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Post-Reichenbach. John struggles to cope with the loss of Sherlock. A mystery provides a distraction...or does it?


“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,

which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,

and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

–€• Edna St. Vincent Millay

Author note: Part 5 of the "No Heart For Me Like Yours" series. This story contains quite a few spoilers for the rest of the series, so it would probably make much more sense to read the series in order, as it tells how John and Sherlock got to this point.

My humble apologies to my readers for the inexcusable length of time between updates on this fic. Real life happened, but the biggest reason for the delay was a huge, heaping helping of depression, with a big serving of writer’s block on the side. It’s been a job to digest it all, but I think I’m on the mend.

Many, many thanks to my lovely, lovely beta, Skyfullofstars, who has encouraged (and gently nagged) me, despite going through some extremely difficult and sad times herself. Sky, you are such an inspiration to me. Thank you for sticking with me, my friend.

Thanks, also, to those of you who left reviews, and private messages, asking me to write the rest of this story. Special thanks to the brilliantly dedicated Hanako Hayashi, who has faithfully translated the entire “No Heart For Me Like Yours” series into French.

And a deeply sincere thank you to the amazing MapleLeafCameo, who has just read and reviewed Every. Single. Chapter. of ALL of my fics, and commented on so many of the little details that I thought no one had noticed. Thanks for reminding me of why I like writing - you gave me that final shove that I needed to get off my arse, and back in the saddle.

And now, I’ll stop mixing my metaphors, shut the hell up, and give you this long-awaited chapter. The next chapter is already halfway written, and should be up very, very soon. Thank you all for sticking with me.

Disclaimers:
Sherlock belongs to Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock Holmes originally belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I own nothing. This makes me very, very sad. Written for fun, not profit.

Warnings: Sherlock/John. Slash, slash, somewhat graphic slash. Major, major spoilers for Season 2.

Trigger warnings: Suicidal ideation; references to previous abusive relationship, references to non-con, references to sexual assault, references to child prostitution/abuse, references to homophobia, paralysis.

Please read and review!


Read Chapter 17

oOoOo

Chapter 18: The Tiniest Fragments

oOoOo

“ Somehow, even in the worst of times, the tiniest fragments of good survive.

It was the grip in which one held those fragments that counted.”

― Melina Marchetta

oOoOo

The first thing I’m aware of is the steady bleep of a heart monitor. As I blearily open my eyes, the brilliant lights of an operating theatre swim into view. I’m amazed to find that the light isn’t bothering my eyes at all. An odd tingling sensation is shooting through my arms, and I try to lift a hand to see what is causing it.

I can’t move my hands.

“John?”

Sherlock’s face swims into view. He’s wearing sterile surgical equipment, but those verdigris eyes are unmistakable above the anonymous blue mask. He reaches over to grasp my shoulder with his gloved hand. I want to say something about maintaining the sterile field, but my mouth won’t work.

“Just relax, John,” Sherlock says, his madcap curls escaping from the surgical cap in a decidedly unsanitary fashion. “You’re in absolutely brilliant hands.”

I realise that my chest is wide open, and that an ivory-pale surgeon is up to his elbows in my chest cavity. He lifts something out; hands it to Sherlock. 

“Look what he gave me, John,” Sherlock murmurs, holding the object up to the light.

My heart.

The surgeon lifts a brick of Semtex, carefully fits it into my chest cavity, then turns to me with a shark’s grin.

Moriarty.

“That should do it, Johnny boy.”

Oddly, I feel more concern about his lack of a surgical mask than for the replacement of my vital organs with plastic explosive. Sherlock pulls his mask off as well, smiling happily as he cradles my heart against his own chest.

“This is so lovely, John,” he says. “I’ll take better care of it this time.”

“These will need to come off, though,” remarks Moriarty, gesturing casually to my arms.

“That’s all right, they don’t work any longer,” replies Sherlock. “You can put them over there with his legs.” He turns towards a blue-draped table, and I see my legs, still clad in jeans and boots, lying neatly side-by-side. He wanders over, heart still held close to his body, to take a closer look.

Moriarty grins again, gesturing for someone just out of my line of sight to step up into Sherlock’s place at my side.

“Sebby, dear, do take care of Johnny boy, won’t you?”

Sebastian Moran looms over me, his dark, brooding face regarding me impassively. He sets his sniper rifle across my open chest, then draws a long, black combat knife from his boot. He straightens, then studies the dark blade, tilting it to show me the razor-sharp edges.

“Nothing personal, Doc,” his smoky voice rumbles. “This won’t take a moment.”

In a panic, but unable to move, I watch the blade rise, then drop to slash at my left arm. I gasp at the sharp, stabbing pain.

“John! Don’t move!” Sherlock has lunged back to my side, gripping my shoulders in his gloved hands.

“This might be easier if we turned him over,” growls Moran, circling to my other side.

“Don’t touch him!” hisses Sherlock. Moran ignores him, bringing the knife down to slash the right arm.

The pain is even sharper, and I groan, closing my eyes against the pain. Sherlock clutches tighter at my shoulders.

“John…John!”

Consciousness, or something like it, returns on the crest of a wave of nausea. I begin to dry-heave (or already have been), and I am irritated by the interruption of my misery by angry noises: heavy, thudding impacts and the sharp scuff of feet scrabbling across a floor. The sounds remind me vaguely of something awful that happened, or perhaps is happening.  It sounds almost as though someone is fighting. Fighting for their very lives, perhaps. I wonder dimly if I should be worried.

Really, though, I’m much more focused on the odd, burning sensation that radiates down both arms. God, I must be getting old…this bed is rock-hard. Makes army bunks seem like featherbeds.

I really must buy a decent pillow…this one is doing nothing for me. Funny smell, too…something like lacquer…like woodworking, or new paint…hmmmm…smells a bit like the woodshop out beyond Grandad’s old crofter’s cottage…maybe Grandad’ll let me use the lathe this time…

“John!”

I force my eyes open, blinking muzzily. Floorboards.

Not a bed, then. Not Grandad’s, either. Stone floors there.

“John! For God’s sake!”

Sherlock’s panicked shout snaps me out of my stupor. Time for action. Now.

My body remains facedown on expensive, dark hardwood.

What the fuck?

I try to push up on my elbows, and panic as I realise I have no control over my arms. The shooting pain in my arms intensifies, but as for the rest of my body...

Oh, my God.

I can’t feel anything below my chest, not even the pressure of my body on the floor. It’s horrifying, as though I’m floating in thin air from my belly on down. I groan in terror.

Jesus Christ…I’m paralysed.

Please, God, let this be a dream, too – if I can dream about madmen cracking my chest, then surely I can be dreaming about paralysis. Please, God…

The room greys out again.

oOoOo

This time there is no dream. I wake to ringing in my ears, muffling the sound of two men fighting nearby; grunts, scuffling, the dull thud of punches landing. Another wave of nausea overwhelms me, and as I dry-heave helplessly, I’m grateful that I haven’t eaten since the pastries this morning. Being face-down in vomit would be even more awful than lying here in my own urine; which, my nose dismally informs me, has already happened.

Blinking hard in an attempt to clear my mind, I ignore the increased tingling pain in my arms and gingerly roll my head to rest on my right cheek in an effort to see the room.

Fuck.

Just at the edge of my line of sight, Sherlock is struggling with Moran. I know only too well how strong Sherlock actually is. In spite of the disparity in their sizes, he holds his own against the well-muscled, much larger man. Each time Moran tries to close with Sherlock, he manages to escape the hold and dance clear.

However, Moran has trained in close combat, and has the advantage.  With my heart in my throat, I realise that Sherlock is tiring, the exhaustion and weight loss of the past months working against him. When Moran nearly takes him down with a well-timed leg sweep, I gasp, struggling for the breath needed to cry out a warning.

“Sherlock!” I manage to rasp out, “Don’t let him pull you down to the floor!”

Sherlock’s silvery glance flashes towards me, startled by my cry. Moran tries to take advantage of his distraction. Biting my lip, I watch in fear, pinned to the floor by my useless limbs, as the two men dodge and weave across the huge, empty room. Sherlock barely manages to dodge the incoming sucker punch, ducking away from Moran’s enormous fist. He pivots to deliver a side kick to Moran, but Moran manages to deflect the blow to his thigh, rather than the knee Sherlock was targeting.

Struggling to blink away the cold sweat that has dripped into my eyes, I see the terrible moment where Moran’s massive hand manages to seize Sherlock’s heel mid-kick. Before he can recover his balance, Moran delivers a hammer strike with the side of his fist that catches Sherlock’s shoulder and sends him plummeting to the floor, less than a metre away from me. Sherlock tries to roll to his feet, but Moran is quick as a snake.

To my horror, Moran manages to pin Sherlock beneath him, and wraps his huge hands around my lover’s slim, white throat. I struggle fruitlessly on the sidelines, trying to move, aching to help. Sherlock bucks and writhes beneath his assailant, desperately trying to use a hip escape maneuver, but Moran drops his elbows into Sherlock’s armpits, preventing him from completing the move. He shifts his center of gravity lower.

Sherlock’s face is now flushed an alarmingly dark crimson, and his struggles to escape are starting to weaken. Those long, white fingers scrabble uselessly against Moran’s massive hands, failing to find purchase. His heels drum on the polished floor. His eyes are bright red as they bulge from their sockets.

“Sherlock!” I cry again, as I desperately try once more to push up onto my elbows.

Nothing.

Danny Foley, bleeding out under a hot Afghan sun, mere inches from my useless hands…

I fight to quell my rising panic. Once again, I lie helpless while a comrade struggles for his life. This time, so much more than just a comrade – the center of my universe.

Please let him live, please, I can’t lose him again… no…I just got him back…please, God, please please please…

Blinking desperately against sweat and tears, and feeling the lack of air as if it were my own, I see Sherlock’s movements becoming weaker, more spasmodic.

No…

There’s a sudden movement in the doorway behind Moran, and I glance up in time to see tangled, mousy hair and a worn duffel coat.

Wiggins.

With a dull thud of a gun butt meeting bone, Moran abruptly pitches forward atop my lover’s body, unconscious. Sherlock desperately attempts to suck in air, then gags.

Wiggins  shoves fiercely at Moran’s shoulder in an effort to free Sherlock from his weight. Together, their combined efforts are enough to roll the bulk of the former colonel off of Sherlock, and he scrambles to hands and knees, retching. Wiggins crouches beside him, her shaking fingers still clutching a Sig Sauer P226.

“Mister Holmes! Are you all right?”

Sherlock manages to nod, gasping for breath. He fishes a pair of zip ties from his coat pocket and shoves them at her.

“Here,” he grits out, “tie him up before he comes to.” He retches again, still struggling to recover his breath. Wiggins complies, stooping over the unconscious man to bind his wrists tightly in front of him. Task accomplished, she turns her worried attention my way.

“Doctor Watson!” She rushes to my side, dropping the handgun to the floor, and grips my shoulder.

“No!” Sherlock cries hoarsely, lunging forward to stop her before she can roll me over. “His spine is injured. Leave him in this position.”

His long, elegant fingers shake as they curve around to gently cup my cheek. I’m so grateful for the contact, for being able to feel the caress. I press my trembling face into his warm palm, relieved beyond words at his narrow escape.

“Talk to me, John,” he murmurs, bending down closer from his kneeling position, so that I can see the reddening from petechial haemorrhages that now ring the irises of his worried eyes. The contrast makes them appear greener than ever. “Tell me what to do. Can I move you?”

“Better not,” I gasp, trying unsuccessfully to bite back a groan from the increasing pain in my arms. I know I should be grateful for any signs of returning sensation, but the sharp, burning pain is hard to tolerate. “Wait for the first responders to do it. It’ll be good to move, though – I’m pretty sure I’ve pissed myself.”

“That could not possibly matter less, John,” he reassures me. “Where were you hit?” Gentle fingers quiver as they examine the skin of my neck, and pull back the collar of my shirt to expose the Kevlar vest.

“And to think I was fighting you on wearing body armour this afternoon, John,” he rasps, his voice still painfully hoarse from his confrontation with Moran.  He manages a small smile, although his attempt at levity can’t mask his concern. “He aimed too low and missed the ‘apricot’* – no doubt due to your last-minute movement as he fired – but if it weren’t for ceramic and Kevlar, you’d be a dead man.” He swallows audibly after this comment, wincing at the strain on his injured throat.

I chuckle weakly. “Are you saying you were wrong? Bear witness to this, Wiggins,” (a shaky giggle comes from my other side), “Sherlock Holmes is actually admitting that he is wrong.”

“I never claimed to be infallible, you git,” he murmurs, carding gentle fingers through my hair. “Time to call in Mycroft, and get an ambulance for you,” he says, reaching into his pocket for his phone.

“I really, really wouldn’t do that, Holmes,” a rough, smoker’s voice growls from the door.

Instinctively, I try to reach for my gun, as Sherlock whirls towards the open door. Still no response from my limbs; just the sharp, shooting pains in my arms, growing more painful by the minute. I ruthlessly squash it down. This is no time to dwell on the distinct possibility that I am permanently paralysed.

Oh god oh god not paralysed I can’t bear it oh please please please…

Stop it, Watson. Pull yourself together, soldier.

I can’t waste time thinking about myself. Instead I focus my attention on the short, muscular man in the doorway. He is dressed in the same black garb as Moran, but his balaclava is pulled down around his neck to reveal fiery, ginger fuzz on his close-cropped head. Bright, green eyes glitter in his freckled face.

Beside him is a trembling Edwin, enormous blue eyes locked on the sleek pistol pressed into his side.

Sherlock stands slowly, taking in the new situation.

“Lieutenant Ronald Adair, of course,” he drawls in his roughened voice, looking the man over with his razor-sharp focus. “Compulsive gambler…chain smoker…far too interested in underage girls…recently tried to cut back on your drinking…worried about a family predisposition for heart trouble.”

Adair’s sharp, foxy face breaks into a cold, malicious grin.

“Look what I found in the attic of your house. I took care of the watchdog you left with ‘im.” He shoves the muzzle against Edwin’s ribs, chuckling at the boy’s flinch of terror.

“Christ, you benders like ‘em young, Holmes. Doctor Watson not enough for you these days?” He glances down at me, takes in my body’s immobility at a glance, and smirks. “Looks like you were planning ahead – the doc won’t be making any house calls anytime soon.”

Fury surges through me, and I long to leap into action. Desperately, I try to move my hand, to reach the Sig that Wiggins dropped by my side. So close…

Sharp pains like an electric shock lance through my arms and chest, but I see the fingers on my left hand twitch slightly. Thank God – it’s not a complete paralysis, at least.

I’m struggling to repeat the movement as Sherlock takes a step towards Adair, who responds by pressing the pistol harder into Edwin’s side. Poor Edwin winces in pain, and his lower lip quakes a bit.

“Try it, Holmes. Just try to make a move.” The green eyes glint at Sherlock, razor-sharp and bright. “Give me an excuse to blow a hole in this pouf.”

Sherlock raises his hands slightly, acknowledging the impasse.

“Let the boy go, Adair,” he says smoothly, “I’m the one you’re after.”

Adair rolls his eyes, opening his mouth to respond, but is interrupted by a long, low groan from Moran. From the corner of my eye, I see the sniper roll his head back and forth as he struggles to regain his senses.

I redouble my efforts to slide my hand closer to the gun, feeling rivulets of sweat trickling down my scalp from the exertion. Damn it, Watson, move your fucking fingers, soldier!

“Colonel!” To my surprise, it seems that Adair’s face actually is capable of showing some measure of caring for another human being. “Sir, are you all right?” When Moran’s only response is another groan, Adair turns to glare at Sherlock.

“When he wakes up, we are going to invent a whole new level of suffering for you, Holmes. We’ll start on your little friends here, and save you for last.”

“I really don’t think you will.”

Startled, Adair looks towards the new voice, to see Wiggins, who has quietly retrieved the Browning from the small of my back (I didn’t even feel her take it, oh my God, no sensation below the T2 vertebra at all). She steps around me, slowly making her way to stand over the former colonel, pointing the gun directly at Moran’s head.

Adair’s expression shifts from shock to dismay, and finally, to a strange, delighted recognition. His thin lips curl into a cruel leer as his glittering green eyes crawl avidly over her body.

“Well, well, well…if it isn’t Miss Valentine Macdonald, all grown up.”

oOoOo

Sherlock’s words in Dewer’s Hollow flash back to me…

“Her surname was Macdonald, John.”

“…And?”

“I provided evidence against a certain person of some…repute, who shared the surname, as well as DNA, with Wiggins.”

“You don’t mean, Dennis Macdonald?”

Dennis Macdonald, who ran a child prostitution and pornography ring out of his basement.  The children lived in the most horrifying conditions imaginable; the brutal squalor of the “dungeon” where they were kept, the violent acts recorded in the professional-quality video studio, the horrifying physical and mental condition of the children rescued.

And Wiggins was one of them.

oOoOo

“It has been a while, hasn’t it, Val?” purrs Adair. “Look at you…a bit long in the tooth for my usual tastes these days, but still fit as a butcher’s dog.” He licks his lips, eyeing her up and down in a possessive way that makes me grit my teeth in rage at my helpless state. I can hear Sherlock growling under his breath.

“Fancy a quick tumble, little Valentine, for old time’s sake? I remember how you used to beg for my hard cock…Daddy had you well-trained in those days. Now that you’re all grown up, can you still suck like a Hoover?”

Sherlock snarls and lurches forwards, but Adair shifts his aim towards him, and Sherlock forces himself to a halt. Again, I pour my entire being into the effort to nudge my hand forwards a bit. This time I am rewarded with a slight flex of my fingers, accompanied by an even stronger tingling sensation.

“Drop the gun, Val, or lose your benefactor,” says Adair, coolly sighting down the barrel of the sleek Glock in his hand.

Wiggins doesn’t move a muscle, her earlier shaking entirely gone, fierce determination holding her arm rock-steady.

“I don’t think so,” she hisses. “Think you’d better drop yours, if you want to keep your partner here.”

Adair, after a moment of consideration, merely changes his aim to shove the Glock into Edwin’s side again.

“Wiggins, please…” Edwin’s eyes are wide and pleading.

“Untie my partner, Holmes,” Adair snarls, “or the kid gets gut-shot.”

“Don’t do it, Mister Holmes,” says Wiggins. She looks Adair dead in the eye. “If you hurt Edwin, I will kill you.”

Abruptly, they are interrupted by Moran’s smoky, rumbling voice.

“Shoot him, then. It’s all one to me.”

oOoOo

Despite his wrists being bound in front of him, Moran is an imposing force as he slowly struggles to his knees. His dark eyes glint up at Wiggins, and the two of them regard each other impassively.

Adair appears confused.

“Sir?” he asks. “Did you tell me to shoot the boy?”

Eyes never leaving Wiggins’, Moran replies coolly, “The boy doesn’t matter – shoot him or not, as you like. I was speaking to Miss…Macdonald, was it?”

“No,” she bites out. “It’s Wiggins.”

Adair asks, “Shoot who, sir?”

Moran regards him with cold, glittering eyes. “I was telling Miss…Wiggins…that she can shoot you if she likes. It makes no difference to me.”

The colour fades a bit from Adair’s skin; his freckles suddenly stand out sharply on his narrow face.

“Shite, Moran, I’m your spotter – your partner! What the hell are you playing at?”

“So?” Moran shrugs. “This girl can positively identify you to the authorities as a man who patronised a child prostitution ring. You’ve just become more of a liability than an asset to me.”

“So – that’s what guns are for! Witness gone, problem solved! Christ, Moran, help me out here!”

“Good suggestion.”

With a move as sudden as a snake’s strike, Moran lunges to seize my Browning from Wiggins, and wrenches it from her grip. Sherlock immediately drops to try and cover me. Pinned beneath him, I hear a gunshot, then a squeal like a rabbit in a snare. As Sherlock lifts his head, I can see poor Edwin slumping to the floor in a foetal position, sobbing like a child.

Edwin!” screams Wiggins, her voice ragged with grief. Despite Adair and Moran both being armed, she rushes to Edwin’s side and presses her hand against the wound in his side. Cradling his head in her lap, she strokes the disorderly locks back from his pale forehead. Adair is watching her with a sneer, but he makes no move to interfere, clearly allowing Moran to run the show.

Sherlock rises slowly, putting himself between Moran and me. I’m struggling with all of my might to move my left hand again, to get a grip on the Sig lying in the shadow of my body. My fingers twitch more forcefully, and my arm slides forwards a few inches. Yes!

I risk a quick glance up at Moran, in time to see him fist both hands tightly around the grip of the Browning, then swiftly bring his widely-spread elbows down hard on either side of his hips. The zip ties easily snap apart, and he shifts the Browning to his right hand.

Oh, Wiggins – that little manoeuvre is exactly why you never zip tie someone’s hands in front…it’s far too easy to snap the ties that way. Rookie mistake.

Moran looks at Sherlock, glances down dismissively at me, then back to Sherlock again.

“You and I have unfinished business, Mister Holmes,” he rumbles. “But first…”

He looks at Wiggins, who is huddled over her sobbing young friend, trying to stop the bleeding, her face nearly as pale as Edwin’s. Moran regards her calmly for a moment; then raises the Browning.

“No!” shouts Sherlock, just as Moran fires. I grit my teeth in anticipation of seeing Wiggins shot – and am stunned to see Adair fall instead, blood staining his shirt front, the bewildered look of betrayal on his face swiftly slackening into despair. Moran looks on impassively as his longtime partner dies, no sign of emotion on his chiseled face.

Wiggins’ shocked eyes stare up at Moran, looking younger than ever. When he meets her stubbornly tear-free gaze, she whispers, “Why?”

Moran regards her for a silent moment, as still as if carved from onyx, and studies her with those cold, almond-shaped eyes.

“I find pedophilia distasteful, Miss Wiggins,” he replies. “While I suspected Ronald’s…predilections, I had no concrete evidence until now. This knowledge outweighs his usefulness to me.”

Edwin groans in Wiggins’ arms, and she breaks the former colonel’s gaze in order to check on him. Moran turns towards Sherlock, his face as calm as if he was chairing a meeting.

Sherlock tears his eyes away from his young protégés, straightens his lapels, and faces Moran with admirable aplomb. He lifts an elegant eyebrow.

“You were saying, Colonel?”

oOoOo


*Snipers aim for the “apricot”, or the medulla oblongata, when attempting a head shot. The medulla oblongata is the lower part of the brain stem, and controls autonomic, or involuntary, movement (heart, respiration, etc.). It’s quite critical to “staying alive.”


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