“If you don’t want to see this pretty throat sliced open,” the thug in the navy ski mask growled menacingly, “give us the diamonds by midnight.”
Sally Donovan, despite herself, started giggling.
Lestrade glared at her, because the kidnappers’ video really wasn’t funny, except that it was, and before he could help himself, his shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter as well.
Onscreen, Sherlock went still, bound helplessly to the chair, and scowled at his captors. “Your threat would be more convincing if you placed the blade at my jugular – that is the trachea, by the way – and if the phone call you just left the room to receive wasn’t from your mother, judging by the state of your trouser pockets. Getting married a third – no, fourth – time, is she?”
“You actually insulted his mother?” Anderson was laughing openly at the screen, with Sally leaning against his side, all but hyperventilating since she couldn’t seem to catch her breath.
“When he had a knife to your throat?” Dimmock chimed in maliciously.
At the back of the break room – because all of the Met had wanted to see this, and the television in the break room accommodated the most viewers – Sherlock made a disgusted sound. “I despise incompetence.”
“In your kidnappers?” Lestrade inadvertently let out a guffaw and tried to cover it as a cough into his hand.
“Oh, do shut up,” Sherlock snapped testily.
“Oh, wait, wait. Here’s my favourite part!” Gregson actually clapped her hands enthusiastically, which was a thoroughly disturbing effect in a DI of her age.
Onscreen, Sherlock continued his deductions in the same snide tone. “The organisation of your gang is thoroughly abysmal, and it’s obvious you have no experience whatsoever with—”
At that point, a second thug – this one in a black hood – shoved a gag into Sherlock’s mouth. Sherlock continued his muffled deductions under the fabric, but of course it came out entirely as gibberish.
A cheer of solidarity went through the Met at the sight of Sherlock being gagged into silence. Lestrade wasn’t trying to hide his laughter anymore.
“I am saving that as my wallpaper, I swear to God,” Hopkins announced, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.
“We need to put this up on YouTube,” Anderson concluded.
“It is police evidence,” Lestrade tried to maintain some order.
Donovan fixed him with a level look.
And Lestrade burst out laughing. “All right, so we really do.”
At the back of the room, Sherlock crossed his arms over his chest and huffed with irritation. Everybody continued to ignore him.
“Here it comes! Here it comes!” Gregson was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet now.
The room went silent except for the occasional snicker when, mid-kidnapper threat, the door could suddenly be heard bursting inward.
“Hey!” objected navy-mask. “We were right in the middle of something!”
Black-hood seemed to have a slightly better sense of what he was doing and lunged for the intruder, pulling a switchblade from his pocket.
The angle of the screen was bad, but off to the side an oatmeal-coloured jumper was barely visible as a blur, then a shout of pain could be heard, followed by the sound of a metal object – undoubtedly the knife – clattering to the floor.
“My arm!” whimpered black-hood. “He broke my bloody arm!”
Another thud, and black-hood went silent.
Two more thugs, who hadn’t had the common sense to wear masks, ran across the field-of-view of the video camera in the direction of the door. John met them, fully onscreen for the first time, and laid one out immediately with a square hit to the solar plexus. The man fell to the floor, wheezing piteously.
The second aimed a punch for John’s face. It was almost comical how easily John side-stepped the punch and then followed swiftly with a knee directly to the man’s groin. Once he’d crumpled to his knees, John knocked him unconscious swiftly and efficiently with a blow to the back of the head.
That left the cameraman and navy-mask, who still had the switchblade held incorrectly to Sherlock’s throat and was looking more than a little wide-eyed.
John fixed the cameraman with a stare, cold-blooded and as far removed as possible from the pleasant smile he’d given half the Met when he’d made them tea during their visits to 221b. Dimmock got an actual shiver down his spine at that look.
Apparently, so did the cameraman because he could be heard off-screen, scrambling like mad as he ran away. The door slammed shut behind him.
John turned to face navy-mask and eyed the knife at Sherlock’s throat assessingly.
“Not one step closer!” navy-mask demanded. “I’ll slit his throat. I really will!”
Sherlock, through the gag, was still talking incomprehensibly. It seemed entirely possible that he was still listing off deductions, even though no one could understand him.
John made a fist and slowly, methodically, popped each of his knuckles one by one.
Navy-mask’s eyes went wide, and he gulped audibly. “I-I’ll kill hi—EEK!” The squeak at the end accompanied John’s first, very deliberate step forward.
Navy-mask’s hands shook, and he tried to pull off the ‘cut the skin just slightly so there’s a warning trickle of blood’ manoeuvre that he’d undoubtedly learned from watching too many movies, but instead the knife slipped out of his quivering fingers and fell into Sherlock’s lap.
Sherlock tried to squirm to knock it to the floor, but his arms and legs were tied too tightly to the chair to move much at all. He was still making muffled noises through the gag.
John took another step forward.
And navy-mask’s eyes promptly rolled back in his head, and he fell to the floor in a dead faint.
Sherlock frowned, obviously convinced that he couldn’t possibly have interpreted the sound of the man’s collapse behind him correctly.
The Met applauded.
“See?” Sherlock muttered from the back of the break room. “Complete incompetents.”
Onscreen, even John looked a little surprised by that turn of events. “Well,” he said drily, “that was easy.”
Sherlock squirmed in the chair more and tried talking even faster through the gag.
“You should’ve left it in!” Anderson called out.
The Met laughed.
“Or shoved it in your mouth to spare us all such predictable retorts,” Sherlock said in his nastiest tone.
John, who hadn’t reacted at all up until this point, laid a firm hand on Sherlock’s bandaged wrist. Sherlock calmed in response.
“Here it comes!” Gregson snickered.
Onscreen, John plucked the gag from Sherlock’s mouth.
“—Cannot possibly be the jewel thieves,” Sherlock continued mid-sentence. “Did you notice the fourth man’s shoes, John? His ankles pronated, which would have resulted in an uneven tread pattern, and the footprints outside the museum were—”
“You,” John cut him off with long-standing, exasperated affection, “are incredible.”
Sherlock paused, blinked, and frowned up at him. “I am?”
“You are,” John confirmed. “In all senses of the word.” He picked up the knife from where it had landed in Sherlock’s lap.
Sherlock’s ears went noticeably pink, whether from the praise or the location of John’s hand was anyone’s bet (and, of course, half the Met had placed bets). “That was…” Sherlock inclined his head to the fallen remains of the kidnappers, “not bad.”
“Not bad,” John repeated with a snort and knelt in front of Sherlock to cut the ropes around his ankles.
“Not bad,” Sherlock agreed, and his ears were even redder now.
“You’re blushing,” John pointed out and moved to release Sherlock’s wrists.
“I am not.”
“I’ve just been abducted, manhandled, and threatened. I’m merely…”
“In shock?” John suggested. He severed the last of the rope around Sherlock’s wrists and shut the switchblade with a ‘snick.’
Sherlock glared at him and tried to stand up.
A dozen or so detectives fought to keep their preemptive laughter contained.
Sherlock succeeded in standing for only a fraction of a second before his legs wobbled like jelly from having the circulation cut off for so long and—
“Swoon!” Anderson exclaimed in perfect time with Sherlock’s collapse.
John, lightning-quick, caught Sherlock in his arms and held him up. Sherlock’s long legs skittered out from under him like a newborn colt, and John had to half lunge forward, one knee between Sherlock’s thighs and pressed up against the curve of his behind to hold Sherlock’s centre of mass steady. One arm wrapped firmly around Sherlock’s waist, while the other cupped the back of his head. Sherlock’s arms, which were also kitten-weak after having the circulation cut off, ended up pressed uselessly against John’s chest.
It ended up looking like a florid, romance-novel cover.
“I take it back,” Hopkins decided. “That is my new wallpaper.”
And then, to make matters worse, Sherlock whispered half breathlessly, “John.”
“Take me now!” Donovan added.
“You’re such a dreamboat!” Dimmock cooed.
“My hero!” Gregson made kissy faces.
“I’m all yours!” exclaimed Lestrade.
“Oh, grow up already,” Sherlock rolled his eyes heavenwards, but his ears were turning pink again.
He received a series of hoots, catcalls, and increasingly obscene suggestions in response.
John, who still hadn’t said anything, looked very suspiciously like he was smirking.
“Yes, and while you are all wasting your time, the real thieves are still out there,” Sherlock scolded them.
Of course, it didn’t help his authority at all that onscreen John had just lifted Sherlock up into his arms bridal-style and carried him off-camera.
“Not even a kiss of gratitude for his troubles? That’s harsh,” Lestrade teased.
Sherlock scowled at him, ears bright red.
“Right,” Lestrade relented. “We do have a gang of jewel thieves to deal with, people.”
Lestrade’s team reluctantly followed him out of the break room and back to work. Everyone else stayed behind to replay the video again.
“You’re never living that down, by the way,” Lestrade informed Sherlock.
“I did not swoon,” Sherlock insisted. “The ropes around my ankles were tied too tight, and in combination with—”
“Oh, John!” Anderson cut him off overdramatically.
“It wasn’t a swoon!” Sherlock followed them out. He turned to John, who was at his side as always. “It wasn’t!”
John’s lips twitched. “Of course it wasn’t.”
“Thank you!” Sherlock sighed with relief.
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed on him.
“You’re blushing again.” John smirked, unable to resist. “But don’t worry. If you’re feeling faint, I’m here to catch you.”
Sherlock let out an infuriated little exclamation and stalked right by him, as fast as his long legs could take him.
“I will be expecting a kiss of gratitude next time, though,” John called after him. “You only get one damsel-in-distress rescue for free.”
Sherlock flicked John off right before he slammed the door behind him.
Lestrade was trying to laugh inconspicuously into his fist again. “Care to join us in the interrogation, then?” he asked. “I get the feeling you’ll be able to intimidate them into talking more than any ‘bad cop’ we could come up with.”
“Who, me?” John asked innocently, before giving Lestrade a wicked smile.
Lestrade just laughed.