There was something incredibly surreal about listening to The Specials while tied up in the boot of a car. It wasn’t a scenario that John would have put together on his own, and after five minutes of being locked in the dark, he decided that it wasn’t one he ever wanted to experience again. The speakers embedded in the floor blasted Do the Dog at deafening levels, and John cursed Sherlock for choosing the seminal Ska album as the soundtrack for his abduction. He struggled onto his side, trying to shift his head as far away from the speakers as possible. The handcuffs cut into his wrists as he moved, locked on far too tight for comfort. But this really wasn’t about his comfort; being forced into the boot of a car usually wasn’t.
In that moment, John wished that he had taken Sherlock’s list of “things I’m not allowed to do to you” a bit more seriously when they had awkwardly broached the topic. John had come up with “no maiming.” Sherlock volunteered that death was off the table, and John decided that he might be up for trying anything once, before he just felt horribly self-conscious and wandered out to the kitchen to wait for his heart to stop racing. Unfortunately, they had left it at that. Right now, John really wished he had added “Kidnapping: not a team sport” to the list.
Who am I to say, to the IRA, to the UDA, soldier boy from the UK…
John rubbed his face against the thin carpet and tried to work the gaffer tape from his mouth. There was no way he was going to free his wrists from the cuffs, and the moment the boot was opened he had to be able to speak; he had to be able to tell Sherlock enough now, that he wasn’t sure he wanted to do this anymore, that maybe they needed to have another discussion about what was acceptable when it came to… What was it that they were doing? He really wasn’t sure what this was. So he focused on the gaffer tape for a while, as Terry Hall sang about rebelling against the establishment, and the guitar rhythm stayed steady on the up-beat. John wondered if this strange association would ruin The Specials for him for life.
One hour ago:
“Is there a reason why you’re ignoring me?” It had been ten minutes since John had asked Sherlock why they were here, and he was still waiting on a response. “You did wake me up for this.”
Sherlock sighed and looked back at him. “I’m not ignoring you.”
After being awoken from a deep sleep at 2AM, hustled out of the flat, pushed into a taxi, and now standing for an hour in the rain across from a derelict wharf in Greenwich, John felt like he was owed an explanation for just why he’d been brought here.
“So what’s this one about, then?” John asked. “Why are you being so secretive?”
“Cold case.” Sherlock said after a while. “December 17th, 1994. Dr. Adam Bates. Pathogen Biologist at the HPA. The last time his wife saw him alive was at 9:30 that morning. Bates was scheduled to speak at a symposium the next day at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, but he never made it to Heathrow. At 3:30 that night he was caught on that CCTV camera over there,” Sherlock pointed off into the darkness at a spot that John couldn’t make out, “being grabbed by three men and shoved into the boot of a black BMW.”
John frowned. He knew Sherlock had mentioned something about this to him, but right now, working on three hours of sleep, he couldn’t remember the details. Thoughts of being inside, being in bed, actually sleeping, were at the forefront of his mind. “Haven’t we talked about this before?”
“The next morning, Dr. Bates’ body was found sixty miles north of here, in the boot of a stripped down car. He’d been tortured for a prolonged period of time before his death.”
It started as a nagging feeling in the back of John’s mind, like trying to recall the punchline of a half-remembered joke or cramming for an exam and then forgetting all of the important bits. Sherlock was staring at him expectantly now, and John knew that this, whatever this was, was all on him.
“What’s that got to do with-” John stopped, rooted to the spot as memory and sensation and context flooded back into his head. Weeks ago, half-conscious, and in the aftermath of their first sexual encounter, John had agreed that he would be up for another go. Sherlock had been vague about what it would entail, but the important part had been that the victim had been found bound and gagged in the boot of a car. “Fucking hell.”
He turned to Sherlock. “Is this it? What, right now? We’re doing this right now? Out here?”
A flash of blinding white light startled him, and a pair of high beams like twin suns cut through the darkness. John shielded his eyes, disorientated by the piercing light. A black BMW slowed to a stop before them and the engines revved down.
“Are you carrying your gun, John?”
John nodded. It was a given. Sherlock had ordered him out to investigate a case in the dead of night, of course he was carrying his side arm. He flinched as Sherlock yanked up the back of his jacket and pulled the gun from its resting place against small of his back, and his only weapon disappeared into the depths of Sherlock’s coat pocket.
John took a step back, spots of bright light danced before his eyes, making it impossible to focus. “Wait, you can’t be serious.”
“There is no way I could completely overpower you when you’re in fight or flight mode,” Sherlock said, “and I’m sure that back in 1994, the good doctor didn’t get into that boot quietly.”
Two large shadows eclipsed the light and John backed up, instinct telling him to go for his gun. Fuck. If this was going to work, he would have to keep both of them in front of him at all times. If he was flanked then he was fucked. The two men stood taller than him, broader and stronger and built like assault and battery was something that they did on a daily basis. As John’s eyes began to adjust to the light, his attackers pulled into focus. They dressed like soldiers, or skinheads more like it, with their Doc Martins and black Army jackets.
The one on John’s left had an eight-pointed star tattooed across the back of his hand, the other one bore the same star across his throat, and those details gave John something to focus on. They were a bit too clean and put together to be part of the homeless network. No, Sherlock had hired these two for their skills. John looked to Sherlock, who seemed to be nonplussed by the events unfolding around him.
“You hired backup?” John glared at Sherlock. “Seriously? You fucking hired backup for this?”
“They’re not going to hurt you, doctor.” Sherlock stood on the edge of the fray. “You just have to come with us, quietly or not. It’s up to you.”
Maybe if he had been warned that this might happen John could have been okay with this. At least he wouldn’t have been quite so outraged that Sherlock had somehow concluded that this was a sound idea.
When Sherlock had brought up the scenario of The Doctor in the Boot, John had assumed that it would involve maybe an afternoon of light role-play, and maybe he’d get tied up and stuffed in the closet for a while. He never seriously considered that he’d end up getting in a knock-down drag out with two thugs who actually wanted to shove him in the boot of a car. What the hell are you doing, Sherlock?
It would be easy, sensible even, just to do as he was told, to put his hands behind his head and get down on his knees, but he was wired to fight. He was a soldier and there was no bloody way he was going to submit without a struggle. Dr. Bates hadn’t gone quietly and fuck it, neither would he.
They attacked as one, and John put his fury on the back burner as he shifted seamlessly into the focused mindset for attack. He knew he could handle himself one on one, but the tag-team attack was swift and brutal. They didn’t move to strike him; John knew they were only looking for an opening to grab him and wrestle him to the ground, and that gave him an advantage because unlike them, he was going for blood.
With the men bearing down on him, John’s only thought was defending himself, and fuck it he was swinging to knock someone out. He swung at the star on the man’s neck, aimed for it like a target, adrenaline slowing everything down. It was the way of fights, ten brutal seconds stretched out into infinity and when you came up for air, if you weren’t on the ground, you were the winner. John growled triumphant as his blow made contact with the man’s head, but his attacker barely staggered, and he recovered just as fast.
“Oh for fuck’s-”
John turned, a second too late, and took the full weight of the other man in the chest. He slammed down hard on the wet concrete, his frustrated cry cut short, the air crushed from his lungs. He was still gasping for breath when they hauled him to his feet. John thrashed in their hold, adrenaline fuelling his struggle. Thick fingers grabbed his hair and forced his head back as his arms were twisted behind him. Cold metal locked around his wrists. Sherlock stood in front of him now and, with his head held in place, John couldn’t see what Sherlock was holding in his hands.
“Christ, Sherlock! This is-”
The rest of John’s sentence, the important ‘not okay’ part of it, was cut short as Sherlock secured a length of gaffer tape over his mouth. John’s eyes went wide and he shook his head, trying to pull away as Sherlock pressed a second strip of tape in place.
“Doctor, can you breathe?”
John screamed against the tape and lunged at Sherlock. He staggered as the men wrenched him back.
“Yes, it would seem so.” Sherlock pulled a scarf from his coat pocket. “We’re almost done, you’re doing fine.”
It’s not like you gave me a bloody choice!
John shut his eyes, cursing as Sherlock blindfolded him. He winced again, his hair caught in the tight knot and shook his head, already disorientated. He exhaled and steadied himself, trying to save his energy. Struggling was useless, there was nothing he could do right now, not with the handcuffs and the three-against-one odds. He had to wait it out, wait for an opening. He felt Sherlock’s hand against the side of his face, gentle, steady, reassuring and John wished that they were alone now, back in their flat, and that he was not being put through all of these fucking paces. Then the touch was gone.
“Put him in the boot.”