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There are impressions that float through John's mind- Sherlock's unmistakable voice, agitated and near; the crisp scent of Sarah's perfume; bright lights and unfamiliar people; pain, lots of pain. He's at Harry's flat, watching a film with her, when he notices an IV in his arm. He frowns and goes to pull it out, but something invisible restrains him. He realizes after a moment that he can't see whatever it is because his eyes are closed. When he finally remembers how to open them the dream of Harry's flat is gone, although surprisingly Harry herself is still present, slumped over and snoring in a chair in the corner. Sarah, her head tipped back and her mouth open, is sleeping in the chair beside Harry's. Sherlock sits beside the bed, and he is awake.
"Do you remember your name?" he asks, with the air of a man asking a stranger the time, and John wonders if he is really awake yet.
"I do," he replies, and finds that his voice is hoarse but speaking is easier this time around. "And yours, and both of theirs." He stares at his sister and his girlfriend, knowing that they've been talking. And not just casual chatting, either, but the open, emotional conversations that happen in hospitals and mortuaries. He hopes to God Harry was sober. "That's going to be trouble," he notes.
Sherlock's lips hint at a smile. "I ought to call the nurse, but I'd like to speak to you first. How do you feel?"
The tone is still that of mundane conversation, but there is a tension around Sherlock's eyes, a rigidity in the long, slender hands folded together, that makes John weigh his answer. "Bit early to say, yet. You?"
Sherlock's answer is quite as oblique. "You had to have surgery, to repair a bronchial rupture. You've woken a couple of times since, but I believe this is the first time you've been really present."
"Um, yeah, don't remember that. Probably for the best." He prefers vague memories of pain to clear ones. The sensations reaching him right now are certainly pain, but they have the distanced, deadened quality associated with hospital grade meds. John is suitably grateful.
"They found five bodies in the rubble at the pool. Lestrade thinks Moriarty is dead."
"But you… don't." Fair enough. If he and Sherlock had had time to escape the building, Moriarty had, too. So there will be more on that front. It doesn't concern him unduly. John has plenty of emotions associated with Moriarty, but despite the bomb vest, fear isn't particularly high on the list. "Alright. Good to know."
He'll have to break things off with Sarah. He toys with the idea of sending Harry abroad. A rehab clinic in Australia? Perhaps a monastery in Nepal. Either would do her good. He'll have to drug her, though, to get her to go...
"John-" Sherlock says, and stops.
John looks at his flatmate and sees the confrontation at the pool playing out behind Sherlock's eyes.
"So was it Mycroft, then? The grenades?"
"Yes," Sherlock growls, throwing himself into a slouch. "One of his agents. And he's been insufferable about it ever since. This will only encourage him."
It's John's turn to almost smile, but his face turns sober again quickly. "You realize you nearly killed yourself. With my gun. Do you have any idea the trouble that would have caused me? You can gesture with a fork, or a water pistol even, but if I ever see you treat a gun like that again-"
The threat is preempted by a cough, and immediately Sherlock is standing, adjusting the angle of the bed, offering water, contemplating the call button for the nurse. John waves him off, but accepts the water. He feels like he hasn't had anything to drink in weeks. When he tries to get the little paper cup to his lips, however, the contents slosh and wobble as though they're trying to flee. Sherlock's hand steadies the flimsy vessel, guides it up so that John can drink.
In the corner, Sarah stirs but doesn't wake. Harry, who could sleep through an earthquake or a brass band, doesn't so much as twitch.
"You have three broken ribs," Sherlock informs him as he sips the lukewarm, vaguely cardboard-flavored contents of the cup in delight. Sitting up even a little hurts like the devil, and both his hands are shaking, but slaking his thirst is worth the effort. "Numerous abrasions, of course, minor burns from superheated air and debris, a concussion, although that's past the dangerous phase. Dislocated shoulder- repaired, hairline fracture of the right patella, contusions. Nothing permanent. The rupture was the worst of it."
"That's a good job, then. I was almost dead."
The cup jerks, its contents slopping threateningly towards the blanket. "John-" Sherlock says, and stops again.
John takes in the hospital gown Sherlock is still wearing, the splint on the ring finger of his right hand, the stitches beside his right temple, just at the hairline, and in his eyebrow, and on his left arm. Three or four days' worth of stubble doesn't quite cover the bruised scrape across his cheek. He knows there are more injuries, ones he can't discern laying in a bed, but they must be minor. All in all, it's satisfactory: Sherlock was almost dead, too.
"So what's the plan?" he asks, and Sherlock replaces the cup on the nightstand and sinks back into his chair. He stares at John while rain pounds on the room's window.
"This is good, right?" John prompts. "You and me, solving murders, catching criminals. You need a colleague. An assistant."
"A friend," Sherlock corrects, his voice hoarse and his eyes glistening. John pretends not to notice, which is surprisingly difficult. He nods and leans back against the pillows, takes a deep breath to get his throat clear.
"Alright. You come up with the plan, I'll get the shopping and make our tea. And pull you out of the way of snipers and grenades and such."
Sherlock laughs, and a drop of water slides down each of his cheeks.
"The next time I tell you to run, you still won't move, will you?" John asks contemplatively, and Sherlock shakes his head. John rolls his eyes. "You're a bloody idiot, you know. Bodyguard's not much use if you ignore him."
"Friend," Sherlock corrects again, his voice steadier this time. He sounds like he's warming up to the word. "And you seem to be the one in need of protection. I didn't get myself kidnapped off the street."
"No, you delivered yourself, didn't you? Walked right in to the circle of gunmen. Thoughtful." He giggles, and Sherlock laughs, and the crisis is suddenly behind them. There will still be repercussions, and the war is a long way from over, but they have come through this battle intact.
"Good?" Sherlock asks.
"Good," John confirms.
Their laughter wakes Sarah, who stretches grumpily but then lights up as she sees John is awake. "John!" she cries, and rushes over to hug him. John accepts the affection happily, returning the embrace and the kiss that comes along with it. Now is not the time to push her away, even for her own good. And besides, he's been a doctor long enough to know that a person is not supposed to make major decisions while on morphine. That can be his excuse for a while.
Sherlock, with unexpected consideration, retreats to his own bed on the other side of the nightstand, giving them the illusion of privacy for their whispered reunion.
"Do you want me to wake your sister?" Sarah asks eventually, and John shakes his head.
"Let her sleep, she'll be pleasanter that way."
"She was really worried about you," Sarah confides, as though she knows John won't hear as much from Harry when she wakes; Harry's concern is often the barking kind. "A lot of people were. Mrs. Hudson's been here, and Sherlock's brother, didn't know he had a brother, and I think the entire force of Scotland yard…" She draws a tremulous breath and squeezes his hand. "Right. Now that you're awake I should go tell Dr. Graham, your surgeon. I'll let the nurse know to pop in and check on you on the way. Back in a flash." She waves to him from the door.
John looks over at Sherlock, who appears to be studying the ceiling. "I'm inviting your brother for Christmas dinner this year," he announces, and savors the view as Sherlock's face freezes in shock. "I owe him a favor, and I think providing you for one family holiday and keeping you in line for it ought to about repay two diversionary grenades. Besides, it's what friends do, celebrate together, share each other's lives. We can go to your family," he adds quietly, "if that's better, but in that case we'll have to have Harry over Christmas eve. I expect you to behave to her. Do she and Mycroft seem to get on?"
That last draws a choking splutter from Sherlock, the result of which is that John is laughing- weakly, painfully, but laughing- when the nurse comes in to check on him. To his surprise, Sally Donovan is on the nurse's heels, and they both look pleased to see him awake and happy. Harry slumbers on in the corner, even as Sarah returns with the surgeon. Sherlock props himself up on one elbow, texting away without bothering to look at the phone, watching as the medical staff poke and prod his flatmate. The storm still pounds against the window, but no one can hear it anymore.