Disclaimer: I don't own "Sherlock Holmes" or any of its characters. That all belongs to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Guy Ritchie, etc.
Inspired by: "One Blood" by Terence Jay.
May 15th, 1891
She ran faster than ever before. To hell with decency; she hiked up her skirt past her knees and clambered down the busy London streets. Besides, she figured she'd never had much use for decency anyway. The people she passed by were blurred, and she heard first the disapproving grumbling and then the frightened shrieks. The horses' hoofs were ringing in her ears, but she kept her eyes forward. Her legs had gone numb from the pain of running, and she was struggling for breath.
She couldn't rest, she couldn't pause…
For if she did, she was going to die.
"Watson, as much as you love to force me into exercising my mind and legs, can we not tarry on the way home? I am a busy man, you know."
The good doctor snorted, dropping his gentlemanly manner for a brief second while picking up the pace.
"Ah, yes. Busy with poisoning the dog, or busy scaring the wits out of poor Mrs. Hudson?"
Brown eyes reflected the hidden mirth within when John Watson looked at his friend's otherwise stony face.
"In my defense, I did not know she would be lurking about when I decided to practice my knife-throwing. Shoddy work that; I wasn't able to pin her skirt to the wall like I thought I could. Obviously I need more time to achieve this goal…preferably back home," the detective replied congenially.
"Holmes, really! You act as though I have threatened you with an early death by asking you to accompany me."
Sherlock Holmes, shooting his friend an appalled look, sighed, "I seem to recall you saying something about a thumping upside the head repeatedly until I went, and then the execution of said thumping."
Watson just grinned, his blue-gray eyes flashing brightly. "I did what I had to. Contrary to what you believe, you are not busy. You haven't been busy for months, and you know that I know that. It wouldn't hurt to-"
"Don't you dare suggest taking up those society cases," Holmes hissed, sidestepping a nun and giving her a respectful nod. Baker Street was alive and thriving with people that Friday. For some reason, it seemed every person of creed, color, and occupation had decided to mill around, clogging up the street and making hansom cabs slosh slowly over the cobblestones. The chatter was incessant, and Holmes' acute hearing was going haywire.
"They are still cases, Holmes," the doctor interjected over the noise. He jumped suddenly, knocking into his friend to avoid a man and his runaway cart, the wares bouncing all around. Holmes barely paused, straightening his jacket (actually Watson's borrowed from years ago) and walking on.
"Huh, hardly! The old Countess is missing this, that Lord is suspicious of that…that's not work worthy of me. Challenge, obscurity, that is what work is, Watson. Nothing those dreadful upper-crust harpies bother me with are cases," he announced readily, his head tilted proudly towards the sky. Unfortunately, what Watson said was true; Holmes had not worked in exactly two months. All his leads on Moriarty had left him with dead ends, and the lull of peace had descended back onto the people of London. Not to mention the fact that his best friend had moved out of the Baker Street residence and speedily married, and therefore was less available to assist him with whatever could come up. Despondent and melancholy, he'd taken to experimentation and dabbling with the needle again.
Still, if he wanted to work, he wanted it to be worth his time and effort. A consulting detective could only get so far with ridiculous contracts and simple conclusions.
"Besides, I'm occupying myself well enough in the time between serious works."
Watson rolled his eyes, but refrained from commenting. His gaze swept across the street instead, attempting to retune his observation skills. Under Holmes' strange tutelage, he had been trained to pick out five unusual discrepancies from his everyday surroundings. As of late, that talent had been used mainly for physical examination of patients, instead of wandering people and towering buildings.
So absorbed was Watson in his endeavor that he hardly noticed his friend suddenly start next to him.
"Watson, Watson, can you see?!"
The doctor glanced around. "See what, Holmes?"
"Look ahead! The crowd is parting like the Red Sea before Moses!" Holmes grunted, concentrating intensely on the distant commotion. "People are sharply maneuvering away from the center…there's something coming."
And it was true, for at that moment a Landau carriage came speeding directly down the center of the street, men and women darting to avoid it. Only, rather than keep going on their way, they were riveted to their spots. Eyes watched in shock as the cab roared on. Before Watson could wonder what was going on or Holmes could venture a theory, a scream was heard above the clomping feet of the horses.
"Bloody move!" a female voice hollered. Well, that answered the question of why people were paying far more attention than they normally would to a galloping cab. A woman was sprinting in front of it…for the moment. Her dress implied she was better off than most; her manner of movement and speech suggested that she was not raised in the gentry. Running, an activity reserved for instances like the current one she was in, was not entirely unfamiliar to her. Sherlock would guesstimate that the last time she sprinted was within the last few weeks, given her ease and lucidity with the sport. Her face, blanched with fear, reflected that she was young and the lines on her head were newly developed. Lastly, at the present moment, she only just managed to keep ahead of the horses, provided she kept her footing.
Provided a heel of her beaten-up shoes didn't slip into the slim crack that was only half a kilometer ahead. The one that only the trained eye could notice…which was the one the detective could spot. Watson looked on, his mouth hanging open at the sight of the woman, while Holmes just froze in surprise.
"Oh no," he somehow breathed, analyzing the details thusly presented. The driver of the coach, whipping the horses on, clearly had intent. Intent on hitting her, maybe even killing her. But the lack of emotion on his face illustrated that he had no feeling towards her. Obviously he was a hired hand, chosen by a well-to-do person with the monies necessary to pay both driver and supplements for the job to be done. Every person had cleared the cobblestones to let this demented parade pass by, blocking in the men. The carriage closed the gap with each passing second, and the girl, in one fleeting moment of foolishness, looked back…only to get her foot caught in the crack.
An audible pop of her ankle dislocating was heard, and down she went. Time slowed as she slammed face first into the stones, curled up in a defensive ball, and the first horse stepped into her.
Moments seemed like ages as the wheels turned slightly, crushing the mystery woman's body over and over. Once the carriage had made its pass, the only thing that could eloquently echo in Sherlock's mind was that the unlucky girl, though bleeding profusely and twisted and folded in on herself, was still breathing.
Her keening cut through the air, and immediately everyone sprang into action. Watson jumped forward, shouting for people to give him space as he hobbled over to the unfortunate creature lying in her pooling blood. Now, he'd seen some horrible things in his life: fellow soldiers having their limbs amputated to stay alive, prisoners being tortured for information, even the decimation of his own body after being wracked with illness in Afghanistan. Yet it wasn't everyday that one watched a Landau trample someone near to death and not even bother to stop.
"Can't believe this," Watson muttered to himself, doing a swift check of her vitals. Holmes tramped around the perimeter, deterring the tantalized onlookers.
"Stay back!" he cried, kneeling down beside his friend hastily. "Let's see…broken leg and arm, separated ankle, cracked and broken ribs, deep gashes from the undercarriage…she could live on."
The doctor's lips pressed into a thin line. "Only if I treat her immediately and only if...we mustn't waste more time."
The detective moved forward, groaning aloud, "How convenient then that we are so close to home."
221B was just twenty feet ahead of them, and so with Sherlock supporting her head and torso and John looping an arm under her legs, they shuffled into the house. They hardly acknowledged the presence of Mrs. Hudson, who was swaying dangerously upon seeing the bleeding woman in their arms, and proceeded up the stairs. Drops of red followed them up and over the threshold, creating sickening warmth as the drips spread out onto their clothes.
Once they reached the landing, Watson lurched forward and kicked open the door to Holmes' domicile. The pair clambered in and laid her down on the bed against the far wall, the only neat thing in the myriad of strewn papers and discarded clothing. Stripping off bloodstained coats and even waistcoats, the men went to their separate tasks. Holmes rapidly gathered up his personal supply of medical instruments while Watson sent a messenger over to Cavendish Place to retrieve more tools. They removed her dress and corset to better attend her; she had passed out and could not refuse otherwise. Canes and strips of sheets were used to set the broken leg, and broken stool legs were used for the arm.
"She's breathing, though painfully, so it seems her lungs haven't been punctured," John surmised, trying to stitch up one of the deeper gashes with the needle and thread borrowed from the landlady's sewing basket. A bottle of antiseptic was discovered beneath a pyramid of books, and was used to prep the needle for each stitching. "It's a wonder her neck or back wasn't broken. But the cuts seem to be the worst of her problems. She's lost quite a bit of blood."
"What do you recommend then, my dear doctor?" Holmes queried, laboring over stemming the flowing liquid coming from the intact arm. More antiseptic, more stitching, more time was flitting away.
"The riskiest thing we could do in this unstable environment," he remarked sadly, tying off a knot, "a blood transfusion. But the boy I sent needs to come back with my Gladstone bag, and even then I'll need to send someone off to Bart's to obtain the right instruments since moving her is too hazardous, and then there's the matter of who we can find to donate their blood."
"I'll do it," Holmes cut in softly, wrapping yet another bandage around her frame. There was no response from the doctor, as he could see by the set of his friend's jaw and the dark shadow in his eyes there would be no dissuasion. There was no need to mention that the business was dicey, and that she could reject the blood or worse yet, that Holmes could die. Sherlock was too damned smart for his own good, knowing the problems of the procedure and yet still taking up the gauntlet for a complete stranger. His mind was made up; the look of experimentation was on his face. He was prepared to give his life just to see if the transfusion could work with the high stakes stacked against him.
Still, Watson had to at least try. "There's always saline-"
"-Which neither you nor I have," the detective interjected. "And time, dear fellow, is not on our side at the moment."
Miraculously, all that Watson needed to perform the procedure was at the house within an hour. Days later, he would marvel at the speed his messengers had moved and retrieved his tools. But at the moment, his thoughts were occupied with the process ahead. Holmes, diligently swallowing fluids to fortify himself, sat in a chair pulled up next to the woman's ailing body. Her breath was becoming shallow; there was no more time to lose.
Prepping the equipment, Watson had to ask once more, "Are you sure, Sherlock?"
"Positive, John," was the answer from his friend. Downing another glass of water, Holmes applied a tourniquet to his arm. "It will be interesting to see if she survives this."
"It will be a damn bloody miracle, that's what," Watson cursed, agitated by the detective's flippancy. Pushing his feelings aside, he adopted his calm doctor demeanor. "Time to do this, then."
Holmes nodded, holding out his arm expectantly. In a strange show of revulsion, he turned his head when Watson plunged the syringe in. Attacking himself with a needle was something he could stand; having a friend do it for him was a bit humiliating in a way. Well, if he were one for humility, that is. As the cannula filled with his blood and descended into a waiting bottle, he stared at the woman in front of him, centering his thoughts simply on breathing and observing her. Beyond thinking of how his scarlet fluids would flow through the other cannula into her, his coherency was shot.
'Breathe in, breathe out, Holmes…' he told himself sternly, focusing on her matted hair and pale face. The freckles on it stood out significantly. He hadn't noticed how dark they were before. The process was draining him. Before long, he would have to signal to John to stop.
"She's already looking significantly better. I think that should be enough," Watson murmured somewhere in the distance. Soon enough the equipment was pulled out of both bodies, sterilized and packed away. "She may run a fever, I've seen it happen to a number of patients, but that's all we can expect for now."
Sherlock said nothing, only dutifully sipped some water and kept staring.
He jerked in his seat as if he had been electrocuted. "Yes, Watson. I am still listening. I was merely…drifting."
The doctor nodded, exhausted. "Well, you keep on with the water for now. I shall be back tomorrow; send someone to me if anything else happens to her."
"Will do, old chap."
"I am serious, Holmes. Do not introduce anything to your system in your weakened state, I mean it."
Holmes smirked, sighing, "Of course, Mother Hen, no funny business tonight."
And with that said, Watson left, barely aware of the crowds gathered outside the house, or that the late afternoon sun was sinking into the horizon. He spent the whole of his journey praying the girl could recover, in some strange turn of events.
Holmes spent his evening plucking at the fiddle, or laying on the floor, but his eyes were always riveted on the unconscious form occupying his bed. The woman was still breathing, still living, his lifeblood pumping through her veins.
Only time would tell if she would survive.
Author's note: Blood transfusion was an incredibly risky business back in the 19th century, and even harder to research about if you're kinda squeamish about blood (like me). I tried to correctly name the instruments used, and I hope that they were used properly. If not, my only excuse is that I am not a medical student and have no idea of the 19th century procedure, therefore I could only guess. Saline was used as a substitute in transfusions in the later 1800's, a Landau was a particularly heavy carriage drawn by four horses, and "Bart's" means St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London. Hopefully that helped end some confusion. Thanks for reading this first chapter, let me know what you think, please, and see ya later!