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The Inspector's Colouring Book

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The first time Mycroft gave him a colouring book, Greg stared at it like it was the most mundane thing in the world.

“For you,” Mycroft said, gently, as if talking to a wounded animal. Greg was almost offended by the tone. Then he remembered it was a rather fit definition to his current condition. “I heard colouring helps.”

“Helps with what?”

Your restlessness. Your stress. Your anxiety. But Mycroft didn’t say any of that. “I believe it will ... keep you occupied for a while.”

Greg accepted the book, along with the packet of coloured pencils from Mycroft’s hands. When Mycroft bent down to kiss him on the temple, he leaned back instinctively, and tried to ignore the hurt that flickered across Mycroft’s face for a mere second.

“I shall leave,” Mycroft resorted to tucking the blanket more securely around Greg’s waist. “I’ll see you this evening. Anything you would like me to bring home?”

Greg shook his head, and realised he hadn’t heard the question.

“Right,” Mycroft pursed his lips, hands lingering around the blanket still, as if hesitating, as if he didn’t want to leave Greg to his own devices. “Get some rest, my dear.”

Greg nodded, and realised he hadn’t heard what he was agreeing to for the second time.

He came home to Greg perched on the window seat overlooking the backyard across the bed. That quickly put Mycroft into alert, for Greg wasn’t expected to recklessly walk around with cast on his leg and bandage around his torso and his concussion and nicked lung and fractured ribs—

“You worry too much.”

Mycroft almost screamed at the call out. How could he not worry? Only two months prior did Greg fall so ill in pneumonia that even breathing sorely exerted him, an experience taking so much toll on Mycroft that he never wanted to repeat it again, but of course Greg had to land himself in a hospital earlier this month after interfering an armed robbery. He had always had a suspicion that Greg loved playing hero—either that or his heart was merely too kind for his own good—but Mycroft knew one of these days he had to give Greg a piece of his mind.

Seeing his obvious distress, Greg raised his hand and waved him closer. Mycroft took his time. He catalogued Greg and filed it away for later chastisement: bloodshot eyes that indicate he hadn’t slept at all this afternoon, crease on the bridge between his eyes the telltale of fleeting pain that came and went as it liked...

Mycroft considered touching his hair, which he did, and to his immense relief Greg didn’t retreat like this morning; although there’s a slight tense that almost went unnoticed. Greg’s hair held a certain chill that came with being exposed to gushing wind for an extended period of time. Mycroft could feel it blow past him too. It’s almost night, but not quite, so he let it slide. Night air would, colloquially speaking, only do Greg no good at this point. “What have you been doing?”

Greg straightened his back. He was sitting on his good leg while the casted one had been resting on the floor, stretched straight due to its cast. It was a bare wall Greg sitting on, the cushions and pillows had been put in the laundry some time ago. Deducing from Greg’s mood and rather light expression, the man was feeling at ease. Maybe a breath of fresh air did that to him. Mycroft made a mental note to have the cushions installed back tomorrow. If Greg was to spend his next months in recovery lounging on the window seat, he should make sure the place is perfectly comfortable.

Greg nudged something towards him. “I coloured some,” he said.

Mycroft followed his gaze, and was stunned for a moment. His initial protective streak had jumped ahead of him that he hadn’t noticed the colouring book in front of Gregory’s knee. And a set of watercolour box too, the kind that could fit in your pocket and came with each shade placed neatly in small squares. Greg had laid a spread of newspaper underneath both items, preventing the mess from staining the wall. “Look. Not bad, yeah?”

It was, in fact, breathtaking. The colours blurred together in such a way that they created an illusion of patterns. He knew that Greg had majored in art during his early university days before changing lane to law enforcement, but he’d never actually seen Greg’s artworks firsthand. It wasn’t a topic he could so offhandedly broach to him. He had once or twice brough that up and all attempts had been met with resistance. It was, for reasons unknown, a sensitive topic for his partner.

Now Mycroft could easily see that Greg had the talent flowing in his veins. Hadn’t it been Mycroft, other people would’ve mistaken the piece for a painting bought at a gallery in a highbrow auction held somewhere in Vienna or Paris.

Mycroft reached out to touch the still damp page tenderly. It was beautiful.

“Aw. Thanks.”

He had voiced his thoughts without realising.

Greg looked back at the colouring book. It was only one-third left from finished, but his wrist had started feeling sore for lack of stretching on his part. “Maybe I’ve been in the wrong business after all. Shoud’ve been an artist, shouldn’t I?”

It was intended as a joke, and indeed it was, but Mycroft couldn’t help but sense a certain truth to it. He shifted his gaze to Greg, inquiry on the tip of his tongue, but his breath caught. Greg was smiling. His first smile after the whole fiasco of winding up in surgery and coma and endless fuss that came with being stuck in bed for days on end. Mycroft felt his own eyes sting with warmth but suppressed it fiercely.

Greg was still holding the water brush. Splatters of red and orange and blue and purple smeared his hands carelessly. It didn’t look like the hands of someone who painted for the first time. On the contrary, it looked so much like an artist’s hand. Mycroft could easily picture Greg painting his days away on the campus dorm, and he remembered Greg’s fascination towards art supply section whenever they passed it at Tesco, and it explained the battered condition of the watercolour box, and the set of charcoal Greg always kept in his office at the Yard along with the stack of pastel papers—

“Maybe, Gregory,” he breathed, and drew him in for an embrace. Greg didn’t resist, letting his head rest on Mycroft’s chest. He was solid despite the recent occasion that had softened him a bit around the edges, and warm, and his eyes bright after the recent compliment, and smiling; Gregory was smiling. His Gregory was breathtaking. “Maybe you should have.”

If Gregory noticed the slight tremor in his voice, he didn’t mention it.