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*********

He woke up in the night when Mycroft’s body slid onto his own. Shock of cold air, night-chilled skin. Hands circling his wrists, pushing them up and against the mattress; teeth sinking into his bare shoulder. Deliberately bare, and Greg stared at the ceiling, the smallest smile tugging at his lips.

Mycroft knelt over him, breath pluming in the faint light. “You--”

Greg pushed up lazily, found him soft and yielding. Knew his own eyes were blank, so stared back. “Yes?”

Small shock of lust at the spark of anger in Mycroft’s eyes. “Gregory.”

Rolled his hips again, breathed out, “Yes?”

Twice now, and Mycroft pinned him securely. “What do you want?” he demanded, fury warming the air between them.

“Does it matter?” Greg asked, and the force of the slap rocked his head to the side, made him lose his breath. Mycroft was gone.

He worked his jaw and swallowed back the laughter straining in his throat. The room was colder than when it had begun, and he made concession enough to pull his dressing gown on, though he left it open, before padding barefoot to the kitchen.

Turned on the light, put on the kettle. It wasn’t until he was seated at the table, carefully sipping, that Mycroft reappeared, three piece suit and umbrella in hand.

Greg did not smile, though it was difficult.

“I don’t appreciate being tested,” Mycroft said, taking a seat with slow, precise movements.

Greg waited until Mycroft was comfortable to ask, “What do you appreciate?” and could not hide the jump or the grin when Mycroft’s open palm slammed onto the tabletop. He turned his face away and took a hurried sip of tea.

“This isn’t a game!” Mycroft snarled, and fog billowed through the street, separating them. Greg stood still, head tilted. Not only his flat, but his cup and dressing gown were gone.

The chill was familiar, and beads of water dotted his skin, clung to the ends of his eyelashes. The pavement was rough and irregular under his bare feet. Somewhere, there was yellow light.

“You know, or perhaps you don’t, I looked for a kid once,” he said, watching the fog curl. “Like ice, everywhere. Everything outside seems cold, doesn’t it.”

It wasn’t really a question. He could make out a few buildings, now. Empty windows, everything dark but the streetlights.

“Just thirteen. Found him two days after he was reported missing--wasn’t always Murder.” He paused, watching more of the fog clear, but still no sign of Mycroft. “Nothing left in him. Shone like a lamp from the inside out, like he’d never had a shadow.”

There was a shadow, in one of the darker doorways. Greg kept it in the corner of his eye as he kept talking. “Had a heartbeat, but he was colder than death. Couldn’t budge him at all.”

He was wearing the suit he’d worn earlier that day, and the fog was scattering, revealing the empty city street, more lights flickering on, yellow, orange, and red. Warm colours.

“Nothing lives here.” Mycroft’s voice was tired. He walked into the light, swinging his umbrella, watching its arc. “Nothing could. It’s a space I keep in my mind, just between thought and memory.”

“All of these spaces are,” Greg said. Again, not a question, but almost. Mycroft’s eyes were lost in the shadow hiding his face. “But thank you.”

“Don’t,” Mycroft said, loudly, looking up. Bruises under his eyes.

“For sharing it with me,” Greg said gently. He gestured to his suit. “Kindly.”

“It isn’t real. Nothing here is real,” Mycroft insisted. Greg moved closer, ignoring that Mycroft nearly flinched from him.

“We’re real,” he said. They were back, standing in the dubious warmth of his kitchen, the table between them.

“I do love you,” Mycroft said. His voice was calm, but his hands trembled.

“I know,” Greg said.

*********

He took a taxi to work.

“Boss is here,” he heard Donovan warn someone. “Sir? You aren’t in today.”

“Right,” he said, ducking into his office and dumping his overcoat. “Forensics have anything?”

“On what?” Donovan asked, lounging in the doorway. “You send something down? Was it yesterday’s coffee? No one’s owning up to it.”

Greg held very still. “Funny.”

“Sir. We all appreciate your attention to our morale, but when you have a day off, you take the day off.” Donovan grabbed his coat from the filing cabinet that served as a coat hanger, holding it out to him. “Please. One more day of you breathing down our necks and we’ll get Freak to be our new boss. At least he only texts.”

“Nothing going on, then,” Greg said. A chill ran down his back.

“Please,” Donovan said again, and thrust the coat into his arms.

He shooed her out and spent a few minutes searching for the paperwork--there’d still be paperwork; he’d written half of it. Hadn’t he? There was nothing at all in his office to indicate so.

What the hell had he caught the attention of?

The articles weren’t up on the ‘net. There was mention of the case in yesterday’s paper, but the only copy he’d been able to find had been left under a bench down by Holding.

“Fuck,” he whispered, and tripped right over a line laid outside his own fucking office.

He could see the Yard, all around him, as if he were looking through smokey, yellowed glass. He wasn’t quite in that other place, but he was too damned close. HIs heart was beating loud in his ears.

It solidified, slowly, even as Greg fought against it, reaching for the Yard with every cell in his being, every last scrape of his determination. He felt the ghost of claws settle against his cheeks, reaching from behind him. Brought his palm to his mouth, bit down hard against a scream.

The taste of blood filled his mouth and made him gag, trying to cough it out and swallow it at the same time. Different orders from different minds. He turned his head enough to see a scaled palm and spat.

It recoiled just enough for Greg to twist from its grip, feeling the hard floor and muddy sand under his shoes simultaneously. He swiped his bleeding palm over one eye, keeping the Yard in a orange-y, skewed focus.

Not in the Yard. Not surrounded by steel, by the years of human experience--

“It wasn’t always iron, and it won’t always be,” it said, words bubbling from a mouth Greg couldn’t see. He was running down the corridor, empty and too bright, and along the edge of a stinking, rotten beach. He stepped in something slippery and foul; didn’t dare look down.

The street, the mouth of a cave, and Greg ran for such sunlight as there was in London, for the blare of car horns and the rush of people. For a moment darkness closed over him and he felt water rushing over his feet, and then he was slamming into Mycroft’s body, nearly knocking him over, nearly sending them both over the kerb.

“She’s gone!” he shouted, even as Mycroft tried to help him stand upright. “My case is gone! What’s happening?”

“Gregory, I’ve spent the entire morning making sure you weren’t gone,” Mycroft snapped. Greg shook his head, trying to find sense. Mycroft held his shoulders. “And I only managed London. Gregory, where did you go to school?”

“What?” Greg asked helplessly.

“Primary school. Where did you go to primary school?” Mycroft asked again, not at all patiently. Greg searched his mind, stared blankly at the street. Where...?

“What’s your mother’s name?” Mycroft asked, hands on Greg’s face now. Greg looked at him, blinking far too much. He could see her, see her smile, the way she pushed her hair out of her face. He could see her.

“I can’t--” Greg choked. Something moving in the eyes of a cabbie, watching them from the street.

“Come on,” Mycroft said, grabbing his arm and pulling him along, down the street. Lines sparking and snapping where he stepped. Greg followed half a step behind, trying to remember anything, anything at all, that wasn’t his life in London.

There was nothing. It was all gone.

“Not gone,” Mycroft said, fingers digging harder into Greg’s arm. Greg blinked back tears of anger, of shock and pure, icy, overwhelming fear. “Stolen.” His eyes meeting Greg’s for a moment. “We can get it back.”

Another snapping line. A black car, the door held open by a young woman with a complete lack of expression.

“Get in,” Mycroft ordered, pushing him ahead.

*********

fin