The case had started out normal enough.
Well, as normal as any case with Sherlock Holmes could get. Lestrade had turned to him and John when police efforts to locate a smuggling ring came up short.
Sherlock was, of course, grateful for the case to distract him. But it was an embarrassingly easy one, according to him. A couple hours traipsing around London in the drizzling weather and occasionally taking short vacations to his mind palace had eventually led him to the only solution possible.
And now, of course, he had dragged John out of the cozy flat at nine o’clock in the evening to go gate-crash a smuggling ring. And to make matters worse, he refused to wait for the police. He claimed they were ‘too slow’.
“It will only take them ten minutes, Sherlock!” John shouted, panting as he ran behind his best friend.
“Too long!” Sherlock called over his shoulder, quickly turning a corner. His black trench coat fluttered behind him in the cold evening air, making him look graceful even as he splashed through the dirty puddles lining the ground. John glared at him. He probably looked like an idiot, running around in a pair of nice slacks and his favorite jumper. Figures that Sherlock had gotten them a case when he was supposed to be going on a date with Mary.
Two minutes later they reached an old, out of the way warehouse. Sherlock stopped by the front door, frowning at the woodwork. John ambled up behind him, breathing heavily and clutching a stitch in his side.
“Could you… slow down?” he panted.
“I’ve stopped,” Sherlock said, pressing his ear up against the wood and listening for a moment. “Shh.”
John tried to keep his rasping breathing as quiet as possible, which was difficult. Even with Sherlock’s multiple shortcuts, he was positive they had run at least a mile in five minutes. It’s lucky that he had so much experience running around after Sherlock; otherwise, he would have probably collapsed halfway through.
“Sherlock-“ he tried to say.
“Shh!” Sherlock hissed at him. Moving silently, he gently pulled open the door, going slowly so it didn’t creak.
It was dark inside; the windows had all been covered. All in all, it looked like a very eerie place, and John didn’t much fancy the prospect of going inside without any police support whatsoever.
“Sherlock, just wait for the police!” he whispered.
“It could be too late then,” Sherlock responded, already creeping instead. “Are you coming?”
John closed his eyes temporarily. Oh, how he wished he could say no. But he couldn’t very well let Sherlock go in alone.
“I’m coming,” he responded, following him into the warehouse.
It was just as dark inside as it had seemed from the outside. The only light came from a single window, the only one that had been left uncovered. As far as John could tell, there was no furniture or anything else to tell it was anything less than what it appeared to be: an abandoned warehouse. All he had to go on was Sherlock’s word that it was something much more than that. And, frankly, Sherlock’s word was enough.
“They should be around here somewhere,” Sherlock muttered, going off to the right.
“Yes, a gang of dangerous criminals should be around here somewhere,” John said sarcastically, turning the other way. “Let’s go find them. Maybe ask them out for a cup of tea and some biscuits. I’m sure that will go over just fine.”
“Your sarcastic comments are unneeded, John,” Sherlock called over.
John just rolled his eyes, although he knew, in the dark, Sherlock couldn’t see him.
“There’s got to be a light switch,” John said, reaching the wall. He ran his fingers along the wood, feeling for something that could be a switch. “They can’t just conduct all their meetings or whatever it is they do in the pitch black…”
In the dead silence, John clearly heard something whistling through the air, following by a quiet ‘oof’. Immediately on edge, he whirled around, pressing his back against the wall and bracing himself for a fight.
“Sherlock?” he called.
No response. The complete silence that had descended once again over the warehouse made John’s ears ring. He was suddenly overcome by a wave of foreboding, and very slowly slid his way along the wall.
He had the feeling that something very bad was happening, and he didn’t want to open his mouth again.
Lestrade should be here any minute, he thought to himself. Why wasn’t he here already?
He kept his eyes firmly fixed on the small square of light in the center of the room. If he was going to see anyone, it would be when they passed through there. He wasn’t sure if he wanted anyone to appear; if it was Sherlock, he’d be pleased, albeit a little annoyed for not answering. If it were anyone else… well, John would cross that bridge when he got to it.
John got his results a few seconds later. A silhouette passed through the light that was definitely not Sherlock. It was too stocky, and the light gleamed off a bald head. Besides, this man swung a large metal pipe in his hand.
John pressed a hand to his mouth, trying to keep his breathing silent. His eyes darted over to the door, which was on the other side of the room. If he made a break for it… but what about Sherlock? Something had obviously happened to him. At any rate, John had to get to the police. He didn’t like the chances of him up against that man, especially if there were others waiting in the shadows.
Taking a deep breath, John started sprinting across the room. Behind him, he heard someone else start running as well, chasing him. The stitch in his side flared again. He hadn’t yet recuperated from his run only ten minutes ago. But he pushed through it, sprinting as fast as he could.
When he reached the door, he flung it open and found himself facing-
“John?” the detective inspector asked, looking shocked. “Where’s Sherlock?”
Panic swooped in again. “I don’t know,” John said, looking over his shoulder. “We split up, and I heard something, and then there was this man walking around with a pipe-“
“Calm down, John,” Lestrade ordered. Turning around, he called, “Move in!”
John stepped back to let almost half the police force flood into the warehouse.
“We’ve got the place surrounded,” Lestrade explained. “We’ll have this wrapped up in a few minutes. I’m sure Sherlock’s fine,” he added when he saw John’s worried expression.
John frowned grimly. “I’m going in to look for him,” he said abruptly, turning around and hurrying back inside. He ignored Lestrade’s shouts, telling him to come back.
Flashlights were being flashed everywhere as the police searched. They had already caught the man John had seen; he was being held down by three officers, and still struggling. The metal pipe had fallen to the floor beside him. Sherlock was still nowhere to be seen.
“Found the light switch!” someone shouted from the other side of the room.
Suddenly, the warehouse was illuminated, a dozen bulbs overhead flickering to life. John blinked, shielding his eyes from the sudden glare, and hurriedly squinted around.
When he saw the body, his blood ran cold.
“Sherlock!” he gasped, sprinting across the room to drop to his knees beside the motionless detective.
Sherlock’s eyes were shut, and he was a few shades paler than usual. Other than that, he looked as though he could be asleep. John couldn’t see any immediate wounds; certainly there was no blood. Still, his heart was thumping wildly in his chest, and his fingers shook as he felt Sherlock’s pulse.
It was there, and steady. Nothing wrong with his breathing. Frowning, John gently shook Sherlock’s shoulder, wondering if he had just taken a fall and passed out. It had happened before.
The detective’s head lolled from side to side, but he didn’t open his eyes. John felt his frown deepen and, following a hunch, placed a hand on Sherlock’s head and wove his way through his curly hair until he reached the scalp.
“Christ!” he gasped, retracting his hands momentarily. Instead of the smooth skin he had been expecting, John had felt something wet and sticky. Looking at his hands, he felt his heart stop. His fingers were coated with Sherlock’s blood.
“What’s wrong with him?” Lestrade asked, crouching down next to John. He looked concerned. Donovan stood behind him, already speaking on the phone with someone.
“Yes, we need an ambulance, stat,” she was saying.
“Blow to the head,” John said, gingerly touching Sherlock’s head again. He could feel the bump forming. “Probably with that metal pipe over there. Hard one, it seems. Possible concussion. All his vitals seem to be functioning. It doesn’t look like it broke the skull, so a closed head injury.”
Lestrade ran a hand over his face. “He just had to come here alone,” he muttered to himself. Taking a deep breath, he got to his feet. “Donovan! When’s that ambulance coming?”
“It should be here in a few minutes, sir,” Donovan said, ending the phone call.
“Right,” Lestrade sighed. “Listen, I’m going to go make sure everything’s being wrapped up alright. I’ll be right back.”
John just nodded, still assessing Sherlock’s damage. His chest rose steadily up and down, but otherwise he didn’t move. No apparent spinal cord injuries. Nothing to suggest anything more than a concussion.
All John could do was sit back and wait until the ambulance got there.
“Yes, I’m alright, Mary. It’s Sherlock. Some idiot hit him over the back of the head with a pipe.”
“Is he alright?” Mary’s voice was frantic, worried.
“I think so,” John said, looking over his shoulder at the hospital door. Sherlock had been in there for half an hour now, and John was anxious to see the results. ”They haven’t told me anything yet.”
“I’m coming over there right now,” Mary said firmly. “Give me ten minutes.”
John relaxed slightly. “Thanks, Mary,” he said, grateful that his wife would be joining him.
Just as he was hanging up, the door to Sherlock’s room swung open, and a doctor finally came out.
“What happened?” John asked immediately.
The doctor glanced at her clipboard. “Dr. Watson, I presume?” When John nodded, she said, “Look, I’m not going to try to feed you any of the lies most doctors tell people, especially since you’re a medical man yourself. Mr. Holmes is still unconscious at the moment, and he has a nice concussion. There is no other physical damage, but we don’t know what he’ll be like when he wakes up. Hopefully, he’ll be over the concussion quickly and on his way. It’s uncertain when he will wake up; it could be in a few minutes, or days. You’re free, however, to go in and sit with him if you’d like.”
John swallowed, then forced a smile. “Thank you,” he said, pulling open the door and slipping inside.
He stalled turning around for a moment, as though that extra five seconds would give Sherlock the time to wake up. Then, knowing he could push it off no longer, he turned around and walked over to Sherlock’s bed, frowning at the state of his friend.
Sherlock was lying in the bed, still unconscious. It was interesting, seeing him like this; his dark, curly hair was a stark contrast to the white pillows and sheets. His skin, however, was so pale it almost blended in. Well, maybe John was exaggerating a bit, but he was always amused by the fact that it looked like his friend had never stepped foot outside. Lying in a hospital bed, however, the pale skin worried him.
There was a chair in the corner of the room, which John dragged over to the bedside. Settling down, he surveyed the detective. They had bandaged his head appropriately, but it hadn’t been too bad of a wound to begin with. John was mostly concerned about the concussion. That must have been one heck of a blow. And that guy had to have gotten Sherlock off guard, otherwise he would have fought back, or ducked, or something.
John pressed his palms to his eyes. Oh, Sherlock. Why couldn’t you have ducked?
Someone knocked on the door. John looked up as it creaked open, and Mary poked her head in.
“How is he?” she whispered, hurrying in and shutting the door behind her.
“You got here fast,” John said, frowning.
Mary shrugged. “I bribed the taxi driver. So?” she prompted, walking over to John’s side and looking down at Sherlock.
John quickly relayed what the doctor had told him to his wife. With every word her frown deepened. Looking worried, she reached down and smoothed back Sherlock’s hair.
“You two need to stop getting yourself into problems like this,” she said sternly.
John chuckled weakly. “I’ve been trying to get him to slow down since I met him.”
Mary leaned over and quickly kissed him. “I’ll stay with you.”
“Here,” John said, getting up, “you can have the chair.”
“Nonsense,” Mary said, marching over to the door. “I’ll just get another chair.”
John watched her troop out into the hallway and smiled. He knew she would get what she wanted; she had a way with words.
That, and she was just very stubborn.
Two hours later, Sherlock finally stirred.
Mary had fallen asleep in the chair next to John, and John was starting to drift off himself. The idea of his own bed was starting to sound very good when he heard a soft groan from the bed.
Immediately he was awake, watching as Sherlock shifted around on the bed. There was a pained look on his friend’s face, and his eyes were only half open.
“Sherlock?” he asked.
Sherlock slowly opened his eyes all the way. The normally alert blue eyes were cloudy and confused, and his face was still screwed up in pain. He lifted a shaky hand up to his head, felt the bandages, and frowned.
“Huh?” he managed to get out, his voice croaky.
“Sherlock,” John sighed, relieved. “You had us all worried.”
Sherlock just stared at him, still frowning.
“What were you thinking?” John asked, suddenly angry with his friend. Now that his worry had passed, he was completely annoyed that the detective had thought it wise to go after a smuggling ring without the police. “You could have gotten yourself killed! But no, you just had to go on without the police, didn’t you? You couldn’t have waited ten bloody minutes!”
Sherlock opened his mouth, but John cut him off.
“No, don’t try to defend yourself,” John snapped. “Mary and I have been waiting for two hours for you to wake up, and I don’t need you shooting off some sarcastic excuse.”
Sherlock’s eyebrows were furrowed. He watched silently as John ranted, not even attempting to interrupt, which should have been the first sign that something was wrong.
John sat back in his seat with a huff when he was finished, crossing his arms angrily. “What do you have to say for yourself?” he snapped.
Sherlock hesitated before saying something that made John’s blood run cold.
“Who are you?”