The first thing he perceived was the fetid odour of mildew. He thought for just a moment that he might be drowning in that scent until he realized that the moisture on his face was from the damp air and his watering eyes. He couldn’t actually open his eyes just yet, but he could feel the moisture welling in the corners, running across his face, dripping down his temple. An interminable time later, he noticed the dull ache in his hip. He’d been lying on his side for too long, and the pain finally nudged him fully into awareness. He woke curled up on his left side with his face and shoulder flat against the cold, hard surface on which he lay. He forced himself over onto his back, and the world spiraled away in a sickening swoop. The darkness came back to claim him.
He woke for the second time with a sharp gasp. His skin felt clammy and the room stank. Mildew his mind supplied, hazily recollecting his earlier fear that he’d been drowning. Funny how the mind never managed to forget such elemental panic, no matter how impaired it might be. He still felt too sluggish to move just yet, so he used the time to run an internal diagnostic. He was sore, his throat and sinuses were burning, he was still rather groggy, and his right eye was throbbing in time with his heartbeat. Nothing good, but nothing terribly bad either. He wasn’t seriously injured anywhere as far as he could tell. He didn’t know how long it took him to gather the strength to sit up, but when he finally did so, he moved very slowly to alleviate the inevitable vertigo. He sat slumped over, his elbows on his thighs, and his pounding head resting in his hands. He was careful to breathe through his nose despite the pong and stay very still until he was sure he wasn’t going to vomit.
Once he was reasonably sure he wasn’t going to heave, he straightened his back and opened his eyes to murky dimness. He rapidly adjusted to the lower light level and inspected himself visually as well as he could. His tie was missing and his collar was unfastened, otherwise his clothing was intact. However, not only was his tie pin gone with his tie, his cufflinks, fob and watch were absent; that distressed him. The cufflinks had been his grandfather’s. All of the items, really, had some sentimental value and a good bit of monetary value considering they were all solid gold. He wasn’t just sad for their loss, though, he was troubled. He felt a deep disquiet pushing at the corners of his awareness.
He looked around the room itself. The floor was stained cement, the walls were grey cinder block, and there was one grimy window up near the rather high ceiling. It was so elevated that he knew he couldn’t reach it even if he jumped, but that didn’t matter because it was too small for a man to fit through anyway. It appeared to be the only source of light in the room.
The sizeable door was constructed of some sort of thick metal. There were patches of rust on it and a roughly half-meter wide slot that slid open from the other side, probably used to pass a food tray through; though, for once, he wasn’t the least bit hungry. In fact, the door looked exactly like the sort of door one might find in a nightmare of a horror movie insane asylum. He made note of that, then quickly filed it away. It wouldn’t do to dwell on it right now. There was no latch or knob visible for him to test, so he didn’t take the risk of standing just yet. He shifted around to look behind him in order to estimate the dimensions of the space and felt his heart stutter in his chest at the sight that greeted him. He was not alone.
The man was on his back, his face turned away toward the wall. Mycroft didn’t need to see his face though. He’d know that slightly sloping line of shoulder, that ever so slight bit of podge around the waistline, that magnificent head of hair anywhere. It was Gregory Lestrade, and this was the first time in Mycroft’s recollection that he wasn’t happy to see the man.
He crawled over to where Gregory lay, furiously sifting through what he knew about basic first aid. First things first: breathing. Lestrade appeared to be breathing without difficulty, but his face was bruised and swollen. Mycroft touched him there to check the degree of the swelling and to see if he could detect any broken bones or cartilage. He stopped short with a sudden awareness of his position. He was on his knees next to Gregory, one hand on the man’s jaw, the fingertips of the other pressing tenderly along his left cheekbone. He took a great shuddering breath. He had wanted to do this for so long. He had yearned to touch this man, to lean over his body, brush fingers along the contours of his face, to run a thumb over his thick eyelashes. He knew that their situation was… not good, but he couldn’t deny the white hot elation that burned behind his ribs as he caressed soft skin and silver stubble. He was too weak to deny himself this one chance, especially since a part of him was already quite aware that this first chance might well be his last. He was determined to enjoy it without guilt.
Still, he only indulged himself for a few moments before his movements became less adoring and more clinical once again; Gregory needed tending. It seemed that the man’s face was whole even though he’d obviously received a couple of heavy blows. Mycroft gently stroked his fingers along Greg’s scalp to feel for any knots or cuts. He carefully rolled Greg’s head ever so slightly in order to examine his neck as best he could in the weak light. He’d noticed almost immediately that Greg’s tie was missing and his shirt was open at the collar like his own, and he had a notion as to why their captors had gone to the trouble.
Mycroft managed to find the best light possible that wouldn’t require shifting Gregory around. He peered closely, ah, and there it was. A deep frown of dismay darkened Mycroft’s face when he saw the small bruise forming on the side of Greg’s neck. If the room hadn’t been so dim, he was sure he’d have been able to see the actual injection mark itself. In light of this, he decided to take the risk of moving Greg. He didn’t appear to be terribly injured, but Mycroft was still worried about the man’s ability to breathe considering the amount of swelling around his nose and sinuses and the fact that he’d no doubt been drugged. He gingerly rolled Greg onto his side into an approximation of the basic recovery position. It would keep Greg’s airway clear, and that was of paramount importance right now.
Of course, Greg was now lying in nearly the same position Mycroft had awoken in, and he couldn’t help but remember how uncomfortably achy he’d been as he’d lain there fighting to regain consciousness. Therefore, it was simply consideration for Greg’s wellbeing that made Mycroft lie down facing him and slip an arm under the man’s neck. The support would help keep Greg’s trachea straight. Besides, he wanted to keep an eye on that swelling, and he needed to be close to accomplish that in the dark little room. If it turned out the most natural place to then rest his other hand was along Gregory’s hip, so be it. He couldn’t rightly change the ergonomics of the human body, could he? No, he was simply being a caring friend, or at least that’s what he’d assure Gregory when he woke with his face three inches from Mycroft’s and Mycroft’s thumb rubbing soothing circles into his hip. It wasn’t precisely a lie, it just wasn’t the whole truth. He was sure Gregory wouldn’t want to hear the whole truth anyway.
Once he had them both situated, he rested his head on his own shoulder. He needed to stop for just a moment; he was bruised and a bit nauseous himself. He attempted to calm his stomach and his mind. He needed to think.
Greg’s face hurt. He kept trying to drift back into that gauzy grey world that smelled of wool and of Mycroft. It was warm and comforting. The damn throbbing in his face wouldn’t let him stay there though. Maybe if he could get his heart to stop beating, the pain would also stop and he could go back there. Yes, that sounded like a good idea… except it didn’t for some reason. It took some time floating and aching to remember exactly why it wasn’t a good idea for his heart to stop beating, though his head hurt so badly that dying didn’t seem the worst thing that could happen. He didn’t know how long it took him to actually get his body to realize that he was conscious, that his legs were cold and his head was warm, and that someone was touching him. For an endless moment he feared that someone had come to stop his heart even though he didn’t want that anymore, remembering now that that was a bad thing. Trying to push away, he found his arms wouldn’t move; trying to shake, to yell, he found that all he could manage was a silent twitch. “Wake up, wake up, wake up,” his mind cried … until he did.
Mycroft’s internal clock told him he’d meditated for nearly 20 minutes before Greg’s head began moving on his arm. The rate of the man’s respirations were increasing and he seemed be trying to shake his head. It looked like he was having a nightmare, but Mycroft was afraid to rouse him from this one. Instead he moved his hand up from Greg’s hip to rest firmly on the man’s shoulder and waited. When the deep brown eyes finally snapped open, Mycroft was prepared to stop him from jerking upright.
He held a very weak Gregory still with that hand on his shoulder and murmured soothingly, “Don’t, Gregory. Lie still, shh, just lie still. You don’t want to sit up too quickly. The nausea and headache will be bad enough as it is.”
Greg wasn’t sure if his mind was playing tricks on him or not. He’d dreamed of Mycroft’s scent, but maybe it hadn’t actually been a dream. “Mycroft?” he asked, his voice weak and uncertain.
When the man answered “Yes.” some of the fog of panic in Greg’s mind lifted. Mycroft was here, he was alive, no one had stopped Mycroft’s heart either. That was good. No one should do that, no one should hurt Mycroft. He felt himself sliding back into the grey again, but now he didn’t want to go. Mycroft was here; he didn’t want to leave.
Mycroft watched as Greg slipped back into unconsciousness for a few minutes. When the man roused the next time, his eyes had the clarity of awareness that hadn’t been there before. Mycroft kept him from trying to rise again and helped him through his initial disorientation.
Once Greg was fully conscious and moderately sure he wasn’t going to throw up everywhere, he finally looked at Mycroft and asked, “What the hell is going on?”
“It appears,” the man answered slowly and clearly for Greg’s sake, “that we’ve been kidnapped.”
“Kidnapped?” Greg echoed back, just as slowly.
“Yes.” Mycroft answered with a single nod.
Greg chewed on that for about 30 seconds before he grumbled, “Well, fuck.”
Tilting his head in silent acknowledgement, Mycroft couldn’t help but agree.
Mycroft managed to hold him for another five minutes in drowsy, contemplative silence before Greg became aware of their position. Mycroft felt the abrupt tightening of the man’s body and didn’t restrain him when he tried to sit up again.
Greg rose upright with a groan, and Mycroft followed him. He watched Greg take a few deep breaths then cautiously lift his head to peruse the room much as Mycroft had done earlier.
He finally turned to back to Mycroft, his eyes just a bit glassy. “How long have we been here, do you think?”
“A few hours, at most, I should think.”
Greg absorbed the information. He was actually swaying in tight little circles even though he was still seated, so Mycroft rose to his knees and helped maneuver Greg till he was steady with his back resting against the wall. His skin had gone a bit ashen again, but the detective remained conscious. Mycroft settled down next to him and leaned back against the dank wall as well.
After several moments Greg continued their conversation. “How do you know?”
“How do I know how long we’ve been here? There are a number of indicators, Gregory,” Mycroft answered rotating his head slightly to look at Greg with a self-effacing quirk of his lips.
Greg returned the look with a soft smile, which was a mistake. He made a choked noise of pain, growling out a low, “Ow, goddamnit!”
Mycroft straightened and leaned toward him, urgently demanding, “What? What’s wrong?”
“Ah, it hurts to smile.”
Mycroft didn’t even notice how his hand had settled over his own racing heart. “Don’t do that. I thought something was wrong.”
“Something is wrong, Mycroft,” Greg needlessly reminded him.
“Well, something very wrong then. Just… just don’t,” he tersely requested.
Mycroft could feel Gregory’s attention on him, and, after a moment, heard a low, “I’m sorry.”
All of the concerned irritation seeped out of him with the quiet apology. “No, no, I am,” Mycroft sighed. “Your face is quite bruised, so I imagine it does hurt.”
“Yeah,” Greg agreed as he rubbed cautiously at this jaw. Obviously deciding a change of subject was in order, he asked, “How long were you awake before me?”
“Thirty minutes or so.”
Greg glanced at him again and noted, “You don’t have your watch.”
“No, nor my cufflinks nor ring nor tie pin. And your ring is missing as well.”
Greg met his eyes briefly before admitting, “I wasn’t wearing my ring.”
Mycroft had the grace not to look startled and the discipline not to look delighted at the admission. “Well then, just my father’s ring was taken then.”
Greg ignored that unnecessary observation as he faced forward again. He eventually closed his eyes and slumped tiredly back against the wall. “So? Spill.”
“Beg pardon?” Mycroft asked, brows drawn together in puzzlement.
Greg waved a hand indicating the room, the situation, in general. “Spill. What have you figured out? You’ve been awake how long? Forty-five minutes? You’ve probably got this all worked out by now.”
“I don’t actually, but I’m flattered,” Mycroft retorted.
Greg visibly worked to not grin as he darted a sidelong glance at Mycroft. “But you’ve figured some things out. For instance, you know how long we’ve been here even though they took your watch. So, clue me in. Do your Holmes thing.”
Mycroft hesitated at the implied comparison to his brother, but now was not the time to quibble. It was indeed in their best interests for him to “spill.”
“The last thing I remember,” he began, “is riding in the lift at the office. I cannot examine myself of course, but there is a minute puncture mark on the side of your neck. I think it likely we were both taken by surprise and drugged with something that induces amnesia, Versed probably. You also have a large contusion on your right cheek, and you’re developing one hell of a black eye, so I would surmise that you managed to put up a fight before they were able to subdue you.
“Based upon the development of that bruising, it’s probably been less than three hours since we were apprehended, meaning we haven’t been taken too far. It also means that whoever determined the dosage of whatever drug they used knew what he was doing, so my guess would be that at least one medical professional is involved. Furthermore, the fact that the dosage was meant to last for such a short time tells me that they want us awake.” He paused then, uncertain whether or not to elaborate on that. Finally, he added, “I have a fairly good idea of what that means, too,” a note of worry creeping into his voice.
Greg picked up on it immediately. “Care to share?” he asked, though he probably already knew the answer.
“Playing for drama?” Greg questioned, no longer fighting the small smile that hurt both of them.
With a weak imitation of his normal smirk, Mycroft responded, “You wish.”
Greg let out a small huff of laughter that made him immediately wince. “Fuck, that hurts.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be laughing in the first place. We’re in very dire straits, Detective Inspector,” he chided affectionately.
Greg looked back at him, a hint of sorrow in his eyes. He reached out and touched Mycroft’s face ever so gently. “You know you’re starting to sport a shiner of your own there. I’m not the only one who put up a fight, hm?” he said quietly.
“Apparently not,” Mycroft whispered, breath hitching at the touch, fighting the urge to lean into the warmth of that hand. “Both on our right eye. Our assailant is probably left-handed,” he murmured distractedly.
Greg seemed to suddenly realize what he was doing and jerked his hand back as he cleared his throat. “Yeah. Yes. Left-handed.” The hand that had been on Mycroft’s face was now rubbing briskly at the back of Greg’s neck. He collected himself hastily and started thinking aloud. “They must have caught you between your office and wherever you were headed. I mean, you remember riding down in the lift, so they either got you right as you exited the building or they diverted your car somehow.”
“Actually they didn’t do either. They didn’t snatch me from the pavement or my car, Gregory.”
Greg pinned him with eyes no longer hazy from the effects of the drug. “How do you know? Can you remember more?” he asked hopefully.
“No, riding in the lift is still the last thing I can recall,” he paused for a beat, “but I was headed up in the lift, not down.”
The policeman blinked slowly three times before venturing, “Which means they took you from inside the building.”
“Yes,” Mycroft answered, ignoring the little burst of pride at Greg’s quick deduction.
“How the hell did they manage that?” Greg asked, clearly astonished.
“I have no idea,” Mycroft shrugged, “but I must confess that, right now, I’m more concerned with the who than the how.”
“I’d imagine one would give us the other,” Greg hazarded.
Mycroft raised one eyebrow. “I’m sure you’re right.”
“A Holmes thinks I’m right?” Greg asked with mock incredulity. “Now I’m scared,” he quipped, desperation tightening his throat so that the words sounded unintentionally more like a confession than the tease he’d intended.
Mycroft lifted one brow and tipped his chin pointedly in Greg’s direction. “Really, Detective Inspector, you’re brighter than that. You’ve been scared since you woke up.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess I have been,” Greg replied, Mycroft’s words granting him the freedom to admit it without shame. “My accelerated heartbeat and the size of my pupils give it away?”
“I believe those are from a mild concussion. No, I meant what I said, you’re not stupid. And, what’s more, though the concession pains me, I’m frightened as well” Mycroft finished with his own muted confession.
“What?” Greg asked, dumbfounded at the man’s allowance.
“I said that I’m frightened, too, Gregory.”
“All right. Forget what I said just then. Now I’m scared.”
Mycroft opened his mouth to reply, but whatever he’d planned to say was forgotten when he heard the sound of a key turning in the lock and the latch on the other side of the door moving.
The massive door swung open, momentum carrying it until metal hit concrete with an ominous, echoing thud. Bright light from the space beyond dazzling his eyes, all Mycroft could see in the doorway was a tall silhouette.