Sherlock had been gone for eight days, stolen away in the middle of the night.
John had waited three hours to call him in. That was an agreement between the two.
Mycroft had received six dozen photographs and fifteen videos, via text message, of his baby brother in various states of distress.
As far as he could discern, Sherlock had not been physically harmed. He had, however, been subjected to alternating sensory deprivation and overload. The first several photographs were of a man (thin, tall, scar on the ankle from where he'd been bitten by a dog in university; definitely Sherlock) with a thick black hood over his head, hands bound, sitting tall and arrogant as ever.
Hours later, Sherlock was curled on the floor.
The next morning, there was a video on Mycroft's phone of the younger man rocking in place, writhing to get out of his bonds, breathing heavily and whimpering.
(When he was nine years old, a group of neighborhood children - all older - told Sherlock that there was a mysterious noise coming from one of the large drainpipes they liked to hide in and smoke cigarettes. They complimented his intelligence, begged him for help, and of course he went in without a torch. They blocked up the open end. Sherlock was missing for ten hours, until he was found four miles away where another pipe was open-ended, hysterical and bleeding from his nose. He grabbed onto Mycroft and wouldn't let go for hours.)
It was the longest two minutes and fourteen seconds of Mycroft's life.
He exhausted every resource in his power into finding Sherlock, called in every favor he'd been owed since the beginning of his career, conjured veritable armies out of nowhere, and sent them all into the fray without a moment's though.
After four days in complete blackness and silence, Sherlock was strapped to a chair below three projectors, each one pointing at the walls around him. Video clips only fractions of a second long began playing at high speed, no patterns or loops to be spoken of, a cacophony of noise from a dozen different sources roaring from the speakers surrounding him, vents rigged to carry foul scents into the room, and Sherlock screamed. Blood spouted from his nose as he jerked against the restraints until his wrists bled too, crimson streaks running down the arms of the chair.
(He attempted to kill himself four times as a teenager. He referred to his depression, the pressing darkness, the sensation of being lost in the labyrinth of his own brilliant mind, as the Drainpipe. His own thoughts were full of screams. Every time he came clawing back to life, Mycroft was there, waiting, with his favorite book.
They were never very enthusiastic attempts.)
Mycroft had never been so angry in his life. He paced his office endlessly; Sherlock would tease that he was finally getting some exercise, were he there. Jeannie watched him pace with a curious expression on her pretty face.
"I've never seen you looking so...well...alive, sir," she explained when he stopped to inquire.
He nearly sacked her on the spot.
Sherlock was found in the basement of an old cinema that was scheduled to be demolished in only a handful of hours, completely alone, with no trace of his kidnappers, though the whole affair reeked of Moriarty, of course.
(Would you find me? Would you kiss-a my eyes and lay me down to be born again?)
The police were on the scene first, Mycroft tailing in a close second. He shoved through the small mass of officers, ignoring their protests that "this is a crime scene!" as he spotted Gregory Lestrade half-carrying his brother from the building. Sherlock looked small and lost and about nine years old, blood staining his shirt, hair a tangled mess, legs shaking, clutching the DI like a lifeline until the brothers' eyes met.
It was the first time Mycroft had run in years.
Sherlock merely had to take a step away from Lestrade and fall forward before Mycroft was there to catch him, the younger man's wiry arms wrapping around his waist as though he were trying to squeeze blood from a stone. Sherlock clenched fistfuls of his jacket, knuckles pressing into his spine, thin (emaciated) body shaking almost violently so that the crown of his head was knocking him in the windpipe, holding him tighter, tighter, tighter until Mycroft thought he might burst from the relentless pressure.
He slipped to his knees on the dusty path to the cinema, holding his brother, and realized that the difficulty he had breathing was relief. The pain in his heart was joy. The pressure behind his eyes was the threat of tears.
(Mye, will you play with me? Mye, why is the sky blue? Mye, why does Mummy say fairies are real if she's never seen one? Mye, can I fly? Mye, how old do I have to be before I can go to the moon? Mye, you know it was murder too, don't you? Mye, explain the properties of sulfuric acid again. Mye, where's Daddy gone? Mye, what does it feel like to die? Mye, why am I so different? Mye, why am I so alone?
But you aren't all different, Sherlock, and you aren't alone. You have me.)
To those watching the embrace, it was difficult to tell who was comforting whom.
(Yes, I suppose I do.)