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)
To say that Anthea had been angry was an understatement. Words like 'foolish' and 'reckless' and 'naïve' and other such barbs were thrown haphazardly around, but in the end she couldn't deny that John had obtained surgical thread, gauze, analgesics and everything he needed to treat her arm.
“It could have been a trap!” she hissed. “Did we not discuss that? Didn't we agree that it was probably a trap and it was best to-”
“That's why I went alone,” John interrupted smoothly as he examined the tools he'd been given for defects. “That way, if it was a trap, they'd only get one of us.”
Anthea was still looking displeased. “You do realise she could just be leading you on, don't you? Establishing a rapport so we trust her and then she can grab us both.”
“It's not like I'm ever going to tell her our exact location,” John pointed out, preparing the local anaesthetic. “And only one of us needs to make the pick-up, so there'll never be a need for both of us to be there.”
He didn't mention that he'd also learned a thing or two while working with Sherlock, among them a few handy tricks for spotting surveillance or shaking a tail.
“Now,” he said at last, satisfied he was ready. “Sit down and let me stitch you up.”
It felt strange – her arm was numb, so there was no pain, but there still a vague feeling of pressure and release each time John drove the surgical needle through her skin.
Anthea had watched, at first, but it was a little unsettling to see the thread being drawn through her flesh without actually feeling it, and had soon switched on the television to distract herself. But there was nothing of any interest, so she left it on the news while working one-handed to hack into the police system.
Unfortunately, the crime scene only made them look all the more guilty. Or at least, it made John look all the more guilty – the bloody fingerprint on the curtain, the marks he'd left when he'd checked the bodies...
“You know, it's very unnerving to see you hacking police computers one-handed while watching telly,” John commented. “Brilliant, yes, but unnerving.”
“As unnerving as your shooting ?” Anthea shot back. “You do realise you could easily qualify for the Olympics with that kind of accuracy, don't you?”
“Yeah, but any idiot can do that,” John protested. “All you need is decent eyesight, a good gun, and a lot of practise.”
Anthea resisted the temptation to roll her eyes. “The same could be said about what I'm doing – all you need is some computer skills and good hardware.”
“Something tells me not every hacker is capable of cracking the police computer system on that little thing.”
“It helps that I've modified this somewhat,” Anthea conceded.
“Oh, hush,” she huffed, amused almost in spite of herself. “I'm busy.”
John had finished stitching her arm and was putting it in a sling by the time Anthea found what she was looking for. The fingerprints on the knife belonged to a man named Thomas Abbot who had been arrested in England, Switzerland and France and spent several years in prison for essentially minor crimes. Anthea was surprised the police had got those results so quickly, but supposed a multiple homicide like that would have definitely constituted putting a rush on it.
Interestingly, the bodies of the people who'd attacked them had yet to be identified. She wasn't sure what that meant.
“You remember the knife I told you about?” Anthea said, attracting John's attention.
“Yeah, I remember.”
“They've found who it belongs to. A man named Thomas Abbot and the location of his last arrest was France.”
Anthea nodded. “I'm trying to get some more information on him, known associates and all that. Hopefully he'll have some here – we don't want to leave the country unless it's strictly necessary...”
John shook his head, looking bemused as he stared down at her Blackberry, obviously trying to comprehend the data that was flying across the screen.
“You're penetrating that system so smoothly it feels vaguely like watching pornography,” he quipped, startling a laugh from Anthea.
The more time she spent with John Watson, the more she could see why Sherlock had taken a liking to him. He was free with his praise yet rather modest about his own accomplishments, amiable without being simpering, and he had a way of making you laugh at just about anything.
She was skimming through the details of the official report, when the body count suddenly arrested her attention. She did some quick maths...but no, that couldn't be right. She paged rapidly through it, seeking the description and photographs of the scene and stiffened when she finally found them.
'Poor John.' The thought flashed through her mind before she made herself speak, not bothering to cushion the blow because John wouldn't appreciate it.
“The policemen are dead.”
John blinked, clearly startled. “What?”
“The policemen you subdued – they're dead.”
“What? But...I was so careful,” John muttered, half to himself, clearly bewildered. “I made sure-”
“They were shot,” Anthea said succinctly. “After we left, someone came back and shot the policemen.”
John paled, and Anthea knew he was thinking of the state he'd left those officers in. One unconscious, the other handcuffed and unable to cry out – he'd practically gift wrapped them for the murderer.
“Don't look like that!” she snapped, the guilt on his face making something in her chest twinge painfully. “It wasn't your fault.”
John's face seemed to crumple. “I know, I know. It's just...”
He trailed off and shook his head, looking down at the carpet.
It was probably callous of her, and cold and heartless and every other epithet she'd been accused of, but Anthea was less concerned about the dead policemen than what their deaths meant. It meant someone had come to that house after they'd left, someone who didn't want the policemen's account of the situation to get out. But if there had been a 'clean-up crew', so to speak, why hadn't the incriminating knife been removed?
All she could think of was that there'd been some kind of breakdown in communications, but that seemed somehow flimsy.
Anthea shook her head and privately resolved to look into it when she was better rested.
They slept in shifts that night – Anthea insisting on going first and that John get the lion's share of sleep as she could always doze in the car. She tapped away on her Blackberry in the early hours of the morning, curled in an armchair while John slumbered in the bed, trying to find out everything she could about Thomas Abbot and the crime scene his fingerprints had been discovered at.
The more she learned, the less sense it made. If Moriarty's communication or surveillance had been extensive enough to send someone to kill the policemen, it should have been extensive enough to realise that one of the murder weapons had been left behind. Someone had very methodically stripped that house of all electronics equipment after the murders – surely they would have at least glanced under the bed?
The more Anthea thought about it, the more it seemed that leaving the knife there had been deliberate. But why? Had Thomas Abbot displeased them somehow, enough to warrant being framed?
She discussed the possibilities with John over some breakfast.
“So what do you think we should do?” John asked eventually.
“You're asking me?”
“I'm not the super-spy here.”
“Will you stop calling me that?”
“Why?” John grinned, clearly unrepentant. “It's true, isn't it?”
The smiling, teasing man sitting across from her bore little resemblance to the one that had looked sick at the report of the policemen's deaths, but Anthea suspected John used humour as a defence mechanism. He made people laugh to take the attention off his own pain.
He did seem the better for the night's sleep, though, and Anthea felt pleased. It had taken work to persuade John to take the shorter watch, as he'd been insistent that her injury necessitated as much rest as possible. Only when she'd promised to nap in the car had he finally acquiesced.
“Leaving the knife there was obviously deliberate,” Anthea mused. “We were meant to follow it up...but I don't see what else we can do.”
It wasn't as though they had a surfeit of leads to choose from – Spencer and Number 5 had been their best options. Now that they were dead, Anthea and John had to take what they could get. They'd be extremely cautious, of course, just in case it was a trap. And if it wasn't, and Thomas Abbot was a just a patsy, then if they found him they might understand why he'd been framed or duped or whatever that was, which had a chance at leading them further into Moriarty's organisation.
They had to go.
“So, into the breach then?” John asked, apparently reading the resolve on her face.
“Into the breach,” Anthea agreed. “But first, I'm going to ring up our 'benefactor'.”
She made sure John could hear the sarcastic emphasis on the last word.
John frowned. “What for?”
“I'm going to ask for the necessary tools to alter passports.”
“Don't you have them already?”
“Yes, but I want to see how far she'll go,” Anthea explained. “If her objective is to bring us in – if she's working in any kind of official capacity – she'll baulk at helping us leave the country. Speaking of which, do you speak French?”
“Had a couple of years of it in school,” John said. “Which basically means I can introduce myself and ask where the train station is. My Farsi's pretty good, though, and I can get by with my Pashto, but they probably won't be of any use to us.”
Anthea made a mental note of it anyway. “Are you fluent in any other languages?”
“It's been a while, but I do well with German. Oh, and I can curse people out in Spanish and Italian.”
Anthea considered that, and couldn't help but ask, “Why did you learn how to insult people in Spanish and Italian?”
John shrugged. “Seemed like the thing to do at the time. What about you – what languages do you speak?”
“Arabic, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Korean, Japanese-”
“Okay, I get it, you speak a lot of languages,” John interrupted. Then, with a grin, “You'll just to be my Rosetta stone – hey, that's an idea! Ever thought of calling yourself 'Rosy'?”
“No,” Anthea said emphatically. “You can't call me that.”
“Why not? You admitted that 'Anthea' is fake, so why can't I call you Rosy?”
“Because I choose my names. And Rosy is a name for dogs and grandmothers.”
“Whatever you say, Rosy.”
John's broad, cheeky grin instilled a strong desire in her to reach across the table and strangle him. But Anthea was a grown woman – she would not rise to his bait.
“So, where are we going then, Rosy?”
“France, obviously. And if you keep calling me that, you'll be crossing the Channel in a cargo crate.”
John had to admit – he was impressed. Anthea had booked them tickets on the Eurostar, but of course, as there was a warrant out for John's arrest (and probably Anthea's, too, by now), they had to go in disguise.
John's hair had been dyed, he hadn't shaved so that the faint beard growth would camouflage the shape of his chin and with some glue, plasticine and liberal application of makeup, Anthea had created an ugly, misshapen growth on the side of his nose. That way, people would avoid looking at him so they wouldn't be taken as staring, and if they did look their attention would be captured by the 'growth', not his actual features.
But that wasn't what had John so impressed – it was Anthea's disguise. She'd dressed herself as a man, and it was so convincing John had actually performed a double-take. Her feminine, vaguely hourglass shape was gone, replaced by the distinctively masculine upside-down triangle of broad shoulders tapering to a curve-less waist. She'd cut her hair, and even used some kind of pencil to draw a spot of stubble at the corner of her jaw, as though she'd missed a bit shaving.
“That's amazing,” John marvelled. “How did you do that?”
Anthea opened her mouth to explain, but John raised a hand and forestalled her. “Actually, on second thoughts, don't answer. I'm sure the explanation will involve make-up and aesthetics and lines of sight and I won't understand a single word of it.”
She smirked, obviously satisfied with herself.
“I'm surprised you didn't want me to dress up as a woman,” John mused as they climbed into the car. “If you're this good, you could certainly have made me look the part.”
Anthea shook her head. “Your shoulders are too broad for any of my dresses, and we want to avoid buying new ones if possible.”
John nodded. It was true that neither of them exactly lacked for cash at the moment, but though tens of thousands of pounds might seem a surplus of funds it was all they had, and they didn't know how long it needed to last.
Unfortunately, travel on the Eurostar meant that John's collection of weapons had to be left behind – there was a limit to the number of guns you could smuggle across borders when you only had two people. In the end, John took his own gun, the taser, and the best two pistols of those he'd appropriated from the house. Anthea had promised him she could get them through the scanners, and John wasn't sure he wanted to know how; he wanted to retain at least some faith in border security.
Logically, he knew that was more than enough, but there was some part of him – the survivalist that insisted every resource was precious – that had urged him to hold onto his arsenal, regardless. It had felt strange to just dump them inside the foyer of a hotel (a hotel because eventually someone would investigate the bag, the police would be called, and the weapons would end up in good hands).
Anthea had consoled him by pointing out that if they ever needed more weapons, their benefactor could provide them. She'd warmed to the mysterious woman ever since the passport alteration tools had been dropped off as she requested. Only slightly, of course – just because she wasn't operating in an official capacity didn't mean she was on their side, and the fact that they didn't know her motivations or how she'd learned of their situation was unsettling – but it was there.
At the very least, she'd stopped berating John for asking for medical supplies.
Actually getting to France was much easier than John had thought it would be, though extremely nerve-wracking. He'd been frankly petrified when he'd handed over his passport to the officials, certain he was about to be recognised...but they'd simply glanced at it, glanced at him, then waved him onwards.
John wasn't sure whether to be relieved they'd got through, or frightened at how easy it was for wanted criminals to get out of the country.
“I'll get a French phrasebook and a map,” Anthea mused when they emerged from the station in Paris, deliberately deepening her voice so she'd sound vaguely masculine to anyone passing. “Make us look like any other tourists.”
“So what kind of vibe are we going for?” John wondered. “Are we relatives? Friends? Gay couple?”
The corner of Anthea's mouth twitched. “Let's go with friends for now. Since university – you're a physiotherapist, I'm a biologist, and we had some courses in common.”
“Right,” John said, committing that to memory. “And do we stick with the names on our passports?”
“Probably best – avoid confusion and all.”
Which made John 'Lucas Eldon' and Anthea 'Stephen Grant'.
John nodded. “So...what now?”
“We need to get a hotel,” Anthea mused. “Preferably cheap, but still nice – a tourist hotel, the type with guided tours.”
“Any particular reason?”
“Always guaranteed to be crowded – as long as we've got a map and phrasebook we'll look like just another couple of English sightseers, and no one will give us a second glance.”
John nodded again, trying not to look as alert and on-edge as he actually was. He knew it was silly, but the fact that they'd left the country was making him feel very alone. Like it was just him and Anthea against the world, with no help but a strange woman on the end of a phone line.
He knew it had been this way from the beginning, but this was the first time he'd really felt it.
Some people would probably say it was similar to Afghanistan, but John didn't think so. In Afghanistan, he'd had the rest of the army behind him, the assurance that the people in his unit had his back, but not here.
“This looks promising,” Anthea announced, dragging him out of his thoughts as she prodded him through a doorway.
Anthea's search for 'Thomas Abbot' had been running for an hour already, and they still didn't have anything. But in many ways Anthea wasn't surprised – her Blackberry might be powerful, but there was still only so much data it could process at a time, and she had it trolling through every arrest record on the database. She'd count herself lucky if she saw results by the end of the day.
They'd procured a twin room, with a nicely furnished bathroom and a television, and John had tried to amuse himself by flicking through the channels. Of course, the fact that he couldn't comprehend anything being said meant he'd quickly tired of that, and had resorted to flicking through the phrasebook in an effort to understand the magazines that had been left on the coffee table.
However, in the past ten minutes, he seemed to have abandoned that in favour of sprawling out on his bed and staring listlessly up at the ceiling.
“Are you all right?” she asked, feeling a little concerned. God forbid John should get food poisoning or something – what would she do then? She didn't have any decent medical training, couldn't take him to hospital...
“I'm fine,” John replied, lifting his head to look at her – probably picking up on the worry in her voice. “I was just thinking that...well, this is happening pretty quickly. I mean, just yesterday we were...”
He trailed off and shrugged, but Anthea knew what he meant. People talked about their lives changing in the blink of an eye, but she'd venture to say that she and John were one of the few people who'd truly experienced it. A little over twenty-four hours ago she'd been going into work, with no idea that she was about to become a wanted fugitive.
Things had been moving so fast there'd been little time to sit down and really think about what had happened. But now, sitting in a hotel and waiting for an electronic search to run to completion, there was nothing else to do.
And Anthea had the horrible feeling that she'd think herself into depression if she dwelled on the look on Mycroft's face as he thanked her for 'services rendered'. Services rendered, as if she'd been little better than a prostitute...
“This would usually be the point at which we attempt to drown our sorrows,” John mused, still staring at the ceiling with dead eyes. “But I don't think it's a good idea for either of us to impair our faculties right now.”
Barely a day ago Anthea had been thinking John would drag her down. Now she was nothing but grateful she'd decided to bring him along – she wouldn't have lasted this long if he hadn't been with her.
And while she'd known about every detail of his life that could be gleaned from electronic records, she hadn't really known him. Anthea had been largely indifferent to John before, and now she found herself feeling something dangerously close to friendship for the man. But she supposed it was hard not to like someone who killed people to keep you safe and doctored your wounds and tried to make you smile when you were unhappy.
“What do you think, Rosy?” John asked, his tired grin saying he was using that name purely to tease her. “Feeling an urge to raid the mini-fridge?”
John frowned. “I'm sorry – what?”
“Jane,” Anthea said softly. “My name's Jane.”
John sat up on the bed, and she could tell by the solemn expression on his face that he knew this was her real name, and he had some idea of the trust she was placing in him.
Then his serious expression was tempered by a gentle smile, and he shrugged. “I can see why you'd prefer something flashier.”
Anthea hesitated, then asked carefully, “Will you be calling me by that name now?”
“I don't think so.” Another shrug from John. “You were introduced as Anthea to me, and that's how I think of you. Well, that and Rosy.”
The corner of Anthea's mouth twitched, but she wasn't sure if her lips were trying to smile or grimace.
She couldn't help but wonder how she'd betrayed herself. There was something about John's face, some flavour of the gentle sympathy there which told her he knew that name had been reserved for Mycroft. That he knew she was trying to shut herself off from the pain and sever their ties by giving her name to him, but that he wouldn't use it until she was sure that was what she wanted.
'When this is over,' Anthea couldn't help but think. 'I'll isolate the gene or chemical or brain defect that makes John Watson so bloody understanding, implement it on a world-wide scale, and global peace will reign forever after.'
“And really, geniuses deserve flashy names,” John went on, then laughed suddenly. “You're a genius and you put up with Mycroft – shouldn't that qualify you for the single greatest human being on Earth award?”
“I wasn't aware we held competitions like that,” Anthea mused jokingly.
“I'm sure you could create it, if you wanted to.”
Anthea snorted, then sobered abruptly. “Maybe so, but John...geniuses are two a penny.”
John looked sceptical.
“Okay, maybe not of our calibre, true,” Anthea allowed, referring to both herself and the Holmes' brothers. “But a lot of people are a genius at something. The world's full of great people, but good people?”
She shook her head and chewed her lip, not really knowing why she was saying this, yet feeling compelled to because John didn't seem to understand that he was just as extraordinary as her.
“That's why you're far more unusual than I am, John,” she finished quietly. “Because you're good.”
“Some people would disagree with that,” John said mildly, but there was a definite overtone of self-deprecation. “I've killed people, after all.”
Anthea didn't see what bearing that had on their discussion.
“Not to mention I haven't seen any decision or moral high ground that would make me better than you,” John point out.
Apparently, he just didn't get it. Anthea knew what she was talking about, though – John was better than she was because he was the kind of person who loved without conditions or limits or boundaries. She'd spent almost two days in his company and already she knew that he'd die for someone he cared about without a second thought. In some ways she envied him that, but in other ways...well, she could only imagine how often people had taken advantage of John's nature.
And really, they could argue back and forth about their worth until dinnertime, because behind this whole conversation was the fact that both of them had fallen in love with two brothers who apparently hadn't recognised their value and had stabbed them in the back the moment they could.
She remembered John asking her for a drink and couldn't help but sigh, “You know, our lives would have been so much easier if we'd fallen in love with each other.”
John smiled weakly, but Anthea could see the quick flicker of speculation in his eyes.
And just like that, the moment became statically charged, energy building and preparing to go off.
'Why not?' Anthea found herself wondering. 'Why not John? He's good man, with a quirky sense of a humour and a frankly dangerous ability to kill people – all excellent qualities, really.'
Why not John?
She was never entirely clear on who moved first – she bent down, John tilted his head up – but in the next instant they were kissing.
Anthea had no real idea what they were doing. Maybe they wanted to forget about the men they'd last kissed kissed, maybe they wanted to feel something other than the strange numbness of betrayal, maybe they wanted to connect with the one person who trusted them who believed in them. Maybe they even wanted to betray the men they loved in some fraction of the way they'd been betrayed.
It was...strange. John was a good kisser – a perfect 10.0 on technical proficiency – and he was being careful not to jostle the arm that was still in a sling. It should have been wonderful, but instead it felt cold, absent, and vaguely wrong.
Anthea didn't have any siblings, but she couldn't help but think that this was what kissing her brother would feel like. It was nothing like what it felt to kiss Mycroft, and she was furious that was all she could think of.
John was drawing away, and judging by his furrowed brow and the contemplative expression on his face, he was feeling the same thing she was.
“No,” Anthea announced decisively.
“Oh, thank god,” John sighed.
Part of Anthea was irrationally annoyed that he hadn't been able to make her stop thinking of Mycroft. The man had cast her aside like yesterday's leftovers – if there was any justice in the world, she would have been able to stop loving him the instant he did that.
John smiled gently at her, and Anthea hated the understanding on his face. She even resented the way he softly kissed her cheek – dry and chaste, like a brother to his sister – and went back to his phrasebook.
She couldn't help but think that this was why such a nice, understanding and empathic guy like John was single before he met Sherlock. Because he was a little too empathic – he knew what you needed almost before you did, which made you feel at a disadvantage. Anthea could imagine John buying beautifully thoughtful anniversary and birthday presents, the kind that made your own seem like throwaway trinkets in comparison.
John needed someone who could read the details like he could read people, someone who wouldn't be intimidated by his ease. Even Mycroft might be unsettled by John, because while he deduced people, John...just knew.
“Anthea, how do you pronounce this?” John's voice drew her out of her reverie, to find him squinting down at the phrasebook.
He still called her Anthea, and she realised that she felt like Anthea here. She had been Jane with Mycroft only, and now...now, with John, she was Anthea.
“Come on, Rosy, help me out here – I need your expertise.”
Reluctantly amused by John's pet name, Anthea moved to where he sat by the window, and told him to point out the word that was giving him trouble.
John could admit the kiss hadn't been bad – quite the opposite, really – but it just didn't feel right. There was no spark, no passion, no desire in it. He might as well have been kissing a brick wall.
He couldn't help but think of Sherlock, and he'd known she was thinking of Mycroft.
The more he got to know Anthea, the more he understood that Mycroft had really been her perfect match. Partly because of that razor intellect, which made their minds work on a level he'd never truly understand. But mostly it was because Anthea seemed to have her emotions practically mastered, or at least her response to them. Her reactions were only given free reign when she decided they would be, and she needed someone who would understand that, who wouldn't automatically think her cold or unfeeling.
Even Sherlock might be uncomfortable with that level of control – because for all that he went on about objective investigation and not letting himself get emotionally involved in cases, he had his impulses and sulks.
John knew some people would think two days was too soon to consider someone a friend, but that was how he thought of Anthea. He supposed being on the run together was an experience that bonded people quickly.
“It still would have been easier,” Anthea muttered as she tried to help him with his pronunciation.
“Yeah, probably,” John sighed. “Want to go order something delicious and way too expensive from room service?”
AN: Thanks to ginbitch , for cleaning up this chapter for me even though she's sick – here's hoping she feels better soon!