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The Adventure of the Maniacal Kidnapper

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Chapter 1

     On an otherwise ordinary afternoon, John Watson walked up the stairs to 221B. Home from work after a long day, he expected to find Sherlock sitting in his chair, unmoved from this morning. He did not.

     Instead, Sherlock was staring intently at a half-a-dozen papers he had pinned onto the wall.

     “What’s this?” John asked, taking off his jacket.

     “A case,” Sherlock replied vaguely.

     “Right. Feel like filling me in?” John asked, walking over to the fridge.

     “It’s a murder. And a nasty one at that.” Sherlock replied, still not turning from where he stood, examining the papers. John grabbed an apple and walked over to him.

     There was some graphic photographs of a body, and a coroner’s report. A man, aged 35, was found dead under the Vauxhall Arches. He was brutally stabbed a dozen times, and his face was so beaten in he was unidentifiable. As of yet, they had no idea who he was. But there was something else. A message, written next to the body in blood. “I’m coming.” Lovely.

     “Lestrade send this to you?” John asked. Sherlock nodded. “Any leads on who did it?”

     “A few. But I need more information.” John nodded. Of course.

     “Have you been down to the scene yet?” Sherlock nodded again. “What now then?”

     “This message. Who is it for? Someone who knows the man, or who the killer knows would see the body. But…” he trailed off. “Oh. Oh!” Sherlock spun around, grabbing his laptop in a flurry of movement.

     “What is it? Sherlock? Sherlock!” But Sherlock wasn’t listening to him. He had found something, and was staring at it.

     “Of course! How could I not see?”

     “Do you feel like explaining?” John asked irritably, plopping down into his chair.

     “Andrew Greyson was released from prison yesterday, all charges dropped.”

     “Greyson? Isn’t that the bloke you caught for serial killing a few years back?” John asked.

     “Yes. But there wasn’t exactly proof, and Lestrade brought him in prematurely. He appealed, and they couldn’t hold him. This is exactly his style. He starts off by sending a message. But who is he after this time?”

     “Someone who knows the man?” John suggested.

     “No, if that was the case, it’d be less public, and why would he smash the face in? No, it’s for someone else…”

     Footsteps pounded up the steps. Lestrade, out of breath, stood in their doorway.

     “Lestrade. What is it?” John asked.

     “There’s been another, hasn’t there?” Sherlock asked, a grin starting to spread over his face. Lestrade nodded.

     “It’s the same as before, but the message switched.” John frowned as Lestrade handed Sherlock a picture.

     “Everything you hold dear.” Right next to the body of a woman, face smashed in, and stabbed repeatedly.

     “Ooh, yes!” Sherlock exclaimed. “John, grab your coat.”

     “I don’t suppose there’s any chance I’ll get to eat first?” he asked.

     “Of course not! The game is on!” With that, Sherlock was out the door.

     John sighed. “Well, it’s not like I have much of an appetite left anyways. Not after those pictures.” He grabbed his coat and ran after Sherlock.

     "Oh, my,” Mrs. Hudson said, watching them leave. “They’re always in such a hurry.”

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     Sherlock hailed a cab, and the two men hopped inside. They rode in silence, Sherlock thinking with his hands steepled in front of his face.

     John rubbed his temples, stifling a yawn. He’d had a long day, and he knew it was just getting started. Once Sherlock was on the case, there was no sleep until it was finished. And this promised to be a very long case.

     They arrived wherever it was they were going. Sometimes, John wished he had Sherlock’s mental map of London. He could just look and know immediately where he was. John didn’t have that luxury.

     The police had set up crime scene tape, but John and Sherlock ignored that easily. John ducked underneath as Sherlock peered at the body.

     To John, it looked identical to the photographs, and didn’t help him at all. But Sherlock was examining the body thoroughly. To the untrained eye, he didn’t appear to notice anything, but John could tell that he’d found something. It might not be much, but he’d put something more together.

     “What is it?” John asked. Sherlock just shook his head.

     “Not sure yet.” He turned back to the body. He checked the pockets, but the body had been completely stripped except…wait. Sherlock pulled something out of the pocket. It was a note, left by the attacker.

     Sherlock straightened immediately. Lestrade frowned.

     “Do you have something?” the police officer asked.

     “Might. The woman’s in her late 20s, works as a writer of some kind. She’s not important to the case. Our killer just chose randomly. Look in missing persons, I’m sure you’ll find her. But the murderer left us a second note. See?” He handed the piece of paper to Lestrade.

     “Is…is that an address? What, is he leading you to his secret lair?”

       “Doubtful. Most likely some kind of wild goose chase for whoever finds the body, but it’s worth checking out, isn’t it? Come along, John.” Sherlock turned and marched out of the crime scene. John hurried to catch up with him.

     “So we’re going to this address?” he asked.

     “Of course. Do keep up.”

     “But you said it was a wild goose chase.”

     “Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it tells us more about our killer.”

     “It’s him, isn’t it? Greyson? It’s his style.”

     “Maybe. Or maybe it’s a copycat trying to make us think that it’s Greyson. We don’t have enough information yet.”

     “Right.” Sherlock hailed a cab.

     “721 Beech Street, quickly now.” The driver sped away without another word. Sherlock settled back to think.

     Before long, the two men arrived at the address. It was a small apartment on the far side of town. They crept up the steps, John with his hand on his revolver. Sherlock cracked open the unlocked door, and peered into the room. John stuck his head around the door, too.

     It was plain. An ordinary mantelpiece with a fireplace, two armchairs, and a mirror. It struck him as oddly familiar, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. It wasn’t until he noticed the ram head with the headphones on it that he realized it. It was a replica of 221B Baker Street. And someone was sitting in the armchair that should have been John’s.

     John pulled out his revolver.

     “Hello?” Sherlock called. The person didn’t move. Sherlock walked into the room, and John followed cautiously. They walked over to the person in the armchair. Sherlock stiffened.

     “What is it?” John asked, before looking down. The person in the armchair was dead. But this one’s face wasn’t smashed in. There was another note.

     “Watson your mind?” John jerked in surprise.

     “It’s one of the Irregulars,” Sherlock said, staring at the face. “It’s for me. It’s all been for me. Greyson is out for revenge.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

     “Of course! How could I have been so stupid?” He smacked himself in the head, then turned to John with a sudden urgency. “You. He’ll be coming after you next. He practically said it. You have to go back to Baker Street.”

     “That’s ridiculous. I should be with you. It’s you he wants to hurt. If he wants to do it through me, we’ll be better off if we’re together.”

     Sherlock shook his head, not really listening. “You have to stay out of harm’s way. I can’t be bothered with protecting you if I’m trying to solve this.”

     “Sherlock! When will you learn that I can take care of myself? And you need me.”

     “I don’t need you,” Sherlock scoffed. John recoiled. Sherlock immediately looked sorry, but didn’t say anything.

     “Well.” John said.

     Sherlock sighed. “You know what I mean.”

     “Do I?” John asked, but he did. Sherlock did honestly believe that. He thought he could still do everything by himself. And that meant, sometimes, he pushed John to the wayside.

     “Go and look after Mrs. Hudson. If he’s looking to hurt me, he’ll go after both of you. I can’t focus with you two in separate places.” John frowned. He did have a point.

     “What about you? If he comes after you, you’ll need someone to watch your back.”

     “I already told you. I don’t need you here. I can take care of myself.”

     “And so can I,” John pointed out. “You seem to think I can’t. Are you forgetting which one of us has military experience?”

     Sherlock brushed that off. “Go home, John. Please.”

     John was startled by the sincerity in his voice. He sighed. “Alright. But I don’t like it. And you better keep me informed.”

     Sherlock nodded, but John could tell he hadn’t heard a thing past him agreeing. “I’m serious, Sherlock. Don’t go charging off anywhere without telling me.”

     “I will,” Sherlock replied. John couldn’t tell if he meant he wouldn’t go anywhere without telling him, or that he would. John sighed again. It was hopeless.

     “I’m going to take a cab.” John walked out of the replica of Baker Street, leaving Sherlock to examine the room for clues.

     Their cab was still waiting outside, and John hopped into it. “Baker Street, please.” The cabbie said nothing, just started to drive.

     John settled back, leaning his head against the seat. This was out of character for Sherlock. He had always wanted John by his side with this. He’d dragged him on enough crazy cases with danger before this. So what was different?

     Then he remembered.

 

     "This is it,” Sherlock whispered. “Greyson’s hideout.”

     “Is he here?” John asked. Sherlock looked around.

     “Doesn’t seem like it. Did you bring your gun?”

     “Of course.” Sherlock smiled.

     “Follow me.” The two men crept forward into the darkened room. John looked around, but there was no sign of anyone

     Strong arms grabbed John from behind, and he felt the cold metal of a gun pressed to his head. Dread filled his body.

     “Oh, dear. Now we’re in a bit of a situation,” said the man holding John, most likely Greyson. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to go into someone’s house without knocking?”

     “What do you want?” Sherlock asked coolly.

     “Isn’t it obvious? Drop the case.”

     Sherlock kept his face impassive. “And if I don’t?”

     “Well, then I guess I’ll have to shoot your partner. Watson, isn’t it?” The man laughed, and Sherlock stiffened. John took a deep breath.

     The police were on their way. John knew that much. He’d called Lestrade himself. But if the police came in while Greyson had a gun to his head, he’d kill him. He was a serial killer. John knew he wouldn’t hesitate.

     “Let John go, and we’ll discuss it,” Sherlock said, still calm as anything. John fought to keep his breath even as the man jabbed the barrel of the gun harder against his head.

     “I don’t think so. As long as I’ve got him, I know you won’t do anything stupid. Perhaps I’ll keep him for a while.” Sherlock stiffened. It was the first sign of actual concern he’d given.

     “Police! Drop your weapon!” Oh, crap.

     John ducked out of Greyson’s arms, rolling away. A gunshot rang out, and John braced for the pain. But it didn’t come. He lay on the ground, breathing heavily as the police grabbed Greyson.

     Sherlock ran to John. “Are you alright? John, can you hear me?”

     “I’m fine, Sherlock, honest.” John sat up. “It didn’t even hit me.” Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief.

     “Thank God.” John smiled. It was always nice to know Sherlock cared for him. It was a little ridiculous that it had to come to this before Sherlock showed basic concern, but still.

 

     The last time they’d faced Greyson, Sherlock had thought he’d killed John. It made complete sense that he wanted him out of harm’s way. Well, at least this way he’d get to eat properly for the next couple days.

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     Meanwhile, back at the crime scene, Sherlock had found something. A pocket handkerchief, with something written on it.

     “Meet me where it all began.” Sherlock frowned, thinking back. During the last case with Greyson, the first body had been found at the Marina, if that was what he meant.

     He left the crime scene in a hurry, dialing Lestrade’s number. He answered after two rings.

     “Hello?”

     “Go to this address. 721 Beech Street. There’s another body. It’s one of my Irregulars, Jim Green. I’ve searched the scene and have everything I need. It’s yours.”

     “Well where are you going?” Lestrade asked, sounding a little disgruntled.

     “The Marina.” He hung up, getting into the cab.

     “Limehouse Basin Marina," he told the cabbie, and he settled back as they pulled away from the curb.

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     “Mrs. Hudson?” John walked into 221A, knocking lightly on the doorframe.

     “Yes, dear?” Mrs. Hudson poked her head out from the sitting room. John smiled.

     “Sherlock sent me to look after you.”

     “Oh, dear. Why?” Mrs. Hudson looked concerned and walked toward him.

     “Greyson’s out, and after Sherlock. He thinks Greyson will come after us to get to him. And so, here I am.” John sighed, and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs.

     “Oh, my. Well, how about a nice cuppa? That’ll cheer you up.” Mrs. Hudson smiled at him.

     “I-what? I’m not upset.” John said, confused.

     “Sure you aren’t, dear.” Mrs. Hudson patted his shoulder knowingly.

     “Though a cuppa would be nice,” he conceded.

     “Of course, dear.” Mrs. Hudson walked to the stove and put the kettle on.

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     Sherlock walked up to the Marina. It was getting late, and there were almost no people there. He kept a watchful eye out for Greyson or anything out of the ordinary.

     There! On one of the boats, Greyson stood, staring at Sherlock. He smirked as their eyes met. Sherlock put his hand in his pocket, resting it on his gun.

     He walked towards Greyson, watching his every move. He also took care to notice his surroundings, in case Greyson had brought associates.

     “Hello, Sherlock. We meet again.”

     “Greyson.” Sherlock acknowledged.

     “Didn’t you bring your little friend this time?” Sherlock just shrugged, as though it was nothing. “Ah, well. You know you cost me a year of my life. Do you know what I could have done in that time?”

     “It’s not that much of a waste, really,” Sherlock said, wrinkling his nose.

     “Oh, but it was. So I wanted to make sure you knew it was me, causing you pain.”

     “You haven’t,” Sherlock said shortly.

     “Oh, maybe not yet. But I will. Oh, I will.”

     “I doubt that,” Sherlock said derisively. Greyson just shook his head, and the boat began to move.

     “Just you wait, Sherlock Holmes. Just you wait."

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 

     Sherlock watched Greyson until he was out of sight. Then, he turned and got back into the cab.

     “Baker Street,” he told the driver. He steepled his hands under his chin, thinking. There had to be a way to keep John out of all of this mess. Greyson knew to use John, he’d shown that during their last encounter. John had been with him for that, and had been in danger anyway.

     After Moriarty and the pool, Sherlock had assumed John was safest by his side. They’d been apart, and Moriarty had been able to get to him. But Greyson was different. It had been an ordinary case, the two of them together, and Greyson had still been able to get to John.

     But John by himself wasn’t an idea situation either. Greyson was a kidnapper, and a killer. He could easily get to John in Baker Street. No, the best way to keep John safe was to make it seem like he was already out of the picture.

     They had to have a fight.

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     John sat in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen, sipping his cup of tea. His gun lay on the table, and he eyed it warily, looking around.

     The door creaked open, and John spun around, his gun practically leaping into his hand.

     “It’s just me,” Sherlock called, and John relaxed.

     “How’s the case?” he asked as Sherlock came in, grabbing something from Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen.

     “I had a run in with Greyson,” he replied. John stiffened.

     “Where?”

     “The Marina. ‘Where it all began’, according to him,” Sherlock said off-handedly, wiping his mouth.

     “He left you another message?” John asked. Sherlock nodded. “So what now?”

     “You.”

     John frowned, startled. “Me? What about me?”

     “We have to make it seem like you aren’t important anymore.”

     “Gee, thanks,” John replied sarcastically. Sherlock didn’t reply. “What do you mean?”

     “I mean, you have to move out of Baker Street indefinitely.”

     John stared at him. He said it so calmly, like it was nothing. “Come again?”

     "You have to move out. We’ve been fighting for a while, and it came down to irreconcilable differences.” John blinked repeatedly.

     “You want me to move out?” he asked stupidly.

     “Yes, I thought that was obvious,” Sherlock said, frowning.

     “No, it was…I just….what?” John asked.

     “I don’t have time to explain. You can come back when this case is over, but for now, if anyone asks, we’re not speaking anymore. And it’s probably best if we don’t.”

     “Where am I supposed to go?”

     “Mycroft’s paid for your old flat. You’ll live there for a few weeks. You can go to work, do whatever it is you normally do.”

     “Isn’t it dangerous?” Sherlock just shrugged. “Sherlock, I’m not just going to abandon you because some psychopath threatened me. That’s just a regular Tuesday for me!” Sherlock shook his head. “If this is because of the last time, it won’t happen again.”

     “But it could.” Sherlock said calmly. “Just…go.”

     “I’m not your dog!” John yelled. “You can’t just order me to go somewhere and expect I’ll obey. I have a say in this, too.”

     “I thought that was what they taught you in the military,” Sherlock sniped. John breathed heavily.

     “What about you? Who’s going to look out for you while I’m off being ‘normal’ and ‘safe’?”

     “Me. Like I always have.”

     John laughed derisively. “You don’t know how helpless you really are, do you? I save your life every other week, and still you think you take care of yourself.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe I will go. Just to get away from you.”

     “Alright. Then go.”

     John looked at him, shook his head, and stormed up the stairs.

     “As long as it keeps you safe,” Sherlock whispered under his breath.

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     With John taken care of, Sherlock turned his focus back to the case. He knew who the killer was, but he didn’t know where he was. He had to have proof.

     He could try the old hide-out, but it was unlikely Greyson would be stupid enough to use somewhere Sherlock and the police knew about. He could track the owner of the boat Greyson had ridden off on, but it was most likely stolen, and it was probable that the owner had nothing to do with him.

     This case was infuriating, because he’d already solved it. He solved it in the first ten minutes, but here he was, no closer to catching the killer.

     And this time he’d decided to make it personal. Killing one of his Irregulars was over the line. It wasn’t like Sherlock cared about the boy, but it was annoying to lose such a valuable asset. Jim had been one of the best.

     And of course, there was still the knot in the bottom of his stomach. It had something to do with Greyson’s threat, and John. He wouldn’t acknowledge it. He had to focus on the case at hand.

     His phone rang. He answered before the second ring. “Yes?”

     “Sherlock? It’s Lestrade. You better get down here. There’s another body.” Sherlock hung up, already halfway down the stairs.

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     The body turned out to be a woman, strikingly similar to The Woman. The face was bashed in (wasn’t that familiar).

     “It’s not her,” Sherlock said.

     “It’s not who?” Lestrade asked, confused.

     “The Woman,” Sherlock explained.

     “Okay. Well, it’s some woman, and I was hoping you could help us identify her.”

     “Someone, Greyson, has taken great pains to make her look like The Woman. But if you look at her hands, she’s done more physical labour than our friend Ms. Adler. She’s somewhere in her 30s, probably 35 if I had to guess. He’s cleaned her nails, but there’s a bit of dirt here, see?” He held up the dead woman’s hand. “I’ll get you her location in a few hours. Molly, a petri dish?”

     The mousy woman walked over, handing Sherlock one from a stack. “Are you and John really fighting?”

     Sherlock made a noncommittal noise. “Because John said you made him move out. Sherlock, what’s going on?” Sherlock didn’t reply. “Sherlock? You know if anything’s going on, you can tell me.”

     “Lestrade?” Sherlock said, looking at him pointedly.

     “What?” He frowned, then seemed to realize what Sherlock meant. “Oh….right…I’ll just….” He trailed off as he walked out the door.

     “Sherlock? What’s the matter?” Molly asked, sounding worried.

     “Greyson’s back,” he said in a low voice. “And he’s after me, and wants to use John to get to me.”

     “Oh, my,” she said. “What are you going to do?”

     “That’s why John isn’t living at Baker Street. I need you to pretend John and I are fighting. Or not friends any longer. You’re good at that, aren’t you?”

     “What, lying?” she asked, sounding flustered.

     “Yes.” She frowned, but decided to let it pass.

     “What do you need me to do?”

     “Isn’t it obvious? Tell the press. They won’t believe it if it comes from me. But you? You they’ll believe.”

     Molly pursed her lips, weighing the options. “Alright. I’ll do it. But you owe me, Sherlock Holmes.”

     “I owe you for more than this,” he conceded, almost smiling. She just shook her head as Sherlock scraped the dirt into the petri dish and went to the microscope to analyze it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

     John sat in his old flat, doing absolutely nothing. It felt so wrong to be there. It wasn’t home. It hadn’t been home for a long time. In fact, he wasn’t sure if it ever was.

     What was Sherlock up to? He knew Sherlock solved cases without him, but he never knew about them until afterwards. It felt weird to know “the game was on”, but that he wasn’t a part of it.

     His phone rang. He snatched it up and answered. “Hello?”

     “Hi, John, it’s Molly.” She sounded apprehensive.

     “Hi, Molly, what is it?” he asked, concerned.

     “Would you do me a favor, John?” she asked hesitantly.

     “Sure, name it,” he replied.

     “Don’t read the papers today. It won’t do anyone any good.”

     He frowned. That was an odd request. “Can I ask why?”

     “I can’t tell you, but just…promise, okay, John?” She sounded so worried that he answered immediately.

     “Of course. I promise.” There was a pause. “Have you heard from Sherlock?” he asked nonchalantly.

     “Yeah,” she answered.

     “How is he?” he inquired.

     “Good. He’s…good.” She wasn’t telling him something. But it wasn’t like he could call her out on it. He sighed.

     “Tell him…if you talk to him again…tell him I’m not mad, and to solve the bloody case already.” He laughed, but it wasn’t genuine. “Do that for me, okay?”

     “Okay,” she agreed. “Stay safe, John. Take care of yourself.”

     “I will, don’t worry,” he replied. “Bye, Molly.”

     “Goodbye, John.”

     He hung up the phone, contemplating what to do next. Sherlock had told him to “go about his normal activities,” but what normal activities did he have? His life basically revolved around Sherlock and crime-solving.

     He wasn’t scheduled to work that day. He hadn’t met anyone recently, so going on a date was out. Plus, while Greyson was after him, he didn’t really want to involve anyone else in case it put them in danger. So a date or meeting up with old friends for drinks was out.

     He sighed. This was going to be a boring couple of days. Not to mention, stressful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     Molly hung up the phone. “John says to tell you he’s not mad at you and that you should hurry up and solve the case,” she told Sherlock, who was still pouring over the microscope.

     “Mm,” he said. She wasn’t sure if he’d heard her or not.

     “I’m going to get lunch. You want anything?” Sherlock didn’t look up. “Figured as much.” She turned and left the room.

 

     Sherlock looked up, watching her go. He was glad people thought he didn’t care about her. It meant he had someone to help him when shady characters threatened John or Mrs. Hudson. But sooner or later, he knew they’d catch on. For now, he could make the most of it.

     He’d finished analyzing the dirt for the pollens. He pulled out his phone, already sending a text to Lestrade.

She’s from London

-SH

     Satisfied he’d done his duty on that front, he turned back to pondering Greyson’s next move. There hadn’t been any note with the woman. She’d only been meant to look like The Woman, and to scare him. He scoffed at that. Everyone seemed to think he cared about her. Sure, she had intrigued him, but why they all thought he was obsessed with her, he had no idea.

     So what was Greyson’s next move? If he could predict it, he could be one step ahead. Who did he think Sherlock cared about?

     John was the obvious answer. But Greyson wouldn’t go after him first. He was too clever, too invested in the mind games. No, he’d work up to it.

     Mrs. Hudson? Most people didn’t know that, but Greyson wasn’t most people. Lestrade? Maybe even Molly? Mycroft? He almost laughed at the thought.

     Greyson’d already attempted to manipulate Sherlock with the Woman, but he’d failed. No one knew that Sherlock cared about Lestrade. Or Molly. He was always indifferent to both of them. And Mycroft, if Greyson was stupid enough to think he cared for him, was untouchable. So Mrs. Hudson was the most likely next target.

     He started constructing another text, this one to Mycroft

Put surveillance out on Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson in addition to John.

-SH

     There was an almost immediate reply.

Dear brother, your underestimation amuses me. Baker Street is always under surveillance.

-M

     Sherlock scowled.

Well, increase it.

-SH

     There was no reply, which Sherlock took as agreement. There was that taken care of. Hopefully John was alright. But he couldn’t contact him. Not if he wanted to keep the façade of not speaking. So all he could do was wonder….

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     A noise startled John from his reverie. He immediately grabbed his gun, looking around cautiously. He pulled out his phone, dialing Lestrade’s number.

     He stood up slowly, moving toward the origin of the noise. It had come from the bedroom. The phone just kept ringing. “Come on, Lestrade, pick up,” he muttered to himself.

     Tightening his grip on his gun, he crept into the room. It was empty, just as he’d left it. Still, he didn’t let down his guard. He scanned the room, inspecting it closely. Wait, the closet was open, just slightly more.

     He inched his way toward it, tightening his grip on his gun. Bracing himself, he kicked it open. Nothing.

     “You’ve reached the voicemail of D.I. Greg Lestrade,” a voice rang in his ear. He jumped about a  mile into the air. He fought to control his breathing as he realized what it was.

     “Stop right there, John Watson,” a different voice said. He stiffened, and turned around slowly.

     “What do you want?” he asked, as he faced the intruder.

     It was Greyson. The lean-faced man pointed a gun at him.  “Your pain. And through that, Sherlock’s,” he replied, with the hint of a smirk.

     The phone beeped, signaling the beginning of the message. Now Greyson actually smirked, lifting the gun higher. “Let’s leave them a message, shall we?”

     A shot rang out, and John flinched. Something hit him in the back of the head, and he was falling…falling...

     Through a haze, he saw Greyson pick up his phone. “John can’t come to the phone right now. But tell Sherlock that I said hi.”

     John blinked, fighting to stay awake. Everything was blurry.

     “He’s still conscious, boss,” another voice said. Greyson looked down at him, raising a foot casually. The last thing he saw was Greyson’s boot coming straight at his face, and then a crunching pain before everything went black.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

     Sherlock hopped in a cab, heading for a rendezvous with a member of his Homeless Network. They were his best chance of finding where Greyson was hiding. He had at least a dozen of these meetings, so he could make sure everywhere was searched. They were his least favorite part of cases.

     The cabbie slowed next to the first place. He hopped out, fishing out his ten pound note and his own handwritten one. He walked casually over to the beggar sitting at the corner.

     “Spare change?” she asked.

     “Here,” he replied, handing her the two notes.

     She unfolded it as he headed back to the cab. All it said was:

Find Greyson

     He slid back into the cab, telling the cabbie the next address as he closed the door.

     His phone buzzed. It was Lestrade. He picked it up, frowning. “What is it?” he asked.

      “Sherlock? I…You…John…you should get down here as soon as you can. There’s a message you need to hear.” Something in his voice made Sherlock freeze.

      “What’s wrong?” he asked.

      “It’s…I think it’s better if you hear for yourself.” Lestrade’s voice was shaking. Something was very wrong.

     He rapped on the glass divider. “Bring me to New Scotland Yard. Quickly!” The cabbie made a u-turn, speeding towards the building.

     Sherlock tapped his fingers, feeling unsettled. In his gut, he already knew what had happened. But Sherlock never dealt in what-if. It was never good to theorize without all of the facts.

     Sherlock was out of the cab before the cabbie even stopped. He burst into Lestrade’s office. “Show me. Now!”

     Lestrade handed him his phone. “It’s from John,” he explained, before pressing play.

     Silence, then: “Let’s leave them a message, shall we?” It was Greyson’s voice. Sherlock knew in an instant. A gun shot rang out. Sherlock flinched. A cry, clearly John’s, and a thud. “John can’t come to the phone now. But tell Sherlock that I say hi.”

     Sherlock stood still, completely silent. It was a challenge. He knew it. He turned on his heel, marching out of Lestrade’s office.

     “Sherlock!” Lestrade called. He slowed, but didn’t answer. “Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”

     “I’m the opposite of stupid,” Sherlock replied, sweeping out of the building.

     “You’re the definition of stupid when it comes to John,” Lestrade muttered to himself. He turned to go back to his desk.

     “What do we do, Detective Inspector?” one of his men asked.

     “What we always do. Wait for Sherlock to solve the case, and hope he calls us instead of murdering someone.” He sighed. “We have other things to do. Sherlock can handle this.” His man nodded and left.

     “I hope,” he added.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     Sherlock practically jumped into the cab, rattling off the address for John’s flat. He needed to see for himself, make sure Greyson wasn’t just trying to throw him off.

     His mind was whirling. John. Greyson had John. This was what he’d been trying to avoid. Where had Mycroft’s men been? He’d made sure John would be protected above everything. So how had Greyson got to him?

     He furiously started a text to Mycroft.

What the hell? You were supposed to be monitoring him.

-SH

     He sat, fuming, waiting for a reply. His phone buzzed almost immediately.

I was. Greyson is better than I gave him credit for.

-M

     Sherlock scowled. This just proved that he couldn’t trust Mycroft.

     His thoughts were interrupted by their arrival at the complex where John was. He was out of the cab in an instant, climbing the stairs two at a time. He reached John’s door, which was open.

     He entered cautiously, hand on his gun. The room was trashed. He made his way into the bedroom, and stopped dead in his tracks.

     On the carpet, there was a spot that looked suspiciously like blood. And written in red, on the wall, was another message.

"Dear me, Mr. Holmes. Dear me…"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     John was first aware of the throbbing pain in the back of his head. What had happened?

     It slowly came back to him. The case, Greyson, and then the hit. He thought of the message Greyson had left. He knew Sherlock would be going crazy. John hoped he could come up with a plan to get both of them out of this alive.

     He kept his eyes closed, hoping that if his captors were in the room, they wouldn’t notice he was awake. Worse things always happened when you were awake.

     Where had they taken him? He supposed he was in their secret hideout, wherever that was. Sherlock could probably tell where they were from the smell or something stupid like that. But John was on his own, with only his wits to keep him alive. That, and he was pretty sure Greyson would rather kill John in front of Sherlock. Why else kidnap him instead of murdering him on the spot?

     Not that he wasn’t grateful they hadn’t murdered him. More time for him to work out a way out of this mess.

     “I see you’re awake, John.” It was Greyson. John opened his eyes slowly. No point keeping up the act now. “Good. Now we can have a proper chat.”

     John didn’t respond, just kept his face impassive. “You’re going to be like that, are you?” Greyson asked. John still didn’t answer. “Alright. Boys?”

     One of Greyson’s men, the biggest one, walked over to John. He didn’t like the look on his face. It wasn’t angry, or amused. Just…unsettling. “Go ahead and rough him up a bit,” Greyson told the man. “But not too much. We want him in one piece for Sherlock.”

     John glared at him defiantly. But the man didn’t care. He pulled his fist back and punched John square in the face. John went reeling, his head throbbing harder. Blood gushed from his nose, and he was sure it was broken. From the pressure pushing inwards, he could tell it was already swelling.

     “Now let’s see if you’re feeling more talkative,” Greyson smiled. John just glared. “No? Jud?” The big man started forward again. “He’s not very creative, I’m afraid,” Greyson told him. “One of my other boys is so much more fun. But he gets the job done, don’t you?” Jud just smiled, then kicked John in the stomach. John made a pained noise as the wind was knocked out of him.

     “Well that’s something,” Greyson said. “Now, tell me. What does Sherlock prize above everything else in the world?”

     John glared at him, but thought fast. If he kept saying nothing, they would beat him to a pulp. He’d do it for Sherlock, but this question gave him a chance to throw Greyson for a loop. Still, it wasn’t worth the risk. He knew he was a terrible liar. Sherlock had informed him of this on no less than twenty occasions.

     “Your silence says everything,” Greyson replied. “It’s you, isn’t it?” John almost laughed.

     “You think Sherlock put me above everything?” he replied incredulously, before remembering that he wasn’t talking.

     “Oh, good. You’ve finally come to your senses. So tell me. If it’s not you, what do you think he does?”

     “Isn’t it obvious?” John asked. “Himself.”

     Now Greyson laughed. “Oh, please. Sherlock cares nothing for himself. You know the man better than anyone. If he really did, he would take better care of himself.” He made a tsking noise. “Always risking himself for something or other. No,” he continued, “one of the few consistent things about Sherlock is that he doesn’t care about himself.”

     John kept his face impassive, but he knew Greyson was right. Sherlock was selfish, but he didn’t care about himself. He was a walking contradiction. He didn’t put everyone before himself, but the game, and the people he cared about, always came first. And yet, he was completely inconsiderate of what anyone else thought or felt.

     “I think we’re done here,” Greyson said slowly, before turning and walking from the room. His men followed. Was he not going to be guarded? If that was true, then maybe-

     “Don’t even think about it,” Greyson warned him, without turning around. “Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.” The door swung shut behind the last man, leaving John alone with his pain.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

    Sherlock stared at the message. So it was true. Greyson had John. At least he wasn’t dead, or at least Greyson didn’t want him to think he was dead. But he had been shot, or so it seemed. But there wasn’t enough blood for a bullet wound.

    Sherlock crouched to examine the patch of blood. It was blood, but he couldn’t tell if it was John’s unless he brought it back for DNA testing. He pulled a bag out of his pocket and scraped some of the dried blood into it.

    He examined the rest of the room thoroughly, searching for clues. He found nothing but what Greyson wanted him to find. The bloodstain and the message was it. Greyson was good, too good. If he’d managed to get past Mycroft…But he wasn’t Mycroft.  Even if he was the “smarter brother,” Sherlock noticed more.

    He would beat Greyson, simply because he had to. John’s life depended on it, and if Sherlock could be depended to do anything, saving John Watson was it.

    His best shot was still the Homeless Network. They could cover the whole city faster than he could, and they saw things other people didn’t. He just wished it didn’t take as much of his time to contact them all.

    He left the flat, sending a text to Molly.

I have a sample of blood. Can you run a DNA test?

-SH

     She responded almost instantly.

Sure! Just bring it over.

    He hailed a cab, directing it to St. Bart’s.

    He was trying to be calm, but internally, he was screaming. He wanted the cabbie to go faster. Every second that passed was another second John was in the hands of Greyson. Something in his gut told him he was in pain. Sherlock hated listening to his gut, but when it came to John, it was usually right.

    He balled and unballed his fists, trying not to let anxiety get the better of him. He had to stay on his game, stay cool and calculating. He wouldn’t be doing John any favors if he got emotional. That was exactly what Greyson wanted.

    The cabbie pulled up in front of St. Bart’s, and Sherlock climbed out. He ran straight up to the lab, almost running headfirst into Molly.

    “Oof!” she exclaimed. “Sherlock! Why are you in such a rush?” she asked, then caught a glimpse of him face. “Sherlock? What’s going on?”

    “John,” he choked out. “He has John.”

    “Oh my god,” she said, her eyes wide with shock. “What do you need me to do?”

    “Here,” he said, practically shoving the bag with the dried blood in it into her hand. “Analyze this. I need to know if…if it’s his.” She nodded, understanding.

    “It normally takes a few days, but I can try to speed up the process. When do you need it?”

    “As soon as possible.” She nodded again.

    “Anything else?” she asked. He shook his head, already turning to leave. “Sherlock?” she asked.

    “Huh?” he asked, turning around.

    “Don’t do anything stupid,” she said.

    “Why do people keep telling me that?” he wondered aloud. “I’m not.”

    “Good. Because that won’t help him.”

    “I know,” he replied.

    “Find him, Sherlock. Find John, and save him.” She smiled sadly, then turned to head into the lab. Sherlock nodded, and hurried back to the cab.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As Sherlock went around alerting his homeless network, John was working on a plan. He knew Sherlock would work something out, but it would be easier for both of them if John wasn’t tied up.

    He knew Greyson had claimed there were guards watching him, and he had to assume that he was telling the truth. But there had to be a way.

    He was uneasy about Greyson leaving him alone. It either meant he was going after someone else, or he wanted John to try to escape. Which was a sobering thought. But it didn’t mean he shouldn’t try. He just hoped he wouldn’t get himself or anyone else killed in the process…

    He wiggled his hands, testing the boundaries of his restraints. He was sitting in a metal chair, his hands bound behind him and then to the chair. His feet were tied together. However, the only thing attaching him to the chair was his hands. If he could get those free, he’d be free.

    The only problem was, the ropes were so tight they were practically cutting off his circulation. He needed a knife. He’d never been good at untying knots, and these ones were beyond him.

    So it was back to the drawing board.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Sherlock paced back and forth in the living room of Baker Street. He wanted, no he needed to be doing something. And yet, he had no leads until the homeless network got back to him. He’d set up a system where one of them, a young boy named Nettles, would hear from any who got information. He would then come to Baker Street and tell Sherlock. It saved him the time having to check up with all of them constantly.

    He knew he was wasting energy worrying. This was infuriating! He knew who had John. There was nothing to solve. He’d examined Mycroft’s security tapes. They’d been tampered with so John was on an hour long loop. It should have been obvious to Mycroft the second he’d hacked it. The amount of sunlight was all wrong. But Mycroft hadn’t been paying attention.

    And without the authentic tapes, he couldn’t search for any hint of what they’d done to John, and where they’d gone. He’d figured out from the amount of footprints that there had been three men there. All large shoes. The smallest, Greyson, and two large, most likely overly-muscled men.

    His phone rang, and he answered almost immediately. “Hello?”

    “Sherlock? It’s Molly. I rushed the DNA test, and I can’t be 100% sure, but it’s a match. The blood is John’s.” Sherlock was silent. “Sherlock? Does that mean that-“ he hung up. He didn’t need anyone else’s questions. Molly would have to wait.

    So the blood was John’s. He had been injured, but in what way, Sherlock didn’t know. Shot, a head wound, maybe only a nosebleed. Greyson had trashed the room, removing any telltale signs of a struggle. The fact that John had called Lestrade made it seem like he’d had some idea something was fishy. But he didn’t know how much of a fight there had been.

    He hated all of these unknowns. He was used to dealing with facts, and being able to tell the whole story simply from looking at the scene. But Greyson was better than that. He hid what he Sherlock to know under layers of truth and lies.

    Nettles ran into the room, completely out of breath. “Mr. Holmes, sir!” he panted.

    “What is it, Nettles?” he asked.

    “It’s Sally. She found it.”

    Sherlock smiled. “Where?”

    “It’s an abandoned warehouse, sir, behind the old factory in Brixton.” Sherlock was already half out the door.

     “Anything else?” he asked.

     The boy shook his head. “That was all, sir.”

     “Here.” He tossed the boy a twenty pound note. ”Share that with Sally.” The boy nodded, and Sherlock was in a cab in a flash.

     His phone buzzed, and he looked at it.

 

UNREGISTERED NUMBER

Don’t follow that lead, Mr. Holmes, or something bad will happen to Dr. Watson.

 

    Sherlock frowned, torn. He had to get to John, and he had to catch Greyson. But if Greyson was watching him enough to know he’d gotten a lead, he would know any plan Sherlock came up with. And he couldn’t risk John’s safety.

    But every moment that passed risked John’s safety. He had to do this. He might regret it, but at least it was something. And something was always better than nothing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

    “200th Street,” Sherlock told the cabbie, listing the address Nettles had given him. He tried to ignore the knot in his stomach. He had to get to John. It didn’t matter how many warnings he was given.

    The thought occurred to him that he should maybe call Lestrade, but he ignored it. He could always call him after he figured things out. And Lestrade’s presence had nearly cost John his life during their last encounter with Greyson. They were better off without him. The less people Sherlock had to worry about, the better.

    As he waited in the cab, his mind went to John. How soon would Greyson know that he hadn’t heeded his warning? And the real question was, what would he do to John?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    John woke with a start, his limbs aching. A pounding headache had settled behind his temples, and he could barely focus. He hadn’t even realized he’d fallen asleep. Now was not a good time to be sleeping. He had to be alert.

    He still didn’t have a plan for escape. Any moment an opportunity could arise, and he needed to be ready. He knew he was in bad shape. If his headache was any sign, he probably had a concussion. Not to mention, his nose was so swollen he could see it. Plus, his arms were weak from being forced behind him for so long.

    No, if it came to a fight, he wasn’t in any shape to win. Which meant he had to outwit them. Outwit the man who’d outwitted Sherlock. Right. That was likely.

    Okay, Greyson hadn’t outwitted Sherlock. Not yet. He was still certain that Sherlock would best Greyson in the end, but he had to be practical and consider his own safety. He always seemed to get caught in the crossfire when he was with Sherlock. He never really minded unless it was times like this where he felt useless.

    He knew they wanted him alive. He didn’t know for how long, but for now they were using him to control Sherlock. He almost laughed at that thought. No one controlled Sherlock. He was unpredictable, even when it came to John. But he’d always come through up until now, and John had faith in him.

    “Morning,” Greyson said, the door swinging shut behind him. John glared at him. “Enjoy your beauty rest? Though, it didn’t really do much, did it?” He motioned to John’s face, which he was sure was a mottled mess of purple and green. And probably covered in blood. His chin felt sticky.

    “We have a slight problem,” Greyson explained. “You see, Sherlock didn’t listen to my warnings. He’s made a choice I’m sure both of you will regret.” John felt his pulse quicken. Sherlock must be close, for them to be warning him. It was only a matter of time now. “So, my apologies, Dr. Watson. You seem like a decent fellow.” He raised a pistol, aiming it at John. He stiffened.

    He thought fast. “If you kill me, nothing will stop Sherlock from killing you,” he said, though he had no idea if it was true.

    Greyson just laughed. “Oh, I know. I’m not going to kill you. Not just yet. No, Sherlock has to be here for that. I’m just going to hurt you.” John frowned.

    “Wha-“ John started, but was cut off by a searing pain in his shoulder. He looked up, finding a knife stabbed into his shoulder. One of Greyson’s men stood behind him. The man smiled, and twisted the blade. John bit back a cry of pain.

    “Oh, Dr. Watson. You’re going to have to do better than that.” The man withdrew the knife, and plunged it in again. John felt it connect with his shoulder bone. He nearly passed out from the pain.

    Greyson made a tsk-ing noise. “Blame Sherlock, Dr. Watson. He should know better than not to take my advice.” With that, the two men left the room.

    The knife was still in his shoulder. He could feel it. If he could get it out, and somehow into his hands, he could cut the ropes. But without his hands already free, how could he get the knife?

    He tried reaching with his mouth. He bumped it, and another wave of pain radiated out. He steeled himself and reached again. Biting down on it, he pulled it out. Blackness covered his eyes for a moment, but it was out.

    Twisting, he dropped the knife, trying to catch it. It bumped one of his fingers, but clattered to the floor. “Damn it,” he whispered.

    Slowly, he leaned back, tipping the chair. He strained, trying to grab it. His left hand touched the handle, but his feet flew out from under him. He landed with a crash.

    They must have heard it. He worked quickly, grabbing the knife and sawing through his bindings. It felt like it took forever, but he was free.

    He stood too quickly, and blood rushed behind his eyes. Unable to see anything, he stumbled blindly forward. As soon as his eyes cleared, he heard the door start to open. He ran for one of the boxes along the edge of the room, hopping inside.

    “Where is he?” he heard Greyson ask angrily. He held his breath. “Find him! And when you do, give him a taste of what real pain feels like.”

    As Greyson swept from the room, he exhaled slowly. He was safe. For now.

    His shoulder was bleeding profusely. He pressed a hand to it, trying to stem the flow of blood.

    “Hello, there,” someone said. John jerked, looking upwards. One of Greyson’s men smiled down at him. “You heard Greyson. Now I finally get to have some fun.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The cab slowed to a stop, and Sherlock stepped out cautiously. In front of him, a falling-down warehouse stood, looming across the darkening sky.

    Sherlock examined the building. It was old, and seemed to only have the one entrance. He circled the building, but there was no sign of anyone. Still, he believed his source. He popped his collar, straightened his scarf, and pulled his gun out of his pocket. It was time. His only objective was getting John out alive. He would kill Greyson if he had to.  He narrowed his eyes, and started toward the building. I’m coming, John, he thought.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

    Sherlock crept into the building, looking around. He was struck by a feeling of déjà vu. He’d done something like this a million times with John before, but this time, there was no John by his side.

    This all seemed much harder without him. There was an ease to knowing someone had your back. Sherlock pushed those thoughts out of his head and turned back to the situation at hand.

    He was in a hallway of sorts, with rooms lining the edges. He peered into the first one. Seemingly empty. No sign it had been disturbed recently. He could check more thoroughly, but he didn’t know how long he’d have before Greyson figured out he was here.

    He made his way down the hallway, checking each room. As he looked into the next one, something made him stop. There was something different about this one. A chair sat, overturned, in the middle of the room.

    Sherlock opened the door, walking carefully into the room. It was abandoned, but it was obvious it had been occupied up until recently.  He walked to the chair, examining it.

    It was an ordinary metal chair, tipped on its side. A pile of bloodstained ropes pooled underneath it. So whoever had been in this chair had been tied up. Probably tipped the chair themselves to reach…something. A knife? Most likely. Drops of blood speckled the ground. So they’d been injured, maybe with the same knife they’d used to escape. Someone who’d been restrained, tortured. John.

    Had he managed to escape? Sherlock looked around, searching for more clues. Upon closer examination, he found footprints, and a trail of dripping blood leading toward the edge of the room. He followed it, finding a box with a bloodstain. A hiding place, while enemies came into the room. But the box was overturned, meaning there had been a struggle.

    So where was John?

    It was entirely possible he’d managed to escape. He could have waited out whoever’d caused him to hide, then tipped over the box on the way out. Somehow, Sherlock had a sinking feeling that wasn’t true.

    “Here for your little friend, Mr. Holmes?” Sherlock turned slowly. Greyson stood at the door, eyes narrowed. “He’s been a real pain.”

    “Where is he?” Sherlock asked, fighting to keep his voice even.

    “He tried to escape. Did you know that? Of course we had to punish him,” Greyson continued, walking toward Sherlock. Sherlock tightened his grip on his gun.  “Can’t let him think he can get away with that.”

    “I’m sure you enjoyed that,” Sherlock replied.

    “As a matter of fact, yes,” Greyson agreed. “I did enjoy it. But I’m going to enjoy this so much more. Bring him in, boys!’

    Two men dragged John through the door. Sherlock couldn’t help but inhale sharply. He was in terrible shape. His nose sat at a terrible angle, dried blood covering his mouth and chin. Purple bruises sat under both of his eyes and spread towards his cheeks. Crusted blood was matted in his blond hair. His shirt was stained red at the shoulder, and from the way he held himself, Sherlock was sure there were other injuries he couldn’t see. But it was John. And the fire in his eyes reassured him more than any appearance of health.

    Their eyes met, and Sherlock felt an overwhelming rush of relief. John was here. And he was okay. For now.

    “He’s a bit worse for wear, I’m afraid,” Greyson replied. “Aren’t you, Dr. Watson?” John glared at him. Sherlock turned his focus back to Greyson.

    “What do you want?” Sherlock asked. “Your freedom for his?”

    Greyson laughed. “Oh, please. I already have my freedom.”

    “Not for much longer,” Sherlock replied. Greyson raised an eyebrow.

    “You weren’t stupid enough to call the police, were you?” he asked. “Or, were you stupid enough not to?” John looked at Sherlock in exasperation. Sherlock ignored him. “Either way, I’ll kill him. The police can’t stop me.”

    “But I can,” Sherlock shot back. John looked between them, the worry barely concealed on his face.

    “You can try,” Greyson countered. “I’m not sure you’ll be successful.”

    Sherlock smiled. “You think too highly of yourself.”

    “You underestimate me,” Greyson returned. “You may have bested me the last time, but I’ve had years to plan this. Years, Mr. Holmes. And I’ve been looking forward to this moment the most.”

    “The moment when I best you?” Sherlock asked idly, assessing how quickly John could move. They made eye contact, and John nodded tersely. Whatever Sherlock did, John would follow.

    “Oh, no. The moment when I best you,” Greyson replied. “You see, there’s nothing more you can do. We can banter as long as you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have a gun.” Greyson walked toward John, taking his arm roughly from one of the other men and pressing the barrel into John’s temple. John stiffened ever so slightly.

    “So do I,” Sherlock answered, raising it and aiming it at Greyson.

    “But I have John. Which means you’re going to give me the gun.” He took his hand off of John, never moving the gun, and held it out to Sherlock.

    Sherlock weighed his options. Without a gun, he was at a disadvantage. And Greyson intended to kill John no matter what.

    Then, a plan came to him. He had to fight to keep a smile off his face. He walked over to Greyson slowly, placing the gun in his hands.

    Out of nowhere, Sherlock moved. He pulled the gun back out of Greyson’s hand, whirling and knocking him to the ground. He hit one of the other men over the head, freeing John as he fell over unconscious. Using a mixture of martial arts, he backed the remaining man into a corner. Sherlock kicked him savagely, thinking, This is for John. He finally hit the man over the head, smiling slightly as he crumpled to the floor.

    A shot rang out, and Sherlock whirled. He looked down at the gun in his hand, but he hadn’t fired it. Greyson sat with a pistol in hand, still pointed at John. Sherlock felt an overwhelming panic as he looked at John.

    John sat, crumpled in a ball, a pool of scarlet blood collecting around him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

    Sherlock froze. No. No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening. He opened his mouth to call out, to do anything, but he couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t move his feet. He was paralyzed.

    Greyson laughed. “Sherlock Holmes, the man behind the machine.” Sherlock was launched back into reality. He unfroze, tur “John!” he yelled, his voice filled with the panic he felt. He moved to go to him, but remembered Greyson.

    “You,” he spat, rushing toward him. Greyson’s eyes widened in fear as Sherlock loomed over him. “If you killed John Watson, you will not leave here alive.” He whacked him across the head with the butt of his gun, before running to John.

    “John! John!” he exclaimed, kneeling next to him. “Are you alright? John, can you hear me?”

    “It’s nothing,” John assured him, pulling himself to a sitting position. “It’s just a graze.” But Sherlock wasn’t listening. He examined John, searching for the source of the blood. Where was it coming from? John had his hand clutched to his side, and blood oozed from under his fingers. Sherlock pried his hand away, ignoring John’s protestations.

    “Sherlock! I’m fine!” John said, alarmed. But Sherlock already had a knife out and was cutting the material away from the wound. He breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the wound.

    The bullet had gone straight through, pulling a chunk of John’s skin. But that was all. He was alright. “Oh, thank god,” he breathed. “I thought…I thought…” Sherlock started, but was unable to finish.

    “But it wasn’t,” John answered, smiling slightly.

    Sherlock stood up, turning to Greyson. He pulled out his gun, aiming it directly at him. “I ought to-“ he started, but John interrupted him.

    “Sherlock,” he said warningly. “Don’t. Call Lestrade.”

    Sherlock didn’t lower the gun, but he conceded. “It’s lucky for you John survived.” He pulled out his phone, still training his pistol at Greyson as he dialed Lestrade’s number. “Lestrade? It’s Sherlock. We need medical attention and a police squadron.”

    “What happened?” Lestrade asked, sounding concerned. “Is John okay? Are you hurt?”

    “I’m fine, and John is…John is alive.”

    “I’m fine, you idiot,” John called, but grunted with pain. “Okay, maybe I’m not fine.” Sherlock frowned with concern. “Don’t look at me like that.”

    “So what happened?”

    “Get down here and I’ll fill you in,” Sherlock replied. “But I’ve got Greyson.”

    “We’ll be there as fast as we can.” Sherlock hung up.

    “They’re on their way,” he told John. John nodded. He examined Greyson. “Do you suppose I could get away with shooting him, and call it self-defense?”

    “Maybe if it was in the leg,” John said thoughtfully.

    “I mean, he did shoot you. Even if it was just a scratch.”

    “Yeah, I’m still in a lot of pain here,” John replied. There was a lightness to his tone, but it was also strained. Sherlock kept looking at him, the concern in his eyes apparent.

    Police sirens wailed. Lestrade came running in, followed by a squad of police and half a dozen EMTs. “Police! Hands up!” Greyson reluctantly raised his hands, and Sherlock lowered his gun. Lestrade slapped handcuffs onto him, a little more roughly than necessary, and another police officer took him away.

    The EMTs ran over to John, performing preliminary observations, then lifting him onto a stretcher. Sherlock started toward them, but stopped.

    “Sherlock?” Lestrade asked, noticing the strange look on his face. “What’s the matter?”

    “I almost lost him,” he whispered.

    Lestrade looked at him, eyes filled with pity. “But you didn’t.”

    Sherlock laughed bitterly. “But that was just chance. Next time…Next time who knows? I thought I was protecting him, but Greyson got to him anyway.”

    “John’s going to be okay,” Lestrade reassured him.

    “I just…I can’t…I can’t go back to being without him,” Sherlock admitted. Lestrade was surprised to see actual tears in his eyes. He felt a strong urge to hug him, which he gave in to. He wrapped his arms around Sherlock, who stiffened in surprise.

    “You don’t have to,” Lestrade assured him. “Now, go get in that ambulance before they leave without you.”

    Sherlock frowned, pulling back. “But-“

    “We can bend the rules,” Lestrade smiled. “Go.” Sherlock nodded, then ran towards the ambulance.

    Lestrade smiled to himself, before turning to his men. “Now, where’s Greyson? We better get him back behind bars where he belongs.”

 

    Sherlock and John rode to the hospital in silence. Once there, they whisked John off to who knows where. The nurses insisted on checking him, too, although he wasn’t at all injured.

    After that was finished, he sat in the waiting room, waiting for news of John. A doctor came in, and Sherlock sat up.

    “Mr. Holmes?” he called. Sherlock stood up. “He’s fine. You can go visit him now if you like.” Sherlock nodded, and followed the doctor up to John’s room.

    He knocked on the door and entered slowly. “John?” he asked.

    John looked up, smiling. “Hey,” he said, struggling to sit up.

    “No, don’t do that,” Sherlock said, rushing to the bed. John sighed, but flopped back onto the bed. His face had been cleaned up, and they’d set his nose with plaster. White bandages wrapped around his middle, as well as gauze over his shoulder.

    “So Greyson’s been apprehended?” he asked. Sherlock nodded. “Good. I’m really starting to hate that guy.” Sherlock smiled slightly.

 

    John examined the man in front of him. He was so much more than what people gave him credit for. Sure, he could be self-absorbed and a real pain in the ass, but he cared about John. It was worth a wound, it was worth many wounds, to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. It meant a lot to him.

    “So what’s next?” he asked.

    “Who knows?” Sherlock replied. “But we’ll be ready.”

    “The two of us, together this time?” John asked pointedly. Sherlock nodded reluctantly.

    “Together. Just you and me against the rest of the world.”

    “As it’s meant to be,” John replied.

    Everything would be as it should be. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, back in Baker Street together, ready to take whatever came their way.