“I didn’t ask.”
“The answer’s still no.”
“The answer to the question I didn’t ask.” Mycroft’s eyes narrowed, but he was smiling.
“I’m not going!”
“So I see.”
Greg groaned and turned his head away under his pillow. Mycroft stayed silent. Greg hadn’t got home until noon, having spent the night before chasing evidence in a moving van as it circled the M25. He had refused to consider the idea of accompanying Mycroft to the reception that afternoon - at the embassy of a country he couldn’t even find on a map - from the moment Mycroft had mentioned it a week ago. And that was all Mycroft had done. He had mentioned it, just once, and his silence on it since then had been frighteningly wearying.
“Just fuck off and let me sleep.”
“I haven’t been trying to stop you. Please yourself.”
There was a soft flump as something was dropped onto the bed. Greg barely felt it through the duvet.
“I felt that.”
“Oh, are you hurt?”
“I know that was your dressing gown.”
“I beg your pardon. I didn’t realise it would be so uncomfortable for you.”
“I am constantly surprised by your astuteness, Inspector.”
Greg turned his head back, and poked the pillow out of his way so he could peer out. Mycroft had his back to him while he studied something in the wardrobe. One hand was resting on the door, while the other moved hangers. Greg watched the slide of muscles across his shoulders, sleep still blurring his eyes too much to make out the freckles that he knew covered the white skin.
“I know what you’re doing.”
Mycroft glanced back, hearing his voice more clearly with the pillow pulled away. “Oh, hello. Now go back to sleep.” He turned away again, and drummed his fingers once on the door of the wardrobe. Greg flinched.
“Seriously, Mycroft. No.”
“You’ve said that. Are you sure you’re not talking in your sleep?”
Greg groaned again, an annoyed, frustrated sound of disgust. “Just stop it, all right? I was up for thirty hours, I’ve only slept for two!”
“Gregory.” Mycroft turned to him, folding his arms on his chest. “I understand. You’ve said. Now do you mind? If you want to sleep, by all means, sleep.”
“Then get out of the bedroom!” Greg almost wailed.
“I intend to. Just not naked,” Mycroft said, pointedly.
“You know what I mean!”
“I’ll make you a deal. You know what happens when you distract me. If you want to sleep, then stop talking.”
“I’m not going to go!”
Mycroft gave him a mad, dazed look that was equal parts frown and smile. “I’m not even going to comment.” He turned back to the closet.
Greg glared for a second, then squeezed the pillow back down over his head.
Everything was silent for a moment, and he almost dozed off. Then he felt the bed move, the mattress tilting slightly. He opened one eye, peering past the pillow. Mycroft was sitting on the edge of the bed, pulling on a pair of dark coppery-brown socks. They were a fine, smooth knit, and Greg knew from experience that they were just thin enough for him to feel Mycroft’s pulse through them. He was already wearing soft boxer-briefs of a light, powdery blue. Greg thought about nudging him in the arse with his foot, trying to push him off the bed, but that would be admitting that he was watching.
Mycroft stood again, making Greg gulp. The muscles of his legs were visible enough through the gingery curl of hair, but the briefs...clung. They emphasized the lines, clarifying them, making shadows sharper. He stepped closer to the closet, and pulled out a white shirt.
It was, of course, perfectly smooth, devoid of wrinkles. The kind of ironing job Greg could never manage unless someone invented an iron he could use against his own skin. Just lifting the shirt from the ironing board put more wrinkles in it. Mycroft slid the shirt off the hanger matter-of-factly, because to him, this was an everyday occurrence. And on days like today, more than once. The thin cotton wafted around his shoulder as he pulled it over his arms, straightening the front, which pulled it taut and close against his shoulders. Beneath his shoulderblades, though, it hung loose, not following the inward curve of his spine. Greg watched the fabric twitch and slide as Mycroft buttoned the front, his neck bowed. He paused when finished, settling the seams along his sides, adjusting the collar, still unbuttoned, before reaching up for his cufflinks. Greg couldn’t see which ones he had chosen, but he saw the left sleeve twist and settle as Mycroft worked the stem through the holes. When he finished and switched to the right, Greg realized the sleeves of this shirt were a little more full than usual. There was a looseness about them, nothing striking, and nothing that would show when his jacket was on, but the folds of cloth seemed to draw more attention to his arms.
The cufflinks in place, Mycroft reached forward again and brought out the trousers of his chosen suit. At first, Greg thought it was black. Did Mycroft own a black suit? Probably. But no, this wasn’t black. As the fabric creased and moved in the light from the window, Greg saw that it was actually a deep, inky blue, the wool mixed with just enough silk to give it a slight sheen. Mycroft held them a moment in front of him, doing something Greg couldn’t see, hearing a metallic clink and the flap of straps. Then the trousers were lowered toward his feet and he stepped into them, and Greg saw there were now braces attached to the back. Mycroft pulled the trousers up to his waist, smoothed the tails of his shirt down inside, buttoned his flies, then reached down and pulled the braces up over his shoulders.
The shape of his waist and arse suddenly changed. The trousers outlined the curve of his buttocks, then fell loose and straight down past what Greg could see, probably pooling against the floor slightly behind his socked heels. He already seemed taller, his waist thinner. Then the waistcoat appeared, and he swung it around himself, his hands swooping through the armholes. The back was the same shade of soft powdery-blue as his briefs, silk, but not the shiny satin that made Greg’s fingers slide across that gorgeously shaped back. The weave was something duller, softer than satin. Crisp.
There was a flash of bright teal around his neck, and then Mycroft had slid his tie beneath the fold of his collar, and Greg only caught another brief flash of blue-green as Mycroft tossed one end over the over, weaving them into a knot at his throat. He snugged things up, buttoning his collar, and smoothing the tie down before buttoning his waistcoat. There was another pause as he straightened things, pulling seams into place and checking with his fingertips. Now his waist was straighter, more slender, his lines sliding sleekly down across his arse, everything vertical until his shoulders seemed to blossom from the waistcoat.
Another flash of the powder-blue silk as he slipped into his jacket, and then suddenly pivoted to face Greg. The front of his waistcoat was cut more deeply then usual, sweeping down in a low V that would only just show behind the lapels of his jacket, if he buttoned it. He glanced at Greg, his attention still focused on the pocket square in his hands as he folded it, arranging the points in a loose spray around the center point, and tucking it perfectly into his pocket. He touched his tie, straightening his neck and shoulders, the tips of his fingers denting the soft, loose silk. The knot was looser, the two dimples in the tie balanced, but the tie itself was thinner than Greg had seen Mycroft wear before. It was just slack enough above the waistcoat to bulge slightly before disappearing behind the deep, dark blue wool, against the cool smoothness of his shirt.
With a start, Greg realized that Mycroft was looking at him, waiting, his eyebrows raised in silent enquiry.
“You cocking wanker.”
Mycroft blinked slowly, his expression unchanging. He slid his hands into his trouser pockets and waited a moment. “I thought you intended to sleep.”
“I did. But then you...” Greg pulled his hand out from under the duvet and gestured vaguely with it, then ran it over his face.
“I’m sorry. I thought you wished me to get dressed and leave you to your...nap.”
Greg hesitated a moment longer, then threw the pillow aside. He clambered across the bed and reached out for Mycroft, who stepped back, out of his reach, a look of alarm on his face.
“Excuse me. I appreciate the sentiment, but while you may not be going to the reception, I am.”
Greg glared at him, then got to his feet, only swaying a little. “Pricktease. I’m gonna shave, and you’re gonna figure out what I’m wearing.” He leveled a finger at Mycroft’s face. “And if I don’t look as good as you, it’s going to be your fault, you got that?”