I turn away from the window and look over at Gregory, who is sprawled on a mound of pillows in front of the fireplace. “Hm?”
“I’m supposed to be sobbing on your shoulder, remember?”
“It was only a few hours ago. Your brush with death hasn’t completed addled my mind.”
“Well, I’m no physicist, but I think you’re a bit far away for me to reach your shoulder.”
With a sigh, I take a seat on the blanket next to him. “Have at it.”
“Not to make me feel like I’m imposing on you or anything.” He sounds hurt. “I was only teasing.”
“Forgive me if I’m not finding the humour in you nearly being killed by a drug addict.”
“I’m fine, Mycroft.” He puts a firm hand on my thigh and squeezes. “Virtually unscathed.”
“To the untrained eye, yes. However, my eye is far from untrained, and I can see that you are not fine.” I clench my teeth to stem the tide of anger that is close to boiling over. “Not even remotely unscathed, Gregory.”
For a few minutes, the only movement is his hand on my thigh, gripping and releasing. Then he sighs. “No, you’re right. I… I was afraid. I was thinking that if he shot me, you’d probably blow up the world or unleash some type of hellish plague in revenge. I told him about you – that if he hurt me, he’d never survive because my husband wouldn’t allow it.” He chuckles. “He didn’t believe me, the poor sod.”
“I would be hard pressed not to take action,” I admit. “But a plague would most definitely be frowned upon.”
“I’m sure you’d be able to smooth it over. You can be very persuasive when you have to be.” He chuckles, then sobers. “He wasn’t angry… he was heartbroken. His mum died, and his step-father kicked him out. He’d been living rough for the past few months or so. Fell in with the wrong sort to save himself, and ended up an addict. Sad.”
“You were thinking of Sherlock.”
“Yeah, I suppose I was a bit. I knew – and don’t ask me how- that he didn’t want to hurt me. He was desperate for someone to listen to him, to help him. I tried to talk him down, but once the snipers got there, he amped up, and wouldn’t hear anything I said.”
“How did you come to be his hostage? It was my understanding that you arrived at the scene late in the proceedings.”
He looks down and away, then back up at me, and I brace myself for the lie. “Um… well… you already know I’m about to lie, so…”
“So don’t. I won’t have anyone killed if incompetence is involved.” Perhaps maimed or shipped off to Greenland, but no killing.
“He had Quinn. You met him at the summer picnic - the Sargent whose wife just had a baby.” He shakes his head. “I could see that it wasn’t going to end well… Quinn was nervous and twitchy, and Nick – the gunman – was really agitated. I tried to tell Quinn to relax, but it escalated to the point where I couldn’t control the situation, so I offered a swap. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. I knew you’d be pissed, but I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. He calmed down right after Quinn was off.”
“I see.” I steeple my hands, and press them to my lips for a long moment. “And I understand. On a purely intellectual level. Your hero complex-“
“Stop that!” he says sharply.
“No!” I snap. “You can’t go around offering yourself up because you think someone’s life is worth more than yours. Sargent Quinn is in a dangerous job. If the concern that he makes it home nightly is paramount to your team, perhaps he should be in a job that does not place him in harm’s way.”
“If you…” He blows out a frustrated breath and glares at me. “You can’t just…” His shoulders slump, and he groans. “Fuck.”
“That sound is the wind taking leave of your sails.”
“And you can piss off.”
“Eloquently put. But you know I’m right in this. Your life means more to me than any other person. Even a newly minted Sargent with a penchant for gambling, a weak right eye, and a newborn daughter.”
“How do you…never mind.”
“Indeed. I am aware that it sounds callous of me, but it’s true. There wouldn’t be moment’s hesitation were I forced to choose.”
“There’s Sherlock.” There’s a minute trace of something in his tone… resignation, and perhaps a smidgen of anger. “So, yeah.”
“While it is true that I would move heaven and earth to assist my brother, thanks to the good doctor, he no longer needs me in that sense. You do. And I need you just as much.”
“Says the man whose motto is ‘caring isn’t an advantage’.”
“It isn’t,” I say baldly. “Caring about someone does not prevent horrible things from happening to them. All lives end, and all hearts are eventually broken. However, if you believe that your untimely death wouldn’t affect me, then I am unsure why you married me. I wouldn’t wail, or throw myself in your casket, but if something were to happen to you, it would affect me profoundly.”
“I expect a bit of wailing,” he says with a cheeky grin. “And at least have someone pry your hands away from my casket.”
I try to laugh at his attempt to lighten the mood, but fail. I fall back against the pillows, allowing a frustrated groan to escape. He looks over at me, then lifts his eyebrows. “What is it?”
“It’s… nothing. Yet, it’s everything. I could have lost you today.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Hell.” He moves then, straddling my lap. “Feel me. Here with you, real and sold.”
“Feel me,” he repeats.
My shaking hands sweep up his back, down his sides, then settle on his hips.
“Keep going.” His tone is gruff. “Until you’re sure.”
“Keep going.” Insistence joins in, changing gruff to rough. “Convince yourself.”
I shove my hands into his shorts, gripping his arse firmly, feeling him solid and fleshy in my hands. “Yes,” I murmur.
My hands explore the cleft of his arse, teasing, feeling, caressing… and it’s not enough.
He senses this and lifts up, shoving his clothes out of the way, then seats himself back in my lap, gloriously bare under those ridiculous shorts. “Go on, then.”
I glance at him, my eyes taking in the tense set of his shoulders, and the fact that he’s not aroused. “You’re not…”
“You are. Make it count for both of us.”
I shake my head. “I shouldn’t. It’s not… appropriate, given the circumstances.”
He leans forward and presses his lips to mine. There is no movement, not seeking tongue, just mouth to mouth, his breath huffing in and out. Then he pulls away. “It’s more than appropriate. It’s needed. I’m here Mycroft. Reassure yourself.”
“It’s…” I sigh. “Stupid. I know that you’re here, that you’re safe, that you’re with me. But, there’s another part, a very frightening part of me that wants to…” I feel my face heating up, and I look away.
His finger tips my chin up so that our eyes meet. “Wants to what?”
“Tell me, Mycroft.”
“Part of me wants to pin you to the floor, and ravish you senseless. After that, I want to shove myself inside you, and just… pound you for days just to reassure myself that you’re unharmed, and are here with me. It’s amazingly illogical and useless. What is wrong with me?”
“Nothing at all. That’s your biological imperative, your inner caveman, needing physical reassurance that your mate is safe and sound.”
“I don’t have an inner caveman.”
He laughs softly. “Then who’s that wanting to pin and pound me?”
I look away again. “Yes, well, as I said. Inappropriate. And I don’t care to be mocked.”
“Oh, sweetheart, no,” he says solemnly, nudging me to face him again. “I swear I’m not mocking you. I just want you to shelve your manners and civility and do whatever it is you need to do to assure yourself that I’m here, and that I’m all right.”
My hands wrap around his back, and I pull him close, breathing in and out, allowing the familiar scent of him to calm me. I move a hand to his neck, smiling as he swallows. I can feel his heartbeat under his ribcage with my other hand. “Gregory,” I say, pressing my lips to his collarbone. I taste him, soap, peppermint, and lime – so achingly familiar that I want to weep. “Gregory.”
“Yes,” he groans, his own hands clenched on my shoulders. “That’s me you’re feeling. Alive and well. Safe, Mycroft.”
I hold him tighter, and bury my face in the crook of his neck. For now, this is enough. To feel his pulse, his breath, to smell him, to know that he’s out of danger, and is here with me is enough for now. “I love you,” I murmur, my hands in his hair. “You should know that.”
“I do,” he says, almost hiding the hitch in his voice. “Really.”
“Good.” I ease us back against the pillows, and am content to just lie here with him in my lap. My inner caveman can wait until later. “You can have that sob now.”
“Right.” He clutches me tighter, and his breathing goes choppy. “Thank you.”
I simply hold him close as I feel the first tears soak through my dressing gown.