June 28th 2007 dawns bright, and John Watson wakes to the sound of news reporters chirruping about the election. Harold Saxon is the name on everyone's lips, the man who's going to save Britain, the man who's going to make it properly great again. John's not so sure about all that (he's never been one for hype), but it's him or the Conservatives, so he dutifully drops by the polling station on his way back from Tesco's.
"You voted, then?" Sherlock calls as he tries to find some space between the latest fridge-held experiments to put the milk.
The responding 'mm' is disparaging, but there's no surprise there. Something about Saxon hasn't sat well with Sherlock since his appearance as Harriet Jones' successor, and John knows that his inability to put a finger on it is driving the younger man up the wall. "Look, if you want him brought down that much, I'm sure Mycroft can fiddle the results a bit. I mean, I know you don't exactly like him, but-"
"Mycroft's not answering his phone. Hasn't been for the last three weeks."
"Don't be obtuse John, you've not got a hearing problem."
"Well, no, of course not, but... why didn't you tell me?" Sherlock shrugs, and John rolls his eyes. "You could've bloody- I wasted a vote on him!"
"And your vote is the one on which the future of this country hangs, I know."
"Oh, for God's sake... And you didn't investigate why?"
"I did. The British Government's shut up tighter than a clam- even I'm not making any headway. Whatever mess Mycroft's got himself into, he'll have to get himself out of again."
The next evening, John's running through the corridors of St. Bart's like his life depends on it- which it doesn't, quite. At least not yet.
He finds Sherlock in the morgue with Molly, going over a corpse. They look up, startled, when he runs in so fast the door bangs against the wall and John begins trying to put the chaos that is the last five minutes into words. "Sherlock! Sherlock, they've killed the President..."
Molly tries to interrupt him when he gets to a young man being made old in the space of a few seconds, but Sherlock holds up a hand to silence her. It's the only time he moves during the entire explanation, otherwise standing there, his fingers steepled in front of his face until it nears its end.
"...and then he told them to kill one tenth of us, of the world population, it's an absolute bloodbath out there-"
"Not in here?" He asks.
"They're machines, however their personalities are structured- they wouldn't kill only the people it was easy to get to."
"Right. But they've left this place alone for some reason. No idea why, but they haven't touched it."
That's when the screams from the wards begin.
"Their clemency has run out, it seems. I wonder..." He digs in his pocket and throws something at Watson. "Put that on."
It's a badge announcing that John is Peter Mackay from emergency paediatrics- Sherlock's holding another. They get them on just before the door opens again, this time for a Toclafane, blood dripping from its blades.
"More of you!" It announces gleefully, then, "oh. Doctors." It flies back out of the room, sounding remarkably like it's sulking.
"I've been waiting for something like this for a while. Not the wholescale murder, obviously, but Saxon's been building up to something- it's why Mycroft went into hiding."
"I thought he said he wasn't answering your calls?" Asks John, a little put out by the way Sherlock's left him to get Molly up on one of the slabs (less comfortable than a proper bed, perhaps, but John doesn't fancy seeing what the wards look like right now).
"I did- sorry, couldn't be sure you weren't bugged."
"Really? No... creases in my coat collar to give it away or something?" Sherlock glowers at him. "Never mind. But why doctors? Why are they letting us live? And why do you have Peter Mackey and Samuel Reynolds' IDs?"
"Second question, because they won't be needing them any more," he gestures to the two farthest corpses. "As to the first, they need to keep their workforce going."
His phone bleeps.
They have records on everyone. Badges won't hold up to scrutiny for long. Have arranged for Sherlock to go into hiding. John will join when registered as medic.
3rd ambulance from left as you go through the door.
The ambulance bay is almost deserted. Anthea's waiting at the door with a set of scrubs that she hands to Sherlock.
"You're a doctor," she tells John. "As far as we know, that'll give you a licence to travel. We'll find you when that happens."
"Right." He's not convinced, but he'll go along with it for now. He nods to Sherlock. "Be seeing you then."
The doors slam shut, the ambulance drives out and John is left alone with the sound of weeping that the screams turned into.
The next few days pass in a blur for which John would be grateful if he was allowing himself to feel anything. The survivors of the Decimation are press-ganged into clearing up the dead; smoke and the smell of burning meat engulfs London. The sobbing's begun to peter out into silent shock, punctuated by the occasional wail as the hope of finding a missing relative alive is dashed. Some run at the Toclafane, screaming in grief and rage, and leave another mess for everyone else to deal with afterwards.
Through it all, John runs with the other medical staff, patching up gashes and broken limbs and burns and trying not to think about how he's not found Harry yet. A woman bleeds to death in front of him from a trauma-induced miscarriage. A child clings to Molly and will not let go until he falls asleep, at which point she leaves him in an alley because she has no way of treating his concussion, and sleeping's by far the kindest way to let him go. A man keeps trying to escape treatment for his head wound in order to search for his family- in the end, John lets him. He sees him again a few hours later, shrieking over the body of a teenager on the steps of a gutted house before running inside just as the whole thing collapses.
A week goes by, and there's nothing from Mycroft or Sherlock. By the end of the second, John's almost consigned them to the list of the dead (a purely hypothetical notion at this point- those left behind are far too busy surviving to compile one).
Halfway through week three, a young woman presses a tattered note into his hand and vanishes before he can read it.
Millennium Square, Cardiff. Come as soon as you can.
They'd given him a car with his licence to travel. The driver's window's shattered and there's blood on the seats, but it's ignored as he and Molly bundle inside. Between the ID checks and the burnt-out cars on every motorway it takes them two days to get through, but they make it and leave the car a street away from the square before walking over to the water feature where Sherlock's waiting. Toclafane fly overhead, never once asking him why he's not working, and he grins at John and Molly as they approach.
"Perception filter. They can't see me because I don't want them to. Stand here." He points to the paving slab at his feet. After a moment's hesitation, John does so, and Molly follows suit. "You'll like this," Sherlock tells them, and John's about to ask what when the paving slab drops. Sherlock claps a hand to Molly's mouth to muffle her yelp of surprise and gives her a Look. "Not you, obviously."
John stares the whole way to the floor. The space around them is huge, a veritable hive of people buzzing around on the floor and beyond the windows and cages in the walls. Parts of it look dingy, as if someone took inspiration and tiles from an old Underground station, but the technology is bang up-to-date and, he suspects, largely unavailable to the public. Well, as far as that term's applicable when the electricity everywhere else is down, at any rate.
Sherlock removes his hand as they reach the floor and turns to John, looking vaguely expectant.
"It's..." he struggles to find the words for a moment. "It's like Thunderbirds."
That was apparently not the right expression- Sherlock looks distinctly put out. Mycroft arrives in time to save John from what would undoubtedly have been a highly acerbic remark. "Dr Watson, Miss Hooper. So glad you could join us. This way, if you would."
It turns out that the only reason Molly's still alive is because Mycroft changed her job status to that of 'intern' without telling her just prior to the elections. "To cover for any mistakes you might make. We'd heard rumours about their plans for doctors, you see, and there's precious few people who'll work with my brother. It won't last much longer though; Saxon's people are going through the records as we speak, so I'm afraid you'll have to stay here."
There's not a word of complaint from Molly. John can hardly blame her- the situation in London was starting to get to him too- but he's curious. "And what is 'here', exactly?"
"Our headquarters, of course. It was Torchwood's before the occupants were sent on a fool's errand to the Himalayas. I doubt very much that they'll be returning, so we've commandeered it in their absence."
"Right. For a resistance movement?"
"Precisely. As to what you'll be doing, we need operatives who can move around freely. You will be required to spread propaganda and gather potential volunteers alongside your more obvious role as a medic, with the chance of extra duties if the need arises."
It's not a proposal. John nods, thinks for a moment. "What will you be doing?" He asks Sherlock.
"Intelligence, of course." The answer is given with a totally straight face, perhaps because it wasn't meant as a joke. John finds it inexplicably hilarious though, and he's almost certain that Mycroft and Sherlock notice before he fights back his amusement.
Hysterical laughter can wait. He has a job to do.
He spends the next few months in Cardiff and its surrounding areas, too busy to do more than notice the beginnings of the rockets. He patches up injuries, binds broken limbs, delivers what babies haven't been miscarried or killed with their mothers. He sees humanity at its lowest- murders for food and water, soldiers on Saxon's side cracking truncheons and unleashing machine guns on exhausted, undernourished workers. The only reason rape levels haven't soared through the roof is the total lack of privacy and energy at the end of the day, but it's the smallest of comforts as the dogs in the cities start to turn savage.
All the while he talks, muttering when the Toclafane are near. There are people fighting this, he tells them, brilliant people. The story of Martha Jones, Master-killer, filters through, and he tells it whenever he can, despite Sherlock's misgivings.
("She crossed Siberia in a day, China in 3 weeks. If she was going to kill him, it would have happened by now.")
And in the ranks of the battered, starving huddle that is what's left of humanity, he sees hope starting to return. Hundreds pledge themselves to the cause, and every time the Toclafane stage another wipe-out, it only encourages more to join. Eventually, needing workers, the Master calls off the attacks until the day the people rise up, and even then no-one quite believes he'll unleash a full-scale one.
Then he does, on Japan.
A few days later, John's sent to Birmingham to fetch information from the operatives there. Martha Jones is alive, as it turns out, the last person to escape, and it's brilliant, everything they'd been hoping for. He stops only long enough on his way back to tell those he sees along the way.
He returns to Headquarters to find that the Toclafane have paid a visit. The blood is dripping off the ceiling in some places, and he can find nothing of Sherlock except his scarf and a message on one of the computers.
Yes, we did know, both about Jones and what is about to happen. An evacuation would have been impossible. The full details of the network are in the attached file, which will require an eye scan to be opened.
The fact that he's now the head of the British resistance takes a while to sink in.
The fact that it's because everyone else is dead won't.
He keeps the scarf- it'd be a shame to let it go to waste when his clothes are threadbare, and winter's setting in- but there's nothing else to salvage, so he takes the printout of the network details, deletes all the remaining files on the system and glances over the carnage only once before almost running back to his van. Once he's out of Cardiff and the wild dogs' territory, he lets the hysteria set in until he falls asleep from sheer exhaustion.
The next morning, his mind is clear.
He leaves Rhys Williams in charge of the Cardiff workforce before heading off on almost a tour of the major resistance groups, linking them up and on occasion corralling them into better shape. In the absence of genii, those more ordinary will have to make do. He hopes to God it'll be enough to hold them together, just a few months more, because now the Master's given them a deadline: June 30th, a year on from the subjugation of Earth. The rockets will fly then, and the Master has promised that if they think this is Hell on Earth they've got it badly wrong.
Miraculously, it does hold- at least, for the most part. The workers as a whole have grown quiet, unhappily subservient to the Master, but he's seemed content to stop killing those members of the resistance who haven't lost their fire. And so John survives to stand on a beach, in the middle of the night, swinging a lantern and waiting for hope to come home.
Martha Jones is brusque, if not impolite, which he's well used to by now- he imagines he's even begun to tend that way himself. What he's not so used to is someone who talks about the worlds the Master's going to destroy like they've been there, or about a genius man with familiarity.
In another life, he might have asked about the former.
"He's everything I hoped for, and nothing like I imagined. He's always running, always thinking, always babbling about something that nobody else understands. He's brilliant. I love him. And he never looks at me twice."
He takes her to Harry, who Mycroft found a few weeks after the Decimation. He knows about her lover, knows she's been dead for months, but Martha insists that it's all part of the plan, so he plays along. It's the first time in years that he's been able to spend more than a few hours with his sister, but between the Toclafane and the plan to kill the Master, there really isn't much time for irritation. Sherlock was wrong, it would seem, only something doesn't quite fit.
Even after he realises the gun's a fake, he doesn't think twice before running out after her at the sound of the Master's threat. There's a genius at work again, taking the Master down, and he'll be damned if he lets this one fail too.
Sherlock gets in at 2pm, July 1st, having solved the simultaneous deaths of 3 St. Bart's doctors (poisoning linked to the death of a small girl in emergency paediatrics- bitterness may be a paralytic, but there's always exceptions to the rule) to find a vase of flowers in the hallway. It's Mrs Hudson's vase, but not her taste in flora.
"Do you like then?" She asks when questioned. "John gave them to me this morning, said they were a gift. It's very sweet, although I never thought he was a one for things like that."
"I promise you, I didn't buy them."
"No, I thought as much. And you don't know who gave them to you either- if you did and liked the person, you'd have kept them here in case of a visit, if not, you'd have thrown them away. Was there a note?"
"Yes, there was." It's handed to him. "Just says thankyou," he adds, unnecessarily.
"Hmm," Sherlock looks it over. "Woman's handwriting, student, no, medical intern, using a normal fountain pen."
"Someone from St. Bart's?" John sounds mildly disquieted.
"No idea. The paper's unusual though- I'd say Victorian, only it hasn't aged at all."
"Someone who's... into crafts, then?"
"No, I don't think so." He puts it down with a shrug and goes to look out of the window. "Still, we have better things to look into- or will do in about 8 seconds, at least."
"How can you possibly know-"
The doorbell rings, and Sherlock smiles. "Because I saw him walking up the road. Go and let him in, would you?"
John does so, shaking his head, leaving Sherlock to stare at the note until he returns with their visitor.