Come on, you know I don't own anything. They aren't my characters, I'm just making them suffer a little...
"I will not negotiate with terrorists. You ought to be aware of the protocol." You wave a casual hand indicating that this notebook is to be withdrawn from your desk, but of course you don't miss the man's wide pupils and the way his hands shake ever so slightly. There is something he didn't tell you.
You raise an inquisitive brow because that always seems to put people on the edge and make them come clear. "Or is there any special reason I should make an exception in this case?"
He wets his lip, nervous, maybe they have taken hostages, maybe someone he knows, someone close to him, family perhaps, which makes this delicate and means you have to get him out of the room in case they can't be saved. No one compromised in such a way can have any part in the making the necessary decision.
"Sir, they claim to hold your brother."
Well, obviously the latter only applies to ordinary people.
"I see." you say and feel how your intended comprehending facial expression ends up as a bit of a grimace, but the man doesn't seem to take notice.
"In this case I will take the notebook if you please."
He hands it over and when you open it a wiry man grins at you from the display. "Mr. Holmes, what a pleasure to finally be granted an audience."
What a low-life. "Don't get overexcited. I do not negotiate with terrorists."
The grin won't fade. "So I hear. Which is why we acquired a little something to make sure we get your attention."
He is trying to play you and you will not be played. If he hoped to see you anxious he will be disappointed. "You have 30 seconds. Thrill me."
His eyes go narrow, but then the visual shifts and a new figure comes into focus. No mistake possible. They really got him and you feel a cold molasses flow into your veins spreading through the body slowly but steadily and slightly sickening.
You knew it would happen someday. You always knew you could not forever stop it from happening. Not without locking him up somewhere. And he was never very cooperative when it came to his security. Always sneaking out unnoticed and flushing your bugs down the toilette.
Apart from that one time when Dr. Watson came over and dumped a whole load of them on your desk demanding that you'd stop "acting out your paranoid fantasies of omnipotence and pathological compulsion to control" at the expense of his privacy.
You were actually surprised: "I took you for a clever man, doctor. Surely you've figured out by now why I do what I do."
He had the decency to look a little contrite. "Well, I imagine, a man in your position is subjected to many threats and has to take security precautions for his next of kin."
"Exactly. Sherlock isn't very complaisant unfortunately, but I have the safety of the kingdom to account for and that means I cannot afford to give anyone leverage over me. Every enemy of mine could snatch him and try to trade his life for my loyalty to the state. And while I assure you that I am not susceptible to blackmail, I would not … enjoy … making that decision."
How long ago had that conversation taken place? 5 months? 6?
You realize that you did not think then that you would ever have to make the decision, not really, and you are taken aback to find yourself having stooped to such an infantile instinct, the suppression of unwelcome knowledge.
The man is back in the display grinning malignantly. "I trust we achieved sufficient thrilling?"
"What do you want?" you ask coldly.
"You take the phone, call your people off Dr. Strindner and tell him to hand that metal suitcase over to my men. As soon as they are safely out of country with the merchandise we will set your brother free." So that is what they are after – the prototype for the new production run of bio-chemical weapons. Intending to use it for their next blackmail no doubt and with that instrument in their hands, no government could afford to turn their offer down.
"I will do nothing of the kind." you assure the man in the display.
"Then your brother dies." he replies shrugging. Obviously he assumes that you think he's bluffing.
You don't and clench your teeth. "That would be most regrettable. But I cannot accept your terms."
For a second the man looks at you incredulously, then he shakes his head. "So it is true then." he states, sounding a little startled. "You are made of ice. You really have no heart."
You do not dignify this with an answer and he goes on to squint at you through the screen. "Or maybe you do not yet believe me? You do not believe I would really have him killed?" he suggests.
"Oh, I do believe you." you reply. "But I am not a private person with family ties in this very moment. I am a state official and as such I cannot be held to ransom. I mustn't be compromised."
He looks at you a little longer and then his features change from sceptical to angry. "Goddammit!" he shouts and disappears from the display. There is a thumping noise and some muffled but distinct sounds of pain and then the picture sways again, falling once more on Sherlock. The wiry man kicks him once, twice, three times, swearing loudly all the time.
There is a harsh intake of breath from the group of assistants that is standing around you and you hear them whisper behind your back.
They probably think you don't listen, probably think your attention elsewhere but you don't miss anything. The hushed voices: "Look at him, standing there all cool. He's not human."
'Not human, no.' you think. By 'human' they usually mean 'what the masses are like'. The norm.
Human is always closely tied to 'natural'. Nature, human nature. You've always considered this to be a bundle of rather primitive, archaic instincts. It means being driven by irrational emotions. It means not being in control.
No, this is not who you are. And not what you desire to be. You are above this pitiful state of being, all juices and drives. You are superhuman. And you make the rational choice.
It is horrible, yes. But 'horrible' is not a category to make decisions in, especially not decisions of this magnitude.
The intervention team should have them surrounded by now. And maybe there is a chance that they get in there and to Sherlock before these terrorists have him killed. But you know this to be wishful thinking. You have all the on-site information and there is just no way the team will get in unnoticed. The only thing to hope for is, that they shy away from unnecessary bloodshed, maybe think that it will count in their favor if they let him live.
The negotiator seems to have calmed down a little and returns to the screen. "You know I am going to kill him if I don't get what I want. If I can't win this I will not give you the satisfaction of a complete triumph. I will kill him so this is no total victory for you. You know I will." he hisses.
So much for hope.
"I do believe you. But I'm afraid I cannot change my decision." you answer and the man gives you another look full of hatred. "Tell it to his face then." he spits and then there is Sherlock back in the picture, his gaze steady but unreadable. "Tell him then!" comes a voice from the off. "Tell your brother that you are condemning him to death!"
You swallow, open your mouth, hesitate. The words come sluggishly, bumping and stumbling around your mouth like drunkards returning home from the pub.
But you straighten them out before they are allowed out in the open.
"You know I had to make this decision. I'm sure you didn't expect anything else."
Some kind of gleam flashes up in those blue eyes and you wonder if you can really bear to hold his gaze, but this is the least you can do. You owe it to him.
"Not at all." he answers seriously and you find yourself chewing your lip, a treacherous sign of unsettledness, as you search for anything else to say. Nothing too affectionate, nothing to make this angry man think he could hurt you by hurting Sherlock.
"I'm sorry." is what you finally settle for and it sounds just as it was meant to: polite, detached.
"Of course you are." he replies, the sarcasm barely audible.
At this moment a sudden commotion starts and once again the visual is lost in blurs. People are shouting, all speaking at once, but it isn't hard to make out the words. "We are surrounded. They are outside, a whole unit, we are outnumbered and outgunned."
The negotiator reappears in the monitor, throwing you a fierce look. "You have us then, Mr. Holmes. But ere you catch us, we will take something from you in turn." He turns to his men and orders "Kill him." And with a last hateful glance at you he adds: "And make sure our friend in Westminster Palace gets a good look."
The picture blurs anew and focuses on Sherlock's face again. He doesn't get the chance to look at you as a hand grabs the back of his head and forces it down, impeding him from looking up. Then another hand comes into the picture, holding a knife and without much ado it slits the throat in one quick, graceful movement.
Blood splutters out, an awful lot of blood in just the blink of a lid and anatomic illustrations flash up in your mind. The common carotid artery supplies the head and neck with oxygenated blood; it divides in the neck to form the external and internal carotid arteries.the jugular veins parallel the upward course of the carotid arteries and drain blood into the superior vena cava. If both carotids and the jugulars are cut together, brain death can occur in as little as 17 seconds.
'At least it's a clean death.' you find yourself thinking and then the visual's gone.
No one dares address you as you stare silently at the dark display, but you keep calm, concentrate on the situation at hand. The unit must have stormed the building by now and you need to finish this. Close the case. "Get me the communications from the intervention-site." you order and within seconds they get you someone on the phone who is surveying the area. No need for you to give any more instructions, it doesn't take very long before you get the "All clear now, Sir." and you tell him to put them into solitary confinement until further notice and then you put the phone down and look at the assembled clerks, that give you looks full of dread and awkwardness and pity and a little contempt and you give them a stiff minuscule smile. "All clear, gentlemen, we are done. And now, if you would excuse me for a moment."
You don't wait for their reaction just walk straight for the door, keep walking, keep walking until you reach that special compartment you had made just for such an occasion. The small room where you know you will be entirely private, no one watching, no one entering unbidden. The moment you close the door behind you, your legs give way unexpectedly and you fall to your knees, retching, choking, blinded by unforeseen tears.
It is undignified, but you have no resistance left in your body, can't fight for one more second, fall prey to the juices.
You cannot stop the wailing and somewhere, somewhere in a tiny little part of your mind that still is capable of coherent thought you remember 'Soundproof. Good thing I had this build soundproof.' but that proves to be just the excuse it needs to give in as well.
And you sink. Sink into emotion that roars up in you like a dragon, a monster from ancient myths, rearing countless heads, screaming revenge.
"No!" It screams. "No! Not the right decision! I want to take it back! Let me take it back!"
And there are flames in front of your eyes and you see it all too clearly: You saying "No, take what you want, but let him go." And he stumbles over to you and you both rise above London, which is covered in smoke and someone tugs at your sleeve pleading and crying: "But the people! What about the people?" And you look at him coldly and reply "Let them burn!" And you look at Sherlock who smiles at you happily and you think 'He's worth a thousand of them and more.' and you smile back at him, joy and relief flooding you and triumph. All is well now.
When the heat ebbs away, you are down on the floor. You are cold, shivering, your cheeks wet, your mouth tasting bitter, bile on the floor.
You get up and wipe your face and can't stop yourself from thinking 'What for? What does it matter, this game of power and control? Why did I pledge my life to politics?'
'To save yourself from being bored to death.' some treacherous part of your mind reminds you.
Maybe you should just walk away from it all. Just leave. But that would irrational. Just now when you really and truly do not have any weak points anymore. When it is finally a fact that no one can touch you anymore.
When you get back to the office a phone is pressed into your hand instantly and the Captain of your intervention team gives you bewildering news from the capture, well, bewildering to him.
"Sir, Irene Adler was with them. Wasn't she supposed to be dead?"
Irene Adler? Why would she- You hitch a breath.
"Captain, is my brother alive?" Even you are amazed at how composed you sound. No eagerness, no fear, no hope, no emotion betrayed in your voice.
"Sir, ..." He sounds confused, uncomfortable and you recognize that he thinks you're finally breaking down. But you're not. Yes, you jump to conclusions, but that's because you are usually right when you do.
"Go and check on it." you command calmly. "Do it now."
The tone works. "Yessir!" you hear and then there's silence on the line. Only background noises: cars, equipment being packed in, voices shouting instructions.
You concentrate on the medley and on breathing, avoid thinking, one breath, another, and then the captain is back on the phone. It can't have been more than a minute.
How do you meet someone whose death sentence you signed, knowingly, not much more than an hour ago?
You nearly chose to not go and see him right now, but then you thought such neglect too inappropriate.
A notion you already start to regret, now that you are standing in front of a door, left ajar, and give it a halfhearted push. It reveals Sherlock sitting on a pallet, applying pressure to a small bandage, presumably from a bloodsample. Seeing him is a sudden sting to your chest that makes you stop dead in the doorframe. He looks up and seems taken aback by your lack of initiative.
"Those were atrocious last words." he announces getting up. "I absolutely refuse to die at your enemies' hands until you come up with something better."
Your throat feels swollen, you cannot answer, so he keeps talking. "What a remarkable woman. She learned about the plan and immediately infiltrated the group. Had a bag of blood prepared in case I had to look very convincingly dead."
As you still stand silent he comes up to you, inspecting your face with dubious curiosity.
"Unusually fast respiration, watery eyes and is that a hint of perspiration in the air?" He takes a step back and cocks an eyebrow. "My dear brother, could it be that you are genuinely affected by my latest near-death-experience?"
He is taunting but you can't bring yourself to be annoyed.
The only thing that you can think of is that he is standing here, hale and hearty, and that you saw him die just an hour ago. All that blood. That you had lost him and that you would have given anything to bring him back.
That you had consented to his death.
Guilt sweeps through you in a flash flood and you want to say "I'm sorry." but you lips are numb and won't form the words and then, with one harsh grab, acting on impulse, you pull him into a crushing embrace. He yelps a little, clearly overwhelmed by this uncharacteristic imposition of body contact and then winces, probably because you are squeezing too hard, but you don't want to let loose, you want to hold him close, make sure he is all here.
He has stopped writhing now, just stands very still and stiff and endures it but you don't let go yet and just when you start feeling very stupid his hands come up to your back gingerly patting and he actually does his best to sound soothing when he whispers "It's ok, I'm alright. It's ok."
You pull back, suddenly embarrassed and avoid meeting his eyes when you are finally able to speak. "I have to know how they got to you."
"Of course." he nods. "I'll give you the full report."
"But not right now." you interject hastily. "I have to clean this whole thing up first. You would not believe the amount of paperwork that is going to be on my desk by now."
He shrugs. "Whenever it's convenient. You usually know where I am."
"Yes, usually." you mumble to yourself and then eventually look at him. "I ..." you start and then fail to follow that up with anything. Luckily Sherlock fills the conversation-gap.
"I know." he says and gives a little smile.
You nod, he probably does and then a very flustered John Watson comes rushing in, falling all over him, crying "Oh my god, I just heard! Good heavens, are you all right?" and you thankfully use the arrival of the doctor for an inconspicuous retreat.
As you step outside and right into a dirty puddle a woman walking by smiles at you. "Thaw is here." she says, unnecessarily pointing out the obvious.
"And don't I know it." you grumble as you shake the water from your trouserleg.