trillsabells: (Slash)
[personal profile] trillsabells
Title:The Prize
Author: [ profile] trillsabells
Beta: [ profile] jupiter_ash
Rating: This Chapter R, NC17 overall
Length: This Chapter 6900, overall nearly 100k
Summary: On 29 January 2010 an unknown Event wiped out 98% of the population. This is the story of the survivors, four months on. Based on this prompt here
Warnings (for entire fic): Starts with the death of over 6 billion people and goes downhill from there. Death, destruction, disease, violence, fire, plane crashes, slavery, graphic sex and serious consent issues
Author's Note: This story is fully written but still being edited (hence why I don't know how many chapters there will be) no need to fear it being abandoned halfway through. Should get the next part up Wednesday

Chapter 1

Where the office had been frozen in the moment of the Event, Baker Street tube station bore all the scars of the months that had followed. As they made their way through the darkness their torch briefly highlighted the smashed up turnstiles, the graffitied war memorial and the government information posters that papered the walls, layered over each other as more instructions were given or the lower ones were ripped down in frustration.

When Holmes propped himself up against one poster telling locals where their nearest distribution centre was the irony wasn’t lost on the doctor. At least it wasn’t Barbican.

He ignored the narration dancing around at the back of his head asking if this really was a good idea and tugged at the chain around his neck. Pulling it off completely, he revealed his old ID tags as well as the collection of keys he kept there for safekeeping. He looked over at Holmes to check whether the other man had made any movement to read the information marked on the small circular discs but they didn’t seem to have caused any reaction. He sorted through the keys until he found the one that opened the ticket office and let them in.

The door was a little stiff – he hadn’t been there for a while. Last time he had he had been stopped before he even reached the bottom of the stairs by a gang of teenagers in ridiculous punk costumes claiming that the tunnels were their property. They were just kids playing at being bad and he had been sure he could have taken them down without breaking a sweat but instead he had turned tail and left them to it. Judging by the amount of undisturbed dust in the hall it seemed someone else hadn’t been so merciful.

Still, once Holmes had limped through the doorway, he took care to lock it very firmly behind them. Then he led the way through the office to the back room where their light wouldn’t be seen by anyone on the outside.

It was the small room where, once upon a time, the guards had taken their tea breaks. There was a tiny television, a ratty looking sofa and a small kitchen area with microwave, kettle and mini fridge which he knew from experience contained a half pint bottle of milk that had long since turned to cheese.

Three months ago he had been invited into this very room for a cup of tea and a long conversation with a guard who had worked at Baker Street for fifteen years. He had fallen asleep on the sofa and been woken by the sound of the guard shooting himself in the head with his Sig. All he had felt at the time was gratitude that the guard had gone into the entrance hall to do it so he could continue to use the back room without a large bloodstain to distract him.

As his guest dropped down heavily onto the sofa he started to set up camp. Reaching into his bag he pulled out the small camping stove he had – he preferred to say – ‘liberated’ from an outdoor supplies shop shortly after Barbican when he had resigned himself to what was coming. He was running out of gas and had so far been unable to find any more. The last few nights he had been using wood and a makeshift ‘hobo stove’ he had crafted out of a can. But he couldn’t use one of those inside, not if he didn’t want their place for the night completely filled with smoke.

Wait, did he just refer to it as their place? The internal accusations of madness started to come back. He ignored them and got the stove going.

“Tea or coffee?” he asked Holmes, realising as he did that this was the first thing either of them had said to each other for at least an hour. “Bear in mind there’s no milk and I don’t trust the sugar.”

“Under those circumstances tea would be best.”

Personally he agreed, so he set some water to boil in a saucepan and went to the cupboard in the corner to fish out the tea bags, a plastic teaspoon and a mug for Holmes. He purposefully ignored the one the guard had used three months before and chose a red Arsenal one which he gave a quick wipe with a cloth. He pulled his own tin mug out of his bag and as soon as the water was boiled managed to make two serviceable mugs of tea. He handed one to Holmes who thanked him briefly before sipping quietly.

Together they sat in a silence that, while hardly tense, was certainly not companionable. He was more relieved than he cared to admit when Holmes broke it.

“A morgue, no one and I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Where had that come from? “What?”

“You have questions. Those are my answers to the usual ones.”

Oh of course. Anyone who spent any time with other survivors got asked the same three questions over and over. ‘Where were you?’, ‘Who did you lose?’ and ‘Why do you think it happened?’. He remembered the guard’s answer to the second question had been very long.

“I’ve never really liked those questions.”

Holmes didn’t say anything but his eyes were so focused on him he was almost afraid they would drill a hole in the back of his head.

“It’s not as if you need me to tell you mine,” he continued. “You know. You knew everything. You even knew about Barbican. How the hell did you know that?”

“I didn’t know,” said Holmes looking far too little fazed by the increasing agitation of the armed man in front of him. “I saw.”

“You saw all that?”

“Yes. It’s obvious really. Take for example your gun.”

He resisted the urge to twitch towards his gun. Holmes didn’t appear to notice, just steamed onwards at the speed of sound.

“Sig P226, standard British army issue. You could have picked it up from a dozen different places but the way you hold it, that says you have experience not only with guns but with this specific model in particular. That and the way you hold yourself as well as the chain for your ID tags which was visible above your collar says military.

“You have discolouration in the fingers on your left hand an early sign of Loreslepin poisoning. It won’t have been self-inflicted; you don’t have the facial scars indicative of CN41 so it wasn’t an overdose to stave that off and you’re not the sort of person to take medicine you didn’t need, especially not too much one go - your gun was fully loaded; you don’t waste important resources unnecessarily.”

By this point he was clenching his jaw to stop it from falling open in shock as his brain struggled to keep up with the rapid explanation.

“Only conclusion, you contracted it, like many others did, when the bombs went off at the Barbican and Weaver’s Fields distribution centre. However, unlike many other sufferers, you’re not only still alive but only just showing the first physical signs. That means you’re self-medicating and must have been since the very early signs. No one had heard of Loreslepin poisoning before the Event let CN41 loose which means you diagnosed yourself and worked out exactly what you needed based on only your own medical knowledge. Medical knowledge that detailed could only mean you’re a doctor. So army doctor.”

It was like he had been turned inside out and read through.

“It’s perfectly obvious you’re on your own; you only have enough supplies for one person and if there was a group you would have taken the entirety of the water cooler bottle instead of attempting to siphon off what you needed. You’re also hiding your profession. I would have heard about it if there was a doctor in London. Everyone would have heard about it. You would have patients flooding to you but you don’t, so no one knows. And then there’s your shoes.”

“My shoes?” he couldn’t stop himself from looking down at the perfectly ordinary army boots

“Evidence of pigeon guano on the bottom,” Holmes continued, indicating. “The whole city to choose from and last night you camped up somewhere where pigeons roost, no doubt very high up and open to the elements. No, you deliberately chose somewhere no one else would go which means you’re not just on your own you’re trying your hardest to stay that way.”

Perfectly ordinary army boots that said that much?

“But you knew about collectors which means you’ve been in groups before but it hasn’t worked out. If they’d chucked you out you would be looking for another group and you’re an army doctor, any group would be thrilled to have you. No, you left them which means you’ve decided it would be better off for everyone if you were on your own. Maybe you’re worried your illness would slow the group down. Maybe you’re afraid of what you’d do after a nightmare.”

He sucked in an unconscious breath. “How could you possibly know about the nightmares?”

“Shot in the dark,” Holmes said with a slight tilt to the head. “Good one though. The whole time we were talking you were forcing yourself to be calm; keeping tight control over yourself just in case you accidentally pulled the trigger. Naturally you would be most afraid of losing that control especially if losing that control put other people in danger. One incident wouldn’t be enough; it would have to be a constant threat to drive you away from everyone else. So something that happens regularly and outside of your control. Nightmares.

“See? Everything I said about you was obvious from what I could observe.”

There was a long pause during which the words trickled down between them like falling dust while John’s brain got back up to speed.

“That,” the words came almost involuntarily, “was amazing.”

It sounded ridiculous to his ears even as he said them and he didn’t blame the other man for looking so confused.

“It was?”

Holmes had worked all that out after a five minute conversation and, best yet, it all made perfect sense. The man was clearly insane, no doubt about that, but goodness he was clever.

“Of course it was,” he said feeling suddenly buoyed up by enthusiasm towards the genius in front of him. “Extraordinary, it was quite extraordinary.”

“That’s not what people normally say.”

“What do people normally say?”

“Piss off.”

He smiled which, strangely enough, hurt. Something else he was out of practice with. He tried to remember the last time he had smiled. It had been longer than four months. It was possibly even ten months, back when he had been in Afghanistan. However, if his smile was strained or weak, Holmes didn’t appear to notice as he gave a small smile in return.

“Did I get anything wrong?” Holmes asked after a short period in which they did nothing but drink their tea in silence.

The answer was on the tip of his tongue begging not to be said aloud, not to be given so unconditionally to this perfect stranger. But a part of him, the part being stared into submission by those pale eyes, pushed it out into the open.

“I didn’t leave them, they left me, but they made it very clear they didn’t want me following. And I don’t blame them.”

Not after Lisa was grabbed and Angie was killed and he couldn’t do a thing to stop either. And suddenly having a soldier and a doctor in the group wasn’t worth all the times he had woken up screaming, the gun already in his hand or the knife already at someone’s throat.

He realised as the memories crossed through his mind that his eyes had slipped away from Holmes. He looked back up and was surprised to see the other man’s eyes roll.

“There’s always something.”

After another long moment he tore his gaze away from Holmes and, draining the last of the now rapidly cooling tea, he started to pull out his sleeping bag. He let the practical soldier in him take charge and give orders.

“I don’t want to waste the torch batteries too much so we might as well get some sleep. You stay up on the sofa, I’ll be okay here on the floor. If you need to get up in the middle of the night there’s a bin in the front office that we can empty in the morning. Oh and you need to keep your knee bent. Here.” He dug around in his bag again until he pulled out a beige cable knit jumper which he threw at Holmes. “Put that under your knee to make sure it doesn’t straighten out in the night.”

The other man grinned. “Are those physician’s orders, Doctor Watson?”

So the sneaky git had read his ID tags.

He sat down heavily on the floor then started to slide into his sleeping bag. “They are, Mr Holmes.”

Just as he flicked the switch on the torch he heard the amused reply,

“Sherlock, please.”

The smile didn’t hurt as much this time. “John.”


To his surprise, Sherlock managed to get a few hours of sleep. It was probably because he was on a sofa, he decided as he stretched his seized muscles, the knee giving a slight twinge. He always slept better on sofas. Perhaps he could persuade Mycroft to put one in the lab, then he wouldn’t have to go back to his tiny stuffy bedroom at all.

He opened his eyes but the darkness in the room was so encompassing that he might as well not have bothered. Instead he relied on his hearing which, with the complete silence of the room, made it easy to locate the other man in the dark.

John’s breathing was still as deep and even as it had been when he had gone to sleep. In fact - he frowned - it was exactly the same. Had John slept at all?

He held his breath for a moment to concentrate better on the other man before letting it out slowly. Judging from the location and direction of the breathing John had hardly moved. He would have expected several shifts of position during the night if the other man had attempted to get some sleep. The distinct lack of rustling in the length of time he had been contemplating his companion showed that even now the other man was doing his best to remain as still as possible. John had clearly had no intention of sleeping. He was on guard. On guard against Sherlock.

He resisted letting out an exasperated sigh. Honestly, surely it must have been perfectly obvious by now that he wasn’t a collector? Why on earth would he have chosen to spend the night on a ratty old sofa if he had a car waiting to sweep both him and his unsuspecting victim back to a grand house in the country?

Maybe there was something else then? What else could the other man fear he was? He pressed his hands together under his chin in his automatic thinking position as he contemplated. A thief? A psychopath? Was this why John had chosen the floor rather than the sofa? Had it been a ploy to stay close to the door rather than charity for his knee? How many times during the night had the other man considered simply leaving? The fact that he hadn’t was promising. Still, it was obviously going to take every trick he had to get the man to come with him. Once they were at the Enclave, of course, John would come around, especially when offered the opportunity to become a doctor again. Perhaps – and the thought, bizarre as it was, made him feel strangely warm – they could spend more time together. John could be a helpmate in his lab. Yes, that would be… rather nice actually. John wouldn’t be able to help but agree.

After he had stopped pretending to be asleep of course. Well Sherlock knew how to sort that.

Pulling out his mobile he switched it on and made a great show of looking at the time. Sure enough as soon as the eerie blue light filled the room the other man dismissed all pretence of sleep and sat bolt upright.

“What’s that?”

Sherlock kept his expression neutral as he showed John the lit up screen. “Four thirty,” he said. “The sun will be rising soon, we should make an early start.”

John pulled himself out of his sleeping bag to crouch on the floor, a tenseness to his movements as if he were ready to leap at the slightest movement from Sherlock.

“Is that your mobile?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Obviously,” he said, perhaps overdoing the disdain a little to cover his pleasure as John’s curiosity brought him closer.

“You have battery?”

Of course he had battery, what would be the point of carrying the thing around with him if he didn’t? That said, John’s disbelief was perfectly understandable; electricity was hard to come by these days. Outside of the Enclave of course.

“Here,” he said, holding the phone out only to be surprised when the other man flinched backwards as if he was holding a weapon rather than a mobile. What was it John thought he was doing to phones that always made the other man retreat when they were offered?

Restraining himself from making a biting comment he instead remained motionless, still holding the phone out like one would hold out food to a stray dog. Slowly, with smooth, careful movements, John reached up and took the mobile from him, holding it delicately in the palm of his hand and examining the lit up screen.

“There’s no signal,” John said and actually sounded disappointed.

“Of course not,” he scoffed. “We’re underground. No one ever gets signal when they’re on the tube. If we were above ground we would pick up the signal from the Enclave’s telecommunications tower.” He smiled slightly. “What with that and the others they’ve managed to restore power to, London actually has better coverage now than it did before the Event.” Although with far less people having working phones.

John continued to stare at the screen with a look of deep concentration, as if he was having difficulty thinking something through. Well, no wonder given the lack of sleep he had had. It did make him wonder who, if given the chance, John would want to call, then he wondered if it had crossed the doctor’s mind that he could have simply called home the night before. What was this Doctor John Watson thinking and why was he so curious to know?

John twisted the mobile so he was holding onto only the smallest portion of the furthest corner of the screen and offered it back to him. He took it.

“So you have electricity at this Enclave place.”

The other man made it sound as if to have power was extremely suspect but, not wanting to lie – just yet – he simply gave an affirmative.

“You’ve got your own generator then?”

Another simple yes. He decided that John didn’t need to know that generator was Battersea Power Station.

“Lights, heating,” John seemed unable to keep a hint of longing out of his voice. Nor stop the momentary wistful look towards the kitchen area in the corner of the room. “Electric kettle.”


John looked him straight in the eye. “Bet you’ve got stacks of food too.”

He felt a smile crook the corner of his lips as he nodded. The other man was playing with him and he could almost sense the punchline.

John turned briskly away from him and, switching on the torch, started going through the bag. “Then you won’t mind if I don’t share my breakfast.”

He laughed. If he was a collector then persuading Doctor John Watson to go anywhere he didn’t want to go really would be a prize in itself.

John appeared stunned by the laughter and gave him a suspicious look. He just smiled disarmingly and was gratified by the confused smile he received in return. He obviously wasn’t meeting John’s expectations. Considering John’s expectations of him seemed to be of a slave trader that was a good thing.

Breakfast turned out to be a paltry affair; a small tin of fruit salad which John ate hunched over as if afraid it would be taken away from him. When Sherlock shifted into a more comfortable position as he planned his next persuasive assault the doctor’s grip on the fork tightened and he was momentarily distracted by thoughts of what exactly the other man would do with that utensil should he try to take the tin away. Try being the optimum word.

The reactions of a soldier. Ah, ex-soldier; queen and country, perfect.

“We have power, heating and food,” he said, putting as much conviction as he dared into his words. “But we don’t have doctors. That is we don’t have enough doctors. We have the greatest minds in the country. Left in the country. Researchers, theorists, experts in the field. We have two surgeons and an Oncologist but what we really need is a specialist in emergency medicine. Accidents happen after all, especially when they are outside the boundaries of the Enclave. And once we start expanding our agricultural endeavours even more accidents are likely to happen. In short you’re needed.” He paused for a moment, briefly pondering whether his next sentence would be laying it on too thickly or exactly the right button to hit. “Very needed, in fact.”

John chewed slowly, his eyes darting over Sherlock’s face as if searching for something. His expression was similar to when he had been looking at the phone and in some ways to how he had looked just after Sherlock said ‘Weavers Fields or Barbican’. As if there are a hundred questions building up behind his eyes and he was having difficulty picking just one.

John swallowed then, ever so slightly, licked his lips.

“You have the greatest minds in the country but no doctors?” he said slowly.

Not quite what he had said but close enough. He nodded, framing his expression into one of concerned earnestness.

John’s eyes narrowed. “Why not?”

Oh for goodness sake, wasn’t that obvious?

“Because they died,” he said with an exasperated sigh. “They all died. A lot died in the Event and the rest were killed when they tried to help people in the riots or rescuing people from the plane crashes or tended to the infected or they volunteered at the distribution centres that were bombed. Doctors are most likely to try and help so they were most likely to put their lives in danger and most likely to die, it’s perfectly logical that there aren’t many about.”

“Of course,” John muttered, looking at the floor. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because you’re an idiot.”

It came out before he could stop it and John’s eyes were instantly on his again, a shocked expression covering his face. It was true but not the most tactical thing to say when he was trying to be persuasive so he quickly amended it with,

“No no no, don’t be like that, practically everyone is.”

John tilted his head slight, looking annoyed. “Except your great minds.”

Now that was debatable. He shrugged. “Some of them.”

This seemed the right thing to say and as John looked more thoughtful than angry as he gave a little, “huh,” and went back to eating.

Deciding to give the other man time to think it through he waited, watching as John drained the last of the juice from the tin, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand then gave the fork a quick polish with a cloth before putting it away.

“This Enclave place,” John said, finally meeting Sherlock’s eye again. “What is it?”

“The last vestiges of the British Government.”

Mycroft’s spiel.

John snorted. “There is no government left. Parliament was destroyed. I saw it.”

“Politicians,” he said with a wave of his hand. “The real government-“ Mycroft. “-went underground after the Event.”

“Along with ‘the greatest minds left in the country’. I think I’ve seen that film.”

He frowned at the bitterness in John’s voice and what was probably some kind of popular culture reference. Suddenly John started to roll up the sleeping blanket with an almost angry ferocity. He wasn’t sure what he had said wrong but as John snatched his jumper off the sofa and started viciously stuffing both it and the sleeping bag back into the duffle bag he knew he was losing the doctor. Deciding desperate times made for desperate measures he leapt to his feet, immediately crashing back down on the sofa with a pained yelp.

John instantly dropped the bag and rushed to his aid, kneeling at his feet.

“Is it your knee? Does it hurt?”

“It’s fine,” he said in a grunt, clutching at it. “Just… when I put pressure on it.”

John started probing the area with gentle fingers. “It doesn’t feel swollen at all. Can you bend it?”

He winced as he demonstrated and John sat back on his heels, a look of realisation slowly dawning over his face.

When the other man said, “Get up,” Sherlock almost thought he heard a touch of disappointment.


It seemed to John that Sherlock was going to the most ridiculous lengths to get him to come with him. He didn’t buy the whole ‘secret underground base with the greatest minds of our generation yet for some reason we desperately need an ill ex-army doctor’ thing for an instant. Still, he couldn’t fathom why Sherlock was trying so hard; even going so far as to exaggerate his knee pain. He hadn’t given up. Even after being frogmarched out of the ticket office and back onto the street he had put on a limp so over the top that under different circumstances John would have cracked up to look at it.

As they emerged out into the dim dawn light he was just bracing himself for whatever was coming next – begging or bribery perhaps, there would certainly be a fight if the other man tried to physically pick him up - when Sherlock briskly turned to him and said,

“I’ll see you around then.”

Before spinning on his heel and walking away.

Stunned, the slightly wounded “What?” escaped him before he could stop it.

It was too much to hope that Sherlock hadn’t heard it; the other man was still persisting in that ridiculous limp and so hadn’t moved that far. Sherlock spun back towards him, his coat billowing out behind him and John found himself on the receiving end of a bored gaze. For an insane moment John missed the heavy weight of Sherlock’s full attention. Then he came to his senses.

“Nothing,” he said, looking in the opposite direction. “Forget it.”

“I’ll delete it accordingly,” Sherlock said in a dismissive tone.

“Del- never mind. Bye then.”

He started to walk away, wondering if Sherlock would stop him once he realised his blatant use of reverse psychology wasn’t going to work. Instead he heard the other man limp purposefully in the other direction. Unable to stop himself he turned and saw the edge of Sherlock’s coat disappear around a corner.

Fighting down the sigh he hunched up his shoulders and headed out into the silent city.

He focused on keeping an eye on the shadows and thinking about where he was going to stay that night. He needed to decide whether to go searching for water again that morning or whether he should find a place to hole up and wait until evening again. He didn’t need to think about tall strangers with dark hair and minds sharper than he’s ever seen or imagined. He wasn’t going to wonder why that stranger would want him to go with them so much then give up so easily. He shouldn’t ponder why they would leave the safety of their own home to explore dust filled offices. He didn’t ask himself why they would be so interested in old desk phones. He definitely-

“Do you always have so many questions?”

His left hand was pushing the speaker’s shoulder against the wall while his right hand was pressing his gun into the man’s throat before he could even blink.

Sherlock gazed quite calmly back at him.

John took a step backwards. “What did you want the phone for?”

Sherlock beamed at him like he was a pet that had learned a new trick. “It’s for a case.”

He didn’t move the gun an inch. “A case?”

“A murder. If, as I suspect, there’s a message for my suspect on that hard drive from his wife it proves the alibi he gave is just a pack of lies.”

“How could she have left a message with the power down?”

Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. “This is from before the Event, but the message should still be on there.”

He was trying to solve a murder from before the Event? Why? Who would care? Why would he leave the safety of that Enclave place just to find that out?

“Because I want to know,” Sherlock said.

“Did you know the victim?” John asked, desperate to find some sense to the man in front of him. “Do you know the killer? Is he still alive?”

“No, no and probably not. I just hate not knowing.”

John pushed his gun into the waistband of his trousers and swung his bag off his shoulder. Yanking it open he dug around until he found the desk phone and the hard drive that the insane man had forced on him the day before. He grabbed them and held them out.

“There, take them.” Sherlock didn’t move. “That’s what you came out here for, just take them!”

He stopped himself and took a few calming breaths as he realised that raising his voice was not a good idea.

“They’re perfectly safe in your bag,” Sherlock replied mildly.

John pushed them into Sherlock’s chest. “I’m not going with you.”

Sherlock just smiled.

“You say you’ve got this great place with food and water and heating and yet you come out here and face down guns and collectors just to know? Just to find out if you were right? This is just how you get your kicks, isn’t it? Risking your life to prove you’re clever.”

Sherlock frowned slightly. “Why would I do that?”

He felt like everything was collapsing around him. Four months of desperation, of fighting, of struggle and misery just to survive and it was all falling to pieces. His shoulders sagged, his arm dropped, his eyes dropped closed and his chest heaved an almighty sigh.

“Because you’re an idiot.”

He cracked his eyes open at Sherlock’s amused chuckle. He examined the other man’s expression expecting to see smug triumph, but was instead met only with genuine humour and pleasure. He felt his own lips curve into an involuntary returning smile.

He hadn’t smiled for ten months and Sherlock Holmes had managed to coax four out of him in under twenty-four hours. Impossible, astonishing man.

“Coming?” Sherlock asked.

John shoved the phone and hard drive back into his bag, tugged it closed, then swung it onto his back.

“I guess so.” He frowned suddenly. “How’s your knee?”

Sherlock leaned down and rubbed it slightly. “Hurts a little.”

John shook his head. “Then you really shouldn’t have run all the way around the block.”


Sherlock had hoped that John’s acquiescence would mean the doctor would stop being so nervous but he was very quickly proved wrong. As they walked south together the other man was so tense he could have bounced a stone off him and he didn’t even have to bother checking the area in case they were being followed as John spent so much time looking around and over his shoulder that Sherlock thought he would get a crick in his neck.

Attempting to calm the ex-soldier down he decided to explain about the crime that had led him to the office; about the death threats, how the body was found, his initial suspicions about the husband and the irregularities between his statement and the crime scene. John seemed amused by his description of the confrontation with the rentboy who turned out to be an assassin, and when he went into detail about the scuffs on the sister’s jacket that eventually led him to the murder weapon John gave a delighted cry of “Brilliant!” which was rather a surprise. When he narrated his deductions on the dog’s dinner he got another exclamation, this time a “That’s fantastic!” accompanied by an almost awed expression. That startled him so much he asked, “Do you know you do that out loud?” before he could stop himself.

John looked down, chastened. “Sorry, I’ll shut up.”

“No,” he quickly jumped in. “It’s… fine.”

He talked practically non-stop until they reached the entrance to the tunnel, experimenting with subject, context and language to see exactly what provoked such pleasingly enthusiastic responses from John. It was gratifying to be around someone who appreciated his genius, even if it always seemed to be the most trivial logical leaps that John found the most astonishing. A warm, pleasing feeling seem to unfurl in his stomach every time the doctor offered up his praise. When he won a smile off the other man his chest tightened in an uncomfortable but frankly thrilling way.

He wondered briefly what it would take to get John to laugh.

It was all going so well until they reached the lion statue near Vauxhall bridge. There was a little gateway tucked around the corner which looked to most people like it led to a dead-end. But then most people never looked properly. As he unlocked it with his key and started heading down the hidden stairs there he realised John had stopped following. Glancing briefly at the guarded look on his companion’s face he decided to continue walking confidently down the stairs. John would follow, how could he not? Sure enough by the time he was halfway down he heard the following footsteps and the clang of the door being shut firmly. He managed to control his most likely rather smug smile by the time he reached the pressure doors at the bottom just as John caught up.

For the twenty minutes it took to walk along the tunnel that led to the Enclave’s main entrance John fell into a grim silence that even infected Sherlock with its quietness but not its misery. While his companion wore a dour, determined expression as if preparing to go into battle he was fighting off the frisson of excitement that urged him to grab John’s hand and run the rest of the way. He couldn’t quite understand it. It was almost like how he used to feel when he was close to solving a case. For some reason he felt it was vital he got John within the confines of the Enclave, and not just because of his usefulness as a doctor. But that kind of behaviour would probably spook John, not to mention be bad on his still tender knee.

Still it was hard to resist the skip in his step when they reached the combination doors at the end of the corridor and he twirled for the benefit of the camera – giving them a nice clear view of him just in case the fifty other cameras that lined the tunnel hadn’t caught sight of him. After he had tapped in his code the doors opened with a click and he gestured John through, noting pleasingly that the doctor didn’t hesitate a second this time.

They were almost home, just had to go through what the security staff had insisted on calling the foyer in spite of it just being the blocked up end of the tunnel. These sliding metal doors could only be opened from the inside and the camera – or at least one of the cameras – was more obvious. He could see John eyeing it warily then jumping a little as the speakers – which, along with the microphone, weren’t so obvious – cut in filling the room with a familiar voice.

“Who is he?”

He smiled. Excellent, Lestrade was on duty.

“He’s with me,” he replied.

“No, but who is he?”

“I said he’s with me.”

He noted with some interest how shocked John looked by the exchange. He could see the other man’s breathing speeding up and his fingers twitch towards where Sherlock knew his gun was kept.

“Sherlock, you know I can’t just let anyone in on your say-“

“So, what do you think, Doctor Watson?”

He addressed his remarks to John who jumped again and gave him a stare that was only a little bit wide eyed. There was a long pause in which he kept his eyes firmly locked with Johns before the doors slid open and he had to resist the urge to grab the other man’s arm and pull him through. Thankfully the other man followed him as he entered.

He couldn’t quite tear his eyes away from the doctor as he stared around at the new room, watching as the other man took in the three doors – one to the left, one to the right and one in front just next to a video screen – it contained. John breathed out deeply and met his eyes, looking thoughtful.

“Three doors,” John said slowly, as if trying to sound something out. “I guess one leads to safety, one leads to death and the guards always lie?”

Sherlock frowned, not believing for a second that John actually thought that was the case but not entirely understanding where the suggestion had come from.

“No.” He pointed to the left door. “That leads to decon long route.” The right door. “That leads to decon short route.” The middle door. “And that’s the guards’ door. Although they do always lie. Doesn’t everyone?”

John gave a start of laughter so sudden even he seemed shocked by it. Sherlock felt like he could float through the ceiling. He’d done it! Now if only he could understand how.

His thoughts were interrupted by the video screen flicking on displaying the image of Lestrade sitting back in his office chair, gently twisting from side to side.

“Sherlock,” Lestrade said, sounding annoyed as usual. “Where have you been?”

“Busy,” he said simply.

It was a pointless question anyway. What did it matter where he had been? All that mattered was that he was here now and had brought a doctor back with him.

“You’re supposed to check in if you’re going to be out longer than expected.” Lestrade rolled his eyes. “That’s when you actually tell us how long you expect to be out.”

Sherlock sighed but was still in too good a mood to make any kind of sarcastic response.

“And what happened to your leg?”

Sherlock was bored of this now. “Sprained knee. Luckily I found a doctor to patch me up. Now are we going to stand here all day or…?”

Lestrade hmphed. “He needs to leave his gun and his bag here.”

John didn’t say anything but Sherlock saw him grip the straps of his bag noticeably tighter. Lestrade obviously spotted it as well.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get everything back if you’re staying.”

John very slowly slipped the bag off his shoulder and lowered it to the floor. “And if I’m not?”

Lestrade couldn’t avoid John’s eyes over a video screen but he looked away anyway. John turned to Sherlock, panic etched over all his features.

“What happens if I’m not staying?”

Sherlock waved his hand vaguely. “Irrelevant.” He gestured towards the left hand door. “Off you go.”

“And you, Sherlock,” said Lestrade firmly.

Sherlock whipped around to glare at the screen. “What? No! Long route?”

Lestrade threw up his hands in exasperation. “You know the rules. You’ve been in sustained contact with the general population. You have to go through full decontamination.”

Huffing, Sherlock shrugged out of his coat and dropped it delicately on top of John’s bag. “Fine. Come on, John.”

He moved towards the door but Lestrade’s voice cut across them yet again.

“The gun, doctor.”

Sherlock looked towards John who seemed to be silently fuming. Very slowly and extremely reluctantly the doctor dipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out the Sig P226. The ex-soldier’s finger went to the trigger automatically and he stood staring at it for a long time before eventually placing it very gently down on top of Sherlock’s coat.

Sherlock reached for him and very lightly placed his hand on John’s arm. When he started to guide the other man towards the door John gave him a resigned look and allowed himself to be manoeuvred through it. With the tiniest sigh of relief, Sherlock shut the door behind them both.

Chapter 3

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