“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.
Bless you, Skyfullofstars, for nudging - more like shoving - me back out of the rut and into the road. You are brilliant and wonderful. I owe the majority of this dialogue entirely to you!
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, despair.Please read and review!
Read Chapter 18
Chapter 19: The Hour of Lead
“This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow –
First – Chill – then Stupor – then the letting go.”
― Emily Dickinson
“One of the things I’ve always admired about you, Holmes – you do know how to get down to business.”
“And this is merely business for you, is it, Colonel?” Sherlock’s voice is not steady, the rasp from being choked still evident, along with his deep breaths, as he fights to slow his respiration, and quiet the thud of his heartbeat. But his cool tone belies his struggle, and I know that Moran, too, must be laboring to calm his breathing, to maintain his iron control.
It’s only inches from my fingers, still hidden in the shadow of my body. Fiery lightning tears through my arm and neck as I strain to shift my fingers forward again, attempting to take a bit of my weight on a tingling elbow, to try and ease closer to that possible salvation. A bit of grit on the floor is ground into the skin of my elbow as I manage to lift up a couple of inches, and I relish the small sting of normal pain reaction, resolutely squashing down the horror of feeling nothing below my armpits.
Christ, God Almighty – I still can’t feel my chest.
Not the time, Watson. Don’t forget about Sherlock.
Panic over the possibility of paralysis takes a temporary backseat to fear for Sherlock’s safety. I tilt my head slightly toward him for a moment, and am struck by his extreme pallor. He does not even glance in my direction, but keeps all his focus on Moran.
Of course. He’s stalling. Giving me the time I need.
For fuck’s sake, hurry!
Turning my attention back to the Sig, and desperately trying to ignore the scream of protest from my neck and arms, I manage to ease my fingers forward another bit. Five? No. Closer to four inches away from my hand. Four. Bloody. Inches.
Moran’s response comes on the heels of Sherlock’s wry tones.
“We both know how this is going to end, Holmes. Ask your questions. Surely you must have some?”
I hear the underlying exhaustion in Moran’s voice, and I realize that this bitter fight has taken its toll on both men.
Moran is struggling, too. But he’s a survivalist, as Sherlock pointed out earlier. He is also a career soldier turned mercenary, trained in combat, trained to withstand torture. Moran can meet the shock of pain head on – savour it, turn it to his advantage.
Sherlock is none of those things. He has fought brilliantly, from the sound of it, ruthlessly pursued criminals and monsters, all to make the world safer. But he is not trained for extended, high-pressure combat scenarios. And what’s more, the love of my life is underweight, sleep-deprived and frankly exhausted from his labors and many injuries. This can only end one way.
Sweat pours down my face; it drips, stinging, into my eyes. Angrily, I try to shake my head to clear my eyesight, but all I get for my trouble is a bright flare of agony as my neck and head pain redoubles.
I look at my twitching fingers, so close, yet so far away from the butt of the Sig.
This cannot be happening. We can’t have gained this ground, worked through so much, only to lose to Moran – and Moriarty – in the end.
Their deep voices wash over me, the words no longer making an impression. Cool floorboards gently kiss my forehead, relieving pressure on my neck. I stare unseeing at the figured of the rosewood, drifting idly in my mind, the faint roar of a waterfall in my ears, soldiers shouts blended into occasional counterpoint with machine gunfire filling my mind…floating along…Sherlock on the pavement at Bart’s, blood in his hair as he gazes up at me, and says…
“It’s hardly the time for reminiscences, Colonel.”
Sherlock’s dry voice snaps me out of my dissociative fugue. Shite. How much time have I lost?
Damn it, Watson – keep reaching.
I push my fingers forward again, resolutely ignoring the sparks of agony shooting through me.
So. Close. Three inches…two…
My world has narrowed down to two points of focus: The conversation between the two men who stand a few feet from me – and the blasted Sig which rests along my line of sight, its barrel turned away from me. I can see that it has been lovingly maintained, the bluing smooth and perfect. I can see the worn bit around the grip where it has been handled repeatedly, the checkering on the grip smoothed out a bit in spots. Maddening.
One more inch…
My neck and arms are screaming, burning, and my head pounds like a bass drum. The fiery sensation begins to spread to my shoulders and chest.
Oh, thank God. Thank you so much. Returning sensation, however slight. A possibility that this paralysis may be less than I thought.
I push forward a bit more. My fingertips barely graze the butt of the gun. I glance up just as Moran inexplicably smiles at Sherlock. His grin is an icy blade, stark against his smooth, dark skin.
“Actually Holmes, I find that I am at your disposal for a few minutes. Surely, there must be some curiosity you wish to assuage before – ” He gestures toward Sherlock with my Browning, and a chill washes over me as I am swept by a new horror. He intends to kill Sherlock with my own weapon.
I stifle a groan and try to put the two men out of my immediate mind. And concentrate on reaching that damn gun.
My fingers are easing forward over the Sig. My arm and neck muscles are screaming. If I can just get my fingers to curl around the grip of the gun…
I cannot hope to get to my feet or even to my knees to aim. All I can hope for is to grasp the gun, and fire it in Moran’s direction.
What if I miss him? What if he fires at Sherlock? What if I miss Moran and hit Wiggins and Edwin? Where are they?
With that grounding thought, my consciousness slams back into my body and I drop my cheek to the floor for just a second, and shudder.
I need to assess the room. My cheek rests against the smooth, cold wood. I can see Moran’s glance as it barely skims over me, and rests on Wiggins in the corner as she rocks Edwin’s limp body against her. Edwin’s face is ashen and I cannot tell if he even breathes.
I can do this. I try to send a signal to my fingers, to remind them of this basic muscle memory – grip the gun, aim and fire. I can do this. I rest for a moment, listening to the conversation, watching from the corner of my eye, as I gather my strength.
Sherlock’s response is wry. The deep baritone flows over me like a balm.
“Actually, Colonel, I did wonder how you managed to escape that little skirmish in Norway. I had thought my plan was quite foolproof.”
Moran’s voice is nearly gleeful. “Oslo. The Oslo Central Station train yard? That was a hell of a firefight, wasn’t it, Holmes? I have to admit, you did the thing admirably. It’s a damned shame that I had to go and spoil your fun.”
Sherlock snorts dismissively. “Truly? As I recall, Colonel, you left more than one of your men dead or dying on the Grønland tracks.”
Moran shrugs. “Needs must. They were expendable. They did their job of keeping you busy, distracted for the necessary amount of time for me to –”
Sherlock cuts him off. “The 18.02 to Gothenburg. Obvious.”
I can hear the exultant gloating in Moran’s voice. But underlying that is a chilly, assessing note that sounds a warning bell in my head, a shift in tone that puts me in mind of a commanding officer going into an engagement. We’re running out of time.
Sherlock continues. “And then on to Copenhagen, was it? Obvious. I would have thought Moriarty’s number one man could show a little more imagination.”
Moran’s voice is diffident. “I was never in Copenhagen, Holmes. More’s the pity. But Adair managed to live up the task I had set him. I had no complaints about his abilities, at least not at that juncture.”
“Adair was in Copenhagen,” growls Sherlock, clearly irritated at missing that detail. “It’s always something.”
Moran’s smoky chuckle rumples in satisfaction. “Delegation – a little something I learned from Jim. He admired you, you know? His one flaw. Unfortunately, it proved to be fatal, as most obsessions do.”
He grins coldly, and adds, “Besides, you were in no condition to follow me too closely. That much was obvious.”
I swear, if we get out of this…No. No, damn it. When we get out of this, I will make the mad git sit down and tell me every last thing that happened while he was ‘dead.’
I tighten my fingers slowly on the Sig, feeling the checkering of the grip bite into my palm.
Focus Watson. Sherlock’s here. He’s alive. Keep it together. It’s almost time.
The shaking in my hand and shoulders has become almost uncontrollable. I allow my head to drop to the floor again. Just a moment…Steady now…
Moran’s voice abruptly seems to boom. I wonder if he has moved closer to me? I don’t dare look up – if he’s moved closer, any movement could catch his eye.
Don’t give the game away. Hold steady.
“I have to admit it, Holmes. Jim said you were a genius, and only a genius could have set up that counterfeit document setup in Mogadishu. How did you manage it? The place was hell on earth.”
I can just barely see Sherlock out of my peripheral vision now, as I have tipped my head to help focus on the Sig. He shrugs. He continues to deliberately not look at me.
He is giving me time to reach the Sig.
My love’s voice has reverted to its usual disdainful tone. “Oh, please. The place is a veritable war zone. The country splintered into dozens of factions. But money still talks, Colonel, and I had only to offer to finance the efforts of certain individuals, and I found I had a small army at my disposal. It was hardly exceptionally clever.”
Moran nods, “Of course. Your brother came in handy. I suspected as much, but it’s nice to have it corroborated.”
If I didn’t know better, I would think that Moran’s voice holds admiration. Almost.
Why the hell is Sherlock chatting with Moran? Why this mutual admiration society?
Of course. He must be aware that even though I’ve managed to grip the Sig, I cannot possibly do much with it. He’s buying time for Mycroft! Sherlock is stalling, hoping to give his brother and his men time to come to the rescue.
My glance towards Wiggins and Edwin, curled on the floor together, sends a chill through me.
Mycroft’s men were guarding the two of them. If their guards are both gone, then we can’t count on a rescue right away. We’re on our own.
I loop my finger into the trigger guard, cautiously pushing up onto my elbow.
Give me this one. Just this one. I’m overdue. You owe me! I wonder if anyone listens.
I take as deep a breath as I am able, and feel the adrenaline surge as I start to lift the Sig…
And with excruciating agony, the heavy tread of a black boot presses firmly down onto my wrist, crushing my fingers into releasing the gun.
Moran glances down at me, remarking idly, “Bravo, Captain Watson. I didn’t think you could even move that hand, given your injuries. But we both know that you cannot possibly lift that gun, let alone aim it.”
The crushing weight lifts from my boneless fingers, and with one swift move, Moran’s boot flashes. I watch in horror as the Sig skids across the wooden floor and into the open doorway, yards out of my reach.
My head drops to the floor, and I choke back a sob of frustration and despair.
I’m so sorry, Sherlock.
I hear a determined click, impossible to ignore in the silence, and know that Moran has raised my gun. His voice is utterly cold. “No more stalling, Holmes.”
No! This can’t be the end of it. It can’t! I can’t bear to watch him die again.
I close my eyes.
Then I hear Sherlock’s choked reply. “Colonel, will you allow me a last word to my partner?”
Please, God. No. Please, oh please.
I open my eyes, and wish that I could raise my hand to brush the sweaty fringe away from them. I want to see my lover clearly, one last time.
Moran says, “Of course. But make it quick.”
Sherlock’s verdigris eyes meet mine, and the grief in them is shattering. My heart squeezes unmercifully in my chest – my tingling, burning chest.
I can’t bear this.
A wry hint of a smile jerks his remarkable lips upward at the corners.
“It’s been a pleasure, John Watson.”
No! God. No.
I am too far gone, in too much pain to ever know if I actually reply, or if it’s just my feverish brain supplying the words.
“The pleasure has been all mine, love.”
Time slows. Moran raises the gun. Sherlock’s eyes remain locked with mine and I realize he has no intention of looking at Moran again.
At least our last sight will be of each other.
A shot rings out.
My eyes slam shut, unable to bear seeing the light go out of those quicksilver eyes. A body slumps heavily to the floor.
Oh, my love. I’ll be there soon.
I open my eyes to face my executioner.
Moran is the body on the floor. Sherlock is still frozen in shock, now staring at Wiggins, who is clutching Adair’s gun in both hands, still cradling Edwin’s still form in her lap.