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All That I Have (Is Yours To Take)

Chapter Text

They stand in the porch of the compressed house, squinting through the rippled glass at the hallway beyond. Lestrade stood in front of the light wooden door, turning the key against the resistance of the lock. As the hinges creak open, light crowds in through the frame, illuminating the scattered possessions that clutter the narrow hallway. Sherlock surges forward like a greyhound released from the gates to poke around amongst the shoes that are tucked into shelves in the wall under the stairs. John waits for him to spot something, but instead the detective whirls in his coat and tramples up the stairs.

John follows him out of habit, not needed, but appreciated nevertheless, to find Sherlock pulling all manner of things out of the medicine cabinet over the sink. He frowns when feminine hygiene products are tossed across the floor, landing at his feet, the open box spilling its contents. Painkillers and cough syrups were next, although the latter were placed down onto the rim of the bathtub. Sherlock froze suddenly, and John was about to reach for him when he spun on his heel, jerking backwards into the sink when he saw John standing motionless in the doorway.

John winced in sympathy as he heard the dull thud of Sherlock’s, back hitting the porcelain. He raised his hand to his chest.

Sherlock shakes his head dismissively and pushes past John to slip into the bedroom that is opposite the bathroom. The walls are pink, and covered with posters that cling to every wall, and even the ceiling above the bed. Members of bands that John has never heard of stare down at him, making him feel exposed and uncomfortable. Sherlock is shuffling things around on the stained wood of the desk, pulling pieces of coloured paper and art supplies out from shelves that are hidden beneath the tabletop. He deposits boxes onto the darkened wood with loud thumps, unaware of the racket he’s making. John moves around him, grabbing a box that Sherlock shakes in his direction. He almost drops it again as soon as he opens it. Inside the innocent looking box, invisible amongst its peers, was a handful of tiny parcels. Each was no bigger than a large tablet, wrapped in cellophane. John didn’t have to open them to know what they were. Drugs of some description, smuggled across the world inside this girl’s body.

A tap to his shoulder caused John to look up. Sherlock had strewn the rest of the girl’s possessions around the room, none of which seemed to pique his interest. His fingertips brushed the windowsill briefly but there was scant evidence there other than a parched fly. Sherlock held his hand out for the box in John’s grasp, and John relinquished it. It quickly vanished into the deep pockets of Sherlock’s coat.

Catching John’s sleeve as he turned, Sherlock tugged John along to the next room, adjacent to the one they currently stood in. When they pushed open the door, John burst out laughing, using Sherlock’s frame for support as he doubled over. For his part, Sherlock simply raised an eyebrow and exhaled heavily through his nose.

The walls of this room were painted black, as was the ceiling, and had clearly been done by an amateur. Drops of paint had run down the wall, giving it an odd, rippled looking texture, and the skirting board was stained with it. On top of the black was white shapes, clearly designed to replicate a pentagram, but the lines wobbled inside the circle, extended outside it and crossed over at all the wrong points. Glancing around the room, John saw a plethora of chokers and wicked looking earrings.

Despite his consciousness, when Sherlock moved away to search for more drugs in the room, John open the chest of drawers. He snorted. All black clothes with various satanic or anarchic symbols on. Except one flowery silk shirt that stuck out like a sore thumb; the crow among the doves.

A clatter behind him made him abandon his pursuit of the girl’s clothes drawers (which was starting to feel a bit predatory anyway), and look behind him. Sherlock was stood in the middle of a pile of books, which he seemed to have pulled down on top of himself. He looked comical; long coat and elegantly tailored suit, holding a single book, whilst a pile of novels covered his feet and ankles. He glanced at John’s barely suppressed smirk with disdain and kicked away the paperbacks.

John shook his head as Sherlock delved around in what appeared to be the girl’s underwear drawer, amazed at his total lack of reservation. Had it been anyone else, it would have been horrifically creepy, but with Sherlock, it was purely investigation. The sudden flurry of clear-wrapped drug parcels thrown his way were enough to derail his train of thought. As he juggled the drugs in his arms, Sherlock spotted something by the window, forgetting the dozen or so grams of powder.

It was hair, caught in the catch of the window, accompanied by deep scratches in the wood of the sill. He rapped on the window to get John’s attention.

Scratches. Taken by force.

John nodded, unable to reply whilst his hands were full of cocaine. “Lestrade?” he asked, trusting Sherlock to recognise the name without hearing it.

Sherlock nodded, already moving downstairs, offering John the box to put the drugs in.

Once downstairs, John got Lestrade’s attention before turning to face Sherlock, whose hands began moving with practised ease.

The girls were mules. They carried the drugs and got the money. But they did something that their employers didn’t like. Hence, they were kidnapped.

John nodded. “Drug mules,” he said aloud, watching as Lestrade nodded. “They were kidnapped for doing something that they weren’t supposed to.”

“Any idea what?” Lestrade pressed.

John turned to face Sherlock who nodded, understanding what had passed from the movement of Lestrade’s lips.

Taking, Sherlock signed.

“They took some of the drugs themselves,” John translated.

Probably dead.

He rolled his eyes. Cheerful as ever.

Sherlock smirked.

*

As it turns out, Sherlock had been right. They tracked the two girls’ bank transactions and, sure enough, an anonymous source fed several hundred pounds into each account at least once a month. More to the point, they had found the donor, linked him to several large drug rings and arrested him. He went down kicking and screaming that he would get his revenge, and Sherlock shared a smile with John, after John translated the threat with mock seriousness, before raising a hand to summon a cab.

Back at the flat, John types up the case absently, listening as Sherlock bangs the doors of the cupboards in the bathroom.  Footsteps patter down the hallway as Sherlock reappears to say goodnight, before he disappears into his room for the night. John yawns and follows Sherlock example, trudging up the stairs wearily. He falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

Downstairs, Sherlock sleeps dreamlessly, snuffling slight noises he can’t hear. As a result, the soft slither of his window opening from the outside falls on literally deaf ears, and Sherlock does not wake until a large, sweaty hand is already pressing a chloroform-laden rag over his mouth, muffling his movements with heavy bodyweight in the few seconds it took for the fight to leave Sherlock’s body.

Chapter Text

Sherlock awoke to find himself blind. It took a muddled moment of panic for him to feel the scratchy cloth over his eyes, and to realise that he had, in fact, been blindfolded. His heart thumping heavily in his chest, Sherlock did his best to analyse his immediate surroundings. He was sat on a chair, going by the feel of it, and his ankles were tied to the legs of the chair. His arms meanwhile were tied wrist to elbow behind him, leaving him in an awkward, immobile, soon to be painful position.

As he shivered from the cold that filled the room, eating away at his bones, a coarse palm grabbed his chin, jerking his head to the side. Sherlock gasped as the movement pulled at the muscles in his neck and shoulders. He waited, tense, attempting to judge what was about to happen.

Something hard struck his face, causing his face to fall the opposite direction to the way that it had just been pulled. The hand returned, yanking his head back. There was a brief moment of delay, in which Sherlock’s heartbeat pounded in his ears, and he felt as though he could feel the blood gushing through his veins as his fight or flight response was triggered. Pain licked across his cheek as he was hit again, before the fabric was practically torn off his face, blunt nails digging into his scalp, bringing a few hairs with it.

The three men that stood in front of Sherlock were broad, with scars littering their skin, which was displayed, as they wore nothing from the waist up. They were all ropey with muscle, and were not above showing it off in an attempt to scare their captive into subjugation. The one that stood in front of Sherlock currently was looming over him, a section of pipe clutched in his hand. He was speaking, Sherlock presumed, from the way his mouth was moving. His face was turning red from the vigour of it, and every so often, spittle would fly from his lips. With a scar running across the length of his neck, and a nose that looked like it had been broken one too many times, he cut an imposing figure; one that was clearly not used to getting no response from his playthings.

With his usual method of communication tied behind his back, there was little that Sherlock could do, aside from glare at the man and blink stubbornly. Seemingly unaware that he was deaf, the man brought the piping back down with force. Sherlock winced as he felt his cheek split open, warmth flowing down his face and staining his bare chest with crimson.

Unperturbed by his lack of response, the man grinned a feral smile, and turned to pick up a length of chain that lay on a table nearby. Sherlock took the moment to look around his confinement.

It was a warehouse, by the looks of it. Disused and small, it could have once been privately owned and fallen into neglect. Now, the floor was slick with water, stemming from a crack that ran across the ceiling. It looked as if the rain had found its way through, collecting on the floor, but was unable to evaporate since the sun could not do the same. There was about fifteen metres of space in front of Sherlock, but it was impossible to work out how far behind him the next wall was without being able to hear the echoes.

Sherlock barely even noticed the movement of the chain until it had already lashed down, causing him to buck away frantically, shuffling further back into the chair, pulling on his already sore shoulders. Tears rushed to his eyes and the man laughed, chest heaving with it, and continues to kiss Sherlock’s skin with brutal lips of rusting iron.

Valleys opened up on the skin of Sherlock’s chest as the warped metal met flesh again and again; rivers of red flowing freely, pooling in the crease of his lap, soaking through his thin pajama trousers until he sits in a congealing pile of his own blood. They continued like this, in their dispassionate dance for in indeterminate amount of time.

When the man finally steps away, water runs down Sherlock’s face, dripping onto his chest and following the marred contours of his body. He’s panting now, he thinks, and his skin burns with each expansion of his chest. The man crouches in front of the chair, expression of mock innocence on his face, and speaks again. Sherlock closes his eyes and focuses on breathing.

When he next opens them, it is another figure that stands in front of him. This one is smaller, slightly less compact, but he looks young, and battling to prove himself. He holds a knife with the same familiarity that Sherlock wields a bow. Now, Sherlock thinks, he may be in trouble.

The youth forces his chin up to meet his eyes, and the animalistic glee that Sherlock sees in them sends a shiver through him. Cold pain writhes up from the soft skin of his stomach as the thin edge of a blade whispers across it. Sparks glitter around the edge of his vision as Sherlock keens, pinned down by ropes and hands, unable to move away as he is carved open with practiced ease.

Maybe he screams; he’s not sure, but the knife travels upwards until it rests against his jugular. There’s a hesitation then, a second when the cold edge that is millimetres from draining him dry feels like a lover’s breath on his neck. The man’s lips move again, a short sentence that could be him promising that he will in fact, do it, or a jibe to attempt Sherlock to talk.

The metal digs in, just a little, enough to cause beads of blood to well up along the string of the incision, before the knife moves away. It’s slashed downwards less than a second later, and Sherlock loses his vision for one, white hot eternity of pain, before the colours fade back in.

The young man (boy, really – he looks about seventeen), isn’t even out of breath, Sherlock notices, and the icy hatred that settles in his gut whispers through his bloodstream, gives him one last bought of defiance. He looks up at the blonde haired teen and smirks, feels it pull at the wounds of his face, and ignores it.

The rage that paints across his adversary’s expression is almost worth the second agonising slash, from shoulder to armpit across the expanse of his chest, over the sensitive areole. Sherlock contorts into the pain, and chokes out a desperate sob.

The man raises his arm again, but a large hand catches it on the down stroke. A few words pass between the two men, and the younger steps away dejectedly, still glaring at Sherlock as he moves behind the chair.

The third man is between his two predecessors in build. Muscular enough to be visible through a shirt, should he deign to wear one, but slight enough to be agile, should he have to be. His head is shaved, leaving dark stubble covering his scalp, and tattoos are inked onto the side of his face. Abstract patterns along the left, and a tear under the right eye. There are piercings too, in his eyebrows and his lip; little studs of metal that reflect the light like a disorientating illusion. As he raises his hands, Sherlock notices a series of five dots on the base of his right thumb.

He holds no weapon, for which Sherlock is warily thankful. Instead, his hands come up to frame Sherlock’s face almost tenderly. He holds him there for a second, before shifting slightly.

His thumb moves to Sherlock’s lower lip, gently pulling it down in an expression of mock compassion, and Sherlock wants to bite down until his bones break in his mouth. But he doesn’t have the energy. The man steps forward, into what little space there was, positioning himself between Sherlock’s splayed legs. Helpless to move, Sherlock feels panic unfurl in his chest as knees brush against the delicate skin of his inner thighs through his thin pajamas. The man bends down, and presses his lips against Sherlock’s neck, sucking there until the blood rushes to the skin.

Sherlock is getting dizzy from blood loss and hyperventilation, and black splodges are blurring over his vision. The lips move up, trailing wetly up the column of Sherlock’s neck, and he can feel his heartbeat pounding in his head. When he meets jawbone, the skinhead raises his face and grips Sherlock’s jaw. He bends down and for one pulse of his heart, pauses. Then his lips are sealing themselves over Sherlock’s and his tongue is tracing Sherlock’s mouth. His middle finger and thumb press into the joint of his jaw, and Sherlock’s mouth is forced open. He writhes desperately as a tongue forces its way into his mouth, tasting of cheap alcohol and cigarette smoke, but rough hands and rope hold his face and body still.

Sherlock feels the man’s groan through his mouth, and sobs, the sound swallowed with a grin. He crowds closer, and Sherlock feels his erection pressed against his chest. He starts moving then, even as he continues to kiss Sherlock, even as Sherlock continues to struggle, undulating against him, rubbing himself against his captive. The grunts of stale air into Sherlock’s mouth get more and more frequent as he moves, and Sherlock cries soundlessly.

Never before has he felt more alone.

Chapter Text

Sunlight streamed in through the window, bathing the room in soft light. John groaned, burying his head under his pillow in an attempt to block out the light. He lay there for a moment, before realising that he was far too awake to be able to fall back asleep.

He sighed, and heaved himself up into a sitting position. The dust that kicked up from the duvet swirled in front of the window, creating inane patterns in the air. John stretched, listening to his joints pop as they unfolded from their night rest. 

The bed creaked as John pulled himself up, protesting his movements. Sliding his feet into a pair of well worn slippers, he padded downstairs, not bothering to avoid the step that squealed, because it was only him that heard it.

The kitchen was eerily silent, as it always is first thing in the morning, when Sherlock is still tucked away in his room, sleeping like the dead. John filled the kettle and put it on to boil, the sound of the water bubbling filling the room. He pulled out a mug, dropping a teabag into it. He debated making a second, but the lanky git probably wouldn’t be up for another hour at the least, unless there was a case. Pouring the now boiled water into the cup, John decided that now was as good a time as any to read the morning paper – it had been sat there since Wednesday without being used for anything other than an impromptu coaster.

Settling down in his chair, he turned on the television for background noise, then picked up the paper, folded it open and began to read. A little under two hours later he had finished, and the tea had been reduced to dregs. Unsure of what to do next, John returned to the kitchen to wash out mug he had used, before debating a shower. He was always reluctant to shower before Sherlock woke, as the vibrations of the plumbing in the wall behind the headboard of Sherlock’s bed often caused him to stir preemptively, leaving him in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

But he was normally up by this time, and John was entitled to a hot shower; by the time they had got in last night he had been too tired to make the effort of showering. Perhaps he would just wake him up, John thought. He was much less likely to sulk all day if he woke him as opposed to the pipes waking him. Besides, it was approaching eleven o’clock, and he still had a mouldy pancreas to clear out of the fridge before John’s date tonight.

Walking down the corridor to Sherlock’s bedroom door, he opened it a crack. He could see the foot of the bed, bathed in the same golden sunlight as his own. As he stepped into the room, John paused. The bed was left unmade, as Sherlock was wont to do, but there was no sign of the man himself. The pillows were both crooked, one almost falling off the bed, and yesterday’s clothes left on the floor.

John frowned. It was unlike Sherlock to leave the flat early in the morning without telling him. Of course there was always the possibility that he had found an interesting case in his inbox and snuck out without him noticing, but this was unlikely; Sherlock was as loud as an elephant around the confined space of the flat, unable to hear or censor the noises he made as he moved around.

Walking back out of the room, John stuck his head into the bathroom, lest he be in there, but he was met with only the harsh glare of the light off the tiles. Wandering back up to his room, he grabbed his phone, sending a text to Sherlock in an attempt to find out where he was.

Jogging back down the stairs, he walked into the bathroom, turning the shower on. Might as well get showered and dressed while he waited for a response, he reasoned. He let the water warm up before stepping in, letting it drench him and rubbing shampoo into his hair.

When he had finished, but had still had no reply from Sherlock, he sighed, sending another text. He got dressed in the bathroom, worry beginning to gnaw at his insides the longer Sherlock took to respond.

Throwing his towel into the laundry basket to be washed later, John stood in the kitchen, phone in his hand. He watched it for a long while, as if he could somehow will Sherlock into replying to him. When, after several long minutes, there was no indication that he was about to answer, John put a slice of toast into the toaster. When it popped up again, he took a bite dry, not bothering to grab a plate.

Standing there in the kitchen, crumbs decorating the front of his oatmeal jumper, he felt oddly lonely. There were often moments when Sherlock’s inability to communicate in the same way as others frustrated John, but he made up for it with his presence and his character. Besides, it was the best he could do, and John always felt awful for even thinking it. But this, this was different. Sherlock took his phone everywhere, always had it in his hand – and how could he not? It was his method of talking to those who couldn’t read the complex motions of his hands.

Concern growing, John flicked through his contacts and pressed dial. Although Sherlock would not be able to answer the phone, the vibrations would get his attention. This technique had been proven useful many times when Sherlock was so focused on a case or an experiment that a single buzz didn’t register.

The drone of something pulsating on wood from the bedroom caused John to retrace his steps until he stood by Sherlock’s tangled blanket. As the phone went to voicemail, he saw it. It was under the bed, still plugged into the charger. It had clearly fallen from its usual place on his bedside table, causing the screen to crack and go patchy. It was lit up, showing two texts and a missed call from John Watson.

Sherlock’s phone.

John went cold.

Chapter Text

“So you’re sure?”

“Of course I’m fucking sure Greg. He never leaves the flat without his phone.”

Lestrade nodded, rewinding the footage. John hovered over his shoulder, tension stiff in his shoulders. It had been six hours since he had noticed Sherlock was missing, and a search of the flat had turned up nothing but a few potentially illegal experiments.

The three men stood in Lestrade’s stuffy office, as late afternoon burned in the sky. Thanks to Mycroft, they had been able to get their hands on the tape from the CCTV camera closest to Baker Street, but it had been near futile. The footage was of the corner down from 221, meaning that there was nowhere in the shot that showed the black door, or the bedroom window of either occupants.

“There.”

The elder Holmes brother interrupted the silence that threatened to overwhelm the room. Lestrade paused the screen, as his finger reached out to hover above the screen. He pointed at a non-descript taxi cab, blurred in motion on the screen, only the silhouette visible in the light of the streetlamps.

“I don’t see anything,” muttered John; it was an ordinary taxi.

“The number plate,” replied Mycroft, “it’s the same. It goes up the street and then comes back within five minutes.”

They all turned to watch the screen again. Sure enough, the black cab traveled past in one direction, only to return in the same direction a few fast-forwarded minutes later. John frowned.

“Now you mention it, the back windows look blacked out,” he nodded.

The others muttered in agreement. “Hang on, let me check that plate, I can trace it to the company, see if they know anything,” said Lestrade, already typing the numbers into the database.

*

Half an hour later Lestrade shook his head. “Nothing. They reported the cab stolen over a year ago, but let it drop when insurance covered it. They have no idea of its whereabouts.” He sounded exhausted, echoing the weariness that lay heavy over John.

“I’ll have someone find it on CCTV,” John recognized the determination in Mycroft’s voice from his younger brother, latching onto it like a lifeline.

“How?” Lestrade seemed incredulous, “they could be anywhere.”

He didn’t respond, simply stared resolutely down at his phone, his face unreadable. The three of them stood and sat in a pregnant silence, waiting. For what, none of them knew exactly. A sign, perhaps? Anything that whispered hope and security, promising a safe return.

The computer monitor whirred mechanically in the background as Lestrade flicked through the cameras that surrounded Baker Street, but it was as impossible to track one taxi in central London as it were to track a snowflake in an avalanche.

The shadows grew long against the walls of the office, and subordinate after subordinate brought them cup after cup of coffee, but still nothing came to show them the way to Sherlock. At least, not until the day staff began to trickle out of the building.

The vibration of the phone on the wooden desk was loud in the silence, the only sound as slender hands reached out to read the message that lit up the screen.

Mycroft’s face was illuminated from below with a silver-blue light, highlighting the blue in his eyes that was so similar to his siblings. He hesitated a moment, before turning the screen towards the others, displaying the postcode in the screen.

*

It was cold by the time they reached the old warehouse. The night was bleaching the sky black, and the streetlights fought to keep the dark at bay. John shivered inside his coat as he watched several armed policemen size up the building.

It was small, but menacing. The brickwork was exposed, the windows boarded up. As they went around the back, John saw the taxi cab, innocently hidden behind the back wall, invisible from the street. The sound of the Thames trickling by masked their footsteps as they crunched on the gravel, swinging open the rusty metal gate as they went.

The group came together in front of a pair of rotting wooden doors, giving John the time to pull his Sig from where it rested in the waistband of his jeans. There was a small murmur as Lestrade counted down from three. As one, they swarmed through the door.

Chapter Text

The floor was hard under Sherlock’s cheek. The damp soaked through his clothes, chilling him through. He was exhausted. The continual pain and punishment had drained him of what little energy he had, and he retreated into his mind as metal met flesh, and hands skimmed his thighs.

It was this that scared him the most. He had been hurt many a time; it became meaningless, a hurdle to be overcome. But this? Being touched, where he had not been touched before, being stroked by a man he’d never met? This was psychological torture, and it was working. He would have done anything, anything at all to stop this. But his hands were tied, metaphorically and physically, and he was unable to do anything but sit and take it, too weak to even lift his head. It could have been days, or hours. If he knew what they wanted, he would have given it. No amount of information was worth this.

The blackness of the blindfold caused his heart to thump wildly.  Unable to see, he could not predict the movement of his captors, could not brace himself against the touch he was sure would come. The three men seemed to enjoy taking it in turn, each doing their worst, though Sherlock feared only one.

There was blood in his mouth, leaving a metallic taste that refused to faded, an ache in his bones that he could never stretch out, and a crawling over his skin that would not be shaken off. Lying on the floor like this, hands behind his back, on his front, he was on display, and they all knew it. It was only a matter of time. It was a waiting game, and one that was designed to make him lose his mind, to break him. It was a game that he would inevitably lose.

When the hands came, they were rough. They pulled his trousers off his legs, taking hold of the hems and tugging before Sherlock had even had a chance to fight back. Now naked, he writhed, desperately trying to displace the hands that parted his legs.

There was weight on his shoulders that pinned him to the concrete, and knees between his own that prevented them from closing. The skin that touched his was bare, and, Sherlock realized belatedly as a crotch was pressed against his buttock, hard. It took him just a moment too long to react as the pain filled his senses.

He might have screamed, he wasn’t sure, but all of the air in his lungs was suddenly gone, and he fought for breath as pain knifed through him, unrelenting and unending. Sherlock went still as the weight on him shifted, fighting to think through the pain, fighting to escape.

He bucked suddenly, almost dislodging the man on top of him, wriggling in a futile attempt to get away. In response, he felt fingers weave into his hair, forcing his head up briefly, before slamming it back down, leaving him disorientated and confused as the pain continued to cut through him, again and again, as tears leaked over him face from behind the blindfold.

Suddenly, all the weight was on top of him, crushing him against the floor. There was no movement for a long while, and it took several long seconds for him to detect tiny vibrations in the floor against which he lay. There was something wet running down the side of his neck, warm and tacky. Sherlock struggled for breath, the hair of his attacker filling his mouth and nose, even as his body compressed his lungs, making it difficult to get air.

Then, just as quickly, the weight was gone. Sherlock cried out yet again as he was pulled from within him, shaking with the after effects and the pure, blind panic that was left behind.

But the hands that touched him next were gentle, tugging the blindfold from his eyes, and stroking his matted hair from his forehead. Sherlock opened his eyes slowly, blinking in the harsh light that spilled in from the open doors on the far end of the building. Looking up, he saw John’s face, contorted with worry and anger. The moment that John saw him register his presence, he twitched the corner of his mouth up in recognition, something that vaguely resembled a smile of reassurance. As he pushed his head into John’s palm, taking comfort in the small motion of his hands, someone cut the ties that bound his own hands behind his back.

A turn of his head revealed that it was Mycroft that had done so, remaining crouched beside him with fear evident in his eyes. Now able to move more freely, he reached up to tangle his fingers into John’s jumper, grounding himself as he struggled to look around himself.

There was a gathering of policemen moving throughout the room, gathering the utensils that had caused so much pain only hours previously. There was no sign of two of the men, but the third lay behind Mycroft, dumped unfeelingly on the floor, a bullet wound through his head. Too disorientated to make much sense of what he saw, Sherlock closed his eyes, reaching out blindly for his brother with his free hand.

He felt Mycroft’s hand close around his own, and John gently massaging his shoulders, coaxing the blood to flow back into his arms. Something was draped over him, and the hands moved to turn him over. Sherlock easily recognised them as John’s as he cradled him against his chest, tucking his head against the crook of his neck as he stood.

He was set down again on a much softer surface, sinking in slightly. Opening his eyes, he saw paramedics fussing over him, wrapping a blanket around him, and wiping antiseptic wipes over his body. It felt like burning all over again, and Sherlock pushed them away, struggling to clamber off the stretcher-bed.

John’s warm hands nudged him back down, resting benignly on his chest as he lay back, comforting, rather than oppressing. He spoke briefly, before Sherlock was moved towards the ambulance.

He clung to John, panic flashing through him as he was loaded into the ambulance. He calmed again as John clambered in after him, immediately taking his place beside him and taking his hand once more. 

Chapter Text

Curled in John’s chair, Sherlock watched the conversation unfolding before him. Mycroft was trembling, tiny little shocks that twitched his fingers against his trouser leg as he spoke, very visibly fighting to remain under control and he sat across from Sherlock, in the black leather chair. John, by contrast, was a sentinel; he was totally still, guarded but clearly agitated. His hand did not shake.

Sherlock’s eyes drifted closed despite himself. He was too tired to even make an attempt at lip reading, and he shivered with exhaustion, before fighting to extract his hands from the duvet in which he was wrapped, making a slight grunt as he did so to catch John’s attention. Hurts.

John’s eyes crunched in sympathy, as he looked over his should to the clock on the microwave door.

Soon. Twenty minutes.

He moved to crouch down in front of Sherlock, running his hand through his hair  in the motion. His face was drawn, and he looked years older than he had last week. Looking at him now, closer, and with more intensity than was normally permitted, Sherlock could see the peeling skin on John’s lips, chapped from the worried pulling of his teeth and his inability to resist the urge to pull at the torn skin. Part of him wanted to reach out, to physically reassure him, provide evidence that he was here, under John's care, no longer under the instruction of the overbearing doctors in hospital, but here, under his own, more trusted care. And yet, Sherlock no longer knew where the boundary was. John had seen him at his most vulnerable, but now, even in the safety of 221, he was distant, and each move seemed planned. At the hospital he had understood: John would not want to be seen to be touching him, the medical staff in care of Sherlock's care had been very adamant about separating John's hand from its rest on his arm. He had been too far gone on morphine to understand quite what had happened, only suddenly John hadn't been offering the warmth he had previously. 

Mycroft too, had withdrawn after that first week of hospital beds and starched linen, no longer a constant by Sherlock, but flitting back and forth, on the phone and uncomfortable wherever he stood. Despite himself, Sherlock craved the carelessness of touch. Not the deliberate, searching touches that haunted him, but a soft brush of a hand on his shoulder, a whisper of breath as they fought over the newspaper (You only use it for experiments anyway - I actually want to read it!), and, if Sherlock had conceded on more than one occasion, no one outside these four walls was any the wiser. 

But now Sherlock could see the hurt in John's eyes. The sadness in his brother's. And the constant wariness. As if he would break. helpless anger set heavily on his stomach, twisting his insides with guilt and rage and defeat.

John groans as he stands, Sherlock can tell by the slight contortion of his motion, and a blink that last just a fraction too long as he turns back to Mycroft. Without being able to see John's face, he has no hope of knowing what he says, but Mycroft nods in agreement before standing.

For a second the two look at Sherlock, curled into himself in the chair. Just for a fraction of a second Sherlock hates them both, the pity he can feel radiating off them in waves. He want to scream, shout at them, tell them to just fuck off with their condolences and sadness. He wants to, but he lacks the energy. As John moves into the kitchen the two brothers are left.

Mycroft looks older than Sherlock remembers him looking. He can't quite put his finger on in what it is, but suddenly Mycroft looks ancient. 

I'll find them, he says, I'll find them

They both know that the men that captured Sherlock were not the men that decided to do so. It's the invisible men, plucking strings, that Mycroft will find. For once, Sherlock is content to let Mycroft take care of it for him.

The door sends vibrations through the floor as it closes, so faint that Sherlock doubts John even notices them as he reenters the room. He only knows that they will be present because of the hours he's spent on their sofa, steeped in his environment.

Tea sloshes onto the coffee table as John puts it down; he's filled it too much, a habit he is wont to do when he's particularly distracted. He perches on the arm of the sofa and this is worse, Sherlock thinks, worse than the hospital. At least there they could avoid this, the awkward silences (though Sherlock can't hear it, he can see it, feel it in John's posture), both unwilling to be the first to speak. 

John looks at him, and his eyes are so lost that something twists and breaks in Sherlock's chest. 

Chapter Text

Sherlock doesn't sleep much at night these days. The sheets are too heavy and too light at the same time. They whisper and they press against his skin, holding him to the mattress, and Sherlock can't bring himself to close his eyes, to cut off his most reliable sense. He knows, logically, that John is only just outside his door, is sat on the sofa, mindlessly watching some god awful television show with the subtitles on, because he knows sometimes Sherlock will watch even when he pretends he isn't, and its just too much fucking effort to turn them on and off every time. In all honesty, this should be enough, Sherlock thinks. It's late, John is here, and Mycroft texted earlier to say that all three men involved have been 'dealt with'. Sherlock prefers not to linger on what that might entail. He is as safe as he has ever been. John helped him to fix a metal grate over his window this afternoon, so he know that there's one less entry point to worry about. Sat in the living room, John is currently between him and the other two. The probability of attack is low. But in Sherlock's gut there is a gnawing, uncomfortable feeling, stemming from the knowledge that, despite his virtues, John is only human, and sooner or later he will fall asleep. Should he retreat to his room, Sherlock will be left totally alone. So he lies there, awake, and waits for the morning to come.

The London streetlights shine through the curtains, playing in shadows on the ceiling. The sodium glow reminds Sherlock of flames and he sighs restlessly, air brushing his chapped lips in a rush. The clock read 1:03am, a full five hours until sunrise. In the darkness, it is almost impossible to think of anything but the pain, which burns up his spine and sits heavy in the back of his skull. John suggested he lie on his side or front, rather than his back, but the front is too... reminiscent, whilst his side would prevent Sherlock from being able to quickly scan the room. Like this, he is hyperaware of every dust mote, every breath he takes stirring the air and creating terrifying nothings in the dingy room. 

Something in the flat shifts.

Sherlock freezes instantly. He holds his breath and waits, praying the movement was only John or Mrs Hudson. Lifting a hand up and behind him, he presses his palm agains the wall. He feels the latch on the door slip into the plate in the doorframe, sending tiny vibrations through 221 that Sherlock is well-practised in identifying. Something in his chest both loosens and tightens; only John retiring to bed. But now Sherlock is left, unguarded and defenceless. A cab passes the streetlight, and Sherlock jumps as it flits across the ceiling. It distracts him just long enough that he doesn't realise there's someone in the flat until the door opens. 

Light spills into the room all of a sudden, and Sherlock is temporarily blinded, his eyes struggling to adapt fast enough. He can feel his heart leaping in his chest as he bolts upright to face the figure in the doorway. The sudden surge of adrenaline numbs his body, leaving him on edge and ready to flee in the confines of his room. The figure is short, but wide enough that Sherlock can't immediately make it out as John until he's already standing by the edge of the bed, tense. John exclaims something, casting about for a place to put down the objects he's carrying, switching on the light as he does. He settles for placing them mostly on Sherlock's dresser before he turns back to Sherlock, raising his hands placatingly.  

It takes a second for Sherlock to realise that Johns waiting for him to react. He shifts awkwardly out of his stance, coming to rest in a parodied 'at ease' position, hands restlessly twisting behind his back. John signs first.

You okay? Didn't mean to scare you.

He looks so genuinely upset that Sherlock hates himself a little, because why didn't he just notice the floorboards? He's been doing it for years but he was to caught up in the terror of his vulnerability to even notice that someone was coming. And John, of all people, is blaming himself.

Sherlock waves dismissively, keeping his face as neutral as possible. John lets it slide, looking unconvinced. Instead of calling Sherlock out, he just approaches with a caution Sherlock despises and guides him back down into the bed, coming to crouch down by the side of it, so that Sherlock doesn't have to twist his neck to see him spell out his words. 

Brought blanket. Thought you might be cold.

Sherlock flicks his eyes over to the dresser. There, indeed is a bundle which he supposes is the blanket that normally resides on John's chair . In addition, John has brought a glass of water, though Sherlock isn't thirsty, and never drinks in the night. He reaches for the quilt regardless, not caring that he won't use it, it just gives him a warm feeling in his chest that John thought of it. John grabs the blanket and the water without seeing the look on Sherlock's face and brings them both over. Once the the patchwork is settled over the bed, John digs into the pocket of his jeans, pulling out small pack of what Sherlock can only assume are painkillers. He takes them and the water wordlessly, swallowing two at the same time, before returning the water to John. 

C-o-d-i-e-n-e, John spells. He doesn't know the sign for it. Neither does Sherlock, but it's not something he'll admit to anyone but John.

Sherlock just nods gratefully, expecting John t leave, now that his doctorly duty is complete. Instead,  he hesitates.

Did I wake you?  Typical John; thinks rest is important, hates disturbing Sherlock on the few occasions he actually sleeps. He shakes his head and John lifts his hands, drops them, lifts them again.

Sherlock waves his index finger in front of John's face; what?

He hesitates again. The look of frustration on Sherlock's face drives him to sign. Nightmare?

He's close, Sherlock supposes, and it's something John himself is all too familiar with. He knows that sometimes John will scream in his sleep, has seen him jump up from his lax position in his chair, coiled in terror. Clearly he debates lying just long enough that John latches onto the truth. Afraid.

He can't argue, so he just shrugs. John is irritatingly good at calling him out on his lies these days. Before, when John's sign language was still clumsy, he had to watch Sherlock's hands, missing whatever expression was on Sherlock's face. These days, John is almost fluent, and rarely needs to see more than a peripheral to catch the gist of Sherlocks sign. They stand awkwardly for several seconds. John clearly wants to offer comfort, Sherlock clearly can't accept the wordless noises he would normally make in this situation. John's eyes tighten with determination. 

I'll sit with you. At Sherlock's raised eyebrows he hastily adds, if you want, fingers tripping over themselves.

Wordlessly, Sherlock shifts to the left, leaving enough space for John to sit next to his prone figure, propping himself up on the headboard. From where Sherlock is lying, it's not a flattering angle for John, but still, Sherlock feels a calm warmth spread over his chest, and he doubts the blanket is responsible. He looks up, and John is looking down at him. 

Sleep, John signs, Door is locked. I'll stay here.

With John by his side, it's suddenly easy for Sherlock to let his eyes slide closed and his mind slip under. He's almost fully asleep when John's fingers start to comb his hair off his face.