John sighed in exasperation, shifting his weight off his aching right leg and trying to subtly pull his bad arm away from the nameless goon who was holding it far too tightly for comfort. Goon number two was holding his other arm, while number three was aiming John's own gun somewhere in the neighborhood of John's chest.
They had taken such a round-about route once they'd kidnapped him that John had absolutely no idea just where in London they were, though at least he did know they were still in the city. He supposed that if he were anyone else that thought might be somewhat frightening, but he knew Sherlock would have no problems finding him and was more than likely already on his trail.
All John would have to do was wait. Though if an opportunity to escape on his own presented itself he would certainly take advantage of it. He did always appreciate being able to rescue himself.
His thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of a man who was fairly obviously the one in charge of the kidnapping. Unlike the goons he was wearing a suit which gave him a much more polished look, until someone noticed his eyes. There was an almost giddy madness lurking there which reminded John painfully of Moriarty, and he couldn't help a slight shudder.
"Ah, Doctor Watson. I'm so pleased you could join us." The man smiled, head cocked slightly to one side as he studied John. "Now, since we're still waiting on your dear colleague Sherlock to arrive, I'm going to have to stash you somewhere you can't get into trouble."
John bit back a curse, managing to keep a slightly bored expression on his face. "Stash me somewhere?"
The man's smile widened. "Oh, yes. Wouldn't want anything to happen to you before Sherlock arrives, would we?" He gestured at the goons, who began marching John towards the back of the rather large room, where John could finally see a heavy door set into the wall.
While the third goon kept John covered with the gun, the man slowly pulled the door open, grinning as John flinched.
It wasn't a room on the other side of the door; it was a vault. The inner walls were all shiny metal, and so close together that any reasonably-sized man could stand in the middle and touch both walls with his fingertips. There was what looked like an air vent in the corner near the ceiling, and in the center of the vault was a large metal chair with cuffs on the arms and a thick collar attached to the back.
John wasn't even aware that he was frantically trying to shove himself backwards and away from the vault, feet skidding across the floor as he was dragged, nor of the sudden sharp pain in his bad shoulder as he tried to yank his arms away from the grip holding them. He wasn't aware of anything except for the voice in his head, not his and yet somehow it was, that was nearly screaming in pure terror.
'Not the box, not the box, not the box, don't put me back in the box.'
A very small, but still rational voice in the very back of his mind tried to reason with the other. John Watson had never been trapped in any sort of box before, hadn't felt this kind of terror when Moriarty had been strapping a bomb to his chest, hadn't even felt this afraid when he'd been shot in Afghanistan. But the sight of that chair inside the metal box was forcing every other thought out of his head.
As he was forced into the chair and goon three was locking his wrists into the cuffs, John suddenly became aware of the fact that he was muttering something frantically under his breath and he couldn't seem to stop himself. He didn't even know what the word he kept repeating meant. But he couldn't stop saying it, even when they forced his head back and locked the cold metal collar around his throat.
Once he was secured the goons stepped back, and the man began to push the vault door closed, the wide grin still on his face. And as the door clanged shut, all John could hear was a gratingly metallic voice echoing in his head.
'Seal the Pandorica.'
And then there was nothing but the terror.
Sherlock was ninety-five percent certain that whoever had taken John meant for him to find them. The trail was far too obvious, especially for one that meandered through London like this one did. Though the winding trail did make it a bit more difficult for him to deduce precisely where they had taken John.
He'd just narrowed the location down to an area filled with abandoned and empty warehouses, any of which they could be using to hide John, when his phone beeped. He opened the video file absently, then froze when he heard the sound of John in what appeared to be a blind panic. He looked down at the screen, unable for a long moment to look away from the image of John locked in a monstrosity of a chair, blood staining his neck and dripping slowly from his fingers where his mindless thrashing against the metal cuffs and collar had broken the skin.
Sherlock tried to force himself to focus on something other than John's obvious suffering, tried to look for anything that might help him find John. A small part of his brain absently made a note of the strange word John kept mouthing, while the rest of his attention was fixed on the small room John was being kept in.
In the end, though, he could see nothing that would help him. Nothing at all. And then the video feed abruptly cut off.
He tried frantically to track the message back to the sender, pulling out every single trick he could think of and developing a few new ones when those didn't work. But no matter what he tried, nothing got him any closer to whoever had sent the video.
Sherlock snarled, the hand not holding his phone coming up to grasp at his hair. "There's nothing. Absolutely nothing. Useless." He bit back the urge to fling the phone at the nearest wall, gritted his teeth, and opened up a new text message.
He absolutely hated the idea of calling on Mycroft for help, but he couldn't think of any other course of action. Then, the instant before he began typing, his eyes widened as his brain finally provided him with the answer he'd been looking for.
On the ground, near John's feet where it had most likely fallen out of one of the kidnapper's pockets, had been a small slip of paper. A small slip of paper with a partial address written in blue ink. An address that was right in the middle of the block of warehouses he'd already tracked John to.
Sherlock grinned sharply, shoving his phone back into his pocket. There was no need for Mycroft just yet after all. Maybe if he was feeling generous, he'd text his brother later to help with the inevitable clean-up.
Assuming, of course, that he left anything to clean up. Considering the condition John appeared to be in on the video, Sherlock thought he might just tear the men to shreds and burn the warehouse down around their ears. He didn't normally care about such over the top violence, but in this case he thought he might make an exception.
After all, he'd already made so many exceptions for John. One more wouldn't hurt.
He made good time, arriving at the warehouse in less than ten minutes. He slipped quietly around the side of the building, stopping once to peer through one of the dingy windows. There was no sign of John, which was as expected, but there were three men who were almost certainly hired thugs lounging around near the metal door in the back wall while one man in a dark suit stood nearby, glaring down at his watch.
Given the men's positions near the metal door and the relative dimensions of the building Sherlock was almost completely positive that John's prison was behind the door. All he had to do was take care of the men guarding it, convince the man in the suit that it would be in his best interests to confess his entire plot and get John out. And all without John's very handy gun, which one of the thugs had stuck in the waistband of his trousers.
He glanced around, looking for anything he could use as a weapon. After a moment, he noticed something and smiled.
This was going to be interesting.
John had no idea how long it had been when he finally began to return to something approaching awareness again. His mind was incredibly muddled, his only clear thought the bone-deep knowledge that he was no longer trapped in the chair. Instead, he was lying on the floor, his body curled up in as small a ball as he could manage.
He thought there was someone talking to him, a worried and somewhat familiar voice in his ear that seemed to be linked to the tentative hand in his hair. But there was also the voice still in his pounding head, his voice and yet not, that kept repeating strange things that he could almost understand.
An accidental tug of his hair pulled John's attention away from the voice in his head and back to the increasingly frantic one in his ear. He carefully blinked his eyes open, relaxing his body enough to allow the other man to roll him onto his back. The instant he met the pale eyes he relaxed fully, finally recognizing Sherlock. Then, the words Sherlock was practically babbling at him finally began to make sense.
"Please tell me that you can hear me, John. If they've permanently damaged you I'm going to be very cross."
Despite the increasing pain in his head and the oddly familiar disembodied voice that kept getting louder, John's lips curled up in a small smile. "You don't have to shout, Sherlock."
The other man's face lit up for an instant before Sherlock managed to school his expression to something a little less exhilarated. "Ah, good, John. I've taken care of the miscreants who kidnapped you; they won't be bothering you again. Now, how are you feeling?"
John bit back a grimace as he silently took stock of his condition. "I ache all over, my wrists are a bloody mess, my neck probably needs stitches in at least one place and my head is killing me." He was about to mention the odd voice in his head when a figure seemed to appear over Sherlock's shoulder.
She was glowing with golden light, curly hair spilling onto her shoulders and a sad smile on her face. She ignored Sherlock completely, as if she couldn't see him, and focused all her attention on John.
"I'm sorry, my love."
Then she shifted, becoming a redhead with tears in her golden eyes. "Please don't make me go back."
A moment later she was a young bleached blonde. "I can see everything: all that is, all that was, all that ever could be."
John knew that he ought to recognize the three women, that he was supposed to know who they were, but the harder he tried to think the more painful the throbbing in his head became. Then the blonde stepped closer and morphed into a man whose face felt as familiar as John's own, with close-cropped dark hair and the same golden eyes as the women.
"It shouldn't have happened like this. It wasn't time yet." He knelt down just behind an oblivious Sherlock, golden gaze fixed on John. "When you're ready, when it's safe, you'll remember. You'll find something that you weren't even looking for, and it'll be fantastic. But not just yet."
"I don't understand." John wasn't sure if he actually spoke the words or just thought them, but somehow the man heard.
He smiled, and John could see echoes of all three women in his glowing eyes, and at the heart something unearthly. "I want you safe, my Doctor." He reached forward, just brushing his fingertips across John's forehead.
And as John suddenly collapsed unconscious in a worried Sherlock's arms, he mumbled two words.
It was the smell that told John in no uncertain terms that he was in a hospital before he even opened his eyes. He groaned quietly, then hissed in pain when his neck protested as he tried to turn his head.
"John, are you actually conscious this time, or are you just moving about in your sleep again?"
He couldn't help but chuckle at the impatience in Sherlock's voice as he opened his eyes. "I'm awake, Sherlock."
"But are you coherent?" Sherlock was perched in the chair by the bed, feet tucked under him and hands resting on his upraised knees. He was also staring at John as if he thought that John was going to suddenly disappear.
John blinked, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose and then staring for a moment at the bandaging around his wrist. "What are you talking about, Sherlock?"
Sherlock waved John's question away with one hand, gaze never leaving John's face. "What does Bad Wolf mean, John?"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Bad Wolf. It was the last thing you said before you passed out at the warehouse." Sherlock practically threw himself out of the chair and began pacing rapidly around the room. "You seemed relatively aware when you first regained consciousness, then you began to fade out before collapsing completely. Right after saying the words Bad Wolf. Now what does it mean?"
John frowned, wincing at the sudden ache in his head. He felt like he ought to know what the words meant, like the answer was an itch at the edge of his brain, but the harder he tried to remember the more fiercely his head hurt. For an instant there was a faint memory of golden light, but it slipped away with a sudden burst of pain.
He moaned, eyes tightly shut. "I don't know, Sherlock. And my head is killing me."
Sherlock huffed in obvious annoyance, but was apparently willing to let the matter drop, at least for the moment. The chair squeaked slightly as he flopped back down in it, and then he reached forward to awkwardly pat John's arm. "All right. We'll discuss it later."
With Sherlock falling silent, John took the chance to review his own condition. His neck was still sore, his head ached and both of his wrists were tightly bandaged. The memories of his kidnapping were decidedly fuzzy, and considering what little he did remember and the most likely way he got into his present condition, John thought that was probably for the best.
He was just starting to doze off when Sherlock pushed himself forward in his chair and grabbed John's elbow. "There is one other thing I'm curious about, John. What is a Pandorica?"
The sudden roaring in his ears drowned out any other sound in the room and in the back of his mind he knew he was beginning to hyperventilate. What he didn't know was why.
Sherlock's hands suddenly clamped down on John's upper arms, and he pulled until John was sitting up. "Breathe, John. Breathe."
After a long moment John managed to get his breathing back under control and lay back on the bed. "I'm sorry, Sherlock. I don't know why that happened."
"Interesting. And the word I asked you about, do you know what it means?"
John shuddered reflexively, even though Sherlock hadn't said the word again and he had no idea what it meant. "No, not a clue. But for some reason, it absolutely terrifies me."
Sherlock leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled under his chin. "Well, this is a pretty puzzle."
John rolled his eyes, but even he had to admit that it was all rather odd. "Are you quite finished inducing panic attacks now, Sherlock? I'm quite tired and would really like to get a bit of sleep."
"All right, all right." Sherlock absently waved one hand in John's general direction, his attention focused on something only he could see. "But if you suddenly remember anything you must tell me immediately. And don't sleep too long, or they won't let you out of here tomorrow. And I refuse to deal with Mycroft alone."
John sighed as he closed his eyes. He had almost forgotten that he'd promised to go home with Sherlock for Christmas. After Sherlock had learned that John's only plans consisted of take-away and bad movies in the flat he had been determined that John would not be staying alone in London for the holidays. Especially not with all of the strange things that happened in London on Christmas.
"You sure you don't want to just stay in this year and watch crap telly with me, Sherlock? You wouldn't have to deal with Mycroft that way."
Sherlock snorted. "If it were up to me, yes. But Mummy insists that we never stay in London over Christmas. She always has, even before the so-called aliens began making appearances."
There was no more use arguing. What Mummy Holmes wanted, she got. And she wanted them home for Christmas.
John's dreams that night were confused and hazy, with everything tinted gold and leaving him with an overwhelming sense of foreboding when he finally woke up, far earlier than he wanted. He laid in bed for a long moment, just staring up at the ceiling, before he heard a soft snoring coming from the corner of the room.
He glanced over and had to bite back a chuckle. Sherlock was slumped awkwardly in the chair; head tipped back against the wall, mouth slightly open and still wrapped up in his scarf and coat. As far as John could tell, he'd been there all night.
John shook his head, the lingering unease from his dreams fading. They were more than likely the result of the panic attack Sherlock had nearly given him anyway.
Four hours later he had been released and they were on their way back to Baker Street. The moment they arrived Sherlock forced him down onto the sofa and told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to move until they were ready to leave.
John frowned, plucking at the oddly familiar orange blanket that Sherlock had tucked around him. "Sherlock, we're not leaving for another two days. I can't stay on the sofa the entire time, you know."
Sherlock barely glanced at him as he headed for the stairs to John's room. "Of course not, John. But since we're leaving as soon as I finish packing your things it won't matter."
For an instant, John just blinked. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Sherlock's voice echoed down from somewhere in John's room. "It's all been arranged. I texted my father last night, told him what happened and that we'd be down early so I could keep an eye on you."
John hesitated a moment before replying. "I thought we'd be staying the absolute minimum amount of time that we could get away with because you were 'allergic to the countryside.' And possibly to your family, as well."
There was silence from John's room for a long moment, and even the sounds of Sherlock throwing things haphazardly in a suitcase stilled. "Yes, well. I thought the fresh air might aid in your recovery."
A small part of John wanted to continue arguing as he was rather wary of spending too much time with the members of the Holmes family, especially the ones he hadn't even met yet. But he realized that in his own peculiar way Sherlock was trying to do this solely for John's benefit, something he engaged in all too rarely.
And as behavior like that needed to be encouraged at all costs, John held his tongue.
Before he knew it they were on their way, comfortably ensconced in one of Mycroft's unidentifiable black cars. That fact, more than anything else, told John just how concerned Sherlock had been about him as under normal circumstances there was no way Sherlock would have even considered making use of anything of Mycroft's.
It seemed like it was no time at all before they were pulling up to a rather large, well kept house. There were no other houses in sight, but there was a dense, slightly spooky looking forest edging on the back of the house. The house itself seemed perfectly normal, but there was something about it that made John nervous.
Even after the car stopped Sherlock made no attempt to move. John glanced out the car window, then back at Sherlock. "So, are we going in any time soon?"
Sherlock flashed him a glare but still didn't move. "Yes, yes. In a moment."
"I did say we could stay home and watch telly, you know. If you want to turn back around and leave, I won't tell anyone."
Sherlock sighed and finally opened his door. "No, there's no use in leaving now. Father already knows we're here." He slipped out of the car, and by the time John had followed him was already pulling their bags out of the boot.
John took in the sight and blinked. "You're carrying my bags?"
"The doctor said you were not to exert yourself for at least three days and your wrists are still bandaged."
Fighting the sudden urge to check Sherlock for either a fever or a personality-altering head injury, John simply stood there for a moment until Sherlock pushed past him with the bags. Then he shook his head and followed Sherlock to the front door of the house.
The door opened just before they reached it. "You're late, Sherlock."
There was no question that the man was Sherlock's father. He was tall and thin, and while his hair was a greying ginger rather than dark like Sherlock's their eyes were almost exactly the same shade. And even without the strictly physical similarities, both men gave off the same sense of being the only genius in a room full of idiots.
If John hadn't gotten used to the feeling living with Sherlock he'd feel intimidated.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Father, this is John Watson. John, my father Estram Holmes."
Estram looked John up and down for a long moment before his lips curled up in a small smile. "Ah, yes. Your doctor friend." He reached out to shake John's hand, fingers brushing against the bandages on John's wrist. "It is good to know that someone's keeping an eye on Sherlock. Mycroft tries, but he has so many other things to keep him occupied and Sherlock's become quite adept at evading his surveillance."
Sherlock seemed torn between looking insulted at the insinuation that he needed a keeper and smug at the acknowledgement that he could outmaneuver Mycroft. For his part, John fought the urge to roll his eyes. "I enjoy working with Sherlock, Mr. Holmes."
"I insist you call me Estram, John." The elder Holmes still had hold of John's hand, turning it so that he could study the bandages on John's wrist before glancing up at the one on the side of his neck. Then he turned back to Sherlock, a disappointed expression on his face. "You really should take better care of your friend, Sherlock. It's not every day that you find such an interesting doctor as a companion."
Sherlock sighed, shoulders hunching slightly. "Yes, Father. This wasn't my fault, though. John's the one who was kidnapped; I rescued him."
Estram arched an eyebrow as he stared at Sherlock. "Do not talk back to me, young man." He waited for Sherlock to lower his eyes, then nodded. "We've put John in the room next to your old room. Why don't you show him where it is, let him freshen up from the trip?"
Sherlock nodded stiffly and pushed past his father, still holding his and John's bags. John followed him inside, glancing back at Estram over his shoulder just before they turned the corner towards the stairs. The older man had still been standing in the open doorway, spine ramrod straight and hands tightly clasped behind his back.
John waited until they were in the guest room and Sherlock had dropped the bags to say anything. "Sherlock, your father...?"
Sherlock huffed through his nose and shook his head. "I appreciate your concern, John, but it's unwarranted. Father is a very proud, controlled man and he often finds my behavior incredibly annoying, but he has never acted unseemly towards me."
"Mycroft and Father have always gotten along remarkably well, especially since Mycroft has gotten into his secret government work." Sherlock flopped onto the bed, stretching his arms over his head. "Sometimes I think that Father is using Mycroft to take over the country."
John twitched, something about Sherlock's theory sparking a hint of unease in the back of his brain. Then something occurred to him and he dropped onto the bed next to Sherlock. "You annoy your father on purpose, don't you? Just so he doesn't try to pull you into whatever you think he might be doing with Mycroft."
Sherlock chuckled, glancing over at John with pride. "Very good, John. There's hope for you yet."
John elbowed Sherlock in the side, then yawned. "Sorry."
"Don't be stupid, John. You just got out of the hospital after being kidnapped." Sherlock rolled over so he was facing John, eyes serious. "There won't be a formal meal tonight since Mummy's still down in the lab, and will probably be there all night. You won't be missing anything if you take a nap, and no one will be offended." His lips suddenly curled up in a smile. "Besides which, Father did tell me to take better care of you."
John snorted, but closed his eyes anyway. He was tired, and with Sherlock's warm presence against his side he was quickly relaxing. And before he knew it, he was slipping into sleep.
* * *
Even after John fell asleep Sherlock stayed next to him on the bed. It wasn't something he was comfortable admitting, but he'd been terrified during John's kidnapping and John's odd reaction afterward certainly hadn't helped. So until he was certain that John was fine and nothing else was going to happen, he wasn't going to let the other man out of his sight.
John hadn't even been asleep for an hour when he suddenly stiffened, muscles tense and breathing labored. When John's lips started moving Sherlock leaned over him, propping himself up with one arm while he tried to read John's lips. He couldn't quite manage it, and he was about to slip off the bed to get a better angle when John stopped mouthing words and started to speak.
"It was so cold. I couldn't breathe. I'm sorry."
There were odd pauses in between each phrase, as if John was waiting for the other side of a conversation.
"Cast him out. Into the sun. And the night. Do it. Do it now."
Sherlock frowned, absolutely no idea what John could possibly mean. He intended to let the strange dream continue so that he could collect more data until he realized that tears were slowly leaking from John's closed eyes.
An instant later, he was reaching out to shake John's shoulder.
John jerked awake, one arm flailing about and nearly hitting Sherlock in the face. His breathing was ragged and he could feel the lingering dampness on his cheeks, though he had no idea why he might have been crying. His head was pounding again, and Sherlock was staring at him from just a bit too close. “What are you doing, Sherlock?”
“Waking you up. You looked…uncomfortable.” Sherlock grimaced, then flopped dramatically onto his back. “So, what was the nightmare about anyway?”
Sighing, John pushed himself up until he was sitting up with his back braced against the headboard. “I have no idea. I don't remember dreaming at all, and trying to remember is giving me a headache.”
Sherlock came perliously close to pouting, but seemed willing to let the questioning go for the moment. "You've been asleep for almost an hour."
John frowned, rubbing a hand over his face tiredly. "That long? I feel like I just fell asleep." A moment later he glanced over at Sherlock, frown deepening. "You've been in here for an hour watching me sleep?"
"I was simply observing you to insure that your abduction hadn't adversely affected your sleep."
"Ah, of course." John shook his head fondly at the Sherlock-speak for 'I was worried about you and didn't want to leave you alone.' Then something suddenly occurred to him and he frowned again. "Speaking of that, Sherlock, what happened to the men who grabbed me? I don't think you mentioned that earlier."
Sherlock's smile could only be described as bloodthirsty. "They were all alive, if not exactly in one piece when I texted Lestrade and told him where to find them. And I doubt he was any gentler than he had to be with them as he's rather fond of you."
John sighed quietly in relief. He didn't particularly care what happened to his kidnappers, but he didn't want Sherlock killing for him. It just didn't feel right somehow.
Suddenly Sherlock virtually leaped off the bed, smile turning bright and eager. "Come along, John. Since you don't plan on attempting to sleep anymore at the moment, you can come meet Mummy."
"I thought you said your mother would be in the lab for the rest of the night." He didn't even bother asking how Sherlock had figured out that he didn't want to to go back to sleep.
Sherlock just grinned, reaching out to grab John's arm and pull him off the bed. "She won't mind if I interrupt, and she's wanted to meet you for quite a while now."
With a mental shrug, John allowed himself to be dragged along in Sherlock's wake. The lab was apparently in the basement, and the door was only a few feet down the hallway from the room Sherlock had pointed out as his.
"When I was young, whenever I couldn't sleep Mummy would take me down to the lab and let me help her with her experiments. Even at age six she said I was a better lab assistant than people five times my age."
John couldn't help but smile at the pride that almost oozed from Sherlock's voice. It was obvious even to John that Mummy's opinion mattered to Sherlock much more than his father's did.
Sherlock clattered down the basement stairs, one hand still gripping John's arm. He stopped once they reached the bottom, then carefully poked his head around the corner. "Mummy? Is it safe to bring John in?"
There was the sound of something heavy and glass being placed on a table, and then a woman's voice. "Yes, Sherlock. I've already finished with the neurotoxins for the night."
John blinked as he was pulled down the final step and around the corner. Mummy was a tall, thin woman with dark hair and almost frighteningly intelligent blue eyes which were currently staring at him appraisingly from behind a pair of safely goggles. He almost unconsciously straightened his back, refusing to be the first to look away.
After a long moment she smiled at him, suddenly looking far less threatening. She pulled off the goggles, dropping them on the nearest lab table before pulling off her gloves. "So, you're my Sherlock's doctor friend. I'm Rani Holmes, and I think I'm going to like you."
John had thought that he would end up watching Sherlock and his mother working on some sort of impressively complicated experiment that might or might not include random body parts or explosions (or possibly both, knowing Sherlock) when Sherlock had dragged him into the lab. Instead, Rani had followed them back upstairs and sat them down at the small table in the kitchen with a plate of pastries while she made a pot of tea.
It was all very domestic, and for some reason it made John terribly nervous.
In an attempt to distract himself from his unease, John finally asked Sherlock something he'd been meaning to since he'd woken up in a hospital bed. "Sherlock, what exactly was my kidnapper's plan and why don't you seem even slightly concerned about it?"
Sherlock snorted in derision, swallowing a mouthful of pastry. "The whole thing was rather pathetic, actually. If they had only been wise enough not to involve you I'd never have even bothered with them. Even Gregson could have brought them in, and Lestrade certainly would have had no problems."
John's lips curled up in a small smile, attention never leaving Sherlock even as he nodded in thanks at Rani when she passed him a cup of tea. "They were really that bad?"
"The four men in the warehouse were the only ones involved. They confessed everything to me while I was waiting on the ambulance, and Lestrade confirmed everything while you were in hospital." One of Sherlock's hands was flailing around in the air as he spoke, occasionally stopping to tug lightly at his own hair. "The ringleader wanted to make a name for himself as the man to best me. Sadly, he wasn't even interesting."
John just shook his head and took a sip of his tea. He hadn't really thought that Sherlock would essentially be babysitting him off in the country while anyone involved in his kidnapping was still roaming around free, Mummy's orders or no, but it was still nice to know for certain. Sherlock wouldn't be Sherlock otherwise.
Rani laughed quietly, hiding a smirk behind her teacup. "Sherlock, dear, it's times like this when you remind me of your father. He's never had much use for uninteresting people, either."
Sherlock ducked his head as he reached for his cup, and John almost thought he saw the barest hint of a blush staining his cheeks at Rani's comment. He briefly considered commenting on the odd reaction, but quickly decided against it. Instead, he took another sip of his tea and just let Sherlock and Rani's conversation wash over him.
Between the kidnapping, the hospital stay and the nightmares that he couldn't remember John was tired and sore, and becoming increasingly frustrated at his inability to even remember whatever it was that was haunting him. Under other circumstances he would also be frustrated by what he knew was going to be a Sherlock determined to solve the puzzle of John's strange post-kidnapping behavior. But in spite of the almost instinctive dread that filled him at the thought, John desperately wanted to know what it was that he'd forgotten.
More than that, though, he was somehow certain that he would need to know whatever it was he had forgotten. And as irritating as Sherlock's methods often were, especially when aimed at John, they never failed to achieve results.
In spite of his unease John found tea with Sherlock and Rani rather pleasant. Rani was an interesting conversationalist, with a dry sense of humor that John could appreciate. And while she and Sherlock often slipped into technical terms that went right over John's head, he never got the feeling that either of them was trying to leave him out on purpose. They just operated on a higher level than most people.
It was actually nice to see just where Sherlock got it from.
As much as he tried to fight it as he didn't want to seem rude, it only took about an hour before his exhaustion started to catch up with him and John was trying in vain to hide a yawn behind his tea cup. There was a moment when he hoped that no one had noticed, but he sighed in defeat when he noticed Rani looking at him with a knowing expression in her eyes.
"Sherlock, dear, I think it's time you get your doctor up to bed. He needs his rest if he wants to recover."
Despite the fact that she'd been talking to Sherlock, Rani's eyes had never left John. It made him feel slightly uncomfortable, though he did his best not to let it show. Even ignoring the fact that it wouldn't be polite, especially as he was a guest in her house, the last thing he wanted to do was somehow insult the mother that Sherlock adored.
So John merely nodded at her with a smile and let Sherlock nudge him to his feet and back towards the guest room. In almost no time at all he was in bed, biting back a chuckle at the expression on Sherlock's face which made it obvious that the other man was seriously considering tucking John in.
"I'll be fine, Sherlock. Go spend time with your mother."
Sherlock looked like he was about to argue, but he surrendered with a huff after John raised an eyebrow. "Fine, John. You know where I'll be if you need anything, and I will be checking in on you later."
John smiled and nodded in agreement. He considered it a success that he'd gotten Sherlock to agree to leave at all, so he was perfectly willing to compromise. On this, at least.
Even though it was still early it wasn't long before John was asleep and dreaming again. At least, he thought he was dreaming though there was a soft voice in the back of his mind telling him that he wasn't. That he was remembering.
He felt terribly small, like a child, as he was held in a young redhead's arms. There was a young man standing behind her, and both of them were looking at him in silence with eyes that seemed much too old for their faces. They seemed to radiate sadness, and for some reason John desperately wanted to see them smile. Though he somehow knew they wouldn't.
When the woman finally spoke, tears welling in her eyes, John could hear the words a split second before she said them, as if he'd heard them before. And in the back of his mind he knew he had.
"I'm so sorry, but it has to be this way. You've done so much, given so much for us. Now it's our turn. Let us keep you safe this time."
Her voice was soft, the Scottish accent filling John with a sense of comfort. She paused for a moment, tears beginning to slide down her cheeks as the man placed a hand on her shoulder in support.
"This time you'll have to be the one waiting."
For some reason John suddenly felt like crying along with her. Then there was another woman looking at him from over the redhead's other shoulder. "It's time." She shifted until she could comfortably lean down and kiss John's forehead. "We'll be back for you, sweetie. When it's safe for you, we'll be back. I promise."
The next instant John was sitting up in bed, tears on his cheeks and a blinding pain in his head. But there was also the image of a young redhead that not even the pain could erase.
Despite his exhaustion John simply couldn't fall back asleep. His head was still throbbing, his mind was spinning, and not even the knowledge of what Sherlock would most likely do if he found John still awake could get him any closer to sleep.
He could still see the redhead's face in his mind as though she was standing right in front of him, but he had no idea who she was. Yet somehow he knew that he should. It was all quite confusing and not doing a thing to help the dull pounding in his head.
It was nearly an hour later that he finally managed to quiet his racing thoughts enough to fall asleep again, torn between hoping that he had another nightmare he actually remembered so he could get a step closer to figuring out just what was going on and hoping that he could sleep peacefully for once.
John woke up early the next morning feeling better than he had since before the kidnapping. When he caught a glimpse of Sherlock perched in a chair in the corner staring at him, John decided that he was relieved that the remainder of his night had been free from nightmares.
He sat up in bed and shook his head as he glanced over at Sherlock. "Were you there all night?"
Sherlock huffed as he dropped his feet out of the chair's seat and stretched his legs out in front of him. "Of course, John. However can I keep an eye on you if I can't see you?"
John snorted. "I'm sure you could come up with a way, Sherlock." He quickly changed the subject, not wanting Sherlock to think too much about ways to keep an eye on him. "So, what are the plans for today?"
From his expression it was fairly obvious that Sherlock was allowing himself to be temporarily distracted, but John was willing to take what small victories he could. They spent most of the day with Sherlock showing him around the estate, an activity that also kept Sherlock away from Mycroft who arrived just a bit before lunch.
Somehow, even with the tension between the members of the Holmes family and John's frequently occurring headaches and restless nights the days before Christmas passed almost pleasantly. Rani, while displaying some of Sherlock's less irritating habits was none-the-less a very nice hostess, and while John thought that Estram was looking at him a bit too calculatingly when he thought no one was watching he still seemed like a fairly decent bloke.
It wasn't until Christmas morning that everything came tumbling down.
John stumbled into the kitchen, desperately hoping for a cup of coffee to help wake him up and trying to ignore the four pairs of eyes that were staring at him. He flashed Rani a tired smile when she pressed a steaming mug into his hands, but only managed one blissful sip before a bright light flashed through the kitchen, depositing what could only be a group of aliens in its wake.
There were four of them, humanoid with facial features that looked a bit more like a meerkat than a man. They were tall and sturdy, and all four of them were obviously armed though with weapons that were unlike any that John had ever seen.
"You will give us the Doctor." The alien who spoke was staring directly at an oddly calm Estram, who slipped one hand casually into his trouser pocket.
"There is no Doctor here; there never has been. Why don't you try looking elsewhere? I'm certain he'll turn up eventually." Estram smiled, though it looked more like a baring of the teeth than anything else. "He always does when you least expect him."
The lead alien snarled, hand tightening on his weapon. "He ran like the coward he is, and we have tracked him here. Now where is the Doctor?"
John grimaced, trying not to draw the alien's attention. He glanced over at Estram, frowning a bit when he noticed the other man's eyes focused on his coffee mug. When Estram flicked his eyes between the mug and the aliens, John ducked his head in a slight nod. He was fairly certain he knew what the other man was getting at, and it wasn't as if he had any better ideas.
So when Estram smirked at the aliens and said "No" John was ready. As Estram pulled what looked like a large, metal pen out of his pocket John flung his still-hot coffee right in the aliens' faces.
For a moment he thought that the plan was going to work perfectly, then as they yelled in surprise and pain, one of the aliens managed to discharge its weapon. And the last thing John remembered was flying through the air and hitting something rather hard before everything went black.
* * *
John knew before he even opened his eyes that he wasn't actually awake. It was even more obvious that he was unconscious when he did open his eyes as he was lying on his back staring up at the ceiling of the TARDIS console room. At that thought he blinked.
"I remember that this is the TARDIS. I haven't remembered that before."
"It was not safe to remember before now, my Doctor."
At the sound of the voice John jerked up, shifting around until he was crouched on the console room's grating and staring at a golden, glowing Rose Tyler.
She shook her head, golden eyes looking at him sadly. "Only a piece of her, the part that she left behind when she looked in our heart."
John's eyes widened as he slowly rose to his feet. "Bad Wolf." After she nodded, John frowned. "It was you I saw after Sherlock rescued me, wasn't it? You said it wasn't time yet, it wasn't safe. Safe for me to remember being the Doctor?"
She nodded again before morphing into the image of Donna Noble. "They still hunted you, tracked your genetic makeup and your brain wave patterns and your temporal signature. The moment you remembered they would have found you and taken you."
"So you helped hide me. Why?"
She closed her glowing eyes for a moment before looking at him again. "When Rose looked into the heart, the heart looked into her. And we changed, and became the Bad Wolf. And as she touched us to save you, you touched us to save her. And we touched you, and became more."
John's eyes widened. "So you're an amalgam of the heart of the TARDIS, Rose and one of my former regenerations?"
She smiled. "At first. And then, to save ourself and all of reality, we touched Donna. As she became more, so did we."
"Yes." She morphed once more into River Song. "And then at the end of everything, my Doctor was trapped, and so were we. Caught in an endless loop, the Wolf and the River. And every time we touched someone who loved you, we came to love you more." She stepped closer, one hand coming up to rest against his cheek. "When they first found you, they would have killed you. We interfered, gave you enough to allow you to regenerate, but just barely."
John's mind suddenly flashed back to the first dream he'd managed to remember anything from. "I was a baby. I regenerated into a baby."
"We made you human, and blocked your memories so that you couldn't be found. River took Amy, Rory and your TARDIS and tried to lead them away from you, to keep you safe until you could grow up."
She smiled at him, lowering her hand to rest against his heart. "There is still work for John Watson, though the Master has ended this threat to you."
He stared at her for a moment, then let out a snort of laughter. "Of course their father is the Master. Where else could Mycroft have come from?" When another thought hit him, he closed his eyes and shook his head. "And Mummy is the Rani. It makes so much sense."
"You will not remember the Doctor when you wake." She lowered her hand, then stepped forward to kiss his forehead. "When your companions return, you will remember. We will bring them back to you when the time is right."
John sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing. "And in the meantime, I'll be the one who waited. I suppose it's only fair; everyone else's had a turn at waiting. It wouldn't be right to leave me out."
She smiled, her form blurring until she was somehow River and Donna and Rose all at once. And as everything faded and John's vision went black, she spoke once more.
"You will not have long to wait, my Doctor."
* * *
When he woke up he was lying on a sofa, Rani Holmes standing just across the room and Sherlock sitting on the floor near his head. There was no sign of Estram or the aliens.
As soon as he noticed that John was awake Sherlock leaned over him, eyes fixed on John's face. "How are you feeling, John? You did hit the wall rather hard."
John frowned, something niggling at the back of his mind. "I'm sore, and my headache has gone from a faint throb to a dull roar, but otherwise I'm fine." As he absently argued with Sherlock over the state of his health, John couldn't help but think that he'd forgotten something important. After a moment's thought, he gave a mental shrug.
If it was important, he'd remember it later.