A/N: Yes, this story is back! I'm hoping to have it finished before the new season starts.
Once again, thank you so much to everyone reading and reviewing. Here's a nice long chapter to reward your patience...
Chapter 7: Honour
Lestrade caught up with the odd pair just as John was settling himself into the back of the cab, his pained grimace at the simple action leaving no doubt that the man should be putting his feet up instead of following his mad flatmate around the city. The DI managed to slide in behind them before Sherlock could shut the door in his face.
"Don't you have better things to do with your time than follow us, Detective Inspector?" The consultant demanded sulkily.
"Not when you're going to tell a murder victim's wife she's a widow, I don't," Lestrade replied grimly. "The Met were this close to getting sued for causing unnecessary emotional anguish last time; my whole team were forced into two bloody days of sensitivity training, not to mention all the lawyers we had to deal with…"
"And the reason you did not get sued was because I successfully proved that Mrs Isaacs arranged to have her husband killed by her half-brother in order to collect on his life insurance and run off to Barbados with her Yoga instructor. A fair exchange, don't you think?"
"Have you ever sat through a sensitivity training lecture?" Lestrade asked with a shudder.
"I have," John replied grimly, mirroring his expression. "Back in medical school; we did a whole course in breaking bad news. I can only think of one thing worse."
"What, getting shot at? I think I'd take my chances."
"No; sitting through a sensitivity workshop with Sherlock."
Lestrade took a few seconds to imagine it… and blanched. "Oh, God; I think that's nightmare material," he said, eyes glazed with horror.
"Oh, please. Spending a few hours in a deadly dull lecture in techniques of telling people their relatives have died can hardly be that bad."
"Not just a lecture, Sherlock," John corrected. "There's brainstorming…"
"Sitting in a circle to share personal experiences."
"Being made to look like a total prat to everyone else in the room because you're forced to talk about feelings. And you have to be sober."
Sherlock looked on in rare genuine confusion as the two heterosexual middle aged Englishmen shuddered in unison. Lestrade noticed to the second the moment he dismissed it as unimportant and switched his brain back into 'case' mode, although one greyish eye remained firmly on the Doctor, as if Sherlock still hadn't quite worked out what to make of him.
I think that's a new record; he's got almost everyone cracked within five minutes of meeting them. Usually much less.
Lestrade's thoughts were interrupted when his phone beeped; he produced it from his pocket. "Donovan's sent me the wife's address; Flat 5F, 26-32 George Street, E8."
"Good; it shouldn't take us too long to get there at this time of day. After we've dropped John off, of course."
"What?" The injured man asked, brow furrowing in confusion. "Where am I going?"
"Home. 221B Baker Street, please," Sherlock called out to the cabbie. "And don't look at me like that, Doctor," he added petulantly. "None of the flats on George Street have lifts and thanks to Anderson's monumental stupidity, you're in no condition to climb five flights of stairs."
Sherlock looks like a little boy who's been told he can't invite a friend along to the Zoo; he genuinely wants John to come along. Bloody hell; it's been five years and I'm still only allowed to be on my own bloody crime scenes with him if I think quietly; he's barely known John more than a couple of weeks.
"How the hell can you possibly know there's no lifts?" John asked challengingly.
"Because I know every street in London; and George Street is all Victorian terraced houses knocked through into flats. Installing lifts in buildings that old costs a fortune and the planning permission is almost impossible to get, so developers only bother if they're doing luxury flats, which no lorry driver could possibly afford."
John's expressive features crinkled into a smile. "Every street? Let me guess; plotting routes around the CCTV cameras to annoy Mycroft?"
Sherlock grinned, his spectacularly rare, brilliant, genuine grin, which for an instant almost made his austere features boyish. "He gave me a London A-Z for Christmas when I was five. I promptly memorised it, of course; worst mistake he ever made in his quest to watch my every movement."
"Not so bad for chasing serial killer taxi drivers," was John's rueful reply.
"True. He does, very occasionally, have his uses."
"I think that's the nicest thing I've ever heard you say about your brother."
"And it's the nicest thing I'm ever likely to say about the overbearing, pompous fat…"
"Hang on; Mycroft is your brother?" Lestrade interupted incredulously. "As in the scary bloke in the smart suit who turns up every now and then to interrogate me about you?"
Sherlock looked mildly surprised. "Of course he's my brother. Why, who did you think he was?"
"I dunno… some kind of professor from the secret genius growing camp you escaped from who wanted to make sure you weren't causing trouble?"
John and Sherlock exchanged yet another conspiratal grin. "Close enough," the Consulting detective replied.
"You did better than me," John added. "I went for 'criminal mastermind'. Mycroft's not all that good at making first impressions, what with the kidnapping and everything…"
"Kidnapping? Sherlock's brother kidnapped you?" Bloody hell; they say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, but two of them?
It was the younger Holmes who answered. "The day after I met him, Mycroft offered John money to spy on me; I still say you should've taken it," he grumbled. "It's not as if he doesn't have enough to spare."
"I had other things on my mind at the time. And at least he saved me a cab fare."
"Another of his little uses." Sherlock's smile dissolved as the cab bounced over a speed bump; John's expression had become very fixed as the suspension rocked the trio far more than was advisable for his injuries.
"Besides," he continued, with a disgruntled little sniff. "Your stoic face may be good enough to fool Scotland Yard's finest, John, but it doesn't work on me. You're of no use to me in that level of pain."
"Sherlock!" Lestrade protested, appalled yet again by his consultant's insensitivity.
"It's not like I'm not used to it; I've been in pain since the day I got shot," the doctor answered matter of factly. "Full marks for noticing, though."
"Of course I noticed. If your limp were purely the result of muscle strain from yesterday your step would have shortened to reduce the stretch in your leg; instead it's sharper and more precise than usual and you're keeping perfect four-four time. That tells me your military training is more at the forefront of your mind than usual and when combined with the fact that you remained standing for a good five minutes to wash up one-handed this morning with no ill effects, your psychosomatic limp must be making a reappearance. Triggered by the pain in your shoulder and the sling, most likely."
"Well, it's not as if you were going to do it; that kitchen looks like an explosion in a drunken glassblower's workshop on a good day. And I've seen all the fossilised toast crusts on your bedroom floor…"
"That was for an experiment."
"Oh, yes? Testing how long it takes for us to get mice, are you?"
"We won't have them for long; those crusts are laced with strychnine."
"Strychnine?" Lestrade blurted, unable to control his reaction.
"Among other things. I'm testing how the presence of various poisons affects decomposition and mould development in bread products."
"So that's what happened to the loaf," John commented lightly, as if leaving poisoned toast crusts scattered across your bedroom floor were perfectly acceptable, normal behaviour. "And here I was hoping you'd actually eaten something for a change."
"Dull. And I ate last week."
"Yes, I remember. It was my dinner."
"Don't you get picky with me, Doctor; you're the one who told me to eat or, and I quote, 'I'll bloody well tie you down and stick a feeding tube down your throat!'"
"And don't think I won't, if you refuse to listen to reason, you idiot," John retorted. For some reason completely incomprehensible to Lestrade, Sherlock and John took one look at each other and... laughed. He stared on in wonder, barely managing to stop his jaw from dropping. I didn't even know Sherlock had a sense of humour that didn't involve corpses and insulting people; and suddenly he's giggling like a schoolgirl over a private gag…
The DI's musings were interrupted as the cab pulled up on Baker Street.
"Ah, here we are," Sherlock said brightly. "Take a pain pill and get some rest, John; I'll be wanting you later, and I need you as fit as possible."
Lestrade raised an eyebrow. Does Sherlock not realise how that sounded, or is he still joking?
John merely sighed; it was something he seemed to do frequently around Sherlock. "And you wonder why Angelo brings us candles," he muttered under his breath, as he levered himself painfully out of the cab.
"Will you be ok on the stairs?" Lestrade asked in concern.
"I'll manage. Down is harder than up. And Sherlock, just try to be tactful, will you?"
"Tact is boring."
"And I'm going to be alone with your pig brain experiment and my phone. Text me if he does anything unforgivable, Lestrade?" John saw Greg's smile at the thought of having leverage over Sherlock's bluntness and nodded approvingly. "Good. Have fun," he added to his flatmate, before closing the door and limping slowly towards home.
Greg took one look at the indignant expression on Sherlock's face and couldn't help but laugh himself as the cab pulled away from the kerb.
"Blimey; he's lived with you two weeks and he's already got you under his thumb, hasn't he?"
"Of course not," Sherlock snapped back. "He wasn't serious; John knows my experiments are important…"
"You sure about that?"
"Positive," Sherlock sniffed, although something in the tilt of his head suggested he wasn't quite as sure as he made out. "Dalston, driver; 26 George Street."
"Right you are, mate," the cabbie called back, sounding eager to get rid of them. Can't say I blame him, after overhearing all that.
"Well, good luck to him," Lestrade remarked with a hint of admiration in his voice. "He's going to have his hands full."
"Hand, until that blasted sling comes off," Sherlock replied darkly. "I hope you plan to inflict some more appropriate punishment on Anderson than making him say 'sorry'; or I shall have to come up with something… creative…"
"No poisons, Sherlock." The DI tried to infuse all the authority he could into the three words; he hoped the result didn't sound as desperate to his consultant's ears as they did to his own.
"No? Shame; it could be very helpful to my investigation to observe a case of anticholinergic toxidrome first hand…"
"Slip Anderson anything more powerful than a laxative, Sherlock, and you'll be out of the Yard so fast your feet'll never touch the ground."
"Laxative? Dull; predictable, boring. Strychnine, on the other hand…"
"Why don't you see if John has any ideas?" Lestrade suggested hurriedly. At least he won't let Sherlock do anything dangerous…
The consultant scowled. "Can't. He's much too honourable for his own good; he'd never agree to any kind of revenge. In fact, he'd probably warn Anderson what we were planning himself."
"He's a good bloke, Doctor Watson. Bloody needs to be, to live with you. Just try not to scare him off, willya? I think he's gonna be a good influence."
"Scare him off? It takes a great deal to frighten John Watson, Lestrade; I'd think even you would have found that out in your investigations."
"Bit of an understatement, that, from what I hear," Lestrade replied, genuine respect colouring his words.
"You know all the gory details, then, about John's career in Afghanistan," Sherlock stated, with excessive casualness.
"Can't blame a copper for being curious," Lestrade replied cautiously. Is he actually… being protective? Am I about to get told off for invading someone's privacy by Sherlock Holmes, of all people? Because I think that qualifies him for the International Hypocrite Of The Year Award…
The DI continued cautiously. "And anyone you like enough to live with definitely warrants a bit of research. Wouldn't think he was a hero to look at him, would you?"
"You wouldn't, no," Sherlock shot back scathingly, as Greg had known he would. "It's all there, Lestrade; you just have to observe. I knew he was military within five seconds of laying eyes on the man, a doctor within ten and recently invalided home on medical grounds in twelve."
"You do that to everyone; deduce their life story in one glance and then wonder why they tell you to get lost afterwards. Us normal people have to talk to one another to find that kind of stuff out."
"Or phone old friends in the military police, it seems… Oh." Sherlock interrupted himself as another thought occurred to him. "So that's what John was trying to do at the restaurant, with the real lives speech. How conventional of him." Lestrade, used to Sherlock's abrupt subject changes, didn't blink an eye when he continued with his original point. "And he didn't tell me to get lost, either; even when I told him how I knew about his estranged sibling's drinking habits."
"He didn't? What did he say, then?"
Sherlock looked uncomfortable; even in the dull, constantly shifting light of the cab, Greg could have sworn there was a light tinge of pink creeping into the alabaster cheeks.
"He said it was… amazing. And extraordinary." Sherlock cleared his throat. "Quite extraordinary, in fact."
Goes a long way to explaining why he likes the man so much. Sherlock always was a sucker for flattery, not that his head needs to get any bigger than it already is.
"So you never actually asked him, about his time in the army?"
"Why would I? I can deduce as much as I need to know; if I require more detailed information at any point in the future I'll ask then."
Ah… back on familiar ground. Bloody Sherlock and his non-essential data… well, I know a sure-fire way to make it essential…
"You don't actually know what I know, about what John got up to in Afghanistan, then, do you?" Lestrade asked, allowing himself to look a touch smug about having more information than the Great Sherlock Holmes for once.
The world's only Consulting Detective visibly bristled. "I know enough; and I have no intention of making him as uncomfortable as you did by researching his history. Mycroft sent me his file, of course, but I'd never give him the satisfaction of actually reading it."
"All right, then; how d'you think he got that scar?"
"It's obvious, isn't it?"
"You tell me," Greg invited, a hint of challenge in his voice that he knew Sherlock would be utterly unable to resist. He was right.
"The scar we saw yesterday was clearly an exit wound caused by a large calibre round, so the bullet entered John's back and passed straight through his body, causing considerable trauma on its way. At a guess; shattered scapula, broken clavicle, significant nerve, ligament and muscle damage; did you know there are eighteen different muscles attached to a human shoulderblade? I'm surprised he can still use his left arm as well as he can- or could before Anderson got to it," Sherlock added darkly.
"Probable that the bullet clipped the subclavian artery, too, so the blood loss would have been massive; he's lucky not to have died on the spot from hypovolemic shock. Now, as for the circumstances of the injury… The angle of the scarring suggests a downward trajectory; John's not a tall man but for it to be so pronounced in a wound sustained from a shoulder mounted weapon he must have been sitting or crouching at the time he was shot…"
"How d'you know that?" Lestrade interrupted. "Surely you can't tell what kind of gun it was just from a scar…"
"Because, Detective Inspector, I know John. If he heard gunfire he'd run towards it, not away; the only way he could possibly have been shot from behind is by surprise and from a significant distance. That means the shooter's weapon must have been a high-powered rifle; AK47, probably, in that part of the world. Caught by surprise, crouching for cover or to attend to a patient; sniper attack. Simple."
And of course, when the great Sherlock Holmes looks at his new friend's badly damaged and dislocated shoulder all he's interested in is working out what the pattern of the scarring can tell him. At least he didn't reel all that off in front of John.
"You've been holding all that in ever since you got your first glimpse of it yesterday, haven't you?"
"I'm right, aren't I?" In the flat, grey eyes, there was that taint of desperation, the burning need to be right, to be certain, that often followed one of his long spouting deductions. Mentally, Lestrade reviewed what he'd said and compared it to his very enlightening chat with his mate in the military police the previous day…
"Ricky! Greg Lestrade."
"Greg; great to hear from you," the man replied, his Mancunian accent as familiar as ever. "Feels like we only talk when one of us needs a favour."
"Yeah, well; funny you should say that…"
"Let me guess; you need me to pull up a file for you. Hang on, just let me log into the database; you're in luck, I'm in my office today… What is it this time; suspect or victim?"
"Neither, at the moment. Just a bloke I came across in an investigation; call it… professional curiosity."
"Ok. D'you know the regiment?"
"No; but I know he's a Captain, sent home wounded from Afghanistan fairly recently. An army doctor by the name of John Watson?"
"Captain Watson? You can't possibly suspect old Three Continents Watson of anything, Greg!"
"Army nickname; ask him over a few pints sometime. Trust me, there's worse out there; I once served with a bloke absolutely everyone, including his superior officers, knew as Todger. Come to think of it, I've no idea what his actual name was."
"So you know Watson, then?"
"Well, only by reputation. I mean, blimey; a man can't be awarded a GC and not be talked about."
"A George Cross?" Lestrade spluttered. "He's a hero?"
"About as heroic as it gets. Some reckoned he should've got the Victoria Cross, but since he wasn't technically in the face of the enemy... at least, he didn't know he was... he got the George instead. And the reward he gets is to be flown home and put out to grass, poor bastard. There; I've accessed his service records. What d'you need to know?"
"Start at the beginning, Ricky."
"Well… let's skim over the basics… joined up at eighteen; army sponsored his medical training at the University of London. Served in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq and was almost at the end of his third tour of Afghanistan when he was discharged. Promoted fairly quickly up the ranks, must've been well liked, from these glowing reports… Ah, here we go; the paperwork submitted for his medal by a Corporal Murray."
"Some troops were being transferred from Camp Bastion to help out at a smaller base where there'd been a lot of fierce fighting. Watson and Murray were travelling in a convoy with supplies and reinforcements when one of the armoured vehicles hit an IED. One man was killed instantly by the explosion, two more severely injured and the troop carrier following was damaged by the debris and went off the road. Watson was in it; injured his right leg in the crash, which later turned out to be fractured."
"Didn't slow him down much at the time, though; him and a couple of orderlies were the only medics they had. Watson ignored his own injuries and started treating the wounded as best he could at the roadside."
"Apparently the enemy had laid a trap for them; three more men were killed and four injured by snipers while they waited over an hour for a helicopter to evacuate the wounded. Bloody budget cuts," he added darkly. "If they had enough choppers out there, most of the roadside bomb deaths could've been prevented."
"So Watson got his medal for saving the other bloke's lives even though he was injured himself, and, what, got caught by a stray bullet doing it?" Lestrade guessed. If that's not a good excuse for a psychosomatic limp, I don't know what is.
"Nope; GCs are awarded for outstanding acts of courage or gallantry while not directly faced with the enemy, Greg; and Watson certainly showed plenty of both. One of the other men hit by a sniper that day was a Private Hayward; the force of the bullet in his arm knocked him out from behind his cover and into the open. He was a sitting duck; took a second one in the thigh while he tried to crawl back to shelter."
"Watson is well known as a crack shot with a handgun, even though medical officers aren't technically supposed to use them except in self-defence. He broke his own cover and opened fire on the snipers to distract them from the wounded man; got one confirmed kill, and the rest of the troops followed his lead. They thought they'd got them all; that's why the doctor took his chance to get to Hayward."
"Watson was knelt down to see to his wounds when it turned out they hadn't. Another sniper popped up and shot him in the shoulder from behind. The bullet went straight through him and hit his patient; right between the eyes." Ricky's voice had become soft and gruff, as it always did when he spoke about men dying in action. "Poor kid was barely twenty."
Jesus Christ… John had to watch that happen; had to feel it happen… covered in a dead boy's blood…
"According to this, the other men were so pissed off about their doctor getting shot they had the last sniper dead in less than a minute. Watson still didn't know when to stay down, though. He managed to talk his orderlies through the care of the other wounded even flat on his back and bleeding to death; told Murray he was done for anyway so there was no point trying to save him. Barely let the man bandage his injury because he wanted the medical supplies saved for the other men. By the time he'd passed out from the bloodloss, the Doctor's instructions had saved at least two lives and one leg."
"Murray packed him onto the chopper when it arrived and by the time the poor bastard was conscious and lucid again, he was in hospital in Birmingham, already halfway out of the door."
"Bloody hell fire," Lestrade's response had been a hoarse whisper. The idea that the bland, forgettable, non-threatening, utterly ordinary man who'd been following Sherlock about for the last couple of weeks had done all that…
He suddenly remembered, all too vividly, the brief but intense conversation between the flatmates during the Jennifer Wilson case.
"If you'd been murdered, in your last moments, what would you say?"
"Please, God, let me live?"
"Oh, use your imagination!"
"I don't have to."
And Sherlock Holmes, of all people, had stilled utterly for a moment, accepted John's statement and moved on without acknowledging it.
I think it's time he tried the getting to know people by talking to them approach, Greg decided, remembering John's shuttered, almost embarrassed expression when he realised someone knew exactly what he'd done in the service of his fellow soldiers. Let him muddle through like the rest of us for once; if John wants it kept quiet, that's exactly what he'll get.
"No," Lestrade said aloud. "If you want details, you'll have to get them the normal way; ask him yourself."
I like to think that Lestrade has his own tricks for manipulating Sherlock into doing what he wants; the drugs bust springs to mind. Even so, I seriously doubt he'd mind having a bit of help every now and then.
Hope you found my version of John's injury believable…