The wind whipped mercilessly at the back of his thin shirt, chilling him to the bone. His hands dug awkwardly into the frame of the window in an attempt to balance himself on the thin ledge. The gun pointed at his chest shook as Wilkins shouted once more at the police.
Stay back or he goes!
Wilkins had needed a hostage, and John was always the generous kind. John had found him first, holding a gun to his wife’s head in one of the upper rooms of the Tower Bridge. He was a trembling and sweating mess, the muzzle of his gun dancing around her temple in unsteady jumps. Not two days before, Wilkins had dumped the body of his colleague off of the tower after accusing him of having an affair with his wife. John pitied him - few people understood what it was like to kill someone, and fewer still could bear it.
John had talked him into letting his wife go, in exchange for being his hostage. It would have been easy to disarm him at a closer distance. But, as it turns out, Sherlock and the fine men and women of Scotland Yard have a shit sense of timing. When they barged into the room, Wilkins panicked and pressed the gun into John’s chest, shoving him back towards the window.
He had stood at gunpoint, with his heels dangling in open air, for the past ten minutes as Lestrade negotiated. John had wanted to suggest that maybe if the five policemen put away their guns, Wilkins might more open to discussion, but decided a good hostage should probably keep quiet. He peeked under him for a good foothold, but could only see a blue-grey sliver of the Thames.
A sudden gust of wind knocked him off balance and John’s foot slipped from the ledge. He blindly grasped for the window as he was greeted with a shimmering expanse of water and a rush of cold air. His fingers caught hold of the frame in time to swing his foot on the ledge again.
“Don’t move!” Wilkins shrieked, gun wildly trembling in his hand.
John suppressed a crazed giggle. Sherlock was staring at him so intently that he seemed to be trying to tether John to his spot by the sheer power of his gaze. Then something niggled at the back of John’s mind - he had just seen but had he observed? There was sun and then water and then...a balcony. Albeit a tiny one and twenty feet down.
Could he make it? Wilkins was getting to be only more hysterical with time, and he could see some of the policemen clicking off their safeties. He was going to get shot, and so was this small desperate man in front of him. The only chance they had was if John jumped before someone fired and made this mess into a catastrophe. Bloody hell, how does he always end up in these situations? Wild Watson - his army mates called him - always in the deepest shit. Not like he doesn’t know the shit is waiting for him; but he could never resist diving headfirst into it anyway. Especially if his pain-in-the-arse flatmate beckons him to come along in the first place.
Twenty feet. Drop straight. Swing your arms out. John was never afraid of heights - there was very little he was afraid of when it concerned him. What he was afraid of was that when his smashed water-logged body would wash up on the banks of the Thames, Sherlock would have to come to crime scenes by himself. Harry would crawl back into the bottle she had quit after the Moriarty incident.
John closed his eyes and slightly tilted his head back, letting the wind ruffle his hair in the same manner someone would dip their feet in cold water before jumping in. Let this work. He slid his feet back, until only his toes gripped the ledge. Let them be alright. The wind tore at his shirt and hair and clawed at his weakened fingers. He opened his eyes. Sherlock was looking directly at him, his whole body tense. John met his gaze and gave him a small smile.
He let go.
A gunshot rang out.
Wind. Drop straight. Swing your arms. Sun, water, brick, sun, stone. Reach.
John’s hand collided with the banister with a resounding slap, his fingers scrabbling for purchase on the slippery stone. He managed to catch the edge in a fierce grip, and then everything ground to a halt. The only sound was his harsh breathing mingled with the ringing in his ears and the pounding of his heart. An agonizing pain spread from his left shoulder down across his chest. He could feel the rush of cold air all around him, could feel his heavy legs tugging him down towards the water.
In retaliation, John struggled upwards. His shoulder groaned in protest and every muscle burned with exertion, but soon his arms hooked over the banister and his feet found the solid stone. Mustering his fading strength, he pulled himself over and collapsed in a heap on the small floor. He lay flat on his back, his chest heaving with every inhale of icy air. The bright sun made his eyes water, but his limbs turned to lead and refused to move. John could feel something warm trickling down his neck. Silly John, you got shot. He giggled at the thought and then laughed, a broken and rasping sound amidst his labored breaths. He closed his eyes against the brightness, his vision turning into a red sea of exploding kaleidoscope patterns. He felt as though he was sinking into the cool stone, his body so unbearably heavy. And then he was hurtling through the air again, the wind tearing him to pieces as the water and the sky filled his vision, surrounding him, drowning him.
John awoke with a start. Everything was dim and warm and smelled of antiseptic. It was strangely familiar. He tried to move and found that he was tightly cocooned in a scratchy blanket. Outside, sirens mingled with the dull roar of voices. They stuck him in the back of an ambulance, the bastards. All of a sudden, the air became acrid and the blanket suffocating. John wanted to leave, wanted to get off this godforsaken bridge and go home to his own bed. He wanted to disappear, to avoid the inevitable questions and interminable fuss.
John threw off the blanket and hastily got to his feet. Everything spun and he felt a stab of nausea. The bandage on his neck itched and rubbed his skin. His head was pounding, blurring his vision as he shakily made his way to the door. When he opened it, the bright light made him falter. He made his way out slowly, shielding his face. Each step he took threatened to send him toppling to the ground, which seemed to sway beneath his feet. The nausea was coming back full force, but John couldn’t stop. He had to leave, had to go -
Someone’s hand painfully gripped his upper arm, spinning him around.
“John? What are you doing? You shouldn’t be up.” It was Donovan. She was looking at him worriedly, but her grip on his arm tightened.
“I’m fine,” he rasped. “Honestly. I was just going to - ”
“What? Leave? After the stunt you pulled, Mr. Bond? And without your boyfriend?”
She pointed at Sherlock who was standing side-by-side in deep conversation with Lestrade. In a coincidence that made John both believe in telepathy and curse his shit luck, both of them turned around. Bugger.
Donovan dragged him to the back of the ambulance and forcibly sat him down. Not a moment later, he was cornered on all sides. Sherlock stood right in front of him, calm and still as a statue, his stare boring straight through John.
“That. That...was impres - " Lestrade ventured.
“ - Why?” Sherlock interjected loudly before Lestrade could finish.
Not that. Anything but that. Can’t deduce it? John wanted to quip. Sherlock’s fierce look made him reconsider.
“I had to,” he stated simply.
“Oh?” Sherlock was speaking in one-syllable words. It frightened John to think what that entailed.
“Wilkins was going to shoot. He was cornered and desperate, an accident waiting to happen. And if not him, then some trigger happy rookie with bad aim. I knew what I was doing. I took myself out of the equation.”
“Idiot.” Sherlock spat the word at him.
Lestrade swiftly intervened. “John, what you did was an insane risk. Kindly never do that again in my presence. My hair is grey enough as is. On the other hand, half the force now thinks you’re Batman,” he chuckled. “I severely underestimated NHS training.”
“The army didn’t hurt either,” John added, smiling.
Lestrade and Donovan stared. Donovan seemed to be the first to wrap her head around the information and nudged Lestrade. They excused themselves - probably to go tell everyone else that little tidbit about Sherlock’s jumper-clad doctor.
John turned to look at Sherlock who now stood at a considerable distance, determinedly facing away. He walked over to stand next to him, their shoulders touching. Sherlock continued to gaze out over the water. John shivered even though the wind had died down.
“You’re in shock. Get a blanket.”
“Orange doesn’t suit me. And I’m sorry.”
Sherlock stayed quiet.
“I’m sorry for scaring you like that,” John tried again.
“I should have seen it coming.”
“That unpredictable, am I?”
“In the worst way possible.” Out of the corner of his eye, John saw Sherlock smirk. “If you had enough sense to warn me, you could have avoided getting nicked by that bullet. Luckily Mr. Wilkins is a shoddy marksman or that bullet would be currently residing in your frontal lobe,” he continued, turning towards John.
“I smiled. It was my it’s-going-to-be-alright smile.”
“You should have used your there-is-a-balcony-below-me-so-don’t-yell smile. Mr. Wilkins has quite the hair trigger. And apparently so does Sgt. Clarke.”
John bowed his head, his hand involuntarily clenching into a fist. The best laid plans of mice and men - he should have known.
“Oh, it’s not so bad. Just the arm. Though you wouldn’t have guessed with all his wailing.” John couldn’t help a small smile at that. Sherlock was completely incorrigible when it came to some things.
“Never do that again. And I’ll endeavor to do the same.” Sherlock’s eyes were fixed on his temple, where the ugly scar from the explosion still stuck out jaggedly from under his hair. John brushed his hand through it, conscious of the raised scar tissue under his fingers. Sherlock was still looking at him, though his gaze was softened with something akin to sadness.
“I’ll try,” John found himself saying. He never made promises he couldn’t keep.