For days after, Greg relives that night in snippets of memory.
He cooks, and his skin breaks out into goosebumps when he gets a flash of Mycroft’s voice in his ear; Mycroft’s teeth in his shoulder after he’d woken Greg in the middle of the night, slipping out the plug and fucking him again, face shoved into a pillow.
He showers, and thinks about being steered by gentle hands on his upper arms and then being pushed to sit on the side of the tub while Mycroft filled it with hot water and fragrant bubbles.
He applies for more jobs, and remembers being so sure of his place in the world, so happy to be owned.
Mycroft has not stayed away. He shows up most evenings, and sometimes they fuck. Sometimes it’s physically intense, other times it’s all psychological, Mycroft’s coolness and his demands doing just as much, if not more, than all the leather straps in the world could do. Sometimes it’s both, and Greg is sure he’ll shake apart. He never does.
Sometimes Mycroft asks Greg to touch himself, instructing him in that cool voice but with dark, heated eyes.
Sometimes, he just looks tired, and disappears into the office for long hours, reappearing only to melt into the plush velvet sofa at Greg’s side, watching whatever film Greg’s got going until Greg finally breaks and says something like, “For the love of god, Mycroft, just choke me with your cock or something, you look miserable.”
Mycroft gives him a lot of wry little smiles. Amused chuckles. Sometimes, he seems about to reach out. Something stops him every time.
He kisses Greg, but only just after sex.
He stays with him after, sleeps next to him or deals with emails from his phone while Greg dozes plastered to his side.
They don’t touch much outside of that.
Still, it’s really great. Greg likes him. Mycroft is sarcastic and haughty the way Sherlock was, but he’s sociable and genteel the way Sherlock wasn’t. Greg can make him laugh, can surprise him into it with dirty jokes or by teasing him about himself til he cracks. They both like costume dramas. Mycroft complains that Greg’s ruining his diet, but he likes Greg’s cooking anyway.
They go down to the gym together and talk while they exercise. They watch the news while Mycroft’s on the treadmill and Greg’s on the elliptical, and Greg tries to mess up Mycroft’s stride and his breath control by making outlandish suggestions for how Mycroft could fix the world’s problems as they’re reported, or by guessing at what Mycroft did to create this situation or that.
Once, he almost gets Mycroft to fall off the treadmill entirely with a well-timed dirty joke about Cameron and Clegg.
Greg gets a job volunteering at a shelter for homeless teenagers, and every gangly, angry boy reminds him of Sherlock and makes him want to run in the other direction. But that feeling only lasts for the first two weeks.
The night he comes home and realizes he’s moved past it, Mycroft shows up less than an hour later looking pinched around the eyes.
It’s not his work stress face.
It’s not anger.
Greg watches him carefully from his place at the stove, where he’s making stew because it’s bloody freezing out, and realizes what he’s seeing is grief. Lingering, exhausted grief.
He places a bowl and a napkin with a spoon beside it right in front of Mycroft, who is scrolling through emails with an air of misery radiating off his hunched shoulders. Greg adds a slice of crusty bread to the bowl and says, “Don’t tell me you don’t want the carbs. Eat the bread.”
Mycroft blinks at him, but he nods, and he locks his mobile screen and eats it all.
“Do you have to go to the office tonight?”
Mycroft shakes his head, wiping his mouth with the napkin after he’s taken the last bite of stew. “No,” he says. “Frankly, the entire country can burn down tonight for all I care. I’m taking the evening off, no matter what.”
“That’s good,” Greg says, smiling until Mycroft looks up at him. With a raise of his eyebrows, he says, “So? What is it you want?”
Mycroft studies Greg from across the island. “Honestly?”
“I want to get very, very drunk.”
Greg grins. “Done.”
The ‘questionnaire’ had been full of boundaries and expectations. More than just a list, it had contained several paragraphs outlining what Mycroft would and would not expect of Greg - sexually, of course; had it been a little more detailed it might not have taken him two weeks to find out he was allowed to leave the flat - as well as what Greg could and could not expect of Mycroft.
But most of that has fallen by the wayside, these days, which is why it’s so upsetting when Mycroft is a dick to Greg in late November, for seemingly no reason at all.
“All I asked,” Greg says through gritted teeth, “was where you were on your trip.”
“And I informed you that it was not your place to ask,” Mycroft says, cold and emotionless in the face of Greg’s anger.
“I’ve asked before, and you have either told me or made a joke.” Greg crosses his arms over his chest. He’s dressed nicely today, button-up and tie, the soft wool trousers Mycroft picked for him. The director of the shelter had asked him to come along to some meeting with a company that donates big bucks, said he was the most professionally experienced and mature of the volunteers. It had gone well. Greg had looked forward to what Mycroft’s reaction to the nice clothes would be. Last time, when Greg had polished up for a week of job and volunteer interviews, Mycroft had seemed to delight in ruining his neatness, after.
Besides, Mycroft’s been out of town for over a week. Greg had assumed he would be pent-up. He’d been expecting to get hung from the bedposts and fucked into oblivion, not whatever this utter horseshit is.
“I don’t owe you an explanation,” Mycroft says. He’s gathering his things to either leave or disappear into the study.
“Oh!” Greg throws up his hands. “There it is, a line I’ve never heard before! Entirely new information, thank you so much.”
Mycroft’s eyes narrow at him. “Are you forgetting why you are here, Greg?”
Greg rolls his eyes and shoves past him, making sure to knock their shoulders together. “I’m not your fucking slave, Mycroft.”
“Oh, but you wish you were,” Mycroft spits.
Greg turns, fingers loosening his tie. Mycroft’s turned around too, and he’s tossed his things back down on the floor by the kitchen doorway. “What did you just say?”
Greg yanks the tie out of his collar and throws it on the ground between them. “You’re projecting,” he says. He starts on his shirt buttons. “Because it’s what you want. You want a quiet little fucktoy who never asks questions. Fine.” He shucks out of his shirt and throws that aside too before stripping off the vest underneath.
“This is childish.”
Greg lets the trousers drop and steps out of them. He’d forgone underwear, grand plans in mind and everything, and he’d taken his shoes and socks off at the door. He drops to his knees, naked, on the gleaming hardwood floor. “Here I am, sir,” he said. “Punish me for daring to speak to you out of turn. I’m sure I deserve it. Sir.”
Mycroft rolls his eyes. “You are making a fool out of yourself.”
“Am I?” Greg shrugs. “What’s your problem? What’s the goal? Hm? Do you want a convenient fuck or the boyfriend experience? Are you doing it because it’s easy or because you feel badly or because you’re repressed or what? Where the fuck were you that you’re overcorrecting this badly?”
Mycroft’s jaw tightens.
“I spent thirty years of my life talking to guilty people,” Greg says. “What the fuck is going on?”
Mycroft turns away. “Nothing,” he says. “Please get off of the floor. Put your clothes on.”
“No?” Mycroft glares over his shoulder.
“I won’t be doing that.”
“Then tell me where you were.”
“India,” Mycroft snaps. “Goodnight, Greg.”
And with that, he picks his stuff up again and leaves, the door to the flat slamming behind him.
A week later, Greg texts Mycroft a photo of the laptop he’d found on the coffee table that morning with the message: You can’t buy me, you know.
It’s hours before a reply comes.
MH: Demonstrably untrue.
Greg rolls his eyes.
GL: You don’t own me. You’ve said so yourself plenty of times. I don’t want this computer.
MH: Then do not use it.
GL: Come to the flat tonight. We need to talk.
That night, Mycroft shows his face well after 10, when Greg is fusing with the sofa and debating just heading to the downstairs bedroom for sleep.
He levels Mycroft with the most unimpressed look he can muster, the sort of look he used to give Donovan for fucking Anderson again, or Sherlock for calling him by the wrong name. Mycroft ignores him and goes to drop his things in the study.
Greg half expects him to stay in there a while, just to be an arsehole. But he doesn't. He returns and stands in front of the dark telly with his hands shoved in his pockets. He’s ditched the suit jacket in the study, too, and he looks a bit rumpled all together.
“I owe you an apology,” he says, not looking up from the coffee table, where the laptop remains in its box.
“Yes,” Greg says. “You do.”
“I… I don’t know what came over me,” Mycroft continues. “I don’t know why I reacted so… I don’t know, but I am sorry.” He clears his throat. “I also want to apologize for my comment this morning about buying you. That is not what I did, or what I want to do.”
“Good,” Greg says evenly. “Because you can’t. This little arrangement or whatever it is? It’s mutually beneficial. And I like it. But I’m a human being, and you can’t treat me like dirt just because you’re in a mood. Just because I like what I like in bed doesn't mean you can just—”
“I know,” Mycroft says, and finally deigns to look Greg in the face. “I know that, I wasn’t… it wasn’t that. I don’t think less of you because of what we do. I swear it.”
There’s a brief stare down, which Greg breaks by turning his attention to the box on the coffee table. He nudges it with his foot, right in the centre of the apple logo on the side. “And this? What’s this? And while we’re at it, the mobile? The clothes? Books on the bedside table? The stack of CDs I found in here last week?”
Mycroft clears his throat. “Well.” He shifts his weight, crossing and recrossing his arms. “They are things that you need. And I did say I would provide for your needs.”
Greg raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, sure,” he says. “Like food and a roof over my head and a TV license. Whatever. I didn’t ask for the Apple store.”
Mycroft rolls his eyes. “A phone and a laptop are not—”
“Why did you give them to me?”
Mycroft sighs deeply. “Because,” he says, a hint of snappishness back in his voice. “You don’t ask for anything. And it feels wrong to leave you here with the bare minimum, waiting for you to realize that you can ask. It would be unkind.”
“Unkind,” Greg repeats, lowering his feet from the coffee table to the floor and leaning forward, elbows on his knees. “That’s what you’re going with.”
“Fine,” Mycroft snaps. “The clothes were because I thought your body would look pleasing in them. The mobile was so I could ask for photographs and because I thought you might want to be able to text your sister or your friends, perhaps access the internet. You needed a haircut. You need a computer. If you wish to apply for a paying job later, or attend a course or training, you will need it. Watching you do job applications on a mobile was excruciating and I wanted to give you something because I like to give you things. Happy?”
“Yep.” Greg grins. “You like me so much.” He wiggles his eyebrows. “Don’t you, Mycroft?”
“I don’t see how that matters.”
Greg slaps his hands against his thighs as he stands. He stretches, makes a show of it, then shrugs with his hands on his hips. “It matters,” he says, and steps forward. “Listen, whatever it was that made you so nasty? You could maybe just tell me about it.” He shrugs again at the shutters that come down over Mycroft’s eyes. “Or not, I guess. But. Something’s up with you. And I like you, too, you know. I… I’d like to help. And not just by letting you smack me around. Though, I mean, that’s still on the table.”
He steps closer still, and for the first time he reaches out and touches Mycroft first, hooking his finger in the loosened knot of his tie and tugging. Mycroft sways forward, takes a step. Greg moves in, bringing them toe to toe, and rests his hands at Mycroft’s waist.
“I can’t tell you why I was upset after India,” Mycroft says, but his eyes are darting over Greg’s face like he’s racing to catch up on this new data, this new world in which Greg touches him like this without being told.
“I don’t need you to,” Greg says. “Don’t ever talk to me like that again. Um… outside of bed, I mean.”
Mycroft winces and laughs at the same time, his face folding in on itself. “I wouldn’t speak to you that way in bed, either. I really do apologize. I’m sorry.”
“Thanks,” Greg murmurs, and slides his hands up and around to Mycroft’s back, nudging him in closer until their chests are touching. Mycroft finally does something with his hands, one slipping around the back of Greg’s neck while the other sits low on his hip. “You know, you can touch me like this whenever. I won’t think less of you. You can still be a stone cold top later, if you kiss me right now.”
Greg smiles and leans in, and their lips meet chastely, like they do sometimes after they’ve fucked, after Greg’s choked himself half-knocked out on Mycroft’s cock, after Mycroft’s spent an hour twisting Greg this way and that. But then it melts, catches fire, turns wet and hot, Mycroft’s tongue slipping between Greg’s lips almost sweetly before it all turns harder and more desperate.
Greg lets himself go lax in Mycroft’s hold, opens his mouth to him, groans and sighs and hangs on. It’s good, fuck, it’s so good.
Thunderbolts and lightning. Again.
That night, Greg rides Mycroft as slowly as Mycroft wants - his instructions sounding deliciously close to begging - wrists bound above his head, suspended from the bedposts like he’d been hoping for last week. He comes when Mycroft demands it, Mycroft’s fingers tight at Greg’s throat.
And Greg, as full of every good chemical a body can be full of without black tar heroin involved, almost says something really, really fucking stupid. It’s lucky Mycroft shoves his fingers into Greg’s mouth just in time.
Things go well after that, no more confrontations in the hall. No more one step forward two steps back. Mycroft relaxes more around him. They talk more, joke more. Greg keeps Mycroft in the loop on all of the gossip at the shelter, as well as on his favorite of the many lost kids who pass through. There are regulars, of course, and a few have endeared themselves to Greg with their utter weirdness and intense, vulnerable personalities.
Mycroft smiles indulgently, sweetly, when Greg talks about how much he wants to see them do well, see them get to a better place. He doesn't say he’s going to donate a small fortune to the shelter, but Greg hears about a sudden windfall from an anonymous benefactor, and he knows in his bones that it was Mycroft.
He provokes Mycroft into taking him over his knee that night, unable to think of a better way to thank him.
Things settle into a routine, and it involves more sex than Greg’s ever had in his life. He can’t complain.
Mycroft presents him with coils of soft black rope, and Greg’s never done any of that intricate Japanese rope stuff but Mycroft has, and the results… well.
Greg is a fan.
The morning after that, Greg wakes to the feeling of Mycroft’s lips on his thighs, tracing patterns where the looping ladders of rope had been the night before.
“I loved that,” Greg says, hushed, which draws Mycroft’s eyes up the length of Greg’s body. They’re so blue, and Greg’s caught him off guard, so they’re incredibly soft, too. Open. Lovely. “Last night,” Greg clarifies stupidly. “I loved it.”
“Good,” Mycroft murmurs against Greg’s thigh.
He proceeds to give Greg a long, luxurious blowjob, which is a new thing - Mycroft doing that for him. He teases him mercilessly, tells Greg he’ll spank his arse black and blue if he comes before he’s been told.
It’s glorious. Greg’s so glad he agreed to this deal. He’s made nothing but good choices. He’s sure of it, just then.
The director of the shelter, Brendon, thinks Greg should put himself forward for a paid position. It’s nothing fancy, just coordinating other volunteers for a pretty scant paycheque. Greg’s only been there two months, but he likes it a lot, had more or less decided he would pursue something that would let him keep doing this sort of work. He tells Brendon he’ll think about it, and goes for a walk instead of heading directly back to the flat.
He’d agreed to do this thing with Mycroft for a year. It’s been three months, and Greg knew within the first week that he wouldn’t ask to have Mycroft fix a move to Canada or anywhere else. If Greg’s willing to exchange his body for a way to stay in London, there’s no way he’s going to just up and leave a year later just so he can keep being a copper.
The craziest thing of all is that he doesn't miss it. He doesn't feel the need to tell himself he’s had the one thing he’s good at taken away. Not anymore.
Greg’s good at cooking. Could’ve gone to culinary school or got a job as a line cook or a nutritionist or who knows what. He’s good at talking to people. He’s good at giving a shit.
For the couple of days he’d sat around his empty old post-divorce flat debating whether he should take Mycroft up on his offer, Greg had constantly, repeatedly wondered if doing it would make him worse. Make him think all he was good for was…
But that’s not what’s happened. Greg can’t help laughing at himself as he sits on a bench in St. James’ park, staring out across the winter-bare trees but not really seeing them. Greg’s always felt vaguely like a fuck up, no matter how well he was doing. Leave it to him to agree to whore himself out only to discover that the real journey was the self acceptance he found along the way.
He rolls his eyes at himself.
“It’s going to rain,” says a voice from just behind him.
Greg doesn't know what to do with the wave of gladness, of tenderness that hits him as he turns his head to take in Mycroft, standing there in his gorgeous long coat, his driving gloves, with his umbrella in one hand. Who knows how Mycroft tracked him here. Best not to ask.
“And,” Mycroft continues, “it’s freezing. Are you quite alright?”
Greg shrugs. The coat he’s wearing was bought for him by Mycroft, and is the warmest thing he’s ever had on his body. He’s fine out here.
Mycroft joins him on the bench, not close enough for their thighs to touch, but enough that Greg can knock their knees together in greeting.
“I might have a paying job on offer,” Greg says after they’ve sat there quietly for a while. “At the shelter. It’s full time. Won’t pay much, but it’s something.”
“Excellent news,” Mycroft says mildly.
Greg knows that Mycroft knows what Greg’s thinking. May as well come out and say it.
“I think I should move out,” Greg says, like ripping off a plaster. “I know I agreed to a year, and honestly I’d be glad to keep doing what we’ve been doing just… a little differently. I think… I don’t know. I think it’s the right thing to do, if I’m going to be making money.”
“How would you afford a place in London?”
Mycroft doesn't sound upset, but he doesn't really sound like anything. It’s his flattest voice.
“I’d probably have to rent a room,” Greg admits with a shrug. “Flatmates. Not what I pictured for myself at almost fifty, but. I dunno.”
“My offer was meant to give you the chance to establish yourself again,” Mycroft says. “With my help.”
“In exchange for no strings attached sex, right.” Greg rubs his gloved hands together. “But… I don’t know, Mycroft. It feels… stringy.”
Mycroft makes a noise in his throat. “Does it?”
Greg glances at him. “I… like you more than I thought I would.” He winces. “Actually, no. That isn’t true. I’ve always known I would like you. I like all of it. More than I was expecting.”
Mycroft’s cheeks are a little red. “Then why stop?”
“Because…” Greg sighs. “I don’t want to feel guilty for liking you. I don’t want to feel… Wait. Do you? Would you do this with me if it wasn’t an arrangement?”
“Yes,” Mycroft says immediately. “But you won’t want to.”
“I just said I would.”
Mycroft isn’t looking at him. “What if I told you that you could have your old job back?”
Greg blinks. “Why—”
“Not now,” Mycroft continues, “but eventually. What if I told you I could almost guarantee you your old job back within the next year. What would you say?”
“I have no idea?” Greg’s stomach twists. “What’s this all about?”
“Sherlock,” Mycroft says, finally turning to look at him, “is alive.”
Greg blinks again, shakes his head. “No.”
“He is alive,” Mycroft repeats. “He faked his suicide, and I helped him do it.”
Greg feels… nothing. He doesn't believe what he’s being told, but he can’t even muster up any anger at Mycroft for lying to him. “That’s not funny.”
“I don’t kid.” Mycroft is expressionless. “Sherlock was in India for months. He is… somewhere else, now. I have had to smooth things over for him several times these past several months, and will have to do it again. Many times. Eventually, he will be able to return to London.”
Greg swallows hard and looks away, panic rising in his chest. “Why would he fake it? Why would he do that?”
“Because the most important people in his life were endangered. Because he was forced to do it.”
“And why would you keep it from all of us, if you knew?”
“Because there could be no indication that he was alive.”
“It’s slightly safer now, and I trust your acting ability. I feel it would be unethical not to disclose it considering what you’re thinking of doing.”
Greg can’t help it - he laughs. “Unethical,” he echoes. “Wow.”
He wishes he could feel angry. He is angry, but he just… he feels empty. He hasn’t felt that way in months, but here it is, that gnawing void opening itself back up inside him.
“When Sherlock does return, you will be exonerated of the accusations of misconduct and will likely have grounds for a wrongful termination suit.” Mycroft turns the handle of his umbrella. “I… I did offer you our arrangement for my own benefit, obviously, and I did wish to help you. I did feel guilty. I wanted to ensure you stayed safe, stayed cared for, until that time. I knew that you had been unfairly treated in all of this, and I knew that you would… I had a very strong suspicion that you would agree to this.”
Greg feels like his lungs have filled with sand. Every breath is harsh, a labor. “I can’t believe you,” he murmurs, standing from the bench. “This is… this is insane. You and your brother. Are insane.”
Mycroft doesn't argue with that.
“Do you even like what we’ve been doing? What you’ve been doing to me?”
Mycroft’s face finally displays something that could be termed an expression. “Of course I do.”
Greg scrubs a hand over his eyes. “Can you blame me for wondering if it was all a lie? I thought… I thought I was going to be able to ask you to… that I could just, tell you I— that I want more than… And this is. It’s too much. I have to go.”
Mycroft stands. “Will you meet me back at the flat?”
“No,” Greg says, and suddenly his coat doesn't feel warm at all. He’s shaking, freezing. “No, I can’t be there. I don’t know, Mycroft, just. Don’t fucking follow me, I’m afraid I’ll hit you if you do.” Or cry. Or vomit. “Just leave me alone.”
Greg turns and walks away, doesn't look back to see if Mycroft follows or watches him go.
A few minutes later, it starts to rain.
Greg calls Priscilla from a bus shelter, asks her if she can come pick him up.
He spends the weekend kipping on her pull out sofa. In a twist of luck, her kids are off with the father this weekend, a bloke Greg’s met exactly once and disliked on sight.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” Priscilla tells him in the car on the way to her place in Camden. “Good dad, these days.”
“That’s good,” Greg says numbly. “Really, it’s great.”
At her cramped little townhouse, Priscilla sits him down at her scratched kitchen table and presses a glass of vodka into his hands.
“I haven’t got anything else,” she tells him. “I’ll go to the off-license later, get us something that doesn't taste like jet fuel. For now, bottoms up.”
Greg drinks and grimaces. “I’m really sorry,” he says. “I don’t want to impose on you.”
“You’re my brother,” Priscilla says simply.
Greg looks up at her. She’s standing there, arms crossed over her middle, and she’s… so soft, like their mum was. She’s wearing a fuzzy jumper and leggings with big, ridiculous moon boots, and her mostly-grey hair is twisted up on top of her head in a messy pile. Her earrings are their mum’s, actually. Greg doesn't know he’s about to cry until it’s already happening, and he has to dash the tears away with the heel of one hand and look away from her.
“I’m a shit brother,” he rasps. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re not that bad,” she says, and steps forward, hands on his shoulders. “Not your fault we didn’t have a real family to keep us close. I love you all the same. And hey, we’ve never cried about boys together before. We’ll do it up right, like teenagers. Ice cream and cheap wine and shitty telly.”
Greg laughs. “How d’you know I want to cry about— I’ve never said…”
“Greg, come on.” Priscilla holds him against her soft midsection. “ I’m staying with a friend while I get back on my feet? You were red as a tomato. I’m not an idiot.”
“Pris…” Greg shudders. “I’ve really fucked up this time.”
“Alright,” she says, soothing, and pets his hair. “Tell me all about it, then.”
Greg leaves his mobile off til Sunday night, when Priscilla leaves to go pick up the girls from their father’s place.
“You’re staying as long as you need,” she tells Greg before she leaves. “So it’s crowded in here, who cares? Call that posh prick and have him bring you your things.”
Greg turns on the phone not really planning to call Mycroft - who Priscilla only refers to as ‘posh prick’ - and finds a series of missed calls and texts waiting for him.
Sally Donovan (missed call)
John Watson (3 missed calls)
Mycroft Holmes (missed call)
SD: Hey boss, long time no speak? You could call me sometime, you know.
JW: Why is Mycroft Holmes in my flat?
JW: Do you need a place to crash? Why is Mycroft Holmes arranging your living situation?
JW: Are you alright?
JW: I never knew you had a sister, by the way.
JW: Listen, I’m staying at Mary’s all week, got plans with her almost every night so. You can come kip on my sofa if you want. We need to go for a pint. Soon.
MH: Please call me when you are ready.
Greg sighs and calls Mycroft, because he really can’t handle explaining himself to any more people right now.
He closes his eyes. Despite himself, he’s thought a hundred times that he misses Mycroft already. “Hey,” he says. “You shouldn’t have bothered John with my problems.”
“I…” Mycroft clears his throat. “I rather panicked. Apologies.”
Greg wipes the smile off his face with a hand. “S’alright.”
“Greg, I…” Mycroft sighs. “I’m sorry for the way… I’m simply sorry. Nothing about the last year and a half has been easy for you, and it’s entirely the fault of myself and my brother. I understand if you never want to speak with either one of us ever again. But I would like to offer you the flat, until such time as you are ready to leave it. If you ever are. Stay there as long as you like. No arrangement necessary.”
Greg doesn't know what to say to that.
“I dunno, Mycroft.”
“You would be safer there,” Mycroft says. “Shaan is a highly trained bodyguard, and the building is practically a fortress. Things are safer now. However… twenty months ago, you were within the sights of a sniper rifle, and you had no idea.”
Greg’s stomach lurches, and he has to take a moment to breathe through. “Right,” he says. “And you would just… what? Not… not want to do this anymore?”
There’s a silence. “I don’t want to put you in that position,” he says after a moment. “I should never have… It would have been better to tell you the truth months ago.”
“Maybe,” Greg hedges, not sure if that’s true at all.
“Please stay in the flat,” Mycroft says after a moment. “It’s the least I can do.”
Greg closes his eyes, nods. “Yeah. Fine.”
Christmas is a couple of weeks later. It comes and goes. Greg spends it with Priscilla, and wonders if Mycroft is somewhere with Sherlock.
He texts him, wondering if it’s a good idea even to do that.
GL: Merry Christmas, Mycroft.
MH: To you as well.
And that’s all. Greg types, then deletes: I miss you. Types, then deletes: You should come over later. Types, then deletes: I miss you a lot.
He shoves his phone in his pocket and focuses on his nieces’ reenactment of their school nativity play.
In January, Greg gets hired on as the volunteer coordinator at the shelter, making less than he made as a PC. He likes it, though. He feels good, useful. His coworkers are great.
He has a pint with Donovan, tells her about it. She’s still at the Yard, of course. Greg had taken the blame for everything, since it wasn’t his team’s fault at all, and they’d never been entirely comfortable with Sherlock.
Donovan’s smiles are tight. She tells Greg that Phil’s really gone off the deep end on something called the Sherlock Lives Movement. Greg has to end the night pretty soon after that. He feels nauseous with all the lying by omission he has to do.
He texts Mycroft.
GL: Wish you’d never told me the truth. I hate knowing this.
MH: I am sorry.
GL: Are you in the country?
GL: Weird that we never texted when you were away before
MH: You are always welcome to text me.
Greg types, then deletes: Please come to the flat when you’re home.
By March, Greg has a little savings growing in his new bank account. He’s been purchasing things for himself, expanding the music collection Mycroft had started for him, adding things to the flat to make it feel like his own. But for the most part, all his money gets set aside. Mycroft keeps the pantry stocked, pays the bills and keeps Greg’s mobile on.
Greg hasn’t heard from him since he texted him in January. He had spent much of February finally feeling the anger that had eluded him at first.
He’d been lonely, in February. He and Tracy’d stupidly gotten married on Valentine’s Day, their youthful romanticism making it seem sweet. Since the divorce - since before the divorce, when things were bad between them and Valentine’s Day and their anniversary felt like pantomimes of a happy marriage - the entire month has been a weird one for him.
On the day, he’d found himself drinking Mycroft’s fancy scotch alone, thinking about how he could’ve spent it in bed with Mycroft if only all of this hadn’t come to light. And for a moment, his anger was about that. And in the next, it was very much not.
Greg had broken a glass and thrown all the sex toys in the trash.
But now it’s March, and he’s alright. He can acknowledge that, lies and fucked up sex exchange aside, this situation is going to help him figure things out. For now, he’s rebuilding his finances, and trying to decide what he’ll do when Sherlock comes back - whenever that might be. Greg doesn't know, doesn't think Mycroft even knows.
He’s thought about asking him lots of times, but can never bring himself to do it.
When Sherlock comes back, Greg could maybe be a detective again. He just doesn't know if that’s what he wants.
He’s not sure of anything. Some nights, he wants his old life back. Others, he wants Mycroft to show up and tell him to get on his knees. And some nights, Greg just wants to not think about any of it.
The sound of the door opening startles him out of his task, and Greg turns, pen in hand, to see Mycroft slipping in, no briefcase, no coat. Greg’s not surprised - who else would be letting themselves into this place? Other than Shaan, Greg doesn't think anyone knows about it.
“Hey?” Greg tries.
Mycroft comes to a stop in the entryway to the lounge. He looks awful - dark circles, pale, hair a mess.
“Mycroft?” Greg puts his pen down on top of the volunteer rotas he’d been trying to work out. “What’s happened?”
“I don’t know,” Mycroft says, then brings his hands up, covers his face. “I don’t know where he is. He’s gone off grid.”
Greg stands from the floor in front of the coffee table and flicks off the telly. “What?”
“I… I don’t know why I came here.”
Greg steps forward. He knows why Mycroft came here. But first… “Explain it to me,” he says. “Tell me everything. Tell me what happened.”
Mycroft looks back at him helplessly. “I—”
“You owe me that much,” Greg says.
Mycroft nods. “You are right. Of course. I do owe you that. I… we ought to sit.”
Once the entire awful tale is told, Greg has experienced an uncountable number of feelings about all of it.
“You’ve been killing yourself to keep him alive,” Greg says. “Haven’t you?”
Mycroft nods. He sits on the coffee table, having settled there once he’d finished pacing, unable to sit still while he relayed the danger Sherlock had been in in India, the attention he kept drawing to himself there.
Greg remembers sitting on the flimsy Ikea coffee table in his old flat, staring at a cool and collected Mycroft Holmes who had been about to make him an indecent proposal.
Now, Mycroft looks done in by it all. Greg, understanding the breadth and weight of what Mycroft has been managing for nearly two years, is frankly amazed it’s only now that he’s beginning to fray.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
Mycroft shakes his head, staring down at his loosely clasped hands held between his knees. “No, I don’t. I… I think he planned this. He’s been getting… impatient. With the timeline. With me.”
Greg huffs. “Typical.”
Mycroft looks up with one of his wry little smiles. “Indeed.”
Greg wants to kiss him.
Greg thinks he loves him.
It’s terrible. Greg makes terrible choices.
“You know,” Greg says. “It might be completely insane, what the two of you have gone and done. But I do understand it, I think. I’m still angry, just so you know, and I might be angry forever.”
Mycroft nods and averts his eyes. “I do not blame you.”
“But you should know that there’s never been a time that I wasn’t angry at Sherlock, and I still love the stupid bastard.”
Mycroft’s head snaps up.
“I’m a masochist, after all,” Greg jokes.
Mycroft laughs, sharp and sudden. “That is not funny.”
“Sure it is,” Greg murmurs. Then, he decides it’s time. Cards on the table. “Mycroft, I miss you.”
Mycroft’s smile is weak, but Greg thinks it’s hopeful.
It’s a start.
By October, Greg has been dating Mycroft for longer than he’d been fucking him and not-fucking him.
Mycroft’s finally had Greg over to his real house. Greg practically lives there half the time, and Mycroft’s at the flat the other half.
Greg’s in love with him. Hasn’t said it, but he thinks it all the time.
He has no idea how to explain any of it to anyone. His sister thinks he’s lost his mind, but she says he looks happy.
He is happy, and it’s so strange.
Without the pretense of an ‘arrangement,’ Mycroft gets ten times more attentive, his tendency to arrive at the flat with a gift in hand, or to simply sneak them into Greg’s things, is endearing and somehow no longer overbearing. Greg really knows what it is to be utterly spoiled all of a month into it. At first, he feels compelled to argue, to tell Mycroft not to do it.
“I like giving you things,” Mycroft says when Greg tries. “I meant it when I said that. It… I simply enjoy it.”
“Get off on it, you mean,” Greg teases.
“Does that matter?”
Greg grins, “I mean, kind of. In a good way, I suppose.”
And he stops arguing.
Mycroft takes him to dinner at the drop of a hat. He picks Greg up from work in his dark-windowed cars and surprises him with lunch. He dresses Greg up like his own personal cut out doll, and seems to delight in ripping it all off again.
Greg is into it. Very into it. When he was young and built for it, it had never occurred to him to make a go of the sugar baby lifestyle. As a man, he’d always been self-sufficient, had prided himself on it.
But he’d also prided himself on prioritizing a thankless job over everything else. On setting himself aside for everything and everyone. For beating his head against any and every brick wall.
Mycroft doesn't give Greg things because he expects Greg to give him something in return. Not anymore. He does it to make it easier, make it nicer, for Greg to put himself at the top of his own list of priorities. It doesn't make Greg feel owned, not really. Kept is probably a better word. It’s a warm feeling. It’s safe. Who wouldn’t want that? Greg stops telling himself he shouldn’t.
“I don’t want my old job back,” he tells Mycroft at the start of autumn. “Is that… I mean. Does that bother you?”
Mycroft studies Greg over the rim of a wine glass in the low candlelight of another gorgeous restaurant. “Why would that bother me?”
“I… I’m never going to make much doing what I’m doing now,” Greg says. “If I go back to school, you know, maybe a little more, but… I don’t want you to think I plan on just leeching—”
“Gregory,” Mycroft interrupts softly. “Don’t ever say that. It’s fine. Anything you want, anything you wish to do, I support it. I will facilitate it. No conditions.”
Greg’s heart skips a hundred beats. “I mean,” he says, stopping to clear his throat, to wet his dry tongue with a sip of wine. “I think I know that. I just… it’s difficult.”
“I understand,” Mycroft says. “Not to worry. Do you want to take courses?”
Greg licks his lips. “Maybe.”
“All you need to do is say where and how much,” Mycroft says, and his foot nudges Greg’s under the table.
Another night, Greg’s in Mycroft’s lap, rocking himself torturously slow on Mycroft’s cock with his arms draped over Mycroft’s shoulders, his wrists taped together. Mycroft’s licking the necklace of bite marks he placed over Greg’s chest and making desperate little sounds while he does.
He’d let Greg put a cock ring on him for this. They’ve been at it for hours, fucking and stopping and starting again.
“Mycroft,” Greg says through the haze of stinging skin and burning pleasure. “Mycroft, Mycroft, you— I belong to you, I’m yours, I’m yours.”
And Mycroft shudders, and holds him tighter, closer, fastens his mouth to Greg’s shoulder. Since they started this up again, he’s never asked Greg, never growled those words in his ear. And Greg understands why, but he’s done with that. Done with pretending that’s not all he wants to hear, all he wants to say.
“I love you,” Mycroft chokes as he comes, fingers bruising Greg’s rocking hips. “Gregory, I love you, you’re mine, mine, mine.”
It’s a week after Mycroft left in the middle of the night saying something about Serbia, and Greg’s outside his posh Kensington townhouse, smoking a cigarette because he’s been worried sick this entire time.
Mycroft left from his own place, where Greg had been spending the night. He’d told Greg to simply stay there if he wanted. No need to go back to his flat. Greg hasn’t left, of course, because for the last two months Mycroft’s been on Sherlock’s scent and they’ve both been waiting for a break in the case, Mycroft having Greg cast a second eye over the evidence he’s been collecting in order to trace Sherlock’s path since he went dark.
This sudden lead, called in by Anthea at two in the morning, it’s promising, or Mycroft wouldn’t have gone himself. It’s dangerous, too. Same reason.
Greg won’t know anything right away even if Mycroft’s back in the country. He knows how this is going to go. It’s going to take extensive, careful work to place Sherlock back in the land of the living - if, in fact, there is a Sherlock to put back at the end of it all. Mycroft will have to be wherever Sherlock is, keeping an eye on him and orchestrating it all, likely on a complete communication blackout while he does.
If Greg were still a DI, he might have been able to argue for inclusion in all of it. He’s not sure how. He would likely have been denied, not by Mycroft but by whatever government entity he’s using to pull this off. But he would’ve put up the token argument anyway.
Greg lights a second cigarette and thinks about pacing just to work off some of this nervous energy. It’s cold for October, and he could use the movement to warm himself up.
“Those things will kill you.”
Greg’s lungs freeze, unable to draw the smoke in. He plucks the cigarette out of his own mouth.
“Oh,” he says as he’s turning. “You bastard.”
“How was he?”
Greg stands in the foyer of the Kensington house, unknotting his tie. He’d expected to be out much later, dancing the night away at John Watson’s wedding. Instead, he’s home early and exponentially more exhausted than expected after handing a murderous photographer off to Sally Donovan, hitching a ride with the local constabulary. Someone had to be there to explain the Sherlock of it all to NSY.
“Dunno,” Greg sighs. “He seems alright.”
Mycroft steps out of the stairwell that leads down to the kitchen, already handing Greg a tumbler of scotch. “I worry.”
“I know.” Greg smiles, steps in to kiss him hello. “He’ll be alright. Mary likes him, weirdly enough. I don’t think this is the end of the Baker Street set. Maybe they’ve just added a third.”
Mycroft makes a noncommittal, worried little noise.
Greg knocks back the scotch and hands the empty tumbler back to him so he can shuck out of his suit jacket. “Molly says you did a really great job choosing my suit. Said I looked edible, made her new boyfriend a little jealous. I think Mrs. Hudson pinched my bum.”
Mycroft laughs quietly. “Ah yes, another success for me. I told you the blue-grey was better than the pinstripe.”
“I should know better than to argue,” Greg murmurs.
Mycroft’s eyes spark at him. “Yes, you should.”
“Wanna do terrible things to me then watch Emma ?”
Mycroft smiles - grins, really.
Greg’s belly flutters in anticipation. God, he hopes that never stops happening. He doesn't think it will.
“Get on your knees.”