Running as fast as their legs could take them, John and Sherlock raced to find a cab that could take them to Scotland Yard as soon as possible. Cab after cab drove by, full with occupants that needed to get somewhere, inconveniently, at the same time as the duo. John had called out in frustration, stamping his foot on the ground before trying to hail another vehicle. Sherlock, unlike his counterpart, was dead silent.
Her cries echoed through his mind like silverware dropping in an empty room. Sherlock's mind kept changing track, jumping from when they first met to her cries and everything in between. Not only that, but her professed love to him put his thought processes off even more.
Did he love her? The more he batted the idea back and forth in his mind, the more uncertain he became. Even though their pasts may have aligned at one point, ten years can change a person. He knew he wasn't the same person he was in college, and he wasn't completely sure that she was either. From his experiences of seeing couples fall in and out of love (mainly John and his many companions he had while friends with Sherlock), Sherlock knew he'd have to handle this as gingerly as possible.
"Sherlock? Sherlock, come on!" he finally heard John call out. Turning towards the sound of his voice, Sherlock saw John with one foot stepping into a cab.
He had called out to Sherlock three or four times before catching his attention. The cabby was getting snippy with him, muttering something about losing other paying customers if his boyfriend didn't hurry along.
Sherlock jogged over and followed John into the vehicle. The two paid the cabby with as much money as they had on them in order to ensure that they'd get to Lestrade's as fast as possible. Soon they were zooming off into the night.
John fidgeted with his hands during the cab ride, knowing that any attempts to talk to Sherlock would be for not. One hour was not enough time to find Aryn without a viable lead to keep them going. Instead of being stuck at a dead end, they faced numerous paths and only one would lead to what they wanted. Glancing over at Sherlock, he could see the frustration in his eyes. Sherlock's hands kept changing from being folded together to balling into fists to relaxing, then repeating the pattern over again.
Looking down at his watch, John nervously counted how many minutes had already gone by. They only had 52 minutes left.
"Can you go any faster?" John asked the cabby impatiently.
"No," the cabby answered. "Don't get your knickers in a bunch. No one's gonna die if we get to Scotland Yard any later."
They reached Lestrade's office more impatient and frustrated after the cab driver took what seemed like an eternity to reach there. John had given him a few choice words before leaving the cab, kicking a dent in the door, then following Sherlock into the building. He was sure he'd be paying for that later.
"Any news?" Lestrade asked, putting down the receiver on his phone. He had been busy coordinating various teams, ensuring that if any word about Aryn was received, people would be ready to rescue her. Lestrade seemed rejuvenated, his eyes bright and his expression eager.
John looked at Sherlock, expecting an answer. To his disappointment, Sherlock remained silent.
Sherlock walked over to a chair that was in front of Lestrade's desk and sat down. His hands formed the familiar steeple in front of his mouth as he recounted the events of the day.
Looking from one to the other with disbelief in his eyes, Lestrade stood up and repeated himself. "Any news?" He leaned over his desk, his arms supporting his upper half as his fingers gripped the desk's surface. His knuckles turned whiter the longer the room remained silent. Lestrade's brow furrowed. His jaw clenched tightly as he looked down at his desk.
Suddenly, he pounded his fists on the desk, his gaze fiercely returning to Sherlock.
Sherlock hadn't moved—hadn't even flinched—while Lestrade went through his fit.
People outside the office had stopped what they were doing and watched the scene within unfold. For some, they wanted to see the DI rip the consulting detective to pieces. For others, they stood with their feet planted in fear having never seen this side of the DI while employed at Scotland Yard.
"Sherlock," he began, fists still balled tightly. "Have you any idea what's at stake here?"
She had begged for him to stop. She pleaded for her life. She gave up without any fight.
Somehow, Aryn thought that at the point she was going to die at the hands of a murderer, she would have died with more dignity. Laying on the floor in her own blood, she knew that it was a lost cause.
Pain shot through her body every time she took a breath. The killer had placed a stab wound similar to the other victims onto her chest. He offset it slightly, ensuring the wound wouldn't kill her instantaneously.
She was to die slowly. Painfully.
Thinking back to her family, she wondered what awaited her on the other side. She missed them greatly, especially her niece and nephew. She could remember taking them to the park on Sundays where they'd enjoy the sunshine as well as each other's company. At night, she'd tuck them in for bed for her sister, singing them to sleep on nights where sleep didn't come easy.
The accident was another thing that ventured into her mind. The one thing she could vividly remember was her niece. After clearing through the various police officers with her credentials and badge, Aryn had seen her niece on a gurney being treated by paramedics. They were trying to bring her back to life, being successful only a handful of times.
When she reached the gurney, she held her niece's hand. It was as cold as ice. She had caught a glimpse of her niece's beautiful blue eyes, the pair fading from a crisp, lively color to a dull one. Aryn had expected them to be laced with a million questions: what had happened to her family? Where was her mum? Was she going to die?
No. Instead, her eyes were calm and peaceful. It was as if she was ready to die.
Aryn wished she had that kind of courage locked away inside of her. She could feel tears streaming from her eyes, dripping past her ears as she looked towards the ceiling.
She wasn't ready to die.
But she was going to.
He remained as still as before.
Lestrade stood up straight, rolling his eyes as he walked around his desk. He stood in front of Sherlock, leaning against both arms of the chair, mere inches separating their faces. "I don't know who you think you are, but whatever happened between you and Aryn is not of any importance to me right now."
John watched apprehensively, unsure of what the DI was planning to do. If he was Lestrade, he probably would have punched Sherlock in the face for being so unresponsive.
"I love her as if she's one of my own." His voice was a low murmur now, unheard by anyone aside from the three men in the room. "I told her that as long as she worked cases for me, I'd always be here to help. Now, I can't." He let his head hang low as he took several deep breaths. Looking back up, he continued, "You need to find her, Sherlock. Please…"
His expression hadn't changed throughout the duration of Lestrade's small speech. Their gaze was locked, silent communication flooding the air between them.
After a few moments of silence, Sherlock finally announced, "Give me some time to sort this out."
"Time is something we don't have, Sherlock!" John shouted.
Sherlock and Lestrade both looked at him as if they had forgotten he was there.
Looking at his watch, he continued, "We have 37 minutes left to find her. Figuring that it'll take about ten minutes to get to wherever she is, I'd suggest you do your little detective stunt a little faster than normal."
Glaring at John, Sherlock stood up after Lestrade walked back behind his desk and sat back in his chair.
Pacing, Sherlock began to think. After a minute or two, he began to think aloud. "We've checked all of my suggested locations, each significant to something in Aryn's life that indicated a 'beginning'. Having narrowed the location down to something that related to myself, we are left with few options." He paused, staring out the window that stood before him. He tried to look out as far as he could, his eyes lost in the darkness. "On the phone, she—"
"You've talked to her?" Lestrade asked in shock, surprised that a detail like that went unshared. "When were you going to tell me that?"
Sherlock ignored Lestrade and continued where he had left off. "—she told me she was going to die there. Naturally, I told her we'd find her."
"I hope you didn't say that just to comfort her," John remarked, still salty with the amount of time Sherlock was taking to come up with an answer.
Sherlock stopped pacing, turning slowly towards his companion with a deathly stare. Through clenched teeth, he replied in a dangerous tone, "I. Would. Never. Lie. To. Her."
John shifted weight from foot to foot, trying to make it seem as if Sherlock's actions hadn't just chilled him to the core. "Continue," he tried to say with confidence.
Going back to pacing, Sherlock said, "She kept talking about how I kept her safe. How when she jumped…" He trailed off. Turning on his heel, he looked at John with wide eyes, clapping his hands together. "Oh, that's it. She's brilliant."
"Sorry?" John asked. "Jumped? When did she do that?"
"No time to explain." Sherlock quickly grabbed a paper and pencil off of Lestrade's desk and wrote down an address. "Send this out to all of your teams and get your car ready."
With 24 minutes left, Sherlock, John, and Lestrade were all piled into a car, headed towards the far side of town. Police sirens wailed throughout the streets of London as multiple units, along with paramedics, played a game of Follow the Leader.
As the vehicles raced past, many people wondered what was going on. Some even went as far as to follow the parade to their destination.
Sherlock and John were passengers in Lestrade's car, nervously holding onto handles above the doors as Lestrade raced through the streets like a mad man. Sharp corners caused John to hit the car window every once in a while, Sherlock bumping into him from the other side. Sherlock watched as the buildings passed by his window in a blur. It was only a matter of time before they'd find her.
During the ride, Sherlock felt a buzz in his coat pocket. His heart caught in his throat.
"Ryn?" he answered.
He saw Lestrade's eyes flick to him through the rearview mirror and could feel John's stare from beside him.
He heard a woman's voice singing a sweet lullaby over the phone. He recognized it as one that his mother had sung to him years ago when he was a child. Listening to the voice more carefully, he could hear how empty the room was that the woman was in. Her voice bounced off of the walls and rang throughout his head.
He could hear the woman pausing to sniffle every once in a while. She was crying as if she had just realized she lost something very precious to her. The longer he listened, the more his chest tightened. He knew this voice. It was Aryn.
No sooner had Aryn begun the lullaby, she stopped. Sherlock knew that wasn't the end of the song. His mind jumped to every conclusion possible, his mind going into a frenzy.
"Listen," he began. His voice was laced with a seriousness no one had ever heard. It was like a low growl that one hears while being hunted—dangerous and terrifying. "Whoever you are: know that if she dies, you will suffer in ways you cannot yet imagine."
A taunting laugh responded on the other line. The killer was using a device that made his voice several octaves lower than what it really was. The deep laugh was haunting, as if he knew he had already won.
"She sang that 10 minutes ago, Mr. Holmes. She's been pretty quiet ever since. Tell the rest of your friends to sleep with one eye open tonight. Tick…tock…tick…tock…"
The man hung up.
Sherlock's hand fell away from his face slowly. "How much time do we have left?"
"15," John replied.
"How much time until we reach her?"
"We're here," Lestrade answered quickly. He pulled in front of a pair of buildings, his front tires kissing the sidewalk.
The three poured out of the vehicle, only needing to wait a few moments for the rest of the vehicles to appear. Loud sirens continued to bring curious people from their nightly routines, curiosity enveloping their senses.
Looking up, Sherlock was flooded with nostalgia. He remembered telling Aryn to hurry up and make the jump. He remembered watching her foot slip, her face changing from relieved to frightened within seconds. He remembered reaching for her. He remembered never wanting to let her go.
While Lestrade had started to organize his teams, Sherlock took note that only one of the buildings had a window visible from the street that allowed them to peer into the basement. It was too small for any of them to fit through. Without any direction, he immediately went up the stairs to the building's front door and kicked it in.
"Sherlock!" John called out, following his friend.
The two men were greeted by a deserted office building, the first portion they met being an old waiting room. Old couches sat on either side of the doorway and a receptionist's desk sat in front of them. Boxes upon boxes filled with old files sat in random places, some nearly as tall as Sherlock. Past the receptionist's desk, there was a row of doors. Some of the plaques were still stuck on them. One had the manager's name on it, another had the boss' name on it.
The one that caught Sherlock's attention was the one that said "Basement". It was slightly ajar, a small light creeping out from the opening.
He immediately went for it, knocking down boxes and tripping over other abandoned office supplies as he made his way towards the door. He pushed it open slowly, unsure of what was on the other side. The stairway that led down was very narrow. From Sherlock's estimate, there was a four feet distance from wall to wall. As he and John began to descend down the stairs, their weight caused the wood to groan with old age. Their footsteps were loud and heavy.
As they reached the bottom, a lone candle stood on a table to give them light. To its left stood a door, the lock broken and pushed away on the floor by someone's foot.
Sherlock placed his hand against the door to open it, but he hesitated. He didn't know if he'd be ready for what awaited him on the other side. It was one thing running in on victims who were dying if he didn't know them, but this was Aryn.
John placed his hand on Sherlock's shoulder. "I'm here, mate."
Taking a deep breath, Sherlock pushed the door open and immediately inhaled sharply at the site of the scene.
There was cast off on the ceiling and walls from where the killer had used something to hit Aryn. A dark pool had formed around her curled up body, the amount of blood loss tremendous. Her coat was tossed onto a chair that sat in the corner of the room.
Sherlock and John both ran towards Aryn, Sherlock allowing John to handle her for the time being since the state of her injuries were unknown.
"Aryn? Aryn?" John called out to her as he checked for a pulse. It was there, but it was weak.
The wound that the killer had made was very precise, blood slowly trickling out of it like a hose that hadn't been turned off completely. He pressed his hands against the wound, trying to stop it from bleeding out. "Sherlock, I need you to hold this while I check the rest of her injuries."
Without hesitation, Sherlock replaced John's hands with his own.
She had several broken bones, bruises on her face, and many lacerations on her arm where the killer had reopened her self-inflicted wounds. He was careful not to open them too deep, though. He made sure that the injury that would kill her would be the wound she suffered to the chest.
Slowly, Aryn's eyes fluttered open. They were glassy and unfocused as she looked around at what was happening. A wave of relief flooded over her when she saw the familiar faces. Maybe she wouldn't die today.
"Aryn? Hey, long time no see," John joked, shooting her a brief smile while continuing to check her over.
Her eyes rolled and changed her focus to Sherlock.
Their eyes locked, Sherlock not able to form any words to say to her. The only thing he conveyed in his eyes was the concern that clouded his usually crystal clear pools. He pursed his lips and continued to apply pressure on her wound.
"Aryn, I want you to do something for me: blink once for 'yes' and twice for 'no'. Do you understand what I'm saying to you?"
She blinked once.
"Great, now we're going to take you to the hospital. Were you attacked in any way other than the physical beating?"
She blinked twice.
"Can you move at all?"
She blinked twice.
By now, Lestrade was now in the room, having cleared the rest of the building. He stood at the doorway, mouth agape, as medics pushed past him and began to treat Aryn. John had started to give them a breakdown of her injuries while one man relieved Sherlock of his wound-pressing duties.
Aryn's gaze never left Sherlock, even as he stood up and backed up a few steps.
"You'll be okay," he mouthed to her.
No sooner had the silent words left his lips, Aryn's eyes rolled back and her head went limp.
"She's going into shock," John announced.
It was a frantic mess, the medics and John working like mad men to revive Aryn so that she could make it to the hospital.
Lestrade watched, fear in his eyes. His feet were planted to the floor, arms dangling weakly at his sides. He didn't know what to say or do. Anderson walked in, eyes lingering on Aryn for a brief moment, before calling Lestrade out of his daze. "Greg, there's press outside."
Lestrade's eyes snapped up to Anderson. Looking back at Aryn longingly, he followed Anderson outside to ward off the press.
Sherlock stood in the same manner as Lestrade had been earlier. Watching Aryn fade in and out of consciousness was a stressful situation. His palms were sweating and his breaths were quick. Looking down at his hands, the blood stains made his stomach churn. The gravity of the situation was finally hitting him.
"Sherlock? SHERLOCK," John called out.
Sherlock looked at him slowly, his eyes vacant.
"I'm going to ride with Aryn to the hospital. Have Lestrade bring you up once everything here is settled."
With that, Sherlock watched as a gurney was brought in. The men coordinated themselves to lift Aryn on John's count, and soon she had been wheeled out to the ambulance that awaited them outside. He could see the various flashes come from outside, no doubt the press was getting any shot they could of the situation. It had been a long, strenuous day for everyone.
Lestrade walked back in with a wet towel and handed it to Sherlock. "It'll have to do until we can get you to a proper sink."
Sherlock took the towel with some gratitude and began to wipe his palms.
A silence settled on the two men as they both stared at the spot Aryn had been just moments before. It was now a waiting game to see if she would survive. The killer's condition still stood: if she died, everyone else did, too.
"You'll need to face the press on the way out," Lestrade informed. "I can guide you to the car, but it's a bloody nightmare out there."
Sherlock nodded as he followed Lestrade out of the room and back up the stairs. Their footsteps were heavy, neither one really looking forward to what was to come in the next few hours.
When they reached the front door, Sherlock turned up his collar and took a deep breath.
The amount of people outside was staggering. The press had camera's rolling and flashing as Lestrade and Sherlock walked out towards Lestrade's car.
"Mr. Holmes! Mr. Holmes!" several reporter called out.
"What happened to Detective Inspector Clarke?"
"What is your relationship to the DI?"
"Is Miss Clarke dead?"
The flashes were blinding, Sherlock almost bumping into several people because of the close proximity. Looking around, he saw that the crowd was immense. Everyone wanted to get a closer look at the excitement that had taken over London for the day.
As he got closer to the car, a face in the crowd caught his attention. The man was smiling at Sherlock, seeming to chuckle every so often. Sherlock knew that this man was the killer. He was responsible for everything that had happened to Aryn.
Another bright flash appeared in Sherlock's face, causing his vision to temporarily falter.
After recovering from the blinding light, Sherlock desperately looked around at the crowd again, unable to find the man with the twisted smile.
Jim Moriarty had slipped through his fingers once again.