Author's Note: Wow! I've gotten such a fantastic response from you all, so I've decided to be incredibly giving (it is the season, after all XD). It means a lot to hear what you have to say since this is my first Sherlock fic, and I was a bit nervous about it. So thank you so much for sticking with me, and reviewing. With over 5k words for my wonderful readers, I now present the final part!
Warnings: Language. Uh, violent thoughts. Snarkiness. Overpowering amounts of relief for AN END TO THE UST. Lol. And another teensy weensy interruption, because these characters just can't seem to help themselves.
It was ten twenty-three at night and according to Sherlock's internal clock, John has been missing for exactly eleven hours, thirty-seven minutes, and fifteen seconds. Sixteen. Seventeen.
Eleven hours, thirty-seven minutes, and eighteen seconds, and if John is not here in this warehouse where he knows John should be, if they've moved him, again, Sherlock is going to burn the whole fucking place to the ground. And then he'll track down every last one of those presumptuous, thieving bastards and inflict every torture method he has stored in his hard drive on their sorry, sniveling flesh—and there's over four thousand of them, not including the ones he's come up with himself. He could write a series of encyclopedias on the subject, because if there's anything Sherlock Holmes knows, it's how to hurt another human being. He makes a study of the subject on a daily basis, after all; it's his job.
He'll drag it out for at least a week, see how high their pain thresholds are, just make an experiment out of it really, and they won't be sorry. Oh no. They will be begging for amnesty and redemption from an enraged god that doesn't know the meaning of the word mercy.
Sherlock hauled open the large warehouse doors with a viciousness that betrayed his thoughts, ignoring the heavy scrape of metal over concrete. No one should be here—the little band of thieves should have moved on to their next rendezvous point, the location of which he had already dictated to Lestrade. The near-tangible darkness of the building didn't surprise him, but it didn't do anything to improve his spirits, either.
"John?" Sherlock called, immediately dissatisfied with the way his flatmate's name failed to echo in a way that would have been useful. The warehouse was at least nine thousand square meters, but it was also stacked to the ceiling with crates and boxes that effectively limited the range of his voice.
John wasn't dead, of course he wasn't. While the men had clearly escalated from stealing to kidnapping, Sherlock was positive none of them were ready to take a step up into murder. If he was a dull-witted thief with little to no imagination and even fewer guts, where would he dispose of a hostage he hadn't intended to take?
He ran for the back of the warehouse, using his phone to light his way between rows and rows of metal shelving, none of which ran parallel to each other for more than a couple meters at most. It was practically a bloody maze, and he didn't have time for this.
Crawling and squeezing through any shelving space he could contort himself proved faster than any roundabout running. Maneuvering between a wooden crate and the sheet of metal above it, he fought back the pulse that pounded in his ears, that tried to obliterate his auditory faculties without any regard for how necessary they were at present. The clenching, shivery feeling in his stomach was only growing worse the longer he thought about how very wrong John's absence felt and he was chilled in a way that didn't feel remotely physical, but that didn't make any sense at all, did it?
Sherlock straightened up, straining his ears for even the most remote sound, yet he couldn't catch the faintest whisper of anything. Frustration swept over him as he cast his gaze toward the ceiling, spinning a full three hundred and sixty degrees while checking every shelf he could see in the narrow circle of light projected by his phone. Nothing but more containers of unimportant things, and even less important things in the spaces beyond that, and where the hell was John?
"John?" he yelled again with more volume. "John, answer me, I know you're here!"
Sherlock whirled in the direction of the noise, because that was human speech; he couldn't distinguish the words but it didn't matter since it couldn't be anyone other than his flatmate. The minute it took to get to John may as well have been a lifetime and a half, and with every breath he cursed thieves of all sorts the world over.
He needed more light, is what he needed, except he hadn't seen a light switch or consumer unit anywhere.
"Sherlock," John answered, and god, even with his hoarse breath hitching oddly like that, his voice was still the most brilliant thing Sherlock had ever heard. "Jesus, Sherlock, can you—get me the fuck down from here now."
The sudden glare of the phone's light made the doctor recoil, but it lit up the man and his surrounding area well enough to let Sherlock observe everything in a single glance.
His jumper was gone, the long-sleeved shirt underneath torn messily in several places, and gray eyes followed the line of his body straight up where both arms had been strung above his head. Both wrists were shackled in handcuffs, the narrow sequence of links separating each cuff supported and divided by a larger, heavier chain that looped around it and vanished back up into the shadows. The chain, however, had been intentionally shortened so it forced John onto his toes with no way to reduce the strain on his arms, obviously intended to exacerbate a tenuously healing wound. Like the one from Afghanistan, the one in his—
"Sherlock, my shoulder—" John's voice broke before he could finish the sentence and for a split second the only thing in Sherlock's mind was rage. An inexpressible fury that someone would do this to John, who was a war veteran and a doctor and a loyal friend and his.
Then he was chest to chest with John, arms outstretched and working by feel on picking the locks, simple really, until moments later the left cuff clicked open. John gasped when his feet dropped flat against the floor, first the left, then the right, as the weight of his unsupported right arm dragged the handcuffs over and off the gently swaying chain. Sherlock snagged his wrists before gravity could fully reclaim them.
"Careful, John," Sherlock said quietly, keeping both now-unlinked limbs extended over their heads. "Gradual re-introduction of blood circulation is important in order to prevent further damage to your arms."
John's huffing laugh was choked with a scrambled combination of pain and unbridled relief. "I don't need you to tell me that; I'm a doctor," he said, resting his head awkwardly against the detective's neck. "But I don't think I have the muscle strength to hold them up myself yet, either."
Sherlock frowned, eyes darting uselessly in the dark because he couldn't hold his phone and pick locks and hold John's limbs simultaneously with any efficiency. "Alright, well, I can remove the other one when we've finished with your arms."
"Nevermind. Hang on."
Close to ten minutes passed in silence while Sherlock steadily lowered John's arms at periodic intervals, naturally re-establishing blood flow into his extremities. Neither of them said anything. He could feel the doctor's arms gaining strength little by little, progressively taking on more and more of their own weight.
"You can walk, yes?" Sherlock asked finally, feeling John's wrists pull away from him.
"Yeah, I'm…fine. Sherlock, I'm fine," John answered, his footsteps moving away from him across the floor . "Can we just—"
"You are most certainly not fine," the detective interrupted, retrieving his phone and activating…that button that gave him more light, that torch app, or whatever it was called. Not important. Light flared from the screen. "Being strung up from the ceiling is not fine, John. That they deliberately exploited your shoulder is not fine. That they even took you in the first place is not fine. What definition of 'fine' are you using, John?"
"Alright," John retorted, spinning around to glare at him.
Sherlock took note of what he could see of John—the ashen, pinched expression on his flatmate's face, the irregular breathing, the way he cradled his left arm to his chest while pressing his other hand to his shoulder—and tried to clamp down on his own ire. Which was increasing. Exponentially.
"I'm not fine then; I'm tired and hungry and it feels as though someone took a red hot poker, jabbed it straight into my scar, and dug around for an hour or so. Is that what you want to hear, Sherlock? Does that make you feel better?"
Pale eyes narrowed even as the hateful fire raging his head fought to escape its prison, followed by the strong, lingering desire to set something alight. "There's no need to lash out. I understand you're in pain—"
John snorted and turned away at what he undoubtedly considered an atrocious understatement.
"—and that increases irritability. But your misguided attempt to downplay your condition is poor at best, and entirely unnecessary," Sherlock continued shortly, jaw clenching. "Even if your physical state wasn't blatantly obvious, I do not need coddling. As a medical man, you should be able to appreciate the importance of giving an honest answer."
"I don't need a lecture—"
"Give me your hand."
"No." It was reflexive and petulant because his shoulder was hurting and now he was angry, Sherlock reminded himself.
He scrutinized his friend's back, making an effort to keep his tone neutral. "So you'd prefer to keep the cuffs on, then?"
John's head tilted down as he stared at his right hand, the metal links clinking as his arm moved. "…ah."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow and stepped over to him, gingerly taking John's hand and allowing him the opportunity to refuse. John didn't look at him, but he didn't fight him either.
"Sorry," John muttered.
"That's not…oh shut up," he snapped heatedly, taking his frustration out on the lock. "That's not what I'm saying. I don't want your meaningless apology."
John looked away, studying the shelves over the detective's shoulder.
"Don't pretend with me, John," Sherlock said, his voice low. "I prefer you honest than socially correct. You know that."
He could feel John's eyes on him as the handcuffs opened and clattered to the floor.
"I do," John replied quietly.
Sherlock glanced at him and cleared his throat as he returned his lockpicks to their hiding place. "Your arm needs to be looked at, and ah…Lestrade should be here in just a moment when—"
Approaching sirens drowned out the rest of his words, making the doctor turn towards the sound.
"Yes, about time," Sherlock said derisively, and he'd be secretly relieved if the idea of being so weren't completely ridiculous, because he had no reason to be. "We should go before our favorite Detective Inspector decides storming the building is a good idea."
He didn't give John a chance to say anything else as he spun around, leading the way back to the front doors with the aid of his phone. They were within sight through the shelves when a familiar face stepped through them, walkie-talkie at the ready and movements cautious.
"Ah, Sally. Late as always, I see," Sherlock greeted her as he approached, examining her coldly in a way he knew she hated.
"Freak," she returned, her eyes sharp and darting to take in the immediate area. "Did you find—"
"Obviously," Sherlock cut her off impatiently, watching her gaze settle over his shoulder. "What were you waiting for, an engraved invitation?"
Donovan narrowed her eyes into a glare and tightened her grip on the portable radio, her dislike of him seeping through her expression. "Detective Inspector Dimmock—"
"Of course, I should have known," he stated acerbically, sweeping past her and out of the warehouse. "At least tell me he had the good sense to bring an ambulance with him."
A police perimeter was already being set up, the night air filled with flashing lights and officers running from place to place. The ambulance had already arrived, sitting with the rear doors open as the medical personnel kept an eye out for when they were needed.
Sherlock raised an arm to grab their attention, sort of like flagging down a cab, then looked back at John. He was talking to Donovan, looking increasingly ill and bad-tempered as he pulled his arm closer to his body. A sharp spike of something shot through him, tempered with a few more recognizable feelings: anger, possessiveness, and the desire to increase the distance between his flatmate and the policewoman as much as possible.
He slid between John and Sergeant Donovan while she was mid-sentence, ignoring her affronted stare that told him he had just violated another social rule of absolutely no importance.
"Hey, Freak," she began, the aggressive intonation of her words matching her unforgiving body language. "I'm a bit busy—"
"Impeding John's ability to seek medical attention, yes, I can see that," Sherlock drawled, letting the pointed, sarcastic quality in his tone tell precisely how little he thought of her. He pressed a palm to the small of John's back to get him moving. "Well done! London is certainly in safe hands tonight. Come along, John."
The doctor glanced over at Donovan and wordlessly let Sherlock steer him away from the conversation. The paramedics met them halfway, firing a volley of questions when they crossed into hearing range.
He whirled around at the exclamation to see Lestrade striding towards him, wearing his usual expression of exasperated weariness. Clearly, he was looking for an explanation to something ridiculously obvious and he wanted it now. He glanced at John. Their eyes met for a less than a second, before the shorter man inclined his head almost unnoticeably and allowed his medical brethren to herd him off to the ambulance. He shifted his attention to Lestrade.
"Good to finally see you, Lestrade," Sherlock replied, slipping his hands into his coat pockets.
Lestrade ignored him. "Why the bloody hell didn't you wait? I told you I'd get a car for you!"
"And yet I still somehow arrived here before you. Strange, isn't it?"
"You could have just said 'no' and been done with it, instead of just taking off! I asked you to wait for one sodding minute, Sherlock!" Lestrade fumed, his frustration boiling over as he crossed his arms.
Sherlock tilted his head to the side slightly and gazed up at the dark sky in a parody of thoughtfulness. "I do vaguely recall you mentioning something about needing to waste time," he agreed brightly, meeting Lestrade's gaze with a false smile.
He let the DI rant at him about the difference between being a police detective and a consulting detective for a minute, letting his overactive mind rank the conversation as a lower priority and instead taking in the activity of the surrounding area. His thoughts kept skittering back to John—how he'd been left suspended in the dark for over an hour, the pain carved into his features, the undisguised relief at his arrival. How severe was the damage to his shoulder? Was it irreversible? Would it have made a difference if he'd gone to rescue John before going to Lestrade, despite the risks involved?
"Are we done here?" interrupted Sherlock, once he'd decided the Detective Inspector didn't have anything significant to say.
Lestrade paused, giving his consulting detective a flatly incredulous look. "No, Sherlock, we're not—"
"I think we are," Sherlock said curtly, refocusing his attention on the other man's face as it furrowed into a frown. "I'll be down at the Yard first thing tomorrow, since I'm sure you'll want an accurate version of events. Yes, I'll bring John if he's up to it, and no, your delightful little speech doesn't actually make a difference although it improves every time you say it. Anything else?"
Hands on his hips, Lestrade resignedly eyed him as though he wasn't even sure what to do anymore and sighed.
"Fantastic. See you in the morning, Lestrade," the detective concluded, pivoting on his heel and walking away.
John was sitting on the back steps of the ambulance when Sherlock returned, watching the Yard's finest scurry around and inside the warehouse. One of the paramedics had deposited a blanket over his bare shoulders, his shirt most likely lost to a pair of scissors, and his left arm tied up in a sling. His flatmate glanced up as he came to a stop in front of him.
"Very fashionable," he said after a moment.
John rolled his eyes. "Have you got a spare shirt, then?"
Sherlock hesitated for a fraction of a second before carefully unbuttoning and shrugging off his coat. He watched, intrigued, when John froze while he draped it across his shoulders.
"Sherlock, what…what are you doing?" asked John, staring at him.
Raising an eyebrow, Sherlock replied, "It's a little chilly to be wandering around shirtless, don't you think? And at this point, if I remove my shirt, I'm sure Lestrade wouldn't hesitate to arrest me for public indecency."
The detective noticed the smile skirting the edges of John's mouth as the other man glanced away, tugging the coat around himself with his right hand. "Well, we wouldn't want that, I'm sure. But, uh…thank you. This is…it's rather nice of you."
Sherlock raised his eyes to study the inside of the ambulance, lingering on and mentally identifying the machinery. "I can't have my blogger running around without all his clothes on, John. People will think I don't take care of him."
There was that odd sensation again, the inherent knowledge that John's eyes were on him, that made him lower his gaze back to his friend. If he catalogued John's smiles, which he didn't but if he did, this would probably be his favorite—the one where he tried hard not to show his amusement because he thought it was something he really shouldn't find funny.
"What?" asked Sherlock, thoroughly fascinated by the tingling in the pit of his stomach, because he had caused that smile.
John let the full smile break free even as he tried to stay serious. "You're right. People would think that."
Silence fell for an instant, both of them simply watching each other.
"What does my blogger think?" he heard his voice ask without permission, sounding bizarrely detached to his own ears. The question was almost sentimental in nature and the realization almost made him cringe. He didn't care about anyone else's opinion, honestly, but John's, to a degree, was important. John was important.
Momentarily surprised by the question, John's eyes raked over his visage, searching. "I think everyone else can piss off," John said quietly, holding his gaze. "That's what I think."
Sherlock couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face, wide and utterly contagious and real. This was why John was still in Baker Street, why he was invaluable as a partner, why it was okay to need him. John knew exactly what to say when it mattered just by being himself, and honest, and he believed every word that came out of his own mouth.
It never failed to catch him by surprise, how John could warm him with the smallest gesture from his fingertips to his chest to his toes. The way his internal organs, particularly his stomach, tended to frequently vanish and reappear, the pseudo-vertigo that for no logical reason at all always gave him a thrill when John got close, an electricity that passed between them at any sort of contact at all, and if he kissed John, right now, would it feel exactly the same?
He caught himself just before he started to lean forward, saved by a rush of self-awareness and common sense. John hadn't even had a chance to go to hospital yet. With only one good arm and an unknown amount of muscle damage, having himself looked at took precedence. John's well-being came first, and with his unremarkable knowledge of human anatomy, there wasn't much he could do to help.
Sherlock tore his eyes away, settling on the two Detective Inspectors talking by the warehouse doors. "You should…" he nodded vaguely at John's sling, "go get that checked at Bart's. You're not particularly useful with your dominant trigger finger out of commission."
John didn't reply although Sherlock could feel blue eyes on him.
"Text me when you get results back. I'll be at the Yard; the last thing we need is our local police force—"
A hand at his hip ground his turning motion to a halt, strong fingers clenched in the waistband of his trousers. Gray eyes flitted to the grip on his clothes and back up to John's determined expression, his narrowed eyes. John ran his tongue over his bottom lip in his nervous thinking habit, but Sherlock still found himself following the movement.
"Sherlock, we've had more than a few…almosts, I guess you could say, whatever you want to call them, lately," John began, visibly trying to order his thoughts the way he wanted them. "Lestrade, Sally, Anderson, your brother—"
"You've kept track of them?" interjected Sherlock, giving John a piercing stare.
John stopped and stared back. "I…oh god. That's a bit not good, isn't it?"
"Bit not good, John," Sherlock agreed with him, suddenly aware of that memorable attraction creeping over him again. "But as you know, I'm a bit not good myself."
Someone moved, probably him because he had to bend down to meet John, but in the next instant there were lips against his own. It was quick and chaste, lasting only seconds before they both separated.
Sherlock met John's eyes and saw his own surprise mirrored back at him. He'd gotten so used to never quite getting there and poorly timed entrances that the lack of interruption felt…abnormal. Not abnormal enough to stop them, however.
The weight at Sherlock's hip disappeared as a hand slid into his hair and drew him into another kiss. John's mouth was warm and giving against his own, the sensation immediately jumpstarting the now familiar side effects of rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, and temporary lightheadedness. Curiosity heightened by anticipation, he allowed John to take the lead because the man had experience, obvious experience, and unlike Sherlock, he clearly knew what he was doing.
He brought his hands up to frame John's face, mimicking the soft pressing movements of the other man's lips. Sherlock had always been a quick study and now was no exception as he matched John in—
Teeth. John's teeth scraped gently at his lower lip, catching on the sensitized flesh, and Sherlock couldn't suppress a strangled sigh. Fingers relaxed and tightened at the back of his head, making his breath hitch when John teasingly repeated the motion without teeth this time, effectively parting his lips. Eyes sliding closed to focus on the incoming barrage of sensory information, he let his mouth open against John's in a silent demand for more, exhaling as the faintest tremor passed along his spine. The low noise it drew from John, rather than the fleeting touch of dampness at his bottom lip, surprised him, though both actions ignited an addictive heat that flared in his chest and rapidly spread outward. The doctor's hand untangled itself from Sherlock's curls, brushing by his ear, settling firmly on his jaw.
So strong, the feeling that ripped through him as John's tongue flicked briefly against his, powerful and all-consuming and he wanted John like he had never wanted anything in his life. He wasn't even sure what that meant, what and how much it entailed exactly, just that this man needed to stay right here where he was, with him, and Sherlock thought for a fraction of a second that if he suddenly lost everything else at that moment, well, that was okay. It was fine. John was here and had his tongue in his mouth and that was exactly where he should be. Then he stopped thinking for a bit because thinking was boring.
"John…" Sherlock murmured thickly, his voice intense and heavy to his own ears, slightly deeper than usual.
John's tongue pushed forward past his lips and teeth, hot and wet and everything he'd never thought he'd crave, stroking experimentally in a way that left him breathless. He responded instinctually, fascinated by the slick slide of muscle and saliva, the easy push-and-pull give-and-take the act required from both of them. Sherlock trailed his hands lazily down the warm column of John's neck, remembering the arm sling at the last minute as he brushed over the straps and continued down, carefully shoving his coat out of the way before smoothing over the right side of—
Oh. Oh. Mmmm, shirtless John. He'd have to remember to thank the paramedics later.
Very little compared to the rush of having bare skin under his palms; another living body he had permission to touch. John shuddered under his hands and moaned quietly into his mouth, causing a flash of smugness to diffuse through the haze in his mind. The hand at his jaw moved abruptly back to his hair and yanked, eliciting a small spike of pain as it tilted his head a little more to the side, and that hurt, why would…ah.
John was more forceful now, thrusting his tongue deeper with the change in angle and god that was perfect, right there, just like that, that was brilliant. If he said anything, made any sound at all, he didn't notice, too busy concentrating on the feel of it, trying to commit it to memory. Then he started pushing back, and it took a second before the doctor realized what he wanted.
Sherlock took his time mapping the inside of John's mouth, tracing along the edge of his teeth, curling around his tongue, excruciatingly aware of John's patience as he experimented with action and reaction. Bracing a hand on the metal flooring of the ambulance, he let it take his weight as he leaned forward into the kiss, his other hand returning to the short hair at the base of the other man's skull.
At the periphery of his hearing he caught the muffled steps of someone's approach, a confident tread with minimal scuffing that belied confidence and a swift pace that indicated irritation levels were higher than average, before they ended some yard and a half away.
The Detective Inspector's brisk tone made John start in shock; Sherlock could sense him tensing to pull away and no, that wasn't acceptable, because this wasn't over until he said it was. He followed the anticipated retreat without pausing at all in his love affair with John's lips and teeth and tongue, since John would have to stop soon enough. The doctor didn't have a great deal of room to move, after all, and Sherlock swiftly seized his chin in his left hand to keep them together, simultaneously throwing out his right with the index finger extended in the universal sign for please hold, making out with my John now.
Their intruder huffed crossly at being put on hold but Sherlock wrote him off as insignificant, along with all the other eyes he could feel on them, concentrating on the far more intoxicating feeling of John taking back control, reclaiming his own mouth with gentle insistence. He went without too much of a fuss, his flatmate nipping sharply at his tongue several times in warning, but Sherlock was nothing if not stubborn and prolonged the contact as long as possible. Even when John's skillful mouth finally closed he returned to the same methods from the beginning of the kiss, a firm, moving pressure of lips on lips that made John smile against him and loosen his fingers in Sherlock's hair.
Darkened gray eyes opened moments before the two drifted apart, immediately locking on deep blue irises centimeters away.
He looked over at Detective Inspector Dimmock's dark countenance. Offended annoyance and frigid self-control branded every inch of his features, stoked by the common, casual disrespect the detective usually showed him, and Sherlock couldn't have given any less of a fuck than he did right then.
Dismissively returning his attention to his friend, he observed the healthy flush of heat across his cheeks and bridge of his nose, the intense red tint to his mouth, bare-chested, hair in disarray, and felt a powerful surge of satisfaction as his fingers lingered at John's jaw.
"I'm a bit busy here, Inspector, as I'm sure even you can see," Sherlock announced evenly, refusing to acknowledge him with anything other than verbally. To his glee, the colour of John's face intensified in reaction to his voice, which was still deeper, rougher than normal. He smirked. "Whatever you want, make it quick."
"First off, Doctor Watson needs to go to hospital," Dimmock said curtly, although there was an underlying current of discomfort in his words. "Unless you'd prefer him to stay in an arm sling all night. And you need to stop holding up my crime scene and explain what the hell happened here."
Sherlock's gaze narrowed at the implication that he'd rather John stay in pain than leave, but the doctor must have noticed instantly because his right hand promptly tugged at his shirt.
"He has a point," John conceded, although he threw a glare at Dimmock despite his agreement. "I should go. I can't take anything until we know how much—if there's any damage."
A cursory glance at John's carefully supported arm made Sherlock straighten slowly while he assessed the visible injuries. Other than the obvious, there were a few scratches that were superficial at best and chaffing from the handcuffs around his wrists. Nothing too serious, there.
"Very well," Sherlock replied when his evaluation was complete. "Text me." He readjusted his coat over John's shoulders again, taking a little longer than strictly necessary just to have the excuse to keep touching.
John rose from his seat on the steps and discreetly grasped his hand, squeezing briefly, before turning back into the ambulance. The paramedics glared at both of them in evident disapproval of their patient's prior activities. One of them assisted John as the other came over to secure the rear doors.
Sherlock grabbed the second door at the last second, holding it open so he could see the young woman while Dimmock shifted impatiently behind him.
"I just wanted to thank you," he told her.
John's head jerked up to frown at him, disbelieving.
"I—sorry?" she asked, taken aback.
"For removing his shirt," he continued as though it were obvious, ignoring the sputtering coming from his flatmate. "Easy access is incredibly hard to come by due to his usual style of dress, and it actually made things much easier for me. Next time though, I should like to do it my—"
"Sherlock!" John cut him off loudly, flushing brightly in embarrassment.
Sherlock grinned past the two staring paramedics, wide and self-satisfied. "See you back at the flat, John." He winked and let the door slam shut.
Author's Note: Thank you so much, everyone. It was truly lovely writing for you all, and hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Worth the wait, you think? XD