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what lurks within (at fever pitch)

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He bleeds onto the frozen ground, shivering violently even in the thick jacket he's wearing, his leg on fire despite the cold that seems to seep into his bones and his thoughts lost somewhere in the past. He's in a small town in Russia, wishing for John and for Baker Street, and if he doesn't move from this spot soon he could get caught. He needs to get back to the abandoned building he's been living in for the last few nights, to look at his injuries and patch himself up. He can afford a few days to rest and recover before he travels, but not out in public where he risks being seen.

He takes a deep breath and then another and focuses his considerable will-power on getting to his feet. It isn't the most elegant of moves that he makes but it works, and it's only when he tries to put weight on his leg that he realises how much damage the knife has done. He's weak from the blood loss, which shows no signs of stopping, and he's starting to feel warm despite the cold, which he's pretty sure is a bad sign. Looking around in the hopes of finding something he can use for support he spots a piece of wood that might just about do as a makeshift cane, though it's more suited to John’s height than Sherlock’s.

The thought of hunching over all the way back makes him wince. It's not the easiest of journeys to make to begin with and he's rather on the wrong side of town. He's going to do it because he doesn't have another choice, but there isn't anything about this plan that he likes. As necessary as chasing down Moriarty's network is, and as much as caring is a weakness and sentiment should be stamped out... he thinks he’d give quite a lot right now to be able to look to his side and see John standing there; to have John's gentle and confident touch patching him up as he fusses and scolds Sherlock for his carelessness.

It's ridiculous, Sherlock knows, and he needs to shake it off and focus, but he can't help it. He's tried deleting these thoughts and for some reason they just won't disappear. He doesn't know why. He's not in the habit of having his mind disobey him.

He sticks to the backstreets as he winds his way home, his progress hindered by his injury and his periodic need to stop and rest, clinging to the shadows as he races against the dawn. He gets back as the sky begins to lighten, as confident as he can be that he hasn't been followed. He snags the small medical kit he carries everywhere and stumbles to the blanket-covered mattress that doubles as both his couch and his bed in the odd hours of sleep that he snatches. This isn't the first time he's had to stitch himself up but it is the most difficult; his hands are shaking fiercely and he swears he can feel every movement of the needle despite the local anaesthetic he injected before he began.

By the time the wound is clean and stitched up, however badly, and wrapped in a clean bandage, Sherlock is bone-deep exhausted. He hasn't slept well ever since he left London. He misses the lights and sounds of his city, misses hearing Mrs Hudson moving around her flat below, misses the soft, painstakingly slow sounds of John typing up a new entry for his blog, or making tea in the kitchen as he grumbles to himself about whichever experiment Sherlock was working on and left out without a word of warning.

He swallows a handful of pills selected to combat infection and falls into the deepest of sleeps, his eyes closing against his will. His body is finally exhausted and demanding rest without compromise.

Moriarty's network is the only thing that stands between him and home and it's growing ever more tiresome. He was an interesting opponent. Perhaps his most interesting so far. But it turns out that Sherlock does have things to lose, he has things that he's lost, and there are prices he's not willing to pay just for his own entertainment. He's not sure he could've said that before he met John.

His dreams are a swirl of half-formed memories and crazy-eyed characters that torment him with their presence. He runs through the rooms of his mind-palace and all of them are Baker Street. He sees John everywhere. Mrs Hudson, sometimes, and Lestrade. Even Mycroft. Seeing them tears at the emotions he would swear he doesn't have but really keeps a secret, carefully guarded in a heart that can't afford the distraction. More and more he finds that he's seeing himself in the corners of the rooms, reflections of the man he used to be, of the Sherlock Holmes who ran around London with John Watson, catching killers and criminals in a smart black coat and the blue scarf that has always been his favourite.

The sight of Mycroft makes him scowl, the conjured version just as haughty and irritating as the real thing, but strangely missed anyway. Lestrade and Mrs Hudson make him smile, and John... well, John inspires all sorts of emotions. He's always been difficult that way.

But the sight of his 'old' self makes him angrier and angrier until he's tearing through the rooms of his dream Mind Palace destroying everything he sees, caught in a maelstrom of emotion every time he flashes between his old self and John, or sees them standing side by side. And then finally it's just him, in a stone-walled room, facing off against himself; the him of the now, in his dark jeans and white blood-streaked vest, face to face with the smartly dressed version of the past. He doesn't really know what's going on, although he's dimly aware of his skin burning up, damp as it is. He needs to eliminate all his thoughts of the past if he wants to get back home, needs to kill these emotions, to lock them back up where they belong, and focus.

It's more important than anything else.

He shoots himself in the knees just because he has a gun and watches himself crumple to the ground without making a sound. It's strangely disconcerting, dream or not. Unable to look anymore he puts two bullets into his old-self's brain and stands there shaking over his own body with a gun in his hands. There's no rhyme or reason to what he just did and he doesn't understand why but then everything shimmers and crumbles and breaks apart and burns, and there's no more Baker Street, no Mycroft, no Lestrade, no Mrs Hudson and no John Watson, just a haze of pain and light, and Sherlock wakes up to sunlight streaming through the broken window as his leg throbs painfully, a reminder that the painkillers have long since worn off.

It's probably the longest he's slept since he leapt off the roof of St Bart's to his not-quite-death, but he doesn't feel much better for it. If anything, he thinks he feels worse.

He takes a couple more painkillers, washes them down with water, and considers checking his injury. He feels overheated but he’s shivering at the same time. He’d be concerned if he had any energy left to be concerned with but as it is he doesn’t, so he lets his eyes flutter closed and turns his face away from the light, trying to pretend it isn't there. He's vulnerable right now and he knows it; could use an armed ex-army doctor to watch his back but he doesn't have one. He's too weak to defend himself and too weak to move, and he's just going to have to trust that he's hidden himself away well enough that he'll be safe until he's recovered a little more.

It's lonely, this life he's chosen, and he wishes it didn't have to be.

He breathes, deep and even, drifting closer to sleep.

He hopes he doesn't dream.