We decide to go home. Mycroft's room is claustrophobic, and somehow I want it proven to me that there are other places in the world left.
Though Sherlock asserts that this does not mean a return to detective work, I am scared. Inside Baker Street is my mind plastered to the walls of the room: Sherlock; my work; the evidence, no doubt, of my ghost of a daily routine I followed again and again until they caught me midway as I stepped... Outside Baker Street is the very footpath where this begun. What if I had left slightly earlier? What if had walked the other way? What if I had fought harder? Sherlock says I could have done nothing to stop it.
We step out of the car that one of Mycroft's minions is driving. The pavement is solid. The air is cold. Sherlock's eyes are on me. I don't even need to nod to say I am okay. Sherlock knows. We fit now. Our edges had to melt slightly, but now we mold as well as we once did, even if it produces a slightly different shape. In front of me, is the door I have seen so many times, slammed by Sherlock, opened by Mrs. Hudson. I remember the first day I touched it, completely unaware of how important it would become. At that point, the idea that I would be living with this... undefinable man was alien and would not settle.
The days pass, and I am surprised how well I am doing. I think it's because Sherlock's been too busy to ask anything more. I have been lying in his bed, very occasionally in mine, eating and reading and remembering. He has been gallivanting about, arguing with Mycroft mainly or deducing cases that people don't even know exist. Nights still plague me, but in Sherlock's bed, with Sherlock's arms and Sherlock's eyes and, more than anything, Sherlock's words to ground me back, I am reminded the day will come and with a strength that I could not produce alone, close my eyes once again to the snap of Moriarty's voice.
It's the fifth day since I've been home-
Surrounded by Sherlock's ordered chaos, my curiosity has returned and I cherish it. His case files are stacked up by his bed. Brown and solid, revealing nothing of the sharp memories within. The first one I open is before my time. My hands shake as I turn pages of Sherlock's writing. Even if it weren't scrawled, I doubt I would be able to understand it. It's full of the language of the case, inaccessible now. All details are exact: Sherlock deals in seconds, not minutes or hours. For him, the big things are the trivial, not the small. The next case is The Study in Pink, as I named it and he refused to. He has recorded it just as I remember, but included details about the body, the connections the woman had, the possible profile of the murderer, that I had not realised he had even thought about. They were all, as I have come to expect, perfect predictions. The cases take me all morning to read, including the ones that he worked on as a teenager. Even then, he was as exact as ever in the details of what he scribbled, but even messier. They were more often about his teachers or fellow students. I can't imagine him using the information for blackmail. For Sherlock, the aim was and will always be solving.
The last file in the shelf is only revealed after I have taken the others. It is shiny where his others are scruffy; white where his other are brown; but when I open it, the corners of the pages are crumbling, as if he has read it again and again. It has drops on it, water not yet evaporated from being stuck behind so many files. Or recent. Really, very recent.
My eyes fall on the first words:
John Watson. Aged 37.
I look up, very still as if I am being hunted. I know I should not continue, but I find my eyes back on the words.
Kidnapped at 8:46, error of 2 seconds each way due to lag of security camera.
Stuck on the page, at exact right angles, are the photos that were held up to me, flashed in my face, in that basement by Sherlock on the web cam. Five men around me, my eyes squeezed shut, my arms spread wide. I am fighting, but I am losing. Another. A black van, them pushing me into it. Tiny figures on a tiny screen. It all seems so irrelevant. The men each have their height mathematically worked out in comparison to mine, their weight and shoe size estimated, possibilities of their identities proposed, edited and proposed again. I don't know their identities; I never talked directly to any of them.
There are copies of what must be the tyre marks on the road after the van left, which must have been lifted carefully. Too many details: the possible weight of the van, the type of tyre, where those types are made, their price, a transcript of a conversation with the company, a print screen of a search leading to the 57th page of Google, more transcripts of phone calls, all stuck in, all leading to the answer Sherlock had already known: Moriarty had kidnapped me.
A copy of his file is stapled in, bits of it circled, underlined. I flick the pages so the writing is a blur, and I can read none of it.
Next, is a screenshot of a room. A room that I recognise, but it is more like De Ja Vu than any logical recognition. The angles are all wrong. In my eight weeks there, I only saw the room from one place but this is a bird's eye view, from the camera that had been above me on the wall. I am on the floor, my trousers and pants pulled down and my legs pushed out straight. Hands strung behind my back, I look like I am just about to fall on my side. My head is lolling on my chest, like I don't know Sherlock's watching.
There are so many screenshots, page after page. I rush through them, so I am only a small blurring figure, like one from a flick-book. Scrawled around them are notes. How does Sherlock have so much to say about the room I stayed so long in? I can say it was grey. It was cold, and often wet. It was... I can't continue.
The train, then. Details on platforms, and mechanisms, and potential bombs, and phone numbers, and diagrams. Sherlock was doing this, while I was strung to a wall, thirsty, hungry, terrified. Through that experience, I have learnt that thirst beats everything. I will do anything, everything for thirst. I will...
The next few pages make no sense. They are after Sherlock left. After the connection was cut off, in fury, by Moriarty, so I could see Sherlock no more...
And yet, according to this, he could see me.
Me, arms parted and strung to the ceiling. James Moriarty wrapping a plier around my little finger.
Me, naked, in the corner. A still picture, but I could almost feel my shakes through the page. Jim Moriarty, holding a glass water above my head as I reached for it.
Me bent over. Jim Moriarty, naked now too, behind me with a screwed up face.
And all around it, scrawls of Sherlock's hand writing.
Shakier and shakier.
I close my eyes.
"Everyone has to earn his keep Johnny."
The thrusts were violent. They tore until some part of me left forever. He screamed with glee, again and again. Every time, another part of me fell away.
There is orange all around me. Cloaking me heavily, but not obtrusively, just solidly warm.
My hands shake as I move the orange material from my face.
Sherlock's is front of me, gazing into my eyes, a hand on each of my arms, kneeling on the floor so our faces our level. I look about. We are still in Sherlock's room. Though it feels I went on a journey that completely exhausted me, I haven't moved. Sherlock's case files though are spread round the room, so the floor, the shelves, the walls are barely visible. Paper, in some places, is ripped, screwed up, so obviously thrown, with no apparent aim. It is like a blanket of snow, but this snow is covered in years of writing, obsession and genius. Sherlock's work, ruined.
"Don't." Sherlock's tone is a force I cannot compete with. "Just don't... Are you okay?"
I don't feel okay, but I can't quite remember why, until I see a scrap of paper by my foot, my name scrawled on it. "Oh jesus..."
"I'm so sorry!"
Sherlock looks around the room at the strewn papers. "It's fine. My brain is reliable enough. This is just a back-up. Two copies."
"No, Sherlock. No that..."
He tilts my chin up so I have to face him. I close my eyes.
"Oh God..." I find myself saying. "I can't believe it."
The situation is too clear. The world is too bright. I know too much. The desire to run away, burrow in some dark warm corner of the world and never think again is overwhelming. I try to stand up, but Sherlock had predicted it, and he pushes me back. All energy I once had has gone; I don't argue.
"Why couldn't you have just looked away?" I murmur.
One of Sherlock's eyebrow raises, as if of its own accord, and I know this is the sign he suddenly understands. He tilts his head up."You think those images make me think less of you," he says, blankly, a statement of fact.
"This whole time, you've been looking at me, with those images in your head..." I look away. "I thought... I had at least that left."
"Had what left?" I shake my head. "Your dignity?"
I cannot bare to nod.
"If so," Sherlock continues. "For such a clever man, you are being incredibly stupid, and have a serious misunderstanding of the word dignity."
"You don't understand what he... This is all going wrong. I can't..."
Sherlock's hands are gone from my arms. There is a shifting of weight as he sits next to me on the bed. His face is very close to mine.
"He raped me," I say, regretting it immediately.
A hand is on the side of my face, gentle. It stays there, until I do what it wants: I open my eyes. The hand becomes gentler.
"I know," says Sherlock. Sherlock does not stop looking at me. I want to run. My legs shake, but I stay still. "Dignity," he whispers. "Noun. The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect."
"I had hoped I would I need to say no more." My fists clench and unclench. "But I observe that I do..."
He pulls the blanket around me slightly harder.
"John Watson. You reminded me that dignity existed. You gave me dignity. You are the most dignified person I know, and nothing Moriarty does can change that. "
I look down. The blanket around me is the one from our first case together. Sherlock had repeatedly thrown aside, but then apparently accepted it, and secretly taken it home. I try to imagine him wrapped in it, alone in the house, unable to turn away as my torture flashes on screen.
"The blanket," I mumble.
"It has powers," Sherlock says with a sudden smile. "Tell no one."
A/N: Coming to the end of this fic now I think. I definitely don't want to drag it out beyond it's stay. Thank you for reading! And thank you to 666BloodyHell666 for giving me the idea to include the shock blanket. :)
EDIT: I've got to be honest with myself and you - I am most likely not going to update this fic again. I think this chapter wraps it up vaguely enough (hopefully). I was intending to have one chapter left, with more closure: what happens to Moriarty etc. But I feel like I've lost touch with this fic now, and have for a while.
Thank you for the journey