warning: self-harm, extreme mysogyny

()

"How long are you going to read those?"

Throughout the the asylum, there were patient files thrown about carelessly. Joan ignored most of them, but curiosity got the better of her. She grabbed them, carried them with her, and once she and Sherlock found a safe spot (an empty employee changing room) she sat down and read through them.

Every so often when she saw something worthwhile, she took a picture of it. "I've been noticing patterns. Look," she said, passing one file over to Sherlock.

"This is one of the file patients," he said, looking it over with his one good eye. "There were over a thousand people working here before it went to hell. Why does this one particular patient stand out?"

"This person was suffering from depression. But the medicine they were giving him, you see here?" The pointed it out to him. "They're not designed to fight depression. Taking these two medications would have made it worse. And here?" She pulled up another file to show him. "This patient had encephalitis. The medication they gave her would have only strengthen the symptoms, cause massive hallucinations-"

"They were purposely making the patients worse," Sherlock concluded. He threw down the files in disgust. "Those bastards."

He stepped away, cupping a hand over his mouth as his breathing sped up.

"Sherlock?"

"Those bastards," Sherlock said again. "These people came here for help. These people needed help and they... all of them were in on it. Every single one. I can't..."

He stumbled to a corner and started dry heaving. Joan wanted to offer him water, but they haven't found a clean source since they've been in here. Everything was either soaked in blood or destroyed beyond use.

Sherlock swallowed and croaked out, "Bastards... this entire time I thought this was my fault. My eye, my lost of time, I thought it was because of my drug abuse. What else did they do to me? I can't remember. I can't remember. I can't..."

He started slapping himself in the head with the heel of his hand. They weren't gentle taps; every blow was audible, striking so hard his head jerked.

Joan stepped forward and grasped his arm. "Stop, stop. Hurting yourself won't help."

Without warning, Sherlock pulled her close, wrapping his arms around her. For a startling second Joan went stiff, afraid he meant to hurt her.

He held her firm, not hurting her, and buried his face into the crook of her neck. He was crying.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed. Joan didn't know what he was apologizing for. "I'm so sorry."

He was so much taller than her. His arms were thick with muscle. If he wanted, he could easily squeeze and snap her spine like dry wood, but as Joan stood there, he felt small. Joan quietly touched the back of his bald head, and that simple, gentle touch made him only cry harder. In a world of violence, it was the softness that broke him.

Joan let him cry as long as he needed. God only knew how much he needed it.

()

Sherlock was quiet for next ten minutes.

Joan didn't mind. She was too busy keeping the camera up, recording as much as she could. Her right arm was killing her. She thought she would only be here for an hour. How long has it been? She looked at her watch. Seven hours now. God, it felt like years.

Worse, it felt like they were going nowhere. There were so many doors, so many hallways. When she interned here, the asylum wasn't this big, wasn't this confusing. It didn't help they were forced through so many detours. So many doors were barred shut, while entire hallways were blocked by debris. Literally not a single inch had been left spared.

Joan stopped in her tracks. "I think we need help."

Sherlock frowned at her.

"This place is too big. We don't know where we are, we don't know where we're going-"

"Then we need a map," said Sherlock, pushing past her.

"I think we need to talk to someone."

"You want to talk to someone? Have you forgotten half of the patients here will eat your face if given the chance? No, we keep to ourselves."

"Was there anybody here, Sherlock, that you trusted? Another patient? Someone we can talk to?"

"That doesn't matter because they're probably already dead. We keep moving."

"Was there anyone?"

Sherlock stopped in his tracks. He let out a long, suffering sigh, his shoulders dramatically drooping with the force of it. "Maybe, I don't know. There was one patient. He had delusions. He thought he could talk to Jesus. But, uh, he did have followers. He called himself Father Martin."

"You think we can trust him?"

"Probably. As far as delusions went, he was pretty harmless."

"Where do you think we could find him?"

"Near the chapel. In that direction." Sherlock pointed. "But I fear our trek getting to him. Getting to him will be just as hard."

"Geeze, then there's no point, is there? You know, I used to intern here back in my twenties. Long before this place became... like this. The asylum was big, but now it's like a maze. Were they purposely building the halls like this? The twisting and the winding...?"

Sherlock stopped in his tracks. He suddenly smiled. "Watson," he breathed. "You're a genius!"

"I-"

"My god, I never even questioned it! Either I'm an idiot or I'm more crazy than I thought! Watson... it was on purpose."

"What? How they built the asylum?"

"Think about it! Even the Tower of London has its closet skeletons, its little corridors to hide the more ugly secrets. This whole time I thought they were hiding the abuse, but now I know they were hiding the Walrider. This asylum? It's a front. A slaughterhouse for their experimentation. The real building is hidden somewhere. Deep below, perhaps. All we need... we need to find where the new parts of the building intersect with the old. From there, we can track down their lair."

Joan looked away, her expression dark. Sherlock's enthusiasm slowly died. "What's wrong?"

"I... fuck," Joan said, rubbing a hand over her eyes. "When I came here, I meant to do an investigation story on the accusations of abusive doctors. With the Walrider, with... everything else... there were over five thousand people here, Sherlock. And that's accounted for. And as I wandered through the halls, I kept asking myself, why was I the only one investigating this? Where are these people's families? Over five thousand people are missing and nobody's notice! That's probably why no one else has escaped from here, or why the media hasn't heard a word- they were silenced. It won't matter how much information I get, it won't matter if we find the root cause to all of this. The moment I leave those doors, they'll kill me."

"I won't let them!" Sherlock hissed. He stepped forward and grasped her tightly by the arms, the move startling her so much she nearly dropped the camera. "I am making you a promise here and now, Watson. You will live to see tomorrow. I'll see to that. My life for yours."

"Sherlock-"

"Don't try to talk me out of it, I've already made up my mind. I have a few connections on the outside who can help us pass this information along. Once we get out of here, we'll go to them and expose this godforsaken place to the world."

She knew he meant every word. Forget the blood, forget the horrors, she felt like she was going to war. Joan has found herself in a few dangerous positions before, but never to a point where she decided it was a cause worth dying for, worth killing for.

Never in her life has someone made such a declaration towards her.

She opened her mouth, perhaps to agree with him or try to change his mind- she didn't know. At that moment, there was a sharp sound of an object being swung through the air, a dull thunk, and Sherlock fell to the floor, unconscious.

Joan stumbled back.

Out from the darkness, standing behind Sherlock was a man holding a long metal pipe. He was dressed in a vest and a long sleeved white shirt splattered with blood. He had slicked black hair, and it looked like his eyes were glowing. Unlike Sherlock, this man had all his facial features. He wasn't missing his fingers, he had no burns, no scars, and yet he was the scariest thing Joan has ever seen here.

"Darling..." the man cooed softly, dropping the metal pipe. It fell to the floor with a large echoing clang. He stepped over Sherlock's body towards Joan, his blood-stained hands stretched out to her. "Did he hurt you?"

Sherlock wasn't moving. It was too dark to see if he was breathing. "I... he didn't hurt me," Joan said, moving back. "He's my friend."

"Your friend?" The man sneered. "Women can't be friends with men. Men only want one thing: those nasty cunts. Now, come along, love. We're going to be late."

He held out one hand to her.

Panic rose in Joan, and she kept looking back down at Sherlock, unsure what to do. The man was taller than her, his hands big and arms thick. He would have no problem overpowering her.

"Come along, dear," the man repeated, his tone now more threatening. "We're going to be late."

Sherlock suddenly groaned.

"Sherlock," Joan breathed, taking an aborted step forward.

"R-run..." Sherlock bit out, struggling to move. "Run!"

The man growled and threw himself forward, both arms stretched out to grab Joan. Joan ducked, twisted, and started running as fast as her legs could take her.

"COME BACK HERE, YOU BITCH!" The man screamed from behind, giving chase. "YOU'RE JUST GOING TO MAKE ME ANGRY!"

Joan didn't dare slow down. She didn't even know where she was going. The majority of the hallways were long and opened, allowing her to run in a straight line. When she encountered a barricade, she quickly ducked into the nearest opened room. She jumped over gurneys, tables, through the open broken window frames of offices.

"YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO MAKE THIS HARDER ON YOURSELF!"

No matter what she did, he was still on her. She tried to keep a mental map of where she was going, but it was impossible. Left, right, left, left, right, down, down, up, left, right.

Joan turned a corner and- BAM! She was struck from the side, knocking her down to the floor. Her camera skittered across, disappearing under a table. Joan twisted on her elbows, staring up at the man with the horrifying eyes.

He tapped the metal pipe against his palm. "Now darling, is that any way to treat your betrothed?"

He brought up the pipe, bringing it down sharply across Joan's head.