Warnings: Bad language
For once, Greg had convinced Sherlock not to go in alone. It had been pure chance; Sherlock had been at the Yard when Mary had come to show him the photo of John, slumped and grey-looking in the dim light, eyes closed. He'd wanted to go straight there, but Greg had stopped him. Sherlock had almost been killed before, going in alone, too many times just running without thinking. Greg had just enough officers to create something that vaguely resembled backup. Shambolic, perhaps, but with the potential to be useful.
Sherlock had gone on a head, to 'scope the area' or so he said. Greg had let him. Silly. Of course, of course Sherlock would run inside one of the buildings. They'd been climbing out of the vehicles when the explosions racked the street, blasting Greg onto his back and sending Mary stumbling into a wall.
The rest of their team had been mostly unaffected which, he reflected, spitting blood out of his mouth two minutes later, was a damn good thing. Because they were going to need the manpower.
The building Sherlock had vanished into had collapsed in on itself, although a few beams remained, with bricks and rafters piled and splintered around them. It hadn't been entirely razed; it was possible they were still alive, just possible. Greg had one hand on Mary's arm, holding her back as they waited the time out, hearts pounding, making sure there wouldn't be a third explosion. Sirens wailed in the distance; soon they would have company. But until then…it was just them.
Greg was going to get them out.
The second hand of his watch went round for the third time, and the team began to edge cautiously forward, testing the outer reaches of the rubble. No more explosions.
"Alright," Greg shouted, waving the team onward. "Find them, quickly. We're looking for three males, thirty to fifty." Had Sherlock said Vine was forty or sixty? He couldn't remember. "One with dark hair, big coat, you all know Sherlock. The other's shorter, brown hair. The last we saw of him, he was wearing a blue jumper. They're our priority. The third man's our perpetrator; if you can get him out, do, but don't put the others or yourselves at risk for him."
If he'd thought he'd have been able to say that they could let the bastard get crushed for all he cared without being sued, he would have.
Mary's arm left his hand, and he look down to see her calmly hitching her skirt from knees to thighs, rolling it up and revealing a long ladder in her tights. Greg raised an eyebrow. She looked at him. When she spoke, her voice was very calm.
"He's my fiancé. You can't stop me." A pause. "But you can come with me."
She wasn't one to waste time, he'd give her that. He should have said they weren't trained for it, that they weren't even in protective gear, that she was a civilian for God's sake and it was madness that could get him fired. But he didn't. She was already ahead of him, already pushing towards the building. He could have stopped her, but he'd have to use force. He didn't want to.
Greg pulled off his jacket and followed her into the rubble.
It was like a maze of stone and wood, something all-too easy to get lost in. Two of the squad had had training with explosives and were busy sweeping for further charges, calling out as the areas were cleared one by one. The team fanned out behind them and were searching the safe areas, working their way carefully around as they scanned for signs of life. Greg and Mary stuck near what had been the wall leading onto the street, partly because it would be easy to get out of the rubble started to collapse, and partly because the team weren't there, so there was no-one to send them back to wait at the car.
After less than thirty seconds their hands were bloody from the jagged bricks, their clothes dusty. Mary's hair was in her face, and when she shoved her fringe away she left white handprints like flour against her scalp. She hissed as her wrist brushed a beam, leaving splinters embedded in the skin, and Greg winced when his trouser leg was torn open by something that might have been glass – it was difficult to tell in the dim light. He made a mental note to get a tetanus jab for both of them as soon as this was over.
The calmness he felt was disconcerting, even if it did allow him to do his job without dissolving.
"Over here!" one of the team shouted. Greg snapped his head up to see two of them standing about ten feet away, waving. "We've got someone!"
"Who?" Greg heard himself yell, at the same time Mary asked if they were alright. He was scrambling over the rubble before he could stop himself, almost twisting an ankle, not wanting to look where he was going in a desperate attempt to reach them. He forced himself to watch his feet; the last thing John or Sherlock needed was for one of the people trying to get them out to break a leg. Mary cursed as a beam snagged her coat.
By the time he reached them they'd already got enough of the rubble out of the way to reveal John's head. He looked dazed, blood that had been stained by the grey dust crusted to his face and neck.
"Can you move your hands?" one of the team – Greg thought it was Hayes, although it was hard to tell them apart in uniform – was saying. Greene and Blackstone were holding up the beams, making sure they didn't collapse. "What about your toes? Anything broken?"
John looked at them dully, mouth pressed tightly together. He shook his head. One of his eyes was already swelling shut.
"Let me," Mary murmured, pushing her way through and crouching down. John had been lucky, Greg reflected; the beams had formed a support around him and he was nestled in his own pocket of clear space. There were a couple of roof tiles smashed close to his face, and his cheeks were peppered with tiny cuts, but nothing much worse than that, to look at.
"You're going to be fine," Mary said. "We'll get you out of here in no time."
John continued to look dull. Not relieved, not grateful, not even scared, but flat. Greg might have said he was in shock, only his eyes were too focused, too rational. He tried to tell himself that John was only worried about Sherlock – who they would find, he thought firmly, too firmly. Hayes undid the ties on the chair and he and Greene carefully removed John from the wreckage. As soon as he was clear they swarmed on him, checking for injuries, asking questions, testing pupils, but John shrugged them off. And all the time, there was still no word from the people searching for Sherlock and Vine.
"We'll find him," Greg said, crouching down by them and pushing his hands through his filthy hair. "He's a stubborn git, he'll be fine."
"Did you see where he was when it happened?" Hayes asked, already sponging the wound over John's head, making the dried blood run pink. "The sooner we can find him, the sooner we can get him out…"
John's eyes flicked towards the street. He blinked, slowly. "He was by the entrance." He went on before Hayes could open his mouth. "Don't…don't bother. I don't want to see him."
"He'll be alright," Greg lied, grasping John's arm tightly. John didn't give up, not on anything, certainly not on Sherlock. Not ever. His heart was pounding. "We'll find him. I swear it."
"He's dead." John's voice broke and faded out until he inhaled sharply, wincing as blood ran down his face and dripped off his nose.
"You don't know that-" Mary began.
John continued to stare at the floor. "He was shot. Before the explosion…I saw it. He's dead."
Mary's hands were already over her mouth. Hayes and Greene exchanged glances and whispers, and then made their way to place John had indicated. Some of the air seemed to have been sucked out of them, now that they knew they were looking for bodies.
Greg still refused to give it up. "Where?"
John remained silent, until Greg took his arms and shook him.
"What does it matter?" John had one finger to his forehead, pressing savagely against the cut blossoming there, until his face was screwed up in agony. "He's dead. I saw it. No tricks this time, no…miracles." John laughed; it sounded more like a death rattle. "He's fucking dead. I killed him."
"Don't," Mary murmured. "You didn't-"
"I was bait!" John snarled. Greg started back from him; he looked possessed, manic. For a couple of seconds his face contorted into something between a grimace and a scream, before relaxing into smooth dullness again. Greg wasn't sure which was worse. "He came here for me, and he got shot. Right in the heart, right in front of me. For fun."
The white noise which had, until now, been threatening to engulf Greg entirely, suddenly faded out. "What did you say?"
John had his face pressed into his hands, shoulders trembling with grief, although there were no tears. He was gasping, rather than gulping. He sounded in pain. "For fun."
"Not that," Greg hissed, gripping John's shoulder so tightly he could feel his jumper ripping. "You said in the heart. You saw it?"
John looked up. "Yes."
Greg got to his feet, running over to Hayes as quickly as he could manage, shouting as he went. "He's alive! You're still looking for a live one, dark haired man – he's alive!"
"Don't toy with me, Greg!" John was screaming now, dislodging rubble as he forced his way through the beams, brushing off Mary, who was trying fruitlessly to hold him back. "Don't you dare do that to me!"
Greg intercepted John's hands, which had been about to shove him backwards, and held them. "I made him wear a vest. We were at the yard, Mary was already in the car, the team were getting ready…and you know him, he always insists on going in alone. I…we had a fight over it. I said if he was going to go in first, he had to have some kind of protection, or I wouldn't allow it."
John's face went blank. "What?"
Greg felt like laughing, even though he knew Sherlock might still be dead; he was at the centre of the explosion, the bullet might still have gone through, but there was a chance, and he was going to cling ruthlessly to it.
"Just the chest? Nowhere else?"
John nodded. "He was covering his face…bloody hell, he wanted to get shot in the chest…there's a chance – isn't there? A chance he-"
"Sir! We've got him!"
There was a clatter and a scrape, the sound of people shouting, someone coughing raggedly. The rubble began to slide and shake, but John was already pushing past Greg. Hayes and the others didn't stand a chance; John cut through them like scissors through water, Mary right behind him, John swearing, shouting, and throwing his arms around Sherlock in a trembling mass of confusion and relief whilst Mary stood just behind them, one hand on John's head and blood smeared over her nose.
Sherlock was wheezing, groaning every time he moved, slumped against John with his chin pressed onto his shoulder, eyes closed. If it hadn't been for the grey dust plastered on his face, it would have been impossible to see that he was crying.
Well, that's it! I did consider killing Sherlock off as a pretty real option, but seeing as I'd have to warn about character death anyway it wouldn't exactly have been a shock to the system. So he escapes. This time.
I'm sorry if this fic seems a little bitty – it was a lot of unconnected ideas I had that sort of came together, but I'm hoping you still enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading, reviews welcome!
Also – I recently worked on a short fic with the lovely Random Ruth, called The Fake Suicides Club. It's on Random Ruth's profile if you want to check it out; she's a wonderful person and I really enjoyed working with her on it!