Part One: Crimson
There is such a thing as a dull criminal. Sherlock muses this as he's running through a back-alley in the dead of night. The alley smells of piss and wet tarmac. He can hear the haggard breath of his companion at his shoulder, and he wonders if the criminal they are chasing deserves their efforts. He is neither intelligent nor skilled. He's a common thug with no motivation but to kill people because they piss him off. It's the best Lestrade could offer though and it is a Friday night. Sherlock had promised John they'd go out for the night. He begins to think of dinner as his feet hit the damp paving slaps. It's for this reason, or so Sherlock imagines, that he is knocked off his feet by a dustbin lid that is hurled in his direction. Perhaps this criminal is becoming more inventive?
Sherlock looks up from the floor, and is unsurprised that John has caught up with the criminal; the latter rather foolishly comes to a halt to admire his own handy work. As Sherlock scrambles up from the floor, he sees John struggling with the assailant, and a strange strangled cry fills the air before the man pushes John away with force and continues to run. Sherlock is moving again now, rushing past John who is swaying on the spot in the middle of the alley.
"Are you alright?" It's a throw-away comment over Sherlock's shoulder. He's already passed John; mind now fully focused on the chase.
"I'm fine," says John, but it's not John, not his usual voice anyway, and there's something significantly changed in the man's tone that causes Sherlock to slow in confusion and look back at his friend, in time to see him collapse to the cold floor below him. Sherlock can hear the fading footsteps; the unimpressive assailant is getting away. It's no matter. Something else has grabbed Sherlock's attention and heart, and squeezed tightly.
He throws himself down at John's side, hearing the strange gurgling in place of John's regular breathing. Sherlock's face is puzzled as he lowers it down to John. He puts his hand automatically on John's chest, and feels the damp warmth on his palm. He lifts his hand up to the dim light and sees a stain of crimson.
Oh that is a surprise. Sherlock has always been mildly respectful of stab wounds. It's such a personal, upfront attack; none of the distance and anonymity of a bullet from afar. If done elegantly and correctly of course.
The colour has drained from John's face, and he's trying to smile reassuringly up at Sherlock. It makes Sherlock cross.
"It's just a scratch," John croaks, and his chest begins to rattle with every breath. Sherlock doesn't appreciate being lied to. He finds it insulting. He's not stupid, and John knows this. John is still smiling.
"Fuck!" Sherlock says, to the cold night air. "John, what do I do?"
"Ambulance?" The tone is suggestive and Sherlock wants to laugh. He really wants to laugh. John would be laughing, if he could.
"Right." He fumbles for his phone, and bloody fingers jab at the screen. He hates the woman on the other end of the line, for being so calm and kind. He wants her to panic. He wants her to know that this is bloody John Watson, brilliant John Watson, and he doesn't deserve to die in some sodden alley.
John's eyes are struggling to stay open, and he's shivering. Sherlock decides that it is the wet, cold floor causing this, and nothing else. He takes off his coat and puts it across John's body. He then takes his scarf and presses it against John's chest, in the hope that it'll do something...anything.
"You let him get away," John says quietly.
"I'll get him." It's a definite promise. This is inexcusable and personal. It got Sherlock's attention.
From further down in the alley, Sherlock hears the familiar voices of Lestrade and Donavon, mingled with their hurrying footsteps. He hears them skid to a halt, and take in the scene before them.
"Shit!" Lestrade hisses, and is also down on his knees. Sherlock shoves the bloodied phone in Lestrade's direction. Sally is hovering wide-eyed over the scene. Sherlock realises he's never seen Sally Donavon frightened before. That thought sends Sherlock suddenly nauseous. Sally abruptly snaps into action and pulls off her own jacket, placing it around Sherlock's shoulders. He finds the act rather odd, but accepts it. Had he be trembling?
Sally talks frantically to the D.I and then begins to clear the alleyway of bins; making way for the ambulance which Sherlock is certain will come at any moment. Lestrade is still talking away anxiously on the phone to the Emergency Services. Sherlock looks back down into the bleary eyes of his friend. As John blinks drowsily, a tear escapes out of the corner of his eye and runs down to his ear.
"I'm sorry," he says quiet and Sherlock finds himself shaking his head in irritation.
Sherlock grasps John's hand and presses it to his own chest, the stickiness of John's blood passing from palm to palm.
"John, stay with me. Talk to me."
John tries to smile. Words fail to form in John's mind so he begins to hum softly, to a tune that Sherlock doesn't recognise.
"We were good though, right?" John speaks up after a long moment and Sherlock finally begins to understand what heartache feels like. He can't breathe as he looks down at John who is blinking calmly back up at him. Sherlock wants to scream, to shake his shoulders, for a reaction other than this. John doesn't seem to be in pain, but he's very tired and shivering uncontrollably. Sherlock pulls John's shoulders from the ground and onto his knee, in the hope of keeping him warm.
"We will always be good," Sherlock insists. And there it is; the anxiety sets in on John's face as he realises what is coming, and Sherlock recalls that he wished it there. He pulls John's body closer to him, studying the pool of scarlet which surrounds them. Surely this isn't right? Surely people don't bleed this quickly? Sherlock can't remember. He can't remember anything of use. His mind is transfixed by the thought of John's heart pumping his life away. He wishes John's heart would slow; to realise that it's working against them. Grey eyes begin to sting madly and Sherlock is cross with himself. He wipes at his face, smearing crimson on ivory.
John's voice speaks up quietly, but resolutely.
"I love you."
"Don't," Sherlock pleads through gritted teeth. Angry tears fall on John's chest, adding to the fray.
"I do. You're bloody brilliant. I would...have stayed with you...forever." John struggles for breath and stops. It has taken all his energy. His eyelids begin to close heavily.
"I haven't finished with you yet," Sherlock insists desperately. He has never spoken a truer word. There is no reply. The silence is sickening. "John? John? Don't...Don't you do this to me!"
How had this all gone so horribly wrong? It was an easy case. Simple. Dull. Sherlock had not seen this coming. It was like some ridiculous dream. He suddenly hears a voice, which he realises is his own, shouting incoherently at Lestrade, Donavon, anybody who will listen. He can feel himself being dragged out from under John's body by a pair of firm hands, and through the blurriness of his vision he sees a composed Lestrade working frantically against John's chest, with rhythmic, pleading compresses. Sherlock has never been more grateful that Lestrade knows how to do something, and do it well. He's also never been more relieved; as the alley is filled with a sudden burst of noise and blue light.
Sherlock can't bring himself to look down at his friend, lying silent and motionless on the ground, as the paramedics arrive and move swiftly into action. He's vaguely aware of Lestrade taking most if not all of his weight with an arm around his waist. Sherlock wants to pull away, but he's not all together sure if he is conscious. His body is screaming at him to black out, but his brilliant mind is fighting it. His legs are hit by the wave of cold and numbness, where John's body had been moments before.
There is a quiet announcement of a faint pulse, and John is being whisked away towards the open doors of the ambulance. It's a brief moment before Sherlock realises he's being dragged in the opposite direction, towards a waiting police car. The lights are bright, and he winces in pain. His sodden coat is left behind; alone and ruined in the alley.
The car is moving fast; faster than Sherlock's mind can work. The siren is blaring, and Sherlock can't think. He needs to think. He can feel himself falling apart. In his head, he pictures John on the sofa, a mug in his hand. He pictures John laughing at a highly inappropriate moment. The memory of the laugh gets drowned out by the wail of the siren.
Is this what it's like to care? Sherlock finally begins to understand it now. It's inbuilt; an instinct. He couldn't care about strangers, it was unnatural to him. But this...he can't stop the flood of desperation which aches his chest. The victims, the bodies he has seen in his life time, they were just insignificant. But they had been someone's son, daughter, neighbour, lover...friend. Sherlock has never had a reason to care...until now. His brain notifies him smugly of his lack of oxygen seconds before he passes out.