Author's Note: It's been a bit since I posted something here. I've been working on this AU fic for the last week or so, trying to get something substantial (to me) before beginning to post it. This, however, is NOT a part of that fic. This one… well, I don't know. Had an idea, went with it, not really sure how I feel about it still. Point is, here… have a fic.
He knew all about the chemical effects of panic. Knew the way the body reacted, the way the blood shifted in the veins, the increased beating of the heart, the over-working of the lungs, the tell-tale nervous vibrations. The physiology he knew. It wasn't something he felt, however. He didn't have the time, couldn't be bothered with panic. Panic never got the case solved. Panic never got the job done.
He had feigned panic enough times. Could easily commit his body to portray it, could slip it on like mask, hidden in plain view. He could panic, if he needed. Out of necessity, to force someone's assistance, to force a small amount of strange trust out of a person. People want to be heroes, people want to console someone into relaxation. He could manipulate it. He could be the person that thanked them graciously. That let them feel lifted onto a higher platform than the rest of the world. In some cases, he needed it. So he feigned it well.
He never felt it, not really.
Not until that moment.
His eyes were kept sharp, laser focused on the scene just below. A simple stake-out, a little use of bait. He already knew how they'd react to John, knew they'd give him a bit of trouble, and he'd told John that. He always told John what would happen, so he too could put on his mask, hide in plain sight. So John knew they were sure to jostle him a bit. Just a bit. So they had a signal. A small code word, easily inserted into a sentence, one that signaled the charge that was Sherlock, signaled him to rush out with John's gun in hand.
He felt it in his hands first. They were shaking, a subtle nod to the wrecking that would begin momentarily.
John was an every man. That was why he insisted he be the one to go. He had a face that could be trusted, or a face that could be seen as submissive. He had many different faces, Sherlock knew that, had cataloged each instance of each face in accordance to each emotion they portrayed. He had an always expanding file in his mind dedicated to John Watson, becoming more and more detailed the longer he stayed. He knew John capabilities, he knew his strengths and weaknesses, knew what angered him and what could bring smile to his lips. Sherlock was constantly gathering data, mostly out of habit, most of it instinctively taken.
The shaking was becoming more violent. He could feel it up his arms and spreading into his chest, down his back, into his legs.
The plan was going wrong. Sherlock could see this before it happened, could note the precise moment in which the metaphoric ball had bounced out of their court. John, apparently, had not. He was still looking quite confident, had not slipped their code word into a single sentence. Sherlock needed to get down there, quickly, without alerting the men in which John was entangled with. If he called out to John, if he made any sort of signal to John, it would be over. Why had John volunteered for this? He was playing to his strengths. Why hadn't John noticed the sudden collapse of their plan? It was his weakness. Definitely his weakness.
His lungs were beginning to over-work themselves. His breathing was become less stable.
He flew down the stairs as fast as he could, which—he knew—was quite quick. Two to three stairs at a time, given the amount of adrenaline forcing its way through his body. Adrenaline spike. That was another sign of panic. He needed to keep his head in check, keep his eyes sharp, keep his mind focused. The staircase seemed to go on forever. His ears were on high alert, drowning out the sound of his footsteps against the wrought-iron stairs and instead pinpointing outside. There was yelling. The two men were yelling. John was yelling. John was yelling his name. He could hear it over the sound of his footfalls, over the sound of the men. Over everything, his name, John's voice.
He heard the car. Van, nine seats, though obviously not full, not with people. No, no seats. A van with cargo space. The back doors were being flung open, and John was being grabbed and lifted and moved.
He burst through the door just in time to see John in the back of the van. His eyes were wide with panic, his mouth was slapped with tape, but even through that, he could hear what John was shouting still. He tried to move forward, tried to get to the doors before they closed, before they had John completely, before they'd stolen him, but his legs weren't working properly.
He was panicking.
Oh, what a horrid time to feel panic. What a terrible, awful, stupidly placed time to feel the effects of panic seizing him. The doors shut and the tyres of the van were squealing as it sped off down the road. Jesus, they were good. Better than he'd anticipated, by a long shot. He hadn't planned, hadn't prepared. But why? Why hadn't he prepared for this? He should've known, should've foreseen-
Not the time. John was in the back of an unmarked van heading somewhere. He needed to think, not panic. Panic could come later, when he figured out where they were going, where they were taking John. He'd panic once he had a plan again, once he'd taken the ball from them and held it to his chest. That moment he needed to run. Run and think and try to consider where this van was going, who was in it, what they were doing.
So he ran.
He ran quickly, and his brain buzzed with several ideas. CCTV would be picking him up. He could call Mycroft. Oh, god he hated calling Mycroft. Especially when it meant a favor. But this was John. John was more important than that, more important than old feuds. Mycroft would already be checking, he was sure. All he had to do was call and-
Beat him to it.
"Where?" Sherlock huffed into the phone. He was still running, his legs were gelatin and his knees begged to buckle but he was keeping himself upright and he was waiting for Mycroft to give the instruction. "The route they're taking indicates they'll be heading toward the Thames. I've sent-"
"No." Sherlock snapped, re-routing, re-calculating. The Thames. He could get there, quickly, on foot, if he needed. He did, he needed, right then. "If you send people it'll spook the perpetrators and they'll do something out of character." he spat down the line quickly.
"They've already done so, Sherlock, in taking John hostage."
"Then no need to spur them any further." He breathed before quickly hanging up and shoving the phone back into his pocket. The Thames. He stopped only momentarily, gathering his whereabouts, adjusting accordingly. He hurled himself down a back alley, flinging himself around corners and down streets and over bins and past crowds.
Quick glimpse of the van. A swell of something else came over him and he fought the urge to grin as he continued running. He knew the route, knew where they were going, how they'd get there, when they'd arrive. Ball, back in his court.
He propelled himself harder, forced his legs to make quicker, longer strides. His chest was burning, only slightly, and his heart was thumping hard against his ribs. His legs were cooperating, thankfully, and his mind—his commodity—was still in tact.
And then there it was.
The Thames. The van. The men. John.
Sherlock could see that John was bound in four places from his vantage point—ankles, thighs, wrists, and abdomen. They'd tied his arms to is body. No movement, no flailing, no inaccuracies. Sherlock's panic built once again, his breathing becoming erratic. His heart wouldn't settle. They've planned on throwing him over, it's obvious and terrifying and Sherlock was suddenly overcome with waves and waves of regret. It should've been him, it should've been him with the silver tape over his mouth and the bounds around his body and it shouldn't have been John because the world needed people like John.
No. Sherlock, focus. Think. There's no time for panic. Mycroft will be sending someone either way. John will be going over. Intercept John before Mycroft's stupid minions foul up the whole thing. How.
Run in. Charge. Make a scene? Distraction. Distract them from John and put the focus on him. It was what they wanted, anyway. They wanted him, not John. John was bait, in every sense of the word for that evening. They wanted Sherlock. Why else would they take John? They knew Sherlock would fight for John. His weakness, his one. Fine, they can have Sherlock. He began to sprint to where they were. He felt John's gun clattering against his chest and he knew the best course of action was to distract them. Step in, wield a gun. Get John. Figure out the rest later.
He saw the black cars pull up before he could get to them.
He ran as fast as he could, but already Mycroft's people were stepping from their cars and wielding weapons. The men panicked, they felt the exact feelings that Sherlock was feeling. The acidic blood, the heaving lungs, the erratic heart, the quivering body. There was rush of sound and bodies moving around frantically, more people seemed to be emerging from both sides of the fight. There was chaos but he wasn't focused on the chaos, he was focused on John.
John, who was completely bound and unable to fend for himself.
John, who was being slipped away from the crowd, from the sudden battle.
John, who was being tipped over into the Thames.
Re-route. Re-calculate. Mycroft wanted to deal with the dirty work? Fine. He would focus on John. John, who is in the water, who is probably sinking. He knew the men weighed John down, knew that John would be dropping in and not bobbing back up moments later. Panic was rising once again, fear was gripping hold and clutching to his throat. He throttled himself down concrete steps, down toward the shore, to which he knew they were close. He could hear the shouting closer then, closer and closer the nearer the water he got.
He stumbled. He only had one plan, one course of action, and that was to rescue John. He slipped quickly out of his shoes, feeling the rocky shore beneath his feet, and he knew somewhere that it hurt his sensitive soles but he couldn't be bothered. He flung his coat off of him, chucked the blazer and found himself wading into the water.
It was cold and dirty and he couldn't be bothered to care because panic had officially seized his entire body. John could not drowned, not then, not with him there, not in the Thames and not because of Sherlock.
He was swimming, hard, long strokes that sliced through the water, legs kicking as hard as they could, moving him quicker, faster. He watched the bubbles. He knew they were John's, knew that John was taking his time to exhale, holding his breath for as long as he could. He wished momentarily that he could send him a message, a signal, a sign. Let him know he's coming, he's on his way. He watched the bubbles become thinner and thinner, until he's nearly beside them.
And then they stopped.
Panic. Fear. Terror.
Sherlock plunged into the water face first. He was kicking his legs hard against the buoyancy of his body. His eyes were burning and he knew the Thames is full of germs and bacteria and he was probably causing himself to go blind, but he could see John's outline. His eyes were shut, his body was limp, his face entirely too serene. Another wave of panic. Another ring of terror in his ears. He pushed harder, forced himself down.
He snatched John around the shoulders and began to heave the both of them back to the surface.
He gasped as he resurfaced. He wanted to tear the tape from John's mouth and force him to breathe right then, but he knew that would be useless, and unhelpful, and very difficult while attempting to swim. He pushed them back toward the shore. The moment he felt the ground beneath his feet, he found himself attempting to jog back up to the shore, until he recalled John was much heavier than the water had allowed.
With a heaving drag onto the rocks, Sherlock dropped to John's side. Instantly, he snatched the tape from across his mouth. He scrambled to grab up his coat, fumbling in his pockets. He had to have it, why wouldn't he have his kit, why wouldn't he have carried it with him. His fingers were shaking, he was losing control of himself once again. He took a single, steadying breath. John needed him to calm. He himself needed himself to calm. Finally, with steadier hands, he reached into the pocket and snatched out a small case. From within it, he grabbed out the small razor. With precise, rapidly moving hands, he sliced through the binds around John's body.
John was still limp. Sherlock knew that would happen. He swallowed around that stupid, horrid, all-consuming panic that was sitting in his chest, begging to kick itself up into his mouth.
The instructions seemed to come forward in his mind, a check list of resuscitation.
He could hear the others coming down. Lestrade had showed up, as well as half of Scotland Yard. Mycroft's people were nowhere to be found. He wasn't paying attention to them, didn't care, couldn't bother. John was laying still, seemingly unbreathing. He felt gently over John's ribs, down the center. Metasternum, check. Gently, he placed his thumb over over it, sprawling his hand over John's chest. He laced his other hand over it, interlacing his fingers, pulling back just enough that the heel of his hand rested in his sternum. Then he compressed—1, 2, 3, 4... until he'd counted 15. With slightly trembling hands, he pinched John's nose shut and tilted his jaw downward. He placed his mouth over John's. Vaccuum seal, two long, deep breaths. He watched as John's chest inflated with both breaths.
15 compressions. Two deep breaths. Repeat.
He was trying, desperately, to keep that pesky panic in check. His blood felt damn corrosive in his body, his heart beating so quickly that it may stop at any moment. His lungs ached, his limbs ached, everything ached, and he was still a mess of trembling, but he repeated.
Lestrade was saying something. Something about emergency services, something about letting go, something about professionals, but Sherlock wasn't listening. He was watching and waiting and focused. Fifteen compressions. Two deep breaths. Repeat. Fifteen compressions. Two deep breaths. Repeat. Fifteen compressions. Two deep breaths. Repeat.
And then there was a stirring.
He could feel John's body begin the heaving before it finally happened.
John coughed, hard and boisterous and sputtering over water. Sherlock couldn't help the swell of hope, pride, pleasure, relief, whatever-that-was that seemed to radiate at the sight of John's deep, deep breaths. He hadn't opened his eyes yet, was sprawled out on the uncomfortable surface and was inhaling as hard as he could muster. When he finally did open his eyes, they went straight to Sherlock's face. Sherlock couldn't bring himself to say anything, could only smile. "Jesus." John croaked.
"Welcome back." Sherlock replied.
"Was I dead?" John murmured, voice hoarse.
"Well, you weren't breathing, if that's any indication."
A small, breathless laugh. John closed his eyes once again, a weird smile coming to his lips. Sherlock shook his head, "I should've come down quicker."
"Never said the word." John muttered, clearing his throat into a cough.
"Yes, but I saw the exact moment everything was compromised. I'd made a move, but apparently not quick enough."
John opened his eyes again. He was still wearing that strange smirk. "Knew you'd come round anyway." he said quietly. Sherlock's chest was still fluttering, his heart still thrashing about in his ribcage as though unattached. He had the strangest urges, sudden ones, to wrap John up in his arms and never let him go, to hold him into his chest and breathe him in and... It all hit Sherlock very suddenly, very harshly, poking his insides with hot irons.
His body reacted without much consent from his head. He grabbed up John by his shoulders, wrapping his arms around the doctor and squeezing him close. John was weak, he knew this, knew he should stop squeezing him quite so tightly, knew John wouldn't have the ability to object properly. He just... he couldn't seem to help himself. He soon found that John was wrapping slackened arms weakly around Sherlock in return. "Alright?" he could hear John murmur.
"Yes, yes, I'm alright. I'm fine." Sherlock muttered into John's neck.
"Don't allow me to allow you to be bait anymore, do you understand? Never again." Sherlock grumbled. "From this point forward I'm the bait. Not you."
"No. No, I won't allow it." He was feeling rushed with emotions that hadn't quite surfaced in many, many years. He was still squeezing John into his body, John's arms were still wrapped weakly around his waist, and he was still panicking. He thought he was panicking. It certainly felt like panic. Adrenaline, racing heart, acidic blood, over-worked lungs. "I put you in jeopardy and it wasn't my place to allow you to do so, it should've been me. It was supposed to. They wouldn't have done a single thing had I just-"
"Sherlock, stop talking." John begged. He could feel John heave a shuddering exhale against his skin. He could feel when John—cautiously-dropped a gentle kiss to neck. It was surprisingly calming. "I'm alright. You're alright. We're alright." John mumbled. "Just... let it go."
"I panicked." Sherlock muttered. "I panicked and I feared and it was horrifying to think that I could've lost you." he swallowed. What was he thinking, what was he saying? His mouth, his vocal chords, they were working without his mind again, spewing out whatever they came up with. John laughed, pressing his mouth against the crook of Sherlock's neck once again. "You don't listen, do you? Shut up, Sherlock." he said, his lips moving against Sherlock's skin.
"They want to take you to the hospital." Sherlock mumbled, remembering Lestrade and the rest of the team quite suddenly. "Too right. I nearly died just now. In the Thames no less." John's voice was gaining a little strength. "Should probably make sure I haven't swallowed the E-bola virus."
"I can't seem to let go, John."
"I'm alright, Sherlock. I promise."
Sherlock was regaining control of his body, slowly but surely. He carefully allowed his grip to loosen on John, very slowly, until he was finally retrieving his arms back to his sides. John pulled away slowly. They locked eyes for a moment, silent confirmations flickering past both of them, before the medical team forced themselves through to handle John. Sherlock continued to sit upon his knees, watching John, before Lestrade finally intervened. He stuck his hand out. "Alright, Sherlock?" he asked.
Sherlock blinked, finally looking to Lestrade. He nodded.
"Well, come on then. I hate to do it, but if you're alright, we need to get you down to the Yard." Lestrade said, grabbing up Sherlock's hand and dragging him up to his feet. Sherlock found his eyes drifting upward once again, watching the medical personnel, watching John. Lestrade sighed, "Maybe a bit later would be better." he said. Sherlock focused on him once again, eyebrows furrowed. "What? Why?"
"Well, for one, you're still wet. And you smell like the Thames. And I don't want that smell lingering about in my office." Lestrade explained, nose scrunching.
"How'd you even-"
"Your brother called. Didn't need to do much explaining, did he? Said 'The Thames.' and there I was."
"It's for the best. How about we do this tomorrow, first thing in the morning? You should be heading off for a check as well, you know. Can't imagine what you can catch from the Thames." Lestrade's hands were over his hips. He was looking over the entire scene. Stalling, Sherlock could tell, until he looked at Sherlock. With a quick gesture of his head, he pointed toward the ambulance. "Go on, then. We'll give you a ring in the morning."
Sherlock gave an appreciative bow of his head and turned to grab up his possessions when Lestrade grabbed his arm. "Oh, and Sherlock?" he added quietly. Sherlock faced him, expression blank. "Best to discuss what just happened there with John, don't you think? Think you owe it to him, really." His eyes gestured toward where Sherlock had just been sitting.
"Detective Inspector, I'm not-"
"Look, speakin' completely off the record here, as your friend, half the Yard just witnessed the pair of you in what can only be described as a romantic reunion." he murmured. "You literally aren't fooling anybody now, Sherlock. And neither is he, so just... just go on, alright?" Lestrade gave him a serious look, one that bordered on fatherly, before giving his shoulder a strong pat. He walked away without another word.
Oh, when had he become so completely readable? It was a disgusting revelation for him, knowing that Lestrade could see right through him suddenly. That was the panic, he expected. He'd let down his guard, had succumbed to emotion, had revealed too much. He swallowed as he attempted to slip back into his shoes. But, then, so had John. John had wrapped him up, had nuzzled into him nice and close, had pressed kisses to his neck. And neither seemed to mind, neither seemed to care, neither seemed to do much more than accept it for what it was. Which was that they cared. Deeply. For one another. In ways that neither had admitted before.
And then that feeling, that one not too far from panic, rose into Sherlock's chest once again.