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Mycroft Quits

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Mycroft knocked on the door to 221B.

 

Mrs Hudson answered, and her face instantly fell into a scowl. "Why are you here?" she hissed at him.

"Mrs Hudson," he acknowledged politely, pretending it didn't affect him. "I wish to speak to Sherlock."

"Not in my house." She made to close the door. "Get out, you reptile."

Mycroft suppressed a sigh and closed his eyes. It was no secret the landlady hated him. "It's important. Please."

 

The door slammed. He hung his head and let the sigh out. He scolded himself for hoping for a better reception. Mycroft took two steps backwards and looked up to the windows. He couldn't see his brother standing there, looking down on him.

 

"Tosser!"

Something hard impacted his skull. An empty can of drink, he registered as it hit the pavement. He turned to the voice to see a car passing by with a small group of angry youths sticking their heads out of the windows.

 

He let it go. He wasn't feeling up for a fight. He knew the aggression wasn't against him personally - they didn't know him, after all - but it was just another thing adding on to the mess that was his life.

 

He looked back up to the windows and saw John Watson standing there, staring down at him. The doctor opened the pane of glass.

"What do you want?"

"Doctor Watson." Mycroft tried to smile genially, but he knew it didn't reach his eyes. Thankfully he was far enough away that it didn't matter. "I just want to see my brother."

"I doubt he wants to see you," came the reply, full of consternation.

 

Yes, quite possibly, he thought with a stabbing pain. "Please." He didn't care that he was begging. "I just want to see him. That's all."

"We've all had enough of your interference," Doctor Watson called down, crossing his arms. "Be best if you left, I think."

 

Mycroft's heart started hammering. "I'm not going to interfere anymore. I promise."

"I find that hard to believe."

"Please, Doctor Watson. I don't want to do this on the street."

 

John looked to consider that for a moment, but didn't make a move to let him in.

"Is Sherlock there, listening?" Mycroft asked, hoping his little brother might take pity on him. How far I've fallen, he chided himself.

"No, he's in the shower. Call him if you want to speak to him so badly, but don't expect him to answer. After all that's happened, you're lucky he still wants to know you at all."

 

Mycroft swallowed uncomfortably. "Yes," he uttered, not caring if Doctor Watson could hear. "I know." He looked at his feet, and then back up. The doctor was looking away from him - Sherlock must be out, Mycroft deduced.

 

"John I-I just want to say goodbye."

Doctor Watson looked down at him again. "I'm sorry?"

"I'm leaving," Mycroft explained. "As I said, I'm not going to be interfering in your lives anymore."

 

His brother appeared at the window, shirtless and with a towel wrapped around his waist. The towel is an improvement. "Mycroft?"

"Hello, brother mine." Mycroft genuinely smiled, albeit sadly, up at his brother. Sherlock's hair was wet and plastered to his head in places, sticking up in others.

"What's going on?"

 

John spoke to him, too quietly for Mycroft to hear amidst the traffic. He hated the noise of the city.

"You're leaving? Where? For how long?"

"Yes, Sherlock. Indefinitely."

"And why are you telling me from the street?"

"Your dear landlady wouldn't permit me entry."

 

Sherlock's face twitched into a sly smile. At least he's surrounded by those he loves, and who love him, Mycroft thought sadly. If only I could have had the same. "You've got what you wanted, Sherlock."

"How so?"

"I'm leaving you alone."

 

Sherlock's face fell ever so slightly. It was enough to spread a little warmth into Mycroft's chest.

"I see."

"Take care-" He shut his mouth before he finished the sentence as he wanted with 'of Gregory for me'. He cleared his throat to cover his slip. "Take care, brother mine."

Sherlock frowned. "I won't hear from you at all?"

 

You wouldn't if you'd have shot me, brother. "Not likely to, no." So undoubtedly it'll be harder on me than you.

 

Sherlock was silent. Mycroft didn't want to drag out their conversation, and the bustle of the street was getting to him. He felt particularly uncomfortable as a group of young women passed him with sneers. He looked back at his brother and nodded with finality, and stepped to walk away.

 

"Mycroft, wait."

He stopped and turned, looking back.

"Take care."

 

He smiled once more briefly and nodded before continuing to walk away.

Chapter Text

He threw another log on the fire. He enjoyed seeing the puff of sparks that flew up each time he did so. The fire cackled away, seemingly happy to be fed.

 

Mycroft padded to the window and looked out. It was a bright night, enough that the loch a distance from the house was visible. Peaceful.

 

He'd been true to his word; he hadn't interfered in his brother's life since moving. He hadn't had much involvement in anything at all. He watched the goings on of the world through his computer screen - he didn't have a telly, nor did he feel like owning one - and remained an outsider to it all.

 

His life was much more peaceful since leaving his job. He did miss it, and found it difficult to occupy himself during the days, but he wasn't full of stress and burdened by responsibility anymore. It's not my problem anymore, he told himself as he thought about the state of affairs once more.

 

It didn't seem like he was missed at all. Following the debacle at Sherrinford, most, if not all, of those he knew were pleased to see him gone. Sure, some of his old colleagues would likely be regretting being so forceful in pressuring him to leave given the Brexit ordeal, but again it wasn't his problem anymore.

 

Mycroft retired to his bed, his heart heavy. Most days he felt low and lonely. He tried to occupy himself with artworks, or walks of the countryside, or even trying new recipes (he'd become quite the cook since moving in; the kitchen was large and functional, and the house far from town), but the dark sludge stuck to his soul throughout.

 

It was always quiet and empty everywhere he went. He longed for someone to share his life with. He knew no one would ever want to do so, and the man he'd pined after for years couldn't love him back, but he yearned all the same. He'd thought about getting a dog, but dismissed the idea when thinking about having to train it first. The days he was honest with himself, he admitted that he didn't want to be attached to anything, and having a dog was a commitment and a responsibility he didn't want anymore.

 

Mycroft turned onto his side and turned the light off, drifting to sleep by the glow of the fire.

 

~

 

Watercolours in his backpack, Mycroft walked towards the forest that lined the loch. Autumn was encroaching, and he wanted to experiment with the colours of the season. He had some food for lunch, a large bottle of water, and his book should he get frustrated with the painting; he was prepared for spending the day out.

 

The birds flew as he walked the path. He didn't particularly like them, but didn't dislike them either. He wasn't overly fond of the wildlife in general. He did, however, hope to view a deer in the wild sometime to paint.

 

He set himself down and pulled his book out. Hmm, I'll need to get more cad yellow and ultramarine, he thought, humming as he opened his kit. The burnt umber is getting low too. He preferred using half-pans for his travel kit, and so made a mental note to go into town later in the week and buy some more.

 

~

 

Pumpkin in the oven, zucchini and aubergine grilling, and the salad made, Mycroft sat at the table and looked out of the window. The clouds had been threatening rain all day, and it was finally raining. He enjoyed the patter of rain on the glass, and feeling warm inside as he looked out at the cold dreary weather.

 

~

 

He put the book down, having finished it. An interesting read, he concluded, if not a bit verbose. He got up from the armchair and stoked the fire. Winter was well and truly set in; the wind howled and the rain pelted the walls. Mycroft didn't mind; he simply picked another book to read and cuddled back under the blanket. He wore a merino jumper so that he remained warm enough without being huddled under the blanket, allowing him to shuffle as he read.

 

The music stopped, and so he picked another playlist on his phone to play through the speakers. He almost always had music on - he couldn't stand the silence without it.

 

~

 

The sound of freshly fallen snow crunching under his boot was an oddly pleasing sound. He wore a thick overcoat, and his hands were in gloves as they were in his pockets. The mountain air was crisp and cold, but the view was lovely.

 

As with most things, it was tinged with sadness that he was there witnessing it alone. He found his mind often wandered back to London; wondering how his brother was getting on with Doctor Watson and his new life as a parent, wondering how Gregory was...

 

Gregory. He still missed the man so. He was hurt that Gregory hadn't tried contacting him or visiting, just to see if he was alright - even though knowing it was unreasonable and that he'd hardly left his details allowing such a thing to happen at all.

 

~

 

Despite the days starting to get longer again, it was harder and harder for Mycroft to get out of bed.  He didn't feel like reading. He had to go to the store soon, but the past week he hadn't had the energy. He stretched under the covers. The sun was shining into the room.

 

Might be a nice day, he thought to himself. Perhaps a walk. Or shopping.

 

He looked to the photo he'd put in a frame on his bedside after a particularly bad fit of melancholy. It was of him and Greg, smiling together. Anthea had snapped it in secret one day. He'd loved the image so much he didn't scold her for it at all.

 

~

 

Mycroft had never been good at gardening. He thought he'd try his hand at growing some vegetables, but it was a steep learning curve for him. He could absorb the information easily, but couldn't find the interest enough to retain it all and even then, the plants had a mind of their own.

 

So many seedlings died and he was at a loss to work out why. Deep down he felt it fitting, as he never really was any good at caring for anything alive.

 

At least the pumpkin plant he'd neglected seemed to be doing well without his input.

 

~

 

The piano was a nice addition to the house. It had been a long time, but he hadn't forgotten everything he'd learnt, at least. He preferred slower, more heartfelt pieces than the strictly technical things he'd been required to learn as a child - specifically, the ones that Sherlock wanted to play with him.

 

I hope he's well, he mused as he tapped notes. In his mind, he heard the distant echo of a violin.

 

~

 

A surprise had awaited Mycroft that morning. He went out into the garden and was startled to find a lamb on his porch. He quickly looked about for the mother, but it didn't appear to be anywhere. He spent some time just staring at the creature, not sure what he was supposed to do next.

 

He ended up driving to his neighbour's farmhouse to ask if they'd lost a lamb. His neighbours had flocks of sheep, and driving by he noticed that they had lambs of a similar age. The neighbour laughed when Mycroft asked if she could come and fetch the lamb, instead of him simply having brought it with him.

 

Mycroft noted that it had become strange to hear his own voice speak after so long of disuse. He rarely spoke to people, and often would go days without uttering a word. How things change.

 

~

 

It was a bad day. He'd been having a lot of them lately. He just sat in his armchair, not even motivated enough to browse the internet, eating cake. He knew it was making him fat, but he didn't care. No, that wasn't true. He did care, but he was feeling too down to say no to the comfort the food brought.

 

He hadn't worn a suit in months. The casual attire he wore was much more forgiving to his expanding waistline, and while he wouldn't have been caught dead wearing it in London, he saw so few other people that it hardly mattered what he wore anymore.

 

Jeans, sometimes chinos, even track pants occasionally, with a tee or button down and a jumper (even summer was proving cold enough for jumpers) was his usual now. He was plumper all over and had stopped bothering to dye his hair, letting his natural auburn ginger show. It matched the short beard he grew.

 

It wasn't that he didn't want to care for his appearance anymore, he just didn't have much reason to. He found he rather liked the beard at the length now - just longer than stubble, but not bushy - by accident; he let it grow from feeling apathetic, and kept it.

 

They'd not recognise me anymore, he thought to himself as he sat in the quiet.

 

~

 

Mycroft sat cradling his mug of coffee. He enjoyed the warm brew, even in the summer mornings. It was cooling down again now, and even the promise of cooler weather was enough for Mycroft to seek out warming comforts. 

 

A knock at the door startled him. Who could that be? He rarely received visitors. The neighbours kept to themselves, and had only knocked on his door once to warn of an escaped bull.

 

He dragged himself out of the living room, hoping that it would be something quick and not involving him too much. It was likely to be, but anxiety was a constant companion and liked to claw at him at the prospect of the unknown and people.

 

The knocking sounded again as Mycroft reached the door. He opened it and dropped his mug. There stood Gregory Lestrade.

Chapter Text

"Mycroft," Greg said, his eyes going wide and raking him up and down. Mycroft suddenly felt self conscious. "You're a hard man to track down."

"Gregory."

"It's been a long time."

"Gregory you're... you're here."

"Can I come in?"

 

Mycroft jumped and stepped aside, granting him entry. He kept his eyes on Greg as he walked by, and then hurried to pick up the pieces of his shattered mug and close the door.

 

Greg dropped his bag by the entrance to the lounge. He looked... worn, and tired. Despite the smile on his face, he had more lines and darker bags under his eyes.

 

They stood in uncomfortable silence. Mycroft just tried to remember how to breathe properly.

 

"So, uh," Greg vocalised, rubbing the back of his neck. "Sorry to just drop in on you, but you didn't give me much choice."

"Sorry," Mycroft mumbled reflexively.

"Got any more of that?" Greg asked, indicating to the broken mug.

"Oh, of course. Please, come in. This way."

 

Mycroft led him to the kitchen. His home was probably a lot more 'homey' than Greg had been expecting; lots of natural wood and stone, warm light, fireplaces, cosy furniture. He prepared them both a cup of coffee with his machine, remembering exactly how Gregory liked it.

 

He'd forgotten how that hum of pleasure from that man's lips made him weak at the knees. He promptly offered him a seat at the table.

 

"It's nice," Greg commented, looking about. "Really nice."

"Thank you."

"Didn't really think you'd like this sort of thing. Didn't think I'd find you all the way up here to be honest."

"No." Mycroft sipped at his mug. The months of isolation had affected his ability to socialise, and he wasn't that great at it to start with.

 

Greg drank in silence for a few moments, his face pensive. "You just left, Myc," he mumbled into his coffee. "You didn't even say goodbye."

Mycroft's throat closed over with the guilt. "I-I didn't think you wanted me to," he strangled out.

"What? Why would you think that?"

"O-our last interaction was-"

"Yeah," Greg interrupted. "But that was just emotions running high. I'm sorry for what I said. I didn't expect it to be the last thing I said to you."

 

Greg looked hurt. Mycroft had, intentionally or not, forgotten their last conversation. Until today, that was.

 

Greg had been stressed and tired, and Mycroft had been hurting and scared. He had been pulling away from everything to try and come to terms with the events of Sherrinford, and in the hopes that Gregory would seek him out and try care for him. He'd gotten hurt when Gregory had not.

 

Greg, at the time, had been dealing with a difficult case as well as issues with Sherlock and John's relationship. In retrospect, he didn't have the time to try force care onto Mycroft. Still his absence had hurt, and that had come out when accusing him of only pretending to care for Sherlock's sake the last time they spoke.

 

"I'm glad to hear," Mycroft responded.

"I know you've probably been spending the past year thinking you were right."

"Admittedly, I had thought that if you had been telling the truth regarding your care and want to have me in your life, you would have contacted me."

 

Greg raised an eyebrow at Mycroft. "You could have given me a number to call. Or said you were leaving."

"If you..." Mycroft decided not to say it once starting. He didn't want to get into the same argument.

"I know," Greg said with a sigh. "I know I should have tried harder. I'm sorry, alright? I-I never expected you to, you know, up and leave like that. I didn't realise how at the end of your rope you were and I am truly sorry for that, Myc."

 

Greg reached out and held Mycroft's hand. His heart instantly started hammering harder in his chest at the contact, but his body froze. He didn't react. He's showing me affection. I can't ruin the moment.

 

"I..." He swallowed and tried to speak again. "I spent my life having to hide my emotions. I was not, and still am not, accustomed to expressing them."

"I should have realised that. And I should have known you disappearing was a cry for help."

 

He cringed a little internally at the phrasing, but he couldn't deny the truth in it. Mycroft nodded slightly. "I'm glad you're here now," he whispered.

 

Greg smiled and retracted his hand. "As I said, it wasn't easy to find you."

"No, I suppose not." Mycroft looked out the window to the mountains. "I'm not exactly who I was before, and so I wouldn't be anywhere predictable."

"Yeah, but that's alright. We all change with our experiences."

 

It had been so long since talking with Greg, and yet it felt as natural as it had a year ago. It felt like a painful gaping hole inside him had finally been filled, and he was experiencing the relief from that pain for the first time in longer than he felt he could remember.

 

"How did you find me?"

"Managed to contact Anthea through Sherlock."

"I see. I'm surprised it took you this long to reach her."

"It wasn't... not this long, at least. A few months ago. But, Anthea was busy and didn't know much."

 

Mycroft nodded, still looking at the mountains. No, she wouldn't, either. He'd organised most of his termination and relocation with Lady Smallwood.

 

"And then there was only an address. I couldn't just up and leave to visit at any time, as much as I wished I could. I had to wait until I could take leave."

"Of course," he said absent-mindedly.

"And, to be honest, I was angry."

 

Mycroft winced and nodded. He'd expected as much. Gregory had been rather angry.

"You just left and... you didn't call, you didn't... I'd thought that we could, were, maybe... I don't know. I guess I was just spiteful out of hurt that you'd do that."

 

He looked at Greg, and noted how unsettled he appeared. At least he was being honest, and Mycroft appreciated it. He understood Gregory's anger at his choices, even if the result was painful for him. 

 

He felt like tears were going to start showing in his eyes, and so he looked back out of the window. Mycroft couldn't discern exactly what he felt; everything had been thrust up to the surface at once the moment he'd opened the door. Relief and joy at seeing Gregory there, that he'd found him and cared enough to look, as well as hurt and pain at the reminders of why he was there alone in the first place.

 

"Myc?" Mycroft turned and looked at Greg. "Are you alright?"

 

It was a simple question, but not one he'd been expecting. He didn't respond straight away. There were so many ways to answer. He was better than when they'd last met, but things were different. He wasn't ok, or as alright as he'd like to be even given the situation. He was surviving though, and wondered if that was what mattered instead.

 

Greg took his silence to mean a no, and just nodded understandingly. "Stupid question, I know. I guess I just felt guilty that I didn't ask back then."

"You did."

"Yeah, but you still felt you had to maintain appearances of being fine."

"Yes," he hummed distantly. "True."

"Not anymore, though."

 

Mycroft hummed in agreement. He felt like he didn't maintain appearances at all anymore. He didn't go out if he didn't feel up to it, he didn't talk to people if it was going to stress him, and he didn't even get up if he couldn't imagine facing the morning routine. He certainly didn't maintain his weight anymore.

 

He flushed red and curled into himself at the thought. Oh god, I've gained so much since he's seen me. Ten kilos, probably. Mycroft bit his lip.

 

"Does living out here help?"

 

He wasn't expecting the conversation to head in that direction, but he reminded himself that Gregory couldn't read his mind. "Yes," he answered. It did, he thought, overall.

"Good. Good. I, er, I didn't want to assume."

"How so?"

"Just, you know. It's so different to what I thought you'd be comfortable living as - around, I mean. Like. Sorry."

 

Mycroft sighed once more. Gregory was uncomfortable.

"I didn't meant that you couldn't be happy here, or that it wouldn't help... you look good and all, but your demeanour is rather the opposite of fine."

 

What was he supposed to say? That even hiding away from the world didn't let him hide from himself? That he longed for a life he couldn't have?

 

"You haven't answered the first question."

"No."

Greg hesitated. "Was that the answer?"

"Yes."

"Right. Well... I'm here."

"Indeed."

"I meant if you wanted to talk."

"I have done so little of that in the past year that I am even less capable of it now."

 

Mycroft finished his coffee and quickly took the excuse to leave he table and put the mug in the sink. The air between them was tense. It wasn't that he didn't want to talk about his feelings, but he didn't know how to do it successfully. He didn't want to scare Gregory away, after all.

 

"Why did you leave, Mycroft?"

Mycroft slumped forward, arms gripping the sink. "I had to."

"Why?"

 

Greg's voice was innocent and curious, without judgement. He turned to look at the man, all sympathetic eyes and caring expression.

"I couldn't do it anymore," he uttered. "I'd tried so hard for so long and... well, you saw how things ended."

"Yeah." Greg hummed in agreement. "But I still don't understand why that meant you had to move and not speak to any of us again."

 

"They didn't trust me with important things at work anymore. I saw little point in what was available to me. I'd spent so much of my life trying my best and it'd come down to nothing. It was like everything I'd done right didn't matter in the face of that result - and it wasn't something I considered a mistake. I thought I did my best."

 

He leant back against the kitchen bench and looked to the roof. "That's the problem, though, isn't it? Doing my best and having it all still fall apart. Everyone knew from then on that my best wasn't good enough."

"Not everyone."

 

He looked at Greg. "All this time I've tried to do right by Sherlock, and he never thanked me for it."

"He's an arse, or at least was, remember."

"Doesn't excuse him," Mycroft snapped, suddenly angry. "The result is the same that I put everything I had into helping him and he always tossed me aside."

"Yes, you're right, I'm sorry."

 

Mycroft looked away again. It was difficult talking, and he didn't mean to get angry at Greg. "I was tired of playing that part. He didn't want me there and so I just couldn't take continuing. I'm sure he's much happier now for it."

"He's happy, yes, but not because you left," Greg said. "He's happy because he's more settled in a relationship with John and has a daughter to dote on. He didn't do well without you at first. He got into some trouble like he always does, and you weren't there to get him out of it. He had a bit of a slap in the face realising what you did for him."

 

"I guess it's nice to know he misses having his favourite get-out-of-gaol-free card," Mycroft said with a sneer. He couldn't help feel spiteful over his brother missing his usefulness first and foremost.

"He missed you as well. He didn't say anything but he did look down and lost for a while."

 

There was a break in the conversation. Mycroft felt a little better knowing that Sherlock noticed his absence in a personal way. Neither man moved; they both just thought.

 

"You could have just quit your job and stayed in London," Greg said eventually.

Mycroft exhaled slowly. "I had to leave it all," he admitted. "I couldn't be there with reminders of what I couldn't have anymore. Yes, I am hiding from the world here."

"Because you're afraid of it, or because you want to see if anyone cares enough to miss you?"

 

Mycroft frowned. "What?"

"It's just something people do. It's ok, by the way. Not selfish or nothing. They withdraw to see who cares enough to seek them out. Effective, in some ways, but can be crushing if no one - or the one you hoped would - doesn't."

"Why do you ask?"

"I just... I didn't want to be the one who didn't, but I think I was."

 

He swallowed uncomfortably and nodded.

 

"It's been a good escape. No pressures. Not always worried about everyone else's problems and if they become my own. Not having to always put in effort for others without recognition. But it's been lonely, and painful too."

 

"I didn't think you wanted recognition?" Greg asked, confused. "You always seemed to prefer the shadows."

"Strictly by necessity and the power I held made up for it. No, I was more referring to those I care about."

"Sherlock, right." Greg nodded. "And your parents."

Mycroft hummed in agreement.

 

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you needed me," Greg said sincerely. He remained staring with those big chocolate eyes.

"I didn't make it easy for you to find me."

"No, I meant in the weeks after Sherrinford. But the past year too. Did you purposefully try prevent me from contacting you?"

"Not at all. I just believed you were done with me."

 

Greg stood from the table and walked over to the kitchen. He took both of Mycroft's hands, a gesture that had Mycroft's heart hammering even harder in his chest.

"I will never be done with you, Mycroft. Never. Please don't tell me you ran out here away from me."

 

Mycroft looked into his eyes, the tears shining in his own. His lip trembled. "I couldn't take it anymore; losing everything that I had, you included, was the end of it. I-I just... I had to escape."

"Oh, Mycroft. I should have seen how much you were hurting."

 

Greg then embraced him in a hug. It was the first human contact he'd had in a long time, and it inexplicably filled a void inside him. He leant forward and hugged Greg back. A few tears broke free and ran down his cheeks as he let his head rest on Greg's shoulder.

 

"I'm here now," Greg whispered. "And I'm not leaving you to try cope alone again."

I love you, he desperately wanted to whisper back. He refrained, and instead just stood there holding onto Greg's body, glad the man was willing to remain hugging him for as long as Mycroft needed.

Chapter Text

The rock made a satisfying plonk as it dropped into the water. Mycroft was sat upon the large stone boulder by the loch, the one he'd often sat on to think. It was only early morning; the sun was just rising and the birds beginning to sing.

 

He tossed another rock into the water lapping up against the shore.

 

Gregory was back home, still asleep on the couch. There was only one bedroom - he'd only needed one, after all - and he didn't feel comfortable sharing his bed when so much was overwhelming him.

 

He was glad to see Gregory, but at the same time it felt like his old life had come knocking back on his door. Gregory didn't push things, and hadn't asked more questions after their initial conversation in the kitchen, but even his presence was a reminder. He'd only just started recovering in himself from it all.

 

He was ambivalent. He knew Greg didn't have the means to have contacted him easily, and yet Mycroft felt pained that it'd taken him so long to do so. He was glad to see the man, but afraid of what was ahead. His mind told him that Greg was here because he cared, but the cynic in his heart merely asked why now, instead of a little under a year ago.

 

As usual, the loch gave no solace... only silence.

 

The crunch of gravel approaching set him on edge. Is it Greg? How did he find me? What am I going to say?

 

He didn't look up; he stared out over the water whilst listening intently. Heavy footed, small gait, slight limp. It was the farmer at the end of the road. He was surprised to find that he felt a little saddened that Greg hadn't managed to find him.

 

It's because he doesn't know where you are, not because he doesn't care to, he told himself.

 

The farmer nodded at him as Mycroft turned to look. Mycroft nodded back. It was the extent of most of their interactions.

 

He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. The air was chilly, even this close after summer, and even his thick coat couldn't keep him warm inside from the air in his lungs. He'd have to go back to the house soon. He had hoped to sort out his feelings more before returning.

 

~

 

"Still an early riser?"

 

Mycroft looked over to the kitchen and busied himself making tea before responding. "Actually, no. I am rarely up this early anymore."

 

The implication hung between them heavily. Greg, as always, looked uncomfortable with the silence. He ran his fingers through his hair in the way that used to drive Mycroft wild.

 

"I try to get a good sleep in, but as long as early risers keep finding bodies at ungodly hours..." Greg laughed, hollowly, and then sat himself down at the table. "Where'd you go?"

 

"A walk." Mycroft didn't look up as he poured the kettle. He knew Greg would have sensed his defensiveness, but he didn't want to see the result in the man's face. "I trust you were able to occupy yourself?"

"Hm? Yeah, yeah, all fine. I did look about for you, but once I saw you weren't in, I just looked out the window for a bit. It's lovely out here."

 

Mycroft hummed as he nodded. "The landscape has been the inspiration for many paintings."

"I'd love to see them." Greg cleared his throat as he accepted the proffered tea. "That is, if you are willing to share."

 

He nodded and took a seat opposite. He elected to sip his tea and look out of the window to the left instead of converse.

 

"Mycroft," Greg said, his voice laden with a mix of emotion. "Are you happy here?"

 

He turned to look at Greg. It was indeed a loaded question. Does he mean here in this house, in Scotland? Happy as in joyous, or contented enough given the circumstances? Or perhaps he asked as a lead in to something else, such as if I am pleased with the outcome of events?

 

He frowned as he thought. He felt peaceful, but empty. He was without the turmoil of his previous life, but without the importance of his job to give himself worth, he felt insignificant. The things he did he derived little pleasure from, merely kept himself busy to ward off the abject hollowness, but he at least was himself. Given the fallout from Sherrinford, he hadn't thought it possible to be a shadow of the man he was - collected, resolute, skilled.

 

"If you have to think about it that long then I think that answers the question," Greg said. Mycroft didn't react; he hadn't realised he'd been taking his time thinking. He despaired at the thought he was getting slow in his isolation.

 

"So why did you stay here?"

"I had to."

"What makes you say that?"

Mycroft stared at his cup. "I couldn't... I was of no use anymore."

"I don't understand why that meant you had to disappear."

 

He sighed heavily.

"I know we talked a little yesterday about it but it wasn't enough," Greg said quickly. "I don't want to pressure you into talking but I do need to know a bit more."

 

"I've only ever been wanted around when I was useful," he found himself saying. "My whole life. I was only a tool to be utilised. As I became more useful, I became more valued, but still a tool none the less."

 

The words were bitter, along with the childhood memories they reflected. He swallowed. "Being unable to... be as I was, I was no longer useful and therefore no longer wanted or needed. It was for the best."

"But that's not true."

"It is," he snapped with a sneer. "I've lived it, and believe me, it hurts. It hurt to only ever matter as far as my abilities, and more so to subsequently be compromised enough that I could no longer perform to matter."

 

There was a stifling silence. Mycroft continued to stare at his tea, daring only to see his companion through his peripheral vision. 

"I still don't understand why," - Greg looked about - "this was the solution."

 

He closed his eyes and contorted his face, not bothering to hide the shame and pain. "As a child, the Highlands were always special to me - almost magical, isolated from the problems of life. One could hide from the world if they ran far enough."

 

Mycroft took a moment. "I cannot forget a lifetime, but I can flee it."  He flickered his eyes up to Greg, but he was done with the conversation. He didn't have to be polite and remain anymore. As he'd just said - that life was over. Now he could be kinder to his heart.

 

He stood and put his mug on the bench as he walked away into his bedroom.

 

~

 

He didn’t cry. Emotional or not, it wasn’t something he did. He felt it on the inside, though. He, at least, still honestly didn’t care that he’d just walked away from the conversation that was agonising him.

 

This was his house, his new life, and he could do as he damn well pleased. Not in an inconsiderate way, but in a… not over-considerate way. Just enough to value his comfort. It was freeing, really, and he could understand better why Sherlock had behaved so inconsiderately to others for so long.

 

He missed Greg. He really had. He hadn’t been prepared for all of the emotions to resurface, but he was still glad that Greg was here.

 

Mycroft looked at the photo on his bedside table. A lifetime ago it seemed, and yet not impossible to reach for again. His treacherous heart reminded him that there was a chance again, now that Gregory was back in his life.

 

He won’t be here for much longer, he tried to tell himself. He’ll see how I’ve changed and just leave. I was adequate before as a people pleaser of sorts - useful, powerful, and willing to use that power to help. Now I’m just a man in a cottage in a field.

 

He listened as Greg moved about. He heard the clatter of mugs in the sink, the splash of water, soft footfall over through the house, the rumble of the sofa. It was nice just to listen.

 

Greg soon rose from the couch and paced about. He must be frustrated with me, but at least he’s respectful of my space. Greg walked past the bedroom and into the open studio. I wonder what he thinks. I would have liked to have shown him my paintings.

 

Trying harder, he was able to hear the soft bumps of canvases moving, shifting papers, a soft rattle of his brushes in the cup, and the squeak of his easel on the hard floor. The thistle in watercolour, he remembered. It’s almost done on the easel.

 

He was taken back to the day he found said thistle, in the cover of a tree in the bright sunlight. He’d been taken by the play of light and shadow.

 

In many ways, Greg seeing his art felt like showing him who he’d become. All of the subject matter in some way represented the journey he’d been on. The landscape, his home, the weather… even the lamb made an appearance.

 

He decided to stand and join him in the studio.

 

Leaning quietly against the doorframe, he said, “So, what do you think?”

 

Greg startled slightly and looked up. “I think you’re amazing,” he replied from behind the easel. “Did you really do all this?”

“Mhm,” he agreed with a nod.

 

Greg wandered back into the centre of the room. “It’s incredible. Where did you learn?”

“I taught myself.”

“That’s even more incredible. Why didn’t you do this for a living? You certainly are talented enough for it.”

“There is little a career in artistry could provide in comparison to the path I took.”

“Ah, yeah. Money’s usually shit for artists, ain’t it?”

“Whilst I agree, as people generally don’t understand the skill and time taken for an artwork - more so in today’s consumer age - I was speaking of other things.”

 

Greg looked at him, a little confused. He seemed like he was having trouble deciding if he was going to mention what was obviously on his mind.

“The ability to help my family,” Mycroft corrected. The power was a nice added bonus, but it wasn’t the reason.

 

“Ah.”

Mycroft sighed and pulled himself away from the doorframe, slumping into the room before picking himself back up and dusting his fingers over an old oil painting of the loch.

“Although, I would not have been capable of such a spectacular failure and fall from grace, had I pursued painting instead.”

“You didn’t fail, Myc.”

 

Mycroft looked at Greg properly for the first time. He looked stunning there in the morning light through the well-lit room, art scattered around him, and the mountains in the distance. It was his eyes, however, that drew Mycroft in most. So full of compassion.

 

“I did, Gregory.”

“You tried your best.”

“Yes.” Mycroft had to look away. “I did,” he added softly. “But it still was a failure.”

 

Hands reached out and took his own. Mycroft looked up to see Greg standing closer. “Yes. It was a failure. You weren’t. It’s not your fault everything went to hell like that. You aren’t responsible for it; not the lives lost or the havoc wreaked.”

 

He was aware that he was trembling, but it didn’t matter. He let it be seen. His heart was singing hearing the words. No one had told him that, and it was like a weight was lifted.

 

“If anything, it was the Governor’s fault, from what Sherlock’s said. You gave strict orders for no interaction with her.”

 

A hand on his cheek, cupping gently, lifted his chin up to look back into those chocolate eyes. Time seemed to extend onwards, lost in that look. How he missed the tenderness Greg bestowed.

 

Greg must have sensed what he needed, because Mycroft was being drawn into a hug.

“You failed no one and it was not your fault,” Greg whispered into his ear. It was too much; he exhaled a sob and let the tears flow.

Chapter Text

They sat together in the lounge. He didn’t have rooms for each area in particular anymore - just the bedroom with joined bathroom, and the studio. Everything else was just open plan.

 

“Your artworks,” Greg announced into the peaceful quiet.

“Hm?”

“They’re very lonely.”

 

Mycroft paused. What am I to say to that? “How so?”

“They’re lovely, don’t get me wrong,” Greg said quickly. “But I get the feeling of loneliness from them. I’m not an artist by any means, but I like looking at it and how it makes me feel.”

“Anything in particular?”

 

Greg frowned as he thought. “No, I can’t explain it. It’s always… just nature, without any people. And that nature is sparse, you know? Landscapes looking a bit empty and longing, strict details of specific things…” Greg shrugged. “You can tell me if I’m way off base.”

 

“Often artists find that their state of mind bleeds through into their works involuntarily, and so in this case I think you are quite astute.” It was as close as he could admit to Greg that he was lonely.

 

“Do you ever go and meet up with other artists?”

“Heavens no.”

 

Greg opened his mouth, clearly to ask why not, but thought better of it. He instead nodded and sipped from his drink.

 

Mycroft hung his head and sipped from his own.

 

~

 

He was feeling rather vulnerable, Mycroft realised. He wasn’t sure exactly when he’d started feeling that way, but he was definitely trying to curl in over himself to try and cover the gaping wound that seemed to be in his chest.

 

Maybe it was that Gregory was now in his space, a space that had been his and his alone for some time. Almost like a sanctuary, this was where he’d built up his walls so that he didn’t have to wear them on his skin anymore. And here stood Gregory, right in the heart of it — where he’d always been.

 

The sun’s setting rays glinted through the window. Golden hour, Mycroft thought to himself. He looked over to Greg. Maybe he’d like to see the forest at its prettiest?

 

He stood and moved to the door, putting on his boots. Only once he was finished did he turn to look at Greg, who’d put his book aside and was staring back at him.

 

“Would you like to accompany me for a walk?”

“Yeah, sounds nice.”

 

He was very aware of how close Gregory’s hand was to his own as they strolled along the forest path. The birds sang overhead, and the amber light speckled through the leaves. Mycroft’s heart squeezed seeing the peace on his friend’s face; this was what he’d been missing, longing, yearning for, and now that it was here… he was afraid of losing it.

 

But Greg would leave as soon as he’d come, and Mycroft would have to return to his solitary life once more. He couldn’t tell if it was in fact crueler to have had Gregory come and show him all that he’d needed in his new life, only to leave; or if he’d never come at all, Mycroft remaining feeling abandoned but adjusted to the solitude.

 

~

 

The evening meal finished, Mycroft was calmly enjoying the cackle of the fire. There had only been a few nights this summer that had been too warm for a fire.

 

He was painfully aware of the gap between himself and Greg; more because he wanted to bridge it and cuddle with him than of an enforced distance.

 

He wanted to ask Gregory to join him in bed — not for anything lewd, just for cuddles — but he held back. It wouldn’t do to allow himself to become too attached.

 

“I’m going to head to bed,” he said quietly. “Is there anything you need before I go?”

“No,” Greg answered, looking up at him. “Goodnight, Mycroft.”

 

He opened his mouth to respond, but closed it again. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Will you be here in the morning?”

“Of course.” It was clear to both of them that the inference was that Greg wouldn’t just leave without saying goodbye. His tone didn’t have any spite to it, though.

 

Mycroft nodded. “Goodnight.”

 

~

 

It was late and Mycroft was still staring out into the darkness. The moonlight streaming through the window let him make out most of the room, but it still felt like darkness.

 

He felt lost, alone, and most of all conflicted. How he yearned for Greg’s hold around him. The man was just a wall away, slumbering on his couch. Yet he could not, as in mere days time (if he was lucky), he’d be alone without that warmth inside his heart and around his chest again.

 

A tear pricked his eye. He let it fall.

 

~

 

Gregory’s phone buzzed. He picked it up and sighed.

 

“Problems?” Mycroft asked from his soup.

“Sherlock,” came the explanation. “Getting reception out here is hard at best. He’s getting annoyed that I’m not responding as quickly as he’d like.”

“I see.”

 

Mycroft looked back down into his bowl. It felt like Greg was only here to investigate on Sherlock’s behalf, even if his mind said not to jump to conclusions. “And what have you informed him?”

 

“Informed? I-I’m not reporting to him or anything.”

 

Mycroft looked up from lunch.

 

“Sure, he’s curious how you are, but I came for me, Myc.”

 

He nodded. He was glad the matter was settled without having to bring it up. “He is asking when you are returning, then?”

“Not exactly. He’s asking when you’re returning.”

 

He opened his mouth to huff out that he wasn’t, but he closed it again. A part of his heart clenched at the thought of remaining when Greg left. “I left that life behind me,” he mumbled eventually.

“I know. I don’t think he can quite accept it yet.”

“He’s had enough time.”

“True, but it’s more because he doesn’t want the truth that he refuses to believe it.”

 

Mycroft sat back in his chair. Gregory had been sincere. “You believe Sherlock wants me back?”

“I know it, Myc. He’s said he misses you.”

 

He frowned into himself, thinking.

 

~

 

That evening, Mycroft ran his fingers over a photograph of his little brother. He had out an album, one that he would swear didn’t exist, of Sherlock. It contained moments snapped from the first time Mycroft had seen him, right up until Sherrinford. Admittedly some had been surveillance shots, but they’d captured the softer, sensitive side of Sherlock that Mycroft had to keep.

 

A knock sounded on his door.

 

“Mycroft? Can I come in?”

He closed the album. “Certainly.”

 

Greg opened the door, his head bowed. Mycroft indicated to the foot of the bed. Greg sat down, looking at him.

 

“I don’t mean to intrude upon you, but I just felt… well, as nice as it is out there, it’s not with you.”

“Apologies for—”

“No, don’t apologise,” Greg interrupted. “It’s ok. I just… I’m concerned about you, Myc, and I’ve tried to talk to you about it but it’s felt so much like you’re trying to avoid the topic that I couldn’t push it without distressing you.”

 

Mycroft said nothing, but instinctively clung onto the book.

 

“We both know I have to go back to London soon, and that you’re going to stay here. You are right in saying this is your life now, and I’m not expecting or trying to take you back with me.”

 

Mycroft nodded. He was a little relieved.

 

“I’m just… after what I’ve seen these few days, I’m worried to leave you here alone and cut off from everyone.”

“I have always survived just fine,” he interjected.

“No, we both know that’s not exactly true.” Greg placed his hand on Mycroft’s upon the book. “You were isolated by choice but not really alone, and you weren’t fine about it.”

 

Mycroft looked guilty. He turned his head away.

“Hey, it’s ok. I’m just saying that for all you tried to be alone, you never coped well with it. This place… it feels like an escape, Mycroft. A little shelter hidden away because you’re not strong enough to keep those barriers metaphorical anymore.”

 

Damn Greg and his ability to see right into the heart of things. Dastardly tears started to well in his eyes again. He clenched his jaw to keep from saying anything.

 

“I don’t want to leave you here knowing that it’ll be empty again. I’ve noticed how you’ve tried to keep some of that isolation while I’ve been here, but you’ve looked so sad every time you’ve done it. When you’ve been with me — and by that, I mean, you are accepting my presence as companionable, instead of trying to keep me at a distance in your mind — you’ve looked contented and peaceful, even happy if I dare say.”

 

His throat closed up. All he could do was nod gently.

 

Greg sighed and deflated a little. “I don’t know if this is the right time, but I have to say it.” He looked up at Mycroft, right into his eyes. “I really care about you Mycroft. M-more than a friend would. It broke my heart when you left, and it’s breaking all over again seeing you here like this.”

 

“Like this?” Mycroft croaked. He had to wait some more for his brain to process the former.

“Only half here. You’re not stressed or worn out anymore, sure, and you’re able to enjoy peaceful nature and indulge your hobbies. But you’re also just looking like you’re on autopilot. You’ve been absent and drifting. All of that life that buzzed inside you that I knew is gone as well as the strain.”

 

Mycroft could only watch as Greg bit his lip, debating if to talk more or just apologise.

 

“I haven’t seen you get excited, there hasn’t been that energy coming out of you like you used to have when showing me things you loved, and honestly, you haven’t talked properly since I arrived. All of that witty, clever, interesting conversation… it’s like you just don’t have it in you anymore to think too much or you’ll realise how miserable you actually are here.”

Chapter Text

His words were like bullets, shooting him and hitting the mark each time. He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. He couldn’t deny it. He was done running from the truth and himself. He’d fled all the way out here to escape, but there was nowhere else to go.

 

“I-I want you back,” Greg whispered. “Please.”

 

Mycroft nodded, tears falling down his cheeks. He didn’t open his eyes, almost afraid of what he’d see. He felt Greg pull him in for a hug, and it broke the dam. He cried openly into Greg’s chest.

 

“I couldn’t be who I was before, but I didn’t know who I was beyond that,” he admitted in a mumble. “All I could think of was to run.”

“You don’t have to anymore.”

“I can’t go back.”

 

There was a poignant silence between them. Mycroft tried to get the sobs under control. Greg continued to run his hand gently over Mycroft’s back.

 

Greg took a long breath before speaking. “You can’t stay here. It’s eating you away.”

“Then where am I supposed to go?” Mycroft whispered, at a loss.

“Home,” Greg responded simply.

 

Mycroft sat back, his red eyes looking quizzically at Greg. The man took his hands gently and elaborated. “It’s not somewhere to go, Myc. It’s going to a place in your soul.” Mycroft just remained looking at him, waiting for the explanation. “You’re not going to find anywhere that helps you if where you need to go is a better place inside yourself,” Greg said gently. “You need to feel at home in yourself.”

 

Mycroft looked down, away. He didn’t know where to begin trying to do that. He’d thought moving out here alone was achieving that. Greg tugged at his hands softly, and he looked back at the man staring kindly at him.

 

“I want to help you find your way,” Greg said, and even though it sounded like it should have been cliché, it was just poetic. Mycroft could only tremble as he dared a thankful smile. “I know we’ll get there,” Greg added.

 

He leant forward and let his head be buried in Greg’s chest once more. He knew what Greg meant. Just there, in that moment, Mycroft felt more real than he had in the past year. It was only in the contrast now did he realise how much he had been a ghost of himself all this time.

 

~

 

Greg was packed to leave. The time since their confessions in the bedroom had flown, but there wasn’t the distance between them like before. Mycroft had started to welcome Greg back into his life, instead of keeping him separate in preparation to go back to a lonely existence.

 

They’d talked a little more of their feelings, and more openly about how they felt regarding each other. The problems of the past were laid bare and cleaned. Mycroft heard some of how the year had been for Greg and his brother, finally ready to actually take on the information. It was like suddenly he wasn’t alone anymore.

 

While Mycroft wasn’t ready to return, and despite numerous quite forceful reminders from Greg that his appearance wasn’t the atrocity that Mycroft felt, Mycroft was still too hesitant to let Sherlock see him like this. After Greg’s kind words, he honestly didn’t feel like working to change it. Greg was right - regardless of his personal opinions of how good he looked, it was up to Sherlock to accept that change, not Mycroft to struggle to appear ‘better’.

 

Mycroft agreed to communicate often with Greg. He couldn’t guarantee the mobile connectivity, but he did have a reasonable internet connection, and so regular emails were a commitment he’d made.

 

Greg was going to return again in a month’s time, just for the weekend. Mycroft assured him that he’d take care of the travel arrangements, and so Greg need only organise the time free. Greg had been right; having another meeting so solidly ahead (the date was all but confirmed) was making him feel much better. It was only a month, and while at times it sounded an eternity, it was also close enough for Mycroft not to feel abandoned.

 

They’d agreed that they’d take their time with Sherlock and Mycroft’s family. As much as Greg had said Sherlock had changed, he still had to admit that he had his personal problems regarding family. He didn’t know how to not adhere to their expectations, and that wasn’t something he could do anymore. Greg assured him that they’d get there slowly.

 

While there was no promises of advancing their relationship formally yet, Mycroft could sense the unspoken words between them. They’d made a big step already, and were putting any and all romantic intentions aside until Mycroft was in a better place.

 

“I guess I’ll talk to you soon, then,” Greg said, standing by the car. “I will hear from you soon, right?”

“Yes, of course.” Mycroft smiled genuinely.

“Cause I know where you are now,” Greg warned jokingly. They both chuckled at the thought.

“Have a good trip, Gregory.”

“Thanks.”

 

Greg embraced him in a firm hug. A small part of Mycroft’s heart constricted at the thought that this was the last human contact he’d get in a month, but reminded himself that it was only a month - a small fraction of the time he’d gone alone here until now.

 

They ended the hug, but not the embrace. Greg still held onto Mycroft, and looked at him warmly. He then moved in closer, and Mycroft’s heart jumped at the brief thought that Greg was about to kiss him. Greg’s lips moved up forward and pressed softly to his forehead in a caring, intimate gesture.

“You take care of yourself,” he uttered, and then broke the hold.

“Bye, Greg.”

 

Greg waved, got in the car, and all too soon, disappeared over the horizon. Mycroft stood out longer than he would care to admit, just watching the spot where he’d last glimpsed Greg’s car. The wind picked up and reminded him that it was getting chilly, and so Mycroft breathed in deeply and looked back at his house.

 

He drew in a deep breath and let it go. Back to it.

Chapter Text

It was empty. That’s all he could think of. Greg had only been there for days, and yet his absence was like part of the house was gone. It wasn’t cosy anymore; it was missing the thing that filled up every room.

 

Mycroft looked at the book on the coffee table. He’d started to read it before Greg arrived. He didn’t feel he had it in him to continue absorbing himself in some other reality when this one was pressing so hard into him.

 

He looked about. I miss him. The fire still cackled behind the grate, the air was warm and the glow soft, and yet it still felt cold inside.

 

He hadn’t been able to paint since Greg had left. He’d tried, but his heart and mind just weren’t into it. Mycroft had thrown out the paper and tossed the pencil in frustration.

 

Mycroft sighed. Maybe he’d go for a walk. It was cloudy, nothing new, but the clouds felt more looming than they had before. Perhaps a drive into town? He could have coffee and people-watch for a while.

 

His car was a four-wheeled drive, a few years old, silver, and covered in mud from the mid point down. He’d wanted something other than the brand-new, sleek, black cars he’d had in London. Always buffed and shining, pristine in and out. At first it was to remind himself that wasn’t who he was anymore, and he’d not cleaned inside as a representation of how far he’d fallen, but now he rather liked it. Lived in, it felt, like his home. It was much the same as the other cars out where he lived, and it was reassuring that in some regard he fitted in.

 

He bought some supplies while out, justifying the trip, but actually enjoyed the presence of others in the little tea shop. He sat by the window and distracted himself by looking at the people. There weren’t many like in London, and so he wasn’t overwhelmed with data once he started to try observe.

 

His mind kept supplying information about the others in the lives of the people he watched. Mother, three children; grandfather who is watching his grandkids; engaged, exploring on holiday; husband, whose wife is ill; child, whose mothers dote on.

 

“Would you care for anything else, sir?”

 

Mycroft looked at the elderly woman addressing him. Widower, partner died many years ago, still has family in town she stays with. He blinked.

 

“Er, yes, I’ll have a slice of cake.”

“Certainly. Which one?”

“Which do you recommend?”

“Well, I baked the coffee and walnut one this morning. My grandson was not happy he couldn’t try it,” she said with a chuckle. “I like it.”

“That will do nicely, thank you.”

 

Mycroft smiled to himself. He’d had a conversation and it was without agenda, or fear on his behalf. He sipped his tea (electing for that over coffee when he’d walked in) with a hint of self-satisfaction on his face. The cake was placed before him, and he muttered a thanks.

 

I never would have been able to do this before, he mused. No security detail, no analysing for threats, no agendas to be wary of, no time pressures… Mycroft felt conflicted. He liked that he was freer now, and his life was more peaceful, but Gregory had been right. He wasn’t just a different man now, he was a shell. He’d stopped noticing even the most basic of things. He’d hidden away so much that everything about himself was gone. He hadn’t gone people-watching in a year, and suddenly the whole small town seemed a lot bigger. People interconnected, with complex lives, all bustling about where before he just saw a slightly less empty space to avoid.

 

It was both nice and painful. It wasn’t as isolated here as he’d felt all this time; and yet he was on the outside without having any of that connectivity to community all those around him seemed to share.

 

He used to scoff at the idea of community. London was great in that respect; there was no community evident. People could join groups, and the local governments tried to push the idea, but really there wasn’t anything tying the people together. He suddenly felt even more isolated. I never was a part of a community, so why am I feeling a loss about not being a part now?

 

Because I’m alone, his mind supplied. It wasn’t news, since that was the point of coming here, but it hadn’t really struck him like this since Gregory had arrived. Before he’d been wanting to hide away from his old life. Now he had to face the fact that his old life was gone, and he wasn’t hiding anymore. He had to try and make a new one to be happy in, and he didn’t want to be alone.

 

“Are you alright, dear?”

 

Mycroft looked at the elderly woman serving him, who was standing there with a pot of tea. He looked at her quizzically.

 

“You seem to be lost in thought, and not good ones.”

 

He looked down at his half-eaten cake. The woman was quite observant, and radiated a grandmotherly concern that Mycroft couldn’t bear to turn away.

 

“I was just thinking how everyone here seems to be happy as part of a community.”

“Oh, yes, there’s some lovely people living here, and there’s not many of us so we all get to know each other. Quite different to the cities in England, I’m sure. Are you up from London?”

 

She thinks I’m a tourist, or just visiting en-route to somewhere else. “I lived in London for a long time,” he agreed. “But not anymore.”

 

He noticed that he was the only one in the shop once he looked about. He must have been lost in thought for some time, for the other three to leave already. The woman was still standing by his table, and so he waved to the other chair. She smiled and took it.

 

“Where do you live now?”

“Out by the loch,” Mycroft answered. The woman looked at him briefly, as if needing him to explain which loch. “It’s the far end of McCullough’s field.”

“Oh! You’re a local!” The woman seemed both shocked and overjoyed. “It’s lovely to meet you. When did you move in?”

 

Mycroft looked a bit sheepish. “June.” There was a pause, and he looked back up at her. “Last year.”

She frowned. “You’ve been here for over a year? Why haven’t I seen you about?”

“I don’t get out much,” he answered honestly.

 

“Oh, dear. No wonder you were looking sad thinking of community.” She patted his hand, and Mycroft didn’t mind the intrusion of personal space. “You’ll get the hang of it, love. Getting to know a whole bunch of new people can be tough sometimes. Is it just you here?”

 

He nodded. She smiled, the same sad smile that seemed to evoke memories of a shared pain. “Never married,” he clarified.

“Do you have family to spend time with? Sorry, I’m a bit of a conversationalist. I don’t mean to pry.”

“It’s alright. No, I don’t spend time with them. They… they’d rather not see me.”

 

“Well… dear, what was your name?”

“Mycroft.”

“Well, Mycroft. Being alone isn’t good for anyone, so you always feel welcome to come here and sit for a nice cup of tea.”

 

A part of Mycroft was confused. This woman didn’t know him, and yet was offering to spend time in his company just so he wouldn’t be alone. Another part was grateful that he was being welcomed.

 

“Thank you.”

“Maggie.”

“Maggie.”

 

“So, what do you do?” She asked him. She didn’t realise what a loaded question it was.

“I spend my time doing artwork, mostly,” Mycroft answered diplomatically.

“Lovely! I do so love art. Is that why you came up here? Change of things to paint?”

“Not exactly.” Mycroft sipped his tea, showing he wasn’t willing to discuss it further. Maggie got the hint. “I do enjoy the landscape here, though.”

“It’s lovely, isn’t it? When my family take me out for picnics, we go up the hill to look out over the village. If anyone does come visiting you, I’d definitely recommend it.”

 

Maggie seemed to suddenly realise what she said, and bit her lip. Mycroft smiled, and thought he’d try alleviate some of her guilt at pointing out his loneliness again. “I have a friend coming next month. Perhaps I’ll take him.”

“Oh, wonderful!” Maggie said, relieved. “Have you known him long?”

“Oh yes,” Mycroft answered with a knowing smile. He didn’t elaborate.

 

She smiled and stood, taking the empty teapot she was holding with her. “I hope to see you again soon; and maybe your ‘friend’.” The implication was heavy in the air, and Mycroft couldn’t help but blush again.

 

“Don’t be afraid to get to know us,” Maggie said from the counter. “You’d be surprised how accepting people can be.”

 

~

 

That night, Mycroft wrote an email talking about his experience to Greg.

 

He took a sketchpad and drew some sketches from memory, just sitting by the fire. He remembered what Gregory had said about his drawings, and noticed that his sketches today looked a little more lively.

 

~

 

Autumn was in the air, and Mycroft started to paint the trees as their leaves turned.

 

He said hello to the farmer walking by, instead of just nodding in his direction. The farmer made a comment about the weather. Mycroft smiled inside, feeling more accepted.

 

~

 

Gregory kept him updated with regular emails, describing Sherlock’s antics and the state of affairs in London.

 

He was glad that Anthea was taking to her new job well. The economy was still alive, albeit a little rocky, and things were generally ok. Not brilliant, but the state of world affairs was a difficult starting year for Anthea — so it wasn’t a reflection of her. She was good, after all. Not a Holmes, but good.

 

Gregory was also kind enough to attach images to his emails. Mycroft loved them; Sherlock covered in soap suds, a ‘selfie’ of him in his new haircut, Sherlock hugging John when he thought no one was watching.

 

Mycroft sent images of his sketches and painting works-in-progress. His heart swelled at the compliments Gregory gave him.

 

~

 

Mycroft was excited to have Gregory return, but also apprehensive. It was only a week and Gregory would be there, and he still hadn’t decided what to do about the sleeping arrangements.

 

He desperately wanted to share the bed with Gregory, just for human contact and to feel the warmth radiate into that part of his soul that had gone cold. But, he didn’t want to appear presumptuous, or force Gregory into an uncomfortable situation.

 

Gregory had encouraged him to be open and honest. It had been helpful in the past, and so Mycroft risked it. He asked in his email if Gregory would prefer him to set up a bed in the lounge, or if he’d like to sleep on the couch or if joining him in his bed was fine.

 

It was an anxiety-ridden three hours until Greg responded confirming he was hoping to share the bed with Mycroft.

 

He sent back an email immediately letting him know his relief, since that’s what he wanted too. He was glad that Gregory seemed to be in the same place as him.

Chapter Text

Mycroft expected that Gregory would cancel. He’d been anxiously checking his messages everywhere in anticipation of the ‘sorry, I can’t make it’ to appear. Instead, the day arrived and Greg informed him he was on his way.

 

It was still a journey, but he was coming. Mycroft found himself unable to do anything much, too distracted to focus for anything longer than a few minutes.

 

He made soup and roast for dinner, knowing Greg would be hungry once arriving — it’d be simple enough to re-heat it once he picked Greg up from the airport. He’d insisted to pay for flights on a Friday night as it was little point Greg having only a weekend free and spending twelve of those hours on a train.

 

Mycroft grabbed his keys and headed out. He’d be a little early, but that was fine.

 

~

 

Greg’s hug when they met was tight and firm. Mycroft melted into it, and felt his eyes start to sting. How I’ve missed this, he thought to himself.

 

The car ride back was filled with Greg talking about his cases, what he’d been up to, what Sherlock and John had been up to, and questions about how Mycroft had spent his time.

 

He spoke more in that car ride than he had all month combined.

 

~

 

After dinner, they went straight to bed. It was late and Greg was tired. Mycroft felt utterly content being able to wrap his arms around Greg and drift off to the soft noises that let him know that he wasn’t alone.

 

~

 

Mycroft showed Greg some of his paintings that he’d done, and was pleased that Greg liked them.

 

“They seem more full of life,” he commented as he picked up a watercolour of a flower. “More vibrant, you know?”

 

“Mhm. I never really painted flowers much before. They seemed unfairly bright.”

“Not just flowers. Even these paintings of the loch; it’s lighter. I-I can’t tell how, but it feels warmer and dramatic, rather than gloomy.”

 

Mycroft didn’t say anything, merely grinned.

 

~

 

They had lunch in town at the tea rooms Mycroft had visited (he’d only gone the once), and Maggie was bubbling in excitement to chat with Greg. He felt awkward with all the conversation going on, but let Greg continue talking while he ate his slice.

 

As they took a stroll through the streets, Mycroft realised that he’d only really felt comfortable being there with Greg. It wasn’t a groundbreaking revelation, but he did suddenly realise that he would feel this comfortable wherever he could be with Greg, and not a specific place. Perhaps I could go back, he thought while Greg tugged him towards a bookshop. Nothing here felt like home until he was with me.

 

The thought of London still wrenched his gut. He didn’t want to go back to all the reminders of who he was and his failures. But, perhaps, he didn’t have to hide so far away.

 

~

 

“Sherlock was asking about you a lot,” Greg commented that evening as they cuddled by the fire.

“What was he asking?”

“Mostly how you were.”

 

Mycroft raised an eyebrow. That seemed rather uncharacteristic of his brother.

 

“Honestly, he was.” Greg pressed a kiss to Mycroft’s cheek. “He does love you, Myc. He’s really come to realise how important you are to him. Whe- er, if you do come back and see him, maybe you’ll see what I mean.”

 

Mycroft swallowed. “I don’t think I can go back to living there.”

“Ever?”

 

Mycroft looked down and shook his head. He didn’t know how to logically explain his emotions. Greg just gently cupped his cheek and pulled his chin back to face him.

 

“I know. It’s ok.”

“I want to be where you are, don’t get me wrong.”

“You just can’t be there knowing what you lost.”

 

With pursed lips, Mycroft nodded. That wasn’t entirely it, but it was part of it.

 

It was quiet between them, the music the only sounds above the cackling fire.

 

“Mycroft,” Greg started, and his tone was cautious. “Do you think that maybe you could… not live in London, but maybe… outside?”

 

Mycroft tilted his head, the first thought being, if I’m not inside then outside is the only other option.

 

“I mean, live close to it but still tucked away in the countryside. I-I get that coming here was your way of hiding away from everything, but you don’t need to run anymore. Sure you can’t go back entirely, but maybe you could find a new life somewhere that would be close enough to visit often.”

 

Just as Mycroft was starting to curse himself for not coming to that conclusion earlier, since it was blindingly obvious, Greg grabbed his hand and shook his head. “No,” he said. “No hating yourself or thinking that you’re an idiot now because it didn’t come to you.”

 

“But—”

“No.” Greg was stern. “When you get engulfed in blackness of course you can’t see everything clearly.”

 

Mycroft pursed his lips uncertainly, but nodded. That did make sense. “So you’d be happy if I were to live closer?”

“Of course. I could see you all the time. I-if you wanted that, that is.”

“I do,” he answered immediately.

 

He looked to the fire. It was easier to say things from the heart without having to see the reaction. “I’ve noticed since you left, it’s been hollow here. It’s been good to be separate from who I was before and it’s less like I’ve been hiding away, but it hasn’t been comfortable either. It’s been just a place.”

 

He closed his eyes and screwed his face. “I love you, Greg. Completely. You told me that I needed to find a place inside that was home because I couldn’t find it by running away… well, it’s not exactly the same, but I did. It’s you. Wherever you are, Greg… that’s where I’m home.”

 

Mycroft opened his eyes, tears watering them, and looked up at Greg. The man just smiled warmly down at him. “I love you too, Mycroft.” Greg leant down and kissed him. “Time to come home,” he whispered.

 

It broke Mycroft. He started to cry. Greg held him close and rocked him gently. It wasn’t a sad cry, it was somehow just a relieved cry. The emotions just poured out as he clung to Greg, spilling down his cheeks too fast to identify them.

 

Once the tears stopped, Greg kissed him again and took him to bed. Greg nestled under the covers and held him closely, and Mycroft soon fell asleep feeling the reassuring warmth against his back and the soothing strokes of a thumb on his chest.

 

~

 

It was early morning, but Mycroft felt awake. He slid himself out of Greg’s limbs, and put clothes on. The sun was just rising as he made his way down the path towards the loch.

 

He wasn’t escaping this time. He wasn’t exactly even sure why he needed to go there. It just felt right. He smiled gently at the water as it lapped at the shore, coloured pink in the dawn.

 

It’s a goodbye, he suddenly realised. He’d finally found where he needed to go, where he was meant to be, and it wasn’t there anymore. The wind blew lazily, being slightly chilly, and Mycroft smiled. He knew that this was the last time he’d look at the scenery without a part of him back in England.

 

~

 

By the end of the day, when Mycroft had dropped Greg off at the airport, they’d already worked out a lot. Gregory was going to help Mycroft move (he’d assured him it wasn’t necessary, but after Greg had said he wanted to help set up ‘their’ home, he’d been so filled with joy that he couldn’t even think about how it was rather soon to be considering living together.

 

It was true that Greg had meant it as a continuation of their conversation wherein Mycroft considered Greg his home, and thus Greg should be there to help set up the house, but the other implication hung heavily between them.

 

The thing was, neither of them felt like it was a bad implication.

 

~

 

It took two weeks for Mycroft to find somewhere he wanted to move to. It was a little over an hour’s drive from the centre of London. Far enough away to be separate and small, but still close enough for Greg to visit regularly.

 

Greg had mentioned that he could easily commute that time. Mycroft kept it to himself that it was a deciding factor of his selection area.

 

~

 

By the next month, Mycroft was all moved in. The township was much the same (if a little dryer and brighter), and he was feeling fairly comfortable. Greg had been true to his word and had spent rather a lot of time there.

 

Mycroft appreciated having his own space, and had thought that it had been a good idea to keep living separate for the time being — they were only starting their relationship, after all.

 

That was until Mycroft had reacted too strongly to Gregory talking about Sherlock and needed space; he’d set himself up in the studio and stayed there for hours. It had been enough space for him to feel on his own, but with Gregory still in the other part of the house, he didn’t feel isolated.

 

It was then that he realised that he could be happy in all situations with Greg living there.

 

~

 

Two months later, after Greg had spent roughly half his time with Mycroft in the new house, they had the conversation about Greg moving in.

 

It was a short conversation. Greg didn’t have a whole lot he needed to bring to finish the process.

 

~

 

A month after Greg had been living there, Mycroft felt that it was time to see Sherlock. He’d put it off until he’d been properly settled, and now the time felt right.

 

He didn’t venture into London. Gregory was kind enough to organise Sherlock to come and visit.

 

Mycroft paced, he fretted, and he changed his clothes three times. Greg was reassuring the entire time. Mycroft couldn’t help but panic over his appearance; the whole time he’d been with Greg, he’d felt comfortable being his new larger size. Greg had even appreciated his softness in a way that had surprised him. Sherlock, however, was always a wild card.

 

Greg held Mycroft’s hand as the doorbell rang. He opened it and took in his brother for the first time in almost two years. There were more lines on his face, and it warmed him to notice that a lot of the new ones were from smiling.

 

Mycroft said nothing, and waited to see what kind of comments his little brother would make. Sherlock took a step closer and suddenly embraced him.

 

It was a shock, but it cracked right through the attempt at a hard mask Mycroft had made.

 

“It’s so good to see you, Mycroft,” Sherlock said quietly as they hugged. “I’m so pleased to see you’re doing well.”

 

The air escaped his lungs as he held Sherlock close. “It’s good to see you too, little brother.”

 

Mycroft motioned to let Sherlock into the house. Gregory stood by his side, beaming. Mycroft exhaled deeply and let his head rest on Greg’s shoulder.

 

Everything had turned out alright in the end after all.