A/N: This was partly inspired by T.S. Eliot's The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which is my favorite poem ever. I hope that at the end of the story I managed to convey the kind of melancholy peacefulness that I always feel when I read the poem. This is the stanza this fic was especially inspired by::
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Indeed There Will Be Time
The fog nosed its weary way through the damp London streets, attempted to veil a streetlamp that was planted in front of an old post office, and, failing in that endeavor, continued along the open streets and sidewalks. Other than the occasional spark of headlights and the intermittent drift of taciturn conversations, the city was unusually silent. The freezing night air and the smothering fog had chased all but a few hardy souls to seek shelter; those who still roamed the city were either cloistered in cars or cafes, or were homeless wretches who soon found themselves enshrouded in a blanket of chilly smog that lulled them into the deepest sleep. The fog was a vicious, bloated thing; it had haunted these isles long before London had sprang into being, and it would continue to do so long after London turned to rust. It came and went as it pleased, irritating most of the humans and causing much grumbling and many crashes of cars, carriages, hansoms, boats and various other forms of transportation that had existed over the centuries. But the fog did have some friends- those hooded criminals who preferred to do their work unseen, the sly ones who stole lives and left crimson streaks and ruby pools in the streets.
Tonight the fog would take more than its usual number of victims. Tonight there would be blood.
Their footsteps sounded positively thunderous, and John was privately amazed that they hadn't woken the whole of London by now. "Stop!" Sherlock cried again, his tall, black-coated figure bobbing ahead of John as they ran. The murderer they were chasing fled under a streetlamp, momentarily illuminating his unruly brown hair and his wide brown eyes as he glanced back at his pursuers. Sherlock seemed to be gaining on the man, and John forced himself to run faster in spite of his protesting lungs. I wish I was taller, he thought grudgingly, and not for the first time. He didn't notice until too late the fog that swirled around their feet, then rose to grasp at their knees and thighs. It wasn't until the killer and Sherlock had fully vanished into the thick grey vapour that John realized that this was bad. He skidded to a halt, looking round for any sign of movement and wishing that they were in a better part of town, and pulled out his gun.
"Sherlock?" He tried, then stilled and listened. Frantic footfalls sounded in the distance and John sighed dispiritedly. He had lost them. Right, he thought. Okay then. It's fine. It's all fine. He took a deep breath and began to walk forward, his gun ready and his muscles tense as his sharp eyes swept the area. The footfalls in the distance had faded, replaced by a silence that made John all the more nervous. Then, from the blank silence ahead, a gunshot. Just one, and it was an earsplitting roar that sent John running, flying blindly through the thick fog and hoping, hoping, that it was Sherlock who had pulled the trigger. His heart was pounding in time with his footsteps and it suddenly seemed difficult to breathe, but John ran and ran and...Shit. He couldn't see a thing. Sherlock could be five feet away and John wouldn't know, but he couldn't call out because Sherlock could very well be unconscious and then the killer would be able to find John.
Quietly John pulled out his phone and sent a blank text to Sherlock, then paused and cocked his head, listening. A faint ringing tinkled from the cloudy depths surrounding him. It was emanating from somewhere not too far ahead and to the right of him, and John crept quickly but carefully toward the sound.
He heard Sherlock before he saw him; the detective's breathing was loud and uneven, and for a moment John's mind was utterly blank before his medical training kicked in. He surged forward, removing his coat as he did, so that by the time Sherlock's prone form swam into view John was prepared to put pressure on the wound and was thinking about using his belt as a tourniquet if one was needed. "Sherlock," he breathed again as he knelt, leaning forward to try to see through the fog where the bullet had hit. "Where are you hurt?" The ground beneath his knees was wet, and John realized that he was kneeling in a puddle of blood. One of his hands automatically found Sherlock's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. "Stomach," ground out Sherlock, and John mentally swore as he gently prodded Sherlock's torso. Blood swirled around his practiced fingers and a sharp gasp told him he had found what he was looking for. He pressed his coat to the wound, and Sherlock spasmed.
"John-" Weakened hands pulled at John's arms, plucking softly against the sleeves of his jumper.
"Shhh, don't talk. I'm going to call an ambulance, okay?" A pause, as John realized he wouldn't be able to tell the dispatcher where they were. "I'm going to need your phone. It has the map on it." He was reaching for the pocket where he knew Sherlock usually left his phone when he heard the soft footsteps behind him. Automatically he reached for his gun, and it was gripped firmly in his hand, ready to fire at the grey figure materializing out of the fog, when he thought, It could be anybody. It could be someone trying to help. The click of the safety being released put an end to that possibility and John didn't think as he threw himself over Sherlock while simultaneously aiming at the menacing figure and pulling the trigger. Two gunshots rang out at once, then silence fell.
The fog stretched and wavered as the sun began its ascent. It uncurled itself from around London, lingered for a time, then lifted slowly. As it stole away it unveiled the bodies of three people strewn over the sidewalk in a dilapidated part of the city. One of the bodies was crumpled by itself, a bullet hole torn over its heart. The other two were nearby, curled around each other as if seeking warmth. Their hands were entwined, and one of the dead men had black curly hair that fluttered minutely in the morning breeze. The wail of sirens pierced the still morning, and the denizens of the city stirred awake and opened their doors and windows, grateful for the warmth of the sun and the promise of a new day.