Chapter Six:

Everything was foggy, grey upon hazy wisps and smoky shadows. He thought he could just make out the shapes of people, but every time he got close to someone, they vanished. Disappear, disappear. Alone. He pulled his coat tighter and closed his eyes. Roof. He didn't remember opening his eyes. Still grey, but he knew this skyline. He looked at the phone in his hand, and then the body. Evil smiles and puddles. How was he here? Ah, yes, dream. He was due for a familiar haunting. Air rushed past his ears, whistling a sick little tune. He shut his eyes tight; he always hated this part. Another blink and he could see the crowd gathering. Interesting. The fall usually woke him up. He rarely relived this part. He started walking, but then he was running, pushing past the stunned bystanders. He wasn't motionless on the ground. Odd. Different.

His fingers reached out to grab a wrist, feeling for a pulse. The face was shadowed, blurry, unclear. Why couldn't he see? It was supposed to be him; he should see it. Then it was sharpening at the edges. No. John. John's eyes stared at him. No smiles, but red, red, red. It was staining the grey and his hands uselessly dipped into it. He wanted to replace it, put it back, but it was everywhere.

"You brought me into this."

Red wasteland, too bright and not bright enough. Not alone this time. John, his hair clotted with dark blood stains. His shoulder torn apart. The bruises printed on his skin. The betrayal in John's eyes needled beneath his skin until his blood was pulsing with it. His heart beat slower and slower. He never took his eyes off John.

Sherlock's eyes opened suddenly. He moved them from side to side, taking in the hospital room. No grey hazy edges here. He moved his head to take in the full area. They were alone. He drew in a deep breath, leaning forward towards the bed. Fingers slid over John's hand to his wrist. Pulse. Steady. His relief was silent. He rose, ignoring the ache drumming down his back. The window beckoned him, and he watched the umbrellas twirl through the streets. They'd been here for a week; today was the first day it rained.

"It's raining," he said.

John's respirations had increased. Awake then. The medication usually caused dreamless sleep, but they were decreasing the dosages. The doctor slept in restless and light naps. Sherlock's touch must have woken him.

"It's London, Sherlock." The thin voice did not match John, but Sherlock did not look. Behind his eyelids, he still saw red.

When the sheets betrayed John's awkward fidgeting, Sherlock turned.

"Pain?"

John just laid his head back on the pillow, shaking his head slightly.

"Fine."

"Liar," Sherlock muttered. Every line of John's body was tight and coiled.

The barest hint of a smile colored John's face. Sherlock clasped his hands behind his back, slowly meandering closer to the bed.

"You know I'm fine, Sherlock." John watched him carefully.

"Obviously," Sherlock sighed impatiently. "With physical therapy, you will regain most, but not all use of your shoulder. Ironically, you'll need to use your cane for a few months with the foot."

The thought of the cane troubled him. Sherlock took up a slow pace beside John's bed. One, two, three, turn. One, two, three, turn. His own waltz.

"Sherlock."

Serious tone. Unsettling. Sherlock felt his steps quicken the tempo.

"Sherlock."

He stopped and looked directly at John. Pale John against white sheets. Transparent edges worrying Sherlock. He had enough ghosts. John returned the stare through half-hooded eyes.

"Come here." The weak order returned Sherlock close to John's side. A deceptively strong hand grasped Sherlock's sleeve. "Sit. Relax. I know you haven't been sleeping."

He scooted his chair closer to the bedside, fighting the urge to pull out his phone and occupy his hands and mind. John's hand made a sharp gesture towards the bed. With a sigh and weak glare, Sherlock rested his cheek against the mattress. John's fingers stretched until they curled around a coat collar, fingertips whispering against the back of Sherlock's neck. If Sherlock arched into the touch, it was pointedly ignored.

John's fingers clutched his coat until he fell asleep.

The next time John awoke, Sherlock was asleep in his chair. John felt his lips twitch in a fond smile. Then he realized they were not alone. A young man sat in the chair beside the door, tapping away at his cell phone. John could feel his chest growing tight as he fought to keep his breathing steady. Stranger in the room . Was Sherlock really asleep or…? Was he just waiting for John to wake up? John's fingers curled around the sheets and he fervently wished for them to turn into his gun. He fought for another shaky breath, the wheeze causing the man to look up from his phone.

"Dr. Watson, are you alright?" the man uncurled himself from the seat and moved to Sherlock, shoving his shoulder roughly.

"Not sleeping," Sherlock snapped reflexively. Then his gaze went directly to John. "John?"

John reached out a hand, clutching Sherlock's tightly when he acquiesced. He hated the absolute weakness shaking through his body. John leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Safe, safe, safe. He chanted the mantra in his head. Slowly, the band around his chest eased.

"—you shocked him into a panic attack. Get out!" John suddenly became aware of Sherlock's loud voice.

Sherlock and the stranger stood toe-to-toe. The stranger removed his glasses calmly, wiping them on the edge of his cardigan. The door opened and Lestrade slipped inside, glancing at the men before moving around them towards John. John raised a brow, using his good arm to motion to them. Lestrade just shrugged his shoulders.

"Really, Sherlock? You want me to leave? Do you know who Mycroft intends to babysit you when I leave?"

"I don't need a sitter." Petulance. John wished the stranger luck.

"You don't get to decide that."

"I can stay dead." John's jaw tightened at that.

"I can make it permanent." Lestrade turned his laugh into a cough.

Both men glared at him for the interruption. Sherlock crossed his arms stubbornly.

"Mummy would not approve." John felt his eyebrows rise.

"Oh dear god, Mummy?" Lestrade muttered. "I don't get paid enough for this."

"Mother never approved of anything."

John cleared his throat, watching the two men barely glance at him.

"Excuse me, hate to break this up, but—" John began.

"He's not important, John," Sherlock interrupted.

"And this is why you don't have friends." The stranger rolled his eyes.

"Who the hell are you?" John directed his question at the stranger.

"I work," a brief glance at Sherlock, "with ("For," Sherlock interjected) Mycroft Holmes. While Sherlock attends his mandatory…" ("Ha!" interrupted Sherlock) "…appointments at the Yard, I'll be here with you, Dr. Watson."

John did not want a stranger by his bed, even if that stranger did closely resemble Sherlock. He'd actually rather to go home.

"Thank you, but I think I can manage," John smiled briefly.

"We've intercepted three separate attempts to infiltrate this facility, Dr. Watson." John started at that, looking to Sherlock. "Protective custody is not merely a precaution, but a necessity."

"Sherlock, we should get going." Lestrade tapped his watch.

Sherlock paused, glancing at John. John pressed his lips together thinly, attempting to keep any statement that could be seen as a plea from leaving his mouth. Sherlock picked up his coat, pulling out his phone and placing it in John's hand.

"Just a precaution," Sherlock said quietly.

"You'll lift Lestrade's?" John asked under his breath.

"Probably his badge too. Unless you'd rather have his gun?" Sherlock answered, thumb brushing John's palm.

John nodded once. Sherlock swept towards the door, pausing only to look at the stranger. The man sighed.

"Go, Sherlock, and try not to dawdle. There are matters that require my immediate attention," he said.

"Oh, is your stock of exploding pens running low?" Sherlock huffed before striding out.

Lestrade followed quickly. John focused his attention on the stranger.

"Exploding pens?" he asked.

"Classified, Doctor. You understand," the man took his seat again.

"Right. I never caught your name," John replied.

There was a slight pause before the man answered.

"Quentin, Dr. Watson. Now, I suggest you rest. I doubt there will be much time for it once Sherlock returns."

"Why?" John replied.

Quentin's condescending smile cemented his relation to Sherlock in John's mind.

"We're still talking about the alleged resurrection of Jesus thousands of years later, Dr. Watson." He turned his attention to his phone. "Do you really think this won't make a few headlines?"

"There will be no living with him," John chuckled to himself.

He took Quentin's brief smile as agreement.