"Nobody informed us that you were coming, sir. Otherwise we'd have sent a vehicle." The words tumbled over each other in stammering haste, the panic of an underling who knew he'd been inattentive on the job.
"How unfortunate for you." Mycroft's pace never slackened through the filthy brick-lined corridor lit with sickly-yellow bulbs every twenty or so metres. He kept his footing on the slippery wet stone underneath and did his best not to think about the stench that even in the cold seemed to emanate from the walls in noxious waves. "You understand that the emergency isn't at my end."
"Yes, sir. Yes."
"Who else is here?"
"Just Zoric. He's with the prisoner. I've got sentry duty tonight, sir."
"And how long have you had him?"
"Nearly forty-five hours now, sir."
"And you haven't persuaded him to talk yet, Corporal Yelich? Not one word of interest? Do you know what my efficiency report will have to say about this gross incompetence?"
"He's…he's stubborn, sir. Hardly spoken a word yet." The young corporal struggled to keep up with Mycroft's strides. "Zoric's good, sir, one of the best. But this man, he's –" Yelich took a quick breath. "He knows endurance."
Mycroft heard a sharp cry, then a soft groan. He ground his teeth and quickened his steps. "If you think I'm prepared to accept that as an excuse, I suggest you think again." He stopped before a metal door and folded his arms, glaring at Yelich. "Now open this door."
"Yes, sir." Yelich fumbled a set of keys from his pocket, inadvertently tangling them in the wire to a set of earbuds. "Sorry, sir." He unlocked the door and gestured toward a short flight of steps. "I'll be right outside if you require anything, sir. Again, I'm –"
"Get out," Mycroft growled, and slowly descended the stairs.
The room's concealing shadows did nothing to hide the half-naked, barefoot, chained figure struggling to stay upright on the floor, and it took only a split second to see why: should the prisoner sink to his knees, his ligaments would tear, his shoulders would separate, his tenuous grip on what clearly looked to be rapidly ebbing strength would slide away altogether, and anguish would ensue.
The prisoner's dirty, matted hair covered his face, but Mycroft recognised his feet, his hands, the length of his legs, the agonised gasps for breath.
The man Yelich had called Zoric turned on his heel and grinned. "Nearly there, sir."
Mycroft slid a hand next to the comforting weight of the Zastava in his pocket. "Nearly!" he barked. "I understand you've been at it for fifty hours."
"I've only been at it for six hours, sir. Dragan before me. He's close, though. He's tired." Zoric grasped a handful of Sherlock's hair and yanked hard. "Aren't you, my silent friend?" He let go and drove a fist into Sherlock's midsection, then into his kidneys. Sherlock cried out, then took a shivering, sobbing breath.
"You lack finesse." It was a struggle to walk calmly to a chair and seat himself instead of drawing his weapon and shooting Zoric point-blank. Mycroft leant back and propped his feet upon a rickety stool.
Zoric smiled and wiped the sweat from his bald pate with a muscular forearm. "I don't get paid for tea and a chat, Colonel. Don't worry, I'll get it out of him. I don't mind if it takes a while." He turned and punched Sherlock in the jaw.
As Mycroft watched, a thin string of blood and saliva spattered onto the floor. Tiny flecks of blood dotted Sherlock's naked feet.
Once more, Zoric pounded Sherlock's body unmercifully, bellowing at him. Sherlock moaned, his footing growing unsteady, arms trembling with the effort of holding himself upright, his frame sagging under the blows that went on and on. Another blow wrenched a strangled shriek from his chest; he gasped, swaying in the chains.
Mycroft's face was impassive as he gripped the firearm; his veins fluttered uneasily. Not yet. Not yet.
And then, he heard a whisper.
For a moment, when he'd picked the chains and eased Sherlock to the floor to recover what remained of his strength, Mycroft knelt with him, cradling his upper body, pulling off his glove to brush the tangled hair back from his face. "You look…absolutely disreputable," he whispered, endeavouring to control the trembling in his voice.
Sherlock, bruised, sweating, bleeding, limp as a Renaissance Pieta, smiled, and lifted one swollen hand to grasp at Mycroft's sleeve. "You're still fat."
"I'm at my rock-bottom weight, Sherlock. Do shut up." Gently, Mycroft stroked Sherlock's hair.
"How would you know?"
Oh. Touché, Sherlock. You waited three years to volley that back, didn't you?
It was difficult to conceal his satisfaction as Sherlock paced the library, wincing and glaring at the crumpled, bloodied handkerchief he touched to his nose when he was certain that Mycroft was looking at him. He'd endured nearly fifty hours of torture at the hands of brutal animals, but from his histrionics one would guess that he'd never seen the sight of his own blood before now.
"I take it he wasn't quite as receptive as you'd anticipated."
"I did apologise. What more does he want?"
Mycroft smiled thinly. "You really expected him to welcome you with open arms." And sundry other open limbs. "That must have been quite a disappointment."
Sherlock dabbed delicately at his nose again. "You're enjoying this."
"Not at all. I'd prefer that you concentrated on the matter at hand – it speaks so much more to your expertise than the pointless muddle of human emotion does."
"Oh, please…." Sherlock stalked to the window, then back to Mycroft's chair. "You should have warned me about the moustache. Clear sign of irresolution, possible mental instability."
"If you're so distraught," Mycroft replied, his tone waspish, "why in heaven's name didn't you stay and sort it out?"
Sherlock blinked. "He left. He went home with…with…."
"Mary," Mycroft said. "And honestly, Sherlock, you can drop the act. You know her name perfectly well. She seems to have done John no end of good these past few months."
"As I said. Possible mental instability."
"Except you rather like her, don't you?" A tiny barb of mingled bitterness and satisfaction lodged itself into Mycroft's heart. "How does that feel, brother dear?"
Sherlock turned away. "Immaterial." He stripped off his coat and scarf and tossed them onto a chair, then unbuttoned his jacket and dropped it atop the coat. His fingers curled tightly around the bloody handkerchief, then opened, letting it fall to the floor. "Mycroft."
Mycroft watched the smooth movement of his brother's shoulder blades against the thin cotton of his shirt as his hands moved out of sight, toward his chest. He let his gaze linger on the curving musculature of Sherlock's arse, the length of his legs. His breathing hitched in his chest and memories he thought he'd safely buried rolled over him, restless combers assaulting a once-smooth shore. "What?"
Swiftly, Sherlock moved to the window and drew the curtains. When he turned, a pale expanse of chest showed between the now-loose folds of his white shirt. "It's only…just this once."
"It's always just this once," Mycroft said softly. His prick stirred; blood surged. Treacherous blood.
Sherlock undid his trousers and lowered them in front. He pulled down his underwear and took out his cock, already hard. "Don't pretend you don't want this." His face was red, his voice a low growl. "That you didn't want it when you saw me chained up. That time at the Ellertons' farm – you remember. I couldn't touch my own cock – you wouldn't let me."
"You demanded it," Mycroft rasped. "And…no. I didn't want it. I was concentrating on rescuing you." Bastard, insidious, greedy little bastard.
"Did you keep the coat?"
"Did I – what?"
"The officer's coat. Did you keep it?"
Oh, God. "Yes."
"Good." Sherlock went gracefully to his knees. "Get it. I'll wait."
Mycroft rubbed his gloved hand over Sherlock's arse, then lifted it and brought it down sharply. Leather cracked against flesh and Sherlock, bent over a club chair, his underwear stuffed in his mouth, yelped and tugged futilely at the clothesline round his wrists and ankles.
"Did that hurt?" He spoke in Serbian. It was easier; the lack of fluency rejected nuance and demanded only the essentials. Mycroft brought his hand down again and listened to Sherlock's moaning, then forced his hand between Sherlock's legs, cupping his balls and rubbing his thumb roughly across fragile skin. "You like when it hurts."
Sherlock nodded and thrust backward, begging without words. He had only to spit out the cloth in his mouth and use their signal, but no – he wriggled and panted, his chest heaving, sweat gleaming on his back. One day, one day they'd give this up, this eternal dance of frustration and need, but for now….
He slicked the glove with lubricant and pushed one finger into Sherlock's hole, and reached round to curl his other hand round Sherlock's prick. His own cock, ignored for now, strained against his trousers, hurting. He worked his hand up and down, the barrier of silk and leather against Sherlock's prick more enticing than flesh against flesh. Sherlock whimpered, and Mycroft drove Sherlock's thighs further apart with a knee. "Beg for it."
Sherlock whined deep in his throat and made a muffled noise behind his makeshift gag.
Mycroft withdrew his hands and unfastened his trousers, freeing his hard, flushed cock. He stroked himself, slicking his cock with warm, slippery lubricant. "Beg, I said." He slapped Sherlock's thigh.
Another stifled moan came from Sherlock's mouth, then he spit the gag out. "Please."
"Please, please…do it, please."
Mycroft tangled his fingers in Sherlock's hair, lifting his head and exposing his throat. It must have been dreadfully uncomfortable, but Sherlock only pressed back harder, rubbing against Mycroft's cock.
"Please, please, Mycroft. Please."
Just this once. Mycroft took his jutting cock in hand and pushed it into Sherlock's hole. He gasped as Sherlock's muscles tightened, then sank his cock in to the hilt. Grasping Sherlock's shoulder and hip, he pulled back, then plowed in, hard and fast, driving himself into Sherlock's glowing-pink arse, digging his fingers into the scant flesh of Sherlock's hip, thrusting back and forth, burying his prick deep.
"That's it, oh God, oh, fuck me, fuck me –"
Beyond hot in the woollen greatcoat, Mycroft reached round Sherlock's front and grasped his prick, sliding leather and lube, listening to his brother's gasps and moans, fucking and fucking until he came with a ragged cry.
Trembling, he re-ordered his clothes and cut Sherlock free. Sherlock slumped to the floor, rubbing at his wrists and breathing hard. Without looking up, he reached for Mycroft's wrist and urged him downward.
Mycroft knelt, then sat on the floor. He gave a rueful glance at the club chair. No explaining that one to the housekeeper. Hesitantly, he gathered Sherlock into his arms and kissed the curve of his neck, tasting salt.
"Not in all that time?" Sherlock murmured. Naked and pliant, he at least seemed vulnerable.
"Before I answer you, tell me why it concerns you so." And Mycroft would cheerfully die before admitting the truth to Sherlock: seeing him chained, he'd swiftly buried his baser urges beneath concern, but God help him, they were there.
"You know why. And I may even have a candidate."
"A goldfish, you mean? No. Absolutely not. You're becoming a creature of sentiment."
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Mycroft bit back a smile. "Oh, shut up." Absently, he combed his fingers through Sherlock's hair, spotting a thread or two of grey amongst the lush dark curls. "You realise it may never happen. They're going to marry."
Sherlock's body heaved in a sigh. "It certainly seems that way. But she's –"
"Nothing." Sherlock sighed again. His hand rubbed up and down Mycroft's leg: not in enticement, but as a gesture, Mycroft realised, of comfort.
For you, or for me, brother mine?
He said nothing, but cradled Sherlock close.
Just this once.