It started, as things with Mycroft Holmes tend to start, slowly.
Over the span of almost a decade they had developed from bi-monthly check ups on Sherlock to tentative acquaintances to now - which Greg supposes hovers on the edge of friendship. Here in Greg’s small, moonlit living room Mycroft cannot draw on Sherlock Holmes as an excuse. They are, Greg thinks smugly, just two friends drinking scotch by the fire. It had taken them a while to get here.
At first, Greg hadn’t liked the older Holmes. He had the same commandeering disregard for others as his brother, but he was less endearing (which Greg would find out later was a sorely mistaken first impression). The worst of it was that Mycroft had treat him like he was... expendable. He had drawn him away from his vacations or taken cases from him or kept him in the dark about vital information. Their temperaments clashed - Greg, warm but hot tempered, and Mycroft, cold but infuriatingly calm.
Mycroft’s only redeeming quality, Greg thought, was how much he cared for his brother. But as time went on Greg would find more to like about him. He was, on occasion, incredibly thoughtful. Once, for example, he brought coffee to Greg at a crime scene and it was the highlight of his day. He sometimes wore reading glasses and it was sort of sweet, the way he’d peer at Greg over them, with eyes as clear as day. Because of these glimmers of the real Mycroft, underneath all of that ice and bravado, Greg could excuse his flaws.
So Greg had grown fond of Mycroft. Fond enough to do his bidding with only minor grumbling. Fond enough that, one evening, he had felt bold enough to ask Mycroft for a nightcap.
Mycroft had been hesitant at first. He had sat in Greg’s living room stiffly, shoulders tensed and legs bent as if he were about to flee. He had taken a glass from Greg’s hand with trepidation and Greg had laughed and said, I don’t bite. And eventually, over months of these evenings, Mycroft had stopped sitting poised as if about to leave.
It’s fitting, Greg thinks, that he fell in love with Mycroft here. Not in cold empty warehouses. Not in Mycroft’s posh office. Not in tea rooms with high ceilings. But here in a small and cozy living room, warm as a steaming cup of tea. The comfortable, Greg would privately decide, suited Mycroft far more than the grand.
Tonight it‘s raining. Greg can still hear it on the windows.
Mycroft is shaking the raindrops from his hair as he sits on Greg’s sofa. He crosses one damp leg over the other, and his nose is glowing red with the cold. Greg stands in the doorway in his coat and feels something akin to affection. The feeling isn’t unfamiliar in Mycroft’s company.
“Long day.” Greg says, unnecessarily. He steps to the liquor cabinet and leans down to open it, the hem of his old coat brushing the carpet. “That was a rough case.”
“Indeed.” Mycroft says. His voice is like velvet, silk. Funny, Greg thinks, when they first met the sound grated on him. Now he could listen to it for hours. “Though we’ve seen worse.”
When had they shifted to we ? It’s not an unwelcome development. Greg smiles giddily at the bottles before grabbing the scotch and pouring two glasses. He can hear his heart in his ears. Has been able to hear it all day, really.
“Probably.” Greg says. He passes Mycroft a glass, and feels his stomach sink just slightly when Mycroft’s cold fingers brush his own. “Sherlock seemed to enjoy it though. He seems in high spirits lately.”
Greg doesn’t want to say it’s because of John, but it probably is. It’s harsh to say, but they’ve been closer than ever since Mary- well.
Mycroft nods, taking a sip of scotch. Greg is still standing and for once it’s him that feels out of place, dripping raindrops onto the carpet. He can’t stop thinking about what had happened earlier that day.
“Not often you forget your umbrella.” Greg says, just so he has something to fill the silence with.
“Apologies.” Mycroft’s lips twitch into a rare smile. “There was a bomb, after all. I seem to have forgotten myself.”
“That happens.” Greg smiles back, “In the face of terrorism.”
“It can.” Mycroft agrees.
Restless, Greg turns to the rest of the living room. The fireplace is blazing, thankfully, flames licking across the coals. The warmth soothes him. He looks over at the record player sitting idly alone. He doesn’t use it often, though he has an impressive collection of vinyl.
“You seem uneasy.” Mycroft comments.
Greg turns his head.
“Sharp one, you are.” He says, not unkindly, “It’s just- did you mean what you said, out there?”
A delightful pink blush kisses Mycroft’s cheeks.
“You know.” Greg scuffs his shoes on the carpet, his glass of scotch limp in his grasp. “When Sherlock thought the bomb was about to detonate, and you said- you said-“
He had murmured to Greg that, if it did, he should know that Mycroft treasures him. That he is Mycroft’s friend. It was a simple thing, but it meant the world to Greg. Just to hear him say it. Because they had, hadn’t they? They had become friends. He feels both of them sometimes forget it.
“Forgive me.” Mycroft taps his fingers on his glass. “I had never looked death so keenly in the eye before. It made me...” Mycroft grimaces. “Uncharacteristically sentimental, shall we say.”
“Yeah. Right.” He says awkwardly. He’s never been good at this sort of thing. “It’s just that-“
Mycroft looks at him expectantly. Greg has learned by now that the man is hardly intimidating - he’s soft as a marshmallow, really. But Greg still feels nervous under that direct stare. He turns back to the living room, looking idly at the fireplace.
“Was I presumptuous?” Mycroft asks. His tone is even and without emotion, yet it holds weight, Greg thinks.
“No.” Greg says, not looking back. Distracted, he wanders over to the record player. “No, we’re friends, Mycroft.”
Mycroft clears his throat. Greg fiddles with the dial of the record player and then drains his glass of scotch.
“Then what-“ Mycroft pauses. “What exactly is bothering you, Gregory? You seem-“
Greg pours himself another glass and drains that, too.
“Uh.” He looks over his shoulder. He can still hear the rain, through the windows. Mycroft looks infuriatingly calm. It bothers him. “If it had detonated, if we had- you know. Would you have any regrets?”
Mycroft raises an eyebrow.
Greg turns back to the record player. He feels nothing like himself, uncertain and nervous. Melting under the rain.
“Like, stuff you wished you’d done. Places you wished you’d gone.” Greg pauses, “Or people you wish you’d...”
Mycroft blinks at him.
“I tend not to dwell on regrets.” He says slowly. “It is one of the most useless emotions. It achieves nothing except for ruminating on the past.”
“Yeah, but-“ He knows what he wants to say. That when he had been staring into that bomb, on the bridge, in the pouring rain, he had wished for- for Mycroft. He had wished against his will that they had been closer, and that-
Greg takes a breath.
“Do you mind if I play a record?” Greg asks. Music has always calmed him and cleared his mind.
“Whatever you wish.” Mycroft says, raising his glass in Greg’s direction. Don’t say that, Greg thinks, his heart in his throat. With trembling hands he sets a record onto the player.
Soft, old music fills the living room. Living for you, is easy living, Billy Holiday’s gentle voice murmurs. Greg closes his eyes for a moment.
“Billy Holiday.” He hears Mycroft say. “I didn’t take you as a jazz man, Greg.”
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me.” Greg says. He pours himself another glass of scotch. “Refill?”
Greg goes to sit beside him. Mycroft his tapping is fingers on the armchair, along with the slow music. Billy Holiday sings, it’s easy to live, when you’re in love. Greg feels it in his bones.
“I love music.” Mycroft says. It’s an uncharacteristic openness, so Greg listens. “I don’t get to indulge in it often, of course. But I do wish I could enjoy it more often.”
“You should’ve said earlier.” Greg says, “Could’ve played my records for you.”
“Yes, perhaps.” Mycroft says thoughtfully, the rim of his glass at his lips.
The silence is comfortable, the way it only can be when two friends understand each other.
“I’ve got a record player at the station too.” Greg says finally. “For bad days. I keep the records under my desk.”
“Ah.” Mycroft says, “Is today... a bad day?”
“Nah.” Greg smiles, warmly. “Not anymore.”
Mycroft’s eyes flicker away from Greg, towards the fireplace. In the early days Greg had thought him cold and unapproachable. Now he recognises this as shyness, and his heart softens. He takes another drink of scotch to ease the feeling, and feels a little tipsy by now, warm and fuzzy on the inside.
“And why is that?” Mycroft asks carefully. His dark hair, flattened by the rain, almost touches his eyes. He tucks a strand behind his ear, and he’s quite delicate, Greg thinks suddenly. Pretty . Yes, pretty. There’s no other word for him.
“You know why.” Greg says, looking away too. One time he got lost at sea. He had been out on his boat, and there was an unexpected storm, and the waves picked up, threw him around. He was left stranded somewhere in the ocean.
He feels a lot like this now.
Mycroft hums along with the music. He seems so gentle tonight. So much more like himself. Perhaps still startled from the bomb, Greg thinks. His guards aren’t up yet.
There’s nothing in life but you, Billy Holiday sings.
Oh dear, Greg thinks. He had known that lately his affection for Mycroft went beyond comfortable territory. He had once felt the same loyalty and affection he felt for Sherlock, for Mycroft, but then he began to realise it was going beyond that. Fluttering, uncertain. Greg’s feelings had become an almost youthful crush. But this was- this was-
“I’m not used to having friends.” Mycroft suddenly says. He’s so fragile, Greg thinks sometimes. In those moments he wants to pull Mycroft to his chest and take care of him.
“Me neither.” Greg admits. “Not real ones. I’m too busy anyway.”
He’s not used to being in love, either. There’s a polite distance between them on the sofa and Greg doesn’t know what to make of it, or how to fill it.
The record stops. Greg stands quickly and walks over to the side of the living room to lift the dial and play it again.
“Again?” Mycroft asks, amused.
“I like this song.” Greg says defensively. Mycroft raises an eyebrow, and he’s too cute, Greg thinks.
“You’re a creature of habit.”
“And you’re not?” Greg says, amused. Mycroft lifts his shoulder in half a shrug. His face is softer by the light of the fire. Under the warmth of Greg’s stare Mycroft swallows and drains his glass. Interesting, Greg thinks.
“Come and sit with me.” Mycroft says. Again, more open than usual. Greg laughs.
“I’m only over here.” He says warmly, “But alright. As you wish, sir.”
Together on the couch, Greg feels their thighs pressed together and wonders how they got here, after so much pain and bloodshed. Funny, he thinks, how things turn out.
“I’m taking a flight tomorrow morning.” Mycroft says.
“Oh? Where are you going?”
“The US.” Mycroft grimaces. “I dread the jetlag.”
“Will you be there long?” Greg tries, and fails, to ask casually.
“A fortnight, or so.” Mycroft gives him an amused look, “Do you think you’ll survive that long?”
“Don’t take the piss.” Greg laughs. He runs a hand through his grey hair. “Just making conversation, that’s all.”
Mycroft holds out his glass for another scotch. He has a lovely flush on his neck, his cheeks, that Greg knows is from the alcohol. He pours him a little more.
The song ends again. Greg sets the dial once more before returning to his seat.
“I’m starting to think this is the only record you have.” Mycroft says, smiling. Drunk Mycroft, Greg thinks, has always been his favourite, simply because he seems so comfortable, so happy.
“You don’t like it?”
“I didn’t say that. It’s just... sentimental.” Mycroft pauses. “Are you feeling sentimental, Greg?”
“A little.” Greg admits. “I think near death experiences do that.”
“Quite.” Mycroft murmurs. He tilts his head, and he looks so delightful, Greg thinks. Enough to love. Enough to reach forward and kiss. “Although I do have a problem with this song.”
“Course you do.”
“It says it’s easy to live, when you’re in love.” Mycroft raises his eyebrows. “I don’t think that’s quite true, do you?”
Greg hesitates, swallowing a lump in his throat. He takes a sip of scotch, letting it burn his throat before he speaks.
“But I do.” He says carefully.
“You don’t think love difficult?” Mycroft asks, “It’s a burden, I’ve always thought.”
“Yeah, but...” Greg shrugs. “Even so, love does come easily, doesn’t it? It stays easily too. You don’t have to do anything, it’s just there.”
He almost says, take these evenings, for instance. How easily the time passes. How easily Greg smiles. He’s not used to it. But that’s not to say it isn’t easy.
“I see.” Mycroft taps his fingers on the glass. “Do you not think it painful?”
“Just ‘cos it hurts doesn’t mean it isn’t easy.”
“Pain isn’t difficult?” Mycroft asks, amused.
“Not if it’s the right person.” Greg says. Swallows. “Not if it matters.”
Mycroft’s eyes flicker with firelight. He seems thoughtful.
“I used to think love the most difficult problem in the world.” Mycroft admits quietly.
Greg awaits his answer without breathing. But Mycroft says nothing, and simply drinks. I love you, Greg thinks desperately. And it is as easy as it is painful.
“You know I took dancing lessons, back in the day.” Greg says, “It was actually for my wedding. Sort of ironic, but anyway. I’ve always wanted to dance to this song.”
“Oh?” Mycroft asks, “You like to dance?”
“Sure.” Greg considers him. “And you?”
“I am good at it. I’m not sure if I like it, though.”
“And why does the British Government need to know how to dance?”
Mycroft gives him this tiny little smile that makes Greg melt.
“It comes in handy.”
“I can’t imagine how.” Greg pauses, and clears his throat. “Mycroft, have you ever-“
He doesn’t know how to ask. How to make the shift from friends to lovers.
“Have you ever danced with someone you love?”
Mycroft’s throat trembles as he swallows.
“What do you think, Greg?”
“It’s just that it’s- the easiest thing in the world.” Greg smiles crookedly. He shifts closer to him on the couch. “You’d understand the song, if you did.”
“What are you suggesting?”
Greg stands. He holds out his hand, feeling as warm and bright as the fireplace, but with so much more terror.
“Dance with me.” He says.
Mycroft looks up at him with wide eyes. He blinks, and he’s so completely lovely.
“But you said-“ Mycroft pauses, shakes his head, as if willing a thought from his mind, “Greg, you said that I should dance with someone I-“
“Yeah. I did, didn’t I?”
It is the equivalent of asking Mycroft, do you love me? And so Greg’s world collapses when Mycroft stands and takes his hand.
“Shall I lead?” Mycroft asks.
Greg feels the weight of Mycroft’s cold hand in his own. He sees the way Mycroft’s soft, damp hair falls over his eyes. He looks so unlike the person he usually presents himself as. He looks real. And he fits there perfectly, in the living room, in Greg’s palm.
“Let me.” Greg murmurs.
He can feel his heart, a fluttering bird in his chest, as he steps backwards. Mycroft follows. It’s a refreshing change, from their usual dynamic - Mycroft beckoning, and Greg following. It feels right.
So Greg lifts the hand he’s holding, and his other hand falls onto Mycroft’s waist. With a sharp intake of breath Mycroft places his hand on Greg’s shoulder. It’s not really the correct position. But it’s comfortable.
“Been a while.” Greg murmurs. Close, Mycroft smells like coffee. Rain. Pine. He’s surprisingly light in Greg’s arms, though he’s taller. His waist is soft, curved a little with sweet love handles.
“Yes.” Mycroft says. He looks so young, uncertain. His face has paled. Greg can feel his pulse.
“Relax.” Greg says warmly. He doesn’t mean it to be patronising - rather, just to reassure. “I’ve got you.”
Mycroft nods. Greg begins to move it, just in time to Billy Holiday, his feet more nimble and assured than he remembers them being when he used to dance before. Mycroft moves with him, looking resolutely at the buttons on Greg’s coat. He’s damp. He’s lovely.
“Is this alright?” Greg murmurs.
Mycroft nods, not looking up. Shy, Greg thinks. Though he wants to be careful he pulls Mycroft tighter to him anyway, by his waist, so that he can feel Mycroft’s breath flutter against his neck.
“Yes.” Mycroft sighs. A warm little thing. His fingers curl against the shoulder of Greg’s coat, just gently, as if anchoring himself there.
They’re not really moving in time now. Greg has soft focusing. He stares at the fire and breathes and thinks, oh, he was right. It is easy. It’s easy as breathing, this closeness. It aches, pleasantly.
“What are we doing?” Mycroft asks quietly. Greg squeezes the hand he’s holding.
“Dunno.” He says gently. “‘S easy though, right?”
Mycroft rests his chin on Greg’s other shoulder, and Greg almost freezes at the gesture. It feels like trust. He pulls Mycroft in tighter again, his hand moving from Mycroft’s hip to his upper back. He holds him there, as if in a hug.
The record clicks, and ends. They sway in the silence.
Mycroft is taller than him, so Greg is staring at his shoulder. He wants to murmur, love you, to it.
“Do you get it yet?” Greg asks gently. He pulls back slightly, so he can look up into Mycroft’s face.
“Mm?” Mycroft looks down. Flushed and pretty. He doesn’t look like he’s thinking very much at all, and it’s refreshing, Greg thinks.
“It’s easy.” Greg says, “It could be so easy, Mycroft. Us.”
Mycroft eyelashes flutter as he blinks. And Greg hopes he won’t flee, won’t disappear, won’t take them back to the beginning again. He doesn’t. He just stands there, warm in Greg’s arms.
“I don’t-“ Mycroft swallows. His hand on Greg’s shoulder pats there, as if a soothing gesture. To himself or to Greg, Greg doesn’t know. “I don’t know how to believe it.”
Greg rubs his back, soothingly.
“‘S okay.” He says, hushed as a whisper. “Just today, I thought- what if the bomb detonated and we- before I could tell you that I-“
Mycroft’s face is open. Greg let’s out a shuddering breath.
“I don’t.” Mycroft’s hand curls into his coat, tight. “Tell me.”
Greg has never been good with this sort of thing. Even to his ex wife he’d always struggle to tell her how he feels - which probably contributed to the inevitable break down of their relationship.
“Love you.” Greg finally says. It’s hard to say, easy to feel. It hangs in the air between their bodies. And actually, it wasn’t so bad. So he says it again. “I love you. I want to be with you, if you’ll have me.”
Mycroft’s face is bare under the light of the fire.
“How?” He asks. His hands free themselves from Greg and flutter to Greg’s cheeks.
Mycroft’s eyes flicker over his face, as if looking for a trick, a joke, something to explain the situation to him. It’s not often, Greg thinks, looking back at him, that Mycroft Holmes is bewildered. Still, he looks happy, too. Mycroft isn’t the only one who can be observant. Greg can see a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth.
“I’m not easy.” Mycroft says slowly, “I’m not, Gregory. This will be difficult and it won’t go smoothly, you must know that.”
“Sure.” Greg says. He moves his free hand to tap Mycroft’s chest, to soothe him, and to point out his heart. “But this? This is easy.”
Mycroft let’s out a shaky breath. Then he ducks his head and presses a warm kiss to Greg’s mouth, his hands on Greg’s cheeks. It’s his answer. Yes, he agrees. It’s easy.
“Alright.” He murmurs. “I’ll admit it.”
“See?” Greg says, smiling. He wraps his arms around Mycroft’s shoulders and pulls him in for a hug. “Easy as pie.”
They embrace like that before Mycroft steps backwards with an embarassed smile.
“Another glass?” Greg asks.
“Yes.” Mycroft says, flushed and so very real. He’s lovelier than the fire. Loving him is easy. “Yes, I think so.”