title from fall out boy. kingdom!verse. takes place after the great game.
i'm not an expert in drowning, nor in medicine. if i got anything wrong, please excuse me.
All Over the Street
in which john almost drowns and the boys talk about affection. though, in not so many words.
Drowning is a curious thing. Water pressure is different than air pressure—somehow tight and loose all at once. In the Thames, the noises of London (of cars of lorries of life) suddenly travel across the Channel and all he can see are fairy lights, dancing in night's ephemeral embrace. The lack of oxygen, too, feels different, as if his heart and his lungs stayed on shore and now he has to find a replacement for both except he is having an awfully hard time finding the surface; the water is darker than the air.
But maybe Sherlock will rescue him—he does that, sometimes, usually when he drags him into danger first. He doesn't mind, truly, and maybe he'll tell him that after he tells him that he hates swimming hates drowning because it kills slowly, like alcohol.
Harry drowns herself, and their mother before, and maybe their grandmother and drowning just runs in the family because now he is he is he is dying all alone and that scares him more than getting shot.
He remembers getting shot, like it just happened, minutes ago, and maybe it did because there's sand on his tongue and Sherlock is hovering over him again, dragging him away from the fire and the blood.
Except, Sherlock wasn't there, in Afghanistan—he came afterwards (possibly), with the cane and the blog and the phone and the gun. And besides, Sherlock's not a soldier: guns and killing affect him more than he lets on. He prefers for people to already be dead waiting for someone to save them.
(There was a documentary, and he remembers that too, clearly, about the First World War, and how Sherlock left once they started showing the fighting above the trenches.)
Suddenly, the pressure lifts, and he is flying—except. Not really. Arms that are not his own become his wings, and in his dreams, London always rests below but now London rests above, and this isn't flying.
Now, there's sand beneath him, brown and black and what kind of sand is this?
Someone is heaving behind him, or in front of him, or next to him, and he's all disoriented because this isn't Afghanistan but it feels like Afghanistan, except colder and suddenly, he realizes how cold he is, and starts shivering violently while whoever-it-was stops heaving and starts coughing and, oh, it is you who is coughing.
He's coughing out water and sand and warmth while someone pulls off his coat, fingers brushing on his neck. He tries to push them away because why would he give up his coat when he's freezing? Isn't that kind of beside the point?
no john no your coat is wet and isn't warming you up i need to take it off or you may catch hypothermia if you haven't caught it already so please—
"What?" he asks, blinking rapidly, clearing his eyes and his mind because he doesn't remember speaking out loud, unless whoever-it-is (Sherlock?) can read minds.
Sherlock can read minds, he almost tells the person, when there's sudden laughter and this is when his mind clears and London disappears into darkness.
John wakes to white and a hand in his hair. For a moment, he thinks it is his mother waking him up for school or church or calming him when he's sick, more likely because he does not feel well at. All.
But then he remembers that he is not a child anymore and his mother died over twenty years ago, the last time he went to a church.
But he still does not feel well.
The carding stops and he grunts in displeasure, trying to speak but there's cotton in his mouth so he just nudges the hand that just rests on his brow. After a moment, the movement starts again, and John surrenders to exhaustion, dreaming of fairy lights and delicate hands that make him fly.
The second time John wakes, the hand has moved from his head to his wrist. His vision is clearer, and the pure white has morphed into shades and shapes and a person.
His friend is asleep, curls splayed in a deep contrast against the blanket(s?) covering John. And his expression, for the first time in weeks of case after case (after fear), is relaxed.
(And John just can't stop looking.)
If John's hands were free (his right is caught in IVs while his left is caught by Sherlock) he would have wrapped them in Sherlock's hair, and fallen asleep with the feeling of soft night following into his dreams.
But his hands aren't free and there will be time enough later, he thinks blearily and drifts into slumber.
The third time John wakes, he feels comfortably warm and safe and lucid. His doctor is waiting while Sherlock hovers in the background, shooting daggers while John's symptoms are listed.
His name, location, the year and prime minister are asked in quick procession which John answers easily, if slowly, still exhausted from two days (according to both Sherlock and the doctor) of unconsciousness.
John starts to feel sleepy again and thankfully the doctor (John can't remember her name, for the life of him) leaves with the promise to be back soon. Sherlock's suddenly right there and John thinks he must have transported.
"How are you feeling? Truly?"Sherlock sounds concerned and confused and gentle, all of them clumsy for him, and John almost giggles, but his throat is raw, so the giggle comes out as a gurgle.
"Water?" he asks and Sherlock quickly acquiesces, but frowns since he's ignoring the question; he helps John sit up and sip at the water. "Thanks," he says afterwards. Sherlock nods in acknowledgement.
"Do you...remember what happened?"
John remembers running before that turned into pressure and sand and fairy lights; he remembers thinking of Harry and drowning slowly; he remembers flying underneath London (he remembers hands in his hair). What he does not remember is how.
Hesitantly, he shakes his head.
Sherlock just stares, making John wonder if Sherlock is going to leave it at that.
"You," Sherlock finally says, "are not allowed to chase after criminals, by yourself, ever again."
John laughs, hoarse and raw, and it hurts his throat, but he doesn't mind so much, either. "Yes, because I am the only one who does that."
"You could have died, John," he hisses, and oh Jesus, oh Christ, oh God—Sherlock is furious and bordering on tearing down walls with his anger and fear and concern. "You were barely conscious when I dragged you out, and you were shivering and coughing and not breathing. You could have died and left me—" Sherlock stops. Just stops, because he realizes that he's breaching the walls, and John is on the other side, surrounded by rubble with no way to get out.
John closes his eyes and dreams of stars from a land half-way across the world.
The next time John wakes, Sherlock is a bundle of coat and hair on John's side, peering down at John from the edge of the bed blankly.
Sherlock just shakes his head. "Sentiment." It sounds like an oath, in every context.
John says: "We're not very good at it." He clarifies: "To each other, that is."
"Do we have to be?" Sherlock scoffs.
"Most people are." John pauses, and then concedes: "But then, we aren't most people."
Two quick easy grins, shared at crimes scenes and other socially inappropriate places to share amusement; they don't keep for long.
"Moriarty said that I have a heart." Sherlock visibly swallows, hands clenching and so tired, so lost, so young.
John says, "Everyone has a heart." (He smells chlorine and hears Moriarty whisper i can stop his heart, but not once does he flinch, and that—that is a miracle.) Hesitating just a brief second, he sits up and stretches his arm to rest his hand upon Sherlock's heart. "Even you."
Slowly, Sherlock covers John's hand with his own, a small grin on his face. He breathes out, carefully. "Even you?" he asks.
John's lungs contract, and he wonders if he is still drowning and this is all a dream—a terrible, beautiful dream. "Yes," he answers, blood dripping from his mouth. His heart constricts and he cannot breathe and there's sand in his mouth and Sherlock—he's holding on tight and maybe if they hold on tight enough, they will manage to stay afloat, to stay together (forever).
(Maybe, if they hold tight enough, they won't fall apart.)
John blinks in surprise, breath coming in fast as his heart and lungs collapse in relief. "Okay?"
Sherlock smiles properly, teeth and all. "Okay." He reaches over to smooth his hand through John's hair. "Sleep now."
John settles down into the pillows, succumbing quickly. Sherlock winds a hand through his and neither dare to let go. He dreams that he and Sherlock run alongside London, chasing fairy lights over the city with their hearts in their hands.