby table where a family of four are all sending pointed little looks their way. Parents, age forty and forty three, and their children, eighteen and fourteen. The fourteen year old – a girl with scars over her face, badly hidden under a long fringe of hair, is smothering little giggles while the eighteen year old boy with a recently healed broken arm frowns and makes faces. Both of them were battered by V-Day, judging by the progression of the recovery of their injuries. The parents – married for seventeen years – are full of disapproval.
The father is even considering coming over and talking to Eggsy. As irritating as it is, Mycroft can almost understand.
"You are fairly young for me," he comments to his companion.
"Only if you don't know the life expectancy of people like me," Eggsy shrugs.
Mycroft arches an eyebrow at him. "Low, is it?"
"It's a little low, yeah," Eggsy says and shrugs. "Well, there were a couple of outliers, but… on average, pretty low. V-Day sort of fucked up our statistics. It doesn't bother you, though," he then says, eyeing Mycroft with amusement. "I know it doesn't."
"I'm the object of the blatant interest of a younger, attractive man who is at the very peak of physical fitness and capability," Mycroft says flatly. "Never mind the rest. What on earth do I have to complain about?"
Eggsy grins. "Nice to be appreciated, bruv," he says, lifting his glass in half a toast before taking a sip and lowering it. "Honestly, though – it don't bother you none?"
Mycroft rolls his eyes at the man's blasted double negatives and cuts into his fish. "None," he agrees and gathers some of the fish onto his fork. "Though I do find myself questioning your taste in men."
"Is that insecurity I hear?" Eggsy asks with a delighted grin. "Are you fishin' for compliments? Because I got loads."
"No, merely concern for your mental health," Mycroft mutters, a little more at ease now.
"Oh, yes, because there's nothin' desirable about an extremely intelligent and powerful man in a fine suit," Eggsy says with an amused snort.
"You have a type then?"
"I have an appreciation for the finer things in life," the younger man says, raking his eyes up and down. He hums and arches his eyebrows, deliberate and obviously approving.
Mycroft shakes his head at that, and most certainly doesn't blush.
Mr. King takes him home, a perfect – smug bastard of a – gentleman to the very end. Mycroft can't deny that he has had a fairly lovely time, though. Granted, he doesn't have much to compare to – for all he knows it might've been the worst romantic outing in the history of such things. But compared to business dinners… it had definitely been much more enjoyable.
And now he's more or less certain that young Mr. King isn't looking to influence him further – nothing outside what he obviously wants that… well.
"I don't suppose you might be about to invite me in for a late cup of coffee?" the young man asks with a grin as he holds the taxi door open for Mycroft.
"Not this time I don't think," Mycroft says, tucking the folder Eggsy gave him under his arm and idly patting his hand over his pocket in search for his smokes – except, of course, he didn't bring any. He shakes his head. "Since you are obviously about to go out of your way to seduce me, I think I will put you through your paces properly, make you work for it."
"A'right, I can do that, I can definitely do that," Eggsy agrees amiably enough, taking out his golden cigar case and from it the electronic cigarette. He offers it to Mycroft who eyes it dubiously before accepting it. Eggsy has changed the flavour – it is neither honey nor lemon nor is it strawberry. It is somewhat sweeter, with a near alcoholic tang.
"Did you at least enjoy yourself tonight?" Eggsy asks a little plaintively, leaning against the cab's side while Mycroft holds the vapour in, basking in the nicotine hit.
"It was… not what I was expecting," Mycroft admits, though that was largely because daytime television had given him some ridiculous ideas which he now rather wishes he could forget. "But the evening was enjoyable enough."
"I guess I can live with enjoyable enough. Gotta try harder next time," Eggsy says, watching him as Mycroft blows vapour slowly in his direction. The young man shifts and his knee bounces restlessly for a moment before he suddenly gives in. "Oh, fuck it, come here," he says, whisking his own glasses off and then grabbing Mycroft by the front of his suit jacket.
The kiss has the taste of champagne, with the vapour breaking somewhere between them and dousing them both in butterscotch and whiskey. Eggsy laughs delightedly as Mycroft coughs softly against his lips, surprised – and then Eggsy has his hands on the sides of his skull, and the younger man is directing him, pulling him in and to another, better kiss.
There is nothing gentlemanly about it – it goes deep and wet and filthy instantly, with Eggsy sucking the last of the vapour from Mycroft’s tongue and rolling it between them until the taste is smothered under the champagne and what remains of their dinner. Mycroft can't quite decide how he likes it – it's invasive and wet and not much like what little he remembers of kisses from the few times in his youth when he'd thought to experiment. There is nothing shy or tentative or gentle about it. Like everything about Eggsy, it's outrageous and powerful and utterly captivating.
Eggsy leans back a little, licking his lips and watching Mycroft with a self-satisfied heat in his eyes and smugness written all over every little nuance of his expression. His lips have already gone red, a stark contrast against his skin, which had grown paler with the cool night air. Mycroft stares at him thoughtfully, rolling the taste in his mouth, the memory in his head. The thought of them, together.
After a moment of silence, Mycroft lifts the e-cig to his lips again, sucks, and watches the younger man's pupils flare. Eggsy leans in, his lips parting – obviously expecting another kiss. Mycroft doesn't give it to him. "It's been a lovely evening," he says instead and hands the device back. Then he blows the vapour out – too far away and too slowly for the younger man to inhale it. "Good night, Mr. King."
Eggsy makes a noise like it hurts, but he accepts the e-cigarette. He looks flushed and furious and utterly lovely as he stares at Mycroft.
"Good night, Mr. Holmes," he says, and it sounds a little like a threat. "Until next time."
"Is Sherlock planning something ridiculous for Shirley again?" John asks when he lets Mycroft in. "Because we're still recovering from his previous play date."
"Not that I know of," Mycroft says, stepping into the Watson's house. Like always, he feels a tiny flash of satisfaction as he looks around. He might've had… a small hand in helping them land the house. It was a little out of the Watsons' pay range at the time they'd bought it, but it hadn't really taken much to persuade the seller to lower the price to a more manageable number – not so low that John would grow suspicious, but not so high that he and Mary couldn't manage the mortgage.
The Watsons' house has that same homely, well-lived and well-loved atmosphere as the house Mycroft's and Sherlock's parents have – except perhaps with a bit more turbulence. After all, the home Mycroft had grown up in hadn't been that of a former army doctor with an addiction to danger or a highly skilled intelligence agent. The Watsons' home is a reflection of its occupants.
It has quite a number of secret gun safes.
"Perhaps for my next retaliation I will merely disrupt whatever plans Sherlock might have brewing," Mycroft muses and then looks at John expectantly. "Where is my goddaughter?"
With a roll of his eyes, John motions him to the living room where little Shirley is sitting in a bouncy chair and – much to Mycroft's satisfaction – rattling a toy he had bought her. She's nearly three months old now and growing stronger and bigger every time Mycroft sees her. Of course Mycroft doesn't see her that often, but each visit is memorable in its own way.
Mycroft produces a new toy for her – a novelty plushie one of his assistants has bought in his stead as he'd been a little too busy and utterly unwilling to visit a toy store. It's a stuffed toy umbrella – the assistant had thought she was being very witty about it, up until the moment she'd actually presented it to him and then reality had struck her. The moment of terror when she thought she'd just gotten herself fired was absolutely delightful.
Mycroft can already imagine Sherlock's outrage when he sees the soft little umbrella. If only Mary wasn't so skilled at finding bugs…
John snorts at it, falling to sit on the nearby couch. "Cute," he says, watching with a crooked smile as Mycroft somewhat awkwardly gives the toy to Shirley, who accepts it with great suspicion. She doesn't see him often enough to truly remember him, and she's inherited John's suspicion and Mary's knack for… whatever she has the knack for. It manifests in scrunched, surly looks and pursed little lips and if Mycroft were anyone else, he would have called it adorable.
"So, what can I do for you, Mycroft?" John asks while Mycroft backs away from his goddaughter and takes a seat in a nearby armchair. "And if you want something from Sherlock, you're out of luck. I'm not doing it."
"I want nothing from Sherlock currently," Mycroft says – which is not strictly speaking true; there are always dozens of cases where a man of Sherlock's abilities could come in handy, but in this case… "And I know you're intending to spend your paternity leave case-free, for which I commend you."
"Sherlock definitely doesn't," John snorts, looking at Shirley. Mycroft tilts his head a bit, amused. It no doubt frustrates Sherlock to no end that Mary had cut her maternity leave short and that it is instead John who'd become the stay at home parent. To Mycroft, it only makes sense – though John's pay is certainly better than Mary's, Mary, unlike John, enjoys her work at the hospital. She downright delights in the mundane, whereas John finds it to be something like necessary torment.
Fatherhood suits John, though. It has settled something restless in him.
"What do you want, Mycroft?" John asks, watching him.
Mycroft hesitates, turning his attention to his umbrella and turning the handle in his hand. "Your strict confidence, for one," he says and then, when John frowns suspiciously at him, he adds, "Rest assured, it is not work related. Not mine and certainly not Sherlock's." Which is again not quite true, but… close enough.
"Right," John says, eyes narrowed. "So whatever you want, you don't want me to tell anyone about it? Or… you don't want me to tell Sherlock about it?"
Mycroft makes a face but nods, rather disbelieving of himself, that he actually came here but… well. In his current circle of acquaintance, John is the only one with any experience, and he is the only one he knows he can trust explicitly. It is rather humiliating, really.
"Medical issue?" John asks, prodding. "Embarrassing medical issue?"
"Oh, good God, no," Mycroft snorts. Except maybe if one considers brain chemistry embarrassing, and Mycroft's brain chemistry is just as he likes it. "No, not medical. It's…" he trails away, pressing his lips tightly together. "I'm seeing someone."
Whatever John had been expecting, that certainly doesn't seem to be it – the man leans back as if Mycroft just declared that there is a bomb in the room. "Seeing – you? You're, what… dating?" John asks and lets out a sound that is something between a snort and strangled disbelief. To his credit, though, he swallows the initial reflexive ridicule and instead tries for a straight expression. "Alright," he says instead, awkward, almost laughing. "Someone from work?"
Mycroft sighs. This is a mistake and he regrets it already. "No," he says. "Someone from outside work, and I didn't come here to gossip about them, I came to… seek advice."
"Advice," John says and the amusement makes his voice a little higher than normal. "From me. You. Well this is a new development. You're having problems then?"
Mycroft gives him a flat look.
"I can't give you any advice if you don't tell me what you're having trouble with," John says, covering his mouth with his hand. "Good grief, you, dating… The world is changing, isn't it? Come on then, Mycroft. What's the problem?"
"Everything is the problem. Do you imagine I have much experience with these sorts of things?" Mycroft asks, annoyed, and looks away.
"Well… honestly I've never thought about it. You. In that specific context," the good doctor admits and finally manages to get his amusement under control. "Sherlock can sham it brilliantly, though, so I figure he has at least experimented with stuff like dating, enough to get good enough at acting. And you're, well… you."
"Yes, but unlike Sherlock I have never been in any situation where I would be required to sham it, and therefore I have never really bothered to… experiment," Mycroft rolls his eyes.
Mycroft sighs, shaking his head. "Romance has never interested me. I find most people to be…" he tries to find a word for it. "Vapid and tedious. Especially in that context. I always knew that if I tried I could very easily manipulate anyone with any level of interest in me into doing whatever I wanted and that simply isn't in any way stimulating for me."
"And that's different now?" John asks curiously.
"I know I can't manipulate him," Mycroft admits. "There's nothing I can do that would… influence him in that way."
John's eyebrows shoot up at that. "Well," he says slowly and then narrows his eyes. "He's not a criminal right? Not another Moriarty?"
Mycroft gives him a look.
"Hey, I'm just checking. The last time that Sherlock found an equal, there were bombings and robberies and god knows what else, and he ended up faking his own death for two years," the doctor mutters. "Can't even imagine what sorts of damage your equal would do. Destroy the whole planet, probably."
Mycroft thinks about the Valentine Conspiracy and doesn't say anything.
John apparently sees something of it in his expression though, because he shudders. "Jesus. Okay, so," he says. "You… I guess you're at least interested in this bloke? You like him? And want it to… work out?"
Mycroft rolls his eyes at the doctor's floundering. "Obviously. I'm here, am I not?" he says cuttingly and scowls. "We've had one outing, and it was… good. But…" He trails away again, scowling and turning his eyes to his goddaughter instead. She's banging the umbrella and the other toy together gleefully.
John watches him closely for a moment. "Do you like him?" he asks then.
"For a given value of like. I find him…" Exciting, intriguing, captivating, utterly bewildering and excruciatingly handsome. "… Stimulating."
The good doctor just barely manages to stifle the snort of amusement. "Alright," he says. "Does he like you?"
"Yes," Mycroft answers with a scowl. Eggsy hasn't exactly tried to hide his admiration; quite the opposite, in fact.
"That's good. Are you going to… have another outing?"
"Most likely, yes."
"Then… what's the problem?"
Mycroft says nothing for a while, staring at Shirley instead before looking away, back at his umbrella handle. "I don't know what to expect," he finally admits.
"Okay, alright, now we're getting somewhere," John says and leans forward for a moment. "But you being, well, you and all... do you actually even want to know what to expect?" he asks, tilting his head a bit and watching Mycroft closely. "You can predict almost everything about everybody, can't you? Sherlock's pretty much the only person who's ever been able to pull one over you. You find this guy stimulating. You can't manipulate him. And you don't know what to expect. That's got to be a pretty unique situation for you. So do you really want to… I don't know, ruin that?"
"If I knew what to expect, I could try and… maximise the success of the experience," Mycroft mutters, and even to his own ears he sounds a tad petulant.
John blinks at him. "You're already doing pretty well there, I think. Just wanting something like this to work goes a long way in actually making it work," he says. "So this bloke likes you, and you want it to work out with him. That's a pretty damn good start."
"Is it?" Mycroft asks flatly and looks at him. "You shared a mutual wish for a happy ending with many before Mary, and it never seemed to be enough."
"Well, apparently that's because none of them were psychopaths," John snorts. "So I guess subconsciously I wasn't really trying that hard. Do you have a similar problem? Does he?"
Mycroft considers that for a moment and then stands up. "Thank you, doctor. I think I can handle it from here."
"Sure, any time," John says with a shake of his head. "Just, Mycroft? Relationships are always uncertain, especially at the start. I don't know how it's for people on… well, your level, but everyone goes in a little blind, putting their best foot forward and hoping for the best. Just… try," he suggests and then considers. "Don't try too hard though. Stalking and kidnapping aren't good bases for any relationship."
"Oh I don't know," Mycroft muses, thinking about Eggsy's occupation and their first… date. The whole package. "I think he'd find it quite exciting."
"Jesus Christ, don't tell me he's really like you?" the doctor says with some disbelief. "There can't be two of you."
"Like me?" Mycroft says, smiling. "Oh no. He's much worse."
A couple of days after Mycroft's talk with the good Doctor Watson, he receives a packet at work. It's long, white and vaguely resembles a box one might send roses in. It's even wrapped with a large red ribbon with an incredibly elaborate bow. However, it's made of metal, has a keypad lock, and would only fit a couple of extraordinarily long roses.
"When did it come in?" Mycroft asks, frowning at it.
"Just a couple of minutes before you came in, sir," his assistant says. "It's been scanned and tested of course. Would you like to know the contents?"
Mycroft glances at her, and then reaches for the tag that hangs from the bow. The paper is thick, with a high fibre count, but someone's scrawled on it by hand, using a black marker that was almost out of ink judging by the faintness of the writing.
It only reads <3.
Rubbing the paper between his fingers, Mycroft considers it for a moment and then shakes his head. "No, I don't think I would like to know the contents, thank you," he says and picks the box up. It's surprisingly light, for all that it's apparently armoured. "Unless it is something truly important, please do not bother me for the next half an hour."
He carries the box into his office and sets it on top of his desk. There, he examines it meticulously, running his fingers over the seams and considering the bow. The box is made from weapons grade metal and the keypad lock is similarly hardy; the hinges are covered up and beyond tampering – custom made, but quite sturdy. Forcing it open is out of the question. The keypad lock has no screen, and the buttons are metal plated – the numbers are engraved on them in gold. Painted with actual gold, he suspects, judging by the gleam and their reaction to light.
The silk ribbon, in stark contrast, is a cheap one. Three centimetres in width and a hundred and fifty in length. It's wrapped around the box a little sloppily, by someone who knows how to wrap a bow, but doesn't do it often and most certainly not as part of a profession. Not a store clerk. Whoever wrapped it though spent some effort on it, looping the silk several times, arranging it carefully.
And of course, then there is the card. Cheap marker on expensive paper.
Obviously, it's from Eggsy.
Mycroft smiles, unable to help himself as he runs the ends of the cheap ribbon over his fingers, eyeing the keypad lock. If he knows Eggsy at all, he will probably have only one chance to get the number right – and honestly speaking, he would be a tad insulted if Eggsy gave him several chances. A number lock, however... it doesn't leave much to work with. They have never discussed codes in their handful of interactions.
Unless, of course, it is akin to a telephone keypad with corresponding letters.
Mycroft leans back a little and then goes over all the possible pass codes Eggsy might've used. The obvious he dismisses instantly – their names, locations they have visited, items they have handled, things they have discussed. All of them are far too simple and an intelligence agent of Eggsy's calibre would know better than to use something so easily deduced for something like this. Something unspoken then? That is a bit of a stretch and Mycroft's unspoken impressions would be different from Eggsy's, so correlation would have to have been confirmed beforehand...
No, it's something else. Something on the packet itself. And the only thing that Mycroft has to go on is the bow and the card...
"Oh, of course," he murmurs, and shakes his head at himself before reaching to input the number.
It unlocks with a satisfying little click.
Inside, there is a letter and a single thing set in a foam holder – an umbrella. Mycroft arches an eyebrow at the umbrella before reaching for the letter – the same rich paper, folded thrice and unsealed.
Gonna be out of country for a week for work, and so gotta postpone our date a bit. Will see you when I get back, though, you can count on that. In the meantime, if you'd do me the favour of switching to using this umbrella as opposed to your own, I'd be most obliged. It's not exactly like the one I use – this model is a bit older, a bit less high tech, but it still works – and definitely better than your regular old broly. No offence. But it really is.
PS. If you have a firing range at your disposal, go test it.
Mycroft's eyebrows shoot up and he turns to look at the umbrella with astonishment. A little disbelieving, he reaches out and carefully removes it from the case, cautiously turning it in his hand. It's not heavy enough to conceal any sort of firing mechanism, he doesn't think – the handle is wooden, and there are no hidden triggers aside from those of a regular umbrella...
Test it at a firing range?
Standing up and turning away from the table, Mycroft unwinds the clasp on the thing and then slowly pushes it open. It looks nothing unusual, no hidden mechanisms, no triggers, no switches... except that the ribs are made of reinforced carbon steel.
Oh. The thing is bulletproof.
Running his fingers over the stretched fabric of the umbrella, Mycroft shakes his head a little. It looks like normal nylon, but it is thicker than it looks – and it's not Kevlar. He doesn't know what it is. He's never seen anything like it.
Mr. King's people have their own, secret, bulletproof fabrics.
Suddenly, it's starting to make sense that there is a spy agency out there that has a bespoke suit for a uniform.
Mycroft has Anthea test the umbrella at the MI6 firing ranges – booking the whole firing range for her and then hacking all the surveillance equipment to make sure no one would record the testing, of course. She proves that the umbrella is indeed bulletproof, more so than any other fabric she's ever seen.
"It's even better than most metals. Things just ricochet off it," she says while handing the umbrella back. "And all without leaving a mark. I didn't test it with armour piercing rounds though, but this thing is amazing, sir. Where did you get it? Because I'd rather like one myself."
"It was a gift," Mycroft says, running his hands over the length of the thing, frowning. "I trust I need not expound on the subject of confidentiality on this matter?"
"Naturally not sir," Anthea says, eyeing the umbrella covetously. "Whoever gave you this – you intend to hold onto them, sir?"
"Oh, yes," Mycroft murmurs and sets the umbrella to rest against the edge of the desk beside him, knowing that he will never go without it again. "I rather think I do."
He gets another gift the next day – a smaller box this time, not as heavily armoured as the previous one. This one is made of polished and finely lacquered wood, with a quaint little padlock, and a familiar red ribbon. The symbol on the card is the same, written with the same marker. Apparently, young Mr. King had prepared for his trip abroad and left Mycroft a whole arrangement of gifts.
It takes Mycroft nearly fifteen minutes to pick the custom lock on the box – he has to borrow his assistant's lock picks in the end, but he manages it eventually. Inside, carefully set in packing foam, is a familiar looking golden cigar case. Inside it there is a glass phial full of clear liquid, an USB cable, and an electronic cigarette broken in two along the near invisible seam between the make-belief filter and the rest of the device.
He spends some time examining all the components, testing them with the equipment he has brought in from downstairs. The battery is far too good for its size, better than the best of lithium ion batteries of a similar size. The atomiser is a work of art, with an intricate little coil and a state of the art airflow sensor. The liquid reservoir is surprisingly large for a device so small, and the sponge is made of yet another material he's never seen before. The case itself serves as the recharging station, having its own battery with quite a bit of battery life. When the golden e-cigarette is charging, the symbol of an elongated K in a circle glows at its end.
All told, it is all expert craftsmanship, not to mention quite expensive – the case and the shell of the cigarette are both real gold, and there's enough of it there for the device to have a price up in the thousands in a pre-V-Day economy. Even nowadays it would certainly not be cheap to make.
After putting the thing together again, Mycroft fills the reservoir and carefully tests it out.
Butterscotch and whiskey. Of course.
"Cheeky little shit," he murmurs, smiling, and quietly beats Sherlock in their ongoing game by quitting smoking there and then.
And then he finds Eggsy in his office.
"Hope you don't mind – I kinda let myself in," the young man says while Mycroft stands by the entrance, staring at him.
Eggsy looks like… well. Shit. One of his eyes is nearly swollen shut and there is a scrape across his cheekbone which is red and raw and looks quite painful. One of his arms is in a sling – not broken, but the wrist and hand have been bandaged, the thumb splinted, and judging by the angle he keeps it in, his shoulder has been dislocated sometime recently. And if Mycroft isn't entirely wrong, Eggsy has at least two broken ribs.
Mycroft opens his mouth to comment on his appearance, but decides against it. "So I see," he says instead and steps fully into his office, closing the door – wondering how Eggsy had gotten past his assistant. No one was supposed to just waltz into his office like that, not even Sherlock had that liberty – and yet here Eggsy is. "What can I do for you, Mr. King?"
"Oh, are we back to last names?" Eggsy asks, and pouts terribly at him.
"You're in my office – in a professional setting," Mycroft points out, hesitating between approaching the younger man and going around his desk to sit down. He decides on Eggsy instead and walks closer to him, watching him closely as he does. "How was your trip, then?"
"Shitty, absolutely shitty," Eggsy grins, reaching out his good hand and tugging at Mycroft's suit jacket until he comes closer, close enough for the young man to take him by the tie and tug him down.
The kiss tastes a little like blood and pain, brief though it is. It seems to please the younger man, though, because Eggsy sighs with something like relief before releasing him. "Better," he says. "Hello, Mycroft. Long time no see."
"Hello, Eggsy. Did you at least achieve your objective?" Mycroft asks, running a fingertip near the cut on Eggsy's cheekbone. Near miss with something rough, a broken piece of wood perhaps. The cuts hadn't been bad, but they'd been deep enough to bleed – and they'd been on their way to infection before they had been attended to. The eye, that was probably a punch, or a blow with a blunt object. The arm, the hand…
"Yeah, more or less," Eggsy says, shifting where he sits as Mycroft examines the injured arm. "You're usin' my umbrella," he then says, smiling at the sight of it, hanging from Mycroft's arm.
"Well, I'm carrying it. There haven't been any opportunities so far to actually use it, for which I am deeply grateful," Mycroft says and runs a fingertip very lightly along Eggsy's injured shoulder. The hand had been trapped under something – Eggsy had sprained his wrist, and dislocated both his thumb and the shoulder in order to get loose. Recovery time of two weeks if he avoided strenuous activity. The ribs would take longer, however, but judging by the angle Eggsy is sitting at, they're not broken too badly.
"What are you doing here, Eggsy?" Mycroft asks, satisfied that none of the injuries are bad and that they all have been expertly tended to. Stepping back, he leans against the edge of his desk and folds his arms. "And is it wise for you to be here?"
"Probably not," Eggsy says, leaning back and looking Mycroft up and down. "But I thought I deserved a bit of a reward after a job well done."
Unimpressed, Mycroft arches an eyebrow at that. "I have work to do," he says, though it doesn't sound quite as severe as he wished it did.
Eggsy grins. "I could help you with that."
Well, that's an interesting notion. Mycroft considers it for a moment, considering the secrets, the confidentiality – and then the near offensive ease with which Eggsy has so far passed the strictest levels of security in place to protect said secrets. "Alright," he decides and pushes away from the desk, walking around it instead. "What do you know about Lord Platt?"
Eggsy tilts his head a bit, thinking about it. "Bit of an activist and known lobbyist, holds amazin' parties and has a lot of friends in all the wron' places. Made some comments recently about Valentine and V-day – mixed between the evils of corporations and the so called truth about over population. Toeing the line of whether he approves of V-day or not. Probably would've had a head explosive if he'd been important enough at the time. I think he's bangin' his own cousin."
Mycroft blinks. "He is? Which one?"
"Lisa Platt," Eggsy shrugs.
"Christ," Mycroft mutters and opens his laptop. "I need to discredit him enough that people will stop taking his expert advice on political matters. Having sexual relations with a relative should certainly do the trick."
Between Mycroft's own machinations and Eggsy's terrifyingly in-depth insider knowledge, Mycroft manages to deal away with Lord Platt along with some other little issues that have been jamming up the works in his government recently. The further along they go, however, the stranger it gets. Eggsy's knowledge.
Mycroft has no illusions about the younger man's intellect – Eggsy is a brilliant man. But there is a difference between being intelligent and being knowledgeable, and Eggsy is a little too knowledgeable. The last time Mycroft had encountered a man with such ability to simply call upon any information he wished… was with Charles Magnussen. The man had hoarded the dirty secrets of others like they were gems, and that had not ended well for anyone.
Eggsy has an appreciation for secrets – their outing at the theatre had certainly shown that. But Mycroft hadn't thought it was quite this… deep rooted. The young man seems to know everything about everybody, and Mycroft is almost tempted to start throwing names at random just to see what Eggsy knew about them.
Mycroft realises he's fallen silent for a little too long when he feels Eggsy watching him curiously. "Have you figured it out yet?" the young man asks. "How I do it?"
Mycroft frowns at that and looks at him. "There's a trick to it?" he asks, frowning.
"Of course there is a trick to it," the young man grins.
Leaning back in his chair, Mycroft stares at him in consideration. So it wasn't memorisation – Eggsy wasn't pulling the facts out of his head after all. That was a little relieving. But if he wasn't, then… how…
"Oh," Mycroft says. "I had wondered about the glasses."
"Hm?" Eggsy asks, tilting his head a little, smiling.
"They have no prescription," Mycroft says. "You don't need them – but you always wear them. I had thought it was for protection, or for style. This makes much more sense. I suppose they're voice activated and linked to a database?"
Eggsy just grins at him and leans in to press a light little kiss on Mycroft's lips. "Let's go have lunch," he says. "My treat."
"I suppose we've been working for long enough," Mycroft says, still watching him, eyeing the glasses, wondering. The resources Eggsy's people have at their disposal… Shaking his head, he reaches out and closes the laptop lid. "I don't suppose there is a handy taxi cab waiting near the office?"
"It'll be there for us when we need it," Eggsy agrees and together they stand, Eggsy with a slight wince. Mycroft eyes him, trailing his gaze along the rumpled front of the younger man's suit and then, deliberately, reaches out to readjust it, tugging the lapels straight and straightening the tie before running his hand down along the younger man's front, to smooth out the minute wrinkles.
Under the suit, Eggsy is very fit, his muscles hard and solid from true use, rather than from weightlifting. Mycroft rather wishes he could unbutton all the fabrics to feel it first hand, nothing in between his hand and Eggsy's skin. Idly he wonders if the younger man has bruises. How would they feel under his hand? Swollen? Hot?
"Cheers, bruv," Eggsy says, watching him with low lidded eyes, and with a stiff little nod Mycroft pulls his hands back.
His assistant has a small conniption when she sees Mycroft leaving his office with Eggsy in tow. And Eggsy, being the little shit he is, winks outrageously at her as they walk past her desk. Mycroft sighs and digs out his phone, sending his PA an "everything's fine, you didn't see anything" type of message. Hopefully, that would soothe her ruffled nerves a bit. She makes horrible tea when she's nervous.
Though Mycroft expects Eggsy to take him to another outrageously expensive restaurant, like he did during their first date, he doesn't. Instead there is a picnic basket waiting for them in the custom taxi, and Eggsy has the driver take them to Regent's Park.
"You're surely joking," Mycroft says when the driver goes out to spread a blanket for them in the grass.
"Picnic's a classic second date, bruv. Come on. I have the best sandwiches you've ever eaten," Eggsy grins and grabs the basket and carries it out of the taxi.
Begrudging, Mycroft follows. Well, if nothing else, it is a nice enough day out – there are a few clouds but overall it's sunny and there isn't much of a wind. There are plenty of other people out and about, even a few who are having similar lunches on the grass… But none of them are in tailored suits and so, understandably, Eggsy and Mycroft catch the attention of a few there – someone even snaps a picture of them.
"I am not sitting on the ground, blanket or no," Mycroft says, scowling, as Eggsy sits down cross-legged, utterly ridiculous in his fine pinstriped suit, umbrella resting on the blanket beside him.
"So you're just going to stand there, stickin' out like a sore thumb? That's fine," Eggsy says, looking up at him while opening the basket with one hand. "I don't mind. The view's pretty great from down here."
Mycroft scoffs at that and after a moment of hesitation he tugs his umbrella up and then, slowly, awkwardly, sits down. It is utterly ludicrous, all of it. "We really shouldn't be doing this. Being who we are. What we are," he mutters and then leans in to see what Eggsy has in the basket. There are numerous plastic containers – the biggest holding sandwiches, while the others hold salads, snacks, and whatnot. For drinks, Eggsy has tea in a thermos and a couple of bottles of mineral water.
"How very pedestrian," Mycroft mutters even as he accepts the sandwich. Whole grain bread, with chicken, egg, and some greens – it looks almost nauseatingly delicious. And it tastes even better because of course it does.
"Stop being so posh," Eggsy says, pouring them tea in disposable paper cups. "It's a nice day and you need to get out more, bruv."
"I really don't," Mycroft mutters and accepts the tea as well – made perfectly to suit his tastes, of course. He scowls at it. "Classic second date," he says then, glancing at the younger man. "And here I was under the impression that you were out to impress me."
"That was before I broke a couple of ribs," Eggsy shrugs and bites into his sandwich. "So I'll leave the bungee jumping to the third date."
Mycroft blinks at that and then eyes him warily. "With that sort of plans, I assure you – there won't be a third outing."
"You're charming when you're so ruffled," Eggsy answers him and it takes effort not to scoff at that. Eggsy grins at him and reaches out to wipe a thumb across Mycroft's lips, cleaning away imaginary crumbs. "Look at you, so very, very neat and proper, so very affronted by normalcy. Makes me want to mess you up."
Mycroft swallows at that. "Is that what this is, then?" he asks, nodding at the basket, the blanket. "Messing me up?"
"I suppose a little bit," Eggsy grins. "You're so out of place, it's hilarious."
"Like you aren't," Mycroft tsks, looking down at his suit, the sling, all of it. Even so injured, Eggsy looks… rich. His hair is perfectly cut and styled and his suit must've cost thousands of pounds – especially if the fabric has similar qualities as the one used on the umbrella. He should be in a private club, being attended to alongside models and rich socialites.
"Yeah, but I don't give a shit," Eggsy grins. "Besides, I might be here for a reason."
"And that reason is?" Mycroft asks, frowning.
Eggsy looks past his shoulder, nodding a little. Mycroft turns his head very slightly and looks – in the shadows of a nearby pavilion, there is a woman in street clothes, perfectly ordinary except for the very close eye she is keeping on them.
"She's been tailin' me for about four days now," Eggsy says, sounding almost fond. "She's been pretty good about it, always just out of reach, just beyond touch. I had to lull her into a false sense of security a bit, to draw her out into the open. Hence our picnic."
"She can't be very good if she's allowed herself to be drawn out like this," Mycroft comments, looking back at Eggsy. "Surely long distance surveillance would've been easier and much safer for her."
"Probably, if she was lookin' for safety. She ain't," Eggsy shrugs, and reaches for another sandwich. "She's lookin' for a new job, and she knows I'm part of somethin' – I dismantled her employer so she's seen some of my work. Seems to be a bit of a fan too," he adds and holds the container for Mycroft. "Another sandwich?"
Mycroft accepts it. "Dismantled her employer," he says, arching an eyebrow and Eggsy winks at him. The elder man shakes his head, a little amused. "What are your plans for her, then?"
"Dunno yet. Would recruit her, except she's killed a lot of people and not all of them for that good of a reason," Eggsy says and then looks over Mycroft's shoulder again. "And there she goes."
The driver of Eggsy's custom car has approached the girl and apparently dosed her with something – she's swaying a little where she stands. The driver makes a very good showing of tending to her worriedly, of offering her aid, asking her if she needs help. Soon after, he's carefully guiding her towards the taxi – and no one thinks it odd. Of course not. He's a taxi driver, after all – he's probably going to take her home, or to a hospital.
"The things cabs can get away with, bruv. You wouldn't even believe," Eggsy grins, watching how the taxi drives away.
"A few years back, one of them almost got away with a series of fake suicides," Mycroft comments idly and turns to look at him. "I do have to get back to work at some point however, and we seem to be without a car now."
"Are we?" Eggsy asks – and a moment later, another perfectly ordinary looking taxi drives in, parking nearby to wait.
"How many of those things do you have?" Mycroft asks, amused.
"Enough," Eggsy shrugs and holds the thermos up. "More tea, bruv?"
Later that week, there is an emergency. The worst sort of emergency. The sort Mycroft can't handle.
"I'm so sorry, but you're the only one who’s available. Sherlock told us you have a day off," Mary says while John carries a couple of bags inside. "We can't bring her along, of course, and Lestrade is busy and Anderson's flat is being renovated, full of plaster dust and whatnot. I'm sure you understand."
"No. Yes," Mycroft says, looking down at Shirley who's asleep in her basket on Mary's arm. He's frozen at the doorway and he can feel his own face – a rictus of horror and dismay. "I suppose I do."
"You'll be fine," John says, confident – stupidly confident. "You've watched us at it for long enough to know what you're doing, don't even pretend you don't."
Mycroft flexes his jaw against all the rebuttals and arguments he desperately wants to voice. Sherlock's recent case is taking him to Edinburgh and of course… he demands the Watsons there. Most likely it is because the case involved a former army marksman on the run, quite dangerous and quite desperate, putting him smack in the expertise of Mr. and Mrs. Watson. The couple, judging by the eager delight they both exude, has been hoping for a chance like this – a chance to get out of the house, away from the baby, away from responsibilities.
They're very much looking forward to a night in a hotel.
"You'll be fine," John says again and Mycroft forces himself to loosen his grip on the doorframe. The good doctor looks at him closely. "I mean, there's a crib here and everything, and you have baby bottles in the kitchen. You're prepared for it."
"Being prepared for the worst doesn't mean I looked forward to it," Mycroft mutters and then forces himself to follow Mary into the living room, where she's set Shirley's basket on the floor. John drops one of the bags – one full of clothes, nappies, toys and whatnot – on Mycroft's very fine couch before carrying the other into the kitchen. Mycroft can hear him unloading it and he winces at the idea of baby formula in his kitchen.
"Just do what you've seen us do," Mary says. "And if something goes wrong, you can always call."
"Right," Mycroft mutters, staring at the baby. She's peacefully asleep after the car ride and her quiet and stillness is quite nice. He's painfully aware that it won't remain like that. "She doesn't even like me," he finally has to say.
"She doesn't know you that well – you aren't around often enough," Mary says and pats his shoulder. "This'll be a chance for her to get to know her other godfather. I'm sure it will be fine."
"I'm sure it will end up in disaster," Mycroft sighs.
"It'll be fine," John says. "And if there're problems you can, I dunno, order a professional nanny if it gets too bad. It's just one day – we'll pick her up tomorrow afternoon."
Mycroft looks at him, then at Mary, and then at the baby. They are all quite decided – aside from Shirley who is, in fact, asleep. "Well," he says and steels himself. "If you're quite certain. Try and not let Sherlock kill you."
"Oh, of all of us he's the likeliest to get killed," John mutters with a snort. "Statistically he's way ahead of us."
"Yes, way ahead," Mary says and coughs guiltily. Then she smiles brightly at Mycroft. "We’ve got to be on our way – we have a train to catch. Call if something happens. Alright?"
"It'll be fine," John adds again, squeezing Mycroft's shoulder. It's almost as if he's by force of will alone trying to make it so. "You’ve got this."
"Yes, yes, fine," Mycroft says, sighing, and shrugs the hand away. "Go on. Off with you."
They go, leaving him alone with their sleeping baby girl and all the things she needs for the next twenty eight or so hours. Mycroft stares down at her sleeping face and then runs a hand over his eyes.
If he has a small breakdown at the idea of a baby in his house under his care, well… no one is to know.
Shirley sleeps peacefully for about forty eight minutes – during which Mycroft researches everything he can about babies and almost manages to convince himself that he knows what he's doing, that he can handle this, that there won't be any problems. And then she wakes up wailing, and he can't quite fool himself anymore.
He hesitates over her, almost wringing his hands in distress. She sounds like she's in pain and nothing he does make her quiet down. Is she hungry, does she need a change? He's watched eight different videos about changing a baby's nappy and he probably can do it – he just doesn't want to. He should check if she needs a change. How does that go again?
Feeling awkward and utterly clumsy, Mycroft picks up Shirley from her basket, awkwardly supporting her against his chest and then trying to peek into her nappy. It doesn't seem like she's defecated, but she's still crying and him holding her certainly doesn't help. Maybe food?
He tries it, heading to the kitchen with her in his arms. He fumbles the formula and spills it all over his kitchen counter, and one of the bottles is lost somewhere under the kitchen table – well, good thing he has spares. Eventually he manages to fill one of the bottles and put it in the microwave for long enough to get it to body temperature.
And then she refuses it, loudly and messily and Mycroft ends up spilling the milk all over his own shirt.
"This will not work if you don't co-operate with me, young lady," he mutters to the baby, who answers with a teary wail and by batting weakly at the milk bottle.
Mycroft spends five minutes trying to feed Shirley – she accepts the teat once and then refuses it again. He keeps at it though because he can't quite figure out what else to do and he went through the trouble of warming the milk up and everything – it should be used.
His shirt is ruined and he's seriously tempted to call in one of the many nannies he'd looked into, when the doorbell rings.
His doorbell never rings – not without the warning of a phone call first. And thanks to the security of the building, there should be no door to door salesmen, no missionaries, nothing of the sort bothering him. They had a guard for that sort of things.
Oh good god, had the neighbours heard her – were they about to complain?
The doorbell rings again, a little more insistently.
Annoyed, Mycroft sets the bottle down and then heads to answer the door, fully willing – even somewhat eager – to answer any complaint in kind. But when he peers through the peephole, it's not one of his rarely seen neighbours out there. It's something much, much better.
"Oh thank god," Mycroft says as he opens the door. "You have experience with young children, correct?"
"Why'd you think I'm here?" Eggsy grins at him fondly and holds out his hands. "Gimme."
Mycroft doesn't even care how Eggsy found out, doesn't care even though it means that his flat is most likely bugged and monitored by Eggsy's people. He just hands his goddaughter over to much more experienced hands and watches how Eggsy, with nothing more than little rocking motions and quiet humming, gets Shirley to quiet down her wails into little hiccupping sobs. He's in his rough, colourful street clothes, still injured and bruised though the sling has now come off. But despite looking like a delinquent, he holds Shirley with infinite care and skill as he soothes her and gets her to settle.
It is one of the most amazing things Mycroft has ever seen.
"There we go, luv, that's a good girl," Eggsy murmurs with a little smile and then reaches back to the hall outside Mycroft's front door. He has with him a stroller. And in the stroller, he has an approximately one year old little girl, who is looking attentively up at Eggsy and Shirley.
"I see you're babysitting too," Mycroft comments a little feebly.
"I saw an opportunity to give me mum a day off, " Eggsy says, turning around and tugging the stroller expertly through the doorway and inside the flat. Then he motions at the little girl in it. "Mycroft, this is my baby sister Daisy. Daisy, say hello to Mycroft. "
"'Elo!" she says, which makes Eggsy grin, wide and proud, and look at Mycroft expectantly.
"I'm quite charmed, I'm sure," Mycroft says faintly and closes the door after them. The stroller has a compartment underneath it and there are a couple of bags there – Daisy's and Eggsy's things both.
They are obviously planning on staying for the night.
Watching Eggsy so casually and yet so full-heartedly look after both his own sister and Mycroft's goddaughter, Mycroft comes to a realisation.
There's always been a quality about Eggsy that he hasn't quite been able to put his finger on – something that makes him different from other people. It's not just the secrets, the ability, or the power. It isn't about intelligence or information. It isn't even about personality. It's something simpler and yet utterly defining. And finally, watching him all but throw himself into keeping Shirley happy and Daisy fully occupied, Mycroft figures it out.
Eggsy does everything like it's the end of the world.
He really does. It's a mixture of a certain careless confidence – a sort of fuck it attitude which Eggsy embodies well, which throws away his inhibitions and hesitations and just makes him charge right in. And at the same time, he's savouring and memorising everything, basking in the moments and sensations. He's living every moment like it might be his very last, and he's fully intending to experience it to the fullest. Be it something like passing ball with his sister, or inhaling a lungful of nicotine laced vapour – or dating a man like Mycroft. He does it all like that, no indecision and no regrets, delighting in every moment with the appreciation of a man about to die.
"You were there, weren't you?" Mycroft asks, watching him, and Eggsy looks up from Daisy's little, jingling ball. They're both sitting on the floor, on top of an extra comforter that Mycroft had fetched for them. Daisy, though she could already walk a little, kept falling over herself, so a soft surface for her to play on was required.
"You were at Valentine's base when V-Day went down."
Eggsy blinks at that and for once Mycroft gets the satisfaction of having caught him off guard. It's a very brief moment, though, and Eggsy grins at him. "Yep," he says. "I skewered him through with his assistant's prosthetic sword leg… thin'."
Mycroft nods slowly at that. He hadn’t gone that far, hadn't realised that Eggsy had been one of the agents actually attending to the event as it was, but… it makes sense. Eggsy is obviously still active in the field – the mottled purple and yellow bruise around his eye stands in testimony to that. To know that Eggsy had not only been part of it, but that he had been there, and that he'd been instrumental to actually saving the majority of the human race…
Folding his arms, Mycroft leans back a little against the couch cushions, and watches how Eggsy turns to Daisy again. Shirley is nestled in his lap in a nest of blankets, almost asleep after Eggsy had fed her, and Daisy is sitting beside him, shaking the soft, jingly ball in her hands. The picture Eggsy makes there is not much like young Mr. King in his perfectly tailored suits and golden e-cigs – but it is very Eggsy.
A thought strikes and Mycroft asks before he can stop himself, "How many agents were there on the scene?"
Eggsy smiles, not looking at him. "One," he says and grabs the ball when Daisy throws it. He shakes it gently and then rolls it back over to her, which of course only makes her bat it back with a shrill little giggle, and then they're passing the ball back and forth.
One. One agent.
"You should hold her," Eggsy then says, nodding at Shirley.
"You seem to have it handled," Mycroft says, leaning back sharply. "I'm sure she's perfectly fine where she is."
"I ain't her godfather, bruv. Come down here."
Mycroft hesitates – and oh how that bothers him now. He hesitates; he weighs his options and considers his actions before taking them. Eggsy does too. He must – he's an intelligence agent. But he never stops – he just does. And as much as Mycroft admires it now, especially when it's aimed at him… He doesn't think he could ever do the same.
He slides down from the couch and awkwardly to the floor. Grinning, Eggsy shuffles closer and with some arranging of blankets, Shirley is transferred from Eggsy's lap to Mycroft's. "There you go," Eggsy says, stroking a hand over the little girl's head. Then he leans up, and kisses Mycroft over her.
This too he does like the world is ending – savouring and confident and utterly sure it is what he wants. Mycroft leans into it, a little less sure, but yes, he wants it too – he might not be able to express it with the same shamelessness, but he wants it. Eggsy hums against him, appreciative and happy, before pulling back and smiling.
"There you are," he murmurs.
"Here I am," Mycroft says, taking a breath and then pressing in for another, shorter and infinitely more awkward, kiss – but it's one he's chosen, one he's initiated, and that's something.
Daisy lets out an impatient little huff and calls for "Eggy!" and they separate, Eggsy turning to attend to her again with a chuckle. Mycroft watches them play for a moment before looking down at Shirley's sleeping face.
If the world was ending, and this was to be their very last moment… what would he do? What would his reaction to the impending apocalypse be? Resignation? Defeat? Frustration? Anger, perhaps?
Certainly not unrestrained delight at that last moment that he had left to live.
Eggsy settles both Shirley and Daisy down to sleep – Shirley in the crib and Daisy in the living room. Mycroft had been more or less useless during the night time routines, reduced to fetching things and handing things over when Eggsy asked for them – but both of the girls are happy, quiet, and sleeping peacefully so he considers it a victory regardless. And he got to witness Eggsy's expert handling of the children. He's better at it than some parents.
"Definitely better than Daisy's dad, that's for sure," Eggsy snorts when he comments on it, after they've retired to the dining room, to keep from disturbing Daisy's sleep. "He was a dick, an A-class shithead."
Mycroft arches an eyebrow at that – at the unspoken knowledge presented in those two sentences. "And your own father?" he asks, while pouring them both some tea.
"Died years ago," Eggsy shrugs, watching as he pours. "Funnily enough, he died tryin' to get into the same group I'm in now. Though I guess that ain't too funny. Thanks, bruv," he then says, accepting his cup.
Mycroft nods and after putting the kettle away, he sits down, considering his companion. It's always hard to say where the line of what he can and cannot ask about lies – though Eggsy's been more and more open with him as time goes by. "I was under the impression that your… true family history was something you intended to keep secret."
"In professional settin', yeah," Eggsy says, and Mycroft can feel his sock clad foot, rubbing over his ankle. "But I ain't here for work, am I?" he asks, and then leans his chin on his hand, thinking, considering. Then, slowly, he takes his glasses off, folds the arms in, and tucks them into his pocket. "Guess this is as good a time as any to have this talk. We serious, Mycroft?"
"Serious?" Mycroft asks, frowning.
"This," Eggsy says, motioning between them. "I mean, datin's all nice and shit, and I'm definitely havin' fun, but… How serious is this?" he asks, and he's not smiling now. "How serious are you?"
For a moment, Mycroft doesn't answer, watching him – and he can't deny that he's enjoying the tiniest hint of steel that Eggsy's showing. Where most people would have uncertainty, Eggsy has only determination – his version of being wary is being prepared, willing to push through whatever's ahead, even if it hurt.
Finally, Mycroft shakes his head. "I'm going to take everything you give me, Eggsy," he says. "Everything."
Eggsy stares him, swallows, and, for the first time… he blushes. "Okay," he says. "That's… yeah, okay. That's good," he says, almost awkward and definitely giddy, and tries to hide it behind his tea cup. He fails and Mycroft savours it greedily, that pure, gleeful delight on his face. It's not something he's ever seen before – someone wanting him this much, or being so happy to have him.
No one's ever been happy about Mycroft. Except perhaps his parents on a particularly good day.
"I guess there ain't no question about me, huh?" Eggsy says with a crooked grin.
"You're not very subtle, no," Mycroft admits with a chuckle, and shifts his foot, nudging it against Eggsy's. "And though I find that precise lack of subtlety utterly infuriating in others, I have to admit – it's quite pleasant to be on the receiving end for once."
Eggsy's grin fades into a wistful smile, and he leans in, his better cheek propped on his knuckles. "For once?" he murmurs, reaching out and touching Mycroft's chin with his fingers, trailing his thumb over his lips. "How is it that no one's ever done this to you? That no one's touched you like this?" he asks, tugging at Mycroft's lower lip gently, eyes low-lidded. "I can't keep my hands off of you. I want to wreck you so badly."
Mycroft holds still under the touch, his neck heating, the blush creeping over his ears. "I have never… cared for such things," he swallows, watching the younger man. "I've never let anyone."
"Jesus Christ, Mycroft," Eggsy grumbles and lets go. "Don't say that sort of shit when there're two little kids in the house."
"What did I say?" Mycroft asks, feigning innocence.
"Implication," the younger man mutters, leaning back, obviously trying to reign himself in. "Never let anyone – but you'd let me. Jesus. That’s…" he shakes his head and grabs his tea like a shield, glaring at Mycroft over it.
Mycroft smiles a little at that, taking his own cup and taking a sip out of it. He's rather grateful that there are two little kids in the house, though. He isn't entirely sure what he'd do if there weren't. As it is he's not quite sure what he feels about the notion that Eggsy is… excited by his lack of experience. Or perhaps it is just the idea of being permitted to do something that's denied to others.
Mycroft can definitely understand the allure in that, though.
"So your father tried for the same organisation as the one you're in?" he asks to derail the conversation onto safer – and infinitely more dangerous – subjects.
"Yeah. There's one hellish job interview to get in, and there's only so many vacancies, and people can literally die durin' it," Eggsy says, blowing out a breath. "Dad made it to the last two candidates – and then he threw himself onto a hand grenade during a mission in the Middle East. Saved the other candidate and two trainers."
Mycroft blinks at that, watching him closely. "How many people died during your training?"
"A little over two point two billion," Eggsy says and shrugs his shoulders. "V-Day was my first mission, and I wasn't official then."
"V-Day was not a training mission," Mycroft says, frowning. "It couldn't have been."
"No, but our agency was compromised. Our previous leader, he…" Eggsy considers it. "Well, durin' the investigation, Valentine tracked down the agent investigatin' him, which led Valentine to the head of our organisation. And he, as it turned out, was all for a population cull," Eggsy shrugs. "He was a fuckin' prick, snootiest motherfucker I've ever seen. So, our leader had a head explosive and our agency was compromised. There were only so many options when the V-Day countdown started. I was one of them."
"Ah," Mycroft says slowly.
"Though, if we really want to get into the technicalities, I was already kicked out. I failed the loyalty test," Eggsy considers, rubbing at his chin. "But then Kentucky happened, and our leader betrayed us… It was an interestin' day."
Frowning, Mycroft leans back and folds his arms. "The agent at Kentucky," he then says thoughtfully. "He was the one investigating Valentine. And you're wearing his ring, even now," He adds, glancing at Eggsy's right hand, the signet ring ever present. "Who was he to you?"
"He was…" Eggsy trails off and then shrugs, eyeing the ring. "He's the one who recruited me."
"I see," Mycroft says, watching him. "And if he'd lived… you wouldn't be here, talking with me."
Eggsy considers that and then shakes his head. "Maybe not," he says and shrugs. "But he ain't around anymore, and here I am."
Here he is, and Mycroft decides that he's definitely satisfied with that.
Eggsy sleeps in the guest room with Daisy, and whenever Shirley wakes up in the night – which she does, often – he's already up and attending to her before Mycroft can even force himself up from the bed. The night goes by in fits and starts – and though it makes him something of a bad host, probably, Mycroft lets Eggsy handle his goddaughter in the end. The younger man is clearly better qualified to do it, and if Mycroft tried, he knows he would just make things worse for the child. He ends up getting more sleep than Eggsy, but it doesn't seem to bother the younger man in the slightest.
"I think I should pay you for this," Mycroft says over his morning tea, watching Eggsy feed Shirley in the kitchen while Daisy wanders about in a clumsy mixture of crawling and stumbling. "I certainly wouldn't have managed this alone."
"You can pay me back with dinner," Eggsy says without hesitation. "Here. With just you and me."
"Mm-hmm," Mycroft hums, arching his eyebrows. "Sadly I am not much of a cook."
"Then get catering or we can order out – whatever," Eggsy shrugs, and grins at Shirley who burbs quietly around the baby bottle's plastic teat. "I don't care. You, me, private… The food is optional, really."
Mycroft smiles faintly at that and looks down at his tea cup. The implications of that are both exciting and terrifying. He's never felt any particular shame for his, well… lack of experience as far as intimacy between people go – and he doesn't bother to feel it here, now, either. Eggsy obviously doesn't mind, so there is no need for any sort of embarrassment. And even if there were, Mycroft wouldn't have bothered with it. A useless feeling, it is. However…
There is a reason he doesn't have experience in the first place.
"Eggsy," he says quietly. "It is entirely possible that I… can't."
The younger man glances at him, arching an eyebrow. "Can't?" he asks, rocking slightly at the hip, easily lulling Shirley into a doze. "Don't want to as in no interest or whatever, or physically can't as is…?"
Mycroft rolls his eyes, shakes his head, and looks firmly at the tea cup. "Don't want to, I suppose. I've never had any sort of drive for it," he shrugs. He knows he can – with that he's at least experimented. There had even been a whole five month period when he'd masturbated daily, like clockwork, to see how it affected his mental and intellectual performances. While it made him more relaxed and less tense, it had no noticeable impact on his cerebral processes, and he'd eventually discontinued the practice.
"Hm," Eggsy hums, watching him. "That's fine," he says. "But you know that I definitely want to – and I definitely can."
"Yes, that much has been rather obvious," Mycroft agrees, and then looks down at Daisy who's crawl-stumbled her way to his foot. She's standing by his leg now, hanging from his trouser leg and looking up at him expectantly. "Yes?" Mycroft says to her.
"Up!" she demands. "Up, up!"
"Go on, bruv, pick her up," Eggsy says with a grin. "She won't leave you alone until you do."
Mycroft grimaces but reaches down awkwardly to pick her up. It's easier than picking up Shirley, at least – Daisy is a bit more robust and he doesn't need to support her head. She's used to being picked up, curling her legs automatically and settling into his lap with the easy comfort of a child that trusts adults implicitly.
And then she goes for his tea.
"No, Daisy, no touching," Mycroft says, and quickly pushes the tea back. She throws her head back to look at him, pouting furiously. "That won't help your situation in the slightest, young lady," Mycroft tells her, and she takes a deep, sad breath, and pouts even harder.
Eggsy grins, sauntering over and then, without as much as a by your leave, wrestles a small piece off of Mycroft's scone, handing it over to Daisy who immediately stops pouting. Then, while leaning his hip against the table and cradling Shirley comfortably in his arms, he looks at Mycroft. "So, no interest, no drive – that's fine," he says, tilting his head. "You don't mind kissin' though."
"That's fine, yes," Mycroft sighs and he might be getting a little awkward – he's quietly realising that this might not be a conversation to be had around children. "It's a… It's pleasant. Intimate, without being invasive."
"A'right, non-invasive intimacy is okay. I can work with that," Eggsy says consideringly and then he snaps his fingers. "Though you said that it's entirely possible that you can't. Possible. You're not a hundred percent sure."
"I haven't exactly gone out of my way to experiment," Mycroft mutters, shaking his head and looking down at Daisy, who's crumbling most of the treat she'd been given all across his trousers.
Eggsy watches him closely. "So… experimentation might be on the table?" he asks thoughtfully.
"… Perhaps," Mycroft sighs and brushes some of the crumbs off of his clothes and to the floor. He'll clean it later. "But if it's not something I find myself comfortable with – and Eggsy, the chance that I won't is rather high… would you be satisfied with that?"
The younger man considers him silently for a while. "I don't want sex from you, Mycroft," he then says and the elder man looks up. "I mean, yeah, that would be nice, won't deny I've imagined it because I have, often… but seriously. It's not what I want."
"Then what do you want?"
Eggsy shrugs his shoulder. "To be with someone I like?" he asks. "Someone whose company I enjoy. Who I admire and respect, who's funny, interesting…" he trails off, tilting his head and looking at Mycroft. "And I want someone I can be myself with. Someone who can keep my secrets – someone I don't have to lie to about my work. Companionship. An equal partnership, I reckon. Yeah."
Mycroft looks at him closely. "Really?"
Eggsy shrugs, smiling a wry, mirthless smile. "When you have secrets like V-Day under your belt, it gets awkward, datin'… normal people," he says. "I ain't used to this spy shit yet, and I haven't really lived it long enough yet. And I like datin', Mycroft. I love hangin' out with people, just doin'… stuff. And it's awkward and it's fuckin' lonely doing that now, to have to put up a mask for people."
Mycroft considers that and then reaches out to hesitantly touch Eggsy's hand. "Yes, it is," he admits, and their fingers wind together.
"So…" Eggsy trails off, watching him. "Dinner here? Private like?"
Mycroft chuckles, making Daisy look up in astonishment. He smiles at her and, spontaneously, presses a little kiss on her hair, making her giggle in appreciation. "Dinner here sounds wonderful," he says, and holds Eggsy's hand a little tighter.
When the Watsons arrive to pick up Shirley, the girls are having an afternoon nap, and Eggsy and Mycroft have somehow devolved into playing a game of "Never have I ever" though Mycroft isn't entirely sure how that happened. Eggsy, though politely careful at first, is extremely curious about what he has or hasn't tried as far as intimacy goes. And being a spy, he wants all the facts. And somehow, the enquiries had become a game when Mycroft had decided to turn the tables.
Eggsy, he very soon finds out, has quite the history of sexual exploits – including things like working as a rent boy for a month, and having anal sex with a princess. It was in parts both fascinating and horrifying. Eggsy shows precisely zero shame over any of it, shrugging over his bout of past prostitution with careless ease.
"It just was a thin' I had to do for a while to pay me mum's bills," he says. "Definitely not the worst thin' I've ever done – it paid better than some other things I've tried."
When the doorbell rings, it's almost a relief, really.
"I shall get that," Mycroft says with a slight shake of his head, digesting the new facts – and the realisation that perhaps it wasn't just V-Day that had given Eggsy his barefaced attitude. He might've very well been like that all his life.
The Watsons, when he lets them in, are all but glowing. Mary has been to a spa, he thinks, and John looks like he might've gotten a manicure. Doctors and their hands. "I see Sherlock's case was a fairly simple one?" Mycroft comments. They certainly had a lot of free time during their little trip.
"After we got there it took him about an hour," John shakes his head. "How was it with Shirley? You didn't call, so I guess it didn't go too badly."
"I had help," Mycroft says, reaching to pull the door shut after them and hesitating. "Is Sherlock with you?"
"He went to check out a taxi or something – said there was something off about it," John shrugs. "He should be right up."
"Where's Shirley?" Mary asks keenly.
"Sleeping in the living room. And shoes off, both of you," Mycroft tells them, and pulls the door shut. Since he's late, Sherlock can damn well go through the trouble of picking the lock himself. Shaking his head, Mycroft heads to the kitchen where Eggsy has turned the kettle on and gotten more tea cups for the Watsons. "Does your car always remain in the vicinity of wherever you are?" Mycroft asks him curiously, though quietly to keep the Watsons from hearing.
"Only when I require it," Eggsy shrugs, and hands him one of the cups. "How do the Watsons take their tea?"
"Mary takes the herbal blend, and John takes Earl Grey with a bit of milk," Mycroft says and fetches the tea. "I expect you need to be off soon?"
"Probably, yeah," Eggsy agrees and sets the cups down on the counter. Then he looks at his hands thoughtfully, and takes the signet ring off. "But I haven't been called in yet," he says, smiling, and pushes the ring into his pocket.
Mycroft follows the move with his eyes and arches an eyebrow – and in answer, Eggsy merely shrugs and grins.
After leaving their shoes in the hall, the Watsons venture further into the flat – Mary heading to the living room to check on Shirley and John coming into the kitchen – and stopping by the doorway to stare.
And for a moment, Mycroft can see himself and Eggsy through John's eyes. Mycroft, though he has a day off, is wearing neatly pressed trousers and a perfectly ironed button up shirt – he even put on a tie automatically that morning. Eggsy, on the other hand, is wearing a cheap brand of jeans with a tear at the knee and a slightly stained polo shirt which does precisely nothing to hide his athletic muscle definition. They do not match at all – not like Mycroft matches Mr. King.
"Hello," John says hesitantly, looking between them, trying to figure it out. "You have a… guest over, Mycroft. Did we come at a bad time?" he asks and then steps forward, offering his hand. "Hi, I'm John Watson, Shirley's dad."
"Eggsy," the younger man says, grabbing the hand and shaking it firmly. "She's a sweet little kid, Shirley."
"Yes, she is," John says slowly, looking puzzled, when Mary steps to the doorway.
"Um, Mycroft? Who's the – oh hello," she says, blinking at Eggsy. "Huh. I wondered about the sneakers."
"Yeah, those are me shoes, and the little girl's my fault too, I guess – my baby sister, Daisy." Eggsy says, pushing his hands into his pockets and swaying a little, just the right blend of awkward and sheepish. He glances at Mycroft, arching his eyebrows a little, as if uncertain, as if awkward.
Mycroft arches an eyebrow back at him in cool interest. "Mary Watson, Eggsy. Eggsy, Mrs. Watson," he says then, motioning between them and then looking at the Watsons. "Would you two care for tea?"
John and Mary share a look and then say in unison, "Yes please," in tones of somewhat gleeful curiosity.
Eggsy grins at them and whirls around to make the tea – and Mycroft has the strangest urge to put a hand on the small of his back, just to… He's not quite sure why; just to see how the Watsons would react to it perhaps. Or perhaps to show off. He doesn't though, and instead hands the tea to Eggsy who takes it with a little smile and then prepares the tea in a display of confident, casual domesticity, more akin to someone who's been around dozens of times rather than just this once.
It is a rather interesting performance, and Mycroft decides to go along with it. Eggsy is doing something. He's not entirely sure what, but it is rather masterful in its simplicity.
"So," John says as Eggsy serves the tea. He's watching Eggsy closely, cataloguing the bruises on Eggsy's face, eyes narrowing. "Eggsy. How did this…" he trails off, looking between Mycroft and the younger man, trying to figure it out. "How did you two meet?" he settles on asking.
"In a toy shop," Eggsy says, grinning, looking at Mycroft. "You was getting little Shirley a gift for the christening, yeah?"
"Hm," Mycroft agrees, taking a seat beside John at the kitchen table. "Eggsy was there with Daisy. They helped me select the mobile I bought you."
"Really now," Mary says, grinning a little. "That must've been a pretty memorable first meeting, since you're… here and all. With Mycroft. How did that happen?"
"Well, you know," Eggsy grins. "I guess one thing just led to another. You know how it goes."
"With Mycroft involved? I really don't," Mary laughs.
John, in the meanwhile, is looking at Eggsy with something like suspicion, most likely recalling his and Mycroft's earlier discussion. Mycroft takes his own tea cup and hides his amusement behind it, wondering what the good doctor is thinking. Honestly, though, it's not hard to imagine. Eggsy is not meeting expectations, and the confusion – and even disappointment – on poor John's face is rather amusing.
And then the front door rattles and Sherlock breezes in. "You haven't even changed the lock, Mycroft," he complains, the thuds of his shoes being discarded accompanying the complaint before he flounces into the kitchen – and stops to stare at Eggsy.
"What was wrong with the taxi then?" John asks.
"It drove away," Sherlock says, eyes narrowed. "Who are you?" he asks, motioning at Eggsy.
"Sherlock, this is Eggsy," Mary says almost gleefully. "He's Mycroft's boyfriend."
Mycroft almost chokes on his tea, and Sherlock lets out a scoff. "No he isn't," Sherlock objects, looking disgusted and horrified. "Mycroft doesn't have a… a boyfriend."
"I beg to differ," Eggsy says, blinking and then leaning a bit towards Mycroft. "That's your brother?" he asks, curious and amused.
"Unfortunately, yes," Mycroft coughs and reaches for a napkin to wipe the tea from his lips – wondering idly what sort of things Eggsy knew about Sherlock already. "Sherlock, stop being rude. Have some tea."
"You have some tea," Sherlock says, staring at Eggsy closely. Mycroft can very easily follow his deduction – it's all written in where Sherlock looks – what direction his investigation goes. First, he takes in the bruises on Eggsy's face, the scrape on his cheekbone. His hair, still messy from a morning shower, and the slight hint of stubble on his chin – Eggsy didn't shave that morning because all Mycroft has is a straight razor kit and Eggsy prefers electric. Then Sherlock looks over the rest of his body, the still present bandage on his sprained wrist and thumb, the hint of old bruises and scars on Eggsy's arm. Then the cheap clothing, and the way Eggsy is sitting, the way he's holding his tea cup.
Sherlock scoffs – he reads all the wrong signs, and finds Eggsy immediately and overwhelmingly inadequate.
Mycroft looks away to hide his own reaction to Sherlock's mistaken deduction. Having known both sides of Eggsy, having seen the sheer level of poise the young man is capable of, the skill and power he can exude in the right set of clothing and in the right environment, it's rather remarkable how well Eggsy hides it all. But then again, the mask he's donning right now is not so much a disguise as it is a past self.
In the living room, Daisy lets out a discontent noise, and Eggsy stands with a brief, "'xcuse me," and heads off, leaving Mycroft in the delightful situation of being alone on the receiving end of the stares of his brother and his extended family.
"Eggsy? Eggsy?" Sherlock asks with disbelief. "Honestly, Mycroft, what would Mummy think?"
Mycroft's expression hardens at that. "I think she'd be rather disappointed in the way you're acting right now," he says. "Especially given your recent history with relationships. May I remind you of Janine?"
"Eggsy's pretty young, Mycroft," John then points out worriedly, speaking under his breath. "He's, what, a little over twenty? And what happened to him? He's all beat up."
"Oh, he's been in a brawl of some sort, most likely in a cramped space – a back alley perhaps. Boring," Sherlock says, waving a dismissive hand at that, still staring at Mycroft. "I thought people were goldfish to you," he then says. "Or is that it – did you find yourself a pet?"
Mycroft sighs, rather wishing he had Eggsy's eloquence and could just tell his brother to fuck off. "It's none of your business what I've found," he says, and sips his tea. "And whatever criticisms you have about my life or my choices you may very well keep to yourself, Doctor Watson. They will have precisely zero impact on me."
"Of course they don't," Sherlock scoffs. "You cradle robber."
"Sherlock," Mary objects, which he of course ignores.
Mycroft looks at him flatly for a moment and then smiles. Oh how badly Sherlock deals with unexpected social situations and changes. "There, there, little brother," he says. "Don't hurt yourself, now. I know it's difficult, not being the centre of everyone's universe, but honestly, whatever you think doesn't matter to me right here and now. It really doesn't."
Sherlock narrows his eyes, taking it as a challenge. "The things I could tell him about you," he threatens.
Mycroft smiles at that and says nothing. There's nothing Sherlock could say that Eggsy doesn't already know. And there's nothing in Mycroft’s past that is worse than the Valentine Conspiracy.
"Boys, behave," Mary says, looking between them and then turning to Mycroft. "He seems like a… lovely young man. A bit chav maybe, but… nice. Very handsome."
"Oh, please, spare me the awkward pleasantries," Mycroft sighs and looks up when Eggsy appears at the doorway, a sleepy Daisy in his arms.
"I gotta get going, bruv," Eggsy says with an apologetic smile, as if he hadn't heard the whole conversation. "I need to drop Daisy at Mum's and head to work."
"Of course," Mycroft says and promptly stands up, ignoring how Sherlock makes a move to follow, only to be stopped by Mary's hand grabbing him by the back of his coat. "I'm sorry about all of this," Mycroft says, following Eggsy to the front hall.
"Don't be. It was… fun," Eggsy says, grinning as he settles Daisy into her stroller. "There're a lot of interestin' people in your family."
"Yes, I suppose that's one word for it," Mycroft says and takes Eggsy's right had in his, running his thumb over his little finger, where Eggsy usually wears his signet ring. He doesn't voice the question, but it's visible in the arch of his eyebrows and slight nod at the kitchen. Why? Why the act?
"Your brother is interestin'," Eggsy says, turning his hand to hold Mycroft's by the fingers and then tugging it up to kiss Mycroft's knuckles gently. "Not much like you, though, is he? I prefer people like you, I reckon."
Mycroft takes a breath and lets it out slowly. Yes, of course. Eggsy might trust him, but Sherlock is a different matter. Sherlock was always the wild card. He was a brilliant and, on occasion, even a sentimental man, but ends always justified the means to him. And while Mycroft could leave well enough alone, Sherlock never would. If he caught a whiff of Eggsy's secrets, he wouldn't stop digging, not before he got to the bottom of it. And that was a dangerous prospect if there ever was one.
"If he… If there was a chance," he says quietly. "If there was a situation, then…" If Sherlock became a threat to Eggsy and his agency, would they deal with him – the way they hadn't dealt away with Mycroft?
Eggsy smiles faintly at that and shakes his head.
"Right, of course," Mycroft says and squeezes Eggsy's hand. "Rather amusingly, I was worried that should you ever meet Sherlock, it would be rather the opposite." In all honesty, he'd thought that Eggsy might try to recruit Sherlock in that very setting. There wasn't an intelligence agency out there that hadn't tried it at least once. "I suppose that concern was rather unfounded."
"Sherlock? Nah, not my type," Eggsy says with a chuckle. "Mrs. Watson on the other hand…" he trails off thoughtfully and then reaches to press a light kiss on Mycroft's cheek. "I'll see you later, yeah?"
"Yes, of course," Mycroft says automatically. Mrs Watson, oh, of course. Why hadn't he thought of that? "I look forward to it," he says, watching the younger man go, and wondering how serious he is. Most likely very.
The door closes after Eggsy and the stroller with a click, and Mycroft eyes the closed door for a moment before turning to look over his shoulder – at John, Sherlock, and Mary, all of whom are not very subtle about hanging around the kitchen doorway, obviously listening.
He considers them for a moment, them and the discussion they probably want to have. "Considering the work all three of you do, you're not in the least subtle," he then says.
"He just told you he'd cheat on you with Mary if he got the chance!" Sherlock says, and he sounds downright insulted. "With Mary! Rather than me! What does Mary have that I don't?"
"A lot of things, I reckon," John says with a mix of amusement and horror.
"That just means he has superior taste," Mary says with fake primness, though when she peeks out to look at Mycroft, she looks a tiny bit concerned. "You alright, Mycroft?"
John looks worried too, when he looks Mycroft over. "He ought not to be saying stuff like that, you know that, right?" he says. "It's really rude saying stuff like that to your date."
"With Mary?" Sherlock mutters again in the background.
Mycroft sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Get out of my house."
Sherlock, naturally, tattles to their parents the moment he can. Mycroft has to endure a long and fairly judgemental phone call from his mother that very day, listening to her ranting on about the foolishness of older men dating younger people, how badly it all turns out on the telly, and good grief, the way Sherlock described the boy, chav of all things, surely he's not a gold digger?
"No, Mummy, I promise he isn't," Mycroft says, rubbing at his forehead. Eggsy is in fact a fair deal wealthier than the whole Holmes family combined, but… well, he couldn't precisely say that. "He has, in fact, paid for all of our dates so far."
"Well, how many of them have you had?" she demands to know. "Were they nice dates?"
With some editing, Mycroft describes the first one – leaving out the bomb threat at the theatre – and then the second one – leaving out the assassin that had been tailing Eggsy. The sheer normalcy of a dinner and a show and a picnic seems to mollify his mother a little, though she apparently still can't quite get over how young Eggsy is, or how… rough.
"And he has a child?" she demands to know. "Sherlock said there was a child."
"He has a little sister, Mummy," Mycroft answers with a sigh. "I assure you he has no children of his own."
"Oh, I see," she says and he can hear her tapping her finger against the phone, something she does when she's thinking hard. "Well, you're smart enough to know what you're doing, Mycroft, and I trust you've looked into his background at least, what with your connections and all? You know he's a good sort?"
A good sort – as in not the sort that Sherlock associates with. Mycroft hums at that, closing his eyes and covering them with a hand. "He is pleasant company. He finds me interesting. He not only endures my… quirks, but finds them fascinating," he says then. "And equally I find him fascinating. Can't that be enough?"
"Oh, Mycroft. I'm just worried for you. You've never dated before," she says with a sigh. "Younger people dating someone older than themselves, Mycroft… Surely you can see that it isn't a stable prospect."
"You're generalising, Mummy, and you're doing it without any more evidence than public opinion and Sherlock's whining," Mycroft objects softly. "He isn't like that."
She's quiet for a moment. "Everybody says that, Mycroft," she then says softly, almost sadly. "Beyond infatuation, are you absolutely sure?"
"Absolutely," Mycroft says without hesitation. "He isn't."
"Well," she says – and god bless her, at least she can take his word at face value. "Is his name really Eggsy?" she then asks, a little amused. "Eggsy?"
"It's what he prefers to be called," Mycroft sighs and then coughs under his breath awkwardly. "I admittedly find it a little endearing." Especially in light of what Eggsy was.
She chuckles. "Well, that's something," she says. "You'll bring him around this Christmas, yes?"
Mycroft freezes at that. "This Christmas?" he says slowly, hesitantly. "Mother, it’s only July."
"One should always plan ahead, Mycroft," she says firmly. "I'll need to know to make sure I get enough food and everything."
Oh dear god.
There is a terrorist threat in London. Compared to the way these things worked before, it's a small one – nothing on the level of the train bomb that Sherlock defused over a year ago. The intel speaks of a sleeper cell going active in the absence of the organisation it had once been a part of – an organisation that had withered almost to nothing after V-Day, and had finally been disbanded completely that week, its last member assassinated by a rival band of terrorists. The sleeper cell had activated when contact with its handlers had stopped and now is suspected to be aiming to go out in a blaze of glory.
Mycroft glances over the case and then sends it off to Sherlock, who has been far too nosy in the last couple of days and really needs something to occupy himself. The secret service is already on the case at any rate, and between the two he doubts it will be any trouble. As it is, he doesn't think that the sleeper cell can do anything truly dramatic, not these days. People are too suspicious of crowds to gather like they used to, and the best chance of a high mortality rate the bombers would get would be at a movie theatre, really.
But then it turns out that the sleeper cell consists of far more people than previously suspected – and they don't live handily in one group, no, they're scattered around London in little niches and the moment one of them is captured, the others instantly change location. What was a minor threat becomes a critical one when the apartment of the captured terrorist is examined, and the bomb parts are found.
They aren't those of an explosive, but are of a chemical weapon. A gas discharge with enough power to fill an entire office building with a cocktail of chemicals not that different from mustard gas – only much worse.
"How did they get their hands on this stuff, these days?" John wonders, while Sherlock pokes about the apartment and Mycroft looks the weapons parts over with distain. "I can barely find tea these days and these guys found all the ingredients for chemical weaponry."
"They got them before V-Day, obviously," Sherlock says. "Probably ordered everything online too. I found another bug, Mycroft – a camera."
"Hm," Mycroft answers, glancing up at said camera before turning his attention to the parts again. "I judge about eight members. Do you concur, Sherlock?"
"Eight, and a little kid," Sherlock says. "Approximately four years old. Probably born after they were stationed here."
"Yes," Mycroft agrees and then turns his attention away from the weapons components. "I'll get someone to pick up this mess. In the meanwhile, Sherlock, we've confirmed another suspected hideout in Holloway. Would you like to join me in examining it?"
"Give me a moment, Mycroft," Sherlock says, and spends another ten minutes examining the apartment for all the things that Mycroft had figured out with a single glance. Mycroft waits, however – Sherlock is better at the foot work aspect of an investigation; and should it come to that later on, he'd rather have Sherlock on hand to do it.
Idly, he gets his golden cigarette case out as he waits, gently detaching the e-cig from its charger before screwing the cartridge and atomiser on.
Sherlock stares at him. "What on earth is that?"
"A new, and rather pleasant, indulgence of mine," Mycroft says calmly, and slowly inhales the vapour. It has the taste of blueberry muffin now, rather than the butterscotch and whiskey Eggsy had given him. Wonderful thing about electronic cigarettes – mixing one's own liquids.
Mycroft blows the vapour at Sherlock and smiles blandly. "If you're quite finished, perhaps we can continue."
"Give me that," Sherlock says and tries to snatch the e-cig from Mycroft's fingers.
"Now now, brother, we shouldn't be taking things that aren't ours," Mycroft says, holding the device out of Sherlock's reach.
"I can't believe you," Sherlock says, staring at him. "You. Of all people."
"Well. It's healthier than smoking," John points out.
"Quite," Mycroft says and turns to leave. "I'll be waiting in the car then."
As he heads to the car to wait, he wonders if Eggsy knows about the terrorists. Probably. Or if he didn't before, then he would know about them now. Though… maybe this brand of terrorists just doesn't make it onto Eggsy's radar like that. The class of villains he deals with is rather higher up the food chain.
Well. No matter.
Sherlock and John join him eventually and they head towards Holloway where the driver takes them straight to the block of flats where the terrorist's little den was. Unlike the previous place, this flat is completely untouched – after finding its location, the secret service had kept away from entering at Mycroft's orders, to keep the evidence uncontaminated.
It's very much like the last flat – relatively normal, aside from the various surveillance equipment, the hiding spots around the apartment and, eventually, the chemical weapons components found hidden behind a modified wall. Their investigation doesn't bring to light anything they didn't already know – eight members, all of them well versed in the creation of chemical weapons and explosives, and one of them has a little child. The owner of this apartment worked in a grocery store; his days were relatively normal; and he spent a lot of time watching television. Nothing truly interesting, aside from the weapons components.
"There's nothing here," Sherlock grumbles.
"I think there's a lot, actually," John says, eyeing the living room table which is cluttered with newspapers and magazines.
"Yes, but nothing useful. Nothing about the other members, nothing about any other hideouts, nothing. The only thing connecting this flat to the other is the similarity of the weapons parts," Mycroft says, frowning. "And the number of surveillance equipment, which is rather high."
"They were watching each other and their superiors were watching them," Sherlock mutterers. "For a sleeper cell, these guys weren't really all that sleepy."
"No, and that makes them all the more worrisome," Mycroft agrees, frowning at the flat. "Sherlock, do you think –"
There is a flash of light and a noise like an earthquake. In that split second before Mycroft's eyes whited out and his mind went blank, he sees Sherlock being thrown against a wall and John tumbling into an armchair before both him and the chair are knocked over. He sees things flying, magazines and papers everywhere; the television screen cracks when it crashes down; a bookshelf shudders and everything in it come tumbling down. He hears glass breaking – the window – and things falling and crashing – the paintings on the walls.
The bomb was in the sofa, he thinks.
And everything goes black.
When he wakes up, there is tape over his eyes and his hands are tied behind his back. Only the haziness of his mind and the pounding headache – the tearing pain at the back of his head where he slammed it into a wall – keep him from panicking. Instead, his mind almost clinically observes everything it can.
He's sitting on the floor, propped in a corner with his hands pinned between his back and the wall. His shoes have been removed, as has his jacket, and only a slight shift of his knee tells him that the contents of his pockets have also been taken.
The back of his head is slick and grimy, and the collar of his shirt is sticking onto his neck. He's been bleeding from a head wound, high on the back of his head where the pain radiates, skull fracture possible but as of yet uncertain. The wound has been patched up haphazardly with an adhesive bandage and so has stopped bleeding, and the blood soaking his neck is drying. Other injuries mainly comprise of bruising as well as a sprained shoulder where he impacted the wall at an angle.
His hands have been bound with bothersome expertise. The backs of his hands are pinned together and the rope winds tight between his thumb and forefinger, making him utterly unable to attempt any sort of manoeuvre that might free himself. He can't get at the knots and even if he had been capable of such an act, he couldn't have dislocated his thumb to try and wiggle his hands out of the binds. As it is, they're bound too tightly for that sort of manoeuvre.
He clears his throat and listens to the impact the sound makes on his surroundings. It's not much. Not a large space then, a small room perhaps. It smells clean at least, and not mouldy. Wherever he's being held, at least it's not an abandoned building. He can hear two other people in the room – he can hear them breathing.
"…ycrof…?" a bleary voice asks, and he recognises it immediately as Sherlock. Four point five meters to his left, about thirteen degrees downwards – lying on the floor. "Mycroft?" Sherlock asks again, his voice a little stronger, and yet rough. In it, Mycroft can read a myriad of injuries and aches, but also that Sherlock is at least mostly in control of his own faculties.
"I have a possible skull fracture and I'm in shock," Mycroft says, and his words slur together a little. "My hands are bound behind my back and there is tape over my eyes."
"Same. I've got bruises and scrapes and most likely a concussion, but no fractures," Sherlock says and grunts. His voice shifts, there is the scrape of clothing against carpet, and he’s sitting up. "John?"
The sound John makes is filled with pain and annoyance. "Broken arm," he says, breathless with pain. "A fractured rib – no, two. M-my hands are bound in front."
"Has the arm been splinted?" Mycroft asks, his voice growing a little stronger, a little less slurred.
"Crudely, yeah. With a couple of spatulas, I think," John says and lets out a hiss of pain.
"Can you move your hands? Enough to take off the tape over Sherlock's eyes?"
"Would have to find him first. There's tape over my eyes too. And I can't lift my hands enough to get it off."
With a great deal of shuffling and pained grunts. Sherlock and John manage to find each other blind, and then there is a horrible, slow tearing noise and Sherlock hissing in pain as John rips the tape off of his eyes. "Sorry, sorry," the doctor mumbles. "Gotta take it slow. Wouldn't want to rip your eyelids off."
"Yes, thank you," Sherlock says and is quiet for a moment – adjusting his vision, looking around. "It's a storage room I think – no windows, only a little light coming from under the door. No furniture, no items, just a carpet and us."
"Wonderful," Mycroft says, and leans his head back. A mistake – it puts the back of his head in contact with the wall, and it flares in pain. "Any chance you could get the tape off of my eyes."
"Wait, let me first…" Sherlock trails off, and there's the shuffling of movement again.
"Sherlock – what the –" John says, and then a tearing noise. Sherlock, Mycroft deduces, is using his teeth to get the tape over John's eyes. "Slower, Sherlock – Jesus!" John says. "You'll take my eyes out! Just – hold there, I'll turn my head and get it off myself –"
Sherlock mumbles something, and the tearing sound comes again, slow and unpleasant. "Jesus," John mutters, voice tight and worried. "Mycroft?"
"How does your head feel like?"
So he's bled about as much as he thought he had then. Mycroft describes the feeling of the injury while John shuffles towards him. With John's awkward help, Mycroft pushes away from the corner and lies down on his side so that John can get the tape from his eyes. Of course, the doctor has to check the injury first, but he eventually gets around to removing the tape, so Mycroft doesn't complain. As it is, his head hurts far too much for that.
Slowly, the tape comes off. And after John's made sure that Mycroft's eyes are uninjured, he opens them and looks around. In the very faint light that streams in from under the closed door, there isn't much to see. Sherlock's been stripped down to his socks, trousers and shirt; as has John. They both look shaken but determined. This sort of thing, Mycroft thinks distantly, is a monthly occurrence to them.
Meanwhile, this is the first time that Mycroft has been kidnapped.
"So, explosive in the sofa?" John asks, helping Mycroft to sit up again.
"And I missed it," Sherlock hisses.
"We both missed it," Mycroft says, closing his eyes and bowing his head forward as John examines the back of his skull again. "How bad is it, Doctor?"
"Could've been worse," John says. "You need stitches, but I don't think it’s fractured. Still, the moment we get out of here, you need to go to the hospital and get a scan."
"Agreed," Mycroft says and opens his eyes. "Show me your hands."
John's hands are bound together palm to palm – the way he got the tapes off was by using his opposing fingers together, rather than thumb and forefinger. It gives him more mobility than Mycroft or Sherlock has, but not by much. "Do you suppose you could untie us?" Mycroft asks, and then frowns at the knots around John's bound hands. "Ah, nevermind."
"What?" Sherlock asks.
"The knots have been glued."
"Jesus," John mutters, peering down at the knots. "These guys don't mess about."
Sherlock opens his mouth to say something to that and then stops to listen. A moment later Mycroft hears it too. Steps approaching. Two – three people.
A moment later Mycroft, Sherlock, and John are being dragged and shoved out of the room by two men and a woman, all of whom brandish silenced 9mm pistols, holding them with ease and expertise. As they're shuffled along, Mycroft looks around. They're not in a block of flats – they're in a house instead and judging by the looks of it, no longer in London. Somewhere far away enough that the kidnappers hadn't been worried about not gagging them. That's a… worrisome concept.
Obviously, the terrorists had still been monitoring both flats. They'd seen them in the first one, heard them planning to move onto the next one, and had so booby trapped it, probably while remaining in the vicinity. Then, when the explosion had knocked them out, they'd grabbed them and relocated them to a safe house in a less populated area. For what purpose?
Did they know whom they'd grabbed?
They're shoved to sit on a couch not that different from the one that exploded and had Mycroft been in less pain he would've been worried about another similar explosive sitting under their arses. Instead, he just blinks blearily at the motley crew of terrorists. Three women, five men, all of them very normal looking – working class people in cheap but well-kept clothes. Not one of them would've been out of place in a busy mall or at an intersection. If it weren’t for the silenced weapons and explosives.
"Well then," the man in the front says, a gleam in his eyes. Early forties with a receding hairline and an awful moustache, he works in a recycling plant, and has a midsized, mixed breed dog. He's also looking squarely at Mycroft, ignoring Sherlock and John completely. "Let's talk terms."
They definitely know who they have. Mycroft closes his eyes and sighs before straightening as much as he can.
"Did you kill my driver?" Mycroft asks coolly.
"Obviously," the man snorts, pulling a chair and sitting down in front of Mycroft. "He was a witness."
"And we are?" Sherlock asks, his voice tense.
"Bargaining material," the terrorist says, smiling, never looking away from Mycroft. He shakes his head. "Never thought I'd capture one of you people," he says then and reaches for his pocket. From it he takes out a familiar golden case – and from it, Mycroft's e-cig. "I guess you're pretty old, had gotten soft?" the terrorist asks, examining the device thoughtfully.
Especially the symbol at the end – the elongated K in a circle.
Oh. They didn't know whom they had, then.
With some effort Mycroft keeps his face cool and bland, not giving the surprise away, keeping his eyes securely on his captor instead. Whether this turn of events is good or bad, he isn't entirely sure, but they don't know whom they have. And they don't know whom they don't have either.
"So, let's start with a name," the terrorist says.
"I'd prefer to have yours first," Mycroft says.
In answer, the man pulls out his gun again, and aims it at Sherlock. "Name of your organisation," he says, showing the end of the electronic cigarette to Mycroft. "Now, if you please."
Mycroft glances between his brother and the terrorists. He doesn't know Eggsy's agency's name, not for certain. Kingsman is his safest bet. However… that titbit of information alone is already a betrayal of a magnitude that he isn't sure he can commit. He isn't sure he can afford it. Because he still isn't fully certain of the extent that Eggsy might go to in order to protect those secrets.
If he gives the name here, if Sherlock and John learn it, would that put them at risk?
"I'm afraid that you are somewhat mistaken here," Mycroft says, feeling Sherlock's eyes flicking between him and the terrorist, trying to figure it out. "You have quite the wrong man, I'm sorry to say."
"Oh, I don't think I do," the terrorist says, all but shoving the e-cig in Mycroft's face, making him lean back a little. "I know this symbol. It's gotten a lot of people I know killed. A lot of good, innocent people."
"Innocent? I don't know about that," a crystal clear, perfectly enunciated voice interjects from the doorway, and everyone whirls to face the voice. Eggsy, in the full regalia of Mr. King, stands there, idly leaning on his umbrella, looking for the world like he'd always been there – and like there is absolutely nothing wrong with suddenly appearing in the middle of a dangerous hostage situation. He smiles behind his glasses. "By the by, your front lock seems to be a little broken," he says in his finest accent, motioning over his shoulder. "I might've had something to do with that."
There is a tense, surprised moment and then Eggsy's smile turns dark. "You have something of mine," he says. "And I'm afraid I'm going to have to take him back."
It is a little difficult to follow what happens next. The terrorists shoot, and Eggsy moves, flicking his umbrella open for a moment and using it as a shield, deflecting the shots. Then he steps forth with lethal ease, a handgun all but appearing in his hand. The lead terrorist dies with a circular hole between his eyes, followed by two others before the terrorists manage to try and take cover behind the same couch where Mycroft, Sherlock, and John sit.
Eggsy drops the umbrella, takes a few running steps, and then jumps gracefully over them, his hand taking support on the backrest just behind Mycroft, suspended upside down in the air for a moment. There are three more shots and Mycroft turns his head just in time to see Eggsy bounce off the wall and kick the next terrorist across the chin, knocking her head aside so forcefully that it breaks her neck. Then Eggsy makes a calculated tumble, using her body for a shield as he goes. And while the last terrorist tries desperately to take him down, Eggsy shoots him over her shoulder.
All told, it took maybe twenty seconds.
"Jesus Christ," John mutters faintly.
Eggsy rolls gracefully back to his feet, straightening his double breasted suit jacket. He glances over each terrorist and then touches his glasses. "Clear," he says to whomever is monitoring him. "There should be enough space in the backyard," he then says and waits. "Roger that," he says then, and finally turns to Mycroft. "You look like shit, bruv," he says sympathetically.
With a sigh, Mycroft allows himself to finally relax. "Eggsy," he says, soft, fond, grateful – showing far more emotion than he would've felt comfortable, had he not had a head injury. "How did you find me?"
"Take a guess," Eggsy snorts, digging through his pocket and taking out a small folding blade before stepping forward. He releases John first, having the easiest access to him, and then goes around the couch to release Mycroft and Sherlock, cutting their ropes open. Mycroft knows that he didn't imagine the way Eggsy's hands linger on his wrists – he all but rubs them before pulling back.
"You have my cigarette bugged?" Mycroft asks, amused.
"Bruv, if I could, I'd have you bugged," Eggsy snorts, even as he examines Mycroft's injury carefully. "But I'm guessin' we're not yet at the subcutaneous trackers stage of our relationship. Jesus fuck, your head…"
"It most likely looks worse than it actually is."
"I fuckin' hope so, because it looks like you've bled your brains out."
Mycroft winces at that. "Charming mental image, Eggsy, thank you."
John and Sherlock are staring at them, Sherlock with something like horror and John with a sort of tired resignation. "Eggsy?" Sherlock asks, and he sounds offended. "Seriously?"
Eggsy just grins and presses an infinitely gentle kiss on Mycroft's temple. "Come on," he then says, his hand going to Mycroft's elbow. "Our lift is almost here, and you have a date with a CT scanner."
"If you can bear the infidelity, that sounds absolutely wonderful," Mycroft says and pushes himself to his feet. "Have you informed my office?"
"Anthea will meet you at the hospital," Eggsy promises him, picking up the cigarette case, the e-cig, and his umbrella as they go. "She's livid, by the way."
"Good. She does her best work when she's angry," Mycroft muses, leaning gratefully into Eggsy's support as they make their way out of the house. Outside, Mycroft can the familiar and very welcome thrum of an approaching helicopter. "Will your people deal with this?" Mycroft then asks tiredly, motioning at the house.
"Yea, don't worry about it," Eggsy says, winding an arm around Mycroft's waist, supporting almost all of his weight now and doing it without any hint of difficulty. "We'll have it cleared up before mornin'."
"It was my investigation," Sherlock says, sounding a little petulant – though that's most likely due to Eggsy not sticking to his previously conceived first impression. He stares at Eggsy, displeased. "So you're a spy?"
"Of sorts," Eggsy agrees and grins.
Mycroft gets eight stitches and a shaved patch on the back of his head. The shock wears off around the same time they're patching his head and the concussion settles fully in – there's a confused moment where the world just whirls and Mycroft can't hold onto his thoughts. He's fairly certain that Eggsy is there through the whole thing. He's also fairly certain that vomiting was included. All told, he's quite relieved that he's given strong enough pain medicine that it rather blurs everything about the whole event.
Sherlock gets off with a check-up. His concussion is mild at best – he didn't even suffer any dizziness – and so he's up and about and bothering everybody before Mycroft has been fully patched up. His coat and scarf, as it turns out, protected him – when he was thrown back by the explosion, the collar was between him and the wall and so he wasn't knocked about as badly. Mycroft, meanwhile, hit the corner of a doorway.
The moment he figures out that Eggsy won't be giving him any straight answers though, he flounces off to do his own bit of investigating, no doubt.
John gets brief surgery and a cast for the next two to four months. He suffers the treatment with all the patience of a doctor – which is to say, none at all. The saying of doctors making the worst patients is embodied in John Watson – he's worse about being stuck in a hospital than Sherlock is. Someone arranges it so that despite the severely different types of injuries, Mycroft and John end up sharing a ward. Mycroft is fairly certain it was Anthea, who whirled in and out in a blur of anger and annoyance, bringing him a clean suit of clothes and telling Mycroft in no uncertain terms that he is never again to go out in the field like that.
Eggsy gets a silenced pistol aimed at his head the moment Mary Watson arrives.
"Name," she demands, watching him hard, eyes flickering over the suit, the umbrella, the glasses – the signet ring now present on Eggsy's little finger.
Eggsy is sitting in a chair by Mycroft's bedside, idly reading the Sun for some reason. One leg crossed over the other, hair neatly slicked, suit jacket unbuttoned just so that it won't crease, he looks precisely nothing like the casual young man the Watsons had met at Mycroft's house. He doesn't look all that threatening either, however, not if you didn't know him. For a man who killed eight people just earlier that day, he looks very relaxed.
"Mary?" John asks, sitting up awkwardly, holding his good hand over his cast. "You know him? I mean, other than… than you know?"
"I know what he is. Name," Mary demands again.
Eggsy blinks at her, unimpressed. "Put that thin' away. You ain't going to shoot me in a fuckin' hospital, especially not with my connection to Mycroft. You ain't stupid," he says, and turns back to the paper. "And my name don't matter none to you. You ain't in that game anymore."
She hesitates, eyes narrowed. "Not being in the game doesn't make me a fool," she says.
"Precisely. So put the fuckin' gun away," Eggsy says and turns the page. "I ain't here for you."
Mary says nothing and Mycroft clears his throat. "Mrs. Watson, if you please," he says sharply.
Mary glances at him, blinking sharply at the words and as abruptly as she pulled the gun, she puts it away again. Then, rather pointedly, she turns to John and ignores Mycroft and Eggsy completely.
"Well," Mycroft says, prodding at the back of his head carefully. The stitches are still numb from the local anaesthesia he'd been given, and they've been bandaged besides. But he can still feel the shaved patch around it. "Now that that's over with, any chance you could get me released?" he asks, knowing that Anthea would make sure that any efforts to that end on Mycroft's part wouldn't do him much good.
"With a concussion and all? Not for another six hours at least," Eggsy snorts at him. "I ain't taking chances with you bruv. Only way I'd get you out of this place is if I take you to another with enough medical staff to look after you."
"I'm perfectly fine, now," Mycroft all but grumbles. "I'm no longer exhibiting symptoms beyond mild dizziness and a headache. With rest and the right medication –"
"No," Eggsy says and smiles, reaching out to take his hand in his. "Sorry. Your head is a bit too valuable for me to take my chances with it."
Mycroft watches him in silent frustration for a moment and then sighs and squeezes his hand. "You're a sentimental fool, Eggsy," he murmurs.
"Yes, I am," Eggsy agrees and kisses his hand gently.
Eggsy's the one who takes him home eventually, in one of his handy custom taxis. Mycroft sinks into the seat gratefully, his head pounding again as the painkillers wear off. And in the back of his head, where it aches the worst, he idly calculates how long he has until he can take the second one.
Eggsy's hand rests on the back of his neck, very gently rubbing along the tense muscles there – close and comforting but not once dipping under Mycroft's collar. Mycroft leans into it slightly and sighs. It doesn't help, but is welcome nonetheless.
"Sherlock will no doubt be a nuisance from here on out," he warns Eggsy, glancing at him. "I'd prefer he did not vanish without warning, however."
"Your brother's safe from me, Mycroft," Eggsy smiles. "He won't find anything."
"Mary knew you," Mycroft points out.
"She came in contact with one of my co-workers a few years back. We're good at what we do, but once you know the signs, we're not that hard to recognize. We conform to a certain pattern, I suppose," Eggsy says, lifting his right hand to show the signet ring. Then he shrugs. "Mary Watson is very good at what she does – or what she did, anyway. Figured out more stuff than most people do, when they come in contact with me and mine."
"She asked for your name."
"For a name. Code name," Eggsy says and looks at him thoughtfully. "With name comes rank."
Mycroft wants to ask, but he doesn't. Instead, he just nods and looks out of the window, thinking, thinking. Eggsy revealed a lot of himself when he rescued them – to Mycroft, to Sherlock, to John – to eight insurgents, before killing them with a near negligent ease. Of course Mycroft had known… but now he'd seen. Eggsy had shown him.
It had been quite amazing, so much so that some part of Mycroft wonders if Eggsy had been showing off. But no, he doubts he was. That was how it always is for him. That was what his missions are like – that was what he does, before coming back with sprains and bruises and cracked ribs. That was the level of skill his work demands of him.
And the level of sheer disregard for his fellow human beings.
"How many people have you killed?" Mycroft asks softly.
"I've never counted. Hundreds," Eggsy shrugs and looks away. "I'm pretty good at it. Does it bother you?"
Mycroft thinks it through and then shakes his head. He's never killed anyone, not directly, nor does he think he ever will. "No," he says and reaches to take Eggsy's hands. "No it doesn't."
They arrive at Mycroft's block and eventually at his flat to find that someone's been in and stocked Mycroft's medicine cupboard with everything he needs for the best recovery. Whether it was Anthea or Eggsy's people, Mycroft doesn't really care. All he wants is to lie down and get some rest – something which Eggsy seems to support fully, as he leads Mycroft straight to the bedroom and digs through his closet for his pyjamas.
"Are you going to dress me too?" Mycroft asks, a little amused.
"Do you want me to?" Eggsy asks, not quite eager, not quite suggestive – but obviously willing.
"I'm injured," Mycroft says slowly.
"And I'm a sentimental fool. Do you want me to dress you?" Eggsy asks, eyeing him.
After a moment, Mycroft decides that, injured or not, it's an experiment worth doing. He nods, and without hesitation Eggsy moves to undress him.
It's quiet in the bedroom, quiet in the building – quiet in the whole world, it feels like. Or maybe that's just the wool that Mycroft's head suddenly seems full of, the thrum of his own blood, pounding in his ears. His head aches and he's dizzy, and Eggsy's hands are almost clinical as they unbutton his jacket and ease it off his shoulders. Eggsy puts it away with the efficiency of someone who too wore suits, before turning to and then, slowly, going down on one knee between Mycroft's legs, to unbuckle his belt.
Maybe, if he didn't feel so damn awful, it might've been sexual. As it is, it's something between intimate and awkward, as Eggsy opens the belt and pulls it loose before tackling the buttons, the zipper. Mycroft stares at him and wonders what the hell he's doing there.
Something of mine, Eggsy called him.
"Can you stand?" Eggsy asks, and Mycroft does, letting the trousers be pulled off his legs. It puts his crotch pretty much level with Eggsy's face, and it goes utterly unacknowledged. Eggsy eases the legs off gently – never once touching Mycroft's skin directly, and then nods at him to sit down on the edge of the bed again.
Then goes the tie and the shirt. Eggsy stands up for that, loosening the tie before sliding it gently from under the collar and over Mycroft's head. After setting it aside, he takes Mycroft's hands and eases the cufflinks off, setting them on the bedside table. Then, finally, he unbuttons Mycroft's shirt with surprising deftness despite the reversed orientation, opening it slowly and easing it off his shoulders.
It is the barest that Mycroft has ever come to in the presence of someone who wasn't a family member, or a medical professional.
"Okay?" Eggsy asks.
"Hm," Mycroft answers, reaching out to take Eggsy's hand in his. Then, not entirely sure why, he lays the younger man's palm against his own throat, just over the collarbones. Eggsy's eyes widen a little and his fingers immediately flex and then settle, his hand fitting there warm and wide, his calluses tough against Mycroft's skin.
"You're injured," Eggsy says softly, a little choked.
"And you're a sentimental fool," Mycroft agrees, looking down as Eggsy's hand trails downwards, over the collarbones, down to the middle of his chest, fingers dragging at his chest hair. He can hear Eggsy swallow and when he looks up, the younger man is staring at him with a stunned expression, looking more than a little flushed.
And what little reservations Mycroft might've had about himself – a middle aged man, not in the best of physical conditions, being faced with such an example of fitness as Gary King – all but evaporated. He lays a hand over Eggsy's and holds it tight to his chest, over his heart.
"Subcutaneous trackers," he says suddenly, remembering. "What stage of relationship includes subcutaneous trackers?"
"For someone like me? Around the engagement part, I reckon," Eggsy says, blinking rapidly and then looking at their hands. "Does this mean –"
"I don't know," Mycroft murmurs and leans into the warmth of Eggsy's hand. "I just… I'm concussed."
"Yea, I know, bruv. Probably not thinking straight."
Mycroft nods and closes his eyes. Eggsy's other hand touches his cheek gently, fitting against his skin there, and it's warm too – and Mycroft might be shivering a bit. He's not sure. The whole world is spinning quietly in the background and Eggsy's hands are just… warm.
"Let's get you dressed up," Eggsy says finally, his voice quiet. He then helps Mycroft into his pyjamas with the same care that he used to get him out of his suit, and the warmth of the worn flannel is welcome against his suddenly chilled skin. Maybe that was it. Maybe he was just cold.
When he lies down to sleep, he tugs Eggsy down to lie with him. It must've been uncomfortable – Eggsy is in a full suit, sans oxfords, and he probably has a gun holster under his jacket which must be digging into his side. Eggsy doesn't complain in the slightest though. He merely takes his glasses off and shifts closer – close enough to touch, but far away enough not to be oppressive.
"You're in love with me," Mycroft announces sleepily.
"Like you wouldn't fuckin' believe," Eggsy admits with a sort of desperate exasperation, and Mycroft falls asleep holding his hand.
Eventually, between avoiding Sherlock's nosy enquiries, trying to wrangle the duties of a godfather now that the parents of his goddaughter have decided that he's dating unseemly people, and trying to hold the British Government together, Mycroft meets some of Eggsy's people.
The Kingsman Tailor shop is a real one. It is also a front. Eggsy takes him there only a week after the kidnapping incident, and Mycroft gets measured for a suit. A bulletproof suit. Eggsy is really not going to be taking any more chances with him, it turns out. And while the Kingsman suits – the bulletproof ones that is – are a rather well-kept secret, nothing actually prevents the members of Kingsman from having them made for people outside the organisation.
"We just have to pay for it ourselves," Eggsy says, running a hand over his own suit while Mycroft gets measured by the Kingsman tailors – who he suspects are a part of the Kingsman tech department. "In pre-V-Day it costs almost ten thousand pounds, one of these suits. These days they're even more expensive."
"And you're not worried about someone reverse engineering them?" Mycroft asks.
Eggsy smiles. "They'd have to re-invent a whole branch of tech first. We got a bit of a head start on the synthetic fabrics," he says smugly. "We had para-aramid fibres down twenty years before Kevlar was invented. These days, we use somethin' much better."
Of course he doesn't say precisely what they use now, but that's pretty much given.
During that same meeting, Mycroft also meets the man who created his and Eggsy's favoured e-cigs. Merlin is a brusque man with a slight Scottish burl and a shaved head – and, "If you really decide to stick with Eggsy, I'll be the one to implant you with a tracker," he says.
"Is that really required?" Mycroft asks, mildly amused.
"Not required, but for your safety it would be for the best," Merlin shrugs. "It wouldn't hurt to get one anyway. You're pretty much irreplaceable in your position, and it’s better for everyone if you just keep on doing what you're doing."
Apparently, Kingsman has greatly benefited from the UK's stability, and they are rather keen on keeping things that way. Though it has been quite a while since V-Day, the world is still far from recovering. Many governments have collapsed and many countries have descended into anarchy, but the UK stands strong and Mycroft is more than happy to take full credit for it. He worked hard enough to deserve it, certainly.
"We might be international, but that doesn't keep us from being a bit biased," Eggsy shrugs.
Mycroft doesn't precisely get a full tour of Kingsman’s facilities, naturally not, but he's added into the security systems of the tailor shop, and his biometrics are scanned for his personal access ID – so that in the event of a disaster, he could come there and know that he would be safe. Aside from that, however, he doesn't see much at all.
It is enough to estimate the scope of Kingsman’s operations, and considering that the organisation employs quite a number of skilled individuals, the fact that Eggsy heads the organisation starts puzzling Mycroft somewhat. While he has not precisely met any of the Kingsman agents aside from Eggsy – and perhaps the young woman from the Diogenes club – he has seen a couple in passing, and there is at least one man older and far more experienced than Eggsy in the ranks of the Kingsman agents.
So how did Eggsy gain control of the organisation?
"After V-Day, no one else wanted to do it," Eggsy shrugs. "Well. It was a bit more complicated than that – a whole fuckin' lot more complicated really. We lost a lot of staff in V-Day. Since our previous head was in Valentine's camp, well… he sabotaged Kingsman as much as he could. He was dead by then, but that didn't fuckin' stop him from messing everything up all posthumous like – he planted V-phones and shit in our HQ beforehand. We lost over half of our members. Lots of agents, a shit ton of support staff. It was a fuckin' mess."
He trails off and then shakes his head. "Me and Lancelot, we were the only agents who came out kind of unscathed. A couple of agents had head explosives, and the rest, they killed co-workers, family members, just a fuckin' shit ton of people. First hirin' we did after V-Day involved gettin' a whole slew of shrinks to take care of everybody. A few of our agents still aren't fit for duty, maybe never will be."
"So… they chose you out of a lack of anyone else to choose?" Mycroft asks, frowning.
"It was between me and Merlin. Lancelot didn't want to do it and she didn't have the leadership qualifications. I did. Besides, I was biased just right," Eggsy says and grins. "I told you I messed up my loyalty test, right? Yea, part of our testin' process involves raising a dog. In the loyalty test, you're ordered to shoot the dog. I didn't. And then that same day, I invaded Valentine's base and all that good stuff. Funnily enough, it made me right fit for leadership."
"Hmm," Mycroft hums, considering it.
"It was one hell of a trial by fire. Though, the first couple of months, I was pretty much a puppet for Merlin. Still not sure if that made things easier or harder for me," Eggsy snorts and then falls quiet. After a moment, he turns to look at Mycroft, his smile fading into an expression of total seriousness. "There's another thing, though. About why it was me, in the end, and not anybody else."
"You know that during V-Day, the head explosives went off a bit before the wave was launched, right?"
"Yes," Mycroft says slowly. It was what had saved his life, probably – he'd gone into his panic room, when the explosives had been triggered. It had kept him safe from the wave. Safe in a way Sherlock, John, and Mary hadn't been. Nor almost anyone else, really.
Eggsy looks at him closely. "I ordered that," he then says. "It wasn't Valentine who did it. He never planned to do it. The trigger to super heat the soft tissues – that was just a safety measure, a way to keep the secret before V-Day. But after? Those were the people he wanted to save, the people he'd chosen and turned to his cause, the people he was going to make a new age for. Everyone in his base had one, except for himself, his assistant, and the hostage VIPs who didn't agree to his terms. A little under a thousand people, all told."
Mycroft blinks and slowly leans back, thinking, running through a mental list of everyone who'd died that day due to those implants. It had included a lot of people he'd known. Some of them personally. Some of them he'd even trusted.
"You triggered the implants," Mycroft says slowly.
"Well, Merlin did. We hacked the network, he got the access, I suggested that he turn them on, and he did," Eggsy says slowly, still watching him.
Mycroft swallows a little at that, at the utter lack of remorse. "Why?" he asks quietly.
"It was the last option. It was them, or the world," the younger man says and finally looks away, smiling faintly. "And that's why no one else wanted to become Arthur. Because how the fuck do you top an executive decision like that?"
How indeed. Mycroft turns the new bit of information in his head for a moment before letting it settle – accepting it as a part of Eggsy. It fits rather well with the rest of what he knows about Eggsy, and it fills in that last hole in the puzzle of V-Day that had been bothering him. It is not a happy thought, but then… neither is the Valentine Conspiracy as it exists now. And that was Eggsy's work too.
Shaking his head, Mycroft reaches and touches the back of Eggsy's head, urging him to turn to him. When Eggsy does, a little more hesitant than he's ever been, Mycroft just shakes his head and kisses him. And Eggsy, as is his way, leans into it with the eagerness of a man on the brink of death – desperate and savouring all at once.
"With that sort of history, I am not having a tracker implanted in me," Mycroft tells him firmly, leaning his forehead against Eggsy's.
"I swear, ours don't come with explosives," Eggsy says quickly. "I got three of them, they're perfectly safe!"
The younger man smiles at him, winding his arms around Mycroft's waist, fitting firmly and comfortably against him. "You'll let me put bugs on all your clothes though, right?" he asks and then his eyes suddenly light up. "Hey, I got a brilliant idea for an engagement ring!"
Mycroft just rolls his eyes and kisses him again.
And that's it, that's the story :) thank's for reading and commenting!