Title: the inevitable advancement of time
Rating: PG-13
Pairings/Characters: Sherlock, John, Lestrade, Donovan
Warnings: Gun violence, implied past drug abuse, swearing
Summary: Sherlock's been shot. It's sinking in that he's alone here, bleeding out in this alleyway, and he doesn't want to die like this. So stupid, oh so stupid.

Author's Note: I don't have a medical degree and have the good fortune to have never been shot, so apologies in advance for any medical fail. Also, this ended up present-tense and somewhat stream-of-consciousness (ish), so be warned if that's not your cup of warm beverage.

Sherlock isn't expecting to be shot.

Chasing a suspect through the backalleys of London, his knowledge of seedy corners and vomit-strewn dead ends puts him ahead of Lestrade and the others. The suspect – young, male, jeans and dark hoodie – hasn't much of a lead left now, and he has nowhere to go once around this corner and through the loading bay of the shop beyond. He reaches the end of the alleyway and stops, reaches into his jacket, turns. Sherlock's brain has time to register the behaviour, but then suddenly it's like he's hit by a car and he's on his back staring at grimy walls and the strip of pale blue sky far above and oh, this hurts.

He didn't know he had a weapon. Why didn't he know that? Was it important? No. No, it probably wasn't, right now.

Because footsteps are approaching and Sherlock needs to get up, because he can't defend himself like this. He tries to roll. Movement sends white-hot agony burning – everywhere, and he gasps, vision greying. No, not going to work. Doesn't matter, because the footsteps near and the suspect passes and he doesn't even look at Sherlock, bleeding into the dirty mud. Sherlock has a clear view of him, if upside-down. He's breathing rapidly, eyes wide, gun held inexpertly. He goes left, probably through the narrow gap between the flats and the bakery, heading back into the estate.

There's a lot of blood, bubbling up over his hands where they're pressed to the wound. His breath is coming rapidly, and the lines of everything around him seem clearer. Autonomic response. Adrenaline kicks in, senses heightened, time slowing down. The body prioritising its resources, attempting to give him everything he needs for survival.

The rubbish behind him smells terrible. Cold water is seeping through his coat and suit. There's the low murmur of noise from traffic a few streets over; London's voice, never quiet.

His phone. His phone, top pocket. Can't get at it. Rolling was stupid. Gritting his teeth, he forces his body to turn. The jolt sends a welter of agony through him, worst than anything before. He's panting. Edges of his vision greying again.

It's all fascinating, but no real time to appreciate the sensory data now. Because the pain's just getting worse and the bleeding's not stopping and he loves blood, yes he does, but this much of his own is not good and it's sinking in that he's alone here, bleeding out in this alleyway, and he doesn't want to die like this, so stupid, oh so stupid.

The pain worsens again – how is that possible? – when he takes away his hand, dragging it up to his pocket, pulling out his phone. His fingers are fumbling, slippery with blood, shiny and red. Lestrade. Lestrade should be close. Should be here. Where is he? Why are they so slow and stupid?

It feels like it's been hours. Autonomic response, he thinks again. Impression of time slowing.

At least his life's not flashing past his eyes, except in the usual way. That's the last thing he needs right now.

He fumbles at the keypad, hits a number for the speed dial that could be Lestrade, though he can't swear to it. The phone almost slips from his fingers. He doesn't trust himself to coordinate enough to work the speaker setting. Presses it to his ear instead. Blood from his fingers drips to his face. It smells like copper and salt and violence.

Burr as the phone rings. A click as it's picked up, as it connects. He can see every detail in the pattern of the bricks on the building beside him. Red bricks once. Now black. Could probably tell the age of the building from those bricks. Useless data. Crisp packet not far from his head. Salt and vinegar. Like his blood, blood that's creeping in tendrils across the dirty puddle towards it. No. Blood is water and protein and gas and cells, three layers in centrifuge, yellow-cream-black.

John's voice, familiar in exasperation, says, "Sherlock. You're lucky I'm on a break."

John. John is not here. John is no good. Still, it's a curious sort of relief to hear his voice. The stark emptiness of the alleyway is beginning to press. He doesn't want to be alone. Doesn't want this. Dirty alleyway, two-bit criminal who'd never fired a gun before. Rubbish.

He has words marshalled in a second: calm, urgent, authoritative. John. I've been shot. Single gunshot wound, lower abdomen. Bleeding out. I'm in an alley behind the used goods dealership. Pilkington's? Melvington's? No, Wallington's. That was it. Get word to someone. Get an ambulance.

When he speaks, they don't come out. The pain is worse and oh, god, he's going to die here, and John's not even close. Not even close. Something comes out of his mouth, a groan or a gasp or something else, and it's nothing, god, why can't he control his body. Tears of pain are leaking out his eyes and it's wrong.

"Sherlock?" John says. He's going to hang up in another moment, going to shake his head and think it's a pressed button, an accidental call, a mistake.

Try again. Calm. Control. Brisk. Cold. Clinical. Detached. John. Shot. John. Bleeding. John.

His breath catches, stutters. His left hand tightens over the wound. Blood is bubbling, too much blood. Fifteen percent lost, peripheral vasoconstriction begins, vessels tightening, skin cooling, attempting to preserve blood flow. Thirty percent lost, hemorrhagic shock sets in, followed quickly by hypovolemic shock. Multiple organ failure. Apply pressure. Blood runs fresh over his fingers. Breath keens out of him, tasting like dirt and the sweet-sour stench of the rubbish behind him. His body shudders of its own volition.

Instead of speech, a noise in curls his throat, sobs out of him into the air. The sky is blue enough to burn his watering eyes, up past the smoke and dirt-darkened bricks.

It reminds him of being underwater. Drowning. Sunlight rippling on the surface, seen from below.

An odd numbness is creeping over him. Water and blood against his skin and it's cold.

"Shit," John says quietly in his ear. And – yes, John. Exactly. Exactly.

He likes that. It sounds like it's meant for him, breath compressed to signals ghosting across the air.

Like John's crouching there with him, a hand on his shoulder.

And then John's barking, "Your phone. Give me – no, here. Now! Sherlock," he says close to the receiver, calm again, calm but firm, "you need to stay on the line. Lestrade," now he's muttering to himself, like John does, like John always does, half the time not realising it, "Lestrade. Let me. Yes."

Heartbeat is rapid. Blood pressure low. Working to pump blood that isn't there to his organs and his lungs and his brain. Blood that's leaking out his fingers and swimming in tendrils that swirl through the mud. His cardiopulmonary system is going to kill him.

"It's all right," John says. "Please, Sherlock, just. Hold on."

There are footsteps. Multiple people, running. This way. His hand jerks, arm splashing in the brown and dark red of the puddle, wetness seeping through the thick material of his sleeve. He tries to move, but it's an ugly lurch, and the pain tears a choked noise from him.

John's voice, somewhere. "Sherlock?"

They're coming, true, but whom? Friend or foe or archnemisis? The blood is warm but his hands are freezing. He's been here hours, surely.

Autonomic. It had to be less than a minute since he'd called John.

And then there are people everywhere. Lestrade's on his knees over him, heedless of the puddle, swearing. Someone's crouching by his head. The phone is taken out of his hand. His fingers spasm at the sudden loss. "Get pressure on that wound!" Lestrade shouts. And then Sherlock's jerking and gasping and god, the pain. He flails out and his boot heels thud against the cement and he swearing, or at least something's coming out of his mouth.

Sally Donovan's somewhere because he can hear her muttering by his ear, "It's all right, mate. It's all right." Someone pushes his hands away as they clutch reflexively at the wound. Sally presses him down and keeps repeating the words.

Somewhere else, Lestrade is muttering, "Not authorised to pursue suspects, Sherlock, shit. How many times have I told you? How many times?" He shouts, "Where's the ambulance?"

It's been a lifetime but the sky's still searing his eyes with blue. Words clutter on his tongue, caught and tripping in his teeth, becoming senseless, swallowed in anguished breath, eaten in the nerve endings and clamouring of his body, his vile demanding body.

He's furious, in a way that has no anchor or direction. But what— he thinks, words falling in time with Sally's words. The thought won't finish itself.

The paramedics are a haze, curt voices and hands too urgent to be gentle. A man and a woman and he should be able to read their lives from their faces and their shoes, nothing hidden, but it's all out of focus and they're blank and it's wrong.

They don't know who he is. Reduced to a body, a lump of flesh and bone under needles and they talk over him. Medical terminology. Code. He can break any code, given time. Codes are everywhere, meaning tucked away inside them. The blood of numbers.

He reaches but no one is there. Then he's confused. Hands he doesn't know and he always knows push at him and he thrusts them away and his brain plays words at him in a loop, unfinished, but what. But what.

It torments him until unconsciousness finally drags him down.

He wakes with no sense of how much time has passed. What did he take, is his first nearly-coherent thought. And how much. But no. Quiet mechanical whirr by his head. Someone breathing quite close. Muted sounds from further away.

Hospital. Overdose? Something wrong. Everything so slow. Something. Something just out of reach. Not a good thing.

A vague sense, as his eyes drag open of their own accord, of the outline of memory. Sense memory. Something on his face and light in his eyes and movement jolting and, and. Something.

Something. Someone nearby. There's shadow in most of the room. His eyes are closing. Gaze sliding left, toward the soft light. Someone. Mycroft.

Damn Mycroft. Sitting, staring ahead. Legs crossed. Umbrella resting loosely in one hand. He's tapping, Sherlock realises. Fingers absently thrumming against the handle. A tune. Familiar.

Matins? Matins. Bells. The green of the garden outside the nursery.

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

Idiotic. So idiotic.

Mycroft stares ahead, fingers barely moving as they sound out the old tune. Sherlock's eyes close.

"You do so resent having been seen at your weakness," Mycroft murmurs from somewhere beyond the creeping grey. Smug bastard.

Sherlock is already sliding away into unheard notes.

He wakes again. Some time has passed. How much time? Can't tell. Unsettling.

Someone is breathing again. Nearby. Deep and regular. Sleeping. Not Mycroft.

There is a wide gulf of fog between consciousness and physical state. How much did he...? No, been through this. Slow. Everything is slow. Soft. Suffused.

Eyes not open. Open them. Blink. The ceiling is white, and he feels like he should be wary of it. It seems a strange inclination, but very little is making sense currently.

The breather is to his left, beyond the range of his vision. No alteration of rhythm in response to his changed state. Sleeping, then, yes. A magazine dangles loosely.

And what of him? Memory teases, oil on water against the presently slippery surface of his mind. Grasping, but scraps have no meaning without context. So. Detective, detect yourself.

That seems funny. Should it? No. Morphine. He should have recognised it earlier. Clouding his mental processes. Morphine, morphine. Bad. Why? Could be a problem later.

Unpleasant. He watches the ceiling carefully. He has been known to hallucinate on morphine. Not as badly as he has under more interesting influences, but still. Ants? No, it's a hospital. Flecks of dust. Ignore.

Body feels distant, disconnected. Pain there, somewhere.

Hands are fine. Drip connected to arm. Head sound. Feet, full sensation. No bandages or otherwise on neck or shoulders.

Oh. Abdominal area. Dressings. Traumatic wound? But what—

His hands brush the area. No response. Perhaps if—

Oh. The shock of pain is unexpected and a choke noise escapes before he can curtail it, body going rigid briefly, breathing hissing through his teeth. Adrenaline response, nerves flaring, yes he's got it. Hands clutching reflexively at stiff sheets.

Not enough morphine.

The magazine hits the floor, the breather abruptly awake. Flinch at the movement and oh, not a good idea. John is suddenly there, one hand on his shoulder, the other on his wrist, drawing his hands away from the pain. "Hey," John says, blinking, "okay. Take it easy."

Obviously. Obviously.

John looks at his face. Slowly removes his hands. They hover, hesitant. Like birds. No, hands are not like birds at all. "Sherlock," John says, and Sherlock hates that he's speaking soothingly, reassuringly. Addressing a patient. "You're all right. You were shot, you lost a hell of a lot of blood, you probably don't remember, and that's fine, that's smart, that's your head dealing with things in order of priority." John's lips twist. "Sorry. I fell asleep. I didn't want – I know what it's like – well." He looks like he wants to pat Sherlock's shoulder with his hands that are not at all like birds, but he doesn't.

The flecks on the ceiling are not moving. Sherlock's hands close, fists of overstarched bedsheet caught, crumpled, released. Interminable.

John watches him some more, then casually asks, "Tell me the year?"

"My head is fine." His voice emerges as a croak. "Water."

John shakes his head. "Ice." He looks relieved. Smiles. He does pat Sherlock's shoulder as he leaves and Sherlock only inclines away slightly because it's the most movement he can manage right now. John gives him another slight furrow but it's gone when he returns a moment later.

By that time Sherlock is less concerned. He's found the control for morphine dosage. The struggle is brief. No, but yes. Not good. His head is full of fog and glow and ants that aren't there. His thumb is pressing the button anyway.

"Mycroft was here," Sherlock says, concentrating.

"Yes," John says. "Yesterday and last night. He left." He has that slightly crease between his eyebrows that Sherlock knows well, usually directed at him when he says some indefinably or irrelevantly inappropriate thing. Nice to see it pointed at someone else for once. "Some international incident."


John frowns at him as though looking for something, but Sherlock is quite unconcerned. John shakes his head slightly and says, "One of the hospital doctors will be in here shortly."

Sherlock notes, "I have a doctor."

John looks back at him and smiles. Sherlock returns it.

Going to be fine. Obviously.

He closes his eyes and depresses the control for more morphine, barely noticing as John gently pries it out from his hand and moves it away.

He's at a crime scene, analysing, data leaping out as fast as he can process it. Hypotheses stream in his mind, conclusions rejected half-formed. The shoes and the hands and the fingers; waiter. The blood spatter; the murderer was tall. The room smells like blood and sweat and people insist on breathing and it's annoying. Jacket. He spins on his heel.

The room greys abruptly. A hand seizes the back of his coat, not gently, drags him a step back and down into a chair, something smooth and hard and stiff-backed. He lists for a second. Just a second. The hand on his coat tightens and the back of the chair digs into his shoulderblades and ah. Heel of his palms pressed to his temples.

John is behind him, right behind him, not visible but there at his elbow, close enough to feel. His hand loosens on the fist of coat he's caught, slackens and eases and lets go. Rests briefly on the back of Sherlock's shoulder and then is gone.

Sherlock presses the heels of his palms into his temples, closes his eyes, sees lines of gold trace burning scars across his lids. But it's useless. Scratch the inside of his lids, the explosion of thought with all the fascinating glittering little strands of possibility and inspiration that he had a moment ago is gone.

John says nothing. Lestrade says nothing. Even Sally says nothing. He wishes she would. Freak would be welcome right now, an old friend. He'd much rather she fling barbs at him to see him react than this confusion of pity and unease.

His eyes open. "Jacket," he says.

They all look blank. As usual. "What?" says Lestrade.

Sherlock stands, turns, crosses to the stand and flings the leather duster off its hook. He hates as he does so that he moves more carefully, even as he knows it's too carefully concealed to be seen.

Well. John looks very, very neutral.

"Come on then, if you're coming," Sherlock says, and he strides out, not bothering to see if they follow. Not need to see, for John.

The air outside is heavy, the sky grey and low. His dreams still sear with the bright burning blue from over the alleyway, but it's growing less distinct with each passing day. Slower than he likes. Too slow.

Better than nothing at all.

He strides into the fine mist, John at his side and Lestrade not far behind. The man clings like a limpet these days, but even that is starting to wear away. Most things do, Sherlock has found, with time. He brushes his side with his hand absently, and ignores John's sidelong frown.

There's a crime to solve. There's always another crime to solve.

He tucks his chin to his collar and smiles as the rain sets in.