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Exes and Ohs

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As far as personal mistakes go, even complete cock-ups like this, a late night call to an ex isn’t the stupidest thing Greg’s ever done. It’s probably the stupidest thing he’s done this year, but it’s not like running down a blind alley after an armed suspect. It’s not lethally idiotic.

It’s just stupid enough to end badly, and he knows it. He’s smarter than he used to be, back before the divorce. He’s smart enough to know there’s a reason for a breakup, and that reason doesn’t disappear just because he’s had a few drinks after a long case. He wants to celebrate and he wants to feel good, and he really wants to drown out that sliver of self pity that knows there isn’t anyone else he could call at 1am and expect them to answer.

So he calls Mycroft Holmes. He’s just drunk enough to be wilfully stupid, even if he knows it’s a bad idea.

It was years ago and only lasted a few months. On Greg’s part, it had been a spite-fuelled post-divorce rebound, a desperate attempt not to feel like someone’s discarded leftovers. Mycroft had seemed at a loose end after Sherlock’s supposed death.

“Hi, Mycroft,” he says, when the call connects. There’s a small hum as Mycroft considers the situation -- he can probably hear the alcohol in Greg’s system, but can he hear that Greg’s at home, sock-clad feet kicked up on the coffee table? Can he guess there’s a half empty bottle of Johnnie Walker beside him?

“What happened to the lab technician?” Mycroft asks, voice crisp and clear despite the late hour. “Calls this late should be directed to whomever you’re currently dating.”

Mycroft is always clever and ruthlessly sharp. Greg has no idea why those traits annoy the hell out of him in Sherlock, but in Mycroft it makes him want to slide down on the sofa and spread his legs wide, preen for someone who can’t even see him. He considers sliding a hand down, palming his cock. He doesn’t, but he’s tempted.

“Didn’t work out.” It was a few fizzled dates. Four nights of awkward conversation over suitably neutral restaurant tables and two brief chats over coffee. It had been friendly and well-intentioned. It just never went anywhere.

Whereas nights spent with Mycroft had been crammed into busy schedules. The only food had been takeaways, but mostly they ate separately. Usually at their respective desks. It had been calling up at a free moment and coming over for sex. Grabby, pushy, demanding sex. Getting off in a rush like he was seventeen and worried about his parents coming home early. Not Greg’s healthiest relationship ever, but so much better than struggling to make conversation over the second course.

“I’m not in London,” Mycroft says. There’s a family seat, probably a stately home somewhere in the country, Greg’s sure of it. He’s only seen the London place, a huge sprawling townhouse that’s bigger than anything he’s seen in Zone 1. It’s like stepping into some period drama, all wooden panelling and suits of armour posed around the place. Mycroft’s country house is probably a bigger version of it.

“That’s a pity.”

“Because you’re inebriated and amorous?” Mycroft asks, diction as precise as his mind.

“Drunk and horny? Pretty much,” Greg agrees, and Mycroft clears his throat in that funny way that means he’s amused and too controlled to let it out.

Greg’s always found self-control a turn on. No wonder he ended up shagging the most restrained man in Britain.

“Should I be the voice of reason? Remind you that it has been years, Gregory?”

And that. The way Mycroft always says his full name, like he’s in the headmaster’s office and about to get detention. Like Mycroft has every right to call him by whatever name he chooses. It’s another of those things that shouldn’t be hot, but still has Greg sliding a hand down his stomach, stopping with fingers on his belt buckle.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” Greg says, voice lower and rougher than it should be. “I can think of much better things for that voice of yours.”

“Phone sex? Really?”

“Why not?” It’s easy to pull his belt loose, to pop a button free and ease the zip down. He’s already plump and half-hard at the idea. It only takes a squeeze or two for his breathing to get faster, and a loose stroke feels sinfully good. “Come on, Mycroft. Why not?”

“Because you have to complete paperwork for that case tomorrow, which will involve talking to Sherlock. Do you really think you’ll be able to look my brother in the eye without him knowing?”

Mycroft might sound cold and uninterested, but Greg’s heard that voice in his ear while Mycroft fucked him into the mattress. Mycroft can sound like he’s discussing the merits of Earl Grey tea while being deep-throated. That tone means nothing.

“Knowing what?” Greg asks breathlessly.

“Knowing this. Knowing that you called me up just so you could stretch out on that sofa of yours, still dressed with your cock in your hand, wanking to the sound of my voice. Urgent and fumbling with your left hand, because your dominant hand is still holding the phone.”

“And?” Greg asks, because Mycroft doesn’t need to be told he’s right. He already knows. He probably knows that Greg’s toes are curling against the wooden edge of the coffee table, looking for purchase. That Greg’s hips are starting to move, pushing up to meet his hand. That Greg can feel the heat flushing his skin, that he’s getting closer with every movement of his fingers, his whole hand moving now.

“And right now you’re wishing that you’d bothered getting undressed. That you’d taken off your shirt instead of letting it get so rumpled. That you’d taken off your trousers and could spread your thighs wide, could put yourself on display. The way you used to display yourself for me, lying back in my bed, stretching yourself around your fingers, making those shameless noises.”

Mycroft says something else but that memory, that feeling of being observed and desired, every inch of him catalogued and noticed, it’s all he needs. He comes with a grunt, hand working furiously.

He lies there, breathing hard. His clothes are a mess. He’s a mess. But fuck, that was hot.

He wonders if Mycroft found it hot, too. If Mycroft’s sitting in some old mausoleum of a country house, ignoring how hard he is. Or if he gave in to the temptation to touch.

Before he can ask, Mycroft says, “Sleep it off, Gregory,” and ends the call.

***

Greg is on the far side of forty. The very far side. He’s too old to sleep on the sofa without regretting it the next morning. He wakes up with his shoulders stiff and a sore muscle down the right side of his neck. When he slides his legs around and sits up, he groans like he’s eighty. He can add his lower back and his hamstrings to the muscles that prefer sleeping on a proper mattress.

The less said about the mess on his shirt the better.

He glares at the bottle of Johnnie Walker. He fishes his phone out from between the sofa cushions to check the time, but the battery’s dead.

He allows himself one sigh for his self-inflicted state, and then drags himself into the shower. He has a pile of paperwork on his desk and it won’t complete itself.

***

When Greg gets in, John and Sherlock are already waiting. It’s almost ten o’clock, so Greg’s not exactly surprised but he’d been hoping for a quiet morning.

John grins as he walks in, and asks, “Late night?”

“You know you’re getting old when sleeping on the sofa is worse than the hangover,” Greg replies, and John nods in amused sympathy.

Sherlock stares at him like the comment doesn’t make sense. There’s less than ten years between them, but Sherlock’s always had the energy levels -- and the concentration span -- of a teenager. He probably sleeps on sofas by choice.

“What, Sherlock?” Greg’s a little hungover. He can hear the tetchiness in his tone.

Sherlock pulls himself up to his full height, angles his face to stare down that long nose of his. “You should avoid drinking to excess if it makes you think getting together with an ex is a good idea.”

“I’m not an idiot.” Greg says that too often around Sherlock. It feels like his personal motto. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea.”

“Then don’t do it,” Sherlock says. Beside him, John gives Greg a look that’s partly friendly support but mostly discomfort at having to talk about something more personal than footy teams. A reliable, manly look that says, ‘I’m here for you, mate, but please don’t talk about it’.

“Sure,” Greg replies, “and you can stop running into danger without backup, shooting an illegal firearm, and using illicit substances when you’re bored.”

“Hardly the equivalent,” Sherlock says, offended by the idea that his stupid decisions are anything like Greg’s stupid decisions. “You know she’ll cheat on you again.”

“I’m not getting together with my ex-wife,” Greg replies, trying not to show any surprise at Sherlock’s error. Hiding a reaction from Sherlock is a valuable survival skill. “She’s married to someone else now. The PE teacher, as it turns out.”

“Being married never stopped her before.”

It’s just as cutting as any other observation, but it makes Greg smile. He might be alone, he might die alone, but at least he’s not the poor sod wondering if his wife’s cheating on him. He waves a magnanimous hand towards his office. “Come on. Tell me how you and John solved this one.”

“The proof was in the boxing gloves...”

***

Calling up an ex isn’t smart. Calling again... It’s exponential levels of stupid. But Greg does it and Mycroft answers, so the blame lies with both of them.

“Please don’t make a habit of this,” Mycroft says, chiding and sarcastic. Greg can hear the lack of true censure. If he was annoyed or angry, his tone would be ice cold.

“Why did you break it off?” Greg Lestrade, ladies and gentleman, the master of subtlety.

“It was no longer convenient.”

“That’s exactly what you said.” Greg remembers those words, remembers the shock of a break up he didn’t see coming. Maybe not a breakup: it had been too casual for that. But it was a rejection that came out of nowhere and left him stunned. “Why? What changed?”

“Why are you asking now?”

“Because back then my pride was hurt. The divorce was too recent. I couldn’t go running after someone else who didn’t want me.”

“I know why you didn’t ask then,” Mycroft says as if it’s perfectly obvious. It probably is to him. “Why now?”

“I want to know.” Greg wants to know why the best post-divorce sex suddenly ended, if it was something he’d done or not done. Maybe it was just bad timing, maybe they were never going to be more than a string of late night hook-ups. But dating is awkward and takes effort, and seeing Mycroft was easy. No need to say things because Mycroft already knew it. No way of saying the wrong thing and offending Mycroft, or being too sarcastic or unsympathetic, no need to apologise for working too many hours or only having time for a quickie before heading back into the office. It worked, right until it stopped.

“It was inconvenient. I had to go into the field.”

“For Sherlock?” Greg asks. He can’t think of any other reason that would make Mycroft leave London for an extended period of time. “Why didn’t you call me when you got back?”

Rarity of rarities, Mycroft gives a snort of amusement. “You are not so exemplary that it would be worth suffering my brother’s teasing.”

Greg knows how obnoxious Sherlock can be. That’s less of an insult than it sounds. “Maybe you should call me next time Sherlock’s out of London.”

“I don’t see that happening in the near future.”

***

If Greg was going to be logical about this, he knows that Mycroft hasn’t changed in the last few years. He’s arrogant and too clever by half, always condescending and certain that he’s right. He’s a Holmes through and through, and what sane person would want to get involved with a Holmes?

But there’s no denying that he finds Mycroft attractive. The suits and the layers and the perfectly pressed exterior, the untouchable confidence that Mycroft wears even when he’s undressed. Greg works in London; Mycroft isn’t the first posh, powerful man he’s met but he’s different from the run-of-the-mill city boys. Mycroft isn’t especially good looking, or charming, but he’s impossible to ignore. There’s something magnetic about the man.

After the divorce, Greg was a mess. He was hurt and betrayed, felt like an idiot for trying again, for believing her when he should have known better. He’s a DI, for god’s sake. He’s paid to work out when people are lying. He’d swung between anger and grief, and thrown himself into a few drunken one night stands to prove that he still had it. Whatever ‘it’ was supposed to be, he hadn’t lost it after eleven years of marriage. And then the thing with Mycroft kind of happened, and the sex was incredibly hot, and Mycroft left his number. Well, Mycroft handed Greg his number after he’d got dressed, and said, “Call me when you want to do this again.”

Not if, but when. Greg had been amazed at the level of presumption. “Confident, aren’t you?”

Mycroft had looked at him, raised an eyebrow as if Greg was being ridiculous. “Don’t text. It’s vulgar. Call.”

It had been Mycroft all over. Casually, thoughtlessly rude the way Sherlock is, utterly convinced that he’s right, that it’s so obvious that explaining his reasoning should be unnecessary. And when Greg found himself calling that number, inviting Mycroft around again, he’d wondered why he’d even bothered being annoyed at the presumption.

Mycroft is certainly a Holmes, too clever and odd and certain that he’s right, but Greg finds him attractive. That spark is still there.

It’s enough to make him wonder if he should have made a proper go of it the first time. Should have tried calling, or staying in touch. Should have called Mycroft when Sherlock reappeared and used it as an excuse to talk.

There are a lot of things Greg could have done. And the thing is... There’s nothing stopping him from trying now. The only thing he’s got to lose is his pride, and a bruised ego never killed anyone. So the next time Sherlock’s out of the city on a case, he calls Mycroft.

“This is starting to become a habit,” Mycroft says.

“Not yet but it could be.”

And this is where Mycroft makes it so easy. He doesn’t ask for details or why Greg’s calling, doesn’t make Greg spell out those messy feelings of regret and loneliness, wondering about lost opportunities and missing the physical comfort of another known body. He doesn’t make Greg beg or work to convince him. No, Mycroft just lets out a thoughtful hum, and then says, “I’ll be at your flat at nine.”

“See you soon, then,” Greg says and he’s not surprised to hear Mycroft disconnect the call without so much as goodbye.

***

It gives him enough time to do a quick whip around the flat: collecting empty coffee mugs, doing some speedy hoovering, wiping down the coffee table. He even gives the shower and bath a scrub. Mycroft won’t say anything but Mycroft will look around Greg’s place and spot every molecule of dust. And then Mycroft’s lips will purse in disapproval and he’ll get a head shaken in disbelief if there are dishes in the sink.

He has a shower and changes into a clean T- shirt and jeans. He changes the sheets. And then Greg sits on his sofa, twiddling his thumbs like an idiot at ten to nine. He looks around his living room, but the place looks clean to him. He even dusted around the telly.

Mycroft knocks, his customary three quick taps making Greg scramble off the sofa and nearly trip over his own feet. He’s a grown man. He can do better than this.

So he takes a steadying breath and opens the door. “Hey,” he says and there is Mycroft, light three-piece suit, neatly fastened tie, precise edge of a pocket square showing. He’s so fastidiously neat. So well-pressed and tidy that Greg’s fingers itch to mess him up, to loosen the tie and slide the jacket off his shoulders, to have him flushed and rumpled and too distracted to care about the lines of his suit. “Come in.”

Mycroft steps inside, setting his umbrella in the umbrella stand just inside Greg’s door. He glances around, and almost looks approving. “Bedroom,” he says and doesn’t wait for Greg to lead the way.

Not like Greg’s objecting. He’s two steps behind Mycroft, following him through the doorway. He’s frozen to the spot when Mycroft casually opens his wardrobe, pulling out hangers and quickly sliding off layers. Shoes and trousers first, trousers on the hanger. Jacket and waistcoat, and the whole suit is hung in Greg’s wardrobe without any pause to ask permission. No, Mycroft just commandeers the space without hesitation, and then takes out his cuff links and slides them into his shirt pocket.

Greg should say something, anything, but there’s something so strangely attractive about Mycroft like this. Still efficient, still certain of his actions, but as close to unguarded as the man gets. Greg enjoys the sight of Mycroft standing there in dark socks and long bare legs, shirt hanging loose to his thighs, sleeves still trapped in armbands. He’s loosening his tie, sliding the ends free with the ease of muscle memory, and then unclipping the armbands. Then, only then, does he start unbuttoning the shirt.

It’s not a striptease. There’s no art to it, no flirty glances or teasing flashes of skin. It’s habitual and practical, the way Mycroft would undress when alone. Still, Greg can’t take his eyes off Mycroft’s nimble fingers, the steady reveal of skin as button after button is undone.

He swallows when Mycroft slides the shirt off his shoulders, and drapes it over the second hanger, places it in the wardrobe and closes the door.

Then it’s just Mycroft in navy socks (because his feet get cold, Greg remembers) and matching navy boxer briefs, standing there and raising an eyebrow at Greg’s still dressed state. “Do you need assistance?” Mycroft asks archly and Greg feels himself nod at the idea.

“I wouldn’t say no,” Greg says.

Mycroft steps closer. This is not efficiency. This is Mycroft’s cool hands sliding up Greg’s sides, catching the fabric as they go. It’s a light, teasing touch, almost ticklish, as Mycroft pushes the T-shirt up Greg’s ribs. He keeps pushing up, fingers grazing over Greg’s biceps as Greg pulls his arms down and out of the sleeves, and then it’s off.

Mycroft slides a hand down Greg’s chest, past the soft start of middle-aged spread, past the waistband of his jeans. He rests a proprietary palm over Greg’s zipper, over Greg’s half-hard cock and Greg can’t help the gasp. Can’t stop his hips from pressing closer. Mycroft obliges, presses harder, rubs along the length of his cock until there’s no half measures about how hard he is.

“I don’t want to come in my pants like a teenager,” Greg complains, even as he’s pressing into Mycroft’s hand.

“Are you certain?” Mycroft asks, clearly confident that he could do it. That he could touch and tease, rile Greg up enough to leave him a sticky mess beneath his clothes. Greg closes his eyes at the thought, at that low down burn of embarrassment and arousal, the base want that sparks through him when Mycroft squeezes his fingers around his cock.

A shaky breath in. “Not tonight,” Greg says, because that idea is too hot to say no outright.

“In that case,” Mycroft says, pulling his hands back and resting them on Greg’s sides, “you should get undressed.”

Mycroft doesn’t step back. He stands right in front of Greg, and watches Greg’s fingers free the button and pull down the zipper. He stares as Greg slides them a few inches down his hips. Greg can’t help a little bit showmanship, rolling his hips under his hands, catching his thumbs around his underwear and pulling them down with the denim.

Mycroft stares. Stares as Greg pushes the material down his hips, stares as Greg’s cock stands free in the cool air, stares as Greg slides his jeans down his thighs. He steps back to allow Greg to finish taking them off, but his gaze never leaves Greg’s body.

It’s hot as hell, and Greg can’t resist dropping to his knees, kneeling on his bunched up jeans and tugging Mycroft closer. He doesn’t bother mouthing the stretched cotton, putting on a show. He just pulls it down and gets his mouth on Mycroft’s cock. He presses a few messy kisses against the length, tongue pressed against hot, thin skin. Mycroft hisses in a breath, hand tugging at Greg’s hair in the way that Mycroft hates when their positions are reversed, but Greg loves. Loves the sharp sting of it, the desperation in that tight grip, the feeling of power that comes with it.

He slides his mouth up, sucks the head of Mycroft’s cock, exploring with his tongue while he gets used to the stretch of his lips. He closes his eyes and gets lost in the heat, the taste, the soft give of skin as he slides his tongue over, feels the rub against the roof of his mouth.

Mycroft whines high in his throat, a pathetic desperate sort of noise he rarely makes. Clearly Greg’s not the only one who’s missed this. He glances up to see Mycroft watching him with dark eyes. His face is flushed, colour high on his cheeks, and his lower lip is caught between his teeth. When Greg leans closer, sucks him deeper, until he can feel the stretch of Mycroft’s cock against the back of his throat, Mycroft groans and curls forward. He cups a hand against Greg’s cheek, and rubs his thumb across the stretch of Greg’s lips.

And then he gets the hint. Keeps Greg steady with a hand on his cheek and fingers in his hair, and slides his cock out of Greg’s mouth until only the tip is resting on his lips.

“Fuck, yes,” Greg says, and Mycroft’s smile is sharp and hungry as he pushes back in. Cock sliding past Greg’s lips and head held firmly. Slow and controlled, and fuck, his mouth just being used and taken. If Greg had control of this situation he’s lost it now. He’s just holding on for dear life, fingers digging into the flesh of Mycroft’s thighs, feeling the muscle tense and contract as Mycroft thrusts.

Greg has lube in his bedside table. He had plans for tonight but he can’t think past the ache in his jaw, the hot slide of cock in his mouth, the throbbing need between his legs. He can’t even keep his eyes open.

“Go ahead, Gregory,” Mycroft says, voice far too calm and cool for the way his thighs keep trembling under Greg’s hands. “Touch yourself. Show me.”

Greg does. Reaches down with one hand, feels how much he’s been leaking. Gets a grip on his cock and jerks off while Mycroft watches him, watches Greg suck his cock, watches Greg touch himself shamelessly.

Greg can feel his cheeks burning. Can feel himself drooling around Mycroft’s cock. He’s a mess. A desperate, grunting mess but he comes hard enough to see burst of colour behind his closed eyelids. Comes with Mycroft’s cock in his mouth and Mycroft’s hand in his hair, and whines when Mycroft pulls back, cock flushed and still hard.

“Bed, Gregory,” he says, and damn the man for barely sounding out of breath. “Or your knees will not forgive you.”

Greg stands up, still riding the endorphin high and grinning like a fool. “That’s tomorrow’s problem,” he says, and Mycroft raises a haughty eyebrow in response. His underwear is around his knees, he’s still wearing socks, his cock is hard and shiny with spit, and yet he manages to look superior and condescending with a twist of the brow. It defies explanation.

By the time he walks to the bed, Greg thinks that Mycroft may be right. His knees are going to feel that tomorrow. He doesn’t say it, though. He just presses Mycroft down to the sheets and murmurs, “Now, where were we?”

Mycroft traces fingers along Greg’s jawline. “Your mouth on my cock,” he says, as if he was asking for milk in his tea.

Greg grins and shimmies down the bed. “Seems a shame to leave that unfinished.”

Slower this time and less handsy. Mycroft folds his hands behind his head, lies back like an indolent lord. Greg sucks and licks, bobs his head while Mycroft sighs and stretches out lazily on the mattress. Greg sucks until his jaw starts to ache, and then he pulls back, uses a hand to stroke while he tongues the head. He knows he’s hit the right rhythm when Mycroft tenses, when his breathing gets sharp and ragged. He’s ready for it, and swallows when Mycroft comes.

He doesn’t ask if Mycroft’s staying, because Mycroft never does. Doesn’t ask where Mycroft’s going after this because it isn’t really his business, and Mycroft might not be able to tell him anyway. Doesn’t offer the shower because Mycroft knows where it is, and they both know Mycroft won’t put on a suit until he’s washed away the sweat and the smell of sex.

Instead he says, “You don’t think this is worth a little teasing?”

“A little? Yes,” Mycroft says, not even opening his eyes. “But Sherlock is not known for his moderation. There will be a great deal of teasing.”

Greg’s not truly disappointed. It was the answer he’d expected. “At least Sherlock’s not returning until Wednesday.”

“He’ll be back tomorrow,” Mycroft says as if he knows something the rest of the world doesn’t. He probably does.

***

Greg would like to think there’s a reason for the next time he calls. A terrible day, a court case that went badly, a good case thrown out over a technicality. Or a celebration of a hard case closed. Any reason would be better than the truth: Greg’s bored. He’s bored and restless, and maybe even a little lonely.

It’s a rainy Tuesday night. He worked the weekend, so he’s had the day off in lieu and mostly washed dishes and floors, and sat around on the couch debating if laundry needs to be done. There’s a repeat of a quiz show that wasn’t interesting when it was new, but he has no motivation to leave his flat to do anything else.

Once it occurs to him that he could call Mycroft, it’s hard to shake the thought. He doesn’t have a good excuse for it, but he wants to. He wants to hear Mycroft’s voice, cool and lightly sarcastic.

He probably shouldn’t call. Then he remembers that Sherlock’s in Poland at the moment. That’s enough to make the decision for him.

“It’s four in the afternoon,” Mycroft says when the call connects. “Not all of us work shifts.”

“You telling me your job stops on the weekend?”

“I’m telling you my weekdays are not optional,” Mycroft replies, which isn’t what Greg asked.

It also isn’t a dismissal. Greg settles into the sofa, feet up on the coffee table. “Are you busy right now?”

“As I said,” Mycroft says, in that tone that sounds vaguely bored by always being right about everything, “my weekdays are not optional. I won’t be leaving my office to meet you.”

“So you can talk?” Greg asks, but it’s unnecessary. If Mycroft didn’t want to talk, he would have already ended the conversation. “I was just thinking about you.”

“Surely you have better things to ponder during your leisure hours.”

“Not really.”

“That suggests rather dismal things about your social life,” Mycroft replies lightly.

Greg huffs, unable to stop himself from smiling. “It probably does. Or maybe it’s just that you’re the most interesting person I know.”

“That’s true for most people.” Even Mycroft’s sense of humour is sly and controlled. It feels like being let in on a secret, one of the precious few to know Mycroft Holmes can make a joke. “Why are you calling?”

“Doesn’t asking that ruin your general air of omniscience?” Greg teases, grinning up at his ceiling. He should have grown past crushes. He’s old enough not to be giddy over fancying someone. Really, he is. “Shouldn’t you already know that?”

“Boredom,” Mycroft announces easily.

“But you picked up. What does that say about you?”

The pause on the other end of the line is longer than it should be. Long enough for Greg to wonder if someone’s walked into Mycroft’s office, if Mycroft will hang up on him.

Then Mycroft says, “In all honesty, it says that even clever men occasionally indulge their follies.”

“I’m a folly?”

“You represent something very appealing and ultimately impractical,” Mycroft says. Greg chooses to be flattered by the appealing part. “But at this moment, I have the resources to allow some indulgence.”

“But not enough to come round and entertain me?” It’s cheeky and pushing further than he should. Greg knows it, but he can’t help pushing a little against Mycroft’s iron self-control. No, not iron, platinum. Something hard and polished, something expensive and lasting. For all the layers of soft fabric, for all the manners and calm tone, there’s something so solid about Mycroft. He’s grounded in certainty about himself, about his place in the world, and it’s refreshing. It’s so much better than dating someone who doesn’t know where their life is heading or how they got there.

“Unfortunately, not an option.”

Greg lets his head fall against the back of the sofa, remembering the last time he sat here and talked to Mycroft on the phone. “But if you could?”

“If I could, Gregory,” Mycroft says slowly, and Greg hears his own breath catch, “you would not be bored. However, I have other matters to which I need to attend.”

“Tease.”

Mycroft allows a low hum. “You can wait until seven-thirty.”

“What’s happening at seven-thirty?”

“That is when I’ll arrive at your flat.”

***

This time, Greg does plan. He cooks, he tidies and then he runs a nice hot bath. He rests his phone on the hand basin and plays music. Not loud enough for neighbours to complain but loud enough to cover the occasional sloshing of bathwater as he slides hands over his hips, down between his thighs.

He cups his cock for a moment, just a squeeze to enjoy it before moving lower. It’s not the best angle. Greg has to curl his back and twist his arm a little to push a finger inside himself. More resistance than he remembers, but it’s been a while.

When he thinks about it, it’s been years. The last time he got fucked was... Mycroft, actually.

The thought of Mycroft’s long fingers digging into his hips, holding him steady for the next thrust, it’s enough to make him clench around his finger, wishing for more.

Biting his lip, Greg resists the temptation to grab his cock and enjoy the memory. Instead, he shifts to a more comfortable position and stretches himself on two fingers.

By the time Mycroft knocks on his door, three precise taps at exactly seven-thirty, Greg’s a little impatient.

“Finally,” he says, opening the door wide. “Have you eaten?”

“Of course.” Mycroft’s eyes dart down Greg’s thin T-shirt and pause at his sweatpants. Greg’s still half hard, and while it isn’t obvious, he knows Mycroft can see it. “Bedroom?”

“Unless I can convince you to fuck me over the sofa,” Greg says hopefully. It’s not a strong hope, and the moue of disgust that settles on Mycroft’s face makes his opinion very clear.

“Not with me,” Mycroft says firmly, “regardless of how your sofa has been used in the past.”

Greg wonders what Mycroft sees when he looks at Greg’s comfortable, dark brown sofa. It looks respectable to Greg, but are there indentations from kissing sessions that eventually drifted to the bedroom? Signs of previous partners he’s groped on those cushions or the times he’s dropped to his knees and kissed his way up a pale thigh?

“Come along,” Mycroft says, walking to the bedroom. Greg follows and closes the bedroom door behind him.

Mycroft steps closer, slides a hand down the back of Greg’s sweatpants. He doesn’t even blink at the lack of underwear. No, that hand just smooths over Greg’s skin, until his fingers are splayed across his cheek.

“Take these off,” Mycroft says, and Greg scrambles out of his clothes. He nearly elbows Mycroft as he tugs off his T-shirt, but Mycroft leans back just in time.

“Oops,” he says, throwing the T-shirt down. “Sorry.”

“No harm done.” Mycroft steps closer, two hands on the small of Greg’s back. He presses a soft kiss to the edge of Greg’s jaw and slides his palms down Greg’s naked skin. The movement is slow and steady, sliding up his back and then down to his arse, squeezing. Greg has to fight to stay still, to stop himself rubbing his bare cock against a suit that costs more than he wants to think about.

There’s another warm kiss against his jaw and Mycroft’s fingers tighten, pulling his cheeks apart. Greg gasps, suddenly feeling exposed.

“I do appreciate the efficiency of being prepared,” Mycroft says, so very smug as he presses a finger against Greg’s hole. It’s a tease, just the tip of Mycroft’s finger pushing at him, playing with the sensitised skin.

“Fuck,” Greg hears himself groan, “come on.”

“Very well.” Mycroft presses a swift kiss to his lips and pulls his hands back. He wastes no time taking off his suit, hanging it neatly, but it feels like it takes too long. Greg wants him naked now.

He distracts himself folding back covers. He gets lube and a condom out, dropping them on the bed. When he glances over, Mycroft is down to underwear and watching him carefully so Greg spreads his legs and bends over the side of the bed. He braces himself on his forearms and looks over his shoulder to check if Mycroft’s still watching.

He is.

Greg grins to himself and lets his forehead drop to the mattress. He listens for the sound of quiet footsteps coming closer, for the crinkle of foil and the click of the plastic cap.

Mycroft settles a hand on Greg’s back, thumb soothing nonsense patterns against his skin, and then there are slick fingers sliding inside Greg. Longer fingers than his, able to press and rub over his prostate, able to make him groan like he’s been craving this forever.

Mycroft hushes him, chides, “Patience,” and insists on more lube and three fingers before he shows a shred of mercy and finally fucks Greg.

He pushes in slowly, inexorably, and the burn is sharper than Greg remembers. The stretch is fantastic, has him on his toes and pushing back for more, but Mycroft refuses to be rushed. He pushes all the way in and stays there, hands wrapped around Greg’s shoulders, mouth wet on the back of Greg’s neck.

The stretch is just this side of painful, too much to simply stand here and feel. He wants to be fucked. He wants to be pounded into the mattress, not pinned and held so carefully. “Move, Mycroft.”

There’s a sharp sting of teeth on his back, enough to make him hiss and curl up into Mycroft’s weight.

“Patience,” Mycroft repeats, voice cool and calm. Greg can feel the tension in Mycroft’s arms, in his torso. The faster breaths huffed against his skin.

He bites his lip and clenches around Mycroft’s cock. No one said he had to play fair.

Mycroft’s hips jerk forward, trying to push deeper. That crack in his self-control. It makes Greg groan, spread his legs wider.

“Incorrigible,” Mycroft says, because of course he uses the triple score words while balls-deep in someone’s arse. It’s all worth it when he moves, when he slides back and then pushes in. Slow enough that Greg whines, breath caught behind his teeth.

The next slide is glacial. Too careful, too restrained. Makes Greg claw fingers into his own wrist and push his forehead against the covers. And the next has him holding his breath, caught on too much sensation and no control.

The first hard thrust, angled right against his prostate, has Greg cursing and clawing at the bedding. That’s what he needed. Steady and forceful. Cock pressed against the sheet and arse full and Mycroft’s fingers holding onto his hips.

***

Greg appreciates Mycroft’s patience the next morning, when his lower back feels like somebody kicked it and his arse aches. In that stretched and well-used way that makes him feel a little proud, but still sore enough that he’s limping a bit the next day.

He doesn’t pull out his phone and text Mycroft to schedule a repeat performance, but he’s tempted. And next time, it’ll be in the bed not bent over it, so his hamstrings don’t complain so loudly the day after.

Sally takes one look at him and raises both eyebrows. “What happened to you?”

“Pulled a muscle running,” he tells her. He doesn’t run as often as he should, but once upon a time he was fit. “Should have stretched more.”

Sally looks amused but she doesn’t say anything else. He’ll take bemused sympathy over having to talk any more about it.

She nods towards his office. “They’re waiting for you.”

Through the glass walls of his office, he can see the dark shape of Sherlock rifling through his desk. “Thought he was supposed to be in Poland?”

“Apparently he got hired for a case and came back. He wants to see the file.”

“I’m not the only copper here,” Greg mutters, shifting the coffee in his hand and walking to his desk. He’s not really complaining. He likes being Sherlock’s first choice of DI. Sherlock’s reputation means that there’s a fair few DIs that ask for Sherlock’s help these days, but when Sherlock comes to the Yard, it’s always Greg he expects to work with.

Which sometimes means he steals other DIs’ cases, but the less said about that, the better.

“We need access to the crime scene photos from Dover Street,” Sherlock says as Greg does his best to walk normally into the room. Of course Sherlock still stares, gaze focusing on Greg’s thighs as an amused smirk appears on his face.

“Shut it,” Greg says warningly. He puts his coffee down and switches his computer on, and decides to stay standing for the moment.

“Glad you enjoyed your day off,” Sherlock says, sounding so polite and innocent that John immediately looks suspicious.

Greg sighs. “The homicide at Dover Street, right? Stay here, I’ll find out who’s got the case.”

***

It’s strange how comfortable it feels to be around Mycroft. There’s the whole security thing, where Mycroft knows more state secrets than the Queen and probably makes more important decisions than the PM. There’s the formality and the suits and the way that Greg always feels outclassed just by standing in the same room. There’s the fact that he’s Sherlock’s brother, which is a whole range of warning signs right there.

The idea of dating Mycroft Holmes is bonkers. It’s completely bloody mad.

He hasn’t been this excited about something in years.

“Opera?” Mycroft questions carefully when Greg invites him out. There’s so much scathing judgement in those few syllables that Greg nearly laughs.

“Won tickets in the office raffle. Figured you might like that kind of thing.”

“Not the way they’re currently staging it.”

Greg nearly asks if that’s a refusal, but he doesn’t want to make it easy for Mycroft to say no. “Then you should come and tell me how they’re doing it wrong.”

Mycroft clears his throat, and Greg congratulates himself. “Very well. I wouldn’t want you to think that was the way to hear Verdi.”

***

The opera itself is horrendous. Overloud warbling that doesn’t even sound like a language, and endless, endless posturing. Greg finds himself wincing through most of the performance and wondering what he’s ever done to deserve this. He must have terrible karma from a past life to have to sit here suffering. Mass murder or genocide, maybe.

At the intermission, he maybe groans at the idea of sitting through another whole hour. He shouldn’t be surprised that Mycroft notices.

“Having fun?” Mycroft asks coolly.

“This was such a bad idea I can’t believe I came up with it.”

“It would be rude to leave now,” Mycroft says. Barring a national crisis, they’re clearly not leaving before the final curtain. Greg doesn’t quite wish for one, although a bomb scare where no-one’s hurt would be welcomed.

“Fine. I’m not leaving.”

“Perhaps a drink would help,” Mycroft suggests, standing. “It couldn’t make it worse.”

The theatre foyer is packed, but they queue and pay ridiculous amounts for two glasses of wine. The wine isn’t even that good.

“Where’s Sherlock?” Greg asks, filling the silence between them.

“Baker Street, I believe.”

“He’s in London?” Greg asks in surprise. He’d assumed Sherlock must have been out of the city for Mycroft to accept the invitation.

Mycroft’s expression is an icy warning. Greg doesn’t ask any further questions.

But that night, when he’s peeling Mycroft out of a black evening suit that reminds Greg of his teenage crush on James Bond (Connery, obviously), Greg can’t resist asking, “Sherlock’s really in London?”

“If you mention my brother’s name one more time tonight, you are going to be very frustrated by how the night ends.” Mycroft’s voice is mild and light, but the nip to Greg’s ear is sharp and makes him gasp.

“Just,” Greg starts, and then stops as Mycroft sucks on his earlobe, warm and wet, sending shivers down his spine. “That’s really not playing fair.”

“The object is to win,” Mycroft says, breath cool on wet skin. “Fair is inconsequential.”

To Mycroft Holmes, fair is something that lesser minds worry about. Then again, if you’re that clever, most arguments couldn’t be fair if you tried.

“I just mean,” Greg says as Mycroft’s fingers make quick work of his buttons, “this is the first time we’ve slept together while Sherlock’s in London.”

“Yes,” Mycroft agrees after the tiniest of pauses.

“Why?”

“Because not everything in London revolves around Sherlock. Certainly not the Metropolitan Opera schedule.”

***

Something changes. Greg doesn’t know what it is, but it’s there. It’s something unspoken, hovering out of sight when Mycroft takes his next call with a sigh, his half-muttered, “This will only take a moment,” so easily overheard.

When he asks if Mycroft wants to come round tonight, there’s something in the way Mycroft says, “I couldn’t possibly find time this week,” that makes Greg believe he honestly regrets it.

“Can we reschedule?” Greg offers hopefully. If he thinks about it, his pride will sting but he’s not begging. He’s just... being persistent.

“Next Monday at the earliest,” Mycroft says coolly. Greg’s heard people make dental appointments with more enthusiasm. “I’ll arrange dinner if your schedule allows it.”

“Yes,” Greg says immediately, although it hadn’t really been a question. It’s embarrassingly keen, but fuck it. It’s not like personal pride has been doing anything for him lately. “That’d be great.”

Mycroft hangs up without another word, manners only considered when it suits him. There’s no good reason for it to leave Greg smiling.

***

It feels typical that by the time Monday night comes along, Greg’s neck deep in a fresh homicide. There’s a body on the ground and he’s waiting for SOCO to arrive, resisting the urge to fiddle with his phone. It’s only half past five, but he knows how long these things take. There’s no way he’ll be done in time to change and make it to dinner.

The easy option would be to text a quick message cancelling tonight. Easy except for the way Mycroft hates text messages.

Almost as much as Greg hates making this call, going through that irritating shuffle to justify working late, to defend unpredictable hours and apologise for something he’s not actually sorry for. Mycroft’s never objected to the job coming first, but Greg’s had too many years of those fights. He can’t help feeling wary of making that call.

It’s not a conversation Greg wants to have standing on the crowded landing of a council estate, ugly worn concrete everywhere he looks. There are uniformed officers guarding the doorway to the flat, and more talking to neighbours and knocking door to door, so Greg wanders along the landing until he finds a little breathing space.

Below him, there’s another stretch of concrete, pavements and parking, but at least the air is fresh. He takes a deep breath, and then dials.

For five long rings, it doesn’t answer. Then there’s Mycroft’s calm tone, saying, “Go ahead.”

“Hey,” Greg says, because normal people -- non-Holmes people -- start with a greeting. “I’ve just got a new case. I won’t be able to make dinner tonight.”

“I’m working late,” Mycroft replies. “I’ll stop by yours at ten.”

It’s presumptuous and organizing, but objecting to those traits is like objecting to the sea being wet. It’s also a welcome relief. “See you then.”

***

Ten o’clock comes and Mycroft doesn’t show. Greg sits on his sofa, paces up to his kitchen. Spends a lot of time walking around his flat but not actually achieving much.

He moves things from here to there, and keeps checking the time on his phone. Ten-thirty, and still nothing. Mycroft’s probably been held up. A meeting he can’t get out of, or one of the quietly ringing calls that he always answers with a small frown and very few words.

At five to eleven, Greg pulls out his phone. No point sitting around waiting all night. Better to call Mycroft and then head to bed.

Mycroft’s phone doesn’t answer. It doesn’t go to a message service; it just rings in Greg’s ear and isn’t answered.

Mycroft always answers his phone. He arrives when he says he will and he calls when he can’t make it. He doesn’t just not show up and ignore his phone.

There’s a sinking feeling in Greg’s stomach. A sour note at the back of his tongue that tastes a lot like fear.

He’s being ridiculous. Even if something had gone wrong, what’s a London copper going to do about it? He’s well aware that the information Mycroft’s privy to is well above his pay grade. The sensible thing would be to go to bed, get some sleep, and try calling Mycroft in the morning. That would be practical and reasonable.

He tries calling again. It rings out.

Greg gets his coat and heads over to Sherlock’s flat.

***

It occurs to Greg that it’s almost midnight and there’s a baby in the house. It occurs to him about three seconds after he knocks on the door.

He holds his breath, waiting for the unhappy squawk of a toddler woken too early. Thankfully, it doesn’t come.

The door eases forward a few inches, and there’s Mrs Hudson staring out at him, floral dressing gown and fluffy slippers on. “Inspector?”

“Sorry to disturb you, Mrs Hudson,” Greg says softly, “but I need to talk to Sherlock.”

He’s ready to justify the late hour, but Mrs Hudson opens the door wide and says, “They’re still awake. I’d show you up but my hip, you know. It’s worse at night and those stairs don’t help.”

Greg nods in sympathy, but doesn’t want to get caught in a ten minute discussion about her hip. Any other time, he’d nod and smile and listen, but he doesn’t have the patience for it tonight. “Thanks,” he says, and sharply heads upstairs. By the time he gets up there, the door to Sherlock’s flat is open.

There are lamps on and Mrs Hudson’s right: they’re both up. John’s sitting in an armchair, flipping through a magazine. Sherlock is at the table arranging... lint?

“You do realise it’s nearly midnight?” Greg blurts out, before he can think better of it.

“Sleep is boring,” Sherlock says, not looking up from what looks like a variety of grey lint. Different shades of grey, yes, but it’s still a pile of lint. That he’s separating with tweezers and a magnifying glass.

John gives a shrug, laying his magazine down on his lap. “We were up all night last night and slept most of the day. Body clock’s turned around.” Trust John to have a sensible explanation.

“And you need help,” Sherlock says, one dark grey piece of fluff hanging in mid-air as he gives Greg a quick sideways glance. He turns back to his magnifying glass with a frown. “Personal help.”

“How d’you know that?”

“Casual clothes, legal parking. When it’s a police matter, you park wherever you like,” Sherlock says. “It’s midnight and you’ve been stood up. You really don’t need me to fill in the gaps in that scenario.”

“What?” Greg asks. It’s become a habit around Sherlock. “I wasn’t stood up.”

“You weren’t expecting a late night visitor who didn’t show?”

“Well, yeah,” Greg starts and Sherlock talks over him.

“They didn’t show and when you called, they didn’t answer their phone. Quite obvious. They’ve either lost interest or their spouse came back unexpectedly.”

“He’s not married,” Greg replies sharply.

“As far as you know,” Sherlock says with that air of smug superiority that makes Greg’s skin itch between his fingers.

Makes Greg say stupid things like, “I’m pretty sure you would have mentioned if your brother was married.”

“My brother?” Sherlock asks, letting the tweezers clatter on the table. His brows shoot up, eyes wide, and then they narrow. “I knew he was lying about something!”

That last part seems directed to John. John who’s still sitting in his armchair, watching the two of them with quiet amusement. “It’s Mycroft. He’s always lying about something.”

“Yes, but--” and Sherlock waves a hand up and down at Greg, “--Lestrade. Lestrade, John.”

Greg doesn’t know what to make of that reaction, but John shrugs and asks, “Want a cup of tea? He might need a minute.”

“I do not need a minute,” Sherlock says haughtily. Then he mutters, “Lestrade,” under his breath and shakes his head in disbelief.

Greg could ask but honestly, it’s not worth it. Allowing himself to be offended by Sherlock is never worth it. He can allow himself an eyeroll, that’s it.

Sherlock fishes his phone out of his pocket and starts typing. His long fingers blur over the screen.

“Are you tweeting?” John asks, eyeing the phone doubtfully. “You promised you wouldn’t.”

“I promised Mycroft I wouldn’t tweet anything relating to his work, which gives me free rein when it comes to Lestrade.” Sherlock glances up and looks a bit -- a very, very small bit -- sheepish at John’s doubtful glare. “I’m texting him. Mycroft rarely runs late.”

It’s silly but Greg crosses his fingers for luck. Best case scenario: Mycroft answers and Greg looks like an idiot for worrying. That’s what he’s hoping for. He’s hoping that he’s over-reacted and Mycroft will be annoyed that he told Sherlock about them, might be coldly furious even, but it will all be over nothing more serious than working late.

There’s no beep of a reply message.

Sherlock starts typing again, sends another. He allows a minute of tense silence as they all watch Sherlock’s phone, waiting for a response. Nothing. Sherlock starts typing again.

There’s an almost immediate chime in reply. Greg lets out a breath, letting the relief flow over him. “Sorry for being--”

“That wasn’t Mycroft,” Sherlock says over him. “His assistant hasn’t seen Mycroft for two hours.”

Greg’s a cop. He knows how to keep calm in an emergency but right now, his mind’s gone blank. Mycroft’s missing. Actually missing. In the ‘something very bad might have happened’ way.

“What do we do?” Greg asks. He should know the answer to that question but he doesn’t. Not right now.

“You stay here with John,” Sherlock says, striding across the room and grabbing his coat. “I’m going out.”

“Sherlock,” Greg says, “just be careful, right?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock replies, already out the door.

***

Greg doesn’t like waiting. He doesn’t like being on this side of things, being the friend or loved one of the victim. It feels much better to be the officer tracking them down instead.

Not that there’s much he can do right now. Sherlock’s sent an occasional message to John -- mostly they read “Working on it,” and “Stay there,” and “Call in sick. Stay at Baker Street,” as the sun rose -- but they’ve both been kept out of the loop.

It’s been hours of frustration. Greg’s too keyed up to sleep, even though he knows he should. Nobody knows precisely what Mycroft does but anything that would make him disappear can’t be good. Kidnapping sounds too mundane for Mycroft Holmes. Greg keeps thinking that an assassination attempt is probably more Mycroft’s style, but that just makes him wonder if there’s a dead body buried somewhere. It feels more logical, more likely, but he can’t bring himself to believe it. The thought alone is enough to tip his fearful worry into blind panic, which is probably why he’s stuck at Baker Street.

So he makes tea and scrubs the kitchen sink. He wipes and tidies, and fetches a clean bowl when Rosie tips her porridge over the floor. He tries to focus on what his hands are doing, and ignore the dread sitting low in his gut.

“Mycroft isn’t what he seems,” John says over another cup of tea, watching Rosie play with Lego on the floor. “I’d worry for anyone stupid enough to try to kidnap him. He’ll be fine.”

“I know.” Greg does. He knows that Mycroft appears sheltered and soft. That he plays the role of privileged civil servant, someone who never gets his hands dirty and doesn’t need to recognise the human cost of his decisions. It’s not who Mycroft is. Mycroft is sharp and cunning, and his sense of self is relentlessly certain. He’s ruthless when required and smart enough to get what he wants out of every situation. He’s far from helpless.

Thankfully, John’s phone chimes an hour later. “They’ve got him,” John says and then reads out the message. “Mycroft found. Debriefing. Dull.”

For a moment, the relief makes him weak-kneed. Greg has to anchor himself with a hand on the counter. He breathes out and nods at the news, but can’t say anything yet.

“He’ll be fine,” John says again, and there isn’t anything else to say.

***

He is fine. Hours later, when Sherlock and Mycroft finally return to Baker Street, Mycroft looks as crisply presented as he always does. Greg has to look closely to see any signs of whatever happened last night. There’s a hint of a bruise on Mycroft’s right cheek and a very small graze beneath the left side of his jaw.

“You’re okay?” Greg asks, before hellos or anything else.

“Of course.” Mycroft clearly considers it a ridiculous question. Greg notices how Mycroft folds his hands over his umbrella and keeps the knuckles on his right hand hidden from view. “Simply a matter of bad timing. I’d thought Wednesday at the earliest.”

“You had a schedule for being unexpectedly kidnapped?”

“Legwork,” Mycroft replies with a truly disgusted frown. “Tedious, albeit necessary.”

Greg could ask for details. He feels like he deserves to know what happened. But if Sherlock isn’t crowing over how brilliant he’s just been, there’s no chance he’ll get the truth. “You couldn’t have texted? Let me know not to worry?”

Mycroft’s frown turns petulant. “No.”

“He let his phone get broken,” Sherlock says.

“I did not let it happen,” Mycroft replies sharply.

“You let them take it.”

“I was going to recover it afterwards. If you hadn’t caused such a ruckus--”

“Me? I wasn’t involved in planning this--”

“If you had been, it would have been far less successful.” Mycroft glances across the room and his face pinches into that sour lemon expression that heralds distasteful truths. “But you did expedite the situation, which I appreciate.”

“I’d appreciate if your personal life didn’t overlap with my professional life,” Sherlock replies, but it’s lacking the usual acidic edge. “But if it had to be someone from the Yard, Lestrade is the only acceptable choice.”

Greg grins. He turns to Mycroft who looks frozen in polite interest. He’s never seen Mycroft surprised, but he suspects this is the closest he’ll ever get.

“I don’t know about all of you, but I’m wrecked,” Greg says to fill the gap. “I’m heading home. Sherlock, thanks.”

Sherlock waves off the gratitude with the wave of a few long-boned fingers. “I will be sending an invoice for my time and effort,” he says to Mycroft.

“I expected no less,” Mycroft replies in lieu of making his goodbyes. “Gregory, I’ll give you a lift.”

“I drove. My car’s here.”

“I’ll send someone to move it.”

***

In the back of Mycroft’s comfortable car, Greg fights the urge to yawn. He also fights the urge to question. Mycroft isn’t the type to volunteer the truth if he doesn’t want to.

“Close your eyes if you need to,” Mycroft says, scrolling through the new phone that was waiting on the back seat for him. “I’ll wake you when we get there.”

Knowing Mycroft expects him to nap makes Greg determined to stay awake. Even if he has to make pointless conversation to keep his eyes open. “I thought you said the teasing would be terrible. Sherlock seemed fine.”

“He’s already had several hours to make jokes at my expense. Luckily Sherlock bores of most things very quickly.”

Greg shakes his head. Only the Holmes brothers could multitask a secret rescue mission with sibling mockery. “I thought you’d be more annoyed at me for telling him.”

“It’s done now.” Mycroft’s fingers are nimble, tapping away at the screen with the speed of a social media addicted teen. “No point begrudging it.”

“Yeah, but...” Greg sighs. He runs a hand through his hair, scratching at the back of his head. “I thought you’d be mad.”

“Yet you did it anyway.”

Greg’s about to protest that -- say that life and death are more important than a little family embarrassment -- but Mycroft glances at him, and then rolls his eyes to the roof of the car.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Gregory. You knew I didn’t want Sherlock to know but you were worried about my safety, so you told him. You expected me to be angry, possibly vexed enough to stop seeing you, but your concern for me outweighed your self-interest.”

Greg shrugs, uncomfortable with the suggested praise. “Just what any decent person would do.”

“In my experience, most people are not so... decent,” Mycroft says, and the way he scowls around that word makes his opinion of most people very clear. “To be brutally honest, it’s more than I expected of you.”

“Oi,” Greg says warningly.

“The last time we were involved, you made it very clear that you wanted something convenient without commitment,” Mycroft says it to his phone. His tone is calm and cool, and there is nothing in his demeanour to suggest he’s upset in any way by that thought.

Greg hadn’t said anything like that, but after Claire, after the divorce, he hadn’t been looking for anything serious. He might not have said it outright but a man like Mycroft Holmes would have heard it loud and clear.

“It seemed most likely that you still wanted to see me within those terms.” Mycroft’s fingers pause, hovering over the screen. He blinks once and then locks the screen. He looks pointedly at Greg’s hands. “You told Sherlock and then you were worried enough to stay at Baker Street. And you invited me to the opera. It’s a confirmed change in your modus operandi.”

Greg doesn’t need to be a genius to get the point. Mycroft’s been following his lead, Greg just didn’t realise it. “Last time, you know it wasn’t because of you, right? It just wasn’t the right time for me.”

“Dissolution of a long term relationship, et cetera.” Mycroft waves his left hand, as if those months of anger and mourning and confusion could be dismissed so easily. “It doesn’t need to be discussed.”

And maybe, Greg thinks, it doesn’t. Not when it’s Mycroft Holmes. “Come back to mine?” he asks instead.

It’s midday Tuesday. Mycroft should be in his shadowy office, toppling governments and masterminding coups. But Mycroft says, “Of course,” as if he already knows how the afternoon will go. It’s easy to assume it involves sex and food and sleep, if not in that order.

Greg gets ambushed by a jaw-cracking yawn. It hits from nowhere and makes him suddenly aware of how tired he is. All nighters aren’t as easy as they used to be.

“Get some sleep,” Mycroft says softly. Still an order, still certain, but temptingly gentle. “I’ll be here to wake you.”

“You’d better,” Greg says as he shuffles down in the seat and lets his eyes close. His legs fall wide, knee resting against Mycroft’s. He drifts off to the quiet rumble of the car and the almost silent taps of Mycroft’s fingers on his phone.