Chapter 1: Monday 23:35
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.
Chapter 2: Tuesday 04:45
The interior of the car smelled like new leather, the scent persisting beneath the medicinal odour of the blanket draped over him, and that of the dust, blood and explosives that clung to John's skin. Mycroft sat directly opposite them, staring out of the window into the silent darkness to maintain the polite fiction that he wasn't cataloguing and analysing every movement that John and Sherlock made. The hum of the air conditioning and the tapping of Anthea's Blackberry keys were quietly soothing in their familiarity and he felt remarkably calm. Whether that was because of the injection they had given him, or from having an epiphany to think about, he wasn't sure.
He shifted his head where it rested on John's shoulder, and John's arm around him tightened a fraction. The butterfly stitches across the bridge of his nose itched abominably but, he told himself, John would get annoyed if he tried to remove them and besides, he might start bleeding again and he didn't want to get his blood on John's clean shirt.
There had been plenty of blood on John already that night: Sherlock's, John's own, and a dozen other people's.
"You weren't really in the medical corps at all," he mumbled, cracking one eye open. He didn't know he was going to say that. He was tired, but it didn't escape him that John looked to Mycroft before responding and it was at Mycroft's tiny nod that he continued. Sherlock closed his eye again and tucked his face further into John's neck, feeling John's words buzzing in his throat.
"I was, well, sort of. I was assigned to RAMC units between missions. Just long enough each time to keep up the cover. We'd give them a story about waiting to be reattached to my own unit: tell them that the paper-pushers had made a fuck-up, some admin error. Or there'd been a budgeting shortfall, people will always believe that."
He could feel the quality of John's voice change in that last sentence, John was smiling and addressing Mycroft and Anthea and he looked up in time to see matching, rueful smiles flicker across their faces. In an instant he was vividly aware of how isolated he was, even here, among the people he should have been closest to; nearly all of his life he'd been the one to leave everyone else behind and now that he was in their shoes he remembered how little he liked it himself. He wondered how he had misread John's past so badly, and what else he had failed to observe.
He wondered how much longer he had before John left.
He tried to haul himself upright, off John's shoulder, gasping as his head span and his abused muscles refused to cooperate.
"Hey, hey, careful there. Lie down." Between John's guidance and his treacherous body, he ended up settling on his side along the seat, his head pillowed in John's lap, his legs pulled up as though he were sulking on the settee at home.
"That won't be comfortable for long," scolded John, brushing the hair off Sherlock's forehead.
"Don't care. We'll be there in an hour," he muttered. He let his eyes fall closed, too slow to avoid meeting Mycroft's eyes and glimpsing an unfamiliar expression there. He almost looked ... affectionate? Surely not. He and his brother had never been less than the bane of each other's existence.
"There?" asked John. "Where are we going?" He was directing the question at Mycroft but Sherlock answered first.
"Home. Not our home," he added in response to the confused sound John made. "Our home, Mycroft's and mine, our mother's house. Obviously, where else? Idiot."
"Obviously," replied John, fondly. As Sherlock fell asleep, he could feel John's fingers combing the tangles from his hair.
Chapter 3: Tuesday 16:15
When he woke up, it was with a panicked gasp, sitting bolt upright before he'd realised how painful moving was going to be. His hands went to his rope-burned wrists, the warehouse he'd spent hours captive in clear before his eyes. If he was going to relive yesterday every time he slept then he was never going to sleep again, never, ever.
His surroundings came slowly into focus. He was in the tastefully decorated guest room which had once been his childhood nursery, and he had been bathed and dressed in clean pyjamas. There was a steaming mug of tea on the table and John was sitting on the bed by his knees jabbering away at him. Sherlock grasped involuntarily at John's forearm, grounding himself, and John's hand closed over his, calm and steady. John, thank God, John who he'd thought that he had lost.
John who he knew nothing about. John, who had two days ago been as comfortably familiar as his violin and was now no more than a stranger to him. He pulled his hand away as if scalded.
"Sherlock. Let me check you over."
"I'm fine, 'Doctor' Watson. Or should that be Captain Watson? Or ... just remind me who are you, exactly?"
John sighed, and rubbed his eyebrow in a wrenchingly familiar way. "Like it or not, I'm still your doctor, and I want to check that you're OK. I don't think anything's broken, but I want to be certain. After all, it'd be nice to be sure you're not going to have a relapse, throwing yourself around after the London underworld."
"Don't be sarcastic, it doesn't become you," Sherlock sniffed. "Well, get on with it, then."
He tried not to wince as he hauled his t-shirt off, and he stared at the ceiling rose as John poked and prodded his way around his ribcage. His head ached horribly, and he couldn't get his thoughts in order. So much new data to work with.
John's fingers were cool against his skin. Not relevant. He cleared his throat.
"So, you know Mycroft, then. Other than through me, that is. Known him a while, too, judging by your willingness to look to him for instructions, and given your natural reluctance to trust authority figures."
"I've worked for him before, indirectly."
"Ah, your work. And what exactly it is that you did? No, stop, let me. You weren't RAMC, you admitted as much yesterday, but whoever you worked for had the reach and influence for you to maintain that cover for years without getting caught, or even arousing suspicion. Now, that sounds like my brother all over, which makes you SIS or Special Forces. Hmm. My first ever question to you was wrong, wasn't it? Oh, not in the sense that I don't think you were in Afghanistan or Iraq, the evidence all points that way, after all. But you worked in both, didn't you, and probably Jordan and Pakistan too, on the quiet. Afghanistan was the important one: where you got shot, where you were invalided home from, so you automatically gave it as your answer - but that wasn't the whole truth."
"Amazing. You're quite right, I worked in all those places. Stretch your arms out, and take a deep breath."
"You are a doctor, and a bloody good one too, you weren't lying about that. But that isn't all, is it? The man who put a bullet into Jefferson Hope, through a window, from a building over a hundred meters away on a dark, windy evening, with a single shot from a hand gun, is not a man who just happens to be a bit handy with a firearm. That makes you a sniper, but not a regular army one; one who can fight off a dozen armed men single handed. You, Doctor John Watson, were an agent for MI6. No wonder you found those dreadful James Bond movies so amusing."
John gave a huff of laughter from behind him. "I was right about you, you are quite extraordinary. Take another deep breath. And another one, and tell me if this hurts."
"Thought so. You've not broken anything, you've just been battered about and you've got some impressive bruising. I'd tell you to take it easy for a week or two if I thought there was any chance of you listening to me."
He helped Sherlock back into his t-shirt, and shifted so that he could see Sherlock's face.
"I deny everything, of course. But I can tell you this: I really am Doctor John Watson. I have a sister, Harry, who was once married to Clara. I'm rubbish at computers, and I've never managed yet to get through the self-checkout at Sainsbury's without help. See?" he added, as Sherlock's lips twitched. "You do know me. Whatever my life was before, I don't do that any more - I couldn't if I wanted to. I was trying to find a place for myself in London when I met Mike. I trained with him at Barts, and I was honestly just looking for a flat share when I met you. Nearly had a heart attack when I found out who you were, you look nothing like your brother, you know."
"Let us be grateful for small mercies," muttered Sherlock.
John scratched his head and composed himself before continuing. "Um. About yesterday. I can't promise that it won't happen again. I've made plenty of enemies over the last decade, and not all of them on the other side. There are people out there with grudges against me for what I've done in the line of duty, and I can't promise you won't be caught in the crossfire the next time, or the time after, or the time after that. If you want me out of your flat - out of your life - I'll understand."
He was right - he was still John. Idiotic, self-sacrificing John. Who had killed a dozen men to save him, and had bandaged up his injuries, and had brought him tea. Sherlock leaned forward, painfully aware of every aching muscle as he did so, and pressed his lips to John's.
His aches lost all of their importance as John kissed him back.
Sherlock was getting lightheaded again when they pulled apart, and not only because of the kiss. John helped him to lie back down and tucked the covers over him. He grasped at the sleeve of John's jumper as he tried to move away and John ended up sitting back down on the bed, the length of his thigh pressing against Sherlock's arm. Sherlock shivered as John lifted his hand and combed his fingers through the same tangled curls as he had the previous night.
He began to have serious doubts about his ability to ever have another rational thought about John.
"So you could be dangerous?" he made himself ask.
"Very dangerous," John murmured.
"You think I could see a bit of trouble, hanging around with you?"
John's fingers paused, and his thoughts were deafening as he considered his next words. "Yes. Plenty of trouble."
"Enough for a lifetime, I daresay?"
John leaned over him, and touched his forehead to Sherlock's. Sherlock could feel the shift in John's facial muscles as he smiled, and John's breath was warm on Sherlock's cheek as he spoke.
"Very likely. Do you think you can live with that? Do you want to live with that?"
Sherlock grinned helplessly, and his grip on John's jumper tightened. "Oh God, yes."