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)
John did his best to stay absolutely silent and motionless; Anthea was using one of those tiny make-up pencils to tweak the shape of his eyebrows, a minor alteration that produced a major change in appearance. It wouldn't be enough to fool, say, Sherlock or Mycroft, but it would keep the general public from recognising him at a glance.
They hadn't seen his face on any televisions yet, but they weren't taking chances.
Anthea had parked the car in a CCTV blind spot (apparently she knew the location of each and every blind spot in the city, which might have surprised John if she'd been anyone else), and now they were both crammed awkwardly into the back seat while Anthea did her best to make John unrecognisable.
Anthea left his eyebrows to do...something...to his cheeks. She'd told him she was going to make his cheekbones seem higher and thinner, another small change that would alter his face quite drastically. Having never had to go undercover for any reason, John was going to trust her experience.
He became aware Anthea was snapping her portable make-up case closed.
“Done,” she whispered.
John nodded, trying not to wipe at his face.
“So, where to now?” he asked when they were back in the front seats.
“Everyone expects us to leave the country,” Anthea pointed out. “So that's exactly what we won't do. I'm sure every airport, ferry and train station will have copies of our photographs by tomorrow at the very latest, so to err on the safe side we'll avoid public transport as much as we can. Oh, and we'll have to do something about this car...”
“How about switching number plates?” John suggested. “Harry and I did that once when we were kids.”
“...you stole a car and switched the number plates?”
“What? No!” John spluttered. “We had a neighbour with a car almost identical to our own, and one night Harry mentioned that the number plates were probably the only way you could tell them apart, so we decided to...test that.”
Harry had been able to drive at that point, so they'd switched the cars in the driveways and swapped the licence plates. It had taken three days for their parents to figure it out.
“We'll have to find a car that resembles this one, at least superficially...” Anthea mused. “It'll raise suspicions if we're driving something with a licence plate that's registered to an entirely different vehicle. Mycroft's given me a day's head start, so if there's anything we need to acquire, we should do it now.”
John's stomach contracted uncomfortably at the mention of Mycroft. Thoughts of Mycroft inevitably led to thoughts of Sherlock, and the last time John had seen him. When Sherlock just walked away from him, like he wasn't even a blip on the radar, like John was nothing to him.
Apparently Mycroft had given Anthea a day's head start...Sherlock couldn't even do that.
John had wondered exactly what was happening between him and Sherlock – after all, Sherlock had never seemed the romantic type, and if he'd wanted some easy sex, there were surely better options than John. He hadn’t dared to hope that Sherlock might be in love with him...and it looked like his fears were justified. Sherlock had been fond of John, but in the same way people were fond of their microwave or blender – he was convenient and useful, but when it came down to it, Sherlock could do without him quite easily.
“We have to stay off busy streets,” Anthea continued, dragging John out of his increasingly depressing thoughts. “Trying to avoid CCTV in London is rather hopeless, but we should make an effort. And I need to buy some things.”
“What kinds of things?” John asked, honestly curious.
“Wigs, make-up – we'll need to be able to disguise ourselves, and to change those disguises when we need to.”
“Right,” John nodded, trying to ignore the misgivings settling in his gut.
He'd been to war, but this, this was very different. And really, a whole lot more unnerving. Combat he understood – your life depended upon your reflexes, your training and your own skills. But with this, your life depended on your skills at camouflaging yourself, at deception, your ability to out-strategise your opponent...and John wasn't quite sure he was up to the task.
The one time Sherlock had coaxed him into a game of chess the other man had absolutely thrashed him, and John was going to stop thinking about Sherlock right now.
“What are our assets?” he blurted out.
Anthea shot him a puzzled glance from the corner of her eyes, perhaps hearing the desperation in his voice, but to John's relief, she didn't argue.
“This car, for one,” she began. “Though we may have to abandon it at some point in the future. I managed to collect some things from my house before I left so I've got plenty of changes of clothes. I have a Glock M26 with 10 bullets, though it's only for self-defence and I've never had to use it. I took along my make-up, a sewing kit, several lock-picking tools, a cigarette lighter and one of those multi-purpose tools. Your basic equipment for passport alteration-”
“Basic equipment for passport alteration,” Anthea repeated, sounding slightly frustrated. “With some blank identifications that we can slip our pictures into, of course.”
“Of course,” John echoed, feeling dangerously out of his depth.
“I also have a GPS tracking device I was working on.”
“Sorry – that you were working on?”
“There's been a need for a tracking device to help monitor our...his...agents,” Anthea said eventually, and John had no doubt that the 'his' referred to Mycroft. “I was working on a plastic and ceramic GPS that could be implanted within the body. I doubt it will be particularly useful to us, but it could prove valuable if, for some reason, we're forced to split up. The wires and tools I was using to build it will be more useful, provided we have to dismantle a computer or something similar.”
“That something you're expecting to do then?”
“You never know,” Anthea said darkly. “I also have this.”
She gestured briefly at her legs, and John realised the Blackberry Anthea had been using when he'd first met her on was resting on her lap.
“Wait a second, didn't you tell me to chuck my phone in case they tracked the GPS?” John asked.
Even before Anthea had altered his face, she'd made him get rid of his phone – John had tossed it in a bin with a pang of regret. Harry had given it to him, and even though she had only given it to him to get rid of it, in that moment, it had seemed important. As though by throwing his phone away, he was surrendering his former life and embracing existence as a fugitive.
“This isn't a regular Blackberry,” Anthea explained, sounding slightly scornful, as though she'd never be caught dead with an ordinary Blackberry. “Among other...extra features, it's untraceable. Have you checked your bag?”
“Er, not as such,” John said, realising that he'd simply thrown the bag at his feet and hadn't glanced at it once.
He hunched down awkwardly and unzipped it, blinking in surprise when he found his gun and three magazines of bullets resting on top of his clothes. There was also one of those plastic money belts that, when John opened it, turned out to contain close to a thousand pounds.
“Oh, money's not object,” Anthea said when she noticed the way John was boggling at the cash in his hands. “I have tens of thousands on me.”
John decided he didn't want to know how she'd managed to withdraw all that money so quickly. Encounters with Mycroft and Anthea always left him worrying that the Big Brother concept was closer to the mark than anyone had ever suspected.
Anthea had never been holding out much hope of finding a completely identical car, and in the end wasn't truly surprised when they had to settle for one that was only vaguely similar. She kept a lookout for overly-curious bystanders (and jammed the CCTV signal with her Blackberry) while John used her multi-purpose tool to unscrew the license plate.
She wished idly that she could jam every camera they came across, but a trail of scrambled CCTV was as good as a trail of neon paint in detailing her movements.
“If we get some good paint from a hardware store, we could alter this even further,” John mused as he affixed the last screw. “This three could quite easily become an eight, and we could change the J into an I.”
“Later,” was all Anthea said. “We still might have to discard the car, find another one...”
“But stealing one would attract far too much attention,” John pointed out. “And even if we bought one, isn't someone paying in cash for a car likely to be remembered?”
“Not if we check the classifieds in the paper and buy a cheap one second-hand.”
“Oh, good idea.” John gave a final twist to the screw, then stood up. “Okay, I think that's got it – where to now?”
Anthea had managed to pick up the various tools of disguises before they'd found the car, which meant there was nothing they needed from London now. Staying in the city (with its ever-present CCTV cameras and the Holmes' looming presence) would only hinder them.
Except they needed to figure out what had happened, and why their respective partners had been convinced by fabricated evidence. Anthea didn't know where to start to unravel John's dilemma, but she thought she had a lead on her own.
She'd caught a glimpse of photographs on Mycroft's desk before he'd thrown her out and photographs were most likely to have been taken by her security retinue. It wasn't exactly a solid lead, but there was one relatively new member (like all of her security detail, he was referred to only by a number, Number 5) who had seemed to dislike her for some unknown reason. It wasn't exactly uncommon – people tended to regard Mycroft as an almost god-like being, and some seemed to resent her for being living proof that he was human – but it was something to start with.
Except she had no idea where Number 5 would be. Her security detail would all have been reassigned, and could be scattered over the world by this point.
But fortunately, there was another option – a man known as Spencer, who'd occasionally assisted her in the basic organisations of Mycroft's daily life.
Anthea had usually only resorted to Spencer when she was busy tweaking the latest gadget, but he'd still had some knowledge of Mycroft's movements. Which meant that Spencer should have some idea of who could receive enough detailed information about Mycroft to frame her. It was true that he'd have his own security assigned to him, but she was counting on Mycroft's 24 hour leeway.
They had to go incognito first, though, so Anthea found another CCTV blind spot for them to alter themselves in. When they emerged, Anthea was a blonde woman in her late twenties and John was a silver-haired man with glasses in the twilight years of his life. John even obligingly faked the hunched back and shuffling walk of someone in the later stages of osteoporosis.
“So, what's the cover story?” John asked as Anthea drove to Spencer's location.
“You're Eugene Carter, my grandfather, retired from the military ten years ago.”
John chuckled a little, and Anthea shrugged. “The easiest deceptions to maintain are those that have some truth to them. I'm Jenny Lowell, a computer technician, and my mother is your only child.”
“Eugene Carter, Jenny Lowell,” John echoed. “Got it.”
“Don't worry about it too much – I have a feeling we'll need to discard these identities as soon as we've seen Spencer,” Anthea mused, pulling up in the street.
She wasn't about to park right outside a heavily-guarded house – if worst came to worst, she wanted a getaway vehicle they couldn't immediately riddle with bullets.
“Well, into the breach, then?” John asked, sounding far too cheerful.
“In the breach,” she agreed.
They approached the rather innocuous-looking beige house. Anthea's gun was in her purse (for all the good it would do her), and she knew John's was tucked in the waistband of his pants. She made a mental note to have Mycroft get him a hidden holster before she remembered that she couldn't do that – her connection to Mycroft was severed.
Her throat closed for a moment, before she forced the emotion down. She couldn't afford to get distracted, not now – she needed to keep a look out for the discreetly hidden bodyguards.
But there didn't seem to be any. She checked all the usual places, but nowhere did Anthea see even a glimmer of binoculars, let alone a face or silhouette.
“What's wrong?” John asked, voice so quiet she had difficulty hearing him.
A little surprised he'd been able to pick up on her tension, Anthea made a conscious effort to relax. “I can't see any sentries. Which means either they've vastly improved in the last day or so, or...”
“Or we're wandering into a trap,” John finished. “So...forge ahead, or run for it?”
They were still walking at the exact same pace they'd started at – even if this was a trap, there was no reason to let them know John and Anthea were on their guard.
Anthea considered the merits of escape. But even if they turned around and walked away, what then? If they wanted to talk to Spencer it had be now, before her grace period was up. The only other options would take days of research, with the full might of Mycroft’s organisation on their tail. This was their only opportunity to get ahead of the game and they couldn't afford not to take it.
“Keep going,” she replied, her voice low.
The door was shut, but unlocked. Her feelings of misgiving only increasing, Anthea pushed it open.
The entry hall looked deserted, but Anthea knew better than to trust that impression. Yet the house seemed ominously still, and she couldn't help reaching into her purse and wrapping her hand around her gun. A swift glance behind her confirmed John's pistol was drawn and ready.
Police sirens wailed in the distance, and though she knew it probably had nothing to do with them, the sound ratcheted her anxiety up another notch.
Anthea glanced down and froze. Her hand shot out to seize John's wrist. The muscles beneath her fingers tensed in surprise as he realised what she'd seen.
It was difficult to see against the deep purple carpet, but there was a dark, rust-coloured streak as wide as Anthea's palm that started in the middle of the entryway, then led up the stairs and curved off behind the corner. Anthea was far from an expert in these things, but she strongly suspected it was blood.
The sensible reaction would have been to leave the house as quickly as possible. But Anthea didn't move – this was their best chance, and she wasn't going to let it slip through their fingers. After all, they'd only seen one trail of blood, so it was entirely possible Spencer was still alive.
John stepped in front of her, and Anthea let him. If they were going to run into trouble, it was probably best to have the military man in the front.
So she let John creep ahead, flattening himself against the wall as he climbed the stairs before swinging around and bringing his weapon to bear at the same time. But there was no explosion of gunfire, just the doctor hissing a curse from between his teeth.
When Anthea leaned around the corner, she saw why. What had apparently served as a living room would now be more aptly described as a slaughterhouse – eight bodies lay on the carpet in pools of coagulated blood.
John was moving through them, checking their pulses, rolling them over to survey the wounds. Most had been brought down by gunshots – some to the heart, some to the back of the head – but one had clearly had her throat slit by some kind of knife, and another seemed to have been garotted.
Anthea only recognised two of them; Number 5 and Spencer.
For one brief, bewildered moment, she wondered why Number 5 had been assigned to Spencer's security detail.
“Judging by the look on your face, I'm going to assume the person we needed to see is among these,” John said, rising from the last body.
The tips of his index and middle fingers were damp with blood from where he'd been checking pulses, and as Anthea watched he made to wipe it off on his jacket, then remembered they had no way to wash it off again and began to cast about for something else. Tissues, might work, or some sort of damp cloth, and she wondered where the bathroom was.
Was it just her imagination, or were the sirens getting louder?
It suddenly hit her that she and John seemed to be alone in a house in which a massacre had taken place not too long ago, and the police were approaching. This seemed very much like a trap.
“John, the sirens...”
“I hear them,” John muttered, now relieving the bodies of their weapons.
Anthea risked a glance out of the heavy curtains – sure enough, a police car was pulling up outside. This was definitely a trap, but set by who? And was it for them, or had it been intended for someone else?
Their route to the car was blocked, so Anthea's plan (still in its formative stage), was to go out the back before the house was surrounded. But as she watched, only two policemen got out of the car, neither of them armed with guns.
Obviously, this hadn't been reported as a murder. Probably a 'concerned neighbour' had phoned in a disturbance or something along those lines...but why? What was this working towards?
“Anthea, I think we've got a problem here,” John said grimly.
He was at the opposite end of the expansive dining/living room that made up the first floor of the house and had peeled back the curtains there, little smears of blood from his fingers streaking the fabric.
Anthea joined him, and felt her heart rate jump several notches as she saw the figures creeping over the back fence one by one. These people weren't official; she knew that immediately. It was in their clothes – all casual, informal, nothing even resembling a uniform – but more than that, it was in their behaviour, the way they edged furtively along the fence instead of striding boldly up to the door, the way they didn't have radios but instead spoke to each other in whispers...these weren't the police, or the Secret Service, or anything of the kind.
Then, in a lightning flash of insight, Anthea understood.
“Those people aren't the police,” she hissed to John.
“I figured that,” John said placidly.
A trap was being sprung, but what kind of trap? Why have two policemen called to the scene if at least six of their own people would be arriving?
“Moriarty's goons?” John asked.
“Let's assume so,” Anthea said. Then, explaining as rapidly as she dared, “They're going to kill the policemen, and I'm sure they're going to engineer it to make it seem as though we killed everyone here and the police as well.”
John was rather ignorant of life on this side of law, but Anthea was certain even he knew the fervour with which police went after 'cop killers'.
They were hemmed in at both the front and back – one way or the other, they'd have to fight their way out of this. And frankly, Anthea wasn't good at these sort of combat situations, if only because with her...previous employer, there'd never been any need for combat.
“Stay here and keep watch,” John ordered, already moving swiftly down the stairs (but not running, as that could create too much noise). “Shout if they look like they're getting in the house – I'll lock the doors, that should buy us a few minutes.”
Anthea spared a moment to catalogue the progress of the six people approaching from the back – still furtive and cautious, and they wouldn't reach the house itself for at least two minutes at that rate – then ran to the opposite window to look down into the street and see how the police were faring.
To her shock, they walked right up to the door and knocked. She could hear it swing open downstairs, could hear their hesitant progress...had John not been able to reach the front door in time?
Anthea moved silently to the edge of the staircase, both hands holding her gun.
So she had a perfect view of John approaching the policemen, his arms held aloft in the traditional pose of surrender.
“Thank god you're here,” he said, and she noted that he was careful to keep his voice low as he approached.
“What's the problem, sir?” the more senior-looking partner asked.
John never answered. Both hands shot out and seized their communicators, tearing them from the vests and hurling them to the floor. One arm then twisted upwards and struck the older man across the throat, then dropped to drive a clenched fist into his solar plexus.
The older man collapsed, making weak choking noises, and Anthea thought she heard John whispering 'sorry, sorry' as he intercepted the younger man's attempt to grab the taser attached to his belt. John plucked the taser free himself and tossed it aside, blocking the policeman's punch seemingly as an afterthought. Still gripping the man's wrist, John used the arm as leverage to twist the man in front of him and loop an arm around his neck.
“Listen, I don't want to kill you,” she could hear John saying. “If you don't fight, I'll just put you in a hold that'll knock you out. But if you struggle...well, I'll try not to hurt you, but I can't really promise anything.”
Anthea wanted to shout at him. She might not know much about hand to hand combat, but she knew you didn't give your opponent that kind of chance – they'd just play along, and then when you relaxed your grip, they'd turn on you!
But to her surprise, the man slumped into John's grip, completely unconscious. The doctor lowered him slowly to the floor, and used his handcuffs to chain the still-gasping policeman to the banister.
“I really am sorry about this,” John offered. “You'll recover your voice in a few hours.”
He jogged up the stairs and, correctly interpreting Anthea's startled expression, explained, “Most people don't struggle in your grip when you're talking to them – almost like they're waiting for you to have your say or something – but they fight after you're finished. So it's best to put them in the hold, and then start talking, because it takes ten seconds or so to knock them out.”
Anthea reflected that papers and records only told you so much about a person. She'd known that John had a good record in combat, but she'd had no idea how eerily calm he was in a crisis. She'd known that he'd received a top ranking in unarmed combat, but she hadn't known he could bring down two fully-trained policemen in under three minutes.
“How are we?” John asked, nodding towards the window as he picked up one of the guns he'd appropriated from the dead bodies.
Anthea approached the window and leaned to one side to peer through a gap in the curtains...
A long knife came through the fabric, and sliced into her collarbone.
Automatically, Anthea lunged backwards, belatedly realising someone had clambered up the wall somehow as the next attack caught her right arm. The second cut was deeper, and Anthea bit her tongue against a cry of pain as she felt muscles and tendons part beneath the blade.
She hit the ground on her side and tried to roll away from the woman coming through the window, when two gunshots thundered through the room, momentarily deafening her.
Two bloody holes appeared over the woman's heart, so close together they formed a misshapen figure eight, and she toppled forwards to thump heavily against the floor.
“All right?” John asked, dropping to his knees (and Anthea noticed he carefully kept himself from throwing a profile against the window).
Her blouse was soaked in blood, the gashes were stinging the way all open wounds did and her right arm couldn't move properly...but the blood wasn't spurting out the way it would if an artery had been hit, and she didn't think her injuries were life-threatening.
So Anthea gritted her teeth, and spat, “I'm fine!”
“As a doctor, I officially disagree with you on that,” John said mildly. “Think you can still pull that trigger?”
Anthea hadn't even realised her right hand still had a death-grip on her gun. Experimentally, she tried to raise it, but the stabbing pain in her arm stopped her.
John took hold of her gun, trying to tug it out of her grip. Anthea tightened her hold on it – she might be injured, but she refused to be discounted!
John gave her a look that was both a reassurance that he knew what she was thinking, and an admonition to trust him. Anthea's grip slackened, and John dragged the gun from her hand then simply transferred it to her left.
“Keep an eye on the back,” John told her. “Sit to the side so they can't see you, and look through the gap between the curtain and the window.”
Anthea leaned against the sill, her throbbing arm cradled in her lap as she peered out the window. She could see two people outside, apparently standing watch on the back door – they probably still expected the police to be coming in the front. There was a telling click as the lock on the back door was picked, and she heard John descend the stairs.
The odds were three against one. Ten minutes earlier, she would have been worried about him.
There were some telling thumps, muffled cries and three or four gunshots. The two outside were starting to look wary and uncomfortable, and when they began to approach the house Anthea fired.
She couldn't aim well – people didn't shoot with their non-dominant hands for a reason – but she sent three bullets in their general direction, enough to make them dive for whatever cover they could find.
But they returned fire, and Anthea tried to merge with the wallpaper as bullets tore through the curtains and shattered the open window, spraying her with shards of glass. She shook her head in an effort to dislodge them from her hair, and plucked the largest from her clothes before she tried to glance out again.
The curtain must have shielded her to a certain extent, because although she was ready to throw herself backwards at the first sign that they'd seen her, they didn't seem to be aware she was looking at them. One was almost directly underneath the window, trying to use a tiny crab apple tree as cover, while the other seemed to have retreated to the very edge of the backyard, hunkering down behind the compost heap as though trusting in distance to keep himself safe.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Anthea had brought her gun to bear automatically before she realised it was John coming up.
“How are you doing?” he whispered, crouching down beside her and glancing at her injuries.
“They don't hurt as much any more,” Anthea admitted.
“That's adrenaline for you,” John said with a tight smile. “Still, we should wrap this up pretty quickly – you're still bleeding, after all.”
Anthea wondered if he used that jovial, 'everything is under control' tone to reassure all his patients.
“They still out there?” John asked, and Anthea nodded.
“One behind the crab apple, one behind the compost.”
John frowned, and seemed to be thinking quickly. “I can't get the one behind the tree while I'm crouching – the angle's wrong.”
Anthea was about to ask him if he had any suggestions for a possible plan of action, when John stood up.
Anthea's hand shot out and seized hold of his trouser leg. “What the hell do you think you're doing? Get back down!”
“It's all right – I'm to the side of the window, out of their direct line of sight.”
That was all Anthea managed to say. John had abruptly stepped right up to the window, sweeping the curtain aside and raising his gun.
Two shots roared out, so close together they were almost the same sound.
Anthea could admit she'd been expecting John to stagger, for blood to bloom on his shirt and for him to fall...but instead he simply flicked the safety on his pistol and tucked it into his belt again.
“We should get moving,” he said, bending down to help her up. “There's no way that wouldn't have attracted attention.”
Anthea glanced out the window. A man was slumped beside the compost heap, and a woman was bleeding out onto the grass beneath the crab apple tree
It seemed ludicrous. John had been using a pistol, and he'd had perhaps a quarter of a second to aim. Anthea knew professional snipers who wouldn't have been able to make those shots.
“You know, if I was the kind of person who believed in those things, I'd say you were a dark wizard,” she mused.
John grinned a little shyly, as though she'd complimented him on his haircut and not on how well he killed people. Then he blinked and his 'all business' expression returned.
“Come on – you need medical attention.”
AN: Thanks to ginbitch, who beta-d this chapter and improved it greatly!