That's When Angels Cry
I've never written something quite like this before, so I hope it works. I just wanted to try writing something sad, so I did. It didn't end up quite the way it was in my head, so maybe I'll re-write it later (or just do a different one), but for now this is what I've got. Warning for character death. Let me know if anyone is out of character. It's not Brit-picked either, so if anything is off please correct me!
Sherlock is running, and the dark, dank night air of the London alleys feels fresh and cool on his face. He wouldn't normally notice, except that this is the first time in nearly four days of complete and utter boredom that he has felt alive, and his dulled senses are on overload. He can feel the air on his cheeks, and he can hear the pounding of John's footsteps behind him and Lestrade's even heavier footfalls behind him. He can smell car exhaust and the faint, promising smell of rain in the air, and he can taste the salt of his own sweat on his lips, hear his own harsh breathing, feel the pound of his heart against his ribs, and see a dead end ahead that branches off two ways, one heading down towards the Thames, the other deeper into a maze of alleyways and branching side-streets.
The men he is chasing split. He sees their shadowy outlines meet for a moment, then one of them shouts hoarsely and they curve away from each other and disappear into the mouths of the alleys.
How thoroughly irritating.
"John, take right!"
John sounds out of breath, but Sherlock knows that the ex-soldier has the endurance to out-run his quarry at the end, as long as he doesn't make it to the main road and other means of transportation. But John will pull through. John always pulls through.
"Sherlock! These guys are dangerous, you should wait for back-up…"
Lestrade's shout is full of weary resignation, like he knows he needs to say it even though it won't do any good.
"I've got back-up. I've got you and John."
"We don't count," Lestrade says, but he doesn't argue, and when they reach the branch-off Sherlock takes the left and Lestrade follows John to the right.
Sherlock listens as their footsteps fade, and as soon as he can no longer hear them his mind focuses in completely on his target, who has completely vanished. The best he can do now is to follow the alley, follow the echoes of what he hopes are not just his own racing footsteps, and run just a little faster.
A drop of rain hits his nose as he emerges out into a narrow side-street, and John's voice says in his head, The angels are crying.
The angels are crying. He snorts now, just as he snorted earlier that morning when he'd woken on the couch to a gentle drizzle and John whistling Rain, Rain, Go Away as he made his morning coffee.
"What's that supposed to mean?" He'd asked.
John had looked up from the paper with a blank expression.
"Hmmm? Oh, my mum used to tell me that as a kid. When it rains, it means the angels are crying."
"And why would angels cry?"
"Because…something made them sad?" He'd given a John-shrug, with a little tilt of his head and a small, self-deprecating smile. "It's just a story."
"What on earth would make angels sad?"
"I don't know. People doing bad things, maybe. Murders, things like that."
"People doing bad things. If that were true, it would be torrential seven days of the week."
"Maybe. That's true. It's just a story."
"Well, it's not a very good story, is it?"
"Come on, Sherlock." John had started to get a little frustrated here, and Sherlock allowed himself a small grin when John looked back down at the rugby scores. Needling John wasn't quite as good as a case, but it would do in a pinch. "Maybe someone died, or something."
"Do angels even exist?"
"Are you asking me an honest question, or are you just being annoying?"
"It's an honest question." I'm just being annoying.
"Right." John cleared his throat, glanced down at the paper again, and then folded it and tossed it on the table. "Um, well, I'm not about to get started into a religious discussion with you. You'll only be as irritating as possible so I'll blow up and you'll have something fun to do. Why don't you call Lestrade and see if he has a case for you yet?"
"He'll call me. Do you believe in angels?"
John's eyes rolled heavenward. "If they do exist, I'm asking them right now to please, please, please let Lestrade call you, because I've about had all I can handle in the last four days."
"It's a simple question."
"But I know exactly what's going on in that head of yours behind that simple question, and I'm not going to take the bait. I'm going to go have a shower."
"Angels don't exist, in case you were wondering."
Sherlock could tell now that John was wishing he'd never brought it up. "Well, I wasn't, Sherlock, and just because you wanted to know, yes, I actually do happen to believe in angels. Happy?"
"Happy, no, but I'm just getting interested. Why do you believe in something as abstract as angels?"
John had thrown up his hands. "It's faith, Sherlock! Believing in something you can't see with your eyes or examine under a microscope. Not that I expect you to understand. Do you mind?"
He'd left then, and Sherlock had let him go. He spared a few seconds to analyze the conversation—in fact, he wasn't sure he didn't believe in angels, he'd just never thought about them before—and then he flopped back on the couch and let his muscles atrophy.
He emerges from the mouth of an alley that spills him onto a wide thoroughfare full of traffic and late-night pedestrians. There is no sign of the man he has been pursuing, and he flings up his hands and clasps them around the back of his head, his breathing ragged and shallow in his chest. He growls deep in his chest and spins about, dancing with frustration, his cheeks cold and damp with sweat. He wipes at his mouth roughly with a sleeve; his mind is racing frantically, but there is nothing to be done, really. He has lost his quarry. He can only hope that John and Lestrade have done better. He whips out his phone, unlocks it, and hits speed-dial 3.
"You've reached John Watson. Leave a brief message…"
He hangs up before the machine can finish. He can only hope that this means that either John has caught his man or is still chasing him. He turns back the way he came and breaks into a tired jog, biting the inside of his cheeks with irritation. He has only been jogging for a few minutes when his phone vibrates.
D.I Lestrade, his caller-ID says. "Lestrade. Did you get him?"
"Yes, Sherlock, we got him. He's banged up…coherent, the miserable…"
"You're cutting out, Lestrade. Where are you? Where are you?"
"…Thames. You might want to…Sherlock, it's…so sorry…"
"I'll be there in a minute. Don't let them take him to the Yard yet; I want to talk to him. Stay there, I'll be right there."
He hangs up and picks up the pace. Something about the tone of Lestrade's voice had been off, but he doesn't have time to analyze it now. He reaches the place where he had split from John and Lestrade and follows the echoes of their footsteps, waving wildly at a patch of gnats that buzz around his face for a few steps. John has caught him, and now there'll be more clues, something else to go on.
He ducks into another alley and bounds up a fire-escape so that he can gauge his position. The rooftop is even colder than down below, with a chill breeze that cools his neck and ruffles his hair in front of his eyes. The banks of the Thames are only a few blocks away, and he can see the flashing lights of cop cars a little to his right. He can hear sirens now, too, and one of them is clearly an ambulance.
How "banged up" was their man, anyway? It must have been quite the tussle if he was bad enough to need an ambulance, and as he leaps back down the fire-escape Sherlock is sorry he missed it. He angles himself appropriately, following the sound of the sirens, and then he can see the lights flashing on the walls of the alley, right there on the riverbanks. There are five, maybe six cop cars, and the one ambulance parked close to the wall with orange-vested paramedics standing around it, arms folded, talking quietly amongst themselves.
He has a stich in his side like a white-hot knife under his ribs, but he ignores it and grabs the nearest officer, a young man with a hill of pimples on his forehead.
"Lestrade," he gasps. "Where's Lestrade? I need to speak to the him, I need to speak to our suspect, he's the key to everything. Is he in the ambulance? How badly hurt? No, never mind, just tell me where Lestrade is."
"I don't know," the officer says, and he looks at Sherlock oddly, like he's never seen him before. "Haven't seen him recently. We've been told to look out for you, though. We're to keep you here until Lestrade…"
"Never mind that," Sherlock snaps. He has no time for young, ignorant officers who think that they can "keep" Sherlock Holmes anywhere. "I'll find him."
The officer reaches out a hand toward him, but Sherlock ignores it and whirls past him, ducks under the tape, and winds his way around police officers who either ignore him or shoot him odd looks like the pimply officer and look as if they want to speak to him but can't get the words out before he blows past them.
His best bet is up by the ambulance, so he makes his way up there, feet sinking into the slick mud and gravel. He sees Donovan first, standing by her patrol car talking quietly with a blonde officer he doesn't recognize. He expects her to ignore him as he passes, but instead when she sees him her eyes go wide and she stumbles toward him.
He lifts an eyebrow at her. "I'm looking for him myself. Do you mind?"
"Yes. Yes, yes, I mind…you shouldn't be here," she says, and he smiles tightly. Usually he wouldn't mind pausing for a bit of Donovan-button-pushing, but all he really wants to do right now is question his suspect and get the next lead.
"Heard it all before, Sally. This is my case."
"Sure it's your case," she says, but the usual nasty is absent from her voice, and that alone makes him pause. Is she placating him? Why? She is blocking his way now, and keeps glancing behind her at the ambulance as if frightened of something. "Look, Sherlock, why don't you just wait for Lestrade; I'll page him…"
Sally has just called him by his first name, and something in his chest flares bright and hot. He has not felt fear very often, but he feels it now.
Something has happened, something he missed, and whatever it is, is waiting up by the ambulance.
"Where's John?" he asks abruptly, and Sally cuts off mid-sentence, and the look on her face is stricken.
"Sherlock," she begins again, but he pushes past her, violently shaking off the hand she had placed tentatively on his arm. He staggers up the gentle slope to the ambulance, and when he trips over a piece of driftwood and almost falls he realizes for the first time how dark it is. Everything is illuminated in flashes of red and white and blue, spotlights of too-bright color whirling on the top of panda cars, and too many people are walking around with too many voices, too loud, his thick Belstaff is too heavy on his shoulders, and there is still that strange, white-hot, constricting pain in his chest.
Lestrade comes out of nowhere, a heavy hand slapped on his shoulder, stopping him cold.
"Let me go," Sherlock growls, and to his credit, Lestrade's grip only tightens.
"Wait. I mean it. I don't want you to…"
"Where's John?" He stops pulling for a second and stares Lestrade straight in the face.
What he sees there makes him sick.
Sherlock yanks free, ignores the desperate "Sherlock!" from the DI, and walks slowly, stiffly around the ambulance. There, between the brightly-colored emergency vehicle and the dark, mold-slicked chain-link fence separating a dimly lit alley from the riverbank, is John Watson.
He is lying on his back. Eyes half-open, staring up at the stars. Short blonde hair plastered to his head with streaks of mud. One arm lying across his stomach, the other sprawled palm-up in in the gravel. A dark, ugly, black-red stain on his chest, right over his heart.
"John." The name expels from his lips in a hoarse whisper, and his mind is refusing to accept what his eyes are seeing. Lestrade steps up behind him, and when speaks his voice is thick and low, all crumpled in and raw. He sounds as if he has aged twenty years since they'd parted ways.
"He took a shot. Guy had back-up waiting around down here. Ran right into it. We tussled with 'em for a bit, took out two or three, got 'em in custody now. One of the last ones pulled a gun…he was dead before I could get to him. It was quick, Sherlock, at least. It was quick. I'm sorry. If there's anything I could have done, I would've, I swear. I'm sorry."
Sherlock swallows. He is still staring at the thick spread of blood across the front of John's favorite oatmeal jumper, staring at where someone had pulled aside his bomber jacket to get at the wound, tried to staunch the blood. And he can see the whole story clearly now.
A scuffle. John's army training, heavy on pseudo-wrestling and his semi-famous right hook, Lestrade and his police-training, street-fighting; the scuffle heightened by the distant sound of Lestrade's back-up sirens approaching. One man pulls a gun, John turns to see, has no time to react, is shot in the chest, falls to his knees, jags to his back, dead instantly, left staring up the stars with glassy eyes and blood spreading across his chest.
Lestrade falls to his knees at John's side, presses his palms into the wound, trying to stop the bleeding—it is futile, of course, because John is already dead—and the cop cars show up, pile out, cuff the two unconscious thugs, hustle them away.
Sally Donovan bends over Greg Lestrade where he is still kneeling by John, staring at his own hands slicked with red, and the tears on her face are for both John and her boss. She likes John. Everybody likes John. He's the decent bloke who runs around with Sherlock and says hi to everyone and isn't above going out for a drink on the weekends. He's the nice guy, the doctor, the ex-soldier with the easy smile and guarded eyes and the strange ability to control the consulting detective that no one else can.
Donovan pulls Lestrade up and away, and he wipes his hands shakily, desperately, on his trousers but it is too late—John's blood is stained into them, and John is dead. They must wait for forensics now, protocol and all that, even though it's John. He tells her to watch out for Sherlock, and then he makes a phone call and Sherlock answers. Reception is poor. Sherlock hangs up. Arrives on scene. Sees John.
And then the story is over.
Sherlock walks to John and stands over him. He is only partially aware of Anderson and his team arriving and Lestrade muttering to him, Anderson's muted reply. He is cold. He is tired.
He lets his legs sag underneath him, and his knees hit the ground gently. He sits back on his heels and rests his hands on his upper legs. He is content, for now, to just sit here like this until someone—God help them—forces him to move. He lets his head fall forward, lets his chin rest on his chest, burrowed deep into his thick, rough blue scarf, and closes his eyes.
A drop of moisture lands on his exposed neck.
And then it starts to rain.
Thanks for reading! Review, please, let me know what you think!