Disclaimer: I own nothing
The first thing there is, before you can bring yourself to open your eyes and before the endless ringing in your ears stops, is the smell. The smell.
You pride yourself on your olfactory senses, as it's more often than one would think that it's the smell of something – a sense that everyone overlooks just because it's not glaringly obvious, and in your experience, it's simply too much to expect for people to just try and see beyond that – that is the clue that fits all the others together, that shapes the glorious puzzle pieces into a singular story. But now your sense of smell is nothing short of a curse. It assaults your nostrils with things like damp and decay and dust and blood, and you weren't in Afghanistan, not like John, but you suspect that if you'd been with him in the middle of that god forsaken desert, this is what it would smell like. It smells like a war, and it pushes itself onto you with the strength of an invading nation.
War. That's it, isn't it? You're in a war.
You almost laugh, but then you remember that half a building is currently resting on top of you and you refrain from expressing your incredulity. You're not a soldier like John, and you'll certainly never be the silent man behind the curtain of battle and government and lies like Mycroft, yet here you are, on a battlefield. "With Sherlock Holmes you see the battlefield", isn't that something John had once muttered to himself, on a particularly gruesome night of trying to repair the cracks that criminals made in your city? Well, you think, here you are. Here you are.
You've never imagined dying on a battlefield, but you don't find that it especially upsets you.
No, it's more the dying (and this part is hard to even think out loud, because it really shouldn't bother you so much)…alone. Yes, you're Sherlock Holmes, and you don't want to die alone. No one's here and you still feel shamed by the thought (the weakness).
You breathe in (damp, mould, the building was decrepit, but not in danger of falling down. Or at least, not until you got here) and out (death, no one's dead here, not yet anyway, but the smell still fills your nostrils, burning into them the scents of death and blood and WAR).
And you open your eyes.
You see, but you don't understand.
This night which was supposed to be a quiet evening at the flat has now turned itself into a symphony of slamming doors and arguments that press themselves against the four walls of 221B and threaten to spill out into the street.
John is yelling at you and you don't know why.
Well. That's not actually true, is it? You know why. It's because of those silly morals of his, because you've once again done something wrong just by being yourself. You're not entirely sure what you've said that upset him so, but now he's shouting and you wish he'd stop, because it was going to be such a nice night before he went and got all holier than thou on you.
So yes. You know why he's upset, but you can't even begin to understand (you never seem to understand).
You look up from where you've been staring at the strings on your violin for the past ten minutes. You haven't been playing. John's orchestra of lecturing is more than able to take the place of your instrument's melody.
John looks tired. That's a deduction (bags around his eyes, slumped figure, and you know for a fact that he hasn't been getting nearly enough sleep), but it's also something you can tell just from having become attuned to who John is. You could have your eyes closed right now and you'd still know he's exhausted. He's just come from the kitchen and is clutching a messy blender in his hand, but, he doesn't seem to realise he's still holding onto it.
He's expecting you to say something.
You stare at your violin.
You hate disappointing John.
But there is nothing to say.
Opening your eyes is easier said than done. They're heavy and stuck shut, reluctant, and it's disturbingly tempting to just lie there and not bother with them at all.
But you need to see. You can't go on with only the scent of casualties weaving their way through your mind; you need to be distracted by something, anything.
Sight seems like the best option for such a distraction, but that's until you open your eyes.
You see nothing.
Sight is perhaps the most vital of all of your senses. On a normal day it slams you with more information then you could ever hope to store on your hard drive: colors, shapes, people, faces, numbers, letters, data, data, data. But within the chaos are the simplistic facts that you weave into an intricate truth, the information that you're able to turn over in your mind until it makes something new.
You see darkness.
You're not afraid of the dark.
(when you were little and naïve and dependant, so so long ago, you used to huddle under your blankets because there was nothing but darkness and the rush of your mind, with nothing to latch onto, to focus on, and it was just a stream of endless thoughts and black. No one knows this and no one ever will)
You've never been much afraid of anything, though this situation is certainly enough to have aroused your concern.
Your eyes slowly adjust, but it's not much of an improvement. Around you is the skeleton of a building, tumbled from its perch in what used to be a popular part of town, but is now nothing more than a graveyard for the flimsy memories formed here.
And now it was a graveyard for you apparently.
You smirk, despite your predicament. Literary parallels. Wouldn't John be proud.
You close your eyes and suck in a deep breath, and when you open them again, you've pushed John Watson from your mind and replaced him with facts, cold hard facts that might be able to get you out of this mess.
You were on the roof when it collapsed. The building wasn't stable (obviously), and you can remember falling, falling, and smells and darkness and John and-
You were wrong about the stability of the building. Fact one.
From where you're lying down you can see bits of ceiling and floor scattered around you, and it really wouldn't be that much trouble to stand up and get out of here, maybe call an ambulance and get one of those hideous shock blankets (not that you're in shock, but it's cold here and you think you have a concussion and you want to go home).
You want to see more, you need more data, more information, but you can't really move your neck. You think this might be a problem.
But even hopelessly blinded by your own infirmity, you can still see how completely screwed you are. You can see the heavy (so very heavy) pieces of rubble adorning your chest, slowly pressing down to rid you of the oxygen you're just now realising is getting very hard to breathe.
There's nowhere to look but up, and you see stars. You've created a skylight in this place with your fall, and now the night floods in, rushing to fill the empty space. The sky is dark, which is odd since you seem to remember there being a sliver of light on the horizon when you arrived here. Which means you've been unconscious for quite some time.
There are hardly any stars in the London sky, but you seek out what few there are and wonder what their names are. Maybe John would know.
You can see blood.
You smelled it earlier and it's burning your nostrils right at this moment, but now it's right in plain view, making a big, ugly stain on the sleeve of your jacket. You frown, because you really like that jacket. And then you frown because you're not sure how close to your artery that wound is, but judging by the spread of color slowly crawling along your arm, the answer is, pretty damn close.
It's at a strange angle, your arm. It's spread out carelessly to one side, just within your range of vision, limp and unmoving. You don't need your extensive studies of anatomy to know that an arm isn't supposed to look that way. You look at it curiously, because it should hurt, but you don't feel it. You can't feel anything.
You can feel pressure though, you realise as you examine the area more closely. There's a piece of ceiling on your arm. It's heavy and uncomfortable.
You try to move your arm, because you're plagued by curiosity about your condition and because the pressure of the chunk of building resting on your arm isn't pleasant at all, and because as John once said, you're an idiot.
There was nothing before, but now you're filled with it, filled to the brim, and you're drowning in it.
You feel pain.
It begins innocently, as all things do, but as they never end.
You're talking, fast, excited, elated. High on it all. You're so caught up in the game (because that's all life is, one great game) that you don't even notice that John has fallen silent. He's generally a quiet man and it's hard to get a word in when you're in this sort of mood, so it's not out of the norm for him to not contribute to this one sided conversation.
It's only when you finally turn his way to further impress him with your genius that you are hit by the sound of his silence.
He's standing in the kitchen, looking down at the blender as if searching for an answer. He's been struggling with that damn thing all night, but you can't be bothered to remember why. There's a small smoothie stain on his front, from where he spilt the liquid on himself. The mixture sits slumped in the blender, unappetizing, and you wrinkle your nose at it. He should be cursing and slapping the kitchen appliance, as he is prone to do when it doesn't work, but he says nothing.
You stand there for a moment, perplexed. Have you done something, said something to offend him? You're never quite sure with John. Some things trigger his morals as if they were mines, whereas the actions that some would see as freakish are passed off as just another thing that comes with having the world's only consulting detective as a flatmate. You can never tell which reaction will be the one to come up, and quite frankly you're not sure John ever knows either. You've been making a mess of his morals for the past few months, blurring his lines of black and white.
You should probably feel sorry for that, but you don't.
It makes sense that you don't. You're a sociopath. Feelings not included, no assembly required, no way to troubleshoot you or fix you or make you "right".
John knows this, he understands this, yet he likes to hold on to the belief that it's not true. Again, you'd feel sorry for him, but he deserves such disappointment if he insists on hoping for the impossible.
John. The man looks quiet and solemn, and then he breaks his own silence and fills it with the beginning of what would become your fight. But you don't know that yet. Everything is still innocent; everything is still only a beginning. No consequences have yet to unfold because there aren't any right now.
"Do you…even care that people are dying because of this murderer?" John finally says.
You blink. You're not sure you understand. John is a relatively smart man, or at least, he's not entirely idiotic like the rest of London. Why ask a question he already knows the answer to?
Caring. Caring is a flimsy and inaccurate term, with no suitable form of measurement, no clear definition. There's not even any sort of scale to determine the proper amount of caring. It's all arbitrary at best.
Muddled waters for people who prefer clean, black and white thoughts, who cannot even begin to think about going outside of the restraints they put on their minds with words like "caring."
You know the answer to John's question. So does John, as a matter of fact. Yet he hopes for the humanity in you. He wants you to say some sort of sentiment that you both know would be a lie.
This time you are sorry.
But the answer, John, is no.
You don't care.
Touch is a double edged sword among senses. It's not the tactile sense itself that scares the average person, but rather its darker, less merciful side. You speak of pain. You know that scientifically speaking, pain is a vital thing. It tells the idiot who puts their hand on the stove that maybe it's not such a wondrous idea after all. These are the sort of people who would have been sorted out by natural selection long ago, you think, if society allowed such things anymore.
Pain is nothing more than a necessary evil, and you, as a scientist (of sorts) know that.
But that doesn't stop you from wanting to wish away the agony in your arm that is spreading like wildfire throughout your entire being. That knowledge isn't enough to stem the signals going up your arm that are telling you that this was not a wondrous idea after all, going up on the roof of a rotting building.
John would call you an idiot again if he were here.
At the moment you're inclined to agree with him. The rush of pain you've given yourself just by the movement of your arm is enough to make you see stars (they join the ones already in the sky and you absently think that their dancing makes you dizzy). You're breathing heavily again, with this new addition of pain, and it almost feels like you're underwater, oxygen becoming thick and sluggish in the air. Hard to breathe.
You're growing lightheaded, but you need to get back under control. You can't survive with this wretched stream of consciousness thinking and mindless pain. You need to think. Panic is for the helpless. You aren't helpless, and you never will be.
The thought crosses your mind that it would be nice to have John in this sort of situation though. He was an army doctor, and since you are on a battlefield and you very much need medical assistance, he would come in handy now.
And though this is hard to admit, you may even need him.
You hate yourself for it thinking that. You don't need John; you've never needed anyone, nor will you ever need someone.
You close your eyes and get your breathing, get the pain, under control. It's now only a dull, monotonous throbbing, which is manageable, for now. You resolve not to move that arm again, because if another wave of pain comes, you're not sure if you'll be able to hang onto consciousness. You're having enough trouble doing that as it is.
It's cold. You weren't aware of the weather before, cloaked in your heavy jacket and scarf, but it's cold. This is a London autumn, so it's not as if you're surprised, but the chill you feel goes beyond what it should be. This is a chill that's set deep into your bones, the kind of lingering feeling that never lets your forget your discomfort, that reminds you as often as it can of its callous ice. It makes you add hypothermia to your growing list of concerns. The temperature has settled into your being, soaking your coat, your skin, your face. You're freezing.
You wish you had one of John's jumpers.
John is always warm. It's a strange thing about the man. No matter where you and he go, John always seems to radiate heat. On a cold day, you are unashamed to stand close to John, to see if you can absorb some of his warmth. In the interest of the second law of thermodynamics, or so you tell him. But now you would openly admit it's the comfort of his heat you seek, if he would only provide you some of that warmth in return.
There's the chill, and there's dull pain, but there's also the feeling of nothing. Your body seems to have grown numb from the elements, from lying here in this pit for god knows how long. Quite frankly, you're not sure if you can move your stiff limbs, even if you wanted to.
You're tired. You've been awake for this particular case for…a few days at least. You can't seem to remember exactly how long. It's all very jumbled.
You're not used to succumbing to your exhaustion, though it feels like you might at any minute now. It would be a relief, even, to close your eyes, but you know you have to keep them open, have to stay awake.
You breathe in, though it's a laborious task, and you can taste blood.
Your answer upsets John. You're not surprised.
"No, of course you don't care, silly me for thinking you would," John sighs.
"I'm amazed that you continue to be disappointed in my emotional capabilities after all this time, John," you say, and you're pleased to hear that your voice comes out unaffected by this whole thing. If anything, you sound bored. Though you often sound bored, because you often are bored, as every day life insists on being steadily mundane.
"Emotional capabilities? Wha- Sherlock!" he cries, walking towards you, the blender still in his hand. "I don't know if it's escaped your attention, but this isn't one of your experiments. This is real, and real people are involved."
"Things rarely escape my attention, John," you say icily. John still sounds angry, and it's tiring you. How long can he go on harping like this? Not too much longer, surely? Though with John you have no doubt that he possess the will to keep going until he's satisfied that you display the "proper" amount of caring. The idiot.
You decide to cut this short.
You sigh, convincingly apologetic and ashamed in that one breath. "You're right, John. Of course you're right. But I can't solve the case if I think about how these," you take an almost, but not quite shuddering breath here, "people are in danger. You understand, don't you?"
That act would have won you an award any other time, or would have at least been enough to convince John to lay off, if John didn't know you so well. That's the trouble of becoming close with someone, you suppose. Then they know you, and that causes all sorts of difficulties. John knows how fake you truly sound right now and he frowns.
"Bravo," John says dully, "a great performance, Sherlock. Really, you almost had me convinced."
You wipe away your expression of sorrow and guilt so that it's your usual blank slate. "Don't be sarcastic, John, it really doesn't suit you," you say curtly, placing your violin on the floor.
You're frustrated though. You've given John remorse and he's still not appeased. You wonder which character you'd have to play, which emotion you'd need to dredge up for him to be satisfied. You've never had to disguise yourself with John – he knows who you are, and strangely enough he wouldn't change that – but now you find yourself searching for just the right thing to say that will make John happy again, so you can both investigate this building.
You come up with nothing. This is puzzling. You're always sure of what part to play, sure of how you need to act to get what you want. But you don't know what John is asking of you, you don't know what he wants. You can't understand, as bloody usual, and it's annoying.
"I don't know what you want from me," You say honestly, but it comes out colder than you intended.
John pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs.
"No. Of course you don't."
The scent of your blood has been taunting you ever since you came back to consciousness, and for almost as long as that you've been able to see it, mocking you as it drenches your sleeve. You've been able to feel it damp against your skin, warm at first, but then betraying you as it absorbs the cold in the air, only adding to the chill you feel. Now it floods your mouth with its taste. You feel sick.
You breathe deeply, trying to rid yourself of the taste, but it's still there, lingering in the back of your throat. You taste bile too, but you swallow, not willing to get into that sort of mess. You don't particularly want to add vomit to your list of troubles at the moment.
You can already feel the chill deep inside you, filling you to the brim, but you can taste it in the air too. It tastes cool and crisp; probably a nice autumn evening on any other night.
Any other night.
Taste is a sense you don't often use. It's not that don't appreciate food's taste, though more often than not you have sub-par takeaway anyhow. It's all transport, all cogs and gears that need to be relentlessly oiled in order for the grand machine – the mind – to work.
You try to think back to the last time you've eaten, because that's surely contributing to your growing exhaustion, but you can't remember the last time John reminded you. He might have forced you to drink an energy shake today. Maybe. You can't remember. Not remembering is growing increasingly frustrating and you resolve never to do it in the future, even with a concussion.
Oh. Right. John had tried to feed you today. He knows you refuse to eat on a case, as ridiculous as he thinks it is, so he was making you some ridiculous protein shake. He was mixing it all in the new blender he acquired before it happened. Before the fight, the yelling, before everything that led up to you getting trapped under a few pieces of rubble. That's what he was struggling with in the stupid blender, before he grew silent.
You remember commenting on its inedibility to John. He looked offended, but you didn't think much of it at the time. You never drank that slippery looking shake.
It would have tasted horrible. You're not sorry. Just another thing not to be sorry for, not to feel remorse for.
You're not ashamed of being a sociopath, or of not caring, but in this moment you wonder if it would be easier if you could just feel the way everyone else did. The thought is ghastly though, and you immediately delete it. The antisocial label you slap on yourself distances you from the ordinary, idiotically boring people of the world. It makes you great.
The cold wraps itself around you and you taste the damp of the building in the air, can feel it suffocating you.
Yes. It makes you great.
The air tastes chalky from the dust and debris that's been kicked up. It clogs the back of your throat, which is becoming uncomfortably dry. You swallow, and a small amount of warm blood runs down the dry inside of your throat. You feel like you're choking.
You take another breath, this one thin and shuddering. The air is clogged with a hundred different things; smog and ash and decay and rot and damp and blood and sweat and dust and-
It's overwhelming. You're given another reason for why you don't use your sense of taste as often as most, and that's because it's sickening, filled with nauseous and disgusting things that all mingle together and fill your mouth.
You try to spit, try to get rid of it somehow, but your mouth is far too dry, and it sticks on the tip of your tongue and in the back of your throat, revolting you.
Swallowing only helps marginally, but at least your disgust is lowered to a level where you're not afraid of throwing up the nothing you've eaten over the past few days.
You swallow again. You're eyes are still closed, and the ringing in your ears has stopped.
You are hit by the thunderous noise of silence.
"Of course you don't," John had said, and it's the "of course" that gets you, the accusation that there is some idea either so complicated or so simplistic that you can't grasp the concept.
"I'm sorry, John, I seem to have forgotten that normal people all have that useless, burning need to go about and care for people they don't even know. My apologies. You just sit there, make yourself comfortable and start caring your hardest while I go and actually solve the case," you say sharply.
You know you're angry. You know that it's entirely unwise to speak when you're upset, because people invariably say stupid things when they're mad, and unfortunately even you fall into this category.
But you don't stop. The words are a drug, they spread and spread, and the release of them fills you with an illogical triumph. You sneer at John as he glares at you. He knows you're right and he hates you for it.
"I don't even know why I bother to be surprised anymore! Every day it's like this, every day it's filled with me having to be your conscious, your damn Jiminy Cricket!" John says, throwing his arms up in the air. The anger grabs hold of him too, and you're both victims of its poison.
"Another cutesie pop culture reference, put one on the scoreboard for Johnny," you say scathingly. "Really, John, your comebacks are immensely entertaining, do keep at it."
Poison. Yes, that's what these words are, they're all poison.
"I should have known you wouldn't have got that one. You're a freaking machine, a robot. God forbid you know anything normal people do, or feel any emotion at all! God forbid you feel one ounce of caring!"
"Why should I!" you yell, your voice a near scream in the dull silence of the flat. "Because it's the 'right' thing to do?"
"As if you'd ever do the right thing anyway! You're a psychopath! You're happy that people are dying!" John shouts, the volume of his voice hitting you with full force, his words meant to sting.
"That's what people DO!" you roar, the words tumbling out of your mouth on your high of rage (of emotion).
You don't think about what you've said at first. Then you process it and realise whose wisdom you're quoting.
You instantly feel (regret) stupid. You blink. You weren't entirely aware that those had been the words you were going to say aloud. You didn't mean to say those ones, not quite…or maybe you did, and you really are just a freak.
Because that's what you know John sees as he looks at you. His face is filled with shock and numbness, the anger faded away, burnt out under the force of your own. He's disbelieving, and…disappointed. Always, always disappointed.
"Don't hold back or anything, Sherlock," John says finally, his voice trembling ever so slightly.
"John," you say quietly, but there's no way to take your words back, take back your mistake. It was a mistake, you admit it, it was wrong.
"What? You have something else you want to say, Jim?"
You flinch. John says the name with contempt, with pain, and you wonder if those feelings can now be applied to your name too. If John will say SHERLOCK with the same hate from now on.
You don't know what to say. You don't know how to make this whole situation vanish. You don't know what character you have to play to make John like you again. You're not sure how to get back to normal, or at least your definition of it.
You don't know, and it's painful and frustrating and you hate it.
So you don't say anything. You and John only stand there for a moment in time, one small moment of a million, but this one drags on and on until it's stretched itself into a turning point for you both.
You don't think John is going to stay.
You're right. After a minute filled with silence and waiting (and more bloody disappointment), John looks down and nods. "Alright then," he says, as if he has his answer, and he grabs his coat. He doesn't even look at you as he puts it on, and it's as though you've become invisible. Or maybe you're just not worth looking back for.
Because John doesn't, as he walks out the door, jumper still bearing a small smoothie stain upon it. He doesn't look back.
John walks out, because that's what people do, when they're not dying. They leave, and they die, and then they leave again. It's all the same.
After a few minutes of standing there while a rush of nothing and numbness fills your mind, you put on your coat too. You walk out.
You have a case to solve.
There are little sounds, like the wind cutting through the air, and a little ways from here there's the bombarding noise of hundreds of cars and buses. The sound of a city, the sound of life.
But here, there is little of that. This part of town has been in disuse for so long that it bears none of the noise and chaos of the familiar parts of London, but instead is barren in its sound, filled with a deafening nothing. You can scarcely hear over the din of it.
There's your breath though. That you can hear. It's one of the few things there is to hear, and every intake and outtake of oxygen has the volume of a thundering waterfall. It fills your ears, it fills your entire being with the reminder that yes, you are alive, and yes, these breaths are becoming fewer and weaker in between.
You can hear the sound of your pulse, roaring in thin triumph in your ears. It continues to hobble along, pretending it's more than it really is. You're not fooled.
If your throat had even the smallest amount of moisture in it, maybe you could cry out for help. For some reason, though you know no one is around to hear it (no one around to hear you), you call out anyway. It's a weak, pathetic sound, not even a coherent word, but rather a noise filled with pain and weakness, of helplessness. If you had to describe it as anything, it would be a whimper, but that's one of the most undignified words you've ever heard of, so you're going to say it's a moan.
It doesn't matter anyway. No one hears.
You are alone in your silence.
Hearing is a delicate sense. People mishear things all the time. The children's game of telephone is enough proof of that; make believe phrases and meanings being conjured of nothing.
But sound is an ever present tether connecting you to the world, keeping you down whenever your mind is tempted to float away. At times it blesses you with things like your violin, though John would argue that's not a blessing at all, more of a curse. Other times your hearing is a blockade against your thoughts, sealing you from being able to reach what you really need, distracting you with its call. Tonight, sound was a carrier of poisonous thoughts, of the addictive anger you and John both felt towards each other at that small moment in time. You think you hate that sense now.
You also think that you're dying.
Dying, and right now, hate it as you might, you wish for sound. Normally you thrive in your solitude, in your silence. It's hard to think amongst the daily pressure of sound and chaos and the awful volume of distracting noises you hear wherever you go. But now you long for them. You pine for them.
You want the thump of John's heavy footsteps on the staircase, you want the distant bubbling and hissing of the experiments in the kitchen, you want the cars rushing around you as you run through the streets, you want to hear John's heavy breathing joining yours as he runs alongside you, you want to hear his silly, giggly laugh as you both come down from all the adrenaline.
You want, you want so many things, but most of all, you think, you want John. Perhaps you even need him.
And then you hear something else, something even louder than the quiet which envelops you.
You approach the building. You feel anger. You feel, as silly as it might sound, hurt, by John's words, and by your own. You feel alone, and you feel strange because that bothers you. You feel tired. You feel regret.
John. John. John.
The name beats in your mind along with your wandering pulse, a mantra of no importance except that the only thing keeping you from passing out is thinking the name, concentrating on it.
"Sherlock! Can you hear me?"
Yes, John, you want to answer. You can.
He calls again. The sound of your name (not filled with anger or contempt or hatred, but worry, but concern, concern for you) brushes up against your ear and your weak exhale is filled with something that could be laughter. Or it almost is, but your throat is still filled with dust and blood, so it comes out as a wheezing cough, the kind that shakes your entire being, reawakening every sense, filling you with pain as your arm moves against your will. At the end of the cough you feel as though life has been dragged out of you, and you can hardly breathe. You don't think you will for much longer.
But the sound does serve a purpose, and you can hear (sound, miraculous sound) as John's pounding footsteps grow closer. He sees you before you see him.
"Sherlock," he breathes, his voice sounding strained. There's a sound as though he's dialing on a mobile, and you can hear him talking into it, though the words are fuzzy. You can sense the insistence and edge of them though, and you know John is panicking in that strangely calm way of his.
All you can think is that right now you're filled with something that must be relief. John's found you. It's all okay now.
But then it's not, because you hear John kneel beside you and he's nudging you softly but insistently. It's making your arm hurt, and you don't know why John is doing that.
Then you realise with your eyes closed and your skin as cold as it is, that you must look half dead. Which makes sense, as that's exactly how you feel.
You manage to crack open your eyelids, though it takes more effort than it should. And standing over you is John. John, still in the same stained jumper, with his hair in disarray, with his eyes wide in…fear. Fear that you had died. John doesn't want for you to die. Though this might be an obvious fact to some, it warms you nonetheless, brings some form of escape from the chill you're encased in.
"Wh-" you start to say, but then your lungs are filled with dust again and you wheeze, breath not able to find its way into your body.
John scowls at you for trying to speak, but it's only half hearted, his mind clearly much more concerned with your injuries, from the way he keeps glancing at your arm. He looks like he wants to examine it, but he's already deduced what a bad idea it would be to move it right now.
You're glad. You don't want to hurt again.
"I went back to the flat and you weren't there. Couldn't let you investigate this without your blogger, could I?" John explains, his voice soft and careful. He seems numb, but not from anger, from shock and exhaustion. "I storm out for a few hours and you manage to collapse a building. Why am I not surprised anymore?" he says wearily.
You think that if John were surprised at every thing you did that wasn't considered normal, it would be a permanent state of being for him.
You also think that John misinterpreted what you were going to say, with that fickle sense, hearing. He's answering the question of what, but what you were asking is why. Why come down here, why bother to save you of all people, why even care about you when you've certainly never returned the favor?
But that's the way John is. He cares about people, even people he doesn't know, and even you.
You're beginning to appreciate that about him, you think.
"John," you say weakly, but you don't have the strength to add anything more to whatever that sentence would have been. John seems to understand though, and nods.
"Don't worry," he says, though he doesn't look anything but worried, "I called an ambulance, they'll be here soon. Just stay with me."
He's talking to you like he would a patient, which irritates you, but you don't have room for it amongst everything you feel right now (yes, you're feeling and you're a sociopath. Somehow, where John is concerned, the two can go together as easily as if they were not a paradox).
Now that he mentions it, you can hear the sirens. The night of nothingness and silence has become filled with its shrill, insistent sound, but it has also become filled with the sound of John's voice. John is talking to you now, no doubt spouting off whatever nonsense he can think of to keep you attached to consciousness, but it doesn't matter, because there's no trace of the anger in his voice that there was earlier.
In John's words and your silence, there is unspoken forgiveness. You both have faults, but those were accepted long ago. As fragile as you think friendships are, as sure as you were that John had left for good this time; that isn't about to change.
"John," you say again, because you don't have the strength for anything else. You can hear the sirens and see their lights coming from the distance, and see John looking down at you, and hear his voice. All of your senses mingle together into what is usually an array of information and deduction, but is now a mess of confusion and feeling. It's all mixed together until it becomes your perspective on the world, until it becomes all you know. That's what the senses are.
You're not sure which combination of senses gives you a feeling of security right now. Though tonight there is no sight or sound or taste or touch or smell to indicate otherwise, you feel as though perhaps it will all be fine.
John keeps talking and squeezes your uninjured hand. You feel the warmth of it spread through your body and dispel the lingering chill.
You feel safe.