When John Watson is four years old, he fancies himself the king of a little toy village. He has a crown and everything that his da had given him because he didn’t pitch a fit in the store this time. It was quite a victory for little John, and so it’s no surprise that he wears the thing constantly. He tries getting in the bath with it once, but is reminded that even the noblest of kings have to take off their crowns to bathe. He highly suspects that his mother is fibbing to him, but there isn’t much for him to do about it.
He builds the town from scratch, using a shoe box and several cereal boxes he steals from the kitchen to make up the bulk of the town, little people fashioned out of a variety of things were littered about, going around their daily business, or as much of a daily business that a four year old can imagine. Mostly, these tasks include ‘going to the store’ and ‘playing in the park’ and the mummies and fathers went to work, while John, the most noblest of kings, sits upon his throne and orders little plastic army men and monkeys from the barrel (neither of these make good people substitutes, he decides later) around.
Everything is going perfectly, just the way John wants them to be. There’s a ball planned later, because as king, John decides he’s going to marry a really pretty bride. It makes no difference that his pretty bride is really one of Harry’s dolls he took when she wasn’t looking. He’s pretending that he and his bride-to-be are taking a tour of the town to share their good news, though their carriage is less of the gilded horse drawn chariot John imagines and more so a broken fire engine that’s seen better days, but no matter. Things are exactly how they should be.
And then John nicks his palm on a sharp piece of plastic that used to be where the ladder went and all hell breaks loose.
A startled little cry escapes his mouth as his eyes widen, watching the drops of blood build up in the center of the cut and then ooze slowly down his palm. For a moment, there’s tears burning at the corners of his eyes, threatening to spill, and then he hears his da’s voice. Kings don’t cry! the voice says. Kings are strong for their people, even if their people are army men with missing arms and bright red monkeys.
John’s da also told him that kings made all the decisions and could punish their people, and in his four year old rage, John opts to be a tiny tyrant. He stands up with the meanest look he can muster on his round, baby soft features, and when his kingdom doesn’t cower in fear, that’s really all his little mind can handle.
What happens next leaves bits and pieces of his little toy town scattered about his room, arms and legs of army men and monkeys crunching underfoot as he stomps about in a rage. The boxes are in shreds and as it turns out, one of the cereal boxes he snagged hadn’t been quite empty before his rampage, so there’s bits of crushed up food ground into the rug.
John storms out to his mum a little while later with a red face and still bleeding hand, and his mum patches him up with a small, knowing smile on her face. But then she makes him clean his room and sends him to bed without his dessert. When he wakes up in the morning he finds a book with pictures about a nice king, who is good to his people on his dresser.
John stands in front of the bathroom mirror in his new team uniform. He’s sixteen and thinks he looks weird. He’s not as tall as the others, nor is he as slim and he wonders just when the fuck he might be getting his own shot at a growth spurt. He’s already got the body hair in weird places and embarrassing acne to show for his efforts in adolescence, but he wants the good stuff too at some point, if it’s not too much trouble.
Football wasn’t his idea. His parents had ganged up on him one afternoon with pleased and disgustingly smug matching grins on their faces as they handed him his uniform and a new football still in its box. It’s not John’s fault that he’s so bored after school that he has no choice but to hog the television set and play obnoxious video games, and he just blames his outrage at being interrupted on his teenage hormones. He has no excuse for calling his sister a fat tart though, so maybe it is for the best that he gets out of the house for a bit to run down some of his energy.
Harry hadn’t even been mad, is the thing. She called John and equal amount of not so complimentary names herself, and then it was over and done with, but not according to their parents. It’s not his fault neither of them have siblings and don’t understand that despite how much they pick at each other, John is actually quite fond of his sister. He grumps the entire way to the practice field about how unfair it is that Harry doesn’t have to play a stupid sport.
Halfway through practice and John really hates to admit that he’s actually enjoying himself. The other boys aren’t so bad and while they still have their own little social groups, most everybody is friendly to everybody else. They go through drills that make John’s muscles in ache an astonishingly great sort of way, and then to wrap things up, they play a quick game.
Everything screeches to a halt when John sweeps in to take the ball, his small stature actually helping him, and a member from the opposite team crashes into him. John gets a face full of shoulder and a split lip out of the entire thing, but the other guy has another thing coming if he thinks he can get away with that. His own team is patting him on the back and trying to get him back into the game, but John doesn’t miss the sneer and comment about his sister.
“What did you say?”
“I said I’m glad your queer sister isn’t here.”
John takes a moment to steal his nerves, reminding himself of what his da had told him. Be kind. Be gentle. Be steady.
“Good thing that,” the boy continues. “My little sister’s just over there.”
“And that matters how?”
“I hear Harry can’t keep her hands to herself, is what.”
John lets out a little huff of breath, almost a laugh at this entire thing, because surely this isn’t actually happening. He can’t possibly be actually having this conversation out loud. Maybe he’s been knocked out in the game. But he knows this is very real. The oppressive silence of those standing around the two of them is all consuming like fire, some hoping that this dissipates quickly, but others secretly wishing for some blood and guts.
In the ten seconds that follow, John realizes several important things. The first is that for the first time, he understands that other people actually care about who his sister likes and doesn’t like, when it’s never crossed his mind before. The second is that he really wants to go home and apologize for calling Harry a fat tart. The third is that this kid is going to severely regret opening his big fucking mouth, because nobody gets to say those things about his sister.
John is smug as he takes note of the look of utter terror on the other’s face in the seconds before he tackles him to the ground with a loud and all together frightening sort of yell. There’s a loud gasp from the others that John doesn’t hear, because he’s too busy breaking the fingers of his right hand on the nose and cheeks of this smart-arse, and if it’s the last thing he ever does, he’s going to teach him a lesson in manners and that nobody talks about Harriet Watson like that without some serious consequences.
He actually believes it might be the last thing he ever does, because he’s pulled to his feet again by his da who looks equal parts horrifyingly angry and proud as he shoves John through the crowd and towards the car park. They only make it halfway before he hears more snarled insults about Harry and now even himself, and he manages to slip out of his da’s grasp to sprint back across the pitch.
“I will fucking end you!” is the only thing John manages to say, because after that he’s too busy concentrating on chasing his opponent around the field.
The whole pathetic display goes on for another five minutes, and it’s not just John chasing this idiot around the field, but the rest of the team and the coach and John’s da running after them, trying to talk John out of the murder they’re all fairly certain he’s about to commit. It ends with a high-pitched scream because John’s got a fistful of the other boy’s hair seconds before his da grabs him around the middle and tosses him over his shoulder. John doesn’t hesitate to shout insults and obscenities even though his da is carrying him like a sack of potatoes.
The ride back home is awkward as John calms down from that embarrassing display of barbarity. His da doesn’t ask questions as he takes John to A&E, because he knows, and he’s proud of his son regardless.
John’s suspended indefinitely from the team, but he has a red cast on his arm that makes him feel a lot cooler than he really is. Harry writes ‘FAT TART’ in giant letters on it and John doesn’t get mad at her for it either, especially when she brings him some left over dessert that night after he’s sent to bed without it again.
When John enlisted, he didn’t actually believe he would be sent to war, but then again, doesn’t everybody think that?
He doesn’t like to think about his life back in England if he can help it, because it hurts almost more than what he’s facing there. He doesn’t like to think about his sister, who’s probably in a drunken stupor right at that very moment, still blaming herself over their parents’ death. Nobody blames her but herself. She wasn’t the one driving the car, nor was she the one driving the car that hit them. She had just been unlucky enough to ask their parents to come for dinner on the one night this particular drunk driver thought it best that they drive themselves going nearly double the speed limit. John really doesn’t blame her, but he doesn’t think about it, because it hurts.
They don’t write or speak very much but John hasn’t been there long enough to recognize this as a potentially good thing. When you’re not worrying about your family, it’s easier to do your job. John finds this to be true, but sometimes he wishes he’s back home taking care of his sister instead of surgically removing shrapnel and bullets from young soldiers who might die anyway.
It happens when he’s with a patrol team sent to check out what seems to be a deserted row of mud brick houses, roofs caved in and crumbling. The first few check out fine, nothing and no one of concern, just dust and rubble. The sixth house they check becomes a problem very quickly, and in the end, nobody is quite sure what the hell happened. One minute, everything checks out, and the next, there’s shouts of ‘get down!’ and ‘drop your weapon!’ and something in another language that John is too shocked to interpret, because he honestly thinks he is going to die in that dirty little house on the outskirts of some city nobody’s ever heard of.
He sees it before anybody else does, from his spot backed up against the wall in fear and trying to make himself as small as possible. This is the first real big thing to have happened to him since he arrived in Afghanistan and he sincerely hopes it’s the fucking last, because he’s not so sure he can handle any more of this. What he sees is a weak spot in his team’s coverage. He sees it at the exact moment the enemy sees it and it’s possibly the stupidest move he’s ever made in his entire life, but he tackles the man to the ground with a shout to alert the others. He’s had training in hand to hand combat, but he’s a medic, he didn’t get much farther than basic training. Somehow that’s enough because the man drops his weapon with a weak gurgle through the blood from his obviously broken nose and John picks the gun up and swings around to scan the room.
The first time John shoots a man is when he sees the one he’s just subdued going for Stuart with a knife. He doesn’t let himself think, just sinks his finger down on the trigger. There’s a sharp cry and then nothing at all as the body crumples to the ground. By the looks on his teams’ faces, witnessing a medic kill a man is probably not something they ever thought they would see. When everything is under control, he unloads the gun and hands the pieces to his commanding officer before he steps out into the sunlight.
The adrenaline he feels rushing through his veins is brilliant and suddenly, he understands. Or thinks he does. In his naivety, he thinks he understands exactly why people do this willingly. The rush and the risk and the victory, John thinks.
He gains a bit of a reputation after that, as the doctor you really don’t want to be crossing, because not only can John Watson save your life, he can bloody well take it from you just as easily.
John is on his second tour and loving every minute of it. He doesn’t tell anybody that though, because it’s probably not very healthy to thoroughly enjoy his job as a doctor on the front lines, but he really, really does.
He has friends here, people who respect him, who don’t ask questions about family because to some degree, they must understand when John doesn’t offer up anything of his life before. That’s all it is now, is Before and After, because John sees this easily being what his life is like from now until he’s old and retired, and he is very much okay with that idea. He saves lives for a living and what’s better than that?
Most people would suggest a nice quiet life back in England working in at a family practice would be better than this, better than some of the hottest and driest days he’s ever been apart of, better than seeing young men screaming in agony and begging for their mums. John has to agree that yes, maybe a nice quiet life would be better than that, but nothing, not a single damn thing will ever be better than being the one to tell a soldier that he’s survived a bullet to the abdomen. Nothing will ever give John a greater sense of pride than saving a young man’s arm from amputation. Nothing will ever be better than the sense of purpose that John feels.
He’s on the patrol line up this week. They’re going into a town, which is always risky, but they’ve been assured that the only ones left are the elderly, women, and some children. John’s been there long enough to have lost his naivety of the situation. He no longer loves the rush and he no longer basks in the glow of killing a man, because he realizes that man is somebody’s son, brother, father, and friend, just like the men he operates on daily.
What he does love is the risk. He loves the unknown and loves many of the obstacles that come his way, but that’s only because thus far in his army career, it’s never been him. It’s always been others and he is the one that does the saving.
The road is long, winding, and dusty as hell. They all have their helmets and eye gear on, weapons ready in case of emergency, but John knows this road and so far, it’s been the best way to get in and get out. He doesn’t suspect for a moment that in a few moments time, his entire world will be tilted on its axis and nothing will ever look the same again.
It’s not the first, but the second vehicle in the convoy that is blown. It’s so sudden, there’s a moment of complete silence before life kicks back in and they all realize too late that it was a recently planted roadside bomb. John’s on his feet, running behind the line of vehicles, trying to get to the wounded, but he’s stopped short by an arm around his torso and a grim look.
“There’s nothin’ there, Doc. You’re needed elsewhere.”
It’s not what John wants to hear, but he believes it the moment he hears the gunshots. He knows exactly where he’s needed when he begins to hear agonized shouting over the din of gunfire.
There’s a young man down, no older than twenty-three, shot in the leg, bleeding out, fatal. John is on autopilot, steady hands, steadier words as he remembers his da telling him to be kind, be gentle, be steady, always steady, John. He hasn’t thought of his da in quite a long time, but looking into the face of this kid, knowing that no matter how much pressure he’s putting on the wound, that he’s going to die anyway he’s reminded of his da in new and painful ways.
When the soldier, Jackie he remembers, takes his last breath, John thinks this was the kid he had eaten breakfast with that morning. Waffles, no butter, extra syrup, dead.
His supplies are running low, but they’re trapped for the moment until backup arrives, and there seems to be a never ending line of men in need of medical attention. He’s told from higher up to mark which are fatal wounds, dose them with enough morphine and to move on, and it goes against every thing John has ever learned. He’s a doctor, not God, and he doesn’t enjoy playing the role.
He doesn’t personally know the man he’s treating then, but he introduces himself briefly before pressing a stack of gauze against the wound in the man’s side, dividing his attention between his patient and what’s going on around him, but it’s hard to see who is who through the thick haze of smoke and dust, and as it happens, he’s not fully aware that their team has been spilt in two, cut off by three gunmen.
John is certain that it’s a rule in the game somewhere in the fine print that you don’t make targets of those with red crosses on their person, but he can’t remember, and all he thinks is that this idiot isn’t playing by the rules. The bullet catches him completely off guard and for a moment, he thinks that somebody’s just socked him with all their strength in the chest. The look on his patient’s face says otherwise though.
“Oh shit, Captain, you’ve been hit.”
It’s such a simple thing to say. It’s straight to the point, but John can’t accept it, even though the pain has hit him with enough force, he’s momentarily doubled over, resting his forehead against the other man’s chest. He can’t remember how to breathe, or maybe he just can’t anymore, he’s not sure.
“Oh shit, Captain, we gotta move.”
John is wondering if this is the only phrase this soldier knows how to say, but he pushes those thoughts away, because they’re not going to help them survive this moment. He picks himself up with strength he feels like he stole from some higher up power, though he knows it’s just adrenaline. It’s adrenaline that gets them through the next few moments, that lets John drag with his uninjured arm the few soldiers that can’t run behind an armored vehicle for cover, that keeps John going until he finds a deserted gun, whether it’s theirs or the enemy’s, he’s not sure, but that doesn’t stop him.
All he knows is that it’s his duty to keep people alive and sometimes he has to accomplish that by killing others. It’s a startling realization
After, people try to give John more credit than he deserves, but inside, he’ll still preen under the praise. During the fact, John’s not too terribly worried about what’s coming next or who will say what, just that he needs to keep his finger on the trigger. He needs to keep firing and if he happens to take down the three men separating them from their back up by himself, then so be it, because John Watson doesn’t give up that easily, even if he’s got a hole in his shoulder and his front and back are soaked through with blood.
The next moment brings complete silence down amongst them all. Everybody holds their breath for just a few moments longer, and then all’s clear and more things happen than John is able to process.
It’s unsure whether or not the blood is actually his to those standing around him, but when John blanches and sways on his feet seconds before collapsing to the ground, it’s abundantly clear that the man who did more than his part to help them is in urgent need of care himself.
John knows there is sand and there is heat and there is pain. John knows that he is going to die, that he’s lost too much blood for this to not be fatal. John knows he should be putting pressure on the wound, but he’s much too weak to even keep his eyes open, let alone keep himself alive. It somehow seems not really worth it, because life is pain and suffering, and all they can do is patch it up a bit and hope for the best.
He has vague memories of begging God to let him live, of dirty sweaty hands holding onto his as he cried out and begged for more morphine, of being airlifted back to the base, and then he remembers nothing.
When John is discharged and sent back home, he’s fairly certain that’s more dangerous than keeping him on the front lines, but he doesn’t say that out loud. He leaves the office with his head held high enough to disguise his low spirits, discharge papers in hand, and his cane in the other.
He hasn’t used the cane in six months and he supposes he can place the blame for that on Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective and Genius Extraordinaire. John hasn’t had any reason to give so many compliments to a person as he has to Sherlock Holmes in the time they’ve known each other. John is just always so genuinely amazed that a person like this actually exists. Sherlock’s brilliant mind works in ways John will never be able to understand, and some parts of him never want to. He doesn’t want to spoil the illusion.
He realizes early on that Sherlock spoils the illusion for him daily in the form of being the most inconsiderate, obnoxious, and high maintenance flat mate John has ever had the (mis)fortune of meeting. For some reason, this doesn’t stop John from bringing Sherlock tea when he demands it, chasing after criminals when Sherlock deems it necessary, and disposing of the body parts once Sherlock is done with the experiment and asks him to. John isn’t sure where he went wrong in this situation, but he feels at home, so he’s willing to make sacrifices and he’s yet to find the place where he draws the line anyway.
Sherlock has been working on this animal smuggling case for two weeks now, far too long according to him, and John is getting the brunt of Sherlock’s temper, until one evening when John dares to think he might be able to watch telly for a bit, Sherlock jumps up suddenly and rushes for his coat. John knows what this means and doesn’t bother to make any objections as he follows suit. He gives one last longing look at the television before following Sherlock down the stairs and out onto the streets. His hopes that this might be an easy case that they can ride around in a cab for are dashed when Sherlock takes off at a sprint.
After plenty of opportunities for ‘Sherlock wait!’ and ‘do keep up John!’ they arrive at what seems to be an old factory of some sort. The entire situation screams Not Good in John’s mind and he wonders if Sherlock had the common sense to actually phone Lestrade and tell him their whereabouts before he realizes that no, probably not, no use getting his hopes up about it.
Sherlock’s gone and disappeared around some corner by the time John blinks back into reality, but he knows better than to call out, so he sticks close to the wall, avoiding stepping on the decaying papers and bits of wall plaster that scatter the floor. The silence is overwhelming, almost too loud in its own right when it’s broken by sounds like scuffling and a choked off cry, and since Sherlock is most likely somehow involved in it, John fears the worst and abandons all pretense of being sneaky and charges around the corner.
If he didn’t care so bloody much about Sherlock, he might have savored the moment of Sherlock being caught off guard, but John decides to save that for a time when somebody doesn’t seem to be strangling the life out of Sherlock with his very own posh scarf. The painful sounds of his own name gasping from Sherlock’s mouth are a jolt, and John has very little time to decide what needs to be done as he can see the other’s lips are already turning blue, and John will be damned if this is the way the greatest mind of the century goes out. He always imagines Sherlock dying in a glorified hail of bullets, not because the idiot wears a goddamn scarf when it’s too warm for one anyway.
John barely takes a step forward before he’s attacked himself, and contrary to what Sherlock believes, there are actually three men, two of which are trying their best to rid the situation of John Watson. John knows he doesn’t look it, which is sometimes in their favor, but he’s strong and he knows where to place the blows so they hurt. Unfortunately, at least one of these men knows how to properly break a nose, because John’s down on his knees gasping through a mouthful of blood and watering eyes seconds later. He wants to curl up a little, in all honesty. He isn’t sure what he was expecting really, but a broken nose hurts like hell.
He gives himself exactly five seconds to wallow before he’s up on his feet again, staggering only slightly. For a man with a spinning head and blood pouring from his nose, John takes down two of them in a spectacular fashion with well placed elbow and knee jabs to the neck, chest, and groin, and then he sets his sights on the man trying to murder his best friend.
Sherlock’s movements are slower and John can see he’s losing consciousness. Now is not the time for carefully calculated moves, so John pulls off a tackle to the man’s knees that his old rugby coach would have wept tears of joy at, sending them both flying backwards, where John is fully prepared to fight more, but even John couldn’t have planned for there to be a set of old pipes at just the right height to knock the man out. If it wasn’t preposterous and if he didn’t actually know better, John would have highly suspected Mycroft placed them there, being the almighty knowing power that he is.
But Mycroft is not John’s problem right now. John’s problem is that Sherlock Holmes, greatest mind of the century, is not breathing.
He scrambles across a debris ridden floor to Sherlock and rolls him from his side onto his back, and the sound John lets out is one even he isn’t expecting. It’s fear incarnate, it’s something primal, it’s something John doesn’t have a name for. He’s on autopilot again, fingers pressing to the side of Sherlock’s neck, just under his jaw, to feel for a pulse. John makes another sound then, somewhere between a happy sigh of relief and an undignified sob, because he can feel a pulse. It’s weak, but it’s there and that’s all that matters as John tilts Sherlock’s head back and breathes for him.
It takes five counts for Sherlock to inhale on his own, and it’s less of an inhale and more of a hitching, painful wheeze, but it’s a good sign. The ambulance is on its way and Sherlock is stirring and it’s quite possibly the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.
“You’re an idiot, Sherlock Holmes,” John says to him firmly. “You’re an idiot and so help you God, if you ever do that to me again, I will bloody murder you myself and I won’t need your posh scarf to do it.”
This is categorically one of the absolute worst ideas that Sherlock has ever come up with. John tells him this again for what’s probably the fiftieth time than night, but Sherlock doesn’t listen, and so there they are, on a stake out on the south bank of the Thames in the middle of January on barely more than a hunch that the guy they’re after might show up. John hates Sherlock right now. He thinks about how he’s never going to make the other tea even if he has the flu and begs him for it and it warms the cockles of his freezing little heart a bit.
John’s about ready to call it quits when three a.m. rolls around and they’re still sitting there with nothing but frozen toes and noses. The words are on the tip of his tongue, but Sherlock holds a hand up to shush him, and when John listens, he can hear the footsteps as well. John doesn’t have to see Sherlock right now to know the other is wearing that smirk, the one that says plain as day that the game is on.
The place has an echo and after it feels like they’re chasing shadows around in a circle for an eternity, Sherlock suggests they split up, and so they do and John foolishly doesn’t question this. John is wandering down the side of a building, gun cocked and ready, and then he sees it. He wonders why all of these things have to be so dramatic, that every time he turns a corner he’s met with Sherlock doing something horribly dangerous and not at all smart. One day, he’d like to turn a corner and see Sherlock just standing there with a smile on his face instead.
What he sees is Sherlock and the man they’re after halfway down one of the wooden piers wrestling with each other. What John doesn’t see is that Sherlock is attempting to wrangle a gun out of the other man’s hands. He sprints to the end of the pier with every intention of helping his friend, because even Sherlock admits that John is an incredible fighter when it’s necessary, but with a cry of Sherlock’s name, his steps are cut short and he falters.
When all this is sorted out, Sherlock is going to give John an earful about the dangers of startling a person, or persons in this case, with a gun, because the second Sherlock’s name is shouted, both men swing their arms joined at the hand around the weapon down in surprise and somebody pulls the trigger. Sherlock will spend the rest of his life wondering if it had been him.
John manages to stay on his feet until he notices with pride the way Sherlock takes down the assailant with a blow to the temple, and then he’s on his hands and knees, watching as his own blood drips past his fingers and onto the cement. He’s pretty sure that you’re not supposed to get shot when you’re not actually in a war, but John’s life has definitely taken a wrong turn from the normal route, and so before the moment the blinding pain hits him, this makes sense too.
There’s pounding footsteps coming towards him and then a much too worried, “John? John! John, are you all right? John?” And it’s Sherlock, John knows that. He also knows he’s been shot in the right side and that things are going to go from not so great to really, astoundingly not good at all in a very short time.
For a moment, the pain is too much. It sucks the air from his lungs, it takes away his ability to understand and perceive and he can’t remember it being this painful lying in the sand in Afghanistan. Something is being shoved under his head to cushion it, something soft and that smells painfully familiar, something that John wants to turn his face into and pretend he’s a child again with no worries, no wounds, no fears.
“John? Please, open your eyes. You’re not supposed to close your eyes. You need to stay awake. Tell me what to do. What do I do, John? I don’t know what you need. Please, tell me what you need.”
John doesn’t open his eyes right away, but when he manages it, he’s not expecting to see Sherlock looking at him like that. John has a satisfying little moment to himself when he realizes that Sherlock has feelings and emotions, and not only that, but he’s displaying them openly. It’s a sight to behold, for certain. He crushes his eyes closed again, because Sherlock’s fear is palpable and John can feel it seeping into his bones and he can’t be afraid or it’ll worry Sherlock.
“S’fine,” he mumbles, and it’s the biggest lie he has ever told, because nothing is fine and they both know it.
He can hear Sherlock’s rapidly increasing breathing and John realizes with a jolt that if Sherlock dissolves into a panic attack, then he’s royally fucked, so John gathers himself up as best as he can and reaches for Sherlock’s hand and places it over his chest.
“Pressure. Pressure an’ call somebody, okay?”
He waits a moment until he hears Sherlock on the phone, frantically relaying directions and information to an operator and John wonders how Sherlock feels doing this since he prefers to text mostly. When Sherlock sets the phone aside again, he opens his eyes and tries to take a deep breath, but fails rather spectacularly at it. He hadn’t known for sure if the bullet hit his lung, but when he feels warmth in his throat and tastes the copper on his tongue, he’s certain.
Sherlock looks as though he might faint when John coughs up a mouthful of blood, followed shortly by a whimper the likes of which John is certain he’s never made before. Then again, he’s never wanted to live so much in his entire life. He doesn’t want this to be the end, he really doesn’t, mostly for Sherlock’s sake, because who’s going to remind the man to eat and sleep? Sherlock might never drink tea again because nobody makes it like John does, according to him. It’s a sobering reality.
“Sherlock, Sh-Sherlock, look at me,” he says, surprising the both of them with how firm and almost normal he sounds. “Do you know CPR?”
“What? Of course I know CPR!” Sherlock’s voice is shrill like he’s trying to convince himself everything is all right, when he’s really hoping they don’t actually end up needing it.
John knows he’s an idiot for even asking, the insult going unsaid, but he needs to make sure because God only knows the sorts of things Sherlock’s deleted to make space in his hard drive.
“Good, that’s…s’good, yeah? S’fine. S’all fine, Sh’lock.”
It happens quickly after that. John slips into unconsciousness and Sherlock panics. John stops breathing and Sherlock has to have the operator walk him through how to breathe for John and keep his heart pumping, and this is one thing that Sherlock is not going to fail at.
The police arrive moments before the ambulance and it’s Lestrade that has to tear Sherlock away so the proper people can help John, and to nobody’s surprise at all, Sherlock puts up a fight until Lestrade drags him to the ground and wraps himself tightly around Sherlock from behind, pinning his arms and telling him to stop acting a fool, John needs this. Sherlock’s done his part and now it’s time to turn John over to the people trained for this.
Sherlock has no memory of how he arrives at the hospital, just that somebody has pushed him onto an uncomfortable plastic chair and hands him a cup of coffee that he doesn’t drink. John’s blood is still all over him, drying on his clothes and feeling sticky on his hands, and Sherlock thinks that if John doesn’t make it, he’s never washing this away.
It’s hours later, for once Sherlock doesn’t keep count, when a man in light blue scrubs comes into the private waiting room Mycroft had arranged and Sherlock hadn’t protested. The only thing Sherlock wants to know is if John is alive, and with barely a nod of the surgeon’s head, Sherlock is out of the room and sprinting through hallways he’s most assuredly not meant to be in, but nobody stops him. John’s in recovery, not even in his own room yet, but Sherlock can’t wait that long, and he finds his friend in the last curtained off cubical in front of the nurses station.
John’s in bad shape, Sherlock knows this and expects this, but it still doesn’t dull the shock of seeing John like that, gray and with tubes and wires attached to what looks like every available surface. What gets Sherlock the most is how John’s not breathing himself. Intubated, pure oxygen, but alive and that’s all Sherlock needs. He knows John and he knows John Watson won’t give up without one hell of a fight.