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Protective Instincts

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Greg rolled his eyes at the disturbance outside. Sherlock would never enter the office without something dramatic and attention grabbing. God forbid everyone in the building not notice his arrival.

“What is it, Sherlock?”

Greg tried to keep the impatience out of his voice. He watched as Sherlock swept into the room, followed by John. As familiar as the motion was, something was different. Sherlock did not settle arrogantly in Greg’s visitor chair, nor did he pace restlessly. Greg watched in astonishment as the usually energetic detective stood in the corner of the room. His body was still – no fidgeting, no restless tapping, no impatient eye rolling.

“Sherlock?” Greg asked. With no answer, he looked to John.

“Mycroft’s in hospital,” John said, his face grim. “We don’t know exactly what happened but he’s in a coma.”

“Jesus,” Greg muttered. He couldn’t picture Mycroft in anything other than top form. Even the quiet nights of Scotch and cigars still saw Mycroft in most of his usual attire; a loosened tie or jacket hung carefully over the back of his chair was the most relaxed Greg had seen.

Picturing that elegant, well-dressed man lying in a hospital bed jarred Greg. He found himself reaching for the edge of his desk, grateful his chair was behind him.

“What…have you talked to the doctors?” Greg said. His gaze flicked to Sherlock – a little surprised that his brother’s illness was having that much of an effect, if he was honest – then back to the doctor.

“Yeah, but these not a lot they can do. They won’t tell me exactly what happened, but it’s fair to assume he’s hit his head at some point.”

Greg frowned. “So the coma’s not induced?”

John shook his head.

“So…what now?” Greg asked. He was fighting to keep himself stable, and knew he kept glancing at Sherlock, wondering if the detective was seeing the level of concern he was feeling at the news about Mycroft. From what Greg could see, Sherlock was in his own world. It wasn’t like the mind palace thing. This was more like the stunned grief Greg saw at crime scenes, when people realised they knew the victim and couldn’t yet process it.

John was shaking his head. “There’s nothing, really. Nothing to do but wait. See…what happens.” It was his turn to flick a glance at Sherlock, though he was more worried and apprehensive than Greg had been.

“Sherlock,” John murmured, “I think Molly said she had an interesting liver for you.”

“What?” Sherlock said, his eyes glazed as he tried to return John’s gaze.

“Go and see Molly,” John said, his voice clear but kind.

“Okay,” Sherlock said. He stood up, but still looked lost. Jesus.

“Hang on,” Greg muttered. He stuck his head out the door, searching for someone. Not Sally, not Anderson…Dimmock? No. “Simmons,” he called, beckoning to a PC walking through the office.

“Yessir,” the young man said, looking a little fearful.

“Just need a favour,” Greg told him. “Escort Sherlock down to the morgue, will you please?”

The PC’s face dropped, and he looked far more apprehensive. “Yessir,” he repeated, though with far less enthusiasm.

“He’s quiet today,” Greg reassured him.

Sherlock stepped out when Greg asked him to, following the young PC without complaint. That in itself was weird.

“Right,” Greg said. “So now that Sherlock’s gone, what did you want to talk to me about?”

John’s eyes had been following Sherlock out, but now he turned back to Greg.

“I don’t know how long he’ll actually be gone,” he said. “Molly’s liver’s a five, she thinks. Might not hold his attention for long. So,” he paused, glancing back over his shoulder.

“Christ, John, how bad is it?”

Greg wished he could sit casually, but his knees almost gave out at the grave look John shot his way.

“Is he dying?” Greg asked, his voice almost a whisper.

“He’s been awake, actually,” John said. Before Greg could even respond, he went on. “Look, just let me tell you what’s happening. Mycroft has had periods of lucidity. We haven’t told Sherlock, you see how he’s going just knowing Mycroft is in a coma.”

Greg nodded, letting John continue, despite his impatience.

“It’s just yesterday and today, but he’s been talking, asking for people. For you.” John stopped to look at Greg, his face a little apprehensive. “We’re pretty sure he thinks you’re married.”

“Married?” Greg repeated. He felt his brow furrow. “No, Amanda left two years ago. I’m not married.”

John sighed. “No, Greg, he thinks you’re married. The two of you, to each other. Husbands.”

Greg blinked at him. “To each other?”

“Yeah,” John said.

“Right, so why are you telling me…” Greg trailed off.

John didn’t speak, but his face contorted into something hopeful and apologetic at the same time.

“You’re kidding,” Greg said. His heart was fluttering at the very idea. “You want me to…what. Go and talk to him? Pretend I’m married to him for a couple of hours?”

John tilted his head in a kind of half shake of his head. “Yes and no. He’s fragile right now, and we have no idea how long it might be until his real memories might return.”

Greg blinked, trying to figure out what John wasn’t saying. “So, what, you want me to move in with him or something?”

“That’s kind of what I was thinking,” John said.

“And pretend to be his husband?”

“Yes.”

“For how long?” The question came before Greg could even think about it.

“We…don’t know.” John replied uneasily.

Greg blinked again, his mind working. Evasive answer. Hiding something. How long could it really last?

“Um, okay,” he said blankly.

“Shit, Sherlock’s coming back,” John said, eyes on the entryway to the lift. “Look, can you meet me at Bart’s tonight, about 8? I’ll explain more then.”

“Sure,” Greg replied. He had the vague feeling he’d agreed to something bigger than he realised, but Sherlock returned, slipping in the door, and the quiet entrance was so uncharacteristic it stopped him from asking any more questions.

“Okay, I’ll see you later then,” John told Greg. “Let’s go, Sherlock.”

“Very well,” Sherlock murmured.

As they left, Greg could hear John asking about the liver. Sherlock’s answer was quiet and undramatic. It was weird.

+++

By the time Greg finished his paperwork and stop for some pho on the way, he was walking into St. Bart’s right on time. John was waiting in the Pret-a-Manager in the entranceway and to Greg’s surprise he was not alone.

“Hi, Anthea,” Greg said, sliding into a seat opposite John. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

She looked far less formal than he was used to – ponytail, jeans and a blouse instead of a power suit.

“Mr. Holmes is my professional focus,” she said formally. Dropping the front, she added, “I’m worried about how he’s going to cope with any long term change to his mind.”

“Long term change,” Greg whispered. “Jesus…”

“Yes,” she said. They looked at each other for a moment, the atmosphere heavy.

“So what kind of time frame are we talking here?” Greg asked. John’s vagueness had irked him a little all day – even now, he was a little uneasy, seeing John and Anthea pass glances at each other.

They know something I don’t.

“Brain injuries are tricky,” John said, the doctor’s careful words heavy in his mouth. “It’s hard to know how long it will need to heal. Some people it’s less, others it’s more.”

Greg stared at him. “We’re not talking hours here, are we.” His idea of chatting to Mycroft a bit about their false shared life was fading with John’s empathetic look and the uncharacteristic nervousness of Anthea.

“No, Greg,” John said. “Consider it an undercover assignment, if you will.”

“What?” Greg said. “Jesus, John, just tell me, would you?”

John sighed. “Weeks, possibly months. Medically, Mycroft is fine, with the exception of this specific amnesia. We can release him today, really. The only thing he’s confused about is his relationship with you. We’ve kept a file based on all the conversations people have had with him over the past few days. This is everything we know about what he thinks has happened.” He passes a slim file to Greg. “Ideally, you’d move in with him, pretend things are okay for a while, and one day he’ll wake up knowing-“

“What, that I’ve been lying to him? Living in his house, sleeping in his fucking bed without actually being married to him?” Greg’s voice was too loud for the office, but he didn’t care.

“-that your actions were to preserve his mental health,” Anthea finished John’s sentence for him. She leaned forward into Greg’s eyeline, catching his gaze.

“Mycroft will be horrified at the whole scenario,” Anthea said calmly. “However he will understand the lengths we were required to go to in order to save as much of his remarkable mind as possible.”

“And he’d be okay with this,” Greg said in disbelief. “Does he really value his mind so much?”

“The alternative,” Anthea said carefully, “is one of two things. We either tell him he is wrong, that you and he are not and never have been married, in which case he will never trust his own judgement again. I would forecast a survival period of no more than a few months.”

“It would kill him?” Greg asked.

“He would kill himself,” she shot back.

Greg was speechless.

“Alternative option two,” she went on, her voice harder now that she was laying things out so clearly, “is to tell him that the relationship has ended, either by your choice or on behalf of the government. Either way, he would not contact you and you would be free to go about your life, although contact with Sherlock would of course be impossible.”

“Right,” Greg said cautiously. “That would preserve his mind, though, right? I mean, he’d get over it.” He looked at Anthea’s expressionless face. “What?”

“For the record, we are not having this conversation,” she told him. “However it is in Mycroft’s best interest that I tell you how highly he values you. I believe that your death would be less painful than your decision not to see him, or to break off your marriage, as he would see it.”

How highly he values you.

Greg sighed. “I’m guessing you’ve projected a survival time of a few months then, too, haven’t you?”

“I have,” she told him.

“So basically, if I don’t do this, commit to this for an undetermined amount of time, Mycroft’s gonna die.”

“I believe so, yes,” Anthea said.

“John?” Greg asked. He could hear the pleading in his voice, but surely this was ridiculous?

“Obviously I don’t know Mycroft as well as Anthea,” he said. “But I have seen patients spiral into severely debilitating depression when their…alternate beliefs are disproved.”

He turned to Anthea. “Can you give us a minute?” he asked.

She stood and left without a word.

“Greg,” John said, “I know this is a completely shit thing to ask you to do.”

“It’s fucking crazy, that’s what it is,” Greg grumbled.

“I know you’re in love with him,” John said.

“What?” Greg scoffed. His stomach dropped at the expression on John’s face.

“Come on, mate. We’ve talked a lot, most of it with a few pints in us. I’ve seen how you look at him when he arrives at one of your scenes, and the Christmas party last year…”

“Yeah, well, we were both pretty drunk,” Greg muttered.

“That’s my point,” John said. “Look, I have no idea if this is medically correct, but from what Anthea’s said, and what she’s not said, I’m wondering if this is Mycroft’s brain projecting what he really wants onto his reality.”

Greg took a second to process that. Nope, he was going to need it in smaller words.

“What?”

“I think Mycroft wants to be with you too, and this is his brains way of protecting itself. Conjuring a world where you and he are together is a gentle way of bringing him back to reality.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“No,” John said, and there was regret in his voice. “I am certainly not, Greg.”

“So basically,” Greg said, needing to summarise it all, “You’re telling me the guy I’m interested in is probably interested back, and in order to stop him getting so depressed he contemplates killing himself I should go along with his brain and pretend we’re together for the foreseeable future until his brain realises he’s wrong and he gets so embarrassed we never see each other again.”

John paused, considering Greg’s words. “Well, yeah, kind of,” he answered eventually.

“I do not have a choice in this, do I?”

“I don’t really think so, no,” John replied. “I know, it’s weird and shit and just…weird.”

Another thought had occurred to Greg as John spoke. “Sherlock…” he whispered. “What the hell are we going to tell Sherlock?” Greg frowned, piecing together a timeline. “He doesn’t know his brother’s been lucid, does he?”

“No,” John said. “From what he’s said, he knows you’re attracted to Mycroft, hell he was at the Christmas party too, but he’s never mentioned anything about Mycroft. I don’t know how he’d react to this, and we can’t risk him snarking some comment and ruining it.”

“So we’re not telling him this isn’t real?” Greg finished. “Christ, this gets better and better.”

“Look, Anthea’s put together an outline,” John said. “It’s in the file I gave you. Have a look while I go and get us some coffee, and we’ll talk about it.”

“Right,” Greg muttered. He wondered if he was the one with the brain injury, though why his brain might conjure this as a coping mechanism he had no idea.

Chapter Text

When John returned, Greg had read through the file twice.

“So according to Mycroft, we’ve been together in secret for two years,” Greg said, accepting the coffee and nodding at Anthea, who had re-joined them. Her own coffee was enormous, and she cradled it with both hands as she returned to her seat.

“Legally married for one, living apart for discretion and security reasons,” Anthea agreed.

“And how are we explaining all this, then?” Greg asked. He opened the file and quoted, ‘GL to move into MH residence; explanation to follow.’”

“You would not take no for an answer,” Anthea said smoothly. “Insisted that the charade of pretending you are not married is less important than Mycroft’s health.” Her mouth quirked as she added, “You’ve added considerably to our security costs, let me tell you.”

“Right,” Greg said. “Well that will explain why my stuff isn’t at Mycroft’s place, but I’ve only been there a few times, I have no idea about where he keeps stuff, or how the building works or anything.”

“More information will be forthcoming,” Anthea said. “You have worked undercover before, am I correct?”

“Years ago,” Greg admitted.

“I believe the term is, ‘wing it’,” she said. “We simply cannot allow for every eventuality. You will have to lie to him.”

The bald truth made Greg swallow. “Right,” he said.

He had more questions about how he would handle not knowing some things – how does he like his eggs cooked? Does he sleep on the left or the right? Is he a cuddler? – but figured neither John nor Anthea would be the right person to ask.

Wing it.

“And Sherlock?” Greg asked, directing his question at John. “Please tell me you have a plan there.”

“Of course,” John said with a smile. “We lie to him too.”

“Seriously?” Greg said. “You’re not the best liar in the world, mate.”

“That’s why, for the purposes of this, I had no idea about you and Mycroft,” John said, accepting the truth about himself without batting an eyelid. “I only found out tonight, when I asked you to come and tell me why Mycroft was asking for you all the time.”

“Okay,” Greg said. “So what about the rest?”

John shrugged. “I’ve know you have a thing for Mycroft for ages.”

Greg shot a glance at Anthea. He could feel his cheeks heating – had Anthea know about that before now?

She looked back, amused, one eyebrow raised.

Yeah, probably. Seems like she and John have really shared everything about this situation.

“And,” John added, “Sherlock wouldn’t expect me to know anything about Mycroft.”

“Do you really think he’ll believe this?” Greg asked.

It was John’s turn to sigh, and Greg saw his professional expression slip as he sat back in his chair. He looked tired and stressed, and for the first time Greg realised how much this was taking out of him.

Come on, Lestrade. Stop dragging your heels.

“Better dust off the old undercover skills,” Greg said. He leaned forward, dropping one hand on John’s shoulder. “Sorry, mate. You’re working your arse off here. Least I can do is give it a go, right?”

“So you’re in?” Anthea asked.

Greg grinned at her. “I’m in.”

John let out a huge breath. “Great.”

Greg lifted the file again, waving it at Anthea. “I’m going to need a bunch more stuff about Mycroft if I’m going to be convincing at this. Personal stuff I should know if we’re,” he breathed deeply, “married.”

Without changing expression, she handed him a flash drive.

“Of course you’d be prepared,” he said, pocketing the drive.

“My personal contact details are classified,” she told him. “If you need anything, day or night, information or physical, you are to contact me.”

“Right,” Greg said. “Thank you.”

“Mycroft is important to the nation. And to me,” she reminded him.

“And to me,” Greg said, flushing with what felt like a very public declaration.

“Get used to saying that,” John said. “Next time he wakes up, I’ll call you.”

“Okay,” Greg said. “I’d better go home, pack, study this,” he patted the flash drive.

“A car will be waiting downstairs,” Anthea said. “Contact for your driver is also on the flash drive. Consider how you wish to use it, but Mycroft will assume you do use it.”

“Right,” Greg said. They all stood up, and he hugged John, thumping him on the back before shaking hands with Anthea.

“Christ,” Greg muttered to himself. The trip home was a daze, and he found himself suddenly sitting on his bed, blankly staring at the open suitcase.

Get it together, Greg.

He couldn’t tell how over dramatic Anthea was being, claiming Mycroft would spiral into suicidal depression if they did anything other than this. Surely she knew him well enough to make that call? From the few nights they’d had personal conversations, the wry sense of humour did seem to hide a self-deprecating side. Did he really think his only value was in his mind?

And bloody John, bringing up Greg’s reluctantly admitted attraction to the man. Bloody genius move, but still. Felt like a bit of taking advantage of a confidence. It put him in quite the catch-22. He either did nothing and took the risk that Anthea was being deliberately inflammatory in her assessment of Mycroft’s mental strength, or he took part in this charade, potentially excluding himself from Mycroft’s life when he inevitably found out about the charade.

Shaking his head, Greg made himself stand up. His choice was clear. Not easy, by far, but clear.

Any risk to Mycroft’s life was too much; he had to take part in this, ridiculous as it might feel. Greg started picking out clothes, wondering what he would have chosen if he had actually been seeing Mycroft. Would he have had space at Mycroft’s to leave his things? Or would they have hidden their relationship completely? He still had a bunch of questions, which reminded him about Anthea’s flash drive. He set-up a program to read him the text as he worked, needing something to do with his nervous energy.

His mind was filled with a whirl of information and choices.

“Mycroft prefers low fat alternatives where possible…he rises at 5am, taking half an hour personal time before using the gym in the basement of your building,” Don’t pack the dodgy running shorts, Greg, you bought new ones, remember, and make sure you get your charger from the bedside table, “…Christmas is a difficult time but Mycroft spends two days at the family home with his parents every year. He will certainly have had his tailor prepare you some suits by this point in your relationship, so I will arrange for the tailor to meet you at Mycroft’s flat. He will be aware of the situation,” Christ, he’d have to tell work something, and maybe his family? Might leave that one for a bit, see where things end up.

Greg stopped packing, overwhelmed by the information pouring into his ears as well as the thoughts rushing through his mind. This was much wider reaching than he’d originally thought. It felt voyeuristic, learning all this about Mycroft without knowing it from the man himself. This was the kind of stuff you learned as you went along; making the wrong kind of eggs for someone and watching as they ate them anyway; quiet admissions about difficult family dynamics, a comforting hug to smooth the hurt.

Those were Greg’s favourite moments. It felt like they were skipping all that.

But not to Mycroft.

Mycroft’s brain had crafted memories for him about them. About Greg, what he was like as a partner, a man. A lover.

Christ.

Greg dropped his head into his hands. He wondered what Mycroft would have imagined for them, for their first time. When they really did go to bed together, their actual first time, Mycroft would not even know. It felt a little like grief to Greg; a loss of that shared experience. What did Mycroft even like in bed? Surely Anthea’s bio wouldn’t include that. Greg’s mind raced, offering options, wondering if…

A new thought occurred to him, something he hadn’t even considered asking John. He grabbed his phone, heart pounding as he made the call.

John didn’t answer.

Gritting his teeth, Greg called Anthea instead.

“Greg,” she greeted him.

“What does Mycroft know about all this?” Greg asked. “I mean, he’s waking up in a hospital bed, I’ve moved myself into his flat, obviously with your help or permission or whatever. He’s not an idiot, so what are we telling him?”

He could hear the almost hysteria in his voice.

Fuck, how did I forget to ask this?

“Mycroft is aware he is in hospital,” Anthea confirmed. “John and I agreed it is best if he is made unaware of any potential damage to his brain.”

“Right,” Greg said. “So if that’s what we’re not telling him, what are we telling him?”

She paused. “John suggested we stick as close to the truth as possible. Head injury, placed under sedation – though we would downplay the severity of it – no damage evident.”

“So basically, his sense of time is distorted because of the sedation, and I’m over-reacting by moving in with him,” Greg said.

“In summary, yes,” she answered.

Greg nodded, thinking, unwilling to hang up. He chewed on the inside of his cheek, thinking it through. “Okay,” he said. “I can work with that. Can we agree that if I need to improvise on the story I’ll let you know? Things can happen undercover, and as you said, we can’t plan for every possible question.”

“Of course,” Anthea replied. “Fortunately, the employment contract he signed is clear; any head injury requiring hospitalisation carries a mandatory thirty day period of leave, which can be extended to sixty with the written recommendation of two medical experts. Your leave will, of course, will be approved to match his.”

Two months. Probably.

“Okay,” Greg said again. “Thanks.”

“Not a problem,” Anthea told him. “We will need to communicate clearly if this is to work.”

“I know,” Greg told her.

“A car will come for you in the morning to take you to Mycroft’s flat,” she said, the brisk work tone creeping back in. “Andrew is Mycroft’s tailor. He will meet you there to measure you for some suits.”

“And Mycroft would expect me to have nicer suits?” Greg asked, a little doubtful. He’d never had a custom made suit in his life.

“He would,” Anthea replied. “He does, in fact.”

Greg’s eye widened at that one, but he didn’t take the bait.

“Right, well, I’ll be ready,” he said, ignoring how few hours remained between now and 8am.

He rang off, then zipped his suitcase, dropping it at the front door before readying himself for bed. His laptop still sat on the duvet and he shifted it, deciding one more read through his briefing wouldn’t hurt.

Some of this I might conceivably forget, he thought, reading through details of Mycroft’s preference for Himalayan rock salt and a certain very expensive brand of tea. We don’t live together, who knows how often we find time to have tea?

The idea sat strangely with him. How would he actually feel about being married to someone he didn’t live with? Couldn’t even acknowledge, for that matter. How many little moments would they miss, not being there in the early mornings, the late nights after a long day, the nightmares in the middle of the night? Those were the reason for a relationship, the bits that Greg treasured.

Would he call me Greg finally, if we were married?

Laptop aside, alarm set on his phone, Greg slid down into bed, not entirely sure how comfortable he was with the charade upon which he was about to embark. Much as he’d daydreamed about a relationship with Mycroft, these details had not crossed his mind.

It felt sadder than it should.

Chapter Text

Greg still felt off-kilter in the morning. He ate breakfast, washing up carefully. Who knew when he would be back here?

As he dried his favourite mug, he realised he would definitely take it with him, under normal circumstances. As if anything about this could be considered normal circumstances. There were quite a few things he’d pack. Taking a reusable shopping bag he did a sweep of his small flat, adding his own brand of tea, a package of biscuits, some books; a photo of his sister and her kids. The small things he wanted around him, regardless of where he was.

He wondered if Mycroft’s brain would tell him he hadn’t seen it before. He wondered if Mycroft thought he’d ever been here. Would it harm his recovery if Greg brought him here? Or would his brain cover it over, make excuses for him? This was not the same as the undercover work he’d done during a brief stint in Vice all those years ago. There was far too much personal involvement for one thing – if John was a cop he’d never approve this. Not to mention the stakes felt far higher, but Greg knew that was mixed up with his own emotions.

Fuck.

He was already too invested in this for it to end well. It was a Sophie’s choice, with no good outcome; only a less bad one. For Mycroft, at least; no matter what, Greg would say goodbye to him.

+++

Andrew met him at the entrance to Mycroft’s flat, grabbing the suitcase before Greg could protest.

“Good morning,” he said formally, though he tempered it with a wink. “You’ll have to sign me in, of course.”

Greg nodded. He’d spent the trip over remembering what he knew about undercover work. The first rule: don’t openly question any information anyone gives you.

Sign him in, then.

Second rule: confidence. If you’re meant to be doing it, act like it.

“Hi,” he said to the receptionist with his most charming grin.

“Good morning, sir,” she greeted him. “My name is Iris. As this is my first week I’m asking everyone I haven’t met personally for their ID. I hope you understand.”

“Of course,” Greg told her. He handed over his driver’s licence, which she scanned, before he signed Andrew in.

“Thank you, Detective Inspector,” she said, returning his licence. “As per security regulations in this building here is your new lift pass and the automatically generated key code for your flat. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Not at all,” he said. “Better to be safe. Thanks, Iris.”

He grinned at her, then turned to Andrew. “Let’s go, then.”

“What’s with all that?” Andrew asked as they entered the lift.

Greg scanned his lift pass. As he’d hoped, it told the elevator where to go; he had no idea which floor was Mycroft’s. “New employees, new codes,” he told Andrew with a confidence he didn’t feel. “Or more accurately, when an employee leaves, the codes get changed.”

“Fair enough,” Andrew replied.

The lift doors opened and Greg was relieved to see only one door. Relieved, but not surprised.

Jesus, of course the whole floor is his.

The code was a mix of numbers and symbols; Greg checked it carefully, having no idea what might happen if he made a mistake. He blew out a relieved breath when the lock clicked properly.

“Ta,” Andrew murmured when Greg opened the door to him first.

Greg followed, careful to put the card with the code in his wallet. There was no way he’d know the new code immediately, and he figured he could get away with not having it memorised right away.

One less thing to keep in my brain.

Even though Andrew knew some of what was going on, Greg made a point not to gawk as he entered the flat. It had been redecorated since he'd last been here; from what he remembered, Mycroft had been living with the previous tenant's bold colour choices. A floorplan had been included with his file, but they didn’t show Mycroft’s new decor; the calm minimalism of each room, the small details that saved it from being impersonal.

He itched to examine them, but instead turned to Andrew.

“Can I get you anything?” he asked.

“Let’s do this so you can look around, and I can get started on your new suits,” Andrew replied with a grin. “Besides, you might not even know where the kitchen is.”

Greg decided he liked Andrew.

The fitting went quickly; Andrew was professional and efficient with a wicked sense of humour. Greg hadn’t expected him to be so approachable, and it made things far more relaxing. He didn’t make an issue of the weirdness of this whole thing, which Greg appreciated, and the time wasn’t as awkward as he thought.

“So can I assume you’ll pick fabrics and stuff?” Greg asked.

Andrew had tucked away his notebook and stood smirking at Greg. “You’d be right,” he said. “I know what kind of thing Mycroft would like, and I get the impression you have no idea what suits you.”

“Yeah,” Greg said. Another decision he didn’t have to make. Thank Christ.

“I’ll have them done by tomorrow morning,” Andrew said. “Anthea will have them brought over.”

“Shit, really?” Greg said.

“My team’s incredible,” Andrew said without a trace of conceit. “Have to be, with Mycroft as a client.”

He shook Greg’s hand and left, the door clicking behind him.

“Fuck,” Greg muttered to himself. He looked around the room. It was gorgeous; muted and inviting, he wanted to sink into the sofa and sleep away the hours he’d missed the previous night. It felt intrusive, but he walked over to the bookshelf, looking at the small ornaments spaced precisely on the top. He found his hands tucked behind his back like a small boy in a candy shop.

He didn’t recognise most of the ornaments; the best he could say was they were all different. Collected on trips around the world, maybe?

Greg wondered if Mycroft would have shared the stories behind these with him. Would he ask, or let Mycroft tell him in his own time? The man was generally reserved, but Greg had seen glimmers of the man beneath his public façade, and if they were together…

It’s not real, he reminded himself.

Instead he turned his attention to the books. The collection was smaller than he imagined it would be. Just one shelf, right next to the chaise lounge. Greg recognised the titles; mostly classics, but not those he would expect. He saw Austen, the Bronte sisters, Woolf; Wuthering Heights looked the best thumbed. Greg’s mind burned, wanting to know why that book. When had he first read it? What was it he liked?

All in good time.

He turned instead to the rest of the room. Making a conscious effort to take in the feel of it, the way he did at a crime scene; the analogy wasn’t great, but the skill served him well.

A precise person. No dust, each item in a specific place. Considered; the arrangement of the furniture made best use of the space, inviting people in and defining the spaces.

Christ, he’d been watching too much of the Home Network.

Greg knew there was a short hall to one side, leading to one bedroom and a study; the bathroom was the first door on the right. The kitchen was open plan to the left. Greg wandered in, trailing one finger over the breakfast bar, wondering if he would get up early to eat with Mycroft.

That’s definitely something I would do.

Would they sit next to each other? Or would Greg be cooking eggs while Mycroft checked his email, only looking up to smile and kiss Greg as the eggs slid before him?

You’ll find out.

Christ, this wondering was doing his head in. Greg checked his phone, now impatient to hear from John; there was nothing there.

Restlessly, he called Sally as he walked through the hall, checking out the powder room, then the bedroom.

“Hey, boss,” Sally said.

Greg sat down, dimly recognising that it was Mycroft’s bed he was sitting on.

“Hi,” he said. He had no idea what she knew about what was going on but if there was one thing he knew he could rely on it was Sally speaking her mind.

Sure enough…

“So what’s going on?” she said, right on cue. “All I hear is you’ve been seconded to somewhere I don’t even have clearance to know about.”

“How long, did they tell you?” Greg was curious.

“What, they didn’t tell you?”

“Of course they did, I just want to know how much they told you,” he retorted.

“Nothing, except that you’re gone,” Sally said.

“Snarky,” Greg commented, grinning to himself. “New DI running you off your feet? Who’re you with now?”

“Michaels,” Sally replied. “Not the worst, but she’s green as.”

“Still your DI, though,” Greg said, grinning. “Gotta do what she says, Donovan.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she sighed.

Before they could get into anything else, Greg felt his phone vibrate. Glancing at the screen he saw an incoming call.

John Watson.

His heart jumped, and he blurted, “Shit, I’ve gotta go.”

“Right, see you later,” Sally said. She was used to calls cutting off at a moment’s notice.

Greg hung up and answered John, his finger a little shaky from the burst of adrenalin.

“Hey Greg,” John said, and Greg could hear the tension in his voice.

“Hi,” Greg replied, heart in his mouth.

“He’s awake,” John said. “Asking for you.”

“Right,” Greg said. His stomach flipped; this was more nerve wracking than almost anything in his life.

This is really happening.

“Car’s two minutes away,” John said.

“I’m at Mycroft’s,” Greg blurted.

“I know,” John said.

“Right,” Greg said again.

“See you soon,” John said tightly.

Greg nodded. He dropped his phone on the bed, staring at it as a wave of surreal terror washed over him for a moment. A deep breath and reality was back, enough at least to figure out he needed to head downstairs. Greg barely saw the en-suite as he relieved himself and washed his hands. He grabbed his phone, checked his wallet again, then with another deep breath and an acute consciousness of the time, Greg made his way down to meet the car.

Fuck, here we go.

He was surprised to see Anthea waiting for him.

“Hey,” he said, sliding across the seat.

“Good afternoon,” she replied. “I wanted to check if there was anything you needed.”

“No,” Greg replied. “Andrew was great, can’t believe he’ll have the suits done for tomorrow.”

“We anticipate Mycroft returning home tomorrow afternoon,” Anthea told him. “You should make sure you’ve settled in a bit by then.”

“Right,” Greg said.

“And you will need this,” she said, offering her hand.

A ring.

Greg looked blankly at it for a long moment. “Mycroft doesn’t wear a ring,” he said, mouth working before his brain could stop it.

“Hardly appropriate given all the precautions,” Anthea murmured. “The ring on his right hand is symbolic of your union, in his mind.”

“Okay,” Greg said. He took the ring and slipped it on without thinking. It felt strange. Another thing he was doing without Mycroft.

“Anything else I should know?” Greg asked as the car moved inexorably towards the hospital.

Like everything?

“I’ve emailed you another document,” Anthea answered. “Suggestions from several experts in amnesia management and recovery. Since you’ll be his primary carer you should read it before he returns home.”

“Right,” Greg said. He was saying that a lot lately, a small part of his brain registered. It was his default when people expected a reply and he had no idea how to respond.

Before he could decide if there was anything else he should ask – like everything – the car pulled into the hospital carpark. Greg glimpsed John waiting in reception as they slowed, stopping in the drop-off zone.

“You’re not coming in?” Greg asked, still looking into the hospital.

“He’s not asking for me,” Anthea said. “Call me if you need anything.”

“Right,” Greg’s mouth said as his brain ramped up into high alert. “Thanks.”

“Read that email.” Anthea’s voice followed him out of the car.

“Right,” Greg repeated. His feet took him into reception and he was standing in front of John. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” John replied.

“How is he?” Greg asked.

“Impatient to see you,” John replied. He looked hard at Greg. “Are you sure about this?”

This is your out.

You can’t let him down.                            

His conversation with Anthea voice echoed in his mind.

“So basically, if I don’t do this, commit to this for an undetermined amount of time, Mycroft’s gonna die.”

“I believe so, yes,” Anthea said.

Blinking himself back to the present, Greg returned John’s look. “I’m ready.”

Chapter Text

The only things he seemed to do lately were say, ‘Right’ and stop for a deep breath, Greg thought as he stood outside the door to Mycroft’s hospital room. He’d done both of those things in the last few minutes, and still he was hesitating before going in there.

What if I get it wrong?

“Nope,” Greg said to himself. “Confidence.”

He already believes it.

One more deep breath for luck, and he reached out, turning the handle and ducking his head around the door. The room was darker than he expected, the blinds mostly drawn.

“Mycroft?”

Despite how much he’d thought about Mycroft in the last day or so, seeing him dressed in a hospital gown, lying in bed was still odd, to say the least. The head of the bed was raised, and he was propped up with pillows, but he still looked paler than usual, and the loose, unformed neck of the gown looked strange.

“Gregory.”

The voice from the bed was quiet. Greg had never felt such a flood of emotion at his own name. He calls me Gregory, then. Irrationally, knowing Mycroft recognised him was a relief, even though John hadn’t mentioned any other memory issues. The sound of his name – his first name – on Mycroft’s lips was strange, and it was probably that which sparked the fizzing sensation in his chest at the same time as his heart fluttered. You can let it show, now.

Christ.

“Hi,” Greg said softly, stepping closer as Mycroft held out one hand. It was strange and gratifying to allow his fingers to reach back, sliding over Mycroft’s palm, settling against his skin. Warm skin, Greg registered. Warm and smooth, and gripping his own hand tightly.

“You came,” Mycroft said. His eyes met Greg’s, bright and warm in the dim light.

“Of course,” Greg replied. He was still a little unsettled by the reality of this actually happening, and his hesitance must have shown. He almost added, “John wouldn’t let me come any sooner,” but stopped himself. The best lies are simple.

“I am fine,” Mycroft said, a slight smile playing over his lips. The fondness in his tone was clear; it was mirrored in the soft look he was giving Greg. “Despite John’s insistence, you did not need to give me space to rest.”

Well at least I would have been right.

“John’s the doctor,” Greg said. “He’s not really one for being argued with.”

“While that is true,” Mycroft replied, “I believe your presence would have done me more good than harm.”

“I’m sorry,” Greg said. He could feel himself sinking into the charade; it was easy, in this dark, quiet room, with an adoring Mycroft staring up at him. It felt like a dream. Without realising, his gaze had dropped to Mycroft’s lips. If it had been any other partner, he would have kissed them by now.

Our first kiss.

“I assure you I will not break,” Mycroft said, and the longing in his eyes startled Greg.

“What?”

“A kiss would be the best medicine,” Mycroft told him. “My sense of time is somewhat altered, but I am sure we are overdue.”

“We are,” Greg replied, smiling despite himself at the patient explanation.

No turning back. Let it show.

Shuffling closer, he smiled again, leaning in, hand sliding up Mycroft’s arm. Shutting off the corner of his heart that screamed in protest at the deception. This was for Mycroft. For Mycroft. To save Mycroft from his own brain.

Even if it came at the cost of his own heart.

A wave of nerves as he moved closer, close enough to hear Mycroft’s breath hitch, to see his eyes begin to close in anticipation.

He remembers this, even though it’s never happened before.

Greg hesitated again, inches from Mycroft, not sure if he was savouring the moment or putting it off. He could smell warm skin under the scent of sterile hospital.

I wonder what he usually smells like?

You’ll find out soon enough.

Carefully, Greg cupped Mycroft’s jaw, registering the stubble against his fingertips and palm before focussing on his target.

Mycroft’s mouth was parted, anticipating the contact. Instinctively Greg matched the shape, settling his own lips over Mycroft’s, tamping down the whimper that threatened to break free, holding still as he breathed. What exactly was the right reaction here? It wasn’t their first kiss, as far as Mycroft was concerned, but it was their first since he’d heard about Mycroft’s accident…a dozen details flowed through Greg’s mind, each complicating the other until he just couldn’t think any more.

It is our first kiss though. To me.

Don’t overthink it.

Just let it happen.

This wasn’t going to work if he thought too much about every moment. Mycroft already thought Greg was in love with him. And as John had pointed out, he was in love with Mycroft. The only difference between the reality in Mycroft’s head and actual reality was whether Mycroft knew about it or not. And now Greg was here, merging the two worlds, at least as far as Mycroft was concerned.

Let him see it.

Taking yet another deep breath, Greg let go. He just…felt. Felt Mycroft’s hand on the back of his head, fingers curling into the hair at the nape of his neck. Felt the breath passing across his cheek as Mycroft exhaled hard. Felt the butterflies in his stomach explode as he allowed himself to sink into the kiss, to hell with how he was supposed to react.

It was intoxicating.

“I have missed you.”

Mycroft’s words, whispered between the presses of lips, took a moment to register. When they did Greg eased himself back, smiling into grey eyes, letting his emotion flow for the first time.

“You’ve only been here a couple of days.” It felt strange, hearing the affection colouring his voice when it was usually bubbling under the surface. Deep, deep beneath the surface.

“Time is relative,” Mycroft replied. “It feels longer since we have spent time together.”

“Well, it might,” Greg said. Not technically a lie. “We had dinner together at Rusciano’s last week, remember?”

“Yes,” Mycroft said, his mouth curving into a gentle smile. “Although I remember the dessert with more clarity than the main meal.”

“Dessert?” Greg asked. We didn’t order dessert. Mycroft never orders dessert.

“As I recall the chocolate mousse was your idea,” Mycroft said, his face twisting into a mischievous expression Greg had never seen. “I’m sure I had to have the sheets cleaned afterwards.”

Mousse…sheets…

Christ.

“Ah, that dessert,” Greg managed. “Of course, how could I forget?”

How could I remember what hasn’t happened?

Mycroft’s hand pulled him down into another kiss, still soft and tender. It was harder to lose himself in it; Greg was hyper-aware of the conversation they’d just had. Half-had, actually. He’d have to get used to it, he supposed.

And the knowledge of that soured what should be an intimate moment.

But he couldn’t let it show.

For Mycroft’s sake.

Don’t overthink it.

Just let it happen.

“So,” Greg said, when the kiss broke slowly apart. “Are you ready to go home?”

“I am,” Mycroft replied, one hand still tangled with Greg’s. “I understand you’ve decided to break our agreement and relocate to my home for my recuperation?”

“I have,” Greg told him, scanning Mycroft’s face for discomfort. Nothing. “Anthea agrees with me, actually.”

“Indeed,” Mycroft said, in a tone dripping with scepticism. “Anthea would certainly need to be on board to facilitate the extra security.”

“She suggested it,” Greg pointed out. He couldn’t hold back the smile. “And John agrees with her.”

“A minor head injury does not warrant such an increased demand on our security,” Mycroft said stubbornly.

Greg stared at him for a moment. Minor, remember. Downplay it.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “but Anthea said you’ll be off work for a month, and John agrees that having someone living with you is…better.”

“’Better’?” Mycroft repeated.

“Safer?” Greg tried.

“I’m not sure a minor head injury really justifies-” Mycroft started again.

“Look, you can say I’m over reacting but if John and Anthea both agree, I think that leaves you outvoted,” Greg told him.

“I did not realise my personal medical decisions were subject to democratic process,” Mycroft grumbled.

“Well someone had to make decisions while you were sleeping,” Greg grinned.

“An induced coma is hardly sleeping,” Mycroft said.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you didn’t want me to stay with you,” Greg said.

Are we pushing him too hard here? What if he says no?

“As my legal spouse you had medical power of attorney,” Mycroft said, “medical power of attorney.”

“Well, yeah, but only while you were…you know,” Greg pointed out.

“Incapacitated?” Mycroft offered.

“If you like,” Greg said. His thumbs were running unconsciously back and forth along Mycroft’s skin – it was more relaxing than he’d imagined. “Look, if you don’t want me to move in for the next bit, I can…not. I can stay at home.” His heart was thumping. Why was he even offering this?

“No,” Mycroft said. “I must admit the prospect of having you present more regularly is appealing.”

“Well, Anthea’s had me seconded out of Scotland Yard so I’ll be around more than regularly,” Greg told him. “I won’t crowd you. I mean, I’ll try not to crowd you, I know you’re used to having your own space…” he trailed off, not wanting to say something that contradicted himself. The himself that existed in Mycroft’s brain.

Christ above.

“I know I have been reluctant to share my space on an ongoing basis in the past,” Mycroft said, his eyes still locked on Greg’s. “However this appears to be the perfect opportunity to consider a trial.”

“A trial?” Greg repeated.

“To see how well we would proceed living together on a more permanent basis.” Greg’s shock must have been evident on his face because Mycroft’s brow creased, and he went on, “Given the changes Anthea would already have made to security, it would be foolish not to take advantage of it.”

“Yes,” Greg said. “Right.”

Holy shit.

“You seem less enthusiastic than I would have expected,” Mycroft said. His eyes narrowed.

“Surprised,” Greg told him. He mentally crossed his fingers as he added, “I thought you were happy with the way things were. I didn’t really think you’d want to change them.”

“Well, this injury has made me reconsider,” Mycroft replied. “I will have more than enough time to assess our compatibility.”

Greg looked at him, doing some considering of his own. “We are married,” he said. “Surely you’ve already decided we’re compatible?”

“We have never lived together,” Mycroft pointed out.

Greg frowned a little. Something wasn’t ringing quite true.

“You will be at home for a month with no work,” Greg said, pointing a finger at Mycroft. “If you’re there on your own, you’re going to be bored.”

“I’m sure I will find something to occupy myself,” Mycroft protested.

“How often, exactly, do you ‘find something to occupy yourself’?” Greg asked, grinning. “On your own?”

“Not often, I will grant you,” Mycroft said. At Greg’s knowing look, he added, “Rarely. As you know.”

“So, I’m not going to get in your way, then?” Greg asked, grinning. “It won’t be the same, neither of us at work.” He leaned in, grinning. “I’ll be there all day. And so will you.”

“Indeed,” Mycroft replied. To Greg’s surprise, the mischievous look reappeared. “Perhaps we could find something to occupy ourselves together.”

“Together?” Greg repeated. Stop repeating what he says.

“Together,” Mycroft confirmed.

Jesus, he’s suggesting…

“Hardly a good example of how we would be compatible,” Greg said, hoping the warmth in his cheeks wasn’t visible in the darkened room. “Not really an example of our regular schedules.”

“While that is true,” Mycroft said slowly, trailing off. He was thinking, Greg could see, though the way he was now trailing his fingers up and down Greg’s arm was incredible distracting. Hopefully he wouldn’t get his head around his thoughts before Greg got his around this newly tactile Mycroft.

“While that is true,” Mycroft said again, “surely if we can negotiate spending so much time in each other’s space, the usual complexities of our lives should be simple.”

Usual complexities.

Right.

“If you’re sure,” Greg said.

“Of course,” Mycroft replied. “I believe the doctor will do one last examination today before he releases me.”

“I think Anthea said you'd be coming home tomorrow?" Greg said carefully.

Mycroft blinked at him. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"Pretty sure, yeah," Greg replied.

"Very well," Mycroft said finally, though he didn't sound pleased.

"Don't worry," Greg told him, "the time will pass before you know it."

Chapter Text

Greg stayed with Mycroft until well after dark, at which point he begged off to go home. Much as he was enjoying their time together, the intimacy – natural as it felt – was beginning to press guiltily against him.

How are you going to do this full time?

Greg pushed away the thought. “We both need a good night’s sleep,” he said, almost wincing at the guilt that flared in Mycroft’s eyes.

“Of course,” Mycroft said. “I’m sure the last few days have been trying for you. My apologies again.”

“Not necessary, Mycroft,” Greg said. “Seriously, stop apologising for being assaulted, will you?”

“You’ll come to collect me tomorrow?” Mycroft asked. Greg had never heard the hint of uncertainty that coloured his tone.

He’s worried I won’t show up.

“Of course,” Greg replied. “Just going to do a few errands in the morning and then I’ll be in.”

“Very well,” Mycroft said, tilting his head up for a kiss.

Greg smiled down at him, lowering his head slowly for a kiss that lingered longer than he anticipated it would. “See you tomorrow,” he said.

“Sleep well,” Mycroft replied softly.

Greg felt a smile cross his face as he turned to close the door behind him, though it slid away quickly after Mycroft had disappeared from view. Just when he thought he couldn’t get in any deeper, here he was, his heart fighting his conscience with all the desperate vigour it could muster.

It’s going to be a long night.

The hours between leaving the hospital and returning were not spent in vain. Greg did sleep – a quick snoop in the bed side drawers showed Mycroft slept on the left, so he snuck in on the right. The bed was comfortable of course, the sheets divine, and Greg awoke feeling more rested than he had in a long time. Well, that would be one plus of this whole mess – a mattress far superior to his own. It was surprising his brain had let him rest given the unusual circumstances, but he was grateful anyway.

At least he’d be well rested when Mycroft realised he’d been lied to.

“Stop it,” Greg told himself out loud. He opened his email and started reading the documents Anthea had sent him on amnesia recovery and management.

In theory they should have been more helpful, but there was one key detail none of them seemed to address. Mycroft had no idea he was living a delusion, even less so that everybody around him was facilitating it. These articles were geared towards people who knew there was something missing from their memories. Frustrated, Greg tossed his phone onto the sofa, taking his empty toast plate and mug into the kitchen. It was odd seeing his favourite mug drying on Mycroft’s draining board, but he supposed he should get used to it.

Restless, Greg spent a little time opening and closing cupboards, giving himself at least a passing familiarity with where Mycroft kept things. He figured he’d be forgiven for not knowing where every single thing was, but the more he knew the better.

Besides, it was interesting to see what Mycroft kept in his cupboards.

The usual stuff – cutlery and crockery – but also plenty of high-end cooking- and baking-ware. That was unexpected. Greg would not have bet on finding a Thermomix or a Kitchen-aid, and yet there they were, perfectly clean and aligned in the cupboard. As he ran one finger over the pale blue enamel, he wondered what Mycroft liked to cook. And how often? Why was there nothing about this in the folio Anthea had made up for him?

“Planning morning tea?”

Anthea’s voice pulled Greg out of the pantry. “I was just thinking about you,” he said.

“Well that’s disappointing,” she said, crossing her arms. “I’m not sure Mycroft would approve.”

“What are you doing here?” he asked her.

“I brought your new suits,” she told him. “Anderson is hanging them in the wardrobe.”

“Right,” Greg said. “Well, I read your stuff and there is nothing in there about Mycroft baking. Or cooking.”

“It’s likely there are other details of his life you will not know about,” Anthea replied. “As comprehensive as my folio certainly was,” she gave him a significant look, “you did volunteer for this. And as you can’t plan for every eventuality.”

Greg scowled at her, ignoring the angelic look she threw him in return. “Fine,” he said. “So is there anything I should know?”

“Mycroft bakes,” she said. “And cooks, when he has the time.” She blinked placidly at him.

“Right,” he said, biting back irritation. “Thanks.”

“Anything else?” she asked.

“No, I’d say that’s it for now,” Greg replied. He glanced at his watch. “I should head out to the hospital.”

“A grocery delivery is due soon,” Anthea said. “I’ll make sure it arrives and put it away. I should be gone before you return.” She smiled at him, a hint of the mischevious in her eyes. “Mycroft will probably want to wash the hospital off himself, and he might need help.”

“Right,” Greg said, ignoring the fully fledged smirk she gave him. There was that word again. “See you later.”

+++

Preparing Mycroft to leave was easier than Greg expected. The neurologist gave him one last set of tests, which he appeared to pass with flying colours, and he was ready to go. Greg was glad he’d thought to call for a car while Mycroft was in the bathroom; it meant they could walk right out and into the car without waiting in the cold air.

“I shall be glad to be home,” Mycroft murmured as they settled themselves in the back of the sedan.

“I’m sure you will,” Greg replied, smiling easily across the back seat. His mind seemed to have settled itself overnight, and the discomfort from the night before was markedly less intrusive. It was a little disturbing how quickly he’d begun to find the undercover mind-set again, where you stop second guessing yourself and live the role. The fact that ‘the role’ was really a subset of himself probably helped, but he’d tucked that away with the rest of Greg Lestrade, single man.

Now, he was Greg Lestrade, married man. Married to a man.

“There’s a few changes at your place,” Greg mentioned. “A new girl at the door when I was there yesterday. Iris. And new codes for the door, which is annoying.” I’m rubbish at remembering that kind of thing.

“It shouldn’t affect you too much,” Mycroft said fondly, “you never could remember the code anyway.”

He knows me so well.

“Thanks,” Greg said dryly. “How lovely to have you back.”

“I am sorry but it’s the truth,” Mycroft replied.

“Fair call,” Greg said. There was a stab of something – regret, perhaps, or surprise that Mycroft knew him well enough to incorporate this into his reality. He pushed it away as Mycroft spoke again.

“I hope you found enough space for your things,” Mycroft said.

“Yeah, I don’t have that much stuff,” Greg replied. “Just brought enough for the month.” Or two.

Mycroft nodded. “I want you to be comfortable,” he said. “Please feel free to bring anything you like.”

“Even if it doesn’t fit your aesthetic?” Greg asked, grinning.

“Even then,” Mycroft replied. He was silent for a moment before adding, “though perhaps your Arsenal posters would be better displayed in the spare room rather than the sitting room.”

“Noted,” Greg said.

The silence that fell was comfortable; Mycroft actually lay his head back against the seat, the first sign Greg had seen that he was feeling the strain of what had happened. Greg watched him, studying with a freedom he’d never had before. It was startling to realise how familiar the details were; it seemed he’d been paying attention without realising it. For these few moments he allowed his eyes to drift over Mycroft’s face, relishing the moment before the car slid to a stop.

“We’re here.” Greg tried to keep his voice quiet enough not to startle Mycroft.

“Thank you,” came the reply.

Greg was unprepared for the warmth of the smile that followed, Mycroft’s eyes settling on his with a calm trust Greg had never seen in him before. He held the grey eyes, his own smile more hesitant.

“Come on,” Greg said finally. “Looks like you could use a rest.”

“I do find myself more fatigued than I had anticipated,” Mycroft admitted.

“Well, your body is healing,” Greg replied. He slid out of the car first, reaching automatically to help Mycroft steady himself as he followed.

“Good afternoon, Detective Inspector,” Iris greeted him as they arrived.

“Iris,” Greg replied. “This is Mycroft Holmes.”

“Of course, Mr. Holmes,” Iris replied, taking the ID Greg offered her. “Welcome home, sir.”

“Thank you,” Mycroft murmured as Greg pocketed both Mycroft’s ID and his security pass.

“If there’s anything you need please let me know,” Iris told them.

Greg winked at her, making his way over to the lift with Mycroft at his side.

“Ready to go home?” he asked.

“Absolutely,” Mycroft replied.

“Anthea arranged a grocery delivery this morning,” Greg said, hoping his words sounded less nervous than he felt. “I assume she’d know what to order.”

“Of course,” Mycroft replied. “Although I would suspect the proportion of ready meals and oven chips will be higher since she knows you will be staying.”

“Oi,” Greg replied mildly. “I don’t eat that many ready meals.”

“Not while you’re living with me, you won’t,” Mycroft retorted, with the first flash of his old fire.

“I hope you don’t think you’ll be doing all the cooking,” Greg replied, holding the door open. “I do a mean scrambled eggs, I’ll have you know.”

“Scrambled?” Mycroft replied, wrinkling his nose. “I hope that was not intended to tempt me into eating eggs, Gregory.”

Shit. No scrambled eggs, then.

“Just teasing,” Greg replied. He handed Mycroft’s security card over, allowing him to enter the code.

“Home,” Mycroft sighed as they entered.

Greg closed the door behind them, noting that the driver had left Mycroft’s bag in the entranceway, presumably while they’d been speaking with Iris.

“Cuppa?” Greg asked without thinking. Making tea when he arrived home was automatic, but in the second between the question and the answer, he chastised himself. What if Mycroft assumed he knew how to make his tea? ‘Earl Grey, black with lemon’ was hardly enough information for a man who surely steeped his tea to a literal stopwatch?

“A cup of tea would be heavenly,” Mycroft replied, and before Greg could speak he added, “and I will relish making it for myself. The tea in that hospital was barely tolerable, even with the most explicit instructions provided to the kitchen.”

“Fair enough,” Greg said with a grin. He sat himself at the breakfast bar, feeling a smile spread across his face as Mycroft moved slowly around the kitchen. His own mug, still resting in the dish drainer, was turned over and dried (quite unnecessary, Greg thought, but also completely Mycroftian). He was curious to see what Mycroft made for him. They’d veered towards whiskey more often than not, professional matters being the exception. The terrible coffee at his office was unavoidable, and at a scene Greg would drink whatever people might happen to bring him.

There was only one conversation in which they’d talked about tea and given its context, Greg kind of hoped Mycroft had forgotten about it. Greg had done his best to forget it himself, though John’s mention of The Christmas Party had brought it uncomfortably close to the front of his mind.

Nope. Not now.

“Might I assume you’ll share a pot with me?” Mycroft asked.

“Sure,” Greg replied. He watched as Mycroft prepared the pot, making mental notes so he could hopefully reproduce it in the future.

“This might be an opportunity for you,” Mycroft said, and only the slight twitch of his mouth told Greg there was some kind of amusement playing behind his words.

“Really?” Greg replied. “How’d you figure?”

“I have the distinct impression you will be enforcing the ‘taking it easy’ portion Dr. Hackett’s recommendations, which will presumably include making my tea.”

“And you’re assuming I’ll be rubbish at it,” Greg said.

“I anticipate a period of adjustment,” Mycroft admitted. He met Greg’s eyes, warm and affectionate before turning abruptly to swirl the teapot. They stood in silence for a couple of minutes – Greg wasn’t sure of the exact period, though he was sure Mycroft was – and he watched in silence as Mycroft poured their tea, clearly relishing the small ritual. Before he could lose himself in the exact shape of the fingers cradling the teapot, Greg averted his gaze until he felt Mycroft move closer.

“Spoken like a true politician,” Greg said, recalling their earlier conversation and accepting his mug. To his surprise it was generously milky as opposed to Mycroft’s dark cup.

“Tea with lemon is not to your taste, if I recall,” Mycroft murmured, raising his own cup to his lips.

Greg felt his face flush a little – he was sure they’d discussed lemon-vs-milk only once…

“Speaking of Dr. Hackett, should we get comfy on the sofa?” Greg asked. “I’m sure she’d be happier if you had your feet up.”

“Certainly, as long as you are planning on joining me,” Mycroft said.

“Yep,” Greg said. He allowed Mycroft to take the lead, waiting until he was sitting on the chaise lounge before asking, “D’you need anything else?”

“Just you, my dear,” Mycroft replied. He turned his face up, and it was as natural as breathing for Greg to drop a kiss on his mouth as they settled close enough for a gentle warmth to infuse the little air between them.

Oh dear, Greg thought, as Mycroft leaned sideways. The space between them disappeared as his body melted into Greg in that fluid way that only happens when someone is completely comfortable.

It was glorious.

Greg didn’t realise he’d raised his arm around Mycroft’s shoulder until he felt the shirt fabric under his fingers. He forced himself to relax, breathing deeply. This was normal for Mycroft. Comforting, obviously, and something his brain told him they’d done before.

But for how long, Greg wondered. And what would happen when the truth came out?

Chapter Text

Hours later – the light was markedly different, the almost visible fade of early evening – Greg shifted, his eyes adjusting slowly as his brain reminded him where he was. Where, and why. His shoulder was stiff, arm still wrapped around Mycroft’s shoulders. Greg glanced over, feeling a smile steal over his face as he studied Mycroft’s relaxed face. He looked much younger in sleep, and Greg wondered if, under different circumstances, he would relish the opportunity to study Mycroft as he slept. Mycroft gave the impression there were too few hours in the working week in which he actually stopped to rest. They would probably spend their days off something like this, snuggling on the sofa, cooking together before falling into bed, bodies tangled close…

Stop it, Lestrade.

His careful movement had woken Mycroft, who inhaled deeply before sitting up. As his weight lifted off Greg it allowed him to rotate his shoulder, encouraging the joint to move freely again.

“Sorry,” Greg murmured, wincing as he eased his stiff joint. “Fell asleep.”

“As did I,” Mycroft replied, blinking owlishly. “Doctor Hackett would approve, I believe.”

“Probably,” Greg allowed. He glanced at his watch. “Are you hungry? We could cook something.”

“Let’s see what Anthea has provided us,” Mycroft, picking up their mugs.

Greg stood, taking a moment to allow his body to acclimatise before following Mycroft.

“We have chicken, mushrooms, cooking wine…if you are prepared to wait I could make a pie,” Mycroft suggested. “I suspect onions or leeks will be present somewhere,” he added, opening a cupboard to examine Anthea’s supplies.

“You don’t have to do that,” Greg protested. He stepped over to the fridge as Mycroft was still at the pantry. “Look, there’re salmon fillets here. Why don’t we just cook those tonight? You can always make a pie tomorrow, if you still want to.”

Greg closed the fridge to find Mycroft standing, arms crossed, leaning against the kitchen bench, one eyebrow raised. “I hope your suggestion is not based on my health, Greg,” he said pointedly.

Greg crossed his own arms, grinning as Mycroft clocked the mimicry. “Of course it is, Mycroft,” he said, hoping his smile tempered the slightly mocking tone of voice. His heart was clenching as he watched Mycroft’s expression change, and he fought his immediate reaction to hide it. Show him, remember? “Can’t have you exhausting yourself on the first day.”

“I am not accustomed to having decisions made for me,” Mycroft said. His expression reminded Greg of a small child upset at the colour of his socks. It was frankly adorable.

“Are you pouting at me?” Greg asked, suppressing a smile.

“I am not,” Mycroft replied. The pouting definitely increased.

Greg stepped forward, closing the gap between them. Although Mycroft was taller, leaning against the bench brought them to the same height and Greg took advantage, allowing the smile to show on his face as he studied Mycroft’s reaction. He felt rather than heard Mycroft inhale; the shiver skittered down his spine, sending sparks across his skin as the air moved into Mycroft’s body. Mycroft held his ground, but Greg spied his fingers tightening on the bench. Dark eyes didn’t waver, and the air between them was suddenly charged. Christ, Greg thought, was this what things would have been like, had neither hidden their attraction to the other?

Why the hell didn’t I make a move?

The answer was clear but uncomfortable, so Greg ignored it.

“Good,” he said, ignoring the thudding of his heart and aiming for a normal tone. “So salmon tonight, chicken pie tomorrow, then?”

“Very well.” Mycroft’s voice was level, and part of Greg wondered how much it was taking for him to keep it so.

Wonder how much I’d have to push to change that…Stop it.

“Great, I’ll cook tonight,” Greg said before Mycroft could say anything. He stepped away, eyes still on Mycroft, as though the decision was made. “Why don’t you go and have a shower? You said you wanted to wash the hospital off you, remember?”

“I did,” Mycroft countered, eyes glittering. “I was hoping you might help with that, actually.”

Greg felt his eyes widen, and he swallowed. It was a lot harder to keep his thoughts clean with Mycroft making suggestions like that. “If you want,” he managed, turning towards the fridge and trying to remember what he’d decided on for dinner.

“I do,” Mycroft murmured, and the susurrus of air signalled his movement. Long fingers curled around his waist and Greg felt Mycroft’s breath against his ear – the few inches of extra height now being used to full advantage. “I miss you,” he said, the words brushing over Greg’s skin a second before Mycroft’s mouth kissed his neck.

He misses me.

A memory of me that never happened.

Immerse yourself….

“Well, darlin’,” Greg said, pressing one of his own hands over Mycroft’s, “We’ll have to make that right, won’t we?”

He felt Mycroft’s arm tighten around him and they stood together for a long moment. Greg felt himself drifting with sensation – Mycroft solid against him, still smelling vaguely institutional, their breathing slowly synchronising.

“I missed you,” Mycroft repeated, his voice thick.

Jesus, is he crying? Is that why he won’t let go?

“Dinner first?” Greg asked. “Or shower?” His heart thumped at the choice before Mycroft.

The answer took a moment to come.

“Eating first seems prudent.” Mycroft’s voice was still soft, though the tremor was gone. “After our shower I fear I may need to retire to bed.”

“Sure,” Greg said, hoping he sounded calm.

Is tonight the night we…

“To sleep, Gregory,” Mycroft said quietly. He pulled back, turning his serious eyes to scan Greg’s face. “You seem anxious.”

“I’m worried about you,” Greg admitted, the words sitting awkwardly on his tongue. It was an uncomfortable angle on the truth, and he felt the sharp edge of the lie against his palate.

I’m worried about both of us. About the truth. About what it will do to you when you find out. About what it will do to both of us.

I’m glad I have a good lie.

I’m not glad I have to lie.

“Doctor Hackett assured me apprehension in returning to normalcy is to be expected,” Mycroft said carefully. “It stands to reason that would extend to you as well.”

“You spoke to her about us?” Greg asked in surprise. He turned to face Mycroft fully. “About us being…together?”

“She raised the subject,” Mycroft admitted. “A typically clinical conversation.”

Greg was amused to see colour rising in his cheeks, but it faded when he realised his own cheeks were noticeably warmer. Mycroft having a conversation about sex, specifically sex with Greg, was more arousing than Greg cared to admit.

“A common concern is any risk when returning to strenuous activity,” Mycroft continued.

“Anything that raises your heartrate, you mean?” Greg heard himself smirk.

“Indeed,” Mycroft murmured. “Nothing raises my heartrate like you.”

Jesus.

“And she said there wasn’t any risk?” Greg found himself asking.

“No more than usual,” Mycroft replied, a smirk of his own crossing his face.

“Okay, dinner first, then,” Greg said, refusing to rise to the bait. “Do you want to eat at the table? Or here at the breakfast bar?”

“At the breakfast bar?” Mycroft repeated. “For our evening meal?”

“Yeah,” Greg said. “I mean, we don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

Do we not usually do that? How often do you think I come here?

“I think it would be best to eat our evening meal in the dining room,” Mycroft said with a fond smile.

“Sure,” Greg said. “I’ll start cooking then, will I?”

“I’ll forgo the wine tonight,” Mycroft said. He opened the fridge, passing the fish and vegetables to Greg, turning his nose up at the cooking wine and searching further. “I see Anthea agrees with that assessment.”

Greg took the bottle Mycroft offered, examining the label. “Non-alcoholic cider?” he repeated. “Okay, then.”

“I’ll set the table,” Mycroft murmured, and for a few moments each was engrossed with their respective task. Greg found cooking deeply satisfying. The sizzle of the salmon as it hit the hot pan made him smile, and despite the low level of anxiety bubbling in his stomach, he began to relax. Domesticity was comforting. He could feel Mycroft moving in and out, opening and closing drawers and cupboards, the clink of cutlery and crockery a muted background to the sounds of the cooking meal.

When it was finished – steamed greens with some Asian flavours he’d discovered in the fridge, the salmon both crispy and tender at once – Greg found Mycroft standing quietly at the bench. He plated self-consciously, feeling the calm eyes on him as he arranged the food as best he could.

“Ready?” Greg asked, picking up the plates.

Mycroft smiled and led the way.

“Wow,” Greg murmured, pleased he didn’t drop their meals as he entered the dining room.

Candles offered the main lighting, though there was a muted glow coming from the ceiling as well. There was some kind of quiet background music – something orchestral that Greg didn’t recognise, and the table had been set properly, with side plates for the bread rolls and crystal wine glasses for their cider.

“An evening worthy of celebration,” Mycroft said as they sat. “It is wonderful being here with you.” He raised his glass, waiting for Greg to copy him.

“Of course,” Greg replied, touching the rim of his glass to Mycroft’s. “Good thing we’re not at my place, you’d be balancing this lot on your lap.”

Mycroft gave a puzzled frown. “You don’t have a dining table?”

Greg looked at him. “Just that little table in the kitchen, you know. Hardly big enough for all this.” He waved his fork at all the cutlery and crockery.

Mycroft’s expression was blank. “I have never visited your flat, Greg,” he said, carefully cutting into his salmon.

Shit.

“Yeah, I know,” Greg said, “just reminding you why.”

Although he was able to continue the conversation as Mycroft directed it – simple enough questions about how things were going with work and family – Greg was trying to piece this new information into the picture he was slowly building. The reality Mycroft’s brain had built for him was still largely a mystery, and somehow knowing this new fact didn’t make any of it much clearer.

Why have you never visited my flat? Not even once in our whole relationship? Not even when we got engaged?

“Are you alright?” Mycroft asked.

“Yeah,” Greg replied. “I was just thinking.”

“About?” Mycroft asked. “If you wish to share, of course.”

“I hadn’t really thought about it, I guess,” Greg answered, picking up his bread and turning it over in his hands. “But hearing you say it. Well, it’s weird, isn’t it, that you’ve never visited my flat?”

His heart was pounding, half his brain fighting the other half about whether this was a stupid path to pursue. He wanted to know, sure, but pushing Mycroft to examine his carefully constructed reality could have disastrous consequences.

As he waited, Greg noticed one of Mycroft’s eyebrows rising a little in surprise. “We agreed,” Mycroft said, “that the security risk to both of us was too great.” He looked down at his plate, pushing at an almond sliver with his fork. “Given the lack of official connection between either of us and this building, we decided meeting here was a more prudent arrangement. Especially given the events preceding our marriage.”

Two years ago. What happened two years ago? His brain would have picked something that really happened, probably…

“Come, Gregory, surely Aaron Paulson has not slipped your mind so easily?”

Greg blinked.

“You mean the Paulson thing?”

He and Mycroft had worked together more closely than on any other case, bringing down Aaron Paulson and his band of not-so-merry thugs. Their connection to government officials in Turkey and Lebanon, a gateway to the middle-eastern arms trade, dropped the case directly into Mycroft’s lap.

It had been late November before they’d wrapped it up, Mycroft appearing at Sherlock’s Christmas party looking exhausted. John told Greg later how Sherlock’s mother had threatened them both with a fate worse than death if they didn’t send her proof they were ‘working on their relationship’. A brief photo of the brothers, proof for their mother, and Greg watched as Sherlock summarily dismissed his brother, leaving him standing alone in the kitchen. Empathetic to the brief look of uncertainty over tired features, Greg invited Mycroft to sit with him. So he doesn’t have to make small talk when he’s so tired, Greg had told himself. There’d been more to the invitation than that, of course, but ultimately they sat together at the party, drinking and debriefing, as much as that was possible with Mycroft’s sky-high security clearance, and afterwards the pair stumbled out of Sherlock’s flat together.

The few moments on that quiet late night street were seared into Greg’s memory.

But it had been last year, only a few months ago, not two years, and how could a drunk Christmas snog make such stringent security measures necessary?

His confusion must have shown, because Mycroft prompted him, “The bomb scare, Gregory.”

But that was a year ago. Not connected with anything, just a random nutter…

Greg blinked.

But not to you.

As far as he could tell, Mycroft’s brain had fused the events into a single narrative, a way to explain how they had come together. As far as he remembered, they’d worked on the Paulson case, talked – and kissed – at the Christmas party, and somehow someone had threatened to blow up Greg’s flat because of it.

Don’t question it.

“Oh yeah,” Greg said, forcing down a bite of salmon. “I just mean, before that. It seems so long ago, I wondered why it never really…”

Mycroft tilted his head, considering the question. “A formal decision was never made, admittedly,” he said slowly. “I certainly never meant to give you the impression I would not be prepared to visit your home.”

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Greg hurried to reassure him, feeling like a complete heel. “It was probably me, flat’s usually a disaster zone really. Definitely not as nice as this place.”

Mycroft nodded, but Greg could still see an edge of confusion. Not suspicion, thankfully, but the last thing Greg needed was Mycroft’s enormous brain wondering things. The sudden stress made his stomach roil, and he realised he wasn’t really hungry anymore.

“Come on,” Greg said, abandoning the rest of his meal. “Let’s get you clean, shall we?”

Chapter Text

Mycroft’s fingers tangled with his own sent Greg’s heartrate skyrocketing. Normally alarm bells would be clanging in his head and he’d struggle to contain his response but given their current situation, it would be better to let it show. More natural.

What does he think we’re like in bed? Or elsewhere? Is a joint shower a regular thing for us?

The carpet was soft under his feet, the change from hardwood pulling Greg out of his head and back to reality. They’d entered Mycroft’s bedroom, and Mycroft had slowed to a stop, turning to face Greg.

The look in his eyes made Greg swallow, hard. He was frozen, standing stock still as Mycroft eased closer.

“I missed you,” Mycroft said quietly, reaching up to the buttons on Greg’s shirt. He started slipping each out of its buttonhole, fingers brushing skin and cotton as they moved lower. “I missed this. Us together.”

Greg nodded, concentrating on keeping his breathing as even as possible, skin rippling with awareness. Now that he was allowed to let it show, expected to, even, his reaction to Mycroft was far more intense than he knew it to be. Perhaps he’d been supressing it for so long he’d forgotten what it actually looked like?

The press of palms, warm and soft, against his ribs made Greg gasp. Christ. He blinked, focussing on Mycroft, the heat against his side searing into him. It was real now, and the intimacy of this gentle touch, of someone so comfortable with his body, was impossible to ignore, or hide from. Greg felt something switch inside him. He couldn’t pretend anymore; couldn’t use a carefully constructed façade interwoven with his own emotions. It had to be him, his real reaction to Mycroft’s touch.

The only lie would be that it wasn’t their first time.

The detail stung, but Greg pushed it away. He had to focus on Mycroft. On showing Mycroft what his touch did. How it affected Greg.

The reality hiding the lie instead of the other way around.

“Did you miss me?” Mycroft asked.

“Yes,” Greg replied without hesitation. Reality instead of the lie. Tell him. “Every day.” He took a deep breath, choosing his words for maximum truth. “I wished you were in my bed every night. I was so worried when I heard what happened. Wondered if I’d ever see you again. Ever get to tell you…”

How much you mean to me.

The immense truth of the statement hit Greg as though it was someone else speaking his words. He remembered John entering his office, speaking those words. The weakness in his knees that day had not been feigned; he remembered his heart clenching as he pictured Mycroft lying in a hospital bed, his customary suit and tie abandoned for the easy access a medical team might require to his damaged body.

Impulsively, he reached out, pulling Mycroft close. The hands on his ribs slid around, pressing on his back; he fought his shaking arms, holding Mycroft tight, letting the anxiety drain away as their embrace assured him of Mycroft’s health. His physical health, at least. The rest he would not think about now. This was real. His relief at Mycroft’s recovery, his wonder at being able to do this, to stand close and hold Mycroft and breathe him in, none of that was part of the reluctant pretence he was undertaking.

He wanted to remember this forever.

Turning his head, Greg breathed in. The scent was…

“You still smell like the hospital,” he blurted.

Mycroft froze for a moment, and Greg, mortified, did the same.

“Shit, sorry, sorry…” Greg mumbled.

“We should do something to amend that,” Mycroft replied, the smile audible in his words. His hands were making soft sweeps along Greg’s back, and he made no effort to move. Enjoying their closeness, Greg thought. It was odd to think of someone wanting to just be with him, exist in the same space with no agenda.

He thinks you already know each other.

Enjoy it. Let it be real.

“Yeah,” Greg replied. The awkwardness he’d felt earlier had slipped away and he felt calm. This wasn’t undercover. This was just the two of them, an opportunity he never thought he’d have, and he was certainly not going to waste it on awkwardness and worry.

He remembers your body.

Stepping back, he shrugged off his shirt, letting it fall to the floor. “Let’s get you out of this,” Greg murmured, making far shorter work of Mycroft’s buttons. They worked together to undress, the pile of clothes growing at their feet until there were no other clothes to remove. Mycroft was taking a moment, his eyes roaming over Greg, pausing at his tattoo, the scars he may or may not have known about, the barbell through one nipple Greg knew dammed well he knew about.

You found that before, pressing against me in the dark on Baker Street…

“You are beautiful.” The words were reverent, whispered into their air as though forbidden. Mycroft’s voice was strained, and Greg remembered wondering what he would have to do to break the calm normalcy of Mycroft’s voice. Turns out it was nothing but stand naked in front of him.

Christ, he really is interested…

From what he could see, his nudity was having an effect on Mycroft’s body too. As Greg dragged his eyes away from Mycroft – watching his expression change was fascinating – he noted goose bumps amongst the freckles, tempting pink nipples, a decent scar from bellybutton almost across one hip.

They faded into irrelevance when he saw the length of Mycroft’s cock, standing out from his groin as though reaching for him. Perfect. It throbbed as Greg’s eyes ran down and back, and he felt a matching pull of need in himself.

Belatedly, Greg became aware of his own erect state. It explained why Mycroft’s gaze had returned so often to that point between his hips, where the tip of his cock was glistening. Waiting to be touched, he realised, a rush of desire flowing through every capillary and vein, lighting him up.

Waiting for Mycroft.

Greg had no idea what to say, so he didn’t say anything. Three steps took him close, close enough to back Mycroft across to the wall, to press against him, lips and teeth up high, bellies and cocks and thighs below. Greg had to reach up on tiptoes to match Mycroft, but only for a second. Mycroft allowed himself to slump down the wall, bringing their bodies into alignment as he grabbed at Greg’s arse, and the rough slide of cocks against skin and pubic hair was almost painful but glorious.

It was messy and uncoordinated, sparking random bursts of arousal enough to drive Greg higher without actually bringing him close. It wasn’t rhythmic enough for that. This was desperate, sating the wild need for a few moments so they could control themselves enough to coordinate.

Greg’s heart was pounding, wanting to remember and lose himself all at once. Mycroft was making glorious little whimpering sounds as though he was on the very brink of devastation, a drowning man in sight of the shore; they bit into Greg like a shower of sparks. Was Mycroft always this enthusiastic, this wanton? It was nothing like Greg had pictured, but everything he’d hoped for. He assumed Mycroft would be in control, his natural calm continuing through even to sex; his orgasm would be held in, a shudder, perhaps a gasp. Certainly nothing to suggest he lost control of himself.

But when he thought about what he wanted, when he was thrusting into his own fist, the cover of darkness or the shower masking him, Greg pictured this. Mycroft’s eyes wide, fingers scrabbling at Greg’s skin, nails biting in as he held on. Whispers and pleading as Greg did something vague but brilliant, dragging a hoarse shout or cry from Mycroft’s throat, his own name falling from Mycroft’s lips as he broke apart. And the opposite – his own throat burning from shouting, the urgent pulse of desire racing through his body as Mycroft pressed or rubbed or licked some part of him until he shattered with pleasure.

The reminder of that fantasy almost pushed Greg over the edge. He gasped, pulled back, dragging air into his lungs he looked at Mycroft, cupping his chin to draw dark eyes to Greg’s.

“Shower,” Greg managed. “Wet.”

The eyes that met his were as beautifully unfocussed as he could have dreamed. A thought infiltrated the cloud of arousal surrounding him.

Remember this, for later.

It might be the only time.

Don’t think about that now.

“Yes,” Mycroft agreed. They stumbled into the bathroom, someone turning on the shower, hands still roaming restlessly as they waited. When Mycroft’s thumb settled over the steel in his nipple, Greg couldn’t hold in the groan. Meeting Mycroft’s gaze, the dark eyes were still burning with desire but it was more controlled now, more like Greg had imagined. He couldn’t decide which was hotter.

“I’ve missed this,” Mycroft said, pressing hard. “Missed this sound.”

Jesus…

He felt Mycroft’s hand shift. Braced for it or not, long fingers creeping around the barbell and tugging would always make Greg’s knees weak. Especially when it was Mycroft. Double especially when they were naked and he was looking at Greg like that.

“Jesus, Mycroft,” Greg said, a highway of arousal bursting from nipple to groin. “How the hell do you know…” he trailed off, the twisting metal driving him into incoherence. He gripped something, not realising it was Mycroft’s shoulder until he opened his eyes, gasping.

“The water’s hot,” Mycroft said, his words unnecessary against the backdrop of steam billowing from the stall. Without waiting, Greg found himself repeating his earlier action; pushing Mycroft into the shower, through the steam and water to the back wall, bodies now sliding as the water cascaded down his shoulder and between their bodies.

“I remember everything about you,” Mycroft said, his mouth panting the words directly into Greg’s ear. “How could I forget?”

How can you remember?

“Show me,” Greg said, his own voice strained. The water, little as it was, made their skin slick enough to slide without almost any effort at all, and he could feel the edges of what could be a mind blowing orgasm. He groaned as Mycroft’s hips moved against his, almost missing the next words.

“I remember how much you enjoy this…” One hand slid down to cup his arse, fingers in no way tentative as they gripped hard before continuing inwards to Greg’s entrance. Some kind of body wash seemed to be involved; Greg’d tried water as a lubricant before, and even one knuckle of a single finger wouldn’t slide in as smoothly as Mycroft’s was right now.

Fuck, he must think we do this. This is something we do. Together.

He’s inside me.

Nothing on earth could have stopped Greg moaning at the realisation, and he was embarrassingly close to coming right there and then. It was a near thing, between the slickness of his cock pressing against Mycroft, one finger circling gently, barely inside him, another rubbing at his entrance. Greg felt his body slump a little, the shot of adrenalin jangling his nerves, and Mycroft took the opportunity to spin them around.

“Christ,” Greg gasped, the cold tile a shocking contrast to the hot water no longer cascading down his body, Mycroft’s back blocking the spray as he allowed the weight of his body to press against Greg.

“He’s not here,” Mycroft purred, rocking his hips into Greg’s lower back, “will I do?”

How the fuck did I not picture him like this?

Greg was so lost trying to get his head around this more assertive confident Mycroft that he didn’t notice the lack of hands until the snick of a bottle opening sounded in his ear.

“I am so pleased we found this silicone gel,” Mycroft said, mouth pressed close to Greg’s ear. “It makes our showers far more pleasurable.”

Silicone gel…

This time the lack of friction was far beyond what water or even soap could offer; Greg braced but Mycroft remained outside his body, circling. Teasing.

“Fuck…” Greg gasped.

“I can be gentle,” Mycroft purred, “or I can…not be gentle.”

It’s been a long time, Greg…maybe not for Mycroft, but for you.

Tempting as ‘not gentle’ sounded, Greg was fully aware that he measured the time since he’d done this in years, not the days Mycroft probably thought, and ‘gentle’ would probably be overwhelming enough. Especially here, like this. With Mycroft.

“Gentle,” Greg managed. “Please, baby…”

Be inside me.

Mycroft hummed his assent, and Greg finally felt intention behind the touch.

Turned out, they could have gentle and not gentle at the same time.

As two fingers breached him, Greg groaned, long and hard, bearing down as Mycroft’s long, long fingers reached deep inside him.

Jesus, how could you ever think you’d survive without this?

Whether his brain meant this in generally or with Mycroft specifically, Greg didn’t stop to speculate. This – the action and the company – was perfect, his body tingling and sparking with desire, and from what he could tell, Mycroft was pretty into it too, if such an understatement could even be allowed to exist. He was breathing hard, water sluicing off his body and down Greg’s; it felt like another caress, matching the slide of Mycroft inside him.

“I have missed this,” Mycroft whispered, and Greg could only groan in reply.

Me too, baby, me too…

The stretch was just this side of too much, a sharp burn familiar in the way of long forgotten things. The memory of it – of loving a bit too hard, a bit too fast – made Greg gasp as much as the knowledge it was Mycroft behind him, snaking one arm around his body to grip at the nipple piercing again, the slow tug adding another layer to his aroused state.

“Myc…” Greg found himself gasping Mycroft’s name, or parts of it; the whole thing was far too long to concentrate on, not while his body was afire like this, skin to skin, only a layer of hot water sometimes between them as Mycroft rocked fingers inside him.

“Do you remember why we bought this gel in particular?” Mycroft asked, his voice rich and low.

Greg had no idea, of course, but the fact they’d bought it together in Mycroft’s mind tore yet another groan from his throat.

There must be a reason, and something tells me it’s going to be hot as fuck.

“So pleased they offer a range of flavours,” Mycroft said, easing his fingers free of Greg. “Considering the cost, it would have been disappointing if strawberry was the only option.”

Strawberry allergy, I knew that.

Greg was gasping, the emptiness far more uncomfortable than the unexpected stretch. I want more…Wait, why are strawberries important…

Greg shouted something, almost banging his head as he pressed his face against the wall, tilting his hips and pushing his feet wider apart in one ill-considered move. No part of him was thinking ‘shower safety’, not when Mycroft had dropped to his knees, parted the cheeks of his arse and replaced his fingers with his tongue.

The certainty was rock solid. I’m going to come from this.

His body moved without a thought, wanting to be wider, more open as Mycroft dove into his task, fingers pulling Greg’s cheeks apart almost enough to be painful, stretching the definition of ‘gentle’ far beyond what Greg had thought it meant.

I wonder what he meant by ‘not gentle’…

Greg couldn’t really consider anything more complex than Jesus and Mycroft right now; the enthusiastic tongue in his arse was soon joined by one finger pressing alongside it, sliding in even as Greg panted hard, fragments of Mycroft’s name pouring from his mouth, begging for anything this incredible man was prepared to do to him.

The finger in him was curling, pulling sideways, opening Greg’s loosened muscle to the ministrations of his tongue; it was filthier than Greg thought possible. A bunch of partners who wouldn’t even consider the idea had dampened his enthusiasm a little, but this was bringing it screaming back to the top of the list. It felt like Mycroft wanted to crawl inside him, to taste this place more than he wanted to breathe.

Greg breathed hard, fingers pressing into the tile, a dull ache in his cheekbone where he was leaning into the wall. Of all the things he’d fantasised about, all the scenarios, this was far and beyond anything his mind could have considered. He loved to take, but had accepted the impossibility of it while he was married; now, Greg couldn’t remember why this was not the highest priority in finding a life mate.

And Mycroft was playing him like a finely tuned piano.

Greg didn’t even care that he was babbling, half forming words before his throat muscles failed him, overwhelmed by the sensations Mycroft was shooting through him. He didn’t want it to end and he wanted it to end.

Without warning, Mycroft shifted, smooth as though in a well-practiced move. Finger pressing in, mouth sealing over Greg’s perineum, sucking hard as the Greg moaned loud, his arousal suddenly spiking as the pressure inside him circled his prostate once before running firmly over it.

Greg had no idea what he said in the following moments; when reality slowly came back to him, Mycroft was kissing his shoulder, arms wrapped around him waist; his throat was sore, knees weak again.

“I missed you,” Mycroft said again.

Jesus.

“I can tell,” Greg managed in response. His heart lurched as he remembered he was supposed to be familiar with this.

“You taste like oranges,” Mycroft said in between kisses. “A pity the strawberry wasn’t an option, I know it was your preference.”

“Your allergies,” Greg gasped.

Thanks, Anthea.

The idea of thanking Anthea at this moment was almost funny, and Greg huffed a breathless laugh into the wall.

“Is something amusing?” Mycroft asked.

Us.

This.

Not this.

“Unexpected,” Greg replied. Too many words were too difficult right now.

“Your favourite,” Mycroft said, satisfaction dripping off every word.

Greg hummed in response. Used to be. His list was being redefined, that’s for sure.

“I came on the floor again,” Mycroft told him, the words light and comfortable.

This level of intimacy was far beyond what Greg had expected. Had it been like this since the beginning? Or was it a long road of encouragement and embarrassment before Mycroft would speak so frankly about their lovemaking? It certainly seemed that in his head they talked about things – what kind of lube to buy, what exactly Greg liked in bed (or the shower, in this case).

Regret filled Greg that he didn’t share the same memories.

No regrets. You have today. You’ll both remember this, so make it good.

“I don’t get to return the favour, then,” Greg said, teasing.

“Not right now,” Mycroft agreed. “I did miss you, however I am no longer twenty-two.”

“Fair enough,” Greg said, turning. Mycroft did not move, their bodies still pressed together under the relentlessly hot water. Greg felt his head sway closer, then pause; he didn’t know where Mycroft stood about kissing right away.

Don’t do anything suspicious.

“Probably should get out of here before we wash away,” Greg said, ignoring the urge to press his mouth to Mycroft’s. The intimacy of what they’d just done – the shock of it, in his case - needed a soothing touch, the kind of caress anyone would agree was gentle.

“I should brush my teeth,” Mycroft agreed. His eyes were soft. “If we’re going to fall asleep, which I suspect we will.”

Greg was still filing the information away – no kissing until teeth are brushed – when Mycroft leaned forward, his mouth brushing over Greg’s before settling there, a slight smile tugging at him before Greg responded, weak body melting even further into the embrace. It was perfect, slow and calming, smoothing over his frayed edges. None of that surprised Greg; his soul seemed to recognise Mycroft, but there was one detail he’d forgotten about.

Mycroft tasted like oranges.

Fuck me, Greg thought to himself. Kissing is on, then.

Chapter Text

Greg blinked, not sure why he was awake. He tried to relax himself, searching for the thread of drowsiness to pull him back under to sleep, but it was elusive. He sighed, not moving, instinctively avoiding doing anything to wake the sleeping form beside him. It was dark, but he recognised the scent enough to instinctively know it was Mycroft.

Who else would it be?

His memories of the previous evening came rolling gently back, banishing any possible chance that he’d fall back asleep in the near future. It wasn’t the shower that lingered in his mind, although several images made an appearance, but the quiet time afterwards. They’d washed each other down, the sleepy almost-silence of two exhausted bodies. Thick towels featured in Greg’s memories, and the whisper of his pyjama bottoms as he pulled them on, not even watching what he was doing, so aware of Mycroft across the bed he couldn’t concentrate on even this simple task.

Watching long fingers work at pyjama buttons was practically an erotic pastime, he thought to himself.

Chamomile and vanilla tea – Mycroft’s suggestion, not Greg’s – dragged him even closer to sleep as they settled in bed together. It was sweeter than he’d expected, the scent; a pity the taste didn’t match.

“Not your preference?” Mycroft murmured.

“Cocoa’s usually the thing,” Greg agreed, fighting his heavy eyelids.

“I’m sure Anthea will have provided your favourite,” Mycroft assured him.

“Okay.” Abandoning the deceptive drink (smelled sweet, tasted like hay), Greg tucked himself under the duvet, turning toward Mycroft without thinking. “M’gonna fall asleep I think.”

“Mmmm,” Mycroft murmured. He was frowning slightly.

“What?” Greg asked.

“It is unusual for me to retire to bed without reading material,” Mycroft admitted.

Greg raised one eyebrow. “You really think Anthea would let you bring work home?” he said, unsurprised when Mycroft shifted uncomfortably.

“It is not always work,” Mycroft protested, “I sometimes bring a novel with me, as you know.”

“Like Wuthering Heights.” Greg said drowsily.

“It is a favourite,” Mycroft agreed.

“All I know about it is what I learned from Sandra Bullock and Kate Bush,” Greg said, grinning sleepily at Mycroft’s confusion. “Sandra Bullock is an actress,” he explained, “she plays a woman who loves that book in a movie. She describes it as a story about waiting. Wondering if you’ve waited too long.”

“Accurate,” Mycroft murmured without meeting Greg’s eyes.

Interesting.

“And Kate Bush-” Greg began, but Mycroft interrupted him.

“I am familiar with the song,” Mycroft said, flushing. It was Greg’s turn to be surprised. “I have had cause to consider buying a first edition, and…” he hesitated.

Greg raised one eyebrow, waiting. Fighting sleep was worth it for the conversation.

Have we never talked about your favourite book?

“When I googled the title, the lyrics to Kate Bush’s song appeared,” Mycroft admitted, “and I was curious, given my intimate knowledge of the book, how it would translate to song.”

“And?” Greg asked. “What did you think?”

Mycroft thought for a moment, tilting his head in an unconscious action so familiar it made Greg’s heart ache. “Not my preference, as far as music is concerned,” he said tactfully, “though I admire the technique of composition.”

“You didn’t like it,” Greg interpreted, grinning. He sighed, eyelids winning the battle for a moment at least.

“I did not,” Mycroft agreed quietly. They breathed quietly together for a minute until Mycroft’s voice sounded again, quiet in the warmth between them. “We should sleep.”

Greg hummed his agreement as he gave in, acknowledging his eyelids had won the war. Mycroft shifted, and the last thing Greg remembered was the feel of warm skin sliding over his, those long fingers encircling his own as he dropped into sleep.

According to his watch, that was not enough hours ago. Apparently, his body wasn’t as tired as he’d thought – or the things going through his head were loud enough to override the fatigue.

Giving in, Greg rolled carefully over, tucking one hand behind his head, shoulder creaking a little in protest. Without thinking, his thumb rubbed the ring on his left hand, still learning the shape of it. He stared into the darkness, waiting for whatever had woken him to rise to the surface again.

Was it the shower? Memorable as it was, Greg was more likely to dream about it than lie awake thinking about it. Although now that he was thinking about it, several questions, unexamined in the heat of the moment, did pose themselves to him.

Where the hell did Mycroft learn how to do that?

Nope, not something to consider right now.

Well in that case…

What does he think I know about him?

It was a reasonable assumption that, given the ease with which Mycroft approached sex with Greg, he’d assume Greg was as comfortable with him. As knowledgeable about what he liked. What he wanted.

And what is it Mycroft might want?

Now that was a far more interesting – and relevant – question. Greg allowed several scenarios to play in his head before setting them aside. Hot as he might find them, none was based on any observation of Mycroft, and he was supposed to be thinking about what Mycroft might find arousing.

There was no way for him to know – Greg was going to have to get creative. He let that one go for the moment, and the next question obligingly came to the fore.

How the hell had Mycroft known that’s what I’m into? His brain might be huge and all that, but there was no way he could have deduced Greg’s preferences in that department. Hell, Greg hadn’t even had a male partner in all the time he’d known Mycroft.

Frowning, Greg adjusted himself, scratching absently at his chest. It was the exact combination – Mycroft groaning a little in his sleep, Greg breathing in the scent of Mycroft’s sheets and the accidental press on his nipple – that made Greg remember.

The Christmas party.

The actual, real Christmas party, which in his reality had been so recent, but for Mycroft had been years ago. Assuming Mycroft’s brain had simply translated the memories by a couple of years, Greg had his answer.

Mycroft knew what Greg liked because Greg had told him.

With a groan, Greg pressed his face sideways into the pillow. The memories of that night came back to him, as fully as they ever had. A lot of alcohol had been drunk that night, and some parts of the evening had been irrevocably lost. Others were still clear.

He and Mycroft, sitting on the sofa together, ostensibly debriefing about the Paulson case. Mycroft might have been debriefing, but Greg could feel himself flirting, the beer and mulled wine working together to break down his barriers. Mycroft could never be described as a flirt, but he was certainly receptive to Greg, and as the night wore on and the rest of the party grew more and more boisterous, the little touches and long looks became more frequent.

It had definitely not been just him, because at midnight, when everyone else had cleared out to the roof to watch the fireworks, they’d both leaned into the kiss. Not a word has passed between them; but as the world lit up with fireworks and cheers, in an otherwise empty room, Greg and Mycroft kissed like drowning men.

This was the part seared into his brain; the kissing at midnight, so unspeakably romantic he could barely believe it had happened.

Sherlock’s untimely arrival – Greg learned later he’d kissed John then fled in panic – had prompted much the same response from his brother. Greg swore, stood up, fell down, swore again as he stood, then chased Mycroft down the stairs. Instinct had made him turn from the empty street into the laneway closest to 221b.

“Gregory,” Mycroft had breathed, and that one word was all they needed. Greg couldn’t tell who initiated this kiss, but it was as fervent and desperate as he’d ever experienced. At one point he was pressed against a wall, Mycroft’s mouth on his neck, panting into the cold air; his breath looked like clouds, he registered dimly.

“Tell me,” Mycroft panted, dragging his mouth up to Greg’s ear. “Tell me what I could do, if we were to leave here immediately and together.”

“What you could…do?” Greg asked blankly. He had no idea what Mycroft was talking about, and none of his brain cells were free to try and figure it out.

“What I could do for you,” Mycroft repeated. His voice dropped as he breathed suggestions in Greg’s ear, the filthy words hot and wet. One hand reached up, playing with the nipple piercing Greg’d admitted to having several hours ago.

“Jesus,” Greg muttered, the world whirling as arousal and a lot of alcohol combined to loosen his tongue. He found himself describing a dream he’d had once, embellishing with real life details. Why he kept the piercing; how he was kind of a switch but missed bottoming, pushing the edges of too rough; how hard he’d come the first time someone had rimmed him.

A small part of Greg’s brain had thrown its proverbial hands up at these drunk admissions. Surely Mycroft Holmes was not the kind to engage in such behaviour? A drunken snog in an alleyway was one thing, but the last sensible cells of Greg’s brain were convinced the confessions would be more likely to be used for blackmail than as a how-to-sexually-please-Greg guidebook.

Unfortunately, Mycroft was kissing Greg’s neck, and that sensation overwhelmingly overrode any sensibility he may still have possessed.

As Greg spoke, gasping words into the cold air, Mycroft continued kissing his neck, pressing restlessly, moans and a faint snuffling noise audible at some of the details. Greg didn’t know if Mycroft was an affectionate drunk or what. For all the atmosphere they’d created on the sofa in 221b, there was no way Greg could see Mycroft going for him, not really. Not in an actual relationship way.

And now here he was, lying in bed beside Mycroft. Beside the man he’d fantasised about, someone he was sure would dismiss him out of hand should he ever pluck up the courage to ask. Wearing his ring, for God’s sake. Against all odds, the man whose damaged brain had created an alternate reality in which he and Greg were blissfully happy. The kind of bliss that required waterproof, flavoured lube in the shower.

What the actual fuck was he doing?

Chapter Text

It had been a natural enough suggestion, Greg sitting with his coffee while Mycroft prepared their lunch – first the pie filling, then the dough. Watching long fingers work through the floury mass was more soothing than Greg had anticipated. He could feel his low mood still with him after the musings of the previous night, nothing having properly resolved in his head. The resulting melancholia was manifesting itself in a kind of quiet brooding which Greg generally despised but today was a little grateful for.

It made it easier.

Much as he wanted to ignore the rest of the world, to immerse himself in this alternate reality, it was impossible. The tools that had borne him through his previous undercover work were useful enough, but the basic truth still remained. Those jobs had been about adding a false layer to his true self. They were about keeping himself safe, hidden.

This was about stripping away the false layer he’d worn for a long time. Exposing his true self, within the context of this world Mycroft’s brain had created.

The two scenarios were nothing alike. There was nothing protective about this. He had basically agreed to strip off the protection he’d been wearing for the last…however many months and years, and now that Mycroft had seen him, through whatever filter his mind was providing, Greg was already dreading having to resurrect his walls.

The quiet times together were as comfortable as he’d dreamed. Easy, warm; Mycroft was affectionate as Greg had hoped for, though perhaps it was a reaction to recent events. Either way, Greg had sunk himself into this role far more easily than he’d thought. Barely a day at home with Mycroft, and they’d showered together, had sex; how could he have let himself get so carried away? Of course, Mycroft wanted to be close, but Greg couldn’t help feeling a shadow of guilt, that perhaps he’d taken advantage of Mycroft’s eagerness.

It had been less than a day. How on earth was he going to last months doing this?

The only thing worse than the thought of doing this for months was picturing how it might be at the end. Greg could come up with nothing except a complete disaster – Mycroft waking one morning, wondering what the hell Greg was doing in his bed; stopping short one afternoon, his coffee cup dropping in ultra-slow motion to the floor as he shook his head, eyes growing wide at the sight of Greg lounging on his sofa.

Earlier that morning, as Mycroft showered – alone, this time – Greg had a surreptitious text conversation with John.

 

How’s it going? – J.

 

Fine. No problems.

 

Do you need anything? – J.

 

Chat would be good.

 

Coffee this afternoon? – J.

 

Sure. Meet me at three at the place on the corner.

 

Right. – J.

 

Short, terse, and carefully un-incriminating. At least he’d get a chance to talk to John today, maybe ease his guilt a little. This was what undercover work was about, if he was still going to try and delude himself they were one and the same. The constant subtle pressure was uncomfortable, and Greg was hyper aware of Mycroft’s behaviour. There had been no change as far as he could tell, but it would be good to have a breather, even if only for an hour.

“Gregory?”

Greg blinked, coming back to the room. “Yes?”

“I have made a terrible error. Please put it down to the grievous head injury I sustained.”

Fuck. What? Fuck.

Greg looked at him, controlling his breathing, waiting…

“I do not believe I have told you how deeply and completely I adore you since we arrived home.”

Thank God.

Wait, what?

“What?” Greg’s brain knew that was a poor response but it was currently processing an unexpected declaration of love from the man standing opposite him.

“I love you. I do not tell you enough.”

Greg blinked, his brain screaming do something, DO SOMETHING!

“Actions, not words,” he said, pulling one side of his mouth up in an approximation of a grin. His heart was heaving with emotion, with the effort of holding his reaction in. “Pretty sure you told me last night in the shower.”

“Gregory,” Mycroft rebuked him, a twitch at the corner of his mouth ruining any impression of actual disapproval.

“Sorry,” Greg said, the grin relaxing into genuine amusement. “I’m out of practice too.” He swallowed, looking at Mycroft, wondering how much truth to put into the words. The words were stiff in his throat. “I love you, too.”

All of it, apparently.

As if he wasn’t already going to Hell for this, now he could barely concentrate on lying about something true. Was it really lying if he actually did feel that way? If he was telling the truth, dressed up as a lie – but Mycroft only saw the truth?

When Greg blinked, Mycroft was standing in front of him, a gently amused look on his face. “The pastry will need remain in the fridge for an hour before I can assemble the pie.”

Greg nodded. He hoped the swirl of confused emotion in his chest wasn’t visible. “Weren’t you going to make the filling too?”

“I have,” Mycroft replied, smiling across the benchtop. “It is also cooling in the fridge.”

“Right,” Greg said. His baking knowledge was limited to following the instructions on the back of a cake mix packet. “So what should we do for an hour?”

Mycroft didn’t speak, but Greg had been reading faces for long enough to know what he was suggesting. “Really?” he couldn’t help asking. “You’re not tired?” he added at Mycroft’s mild surprise.

“Not at all,” Mycroft said, stepping around the bench.

Greg followed him, turning on his stool as Mycroft stepped in close. “Only an hour,” Greg said, heart pounding from both the closeness and his nerves. He was supposed to know this, their rhythm. He felt like a musician without the music, onstage with the band…

Follow the lead, then.

“Only an hour,” Mycroft repeated. “How will we ever fill the time?”

Greg hummed as though considering the question. “Why don’t you tell me what you’d like the most,” he said, lowering his voice, knowing the husky thing had worked for him before. “And I’ll see if I can make it last an hour.”

It was a bit of a gamble, but at this point, Greg was more or less flying blind. It was one thing to seduce someone you’d never met, but he was supposed to know this stuff already. The only thing he could think of was flat-out asking Mycroft to explain what he wanted. Surely Mycroft’s brain would want to keep the ruse going? It would adjust to accommodate anything new Greg did, within reason, right? That seemed to be the gist of the reading Anthea had given him, even though the context wasn’t exactly the same.

Greg hoped like hell that was the case. Mycroft had seemed quite comfortable making decisions last night. He hoped Mycroft hadn’t pegged him as a strict sub. That might get awkward.

Meanwhile, one of Mycroft’s eyebrows had risen. “Are you in the mood to play, then?” he asked.

“I could be,” Greg replied. “Depending on what you had in mind.”

Keep it on him to define what we’re doing. Work with him.

He could see Mycroft considering, one hand drifting along Greg’s chin. There was a definite proprietorial vibe to it, and the fuzzy view he had of their dynamic shifted one click closer to focus.

He’s used to me deferring to him, Greg realised. But not all the time. He recognised the negotiation they were having as part of the foreplay; defining today’s power balance was part of things.

“I believe,” Mycroft said, long fingers pressing into Greg’s mouth, “I would like…something along these lines.”

Greg nodded, his tongue curling automatically around Mycroft’s fingers. He was not surprised when they pushed further into his mouth, eyes locked on his. Greg was breathing carefully, holding his gag reflex in check, putting his trust in Mycroft, in the link between their eyes.

He’s watching. Checking I’m okay…and watching.

Greg wondered where his self-control had gone. Surely he did not need to be quite so enthusiastic, and yet it was impossible not to immerse himself in this moment.

When Mycroft slowly withdrew his fingers with a hum of satisfaction, his pupils wide and breathing rougher, Greg smiled. “I trust you’ll guide things?”

One flicker of that eyebrow, and two growled words left Greg with little to wonder about. “Of course.”

Happy for me to sub a little, then.

“Just wanted to check,” Greg said lightly. His heart was thumping a million miles a minute. The sex and risk were working together and he hoped his adrenal glands didn’t pack it in for the stress. “You never know, I might be feeling creative.”

“Well, I’m all for creativity,” Mycroft said, “though I must say, I had the distinct impression you were happy to allow me to…guide things last night.”

“I was,” Greg replied. He leaned forward, kissing Mycroft hard then backing off, encouraging Mycroft to take control. As the hand slid to the back of his head, holding him still, Greg groaned. “Sometimes I just want to please you,” he whispered. “But sometimes…” he trailed off, not sure how to voice it.

“I understand,” Mycroft replied. “My preferences can vary too, if you recall.” He smiled. “We have found our way to navigating in favour of both our interests, Gregory.”

“Of course,” Greg said automatically, cataloguing this new information as best he could. Before Mycroft could get curious about all the questions, Greg kissed him again. He meant it to be soft, but within minutes his heart was beating faster as Mycroft kissed harder, hands pulling their bodies together.

Has sex always been so easy between us? Greg wondered, kissing down Mycroft’s neck, hands reaching for his belt. The gentle pressure on his shoulders was encouraging him downwards and he was more than happy to comply. I definitely don’t worry about stuff when we’re doing this. He couldn’t keep the concerned dialogue in his head while this was happening.

He wanted to remember it.

He wanted to enjoy it.

Dropping low, Greg opened Mycroft’s fly, knowing his knees would regret the choice to do this here. If that was the drawback, hearing Mycroft’s indrawn breath as he realised Greg meant to do it right now was the advantage. By the time Greg made it to actual skin, Mycroft was hard, pressing out of his briefs to meet Greg.

The touch of Mycroft’s cock, soft skin against his lower lip, made Greg’s breath hitch, and just for a moment he stopped. Long fingers brushed his cheek, and Greg took the encouragement, licking his way slowly, winding his tongue around every centimetre of cock until his nose was tickled by russet public hair. As Mycroft groaned, Greg couldn’t stop himself, leaning forward and relaxing his jaw, encouraging Mycroft to press deep into his throat.

Thank Christ I’d mastered this as a younger man, Greg thought dimly, Mycroft’s hand scrunching in his hair as his hips shuddered forward. He relaxed his jaw, a thrill working slowly down his spine and pooling in his groin as Mycroft ignored the usual proprieties of this particular act. It was clearly something they’d done before; there was none of the tentative movement Greg associated with figuring out a new partner.

The loss of that learning together might otherwise be painful.

Right now, he didn’t care.

This was the part he liked, the part he missed about sleeping with men; once you were comfortable, Greg had found the power dynamics to be far more pronounced.

Either way, Mycroft was most definitely in control, and Greg liked it. The cock pressing down the back of his throat until he couldn’t breathe, holding there for long seconds until it eased back, fingers tugging on his hair to tilt his head. Dark eyes, lids half closed with desire, checking in with him. That lazy smile looking down on him as he used his tongue, tasting bursts of salt, seeing the effect he was having as Mycroft swallowed, blinked, shuddered.

Fuck, that’s hot.

Greg could feel saliva running down his chin, tears leaking from his eyes; he didn’t care. His jaw was pressed open wide, and the floor was hard on his knees, but the discomfort was minimal compared to the rush of satisfaction at knowing he could do this for Mycroft. Make him throw his head back like that, bring the man who ran the British Government to the point of biting his lip.

Bringing him pleasure.

Greg’s hands had been resting on Mycroft’s arse, encouraging him forward, but now he brought one hand around to smooth along Mycroft’s thigh. He couldn’t turn his head but from what he remembered Mycroft’s hair was distinctly ginger all over. As his hand moved inwards, angling towards Mycroft’s balls, he felt the tugging on his head increase.

Deep breath, sunshine. Feels like he’s close.

Greg’s lung capacity had always been pretty good, and today was not the day it would be tested, as it turned out. Light fingers over Mycroft’s balls, a thumb pressing on his perineum and a good, hard swallow from Greg was enough to turn the babble of, ‘yes, Greg, more, yes, yes,’ into a silent, shuddering orgasm.

Fingers gripping his hair.

A body emptying itself into him, so far down his throat he could barely taste it.

Jesus.

Greg closed his eyes, relishing the shudders going through Mycroft, feeling him pulse against the top of his mouth. It was glorious.

When Mycroft relaxed – fingers, thighs, his cock softening – Greg eased back, breathing deeply through his nose, lapping gently as Mycroft’s cock pulled slowly out of his mouth. He rolled his jaw, the stretch unfamiliar in recent years; he’d forgotten how much it would ache.

He’d forgotten how much he loved being with a man.

He’d forgotten how much he loved…No.

Don’t go there.

Don’t stain this memory with guilt.

Shaking his head a little to clear that line of thought, Greg smoothed his palms down Mycroft’s thighs. He tucked his thumbs under the edge of the black briefs and tugged them up, smiling as Mycroft shifted his weight forward, making it easier for Greg to dress him again.

“You okay?” Greg murmured, wincing as he stood up. Man, his knees had not been this old last time. He smiled contentedly as he met Mycroft’s eyes, hands resting on his chest.

Mycroft nodded, a slight frown crossing his face. “You are not expecting reciprocation?”

“What, right now?” Greg asked, wincing at the pull in his throat. “No.” Why would I?

Mycroft was looking at him, eyes soft. Without a word he enfolded Greg in a hug. Surprised, Greg allowed himself to be hugged, breathing Mycroft in.

“Before we started seeing each other,” Mycroft murmured, his face close to Greg’s ear, “I had suspected you would be a generous lover.” He drew a shuddering breath before continuing, “Never did I dream it would be so accurate a suspicion.”

Chapter Text

Greg had no idea how to reply to that. Mycroft had thought about what kind of lover he would be? Was that true or part of his brain’s creative reality?

“Thanks,” he grated finally. Oh. He’d definitely forgotten this part – his throat would be sore for a while, and his voice would not be normal for a bit, either.

Mycroft pulled back enough to look at Greg. The love and trust were almost overwhelming; Greg met his eyes, but holding them was far more difficult. Guilt rose in him, searing and too stubborn to be pushed down again. He smiled, hoping to mask his discomfort. Hoping to hide himself a little longer. Hoping the pressure wouldn’t make him explode.

“Shall I make you some honey tea for your throat?” Mycroft asked. He returned Greg’s smile, one thumb brushing down his neck. “You sound quite raspy.”

“Yes please,” Greg replied, drawing into the touch. A deep breath to settle himself before continuing their conversation, trying to keep things light and natural. He glanced at his watch as Mycroft moved toward the kettle. “Not even close to an hour.” He grinned, working hard to sound amused. “Have to work on that next time.”

Before his brain could supply its usual snarky comment, Greg squashed it. No. This is our life now. Stop fighting it.

“Indeed,” Mycroft murmured. “Why don’t you relax while I lay the table and prepare lunch?”

“Maybe we could eat here,” Greg suggested, accepting his tea. It was warm and sweet, and as he cupped the warm china he wondered how often Mycroft had made this exact remedy for him.

“At the breakfast bar?” Mycroft said. “For lunch?”

“Yeah,” Greg replied, still trying for ‘cheery’. “Less formal. Just you and I.”

“You and me,” Mycroft said automatically.

Greg saw him wince, so he chuckled, ignoring the flashes of pain in his throat. “You and me, then.”

“Very well,” Mycroft replied.

 “I’m going to have a coffee with John this afternoon,” Greg said casually. He sat, flexing his knees a little, watching Mycroft collect cutlery and glassware. “Just at that little place on the corner.”

“I will assume you can talk about me more effectively if I remain here,” Mycroft said dryly.

“Either way,” Greg said, his heart beating a little faster.

“Go,” Mycroft said, coming around to wrap one arm around Greg’s waist, “and I will wait here for you.”

Mycroft’s arm was warm and assured; it grounded Greg, as he was learning physical contact tended to do. He leaned into it, resting against Mycroft’s chest. It was a blessing and a curse, far too tempting for his own good, and yet it helped him reconcile the difficult position he’d put himself in.

Greg raised one eyebrow, processing the words that came along with the embrace. There was a definite invitation in that tone of voice. “I thought you weren’t twenty two anymore?” he said, smiling into Mycroft’s jumper.

“No, but I have missed my husband,” Mycroft replied.

“Because you’ve been in hospital with a head injury,” Greg retorted, putting his mug down and turning to wrap his arms around Mycroft, looking up with a grin.

“A minor head injury,” Mycroft reminded him, smiling fondly.

“True,” Greg allowed, not wanting to push it too far. “I suppose I can keep it to an hour or so.”

“An hour would be acceptable,” Mycroft said, leaning in to drop a kiss on Greg’s mouth. It was meant to be a light kiss, but Greg stood, pushing into it, chasing the gentle, sustained contact before pulling away. A small note of regret sounded before he could stop it.

“I’ve missed you too,” he explained when Mycroft looked taken aback.

Mycroft smiled, accepting the half-truth (or half-lie, depending on which way you looked at it) and turning to collect the makings of his pie.

“I didn’t know you baked so much,” Greg said, watching as Mycroft rolled out the pie dough with the deft touch of experience.

“Since I was a teenager,” Mycroft admitted. “Not so often now.”

Greg sipped at his tea, trying to interpret those two facts against what he already knew about Mycroft. He wondered how much he was supposed to know, but stopped that line of thinking. It was never helpful and he really did need to stop. “Made friends with the cook at boarding school,” he said, “but now there’s nobody to share it with. Except me.”

“Except you,” Mycroft agreed, though he didn’t lift his eyes to meet Greg’s. He frowned, hands stilling where they had been pressing the dough into the flutes at the edge of the pie tin. “I did not attend boarding school, Greg.”

Greg stilled, tea halfway to his mouth. Shit. I should have known that.

You can’t take it back. Own it.

“I was teasing,” he said, meeting Mycroft’s eyes. “I know you didn’t.” Hoping his pounding heart wasn’t audible, he added, “Just like picturing you in short pants and long socks.”

The confusion slid off Mycroft’s face and he tilted his head, giving Greg a sceptical expression.

“Must have been better than my comprehensive uniform,” Greg went on, as though he hadn’t almost shattered Mycroft’s mental stability. “Not that I wore the whole thing, mind you.”

“You attended school half dressed?” Mycroft asked. He paused, raising one eyebrow appreciatively. “I must insist on photos, Gregory.”

“Don’t have any,” Greg said absently. “Lost everything in the fire, remember?”

Mycroft stilled, a slight frown crossing his face. “I don’t recall you mentioning it.”

Greg froze. Seriously? It’s not in my file? Slowly, he nodded, feeling like he was walking a tightrope. He remembered this from his other undercover work; some conversations could – and would – be fine, and then all of a sudden you’re scrabbling to weave the truth with the fiction. “The house my parents owned,” he explained. “Burned to the ground about ten years ago.”

“I’m sorry,” Mycroft murmured. He was doing something complicated with the pie top. Greg wondered if he was deliberately avoiding meeting his eyes. “I trust your parents were not injured?”

“No,” Greg said. “On holiday with my sister and her family.”

“But everything was lost?” Mycroft asked.

“All the early stuff, yeah. I have a few bits, and my sister does, but the school stuff, most of the family pictures.” He shrugged, not prepared for the wave of loss rolling through him. It happened every time he talked about it, which was every time he spoke to his parents. They’d never really recovered, moving to live on his sister’s farm. Further from London, closer to the grandkids. Greg understood, but it still smarted.

And Mycroft didn’t know any of it.

Fuck.

“Back in a minute,” Greg said, hopping off his chair as Mycroft slid the pie into the oven.

He stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. How the hell was he going to explain this to Mycroft? Explain the most traumatic event of his life, how it had changed his parents, his relationship with his sister. Why he’d never spoken to Mycroft about it, even though they’d been married a year?

***

“Seriously?”

Greg rolled his eyes at John, sitting opposite him at in the busy café. As meeting points went, it was excellent; too noisy to be overheard, busy staff happy to let them take up a table without needing more than an occasional check-in. As it was, he’d barely said hi before John had looked at him sharply, taking in the raspy voice and the infuriating blush Greg could feel tracking up his cheeks.

“Yes,” Greg said shortly, allowing John several seconds of surprised smirking before continuing their conversation. “No further discussion about that, thanks.”

“Well I don’t need to ask how it’s going, then,” John said. The waitress appeared before Greg could reply, and they both ordered coffee. Greg had the vague impression she was trying to flirt with one or both of them.

“Mycroft is fine,” Greg said. It sounded weak even to his own ears. “Early night last night, lie-in this morning, we’ve pretty much just read newspapers and stuff. He made lunch actually. Did you know he bakes?”

The smartarse comment John had been working on dropped from his face in surprise. “Bakes?”

Greg nodded. “Like, seriously bakes. He made a pie today. From scratch. No recipe.”

“I…did not know that,” John replied. “So he’s okay?”

“Physically, yes…thanks, if we could stop all the smirking that would be great,” Greg replied.

“Sorry, I just didn’t expect you to go so deep undercover,” John said. He chuckled at his own innuendo, but Greg refused to rise to the bait.

“Didn’t have a lot of choice,” Greg said.

“Did you really think Mycroft wouldn’t expect…” John deliberately trailed off. He shrugged.

“I thought he might wait a little longer than a few hours,” Greg told him. They both smiled at the waitress as she brought their coffee, waiting until she’d departed with a definite sway of her hips.

“A few hours?” John repeated. “Don’t tell me you started up last night?”

“In the shower,” Greg admitted. He added three sugars to his coffee, healthy guidelines be damned.

“Jesus,” John muttered. “He must be hot for you, Greg.”

“Some part of his brain is,” Greg said. He was feeling more miserable by the second. John was obviously treating this like some kind of entertainment – watching Greg do this impossible thing, as though it was not going to inevitably blow up his whole life.

“Shit, sorry, I’m being a right arse,” John said suddenly. When Greg looked at him in surprise, he added guiltily, “I thought you’d be loving it. Spending so much time with Mycroft. Even the sex. Not that I thought it would happen quite so soon.”

“So did I,” Greg said. His misery must have shown on his face. “I mean, look, the sex is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. And sometimes I can forget we’re…doing this stupid thing. But then we’ll have some kind of moment where I don’t know something, or Mycroft doesn’t know something, and it’s just work again.”

“But worse,” John said quietly.

“But worse,” Greg agreed, relieved John had finally started having a serious conversation with him. “Did you know he’s never been to my flat? Not even once. We’re supposed to be married, for Christ’s sake.”

“Security?” John asked.

Greg nodded, not sure how to express the next thing. “I just…how could we be married? It doesn’t make sense, John. There’s so much of my life he doesn’t know about, and stuff I didn’t know about him. I had no idea he liked to bake. I almost wrecked the whole thing this morning, with something totally basic, and then,” he took a deep breath, “he doesn’t know about the fire.”

John raised one eyebrow. “Nothing?”

“Nothing.” Greg shook his head again, playing with a sugar packet. “How could I have never mentioned it to him? You know how much it changed everything.” He and John had spent long hours at the pub together; talking a lot about Sherlock and Mycroft, but several long evenings and they had turned to Scotch and shared more about themselves than they might otherwise have done. John knew a lot about that time – far from everything, but enough to know how important it was to Greg.

How unlikely that he would never have mentioned it to Mycroft.

“It’s harder than you thought,” John said quietly. Greg nodded. “Mate, you are doing an amazing thing here, you know that, right? I mean, literally nobody else in the world could have had a go at this. You just have to do your best with it.”

Greg was grateful John didn’t shower him with platitudes. They both knew it probably wasn’t going to be alright. That despite Greg’s best efforts, the most likely scenario involved broken hearts and broken trust and if they were very lucky, a Mycroft who survived until Christmas.

“How’m I meant to get through this?” Greg whispered.

“That’s a tough one,” John replied. “Maybe Anthea can answer that?” He beckoned to someone behind Greg.

“Hello,” she said pulling up an additional chair to their tiny table, ignoring the scowl of the waitress. “How’s it going?”

“So far so good,” John answered for Greg.

“Mycroft’s fine,” Greg added, ignoring the flash of Anthea’s eyebrow at his roughened voice. “A couple of close calls, conversation wise. He’s never been to my flat. A security concern, apparently.” Greg sounded more annoyed at this than he realised he was.

“Anything else?” Anthea asked, making a note in a small notebook. “Any other details I should know?”

John smirked, a flash before he could pull it in.

“Shut it, John,” Greg muttered, kicking him under the table.

“No need to spell that particular activity,” Anthea said to both of them. “Anything relevant to me, I meant.”

“He doesn’t know about the fire. At my parents’ house,” Greg continued. “I would…he would know about it. If we’d been…” he sighed. Finding the words was hard.

Anthea nodded, making a note. “I can have a briefing made up within the hour for him,” she offered.

“No,” Greg replied. “I’ll deal with it. I just wanted you to know. I mean, I’d rather tell him myself, but if he thinks I’ve already told him, he might wonder about his memory.”

Anthea looked at him assessingly for a moment. “If you have to choose, it will be easier for him to question his memory than your openness,” she said bluntly. “In fact, that could work in our favour, when it comes to other matters.”

Greg blinked. “You want to tell him he has amnesia? When we’ve done all this to stop him finding out he has amnesia?”

“Yes,” Anthea replied bluntly. “If it keeps him safer.”

“If it keeps his mind safer,” Greg muttered mutinously.

“Mycroft is my primary concern,” Anthea told him levelly. “All of him. And if his mind is compromised – and he becomes aware of it – no part of him will be safe.”

“He’s stronger than you think,” Greg muttered. For all Anthea’s knowledge about Mycroft, Greg had seen the man as he fought for his brother. He wasn’t a weakling; Sherlock’s tongue was always sharp and it hit home in the unerring way a sibling always could, but Mycroft never abandoned him.

“Perhaps,” Anthea said.

“Yeah, right,” Greg replied, childishly wanting the last word. He knew he sounded sullen but he didn’t care.

Anthea’s phone vibrated, and she glanced at the screen. “I will be speaking with Mycroft this afternoon,” she said. “Please take at least another half an hour before returning home. And keep me updated.”

“Will do,” Greg said, resisting the urge to salute her.

Anthea gave him another long look, before nodding at both of them and leaving.

Chapter Text

“Jesus,” John muttered. He watched her go, then turned to Greg. “Look mate, I didn’t realise this would get so complicated so fast.”

“Yeah, well, it has,” Greg replied. The responsibility of what he was doing came crashing down. It was up to him – only him, nobody else. “No part of him will be safe…Jesus…”

John scooted over into Anthea’s recently vacated chair. He put one hand on Greg’s shoulder. “Look, you’re doing this for Mycroft. To help him, remember?”

“That’s one way to put it. ‘Playing make believe to get a shag’ is another, if you want to get technical.”

“True,” John replied calmly. “’Potentially saving his life’ works too.” He looked at Greg. “Look, just lay it out for me. I might be able to help, I might not, but at least you’ll have it out there.”

“Yeah,” Greg said. “Christ, this would be easier in a pub.”

“Yeah, the only thing we’d get a pint of here is water,” John agreed.

“It’s just…too real, you know?” Greg tried. “And you just said, and so did Anthea, basically, there’s nobody else except me that can do this. And…sometimes. Sometimes it’s two seconds from disaster, and I want it to all be over, but the way he looks at me…”

“It means a lot to him,” John suggested.

“He thinks I’m his fucking husband!” Greg hissed, conscious of their surroundings. “Of course it does!”

“Right,” John said, still calm. “What does it mean to you?”

“To me?” Greg asked. He shrugged, reaching for the easy answer. “I mean, it’s basically undercover-“

“No,” John interrupted. “It is not undercover. That’s playing pretend. This is not pretend.” He kept talking, holding up one hand to stop Greg’s words. “Do not tell me you’re pretending. I have watched you pining for this guy since before your wife left, don’t lie to me, Greg.”

The words died on his lips. Fuck, John really knows.

“And if you didn’t care about him, it is actually bullshit that you would do something this big for him.” John crossed his arms, throwing a pointed look across the table. “You might be using some of your undercover training, but this is basically you letting all that pent up whatever free for a while, with a version of the guy you’re head over heels in love with. The only chance he’s got is you just going with it, mate.”

“Jesus, John,” Greg muttered, feeling relieved and exposed at the same time. “Say it like it is.”

“I am,” John agreed. “So if you’re enjoying it, knowing full well what could happen, and Mycroft actually wants this, and might literally die if you didn’t do it, what’s the problem?”

Greg blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

John repeated himself. “So why is all that a problem?”

Greg looked at him. “You’ve done a lot of therapy, haven’t you?”

“I’m a war hero with a traumatic injury and psychosomatic limp, mate, what do you think?” John replied dryly. “Answer the question.”

“Why is it a problem?” Greg repeated. He thought, knowing the answer but needing to find the words. “Because it’s not real.”

“It is to Mycroft,” John pointed out. “And it’s pretty bloody real to you, mate, or you wouldn’t sound like you’ve been gargling gravel.”

Greg felt his face heat at the low blow.

“For now,” Greg shot back. “What about later? We can’t do this forever. What about when he…wakes up, or whatever, and realises…”

“What’s been happening,” John finished for him.

“Yeah,” Greg whispered.

“That you lied to him?” John added quietly.

Greg couldn’t speak. He nodded once.

“How do you know,” John said, choosing his words carefully, “That he didn’t feel this way before? Has he mentioned anything about a time before you and he got together?”

Greg blinked. “You think he might seriously…”

John shrugged. “From what I could gather about the Christmas Party, he was at least prepared to kiss you at midnight.”

Greg stared. “From what you could gather?”

“Sherlock was hardly willing to go into detail, and you said you kissed and then he bolted,” John said. He flushed, but held Greg’s eye. “Sherlock wouldn’t even have a conversation about how Mycroft might feel about you.”

“Right,” Greg replied. He thought about John’s original question. “Well, today, he did say...” Greg felt his face heat as he remembered the exact words. He cleared his throat. “Um, he said something about…before we got together. That he’d thought of us being together.”

“Together?” John asked.

“Having sex,” Greg said impatiently.

“Okay,” John nodded. “In a romantic way?”

Right after he fucked my mouth in the kitchen.

No.

Right after he looked at me like I was his whole world.

“Yeah. Like he’d imagined us being partners.”

“So he could have been wanting this too,” John said. “I’ve been doing research at work, and from what I can find, it’s far more likely for his brain to come up with something positive to protect itself.” He shrugged. “Why would it come up with this if Mycroft had never considered it?”

“Yeah,” Greg said slowly. “I guess you have a point.”

They sat in silence for a moment, Greg turning a sugar packet between his fingers, feeling the grains inside fall from one end to the other. They reminded him of himself; no control over which way they fell. Plus, it could all go to shit at any moment and they had no idea what might happen.

Jesus, Greg. That could be the worst analogy known to man.

“Right,” John said, “So we’re going to go with ‘saving his life’, then. You are doing this for Mycroft, and if it doesn’t go well, when he finds out,” Greg’s heart gave a little twist at the inevitability of ‘when’, “Anthea and I will make sure he knows what happened.”

“Right,” Greg said, nodding. There it was again, the ‘right’ and nod he’d perfected lately. Before he’d moved in, and realised how difficult this was going to be.

It felt like a lifetime ago.

“I should go,” John said, glancing at his watch.

“Hot date?” Greg asked, allowing his smirk to be as smug as he could manage. Turnabout was fair play, after all, and thinking about John was far less stressful than thinking about his own situation.

“Shouldn’t leave the handcuffs on too long,” John said nonchalantly. “Sherlock gets so huffy if I don’t-”

“No,” Greg said, far too loudly for the small space. They spilling out onto the pavement, Greg only just remembering to throw some money down; they were giggling like small boys at the silly joke.

“Thanks, John,” Greg said. He was surprised but gratified when the doctor pulled him into a hug.

“You’re doing a good thing,” John said before releasing him.

“Ta,” Greg said. “See you soon.”

“Yep,” John replied.

The walk home was not far, but Greg walked slowly, trying to sort out how he felt. Better, he thought. Maybe. Certainly better about his motives. And he felt a lot better about John and Anthea having his back, should it all go wrong. The worst thing he could – and had – imagine was Mycroft not speaking to him, there being no way for him to explain. And Mycroft always listened to Anthea, so at least Greg knew he had someone on his side.

But for now, he had someone waiting for him.

“Mycroft?” Greg called, closing the door behind him.

“Gregory,” Mycroft replied, stepping around the corner. They met in the middle, and it was as natural as breathing for Greg to smile, for Mycroft’s hands to slip around, starting the hug that lingered for long, warm seconds. It filled him up, soothed the tension that had built on the walk home. Whatever else happened, this was right.

“How is John?” Mycroft asked, pressing a kiss into Greg’s hair.

“Fine, thanks,” Greg replied.

“I trust you gave him a full and accurate description of my health?” Mycroft said as they walked back into the living room.

“Some of it he deduced all on his own,” Greg replied, pointing to his throat and making an uncomfortable face. “Thank God your brother wasn’t there.”

“Ah, yes,” Mycroft agreed. His pale skin was flushing, and to Greg it was adorable.

“Otherwise, as I told him, we had an early night last night, a bit of a lie-in this morning, we’re taking it easy.”

“We are,” Mycroft agreed. “A rare opportunity to do so together.”

“It is,” Greg replied. They were both standing in the middle of the living room as though waiting for a break in conversation to decide what they would do next. Greg’s heart beat faster at the memory of Mycroft’s implication before he’d left. Did he expect them to go to bed now? Obviously Greg would find it difficult to say no, but he also felt like he needed to have a conversation, to remind himself that he could actually talk to Mycroft without losing it emotionally.

“I thought I could make a light salad for our evening meal,” Mycroft said. “To accompany the remainder of last night’s salmon.”

“Sure,” Greg said. He was awkward, for some reason. What had Mycroft been doing while he was out? Was he interrupting something? “Sorry, I didn’t interrupt you doing something important, did I?”

“Not at all,” Mycroft replied. “I was taking advantage of the time to rearrange some of my mental files. Anthea also made an appointment, keeping me abreast of the most critical changes to…some aspects of my work,” Mycroft said carefully.

“Right,” Greg said. Was he supposed to have seen Anthea or not? Probably best not to mention it.

“Would you care to join me?” Mycroft asked.

“I don’t really keep mental files,” Greg replied. “But I can sit with you.”

“Thank you,” Mycroft replied.

They arranged themselves on the sofa; Greg’s feet made their way into Mycroft’s lap. Warm fingers rested on his ankles.

“I don’t believe I have ever met your family,” Mycroft said, his words breaking the quiet calm that had grown around them.

“No,” Greg said truthfully, “you haven’t.”

He could feel his relaxed muscles begin to tense as adrenalin began to slowly enter his system. This conversation already felt rife with opportunities for him to fuck up. He fought his shoulder muscles as they drew inwards, his breathing as it quickened. Relax. It’s just a conversation.

Mycroft was quiet again. “I suppose you have not met mine either, my brother aside,” he said. His fingers were stroking Greg’s ankle, slow, absent circles of someone thinking of something far away.

“I don’t see mine all that often anymore,” Greg said, careful to keep his words as true as possible.

Mycroft frowned. “I feel like we have not spoken as much about our families as we might have,” he said.

Greg could see another meaning behind the carefully chosen words. “Mycroft,” he said, waiting until the grey eyes met his own. “Whatever you’ve been thinking about while I’ve been gone, why don’t you just say it, and we’ll figure it out?”

Mycroft blinked. Perhaps he was not used to being spoken to so bluntly? Greg’s heart beat a little faster, a few more beats per minute on top of its elevated tempo. I don’t want to talk in riddles. I just want to talk.

“Very well,” Mycroft said. “Part of the rearrangement of my role at work has been to redistribute some tasks. As such I have shifted some information into the inactive areas of my memory.”

“Of course,” Greg replied. He had no idea what that involved but it sounded supremely Mycroftian.

“In the process,” he said, and something in his tone made Greg’s ears prick up, “I realised there is quite a lot of information about you I do not possess. Information I would expect a married couple might know about each other.”

Greg’s heart was now thumping hard, and he fought the urge to fidget, keeping his face as neutral as possible. Was Mycroft about to question their status quo? Christ, he’d only been there a day. Was this the danger in trying to pull the wool over the eyes of someone so frighteningly intelligent? A swoop of nausea passed through his stomach, anxious thoughts threatening to take over. Greg struggled to give himself good advice.

Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Taking a deep breath, Greg looked at Mycroft, trying to read him as he would a suspect.

Nervous. Uncertain of the outcome.

Still holding something back.

Guilty?

“What else?” Greg asked instinctively.

“Pardon?”

“There’s something else,” Greg said. “I can see it.” His eyes softened as the guilt grew stronger in Mycroft. “I know you, Mycroft. There’s something else you want to say.”

Much as he wanted to continue, Greg stopped, knowing silence bore more persuasive power than any words.

Sure enough, the seconds passed, slow and silent, but it was finally broken by Mycroft. “I am wondering if I have deluded myself,” Greg’s heart almost stopped, “into believing we are happy.”

“What?” Greg blurted.

Mycroft looked down to where his hands were cupping Greg’s socked feet, the gentle circles still tracing across his ankles.

“Yesterday you seemed unhappy when we were discussing the fact I had not visited your flat. And now, finding such gaps in my knowledge about you, the possibility arises that we have spent so little time together that we do not, in truth, know each other as a married couple ought to know one another.” He brought his eyes back up to Greg’s. “If this is correct, now would be the ideal time for us to make changes. Repair anything that might be repaired between us.”

“Woah,” Greg said. Does Mycroft think I’m about to break up with him? “Okay, let’s start from the start.” He took a deep breath, throwing caution to the wind. “I am not about to leave you, or break up with you, or anything like that. I have been as responsible as you have for the conversations we have, or have not, had.” True so far. “Perhaps we both could have been more open, but I think you are right.” He smiled. “This is an excellent chance for us to have some conversations we otherwise haven’t had. Get to know more of each other’s stories.”

His heart was pounding hard.

Don’t let me fuck this up.

Chapter Text

The relief on Mycroft’s face was palpable. “Thank you,” he said. “When I was inspecting my mental files, the data on you sounded more like a briefing than anything.”

“Really,” Greg said, forcing the smile. Jesus. If you only knew. “Well, where should we start?”

“Why don’t you tell me about your parents?” Mycroft said. “Whatever you feel comfortable, of course.”

Greg blinked. This was the perfect opportunity to explain about the fire, and yet, he still felt guilty.

“Well,” he said, hesitantly. “I guess the first thing isn’t really the first thing, but it’s the most important.” He took a deep breath. “The fire.”

“Yes,” Mycroft replied. He hesitated, before adding carefully, “that was one thing I was curious about.”

You’ve been wondering why I’d never told you.

Guilt flooded through him. He must be the worse husband in the world…

“It’s still difficult to talk about,” Greg said uncomfortably. He could see Mycroft’s face set a little, the slightly injured expression of someone who has not been extended the confidence they thought they might be entitled to.

Greg understood, and felt like a complete heel.

“I’m sorry,” he said, genuinely regretful. I’m sorry I’ve hurt you. “I’m sorry we’ve never had that conversation. It’s not…it’s not something I’d bring up. It comes up sometimes, like this morning. But actually…” he shuddered as he thought about it, memories crowding in. “Actually, it’s awful. I don’t think about it, unless we get a callout to a domestic fire or something. My parents moved to live on the farm with my sister.” He shrugged, the memory still smarting even though he knew there was no malice in the decision. “Closer to the grandkids. Further from London.”

“It must have been difficult,” Mycroft said.

“Yeah,” Greg replied quietly. He didn’t know what else to say – how it had devastated his parents, reduced his father from a confident, outgoing man to a quiet shell, rarely speaking anymore. How it had affected him, and how selfish he’d felt, when they moved too far for a weekend trip, reducing his contact – and the support he could offer – to the occasional long weekend and a week somewhere around Christmas.

None of that was easily put into words. All of it he wanted to share, but it felt like the kind of thing whispered into semidarkness, candles and whiskey helping edge the words out, somehow. No pressure, just halting words, awkward but honest. Not here, like this. Not with this guilt still on his heart. Damn John Watson, and his positive outlook; nothing would exonerate Greg from the damnation he had heaped upon his own head.

“Is there anything I can do with regards to…your parent’s financial situation?” Mycroft asked delicately.

The question was unexpected, and Greg blinked a few times, processing it. “What?” he asked.

Mycroft looked at him. “Our finances remain independent, of course, however I can assure you I am comfortably well off. If living on your sister’s property is less than ideal, I would be more than happy to help them secure a property somewhere of their choosing.”

Greg just stared at Mycroft. He thinks you’re married. He thinks they are his in-laws.

“Wow, that’s,” he swallowed, “very generous.” They don’t know about you. A new wave of guilt, and Greg blurted, “They don’t even know I’m married.”

“Ah,” Mycroft said. His hands settled, still on Greg’s feet. The tips of his fingers rubbed slightly. “Are they aware of your interest in men?”

Greg shook his head, feeling his cheeks flame.

Yep, you’re an arsehole. Did they make ‘Worst Husband of the Year’ mugs?

“I see,” Mycroft replied.

Couldn’t even lie, just a bit, Greg chastised himself. “I thought we were keeping it quiet for security reasons,” Greg said, feeling even more lousy, as though he was blaming Mycroft for his own poor judgement.

Mycroft’s fingers stilled. He was very quiet, and Greg had the impression he was organising his thoughts. He could taste the guilt, rising like bile in his throat; right now he would agree to just about anything to ease it even a little.

“Given recent events,” Mycroft said, “and their potential repercussions, I would very much like to revise the manner in which we conduct our lives, Gregory.”

“Right,” Greg said cautiously. What did that mean?

“I love you very much,” Mycroft said. His voice was steady but quiet, and he didn’t look at Greg as he spoke. “We both accepted the restrictions of my employment when we agreed to be married.” He paused. “Prioritising work was a mistake. You are far more important to me, and I have been considering the best way to put this to my superiors.”

Nervous but sincere. He loves me he loves me he loves me…concentrate.

“As it transpires, the idea may be moot. Anthea has informed me that my employer has requested a meeting with me. In her assessment, it could mean only one thing. They will be restricting my work to domestic tasks for the foreseeable future.”

“Right,” Greg repeated. He still didn’t really know what that meant, but he was listening, ignoring the pulse of he loves me still throbbing in his head.

“In essence,” Mycroft said, “that leaves me with significant bargaining power, as a decision to leave would be problematic. Specifically, it would allow me far more freedom to work from home, to deal largely in an advisory capacity instead of being required to actually attend meetings and functions.”

Greg translated. “You’d be training people to do your old job.”

“Precisely.”

“So how would that affect,” he thought back to Mycroft’s phrasing, “how we conduct our lives?”

“It would mean,” Mycroft said, “I would travel only rarely, probably only as far as Scotland, should Her Majesty wish to see me while she was at Balmoral.”

“Of course,” Greg said dryly. “A constant drag, the Queen.”

“It also means,” Mycroft said, “the hours I would be required at the office would be flexible and far fewer.” He took a deep breath. “Several of the reasons we did not move in together – or declare our relationship – have been negated.”

Greg was smart enough not to need to translate what Mycroft was really asking. “You want me to move in? And,” he swallowed, “you want us to…come out? Together?”

“It is an option,” Mycroft confirmed. He shifted, moving closer. Greg’s knees were now in his lap. “I want you to be happy, Gregory. I fear I have not been an easy husband, but I would like to rectify the situation, if you will let me.”

Oh, shit.

“Your happiness is my highest priority.” Mycroft’s voice was soft, brushing against Greg’s ear where he was bending in. “I regret I did not make that clear until now.”

Greg swallowed. Mycroft was trying to reassure him, but the kind heartfelt words only made him feel worse.

“Do your parents know about me?” he asked, stalling for time. His pulse was still racing, and his mind could not keep up with what was going on. He felt like he might cry, and hyperventilate and fall over all at once. This was moving so fast now. The fragile confidence that had come with his earlier conversation were gone, blasted away by the unexpectedness of this proposal. What options did he have? Greg felt trapped, as though Mycroft was calling the shots without considering him. It was completely ridiculous, of course, but there was no way Greg’s frantic mind could think to get around it.

Try to think.

He is considering the ‘you’ he knows. The ‘you’ that married him. That visited the hospital. Hell, the ‘you’ that sucked him off in the kitchen this morning.

 “They are aware of my preference for men,” Mycroft said. He rubbed at his ring. “They are not aware of the significance of my ring, but I believe Sherlock has told them I am in a long term relationship.”

“Sherlock knows?” Greg blurted.

“Sherlock is unable to keep anything to himself, especially when he sees an opportunity to ridicule me,” Mycroft said stiffly.

“Yeah,” Greg agreed faintly.

“After the Christmas party,” Mycroft said, “my parents were very keen to hear about what happened. The smirk on my brother’s face made it clear that he had spoken to them about what occurred at midnight.”

“Okay,” Greg said. His brain was trying to figure out where his reality and Mycroft’s might have overlapped, but it was hard to keep it all straight as well as having this conversation. How many Christmases had they been together? Had they kissed under mistletoe, only to travel in separate directions to families that didn’t know the other existed?

His heart ached to know. To understand how much Mycroft had hidden away, in his reality. Where Greg fit in, and why, why, Mycroft’s brain had picked this as the best scenario for his damaged mind.

Impulsively, Greg took hold of Mycroft’s hand, which stilled immediately. He turned the ring, studying it, how it sat on Mycroft’s finger. It looked older than a couple of years. He wondered how Mycroft’s brain reconciled those details?

“It was my uncle’s,” Mycroft said quietly. “I have worn it for many years.” As he spoke he slipped it off, passing it to Greg. “The coincidence seemed too great to ignore. I had it engraved when I was sure.”

Looking at Mycroft, the question hung in the air. A question Greg was too scared to voice.

When you were sure of what?

Greg turned the ring, his heart in his mouth. The engraving was uneven; the pair of initials softer, more worn. Older.

MH, GL. 2.07pm, St. James’ Park

He frowned. “St James’ Park?”

Was that where we got married?

“We first met at that time and place,” Mycroft said quietly. “December seventeenth.”

“I remember,” Greg whispered, thunderstruck at the memory. The real memory of their first meeting, a colossal misunderstanding. Greg thought he was meeting a friend of a friend, someone that might be interested in a date. Mycroft mistook Greg for an informant.

Confusion reigned for a while, until both realised their mistake. Greg had fumbled an apology and left, ears burning, cursing his rusty flirting skills. His friend had said the bloke meeting him was pretty good looking; how was Greg to know the gorgeous red-head in the excellent suit wasn’t sitting on that bench waiting for him? It had seemed like a stretch, but he’d been determined to give it a go at least.

Not until the same red-head appeared in the same park the following week, apologising for the mistake and suggesting a drink, did Greg even think he’d stood a chance.

Mycroft’s strictly professional proposal – that they work together occasionally – had pour cold water on any romantic ideas Greg may have had, but it couldn’t quash the respect and affection that had grown in him as their working relationship slowly extended beyond the boundaries that might be strictly observed between colleagues.

Staring at the ring, Greg’s brain felt sluggish.

Mycroft had a ring engraved. With the time and date of their meeting. Before his injury, which meant…something. It seemed important to figure it out, but there wasn’t enough space in his brain to do so.

“Coincidence?” Greg asked suddenly.

“The letters,” Mycroft said, one finger tracing them, his hand brushing Greg’s skin, “were those of my uncle and his particular friend, as they used to term it. Marion Holmes and Geoffrey Lombard.”

MH, GL. Greg looked at the letters. The likelihood did seem small, and yet…

Mycroft had engraved this ring, and worn it, the letters pressing against his skin, without Greg even knowing. Before any of this. Before Greg had started lying to him and sleeping with him.

“Thank you,” Greg said quietly, passing the ring back.

“I thought you were aware of the meaning of this ring,” Mycroft said, the frown between his eyebrows.

“Not all of it,” Greg said, the bitterness of the almost lie coating his tongue. For some inexplicable reason, emotion was welling up in him. Jesus, this whole thing was a rollercoaster. Was he becoming a soft bastard now?

“My apologies,” Mycroft whispered, and to Greg’s surprise he saw tears standing in Mycroft’s eyes.

“Hey,” he said, pulling Mycroft into a hug. He momentarily forgot the maelstrom in his head, breathing deep. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

They shifted a little until Mycroft was half lying on Greg’s chest, pressing his face into the curve of his neck. “I’m sorry,” Mycroft said again. “I love you.”

“Hey,” Greg said firmly, kissing along Mycroft’s temple. “Neither of us has shared all our stories. We haven’t spent as much time together as we might have, but now,” he turned Mycroft’s chin up until their eyes could meet, “now we have plenty of time.”

He smiled as reassuringly as he could, pushing his own doubts down as best he could. This moment was about Mycroft. He couldn’t have Mycroft doubting himself. The last thing he needed was that analytical brain pulling apart every memory, potentially bringing the whole house of cards down on both their heads.

“I love you,” he whispered, hoping the truth was enough.

Chapter Text

Over the next few days, Mycroft and Greg fell into a loose routine. They slept late, eating at the breakfast bar and sharing the newspapers. Greg had first go at the crosswords in pencil, and Mycroft would finish them (in pen, of course). They read, watched movies and talked about nothing in particular; Greg made use of the gym to run, and Mycroft swore his slower treadmill pace was not stressing his heartrate too much.

There were afternoon naps on the sofa and shared showers; their bodies were as attuned as Greg could ever remember being with anybody. After that emotional conversation on the sofa, their sex had been almost sombre, soft and gentle. Neither had tried to introduce any kind of power dynamic, and the quiet words, huffed together in the semi-darkness, felt like they were mending something. Greg could feel Mycroft needing reassurance, needing care and an atmosphere uncomfortably close to forgiveness. His own guilt welled up often, pushing him to offer whatever he thought Mycroft might need. Sometimes it was his own acquiescence to whatever Mycroft suggested, more often now with hopeful kisses and wandering hands than words. Sometimes he whispered words to Mycroft, making suggestions of his own.

It was wonderful, as it tore his heart slowly apart.

For all the physical intimacy – and the emotional closeness that followed – there had not been a single conversation of note since they had discussed Mycroft’s ring. Greg hadn’t dared upset the status quo. The last thing he wanted to do was send Mycroft into analysing their relationship to date. He didn’t know if he was projecting something, but Mycroft was more wary with his words too; it was as though they were clinging more tightly to each other without addressing what they both knew to be the root of the problem.

How could they survive what would inevitably happen when Mycroft learned the truth?

Greg could feel Mycroft looking at him sometimes, as though wondering something he didn’t want to say. Querying looks would be followed up with smiles, offers of tea, or a massage. Never a straight out question, or an explanation and Greg knew he was too much of a chicken to push. Despite the calm atmosphere Greg could feel the stress prickling under his skin every moment. Only Mycroft’s touch soothed it, calming the sharp sensation for as long as they were in contact. Greg flattered himself it was mutual. Mycroft reached for him often, and the exhale of relief was two sets of lungs releasing anxiety. Those moments were precious, but the rhythm of building and releasing pressure was exhausting. His brain was slower, reduced to considering vital needs. Food, drink, sleep. Mycroft. Anything more complicated was simply too difficult.

He didn’t know how long it could last, but he mostly didn’t care. He didn’t have the space in his head or heart to fit that in.

John had come for afternoon tea one day, partly as a friend, partly as a doctor; his questions to Mycroft were straightforward, and he seemed satisfied with the answers. They talked lightly of Sherlock and some of the cases, of Mrs. Hudson and the problems her neighbour was having with a rowdy pair of tenants.

Greg knew he was distracted, the concentration required for a three person conversation too much for his overloaded brain to handle. He tried to smile in the right places, watching Mycroft carefully for signs of distress. John had to pull him back to the conversation more than once, his gaze increasingly clinical as he watched Greg’s preoccupation.

Greg didn’t say anything. Instead he wound his fingers in with Mycroft’s, sitting closer on the sofa once he’d returned from the bathroom. Mycroft flexed his fingers a little, acknowledging the contact; it eased Greg’s heart. He didn’t hear John speak, but Mycroft said something, and John stood up, offering Greg his hand.

He’s going. Okay. Just us again.

As John left he gave Greg a loaded look, and it was no surprise when less than two hours later Anthea arrived.

“Hi,” Greg said, letting her in. He’d been lying on Mycroft’s chest on the sofa, enjoying slow wash of hands up and down his back. They weren’t talking; the occasional sigh was all the sound in the room. It was perfect, until Anthea arrived.

Greg tried to smile, but he felt strange. His body wanted to return to Mycroft.

Anthea gave him the same look John had, before returning his greeting and entering the flat.

“Anthea,” Mycroft greeted her. He was sitting on the sofa, clothes perfectly arranged as though expecting her. “What a pleasant surprise.”

“You mean, ‘What are you doing here?’” she replied. “I have a delicate situation that requires a phone call from you.” She leaned in and said a few words. Greg watched as Mycroft sighed, rolling his eyes dramatically. “Honestly,” he said, exasperated, “Why does the man not do what he’s told?”

“Ten minutes on the phone and he’ll agree,” Anthea said. “I’ll wait.”

Nodding, Mycroft stood, stepping close to Greg, looking into his eyes. “I won’t be long, my dear,” he said quietly, one hand cupping Greg’s face for a moment. He looked at Greg apologetically before disappearing back towards the spare bedroom.

As soon as the door was shut, Anthea turned on Greg. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“What?” Greg said, blinking at the change of direction. He wasn’t prepared for this conversation. The absence of Mycroft was mildly distressing, distracting him from Anthea’s question.

“John called me. He said you were acting strangely. He didn’t mention Mycroft, but there’s something different there, too. I have never seen him so openly,” she paused, “affectionate.”

Greg just looked at her, mouth open like a fool. What did she expect him to say? That Mycroft felt so guilty about something that didn’t happen, and Greg felt so guilty about something that was currently happening, that they were falling over themselves to accommodate each other? That Greg’s brain was so overwhelmed with emotion and the futility of the situation he could barely function?

“Is there?” Greg said, committing to his course of action. “Something different?”

“I am not going to argue this with you,” Anthea said, her angry hiss as alarming as any threat Greg had had shouted at him by convicted murderers. “My priority is Mycroft.”

“So is mine,” Greg shot back, digging deep for the energy to fight. He glared at her. “I am doing the best I can, but in case you hadn’t noticed, or listened to John, this has gone completely bonkers. Mycroft’s not as okay with all this as I thought. Neither am I, for that matter. None of it is like I thought it would be, so I’m just doing my best, okay?”

Alarmingly, Greg could feel tears rising to the surface. He was in an impossible situation, dammit, and Anthea was not helping. He felt like a wounded animal, doing its best to shelter a loved one, and yet more and more is demanded of it until…

“If something happens to him,” Anthea whispered, but Greg beat her to it.

“If something happens to him, it happens to me too,” he said as fiercely as he could, daring her to disagree. They locked eyes for a long, loaded moment, Greg too tired and wounded to hide anything from her probing eyes.

The sound of the spare room door opening stopped any further discussion, and Anthea turned away.

Greg closed his eyes, breathing deeply, trying to slow his heart. He vaguely heard Mycroft speak to Anthea, who turned and let herself out without speaking to Greg. It was all too much – the guilt, the stress, the constant effort not to let what was in his heart spill over and bring their ruination down on them.

“Gregory?” Mycroft said. “Are you well?”

“Fine,” Greg said. “Just…tired.”

The lie hung between them, tearing at Greg’s heart. The energy it had taken to stand up to Anthea had drained him, but he knew that was not what Mycroft meant.

If I could talk to you, be honest, beg your forgiveness, make you see why I did it.

“I think I’d just like a lie down,” he whispered.

Lie down and forget this whole thing is real.

Mycroft’s eyes searched his before he wordlessly lead them both to their bedroom.

Greg felt strange, as though he was sentimentally drunk. His mind was floaty, ignoring some things and taking particular note of others. Nothing seemed very important. Nothing but Mycroft. He felt a breath from tears, as though his very joints were fragile enough to break down. Mycroft helped him onto the bed, and he did not object; closing his eyes was a blessing. Something warm and heavy landed over him, and the mattress dipped as Mycroft slid in behind him. His warmth was familiar and Greg drank it in, hoping to create a strong memory though sheer willpower alone as Mycroft shifted, getting comfortable.

The weight of his arm over Greg, tentative and unsure, was the final straw. It wasn’t the embrace, but the care behind it; how prepared Mycroft was to be rejected. After all the last week had brought, as though Greg might prefer to be alone.

He’d been alone for so long.

With a sob, Greg tangled his fingers with Mycroft’s, pulling him in tight. The embrace was almost desperate; his fingers burned with the pressure, but he didn’t let go. Couldn’t let go, they were both grasping so tightly, hands shaking. Greg didn’t know if the shuddering was his body or Mycroft’s, didn’t know where he ended and Mycroft started. All he knew was that Mycroft was here. Holding him, mouth close to his ear, murmuring something wordless and soft, an edge of desperation threading though it.

In time, the sobs subsided and Greg felt exhaustion creep over him again. Gently he slipped into sleep, his face still warm and tingling from the force of his tears. Mycroft had rolled a little, pressing Greg into the mattress with a comforting pressure. The weight anchored Greg to the bed and the Earth in equal measures.

Alone.

A vast emptiness, crippling as physical pain.

Greg clutched at his chest, gasping as he struggled to breathe.

If Mycroft was here.

If he was, but he’s gone.

Forever.

With a gasp, Greg awoke, details swirling away like smoke, leaving only deep dread and a certainty burned through his soul. If he doesn’t survive this, neither will I.

“Gregory?” Mycroft’s voice was soft with sleep.

“I don’t want to lose you.” The words slipped out before Greg could stop them, tendrils of his nightmare still clinging to him. Mycroft was here now, but any second his brain might remind him, allow the truth to flood through, ripping Mycroft away forever.

A startled silence before Mycroft replied. “You won’t.”

You don’t know that. You don’t know what I’ve done, what I’m still doing…

“I’m sorry,” Greg whispered, biting down on guilt, his jaw rigid. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

“For what, Gregory?”

Greg breathed deeply, the words a hard ball in the base of his throat. “I’m sorry,” was all he could manage. The words were barely escaping, and finally, Greg saw a flash of what was truly pulling him under. Fear was heavy and thick in his throat. Fear that his efforts not to push Mycroft away were actually creating a chasm between them that he couldn’t hold them across.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

Chapter Text

They rose early in the morning; as much as Greg wanted to stay in bed he was awake before dawn, his body restless. He felt emotionally drained from the events of the day before, his head stuffy. The fear of hurting Mycroft was a constant throb now, like an infected splinter, worming its way into his body, an inexorable progress he was powerless to stop.

“I need a run,” he said quietly. His eyes wouldn’t look at Mycroft. Something like embarrassment was crawling behind his eyes. Mycroft nodded, watching from the bed as Greg fumbled his way into his running clothes. “Coffee when you return?”

“Yes,” Greg said, not able to frame more words. He tried a smile, but it would not stick; his almost-embarrassment intensified. Without another word he left, pushing back the tears that threatened as he identified the emotion.

It wasn’t embarrassment.

It was shame.

Why had Anthea’s visit had such an effect? His fragile state had been there before, but her eyes, looking so deeply into him, had done it. Had she seen how desperately hard this was for him? How much he was tearing himself apart trying to keep Mycroft safe? Or did she see a selfish man, taking advantage of someone in crisis? Greg felt as helpless as a new born, the nightmare pulling the cracks even wider inside him. The reluctance he’d felt before going into this had grown and shrunk so many times, but this last few hours it had exploded, pushing through the faults to consume him.

At the gym, Greg ran fast and hard, pushing his body as he could, hoping it would stop him thinking. It worked, for a while; the tearing fire in his lungs was all encompassing, but he couldn’t run forever. When he thought his body would pull itself apart, he jabbed at the stop button, dragging air into his lungs with desperation. Sweat was pouring off him, and his legs were like lead. Tomorrow would not be fun, he knew; his right knee would probably swell.

But for an hour, his brain had been blank. A blissful hour, allowing him emergency measures to shore up his emotional resources.

Keep it together, Lestrade. Not for you but for him.

Greg slipped into the flat, feeling like an interloper, guilty relief pouring through as he made it to the bathroom without encountering Mycroft. He ran the shower hot, letting it pound into his muscles for as long as he could stand it before stepping out, grateful that the mirror was steamed up so he wouldn’t have to see himself. He couldn’t bear the shame in his own eyes. It was hard enough knowing it was there; seeing the evidence would be too much.

Once he was dressed – old jeans and a woolly jumper, comfort clothing – Greg took a deep breath and ventured into the kitchen. He hoped Mycroft wouldn’t ask anything about the previous evening.

To his relief, Mycroft greeted him with a small smile, pouring coffee. “Good run?” he asked carefully. The mug was placed before Greg on the bench, and for a second Greg wondered if Mycroft was avoiding contact. He realised he was standing on the far side of the breakfast bar, the structure a physical barrier between them.

Can’t accuse him of anything I’m not doing either.

“Yes,” Greg replied, picking up his coffee. “Thank you.”

“I hope you don’t mind, I’ve asked Anthea to come in for a short while today.”

“Sure,” Greg replied. He cast around for something to say. Something that wouldn’t get him into trouble.

I can’t do it today.

“Hope everything’s okay at work,” Greg managed.

“Certainly,” Mycroft replied. “A small matter related to yesterday’s phone call. No cause for concern.”

“Okay.” Greg took his coffee to the sofa, unable to find more words. He felt vague, fuzzy, unsettled.

I miss the contact. I need it.

I can’t do this today.

“May I join you?” Mycroft asked.

“Please,” Greg whispered. Abandoning the pretence he set his coffee on the table, breathing fast into the long seconds until Mycroft sat beside him, blessedly close. Long arms wrapped around him and Greg sagged into the comfort, burrowing into Mycroft’s shirt. He couldn’t stop his fingers curling into the fabric. Mycroft didn’t seem to mind; his arms held Greg, one hand sweeping slow circles around his back as he breathed, his lungs drawing as much of Mycroft in as possible. The steady thumping of his heart against Greg’s ear centred him. He could feel his soul curling into it, holding onto the beat as a marker of Mycroft’s continued presence.

Greg didn’t know how long they lay there, wrapped together on the sofa. He hadn’t spoken a word since Mycroft sat down, not wanting anything from Mycroft other than his calm breathing and the slow regular pulse in Greg’s ear. A careful shift – the first since Greg had clung to him – marked Mycroft’s need to get up.

Greg made a small noise of protest, not wanting to rise from this. To face anything more than breathing and shirts and a familiar scent. It already made his heart break a little in anticipation of a day when he wouldn’t remember it.

“Anthea has arrived,” Mycroft murmured. “Would you prefer some music, or shall I find the football?”

“Music, please,” Greg replied. His voice sounded so quiet he was amazing Mycroft could hear it.

He felt Mycroft ease away from him, and Greg settled himself against the cushions instead, a poor replacement. Mycroft bent to the speaker for a moment, soft strains of piano and strings drifting into the room. Another few steps, and the light eased, Mycroft’s fingers drawing the curtains with care. Greg closed his eyes as Mycroft turned out of the room, hearing the door open, murmuring as soon as he did; presumably Anthea took the hint. Two sets of footsteps walked past him, and Greg resisted the urge to curl in on himself even further. A door clicked closed, and he breathed.

Alone again.

Better or worse?

Nothing could compare to his dream. The quiet alarm in his body at Mycroft’s absence was tolerable. The music swirled around him, unfamiliar but comforting, and Greg’s body, tired after his run, slid softly into a restless doze. The gentle pulse in his knee heralded the discomfort he’d have the next day, effectively preventing sleep from fully claiming him.

“It’s me,” Mycroft’s voice pulled him reluctantly up, back to reality. “I have some food, Gregory. You need to eat something.”

“’m okay,” Greg protested. He was comfortable in the dark, and warm; he didn’t need food. He only needed Mycroft, staying here, not asking questions.

“Please,” Mycroft asked.

A hand was rubbing over his upper arm, gently stopping him drifting back under. Greg groaned, rolling his head a little; he didn’t really want to rise. “Just stay here with me,” he whispered.

“One mouthful, and I will stay,” Mycroft replied.

Greg groaned, but acquiesced, struggling almost upright and opening his mouth. Some kind of fruit and yoghurt was spooned in; he barely had to chew before he could swallow.

True to his word, Mycroft left briefly but returned, sliding next to Greg on the sofa. He was all comfort – warmth and softness, the familiar smell of clean skin and subtle cologne again surrounding him. Greg burrowed into him once again, already drifting off before Mycroft spoke.

“We need to talk, Gregory, when you are ready.”

The words washed over Greg, barely making an impact; he didn’t want to think, he only wanted to be here, where he and Mycroft were okay. Where he could be held by Mycroft, close and warm without explaining or sex. Just existing together, breathing together. The gentle rise and fall of Mycroft’s chest under him soon carried Greg away, and his mind settled into the nothingness of true sleep.

Mycroft easing himself away woke Greg. His mind was fuzzy, and he sat up before he remembered what was happening. Wincing at the pain as he straightened his knee, Greg blinked as he sat up.

The dim room reminded him. Where he was, and why, and how spectacularly everything had fallen apart in just a few days. He braced for the despair, but it didn’t come this time. Instead he felt…empty. Perhaps it was the sleep, or his mind accepting that he couldn’t change his situation, but he was calm and blank and empty. Waiting for Mycroft to take the lead.

“Can I offer you something to eat?” Mycroft asked, walking back into the room.

“Yes please,” Greg replied. “Whatever’s easy is fine.”

Mycroft studied him before nodding. “Would you like to stay here or sit at the breakfast bar?” he asked.

“Give me a minute,” Greg replied, “and I’ll join you.”

“Of course,” Mycroft said. He hesitated before turning back toward the kitchen.

Greg stood up, the pressure on his knee definitely not improving things there. He gave himself a moment before gingerly making his way to the bathroom. Relieving his bladder and washing his face helped; he felt slightly more human, though still disconnected. Perhaps this was better. Blank rather than suffering. He only hoped he could figure out how to do the same for Mycroft.

Mycroft was doing something with eggs as Greg slid onto a stool at the breakfast bar. Though he didn’t speak, Greg knew his presence would be noticed.

“Do you have a preference?” Mycroft asked. “I have onions, mushrooms, peppers, bacon.”

“Anything,” Greg replied, and when Mycroft raised one eyebrow he said, “Everything. Please.”

Mycroft did not reply but turned back to the stovetop. The silence was heavy; Greg could feel something a little uneasy under it, as though Mycroft was working hard to appear relaxed. He chose to ignore it. Just this moment. Just get through this moment.

“How is your knee?” Mycroft asked, sliding two omelettes onto the bench. Belatedly, Greg noticed napkins and water glasses before him.

“Eating here?” Greg asked. Mycroft rarely suggested eating here unless Greg was already settled with the paper.

Mycroft nodded, passing him cutlery before sitting down. “Your knee?” he prompted.

“It’s fine,” Greg replied. The eggs were excellent, and he was hungrier than he thought he might be.

“Would a bath help?” Mycroft asked as they finished their meals.

“Probably,” Greg allowed. “Thank you for lunch.”

Mycroft, who had taken their plates to the sink, turned back, leaning on the benchtop. “It is closer to an evening meal, Gregory,” he said quietly. His face was impassive, and there was no judgement in his tone, but Greg felt himself shrink anyway. Mycroft must have no idea what the hell was going on. Greg was all over the place, wanting to cuddle and sleep on the sofa all afternoon, then barely speaking at lunch – well, dinner. And Mycroft, without saying a word or lifting an eyebrow, somehow still made it clear he was neither judging nor angry, but hurt.

It cut deep, even with Greg bracing for it.

“I’ll draw you a bath,” Mycroft said, breaking their eye contact.

“Thanks,” Greg replied. Not knowing what else to do, he stayed where he was, staring blankly at the clock on the oven. 1738, it said. A lot closer to dinner than lunch, then. Jesus. He should talk to John, maybe. Or Anthea, though she was far less likely to consider Greg’s health when compared to Mycroft’s. He couldn’t blame her – he was glad Mycroft had her on his side – but right now, he needed someone to tell him what to do.

“Your bath is ready.” Mycroft had appeared behind him, speaking quietly. “I will be in the study if you need me.”

“Thanks,” Greg said. He watched Mycroft leave, feeling tears threaten. Something had changed – since when would a bath not be a shared experience? Mycroft’s careful chivalry was worse than rudeness would be. If Anthea didn’t come up with an alternative soon, Greg wondered if he would be the one to crack rather than Mycroft – and then where would they be?

Chapter Text

The bath did help, though Greg knew it was only time that would make his knee feel better long term. He was getting old, and his body was not shy about letting him know when he pushed too hard.

As he dried his hair, Greg felt his stomach dip as he wondered what Mycroft wanted to talk about. And after he’d seen Anthea? What had she said to him?

John might know.

I need to call John.

The idea came suddenly, but Greg trusted it. John was calm, removed enough to see things Greg didn’t while still knowing what was going on. Anthea was too invested. He needed a second opinion.

“Greg,” John answered on the second ring. “Alright?”

“No,” Greg replied. He closed the bedroom door. “Mycroft wants to talk. Anthea was here yesterday. Do you know what’s going on?”

John blew out a burst of air. “Greg,” he started, then stopped. “Look, you need to tell him.”

“What?” Greg said.

“You need to tell him,” John repeated.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Greg said. “After everything…no bloody way, John.”

“Look, Greg, I can’t tell you everything, Anthea would kill me. But Mycroft needs to hear it from you.”

“What the hell am I supposed to say?” Greg sputtered.

“Remember our conversation at the café?”

“Yeah,” Greg said slowly.

“We came up with plenty of ways to explain it,” John said. “Look, we both know you got kind of railroaded into this-”

“’-Kind of’,” Greg muttered mutinously.

“-and the reason it worked,” John continued, “was that you are head over heels for Mycroft and you wanted to help him.”

The silence stretched on. John could have still been talking for all Greg knew; all he could hear was his heart pounding in his ears.

“Look Greg, all you can do is tell him the truth,” John said. “You can’t keep doing this. We thought it might work, but seriously, mate, I saw you yesterday, and it’s compromising your health.”

“I know,” Greg whispered.

“It didn’t work the way we thought it might,” John said. “That is not your fault.”

“It is,” Greg muttered. “If I could act better…”

“No,” John interrupted. “Seriously, Greg, if you weren’t so bloody in love with him you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

Greg considered that. “True,” he conceded. He sat quietly for a few minutes. “Alright, then.”

“So you’ll…”

“Yeah,” Greg replied. “No time like the present.”

“What, right now?” John asked. He sounded mildly alarmed.

“Yeah,” Greg said. “Might as well get it over with.”

“Call me later, alright?” John said.

“Yeah,” Greg muttered.

John paused. “If I don’t hear from you I’m sending Anthea over.”

“Fair enough,” Greg replied.

They hung up, and he set his phone down, plugging it in out of habit more than need. A deep breath – okay, two – and he forced his legs to take him to the kitchen.

“Mycroft?” Greg couldn’t tell if he was being ignored or if Mycroft really was so absorbed in his papers that he didn’t notice Greg leaning against the doorway.

“Yes?” Mycroft replied.

“Are you working?” Greg asked.

“Just some information Anthea felt might be useful in the future,” Mycroft replied. It didn’t escape Greg that he collated his papers as he spoke, tucking them away. Out of view.

Leave it.

“Can we…do you think we could talk?” Greg said, the words sounding gauche even as he said them. “Maybe on the sofa, if that’s okay with you?”

Grey eyes met Greg’s and for a long moment he held his breath, wondering if Mycroft would refuse him.

“Of course,” the reply came at last.

They walked together out to the sofa, Greg’s heart racing hard and fast. He wished his brain was working so well; all his ability to speak coherently seemed to be gone.

“You said we needed to talk,” Greg said. He knew it was the coward’s way out, getting Mycroft to talk first, but he had no idea where to start.

“We do,” Mycroft said. “Don’t tell me you don’t know why.”

“I do,” Greg managed. “Things have been…unusual since you came home from the hospital.”

“Well, yes,” Mycroft replied. “But specifically, the last three or so days. You’ve been,” he paused, looking for the right words. “I’ve been worried about you,” he finished.

“I know,” Greg said. He took a deep breath. “And I didn’t want to tell you what was going on.” His throat constricted, and he swallowed hard, pushing it down. “Whatever else you take away from this, I want you to know that I have loved you for,” he shook his head, “too long. A long time, at any rate. Longer than you probably know.”

“Very well,” Mycroft said, a slight frown appearing.

Greg took a deep breath. “I-” he stopped. None of his words were right. “I don’t know where to begin,” he whispered. The tears he felt were fearful. What if he made it worse? Hurt Mycroft, or made him hurt himself? His heart was racing, properly pounding a pulse into his chest and temples, and the shaking wasn’t his idea of a good time either.

Just tell him.

“I…you were injured,” Greg said, the words awkward in his mouth. “John and Sherlock came to tell me.”

Mycroft nodded. Greg could almost see his mind working, the questions lining up, but he remained silent, allowing space for Greg to speak.

“I wanted to help,” Greg whispered. “You were…there was nobody else, and I couldn’t let you…” he knew Mycroft probably had no idea what he was talking about, but his mind was as jumbled as the words tumbling from his lips.

Pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes, Greg leaned forward, breathing deeply and deliberately. “Just gimme a second, okay?”

“Gregory,” Mycroft said quietly.

Greg didn’t respond, concentrating on breathing, willing his panic to subside. He needed to explain. Mycroft needed to understand, to hear how worried Greg had been, how reluctant he’d been to lie to Mycroft. He needed to apologise for being so weak, for allowing himself to be drawn into it so much. For being selfish, for risking Mycroft’s health. He should have been stronger, should have been able to separate himself from this role…

“Gregory,” Mycroft said again. “Please, look at me.”

“I’m so sorry,” Greg said, his voice breaking on the ‘sorry’. He drew in a deep, shaky breath, preparing to admit it all. To shatter himself in the small hope it might save Mycroft.

“I know,” Mycroft said.

Greg didn’t move, not really processing the words, blood still rushing in his ears.

Gentle fingers tipped Greg’s face so he was looking at Mycroft. It was almost disorienting, having him so close. “Gregory, I know.

“You…what?” Greg asked blankly.

“I have a question, the answer to which is very important,” Mycroft said. The grey eyes holding Greg’s were serious and concern sat there, clear as day.

“Okay,” Greg asked, still not entirely certain what it was Mycroft knew.

“Why?” Mycroft asked. “Why did you agree to lie to me? To pretend to be married?”

Greg’s mind reeled. That was what Mycroft knew? Is that what Anthea had come to see him about? After all her certainty that he had to keep going?

“What?” Greg whispered. This is what he knows? How?

“Please,” Mycroft asked again, cupping Greg’s face for a moment before withdrawing his hands. “Just tell me the truth. Why did you agree to this?”

The truth.

The words rang in Greg’s ears, and it cleared his mind, wiping away the confusion and anxiety. A single moment of crystal clarity came to him as he stared at Mycroft. Those eyes, not entirely calm but steady, watching and waiting.

Trusting Greg.

He doesn’t need a whole explanation. Just tell him the reason.

Tell him.

Sitting up straighter, Greg turned. He took Mycroft’s hands in his. “I did it because I have been in love with you for…a long time,” Greg said simply.

Mycroft looked at him, and Greg let him; let the truth shine through him fully for the first time, much as it frightened him. He could feel Mycroft’s gaze slip into a more professional mode, analysing him, and he let it. He wanted Mycroft to see it for what it was, the absolute truth of his soul. The rock on which this whole tragic mess had been built, and if Greg was lucky – if he used up his allocation of luck in this life and the next – the tenant on which they might be redeemed. Even if that redemption was only the survival of Mycroft, Greg would accept it and move on.

If Mycroft was okay.

He was still sitting quietly, waiting for Mycroft to speak when the tears welled in his eyes. Trained though he was, Greg had no idea how to read Mycroft; for all the softness he could show when he wanted to, the Holmes mask was impenetrable. Anything could be happening in his mind and Greg would have no idea.

Give him time.

Greg waited, watching Mycroft work through the information he already had along with what Greg had said. As he sat, his own professional side pointed out that Mycroft may have been reading files relating to this earlier.        

Just some information Anthea felt might be useful in the future.

His own medical files, perhaps? Or a report from Anthea about this whole stupid charade?

The thoughts swirled around as the silence stretched on and Greg wondered if Mycroft was weighing up whether to stay or to leave. More to the point, whether he should allow Greg to stay or leave – it was Mycroft’s flat, after all.

“Are you aware of how long Anthea stayed yesterday?” Mycroft asked suddenly.

The question took Greg by surprise. “Umm, no. I wasn’t really paying attention. A while?”

“It took her almost an hour and an impressive file of evidence to convince me of the truth,” Mycroft said.

Greg nodded. He still didn’t have a clue where Mycroft was going with this.

“Several reports, surveillance photos from before and after the accident, records of our movements, a number of conversations,” Mycroft continued. He paused, then looked up at Greg. “While I was prepared to accept that Anthea would construct such a scenario to protect me, I simply did not believe you to be a good enough actor.”

Greg winced, but nodded. “I’m not,” he said.

Mycroft nodded slowly. “The conversations Anthea played for me – and you must forgive me, please, they were recorded without your permission – indicated the significant pressure she and Doctor Watson placed on you to take part in this charade.”

“I wouldn’t have…” Greg started, protesting, but Mycroft’s hand on his knee caused his voice to falter. A faint wisp of hope blossomed in his chest, and he sank into silence.

“Coercion is a concept with which you are familiar in a professional capacity,” Mycroft said, “in that you strive to avoid it, while my people are trained to use it to their advantage. John Watson, it seems, is a skilled manipulator also.”

“Certainly is,” Greg muttered.

“The last conversation I heard,” Mycroft continued, “was that from the day before yesterday. The phone call I was asked to take was hardly necessary, as Anthea merely wanted a chance to speak with you.”

Greg nodded. He remembered.

“‘If something happens to him, it happens to me too,’” Mycroft quoted quietly. “Your words, Greg.”

“Yeah,” Greg said. Was Mycroft somehow okay with all this? What was happening with his memory?

“Once Anthea had presented me with her case, she left, and I spent a considerable time reviewing my own memories of our relationship,” Mycroft said. He frowned a little, looking down at Greg’s hand. One thumb brushed over Greg’s wedding ring. “I remember it clearly,” he said. “All of it, with the same certainty as the day Sherlock was born, my father’s death, the day we met.”

Greg swallowed. Mycroft still believed they’d been married. How was that possible, for him to see the evidence that they weren’t and still…

“I accept that the memories before the accident are false,” Mycroft said. “But when I focussed on the period between the accident and the present – memories I now know to be accurate – I can see no difference in you.”

“In me?” Greg repeated.

“My mind has constructed a world in which you are considerate, loving, gentle with me,” Mycroft said quietly, and to Greg’s alarm a single tear fell, splashing against Mycroft’s wrist. “Before the stress took its toll, for which I am deeply apologetic, you were precisely as I’d imagined.”

“Don’t apologise,” Greg said desperately. “I should be apologising.” He could feel his breathing start to quicken again, and the words came fast. “I went into this because I didn’t think I had a choice. God, I didn’t want to lie to you, but they said there was no chance if I didn’t, and I couldn’t let you just die, even if I had to do this terrible thing, but it was less of a lie than I thought except that it wasn’t real…” a sob cut him off, and Greg choked it down, “…it wasn’t real.”

“Oh Gregory,” Mycroft whispered, his hands coming up to cup Greg’s face. “It was real. Your love prompted this, and the sincerity shone through your every action. And my brain would not have constructed this scenario without good reason.”

Greg had closed his eyes with Mycroft’s touch, but now he opened them, looking into the grey eyes so close to his, wiling Mycroft to go on.

What reason? Please, tell me I’m not crazy for wanting…

“I have loved you since the day we met,” Mycroft said. “The evidence is clear, not only in my memories.” He thumbed his own wedding band, pressed against Greg’s cheekbone. “Anthea showed me the jeweller’s receipt. This ring was engraved days after we met. Before I knew we might have the opportunity to work together. In fact,” his face coloured a little at the admission, “I believe my professional proposal was in part to allow us to continue to see each other.”

Greg blinked. His mind was reeling with these revelations.

“So you…” he swallowed hard again, barely daring to say the words. “You know?

Mycroft blinked back at him. He looked surprised, then it softened into understanding. “I do.”

“And…you’re not angry?”

“Angry?” Mycroft repeated. A slight frown creased his brow. “Why would I be angry?”

“Um, I lied to you?” Greg said, disbelieving that he even had to explain this. “Repeatedly. I slept in your bed, for Christ’s sake.”

“Not to mention the shower,” Mycroft murmured slyly.

Greg felt his eyes widen. “Oh, Christ, the shower…”

A smirk crossed Mycroft’s face. “Hardly necessary for an undercover agent, Gregory.”

Despite the shock he was still processing, Greg felt a smile creep onto his face. “This was hardly a standard undercover job, Mycroft.”

“Exactly,” Mycroft replied, all of a sudden serious again. “Anthea played on your weakness, as did John. To their credit, they manipulated you superbly, and you could hardly have been expected to separate your true emotion from such an intimate undercover role.”

Greg nodded, still only half believing this conversation was happening. “That was the hardest part,” he admitted. “Some moments were so…so much like what I’d wanted. For a long time. But then you didn’t know about something, or I got something wrong, and it wasn’t real, I was trying to explain things again, and Christ, the guilt…”

“I know,” Mycroft said, his voice soothing. “I am so sorry, Gregory.”

“Will you stop apologising to me?” Greg said, his voice shaking and exasperated in equal measures. “I should be the one-“

Before he could finish his sentence, Mycroft leaned forward and kissed him, hard. With a whimper, Greg kissed back, gripping Mycroft’s knees, needing to anchor himself.

“We both need to stop,” Mycroft said, panting a little when the kiss broke. “A clean start, as it were.” He looked at Greg, face still flushed, grey eyes bright. “I love you, Gregory. Do you love me?”

“You know I do,” Greg replied.

“In that case let us consider the previous weeks’ events to be null and void as far as culpability goes.”

Greg blinked, translating. “So we’re quits?” he checked.

“We are,” Mycroft replied.

“Right, so I just need to check,” Greg said. “What does your brain tell you about us? I mean, you said you believe all this stuff that Anthea told you about the amnesia and everything, but does that change your memories?”

“No,” Mycroft said. “I’ll need to speak to the neurology team, of course, but the evidence Anthea offered – along with you testimony – makes an irrefutable case.” He shrugged. “You and I have never been married. Those memories are false, constructed by my brain to protect it from whatever damage was done in the accident.”

Greg blinked. “Right.” So where did that leave him?

“I will respect whatever choice you make Gregory, but please let me be explicit: nothing would make me happier than to start building real memories with you.”

Greg translated, wasn’t sure he’d gotten it right, so translated again. “You want me to…stay?”

“If that’s what you want,” Mycroft said quietly.

Is he serious?

“Do you seriously think I would say no?” Greg replied. “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” Mycroft said. “I may need you to help me differentiate between my memories and reality, but if we can agree that this whole situation came about because neither of us was brave enough to do something about it, then perhaps this would be a good place to start.”

“Together,” Greg asked.

“Together,” Mycroft agreed.

“Holy shit,” Greg whispered.

“Indeed,” Mycroft replied.

Greg sat for a moment, hands still resting on Mycroft’s knees. “So does this mean you’ll join me next time I have a bath?”

“I believe it does,” Mycroft replied. “Or a shower.”

“The shower,” Greg murmured, his mouth turning up at the memory. “You already had the waterproof lube.”

“I did,” Mycroft said, his cheeks flushing.

“Good thing it’s a big tube,” Greg said, grinning. “Why don’t we start with a shower? Ritual cleansing and all that.”

“From my recollection,” Mycroft said, allowing himself to be pulled up from the sofa and towards the bathroom, “not everything that happened in that shower could be considered clean.”

“We’ll have to spend a while in there, then,” Greg said. He turned, pulling Mycroft in, and their mouths met, slow and tender until Greg’s insides were a pool of warmth and his trousers were decidedly too tight.

As Mycroft opened his mouth to reply, a chirp from beside the bed sounded.

“Ignore it,” Greg said.

“That was not mine,” Mycroft said.

“Still ignore it,” Greg repeated, kissing Mycroft’s neck.

“It may be important,” Mycroft groaned.

Greg opened his mouth to reply, but remembered. “John. Shit.” He pulled back. “Just a second.”

Thumbing the screen lock off, he opened John’s message and threw out a reply.

 

How’s it going? – J.

                                                                                                                                Amazing. We’re fine. I;m moving in. Tell Anthea,.

 

Good to hear. Take better care of your throat this time, eh? ;) – J.

 

Fortunately for John, Greg and Mycroft missed his reply. They had already started making memories. New, real memories, the first of many.

END