A/N: For Nos. Please enjoy!
Something was wrong. Sally Donovan knew, the moment she clawed her way back to consciousness, that something was very, very wrong.. She could feel cold tile beneath her as she lay sprawled on her belly, and its unforgiving surface pressed painfully against her hipbones and breasts, digging into her elbows. A cautious sip of a breath brought the odours of dank water and human excrement, along with something acrid and antiseptic in nature. The distant, latent memory of dangerdangerdanger forced her to keep her eyes closed and her body still. She gave herself silent commands: Be still. Breathe slowly. Assess the situation.
One and two were easily enough achieved, but three would prove difficult. Sally began with the simple and obvious. Turning her thoughts inward, she took stock of her own body. Nausea, headache. Dull pain... lower back. Minutely, she flexed fingers and toes; knees and ankles; on and up until she was assured that most of her was in good working order. Okay, she thought, that's good. She was, for all intents and purposes, whole and unhurt.
Next came a more difficult question: Where am I? The answer did not come. Prison cell, she thought, judging by the environment, but she was far from certain. She abandoned this question in favour of the next, which was more pressing.
What happened? Vague images and sound bites floated just out of reach, dark ships on the murky waters of her consciousness. She resisted the urge to reach up and rub her temples, and channeled her energy into concentration instead. Unbidden, the ordeal flashed by in brief stills like a bad montage from a horror film sequel. Sally ground her teeth together as the memories flooded back: being dragged from her flat – then blackness – the masked face of a man who spoke softly – vague threats – references to an investigation she knew nothing about – a man's guttural screams – more threats, these ones concrete and directed against the man's life.
But I didn't recognise that voice, Sally recalled. She remembered being tied to a support beam in a sterilised basement somewhere, and hearing those awful screams as though they came from several rooms away. The masked man interrogating her hadn't touched her, but he had kept making threats against whoever was screaming from down the hall. She didn't tell them she knew nothing, didn't tell them she had no idea who that man was just based on his voice. Once she did that, she'd be useless and disposable – Sally was clever; she kept her mouth shut and played the part.
"Just tell me what I want to know," the masked figure had said, his voice smooth and honeyed. "If you cooperate, I won't hurt him. But if you don't, then I can't guarantee his safety... or his life."
Sally had refused, in no uncertain terms. She was terrified to find out who the other prisoner was – Greg? Anderson? Dimmock?
Her refusal had bought her some time, though. "I'm a reasonable man," said her captor sweetly, nodding behind the mask that obscured his entire face. Almost like a fencing mask, Donovan recalled, and she found it strange. "I'll give you a little while to think it over." After that, it was just blackness. Someone had stuck something into her leg that stung and burned, and then – lights out.
Sally reoriented herself, harshly summarising her situation in her head, attempting to bring some clarity to the ordeal: I have been abducted. My captors are involved with an ongoing investigation that I am not a part of. They are holding someone else as well, and it may be someone that I know personally.
The rustle of fabric from somewhere behind her brought Sally back to reality with a jolt. She lay still as a statue, trying to decide whether it was safe to move. The sounds of ragged breathing reached her, but there was no other noise in the room.
Slowly and carefully, Donovan opened her eyes. She braced herself for the onslaught of pain that bright light would bring, but there was none, owing to the fact that the room – if it could be called that – was lit only by one dim bulb swinging from the centre of the ceiling.
Earlier, she had thought prison cell. This was as accurate a description as possible, except that this place was worse than a prison – it was filthy and damp and Sally could see neither windows nor door. There was no water source, no toilet, no obvious connection to any world outside these four walls.
And there was a lump of fabric in the corner, which was now moving.
"Who's there?" Donovan demanded as she sat up. She pushed herself backward, toward a wall, and used it as a support as she climbed to her feet, her muscles twitching with defensive impulses. There was no answer to her query. She narrowed her eyes and tried to make out the alien silhouette in the dim light, to no avail. She wasn't sure what she was looking at – a person, presumably, but crouching in wait or simply sitting down? It was hard to tell. "Who is that?" she said again.
The only answer was a ragged sigh and a groan that was almost a sob. Sally's instinctual impulses were split in two: prisoner-wounded-help and danger-trap-careful.
If this was a trap, it was a pretty stupid one, she decided.
"You're the other one," Sally said, half-questioning, approaching carefully. The other prisoner, the one they were torturing while I was being questioned. The sigh that reached her ears sounded something like relief, and she quickened her pace. As she drew closer, she could see that the figure in the corner was indeed a man, and that he was lying propped up against the wall, covered by what had probably once been his coat. As she passed the hanging bulb, she gently pushed it with her fingers, causing it to swing and throw its light briefly onto the man who lay before her.
When she saw his face, she couldn't swallow the gasp that tore its way from her throat. It took a second arc of the lightbulb to confirm what she'd seen, but when she did, she felt a surge of emotions well up inside her – mostly anger, but also partially fear and concern and confusion.
"Freak?" she ground out, her voice considerably more shrill than she had meant for it to be. She closed the space between them in two more strides and sunk down to her knees beside him. "What the hell happened?" she demanded, abandoning the gentle tone she had used only moments ago. "What is going on?"
Sherlock sipped air through his teeth – the struggles of a man who knows he must breathe but finds it indescribably painful. "Lestrade's case," he said, and his voice was hoarse to the point of being unrecognisable. "Wakefield case. Drug ring – isn't a drug ring – got too close."
Wakefield, Wakefield... Sally knew the Wakefield case. Wakefield was just a code name – her captors hadn't used it in interrogating her, so she hadn't known what they were asking her about. Even now that she had heard the name, she was fuzzy on the details. Wakefield was, as Sherlock had mentioned, a rather large investigation into a drug ring in central London. Lestrade had been working on it with two other departments, and it was all very classified. Supposedly there were a couple of undercover cops on the case, hence the secrecy. But of course, Greg would make an exception for the Freak, because he was who he was. What Sherlock was saying now, though, simply didn't make sense.
"Not a drug ring?" Sally repeated, confused. She shook her head.
Sherlock squirmed underneath the warm confines of the woolen coat and might have rolled his eyes if he was capable of keeping them open. "Not. Drugs. People," he hissed. "Women – children. Lestrade... doesn't know...
Sally reeled. Human trafficking? Was that what he was saying? How could they have not known that already? "How long have you been here?"
"Not sure. Days maybe."
"You were supposed to be in Dublin, questioning a runaway witness."
The sound Sherlock made in response was probably meant to be a laugh, but it wasn't clear.
"I see," Sally murmured. Her lips thinned as her eyes trailed over his face, noting the bruise blossoming along his cheekbone and the smudge of blood on his jaw. "Anyone else mixed up in this?"
"Just – us – the rest – safe." Sherlock's eyelids fluttered.
"Where do I fit in with all this?"
A groan preceded the response. "Don't know. Wrong – place. Wrong – time."
"My flat, in the middle of the night?" Sally was dubious.
"Must have – thought you were – involved."
"Lucky me." Donovan sniffed. She shook her head, dark curls bouncing, and wrapped her fingers around the collar of the coat obscuring Sherlock's body. She pulled it back to find his fine clothes in tatters. Filthy, torn, the buttons of his oxford shirt missing from collar to hem. Even in the dim room, she could make out the swath of white skin that lay exposed between the ragged edges of the deep purple placket, as well as the thick, congealed smears of old blood. With cautious fingers, she pushed the material aside and bit down on a groan at what she saw. Three long, deep gashes stretched across Sherlock's torso starting at his left armpit, continuing in thick, jagged lines, down and across to his right hip. It looked like he'd been attacked by a wild animal. The wound was infected and weeping, blood oozing anew from the deepest sections even as she looked on. This appeared to be the worst of his injuries, but there were a dozen others at least – cuts and bruises and scrapes and what appeared to be a dislocated shoulder. Sally reached out to examine by touch, but stopped with a startled gasp as a pale hand shot out and clamped down over her wrist with remarkable strength.
"Don't," Sherlock grunted, his eyes now open and unnaturally wide, staring into hers. She could feel the abnormal heat emanating from his body.
"Don't be daft," she snapped, shaking him off. He'd wasted his strength with that movement, and disengaging his hand was a simple task; it dropped limply to the floor when she pried her wrist loose. She bent over him, inspecting the wounds on his chest in the dim light, and when he squirmed under her scrutiny, she pulled up abruptly. This time her hand encircled his wrist, and she could feel the tension in the tightly-wound tendons that flexed beneath the skin.
He didn't want her to see him like this. Vulnerable, at a weakness. He was irritated, defensive.
Well, it's no holiday for me either.
"Sally - don't," came the whispered plea, once again.
You got me into this, she thought, her features tightening as she glared at him through the semi-darkness. Worse yet, you ran off on your own to investigate what may be the most dangerous group of criminals in London, leaving the rest of us to clean up after you. You do not get to dictate the details of this arrangement now – it is a little late for that!
"Knock it off," Sally said sharply, her fingers twitching around the thin rail of his wrist. "First things first, Freak. You do not give me orders. Are we clear? Second, I refuse to deal with the train wreck that will be John Watson if you up and die, so that is not allowed either. Third, you are going to do everything that I tell you to, because we are getting the fuck out of here. Do you understand?"
For a moment, it looked as though Sherlock had been cowed, but the brief impression swiftly melted as he huffed out a thin, painful laugh. "Really," he challenged in a reedy voice. His tone was one of disbelief, but Sally noted that he did not resist as she eased him out of his shirt one arm at a time.
"Really," she said firmly, tearing the expensive cloth into strips. There was silence for several seconds, interrupted only by the rasp of fabric breaking in Sally's hands. She watched him in furtive glances, and glared when he lifted his eyes to hers. "Tell me what you know," she said at length, using some of the torn garment to mop up the wounds on Sherlock's chest.
He took a shuddering breath and recognised that she was trying to distract him from her ministrations. Why? She hated him – had threatened him on more than one occasion. She should take pleasure in seeing him like this, in adding to his pain. People were simple, people just worked like that. "Not much," he admitted, forcing himself out of his own head. "I know... that they know... that I got too close. That Lestrade... got too close – ah!"
Sally had pressed a wad of fabric down into the worst part of the trenches crossing Sherlock's chest. She had nothing to clean the wounds with, so staunching the bleeding and keeping out further filth were the only things she could do. "Go on," she ordered, continuing her work without missing a beat. Her mouth was a grim line. "What did Greg do?"
"Nothing," Sherlock said, his voice sharp with pain. He closed his eyes, his head tipping back so that his face was turned toward the ceiling. "He was – on the verge of cracking – the front." He sucked a short breath. "The drug trade."
"The drug trade is a front, okay... So it does exist, but it's just hiding the real operation."
"So why did they grab you?"
"Thought – I was – Lestrade." This in barely a whisper. Sherlock's head lolled to one side.
"Oh." The implications of what he was saying finally sunk in, and Sally was left confused. If he was telling the truth – which he must have been; she had never known him to lie – then he was saying that he had taken the fall for Lestrade. He had continued where Lestrade had left off however-many days ago, and when they snatched him, thinking he was Greg, he played along.
"Do they still think that?" Sally questioned in a low voice, glancing around the cell. She hadn't seen a camera or anything, but that didn't mean someone wasn't listening to their conversation just the same.
"Doubtful. But... might be... why... they took... you..."
She could hear the grogginess edging into his voice, and added a few more strips of fabric to the wounds. "Don't go to sleep! Tell me about the case."
"You know, Dr. Watson's been chasing around your informant all week."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth lifted in a wry smile. "I know. Had to – distract him."
"Is the informant really an informant at all?"
The conversation died as Sally finished what she was doing and tried to triage the rest of the wounds - most severe to least. She wasn't a medic and had almost no experience in this sort of thing beyond basic first aid. Hesitantly, her fingers ghosted over the misshapen lump of Sherlock's dislocated shoulder, her face contorting in a grimace of pure dread. "I have to set this..."
This seemed to rouse the detective somewhat, and he shook his head vigourously. "No," he said. "Please don't."
"I've done it before," she clarified, in case he had noticed the apprehension in her voice. "I can be quick."
"No," he said again, more emphatically.
Sally set her jaw and bent low so that their faces were quite close. She watched as Sherlock's eyes jumped unsteadily and then focussed on her intense glare. "Listen to me. If we're to get out of here, you need to be as whole as possible. You'll need to walk. You'll need use of your hands."
Sherlock shivered, but he didn't argue. Sally was making a lot of sense, surprisingly enough. Though her determination was enigmatic. Why bother? She had a better chance of getting out on her own; she ought to leave him behind. Sherlock's teeth chattered. "Fine," he said finally. He was trying to glare as he said it, but all that happened was a blank stare. He even tried to inject some venom into it, but his gaze was glossed over and uncommunicative. So mostly he just looked dreadful.
"It's gonna hurt like hell, but when it's done, you might be able to use that arm again, at least a little." Donovan's cold fingers wrapped around Sherlock's arm – one hand at his elbow and the other gripping his hand. She flexed her fingers against the back of his hand, her grip firm and confident.
"Don't count," Sherlock said roughly. John always counts. Makes it so much worse.
"Fine." Sally counted in her head. One. Two. Three -
Down, in, up. Three swift movements. Sally both heard and felt the familiar shift-click of the joint sliding back into place, and Sherlock's nails dug into the back of her hand at the same time. His back arched up off the wall and the sound that came out of him didn't quite match the screams she'd heard during her interrogation, but it came dangerously close. She had the sense that he was trying to keep quiet in case someone was waiting to burst in, but at this point, Sally couldn't care less. A door opening to admit a guard would be as good as an opportunity to escape, as far as she was concerned – even if she had to drag the Freak out by the hair.
Sherlock's voice petered out into a soft groan, and his eyes rolled up into his head.
"Freak," Sally murmured, caught somewhere between keep him awake and for god's sake, let him sleep. Her indecision involuntarily resulted in the latter, and she watched as he mumbled something unintelligible and went lax against the wall.
There was not much else to be done, once Sherlock was unconscious (not dead, Sally confirmed). She did her best to clean up some of the worst of the scratches, but he looked as though he'd been in the losing side of a bad fight. Some of the wounds were days old – dried blood and green bruises told the tale. He'd announced his departure for Dublin four days before Sally was kidnapped: had he been here all that time?
She finished up and spread the long coat over the sleeping form once more, settling back against the wall to stew silently at her own shit luck. Not only does she get shut out of the case of the decade, but then when she's finally resigned to the idea, she gets dragged into selfsame case on the wrong end. Then, the icing on the cake: stuck in a cell with a very badly wounded Sherlock Holmes. Could it get much worse?
Though, she couldn't help being surprised.. Donovan's eyes strayed toward the unconscious figure of the detective. He'd submitted himself to this torture in an effort to save Lestrade and crack the case. What's more, he'd come out here without backup, trying to keep other people (John Watson in particular) safe from this sort of danger. It was difficult to see this cold, calculating psychopath as anything else, but now she was forced to face the idea that there was more to him.
Well, it didn't change the fact he was a right arsehole ninety-nine percent of the time.
His shock hadn't gone unnoticed, either. Sally had caught the look he gave her when she had sat down next to him and started attempting to care for his wounds. What, did he think I'd enjoy this? she wondered bitterly. Remind me which of us is the 'high-functioning sociopath'?
"I hate you most of the time," she said to the grey lump that was Sherlock. "But I wouldn't wish this on anyone. You stupid git."
Exhaustion was settling into Sally's bones. She sighed and settled a little more comfortably against the wall, staring at the section of tile across the room that she thought must be the door. The next time it opens, she thought, we're going through it.
Even with all her brazen confidence, Sally Donovan should have known that wasn't true.
TO BE CONTINUED