It was several agonizing, crushing seconds before he could breathe again, then he sucked in a gasp, which sent spasms through the muscles in his chest and stomach, and John gasped again, this time unintentionally, trying to sit up, to roll himself into a ball, but he was tangled in Sherlock's arms and definitely not in a good way.
He registered the sounds of screams and horns and some squealing tires and tried to sit up fast, then remembered again that he was tangled, and dislodged himself. Sherlock was sitting up as well, looking stunned, one hand on his head, his fake glasses knocked off and askew on the concrete, his ridiculous ball cap on the ground a foot or so away, his hair taking the opportunity to curl all over the place. He blinked a few times, grey eyes a bit unfocused and John felt his blood go cold. He pushed himself to his feet fast, ignoring the chaos behind him with only a little effort, because although he'd trained to respond to that kind of thing in Afghanistan, his brain also knew the sound he'd just heard very clearly indicated death. And Sherlock was looking too glassy-eyed for someone who had just had two concussions.
"You right idiot, let me see – " John started and Sherlock's expression cleared.
"I didn't hit my head!" the detective snapped. "You knocked the wind out of me."
"And you did that to me! What the hell – "
Sherlock clambered to his feet, features blazing now.
"What the hell, John?" he demanded, jabbing a finger toward the road, where pedestrians were flocking and motorists were either getting out of their cars to gawk or honking impatiently. "What the hell? There was a bloody bus, John! Don't you pay attention to anything? He was going for the bus, not the cab! He knew he wasn't getting away, but he wasn't getting caught! You could have been killed!"
John knew he shouldn't, really shouldn't, not here, not now, but couldn't stop himself.
"Could have?" he yelled back, not even attempting to control his volume. "Could have! That sounds exactly like 'what if', Sherlock! Do you mean, what if you hadn't grabbed me? Do you mean, what if I'd been just a bit too far ahead for you to catch me? Do you mean, what if that had been me?"
Sherlock started, shocked by either the words or the force of John's voice, or both, took a step back and stared.
"Yes! Yes! See, now I know you get it! He could have bloody killed you, Sherlock, if I hadn't called when I did, you might have just passed out and bloody well died in a symphony hall where you weren't supposed to be and who knows how long it would have been until someone found you? That's your 'you could have been killed'! What, do you think I don't know what I was getting into? That doesn't mean I have to like it, and good God, even though you didn't die, it could have been anything – brain damage! How would you like that? Hearing problems? Blindness? Memory problems? Any of it? Swelling in your brain that also could have killed you! So next time you want to lecture me on the 'what ifs' and the so-called over protectiveness and the trying just to get you to bloody slow down when you've been knocked about, remember this! In fact, I'm going to just keep reminding you about it in case you decide it isn't important enough for that hard drive of yours to retain! And, actually I'm going to – "
"I'm not going to forget you were almost hit by a bus, John," Sherlock said softly, and the low tone brought John up short. He stopped, breathing hard, and managed a glare, feeling unbalanced. Then annoyed that Sherlock could still do that to him when he was pumped full of adrenaline and anger and indignation.
He stared at his husband a moment, fighting for some words.
"Right," John said. "See that you don't."
He raked a hand through his hair then turned, in part just to have something else to do, in part because he was a former army surgeon and there was a pretty unpleasant scene in front of them. Most of the passengers and the bus driver were off the bus, yelling, but seemed unharmed, and, ah yes, there were the police heading toward the scene through the press of onlookers, and sirens in the distance.
He shouldered through the crowd, confident Sherlock would follow him if only to keep tabs on him, ignoring muttered protests and people craning to see what had happened, ignoring the slight discomfort he always felt at seeing this kind of carnage.
Bainbridge was definitely dead. No one's spine should twist that way while they were alive. He'd probably died instantly, John assessed quickly, clinically. He pushed his way to the body, which was surrounded by morbid gawkers, and crouched down, rounding his glare on them, directing all the frustrated relief and now-useless adrenaline intensity at them.
"Right, back off!" he snapped. "Back off! I'm a doctor!"
"I don't think that'll help, mate," someone commented from the crowd.
Audience, John thought vaguely and almost smirked, then felt sort of ill.
He had almost been hit by a bus.
He glanced back at the bus, which was stopped now, and saw the faint dents in the front. Hadn't done much damage to the vehicle, but Bainbridge had been banking on the weight and speed doing damage to him.
And how many people did he kill that we'll never know about? John thought. No wonder he did this. We'll never have him. He's won. In his own mind, at least.
"You two!" a familiar voice snapped. "I might have known!"
John looked up at the ring of strangers' faces, and Sherlock's, and met Lestrade's eyes, which were a bright blue in the street lamps and particularly blazing.
"What the hell did you do?" the DI demanded, then angrily ordered some of the onlookers to back off even more before barking a command at any of the police officers nearby to get people out of there.
"We – " Sherlock started, but John cut him off, pointing a finger at him.
"Shut up," he said and, for once, Sherlock did, looking so startled that he cut himself off in mid sentence. "We were waiting for him, round back, with your policewoman. Whom he punched, by the way, and so she's probably in need of some medical attention."
"Are you going to tell me why you were waiting round back for him?"
"Because," John said shortly.
"Because?" Lestrade said. "That's not an explanation, John! Not for anyone over the age of three!"
"Because he was going to see you and realize he was caught," John said and Sherlock scowled at having the spotlight stolen from him. John gauged that he'd run out of shut-up-by-shock and turned back to the body, fairly uselessly, since it was not going to stop being a body anytime soon.
"And you just bloody knew that, did you?" Lestrade snapped.
"No, I didn't 'just bloody know that', I deduced it," Sherlock replied in his obvious-isn't-it voice. "He's an expert and getting in and out unseen, Geoff. And at not getting caught. I had quite a personal interest in seeing him apprehended."
"Well, that won't happen now, he's bloody dead!"
"Yes, that's quite evident."
"Dead criminals don't do me any good!"
"Are you certain?" Sherlock asked, and John rolled his eyes at the actual curiosity in his husband's voice. "It must be less paperwork. Certainly less taxpayer money."
"No, it is not less paperwork, and I am not standing here arguing with you about it! Why did he run into a bus?"
"He let a bus run into him," Sherlock corrected.
"So he'd not be caught. He spent his whole life not being caught. Why start now? It was the end of the line and he was aware of it. He chose to make it permanent."
"And if you hadn't –"
"If we hadn't been there, he'd have slipped through your grasp again and he'd be gone," Sherlock sighed. "At least ten murders, three sets of which went cold. And if you find and search his flat, I'm sure you'll find evidence tying them to him, as well as older ones. If you want to put some cases to rest, that is."
"If I want to put some cases to rest, that is," Lestrade muttered and John bit down on a smile at the sarcasm and weariness in the DI's voice. He heard Lestrade sigh and looked up, watching as the DI turned away from Sherlock for a moment.
"Right, can we have some order here, please? Everyone back off! Back off! You! Constable! Whatever your name is! Call this in and get some traffic control going! Donovan! Is there an ambulance on the way? Good! Hillary, make yourself useful other than being a plant and see to the bus passengers! You three, what are you gawking at! There must be a cruiser around here with some police tape, or something! Move the crowds back!"
He turned back to John and Sherlock.
"And you two! Don't think I'm letting you off the hook. When it comes down on me, I'm pulling you right into it."
Like always, John thought with a wry smile while Sherlock protested and complained and Lestrade argued. John sat back on his haunches and listened with half an ear, then got up to help with the mangled body when the ambulance finally arrived through the crowd.
Lestrade was right, Sherlock thought. This was too much bloody paperwork. He'd forgotten about that. It had been the same when he'd shot Moriarty. Well, perhaps that had been slightly worse, because in this case, the – ahem – victim had thrown himself in front of a bus.
Hardly my fault, Sherlock thought with an inward scowl, but try telling that to the Crown Prosecutors, who wanted someone to take the blame. Why not the corpse? It was simple, accurate, and let absolutely everyone else off the hook to return to their lives and important things, such as not dealing with lawyers.
He fiddled with the idea of ringing Mycroft and having some expensive lawyers of his own sent around. But no, his brother would only want to interfere and probably call their mother. Although Sherlock would actually enjoy seeing her again, since the last time he'd seen her, he'd been rather poorly. He did remember her coming to see him, but it was hazy, not quite so much as most of the other events from that time, but not the pleasant visit it could have been.
He resolved to take John up to the manor once this had all been sorted out and have a quiet weekend in the country. It would make him appreciate the city all the much more when he returned, too. And he did miss playing violin with her. John enjoyed listening to both of them, too.
He met Sam going into Scotland Yard and the younger man appraised him approvingly.
"You look better," he said.
"I am," Sherlock replied. "Come to listen to Lestrade reprimand me a bit more? Or to add Interpol's contribution?"
Sam snorted derisively.
"Hardly," he said. "Interpol's well out of this. Not much you can do to prosecute someone in two different countries when he's a corpse. Not even a very pretty one, I might add. I'm supposed to meet with the brass about some weapons smuggling problems between here and France and Germany. Not that you should know that."
"Ah, liaising," Sherlock said.
"That is my job," Sam replied. "Although, I will probably have do some work on getting some of the departments across the country and in Wales and Scotland to talk to one another about the Bainbridge cases. There was a lot in his flat, Sherlock. A lot to track down."
"Hmm," Sherlock said noncommittally. "I suspected as much."
"I'm sure you did," Sam said, opening one of the main doors and letting Sherlock in. The detective slipped his hands into his coat pockets and nodded, then remembered something.
"Oh," he said, pulling out the two fliers he'd taken several days ago and had left carefully folded in his pocket. "I've these for you."
"What is it?" Sam asked.
"Advertisements for local shows in the area," Sherlock said. "Given your taste in music, I thought perhaps you'd like to take Sandra. And it's quite safe now that no couples-murderers are running about loose."
Sam rolled his eyes at the last commented but unfolded the fliers, looking surprised, then grinned, shaking his head and looked up.
"Thanks," he said, folding them again and slipping them into his own pocket. "I might just do that."
Sherlock grinned back, falling into step beside Sam as they entered the building.
"Look, how many more times do I have to tell you?" Sherlock snapped.
"It's not me, Sherlock. It's everyone above me."
"But he'd dead. What difference does it make?"
"It's because he's dead that it's such a process! I did warn you, didn't I? Besides, you know this from last time."
"You're acting like I pulled a gun on him."
"No, I'm very lucky you didn't," Lestrade sighed, folding his hands on his desk. "So are you."
He gave Sherlock one of his world-weary detective looks, which Sherlock ignored completely. He saw these so often he suspected they were Lestrade's default expressions.
"You're a police officer," Sherlock said, leaning back somewhat in his chair, sitting his right knee crossed over his left, tapping his right foot absently and impatiently in the air. "Can't you make this all just disappear?"
"This is me making it disappear," Lestrade said. "Believe me, it would be much worse for you without me."
"I can hardly see how," Sherlock commented.
"No, you can't. And you're lucky you can't. Another thing – "
He was cut off by his mobile phone ringing and he fished it out of his desk drawer, frowning at the number.
"It's your artist friend, Holly Adams," he said, turning the phone on, putting it on speaker.
He did so enjoy being right.
"DI Lestrade," Lestrade answered.
"Oh, Inspector? It's Holly Adams, I did the sketch for that killer you caught last week?"
Lestrade shot a pointed look at Sherlock over the 'caught' comment and Sherlock rolled his eyes in response.
"Yes, Holly, I remember you. Is everything all right? You've not been having any problems with the media, have you? We don't release our artists' names."
"No, no, nothing like that," the girl said, then hesitated and Sherlock grinned again, raising his eyebrows at Lestrade's puzzled and suspicious look. "I was just wondering – I know you must be really busy and all, but I was wondering if you had some time to meet with me? I wanted to ask you about what I have to do to become a full-time forensics artist."
A/N: And... done! Whew! Two chapters in one day, I need some sleep or something. Or tea. I'm still working on "Otherwise", but any requests, particularly for fluff, because I could use some fluff after that. Let me know! Hope you enjoyed this.