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Negotiations II - Fieldwork is not my milieu

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God forbid that Mycroft Holmes ever admit it to himself, but some small part of him loved fieldwork; the adrenaline rush, thinking on one’s feet, making lightning deductions and calculations that would leave anyone else’s brain spinning, surviving by one’s wits, staying one step ahead, or in his case, three or four. Simultaneously the rest—and largest— part of him hated it, with a passion; the dirt, the danger, the necessity of slumming it, the possibility of having to engage in actual combat. It wasn’t the fact that Mycroft Holmes couldn’t take care of himself in a fight. His constantly-carried umbrella had purpose beyond combatting the vagaries of the English weather; he was fully conversant in the gentleman’s art of Bartitsu among other, less-esoteric, forms of combat. If anything he was better at it than his brother. He simply had no desire to exert himself unnecessarily. He also detested the necessity of calculating and recalculating the vast potentials posed by variables over which he had no control, often having to recalculate multiple times in the course of a few moments as his world, his circumstances, changed with frightening speed around him. Several minutes spent at rest felt like a complete night’s sleep, so rare were they. It could be quite intolerable at times.

Mycroft prefered his world to be ordered; under his control, where he had the measure of his people, his environment and his own place in it. However, sometimes it was necessary to step out of his comfort zone and face a challenge and where his baby brother was concerned, no challenge would be ignored. Recent intelligence indicated that Sherlock was in trouble, in too deep with a certain Serbian baron. On the home front—perhaps Holmes front was more appropriate, he thought fleetingly—the terror alert was escalating and it was past time to fetch Sherlock home to lend his talents to the cause. That would entail going to the bother of mounting an extraction and retrieval mission in delicate diplomatic territory. Child’s play. On a positive note, it could be said to keep his brain from atrophying and allowed him to avoid the crushing ennui engendered by working with other human beings. He might spend his days as a big fish in a small pond but that still entailed working with goldfish.

On the rare occasions that Mycroft ventured back into fieldwork, he went with complete understanding of the level of risk involved. For him to have done otherwise would have been unforgivable—not to mention impossible—given his abilities. He was a Holmes after all, with all the advantages and drawbacks his mind bestowed upon him. He was also aware that the one constant he could rely upon was that things would change, constantly, an age old dichotomy but as inevitable as breathing.

So here he was in the cold of a Serbian Autumn, wrapped in a military greatcoat and being shot at by a rival gang in the hills somewhere to the east of Kraljevo. He had arrived in Belgrade less than forty eight hours ago and made contact with his Serbian counterpart as planned. Since then, nothing else had gone to plan. One of their cars had broken down (contingency in place), two of the men accompanying their party had not returned from a night on the town (unexpected, no contingency, none required), the weather took a turn for the worse (expected) and it started to snow (contingency plans implemented) and to cap it all, there was no word from the messenger they had sent with their request for a meeting (again unexpected, but contingency in place).

“Sir?” A figure detached itself from the undergrowth and slithered across to his position. Mycroft raised an eyebrow, all the communication he required. “We should move out, sir. Give these fuckers the elbow and make our own way in.”

Mycroft regarded Sergeant Molloy with a thoughtful expression. “Your reasoning, Sergeant?” A flurry of gunfire halted conversation for a moment as bullets thudded into the ground less than ten meters away spewing dirt over them.

“Simple, sir. This lot of useless wankers are getting their bollocks fried while we could be off into the woods. We can cut the time we’re wasting down, bring our ETA forward by at least an hour. I was under the impression time was of the essence, sir.”

“So it is, Sergeant, but I regret to say, the son of the man I am meeting is among our guard and I very much doubt the General would be appreciative if we arrived without his boy, or worse, carrying his son in a body bag. Now, may I suggest another tack? What do we have at our disposal?”

“Sir, we have everything you ordered.”

“I should hope so. Nothing traceable of course.”

“No, sir.” Molloy sounded somewhat affronted that anyone should suggest otherwise.

“Then I shall leave it up to your good self, of course, but I suggest we give them a run for their money.”

Molloy nodded, saluted, and then melted back into the undergrowth. Mycroft hunkered down in his greatcoat as another volley of ordnance streaked by and took out a small barn a few hundred meters away. It was, Mycroft was gratified to note, only minutes before he felt a vibration in the ground followed moments later with a whump through the air. A plume of smoke and fire erupted somewhere beyond the tree line to his left and any remaining sporadic gunfire was met with smaller blasts that Mycroft recognised as grenades. Scattered shots rattled through the trees for a few moments before it all went quiet again. A few more minutes passed before Molloy and Harrison appeared, walking down through the trees to meet him. The two men were ex-SAS and Mycroft had complete faith in their abilities. They were his usual back-up on missions is this nature. He stood and dusted himself off.

“Is it done?” Molloy nodded once to Mycroft’s enquiry. “Very good, let’s go…”

The rest of the journey proved uneventful, their trail winding higher into the mountains. They trundled through a small village in the back of their armoured transport, a handful of children and a cluster of goats their only audience, neither of whom paid them much attention as if they had learned the hard way not to. A couple of stray dogs watched them but they too had little interest. Folk around here had obviously learned not to show undue interest in anything of a military persuasion. They kept going into the trees again, as the trail grew increasingly rough. Eventually the road disappeared into little more than a cart track. When a few men stepped out to block the road, Mycroft felt momentary tension until Karel, the son of the man he had arranged to meet, jumped out to converse with the guards. Moments later, the barriers were removed and they were waved on. They drew into a compound made of nothing more than a gravel patch, with trees all around. No sign of buildings anywhere.

“Come, da? This way,” Karel instructed. They were lead into the trees and down a path until the door of what looked like a bunker appeared in the side of the hill in front of them. The door opened at Karel’s coded knock and they were admitted to the hub of his father’s operations. The place was obviously a left over nuclear shelter, and, like an iceberg, nine tenths of it were below the surface. It would hopefully be invisible from the air and required few troops on the ground to protect the surface access. A perfect base and one that Mycroft was sincerely glad was on their side. At least, he hoped its new owner still was.

“So, we meet again, moj prijatelj Engleski. It’s been a while.”

Mycroft turned to face the speaker, a practiced smile on his face, although inwardly he was uncertain of the reception he might get. He was quite taken aback when he saw the man he had not laid eyes on for the better part of a decade. “Arkady, it’s...very good to see you again.” Short silver grey hair above a strong featured face, with deep-set dark eyes which missed nothing, the man had more than a passing resemblance to a certain detective inspector back in London. Mycroft was reminded of the six degrees of separation and wondered if there were really something in it after all. For a moment the two men stood looking at each other, and a tense silence ensued.

“So, you’ve been busy,” the Serbian remarked phlegmatically, sizing his visitor up. “Too busy to stay in touch?”

Momentarily thrown, Mycroft affected a smile and tilted his head in a manner designed to disarm. He sucked in a breath. “Oh, I’m sure you know how it is, I spend all my time on damage control these days. Politicians are so very...annoying, my diplomatic skills are tested to their limits. I find it necessary to devote all my time to smoothing ruffled feathers, optimising trade agreements, averting wars…”

“...dismantling criminal networks?”

“That seems to be my brother’s remit these days.”

“Which is why you need my help?”

“Alas, yes, that does seem to be the case. You know I am not without resources, you will be remunerated for any help…” Mycroft paused. The General was regarding him with an expression somewhere between exasperation and incredulity.

Without warning the Serbian suddenly lunged forward and engulfed Mycroft in a bearhug. “You bastard,” Arkady Dragutin grumbled affectionately. “Why did you wait so long?”

“Circumstances, Arkady, unavoidable...circumstances…” Mycroft grunted as the breath was crushed out of him.

“No matter, no matter. You’re here now, my friend.” Arkady let him go and Mycroft staggered as his feet hit the floor again. He was held until steady and even then, Arkady didn’t completely let go. A hand unerringly remained attached to his elbow. The expression altered to affection. “So, you helped me once, da? You come to collect...how do you say? To cash in the favour?”

“I am in the unenviable position of requiring aid, yes.”

“What is it this time? Guns, men, equipment? Which country are you invading now?”

“Nothing so exciting,” Mycroft replied warily. “I’m afraid I have far more mundane concerns. My younger brother, Sherlock, has gone missing. I have reason to believe a local warlord hereabouts has him. Baron Maupertuis?”

“Him,” Dragutin muttered darkly. “He’s a snivelling coward who would sell his own grandmother if it was worth his while. He sold his sister into prostitution but he...what is it you say? cannot arrange a fight in a brewery?”

“I believe the term is piss-up in a brewery,” Mycroft supplied.

Arkady frowned at him, not understanding. “Pissup? What is pissup?”

Mycroft smiled. “Getting drunk. A party with Rakia.” He watched as Arkady’s expression brightened. “He would not be able to arrange for people to get drunk even if they were sitting on the main source of alcohol?”

“Ah! Da, da, now I see. Piss up in brewery. I like it. It fits. The man is incompetitive…”

It was Mycroft’s turn to frown. “I think you mean incompetent, Arkady,” he corrected gently.

The man frowned, then he chuckled. “I do, do I? Your Engleski, she is strange. So many...idioms. And so many words mean different, but same sound. Hear and here—” he tugged his ear then spread his hands to indicate the immediate area “ —there and their. You not make it easy, da?” Mycroft smiled patiently and nodded, silently agreeing, careful not to mention it had taken him only two hours to master the Serbian tongue. “So, anything for family?” Arkady took a breath and blew his cheeks out as he exhaled. “If that bastard has your brother then there is a reason, a good one. Probably thinks he can extort money from a rich bourgeois English family. I can get you to him. I maybe have contact that can get you into the ranks, but it cost you more…” He grinned. “Well, we can do nothing more tonight. Far too dangerous to move at night round here. I can contact my man tomorrow.”

“You already have someone in the Baron’s camp?”

“Of course. What do you take me for? An idiot? I need to know what the cretin is up to. I have no intention of being surprised by someone who cannot organise pissup in brewery, after all. Dawn is something after 0630 here, so we have long wait…” He paused and fixed Mycroft with a broad smile. “I take it you know my price for giving you this help, Mikhail?”

Mycroft nodded, fully well aware of Dragutin’s price. He sighed. “I understand,” he said. “I am at your disposal.”

“Good, good. Let me take you to my office and we can relax, kick back. Try not to sound like you facing expecution, okay, Mikhail? You liked it, last time.” Mycroft rolled his eyes at the man's insinuations. He had long ago stopped trying to correct Arkady with regard to his name. There was no Serbian equivalent for Mycroft and Mikhail was probably the closest. “I have a very good single malt I think you might appreciate,” Arkady suggested. “I liberated it a while ago and it has been waiting for an appropriate occasion. We could even watch a movie if you like. I have a good one. Air Force One is Down…” he chuckled. “Some stupid American journalist got lost around here a couple of years ago, found himself a guest of mine for a while. He had this mad idea to write a screenplay about a Serbian warlord and his American enemies. I never thought he would actually get it filmed. It’s complete crap, of course. I’m nothing at all like the guy in the movie. In my humble opinion, the hero is a dumb cunt as well.” Arkady shrugged. “My life is nothing like the life on that screen. The man who wrote it is complete liar, he has sold out to the desire for Western superiority. Still, it’s good for a laugh. He better not show his face around here again though, he made sure that I get no royalties from it.”

“Arkady, I am surprised at you,” Mycroft murmured. “He sounds like a tabloid journalist. They’re only marginally above a sea snail in mental prowess and with less scruples than a hyena. Vultures, looking for easy pickings. Doubtless I could track him down for you…”

“I bet you could. I might hold you to that, Engleski. Now though, I have something else in mind.” Arkady lead the way down some stairs and into another windowless subterranean corridor, sauntering past two guards who immediately saluted, backs rigid and chests out. Arkady threw a casual salute back and walked on by. Turning a corner, two more guards appeared, flanking a door at the end of the corridor. They snapped to attention as the two men approached. The door was of the quality to withstand bomb blasts, Mycroft noted. The general had moved his base since the last time Mycroft had encountered him. Not really a surprise. Mycroft had been entirely surprised that the man had not only survived the recent wars but avoided the rash of witch hunting war crimes trials that had erupted as soon as the dust of peace had settled. He had kept in touch, even though Arkady had not been aware. The odd report here, a sighting there, notes in a dossier that he kept in the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet in his office at the Diogenes. Such a thing was far too sensitive to leave in his Whitehall office, not when he worked with people who would spy on others for money.

Dragutin snapped an order in his own tongue and fixed his guards with a quelling look. “Unless world war three is about to break out, I do not want to be disturbed. Is that understood?” Mycroft translated in his head. Arkady opened the door, ushering Mycroft inside. The interior was warm and well furnished, a king-sized bed placed across one side of the compact space, behind a screen of curtains. A big desk covered in papers and other paraphernalia loomed large on the other side. “This place is pretty much self sufficient,” Arkady explained. “Bathroom through that door,” he pointed to a plain door near the bed. “Take your coat off, Engleski, relax.”

Mycroft knew a veiled order when he heard one. Arkady was friendly but Mycroft did not trust him completely, although he shed his coat and hung it on the back of the door as instructed. Underneath he was sporting a full Serbian army uniform, with officer’s insignia. Arkady grinned again on seeing him. “I might have known you would be nothing less than a Colonel,” he said, amused. “So, Colonel Holm…” He also never pronounced Mycroft’s surname correctly but Holm, even if he did pronounce the L, was better than nothing. Mikhail Holm is actually quite a good cover name if one thinks about it, Mycroft considered. So, Mikhail Holm it is then

Mycroft sank into a leather armchair that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Diogenes and sipped the incredibly good malt whisky that Arkady had handed him. It was even in a cut crystal tumbler. The man had promptly excused himself with the explanation that he had business to deal with. Mycroft waited for him to return, inwardly fretting at the delay but having to accept that there was nothing he could do about it. His cohorts were comfortably catered for, having been taken away to get food and a bunk for the night by one of Dragutin's lieutenants. He was at Arkady’s mercy but the man was predictable, at least.

“I hope you notice, I like refinement,” Arkady said as he came through the door without warning. Mycroft jumped awake and tried not to look startled. Arkady took a sip from his own glass, savouring the fiery spirit. Something had obviously pleased him. He tipped his head back a little to let the stuff slide down his throat, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. Mycroft caught himself staring and snapped his mouth shut to stop himself gaping. Arkady took another mouthful and rolled it around on his tongue, savouring it properly before swallowing. “Good stuff,” he said, appreciatively, turning to look directly at Mycroft. There was a hunger in the depths of his dark brown eyes, something Mycroft had rarely, if ever, seen directed at himself. He licked his lips, trying vainly to compute the permutations and realising that there were very few options available at that time. He could feign sickness, plead exhaustion, try to put off Arkady’s advances until such a time as he could regroup his fraying wits but the end result would be the same. If Mycroft wanted to maintain relations with this man in the future then certain things were as inevitable as day following night. Dragutin was too useful to antagonise. Ah well, sacrifices must be made.

“I have good news, at least," Dragutin offered. "I went up to the surface to call my contact. The reception down here isn’t worth a damn. He confirmed that the Baron does indeed have a man of your brother’s description in his possession at the moment, and he is still alive. He plans to ransom him to the British Government. He won’t do anything as long as he thinks he has something valuable on his hands. I told my contact to let Maupertuis know I was willing to negotiate for this man, to let him think I am interested. He will hold the man the harder if he thinks I have an interest. If he cannot sell him to the Engleski, then he will try selling him to me, so he will not kill him if he thinks he can extort something from me as well. You can rest easy, your brother is safer now than he was an hour ago. He might not be undamaged but hopefully whatever they have done will not permanently disfigure him.”

“You do not know my brother. ”

Arkady smiled. “Maybe not, but I know you. If he's half as stubborn as you are..." The General downed the resk of his whisky and poured himself another. "You should relax while you can, Mikhail. Recoup your strength and your wits. You’ll need them soon enough.”

Mycroft’s eyes slid shut in relief. His brother was alive. He took another hefty swallow of his whisky to fortify himself. “Thank you, Arkady. I do appreciate your...intervention.” A hand stroked through his hair and Arkady’s voice was a soothing rumble in his ear. “Calmly now, Engleski. You should know I wouldn’t do anything without your consent." The fingers kept raking gently through his hair and Mycroft sighed softly and allowed himself to relax a little. Despite his lack of trust, the scenarios in his head were all telling him he was relatively safe here, at least for the next few hours.

“Yet how should I know that?” Mycroft challenged. “You are used to getting your own way.”

“As are you, my friend.” Amusement shaded the general’s tone. “You and I are brothers under our skins, Mikhail. We both rule over our little empires. We both give the order to jump and our minions ask how high. You and I have more in common than you might want to admit, which makes us equals. I would prefer an enthusiastic lover rather than a recalcitrant one. There, you see? I manage long words. My Engleski, she good, da?”

Mycroft nodded and smiled. “Your English is better than my Serbian.” Arkady laughed and held out a hand to help him up. As soon as he was on his feet Mycroft was pulled into a hard embrace. Mycroft almost melted into the big man’s arms. It was a long time since he had been quite so desired and by a man who did not spare time for anyone whom he considered to have character flaws. It was quite the complement in a warped kind of way. Mycroft allowed his hands to roam up the solid back under his hands. Arkady was all hard muscle and tension. “I do however perceive a small problem in this arrangement…”

“Oh?” Arkady drew back a little to regard him with a frown. “What might that be?”

“You are wearing far too many clothes.”

“So are you, my fine peacock,” Arkady guffawed, then leaned in and pressed their lips together for a deep exploring kiss. A big hand slid to the back of his neck as Mycroft allowed the invading tongue to sweep across his, tasting and teasing. The Serbian was nothing if not experienced, and Mycroft knew very well the man liked both his men and his women in equal measure. The first time they had met had been…eventful. Arkady had enjoyed teasing Mycroft, offering him one of the women who were happily draped all over him at the time. Mycroft had declined and the warlord had sent a rather pleasant young man to his room as a result. Mycroft had declined again, politely, but indicated the latter ‘gift’ was more accurate than the former. The following day, Arkady had made advances of his own.

Mycroft watched as Arkady stepped to the bed and tugged the covers off. The mattress was decadently covered in fox furs and rather cliched black satin sheets, but Mycroft really didn’t mind. At that moment, a park bench would have seemed comfortable.

“You are tired,” Arkady observed, seeing the slump in Mycroft’s normally rigid bearing. He watched as Mycroft straightened his back again and mastered a tight smile with difficulty. “You are worried, too, I think. It is hard when your own blood is in trouble, but there is nothing you can do, Mikhail. He is as safe as the situation allows for the moment. Come here.” Mycroft complied and found himself pushed to sit on the bed. Arkady undressed him carefully, peeling the layers away until he was left only in his underwear. Then Arkady undressed in front of him, slowly, methodically, making the experience somehow intimate and erotic, even though neither man was touching the other or being overtly sensuous about it. When that was complete Arkady ordered him to lie face down and Mycroft did as he was bid without protest, folding his arms and resting his head on them. Suddenly, he felt something wet and warm drip along his back, followed by the weight of Arkady’s large warm hands sweeping up his back, spreading the oil he had just applied. Mycroft groaned as the man began to massage his back, working into the muscles of his shoulders and neck, then down either side of his spine to his buttocks and thighs, leaving no part of him untreated. Strong fingers pressed and manipulated, working tight muscles loose, easing the tension through his whole body until he felt boneless, all tension bled out of him.

“Roll onto your back,” Arkady murmured. His hands continued to stroke and knead, working across Mycroft’s pectorals and chest, each arm from shoulder to wrist. A warm palm stroked down from throat to groin and settled its warm weight on his genitals. Mycroft’s eyes flew open to see Arkady’s smiling ones fixed on his. “Good, da?” Mycroft could only nod as the fingers slowly curled, gripping gently. “You like this? Is good for you?” Again Mycroft did not trust himself to speak but nodded, shuddering as those fingers began to stoke, adding a slight twist. “Give up, Mikhail, let yourself go.” Mycroft’s back arched, delicious pleasure spiking along his spine. He kept his eyes on Arkady’s, watching a satisfied smile curve the man’s lips as he teased and coaxed his partner to completion. “I think you like being used this way, Engleski. Give over control for a while, let someone else decide for you what happens?”

“I will neither confirm nor deny…” Mycroft murmured, eliciting a chuckle from his host.

“Ever the politician,” Arkady said, moving onto the bed. He settled himself between Mycroft’s thighs and leaned forward, resting his weight on the man below him. “You know, if you ever feel like defecting, I could use a man like you.”

“I thought you already were?” Mycroft whispered. Arkady laughed and shifted his body to align their erections. Mycroft gasped softly and arched his back, hips lifting to press closer, harder. The massage oil facilitated Arkady’s slow slide up and down, delicious pressure building as the two men moved together. “Oh, the sacrifices I make for my dear brother…” Mycroft sighed.

An answering laugh huffed against his neck as his lover placed a kiss beneath his ear. “I hope he’s suitably grateful,” Arkady growled.

“He will be, when I bring him home. He’s been gone too long.” Arkady nodded, kissing down Mycroft’s neck and along his jaw. He well knew the worry he felt when his own son was away too long. “The young are never grateful,” he murmured. “But we do our best for them. Sometimes, there are…” he thrust his hips and Mycroft groaned “...rewards,” he said, sliding back a little.

“Speaking of which…” Mycroft pushed him away and sat, tugging until Arkady was lying on his back, looking faintly puzzled, but compliant. Mycroft straddled him and Arkady’s lips curled in a predatory grin.

“So, Engleski, you want to ride, hm?”

“Did I not say? I am a very, very good rider. I have this gorgeous grey stallion at home, he’s quite the fellow…”

“Gives you good workout, hm? Got stamina? He keeps going long time?”

“I hope he will,” Mycroft purred. "I won't know without something to compare him with, though, a benchmark if you will.“

“I think I can help you,” Arkady said, stroking his hands along Mycroft’s thighs as he sat there. “I give you something to compare him with, something that keeps going long, long time....”

0o0o0o0o0

Mycroft woke slowly, covered to the chin in warm furs. He was pleasantly relaxed and slightly sore. Arkady was nowhere to be seen. The bed beside him was cool, and the room empty. Mycroft knew there was nothing he could do to locate the man. He didn’t know his way around and he doubted even he would be allowed to roam the base unsupervised. He closed his eyes again and willed himself to wait patiently, letting memories of their coming together entertain him. The old wolf had ridden him hard and Mycroft was heartily glad the room was to all intents sound proofed. He felt a delicious shiver travel up and down his spine at the memory of being deeply impaled on Arkady's thick cock, of the heat and strength and solidity of the man under him, thrusting up into his willing body, moaning...

“Mikhail? Mikhail, wake up. Coffee…”

“Hm?” Mycroft opened his eyes again as the warlord sat down on the bed edge, an incongruous but rather elegant dark green brocade dressing gown sitting around his broad shoulders. He was carrying two mugs on a tray. The aroma of strong coffee reached his nose. Mycroft sat and Arkady passed him a mug before placing the tray out of the way. “I’ve been in touch with my contact again,” Arkady explained. “He can meet us the day after tomorrow and take you to the Baron. For all intents you are Andrija's cousin, educated in England, but you’ve been in Beograd for the last three years.” Mycroft nodded. “You can speak Serbian well enough to pass. Put any mistakes down to your English education. You have political degree, da?” Mycroft nodded. “My cousin says they are looking for intelligent men. You will most probably end up as officer. Use your time wisely and if you find anything useful, you will remember me, da?”

“Of course I shall. After all, you do require adequate recompense for your...help.”

“I was under the impression that you were paying your debts quite well.”

“This? This is icing on the cake, Arkady. No, I fully intend to remunerate you to the best of my ability, both monetarily and intelligently, if you understand.”

“Da, da, I understand, Mikhail,” Arkady clapped him on the shoulder and nearly knocked him flat. “You are too good to me.”

“Nonsense, Arkady. We have a gentleman’s agreement, you and I. We are too useful to each other. Now, the day after tomorrow, you say? What on earth are we to do in the meantime?”