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EMERGENCY CONTACT: John Watson, RELATIONSHIP: Saint

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The first time Sherlock Holmes realizes he needs an emergency contact is the first time he mentally appoints John Watson with the job.

John, of course, does not know this and neither does the local hospital.

Which is why, three months after moving in and four weeks after his own trip to A&E, he finds himself on the end of a rather confusing and cacophonous phone call.

“Sorry?”

“I said, ‘Is this John Watson?” the woman on the other end asks again.

“Yes, speaking,” he replies, plugging his other ear in an effort to hear more clearly. There seems to be a lot of yelling and a decent amount of crashing happening on the end of the line.

“Don’t call Mycroft, call JOHN,” a voice (and a familiar one at that) yells and John’s stomach plummets.

“Sorry, hello?” He paces his small office from the door to the desk and back again. “Sherlock?”

“Sir, no, you have to stay there,” the woman says and Sherlock speaks again, sounding much closer to the receiver this time.

“Let me talk to John.”

“Sherlock? What the hell is going on?” John's panic is rising because his flatmate has either been arrested or hospitalized and either is a safe bet, really. 

“Sir, you can’t – ” but she must give up (or have the phone wrestled from her) because the next thing John hears is Sherlock’s ragged breath.

“I need you to be my emergency contact,” the detective blurts out and John is totally, utterly at a loss.

“What?” 

“I now have someone in my life to call who isn’t Mycroft. I need you to be my emergency contact.”

“Um, all right.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Are you – Is this an emergency situation?”

“Well, I’m staring at a nurse who’s holding a needle likely filled with a sedative, so yes, I’d say so.”

“Christ,” John mutters. Hospitalized it is, apparently. “Do not move, do not speak. I’m on my way.”

“Don’t think I’ll be able to do either for much longer,” he gets out before the line goes dead.

John curses again and makes his apologies to Sarah. He promises it’s an actual emergency, not just a case, and she might even believe him this time if his thunderous countenance is anything to go by.

He schools his features into something resembling calm, though, because a cabbie does deem him fit to pick up. The ride to University College A&E is tense, but he manages a gruff “Ta” when they pull up to the kerb.

“Sherlock Holmes?” he asks as he jogs up to the front desk where a woman sits, looking like she’s dealt with too many patients while running on too few cups of coffee. She quirks an eyebrow and gives him a once-over.

“You must be the infamous Dr. Watson,” she smirks and John scrubs his hands over his face, internally groaning.

“Yep, that would be me."

“He’s around the corner. Follow the snores.”

“The snores?” And then he hears it, a bone-deep rattling sound that seems to echo off every surface.

The nurse smiles with little humor. “As I said."

“Wow,” he murmurs.

“Yep,” she replies, popping the ‘p.’ He’s pretty sure the expression of horror on his face is the best entertainment she’s going to get all day.

Must have been a bloody horse tranquilizer, he thinks as he makes his way around the corner, passing yet another harried-looking nurse and a doctor who sees him and beats a hasty retreat. Maybe he reads the blog and knows he’s here for the madman who’s (John pulls back the curtain) sprawled, limbs akimbo, on a gurney and drooling on his bespoke shirt.

He lets out a snort of laughter, just as Sherlock snores again.

“Quite the pair you make,” the nurse adjusting the drip on Sherlock’s IV says. Her nametag reads Eloise.

“So they say,” he murmurs fondly as he drifts closer, watching his surprisingly childlike flatmate participate in medically induced naptime. “What did you give him?”

“Fifteen milligrams of Midazolam. Three five-milligram doses ten minutes apart. Mostly for the pain, but also…” she sighs and rubs her forehead, probably chasing a headache, “for the silence.”

“The pain?” And only then does John notice that Sherlock’s hands have been wrapped heavily in gauze.

“Acid burns,” Eloise replies. “Kept going on about some ruined experiment or something.”

“Sounds about right,” John mutters, gently examining Sherlock’s right hand. It looks like a giant white mitten. Or candy floss.

“They aren’t bad. It’ll just make life difficult for a few days. They should heal nicely, if they’re properly treated.”

“I’ll make sure they are,” he replies, already memorizing the precise swoops of the bandaging so he can replicate them after he wrestles Sherlock into submission. Maybe they’ll let him take home a sedative to-go bag.

“Right, he said you were his doctor,” she says, watching the drip for a moment before marking the dose on a whiteboard on the wall.  “Lucky man.”

She leaves John standing in the curtained-off ward wondering which of them she was referring to. He isn’t sure that minding this human starfish counts as 'lucky.' With another heavy sigh, he leans over and listens to Sherlock’s breath for a moment, deep and even. 

“Hey, Sherlock? Can you hear me?” he murmurs, but the man just grunts, snuffling a bit and turning his head towards John. “Sherlock?”

Those cerulean eyes blink open, pupils heavily dilated as they land on John. And when they focus, Sherlock’s mouth splits into a grin the likes of which John has never seen. “You came.”

“’course I did, you idiot. You okay?”

“Mmm,” is all he says, neither an affirmative nor a negative as he continues grinning at him, gaze vacant.

“Oh they shot you up good, didn’t they,” John chuckles with a smile. “You’re lucky I’m a decent human being and will leave my phone in my pocket as much as I want to record you right now.”

Sherlock goes to reach towards him and is thoroughly confused by the bandages covering his hands. “John, what’s happening?”

“You burned yourself.”

“Why am I bound thus?”

Thus? Oh boy. That’s all he needs – Sherlock launching into iambic pentameter or something. But the detective has apparently moved beyond that as he claps both gauzy hands on either side of John’s cheeks and pulls him in close.

“You need to be my emergency contact.”

“Pretty sure we have that one covered,” he manages, mouth smushed between Sherlock’s palms.

“No, no, John. It needs to be in writing. Do you know how close they came to calling Mycroft?” And the disdain that drips from his every syllable is quite impressive despite the fact that it’s slightly slurred.

“All right, all right,” John placates as he eases Sherlock back against the pillow – and if he smooths those curls back from his forehead, well, no one is around to witness it. “I’ll talk to the nurse at the desk.”

“See that you do,” Sherlock replies and John applauds the fact that the man can sustain that level of haughtiness while hopped up on something that should level a man twice his size.

John shakes his head and spares a moment to ponder how he’s going to drag him up 221B’s 17 steps when he approaches the woman at the front desk once more.

“Ah, Dr. Watson, back again I see,” she greets with a twinkle in her eye and he finds himself blushing without really knowing why.

“Yeah, I, uh, I just wanted to make sure I was put down as his emergency contact. If you need his direct permission, though, you might have to wait a bit until he’s cognizant once more.”

“Oh I’m pretty sure he let the whole ward know before you arrived, sir. Relationship?” she asks perfunctorily as she pulls Sherlock’s file toward her and John blinks at her for a moment.

“Uh, flatmate.”

She raises an eyebrow, but shrugs and quickly scribbles the innocuous word into the form. “Is the number I called the best one to reach you on?”

“Yeah, it’s my mobile.”

“Wonderful,” she clips. “Congratulations, Dr. Watson, you have yourself – “

“A handful?” he interrupts and she smiles. 

“I was going to say ‘a flatmate’ but ‘handful’ works, too. Maybe we should put ‘minder’ here instead.”

“Truer words were never spoken,” he mutters, but there’s a fondness to it. A desire, a need, to protect this ridiculous man at all costs.

To cap the moment off perfectly, a crash sounds from behind the curtain, followed swiftly by a whiney “Joooooohn.”

“I believe that’s your cue,” she laughs and John sighs heavenward.

“I believe it is.”

xxxxxx

The second time it happens, John is about to tuck into a course of dim sum across from Jeanette as she regales him with a story about her students' shenanigans. And he's on thin ice as it is, thanks to a double homicide the week prior that happened in the middle of their tiramisu. She still keeps glancing at the door like Sherlock is going to swan through at any given moment and whisk John away. 

Then again, he might – which is exactly why her eyes narrow the minute John’s mobile rings in his pocket.

“Do you need to get that?” she asks innocently as he fumbles to silence it, frowning at the unknown number.

“No. Sorry, you were saying?”

“Oh, so Tommy then punched Ian straight in the nose, blood everywhere, and I – ” 

His mobile goes again and he winces internally as he glances down. Same unknown number. 

"Sorry, could be Harry." It won't be. He hasn't spoken to Harry in months. "Do you mind?" 

She shakes her head and murmurs an "Of course not." Bringing up Harry has clearly garnered the proper amount of sympathy. He'll have to thank her next time. 

"Hello?" he answers, stepping away from the table towards the loos. 

“Hi, is this John Watson?” a man asks and he has the practiced professional tone of someone calling with bad news. Already, John knows this is going to be a long night.

“Yes, it is.”

"This is Rory from the Royal London Hospital -"

"Of course it is," he blurts out, rubbing his forehead. "What's he done now?" 

There's a pause on the other end of the line. "He's refusing treatment." 

"Christ, for what? How bad?" 

"Gash at his hairline. Needs at least ten stitches. Probably fifteen."

John's stomach drops, already dreading the excuses he'll have to make to Jeanette. Because it's Sherlock, and Sherlock wins every time. "Royal London you said?" he asks after a moment.

"Yes, sir."  

"Yeah, I'll be right there." He ends the call and inhales deeply as he pulls out his wallet to place enough to pay for the meal on the table. 

Jeanette's features darken as she recognizes the move for the habit it’s becoming. "Is it Harry?" she asks, and John is at an impasse: say 'yes' and keep dating Jeanette, or say 'no' and find himself single once more. 

"Yes," he replies, feeling like the shit he is. "Relapse. She's landed herself in hospital and I've got to pick her up. I'm so sorry." 

"No, it's okay,” she assures, though her smile is a bit tight. “Family first, right?" 

"Right," he says, feeling a little bit better. Sherlock is family after all. 

He places a kiss on her cheek as he leaves the money on the table, before exiting the restaurant and hailing a cab. 

The hospital isn’t far, but it still takes him longer to get there than he’d prefer. A bleeding Sherlock isn’t a happy Sherlock and an unhappy Sherlock is a miserable everyone.

It’s begun raining (of course it has) and he runs a hand through his wet hair as he strides up to the front desk, wondering what disaster awaits him.

“Sherlock Holmes?” he asks and he knows it’s bad when the guy behind the desk (Rory, he remembers) snorts with laughter.

“Room 232.”

Oh, not good. “You moved him to a room?”

Rory's mirth turns sheepish. “He was scaring the other patients.”

“Carry on, then,” John concedes succinctly, thanking the man, and heading for the lifts. After all, he's well aware that Sherlock has that affect on people. 

It's a short trip to the second floor and he can spot Sherlock's room without having to the look at the plate by the door. It's the one with all of the people hovering outside of it. John makes his excuses and pushes through, finally catching sight of Sherlock, who's sulking on the gurney, his once-pristine shirt covered in drying blood with an equally red towel pressed to his face.

 "Ah, John, you made it," the detective greets and the doctor next to him breathes a sigh of relief. 

"Dr. Watson, I presume?" 

"Unfortunately," John replies.

"He won't let anyone touch him," the doctor says impatiently, hands on his hips. John's gaze strays to Sherlock once more. 

"What the hell happened?" 

“I may have had a minor scuffle with a plate glass window.”

“And lost?”

Sherlock makes a noise and tilts his head, smiling devilishly. “Broke even, I’d say.”

John spares a moment of incredulity for the truly terrible joke, before muttering, “Unbelievable,” and stepping forward, rolling up his sleeves. He gets one hand on Sherlock’s cheek (ignoring the way the pale man holds his breath) and tilts his face towards the light. “Plate glass window, huh? You’re lucky this wasn’t an artery.”

He feels Sherlock’s gaze on the faint scar that still marks his own throat. “I'm well aware.”

The wound is deep, and there are still a few shards that need to be cleaned out before he can stitch him up, but there are more pressing matters to discuss. At least to John. "Why me? You have an entire hospital at your disposal." 

"Your hands are the steadiest I know," Sherlock quietly replies and John has to swallow hard against the sudden swell of emotion he feels. 

“Do you mind?” he asks the doctor on call after a moment, and Sherlock must have regaled him with John’s medical background already because all he mutters is “By all means.” Probably just happy to get the bleeding (literally) madman out of his ward.

John is quiet and methodical as he washes his hands and by the time he turns around, the room's voyeurs have cleared out, leaving only a single nurse who sets him up with a suture tray. John pulls on a pair of gloves as she goes, leaving them finally alone. 

And only then does Sherlock seem to let his gruff, above-it-all facade go. He slumps against the raised head of the gurney and closes his eyes, sighing heavily as if the weight of the world has just slipped off his shoulders. John watches him quietly as he prepares the local anesthetic. 

"Does it hurt?" 

Sherlock cracks one eye open and sends him a withering gaze.

"Serves you right," John continues, but it contains no bite. "So, whose window did you break?" 

"Shopkeeper's – " he groans through a wince as John injects the needle into his skin. 

"I bet that cost a pretty penny," John replies without remorse. 

"Less than it would have had the thief actually made off with the Caravaggio hanging on the wall." 

"What, a real one?"  

"Mmm. Family's prized possession. A curator at the National Gallery has been trying to get his hands on it for years." 

John frowns and pauses in wiping the wound. "Wouldn't someone have noticed when it magically appeared in the Italian Baroque wing?"  

Sherlock leans away from the gauze in John's hand, staring at him. 

"What?" 

"I'm impressed you know Italian Baroque. Also, I never said the curator was smart. He didn't even have a decent exit strategy." 

John rolls his eyes and jabs at the wound harder than strictly necessary, causing Sherlock to hiss. "Despite what you may think, I'm not actually a moron."

Sherlock grabs his wrist, thumb grazing the thumping of John's pulse. "I've never thought you were." 

John tilts his head, but Sherlock looks so earnest that the hot retort which is on the tip of his tongue comes out just a bit more softly. "Sherlock, you call me an idiot nearly on a daily basis."  

"It's a term of endearment." 

"Uh huh," he murmurs, adjusting the light as he picks up the tweezers. "You should have called me." 

Sherlock scoffs. "What and interrupt your date?" 

"Which you did anyway when you landed yourself here!" John tartly replies and Sherlock huffs, leaning back once more. "No, no. Sit forward." He grabs him by his shirtfront and yanks him upright once more. “If you’re going to continue to act like a child, I’ll treat you like one.”

Sherlock’s gaze drops, suitably chastened, and John instantly feels a pang of regret. He doesn’t want to be mad at him, but his worry is manifesting itself as anger and his frustration with constantly following in Sherlock’s wake is leaving him adrift. He cannot lose this ridiculous man for who then would be around to tether him to the ground?

“I just – I don’t want you doing anything dangerous alone. Don’t… don’t do that without me.” He holds his breath and finally glances up to find Sherlock staring at him wide-eyed, as if someone had just flipped the off switch on that big, wondrous brain of his. “Yeah?” he prompts and, after a second that feels like a fortnight, Sherlock finally nods. “Good. Glad we settled that.”

It takes the better part of an hour, patching the mad detective up. But Sherlock sits quietly (miracle of miracles) and those keen eyes closely watch John’s face since he cannot see the work his hands are doing. John’s surprised the man hasn’t demanded a mirror so he can supervise and he supposes that’s the greatest compliment the detective could pay him: his utter faith that John won’t forever mar that pristine, marble-like skin.

When they finish, John wanders back down to the front desk, to Rory who just looks relieved that John seems to have made it out alive. Sherlock signs some forms as John gets another glance at his file, ready and open to accept the paper he’s currently scrutinizing.

“Well I see Sherlock got a hold of that,” John chuckles, nodding towards the form on top:

EMERGENCY CONTACT: John Watson
RELATIONSHIP: Flatmate Tyrant

“Oh that’s… that’s not supposed to be like that,” Rory fumbles, looking mortified as he scrounges for some correction fluid.

“Don’t worry about it,” John replies. “Trust me, I’ve been called far worse, and usually by him.”

"Shall we?" the man in question asks as he sidles up to John, expertly sliding the newest forms on top of the old ones.

John hums and manages a nod to Rory, whose ears are still pink, before zipping up his coat and heading towards the door.

"How's Jeanette?" Sherlock asks casually (too casually), as they step into the night air.

John frowns at him. He almost sounds... jealous. “Unaware that I deserted her in the middle of dinner to come here. I’d appreciate it if you’d leave her in the dark about that one.”

“Of course. I am the epitome of discretion.”

That is definitely not true, but John lets it slide. Just this once.

"I consider 'tyrant' to also be a term of endearment, by the way,” Sherlock murmurs after a moment.

John chuckles and bundles up against the cold. "'Course you do." 

xxxxxx 

The third time it happens, John barely notices. Then again, he’s not noticing much. Not when there’s a piece of pavement outside Barts still stained with Sherlock’s blood. 

His phone is buzzing in his jacket’s left breast pocket. He almost imagines he can hear a hollow sound emanating from where it rattles against his chest.

Lestrade is there. Which is good. Lestrade gingerly reaches in and grabs the phone, raising it to his ear and turning his back when he gets a look at the caller ID.

“Detective Inspector Lestrade….” He glances over his shoulder at John and swallows thickly. “Yeah, he’s here. He, uh, he knows. Thanks,” he manages before silently ending the call and sliding the phone in his own pocket.

It’s probably best that someone else mind it for now.

There’s no one to call John anymore anyway.

xxxxxx

The fourth time it happens, his forehead is still smarting from its collision with Sherlock’s nose and his heart is still bruised from an abandonment he had not planned for.

Yes, the gift of having him back far outweighs the colorless hell of his being gone, but occasionally… John just gets testy.

“Sir, we have a patient here by the name of Sherlock Holmes. Came in with a broken nose and multiple lac – ”

 “Wrong number,” he blurts, promptly hanging up. He just can’t today. Besides, the broken nose is old news by now and should be well on its way to healing. His conscience tells him he’s not guilty, but the twinge of something unpleasant below his sternum says otherwise.

He frowns and stares at the phone for a moment, something a bit not right turning over in his brain, before immediately dialing back.

“Accident and Emergency.”

“Sorry, were you about to say ‘multiple lacerations?”

There’s a brief pause before a breath huffs across the receiver. “I assume I don’t have the wrong number anymore?” the woman drawls and John sighs, pressing the heel of his hand to his eye. 

“Yeah, yep. This is – this is John Watson.”

“And I take it you know Mr. Sherlock Holmes?”

“Doesn’t everyone?” he mutters and the woman is quiet for a moment.

“It is a very good blog, sir."

And the response catches him so off-guard that he actually laughs. Something he hasn’t done in far too long. “Well, thanks, but I believe the subject of said blog is lying in your hospital right now and no doubt being a massive prat about it.”

She’s quiet for another moment and it’s just long enough for his stomach to drop.

“He actually told us not to call you, but you are listed as his emergency contact. And, well, as I said – I read the blog.”

He feels hollow, as if carved out will a dull knife.

Sherlock doesn’t want him there.

And why should he? a particularly vindictive part of his brain tells him. You quite literally tackled him out of three separate restaurants. Sure, they had done the bomb scare and the press conference and the champagne, but John still felt off-kilter and it would take a feat of epic proportions to right his world once more.

“Um, right. Thanks,” he remembers to say. “Where?”

“Barts.”

Of course, he thinks, catching her just as she’s about to hang up. “Sorry, how did – how did he get the lacerations?”

Wouldn’t say. They’re not new, though. The doctor can tell you more when you arrive.”

“Right,” he breathes. Not new, but not sustained while back in London. John would know.

Wouldn’t he?

There seems to be so much about that great man that remains an enigma. And recently, John hasn’t bothered to try and solve him.

He grabs his keys, thankful that Mary is on a shift at the surgery and he isn’t. After all, this doesn’t concern her. The tube ride is quicker than a cab at this hour and he finds himself taking the long way to A&E simply to avoid the ambulance bay. The roundabout way, though, still gets him there far too soon.

He’s told Sherlock is on the second floor, room 207, and he takes the stairs because he knows the elevators at Barts are dodgy at best. It’s the first time he’s set foot in the building since That Day and John can feel his blood pressure spiking with every step he takes.

Mind the stairs. You’re just going to the second floor. This isn’t the roof.

He repeats the words over and over again, but they do nothing to quell the storm raging within him. 

203, 204, 205, 206…

He peeks around the partially open door of 207, but can only sort of see the goings-on inside. He recognizes that envious silhouette sitting upright on the bed, shirt off and facing the door, but Sherlock has got his head turned to try and watch whatever the doctor is doing on his back.

John accidentally bumps the door and its hinges protest, bringing two gazes to him, though he only focuses on one.

“Hi,” he murmurs and Sherlock immediately freezes, eyes going wide, jaw going slack.

“John,” he breathes. “What are you doing here?"

John has only ever seen Sherlock look this frightened once before in his life. It’s different from what he saw at Dartmoor because that Sherlock found anger in his fear. This one seems just like he did a couple of weeks ago on that train car: totally and utterly lost.

“Could we have a minute?” he asks the doctor, but the doctor looks to Sherlock for direction.

After a terrifying moment that has John truly wondering if he’ll ask the doctor to chuck him out, Sherlock stiffly nods and the doctor takes his leave.

They stare at each other for a loaded second and John is the first to break as he takes in the discarded, faintly bloodied shirt on the bed next to the detective. From there, his eyes ghost over the newly acquired scar on Sherlock’s shoulder, near where John’s own sits. It’s a line, like a lash, from clavicle to acromion. At least a year old.

Something distinctly unpleasant settles in the pit of his gut.

Finally, his eyes find Sherlock’s once more. “Why did you tell the nurse not to call me?”

“Well, I see it did a world of good anyway,” he snips and John knows deflection when he sees it.

“Why, Sherlock?”

“Because I don’t need you.”

It hurts, but John had braced himself for that. Sherlock lashes out when cornered. Instead of replying with his own sharp barb, John merely takes a slow step further into the room. Sherlock holds his breath.

He’s nearly at the bed now, and he slowly makes his way around it, to glance at what the doctor was working so diligently on.

“Please leave,” Sherlock begs quietly, just as John is about to see his back.

“No,” John replies just as reverently, laying a hand on Sherlock’s wrist, over his rapidly thumping pulse. He leaves it there for a moment, noting that if Sherlock doesn’t better control his breath, he’s going to start hyperventilating soon.

And as he takes his final two steps, he understands why.

Lines form a kind of grotesque latticework across Sherlock’s back, punctuated here and there by the occasional dip or groove of missing flesh. Some have long since closed over, pink flesh healed as best as the shoddy job that was clearly applied would allow. And some still ooze, the detective’s precious blood meandering down his skin to stain the top of his trousers.

John swallows audibly and Sherlock’s back curves with the slump of his shoulders.

“Are they dead?” he asks, barely a whisper, as he reaches out and very gently traces the pink scar from a cigarette burn over Sherlock’s scapula. “The people who did this, Sherlock, are they dead?” His voice is ragged and he feels Sherlock’s breath hitch.

“Yes.”

“Good.”

He doesn’t say anything else. Merely takes up a pair of gloves and continues the work the doctor started: disinfecting, bandaging, mending.

Healing, for both of them.

He feels ill, but he works methodically, silently atoning for the fact that these wounds existed when he tackled Sherlock to a tiled floor. Sherlock must feel safe now though, because his breathing evens out, panic subsiding, and John is forever grateful.

“Thank you,” he murmurs when he applies the last bandage, lips so close to Sherlock’s neck that his breath warms the sensitive skin.

“For what?” Sherlock replies, leaning back far enough for his curls to brush John’s nose.

Letting me see. Jumping for me. Saving me. Coming home. 

“Everything.”

xxxxxx

The fifth time it happens, the call comes from Mycroft because he knows long before any hospital will that Sherlock needs his blogger.

John all but blows through the doors of the unknown government building, knowing he will be mentally berating himself for hours, days, years for not catching the fact that Sherlock was slowly being drugged. Poisoned. Killed. 

And his own wife was a party to it.

“Mycroft!” he yells, jogging down the dimly lit hall and skidding to a stop. “Where is he?” he pants, adrenaline coursing through every nerve ending in his body.

“Through here,” Mycroft calmly replies, the complete antithesis to the heady cocktail of rage/fear/panic pounding in John’s veins. There’s something in his eyes, though. A disquiet that John would never want to see aimed in his direction.

"We caught it in time and got him an antidote – ”

John’s relief nearly buckles his knees.

“But he's going to detox,” Mycroft continues. “It's going to be... unpleasant." 

John nods. He's seen Sherlock detox before – he remembers the plane only too vividly – but not to this extent. 

They arrive at a closed door flanked by two armed guards and Mycroft regards him carefully.

“He’s been asking for you.”

John schools his face to not betray the utter elation his feels. Mycroft quirks an eyebrow, seeming to catch on anyway, and nods toward the door.

“The toxicologist says there’s nothing to do, but ride it out now.” In other words, He’s all yours.

John squares his shoulders (into battle) and turns the knob, heart clenching at the sight before him:

Sherlock is curled up in the middle of the hospital bed, forming a ball much smaller than John thought his long limbs capable of. He’s shivering in the hospital gown he wears, but he’s kicked the covers down to the foot of the bed.

“Jesus,” he murmurs, swiftly stepping into the room and shutting the door behind him.

“John?” Sherlock rasps, voice raw. He manages to pick his head up from the pillow just a few inches, sweaty curls plastered to his forehead.

“I’m here,” he replies, moving forward and taking hold of the hand Sherlock is holding out. “Right here.”

“Hurts, John,” Sherlock grits out, teeth chattering.

“I know.” He swallows thickly and takes a quick cursory glance down Sherlock’s pale body. “Do you want the covers?”

Sherlock shakes his head. “Too scratchy.” He pulls John down closer, his skin bright with fever, and flinches when John’s jumper brushes up against his arm.

The offensive piece of clothing is over John’s head and on the floor before he can even second-guess himself. The room is cold now that he’s only in his vest, but Sherlock refuses the sheets, even as he shivers violently.

John pulls the chair closer, never letting go of Sherlock’s hand, and eyes the IV dripping the most precious of antidotes into Sherlock’s body.

“Not long now,” he breathes. “You’ll be fine.”

Sherlock groans a response, but seems to shuffle closer the more John talks, taking comfort in his voice.

“I’ll have to tell Mrs. Hudson and you know she’ll blubber and then proceed to bake you your favorite biscuits for a month. I’m sure Lestrade’s already got the Yard signing an obnoxiously large get well card.”

Sherlock’s lips quirk in what might be a smile before he grimaces in pain. “I can’t stay still,” he groans, burying his face in the pillow.

John places a careful hand on his shaking shoulder, but Sherlock tugs him out of his chair, nearly up onto the bed.

“I don’t want to hurt you.” 

“Need you to hold me still,” Sherlock moans, struggling to blink his eyes open, and something within John cracks.

“Okay,” he murmurs, licking his lips. “Okay.” He clears his throat and takes a cursory glance around, before unbuckling his belt and letting his jeans drop to the floor, leaving him in only his vest and his cotton pants. He kicks the rough denim to the side and gingerly climbs onto the bed next to Sherlock, letting the gangly man wrap John’s arms around until he’s comfortable, and more importantly, still.

“Better,” Sherlock murmurs, burying his face in John’s chest. His shivers don’t subside entirely, but they are no longer the full-body convulsions they were when John walked in.

“Good,” John whispers, gripping his wrist tight across Sherlock’s back and holding him in place.

He’s calm for now, but John knows it comes in waves. It will only get worse before it gets better. Still, better to relish the tranquility, so he closes his eyes and holds Sherlock just a bit tigher, feeling the muscles beneath his palms slowly relax.

The shivering is what rouses him from his light sleep and he blinks his eyes open to find that Sherlock’s fever has spiked again.

“John,” he chokes and John’s heart breaks as he shifts him in between his legs so Sherlock’s back is resting against John’s chest, head settled against John’s broken and mangled shoulder.

“Stay with me,” he murmurs, holding him a bit tighter. “I’ve got you. Just hang on."

"It burns." 

"I know it does," he whispers, lips ghosting over his forehead, fingers threading through his hair. “I know, love.”

The door opens revealing Mycroft’s imposing silhouette in its frame, and if he’s surprised by the turn of events in the bed, his face betrays nothing.

“How is he?”

“Fever’s back up. He needs fluids.”

“He has an IV.”

John glares. “It’s doing nothing for his thirst. Get him some ice chips if you have to.”

“He’ll just proceed to vomit it all up.”

John continues scowling until Mycroft nods to an unseen man outside the door who runs off to do the government’s bidding.

Sherlock continues to shiver in John’s arms, teeth audibly chattering. John finds the corners of his eyes pricking as he watches the man he loves suffer. Oh.

Oh.

John realizes suddenly and quite forcibly that he’s in love with Sherlock Holmes.

“Find her, Mycroft,” he demands before he’s even allowed that mammoth conclusion to sink in. He’s filled with a righteous need for justice and a fierce desire to protect at all costs. “Find her,” he repeats, one hand on Sherlock’s forehead, the other wrapped around his chest.

“My best men are already on it,” the elder Holmes replies. “She’ll sleep in custody tonight.”

“You seem so sure of that,” he spits, angry with everyone (himself most of all) that she went undetected for as long as she did. “She doesn’t get to do this to him and not suffer the consequences.”

“Agreed,” Mycroft replies with an oddly soft expression on his face – particularly when one is discussing the incarceration or potential murder of a friend’s spouse. Because they are friends by this point, whether either wants to admit it. They’ve been brought together by the madman currently plastered to John’s chest, like two freight trains on a collision course.

Mycroft doesn’t tell John to watch out for his brother. Doesn’t tell him that if he breaks his heart, he will have him dismembered and his remaining parts dissolved in acid. Doesn’t ask for anything, because ‘anything’ is Sherlock’s happiness and that, John thinks, is presumably a foregone conclusion already.

“I’ll keep you updated on the hour,” Mycroft offers.

“Half hour,” John replies against Sherlock’s temple, steady fingers feeling the thump of Sherlock’s heart beneath his chest.

“Half hour,” Mycroft complies with a small nod and a swift turn.

Of course, the woman known as Mary Morstan eludes capture that night, and in a few weeks’ time she’ll return just long enough to put a bullet in John, but now, tonight in this moment, there is no one to come between them save for two layers of cotton and whole lot of intravenous medications.

Sherlock snuffles closer and turns, his cold nose finding comfort in John’s warm neck. 

“Now people will definitely talk,” the detective says after a moment and John smiles into his hair.

“Let them.”

xxxxxx

The sixth time it happens brings him back to University College A&E and the woman at the front desk, whose name he’s since learned is Rosie.

Sherlock has broken two fingers on his left hand and he’s pouting an awful lot about it.

They’ve set the fingers and John holds the snipped circle of platinum that he promises binds Sherlock to him, no matter what shape it’s in. Sherlock still continues to pout, until John finally leaves him and wanders on back to the front desk.

Rosie has Sherlock’s file on top of her stack and John smiles fondly.

“Do you mind if I borrow that for a moment?” he asks and Rosie blinks up at him and then down to the file.

“Technically we’re not supposed to let you – ”

“It’ll just take a moment,” John promises, flashing his most charming smile. Rosie rolls her eyes, but offers the folder anyway.

John grabs a pen and makes one final adjustment, one which he knows will remain there until long after it’s no longer needed:

EMERGENCY CONTACT: John Watson
RELATIONSHIP: Flatmate Tyrant Husband.

Sure enough, ten years later, John is happy to find that Sherlock has left his file well enough alone.

Apparently, they finally found a relationship worth sticking to.