Title: Explosions, Literal and Otherwise
Disclaimer: Not mine, although I swear, if he doesn't stop being sexy, one day Cumberbatch WILL end up in my cellar…
Warnings: Quite a bit of swearing. Quite a lot of angst.
Spoilers: Mild ones for the first episode…
Summary: Sherlock does not react well to idea that John might be dead.
NB: Okay, so there used to be a chemical factory in East London but the morons we call the government just had to go and demolish it a few years ago didn't they, leaving me with a huge plot gap. So I'm using poetic license to re-imagine it into being. Please do the same! Thank ye!
The police station is buzzing. It has somehow transformed since Lestrade saw it, just a few hours ago, from a grey nothing of a building to a huge, bright, bustling monster, gobbling up every officer within fifty miles and then spewing them right back out again in masses of police cars and ambulances. He's already seen at least six fire trucks pass him just getting here.
Donovan is waiting impatiently outside, with a police car, and when she sees him she waves and he parks quickly, because an urgent Donovan equals a desperate situation.
"What the hell is going on?" he demands when he gets to her. It's two a.m. He's just got off a twelve hour shift. He is not in the mood for niceties.
Donovan is a mess - her hair is sticking every which way, probably been running her hands through it a lot he thinks, then decides he should spent less time around Sherlock bloody Holmes. He's rubbing off on him.
"The chemical factories in East London have blown up," she says, voice croaky, as if she's been shouting at people far too much. "The whole place is up in flames."
He rubs his eyes. Fucking terrorists.
"And just what the hell has this got to do with me?" he complains. "I was having a lovely dream…"
Donovan opens the car door for him. "We found Sherlock there," she says.
Lestrade stares at her, hands dropping to his sides. Donovan raises an eyebrow at him.
He gets in the car.
They're speeding across London, flying through a mercifully empty Sunday night, and Donovan is filling him in with about as much haste.
"Blew up around midnight, got the usual calls, found him standing around outside it - "
"What in God's name was he doing there?"
Donovan shrugs. "Don't know. He won't talk to anyone."
Oh great. Just what he needs, Sherlock to have a pissy fit. "Why not?" he grumbles.
Donovan shoots him a needle sharp look. "It's John," she says quietly. "He was in the factories when they blew up."
For the second time, Lestrade stares dumbly at her. "He's - ?" he croaks.
Donovan's bottom lip trembles, just a little. "We think so," she whispers.
A weight, hot and heavy and uncomfortable drops into the pit of Lestrade's stomach. He thinks of John Watson, stocky, irritable, unsmiling John. John with his badly made sweaters and his occasional limp. He thinks of Sherlock.
"Shit," he says.
Lestrade has seen a lot of traumatised people in his job. People still whirling in the aftermath like twigs in a cyclone, people processing. He sees fear and tears and panic almost every night. Sherlock is never one of them, of course not, why would he be, he revels in those situations, in situations that would leave any other person shocked and terrified and upset. He usually struts around, insulting people's intelligence, high as a kite on the wings of another completed case.
It is more distressing than Lestrade would like to admit to find him doing nothing of the sort here. He is sitting on the back of an ambulance, just like he was after that bizarre case with the taxi driver, except that this time the orange blanket around his shoulders is not just so the boys can have a good laugh at him.
He's shaking, and he's more pale than Lestrade has ever seen - no man should be that pale, he looks like a damned ghost for gods sake - and he's hunched in on himself, very small, as if, if he curls up enough, he'll vanish from the world completely. He looks like he wants to. He looks like a lost child, and everyone is ignoring him, everyone, even the paramedics, leaving him to sit half in the drizzle, in the foreground of a blazing wreck of a building, leaving him to suffer.
Lestrade approaches carefully. He has no doubts that Sherlock has already noticed that he has arrived, but he does not look up from his apparently concentrated study of the debris-littered ground. His long white fingers are clutching at the blanket so hard that his knuckles are showing through his skin, he has bits of wood in his hair and charcoal on his face, and his eyes are as black as death.
He looks like a broken, broken man.
He should have thought. He is Sherlock Holmes for God's sake, he should have thought and thought and thought. But he didn't, didn't even try to, he just -
They've reached a crossroads in this warren of a factory - one perpetrator is running further into the darkness, the other is heading for the door, and they pause momentarily, just for a moment, and John says, "I've got him," and tears off into the darkness, and Sherlock nods and gasps and goes after the other man.
He realises when he is on the bridge, when he is less than two hundred yards away, and screeches to a halt, unbalanced by a pavement wet with drizzle, and he turns, and he remembers turning and then there is noise, so much noise, a roar -
And the warehouse explodes.
Lestrade is talking to him. He can hear it, but it is as if he is listening through someone else's ears, it is a meaningless gabble, it is a nothing.
"I've got him," says John, and then he vanishes and he -
Stupid, stupid, stupid, STUPID -
"Can you hear me?" Lestrade asks. He can, but he can't speak or move, not because he has forgotten how to, but because there is no reason, none at all, why he should. Why should he do anything, ever again?
"Sherlock, look I - " Lestrade clears his throat. "I heard about John."
"I've got him."
Sherlock attunes his ears instead to the sound of the drizzle on the ambulance roof. Lestrade sighs and sits down next to him, but that's wrong, it feels wrong, John should be sitting next to him, complaining about his shoulder and the cold and the rain and wondering again why he bothers to do this and asking if Sherlock wants Chinese or pizza tonight. Lestrade shouldn't be sitting there. That is John's place.
"What's happened?" asks Lestrade, and his words transport him back to earlier, before all of this - this - waste.
"What's happened?" John has his feet up on the coffee table and is idly clicking on his laptop, but his eyes are on Sherlock.
Sherlock paces. "Think, think think thinkthinkthink - " He is thinking. John is breathing. It is annoying. Ah!
"East London!" he declares triumphantly.
John taps on his keyboard. "That's nice."
Sherlock grabs his arm, propels him up, deaf to his squawks of his protest, and oh god why didn't he listen - "I need an assistant," he demands.
"For Christ's sake - " John is complaining, but allows himself to be wrestled into his coat, then turns and opens his mouth to argue, but Sherlock says seductively, "It'll be dangerous. Really very, very dangerous…" and John sighs and why did he say that? Why didn't he just leave him alone? He should have left him alone…
"I was wrong," he whispers, the volume of his voice barely above that of the rain splashing in the puddles. "I should have - "
Left him alone at home. Not gone at all. Dragged him outside that damned warehouse with me. Anything. Everything.
"It's not your fault," says Lestrade. Wrong.
"It'll be okay," says Lestrade. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong.
"He was the only one," he says, in a strange voice, "Who ever even tried to care. The only one out of everyone I have ever met…who thought I was worth bothering about. Who tried. And I killed him."
Should have learnt. Don't get him involved. Why get him involved? He was important.
"I've got him."
Oh god. He was so important.
He closes his eyes. The drizzle continues.
It is not a good night and it is not going to get any better. The whole force is a mess, and Donovan would be happy if she could just find one officer doing the right thing and being in the right place. She is striding around the blazing building, shouting at people, pretending to know what no one knows, i.e. what the hell is going on. She would like to know how Lestrade is doing with Sherlock because she bets that the little freak can at least come up with some answers -
There is a group of cops gossiping in a corner, like this is some sort of show or something, and she shouts, "Fucking get on with your jobs," and then, as she does, she hears it.
A banging, rhythmic and deliberate, echoing down the street behind her. Donovan pauses, but she's probably about as curious as she is stupid, so she proceeds warily down the street. "Someone there?" she calls warily.
The banging continues at a faster pace. It is metallic and appears to be echoing from the ground - what the hell - oh.
The banging is coming from a manhole cover, exactly in the centre of the street - someone is hitting at it from the inside, making the whole thing vibrate.
"Boys!" she shouts back to the loiterers and they come running with torches and confused faces, and soon they are wresting off the manhole cover with crowbars, and Donovan shines a torch into the murky depths and -
John Watson's face, pale and haggard, blinks tiredly up at her.
"Finally," he says.
Lestrade's phone rings. "Donovan," he says. He answers almost immediately.
They are in a taxi. John is saying, "What the hell - a chemical factory?" and Sherlock is sniffing and saying, "Elementary," and John is sighing, but when Sherlock glances across at him, there is a faint smile tweaking the corner of his mouth, a sure sign that he's not really annoyed.
"What?" Lestrade is saying into the phone. "Hang on - what?"
The building is blazing. The drizzle does not let up, and Sherlock runs, fear propelling him forward, god no let him have got out, please god no -
"Okay. Shit, that - Okay," says Lestrade and hangs up. "Sherlock, they've found him," he says.
"I've got him," gasps John and my god he lets him go, just like that -
"Bloody hell, Sherlock, did you even hear me?" Lestrade snaps. Sherlock blinks, then wearily looks up at him. It takes so much effort.
"I've said they've found him," Lestrade reiterates. He sighs at Sherlock's slow look. "John, you stupid bugger," he shouts, earning himself a stare from the paramedics.
Sherlock's face twists now into frown and Lestrade is just about ready to scream.
"He's alive," he yells.
For a moment Sherlock's face doesn't move at all.
And then it's like Lestrade's just pressed a button, like he's pumped a shot of adrenaline straight into every one of Sherlock's veins. Sherlock flings himself up, bodily, as if he is a puppet and someone has yanked at his strings.
"Where?" he bellows.
Everyone obeys an out of control sociopath. Lestrade stutters, "Around the other side of the building - " and then Sherlock is running, by god he is running, he is running and running and running, he has never run like this before, not even when he has chased the most villainous of criminals; he is hurling himself through the air like the drizzle, gracelessly, putting every bit of his body into the effort, every tiny piece of him, blazing through the night with the flames of the collapsing building, dodging and jumping past people, ambulances, cars, anything, everything, dear lord he is practically flying, he can barely feel the cobbles under his feet at all, he is running, he is running and John John John -
He freezes when he is one hundred yards from the spot. The place is crowded with people. There is police tape and police cars and an ambulance, flashing lights everywhere, the building behind it all burning down into embers. He should go forward and check, but he is gripped by a sudden and dreadfully irrational fear - what if Lestrade was wrong (not logical, why would he be wrong?), what if - what if he made it up? (he could have), what if John is - he could be half-dead for all Sherlock knows, he could -
Someone moves in front of him, a bunch of firefighters moves on, and suddenly, through the gap they have left, behind the police tape, Sherlock spots a group all talking to one another. There is a few rather mucky policemen among them, looking grumpy, and Donovan is there, and she is holding a big black umbrella over someone small, someone covered in their very own shock blanket (where did Sherlock's go, it must have vanished in the wind when he started running my god who cares), someone listening intently to Donovan's updates…someone wearing a rather grey, knitted jumper.
Sherlock's feet move him closer before his mind can have any say in the matter. He's approaching the police tape as dreamily, and the people around him are just melting away, and he wouldn't take his eyes off that small, distant figure for anything, not if you held a gun to his head, not if the entirety of London collapsed behind him.
He stands at the police tape and watches. John. It is John. He's not just alive, he's fine, he's covered in black muck, is clutching at his blanket, watching Donovan speaking, and he is fine, and he is fine.
And Sherlock can do nothing but stare.
And John, as if sensing his concentration, as if hearing his mental screams, blinks and looks over to the police tape, and he sees Sherlock there, staring at him, and his face instantly breaks into that little, warm smile that only he has. He seems somehow relieved to see him.
Sherlock ducks under the tape.
It is quite refreshing for John to see Sherlock in the same state as most of the other people around here; usually he is swanning around in his great coat, pale skin as free from imperfection as ever, looking a goddamned ivory statue. But now…
He is drenched, as if he has been swimming in the Thames, his usually-quite-neat-if-erratic-hair is all over the place, lying in great wet sulky clumps on the back of his neck, his suit is covered in singe marks and he has smears of charcoal all over a face that John would usually only see on a dead man.
He shakes his head as they meet in the middle of all the chaos, grinning at the sight of the Great Detective for once looking like a normal person. "You're a mess," he says cheerfully. "Mrs Hudson'll never let you back into the flat looking like that." He doesn't mention that he himself is covered in sewage up to his waist - it's a moot point.
Sherlock looks like he's been shot. He says nothing.
John frowns at one of the marks on Sherlock's cheek.
"Is that charcoal or a cut?" He instantly goes into doctor mode and brings up a drizzle-drenched hand to inspect it, but as soon as his fingers merely brush his cheek, Sherlock flinches. Well, no, flinch wouldn't quite be right, it's more of a full-body wince - his eyes screw up as if he is in sudden pain. Or as if John has just injected him with something, not merely touched him.
He drops his hand, a bit lost. "Sorry?" he offers.
Sherlock regains his composure and continues to stare at him. It's getting a bit unnerving now, and John can't work out exactly what it is he's done wrong.
He looks around himself, at the rabble of people in the drizzle, still working to contain the fire. Maybe Sherlock is trying to work out exactly how he got here.
"I was in the sewers," he submits. "I chased the man into the sewers, but then the explosion distracted me…I lost him." He inspects Sherlock for any reaction to this news, but there is none. He continues, a bit worried now. "Uh. Donovan picked me out of a manhole."
Still no reaction. Now its just getting awkward. And Sherlock looks like he's about to drop any second.
"You, er," he says, and shifts, and coughs. "You might want to start speaking sometime soon."
"Look, if it's about losing the perp, I'm sorry but don't worry, okay, Donovan got a description, I'm sure they'll find - "
"I thought you were dead." Sherlock speaks over him, as is his wont, and does so in a dry rattle, as if he has had to purge the words from the very depths of his soul. There is something going on in that head of his, John realises. Bloody hell, he's even shaking. What the hell - ?
"Well…I'm not," is all he can say.
For a moment, Sherlock does not react to this and then, suddenly, a slow, broad smile spreads across his face, ringing with genuineness, so fond that it almost hurts John to see it on his face. He laughs, a little hysterically, then laughs again, and, whilst John is still blankly staring at this development, reaches down and pulls John into a hug.
John freezes. Sherlock is not really one for physical contact, which is fine because neither is he, and he is momentarily lost, not quite sure what to do, his arms wheeling in mid-air, but then Sherlock tightens his grip around his neck and John feels a wetness on the back of his neck that he thinks probably isn't the drizzle and something softens in his heart, and he winds his own arms around Sherlock's thin frame.
And then suddenly it is just them, as if by hugging they have effectively cocooned themselves off from the rest of the world, and John is no longer aware of the people around them, or the drizzle, or even the goddamn blazing building behind him; he closes his eyes and concentrates instead on the warmth of arms around him, and the tufts of Sherlock's hair that are tickling his ear, and the gentle jerks and shudders of Sherlock's body, and his heart pounding very close to John's own.
"All right," he murmurs, though he isn't sure whether he's referring to Sherlock or himself. "All right."
The night burns away into daylight, the drizzle fades away at some point, and neither lets go until it does.