brbsoulnomming: (sherlock - not quite hand holding)
Bri ([personal profile] brbsoulnomming) wrote2011-05-29 01:53 am

Parallel Part Eight



Part Seven

---


John already knows Fiona can move quickly when she wants to, so he isn’t surprised when she’s not in the hallway (though he does note that this is the second time he’s gone chasing after her in as many days). There’s no one around, but he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, just in case, so he heads quickly but casually down the stairs and outside. She’s still nowhere in sight, but he does recognize one of the officers Lestrade had placed around the building, out of her uniform and with a cigarette, looking for all the world like a resident who’d gone outside to smoke.

“Excuse me, miss,” John says politely as he approaches her. “You didn’t happen to see a young woman leave the building, did you? Tall, pretty brunette? My girlfriend and I had a bit of a row, I’m afraid.”

“I did, actually. Not a lot of people out here this late; she’s the only person I’ve seen since I came out here,” the officer tells him.

John nods, understanding the update for what it is, and says, “It’s been a quiet night so far, at least until now. But it wasn’t about anything; I’m sure we’ll get it patched up and be back inside in no time.”

The officer smiles at him. “She headed that way, sir. Good luck.”

“Thank you,” John tells her, then heads quickly down the street.

It doesn’t take him very long to find her (though longer than he would have liked, considering he’d been hoping to find her just outside the building). She’s standing on the side of the road, leaning against a tree.

“This is getting to be something of a habit with you,” John says as he stops in front of her.

She looks down, steps away from the tree, then looks back up. “I shouldn’t have left,” she admits.

“You shouldn’t have,” John agrees. “So let’s-”

“I shouldn’t have done any of that,” she continues as though he hadn’t spoken, sounding irritated. “I shouldn’t have risen to it, I should have just ignored it. I always do, I – I don’t stand up for myself that way. I don’t let them get to me; I ignore them, or if they’re particularly persistent, point out why they are very much not qualified to make any of the accusations they’ve just made and leave it be. I don’t argue with them, and I don’t know why I just did.”

“Because you weren’t just defending yourself?” John suggests quietly.

She stares at him for a long moment. “I – I suppose you’re right,” she replied, sounding a bit surprised. “I couldn’t let her make those accusations, not when she didn’t know all that Sam had said earlier. I was angry, and I acted without thinking. I shouldn’t have.”

“You were standing up for someone you care about,” John says. “Your timing may not have been great, but your intentions were good.”

Fiona chuckles, quiet and humourless. “My timing was abysmal. Getting into a fight and storming out on the very person I’m supposed to be protecting? It’s a good job I’m not in charge of this investigation.” She looks away again. “And worse than that, fighting with someone who’s recently lost the person she loves, is the target of an obsessed killer, and, as Sam keeps reminding me, is already on edge and doesn’t need someone else upsetting her.” She sighs. “Sam will never forgive me.”

“I doubt that,” John says.

She shakes her head. “Maybe this time, but what about the time after that? Her friends and I will never get along.”

“That’s not necessarily damning,” John tells her. “Sherlock doesn’t even really interact with my friends.”

She looks at him. “And how large of a role do your friends play in your life? How important are they?”

“My friends are very important,” he says honestly. “But they don’t have a very large role in my life right now.” More than they had when he’d just gotten back from Afghanistan, but nowhere near as much as they’d once had.

“Exactly,” Fiona says. “And I’d do that to her, too.”

“Do that to-” John repeats, then stops as he understands. “It was like that before I met Sherlock, actually, it had nothing to do with him.” If anything, meeting Sherlock had helped in that area.

She looks surprised, then smiles slightly. “Suppose Sherlock was luckier than I am.”

John frowns at her. “Luckier?”

“Yes,” Fiona replies. “I liked it, when Kayla accused Sam of putting me before her friends. I wanted it, I wanted to come first in her life. I shouldn’t, but I do. I’ll end up driving off all of her friends, and if I end up driving her away as well, she will be alone. I don’t want to do that to her.”

John doesn’t know what to say to that. Sherlock does come first to him, even before his relationships, that’s one of the reasons he hasn’t managed a successful one since meeting Sherlock (the other being, of course, that he’s rather hopelessly in love with his ridiculous flatmate, though he’s only recently discovered that one). But though John wouldn’t have it any other way, he will admit that it’s not exactly healthy, and while it mostly works for two people as damaged as Sherlock and himself, he doubts it would be successful for the girls, and he can’t recommend it.

“So don’t do it,” John tells her.

She glares at him. “You say that as though it’s simple.”

“It’s not,” John says. “It won’t be. Love is messy and complicated and completely worth it, but maintaining a relationships isn’t simple. She loves you and she loves her friends, and she’ll have to work on balancing everything. And you’ll have to work to accept that.” He shrugs. “Maybe if her friends are everything she thinks they are, you won’t be able to drive them away so easily. Just – don’t throw away what you have because of something you’re afraid of happening.”

Fiona stays silent for a moment. Then she says softly, “What I have.”

“Yes,” John says. “It’s something a lot of people wish for.”

She looks at him. “Sam says it’s something you want.”

“It’s something just about everyone wants,” John replies, hiding the brief thrill of fear he feels at the suspicion that she doesn’t just mean in general. “So yes, I do want it.”

“Why don’t you get it, then?” she asks.

John smiles a bit. “There has to be someone for me to get, first,” he tells her. It’s the truth, after all, there’s no one he can get that he wants, though he’s hoping she takes that to mean he doesn’t want anyone, and not that he can’t get who he wants.

She frowns. “There’s no one you want?”

“No one I can get,” he says, growing more and more uncomfortable with the conversation.

“Did you even try?” she demands.

“Yes,” he says, tone curt.

Actually try or-” Fiona starts.

“Fiona,” John interrupts. His tone is unintentionally commanding, a little bit of the solider in him creeping in. “Drop it.”

She stops talking, but she still frowns at him. “Fine.”

He’s somewhat surprised, really, but he’ll take it. “We’ve been gone longer than I planned already,” John tells her. “Come on. Let’s get back.”



---



Unless his assailant had left him to himself for some time, Sherlock can’t have been out for more than a few moments. He drifts back into consciousness to someone manhandling him, the sound of tape being pulled from a roll, and then being dragged a short distance and released. His mind is still fuzzy, but he’s aware enough to realize that alerting his assailant to the fact that he’s awake will not be the least bit helpful. So he doesn’t struggle, doesn’t so much as twitch, doesn’t open his eyes, doesn’t even change his breathing.

What he does do, as soon as he’s released, is feel and listen. His arms are bound tightly behind his back, one hand taped to each elbow – unfortunately clever of the criminal, to immobilize his hands – with more tape wound around his forearms, binding them to each other. Tape is also wrapped thickly around his knees and ankles, and he’s been gagged. He’s lying on his side on the floor, and the carpet he can feel against his cheek tells him that he’s in Kayla’s living room.

He can hear someone talking: male, he doesn’t immediately recognize the voice, but he knows he’s heard it before. Sherlock turns his head towards the voice – slowly, so it will appear to be only the shifting of one asleep – waits for a moment, then risks opening his eyes the tiniest bit. Fortunately, he’s quite practiced at obtaining as much information as possible through the slits of his eyelids while pretending to be unconscious. His field of vision is narrow, but he can see Kayla sitting in one of the chairs, hands bound at the wrist with more tape.

Standing next to her is a young man, who, like his voice, looks familiar, and a quick glance to his trainers reveals that they are red and yellow. He’s holding a knife, approximately the same size, shape, and weight of the blade used in the murders. Without a closer look, Sherlock can’t be certain, but it’s likely it is indeed the murder weapon. On the coffee table close to them is a roll of tape, the end ripped off messily, and a gun.

“-doesn’t matter,” the man is saying. “I waited this long, I would’ve waited in there even longer.”

Waited? He – oh. Yes, obvious, Sherlock should have realized. The terrace had been locked upon their arrival and there’d been no signs of a recent break in, but that meant nothing. It had been locked after their arrival as well, and someone skilled in lock-picking could do so without leaving obvious signs. Stupid, idiotic, it isn’t the first time that Sherlock hadn’t realized there was someone in a flat before it was too late. He should have looked, examined not only for possible entrances but for someone already being there.

Yes, his investigation into her room had been cut short, and had he continued he likely would have found the man – who must be very cool indeed, not to panic and reveal himself when someone had been poking about the room he’d been hiding in – and it had been John who’d stopped him, but Sherlock had listened, because he hadn’t actually been looking for anything. So assured of his own conclusions, that the murderer would come after night had fallen, – all of the murders had been committed at night, but this was breaking and entering, not murder, hardly the same need for security – and after Kayla was already there – she was his goal, he’d want to make sure she was present when he went for her, but of course, waiting for her in her own flat would accomplish that. Sherlock had assumed it would have taken him longer to find out about Kayla being alone that night, being on the outside of their social circle, but either word travelled quicker, or the killer was closer to them than Sherlock had thought.

“But why did you say you were going to be alone when you weren’t?” the man continues.

“I thought I was, but they came by anyway,” Kayla tells him, her voice shaking. “If I – I’d known you’d be coming, Eddie, I would have sent them away.”

Eddie. Now Sherlock remembers; they’d seen him at the crime scene – the very one at which Sherlock had been scanning the crowds, thinking that the killer often returned to the scene. Sam had talked to him, but the others had hardly interacted with him – Anna’d looked at him like she’d barely known who he was – he’d asked after Kayla, been interested in how she was viewing the crime scene - ‘she actually wanted to come here?’ - football player, red and yellow trainers, on the outside of their social circle, at least Sherlock had been right about those.

“It’s all right,” Eddie says. “It’s almost like we’re alone now. And we’ll really be alone soon.”

He looks somewhere over to Sherlock’s left, and Sherlock reminds himself forcibly that shifting to follow his gaze will only draw his attention.

“You didn’t hurt her, did you?” Kayla asks.

Eddie turns back to her, glaring. “If I did, it was justified! Self defence, she was trying to keep us apart.”

“I – I only meant-” Kayla starts, then swallows and lifts her chin. “I know. But there’s no need to worry. Sam just didn’t understand, she thought she was protecting me. You know how our friend gets. When she wakes up, I’ll explain, and then she’ll be happy for us.”

Eddie looks uncertain, then he smiles. “Yeah, Sam is like that, isn’t she? Always wanting what’s best for us.”

“Yes,” Kayla agrees, though Sherlock can still hear the tremble in her voice. “It’ll make her so happy to see that we’ve finally gotten together. All of our friends will be pleased, you know, to see us so happy.”

Clever. Clever girl, going along with him, playing on his obvious desire to belong. She just has to be careful, not oversell it, just keep him distracted long enough for John to return. John can’t have gone far; Sherlock just wishes he’d hurry up – John not returning doesn’t even occur to him, nor does he think to wonder at how quickly he’s come to rely on John’s presence. Sherlock is used to relying on all of his assets; that one of them is now another person means nothing.

“You don’t think they’ll be jealous?” Eddie asks.

Kayla looks briefly terrified, like she has no idea how to reply to that. Then she says hesitantly, “I’m sure they’ll be glad for us. But some of them may be, that they don’t have what we do.”

“We should help them,” he says. “That’s the friendly thing to do, isn’t it? Help them find someone?”

“Sam’s just got herself a girlfriend,” Kayla says. “We can – we can go on double dates.”

Eddie frowns, looking back over to Sherlock’s left and tilting his head consideringly.

“What is it?” Kayla asks.

“I don’t like it,” Eddie replies. “She knows what I did for you. Not all people understand that.”

“Sam will. You know she will, she sees the good in everyone,” she says.

Eddie seems unconvinced, and Sherlock remembers him asking ‘even serial killers?’ the last time he was told that.

“You remember Fiona?” Kayla asks, sounding almost pleading. “That’s her girlfriend. Sam’ll have no problem understanding why you did it.”

Eddie looks back at her, gaze piercing. “You understand why I did it, don’t you?”

“Because they all hurt me,” she says quietly, voice thick with unshed tears.

He notices, and leans closer to her, smoothing his free hand gently over her hair. “Shh, baby, it’s okay. That’s right, you’re right, I did it because they hurt you. And I’m here now, no one’s ever going to hurt you again.”

“Could you-” she swallows. “Could you tell me why? It’ll help, hearing it in your voice.”

“Of course, baby,” he agrees. “That boy who worked in the pub, he was an arrogant jerk, wasn’t he? Waving that handkerchief around in your face, ruining your clothes, all but forcing himself on you. I know his kind, he wouldn’t have stopped there, so I stopped him for you. And that bastard rugby player, using you like that, he didn’t even remember that that bracelet he treasured so much was something you’d given him. He should have felt so fucking grateful, that you’d given someone like him something so special. I forgive you for that, you know, because we hadn’t met then. Professor Andrews, I couldn’t stand by and let him treat you like that. And that bitch Ashley, the only way she could’ve been chosen captain over you is by cheating.” He pauses. “And Morgan. I’ll forgive you for him, too, because I know he forced you into it. I saw how he treated you, never even called you when the rest of the group got together. I know how miserable you were, so I saved you.”

Kayla’s crying now, silent tears rolling down her cheeks.

Eddie glares at her, the hand on her head grabbing her hair roughly. “Well?” he asks. “Aren’t you even going to thank me?”

“Sorry,” she stammers. “I just get so upset thinking about – about what they did.”

He releases her hair, and goes back to stroking it. “I know you do, baby,” he tells her soothingly. He brandishes the knife, balanced elegantly between his fingers. “But I told you. You don’t have to worry, you’ve got me. No one’s going to hurt you now. I’ll take care of you.”

The handle of the front door rattles slightly, and Sherlock freezes, hoping Eddie hasn’t heard.

But Eddie turns towards the hallway. “Suppose that’s the rest of them coming back, then?” He steps away from her, setting the knife on the coffee table and picking up the gun that’d been lying there instead. “Don’t worry, baby. I’ll take care of this, too.” He aims the gun at the hallway.

The front door swings open with a soft creak, and the previous bit of relief Sherlock had felt at the sign of John’s arrival turns into something like fear.



---



The flat is quiet when John opens the door, which is surprising. Also surprising is that John makes it two steps into the hallway without Sherlock appearing to chastise him for taking so long.

“We’re back.” John calls, closing the door behind him.

“You were successful, then?” Kayla asks from the living room. Her voice is bland, mildly pleasant, with an odd undertone. Not what he’d expect from someone who’d just shouted at the person he’s bringing back to leave.

John waits, but there’s nothing from Sherlock. He frowns, and holds out his arm to stop Fiona from moving forward. “Yes, I was. Everything’s all fixed here, then?”

“Oh, yes. Everything’s fine now, nothing to be concerned about,” she replies in that strange tone.

Now John recognizes what’s under it: fear. It’s a tone he’s heard before, with people forced to pretend as though they aren’t in any danger or currently being held captive.

And Sherlock still hasn’t said anything. John ignores any panic he may be inclined to feel at the implications of that (he’ll feel it later, after the danger’s passed and he’s out of the headspace that prevents him from panicking when it won’t do them any good). He pulls his gun out, keeping it at his side and pointed down. His right arm is still holding Fiona back, and he uses it to keep her behind him as he starts moving down the hall.

“That’s good to hear,” John says absently, hugging the wall as he moves.

The other gun is the first thing he sees when the living room comes into view, and he flattens himself immediately against the wall, shoving Fiona against it behind him. Using the corner of the wall as cover, he aims his own gun at the other man.

“Drop it!” John shouts.

“You drop yours!” the man replies.

“Unlikely,” Fiona says. “John is an excellent shot and can easily hit you from here, while I doubt you have ever used a gun before and probably couldn’t hit us even if we were in the open. Who’s more at risk?”

“I don’t have to hit you,” the man says. “Or do you only want to protect yourself?”

“You’d really hurt Kayla?” Fiona asks. “So much for love.”

John grimaces at that, but doesn’t move.

“Don’t talk about things you don’t understand!” the man shouts. “I wouldn’t hurt her, of course I’d never hurt her. I didn’t mean her.”

“Eddie, please,” Kayla says.

“Shut up!” he snaps, then his tone softens. “I’m handling this, baby, don’t worry.” His voice rises again. “I don’t want to hurt them, but I will!”

John steps out, just enough to get a view of the living room beyond the man with the gun. Kayla is sitting in a chair close to him, hands bound with tape. Sherlock and Sam are sprawled on the floor nearby. Sam seems to be unconscious, unbound and with a nasty looking wound on the side of her head, but Sherlock is awake, bound with tape and gagged. John locks eyes with him briefly, unable to resist silently checking to see he’s all right. Sherlock nods the tiniest bit at John’s unspoken question, and there’s mostly irritation in Sherlock’s eyes, with a minor hint of concern, but no pain.

Satisfied, John focuses all of his attention back on Eddie.

Eddie waits for a moment longer, then turns towards Sherlock and Sam.

Fiona curses and starts forward, but John stops her.

“Don’t,” he mutters.

“But Sam-” she says.

“I know,” he cuts her off curtly. He’s well aware of the fact that one of the girls he’s supposed to be protecting is unconscious on the ground. “But rushing at him will only push him into doing something we’ll regret.”

Eddie grabs Sherlock by the shoulders, fisting his hand in Sherlock’s shirt and hauling him to his knees. He presses the gun to Sherlock’s temple. John’s entire world narrows, to the barrel of the gun pressing hard enough to leave an indent in Sherlock’s skin, to Eddie’s finger over the trigger (squeezing down a bit, you never even touch the trigger unless you are absolutely certain that the person on the other end is someone you are going to kill), to Eddie’s hand shaking ever so slightly, all of this only serving to remind John that in a situation like this, there’s so very much more to fear from a man who isn’t used to using a gun and is panicking. With an expert, the only thing to worry about is being shot intentionally. Now, any sudden movement, any loud noise, anything at all that startles Eddie into so much as twitching his finger, and –

“I’ll do it,” John says. “I’ll put down my gun, if you’ll put down yours.”

“You first,” Eddie says.

“Okay,” John agrees, keeping his voice calm. “I’m going to step out now.” He lowers his gun, pointing it at the ground, and moves very slowly into the living room. “Where do you want me to put it?”

Eddie’s eyes dart briefly around, then he says, “The coffee table. Just put it down and step back.”

John doesn’t want to give up his gun (he really doesn’t want to give up his gun), but Eddie’s finger is still on the trigger of his own gun, and Sherlock is still on the other end of that gun, and as much as John likes and respects Fiona, he doesn’t trust her or Kayla not to do or say something that sets Eddie off (or himself, for that matter, despite how careful he’s being). At the moment, all he cares about is getting the gun away from Sherlock’s head. He obeys, slowly and cautiously going over to the coffee table. He gently sets down his gun next to a roll of tape and a knife, then backs away.

Three steps, enough for Eddie to consider him a safe distance away, but close enough that it’ll only take a second for him to get his gun back.

“Now put it down, please,” John says. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

“Neither do I!” Eddie replies, almost petulantly. “People keep saying that, like I’m the one causing people to get hurt.” He moves the gun a bit away from Sherlock’s head, though he doesn’t take his finger off the trigger. “I don’t like this thing. It makes me nervous. I only brought it because Sam said you had one. It’s not even mine, you know, I took it off one of the rugby players. The things you learn about people when they don’t notice you’re there.” He looks at the gun disdainfully. “There’s nothing to this. Point and click and people die, and it’s not always even the right people.” Eddie yanks Sherlock forward to the table, where he sets down the gun and picks up the knife instead. “But this – this is a weapon.”

Some of the tension and fear eases. It’s still bad, of course, really bad (‘especially as you were so foolish as to give up your gun,’ the voice in John’s head that sounds a bit like Sherlock says. John ignores it), but less bad than an insane, twitchy, untrained killer holding a gun to Sherlock’s head.

John had hoped that Eddie would let go of Sherlock as well, but then, it seems John can’t manage to avoid showing his hand when Sherlock’s involved. Eddie must have figured threatening Sherlock would be the way to get John to do what he wants.

He’s partially right, of course, but John doubts Eddie realizes that it’s also the way to make him really, really pissed off.

Eddie fists his hand roughly in Sherlock’s hair and yanks his head back a bit, tiling his chin up and resting the edge of the knife against Sherlock’s throat.

For a long moment, John can’t look away from the glint of metal against pale skin. When he does, it’s only to look into Sherlock’s eyes, which are mostly filled with defiance, but John knows Sherlock well enough to see the tiny underlying hint of fear.

Rage burns at the back of John’s mind, but he knows how to section it off when it won’t be of use in a fight. Instead he asks calmly, “What do you want, Eddie?” He needs to get him distracted, off into his own world, so John can make a move for his gun.

“I just want us to be left alone!” Eddie shouts. “Don’t you understand? She’s all I’ve got. Everyone else ignored me, all of them, didn’t matter what I did, none of them even remembered my name. But not her. Not my Kayla. She sat right next to me, smiled at me like I was the only one in the entire classroom worth talking to. We connected, and I’m not going to let anyone take her from me. We just want to be together, why can’t you all just leave us alone?”

Eddie hasn’t moved his gaze from John the whole time he’s been talking. This isn’t working; it’s only drawing Eddie’s attention to him more, what he needs is for someone else to make a distraction. And quickly, before Sherlock does something idiotic like attempt a distraction himself and gets his throat slit in the process (because John still can’t stop looking at Sherlock’s eyes, and the fear has been covered by a slight gleam that means Sherlock knows what John’s aim is and has got his own plan to make it happen).

“Sam remembered,” Fiona says.

Eddie’s eyes shift in her direction. “What?”

“Your name,” she tells him. “Sam remembered your name.”

Eddie looks uncertain. “Of course she does. She’s our friend, Kayla says we – what are you doing?”

Fiona’s started moving, stepping behind John and skirting the edge of the room towards Sam.

“Stop it,” Eddie says, jerking Sherlock’s head back enough that John can no longer see his eyes, and pressing the knife a little bit harder against his skin, though still not hard enough to pierce it.

“No,” Fiona tells him. “Unlike John, I don’t particularly care whether your hostage lives or dies.”

“You’re lying,” he says, though he doesn’t sound sure.

“Quite possibly,” Fiona agrees. “But I do care significantly more for one hostage than the other, and unfortunately for you, you’ve picked the wrong one. John may be paralyzed as long as you have Sherlock, but I’m not. You can’t stop me from checking to see Sam’s all right.”

Eddie’s entirely focused on Fiona now, completely disregarding John (and John’ll forgive her the paralyzed remark, as he’s assuming that was her plan).

John moves forward without taking his eyes off Eddie, snatching the gun, lifting it and aiming in one smooth motion. It’s not his; it takes him barely a second to notice that even without looking at it, but by that time the gun’s already pointed at Eddie, and Eddie’s noticed his motion.

“Put the knife down, Eddie,” John orders.

“I will kill him!” Eddie replies, sounding almost desperate.

“Not before I kill you,” John replies calmly.

And he means it. It’ll have to be a kill shot, an instantaneous one, like the shot he’s got lined up right now. Anything less and Eddie would have time to slit Sherlock’s throat, and even too much twitching would cause more injury. A quick death means minimal injury to Sherlock, likely nothing more than John himself can patch up. Eddie’s pressing the knife up against Sherlock’s throat hard enough to draw blood now, a thin trickle of red against that long expanse of pale skin, and John knows with absolute certainty that he is going to kill this man in –

The blade moves, no longer pressed right up against Sherlock’s skin, though it stays at his neck, and John shifts his shot at the last second.

The bullet hits Eddie in the shoulder, and Sherlock wrenches himself away as the shot sends Eddie stumbling back, his hand spasming and the knife dropping.

John lunges for Eddie, knocking him to the ground. He pins him down, legs trapping his, and, at the moment, not in the least bit concerned for the other man’s injured shoulder.

Eddie stares up at him, pain and fear in his eyes but surprise and something like comprehension in his expression. “You were going to kill me,” he says in a hushed tone. “I saw it in your eyes, you would’ve killed me without hesitation before you let me hurt him.”

“Yes,” John agrees. If Eddie knows that, it might deter him from trying anything.

“Do you love him that much?” Eddie asks.

“Yes,” John replies immediately, because it’s the truth, and at the moment, John doesn’t care if Sherlock hears. Sherlock already knows how John feels about him, after that night at the warehouse, and right now John isn’t up to pretending.

Eddie closes his eyes, smiling slightly. “Then you understand.”

“I what?” John asks.

“You understand,” Eddie repeats, opening his eyes to look intently at John. “I love her more than anything. More than life. I couldn’t let them hurt her any more, even if it meant killing them. Even if it meant killing you all. You’d have done the same, wouldn’t you? If he was in danger? We’re the same.”

John doesn’t actually know what to say to that. Arguing to prove that they are nothing alike seems pointless, especially as there’s an element of truth in Eddie’s words. Not in the way Eddie means, obviously, but John doubts he’d be able to explain the distinction to anyone right then, let alone an insane serial killer.

So John ignores him, and instead gestures behind himself without looking. “Someone hand me the tape, please?”

Kayla offers it to him a few seconds later, and John quickly binds and gags Eddie with it, taking a tiny bit of vicious pleasure in the act, though this time he does mind the bullet wound.

When he’s finished, he looks up to see Kayla standing next to him, holding a pair of scissors. He takes them immediately, cutting gently through the tape still binding her wrists.

“Are you all right?” he asks.

“Yes,” she says. “No. I don’t know, actually. It doesn’t seem real.”

“John,” Fiona says urgently.

John looks over to see Fiona kneeling at Sam’s side, hands hovering uncertainly.

“Help her,” Fiona says, looking at him with unhidden worry. “Please, just – make her wake up.”

“I’ll do what I can,” John says, then quickly cuts a chunk of fabric from Eddie’s shirt. “I hate to ask,” he says to Kayla. “But can you-”

She takes the fabric from him wordlessly and shoves it roughly against the bullet wound in Eddie’s shoulder.

“Thank you,” John tells her, standing and turning towards Sam and Fiona.

He stops when he sees Sherlock, still bound and gagged, and has to ignore the brief urge to go straight to his side.

“Two seconds,” John promises him.

Sherlock inclines his head in understanding, and John moves over to Sam.

“I don’t know what to do,” Fiona tells him as he attends to Sam, sounding thoroughly irritated at that. “Do I try to wake her? Should I leave her be? Can I even touch her? I don’t-” She cuts off. “She’s hurt. She’s not supposed to get hurt; she said she’d protect me, what use am I if I can’t even do the same?”

“Fiona,” John says, gently but firmly. “She’s going to be fine. She’s going to need some actual medical attention –”

Fiona scowls. “You’re actual medical attention. Why does anyone else need to touch her?”

John sighs, and hands his police issue radio over to Fiona. “Likely as not neighbours will be alerting them to the gunshot, but radio Lestrade and tell him we need an ambulance, please? And yes, you can touch her.”

He glances quickly over to Eddie and Kayla, who haven’t moved, and Kayla is still applying pressure to his wound without looking at him. Then he turns to Sherlock, who’s currently trying to work free of his bonds on his own.

“Stop that,” John says with a frown, kneeling next to him. “Couldn’t wait two seconds?” he asks, though he just sounds affectionate.

John helps Sherlock onto his knees again so he can take a closer look at the cut on Sherlock’s neck. It’s not deep, barely nicked the skin, really, and it’s hardly bleeding any more. It likely would’ve stopped entirely, if Sherlock’s struggles hadn’t disturbed the injury.

He lets out a shaky breath that he’s been holding since – well, it feels like since he first saw the gun pointed at Sherlock, but more likely since he started checking Sherlock over. John cups his hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck absently, his thumb resting against Sherlock’s pulse point and taking comfort from feeling both of their pulses beat together.

Sherlock sinks down a bit, resting on his heels so they’re at eye level. Probably trying to tell him something, but John takes advantage of the situation and rests his forehead against Sherlock’s, closing his eyes.

“Only you could get threatened with two different weapons in the same two minute span,” John says. “Maybe you think I like saving you, but really, I think you just like giving me heart attacks. Do you have any idea what I’d do if anything happened to you?” He’d meant to sound teasing, but it comes out quiet, serious, and maybe just a little bit dangerous, and he can’t help but continue with, “Probably not, since I don’t even know. Well. Maybe a little, but I doubt many would like the outcome.”

John cuts off before he incriminates himself further. He’s already said enough tonight; he doesn’t need Sherlock to start thinking he needs to figure out a way to turn him down once again. Or, even worse, start thinking that turning John down isn’t working, and perhaps they should see less of each other for a while. John pulls back a little, and quirks a half smile at Sherlock. “I think I like you like this, you know. Maybe I won’t cut you free yet.” He’s mostly not serious. It is much easier to talk to Sherlock without him interrupting, but given what John had been babbling about, that’s not exactly a good thing.

Sherlock shifts and makes a noise from beneath the gag, something like a whimper but sounding more frustrated.

John swallows, because that absolutely should not make his breath hitch and his pulse quicken a bit. “I know, I know, I was only joking,” he says hurriedly, standing and going to retrieve the scissors.

He’s almost finished cutting through the tape binding Sherlock’s arms when his gun is thrust at him.

“How do you put the safety on?” Fiona asks him.

John does it automatically and hands it back to her. It’s not until he’s finished freeing Sherlock’s hands and started on his ankles that he thinks ‘wait, what?’, and looks up. His gun is nowhere in sight.

“Fiona,” he says calmly. “Where’s my gun?”

Fiona looks at him blankly. “The only gun here is Eddie’s, which you took from him when he so foolishly set it down in favour of the knife. As far as anyone’s co-”

She cuts off, because Sam’s groaned softly and shifted, and Fiona’s focus is completely back on her in an instant.

“Sam,” she murmurs, stroking her cheek gently. “Can you hear me? Wake up, Sam, please.”

Sam’s eyes don’t open, but she grimaces slightly, and says, “Ugh. I really want to say something cliché like, did anyone get the plate number of that lorry, but I’ll resist.”

“You can say whatever you want if it means you’re awake,” Fiona replies.

Sam opens her eyes. “I’m awake, Fi,” she says, reaching up to cover Fiona’s hand with her own.

Fiona just stares at her for a moment, like she’s not quite sure how to respond. Then she says, almost reverently, “Sam.”

Sam smiles slightly. “Hi.”

John finishes cutting Sherlock free, and leaves him to peel the tape off his clothes himself, taking over minding Eddie so Kayla can join Sam and Fiona.

Lestrade and a few other officers arrive soon after, and from the scowl on Sherlock’s face, John knows he was hoping they wouldn’t come until he’d gotten all of the tape off.

Lestrade looks over the room and immediately barks an order over the radio to let him know the second the paramedics arrive. Then he looks at Sherlock and asks gruffly, “What happened?”

“Use your eyes,” Sherlock replies irritably. “The killer snuck in before us and waited until he thought we had left to make his move on the girl. Despite a minor setback, he was unsuccessful, and was incapacitated with his own weapon.”

“Do you at least have a name?” Lestrade asks.

“Eddie. Um, Edward Howe,” Sam supplies.

John doesn’t pay much attention to the next bits. With the adrenaline rush fading, the lack of sleep is starting to catch up on him. It’s a bit of a relief to be able to just sit there and apply pressure to Howe’s wound, while Lestrade first checks in on the girls and then tells all of them they’re not to leave after the paramedics have looked them over, as they need to be questioned individually, and will likely be called in later as well. John just nods at appropriate times, answers questions when they’re directly put to him, and helps bring Howe outside when the ambulance arrives, leaving him to the paramedics and the officers who’re formally arresting him.

He’s still the first to be questioned, though, as everyone but Fiona is being looked at by the paramedics, and Fiona refuses to leave Sam’s side.

“I don’t know much,” he says. “Fiona and Kayla had a row, and Fiona left. I went after her, and Howe must’ve attacked while we were gone. When we got back, Sam was unconscious, and he had Sherlock and Kayla restrained. Howe was waving a gun about, but he traded it for a knife. Fiona distracted him, and I grabbed the gun, but he wouldn’t lower his weapon, so I shot. Then we called you.”

“You managed to get him to put down the gun?” Lestrade asks.

“He didn’t know how to use it,” John replies. “I think he was scared of it.”

“Wonder why he had it, then,” Lestrade says idly.

John shrugs. “No idea.”

Lestrade eyes him, and John knows he isn’t really fooled. Lestrade isn’t an idiot; he must have figured out that it was John who shot the cabbie. Which means he knows John has a gun, and he probably suspects that John would’ve brought it tonight.

“All right,” Lestrade says eventually with a sigh. “Suppose I’m done with you for now, then.” He nods, and starts towards Sherlock.

“Lestrade,” John calls after him. Then, when Lestrade stops and turns slightly towards him, says, “Thank you.”

Lestrade grunts and says gruffly, “You should go sit with Ms. Miller until we come talk to her. Looks like the paramedics are done with her, but I doubt she wants to be alone right now.”

John glances over at Kayla, who’s sitting by herself, wrapped in an orange blanket. Lestrade’s already walking away when John looks back to him, so John just makes a mental note to buy Lestrade a drink the next time John’s invited to the pub with him and some of the other officers, and heads over to Kayla.

“Hey,” he greets as he sits next to her. “How’re you doing?”

“I still don’t know,” she replies. “People keep telling me I’m in shock. How long’s that supposed to last?”

“I’m not sure,” John says. “But I can ask Sherlock, if you like, he’s the one who’s got experience with the shock blanket.”

She smiles slightly. “Has he, then? I didn’t think anything would shock him.”

“I don’t think he was in shock, really,” John says. “They just kept putting it on him. He complained for hours after.”

That gets another smile, though she doesn’t reply. After a moment, she says, “Was it really true?”

John frowns in confusion. “Was what true?”

“He said you would’ve killed him before letting him hurt your partner. Would you have?” she says.

He considers that for a moment, then decides honesty’s the best way to go right then. “If there hadn’t been another option, then yes.” He doesn’t tell her how close it’d actually been.

She stares at him for a bit, then nods. “Good.”

John wasn’t expecting that. “Good?”

“He would have deserved it,” she says. “If I could have stopped him from killing Finn, I would have. I wish I had. I wish I had known.” She looks at him, upset. “How could I not have known? Those things he said back there, they’re not true. I didn’t even remember him. I do now, I remember talking to him in class, but he was just a classmate. He was nice, normal. Forgettable.” She pauses. “Well. He’s not anymore, is he?”

“No,” John says. “This isn’t the kind of thing you ever really forget. But you don’t have to let it consume you, either.”

She smiles at him, somewhat sadly. “Sounds easy. But it won’t be, will it?”

“I’m sorry,” he tells her.

“Don’t be,” she says. “You caught him before he could hurt anyone else, before he could hurt me or more of my friends. That’s all I wanted, really. Best I could hope for.”

John sort of hates this bit. In the end, when the case is solved and the criminal’s been stopped and everything should be happy, it’s the time when it’s easier to realize that someone is still gone, and the people who loved that person still have to go on without him.

“I don’t know how much help I’ll be,” he says. “But if you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. Sam has my mobile number.”

“Thank you,” she replies. “I-” She cuts off as an officer beckons her over. “Guess it’s my turn,” she says, almost absently, smiling at him one more time before going over to the officer.

He watches Kayla talk to the officer for a moment, then glances around the building. Fiona’s talking to another officer, and Sherlock is still with Lestrade, but it takes him a minute to locate Sam.

Which is likely because she’s left the paramedics and is heading for him.

“Hey,” Sam greets, sitting down next to him.

John looks at her. “Shouldn’t you be with the paramedics?”

“I’m with a doctor,” she replies. “I’d think that should be good enough.”

“How are you feeling?” he asks.

“Horrible, actually. They say I’ll be fine, but they want me to stay overnight at the hospital once we’re done here, just to be safe,” she says, then smiles a bit. “Fiona’s already insisting on staying with me. She might actually manage to convince them.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” John agrees.

Sam’s silent for a few beats, then she turns more towards him. “I just wanted – I wanted to thank you. You saved one of my best friends’ life, not to mention my own. And you caught him.”

“We caught him,” John replies.

“I’ll take that, though I don’t really see that I had much to do with it,” she says. “Just – thank you. And Sherlock too, of course, but I’m really not interrupting whatever conversation they’re having over there to tell him that.”

John glances over at Sherlock and Lestrade, and has to admit that he sort of agrees.

“I just don’t know how she’s supposed to get over this,” Sam says, looking over at Kayla.

“What about you?” John asks.

“I didn’t lose someone I was in love with,” she replies. “I’ll be fine.”

There’s something unspoken there, that says she should be able to deal with it easier, and she will, because that’s what’s expected of her. John considers telling her that she has a right to just not deal, but that doesn’t seem to be what she wants right now.

So instead, he offers, “My therapist told me to write about it.”

She looks a bit surprised. “You have a therapist?”

“Had one,” he replies.

“Does that mean you’re better, then?” she asks.

“Yes,” John says, because that’s the answer she’s hoping for. And because it’s true, though not necessarily in the way she means. But he is better than he was when he first got back, which is good enough.

“Did you actually do the writing bit?” she says.

“I’ve got a blog,” he says, though he always dislikes saying that. Gives the wrong impression, he thinks. “I don’t think it’s actually what she had in mind, but it’s fun writing it.”

“That’s good to know,” she says with a slightly teasing smile. “Gives me something to look up and read later.”

He winces, regretting telling her that a bit. “Just – ignore the comments. They’re mostly Sherlock being irritating.” Or his sister being drunk and John ignoring her, but he doesn’t tell Sam that.

“Does Sherlock have a blog, too?” she asks.

“He has a website, with a forum,” he replies.

She smiles. “And I bet he’d say the comments are mostly you being irritating.”

John grins slightly. “Probably.”

Sam looks at him for a long moment, then says, “I think I know why you haven’t really done anything about it.”

John blinks. “About what?”

“I haven’t known Fiona very long,” she says instead of answering. “If she’d said no when I made an advance, we both could’ve moved on. It’s early enough, we could’ve still been friends. And even if not-” She smiles, a bit self-depreciatingly. “I’m pretty far down the path of needing her too much to lose her, but I’m not there yet. But you and Sherlock, you’re already past that, aren’t you? That’s why you haven’t pressed it; you don’t want to risk losing him.”

John sighs. He should have known that if Fiona brought this up, Sam would as well. He supposes he isn’t really surprised that Sam has assumed he’s in love with Sherlock, considering how many do. Of course, this is the first time someone’s been so obvious about it (or hit so close to part of the truth) since John realized it was true. “And you’re bringing this up now?”

She raises her eyebrows at him. “You’re talking to the girl who’s now dating someone because she kissed her after being attacked by a gang of thugs.”

“So I shouldn’t have expected any differently?” he asks. Despite his smile and mostly light tone, there’s a slight edge in his voice. He really doesn’t want to discuss this.

Sam must pick up on it, because she doesn’t push. Instead she smiles a bit and says, “Exactly.” Then she bites her lip. “Can you tell Sherlock thank you for me? I had this ridiculous idea to use him to make Fi jealous, and I think he actually helped. I’d return the favour, but.” She shrugs, then smiles again. “Well. I better get back to Fiona, before she abandons the officer questioning her to come over here.” She leans in to kiss him on the cheek, then stands, giving him a slightly sly grin. “Thank you again, John,” she tells him as she walks away.

John looks after her, vaguely confused. He’s not particularly up for trying to process any of that right now, and he rather wishes people would stop trying to have confusing conversations with him when he’s exhausted.

“She was certainly grateful,” Sherlock comments from his left.

John turns slightly towards him. “How long have you been there?”

“Too absorbed in your conversation to notice my arrival, then?” Sherlock asks.

John rolls his eyes. “Save the lecture about my observational skills for a time when I’ve got enough energy to pretend I’m listening, will you?” His gaze falls to the bandage around Sherlock’s neck, and he nearly has to sit on his hands to keep from reaching out and touching him. “What’d the paramedics say?”

“I’m perfectly fine,” Sherlock replies.

John raises his eyebrows.

“Nothing you didn’t already know,” Sherlock says crossly. “For that matter, they didn’t do anything you couldn’t have easily done at home. What good is living with my doctor when I still have to submit to the suppliers of shock blankets?”

John knows he should be irritated, or at the very least explain why it’s necessary to have him checked over by someone with the proper equipment, but really, all he feels is amusement, and all he does is smile in what he suspects is a slightly sappy manner at hearing Sherlock call him his doctor. Which is stupid, of course, since he knows how Sherlock meant it, but that doesn’t stop John from smiling.

“What?” Sherlock asks, narrowing his eyes at him suspiciously.

“Nothing,” John says. “Look, they’re done questioning Fiona now. I better get – that thing I let her borrow before we leave.” Then he pauses, and asks, “Are we free to go home?”

“If you like,” Sherlock replies. “Undoubtedly we’ll be accosted again soon, but we should be safe for the night. And you needn’t worry; I’ve already got what she borrowed from you.”

“She gave it to you?” John asks.

Sherlock smiles. “I didn’t say that. I just said I had it.”

John resists the urge to roll his eyes again, and stands up. “All right. Let’s say good-bye to the girls and get going, then.”

Sherlock makes a bit of a face, but he doesn’t protest as John heads over to the back of the ambulance where Sam, Fiona, and Kayla are.

Fiona’s arguing with one of the paramedics, though about what John doesn’t know, as she cuts off when John and Sherlock approach.

“Her doctor’s here,” Fiona says. “Will you listen to him, then?”

John raises an eyebrow. “I’m her doctor, now?”

Sam smiles apologetically at him. “She’s been told she likely won’t be able to stay overnight with me in the hospital.”

“It isn’t even necessary,” Fiona says. “John is more competent than any of them. He took care of me, why can’t he take care of you?”

“Fiona,” Sam says, affectionately exasperate, with a sidelong glance at John and Sherlock. “He has another patient to take care of tonight.”

“You’re more important,” Fiona says.

“They’ve never kept John or I out of each other’s rooms,” Sherlock informs her smugly.

“That’s because I’m a doctor, and you refuse to leave,” John mutters under his breath, but Fiona hears him.

“I will refuse to leave, then,” Fiona tells the paramedic.

John recognizes the paramedic, and offers her a sympathetic smile.

The paramedic rolls her eyes. “I’m not the one she’ll have to convince, I just told her what the hospital staff would likely say. She’s welcome to ride along and try.”

“Why didn’t you make that clear to begin with?” Fiona asks.

“Because you wouldn’t let her get a word in after that first statement,” Sam says, but there’s no sting in the words, and she tugs Fiona down for a kiss to silence any reply Fiona might’ve made.

“We just came over to say good-bye,” John tells them when they break apart. “I’ll check in with you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Sam replies, smiling at both him and Sherlock.

John smiles back, and Sherlock waits until they’ve started to leave to call back over his shoulder, “I’m glad you’re all right.”

Lestrade offers to take them home, but Sherlock once again refuses to ride in a police car, so they hail a cab back to Baker Street.

“Do you want the shower?” John asks when they’re back at the flat.

Sherlock mutters something incomprehensible and waves his hand dismissively, which John takes as a no. He starts for the bathroom, then pauses and turns back.

“Sherlock,” John says. “I’ll take my gun back.”

Sherlock pouts a little, but hands it over without protest. John stops by his room first, taking the ammunition out of the gun and storing both safely away, then takes a quick shower. He would’ve preferred a longer one, but he’s not sure he won’t fall asleep standing. After getting dressed for bed, he heads into the living room to see if Sherlock needs anything, or wants to explain a few last things about the case before he goes to sleep.

John finds Sherlock in his pyjamas, sprawled out on the sofa and staring at the ceiling.

“Are you going to be sleeping tonight?” John asks.

“Uncertain,” Sherlock replies.

“Isn’t the case done?” John says.

“Yes, yes,” Sherlock says boredly. “The case solved, the culprit caught, the innocents saved, all is well.”

“Then why?” John says. “Thought you only disliked sleeping too long when you had an active case.”

“The case may be over, but that’s far from the only thing on my mind,” Sherlock tells him.

John smiles affectionately. “Yes, I know. That mad, brilliant brain of yours, always working. Tell it to give it a rest for the night so you can get some sleep, will you? Doctor’s orders.”

Sherlock’s silent for a moment. Then he says quietly, “John. What Howe said tonight – you mustn’t think you’re anything like him.”

That’s not entirely unexpected, though it makes John feel pleased in a way that it probably shouldn’t. Then again, pleased probably isn’t the right word for the warmth or the slight feeling of tightness in his chest. “Why not?” he asks, because he wants to hear how Sherlock will respond to that.

Sherlock frowns. “Because you’re not. You don’t kill unless someone is in immediate danger, a far cry from killing over any perceived insult. You kill to protect, to save. You’re a good man, John, you must see that.”

John smiles, humourlessly, because he isn’t sure he is a good man. He is, however, reasonably sure that he’s not quite bad enough to be compared to a serial killer. “I didn’t believe him. You’re right about that bit, at least. If the choice is between a criminal and the person he’s trying to kill, I’ll sleep easy with my choice. Besides, more often than not, that person is you, and that’s no choice at all.” John had known that long before he’d known he was in love with the man, though. He’d realized that two days after he’d met him.

Sherlock frowns slightly. “Why should I be an easier choice than others?”

John looks away. He should lie, he knows he should, or at least tell a not quite truth, but he can’t bring himself to right then. “You know why, Sherlock,” he says, quiet and serious, then shakes his head at himself. Being tired is no excuse to say things he’ll likely regret in the morning. “I’ve already told you this, remember? I told you I judged your character, you frowned scandalously at me? Besides, I’ve gotten used to having you around, you know. Who else would I be able to shout at when he forgets where human tissue samples go in the fridge and puts them right next to dinner?”

“Is that all you keep me around for, then?” Sherlock asks.

John sighs. “I’m tired, Sherlock. Stop asking me questions like that unless you want to hear things you already know and have twice tried to dissuade me from.” Then he smiles at him a bit. “And go to bed. That’s what I’ll be doing.” He turns to head up to his room, but stops and turns back when Sherlock calls his name.

Sherlock’s half-sitting up on the sofa, looking uncertain. “I – don’t wish to be alone right now,” he says, somewhat stiffly.

That’s a bit surprising. It’s also probably the closest Sherlock’s ever come to telling John (seriously, anyway) that he needs him, and there’s absolutely no way John can leave Sherlock when he’s admitted that he doesn’t want to be alone.

“If I stay with you, can we sleep?” John asks.

“If we must,” Sherlock says, sounding more like himself.

John eyes his armchair, and nearly groans at the thought of yet another night spent trying to sleep sitting up. It’s that prospect that tips him over into acting on what is likely a very bad idea, and he nods. “Right then. Come on.”

Sherlock frowns at him. “Where?”

“Upstairs,” John says. “I’m not sleeping in my chair again.”

“You want me to sleep in your bed?” Sherlock asks.

Absolutely. Which should serve to remind John that this is a dangerous idea, but he just shrugs. “You don’t want to be alone. I’d rather you weren’t alone as well. I’m exhausted, you need to sleep, and my bed’s big enough. Just stay on your side.”

Sherlock looks at him for a long time, then stands. “All right.”

It’s not until they’re actually in John’s bed that he fully realizes that, yes, this was a very bad idea; when the lights are out and they’re under the covers, and though they’re a good distance away from each other, John can still hear Sherlock breathing, still knows he’s right there. He tries to control his own breathing, to not let himself give anything away, but he still suspects Sherlock can hear his heart pounding. And, of course, there’s a traitorous part of his brain, a part that clearly wants him to be miserable, that keeps telling him it must mean something, if Sherlock knows about John’s feelings and yet is still willing to share the same bed, even platonically.

Of course it does. It means Sherlock trusts him enough to not do anything. Or maybe it’s some sort of test, brought on by all John’s not managed to stop himself from saying tonight, that if John can pass this, then Sherlock can continue to be his friend without being concerned John will once more try to act on his feelings. Or maybe John’s just paranoid as well as exhausted, and it doesn’t mean anything but that they’re both tired, but neither of them want to be alone.

“Sherlock,” John says, because it’s either that, demand Sherlock tell him what kind of test this is, or roll over and kiss him. “If it’s not case remnants, what did you think might keep you awake?”

“Something I’m trying to work out,” Sherlock replies absently. “I thought I’d had it dealt with, but I was unsatisfied with my conclusions, and now I have some new information that I need to examine.”

“You normally like being alone when you’re re-thinking something,” John says.

“Not tonight. Not for this. Your presence is of some use.” He hesitates. “It always is, John. I don’t think I tell you that often.”

“You do,” John says. “Just not in words.” John’d sort of thought Sherlock did it on purpose, to make him pay more attention. “But it’s still nice to hear.”

The silence that follows is much more comfortable, and John starts to feel his exhaustion take hold.

“Don’t let it trouble you too much,” John says sleepily. “You’ll figure it out, you always do.”

If Sherlock answers, though, John’s not awake to hear it.

---

Part Nine

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