No Match for the Man

Chapter 6

Lestrade sighed deeply as Sally Donovan and another officer wrestled Officer Emma-Lynne Wilcox back down the hall. Glancing over at the stoic man beside him, Greg studied the rather impressive, bright red hand-print that had blossomed on John's cheek. The officer's sobs petered into silence as she was dragged bodily out of the A&E doors and into the cool night.

"God, I'm sorry about that, John," the Inspector let out a heavy sigh.

"Don't worry about it, Greg," the doctor's voice was subdued. "Everybody handles grief differently. I just wish I could have convinced Lisa not to just give up like that."

Humming in agreement, Lestrade took hold of John's unwounded shoulder and gently steered the doctor back into the small operating room. As John hopped up onto the hospital bed, shedding his blood-stained jumper, the Inspector said, "Still, grief doesn't give Wilcox the right to haul off and slap you like that."

John shrugged, then grimaced as pain up and down his arm. "You might want to keep Officer Wilcox on a suicide watch."

"You're a psychologist now, eh?"

A sad sort of smile played on John's lips, "You don't need to be a psychologist to realize how devastated the woman was. Just think of how you'd feel if someone you loved just gave up on life." The doctor rasped his hands down his slightly stubbled cheeks, "I know I wouldn't want to keep on."

"Got someone specific in mind there, John?" Lestrade gave his friend a teasing grin, trying to lighten the mood, "A six-foot someone, maybe?"

"Sod off," John's voice was weary, and tinged with a small note of nervousness. He wasn't even going to attempt to delve into how thinking about Sherlock dying made him feel. "I was thinking more along the lines of my sister, actually."

The Inspector sobered from his buoyed mood, "Fallen off the wagon again, has she?"

John did not answer and instead seemed to shrink in on himself. He was so tired of this day, of death and life. Officer Lisa Wilcox had not been the only casualty of the day, and both had been in the same ambulance as he. Sometimes, John thought to himself, being a doctor was the worst profession in the world, because no matter how 'very good' you might be you still couldn't save everyone.

Jamming the heels of his hands into his eyes, John groaned as that old feeling of depressing uselessness started to sink into his bones. A nurse took that moment to enter the room, and Lestrade took his leave, patting him on the shoulder. Before the Inspector disappeared, John asked, "Text Sherlock for me, would you? He never contacted me after I left."

"Already done, mate."

Sherlock burst into the waiting room in a flurry of barely controlled frustration. Catching sight of Lestrade in the far corner of the A&E waiting room, he nearly flew across the floor until he was looming over the Inspector with his hands at his hips. "Where is John? What happened?"

"In room number four. He got a pair of grazes is all. Completely superficial."

"Then why the devil did you send me a text message designed to give me heart palpitations?" Sherlock snapped.

At the shocked expression that appeared on the Inspector's face, Sherlock replayed what he had just said and cursed himself silently. He really had not meant to say something like that, especially not to Lestrade, who wasn't as stupid as some of the other officers of Scotland Yard. Proving the detective right, the Inspector simply shook off his momentary surprise and did not comment.

"We, uh, lost two officers who were coming into the hospital on the same ambulance as John. One of them was too severely injured for anyone to help him, but the other just," Greg sighed gustily and cuffed a hand through his hair. "Look, suffice to say, John's not in the best state."

Eyes narrowing, the detective raked his gaze over the Inspector and then crossed his arms across his chest, "You're neglecting to tell me something."

Lestrade made a few awkward noises then conceded, "Just, alright, yes, but you should really talk to John about it. Room number four."

"Don't repeat yourself, Lestrade, it makes you sound even more stupid than normal," Sherlock snapped as he turned away with a flourish.

Stalking his way around the people packed tightly in the waiting room, the detective moved onward, searching out the room which temporarily housed his flatmate. Finally he located the right hallway and strode confidently to the right room. What he found when he finally arrived made his stomach feel like it was filled with ice.

It was easy to forget that John wasn't as tall and steady as an oak tree. Looking at him now, hunched over like an old man and dressed in ill-fitting scrubs, John seemed frighteningly small. The hardy warrior and had been overthrown by the gentle healer, who was obviously being slowly crushed beneath the burden of his own human frailty. Doctor Watson had been reminded several times that day that he was not a God, able to stall the inexorable march of Death, but a man without true power.

When the door opened to reveal the detective, John lifted his heavy head and allowed a friendly smile, the kind that Sherlock secretly thought was all for him, to grace his familiar features. "Hello," the doctor said softly, his voice sounding hoarse and old.

Instead of calling attention to the doctor's obvious mental and physical exhaustion, Sherlock quirked his mouth into a playful smirk, "Since when do you go on adventures without me, John? I thought we were supposed to be friends."

"You know me, Sherlock. Someone says danger," John dropped to his feet, shrugging.

Sherlock hummed approvingly, his smirk softening involuntarily into a genuine little smile, "And there you are."

In the harsher light of the hallway, Sherlock stalled as he picked up on the outline of a hand-print on John's cheek. He grabbed John's injured arm gently and tilted his head until John rolled his eyes and leaned far enough back to give the detective a full view. Keeping his voice low, the doctor said, "Officer Wilcox took offense at my inability to save her wife in the ambulance."

Caressing the mark with gentle fingertips, the detective took note of the size and shape of the mark, using the hue of it to gauge the force required to make it. His deductive gaze also took note of the heat of John's skin, the way the doctor's cheek muscle twitched lightly at the touch, and the way the man's dark eyes widened slightly in surprise. A tingle of electricity wormed its way up Sherlock's arm, and lingered even after he removed his hand.

Letting out the breaths neither man realized they were holding, Sherlock took hold of John's injured elbow and maneuvered him slowly towards the exit. "Let's get you home, John."

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