No Match for the Man

Chapter 7

Blood stained his hands all the way up past his wrists. Slick fingers fought for purchase around the combat-issued tourniquet, making it nearly impossible to properly tighten. Somewhere behind him, another person screamed out the last of their life as a bullet sailed through flesh and bone.

Searing pain rocketed through his brain as his shoulder was blasted apart by a bullet. Refusing to give up, he tried to crawl to cover, but was stopped by a foot slamming down on his wound. Beneath him, his compatriot breathed out one last breath into the foreign sand.

Above him, a young, angry voice shouted in some form of dialect he had not yet been able to understand. Grunting in pain, he tried to explain in another, similar tongue that he was little more than a medic, of no hostage use at all. The foot crashed down again and again, grating bone shards into each other and the surrounding tissues in his joint.

As a gun cocked loudly above his head, he cried out in pain.

Dressed only in his flannel trousers, Sherlock raced up the steps to John's room in the wake of a horrible scream. He had never heard John make such a frightening noise, and the sound had twisted something in Sherlock's chest. Bursting through the door and flicking on the light, the detective stopped short, staring at the sight before him in disbelief.

Seated on the floor, John had lifted his face from his hands as his flatmate nearly tripped over him. The doctor's whole body trembled as he heaved great gulps of air into his lungs. A single tear had escaped his eye, and traveled the expanse of his cheek, leaving behind a faint trail of salt.

As if approaching a wild animal, Sherlock cautiously dropped to his knees, a few feet away from John's outspread legs. This close he could see that the dark blue cotton shirt John wore was absolutely saturated with sweat, and his friend's pulse was so fast he could see the skin of the man's throat twitching. Slowly, he shuffled forward on his knees until he was between his friend's feet.

In a quiet murmur, the detective offered, "Just a dream, John. Nothing more. It's alright. You're safe now." Repeating the words several times, Sherlock watched as the doctor's trembling slowly subsided.

John took in a deep breath, and leaned back against his nightstand, letting the deep voice of his companion wash over him. After he had calmed enough to regain control of his tongue, he offered in a rough voice, "I'm sorry, Sherlock. I didn't mean to bother you."

"It's fine, John." Keeping his voice soft and low, Sherlock gingerly patted the doctor's knees. "Don't apologize." The silence that followed was tense, and his stomach was doing that uncomfortable squirmy thing it had done when he'd seen John wearing Moriarty's semtex vest, so the detective cleared his throat and ventured, "Am I supposed to do something now?"

"What?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes, "Should I offer you tea? You usually offer me tea. Or a blanket." His expression turned quizzical, "Do you need a blanket, John? I have several orange ones. And possibly a pink. I could get you the afghan from downstairs?"

The doctor stared at him for a long moment, then said, "Why the hell would I need a blanket?"

"So no then? What about the tea?" Sherlock popped to his feet like a jack sprung from its box. "I know you prefer Earl Grey, but I think the chamomile you force me to consume after long cases might be a better alternative." He knew he was babbling, but he couldn't stop himself.

"What in God's name are you talking about?" John looked genuinely confused.

Making a few passes of his hands in the air, Sherlock fought to compose himself. Seeing John distressed, when the man was usually so ridiculously calm even a saint might have been irritated by it, had knocked Sherlock's usually pristine world off it's axis. Closing his eyes, he forced himself to go completely still.

No one had ever upset him as much as John did, not even Irene when she had almost beaten him. Had that been so short a time ago? His resolution in the cab on the way to the hospital resurfaced in his mind, and he weighed the pros and cons of just asking John to explain to him what to do. It felt strange to actually gather his courage - he'd never been so frightened of anything before – but gather it he did.

"This isn't my area, John." Sherlock opened his eyes and looked down at his bewildered flatmate. "I don't know what to do."

Realization dawned on John's face, and was quickly replaced by a soft, fond smile. "Of course you don't." Hauling himself to his feet and then sitting on the bed and propping his back against the headboard, John scooted closer to the wall and patted the spot beside him. "Just, sit here and talk to me, yeah? Tell me what happened with Irene? I'm sorry I left you alone with her, by the way."

Sherlock made a slight growling noise in his throat at the mention of The Woman. Flopping himself on his back, he looked up at John and placed his hands in his customary thinking position beneath his chin. After a long moment of silence, he grimaced and said, "You were right."

As predicted, John did not gloat, although he did smirk and jokingly suggested, "Would you mind handing me my phone so I can record this moment for posterity?"

Fixing a good, hard glare up at his friend, Sherlock spat, "This is not a joking matter John."

Chastised, John apologized, then ventured, "So what happened?"

"Oh, the usual. She tried to convince me that she was just playing a game, even though all the evidence pointed to the fact that she was legitimately attracted to me." The detective's lips twitched at the memory of Irene's face when he had told her he'd taken her pulse. John made an encouraging noise, and Sherlock looked up to see the doctor's eyes drifting upwards towards his hair. "She tried to seduce me, but Mrs Hudson came upstairs. There was a point where I actually thought..."

As John's brows had lowered in consideration, the doctor shifted until he could reach out with his left hand. When warm fingers gently teased at the ebony curls, Sherlock fell utterly still and silent. Finally, John stroked his hand through the detective's hair, just above his forehead, and the sensation sent heat straight to Sherlock's groin. He didn't mean for his eyes to flutter closed, so he opened them immediately after John's fingers were removed.

"Sorry, there was a piece of string in your hair." John showed off the off-white piece of cotton in his hands before flicking it to the floor. "It was distracting me. You were saying?"

"I don't know what to do again."

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