By Alone Dreaming
Rating: PG-13 for blood and violence
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. If I did, this wouldn't be under fan fiction.
Warnings: Serious spoilers for 1x03 and violence and blood. Possibly mildly AU seeing as I've only seen the episodes once each and I'm uncertain to the extent of Sherlock's knowledge in certain areas.
Author's Note: Companion piece to "Easy Decisions. Please enjoy and leave a bit of feedback if you have a moment.
He had forever been opposed to touch, from the very concept of it to the actual physicality of it, and, as such, avoided it at all costs, in as many situations as possible. And he had, up to this point, done a very admirable job of it except the occasional slip up. Even those slip ups were so few and far between (and, often, involved Mrs. Hudson, someone he did not consider in the same category as normal people) that he considered them acceptable anomalies in the long line of science that was his life; after all, for every accurate result, one could have as many as four or five inaccurate ones. It made sense that his normal demeanor would, from time to time, disintegrate under specific influences. As long as he avoided those, he knew that his record could remain, in a word, flawless.
The fervor of his actions post-Moriarty's departure shocked him. Despite the cool exterior he entertained—and even felt—as he traded words with the world's only consulting criminal, the moment his arch nemesis departed the area, his heart started beating far too quickly, his head became light, and the only thought that entered his mind was, "Make sure John's all right." He had absolutely no problem with touch then as he rapidly tore the coat from the other's body, refused to acknowledge John's protests, and only recorded the important answer, "I'm okay" before flinging the offending weapon as far from himself as possible. The ensuing frenzied set of movements—initially meant to hunt down Moriarty but eventually melting into senseless motion—did not fit his typical behavior either.
Anomalies; he brimmed with them tonight as he scratched his head with the gun and said he was fine, even as his self-control melted to nothing. He would explode from them if he did not find a way to regain his careful equilibrium. He needed to start back onto the tracks that otherwise dictated his life, back into the careful norm that was his ongoing experiment in the human existence.
"Well, I'm glad nobody saw that. You, ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool. People might talk."
"People do little else," flowed from his lips so easily that he barely realized John had carefully tilted him back into place. The world stopped spinning and slowed to its normal, overwhelming, but manageable information dump, and he grinned slightly. Few others in his life had found a way to calm him the way John just had, none, even, if he really thought about it, except himself. Mrs. Hudson had her ways, but those ways involved tea and biscuits and a pat on the arm and the assurance that murder would happen. Somewhere. Sometime.
Of course, usually, Mrs. Hudson's comfort lasted while John's gave him a full two seconds of relief before twisting his guts with a singular red dot. Again, the world dissolved into overstimulation, Moriarty's soft, high-pitched voice declaring his death while he analyzed every possible escape choice. He could simply shoot Moriarty, bring down a crime lord as his last final act; it would end messily, Moriarty dead, he dead, John dead. Or he could aim for the snipers, and most likely miss; he was no crack-shot like John. Or he could aim at the bomb, yes, the bomb, and possibly kill them all in one grand fireworks show which would bring the coppers in case anyone managed to survive the blast. Too many options, too many variables, but one obvious truth; regardless of what he chose, he and John would probably not make it out alive.
So, he looked at Moriarty for his answer. The man before him stood dressed well, a smirk on his lips, the gleam of a winner in his posture and eyes. He had them cornered and knew that he had them cornered and, for obvious reasons, allowed it to show in how he stood, firm footed, unafraid, even with a gun pointed at a bomb just feet away from him. Moriarty did not believe that he would pull the trigger and end it all, because Moriarty thought that he thought that Moriarty loved the game enough not to follow through. But he knew better than to trust a man who would tie a child to a bomb, and was well-aware of the sacrifices such a man would make to continue a business. He, Sherlock, sacrificed time and energy in order to pursue his work more fully; perhaps, if he remembered back far enough, he would recall that he sacrificed a certain amount of normalcy and social graces as well but those memories were all but deleted from his mind. Moriarty, would, in the name of continued benefit, delete his greatest rival; because, in Moriarty's mind, a mouse was fun to toy with, but the cheese was more important.
His finger tightened and the double sound of gunshots overwhelmed his ears. Before him, the bomb lit up in a brilliant display of lights and sounds, all of which would tear him apart—skin burned, eyes blinded, ears deafened, limbs broken and twisted—if he'd been above the water at the time. A body crashed into his as he waited for his doom, tangling up limbs and tossing the pair of them into the pool.
Unprepared—and, admittedly, unable to swim even one stroke—he sank towards the bottom. The gun sank faster than he did, loosened from his grasp by both the shock and the impact with the water, waving in its swirling descent into the darkness. It made sense, that the gun would sink faster, being metal and more compact, less resistance, his mind rattled off, a bit hazy. Even better sense that once it touched the bottom it would stay there, just as he would, because with the sensation of shock came an extreme difficulty in motion. Water had infiltrated most of his orifices, pressing up his nose, into his ears, attempting valiantly to drip between his lips. He had the good sense to not inhale it but hadn't the slightest clue how long a heavy (ex)smoker would be able to hold his breath. John could probably tell him, would probably raise an eyebrow at his lack of knowledge, would probably write it into his blasted blog—
An arm twisted around him, jerking him upwards, towards the ever distance surface. The pressure of that limb, the slightest warmth it provided, the knowledge that someone had chosen to touch him, sent a jolt into him. He breathed without thinking about it, sucked in water instead of air, and attempted to choke it all back out. The world dimmed immediately—strangely, too, for he would not think that drowning would be so immediate; he would have to study it later, if there was a later, which as of now seemed unlikely—making his body useless, heavy and utterly irritating. He'd often said that he would love to find a way to put his brain into a computer so he might roam the internet without worrying whether he had to feed, sleep or exercise himself.
Then, cold air upon his face and solid surface under his head; his ears picked up warped mutterings, "Would you shut up?" followed by an equally wheezy, somewhat more disgruntled, and far less directed, "No more secret admirers for you." Someone's chilly hand latched onto his collar; it pressed against his neck, knuckles hitting pressure points uncomfortably, making it almost impossible for his head to sit properly on the pool tile. Irritating, he decided, but he couldn't move it as he was still organizing how to move himself. Priorities slowly situating on his list of necessities, he chose to decipher who the hand belonged to first, opening his eyes second, checking his surroundings third, and making sure that bastard Moriarty was dead, fourth; anything else would come later when he could make his head stop trying to roll off his shoulders.
Who would grasp his collar desperately, hold him out of the water with waning strength, mutter under his or her breath about secret admirers and shutting up? No doubt, John, he concluded, with a strange amount of relief. It was odd; up until very recently, he'd thought John had an affliction towards touch almost as much as he did. While John claimed the need for physical contact with women, he avoided brushing against people almost as much as Sherlock did. He never reached out to people, not even Sarah after the kidnapping incident; it had taken Sarah leaning against him for him to tentatively wrap an arm about her. Even then, he'd looked uncomfortable—happy but awkward—with the job, as though he thought someone else would do it better.
Not so now. The person who clung to him had no qualms with the contact, no interest in letting go. He blinked once, then twice, up at the ceiling, his eyes dry from chlorine so that the light blurred and sparkled for him. Somewhere, he smelled smoke which meant fire, not strong, but enough that they should leave, immediately, if the snipers didn't still linger, prepared to shoot them down.
"It's true, you know, never a dull moment."
John's voice sounded strained. He ignored that in favor of finding strength in his arms. "Yes," his throat ached, "well, I did warn you that I was insufferable."
"Yes, yes, I think you might have. So hard to remember, now."
Part two of his list needed to happen sooner, rather than later, for he didn't trust that Moriarty's snipers had fled at the explosions. Whatever relief he found in the two of them surviving unscathed would meet a sore end should one of them receive a bullet to the brain, now. Exits on the left and on the right are the fastest, safest, most direct; if he called on his mobile as they made their way out, Lestrade would arrive in no time. His mind ricocheted away from logic suddenly and he steadied himself as the room spun. Thinking was not helping him right now but the conversation with John seemed to. Simple experiment, he decided rapidly, continue the conversation.
"The memory faults would explain your romantic glossing of our "Study in Pink" and your persistent," he paused as some of the water made a reappearance, "need to idolize me," and then, it slipped out, rather uncomfortably. He would have said thank you, rather like he did with the bomb, later though, when they both had warmed up and curled into pieces of furniture in the apartment and John had turned on his computer; he would wait until he was distracted into delirium by two or three or seven or twenty nicotine patches and John completely insensible as he wrote in his blog to mutter a quick, "I appreciated your effort to protect me, today." He would wait until it went mostly unheard because, as a declared sociopath, he had no reason to show such emotions and it would detract from his title should he start now. Anomalies, his mind chastised as the words flowed out like the water from his lungs, anomalies. John causes them, "What you just did… right, now…"
"Admirable? Thank you?" John wheezed.
"Idiotic," he corrected, carefully hiding his embarrassment with a familiar barb. His arm obeyed him as he lifted it, preparing to first, remove the anchor of John and then, get him to his feet. "But I'd expect no less." His hand wrapped about John's and for a moment, he didn't feel the urge to flee the contact, didn't need to curl up in his own intelligence for protection. For a moment, he thought he could simply be a person, every day, blind to the details, the clues, the truth. Then the moment ended and his lips twisted up on his face, "Didn't I say I'd be lost without my blogger?"
He missed John's next words, too busy pulling away, too busy burying himself in the protective shell of distance and apathy. He managed to get his elbows under his trunk, to sit up partially, leaning most of his weight on his one elbow while his free hand searched for his cell. The waterlogged now-paperweight refused to turn on, "Regardless," he sniffed, more than a little annoyed. "You owe me a new cell phone." He set it aside and tried Moriarty's only to discover a similar dilemma. "Two, in fact, unless Mister Moriarty intends to send me—"
Later, he marked it up to distraction. Too many factors swirling about in his brain, too many thoughts running circles about him, too many elements overpowering his senses, too many tasks to take care of; but, he could not help but think, as he sat in the back of the ambulance, a blanket tightly wrapped about his person, that he'd been in more stressful situations with more people and things happening and never, ever had he missed such an important clue. In fact, the only reason he even noted it at all was because of the damnable phone, so pink, so cloying, had matched the water he sat in.
He started studying bodies as soon as his elders decided it was the only way to shut him up. His lack of social skills and his complete disinterest in living beings led him to the morgue, not initially Bart's but somewhere else, where he poked and prodded and stared at a grey, bruised teenager who'd met the pavement too hard after his motorbike crashed. He'd studied the caving of the skull, the texture of the skin, the color, the smell, almost the taste, except he'd been caught. Every bit of that first body stayed in his memory, becoming the first pages of files he'd used for years and years afterwards, and as he flipped himself over, towards John, that boy was the first person he thought of. Purple lips, blue fingernails, grey skin; John was a step away from that, just a shade of life, just a breath away.
"No," he whispered. It echoed in his head somehow as he reached out, his hands hovering over the still form. All of his preparations to recognize how someone died, how to tell what weapon made what bruising, what cuts, what gouges had not prepared him for this. He knew exactly what to do with a dead person because dead people did not take any delicacy or care; but not one bit of that training and self-preparation had told him what to do when someone was bleeding to death under his hands. He had no reason to know first aid, always had Lestrade just a few feet away when at a crime scene, prepared to call an ambulance if necessary. All of his experiences in picking up information had never been so dangerous that he felt concerned for his own safety. And before John, before loyal, stupid John, he'd never had anyone following close enough to get caught in the crossfire.
A surge of something, something very similar to that surge earlier with the bomb, overcame him causing him to grab John's shoulders. A sharp jerk didn't do a damn thing except turn John's face towards the water and a strong poke garnered even less of a response. The water around John darkened steadily and a logical part of Sherlock screamed at him that keeping the blood in John would help. Maybe if he could find a way to keep John from bleeding out, someone would bring the police this direction. But how to do that with waterlogged clothing? How to do it if he didn't know where it was all coming from? How many pints of blood are in a man? His mind bounced about with all the blood, all the red, all the pink, all with the thought that this one singular person wouldn't matter to a true sociopath, regardless of what he'd done for said sociopath in the past.
Luck saved him then, pure unadulterated luck, rather like the anomalies, as some team of rescue workers came through the doors to put out the flames. Some team that ran over and separated him from the man who offered his life twice in the last hour; some team, not Sherlock Holmes, the only consulting detective in the world, stopped the bleeding and called for an ambulance and worked to keep John Watson alive. Sherlock Holmes sat a few feet away, someone dropping a blanket on his shoulders and checking his pupils, wondering if maybe the real anomaly wasn't that he, a man with no emotional attachment, cared about John Watson but rather, that he hadn't realized it until now.