He wasn’t surprised to get the peremptory call from Mycroft Holmes’ PA.
“He’s made a reservation for this evening, seven o’clock. Car will pick you up at yours. Dress your spiffy best. That’s not a quote, but it’s what he meant. Make sure your shoes are polished, your teeth are brushed, and your pocket square coordinates with your tie.”
Greg huffed. “Bossy little thing, isn’t he? And you know I don’t use a pocket square.”
“The lack of pocket square is noted and frowned upon. As for bossy?” She chuckled, a rich, amused sound like a cat purring in the sun. “Always. But better than he used to be before he settled on you. He’s…more human about it, now. Which is why the boutonniere that will be delivered to your office soon is my contribution to your half-year anniversary. Which, if you forgot the date, you might want to be ready to celebrate in appropriate style.”
Greg laughed and moaned in one efficient sound. “God. Even my ex never kept half-year anniversary, Andy-pants. Who keeps half-year anniversary?”
“In this case, a profoundly contented other-half. So be ready—he’s oozing sentiment and satisfaction badly enough to funk up the office. Get a present, brush your teeth, wear his favorite cologne, and expect to submit to his wild will tonight. He’s on a roll.”
Greg shook his head, even as he heard her hang up. If anything, it would be the reverse. His boy would no doubt want to show his gratitude with extra levels of humble service and helpless submission. Maybe get an extra paddling. Wear some exceptionally suggestive toy to show how completely his dignity was stripped in the hands of his Tiger King.
It perked Greg up. It wore him out. It scared him stupid. It worked so very well… It worried him.
He had never thought of himself as a right bastard. Particularly in bed. To his surprise, he was. To his surprise, he loved it.
He was, he thought, a lucky, lucky man. He’d found a lover who apparently needed a right bastard.
It still worried him.
The entire afternoon was unsettling. Nothing called him out—but now he’d advanced to Detective Chief Inspector, few things would. He spent more time administrating his teams, assigning people to the jobs for which they were best suited, providing the elements they all needed for success. He wasn’t dragged out of the office as often as he’d been as a younger man.
That just gave him more time to get himself wound up.
The boutonniere from Anthea was, of course, stunning. It was a little, sterling silver flask with a pin on the back, and a drape of delicate chain suggesting a handle, with a little eye dropper to fill up the reservoir before slipping the stem of a flower into the open throat. Along with it, Anthea had sent a cluster of fresh, intensely perfumed silvery-rose garden pinks—the ancient predecessors of the commercial carnation, with fringed petals and a scent of clove. It would look splendid on the lapel of his best suit, and the perfume would coordinate with the cologne Mycroft had bought him as a birthday present a few weeks back. Of course, Anthea was no doubt aware of both facts. She was almost as clever as Mycroft, after all…
He left work on time. He stopped along the way, picking up a fancy gift bag and some ribbon. Once home he showered, fluffed and spiked his cropped hair, and dressed his best. His shoes were polished. He wore a big silver ring set with a piece of snowflake obsidian, and a heavy marine-link bracelet that hung over the back of his wrist with a graceful drape. He set the boutonniere carefully, and brushed one finger over the petals of the three flowers he’d managed to tuck into the mouth of the little flask.
He checked the mirror. He looked good—and knew it. He’d never been fool enough to ignore his looks, while not finding them as valuable as some seemed to. Still—it was nice to dress himself up a bit.
Everything was a nice since Mycroft came into his love-life, he thought, feeling guilty. The other man didn’t drown him in gifts, like some cheap gigolo, but he also ensured his lover had access to the niceties of life. Sometimes it was for his own pleasure and ease—the elegant cars he already used, the pleasant and expensive flats and hotel rooms and the little suite reserved for Mycroft at the Diogenes, the Michelin three-star restaurants that would reorganize their entire evening for a wealthy, powerful customer—Mycroft no doubt drew on these reflexively, out of honest personal preference. But every so often a shirt would appear in Greg’s closets—Egyptian cotton, in colors he couldn’t have found in Marks and Spencer. Or the birthday cologne. Or the season tickets to Arsenal’s games. Or the reliable stock of best quality beer in the refrigerators of every place he stayed with Greg.
Life was easier. More kindly. Greg, in a new suit, could swagger in to work knowing he was perfectly dressed for his setting—as elegant as a police detective could be without his superiors setting investigators on him to make sure he wasn’t selling out to the gangs. He could think about getting off work and know he’d end up someplace comfortable, and clean, with a good meal waiting, a luxurious shower or bath a certainty—and an obedient, responsive boy already thinking of how to please his Tiger King. And from experience, he’d come to realize his Mike really did please him. What they did together pleased him.
He felt guilty—guilty for enjoying the easy life, and guilty for enjoying the benefits of being his boy’s demanding man. The top. The dom. Whatever you called it. The master. It unsettled him to know he took pleasure in every bit of it…but he did. Oh, God, he did. And if his boy wanted to celebrate that, even if it was silly-buggers six-month anniversaries, he’d celebrate. He collected the gift bag, scrambled in one of his drawers, and pulled out an old, familiar wallet. He slipped it into the gift bag, used the self-adhesive to glue the ribbons on the package, and tucked it into the pocket of his overcoat.
The drive to the restaurant was short and uneventful. The maître d’ oozed welcome, handed Greg’s coat over to the coat-check, and ushered Lestrade to a private room. The table was set—elegant and under-stated with only a white linen cloth, shining china, and polished flatware on the board, but lit by entire branches of candelabra set out on the surrounding sideboard and hutch. Mycroft was already seated, but he rose when Greg entered, and when the maître d’ closed the door, he went gracefully to one knee, head down—a posture he’d accepted when Greg argued bitterly that neither of them was of an age to go crashing down patella first on hard floors, and that he was not having “his boy” hurting himself just because he wanted to feel properly in character and submissive.
Greg put one hand over Mycroft’s head, running his fingers into the still-thick hair at the back of his skull, applying enough pressure and a tight enough grip to ensure Mycroft would feel controlled—pinned in place. He caressed Mycroft’s scalp with tender fingers. He felt the hair rise in excitement, felt the soft shiver of anticipation. “Whose boy are you?” he whispered, the question almost pure ritual by now.
“Yours. Always yours.” There was a depth of feeling beyond the usual sincerity—and his Mike was always sincere, except when they played at it, enjoying the high camp of their kink.
He let his fingers tighten still further, drawing a sweet, aching whimper from his boy. “Good. That’s my Mikey. Get up, sweetheart. Show me what you’ve done to please me.” Then he let go, and raised his hand so Mycroft could stand.
From that moment the meal flowed like a dream—a fantasy. Mycroft was at his glittering, witty, diplomatic best, chattering like a magpie, describing the foods, the wines, the presentation, asking Greg about his day in sympathetic tones, laughing at what Greg knew were his own lame, common-place jokes and snark. Mike’s eyes gleamed, and cold blue seemed warm as he shone his affection upon Lestrade.
And the pure hedonistic thrill of the meal itself? A deconstructed coquille St. Jacques, all scallops and cream and nutmeg and silken potato and gruyere with a vivid and unexpected gremolata of fennel and tangerine zest as a starter. Chicken and corn soup topped with floating islands of raised dumplings. Stuffed lobster baked with a garlic aoli topping that lingered and enriched without dominating the lush lobster or the seafood stuffing. Classic mutton chops, grilled to perfect medium-rare done-ness, with fresh, homemade bread and butter and perfectly steamed snap peas on the side. A light sweet—an almond-milk panna cotta swimming in perfectly simmered peaches with minted syrup. By the end, when the waiter came in with a cheese tray, a bowl of fruit, and another bowl of nuts, Greg was hard put to imagine taking another bite of anything. Well, except, perhaps, for his charming boy, whose eyes begged him to have liked it all—perhaps to have loved it all.
Again private, with the waiter gone, Greg murmured, “Brilliant, love. A coup. You’ve outdone yourself.”
Mycroft preened, his smile tight and prim, but his eyes glowing. “You’re sure?”
“Certain, you clot. The only thing wrong is I don’t have room for that nice Stilton…”
“I’ll get the hairbrush out when we get home, so, you can punish me properly” Mycroft said, voice throbbing with innuendo. “And I’ll make sure they send us home with a bit of the cheese for later.” He poured tea for them both, then leaned back in his seat. He took a single deep sip of the brew, then sighed happily. “I do think it came off well. A bit on the heavy side, but,” he dropped his glance, then fluttered a look at Lestrade from under lowered lashes. “You need a lot of calories to maintain your strength.”
“You have hopes for tonight, then?” Tiger King Greg risked a predatory grin across his own tea cup.
“Any game plan?”
“Your wish is my command.”
This was the hardest part for Greg. Often his wishes were simple and straightforward. “If I want to roger you until you beg me to let you come?”
And therein lay the rub. Greg already felt overly demanding as it was with his own simple, home-grown wishes. A willing lover beneath him, all hot and happy and on the edge of climax? A classic! What more could he ask for? But he knew Mike would like it more if it came with a bit more swag and demand.
“What’s wrong?” Mycroft’s voice was sharp with sudden concern.
“Nothing. Just having to work at this. You’ve been such a good boy, lately. Um—I’ll reward you, I think. You can run the shower and give me a good scrub before I drag you to my den and work my wicked will upon you. Lucky boy.” It was one of his fall-backs when he ran out of ideas…or felt uncomfortable with the ideas he had. The fiction that Mycroft wanted to serve could occasionally allow Greg to suggest some service that felt neutral.
“You’re sure,” Mycroft said, and Greg felt a sudden chill. This was not a stupid man. Someday he might realize Greg was not a natural at this, and go looking for a better fit—and Greg found he couldn’t bear that thought. Not only would it lose him that sweet, lush bit of luxury in his life, and the thrill and excitement of being Mike’s Tiger King and master. On a far more cherished human level, in the unvoiced realm of feeling, Greg had found that the thought of losing his times with Mycroft Holmes would break his heart. Together, whether chatting idly by a coffee van in center-London, each in his proper real world persona, or private at night in the little studio flat they used for their rendezvous, with Mikey coiled close and submissive in the arms of his Tiger King, they were right together.
“I’m sure,” he said, firmly—too firmly. His own experience as an interrogator told him he was giving the game away. He covered, rising and wiping his mouth. “Take me home, boy. We have the rest of the evening ahead of us.”
Too pompous. Too much one of Mycroft’s lines. He kept on, forcing the momentum to carry. He settled his jacket and swerved toward the door, letting Mycroft scurry behind, only his long legs allowing him to keep up. He collected his coat without stopping, hoping Myroft would be delayed paying up—but the other man gave a frantic nod to the maître d’, whispered something as he passed, and continued after his partner, who was rocketing toward the front doors at a good clip.
“Wait,” he called after Greg, as the man stalked onto the sidewalk. “The driver’s not ready for us!”
“I can walk,” Greg growled.
He didn’t know what to say. He was panicking. He was trying to cover for the patently false ring of his answer to his lover. No. He wasn’t sure everything was fine. He loved everything they had—and was horrified that he loved it.
He waved, trying to flag down a taxi. One came, and he dove into it. When Mycroft dove after, he nearly lost control entirely, barely holding back a reflexive need to block the other man with his foot, force him back out of the cab and onto the sidewalk. Instead he twisted in his seat, facing out the far side of the window, refusing to look back at his boy.
Mycroft sat, annoyance obvious. He was never an entirely convincing submissive. Not to Greg. He knew perfectly well that if Mycroft failed to like what was happening around him he’d either stop cold and start bossing to fix things, or, more terrifying, he’d submit harder—and manipulate like the genius mad negotiator he was.
Greg wasn’t ready to deal with either version. He needed to think.
“Don’t,” he snarled, before Mycroft said anything to make it worse. “Just do not. If you want to be good—be good, and keep your gob shut.”
He would have sworn he could hear Mycroft blink, then gulp. “Yes, sir,” he murmured, at last, and settled stiffly, leaning deep into the seat.
Greg’s heart broke the first bit, hearing that soft surrender. There was something so resigned about it…
He closed his eyes, shivering.
He gave the driver his own address, and heard a soft, unhappy sigh—but nothing more. It still was the right choice, he thought. The evening Mycroft had planned was dead, now. No point trying to attempt some kind of relationship CPR.
All he wanted to do—had wanted to do—was go home and make love to his sweet boy, his Mike, who’d been such a silly ass—all unexpected, out of character sentiment and sugar. The role of submissive boy seemed to give him room for vast territories of feeling the British Government could never show. The end result was something wild and tender and volatile, and sometimes—sometimes Greg just wanted to protect that vulnerable, longing man from everything…including from Mycroft’s own kink, and Greg’s unexpected response to it.
He flashed on the memory of Mycroft over his knees, bum bare as Greg rained down hard strokes with a narrow ruler. Mycroft had squirmed and cried—and rocked his cock against Greg’s thighs, while Greg himself moaned as his own cock dug deep into Mycroft’s stomach. The memories were hot—and embarrassing. Erotic and shameful. Sometimes Mike begged for paddling on such slender excuses of “naughty” behavior. Sometimes he signaled Greg his longing to be bullied, bossed, taken.
And Greg enjoyed it. Enjoyed the extravagant emotions, the punishment he always doled out with care, determined never to actually hurt his boy. He loved it when he had Mycroft in a wrestler’s pin—but one so fragile the other man could break loose in seconds, if he chose. He could not describe how strong he felt giving his Mikey the “thrashings,” and scolds and stern commands he wanted, knowing that all the time it was in his own control—and that he kept Mikey safe.
The power. God. Just thinking about it made him hard…made him hot enough to be steaming up his car window.
When the taxi arrived at Greg’s flat, he slid out, then turned back to Mycroft. “No. Go home…to the flat. To your place. Where ever.”
Mycroft’s face, in the door-light, tightened in real fear. “No.”
“No,” he said, more firmly, his voice burning with intent. “No. I won’t leave.” He stopped, his jaw set tight, and he continued, “I don’t know what I did wrong. But I can’t let you leave me. Not without talking.”
“You didn’t do anything,” Greg growled. “And for the love of God, I’m not leaving. Not…leaving. Just…leaving. For now. I need to think.”
“I don’t want you to think without me there to correct you when you’re wrong,” Mike snapped, firmly, and swept out the far door. He stood in the roadway, tall and slim, arms crossed, face older than it had seemed less than half an hour before. “I’m coming in.”
“You’ll do what I tell you.”
“Not when you refuse to tell me what I want.”
The words hung between them. Greg began to laugh, weary, but unable to miss the joke. He shoved a wad of cash at the driver and waited until the cab pulled away.
“Some sub you are,” he said, then.
Mycroft shrugged. “I am a submissive. Just—within certain sane parameters.”
“What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Greg sighed, and rubbed his face, weary and suddenly feeling as though he was too tired to keep trying to play Mike’s perfect Tiger King. “I’m just not—good at this. Not really. Look. Come up. I’ll make you a big mug of cheap tea with too much sugar and powdered creamer—that’s the best I can offer. We can at least wind this up politely, even if we can’t fix it.”
He turned and plodded to the door of his building. He used the big Yale key to let them in, then climbed to the third floor flat. It took a few moments to get the lights on, his coat off, and the kitchen up and running with the electric kettle hissing and the mugs and sugar and creamer set out on the worn Formica counter. At last he turned and leaned his bum against the counter-edge. “When I told you what I intended to do with the evening—you kind of wanted more, didn’t you?”
Mycroft blinked, and cocked his head. “Excuse me?”
“You planned in a paddling with a hair brush, and some ‘wish is my command’ stuff, and the trouble is…Mike, I’m not good at this. Not really. Not properly. Sometimes all I want is to go home and make love to my sweet boy.” He ducked his head. “Hell. Every so often I’d like to go home and let my boy make love to me. I’m a rubbish dom. Never was one before, never really will be. The best I can say is I’ve been having a hell of a good time. But—sometimes what I like about it scares me, and sometimes I think you deserve better—or worse. Or something. And sometimes I just feel like a fraud. And sometimes I’m half sick thinking all the years before were the real fraud, and I’m really a right bastard.” His voice shook. “It’s hot. Years I spent asking nicely, and getting turned down. Or told I was boring. Wi’ you, when I’m Tiger…” He couldn’t say it. He knew he was flushed crimson, and was glad to turn and pour the water into the mugs, as the kettle hit a boil.
When he turned back to hand Mycroft his, and then the sweetener and creamer, he found his partner looking at him with huge, stricken eyes. He sighed. “Hell, Mikey. Don’t. You wouldn’t think those blue eyes could be puppy eyes, but so help me…”
Mycroft hung his head—and damned, if part if it was boy Mikey being ashamed and sorrowful, some of it was just Mycroft Holmes being…repentant. Sorry. Crushed, even.
“I’m sorry,” Mike whispered. “I didn’t know. I thought…”
“I thought you were enjoying the game.” He looked up, tears beginning to rise. “I…need the game, Greg.” His voice was weak, shaking with emotion, trying to fail between words. “And I could never find a match. Either they don’t really want to play, or they want to play for the wrong reasons. Sometimes I’m fine without it. But…not always. And you seemed to like it. And…” His voice actually broke, then, like an adolescent boy’s. “I thought you liked me. That way. The way I really am.” He looked back up, then, and everything regrouped. The British Government, strong and dignified and yet somehow still utterly broken, said, soberly, “I am so sorry. If I can ever make it up to you—I will. I know I’m a manipulative little fuck. But…I didn’t think I was manipulating you beyond your limits. If that makes sense.” He gave a crooked grimace. “I’m not good at gauging other people’s feelings. Or even my own. Or containing my own strength.”
Greg frowned down at him. “Mike, I’m the one who screwed up. I should have told you what an ignorant bugger I am about all this. Bisexual at best. Only a few male lovers. Never got into the BDSM scene at all no matter who I was with. I’m afraid what I really am is a nice guy…A bit of a wimp, really. The ex said I could act out Fifty Shades of Grey and cure her insomnia. No skill for the exciting stuff. And then I have to go find out I’m a bit of a bastard, given the chance. Mike—it’s not right, what I feel when I come pounding into the flat on a bad day and order you to get me a meal and run me a bath and then gimme a blow job like a nice little boy—and you do it. And there I am clean and fed with my boy between my knees and…fuck.” He sat heavily in the chair opposite Mike’s at the kitchen table. “I scare myself sometimes. Worry someday I’m going to go too far. Get out of hand. Hurt you and like it.”
Mycroft sat up abruptly, utterly offended. “You would never! Good heavens, Tiger! You’re…you’re a perfect pussy cat!”
Greg blinked, confused. “What?”
“You’re perfect. I’m a poor excuse for a proper submissive. I’m bossy, and manipulative, and I bottom from the top both literally and figuratively, and you can count on me to arrange everything to suit my tastes. But I need you, Tiger…I need to be your boy. I need a spanking, and I need to feel…” He flushed, and ducked his head, and said, softly, “I’ve never been very well-loved, Greg. Not even well-liked. You know about my family. You know about my work. You’re the first person to want to own me. Much less own me in the frame of my perversion. I just—it was so good for me, I was idiot enough to think you liked it, too.”
“I do,” Greg said. “Too much.”
“No,” Mycroft said, seriously. “I can see how careful you are. Never a bruise I don’t practically beg for. Never an insult I can’t laugh off as soon as we’ve both come. Never a moment worrying about my safety.” He reached out and took Greg’s hand in his. “Gregory Lestrade, you are an utter pussy cat. The nicest dom any wishy-washy sub ever lucked into.”
Greg found himself grinning. “Does that mean sometimes I can just make love to you?”
“Yes. And it means sometimes you can ask me to just make love to you, too.”
They considered each other.
“Well,” Greg said. “That was better than I was expecting.”
Mycroft nodded. “Indeed. A welcome escape.” He brightened up. “If that’s all—then can I give you your anniversary present?”
“Mmm. If I can give you yours.”
They both rose, each digging packages out of their coat pockets. They held them out gingerly, and made the exchange.
Greg bent over his package. In it he found a tiny carved statue of a tiger, stained russet and black on a cream background.
“It’s vegetable ivory. I could have paid for antique stuff, sparing any living animals, but decided you’d like it better if there wasn’t even an implication of dead elephant,” Mycroft said, bashfully. “Sherlock wanted me to get you one of those little jointed Chinese gold fish. But—this was better. The artist has won netsuke competitions.”
Greg let the golden beast sit on the palm of his hand, grinning fatuously at it. It was only inches tall—yet it was clearly a giant of a beast, broad-chested, with a fine face ruff and a tail coiled around its paws. “It’s wonderful.”
“It reminded me of you.” Mycroft’s eyes glowed with affection. “My Tiger. My pussy-cat.”
Greg smiled back, then said, “What about mine? Do you like it?”
Mycroft squeaked, and quickly opened his own. He slipped out the wallet, and quickly realized the wallet was only a container for something else. He tugged it open and shook the contents out on his palm. His eyes grew big.
“You know what they are?” Greg asked, uncertain.
“Yes. Your collar tags.” He looked at Greg with a touch of uncertainty, adding, “From your first assignment?”
Greg smiled. “Yep. You know they make all of us do beat work before we can specialize, don’t you?”
“Got those to wear on my uniform, when I walked my first beat. Started me out of Snow Hill—B division. Those were my very first collar numbers. Of course, now all I have is the warrant card—when Sherlock hasn’t nicked it off me. But that was where I started.”
Mycroft touched them tenderly. “And you wanted to give them to me why?”
“Because I figured you’d like it if your Tiger offered you total policing,” he said, suddenly wicked and cheeky.
Mycroft gave a shout of laughter. “You bastard,” he said, giggling. “You know that’s not the official motto?”
“Yeah, but it’s a lot more to the point than ‘working together for a safer London.’ Not that we aren’t both doing our best. But not when we’re off duty.”
They grinned. Greg sighed. “Sorry. If I hadn’t been a bit of an arse, we’d be back at the flat, now. ‘Fraid mine’s not half so nice.”
Mycroft’s eyes softened, and he smiled. “It is the best place,” he said, “for me to take you to your own bed, and show you how much I love you.” He crept into Greg’s lap, and took his lover’s mouth quite commandingly.
Greg hummed his contentment. “Going to make me a happy man?”
“Only if you behave,” Mycroft said, and led his lover to bed…where he proved he was a very good boy indeed.