It was past midnight when Sherlock entered the field hospital in search of blood. He was far from home, far from comfortable amenities and was forced to find sustenance while making the least fuss possible. Over the last several weeks, he had scoured hospitals with wounded soldiers, and now he could feel that after this night he would be strong enough to return to London. The ones that had been doomed to die he’d drained quickly and let them die a better death than the agony that had awaited them.
Now, he was about to drain a wounded soldier with a simple bullet wound through his shoulder but a horrid slash to his abdomen. Sherlock had seen enough dying men to know that this one had no more than several hours to live.
When he approached him, the delirious man opened his eyes to look at him. They were the most beautiful shade of blue Sherlock had ever seen. The lagoon shades ranged from aero, baby blue to almost green and looking into them was akin to looking at an oasis in the middle of the desert – a bewitching sight amongst dry sand of reality. They were full of pain and reluctant acceptance of the situation the soldier was in. Sherlock found himself mesmerised, never before having seen so much expression in a dying man’s eyes. He sat on a round metal chair next to the soldier’s bed and met his gaze. He couldn’t snuff the light out of those eyes just yet. Maybe never.
“What’s your name?” Sherlock asked, whispering to avoid waking up other patients even though most of them groaned in discomfort or pain.
“Watson... Captain John Watson, 5th Northumberland Fu-” He recited in a weak voice but with surprisingly clear diction for his state.
“Shhh, John.” Sherlock hesitated for a moment longer but he knew he had already made the decision. “Do you want to live?”
“No.” The pull towards oblivion in the man’s gaze pierced Sherlock’s undead heart. The sure reply stunned him. It was uttered quietly, the single word devoid of anger, but full of resignation.
“Why?” Sherlock couldn’t remember when was the last time someone managed to shock and fascinate him within minutes of meeting.
“I have nothing and no one to live for.” The answer was uttered as a fact and the truth of it struck Sherlock so hard that he had to gather his thoughts before he continued. Emotions he hadn’t felt for decades surfaced as he felt the pain and overall bereavement of the man as if they were his own. They had been his own once... John deserved more than the ending Sherlock had initially wanted to offer him.
“If you could live as a whole man, with no wounds crippling you, would you want to?”
Silence fell between them for a moment, only the raspy breaths and groans filling the stale air of the room. John swallowed loudly before he opened his parched lips to speak again.
“That’s a fool’s dream.”
“What if it wasn’t?” It was Sherlock who was the fool, acting on impulse. He was intrigued and excited at the same time and was too far gone to stop himself now. “Indulge me.” He waited a moment more before he heard the dying man speak again.
“Yes.” The single syllable was whispered with dreamy wistfulness.
“Do you believe in fairy tales, John Watson?” Sherlock bared his fangs, making sure the soldier could see them. He didn’t flinch. Instead, his lips lifted in a smile.
“You’re an illusion, are you? A dream... I’ve gone mad.” The last words were spoken in almost a sing-song voice. The soft smile was self-deprecating and again, Sherlock felt an unexpected kinship form between them.
“Would you like to live forever, John?” Sherlock whispered right above John’s ear then licked the side of his neck in a languid slide of his tongue.
“As a whole man, yes.” There was no hesitation in John’s voice. It shouldn’t be enough for Sherlock, but it was. It was enough for him to make a decision he had never made before. “Ah!” The gasp of the soldier turned into a moan as the initial sting transformed into pleasure that was triggered by a vampire’s saliva.
Sherlock bit him swiftly, letting the rich blood explode on his tongue. As he sucked, he braced his arm on the other side of the soldier’s body, leaning his own above him until they were chest to chest, touching. The warmth of John’s body seemed to permeate his cold one, just as the richness of his blood fuelled him.
Sherlock drank, letting the copper taste of life spill in his mouth and down his throat. He could feel his tissues that should have been dead a century ago, now burst with a new dose of life. He groaned, stretching his muscles with minimal movement, letting the tingling sensation of life-prolonging blood work on his body.
The soldier’s body was pliantly giving up, his heartbeat slowing down, his arms holding onto Sherlock’s but not pushing away. He welcomed death, and that made Sherlock want to keep him alive even more, find out what was going on in that fascinating head of his.
Finally, he stopped when it was time to breathe life into the dying man. Reluctantly, Sherlock pulled his elongated canines out of the soft flesh of John’s neck and proceeded to lick the puncture wounds clean. The healing qualities of his saliva helped them close to stop the bleeding.
“Stay with me.” He whispered into John’s ear but the man’s eyes were struggling to remain open. “Soldier!” The word came out louder than it should have in the quiet of the field hospital. The soldier's wounded comrades stirred but none of them seemed to wake. John managed to open his eyes and Sherlock wasted no time. He ripped into his wrist with one of his fangs, slicing it to open the vein John had helped to fill just moments before. Placing the bleeding flesh above the soldier’s lips, he spoke again, calmly this time. “Drink.”
John grimaced and tried to move his head away when the first drops entered his mouth.
“Drink if you want to live as a whole man. That is what you want, isn’t it?”
In lieu of a reply, the soldier opened his mouth and licked the wrist bleeding above his mouth. Tentatively at first, soon he started sucking, his cracked lips holding onto the flesh as the crimson liquid healed his body.
Sherlock placed his other hand on John’s abdomen, feeling the bandages holding him together. His heightened senses let him feel the wound closing, the organs underneath his palm regenerating then transforming to adjust to the soldier’s future needs. As John grew in strength by the minute, he gripped the arm that fed him with both his hands, holding onto it as he kept sucking.
Sherlock had never brought anyone back before and he wasn’t sure when he should take his arm away. He knew the process in theory, had witnessed it several times as well, but most of what happened was based on instinct. He had to feel when John was healed enough and when the change in his body took place in order not to stop too quickly. If he failed, John's body might reject the change and he would die just as he would have if Sherlock had never interfered. He let the soldier drink his fill, registering the exhilarating sensation of being the donor which hadn’t felt for a long time. Not since he had been human and during his own process of turning.
The muscles of John’s body started to harden. Sherlock witnessed the change with fascination as he felt it take place under his palm and in the grip the man had on his arm. The success of the first stage of the change seemed imminent now, making Sherlock feel elated, determined, dizzy...
“Live, John...” came as a whisper from Sherlock’s lips. He swayed slightly as he started feeling faint, his vision becoming blurry. Refocusing on the man below him, he listened to his heartbeat. It was faint, dying. The barely-visible Zenith analogue watch on his free wrist showed 2:21 am when the last beat of John’s heart as a human sounded. It was stronger than the previous ones, marking the end of one life and the beginning of another. From now on, his heart would only beat once every twenty-four hours. “Enough.” Sherlock tried to pull his still-bleeding arm away but John was strong, holding onto it, sucking harder. “Stop, soldier!”
Hearing the command, John let go and Sherlock cursed under his breath as he took his arm away. John’s eyes rolled to the back of his head before they snapped open again, alert.
“What happened?” He said with bewilderment, sitting up so abruptly, the bed’s legs squeaked on the floor.
Disorientation was an expected side effect and initial reaction to the first stage of the change.
“It is very important that you listen to me now, Captain Watson.” Sherlock said after licking his wrist closed. John nodded, but couldn't keep himself from glancing around, the use of his military rank seemed to bring him to attention more efficiently than the sole use of his name had. “Focus on my voice and look at me, Captain.” John followed the instruction and nodded. “We have to leave instantly but we need to be quiet. Do you understand?” John nodded, his handsome, bloody face a macabre sight in the pale moonlight. “Can you stand up?” John swung his legs to the side and stood as the soldier he was, in a flash of movement. “Now, pick up your boots but carry them.” John nodded again and walked slowly, deliberately but in a stealth mode. The joints in his toes cracked as he moved but otherwise there was no sound to be heard from him. Only shallow, infrequent breaths the soldier didn’t yet know were unnecessary. Sherlock grabbed the dark-green duffel bag that lay on the ground next to the bed and took John’s arm to put it over his neck so he could support him.
John’s body was clearly accepting the change for now, but they were not out of the woods yet. His organs were still adjusting but he was already functioning at an unprecedented level. Sherlock had a feeling that John had always been able to accomplish remarkable things just thanks to his stubbornness alone. What must have happened to him then to make him seek the cold hands of death?
Twenty-two steps later, they were outside, the chilly night air hitting Sherlock’s face, the sand in the wind settling in his hair. John took a few more sure steps, then turned to Sherlock and pointed an index finger at him.
“You.” Was all he said before his face scrunched up in pain and he collapsed on the sand of the Afghan desert.