Summary: The British Government takes an interest in Mycroft's career.
Their liaison with David wasn't a one-time thing; it developed into a guilt-free 'friends with benefits' arrangement. His presence in their lives, far from hurting their relationship, brought Mycroft and Sherlock even closer together.
Sherlock stayed on as David's houseboy, and David continued to 'pay' him in bondage equipment. With Mycroft's approval, and often his direct involvement, David trained Sherlock to be a 'proper' submissive. He also gave Mycroft some pointers on being an effective Dom.
It probably would have gone on for years, if it hadn't been for one thing.
It wasn't jealousy, or guilt, or boredom, or a lack of space for dungeon furniture.
It was the intervention of the British Government.
The written summons arrived hand-delivered via personal assistant, which didn't bode well at all. Worse still, it wasn't even his branch—it was from the Home Office. He couldn't imagine what he'd done to attract their attention. Mycroft panicked for a second, wondering if Sherlock was involved, then pasted on an artificial smile and followed the well-dressed young man out of the building into the oppressive early-February drizzle.
They were met by a surprisingly luxurious car: a black sedan, with tinted windows and soft leather seats. It headed towards the Home Office headquarters, but then—disturbingly—turned off in the opposite direction, towards the Thames. Mycroft felt the skin crawl on the back of his neck.
"Where, exactly, did you say we were going?"
"I thought you said you were from the Home Office."
The clean-cut assistant just smiled. "We'll be there shortly."
Not at the Home Office, we won't.
'There' turned out to be the sleek, glass-and-concrete headquarters of MI6. Mycroft felt like he was going to be sick. It couldn't possibly be anything he'd done—there had been that one incident where a Member of Parliament had asked him to change the dates on some corporate earnings reports, but it wasn't unheard of—and he'd be surprised if that was something MI6 would care about. Sherlock hadn't been much more than arms-length away from him for over six months now. Surely even he couldn't manage to get into this sort of trouble. It must be something to do with his work. Someone higher up. He prayed he'd know the answer to whatever they were going to ask him.
He was directed to an unmarked office occupied by an older, dour-faced man.
"Mycroft Holmes." It was a statement, not a question.
The man didn't offer his name. "We've heard a lot about you. You're reliable, hard-working, and not afraid to bend the rules every now and then."
Oh, dear. They know about the earnings reports.
"You're exactly the sort of person we'd like to have over here; no need to see you wasting away on the other side of the Thames."
Relief flooded through him: this visit wasn't disciplinary, after all. Perhaps things are looking up. He'd always presumed the adage about 'hard work paying off' was a lie told to hard workers to keep them working hard. He sat up a little straighter in his chair.
"We think you'd be a good fit for our surveillance team. It's a good division, lots of room for advancement, and you've certainly got the mind for it. The pay would be much higher, of course. You'd be subject to the standard background checks: criminal, financial, medical, social history, yearly polygraph. Just a formality, really."
He mentally ticked off each item in the list. Fine, fine, fine… social history? Oh, God. Former lovers. Jonathan.
Jonathan, who would have all sorts of juicy information and lies to share, he was sure: as a solicitor, he'd always been clever at fabricating stories. They'd probably run across David, too, and his living arrangement with Sherlock—the latter was superficially less damning, but he didn't want it to come under closer scrutiny by the SIS, of all people. He'd heard about the process from someone else who'd been promoted to MI6: they were extremely thorough in their investigations.
"Thank you very much, sir; I'm honoured to be given this privilege." Sort of. "Would it be all right if I took a few days to consider it?"
"Are you quite serious?" the man said, incredulously. "There should be nothing to consider. People don't turn down this sort of position unless they've got something to hide."
Isn't that the truth. I've been here for two minutes, and already I need to lie.
"It's a medical issue, sir. I have a history of depression, and it's exacerbated by stressful situations. I'm not sure I'd be able to perform to my full capacity in a job like this." It was rooted in the truth, at least.
"I didn't see that in your file."
I suppose they already started their investigation, then.
"We consulted with our family doctor. It's genetic, and not something my mother wished to be publicly known." He said it with the barest hint of accusation.
"I see. Well, I must inform you that a full psychological examination is part of the background check. However, we have other people with similar issues in our employ, and I see no reason why it should prevent you from working here, as long as it's well-managed."
"Thank you, sir. All the same, I'd appreciate a few days to consider it."
"If you must."
He wasn't sure how to respond to that. 'I must' sounded rude. "Thank you, sir."
"James will give you our contact information," he said, then he looked down and started making notes in the paperwork on his desk—a clear sign of dismissal.
Mycroft showed himself out.
He sat in his office and stared at the wall. He had the nasty feeling that if he refused the job, word would get back to his current employers about his 'history of depression' and his career path would take a nose-dive. MI6 didn't seem to take rejection well.
And if I subject myself to the background check?
Jonathan was a solicitor—his status made it unlikely that he'd be dismissed out of hand as a jealous ex-lover making up stories. Worse, he imagined Jonathan pictured himself as blameless; he probably felt Mycroft had overreacted and thrown him out onto the street without just cause. Since Mycroft hadn't reported Jonathan's abuse at the time, there was nothing except Sherlock's pictures to discredit Jonathan's version of events, and he really didn't want to drag the whole thing out into the open.
But his living situation with Sherlock: that had the potential to be even worse. If they looked into his 'roommate situation', they'd surely question why someone with his finances chose to live in a small flat with his brother. It had gone on far too long to be a 'transitory living arrangement'. Regardless of whether their unconventional relationship could be proved—or, God forbid, prosecuted as incest—the merest suggestion of it would be career-ending. It was exactly the type of 'potential blackmail source' they were looking for with their background checks.
And then there was David: Mycroft didn't want to bring an investigation down on his head. As a professional Dom, his job skirted the margins of legality as it was. He had no intention of repaying David's friendship with legal proceedings.
And a job in surveillance? Violating people's privacy for money.
No. This wasn't going to work.
He stared at the wall for another thirty seconds before he picked up the phone.
"Sherlock? We need to talk."
They sat in the posh restaurant, discussing the matter over their salad course.
"I'm not going to accept the job; I won't put us under that sort of scrutiny. My current job will most likely disintegrate when they hear about this, though. So much for my 'promising career'."
Sherlock shrugged. "You never liked it anyway."
"So, what are you going to do next? Find a professorship somewhere?" Sherlock said.
"I don't have to do anything. You know that."
"We don't need the money, no. But if you sit at home all day, you'll go insane."
"I suppose I could teach. I have some contacts at Cambridge who'd probably help."
Sherlock pushed a cherry tomato around the plate with his fork. His gaze drifted out of the windows onto the wet glass buildings of the London skyline. It was an impressive view, but utterly grey and depressing. "Mummy won't care what you do, you know. As long as you tell her you're happy, she'll be fine with anything."
"Yes, I know," Mycroft said. It was true enough.
"So, put in your resignation and be done with it; you can find something else to do later. I feel the same way as Mummy—you should do whatever makes you happy."
Mycroft followed Sherlock's gaze out over the skyline. "I was wondering," he said, but he couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence. He'd been thinking about it since the moment he'd decided to decline the offer, but it didn't seem fair to ask—not now that they had a social life and Sherlock was enjoying his job so much.
"Never mind. Sorry. Yes, of course I'll find something." He smiled, even though it was a bit forced.
Sherlock turned back to look at him. "I'll do it, you know."
"Do what?" Mycroft said, unsure if they were talking about the same thing.
"Leave London. That's what you're getting at, right? Your job isn't keeping you here anymore."
"But… David, and your job. Things aren't the same as they were before."
"Of course not; things change. What we have with David is unique, certainly, but if you'll be happier elsewhere, I think that's far more important. And it should go without saying that I'll follow you anywhere."
"What about your job?" Mycroft said.
"David will find another houseboy. Besides, it's not like we'd be moving to South America or something. England's a small island. We have a car. There are trains." He paused. "You're not considering moving to South America, are you? Because I'm going to have to brush up on my language skills if you are."
Mycroft smiled. "No. I haven't given the details much thought, really. I didn't think you'd want to do it."
"Well, then: we could still visit London. Perhaps we should find somewhere for a month—keep the flat in Hammersmith for now. Figure out some options. If it doesn't work out, it'll just be a nice break from the city, but if we like being away, we can decide what to do from there."
The plan provided them with a safety net—or more accurately, a very slow-acting bungee—as they leapt into the unknown.
Mycroft awoke to the sound of driving rain. He shifted onto his side to see if he could catch a glimpse of the sky out the window, but the movement woke Sherlock.
"Sorry. Go back to sleep; it's still early."
"S'fine," he said, his voice still groggy. "Oh no, don't tell me it's raining."
"Fine, I won't." It wasn't just raining, it was pouring. He shifted back and pressed his side up against Sherlock's chest, angling for a kiss; he got one. They'd gone back to Torquay on a whim, curious to see what it was like during winter. "'The English Riviera', eh?" he said, unable to resist a little good-natured teasing.
Sherlock took the bait, which Mycroft chalked up to sleepiness. "They'd predicted 'bright' for the whole weekend," he replied with a groan.
Mycroft leaned over and kissed him again. "Don't worry; it's nice to be out of London."
They were staying in a furnished flat. The owner's taste in decorating left a lot to be desired—style à la Ikea—but it didn't approach the horrors of the B&B where they'd stayed previously. The heating—necessary in February—worked well, and the place was clean.
The weather put a damper on their plans to explore by foot. On the first day, they tromped in raincoats from the car park in the middle of town, to the warmth of the nearest bookshop—the only shop of significant interest to them both. As Mycroft shook the cold rain from his umbrella, he wondered if they should have gone to Paris instead. It had plenty of bookshops, and theatres, and museums… but then they might as well be back in London. He brought it up, but Sherlock thought it was a horrible idea, proclaiming the entire country to be unnecessarily fond of itself—which Mycroft found rich, coming from him. Besides, he wanted to get away from people for a while. Everybody but Sherlock.
After three solid days of rain, and a well-thumbed stack of new books back at the flat (on the geology of Dartmoor for Sherlock, and the history of piracy in Devon for Mycroft), they both longed for the distractions and access to information they'd had in London. The internet, something they'd started taking for granted, was next to useless in Torquay. The flat only offered dial-up access, and doing anything online was an exercise in slow screen-loading frustration. They'd had a high-speed connection in London for over a year now, and reverting to dial-up seemed as archaic as a riding in a horse-drawn carriage. Rumour had it that by 2005, the whole country would be using broadband. The infrastructure was in place: Mycroft couldn't see what was taking them so long. If it was their flat, he'd have a faster connection installed… but it wasn't.
They'd made another tactical error: toys. It hadn't been feasible to bring their entire collection, so they'd stuck to the basics: plug, crop, gag, flogger, and a copious amount of lube. He didn't know what they'd been thinking, especially given Sherlock's appetite. The first few days were fine, but by the third day, Sherlock wanted to be tied up, and of course the cuffs were in London. Torquay didn't have much in the way of sex shops. Or, in fact, anything in the way of sex shops. If they didn't bring it with them, there wasn't any chance of getting it. The best they could hope for was some rope at the local DIY or marine supply shop.
Sherlock demanded a 'sanity trip' back to London to retrieve more toys, books, and some 'necessary' lab equipment. Mycroft, loathe as he was to give in to Sherlock's demands, couldn't agree more. They hadn't even been here a week, and already, not having a job was making his fingers itch. He needed to be doing something. 'Endless sex and reading' was only sustainable for so long, no matter how good it sounded.
He'd envisioned bracing walks across the headlands, fresh air, and a respite from the teeming crowds of the city. There were certainly fewer people here, but getting outside was much less appealing when it was raining so hard you couldn't see the ocean.
Sherlock snapped him out of his thoughts. "I'm going to run a load of washing; is this everything? I stripped the bed, too."
Mycroft looked up, surprised to see him carrying a hamper of clothes. "Oh, thank you. I think so." Sherlock had done all the washing since he'd started working for David. Normally, there wasn't much, as his suits required dry-cleaning. Here, though, he hadn't worn a suit all week. It was an odd feeling. Freeing. "Bored?"
"I needed a break from reading." Sherlock went to the washing machine in the small cupboard and started to sort the lights and darks. Mycroft had to hand it to David—he'd turned Sherlock into the model of domesticity. He allowed himself a smile when he knew Sherlock wasn't looking. Mummy wouldn't recognise him with his newfound skills—skills she'd never learnt: she'd never washed anything in her life. It was silly, but he was proud of Sherlock for doing something simply because it needed to be done, without making a fuss or expecting some sort of reward. He could still be an utter brat, of course, when it came to things he wanted, but this new side of him was a refreshing change.
After dinner, Sherlock did the ironing and Mycroft helped him fold and put away the clothes. It was comically mundane. The rain let up a bit, but continued as a heavy drizzle outside their window. They turned on the telly to watch the news, and were gratified to see that London had been tortured by the same weather.
"I'm sure it's not always this bad," Sherlock said.
"You're right. It is February. It's not just the weather, though: I'm used to having something to think about for eight hours a day, and I don't really know what to do with myself at the moment." He waited for the inevitable 'I told you so' from Sherlock.
"I miss work, too," Sherlock replied instead. "Besides, it's not like I can 'wander the streets of Torquay' like I used to do in London. I'd be done in an hour."
Mycroft chuckled and stood up. He poured some nice Scotch into some horribly tacky pressed-glass tumblers from Ikea and shuddered a little; he might as well be drinking straight from the bottle.
"I'm sorry, Sherlock, I think this might have been a colossal mistake. There's nothing down here for us to do—it's a holiday town with no prospects for work. It's a nice enough place to visit during the summer but I think we'll lose our minds if we stay here year-round."
Sherlock took a sip of his drink. "Mm. I'm inclined to agree," he said. "But I'm still not going to Paris."
Mycroft smiled. "No, I was thinking I should reconsider Cambridge."
Sherlock wrinkled his nose in reply. "They're a bunch of pompous gits, and the students are entitled brats."
"As an entitled brat, I believe I'm qualified to make that statement."
"Fair enough," Mycroft said with a smile, but then he sighed and rested his head on the back of the sofa. "To be honest, I'm sick of working my way up the food chain. The government, universities: they're all the same in the end. It's as much about who you impress as how hard you work."
"Start a business, then. You've always been incredibly impressed with yourself—half the work is done."
Mycroft lobbed a pillow at him, and Sherlock held his drink out of the way of his poorly-aimed retaliation.
"I'd avoid professional cricket, though."
Mycroft lobbed the other pillow at him, this one hitting its mark. He smiled, grimly. "What about rugby?"
"I'd never tolerate that many men piling on top of you," Sherlock said, without missing a beat.
"You make the game sound far more interesting than it actually is," Mycroft said, and sipped his drink. "What about you? You'll have to figure out something as well, or you'll be bored to tears."
He shrugged. "I'll find something. Perhaps there's a Dom who needs a houseboy."
Mycroft sat up straight. "That's an idea…"
Sherlock interrupted him. "You? 'A Dom in Devon'? Sounds like a bad novel."
"No, not me. Think about it: what else can I do—really well?"
"Make me come?"
Mycroft looked around to find another pillow, but there were none left. "Be serious for a moment. I managed all the daily affairs at the manor after Father died. I still do the books. Remember that abysmal bed and breakfast we stayed in, and how we joked about making it soundproof?"
Sherlock smiled fondly at the memory. Given the owner's frosty reception during checkout, he suspected his pants hadn't worked very well as an impromptu gag.
"What if we ran a B&B—one that only catered to kinky clients? One that wasn't run by a geriatric busybody. Better still: one with sex toys. It would prevent the very situation we're in now: going on holiday and having to leave all your favourite playthings at home."
He gave Mycroft a distasteful look. "I doubt people would want to share butt plugs."
"No, not that: the implements, and more importantly, the furniture. Do you know anyone other than David who has such a good collection? I'm sure there'd be lots of couples who'd love access to something like that."
"A boutique B&B experience," Mycroft countered.
Sherlock found himself in the unlikely position of talking Mycroft out of doing something insane; usually it was the other way around. "Running a bed and breakfast isn't the same as doing the books at the manor."
"Of course not, but how hard can it be? I'd do the books and the catering, and you can be the houseboy."
"This doesn't strike you as a disaster waiting to happen? You have seen Fawlty Towers, right?"
"Of course, but that was a scripted television show, not real life. We'd only take one booking at a time, and we'd be very selective."
Mycroft paused to think for a few moments. "David might be willing to point 'appropriate' clients in our direction."
"Oh." Sherlock gave this serious consideration. "That's not a very profitable business model."
"It doesn't have to be."
Sherlock took a rather large swig of his Scotch. "True… but you'll have to explain to Mummy what you're doing with the money."
"Of course, but I doubt she'll care, as long as it doesn't interfere with her clothing allowance. Besides, it'll barely make a dent in our overall holdings—certainly nothing they can't recover from. When she asks, I'll tell her I hated my job and needed a break from London. We both wanted to move to the country, so we purchased a house on 'The English Riviera' and we're renovating it. It's all true. I would never lie to her."
"You've never told her we're sleeping together," Sherlock said, sardonically.
He quirked a smile. "She's never asked. She's also unlikely to ask if we're running a kinky bed and breakfast. Some things are better left unmentioned."
Mycroft continued thinking out loud. "We'll buy a place and turn it into a boutique hotel—one that has a single room available. We'll renovate, soundproof—"
"—run high-speed internet access, decorate the place impeccably, and then we add our stunning collection of dungeon furniture and toys. We won't publicise it, at least not around here. David can vet our potential clients as responsible members of the community, and then we open it for kinky couple's weekends."
Sherlock was at a loss for words.
Mycroft shrugged. "I'd visit."