The world around him shut down. He was shutting down. Safe mode, rebooting, vital processes only.
Who was his user interface to be?

It's not like it is in the movies.
Molly. Why Molly? Why not John? Molly worked with the dead, not the living. She didn't save lives, only cleaned up after them. So why her?
(The one person he thought didn't matter to me at all... was the one person who mattered the most.)
Or maybe it was because John's wife had just shot him.
There's not a great big spurt of blood and you go flying backwards.
Of course not, he wasn't stupid. And he was still standing, wasn't he?
(But not for long...)
The impact isn't spread over a wide area. It's tightly focused so there's little or no energy transfer. You stay still, and the bullet pushes through. You're almost certainly going to die so we need to focus.
She slapped him then, hard, and it brought him back to himself, still standing in the room.
I said focus.
She slapped him again, this time in the room. How had she gotten there? She wasn't there, was she?
It's all well and clever having a mind palace but you've only three seconds of consciousness left to use it. So come on. What's going to kill you?
He's staring down at his body on one of her slabs, pale except for the dark bullet wound that was going to kill him if he didn't focus.
Blood loss.
There was a small moment of pride before he remembered he was going to die, and getting something correct now wasn't going to matter if he didn't fucking do something about it.
Right, chest, too many vital things in there, he's going to bleed out before John even finds him and then he'll never know about Mary- no! Focus!
Molly was speaking.
So it's all about one thing now. Forwards or backwards. We need to decide which way you're going to fall.
One hole or two.
Anderson, how the hell did he get there? What was he doing in Sherlock's hour of need, in his mind palace? The invasion of privacy wanted to make his skin crawl, but if Molly brought him there, it must have been for a reason.
Is the bullet still inside you or is there an exit wound. It'll all depend on the gun.
Sherlock didn't know. He scrolled through guns, blinking at them.
That one I think. Or that one.
He didn't know. He didn't know and he was going to die because he didn't see Mary, then didn't see the gun, and really, he deserved to die for being so stupid.
Oh for god's sake, Sherlock. It doesn't matter about the gun. Don't be stupid. You always were so stupid. Such a disappointment.
Mycroft, the only person who could still make him feel like a child. Even his parents couldn't do that. But there he was, eleven years old again, being belittled by his older brother.
I'm not stupid.
Mycroft smirked at him.
You're a very stupid little boy. Mummy and daddy are very cross. Because it doesn't matter about the gun.
Why not?
You saw the whole room when you entered it. What was directly behind you when you were murdered?
I've not been murdered yet.
He hated how petulant he sounded, but his brother insulting him always seemed to have the effect.
Balance of probability, little brother. If the bullet had passed through you, what would you have heard?
He was back in the room, looking at it.
The mirror shattering.
You didn't. Therefore...
The horrible realization. Or perhaps not. He didn't know if it was better or worse.
The bullet's still inside me.
So we need to take him down backwards.
Anderson again, really, what was he doing there?
I agree. Sherlock, you need to fall on your back.
That sounded like an awful lot of work.
Right now, the bullet is the cork in a bottle.
The bullet itself is blocking most of the blood flow.
But any pressure or impact on the entrance wound could dislodge it.
He supposed he could probably fall back. If Molly thought so.
Plus on your back, gravity is working for us. Fall. Now.
And the floor was rising up to greet him, how kind of it, since he wasn't sure he could make it all that distance on his own, and he was gone.

Blessed unconsciousness didn't last for long enough.
Sirens blared again and he rolled out of one of Molly's drawers.
What is that? What's happening?
Molly appeared again, next to his body.
You're going into shock. It's the next thing that's going kill you.
What do I do?
Molly disappeared, replaced by Mycroft.
Don't go into shock. Obviously. Must be something in this ridiculous memory palace of yours that could calm you down. Find it.
He's bounding down stairs, searching.
The east wind is coming Sherlock. It's coming to get you. (It's coming to get you...)
He opened the door to the room, anxious to see John, but he wasn't there, only Mary. Mary, in her wedding dress, with the gun in her hand. God, it sounded like a game of cluedo.
She shot him. Again.
He cried out, still falling. Eternally falling.
Find it, find it...
Mycroft's voice echoed in Sherlock's head as he slid down corridors, looking for what he knew would work.
And there we was. Sherlock knelt down and beckoned to him.
Hello Redbeard. Here boy. Come on. Come to me. It's okay. It's alright.
He was eleven years old again, and he'd just been told that there was nothing else they could do.
Come on, it's me. It's me, come on. Come on. Good boy. Clever boy. Good boy.
He always was so clever.
Hello Redbeard. They're putting me down too now. It's no fun is it.
He fell backwards, Redbeard gone, the pain roaring through him.
He thinks he might have hit the floor now, because it hurts like hell, and Molly speaks to him again.
Without the shock you're going to feel the pain. There's a hole ripped through you. Massive internal bleeding.
He can't manage to hold the scream back, but he's not sure if it's just inside his mind palace, or if it squeaked past his lips as well. Might have been good, getting John there and all. He's bleeding now, probably more than he should be, since there's no exit wound, and the floors of his mind palace seem to be growing slick with blood.
You have to control the pain.
Of course. He can do that. He's Sherlock Holmes.
He reaches the bottom of the stairs, the darkest places that he never wants to go to, but must.
He threw himself in the room, slammed the door behind him, leaned against the wall.
Control. Control. Control.
He remembers that he's not alone. Who he put in there.
You. You never felt pain did you?
It wasn't fair. Completely and utterly unfair. How did he do it?
Why did you never feel pain?
You always feel it Sherlock.
The figure turned to look at him.
But you don't have to fear it.
Moriarty was on his feet, as far as the chain would let him, stopped just short of Sherlock, spat the words in his face.
He cried out in pain, falling to his knees.
He was on his back again, Moriarty standing over him. Pain indeed.
Fuck it hurt. He knew it would probably be better to stay still, but he writhed in the agony. Fuck.
Tears were streaming down his face. It was downright undignified and he couldn't care.
Death... It's all good.
He stilled somewhat, Moriarty still leaning over him manically.
It's all good.

He must have lost some time, because he became vaguely aware of John. He patted his face, or something like that, and spoke to him.
Sherlock. Sherlock, can you hear me? What happened?
It was Mary, John. Mary shot me.
But he could barely breathe, let alone speak, and there was no way in hell he could have managed to get words out.

More time was lost, because he flickered back and forth between the vague notion of paramedics and the chilling singing of the crazed man in the dungeon of his mind palace.

It's raining, it's pouring, Sherlock is boring.
His legs twitched, and it sent waves of pain throughout his entire body. Perhaps if he just died it would stop hurting so much.
I'm laughing, I'm crying, Sherlock is dying.
His eyes slid shut.

He might have been in an ambulance. John was there again, speaking to him. Probably.
Sherlock. We're losing you. Sherlock!
That was his name, right?
God, it was so much work keeping his eyes open. But John...

Moriarty must have tired of singing.
Come on Sherlock. Just die why don't you.
His eyes must have slid shut, but he doesn't remember doing that. Come to think, he can't remember how to make them be not shut.
One little push... and off you pop.
That must have been the end. He was dead, wasn't he? Moriarty certainly seemed to think so.
You're gonna love being dead Sherlock. No one ever bothers you.
Being dead certainly wasn't peaceful. That incessant whining noise...
Mrs Hudson will cry. And Mummy and Daddy will cry. And the woman will cry.
Sherlock could hear him spinning in his chains now, not that it mattered. Everything would crumble, right?
And John will cry buckets and's him that worries me the most... That wife. Pft.
You're letting him down Sherlock.
Didn't he make a promise? Or something? A vow?
John Watson is definitely in danger.
His eyes flew open.
He wouldn't stand for that.
The pain returned, threatening to consume his being, but pain meant being alive, and being alive meant he could save John.
He thrashed around on the floor, unable to simply get up. It was a struggle to even barely make it to his feet, but he did. For John.
Oh you're not getting better are you. Was it something I said, huh? Sherlock!
Moriarty yelled after him, furious, but Sherlock didn't have time for that.
John was in danger.

He dragged himself up the stairs, who decided he was going to have such a ridiculous number of stairs anyway? He was remodelling, because by god, this was too much.
But he thought of John, and of his wife, and of Lestrade and Molly and Anderson and Janine (oh she was going to be so angry...) and his parents and Mrs Hudson and home and cases and crimes and that baby and Magnussen and all the experiments he still had to do at Baker Street.
At home.
He thought of home, and he dragged himself up those stairs, and by god it was the hardest thing he'd ever done, and he weighed at least a thousand pounds, but he made it up those stairs.

But it wasn't his whole body, not really.
But his finger, his fucking finger, it twitched, and his heart beat, and by god, he couldn't really ask for too much more, could he?
But it was for John, and he always had more for John, even when it seemed like there wasn't anything else, anywhere, he could find it.

So he made the monumental effort to open his eyes. And screw the stairs, maybe that was the hardest thing he'd ever done, but he did it, because he was Sherlock Holmes and John Watson was in danger.
He just had to let him know.

But John wasn't there, because he was in surgery or something else stupid like that, people in masks, a tube down his throat forcing air into his lungs, making him unable to say the most important things he could ever say in his lifetime. (On second thought though, it may have been a good thing, since he wasn't sure he could remember how to breathe at the moment. He just hoped he hadn't deleted it or something else like that.)

He tried to close his lips around the tube, but the eye opening had been too much effort and he was spent. Fuck, it was too bright, but he had to let John know because it was Mary...

It was still the first word on his mind (and his lips) when he woke up who knows how much later.
He felt John there, a reassuring presence.
He was just slipping back into unconsciousness when he realized that John may have misunderstood.


She was in there, in his room with him.
He wasn't sure how long, because time was too slippery for him to grasp onto, just kept sliding away every time he tried.
But she was in his room, and John mustn't have been, because she told him things that she could never have said in front of him.

You don't tell him. Sherlock?
She said his name in a sing song voice. He wondered if she would do that for the child.
You don't tell John.
He could only blink at her.

There could have been days, or maybe just seconds before she leaned into his face, close enough that his eyes almost managed to focus for a moment.
Look at me. And tell me you're not going to tell him.
His eyes slid shut.