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To Kill a Mocking Detective

Chapter Text

John´s pov

*

“This case is something big, John, I mustn’t be bothered with mundane things like eating right now, don’t you understand?”

Sherlock pushed his plate aside, eyes glued to the screen of John´s computer and sharp features enlightened by its light.

“Sherlock Holmes, it has been two and a half days since you’ve eaten anything and I swear, if you don’t get this bloody sandwich inside you, I´m going to drag you to the ER with my own hands and make someone give you an infusion!”, John puffed and set the plate down in front of his friend again, “Now. Eat.”

Holding the sandwich in one hand and practically wolfing it down, Sherlock continued looking up seemingly random facts, including the percentage of people who had the blood type A negative, cigar factories in London and the expiry date of soft goat cheese.

“Now, would the great Mister Holmes be so kind and tell me about this oh-so-big case? I´m dying to learn some more about it – other than the fact it is a big one.”

And finally, after a noise of success, Sherlock turned away from the screen of the laptop to face John who was, frankly, looking like some comic relief of himself. Arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently on the ground and all wrapped up in a white woollen jumper… it was almost adorable.

“It -” Sherlock began, still chewing on his food and groaning joyfully at its taste, “well, it started a month ago with Anthony Nobles, you remember him?”

“I sure do, he looked like hell when Lestrade found him. It´s a miracle he could be identified at all.” John sat down at the kitchen table and looked at Sherlock, expecting to hear more.

“However, I had practically no clue where to look for the killer since it seemed to be some kind of trained assassin who had decided to start murdering random people. But, as you know, I´m brilliant!”

He had got up and paced around the room in excitement.

“When that girl was killed, you know, the waitress after our third victim, he made his first mistake and now catching him will be a cakewalk.”

Sherlock looked like a child who had just figured out how to ride a bike and wanted everyone to watch them showing off their skills.

“He?” John inquired, squinting at Sherlock whose rambling was apparently making perfect sense in the CD´s mind. “How would you know our killer´s a man?”

“Because I do. Additionally to the cuts we found all over that girl´s body which were clearly caused by used razor blades for shavers made for men, the angle of her stab wounds suggest a person who is about 6'3, rather uncommon amongst women.”

Suddenly, Sherlock´s phone chimed. Looking at the text message, his face faltered as though he had just remembered something incredibly important and before John could even react, Sherlock was out of the door and down the creaking stairs leading up to 221b Baker Street.

When John stepped out of the front door, he could only see a huge mass of taxis driving in different directions and looking all the same. The door behind him opened to reveal Mrs. Hudson who looked at him with eyes wide with gentle worry.

“Oh, my dear John, did you two have a little fight again? I heard someone storm down the stairs… but don’t worry too much, Sherlock will be back soon. He couldn’t stay away from you for long anyway, now could he?”

She patted his cheek lovingly and disappeared back into her flat as quickly as she had come.

A very confused John stayed behind, wondering what his genius friend was up to.
*

Monday
“No, still nothing,” Greg´s hoarse voice cuts through the bitter silence in 221b.

It has been almost three days. Three damned days since Sherlock has walked out of that door and disappeared into the velvety night. Three days without a sign or a message, not even Mycroft knows anything about the CD´s whereabouts.

When Sherlock´s brother showed up yesterday afternoon, his forehead creased and with dark circles showing under his eyes, John had known that something was really, really wrong.

At the moment, Lestrade and half the staff of Scotland Yard is working more or less enthusiastically on finding Sherlock, but nothing so far, nada, niente. It feels like Sherlock has vanished from the face of the earth and it drives John mad.

“What do you mean, `nothing`? Greg, there must be something! How is it possible you still haven´t got any clue where he is?”

He pinches the bridge of his nose and sits down in his red armchair that faces Sherlock´s black one, its emptiness only emphasizing the absence of its owner.

Sherlock always has a clue where a missing person is.

“Listen, John. We´re doing our best, believe me. And actually, I´m still convinced that, sooner or later, he will show up of his own accord. He´s always fine, don’t worry. Maybe he just needed some time off and –“

John slams the `Dismiss call` button with such force that it surprises himself it doesn’t break the phone. He is sick of this, sick and tired of all those nice, empty promises he is told by Greg, by the policemen who have stopped by yesterday after Mycroft had left, even by himself.

Nothing was fine and nothing would ever be fine again except someone fixed this mess and brought Sherlock back.

Well, since to John, Scotland Yard and even Mycroft now look like the pathetic idiots Sherlock used to call them, he might not get any helpful information from them, or anyone. He is on his own.

And sitting around crying won´t get him anywhere, so he remembers the night Sherlock went missing.

He has told the police everything he recalls about what his friend had said, everything that could be of any importance – except one tiny, little detail.

“When that girl was killed, you know, the waitress after our third victim, he made his first mistake and now catching him will be a cakewalk.”

John can still see the excited sparkle in his friend´s eye, hear the warm bass of his voice that would get all fast and bouncy when something managed to spark its owner´s interest.

And god, how he misses the sound of Sherlock´s voice startling him randomly because `Look, John, the murder used an ancient Chinese dagger, whoever they are, they certainly do have style!´.

Why didn´t he tell Lestrade about Sherlock´s new findings concerning their current case?

The truth is, John is scared. Truly, deeply afraid that Lestrade would be more interested in catching a murderer than he is in looking for the missing Consulting Detective.

It is probably an irrational fear and holding back information might get him in some serious trouble – and John knows it – but he just couldn’t bring himself to tell Greg.

For himself, though, this information might be useful now. Sherlock disappeared investigating those murders, so they might be a good place to start looking for him.

His computer is still on the table, just where Sherlock has left it. It has been switched on for about two days and since neither John nor Mrs. Hudson had thought of turning it off, the battery just gave in eventually, letting the screen fade from irksome blue into a deep black.

While John plugs the power cable into his computer, he tries to relive that fateful evening, concentrating on the odd search terms Sherlock had looked up.

A soft sound announces that his laptop has booted and successfully saved the websites Sherlock had called up that Friday night.
And so, the quest begins.
*

Two hours later and John´s head is spinning with confusion. How in the name of sanity did Sherlock connect those facts and thereby get himself in such deep trouble?

`Think`, he tells himself, `Think as if your own life depends on it. It´s right there, you only have to see it`. Suddenly, he can hear his best friend´s voice in his head.

You see, but you don´t observe.

He doesn´t have to see and think, he has to observe and connect the facts. John has to deduce like Sherlock.

One click with the computer mouse and the picture of the waitress´ bloody body is upside down – he needs a change in perspective.

Alright. Sherlock has already given him a clue when he said the killer had to be a man, probably a trained assassin.

Blood type A- is easy, too, since the victim has A+ and the drips of blood Sherlock had isolated from the victim´s blood have to be the killer´s.

The police didn´t find any cigar ash at the crime scene, let alone some cheese. Why, why would Sherlock consider them relevant to the murders?

Exhaling, John buries his face in his hands. He´s stuck. Again.

He glances at all the crumpled sheets of paper that are scattered at the desk. Maybe he should clean up sometimes. He´ll do it soon, John decides. When he has brought Sherlock home.

And then, as he takes a closer look, his heart skips a beat and continues its rhythm two times faster. There, on one piece of paper, he can read “She was going on vacation”. Five underlined, hastily scribbled words, but it´s undeniable Sherlock´s handwriting.

At last he knows where Sherlock got his clues from. The only place where someone would write down such private information is a private calendar, which means… Sherlock has been at her flat. He has found something there that has led him to the killer.

And this can lead HIM to Sherlock!

Half an hour later he is standing in front of a wooden door that is painted in a fading red, the wallpaper at both sides of the doorframe already peeling off while the galling scent of old furniture pierces the air.

This is no pleasant place to live in and an even less pleasant one to die in. With a smooth movement, his key cuts the yellow barrier tape and John enters the abandoned crime scene.

He sure hopes he is right with his assumptions, otherwise his last chance of finding Sherlock is gone.

“Goat cheese, goat cheese – where would you look for cheese?”

His question stays unanswered, so he looks in the fridge first. Nothing. Maybe it´s in a pantry? The victim doesn´t have one. In the kitchen waste perhaps? Doesn´t make sense, it could´ve landed there days before the murder.

He is on the verge of breaking something – anything – in this goddamn kitchen when he turns around and sees the living room. Oh.

He doesn´t know how he´s crossed the room, but now he is standing in front of the small, knee-high desk and his uncontrolled breath is like canons in his ears.

No, not his breath, he is laughing as the situation is just too absurd to understand and while he is still wheezing with laughter, he starts sobbing and sinks to his knees because the small package on the desk is filled with a – now mouldy – goat cheese John loves, Sherlock´s favourite cigars and the address on the top side is partly underlined:

MISS MEghan Forster, 55 Fulham Broadway, Fulham, London

John doesn´t know for how long he´s sat on cold hard floor in Meghan Forster´s flat, but when he looks outside, it´s already dark and the first few stars have begun to blink from the pavement.

His knees ache and protest as he gets up and he feels a dizzying nausea rise. He wipes the wetness from his face – when did he even start to cry? – and tries to ignore the strange feeling of his moist collar against the soft skin of his neck.

Walking down the stairs of the apartment complex gets lost in a haze of tears and thoughts which only lifts when the sharp wind outside the building hits his face.

Where are you, Sherlock? Just- just tell me where you are and I will fix all this. I´m sorry. I´m not as smart as you are, I don´t know where to look for you. Oh God, how do I find you?

And suddenly, it hits him like a brick. No, like a literal brick that hits him in the head and the world turns dark.
*

Chapter Text

John´s pov

*

The first sensation is pain. A throbbing, hot pain in his head and general pain in his whole body. It is now that John realizes he is lying on a stone-made floor that is way too cold and that his sleep-deprived body is shivering rather violently.

He sits up (Oh, the dizziness is back and it´s making him sway on the spot a little) and looks around. After his eyes have adjusted to the little light coming from an oil lamp standing in one corner, he spots a massive, ironclad door five feet in front of him and similarly massively looking concrete walls.

He hears water dripping down and creating a puddle that grows with every drop of musty liquid. But can hear something else, too. A soft sound coming from… somewhere, a sound that makes the short hair on his neck stand and sends shivers down his spine that are not caused by the cold air in this vault. He hears a whimper.

He looks around his cell and for a whole, agonizing ten seconds John is sure his imagination must be playing a trick on him – because there is nobody to be seen. It is then that he realises how faint the sounds are, probably because there is a literal iron door between him and the rest of the world.

And with this thought, John is on his feet with his face pressed to the little space in the door, squinting against the light and trying to determine where in the name of Christ he is.

He can´t see much – a narrow corridor that leads away from his cell and dusty brick walls framing it on both sides. Dirty windows reveal an even dirtier quadrangle that is lit by only a few brave rays of sunshine.

The whimpering grows closer and John bolts away from the door and into a corner as he hears footsteps approach.

Some indistinct grunting and shuffling suggest there is another, second person, struggling to get away from the first one and who is probably the source of the whimper he is hearing. A key is forced into the old, rusty lock and slowly, very slowly, the door opens.

Everything in John´s mind narrows down to this small gap, to his chance of freedom, but before his aching legs even start to react, someone gets shoved inside the cell and the door closes, simultaneously killing his opportunity to see his abductor´s face and to escape.

He feels his breathing grow faster, bracing himself against the wall with damp, shivering hands as the whole situation truly sinks in. He is captured in a bloody medieval cell with no way out except the damn locked door, he´s having a panic attack and Sherlock is in the wind and he´s here with some poor bastard who probably has no idea what is happening and… wait a minute.

John knows this tall figure, he knows those unruly dark curls, how could he not recognise them after secretly admiring their owner almost every day for more than two years?

It´s a strange picture, seeing the man who usually shows as much weakness as bulletproof glass curled up on the floor, arms wrapped around his head protectively, but Sherlock is only human. John knows this better than anyone else, maybe even better than Sherlock himself and he also knows way too good what three days of captivity and intense fear can do to a human.

That´s why he draws closer slowly and always ready to dodge a blow – Sherlock might think he is another faceless torturer whose only purpose in life seems to be hurting him.

“Sherlock? It´s just me now, I´m not going to hurt you, do you understand? It´s John, I´m here.”

He grabs his friend´s shoulder and shudders as he can feel how bony and lean Sherlock is. The CD has never been much of an enthusiastic eater, but now, he seems to be starving. Not that it surprises John, anybody would be ravenous after over five days with probably little to no food.

It hurts his heart to see how Sherlock tries to scramble away from him, oblivious to what John just said and expecting yet another way of physical or mental abuse. Finally, his movements cease – out of weariness or acceptance of his fate, John cannot tell, and he is compliant enough for John to coax the black-haired into a sitting position. He can see days of pain being stripped away as the clouded look slowly departs Sherlock´s eyes, leaving behind only recognition and exhaustion.

“John?”

“In the flesh, you moron. How did you get yourself into this mess?”

He frowns at the large gash in Sherlock´s bottom lip and the bruises on his neck and right cheek. His face is dirty and that hair could use a comb, but it´s Sherlock, undeniably so, and that´s more than John could´ve dared to ask for.

*

Chapter Text

Sherlock´s pov, Friday night, three days ago

*

He´d been so stupid. An imbecile, really.

Hiding his new discoveries concerning the case was a rather stupid move in itself, but he didn’t want to risk endangering John. Not as long as he couldn’t completely rule out the possibility the message in Forster`s flat had been sent by Moriarty.

Leaving 221b without John to follow the coordinates he had received from a suppressed number, however, was hands down the most not-thought-out action of his entire life... if one chose to ignore his drug addiction.

Not only is he out here, without John, but he has also left 221b - and thus John - unprotected from the looming threat that might be a new criminal mastermind like Moriarty.

Sherlock dodges another blow that seemingly comes out of nowhere, but he slowly realises he might not win this fight. There are at least four bulky men fighting against him on this dark and lonely dock, likely more lurking in the shadows, and he must admit they are highly skilled.

A fist hits him hard in the ribs and he doubles over, panting and struggling to breathe. Sensing his momentary weakness, one of the mask-clad men delivers a merciless blow to his temple and that’s how it dawns on Sherlock that he is indeed losing. His head is spinning and he feels his knees buckle, but the hits continue.

One, two, three, four.

Dropping to his knees and giving in is almost too easy and when the strokes and occasional kicks keep hitting him in the stomach, ribs, chest and his head, he feels almost disembodied from himself. As consciousness slowly slips away from him, he can only think about John and Mrs. Hudson, his heart twisting with concern.

*

Saturday, two days ago

Waking up is a slow process. He refuses to open his eyes since his whole body feels so, so exhausted, he might as well grant his eyes some extra rest.

He does hear something, though, an occasional drip of water disturbing the quiet peace of his mind – he´ll have to ask John to fix the tap properly this time.

When he tries to pull his blanket up around his shoulders, Sherlock is mildly surprised to feel his wrists so tangled in his… sheets… that he cannot reach down no matter how hard he tries.

But sleep´s blissful arms reach for him once more and he surrenders to them without opening his eyes once.

When he wakes up for the second time, he is bathed in the golden light of the morning sun and feels actually awake enough to get up.

Within seconds after opening his eyes, however, Sherlock knows getting up will be a lot more difficult than initially thought; mainly due to the leather braces wrapped tightly around his wrists and ankles that are tying him to a rusty metal bed frame.

Well, this is unfortunate.

He lifts his head to look around the room and groans at the black spots that flood his vision. Gradually, all the little aches in his body seem to awaken as well – sorry, not the little aches, they´re rather overwhelming, actually.

The dull pressure of bruises on his stomach is bad, but not as bad as the piercing pain in his ribcage. Two, maybe three broken ribs. Is his lung punctured, too? No, not likely, he can breathe just fine.

His legs and arms don´t feel fractured, luckily, but he can´t quite make a statement about his wrists or hands as they are numb from the strange angle his arms are positioned in. He also remembers how he got here, now – the dock, the fight and then darkness.

His current state is not the best, but it could be worse, right? It has been worse – he has been on the brink of death at times, with poison coursing through his veins, poison that he had injected himself deliberately, at least he´s not actively dying this time.

But dying back then would have been all right. If he had, well, kicked the bucket, nobody would have missed him.

Now he is entangled in all kinds of relationships. He cares about Molly and he knows she cares about him. If he dies here and now, she might have to perform an autopsy on his body. He thinks of Lestrade as his friend and would rather not have him find his corpse in a dark alleyway. Mrs. Hudson, she would be truly devastated by him shuffling off this mortal coil, oh yes.

And then there´s John.

His John. Sherlock isn´t sure if he is entitled to call John “his”, but it comes to him naturally.

It´s not a big deal, either - from the moment they met John had been his and he had been John´s, simple as that.

The relationship they share is difficult to describe and probably impossible to understand for outsiders.They are friends, best friends, of course, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

They aren´t lovers, at least not in the strict sense of the world. Sherlock does love John, always has, but they don´t have any kind of a sexual or even romantic bond. What they do have is the possibility to become lovers.

It is obvious in every invasion of each other´s personal space, when they stand so close Sherlock can feel the warmth of John´s breath grace over his skin. It is obvious in those casual, but lingering touches, in the shared laughter after the rush of a case is over and in the way John looks at him when he thinks Sherlock doesn´t notice. It is obvious, painfully obvious.

So, why aren´t they lovers? Well… at first, Sherlock had told himself that the possible gains of a relationship couldn´t ever stand in any proportion to all the risks and difficulties that came with having a significant other – the inevitable fights, the clinginess, breakups and whatnot.

But this was John and he knew John wouldn´t leave. They would fight sometimes, but he had fought with John before and he didn´t leave.

John wouldn´t suddenly try to change Sherlock or become clingy, that wasn´t like him. The real problem was not how easily some criminal could kidnap and use one of them as leverage against the other, either. If somebody were stupid enough to abduct John, Sherlock would move heaven and hell to get him back, lovers or not.

No, the only obstacle was Sherlock himself. Shying away from the opportunity, silently building a wall between him and John when he felt the pull of John´s orbit grow too strong. He is deeply, truly scared John might not want him.

Sherlock prides himself on his skills of deduction, on how he can read a person´s life story from their left thumb in the blink of an eye, but he cannot deduce a single thing that is going on in John Watson´s mind - at least as far as their relationship is concerned.

So he waits. For courage to ask John that one question that will – hopefully – tear down every wall and destroy all boundaries keeping them apart, but mostly he is waiting for John to lift that burden from Sherlock´s shoulders and just tell him if he wants to… be with him. Preferably in Sherlock´s bed.

God, Sherlock isn´t good at dealing with emotions.

Their relationship is probably described best as a symbiosis both parties profit from. Maybe he profits a little bit more from John being in his life than the other way round, but if you asked John, he would surely deny that.

He can´t just sit here and die on John. He can´t do that to him, not again, not if it means John has to suffer and mourn him and cry about him all over again. Sherlock won´t let that happen. So what he has to do is to find a way out while not getting himself killed. Obvious.

He can´t get rid of these shackles, at least not right now, but he can still find out as much about his abductors as possible.

When he looks around the room again, he isn´t looking, he is observing. Solid door, solid metal frame bed, a lonely curtain rail hanging above him – a hospital, then, a mental asylum. You wouldn´t find the bed stand screw-fastened to the wall in a regular hospital. It´s been abandoned for at least 25 years, judging from the pile of dust and debris on the floor as well as the frankly antiquated design of the bed and – are those oriel windows? Yes, they are. Typical 19th century Queen Anne style. This narrows the construction time of his involuntary residence down by a great deal and when he sees the traces of fire and smoke clinging to the walls – Cane Hill Asylum!

Knowing where he´s being imprisoned is one thing, but knowing what makes his kidnappers tic is even more important when it comes to planning his escape. Finding out about their every habit, every thought will be crucial to his survival.

It´s clear that it wasn´t Moriarty who abducted him, the consulting criminal died on that rooftop, Sherlock saw the bullet rip through his head, there is no way Moriarty could have survived.

What is more, this isn´t Moriarty´s style. He is – no, was – a criminal mastermind, it was all about the little psycho games; fighting Moriarty was cold, logical chess.

This is a matter of emotions. Having him beaten up and tied to a bed? Sherlock recognises a crime of passion when he sees it.

All this, the “Miss Me” in the victim´s flat where it´s bound to be found by the police, his abductors choosing specifically him, not one of his friends, it´s an act of revenge on him, Sherlock. Revenge for the death of Jim Moriarty.

The door to his room opens.

Chapter Text

*

 Deduction number one: His abductor´s henchmen who are currently checking his shackles while remaining blissfully silent – even though Sherlock doubts it is to spare his aching head – are Persian.

While communicating via British Sign Language is a moderately intelligent idea indeed, it does nothing to trick Sherlock, and connecting the dots between the crumbs on the left-handed one´s jacket and their conversation about the “nān-e panjerāʾī” they should´ve brought from Teheran since you couldn´t possibly expect someone to eat English biscuits, well, that was fairly easy.

The muscles beneath those expensive-looking suits are moving with the lithe determination and calm strength of someone who hasn´t mastered one, but multiple forms of martial arts.

A bit not good, like John would put it.

 

Deduction number two: The fourth man leaning against the doorframe is a hunter. The lining of his coat is some sort of fur – tiger, maybe?

It´s difficult to tell, the man is standing in the shadows with his face and shoulders untouched by the few rays of sun that have made their way into the room. His spine is straight, legs parallel and his arms are skilfully folded behind his back – much like John when he subconsciously falls back into his military patterns, but not like him at all again.

Every time the soldier in John takes over, his whole body radiates an aura of “safety, yes, good” and “need to be as close as possible”. Now, however, chills are running down Sherlock's spine.

This man is a snake, everything about him screams danger, danger, danger. He´s been waiting for a long time with the patience of a deadly predator, ready to strike and now he has got Sherlock exactly where he wants him to be.

Or does he? Maybe, just maybe he might be underestimating Sherlock´s skills and is unaware of him finding this last, most interesting clue.

 

Deduction number three: This man has been, or better, still is, a great admirer of Jim Moriarty.

It´s written all over him, as plain as day: a well-cared for Vivienne Westwood suit beneath his slightly worn coat, his forced composure in the face of the man whose very existence led to the end of Moriarty´s and a deep voice joyously humming J. S. Bach´s violin concerto in e major, joyous at the sight of having Sherlock Holmes himself tied to a hospital bed with no chance of escaping soon.

Then, the man takes a deliberately slow step forward and Sherlock has to revoke parts of this last deduction.

The man is not some admirer of Jim Moriarty, he has been in love with him. Loyal, passionate, unrequited love has etched its lines of grieve into his face for the last two years and now that he has waited for so long, there will be no holding back for this man, this snake, this assassin with Persian confidants.

“Conclusion”, Sherlock says, his words like gunshots in the quiet room, “You are Sebastian Moran.”

*

“Mr. Holmes, what an honour to finally talk to you in person. I’ve known you for some time now – as I'm sure you are aware of” Moran inches closer to the bed and, with a sickeningly smug expression, inspects his prey lying on it. “I am certain you already know the reason for your stay in this... institution, so let us not waste any more time on talking when there are so many fun activities waiting just for you!”

One curt nod and one of the men leaves, only to return shortly after, carrying a long rope, a water hose and a big vat.

The men untie Sherlock only to re-tie his hands using the rope they´ve slung over the curtain rail to keep him upright. The bed is moved into a corner so he won´t be able to use it in any attempt of freeing himself.

Moran walks around him and gives the rope a tug that makes Sherlock stand on tiptoes. Then he takes a seat on the now empty bed and thinly smiles at his accomplices. “Gentlemen, he´s all yours. Entertain me.”

Sherlock doesn´t even have time to brace himself for the impact before brass knuckles collide with his stomach.

*

Sunday, one day ago

 Down.

He can´t breathe, water surrounds him and his lungs are screaming.

Up.

 Struggling for air, only to be forced underwater again by an unforgiving hand in his hair.

Down.

He tries to push away the man´s arm, claws and shoves him, but it´s no use. His grip is like steel, keeping Sherlock´s head submerged even as his efforts cease and black spots fill his vision.

Up.

He manages to draw in a shaky breath, looks at the computer set on the chair standing next to the vat.

Down.

*

Sherlock can´t take it anymore. He´s been kneeling before this vat, has been waterboarded for about 20 minutes, but that´s not the worst thing.

Yesterday wasn´t all that bad – they punched him in his already broken ribs and they did dislocate his left shoulder for fun, yes, but he had been able to reset it and he managed to kick one of the men in the kneecap. He didn´t like it, but Sherlock figures seeing the pained look on that otherwise stone-still face was worth the punch to the throat.

No, it´s not so much the physical torture as having to watch John curled up in his armchair, clutching Sherlock´s dressing gown to his chest that hurts the CD´s heart.

He´s been unaware of any cameras being installed during the time before his abduction, so it´s likely Moran has sent his henchmen to hide one in 221B sometime after he had left Baker Street in a hurry on Friday night.

It´s a live webcast, John´s shoulders are trembling as another violent sob rips through him and – don´t cry, don´t cry John, I´ll come back, I promise.

Finally, one man (he is called Feroze, Sherlock caught his name yesterday evening) ties him up again, pulling him up high so his feet leave the ground completely. A bolt of white hot pain shoots through Sherlock´s shoulder, but not a word of complaint comes out of his mouth.

He is so tired.

Sherlock knows Moran will visit him once more, knows it without hearing the footsteps approach or seeing the door open. Moran is already standing in the room anyway.

Who could have known that eating almost nothing for four days would actually slow him down? John would´ve known, of course. But luckily, John isn´t here or Moran could hurt him, too. For once in his life, Sherlock is thankful for the webcast – because it shows him that John is safe. Not happy, but at least safe.

“So, have we been enjoying ourselves, Sherlock? How does is feel like being at somebody´s mercy?” Moran stalks around the room and draws a deep, relaxed breath. “Did you know people smell differently when they are afraid?”

“Of course I do. It´s all about the pheromones.”

Moran turns his head to face him. “You, my friend, are practically stinking all over the place ever since we showed you that big brother is watching your darling assistant John. So, I´ve been thinking-”

“You shouldn´t do that. Might ruin what little brain you have got left.”

If he has managed to get on Moran´s nerves, the other man doesn´t show it. He comes to a halt right in front of Sherlock and reaches into his pockets.

“I have been thinking that John will leave your flat and come looking for you soon! Isn´t that good news? He´ll fall right into the trap, just like you did – only that this time, you will be the bait.”

By now, Moran is standing uncomfortably close to Sherlock. He can smell the expensive wine in his breath, see the little wrinkles around his smiling mouth, feel the heat radiating from the assassin´s body.

God, Sherlock is freezing. His soaking wet shirt is clinging to his too-thin body and he shivers. He´s not entirely sure if he´d have the willpower to push Moran away if the other man suddenly decided to embrace Sherlock, that´s how much he is longing for human touch and warmth.

This is sort of John´s fault, Sherlock figures. He´s got so used to those little touches – John´s fingers brushing his while his flatmate passes him a cup of tea, John´s leg softly nudging him aside so they´ll both fit on the sofa, John´s hand in his while they run away from the police. Sherlock misses being touched by John.

He, a self-proclaimed sociopath with a severe aversion to people, is touch-starved. Ironic, isn´t it?

Luckily, he won´t have to choose between cuddling and kicking Moran (how on earth would that even work, hm? He knows far too well he couldn´t really lift a finger to defend himself).

His captor pulls back, straightens his spine and continues talking, giving Sherlock the opportunity to distract himself from the cold and the loneliness.

"Luring you into following my clues was so easy... the razor blades that Jim had used for shaving, the little hints that it could have been him, it's like you WANTED him to come back! You always want things to be clever, Sherlock, that's your problem. The idea of Moriarty coming back was the ultimate temptation because you'd rather believe he outsmarted you and faked his death than imagine somebody could've laid out those signs for you to find and to lead you to that dock. Trying to be clever brought you here, bravo! Applause for the great Sherlock Holmes!"

Moran's smile turns wicked, distorting his features into a malevolent mask. “What do you think, will John appreciate the gift I've got for him?"

His hand that has been buried in his pocket for the better time of their conversation re-emerges and with it a shiny, thin object.

"Medical scalpel, just the right choice for Dr. Watson. The razor blades were the breadcrumbs to lead you here, but personally, I prefer devices with more... grip."

Sherlock hasn't said a word since Moran has entered the room, but now his jaw is clenched and hatred for the other man is burning brightly in his eyes.

"You won't get to him. Mycroft is watching every street and every backyard, it's impossible to abduct somebody without him noticing, don't be delusional."

"But oh, I managed to snatch you from the streets right under your brother's nose, remember? It was rather easy, actually. You only need one or two confidants who deactivate a security camera for twenty, thirty seconds and my men could grab John right from the pavement without ever appearing on a monitor.”

Moran reaches out and grabs the collar of Sherlock´s dress shirt. “The game will only really begin when he´s here… and on the bright side, you won´t have to worry about my little toys anymore. Making you watch me play with Dr. Watson will be so much more fun!”

One sharp tug and the buttons of his shirt fall to the ground with a clatter. Sharp, cold air hits Sherlock´s chest and he shudders as Moran gets closer once again and grabs hold of his neck.

The scalpel is positioned just below his left clavicle and Sherlock feels his skin being broken when Moran presses down.

“I´ve already got so many plans for us three, and John Watson is your perfect pressure point, Sherlock!”

One cut.

“But you know, the best feeling will be watching you being utterly unable to help a loved one who is suffering – oh, don´t look so surprised. Everybody can see you´re in love with him, everybody but John himself. You know, he loves you, too, but he won´t tell you because you managed to push him away from you. When you took the fall, Jim died and so did your chance of having John in the way you want. You broke his heart and you failed him, Sherlock. You are a failure!”

Two cuts, forming an “O”.

“And it will be my pleasure to push him over the edge. I will break him and then I will kill him, slowly, painfully and I will make you watch. I will make you live through all the horrors I went through and you´ll feel the pain you inflicted on me!”

Another cut, shaped like an upside down arc.

Sherlock´s skin is burning as it weeps blood that mixes with the droplets of water on his torso and trickles down his body, seeping into his waistband.

The letters carved into him read “IOU” and when Moran pulls his ear against his mouth, he can only whimper.

“John Watson will die and I want you to remember that it will be your fault and your fault alone. Soon, Sherlock. Soon ´John Watson´ will be a name on a gravestone.”

Gritting his teeth, Sherlock draws back to look into Moran´s eyes. “It won´t bring Moriarty back. You can do to us whatever you want, he will stay dead and you can´t do anything to change that.”

Maybe pointing out Moriarty´s death was a bad idea, Sherlock muses, considering the fact that the scalpel has now also left a rather deep gash across his left forearm. But he starts feeling kind of fuzzy and when his knees buckle and his head sinks to his chest, he can´t muster up the strength to stay awake.

*

Chapter Text

Monday morning, 12 hours ago

He is lying on the hard concrete. His head is hurting. His stomach is begging for food. His arm has been bandaged – he doesn´t exactly recall when, but at least he is no longer bleeding out.

If he could, he would get up and try to escape. But that would include having to stand up, not to pass out, to walk to the door, to find something to pick the lock with, to pick the lock, to be successful in picking the lock and to knock out Moran´s henchmen and exhaustion hits Sherlock by just thinking about the effort he´d have to make.

Also, he is chained to the bed frame.

Moran didn´t let him sleep in the pathetic excuse of a bed last night and the results are a painfully stiff neck and a persistent coldness that is curled up in his very bones and makes him shiver.

Someone has packed away the computer and thus the webcast showing 221b, so there is nothing to keep Sherlock awake.

His sleep-deprived and concussed body drifts in and out of consciousness and he loses track of time until all sunlight has left his prison and he can open his eyes without feeling like his head is going to burst.

Shortly after he has forced himself into a sitting position, Moran´s men enter the room.

One is holding a black bag that could fit over Sherlock´s head with ease, the other two are carrying – oh no. He has gone his whole life without being beaten up with a baseball bat and the universe decides that NOW would be the adequate time to introduce him to that experience?

Brilliant.  

The man with the bag approaches him and Sherlock´s vision is engulfed by black cotton, but not before he notices the ring the man wears on a chain around his neck.

Engraved gold, a wedding ring, then. It´s way too small to be this man´s ring, so it belongs to his wife. Ex-wife? No, one wouldn´t keep an object of sentimental value after a divorce, especially not the partner´s wedding ring.

“What would your deceased wife think if she saw you? Watching the three of you beat up one famished man… you believe she´d be proud?”

The bat collides with his side and the air rushes out of his body. Then, a fist hits him in the chin and he is coerced to the ground by a merciless hand wrapped around his throat.

“One more word, Holmes, and I will ensure you won´t be able to walk to the place we´re headed to”, the man snarls into Sherlock´s ear before pulling the CD up on his feet and regaining his stoic façade.

“I will take it from here”, he tells the others when Sherlock is securely handcuffed.

Their footsteps fade away as they leave the room. Suddenly, he is yanked around and his head hits a wall with a sickening smack. Not falling is difficult, especially considering his condition and that he can´t see his surroundings, but he opts for clinging to the wall and concentrating on what he can hear.

Speaking of which, he can hear the man´s breath as well as the now barely suppressed fury in his voice.

“September 2013. Tabriz. You grassed on Moriarty´s men hiding there and the police stormed our lair.”

“I wasn´t with them. By the time the police had figured out where you were hiding, I had left the country. I was not involved in anything they did.”

There is a strange edge to the man´s words, one that tells Sherlock to be considerate, careful even. But the Iranian continues to speak before Sherlock can think of anything to say.

“Nobody could have found us if you hadn´t given them a number of clues! You weren´t involved, you say? Everything would have been fine if it weren´t for you, Holmes, everything! They would still be alive!” 

“I am sor-“ The hand around his neck is back, pinning him against the wall.

“Don´t you say you are sorry. You would have done it again, so don´t you dare apologise! Shall I tell you what they did, your friends from the police?”

The hand holding Sherlock in place doesn´t move an inch as the man slides his other hand down Sherlock´s side, causing bile to rise in the back of the detective´s throat. That´s not John, only John should be allowed to do this, no, not good, absolutely not good.

He can´t concentrate on anything but the man´s hand touching him and his unforgiving voice in Sherlock´s ear: “They didn´t only kill the men and the boys. They killed the women, too. But not before they hadn´t had some fun with them.”

The hand comes to a halt right on Sherlock´s crotch, pressing down and making him whimper in fear, regret and unwanted arousal alike.

“My wife was raped right in front of me, only because you told the police where to find us. The policemen killed her and my son and almost everyone else. The only reason I could escape was Moran. He rescued me so I could take revenge on you. And that´s what I´m going to do, Sherlock. Revenge them.”

Sherlock´s head is spinning with possible answers and ways to talk himself out of his compromising position, but in the end, only one word manages to leave his chapped lips; one word used so seldom that it seems like a struggle for his vocal chords to form its sound.

“Please.”

There is a burning sensation behind his eyes that he can´t get rid of and the syllables are thick and cumbrous in his throat as Sherlock Holmes, the great detective, pleads for the first time. And it is not Irene Adler, but an Iranian man with calloused hands and hot breath who eventually makes Sherlock beg for mercy twice.

*

After what feels like eons, the man pulls away – oh God finally finally finally – and even though he has crowded Sherlock´s personal space and touched him rather inappropriately, even though technically, Sherlock knows he should feel violated…he doesn´t.

Well, he does feel miserable. He feels like throwing up, actually.

But he deserves to feel like that, he deserves so much worse, he deserves to suffer and pay for his sins and for the pain he´s brought over those innocent children.

They were children, what have I done, what have I done?

By attempting to free the world from the evilness of Moriarty´s web, he has managed to become a villain himself. In the end, he has no right to condemn Jim Moriarty – because he is just as bad and morally ambiguous as the consulting criminal.

He deserves to hurt.

But he doesn´t know if he can tolerate this level of hurt much longer and as the man drags him out of his room and down a corridor, he is terrified of what is awaiting him. So he fights.

He struggles against the man´s grip with the last bit of energy left in his body, slams his heels into the ground and tries to wriggle out of his captor's arms.

But with his hands bound behind his back and in his already weak state, it´s no use. He wouldn´t have lived as long as he has, however, if he had always given up when the situation seemed hopeless. As they continue his forced migration from the room he woke up in to god-knows where, he twists and turns to head-butt the guy and kicks him in his shins. Cor, how long can a corridor be?

He tastes metal when the man slams him into a wall unexpectedly and his teeth bite down on his bottom lip.

Momentarily dazed from the impact, he slides down to the ground, panting and head spinning.

Don´t black out now, Sherlock; lose consciousness now and you might wake up to that guy´s hands on you again or with a kidney missing or…

“Shuddup My´oft” he manages to scold the voice in his head before he is hauled upright again.

In the few seconds between Sherlock making the acquaintance of the wall and now, the man has opened a heavy metal door which reveals a room similar to the one he´s been held captive in for the past few days.

Without any hesitation, the man shoves him inside, chuckling softly why is he chuckling, what is going to happen, oh god please make it all stopand locks the door as quickly as he had opened it.

He feels the presence of the other person in this room before he sees or hears them moving towards him and a whimper leaps from his lips.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. You might as well put a neon sign on your forehead, saying ´Hello, I am weak and broken, please do feel free to injure me further´!

Mycroft is right, of course, but Sherlock´s mind isn´t exactly working rationally at the moment.

It´s more an instinctive act than a conscious decision that he pulls his knees up to his chest, trying to protect his stomach and, as good as possible, shields his head from the kicks that are to be expected.

The white noise in his head and the ragged breathing in his ears – his ragged breathing – are consuming almost everything around him; the person is talking, but he can´t understand a word, Sherlock listen, everything is too loud and too much Brother dear, listen!  and now there is a hand on his shoulder, he must get away somehow Listen! and for god´s sake, he is listening, what does Mycroft want this time?

Don´t listen to me Sherlock, listen to him!

Oh.

Oh no.

The words he just heard are all over his mindpalace in some sort of cruel instant re-play – “Sherlock? It´s just me now, I´m not going to hurt you, do you understand? It´s John, I´m here.” – and when the smell of home and safewarmyes envelops him, he knows.

“John?”

Maybe it´s not him, maybe Sherlock´s mind is playing a trick on him, please let John be anywhere but here. But the universe is having none of it today.

“In the flesh, you moron. How did you get yourself into this mess?”

He collapses right into John´s arms.

Chapter Text

John´s pov, Monday night

“I´m sorry for not finding you earlier”, he croons, gingerly stroking the mop of black locks that is sprawled out over his lap. “I´m sorry for not being there for you, with you… gosh Sherlock, I am so sorry.”

John draws in a somewhat shaky breath and reminds himself to keep it together. There´s no time for getting all emotional and weepy now, he has got a dehydrated, malnourished human being to care for.

After the initial shock of Sherlock dropping into his arms like a limp rag, his “doctor-slash-flatmate-slash-best friend instincts” have kicked in, resulting in John gently cradling the detective´s head in his hands (completely platonically, of course, the slightly elevated position will help Sherlock breathe) and whispering to him non-stop, letting Sherlock know he is not alone anymore.

  His fingers that are threading through his friend´s hear are shaking because it´s cold. Yes. Absolutely not because of all the adrenalin coursing through his veins… or the ridiculous amount of relief he felt upon seeing Sherlock alive, his pulse going steady beneath John´s fingertips.

And then, as Sherlock finally finds his way back to the land of the living, it is solely for medical reasons (stabilisation of the patient´s neck and head) that John keeps his right hand practically glued to Sherlock´s cheek.

“Are you all right?”

“You can´t be serious. You are the one who just keeled over and you have the audacity to ask ME if I´M all right? Only so you know, I have been worried sick for the last days because Mister Holmes decided to dash away to the land of has-never-been-seen-again…”

“That was hardly my own decision, John.”

“DO I LOOK LIKE I CARE?”

He didn´t mean to raise his voice. He didn´t mean to shout at Sherlock. Apparently, his brain thought that between the two options “kiss that man” and “yell at him”, the latter would be less nerve-wracking, at least for John.

That is, until he sees the way Sherlock flinches and shies away from his hand.

“John, I´m sorry… I didn´t mean for you to see me like this”, Sherlock doesn´t look at John, his whole body has gone rigid and there is a barely-there quiver in the firm line of his mouth.

“No, no, I am sorry. I shouldn´t have gone through the roof like that, it´s just… Sherlock, you look miserable. Let me try again, please? I´ll take care of you, come on.”

He slowly coaxes his friend in a sitting position, taking in all the little winces that escape Sherlock on the way. Eventually, he helps Sherlock lean against the wall and sits back on his heels.

Damage control is the order of the day.

Now that he is more or less crouching in front of Sherlock, he can truly see how very thin he is, how violently the shivers rip through his body – no wonder since Sherlock´s dress shirt is damp and ripped open and…

“Sherlock, what is this on your chest?” He squints and extends a hand to pull away the sad remains of the once crisp and clean shirt, but Sherlock´s cold fingers around his wrist stop him.

“You don´t want to… I shouldn´t have…” Sherlock´s mumbling grows quiet until John can barely understand him. “Please don´t touch them. It hurts.”

“Okay. I´ll be careful and we´ll go slow. Just tell me if anything hurts.” Placing two fingers under Sherlock´s chin, John directs his friend´s gaze upwards and gives him a reassuring smile. The desperate emptiness in Sherlock´s eyes almost breaks his heart.

Dropping his hand to the collar of Sherlock´s shirt, he carefully grips the fabric and pulls it away from the detective´s freezing, dank skin.

He doesn´t know what he has been expecting. Bruises, probably. Some grazes or maybe even a minor stab wound, yes. But not this, never this.

IOU

Letters. Literal letters. Carved into Sherlock´s soft skin, with dried blood smeared onto his chest. John jumps to his feet at the speed of light and lunges out at the metal door.

“YOU SICK FUCKERS! IF YOU EVER TOUCH HIM AGAIN I WILL BLOODY BREAK YOUR SPINES! YOU HEAR ME? LEAVE HIM ALO-“

His shouts come to an abrupt end when he hears Sherlock whimper, the sound incredibly loud in John´s ears.

“Don´t. It is a waste of time. They won´t answer you anyway.”

He kneels back down beside Sherlock and cups the nape of his friend´s neck.

“Yeah, you´re probably right. My point still stands, though, I´ll shatter their kneecaps if anyone only tries to as much as lay a finger on you. Do you think I can take off your shirt? You´ll only get chilled through even more if you keep wearing it.”

The only response he gets is a tiny nod and a gentle sway of Sherlock´s body that moves him forward and off the wall.

Keeping his touches as light and professional as possible, he tenderly peels the shirt off Sherlock´s skin and helps him slip his arms out of the sleeves.

“There you go, very good. You´re doing amazing... careful there, no rush. Lean back against the wall for a second if you want to, okay?” He keeps his voice comforting and soft yet certain of what he´s doing. He needs to take care of Sherlock, now more than ever.

Without sparing the wet heap of fabric in his hands another thought, he tosses it into a corner and returns his full concentration to the shivering man in front of him.

There are no blankets in this room, nothing to wrap his friend up in, but John Watson is a man of striking abilities to improvise and who therefore found himself unintentionally prepared for the most bizarre situation more often than not.

Wearing a button-down shirt and a jumper does pay off, after all.

He quickly tugs the jumper over his head and holds the woollen garment out for Sherlock to put it on. It´s a little dirty, a little short on Sherlock´s arms and, presumably, a little smelly, too, although Sherlock doesn´t seem to mind, but silently buries his nose in the fabric of the “knitted monstrosity” he likes to playfully laugh at when John is the one wearing it.

Apparently, it only takes a few days of torture and John´s jumper to shut Sherlock Holmes up. Good to know.

He smirks, but when Sherlock raises his hand to adjust the collar of the jumper, John´s face goes blank.

“What happened to your wrists?” There is a dark tone tinting his voice, but he manages to stay calm as not to scare Sherlock.

“Oh, that? It´s nothing, I believe the shackles might have scraped up my wrists a bit, but it doesn´t hurt much.”

“Let me see?” The soft question is as much a request as it is an order and Sherlock complies in an instant, resting his outstretched arms on his knees while watching John´s every movement. They spend a minute or two in comfortable silence during which John inspects Sherlock´s hands, all gentle touches and caring eyes, stroking his knuckles in a soothing pattern and taking in every inch of affected skin.   

It´s only after Sherlock yawns and shivers (probably from being awake for way too long, the poor bloke) that John releases his hands and takes a determined breath.

“All right, the injuries are entirely superficial, meaning your hands should be fine as long as you don´t plan on rolling around in the dirt outside. Now, how about we make ourselves comfortable, hm?”

He wanders across the room to fetch a thin mattress leaning against the wall and just… keeps talking. John finds it comforting to fill the silence and Sherlock doesn´t seem to mind his babbling or he would´ve stopped him by now. Oh, how John wishes Sherlock would silence him with his hundred-words-a-minute mouth going off about a case or his own brilliance.

Sherlock is silent.

Finding Sherlock´s armpit with his hands, he guides his friend onto the mattress and gently urges him to lie down. He doesn´t miss the wince that escapes Sherlock´s lips, but once he is settled down, his face relaxes just a bit and exhaustion takes over his features.

“Sleep, Sherlock. I´m right here if you need anything. You´re safe now.”

Sherlock is out cold in a matter of minutes, face squished up against the mattress, hair tangled and greasy, clothes dirty and the man himself looking like the most beautiful creature John had ever laid his eyes on.

His breath mingles with Sherlock´s, two hearts beating steady in the quiet loneliness of their prison, reassuringly alive and here, here, here.

As he cards his fingers through Sherlock´s hair and memorises the curves and angles of his face as if seeing them for the first time, he feels… hope. After days of gruesome uncertainty, Sherlock is back by his side, right where he belongs. He won´t let Sherlock get taken from him again.

If necessary, he will fight to his last breath to keep Sherlock safe and sound.

Chapter Text

John doesn´t realise he´s dozed off until something startles him from this sorry excuse for sleep. Quick glance to oversee his surroundings: he is still in that awful room, but at least the door is securely shut, creating a barrier between the horrors that wait behind the metal and him and…

Sherlock.

 So that´s what woke him up.

The detective isn´t dramatically trashing around on the mattress, nor is he screaming or sobbing. Oh, the signs of Sherlock´s night terrors are and always have been so much more subtle.

The first time John had walked in on Sherlock having a bad dream had been long after his fall, after Mary, after John trying to push Sherlock away. His memory of that day is still clear and sharp as a blade and sometimes, when the deductions are too harsh, when the mask Sherlock wears looks more inhuman than ever, John likes to remember that night and the fact that Sherlock, too, is only a man.

He might be able to hide behind the façade of his brilliance, but at night he is just as scared of the world as anyone else.

John had been up late with organising patient files on his computer, something that had been long overdue since he never really got to working when he was out on cases with Sherlock and the last few weeks had been packed with cases.

To put things into perspective: they had been so busy that Sherlock, who had practically worked non-stop, had slumped onto his bed and fallen asleep within ten minutes of them returning from the last crime scene.

That had been a whole five hours ago and the last time John checked on him before climbing up the stairs to his room to try and bring some order to the chaos on his hard drive, Sherlock had shown no signs of planning to wake up any time soon.

It had been well past midnight when John finally felt content with his work, switched off his computer and tiptoed downstairs for a final cuppa before he would hit the hay.

Kettle. Water. Stove. Wait. Pour. Tea bag. Stir. Wait. Drink.

A tidal wave of exhaustion had rolled over John, tugging at his tired mind the way the steaming tea tugged at his olfaction, enticing him with images of his cosy bed.

Except…

He wanted to check up on Sherlock one last time. The last few weeks had taken their toll on the two of them and as John shuffled to Sherlock´s room, he considered putting his foot down for a few days of sleeping in and recharging their batteries.

The wood of the door had been warm under his palm. Sherlock never closed his door entirely, a habit John had never understood until the day he had pulled the door shut while Sherlock was asleep, resulting in Sherlock bumping into his night stand, closet and the door as well as knocking over several piles of books and experiments that had been lying around on the floor. It had been a mess.

A major advantage of the door to his friend´s room always standing ajar was that John could simply poke his head inside without risking Sherlock waking up because the door squeaked.

Everything had seemed peaceful that night – Sherlock had still been fast asleep as John crept closer to the detective´s bedside and looked down on his exhausted friend.

Everything… except Sherlock´s rapid, shallow breathing. John had squinted against the darkness and had pressed a hand against Sherlock´s brow, suspecting a fever or some kind of illness caused by those stressful last weeks.

Sherlock, however, had swatted away John´s hand, stirred in his sleep and mumbled something unintelligible which wouldn´t have worried John the way it did if it hadn´t been for the tears clinging to Sherlock´s long lashes and his forehead creasing as if in pain.

He had woken Sherlock up with some soft words and a hand on his shoulder and after the detective´s eyes had regained their focus and had found John´s, his frantic breaths had calmed down and he had fallen back asleep.

They had never spoken about that night and even though John checked on Sherlock more regularly from then on and woke him up from several nightmares, neither of them mentioned it in the mornings.

But even though John did not bring the topic up, he never failed to notice the way his presence was able to calm Sherlock down. Once, a particularly nasty night terror had abruptly roused Sherlock while John had been asleep and in the morning, John had woken up to the sight of his friend next to him, passed out on top of the duvet and snoring just a little bit.

 Calm Sherlock down.

“Sherlock. Sherlock, you´re only having a bad dream, it´s going to be all right. Come back to me, please… can you do that? I know you can, just open your eyes, darli-“

Bad idea, Watson, he scolds himself, can´t have Sherlock know about your silly little crush because you call him by a pet name. On accident.

Sherlock is trembling beneath his hands, muscles taut and jaw clenched. So this is one of the bad, bad dreams. Shit, of course it is, considering the events of the last few days.

John pulls his friend close to his chest, rhythmically carding his fingers through sweaty hair and trying to break the hold the nightmare has got on Sherlock´s mind. He feels the warmth of Sherlock´s breath against his neck as the detective whimpers, almost impossibly quiet and filled with so much dread and terror that John´s heart clenches.

 Suddenly, Sherlock jerks in his arms and scrambles out of his hold with a sound like a wounded animal and blue eyes ablaze with a multitude of emotions.

“You won´t touch John, I won´t let you!”

Disorientation is common amongst people who suffer from night terrors, especially in those few seconds right after waking up, so John simply sits there on the tattered mattress and waits for Sherlock to realise neither of them is in immediate mortal danger.

When he does, it´s almost like a literal weight is being lifted from the black-haired man´s shoulders – his spine straightens gradually until he kneels in front of John instead of cowering against the mattress, his fists unclench and his ragged breaths even out.

What definitely is not common, at least not for Sherlock, is the way he grabs John and pulls him into a tight embrace.

Not that John would even think of complaining about the forehead that is pressed to his or about the hand that roams his back and neck like Sherlock needs proof that John is there, but it´s only so often that Sherlock initiates human contact himself and a great part of these few times involved near-death experiences for one of them.

Now… might not be different, after all, he could have been dying in Sherlock´s dream.

But it sure as hell feels very much different, being wrapped up in Sherlock´s arms like there is no tomorrow, but not because Sherlock went in for a hug in the heat of the moment, no.

There´s something different in Sherlock´s eyes, a strange determination as if he just made a decision.

He traces the sharp curve of Sherlock´s right cheekbone with his fingertips.

“What are we doing?”

“I´m not quite sure how to… say this, John. I am bad at this kind of conversation, but, I figured, if I died today, I would regret not having done… this. You´re a better person than I am and I know I don´t deserve you, but I was hoping that maybe-”

Sherlock shuts himself up by connecting his lips with John´s.

*

John doesn´t need water to survive, no air and no sunlight either. Everything is inferior to Sherlock Holmes´ lips, his hands in John´s, his eyes, the little sounds that escape him as John´s tongue traces an especially sensitive spot of Sherlock´s mouth – oh god, Sherlock, never stop making these sounds.

John doesn´t need water, he is beyond planet earth. He´s fallen through a black hole, has been falling for an eternity already only to die and be reborn as the planet to Sherlock´s sun.

He revolves around Sherlock, his fixed star, his axis, his gravitation that gives momentum to him and defines his orbit. Sherlock who is so pliant beneath John´s mouth has all the power in the universe, he could destroy John and create him again while lying on that mattress.

John is at his mercy, always has been, from the beginning of time and until the very end, but that is all right. He trusts Sherlock with his life.

Sherlock.

John needs to show Sherlock how extraordinary, how amazing, how lovely he is, wants to spend every second of his life showing him and he doesn´t want to stop ever again.

One of his hands leaves Sherlock´s to brush his cheek, wander down his neck and caress the torn skin of the detective´s torso. It´s rough and infuriating and wonderful beneath his fingertips because Sherlock is hurt and John couldn´t do anything to protect him, but Sherlock is also here, kissing him and it´s an almost spiritual experience.

Nevertheless, John realises to his regret that he still does need air to survive, so he reluctantly pulls away which causes Sherlock to gasp a little. The detective´s lips are red, plush and kiss-bitten and –

“I think I love you.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ribbons of red from where the cuts on Sherlock´s chest have once again been torn open a little wind around John´s fingers, worshipping his skin, wrapping around the structure of his hands and connecting him to Sherlock.

Dots of his own red mingle with Sherlock´s as he presses his lips to Sherlock´s hairline and breathes in – sandalwood, soap, Sherlock – and they create a crystal cage around them, a shelter from the outside world that tints the light inside rosy red.

Their blood has always been spilt to protect each other and now it interweaves like a visual representation of everything unsaid between them.

A strand of ebony black hair tickles his skin and John pulls Sherlock closer so his head is resting against the crook of John´s neck.

It´s then that Sherlock finally speaks again, his lips brushing over John´s skin in a whisper that is just as soft as his words. “I love you, too.”

John shudders, never knowing how much he´d always wanted to hear Sherlock´s warm baritone say exactly these words – not up until now. Now, he never wants Sherlock to stop saying them ever again. He´s got no clue how he has always stopped himself from touching Sherlock, either, because now that he does, now that he can slide his fingertips up and down the smooth skin of Sherlock´s shoulders, he doesn´t ever want to stop.

In a sudden burst of overwhelming protectiveness, he cradles Sherlock closer to his chest, swaying gently from side to side. “We´ll get out of here, sweetheart. We are going to figure something out. Whoever abducted us, they can´t…”

“Moran,” Sherlock interrupts him. “It´s not some random kidnapper, it was Sebastian Moran. This is him punishing me for Moriarty´s death. He´s got no interest in you, you´re only here because- because he knew how much it would hurt me when he´d get his hands on you, too. I´m sorry.”

“Oh,” John lets out a surprised breath. “Sebastian Moran. I thought he was among the victims of your two years trip all across Europe.”

“Obviously, he wasn´t. And he´s brought a few friends from Teheran. If we want to escape, wit and thorough planning are essential, we could neither overpower nor outman them.”

“Good thing you´re here for the wit part, then,” John smiles tentatively and cards his fingers through Sherlock´s hair. “So, what are we gonna do?”

*

“I can´t pick the lock,” Sherlock says with a disgruntled glance at the door. “I´ve got nothing here to pick it with, so I suppose we are going to have to wait until they open the door themselves.”

John sits down next to Sherlock to give him room to think. Sherlock seems to notice and reacts with a thankful inclining of his head, but brings his left hand up to rest on John´s thigh, tapping restlessly.

“So, let´s say they open the door, what next? Do we have to disarm them?”

Sherlock´s fingers switch from tapping to absentminded caresses. “No firearms as far as I was able to asses. Moran´s men are dangerous enough without them; and they might carry batons.”

“All right, so we need to be careful about leverage and maybe use it against them. We knock them out, lock them in the cell, and get the hell out before anyone notices we´re missing.”

“Yes, basically. We still might have to face Moran and his other men, he surely won´t send all of them to us and leave himself unprotected.”

The tapping is back again as Sherlock continues. “I´d rather not fight, but leave unnoticed. If we´re able to sneak past his men, we should be able to escape and make it to a nearby house, call Graham from there. However, Moran would surely escape until any qualified member of the police arrived and we´d be left with nothing but the threat of him getting to us again looming over us. Moran is a skilled fighter, but so are we. We´ll take the batons and knock out as many of Moran´s guards as possible without getting noticed.”

John watches the elegant movements of Sherlock´s hand as he mentally follows Sherlock´s plan, checking for any weak points. “Do we split up?”

Sherlock nods slowly, “We could attack more guards more time-efficiently if we did.”

“So could they”, John reminds him, “If one of us gets caught, time-efficiency is our least urgent problem. We should keep an eye on each other.”

“Alright, good point,” Sherlock runs his hand up and down the top of John´s thigh distractedly.

“And are we going to kill or capture Moran? Eliminate the threat or make it possible for your brother – or us – to question him?”

“Let´s see if he gives us a choice,” Sherlock cards his fingers through his hair with a sigh. “I´ll get us out of here, I promise.”

“Sherlock.”

The detective immediately turns his head to look at John. “Hm?”

“I know you will. We´ll get out of here together,” John keeps his voice calm, loving and the silent `And then I´ll take care of you´… well, he keeps that one unspoken.

Sherlock nods, eyes determined.

*

When Sherlock´s nightmare woke him up, it had only been around midnight – “Sherlock, did you seriously just estimate the time from the position of the moon?” “The lunar orbit, John, dear” – and neither of them really felt like going to sleep again, so the next few hours are being spent quietly, slowly, but awake.

John is lying on his side on the grimy mattress, facing Sherlock whose position mirrors John´s. Long musician´s fingers skim over the small scab on the doctor´s temple, where he´d hit his head when Moran´s men knocked him unconscious. They wander downwards, to the joint of John´s jaw, following the curve of the bone only to stop at his chin and move up again, brushing over a pair of lips Sherlock is planning to kiss every day until he dies.

His head is cushioned by John´s slightly smaller, warm hand that’s tucked between the side of Sherlock´s face and the mattress. The other one, John´s free hand, is caressing Sherlock´s flank, keeping a steady, gentle rhythm as it moves from his hipbone to his waist, over the fabric of John´s jumper and up to his ribcage, to Sherlock´s shoulder blade and back down again.

They´re talking and being quiet and talking again, finding as much comfort in old, odd cases as they do in just lying next to each other, legs tangled.

Mostly, though, they talk about soon.

“I´ll take you out on a date,” John promises softly. “A real one, maybe to Angelo´s, and if I want to get you flowers, I will – no matter how much you pretend you don´t like them.”

Sherlock smiles and turns his face into John´s hand to kiss his palm, “Angelo´s, as soon as we´re out of here and healed… promise?”

“Promise, darling.”

And then, there are footsteps on the hallway, getting closer to their cell and the both of them scramble to their feet. The fight has begun and Moran doesn´t even know yet.