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Tiffany

11/25/2021 04:39 PM 

Rules/IRL

Rules1. Don't take rp into real life, that's confusing an complicated2. Don't god-mod. That's stupid3. I have a life, don't rush.4. Character is BIG on flirting, so don't be a d*ck about it5. She isn't interested in a long-term relationship since she is only on earth to f*ck people.IRL-I am taken irl. Don't like? F*** off-I am over 21-Woman with smol titties-Has really bad mental health and will take days/weeks off to recover from a meltdown.-Discord is strictly OOC.  

The Greatest Khan

11/24/2021 07:27 PM 

Opponents Defeated/Tally Marks
Current mood:  pleased

Below is the list of those who have stepped to The Void, and failed the test to hold up against it. This will be updated as opponents are struck down. Thus, these are my Tally Marks.1. www.aniroleplay.com/69726  

ᴴᵉʳᵉ ᶜᵒᵐᵉˢ 𝚅𝙸

11/24/2021 06:50 PM 

Disclaimer

                                     

KNIGHTHOOD.

11/24/2021 03:36 PM 

The Festive Season (or a Horror of Holmes)

Summary: "Besides," Mycroft says, "you've met Sherlock. The rest of my family is no better." "A horror of Holmes?" Greg asks, undeniably curious about what a Holmes Christmas would be like. "Precisely." *** “So, Christmas Day?” “You're truly under no obligation," Mycroft says smoothly. "I'd only wish my family upon my enemies.” Greg remembers Mycroft's description of the day. But he also knows that as much as Mycroft rolls his eyes or scowls at Sherlock, he loves his little brother dearly. For all the condescension and the hyperbole, he suspects Mycroft loves his parents too. “I'd be happy to come.” “You're curious,” Mycroft surmises. “You're the one dating a copper. Curious and suspicious come with the territory.”         It's Thursday night, and Greg has an invitation to Walker's for drinks. It's nice to be included, even if he's not exactly one of the club anymore. He's still divorced, but he's not single, and he's far from being the sad bastard he was a few years ago. Not that he's gone out of his way to tell the guys -- this crowd happily avoids talking about relationships, the ex, or any intersection of the two. Anderson and Sanders are already there when he arrives, but there's a few others expected later. Anderson eyes Greg nervously, cradling his almost empty glass like a security blanket. “Is the other Holmes coming?” Greg rolls his eyes. “Not this time.” He'd asked Mycroft, but Mycroft would generally prefer to work late than be forced to socialise with the masses. As long as he doesn't have to come, Mycroft's all for Greg attending these get-togethers. He even offered a ride home when the night's over. Greg gets a round, and they complain about the weather and the cricket. They grumble about their jobs or the latest round of efficiency targets (same outcomes with less resources, basically) and if the Rolling Stones will ever stop touring. Someone complains about the latest horror movie on Netflix and they somehow end up talking about bad Godzilla movies and how much they loved them as kids. It's nothing important. It won't cure cancer or deliver world peace, but it's nice to have a few drinks and a few laughs. He's definitely merry and a little too enthusiastic when he answers Mycroft's call. “Hey, what are you up to?” he says, walking to the back of the room to hear the call better. “Some last-minute arrangements,” Mycroft says, tone too flat to show any regret. “I may need to stay in the office for a few more hours.” “I can get a cab if you're busy.” He doesn't bother asking if Mycroft can get out of it. If Mycroft could avoid it, he wouldn't bother telling Greg about it. “Will I see you tonight?” “Unlikely, but not impossible.” “That's me,” Greg says brightly, “bringing the impossible into your life.” It's only after he's said it that he realises it's not as clever as it sounded in his head. He might want to have a glass of water before the next beer. “Don't mind me. I've had a few already.” There's a pause on the line and then Mycroft cautiously says, “You do, you know.” “Do what?” “Bring the impossible to life.” Mycroft clears his throat. “To my life, at least.” Greg doesn't need a mirror to know he's grinning like a fool. He can feel it on his face. “I'll text you when I'm leaving. See if you're still stuck in the office.” “Enjoy,” Mycroft says, hanging up. *** It's dark when Greg wakes up, dark and quiet. For a moment, he lies there with his eyes closed, trying to avoid the day for a little longer. It's been a long week of internal audits and late nights, and Greg desperately wants to hide from it for a few more minutes. Then he hears snatches of birdsong and groans in relief. It's Saturday. Saturday: a karmic reward for a horrible week. Warm and comfortable, Greg drifts between awake and asleep. There's a high pitched trill of birdsong outside the window, the odd stretch of silence around it. Greg's lived in London his entire adult life: he's used to waking up to traffic and noisy neighbours and the shuffle of people outside. But he's getting used to this: the warm, blanketing silence of Mycroft's house, the way birdsong seems so loud here. Rolling over, Greg reaches out a hand. He’s hoping to find Mycroft in bed beside him, but he isn't surprised to find the bed empty. Mycroft hates exercise but hates being observed doing it even more. His solution is to rise early and get straight on the treadmill. Get it done before Greg's really awake. That self-control is admirable. And very sexy, if you ask Greg. Greg also likes how Mycroft looks in Lycra, his long, lean legs on display, so sometimes he sneaks down to watch Mycroft anyway. Not on a day like today, when the bags under Greg's eyes have taken over his whole face. Greg would rather have a lie-in than catch Mycroft sweaty and flushed. No matter how appealing the sight would be. *** He doesn't emerge from bed until almost lunchtime. And that's only because Mycroft stands in the bedroom doorway, backlit with sunshine falling across the hallway carpet, holding a cup of coffee that smells fantastic. “I've made coffee,” Mycroft says from the doorway. “You'll have to come downstairs if you want some.” Greg groans and grumbles, but he drags himself out of bed. He pulls on a sweater and socks, does his best to navigate the stairs without opening both eyes at the same time. He gets to the kitchen and leans both elbows on the tall wooden island in the centre of the square room. He closes his eyes and lets his forehead drop to the counter. “I was promised coffee.” Mycroft hands over a plain, solid mug of the best coffee Greg's ever smelled. Greg takes a sip and it's the right temperature, the right amount of milk, just enough sweetness. Mycroft always makes his coffee exactly the way he likes it. Mycroft is kind enough not to say anything until Greg empties the mug. “Much longer and you wouldn't have slept tonight.” It's not an apology because Mycroft doesn't really do those. It's an explanation. “Thanks,” Greg says because he does appreciate it. “It's been a big week.” “Internal audits are never pleasant,” Mycroft says, more aware of Greg's workload than his immediate supervisor. “You'll feel better after a walk. We'll have a late lunch afterwards.” Mycroft can't help organising things, scheduling and arranging, like a cross between a super efficient robot and the world's biggest mother hen. It took a little getting used to, but once Greg recognized it for what it was -- Mycroft caring enough to pay attention, Mycroft using part of that enormous brain to anticipate what might make Greg happy -- he could accept the micromanaging. Most of it. “Sandwich first?” “I'll make it if you want to shower.” Greg goes to the shower, pretending it was his own idea rather than the bribery of a roast chicken sandwich. *** Once lunch is finished, they set off across the fields. Over the rolling green hills to the left, Greg can see the white stone houses of the village, the pointed spire of the church rising above. It's a twenty-minute brisk walk through well-worn tracks, but that's not where they're headed. Mycroft prefers wandering through pastures. He likes picking a different direction each time, leisurely rambling for hours. Like Heathcliff and his moors, Greg thinks, although Heathcliff never had the best fleece-lined wellies money could buy. The first time Mycroft suggested a walk, there was a second pair of wellies already sitting at the back door, plain black in Greg's size. He'd put them on, amused by the unnecessary amount of thought behind them, but he'd appreciated it by the time they got back. He'd been ankle-deep in mud. But this is the Mycroft he gets to see on weekends. The Mycroft who has two pairs of wellies, brown and green, to coordinate with his jackets when he goes walking. The Mycroft who still wears jackets and waistcoats, but they're warm, woollen checks, worn with thicker, softer shirts and corduroy trousers. Mycroft suits the quiet here, the endless green curves divided by old stone walls, the horizon as limitless as Mycroft's vast knowledge. It's old and settled and isolated, but Mycroft is so content here that Greg thinks this is what retirement might look like. Green fields and country quiet, just the two of them and days spent doing whatever they like. Greg's getting ahead of himself. He knows it. Early days, horse before the cart, and all that. Two years ago, he never would have imagined living outside of London. If you'd asked him where he'd be at eighty, he always figured he'd be one of those poor souls shuffling across the road as the lights changed, ignored by seas of students and business suits around him. A year ago, he was only starting to imagine Mycroft, to think about how Mycroft would kiss and wondering what Mycroft saw in him. He wasn't imagining how easily they'd fit together. How midweek pub lunches and fancy restaurants could become as much of a staple as short phone calls and good morning texts. They haven't moved in together, but these days, they spend more nights together than apart. Mycroft's London flat is only used for extremely late work nights or recovering from jetlag. The rest of the time, it's Greg's flat or weekends in the country. Hell, he's even updated his emergency contact details at work. Now, he knows that Mycroft is pitifully miserable when he catches the flu. He knows that Mycroft has cold feet in winter but his fingers are delightfully cool in summer, especially when they slide over Greg's flushed skin. He knows that Mycroft likes apples and pears but not stone fruit; that he's not fussed on cheeses but can still identify the type and origin within the first bite. He knows that Mycroft has always worn his wedding ring on the wrong hand and tells people it was his grandfather's; he knows that there's a shoebox of photos of the ex at the back of Mycroft's wardrobe, dust proving it hadn't been opened in years. (Well, until Greg found it. He couldn't resist looking inside, finding pictures of a younger Mycroft he'll never know. Happy and in love with someone else. Sometimes carefree and clearly on holiday, sometimes surrounded by someone else's friends. There were only two family photos of Christmas, clearly taken in different years, but the pose is the same. The Holmes parents in the middle, Sherlock to one side, Mycroft and his husband on the other. Greg couldn't help looking at it like a copper, seeing the stilted body language and obvious dislike. Then he put the photos back.) He knows that Mycroft has the same ringtone set for John and Sherlock, a light waterfall of violin notes. He knows that Mycroft will watch TV with him if asked, that he's capable of reading an inch thick book of computer science or economic theory and still follow who's who in Games of Thrones. Still, they should probably spend Christmas together before Greg thinks about retirement and happily ever after. “Do you have plans for Christmas?” “I may have to go to my parents’ for Christmas day.” Mycroft raises a graceful hand, an uncertain gesture. “They were talking about a doing a ‘Boot Scootin Cruise’ instead but it hasn't been finalised.” “Yeah?” “Our parents used to prefer travelling. The family Christmases were only enforced after Sherlock returned from the dead.” “Well, that makes sense,” Greg says, thinking if his parents had suddenly returned from the dead, he'd make every effort to stay in touch too. “Yes. Extended punishment for our ruse.” Mycroft continues stepping across the pasture, still graceful even as his wellies suck at the mud with each step. “Eventually, we'll be forgiven and released from the obligation.” Mycroft sounds serious, but he’s betrayed by the quirk of his left eyebrow. He enjoys playing the misanthrope, but he deeply cares about his family. He may complain about them, but he is devoted in his own wry way. “You’re a terror,” Greg says, nudging Mycroft’s elbow in retaliation. “Many would agree with you,” Mycroft declares imperiously. The wind picks up, and Greg crosses his arms against the chill. It's one of those rare days of weak winter sunshine, just enough to pretend it's still autumn. Mycroft is wrapped up in a dark burgundy scarf and soft leather gloves, but he hasn't worn his coat. “And your Christmas plans? Did your friends decide on Dublin?” Greg hasn't mentioned the discussion doing the rounds, but trust Mycroft to have noticed it anyway. Last year was a success, and everyone's talking about doing it again. Jules wants to go back to Scotland this year, Dave wants Ireland and Greg… well, Greg's not sure he wants to miss Mycroft's next birthday. “Nothing's decided yet. They're still finalising the leave roster so I don't know if I've got the days off yet.” *** It's Sherlock who confirms Christmas plans. Pausing at the edge of the crime scene, holding the tape up for John to walk under, Sherlock's justifiably smug at solving the case in under twenty minutes. “Bring something sweet for Christmas.” “What?” “If you bring a savoury dish, Mummy will take it as a criticism of her cooking.” Greg frowns, thinking. It takes him an embarrassingly long time to connect the dots. “What happened to the cruise?” “It's been postponed a month,” Sherlock replies, dropping the tape and spinning on his heel after John. “Bring enough cake for Mycroft and the rest of us.” Greg rolls his eyes at the petty jibe. It's sadly familiar but also something Sherlock says less often to Mycroft's face, and Greg hopes that's a sign of improvement. When it comes to the Holmes brothers, it's hard to tell the difference between personal growth and a new passive-aggressive tactic. Fishing out his phone, he calls Mycroft. “Hey,” he says when it connects. “Go ahead.” There's a quiet murmur in the background, the chink of glasses and faded sound of a string quartet. One of those fancy nights out that Mycroft endures mostly for the sake of dressing up. The man owns three tuxedos. “When were you going to tell me I'm invited for Christmas?” “Last minute change,” Mycroft says and then murmurs, “You'll need to excuse me.” The background noise grows quieter and quieter. “Sherlock told me this evening,” Greg says as Mycroft finds a little slice of privacy at his fancy dinner. “It was only confirmed today.” There's a creak of an old door and then the noise around Mycroft disappears. “He didn't need to rush to tell you.” “What's the fun in Sherlock knowing something if he can't tell everyone else?” Sometimes Greg loves Sherlock's compulsion to share everything he knows and how he knows it; sometimes he has to remind himself that good DIs do not punch civilians. “So, Christmas Day?” “I spoke to Mummy this afternoon. She did extend you an invitation but I told her that you might have already made plans with friends.” “Nothing's decided yet.” Greg takes a breath, leaning on the side of the police car. “I could come with you.” “You're truly under no obligation. I'd only wish my family upon my enemies.” Greg remembers Mycroft's description of the day: a horror of Holmes. But he also knows that as much as Mycroft rolls his eyes or scowls at Sherlock, he loves his little brother dearly. For all the condescension and the hyperbole, he suspects Mycroft loves his parents too. “Think about it. I mean it, I'd be happy to come.” “You're curious,” Mycroft surmises. “You're the one dating a copper. Curious and suspicious come with the territory.” “If you insist,” Mycroft says graciously. *** Despite Greg's best efforts, he catches a murder on the nineteenth and ends up working late the whole week. Right through the dinner reservations he'd made for their anniversary. He realises as he's interviewing a suspect, but it takes another hour before he steals a few minutes to call Mycroft. “I'm sorry,” he says before Mycroft can say anything. “I know we had reservations, first anniversary, I know. I'm sorry. I'm still at the Yard but--” “Gregory,” Mycroft interrupts firmly. “Breathe.” Greg pulls in a slow breath and makes himself push all the air out before he talks again. He knows he has a tendency to apologise too much for his job -- he loves it, inconvenient hours and all, but there's always this guilt when it takes priority. When he follows a lead and forgets other people are relying on him. And he starts apologising, trying to avoid the fight… Not that he could ever placate Jenn by saying sorry. If it wasn't a screaming fight, it was quiet and weary, Jenn telling him not to even bother, that she hadn't expected him to show anyway. He panics and acts out a fight he's never had with Mycroft, and that's not fair to either of them. “I'm just calling to say I can't make it,” he tries again, calmer this time. “I wanted to, but I can't.” “The Harrogate murders,” Mycroft says. Greg doesn't confirm or deny. In theory, that should be confidential within the Met but Mycroft knows far more than anyone should. Greg would be concerned if it was anyone other than Mycroft. “I really did have a reservation.” “I know,” Mycroft says lightly. “I'm at the restaurant now.” “You are?” “Seemed a waste to leave the table empty. I'll bring you dessert.” “I don't know when we'll be done tonight. If we play it right, we might get a confession.” “Then I'll leave it in your fridge.” “Yeah?” Greg grins. This part is new: knowing Mycroft has a key to his place, that he could leave food in the fridge and might even be waiting in Greg's bed when he gets this tied up. “Any chance you'll be there too?” “Not in your fridge,” Mycroft says primly. *** It's after midnight when Greg gets home, cold and wishing for his gloves. He shucks off his coat and leaves it over the sofa, navigating through the living room by the hall light. Inside the fridge, he finds a carefully cling-wrapped plate on the top shelf -- the sour cherry tart, a dark pool of chocolate to one side. It looks so good he nearly pulls it out to taste, but then thinks better of it. He'll enjoy it more when he's not gritty-eyed and desperate to lie down. He opens the bedroom door quietly, but Mycroft stirs as the light falls across the bed. He blinks sleepily at the light, hair fluffed up from the pillow. Covering his eyes with one hand, Mycroft says, “Turn the light on and get undressed.” Greg does, pulling his clothes off as quickly as he can, and hanging his suit up before it wrinkles any further. In T-shirt and boxers, he flicks the light back off and then turns the hall light off too. In the sudden darkness, he carefully makes his way to his side of the bed. “One step forward, then left,” Mycroft says from the darkness. Greg follows the instructions and finds the covers pulled back for him. He gets into bed and leans over, finding Mycroft's cheek by touch. “Happy anniversary,” he says, and kisses Mycroft's smooth cheek. “I'm sorry I couldn't make it.” Mycroft turns his head, pressing a warm kiss to the side of Greg's jaw. He slides his lips to the edge of Greg's mouth, pausing for a kiss. “Don't be silly.” Greg could argue it or apologise, or he could pay attention to the way Mycroft rolls towards him, to the parted lips breathing warm air against his. He can smell the champagne on Mycroft, can taste it when he licks his way past Mycroft's lips. In the dark, in the quiet, he can hear them kissing. Can hear the sheets rustle as Mycroft moves closer, hooking a long thigh over Greg's hip. There's a hand at the back of Greg's head, holding him close as they kiss and Greg has to retaliate, sliding chilled fingers under skin-warm cotton, feeling Mycroft's stomach hitch as he jerks away. “Your hands are freezing.” “Says the human icicle,” Greg replies, tugging Mycroft closer and undoing the buttons on his pyjamas. “I know how cold your feet get.” “Not as cold as that,” Mycroft says, which is an absolute lie. “And you don't mind them.” That is true. Greg pulls his hands back, breathes on his fingers to warm them up. “There we go. Warmer already.” This time, Mycroft doesn't flinch. Greg slides a hand up Mycroft's chest, smoothing his fingertips over chest hair and lightly dragging fingernails back down. Mycroft's breath stutters delightfully. He still manages to say, “It's possibly too late for anything--” Greg kisses him before he can finish that ridiculous sentence. It is late, yes, but it's their anniversary. And he knows champagne makes Mycroft randy. All good reasons to continue. He cheats a little. Scrapes his nails down the back of Mycroft's neck, following the line of vertebrae. Mycroft groans around the kiss, thigh tightening on Greg's hip. It's easy to roll Mycroft over, to press him into the mattress and settle between his legs. “Gregory,” Mycroft says, wonderfully breathless as Greg lowers his mouth to Mycroft's collarbone, dragging his lips over old marks. He's discovered that Mycroft's pale skin marks easily. Mycroft loves it, squirms if Greg nips at his neck, digs fingers into Greg's shoulder and groans at the slightest scrape of teeth, but those dark red marks tend to bruise by the morning. So Greg sticks to the collarbone and lower, and tries not to suck too hard, no matter how urgently Mycroft clings to him, breathing heavily and rutting against his hip. He can't help but feel a little bit invincible, a little bulletproof. It's a heady rush to be the one person that gets to see Mycroft like this. To know all the power and terrifying intellect at Mycroft's disposal, and know just how to touch him to make him groan. To know that he can kiss the curve of Mycroft's collarbone and make him clench at Greg's back. To slide his hand under the loose waistband of his pyjamas and know he'll find Mycroft's hard c*ck waiting for him. To know Mycroft by heat and taste and smell, by the smothered gasp Mycroft makes, by the twist of his hips as Greg starts stroking him. Even in the dark, Greg feels like he'd know Mycroft by touch alone. Hand working Mycroft's cock, Greg starts to shuffle down the bed, slow and a little clumsy. Mycroft tugs on his elbow. “Where are you going?” It shouldn't be awkward to say -- I want to suck you off, I want my mouth around your cock, I want to taste you -- but it is. It's embarrassing and the words don't come out. Greg still freezes about this stuff. Not doing it, because that's surprisingly easy, but finding the right words always leaves him second-guessing himself. “Less clean up,” Greg says, which is not exactly what he means but Mycroft's clever. He can usually work this stuff out. “I'd rather have you near,” Mycroft says, shimmying out of his pyjama bottoms, pushing them down to his knees, pulling up one leg and then the other to get them off. Greg follows suit, pulling off his underwear and then tugging off his T-shirt for the sake of it. Mycroft still has his arms covered, his pyjama shirt lying open across his chest. He doesn't bother undressing completely, just pulls Greg down on top of him. It's nice, skin to skin, chest to chest, Mycroft's legs bracketing his. Mycroft fumbles in the bedside drawer and retrieves tissues and lube. One gets placed beside the bed, the other is opened and squeezed onto his fingers. The first touch to Greg's c*ck is smooth and cool, certain. Mycroft slicks his own cock, then wraps long fingers around both of them. A light squeeze and Greg's hips thrust forwards, c*ck sliding against Mycroft's. “Yes,” Mycroft mutters against Greg's shoulder. “Again.” Greg rocks his hips back and then thrusts again. Shallow movements, like f***ing on an easy Sunday, slow and gentle. Trapped between the soft, hot skin of Mycroft's c*ck and firm, graceful fingers. Weight held on his elbows, head held up to breathe. Mycroft's legs wrapped around him, and Mycroft panting open-mouthed against his shoulder, mumbling “Gregory,” and “Yes,” and “Please,” so f***ing polite as he screws his hips up, trying for more. It's perfect. Even with the sweat gathering between his shoulder blades, even with Mycroft's hard, plastic buttons digging into his chest, it's perfect. It's close and it's real. Greg shifts his weight to one elbow, reaches down to tangle his hand around Mycroft's, fingers sliding over and between Mycroft's as he feels the pressure building in the base of his spine, in his balls, as he tightens his fingers and rides it out. He comes with his hand still around both their cocks, with Mycroft panting against his shoulder, still hard, still rocking up and searching for more. Greg takes an unsteady breath and rolls off. Heart still pounding, he reaches down and gets his hand around Mycroft's cock. Hard, fast strokes to finish. Mycroft's head pressed back into the pillow, back arching up as he spills through Greg's fingers. Afterwards, they lie there, breathing heavily in the dark. He thinks Mycroft uses Greg's T-shirt to clean them both up. Greg makes a mental note to remember to put a wash on tomorrow. *** They make an arrest the next day and Greg spends the next two days avidly completing reports and trying to avoid active cases. Unfortunately, the Met doesn't think ‘wanting to make sure my holiday leave isn't impacted by work’ is a valid excuse when there's an open case. Greg gets the call and attends the crime scene, waits hours for SOCO to show up, and then he gives in and calls Sherlock. Who doesn't answer, so he calls John instead. “Hi Greg,” John says warmly, and then there's a high pitched giggle in the background, a squeal of amusement from someone very small. “Rosie says hi.” Greg grins. “Tell her hi from me. Do you know if Sherlock's busy right now?” It's Christmas Eve. Normal people are busy but Sherlock has never been normal. “Any cases on?” “Not right now. Why?” “I wanted his help. Probably not interesting by his arbitrary scale, but I'd like to get this wrapped up today. If it's possible.” “Mrs Hudson's out so I'll need to look after Rosie. I'll send him 'round on his own.” There's a low rumble of disagreement in the background, and John hisses, “Otherwise he might not make Christmas,” and then Greg hears, “Fine, but only to make Mycroft bearable for the day.” “Text the address,” John says cheerily. “He'll be there soon.” That's how Greg ends up spending Christmas Eve chasing a cheating brother-in-law down a row of terraced houses in Knightsbridge. Sherlock's beside him, yelling at the suspect -- Jimmy Knowles -- about a red tie as they duck around crowds of last-minute shoppers and too keen carolers. He keeps up with Sherlock but he's panting by the time they get Knowles cornered. (Greg suddenly appreciates spending those dull hours in the gym. He's not as rigorous about it as Mycroft but it's been motivating knowing there's someone who enjoys seeing him naked.) By the time Greg's caught his breath, the suspect is cuffed and arrested, and they're waiting for backup to come get them. It's Christmas Eve and London is full of last-minute shoppers, traffic slowed to a frustrating crawl. Greg's advised it could be up to two hours, so he marches Knowles into the nearest pub and sits him in the corner. “Say one thing,” he warns the guy, “and we'll spend the next two hours waiting outside.” There's a shifty, narrow-eyed look from Sherlock to Greg, and for a minute, Greg thinks they might have to do this the hard way: freezing on a London street. Then the suspect gives a sigh and all the fight goes out of his hunched shoulders. Knowles gives the nod of a man who knows he's hit a low point and life is going to get even worse from here. “Want a drink?” Greg asks, taking pity on him. “You'll have to drink through a straw but orange juice, water, coke?” Knowles shakes his head and sinks further into the seat. At the other end of the table, Sherlock is typing into his phone with a sharp smile. “Are you texting?” Greg really hopes he's texting. Lord save them from another round of twitter gloating. “John,” Sherlock replies. “Rosie was asking for her favourite toy.” It's so strange to see Sherlock talk about Rosie. It's even weirder to see him around her. He dotes on her. Sarcastic, unfeeling Sherlock Holmes, who has made qualified Met staff cry or threaten physical violence, and Greg's never seen him happier than trying to explain the scientific method to a toddler. “Thanks,” Greg says. Sherlock frowns at him like he's an idiot. “For helping. I appreciate getting this sorted.” “I wouldn't want you to miss Christmas,” Sherlock says with the kind of glee usually reserved for dead bodies. “Is there something I should know?” “Mycroft hasn't dated since the divorce.” Greg hadn't known for certain but he's not surprised. Mycroft's interest in other people is amazingly limited. He can sum most people up in a glance and very few even get a second look. Greg feels a warm glow of smugness at knowing he’s an exception to that rule. “So?” Sherlock's eyes narrow like an amused cat. “So Mummy is going to spend a lot of time asking you questions. While Mycroft spends the day attempting to run interference.” “It won't be that bad,” Greg says, pretending he can't see the sympathetic look Knowles gives him. Suspects aren't supposed to pity the arresting officer. “It's just Christmas.” *** Greg offers to drive on Christmas day. Mycroft had suggested taking a car but the idea of their driver sitting around all Christmas Day, alone and away from his family just for convenience, it didn't sit right with Greg. Mycroft had promised the driver would be compensated accordingly, but Greg insisted. “It's a few hours driving country roads. I'm happy to do it.” Mycroft had responded by hiring -- please, Lord, let it be hired, thinking Mycroft owns it is too much for Greg -- a Bentley Continental in racing green. Greg falls in love at first sight of the big silver grille. The interior is all tan leather and inlaid wood, and the motor purrs like a tiger. Greg spends the first half hour trying to keep to the speed limit, resisting the urge to floor the accelerator to see how fast this beast can go. From the passenger seat, Mycroft spends the drive working on his phone. He occasionally glances over at Greg with the world's smarmiest smirk. “Yes, fine, I'm loving this,” Greg says after the third time Mycroft's glanced his way. “Great Christmas present.” “If you insist on driving,” Mycroft replies, “we should at least be comfortable.” Comfortable, he says, like Greg’s even noticed the leather seats. He's having far too much fun shifting up a gear and increasing speed as the roads clear. He lets himself break the speed limit for a few minutes and then slows down again. The car responds like it's telepathic -- no lag in acceleration, no sudden jerk of too-sensitive brakes. It's the driving dream shown on car commercials, all smooth turns and easy handling. Greg's enjoying every minute behind the wheel, so it's not until they're twenty minutes away that he notices Mycroft's tension. No jiggling foot or tapping fingers for Mycroft. No, his tension is all in the very straight posture, the shoulders peeled back and down, the unforgiving line of his mouth. “You okay?” Greg asks, not really expecting an honest answer. “Of course,” Mycroft replies, forcing a smile that's almost convincing. “Take the next left.” “Are you really okay?” Greg asks again, flicking the indicator on. Even the click of the indicator is muted and tasteful: nothing cheap or crass allowed in this car. Well, other than the driver. “Nervous?” “It's Christmas with my family.” Mycroft turns to look out the window. “Believe me, my expectations for the day are not high.” “Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter if they don't like me. I'm dating you, not them, and I know you like me.” Mycroft turns away from the window with a hint of a smile. “Quite a lot.” “See? It'll be fine, whatever happens.” *** Mycroft's parents are reasonably ordinary. His mum is blonde and pale, heavy but still pretty. His dad is tall and lean-faced, clearly where Sherlock gets his bone structure. They're both frightfully posh, but Greg's dealt with the rich and incandescently angry; he can deal with posh and polite easily. Mycroft introduces everyone. His parents are Siger Holmes -- “Call me Cigs, everyone does,” he says -- and Doctor Violet Holmes. (“Like the flower,” she says and Greg wonders if it’s a joke, or if she genuinely thought he needed that clarification.) Mycroft introduces him as Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade, so Greg grins and adds, “Call me Greg. Everyone does.” Mycroft’s dad finds it funny. His mum… is less impressed. Mycroft had described their home as a small cottage in the Cotswolds, but it's still bigger than the terraced house in Essex where Greg grew up. Probably costs four times as much. Greg says, “You have a lovely home,” as he's ushered inside and does his best to mean it. It's homey like Mycroft's house, lots of wood and rugs, comfortable old furniture in deep reds with embroidered cushions. Every surface is cluttered with decorations or knick-knacks, lived in and messy like Sherlock's flat. John and Sherlock are seated on the sofa, Rosie on Sherlock's lap. She's nearly four now and has John's cranky squint when she's puzzled by something new. Right now, she's squinting at a jigsaw puzzle laid out on the coffee table. “Hi Rosie,” Greg says, squatting down to be closer to her level. “What have you got there?” “Puzzle,” she says, holding up the piece in her chubby little fingers. She's a bright girl but doesn't talk much around strangers or in new places. Greg only sees her rarely, so she's usually quiet for the first twenty minutes whenever he visits Baker Street. Greg smiles, asking, “Trying to work out where it fits?” Mycroft claims he doesn't especially like children. That he didn't particularly like them as a child and hasn't changed his mind. Yet he gives a serious nod of the head and says, “Good morning, Rosamund,” as he casually picks up a puzzle piece and slots it into the half-finished puzzle. Rosie squints at it, then at the piece in her hand, turning it until it fits next to the piece Mycroft laid down. “What do we say?” John prompts her gently. Rosie looks up, all big brown eyes and dirty blonde pigtails tied with bright red baubles. “Thank you,” she says carefully, reciting her good manners, “for your conda-sending help.” Over Rosie's head, Sherlock grins like the Grinch, gleefully spiteful. John tries to look disapproving but there's a twitch to the corner of his mouth that says he wants to laugh at Sherlock's antics. Mycroft smiles his most smug and least warm smile. “You're most welcome, Rosamund. Do let me know if you need any further assistance.” It's some sort of jibe because it makes Sherlock straighten, eyes narrowed. “We'll keep that generous offer in mind,” he replies sharply. After Mycroft’s dad sinks into an old armchair with the paper and Mycroft's mum has gone back to puttering in the kitchen, Mycroft offers to give him a tour of the house. Reception rooms downstairs and bedrooms upstairs: master bedroom, Sherlock's room and guest room. “My room when I stayed here,” Mycroft adds, opening the door to a room that's bland and country-pretty, white quilted bedspread and small roses climbing the wallpaper. The bedside tables have a lamp each side and nothing else. It's a nice guest room but it's hard to imagine a teenage boy living here. “Changed a lot since you were a kid?” “The curtains,” Mycroft says. “That bedspread is almost as old as me.” Mycroft likes bright, colourful flowers but he's not a pastels and florals guy. The room doesn't suit his tastes at all. “Really?” Mycroft blinks at Greg, considering. “I left for school two months after we moved here. I only stayed here on school holidays.” Mycroft continues, “It would have been a waste to keep a bedroom I'd barely use,” but Greg's thinking of Mycroft's house, his London flat, his club and his offices -- all of these spaces carved out and possessively claimed. He's thinking of a teenager coming home and knowing he was only a guest, knowing that home and family didn't include a space that was his. It must show on Greg's face because Mycroft gives him a look of fond indulgence. “I was not an unhappy child. Give me quiet and a few good books and I would have felt at home anywhere.” “Still…” Greg shrugs. “No posters? No toys stacked on shelves?” “And no desire for them, either.” *** While Violet cooks, Mycroft and Sherlock play a rather unique version of charades. Apparently, it's a Christmas tradition. Not celebrities or films but London locations. Not spelt out by number of words and syllables and ‘sounds like’ clues. Just the brothers taking turns to pull out a slip of paper and then stand there for a few seconds as the other says, “Piccadilly Circus,” or “Euston Station.” For one turn, Sherlock does nothing more than put the used clue in his pocket and Mycroft says, “Queen Anne's Gate,” with bored superiority that betrays he's secretly having fun. Sherlock pulls himself straighter, rising to the challenge, and pulls the next clue. Mycroft looks, then blinks once, and raises a questioning eyebrow. “Really, Sherlock? Buckingham Palace?” John, sitting on the floor with Rosie, stifles a laugh. “Your turn,” Sherlock says, walking over to the sofa with the small bowl of folded pieces of paper. It's an odd game but they're both enjoying it. Certainly enjoying it more than Hungry Hippos, where Sherlock won and gloated, and Mycroft attempted to glare a hole right through him. Greg's glad no-one’s suggested Monopoly yet. He can't imagine that would end without squabbling. “Have they always been like that?” Greg quietly asks Cigs. Cigs looks up from his crossword puzzle, forehead lined in confusion. “Beg pardon,” he says. “Have who been like what?” Greg nods over at the brothers. “Those two. Playing games no one else can understand?” “Oh, no. My wife can usually follow them. That's where they get the brains from, you know.” “Yeah?” “Published mathematician,” he says with a strong note of pride. Greg likes that. “PhD and everything.” “What about you?” “Me?” Cigs asks. He tucks a strand of white hair behind an ear, fingers almost nervous with the gesture. “I’m not really anything.” “I meant what did you used to do,” Greg clarifies. “Nothing, thankfully. Family money, you know.” Greg nods, but he doesn't know. He has no idea what's it like to only work out of choice, to have the option of doing nothing at all -- without that meaning council flats and struggling below the breadline. It's not surprising because look at Sherlock. Lives in central London, dresses in clothes so fitted they might as well be bespoke, and only takes a case if he thinks it's interesting. There's no concept of the necessity of work, of needing successive paydays to avoid poverty. And yet there's Mycroft. Mycroft who works more hours than Greg, which is saying something, and clearly doesn't need the money. He's so brilliant that he could sit back like Sherlock, only working when the desire struck him, but instead he attends frustrating committees and works late nights when required. He puts everything he has into doing his job as well as he can. Greg only realises he's smiling like a sap, staring at Mycroft, when Mycroft gives him a quick frown. He turns back to Mycroft's dad. “So, Cigs, there must be a story behind that nickname.” “An obvious one, I'm afraid.” “Caught smoking?” Cigs raises one white eyebrow and for a moment, Greg sees Mycroft in the gesture and the pale blue eyes. Then Cigs smiles and turns back into a friendly old man, with Sherlock's narrow face and high cheekbones. “My father was the smoker but I used to smuggle a few packs into my case at the start of every term. Hence the nickname.” “What about Mycroft and Sherlock?” Greg asks. “Any nicknames from school?” “Holmes,” the brothers reply in perfect, disdainful unison. From the floor by the fireplace, John looks over Rosie's head. “That uni mate of yours, didn't he say--” “Nicknames are used to one's face,” Sherlock says sharply. “And they are quite unnecessary when one is already known and easily recognised,” Mycroft adds coolly. One. Greg rubs a hand over his mouth to cover the smile. He'd heard it last year, the poshness creeping into Mycroft's voice by the end of the day. He hadn't expected to hear it so quickly. *** In the back of his mind, Greg can almost hear Richard Attenborough narrating the day: Here we have a Holmes in his natural habitat. Notice how calmly he studies the cards in his hands before asking for a King. They've moved to Go Fish, and Greg offered to look after Rosie so John can play as well. Cigs wandered outside for something and hasn't returned. Greg's been to Sherlock's place for Christmas drinks and seen Sherlock enjoy himself around the people he trusts. He's seen Mycroft at home in the country, quiet but far from his chilly reserve. He's seen the brothers squabble over any excuse, taking turns to pick and unravel the other. This is a strange overlap of all of that. The brothers are still competing but the barbs are far less sharp; the teasing is almost friendly. Sherlock is having fun, grinning when he slaps a pair of cards down on the coffee table. Even Mycroft allows the occasional smile, a small pleased quirk of his lips as Sherlock relinquishes a three of clubs. Honestly, it's fascinating. Not quite the Mycroft Greg sees when it's just the two of them -- considerate, content, amused by the absurd -- but it's far from the cold, harsh Mycroft usually shown to other people. Greg's quite happy to keep watching but Violet wanders past and says, “If you're not doing anything, perhaps you could help me with the potatoes?” Mycroft looks up immediately, eyes narrowed. “I'll do them,” he says, as if he's ever stepped willingly into a kitchen to help. “But you're playing,” Greg says, stating the obvious. As soon as he hears it, he cringes, waiting for Sherlock to say something cutting and undeniable. Shrugging off Sherlock’s insults would be easier if Greg thought before he spoke. But Sherlock doesn't say anything mean. Sherlock's too busy watching Mycroft with a smug air of schadenfreude, too satisfied by Mycroft's discomfort. And he is uncomfortable. It's in the sudden tension in his shoulders, the stiffness to his neck, the tight grip on his cards. “Gregory is a guest,” Mycroft says firmly. “I should help.” “Don't be silly, Mikey,” Violet says and Mycroft's chin tilts dangerously. Political coups and terrorist cells are no match for that expression, but his mother doesn't waver. “Finish your game with Sherlock. I'm sure Greg's capable of peeling a potato.” Greg stands up, smiling reassuringly at Mycroft. He's been a copper for twenty-five years; he knows when he's being led to an interrogation. But he also knows trying to avoid it never works long-term. Best to get it done now and appear cooperative. “I've even been known to cook them,” Greg says and there's a concerned twitch to Mycroft's eyebrow. “We'll be in the kitchen when you lot are done. Oh, and Mycroft?” “Yes?” Mycroft asks carefully, still looking uneasy. “Ask for sevens,” Greg says, nodding at Sherlock's hand. *** It's the easy questions first: how long have you known Mycroft (years), how did you meet (Sherlock) and how long have you been seeing each other (about a year now). Simple intelligence gathering and things she probably already knew. But if it's an interrogation, at least he's not stuck in an uncomfortable plastic chair, leaning on a Formica table. No, he's standing by the sink, peeling a large bowl of potatoes while Christmas carols play quietly in the background. Greg can smell the turkey roasting in the oven and the earthy spices of a Christmas pudding steaming away. It’s warm and homey, like something out of a kids’ Christmas movie. On the other end of the bench, Violet chops a pumpkin with a cleaver. A cleaver the length of Greg's forearm. She says her wrists are weak these days and it's easier to use a bigger knife. Greg can't help seeing it as unspoken intimidation, something that works all the better for being unacknowledged. Pity there’s no acceptable way for Greg to use that tactic in an interview room. Professionalism and Standards might have something to say about that. “So you were seeing each other last Christmas?” Violet asks, tone light as she forces the cleaver through half a pumpkin. There’s a clunk as she hits the chopping board. Greg keeps his eyes on the potato peeler in his hand. He knows this game: give them just a hint of information and wait for the suspect to incriminate themselves. The correct response is to be friendly and open, and only confirm what’s already known. “Just started, yeah.” “And you enjoyed your Christmas,” she asks, “with your friends?” “Yeah, it was great. Hired a house on Airbnb and spent a week up in Scotland.” Greg turns and smiles, and Violet gives him a friendly smile in return. “It was good to catch up. You know what it's like. You mean to see people, but months slip by and suddenly you haven't seen friends in years.” “I suppose you wouldn't have much time,” Violet says, “given your job. Sherlock makes it sound very...” “Busy?” “Dangerous,” Violet says with a hard thunk on the chopping board. “Joining the police seems like a very dangerous profession.” Greg's first thought is that Sherlock is in no position to call other people's choices dangerous. His second is remembering John telling him how he met Mycroft, how Sherlock called him the most dangerous man he'd ever met. And that said to a man who'd seen active combat. Right now, Greg is Violet's least dangerous guest, not counting Rosie. But to someone's mum, working for the police probably sounds more dangerous than a doctor or a bureaucrat. “It's not as dangerous as it seems. There's a lot of paperwork and interviewing people. Honestly, most of the job is talking to people and recording what's said, and watching hours of CCTV footage. Not as exciting as it looks on the telly.” “Hmm,” Violet says and falls into the scheming silence that makes Greg worry when Sherlock goes quiet at crime scenes. It's usually only a matter of minutes before he spins off, running after a lead he won't tell anyone else. If she's anything like Sherlock, there's only a small window to keep control of the situation. Greg lays down the peeler and she mirrors him, setting the cleaver down as well. “Look,” Greg says, “we don't know each other well and I'm sure you're curious about me. But I'm curious too, so how about we trade questions? Ask me anything, and we'll trade answers.” Everything about Violet Holmes is soft and rounded. Pale blonde hair pulled up into a gentle chignon, pretty face and round blue eyes, the fat under her chin and the curving of her shoulders. But her nod is sharp and certain. “You have a deal.” Greg picks up the peeler -- the potatoes won't peel themselves -- and says, “Ladies first.” Violet doesn't pull any punches. “Why did you get divorced?” “Short story: she cheated.” “And the long story?” “That's a second question,” Greg says, “but I worked too much, couldn't be what she wanted, and eventually she found that with someone else. There were a lot of years where we kept trying to make it work, and it didn't but it took a long time to let go of what we once had.” It sounds easy, summed up like that. Sounds a lot less confusing than it felt to live through, heartbreak condensed into a simple story. In the end, it hadn't been the betrayal or the humiliation that ended it; he'd just been tired. Bone deep tired of trying and failing and hearing the effort it took both of them to be civil. Tired of how hard it was and how miserable and uncomfortable they both were. He didn't think getting divorced would make him happy, but at least he'd be able to relax. When he looks over at Violet, she's watching him closely. He remembers Cigs saying the brothers got their brains from her. For a moment, Greg hopes that's not true. “My turn?” “That's the deal,” Violet says carefully. Greg wants to ask about Mycroft. He wants to ask how the divorce happened, and why. He wants to ask how many times the ex came to a Holmes Christmas and why the photos were so awkward and what excuse did he use to avoid the other years. He wants to lever this opportunity into usable information, force his way into understanding Mycroft's personal history. But this isn't a case. This isn't background for an open file. If Mycroft wanted him to know, he'd tell Greg. Finding it out like this… That's how you ruin good things. So instead, Greg asks, “Did Mycroft really play Lady Bracknell in high school? John swears he did, but Mycroft won't confirm or deny it.” For the first time, Violet smiles at him and looks like she actually means it. “He certainly did. He was very good, although a little too tall to be convincing. Lady Bracknell should not be three inches taller than everyone else on stage.” *** All in all, it's going well by the time the vegetables are roasting. Greg's been quizzed on his career prospects (the honest truth: he doesn't play politics well enough to rise any higher but he's happy where he is) and financial situation (“I rent in London,” he says because he's not discussing retirement funds with a virtual stranger). He's kept his own questions fairly benign: Mycroft's favourite childhood toy (“An old stuffed bear with mismatched eyes,” Violet says. “He insisted on sewing a new matching pair before he gave it to Sherlock.”) and favourite food as a kid (anything with sugar, apparently). Then Violet asks, “How did you fall in love with my son?” Greg blurts out the first answer that comes to mind. “Slowly.” It was slow and steady, like Mycroft himself. He's not a personality built for sudden declarations and changes of heart -- Mycroft is considered and dependable, and even changing his mind is a slow shift by degrees. “We were spending time together and then… He's fascinating. Different from anyone, from everyone else. Once you spend some time alone with him, once you see that, it's…” Greg shrugs but Violet doesn't make it easy. She doesn't fill in the gap. She leaves the silence until Greg shrugs again and tries to explain. “We spent more time together and there was a spark, and I don't know. I don't know how. I'm just glad it happened.” Greg finds some peace peeling a carrot, trying to phrase a question that Mycroft couldn't answer. That Mycroft wouldn’t consider worth knowing. “How did you know Mycroft was gay? Did he tell you?” “He didn't need to. It was quite obvious,” Violet says fondly. “He never had any interest in girls. Barely any interest in people, but certainly no interest in girls. There was a local girl, lived ten minutes walk from here, had a hopeless crush on him. In summer holidays, she'd walk past every few days, trying to get Mikey's attention and he never noticed her. Too busy reading or running after Sherlock.” “So it wasn't a surprise when he brought a boy home?” “That's a second question,” Violet says as Mycroft walks into the kitchen. “Have you considered living with a man? How different it will be after being married to a woman?” “Mummy!” Mycroft says, horrified eyes wide. “You can't ask that.” “Yes, I can,” Violet replies cheerily, ignoring Mycroft's glare. “Greg's agreed to answer.” “Ignore my mother,” Mycroft tells Greg, stepping between the two of them as if Greg needs to be sheltered. It's simultaneously rude and chivalrous, which is Mycroft all over. “She's clearly forgotten the basic etiquette of hosting.” “Not everything has to be done by rules,” Sherlock says, stopping at the table and picking at the plate of gingerbread snowmen and reindeer. He breaks a top hat off one and a leg off another. Mycroft keeps his back to Sherlock and Violet, watching Greg's face closely. “I agreed,” Greg says gently because Mycroft's worried and if they were alone, he'd reach out and squeeze Mycroft's hand. Remind him that he's fine. But Mycroft dislikes public displays of affection. In his childhood home, surrounded by family members who keep calling him ‘Mikey' and ignoring the way it makes him scowl, it seems like a bad idea to touch. “Perhaps I should show you the garden,” Mycroft says. “Sherlock could take over helping.” “Sounds good. Thanks, Sherlock,” Greg calls out, stepping away from the bench before Sherlock can complain too loudly. *** There's a small stretch of lawn, enough that they can stand on the other side and not fear being overheard. “I really did agree,” Greg says, “but I still appreciate the rescue. Your mum is a force to be reckoned with.” “We drove,” Mycroft says. It's a strange non sequitur. “I remember. I did the driving.” Mycroft shakes his head. “We can leave whenever you wish. Since we drove here and aren't dependant on train times back to London.” “I'm fine.” There's no one around them, so Greg reaches out and wraps his fingers around Mycroft's wrist. Just a light brush but enough to remind Mycroft that he's here. “A few nosey questions for your kid's new boyfriend, that's par for the course. What family gatherings are all about.” Mycroft doesn't look convinced. He walks quietly, shoulders back, spine straight and a resigned discomfort in his expression. It's not a big enough garden to justify being out too long, but they wander up to the far end and spend a few minutes staring at neat lines of broccoli and cabbages. “If it makes a difference,” Greg says, “I think she really is just worried about you. She wants you to be happy.” “While the sentiment is admirable, it's so steeped in ignorance as to be worthless,” Mycroft says, voice dripping with condescension. Greg pulls a face at the tone. He gets it: if he was as clever as Sherlock, let alone Mycroft, he'd probably be arrogant and impatient with the rest of the world. But it's not an attractive trait and he doesn't like hearing it directed at Mycroft's own family. “Her heart's in the right place.” “Good intentions have never weighed much.” “Yeah, but--” “They don't know me,” Mycroft says, talking over Greg in a way he never does. Mycroft is a man of reserved patience; he rarely sees the need to directly interrupt. Greg stops walking and looks at him, waits for Mycroft to find the words he wants. Mycroft adjusts the lengths of his cuffs, long fingers sly and graceful. “While they care, they don’t know me well enough to understand what makes me happy. Their opinions on the matter are unimportant.” Greg nods. Thinks about it for a moment. He said something similar on the drive over here, but he suspects Mycroft means something else. “So you don’t care if they don’t like me?” Greg asks, feeling for the truth. “You are very likeable,” Mycroft says with a comforting certainty. “Trust me, they already like you.” Greg doesn’t want to be the guy who worries about that, but he’s still relieved to hear it. He also knows that expression on Mycroft’s face: calm on the surface, the slightly narrowed eyes betraying the calculations going on inside that skull, the look that gives away nothing while Mycroft decides how much truth should be told. Left alone, Mycroft will probably err on the side of discretion rather than honesty. “So what is it?” Greg asks. “If you’re not worried about them liking me, what are you worried about?” “Nothing significant.” It’s an answer that’s only reassuring if Greg ignores that scale of Mycroft’s job. Insignificant covers everything that doesn’t require an armed response or end in a financial collapse. “Try again.” There’s a quick quirk to Mycroft’s mouth, there and gone again. “They were predisposed to like you. Mummy has always been of the opinion that I didn’t make enough effort to maintain my marriage. She never particularly liked my choice of husband, but she dislikes my single status even more. You are easily the best option of the three.” “Because I’m so likeable?” “Because you like Sherlock.” Greg frowns and plays that back. “What does Sherlock have to do with… any of it?” He can’t help thinking of those few Christmas photos, Sherlock and Mycroft’s ex at each extreme, standing as far apart as they could. Must have been some bad blood there. Easy to imagine, given it’s Sherlock. “God, what did Sherlock say to him?” “A few too many personal deductions,” Mycroft says wryly. “A few too many calls in the middle of the night.” Greg chuckles at the thought of how relentless Sherlock can be; it's why ‘try not to punch him’ is the advice he gives to new DIs. But back in the day, when Sherlock was all skin and bones and manic twitching, Greg made a few of those midnight calls himself and Mycroft always showed up alone. Stalked down hospital corridors, umbrella in hand, and sat in those uncomfortable chairs at Sherlock’s bedside, and there was never anyone with him. “Jeremy had valid points,” Mycroft says slowly, carefully, tone too measured to be as unfeeling as it sounds. “I was ineffective. I couldn’t stop Sherlock from using or seeking out danger, and every time I would run to A&E, tame as a trained poodle.”

𝗦𝘂𝘇𝗶

11/24/2021 03:30 PM 

Susanne's info(multiple fandom oc)

~Basics~Actual name: Susanne LangeAlso known as/ Nickname: Yang, Sue, Susie, SusiDate of birth: December 4Age: over 100Gender: FemaleSpecies: Demon/Neko hybridWeight: 256Height: 7’7Birthplace: GermanyCurrent location: JapanEthnicity: German~Relations~Mother: Monika Miller(Alive)Father: Austin Lange(Alive)Siblings: DaniOther relatives: NoneBest friends: ...Friends: ...Relationship status: SingleRivals: ...Enemies: ...Opinion of other people in general: She thinks people are fame craved idiotsDoes the character hide their true opinions and emotions from others?: No, she says whatever is on her mind, no matter what.Person character most hates: ...Person character goes to for advice: ...Person character feels responsible for or takes care of: ...Person character feels shy or awkward around: No onePerson character openly admires: No onePerson character secretly admires: ...~Appearance~Age: over 100Age they appear: she appears as a young adultBody build: Hourglass, TonedUsual fashion of dress: KawaiiTattoo(s): Heart tattoo on her neckScar(s): One across her nosePosture: straightUsual clothing:Outfit 1outfit 2(View at your own risk)lingerie 1Hair colour: White and blackHair length: longEye colour: Her left eye is yellow and her right eye purple.Height: 7’7Weight: 256Skin tone: porcelain~About them~Good Personality traits: Soft, Caring, SweetBad personality traits: Blunt, AggressiveMood character is most often in: CalmSense of humour: Stupid jokesCharacter is most at ease when: Talking with someone they likeCharacters soft spot: KidsIs this soft spot obvious to others?: VeryCharacters darkest secret: She has killed over 30 people beforeLikes: Dancing, chocolate cake, attention, the starsDislikes: Her mother, selfish peopleHobbies: CookingSexual orientation: Bi~Favourites~Colour: Blue, grey, black, PurpleLeast favourite colours: She doesn't have a least favourite colourMusic: BluesFood: MeatMode of transport: Walking, teleporting~Habits~Hobbies: CookingHow they would spend a rainy day: Staying inside and watching tvUsual body posture: straightSmokes: NoDrinks: YesOther drugs: None~Traits~Optimist and pessimistExtrovertOutgoing~Abilities~Powers: Telepathy, Shapeshifting, Superhuman strength, Teleportation, Invisibility, Regeneration, Immortality, Pyrokinesis, Umbrakinesis, High intelligencePhysical strengths: Lifting and carrying heavy objectsPhysical weakness: None

KNIGHTHOOD.

11/24/2021 03:17 PM 

Footsteps in the Dark

Summary: The more he is with her, the closer he comes to falling for death. Note: This passage is pretty heavy on the gore side, and maybe a bit intense for those who are not good with that type of stuff.    He steps through the front door of his new home and scrutinizes the place with a bored gaze. Instantly, he is displeased. When Sasuke’s mother had first told him about the house, she practically gushed about how timelessly elegant it is. “It has history, and the character really gives the place a charming atmosphere,” she had said while animatedly moving her hands around as if taking part in an interpretive dance. He should have realized that all the adjectives she ended up using had been code for “old” and “musty.” Looking around the expansive entryway that feeds into the living room, kitchen, and library, he notices that it appears as if darkness lingers in every corner. The only light filters through the small paned windows situated around the front door and illuminates the particles of dust that drift through the air. Peering into the living room, he can see maroon, damask wallpaper that peels at the edges as well as antique couches that look as if his great-grandmother might have owned them. “Character, huh?” Sasuke looks up at his older brother who had just entered on scene, a large duffle bag tossed over his shoulder. “Next time, we should have a say in the place,” Sasuke grumbles in response. “If mother sees you complaining about her ‘dream home’, she might smack you,” Itachi chuckles as he inspects some of the aged furniture. “She fell in love with it and apparently the ‘bargain was too good to be true’.” He imitates their mothers excited voice, causing Sasuke to roll his eyes once again. “I just wish we didn’t have to use furniture that probably has fifty years worth of dust mites in it.” “Apparently it was all reupholstered a decade ago and is worth a lot now.” Itachi tries flipping a switch to turn on the large chandelier dangling above them, but with no luck. “I’ll let you have first pick of bedrooms,” he tells Sasuke while gesturing towards the upper floor. Sasuke nods in response and watches as his brother heads towards the very modern looking kitchen, before making his way up the staircase. It is grand, with wide steps that curve around the circular foyer, each creaking and groaning under his weight. Just like his mother to pick some place so obnoxiously over the top. Once arriving on the second floor, and seeing six doors on each side of the hallway, he officially thinks his mother has lost it. After all, who could possibly need this much space? Reaching the first door on the right, he twists the knob and swings it open, prompting the hinges to moan at the action. Peering in, he finds a bathroom that seems fairly modern with a minimalist design, much like the kitchen, complete with an open shower and a stainless steel sink. He shuts the door and crosses the corridor to open the one across from it. A mirror image of the bathroom he just exits greets him. He continues his self-tour, opening each of the twelve doors. He finds that the next two doors past the bathroom lead into the same bedroom. He enters the third to last door and finds that it also shares a room with the last two doors, except from within the room, the center door is blocked with a large bookcase. Deciding that this is as good as room as any, he sets his book bag on the ground. The room is furnished with the same antique looking furniture. A large bed with black sheets sits directly in the middle, a bedside table next to it and an old writing desk adjacent. He walks through the room and exits out of the last door in the hallway. I’ll probably just keep this one locked, he thinks before moving to inspect the window at the end of the corridor. He looks out the dusty panes and notices a grove of trees as well as the corner of the neighbor’s house, but something about the window frame catches his eye. The same old wallpaper decorates the wall around it except for the areas directly above and below the window. He runs his hand over the bare area and feels grooves in the plaster as if something had been bolted into it. He decides to ignore the little peculiarity and reenters his room. “Hey!” His head snaps up at the voice as he realizes that he is no longer alone. There, sitting on the edge of his bed is a girl about his age. She appears to be wearing a thin cotton dress with white ribbons tied around the front, similar to nightgowns that women wear in old movies. Her hair is cut short, just barely coming past her chin and her eyes are wide and green. “Who are you? How did you get in here?”  Sasuke questions. Wouldn’t he have seen her in the hallway… unless, she has been in here the whole time. “I’m Sakura,” she chirps happily, swinging her legs back and forth. “What are you doing here?” Sasuke asks, more confused than anything. “I just wanted to pop in and say hi,” she smiles and makes a hand gesture that references to his whole room. “Did you know that this place used to be an orphanage?” she whispers, as if sharing a secret. Sasuke shakes his head, but thinks that it explains all the doors. When they converted it into a house, they must have knocked down some walls to create larger rooms. “Well, it was.” She begins messing with the ribbons on the front of her shirt, untying and retying them. “Run by the esteemed Dr. Orochimaru and his medical assistant, Kabuto. They mainly kept teenagers, but there were some younger kids here as well.” She cups a hand by her mouth and goes back to whispering. “They say you can still hear-“  “Seriously,” Sasuke cuts her off, not sure what to think of this nonsense. “How did you get in here?” She leaps off the bed, and Sasuke notices how petite the girl is, her limbs are skinny and almost appeared malnourished. She can’t be much taller than five foot, and he guesses that she just barely reaches the hundred pound mark. “Well, be seeing you,” she says with a wink before walking past Sasuke. He turns his head to stop her, not exactly sure what to do about a girl that possibly broke into his house in nothing but her pajamas, but she’s gone and all that is left in her place are bloody footprints that lead out, into the hallway. Panicked, Sasuke rushes into the hallway and glances down it, only to find complete emptiness, no sign of the strange girl. He turns to go back into his room, and finds the crimson colored footprints gone along with a piece of his sanity. Xxxxxxxx Knock-knock. Knock Knock-knock. Knock. Sasuke awakens, his body jolting with a start. Knock-knock. Knock. He spins around, trying to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. Knock-knock. Knock. Climbing out of the bed, a flash of blonde catches his eye. There, in front of his bed, sits a hunched over figure with blonde spikey hair, his fist repeatedly hitting the air as if there is an invisible barrier. Knock-knock. Knock. Each time his fists halts, a steady knock echoes through the room. “Who are you?” Sasuke questions while reaching for the metal baseball bat that he stowed under his bed when he unpacked earlier that day. Knock-knock. Knock. The boy continues on, as if Sasuke had never spoken. “Hey! I’m talking to you,” he yells louder, the repetitive appearance of unwelcome guests getting on his nerves. “He can’t hear you,” a familiar feminine voice says sadly. Sasuke looks up to see Sakura standing by the far door, the same white nightgown billowing around her. “What are you two doing in my room?” Sasuke yells at her. Her head bows silently and tears begin running down her cheeks. “It’s not by choice.” “What do you mean?” Sasuke asks. “I tried to tell you before,” she whispers before beginning to back out the door. “He’s coming.” Then she disappears in the hallway once again.  Sasuke is about to chase after her, determined to catch her this time, but a strangled cough from the blonde boy causes him to spin around. His stomach drops at the sight. The boy lies on his back, a bloody hole torn through his stomach. His eyes stare up at the ceiling, blue and blank, blood dribbling down his chin. He coughs again and the crimson liquid spurts from his mouth. “Sa-aku-ra,” he gasps out before the ragged moving of his chest stops and his head falls to the side.  Xxxxxxxxxx “Sasuke?” Onyx eyes open to be met with a matching set. “Why are you sleeping on the floor?” “I-tachi?” Sasuke as he sits up, already feeling the stiffness from falling asleep on the wooden floor. “Itachi! There was this kid and he died on my floor and the blood. There was so much of it.” He looks around on the floor, finding no traces of what happened the night before. “Sounds like a bad dream,” Itachi says as he pokes Sasuke in the forehead a habit that Sasuke despises. “Anyways, breakfast is ready.” He lets out a “hn” in response before standing up and following his brother downstairs. In the kitchen, he watches as his mother bustles between moving boxes and cabinets, trying to get everything unpacked in the large space. The room is a huge contrast from the rest of the house. Granite counter tops, stainless steal appliances, and cream-colored cabinets line the actual kitchen area while a large, round table establishes a dining area.  The biggest contrast is the large windows that take up much of the wall space, each one open and blowing the wispy drapes around. Sasuke thinks he catches a glimpse of pink behind one of the sheer curtains, but when he blinks, it’s gone. “Here ya go, honey,” Mikoto Uchiha, Sasuke’s mother, says as she hands him a large plate topped with eggs, bacon, and some fresh tomatoes.  He sits at the table across from his father, who is reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. “Did you know that this place used to an orphanage?” Sasuke asks, prompting his brother to pause from drowning his pancakes in syrup, while his father peers over the edge of his paper. “Really?” Mikoto asks, “That’s funny, the realtor didn’t say anything about that, did she tell you, Fugaku dear?” “No,” Sasuke’s father replies, “where did you hear about that?” “One of the neighbor girls told me,” Sasuke replies quickly, the lie rolling right off his tongue. But then again, who’s to say it isn’t actually the truth? “Which neighbor is that?” Fugaku says, an eyebrow quirked in curiosity, at the same time Mikoto says, “You met a girl? What does she look like?” “I don’t know,” Sasuke tells his father, while rolling his eyes at his mother’s questions. “Hm,” Mikoto hums in contemplation as she searches for the perfect cabinet for the nice dinner plates. “I guess it adds to the charm of this place.” Xxxxxxxxx Sasuke stares at the blinking cursor in the search bar of his computer screen. Where should he even start? Konoha Orphanage Multiple results pop up, none having to do with his new home. Konoha Orphanage Murder No results, but it was worth a shot. “Try ‘Sound’s Home for Children and Young Adults.’” Sasuke jumps at her voice and almost sends his laptop flying across the room. From his place at the old writing desk, he turns to find Sakura jumping up and down on his bed. He wants to ask her what she thinks she’s doing, but at this point has realized that he might was well be talking to a wall. So instead, he types in what she said and hits the Search button. The first result is of an article “The Tragedy of Sound: The Unexplained Mystery.” Already feeling uneasy about this, Sasuke clicks on the link. A large, black and white image of the house pops up. For the most part, it looks exactly the same except for a sign out front with the name of the orphanage written on it. Scanning the article, he feels all color drain from his face. “The esteemed Doctor Orochimaru, known for his opening of Sound’s Home for Children and Young Adults, was found dead along with all ten child residents.” Sakura reads from over his shoulder. “All the articles will tell you the same thing, that his apprentice Kabuto is suspected because he was never found afterwards.”  She pauses, straightening her nightdress. “But none of them know the truth.” “What is the truth?” Sasuke asks as he watches a piece of her pink hair come untucked from behind her ear. She smiles sadly, “I don’t think you’re ready for it.”  Then she turns to walk away, and for the first time, Sasuke sees her back. A large gash replaces most of the back of her neck, marred flesh and torn muscle visible inside of it. The entire back of her nightgown is soaked with blood to the point that it drips down her legs all the way to her heels. She pads out of the room, leaving her usual footprints and humming quietly. Xxxxxxxxxxx It is a week later when Sasuke sees her again. He had spent all day researching the bloody past of the orphanage. 80 years ago. 11 murders. 10 children ages 12-17 and the famed Doctor Orochimaru. The majority of the deaths were caused by blood-loss from ghastly wounds, but there were a few that were especially gruesome: electrocution, drowning, there was even a decapitation. According to all of the articles, all the blame was pinned on Doctor Orochimaru’s apprentice and assistant, Kabuto, who was never seen again after the incident. While the children all suffered horrible deaths, the doctor himself was killed by poison, most likely slipped into his food. Sasuke leans back on his desk chair, anxiously running his fingers through his messy hair. It is a lot to absorb, his house being a place where so many murders took place. He’s about the call it a day, when a link at the bottom of the webpage catches his eye. Photo Gallery Hesitantly he clicks on it, not knowing what to expect. The first picture is of the house, similar to the one he saw earlier, except in sepia with a group of people stand in front of it. They are standing pretty far away, so it’s difficult to make out faces. However, he can immediately point out the doctor and Kabuto. Doctor Orochimaru stands tall and proud, his hair long and dark, and an unsettling smile on his face. Kabuto wears a pair of spectacles and his arm rests over the shoulders of a girl. Sasuke does a double take, though he can’t make out her facial features, her height and build resemble Sakura’s. The only real difference that he can pick out is that her hair is long, coming to rest to just above the waistband of the skirt she wears. She frowns as if unhappy with Kabuto’s touch. Another arm is intertwined with hers, and Sasuke realizes that it belongs to the light-haired boy next to her. He could be the one that was making the knocking noise, Sasuke realizes, though it’s hard to tell without the gaping hole in his stomach. Sasuke clicks on the arrow that takes him to the next picture. It’s of Doctor Orochimaru, but he’s lying on floor of what appears to be his office. Father’s office, Sasuke realizes, recognizing the shape of the room. The doctor’s eyes are shut, but his mouth is still twisted into that creepy smirk, it gives him the creeps, so he clicks to the next picture. His blood runs cold and his heart skips a beat. The picture is of a body, and Sasuke immediately knows that it belongs to Sakura. She’s face down, a large wound covering her neck and blood blooming over the familiar nightgown. Bloody hand and footprints surround her body, along with a black-handled axe that seems to be what caused the gash in her neck. The caption under the picture reads, “Sakura Haruno, the oldest female resident at 17. Cause of death is multiple blows to the back of the neck with the axe seen next to her. She was found near the upstairs window, presumably trying to escape.”   “I knew the windows were barred.” Sasuke turns to find Sakura in her usual place on his bed. “They had been since Kabuto first brought me here, but in those last moments, I was foolish enough to hope that they would somehow come unbolted.” “Sakura,” Sasuke says her name for the first time. “What really happened?” She shakes her head back and forth. “I’ll show you sometime soon, but not now.” He brings his laptop over to the bed and sits down next to Sakura, glancing at her neck wound quickly before clicking to the next picture. He doesn’t get a chance to look at it however, because then the knocking starts. Knock-knock. Knock. He glances at the clock and realizes how late it has gotten. Every night, consistently, the knocking starts at 2:30am. He looks up to find the boy, in his usual hunched over spot next to the invisible wall. “Why does he do that?” Sasuke asks Sakura, his eyes never leaving the blonde’s hunched over form. “It was our code,” she replies with a sad smile on her face. “One knock means ‘Are you there?’ Two slow ones mean ‘Goodnight,’ and two slow plus two fast mean ‘All’s clear’.” “What do two fast and one slow knock mean?” Sasuke asks. “Danger,” she says beneath her breath. “It means that the Doctor is performing his experiments.” Sasuke takes a moment to digest what she’s really saying. Experiments? What kind of messed up orphanage was this place? “Why can’t he hear me like you do?” “Because he’s trapped.” Sasuke watches a lone tear run down her cheek. “He doesn’t realize he’s dead, yet he knows he’s not alive.” Her voice breaks. “I know that I’m dead and have accepted that I’m stuck here.” They watch silently as the boy continues knocking, his labored breathing the only other noise. “I have to go,” Sakura says as she rises from her spot on the bed and heads towards the door. “You know enough now that it’ll only get worse. Stay out of the hallways at night.” A couple minutes later, Sasuke watches as the boy falls to his back, his chest just barely moving. A piercing feminine scream cuts through the silence and Sasuke finds himself glued to his spot on the bed. Then like all the times before, the boy gasps out “Sa-aku-ra,” before his head falls to the side. Glancing down at the computer to screen, Sasuke finds an exact replica of the sight before him, except in the picture a solid wall with bloody knuckle prints sits next to the boy’s body. “Naruto Uzumaki: Oldest male resident at 17. Cause of the gapping wound in his stomach is unknown, but investigators believe that Uzumaki dragged himself up the stairs only to die in his room. Investigators are puzzled as to why Uzumaki would do this when he was much closer to front door before his very tedious climb; they suspect that the trauma of the wound drove Uzumaki to insanity in his final moments.” Xxxxxxxxx “Sasuke, you’ve been cooped up in your room for the past week,” Mikoto says one night at dinnertime. “Maybe you should go explore the neighborhood or something.” “How much do you know about the history of this house?” Sasuke counters as he pushes the pasta around his plate absentmindedly. “What is with all your questions?” she asks getting annoyed at her son’s strange behavior. “That’s the fifth time you’ve said something about it since we moved. Why won’t you eat your dinner? It’s your favorite.” “Mikoto, stop pestering him,” Fugaku says quietly. “Oh honey,” Mikoto says as if realizing something. “Is it because you’re missing Suna? You’ll make new friends once school starts, I’m sure of it. In the mean time, you should make the best of it. Konoha is a beautiful place with lots of kids your age.” She glances at the clock on the wall and exhales in annoyance. “Where is your brother?” “That boy hasn’t been acting like himself for the past couple of days,” Fugaku says before taking a bite of pasta. “I know,” Mikoto says sadly, “It’s not like him to act so moody and distant, maybe we should start having family movie nights again or something.” Just then, the front door slams and the heavy footfalls are heard from the foyer. “You’re family’s sweet.”Sasuke glances up to see Sakura sitting on the kitchen counter. “Don’t worry, they can’t see me.” Sasuke gives her a questioning look as a silent way of asking why that is. “I’m not sure exactly,” she replies, apparently understanding the message. “I think you might just be better attuned to the spirit world than them.” Just then, Itachi enters the kitchen and glares at the table. “Pasta again?” he mumbles before turning to leave. “Itachi, wait!” Mikoto calls out, standing from her seat. “We need to talk, son,” Fugaku adds as he sets his eating utensils down. “You’ve been acting strangely,” Mikoto walks around the table towards Itachi. “Is something wrong? You can always tell us anything, we’re your family.” She moves as if to hug him, but Itachi slaps her hand away. She stands back, shocked that her son would treat her that way; Itachi has always been a kind and caring child, he would have never dreamed of hurting her before. “Itachi!” Fugaku yells. “How dare you treat your mother that way!” Itachi stares at his hand for a moment before looking around the room at the stunned faces of his family before turning to leave once again. “I-I’m sorry,” he stutters. “I’ve been feeling restless lately. I will retire to my room for the night.” Then he rushes out of the room, the creaking of the steps signaling his course upstairs. “Itachi, I’m not done with you!” Fugaku calls after, before following him. “Sasuke,” Mikoto says, before bringing a hand to her temple. “Will you do the washing up tonight? I’m suddenly not feeling well.” Sasuke nods as she walks away, pretending to not see the tears running down her face. He turns to find Sakura staring at the doorway, a curious expression on her face. “Your brother’s never acted like this before?” she asks, eyes still vacant. “Never,” Sasuke replies as he gathers the dishes from the table. Her gaze turns to the vase of roses that his mother had cut from the bush in the garden. “I have a bad feeling.” With that said, she leaps off the counter and walks out of the kitchen. Xxxxxxxxxx “When does your school start?” Sakura asks one sunny afternoon as she lies across his bed. Sasuke has gotten used to her sudden appearances and doesn’t jump at the sound of her voice anymore… very much at least. “Not for two more months,” he responds as he puts the finishing touches on a certain drawing he’s been working on. “Why?” “Will you tell me about your days?” she says while making a frame with her fingers and peers at Sasuke through it. “Like all the drama and gossip.” “What do you mean?” “You know,” she smiles as she rolls over onto her stomach, and Sasuke thinks that her perfect teeth and upturned, petal lips are such a pretty contrast from the gaping wound in her neck. “The family that was here before you had a daughter that would always be on the phone talking about ‘who’s dating who’ and ‘what so-and-so did at the party.’ She was in the room right next to yours.” “What happened to that family? Did you talk to any of them?” Sasuke asks, instantly curious. “They were gone within a month. They had a young son who found the false wall that led to the basement.” “What basement?” There was no basement in the house, that he knew of at least. “That’s where Kabuto and Orochimaru would run their little ‘experiments,’ nobody knew about it until that boy found it. I tried to keep him away, but he couldn’t see or hear me like you can and ended up stumbling across some nasty things.” She sighs and her emerald eyes pin Sasuke where he is. “The realtor freaked and had somebody come and fill it in with cement. They didn’t try to sell the house until ten years later. You’re the first family since then.” “What about families before them? Could anybody else see you?” He couldn’t be the only one, right?” “There was only one other person, about thirty years ago. A fortune teller or something.” Sakura makes a motion with her finger indicating that she thought the lady was crazy, which is rich coming from a ghost. “She lived here peacefully for about a year before she tried to contact all of us spirits with some sort of thingamajig. I don’t know what she saw, but she hung herself that night.” “Oh my god,” Sasuke says in shock. How many people died horribly in this f***ing house? “Anyways,” Sakura begins, seemingly unfazed by the conversation, as she peers over his shoulder. “Whatcha drawin?” “Uh,” a blush burns on Sasuke’s cheeks as he turns the sketchpad towards her. “You.” The picture is a rough pencil sketch of her looking backwards towards him. She wears a pair of jeans and a sweater with sleeves that reach down to her palms. No gash tarnishes her slender neck and her hair hangs down to the small of her back. She smiles as she looks at the picture. “I always thought I looked better with long hair.” “Then why’d you cut it?” Sasuke asks. He had given her long hair on a whim, inspired by the picture of her standing in front of the orphanage. “It wasn’t a choice.” Another one of her sad smiles. Sasuke doesn’t know what possesses him, but he has the urge to kiss her, to touch her, to do something. So he reaches forward, and she pulls back. “Soon,” she whispers, before jumping up and walking out the door. Xxxxxxxxxx “Is today your birthday?” Sasuke turns around to find Sakura standing behind him in the bathroom. He never actually sees her appear or disappear, simply one second she would be somewhere and the next she would not, or vise versa. He’s not sure whether some glowing light engulfs her, or if she simply evaporates in the air, but he figures that he prefers it this way. It makes her seem more real. He takes the toothbrush out of his mouth and spits in the sink. “How come you don’t have a reflection?” She jokingly pouts. “I asked you first.” “Fine,” he sighs, “Yes, I turn eighteen today. How’d you know?” “Wow, you’re an adult.” She giggles and Sasuke feels his stomach flutter. “I’m not a tangible thing, so there’s nothing for the mirror to reflect.” She takes her hand and sticks it through the sink, passing right through to the other side. “See? And to answer your second question, I was downstairs this morning and overheard your parents talking in their bedroom.” “You spy in my parents bedroom? Pervert,” he mutters under his breath with a teasing grin. “Not in their bedroom, just outside of it. I can’t go into anywhere I never went when I was alive, and I can’t leave the premises of where I died. That’s why I can go through the sink, but not the furniture in your room.” “Really?” Sasuke asks, receiving a nod in return. He always figured that she ghosted around outside when she wasn’t with him. “Anyways, I think your mother said something about a special breakfast for you, so I’d head downstairs.” With that, she exits the bathroom. Xxxxxxxxx In the entire month he’s been living in the “Haunted House,” Sasuke has been picking up on more and more of the “spirit world” as Sakura calls it. Instead of hearing the knocking and then seeing Naruto, the blonde boy appears first crawling through the bookcase, where his bedroom door used to be. A trail of blood always follows behind him from where his injured stomach drags on the rough floorboards. If he walks down to the kitchen for a late night snack, the sink will be filled with water and the sound of somebody choking can be heard. If he goes to the bathroom, crying resounds off the walls. If he looks out the window, he’ll notice the porch lights flickering. By far, the worse thing is the sound of Sakura’s scream being cut short at the same time every night. One time he asked about why she screams and she shrugged him off once again, but when he asked about the disappearing bloodstains, she answered him simply. “Just like the screams, flickering lights, and water, the blood doesn’t belong to your world. You’re just seeing and hearing echoes of what used to be here. Though the rest of your family isn’t, which is a bit odd.” He has tried approaching his parents about the strange occurrences, but each time they send them away with a “Give the place a chance.” However, he’s grown closer to Sakura. Though she’s dead, she makes pleasant company. Today, he leans back against his headboard, doing nothing in particular on his laptop while Sakura is draped over the foot of the bed.  “Kabuto cut it,” Sakura says after a long period of silence. “Wh-what?” Sasuke asks, taken off guard by her words. He shuts his laptop and sets it on the nightstand, looking at the strange, dead girl lying on his bed. “My hair.” She runs her fingers through the short ends. “He always talked about how peculiar and interesting it was, and one night he called me to the lab and chopped it all off with a pair of scissors.” Sasuke remains silent, taken aback by her sudden openness. “It was two nights later when Doctor Orochimaru went on his rampage. He was the one that murdered everyone, even Kabuto; that bastard’s buried under the rose bushes outside. Naruto was one of the first; having been called to the basement, then it was little Moegi who had gone to get a glass of water. Everybody else was a sleep, completely unaware of what was happening until it was too late.” “Sakura…” Sasuke trails off, not knowing what to say. An apology didn’t seem fitting and he is not quite sure how to deal with her when she acts so serious. “You don’t have to tell me this,” he ends up saying. “No,” she sits up to stare him straight in the eyes. “I can show you.”Then she leans forward and Sasuke thinks that she’s going to kiss him. But when her face gets close to his, she goes right through. Her whole “body” enters his, and his eyes forcibly shut. “Relax, Sasuke,” her voice echoes in his mind. Then he opens his eyes to the sound of knocking. Knock-knock. Knock. “Naruto?” the voice comes from his throat, raspy from sleep but distinctly belonging to Sakura. Feet swing over the side of the bed and land gracefully and soundlessly onto the wood floor below, pale, feminine feet with little scratches on them. It is then that Sasuke realizes he’s a passenger in Sakura’s body. Knock-knock. Knock. Sakura looks up and in the small mirror hanging on the back of the door, Sasuke watches as her eyes widen. Then, the little, white nightgown she dons becomes all too familiar. Knock-knock. Knock. Sakura glances over to the wall, which was not there before Sasuke shut his eyes. A scream echoes out in the hall and Sakura moves to her door, opening it. Glancing down the darkened corridor, Sasuke sees the house as she did in her last few moments. A thick blood trail leading down the hall, into Naruto’s room. She begins moving towards it, and Sasuke thinks she’ll peer in the room and see her dying friend, but she doesn’t get a chance. A tall figure, masked in the shadows of the hallway emerges from the door across from Naruto’s. Water and blood drip down the front of his shirt, and the moonlight illuminates his pale hands wrapped around the black handle of an axe dragging behind him. “Come here, little blossom,” a voice sings out as the man moves towards her. Sakura gasps and falls backwards to the ground, scampering away from the man. He steps into the light, and Sasuke sees the gold eyes, the creepy smile. It was two nights later when Doctor Orochimaru went on his rampage. Sakura is able to scramble to her feet and instantly runs to the window. She pulls on the large iron bars frantically, hoping beyond hope that they’ll break free. The footsteps behind her stop, and slowly, she turns her head to peer over her shoulder. He raises the axe, and a familiar scream rips from her throat before it is cut short with the heavy blow. She falls to the ground, unable to move, barely able to feel. An enormous pressure hits her again, and then everything goes dark. Xxxxxxx Sasuke’s eyelids fly open and he pants heavily, trying to gulp down all the oxygen in his vicinity. Sakura leans over him, her green eyes seeming to search him for something. “Now you know,” she whispers, “now you know what I and all the other ghosts in this place, have to relive every single night.” Sasuke sits up and Sakura leans backwards to give him room. It’s then that he notices the tears running down her cheeks. He brings a hand up to wipe them away, but it goes right through her. “Why now?” he asks while pulling his hand back in frustration. “Why show me all of this now?” “I’ve been feeling odd lately,” she replies as her palms wipe away the moisture from beneath her eyes. “I feel like I’m fading, I don’t even know what day it is anymore.” “Sakura?” Sasuke says hesitantly as he watches the petite girl close her eyes. “I’ll be alright,” she whispers before curling up on the side of his bed, seemingly asleep. Xxxxxxxxx When he wakes up, she’s gone and the morning light filters through the curtains. Groaning, he throws an arm over his eyes to block out the sun. “Good morning, sleepy head!” He moves his arm to find Sakura leaning over his bed, her eyes shining much more green than usual. He groans again turns his head to the side, that’s when he notices it. In the mirror on the far wall, he can see her back. No blood stains the little nightgown, and smooth, flawless skin covers the back of her neck. Wait… reflection? Sasuke sits up so quickly that his forehead bumps into Sakura’s, and the slight pain causes him to wince. Sakura lets out an “ouch!” and Sasuke stares up at her. “I touched you!” he says before slowly bringing a hand up to cup her cheek. Surprisingly, it comes into contact with the soft surface of her skin. His other hand touches her pink hair, like he has wanted to do since first seeing her, and thinks that the feeling resembles that of goose down. Wispy… soft… real. “Am I dreaming?” Sasuke asks as he pulls her down on top of him, feeling the warmth of her body over his. She giggles and shakes her head. “Are you alive?” he asks hesitantly, and her smile dims. Another head shake. “It must be today then,” she mumbles to herself. Sasuke looks up at her curiously, not sure what to make of the situation. “On the anniversary of our death, those of us who are aware of our situation get to materialize. I don’t know why exactly.” She nibbles on her lip and Sasuke can’t help but pull her closer. He knows it’s stupid and impossible, but he can’t help himself from leaning closer and touching his lips to hers. She seems shocked at first, but responds, moving slowly against him. Even though it is slow, hesitant, and over far too soon, it is easily the best kiss that Sasuke has ever had… also the weirdest. Maybe she’s dead and maybe it can never be, but Sasuke has fallen head over heals for Sakura Haruno, the dead girl haunting his house. A pretty blush colors her cheeks, and Sasuke can’t help but smirk up at her. “Wow,” she says quietly, “that was my first kiss.” She lies down next to him on the bed and runs her hand over his face. She traces his messy hairline, running her fingers through the silky locks, her fingertips outlining his sharp cheekbones, softly following the bridge of his aristocratic nose. His arms wrap around her hips, securely her to him, and Sasuke thinks that he can get used to this feeling. She tucks into him perfectly, her thin body molding against his, and they just lay there in silence, feeling each other. “Why couldn’t we have been born in the same time period,” Sakura whispers as she tucks her face into his chest, memorizing Sasuke’s scent. He doesn’t respond, thinking the same thing himself, instead he brushes his lips over her forehead and watches as her face turns the same color as her hair. Embarrassed, she buries her face in his neck, trying to hide. Chuckling causes his chest to rumble, sending Sakura into her own fits of giggles. Sasuke just watches the joy in her eyes as he smoothes her hair, loving the feel of the strands. Her smile falters slightly as she pushes her body up so that she is eyelevel with him. As if unsure, she slowly moves towards him, and kisses him. She begins to pull away, but Sasuke secures her in place and deepens the action. His tongue prods against her lips, and she opens her mouth as invitation. Tasting her, touching her, loving her. It’s almost too much. She hums happily against his lips, and Sasuke makes a mental agreement with himself that he will not be leaving her side today. Xxxxxx “Can I meet your family?” Sakura asks as she runs her foot up and down his. “You know, for real?” “Hn,” Sasuke says, neither accepting nor rejecting her request. He settles for ghosting a kiss on her upturned nose. “I’ll be a girl from the neighborhood who comes down to stay with her grandmother during the summers,” she nuzzles his cheek with her nose. Then, rising from the sheets, he nods towards the door. Sakura looks at him as if confused, her hair mussed from his constant attention. “If you’re going to come to dinner, then I’ll need to get you some clothes.” He heads towards the door. “Stay here.” Quietly shutting the door behind him, Sasuke heads down the hallway intent on making his way downstairs to his parents’ room. However, a loud noise from his brother’s room causes him to stop. “Tomorrow,” a voice hisses from behind the closed door, but the rest of the sentence is muffled, so Sasuke finds himself leaning his ear against the aged wood.“-starting to notice,” the voice continues and Sasuke recognizes it as a man’s, definitely not Itachi’s. Still muffled, he can only catch bits and pieces. “…can’t escape… anger… do it.” The door opens and Sasuke jumps back from it in shock.  “Sasuke?” his brother inquires, looking down at him. Lately, Itachi has had deep circles under his eyes, as if he hasn’t been getting much sleep. At first, Sasuke assumed that he had been hearing the deaths as well, but when he asked about it, Itachi responded with a look that made him feel crazy. “Is there somebody in there with you?” Sasuke asks as he tries to look around the tall form of his brother. “No,” Itachi replies curtly before shutting the door in Sasuke’s face. Xxxxxxx When he reenters the room, Sakura is no longer on the bed. “Sakura?” he calls, panicked that she turned back into a spirit. He jumps slightly when his wardrobe door opens and the girl peaks her head out. “What are you doing in there?” he asks as she steps out. “Your brother came in, so I hid,” she says before launching herself in his arms. Sasuke catches her, surprised at how light she is and sets her back on the bed. “I cleared told my mom that you were coming to dinner and I grabbed you a pair of leggings and some boots.” He picks the items up from the floor, having dropped them when she leaped and shows them to her. “My mom’s pretty tall and I figured your dress would pass as normal clothes. You’ll probably have to roll the leggings up, but my mom has so many clothes and shoes that she shouldn’t notice the boots.” She pulls the items on and examines herself in the mirror. “How do I look?” she asks teasingly. “Beautiful.” Xxxxxxxx They sit around the dinner table, except Itachi who left shortly after sitting down, and the room is filled with Sakura and Mikoto’s chatter. The Uchiha woman had instantly took a liking to the dead girl, even hinting at Sasuke needing a girlfriend like her. Fugaku remained his passive self as always. “So, you’re only here during the summers?” Mikoto asks. “Yeah, I live in Ame, I just come down here to help out with my grandmother.” “That’s too bad,” Mikoto replies. “It would have been nice if you and Sasuke went to the same school.” “Yeah, it would be fun to go to school with each other.” Sakura sends a wink at Sasuke before excusing herself. “She’s very charming,” Mikoto says after directing Sakura to the bathroom. “Though she doesn’t seem to like my cooking.” “Yeah,” Sasuke says quietly. “You know, long distance relationships don’t typically work out well unless you are both very committed to each other.” Sasuke shoots his mother a withering glare. “Don’t you look at me like that, Sasuke Uchiha.” She points her fork at him threateningly.  “Never, have you ever brought a girl home, not even that one girl that you dated for almost a year.” Sasuke shakes his head as his mother continues giving him unwanted – and frankly, unnecessary – relationship advice. Xxxxxxxx Being a ghost, Sakura doesn’t really have to use the restroom, but feels the need to wash her face. Mikoto is such a beautiful woman and very motherly as well, accepting Sakura even though she knows so little about her, not even saying anything as she pushed the food that she can’t eat around the plate. This was a mistake. Sakura thinks as tears burn in her eyes. She should have never asked Sasuke for this, she should have stayed away from the family that she can never be a part of and remained the orphaned, dead girl that she is. But she is selfish and couldn’t pass up the opportunity of feeling normal. Turning off the water and drying off her face, Sakura stares at her reflection. Gaps in her memory have started forming. Have her eyes always been green? Has she always been this short? How old was she when she died? She doesn’t know what the lapses mean, but she figures that it cannot be anything good. Make it worth it. She tells herself before exiting the bathroom, only to run into a strong chest. “I’m sorry,” she says, quickly moving out of Itachi’s way, but his hand shoots out and grabs her arm before pinning her to the wall. “What are you doing?” he spits out and Sakura could have sworn that she saw his eyes flash red. “I was just washing my face,” she replies trying to remain calm.“That’s not what I mean, little blossom.” The change in his eyes is distinctly visible now. They remain bright red and the tone of voice shifts to one that sounds all too familiar for Sakura. “What are you doing in this world?” “Orochimaru,” she realizes as she watches Itachi’s tongue come out of his mouth and flick across his lips in a way all too familiar. “I won’t let you harm this family too.” She tries to make her voice sound strong, but her yelp of pain as Itachi’s grip tightens around her wrist ruins the effect. “Learn your place, girl,” Itachi snarls. He blinks rapidly and his eyes fade back to the dark color that resembles his brother’s. He looks at his hand and in shock pushes away from Sakura. “Please forgive me,” he states, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have not been myself lately.”  Sakura watches him as he rushes away, her eyes swimming in sympathy. It seems as if she is not the only one losing herself. xxxxxxxxx “My mother is quite taken with you,” Sasuke murmurs as he strokes her hair. After dinner, when his parents had retired elsewhere, he and Sakura had snuck upstairs and resumed their position on his bed. He lays on his back, with Sakura curled up in his arms, half lying on him, drawing geometric symbols over his shirt with her finger. “I’m fading, Sasuke,” she whispers. His hands come down to cup her face, and turn it so that she looks in his eyes. “What do you mean?” “I’m drifting away, I’m forgetting my past, who I am, what happened. It’s all leaving me.” Her eyes close and she begins humming a sad, haunting tune. “Soon enough, I’ll be just like Naruto and the others.” Sasuke allows that to sink in. He knows that their relationship is dysfunctional, but he never imagined something like this. Having to hear her die every night, calling out to her, but his voice never reaching. Her humming stops and he thinks she fell asleep, so he runs his fingers up her back, tracing all of her vertebrae and her soft skin. “Sakura?” he begins, there is still a way that they can be together, forever. “Sakura?” he asks again, shaking her lightly. Slowly her head rises up, and her eyes are filled with confusion. “Is that my name?” she asks. “Yes,” Sasuke breathes out his reply, not believing this. “Yes, you’re Sakura.” Her eyes widen and she jumps up. “Sasuke, you need to get out of this house!” “Whoa, wait a minute,” he rests his hands on her shoulders. “No, you need to get out, you need to move somewhere else,” she starts breathing quickly as if hyperventilating. “He’s coming back, he’s coming back.” She begins looking around as if in a panic. “Sakura, calm down.” Sasuke’s at a loss, he doesn’t know what she is talking about or why she is suddenly hysterical. “I love you, Sasuke, and you need to leave.”  He pauses and stares at her, shocked, then he decides to voice the thought he had just a moment ago. “What if I never leave?” he whispers. “What do you mean?” she asks slowly, in a way that makes him think she already knows. “I could d-“ “Stop, stop right there,” she says sternly, frowning at him. “You are not killing yourself. You are not going to be trapped in this house, reliving your death everyday for me. Don’t you dare ever suggest anything like that ever again!” She yells the last part, tears streaming down her face. She leans her head on his chest, clutching her shirt in her hands. Her shoulders shake as she begins crying, and he instantly embraces her. “You need to leave,” she whispers between sobs. “He’ll kill you too.” She slides to the floor, and Sasuke comes with her, until they are on their knees.“I’ll speak with my family soon, okay?” he tells her, burying his nose in her hair and breathing the light scent that he discovered this morning. She nods and he picks her up before setting her gently on the bed. “It’s time,” she whispers softly, and her voice sounds distant. “What do you mean?” Sasuke asks and Sakura holds up a hand in response. It does not appear translucent, but it is not quite solid. Testing it, he tries to interlock their fingers, only to go right through. “No,” he says quietly.He stares at her and watches as the rest of her body begins to lose its solid outline. He grasps her around the waist and begins kissing her. He puts everything he has into the kiss since he knows it will be the last. Then, she is gone and he’s left alone in the expansive bedroom, crying out for her to come back, as her scream echoes in the distance. xxxxxxxxx She did not come back the next morning. She did not come back the in the afternoon. She did not come back at night. xxxxxxxxx   “Sasuke!” Dark eyes fly open at the sound of Sakura’s voice. He glances around and finds her leaning over him, her hands resting on the bed. “Sakura! You’re still here!” he exclaims reaching to touch her face, but his hand passes right through and he is left with the gut clenching reminder that she is dead. “You need to run. You need to run now!” she shouts as she points to the open door. “Get out! He’s awakened, Itachi is possessed! You need to leave!” He takes a moment to figure out what she is saying. “Run!” she screams, “the window!” Sasuke slowly tumbles out of his bed and enters the hallway. There, standing at the foot of the stairs is a dark silhouette, and Sasuke is hit with an awful sense of déjà vu. This scene is too familiar. Moon light streams through the window, a tall from shuffling towards him, with dark hair hanging down, an axe dragging along the ground, leaving a trail of blood in its wake. It is almost exactly like the vision Sakura showed him or her own death. He begins trying to open the window, only to realize that there is no way to do so. There are no hinges or handles. It’s just a solid pane of glass. Itachi steps into the moonlight, and Sasuke notices that his eyes are glowing red, even more shocking, the handle of the axe is black. An evil smirk splits his face in half and blood splatters across his forehead and cheeks. Is that the same one that killed Sakura? He breaks out of his shocked state in an instant, forcing his mind not to linger on whose blood might be coating Itachi’s body. “Come her, brother,” Itachi calls, but his voice is not his own. “Itachi, why?” Sasuke asks, pounding against the window, begging it to break. “We must join them,” he lets out an inhuman chuckle and continues down the hall. Sasuke dashes back into his room and grabs his baseball bat. He barely acknowledges Naruto, who his executing his usual knocking routine. Spinning around to enter the hallway once again, Sasuke finds his brother blocking the doorway. He instantly runs to the other door, only to find that it’s been locked from the outside. Then, a hand grabs the ends of his hair and pulls him back. “Your turn, Sasuke,” Itachi smiles as he raises the axe over his head. This is it. Sasuke thinks, bracing himself for the blow, but it never comes. Looking up, he notices Sakura standing in front of him. “No!” she yells at Itachi, “You can’t have him too.” Then, she steps into the elder Uchiha’s body. Itachi lets out a blood-curdling scream and grasps at his head. His voice comes out, morphed as if multiple are using it to argue with each other. Then, in a voice that clearly belongs to Sakura, he shouts. “Run! Use the window! He sabotaged all the other exits!” He glances at Itachi one last time before running to the window. Swinging the bat he shatters the glass, creating an opening big enough for him to slip through. Before jumping to safety, however, he glances in his room and watches as Sakura is pushed out of Itachi’s body, her spirit glowing brightly. She turns to him, a large smile on her face as her spirit begins to evaporate. First goes her fingers and toes, then her whole body becomes streams of light. “Thank you,” she whispers before disappearing. Xxxxxxxxx Two years later, Sasuke opens his eyes, finding himself in a strange white room. He looks around him and almost has to shut his eyes again due to the hazy, bright light. It is then that he notices a familiar pink-haired girl hovering over him. “Sasuke,” she chokes out. “Do you know what happened?” He’s in a shock. He hasn’t seen Sakura since the night Itachi was possessed by Orochimaru. After she had disappeared, he was able to jump out the window and get help from the neighbors. When the cops had arrived at the house, they found his parents dead and Itachi missing. Since then, he had been living on his own off of his inheritance. He is in college now, studying law. People have passed through his life, their faces blurring together. Though he survived that night, he felt more dead than alive. His family was gone, the one girl he fell in love with was gone, all the light in the world… gone. The last thing he remembers is driving to a lecture and then, nothing. But with Sakura here, looking down at him, it is as if somebody has resuscitated him, breathed oxygen into his body and shocked his heart into beating once again. “Am I…” he hesitates to say it. “Am I dead?” Sakura smiles sadly, a tear running down her face. He reaches up and wipes it away, and at there touch, instantly knows the answer. “Yes,” she whispers, covering his hand with her own. He notices her usual white nightgown is long gone, along with any traces of blood. Instead, she wears a wispy dress that seems to float around her, even from her seated position. He rises from his spot on the ground, and Sakura comes up with him. She points in the distance, and all he can see is ever expanding white. “Your family is that way,” she explains before slipping her hand in his and guiding him forwards. As she giggles and leads him towards a golden light in the distance, a new warmth spreads through him, calming him for the first time since the incident. 

KNIGHTHOOD.

11/24/2021 02:56 PM 

An Ordeal of Patience

Summary: Mycroft Holmes has found a home aboard the Lydia. He's happy sailing the Caribbean seas with his younger brother, Sherlock, and his spouse, the dashing pirate captain Gregory. But their happiness may be lost forever when some of the crew, including Gregory, are exposed to the plague. Sherlock wants to take action; Mycroft knows how that could cost them all. Knowing there is nothing he can do, can he sit and wait while his entire life may already be destroyed?       The afternoon sun is hot on Mycroft's back. The grey sea around them rolls in slow, gentle swells and the light breeze catches in the sails. They're close enough to shore to hear the squawks of seagulls. Mycroft has his sketchbook open on his lap, but the page is empty. At the moment, he's quite content to watch over the deck and enjoy the lazy heat of the day. Active as ever, Sherlock is up in the rigging, stepping lightly along the yardarms, ignoring the wind catching at his dark hair. John Watson's beside him, constant as a shadow. Mycroft finds his attention wandering back to the stern railing, where Gregory has paused in his inspection to talk to the men. There's a handful of the crew gathered around, drawn to Gregory's easy manners. The wind brings a snatch of laughter, but Mycroft can't make out the conversation. Mycroft is content to sit back and observe, unnoticed, but Gregory glances over at the quarterdeck and smiles when he catches Mycroft watching. Such a bright joyous smile, for something as small as Mycroft's attention. Mycroft nods in return, pleased and bashful, before turning his attention back to the pastels in his fingers. *** Shipboard life is a reassuring pattern of routines, large and small. They sail the shipping routes, stopping merchant vessels when the opportunity arises and seizing goods without injury if they can. They go ashore every month or so for provisions, visiting different island ports as they go. Twice a year they leave the ship in dry dock and clean her down, scraping her hull and fixing anything else that needs it. Under the wide, blue skies of the Caribbean, there's no such thing as an icy winter. The year swings between endless summer days and the storm season, lashing rain and furious winds that they wait out in port. It's an interesting sight to come into those tiny island towns and find another five pirate ships in the harbour, everyone waiting out the bad weather and sharing tales. Most of the year, there’s only the Lydia and the endless blue horizon surrounding them. It's slow, easy days of activity, men going about their jobs with friendly chatter and nights of sea shanties with the sound of Sherlock's violin dancing in the air. Mycroft's own days have a comfortable pattern. He sleeps late, enjoys a solitary breakfast without the need for conversation, then goes above deck to check their speed and direction. And if Gregory leans in close, murmurs, “Good morning, Fancy,” with a warm hand on Mycroft's wrist or lower back, that's another part of the comforting routine. After charting their location, Mycroft usually spends the rest of the morning in the navigation room. He'll work with ink and rulers, carefully copying maps until the day grows swelteringly warm. Then he'll collect his sketchbook and pastels, and spend afternoons on the quarterdeck. He will draw if he fancies it, but just as often, he'll sit and observe. Use it as an excuse to watch Gregory perform his duties. The natural way he accepts command, the canny way he takes care of his ship and crew, the satisfied glint in his eyes as he looks out at the clear skies. Mycroft has an embarrassing number of sketches of Gregory standing on deck, collar loose and hat tilted against the sun, looking every inch the dashing pirate captain. He has other sketches as well. Quick drawings of Gregory's strong hands, the calluses along his fingers and the fine white scar across the back of his right hand. Hands that Mycroft knows intimately, hands that have held him safe, that have petted his hair as he fell asleep, that have skimmed over his hips or gripped tightly as Gregory guided them into the same rhythm. He has sketches of Gregory sleeping, drawn from memory, and one detailed drawing of Gregory spread across their bed, modesty barely maintained by a sheet. It had been something of a joke, that if Mycroft was going to stare he might as well draw it, but it had ended with Gregory lying there by candlelight, letting Mycroft memorize every detail, every stretch of muscle and bone. The expression on Gregory's face had been so fond and indulgent, worth memorising and immortalising; Mycroft had done his best to capture it. *** It is a life of comfortable routines, so Mycroft thinks nothing of the ship stopping for provisions. It's a small town on a small island, and the harbour contains nothing but fishing boats. They're stopping for fresh water and flour, but if there are other fresh provisions available, Gregory may negotiate a price and come back for extra gold. Those kind of negotiations can take hours. Mycroft spends the morning inside the cabin, reading a French book on geometry, a rare find in the last town they visited. He's been aboard the Lydia for close to two years now, but the only obvious change is inside this cabin. Where Gregory's quarters used to contain simple necessities, there are now muslin tablecloths and narrow shelves of books. Fine cotton sheets on the bed and embroidered cushions to sit comfortably when reading. Velvet curtains over the window to soften the early morning light and a delicately carved box holding the few heirlooms Mycroft owns. It makes for a strange mix of practicality and indulgence, but Gregory has never objected when Mycroft returns from selling one his copied maps with a new purchase bundled under his arm. He doesn't spend all of his profits -- two-thirds of them are set aside for the day Sherlock chooses to leave -- but he has always enjoyed his comforts. It's early afternoon before Mycroft rouses himself from his book and heads above deck. There are a few men working the sails and a small circle at the far end of the deck, checking over ropes and cackling over ribald tales. Williams is standing on the quarterdeck, squinting in the sunshine. There's a tension across his shoulders that catches Mycroft's attention. “Good afternoon, Mr Williams,” Mycroft says, nodding as he climbs the steps. Williams gives a tight nod in reply. “Mr Holmes.” “Is all well?” “Captain should have been back by now,” he says, voice low enough that it won't carry to the crew. Williams isn't one to worry without reason, and a small delay is hardly a concern. Mycroft doesn't let himself frown where the men could see. “There's something more. What else?” “The fishing boats haven't moved. Not since this morning,” Williams says, carefully looking over at the town roofs hiding amongst the trees, “and I doubt they all fish at night.” Mycroft takes a deep breath. His eyesight might not be as sharp as Watson's but he can't see any proof of the boats being moved in the last few days. There could be a celebration, there could be a perfectly benign explanation but his first thought is most likely. He's heard the rumours of entire towns lost to the plague, but nothing this far east. Nothing on this island. Very, very quietly he asks, “Quarantine?” Williams keeps his gaze on the shoreline. His face doesn't give anything away. “Could be.” If it is, if their landing party stumbled into the midst of illness, anyone they send to investigate will be infected too. All they can do is wait. *** Mycroft may have to wait, but he doesn't have to be idle. After scanning the rigging and realising Watson and Sherlock aren't up there, he heads to the infirmary. Plague and influenza have similar symptoms; what eases one may assist with the other. He knocks at the door, but there's no answer. Pushing the door open quietly, he finds Sherlock bent over a magnifying glass, using tweezers to separate fibres. “I'm busy,” Sherlock says, not even looking up. “So I see,” Mycroft replies, rolling his eyes at Sherlock's typical lack of manners. “I'm here to enlist Mr Watson's help.” “Then you'll have to wait.” “Unacceptable.” Now, Sherlock turns away from his distraction. There's sunkissed colour to his cheeks and a bright gleam to his grey eyes: a life of piracy doesn't just agree with him, it positively favours him. Sherlock's dark hair is pulled back with a slender ribbon at the nape of his neck, a dark blue ribbon adorned with Watson's precise needlework, Mycroft notices. The silver scrolls and red blossoms match the work on Sherlock's coat. “Whether or not it suits you, Mycroft, you'll have to wait. John's gone ashore to purchase fresh bandages.” “He accompanied the captain?” Mycroft asks voice cool and even despite the sudden turmoil of his thoughts. Now that Doctor White has left them, Watson is their only physician. If he's taken ill, it reduces everyone else's chance at survival. Mycroft should ask Sherlock to help, to prepare something to assist with the symptoms, but he's loathe to tell Sherlock bad news before it's certain. If it's untrue, he'll upset Sherlock for no reason; if it's true, knowing now won't make it any easier to bear. *** Now that he's looking for it, Mycroft can't help but notice the lack of activity on the dock. The boats are all trapped in their moorings and the only noise comes from the waves around them and the gulls overhead. He wants to believe that something unfortunate but manageable happened -- perhaps a member of the crew broke his leg and they're having trouble carrying him back to the rowboat -- but that hope dwindles with every minute that passes by. The dock remains empty, and it seems inevitable that the worst has happened. Mycroft can't help wondering if he could have avoided this situation. Would he have noticed the pattern sooner if he'd woken earlier? If he'd made the effort to see Gregory off this morning, would he have spotted the suspicious lack of activity and stopped Gregory leaving the ship? He'll never know. The next hour passes slowly. Watching the still and silent dock achieves nothing, so Mycroft goes to the navigation room, evaluating the courses open to them and charting the one that will make it easiest to return to this island. They need fresh water, irrespective of when the captain returns. He busies himself in the storeroom, checking over Williams’ hastily scrawled figures and confirming their remaining provisions. They have enough fresh water to sail to the next island, enough to even allow them to stay here for a few extra days. There's a rap on the door. Mycroft opens it to find Sampson, an older sailor with a strong grip, a weakness for playing cards and blond hair so sun-bleached it might as well be white. “Yes?” Mycroft asks and Sampson shifts his weight awkwardly. “Mr Williams asked that you come on deck, sir.” He doesn't meet Mycroft's eyes as he says it, keeps his gaze averted as he tries not to share the bad news. One of the landing party has returned. It must be as they feared. If it had been any other delay, Williams would have got the men on board the Lydia and sent for Mycroft later. “Thank you,” Mycroft says and follows the man above decks. He steps out into the sunshine and takes a deep breath of fresh air, and then makes himself look towards the stern railing. There are men gathered there, including Williams and Sherlock, but Mycroft's height allows him to see over most of their heads, to see the small fishing boat floating midway between the Lydia and the dock. Mycroft wishes they were closer, but he accepts the logic: too close might be too tempting. One of the men might panic and try to swim to the ship. He can make out Gregory's hat and coat, but his face is in shadow. Beside him, Watson squints up at the sun, making him look angry. Above them, on the single mast of the boat, there are naval flags flying. The message is simple. Plague ship. Quarantine. Mycroft presses his fingers to his lips before he can free the shocked gasp that wants to escape. It wouldn't do any good. He could yell, but it's unlikely they'd hear him. He can't say what makes him reach out, but he grabs the back of Sherlock's coat just as Sherlock lurches forward, gripping at the railing as if he'd dive overboard. It unbalances them both, making Sherlock stumble while Mycroft topples backwards, landing heavily on the wooden deck. Mycroft sits there in shock for a moment, his mortification outweighing the dull ache of his backside. For once, Sherlock looks equally stunned. He stares at Mycroft, and then slowly offers Mycroft a helping hand to get back on his feet. The momentary madness seems to have passed. Gregory will find this hilarious when Mycroft tells him; he can almost hear Gregory laughing at the tale. The thought flits across Mycroft's mind, quickly followed by the realisation that it's optimistic to believe he'll ever talk to Gregory again. Not every exposure leads to death, but the balance of probability is not in Gregory's favour. “The flags,” Sherlock says. “We can use the flags to communicate. Must be why they took that boat.” It makes sense. The rowboats they use don't have masts. They certainly don't have the collection of naval flags required for basic communication. Gregory has probably spent the last few hours searching for a way to tell them without risking the rest of the crew being infected. For a moment, Mycroft wishes he had married a cowardly man rather than such a clever one. Right now, he'd prefer a spouse who sent his men into danger and stayed safely behind. Sherlock's already halfway up the rigging, climbing to the first yardarm to make changing flags faster. He flies the quarantine flag in return and then time and days. The answer is two followed by one, but Mycroft could have told him that. Standard naval procedure is three weeks since the last sign of infection. There were nine men in the landing party; they could be gone for months. Gregory yells at his men, and the flags are brought down. The next ones raised are provisions fully stocked so they must have found food and lodgings ashore. Medicine, Sherlock messages, and the reply is low. Not that they have any safe way to transport anything. Sherlock's next question -- number of men sick -- has a reassuring reply of none. Mycroft knows the coded meaning of every naval flag, but they are unfortunately practical. There is no combination that can beg Gregory to be careful, to return safely to him. There is no combination to tell Gregory that he is Mycroft's true north, that if he falls Mycroft will be left directionless and lost. None of that can be said in Sherlock's final combination: message understood. Mycroft doubts there's any value to saying it anyway. Gregory will do his best and Mycroft's feelings on the matter won't have any impact on the outcome. *** There's a worried hush as they watch the small boat sail back to the dock. It's safely moored and then there's one last change made to the flags. Quarantine. Two. One. A visual countdown. A sign that the men can all see. They stand around the Lydia staring at it, no one quite daring to hope. No one willing to give voice to doubts. They stand watching those nine men walk along the docks’ wooden boards and then out of sight towards the town. “Mr Holmes, Sherlock, Travers, Dougherty, Spate,” Williams says, loud enough to carry. “In the navigation room, if you please.” Sherlock shoots Mycroft a questioning glance, but Mycroft shakes his head. He doesn't know what this discussion will entail. The first thing Williams says once the door is closed behind them is: “We'll need to have the men vote for a new captain.” “I beg your pardon,” Mycroft says, sharp enough that even Sherlock gives him a disapproving glance. “The ship needs a captain.” “The ship has a captain,” Mycroft says coldly. “Not on board,” Williams replies. “We don't sail without a captain.” “A temporary measure.” Travers rubs a hand over his short-cropped black curls. “Until the Captain's back.” Mycroft looks from one man to another, realising he is being told this information. They are not asking his opinion or his permission; they are informing him of what will happen. “If you have already settled on the action, why am I here?” “Because a new captain deserves all the rights and responsibilities of the role,” Williams says. For a terribly long moment, Mycroft doesn't understand. And then he sees it too clearly. “Including the captain's cabin,” he says slowly, stomach roiling at the idea that anyone could replace Gregory, could stand in his place on the quarterdeck and sleep in his bed, that the Lydia would go on sailing without even missing him. The possibility that it could be true is horrifying. “As sailing master, you'll have your own cabin,” Williams assures him quickly, misreading Mycroft's discomfort entirely. “But that's the captain's quarters.” He may hate the idea of moving from that comfortable cabin, but this is the way it's done. Privileges such as private rooms are allocated by responsibility. As much as Mycroft would prefer to stay, he knows Gregory would follow the spirit of the charter. He remembers Gregory saying, “You can't apply rules to everyone if you pick and choose when they apply.” Gregory believes in equality for all. So Mycroft agrees and allows himself to be shown to his new quarters. *** Mycroft understands the logic of the situation. A ship is as much her crew as her sails. Her sails need every mast, rope and pulley to work as they should. In the same way, individual men may be replaceable but a crew needs specific roles filled. The men need to know what their jobs are and who has the right to give them orders. Mycroft understands it. He doesn't like the necessity of gathering his things and moving to one of the smaller berths, but he understands it. The room, such as it is, is barely two steps wide and three long. There is no window in the wooden wall and even worse, there is no bed, just a hammock hanging to one side and a set of drawers on the other. It smells musty from disuse. The Lydia is not a large ship. There are private quarters for the captain, the quartermaster, the doctor and the carpenter. The rest of the men sleep in the shared space below deck. Mycroft had wondered where an extra room would be found. “Ah,” Sherlock says, over Mycroft's shoulder. “They used to store the ropes and canvas in here.” Mycroft glances over at Sherlock. He's a month shy of eighteen now, only an inch or so from Mycroft's height with a slender strength from spending equal hours hauling ropes and standing over journals, noting the results of his experiments. He knows his way around the ship and is welcome among the crew, and even Mycroft can't pretend he is still a child. Still immature in some ways, still prone to wild flights of heedless enthusiasm, but Sherlock is a young man. If the worst should happen, if the Lydia sails under a new captain, Mycroft will not have to sleep in a hammock forever. A few months to be sure Sherlock is settled, and then Mycroft could find somewhere else. Somewhere more comfortable and civilized. Somewhere steady and uneventful. Somewhere he will not be reminded of Gregory at every turn. But that is only a possibility. For now, he will deal with the immediate problem: the manic gleam in Sherlock's eyes, the twitchiness he's let show since Watson rowed back to dock with the rest of the quarantined men. He's kept Sherlock by his side since the meeting, unsure of what Sherlock will do if left alone. Luckily, moving Mycroft's books and belongings -- and Gregory's -- has been a good way to keep them occupied and together. Mycroft could be wrong. He can't always gauge his brother's reactions, and part of him wonders if worrying about Sherlock is simply a way to manage his own fears. It is strangely familiar to keep a weather eye over Sherlock and arrange the practicalities, ignoring his own future as much as possible. He feels as if he's sixteen again, his parents not yet buried. It's that same numb hollow weight, that suspicion that everything will change, that life will never be as joyful as it once was. That the only useful thing he can do is be practical, so he shall be. He shall move his belongings, and watch over Sherlock, and do whatever he must. He will go up on deck to vote for a new captain and he will try not to dwell on things he has no power to change. *** Mycroft doesn't care who gets elected captain. His feelings on the matter are simple: not one of them is Gregory, therefore none of them should be captain. The next morning, he votes for Spate because it's easy to see how the men look to him for a guiding word, and Mycroft would rather be seen as one of the majority in this instance. Sherlock raises his hand for Travers but mutters under his breath that not one of them could read a map. “I'd be a better captain,” he mutters, low enough for only Mycroft to hear. “Do you want to be?” Sherlock's face brightens in interest and then his expression falls as he glances towards shore. That yes, being a pirate captain appeals to him but no, not without his closest friend at his side. Mycroft understands the sentiment all too well. Over at the dock, the flags on the fishing boat have been changed to quarantine and two nil. They're counting down the quarantine for all to see: twenty days remaining. Sherlock notices the direction of his gaze and repeats the same words he's been telling both of them since last night. “John would have noticed the illness. He wouldn't let them touch anything. This quarantine is a preventative measure, nothing more.” Mycroft finds it less reassuring every time Sherlock says it. *** Mycroft attempts to climb into the hammock that night but it's an awkward affair. Every rise and fall of the ship makes the hammock swing, makes Mycroft's fingers claw tightly into the material's edge to make sure he doesn't fall out. It doesn't encourage a good night's rest. After the first bell, Mycroft climbs out and lights his lantern. He studies the hammock for a few long minutes, tracing the knots and ropes that keep it steady. His knots may not be up to Sherlock's standards, but he understands the theory well enough. He unties the hammock and then ties each corner to the railing, pulling it into a firm rectangle of canvas a foot above the floor. When he lies on it, there's far less give to the fabric. It's firm beneath him and low enough that he doesn't fear falling. As long as he lies carefully, it doesn't dip enough for him to feel the unforgiving floorboards beneath him. His sleep is restless. He's used to Gregory's bed. He's used to Gregory's warm arms around him and the low, rumbling breaths as he sleeps. He's used to the smell of Gregory on his sheets and the warmth of him. When Mycroft has restless nights, Gregory will pull him close and press a kiss to his shoulder or his forehead, wherever he can reach. There will be a quiet whisper, “Hush, Fancy, back to sleep,” and arms holding him tight and safe. Mycroft feels his throat close up at the memory. At the thought... There is a chance it might never happen again. And there is nothing he can do to change it. To stop himself stewing in that miserable thought, he gets dressed and goes above deck. The crew is quiet at night, only a few men keeping watch while she's anchored outside port. It's still dark, dawn a few hours off, and Mycroft carefully picks his way to the starboard railing. There's a light on the dock. A lantern and the dark silhouette of a man sitting beside it. Mycroft pulls out a spyglass -- tries not to think of Gregory giving it to him on his last birthday, laughing at the strangeness of a sailing master without his own spyglass -- and focuses it on the dock. He wants the figure to be Gregory. He wants to know Gregory is restless and missing him in equal measure. But it's Smythe sitting there, staring at the hands crossed in his lap. Mycroft slides the spyglass closed and puts it away. He allows three deep breaths and then returns to his cabin, determined to take what sleep he can manage. *** A sharp rap on the door drags him out of vague, anxious dreams. It comes again, this time with a voice calling, “Mr Holmes?” “Yes?” Mycroft calls back, rubbing at gritty eyes. “Captain said to tell you breakfast is being served in the captain's cabin.” Mycroft remembers his manners enough to thank the messenger. He dresses calmly and reminds himself that Spate was elected captain. The cabin is his to with as he wishes. Mycroft has no right to be annoyed if it becomes a thoroughfare for the entire crew. Mycroft is the last to breakfast. Williams and Spate are sitting down, plates half empty. The carpenter is picking at his ship's biscuit, crumbling it between his fingers. Sherlock's plate is untouched. Mycroft raises an eyebrow at his younger brother, and Sherlock frowns. “I'm here in John's stead,” Sherlock says, clearly not pleased about it. “Closest we have to a doctor right now.” It's an officer's mess, Mycroft realises. A place for the men with private rooms to eat and share company. Williams is relaxed, at ease as he reaches across the table to pour more tea into his cup. The kind of heedless familiarity that says he's eaten breakfast here before. He used to eat here frequently. Not while Mycroft's been on board. For as long as Mycroft's slept in this cabin, it's been a quiet oasis from the ever-present company on the ship. When they meet other pirates at sea, Gregory may have their captains and quartermasters here for dinner, but otherwise, it's a sanctum. A quiet shared space, where only he and Gregory were allowed. Mycroft's taken it for granted. He never realised that Gregory had changed customs on the Lydia to give him that privacy. Gregory could have ordered that he rise early, that he dress every morning for breakfast with select members of his crew, and Mycroft would have had no choice but to agree. Instead, Gregory forced the compromises upon his crew. For a moment, Mycroft misses Gregory with a sharp ache. Mycroft cuts his breakfast into small, manageable bites and then chews thoroughly. He's barely hungry but it gives him something solid to focus on. Until Williams breaks the silence. “We've got a week's worth of fresh water on board.” It's not a surprise. It's the reason they stopped at this island. Neither is it a surprise when Spate adds, “Mr Holmes, we'll need a chart plotted to the next island.” Before Mycroft can reply, Sherlock says, “We can't leave them.” “We need fresh water,” Williams says. “I won't leave them,” Sherlock insists and Mycroft can see it too easily: Sherlock staying behind, refusing to go. How long would it be before Sherlock rowed over to Watson and Gregory? It's unacceptable. “They have provisions,” Mycroft says, “including fresh water. We will perish before they return if we do not restock our water supplies.” *** Sherlock's far from happy with the decision but he doesn't argue it further. Not in front of the others, at least. “You can't honestly believe that--” “Close the door,” Mycroft says as Sherlock follows him into the navigation room. “Have some discretion.” Sherlock glares at him, and then stalks over to the door and shuts it firmly. “We can't leave them. You can't think that's the right thing to do.” When Mycroft finishes unrolling the map and weighing it down to the table, he looks up. His brother is the very image of an impassioned lover: hair unkempt, colour high on his cheeks, eyes bright and determined. Sherlock has always had a passionate nature and thought nothing of showing every extreme of feeling. Mycroft is too tired to deal with Sherlock's extremes. “We'll return before their quarantine is over.” “And if something should happen while we're gone?” “What difference will it make?” Mycroft asks wearily. “If we're three days away or floating out of port, either way, there is nothing we can do but wait for news.” “What will your dear captain think when he sees the Lydia leave port?” Sherlock's tone is snide and it's meant to cut, but it's a badly aimed attack. Gregory is an essentially practical man: he wouldn’t expect the ship to stay and run out of provisions. “He'll think we're getting water. He won't thank us if his crew die of thirst waiting for him. Watson won't thank you for that, either.” Sherlock flinches. Mycroft hadn't intended the words to hurt. He'd only wanted to remind Sherlock that there are responsibilities to the ship's crew, things that need to be done and will make more of a difference than standing around worrying. “You signed the charter, brother mine. You can't abandon the ship when it suits you.” Sherlock trails a finger along the map, his nail scraping along the coastline of this island. He doesn't look up. “How can you be so cold? You married him. How can you talk as if this is a simple inconvenience?” There are too many answers to that question. Because it has always been Mycroft's nature to hold his emotions tightly guarded. Because high strung feelings and melodrama have never actually solved a problem. Because if he allows himself to discuss how this feels, there is a mortifying possibility that he will cry in front of his younger brother. But none of those would help in any way, so he forces his own annoyance down and says, “I would prefer there was water waiting for Gregory when he returns.” *** Mycroft finds himself remembering last May when Gregory caught ship's fever. He'd been restricted to bed rest for days and spent most of it sleeping, so Mycroft charted courses for Williams and sat on deck sketching, constantly aware of Gregory's absence. This journey feels the same, but Mycroft can't excuse himself to go knock on the cabin door, to ensure Gregory drinks enough tea and doesn't kick the blankets off. To run his fingers through the silver strands at Gregory’s temples, to open the window and tidy the room until Gregory rolls his eyes, begging him to get some fresh air and stop fussing. They take the most direct route possible, with Mycroft meticulously checking their headings every half hour, insisting they correct every time they start to veer off course. It still takes days to arrive at their destination: an unpopulated island with a river close to shore. Easy access to water and no chance of further infection. The next day is swallowed by simple logistics. Taking smaller barrels to the river, filling them, rowing them back to the ship to fill the large casks of water, returning and repeating until the casks are full. Sherlock is on every team of men sent out, hurrying everyone and keeping their pace swift. Mycroft stays on the Lydia, ensuring the storeroom remains organised. As soon as that last full cask is hoisted in the storeroom, Mycroft would raise anchor and return, but the new captain orders them to stay and wait out the coming storm. There's a miserable day of rain thundering against the deck, every man lurking below decks to avoid the downpour. Mycroft stays in his cabin, back to the wall and knees drawn up, reading books by a flickering candle. The unsteady light gives him a headache halfway through the day, so Mycroft blows out the candle and closes his eyes, lets his mind drift with the steady noise of pouring rain. The last time it rained like this… The last time they were in harbour, anchored for the storm season. Most of the men were on shore, the majority in the inns and brothels near the docks, and Gregory had made sure everything was lashed down before retiring for the night. He'd stepped into their cabin dripping wet, and it had been a combined effort to peel the sodden clothes from his skin, to hang the heavy coat and breeches around the cabin to dry. Admittedly, by the time they got to Gregory's cotton shirt, he probably could have done it without help. But Gregory stood there -- the white fabric translucent and clinging to the firm lines of his chest, showing the dark shadow of chest hair beneath -- Gregory stood there and grinned at him, holding out his wrists for Mycroft to free. Mycroft can remember pulling apart the laces at the cuffs and then sliding his hands down Gregory's hips and the outside of his thighs, the cold, wet cotton and the chill of the skin underneath. He'd taken his time catching the end of the shirt and dragging it up, past Gregory's chest and shoulders, over his head. “I should fetch a towel,” Mycroft said as Gregory stepped closer, as Gregory's cold hand wrapped around the back of his neck. “You should warm me up.” Words whispered right against his lips, their meaning obvious. “I should do both,” Mycroft replied, taking a few quick steps away and returning with a towel as quickly as he was able. He wrapped it around Gregory, rubbing his hands along the plane of Gregory's back, quick firm movements to warm the skin. Shaking his head, Gregory wrapped his arms around Mycroft's shoulders, dragging him in for a kiss. “Not what I meant, Fancy,” he murmured gently. Another kiss, and then he said, “Take me to bed, dear husband,” exploiting the warmth that bloomed in Mycroft's chest every time he used that phrase. Really, Mycroft had no choice but to climb beneath the covers and warm every inch of skin he could reach. *** Mycroft is not a religious man. He's never seen any proof of a great creator and he's never seen the sense in believing something unsupported by logic and fact. Yet when he wakes in the middle of the night with the ship creaking as she sails, as he lies in that uncomfortable hammock and misses Gregory -- the heat of his body, the scent of his skin, the weight of an arm across Mycroft's chest -- he finds himself reciting the prayers of his childhood. The words echo with an instinctive pattern, familiar and known, even if he doesn't believe. It distracts him from his fears. The constant worry that when they return to the island, that the flags will still show twenty-one days. The naval rule is three weeks after the last infection. Gregory was a midshipman; he knows those rules are too important to risk breaking. If a man falls sick, he will restart the count and wait out the days. Mycroft doubts Sherlock will bear it. He's seen the supply of herbs Sherlock gathered at their last stop. He's seen the deepening shadows beneath Sherlock's eyes as he spends days working on decks and nights extracting oils and powders to fill Watson's infirmary stocks. Since Watson became the ship's doctor and gained his own room with its own small bed, Sherlock's hammock moved there as well. As far as Mycroft can see, there's no sign that Sherlock has gone back to that shared room for any longer than it takes to change clothes. He worries that Sherlock's tiredness will make him misstep in the rigging, that he'll fall, that it will be a disaster without a doctor on board. He worries that they'll return to the port to find the flags have changed, to find they must wait another three weeks. He worries the flags could say something worse, could say that Watson is infected. He knows that all the logic in the world would not sway Sherlock. If there is any immunity from exposure, from years spent in these environs, he and Sherlock would be the least protected, but Sherlock won't care. If Watson is ill, nothing short of incarceration will stop Sherlock from going to his friend. If Watson is dead, Mycroft has no idea how Sherlock will respond. The idea fills him with dread. A shapeless fog of worry that he will be incapable of comforting Sherlock, that he will be useless in the face of such deeply felt grief. It is his greatest fear. It feels disloyal. His greatest fear should be Gregory's death, but the consequences of that are easier to foresee. The crew would mourn him but elect a new captain; Sherlock would miss him as a captain and shipmate, but the men around him would share that grief and let it show. Mycroft knows himself well enough to know that he would be practical. That he would be hollow and sad, lesser without Gregory's warmth and bright smiles, but he could continue as necessary. He could teach another man to read the charts. Could ask Sherlock to review the work and check for errors. Could find somewhere small and quiet, a cottage on the edge of some island town, and live a small, quiet life. Given enough time and solitude, even a shattered heart must eventually mend. It's far from ideal, but it's a workable plan, a ready contingency. He could bear it and might be able to keep his composure. But to see Sherlock distraught and be unable to help? Or even worse, to stay on the ship and wait as Sherlock succumbed to illness, to wait for news that Sherlock, Gregory and Watson had all been buried? He doesn't know where he'd start if something so terrible were to happen. So he recites prayers. He lies awake at night and translates them into Greek, French and Latin. He makes himself focus on each and every word until the swaying of the ship rocks him back to sleep. *** There's a worried silence on deck as they come around the coast. The Lydia is usually alive with the sound of chatter and laughter, men yelling to each other across the rigging or talking as they haul ropes or scrub the decks. This quiet is uneasy as if the entire crew are tiptoeing about their duties, waiting for the spotter's call from the mast. Of course, Sherlock is clinging to highest point on the main mast, leaning forward as if an extra inch will let him make out the flags flying in port. If everything has gone miraculously well, the flags will signal twelve days remaining. If the number is higher than that, someone has fallen sick. Mycroft can't bring himself to look so he sits on the quarterdeck, back to the growing green shape of the island. His sketchbook is open but he hasn't made a mark. His fingers are clenched too tightly to draw anything but scribbles. He glances over at the wooden stairs leading down to the navigation room below them. He could go down there, could unroll a map and pretend to mark their progress. He could hide from the terribly unsubtle glances directed at him by the men as if he somehow knows more than they do. He's as uninformed as the rest of the crew and like them, unable to do anything about it. They have no choice but to wait. At that last curve of land, where lush green slopes meet a steep rocky drop to the sea, Mycroft stands up. He means to go below. He wants to avoid whatever news is waiting. If Gregory's already succumbed to illness, he wants as much time as he can have before he has to acknowledge the fact. But his legs won't move. He's locked into place as the Lydia sails closer, as the sheltered bay resolves into a usable dock and the blurs on the water become small fishing vessels. He can't bring himself to look at the flags, but the call is echoed down from the mast. “Two flags!” yells someone. “Twelve days of quarantine!” There's a rousing cheer all around Mycroft but he barely hears it. He's too busy pulling out his spyglass to see for himself. To check the flags: Quarantine. One. Two. Mycroft falls clumsily back onto his seat. His hands tremble from the sudden release of tension. He can almost taste the relief on the back of his tongue: thick and sour as bad milk. He forces a few slow, deep breaths to regain his equilibrium before anyone else sees. *** Twelve days is a long time for a ship as large as the Lydia to stay in such an exposed port, but neither Williams nor Spate suggest leaving. “If we see other sails, we might have no choice,” Spate says, “but we'll stay here as long as we can.” After a few days of idleness, Williams sets the men to repairing rope and replacing worn blocks. The carpenter is kept constantly busy. Mycroft keeps himself busy in the navigation room, copying maps. There are times when he sits in a chair and closes his eyes for a moment, only to wake a few hours later, stiff and sore. Those are the nights he'll wander on deck, spyglass in hand, and search for the flags flying above that fishing boat. Usually, it's too dark to make out their meaning but the crew watches them all day. He would have heard their reactions if it had changed for the worse. He only checks for the faint security of knowing those flags still fly. To remind himself that Gregory is still there, that all is well, that this long stretch of endless waiting is the best possible scenario. Tonight, there's a lantern burning on the dock and a dark figure sitting beside it. No hat on his head and shoulders slumped as if he's contemplating the dark water below his feet. Even with his spyglass, Mycroft can't recognise the man. His head is tilted into shadow and the yellow lantern light catches brightly at his temples. Mycroft could tell himself that it's Gregory, that this is a sign of devotion, but he knows that Gregory wouldn't abandon his men to their thoughts at a time like this. He would sit vigil with them, would talk to them and keep morale high. He would not sneak off in the middle of the night. The figure raises his head and the light reveals Watson's boyish face. He's unfolding something from his hands, a white cotton handkerchief. He holds it up to the light and it shows two dark lines running along and across, separating the white fabric into nine squares. He pins a smaller, darker piece of fabric behind the middle square, shading it black-blue. Mycroft watches his face, watches him grin and nod, and then pull another bit of cloth, a lighter linen. He pins that to another square, then holds the fabric up. Nine squares: one dark and one showing as a beige shadow. Watson lowers the fabric, adds another dark square and holds it up for someone to see. Mycroft looks along the deck and finds Sherlock on the quarterdeck, lantern beside him and his own collection of fabrics. He has a duplicate of Watson's squares. It's clear from Sherlock's grin that it's a game, not a form of communication. Mycroft watches them for a moment. Observes their open smiles and Sherlock's pleased bow of defeat when he allows Watson to win the first game. He retires to bed before Sherlock sees him. *** The days pass slowly but Mycroft does what he can to fill them. The longer he keeps himself occupied, the less time he has to notice how much he misses Gregory. It's an acute and sharp feeling, an ache below and beneath his ribs. It's a cold draft along his back when Gregory's not there to hold him; the growing tension in his shoulders as the flags count the remaining days: nine, then seven, then four. It's the quality of silence at night when there should be the slow, regular breaths of another. Those are the nights he can't sleep, the nights he creeps up on deck and stands in the shadows, watching Sherlock by his lantern. There is a bitter twist of something Mycroft fears is jealousy for his younger brother. Jealousy is an ugly, petty emotion that does no good. He doesn't want to indulge it, but he hasn't seen Gregory's handsome face in over two weeks and there's Sherlock, playing games with Watson every night. It doesn't help that Sherlock is becoming increasingly belligerent during daylight hours. He has the reassurance of seeing Watson every night, yet increasingly spends his time in the infirmary, muttering over various glass vials and snapping at anyone who distracts him. Mycroft tries to be patient. Tries to remember that Sherlock has always had a passionate nature, changeable as the ocean and impossible to tame. He can be navigated with care, so Mycroft does his best to stay calm while Sherlock's mood grows darker. But when he finds Sherlock stacking a rowboat with bags and crates, his own spare clothes peeking from a sack, Mycroft has no temperance left. “What sort of fool are you?” Mycroft demands, words hissed in anger. “Return those items at once.” It's two bells into middle watch, and the deck is dark and almost empty. There are sailors on watch up in the rigging, and a few men playing cards in the navigation room, but the rest of the crew are asleep while they're anchored. On any other ship, Sherlock leaving in the middle of the night would be an act of desertion. Here, it's merely an act of extreme stupidity. It's obvious that Sherlock will head straight for the deck, straight to John Watson. “I haven't stolen anything,” Sherlock replies sharply. “I gathered the ingredients for the medicines and I've paid for the food.” He has the nerve to turn his back to Mycroft, bending over bags to lower something else into the small boat. Mycroft reaches out and yanks at Sherlock's elbow. It's only Sherlock's surprise that allows him to be turned. “You will not leave, Sherlock. You will not break quarantine.” “You can't stop me,” Sherlock says, using both hands to shove Mycroft backwards, to leave him stumbling for a few clumsy steps. “If you want to stay onboard, timid and cowering,” Sherlock says, eyes narrowed and pulling himself up to his full height, “go ahead.” “There are four more days of quarantine.” “And no one has fallen ill. The risk is negligible.” “It is still a risk,” Mycroft replies, stunned by Sherlock's willing shortsightedness. By the reckless selfishness of his impulsive plan. “If you break quarantine, we'll have to wait another three weeks. All of us.” “I’ll be there and back before dawn,” Sherlock replies smugly. “No one needs to know.” Sometimes Mycroft knows his brothers too well. He knows that Sherrinford's sweetest smiles heralded something unpleasant; he knows that Sherlock only sounds smug when he's already proved a theory. “How many times have you been over there?” Mycroft asks carefully, waiting for the answer before he considers the danger brought onboard. He's read reports from plague ships, entire naval crews defeated by miserable, suffering deaths. He's heard admirals bicker over the economies of war: if the risk of losing a new crew to contagion was worse than the cost of burning an entire ship. Sherlock knows him too. He hears Mycroft's tone and leans back, ducking his head. He suddenly looks every inch his eighteen years, an overgrown boy playing at adulthood. “Only once. I left provisions on the dock. I didn't talk to anyone. I didn't risk infection.” Mycroft glances at the boat. The moonlight catches on the white cuffs of Sherlock's spare shirts. Spare clothes would not be necessary if he planned to return before he was missed. “Unload the boat.” Sherlock looks around the dark and empty deck, calculating his options. As much as he wants to row towards Watson, Mycroft would only have to raise his voice to have men come running. Men have been known to panic and take crazy chances under the spectre of the plague; Sherlock would end up in the brig until Gregory returns. Mycroft allows Sherlock a few moments to think his actions through to their most likely end, and then says, “I'll help you carry it back to Watson's room.” *** In all likelihood, Sherlock won't attempt anything so reckless again but Mycroft dislikes taking unnecessary chances. When they get to the doctor's room, Mycroft closes the door behind them. He looks around the room, from the narrow bed against one wall, the drawers and desk against the opposite wall, and the hammock hanging between them. The bed hasn't been touched in weeks. Sherlock frowns as Mycroft sits on the bed. “What are you doing?” “Ensuring you don't suffer from another lapse of judgment.” “You can't stay here.” Sherlock sounds offended by the very idea. Mycroft doesn't care in the least. “Until Watson returns, I will.” Sherlock shakes his head, dark curls a disagreeable riot. “No.” “Sherlock, this is not a negotiation,” Mycroft says plainly. “This is a parole. Either I stay with you and ensure you don't do anything egregiously idiotic, or I tell Williams and you spend the next three days in the brig.” “You wouldn't,” Sherlock says and he almost sounds certain. During their childhood, Mycroft was the one who protected Sherlock from consequences, who made sure things were fixed before anyone else knew about them. He's never betrayed Sherlock's confidences and he's never threatened to tell any source of authority. “To keep you safe,” Mycroft says, uncomfortable with the sentiment but forcing himself to meet Sherlock's eyes, “I will.” Sherlock stares at him as if he simply doesn't believe Mycroft. It takes a few minutes of silence before he recognises that Mycroft is serious. “No one's fallen ill yet,” Sherlock mutters sullenly. “Then waiting a few more days is a sensible precaution.” “Sensible,” Sherlock scoffs, pulling off his coat with sharp, irritated movements. “How lucky the captain is to marry such a sensible man.” Mycroft ignores the jibe and removes his shoes. He sits up on the bed, back to the wall, and draws his knees to his chest. He watches Sherlock climb into the hammock half dressed and prepares himself for a sleepless night. *** In the dark, Mycroft's attention drifts with the sound of waves and ship's bells marking time. He leans against the wall, sitting up to try to keep himself alert. A good precaution when he hears the rustle of fabric and the soft sound of socked footfalls. “Back to bed, Sherlock,” Mycroft says firmly and the footfalls stop. “I want another blanket,” Sherlock says, lying graciously. In the dark, Mycroft can make out the darker shape of Sherlock. He pulls a blanket off Watson's bed and pushes it into Sherlock's hands. “Now, back to bed.” Sherlock snatches it and climbs back into the hammock in one easy movement. “You can't stay here as my prison guard. You have to sleep.” “I'll sleep when you're on deck,” Mycroft replies because he is more than capable of standing watch over Sherlock if it is required. As a short-term solution, it is vastly better than dealing with the crew's reactions or the lack of trust that might result. In the darkness, he hears Sherlock twist and turn. There's only another hour to dawn and then there will be too much light for Sherlock's foolish idea. Hopefully, Sherlock will see sense in the morning. He only needs to distract Sherlock long enough... “Watson has eight siblings.” “Five brothers, three sisters,” Sherlock says and then rattles off their names. Possibly in chronological order. “Did you think John hadn't told me?” Mycroft pinches the bridge of his nose. He wasn't looking for a fight. “Gregory has an older sister, with three children of her own. He had two younger brothers but they both died of influenza as children.” “And your point, Mycroft?” “We are lucky to have each other.” Sherlock snorts in mockery, so Mycroft takes a deep breath and forces the words out. “I would do anything I could to keep you safe.” “As long as it doesn't inconvenience you.” “That is unfair.” “You were happy enough to leave so you could be master of your own estate. I don't recall any brotherly sentiment back then.” Mycroft wants to object. It was years ago and surely Sherlock can't still be angry over that supposed betrayal. At the time, he hadn't wanted Sherlock to feel guilty for something beyond his control. Now… There's no reason to keep it a secret now. “It was all I could do to keep you safe,” he says softly. “After a season of balls,” Sherlock says derisively, knowing that Mycroft had hated attending them as much as Sherlock had mocked them, “you had no suitors in London. Your only offer came from the colonies, and that had nothing to do with me.” “Sherrinford,” Mycroft says but his throat closes around the name. Like a child afraid of summoning a ghost, he hasn't uttered that name on this ship. Perhap there isn’t any value in telling Sherlock now... But Sherlock is up and out of his hammock, a shadow looming over the bed. “Sherrinford, what?” “If I had refused,” Mycroft says slowly, words whispered in the dark, “Sherrinford said he would accept on your behalf.” Mycroft doesn't say any more. He doesn't need to spell the situation out to Sherlock. Short of running away and being disinherited, Sherlock wouldn't have been able to refuse. Not while his legal guardian agreed to the marriage. Sherlock sits on the other end of Watson's small bed. Legs folded beneath him, he leans back against the wall, not touching Mycroft in any way. “On the Imperium, there were stories about Magnussen,” he says slowly, awkwardly. “He wouldn't have been a kind husband.” “Agreed.” If there is one thing Gregory has always been, it's kind. Not something Mycroft expected to find within his marriage but all the more precious for it. “I came after you anyway,” Sherlock says and Mycroft hears the unspoken rebuke: you could have told me. In hindsight, Sherlock's right. He should have. He would have, if he'd been capable of conceiving the life they've found, a life that pleases them both. “It was a failure of imagination,” Mycroft confesses. “Every option I considered presumed one of us would be unhappy.” In the darkness, Mycroft holds his knees to his chest. Outside, the waves are a comforting susurrus. There's a sigh and then fabric moving as Sherlock shifts backwards on the bed. Finally, Sherlock says, “Impulsive plans aren't always wrong.” His plan to follow Mycroft into a life of piracy was little more than a whim. It was a sudden and ill-considered plan, yet Mycroft is grateful for it. He dreads what his life would have been without Sherlock's unforeseen arrival. “Not always,” Mycroft allows. “But right now, everyone is well and we only need wait a few more days. Rushing to action just for the sake of doing something will not help.” Perhaps this is a conversation suited to the dark. If they could see each other, Mycroft would dissect Sherlock's every expression and try to guess his meaning before he spoke. He wouldn't listen as closely to what Sherlock chooses to say. “Not all of us find it so easy to be patient.” Easy. The idea that the last few weeks have been easy is ludicrous. Mycroft spends all night missing Gregory and all day trying to keep busy, trying to forget that Gregory is not here. “The most difficult thing is doing nothing. Knowing that there is nothing you can do, there is no contingency plan that will help if the worst happens. Knowing that all you can do is sit and wait, hoping that each day's news is good. There is nothing easy about it.” After that uncomfortable confession, they call a silent truce. Each of them sit on opposite ends of Watson's bed, waiting for dawn. *** Mycroft wakes hours after dawn, leaning uncomfortably against the wooden wall. Sherlock is curled up in a similarly awkward position at the foot of the bed. He has one shoulder pressed to the wall, legs bent sideways to fit on the mattress, head hanging forward. Mycroft moves by inches, shifting gently off the bed to not wake Sherlock. He has to hold onto the wall when he finally stands, wait for the feeling to return to his left foot. He could wake Sherlock, escort him above deck where the rest of the crew could watch over him, but it's daylight. Sherlock couldn't leave the ship without being spotted, and Sherlock has been looking tired. Even energetic young men need some sleep. So Mycroft folds back the blankets on the bed. He slowly reaches for Sherlock's shoulders, applying gentle pressure until Sherlock turns away from the wall and down to the mattress. He's still in the middle of the bed but it's bound to be more comfortable lying down. As Mycroft pulls the blankets over Sherlock, Sherlock's fingers grab his wrist. “John?” Sherlock rumbles, still mostly asleep. Sherlock sounds defenceless, soft and trusting in a way he never is. Once again, Mycroft desperately hopes that Watson returns. He swallows past the catch in his throat to whisper, “Back to sleep, Sherlock,” and Sherlock grumbles something in reply and rolls over. *** By unspoken agreement, Mycroft returns to Watson's room that night. At first watch, Sherlock gets up to go on deck and Mycroft follows. He stays in the shadows, out of sight as Sherlock stands by his lantern, playing his game of coloured squares with Watson. It's the first time Sherlock's smiled all day. Afterwards, they go back to Watson's room. Mycroft takes the bed, Sherlock takes the hammock. They do the same the next night, but Sherlock breaks the silence when they're both trying to sleep. “Don't tell John. That I… He wouldn't approve of breaking quarantine.” Mycroft could extract a promise or a favour. Could hold it as blackmail for the next time Sherlock is difficult. The idea is both practical and abhorrent. “You listened to reason. There's no need for Watson to know.” “He'll know you were sleeping in his bed.” “Easily explained,” Mycroft replies. “Tell him three weeks was too long sleeping in a hammock.” “Too long?” Sherlock asks, confused. Clearly, Watson hasn't told him of Mycroft's great antipathy towards hammocks. “Watson can explain the context to you later.” *** He spends one more night in Watson's bed but it's far from restful. It's the last night of quarantine and Mycroft finds sleep elusive. He desperately wants it to be tomorrow. He wants to be back in his bed, back in their cabin. He wants Gregory's arms around him and Gregory mumbling, “Back to sleep, Fancy.” But since he can't have that -- not tonight, not yet -- he lies in the dark and mentally reviews their current stores, their position, the first things they'll need to restock and the island towns most likely to sell to them. He listens to the bells above calling the time and Sherlock's steady breaths, waiting for the night to pass. “Can't sleep?” Sherlock asks. The hammock hangs in front of the window, the moonlight cut in two by the curve of fabric. Mycroft sighs. The answer is obvious. “How can three weeks seem so long?” Sherlock complains. Mycroft stares at the wooden ceiling above him. “Because misery stretches minutes into hours.” It is overly sentimental but the hour is late. The waves below lap against the side of the ship. Eventually, Sherlock says, “John will be back tomorrow.” His tone is definitive; Mycroft doesn't know which one of them he's trying to convince. “The quarantine started at noon,” Mycroft reminds him. “They won't return until the afternoon.” *** The sun burns down brightly. Mycroft should be wearing his hat. He can feel the heat burning the side of his neck, but he doesn't fetch it. He can't bear leaving the deck. On the water below, a rowboat with nine men -- nine healthy men -- comes steadily closer. Watson yells out the strokes and the oars splash into the water, across and down, up and back. Mycroft's watching for the wide brim of Gregory's hat, the weathered green of his coat. Gregory's sitting at the back of the boat, head tilted against the sun. Mycroft can't see his face or read his expression, but it's definitely him. When the boat comes close to the Lydia, Mycroft steps back. The men need to get through. The crew throw down ladders for men to climb and ropes to pull the rowboat out of the water. There's a cheer as the first man climbs on board -- Mattson, Mycroft believes -- and far too much backslapping and handshaking. It keeps a crowd pressed around the ladder and delays the next man. There are four more men, and then Watson's boyish grin appears. Sherlock elbows past the throng to get to the front, to lean forward and offer Watson a steadying hand to pull him up to the deck

KNIGHTHOOD.

11/24/2021 02:46 PM 

Greed

Summary: Greed (noun) \ ˈgrēd \: A selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed or deserved.     Kakashi knows he doesn’t deserve Tenzo. But god, does he want.       Kakashi had been alone for a very long time. At first, it had hurt. It hurt so much, Kakashi couldn’t even describe it. He didn’t understand, how could he? He was just a kid. All he knew was one day, his father was here with him and the next, he was gone. And suddenly, Kakashi realized that the brave face Sakumo put on at home couldn’t hold, no matter how much Kakashi tried to help. In the end, Kakashi wasn’t enough to keep his father alive. He just wasn’t enough to live for. Kakashi wished he could say he didn’t hold a grudge. But after the death of Sakumo, he grew up into a sharp, sarcastic, and often bitter little boy. Despite his attitude, despite his clinging to sometimes inhumane rules and closing off his emotions, he managed to find himself a semblance of a new family. That family was ripped away from him, piece by piece. Most of it was Kakashi’s own doing. He has nightmares, horrible flashes of boulders crashing around him, or blinding, screaming bolts of lightning. He would wake up dirty and stained, and spend hours at his sink until the water over his hands ran cold. He knew, somewhere in his mind, that the blood wasn’t there. But he could see it, he could feel it, it was as real as the eye in his left socket, real as the guilt churning through his stomach and making him sick. Both ruthless, endless reminders that he destroyed any good thing, any good person in his life. When Kushina and Minato-sensei died, Kakashi knew. It solidified in his mind an idea he had long ago, standing over his father’s lifeless body. The idea that maybe Kakashi just wasn’t deserving of love. Maybe loving Kakashi was a death sentence. Maybe the only way to keep people safe was to keep them at a distance. Being alone wasn’t so bad anymore, not if the alternative was more loss. It wasn’t as difficult as it was when he was young, but then again, he supposed all things got easier with time and experience. A good Shinobi was an island, after all, and Kakashi had become a very good Shinobi. He wasn’t devoid of emotions, not completely. No matter how much he tried to convince himself and everyone around him that he was. His ruse seemed to work well on both his fellow ANBU shinobi, as well as on the other Jonin from his class, and even the Hokage. Some looked at him with contempt, others with pity, and others still with fear. Kakashi ignored every look. There were moments, still, when Kakashi would feel his resolve slipping. Moments late at night, when he was alone with nothing but flashbacks and tears from Obito’s eye to keep him company. He missed the comforting love from his father, and the camaraderie from his team. He missed missions that didn’t end with him puking his guts out in a corner of the ANBU locker room as the faces of his targets—his victims—swam in front of his vision even when he closed his eyes. He missed things he never even had; was burning with the jealousy of missed opportunities to have close friends, his insides squirming with deep sadness and longing and guilt whenever he brushed off an invitation for dango with the other Jonin his age. Gai, as always, never gave up on him…and that always made Kakashi feel worse. He was kind, and well-meaning, and Kakashi really, really didn’t want him to die. He was aware, on some level, that he was being irrational. But the people he let love him kept dying, and he refused to have another friend’s death on his hands. But he desperately wanted all these things he’d been denied—wanted so badly it made him feel sick. He threw himself deeper into work, sinking further and further into the depths of life in ANBU. This was his purpose now, everything for the better of the village. He’d become the perfect soldier, and then he wouldn’t need anybody else. It was the perfect plan. Everyone would be safe that way. It was only miserable late at night, when Kakashi was alone, unable to clean the red from his hands. When he met a little boy called Kinoe, he was immediately intrigued. He was small, and young, and used a technique Kakashi had only heard legends about. If Danzo’s offer had not interested Kakashi before, it may be worth it only to know more about this boy. The assassination attempt orchestrated by Danzo ends Kakashi’s interest in joining Root, but not in Kinoe. Against his better judgement, Kakashi allowed the boy to flee the scene, merely reporting his existence to the Hokage. When Kakashi and Kinoe meet for a third time, it is when Kakashi is near death from the technique of a clan he had never even heard of before. Kinoe spares his life, but immediately restrains Kakashi under the pretense of interrogation. The mission passes in a confusing blur for Kakashi, having spent most of it chasing a little girl who insisted on calling Kinoe “Tenzo”, and the second part of it fighting Orochimaru. He wasn’t sure whether or not he considered the mission a success, considering the fact that Orochimaru escaped. But the little girl was free, and Kinoe smiled, and that was enough success for Kakashi. This was the second time Kakashi lied on a mission report, and he did it with zero regrets. The third and fourth time Kakashi encountered Kinoe were separated by years, and Kakashi takes a second to recognize him. He’s taller, his hair is longer, but his eyes are the same. Kakashi knows they are on different missions, serving different masters, but he suggests they work together all the same. He believes when he tells Kinoe that they are both allies under the village of Konoha, and trusts him as he would a member of his own organization. When Kinoe draws a blade against him, Kakashi defends himself on instinct. But this is too much, this can’t be happening again. He can’t be fighting a comrade again. He tells Kinoe to abandon his mission, that missions that call upon someone to kill a comrade were never worth it. And I would know. He didn’t expect Kinoe to bring up Rin. No one brought up Rin, not to Kakashi’s face. Sure, people loved to talk about it to everyone else. But people never even said her name when Kakashi was around, they were afraid of what Kakashi would do. As it turned out, guilt would churn in Kakashi’s stomach like it always did…and then, Kakashi would get angry. So angry, he’d forget even where he was. When he came back to his senses, Kinoe was at the mercy of Kakashi and his chidori. And Kakashi gave mercy, electing instead to restrain Kinoe and take him back to the Hokage. Kinoe was two assassination attempts in, and Kakashi was pretty sure Danzo wasn’t gonna let him stop trying anytime soon. Kakashi was just wondering how Danzo managed to keep his position of power when he kept ordering Konoha soldiers and officials dead, when he was distracted by a very large snake swallowing his prisoner. Kakashi kills the snake and rescues Kinoe, but the resulting poisonous vapors render him incapacitated and weak. Some level of consciousness registers the fact that Kinoe half-drags half-carries him to a safe area and administers some kind of antidote, but then Kakashi is unconscious. He wakes to find a note from Kinoe, hastily scrawled on fabric and pinned to the wall with a kunai. He reads the note quickly, his heartbeat pounding loudly in his ears. Kinoe abandoned his mission for Kakashi. He was going to report back to Danzo empty handed, and who knows what would happen to him then. Kakashi shouldn’t care. This boy was an obstacle every time Kakashi saw him. But he was also a friend, an ally of Konoha, and possibly the last person on Earth who could ever use wood style. The Hokage wouldn’t give a damn about the first two, but he might care enough about wood style to do something. Kakashi was right, the Hokage cared enough about Hashirama’s lost techniques to send an ANBU operative with a message to Danzo. But the time for messages was over. Kakashi wasn’t ever going to try to understand why someone like Danzo was allowed so much influence, he didn’t have the time nor the patience. What he did have was the skill and the balls to go into Root and get Kinoe his damn self. Later, after he stole inside one of the most dangerous organizations in Konoha on an illegal, unsanctioned rescue mission for some boy he barely knew and almost killed three times, Kakashi would question what exactly it was that drew him to Kinoe. Sometime, after he introduced Tenzo to his ANBU comrades under his new code name, after he welcomed Tenzo to his ANBU team, after Tenzo called him “senpai” for the first of many times, Kakashi would question why Tenzo wasn’t turning tail and running the other way from him. It wasn’t until after a late night together, after Tenzo witnessed him crying, and shaking, and scrubbing invisible blood off his hands, after Tenzo’s quiet voice and gentle hands brought Kakashi back to reality, Kakashi started to wonder if this was the love he had been desperately missing for almost his entire life. The next nightmare, alongside the falling boulders and screaming flashes of lightning, featured bloodsoaked long brown hair and a cracked Konoha faceplate. Kakashi would not allow Tenzo to end up that way. He knew what happened to people he let get close, to people he loved. It didn’t matter how strong he was, or how capable they were. They would get hurt, and then they would be gone, and Kakashi would have to get used to being alone all over again. He needed to stop this while Tenzo was still okay. The thought of pushing Tenzo back out hurt Kakashi more than he’d thought it would. He’d gotten a taste of the love and connections he’d missed so much, and he wasn’t ready to see it go. He’d never wanted anything more than Tenzo, the burning want for things he could not have that he’d felt since childhood was reaching new temperatures in his gut. He closed his eyes, letting the image of Tenzo’s pale and lifeless body motivate him. This was to save his life. The shift back was gradual, Kakashi was too weak for it not to be. He started with talking a little less, making his words a little more curt. He cut back his out of mission time with Tenzo down until it was nothing at all. He pretended he didn’t notice the hurt and worry on Tenzo’s face every time he was brushed off or ignored. Pretended that none of this was bothering him. After all, Kakashi pretending to be okay was the longest and most successful con in the history of Konoha. But, with how well Kakashi knew Tenzo, he should have expected him to not play along. “Senpai?” Kakashi tensed where he stood, slowly setting down the kunai he had reflexively drawn in his surprise. He’d never expected Tenzo to make a surprise window entrance into his apartment, but Tenzo was always exceeding his expectations. “What?” Kakashi’s voice was flat and emotionless. His voice usually was, nowadays, when talking with Tenzo. It was a far cry from when Tenzo had first joined his team, when Kakashi let himself be vulnerable around another person for the first time in years. It was safe to say that Tenzo had made note of the change. “Senpai, are you…are you okay?” Tenzo began, concern creeping into his voice. “Is something wrong?” “No,” Kakashi answered. Simple responses, nowhere for Tenzo to go with them. Cut the conversation short. “You’re lying to me,” Tenzo was clearly distressed. “Why? Kakashi, what’s the matter?” Kakashi’s throat tightened at the switch to his name. This might not be as easy as he thought. “What makes you think I’m lying?” “You…these past few weeks…it’s like you hate me now, or something,” Tenzo seemed nervous. Kakashi glanced back at him and immediately regretted it; the earnest look in Tenzo’s eyes might be enough to break him if he kept looking. “I don’t know what you mean.” “This is just it,” Tenzo sighed. “We…we were close, and you…you would talk to me, about stuff, and now it seems that you just…only talk about missions…” “I’m your superior,” Kakashi answered. “That’s what is appropriate for us to talk about.” “What happened?” Tenzo asked again, stepping closer. “Did you—get in trouble, or something, for being friends with me?” “No.” “Then, why?” Tenzo’s voice grew softer. “I’m worried, Kakashi. I just—I care about you, you know? And I thought—I thought you cared about me,” “I don’t,” Kakashi answered quickly, almost choking on the words. If he didn’t get them out fast, they never would come. “You’re my comrade, and I value you as such. You’re an asset to my team.” Silence stretched for a few very long seconds, in which Tenzo was stunned and Kakashi was bracing for fallout. “Bullsh*t,” Tenzo finally managed. “That—I refuse to believe that, Senpai.” “Well, that’s your problem,” Kakashi muttered. “Keep deluding yourself if you wish. Don’t let it affect missions.” “Kakashi!” Tenzo protested, stepping closer still and reaching for Kakashi’s arm. “What are you talking about? What happened to you?” Kakashi jerked his arm away like Tenzo’s touch would burn him, taking several steps to distance the two of them. “Don’t touch me,” Kakashi warned, turning his back. “If this is all you wanted, feel free to go.” The two stood in tense silence, in which Kakashi knew that Tenzo had no intention of leaving. Tenzo had grown stubborn and assertive in his time spent with Kakashi, and had a long standing history of not letting Kakashi get the last word, rank be damned. “If you really don’t care,” Tenzo spoke through gritted teeth, his shaking hands clenched into fists at his side. “If you really don’t care about me, why did you even come after me? Why not leave me with Danzo? You could have left me to rot in Root forever but you didn’t, Kakashi, because you care.” “I went back to Root for you because you are an asset to the village—” “You’re really gonna tell me that was the only reason?” Tenzo challenged. “You came back for me. You care about me, Kakashi. It’s okay to say so. Not everything you do has to be for duty, or for the village, you can act selfish for once—” “My reasons for getting you weren’t selfish just because you want them to be,” Kakashi snarled. “Drop this. Now.” Tenzo’s face fell, he squeezed his eyes shut and ducked his head, letting a curtain of brown hair hide his face. “Kaka—” “Drop. This.” Kakashi repeated, staring forward, determined not to look over at Tenzo. “That’s an order.” Tenzo froze, his eyes snapping open wide, his shoulders shaking gently with the effort to control his breath. “Yes, sir,” He whispered, slowly raising his head to glare at Kakashi’s back. “My mistake. It won’t happen again.” Kakashi frowned, the slight quiver in Tenzo’s voice the only thing that betrayed his otherwise hardened professional façade. He was silent for several seconds, his chest constricting uncomfortably. He squeezed his eye shut, letting out a long sigh. “Make sure it doesn’t.” Kakashi stood still where he was until he heard Tenzo leave the way he came in, letting out a heavy sigh as he sank down onto the floor. Every part of his brain was screaming at him to stop Tenzo, bring him back and tell him the truth, but Kakashi forced himself to remain still. He didn’t even look at Tenzo, and he knew that he hurt him. Badly. Dammit, he was just trying to keep him safe. There was no way that he could explain without sounding crazy, but he knew this was for the best. Someone like him didn’t deserve someone like Tenzo, anyway. Kakashi ruined everything good in his life. It was better for Tenzo that he stay away. Kakashi got his discharge from ANBU not long after that. The guilt he felt churning in his stomach at the betrayal written all over Tenzo’s face as he cleared out his locker was familiar, but it didn’t make it any easier to endure. He turned to say something, anything, to Tenzo, but he was gone when Kakashi turned around. Kakashi cleared out his possessions and left without ceremony, his mind completely occupied with Tenzo. Cutting people out had never hurt this bad before. Now that they didn’t work together anymore, Kakashi supposed he’d probably never see Tenzo again. He reminded himself, firmly, that this was all for the best. It was keeping Tenzo safe. When the nightmares played through his head yet again that night, Tenzo, mercifully, was left out of them. ___   Kakashi was older now. Less alone, but maybe more broken than when he was younger. Leaving ANBU wasn’t enough to cure him of his darkness, even if it took on a different form now. People whispered about him still; about his ruthlessness, about his genius, about his willingness to kill his allies. But now, they also whispered about “disturbed”, about “obsessed”, about how he failed three Genin teams for “unimportant reasons”. And, as usual, Kakashi ignored them. People could scoff all they wanted about how there were things more important than teamwork. Kakashi wasn’t about to let anyone else live like him. Just because he couldn’t let anyone love him didn’t mean that had to be every Shinobi’s life. These kids deserved better. He’d promised Obito and Rin that these kids would have better. Slowly, eventually, the nightmares started to get better. Less frequent, at least. They were still brutal, and still had Kakashi waking in sweat, but the blood was never there anymore. If Kakashi was honest, the blood hadn’t been there since Tenzo talked him down that night when they were young. Tenzo. Kakashi didn’t think about him very much, not anymore. When he first left ANBU, he wondered about Tenzo almost every day. He worried for him, he sometimes even went by his house to make sure he was still okay. He stopped doing it once Tenzo started using blackout curtains. So, the little bastard was still perceptive, then. It brought a small smile to Kakashi’s face, even though it was a new kind of hurt not to even be able to see Tenzo from afar anymore. A lot had changed for Kakashi since he’d left ANBU. For one, he’d finally managed to pass a Genin team. A team with Minato-sensei’s son, no less. And somehow, when he least expected it, these three obnoxious little a**holes managed to worm their way into his heart. The first time they were in real danger, Kakashi felt years taken off his life. The fight with Zabuza and Haku was a new kind of stressful since Kakashi had the lives of three tiny, blundering people to watch out for at the same time he tried to neutralize the threat. He cared for these kids, he cared for them and that goddamn terrified him. There wasn’t much he could do to keep these kids distant from him, but he would try. He was a genius, so people liked to say. He could be a good teacher while remaining unattached. So he showed up late for their training, he kept his nose in his book when he spoke to them, he never spoke about himself even if they asked. But, no matter how much he wanted to pretend he didn’t care about them, he cared about them a lot. They were all showing tremendous growth and potential. And, for once, Kakashi had three people who didn’t look at him with pity, or contempt, or fear. Well, sometimes they looked at him with contempt, when he was really late for training. But they didn’t see him as a weapon, or an asset to the village, or even a threat. He was just their lazy Jonin sensei, and it was freeing. Another thing that changed once Kakashi left ANBU was his relationship with Gai. Kakashi’s three small brats had taken emotional sledgehammers to Kakashi’s mental walls, and he slowly managed to open himself up to Gai. Not as much as he’d opened himself to Tenzo when they were young, but more than he’d opened up in a very long time. He was still reserved, he didn’t think he’d ever match Gai’s outward enthusiasm for their friendship (and he honestly didn’t want to), but he was okay with admitting to himself that he cared about Gai. He cared about and appreciated Gai deeply, and he always had. He kind of regretted being an a**hole when he was younger, even though Gai always seemed to take it in stride. But even though Kakashi had relaxed, the anxiety still lingered. The guilt telling Kakashi that someone like him didn’t deserve relationships like this still reared its ugly head every so often, and Kakashi tried his best to quash it. It was right, but Kakashi didn’t want to think about it. When one by one, his Genin team left him, Kakashi felt the heavy weight of guilt in his stomach like a familiar friend. They may not be dead, (and Kakashi felt sick to his stomach at the thought), but they were still gone. Sasuke deserted, Naruto and Sakura both left him for better teachers…and Kakashi couldn’t blame them. He wasn’t cut out for teaching, he wasn’t cut out for anything that wasn’t killing, if he was honest. And he definitely, truly, did not deserve the love and camaraderie from his team. He couldn’t protect the people he cared for, he never could. It was better that they found other people to mentor them. Adjusting to life without his students surprisingly well. He threw himself back into S-rank missions, using the sense of purpose they gave him as a distraction from the inevitable loneliness. Even when Naruto came back and he was sent on missions with his team again, Kakashi still didn’t feel as though his team was back together. There was a distance between the three of them, and Kakashi couldn’t say he didn’t expect it. But still, Kakashi’s heart ached with how proud he was of hist former students, and he hoped he would be able to share in their successes for as long as he could. ___ Kakashi honestly never thought he would see Tenzo ever again. So, when Kakashi was in the hospital to recover from chakra depletion and exhaustion, the last thing he expected was Tsunade to walk in with Tenzo. He looked different; taller and broader, more filled-out. His hair was shorter, in a practical style, and he’d swapped the ANBU armor for standard Jonin blacks and vest. He looked different, to be sure, but his eyes were the same. His eyes were always the same. If Kakashi wasn’t expecting to see Tenzo again, he definitely wasn’t expecting how much it would hurt. He immediately could only remember the last conversation they had before Kakashi left ANBU, how badly Kakashi had tried to convince Tenzo that he never cared. But he did. He cared so much, and seeing Tenzo again only reminded him of that fact. Tsunade was talking, saying something about Kakashi’s team needing a leader in his absence, but Kakashi wasn’t listening. “Tenzo?” he breathed, struggling to lift his head off the pillow to get a better look. “You can’t call me that when I’m undercover, Senpai,” Tenzo chided him gently. “I’m Yamato now.” Kakashi wrinkled his nose, not liking the change of name at all. Here he was, going by yet another name that wasn’t his, all in the name of what the village wanted to tell him was his duty. It reminded Kakashi of Root, and he wanted to object. Tenzo was awkward in Kakashi’s hospital room, not meeting Kakashi’s gaze very often, shifting and fidgeting as though he were uncomfortable. Kakashi, conversely, couldn’t take his eyes off Tenzo in that moment. He didn’t realize how much he had missed having Tenzo in his life, he didn’t let himself realize. And, in the time they were apart, Kakashi would admit that he’d grown up. He knew that people didn’t die just because he cared about them…but he still deeply believed that he wasn’t deserving of the love and affection that people seemed to want to give him. Tenzo left Kakashi’s room with Tsunade before Kakashi could think of a reason to try and get him to stay. Kakashi wished he could get up and follow them, make Tenzo listen so he could tell him…what? Just saying he was sorry wasn’t enough. Saying that he was happy to see him again was an understatement. Kakashi was never good with words, and he never regretted it until this moment. But he hadn’t wanted a person’s presence so much since he was younger, since he and Tenzo first shared a team. The want was intoxicating. When the remnants of Team Seven came back without Sasuke yet again, it was more of a blow to Kakashi than he expected. He didn’t have high hopes for Sasuke, and he was still crushingly disappointed. He mostly was upset for his students, they had both gone through so much only to be defeated yet again. Kakashi had no idea how Naruto managed to keep his morale up, when Kakashi was his age he would undoubtedly have left Sasuke as a lost cause. It was several days after their unsuccessful return, and Kakashi hadn’t had a chance to talk to Tenzo again. It was driving Kakashi crazy that Tenzo was here, he was closer than he’d been in years, and Kakashi couldn’t find him. He wasn’t good at talking, and he knew it, but he just wanted another chance. He didn’t deserve it, he didn’t even deserve the first chance. Kakashi sat atop a particularly tall roof, staring out at the dark night sky, watching as clouds slowly traveled to cover the moon. He tensed when he felt a presence land behind him, positioned neatly in his blind spot. Before Kakashi could turn, his visitor spoke. “It’s been a while, Senpai.” “Tenzo,” Kakashi breathed out a heavy sigh, mostly in relief. “I…it really has.” Tenzo moved forward, not joining Kakashi at his seat, but standing next to him at least. Kakashi looked up, unable to meet Tenzo’s eyes. He was certain Tenzo was doing it on purpose. “I thought about you a lot,” Tenzo spoke up. “After you left.” “So did I,” Kakashi answered. “I thought about you.” “I know,” he sighed. “That’s why I got the new curtains.” “Touché.” They fell into a slightly awkward silence yet again, neither of them moving away or looking at each other. “I…asked to be sent back to Root.” Kakashi looked up then, his eye widening. “What? Tenzo, you didn’t—” “Right after you left? Yeah, I did,” Tenzo laughed softly, clearly a little embarrassed. “I damn near begged. Lord Third wasn’t having any of it, of course he wasn’t. He put me on leave instead, something about emotional distress.” Kakashi just sighed, the guilt clawing at his insides. Tenzo had been so affected by their argument that he wanted to go back to Root to get away from Kakashi. “Tenzo, I—” “I didn’t understand, for a really long time. I still don’t, really,” Tenzo cut him off. “I just…what did I do, Kakashi?” his voice was so quiet. “What changed?” “Nothing,” Kakashi said quickly, his voice coming out strangled and rough. “You didn’t do anything, Tenzo. I…it was me.” “You’re really giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’?” Tenzo scoffed. “Really, Senpai?” “It’s the truth,” Kakashi sighed. “Do you…do you remember that night, when we were younger? I woke up with nightmares…and you helped me?” “Of course.” “That—when I was younger, I thought that people died when they were close to me,” it was the first time Kakashi ever admitted it out loud. It sounded even dumber this way. “After that night I was thinking about you, and—how much you meant to me, how much I cared about you…and you died in my dreams that night.” Tenzo bit his lower lip gently, but let Kakashi continue. “I was young, and dumb, and scared sh*tless to lose you, Tenzo,” Kakashi whispered. “I didn’t know what else to do. I thought that if you didn’t know that I cared about you…you would be safe.” There was another long pause, in which Tenzo finally moved to sit next to Kakashi. Tenzo looked over at him, finally, and spoke again. “Kakashi…no offence, but that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.” Kakashi winced, looking down at his lap. “I know.” “Now I just don’t understand why you’d ever think that would work.” “I don’t know,” Kakashi muttered. “I…it’s been happening ever since I was young. People who love me keep dying. My dad killed himself, my team died because of me…Minato and Kushina died, when I was supposed to be protecting her…and I just convinced myself that the people who loved me died because I don’t deserve the love. It keeps happening, Tenzo.” “Kakashi—” “My team all left to find better teachers, and I can’t even blame them. They deserve better than me.” Tenzo sighed heavily, unsure of what to say. He laid a gentle hand on Kakashi’s shoulder, the comforting warmth doing nothing to sooth the guilt in Kakashi’s gut. “And I know it’s my fault,” Kakashi murmured. “I know that…people don’t just die because I love them. I know that. But still…you and the kids…it’s my fault you’re gone.” “Kakashi?” “People are always calling me things. A genius, a hero, a murderer, a friend-killer…one extreme or the other, you know? But I’m not any of those things I—I’m just a guy, Tenzo. I’m just a pathetic guy who wants so much but destroys it before I can ever hope to have it.” “You’re so stupid, Senpai,” Tenzo muttered, tugging at Kakashi’s arm. Kakashi’s eye widened as he was pulled against Tenzo’s chest, strong arms wrapping around his shoulders. “You’re a goddamn idiot.” “I know,” Kakashi let his eye slip shut. “And I know that I don’t deserve it, Tenzo, but I want it, you,  I—" “Stop saying that,” Tenzo scolded Kakashi firmly. “You deserve love, Kakashi, you more than anyone deserve love.” “Tenzo…” Kakashi sat up, reaching a hesitant hand out to touch the side of Tenzo’s face. “Do you think you’d forgive me?” Tenzo smiled shyly, leaning into Kakashi’s touch just a little. “I forgive you, Senpai,” he murmured. “You moron.” “That, I do deserve,” Kakashi felt himself smiling. “Not the forgiveness, the insults.” “Shut up,” Tenzo laughed lightly. “I’m gonna break you out of this.” “What did I do to deserve you?” “You went back for me when no one else would have.” “I’m sure someone else would—” “You lied to the Hokage to keep me safe, multiple times. You showed me mercy when I tried to kill you for your eyes. You took me in as one of your own and let me find out who I was, as me, Kakashi. Not as an agent of the state.” Kakashi was struck speechless, only able to look up at Tenzo with wonder. He didn’t think he had done so much—he didn’t think he had done enough to deserve having someone like Tenzo at his side. Surely, all the horrible things he’d done in his life were so great that someone like Tenzo wouldn’t want to associate with him. But here he was, telling Kakashi that all these good things in his life were his doing. Kakashi felt such an overwhelming rush of emotion in that moment, he didn’t know what to do. He did the only thing he could think of; He took Tenzo’s face in his hands, gently, and pressed his mouth against Tenzo’s in what ended up being a very awkward masked kiss. When he pulled back Tenzo looked stunned; his eyes were wide, his cheeks were pink, and his lips were still parted in shock. “I’m sorry,” Kakashi said quickly, releasing Tenzo’s face and pulling his hands away. “I didn’t—” Tenzo was moving before Kakashi could really comprehend what he was doing, tugging Kakashi’s mask aside and pressing their lips together in a clumsy, chaste, but passionate kiss. It was Kakashi’s turn to look stunned when Tenzo pulled back, caught with his mask down like a deer in headlights. “Uh—wow,” was all he could really muster, feeling his cheeks and ears heat up under Tenzo’s gaze. “You’re such an idiot, Kakashi,” Tenzo muttered with a grin. “You should have just done that years ago.” “I really should have,” Kakashi readily agreed, still somewhat in a daze. He reached back up to gently cradle Tenzo’s face in his hands, as if he let go Tenzo would disappear. “Can I make it up to you now?” Tenzo smiled wide, dropping his gaze shyly before looking back up at Kakashi through his lashes. “You goddamn better.” Kakashi let out a breath, almost laughing he felt so lighthearted. “Tenzo…stay with me tonight.” Tenzo’s eyes widened a little at Kakashi’s request, and Kakashi hurriedly explained. “Not—not anything like that,” he clarified. “Just…to talk. And sleep. I missed having you around.” “Yeah, okay,” Tenzo agreed. Kakashi stood, pulling Tenzo up after him and leading him to his apartment. It had been years since the two of them had been there together, the last time being when Kakashi had tried to convince both of them that he didn’t care for Tenzo. Now, he was here to convince him of the opposite. True to his word, they spent the majority of the night just talking. Kakashi told Tenzo about Team Seven, about the kids that finally managed to break holes through his walls. Tenzo told Kakashi about a ruthless barrage of missions, harder to handle without a support system, but ultimately how Tenzo was able to buck up and move on. Kakashi bit back apologies he knew Tenzo would just shrug off, opting instead to lean into Tenzo, holding him the way he wished he could have when they were younger, when Tenzo was timidly confessing to fears and insecurities that Kakashi wanted nothing more than to make better. He wasn’t there for Tenzo then, not in all the ways he could have been. He never wanted to let Tenzo down every again, and he told him as much. When they did fall asleep, it was half-slumped against each other on Kakashi’s futon, with the light of day just beginning to creep over the horizon. For the first time Kakashi could remember, he dreams of his friends; smiling and happy, surrounding him with love. Notes: Hey guys! This is my first time writing for this pairing, which is odd since I love them so much. This is also my first time trying my hand at something more sad. But I have a lot of angst feelings about both Kakashi and Tenzo, and I couldn't get this out of my head. That being said, this was pretty experimental and more of a challenge for me, so feedback is very much appreciated. Thoughts and comments absolutely make my day ♥

Locke

11/24/2021 11:46 AM 

Locke Leichtenberg - Character Sheet

  Basic Information: Character Name: Locke Leichtenberg Age: 18-19 Height: 5'9" Place of Birth: Callaneth, Wall Rose Gender: Male Sexuality: Heterosexual Race: Eldian Affiliation: Military Branch: Scout Regiment Rank: Private Kill Count: Titan Kills: 0  Human Kills: 0  Assists: 0    Personal Information: Faceclaim/Appearance Description: Locke has a sharp, face that is completed by his deep blue eyes. His shaggy, dirty blonde hair hangs down to just above his chin and is often pulled back into a small bun, though a few strands always seem to find a way to fall in front of his face. He is fairly thin but his body is toned just enough to keep him from looking scrawny, though he is weaker than most.   (General look I was able to make on a website)   Personality Traits:     Locke is generally a happy-go-lucky, if not somewhat awkward guy. He enjoys teasing others, especially those he is close to and tries to make light of any situation. In fact, it probably wouldn't be too unbelievable to see him laughing (or at least grinning) after only narrowly escaping death. However, that is not to say that he cannot be serious, in fact when others are in danger or even just fatigued or depressed he can be rather protective and encouraging. For all his awkwardness and smiling he would gladly die if it meant the safe return of others. Actually, he has welcomed the fact that he will die fighting to save others, which makes it unlikely for him to falter. Although, he has never actually never seen a Titan and, like most people, doesn't necessarily want to die.  Flaws:     Even though he has his caring side, Locke is not a very sensitive person and can often come across as blunt or rude, and is no stranger to bringing up embarrassing stories about others. He cares precious little for his own reputation and sometimes doesn't consider that others may care about theirs. On the same note, he at times has the same disregard for his safety, though he would never compromise the safety of others (Or at least not on purpose) he is prone to charge recklessly without a plan if someone's life is at stake (or just in general) and if he does not correct this flaw it may cost him, and possibly others a premature death.     Along with his personality flaws, Locke also has his fair share of physical weaknesses. It would seem that all the strength and speed went to his younger brother, and though he is reasonably able to maneuver in a hand to hand fight if he was ever grappled by a stronger opponent he wouldn't be able to do much to free himself. Not to mention that he is also quite clumsy.  Goal/Dream: Locke aims to carry the family tradition by becoming a member of  the Scout Regiment. However, that is only his short term goal. In becoming a Scout he yearns to take the fight to the Titans. Ever since wall Maria fell he has witnessed much suffering and pain caused in those who lost loved ones. He has vowed to fight for those who cannot defend themselves against their horrid enemy. Hobbies: When he was younger his father would take him and his younger brother hunting whenever he was home. Thus Locke became pretty handy with a musket. Wrestling and sparring with his younger brother was also a favorite pastime of his. More recently he has taken an interest in reading and journaling.  Family: Eldest child of the Leichtenberg family household.  Father: Walter Leichtenberg [Deceased]  Mother: Yvette Leichtenberg Brother: Theo Leichtenberg Grandfather: Wilhelmh Leictenberg Backstory:           Locke was the firstborn son of the newly wedded Yvette and Walter Leichtenberg in Calaneth district. The Leichtenberg family had a tradition in which the firstborn son of every generation joined the Survey Corps. Therefore Locke's father, with much persistence from his grandfather, (who was a very hardened, grim man having only one leg)  joined the scouts. Locke had an uneventful childhood, living in relative comfort until the age of thirteen. For that was the year wall Maria fell. Although Locke was far removed from the chaos and destruction, he was no stranger to it's effects. The faces of the refugees that came to colleneth spoke for themselves, furthermore, the subsequent expedition to reclaim wall Maria resulted in his father's death.           Locke vowed the very next day that he would follow in his fathers footsteps and bring the fight to the Titans. His mother and, surprisingly, grandfather protested immensely. Nonetheless Locke remained steadfast. His Grandfather, filled with guilt and experience saw that there was no detering him, and decided to teach Locke all that he had learned from being a Scout all those years ago. The training proved reasonably effective, as best it could that is, being taught by a peg legged man and without being able to actually use ODM gear. Not to mention that Locke's physical prowess didn't get much better. Locke trained until he was old enough to join the Cadet Corps and receive real training. On his 18th birthday he hugged his mother and younger brother, shook his grandfather's hand and said goodbye to his family. The next few years of training were gruelling but Locke passed nonetheless. He got along with his fellow trainees fairly well, though he never really got to know any of them on a deeper level, he was thought of as a funny, somewhat idealistic and awkward guy, and was never given much more thought than that. However his comrades did apreciate his determination to help others when they were struggling even if he got scolded for it by the commandant and made his own training harder. Locke graduated with a pretty average score, near the more skilled recruits but still quite a bit bellow the top of his class. Thus at last he joined the Survey Corps and we are brought to present day. What lies in store for Private Locke Leichtenberg remains to be seen.

♡𝑹𝑬𝑷𝑬𝑵𝑻𝑨𝑵𝑪𝑬.♡

11/23/2021 08:54 PM 

Kisses~

These are my rules, please follow them and if you have rules on your own page then I shall follow them as best as I can sweet reader~  ⬛   What I seek-   -Literacy - Proper Punctuation and grammar - Random/ spontaneous Starters that aren't fetishes/s m u t/ e r o t i c (I'm NOT here to be fetishized.)  -Four to Six paragraph starters with detail.⬛   I do NOT-   - interact with minors -Write with Minors - Write with adults that are in child bodies (S h o t a/ l o l i t a)  - Tolerate Hate (LGBTQ+ Phobia, Sexism, Ageism,  Racism, Bigotry) so if you're here for it, sit on my middle finger. - Tolerate Theft -Take Requests for layouts or edits (one of my My S/O’s does all of my stuff unless I have the time to do it myself. They don’t take requests either. )  - Write exclusive ships  with people.  -Enjoy a good RP Via statuses and Private Messages/DMS. I'm NOT Picky where I write as long as my writing partner is comfortable.   - Elaborate and answer questions in regards to my rules and often add more rules and aim to be fair.   ⬛  I DO however-   - Multi-ship (as long as there is chemistry)   -Delete mutes -Block Immature and entitled writers -Expect common sense and civility    ⬛   I have-   - A life outside of roleplay as this is a hobby for me - Am Not interested in giving you information about my personal life   ⬛   I am-    - 29 years old -Not on all the time- A Memester⬛ Disclaimer-    - Since everyone seems to be doing this, I am Not The Character I portray, she is NOT real, she was created for the pure intention of text roleplaying online. ⬛ I add:People who I find interesting or people who send me friend requests.⬛ FAQ:Will you rp with me?- That's Literally what the page is here for...Do You have discord? - Sure do, just ask me and I'll send it to you.Do you write Lewd? - Uhhh My character's a Devil and her whole appeal is lewd, so if you think that licking blood off of ones fingers after ripping a heart out of a chest counts as lewd then sure thing.Is your character a Villain?- Hell to the no she's not. She may be the daughter of the demon king Mundus, however she doesn't want the responsibility of ruling over the demons and devil's, nor does she have the desire to kill her own kind unless it is to protect humanity as well as p i s s daddy dearest off. (This includes siding with the sons of Sparda)⬛ Inspired by?: Well, Her morals and desire of not having the throne is inspired by Mortal Kombat's Princess Kitana. her personality is inspired by Princess Leia, her style is inspired by Amelia Arsenic and the s h i t that comes out her mouth is inspired by Jimmy Urine. Her sex appeal is 100% inspired by amber sweet. She knows she's better than everyone else and doesn't need to prove it.⬛ Verses/ Inspired by:Devil May Cry, HADES, Constantine, Lucifer,Good Omens, Bayonetta⬛ Genres:Horror, supernatural, Mythology, Survival, Hack N slash⬛Triggering Themes (This is for people who have these triggers):Death, Decapitation, Corpses Dancing, Zombies, Vampires, Demons, etc.⬛ My Triggers:Shota/Loli, F u t a, Men with Tiny PP energy 

Wreathrandir

11/23/2021 02:11 PM 

Ashen Accursed. [Halloween 2021 Entry.]
Current mood:  devious

    S u f f e r  S o r e l y .F e a r   H i m .     Enter a grand dank hall from a brick passage and gate, Three Hunters. The floor is a lake of blood as high as their heels. Shallow plains and hills of emaciated pale corpses garnish the corners of the massive middle of this unholy place. On the other end of this gruesome sanctum, a doorless passage can be seen on the far-left corner. There lies the next destination. Mosey on further, folks with trick weapons and firearms.    Soon, Nightmare Fog emerges on the entryway from when they came and where they need to go. Stronger than fortress walls, they act as phantasmic blockades, impossible to breach with any kind of sheer force in the known world. They also signify an important task the three must commit to advance. A great prey looms. They must slay it and succeed in doing so to unmake the doors of mist.    “Help us,” called out a slow raspy voice of a man; he is blessed with the same lack of health and complexion as the corpses around him. He drags himself from the blood-coated ground, eager to alarm the visitors, perhaps beg for their aid.    “P-Please, help... us. An unsightly beast.”    The red waters are disturbed, rippling from the thud of beastly hooves, each the size of a grown boar. Long bent arms have their hands crawling forward. Hunched forward, this slow-crawling monolith towering beyond thrice the stature of the tallest Hunter out of the three. The pale muddy skin is all wrinkled, hairy and slimy. The creature is concealed in a thick tattered grey cloak and a torn hood; they are bathed well by what the floor is filled with. The mouth with horribly-chapped lips is split open from one hidden ear to another. Teeth are filed to fangs, chipped like a wavy top of a long old crumbled wall that is cannot a ceiling from its ruined state.    From an arduous pilgrimage with all kinds of twisted sights, troublesome sounds, and terrorizing savagery—men, beasts, and cosmic kins alike, this small brave band will soon face an adversary the likes they have never had before. But, it is not the Accursed Beast that should have greeted them. No, this is something new. Something that even the Old Hero of the Healing Church himself personally feared, even respected. An astral outlander from a realm beyond the known existence. It is human in form but not in spirit and limit. A legend in his own right, this different ‘he,’ but was never given the proper prominence. Let dear Ludwig rest. This beastly bloke will entertain each guest.    Now, he stands as a huge hindrance for what progress the Hunters must proceed. He is their prey. Or will they be his?    The hunched giant still in the middle of the other side of the room hums the humble growl of tens of lions if their throats are made out of big brass. The Hunters raise their arms as they approach the prey. He should be no different than the plenty that they have slaughtered before. Be mindful of the cruetly he brings them and evade each of his attacks. Strike fiercely when privy an opening. Be at a safe distance to heal when wounded. Repeat. But, oh, if only he would make it that easy.    Quick as a storm wind, the beast in gray gallops forth two wide inhuman steps! He closes the gap too soon for them to react well enough. Before they can move their feet to dodge, his thunderous halt comes with a powerful swipe of his outstretched left hand with the same ferocity as Vicar Amelia did as a belligerent beast. It greets the right sides of their torsos something brutal. They are all knocked back now with a searing pain to endure on their ribs.    No quarter to give, the swipe came with winding up the power of the Old Blood, coating his limb with a swirling red ink. The bones in his unholy body crackle and crunch loudly!    The Hunters regain better footing and back away in a hurry; they ready themselves in stabbing a blood vial onto each of their thighs. Too late! The backhand of the same lashing limb greets them again with equal savagery as before, aimed just above their ankles! The cloaked fiend bends forward from this devastating deed that his knees are nearly kissing the putrid pool beneath them all. This time, the arm with a clawing hand is blessed with the power of blood, intensifying the trauma that will be felt at least twice-fold, maybe more. How unfortunate for these Hunters.    S w i p e ! They are knocked off their feet! Blood splashes up! But no, it is far from over. Or even more so, more terribly so, it is over. For them. The prey in gray swings up his blood-powered hand. The pointers that could grip well a hilt of a mighty blade coil together into an infuriated fist. He quickly wallops it down on their bodies one by one with the speed of an angered serpent committed to striking without mercy. Worse, he repeats this madness! Their eyes widen as their life is being violently taken away from them. There is nothing they can do. The repeating hammering stomps of the bloody fist are as swift as a few blinks of the eye and as merciless as if the three Hunters demolish together a pathetic lone huntsman with all of their weapons at their strongest forms.    For ten seconds, the monster in gray plays a ghastly game of whack-a-mole on the visitors. Little fruits beneath the merciless mallet of a mad god. Thuds from his relentless strikes and splashes from the disturbed pool of blood are filling the foul air of these woeful walls. And then he stops. Muddy emeralds are upon the lifeless bags of flesh in clothing before him. Not a twitch from their limbs. Their weapons are left partly dipped on the red flood. The slim corpse who hailed on the Hunters watches helplessly as help is no more. Deep croaking breaths from the cloaked monstrosity. He stands before the Hunters, or, one could consider as prey. Lifeless prey, soon turning into pale mist and then removed from these horrid halls.  T  H  E  Y   D  I  E  D  .   - - -🎃  H a p p y   H a l l o w e e n .  🎃A  R  /  5  0  6  0  2  6    

ᴡᴀʀʙɪʀᴅ

11/23/2021 02:34 PM 

The Roses Never Came

Chest tube leaking blood from the side of my breastAlone and uncertainin this pale blue hospital dressHe told me he loves meWith a closed fist that felt like a loaded guncracking three ribs that must have argued with my lungsign this waverWe’re running out of timeI wonder if he wouldof brought flowers to my grave.  If I didn’t write my name on that line

Sam

11/23/2021 03:01 PM 

[ LEND ME THOSE EYES AND MINDS. ]
Current mood:  relaxed

    I will rush for no one. What I do here is solely for recreation done in my own schedule and at my volition. It is no way, shape and form an obligation. We better part ways if you cannot handle waiting.   Other than that, I am pretty chill. The only reason I may delete you are as follows:- You're impatient.- I found you to be insufferable, whether in public (streams, bulletins, comments, groups) or in private (messages).- You are constantly harassing someone else in my friends list.   As long as you can write at semi-paragraph per response and with a decent grammar, we'll be alright, role-play-wise. I am often writing at multi-paragraph to novella length. But I can lower it down if you cannot handle those response lengths.   Let me know if you have any taboos I should know to avoid. I dare not trample through your comfort zones if certain interests and intrigues aren't something you want to see in our role-play(s).   I will set up a discord soon. Not obligatory, but just in case you're interested. Stay tuned.   Have fun.

ᴼᵇˢᵉˢˢᵉᵈ ʷᶤᵗʰ ʸᵒᵘ

11/22/2021 10:27 PM 

rules~
Current mood:  accomplished

1. Kylar can be male or female. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD choose one or the other. And don't change in the middle of the rp, my poor weeb brain can't handle it x.x2. I get busy irl. If I'm gone half the day, that's fine. I'm busy during the day an can only reply during the night.3. Don't ask about IRL stuffs. Like, personal type of shiz.4. Don't take relationships between Kylar and you as IRL. Too confusing to some.5. Discord is STRICTLY out of character. Can talk about the rp, but no rp on said thing.6. Don't like how Kylar is a yandere? Then f*** off.7. Kylar can dom on either gender, but note; I am new to the male side on domming x.x~may add more later~

GIrls of Runeterra

11/22/2021 08:48 PM 

""""Rules""""

These are so less my rules and more so kinks I  do and don't. There are more kinks than here that I do, but these are ones you might need to ask or be too awkward to ask for.Kinks I do:NTR, Slavery, Blackmail, breeding, dubcon, aphrodisiacsKinks I don't:Scat, Watersports, vomit, gore, feet, diapers.It's not because I do these kinks IRP that I think they are right in real life. Just be aware of that. Also if you have anything you'd like to ask, don't be shy!

Rules




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