Title: Distrations
Pairings: Holmes/Watson friendship, perhaps pre-slash if you're so inclined
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Non-con - see summary. May be triggering to some.
Disclaimer: I disclaim everything. No, seriously - everything.
Summary: This is in response to a Sherlock Holmes kinkmeme prompt on LJ: "Ok, so I've read some really nice fills for Watson being raped and Holmes finding out (and taking care of him). But I'd really like it the other way round: Holmes being the victim of rape with Watson finding out and (as usual) having to deal with the aftermath. I want Holmes to be severely traumatized, confused, emotionally shattered and not at all his usual self; you know what I mean." If it's not your cup of tea, don't read. *points to prompt*

Holmes sauntered out of the boxing establishment, his waistcoat open and fluttering in the light breeze, Watson's customary winnings stuffed safely in his breast pocket. He could feel every individual ache from his opponent's fists, and the remembrance of each made him grin. His hand wandered up to press against his ribs where he had allowed the brute to get in a hit, a deliberate feint to get him to drop his left shoulder so that Holmes could cuff him about the ear. It had been brilliant, really. The whole evening had been brilliant, in fact – positively invigorating. Watson would fuss over him the moment he saw the cuts and bruises, but Watson needed work as much as Holmes did.

That thought made Holmes smile even wider, and a passing couple gave him a wide berth and a wary look. Holmes waved at them, his mannerisms drunken even though he had passed up all but his one allotted victory ale. The thrum of adrenaline intoxicated him; it was wonderful – a balm for boredom, a tonic for ennui, a –

Four o'clock: three men, grimy with dirt and sawdust from the same establishment that Holmes had just left, mouths twisted in angry grimaces, betting slips hanging from their pockets. Pinched features, slow and quiet gaits, deliberately looking across the street… They were following him. Losers, perhaps? Irritated at betting against Holmes? There had been quite a few of those this night.

Holmes quickened his pace, and the men behind him did the same. Definitely tailing him, then. Good. Holmes wasn't nearly done for the evening, and trouncing a few irritated gamblers seemed like decent sport. They wouldn't know what hit them. Holmes was on fire tonight – in top form, spry, flushed with his winnings, both monetary and intangible. He could spend the dregs of his aggression and nervous energy on these three louts and be off home to Baker Street the better for it.

He almost missed the fourth man, a deplorable oversight. Holmes caught movement from the corner of his eye and sidestepped the mouth of the alley he had just crossed in front of. A second of calculation passed: sawdust on the pant leg, tawny dust on the tow of the shoes, short stick, feet placed wide in a fighting stance to distribute his body weight preparatory to launching a blow, left foot forward, right hook to follow. Conclusion: three men to herd him forward, one to lie in wait – an ambush. Course of action: block right hook, uppercut to abdomen, entrap right arm, hitch up, dislocate shoulder, cross cut to chin, snap head back, take to ground, incapacitate with kick to jaw. Ample time to knock out before the other three men could reach them.

It should have been a simple thing, had Holmes noticed the way this fourth man rocked his weight backward instead of forward onto the balls of his feet. As it was, he didn't observe the evidence of a feint.

Holmes didn't even feel the knee that slammed into his gut, but he heard himself grunt at the lack of air in his chest. He didn't mean to double over, but he hadn't been braced for the blow, and then there were hands on him, arresting his fall just before his knees cracked against the ground. Six hands dragged him into the alley while the fourth man glanced around to make sure they hadn't been observed, and then all five of them slipped into the shadows between the filthy old buildings, the air rank with garbage and ammonia, the latter likely courtesy of alley cats marking their territory.

Holmes sucked in a breath while the pain blossomed out across his stomach – diaphragm expanding underneath bruised ribs, pressure on spleen and kidneys, nothing Watson can't bind for him later – and then placed his left foot, raking his right out to trip the man next to him.

"Son of a – "

Holmes lashed out with his newly freed arm and landed a glancing blow across some part of the man gripping his left arm, but it didn't dislodge him. On the contrary, Holmes found himself reeling from a kidney punch – forgot about the fourth man, he didn't stay at the mouth of the alley to play lookout the way Holmes expected – and then Holmes felt the grit of pebbles on the ground digging into his shoulder blades, and the back of his head smacked against the cobblestones. This must not be revenge, he thought; they must intend to rob him and beat him senseless, then clear away before the bobbies came to investigate the ruckus. Two minutes, Holmes estimated; two minutes before they knocked him unconscious. Fine. A simple mugging. He had suffered worse.

But then he found his arms pinned by wrists and elbows by two of the ruffians, and the third straddled him to hold him down. He could kick, but ineffectually, and the brute was too heavy for Holmes to roll him with his arms held down against the ground. New course of action: don't resist. They'll take the valuables from his person and scram. Let them rifle his pockets, snap his watch chain – again, not so bad in the grand scheme of things.

Holmes went limp and calmly informed them, "Money's in the left jacket pocket."

The man on top of him sneered. "Is that so?"

"Not that you deserve it." Watson would probably yell at him later for his bravado. "You bet against me fair and square."

Fourth Man glanced up at his compatriots with a faint smirk. "Isn't that cute. He thinks we want our money back."

"We do," Left Arm Man replied shortly.

Top Man snorted and looked down at Holmes with a frankly disconcerting expression. "That's not all we want, is it boys?"

Holmes' eyes roved past Top Man, grazed Fourth Man, and the flickered over the arm men before he met Top Man's glittering gaze again. "You intend to kill me, then."

All four of them snickered. "Oh no, Mister Holmes. Not that."

Holmes started at the mention of his name; he had thought himself successful enough at keeping his likeness out of the papers, and no one at the boxing ring was supposed to know his real name except the owner. He decided to play dumb for now. "Well," he replied, cocky as usual. "I'm afraid I don't catch your meaning, then."

Top Man's smile melted into something intense and dark. Instead of bantering, he touched a few fingers to Holmes' cheek so delicately that Holmes couldn't help but flinch. The fingers trailed over his jaw, which Holmes flung to the side, and then skimmed down the column of his neck, light and soft. The gentle touch sent a sickening tendril of something horribly warm to course through Holmes' body. The hair stood up all over Holmes' arms and throat, and he shuddered. Top Man shot his companions a wolfish grin at that. "Feel him shiver, boys."

This was not right. "What are you doing?" Holmes demanded.

Top Man ignored him. "He's almost pretty, isn't he? Something almost…soft about him." Here, laid both palms over Holmes' chest and rubbed him through his white shirt – no, through Watson's white shirt.

Holmes' eyes widened, but he arched into those hands – rough but gentle, pressing in circles over his breast. He didn't want to, but his body did it for him – he had no idea why.

"Ooh!" Left Arm Man cackled. "Look at 'im blush!"

"Yes," Top Man purred; he sounded manic in his glee. "Like a pretty little virgin, isn't he? Like that, poppet?" He rubbed his thumbs over Holmes' nipples through the shirt, too rough, and Holmes squirmed against his will, his brow furrowed in consternation. What the hell? "Feels good, doesn't it," Top Man crooned. He leaned down until their noses nearly touched, and Holmes craned his neck in a futile attempt to avoid the fetid breath that the man exhaled all over him. "There's more where that came from, pretty boy."

Holmes stared up at Top Man, dumbfounded, his jaw slack. "More of what?" He heard the sharp, frustrated edge to his voice; not understanding, being deliberately made to look ignorant, rankled him like nothing else. "What in bloody hell are you talking about? Get off of me!"

"Aha!" Top Man bore down on Holmes when Holmes started to twist his torso in a futile bid to buck him off. "Got some spirit, hasn't he, boys?" He wrapped a huge palm around Holmes' neck and exerted just enough pressure to warn him into stilling. "Well, that's half the problem here, isn't it? Like a wild horse, eh? Doesn't know his place. Needs to be shown."

Holmes panted and felt his blood pressure rise in a dull rash past his ear drums. The fingers across his throat loosened, but he felt overly aware of their weight across his windpipe. It coalesced for him, then – the way Top Man had been touching him, the reason they had chosen such a dark, godforsaken alley, the way they were holding him down and going on about his blushes… More in disbelief now than doubt, Holmes' eyes widened a fraction and he breathed, "What?"

Top Man's face split in a slow, malevolent grin. "Ah. The Great Detective," he mocked. "Gets it now, does he?"

Holmes squirmed on instinct, but the fingers at his throat pressed down hard enough to cut off his breathing and he forced himself to hold still again while he took stock of the situation. He had his right foot planted firmly on the ground, but too little leverage against Top Man's bulk to make use of it yet. Arms immobilized, airway threatened…think! There were only four of them. Top Man, the Arm Men, and Fourth Man who was lurking and prowling about the cluster of men on the ground. The Arm Men were slight – easy to overcome if he could dispatch Top Man, or at least get free of him long enough to land a few solid blows. Killing blows – pull no punches. Incapacitate by any means necessary. Fourth Man, though…he looked harmless, but he was an unknown quantity. He could have a weapon, not that Holmes much cared about getting shot. Still, letting himself get shot would reduce his chances of victory, and now Holmes was thinking too much and doing too little, and Top Man had his hands all over his chest again. Wait for the right moment. This position would help none of them achieve their goals. They would all have to shift; he would make his move then.

"Pretty," Top Man muttered. He didn't seem to be looking at Holmes anymore, his gaze abstractly settled on the swirl of his hands over Holmes' body.

Forty two buttons, Holmes thought. Between all five of them, they had forty two buttons. Top Man's breath smelled like rotting gums; he would have to ask Watson to pour alcohol in his ear when he got home. And the tongue felt slimy…like a fish carcass. Slobbery – Holmes tensed against his will when Top Man fitted their mouths together, and discovered that he had instinctively tried to wrench his head to the side. Huge, meaty fingers grabbed his face to hold him still; he would have marks along his jaw in the shape of fingers. Immaterial. Don't resist yet…not yet… He couldn't breathe through his mouth, not with lips sealed over his, and a protuberance of foreign tongue forced in against his own. The stench of the man assaulted his nostrils and Holmes gagged around Top Man's tongue, to the apparent amusement of the arm men. Ignore it. It's only one small indignity, of little consequence. Wait for the right moment…

Top Man pulled back with a sickening smack of lips and Holmes gasped in what untainted air he could. His hands were balled into fists in spite of the arm men's knees pressed against his wrists, fingernails cutting crescents into his palms. This was disgusting – he could taste the man, and for a moment, he thought he would be sick right there.

Thankfully, Holmes managed to swallow it back, but Top Man noticed the effect he'd had, and it seemed to enflame the worst sort of passion in a man. "What's the matter, Mister Holmes? Am I not to your liking?"

Holmes probably should have kept silent, but he was too furious and confused by now to hold back the retort. "Not at all. You are revolting."

Top Man smiled and purred, "Is that so."

"It is most definitely so!" Holmes struggled against his captors for a moment, then forced himself still again. He couldn't afford to waste his energy.

"Hm." Top Man shifted and Holmes gave a full body flinch when he felt the hardness dig into his abdomen. "Maybe you'd prefer something a little more…mmm…substantial?"

All four of them snickered and Holmes breathed heavily for several heartbeats, glaring at the wall of the building to his right rather than at the foul man straddling him. Once again, he didn't understand this innuendo, and it infuriated him that even now, he should be made to look even more a fool than he already did. "I would prefer you to go to hell. Even better, to send you there myself."

"Poor little poppet." Top Man's fingertips trailed suggestively over Holmes' lips and Holmes screwed his mouth decidedly shut. Top Man went on, obviously enjoying Holmes' reaction. "It would be a shame to waste such a pretty thing." He pressed his thumb between Holmes' lips, but couldn't get any farther than the fronts of Holmes' teeth. "Open up, poppet."

Holmes snorted and jerked his head to the side. Now, on top of the man's rotting mouth, Holmes could taste sewage from his fingers. At least now, he could deduce the man's occupation.

Top Man didn't like being denied. He seized Holmes by the hair and wrenched his face back toward him. "You're awfully rude for a man in your position."

Holmes grunted and wondered if the man would come away with a fistful of his hair, considering how hard he yanked on it to try to make Holmes look at him. Watson called him rude so many times a day that Holmes didn't even bat an eye at the remark. The part that bothered him was that it he could feel Top Man angling his pelvis down against him, and that firm shape pressing into Holmes' stomach made his skin crawl. His moment would come soon; he just had to wait it out. They would have to move him, would…Holmes swallowed thickly…they would have to turn him over, and he could take the opportunity…

Holmes came back to the moment rather rudely and cursed himself for getting distracted. Top Man had slid lower and Holmes squirmed to try to get his own groin away from the pressure inherent in being sat upon. He couldn't plant his feet flat anymore, not with Top Man half sitting on his thighs, and the blackguard was heavy… No worries, not yet. He just had to bide his time. It was okay. Everything was okay, and Top Man was tugging Holmes' shirt from his belt – Watson's shirt, it's Watson's shirt – and no, this was not happening. Holmes choked back a nonspecific sound and twisted his hips down, trying to press into the concrete below him. Top Man followed, and he was rocking ever so subtly, and Holmes could feel it, and he would not react – he would not get hard, he would not.

"There, now, poppet." Top Man kept rocking and slipped his hands underneath Holmes' shirt, pressing and stroking his stomach. Mostly to himself, Top Man murmured, "So pale and soft."

Left Arm Man added, "Like a woman. Soft and white like a woman."

Top Man purred in agreement, his fingers skimming lightly over Holmes' abdomen, so gentle that Holmes felt the shudder wrack through him. Holmes hated the betrayal so much that he wasted a few seconds struggling again, trying to pull his arms free, just to stop the man from dragging any more shivers and blushes from him, as if he were a damn wanting virgin woman quivering in anticipation. He wished they would just get on with it so that it could be over and he could go home. To Watson.

Fourth Man came to stand over the lot of them, gazing down with cold eyes. Of them all, Holmes decided he liked Fourth Man best, but only because the man had the decency to appear as what he was – uncaring and borderline evil. Cruel, probably. Holmes could respect a man who didn't bother to conceal his nature; there was something honest about it. Holmes forced his breathing into rhythm as Fourth Man knelt beside them, and without any pretense, went about methodically emptying Holmes' pockets. The other men sat quietly and waited – Fourth Man obviously carried some authority, and none of them argued when he pocketed all of the money that Holmes had won in the ring – Watson's wager, but never mind, Holmes would pay him back.

Fourth Man also unwound Holmes' watch chain, examined that and the timepiece itself, then tucked it into Top Man's trouser pocket, a sickeningly intimate move that Top Man bore with a stony expression. "Be sure to give the boys something for their trouble here."

Top Man nodded, obedient despite his obvious loathing toward Fourth Man. "Are you leaving?" From his voice, he wanted the man to.

"Oh no." Fourth Man retreated and Holmes craned his neck to watch him take a seat on some old packing crates, well away from the scene, like an opera patron to one side of a depraved stage production. "I simply don't want to get in the way." He examined his hands, tutted the dirt there, and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe them clean. "Be careful of him, now. He's a clever man, however 'soft'."

Holmes' stomach lurched and he looked away. Maybe he'd been too quick to muster up a parody of respect for the man's openly deplorable character. Watson was probably nodding in his arm chair by now with a yellow back novel in his lap. Holmes focused on that image for a moment to calm himself.

Top Man seethed for a moment, pointedly not looking at Fourth Man, and then he rucked Holmes' shirt all the way up to his armpits. Holmes flinched and tensed, but there was nothing for it. One of the arm men – he didn't bother looking to see which one – brushed a hand down his neck and then flicked a fingernail over his exposed nipple. Holmes twisted to the side, but the hand followed, and Holmes could feel his skin tingling, his nerves screaming to him that this felt good when he could have sworn that it didn't. Top Man had resumed rocking against him, and between that and the hands, he almost missed the moment when the other arm man unwound the scarf from Holmes' neck.

Too late, Holmes realized that he was about to lose his opportunity to break free. Right Arm Man slung the scarf around his wrist like a noose, and then they were flipping him, one arm immobilized, and shit – he didn't have time to do anything, he hadn't expected this, he hadn't planned – stupid, letting himself get distracted, Watson always yelled at him for getting distracted, pay attention –

"No!" The cry came out of nowhere, and Holmes felt as if he were suffocating, face pressed to cobblestones and the crushing weight of a hand between his shoulder blades, Top Man sitting now on the small of his back, and he suddenly couldn't breathe at all. Holmes realized that he was thrashing, kicking too even though his legs didn't bend in a helpful direction, and he dug the toes of his shoes into the ground for lack of better leverage. They had twisted his arms behind his back before he had even processed the fact that he was on his stomach now in the filth of the alleyway, his own scarf biting into his wrists as they wrenched it tight enough to make his fingers go numb. Someone dragged his waistcoat and Watson's shirt from his shoulders, baring them to the chill night air, and he still couldn't breathe well enough to think straight again. He was panicking, he realized; he couldn't breathe because he was panicking now, and Watson wasn't here to save him this time – Watson was always here when these things happened, always at his back, always –

"Sh-sh-sh…" A hand petted Holmes' hair and he gagged at the stench of the cobblestones under his nose. He could hear his shoes scrabbling against the ground, a faraway echo that only just penetrated the dim rush of sound in his ears. "Good, poppet."

Holmes could smell the rotting breath again – Top Man had his mouth right next to Holmes' ear. He couldn't control the way he struggled in halting bouts of flailing limbs, and he shoved his face into the ground because he preferred the reek of alley cat to that of diseased gums. Pebbles and who-knew-what-else dug into his bare stomach and gouged his collarbones, and Top Man had slithered back, hands splayed across Holmes' dorsal ribcage, then lower, on this hips, and then cupped over his buttocks, and Holmes' stomach heaved at the rank odor invading his nostrils. He choked it back, but it didn't much matter; Top Man was tugging at his belt, which was still buckled, and dipping fingers down past his tail bone, teasing, taunting, and damn him anyway.

"Are you gonna be good for us, poppet?" Top Man gripped Holmes' waist with punishing strength – more bruises, Holmes thought dimly. "Hm? It'd be a shame to have to mar this pretty skin of yours." A single finger inscribed patterns over Holmes' back, and Holmes writhed to avoid it. "Mmm…" Top Man pressed his mouth to the nape of Holmes' neck, and Holmes tried to swallow the whimper that it wrenched from his throat. "Oh, come now, Mister Holmes. I already know you like it…like what I'm doing to you." Top Man snaked a hand around Holmes' waist and down to squeeze between his legs.

Holmes choked over his own whimper and gasped, "Stop! Stop, I'll pay you. Name a price – anything."

"But we don't want your money," Top Man crooned. "Remember?"

"Um…yeah, we do," one of the arm men reminded him.

Top Man snarled, "Quiet!" and then bent low to rub his cheek in Holmes' hair. Holmes flinched and tried to squirm away, a futile effort. "He doesn't actually want us to stop. Do you, Mister Holmes?" Here, he squeezed between Holmes' legs again, too hard, and Holmes whimpered in spite of himself – it hurt. "Can't hide that, can we."

It took Holmes a moment to understand; he had nearly forgotten about that part of himself, but now…oh god, he had an erection. Top Man started moving his hand, rubbing it harshly, but his grip was firm enough, insistent enough… "No, no – no, I don't want – stop it! Stop!" He bucked upwards, anything to dislodge the hand, but it turned into a slow squirm – he was losing control. There was damnable heat pooling low in his belly, and he didn't want it but his own body had other ideas. He twisted his hands awkwardly, but the scarf was knotted too tight for him to find any give, and it infuriated him no end. "Get the hell off of me! You think I can't find out who you are? You'll hang for this!"

A barrage of chuckles and mean spirited laughter assaulted Holmes' ears, and then one of the arm men sneered, "You don't know a damn thing, Mister Holmes."

Holmes grunted with the effort of trying to throw Top Man off. "I know you two are dock workers. You have calluses consistent with heavy lifting and manual labor, and furthermore, you – " He jutted his chin toward left arm man. " – you have a rope burn on your palm, indicating that you lost your grip on a rope while running up a heavy sail. You also have a tattoo on your left shoulder, an anchor surrounded by a sickle and a star. Your shirt doesn't cover it. And you – " Holmes contorted his neck to glare at right arm man. "You live in White Chapel but you work at a fishery on the docks. You reek of it, and the mud on your trouser cuffs indicates that you have a long walk home which takes you through the Cleveland district – I imagine you don't mind, seeing as your proclivities obviously don't limit you to the whores on the square."

Holmes would have gone on, but Top Man suddenly wrenched him up by the hair, bending him backwards with his other arm cinched over Holmes' throat. Holmes struggled for a moment, but when Top Man tightened his arm to cut his airway off completely, he went rigid instead, his eyes darting blankly between the unamused arm men, and then finally to Fourth Man, who sat placidly on his crate with a lit pipe in his hand, just watching. Holmes' back twinged at being contorted into this position but he welcomed the pain because it diminished the unwanted heat elsewhere in his body.

Top Man put his face next to Holmes', close enough that Holmes could see him in his periphery, and hissed, "You really need to learn when to shut up, Mister Holmes."

Holmes' chest heaved, searching for air, but Top Man held him close enough that Holmes' fingers brushed the man's belt, and he could swear he felt the hilt of a knife sheathed there. Carefully, he felt around, his pawing random so that each touch would seem unintentional, and sure enough, a knife handle appeared under his fingers. He tested it and found a snap holding it in place in its sheath, and dug his fingernails in around the snap to open it.

Top Man moved so slowly that Holmes jumped when a hand closed over his on the knife hilt. "Looking for something, poppet?" he growled. Holmes froze, his eyes widening both in unexpected fear, and lack of oxygen. "I think that what you need is a little bit further to the right." He dragged Holmes' hands in said direction and pressed his crotch into them. "Isn't it."

Holmes sputtered and twisted his hands away, only to be released a second later. He fell forward and smacked into the cobblestones, though luckily, he avoided breaking his nose even though he wasn't capable of catching himself. Air rushed past his abused throat to cool his seared lungs and he gasped in a miserable heap on the ground, willing spots out of his vision. Top Man grabbed him by the hips and dragged him up a few inches, far enough to get his arms under Holmes' body to work open his belt. Holmes pressed his forehead to the cool ground, panting harshly, and barely flinched when his heard the whir of his belt whipping free of their loops. He opened his eyes as Top Man tossed it to Right Arm Man with the order, "Shut him up."

Holmes shied when Right Arm Man moved to shove something in his mouth, only to have Top Man drag his head up by the hair again. His neck hurt already from being choked, and having his head yanked back made him feel as if his bones were grinding together. He heard himself yelp and wondered how many colors the bruise would turn. Then some rank piece of cloth was shoved into his mouth, and Left Arm Man used his cravat to tie it in place, and Holmes allowed a stifled sob to escape, safe behind the disgusting, diseased fabric where no one would hear it. They let go of his head and he chewed on the gag, the corners of the cravat biting into the corners of his mouth, but he couldn't get the thing off, not even when he raked his face over the ground, trying to snag the cravat on a corner of a cobblestone. The taste of it against his tongue reminded him of the sewage from Top Man's fingers – foul like rotting fish, probably crawling with filth – he was going to throw up, he realized. He was going to throw up and then choke on his own vomit.

Holmes' vision swam as he tried desperately not to lose control of his rebellious stomach. He needed something to focus on, something not this. If he choked to death here, alone, not on a case, all because of his smart mouth and his cocky attitude and his prowess in a damn boxing ring, Watson would never forgive him. He just had to make it home – make it home and sit in his chair across from Watson, pick the book up off his lap and mark his place in it, just…

Focus on something, anything. Holmes didn't want to remember this the way he remembered everything else, in excruciating detail for the rest of his life. His flickering gaze found Left Arm Man's shoes and he narrowed his concentration to those, to the color of the leather, the creases across the toes, the ragged soles, the cracked edges – he could extrapolate what his footprints would look like, so he did, and he imagined every notch and dispersion of the man's weight so that he didn't have to notice when Top Man dragged his trousers down to his knees and pressed that hardness against his back, driving Holmes' hips into the gritty ground, grit and pebbles raking against his own…why was he hard too? He didn't like this, he didn't want it – it didn't feel good at all, so why –

Shoes. He had Left Arm Man's down, so he moved onto Right Arm Man. Military boots – that would narrow it down. And cuff links – Right Arm Man had his knuckles braced on the ground for balance where he crouched. Holmes could see his cuff links. Silver, inscribed, tarnished, focus on the monogram – it was too dark to make out the letters, so Holmes memorized the patterns in the dull swirls of unpolished, poorly kept silver instead. Every whorl, every degree of discoloration, every bead and speckle – focus –

"Pretty little thing," Top Man crooned.

Holmes felt his carefully distracted concentration shatter as he startled and cringed, shoulders tensed. There were fingers prodding at him, between his buttocks, rubbing and stroking and pressing as if they actually expected him to relax and allow them inside.

"Come on, poppet. Open up for me."

Shoes – shoes, where – there. Shoes. Military boots and monogrammed silver cufflinks.

"Relax, precious. So soft…make you feel as good I do. Come, now."

Holmes shied when Top Man forced the tip of his finger inside, his chest stuttering as he fought not to sob outright. This shouldn't matter – it was just flesh. He didn't care what happened to his body – Watson observed that all the time, yelled at him for it – It was just a power play. They wanted to humiliate him, it didn't mean anything. It didn't mean anything that Holmes' heart rate shot up and his breathing turned ragged, and he still wanted to throw up but he couldn't risk it with the gag in his mouth. He wished Top Man would stop stroking him, though – he didn't enjoy this, whatever his flesh indicated. But there were roiling waves of heat coursing through his loins now, and when he squirmed, he couldn't tell if it was away or toward, and the finger had penetrated deeper – apparently, he had relaxed after all, because it didn't hurt as much as he had thought it would, and shoes – look at the shoes and the cufflinks and then go home to Watson and sit in the chair and smoke a pipe. Just look at the shoes and the silver, and don't bother with the rest of it.

"God, you're tight." Top Man licked a stripe up the back of Holmes' neck and then nibbled behind his ear. "Gonna feel so good. So hot inside."

Holmes bit down on the gag and blew snot from his nose because it was his only airway and he needed to breathe. He heard sounds like a broken puppy but he couldn't tell where they were coming from, and worse, he couldn't see the shoes anymore because his vision had streaked. Must have been the puddle under his cheek, getting grimy water in his eyes. Must have been. He twisted and whined when the second finger forced its way into him, and it hurt again because his muscles clamped down and Top Man didn't stop to let him relax this time. His fingers wound around the ends of his scarf, clenched tight and tangled. It burned – his arse burned and Top Man kept thrusting the fingers into him. Something disconnected in Holmes' body because the next thing he knew, a different kind of heat seared through him and he cried out around the sodden cloth in his mouth, a muffled, strangled sound. He didn't understand why that felt good, or why he tensed and shook for a moment, or why his hips jogged forward into Top Man's other hand. It wasn't good – it wasn't good at all, but he squirmed anyway.

Top Man made a soft noise that obviously came accompanied by a grin of some sort. "Look at that, boys. Look at him squirm."

Holmes choked back a dejected moan and shoved his nose into the cobblestones, shame coloring his face and shoulders in a palpable wave. All he'd done was win a boxing match; it wasn't his fault that they had placed a moron's bet. When he peeled his face up off the ground, desperate for something to distract himself with, he found knees blocking his view of the alley. The arm men had moved closer, and the moment Holmes noticed them, they started touching him too – soft, light, combing fingers through his hair and tracing the lines of his face, his shoulders, his lips.

Top Man finally stopped what he was doing behind Holmes, and Holmes went limp with premature relief. He barely took note of the squabbling above him until Top Man told one of them, "You had the last one. It's his turn." And then someone seized the knot at the back of his head and yanked on it long enough to work a knife against Holmes' scalp and snap the gag free.

Holmes choked and spit the wadded cloth from his mouth, sucking in greedy gulps of air, convinced for one insane moment that it must be over. He twisted his shoulders, murky plans forming in his mind as he waited for someone to cut the bindings on his wrists too. A tiny part of him was trying to explain that it wasn't that easy – that he was losing it, and that he had to stop hoping after stupid things like that, but Holmes couldn't hang onto the rational bit. All he knew was that he could breathe again, and that Top Man was no longer doing things to make his stomach simmer and his body twitch against his will.

The knife that appeared at Holmes' throat didn't register at first; nor did the weight of Top Man pressing against his back, not until the blade pricked against the soft hollow above his clavicles and Top Man's voice hissed in his ear. "If you bite him, I'll slit your throat."

Holmes struggled to make his mind work, trying to wrap his head around that tiny rational part of himself that screamed at him in Watson's voice to pay attention, and figure it out, stay in the moment, deduce… He heard fabric rustle in front of him and glanced up as Right Arm Man undid his fly buttons. The fishery worker – the one whose putrid handkerchief had just been shoved in Holmes' mouth.

Top Man pressed the blade harder against Holmes' adams apple and growled, "Ask for it."

The knife pressed like a pinpoint of clarity to Holmes' skin. He felt his eyes go round and wide as Right Arm Man pulled out a disgusting length of hard cock while Left Arm Man sulked at being excluded. No, Holmes thought. Nnonono…

Top Man seized Holmes' chin in a brutal grip and Holmes screwed his face up, jaw clenched, eyes shut. "Ask him! Or I kill you right now."

Can't die here, Holmes thought, his mind garbled. Can't…Watson…just get through it and go back to Watson.

A tiny, disbelieving sound tore from Holmes' throat as Top Man let go of his chin and Right Arm Man cupped his jaw in an almost tender manner. Holmes could smell him – rotting fish and putrefaction – and he swallowed rapidly to keep his stomach settled. That thing was right in front of him, at eye level. It smelled like chemicals and animal musk, and fish carcasses and the Thames on a bad day...inches away form his face, oh god…calluses on the fingers, forty two buttons, silver cufflinks, footprints…

Holmes gagged and tried to duck his head away as Top Man forced his legs apart and rubbed his free hand over the backs of Holmes' thighs; the other hand still clutched the knife, fist braced on the ground with the blade pointed up at Holmes' throat so that Holmes had to hold his head craned up at an unnatural angle to avoid it piercing him. He didn't even entertain the possibility of letting himself fall onto it – it never even crossed his mind, because if he did, then Lestrade would call Watson to identify his body, and he couldn't let Watson see his dead body, not over something as inconsequential as a stupid lost bet.

The pad of a thumb grazed the corner of Holmes' mouth and he opened his eyes, struggling to look up at Right Arm Man, past the cock that he held steady in front of Holmes' mouth. Top Man was already nudging at him from behind, propped above him like a weight looming down even though he wasn't laying fully on top of him. He pictured Watson again, sitting skewed in his arm chair, oblivious and asleep and rumpled in his fine clothes, book on his lap, the fire dying down at his feet. Watson, waiting for him to come home. Watson, who had already lost a wife and had barely recovered from realizing that he hadn't lost Holmes too, who had moved back into Baker Street the moment Holmes asked, who slept innocently in bed next to him because it was safer that way, because they could keep an eye on each other if they were in the same room, because Watson got that look on his face now whenever Holmes went out alone, as if he thought Moriarty might take Holmes from him again, and leave him with nothing at all this time. Watson who had suddenly stopped complaining when Holmes stole his clothes or pissed off the landlady or fouled the air with his pipe smoke. Watson…

Holmes gazed up, terrified and undone, his mind in tatters except for the memory of the face of that one person waiting for him. Always waiting for him, even when everyone else told him that Holmes was dead, able to wait only because there was no body that time. This time, there would be. If he didn't survive, Watson would have a body this time, and Holmes couldn't stomach the thought of doing that to him.

So he asked for it.