Crucial

4 May, 2014

PRESENT: Tuesday, 5 May, 2015
221b Baker Street

"Stay. Still." A rumble of frustration.

"Easy for you to say. Son of a..." a gasp of genuine pain followed by a tapestry of vulgarities.

"Is that really necessary? Lift your arm a bit."

"I am. And yes. Ow! Okay you did that on purpose."

"Oh, for God's sake. Stop. Moving."

"Sherlock, would you -- aaah, not so tight right there... bruised liver! -- would you do me one favor?"

"Sorry! Sorry. There, done. Finally." Sherlock huffed, gave the chest bindings a quick once over, helped ease John carefully into his arm chair, and flopped himself haphazardly into his own chair. "Just one favor? You promise, no more after that?"

"Just the one," John laughed, but stopped abruptly when he unintentionally jarred his aching shoulder. "Ohh God. Yeah, just the one. Sherlock, would you please, please put me out of my misery?"

"Excuse me?"

"I'm serious. Shoot me, poison me, I don't care. You pick. Just end it quickly, please." John was smiling, despite the distressing nature of his words.

"John," Sherlock growled.

"Sherlock," John countered with a chuckle. "Calm down, I'm just kidding. Though," the doctor sighed the most forlorn of sighs, "this is only just the first day of my recovery. The morning after. The first time I've had to tend my wounds, and I am physically unable to do so. I had to have you dress my cuts, wrap my bindings, and put the braces on. And you'll have to help me with the sling here in a moment. Optimistically, we've got at the least 28 more days of this. Could be more. It's not fair to ask that of you!"

"John..."

"God, this is humiliating," John exhaled in exasperation and gritted his teeth when he realized he couldn't fling himself backwards into his chair for a good pout without causing himself inordinate amounts of pain.

"Humiliating? I fail to see how your current predicament has any bearing on your rather selective, if somewhat dubious, puritanical modesty." Sherlock cocked an eyebrow at his boxer clad flat mate.

"Puritanical modesty? God, Sherlock!" John blushed and snatched his pajama bottoms from the arm of the chair. He had come into the sitting room dressed only in his boxers for the simple fact that it would make accessing his wounds that much easier. While it had been embarrassing for a moment, he had resigned himself to the fact that it was necessary, and that Sherlock, having no regard for John's privacy (or sanity, depending on the day) had actually barged into the loo with enough frequency to have seen him in far less. He tugged the pajamas on with the efficiency of one who was well practiced in completing such a task with the use of only one arm.

Opposite arm this time, but the movements were easy enough to transpose and replicate now that he was relying on his dominant hand, sprained though it was.

Sherlock noticed. Of course he did. And despite the detective's best efforts, John still perceived the pity in his friend's eyes.

"That," with a scoff, John pointed at Sherlock. "That's what I'm talking about. Me being humiliated has nothing to do with the number of clothes I'm wearing. I'm humiliated because you're looking at me with pity right now. I'm a bloody doctor, and I can't take care of myself, much less anyone else. Military trained, and I couldn't even defend myself. How I am I supposed to protect you? I'm the one who takes care of you, it's what I do, and now I have to ask you for help. I feel weak and vulnerable, and it's humiliating."

"What could you possibly have to be humiliated about?" Sherlock challenged. "In both the encounter with Jabez Wilson and then with Vincent Spaulding, you out maneuvered and out witted your aggressors, despite the disparities in size and sheer force. And while your actions were purely self-defense against Wilson, you faced Spaulding, injured, in order to draw his harmful intentions from innocent bystanders. From a purely medical perspective, you were faced with two exorbitantly violent men, and were able to subdue them in such a manner that they incurred the least amount of physical damage as possible. A courtesy that was not extended in return, I might add."

Sherlock paused, and inspected his flat mate's response.

John remained characteristically unconvinced.

With a sigh, Sherlock proceeded. "As far as your military training, you demonstrated impressively quick decision making and reaction times. Not to mention you successfully vanquished your assailants with an eight ball and an ink pen, respectively."

"Well, it was a really nice pen," John quipped, though there was no joy in his tone.

Time to appeal to the doctor's innate sentimental side.

"You saved Jabez Wilson's life when you broke his jaw. Were you aware of that?" Sherlock yawned, putting on a very convincing passive demeanor.

"How's that now?" John blinked in surprise.

"Duncan Ross confessed that once the bank job was done, Wilson would have served his purpose and been disposed of. By disabling him and having him taken into custody, you prevented his imminent death." Sherlock shrugged nonchalantly. He watched expectantly as John processed the information.

He was not prepared for the response.

John Watson, consistent in all things, including his inconsistencies.

"That's not fair," a hint of the internal conflict plaguing the doctor had seeped into his voice. "I know what you're trying to do." John's face had gone hard, his eyes unseeing. "I could've killed him, you know. Spaulding too. Just a matter of centimeters. And I have to live with the fact that I struggled with the choice both times. Especially with Spaulding. I know I should be appalled that I even had to think about doing the right thing, but I'm really not. I've actually been second guessing my choices, and that goes against everything I've ever known; it makes me weak. I am mentally and physically compromised, and that is humiliating."

"John Watson, you stop this. There is not a weak fiber in your being." Sherlock punctuated his exasperated declaration by jumping to his feet. He cut a rather imposing figure as he loomed over his flat mate. "You have been through an exceedingly traumatic experience, and have handled yourself admirably, with more strength than anyone else I know could have. All things considered, you wouldn't even have been forced into those situations if I hadn't rushed into those tunnels Sunday. Let me take the blame; wrapping your bindings and fixing your tea can be my penance. You have got to stop agonizing over this. Just stop."

"Oh, this is definitely your fault," John laughed and smiled a genuine smile, though not all the tension had quite eased from his face. Sherlock rolled his eyes with a huff and feigned insult. "Agonizing over things is kind of my method of operation though, yeah? I just have to work through it, and that might take time.”

Sherlock narrowed his eyes and scrutinized his friend until he was satisfied John was being sincere. "Right." With that the consulting detective swept dramatically from the room to set about preparing tea and ice packs. John shook his head and ever so gently set about working the loose fitting t-shirt up and over his right arm. He pulled it over his head and stuffed his left arm through easily.

Yeah. More than a little irksome that it was, in fact, so easy.

John eased his right arm into the sling, determined to complete this one act on his own, but it was no good. He couldn't reach the clasp to adjust the tension.

With a groan John heaved himself up from his chair, managed a few hobbled steps, and stood staring at the tin of scones mocking him from the floor next to Sherlock's chair.

"Don't even think about it," Sherlock cautioned. Sherlock placed the serving tray he'd been carrying on the coffee table, and with incredibly few impossibly graceful motions, he retrieved the tin and held it out to John. "Here. Now, let me adjust that sling for you. Good? Not too tight?"

"Yeah, fine. Thanks." John couldn't help but smile. "Back to business, is it?"

Sherlock had retrieved the laptop and binder of John's medical history, and was steering his friend deliberately toward the couch. "You did promise."

John yielded to Sherlock's care, and soon found himself sufficiently propped up with ice packs in place, steaming tea in reach, and scone in hand. What the self-proclaimed sociopath lacked in bedside manner, he certainly made up for with efficiency and obsessive attention to detail.

"So..."

"The phone call," Sherlock interrupted.

"Yes, the phone call at the very end of the video from last night. I didn't want to..." John hesitated a beat, and decided to alter his approach. "You have to understand, he was only trying to help. I don't believe he would have..."

"'He' being Mycroft?" Sherlock ventured. John closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "And by 'help' I suppose you mean he intended to have you sectioned." Sherlock growled the last word, and made no effort to conceal his rancor.

"He'd seen the whole thing, with the guns, and all. At least he had the courtesy to call and let me know there was a car on the way. He intended to take both of us. Said it was the best facility in the country, and that he'd take care of everything. As if that was what I'd be concerned about." John reached for his tea, but aborted the attempt when he realized his hand had started to shake. "I, uhm, yeah... I managed to convince him to leave Greg alone, since he only acted the way he had to talk me down."

With a nod Sherlock conceded his appreciation. "It was crazy though, Lestrade's plan."

"Oh, certifiable. Definitely. But I wasn't about to let Mycroft ruin Greg's career, and future, just because he took a calculated risk to help me."

"The paperwork indicates that the process was started, but then ceased," Sherlock flipped the John binder open.

"Ugh, I don't need to see it," John waved his trembling hand. "I convinced Mycroft to call off his goons, in exchange for pursuing my own treatment plan."

"I don't see another facility listed here," thumbing through the binder, Sherlock directed a questioning glance at his friend.

"A colleague, one of the therapists at the hospital, had mentioned to me in passing several years ago that she volunteered at something she called a 'respite center.' It's a place for people who are done contemplating suicide, and are ready to commit the act. It's kind of like... uhm, like a suicide crisis line, except instead of calling and talking to someone for twenty minutes, you go there and stay in this house for four nights. There are people there to talk to all day and night, or you can hide yourself away from all the madness. They don't diagnose or offer any sort of medical treatment, they just listen and help you sort out your options." John toyed with a loose thread on a cushion.

Suddenly the very thought of eye contact was overwhelming.

"So, no medical record to be generated." Not a question, more a statement of the obvious. Sherlock noted the relief in John's posture that he had opted to go the clinical route as opposed to the more invasive how-does-that-make-you-feel route.

"Hmm," John hummed consent, though he was careful to keep his eyes averted. "I wasn't sure at that point if I would even be able to continue a medical career, but there's a certain... stigma that comes with a medical professional having been sectioned. A doctor should know better. Know the warning signs. Use the resources. Respect the sanctity of life. All that... stuff."

Sherlock watched with renewed interest as John's fingers worried circular patterns around the now thoroughly abused cushion thread. His own fingers fidgeted along the seam of his dressing gown, wanting nothing more than to still his friend's fretting, but unwilling to intrude in the obvious calming effect of the repetitive motion.

"This 'respite center,' they helped you then?" A tentative query, nearly whispered, so as not to disrupt the doctor's necessary deliberation of the calming effect of synthetic fibers.

"Yes, after a manner." John tugged at the distressed thread. He glanced quickly at Sherlock, but looked away with haste. "It was hard for me to share too much with the volunteers there, but it was comforting to know that they were available. I was relieved that I didn't have to come directly back here to the flat and face... all of this." John indicate the room around them with a sideways nod of his head. "Probably would have done something very stupid if I'd come straight home that day. Instead I stayed there four nights, got my thoughts together, got past the immediate crisis, and set an appointment with my therapist for as soon as I left there."

Sherlock sniffed derisively. "And how was that?"

"Surprisingly...okay," John huffed a weak laugh. "She wanted to medicate me first thing."

"And?"

"I let her." John closed his eyes and sunk a little deeper into the sofa. "Didn't even question her choice. One of the worst mistakes I've ever made."

"Explain."

"Well... they helped for a little while. But there were side effects," John yanked the loose thread free with a grunt, flicked it to the floor, and pulled the laptop open. "Best to just show you, I think."


CCTV Footage
04/05/14
St Bart's Hospital
External Camera C
Rooftop

"God, it's May. Why is it so cold?" John burrowed more deeply into his coat as he braced himself to face the wind beating against the other side of the rooftop door. He shouldered the door open with a little more force than necessary, and stumbled a few steps out onto the roof before he could right himself.

Yes. That was the reason he stumbled.

It certainly had nothing to do with the flask in his pocket.

People generally frowned upon bottles in brown paper bags. Flasks were more discreet.

And dignified.

At least that's what he told himself.

He stomped over to spot where Moriarty offed himself and planted his feet defiantly. He had prepared for this moment. Two years. It had been two whole years. Two years deserved lofty words and deep insights. Insights he had spent hours... no, days... organizing.

Unfortunately, those days were kind of hazy, and his well-crafted lecture evaporated into the fog of booze and God knows what else. With a growl of contempt for the one he was a addressing, as well as for himself, he settled on a poorly constructed diatribe of lazy curses and vulgarities. Far from his best. "Screw. You." John hissed. He spat twice on the spot before him, flashed a two finger salute, and took a large swallow from the flask.

Someone somewhere behind him cleared his throat, interrupting his angry reverie. John spun around, but the movement cause a sudden burst of vertigo and he had to fling his arms out haphazardly to maintain his balance. "Greg. God, you startled me." His steps faltered as he made his way to Greg's perch on the ledge.

Greg lit a cigarette. It didn't appear to be his first. John tried to count the spent butts at the detective's feet... Yeah... So, a lot then...

"Wasn't sure you were going to be here, mate." Greg's tone was cold and calculated. He took a slow drag off his cigarette and folded his arms across his chest.

Probably for warmth.

"Whoa," John shook his head in confusion and held his hands up in defense, "why wouldn't I? What's eating you?"

"Just you've been doing a lot of that lately, the whole not being there." Greg flicked his cigarette and eyed the bulge in John's pocket where the flask was tucked away.

Not for warmth, then.

"Well, here I am," John retorted as he tapped a cigarette out of the pack Greg had laid beside him on the ledge, and sat down next him; both men kept their backs to the street below. Greg narrowed his eyes as he watched John light the cigarette with slightly more practiced hands than before. He kept his glare trained on the doctor as he took one, and then another, long drags off the cigarette without so much as a cough.

"God. What? What is the problem?" John turned on Greg.

"You smoke now?" The question was flung more as an accusation than an expression of concern.

John barked a contemptuous laugh and pointed the fingers holding his cigarette at Greg. "That's a bit hypocritical, yeah? But sure, I have the occasional smoke, okay? Not enough to warrant whatever this is all about."

"You're a doctor. You know better," Greg growled.

"You hide in the parking garage, detective." John shrugged.

"This isn't about me! This is about you!" Greg jumped up and shouted his rant in John's face.

"I don't even know what THIS is!" John yelled back. He flicked his cigarette away and stood to face Greg head on. "And I suggest you take a step back."

"Or what, John? Take a step back or what?" Greg took a step forward, directly into John's personal space. He sniffed loudly. "You're drunk!"

"So? Are you?" John growled. "I'm serious Greg, I don't know what it is you're on about, but you need to step back right now."

Greg leveled his glare directly at John, and through clenched teeth replied, "It is 7:45 AM. And this," he snatched the flask from John's pocket, "isempty already." He waved the flask in John's face.

"Greg," John's tone had gone feral. He tried to grab the flask back, but Greg was too quick.

"You want this? Fine. Go get it!" Greg tossed the flask over the edge of the building to the street below. John's eyes went wide with panic as he spun around peered at the startled pedestrians below.

"You idiot! You could've killed someone!" John swung around to face Greg and shoved him backward with his full force. "What were you thinking?" He fought to control his rapidly increasing breath.

"Oh, too reckless for you, doctor? I thought maybe you'd enjoy that," Greg spat.

"I. Don't. Know. What. You're. Talking. About." John roared.

"I know what you did! I know... God, John. GOD. I know," Greg paced away from John, and then back rapidly, scrubbing his hand over his face. "Did you think we wouldn't figure it out. Do you think I'm so stupid, that I wouldn't put the pieces together?" Greg resumed his pacing, swearing as he went.

John's resolve wavered as realization dawned across his features. "Uhm, wha... H-how..." He cursed himself for allowing the tremor in his voice.

"Mycroft sent me the report. He thought it would be best if local law enforcement brought them in, and I agreed with him. These were bad men. We could have brought them in on any number of charges, and made them stick, without drawing any attention to the whole Moriarty connection. I had a plan, John. Bring them in, keep it quiet, not draw any unwanted attention, and keep Mrs. Hudson and you safe. I had that report in my hand for less than a day, and then you disappeared on me. GOD, what was I supposed to think?" Greg paused in front of John. "When Mycroft couldn't find you... We thought... I thought you were dead John. You..." Greg growled. He turned to pace away, but spun back around and hit John with a fierce right hook.

John didn't have time to react.

Not that he could have.

Aside from the fact that he hadn't ingested anything besides alcohol in the last twenty-four hours, the realization that Detective Inspector Lestrade of New Scotland Yard had discovered his dirty little secret had rendered him utterly immobile.

Completely catatonic.

No use fighting.

The blow to the face caused him to crumple to the roof below him. He curled onto his side and wrapped his arms around his middle. Greg's shoes came into his line of sight.

"Oh no. No you don't. Get up. Right now, John. Get. Up." Greg commanded. Crouching down, he forced John into a sitting position, and held him up with one hand on his shoulder. "C'mon John, I'm not messing around." When John failed to respond, Greg shook his head, and unapologetically slapped him across the face. "Snap out of it!"

With a gasp John blinked, came to himself, and covered his cheek with his hand. "God, Greg. You hit me?" He drew his knees in towards his chest and wrapped his free right arm around his legs.

"I thought you were DEAD, you idiot. What else was I supposed to do?"

"But... you hit me. Twice. Ever heard of a hug? God." John fingered the growing bruise just under his left eye.

"Judas priest, John," Greg sat down facing John, his right shoulder next to John's knees, and mimicked John's posture. "What are we going to do? You killed those guys."

Exhaling deeply, John closed his eyes and leaned a little into Greg's knees for support. "Who else has figured it out? How long do I have?"

"So far, I'm the only one. But it's only a matter of time." Greg lit a cigarette, and offered one to John, who took it readily. "You had to know we'd test the bullets," Greg pinched the bridge of his nose, "and that we'd match those bullets to the cabbie."

"But that one is still unsolved. You never made an arrest," John argued weakly. He knew full well how ludicrous he sounded.

"I've known it was you since that night. You're not the only one who was getting to be fluent in Sherlock. His deductions of the shooter, and the way he clammed up then all but devoured you with his eyes. Good Lord, he might as well have put the cuffs on you himself." Greg smirked and took a long drag on his cigarette.

"Why didn't you arrest me?"

Greg ran his hand over his head. "I... I watched Sherlock Holmes restrain himself for the first time since I had met him that night. He deliberately held back information that would literally make his case in order to protect you. As far as I could tell, he had never done that before. Not once. I think he would have thrown his own mum under the bus if it would have solved a case. But not you. Hmm," Greg inspected the ash on the tip of his cigarette before flicking it away and taking a drag. "I had to see for myself what it was Sherlock saw."

"Oh my God, Greg. What the..." John ducked his head, and buried his face in his hands in an attempt to hide his emotion.

"Besides," Greg added, "the evidence wasn't going anywhere. I knew if you ever blew it, I could just arrest you and be done with it."

John groaned. "Well, I guess you've got your opportunity. Just... Can you do it? Please? Not Dimmock or any of those other guys. And not Sally. God, please don't let Sally arrest me."

"Really? After that night you two went out, I figured you'd be okay with her putting the hand cuffs on you," Greg snickered, though his face remained grim.

"No. That was NOT a date, and you know it. NOT. A. DATE." John swore under his breath. "No. Just... No."


PRESENT

"Oh God," Sherlock dry heaved. "Please, tell me you did not go on a date with Sally Donovan."

Even as a doctor, John had never actually seen someone turn green when they were ill, but Sherlock was very near there.

"What? No! God, Sherlock!"

"I knew you were in distress while I was away, but I had no idea I'd driven you to such baseless desperation. John, I..."

"Shut up, you idiot!" John laughed. "God. I did not go on a date with Sally Donovan. We had drinks one night, as friends, but..."

"Oh God," Sherlock groaned.

"But really... that's all you're taking away from this right now? Is one not date with Sally?"

"No no. We'll have words about your other indiscretions soon enough. This though... this is just... just..."

John rolled his eyes, and with a sigh pressed play.


CCTV Footage
04/05/14
St Bart's Hospital
External Camera C
Rooftop

"No. Just... No."

"Whatever you say," Greg shrugged. He flicked away his spent cigarette butt and pulled out another. "You two went to the shooting range that night. She knows you can shoot."

"I was pretty tipsy by then."

"Mhm. No good. She told me after that you handle a gun better drunk than most of the guys on the force sober. Next."

"We didn't use my gun."

Greg paused, cigarette halfway to his lips. "That. That is good. Very good. Because she would have asked to fire it, and she does this quirky thing where she keeps a spent round from every gun she shoots for the first time." Greg sighed in relief. "God. I thought for sure she'd have that round sitting up on her shelf, just waiting for her to notice the striations."

"She'll still be the one to figure it out first, you think?" John wrapped both arms around his knees and pulled them in more tightly.

"Probably so. Though I'm sure Mycroft knows by now too."

John sighed. "That file he sent you. I compiled that you know." Greg blinked in surprise. "A few months after Sherlock jumped, Mycroft asked me to review some medical records for a few of his agents. I figured he was just trying to be nice. I kind of halfway went at it, scribbled down a few notes, and sent the files back. A week later he sent more with the request that I type my notes that time. That went on for several months. Sometimes it was weekly, sometimes every few weeks. Nothing steady. One day he sent a car for me, took me to his offices, and asked me to have a look at some potential threats. Told me to type out my observations, no matter how insignificant they seemed. I did that for about an hour that day, and then he offered to pay me to keep doing it."

"Wait. So, you work for MI6?" Greg had dropped his cigarette and was brushing at the slightly singed mark on his coat as he cursed. "God, John. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Classified. I'm only telling you now because I'm already in trouble. Might as well add treason, yeah?"

"Just... stop talking." Greg groaned as he stretched and slowly stood up. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets, and began pacing.

"Greg?"

"Shh." Greg shushed him, waved him off, and kept pacing. John bit his lip in an effort to keep from smiling.

When did Greg start acting like Sherlock?

"You wrote that report?" Greg stopped in front of John and waited for him to respond.

"Yes." John had to look away to keep from giggling.

Greg narrowed his eyes, "As an employee of MI6, you filed that report to your superior?"

"Yes." That was all it took. John snickered, and tried unsuccessfully to cover it with a cough.

"What? What is funny right now?" Greg snipped as he pulled out his mobile and began texting furiously.

"Oh my God, Greg." John doubled over in hysterics. "When did you become Sherlock? With the dramatic pacing, and the shushing, and the... the..." Greg's phone buzzed a response. John laughed so hard he cried. "That's not Mycroft is it? It is. It's Mycroft."

"I..." Greg turned his back on John, but not before the doctor noted the crimson spreading across the detective's face. He took a few deep breaths, and gave John a moment to compose himself.

"Right," Greg turned back to John. He had clearly stepped into D.I. mode. John sat up a little straighter. "John, I need to clarify a few things."

"O-okay..."

"The two men in question, the ones that you... you know... How did you recognize them?"

"The one matched the description Mrs. Hudson gave me of the man who was at Baker Street the day Sherlock jumped. The other man I remembered seeing around your office area at the Yard, but didn't recall having ever actually been introduced to him. Thought that was odd." John explained carefully. He decided to stand as well.

Maybe there really was something to the pacing.

"Good, okay," Greg thought carefully. "What was it about those two men that was troubling to you?"

"They both seemed out of place. Neither belonged in those respective settings. And then I found Sherlock's phone, and we learned that Moriarty had assassins ready to kill Mrs. Hudson, you, and myself, if Sherlock didn't jump. Those two men fit the profiles, especially since they disappeared completely off the grid after that day. The one at Baker Street I can almost understand, but the guy at the Yard, if he was an actual employee, someone would have noticed, yeah?"

"Too right," Greg nodded. "When did they turn back up?"

"About a month ago. It wouldn't have seemed too unusual if it had been just one of them. Moriarty's guys would do that. One would pop up here or there, usually as a distraction for some off shoot trying to start something. But they both showed up back in London in the same week. Never together, but too close for comfort. And too close to their original targets." John caught Greg's eye and swallowed hard. Greg nodded in understanding.

"I knew Mycroft was sending you that report. But, I also knew that if they were after their original targets, you'd be in the line of fire. So, I disappeared. Tracked them. As you said, they were both very bad guys. I waited until I could catch each of them in particularly heinous crimes, and I neutralized the threat." John had stopped pacing and stood looking out over the city. "I'd do it again too."

Greg stepped up next to John, still gripping his phone in one hand. "So, you made your move based on information gathered for MI6?"

"What? Yes. How many times do I need to say that?" John sighed in frustration.

"Just the once," Mycroft condescended from Greg's mobile.

"God, you sneaky..." John punched Greg on the shoulder. The detective just rolled his eyes and grinned.

"Mycroft, what do you think?" Greg asked.

"Taking into consideration the parties involved, their proximity to the Moriarty affair, and the obvious potential for threat, I am prepared to issue retro dated documentation granting Doctor Watson, as an employee of MI6, temporary security clearance, as well as a field assignment order, to neutralize said threats. I presume that will cease any further investigation by your division, Detective Inspector." Mycroft sounded positively disinterested.

"There is the matter of the bullets," Greg supplied.

"My office will be issuing a request to have all evidence and documentation transferred to our storage. If that will suffice, I must take my leave."

"Thank you, Mycroft. Sincerely. Thank you," John would have hugged the man if were present.

"Doctor Watson, you and I will be discussing the ramifications of your indiscretions when next we meet. Good day, Detective." With that the call disconnected, leaving the D.I. and the doctor to stare at one another, looks of awe (translation: terror) on their faces.

"What does that mean?" Greg gulped.

"I... Huh." John shook his head and shrugged. Both men stood awkwardly staring at each other. "So... I'm not dead, and I'm not going to prison. Think I can get that hug now?"

"God no. I'm still pissed at you." Greg sat down on the ledge and swung his legs out over the edge. "Suicide by stupidity is still suicide, you know."

"Oh let it go!" John groaned. "I had to do it to save your life!"


PRESENT

"I would just like to point out..."

"Touché. Don't be smug."


CCTV Footage
04/05/14
St Bart's Hospital
External Camera C
Rooftop

"I had to do it to save your life!"

"Right. Next time? We do this together, or not at all. You hear me? Just like everything else. You don't leave me behind like that again," Greg demanded.

With a nod, John conceded.


PRESENT

"Ahem."

"Ugh, noted."


CCTV Footage
04/05/14
St Bart's Hospital
External Camera C
Rooftop

"You don't leave me behind like that again," Greg demanded.

With a nod, John conceded.

"And this drinking. It's got to stop. A drink now and then? Fine. I even understood getting completely smashed a few times, especially at the beginning. But this," Greg pointed at John, "this is getting ridiculous. A flask, John? What in God's name are you doing?"

John took his time sitting down on the ledge and swinging his legs out over the edge, in order to sit next to Greg. "I don't know what happened. I hadn't had a drop after that day on the roof a year ago. I knew the booze was a big part of my problem that day. So I swore it off. Didn't even have any at the flat. I was feeling pretty good, you know? Therapy was... tolerable. I was working for Mycroft, picked up a shift here and there at the clinic, and started helping you out with those abuse cases. First time ever the antidepressants seemed to be doing their job."

With a shrug, John continued. "We had a few pub nights, and I felt in control enough to have a few pints. Somewhere around the third time out, it all went out of control. A drink here and there on my own, and suddenly it was every day. God, Greg, I get these violent urges just to drink as much as I can. And I crave it, and it won't go away. On top of that, I just have days where I don't care what happens. I have done some really reckless,stupid things. That night out with Sally was one. Going after those guys, that all started on one of my reckless days."

"What does the therapist say?" Greg's brow was creased in concern.

"She seems to think it's the genetic predisposition to addictive behavior."

"Not seriously."

"Yeah. Dad was a drunk, older sister is too, so it's only inevitable. Blah, blah, blah." John hung his head in shame.

"What do you think, John? Could it be anything else?"

"I've been reading through some old medical journals, and I found an article... I think it's a side effect of the meds. Of course, the one prescribing the pills doesn't want to hear that. She won't listen to me, accuses me of trying to self-diagnose. She's trying to convince me to go to rehab. Threatened to involve Mycroft. I... I don't think I'm wrong, though." John sighed, despair evident on his face.

"What would happen if you just stopped taking the pills?"

"I'm not sure. But I'm to that point now. I won't end up like my father. Or Harry. I can't do it. I just... I need..."

"Anything," Greg interrupted. "I'm serious. Anything you need. You've got it. You wanna stay in our guest room for a few days, just to try it out? Molly won't mind. We can go get your stuff right now."

John huffed a laugh. "I... uhm, okay. Yeah. Yes, I do want to do that. I'm desperate. I just want to be me again, even if that means I'm sad forever."

"Oh God, John. I'm so relieved. I... we... You were drifting away from us, and it was killing me. I need you, you know. Brothers? And I still have my days. Molly tries to help, but there are some days, I just..."

"Greg, I'm so sorry. I just, I'm really going to work on fixing this, okay?" John's smile was uncertain. "And I really am so happy you and Molly have each other. You're so good for each other."

"I'm actually really happy to hear you say that, John. I..." Greg ducked his head and tried to stifle a giggle.

"Oh my God. You proposed. You're getting married?!"

"Yeah. Yeah we're getting married." Greg was beaming.

"When did that happen?" John was grinning.

"Two nights ago. We were walking through the park, and happened upon a small Shakespeare company putting on a production of Romeo and Juliette..."

"What is it with you and Shakespeare, Greg? God. I think you're the one who needs help!" John laughed.

"No arguments there. It was just, so beautiful, and Molly was beautiful, and well, that's it. She said yes." Greg grinned. "And then we had our first fight as an engaged couple."

"Oh yeah? Do tell."

"Well, it was about you, John."

"Oh, God," John groaned.

"No, no. You know you're my brother. But you're our best friend. Mine and Molly's. And well, we fought over who was going to ask you to stand up with them."

"Stop!" John laughed. "No you didn't."

"I swear on Mycroft's umbrella we did. She's going to be furious that I'm talking to you about this right now."

"Well, the choice is obvious, though I do have one question," John turned suddenly very serious. "If I were to stand with Molly, would I get to wear one of those fluffy monstrosities of a dress? Because otherwise, I'm out."

"I think we could arrange that!" Greg was on the verge of hysterics. "Idiot."

"Okay, okay. Really though, Greg, I'm honored, of course I'll stand up with you. You're my best friend and my brother. We stand together always, yeah?"

"I'd say we should go celebrate, but..." Greg looked to John with concern on his face.

"I could really use some tea right now," John slowly turned and stood from the ledge.

"That sounds perfect. We'll pick Molly up, and you can break the sad news to her," Greg winked. "One more thing... I think I owe you this..." Greg turned to John and swept him up into a fierce hug. John held onto Greg as if his life depended on it. "Everything together, yeah?"

"Always."


PRESENT

"Topics that are off limits, at least for the time being: Sally Donovan. Anything else? Have at it." John attempted a smile at Sherlock, who had fixed a very sullen, searching stare on John. "And that's a bit creepy..."

"Do you regret killing those two assassins?" Sherlock cut in.

"I, uhm, no. No I do not. I caught them in the midst of committing crimes, and they needed to be stopped. Not to mention Mrs. Hudson and Greg were in danger. As I said, I would do it again."

Sherlock charged ahead. "But you feel tormented over contemplating killing Wilson and Spaulding? Despite the fact that both were involved in ongoing crime, and both times you were the one in danger?"

John opened his mouth to speak, but shut it again immediately.

"Your reasoning is flawed. You either have to be tormented over the other two as well, or you have to get over Wilson and Spaulding, who you merely injured. I suggest you choose the latter." Sherlock submitted, matter-of-factly.

"Uhm, okay... but..."

"Mycroft never told me who the operative was that took out those two assassins. I always had my suspicions, but he had assured me you never did any field work. I believe you said as much as well."

"Whoa, okay, new topic then. It wasn't labelled a field assignment until after the fact, to cover my hide. I wasn't actually ever approved to go out, I just did it on my own. It was incredibly stupid and reckless, and I could have jeopardized the whole operation. Or gotten you killed. The label of field assignment was a technicality."

"Yes, it was incredibly risky. It actually changed my entire strategy." Sherlock steepled his fingers under his chin. "I was saving those two and Moran for last, for obvious reasons. The problem was, Moran had been one step ahead of me for months. I couldn't flush him out. Those two underlings got word that someone was hunting their boss, and they got suspicious. They decided to head back to London, on the off chance that Moran would show up, and would order the original plan of attack. If they got word Moran had been killed, they were going to act on their own."

John exhaled deeply, unable to mask the shock on his face.

"You were right to pursue them. When word got to Moran that a mysterious assassin had put down his two men, hello, yes, that's you, he decided to make his move. He was on his way back here to..." Sherlock hesitated, and inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

"He was coming for me, wasn't he?" John asked boldly.

"Indeed. But he got sloppy in his haste. I intercepted him before he even set foot back into London. With those three out of the way, there were only minor players left to dispose of here. I was able to get home six months sooner because of what you did. I suppose I owe you my appreciation for that..."

"Wait. WAIT. You were in London for six months before you showed up here? Wha... WHY?" John fought to maintain his breathing. He clenched and unclenched his fists.

"I had to do it to save your life?" Sherlock forced a sappy grin.

"Oh... you... you..." John focused on breathing. "You only get to use that once. Are you sure you want to use it this soon?"

"Do I have any other options?"

"No. No you do not." John huffed a laugh. "God, Sherlock." John shook his head. "There's more, isn't there?"

"I need to understand this medication and the effect it had on you."

"Antidepressants... They alter brain chemistry. Prescribing medication isn't an exact science. Body chemistry has as much to do with the effectiveness of a drug as the chemistry of the medication itself. In the interest of over simplifying it, the medication I was on did seem to suppress the parts of my brain that wouldn't allow me to fight my way out of the depression, but in so doing, it was like they removed some of the barriers that kept the addictive, reckless parts of my brain in check. So, I was doing stupid things, and feeling no remorse for it." John frowned. "That's a fairly terrible explanation of it."

"No, I think I see. The medication stripped away your John-ness." Sherlock furled his brow and frowned deeply.

"My 'John-ness'? What does that mean?"

"The part of you that cares too much about the choices you make, that agonizes over doing the right thing. The part of you that makes sure you are at your best so that you can be your best for everyone else. The part of you that overcomes adversity by sheer force of will. By altering your brain chemistry, your therapist was trying to turn you into someone else." Sherlock exhaled deeply. Then inhaled deliberately. He continued to do so.

It took John several seconds to fully realize what was happening.

"Sherlock? Sherlock, you've got to calm down. Just keep breathing, okay? You're doing just fine. You're fine. I'm fine. Look at me... look, you said it, I'm agonizing over Spaulding. Spaulding, that brute. I found my John-ness, okay? It's still there."

"You... what if you hadn't? What if..."

"Keep breathing, Sherlock."

"What if you hadn't figured out it was the medication? Are there long term effects? How do you know it didn't do permanent damage?"

"God, Sherlock, breathe. Come on. In... Out... In... Out... There. Keep going." John had assumed his calming doctor tone. Sherlock appeared infinitely relieved by this simple gesture. "I'm here, Sherlock. This is me. I did figure out it was the pills. Maybe not as soon as a I should have, but I did."

"You were compromised," Sherlock whispered.

"Yes, you could say that. But I'm better now. And you're here now." John soothed.

"But you aren't completely better, you still have nightmares. And, and..."

"I do. But I had those things before too."

"But I made them worse. And then I broke you, and they tried to alter your brain. Your beautiful brain. And that's my fault." Sherlock groaned as a few tears slid unchecked from his eyes.

"Sherlock, please, please stop this. I don't want this, okay? I don't want you mourning over me. I'm right here. I'm still here. I faded out a few times while you were gone, but now you're back, and so am I. I'm tired of mourning." John pleaded, fighting off his own tears. He brushed a tear from Sherlock's cheek with his thumb. The Velcro from his wrist brace latched on to a lock of Sherlock's hair. "Oh... Oh no... God, I'm so sorry. Nonono. God, Sherlock, I'm sorry. I..." John squeezed his eyes closed in humiliation.

A deep laugh rumbled next to him. "We are a pair of idiots aren't we?" Sherlock decided on the quick approach, and ripped his hair from John's brace.

"I believe so," John laughed.

"There is one more thing..." Sherlock began tentatively.

"Anything, Sherlock. What can I do?" John's eagerness to help his flat mate spurred Sherlock on.

"If I'm very careful, may I hug you? It's just... You and Lestrade hug, and I just... I want..."

"I wish you would," John nodded.

It was ten kinds of awkward, with all of John's injuries. They settled on Sherlock tucked into John's left side, with John's one good arm wrapped protectively around the consulting detective, and Sherlock wrapped gently around John's middle. It was an embrace perfectly indicative of the ones caught up in it, and they held on to each other like two halves of a whole.

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