It's official. John Watson hates swimming pools.
He hated them as a child too, the throat-scratching scent of chlorine, the high-pitched screaming. He liked swimming, but not in public swimming pools. They'd go to Cornwall every summer, and he'd spend five hours or more in the sea, surfing and swimming and tiring himself out. They were good times, when Harry wasn't an alcoholic and his parents weren't divorced. He can still smell the sea air now, if he concentrates. The rhythmic crashing of the waves, sand under feet numb with cold, salt sharp on his tongue and caustic in his nose.
He holds onto those memories now, as the plastic ledge digs into his kneecaps. John feels like they're safer memories. He has happier ones, definitely, Sherlock asleep on their sofa with Clegg dozing on his chest. Sherlock brandishing his bow and proclaiming his genius as a composer, proceeding to play a song he wrote for him. Sherlock kissing him gently and reverently when he thought John was asleep.
Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock.
He wants to squeeze his eyes shut, to try and block out the fear and the apprehension broiling in his chest. He knows Sherlock will be here eventually. Maybe even soon. That's the idea, anyway, using hapless John Watson as bait for the great detective. He's unbearably torn, between hoping Sherlock simply cuts himself off from the whole thing and goes back home, and hoping that Sherlock will come and save him. He doesn't know which he'd prefer, which is selfish, because Sherlock could die if he comes here.
John feels like he might die if he doesn't.
That could be true, actually. Not in just the sense that if he thought Sherlock felt nothing but pity for him he would probably find a nice tall building to jump from. There is the barrel of a gun snug at the base of his skull after all. It trembles every now and again. John would be tempted to say his would-be-murderer is nervous.
He should be.
The rising stink of too much chlorine makes his throat ache, and he coughs helplessly. The man nudges him cruelly with the gun, the metal circle making an indent in his skin.
"Stay still," he snaps. He's British. It should have made them suspicious in the first place, that there was a British man in Germany with a swastika tattooed on the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, but they dismissed it. Sherlock was enraptured with a diamond-smuggling case, said he had no time to investigate Nazi impersonators. This is the first time he'd spoken in a while. Until ten minutes ago, he was waxing lyrical about his great cause. Britain's need for men like him. Self-inflated boasts about his likeness to 'the great Fuhrer'. Snarling, deprecating anger at Sherlock, who had somehow ruined one of his great plans, with the joyful flair Sherlock reserved for really fascinating cases.
John knees slide a little further over the lip of the diving board, and his heart jumps into his throat. He's never liked heights. He never liked flying in the army helicopters, he can only run across the rooftops when he thinks Sherlock will leave him behind and get himself killed. He might be able to swim, but even he would struggle with plastic tags around his wrists and ankles. His fingers and toes when numb a while ago, which makes John wonder how long he's been kneeling here three metres above Reichenbach Pool.
Long enough for Sherlock to know his location, apparently.
The double doors slam open, and John totters again on the diving board. This time, he doesn't fall, but the rush of vertigo and nausea makes his head swim. He can't handle much more of this.
"Good afternoon Mr. Holmes," calls the man behind him, voice ringing with bravado. He's dizzy with triumph, John thinks. Come on Sherlock, pick up on it. Stop looking at me. You're just making it harder for yourself. Focus on the matter at hand. Please stop looking at me.
"I will give you three seconds to put him down," Sherlock says languidly, swinging his own gun up.
John takes a deep breath. Holds it.
"Alright," the man says genially, and kicks John hard in the back.
John has no breath to scream as he pitches forward, but it turns out that was unnecessary, because a sharp pain in his scalp and a sudden equilibrium tell him he's been pulled back from the brink. By his hair no less. For a moment he's pissed off. Does this bloke think he's in a gangster movie, or something?
The manic laughter is grating on his ears. "Tut tut detective," mocks the terrorist. "So much for being a cold-hearted bastard, eh?"
John's eyes are drawn to him, and sure enough, Sherlock is a good deal closer to the pool's edge that he was mere moments ago. John thinks he's moved silently, like ghost across the slick tiles, but then he realises he was tumbling towards certain death at the time, and that's not conducive to hearing footsteps. Still, he likes to believe Sherlock is as quiet as a cat on the prowl, because Sherlock has that hunting look in his eyes now.
John knows with a sinking, dizzying certainty that there will not be three people left at the end of this encounter. He could die any moment, as could Sherlock. But if they don't, if they somehow, through sheer blind luck or some staggering scheme of Sherlock's, survive this debacle, Sherlock will kill this man. And any of his assosciates. Possibly his family.
John thinks about the aftermath. Not idly or fearfully, but with the practical leanings of an army man. There is a high chance he'll die here, and if anything, the consequences have to be thought about. Harry, for a start. Without Clara to steady her, she could hit that nasty, bleak downward spiral again. She never reacted well to family tragedy. He'd have to hope that Lestrade would keep her alive.
Lestrade, he thought with a lightness in his chest. A good man, cheeky and friendly and incredibly tolerant. Not once had he called Sherlock anything other than irritating. And he said it like he was fond, like the older brother Mycroft had never quite managed to be. He'd miss him, John realised with interest. Lestrade would miss him if he died. Which was good in a way. Please let him look after them, John pleads to God. He's never believed in God, really, but hopefully that won't be held against him here.
"I'm going to kill him now," the terrorist says conversationally, and John shuts his eyes. Softly, softly.
With an inward sigh that sets his chest aching, he thinks of Sherlock. If he's thinking of anybody, anything in these final moments, it should be him. His eyes open briefly, committing the man to memory, and then flutter closed. He tests himself. Sherlock is truly exquisite. His hair curls just above his left eyebrow, dark and teasing around his fingers. His eyes flash beautifully when he's angry but are searing in bed. His fingers are long and light and skilful, and his mouth is insistent, abrasive from London storms and London dirt. Sherlock is graceless, loose-limbed and lanky, but somehow gorgeously elegant. His cheekbones could cut diamonds. His voice is sensuous and low, and sends shivers down his spine. His scarf is long enough to wrap around both their necks, his pockets big enough for a pair of linked hands. His feet are bony, his spine his pliable, and his hips are sinful.
With this picture in his head, John registers a soft shout and the loud click of a safety catch, and he is ready.
The pain, when it comes, disorients him. Instead of a numbed, explosive pain to the back of his head, he feels a sharp scratch on the side of his neck. He has no time to ponder as a gunshot (the noise is unmistakable) rips through the air. The Nazi staggers, hot blood splashes onto John's restrained hands, and then they are both falling through the air, the Nazi's hand curled defiantly in John's jacket.
If he's going down, John's going with him.
John's head is growing oddly heavy and his limbs won't respond properly, but the fear and the yell he is definitely capable of. He feels the air tear at him as he falls, feels anticipation of hitting the water on every inch of his skin and still a hand is inextricably wrapped in his clothing. John tries to calm his breathing, tries to think of Sherlock, and just as he doesn't think he can take it anymore, the water slams into him.
John's no stranger to rough water, he used to surf after all, but this is different. The awkward, sprawled impact makes his face raw, and he sucks in chlorinated water. His eyelids are made of lead, but it's as if his skull has fragmented and dissolved, and as he sinks down and bumps gently against the solid tiles, John Watson fades to black.
Waking up throws him slightly. He's pretty sure you aren't meant to wake up after death. He's pretty sure Heaven isn't leather seats and a black blanket around his damp shoulders. He's pretty sure Adelaide is not an angel.
She's looking at him with disdain mixed with something disturbingly like concern, and John is shivering. His hair is soaking, as a trembling hand rests on it. It's his hand, apparently. There's nobody else around who'd do something like that. Sherlock does, sometimes, curling his palm and cradling John's skull as John rests his cheekbone on a sharp collarbone and looks through a window underlined by the planes of Sherlock's chest. Sherlock murmurs deductions in the sleepy half-light, and catches strands of John's hair between his fingers, voice as heavy and addictive as drugged honey.
Drugs. The medical training kicks in, and John frowns as his symptoms begin to make sense. Nausea, incoherence (he can't seem to speak just yet) and the heavy feeling in his limbs are all symptoms of strong pain killers. Or tranquilisers. His hand slides down from his hair and he feels his own calloused fingertips as if they were someone else's. His probing yields good results, a slight protrusion of clotted blood, the mark of a needle. He wasn't shot at the pool. He was drugged.
That adds a whole new layer to the situation, a whole new urgency. There are questions he should be asking, ones pertaining to his health, the sequence of events, why exactly Adelaide is here, and in fact why exactly any of this is happening at all.
It's woefully predictable, in the end.
"Where's Sherlock?" he asks, his tongue unwieldy in his mouth.
Adelaide's expression doesn't change. "He's at the pool, with some German police, I imagine. Poor Sherlock. He hates speaking German."
"What?" John whispers harshly. "What is going on, Adelaide?"
"Sherlock believes you're dead," Adelaide says with girlish laughter. "He's being quite pathetic about it. I think I even saw him cry."
She's eying him, waiting for a reaction, and John will gladly give her one.
The lunge is clumsy and doesn't even reach her, but a flicker of fear passes through her eyes, and John is vindicated. Adelaide might not understand love, with her countless husbands and joyless marriages, but she should be afraid of it. When love involves John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, she should be very afraid, because John will not stand for this. He will not.
"You tell me," he says, trying to keep his breathing steady. "You tell me what is going on right now."
"There's no need for threats, verbal or otherwise," Adelaide says, smoothing her skirt self-consciously. "It is imperative that Sherlock believes you are dead, because then the Nazi syndicate will also believe that, and you will be safe."
John growls. "I don't want to be safe," he says as the car turns a corner.
"That's a shame," Adelaide returns viciously, her scare over and her fire returned. "Because Mycroft believes that if you die for real, it will kill Sherlock."
"Mycroft?" John shouts incredulously. "Mycroft? Since when has Sherlock, or I for that matter, ever cared what Mycroft thinks?"
"That," Adelaide hisses, "is half the problem. Sherlock needs to focus. He needs to destroy these people before they destroy Britain. You are a blind fool, John Watson. This is beyond your wishes now."
John falls back, blindsided. I can't reason with a blind fool. Right before the memorable kiss in front of Mrs Hudson, the one that sparked off everything, the atypical morning after, catching Sherlock murmuring his concerns to his skull in the early hours and reassuring him with kisses to the back of the neck and proclamations of love. 'I love yous' traded between gasps and moans, Sherlock's writhing above him and falling back to sleep tightly curled together.
"I, I can't..." John says brokenly.
He doesn't need to say anymore. Adelaide doesn't comfort him, doesn't say 'I know' or rest a hand on his shoulder, but just leaves him alone to grieve. That's all John needs.
The image of Sherlock is no longer stark and bright in his brain, and John grinds his palms into his eyes to refresh it, elbows digging painfully into his knees. He feels stupid and presumptuous even thinking it, let alone saying this out loud, but Sherlock will be a mess without him. Sherlock catches his wrist every time he leaves for the supermarket, utters two simple words. Be careful. With anybody else they're a platitude, but Sherlock doesn't need to look up from his newspaper to make John believe he's serious. That if John gets himself hurt there will be hell to pay.
John presses his hands against his face harder, sees stars. Sherlock will never forgive him for this. For getting himself kidnapped in a dark alley, for not texting him rightthissecond and telling him what's going on. John fumbles half-heartedly for his phone, but they're too good for that. He wouldn't put it past Adelaide to have strip-searched him while he was unconscious. Not for any sexual reason, just because she'd find it amusing. She's like Sherlock that way, whether alleiviating boredom through doomed flirtation and the gathering of ammunition against her brother, as opposed to shooting smiley faces into the wall and microwaving eyeballs.
He already misses him, of course, which doesn't bode well. He doesn't want to ask Adelaide how long he'll have to be gone, how long Sherlock will be alone. He doesn't want to hear it. A month. A year. Two years. They're all the same, and they're all too long. The ache starts in his chest, but quickly snarls its way up his throat, burning and aching. His eyes prickle, but his shoulders don't shake and he makes no sound. Adelaide will not be forgiving, she won't even be silent, if she knows he's crying. He's supremely glad Mycroft isn't here, because he would know in a heartbeat. Adelaide, while far more annoying than her brothers, possesses nothing like their deductive ability. She works not in logic, but in emotion. Perhaps that's why she consistently wins against Sherlock and Mycroft, despite their genius. She can sniff out any weak, emotive spots like a shark going after blood.
John wonders if she's a lawyer.
The tears don't form, but are smeared across the heels of his hand, as if he's trying to force them back where they came from. His breathing is slightly off, slightly ragged, but if Adelaide notices she does him the courtesy of keeping quiet. Everybody will think he's dead, John thinks numbly. That's the point of all this subterfuge. To motivate Sherlock into ruthlessly wiping out a dangerous little circle of political terrorists. John feels sick. He'd try to escape, if he thought it would work. He can see it now, Mycroft's men shadowing him in whatever country he's been sent to, fleeting black shapes in the corner of his eye. He imagines trying to escape in the middle of the night. He imagines being silenced permanently. He imagines the certainty of never seeing Sherlock again, and the pain is almost physical.
John stays prone like this, bent forward, eyes red and leaking tears, for a few hours more. He becomes a little more lucid, but anger and adrenaline had already driven a lot of tranquiliser from his system. The rattling in his lungs is making him nervous: he'd breathed in some of that damned pool water by the sound of it. He'd go to a doctor in...wherever.
"Mycroft will meet us on the runway," Adelaide says, sounding subdued. Perhaps she feels bad. Perhaps she's simply hungry. John will never know. "You're going to Switzerland, in case you wanted to know."
He didn't, actually. That just makes this situation all the more irreversible. John gives up on counting the stars bursting behind his eyelids and annoying the ghost-whispers of Sherlock in his ears. He turns instead to the window, trying to find some comfort in the unchanging grey below, speeding along an airfield to a plan. He has no luggage. If he could, he would pack Sherlock's violin, Sherlock's scarf, Sherlock's dressing gown, and possibly Sherlock's voice and his hands. If he cannot have all of the man, they should at least allow him that. That he could survive on, a lower dose of heroin until his regular supply is available again. If ever.
No, he thinks. No. I'll see him again. I have to.
Mycroft stands by the tiny plane, arms folded behind his back, umbrella hooked almost menacingly over his forearm. John studies him ferociously, puts all his hate and separation anxiety and anger and useless longing into that one stare and burning it all, singeing his emotions onto Mycroft's jacket. For once, the eldest Holmes does not look him in the eye. For once, he is silent.
It seems appropriate, because for once, John Watson is not willing to listen.
OMG GUYS IM SO SORRY. YOU SEE WHY I DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE THIS, DON'T YOU? It's awful. I'm sad, and yet weirdly excited. I get to write my Mycroft/Lestrade spin-off! Yes, I know. Squicky. I wonder how many people would actually read that. It's good, I promise. I love Mycroft. He's freaking awesome and amazing to write. If I'm to start a Mystrade trend or something. Which is better, Lecroft or Mystrade? I'm leaning towards Mystrade, what do you think?