What Mycroft had in professional confidence, he lacked in personal assurance. He believed he knew his talents. He was brilliant in his research skills; as good an analyst as Britain had been able to draw on in over a century. His memory was prodigious. His language skills exceptional. He’d spend his entire life learning—learning everything and anything. At five he’d already been the kind of child who read the backs of cereal boxes as he ate his healthy Swiss-style muesli. He could tell you the ingredients of the contents and the nutritional components, and explain what parts of the promotional blurb were misleading, and why. He’d slaved over his sociology and anthropology courses, hoping that statistics and hypotheses would allow him to understand human behavior en masse even if he doubted he would ever have any profound understanding of interactions on the intimate, personal scale…the scale where it all fell apart for him.
On that scale, he had almost no confidence at all. Far from being the straight-spined, clear-eyed pattern card of excellence, striding through the many offices of the British government (secret and otherwise), he was a small, quaking innocent, shivering like a molded blancmanger turned out onto a plate. His familial relationships were cherished—and fraught. His parents had never known quite what to do with him, and had hoped benign neglect might accomplish what hesitant attempts at helicopter parenting had not. Their overt relief when first Sherlock, and then Eurus had arrived to suck up their efforts at enlighted child-rearing had been too obvious to young Mycroft. As for his relationship with his juniors—it proved only that he was doomed to fail with them as his parents had failed with him. His efforts were unwelcome, his ability to second-guess their needs was non-existent, and Eurus, in particular, both infuriated him and terrified him by turns. Years later he would consider the fact that, had she not committed murder first, he might have been forced to murder her in some miserable blend of rage and self-defense and protectiveness toward the rest of his family.
Eurus had provided him with the door to his future professional authority and confidence, while destroying the last remnants of hope he had for personal interaction. When Uncle Rudy had died, leaving Mycroft full and final responsibility for his terrifying sister, it ended Mycroft’s short, and desperately unsuccessful years of “normal” young adulthood.
To say he was relieved would give too much away. It was, nevertheless true. He’d been a complete clot in his boarding school, and later at college. He’d survived only by learning to pass, faking smiles, faking excitement over games and sports, simulating social spontaneity badly. His only real area of competence was wit. He quickly found out that wit was neither generally admired, nor found endearing—and that too much intelligence inclined one to wit that exceeded the ability of the average punter to follow along. After a few unfortunate moments of snapping, “Oh, for God’s sake, do keep up,” at unimpressed listeners, he learned to keep his wit largely to himself. And then there was sex.
For a brief moment, coming out of the closet, he’d felt right with the world. He’d had hope. Then he’d found that other gay young men were, if anything, more socially critical than straight young women. A certain level of social skill was expected. A certain wild, freewheeling attitude toward sex and toward promiscuity. It was the eighties…and if AIDS and HIV demanded caution and restraint, anger and grief and political militancy demanded reckless abandon.
Needless to say, reckless abandon was not Mycroft’s turf. Preliminaries were stilted. Actual sexual contact was unsettling. Intercourse itself was unsuccessful when performed upon his partners, as he had little understanding of foreplay—social or physical—and traumatic when performed upon him, as he could not bring himself to relax, let go, and enjoy it. In the end he was left with the realization that he was profoundly gay, but not particularly good at it. (Years later he would realize that Sherlock was similarly beset—a young man who was profoundly extroverted and hungry for social ties, and incompetent at fostering relationships…even flickering, brief ones with strangers met in passing during his cases. Only when Sherlock met John Watson did he find a man whose own dysfunctions compensated for Sherlock’s, allowing them to bond with each other, when they both tended to fail with others. It did not occur to him that he, too, needed to find his corresponding odd-man-out.)
In the end he built a life intended to make the most of his talents, while minimizing the misery of his areas of ineptitude. He invested in his profession. He managed Eurus, doing what he could to make her a national asset, even if he could not make her a whole or decent human being. He watched over Sherlock, doing what he could to keep his beloved brother alive and useful. He was guardian angel to his parents, in their ditzy little world of country living, line dancing, and lunatic hobbies. All these were things he could do at one remove, maintain distance.
He didn’t even let himself think about the rare nights he allowed himself to fantasize more…and he certainly didn’t let himself think about the fantasies he loved best. He knew he couldn’t live with the dreams of the strong ones, the confident ones, the beautiful, rugged, manly ones who sloped through life with laddish grins and relaxed muscles, at ease in their own skins. He didn’t admit to himself that, for all his authority and confidence at work, what he dreamed of in the bedroom was to be led, shown, managed, pleasured, brought to sobbing orgasm by someone who, unlike him, knew what the fuck he was doing. He had the tender, terrified virginal dreams of a boy reaching puberty in a community of savage bullies—too wise to risk admitting what he wanted, because what he wanted was certain to bring the bastards around like sharks attracted to blood in the water. When you know you can trust no one, the last thing you admit, even to yourself, is that the ability to trust is the one thing that rises your cock and sets your breath fluttering like a trapped moth in a jar.
He imagined it, though. To give himself up to someone who wanted to peel away the suits of his everyday armor. Someone who’d use his body with confidence, unoffended by Mycroft’s lack of speech or skill. Someone who’d enjoy him for no more than cooperation and longing.
For a long time that someone of his fantasies had no face. The, one day, at a debriefing at MI5, he met a man who stopped his heart. He met a man, who was good at it—good at being a man. He seemed to like himself. He seemed to like everyone else, except the right bastards, whom he cheerfully detested. He walked with a laddish swagger, free and easy, poised but not formal, almost like an animal in the forest. (Mycroft dreamed of red-deer stags, graceful and elegant, slipping through the shadows of the forest, somehow never tangling their racks in the low-hanging branches of trees. Never breaking their legs running through the woods, leaping over downed timber and scrambling over rough and rocky ground.)
He dreamed of Lestrade.
That was the man’s name; Lestrade. Gregory Lestrade. Embedded as a DC in the Met, but working in conjunction with MI5 on the anti-terrorist brigade.
Mycroft felt like a dirty, dirty young man when he suggested Lestrade and Sherlock might work well together. Not that it wasn’t logical. Sherlock had the training of an MI6 agent, and the hunger for action that went with it—but he’d proven incapable of the discipline. Everyone in MI6 was trying to determine a way to make the best of it and find some use for the younger Holmes, who was neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring. Mycroft put the suggestion forward—that Sherlock might work as a consulting analyst with Lestrade in his work as a NSY detective, and Lestrade in return would gain access to Sherlock’s burgeoning galaxy of disreputable street people. Together they might work to get the best out of an otherwise rather hopeless young man spiraling down the toilet at a ghastly speed.
It worked. Because it worked, Mycroft never had to admit to himself that he’d really made the suggestion just to allow himself to see more of Lestrade, even if only at a remove. He had a relationship with him—by proxy, but still, a relationship. And when his fantasies arrived in the night, and he resolutely refused to analyze them or consider them at all, those fantasies wore a face. A shield-shaped Celtic face with a stag’s dark eyes, both bold and shy at the same time. A nose that was not quite snub. A smile like the shining dawn, and teeth too good to be British. Hands square and capable, but smooth and soft-skinned. Strong, but not work-worn. A body that moved with ease and confidence.
A man who lived with ease, and confidence. Even when he failed—when his marriage fell apart, his job was endangered, his belief in Sherlock was shaken—he was centered and sure.
Mycroft dreamed of him. He dreamed of what the other man could do to him. He dreamed of being stripped bare and laid down naked, shy before observant eyes. He dreamed of being touched—of shying away. Of being gathered masterfully in hand, in spite of shyness. He dreamed of a teacher, a mentor, a firm guide in love. He dreamed of the hot sexual experience of being pinned helpless—against walls and doors, between a body and a mattress. He hungered to surrender his insecurity to Lestrade’s confidence.
His fantasies were sometimes hazy—an ingathering of longings, close-cut images of sexual touches, dazzling still photographs of Gregory Lestrade as he might be—skin shining tawny from sunny vacations, pale where a scant bathing trunk shielded his cock and bum. He imagined that bum, toned and full and round and high from years spent walking London’s streets and playing footie with his friends. He imagined him circumcised and uncircumcised and longed for him either way.
Sometimes his fantasies were more detailed and specific as he imagined the slow social dance—the dialog. The first touches. The murmured insecurity—the cheeky, laughing progress on Lestrade’s part. The comfortable domination—never unkind, and never progressing if Mycroft were really unwilling. But Mycroft could not imagine being unwilling, not in the face of such strength and certainty. He shivered as he imaged undressing for his lover, while Greg watched him and smiled in a way that promised even more nerve-shattering intimacy and submission to come. He imagined lying, naked, on his own bed, rolling over at the heavy prompting of a strong hand. Lying pinned, with one hand firm in the small of his back. He imagined being incapable of even thinking to escape that pinning hand—lying stricken and wide-eyed, gasping, whining, fearful and desirous all at once. He imagined being caressed, touched, explored, by hands and by mouth, with never a moment his lover did not possess him like a ram possessed an uncertain ewe.
He shuddered as he imagined the splurt of a tube of lubricant. He scrambed to his knees in response to an imagined order, in a deep, husky voice, that would brook no hesitation now. He whined in the dark, imagining the slow trace of one finger around his arse-hole. The chilly ice of breeze on his skin, and on the slick gel. He twitched, feeling his own hole tighten and release, over and over, imagining that finger going around and around, teasing, pressing, and then slipping in. He imagined the panic of his muscles, rushing and fluttering in response to penetration, wild and frightened—but unwilling to stop.
“No, don’t stop,” he whispered at night, touching himself, imagining it all.
When he finished he cleaned himself quickly, showered, put on his pajamas, and went to sleep, never permitting himself a single thought about what he’d just done. He didn’t think about what he might do to get Greg’s attention in real life. He didn’t think.
He didn’t think at all.
He slept, relaxed, occasionally dreaming hot dreams but letting them go before he roused in the morning. By dawn, when he rose, the night was a stored memory—then a lost memory he would not revive, but instead rebirth, in another fantasy, another time.
It wasn’t something that could happen to him.
That wasn’t something he thought—it was something he knew with deep, wordless certainty. Even confident men like Greg needed a push to consider quiet, insecure men like Mycroft, and how would that ever happen? They met seldom, and usually in regards to either Sherlock, or terrorism. When they met, Mycroft wore his professional armor of well-tailored wool and perfectly ironed linen and smooth, supple silk. He wore his professional face—white as a blancmanger, if not quivering or showing his blancmanger fear. Some things only come to those who dare reach out and take. Mycroft knew he was not that…nor was he a dazzling jewel someone like Lestrade might notice on his own, and lean down and snatch from a stream.
It wasn’t something that could happen to him. He was so sure of that, he got careless. He allowed his wit to show. He joked, lightly, about his own inaccessibility. In response to Lestrade’s mourning for his wife, he commented that at least he had memories—unlike Mycroft, who was “unsullied as a jar of WI jam not yet opened.” He didn’t notices the glance Lestrade gave him, or the look of sudden comprehension—could not notice because he’d turned away, made shy by his own daring. How could he joke, and with this man? And about that?
And yet, the very certainty that it would come to nothing made it easier. And Lestrade’s crooked smiles and quick chuckles when he again poked fun at himself made it easier still.
“Haven’t you ever…” Lestrade faltered, one evening, as they drank coffee together at a rendezvous.
Mycroft shrugged with a single shoulder, and made a crooked face. “I’m not entirely without experience.” He let his voice express that it had been limited, and unsuccessful in outcome. Then he added, “I appear to have no talent for intimacy…and no one capable of overcoming my awkwardness.”
He didn’t look up from his coffee cup, or he’d have seen dark eyes considering him in sober contemplation.
“Do you ever wish for more,” Lestrade asked another night.
Again, the one-shouldered shrug. The crooked grimace.
“I am only human. A man can dream.”
“Dreams don’t usually come true if you never give ‘em a chance,” Lestrade said, an older man kindly prodding a reluctant boy. “Helps to make an effort.”
“I doubt it would end well. Indeed—some things it’s safer not to risk.” He thought, then, of the risk of encouraging a stranger to master him, to push him against a door or a wall, to tumble him to a bed, to order him out of his clothing, to demand he come up to his knees. “Once you start, it’s hard to say, ‘that’s far enough.’ It tends to ruin the mood.”
“And if they don’t listen, that really ruins the mood,” Lestrade agreed, voice grim. “Seen that often enough. Girl wi’ her knickers ripped an’ bloody, crying because she said ‘stop,’ but the bloke didn’t ‘cause she said ‘start,’ too. People can be right bastards.”
Mycroft looked up, stricken. He had not realized he had opened the door to such deduction. He looked away again, saying only, “Intimacy is a poor risk for a man like me.”
Lestrade grunted, and was silent for the rest of that rendezvous, doing no more than handing over his thumb-drive of information, and paying for the two cups of coffee.
Mycroft imagined him that night. The fantasy was so intense, the feelings so vulnerable and intimate, he couldn’t keep his focus. He never climaxed, but fell apart, tears threatening to rise, making his throat ache. He pushed all imagining away, and forced himself into sleep, not even bothering with a shower. He rose in the morning feeling lost and hopeless, and was rude to the Prime Minister over lunch. Fortunately the PM had been due a bit of a snub to keep her humble. But, still…
The fantasy haunted Mycroft.
The next rendezvous, Lestrade suggested walking out of the café together before the drop had been managed.
“We don’t want to get too predictable,” he said. “Walk in the park?”
Mycroft nodded. They chatted, their low voices rising and falling like soft surf on a long, sandy beach. Lestrade’s elbow brushed his.
“You’re coming home with me,” Lestrade said, confidently.
“I am?” There was a waspish tone, and Mycroft refused to meet the other man’s eye.
“Oh, aye. Unless you’d rather go to yours.”
Mycroft shivered. He thought of asking why they would go home together—but he already knew. Some things are self-evident. “What if I don’t like it?”
“Then you’ll say so,” Lestrade said, certainly. “And I’ll listen—though I may test a little to be sure you want me to listen. Not hard. Not long. Your choice.”
Mycroft grunted, then said, voice shaking, “And if I beg you to stop—but don’t mean it?”
“Might want to let me know that’s a possibility. Might want..might want a safe word.”
Mycroft could find no words to say, then. He gasped, when they passed into a dark alley of trees, and Lestrade’s hand settled on his shoulder, guiding him to lean up against a tree. The detective’s body was solid and firm, pressing against Mycroft’s back. His hand cupped Mycroft's cock and balls through light wool trousers. He nuzzled at Mycroft’s neck. “Like this? The risk?”
Mycroft loved it—and was terrified. Which was why he loved it. He felt at risk. He felt safe, in Lestrade’s care. “God. I…” He heard his own voice shake. “Yes,” he said, nearly whispering. Nearly crying. Hot and hard and shaking and needy. “We shouldn’t.”
‘Shhh. Be good.”
The words struck to the heart of him. Mycroft had spent his life trying to be good, but no one had ever made it so exciting, so wonderful, so very, very hot.
Lestrade slipped one hand into Mycroft’s waistband, in back, rucking up the skirts of the other man’s jacket, gripping his bum, slipping a finger in to explore. When Mycroft whined and shivered, Lestrade whispered, “Safe word. Pick a safe word, so you can beg and know I won’t stop until you want me to.”
“Sin,” Mycroft muttered, looking for a word he could remember in the heat of desire or the heart of fear, but which he would never say normally. “Sin. That’s my safe word.” Then he yelped, as Lestrade nipped his ear lobe. He was writhing with desire, by then, rocking his cock against Lestrade’s palm, rocking back to press his bum into his other hand.
“That’s a good boy,” Lestrade said. “Now. I’m going to stop, and you’re going to take me home, and you’re going to be very nice to me. Aren’t you?”
Mycroft closed his eyes. He thought a moment—he thought. He allowed himself to examine what was happening. He made himself weigh it, judge it.
All those fantasies, slipping by unmarked, falling into oblivion. This would not be that. This would never be that.
“You’re going to take me,” he said, not sure if he was asking—or demanding.
“Yes.” Lestrade was confident, his voice cheeky and amused, but sober, too. Certain. Sure of himself. “Do you want to be taken?”
“Oh, God, yes.” A finger was going to slip inside him. A strong hand was going to roll him over in his own bed. A firm, secure person was going to order him out of his armor. Play with his body. Play with his mind. Master him just as he wanted to be mastered. Just as he let it be known he wanted.
He didn’t know who’d be in charge. It would be his choice. Forever his own choice.
“Take me home,” he whispered. Then, brave, he said, “Show me how to surrender.”
He felt a smile curve the lips pressed to his neck. “I think that can be managed,” Lestrade said. But, then, Lestrade was a very confident man.