Author's Notes: Ok, so I reread it and I decided to make some changes- most of the changes are to the second chapter, which I've included in the reupload. The same plot, just fixed some OOCness. Thanks for reading!
The air had been dry in Afghanistan. For some reason, this was one of the details John Watson's subconscious always managed to reproduce perfectly in his dreams. Even in his sleep, he could feel the dirt flow through his lungs with each breath.
John looked around his base. Various service members were milling about, all with the certain professional urgency expected of military personnel. It was a temporary base. Most of the structures were provisional. Only buildings that were frequented by a high majority of the soldiers had been made with real structural stability.
The base, christened Roadhouse, was used as a supply and medical base and sat furthest outside the war zone.
Roadhouse was three miles in the shape of a square. Barbed wire fencing lined the perimeter. Entrances at the North East and the South East corners made for easy access from the other two bases in the area. The men ran a 24/7 watch, and there was a tower on top of HQ where the CO and the Officer of the Day could keep an eye over the whole base.
A Corporal approached John and saluted. "Sir, we've got wounded coming in."
John returned the salute. Evans, John thought. "Where from Evans?"
"North East entrance then. ETA?"
"Twenty minutes, sir."
"Roger that, Evans. Carry on." Watching as the young man turned away, John went over his protocol. He would be needed in surgery, but first he'd meet the incoming caravan at the North East entrance of the base. If the OOD was an officer from anything but a medical designation, he would have to help direct the traffic.
John started to return to his tent to change into his fatigues when the first UAV flew over. The UAV dropped its load, and the bomb landed on the opposite side of the base. John cursed as he felt the effects of the explosion two miles away from the drop zone.
He was knocked down. John rose to his feet and gathered himself. He took a deep breath.
Quickly glancing around him, John saw several of his enlisted rushing at him. Being the highest ranking officer in the immediate area, they were looking to him for guidance. He began to run and made a hand gesture that directed them to follow. He flew past the mess of surgery tents that lined the medical sector of the base. He was headed towards HQ, located in the center. The higher ups there would give them orders.
A second UAV flew over and this time, when the load was dropped, John was able to see its target. The explosive would be landing close to half a mile away, towards the fence. He stopped and turned. Bodily grabbing one of the enlisted behind him, John was able to redirect the gaggle of men behind the wall of the mess hall before the explosive hit the ground.
"Down!" He yelled. Then men ducked their heads and the explosion rocked the mess hall.
"Shit!" One of the men cursed as part of the roof of the mess fell not two feet from where he had hunkered down.
Evans looked to John, "Sir, what's going on? What do we do?"
John coughed away the debris that had been caught in his throat. The area surrounding them was destroyed. Tents had toppled and there were plaster chunks that had been knocked from the mess strewn about the ground. So far, the enemy's targets had been at the edge of the base. The explosives themselves weren't that strong. Missiles came in varying degrees. Had the enemies wanted to wipe out Roadhouse, they could have done it in one blow. These attacks - they weren't kill strikes.
"They're opening up the perimeter." John muttered, quickly piecing together the enemy's objective. Realization dawned on him. "It's a ground attack. They have forces on the ground and the UAVs are opening the door for them."
"Evans, the wounded coming, is it only our wounded?"
Evans straightened up and responded, "No sir, there are a few prisoners from the enemy. They were to be interrogated upon arrival."
"Jesus Christ. It's a retrieval mission. Quickly, what weapons do you have on you?" Two of the men had been on watch prior to the attack, both carried AK-47s, but beyond that the next weapon was John's officer's pistol, which he kept strapped to his thigh at all times.
"Alright, we head to the last drop zone. That's where the enemy is coming in from. Goodwin take left flank, Forand right. Keep your weapons at the ready. We'll move first to the armory and grab what we need."
"Fuck, sir," one of the men exclaimed. "We don't have the fire power for this shit."
"Keep your head Lee." John's voice was now the trained low, clear tenor that was adopted by all officers. It let the men know that he was in command and was calm. "Once they enter the perimeter, it's over. We need to hold them off."
The rag-tag group made their way to the armory. John took the lead. He moved his group with their back to the rubble, pausing momentarily at every intersection to make sure the coast was clear. Depending on how close the ground forces were at the time of the first attack, the enemy could already be in Roadhouse.
By the time John and the men made it to the armory, they were all out of breath. "Quickly, grab what you can carry and be quiet about it." John stood at the door, keeping watch while his men chose their weapons. He held his pistol with both hands; the barrel was pointed at the ground. Ready
Suddenly there was an enormous noise behind John. He turned to see that Evans had accidentally discharged his gun in the armory. The gunshot seemed to echo, although the acoustics of the room would not have allowed one. There was a moment of stillness. The silence was heavy. John realized he'd stopped breathing. The men exchanged glances, and for one second, they thought they were safe. Then the sounds of motors were audible in the distance.
The enemy was in the base. The enemy knew their location. "Get out- get out!" John called as loudly as he dared. He waited until each man had made it out and he moved them around to the side of the armory building.
"Captain Watson, I'm so sorry-"
"Evans, shut up. It's over. They're here. It's guerilla warfare from here on out. It's our turf. We'll do what we can and pick them off. Goodwin take Evans and move to the other side of the armory. They know our location, but we'll use this to our advantage. We'll catch them off guard. I'll take Forand, Wilson, and Seo. We'll move opposite where Surgery 5 used to be. You'll catch them when they come looking and then we'll take them from behind. Never stay in one place long. Keep moving. Save your ammo. Let's go gentlemen." Watson gave pointed looks to each of the men and began to move.
He, Forand, Wilson, and Seo made it halfway to their position before they heard the fight break out. John turned around and moved through the wreckage to the street side in order to see who had engaged. The enemy's vehicles filled the street and their soldiers were firing into an alleyway. Lying in the middle of the road was Evans. He hadn't even made it to the other side of the armory. Blood pooled around the Corporal's limp body. The sound of fire exchange resounded throughout the base.
Where are our reinforcements? John cursed. He turned to see that his men were no longer behind him. He began to search wildly. He found them in the same condition as Evans. Seo, Wilson, Forand all were dead. Gruesome and bloody, they were piled in the street. John choked back a sob. He couldn't breathe.
He caught himself before he collapsed and braced his back against the debris. His breathing was ragged. The men that had entrusted their lives to him were dead. There was no greater failure for an officer.
"John what are you doing? You're being an idiot."
John turned to his side to see Sherlock standing next to him. John was paralyzed. Sherlock was clad in his ridiculous coat and black suit. The detective's eyebrows were arched high on his forehead and his lips were pressed together, as if the man was mildly annoyed at John's ultimate failure. His demeanor was more appropriate for an evening at the flat rather than a warzone.
"Sherlock get down! They'll see you!" John reached to pull Sherlock down but Sherlock moved out of his grasp.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Look at yourself. There's nothing to worry about. It'll be fine." He stepped out from behind the wreckage.
John tried to grab him. John tried to stop him. John's legs wouldn't move.
He was in slow motion. He told his legs to move faster, his arms to push him off the ground, his mouth to produce the words that would bring Sherlock back to safety.
Sherlock strolled out to the middle of the road. Shots were being fired and whizzing past Sherlock's head. John finally gained back control of his body. He was halfway to Sherlock when something hit him.
It was unlike anything he'd ever felt before. The strength of the impact forced John to the ground. In his left shoulder, he felt unbearable pain. His whole body convulsed and writhed. He realized he was screaming. He managed to close his mouth by power of will and focused on his breathing.
Sherlock, as though finally understanding the gravity of the situation, rushed to his side. "John! John! Are you ok? Stop! Stop! What are you doing? Wake up John!" John felt Sherlock's hands on him, shaking him, trying to get him up. John concentrated. His vision was skewed. He steeled himself and focused on nothing but Sherlock above him.
The man had an uncanny ability to always have a plan, to be able to escape any near death experiences. Of course. As long as Sherlock was here, John would be ok. John would make it. As long as John had his best friend, he would survive.
John managed to get his breathing under control. He looked up and locked eyes with Sherlock and he was almost comforted at the concern in the other man's eyes.
A shot rang out and Sherlock's eyes widened and went blank. A dark red liquid that had no business being anywhere but inside Sherlock, burst from the left side of his head. The expression left Sherlock's face. His hands on John released their hold. Sherlock fell to the side. The consulting detective landed beside John. John followed the movement.
Sherlock's lifeless eyes stared straight into John's.
Sherlock Holmes was not a man that could rest easily. For him, sleep was a chore rather than leisure and often would go weeks on as little sleep as he could. Sherlock felt himself calmer than ever, however, since the arrival of John Watson to 221B Baker Street.
Sherlock sat at his and John's wooden table, tapping away at John's computer. John had long since given up the notion of privacy. Sherlock didn't understand why the doctor had even objected to such an "open" relationship. It wasn't as though Sherlock would find anything he didn't already know.
The small screen illuminated the dark room. Sherlock hunched forward in his chair, completely absorbed in a thesis written by a manic professor. Recent murder on Cambridge campus had caught the detective's attention.
Lestrade thought it was a jealous boyfriend that had killed his girlfriend, himself, and the girlfriend's "lover." Idiot. Obviously it was their psychotic Astronomy Professor. The three students had fit the criteria of the constellations the ancient Greek's had set down. At least, they fit what Professor Hester considered to be the "criteria of the constellations." The man was creating the constellations in real life. The contorted body of the girl reappeared to Sherlock. Andromeda had hardly suffered as much as she had.
John had been completely unhelpful on this case, constantly reminding Sherlock about how the necessity of useless knowledge would help the case. However annoying his flatmate was being, Sherlock had to concede that in this anomaly of a case, knowing more about the Solar System would be useful. As to why Sherlock was reading his suspect's thesis, who better to learn from than the murderer himself?
Sounds of distress pulled Sherlock from his intense focus. John was having a nightmare.
Sherlock had expected that John would have them when John had first moved in. Recently they had been few and far between. When they did happen, it was unmistakable. John would groan and sob in his sleep. He would be audible enough to hear all the way downstairs.
Sherlock would not interrupt John from his terrors. He had read that it was incredibly dangerous to wake someone suffering from PTSD from a flashback. The subject might confuse the waker with an enemy and attack. He also knew that John would be embarrassed to know that Sherlock had seen him sobbing like a child in his sleep.
Nothing that John Watson did in his sleep would ever make Sherlock think that he was weak. The man was the most courageous and honorable man Sherlock had ever had the pleasure to meet. But due to John's presence in his life, Sherlock was beginning to understand the concepts of "sentiment." He didn't want John to feel ashamed.
Sherlock grimaced, knowing that he was in for a long night of enduring the distraught and devastating noises that could only come from a man who had witnessed horrors.
He tried to return to the thesis, but now it held his attention a little less. For the next half an hour the detective skimmed Professor Hester's thesis, interrupted every few minutes by the soldier upstairs. Every time John's cries broke through his concentration, Sherlock glanced in the direction of John's room, as though his attention through the walls could lend some comfort to his friend.
Suddenly the cries changed to something Sherlock had never heard before. They were urgent and pulsed. He could hear John's labored breathing when he wasn't crying out.
No. Sherlock tried to convince himself. Do not go upstairs. John will not thank you for it. Remember: Sentiment.
Then he heard John scream out his name.
Sherlock had never moved faster in his life.
He burst through the door to John's room to see the doctor tangled in the sheets, prone on the bed. Every muscle in John's body was contracted. Sherlock stood stunned at the door.
The soldier's face was contorted in agony, whether physical or mental Sherlock couldn't tell. John began thrashing and twisting. Sherlock knew he would hurt himself if he continued.
Sherlock ran to the bed and tried to wake John, but his hands were hit away. "John what are you doing? You're being an idiot." Sherlock knew that forcibly restraining John would only cause more stress, but Sherlock realized there would be no other way to stop John before the man hurt himself.
John stopped moving suddenly and mumbled his name again, as though recognizing that Sherlock was there. For a moment, the detective thought that the dreams had ended and Watson had finally woken. He was not so lucky.
The thrashing became more violent and urgent. Whatever was happening in John's dream, it seemed to be worse than anything that the man's unconscious had thrown before him yet. Sherlock momentarily considered how such a good man had been cursed with such and evil subconscious.
"Look at yourself! There's nothing to worry about! It'll be fine!" Sherlock shouted. He tried to imagine what John would say if their roles were switched.
Sherlock gave up on attempting stopping John from the edge of the bed. He climbed on the bed and used his greater size to his advantage. He wrapped his legs around John's and pinned John's arms to the bed.
John froze. His eyes opened and he let a shriek. His breathing became even harsher than it had been before. Sherlock couldn't imagine that John would be able to get any oxygen considering how fast he was breathing. He realized then that he had been pushing down on John's wounded shoulder. He cursed at his stupidity and quickly moved his hand from the scarred shoulder.
"John! John! Are you ok? Stop! Stop! What are you doing? Wake up John!"
John calmed again but this time he was so still Sherlock knew that something big was coming. He braced himself against John. Nothing he could have done would have prepared him for the sound that tore itself from John's throat. It was filled with such grief and misery that Sherlock could hardly even consider what would make this man, this man, make a noise like this.
Sherlock threw himself off John. He landed on the ground and watched as John lay screaming, and he didn't stop. He screamed until he ran out of breath and then he took another.
Realizing that he couldn't allow John to continue, Sherlock ran to the bathroom, grabbed a cleaning bucket from under their sink and filled it with cold water. Why didn't I do this sooner? Idiot!
He returned to the bedroom and tossed the water over John. John's cries, which had become hoarse by this time, finally stopped.
A wet John blinked in confusion at the ceiling, his face red with exertion. "Sherlock?" he whispered
Sherlock stared at John. He didn't know what kind of comfort was appropriate here. When he'd first encountered the dreams, Sherlock had taken it upon himself to study how significant others should react emotionally to a returned veteran haunted by their time spent in a war. Unfortunately the study material available was scarce and he was reduced to watching the petty squabbles of "heroines" in a story about a returned soldier. The fellow Nicolas Sparks must have never encountered a war veteran like John Watson. All of the men in the author's stories were extremely effeminate, most of the actors themselves struggling with their own personal sexuality.
Regardless, Sherlock had to make a decision based on the data he had. He was sure John wouldn't want a kiss. He wasn't even sure John would want to be touched.
A hug might be suitable, but Sherlock wasn't even sure how to initiate such an action. For some reason, he knew that in whichever way he chose to comfort his friend, it would be imperative that he make the choice. This would define their friendship.
John seemed in his own world. He had not bothered to glance around the room and it made Sherlock nervous.
Sherlock cleared his throat, hoping that this would cue some type of action from John.
John's head whipped to the side and his eyes locked onto Sherlock like a heat seeking missile.
"Sherlock. Right." John's voice was gravelly. He nodded, as though he was accepting that his flatmate was in the room, alive. Sherlock took this as an invitation to initiate something. If only he knew what.
Sherlock approached the bed and he held his hand out in a hesitant gesture, unsure if to lean down and embrace John, or to pat John on the head. Luckily for Sherlock, he ended up not having to make the decision.
John's hand reached out and latched onto Sherlock's arm, holding tightly as though to keep Sherlock there. "I thought you were dead. I thought you were dead." Bright blue eyes stared straight into Sherlock's pale blue eyes. Sherlock was almost unnerved at the intensity of the emotion the stare held. He met John's eyes.
"I'm not dead. I'm right here."
John's arm gripped Sherlock like he was the only thing anchoring John to this world. John seemed to believe that if he released Sherlock, he would be stolen back into his dream world of torment. The grip was shakey though, as adrenaline still raced through the soldier's veins.
John nodded again. After a moment he broke the contact and with as much pride as he could muster made a show of nonchalantly wiping the tears from his cheeks and rising from the bed, forcing Sherlock to take a step back.
"Well, this is a little embarrassing." A nervous laugh sprung from the doctor, but as his throat was still raw from screaming, it sounded like a cancer patient's cough. The seriousness of the moment was gone. It would have been awkward, but Sherlock refused to allow that. He didn't want John to hide this from him.
Sherlock only shook his head.
"I'll think I'll go grab a shower. You should get some sleep, Sherlock. You look awful." John attempted again. He grabbed his towel and marched his way to the bathroom. His gait held a shadow of a limp that had been gone for six months.
Sherlock watched him until the door to the bathroom was closed and locked. John Watson had been reduced to a quivering mess because he had dreamt that Sherlock had died.
Never before had he considered that his death might have an effect on anyone. John Watson cared if he died. John Watson would be destroyed if Sherlock died.
Sherlock realized he would be destroyed if John Watson died.