Sherlock stared down at his side, watching as his white shirt and black jacket darkened quickly with his blood.
The suspect, a panic-stricken servant, holding the inadvertent weapon, a letter opener, stared at Sherlock in horror.
Around them, the formal carried on as if no one realised what was happening in the corner by the door to the Master’s hallway and office.
To be fair, no one did.
Suddenly, the pain hit Sherlock through his shock and he stumbled forward, collapsing to his knees.
“I dinna mean ta-!” The servant stammered, oscillating between fleeing for his life and raising the alarm.
Sherlock shot him a dirty look and pressed his hand to his side to try to stop the blood loss. Not a deep wound, but one that hurt like the dickens. And if he did not have John, or any bloody other doctor in this crowded dance hall, see to it promptly, he would pass out.
A clattering of dishes crashing to the floor nearby coincided with him also falling supine, weak and beginning to shake.
“John,” he groaned wimply, hoping that his friend was close by, but knowing he was probably out canoodling with Miss Morstan in the garden.
Darkness began creeping in.
So, this is how he dies.
In a room with a hundred other people. Bleeding to death from a wound sustained because he surprised a teenager trying to pick a lock with a bloody letter opener.
Mycroft would be so amused.
Then, from the fringes of unconsciousness, he heard the voice of an angel.
“Open your eyes!”
A hand slapped his face and he wearily blinked his eyes open.
A lovely woman was staring down at him. Her brown eyes sparked with worry, but she wore a determined frown.
“Hold still, they’ve gone for a doctor.” She nudged him back down when he tried to sit up. It was then he noticed the pressure on his side and looked down his body to see that she had pressed a beautifully embroidered handkerchief against his wound, already stained red. Oh, good heavens, she had ripped open his shirt! Had he any blood remaining to rush to his face, he would have flushed like a schoolboy.
“It’s not a deep wound, but you have lost quite a bit of blood. A couple sutures and some bed rest and you will be right as rain,” she said confidently and Sherlock knew she was trying to keep his attention so he didn’t pass out. Any other time, he would be annoyed. But her voice was soothing.
She was young, about his age perhaps, but she was different. Not like the other simpering women that comprised the Ton. She had tossed propriety out the window the moment she opened his shirt and no other woman would dare risk staining their dress, especially not with blood. Yet here she kneeled in a small pool of his blood, one hand against his wound, the other alternating between stroking his face and slapping his cheek to keep him awake.
As the seconds stretched like hours, Sherlock found himself unable to focus on her words, but comforted by the sound of her voice. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Perhaps it was the loss of blood. Or perhaps he had found a woman as unique and extraordinary as he had never before encountered.
It seemed like hours until John pushed his way through the gathered crowd to tend to his friend. And when he took her place at Sherlock’s side, Sherlock tried to ask her to stay. But his voice failed him and she gave him a small smile before disappearing into the crowd.
He tried to sit up, to follow her, but collapsed back down with a pained groan.
“I can’t leave you alone for a moment,” John grumbled.
The doctor moved the soiled handkerchief out of the way and pressed a clean one against the wound before motioning for several of the servants to assist him in carrying Sherlock to his surgery down the street.
Sherlock grabbed the handkerchief with shaking hands before they could dispose of it. Stained red with his blood, it would be of no use no matter how arduously one tried to launder it.
But he could still make out the simple, but precise, embroidered initials in the corner.
As they shifted him onto a makeshift stretcher of bedclothes pulled taut, he closed his eyes.