There’s pain, burning, burning away in his shoulder, and it’s so hot and John’s so cold and this is it, this is it, he’s dying, Oh God the pain, and anything, he thinks, I’ll do anything, just make it stop, don’t make me stop, living, I want, anything, I swear, I want to, I don’t want to die, please, someonesomeonesomeone help me
“Anything?” A low, silky voice whispers in his ear and the breath is hot like the sand and sun and makes him shiver.
Yes, yes anything. I’m… need, alive, to be is the only answer, never was another answer
“There are plenty of answers, but yes, to be is one of them. Tell me, John Watson, what would you give to stay alive?” And there’s a tickle of a forked tongue against his ear.
Everything, my leg, my arm, already shot to hell, take it, take anything, too hot, god, that’s my heart stopping isn’t it?
“You will live, John Watson, but I need something from you. Can you give it to me? Can you promise it’s mine?”
All, anything, take my heart, my breath, my body, but living- not the cold ground, too cold, too hot, I can’t go there. Please, I can’t breath, I would give anything. God, there’s blood, it’s sticky, it flows, it’s blue in the veins but red in the air. Why? Why is it so hot?
“So eager for life, you can’t see what is eternal, can you? All of you are the same, but you might be desperate enough. I want your soul, John Watson. May I have it?”
Never believed, what, God? Did I promise? Maybe, communion? No, but that’s just what they tell you, said hair would grow on my palms, didn’t did it? What is a soul, yes, take it, my body, hurts, life is more, life is warm and alive. And… Oh, oh I’m going to live.
“Clever boy,” the voice is warm, fond. “You will live. But I take what’s mine, John Watson, and don’t forget it.” And there’s a brush of a hot hand on his leg that leaves searing pain and John sees curly dark hair and wicked eyes and the hint of horns on a high forehead and then he’s gasping and human hands are on him and voices are shouting, but he’s safe. He knows he’s safe, even as he slips down into tepid darkness.
London is still foggy. It’s still rainy and sunny, and there are seasons and John Watson is horribly alone in a single room flat with a bed that makes him dream of dying under the sun, and murder, murder most foul, and fevered memories of promising something he never cared about away. But when he wakes it’s to beige walls and tan bedspread and gun in drawer that’s loaded and feels so cool against his temple. But he can never draw the trigger.
He wanders London, looking, looking for something he can’t explain, but he knows he needs to find it. Or is it someone? He made a promise, but to who, he doesn’t know, and when it was promised he’s forgotten.
And then Mike Stamford smiles at him impishly and leads across the Thames to St. Barts with a promise and John follows because there’s nothing else he can do. And three dogs growl at him and he wonders if this is hell, because he just might have died after all out there under the sun. But then Sherlock Holmes looks up at him, pipette in hand, and asks him where he served, and John remembers a searing pain, and says “Sorry?”
Sherlock Holmes explains it all, but in his head, there’s that cold, cool voice and the flick of a tongue, and John feels at home and at peace. There is no hollow in his chest where a soul once lived, rather there is a fuller life already blooming in front of him, like blood from a gun shot wound, and the devil keeps his own close.