Lestrade may be the stupidest person alive in the opinion of the great Sherlock Holmes but Lestrade is where he is for a reason. All these little puzzles, all these games, going on around Sherlock but never touching anyone else – aside from those poor hostages– meant that this was a show for Sherlock; that this was either a madman appealing to Sherlock's fancies or else a madman wanting to watch Sherlock run. Maybe both. There is something malevolent here at any rate. That went without question.
So he keeps his eye on Sherlock's webpage. He has no idea what the Bruce- Partington plans are but he makes damn sure he clears everything else away and finds out what pool Sherlock could possibly be talking about. By the time he does, Lestrade knows he was slow about it. Sherlock would be rolling his eyes now and even John would be doing that thing where he shuts his eyes and sighs. Both expressions of annoyance at his density and both were beginning to actually be hurtful as well as motivating. So he arrives in time to see the place blow to high heaven and he stands there in stupefied wonder for a good minute before he calls for the ambulance and for back up. It's not really an order or a request, he note. It's more like some sort of strange noise that is somewhere beyond primal.
In the meantime he rushes like madman into the wreck, gun out and ready to blast whomever caused this into the next universe. No sign. Nothing and no one. No sound either. He cautiously steps back, thinking that there is a pool in all this mess and the last thing he needs is to fall into it. He wants to start digging through the rubble looking for Sherlock – and quite likely John – but doesn't want to move anything at the risk of further harming them. No one could have rushed out of that explosion. It happened too quickly. They're here alright. Lestrade tiptoes as carefully, as reverently, as he can until he's outside of the blast area. The cavalry arrives as this point and he follows them in.
They find John first. He's face down and covered in blood. The blood is coming from his head – top part of the back – and his breathing sounds like an old man's. There's blood coming from his chest as well. When the EMTs turn him over, carefully as anything Lestrade as ever seen, his breathing seems to stop for a moment. Then great heaving gasps come from the unconscious man, determined ones, like he's fighting for every breath; judging by the blood on his left side that seems to be an accurate assumption. John doesn't wake. The neck brace and spine board appear at the same time as the intubation kit. Broken ribs, sucking chest wound, other things that Lestrade doesn't hear because now they've found Sherlock with no vitals.
Sherlock always looked too pale to be alive but now he's even worse. The harsh contrast of his white skin with his red blood make him look more like a work of art than a potential, probable, corpse. His left arm is hanging down lower than it ought. Dislocated most likely. That is being ignored along with an impressive bleed above his left eye that is while they perform CPR. Lestrade stands riveted to the bleed. Dead man can't bleed, Lestrade tells himself. Dead man can't bleed.
The AED finally arrives and four shocks later and they've got a pulse and some respiration. Lestrade looks back toward John to find them carrying him toward the ambulance. They're pumping air into him with a bag and another team is coming out with a stretcher for Sherlock. He's surprised that no one has reported to him from his people. Maybe Donovan's holding them off. Must remember to buy her tea or something. Did she take sugar or was that his mother?
"Shot bomb vest," someone is saying in his ear. "There's a gun not lying far from Holmes. Looks like they were trying to blow someone else up before someone blew them up." One of Lestrade's people walks by with a rather hilarious looking parka with a bomb vest inside. It looks about John's size.
The bastard had taken John and Sherlock had gone to stop him. They'd really caught his attention then, Lestrade observed. Sherlock had a weakness now. Whoever was responsible for this knew that now.
Whoever was responsible also may not know that they were alive. It becomes suddenly clear that he has to keep it that way. He rushes to his car and nearly knocks over Donovan. He barks at her to tell the press nothing, not even if anyone was in the building, and leaps into the vehicle.
Sherlock Holmes, to the best of his knowledge, has no family and no friends. John Watson, if he remembers correctly, has a few acquaintances and a sister. He'd kick himself for it later but they couldn't be told about John's condition. He'd leave a note at the Yard to forward all reports of John as a missing person to him.
That was what he'd do for now. At least until they both woke up and was told what to do next.
The first thing that Lestrade did upon setting toe in St. Bart's was to ensure that the wounded pair would get their own room. They have to spend at least the night in the ICU but he wants it sorted now. The staff complied with keeping them partitioned off from the other patients and Lestrade had toyed with the idea of posting a watch on them but dismissed it as too obvious. The hospital staff aren't pleased about him demanding a room but he assures the head nurse that she'll thank him later. Woe befall anyone who would keep Sherlock in a room away from John should he wake up first. In fact, Lestrade thinks, John would probably not deal with it too well either. He'd be quieter about it to be sure but certainly his own sort of thorn in the sides of everyone involved in his care. They did say that doctors made the worst patients after all. He orders no contact for medical proxies but Sherlock has no one listed and neither does John. Not surprising on either end. Sherlock wouldn't allow anyone to make decisions for him, no matter what state of consciousness he was it, and Lestrade wouldn't want Harry Watson in control of his health either from what he gathers from scattered memories of John shouting on his mobile or angrily shutting it off mid ring.
It's hours before he's allowed in to see them. Two matching gauze wrapped heads are propped up in matching beds with matching sets of machines informing a dishevelled police inspector that they would live to fight another day. Sherlock looks just as – oh God he can't believe he's thinking this – gorgeous as he had in the rubble. His left arm is slung tightly but securely to his chest and he breathes unassisted. John looks much better. If you were to disregard the fact that a machine was breathing for him, that there was a tube coming out of his chest to drain the fluid in his lung, that his left arm was burned, fingers splayed a part to keep them from sticking together...
Okay, so he didn't look normal at all. He looked like a wounded soldier.
But his heart is still beating and Lestrade can't forget the sound of what passed for breathing from John's lips back at the site. It had sounded awful and it had sounded painful. It probably would have been easier to stop but he hadn't. John knew how to survive, which meant that he knew how to not die. Thank God for that. He grown fond of him over the past few months and God knew what Sherlock would do if John died.
That being said, the same went for the other possibility as well. John knew how to survive and he also knew how to ensure that other people did not. Lestrade, again, wasn't sure which eventuality was worse. It was a good thing that according to what was in front of him and what he had been told that both men would make full recoveries. Neither would be impressed but they'd deal with it. Or rather John would deal with it since Lestrade could not picture Sherlock keeping his arm in that sling for long. Or keeping still or quiet.
Wake up, lads, he thinks. He could conjure up what they'd say and what they'd do all he wanted but it was only a shadow, a ghost of the pair of them.
He pulls up a chair. He doesn't want a guard but he still wants to keep watch. One friend standing watch wasn't all that obvious or unusual. What was unusual was that it seemed that Sherlock Holmes had two friends instead of one. He was getting on in the world
Mycroft Holmes arrived at St. Bart's at half nine the next morning. He was annoyed at having to be there but he was certainly not going to leave the security of his brother in the hands of Scotland Yard. When Lestrade had found him he hadn't believed him when he said he was Sherlock's brother. It was only when he'd deduced Lestrade's background based on the make of his jacket that he'd seen reason. It was a disgusting parlour trick but it had its uses and this one was more tenacious than Mycroft had expected. He could have simply flashed about the fact that he was the government but he saved that one for later. He informed Lestrade that the building was under watch, from outside and within, and that no potential assassins were in the area and were anywhere near likely to get in if they were. The good man had the good sense not to complain. He liked this one, he decided. He was silent and compliant because he was in this as a friend and not as an infuriated DI whose cases repeatedly were stomped on by an amateur detective and his ex-army doctor friend.
Friend. Used twice for two different people in relation to Sherlock. What a poor time for Sherlock to gain weakness. Morarity was the type that would burn everything – people, places, things, hearts, souls, whatever – to reach his goal. As he looked at the determination in this police officer's eyes, he recalled the first time he'd met John Watson. He took back the word weakness to describe their relationships to Sherlock. They were a way to Sherlock, John especially and Mycroft knew beyond a doubt now that Sherlock would surrender for him, but John would not allow Sherlock to surrender quietly. Nor would he surrender himself. The fact that he refused to inform on Sherlock when he'd known him for a day said plenty.
John's hand was known, and that had to be known as well to Morarity. Mycroft was not concerned as much as he could be. Sherlock didn't have friends almost as a general rule but Mycroft found himself almost glad for these. If Lestrade was half the man that John appeared to be then this Moriarty business might just be a surmountable obstacle after all.
He leaves without visiting his brother but does spare a glance at John as he passes by. "Keep him safe," he thinks.
John's fingers twitch.
Three days after the blast John starts fighting the breathing tube. It takes three nurses to hold him down so they can remove it. John coughs and sputters and hacks and heaves. Then he flops back on the pillows as though nothing happened. Vitals are surprisingly stable and sleeps on as though the whole thing had never happened. Lestrade sits by his bed for a good three hours waiting for him to wake up. He doesn't.
"Quit having me on, John."
He thinks he hears Sherlock's disdainful snort but the man hasn't moved in three days. Just on the hope, Lestrade looks to see if he has.
Later that afternoon Sherlock opens one eye, mutters something that sounds like 'are you alright?' and then repeats it a lot more urgently before passing out again. On Sherlock's left, in the other bed, John's head moves. It looks like a nod but no one is there to see it.
The light is blinding so he shuts his eyes again. Sherlock had decided that it was time to get out of the dark but, really, this was too much. He doesn't know how long he's been out but he knows it in his bones that now's the time to open his eyes, bright lights or no. How he'd gotten into this state eludes him for the time being but it will come. He knows enough to not push. The pounding in his head does not permit it.
He opens his eyes again, this time a little slower, allowing the light in gradually. The data filters through his brain. The tiles and the colour of the walls tell him he is at St. Bart's. He is a patient here, obviously. This is a semi private room on the same floor as ICU, which implies that whatever had happened had been somewhat serious. He takes a survey of himself: some minor head trauma and a dislocated shoulder, the left one to be precise. It is slung across his chest securely but comfortably. There are some other scrapes and some minor burns he can feel but they are not pressing. The combination and pattern of those wounds suggest a bombing. He had been dealing with a bomb before he'd woken up hadn't he?
His memory kicks in. He has been waiting for this. He remembers being at the pool where Carl Powers had died, watching John step out of a change-stall wearing a hideous parka and a vest decorated with explosives. He remembers John speaking words that aren't his. He remembers Moriarty's dramatics and laughter and his promise to burn the heart out of him if he didn't stand down. He remembers saying he does have one and Moriarty saying that he's wrong. He knows that Moriarty's right.
In his head Moriarty is leaving again with a taunt that Sherlock will not catch him later. He remembers dropping the gun carelessly to the floor and ripping the parka and the vest off of John, demanding to know if he was alright and getting a breathless and slightly unconvincing affirmative.
John stumbles and says something about being glad no one saw that. Saw what?
You ripping my clothes off in a darkened swimming pool. People might talk.
"People do little else," he whispers to the empty room as he remembers that this room is a semi private one. There's one chair across the room, by the door, positioned slightly to the left of him. More or less in what had to be the middle between two beds. Whomever had been sitting there, Sherlock had to deduce Lestrade at this point, had not been only visiting him.
"John?" He calls it a call in his head but really it's more of a sleepy mumble. Disuse and exhaustion. Perhaps some smoke inhalation as well. Debris from the explosion...
Shut up! He orders himself for what must be the first time in his life. Shut up, shut up, shut up and turn your head!
He rolls his head carefully to his left, which is both awkward and painful , but manages it without his head exploding. There lays his blogger, who is looking rather alright for himself. He's got a bandage wrapped across his head to match Sherlock's own and an arm bandaged up with fingers splayed apart on his chest. Burns, probably second degree ones. Fingers are separated to keep them from sticking together. His breathing sounds normal but he sees the scar on his side (pneumothorax doubtlessly) and when he looks over John he can see the respirator off to the side.
His heart clenches.
I will burn the heart out of you.
Not out, never out. John Watson knew how to not die. He really shouldn't have doubted him. Despite that thought Sherlock can't help but be relieved at the sight of him, as though it was highly likely that only one of them might have lived.
He clears his throat. "John?" he tries again, louder this time. John flinches, his good arm reaching out toward the sound of voice. He's trying to wake up but he can't. He's seen this look before. Any sedatives or painkillers are mostly out of his system but waking up is going to be a bit of a challenge, especially since Sherlock is too far away to touch him or shake him. "John," he says again, urgently. "Are you alright?" He almost adds 'I need to know' but catches himself.
" 'm fine," John grunts immediately. "Little woozy is all," he reports as he finally manages to crack his eyes open. He, like Sherlock had minutes earlier, slams them shut immediately. "Oh God," he groans. "Turn the lights down, would you?"
"Can't," Sherlock answers. He doesn't trust his legs at the moment.
John mumbles something else and then opens his eyes. He shuts them again. "Bloody Bart's," he grunts. He tries to force himself up to a better sitting position but stops when he takes into account his hand. "Ow," he objects distantly as he uses the good one to fiddle with the controls on the side of his bed. He opens his eyes again and this time he keeps them open. "Much better," he decrees. He shifts and bites his lip for a moment and looks down at his left side, peels back the bandage a bit to have a look. "Nice," he praises with a nod of his head. "That explains a bit." He sees the respirator in the corner. "Yep. Definitely explains a bit." He massages his throat.
This is too much for even Sherlock to bear. John is describing major injuries with all the disinterest of going through a grocery list. He is so cavalier about the fact that he'd almost died – again – because of Sherlock that he wants very badly to get up off the bed and thrash him as hard as he thrashes corpses in the morgue. He has no right to act this way and when John finally his comments in mid word he realises that he must have shouted at him. He believes it was 'stop it!' but can't be sure.
John has often complained about Sherlock staring at him, at unravelling him with his eyes. It's not the first time he's heard this complaint so he's ignored it like he has every other one he's ever received. Seeing John looking at him with what he must imagine is a similar look is uncomfortable. He wants to look away, he very badly wants to look away. He doesn't though, just like John never does.
"Are you alright?" John asks. Not a difficult question or an unusual one, but this one warns Sherlock that only the truth will be accepted and that it will be known and remembered if he lies. He's getting better and better at that. It's as unsettling as it is pleasing.
"I'm sorry," John apologises after what feels like ages of silence. "I didn't mean to upset you." He gently shifts so Sherlock can't see the bandage on his side and moves his burnt arm away from view as well. He holds up the good hand when Sherlock begins to object. "It doesn't really hurt," he assures him, Sherlock is confident that that's a bit of fib. "Anyway, I want you to look at me and not that."
Sherlock has no choice but to comply. Flickers of memory dance across his vision as he remembers being thrown away from the blast, knocked backwards and away from John as the other man flew forwards, trying to turn and roll and somehow brace himself. No time and too close despite running for it. The walls and roof and floor were coming at them. Sherlock feels the sting of the shrapnel again and winces, eyes shutting despite himself.
"Look at me." John's gentle reminder pulls him back to the present. "We're alive. The rest doesn't matter now."
"You could have died." He knows it's both ridiculous and irrelevant to them both the second he says it. It still needs to be said. He needs to prove that he has a heart, if only to John, to show that he does give a damn about human life (sometimes). At least he does when it's John's life.
"You could have as well," John reminds in the same tone of voice. "But we didn't. Neither of us died."
"You shouldn't have been there," is what Sherlock says aloud. What he says in his head is 'I should never have involved you.'
"Bit late for that." John's getting better at this part too. Sherlock feels a slight swell of pride there. John Watson's depths used to seem so shallow. Now it seemed that there is much more there than Sherlock ever could have anticipated. "I'm with you, Sherlock," he continues. "Do you understand? No matter what."
That's what he was afraid of. He's grateful and happy for it, yes, but also so terribly afraid. Personal injury and sudden death means nothing to John. He gets off on it the same way that Sherlock does with his puzzles and his murders. They go hand in hand now. Together until their mad ways, and growing co-dependency, finally kills one or both of them off. Then where would they be?
"We'll beat him, Sherlock." John says. "We'll burn the heart out of him yet."
He doesn't want to hear that phrase again. "I do not believe he has one."
"Then we'll burn him until we find it." John smirks. It's almost demonic. He wonders how many Taliban fled from that face. "Or at least I will. I mean, he did almost kill you and I think I've made it clear that I don't take kindly to that sort of thing,"
Sherlock remembers a bullet flying through a window and into a murderous cabbie along with the causal stance of his new flatmate from behind the police tape. Sherlock nods. "So noted." He thinks about leaving it there but decides to add to it. "I don't appreciate it either. With you mean. I don't appreciate or take kindly to people trying to kill you." This would be the last time, probably, that they'd ever speak of it. He wants it out there for John to remember the next time he does something stupid to him, like leave him locked out of a flat he's investigating, again. He also doesn't know when he'll have the nerve to admit something this huge, this personal, ever again.
John, thankfully, doesn't make a fuss. He simply nods his head in reverent thanks and buzzes for the nurse. "I'm so hungry I'd even take hospital food," he explains.
Sherlock, to his surprise, finds himself agreeing. "Does being blown up frequently cause this reaction?"
"I think it's more the several days that we've been out than that, but yeah it sort of does." John smiles again, blasé again. This time, Sherlock doesn't mind.
John regretted ringing the bell the second the nurses came in. They were conscious and were staying that way and that meant checks. They both had head wounds so that meant the boring questions like what's your name – full name; first middle and last please – what colour your eyes were and who the Prime Minister was. While John tiredly answered the general knowledge questions, Sherlock was having some difficulty. John was the only one in the room who understood that this wasn't a brain issue, not really anyway. He cleared his throat, downed the water that had been left for him, and then barked an order for the nurse to give Sherlock her wristwatch. The nurse raised an eyebrow and cautiously took it off and handed it to Sherlock.
For a man of Sherlock's intellect, it took a few seconds more for him to clue in to what John wanted him to do. When his eyes finally told him that he got it his raised eyebrow said 'are you sure?' while the glint in his eyes said 'her or her husband?'
The other nurse started to object but John somehow managed to silence him. "You tell me that he's got neurological damage after this." He turned his attention back to Sherlock, feeling like a friend giving another friend a dare as well as an army doctor giving order in a medical tent under siege, and told him to tell the woman about herself based on the watch.
What did happen was the nurse who owned the wrist watch fled the room in a fit of anger while the other one threw some collection of obscenities at John. "Not brain damaged though, is he?" was all John said in response to that and his assailant stormed out without another word.
"Not that brain damage would do you in," John informs Sherlock while the other man tries to adjust his bed to something a little more upright. "A bit of brain damage might put you down to my level."
Sherlock snorts. "Give yourself a touch more credit. Brain damage would put me on par with Anderson." He shudders theatrically and cringes like he's eaten something rotten and John snorts out his laughter. The image of Sherlock Holmes going about purposely attempting to lower the IQ of all the streets in London is so vivid that no other reaction is possible. "Though," Sherlock muses, oblivious to what is in John's head, "perhaps you've sustained some yourself. That demonstration was uncharacteristically malicious of you."
John rolls his eyes. "Firstly, I didn't know that her husband was the other nurse and that he was having an affair – "
"You didn't know but you certainly suspected that I'd see something – "
"And secondly it was the fastest possible way to keep them from moving you to neurology and then moving you back once they realised that you're selectively ignorant and not suffering from amnesia."
There is a moment where John knows Sherlock wants to protest but he decides, oddly enough, to keep quiet. He mutters something that sounds like 'much obliged' eventually and John gives him a half hearted salute from his bed.
"They'll let us out in a few days," John thinks aloud. "You're pretty much fine and they just want to make sure my chest doesn't start leaking again. They might even let you go first."
Sherlock glares at him with the look he reserves for the hopelessly stupid. "I'm not going without you. The last time you went somewhere without me you ended up with C4 strapped to you."
He was going for an emotional response but he wasn't going to get one, John decides. "True," he agrees easily. "Hang around then. We're probably going to have to go into hiding anyway, aren't we?"
"Possibly. Not enough data at present to determine whether Moriarty knows we've survived or not. Certainly Mycroft – or even Lestrade – refused to allow any relations of yours to be contacted."
"How would Mycroft know then?"
"Mycroft knows everything. He will most certainly be visiting us before the day is out. Lestrade following soon after I'd imagine."
"Hmm." John finds himself strangely calm during all this. Here they are chatting about playing dead and taking Moriarty down from Lord knew where while Mrs. Hudson, Harry, and certainly Sarah think that they've died or have fallen off the face of the earth. It's no real loss, he finds himself thinking. Mrs. Hudson probably has always expected something like this, Harry is too wrapped up in her alcoholism to think much about other people and, really, he doesn't know how much longer Sarah would've stuck around with all the abductions, death threats, and dates that turned into unexpected-but –not-really-unexpected dates with Sherlock. He is going to be a bachelor forever if he remains Sherlock's friend and assistant and he is also strangely okay with that, too. He is strangely okay with a lot of things since walking out onto that pool deck. Nothing like a near death experience to mellow someone out, it seemed. One that wasn't a part of a war at any rate.
"You thought I was Moriarty for a second there didn't you?" he asks suddenly. He remembers the look in Sherlock's eyes like he'd seen the most complex thing ever to walk to planet. That and it had also looked as though his heart had shattered in his chest.
"I thought no such thing," is Sherlock's natural reply.
A few weeks ago, that might have worked. "Liar," John laughs gently. "I saw that look on your face. 'John, what the hell?' You didn't know what was what until I opened the parka."
Sherlock is silent. "For a moment, yes," he finally admits. "Does that bother you?" He's curious and not hurt, that's a good thing.
John shakes his head. "No, it's actually almost a compliment. Thinking I'd be able to fool you while living with you all this time, I mean."
Sherlock hums merrily to himself, eyes shut now and matching John's pose of the one good hand resting behind his head. He is pondering that idea, John knows. Living with a criminal mastermind, even a covert one, would probably be much more interesting than living with a stress addicted ex-army doctor.
"Perish the thought," comes Sherlock's expected interjection. "You're much more entertaining."
"Because you don't need to compete with me, you mean."
"I wasn't actually going to say that aloud so please remember that when you choose to use this conversation as blackmail later."
"And I am actually considering going into hiding with you because...?"
"If you don't keep your voice down it won't be hiding at all."
He knows that very well but he wants to get out there. Wants to get out there with Sherlock and bring this madman down. There were all the lives he's ruined that had to be atoned for but there was also the threat to his and Sherlock's lives that he deeply wanted to make Moriarty answer for. He is getting quite sick of being seen as a weak link to Sherlock. He knows he isn't quite as great a man as Sherlock Holmes but he considers himself enough of a man to stand at his side and fight the good fight with him.
"Tomorrow," Sherlock announces suddenly. "Hopefully tonight," he amends with the feel of a promise. "Mycroft will see to it."
John nods then shuts his eyes. Time to get all the rest he can, then. He knows he's not going to be getting much for a while and cannot wait for it all to begin.
"We really are bad for each other you know, Sherlock?" He should feel bad about that. Sherlock's addiction to the game feeds his own addiction to danger. It works the other way as well.
"A touch," Sherlock agrees without a hint of remorse. "Still planning to come with me?"
"Oh God, yes." He means it to be a lot more enthusiastic but it ends up as a rather cheerful yawn instead. "What a stupid question."
Sherlock laughs. He doesn't disagree.