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THE BOYS OF BAKER STREET

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These Characters, in their current incarnation, belong to the BBC and in their original incarnation, to the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, may his name be blessed!

THE BOYS OF BAKER STREET

CH. 1

This ongoing work is a trilogy.  This is Book Two.  It occasionally references events from Book One:  THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF JOHN WATSON. If you have not read GRACE, you might not "get" all the references here and you might want to stop now and go read GRACE first, then proceed with BOYS. I'm just saying ...

Rating is there for a reason, dear Reader. HERE BE LANGUAGE - and MEN GOING AT IT. BE WARNED.

OooOooO

Us Against the World

Against the World

You and I, we've been at it so long

I still got the strongest fire

You and I, we still know how to talk

Know how to walk that wire

Sometimes I feel like The world is against me

The sound of your voice, baby

That's what saves me

When we're together I feel so invincible

Cause it's us against the world

 Cause it's us against the world
You and me against them all
If you listen to these words
Know that we are standing tall

Yeah it's us against the world

Tonight

"Us Against the World"

( c) WESTLIFE

OooOooO

"Hold still."

"Sherlock -"

"No, John, I can do this. Just - hold still."

"Sherlock, let me - I'm well enough that I can-"

"John! You are left-handed; may I remind you of the tremor?"

"Sherlock, damn it! I may be left-handed but I can bloody well do this with my right hand."

"No, John. You cannot. Not without risking serious injury to yourself. Besides...it's not as if I haven't done it before."

"Yes, well, that's rather beside the point."

"I don't really see the difference, John. Now if you'll just move a little to the left - ah, that's it."

"Sherlock, do you really think that you-gaww...!"

"You're doing it wrong."

At the quiet amusement in her words, both men stop and glance up at the door of John's hospital room.

Lori Hansen stands there, her arms full of flowers and wrapped packages.

She smiles at both of them and comes into John's room. She glances around, lays the packages on the divan under the window and gently places the flowers on the sill.

Shrugging out of her coat, she comes over to John's bed – and holds out her hand.

Pursing his lips, Sherlock looks at John, who studiously avoids his gaze, and hands her the safety razor.

She glances at John's face, reddening now with embarrassment, and then bends over and gently swipes the razor over the line of foam along his jaw.

"See? He likes it like this."

She swipes the razor in one firm line, rinses it quickly in the bowl of water on the table by John's bed, then gently, firmly finishes up with the remaining line up his cheek.

Standing back, she and Sherlock examine the man sitting up in the bed, his cheeks now a bright crimson.

Lori nods. "There. That should do it."

She rinses the razor in the water one last time, shakes it, lays it on the table. Then she hands the small damp towel to John, who takes it slowly, still not meeting Sherlock's gaze.

Lori looks from him to Sherlock, who has both eyebrows raised nearly into his curly hairline. Sudden understanding lights up her brown eyes.

She laughs softly, quietly amused.

"I'm sorry. It's just that - well I did this for him at the Wellington –" She breaks off sharply as the detective frowns at her.

Lori turns and picks up the flowers, looks around for something to put them in. Neither man says a word.

She glances back at John and smiles again, a sudden mischievous smile. She cannot help teasing him now that they are safe. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, she tells herself.

Maybe it's just the joy of being alive. But there's just something so – teasible – about Doctor John Watson.

"Of course, Doctor Watson, you were unconscious each time. It made for a most - compliant shave. You were as quiet as a lamb. Never a peep out of you."

Sherlock's gaze goes from the diminutive nurse slowly to John's face. His stare is frosty.

"Well," he says slowly. "I can see I am not needed here."

The detective turns and walks out of John's hospital room, his fists in the pockets of his trousers.

John buries his face in his hands, peeks out at Hansen between his fingers.

"You have NO IDEA what you just did," he whispers softly.

Lori looks at the stiff back of the retreating detective.

"Don't worry," she says thoughtfully, "I'm sure he'll get over it."

She turns back to John to plant a quick kiss on his forehead.

"Now, let's see to these flowers, okay? You can both open your Christmas gifts when he gets over his snit and returns."

She finds an extra water carafe in the tiny bathroom, and quickly arranges the bright flowers, sits them in John's windowsill. John just watches her, a curious expression on his face.

Sherlock wanders back in at that time, looks bloody murder at Hansen, who smiles serenely back at him. She hands him a slim, festively wrapped package, gently places a slightly bulkier one on John's lap.

"Well, go ahead. Haven't got all day. Joe's picking me up in—"she glances at her watch, "in about 20 minutes."

Sherlock decides if it will get rid of her faster, he tears into the package. Stares at the book in his hand. "The Life and Times of Jack the Ripper."

He looks up at her in utter amazement.

She glances at the book and grins. "Turn to the first page, Mr. Holmes." (Despite all his protests, she refuses to call him anything but Mr. Holmes. Sherlock gives it up as a lost cause.)

He flips to the page she indicates, raises an eyebrow. "It's signed by the author."

He looks at her and grins. He glances at his partner, who watches him carefully.

Honestly, thinks Sherlock, there are times he can actually hear John in his head.

He smiles at Hansen. "Thank you for the thoughtful gift. It will make a valuable addition to my collection."

He looks from the tiny nurse to John, who watches the interplay with an amused expression on his tired face. John nods imperceptibly at Sherlock's proper response and Sherlock feels a frisson of warmth in his chest.

"Well, go on, John, you're next," says Sherlock.

John rips through the paper of his package, unfolds layers of tissue paper. His eyes widen. He holds up a V-necked jumper in a soft dark blue color, wondrously soft and guaranteed to bring out his eye color.

"Wow. Thanks, Lori. It's great."

The nurse smiles delightedly. She looks at John thoughtfully.

"When they brought you in, you had on some sort of oatmeal-colored jumper. Ruined by the blood, of course. I thought this might make a good substitute. Honestly, that color—"she breaks off as she notices both men have gone extremely quiet.

She colors, lowers her head and bites her lip. When she is composed again, she raises her head and leans over to give John another small kiss on his cheek.

"Doctor Watson, I just want you and Mr. Holmes to know that – if there's anything I can ever help you with – well, you saved my life back there. You saved me from that monster, Moran. And now I have Joe in my life and, well - I – I will never forget it. Neither of us will. Not ever."

John looks at her, a puzzled expression on his face. He nods slowly, utterly at sea. "Okay."

Lori picks up her coat and purse and turns to go. She stops by Sherlock's side and glances up at the detective, her eyes wide.

She knows, thinks Sherlock. She knows now that John has no memories of his actions back there in the hallway of the Wellington.

"Happy Christmas," murmurs Lori, her eyes suddenly suspiciously bright.

Both men repeat "Happy Christmas" to her and she's gone.

John looks at the soft blue jumper thoughtfully.

OooOooO

One day after John wakes up – and after his first attack - Sherlock begins to mark time in small victories.

Victory number one: John is able – finally - to eat.

Dr. Merit tells Sherlock that if John cannot keep food down, he will have to be put on a feeding tube. John stares at Sherlock and says, "Bloody hell." And he tries drinking the sweetened tea they bring him.

No joy.

Later, the head nurse comes in to check on John, reads his chart, takes one good long look at John, shakes her head and goes out. She comes back into John's room a few minutes later with a small cup, one third full of a dark liquid, and orders John to drink. When Sherlock asks what it is, she smiles.

"Coke, room temperature." Her soft Scottish accent brooks no argument from the good doctor.

She holds the cup out toward John; he looks her in the eyes, and takes the cup in a slightly shaking hand.

Twenty minutes later, John and Sherlock smile when they realize that John has not tossed his cookies all over the bed sheets.

Over the next two hours, John manages to drink – and keep down - the rest of the small can of cola.

The next morning, he is even a little hungry and successfully attempts a few bites of scrambled egg. At lunch, he manages the apple sauce without gagging. Sherlock cautiously breathes a sigh of relief. One major hurdle down, hopefully.

Only 900 to go, he thinks.

Victory Number Two: On the same day he begins to eat, John is able to, finally, sit up in bed for a while. His nurses prop small pillows behind his back and neck, then help ease him up from the nearly horizontal position he's been in for days. Sherlock comes into John's room from a quick consultation with Dr. Merit - to find John sitting up and smiling at him, and his heart gives a little lurch. This one small triumph goes a long way toward dispelling some of the depression that has settled in both men's' chests. They grin at each other.

That same day, the much hated Foley is removed, John is allowed to use the facilities and he thinks he might – just – recover after all.

Victory Number Three: With Sherlock's help, John is able to take a real, honest-to-God shower in the small bathroom. His day nurse comes in to bathe John, and agrees to remove all of the tubes long enough for John to clean up. She brings waterproof wraps for his ribs and thigh and promises to help him take the short walk to the shower but is called away to an emergency.

"Stay put, I'll be right back," she says.

The emergency takes longer than she counts on and when she returns, she is surprised to find her patient clean, his hair freshly shampooed and combed and dressed in his best jim jams, the ones with the Watson tartan pattern.

Sherlock sits smugly by John's side – and if she notices that the consulting detective's hair is also damp and that there are not one but two sets of wet footprints – and damp towels - on the tiled floor of the bathroom, well, she overlooks it. She hooks up the various medication bags again , re-checks his bandages and goes back out, smiling.

Day three after he wakes up – John has his second attack. Sherlock's heart sinks.

Sherlock sits with Lestrade, side by side, there on the divan in John's hospital room, the one he sleeps on when John is able to rest. They speak in muted tones, at first, while John rests a few feet away.

When Lestrade first appears with file folders, Sherlock checks on John, who appears to be sleeping, and then nods, almost eagerly, at Lestrade. He needs to give his mind something or he is going to go mad.

The doctor's eyes still appear sunken, smudged. Every time Sherlock looks at John's face – and he looks at John's face a hundred times a day – his heart aches to see how tight the skin is drawn over John's skull, at how thin the doctor has become. But the physical changes do not hold a candle to the emotional upheavals evident in John's behavior. Sherlock hardly notices the cloud that has settled around his heart, he is so busy worrying about the one that surrounds John's.

Mrs. Hudson's Christmas tree glows on their window sill, the window that now looks out on a world awash in grey. The snow has melted rapidly in the past few days, helped on by a cold rain shower that unexpectedly drenches London two days after Christmas. More snow is in the forecast for later this week.

New Year's is bent on repeating the snow storm that greeted Londoners Christmas morning.

In the meantime, the city and its environs has turned into a world of wet roads, with pockets of dirty snow piled in the corners of the streets. Just before Lestrade arrives, and while John's nurses change his sheets and check his vitals, Sherlock goes out to smoke, something he tries to hide from John. He looks down at leaves flattened into the soggy ground by the weight of snow melt. The sky remains a dark grey color, overlaid with striations of white. It fits in perfectly with the detective's mood.

It is still very cold, but warmer than it was a few days ago. Sherlock takes in a breath. He lets the utter coldness fill his lungs. His breath huffs out in front of him. He plunges his hands back into the pockets of his coat and stares at the overcast sky. The cold breeze ruffles his dark hair, creeps under his collar and into his veins.

Before he goes back in to John, he pops two breath mints in his mouth. He knows he's probably not fooling John one bit.

But right now, the Army doctor has other things to worry about.

They both do.

OooOooO

"How's he doing," Lestrade says in a quiet voice. He jerks his head toward John's bed.

Sherlock sighs. "He can eat and actually keep the food down. They let him sit up now for extended periods of time."

"That's good, right?" says the DI.

Sherlock turns his head to study John's sleeping figure. He notes how John's hands, particularly the left one, twitch in the sheets.

"Yes," he says. "That's good."

He does not mention his two conversations with John's doctor to the DI. John would not appreciate his diagnosis being known to the DI or to anyone at New Scotland Yard.

Actually, John has not heard it yet either. Sherlock notes that the doctor has not asked. The thought makes him frown.

"Sherlock, I brought some notes on Moriarty's operation and thought you might want to go over them." And if I could get your opinion on these two new cases, I'd appreciate it."

Sherlock nods absently, his glance flickers from Lestrade's comforting face to John. He watches John's chest rise and fall.

The DI looks at John again, then back at the detective. "Sherlock, I would understand if you want to just table all of this right now."

"God, don't leave. He's driving me insane," comes John's hoarse whisper.

Startled, both the DI and the detective look at John, who does not open his eyes, and then at each other – and smile.

"Well, in that case," murmurs Sherlock. He takes the first file folder from Lestrade. He raises his voice slightly so as to include his partner in their conversation. Whether or not John wants to be included is beside the point. Sherlock wants him to hear and that is that.

Sherlock glances through the pages, there aren't many. He stares at the crime scene photos, then frowns. He looks up at Lestrade.

"Lestrade, I do not understand how your people manage to keep their positions, let alone function as adult human beings. It should be obvious that Jenner is your man."

He leans toward Lestrade, holds a color photo between his fingertips. Lestrade sighs and looks at the photo he has already looked at a half dozen times.

"Play nice, Sherlock," comes John's quiet admonition. He still has not opened his eyes.

Sherlock glances in John's direction. "But, John, honestly –"

"I said, play nice," the whisper is a tired one now and neither of the other men want to make him repeat himself, so –

Sherlock sighs dramatically. "Yes, John."

Lestrade just smiles.

One elegant finger points. "See? The leaves are crushed here – and here. You can even see the heel imprint of a boot. And your main witness tells you—"

"Sherlock – they're bloody well crushed all over the damn photo."

"No, Greg, they aren't. See? These here are fine, no breaks, -"

"They could have fallen since the crime—"

"Honestly, Greg! The color! They are all the same color, the rate of deterioration of the veining; all fell at the same time. The man obviously jumped from the tree here, landed here, and going by your description of Jenner's clothing – particularly his boots –"

"Yes, yes, I see what you mean. But cut us some slack here Sherlock –"

"Slack! Your trained chimps—"

"Sherlock, my people are not chimpanzees—"

The give and take flows around John and he – almost – grins at the familiarity of it. Almost.

As the familiar banter flows over him, twenty minutes pass. John slips into a dream.

In his dream, as he reaches out to take Sherlock's hand – and nearly, so nearly – touches those elegant fingers, his heart rate accelerates. The subcutaneous itching sensation is back and the heat in his veins threatens to burn him alive from the inside out.

In his dream state, John frowns. He grows restless.

A fire grows in his mind.

No one notices.

Sherlock holds the file folders in his long fingers, lets them dangle between him and Lestrade.

He shakes his head. "Greg, what did you think it meant when you found not only fresh wine stains on the carpet but – "

"Sherlock, I am asking you what you think happened – that is why I am here."

Sherlock leans forward, his fingers clutching the files. "Good God, Lestrade, if you would just train your people to observe –"

The sudden groan, when it comes, is quiet, barely noticeable, but Sherlock is up and at John's side in an instant, the files ignored as they slide to the floor, including the bulkier one with Moriarty' s name on it.

John Watson is attempting to wake up. His fists clench in the sheets and his legs thrash.

Startled, Lestrade stands. The detective leans over John, determinedly pins the doctor's wrists to the bed as John furiously struggles to rise, to strike out, to get out of that damned bed.

Sherlock looks up quickly at Lestrade, who stands there, wide-eyed, pale.

"Get the nurse! Now! For gods' sakes. Move!"

Lestrade rushes from the room.

"Sherlock! Let me up – I have to—"

"No, John, you are staying in this bed until the nurse comes in to –"

"Damn you, Sherlock Holmes! You bloody fuck! "

John struggles in the detective's grip but his strength is no match for his partner's. His entire body is involved in his frantic struggles and Sherlock holds him down firmly, while he tries to avoid being kicked in the groin as the doctor does his damnedest to roll out of the bed.

John Watson pants like he is running a race and makes a supreme effort to throw off Sherlock's hands where they hold his wrists down to the sheets next to his head. His head thrashes back and forth, and he grits his teeth.

"What the fuck good are you, Sherlock? What fucking good are you if you can't help me when I –"

His head suddenly arches back, as his spine arches upward. John's breath comes in loud ragged gasps.

"Oh, God," John groans. "God! burning… just fucking burning!" Sherlock's eyes narrow.

Sherlock continues to hold John's hands. He tries to let the wash of frantic curses flow over him.

"Don't listen," he thinks. "Don't listen. These are the things I threw at Mycroft, all those years ago. And at Lestrade."

He frowns into John's dark eyes, now a storm of pain and desperation.

"This isn't John," he thinks.

John closes his eyes briefly, new frown lines across his forehead. He opens them again, stares at the ceiling, refuses to meet Sherlock's cold gaze. His breath deepens and comes in harsh gasps. His entire body shakes now with tremors so violent, the detective is afraid they threaten to break a bone or dislodge a rib into one of John's tortured lungs.

John grits his teeth and groans. His dark storm-tossed eyes finally meet the cool gray ones above him.

He stares at Sherlock with utter contempt.

"I hate you, you bastard! You know that, right?"

"This isn't John, " Sherlock Holmes tells himself. "Not John."

Out loud all he says is, "Yes, John, I know."

The head nurse rushes in, followed slowly by the DI, who hangs back, stares at the heartbreaking scene in front of him. His eyes widen and he looks from one man to the other. Understanding dawns. Lestrade's shoulders slump and his eyes reflect a look of infinite sadness.

Outside their door, Mycroft's agent sends another text.

The nurse injects the hypo into John's IV while John continues to struggle in Sherlock's grasp. The detective keeps John's wrists pinned firmly against the pillow, trying to restrain the doctor without physically hurting him.

John shuts his eyes, attempts to shut out the entire hateful world.

He is nearly hyperventilating now. The tremors seem to increase, rather than decrease in violence. Sherlock frowns, raises his head to look at the nurse.

"How much longer?" he snaps.

She shakes her head, finishes with the injection, tosses the empty hypo onto the table. She follows the injection with another one to clean the line. Finally, she tosses that one onto the table next to John's bed and then moves to look at her patient.

She frowns. John has managed to tear out one of the IV ports, the one still administering antibiotics. It dangles by his left hand and leaves a tiny trail of blood behind it.

She and Sherlock note it but cannot do a thing about it until the tormented doctor stops struggling.

While Sherlock continues to hold John's wrists, she strokes her fingers through John's dark blonde hair.

"Doctor Watson? John … you have got to calm down. Please. Just calm down and let us help you."

John slowly stops struggling as the hypo finally takes effect. His skin is waxy, pale, tinged with grey. Sweat drips from every pore. The pajamas he wears and the bed sheets are drenched. His eyes are wide, the dark blue gone darker, his pupils nearly blown now, from the effects of the medication.

He looks up at Sherlock as if he doesn't recognize him .

Sherlock looks back at his partner, grim-faced. "John?"

John Watson stares at the detective above him; his eyes do not blink.

"I hate you, you bastard," he whispers.

He shuts his eyes, slowly goes limp in Sherlock's steady grip.

Sherlock stares back at him, his gaze stony.

Finally, finally, the nurse nods at Sherlock. He gently releases John's wrists and straightens up. He does not move from John's side, but continues to look down at his partner as John's breathing deepens, slows.

"This is killing me," he thinks tiredly. "It's killing both of us. And it's just beginning. Oh, God, John..."

In the doorway, Greg Lestrade stares at the tableau in front of him, his eyes wide and his heart aching.

OooOooO

New Year's is three days away. John is desperate – and in more or less constant emotional and mental pain. Since the attack, John does not speak to the detective half the time that he is awake. He turns his head away from Sherlock and studies the flowers on the sill, glares at the Christmas tree in the window. The nurses bring him magazines, the daily newspapers. John lets them drop to the floor and ignores every effort to engage him in conversation.

Most of the time, he shuts his eyes and tries to sleep. Or pretends to.

Sherlock is more physically tired than he's ever been in his life.

We will not speak of the detective's emotional exhaustion. Or of his growing despair.

OooOooO

"We have to move him into the cardio intensive care unit so he can be monitored around the clock," says Dr. Merit. "Frankly, I should have moved him there after the first attack."

Sherlock and Mycroft, who has come by to visit John, sit in the same chairs in Dr. Merit's office as before. Sherlock, restless, ever restless, stands abruptly and paces around the room.

He reads the diplomas on the wall without really seeing them.

"We were making progress," he says. At his tone of voice, Mycroft's shoulders flinch. He looks from Merit to his brother's back as he stands a few feet away from them.

Sherlock finally turns around and fixes his cold gaze on Dr. Merit.

"Progress. Moving him is a step backwards. It will seem that way to John."

Merit looks from Sherlock's steady gaze to Mycroft, who says nothing.

"Mr. Holmes, I'm not certain what progress you refer to. If you mean that Doctor Watson is eating and sitting up, yes. He is getting stronger and able to walk short distances, his – more obvious – wounds are healing, slowly but they are healing. So all of these things are a plus. If you are referring to his physical reactions to the drug –"

Sherlock comes to stand directly in front of Merit's desk, next to Mycroft, who watches the proceedings without speaking. His voice is cold to the extreme.

"We sat here a few days ago and you told us that none of the normal reversal agents worked for John. You told us to expect the – I believe you referred to it as 'the addiction response' – to make itself evident soon. Dr. Merit, I have watched John while he slept those five days. He was already experiencing this hell while asleep and now he's going through it all over again when he's awake. But if you move him out of that room, it will only drive his condition home to him in a way that nothing else will –"

"Mr. Holmes, please sit down. I find it difficult to speak to you while you are—" he breaks off as Sherlock sits abruptly, next to Mycroft.

Merit clasps his hands together in front of him and looks at both Holmes brothers.

"I am in constant touch with my colleagues throughout the UK and several located in Switzerland and Germany. We don't know enough about this particular drug or its effects to safely prescribe treatment, other than the opioids we are currently using for pain. As I told you both, we did use Naloxone when Doctor Watson was first brought in, unconscious, but it has had little if no effect. That is the agent commonly used – "

"-for Heroin overdoses," supplies Sherlock steadily. He deliberately does not look sideways at Mycroft, who stiffens slightly in his seat. Neither brother looks at the other.

But Mycroft has gone pale again.

Mycroft clears his throat, studies his fingertips where he has them clasped in front of him. Sherlock and Dr. Merit look at him.

"Dr. Merit, if Doctor Watson were moved to a more - private facility - one in which he would receive the around-the-clock monitoring you speak of, one where he would feel more relaxed in his surroundings, which he obviously does not feel in a hospital environment –"

"In that instance, Mycroft, I would unhesitatingly agree to his transfer, but I'd have to know where you intend to transfer him and who would be in charge of his care."

Merit looks at both Holmes brothers and raises an eyebrow.

"Mycroft, I'm well aware your family has – far-reaching connections, but while he is here at St. Anne's, Doctor Watson remains under my care. I am not certain that moving him to another facility is going to help any more than simply moving him one floor up to the cardio ward. He will receive 24-hour monitoring there; he will still have some privacy. The rooms are actually quite comfortable since we will be putting Doctor Watson in the new cardio wing. Space will not be an issue." He glances at Sherlock here. "But we simply cannot risk him having another attack and Mr. Holmes or yourself possibly not being in the room when the next incident occurs."

Neither Sherlock or Mycroft speak. They watch Merit.

Dr. Merit thinks a minute. "He is on a heart monitor and each time, it recorded a marked increase in his heart rate, but this was not noticed immediately, because he is one of several patients on his current floor. What helped Doctor Watson, certainly, each time, was the fact that Mr. Holmes was in the room with him."

He looks directly into Sherlock's eyes. "What if you are not in the room for the next attack? I need that man to be on 24-hour monitoring and I intend to move him, now, today, as soon as a room is ready." He glances at his watch, "which I am told will be in approximately three to four hours."

He looks back up. "Doctor Watson will receive the monitoring he needs; the next time this occurs –" Sherlock flinches at the phrase 'next time' – "the next time it occurs, a nursing staff will be on hand to immediately note the increase in his heart rate and can be at his side in a matter of seconds, to administer the medication I have prescribed for him. Frankly, as I told you both before, I fear for the long-term effects these attacks are having on his heart if they continue. And gentlemen, I have every reason to believe they will continue. Frankly, I have never seen a cardio response this marked in a – situation – such as this. To be honest, I've never dealt with a situation quite like this one."

He picks up John's file and glances through it, raises an eyebrow. He looks back up at the Holmes brothers. "If you make the decision to transfer Doctor Watson to another facility – and I can do nothing to stop you – then we have to be certain he is monitored during the transfer, that you have trained medical personnel with him at all times, that –"

"All of that would be taken care of," says Mycroft, "if the decision is made."

Mycroft leans forward, laces his fingers together and stares at Merit. "William, I have an important question to ask – both of us want to ask."

At his side, Sherlock turns abruptly and goes back to the window, his back to the room.

Merit nods encouragingly.

Mycroft fixes Dr. Merit with his unnerving gaze. "Why is John Watson still alive?"

Behind him, Sherlock says nothing but his fists clench in his pockets.

Merit looks from Sherlock's figure in front of the window, nearly vibrating with intensity, to Mycroft's quiet demeanor.

"I'm not certain I follow…"

Mycroft sighs. He leans over to pick up John's file.

"Three victims here in London are all dead. We understand why the third one died – Madison – he was apparently given a massive amount of the drug at one time, which we believe to be a slipup on the part of whoever administered the drug - but why did the first two die? Were they all deliberately administered overly large amounts of this drug? They all died, William, but John Watson, who had nine injections of this drug in just five days, is alive and breathing – and might, eventually, recover."

He glances through John's folder once, then closes it and lays it back on the blotter in front of Merit.

Dr. Merit raises an eyebrow, realizes both brothers are now looking at him.

"The thought had occurred to all of us, frankly," he says quietly. "Here is what we know about the other victims: the first young man had just attended a rather large party where alcohol and yes, drugs, flowed like water. Traces of not only methadone but copious amounts of alcohol were found in his blood stream, along with the rather large dose of the drug in question."

"The second young man, also at uni, had been heavily drinking beforehand and this had gone on for several hours. And he was a known user of virtually every type of recreational drug he could get his hands on. Evidence of alcohol and other drugs, including cocaine, were found in his bloodstream, along with the designer drug that Doctor Watson was deliberately exposed to. For want of a better name, my colleagues and I have been referring to it simply as MF, after Marcus Franks' initials."

Sherlock flinches, then stares at Merit unblinking.

If Merit notices, he ignores it. "We have Ms. Hansen's recorded testimony that at the direction of James Moriarty, Doctor Watson was given what she refers to as micro injections of the drug, at least two injections over the course of every twenty-four period. Doctor Watson had no alcohol in his bloodstream and of course, no other drugs or substances that this particular drug would react with – and each injection was an extremely small percentage of what was administered to the other three victims."

Dr. Merit glances at the brothers. "According to her testimony, which has been invaluable by the way, this was done deliberately so as to record Doctor Watson's reactions to the drug – and to provide such recordings to potential buyers of – MF. They were not going to risk killing the man if they could help it. It also helps us greatly that Ms. Hansen was able to tell us where a supply of the drug was kept and the police were able to recover this and provide us with samples for research."

Merit glances from brother to brother.

"I'm not certain how much you know about the statistics of addiction – but a user can become "addicted" for want of a better term to heroin after one dose; cocaine after just a few; meth, of course, is more or less deadly to anyone who uses it and they simply want more and more until –" he breaks off and stares at Sherlock, then Mycroft.

"Doctor Watson was deliberately injected nine times over the course of a few days. It would have been ten if Ms. Hansen had not interfered when she did. I have not had the opportunity – yet – to talk with John Watson about what he experienced during those times and I'm not certain that anyone should talk to him about it, not at this time. Eventually, of course, his recollections, notes, anything he can give us, will be invaluable. Right now, I don't care to risk his mental health over this. We do have Lori Hansen's notes, which is a good thing as Dr. Marcus Franks, the researcher apparently responsible for the creation of this heinous drug has disappeared, and no one seems to know where he is."

There is dead silence. If Mycroft's eyes are steel, Sherlock's are downright frost.

William Merit clears his throat and taps John's file folder with one finger.

"Eventually, and I fervently hope this is the case with John Watson, the effects of the drug will fade. But it will take time and right now, I'm afraid we are creating something of a secondary problem."

Mycroft stirs, sighs. "You are, of course, referring to the fact that the opioids you are given John for pain are causing their own set of problems, if they continue."

Merit nods. "Of course. We are basically slowly substituting one addiction for another, one that we can more or less control. And eventually, we will be able to treat the second addiction. So if you mean to go ahead and have John Watson transferred from St. Anne's, I hope to God it's to a facility that has a trained psychological consultant on the staff, among other, more obvious experts."

He looks at John's file folder again.

"There's one thing everyone seems to have overlooked here." He closes John's file and places it squarely in front of him on the blotter.

"Doctor Watson is a grown adult, a trained medical doctor, a damned good one too, I might add – he is known to two of my colleagues here at St. Anne's - and he has to be aware of what is happening to him. The decision as to whether or not he is transferred to another medical facility has to be his. He is awake, aware, in his right mind – except during an attack – and is certainly able to make these types of decisions for himself. The only reason I have not spoken to him concerning his condition, and probable long term effects of his mistreatment, since he woke up, is at your specific request, Mycroft." Here Dr. Merit addresses the elder Holmes brother directly.

But it is Sherlock who responds, his voice cool, matter of fact. "You are 100% correct. John can make those decisions for himself, but I need to add one thing."

Merit raises an eyebrow, patiently waits for Sherlock to continue.

"So far, John has not asked a single question about his current condition. Not one."

OooOooO

"They're moving you to the cardio intensive care unit later today, John." Sherlock does not look John in the face while he tells him this. Instead, he stares out of the window, his hands in the pockets of his trousers.

"Dr. Merit feels you will receive better – and more immediate – care there than you are receiving now."

There is silence for a moment. Sherlock waits for John to talk to him, to say anything at all.

John's voice, when it comes, is quiet, resigned, the hoarse tones slowly disappearing. Sherlock thinks John sounds more and more like his normal self.

He watches Sherlock as the detective begins to pace slowly around John's hospital room.

"Sherlock – what part of 'Doctor Watson' did you not understand?" John says tiredly.

Sherlock stops pacing and simply stands there, stares at the quiet figure in the hospital bed. His heart rate has increased. He consciously slows his breathing down in order to help dispel the small feeling of vertigo the rapid beat creates.

Something funny is happening to his insides. He looks at John Watson and he is reminded briefly of the feeling of unreality he experienced in John's surgery that day - the day John was taken.

As if both of them stand on opposite sides of a river, slowly moving away from each other. And there's not a damn thing that either one of them can do about it.

The silence stretches out. John simply watches Sherlock. And waits.

"When were you going to say something?" he asks wearily.

Sherlock flinches. The detective's eyes are so haunted, John barely recognizes them anymore.

"John, I –"

"No, Sherlock, No. This is not how we are going to do this." John waves a hand at the bed, the hospital room, everything.

"Don't you realize I knew – I know – exactly what is happening to me?"

John leans back against the pillows and briefly shuts his eyes. He re-opens them to stare ahead at nothing, his left hand, restless, picks at the edge of a sheet. He frowns at his hand, then turns his head to look back at Sherlock.

"You can't protect me from the truth, Sherlock. You can't. And what's more, I don't want you to. We have to discuss this, yes, I recognize that. And I've been putting it off, hoping to be stronger. Frankly, I've just been too damned tired to care, about this, about anything - except you."

Sherlock's eyes widen at John's declaration.

John looks at him, gently amused now. "Does that surprise you, you idiot? I can't stop what is happening to me, Sherlock. But it doesn't stop me from being concerned about the obvious effect it's having on you. I – I haven't been able to look at you this past day, let alone talk with you over what I said and probably did –" John breaks off abruptly, in too much emotional pain to continue speaking.

He stares at the tall man, and waits for him to say something, anything.

Sherlock comes to stand by John, his arms down by his side, as if he doesn't – quite – know what to do with them. He wants desperately to hold John's hand but doesn't know what the doctor wants – or needs - at this moment. Whatever it is, Sherlock is prepared to provide it.

John stares up at his partner, a world-weary expression on his face. He pats the bed beside him. Sherlock eagerly pulls up his chair, sits, begins to temple his fingers under his skin, his default Sherlock position.

John shakes his head slowly, reaches out and takes Sherlock's hand in his. He intertwines their fingers. Both men look at their combined hands. Neither one of them can speak for a moment.

Finally, John looks up from his contemplation of Sherlock's long, elegant fingers wrapped around his shorter, sturdier ones.

"Sherlock, I – I don't remember exactly what I did but I do remember that I said some things yesterday that –"

Sherlock shakes his head quickly. "No, John. No. Do not apologize. Not for that. Never for that."

He grips John's hand more tightly and continues to stare at their hands.

Finally, he looks up to encounter the saddest expression he's ever seen on John Watson's face.

He takes a breath, lets it out.

"John, I want – no, damn it, that's not right. I need John, I need to tell you something. I need to tell you a lot of 'somethings' in fact." Sherlock looks at John and tries to grin. He's not certain he succeeds.

"John – that day, the day you were taken –"

"You mean the day I made just about every error in judgment an ex-Soldier can make when it comes to dealing with arch enemies and criminal master minds?" the doctor asks dryly.

Sherlock looks at him thoughtfully. And he realizes, with aching clarity, that John is going to make this easy for him.

As he stares into John's storm-tossed eyes, so obviously filled with pain - and something else – he cannot define, Sherlock suddenly wonders what the hell he has been waiting for this entire time, these past months. An engraved invitation from the Queen? The perfect day? The right time? The exact moment when all the cosmic forces in the universe align and a fucking light bulb goes off over his head?

Or maybe it was something simpler all this time. Maybe, just maybe, he was afraid of John's response. And he knows he could not bear to be told he wasn't good enough. Which would be the truth, he thinks.

Not for the first time, he wonders what he would be doing now if John had died back there on the highway – died..DIED. John did die, Sherlock thinks, startled. John Watson died in his arms and was clinically dead for three and one-half minutes. The longest three minutes in Sherlock's existence.

"Fix your family," Mycroft said weeks ago. Well, by God he intends to.

All of this takes exactly seven seconds. Sherlock looks into John's steady gaze – and his heart turns over in his chest.

He leans toward John and clasps both hands around John's sturdy hand.

"John, I planned on telling you something at dinner that night … planned on setting right a lot of things that I let go wrong, somehow. I was ready that day, so ready, and then you were gone and we didn't know where that bastard had taken you and I didn't even know if you were alive. God John! I thought I was going to go mad … and that god damned circle of blood on the clinic floor –"

John flinches at this information, frowns. "Sherlock, I don't remember a whole lot –"

The detective shakes his head. "No. John, No. I told you, it's all right. It doesn't matter, now, what you do or don't remember."

"Matters to me," says John quietly. He stares at the shaggy dark head in front of him and realizes he has been holding his breath. He lets it out slowly.

"Yes, of course it matters to you – I –" Sherlock looks straight at John and then he grins that blinding, cracked grin that gives Sally Donovan pause. John's eyes widen – and he grins right back.

The door opens and a nurse comes in to take John's vitals.

"Oh bloody hell," murmurs the detective. He lets John's hands go, stands abruptly and paces around the hospital room, his fists shoved in his pockets. John just patiently waits and watches him.

"Right, fever's still down, that's good." She finishes with John, with all of it, says, "Good afternoon, Gentlemen," and leaves, pulling the door to behind her.

Sherlock glances at the door, then at John. Determinedly, he sits back down, snags John's hands with both of his and stares into his Army doctor's eyes. John stares back.

"John, I want, no I need – What the -"

There's a tap on the door and a second nurse comes in with John's medications. Oblivious to the two stares, one icy and one resigned, she logs into her portable work station, asks John his name and birthdate, and proceeds to dispense his afternoon meds. John swallows them obediently, thanks her, she nods at both of them and leaves.

Sherlock rises from his chair, crosses to close the door behind her, comes back to sit by John's bedside.

He stares into John's dark eyes. He opens his mouth to speak.

A discordant beeping noise erupts from one of the stanchions behind John. One of the bags of fluid has run out. The beep continues until -

"Oh, GOOD GOD!" Sherlock swears; his eyes narrow as the same nurse comes in to change out the empty bag. She smiles pleasantly at both men, makes the change, straightens the tubing, checks the IV connection in the back of John's hand – and goes out again, pulling the door to behind her.

Both men look after her and then turn to stare at each other, Sherlock more or less desperate and John just puzzled.

Sherlock clears his throat, takes John's hands in his. "John, I need – CHRIST ON A CRACKER!"

John's eyes widen, and wonders briefly where the hell Sherlock learned that one. He and Sherlock are definitely going to have to have a talk soon.

Another nurse stands in the doorway, her hands full of clean bandages. Both men stare at her, one gaze calm, one a bit murderous. Her eyes widen, "I think this can wait for a few more minutes," she says softly. And she backs out the way she came in, closing the door softly behind her.

Sherlock looks back from the door to John Watson's face. He takes a deep breath. Briefly closes, then opens his eyes.

"John, there is a time and place for everything and this is neither the time nor the place but frankly, I don't give a damn."

He bends and brushes his lips across their combined fingers. Then looks up into John's gaze, startlingly blue today.

"John Hamish Watson – I love you. I have always loved you. I think I fell in love with you five minutes after we met there in Bart's – "

"Waited that long, huh?" interrupts the doctor, in an amused tone. John's heart threatens to beat out of his chest.

"Don't interrupt, John, damn it." Sherlock laces their fingers more tightly together, leans slightly toward the man he loves.

"John Watson, I swear to God if I don't get to tell you this, my brain is going to burst."

"Go on then, you're doing fine so far," the doctor murmurs.

"I said, don't interrupt. Where was – oh yes. I FUCKING LOVE YOU, JOHN WATSON, and I swear to GOD if you think this is because you are sitting here in this bloody bed or that it's because you were shot and kidnapped or that this has anything to do with your current condition –"

"What condition would that be, gentlemen? Is Doctor Watson pregnant?"

"Mycroft, if you don't leave this room now, this very instant, I am going to commit cold-blooded homicide!"

Both men look up at the tall figure who stands in the doorway. Sherlock with blood in his eye and John with a long-suffering but amused expression on his tired face.

"Actually, that would make it fratricide. I'll just go outside and leave you to it then. Come get me when this touching declaration is over, dear brother, all right?"

Mycroft shuts the door quietly behind him.

Sherlock looks back at John – who is frankly laughing at him, his heart suddenly light.

Sherlock looks dismayed, as if John has not taken his declaration seriously.

John shakes his head, grins from ear to ear. "No," he says hurriedly, 'No, not laughing at you, Love, just at us – at life in general, at all of this." He waves one hand in the air, then gives it back to Sherlock, who pulls it into his grip.

Sherlock looks startled at the 'Love' word coming from John's lips. Then he just looks delighted.

John leans forward and brushes his dry lips over Sherlock's lush ones. He winces at the sudden tightening of the bandaging around his ribs. John leans back, his expression amused.

"No, Sherlock, I don't think it's because of any of those things and yes, I think you should tell me and keep on telling me so that wonderful, beautiful brain of yours does not burst any time soon."

He disengages his hand and brushes his fingers through Sherlock's' dark curls.

The detective just stares at the doctor with amazement in his eyes.

"Go on, then, get it over with. Because I have some things to say, too, and that nurse – and your brother – are not going to wait all day."

Sherlock grins into John's eyes, grabs John's errant hand and pulls it back into his two clasped hands.

"John, I love you. I want you in my life forever, if you'll have me, and once we get over this stupid, asinine problem we are currently experiencing, I want you to be my partner – damn it, you already are that, ALL of that, but they require some sort of sodding paper so – god damn it, John, Marry Me!"

There is a short intake of breath and neither man can tell who it comes from.

"Sherlock – I –"

"No, John, No. Just NO." Sherlock waves one languid hand in the air. "That's not how we're going to do this. We are partners, damn it, a couple, and we're going to fight this bloody thing as a couple and you have my permission to call me a heartless bastard a dozen times a day if it helps you get through this and it is entirely deserved, by the way, I have been, frequently, a heartless bastard, and at times, far, far worse than that, and I don't want you to ever EVER leave me and if you ever did –"

John shakes his head. He can't stop grinning. "Sherlock, I told you before. I'm not going anywhere."

Sherlock lets out a deep breath he doesn't realize he is holding.

"All right then. Good. That's – that's good." He stammers, his words come to a halt.

He leans over John Watson and kisses him on the lips, murmurs into his mouth, "Now if you don't mind, I have to go out into the waiting room and fucking kill Mycroft."

John whispers right back. "I'll be here, waiting. And when you return, we're going to have to do something about that cursing problem of yours which has reached frankly alarming proportions. "

He lets himself grin against Sherlock's lips.

Both men pull back slightly and look at each other, eyes full of wonder.

John suddenly leans toward Sherlock and tightens his grip on Sherlock's fingers before the taller man can leave him.

"Sherlock – I don't know how this is going to play out. I swear to God I don't. And it seems to me that the brunt of it will be on you, not me. But –" the doctor clears his throat. "YES. Yes, Sherlock, to what you just said - YES to all of it –" he waves a hand at the door. "Yes, to Mycroft being my official brother in law, damn his eyes, and Yes to Mummy, Yes to life with the most unsociopathic person I've ever met in my life – Yes to chasing after you down ruddy side streets and to trying to get you to eat more than once a week and YES to midnight violin sessions and heads in the fridge, and experiments all over the bloody flat, and , I think Yes, to occasionally getting myself kidnapped, although I'd much rather avoid that bit and just fucking YES to it all!"

He stares into Sherlock's crystalline eyes. "Grayish-blue today, rare," he notes. "A good omen."

"And most of all, Yes to YOU, you bloody idiot."

From outside their room, a small cheer goes up from the nurse's station, clearly audible. Both men look at each other, their eyes wide with horror, and then they slowly direct their gazes to the nurse call button on the inside of the bed railing – the same railing that John has leaned against in his eagerness to grab Sherlock's hand.

John buries his face in his hands. 'Oh, fucking GOD!" he swears.

Sherlock just smirks. "I have witnesses, John. Lots and lots of sodding witnesses!"

OooOooO

"Good news, John. There's been a massive pile-up on the M4. Lots of injuries."

John Watson opens his eyes slowly, in horror, and just as slowly raises his head to stare at his partner, who has rushed into his hospital room to give him this alarming news.

"Sherlock, I think we need to have another talk about what constitutes acceptable social –"

"No, NO. John. I didn't mean it that way. Of course, I didn't." Sherlock comes in to sit down by John's side, reaches for his hand. "What I meant was, St. Anne's is closest and they've brought the victims here. They're going to need all the beds in the cardio ward they can get, at least for a couple of days until it all gets sorted."

John does the maths. "So, I'm not being transferred today then," he says thoughtfully. He nods. "Good. I can go back to sleep." He shuts his eyes.

Sherlock just beams at him. He has plans for a certain Army doctor. Oh my fucking god, yes, does he have plans.

OooOooO

"Sherlock, I need to speak with Dr. Merit alone for a few minutes." John looks into Sherlock's eyes, which widen, then narrow.

'John, anything you have to say to Merit, can be said in front of —"

"Sherlock," the doctor's tone brooks no argument. "This is – this is not about my 'condition,' as you refer to it. It's something else entirely."

John looks stonily at the detective, who stares just as stonily back.

"John, we discussed this. I have to be in the know about all of your treatment and if you—"

"Bloody hell, Sherlock! There are things a man needs to ask his doctor and times to ask them and this is one of those things and by God this is the mother loving time."

John shoves one hand through his dark blonde spikes, which results in a slightly wild look.

He is becoming agitated and Sherlock immediately caves.

"John, it's all right. I'll leave while you discuss whatever it is." He goes out of the room, stops, turns and looks back. "Is – is everything – are we okay?"

John's tone is resigned to the extreme – and not a little embarrassed.

"Yes, Sherlock, I promise you. We are okay. We are just fine. It's just something I have to know. And I have to know it right now. Before we go – any further."

He adds dryly, "So just go out and have a smoke, or two, which you will be giving up shortly, by the way, - again - and leave us alone for about twenty minutes, okay?"

Sherlock groans. He knew he hadn't fooled his partner about the cigarettes. He nods, passes Dr. Merit, who stands right outside the door, and leaves, his mind racing. What could John possibly need to discuss that he – Sherlock – could not be there for?

When it comes to him later, he doesn't know whether to laugh or curse. And immediately he realizes he needs to know the answer too. He fishes in his coat pocket for a pack of cigarettes.

Never mind. He'll get the details out of John later. Much later. That night.

"And," thinks Sherlock as he snaps a lighter at his first cigarette of the day, inhales the blessed smoke, "if the answer is Yes, we are fine, and if the answer is No, we are still fine because there are ways around anything, even this."

And he leans his head back to stare a sky already ripe with the promise of more snow. And smirks.

OooOooO

"Doctor Watson –" Merit begins. He sits in the small folding chair by John's bed.

"John, please," says the doctor.

"William," replies Merit. They both nod at each other. Merit clears his throat. "Well, what do you need to know?"

John tells him.

OooOooO

"Mummy is in full concurrence, by the way," says Mycroft. He and Sherlock sit in the waiting area while John speaks with Dr. Merit in his hospital room.

Sherlock is fidgety. He keeps crossing and uncrossing his long legs, stares around the waiting area. No one else is in there so he has nothing to occupy his brain – just what is going on in John's hospital room.

He replies to Mycroft with a quiet "Hmmmm."

The elder Holmes brother sighs, adjusts the crease in his trousers and leans back again in the frankly horrid chair. Honestly, how can anyone actually relax and wait for long in these things. It occurs to Mycroft, now that the Holmes more or less own the new wing, that new, more comfortable seating arrangements might be called for.

He is aware that Sherlock barely hears what he is talking about and that's fine. He'll have something to hold over his younger brother later, when it's needed.

"Yes, she totally agreed that John – and you, of course, dear brother – should be brought to the estate immediately, as quickly as it can be arranged. And she'll take care of the necessary arrangements to have the proper medical personnel on hand. You and John can have your old wing."

Mycroft looks at his brother's profile. Sherlock continues to look down the hall, toward John's room, doubtless waiting for Merit to emerge, so he can get back to John.

Mycroft sighs. "On the other hand, I feel that there is a great deal to be said for the Delallo clinic in Italy - or perhaps the Regala, in Switzerland –"

"Mycroft, what in the bloody hell are you talking about," demands Sherlock. He yanks his gaze from the hallway, from John's door, and tries to put his attention on his insufferable brother.

"I am talking about John Watson, dear brother, and his immediate and long-term care."

Mycroft looks at Sherlock and raises one eyebrow in speculation. "Or should I say I am talking about John Watson Holmes' immediate and long-term care."

"Yes, I thought you would not waste much time in bringing that up," says Sherlock.

He still does not turn his head to look at Mycroft. What in bloody hell can John and Merit have to possibly talk about for this length of time?

"Sherlock, I'm pleased you finally had a talk with John. I'm assuming it went well?"

"Yes, Mycroft, if you must know – " Sherlock breaks off and finally tilts his head sideways at his older brother. John's quiet admonishment to 'play nice' pops into his head. He sighs.

"Yes, it went very well, thank you. John agreed – he did not reject me."

"Should I inform Mummy of the impending happy nuptials – or have you and the good doctor even arrived at any definite plans yet?"

"Honest to God, Mycroft, I don't know how your people haven't drawn lots to see who gets to murder you before this. Keep your long nose out of my – our business – mine and John's."

Sherlock stretches his long legs out in front of him and stares at his shoes.

"When we have definite plans, you—and Mummy – will be the first to know. Until then—"

"Fine." Mycroft stands, glances around the room one more time. He feels a change of paint and basic décor is called for, as well. He will talk to Anthea about this. Or perhaps this is more Mummy's area.

He picks up his overcoat and drapes it over his left arm, takes his umbrella from where it lays against an empty chair. Mycroft Holmes looks down at the ebony curls on his brother's brooding head. Sherlock looks up.

He and Sherlock stare at each other for a moment and by the mutual telepathy the Holmes brothers seem to possess, Mycroft sees – and hears – much more than Sherlock has actually verbalized. He raises one eyebrow.

"Ah." Mycroft nods appreciatively.

"I see—" he says slowly. He turns to gaze down the hallway toward John's door.

"Yes, I can see how his drug 'problem' for want of a better word, and particularly the long-term use of opioid pain medications might create the need for a consultation between John and William."

Mycroft turns his head back to meet Sherlock's eyes. He decides to take pity on his brother for once.

"Never mind, Sherlock, I believe these types of problems only occur after the medications in question have been in use for quite some time. That is most definitely not the case with John."

He turns to leave, twirls his umbrella. Throws the last comment over his shoulder.

"I am sure your wedding night – er celebrations – will not be overtly affected."

He walks down the hall toward the elevator.

"Oh bloody Hell !" shouts Sherlock. Is there anyone in this plebian hospital who doesn't' know his and John's personal business?

OooOooO

Later that evening,

"Sherlock, what is all that?" John asks. It is much later that evening and the two of them are – finally – alone, more or less, John thinks. They have about three hours before someone comes into take blood again and check his vitals.

He watches as the detective opens a small bag and begins to remove items and place them on the table next to John.

First item: a small red candle. John raises an eyebrow.

"Sherlock, surely you know there is oxygen in use in here and you cannot possibly light that thing."

"Yes, John, I know," comes his partner's patient reply. He rummages in the bag and brings out another item – items, rather.

Two wine glasses.

Next he turns to the second bag he has with him and removes one bottle of wine, places it next to the glasses.

John's eyes widen.

"Sherlock, I can't drink alcohol, not with all of the medications I'm on," he protests.

"Yes, John, I know," says Sherlock.

Third item: a small tiny bud vase, sans bud. Sherlock glances around, spies the flowers on the window sill still sitting in the water carafe that Lori Hansen used as a flower vase. He crosses to the window, selects one bright red flower, snaps it off halfway down the stem and comes back to John's other side. He places the stem in the tiny vase and pours a little water in it from John's water glass.

The doctor watches all of these proceedings with a quiet amusement. Truth be known, he is rather touched by Sherlock's obvious attempts at romance.

Sherlock removes one or two smaller items from the bag but drops them in the pocket of his trousers before John can see what they are. The detective crumples up the two bags, tosses them in the bin in the small bathroom. While there, he shuts the door, inspects his appearance, and runs a hand through his curls. Then he brushes his teeth and finally, smiles at his reflection. Good enough, he hopes.

He goes back out to John, leaving the light on and the door just slightly ajar.

"Finished?" John says dryly.

Sherlock shakes his head. "Not yet," he murmurs. He goes out into the hallway, fixes his gaze sternly and deliberately on the group of nurses who stand there, comparing charts, and very deliberately, as he holds their gaze, he withdraws into John's room, backwards, and shuts the door as tightly as it will go.

The obvious click speaks volumes.

The nurses look at each other – and smile.

Sherlock clicks off the overhead lights in John's room, while the doctor watches his actions with increasing amusement. And, yes, he must admit, his pulse begins to race.

He goes to the head of John's bed, reaches over John and clicks off the more subdued light behind John's bed. He glances at the tiny Christmas tree in the window, which now supplies the only light in the room, other than the small amount which comes from under the door of the loo. And tiny circles of yellow light that make their way into their room from the streets below.

Finally, he nods to himself, bends over to kiss John on the lips, and pulls up his chair to sit by John's side.

"Finished now?" says John.

"Not by a long shot, John," says Sherlock Holmes.

And he proceeds to go back to kissing John Watson.

Everywhere. Just - Everywhere.

The doctor just laughs.

OooOooO

"Sherlock, this bed isn't big enough to hold both of us."

"Don't be ridiculous, John, of course it is."

Sherlock studies the tubes leading into John's IV. Over the past few days, John has graduated from a total of five bags of various fluids, antibiotics, drips and what have you to two bags total. Sherlock glances at the tubes, at the IV in the back of John's hands, both of them in the same hand now, the left one, and finally studies the hospital bed, including the railings - if he leaves one up and one down - yes. He nods. Perfectly workable.

Done kissing John, for the time being anyway, he stands up, crosses around John to the doctor's right side and shrugs out of his suit jacket. It drops to the floor in one graceful slide. Sherlock steps over several hundred quid of gorgeous fabric and toes out of his shoes. Finally he reaches down and removes his socks, unzips his trousers. Lets those fall to the floor, first retrieving a few small items from his pockets, which he bends over and tucks under the edge of one of John's pillows.

Lastly, he unbuttons his cuffs and his tight shirt, the purple one that under normal circumstances drives the good doctor mad with lust, but leaves the shirt to hang on his pale torso.

John raises an eyebrow. Sherlock has never been a great believer in underwear. Too encumbering.

He hasn't changed his tune in the two weeks John has been in the hospital.

Sherlock snaps down the railing on the side of John's bed and simultaneously silences the bed alarm with two well-placed fingers.

John's breath starts to come in small gasps.

Bending over his Army doctor, Sherlock murmurs, "Budge over, John."

John Watson scoots to his left, as far as possible until his left hip is pressed up against the left side bed rail.

Yes, breathing is definitely becoming an issue at this point.

Sherlock lifts John's blankets and sheet in one smooth motion, slips in next to John and lies up against John's pillows, tilting a little toward his left side. Finally, he pulls John gently up against him, fitting his left hip next to and slightly under the doctor's right hip area.

He puts his left arm around John and pulls the doctor, gently, so gently, up against his chest. The shirt has fallen open and John's head now rests directly against Sherlock's marble skin. He shuts his eyes.

If this works – oh GOD if this works, John will be so grateful. He has been apprehensive since he spoke with Merit that afternoon.

"All right, John?"

John wonders if he is having arrhythmia. All he can do is nod.

John's dark blond head rests back against Sherlock's left shoulder, the detective's left hand around his upper back, hugging him to his chest. And his right hand – his right hand -

"Sherlock, I had a talk with Dr. Merit today."

Sherlock nuzzles his lips into John's silky hair, right at the crown. His right hand begins to caress John's right hip over the boxers John changed into earlier. His hand moves up and down the cotton fabric, pausing each time at the elastic waistband, then continues downward over the top of the cotton to stroke against John's bare skin just below the hem of the pants.

Sherlock moves his right hand downward until it comes to the hem of the shorts, teases the bare skin there a moment, then works its way back up again. He repeats the movement. Over and over again. Sherlock's long legs line up against John's torso; he carefully avoids any contact with the line of bandaging around John's thigh.

"Yes, John?" says Sherlock breathily. He continues to nuzzle John's hair, to isolate and taste individual strands, dragging them between his lips and tongue, then - letting them go. His left hand rubs gently, so gently over the scar tissue barely evident through John's cotton tee shirt. John's ribs are bandaged and Sherlock moves his hand and fingers gently around John's chest, above and below the bandages, being extremely careful with John's rib area, after first gently sliding John's portable heart monitor to the right side of his chest. He gently feels around John's chest area and shoulders, counts the small sticky snaps that the heart wires are connected to, nods. Their locations are now memorized and he very carefully avoids them during his - er - ministrations to John Watson.

"You spoke to Dr. Merit. And?"

John's breath begins to come in sharp little gasps. "I – I had to ask him about the effects of the pain meds he has me on, particularly those that they give me during –" he breaks off for a moment as Sherlock's right hand stops at the waistband of his boxers again. This time, the detective's warm fingers insinuate themselves between the band and John's hip. The detective splays his fingers against John's cool skin, until they impart some of their warmth to the doctor. Then they move on – downward.

"Yes, John? The meds they give you during what exactly?" Sherlock murmurs into John's hair.

He shuts his eyes and moves his lush lips slowly down the right side of John's head to where they nuzzle John's right ear. He wishes it were the left ear – but you can't have everything, not in a sodding hospital bed.

John shuts his eyes, momentarily dizzy, then opens them again. "The meds they give me during these damn attacks – I asked him what effect, if any, they might have on my ability to – er –"

"Yes, John?" Sherlock's tongue traces the outline of John's right ear, slowly laving the outer shell, then dips into the tiny cleft under the inner shell. He blows on John's ear, just where it is damp from his tongue, then his teeth nibble at the delicate ear area. Then he goes back to licking John's ear again, over and down and around and in … and again blows against John's skin.

John makes a tiny sound, tries to keep his eyes open, but they seem to be losing focus.

His eyes close and he bends his head to the left, to allow Sherlock's tongue better access to his ear and the side of his head and his neck.

His breathing has sped up a little, at the same time he begins to relax under Sherlock's attentions. His right hand has been clenched in the sheets. Now he relaxes his fingers – and Sherlock's right hand immediately withdraws from John's bare hip, comes out from under the boxers to find his hand and intertwine their fingers. Sherlock begins to tighten, then loosen his hand, to gently pull and tug along each of John's fingers, as if he is working all the knots and kinks out of the tired skin.

His clever hands gently clasp, then pull the tendons of John's fingers, massage the back of his hand, work their way up and down each knuckle. He finally clasps John's hand in his tightly, to impart his body heat to the doctor's faithful hand, then he starts all over again.

Finally, when John's right hand is more or less limp, he gently places John's hand along his side and he moves his right palm back under John's boxers, to rub up and down his hip area.

At the same time, Sherlock's left hand leaves the scar tissue and wanders down to claim John's left hand. He begins to afford it the same attentions as his right hand. Tugging the fingers gently, working the skin around the knuckles, kneading, kneading the skin, stretching out John's fingers until neither of them can feel the tremor in John's left hand. Then he releases John's hand and returns his attentions to John's aching shoulder, with its area of ragged scar tissue.

Sherlock's eyes' are shut, the better to feel John, to sense John, to re-learn John, since he can't see his eyes anyway, but he momentarily frowns when his fingers encounter the doctor's hip bone – which now juts out from his recent weight loss.

Sherlock gently tugs down on John's boxer shorts, then murmurs to John. John obediently uses his left hand to also tug and the shorts are finally pulled down until they rest, more or less, against bandaging around John's thigh. Sherlock leaves them there as a reminder of John's wound and stitches and brings his hand back up to stroke along John's bare hip.

John shuts his own eyes and concentrates on the feel of Sherlock's right hand as it grips, then releases his hip, on the warmth and wetness of Sherlock's tongue as it makes it way around his ear, on the brush of Sherlock's nails as his left hand drags itself over and around the scar, up to his neck and shoulder, then back down again.

John sighs and relaxes back in Sherlock's arms, finally – oh god finally - lets the detective take the weight of his upper body against his chest. Sherlock smiles against John's ear and tightens his grip on the doctor with his left hand.

His hand slowly strokes over the scar under John's tee shirt, then up to the very front of John's shoulder, where the warm fingers rub gently against John's skin, just under his chin, teasing their way under the neckline of John's tee shirt, then back down and across to the scar. His fingers slowly being to knead, then release the scar tissue.

John gasps, and his eyes fly open.

"All right, John?" asks Sherlock against his ear.

John whispers, "Yes. It's – yes…" his voice trails off. His eyes close of their own accord and he gives himself up to Sherlock's attentions.

Just – YES to everything.

Sherlock whispers into his ear, all the while continuing his attentions to the scar, to Johns' left hip and the skin of his upper leg.

"You were saying something about the possible effects of the medications they have you on?"

"Hmm?" John's entire body, more or less, goes limp under Sherlock's warm hands.

Well, not his entire body. Not entirely. Oh, hell NO. And ..

Slowly, slowly as Sherlock's right hand moves from John's hip to his groin, and begins to twine his fingers in the soft short hairs he finds there, John realizes that the – problem – he was so worried about has begun to stir and to awaken and to –

Oh, Hello there, thinks John.

As Sherlock continues to touch and stroke and tease…

"YES. YES. YES. Just fucking YES," thinks John.

"God," groans John. Sherlock freezes momentarily.

"John?" The detective's warm breath huffs into John's right ear.

"No. No, it's fine. It's – better than fine, Sherlock," John murmurs. "I just – Jesus, fucking God!"

Sherlock chuckles. "No need to pray, John. Just – shut your eyes. And Feel."

The detective buries his nose in John's neck area. His teeth nibble and pull at John's skin, now slightly sweaty. He licks John's skin – which elicits another groan from the good doctor. John's skin tastes of salt. He is used to John tasting of chamomile tea, of wool, often rain, and always a musky scent that is all John Watson. And - something that is missing now.

Sherlock shuts his eyes and continues to move the fingers of his right hand down John's growing cock.

The doctor groans again, softly, and Sherlock laughs gently against his neck.

"John? You were saying?"

His left hand makes lazy circles around the scar, feeling its way through the thin cotton fabric, finally takes the plunge under the neckline to find and circle John's left nipple, just at the very top of the rib bandages, tugging the fabric slightly along with it.

"I said I - What?"

John tilts his head back to the right now, to allow Sherlock's left hand access to his neck and as far down as he can plunge his hand under the fabric of the tee shirt. Which turns out to be very far indeed.

Sherlock's hand circles, then gently tugs a nipple, teases one finger gently, gently under the bandages with their soft pads to feel John's soft chest hair. Finally, Sherlock removes his left hand – which makes John groan a little – "patience," the detective whispers into his hairline, then he licks his fingertips, replaces them under John's tee, and begins to slowly tease one nipple until John groans out loud with the pleasure of it.

His eyes are shut tight as are Sherlock's, both of them breathing heavily in the dark of the room.

Sherlock wraps the long fingers of his right hand around John's growing cock now and gently begins to stroke.

"Oh, God, Sherlock," John whispers. His head lolls on Sherlock's chest and his chest muscles loosen as he leans even more into the detective's warm embrace.

Sherlock smiles against the skin of John's neck. He shuts his eyes again and while his left hand plays around John's chest and nipples, beginning at the scar, then working its way downward, then back up, his right hand wraps around John's cock, and John totally forgets what Dr. Merit said to him hours earlier that afternoon, about possible vascular problems arising from the – Arising from ...

Arising.

"Oh Shit," whispers John. "Don't stop, just don't – stop,"

Don't make me beg, Sherlock, John thinks. Please just –"

"Not going anywhere, John," Sherlock huffs against John's neck. He bends his head slightly and his tongue goes back to laving John's right ear and his clever fingers tighten along the length of John's cock.

His thumb presses along the sensitive top, finds the few drops there, and gently spreads them around the head, dipping under, then back up to rub up and down and around the glans.

John groans, louder this time. He can't help himself.

"Touch yourself, John" murmurs Sherlock.

"Hmm…." John's head lolls forward. He tries to concentrate on the sound of Sherlock's voice in his ear but it's damned difficult to concentrate on anything but what is happening down south…

"Wrap your hand around your cock, John," murmurs Sherlock.

John obeys, bends his right leg gently, which more or less dislodges the boxers from his right leg and Sherlock immediately accommodates his movement by shifting his own long legs. He turns more on his left side, brings his right leg up over his own left leg, to allow John better access.

John grips himself and Sherlock's long fingers immediately go to the side of the pillow, tug out the small tube of lube they find there. One-handed, he flips open the cap, warms the tube in his closed hand for a moment, then squeezes it around John's fingers and cock. Finally, he drops the tube and grips John's fingers with his own. Together, they stroke up and down.

"John Watson, I love you," Sherlock whispers against the back of John's hair. His lips whisper the words against John's neck as if he tries to embed them into the doctor's skin by breath alone.

His lips move up to John's right ear as they both continue to stroke along the length of John's cock.

"John Watson, I love you," Sherlock murmurs into the doctor's ear. He licks along the ear again, then gently blows against the outer shell.

John shivers. Concentrates on the feeling of now and need and ohmyfuckinggod that comes from the knowledge of what Sherlock's clever hand is doing.

Sherlock bends his head toward John's shoulder and kisses and licks and growls against the skin along the top of his collar bone.

"John Watson, I love you," he says huskily, his own erection a growing problem that nudges John's right hip and thigh as their hands pick up speed and move together in unison along John's shaft.

John laughs – or tries to.

Sherlock and John's hands begin to move faster as the engorged blood heats and expands along the entire length of John's cock. He tilts his head back against Sherlock's chest and Sherlock immediately dips his head and nose and mouth into John's hair.

He whispers into the dark blonde, silky mass, "John Watson, I love you."

His left hand rubs up and across John's chest, and sensitive nipple area, avoiding the bandages, then back up to knead the scar tissue, then back down to gently, gently, dip below the soft padding to rub against John's chest hairs.

John groans and feels his universe fray.

"Sherlock – "

Sherlock's eyes are shut. He buries his face in John's hair and inhales John – the scent of his shampoo, the scent of his skin, the musky tangy smell that is John – salt and something he can never quite identify and yes, there is the hospital smell and sick smell that is not John, and Sherlock ignores those smells and concentrates on the scent of hot copper – which is the scent of John's blood racing under the skin of his neck.

"Gun oil," he thinks, "John usually smells of gun oil." He finds he misses that smell.

"Oh God, Sherlock," John's hand moves faster, squeezing the length of his cock, totally engorged now, and Sherlock's fingers tighten around his and they both stroke and stroke and John arches his head back further, if that were possible, begging Sherlock to kiss him, anywhere he can reach, everywhere he can reach.

Sherlock laughs breathily and plants hot, filthy kisses along John's hair, the back of his neck, his right ear, inside and out, and down along the side of John's neck onto his shoulder blade. He nibbles, bites, licks, blows, then nibbles again along every exposed inch of John that he can find.

"Sherlock! Sherlock!" John groans out loud and the detective immediately places his left hand carefully over John's mouth, presses inward gently, to remind the doctor where he is, but John's too far gone and just too fucking grateful and then he comes in great hot spurts over his and Sherlock's hands, still intertwined over his shaft, and he groans and drops his head forward, breathing heavily.

Sherlock ignores his own erection, with a little difficulty. This night is for John. Presumably, he can take care of the problem himself later.

John blinks the tears out of his eyes and prays that Sherlock never sees them, but then doesn't much care if he does.

John Watson's aching body lies back against Sherlock Holme's angular form – and then…

Finally, finally, thinks Sherlock, John's breath hitches and his chest begins to heave and bloody hell, he can't stop the sobs that begin to rip forth from his chest, as if they're being yanked out by utter relief and then sheer fear and pain and so much fucking anger that he can't see straight.

And then the hot tears come and he begins to sob quietly against Sherlock's hand which moves from John's mouth to lie gently along John's chest. He releases John's hand which is still wrapped around John's – now – spent cock. Sherlock wipes his palm across the sheets, then he wraps his long arms around John's tired, abused body and grips his partner as tightly as he can there in John's hospital bed. He drops his shaggy head toward the back of John's head, buries his face in John's silky hair, shuts his eyes and just holds on while the doctor sobs and rages and all but screams.

"Sherlock – they kept me tied … I couldn't stop it … I just can't …. I fucking couldn't get lose and they - I can't ... I just can't .. " John cries like a small child cries, afraid of the dark, alone with his demons.

"Shh, John, of course you can. Tell me, just tell me. You can always tell me. "

John cries and rages and his chest heaves and Sherlock prays they don't accidentally hit the call button.

His eyes still closed, Sherlock plants soft gentle kisses in John's hair, along his neck, on every inch of skin his mouth can find.

"Tell me, John. Just fucking tell me. I'm right here. Not going anywhere. Not now. Not ever. Tell me..."

And finally, at last, John Watson begins to speak, at first hesitantly, as the tears spill against his cheeks, sliding down his face to drop, hot and aching, against the back of Sherlock's strong hands.

He talks and Sherlock listens. He listens to the disjointed sentences, the words that wander all around, then come back again, he feels John's chest heave under his hands, hears the rage and desperation in his voice, sees when the overwhelming anger and frustration and the plain fucking FEAR begin to ease, as John's tears and sobs begin to slow, as his tired, aching muscles begin to relax once more, to go totally limp against his partner's body, there in his hospital bed in St. Anne's.

Sherlock holds onto the man he loves. He holds onto the man who is the missing piece of his heart, the lost fragmented section of his soul. He holds onto John Watson.

And just listens.