A/N: This is another OC-centered-ish story, although Sherlock and John have a much bigger role than in the last one. Again with the OC warning. The internet is a big place and there's lots of other things to do if you don't want to read this. This is set after "The Grass is Greener" and "Dans La Même Direction". I do not own, nor do I profit from. Enjoy!
It was too loud, too busy. The press of people seemed unnatural, as if the crowds from the main streets in the heart of the city had suddenly been transported into the Yard. Everywhere, uniformed officers swam in a sea of black and white and yellow, amidst which the plainclothes officers stood out like small islands of distinctiveness, their clothing subdued but professional, sharp but neutral. Others in more relaxed clothing – denims and leathers and bright colours – were suspects in for questioning or witnesses being interviewed or the occasional undercover police officer who had been arrested as part of the guise.
People brushed past, heedless of the tight space, so that Sherlock felt himself constantly jostled, inadvertently touched. Muttered apologies were thrown in his general direction occasionally but more often he – he! – was ignored.
Snatches of conversations flitted past. He tried to sort through them, to catch anything of significance. It seemed to be some kind of shift change; that was obvious from the fragments of predominantly personal conversation overheard as he and John and Sam tried to make their way down the narrow, too-bright corridor.
"… right, milk and bread – no, we have bread, check the freezer – "
"Pull the files on that Evans case and check with Charing Cross – hang on – no, that's your phone – "
"No, not today, we have that – I have another call, ring you right back –"
"Hmm, tonight around seven?" That was John. His voice was somehow louder against the background of orders and calls and conversations. He tried to focus on it, to block everything else out, but the feeling of someone else pushing past him and calling down the corridor for a sergeant distracted him. It was all too close, too claustrophobic.
A phone rang, an order was shouted out. Paramedics were running toward them now and Sherlock heard John and Sam's footsteps stop, felt a hand on his arm, pulling him toward the bland, neutral-coloured wall. Sherlock flared his nostrils, inhaling John's scent, giving himself a focal point. John's hand on his arm was a small spot of welcome warmth, a touch that wasn't unfamiliar, unasked for.
Sam was looking the one way up the corridor, then the other. Frowning. Trying to keep himself back from the constables hurrying past after the paramedics. Stiffer than normal. Uncomfortable.
"Make it eight," Sam said, throwing a glance in John's direction.
"Right. Sherlock, eight tonight."
He'd been volunteered for a pub night. Sherlock glowered; John ignored him. Sam gave him a tight-lipped smile that didn't reach his eyes. He didn't like the crowds, either. They needed to go. The ridiculous simple case Sherlock had been called in to solve had only taken him half an hour. It was going to take just as long to get out of the busy station. He itched. He needed to have a shower.
Dull, dull, dull, he thought, picking up his pace again after the small crisis had passed. John's footsteps started up again behind him, then Sam's.
Why was life so unnecessarily boring?
John's phone rang and an approaching constable pulled out his phone, checking it before realising it was not his and repocketing it, all the while never losing focus on the sergeant who was speaking to him. John put a hand on Sherlock's arm whilst checking his text, silently urging him to let them pass. The detective growled low in his throat. He shouldn't be the one to move.
"… and C4 at the demolition site, so we don't want any kids breaking in before … "
Did this corridor never end?
Sherlock kept walking; John could catch up once he'd finished being sidetracked by his phone. He was texting someone, so it wasn't urgent – most likely Tricia, possibly some other former army mate. He hoped there wasn't some tedious get together to which John was being invited. He had plans of his own for them both that weekend – other than the newly arranged pub night. John was not on a Saturday shift that weekend and the weather forecast was calling for heavy rains. They would stay at home and enjoy themselves.
There was a set of footsteps missing – the lack of sound was jarring in the press of noise. Sherlock paused, turning back. John collided with him and cursed, looking up from his phone. Sherlock grabbed him instinctively to keep him standing, but focussed on Sam, who had stopped several paces back. A woman behind him grumbled at the upset and wove around him, shaking her head.
Sam didn't move.
He was sheet white and shaking, his entire body rigid. Sam was looking straight at him but the detective had the distinct impression the younger man wasn't seeing at him at all.
"Bloody hell, Sherlock," John muttered his voice low but catching in Sherlock's ears. "A little warning?"
"John," Sherlock said urgently. Sam clenched his teeth and sucked in a deep breath, holding himself rigidly, as if moving might make him break. John looked up at Sherlock and then seemed to realise that his husband was looking past him and glanced over his shoulder. In a swift, instinctive movement, he had pulled away from Sherlock, had pocketed his phone, and was taking two long strides towards Sam.
Sherlock followed him quickly, reaching out, but John snapped out an arm to stop him. Sam was taut, the lines of his neck standing out in stark contrast under his skin. His green eyes were fixed on the spot where Sherlock had been standing, wide, bright and terrified. Sherlock glanced over his shoulder, but there was nothing there except a bare bit of corridor. He turned back quickly, eyes flashing over Sam's face.
"John," Sherlock said again, sudden suspicion flaring through him.
"Don't touch him!" John said. "He's having a flashback."
"What?" Sherlock demanded, aghast. "But –" It was the twenty-ninth of September, he realised. Eight days before the five-year anniversary of The Bridge. Sam would be primed to be thinking about it already, even if only subconsciously.
"Hey, Holmes, you –" he heard Sally Donovan's voice coming from down the corridor and cursed to himself, eyes snapping in her direction. She'd already stopped, looking puzzled and concerned, a frown creasing her features as she tried to determine what was going on.
"Sally, get Lestrade and get this corridor sealed off, get everyone out of here!" John snapped, throwing a glare her way.
"What –" Donovan started to ask, taking a step toward them, and Sherlock growled. He was shocked to hear John making the same noise low in his chest, the sound edged with a dangerous impatience.
"Do it!" John ordered in a hard voice, one that Sherlock rarely heard. Donovan stared half a moment longer then nodded, the movement choppy and abrupt. She spun and jogged away, barking out instructions.
"No, back, back, get out now! You! At the other end, out of the corridor and shut the doors!"
"But – "
"Do it! Stop staring and go!"
There were mutters and shifting and footsteps stopping to change direction. There were more orders called out or passed along and questions that floated to them, sharp or half-formed. Sherlock ignored all of this, refocusing on Sam.
The Interpol agent jerked his head to his left and shuddered hard. Sherlock saw John reach out instinctively, only just managing to keep from making contact. His face was focussed, concerned, evaluating. Sherlock didn't move, keeping his gaze on Sam. Something tugged at the memories he hadn't deleted but had relegated to long-term storage and never accessed. Sam screwed his eyes shut and jerked his head back further, shuddering again, a tremulous sigh ghosting from his lips.
"No," Sherlock whispered, his voice sounding too loud as the sound around them drained away. "John."
"What?" John demanded, throwing Sherlock a glance over his shoulder.
"He's – the bridge. No, he's never remembered this before. He's not meant to remember it."
John froze, staring back at him.
"What do you mean?" he asked carefully.
"The flashback, he's on the Waterloo Bridge. The way he's holding himself, that moment there. Moriarty kissed his neck."
John's eyes locked with Sherlock's for a moment and there was a war between denial and hard acceptance, then he set his jaw and made himself nod.
"Right," he said. "He's there and so were you. We'll use that."
The doors to their right opened again suddenly and Lestrade was striding toward them wearing the angry expression he adopted when he was presented with an uncertain situation. He kept moving past them, not slowing his quick pace, and locked the doors at the other end of the hall. His footsteps were loud in the suddenly emptied corridor, ringing off the walls, the panelled ceiling.
The hollow clang as the locks snapped home immediately shifted the atmosphere – they were alone now. The isolation made the fluorescent lights too bright, seemed to bring John's controlled breathing into sharper counterpoint with Sam's ragged exhalations.
"What is it?" Lestrade hissed, coming up behind them. John held out a hand, keeping the DI back. He gestured to Sherlock to keep watch on Sam – a short flick of his wrist from his eyes to his patient – then turned to the DI.
"Flashback," the doctor replied shortly. "Get the hell out of here and call an ambulance. Clear the area where the paramedics will come up."
"Right," Lestrade said, after a pause. Sherlock ignored the Inspector, keeping his sharp gaze trained on Sam. The Interpol agent was still standing, but barely – Sherlock could recall how much effort it had taken five years ago for Sam to keep himself upright. And then Sam's left hand twitched and suddenly Sherlock understood – a sergeant who had walked past them had been saying something about C4.
The car on the bridge behind where Sherlock had been standing had been rigged with C4 explosive. Sam had told him, making two quick gestures with his left hand: an arc with his thumb and fingers for the C, holding up four fingers for the 4.
"Sherlock, he's going to collapse. You have to catch him."
Sherlock's eyes flashed to John and the doctor held his gaze resolutely.
"You couldn't do it last time." Sherlock parted his lips to retort but John beat him to it. "It's not a criticism, Sherlock! It's a fact! Do it! And tell him you've done it!"
Sherlock spun and reached out the moment he saw Sam's legs buckle under him. The weight made him stagger, but he kept himself upright, tightening his grip around Sam's torso. Sam jerked, trying to arch backwards with a hissing gasp, but Sherlock held fast, gritting his teeth. Sam was stronger than he'd anticipated. It was the memory acting; Sherlock wasn't supposed to have been there. Not right there.
"You didn't fall," Sherlock said. "I've got you."
Sam sucked in a deep breath, his head snapping up, his eyes focussed blankly over Sherlock's right shoulder. Sherlock managed a glance at John, who nodded at the floor. He lowered the shaking Interpol agent to the scuffed, cold industrial linoleum and Sam slumped forward, nearly folding in on himself. Sherlock caught him by the left shoulder, mindful that he'd injured his right that day, and held him up. Sam was shuddering harder now, his breath coming in jagged, hard-edged gasps, so that Sherlock was suddenly worried about seizures. He mouthed the word to John, who shook his head.
He trusted John on this. John had been there. Sherlock had sat through his share of flashbacks with John in the past seven years, but they had not been quite like this. They'd been quieter, almost eerily so.
"Talk," John mouthed and Sherlock felt a flash of memory himself, recalling the same instruction five years ago, John crouched in front of him in Sam's ransacked flat, urging Sherlock to play Moriarty's game.
Sherlock was crouching again now, the muscles in his thighs starting to protest the extra weight pressed against his body as he tried to keep Sam braced. Sam was slumped against him, unwilling or unable to hold any of his weight himself. He was still shaking almost violently now, making it difficult to support him.
Sherlock tried to deduce what Sam was remembering now, at what point in the day's events he was stuck. Was he recalling the fall? Was he recalling being in the river? Or had the fact that Sherlock had caught him changed the history being played out in his mind? Did he believe he hadn't fallen now? Perhaps he was going through the memories again from the beginning – but which beginning? The beginning of that day? Sherlock hoped not; there was too much there. The beginning of the events on the bridge?
He did not have enough information. Sam was providing none now – neither physical nor verbal. No motions, no words, only uneven, wavering gasps. Sherlock shifted, grimacing, and felt John move against him, pressing into his side. It gave him better balance and he nodded his thanks.
"Sam, it's Sherlock. You're safe. You're at the Yard."
He glanced at John for confirmation and the doctor nodded, but Sherlock hesitated. When this happened to John, he didn't talk, just sat with him and held his hand until his husband came back because John had said that was best for him.
"I don't know what to say," Sherlock hissed in a low voice, hating the admission but not wanting to waste time. They needed to draw Sam out of this as quickly as possible.
"Tell him Moriarty died. Tell him he lived. Tell him what year it is, tell him about Sandra. Give him facts."
Sherlock gave a single, curt nod and drew a deep breath.
"Moriarty died when I shot him. His body was recovered from the river less than two hours later. Veronique took a picture of his corpse and gave it to you. You had it saved on your phone but you deleted the image and threw the phone in the river two years ago. It's 2017. It's been five years. You survived the fall and recovered. You returned to your life. You married a nurse at St. Mary's named Sandra Casey in Edinburgh on the eighth of April of this year."
Down the hall, the door eased open and Sherlock heard a snatch of voices and phones and radio chatter – the earlier buzz now confined and restrained – before Lestrade shut it gently behind him. He strode over to them and crouched down next to John, eyes darting to Sam, then Sherlock, before settling on the doctor.
"Paramedics are here," he whispered. "What do you want me to do?"
"Keep them outside, bring in a blanket," John replied. "And get those people the hell away from the door. No crowds, no noise."
Lestrade nodded sharply and strode away. John turned back and gestured for Sherlock to keep talking.
"You returned to London three years ago as an Interpol liaison officer. You are here in the Yard today for a series of meetings with senior police officials. I'm uncertain as to why – you refused to tell me. You had concluded your meetings and were on your way home although you had arranged with John that we meet with you and Sandra at a pub later this evening. I suspect you mentioned this to John because he is more likely to agree to banal entertainment than myself."
At this, John's lips twitched in the shadow of a smile. Lestrade came back with an orange shock blanket and passed it off to the doctor.
"Anything else?" he asked, his voice low and measured.
"I'll let you know," John replied. Lestrade nodded and left. Sherlock watched John watching the DI go, waiting for the door to shut behind him. Then he turned back to Sam.
"Sam, it's John. I'm just going to put a blanket round your shoulders, all right?"
There was a corresponding twitch in the Interpol agent's shoulders and arms and Sherlock tensed, keeping them both upright. John hesitated, then moved away from Sherlock, who braced himself more firmly. The doctor wrapped the blanket carefully around Sam's shoulders and the younger man went taut again, before exhaling a hard breath that Sherlock felt against his right arm. John nodded.
"Good," he murmured. Sherlock felt it before John noted it – Sam pulled back a little, moving his own weight fractionally from Sherlock's support. But he was shaking too hard to make any real effort at holding himself up, nor was he fully back in the present, and the moment passed almost as soon as it had begun.
"What now?" Sherlock hissed.
"Keep talking," John whispered in return. "It's anchoring. We'll need to get him to a hospital as soon as possible but he needs to be back first. We can't move him if he doesn't know where he is. It will make things worse."
"So will being in a hospital!" Sherlock growled, hearing the harmonic bounced back at him in the empty space. "Where they will put him in a strange room, drug him and may restrain him, John? How do you suppose that will help?"
He felt Sam tense again, his head jerking, shudders still running down his spine to course through his limbs. John sighed through clenched teeth, a flash of self-directed anger shuttering across his features.
"Yeah, good point," he said, giving an irate nod.
"We will ask him," Sherlock replied. "Sam?"
He saw John start to protest but Sam spoke in a tight voice as if he were dragging the words from his own throat.
"Home," he managed. John's eyes were dark with displeasure but he kept his silence on the subject.
"Sam, do you know where you are?" John asked, the calmness of his voice belying the rigidity of his muscles, the watchfulness in his features. The younger man didn't reply and didn't move to nod or shake his head. Sherlock kept a careful evaluation on how much Sam was shaking – the severity had decreased. He remained oddly still despite the trembling.
John gestured for Sherlock to keep speaking and with a scowl, the detective did so. He outlined his recently completed case, ignoring John's rolled eyes. He ran through theories regarding the cases he knew Sam was currently investigating, pointing out that he could provide more relevant conclusions if he was given access to data. He was about to start a consideration of continuity errors in Doctor Who and how they could be corrected when Sam tried to sit up.
Sherlock let him dislodge himself but kept a careful hold. With John's help, they got Sam leaning against the bland white wall. His green eyes roamed across the ceiling, flickered down, fixed past Sherlock and John's shoulders. John leant forward in his crouch and examined the agent's pupils as best he could with neither a light nor physical contact.
"Sam, do you know where you are?" John repeated. Sam's eyes flickered to John and he looked confused. He let his gaze dart to Sherlock, searching the detective's face, then he refocused on John.
"The Yard," he said in a worn voice, slumping down a bit against the wall, pushing his right foot against Sherlock's left to brace himself, appearing not to notice he was doing so. His gaze drifted away again, blank for a moment. Then he shuddered hard and they both steadied him carefully, keeping him upright. Sam exhaled a rapid sigh then sucked in another breath, tilting his head back, closing his eyes.
"Do you know what year it is?" John asked.
"No," Sam sighed. "I don't know. 2017."
"Right," John asked, touching the back of Sherlock's hand briefly to keep him from speaking. Sherlock glowered but complied.
"Can you tell me your full name?"
"Samuel Carroll Waters."
John exchanged a dark look with Sherlock who blew a sigh between his lips. John's features pinched into a frown but he kept his voice light and steady when he spoke.
"No, Sam, that's not your name. That was an alias, remember? What's your real name?"
There was a slight hesitation and then Sam frowned, opening his green eyes and refocusing somewhat.
"Gabriel Mitchell." There was no inflection, no emotion, just a listless, factual answer.
Sherlock's nostrils flared slightly.
"No, Sam, give me your full name." Sherlock understood the information John was seeking. Sam had changed his middle name upon returning to England permanently, so that he could be called 'Sam' without any confusion. Sherlock had never understood why but had not enquired.
Sam closed his eyes and was silent a long moment. John made a gesture for Sherlock to wait and the detective held his tongue with displeasure.
"Gabriel Samuel Mitchell," Sam corrected flatly.
"Good," John sighed. "Do you know what happened?"
Sam shook his head, his green eyes sliding away from John's again, losing focus slightly.
"Sam," Sherlock said and Sam's eyes snapped back to him.
Sam blinked rapidly and glanced about again, appearing to fully realise where he was. He winced and shifted, pulling the blanket instinctively around his shoulders.
"Are you willing to go to the hospital?" John asked.
Sam shook his head, his movement vehement and certain.
"No. No. I want to go home."
"Are you sure?" John asked.
Sam fixed John with a fairly steady stare.
"Enough bloody hospitals," he said. "It's not as if I'm in danger of throwing myself from a bridge."
Sherlock's lips quirked despite John's disapproving look. Sam drew his legs up to his chest, folding on himself a bit, not enough to indicate he was going to collapse. He looked away, eyes focussed but expression blank. His hands were still shaking, curled into fists around the orange blanket.
"All right," John sighed. "Sherlock's going to tell Lestrade to clear the path downstairs and get us a car to take you home. Is that all right with you?"
Sam gave a brief nod, the movement almost distracted, then seemed to re-centre himself again.
"Yes," he answered.
John nodded at Sherlock who pushed himself to standing, ignoring the protesting twinges in his muscles at the sudden change after so long holding himself in a crouch. He kept a wince to himself and stepped back, giving John some room.
"I'm going to put my arm around your shoulders, under your left arm, okay?" John asked. "I want you to put your left arm around my shoulders, over my arm. Then I'm going to get you up. Is that all right?"
Sam grunted but leaned forward enough to allow John to brace him. He put his arm around John's shoulders as instructed, his expression carefully closed as he did so.
"On three: one, two, three."
When Sherlock was satisfied that Sam was on his feet and was unlikely to collapse again or lose consciousness, he moved away, expanding the distance between them with long strides, and went to fetch Lestrade.