Disclaimers: I certainly do not own Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's amazing creation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Hamish Watson. I also do not own Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and the BBC's adaptations of those works.
Spoiler Warnings: Series 1 and 2 of Sherlock, Specific References to The Reichenbach Fall
Story Ratings: M Warning Pre-Slash/Slash.
Beta: Ivory Winter - All mistakes are mine.
Chapter 17 Ripples
Some small distant part of John knew that he was hallucinating, but that knowledge didn't help him escape them. Soldiers, some of them old friends, paced through his room bleeding, screaming, railing at him, demanding to know why he hadn't fixed him, accusing him of being useless, a failure. John could smell the acrid air of the desert, feel the sand under his boots, the heat of the daytime sun pounding down, alternating with the freezing cold of the night. Then insurgents were tying him down, gabbling meaningless words at him, and pain flooded him, radiating up from his leg. Oh god, he had been shot again.
And then he was back on the street outside St. Bart's, watching Sherlock fall, listening to Sherlock on the mobile, wanting to know why John hadn't been quicker, why he hadn't stopped him from dying. Unexpectedly he was once more back in the desert, mortars falling, and there in front of him was Sherlock, bleeding into the unforgiving sand. He screamed for his supplies, calling for hemostats and bandages, but no one would reply. He didn't understand what he had done with his kit, and then he realized he couldn't get to the Sherlock, he couldn't move, he was trapped. John panicked. John must have been captured, he was going to be tortured and Sherlock was going to die. Die because John couldn't get to him, because he allowed himself to be taken.
Suddenly he wasn't alone, Sherlock was there standing between him and the soldiers pacing angrily in the room, the insurgents holding John down, in front of the dead Sherlock on the sidewalk, the dying Sherlock in the desert. He was vaguely aware that all three of the Sherlocks he was seeing couldn't actually be there, just like part of him knew the soldiers and insurgents weren't real, but he didn't want this newest Sherlock to go away. It was so nice not to be alone with his demons and the feel of Sherlock's hand holding his, Sherlock's lips pressing occasionally to his knuckles, and the hand on his forehead that was so comforting. He knew the Sherlock talking to him wasn't his Sherlock, just as he was aware that his Sherlock wasn't actually bleeding out on the sandy floor, because his Sherlock would never say such wonderful words, murmuring over and over that John was not to leave, that John needed to fight to stay with him, that Sherlock needed him, that he had something important to tell him if he would only come back. The imaginary Sherlock held back the sand and blood with his words, giving John the strength to force the images away.
John thought that maybe this Sherlock would forgive him if he explained, would understand that John hadn't meant to tell him what Sherlock wouldn't want to know. "Sorry…Didn't mean to tell you…didn't want to burden you…forgive me…sorry…sorry…love you…sorry…wouldn't have bothered you with it…couldn't let him hurt you…please forgive me…love you too much…" John muttered over and over to the Sherlock next to his bed, begging to be forgiven, to not have to leave, wishing that the comforting words he imagined in reply could actually be real as he finally slipped into blessed darkness.
John opened his eyes to a stark white ceiling, sighing as he discovered he was once again lying in a hospital bed, trying to remember what he was doing there. The memories returned, coming back to him in a rush - Sherlock lying injured on the floor, the knife fight, and then waking in that chair, the tortuous interview that followed, the desperate fight to escape. Knots appeared in John's stomach, remembering what he had been compelled to reveal to keep Sherlock safe, what Sherlock now knew.
John forced himself to look around his room, to once again take in his surroundings, not performing a threat assessment this time, but distracting himself from pain. He found himself in a rather nice private room, so nice it could double as a bachelor flat with John's spacious bed, a well-proportioned couch with pillows and a throw, and nice sized table with chairs - Mycroft must have felt obligated to step in. He wondered how much pity the erstwhile British Government was feeling for him to put Sherlock's overly emotional ex-flatmate up in this room. The only thing not present was John's temporary husband.
John supposed he should be grateful to have time to prepare himself to face Sherlock and the consequences of John's unruly feelings. He took a ragged breath and pushed that thought aside. He needed to focus on assessing his medical condition. His self-examination revealed that the superficial knife wounds on his chest and arms had been cleaned and bandaged, a few of the deeper ones had been sutured. His leg wound had been cleaned and bandaged with a couple of drains coming out of it. That, along with the multiple saline IV lines laced with antibiotics and vague memory of delirium nightmares, was a pretty clear indicator that he had been right about the septicemia. He sighed, acknowledging to himself that the limp was going to be real again, at least for several weeks. John tried to sit up and reach the end of the bed to snag his chart but the aching in the cuts over his ribs and his leg convinced him that this was a bad idea.
Without anything else to distract him, John's thoughts inevitably circled back to his flatmate. Sherlock knew and he couldn't handle it. It wasn't Sherlock's fault that John couldn't control his wayward heart, John knew that. But since John refused to make the man uncomfortable, he was going to have to make some decision about what he was going to do when released from the hospital. If John was nothing else he was a solider – he would keep moving forward, the question would be how and where. John wondered vaguely, gazing at his bare ring finger, if Mycroft had already filed the paperwork for their divorce. And if Sherlock would just arrange for his stuff to be moved while John was in the hospital or if he would let John apologize and say goodbye.
At least with this separation, John would know Sherlock was alive and well; that was better than last time. Perhaps eventually Mrs. Hudson would forgive him enough for faking their relationship and John's soon to be abrupt departure from Baker Street to have pity on him and occasionally tell him how Sherlock was doing. Thank goodness for Mrs. Hudson. John was sure the genius would need everything she could give to make sure he ate enough and occasionally slept.
He started when Sherlock abruptly whirled into the room. Catching himself, John quickly blanked his expression to hide his emotions from the consulting detective while watching Sherlock stand motionless, apparently stunned that John was awake, his face taking on an air which John didn't recognize or understand. Sherlock strode to his side, his countenance becoming more controlled but with a hint of concern that John hadn't expected. John's jaw dropped slightly, unable to grasp the fact that Sherlock was even here, not only in the room with him but gazing at him with worry.
The consulting detective gripped John's ringless left hand in his right, his left hand rising to John's forehead, presumably checking his temperature. "Excellent. You're finally fully aware. I apologize for not being here when you woke. I knew I shouldn't have let those bunglers convince me it was appropriate to leave the room to discuss your test results, they could just as well have updated me here. How does your leg feel?"
John sat frozen, continuing to stare at the consulting detective, unable to process the situation. "John? What's wrong? John, can you understand me?" Sherlock's hands shifted to rest on his face, which he tipped upward, allowing the detective to peer intently into John's eyes. "They assured me that you had not been hyperthermic long enough to cause permanent damage to your brain," Sherlock demanded, agitation evident.
John forced himself to answer, focusing on the medical, shoving his emotions to the back of his mind, his hands coming up to remove Sherlock's from his face. "I'm fine, Sherlock. The leg aches a little and I'm slightly disorientated. Give me a moment, I just woke up." John tried a reassuring smile, which apparently didn't help much judging by the look on Sherlock's face. "Given that I was hallucinating pretty badly the fever must have been quite high for a while there, huh?"
"41 degrees Celsius."
John started, "Christ. Good thing we busted loose when we did then, huh, or Reid would've had half his job done for him by the wound." Sherlock glared, apparently not enjoying John's gallows humor. John decided to ignore Sherlock's expression and waved a hand absently at his surroundings. "How long have I been here, wherever here is, anyway?"
"We're in a private hospital in Bishop's Stortford."
"Bishop's Stortford! Wait, isn't that the town the Ashdowns and Reid were all from? How did we end up here?"
Sherlock's eyebrows rose at this sudden inquisition. "Patience, John. The farm Reid took us to was his second cousin's, which, as I suspected, is roughly twenty-five minutes outside of Bishop's Stortford. We arrived at the hospital a little over thirty-six hours ago. Your fever broke completely approximately twelve hours ago and these rubbish doctors immediately gave you something to make you sleep. They insisted it was important in order for you to recover your strength once you were out of danger."
Sherlock left hand retook John's while he continued speaking, and the other slowly carded through John's hair, adding to John's confusion. "You managed to give me quite the scare, oh husband of mine. You were unfortunately correct about the septicemia, and these incompetents remained unable to inform me if you would respond to the antibiotics until you finally did. The final culture report is due back soon, but the doctors insist you're doing well. Your most recent lab work shows that your kidney and liver functions appear uncompromised, and your white blood cell count is elevated which they assure me prove that your body is working efficiently to fight off the infection."
John was only half listening to Sherlock's detailing his medical condition, more focused on drinking in the sight of Sherlock in his room. A Sherlock who wasn't avoiding him, a Sherlock who had apparently forgiven him, perhaps even had deleted his awareness of John's emotions, a Sherlock that John could stay friends with. The consulting detective continued to look at him, puzzlement visibly growing. "You still appear to be exceptionally disorientated, are you certain you're feeling all right? Should I call for the doctors?"
"No, no, I'm just tired. They'll want to examine me again now that I'm awake, but there's no rush and I would prefer to be a little more prepared before being descended upon." John noticed Sherlock wincing slightly when the man shifted his weight, prompting him to ask, "Sherlock, are you okay?"
John frowned, looking closely at his flatmate. He didn't remember Sherlock being severely injured but his memory of the abduction wasn't perfect and his fever had already been rising when they broke free, he could have easily missed something. There was a bandage on Sherlock's forehead over the cut John remembered, and John could see the outline of more bandages under his tight shirt. "Did he break your ribs? How's your heart?"
"I'm fine, John. Numerous cracked ribs, but no dislocated fractures, and my EKG showed no abnormalities. I have bruised kidneys, and some useless internist insisted on sewing up the cut on my forehead."
"Quite rightly too," John said, nodding to himself, awash with relief. "That's good. What are they giving you for pain? And you're drinking plenty of clear liquids? That will help flush your system and dilute the blood in your urine a bit, make it somewhat less painful to use the loo, although it will probably be several days to a week for that to clear entirely. Standard three to five weeks for your ribs to set? What about any sign of pneumothorax?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes, but did deign to reply to John's questions, "Yes, Dr. Watson. I'm keeping myself well-hydrated on clear liquids. And they're giving me Tramadol for the pain, although given that both Mycroft and Lestrade individually informed them of my history, they're providing me with only one dose at a time and charting all of them as I'm technically still a patient here, despite the fact that I removed their exasperating IV. And I have no indications of pneumothorax on my radiographs, and yes three to five weeks for my ribs to heal. Satisfied?"
John huffed slightly at Sherlock's spiel, but didn't feel it was worth the effort to argue with him, so he nodded and inquired, "Right then, what happened to Davis Reid?"
Sherlock didn't reply immediately, but reached behind himself with his foot to snag a chair closer to John's bedside, the movement causing him to lean forward slightly and John saw a flash of silver swing around his neck. John frowned and looked closer. Sherlock was wearing John's wedding ring on one of the chains Molly had gifted them. He looked up questioningly at Sherlock, who smiled back. "Ahh…yes, Lestrade retrieved our wedding rings when he and the forensics team began taking apart Reid's cousin's farm. He agreed to return them once they were processed for fingerprint evidence. At the moment he has already compiled sufficient evidence to convict Reid of more than seventeen murders, and not incidentally our kidnapping, without them remaining in evidence."
John stared, suddenly taking in that Sherlock's ring was back on his left hand. Why would Sherlock have put the ring back on? The case was over. Wouldn't he have told Lestrade what they had done to solve it? He reveled in divulging the details of his plans and enjoying everyone's reactions. Thoughts chased themselves around John's confused and tired brain, while Sherlock continued, "Lestrade also left me updated case notes that indicate Anderson's team is showing a surprising level of competence in the ongoing excavations at Reid's home and at his cousin's farm. Of course we'll have to examine the farm ourselves once the doctors release you."
John frowned; Sherlock's words seemed to suggest that he hadn't returned to the farm. Although Sherlock was rarely concerned about the details of the crown prosecution, he tended to want to ensure he had full command of all the data available. John supposed since he had solved the case by capturing Reid, the rest was significantly less interesting to him, and he wanted to avoid some of the boring evidence-gathering bits. "Did they find Mr. Williams' daughter and son-in-law?"
"Unknown," Sherlock replied, shifting in his chair, starting to raise his right leg to rest on his left knee before wincing and laying a hand on his ribs, setting his foot back on the floor. Through it all his hand still remained clasped around John's. "Lestrade's notes indicate that Reid was slightly more careful in his choice of burial sites. Although, once again bodies are marked by rose and yew bushes, he spread them out in a small copse of woods behind the farm house. So far, five additional bodies have been discovered by Toby the cadaver dog and the ground penetrating radar, but they have only explored about a third of the woods. Additionally, Lestrade informs me that they don't have enough trained personnel to start excavation at the new sites until sometime next week."
And that might explain Sherlock's presence here instead of at the farm. Of course, it didn't explain the rings, or why the genius was holding his hand. John wasn't even sure where to go from here. Should he ask about the rings, should he ask about the divorce, the case, the handholding, for a doctor? Finally when he couldn't bear the silence anymore, "What happens next, then?"
"I assume that you could answer that question better than I," Sherlock pronounced. "I imagine your useless doctors are going to require you to stay here for several more days until the drains are removed, at which point you will be discharged back to Baker Street on copious amounts of medication. Once home Mrs. Hudson will commence hovering over you making endless cups of tea and declaring not to be our housekeeper while fluffing pillows. Lestrade will require us to fill out mountains of paperwork and lecture us repeatedly about going undercover without informing him, and in approximately nineteen days we will go on our honeymoon, again presuming your doctors clear you for travel."
"Our honeymoon?" John gabbled out after a long moment.
Sherlock frowned, apparently irritated. "John, I really am going to insist that we call the doctors sooner rather than later if you insist on asking inane questions. You booked our honeymoon yourself. Remember hoi polloi avoidance and hard drive defragmentation?"
"Yeah, but," John started, only to stutter to a stop when a nurse entered the room.
"Oh! Dr. Watson, you're awake," the young women exclaimed, Sherlock's eyes rolling, presumably at the statement of the obvious, before she turned a scolding tone onto the man still holding John's hand in a loose grasp. "Mr. Holmes, you promised Dr. Egan that you would hit the call button the instant he was conscious. It was the only reason he allowed Dr. Watson to be moved out of the ICU and into this private room."
Sherlock managed to shrug haughtily without replying even as she quickly bustled over to the phone, paging the doctor and beginning to record John's vitals. The next hour was spent answering questions, asking questions, and going over his chart and expected aftercare in extensive detail. It probably didn't need to take that long but John wasn't quite ready to be alone with Sherlock again, and despite what the consulting detective had implied John had found Dr. Egan, 'call me Andrew', to be an intelligent and competent surgeon, with an excellent bedside manner. They were still swapping stories when the man was paged away.
Sherlock didn't look up as the surgeon left, a scowl planted firmly on the genius's face as he tapped away aggressively at his mobile. John's eyebrow rose. "Anderson do something foolish again?"
"Anderson is always doing something preposterous, however that isn't my current concern. Lestrade is inquiring if the two of us would be willing to come to Scotland Yard once the doctors have released you. Apparently Davis Reid has already arranged a deal with the crown prosecutors. He will confess to all of the murders and accept a life sentence without the possibility of parole if and only if we are present for his confession." Sherlock looked up, an intent air about him. "They want to know if we are willing to agree."
Sherlock frowned. "I realize that you likely consider that this is your duty to the crown or some such nonsense, but they have more than sufficient evidence to convict him without a confession, there is no need to subject yourself to additional horrors."
John smiled. "Thanks, Sherlock, but it's alright, what's a few more nightmares. Plus if it saves the families some of the trauma, it's worth it."
"Always the healer and the solider, my John." Sherlock's murmured, face taking on a contemplative expression. "Why did you never ask me what Moriarty threatened in order to force me to jump?"
"What?" John was completely thrown by shift in topic, unsure how they had gone from discussing listening to a serial killer's confession to Sherlock's Fall. "Ummm… I don't know, never really got around to it I suppose, and then after a while it just didn't seem important. You'd stopped whatever bomb or disaster that psychopath had planned. You explained how you and Molly managed it, and we had it out, multiple times I might remind you, about the idiocy of not letting me help. You never apologized, but you did finally grudgingly concede that perhaps even if it wasn't safe to inform me of your plans preemptively, you could have arranged for me to be brought into the loop after the fact instead of leaving me grieving for seven months. Anyway after all that, why didn't seem important. Moriarty was dead, his network was essentially destroyed, and you were back. That's what I needed to know."
"Ahh… John, questions are the vital first step in the deductive process. I fear that once again you have missed an important detail and therefore failed to gather essential data."
"Fine, what did he hold over your head, you arrogant twat," John demanded, about a half inch from losing his temper with his flatmate. He wasn't feeling well enough to deal with one of Sherlock's lectures on observation and deduction.
"Not what, who."
"Well who then!" John snapped.
"Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, and you."
John couldn't even come up with a reply, he just gaped blankly at Sherlock, mind empty. Sherlock smirked, continuing, "Surprised. I was too. It was apparent that my suicide was the end move of Moriarty's game, and that some additional threat was being made against the three of you. The IOUs made that perfectly clear, but I fear that I didn't expect anything quite so blatant as threatening your deaths."
"IOUs?" John asked confused, for now ignoring the information that he, Mrs. Hudson, and Greg had their lives threatened, "What are you talking about?"
"The first one was carved into an apple when Moriarty came for tea, an obvious threat against you."
"Ummmm… Sorry, not seeing it. I thought that was about him planting the imaginary computer key, and you know, being creepy. So why wouldn't it just be a visible statement of the threat against you? It's not like he appreciated you derailing his plots."
"Oh, John, why waste a perfectly good visit to accomplish only one thing when he could accomplish two. Now, think, he enjoyed riddles, rhymes, metaphors, proverbs, and fairytales." When John continued to look confused, Sherlock sighed, "An apple a day…"
"Keeps the doctor away. Oh… Of course," John finished, thinking hard. "Okay, fairytales, metaphors. Umm… The envelope on the front step, the one full of breadcrumbs, you were following Moriarty's trail of clues. He was using them to set you up but you were following them. And the burnt gingerbread man, that was you right? He was burning the heart out of you and saying you couldn't run away from him." He frowned deeply. "I still don't see what you mean about threats against Greg and Mrs. Hudson, neither of those clues relate at all to either of them."
"Correct in all particulars, John," Sherlock said, smiling benevolently, which only irritated John more. "Don't blame yourself for missing the other two. Moriarty arranged it so that I was the only one to see Lestrade's. Three letters spray painted on the windows of the building across from the Yard the night of the kidnapping, and then quickly covered with blinds. It also marked the second step in my fall, planting doubts in the minds of the yarders, which of course leads us back to Baker Street and our wonderful landlady, Mrs. Hudson. You were a touch busy being a hostage at the time but as we rounded the corner and left Baker Street that night there was some lovely new angel wing graffiti centered around the letters IOU on the empty house."
"Mrs. Hudson, and Moriarty's last coffin nail in your image," John summarized softly. "Christ, Sherlock. Why did you never tell me?"
"When I first came back, I thought you knew about the three snipers. You wanted to know if the threat had been eliminated. Took me almost two days to figure out that you knew there was a threat but hadn't worked out precisely what it was. As you have pointed out repeatedly I am somewhat oblivious to sentiment, so I determined that the best course of action was to allow you to ask me when you were ready."
"I just… well, I just figured it never mattered. I suppose I shouldn't have assumed." John paused for a moment, still not sure how he felt about the information, mind still spinning. "And can I just ask how we got onto this topic? Not that I regret learning the information, I'm just not sure how we got here."
"We got here because you needed to know precisely how important you are to me for the rest of this discussion." Sherlock leaned forward, elbows resting on knees, fingertips steepling under his chin in the prayer position, gaze intent on John's face. "Moriarty's choices weren't random, he was attacking three specific people in my life. Those who he felt tied me to the side of angels, who made me ordinary."
The pause that followed Sherlock's words, was taut. John lay unmoving on the bed, unable to speak not knowing the right words. "Lestrade is simple, he is my access to the Yard, to the Work, and a somewhat tolerable acquaintance." A shot of humor went through John at Sherlock's grudging admission of Greg's friendship. "Mrs. Hudson, one of my more successful early cases, and even before that CIA trained moron injured her, it would have been extremely apparent to Moriarty that I hold her in high regard."
"You treat her like a beloved relative," John asserted softly, "and she obviously adores you, even if you find the worst possible way of breaking bad news about her boyfriends to her." Memories of harpoons and men with wives in Doncaster ran through his head.
"Irrelevant to the current discussion, John. Particularly since you made me promise to tell you immediately if any of her romantic interests are less than honorable men," Sherlock said, gaze still intent on John's face. "What we should be discussing is why did he pick you?"
"Because I'm your friend, your closest friend."
"Yes, you're my friend, but that's not why he targeted you," Sherlock disclosed, leaning back in his chair.
John frowned. "Well, if not that then what? I wasn't a threat to his plan to destroy you, even when you were gone and I knew Moriarty's stories were lies, no one would listen to me, I couldn't prove anything."
"Actually, John, you were the biggest threat to his scheme, and likely the reason he finally decided to go through with his attempt to finish me."
"What! Why?" John asked, confusion and pain ripping through him at possibly being the cause of Sherlock's Fall.
"Because you are the physical embodiment of my heart," Sherlock stated bluntly. "The proof that not only can Sherlock Holmes have and keep a friend, but that he can fall in love."
No sound came out of John's mouth. It just hung there open, because John knew that there was no way he had actually just heard what he thought he'd heard. "Yes, John, fall in love," Sherlock said, a frighteningly smug grin on his face. "As loath as I am to admit it, you have pulled me into your world of caring and sentiment." The detective leaned forward, apparently to emphasize his words, "And I wouldn't go back even if I could."
John inhaled sharply, not breaking Sherlock's gaze, articulating each word slowly, carefully, "Let me make sure I'm following you since I usually miss something of importance. You," one hand coming up to point at Sherlock, "have fallen in love with me." He brought his hand around to point at himself.
"Okay… Okay." John was pretty sure his brain was locking up, "Okay."
Sherlock chuckled, leaning back in his chair, one hand swinging out to retake John's. "Surprised. You shouldn't be. Although this wasn't exactly the way I had planned to break the news to you, or how I was going to inform you that I have been aware of your feelings for some time. I would have preferred to have this conversation in Baker Street and with you not hopped up on copious amounts of pain relievers. I had intended to start this conversation prior to our vacation. I presumed while on it we could complete some of the more annoying required relationship tête-à-têtes. Several internet sites list fifteen things every couple should discuss prior to marriage, and although we are already married I expect both you and Mrs. Hudson would lecture me to a maddening degree if we didn't talk about them. Although I feel we covered the financial question in detail the other night."
John's mouth opened, a strangled noise erupting from him before he swallowed, clearing his throat. "Ummmm….. You love me… as a friend, a brother-in-arms sort of way."
"John! Now you're just being purposely obtuse, brothers-in-arms don't have discussions about finances and marriage."
"Right. Sorry. So how long have you known?" John asked, avoiding the question of what exactly love meant to Sherlock.
"How long have I known that you're in love with me or how long have I been in love with you?"
"Either, git," John snapped, suddenly irritated about how much fun Sherlock seemed to having with this situation.
Sherlock's smile increased John's exasperation level, "How typically you, John. You never react quite the way I expect you to." His smile remained, his hand playing absently with John's fingers, even while he continued, "You admitted your love for me to yourself sometime around Moriarty's trial, although I'm compelled to admit that I deduced that information with the clear vision of hindsight and not at the time. I was only certain of the fact after you broke up with Mary."
"Mary? How did—" John started to ask only to be interrupted by Sherlock.
"You broke up with her because you felt guilty. You feared you were using her," Sherlock said, voice frighteningly gentle. "You didn't. And your choice finally made your feelings clear to me."
"That's when you noticed?"
"Not my best work admittedly." Sherlock shrugged, "Sentiment is a disadvantage, clouds the issue and muddles the mind. If you weren't such a wonderful inspiration to my genius, the damage you do to my mind the rest of the time would be inexcusable. As it is you are ridiculously invaluable, and I refuse to do without you ever again."
"Do without me?"
"Yes. You're not allowed to leave me, and I will be dragging you along with me, willingly or unwillingly, if the Work ever requires an extended leave of absences from London again."
John's mouth opened and closed several times, words refusing to travel from his brain to his mouth. The more Sherlock spoke, the more hope slowly rose in John, the pain of it tightening his chest, and drowning out the throbbing in his leg. He finally came out with, "You know one person can't legally tell another person what they are or are not allowed to do in this country."
Sherlock laughed, the one of true enjoyment only John got to see. "And that, my John, is why I love you."
John's jaw dropped, "Because I make you laugh."
"Because you make me laugh, because you laugh with me, because you say 'amazing' not 'piss off', because you are handsome, because you fear for me, because you don't just tolerate me - you willingly and happily enjoy being my friend, because you are you. There are so many reasons, John, that we could be here all day."
"Not sure I would mind, Sherlock, it's not that often that you compliment me. Have to enjoy it while I can," John said, a dazed smile spreading across his face. Sherlock loved him, and god, he managed to say it in a way that was so completely Sherlock.
Sherlock smirked, a typically evil Sherlock smirk, dropping John's hand to reach up behind his neck, wincing at the pressure this movement put on his ribs, to unclasp the chain around his neck. John watched as the detective stood slowly and stepped to the side of the bed, leaning slightly over John, picking up his left hand and sliding the ring back home on his finger, before leaning down and, in an obviously deliberate move, kissing his ring finger again. Sherlock's head rose from his bent position to meet John's eyes, still smirking. "Much better, those idiot doctors refused to let me put it back on until you had significantly improved. They insisted that the metal could have caused localized frost bite if they had to repeat the ice bath to decrease your temperature again."
John settled himself by taking a deep breath and then he used his free hand to push himself up slightly, ignoring the pain of stretching sutures on his chest, stopping when his face was mere inches from the consulting detective's. "I love you."
Sherlock smiled widely, and John couldn't wait a second longer, moving forward the final few inches and softly brushing his mouth against Sherlock's. It was soft, sensual, and sweet. It was nothing like he would have expected and beyond what he had ever hoped for or allowed himself to imagine. It lasted for a lingering moment, a gentle brush of lips, neither pushing farther, John just savoring the newness, before Sherlock broke it off, slowly straightening up, grimacing in pain, the detectives' hand tightening painful around John's fingers. "Sherlock? Are you alright? Your ribs?"
He nodded, tightly. John pulled himself further upright. "Inhale slowly and gently, your muscles will gradually relax and the pain will pass."
It took several momentsbut gradually the lines of pain in Sherlock's posture eased, and he slowly sat back down looking wan. And John gradually started to chuckle, the absurdity of the situation setting in, and he leaned back in his bed, exhausted physically and emotionally. Sherlock gave him an inquiring look, and John just waved a hand around the room. "Just you know, us, this situation. This is now the most ridiculous thing I have done, and I not only invaded Afghanistan, I've been chasing your sorry arse around London on your ludicrous cases."
Sherlock tried to look vaguely offended at the term 'ludicrous', but John noticed that he couldn't seem to override the soft smile hovering on his lips. "You should get some sleep, Sherlock. You look drained. I'm fine. There has to be a hotel somewhere around here you can get a room for the night."
"Sherlock, really I'm alright and there is no way you're going to get any rest in that chair with your busted ribs."
"I've no intention of sleeping in this chair."
John glared at him. "You need to sleep and rest or you aren't going to heal properly."
"Of course and there is a perfectly good bed for me in here."
Both of John's eyebrow's attempted to climb his forehead at this statement, glancing at the only bed he could see in the room—his. "Despite how large this bed is, there's no way you and I can fit in it without hurting your ribs, or my leg, Sherlock. There simply isn't enough room, no matter how enticing the offer would be if my leg, sides and head weren't throbbing to three separate rhythms."
"Enticing, that's encouraging," Sherlock stated baldly, smirking when John's face went red, recognizing what he had admitted, but smiling anyway because Sherlock was flirting with him. "However, I wasn't referring to your bed. The couch contains a hide-away that I'm sure Mycroft's goons can be convinced to pull out and set up for me."
John yawned while he asked, "Goons?"
"Yes, brother was concerned that the press might attempt to bother us for interviews and felt that the hospital's security would not be sufficient in keeping them away. I allowed it only because it was either them or some of the local PCs. Mycroft's men are more likely to fetch and carry for me."
John smiled sleepily at the oh so Sherlock snarking, trying to stay awake to ask more questions, wanting to know more about Sherlock's feelings, when he had fallen in love with him, how the detective expected their relationship to work, and utterly failing. He felt lips softly brush his forehead, and the last thing he heard before exhaustion pulled him back under was Sherlock's voice in his ear, "Sleep well, my John. I'll promise to answer all those bees buzzing around in your bonnet when you wake."
FanFiction Writer Notes: I want to thank all my amazing readers for hanging in there with me. I hope that once again you find this worth the wait. As always, I can make no promises about when the next chapter will be out, but I promise this story will be finished.
I want to thank all everyone who took the time to review, alert, and favorite. Your encouragement and suggestions are wonderful. In addition I want to thank all my reviewers for not leaving huge spoilers in the reviews.
Once again thanks to my wonderful Beta Ivory Winter, who helped me work through some huge emotional beats in this chapter. Her support and advice was invaluable.