Sherlock opened the door to the police car and leapt out before it had even come to a complete halt. He sprinted up the steps to the aquarium two at a time and yanked helplessly on the double doors.
Locked. Of course.
A second later, Lestrade jogged up behind him after leaving the car parked out front. Sherlock paced back and forth in front of the glass doors, tugging desperately at his hair until he was close to ripping it out of his scalp. On a normal day, a locked door would be a minor inconvenience to him at the most. But this was not a normal day. His mind was short-circuiting every few seconds. His brain was fogged with emotions he barely understood. There was only one thought consuming his mind, and he couldn’t push it out for even one second to form a decent plan.
“Sherlock, stop it,” Lestrade said, coaxing his hands away from his hair. “We’ll find another entrance.”
“You’re a detective, loosely speaking. Figure out how she broke in!” he spat.
Lestrade looked around for a moment and then started jogging around the corner of the building. Sherlock followed behind. Soon enough, they came to a ground floor window where the glass panel had been removed. Sherlock pushed past Lestrade and ran ahead, reaching the opening and ducking to step in.
The dark aquarium echoed with ominous emptiness. Glass tanks filled with various species of colorful fish lined the walls. After straightening back up, Sherlock found himself at a fork in the hallway. He had to choose between one of four different directions. Two led further into the oceanic exhibit. One exited it. And the last one led to a theater.
“Which one is it?” Lestrade asked, after he’d caught up and climbed in behind him.
“Sharks. The painting had a shark in it.”
They sprinted down the darkened hallway furthest to the left, which was lit only by the reflective glass tanks and the daylight filtering in through the ceiling windows. With each step that brought them closer to the shark exhibit, Sherlock felt more and more like throwing up. It was as though an invisible weight was attached to his ankles, dragging him backwards, slowing him down to ensure that he didn’t make it in time. His heart had risen into his throat and his lungs had decided they were incapable of holding an adequate amount of oxygen.
At last, they turned a corner and found themselves surrounded by massive glass tanks that stretched from floor to ceiling. Various shark species prowled the tanks around them, completely unaware of the events unfolding right in before their dark, beady eyes.
Lying belly-down on the floor, surrounded by a patch of dark, blood-stained carpet, was –
“John,” Sherlock croaked, frightening himself with the sound of his voice.
He skidded to a halt and crouched down beside him. Rolling his limp body over onto his back, he discovered not the tan, beaming face of his one and only conductor of light, but pale, bloodless skin, and white, chapped lips. His dulled eyes were partially rolled into the back of his head, and his eyelids had drooped half-closed.
“Oh my god,” Sherlock breathed in disbelief. “No . . . No, no, no, no, no.” His shaking hands hovered over his chest, where a massive, dark red circle was seeping through his clothes.
Beside him, Lestrade picked up the phone lying at his fingertips. “He’s already called an ambulance. It should be here any second.”
Sherlock lifted John’s head onto his lap and lightly patted his cheek. “Can you hear me? John?” He lowered his ear to the tip of his mouth. Panic and relief flooded through him simultaneously at the very faint breath he felt there. He pressed two fingers into his neck, feeling his own body go numb when he found nothing there. Digging in a little harder, he picked up the slightest patter of a weak pulse.
He removed his hands from John’s cheek and neck to tear his cardigan open. The moment his hands left him, his head rolled limply to the side in his lap.
“ Help me! ” he bellowed at Lestrade, who was standing horror stricken at the sight of the drained, nearly lifeless body in front of him. Sherlock’s vision went blurry when a sudden, unexpected burst of wetness pooled in his eyes. He blinked it away, wiping the side of his face into his shoulder.
Lestrade crouched down beside him, ready to assist.
“K-Keep pressure on the wound,” Sherlock said shakily, placing a hand over the scarlet circle on his chest. Just like John had taught him. John. His amazing, wonderful companion. His blogger, his boswell, his best friend, his everything.
His hand was shaking atop John’s chest until Lestrade placed his hand over it, leaning all his weight onto it to prevent further blood loss. With his other hand, Sherlock cupped John’s jaw and turned his face back towards him.
“John? I’ve got you. It’s okay,” he rambled desperately, more to convince himself than anything else. “This isn’t how you go. I won’t have it. You hear me?”
His vision once again went hazy, but he didn’t fail to notice small droplets of water falling onto his lap. He wiped his face onto his shoulder again. Leaning down, he pressed his forehead onto John’s, feeling nauseous at the coldness of his skin, and whispered nonsensical nothings into the small space between them.
“For god’s sake, please be alright. Please . . . This isn’t how you go. You’re too stubborn to go like this.”
“Sherlock, I think the paramedics are here.”
Sherlock lifted the limp torso into his arms and rocked back and forth in desperation. When John’s head lolled back from lack of support, he tucked his nose into the base of his neck, focusing on the faint, beating pulse that remained there, slowing down ever so slightly.
“I’ve got you. I’ve got you. It’s okay . . . Please be okay,” he whispered, doing nothing to stop the next droplets of water from rolling down his face. “You can’t do this to me. I love you too much to lose you like this.”
He vaguely registered the sound of footsteps that seemed to be closing in on him from all directions.
“Sherlock,” came Lestrade’s voice, seemingly from an entirely different world. A hand was placed on his shoulder.
“Sir, we need you do step back please,” came an unfamiliar voice. He buried his face into John’s shoulder and wrapped his arms tighter around his torso.
“Sir.” Two more hands were placed on him. He didn’t want them. He didn’t want anyone touching him.
“No,” he mumbled when they pulled on him. “No. NO!” Two pairs of arms latched onto him and forcefully peeled him away from John. He struggled weakly, but Lestrade quickly wrapped around him from behind, holding him still.
The paramedics unfolded a stretcher and rolled it towards John. His knees went weak at the sight of his nearly lifeless body being lifted manually onto it like he weighed nothing. Were it not for Lestrade holding him up, he likely would have collapsed.
“Let’s go,” came his soothing voice when they began to roll John away. With an arm around him for support, Lestrade guided him back outside, following the stretcher.
Once outside, a ramp was lowered from the ambulance, and John was rolled up onto it. Sherlock felt bile rising again in his throat at the sight of one of his limp arms dangling loosely over the edge of the stretcher. Behind him, Lestrade’s comforting hands squeezed his shoulders.
“He’ll be alright,” he said to him. Normally, Sherlock would scoff at the making of false promises just for the purpose of consoling someone. He verbally tore his clients to shreds for doing it all the time. What was the point of promising something that was completely out of their control anyway? To safeguard their feelings? To protect them? How stupid.
But now. Now , he understood. When it was his John in the stretcher, there was only one thing he needed to hear. He couldn’t bring himself to reply to Lestrade, so he graced him with a slight nod of acknowledgment.
A paramedic jumped down from the ramp and approached them. “Are either of you immediate relatives?” he asked.
“Partner,” Sherlock said. The man nodded his head and gestured towards the ambulance.
“I’ll follow behind in the car,” Lestrade said. With one final comforting pat, he turned to jog back to the front of the aquarium where he’d left his police car. Sherlock followed the paramedic back up the ramp.
Inside, various kits were being opened, screens were beeping, and hoards of medical terminology were being thrown around by the two paramedics hovering over the stretcher.
“John and I are both A+,” Sherlock said quickly, as they began unbuttoning John’s shirt.
“We have plenty at the hospital. Please just have a seat, sir.”
He lowered himself onto one of the side benches inside the vehicle. He noticed John’s arm was still hanging over the edge of the stretcher. He hesitantly reached out to hold his hand, but the man who had allowed him inside stepped forward to assist his colleagues, and in doing so, blocked his path. Sherlock returned his own hand to his lap and sat quietly, feeling utterly and completely helpless.
As he watched an oxygen mask being placed unceremoniously over John’s mouth, only one coherent thought formed in his mind; If John Watson dies, Mary Morstan will find no mercy from him whatsoever.