It was in the middle of another 'drugs bust' while John was at work that Anderson had come up with the idea to search John's room as well reasoning that there was no telling what Sherlock might have hidden in there so two lackeys were sent up to look over the doctor's room.
They had only been up there for a few minutes when they came back down bearing the box.
It was basically just a rough wooden thing, but it had a massive steel chain wrapped around it with an equally large padlock and a few numbers on the side with the initials: JHW.
They set it down with a muffled bang on John's cluttered writing desk.
"We found this in his room sir." Lackey one spoke up, "It looks suspicious sir, and it weighs quite a bit." Everyone stopped and gathered around to look at it, it looked like it might be interesting.
Even Sherlock seemed intrigued by the presence of this box but didn't really want anyone poking around in John's stuff because he knew how angry the doctor could be when anyone other than Sherlock messed with his things without permission, he'd given up on Sherlock learning how to ask first then take.
"I don't think opening it is a good idea." Sherlock muttered to Greg who ignored him
"Right, let's open it up and see what's in it." Greg wasn't sure what to make of the box, it clearly hadn't been opened in a while and even he wasn't sure if it was a good idea to go through something the doctor had put under such heavy lock and key but he decided they might as well take a look.
He figured if all else failed they could fall back on the search warrant and claim the box had appeared to be suspicious.
"Open it up how?" Sherlock quickly saw a way to make them put the box back, "You don't have a key and you don't have cutters strong enough to break the chain."
Lackey two decided to step up to bat, "That's why we grabbed this key ring from the nightstand." The cocky jerk held up a ring of keys with a grin.
Sherlock groaned internally, of course John would keep the key to this box on the key ring with all the other useless keys he'd collected over the years.
With a flourish Greg selected the right key after a few tries and opened the padlock.
The chains hit the desk with a thump, and everyone gathered around as Greg lifted the lid of the box as carefully as possible ready for anything.
Inside the box lay a tissue-wrapped package on top of a glass case, Greg lifted the tissue-wrapped item out and carefully opened it to find three sets of metal ID tags. Each had clearly seen quite a bit of wear and tear because none of them were in mint condition, and each had John's name on them.
Laying the tags aside Greg pulled out the glass case which held a row of medals, the Victoria Cross, the Royal Red Cross, and the Military Cross.
"Whoa," Greg whistled to himself, "he's got more medals than any service member I've ever known."
"Looks like the doctor is a decorated hero, Sherlock did you know he had all these?" Sally looked impressed, who would have guessed that the unobtrusive doctor had achieved so much?
"I had no idea," Sherlock shook his head as he took in these new details about John, filing them away for future reference, "he's never really told me much about his time in Afghanistan and I haven't pried."
Sherlock's comment got a few raised eyebrows but almost everyone dismissed it when Anderson grabbed a binder of reports and started reading out loud, "...Captain John Watson single-handedly halted a sniper attack on his company by vaulting over the retaining wall of a small garden where the shooters were located, he then proceeded to disable both snipers and was back with his company tending to the men who had been shot before anyone else could mobilize to help..."
"He definitely fits my definition of a hero," Greg thumbed through a stack of reports from John's past, "it seems he saved the day several times and saved the lives of not only military personal but civilians as well."
"I'm not a hero."
Every person in the room flinched at the icy tone and turned to find John behind them in the doorway.
His outward bearing was what you could call cautiously relaxed, but his normally kind eyes were hard and icy as he strode towards them. He carefully took the files out of Greg's unresisting hands, and gathered up what they had taken out of the box before carefully settling it all back in.
Without another word he closed the lid and wrapped the chain around the box again, and then he snapped the padlock back into place. As carefully as one would cradle a child he carried the locked box upstairs and shut his door leaving everyone to stare at one another.
"I think its time we left." Greg glanced up the stairs then looked at Sherlock, "Text me later about the case ok?"
A nod from the pale detective was all Greg got as he shepherded his people out the door, many of them whispering amongst themselves about John.
Sherlock sank down onto the sofa to prepare for the anger John would likely direct at him. I knew we shouldn't have opened that box, it clearly screams private and he was very angry at us all for prying into his past. I wonder how long I have until he comes down…