AN: Ta-da! Here we are the final chapter :-) I hope you have enjoyed this story and I look forward to writing more. All rights to the BBC and the beautiful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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The entire time the hospital doctor was cleaning, stitching and re-bandaging, Sherlock was on his phone texting furiously. It had taken a bit of power leveraging on John's part but he had convinced the doctor not to call in the police for what were clearly marks of torture, or at very least abuse. But appealing doctor to doctor and discretely dropping the words "consulting" and "Ministry of Defense" managed to produce enough influence. When he left, John was sitting shirtless on the examination table and Sherlock was staring at him.

"Umm…"

Sherlock rose from his seat and moved toward the table. Delicately, he began inspecting the fresh bandages.

"Mycroft has rooted out our little problem."

"But!"

"Shut up. I do not appreciate having to ask my brother for favors but you didn't leave me much choice. Six men have been apprehended. Does that match your own numbers?"

"Yes, but-"

"Just answer the questions, John." Sherlock's long fingers were now tracing the outline of the large white pad covering the jagged hole in John's shoulder.

"You were gone for approximately two and a half hours. Remove at least half an hour for you walking to the shops and then making your way back to the flat after they were done with you. Two hours of torture, then?"

"One. They just kept me tied up for the first."

"Mmm. And you deemed these events unworthy my attention. Decided to branch out and do a little investigating of your own even after these thugs had already manhandled you once? Didn't think any assistance was called for?"

"No, I mean I didn't think-"

"No, you didn't think. Do you know," Sherlock lowered his hands to his sides and seemed to be holding himself very carefully, "I notice when you're away?"

"Wh- sorry?"

"Yes. I notice when you're not there, in the flat, particularly when you should be. I do," Sherlock paused seeming to shuffle through words in his head, "get concerned John, but I assume that you, being the consummate military gentlemen, a man who has saved my life more than once, are perfectly cable of taking care of yourself. And I don't think I'm wrong in this assessment. However, perhaps we should discuss how much I rely on you."

John shifted uncomfortably on the table. He wasn't quite following Sherlock and his skin was starting to chill. Sherlock was clearly pissed about the situation, but John wasn't sure what exactly the problem was yet.

"Look, Sherlock, I'm sorry for not telling you, but I didn't see any reason to involve you. They," John swallowed, "they just wanted information on you. I thought it would be best to shut them down before they got near you. Besides, after what they did to me, I didn't want to let them get to you particularly since their interest was so keen."

Sherlock was staring at John, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.

"So," Sherlock took a steadying breath, "in an attempt to shield me you chose to ignore your injuries and go looking for more?"

"Well no, I was hoping to avoid that actually, but I didn't want them attacking you."

"John, do you really think I need to be protected from these halfwits?"

"Thanks, Sherlock." John was rather nonplussed at the implications of that statement.

"No, you're right, that was wrong. Dammit. What am I supposed to think? I can't –" Here Sherlock cut himself off apparently too agitated to continue.

John, made a hesitant attempt at consolation.

"I am sorry, Sherlock. I didn't mean to make you worry. But, I am capable of taking care of my self." Here Sherlock arched an eyebrow that said 'clearly' with as much sarcasm as that statement deserved.

John sighed.

"I want to protect you. You get so wrapped up in cases and sometimes you forget the danger and I know it's part of what drives you. But, I want to keep you safe Sherlock. Because despite it all, you're my friend."

John watched uneasily as Sherlock worked his jaw, shockingly unable to find words. Finally he bowed his head, looking up at John through his bangs.

"And what am I supposed to do?" he asked quietly, "Let you run about getting slashed up? This is not easy for me John. Especially when I'm not there to lend you my intellect and insure that you are also protected."

John smiled sadly to himself. Watching Sherlock struggle with emotion was not pleasant but somehow endearing. He reached out gently and took Sherlock's hand.

"It's ok to care, Sherlock. I promise to keep you apprised of any more trouble I come across. But, you have to at least make an attempt to do the same."

Now, Sherlock looked up at John eyes thoughtful, then he nodded once swiftly and in a move so quick it almost surprised John into jumping off the table he leaned in placed feather kiss on his forehead and then swept out of the room, coat, as ever, flaring behind him.

John sat for a while on the examination table, all thought of cold and discomfort flown from his mind. So, Sherlock was starting to find his connection with humanity. John smirked. He could work with that. He could definitely work with that.

Hoping down from the table he snatched up the scrubs lying on the counter and dashed after his partner.


The End!