John is stunned and it takes him a second to realize exactly what's going on here. He closes his eyes and silently thanks Mycroft. He's going to have to do something nice for that man when this is all over. John opens his eyes and smiles at Lt. Mayfield.
"You didn't happen to bring any digging equipment, did you?"
"Yes, sir. Our unit is equipped for excavation work."
John can't even talk for a minute and he thinks he's definitely going to make Sherlock play nice with his brother from here on out. John nods.
"Okay then, Lieutenant. Bring your equipment and your men in here. We have a casualty down that hole."
"Yes, sir." The Lieutenant turns on his heel and goes out the door.
John turns back to the hole, ignoring the open stares of the other rescue workers.
"Did you get help?"
"I did. But you're going to have to get out of the way." John pulls out his phone and dials Sherlock.
"John." The voice is barely a whisper.
"You are going to have to be nicer to your brother, you know."
"I'm dying and that's the last thing you're going to say to me?"
"You aren't dying. Mycroft sent help."
"And oddly, I'm not comforted by that."
"Well, I am. You need to hold on for just a bit longer. We'll have you out soon."
"I'll try, John."
"You'd better. Because if you die…"
"You'll never speak to me again?"
John closes his eyes against the joke, finding nothing funny about it.
"No. If you die, you'll leave me broken. So, let's avoid that, shall we?"
Sherlock is quiet for a minute.
"Let's," he says finally.
Lestrade and the other men have climbed out of the hole and John hears the measured steps of the soldiers behind him.
"Okay, Sherlock. Hold on. We're coming to get you."
"Thank you, John."
John turns to Lt. Mayfield.
"Okay, men, let's get to work."
Lestrade is staring at the soldiers looking very confused. John shrugs at him, not wanting to spare the time to explain. He's surprised how easy it is for him to slip back into command mode, not even realizing that he's giving orders as he directs operations. The soldiers bring in heavy excavation equipment and it's not long before they are carefully tunneling through the layers of dirt and debris that had been such a challenge to do by hand. John steps back to stand with Lestrade.
"Who are these men?" Lestrade asks quietly.
"Sherlock's brother sent them."
"Ah. Well that makes sense."
John isn't sure how long it takes, but it couldn't have been more than 20 minutes before the Lieutenant is calling to him again.
"Captain Watson, sir, we've hit concrete."
"Does it sound hollow below it?"
"Just a second," John says, pulling out his phone.
"Yes, John?" Sherlock's voice sounds weak and John bites his lower lip.
"Sherlock, do you hear noise above you?"
John turns to the Lieutenant.
"Have one of the men pound on the concrete."
"Sherlock, tell me if you hear anything."
It's quiet for a second, then John hears a hollow metallic thunk.
"I heard that," Sherlock says. "It's right above me."
"Good. That's us. Hold on a minute." The Lieutenant has returned and John looks at him. "How do we get through without collapsing the ceiling on him?"
"There are support beams in the ceiling, sir. If we make a hole between them, we should be able to get to him without incident."
"Is there a box or anything you can get under? We're coming through the ceiling."
"I…let me look around." John can hear scuffling noises over the phone and then Sherlock is back. "I found a plastic crate."
"Good enough. Get under it."
John hangs up the phone and strides over to stand next to Lt. Mayfield.
"How are we making this hole?"
There's a horribly loud noise from down below and John resists the urge to cover his ears. It lasts about ten minutes and then there's a crumbling, crashing sound. John holds his breath, his whole body rigid. He's not sure how long he stands there, feeling his breath burning in his lungs, his heart slamming in his chest.
"We have him, sir," a voice calls up and John almost collapses from relief.
It takes another five minutes to bring Sherlock up by rope and John paces in front of the hole the entire time.
"Give me your hand," Lt. Mayfield says and John turns to see him helping Sherlock up.
John crosses the intervening space in three long strides, pulling Sherlock into a hug, ignoring everyone else around them.
"You scared the hell out of me, you big idiot," John says, without any real anger.
"I rather scared myself this time," Sherlock replies and John realizes that he's shaking.
John gets a good look at him pushing down his initial panic. Sherlock is covered in dirt. It's especially matted around the gash on his forehead, caked together with the dried blood. He's got a black eye, made all the more noticeable by the pallor of his skin.
"Look at me," John says, going into doctor mode. He holds up one finger, moving it from side to side. "Follow my finger. Yeah, slight concussion, but not too bad, considering you were about blown up. Let's get you to the ambulance."
He moves, putting an arm around Sherlock to help support his weight.
John turns to look at Lestrade, who gestures at the soldiers.
"Oh, right." He turns back to the Lieutenant. "How long will you be under my command?"
"Until I hear otherwise, sir."
"Right. I'm going to get this man some medical help. I'm turning you over to Inspector Lestrade. Please follow his orders."
"Yes, sir, Captain Watson, sir."
John turns to Lestrade.
"Put them to good use."
Lestrade nods, looking a bit out of his depth.
"Okay. Um…well, let's go see what other rescue work needs to be done."
"Yes, sir," the Lieutenant says, as he and his men gather up their equipment.
Content that Lestrade has everything in hand, John starts leading Sherlock towards the door.
"Captain Watson?" Sherlock asks.
"Problem with that?"
"No. Just a bit surprised."
"You knew I was in the army."
"Yes, but I didn't realize you were an officer."
"I thought you knew everything about me?" John says, smiling at Sherlock.
"Obviously, I don't. I'm going to have to do more research, I think."
"Well, you're going to have to wait until we've gotten you patched up again."
John leads Sherlock carefully through the rubble, maneuvering them towards the temporary triage hospital the paramedics set up. Sherlock is looking around, his face set in a frown.
"God, look at all this."
"Yeah, it's pretty bad," John says. "And I'm not entirely sure what brought it on."
"It had to be that man I was chasing," Sherlock says, wincing as John turns them to avoid a pile of broken glass.
"I don't know. We'll have to look into it."
"After we get you medical help," John insists.
"Of course, Doctor. Whatever you say."
"Only you could make that sound snarky," John says, shaking his head.
"I didn't mean for it to." Sherlock's voice is soft and John looks up to see Sherlock staring at him. "After everything you did for me, everything you risked to get to me…I wasn't trying to insult you, John."
They walk up to the ambulances and a woman in a uniform runs over to them.
"We pulled this man out of the rubble," John says. "He's got a head laceration and a mild concussion as well as contusions. He might be suffering from mild hypoxia as well."
The woman blinks at him.
"I'm Doctor John Watson. I'm here with DI Lestrade's team."
"Oh, yes, Doctor," she says. "I'm Madeline Wheeler and I'm an EMT. Bring him over this way. Will you need the paramedics or will you be taking care of him yourself?"
"If I could get your help, I think we can handle this. That cut is going to require stitches and I'm not entirely convinced he doesn't need oxygen. Do we have a pulse oximeter?"
"Of course, Doctor."
Madeline runs off and Sherlock is watching John with one raised eyebrow.
"Nothing. I've just never seen you in doctor mode before."
"Of course you have. I've patched you up plenty of times."
"No, I've seen John Watson do simple medical procedures, but I've never seen Doctor Watson doing his job. Oddly, there is a difference."
"Really. This is a day of revelations for me, Captain Watson. Bland jumpers aside, you are a very complex man."
John isn't exactly sure how to take that, but it doesn't sound too insulting. John wants to give it further thought, but the EMT is back. She brings the meter and an oxygen tank, just in case. John is rather glad she did, because Sherlock's reading is 93%.
"How did you not pass out?" John asks, securing the tubing behind Sherlock's ears after inserting the cannula into his nose.
"You told me not to."
"I wish that worked as well for storing body parts in the refrigerator or setting my bed on fire."
"Duly noted," Sherlock says, but John recognizes his placating voice.
Madeline brings over a suture kit and John starts to clean the wound on Sherlock's head. Suddenly Sherlock reaches over, catching his arm.
"John, you've got a cut on your hand."
John looks down, surprised how deep the gash is. It's been hurting for hours, but he's gotten used to it.
"I cut it on glass when we were digging. There was quite a bit of debris piled on top of you."
"You need to get that looked at," Sherlock says, frowning.
"As soon as I'm done with you." Sherlock arches an eyebrow at John. "I promise."
Sherlock nods and relaxes. John pulls on some gloves, then uses Lidocane to numb the area around the cut, before he washes all the dirt out and applies antiseptic. Carefully, using his best needlework, John closes the gash and applies a dressing over it.
"There. It shouldn't scar too badly. It likely won't even be that noticeable."
"Thank you, John."
"We should get you home, though."
"Not until you get your hand looked at." Sherlock turns to the EMT. "Could you get someone to treat Doctor Watson, please?"
"Of course," she says, nodding. And then she's gone again.
"I can look at it myself, Sherlock."
"Yes, but it's your left hand. How can you work on it when it's your dominant hand?"
"You worry too much," John grumbles, suddenly feeling exhausted.
"Just as you worry about me," Sherlock says quietly.
John looks at him, seeing something new in his eyes, but is too tired to figure out what it is. He considers asking, but just then, Madeline comes back with a paramedic and John is holding out his hand to be examined. It turns out that there are tiny shards of glass embedded in the cut, which explains the throbbing pains. Madeline numbs his entire hand and John has to sit very still while the paramedic picks the glass out. Sherlock sits next to him and holds his free hand. John finds it oddly comforting. Sherlock leans in closer and it takes John a second to process that he's talking.
"Why?" Sherlock's voice is just above a whisper.
"You came all the way down here. You risked your life at an accident scene, you were injured, all just to find me. Why?"
"You needed me," John says simply.
"You could have sent someone."
"I did. Where do you think the soldiers came from? Well, okay, Mycroft sent them. But I called him."
"And still, you came down here anyway."
"I…" John searches for the words, his feelings swirling around elusively. "You called me. You asked for my help. I couldn't just let you die."
"Make no mistake," Sherlock says, his eyes intense. "I do understand that without your intervention, I would not have survived. By the time any rescue workers located me, I would have suffocated. Once again, you've saved my life. And I'm not ungrateful. I'm just curious as to why."
"Do I really have to explain it to you?" John asks incredulously. "I care about you. You needed me, you called me and I came. Sherlock, if you had died…I wasn't kidding before. I don't want to go back to a life without you."
Sherlock nods, going quiet, although he doesn't take his eyes off John. John looks down at the man working on his hand and finds himself examining his own motives. Why did he come down here? Yes, Sherlock needed him, but the level of emotion John feels seems disproportionate to the situation. Of course he worries about Sherlock because he's his best friend. But the breath stealing panic he feels every time he thinks about losing Sherlock seems a bit over the top. If John is honest, he came down here because he couldn't even face the idea of a life without Sherlock in it. But what does all this mean?
Sherlock is still holding his hand and John looks down, noting how their hands fit together. He finds himself considering how their lives fit together and wondering what they could be to each other. He looks up at Sherlock and feels that rush of affection, of admiration, and… John pauses, finally understanding what the nameless emotion he feels every time he looks at Sherlock is. He frowns. So, this is love? It couldn't be. Love was something fluffier, cuddlier, maybe with flowers and birds. Or, is he confusing it with a Disney movie?
As he sits, having his hand sewn up in a triage tent, surrounded by sirens and smoking rubble, John finally understands that love isn't a cliché. It doesn't come in a sudden flash across a crowded room or with smoldering heat on a darkened dance floor. Sometimes, love slowly builds between two people who share everything and hold a great affection for each other. It grows with each accidental touch over the breakfast table, each private joke at a crime scene, and even every argument over whose turn it is to buy the milk. It comes out in shared chases after murderers and is displayed in the way two people risk their lives for each other, night after night. It isn't how he remembers it from secondary school, all nerves and overwhelming emotions. This version is quieter and more comforting. It's reassuring and beautiful. It's being accepted for who he is and it's being wanted and needed, it's being a part of Sherlock's life in a way that no one else has ever been and it's the solid certainty that there is no one that he would ever want to share the rest of his life with, other than the amazing man sitting next to him, holding his hand.
John doesn't know how he got here, but now that he knows where he is, he finds a peace in it. In actuality, it's a huge revelation, to finally understand that you're in love with your mad flatmate. But here, right now, his shoulder throbbing as his hand is being stitched up, covered in dirt and ash and feeling like he's just walked thirty miles across the desert with a full field pack, he quietly accepts it. He's sure that once the shock wears off there'll be a lot to deal with, not the least of which is what Sherlock will think about the whole thing. But that is a battle for another day. Right now, he's going to get a dressing on his hand and then he's going to get Sherlock home so they can both get some much needed rest.
John hands Sherlock a cup of tea and sits down next to him on the sofa. His back aches and his bad shoulder is starting to feel like there's broken glass it in, but he can't deny how nice it is to finally relax. They stayed at the scene for another couple of hours as John helped out with the wounded and Sherlock rested off to the side. When they finally left, they picked up food on the way home and then they both took long showers. John had been so grateful for the hot water, sluicing off the dirt and dried blood. He couldn't remember a shower ever feeling so wonderful. They hadn't eaten much, but it was enough to stave off starvation, so John is satisfied. Now they are sitting, dressed in their pajamas, sipping tea, and trying not to fall asleep sitting up.
The cab ride home was an odd one for John. Armed with his new emotional knowledge, John found himself studying Sherlock and he was surprised at how attracted to him he was. As John looked at Sherlock in the dim light of the cab, he had to admit that if he didn't feel like he'd been sat on by something large, hairy, and dirty, he'd be mightily aroused. As it was, he found himself thinking mildly lascivious thoughts between longings for a hot shower and some soup. How had he missed this for so long? The only answer he has is that he must have been hiding it, even from himself, for fear of losing the relationship they currently have.
"You're staring again," Sherlock says quietly.
This is the third time Sherlock has caught him, yet John can't summon up the strength to care. He shrugs his good shoulder.
"Yes, I suppose I am."
"I'm not going anywhere. I didn't die. You needn't worry so much."
"I know," John says softly.
Sherlock looks at John, quirking an eyebrow and studying his face. After a minute or two, Sherlock's eyes go wide. He looks slightly confused, like he's not sure of what he's seeing. His expression settles into a frown, but he keeps watching John. John thinks he should likely worry about this. Sherlock being Sherlock and John being too tired to keep up the game, means that John's secret likely isn't so secret anymore. He wants to consider the ramifications of this, but his brain feels too wrung out to put any arguments together.
"We should get some sleep," John says. "If I don't move soon I'm likely spending the night right here on the sofa.
"I'm feeling a bit muzzy myself."
John pushes himself up, then offers his hand to Sherlock. They leave the mugs on the coffee table; they can wait until morning for the clean up. John helps Sherlock to his room and they prepare for bed. Sherlock slides into the bed and John pulls up the covers around him. John runs his fingers gently through Sherlock's hair and he thinks Sherlock might already be mostly asleep, so he's surprised when Sherlock reaches out and takes his hand.
"I knew I could count on you," Sherlock murmurs and John gives his hand a gentle squeeze. "I knew you'd come for me."
They stay like that for a few heartbeats, exhaustion giving everything a surreal glow for John. He's almost not surprised when Sherlock brings John's hand up and kisses his knuckles. John doesn't react for a minute, not until Sherlock starts to run his tongue between John's fingers. John closes his eyes, taking a deep breath and pulling his better sense around him. He reaches out and disengages his hand from Sherlock, taking a step back from the bed. Sherlock looks up and by the half-light coming in from the street, John can see his face and clearly read the pain of rejection in his eyes. Sherlock presses his lips together.
"No," John says, stepping forward quickly. "It's not…just not tonight, okay? I'm not ready to deal with this tonight."
Sherlock tips his head, looking at John and John takes a steadying breath.
"I'm emotionally drained and completely exhausted and you're on heavy duty painkillers. We are not having a discussion that affects the rest of our lives under these conditions."
Sherlock's eyes go wide.
"The rest of our lives?" His voice is just above a whisper.
John feels himself blushing. That wasn't presumptuous or anything.
"Well…I…you see…" John is rather wishing someone would break in to kidnap him right now. Where is Mycroft when you really need him?
"No, you're right," Sherlock says, pulling up the covers. "Conversations this important should happen when one has one's full faculties. But, John?"
"Can you at least tell me how the conversation will turn out? I'll never get any sleep if I'm worrying about losing y…well, what's going to happen."
John sighs, pulling an overstuffed chair away from the wall, closer to the bed.
"How do you want it to go?"
"John, I was licking your fingers. How do you think I want it to go?"
"Right. Sorry. I told you I was tired."
"Well?" Sherlock asks.
"Let's just leave it that I think we'll both be happy with the outcome and we'll fill in the details after we've both had some sleep."
Sherlock nods as John settles in the chair.
"Is there a reason that you're sitting in that chair?"
"I'm going to keep an eye on you tonight. I didn't rescue you from underneath a building to have you go into convulsions or something."
"Yes," Sherlock says nodding. Then he gestures to the bed. "But is there any reason you're staying in that chair?"
John sighs again.
"Sherlock." He keeps his voice gentle, but he puts a warning in it.
"I was just asking you to get closer to me. I'm bruised, I'm dizzy, I hurt, and as you pointed out, I'm on painkillers that make it hard for me to keep my eyes open. Do you really think this is a proposition?"
"No, I suppose it's not." He gets up and walks over to the bed. "Scoot over a bit."
Sherlock shifts, wincing as he moves.
"Sorry," John says, climbing in. "I should have thought about that and not moved you."
"It was worth it," Sherlock says, yawning. "John?"
"Since the talk we're having later is supposed to go so well, would it be inappropriate to ask you to hold me? I've had a really bad day and I just need you."
John's heart goes out to Sherlock and he's moving closer before he even really thinks about it.
"Come here, you big idiot," John whispers, gently wrapping himself around Sherlock.
"I almost die and you call me an idiot?"
"Yes, but you're my idiot," John says, kissing Sherlock's temple.
"Always have been," Sherlock murmurs, his voice just on the edge of sleep. "Think I always will be."
"At least we have that settled," John chuckles, snuggling closer.
"Mmhm," Sherlock says and John can tell from his breathing that he's asleep.
John pulls Sherlock closer, savoring the feeling of having him in his arms. Sherlock almost died today and that concept isn't lost on John. He knows it's always a possibility; the life they lead isn't exactly safe. And while that's part of the appeal to John it leaves him knowing that every minute with Sherlock might be his last. Tomorrow they'll discuss this, talk about their feelings and where they hope this goes and John finds himself wistfully thinking about a quiet home in the country where Sherlock can raise bees and John can have his own practice and they can grow old together. He knows something like that will be years down the road, but from the look he saw in Sherlock's eyes tonight, he has hopes that they'll get there eventually. No matter what, they'll work it out together. But that is a topic that will wait until John's brain isn't fuzzy with exhaustion.
John snuggles against Sherlock's back, lightly kissing his neck just once. The soft light from the street below gives the room a dream like feel for John and as he drifts off to sleep, he thinks that everything is going to be just fine. He and Sherlock will make this work and in the end, they'll get their happily ever after. But right here and now, as John slides into dreams, holding the man he loves in his arms, he's more than content that they are just safe and together.