John was at work when he got the text.
Apprehending muggers. May need help.
How Sherlock could be in the process of fighting off muggers and still be able to text such a comprehensible statement, John had no idea. He didn't ponder on it long, adrenalin pumping and shadow of the fear he had felt that night not so long ago. He definitely didn't dwell on memories. Of getting a call that an unknown male had said his name before lapsing into unconsciousness. Realizing that they meant Sherlock. Watching the gritty feed on Mycroft's phone, still not knowing if the end result would be murder. Lestrade grimly naming names, not even attempting to deter Mycroft with talk of laws and procedures.
No one else was shown the video, except for Donovan and Anderson when they had come demanding an explanation for why one of the men who had gone into work the next morning, as though he was perfectly innocent of attempted murder the night before, had been dragged away by strangers with high clearance in handcuffs.
Donovan had had a few choice words after she saw the video. Even Anderson had looked decidedly pale and stopped speaking in his friend's defense. John's first, somewhat uncharitable thought was that Anderson had had a narrow shave; if he had gone drinking with his friend that night he might have been one of the ones being apprehended this morning. But that was unfair. He looked more sick than relieved, his hands clinching into fists. John had just wanted someone tangible to lash out at, and the ones he wanted to destroy were out of reach. It was just as well. He wasn't sure if he could descend as far as his fury might take him and still come out unscathed on the other side.
Sherlock was mending. He hadn't died then. He had woken up and known his own name, had the same sharpness in his eyes, the same personality. His limbs moved as they were meant to, though pained and clumsily for the moment.
In his dreams the beating didn't stop. He was always helpless, hours too late, watching through a lens. In his dreams grim faced doctors sadly shook their heads. In his dreams he was a doctor, and bullets flew, and he was always too late. Far better to face Sherlock's dreams, hold his hand, remind him what was real in the half shadowed twilight between sleep and awake, in the space Sherlock allowed comfort without reserve.
But he was mending. He was out of hospital and out of the sling, if not the cast, and he was meant to stay safe and bored at home while John worked. Not out and sending texts that he was about to be killed or beat up again. When John was too far away to help. Again.
It might cost him his job if he kept running away at a moment's notice. John ran anyway.
Finding out where Sherlock was took only a moment. If he had been Sherlock, he might have deduced it using a series of logical inferences of what he knew about Sherlock, Sherlock's limitations, and where he was likely to go. Being John, he did the sensible thing and tracked Sherlock's phone.
He called Lestrade on the way.
"Yes, I know, he texted me too," Lestrade answered, "I'm on my way now…do you know where he is exactly?" So John gave him the details. John got there first.
He didn't know what he was expecting. Perhaps to find Sherlock lying bleeding on the sidewalk or down some dark alley. Stabbed or shot or simply having had his head bashed in by a lead pipe. Beaten up, bones re-broken, bruised and bloody, so that doctors talk about chances and possible brain injuries and likelihoods of him pulling through.
Sherlock was in an alley. And he was bleeding, from a knife wound John guessed. John stared at the blood.
"Oh good, you came," Sherlock said from his position of sitting on top of another man.
"Help!" the man he was sitting on cried out hysterically, "This man's insane!" A second man was lying nearby, looking rather dazed and handcuffed to some metal grating.
"I don't suppose you have another pair of handcuffs? He is quite uncomfortable.
"He broke my fucking arm!" the squashed would-be mugger screamed. Sherlock frowned, looking down at him.
"You stabbed me," he pointed out, "And you made me drop the shopping."
"You went shopping?" John asked, feeling a bit giddy and dizzy at the same time. The cut was quite shallow across Sherlock's neck, and had by great fortune managed to avoid slicing through anything particularly vital; it didn't even look like it would need stitches. It had bled just enough to give Sherlock a macabre appearance, rather as though he had just been attacked by a vampire.
What-ifs and Almosts collided with the truth of what must have happened and suddenly John could not restrain a laugh. Sherlock stared at him as though fearing he had lost his mind. John wasn't sure that hypothesis was wrong.
"John, are you alright?" Sherlock asked.
"You never go shopping," was all John could think to say.
"Yes…well. See what happens when I do?" And then Sherlock was smiling too, a smile without hesitation or bitterness, the first real smile John had seen him wear in a long time. And for the first time in all the time that Sherlock had been healing, John understood that he would truly heal.
When Lestrade finally came to apprehend the two muggers, he didn't comment on the way they kept giggling. He didn't even ask where Sherlock had gotten the pair of handcuffs.
He did mention that he had a case that had been troubling him.
"Easy target, you said," the less dazed mugger grumbled as they were stowed away for a trip to the a&e before the station, "Look, he has a cast. Fucking weapon more like it, nearly bashed my brains in."
John gathered the shopping, which consisted of a broken carton of eggs, tea, tampons ("For a case," Sherlock had assured him when John had given him a look with a raised eyebrow), Ramón noodles, apples, and a box of biscuits.
"You forgot the milk again," John commented as he matched his gait to Sherlock's much slower than usual limp. It was slightly more pronounced than it had been, and John itched to check him over and to clean up the blood that was soaking into his shirt collar. They were getting more than a few odd looks as they went by. A few teenage girls were positively staring, something a bit disturbing in the way their eyes looked Sherlock up and down.
"No I didn't," Sherlock answered, "It broke when I threw it at the second mugger."
"Ah. That explains all the glass and why he was so wet." And the dazed expression, perhaps. The guy was probably lucky to not have been cut up on the glass.
Things weren't perfect after that. There were still nightmares, for both of them, and flinching, and even zoning at inopportune moments. But the bruises and cuts healed. The cast came off. John wasn't fired from his job after all.
And if Sherlock never found the world quite back to normal, the new normal did stop feeling wrong.