Mycroft started looking for a beta the day he turned sixteen. He'd come to the conclusion that it was the only thing that made any sense, no matter how he looked at it: the idea of bonding was insupportable, but he did want to have sex. At sixteen, he would have come very close to calling it a need for sex. He hated letting his body dictate any part of his life, but finding a beta for that purpose would be far, far better than being permanently bonded to an omega. He knew that would have to happen eventually, and the thought always gave him a roil of disgust. He hated most of all that he had no choice at all. The pressure was already on from family friends, and in a lot of ways Mycroft knew they were right: he had the family and money to make it happen sooner, rather than later, and since the death of his parents it was his job to ensure the line would continue. In a lot of ways he envied Sherlock, who never capitulated to pressure of any kind. Who had never had to, because Mycroft would always do it for him. For a few days Mycroft toyed with the idea of refusing to bond altogether, of abdicating every responsibility he'd ever been burdened with. It was a stupid, foolish luxury, and a waste of time. He'd have to bond. In the meantime, then, he would carve out a tiny thing that was all his own, something that had nothing to do with expectations, or obligations, or anyone's happiness but his own. He wanted a beta.
He'd had no idea how difficult that would be.
At Cambridge he moved in alpha circles. His contact with betas was sporadic at best, and none of the ones he did meet struck him as particularly attractive. Alphas always claimed that the only reason betas would attend Cambridge would be to throw themselves in the path of wealthy young alphas, hoping to be taken on as secondary lovers after the alpha was bonded. Those were chasers, the ones who would pursue alphas at every turn, hoping to soak up some reflected privilege.
In theory that was perfect for what Mycroft had in mind. In practice it proved to be a little lacking.
He hadn't expected that.
The idea of dating, as two equals, was a difficult one to swallow. It wasn't done, but that was the least of Mycroft's concerns.
For one thing, he wasn't sure it was possible for anyone to want to date him without expecting something material in return. He'd never fancied himself as being much of a catch. He knew he was rubbish at people, all forced politeness and sneering. He didn't have any friends, nor had he ever wanted any. It had just never seemed remotely important; for someone like him, it hardly mattered if people actually liked him. His place in society was assured, and people would flock to him because he had influence. Nothing else mattered.
It was hard enough being at Cambridge and knowing that Sherlock was on his own in London, getting into so much trouble that Mycroft often wondered if he did it deliberately, just to spite him. Mycroft put up with it because sometimes he felt like it was the only thing he had to offer Sherlock at all. Other times he was sure of it.
He'd assumed the worst when he spotted Sherlock getting out of the police car, in a flash imagining all the things his brother might've done to get himself arrested.
When the beta constable got out after him there was a moment when Mycroft actually had to catch his breath, because the man was absolutely gorgeous. Brown hair a little long for the Yard, trim frame, tall. Large dark eyes that took in Mycroft completely. Mycroft had never thought about himself as having a specific type before, but Gregory Lestrade seemed to fit every single one of his unknown requirements.
He didn't expect he met any of Greg's. He'd never thought for a second Gregory would actually phone him.
Mycroft had fully expected the dating itself to be a disaster. They had almost nothing in common, aside from an errant ten year old and the last thing Mycroft expected was for Sherlock to ever be conducive to getting a leg over. Mainly it was the opposite.
There was the night that Gregory spent complaining about Sherlock nicking his handcuffs again and then demonstrating exactly how many interesting ways the cuffs could be used. For hours. If Mycroft could've thought of a way to phrase it, he might've even thanked his brother.
When Sherlock phoned to say he'd seen Moriarty, the first thing Mycroft felt was a detached sort of relief. He'd known Moriarty would contact him eventually and the waiting was almost worse than knowing he'd been summoned. That was probably why Moriarty took so long in doing so: taking his time, drawing it out, making Mycroft sweat.
It was a tactic Mycroft had used himself, on more than one occasion.
It was when Sherlock mentioned Moriarty having someone as leverage that Mycroft's blood ran cold. He knew immediately who it was, knew from the dismissive way Moriarty had talked about Greg the first time they met. "A beta, Mycroft – really? For someone in your position? I'd think you'd be able to do better." An omega like Moriarty may have certain reservations about killing another omega, but he'd not care at all about killing a beta. Greg was the perfect threat, because there was nothing empty about it.
Mycroft disconnected the call with his brother and took a deep breath. He'd mentally prepared for every contingency, and Sherlock, John or Greg being taken had been among them. It was, apparently, what Moriarty did. Now that it was actually happening, however, he found himself nearly paralyzed with fear. He had never in a million years expected that. He told himself it didn't matter. His fear wasn't important; he couldn't let it be important. He had a decade of holding his emotions in tight control and he certainly wasn't going to let it all come crashing down in the middle of a crisis just because his lover –
Working mechanically, he put two Taskforce tactical units on standby three blocks from the meeting place. He's been an arrogant fool to go into Moriarty's meeting alone last time; he knew perfectly well that he'd be worse than that to go in with any sort of backup this time. It wasn't going to stop him from putting backup in place, however, just in case the worst-case scenario played out. Even if he himself didn't make it out, he wanted to make absolutely sure that Greg would.
Afterward he sat at his desk for a long time, staring into space, his hands neatly folded in front of him. He tried not to panic.
Mostly, he failed.
When Mycroft got home, Sherlock was standing in the sitting room, his arms crossed over his chest, glaring.
"What is it, Sherlock?" he asked wearily.
"How long have you been seeing him?" Sherlock demanded.
"Do you really think that's the most relevant thing to discuss at the moment?" Mycroft rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. There were limits, and there were limits, and Sherlock seemed immune for understanding anything of the sort. "Of course you do; it's the only part that's in any way about you."
He was somewhat pleased to see Sherlock's eyes widen slightly at that. "What do you –"
"Sherlock," Mycroft snapped. "If you must throw a tantrum about this, do it later. Not now." He pushed past his brother and went up the stairs to change.
John was hovering in the hallway. He gave Mycroft a worried smile. "Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?"
Mycroft felt himself relax minutely. After years of putting up with Sherlock, John was like a breath of fresh air. "I'll need you to keep an eye on Sherlock tonight. The absolute last thing we need is for him to go off on an ill-advised undertaking. He knows where the meeting is, and at what time."
"Of course." John frowned. "You don't think he'll do anything? He cares about Greg; he wouldn't want to put him at risk."
"I've learned to never underestimate my brother's capacity for doing the exact thing that will exacerbate any terrible situation. There's nothing I can say that won't make it worse, but he'll listen to you."
"I'm not sure about that," John said. "I don't think anyone can force Sherlock to do anything."
"But you've come the closest," Mycroft pointed out. "He trusts you more than anyone. Especially at the moment. Make sure he doesn't leave the house tonight. There's nothing to be gained from Moriarty getting anywhere near Sherlock."
"I'll try," John said hesitantly.
"Drug him if you have to." He patted John's arm lightly, and John nodded.
He didn't bother arming himself. Moriarty had no interest in harming him – he already had Greg stashed away for that purpose. Harming Mycroft would be counterproductive to whatever it was he really wanted. He turned off his phone's ringer and got out of the car. He just wanted to get it over with.
Inside, he saw Moriarty standing at the opposite end of the garage, smiling at him. Mycroft couldn't see any gunmen, but he had to assume they were there, somewhere.
"So nice to see you again, Mycroft," Moriarty smirked.
"I can't say the same. Where's Gregory?"
"I'm afraid he's rather tied up at the moment. Unfortunately he was a little harder to capture than I'd anticipated. My men had to shoot him."
Moriarty waved his hand. "He'll be fine. Probably. He should see a proper doctor at some point, but that depends on you, doesn't it?"
"What do you want? I assume this has something to do with my bond to John."
"Oh, no. It's nothing to do with that. Not yet, anyway. The opportunity to have your brother and the omega at my disposal hit slightly before I was expecting, so your bonding took place before I was entirely ready to exploit it. The problem is that you Holmeses keep putting kinks in all my plans. But don't worry. I was taught to have a plan B and a plan C and a plan D, and even you can't get in the way of all of them."
"Taught by whom?"
Moriarty chuckled. "The best, of course. Someday you'll meet my alpha, Mr. Holmes, but not yet. These are all still the preliminary stages."
"What do you want from me in exchange for Gregory?"
"I want you to launch an investigation. As the head of the omega taskforce, that's your job, isn't it?"
"What kind of investigation?"
"The best kind. One against the betas."
That took Mycroft completely aback. "What?"
"I know you know about the pills, Mycroft. Your beta friend was extremely forthcoming about that, once I'd coaxed him a little."
Mycroft drew in a quick breath. "I want to see him. Now."
"If you do as I say, you shall. I know you know about the pills, and I want you to launch a public investigation into them. Leave no stone unturned."
"Why? It will start a panic."
"Because it will start a panic."
"Why would you want that?"
Moriarty sighed. "It wasn't supposed to be like this, you know. The police were supposed to find out about the pills. Their labs would confirm the pentachlorobiphenyl, and they were supposed to try to find the culprits. They would have incredible pressure put on them from higher-ups to get to the bottom of it. I'm sure they would've spared no expense. It would've started with the Met and spread to every other enforcement agency. It would have consumed the country. It would've been beautiful. That was plan A, and we'd put a lot of time and effort into it. Of course, you and your brother got in the way of that, didn't you? I should've realized he would. Sherlock is very talented."
"Why would you want to do any of this?" Mycroft asked, mystified.
"You don't actually expect me to tell you, do you? Luckily, there is still time to salvage some of it. I know you've started asking questions surreptitiously. All you have to do is make it all public."
"People will get hurt."
"No one important."
"What is your interest in my brother?"
Moriarty laughed. "My intentions are honorable, I assure you. He and I are going to bond, eventually."
Mycroft stared at him as if he were mad. At the moment, he wondered. "I highly doubt that. Sherlock has no interest in bonding."
"Then don't you think a second bonding would be perfect for him? No demands on him at all, yet he'll never have to be alone again. I think he would appreciate that."
"Why would Sherlock agree to that?"
"He will once I make him an offer he can't refuse."
"And what sort of offer would that be? If he doesn't bond, you'll kill him?"
"Easier to recruit than to fight against, don't you think? As this incident has shown, if I don't counter your brother's activities he's very likely to get in the way of mine. That's only fun for so long, you know. Fortunately you can help fix this mess."
"With my investigation. I assume you'll be directing this through me?"
"I may have some ideas about how you should proceed from time to time, yes."
"I want to see Gregory."
"You know that's not particularly likely, I'm sure. Not until after you've done as I've asked."
Mycroft crossed his arms over his chest in a way that reminded himself bizarrely of Sherlock. "I would need confirmation that he's all right before I do anything at all."
That only made Moriarty smirk harder, of course, as he tossed Mycroft a cell phone.
Mycroft caught it, examining it quickly and holding it to his ear. "Greg?"
"Hello," Greg's unmistakable voice answered. Mycroft's relief was so profound that he staggered on his feet.
"Are you all right? Moriarty said you were shot."
"I was shot," Greg confirmed. His voice was softer than Mycroft had ever heard it. "In the thigh. I'll be all right, I think. We got the bullet out, and the bleeding's mostly stopped. It's okay, for now."
"Are you sure?"
"I was taught some basic first aid, you know," he said, with a hint of protest. "I never thought I'd have to use it on myself, but it didn't turn out too badly."
"If you do say so yourself," Mycroft said. He couldn't help the fond smile that took over most of his face. "I'm going to get you home soon. I promise."
"I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but don't do anything stupid, all right? Considering the circumstances, it could be far worse. I'll manage."
"I'm sure you will. I should say the same to you."
"I don't think I could do much, with a gunshot wound."
"Stop worrying. And keep Sherlock from whatever half-buggered plan he cooks up. I'll be fine, more or less."
"You'd better be."
"Or else?" Mycroft could imagine Greg's cocked eyebrow and grin, if they'd been having this conversation under normal circumstances. Considering the circumstances were far from normal, he doubted Greg was grinning.
Moriarty held out his hand for the phone. Mycroft sighed. "I have to go. I'll see you soon."
He listened until Greg disconnected, then dropped the phone into Moriarty's hand. He didn't think he could stand to touch the man, even accidentally.
"What, you're not going to tell him you love him? I suppose the rumors I've heard about your emotional capabilities were actually true. From the way you treated that omega, I'd thought they had to be lying." Moriarty cocked his head. "Or perhaps you just like omegas more than betas? It would only be natural."
"Are we done here?"
"Launch your investigation, and be sure to keep the press in the loop. People need to be informed, don't they? I'll give you 48 hours to turn it into the biggest story this year, and then it will undoubtedly be out of your hands. The head of the omega Taskforce is somewhat important, but it won't take long before this thing spirals out of your control."
"That's what you want?"
"Loss of control, chaos? Yes. That's what I want. For now." He smiled. "I'll be in touch, Mycroft."