I. Monday 23:35
Sherlock's arms and legs had eventually become numb rather than painful where the ropes bound him tightly to the chair, and with a little effort he had relegated the pain of his bruised ribcage to the status of a background annoyance. They'd had no intention of damaging him seriously; their intention had been to overpower him until he was restrained, and the beatings which had kept him subdued since then had been measured and scrupulously impersonal. He'd had to empty his bladder where he was a short while ago, earning a mocking round of applause from his captors, but the persistent irritation of his damp clothing was pushed aside too. It was all too easy to ignore his discomfort as he heard how wrong everything had gone. He listened as impartially as possible as he was told in detail how little interest the gang had in Sherlock other than as a means to an end: to act as bait for John.
Sherlock registered automatically that the leader was in his sixties, and was missing the last joint of his right forefinger. At least half of his followers were ex-military; he didn't have sufficient data to know for sure about the rest but it seemed probable that they were too. They were all certainly skilled in a variety of martial arts.
He noted that he couldn't stop noticing these things, even in the face of his own impending death.
The man paced back and forth as he described how, when John arrived, they would bring him inside and kill Sherlock before his eyes. Later, once they were good and ready, they would kill John, too.
Sherlock had no reason to doubt that he meant every word of it. Their trap had been laid with meticulous attention; every clue that he'd followed had been expertly crafted to draw him in. It was only on looking back that he could see the overall pattern, and recognise the military precision with which he had been manipulated into involving John in the case. Wrong at every step, he told himself, wrong, wrong, wrong. Now that it was too late it was all too obvious how this would play out. John would already be following Sherlock's trail to this grimy warehouse with its store of illegal weaponry. He would walk alone into the trap, expecting one or two armed thugs, and find himself faced by at least a dozen expert martial artists and members of the military elite. A lone, pensioned-off army medic didn't stand a chance against odds like those.
What John could have done to drive this group to these measures was beyond him. He must have missed something; he should have realised long ago that John was their object. Not himself, not the money, not the victims they had casually strewn by the wayside. And now John would be captured, beaten and dragged into this room to watch Sherlock take a gunshot to the head before himself suffering nameless tortures and degradations at the hands of these animals.
"He won't come," he managed to croak out, his voice hoarse from dehydration. That was wishful thinking, of course. John would know by now that Sherlock had been taken. Naturally John would come, even if it brought him to his death.
One of the guards took a step towards him and Sherlock, too exhausted even to brace himself, closed his eyes and attempted to roll his head with the blow to his face. The guard rejoined the group sitting around the CCTV setup in the corner, and the room fell quiet as they went back to playing their waiting game.
Sherlock was almost dozing by the time it started. One of the men drew his colleagues' attention to something that was happening on screen and the leader ordered them out, leaving two guards behind to lock and bar the door from the inside.
Sherlock tilted his head and listened. There was the sound of fighting outside, gunshots and shouting, punctuated by the improbable sound of swords clashing. He was horrified to find himself mentally cheering for John when, if wishes had had any power at all, he should have been using every last iota of his strength to drive him away from a fight he could never win.
A final gunshot sounded, followed by an absolute silence, and the brief moment of exhilaration was over. The adrenaline rush ended as swiftly as it had begun, leaving him feeling sick and hollow. One of the guards turned to him, drawing a sidearm from its holster, and he couldn't find it in him to care any more, his mind running over and over in a loop: John was surely dead, or as good as. Sherlock would have to live his last moments knowing that it was his fault, he must have missed something - there was always something - and now John was dead. Dead. Dead John. It didn't make sense whichever way he phrased it. He opened his mouth to see if it sounded any more plausible out loud.
The opportunity was gone before he could take it. An explosion blew the door from its hinges and the two guards were thrown blazing across the room, landing with sickening cracks behind him. Sherlock turned his head away as he was peppered with dust and splinters and when he looked back John was framed in the smouldering doorway, alive and breathing and beautiful, a bloodied katana in his hands, a body at his feet, and a ferociously determined expression that Sherlock had never seen before on his face.
"Hi," said John, not moving from where he stood. He wasn't even breathing hard, and his fierce expression had been replaced by one which was startlingly tender.
"Hello," whispered Sherlock. Every bone in his body ached, his ears were whistling, there was blood running down his face, but none of it mattered. All he could do was exist in that moment, paralyzed by the overwhelming realisation that there was nothing on Earth that this man could ask of him that Sherlock would not do. He was entirely John's, in heart, mind and body. And John was going to leave.