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Mycroft, lulled by the ease with which he and Greg had managed everything else in the short time they had been together, was surprised - and later incredibly confused - by the difficulties which arose with the question of where they would live together. Maybe it was foolish of him to expect such a drastic change to go off without a hitch. But when it came to Greg, Mycroft had developed an uncharacteristic blind faith. It hadn’t occurred to him that they would have the slightest problem finding a home to share. If it had, he would have expected himself to be capable of handling it. Over the weeks following their first flat tours, Mycroft wondered if he would have been able to handle it all much better had it not been decades since he’d last needed to negotiate anything with a romantic partner.

Part of him, though, knew that it wouldn’t matter. Mycroft had never felt so attuned to another person’s mood, or so desperate to ensure another person’s happiness. He could see that the process was off to a rocky start almost from the first moment.  After two flats viewed, Greg seemed slightly pinched around the eyes, and Mycroft found himself feeling instantly worried and frantic to fix whatever had gone wrong.

“Are you alright?” Mycroft murmured as they climbed back into Greg’s BMW, Mycroft behind the wheel. “You’re quiet.”

“Just a headache,” Greg assured him, patting his thigh, but he didn’t meet Mycroft’s eyes, instead watching out his window at the people passing by. “Do you mind if we just. Take a break for the day?” He turned and smiled, and Mycroft could see it was forced, but his voice sounded genuine. “Go somewhere quiet for a nice walk or something before we meet Laura and the kids?”

Mycroft set aside his growing concern and focused on how nice the suggestion sounded. They  had been able to finagle most Sundays off together since they had decided to make it a priority to do so. That had been one of the best decisions of Mycroft’s life, he was already sure of that. Anthea had high hopes for his blood pressure, and he loved every moment he got to spend with Greg. He rarely, if ever, thought about the office on Sundays. Still, they spent a lot of their downtime in Greg’s flat, chasing the living-in-a-bubble feeling from their weekend away together.  They hadn’t ever meandered about London together for an afternoon. It sounded wonderful to Mycroft. He wanted to do it, and then make plans to do it often; a little tradition they could start when they did find the right place to live. 

Mycroft was eager, but they could squeeze in more showings later. It didn’t matter if they didn’t magically find their place today. The day would be a good one, as long as Mycroft could wash away that tension in Greg’s face.

“Certainly,” he replied after a moment, then leaned over to kiss Greg’s lightly stubbled cheek before navigating out of the parking space. 

As they wandered for the rest of the afternoon, the notch of worry between Greg’s eyebrows eased by degrees. Later, Mycroft met Greg’s fantastically funny sister and her precocious-but-sweet daughters, he was so high on having discovered the persona of Uncle Greg - an absurdly attractive, doting man with impossibly soft eyes who gave growling bear hugs and stern warnings that were clearly meaningless in the face of his nieces' batting eyelashes. 

It wasn’t until they were slipping into Greg’s bed, still unmade from their indulgent morning, that Mycroft remembered to ask Greg for his thoughts on the couple of flats they had toured before calling it off for the day. 

“Well?”

Greg turned from the wardrobe with a raised eyebrow, working his watch off and doing his usual nightly check that his wallet and keys had been left in the dish on top. “Hm?”

“Did any of the flats strike you as the one?” Mycroft pressed. “Personally, I thought the second one was quite good.”

Greg’s shoulders hunched, then dropped - a deliberate movement - before his face turned away again. “Actually…”

Mycroft felt the first stirrings of worry return, churning in his gut. He wanted to ignore the feeling. He had almost convinced himself, considering the excellent evening they’d had, that Greg’s tension and upset had been all in his imagination; a quirk of psychology based on his previous experiences with lovers near this stage of proceedings. But everything about Greg, from his forcibly relaxed posture (Mycroft couldn’t focus enough to put his finger on how Greg’s shoulders seemed to have a language of their own, but they did) to his flexing hands, screamed discontent. 

“You didn’t like it?” He tried, tentative. “Not even the—”

“Mycroft,” Greg interrupted, turning and fidgeting in place. “Those places…” 

“You…” Mycroft couldn’t imagine what was so awful about any of the flats. They had all been fine. “You didn’t like any of them?”

Greg laughed, barked it. “Well of course I liked them,” he said, a hint of snap in his voice. “They were all well posh, who wouldn’t like them? It’s just… none of them are all that realistic, are they?” 

Mycroft wrinkled his brow and made a conscious effort to stop and keep a face of calm, lest he actually begin to panic. “Realistic? What do you—”

“They’re expensive,” Greg interrupted again, which really did put Mycroft on edge. 

It wasn’t like Greg to interrupt, or to get snappish for that matter. Mycroft was the oversensitive one, of the two of them. The one with the soft underbelly. He felt suddenly frozen in place, unsure of how to proceed. He bristled, well aware of the price range represented by the few houses they had seen, and annoyed that it was being pointed out to him as if he wasn’t. Mycroft - well, Anthea - had been the one to find them, after all. He bit the inside of his cheek and swallowed his annoyance, waiting to see how Greg planned to follow this statement of the obvious.

“I can’t afford a place like that,” Greg continued. “I would think… I mean, I know that you know what my salary is.” 

Mycroft opened his mouth and, desperate to say something, said the wrong thing: “Yes, but I don’t see why that should matter, when my salary is more than sufficient.”

Greg’s eyes darkened, and he drew in a sharp breath. It was a tell that Mycroft would soon grow to understand meant he was quite irritated indeed, and that a row was imminent. 

And so, it began. 



***



Any mention of money seemed to inject Greg’s natural (and normally somewhat charming) stubbornness with a hefty dose of steroids. After the first argument there in Greg’s bedroom at the end of what should have been a perfect day, he had repeatedly dug in. They needed to “split” their new home, he insisted, and Mycroft hadn’t agreed, but had been unable to stand the sick feeling it gave him to be so at odds. He told Greg he would see what he could find. 

Mycroft attempted, because he loved Greg and desperately wanted to make the impossible possible for him, to find a flat that would meet this criteria. But not even he could force the real estate market to cooperate. A place in Greg’s price range would be too small, and woefully difficult to secure with regard to classified telephone conversations (at the very least). Even if that weren’t the case, Mycroft would be using a laughably small fraction of his income and savings to contribute, negating the fairness that Greg seemed so convinced was of utmost importance. When he took his arguments to Greg, he was met with the insistence that Greg would begin to look, too. 

“Two heads are better than one,” he said dismissively, and tucked his side of the clean top sheet under the mattress, which he and Mycroft had been sharing now for several weeks. 

Mycroft was sure they would have found something by now, but they hadn’t. Not only that, those weeks were fraught with uncertainty and tension, and that week seemed particularly difficult for Greg. He was home late several times, and suffered more than one night of poor sleep. 

Taking it all into consideration, Mycroft kept his silence that night and crawled across the freshly washed sheets to kneel before Greg and wrap him in a tight embrace. To his immense relief, Greg returned it, and even tipped Mycroft back onto the mattress after a moment, pressing their lips together in their first real kiss of the day.



***



Mycroft spent exactly two excessively late nights at work, dreading going home to Greg’s pinched expression and red-circled ads for flats they absolutely could not live in together, before Anthea intervened and told him that he could not simply avoid the problem and that she would be very disappointed in him if he gave in just to end the argument. 

“And,” she said, leaning over his desk, “it is only an argument. Just because it is Greg Lestrade does not mean you are permitted to take leave of your decades of experience and expertise in the art of negotiation. If you never work to compromise, you will eventually resent him.” 

“Forgive me,” Mycroft grumbled, feeling tired and obstinate. “I seem to have forgotten the counseling certification on your CV.”

“Do you really want to be snide with me?” Anthea raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “I’m on your side. You asked me to find you a house in Kent. You used the word commute. I’m trying to help you.”  

When they were both home, Greg grew quieter and quieter, frowning at his laptop and over newspapers, at real estate listings that would never match their needs. Mycroft stewed with guilt. Most of those needs were his own, after all. Greg was a normal person; he could live anywhere with any other normal partner. But thoughts like that made Mycroft itch to flee again to the office, so he squashed them with prejudice. 

In the end, Mycroft bent to Anthea’s influence and listened to her advice to attempt to talk it through again, a bit more firmly on his side of things this time. He had to do this if he ever wanted to get them out of Greg’s cramped one-bedroom (and, lovely as it was, Mycroft desperately wanted that). He had to put his foot down. 

He did it gently and diplomatically, and then had a low-level panic attack in the moments immediately afterward. He nearly missed Greg’s capitulation. 

“Fine. Fine,” Greg said, standing in the middle of his miniscule kitchen and tossing the hand towel aside, apparently deciding to lead with flippancy. “You could have just said about the security.” 

“I tried,” Mycroft replied. “Or. I thought I had tried.” 

He had also tried to propose three different ways of sharing costs. Greg hadn’t been willing to hear any of them. Had interrupted each and every one of Mycroft’s attempts at detailing them. Now was not a good time to bring that up, however, and Mycroft resisted the urge to roll his eyes at himself. Hello, decades of negotiation and political maneuvering, nice of you to show up now.

“Maybe you did,” Greg said, hands on his hips and head hung down. “That first...fight.” He looked up, wincing. “We’ve been fighting.”

“I noticed,” Myroft said, dry as bone. “You get… a bit snippy.”

“I know.” Greg seemed to deflate, pacing back to the sofa and flopping down next to Mycroft. “This has been awful. I don’t understand how we let this get so tangled up, and I’m sorry.”

“I know…” Mycroft bit the inside of his cheek. “I understand if you feel that… that the requirements—  the security and the extra space are beyond your… if the difference in our incomes is an insurmountable obstacle. I know you said we should look outside of London and I would be willing, but—”  

“Christ, I don’t want to make you leave London. I don’t want to leave. I don’t know what I was thinking. It would never work. It just all seemed so uneven, and I’ve been… Freaking out, a bit. And you… Mycroft, you’re acting like I’m going to break up with you over this.” Greg sighed heavily, and then paused at whatever he read on Mycroft’s face. “Mycroft? Do you think I would break up with you over this?”

Mycroft wasn’t proud of his reaction, which was to flee again, inventing an excuse about work and letting himself out of Greg’s flat without thinking to retrieve his laptop first. When he dismissed his hastily called car thirty whole seconds after summoning it, he returned from the pavement outside the building to the door to Greg’s flat, telling himself that he could simply get the laptop and go again. But Greg was waiting by the door, his arms crossed tight over his chest and his face creased with distress. 

“Don’t. Do that,” he said, and pulled Mycroft into a tight embrace. “Okay? Don’t go. I don’t want you to.”

“Sorry,” Mycroft gasped, unspeakably relieved and breathless with it. “I won’t.”

What followed was a much less embarrassingly inept discussion. 

“I don’t want to feel like a burden,” Greg said. “I can’t stand to take advantage of your money.

“You never could be a burden.” Mycroft sighed. “Please, do not ever think that. The money is needed to handle my requirements, which are not your problem. It seems fair to me that I would pay for them. And… honestly, I… I want to give you a beautiful home. An indulgent one. Because you deserve it. You seemed so happy at my house when we went there, like you could stretch out in the space. I… liked it very much. It would be worth it to me, to pay the difference in order to have the pleasure of seeing you in comfort. Besides, I’m embarrassed to say I do have more money than I know what to do with. I would buy you ten London flats if you wanted them, and not give it a second thought.”

“Christ.” Greg laughed, having listened to Mycroft’s impromptu speech while his face softened bit by bit. “Let’s just figure out the one, yeah?”

“I can’t change that I have money,” Mycroft said, still quietly devastated by the previous few days of discontent and feeling it like chest pains. “I… I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“You don’t,” Greg murmured, finally sliding along the sofa cushions to take Mycroft’s hands. “This was all my bullheadedness and I’m so sorry, Mycroft. I put you through hell this week. These last few weeks. It’s just… I’m just a middle-aged cop. I don’t feel like the sort of person who can live in a lovely place with a lovely man. I think I got a bit scared, to be honest.” 

Mycroft’s heart cracked. He would swear that he heard it do so. “A middle aged cop?” He repeated. “You…” His mind offered up a thousand things to say: you are gorgeous, and easy, and kind, and intuitive; you are sweet, and sexy, and you always smell so bloody fantastic. Mycroft brought Greg’s knuckles to his own mouth and kissed them. “You are my favorite author.”

Greg’s expression broke like a dam and then crumpled. “Oh, god,” he said. “I’m a dick.”

“You are not,” Mycroft sighed. “But please, let’s never do this again.”

“Agreed.” Greg kissed him gently on the lips and then the cheek, apologetic. “I’m sorry. I forgot… I forgot who we are. Christ, I’m sorry.” 

Mycroft shook his head and pressed forward for another kiss. “I am sorry, too. I could have worked through this sooner. I was frightened, too.”

Greg sighed. “Look. Let’s just table it for right now. Could we? I need a minute to adjust my worldview, so if you don’t mind staying here for a bit, I don’t mind having you here. I know it’s not going to work long term, but I’ve loved it. I really want to live with you, you know. Even stuck in this shoebox together, it’s been great. It’ll be even better when we find a place that works. And we will, okay? We’ll… figure out the money. But not tonight.”

“I’m happy to be wherever you are,” Mycroft said softly, meaning it completely. He would be happy in a place like this tiny flat, were it an option. 

“Good,” Greg said. “Me, too. I mean, same.”



***



In the end, the solution turned out to be ridiculously simple. 

“What do you mean you own a house in London already?” Greg dropped his chopsticks. They were at the Yard again, another late dinner shared over Greg’s desk, the rooms outside his fishbowl of an office dark save for a couple of desk lamps lit toward the back of the bullpen where some hangers-on completed their paperwork, waiting for a call. “What?”

“I inherited it,” Mycroft admitted sheepishly. “I… To be completely honest, I’ve not set foot in it since the late eighties, when my uncle died and left it to me. He didn’t live in it. That house was in fact left to a historical society and functions now as a museum.”

“Fucking of course,” Greg said with a barked laugh. “Isn’t that what everyone does with their house when they kick it?”

Mycroft shrugged one shoulder, biting down on his own smile. “People who live in three-hundred year old mansions do, yes.”

“Christ!”

“Don’t be fooled, Uncle Rudy was wealthy, but not as wealthy as you might think. His own father, my mother’s grandfather, was fond of the ponies, and lost quite a lot of the family wealth on bad bets. The house, though, they say was protected by his wife and the threat of castration with her sharpest paring knife. She was a renowned chef’s daughter, you see.”

“God,” Greg muttered. “What must it be like for you, hanging round with my boring, middle class family every Sunday?”

Mycroft didn’t need to think. He said, “Heavenly, as a matter of fact. It’s my favorite part of the week.”

Greg looked up from his carton of noodles, his expression struck soft. “Oh.”

“Indeed.”

“I love you.”

“And I, you. Would you like to see the house? I believe the family rumor is that Uncle Rudy purchased it as a gift for a male lover who spurned him before it could be given. It likely has not been updated since the late sixties.” 

“A project, then.” Greg was beginning to look thoughtful, a little spark of goal-oriented excitement at the prospect entering his eyes. “Hm. Where is this house anyway?”

Mycroft cleared his throat and made himself busy adding sauce to his chicken. “I believe it is a short walk from the Notting Hill Gate tube station.”

To which Greg shouted, “Notting fucking Hill? Fuck off!”

Which startled the lone constable filling out expense reports in the bullpen, and caused Mycroft to laugh and nearly aspirate fried rice. 



***



The house was a wreck, but Greg loved it on sight. Within minutes of their arrival in the foyer, Mycroft texted Anthea and asked her to schedule builders to come in and give an estimate. 

“I can take the wallpaper down myself,” Greg said, eying the bamboo motif lining the walls of the master bedroom. “And paint. You know, I’ve refinished floors before t—” 

“Darling,” Mycroft sighed. “There is no way in this world I am allowing you to operate a sander. I have seen you drive.”

Greg laughed, head tipping back attractively. “Fine. Fine, fine. But let me paint something, at least.” 

“You have a deal,” Mycroft agreed easily, leaning on the balustrade of the staircase which led up from the master suite to a gigantic lofted dressing room. “Will you agree to investing in the renovations based on percentage of income?” 

“Whatever you want, sweetheart,” Greg murmured absently, already wandering out of the room with his eyes on the woodwork curling down with the staircase. “This place has amazing bones.”

Mycroft, deeply relieved and terribly turned on by the way Greg kept touching the woodwork, resisted the urge to take him there on the creaky staircase, but only just barely. 



***



Halfway through renovations at the Notting Hill house, Mycroft was obligated to undertake a series of lengthy trips out of the country. He discovered that while he hated being away, he loved reunions. Finding Greg waiting for him after being gone for a week - or even just one night - was a gift. A precious one. Mycroft hoped he never got used to it, even as the certainty of a warm welcome solidified itself inside of him. Even if his flight landed late at night, Mycroft knew that the moment he managed to slip into bed beside Greg, he would wake with a deep breath and a stretch. That his first words would be: “Alright, sweetheart?”

Late night welcome home sex filled a niche in Mycroft’s soul that he hadn’t been aware of, before Greg. 

“I did something,” Greg breathed against Mycroft’s neck on one such night, their hips hitching together under the sheets. Greg was naked, because the summer had been brutally hot so far, and with the horrendous air circulation in his flat, he had taken to sleeping sans clothing in mid-June. Mycroft was still, in fact, half-dressed, so hurried had he been just to get into bed with him at last.

“What sort of something?”

“Give me your hand,” Greg gasped. “Here, budge up.” 

Mycroft did, laughing a bit, breathless, as Greg guided his hand between his own legs. “What— oh, good god.”

“Yeah.” Greg squirmed.

“How did you sleep like this?”

“Oh,” Greg hummed, hips twitching as Mycroft’s fingers pressed clumsily at the base of the plug. “Practice.”

“Practice?” Mycroft was immolating. He was aflame.

“I’ve been doing it every night since you left. Seeing if I could just get used to it enough to, you know, relax. Wanted to be—  fuck. Um. Ready for you. When you got back, I mean.”

Mycroft threw the top sheet aside before leaning up to flick on the lamp next to Greg’s bed. He needed to see, and Greg apparently had worked himself into an exhibitionist mood in Mycroft’s absence, because his thighs parted, wanton, to display his hard cock, the smear of lube still evident at the crease of his perfect buttocks, and the flared purple edge of the slim plug Mycroft had ordered with his most secret credit card. 

“You,” Mycroft breathed. “You are a genius.”

“It takes a lot of relaxing to sleep with it.” Greg squirmed. “Once I’m awake though, every little move. Ah—”

“Shh,” Mycroft soothed, petting at Greg’s hip. “Stay still, darling, it’s alright. I’m going to take care of you.”

“I know,” Greg murmured, and pulled Mycroft down into a kiss. 

Mycroft would have enough brainpower later to analyze all of the ways he loved this: the way that things between them were both more familiar and constantly new and different. They were nearing half a year of this, and awkwardness and uncertainty had fallen away. Mycroft had never been this comfortable with someone, or with himself, in his entire life. He sometimes felt as if he had been operating with only half the necessary data before this relationship. Mycroft knew, now, what he liked. He knew what Greg liked. He knew how to make fantasy reality without needing a book to illustrate what he could not vocalize - not that he would ever be willing to give up the books - and he knew what to do now. 

“You’re beautiful,” Mycroft said, rocking back onto his heels to divest himself of his half-unbuttoned shirt. “Magnificent. I can’t… I can’t believe you’re here.”

“S’my flat,” Greg teased, stroking himself lazily with one hand and tucking the other arm behind his head. 

“You know what I meant,” Mycroft scolded, sitting back to shuck his socks, trousers, and underwear. He crawled back up, swatting Greg’s hand away in the process, and rocked into the crease of Greg’s hip, rubbing against him in a purposefully clumsy drag. He nipped at Greg’s mouth and nudged their noses together. “Brat.”

“Mm,” Greg wriggled beneath him, grinning. “Punish me, big bad government man.”

Mycroft laughed and kissed him, finding and pinning his wrists to the pillows at the same time. “I wasn’t aware you were interested in that sort of thing,” he said. “Should I order a paddle next?”

Greg quirked an eyebrow. “If you wanted to, I would try it. You know I would.”

“Hmm.” Mycroft sat up, giving Greg’s wrists a pointed squeeze - keep those there - so that he could observe his body all spread out over the rumpled blue sheets. “I couldn’t bear to hurt you.”

“You bite me all the time,” Greg laughed. “It hurts, you possessive git.”

Mycroft gently parted Greg’s thighs further and toyed with the base of the plug, relishing the sharp intake of breath that elicited. “That’s different,” he said. “We can discuss corporal punishment later. May I fuck you now or would you prefer to wait like this a bit longer?”

Greg grinned. “You may.” 

“Outstanding,” Mycroft breathed, and began to work the plug out of Greg’s grasping body. “Did you use an entire bottle of lube? My god.”

“Wanted you to be able to just—” Greg cut himself off with a groan as the widest part of the plug stretched his hole. “Just slide in. No prep. No—  Mycroft!”

Mycroft looked up from where he had been watching two of his own fingers slip inside to replace the silicone. “Yes?” Greg didn’t answer, too busy writhing down on Mycroft’s hand. “Are you saying you want me bare? That would be… new.”

“We… we talked about it. Just—  if you could push your fingers, um, up? Please?”

Mycroft bit down on his own smile and obliged him, fucking in with his fingers and then dragging them out, curled just the way he knew Greg wanted them. “Obviously I’m not going to argue,” he said, struggling to sound cool and smooth with two fingers sheathed in heat and Greg’s thighs trembling and begging to be bitten. “I’m stalling,” he admitted.

“Yeah?” Greg shuddered, rolling his hips down. “Afraid you’re gonna go off like a shot?”

“That happened once.” 

“Yeah, when you got home from whatever it was. Lisbon.”

Mycroft withdrew his fingers, wiping them absently on the sheets before stretching up and over Greg to kiss him. “Lebanon,” he corrected when they parted. “That was a two week trip. This was one.”

“And did you come?” Greg shifted restlessly as he tried to use his legs around Mycroft’s hips to pull him in. “Did you wank while you were gone?"

“You know that I didn’t,” Mycroft scolded, picking up Greg’s hands from the pillows where they had lain obediently, and gathering them to press kisses to the knuckles.

“Yeah okay,” Greg sighed. “So get in me already and we’ll see if I can beat the record.”

Mycroft wanted to laugh and groan at once. He would never live down the Thirty Seconds Incident, no matter how many times he managed to last through all of Greg’s best tricks. Still… the incident had been spine melting, in Mycroft’s recollection. And so he said, “Please do try.”

The moment he breached Greg’s body, Mycroft knew he was doomed. 

“Oh, god,” Mycroft managed through his tight throat, vaguely embarrassed by the whimper in his voice. 

Greg’s own was breathless. “It’s different, yeah?” His fingernails dug bluntly into Mycroft’s shoulders. “Better?”

“God.”

Greg’s head tipped back on the pillows, the long line of his throat exposed. Mycroft kissed at it, sinking further into his body by centimeters. “I love you,” Greg moaned. “Mycroft, I love you so much. I love your—  ah! I love your cock, Christ, you’re so—  Mm, so big and perfect for me.”

Mycroft buried his entire face in Greg’s neck and breathed, his length fully sheathed in all of that perfect, tight heat. He couldn’t form words, already grasping for control. 

Greg just kept talking, which he knew would be Mycroft’s undoing. “Come on, love,” he breathed. “Fuck me, let me feel it. Every inch of you. I’ve been waiting for you, I missed you so much.”

“Shut up,” Mycroft bit out, hips jerking against his will. “Or I will come.”

Greg giggled, his chest shaking against Mycroft’s. “Oh dear,” he mocked. “Can’t have that.”

Mycroft pushed up, first to his hands and then sitting up entirely when his arms shook, the subtle shifts in angle slackening Greg’s jaw and causing his breath to catch. Mycroft let one hand rest on Greg’s chest, the heel of his hand settled directly against the notch between Greg’s collarbones. “I will cover your mouth,” he warned. 

“There he is,” Greg teased. “I dare you. Go ahead and shut me up.”

Mycroft rocked his hips once, twice, shuddering and swallowing hard to hold back his desperate moans so that he could hear Greg’s. They both knew he wouldn’t stop Greg’s stream of dirty talk. They both knew Mycroft loved it; luxuriated in it. From the start, he had loved Greg’s way with words. 

“You feel so fuckin’ good,” Greg slurred, spreading his legs wider and drawing his thighs up with his hands. “Oh, my god.” 

Untouched, Greg’s cock leaked against his belly. Mycroft pressed his palm against it, trapping the velvet, heated flesh between his hand and Greg’s skin. “I’m not going to last,” he admitted, rubbing gently with his hand. “Are you?”

“Fuck no,” Greg groaned, twisting against the pillows. “Please, Mycroft, just move already.”

Mycroft did, adding his hands just below Greg’s, helping to hold his thighs apart and watching his own length move in and out of Greg’s stretched, slick hole. “Look at you,” he breathed. 

Greg’s only response was the rough sound of his breath, coming in harsh pants as Mycroft drove in deeper with each thrust. Mycroft might have been able to do this for a while, had he not been away for so long; had Greg not planted the image of six nights of ‘practice’ in his imagination. But it wasn’t going to happen, he wasn’t going to last, he really, really was not going to—  

“Greg,” Mycroft breathed. “Greg, darling, I’m—” 

“Come in me,” Greg begged. “Please give me your hand, more of your hand, make me come too, please. Sweetheart—  sw—  pl—” 

Mycroft closed his eyes, letting Greg’s cut-off moans and pleas make their way along his nerves, and let go, let himself fuck as fast and as hard as his body instinctively wanted, and closed one hot fist tight around Greg’s throbbing cock just as he felt the first shiver of orgasm make its way up his own spine. “Yes,” he cried. 

“Mycroft!”

“I’m coming,” Mycroft blurted, shocked despite having known from the moment this started that it would be over quickly. He was beyond embarrassment; last time, Greg had assured him that of all the things a person had to feel bad about in life, being so in love and turned on by their partner that they went off like a bottle rocket was not one of them. “Oh, god—” 

“Yeah,” Greg panted. “Yeah, yeah, I want it.”

Mycroft felt his orgasm everywhere, felt it slam through him even behind his eyes, filling them with tears. He squeezed them shut and came with a deep groan, stilling with his balls pressed tight to Greg’s perfect arse. For a hysterical moment, he was sure it would never stop, the constant waves of paralyzing pleasure. “Oh, god.”

“Lean on me, love,” Greg murmured. “Come on, it’s alright.”

Mycroft obeyed mindlessly, pushing forward into the cradle of Greg’s legs, allowing himself to be wrapped up in them as aftershocks rocked him. “I love you,” he sighed. “God, I love you.”

“I love you,” Greg echoed, his hands slipping in the sweat on Mycroft’s back and up into his hair. “So much, baby.” He squeezed with his entire body and groaned. “Oh, wow, you’re still hard.”

“Yes.” Mycroft rocked his hips and felt nearly blinded by the overload. “Fuck. Do you want…?”

Greg’s hands stilled their petting at Mycroft’s hair. “Can you?”

“Yes,” Mycroft breathed. “I think so.”

“Oh my god, do it.”

And Mycroft rocked forward, and back again, shaking at the intensity of it. “Greg.”

“Please make me come,” Greg begged softly. “Please, I’ve been dying to have your hands on me.” 

Mycroft closed his fist around Greg’s cock again and stroked, tight and slick with precome and sweat. 

Greg jerked beneath and around him, and Mycroft could feel in the squeeze and flutter of muscles around his own cock that Greg was nearly there. 

“That’s it,” Mycroft soothed, shoving in incrementally harder with each thrust. “That’s it, darling.” 

“Close,” Greg gasped. “Close.”

“I know,” Mycroft told him, tightening his hand and speeding his thrusts. To his shock, over-sensitization had begun to transmute again into pleasure. “I—  I think… I think I can—” 

“Holy fuck,” Greg laughed, head tipped back gorgeously against the pillows. “Yeah, come on.” 

And in another handful of strokes, Mycroft shuddered hard and came again, a split second before Greg’s body tightened around him, going taut with his own orgasm and pulling Mycroft’s out of him with a shout. 

Greg fell silent as his come dripped over his belly and Mycroft’s fingers, but Mycroft found himself completely unable to stifle his own ragged cries. He buried them in Greg’s shoulder instead, only quieting endless moments later, when his body finally began to slow its shaking under Greg’s soothing hands. 

“You’re amazing,” Greg groaned, dragging his lips over Mycroft’s shoulder and neck. “Amazing.”

“I can’t believe you have been sleeping while wearing an anal plug,” Mycroft slurred. “You trollop.”

“Yup,” Greg agreed, popping the ‘p’ at the end of the word. “‘M a giant slag. I thought you knew.”

“It’s one of your best qualities,” Mycroft said, already giggling. 

Greg gasped, mock-outraged, and then dissolved as well, shaking against Mycroft as he laughed with him, which of course caused them to finally slip apart below the waist, which led to a yelp from Mycroft that set Greg off all over again, and they both nearly fell off the bed. 

Later, once they were clean and showered and the ruined sheets were changed, Mycroft remembered to ask: “Did you stop by the house after work, like you mentioned wanting to do?”

Greg looked up from his fluffing of the pillows and grinned. “I did.”

“And?”

“It’s ready.”



***



And thus began the most stressful week of Mycroft’s life. Greg had thrown himself into supervising the renovations on the house, which was good, because Mycroft certainly had no time or much of an inclination toward home improvement. He was more than happy to discuss furniture and color choices, but he couldn’t care less what sort of tree the wood for the study floor came from, or whether they could source similar wood to match where repair was needed. He did not care a bit how plank styles had changed since the late 19th century. But Greg had seemed thrilled to focus on such things. 

It had been a bit disconcerting, but endearing, and then Greg seemed to wind himself tight as watch springs in the face of their actual move And, here they were on moving day, in the middle of what Mycroft feared was about to be a rage-induced stroke.

“I’m sorry,” Greg said, spinning around from the bay window in their new, empty front room, where he had just sat shouting down the phone at the drivers who were three hours late delivering their new bed. 

“It’s alright,” Mycroft said, aiming for soothing and landing somewhere to the right of frazzled. “I believe the gentleman’s name was Kenneth? He may require an apology, later.”

“I don’t think good old Ken will be making it here today,” Greg said, rubbing at his face with one hand. “Which means no bed.”

“We can sleep at your flat for one more—”

“I don’t want to.” 

Mycroft sighed. “I know.”

“You’ve rigged elections, I’m pretty sure,” Greg said, holding out his phone to Mycroft. “You try Kenneth.”

“If I could rig elections,” Mycroft said patiently, “do you honestly think we would have the PM we do?”

“How the fuck should I know? You play the long game!”

Mycroft carefully did not laugh. It was quite funny, or it would be if Greg were even remotely joking. But the move had effectively drained his usually good-natured partner of any sense of humor, and Mycroft had learned the hard way that laughing at what sounded like lunacy would in fact get him the stoniest cold shoulder since Unce Rudy insulted Margaret Thatcher’s neckerchief. 

He wondered if that story would cheer Greg up. 

Probably not. Greg hated Tories. 

“We can sleep on the floor,” Myroft settled on saying. “We can sleep in a hotel. We can charter a flight and sleep over the Atlantic, if you like.”

Greg’s shoulders sagged. “I want to sleep in this house. In the bed we ordered. With the really fancy new mattress.”

“I wish I could make that happen for you, darling.”

Greg shoved his phone in his pocket and stared around the empty formal sitting room. “At least the settee and everything is running on time.” 

“Indeed.” Mycroft stood and approached cautiously, hands outstretched. “May I?”

“Please.”

Mycroft drew him close in a hug, slipping one arm around Greg’s waist and encouraging him to rest his head on Mycroft’s shoulder with the other hand. 

“I’ve been awful to live with,” Greg muttered to Mycroft’s sweater. “Sorry.”

“You have not been awful,” Mycroft told him. “I have loved staying with you while we waited for this place to be ready. I considered it a preview of things to come. There has never been a moment that I didn’t look forward to living with you in a place we perfected together. Alright?”

“Alright.” Greg pulled back and brushed their lips together. “Thank you. I loved having you at my flat. Even though you’re weird about your socks.”

Mycroft laughed. “Brace yourself, I’m going to be weird about yours, now, as well.” 

“That’s fine,” Greg said, relaxing against him a bit further. “You’re sure you still want me? Now that you know I’m awful at road trips and moving house?”

“I’m sure,” Mycroft replied, because while the question had been posed as a joking rhetorical, he knew Greg did need to hear it. Mycroft sometimes needed to hear it. They were getting quite good at taking turns. “I’ve never been so sure of anything.”

“Good,” Greg said. “Same. Let’s uhm. Let’s just stand around and cuddle til some delivery guy or another interrupts, yeah?”

Mycroft could manage that easily. They would get through the next few days, and if he had to hold Greg with one arm the entire time, then so be it. 



***



The first Sunday in the new house, they had slow, lazy morning sex, and then Greg went on a rampage of cleaning, ignoring Mycroft’s insistence that the place was fairly spotless, since the cleaner they’d finally agreed to have come in once a week had just been there two days prior. Mycroft could suffer this; Greg cleaned in his oldest, softest, most threadbare jeans, and a too-tight white t-shirt. Mycroft didn’t even mind cleaning the powder room toilet, a task he had not performed since he moved out of his mother’s household at the age of seventeen. After all, Greg was bent over just outside the door in the front hall, wiping baseboards on his hands and knees. 

“Sherlock could not care less if my house is clean,” Mycroft said, helping Greg re-fluff the throw pillows in the informal sitting room they had started to call ‘the den.’ “Or if my pillows are fluffy. Your sister’s children certainly won’t care. John Watson won’t care. Is Laura a stickler, and you failed to mention it?” 

“I just want it to look nice,” Greg replied, unmoved. “I like cleaning up my own space.”

“Feathering your own nest, you mean.”

“Call me a mother hen, and see if you get any dessert.” Greg leaned over the back of the sofa for a kiss, and then turned to leave. “Going to change. Be a love and wipe down the mantle before you come up?”

Mycroft blinked after him, stymied. He didn’t even know what one wiped a mantle down with, both in terms of material and cleaning solution. He sighed and reached for his phone and Google. For Greg, he would find out. 



***



Mycroft, who had been teaching young Delia how to play chess over the internet since the first time they met, was in the process of explaining the use of the Catalan Opening to her when Laura caught his eye from across the den and tilted her head toward the doorway in a clear request to speak with him alone. 

Greg was on the floor with Lucy, playing a vicious game of Life with Sherlock while John looked on and handed Rosie toys to play with on the carpet. Mycroft never knew how to end an interaction with a child without seeming like a horrible prick. He remembered, vaguely, that giving young Sherlock a mystery to solve would occupy him nicely so Mycroft could get on with his studies.

“Delia,” Mycroft murmured. “I have a chess set in this room. It’s hidden, though. Would you like to find it?” 

Delia’s eyes lit up. “Yes!”

Mycroft smiled, pleased to have been right. There was something about Delia that reminded him very much of his brother as a child. He knew he shouldn’t--couldn’t--have a favorite of Greg’s nieces, but…

“I will give you one hint,” Myroft said. “It’s not in a box, and it’s not above the third shelf of the bookcase. Alright?”

“Alright!”

“Now, on the count of three, calmly begin to look. See if you can search without anyone noticing. One, two...calmly, remember…three, go!” The last word was stage-whispered as Mycroft stood and made his way to Laura and the glass of wine she was already holding out to him. 

Delia stood with exaggerated restraint and before Mycroft left the room he watched her cross to the bookcase, having taken the bait (a red herring) to start there. Greg met Mycroft’s eyes and asked, with a twitch of his eyebrow, if he was alright. Mycroft, still quietly amazed that he could have entire conversations with him without saying a word, twitched a reassuring smile, and joined Laura in the hall. 

“Can I steal you away?”

He nodded. “Of course. Is everything alright?” 

“Everything is perfect,” Laura said, her hand resting on his arm and squeezing. “Just want to have you to myself for a bit. Garden?”

“Certainly.”

They made their way to the small back garden, Mycroft remembering to switch on the string lights as they went. 

“This is gorgeous,” Laura sighed. “Really, Mycroft, the place is just… a fairytale.”

Mycroft fidgeted with the stem of his wine glass. “Oh?”

“Oh yeah.” Laura lowered herself into one of the chairs at the little patio table. “Sit with me? Don’t worry, I didn’t bring you out here to give you a shovel talk.”

Mycroft chuckled. “Lucille already took care of that,” he said, taking the chair across from her.

“Oh, Christ,” Laura groaned. “Sorry about her. You can blame Greg; he was just as unmanageable at that age.”

“I believe it,” Mycroft said. “It’s the… affability.”

“Not an act!” Laura wagged one finger. “He’s just as kind and easygoing as he looks! But he knows how to use it, too. And he went and taught it to Luce.”

“I like it.”

“I know you do.” Laura sighed. “Anyone can see you do. You gave him a house.”

“To be fair, I already had the house.”

“Mmm.” Laura sipped at her wine. “That’s the word on the street. Greg told me about the problems. His problems with the money thing. He didn’t go into detail but I want you to know that whatever you did, however you handled that? Must’ve been pure genius. He’s easygoing, yeah, but when it comes to money? His independence? He’s so bloody stubborn.”

“I have been learning that.” Mycroft relaxed into his seat, seeing now that she had brought him off to a private corner for something of a sit-rep on her beloved brother. “As I am stubborn about everything but money, I think we can muddle along.” 

“He has never been this happy, you know,” she said. “Not ever. It almost hurts to look at you two. Sorry, sorry, you’re all blushy now—  I don’t mean to embarrass you!”

Mycroft hid his eyes behind his hand. “I fear I’m not used to such frank discussion of… emotional matters. But please don’t apologize. I’ve… never been more happy to be out of my depth.”

“God, I see why he’s obsessed with you,” Laura laughed. “You’re adorable.”

“That, too, is new,” Mycroft said, dropping his hand to rest his chin on it. “It must be a Lestrade family trait, this strange perception of me. But thank you.” 

They lapsed into quiet. 

“Hmmm.” Laura hummed after a moment and considered him over the rim of her glass. “You know that he makes me keep the book money?”

“Yes.”

“You know that it’s equal to almost a third of his salary at the Met, these days?”

Mycroft raised his eyebrows, surprised. “Oh?”

“Ridiculous, right?” Laura rolled her eyes. “It’s not a fortune by any means, but it would’ve made his life a lot easier plenty of times, if he would just take it. It’s his money.”

“He feels that you need it more.”

“Once upon a time, that was true. And I was grateful for the help. But I’ve just been throwing it into savings for years, now. I want him to take it, but he won’t.”

Mycroft winced. “Are you asking me to argue the case to him? Because I don’t think— “

“No, no,” Laura held up a hand. “I can fight my own battles, and this one will be long, trust me. No. But I am sort of recruiting you to a cause.” 

Mycroft motioned for her to go on, glancing at the back door as he did, nervous about being overheard. 

“He needs to take the writing more seriously,” Laura said. “He’s very good at it, and his editor wants him to write more. And not just the romances. He said he told you about the fantasy novel.”

“Oh, yes,” Mycroft found himself sighing, commiserating, and felt vaguely guilty for it. But this particular topic had weighed on him for months. “He won’t allow me to read it, but it sounds truly excellent.”

“I’m sure you get the same excuses I do: no time, it’s not that good, he’s not a professional writer, this was all a big accident, any day now he’ll run out of ways to make two people meet cute or whatever, and it’ll be done. It’s a hobby. It’s for me. It brought him you and that’s more than he could’ve asked for.” 

Mycroft blinked, resisting the urge to press a fist to his chest to still the butterflies inside. “He said that?”

“Yes!” Laura leaned forward. “He’s an idiot! Oh, no, wait—  sorry, no. That last thing is very sweet. You’re lovely, we love you, I didn’t mean that. No, no. But listen: he’s an idiot. This could be his retirement. Not only that, but it makes him so happy, and he doesn't see it. I’ve always worried about his job, but… I dunno. It doesn't seem like it really makes him happy anymore, does it?” 

Mycroft breathed in slowly and made a concerted effort not to look like a person who had never been told by someone else’s family that he was loved, of all the impossible things. He realized in that moment that he hadn’t heard Greg talk about work in… weeks? Months? Suddenly, several stray threads of observation were beginning to weave themselves together: Greg’s extreme reaction to their difference in financial status (which had not been a surprise to either of them); his intense focus on the house; his anxiety about displaying their new life together in just the right light, as if he had something to prove. Mycroft carefully set it all aside. He would not deduce his partner’s feelings, and would not come to conclusions unless they were given to him by Greg himself. That was the only way he knew how to love him without smothering him.

He focused on Laura, who seemed to be watching the conclusions chase themselves across Mycroft’s face.

“What do you think I can do to convince him?”

“I don’t know,” Laura groaned, and then drained her wine glass. “I just want someone on my side. On his side.”

“I’m always on his side.” 

“I know! That’s why I’m coming to you, hat in hand, and asking you: make my brother stop being so stupid.” 

“Again: how?”

“He says you’re basically the man behind the queen. I’m sure you can figure it out.”

Mycroft drained his own glass then. He would need to have a word with Greg about the Official Secrets Act as well as about his writing career. 

“I will do my best,” he said. 

Laura leaned across the table and kissed his cheek. “I know you will. Thank you.”



***



“Kiss me, please, and then join me for a drink,” Greg groaned as he clattered into the kitchen a bit later than usual one Wednesday night a couple of weeks later. He dropped his bag and travel mug on the table without looking and crossed the room with the air of a man who had been through the wars that day. 

Mycroft turned from plating out the salmon and opened his arms readily. “That bad?”

“Eh,” Greg shrugged and tipped into a kiss. 

Mycroft melted into it, and the kiss, in turn, melted into a lazy grope against the worktop, as was their habit. God, but Mycroft could spend hours and hours doing this. He would never move past how good kissing could be. Barreling closer to the one-year mark, he often wondered if it was possible to do so. Surely most adult men in monogamous relationships didn’t experience heart palpitations from a press of lips? 

He had never been so glad to be atypical. 

“Tell me about it,” Mycroft suggested gently as they parted. “And eat something; you mentioned earlier that your lunch consisted of a packet of crisps. Did you manage anything else today?”

Greg sighed. “No. And to be honest love, I don’t want to get into the details of the day. It was long, it was difficult.”

Mycroft leaned further back, framing Greg’s face in his hands and studying the lines at his eyes, at the corners of his mouth. “Greg.”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re exhausted.” 

“That’s nothing new.” Greg extricated himself from their embrace and moved for the refrigerator. “I’ll get the salad.”

Mycroft let it go for the moment, which was a familiar exercise. For weeks, he had been attempting to draw Greg out of whatever funk he seemed to be in, only to be stonewalled at every turn. He retrieved the couscous from where it had been warming in the oven. They worked quietly together to assemble plates, carrying them to the table with glasses of Mycroft’s favorite white wine. Greg sat and took a healthy gulp of his. 

“This looks amazing, thank you for cooking.” 

“It’s Wednesday,” Mycroft reminded him gently. They normally cooked together on Wednesdays; it was usually their shared early night. 

Greg winced and then went blank, eyes falling to his plate. “Sorry. Sorry I wasn’t here.”

Mycroft could read it easily, the motivation behind the sudden void of emotion in Greg’s usually expressive face. “I’m not upset, darling,” Mycroft murmured as gently as he could manage. “Greg, look at me.” He waited. “I am not upset with you. Since we started them, we have each missed exactly one Wednesday night. It happens, rarely. This is one of those rare times. I am not upset with you.”

I’m horribly upset for you, Mycroft thought, but did not say. Greg looked exhausted and fragile, and like he would be unable to see the distinction were Mycroft to voice those thoughts out loud.

Greg quirked a weak smile. “Alright, alright. I believe you.” 

“It worries me that you don’t wish to tell me about your day.”

“I just…” Greg bit visibly at the inside of his cheek. “It was just a hard one. Just. Bleak. I want to be here, with you, not back on the scene or at my desk.”

“I can understand that.” Mycroft reached with his feet under the table, nudging at Greg’s until their ankles slotted together. “That’s fine. We can talk about something else. Or we can just be quiet together. Yes?”

“Christ,” Greg set down his wine glass and covered his face with both hands. “I love you.” 

Mycroft felt something in his chest fracture. “I love you, too. Are you… Greg what can I do?”

“Just keep being lovely,” Greg said into his palms, then sniffed deeply and rubbed at his dry eyes. “Okay, sorry. Sorry, please, let’s eat.” 

Mycroft nodded and ate, and eventually Greg’s shoulders dropped from around his ears and his face lost some of its tightness. But they would go to bed that night and Mycroft knew that it would be one in which Greg’s body woke him, full of tension and adrenaline. 

And Mycroft would soothe him and hold him, and that would be fine. He saw it as a privilege. 

But then, come morning, Mycroft would worry.