Written when I was tired, and thinking of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock. I hope everyone enjoys! It's really just my mind's wanderings written as though from John's brain. Disclaimer: I own nothing regarding Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, or any of the Sherlock Holmes world. Never have, never will. Sad, but that's how it is.
Whatever Sherlock had been doing, it was at least dangerous and possibly life-threatening, as far as John could deduce from the expression on his flatmate's face. Whatever was done to him on this gray April evening had left him with a noticeable tremor in his left hand that started as he unlaced the scarf from around his neck. Sherlock is not a trembling man, thought John. He may expose himself to all kinds of dangerous situations and toxic substances, legal or not, but none of it makes him tremble. Paleness was not to worry about; ill-humour, a drawn face, and his ever-present nicotine patches were to be expected and tolerated. But trembling was a sign of a weakness that he would normally have done anything to hide. John took it as nothing less than a danger signal.
"Sherlock, are you all right?" John got to his feet from where he had been sitting on the couch. "What happened?"
Sherlock coughed before replying, and the cough, too, was not like his usual bark of punctuation but rather a rasp that seemed beyond his control. "I'm fine."
"You were on the case, then? Did you find something?"
"No – nothing useful. I was careless – stupid! I realized that they were following me before I had gone a half-mile." He sank down on the couch. "I wonder, doctor, if you would have a look – it's nothing, I suppose, but –" He began to pull his coat off and at once John saw blood on Sherlock's shirt.
"Sherlock, what - ?"
"I thought I had lost them when one of them shot at me and managed to graze my arm."
John pulled the coat from the left side of Sherlock's body and surveyed the damage to the wounded arm. Sherlock was right; the wound was not deep or, as far as John could see, permanently damaging. But there was a lot of blood to contend with before he could view the torn muscle beneath to be sure.
"Don't move, I'll go fetch some of my stuff." John kept a lot of first-aid equipment in the flat, although he knew he didn't have enough to properly tend to a bullet wound. "But we'll have to go over to the hospital as soon as I've cleaned you up."
"Oh no, John, don't fuss, don't be absurd…you're a doctor. Mend it." Sherlock was impatient, and John took that as a good sign. He went to the kitchen cabinet in which he stored his medical equipment and took out antiseptics, bandages and gauze pads. When he returned, Sherlock was on his feet.
"Sit down!" ordered John, amazed at his friend's resilience and irritated by his stupidity. This was stupid, the only way Sherlock could be stupid, this stubborn refusal to respect his own body's need for healing.
"But I failed, John! I was stupid and blind, and I failed in my work. Damn, damn. Stupid!"
John shook his head and guided Sherlock back to the couch. "Sit down," he repeated. "We'll patch you up, take you over to the hospital for some proper stitches, and then you can go on berating yourself. That sounds like fun." He didn't bother to smile; he wasn't even trying to make a joke. It was sarcasm without warmth that he knew Sherlock would not hear. It didn't matter what he said while he played at being the responsible caretaker. Sherlock would have blocked it out, lost in his own little world of self-criticism and replaying facts.
"Bullets," he muttered to himself, beginning to wipe away the blood that was soaking everything Sherlock wore. He had seen too many bullet wounds, and this one was mild compared to most. But somehow, suddenly, as his own hands began to stain with his friend's blood, it occurred to him how close this bullet could have come to a vital organ – to Sherlock's brain or, more likely, his heart. And John felt himself begin to shiver within as his hands grew moist. His own mortality was something he had stared in the eye and grown accustomed to facing. Sherlock's mortality, however, had never before seemed real. The thought of the bullet that had grazed Sherlock's upper arm lodging somewhere within his body instead, disrupting the flow of his blood and the beating of his heart, was something that had always seemed impossible. But it was not – the possibility was very real.
"Don't be so damn careless," he heard himself say into the silence that had fallen around them. "You could die."
"I know I could die," came the clipped reply.
"Doesn't that bother you? Don't you care if you live, or…"
"It honestly doesn't occur to me to worry about whether I live or die. If I'm dead, I'm dead." Sherlock raised his eyebrows in a nonchalant shrug. "I won't know it, anyway."
"What about everybody else?"
"If they die?"
"No, if you die." John heard an edge in his own voice. "You think life will just go on as normal?"
"Yes, I do. That's what life does." Sherlock turned his gaze to glare at John. "If anyone alters what they do on account of me, that's their responsibility, not mine. My work is to solve problems, to prevent disasters, and if that work puts me in harm's way, then that is a risk I have to take. And who are you to ask me? You were in Afghanistan, risking your life every day. Why are you different?"
John fell silent for a moment, not sure how to answer this. "What you do, not anyone can do," he said finally.
"Not anyone can be an army doctor, any more than anyone can be a consulting detective. Not anyone can go to war and see death all around him. Your argument fails in every logical sense."
John thought back to the men he had seen die, men he had known, friends. He could almost taste the panic he had felt when he had realized that his own death might come, not at some far-off moment, but in the hour, in the minute. He had thought that he would die when he himself was shot.
"What do you think of, when you're in that kind of danger?" he asked his friend as he began to tie off bandages. "Do you have that life-flashing-before-your-eyes sort of thing, or…or what?"
Sherlock frowned without an answer, almost as though he was confused.
John went on. "Because when I was shot in Afghanistan, the first thing I thought of was home, and of my parents being told that I was killed in action…how that would destroy them." He finished his work and sat back but kept his eyes down. "I thought of my family – and then I thought of all the stuff I wasn't going to do, all those things that everybody tellsyou to do."
"Like what?" asked Sherlock, and John was at once embarrassed and gratified that he had his flatmate's full attention.
He shrugged. "You know – make a proper life, a nice cozy quiet life. Meet somebody special, fall in love, have kids, grow old. That's the life-flashing-before-the-eyes bit. All the things that were supposed to be your life but won't be, unless you manage to scrape yourself off the ground and get out of there alive."
Sherlock nodded, seeming to try to understand, and John appreciated even that. "Anyway, let's get going," he said, helping his friend to his feet, and silently thanking the powers that be that Sherlock Holmes had not been destroyed on that night, of all ordinary nights. John could be standing here in the flat alone, shocked out of breath and senses with the fresh news that the great detective was dead. This night could have been the first of a hundred, a thousand nights of suffering numbing into the empty gnawing ache that was loneliness and loss.
As they reached the door, Sherlock inclined his head. "I did have one morbid thought, actually," he said.
"Oh, yes?" asked John, reaching distractedly for his phone on the table as they went.
"Yes." Sherlock coughed, and this time it was his punctuation, the clearing of the throat that was never involuntary. "I thought, Mycroft will be furious, woken up in the middle of the night to come downtown and identify my body." He smiled then, in his twitchy, unaccustomed way. "And then I said to myself, 'No, no, of course – John would have been there first."