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Bullpup Press
A Creative-Writing House


Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog


Event Horizon: Chapter 2

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



John took the thumb drive from his pocket and considered it. Don't read it in front of me, Mary said, because you won't love me when you're through. At the thought his face took on an unconscious scowl. Like everything else that happened that night, he couldn't explain the drive. If what was on it was that terrible, then why not keep this secret as she did all her others? If she was their client now-and she didn't object to being classified that way-then wouldn't they find out about her in any case? Was it her way of pre-empting what Sherlock would discover about her, to make herself look better?

If you read it. Christ, that was the last thing he wanted to do. He didn't want to stop loving her. Didn't want to see what she was afraid of showing him, not if it would end with the loss of his dreams for their life together. A return to his boring life in the suburbs, if that was the price for making all this go away…God, how he'd seize the chance for that now. Just twelve days ago he'd have said otherwise, but-

"Back again." Molly Hooper slipped into the seat opposite him.

He was sitting in a booth at the back of the hospital canteen with a view of the whole place, but he was so absorbed in his thoughts that he never saw her approach. He looked up with the best smile he could muster in the circumstances. "You made good time."

"Not bad," she admitted, drawing his laptop and keys from her tote and setting them on the table. "Mary was at work, like you said. I rang twice just in case, though. Didn't want to startle her by just barging in."

John reached for his pocket. "I'll get your cab fare-"

"John Watson," she said firmly. "Step away from that wallet. You will definitely not get the fare."

He put up his hands in a deprecating gesture. "Lunch?" he said tentatively. "Coffee? Don't hurt me," he added.

"That's just cab fare by proxy," she said. "Let me do a nice thing for you."

That time his smile, though still somewhat harassed, wasn't forced. "Thanks."

All the same, he couldn't completely veil the underlying emotional turmoil and she couldn't stop herself asking, "John, I…Is everything okay? I mean, besides Sherlock being so ill."

"Yeah, fine. Good." It didn't sound convincing even to his own ear.

"Most people look less upset when they say that."

He shook his head. "It's nothing. Really. Thanks for asking."

"But it's none of my business." She smiled again.

"No, it's not that. Molly, I'm sorry, I-"

"No, I wasn't trying to pry. Sorry." She looked down at her hands, then back at him and said, in a completely different tone, "How's Sherlock doing? I didn't get a chance to ask earlier."

"Improving," John said, happy to change the topic. "Yeah. It's two tough surgeries to come back from, though. Lots of pain, but he's been good about the physio. He's up to two laps a day around the nurses' station. The PT's with him now, and then they'll have him sit in a chair for a bit. I'd like to get him discharged the day after tomorrow, if the attending agrees."

"Ooh, that's good. That's earlier than you thought, isn't it?"

"It is, but he'll do better at home. I'll stay with him for a bit, make sure he's keeping to the programme. He'd tread all over Mrs. Hudson."

"You'll be his resident doctor again," she said, sounding pleased. "He'll like that. What does Mary think about her doctor being a nurse?"

"It's fine," he said, trying to sound breezy about it.

It seemed to work. "Well, you're lucky to have her," Molly said. "Not everyone would be good with having her husband away for days on end. She understands how much he needs you." That didn't have quite the cheering effect she'd hoped, and during a silence in which he stared at the thumb drive on the table she realized that her presence was taxing his civility. "Well," she said good-naturedly, getting up, "you have things to do. Tell Sherlock I said hello, and call me if you need anything else. Promise."

"I promise. Thanks, Molly."

When she'd gone his thoughts returned to the thumb drive, still sitting on the table next to the laptop. If you read it. Well, what if he didn't? It would be a relief to Mary, certainly. He tried to project how he'd feel if he got up this instant and tossed the thing into a bin, and to his dismay he realized that as much as he dreaded the idea of looking at it, as much as he wanted all of this to just go away, discarding it would make him feel worse. As though he was betraying himself. He wasn't sure how that could be.

People had reasons for everything they did, he reflected, so why did she give him the damned thing in the first place? He couldn't get past that one. If she'd wanted her secrets to remain secret, then why even introduce the idea that they were captured on that device? Who even put something allegedly so dire on a thumb drive? He wasn't Machiavellian enough to answer that; his mind didn't work that way. Sherlock's did, but he didn't want Sherlock anywhere around if he decided to read it. Thus the canteen.

Has trust issues, his therapist once wrote in her session notes. She'd be dismayed by him now, but when one's wife had been revealed to be a rogue assassin, wasn't mistrust a virtue?

As far as that went, how was he supposed to overlook homicide in a life partner? What was on the drive that was worse than that? How could he raise a family with her? It was insanity. The implications-divorce, suing for custody, single fatherhood-appalled him. If it please the court, my client seeks custody of his child because his wife is frequently away shooting people for money. No. No way. He couldn't let himself think of the mechanics of how this would end. He had to stay focused on what was important, and right now that meant getting more data. Sherlock was always desperate for information, and John had never been more sympathetic to that craving than he was now: When you were trying to see around corners and through brick walls, there was no greater asset than knowledge.

He needed the truth. He'd been lied to and deceived and defrauded. Those were all things that had been done to him. Was he really still vacillating about whether he was going to do them to himself?

He opened the laptop and slipped the drive into the port.

ooooo

Sherlock sat by the window of his room, focused not on the scenery outside but on the point at which John would appear in his field of view. The pain didn't affect his percipience, and in the reflection of the glass wall of another room he'd spied John the moment he pushed through the double doors of the surgical unit.

John ran a professional eye over him. Pink still tinged his cheeks, evidence of the exertion required to shuffle around the nurses' station, but he'd been washed and shaved and while he was clearly knackered from the therapy and exercise session, just sitting up in the chair wasn't over-taxing him at the moment. Thoracotomies so often resulted in long-lasting, debilitating pain that John was really quite pleased that Sherlock's discomfort was at a level he could tolerate as well as he was. Since yesterday he was reporting six of ten on the pain scale while active and four or less when sedentary. Then, too, the surgeon and anesthetist were of the opinion-which John whole-heartedly shared-that aggressive pain management beginning in the operating theatre itself resulted in significantly less pain long-term, and they'd not stinted on the analgesia.

While John assessed him Sherlock returned the favor, searching his face. "What happened?" he asked as John approached.

"Just talking to Molly in the canteen. She brought my laptop. Says hello."

Sherlock considered him. "You read the thumb drive."

"I knew I should have kept you sedated," John said with a scowl, clearing the bed tray and setting the laptop on it.

Sherlock studied his grim, closed-off face as he moved about the room but didn't press him to say anything. John would get to it when he got to it, but at the moment he was in John Watson, MD mode, something that was a never-ending source of interest to Sherlock.

Following the usual questions to assess Sherlock's level of pain currently and during his physio, John reviewed the PCA data that recorded Sherlock's use of the device, scribbled some calculations, then emailed the attending (copying the nurses' station) with an update and a request to adjust Sherlock's cocktail of meds to a combination he thought would be more effective at a lower dose.

He fired up the heating pad and arranged it on the bed so it would be under Sherlock's right shoulder, then got him up and back into bed. Positioned the PCA where he wouldn't have to struggle to reach it. Once he was settled, Sherlock tipped his head back and closed his eyes with a sigh, but he had questions and he didn't allow himself to rest for very long. Nor did he take advantage of the PCA. Merely sitting up in bed wasn't very painful in any case-relative to the therapy and bed transfers it wasn't worth speaking of-and just now he wanted his mind clear.

John opened the laptop, took the thumb drive from his pocket, and handed it to him. "Take a look, if you want," he said.

Sherlock eyed him but didn't waste time asking whether he was sure. He clicked the drive into the port and selected the icon when it appeared. He blinked once in surprise at the window that opened, but then he looked up and into the distance with the tense, remote expression that John knew so well.

John had been standing there watching with his arms crossed, but now he pulled up a chair and sat down. "If you've got an explanation I'll hear it," he said.

"She lost," Sherlock said gravely, but there was a note of satisfaction in his voice.

"Sorry?"

Sherlock refocused and looked at him. "She lost. She gambled that you wouldn't look at it, and she lost."

"Explain, Sherlock, for God's sake. Why would she give me an empty drive and act like it was so important?"

"She was confident you wouldn't read it, so it didn't matter whether anything was on it or not."

"Well, what the hell was the point, then?" John cried. "What, it's just a prop? Another way to jerk me around?"

Sherlock didn't answer, and in his agitation John got up and paced the small room. "She said if I saw what was on it I'd stop loving her," he continued after a few minutes, his voice strained with the intensity of his emotion. "But there's nothing there." He went to the window and stared out. "There's nothing there," he repeated, as realization dawned. "It's empty. A blank. Like my marriage."

Sherlock's eyes never left John's face but he kept silent. John was working it out himself and Sherlock didn't want to influence him.

At last John turned away from the window to glare at him. "You're unbelievable, you know that?" he said bitterly.

"Sorry?"

"You picked Leinster Gardens for your big reveal, yeah? Those empty houses. You're the only person I've ever met who can bleed out and orchestrate symbolism at the same time."

"John," Sherlock began, and there was such profound sympathy in his voice that John stopped him.

"Don't," he said quickly, his voice tight with barely-suppressed emotion. "I'm fine. It's fine." He took a breath to calm himself-that never worked-and returned to the chair at the bedside. Sat twisting the band on his finger until he realized he was doing it and stopped abruptly. "It took me this long to read it," he said of the drive. "This long to figure it out: There doesn't have to be anything on it, does there? I already knew enough." They both sat silently for several minutes, and then John said, "She was that sure I wouldn't read it. Were you?"

"I was sure that you would."

"How? How the hell could you know that? I didn't know until a few minutes ago."

"You're a romantic, John," Sherlock said with affection, "but only when you have the luxury. That's the only way she's ever seen you. When you don't have that luxury, you're a doctor. A soldier. Everything those roles imply. Everything you've ever done is how I knew."

John stared at him: Everything you've ever done.

"That night," John began, and Sherlock knew which night he meant. "Those things you said. About me. About why I chose her."

"Yes," Sherlock said reluctantly. John wasn't ready for this.

"They weren't true. But…they were true."

"I told her a truth," Sherlock said. "But not the truth."

John stared at him. "Why?" he finally asked. "Why? Sherlock-" He looked away, out the window. He watched a small jet on its approach to London City Airport until it slid silently behind a building, then turned back. "Tell me what the hell is going on."

Sherlock took a breath, held it, exhaled. "I can't answer you yet. In part because I don't have all the answers, and in part because…"

"What?"

"Because the answers I do have can get you killed. I'd still like to prevent that."

''What I don't know can't hurt me."

''Yes."

"I'll risk it."

"I won't."

Impasse. There was warmth and kindness in Sherlock's eyes now, but also every bit of the entirely characteristic intransigence. John knew it was out of his hands: Sherlock would tell him what he could, when he could, and no sooner. "I called Greg, you know," he said in a completely different tone. "Lestrade," he added, when Sherlock cocked his head. "He pulled the 999 records from the night you were shot. There were no incoming calls from Mary's mobile number. She didn't call the ambulance."

Sherlock couldn't suppress a tiny smile: He knew John would figure it out. "I know," he said.

"Then why did you say-"

"I told her what I needed her to hear. Now she believes that I believe it. It doesn't hurt that she thinks I'm that stupid, but primarily she needs to think that I'm on her side."

"The hell for?" John demanded, frustrated again.

Sherlock kept his own voice low and calm, just as he did five nights ago. "Do you remember what she asked me, when I told her that?"

"No."

"'Why would you help me?'" Sherlock said. "It was the most obvious question open to her. She couldn't fail to ask it. So I answered it in the most obvious way: Because she saved my life."

"Except she didn't," John said. "So…Are you on her side?"

"I'm on yours, John. Always. Whether that includes Mary or not…That's one of the questions I can't answer yet," Sherlock said. "I don't know exactly who she is yet, and until I know that I can't know exactly what she intends."

"Intends for…?"

"I don't know."

"You suspect."

"I have four unpleasant theories. Meanwhile, I was buying time. Time and room to maneuver. Convincing her that I'm working for her covers every eventuality. Now I can refine and control what she thinks she knows to suit whatever circumstances arise."

John didn't reply and Sherlock, watching him with a pain in his chest that never came from a bullet, could see that he'd gone too far for one day. "John," he said in a low voice. "I will get your answers."

"But not today."

"No. Not today."


– End Chapter 2 –

Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog



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