trillsabells: (Slash)
[personal profile] trillsabells
Title:The Prize
Author: [livejournal.com profile] trillsabells
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] jupiter_ash
Rating: This Chapter R, NC17 overall
Length: This Chapter 8500, 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: Hope to get the next part up Monday. The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker is a real place and tourist attraction. The many signs helpfully pointing the way to the ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ that can be found in the area never fail to amuse. Strangely enough I can’t find a record on how long the inhabitants were expected to survive after a full nuclear attack so am only going on what someone once told me on a visit many years ago. If you know the truth don’t hesitate to correct me.

Chapter 1 : Chapter 2





Behind the door were two figures out of a bad science fiction movie. Two people of undefinable gender covered head to toe in orange hazmat suits with impenetrable face masks came towards him with some kind of handheld machine which buzzed threateningly.

He recoiled backwards, desperately cursing himself for having been so stupid as to give up his gun when Sherlock’s hand steadied his elbow in a firm but not restrictive grip. He met Sherlock’s eyes and, seeing reassurance there, let himself be guided forward a few steps until the machine was able to buzz over them both. He kept his eyes locked on Sherlock’s, becoming calmer as he watched how the other man took it all in his stride, even going as far as dramatically rolling his eyes as if bored by the process. They only broke gaze when one of the suits started asking them pretty standard questions about where they had been, what they had done, what they had eaten etc.

It was just all part of this decontamination process he realised. If Sherlock was happy – or at least willing – to put up with it then it must be standard procedure and not some really strange way of preparing him for whatever it was they wanted with him.

He did his best to answer the questions, although it was hard to tell which of the suits were asking him as the voice came slightly distortedly out of a speaker the other side of the room. He hazarded a guess at it being the one making vague nodding motions and aimed his replies in their direction.

Sherlock didn’t bother to address either of them, just gave short, sharp answers with a general air of ‘Are we done here?’ then rolled up his sleeve with an annoyed huff. John followed suit and held still while blood samples and a skin scraping were taken, all the while watching Sherlock to see what was going to happen next. Whatever it was it apparently required rolling down his sleeve with a dissatisfied smirk and sweeping through a side door faster than he could blink. He made to follow but the suits stopped him, blocking his way and dismissing his attempts to explain that he had to follow Sherlock by insisting they had more questions.

Why did Sherlock get to walk away and he didn’t? Had the other man abandoned him to some kind to trap? But then the suits started asking their questions which turned out to be a typical medical history just as he would do with any new patient. Or new inhabitant?

Any existing medical conditions? Did the hole in his shoulder count?

Sarcasm was apparently wasted on plastic.

He explained about his bullet wound and about the army, then gave his serial number when asked, which caused one of the suits to get excited – or possibly upset or angry or maybe it just needed the loo, it was hard to tell – and run out the door. Meanwhile he told the other one about his Loreslepin poisoning and how he had been treating himself with Nevirapine. There were more blood samples, a saliva sample and a urine sample – which thankfully he was allowed to go behind a screen to provide – until he was nearly at the end of his tether as far as obedient cooperation went. Then finally they let him go through the next door where Sherlock would no doubt be waiting impatiently for him to hurry up.

Except Sherlock wasn’t there; there was no sign of the other man. There was, however, a clothes bin.

Deciding to get the rest of this over with as quickly as possible he stripped off his clothing before hesitating slightly over his ID tags.

Four months before, when he had gotten home and shut the door against the screaming and the sirens on the street, he had taken the chain out and stared at it. Putting them on had made him feel like a soldier again. They reminded him of the panic and pain of Afghanistan and of the men out there who probably weren’t there anymore. They had reminded him that he had left his cane on the pavement outside the tube station where he had dropped it. He had decided that day that he needed to be a soldier to get through what was happening. Taking it them off now felt like giving up the fight for good. But the doctor in him said that if this was a full decontamination then everything had to come off.

He dropped the chain in the bin with his clothes and moved through to the next stage.

It was a shower cubicle with a shelf of different coloured chemicals and a laminated sign nailed to the wall detailing how and in which order he was to use them. He pulled the cord that obviously started the water and- oh god he was in heaven!

The water was warm, pure and gorgeous against his skin. The dirt peeled off underneath its spray and for the first time ever he could almost understand why some people let themselves be collected. No matter what happened next he would always have this moment of utter luxury. He hadn’t felt this clean for months. He hadn’t even been aware that this much clean flowing water still existed. How had he taken showers for granted before? They were glorious! He could stay here for hours.

Eventually he turned his attention to the line of chemicals. The blue body gel first, then the green one which smelt vaguely of peppermint. Next the white shampoo for his hair which set off another moment of nostalgia for something he never realised he missed. The joy of kneading shampoo into his hair and scalp, of rinsing it out and feeling how clean it was. How had he spent his whole life not realising how amazing that felt?

There was a pinkish bottle of liquid he didn’t recognise but suspected wasn’t conditioner, that had to go in his hair next. Followed by a purple body soap. Afterwards he allowed himself the pleasure of just standing under the spray again, letting all the chemicals wash off and his fingers wrinkle up just for the sake of it. When he thought about it he was surprised he had been allowed to stand there so long. After all, they couldn’t possibly have an endless supply of warm water, could they? Hadn’t Sherlock said something about a purification system? But no one interrupted him and he was allowed to choose when to put an end to the shower without a sigh of regret.

Waiting for him in the next room was a towel but also one of the suited figures again. Or possibly a new one, it was hard to tell.

He dried himself off then was inspected head to toe before he was allowed to cover his modesty. Particular attention was paid to his discoloured fingers, the bullet wound on his shoulder and, for some reason, his right leg.

The suit stayed with him as he was guided to a sink and handed a razor and shaving foam. As he started to take off four months of untrimmed beard under the suit’s watchful eye – or face mask as the case may be – he wondered for a wild moment what the suit would do if he made a sudden move with the razor, either towards the suit or himself. He dismissed it as not worth thinking about, partially because it was a safety razor and probably wouldn’t do much damage, and partially because in the mirror in front of him a reflection he recognised but hadn’t seen for four months was starting to appear. As he finished off he relished in the fact that after far too long he was able to look himself in the eyes and feel human again.

Taking the razor from him the suit handed over a toothbrush and toothpaste then disappeared through the next door along. John concentrated on brushing his teeth and not looking at what was going down the drain. His thoughts drifted to Sherlock who probably hadn’t spent an age under the shower and another age getting all the fuzz off his face – not that Sherlock had any fuzz which rather made his point. He had no doubt whizzed through all this. John wondered where he was. Wondered whether he was waiting for him.

He rinsed out his mouth then looked in the mirror and was mildly surprised to see John Watson smiling back at him.

Hello, stranger.

The next room contained a collection of white hospital scrubs, grey slipper socks and, mercifully, clean underwear. He pulled on a selection in his size then went through the next door, relieved that it all seemed to be over and he could get on with finding Sherlock and demanding an explanation of this place.

It wasn’t over.

The next room looked like a medical examination room with a metal table in the middle and various equipment and drugs lining the walls. A very young looking doctor in a white coat, gloves and a face mask stood to one side clinging to a chart as if her life depended on it. Most of John’s attention, however, was summoned by the man standing with his hands in his pockets in front of the next door. He was tall, wore a full three piece suit that was slightly too small for him, had dark hair and a slight but very smug smile.

“Have a seat, John.”

He gestured towards the table with an almost imperceptible nod.

John’s automatic instinct was to refuse but fought it down and hopped gently up onto the table. It was just more medical tests, he had come this far, he could put up with a few more. He couldn’t help being a little put out when the man’s smile widened ever so slightly.

“Miss Webber here is going to take care of your Loreslepin… problem. If you would suffer under her ministrations for a few moments more.”

Miss Webber? Not a doctor then. Unless she was one of the two surgeons Sherlock had mentioned. No, far too young, surely?

A response seemed to be required of him so he nodded and Miss Webber moved forward and started to examine his fingers.

The man continued to stare at him. It felt rather like the man was trying to dissect and examine him using only his eyes. It reminded him of Sherlock at their first encounter, trying to figure him out using only visual clues. Except this time he didn’t have a bag or a gun or shoes to give anything away. Instead it was like the man was looking under his very skin and reading what was written there. John vaguely thought that Sherlock should take lessons from this guy, then dismissed that as a bad idea.

“Shouldn’t you be wearing a mask?” John asked eventually, just to break the silence that was beginning to feel like some kind of deadlock.

“The initial tests on both yours and Sherlock’s blood tests came back negative for anything especially worrying,” the man said in a tone that wasn’t as reassuring as such good news should be. “You’re no danger to me.”

That sounded like an insult and John internally bridled at the suggestion. He bit back the urge to show exactly how dangerous he could be. He didn’t think he showed any of his reaction but the man seemed to read it anyway and his smile grew just a little bit more.

“What did Sherlock tell you about us?” the man asked.

“What did Sherlock tell you about me?” John shot back before he had thought about it properly.

The man’s eyebrows arched upwards but John wasn’t able to see if this reaction was accompanied with yet another widening of the smile as Miss Webber suddenly shone a penlight in one of his eyes.

By the time she had finished examining both of his eyes and he had blinked away the purple spots, the man seemed to be deeply engrossed in reading the papers attached to the clipboard that Miss Webber had been clinging to so tightly before.

“I think, Doctor Watson,” the man said, without looking up, “that you would make an excellent addition to our medical team. Your file here is quite impressive.”

“My file?”

“Although going by this it is somewhat surprising that it was my brother who showed up with a limp, not you.”

“Wait, whoa. Your brother? You’re Sherlock’s brother?”

The man – Holmes, John corrected himself, probably – lifted his head and gave him a perfectly calm look. John realised Sherlock probably had taken staring lessons from this guy.

“I can see the resemblance,” he said, weakly.

Holmes smiled again. “I’m sure Sherlock will be thrilled to hear that. Miss Webber?”

Miss Webber was suddenly beside him with a syringe filled with a pale beige liquid. John reacted instantly, throwing himself off the table and around it so it was a barrier between the two of them. Miss Webber appeared surprised, even a little scared – it was hard to tell with her face mostly covered – at his sudden movement. Then her eyes crinkled slightly as if she was trying to smile reassuringly under the mask.

“It’s Lorimpoxate,” she said. “It counteracts the Loreslepin poisoning. You’ll need two more injections over the next three days but you should recover completely.”

“Miss Webber is a medical student,” Holmes said, not reacting at all to John’s sudden distress.

John shifted so he could keep both of them in his eye line.

“As part of your duties here,” Holmes continued, “you’ll be required to teach her and any other suitably educated volunteers.”

“I thought it was really clever the way you identified the primary symptoms,” Miss Webber said, eagerly. “How did you realise Nevirapine would,” she trailed off as Holmes gave her a piercing look, “work.”

John looked between the two of them. “Well the first thing I’d need to teach her is some bedside manners.”

Holmes turned his attention back to the file. “Quite.”

Miss Webber shuffled her feet as if uncertain.

“How do I know that’s not,” John floundered for words, “mind control serum or something.”

Holmes flicked a page over and didn’t look up. “Don’t be ridiculous, Doctor Watson, the mind control serum is blue.”

Miss Webber gave Holmes a scared look. John decided not to react.

“Trust issues, it says here,” said Holmes, pointing to the file. “And yet you came all the way here. Could it be possible you decided to trust Sherlock?”

Holmes finally met John’s eye again. John stared back at him. His stares may not be as impressive as those displayed by the Holmes brothers but by god he was going to give as good as he could. He had never backed down in his life and he wasn’t about to start now. Even if he had no idea how anyone got hold of that particular detail about him.

Holmes closed the file. “Doctor Watson, at this very moment we have no reason to harm you. What we need from you is your medical expertise and we have no intention of dulling them through drugs or losing them through your present affliction. You are currently worth more to us alive and well than dead, so please believe me when I say the antidote will cause you no harm.”

“And if I stop being worth more alive and well?”

“Then you will be the first to know about it, I assure you.”

Even with the face mask the horror on Miss Webber’s face as she stared at Holmes was obvious. John, on the other hand, felt strangely reassured by the honesty and made his way back around to the other side of the table. Without breaking eye contact with Holmes he pulled himself up onto the table and offered Miss Webber his arm. He then had to surreptitiously prod her before she came back to herself enough to inject him with the antidote.

“Erm,” she said, “you’ll need to report back to the infirmary in twenty-four hours to get your next injection. If you suffer any dizziness, nausea, difficulty breathing, headache, chest pains or severe irritation in your extremities, particularly around the discolouration you need to come to the infirmary at once. Erm,” she gave Holmes another worried look, which he ignored, before turning to the side and coming back with a long, thin blue plastic strip with a metal medallion, a bit like a watch. She snapped it around his wrist. “This is your wristband. At the moment it’s set for blue zone only and if you try to go through any door to another zone it will set off an alarm so… don’t. Um…”

She looked towards Holmes.

“Thank you, Miss Webber, you may go.”

She let out an obviously relieved breath and, without a second glance towards John, practically fled out the door.

“Nice girl,” said John.

Holmes tilted his head slightly. “We need her, if this place is to continue. More than we need you in some ways. You can help us in the here and now. She is the future. You grew up in Chelmsford, I believe. Tell me, did you ever visit the Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch?”

John nodded, he had visited on a school trip when he was twelve.

“Were you aware that the bunker was only equipped for just a few years survival? In the case of full nuclear attack the personnel were fully expected to die there. I can assure you, that is not the case here. I fully intend that this place will be a haven for its inhabitants for as long as is needed, and the birthing point of the new British Nation after that. Even if it takes a dozen generations. Do you understand that I will not let anything or anyone interfere with that?”

John didn’t think, he just nodded.

“And do you understand how you can help with that goal?”

This time John hesitated. Holmes carried on regardless.

“Procedure dictates that you are restricted to blue zone for three days. I expect you could use that time to rest and recuperate anyway. Once the remaining tests have been cleared I will arrange for you to be shown the main infirmary and introduced to the rest of the medical staff.

“As Miss Webber said, that wristband will restrict your movements to within the stated zone. Please do not attempt to go through any door marked as leading towards another zone. It will be locked against you. This still holds true in the case of an emergency so even if an alarm sounds do not go through the marked doors, you will only inhibit the evacuation of others.

“The chip in the band also monitors your allocation of food, water and entertainment. You can redeem it at the canteen, I’m sure someone will be able to point you in the right direction. Right now I will arrange a room for you. Good day, Doctor Watson.”


~


Sherlock very nearly regretted leaving John behind to speed through the rest of decon when he reached the medical room and that student, Helen, insisted on re-strapping his knee. He had rather been hoping John would be able to do it, but he didn’t have the patience to wait. Since it was the other man’s first time entering the Enclave John was going to take ages to get all the way through and he was eager to get his hands on the hard drive.

He didn’t even bother to waste time drying his hair, although he did change his clothes - he hated those medical scrubs – then he dashed straight off to the security office to set about persuading Lestrade to let him have the hard drive, ignoring the continuous drips of water sliding down the back of his neck. Fifteen minutes and several promises not to let the hard drive anywhere near any networked computers later he was sat in his lab attaching various wires to his laptop.

It was at that point that Mycroft came to inflict his presence.

He tried to avoid seeing very much of his brother. Having permanent residence in blue zone had many advantages – less distractions, access to samples as soon as they came in, having his own permanent room to return to after a too long excursion resulted in a three day confinement – but none of them were quite as advantageous as the fact that it was far away from the high security red zone where Mycroft lived and worked.

Ever since parliament had been destroyed and all the pretences as to who actually ran the country had been dropped, Mycroft had become insufferable. Some people might take comments about the ‘weight of the future’ being heavy upon his shoulders as mere hyperbole but Sherlock knew them for what they were; boasts. At his darkest moments he suspected Mycroft was happy that the Event had happened. That it was just the excuse his brother had needed to take the world to pieces and rebuild it how he liked. Then he would recall the look of panic in his brother’s eyes when Mycroft had picked him up on that day four months before - and he still had no idea how Mycroft had got a car through all that chaos. He had never seen his brother so afraid, and so relieved to see him, he had almost not recognised him.

Still, Mycroft may run the Enclave but he didn’t run him. He took pains to remind his brother of that at every available opportunity. So he did nothing to acknowledge him, only briefly checked that his violin was within reach should more desperate measures to chase off his brother be required.

Mycroft, for his part, merely leaned back against the work bench and appeared to watch him work for a while.

How had it been possible for the man to ever fade into the background during his political career? No matter how hard Sherlock tried to ignore him and continue his work, beginning to hack his way onto the drive, his brother’s presence niggled at him like an alarm constantly going off, making the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Or was this just some special power Mycroft only brought out for him?

When Mycroft casually folded his arms like he was quite happy to stand there all day, Sherlock couldn’t resist the jibe,

“It’s a shame you don’t carry that umbrella around with you anymore. You were much more intimidating with it.”

“It seemed absurd to be forever carrying an umbrella when I never go outside,” said Mycroft.

Sherlock didn’t respond to that and Mycroft seemed to take it as his cue to say what he wanted and then would, hopefully, get the hell out.

“I don’t suppose you did get those plant cuttings I sent you out for,” Mycroft said.

Sherlock finally raised his eyes from the laptop screen in front of him to give his brother a brief bored glance.

“I got you a doctor instead, isn’t that better?”

Mycroft made a small non-committal noise. “I’ll give you that he is eminently qualified but couldn’t you have found one a bit tamer? This one might be a problem.”

“There wasn’t a lot of choice.”

Mycroft uncrossed his arms and braced them against the bench. Sherlock felt the full force of his brother’s gaze bore into the side of his face. The next sentence was undoubtedly going to be a test.

“No doubt he’ll calm down, become more manageable, in time.”

A small disgusted noise involuntarily escaped from the back of his throat. That would be horrible. John was independent, free spirited, actually thought for himself and at the same time thought he was marvellous. Would Mycroft really try and crush that out of the man?

“If you didn’t think that was possible then why did you bring him here?”

Of course Mycroft would, that was what he did. He put people into little boxes labelled ‘useful’ and ‘to be got rid of’. He wanted John to become a little tin solder-medic. Sherlock wouldn’t allow that.

“He’s interesting,” Sherlock said, turning a firm expression in Mycroft’s direction.

“He’s a wild element,” Mycroft said.

“Exactly.”

Sherlock turned back to the screen and continued his work, determined that Mycroft would get no further rise from him.

“You seem to have gotten very attached very quickly,” Mycroft said.

Sherlock continued his silence. There was nothing he could say to that anyway. A denial would be instantly detected as a lie. A suggestion that Mycroft should bugger off and leave him alone would be taken as conciliation. At times like this he almost wished for the days when he could distract Mycroft with a comment about the other man’s diet. However, since everyone was on the same strictly controlled diet these days he had lost that advantage.

“You should consider that he may not be in a fit state to return that attachment. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”

Again Sherlock said nothing, forced himself into an expression that gave nothing away. Although he suspected he was punching the keyboard a little firmer than before.

“If he’s trouble he won’t be staying.”

Shocked, Sherlock finally let his attention be brought up to his brother’s face again. Mycroft was looking completely serious and very severe.

“We need another doctor,” Sherlock said, probing Mycroft’s resolve.

Mycroft knew the chances of them finding another doctor wandering about was next to none. So he couldn’t be so willing to push the one they had just got away so easily. Surely not?

“Bear that in mind before you act,” Mycroft said simply

He left with a parting cry of, “Don’t forget the Report.”

Sherlock turned back to the screen but didn’t see it, just stared in its direction, unfocused. He ran the conversation through his head, analysing it for meaning, hidden meaning, second and third meaning. He dissected every syllable to get to the truth, to try and figure out exactly what it was that Mycroft had seen in John – no more than that, had seen in him and John – that he hadn’t.

He physically shook himself to jolt back into the present. He decided to put it aside for the moment and concentrate on the hard drive instead. He was going to hack in, listen to the messages and find out if he was right. And once he had discovered he was he would go find John and show him too. John was bound to be impressed and call him brilliant again. Maybe even smile at him. That would be good. He’d like that.


~


As John took his first steps out of the medical room and into the main corridor of the Enclave blue zone he felt… Well in all honesty he had no idea how he felt. It was like stepping onto an alien planet. Except in some ways it was so familiar so maybe it was like stepping onto one of those television alien planets where it’s actually filmed on a beach in Wales you once visited on holiday when you were nine but it’s different because you’re not used to it looking like that so it just seems like an alien planet and you genuinely don’t know what’s around the corner even though logically you know there’s just a little stall that sells ice creams and hot doughnuts and-

Suffice to say he was more than a little disorientated by the experience.

There were corridors and then more corridors branching off in different directions. The floor, walls and ceilings were all concrete grey but with a blue band painted along the top of the wall. Apart from the door he had just walked through which was white, all the doors were also blue but were different shades, sizes and designs. He couldn’t tell from first glance whether this meant something or whether whoever built this place merely couldn’t get all doors the same type.

What threw him, though, were the people. The sheer number of them. Most in some form of military uniform, a few in civilian clothes, walking past, chatting casually. In the time he just stood and tried not to gawp more people walked past him than he had seen in the last week. Part of him knew he was being ridiculous. Four months ago he would not have considered this busy. If this had been any of bases he had been assigned to or any of the hospitals he had worked at he would have called it quiet and wondered where everyone was. But he was so used to the deathly hush the Event had brought about that these few people just strolling along so… normally were giving him a headache.

Desperate for some kind of anchor he stopped the next person to pass him with a query of,

“Do you know where Sherlock Holmes is?”

So he can explain all this, he thought, or possibly so I can hit him for wandering off.

The woman, who had dark curly hair, a petulant expression and was one of the few people in casual clothes, slouched back on her heels and sighed.

“Probably shut himself up in his lab. He does that.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re his latest stray, aren’t you? What did he do, follow you home?”

He thought about answering then decided against it for two reasons. Firstly because it was complicated, after all it was more ‘was carried’ than followed and more ‘hidey hole’ than home. Secondly because he had taken an instant dislike to the woman as soon as she had called him a ‘stray’. What did she mean by latest anyway?

“If you could just point me in the direction of his lab-“

“What’s so special about you then, to catch his eye?” She looked him up and down as she spoke then smirked.

John shook his head. “Nothing,” he said honestly. “I’m no one.”

“Well take my advice, now that you’re here, forget about him. Whatever he told you out there he’s not your friend. He doesn’t have friends. You’re not the first stray he’s brought home and you won’t be the last. So do yourself a favour and stay away from Sherlock Holmes.”

Before John could react a familiar sounding voice called across the hallway,

“Doctor Watson!”

The grey haired guard from the video screen jogged over and immediately offered his hand.

“We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Lestrade.”

John stared at the hand, his brain automatically coming up with an exit strategy just in case he was grabbed and pounced on by the too many people in the corridor. After a moment Lestrade seemed to notice his distress and removed his hand, pushing it into a pocket instead. John briefly closed his eyes and tried to calm down his heartbeat. When he opened them and looked up the older man was giving him a friendly smile.

“John,” he said with a quick nod.

“Right, John,” Lestrade said in a business-like but still genial tone. “The rest of your stuff is still going through checking but I thought you’d want this back.”

It was his wallet, which had been pushed to the very depths of his bag. He took it from the outstretched hand and tried not to think too much about the rest of his things, his precious kit, being gone through by strangers.

“We can’t let you have the cards back,” Lestrade continued, “until we’re sure there’s nothing in the magnetic strips.”

What did they think he had done to the magnetic strips? How would he do anything like that? The only reason he’d kept a few cards in his wallet was so he could use them to open doors. He had dumped the money and all those old receipts that used to clog it up. Apart from the cards there was only one reason he had kept the wallet at all.

“But I thought you’d appreciate having the photos back.”

John nodded involuntarily but with force and opened it to have a look at them. He had never had many photos around; he had always been of the belief that if you couldn’t remember it without props it wasn’t worth remembering. But there were three that were important to him and he had folded them delicately into his wallet before he left his flat. There were two group photos and a portrait. The group photos were of him and his unit in Afghanistan – taken just outside camp when things were still new and they were still just excited to be out there – and him with mates from uni when they had gone on a rugby trip to Norway. Well it hadn’t been so much as a rugby trip, more a drunken mistake which had landed the entire rugby team at London City Airport at which point it had seemed such a brilliant idea to get on a plane to Norway. He was standing in the front in both photos, the perils of being short. In the Norway picture his friend Gary was making a rude gesture behind his head, but since Gary was wearing a traffic cone – an English one, he still had no idea how Gary had smuggled it onto the plane – he really hadn’t been worried about looking like the foolish one in the group.

All gone, he thought.

The portrait was of his sister Harry. That was the only one that had started out in the wallet. He used to have one of her and her wife Clara from their wedding but during an argument shortly after he had returned from Afghanistan Harry had taken it out of his wallet and ripped it in half. She had sent him this photo a week later as an apology. The only reason he had kept it was because she looked so bright eyed and sober. It was one of the few times he needed a prop to remember her like that, instead of how she was when he actually saw her in person.

“Thanks,” he said.

“Listen,” said Lestrade, “would you mind having a look at our memorial wall. We usually like to have new arrivals look at it as soon as possible. See if they recognise anyone.”

John considered saying no and continuing his search for Sherlock but then he remembered what the woman had said about him only being Sherlock’s ‘latest’ stray and how ‘he wasn’t the first and he wouldn’t be the last’. Sherlock had been quick enough to drop him and a memorial wall would at least give him something to do so instead he nodded and said,

“Yeah, sure.”

Lestrade nodded, turned and led the way. Without sparing a second glance at the bad-tempered woman he fell into step behind.

Lestrade chatted amiably as they walked, making little comments like, “I know this place seems a bit like a maze at first but you get used to it.” And, “Are you into football? We’ve got a little five-a-side tournament going on here, you should come along.”

He had an easy, laid-back manner and didn’t seem to mind when John responded only with non-committal noises or short sharp words or sometimes didn’t respond at all.

John was too busy watching where they were going, trying to form a mental map of the place. The corridors remained grey and concrete but were occasionally decorated with paper signs or clocks which told him it was nearly half past nine. Some of the doors they passed were colours other than blue; mostly they were green but once or twice were white, yellow or pale pink. Although Lestrade didn’t say anything John guessed these led to the other zones that had been mentioned.

Eventually they turned the corner to the memorial wall. It was instantly recognisable and Lestrade didn’t bother to tell him what it was or explain what was expected of him, the other man merely leaned back against the opposite wall and let him be.

Soon after the Event memorial walls had popped up all over London, all over the world probably. They were usually chaotic masses of pictures, drawings, with names and messages plastered haphazardly over the top, all placed there by people desperately trying to find out if their loved ones were alive out there. The optimistic called them message boards and relied on word of mouth to help find the lost. Most people called them memorial walls. After all, the phone networks didn’t start going down fully until a week or two after the Event. If those pictured on the wall hadn’t got in contact with the person who left the message by then they were most likely either dead or trying to pretend they were. After that the odds leaned decidedly towards not pretending.

John had looked at all the London walls, and had even diligently checked the wall near Barbican for updates every day he was working there, but he had never put a picture on one.

This wall was more structured, with the pictures lined up neatly and the names written directly onto the wall beneath. There were black marker pens littering the floor at the bottom of the wall. Every now and then there would be photo sized gap along the wall and the name below would be crossed out. John couldn’t help wondering whether that was because the person in question had been found or found dead.

John walked along the wall, obediently examining every picture and trying, for the sake of whoever had put it up, to compare the faces to ones he had seen on the street. Hundreds of smiling strangers looked back at him. At one group photo he paused and did a double take. Lestrade stood up straight.

“Someone you recognise?”

John frowned. “I’m not sure.” He pointed to a group photo of about twenty men and women who looked about student age and were crowded around two men and a woman of about his age. One of the older men had caught his attention. “He looks a bit like someone I went to medical school with but… I think it is him. Mike Stamford. He’s gotten fat.”

Lestrade walked over to look at it. “That’s Helen’s class from medical school. He must have been one of her teachers.”

“Helen?”

“Helen Webber, our medical student. She probably did your exam during decon. The proper doctors are too important to deal with new arrivals,” he said bitterly then looked a little embarrassed. “No offence.”

“None taken.” John read the words under the photo, ‘St Barts, class of 2013’. “Mike and I trained at Barts,” he said wonderingly. “He was a teacher there? I bet he loved it.”

“You haven’t seen him recently then?” Lestrade asked directly.

John shook his head sadly. “No.”

Lestrade relaxed back against the wall and John took that as a cue to continue. None of the other people caught his eye and soon he was staring at an empty wall with Lestrade back beside him.

“Want to put anything up?”

John paused a moment, thinking of the three pictures in his wallet. Out of all of the people depicted in them there was only one he would do anything, truly anything, to see again.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice coming out soft and thoughtful, “I’d like to.”

Lestrade peeled a blob of blue tack off the wall and handed it to him. He took the picture out of his wallet and, very carefully, almost reverently, attached it to the wall. He picked up one of the discarded pens and in a careful hand wrote ‘Harry Watson’ under the picture of his sister. He stood back to examine his handiwork and Lestrade nodded approvingly.

It didn’t feel as hopeless as he thought it would.


~


The sound files were easy to get hold of and delightfully surprising. Contrary to popular opinion Sherlock didn’t mind being wrong so long as the right answer was something far more intriguing.

He immediately set out to find John. Again, easy, it was utterly predictable that Lestrade would want to introduce himself properly after the exchange over the video screen and of course would take John to the memorial wall. Unfortunately, he was unable to get there without first bumping into Sally Donovan. Her charming self as usual, Sally didn’t let him pass without a few choice words. Words that revealed she had spoken to John. Dammit, what had she said? More importantly, how had John taken it?

He was loath to use any of his brother’s words but he couldn’t help observing that clean, shaven and dressed in those horrible scrubs, John did look a lot tamer. All the doctor needed was a haircut and the transformation into little tin soldier would be complete. The man was even standing to attention, nearly shoulder to shoulder with a far more relaxed Lestrade, staring at a picture of a woman that had clearly only just been added to the wall. Judging by the woman’s chin and eye shape she was a relative of John’s, most likely a sister. The name written underneath would seem to support that conclusion.

As he approached neither of the other men looked up. John had an odd expression on his face. He looked almost strangely pleased. That wasn’t right, was it? Sherlock moved closer to get a better look and John seemed to very suddenly become aware of his presence. As the doctor’s head snapped towards him, John’s expressions did that slideshow thing Sherlock was beginning to decide he liked very much. This time the order went; panic, surprise, then, for a period so brief he might have doubted it occurred if he ever doubted himself, John’s face seemed to simply light up before finally settling on annoyed.

Lestrade started to greet him but he cut across, uninterested, and focused entirely on John.

“I accessed the messages on the hard drive.”

At the exact same time as John asked, “Where have you been?”

Sherlock bristled at John’s demanding tone but was placated when John’s face slideshowed again through shock, confusion, then most promisingly, intrigue.

“You’ve already gotten into the hard drive?”

Sherlock’s eyes darted all over John’s face, suddenly glad that the beard was gone because it revealed more of his expression. The way curiosity was fighting with continued annoyance across it now was far more pleasing to observe than any amount of wildness the hair had given him.

“Yes.”

“So…” Curiosity won and completely took over his features. “Was there a message from the wife?”

Sherlock grinned. “Better. Two.”

John’s eyes widened. The other man was genuinely engrossed in his case. Perfect.

“Two?”

“Come on, I’ll play them to you.”

The corners of John’s mouth tugged into a half smile and Sherlock turned to stride back towards his lab, trusting that the other man would follow.

“Hey, Sherlock!”

Very unwillingly Sherlock stopped and turned back towards Lestrade.

“Yes, what?”

Lestrade grinned at him. “Don’t lock the man up in your lab all day. Give him a tour, will you?”

Sherlock rolled his eyes but couldn’t deny the advice was sensible. The quicker John became accustomed to the Enclave the more useful an assistant he would be. Sherlock nodded and moved to go again.

“Oh and, John.”

Sherlock wanted to ignore him but John turned towards Lestrade.

“You should really come to the five-a-side game on Thursday. It’s MET verses MI5 in the hall in Green B. We could do with a few more fans on our side. You’ll be loose by then, won’t you?”

For a moment John looked lost. Sherlock instinctively took a step towards him then wondered why he had done it.

“I don’t even know what day it is today,” John said, sounding like he was confessing something shameful.

Lestrade gave him a reassuring smile. “It’s Sunday.”

John nodded as if this was vital information he was taking in. “Yeah, sure.”

Lestrade grinned. Sherlock reached towards John and, very lightly, put a hand on his back to encourage him to move. John complied immediately but Sherlock kept his hand there until they got to the lab.

Once they had crossed the threshold and he had shut the door behind them he dashed straight over to his laptop to pull up the sound files. John hovered by the door gazing around at the room. Sherlock was pleased to note the doctor didn’t look overawed by the variety of lab equipment and experiments but cast a calm, yet impressed, trained eye over them.

Sherlock hit play on the relevant files and John walked over to listen attentively. Once the two messages had finished playing John turned a gaping expression up towards him.

“So,” John said, “he did tell her he was away on a conference.”

“But she knew he wasn’t,” Sherlock said encouragingly.

John’s eyes left his as the other man thought it through. “But if he never got those messages he couldn’t have known she knew about the affair.”

“So he had no reason to hire someone to kill her.”

“So who did?”

“She did.”

John turned an inquisitive expression towards him and Sherlock found he got a little thrill from stepping forward and explaining.

“The assassin wasn’t meant for her, it was meant for her sister.” He started pacing back and forth, waving his hands for emphasis. “You heard the messages, that thick Scottish brogue of hers. It would have been easy for anyone to mix up verbal instructions, especially someone for whom English is a second language, like our assassin. He gets the sister’s address mixed up with the collection address, sees her, thinks she’s the target as they look similar enough at first glance and kills her. Now, if the police had been less incompetent and told me her accent was that much thicker than her sister’s I could have solved this within five minutes.”

And I never would have gone to that office yesterday to find the messages, he thought as he turned back towards John. I never would have met you and you wouldn’t be standing there looking at me as if I was the most wonderful thing in the world, and that would be a great shame. So maybe the general incompetence of the police force wasn’t entirely a bad thing.

“That was amazing,” John shook his head. “I don’t know how you… but that was brilliant.” He turned to wave a hand towards the laptop. “You just… solved it.”

The last two words were said in a strangely flat tone and as he spoke John’s face seemed to shut down.

Once again Sherlock found himself taking a step towards the doctor without really meaning to, moving into the other man’s personal space until they were separated by a few inches. John gazed up at him almost warily. He frowned down at him.

“What?”

“What do you do now?”

Sherlock tilted his head in a silent request to explain.

“You can’t arrest anyone,” John said softly, his eyes never leaving Sherlock’s. “You can’t inform the police. You can’t tell the guy you know he’s innocent. It’s just… done.”

He sounded disappointed.

“I know,” Sherlock said. “You know. That’s enough.”

“What do you do here?” John asked again earnestly, stepping back and gesturing to the whole room.

“Research.”

He wheeled away and started talking about his various studies, showing off the experiments, explaining his results and listing all the plans he had for future tests. John followed him with wide eyes, looking fascinated by it all and occasionally asking questions. Sherlock found he did have to occasionally berate the doctor for his idiocy but not as often as he did with other people and John took it with much more grace than anyone else ever had. At one point when Sherlock was throwing his hands up in almost despair over the true stupidity of a query he spotted a slight smile creeping over John’s lips. The other man was teasing him. Aside from Mycroft no one had ever teased him. People had taunted, mocked and abused him, but good natured teasing, never. He hadn’t been certain how to respond so he had glared at John and said that if it was so amusing he wouldn’t bother.

John chuckled and then, just as he had in reception, looked shocked at the sound. He had found it impossible to resist a grin and John had returned it with a smile. It was all free, easy and absolutely wonderful. Outside of a case he had never been so happy.

“You must get bored, though,” John said and Sherlock took a moment to marvel at how this man who he had met less than twenty-four hours before knew him so well. “Without those exciting adventures of yours.”

Sherlock wrinkled his nose. “Adventures?”

“The ones you were telling me about. Like the one where the gardener found that buried treasure and then the maid double crossed him.” John looked positively animated “Or the one where the stepfather was using a snake as a murder weapon.”

“Those were cases solved with precise analytical reasoning.” Sherlock corrected him with a disgruntled sniff. “Not ‘Adventures’.”

John raised his eyebrows. “All right, without those exciting analytical cases of yours. You’ve solved all your past cases by now, haven’t you?”

Sherlock thought a moment. “Most of them. Although there was one case just before the Event. I wasn’t directly involved, although I’m sure Lestrade was on the verge of calling me. Three serial suicides, you probably saw it in the newspapers.”

John shrugged. “A lot has happened between then and now. I can’t say I remember.”

“Fascinating case. But I don’t see ever getting to the bottom of it.”

It still annoyed him. He had always thought that if he could have seen one more body…

John didn’t say anything but smiled at him in a way that made him think the other man understood somehow. Commiserated even. Cared about that black spot on his record in the same way that he did. It was… astonishing.

“But you still get bored,” said John.

“Yes,” Sherlock said with a sigh. “Continuously.”

“Which is why you go outside,” John rolled his eyes. “As insane as that is.”

“Yes,” said Sherlock. “But you won’t have permission to go outside for some time yet, so we’ll have to content ourselves with the studies in here.”

John looked shocked. “You want me to help you?”

“Of course. I need an assistant and no one else will work with me.”

And besides, he wanted to keep an eye on John, keep him close, make him smile, make him laugh, make his face do the slideshow thing again. He wanted to know why John was so interested in his past cases, how John had managed to connect with him so quickly, and most of all he wanted to know why he wanted to do and know all that.

“Let’s start with lunch.”


Chapter 4


Date: 2011-11-30 09:21 pm (UTC)
ext_613151: (sparkly eyes)
From: [identity profile] pillow-face.livejournal.com
Of course Sherlock would detest the idea of Mycroft taming his John. We all like him BAMF <3
Also hope we get to see John in action when he's more comfortable in his new surroundings, even if we don't, love this fic :D

Date: 2011-11-30 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thesmallhobbit.livejournal.com
I really like all the little details you introduce, like John enjoying his shower and all the different coloured shampoos etc.

I shall be interested to see how this progresses, as I don't think Mycroft will find John to be tame.

Date: 2011-11-30 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] r34dinglight.livejournal.com
another fan of the attention to detail; those small elements all add up so well painting a dark but intriguing view of the world they now are in. am also amused by the notion of john taming. perhaps too amused! :D

Date: 2011-12-01 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] itsthewa.livejournal.com
This continues to be awesome!

Date: 2011-12-01 02:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] morganstuart.livejournal.com
Just caught up on the new installments, and they are fantastic. I really like what you've done with the Lestrade-John interaction here, especially. Fascinating, precise details really make this a joy to read.

Date: 2011-12-01 08:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n-anon.livejournal.com
i dont usually read WIPs but the premise of this one was so interesting! I really loved all three chapters. The way you've written John and Sherlock is spot on, and the chemistry they have is palpable. I would love to read more.

Date: 2011-12-01 08:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lenap-trap.livejournal.com
wow!!! i read all 3 chaps in one go)) very capivating!!
please, don't drop writting this!!!

Date: 2011-12-01 01:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] a-taller-tale.livejournal.com
I can't wait til John is allowed to go outside again and they can have their adventures together! It's possible they could be hired as PI's by survivors to find people and solve murders, but I also like that Sherlock is still doing it for his own satisfaction and John still finds that fascinating.

Date: 2011-12-01 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rox712.livejournal.com
Great new chapter. Incredible how much John trusts Sherlock even without noticing.

Date: 2011-12-02 07:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frames-in-aria.livejournal.com
I still really loved how you fit canon to this AU. And I loved how Mycroft showed how protective he was to his brother. His love to his brother clearly shone in this fic. The details you put in the fic was also lovely ♥

(and I agree with you, John can't resist on following Sherlock like he can't resist gravity :D)

Date: 2011-12-03 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] poweroffunk.livejournal.com
I love this so much XDXDXD

Date: 2011-12-04 03:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wolf-were.livejournal.com
I just read all three parts, and I'm really loving the AU. Keep it up, please! I'm really interested in seeing how it develops and finding out what caused the apocalypse.

(BTW, I've noticed two typos: at one point, you write "bare" when you mean "bear," and at another point, you write "in to" when you mean "into.")

Date: 2011-12-05 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mushroom18.livejournal.com
I find Sherlock absolutely adorable in this, so smitten with John and showing off like a peacock. And John completely trusting Sherlock and warming up to Lestrade as well. I also like that Mycroft is also devoted to Sherlock while trying to be his ambiguous overlord self. That memorial wall just reminded me of that scene in 28 days later, and was just as moving.

Date: 2011-12-14 08:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] marysutherland.livejournal.com
Finally getting round to reading the next sections of this, and enjoying it a lot. You're working some of the other characters in very cleverly - I love the fact that Lestrade's still playing football and the photo of Mike. And Mycroft as running the world seems very plausible as well.

Date: 2012-01-15 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missilemuse.livejournal.com
The design of the enclave is so Mycroft… This is a silly statement as Mycroft is not an adjective, but I hope you get what I want to say! It has control-freak stamped all over it. Makes me wonder if Sherlock would have been allowed in, if he hadn’t been his brother. He’s the only breath of fresh air!

Date: 2012-01-26 06:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] findmeneverland.livejournal.com
I'm adoring this fic!! I will be leaving comments as I go along :)
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