Sherlock is lying on the ground.
He is lying on the ground and his hip is digging into the pavement and someone is squirting bottled blood into his hair. He is lying on the ground listening to the impeccably timed screams--one, the woman on the corner; two, the group of teenagers crossing the street; three, the man by the ambulance garage--and Sherlock is lying on the ground and John will just be standing up.
The blood on his face is warm.
John was never meant to be here.
Sherlock is lying on the ground and pressing down hard on the squash ball in his armpit and for god's sake, John was never meant to be here. There were thirteen likely ways this scenario could have played out and even though two anticipated John's arrival on the scene at some point, none had anticipated that Moriarty might shoot his own brains out and none had planned for John to be standing there when Sherlock fell.
Mycroft is in a black car somewhere, re-routing and re-routing and re-routing, because Moriarty wasn't supposed to be completely and totally deranged and John wasn't supposed to be here.
John would think that was stupid: of course Moriarty was completely and totally deranged. There’s always something.
The blood is soaking through his coat where he is lying in it. It smells like iron and salt and Sherlock resists the urge to pull himself up out of it in horror. There are three pints and a little more of his own blood on the pavement. It had to be his and it had to be warm and it had to be inexact, to fool John.
Just in case.
He is lying with his face pressing into his own warm blood, but he’s not convinced that is what is turning his stomach so viciously.
Sherlock knew that sending John back to Baker Street with a falsified phone call would only keep him away for so long, because John was intelligent and he was always going to figure it out. Sherlock had timed out how long it would take for John to converge with him on the pavement--every cab route versus every plan that might be carried out up on the roof. He had timed it out so that in every scenario, every single scenario, the only witnesses to the fall would be a single CCTV camera and seventeen well-scripted members of London’s homeless.
But no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t control everything.
Sherlock is lying on the ground and John was never meant to be here but John saw, oh god, John saw. Sherlock didn’t know what else to do, didn’t know where a sniper could have been, but he did know that if John had come back to Bart’s, the sniper must already be here too. And he’d already said Lazarus and the plan was already in motion.
He couldn’t risk it.
John was never meant to be here but John is safe and Mrs Hudson is safe and Lestrade is safe and Sherlock is lying on the ground ensuring their safety with every second he holds his breath.
John was supposed to have been intercepted by Mycroft and sat down in 221B with Mrs Hudson. They were supposed to sit on the sofa together and hold hands when Mycroft said, “I’m afraid I have some bad news.” And Mycroft was going to make tea and say it very quietly, so it would be a sad thing, a tragic thing, but also a soft thing. John was supposed to have waited, stayed. Stayed away.
Barring that, John was supposed to arrive on the scene after Sherlock had already been put into place--on the pavement, at least, if not already in the morgue. The bicyclist was there for that possibility: if John Watson arrives on scene while Sherlock is still on the pavement, creating the terribly necessary CCTV record, knock him down and give a shout when he stands, as a warning. The bicyclist was the only male spectator who was meant to shout.
Sherlock had taken the cabs to Bart’s and back a dozen times if he’d done it once and he knew how long that trip should have taken and there shouldn’t have been enough time for John to get back.
But Sherlock miscalculated on the other end: his own end. Admittedly, he was not especially familiar with the time it takes to recover from someone gripping his hand tightly as they shoot themselves in the head.
He did not expect it to be so unsettling; he did not expect it at all.
He did not expect John to turn around immediately upon seeing Mrs Hudson, healthy and whole, which he must have done. He did not expect John to understand immediately that he had been sent away so Sherlock could do something he would not approve of.
No doubt John would not approve of throwing oneself off a building.
Sherlock is lying on the ground thinking all these thoughts against the backdrop of John’s shout, still ringing in his ears. He opens his eyes at the last possible moment because John is here and he can already tell it’s going to hurt but he has to see him one last time.
“I’m a doctor, let me come through,” a voice says. It’s John but not John. As in: it must be John, Sherlock can hear that it’s John, but there is something monstrously wrong with his voice. “Let me come through, please.”
The crowd around him is trying to keep John away. They are acting in concert, exactly the way they were directed to act, an orchestra of little gestures and phrases and the pulling away of John, no matter when he arrived on the scene, if he arrived on the scene. Keep him away, if you can. Don’t let him touch, if you can.
Above all else: do not let him take Sherlock’s pulse at the neck.
“No, he’s my friend,” John is pleading. Sherlock is not breathing but he suspects that’s not why his chest hurts so much. “He’s my friend. Please.”
John’s fingers wrap warm around his wrist and the world is both spinning and static at the exact same moment. The squash ball in his armpit hurts. There is the sound of a rolling stretcher. Someone pries away John’s fingers.
“Please, let me just . . .”
John slumps, joins Sherlock on the ground.
I’m sorry, he thinks desperately, you were never meant to be here, but he leaves his eyes wide and staring as someone else rolls him over to lift him onto the stretcher. He catches the briefest glimpse of John, crumpled on the pavement.
This is it. This is the last moment. They are going to lift him up and away and he might never see John again.
I might love you, Sherlock thinks wildly, because he’s got nothing left to lose by thinking those words. He’s been trying not to think them for months because he didn’t think he could bear to think them and look at John, to think them in front of John, but this is it: his last opportunity to think them.
John will never know he has thought them anyway.
Sherlock is being lifted off the ground and all he can leave behind for John is the thought he is broadcasting fiercely: I don’t know for sure, but I might love you, please be safe.