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, some torture in this chapter
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)
'This is more like it,' John thought grimly, surveying the room Moriarty had brought him to.
Metal walls and concrete floor, hooks in the ceiling and a chain bolted to a corner, with a large drain in the centre for easy clean-up. A metal table covered with an array of restraints, beside a standing tray with...
John jerked his eyes away, but not before his brain had noted a pair of pliers, a cauterising tool and a scalpel. There had been other instruments, but he wasn't going to look at them and risk losing his nerve.
John had been through training to resist interrogation. Not much, granted, but long enough to learn some tricks, and for his instructor to impart the universal truth: that in the end, everyone gave into torture. Everyone had a point at which they broke, at which their will crumbled and they did or said whatever would get the pain to stop. Some people's breaking points were further along the line than others, true, but they were there. And the only way to avoid breaking was to hang on long enough to be rescued...or for the torturer to slip up and either kill you or get bored and assume you don't know whatever it is they wanted.
John had an advantage in that he doubted Moriarty was going to be asking questions – this was just inflicting pain for the sake of it. And he didn't need to bear it for long.
Two hours, Anthea had said. He just had to survive for two hours.
“In you go, Johnny-boy!” Moriarty chirped, but there was a hard edge to his voice.
John was careful not to wince or flinch when he walked forward and the razors chewed into his feet again. The cuts were shallow, he could feel that, and probably wouldn't even scar, but that didn't make them any less agonising.
A goon with a taser followed Moriarty into the room, likely just to ensure John wouldn't turn on the criminal mastermind as soon as the door closed.
“Over to the table,” Moriarty ordered. “Hands flat, legs spread. Oh, and take your shirt and trousers off first.”
John shed his clothing and leaned over the table, almost glad to be able to put some weight on his hands and take some of the hideous pressure off his bleeding feet.
He wasn't completely naked – they'd let him keep his underwear, thank god – but there was a distinct air of vulnerability when ninety percent of your body was exposed (and five percent of what was covered was covered by what was essentially a torture device).
John tried to breathe deeply and evenly, staring blankly at the wall as he fought to distance his mind from what was going to happen to him. He'd empty his mind, he wouldn't think of anything – nothing would hurt him, nothing would touch him...
There was a clink of metal, and John looked over to find Moriarty picking up the scalpel.
“You know, I'm really quite interested to see how long you hold out before I have to tie you down,” he reflected, slowly turning the blade in his fingers.
“Thought you didn't like getting your hands dirty,” John quipped, trying to keep his voice level.
“In your case I'll make an exception. Now hold still, Johnny-boy, I'd hate to slip up so early.”
John tensed as he felt the blade pass over the back of his knee. It was so sharp he didn't even realise he was cut until it began to sting.
Another identical cut followed on his opposite knee and in the creases where his legs joined his buttocks. Then his underarms, the crooks of his elbows and beneath his shoulderblades. Just under his pectorals and the line where his ribcage ended. Thin, shallow cuts in the places where sweat would collect – and given that John had broken into a cold sweat of fear from about the moment he saw Moriarty, they were already stinging.
“Very good, Johnny-boy – you didn't so much as whimper!” Moriarty congratulated, now hefting something that looked like black rubber tubing. “But if we're going to continue, I'll have to insist on some feedback.”
“You want to hear me scream?” John surmised, his voice as flat and dead as he could possibly make it.
“Exactly. Just hold still and scream.”
Moriarty swung the rubber through the air as if in practice, and John noted absently that the curved structure and bouncy material of the weapon made it unlikely his skin would be cut. But it would certainly bruise him.
“Any questions?” the madman asked, grinning.
“Just one,” John said. “I have to ask...what went wrong in your childhood?”
He knew he'd pay for that comment, but he'd do whatever it took to keep Moriarty's attention on him, rather than Anthea. He wasn't at all surprised when the tubing cracked against his side like a heavy whip.
John obeyed Moriarty's order, and screamed.
Anthea might not be able to see any cameras, but she knew the room was monitored – Moriarty would be a fool not to – and so as soon as Moriarty had departed with John, she'd pretended to throw a temper tantrum. She'd torn the hospital bed apart, ripped the machines out of the walls and smashed them to pieces.
She'd needed to get at the metal within them – the rigid pieces of casing, now with a few sharp edges – so she could begin drilling through the wall. She knew she'd torn even more stitches in her arm, but she didn't care.
It was a simple enough operation. She knew what she'd done to the alarm systems would be difficult to fix, even if they'd noticed it already, so it was likely she could open the door without triggering anything. Of course, if anyone was watching her, they'd know when she escaped, so she'd have to rely on speed.
Anthea slumped against the wall as though exhausted and despairing, her forehead resting just above her crossed wrists, concealing the thin strip of steel. Remembering the location of the keypad on the other side of the door, she began scraping at the plaster, twisting the metal to bore through the wall and access it from the other side.
It would take a while, she knew. She just hoped there wasn't any reinforcing between her and keypad.
Jim supposed he should give Johnny some food and water at some point to ensure he didn't pass out...but later. He was having too much fun right now.
Jim leaned back and took a moment to admire the black and blue bruises (and red marks that would become bruises) that littered Johnny's body. The rubber tubing had done exactly what it needed to do; tenderising the man's flesh without the risk of breaking bones or causing potentially fatal internal bleeding.
The only damper on his enjoyment was that he'd had to check himself. He'd left Johnny's injured leg largely untouched – it was rather amusing to watch him take whatever Jim dished out while standing like a guardsman on parade, and he didn't want to spoil that by breaking open the stitches.
And the genitals were so deliciously sensitive, simply hitting them with a piece of piping was completely uninspired – while Jim was considering castrating Johnny as a finishing touch, he didn't want to damage that myriad of nerve endings too early. So he'd let Johnny keep his underwear on, as a sort of visual marker of where to avoid.
He hadn't expected the man to hold out so long though. But at ninety minutes, fifty-three seconds and counting, Johnny still hadn't done anything aside from exactly what Jim had asked of him.
And Jim had taken his time. Half of torture was anticipation, so he'd made sure Johnny had plenty of that. He'd described exactly what he was planning to do, the experiments he'd already done to ensure he knew not to go too far, and though Johnny had been a bit free with the snippy remarks in the beginning, Jim had felt an almost physical pleasure at listening to the man's rejoinders slowly degenerate until the only response his abuse garnered were cries of pain.
Jim noted the way Johnny was shivering ever-so slightly, still partially bent over the table, as though he was starting to go into shock, and considered raping him. Sexual torture was a necessary component of the process, and Jim suspected it would be more potent if Johnny was forced to cooperate in his own violation, only for Jim to kill that woman anyway.
But after his experiments flogging Gustav, Jim wanted to see the real John Watson twisting and screaming beneath the whip.
Jim's hand closed around the handle of the flogger, contemplating the naked expanse of Johnny's back with relish. He decided not to let Johnny in on what he was about to do – just this once, he wanted the element of surprise.
The whip snapped sharply through the air, leaving a diagonal white line across Johnny's right shoulder blade, that immediately flushed into a red welt. The shocked scream of pain and the way Johnny half-turned in surprise was everything Jim could have wanted.
“Don't move,” he reminded. “Wouldn't want to go back on your promise, now would you?”
Johnny's eyes went dark and hard, and he turned away, visibly bracing himself for the next blow. Just to mix things up, Jim flicked the back of his left calf, directly over a purple bruise and hard enough to open the skin. It earned him a stuttering cry of pain, as though Johnny was trying to keep himself silent even as his vocal chords contracted.
There was a very hard, very steely core to John Watson. Jim looked forward to smashing it apart.
Anthea had come up against what she hoped was the back of the electronic lock – at least, it certainly felt different as she poked cautiously at it. She tried to summon a mental picture of the device, trying to extrapolate where everything would be...and yes, there was the wiring for the back of the pad.
She'd seen the code, and it was a matter of only moments to manipulate the device from behind, the lock releasing with a soft click.
Bringing her hands in front of her for the first time since she'd begun that work, Anthea checked her watch. Two hours, forty-three seconds – dammit, her estimate had been off!
Anthea didn't know if whatever monitoring device assigned to this room was sensitive enough to pick up on the sound of the lock opening, and she wasn't about to wait around to find out. From the wreckage littering the floor, she extracted a long piece of metal that was once part of John's IV stand – it wasn't much, but as makeshift weapons went, she could have done worse – and slipped out into the corridor.
She was surprised to find it deserted. No matter how confident they were in their security, she would have expected at least one guard.
Well, at least it made her chances of escaping that much higher. But of course, she had no intention of obeying John's instruction to leave him behind.
In a situation like this, Anthea would usually methodically search the rooms, but she was concious of the press of time in each tick of her wristwatch. She might have been able to get out of the room without much difficulty, but she was surely minutes away from some kind of alert that would put the entire place on lockdown as Moriarty's hirelings searched for her.
Moriarty had said something about having a room more suited for...for what he was doing to John. And though this was a fairly remote spot, there was still the problem of curious tourists – such a room would have to be soundproofed. And while she knew a decent engineer was capable of soundproofing any room they wanted to, something told her she'd be more likely to find that room in the basement.
Just this once, Anthea would go with her instincts.
John waited for the next lash, trying not to think about...well, about anything. The beating had left his skin exquisitely tender and painfully sensitive, ensuring that the whipping had been far more agonising than John ever thought possible.
And considering that he was a doctor, he'd gone into this expecting a lot of pain.
“Over two hours, Johnny!” Moriarty chirped, stroking the whip over his shoulder, seeming to delight in the way John couldn't contain a shiver. “I won't lie – I'm impressed.”
Over two hours. Anthea's deadline had passed – she was away and safe, so John was finally free to put his plan into action. Thank god he'd managed to keep himself under control, so Moriarty hadn't felt the need to restrain him.
As Moriarty was pulling back for the next blow, John moved. He pivoted on one foot, turning himself around to face his captor as his arms came up, one hand wrapping around the base of Moriarty's neck as the other wrapped around his jaw, gripping it firmly.
A sharp twist, and Moriarty's neck broke with a loud snap.
John didn't even watch the body hit the floor. He crouched, spun back, and flipped the metal table in front of him, letting it take the shot from the lackey's taser. From there it was child's play to kick it forward, forcing the minion to dive out of the way or be pinned against the wall, and use the moments of distraction to close the distance between them.
He smashed the heel of his hand upwards into the base of the man's nose, feeling cartilage crunch and splinter beneath his palm, then John grabbed hold of the man's head and brought it down on the edge of the table as hard as he could.
The man went limp, and it was only after John was certain he wouldn't rise again that he became aware of just how much pain he was in. Adrenaline, and the narrowed focus of actually being able to do something after his hours of forced submission had pushed the discomfort to the back of his mind, and now it was returning with a vengeance.
John allowed himself to practically collapse on the spot, dropping into a sitting position with an inelegant thud.
Almost every inch of his skin hurt – most of it with the deep-tissue ache of forming bruises, but the whip had left hot, prickly welts that pulled at his skin with each breath. His feet were in agony, and John couldn't help hissing in pain as he unlaced the hideous shoes and pulled them off.
The soles of his feet were tacky with blood and looked like they'd been put through a paper shredder. But the wounds weren't deep, and now that he'd removed the source of the constant trauma most were already clotting.
The main problem was that the stitches in his leg had split at one end. Blood was welling in the tear, and John moved to apply pressure automatically, even though he knew there was no real point.
John knew he couldn't escape a whole house full of Moriarty's soldiers, not in his condition. He'd never planned on it – he'd just wanted to bring Moriarty down with him.
That was why he'd had to wait until Anthea was away and safe. John held no illusions about what would happen now; this house had been filled with people loyal to Moriarty, people who would have no compunction about killing him to avenge their dead employer.
John had known he was a dead man the moment he offered Moriarty his bargain.
Anthea peered around the corner, feeling a prickle of apprehension when she saw no one guarding the staircase that led into the basement.
She hadn't met a single person in her hurried progression through the house, which seemed somehow ominous. She kept expecting a trap laid around every corner, and it was beginning to strain her nerves. Outright fighting her way through the corridors was what she'd expected, but this silence was just eerie.
Where had everyone gone?
At the base of the stairs was a door that seemed to be made out of steel, the holiday home facade apparently abandoned.
Anthea pressed her ear to the door, but couldn't hear anything from inside. Knowing that even if it was a trap, there was likely no way for her to prepare to defend herself, she opened the door as quickly as she could, hefting her makeshift weapon in the opposite hand...
John was sitting on the floor in his underwear, his skin streaked with bruises, one arm bracing himself against the floor. A table was overturned, and Moriarty and one of his men lay dead a few feet away.
Anthea only cared about one of those things.
“John!” she exclaimed
There was undisguised surprise on John's face as he looked at her, mixed with a sort of weary bewilderment. “I thought I told you not to come back for me.”
Anthea gave that the contemptuous snort it deserved as she rushed into the room and dropped to her knees at his side. “Are...”
She was planning to ask him if he was all right, but it died in her throat as she truly took in his injuries. The bruises were only part of it; from what she could see of John's back, it was covered with raw, oozing welts, there were lines of blood at his elbows and across his chest, and his feet...
“I'm okay,” John panted. “It...it looks worse than it is.”
Anthea very much doubted that, but decided not to comment on it. She touched the side of John's face in a gesture she hoped he'd interpret as comforting and supportive, then went to raid Moriarty's pockets for her Blackberry.
When she finally got a good look at the body, she was surprised – it was much harder to break necks than people assumed. Thick layers of muscle and ligaments were needed to support the skull, and it took a lot of force to work against them. But she supposed if anyone would know how to break necks, it would be a doctor.
“Can you walk?” she asked, her voice purposefully brusque.
Anthea had a feeling John didn't want comfort or sympathy right now – he wanted her to be curt, business-like, to act as if she wasn't horrified by the clear evidence of what he'd endured.
John slowly shifted into a crouch, then stood, and Anthea had to work hard to keep from flinching as he winced and groaned.
“Not far,” he said flatly, rocking back and forth as though trying to somehow keep his weight off both feet.
Anthea wanted to offer her shoulder, but thought it would be prudent to crack open the door and check there was no one coming towards the room before they just blithely walked out into the corridor. So she leaned out and checked.
And ducked back into the room when she spotted movement on the staircase – black-clad figures descending slowly, warily, as though prepared for resistance.
“Incoming,” she said in a low voice.
John was pulling on his clothes as quickly as he could – Anthea inwardly cringed at the thought of material rubbing against those welts on his back, but she suspected John needed the concealment and the illusion of protection right now.
“On the stairs.”
John nodded. Then, ignoring his bleeding leg, he limped to a tray of what could only be called torture devices, picked up a scalpel, leaned out the door, and threw it down the hall.
“You're a knife-thrower now?” Anthea blurted as he ducked back inside.
“Not at all – I probably missed them by a mile. But that will at least tell them that we're here and willing to fight, which should buy us a few minutes while they come up with a plan. Do you have anything on you besides that?” he nodded at the long piece of metal that she'd dropped to the floor.
Anthea shook her head. “I didn't meet anyone on the way here.”
John frowned, obviously puzzled. “Really? No one at all?”
“Several times along the way, I wondered if they were setting some kind of trap,” she admitted.
“Looks like you were right. Do you have a plan?”
“Not as such, no.”
Even through the adrenaline-soaked haze of denial (this couldn't be the end, it couldn't), Anthea realised John was looking very accepting for a man about to die. Almost as though he'd been expecting this outcome...
It was just an idle thought, but suddenly everything was very, very clear to Anthea. “This was your plan, wasn't it?”
John looked up from where he was rifling through the torture instruments, obviously looking for something he could use as a weapon. “Excuse me?”
“This was your plan,” Anthea repeated, feeling very close to absolutely furious. “That's why you told me not to come back for you – you planned to wait long enough for me to get away, then you'd kill Moriarty, and in turn be killed by his guards.”
John didn't reply.
“I'm right, aren't I?”
Eventually, he nodded, carefully not meeting her eyes. “You heard him – I was the one he was really after. If you escaped, he might not be fussed enough to send everything he had after you, but me...I knew I wasn't going to get away. The best I could hope for was to bring him down with me.”
Anthea wondered what that had been like – submitting to two hours of torture and expecting only death at the end of it. She wanted to say or do something to help, but the set expression on John's face as he lifted a cattle prod told her he didn't want anything resembling sympathy right now.
“There's nothing on the bodies,” he said, gesturing to the corpses on the floor and very deliberately changing the subject. “I checked. This and your bit of metal will have to do us.”
Anthea nodded. She'd seen a taser on the floor, but it was the type that fired metal probes and needed to be reloaded between each shot. And having already been fired, it was essentially useless to them.
She wasn't stupid – she knew there was no way they could get out of this. She didn't know exactly how many people were coming down the stairs outside, but her quick glimpse had assured her it was far more than they could handle.
John wasn't looking for a weapon because he thought they could fight their way out of this, but because he wanted to take as many of them with him as he could.
Perhaps Anthea should be frightened, and she was, but more than that she just felt a horrible sense of resignation. She'd always known the odds were against them proving their innocence – she couldn't say that, deep down, she hadn't considered this scenario as an end to their crusade.
She and John had started this together...and perhaps it was fitting that they finish it together.
John was smiling wearily at her, and Anthea knew he'd seen what she was thinking.
“Look on the bright side,” he encouraged. “We'll always have Paris.”
She laughed, and thought ruefully that only John would try to cheer her up when they were minutes away from death.
Anthea watched him toss the cattle prod from hand to hand, spinning it and testing its weight to get a feel for the device, and she bent down to pick up her own weapon. With her injured arm and a lack of formal training in combat with a large metal pole, she wasn't certain how effective she'd be, but she was willing to try.
Anthea was trying to steel herself to face her death with relatively calm when the sudden ringing of her Blackberry made them both jump.
She was set to ignore it, but the caller ID was listed as John's number, which meant it was their mysterious benefactor. Calling too late to really help, but Anthea answered anyway.
“I know you've had a difficult day,” came the soft, cultured voice containing just a hint of tension. “But I'd appreciate it if you stopped throwing sharp things at my friends.”
Avra had good friends – special forces retirees who'd agreed to this raid as a special favour for her – and she'd given them permission to storm the building as soon as they'd realised Jane wasn't waiting for them. Given the circumstances, Avra thought it reasonable to assume she'd either been killed or captured.
For her eldest son's sake, she hoped it was the latter.
From what Avra had been hearing from her radio (tuned into her friends' frequency), there was precious little working security in the place. Almost as though Jane had got to it before them – they were finding it surprisingly easy to attract the guards to the fringes and disable them in small groups.
And when they'd radioed about two people holed up in a small room in the basement, one a short-haired woman and the other a battered-looking man who'd thrown a scalpel at them, Avra knew the objective had been achieved.
By that point, her poor boys had been practically going to pieces. Oh, she was sure they looked they were calm and in control of themselves to anyone else, but she was their mother – she'd always been able to see through them.
And she could see how pale Mycroft was, the way he was twisting his fingers, lacing and un-lacing them over and over again as if he was physically unable to keep them still. She could see how Sherlock was rocking back and forth, as if it was an effort to keep himself in place, and he'd worried several nails on his fingers down to bloody cuticles (she'd tried to stop him, but he just started chewing his lip as though determined to bite it off, and at least the nails would grow back).
She lifted John's phone and dialled Jane's number, hoping the much-altered Blackberry was still in their custody. It would be best if they could extract them from the house without the injuries that would surely result were John to put up a serious fight.
Avra asked them to please desist in throwing sharp objects in her friends' direction, and hung up before one of her sons could wrest the phone from her and alarm their paramours by blurting apologies or inquiries about their welfare. John and Jane had already endured far more than they should have – the shock of her identity and her children's presence could at least wait until they were free.
When her friends radioed in to say they were escorting John and Jane out, but they thought it would be wise to procure an ambulance, both Sherlock and Mycroft practically leapt out of their seats.
Avra sent them a quelling glance, even as she held the 'talk' button down. “What is their condition?”
“Your friend with the Blackberry has a sliced arm, but it should be all right – looks like it's been partially treated already,” came the response.
Mycroft was dialling, obviously requesting an ambulance, but Avra knew his full attention was on the radio she held. As soon as they'd been told Jane seemed unharmed, aside from her previous injury, the tense hunch of Mycroft's shoulders eased so quickly he might have been sedated.
But the report wasn't finished. “The doctor's in bad shape, though. I wouldn't be surprised if we need a stretcher to take him out.”
At that, Sherlock made a sound as if he were in pain; a soft hiss of breath through gritted teeth.
Avra found herself thankful they were only two minutes away.
John was still reeling from the revelation that the people storming through the house were on their side as he and Anthea were hustled out. Teams split off from the main group to look for safes, computers, filing cabinets – any evidence of Moriarty's operations. Apparently an ambulance was on its way as well, which was good, because John wasn't sure how far he could make it.
His feet stung sharply whenever he so much as shifted, and his leg throbbed in rebellion every time it took his weight. He was feeling uncomfortably raw and tender as an after-effect of the beating, as though he'd been partially skinned, and he was probably going into shock.
But John wasn't going to wait for a stretcher. It was stupid, but he felt a desperate need to walk out of the place on his own two feet.
With Anthea's support, of course. He'd slung his left arm around her neck, using her as an impromptu crutch for his injured leg, and her arms were wrapped lightly around his waist to help balance him.
John would have objected if any of their armed helpers had tried to assist him, but with Anthea, he found he didn't mind. Perhaps because she felt like a sister in arms, and there was no shame in leaning on your comrades when you needed to.
It was only when he saw the cloudy sky above him that John truly realised they were free. Something bubbled beneath his numb bewilderment, something like relief and triumph and joy mixed together...
And then he noticed the three figures standing on the path in front of them. There was Mycroft, looking unusually pale beside an older woman who reminded John of Judi Dench from Casino Royale.
But he didn't look closer, because the third figure was Sherlock. John's attention went to the man like iron to a magnet.
Sherlock looked like...well, he looked like he had the night of the pool – confused and frightened and panicked and trying desperately to hold himself together.
Anthea gasped, having obviously seen Mycroft, and John welcomed the distraction, yanking his gaze away from Sherlock's to land on her.
She was clearly shocked, and certainly wary, and yet in that moment John wanted to laugh. Because they were out – Moriarty was dead, and they were free of him. He didn't even care if Sherlock and Mycroft were about to haul them off to jail because frankly, it was still a far better option than being held by Moriarty.
“We made it,” he breathed, grinning like a lunatic at Anthea.
Then he did laugh, hugging her to him, ignoring the pain as her body pressed against his various bruises and welts.
“We did, didn't we?” Anthea laughed with him, sounding incredulous.
She gripped his face and planted a loud, smacking kiss of celebration on his lips, which only made them both laugh harder. John heard the tinges of hysteria in their wild giggles but couldn't seem to curb himself – it was either laugh about it or cry about it, and he knew which one he preferred.
“I'm afraid I must enquire as to the source of your amusement.”
The voice was feminine, distinctly upper-class, and somehow familiar. John couldn't place it, but as he and Anthea turned, their giggles tapering off, Anthea suddenly stiffened.
“Mrs. Holmes!” she blurted.
John had the feeling that only the fact that Anthea was helping to support him stopped her from snapping to attention like a soldier on parade.
Then he registered what she'd said and had to fight the urge to snap to attention himself. Mrs. Holmes? Had they really been rescued by Sherlock's Mum?
Though now that he was looking for it, he could see the resemblance. She looked more like Sherlock than like Mycroft, with her sharp cheekbones and her curly hair, thought it was more silver than black.
John felt his elation retreating under another wave of confusion as the woman smiled.
“Come now, Jane – how many times have I told you to call me Avra?”
AN: Thanks so much to the wonderful ginbitch, who betas even when she's busy...