Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Non-con and slash.
Summary: Written for a prompt on the kinkmeme: Before shoving him in the explosive vest, Moriarty fucked John, viciously. John makes it through the whole encounter with Moriarty and Homles via his own badass soldier nerves of steel, but afterwards, when he and Sherlock are admitted to the hospital for minor burns and abrasions and shock, the hospital staff find other injuries on John.
(Title page by birddi)
After giving his statement, John closed his eyes, took several deep breaths and swallowed convulsively, trying to suppress the urge to vomit that curdled in his stomach and itched at the back of his throat.
Awkward silence had descended upon the room. He wished someone would speak, that they'd say something, anything, but there was nothing but thick atmosphere and the sound of his own breathing. John half-considered breaking the silence himself, but he wouldn't open his mouth until he was sure he wouldn't throw up or scream or both.
He tried to calm himself. He was with Sherlock and Sergeant Donovan now, not Moriarty. Admittedly, he was in the hospital, but he'd be out in a few days...
At that point, John's thoughts ground to a halt. He couldn't just get better, walk out of the hospital and forget all about this. There was no magic fix-it; there would be reminders, painful, ever-present reminders for at least the next six months or so. He could go home, but he'd need follow-up appointments and a host of further tests.
Not the least of which would be the HIV test. John knew he should be horrified at the idea that he might have contracted something from Moriarty, but somehow he wasn't unduly worried. It was difficult to think of Moriarty doing anything as human as contracting a disease.
But those were questions for the future. Feeling marginally calmer, John forced himself to face the silent room, and opened his eyes.
Donovan looked like she desperately wanted to leave and get back to work, the world she understood, but was remaining because she felt like she had to say something before she left and simply didn't know what. John doubted the usual police reassurances applied in his case – they were designed to be made to strangers, to people whose cases they'd work on and then forget, to people they'd see only for evidence and then the trial. Not someone you came into contact with at least once a week, someone you'd actually see mustering themselves by slow, painful degrees as they traversed the long, arduous road to recovery.
Sherlock, on the other hand, seemed to be doing his best to impersonate a statue. The warmth of his hand in John's and the strength in his grip was about the only reassurance that he was a living, breathing human being and not an object carved from marble. He was completely still, completely expressionless, his breathing and blinking as regular and steady as if they'd been operating on clockwork mechanisms.
Somehow, it was even more unsettling than the poorly-hidden tension of before.
Not knowing what to do – if there was even anything he should do – John lightly squeezed Sherlock's hand.
Sherlock twitched, and his face seemed to shift as though the touch had drawn him out of a deep reverie. He looked at John for a long moment, then glanced down and away, as though unsure of himself.
Sherlock actually seemed hesitant, and John was lost on how to respond to that. So he grinned – even though it felt wrong, like trying to grin through a mask of plaster, pieces peeling off and hitting the floor – and teased him.
“You look ridiculous in that tracksuit.”
Sherlock blinked. John could almost see his mind shifting gears as he tried to dismiss whatever had been on his mind and follow John's attempt to lighten the room's strangling atmosphere.
It was interesting to know that apparently, when the situation called for an emotional response instead of an intellectual one, Sherlock's mind worked at the same speed as everyone else's. If anything, it seemed to work a little slower.
“They had to take my clothes into evidence,” Sherlock said mechanically. “They wanted to analyse the powder on them – it's completely harmless, by the way.”
“Well, that's good,” John sighed. “Glad to hear I won't be dying in my sleep of some mysterious poison.”
“Right!” Donovan said loudly, obviously feeling that she should announce her exit. “I'll be getting back to the station...is there anyone you want to call, or something?”
It took John a moment to realise the soft query at the end had been directed at him. He thought briefly of Harry, then just as quickly discarded the idea – he and Harry didn't have the best of relationships, and this was just something he didn't want her to know. Not yet, at least, not while it was so fresh and raw.
So, not telling Harry, and John didn't think there was anyone else...
“Sarah, maybe?” Donovan asked gently.
John could have kicked himself. She would have been expecting him hours ago – god only knew what she thought had happened to him.
He didn't want see her – not like this, not with him in the hospital bed and her trying to be sensitive and not let the pity show – but she should at least be told that he wasn't lying dead in an alleyway somewhere.
It occurred to John that he was going to have to break up with her – he couldn't in good conscience drag Sarah into this. It wasn't that he didn't think she was strong enough to face this with him...it was that their relationship wasn't strong enough. They hadn't known each other long enough to be able to go through something like this without it destroying them completely.
At least if he ended the relationship now, something could be salvaged. Sarah would protest, of course, but not too much – they hadn't been going out long enough to become truly emotionally invested – and they'd at least be able to stand the sight of each other afterwards.
Donovan was still looking at him expectantly, and John realised he hadn't actually verbalised his reply.
“Sarah, she...she should at least know where I am,” he told her, his voice thick. “But I'd prefer...could you not...”
Fortunately, Donovan understood what he was trying to say. She simply smiled – a tight, pinched smile, obviously forced but a smile nevertheless – and nodded in a way that told him she'd be discreet without actually saying a word. It was a gesture John was familiar with; he'd used it himself whenever he was treating a particularly embarrassing ailment.
“I'll tell her you're still alive,” the policewoman said gently. “And I'll...would you like me to try to find someone for...well, you know...for you to talk to?”
John's gratitude withered a little at that question and he shook his head – a twitchy, abortive jerk that was more like a nervous spasm than actual movement. “Not now.”
Donovan nodded and left, quietly shutting the door behind her.
John knew he'd have to see a counsellor eventually, he knew it, just...not now. He didn't want a stranger barging into his room asking how he felt about this – he just wanted to be left alone. The rest of the world could just sod off.
Except Sherlock. John was happy with Sherlock right where he was.
He was still holding Sherlock's hand, and briefly wondered if he should let go, but just as swiftly decided against it. John liked the contact; it was reassuring to have Sherlock so tangibly close, and besides, if Sherlock had a problem with it John was sure he'd have said something by now.
Assuming he was even paying attention – Sherlock's face had taken on that distant, savagely focused expression he wore when he was thinking very hard about something.
“I'm not like him.”
John swallowed, licking at his teeth in an effort to moisten his suddenly dry mouth. There was no doubt who Sherlock was referring to.
“I know,” he replied quietly.
“He said I was like him.” Sherlock's voice had a strange, almost absent intonation, as though he wasn't quite aware he was speaking aloud. “Consulting criminal, consulting detective, he said-”
“Well, he was wrong.” Of that, John had no doubt whatsoever. “I mean, you're a bit on the odd side, and sometimes you can be a right bastard, but you're nothing like him.”
Sherlock looked up at him, and there was a strange expression in his eyes – as though he were actually worried. “How do you know? I'm a sociopath, people have called me cruel on innumerable occasions...how do you know?”
Something in John's chest twisted at the hint of desperation in Sherlock's voice, at the honest yearning he could hear beneath the words.
“You're nothing like...Moriarty.” John wondered if the pause before he said the name was too obvious. It left a sour taste in his mouth and sent his pulse jumping, but he refused to shy away from the name – it was just a word, after all. “Maybe you can be cruel, but it's more out of...I don't know, disinterest, than anything else. You don't enjoy it.”
He grimaced, a shudder skating up his spine as memories seared over his brain like a bucket of icy water. “He...he enjoys it. He's cruel because he likes to be, because he gets off on it...quite literally.” The laugh that burst from John's mouth was black and ugly and felt like spitting poison.
John knew he was right about Moriarty. Rape might have been new to him, but cruelty certainly wasn't – he'd probably been the kind of kid who did unspeakable things to butterflies and small, furry animals just for fun.
The thought of this made John's wrists ache with phantom pain as he remembered the handcuffs that had ringed them, his skin splitting against the sharp metal edge. Remembered the ropes around his ankles that held his legs apart, the gag that pulled at his lips and filled his mouth and kept him from protesting...
Long fingers tightened around John's hand, and he snapped into the present so quickly it was like getting whiplash.
Something in Sherlock's expression told him the taller man suspected where his thoughts had been. “John...”
John shook his head, trying to silence the edged, manic laughter that still echoed in his brain. Trying to rattle away the memories that crept at the edge of his mind. His skin crawled, he felt sick and irritated and suddenly he couldn't bear it any longer.
“I want a shower.”
Sherlock absorbed his non-sequitur with no sign of surprise. “Is that wise?”
“Probably not,” John admitted. “But I don't care.”
He had no idea what kind of bandages had been used on him, but he suspected they wouldn't hold up to being inundated with water. Not to mention the irritation that hot, running water could cause to his injuries.
But none of those things mattered right now. Recovery could wait – he just needed to feel clean.
He had half-expected Sherlock to object, but he simply looked at John for several long, uncomfortable moments before nodding. Then his brow furrowed and he looked pensive.
For an instant John was terribly, inexplicably angry at the idea that Sherlock thought him helpless. Then he reminded himself that Sherlock had seen him drop in the middle of the street because he'd been injected with painkillers.
“I'm going to,” John said darkly.
He forced himself to slide his hand out of Sherlock's grasp – his fingers were somehow reluctant to let go – and grasped the edge of the bed, propping himself up in a sitting position.
It hurt, but compared to how much it had hurt beforehand, it was a walk in the park. Still, it was several moments before John felt like swinging his legs over the bed and trying to stand. He knew his legs were capable of taking his weight but they wavered dangerously underneath him, muscles and tendons throbbing painfully as he forced them into motion. Step by hesitant step, he approached the bathroom door.
Of course, the trembling of his limbs hadn't escaped Sherlock's notice. “John...”
“I'm fine!” he snapped.
Instead of calling John on his blatant lie, Sherlock settled for following him to the bathroom, hovering like the world's scariest mother hen.
The doctor was grateful Sherlock hadn't taken his arm or tried to support him; he didn't think he could take that. The last thing he wanted was assistance.
Which made the realisation that he'd need someone to help with his bandages all the more galling. For a moment, John debated with himself; ask Sherlock or get him to call a nurse?
But in the end, there was really no choice to be made. “Sherlock, can you give me a hand?”
Sherlock, who'd probably been planning on waiting outside the door, looked rather surprised, and John hastened to clarify.
“I just need someone to get the bandages off my back.”
Sherlock's expression shuttered again, and his head jerked downwards and then up again, as though his muscles were too tense to actually let him nod.
John opened the bathroom door, and gestured Sherlock inside.
Sherlock had thought he'd been prepared for John's injuries. He'd seen the bloodstained clothes, he'd even stolen a glance at John's chart to read the disturbingly long list of his wounds, so he'd believed that actually seeing them couldn't be any worse than what his mind had already imagined.
Nothing could have prepared him for the way John tensed when he allowed Sherlock to unfasten the ties on his hospital gown, his shoulders hunching as he clearly fought his unease at having someone behind him. He hadn't expected the squeezing sensation in his chest as he watched John clutch the crumpled gown around his waist as though desperate to retain a sense of modesty.
And he certainly wasn't prepared to actually see the damage Moriarty had done.
He'd expected the stitches, the black lines of thread holding John's skin together. He'd expected the large patches of gauze, taped down wherever the flesh had split but not widely or deeply enough to justify stitches. He'd even expected the long, red welts that mingled with bruises in varying shades of blue and purple to make John's body look like an abstract painting.
He just hadn't expected the sheer number of them.
Something about the sight of John's back, marred by stitches and contusions and broken by stretches of white bandage, froze him in place as his stomach twisted, threatening to heave its contents back through his throat.
“You just need to peel off the gauze – the stitches will hold up fine,” John instructed, in the tone of a man advising amputation without anaesthetic.
Sherlock told himself the reluctance he was feeling was ridiculous and irrational, and made himself reach for the white square taped at the junction of John's neck and shoulder. John flinched when Sherlock's fingers touched his skin, a barely perceptible tremor running through his body that made Sherlock snatch his hand back as though it had been scalded.
“I'm fine,” John hissed, but Sherlock could hear the tremble in his voice – John wasn't 'fine' now any more than he'd been 'fine' a few moments ago.
But commenting on it wouldn't change anything; John was determined to take a shower, and Sherlock was determined to see that whatever John wanted, he got. So he remained silent, and simply reached for the gauze once more.
In the interminable minutes that followed, Sherlock actively hated his mind. He hated it for noting the way the elongated bruises on John's left shoulder resembled fingers. He hated it for realising that the bruises on John's shoulder were almost identical to the ones curling around his hips. He hated it for observing that at least two of the bites were likely to scar.
In some ways, Sherlock was glad when he'd removed the last piece of gauze and had an excuse to stop looking. But then that meant he had no reason to stay, and John was already shifting uncomfortably and swallowing repeatedly, as though he wanted to throw Sherlock out of the room but was too polite to actually say anything.
Sherlock left without a word, and heard the shower start up perhaps three seconds after he'd shut the door.
He could still see John's back every time he blinked, as though it was inscribed on the inside of his eyelids. But he didn't shout or scream, or even punch the wall as he'd once seen John do after a particularly vicious nightmare.
He sat down in a chair, closed his eyes, and just breathed. He concentrated on nothing but the rise and fall of his chest while he let his mind spiral on, thoughts flashing past him like race cars on a track. Half-formed plans for hunting Moriarty down chased themselves about in his head, while another part of his brain insisted on mapping out John's recovery time, on flashing back through the images of John's injuries; the blood around his wrists, the bruises on his hips, the welts that patterned his back, the bites that littered his neck and shoulders...
Sherlock's breath hitched painfully, and he deliberately evened it once again. It was far more difficult than it should have been; his eyes burned, his cheeks were strangely hot and his throat felt tight and swollen.
The door latch clicked and Sherlock opened his eyes, blinking several times to clear his blurred vision.
Mycroft and Lestrade had entered, and both were staring at him with something approaching shock on their faces (Lestrade's expression more exaggerated than Mycroft's, of course).
“What do you want, Lestrade?” Sherlock asked, only half-surprised at the fact that his voice emerged as a hoarse croak.
“I was going to take your statement, but I...I think it can wait,” Lestrade said, the closest to hesitant Sherlock had ever seen him come.
The Inspector left the room as quickly as he could without outright running.
“What's wrong with him?” Sherlock refused to actually address the question to his brother – if he just asked the room in general, he was sure Mycroft would get the hint.
Mycroft's reply, when it came, was perfectly deadpan, only the slightest hesitation before he answered revealing that he was unsettled. “Sherlock...the last time I saw you cry without some pretence attached to it was when you were eight – I doubt Lestrade has ever seen it.”
Sherlock's first impulse was to snort derisively at his brother. Crying, like most reflexes, was something that could be controlled, something that he did control – he never cried without meaning to, never...
But he remembered how his eyes had felt warm, how his vision had blurred, and his hand rose to his face on instinct.
His cheeks were wet.
Sherlock pressed the heels of his hands against his eyelids and wrestled his tears back under control.
He didn't want to say it. It galled him to even think of asking Mycroft the question.
“What do I do?”
He didn't know what happened next. He wanted a way to fix it, but he couldn't see a solution, and it left him feeling sickeningly helpless. He was Sherlock Holmes! He was good at fixing things! John was probably the only person in the world he could call a friend...surely he should be able to find a way to fix this, too? To help John the way John had helped him?
But there was nothing. No sudden wave of genius, no lightning-bolt inspiration that showed him what had happened and what had to be done...nothing.
“You can't fix this, Sherlock,” Mycroft said, with something approaching sympathy in his voice.
“There must be something!” Sherlock snapped.
Mycroft shook his head. “No matter what you do or say, John is going to suffer for some time – and I believe you will, as well. There is nothing you can do to change that, nothing that can help him beyond what you are already doing.”
“If you hunt for Moriarty now, all you will achieve is to leave John to suffer alone,” Mycroft said sternly. “I will be the one to look for him.”
For a moment, Sherlock spitefully hoped that Mycroft wouldn't find him. So Sherlock could have the pleasure of killing Moriarty and taking his time about it.
“I'm sure at some point in time, you will feel the impulse to wallow in guilt over what your association with John Watson resulted in,” Mycroft continued. “Try to resist it, I guarantee it will not aid you in helping John.”
Sherlock couldn't stop himself from sneering. “And how exactly am I meant to help John?”
“What you've been doing so far seems to be working.”
“What I'm doing?” Sherlock repeated, feeling a dangerously hysterical impulse to laugh in Mycroft's face. “Just what am I doing? As it stands, John's given me far more comfort than I've given him-”
“But you've stayed at his side, Sherlock,” Mycroft interrupted patiently. “I imagine that means a great deal more than any gestures of sympathy.”
Sherlock was mustering up an appropriately acidic reply when a shrill ringtone pierced the air. For a moment, he was honestly bewildered until he remembered the phone tucked into the pocket of his tracksuit pants. The pink phone that the police hadn't taken into evidence along with the rest of his clothes because the technician had simply assumed it was Sherlock's own.
It was Moriarty.
With preternatural calm, Sherlock lifted the phone to his ear and answered the call.
He spoke as soon he heard the sound of the connection being made, and he didn't bother with greetings. “I am going to find you, and I am going to kill you as slowly as I can manage.”
Laughter, triumphant and vicious, rang down the line. “I suppose there's no need to ask if you've figured out how Johnny and I amused ourselves while we were waiting for you?”
“Mycroft will be looking for you as well,” Sherlock remarked coldly. “If you want a quick death, you should ensure he finds you.”
“Oh, don't take it so personally, Sherlock,” Moriarty sighed. “I just couldn't resist finding out what made your little pet so appealing. Besides, it's been a while since Johnny-boy's had that kind of fun, and all that screaming and moaning...honestly, I'm inclined to think he liked it-”
The next sound Sherlock was aware of was the sound of the phone smashing into pieces against the wall.
Standing there, his arm still outstretched, his chest heaving as though he'd just chased someone halfway across London, Sherlock felt bewildered. He was used to being in total control of himself, always aware of what he was doing and planning his next move several steps in advance. But tonight, he'd spoken without actually being aware of it, wept without any effort on his part to trigger tears, and he hadn't actually known he'd flung the phone away from him until he'd heard it shatter.
What was happening to him?
But that was a question for another time. He knew it was irrational, illogical, and completely pointless, but nothing could have stopped Sherlock from crossing the room and crushing the plastic shards into the floor with his heel.
He kept grinding and stamping until no piece larger than a postage stamp remained, wishing desperately he could stamp Moriarty out of existence just as easily.
John didn't scrub or scrape at his skin. He didn't even touch the soap. He just sat under the stream of water and let it wash over him.
Maybe if he stayed here long enough, the heat and the water and the steam could just wash everything away, just strip him clean.
He could still feel him...
He could still feel the belt cracking against his back, his skin burning beneath the blows. He could still feel Moriarty's teeth against his neck, sinking into his flesh in slow, inexorable degrees. He could still feel the invasion, the tearing pain of his body splitting apart...
With the warm water beating down on his face, John wasn't sure if he actually cried or not.
Which, really, had been the whole point.
AN: Thanks to my beta, ginbitch , who was an absolute saint and helped me practically re-write the entire first section! Seriously, girl, you're amazing!