Chapter Six

Mycroft was standing in the middle of his bedroom staring at a bare spot on the beige-painted wall when John Watson burst into the room. He was still in his pyjamas, which sported a freshly-sloshed tea stain, and his face was livid. Although there had been a few close calls in the past, John had never actually punched Mycroft, but everything deserved a first time. He waited, unmoving, to see if this would be that first time.

John halted in front of him in a tense parade rest, sucked in a deep, impatient breath through his nose, and tilted his head. "What did you do?" he clipped out.

Mycroft smoothed the waistcoat of his pinstripe suit down, even though it was perfectly pressed, and responded to John's menacing glare with a cool lift of his brows. "To what are you referring?"

"You know what I'm fucking referring to. Greg just left. Looking like it was Christmas Day and his puppy died. But I expect you know that already."

He hadn't, as a matter of fact, known that had Greg left—but not a shiver of his eyelid would betray his ignorance of that information. He could picture him, sitting grimly in the back of the BMW, moving farther and farther away. He had been expecting it, but he didn't want to know when it happened. His resolve was only so strong. The house staff might have tried to contact him, but to prevent any interruption of his misery, he had taken the most drastic of measures: he shut off his mobile phone. He might have heard the car pull out of the drive, but he had firmly shut his casement windows earlier to block out the aggressively cheerful chorus of morning birdsong. "I assure you, John, that Detective Inspector Lestrade's departure was his own decision."

John's jaw tightened. "And I'm asking what you did to make him leave. Because I know it was you, Mycroft."

"It's really none of your concern." Mycroft put a little more ice in his voice, but he already despaired of being easily rid of John's presence. The man was nothing if not tenacious.

"It is my concern. It's very much my concern. Greg's my friend. And you…" John sighed and ran a hand over the taut lines creasing his forehead. "…God help me, you're practically my brother now."

Mycroft blinked before he could stop himself at this sudden acquisition of a second brother. He could barely manage just the one, for heaven's sake. Caught off guard, he turned to disparagement. "I see your loyalties are as misplaced as ever."

John's smile would have been pleasant if not for the fierce focus in his eyes. "I'll ask you once more…nicely…what did you say to him?"

He was irritatingly tenacious. Mycroft swallowed tightly and looked down his nose at John, who apparently now thought of Mycroft as a brother. Practically. "I simply told him the truth."

"What truth?"

"That our…" he looked away uncomfortably, "…liaison would be at and end upon our return to London."

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Mycroft. Why? You were doing well." John's eyes flashed his frustration. "Well, of course you would have to try to bollocks it up. You're a Holmes."

Mycroft frowned at this slight upon his competence. "John, it's for the best. A man in my position—"

"Is still a man, Mycroft. I really want to hear fuck all about your position right now. Wait, let me guess." He licked his lips. "You're at the part where you couldn't possibly have a relationship and be the person you need to be in order do your work. Am I right? God, you're both idiots."

Mycroft scowled fiercely, all effort at concealing his reactions abandoned, as John reduced his hard-won devotion to duty to a gibe and a smirk. Oh, yes, he was very much like a brother after all. He sharpened his tone, and spoke aloud the set of sentences that he had forced himself to repeat over and over in his mind since his conversation with Greg. "My position requires certain sacrifices. Sentiment has no place in my life. I let myself forget that. That was a mistake. I have corrected it."

John's eyes narrowed. "Since when do you make sacrifices? I thought you played to win. If you don't like the rules, change them. Isn't that what you do?"

Mycroft nearly spluttered. He had expected condemnation for disinterest or cruelty—cold, heartless—but John was challenging Mycroft Holmes' gamesmanship?

John walked slowly toward him, pushing, goading, challenging his territory. "Where's your fight, Mycroft?" he asked softly.

As a smaller man, John Watson really should have been less intimidating, but at this distance he gave Mycroft the distinct impression of a predator baring teeth far too near his throat. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Tenacious, loyal, and—damn the man to all nine circles of hell and back—was he right? A swell of panic rose in Mycroft's throat. He played from the tower while men like John…and Greg...fought on the ground. He was ill-equipped for this ground-war of emotion where his weaknesses were so easily overwhelmed by their strengths. I've already lost. He lashed out in fear. "One cannot resolve every situation with a brawl," he sneered. "There are circumstances under which the correct course of action is one of restraint and discretion. You know little of such concepts, I expect."

"Discretion. By far the kindest word for cowardice." John's smile was pure mockery. "Don't you think?"

Mycroft hissed through his teeth as he was buffeted by a wave of shame, because in truth he knew no man of greater courage or innate understanding than John Watson.

"The Mycroft I know would never just give up on something he wanted," John, unfazed and confident of his advantage, continued his strafing run on Mycroft's internal defenses. "So the question is: do you still want him?"

Yes. Desperately. Yes. But it doesn't matter. I can't. I don't know how.

As Mycroft stared at John, mouth agape as he struggled to voice a response over his internal turmoil, Sherlock—master of good timing that he was—appeared in the doorway, wrapped in a bed sheet. "John, what are you doing? Where's my tea? You were getting tea." He shuffled into the room, rubbing at his hair sleepily.

"We were just having a chat," John informed him in an aggravatingly calm voice, stepping back from Mycroft slightly. "Greg left this morning. Mycroft's chucked him."

Sherlock paused behind John and yawned. "Oh, of course he has. He's an idiot."

John pursed his lips and looked at the floor. Under the circumstances, Mycroft recognized his refrain from comment as a wise choice.

Sherlock sighed one of his most dramatic sighs. With one hand still clutching his sheet, Sherlock wrapped his other arm with slow deliberation around John's chest and pulled him close. His eyes were intent on Mycroft's. "We can have good things, too, Mycroft. Even us."

Mycroft's head jerked back as if the wave of emotions churning through his mind had physical force. Why would Sherlock say such a thing? What does he want from me? What do they all want from me? What do they know that I don't? Panic reached deep into in his throat again and fluttered its fingers in his chest. Mycroft swallowed down on it hard. "What if it's too late?"

"It might be," John, smiling up at Sherlock, conceded with an inappropriate lack of concern. "But give him a chance, yeah?"

Sherlock returned John's besotted gaze, openly, right in front of his brother, as if it were the most natural, acceptable, obvious thing in the world to do—to care for someone.


Mycroft drew a deep breath and took his mobile from his suit pocket, powered it back on, and dialed the driver's number. He pulled his pocket watch from his waistcoat and checked the time as he waited for the connection to go through. They had not been gone long enough yet to reach either the nearest train station or the airport.

The driver answered.

"Nicolas…bring him back. Now."


Greg flung the door of the villa open. He was hoping for a satisfying crack of wood against wall, but the hinges were tight enough to deny him even that pleasure. John and Sherlock were frozen in the entry hall, John with his hand extended, obviously just about to open the door himself.

John's eyes widened when he saw Greg's face. "Er, hi…again. We were just…leaving. Greg, look, we—"

Greg pinned them with a withering glare in response to this inanity, and John's mouth shut immediately.

Sherlock peered at him, almost equally wide-eyed, over the top of John's head.

"Where?" he growled at them through clenched teeth. His throat had gone hoarse from swearing at Nicolas, who had turned the car around in the middle of the road upon receiving a not-so-mysterious phone call and deposited him back at the fucking villa with no fucking explanation. Greg had almost reached over the seat and shaken him until his fucking scared-looking eyes popped out of his head just so he could stuff them into his fucking silent mouth. He'd tried to leave with a shred of his dignity still intact, but fuck dignity. Fuck Mycroft Holmes.

"Library. He's in the library."

"Out of the way." Greg pushed past John and Sherlock and stalked down the hallway.

He flung the library door open as well.

Mycroft stood at the side of his desk in his fucking three-piece suit, with his fucking hair combed into place and a calm fucking expression, fingertips resting oh-so-lightly on top of the polished mahogany.

"Well?" Greg's upper lip curled in a snarl and he spread his arms wide. "You summoned me? Here I am."

Mycroft took a step toward him, not away as a man who valued the free flow of air through his windpipe really should. "Just listen. Please."

"You want another go? Is that it?"

"I understand if you won't." His voice was subdued. "I do realize that I…don't deserve it."

Greg ground his back teeth together. "And if I don't? You'll just haul me back again."

"No. But I beg that you will give me this chance to speak."

"Oh, you're begging me now?" Greg scoffed.

"That is precisely what I am doing. Please."

"I'm not asking you what you want. I've asked you that before, and it didn't end well, if you recall."

Mycroft hung his head. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not your fucking yo-yo. I'm not your fucking toy."

Mycroft reached for him. "Greg…"

"Do you want to keep that hand?" he snapped, to stop the ache from hearing his name in Mycroft's voice.

Mycroft dropped his arm. His eyes looked especially blue this morning, earnest, vulnerable, and Greg hated him for a moment. He didn't have the right to look vulnerable.

Damn it. DAMN it. Greg settled his hands on his hips and jutted his chin out belligerently. "Fine. I'm listening."


Sherlock sprawled on the garden bench on his back, letting a hand dangle near the top of the grass below. He could smell the residue of rain still in the grass and in the earth beneath. A light breeze mingled scents of lilac and thyme with the honey-lime smell of the flowering linden tree shading his bench. He blinked up at dark green tatter-edged leaves that fluttered in the soft, slanted sunlight. The garden was cool and fragrant and peaceful this morning. He frowned at it.

John was wandering idly, making random patterns in the grass. His trainers and the hem of his jeans were getting wet. He didn't seem to care. He liked it here, even though nothing dangerous happened. He relaxed. Looked happy. Was happy. Happiness. Sherlock frowned at that, too. Ridiculous word. Simple-minded concept.

"Are we just going to sit here all day, waiting?" Sherlock lamented.

"What do you want to do?"

"Go home." John had thought Sherlock was happy here. He wasn't happy here. He was happy with John. A cerulean blue butterfly tumbled through the air just above his face. Sherlock frowned at it. Yes, fine, he was happy.

"You know there wasn't time to pack our things."

John hadn't even given him time to shower. They had showered last night, of course, but he had been looking forward to another one. With John. "Mycroft can send them on."

"Absolutely not. I'm not leaving my laptop here. Or…our bag?" He gave Sherlock a significant look, just in case Sherlock had somehow failed to register the fact that John was referring to the bag containing their preferred lubricant and a small assortment of sex toys. Although it was seldom evidenced in his blog, John could be surprisingly creative.

"Go in and get them."

"No, Sherlock…no. We're giving them some privacy. We can go home later. Or tomorrow. All right?" He sat down, wincing slightly, on the end of Sherlock's bench and shoved at his legs. "Budge up."

"Fine." Sherlock swung himself to a sitting position and sighed mournfully. John petted his leg in reflexive response. Sherlock leaned his shoulder into John's. Strong, solid. He pushed a little, testing. John neither gave ground nor pushed back. Instead he put his arm around Sherlock's shoulders and pulled him closer. John loved him. John loved him. This was the man who had practically chanted his love for Sherlock while Sherlock thrust and thrashed and howled into his slick body like some deranged beast. He shivered under the forgiving caresses of the dappled sunlight.

"So I'll ask one more time. What do you want to do?"

Sherlock shifted their positions so that he could wrap his arm around John and watch his face. "Take you home. Taste you. Swallow you." John's breath caught and his pupils widened. He licked his lips. Sherlock smiled behind his eyes. It was easy. Because he meant it.

"If I'd known you could be this insatiable…" John mumbled.

"Keep you." That creature John brought out in him frightened him sometimes, but it didn't frighten John. Should it? Should he keep it caged, chained, muzzled? Sherlock wasn't even sure he could, any more. John wasn't afraid. John was brave. John didn't think things through.

John snuggled into him. "I'm not going anywhere."

John loved him. He accepted that. But John didn't think things through. He had options. John could live in the city or the desert or the countryside. John could be a doctor or a soldier or a…husband. Or a father. Sherlock rapidly blinked those words away. Sherlock didn't have options for how to live his life, because he was only one thing: a consulting detective in London. There was John and there was the work. There was nothing else for him. Nothing else that mattered.

He glanced toward the villa. Almost nothing else.

"Stay with me."

"I'm not going anywhere," John repeated, his voice low and firm.

Sherlock would have pulled him through his ribs and into his chest if he could. It didn't matter if they broke. Instead he put his nose in John's hair and inhaled deeply. Better than thyme or lilacs or honey. Don't think things through. Stay with me.

John was saying something. "I was proud of what you said in there. With Mycroft."

"I didn't say anything."

"Yes, you did."

"You're always proud of me." Not true, of course. Sometimes he was angry. Sometimes he was embarrassed.

"I'm occasionally proud of you."



"Always," Sherlock insisted. When John grinned, then Sherlock felt proud of himself. The wild creature within him was proud of him, too. They both loved when John smiled. We can have good things. Even us.

Perhaps he could even be more than one thing...for John. With John. Somehow. And it wouldn't be shamming. He watched a small, fuzzy bee buzz lazily around one of the bright, fragrant linden blossoms. Perhaps they could even come back to a place like this. Someday. John liked it here.

"It's agreed." Sherlock nodded at John.

"That I'm always proud of you?" John asked with his Sherlock-humoring smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

Sherlock thought for a moment while he kissed John's forehead and temple. "We could go see the prisons at Château de Tarascon. It's not far."

As he'd hoped, John looked pleased that he'd offered a serious suggestion. "All right, anything you want. Is it open to the public?"

"I don't know," Sherlock shrugged. "What does that matter?"

John chuckled quietly. "You're right, Sherlock. It is always."



True to his word, Greg was listening. Not talking. Just listening. He was rumpled and rough, unshaven, hair uncombed. His mouth was a line. His eyes no longer held their familiar playfulness, warmth, or willingness to trust…only a weary caution. Beneath that caution, Greg's expression was unreadable. Even to Mycroft, who ought to be able to read anyone. Greg Lestrade confounded his perceptions, his reasoning, his self-control. Even as Mycroft's mind was racing to vet his words, his emotions no longer cared to be scrutinized for propriety and they rushed out unedited, raw, vitally truthful.

Mycroft stood like a statue as he spoke, barely able to allow his chest to expand far enough to draw breath to speak. His mouth was dry. His head hurt.

"I didn't…don't want to give you up. There has not been one moment since I saw you again in Aix when I did not want you. I've never wanted something...someone...so much. But I am my work, and sometimes that means I must do…and be terrible things. A terrible brother. A terrible man."

Greg watched him impassively.

"You're a good man, and good things have no place in my life. I believed that. I still believe that. Or…I don't know any more. Sherlock said—Greg, about Sherlock…what he said our first day here wasn't true. That he doesn't need you anymore. He does, you know. Whatever happens between us, I hope you'll remember that. It's not his fault."

Still Greg showed no reaction, and to fill the dreadful silence, Mycroft blundered on.

"You called me cold. It's...it's true, but it's worse than that. I'm…like the wind-up doll in Les contes d'Hoffmann. I've been dancing with you, and given you…magic glasses to make you think I'm real. But when you lose them you'll see I'm mechanical, hollow. I can only be what I am. And yet...I want you. Not…" His eyes dropped, and he forced himself to raise them again. "Not just the sex. I want all of you."

"I…want you to…wind me up." He tried to smile at his little joke, but he couldn't. He felt his mouth form what was probably a disturbing parody of a smile. "You do…wind me up so well. It's…wonderful. I never imagined…. But I should not ask that of you. What can I offer in return? Nothing. And still I…I will ask. Because I am a terrible man, I will ask it."

Greg swallowed. His eyes were very dark.

"You should refuse, obviously, and I expect you will refuse, but I wish, if nothing else, to do you the honor of—"

"Mycroft," growled Greg, "for the love of God, shut up."

And suddenly Greg was a blur of motion holding Mycroft in his arms.

Mycroft was, in fact, almost knocked off his feet by the impact of Greg's body against his. Mycroft wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in the crook of Greg's shoulder, gasping in his warmth. "You're making a mistake," he warned him urgently, clutching at the rough synthetic fabric of his blazer to make sure he couldn't get away.

"Maybe." Greg's voice was husky in his ear. "Wouldn't be my first. And I said shut up."

He cradled Mycroft's head in between his hands and kissed him, deeply and relentlessly, until Mycroft's fear became gratitude and his gratitude became tenderness and his tenderness became passion. He sucked and nipped at Greg's mouth and tongue, rubbed his lips against the rough stubble on Greg's jaw. He was so hungry, so hungry for this, just this. He was starving.

When Greg released him, his lips were swollen and his eyes were dark. "There now. You don't seem so cold to me."

"More," demanded Mycroft.

Greg made a strange noise, took him by the shoulders, and pushed him backwards across the room until his back hit the bookcase. Several books toppled to the floor, one glancing off his shoulder, and then Greg's mouth was on his again. They grabbed at each other's clothing, skin, hair, and then Greg's thigh was between his legs, and then Greg's hand was between his legs too.

In spite of his ardor, Mycroft's cock was still mostly flaccid. His cringe of fear at disappointing Greg didn't help matters at all, but Greg hitched up the loose fabric at the crotch of his trousers and cupped his balls instead. He locked his eyes to Mycroft's and squeezed…just a little. Certainly enough to get his attention.

"Mycroft, if you ever throw me away again, I won't come back."

"I understand," Mycroft breathed carefully.

Greg glanced toward the open library door.

"They're all out," Mycroft whispered. His eyes felt huge. His heart was racing. "I gave them the day off."

"Unfasten your trousers."

Mycroft fumbled at the buttons of his flies.

When they were open, Greg stroked a hand gently through his hair and plunged the other into his pants. Mycroft sucked in a breath. Greg's fingers curved underneath his balls, barely touching, tickling their fur.

He groaned and clawed at the knot of his tie. "I have to get this off. Take this off. I want you to…see me." Mycroft said, his voice shaky, waving a hand at his suit. He felt vulnerable, terrified, but it now seemed as urgent to show himself as it had once felt to hide himself.

Greg closed his fingers lightly around Mycroft's balls, holding them now, leaned forward and kissed his mouth softly, and then used his free hand to assist Mycroft with removing his tie. It fell to the floor. Mycroft slid the chain of his pocket watch through its button hole, removed the watch from its pocket, and handed it to Greg, who placed it carefully on one of the bookshelves. All the while, Greg kept his eyes on Mycroft's face and his hand in Mycroft's pants, lightly cupping his balls, sometimes with a gentle squeeze or tug, sometimes with the faint touch of his nails to the skin at the back of his scrotum. Together they unbuttoned Mycroft's waistcoat and pushed it open. They worked their way, fingers tangling, down the buttons of his shirt until it parted to reveal the tufts of wiry ginger curls on his pale, freckled chest and the soft skin of his stomach.

The process was awkward, painstakingly slow, and silent, and the most intimate thing Mycroft had ever experienced. He could not recall when he had last felt so aware of his own body, or so safe in surrendering it in its entirety to another person's care. Greg inspected him intently, lips parted, his eyes blatantly displaying approval and desire. Mycroft's jacket, waistcoat, and shirt hung open. His trousers gaped at the flies. By the time Greg finally dragged his fingertips through the hair on his chest and down the exposed strip of his belly Mycroft was so aroused he could hardly see. His balls felt hot and tight in Greg's gently milking hand.

Greg's hand moved to his nipple, brushed the hardened peak with his thumb as his gaze roamed Mycroft's exposed skin. "As I suspected…human." His eyes flashed with warmth and playfulness and Mycroft was afraid for a moment he would burst into tears at what might be his exoneration. "No, no. It's okay," Greg whispered, seeing the depth of Mycroft's emotion. He soothed his lips and his face and his foolish nose with kisses and just as Mycroft thought he would be able to control himself again, Greg crooked and slid a finger back along his perineum.

With a cry that startled him, Mycroft bucked his hips and grabbed at Greg's arm, trying to hold it in place so he could rub his cock against it. Friction. He needed friction. He needed Greg. He heard his own pounding heartbeat and Greg's short, heavy breaths. He smelled old books and sweat. God, he needed to come. He was already undone, he was lost, and he needed Greg's hands on him and he needed to come and he needed Greg.

Greg's hand stilled in his pants and he whined softly in frustration. "Put your hands over your head, Mycroft."

Mycroft's hands released Greg's arm and rose, more under the control of Greg's voice than Mycroft's nervous system, crossing over the top of his head. Greg reached up and held them against the bookshelf and shifted his other hand to encircle his shaft. "Oh," Mycroft huffed.

Greg kissed him, tugged at his lower lip with his teeth and rubbed his palm over the head of Mycroft's cock, smearing it with the moisture he found there.

"Oh," Mycroft gasped again, voice breaking, thinking he might burst, shaking with anticipation.

"Mycroft?" Greg nipped at his earlobe and the skin on his neck. "You don't have to be quiet anymore." He squeezed his hand around Mycroft's cock. "I want to hear you now."

"Oh. God." Mycroft pressed his head back and stared raptly through his lashes at Greg's intent face. Greg held his wrists firmly in place and began to stroke him, fast and rough, just the way wanted to be handled and never knew how badly he had wanted it. The volume of his cries rose in a crescendo of helpless pleasure in sync with each upstroke of Greg's hand. "Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh Oh Oh! Ohhhh!" He came with a loud, harsh, thick, protracted groan that lit Greg's eyes with a fierce satisfaction.

Greg barely caught him, messily, under his arms when his knees gave way, guiding him into a gentle slide to the floor. He sat beside him and pulled Mycroft's back against his chest, stroking at his hair with his cleaner hand and murmuring pleased, comforting sounds—probably words—into his ear. Mycroft panted against him for several minutes, dazed and blinking, before he was finally able to look down and take in the sticky wreckage of his clothing and body. He tried delicately to tuck himself back into his semen-dampened pants—God, it was everywhere—and shuddered at the clammy sensation.

Greg snickered in his ear and wiped his soiled palm on the bottom of Mycroft's open shirt.

Mycroft craned his neck around to cast a disapproving eye at him. He feared the result was more bashful than baleful, though. "Greg, you're…a terrible man."

Greg wriggled his arms around Mycroft's chest and hugged him tightly. "Don't you ever forget it."


After an afternoon and evening of what he could only describe as wonderful surprises, Mycroft could not stop himself from humming. He was humming as he rounded the corner to the kitchens, under instructions to procure "a really fucking fantastic midnight snack, with chocolate," and ran almost directly into John Watson exiting the room.

Mycroft clutched his dressing gown around himself as quickly as he could, but there was no way someone with even John's limited powers of observation could fail to notice the silk tie—a lovely grey with purple medallions—tied loosely around his bare neck and resting in the light nest of hair on his chest. Nor did the dressing gown conceal his disastrously-mussed hair or vivid orange socks.

John's cheeks were brightly flushed, his hair was also sticking out in all directions, and he was wearing boxer shorts and t-shirt bearing a depiction of Cézanne's Pyramid of Skulls. He was carrying a small jar of honey, a large bottle of olive oil, and an egg.

They both froze in place, eyes widening in horror.

"Evening," John said.

"John," Mycroft nodded.

John smirked.

Mycroft continued on his way, humming.


Although they had all planned on returning to London that next day anyway, a particularly innovative triple murder in Kensington had tempted Sherlock and John away on the earliest flight that morning. Greg had kept his mobile pressed to his ear since he'd arisen from Mycroft's bed, barking questions and instructions to his team in Scotland Yard.

There was also a rather troubling situation brewing in Hong Kong, but Mycroft made no comment on the specifics of that matter to Greg. He stepped aside periodically to ensure his calls and texts remained appropriately private. A Royal Air Force helicopter was waiting on the south lawn to whisk him away for urgent negotiations with interested parties.

Their belongings were now all packed, the staff graciously thanked and provided generous gratuities, and the villa closed. Only Nicolas, who Mycroft noticed maintained a wary distance from Greg as he transferred their bags to the car, remained behind to drive Greg to the airport in Marseille.

"I'll call you back," Greg, pacing back and forth across the driveway in rolled-up shirt sleeves, gravel crunching under his heels, finally murmured into his phone. He looked around for Mycroft and found him waiting patiently in the shade near the front of the house, leaning slightly on the handle of his umbrella. "Are we ready, then?" Greg asked as he joined him.

Mycroft's breath of laughter was a mix of humor and trepidation. Already he was anticipating being back in London—although he had maintained management of his governmental affairs during his stay in Provence, he didn't have the same sense of the theatre of it all that he enjoyed at home. Now he was eager to feel again with his own hands the velvet of those curtains drawing open and closed upon each act. In this ongoing drama, he wrote the script, he managed the production, he cast the players. From his position behind the scenes, he neither required nor received applause. The play was the thing.

And then there was Greg, leading man and co-author in a new production, a romance…and a mystery. No longer able to remain safely behind the curtain, Mycroft was suddenly thrust on-stage, into the spotlight no less, uncertain of his cues or his lines or what costume he should be wearing. It was as exhilarating as it was terrifying.

Greg was watching him closely, a small smile playing on his lips. "It wasn't meant to be a trick question." He looked Mycroft up and down. He had worn his light grey three-piece suit this morning. Greg ran two fingers down the edge of his red silk tie, fiddled with the top button of his waistcoat. "You look good. Very…official." Greg nodded toward his umbrella. "Still expecting rain?"

"It is always going to rain," Mycroft intoned with a glint of self-aware humor in his eye.

Greg sighed and glanced at his watch, and then regretfully toward the car. "So…you'll call me…when you can, yeah?"

Mycroft touched his arm. "Of course." He pulled Greg in for a short but determined kiss. "As soon as possible."

As he stepped aboard the waiting helicopter, Mycroft looked back over his shoulder at the villa, then at Greg's car moving down the road on the way to the airport. Was he ready? He lifted his chin. Whether he was or not, he would not choose cowardice again. He would not fail again. Beneath the thwump of the rotors he heard the sweep of the theatre's proscenium arch curtain being drawn back for the beginning of his next scene.


H, I kept the Louis XIV fauteuil fluid-free just for you.

I am planning (at least) one more story in this series...in case you want to know what happens back in London. :-)

Thank you for reading!