Chapter 1: Monday
Life with Sherlock Holmes was never boring. No matter how much John Watson might wish otherwise.
“For God’s sake, John, we’re losing him!”
“I’m coming, you bastard!” he panted, lengthening his stride as much as possible. Damn him. Damn his impossibly long legs and his uncanny ability to move lightning-fast in a bespoke coat and his bloody inability to leave police business to the police. He was a doctor, not a triathlete, and as Sherlock delighted in reminding him, he did not have quite the legspan of the detective or the criminal in question. Killed three people, John, come on. Head down, he put on one last burst of speed – and ran smack into the detective he’d been cursing.
“What the –”
“Shh!” Sherlock dragged them both up against the wall, one arm flung across his chest, the crystalline puffs of breath mingling between them. “He thinks we’ve lost him.”
“Then shut up,” John hissed, one hand reaching reflexively for his absent sidearm. It was rare he left home without it recently, but dear God, surely he should be allowed to go to work and back without gearing up for mortal combat. As if Mondays weren’t already shite.
He should have said no. He knew he should have. Except for some inconceivable, unfathomable reason, when it came to this frenetic, impossible madman he just couldn’t.
“Was he armed?”
“I don’t know, keep quiet!” It would be a cold day in hell before Sherlock listened to anything John had to say but it was always worth trying.
“Between the two of –” Sherlock cut off as John elbowed him, hard, and without the rumbling voice they could hear the scratch of footsteps on asphalt, hovering, hesitant. He wasn’t sure he’d lost them, debating whether to flee or catch his breath.
And then he took off again.
“Quick!” Sherlock bolted around the corner and John bolted after him, mouthing the curses he lacked the breath to utter. The alley was tiny, squalid, and slippery as hell, coated in ice from late January snow. The only trace of the murderer was a boot whipping around the corner at the end, disappearing into God-knows-where.
“We’ve lost –”
“Not a chance,” Sherlock snarled, barely slowing down. The grey in his eyes had hardened into steel, determination evident in the set of his jaw. “Come on!” God, with that coat and those legs John could’ve sworn he was flying.
He himself only made it two steps before slipping on ice and falling on his arse.
“Oh, for the love of –” But he never got to specify exactly what he loved enough to keep subjecting himself to this, because two things happened.
Lestrade – finally – arrived on scene.
Sherlock let out a cry of pain.
“Sherlock!” Soreness instantly forgotten, he scrambled to his feet and bolted again, eyes fixed on the last place he’d seen that flash of coat. This part of the alley was even smaller than the last one, all rubbish bins and rats and the tiniest opening to the main road where the murderer was now fleeing. Any pursuers would be blocked by Sherlock’s prone body, stirring feebly and rubbing the back of his head, a baseball bat not two feet away.
“Call an ambulance!” John barked back to Lestrade, already frantically kicking aside bags of rubbish and dustbins and all manner of things he would usually refuse to touch with a ten-foot pole except he had to get to Sherlock.
And now fear was thundering in his veins, a thousand frozen razor blades surging through his body, because he’d never, ever heard Sherlock sound afraid before. Anxious, yes, tense, always, but never afraid, and right now Sherlock Holmes was afraid. “I’m right here, Sherlock, I promise, I’m right here –”
Lestrade be damned, all bloody London be damned, he slammed to his knees so fast he tore the leg of his trousers, seizing Sherlock around the shoulders and pulling him close enough that they almost touched noses. “I’m here!” He was shouting, stupidly, as though he could will Sherlock better by sheer volume, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. “Sherlock, please, I’m right here!”
“I can’t see you,” Sherlock breathed, pale eyes fixed directly ahead. “My God, why can’t I see you?”
One swift, sharp jab of dread, leaving John almost unable to see too; then Dr Watson was mercifully in control, all calm analysis under fire. “Blunt force trauma possibly caused swelling of the optic nerve – Lestrade’s called an ambulance, we’ll get you to a hospital, run some tests – hey, you’re gonna be all right, you understand me? You’re gonna be fine.” Unthinking, he moved his hands from his shoulders to his cheeks, cupping his face in his hands and pressing their foreheads together. Sherlock calmed instinctively under his touch, still wide-eyed and panting like a startled deer. Cautiously, his hands fluttered out, brushing first John’s jumper, then his shoulders, then finally coming to rest on his neck, long fingers half-clasped at his hairline.
“I’m here.” It was all Sherlock needed to hear; his breathing slowed and he half-closed his eyes, even as the wail of sirens reached their ears and Lestrade’s men frantically barked orders around them.
“I’m here.” Sherlock’s thumb swept over his jugular. A different kind of adrenaline swooped low in his gut. “Sherlock, I –“
And then the paramedics were everywhere, prising them apart, yanking Sherlock flat on his back and nearly slamming John into the alley wall. The second they lost contact, however, Sherlock went mad.
“JOHN! JOHN! GIVE HIM BACK!”
“Let me through!” John snarled, shouldering one of the paramedics so hard he knocked him over. Two more seized him by the shoulders and shoved him back to the sidewalk, pinning his arms so he couldn’t lash out. “Get off me!”
“If you don’t let go of him right now I will murder all of you and pin it on each other and that is a promise!” Sherlock snarled, so loudly that even Lestrade stopped to stare. John took advantage of the momentary distraction by wrenching away and sliding between the two medics, grabbing Sherlock’s flailing hand. He jerked away and tried to punch.
“Hey! Hey, you idiot, it’s me!”
“Oh.” Sherlock relaxed, still breathing hard but for all the world as if he was out having tea. “Hello again.”
John let out a puff of air that could have been a laugh. “Hello, you insufferable git,” he said affectionately, trying hard not to show how deeply unsettled he was by Sherlock’s dead-ahead gaze.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you –”
“Unless you’re planning on sedating both of them,” Lestrade called over, “I’d let him tag along, mate.”
The paramedic gave an audible sigh of frustration. “Fine. Try to stay out of the way.” He turned to the other medics, who were now sneaking up behind Sherlock with a neck brace. “Blunt force trauma to the optic nerve – stabilize him and get him to St. Bart’s, stat.”
“Right. Sherlock, they’re going to strap you into a neck brace but it’s just a neck brace, all right, it’s just a – Sherlock, calm down!” As soon as the neck brace touched his throat Sherlock went mad again, jerking away like a skittish dog. “Can’t you give him something to calm him down?” John asked a medic tersely. “A sedative isn’t really such a bad idea.”
“Back in the ambulance.” A stretcher was conjured from seemingly nowhere, Sherlock was lifted onto it, and they set off, John stumbling slightly as Sherlock’s hand tightened around his, vicelike.
“Don’t leave.” It was obviously supposed to be a command, but came out like a question.
“I won’t.” He squeezed back affectionately, climbing into the ambulance as a medic readied a needle for sedation. Sherlock sighed, closed his eyes, and with a wail the ambulance was off.