Sherlock bbc is property of bbc, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
My undying gratitude goes to Arthur Conan Doyle.
This story is un-betad and not brit-picked!
Ex ante: I owe a big, big thank you to everyone who reviewed. Guys; you are so great. *hug* Your kind words mean the world to me.
English still isn't my original language. So please if you find any mistakes don't be shy to tell me.
I have to start the second part of this story with a bit of a warning. I never intended for the storyline to go that way. It's rather angsty and fluffy and all that… Sherlock and John are perhaps a bit OOC Here; I told you, so please no flames…
The boys just somehow took the plot and run of with it. But I hope you enjoy anyway!
So please leave me a review and tell me what you think. :-)
Problem Site II
Of course neither John nor Sherlock go back home to Baker Street that night. Hours of waiting and sitting in cheap plastic chairs in the A&E's waiting room have put Sherlock in a considerably bad mood. The hospital staff is avoiding him like the plague and since he is not related to his flatmate none of them are forthcoming with information.
Dawn is already painting the sky with a symphony of red and pink when the Consulting Detective finally manages to bypass the nurses on duty and sneak into the treatment room John occupies at the moment. In one hand he holds a plastic cup of hot tea, in the other a sorry excuse for a blueberry muffin he got from one of the vending machines in the lobby. It's not that he is hungry, but – so he argues – John is injured and therefore has to eat. Sherlock sincerely doubts that those ignorant nurses have brought him anything and since he knows that blueberry is John's favourite he went for the muffin spontaneously. Even if it isn't actually breakfast material.
He fuddles a bit with the handle before he manages to pull the door open. John is sitting on the examination table, striped to the waist and wearing some sort of improvised sling on his left arm and shoulder. The overeager paramedics have cut his jumper and t-shirt open, since he couldn't move his arm without being in a considerable amount of pain and both articles of clothing are beyond salvation now. Seemingly oblivious to Sherlock's entrance John stares at the opposite wall with an empty gaze. He appears to be deep in thought, almost even catatonic. His right hand is clutching a disposable blanket that lies next to him on the cot.
That won't do. Sherlock frowns and speaks up in that tone of voice John has never been able to resist: "John."
The blonde doctor startles visibly and grimaces in pain before he looks up at his tall flatmate. Sherlock feels a spike of guilt but chooses to ignore it. "I brought you breakfast," he says and offers his purchases with an earnest expression.
At this a small smile curls the corners of John's mouth. "Thank you." He takes the cup with his right hand and ignores the muffin for the moment. Not that he could hold it anyway.
Sherlock closes the door behind him and seats himself on the cot at his friend's side. His fingers fuddle unconsciously with the wrapped up muffin, reducing it to a mass of crumbs while his eyes glide over the naked skin of John's shoulder; take in the dark bruises under his collarbone and shoulder blade that are visible next to the material of the sling. The skin of his left arm looks paler than the rest of his torso and the beds of his fingernails show a light bluish tint, which confirms Sherlock's earlier assessment of the situation. John's injury hampers the blood flow somehow. The tissue looks swollen; puffy and sore and there is the indistinct shape of an internal fixation plate visible under the skin that covers the scapula. But the joint in itself doesn't appear to be distorted.
"How are you?" There is genuine concern in this dark voice and John shrugs with his right shoulder in some sort of lopsided dismissal.
"They gave me something for the pain. If I don't move it doesn't even hurt that much." He sights. "Still waiting for the scan results but I'm pretty sure I broke something…" He trails of and shakes his head absentmindedly. "In any case; the ultrasound doesn't look so good. I'm bleeding into the muscle tissue."
There is an almost imperceptible tremor in his voice that tells Sherlock how shaken he really is. John is afraid that – perhaps – this incident has damaged his shoulder irreparably. That this time the damage will be permanent.
"There is no reason to jump to conclusions, John. As long as you don't have the necessary data you shouldn't concern yourself with 'what if's'. It's a needless waste of time and you'll only drive yourself into a state of agitation."
John huffs without a trace of humour. But he recognizes Sherlock's very own brand of comfort, so he forces himself to answer: "Yes. You're probably right."
"Oh, I'm definitely right."
John doesn't answer to that and silence descend onto the room. Sipping his tea the smaller man returns to his dark thoughts. But the silence doesn't last for more than two minutes. Sherlock has never been one to sit still over long periods of time (not counting his own very extensive bouts of brooding) and true to his character he jumps up to throw the mutilated muffin into the waste basket and then starts to pace.
John watches him with tired eyes and puts the empty cup aside. With his waterlogged suit and lacking his undoubtedly dirty coat the tall man looks like a bedraggled scarecrow.
After two rounds across the room Sherlock stops in front of John: "Aren't you cold?"
John shakes his head in negation. "No, I'm good. What about you? Did they clean those wounds out?"
Sherlock huffs. "Yes. Those insufferable nurses did indeed insist on tormenting me with antiseptic swipes and plasters." He sighs dramatically. "I got rid of them immediately."
"The nurses or the plasters?" asks John. He has indeed noticed the absence of plasters on his flatmates face but the verbal banter keeps his mind from other things and so he is just too willing to indulge his eccentric friend.
"Both of course." A quick grin darts over Sherlock's aristocratic features. "Did you have the pleasure to make the acquaintance of Nurse Carter? That woman is a menace."
John rolls his eyes. "She dressed my shoulder, actually."
"Well; I was lucky Doctor Hanson interrupted before she was able to molest me." It is far more than those words deserve, but they have to somehow vent the tension that has built up since the incident with McKay and so they both start to laugh. But just a moment later John stops with a pained gasp. His right hand grabs his left upper arm in an attempt to ride out the sudden waves of pain.
"Okay. Laughing is no good," he wheezes.
Sherlock stares down at his flatmate. "Should I call for a nurse?" His intention is clear. If you need something for the pain just say so! But John shakes his head. His eyes are firmly closed and he uses some sort of breathing exercise to weather this spell out.
The Consulting Detective watches with interest as John's body starts to relax again. "Interesting technique. You learned that after you were shot in Afghanistan."
It isn't a question but John feels the need to confirm his words anyway. "Hmm." His eyes are open now, but the doctor keeps them firmly on the grey linoleum of the floor. "When I was strong enough to survive the transport they moved me to the field hospital in Kandahar. I spend the next two weeks there. The hospital was absolutely overcrowded and they… they didn't have enough morphine to keep us all constantly medicated. Told us something about a shortage of supplies. That's rather ironic, you know. Afghanistan is one of the largest suppliers for heroin on the world market. We all have seen those endless poppy fields out there. They are rather hard to miss…" John's voice is flat and sounds far, far away, but Sherlock doesn't interrupt. It's the first time John talks about his time in the war on his own accord and Sherlock would have expected curiosity on his part; the burning need to know more he is so familiar with. But no. Johns posture is neutral and his voice betrays nothing but his words cause a hot burning pain within Sherlock's chest.
When I was strong enough to survive the transport… Those words make him positively sick. Sherlock has known – on a purely intellectual level – that John's injuries had to have been severe. The entry and exit wounds the bullet has left behind indicate as much. But it's one thing to know this and another to really know that John has nearly lost his life in that foreign country. Sherlock has to force himself not to choke when the full impact of this statement hits him. What if John had indeed died down there? He can't imagine leading a life without his flatmate/blogger/friend anymore. Doesn't want to… he has to make a conscious effort to force his overactive mind to stop.
John looks at him with a wry smile that indicates he knows exactly what his friend is thinking. He concludes: "But to be fair I have to admit that I was pretty out of it most of the time. It wasn't that bad actually." Sherlock doesn't know if those words are for John's benefit or his own but John doesn't meet his eyes so this question remains unanswered.
The blonde sighs and presses his lips together in an uneasy gesture. "Sherlock?" He hesitates. "I'm sorry; you know?"
Sherlock blinks. "What for?"
"For McKay. For losing control like this." John's hazel eyes ghost through the room in a restless hurry, looking everywhere but in Sherlock's direction.
"Nonsense." Sherlock frowns down at the other man. "You have nothing to apologize for. That was…"
"No, Sherlock! I can't afford to lose control like this. It's dangerous; I'm…"
"John!" A clear warning.
"I could have killed him. I could have killed you."
"That's nonsense, John! You wouldn't hurt me, let alone kill me." Sherlock doesn't like the direction this conversation is taking and his hands accompany his words with pointed gestures.
"You don't know that." John's voice carries a certain finality that makes Sherlock's hackles rise.
"Of course I do! And do you want to know why, John?" With his typical disregard for personal space he puts his hands to the sides of John's head and forces those expressive eyes to meet his own. "Because I know you. I know you are a good man John, so stop selling yourself so damn short."
The swear word sounds strange in combination with Sherlock's posh accent but John doesn't remark on it. His eyes burn with an angry intensity the Consulting Detective has never seen there before. John's right hand closes around Sherlock's wrist in an iron grip, but he doesn't try to wrench his hand away. "You have no idea what I'm capable of." The underlying darkness in this sentence is positively frightening.
But Sherlock wouldn't be Sherlock if he was impressed that easily. "You fought in a war, John. I'm well aware of the fact that you are capable of killing a man. Very well aware if you care to remember." None of them has ever spoken of the incident when John shot the cabbie to save Sherlock's life. It's like an unspoken agreement between the two of them. A secret too dangerous to put it into words. Because for John it could mean a life sentence in prison.
The atmosphere in the room is so thick you could cut it with a knife and neither one of them hears the soft knock before the door opens. They are so caught up in their staring contest that Lestrade has to clear his throat loudly to announce his arrival. "Am I interrupting something?" he asks with a pointedly raised eyebrow.
They let go of each other like school boys caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Sherlock steps back and throws the DI a superior glare. "Of course not. We were just discussing something and I am pretty sure we've come to a satisfactory agreement."
This ambiguous statement makes John groan but Lestrade grins unabashed. "Sure. Whatever you say." He turns to John and releases an impressed whistle: "They really did quite a number on you, heh?" It's obvious that his words don't refer to the growing bruises on John's shoulder.
The doctor looks like he wants to disappear. John isn't self-conscious about his body. He knows that he is in a good shape but he isn't comfortable with putting his scars on display. For many people knowing something and seeing it are two entirely different things. And in John's experience people just look at him differently after they have seen his scars. It's like they can't help themselves but imagine how the bullet tore through his body to leave a damage like that. Sherlock has been a positive exception in this regard. He has just looked and prodded with his typical detached, scientific interest, filed the results of his observations away in this amazing head of his and has never spoken to John about it again.
Lestrade has known beforehand that John has been gunned down in Afghanistan, but he hasn't actually seen the mess this sniper's bullet has left him with.
And now the man is staring. Staring at the uneven, frayed exit wound the bullet has left beyond his collarbone, already faded to a silvery white and the angry red surgery scars over the bullet wound itself, on the ridge of his shoulder and at the groove between his pectoral and deltoid muscle. And the DI hasn't even seen his back yet.
Sherlock stops Lestrade's curious examination by stepping between him and his flatmate. "What do you want? Is there no one you can pester at the Yard?"
The DI visibly pulls himself together. "Well; I knew I'd find both of you here and I wanted to remind you that we still need your statements for the files. Besides… besides, I wanted to ask how John is doing." He walks around Sherlock to have a second look at John and this time his eyes remain steadfast on the smaller man's face. He clears his throat awkwardly. "Sorry about my reaction earlier. I was just… surprised, I guess. How is the shoulder?"
John accepts the apology with a small hesitant smile. "It's okay. You're hardly the first one to…" His right hand flutters in an indefinite gesture. "And about the shoulder; I don't know yet but I'm pretty sure they will have to operate to fix the damage." He grows silent with a resigned sigh.
"Crap. Sorry to hear that."
"Don't be." John shakes his head. "It could be worse. Dr. Hanson seems to think that the joint in itself isn't affected. That has to count something, right?"
Lestrade buries his hands in the pockets of his trench coat. "Hmm. Well, I certainly wish you all the best John. But I have to be on my way. They are waiting at the Yard… So. Take care." Lestrade and John shake hands and the DI nods at Sherlock when he passes him but then he hesitates and turns back to them: "By the way, John; don't worry because of McKay's threat to press charges against you. Sally talked him out of it."
Sherlock lifts an eyebrow. "Donovan? That woman is full of surprises. It seems she is useful for something at least."
"Don't be mean, Sherlock." John frowns at his flatmate before he turns to Lestrade: "Please thank her for this on my behalf. I owe her one."
Lestrade grins: "Sure."
The next moment someone nearly shoves the door into his back. A tall man clad in blue scrubs under a white coat enters the examination room. "I'm sorry you had to wait, Dr. Watson, but…" He looks at their small gathering with an expression of surprise on his bearded face. "Oh. It seems you were quite entertained while I was away."
Lestrade snorts. "Actually, I was just going to leave. Doctor." He nods at the newcomer. "John, Sherlock; we'll talk another time." Then he disappears with a small wave in their direction.
"Well?" The man casts a questioning glance at the Consulting Detective, but Sherlock just stares at him intently, his hands folded behind his back. The name plate clipped to the front pocket of his coat identifies him as Doctor Adam Hanson. Married, two… no three children (one set of twins), has just celebrated his forty-third birthday, drinks too much coffee and has been on shift for at least twenty hours. Utterly boring.
John sights at his friends obvious lack of manners. "Dr. Hanson, this is Sherlock Holmes, my flatmate." He looks from one man to the other. "I don't mind if he stays. I was going to tell him anyway."
Hanson nods. "All right. Nice to meet you Mr. Holmes." He pulls two x-ray negatives out of a brown envelope and clips them to the light screen. "Then let's have a look, shall we?"
The pictures show the upper part of John's torso back and front. And what catches his eye first is the white L-shaped metal plate they used to hold his shoulder blade together. It contrasts sharply with the lighter outline of his bones and the darker space where the upper part of John's left lung should be.
The first time Sherlock saw the scars on John's body, he had deduced - by means of the (supposed) position of the man's body and the trajectory of the projectile – the damage the bones, muscles and different tissues had taken. And he had known immediately that John's left lung had been one of the organs affected. A human lung extends from the diaphragm up to approximately an inch above the clavicle. There was no way the bullet could have missed that. So Sherlock is not surprised at what he sees. Neither is Hanson but since he is a doctor and has probably seen those pictures before, that's to be expected. And John; well he should know first-hand, right?
Hanson points at a dark irregular mass under the left collarbone: "This structural analysis here is the haematoma we talked about earlier, Dr. Watson. No surprise there. It's absolutely necessary to do something about that. And fast. The free blood in the tissue is already compressing the muscle and the surrounding blood vessels and you're obviously cyanotic."
John nods from his place on the examination table. He doesn't look surprised. "Pale skin and blue tinted fingertips. That means the tissue doesn't get enough oxygen," he murmurs as an explanation.
Sherlock snorts offended. "Thank you very much, but I do know that, John."
"Well…" Hanson pauses to suppress the grin that is so obviously threatening to overwhelm his features. "Since we're apparently all experts here, let's continue with the next problem, yes?"
Sherlock gestures for him to continue and the doctor turns to the second negative. "We've found a hair fracture in the scapula. Right here." His finger follows an invisible line across the bone and this time John stands up to have a closer look at the picture. Sherlock sees nothing, but John apparently does. He nods in confirmation. "That doesn't look too bad actually."
"Yes," Hanson agrees. "But the screws that hold the fixation in place have broken out. We have to remove it in any case. The metal is craping over the periosteum. That's what makes it so painful right now. However; the good news is that the fracture doesn't stretch though the whole bone. So when we remove the plate, we can remove it for good. No replacement necessary. I assume you already had an appointment for that?"
John has closed his eyes and releases a reassured sigh. "Yes. In January, actually."
Hanson miles at John's obvious relief. "Hm. We cannot wait long enough for the army to send us your medical files but those x-rays and the print outs from the ultrasound give us a pretty good impression of what's going on. Our administration will try to get a hold on the colleague, who was responsible for your treatment so far, but that is standard procedure in cases like yours. So no worries here." Hanson scribbles something on John's patient chart and looks up again. "Is there anything we should know of? Allergies, intolerances, medical anomalies?"
John shakes his head. "No, nothing. So, when am I scheduled for?"
"I got you an appointment with Doctor Morgenstern at 10am. He starts his shift in about an hour. That gives him nearly two hours to prepare and that's more than most emergency patients get." He unclips the x-rays and adds them to John's file. "When was the last time you ate something?"
"Yesterday around noon."
"Good." Again Hanson adds something to the chart. "Let's keep it that way for now… Well." He puts his pen into the breast pocket of his coat. "I'm going to send a nurse to get you settled and prepare you for the operation."
John and Sherlock exchange a meaningful glare and Doctor Hanson actually chuckles at that.
"Don't worry. I'll make sure that Sandra will be occupied elsewhere."
"Carter. Sandra Carter. I heard that she got her hands on both of you, earlier." He winces. "Sometimes she is just a little overeager."
"Overeager?" Sherlock's voice could cut glass. "If that is her usual behaviour, you're lucky nobody has pressed charges yet."
"Sherlock." John's warning objection is mostly ignored.
Hanson just shrugs. "I'm not responsible for the personnel policy in this facility. But that's beside the point. Mr. Holmes. I'd recommend you use the time to go home to grab a change of clothes for yourself and pack a small bag for your partner. He'll probably need to stay for a few days."
The Consulting Detective nods. "What do I …"
"I'm not his partner." John sputters. He can literally feel the heat creeping into his face. "I mean… I… I am but… We're not…" In the end he just sights exasperated and rolls his eyes. "You know what? Just… forget it. It's not important."
Hanson looks at them with a hint of embarrassment. "I'm sorry if I misinterpreted something here. No offense meant."
"None taken", Sherlock interjects with casual aloofness and continues his interrupted sentence: "What do I need to pack?"
"The usual. Toiletries, a change of clothing to sleep in, a pair of slacks, t-shirts, a few changes of underwear." The doctor shrugs. "Nothing special."
"Well." Hanson clears his throat. "I need to get going. Doctor Watson. Mr. Holmes." He shakes their hands. "I'll step by tomorrow in the evening to see how you're doing."
Sherlock huffs after the door falls closed behind the other man. "He was in quite a hurry to leave, don't you think?"
"Can't imagine why."
The Consulting Detective opens his mouth, undoubtedly to throw himself into a lengthy explanation but John stalls him with his raised right hand. "Don't." he says. "I was being sarcastic, Sherlock."
"Why do people always assume that we're a couple?" John asks with an irritated frown.
"I don't know, John. Perhaps it's my shining charisma?"
John blinks. "Was that a joke?"
This question makes John chuckle. ""You should work on that one."
"Duly noted." Sherlock blesses him with a rare honest smile.
John smiles back before he gets serious again. "Sherlock; because of what you did earlier…" he begins and unconsciously echoes the Detectives words from The Pool, "helping me with my… episode. Thank you for that one."
Sherlock nods. "You're welcome. Someone once told me that's what friends are for."
"That someone was probably right."
"Oh, he was definitely right."
John smiles at those familiar words. "You don't have to stay, you know. I'll be okay on my own."
The other man gets up with a short nod. "All right. I'll go home and get some things for you. But I want to give you something to think about before I leave: Harrison McKay would have shot me today if you hadn't reacted the way you did. So no matter what you were actually thinking in those moments, you still ended up saving my life." He winks at his puzzled flatmate. "Just think about it."
John huffs and this time it's embarrassment that brings a light flush on his face. "Sherlock?"
"Don't forget my toothbrush."
The Consulting Detective laughs a little. "I won't. I'll be back before they take you to surgery."
John takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Thank you", he mutters but there is nobody in the room to hear his words.
Sherlock has already left.