Rating: Probably an R
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Violence, sex
Summary: Written for a kinkmeme prompt: Moriarty frames John and "Anthea" of betrayals which cause both of the Holmes brothers to cut them off. Cue BAMF!John and BAMF!"Anthea" doing their best to clear their names. Both het and slash; Mycroft/Anthea and John/Sherlock.
(Title page by mabivia)
Anthea managed to persuade John to remain in the house instead of leaving immediately, but only if she consented to letting him apply some hasty bandages.
John had torn strips from their attacker's clothes and had bound her arm – the more serious injury – and had told her to use her other hand to apply pressure to the wound on her collarbone. Anthea did so, and had been given leave to investigate the rest of the house.
In the meantime, John raided the bodies for weapons – taking a collection of guns and several dozen rounds of bullets along with the policeman's taser – and in general was as coldly efficient as a high-price hitman.
Anthea tried to find some fragment of useful information they could take away, and went about checking the house for safes and hidden compartments as rapidly as she could. It would have been easier to listen for hollow-sounding floorboards and patches of wall if her ears hadn't been ringing like two cymbals just after they'd been clashed.
John had assured her that was to be expected when guns were fired and you lacked hearing protection. She'd have to look into getting him a silencer off the black market.
The bedroom had been completely stripped of electronic equipment, likely by whoever had instigated the slaughter, and there was a spray of arterial blood on one wall and a small patch on the floor, near the bed.
Except, tallying the number of bodies and the various injuries they’d sustained, Anthea was almost certain that patch of blood shouldn’t be there. On impulse, she knelt awkwardly beside it – careful not to touch it – and looked under the bed.
A twelve centimetre knife with a black handle rested there, dried blood flaking off the blade.
Anthea immediately quelled the urge to grab hold of it. The knife wasn’t the kind usually carried by security detail – they were issued fifteen centimetre ones – so either someone had brought a weapon from home…or this had belonged to one of the attackers. The patch of blood on the floor made it seem likely that one of the invaders had been clipped by a bullet or another blade, and had fallen to the floor where they lost their knife.
Anthea spared a moment to wonder why they hadn’t then picked it up again, but the size of the patch of blood raised doubts as to whether they’d survived, and if they’d been conscious when their confederates had removed them from the house.
She left the blade where it was. With any luck, the police would get some fingerprints from it, and she could hack their database to find any matches.
John set the police radios down, out of reach of the man in handcuffs, but practically in the hands of his unconscious partner.
“I really am sorry,” he said, hoping the policeman wouldn’t bear a grudge for John having kicked him around like that. “I tried not to cause permanent damage.”
He knew he and Anthea couldn’t linger; if the policeman didn’t check in soon, the dispatch would assume they were in trouble and send another patrol car to help them out. He’d slung most of the weapons into what had probably been a laptop bag – if they were going to be involved in more shoot-outs, he wanted some more guns – and John hoped Anthea had been blessed with similar luck in her search for electronics.
He also needed to take a proper look at her injuries as soon as possible. They certainly weren’t fatal, but the wound on her arm could be debilitating if it didn’t heal correctly.
And that was what concerned John the most. The knife had been aimed specifically at Anthea’s arm – the goal had been to disable, not kill – and they’d only started shooting when he and Anthea shot first. But why? Why try to subdue them, instead of kill them?
He ascended the stairs to find Anthea, and met her in the corridor.
“This house has been completely stripped of electronics,” she said, remarkably calm for a woman whose arm was still bleeding sluggishly.
John was impressed – he knew first-hand how many nerve endings were located in the shoulder area, but there was nothing on Anthea’s face to indicate she was in pain.
“Well, I’ve got everything I need,” he said, hefting the laptop bag pointedly. “Let’s get out of here and get you treated.”
Before they left the house, John made sure to wrap Anthea’s arm again so that it didn’t seem obvious that she was bleeding over her sleeve.
“There was a knife upstairs,” Anthea said as John started the car – her injured arm meant that he’d have to be driving for the foreseeable future. “Probably dropped by one of the intruders, and there’s a likely looking patch of blood there as well. I left it for the police to find, so I’ll have to hack their system later-”
“You can do that?” John blurted. “Just…get into police computers like that?”
“Of course,” Anthea said absently, now examining the makeshift bandage on her arm. “It’s easy enough if you know how.”
John chose not to examine how unnerving that statement was in lieu of focusing on purely practical requirements. “Will you be needing a computer then?”
“Oh, no – this is more than capable.” Anthea held up her Blackberry, and John privately wondered if he could even call it a Blackberry anymore – with all the modifications and enhancements that had apparently been made to it, he doubted there was anything of the original model left.
“We can’t stay in London,” she continued. “It would be best to go up to Scotland-”
“I need to properly treat that arm as soon as possible,” John interrupted. “We’ll leave London if we must, but it’s got to be close by, and somewhere we can lay low for a while. Unless you fancy running around with a disabled arm…?”
Anthea seemed to digest that. “What do you think about Sussex?”
John’s answer was interrupted by a shrill ringtone from Anthea’s Blackberry. In itself, that might not be so unusual, but John had a good view of the screen from the driver’s seat, and felt a chill ripple through him when he saw the ID listed on the screen.
Someone was calling Anthea’s Blackberry from his discarded phone.
Sharing a wary glance with John, she moved to accept the call, tapping a few buttons that John assumed put it on speakerphone as a voice rang through the car in the next instant.
It sounded like a woman, and she was definitely posh. Public school education and then Cambridge or Oxford; John would have bet every bit of his now-inaccessible bank account on it.
“Hello?” Anthea repeated cautiously, her eyes flicking rapidly over the screen, but John couldn’t determine what – if anything – she was seeing. “And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
“Someone who is sympathetic to your plight.”
Anthea’s eyes narrowed, and John snapped his back to the road, the tension in his arms so extreme he was slightly worried he’d run something over unless he was paying attention.
“How sympathetic?” Anthea asked, and John could hear the many layers of suspicion in her voice.
He might not be an expert at this super-spy thing, no matter how many times he’d watched Bond movies, but John still had a good idea of exactly how unsettling this was. Whoever this woman was, she seemed to know what had happened to them. She’d rung Anthea from John’s phone, which suggested she’d been watching them for long enough to see them cast John’s phone away and then pick it up herself. And then she would’ve had to know Anthea’s number to make the call in the first place.
“Sympathetic enough to offer whatever assistance I can,” the person on the other end of the phone replied, her voice guarded.
“And what kind of assistance might that be?” Anthea inquired, obviously trying to probe this strange woman’s motives.
Even though it was on speaker phone, John felt it was best to leave the talking to Anthea and remained silent.
“Anything you need,” came the reply. “You provide me a list of whatever you want and a collection point, and I will arrange everything else.”
Anthea’s brow furrowed, and she seemed to be thinking very hard. Then, abruptly, she disconnected the call.
John’s puzzled frown prompted her to explain, “Think about it, John. We’re known fugitives – or at least, you are – and a strange woman calls us offering help, and all we need to do is give her a location where we’ll wander in to pick up whatever she’s left for us.”
John grimaced. “Okay, I see your point on that one. So then, what was that about? I’m pretty sure police can’t really do that kind of stuff, even assuming they could find my phone...so you think it’s some strange twist in Moriarty’s plan?”
“Possibly,” Anthea mused. “But then how would they have acquired my number?”
John rolled that information around in his brain, hoping some great insight would rattle loose. But the only thing he could come up with was…
He was reluctant to even mention the possibility – Anthea had done him the courtesy of not rubbing Sherlock’s betrayal in his face, so the least he could do was do the same for her with Mycroft – but John just couldn’t think of anyone else. Who else would be capable of plucking John’s phone out of whichever bin it had been relegated to, and also have Anthea’s phone number?
And he’d heard of software programs that could alter your voice, make it deeper or softer…or even make you sound like the opposite sex.
“Maybe,” Anthea said softly, and John wondered if she even realised she was gnawing on her bottom lip. “He said he’d give me twenty-four hours, but he’d need to inform some others…”
“And they might not be inclined to give you that head-start,” John finished.
“Should we be worried they’ll trace the call?” John asked, before he remembered what Anthea had said earlier about her Blackberry. “Oh, right – untraceable.”
She nodded absently, glancing down at her bandaged arm.
John purposefully hadn’t been mentioning her injury – it wouldn’t do to let her know he was worried – but he felt compelled to ask, “How are you feeling?”
She didn’t say anything, but gave him the kind of look that implied he’d just asked a very stupid question.
“You can tell me it hurts, you know – that’s pretty much to be expected in this kind of situation.”
“Then yes, it hurts like fuck.”
“I’ve never understood why people say that,” John mused as he guided the car around a sharp corner. “Because really, if fucking hurts, then you’re not doing it right.”
There was a moment of surprised silence, before Anthea began to laugh. It was tight and stuttering, as though she was trying not to but couldn’t really help it, and John smiled to himself, pleased at having managed to cheer his ally up.
Mycroft knew the box of chocolates was breaking his diet, and he didn’t care – he was on holiday. For the first time in twenty-five years, he was taking time off from work and not for the Holmes’ annual Christmas dinner.
He’d left everything in the hands of the two semi-competent people there, and had given them strict instructions that he was only to be contacted if the collapse of the government seemed imminent. And he certainly didn’t want to hear anything about…her.
Mycroft had given himself a week. A week to sequester himself away from the world, to completely purge her from his life. And when he returned to work, he would be calm, clear-headed, and above all, in control of himself.
Or so he hoped. Because really, he was beginning to doubt a week would be long enough to entirely erase her. He doubted even a year would be long enough.
He (and indeed, his brother) took after their mother in that respect, and Mummy had often said that it was people of their nature – reserved and almost cold, sometimes even cruel – that fell the hardest, and the deepest. And in her case, that was certainly true; even though Father had been dead for almost ten years, Mycroft had never seen her so much as glance at another man.
Pessimistically, Mycroft suspected it would be much the same with him. Some people could move on after a death or a betrayal, could heal enough to eventually let someone else in and love again…but not them.
The Holmes’ hearts were small and hard and viciously dark, and there was only room for one in there.
And look at that – not even a day after he’d discovered her betrayal, and already Mycroft was getting maudlin.
For a moment, he wondered if he should call in on Sherlock and John. Verbal sparring with Sherlock was usually guaranteed to bring him out of a sulk, but in the end Mycroft decided against it. He was in no mood to get a dose of his brother’s domestic bliss, not today.
Sherlock was not going to take drugs. He refused to let John drive him to them, refused to acknowledge the sucking black hole John’s absence had opened in the flat, in his life.
He was, however, smoking again. Very heavily.
Maybe if he smoked in every room in the flat, the smell of cigarettes would erase the John’s scent.
Everything previously belonging to John had now been removed to Scotland Yard, and Sherlock was glad of it (Lestrade hadn’t been pleased about Sherlock’s unsupervised excursion, but as there was no proof Sherlock had contacted John he couldn’t arrest him). But the rooms, the couch, and towels, the sheets…they still smelled of John, something Sherlock was endeavouring to correct as soon as possible.
Maybe then, when there no reminders of John anywhere, Sherlock would finally manage to delete the man.
He tried before, of course – tried to eliminate their relationship and friendship so he was left with nothing but the abstract concept of John as one of Moriarty’s henchmen who’d infiltrated Baker Street – but it hadn’t worked. Perhaps because deleting something required that it be shut up and boxed away, and with John he just…couldn’t do it. It didn’t work; John had always defied Sherlock’s attempts to measure and classify him from the first, and he wasn’t having any more success now that John…wasn’t there.
Sherlock exhaled smoke slowly where he lay on the sofa, taking care to turn his head and breathe it over the cushions.
He needed to be able to delete John-the-friend and John-the-lover. He needed to remember nothing but John-the-betrayer because if he didn’t…
If he didn’t, Sherlock didn’t think he’d ever be able to bring himself to go after Moriarty again.
“This would be a nice place to retire to,” John mused as he drove through Sussex.
Anthea didn’t reply, and a glance to the side showed that she was staring out the window. More specifically, she was staring at the sun, which was beginning to dip below the horizon.
John suspected she was thinking of Mycroft, and that the grace period he’d given her was fast running out.
“Could you turn on the radio?” he asked, hoping to distract her. If nothing else, Anthea might find a nice music station that would cheer her up for a little while.
It worked better than John had expected, probably because Anthea had been just as desperate for something to take her mind off Mycroft. For the next fifteen minutes or so, she fiddled with her car’s radio, skipping between news stations and various music channels, listening to a few songs before ads prompted her to change the frequency again.
In the end, they booked a room in the first motel they could find with a vacancy, Anthea taking care of the transaction so John wouldn’t have to show his face to anyone. John put her arm in a sling to make it look as though she had some kind of muscle-strain injury, and once they were in the room he finally got his opportunity to have a proper look at her injury.
The trouble was, it certainly required stitches, and they weren’t exactly something John had on him.
“That feels rather tight,” Anthea said as he stepped back after yanking the bandage around her arm as firmly as he dared.
“You need stitches,” John said bluntly. “This’ll have to do for now. I might be able to kit myself up a bit and check out some chemists for some first-aid-”
Anthea shook her head. “Not now – if we just check in and then leave immediately in search of a chemist it will encourage speculation.”
John glared. Anthea had told him to avoid strange behaviour at all costs, because strange behaviour made you memorable, but there came a bloody limit!
“Do you know what that knife was meant to do to your arm?” he hissed. “It was supposed to sever the deltoid muscle and completely disable your arm. You’re lucky it only grazed your bicep instead! I may not be some kind of super-intelligent spy like you, but trust me when I say you need stitches or you risk permanently limiting mobility in your arm.”
His voice had taken on the severe tone he used with recalcitrant patients, and Anthea’s eyebrows had climbed her forehead as his tone got progressively lower and more intent.
“What?” John asked eventually, not sure what to make of her expression.
“I think I understand how you got Sherlock to submit to your medical treatment.”
The mind was a funny thing, John reflected. It was strange how the mere mention of Sherlock’s name felt like a slap in the face, those simple syllables bringing back the memory of shattered trust and heartbreak as though it had only happened seconds ago.
Anthea seemed to realise what had happened as her expression changed in an instant from ‘reluctantly impressed’ to ‘contrite’, but John turned away before she could say anything.
“I doubt I could find stitches in a chemist’s anyway,” he muttered, half to himself. Then, his voice louder but still not quite looking at her, “Get some rest – I’ll go see if there’s a walk-in clinic about.”
“Use this,” Anthea said, pressing her Blackberry into John’s hand.
John supposed it had an internet connection or something, and nodded absently as she walked into the bedroom and shut the door behind her.
Leaving John with the Blackberry in his hand. A Blackberry someone had called them on barely an hour ago, offering whatever kind of assistance they needed.
He knew Anthea’s reasons for hanging up were perfectly valid – it could very well be a trap. But…they were pretty thoroughly trapped anyway, and would anyone coming after them risk exposing themselves in such a way? If they’d seen them ditch John’s phone (and obviously recently enough to have picked it out of the trash and call with it within a few hours) why not just take them in right there? If they’d been keeping track of them that early, John didn’t imagine they’d have problems following their movements. Sure, they’d disguised themselves and switched the licence plate, but if someone had been monitoring them that closely that early on…
John knew he shouldn’t do it. But Anthea desperately needed medical supplies – hospital or clinic-grade medical supplies, at that – and John simply wouldn’t find what she needed in a chemist. If the wound wasn’t stitched, the heavy build-up of scar tissue that would follow could restrict movement in her arm for years before it began to soften.
And if they sought out a clinic…that was just one more opportunity to be seen, to be recognised and brought into custody.
John lifted Anthea’s Blackberry, and dialled the number of his own mobile.
Avra Holmes might be getting on the years, but she wasn’t old enough to let something of this magnitude slip past her.
When her sons finally settled down, she’d been so happy for them – and with such perfect partners, too. Partners who understood and helped them in their work, but who took care of them at the same time and really, she couldn’t have asked for her sons to be in better hands.
Mycroft’s partner, the woman with the ever-shifting name, Avra had met already, of course. She’d been looking forward to formally making the acquaintance of John Watson, but it seemed that happy event would have to be postponed.
Her surveillance (on both her sons) had caught the whole debacle, of course. Avra always found it interesting that most people assumed Sherlock and Mycroft inherited their strange tendencies from their father, and while her dear George had been the artist in the family, she knew they took after her far more than they did him. For instance, most of Mycroft’s little tricks were things she’d taught him and of the two, Mycroft was the one who was the most like her, with his calculated manipulations and the long strings he pulled. Sherlock was a little more like his father – impulsive and daring and not bothering to act ‘normal’.
At times though, she couldn’t help but think it was unfortunate that they had more of her hyper-observant calculation than her husband’s cheerful warmth. It had made them great men, yes, and frighteningly intelligent…but sometimes she thought they would have been far happier if they’d had more of George’s nature than her own.
And it left them prone to slip-ups like this. Her sons had never really trusted themselves when it came to the emotional side of things – Avra had been just the same, before George taught her to have faith in herself – which was why they’d fallen into that trap.
For it was definitely a trap. Both Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s partners exposed as traitors within the same day was too much to be a coincidence. Frankly, she was surprised her sons hadn't realised this...but they had such difficulty communicating (far too alike for their own good, she suspected), and some wisdom only came with age it seemed.
Avra might have technically been retired, but that didn't mean she was dead – she still maintained a skeleton of her old network, just in case her boys ever needed help. They'd proven invaluable when Sherlock tangled with that Moriarty character at that swimming pool, and when she'd heard the news about her sons' partners, she'd made sure to monitor them as much as she could.
She'd had one of her network pick up John's phone when they cast it away, and called them with an offer of help. Avra hadn't been surprised when she'd been promptly disconnected – that was a sceptical girl her Mycroft had chosen – but she was content to bide her time. She doubted the true reality of their situation had sunk in yet, and the doctor fellow seemed much more trusting...soon enough, desperation would drive one of them to phone back with a request.
When the mobile trilled, she answered on the first ring.
Sebastian Moran had a strong stomach – he was professional sniper, he had to. Seeing people killed (or indeed, tortured) had never come close to putting him off his lunch.
But he did hate waste, which was why he felt compelled to interrupt Moriarty's preparations.
“Are you sure you should be doing this?”
Jim looked up with a frown. “What's the matter?”
Sebastian glanced pointedly at the man strung up in the centre of the room. His wrists were handcuffed, the short chain connecting them pulled tight over a large meat-hook, hoisted so high Gustav Rainer's toes only just touched the cement floor.
Only two day's ago, Sebastian had been giving this man instructions and acting as protection, but it wasn't sentiment that drove him to intervene. Gustav was John Watson's doppelganger, and Sebastian thought Jim should at least consider other uses for him before he disposed of the man entirely.
It had been difficult, to find someone resembling Dr. Watson who Jim could reel in. It had been months of work to slowly deplete his bank accounts, to get him fired, to ensure he wouldn't be hired anywhere else, to watch him dig himself deeply into debt in an attempt to support his wife and child, until he was so desperate he'd have agreed to prostitute himself as long as Jim promised him his family would be looked after.
When they first recruited Gustav, he was the same height and weight as Dr. Watson, but bore only a passing resemblance. After Jim's favourite plastic surgeon had finished with him, Gustav could have been the doctor's identical twin.
Then Jim had made sure he'd be seen talking to Gustav, dining with him, passing him money, and the wheels of Jim's plan had been set into motion.
Sebastian still wasn't entirely clear on what that plan was, though. Jim was rarely in a mood to confide, and often Sebastian only learned the reasons behind his orders when they were already carried out and Jim was gloating to him. Framing John Watson (and the government lady, whatever-her-name-was) had been the first stage, Sebastian knew, but he was still unclear as to what came next.
Only that it apparently involved Jim torturing eight (at last count) men to death. While it was true Jim did have moods in which people could – and did – die, it was unusual for him to be so methodical about the whole thing. It was also unusual for him to be so discerning in his choice of victims; all the people he'd killed were men in their mid- to late thirties, a shade below average height, and quite fit.
And they all died via a different method. The first one had been strangled and revived repeatedly until his body just gave out. The second was burned by everything from cigarette butts to a flamethrower. The third had died via amputation, Jim taking off first his fingers, then his toes, then his arms and legs. And after that...
After that, Jim got creative.
“We put a lot of work into him,” Sebastian said, nodding at Gustav. “Are you sure you want it all to go to waste?”
Jim grinned. “Sweet of you to look out for my interests, Seb, but at this stage of the plan, Gustav here is nothing more than a liability.”
Sebastian shrugged affably, ignoring the strangled pleas and whimpers Gustav was trying to eke out from behind his gag. “If you say so. But can I ask...what is the plan here?”
This, right here, was why Sebastian's place in the pecking order of Moriarty's organisation could never be usurped. Because no one else dared to ask Jim 'why', perhaps afraid Jim would snap and chop them up into dog food or something. But Sebastian had never been afraid to ask 'why'.
Sometimes Jim didn't answer, of course. Sometimes he just said 'because I want you to' or 'because I'm telling you to' and that was that. But sometimes...sometimes he let Sebastian in on whatever crazy, brilliant plan was spiralling through that amazing mind.
“I told Sherlock I'd burn his heart out,” Moriarty said, with a smile that reminded Sebastian of a shark – bloodless and cold yet somehow smug and pleased at the same time. “And I keep my promises.”
“So you make him think his pet doctor turned traitor?” Sebastian hazarded. It would certainly be effective, but it seemed to be lacking something, that extra streak of viciousness that Jim employed so beautifully.
“Weeeell, that's the first part,” Jim sang out, blithe cheer coating his voice.
“What's the second?”
“We bring Johnny-boy here...and I destroy him,” Moriarty pronounced, relish in every syllable. “And I don't mean kill him – oh, no, that's much too easy. I'll break him apart mentally, physically, emotionally, until he's nothing but a gibbering wreck, only capable of screaming or crying or begging for mercy. Until he's fit for nothing but a mental institution and twenty-four hour sedation.”
A slight thrill of pleasure was beginning to inch its way up Sebastian's spine. “And then?”
Jim's grin stretched wider, like one of those snakes that could dislocate their jaws. “Did you know I've kept every speck of evidence that we framed John? Everything that shows the charges against him are false are still on the computer.”
Sebastian nodded. He'd been aware that Jim had documented their take down of the doctor in obsessive detail, but had never been inclined to ask him why.
“Well, when poor little Johnny-boy is more animal than human, I'll leave him on Sherlock's doorstep with a big package of documents that show he was on Sherlock's side the whole time.”
Sebastian smiled. Like all Jim's plans, it was sheer genius. Sebastian couldn't think of a better way to 'burn the heart out of someone' than to torture their lover into insanity – and knowing how thorough Jim was, it would be the screaming, raving, never-come-back-to-reality-ever-again kind of insanity.
And with everyone believing John was on their side, no one would come looking for him if he disappeared.
Well, they would look, but they'd be looking for John as a perpetrator, a man who still had his freedom, not for a victim being locked away and tortured.
Something occurred to Sebastian, “What about the government bird – what do we want with her?”
Jim waved his hand dismissively. “Smokescreen. Enough to keep big brother busy and keep that large nose out of our business. He's not the type to deal well with this kind of thing – emotional upheaval is so messy!” Jim giggled maniacally. “By now, he'll be on holiday, trying to lock everything down and become that cold, hard government calculator once more.”
Sebastian absorbed that with a nod. “And now you need to kill him-” he gestured to Gustav, “So no one knows there's a John Watson doppelganger running around.”
“Exactly,” Jim beamed. “I knew you'd see it my way.”
“So what were the others for?”
“The others?” Jim frowned for a moment, then comprehension smoothed his face again. “Oh, the others. Practice makes perfect, and I can't run the risk of killing Johnny when we have him, after all. So I'm running some experiments.”
Sebastian understood. Jim was taking men about Dr. Watson's age, height and weight and determining at what point various methods of torture went over the line and became lethal. So when they actually had the doctor in their grasp, Jim would know just how far he could push it.
Well, that explained the flogger resting on the floor – Sebastian had been wondering about that. It was relatively short, not much longer than a riding crop, with a thick, solid handle and a long, flexible strap that tapered to a point. It would draw blood, and it would do it quickly.
“Well, enjoy yourself,” he said, turning away and beginning to leave the room.
From the corner of his eye, Sebastian saw Jim pick up the flogger and address Gustav.
“Believe me, it's nothing personal – you did an exemplary job – but you see, I can't risk letting you live, and I need to see at what point flogging a man of your approximate height, weight and age becomes fatal.”
Sebastian shook his head and left Jim to his work, his soft voice echoing through the concrete room over Gustav's muffled whines and sobs.
“I need some practice before the main event, you see...”
The whip lashed out with a snap like a firecracker, and Sebastian closed the door on Gustav's scream.