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Catastrophe Medicine

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 Catastrophe Medicine

After clapping his hands in an overly enthusiastic, jubilant manner, Sherlock sprang out of his chair and bounced lightly off the floor as though it was a trampoline. A couple of light, precipitous strides carried him towards the door.

"John, get moving!" he prompted, tossing John's jacket unceremoniously into his face. John glanced up from his laptop and saw Sherlock already wrapping a scarf around his neck and shoving his hands deep into the sleeves of his coat.

"You finally figured out who he was?" John queried, slamming his laptop shut as he bounded to his feet and hurried to catch up with the detective who had already vacated the living room.

"Not yet, but it's irrelevant," bellowed a voice from the corridor. "Bring your gun with!"

John swiftly fetched his gun from his bedroom and left the apartment only to realise he'd forgotten his mobile on the coffee table next to the laptop. He was stomping down the stairs and Sherlock must have already hailed down a cab, so there was hardly any time to go back.

Hastily darting out into the street, John, just as he expected, saw Sherlock next to the readily opened door of the cab, an expression of annoyed impatience at his friend's sluggishness plastered over his features.

Experiencing a brief astonishment at Sherlock Holmes' magnetic attractiveness which London cabs seemed to be unexceptionally falling prey to, John climbed into the taxi right after him.

A companionable silence settled in the air as Sherlock leaned back with his fingers steepled before his lips, thinking pose activated, while John contented himself with peacefully watching as the scenery cruised by. Some while later, Sherlock huffed out a sharp breath and turned to John. Smiling to himself, John raised his gaze, all ears and ready to listen.

"So, we have two explosions in two deserted houses with rental apartments on the outskirts of London. Amongst the victims there are only three homeless people who died shortly after being trapped under debris." John certainly knew all details but didn't interrupt, aware that stating the facts out loud helped Sherlock better rearrange them in his head. "The cause and the exact mechanism of the explosions will be determined as soon as the rest of the debris is cleared out. The police are stumped since there's no certainty such explosions won't happen again, yet they have no resources at their disposal to position guards next to all neglected houses in London. However," Sherlock raised his index finger for emphasis, not breaking the eye contact with John, "the owner of one of the blown-up buildings has recently bought it from Patrick Mason who also is a proprietor of the second house. Which means that he might be our connecting link."

John tilted his head to one side pensively, and Sherlock continued:

"I've thoroughly Googled for data and found out that last year there was a teenage boy who died whose family rented an apartment in that suburb. He died from anaphylactic shock from a rabies vaccine, which he had to have injected after being bit by a rat in the yard, very banal and boring," John treated him to a disapproving look, but the detective ignored it and added: "It would be boring if the owner of that house with unsanitary living conditions wasn't…" Sherlock stopped mid-sentence, staring at John expectantly.

"Mason?"

"Precisely!"

A contented smile spread across Sherlock's face as he leaned back against the rear of the seat.

"Our chances, John, are fifty-fifty. He owns two other houses which had been abandoned. In his possession there are habitable ones as well, but our pyromaniac seems to be avoiding unnecessary victims. At least for the time being."

 ooo

A gloomy, forlorn-looking house, neglected for what seemed like a considerable amount of time and most likely doomed to remain so, produced a rather depressing impression. John fought an involuntary shiver watching as Sherlock resolutely headed for the front door.

"Go and check the apartments, John. I'll inspect the basement," was his concise instruction.

John rushed towards the detective and decidedly grabbed his forearm, stopping him in mid-step.

"Sherlock, wait. I'd rather we don't split. You're not armed."

Sherlock turned to gaze at him, an excitement boiling like a wildfire behind his sparkling eyes. He reminded John of a track hound on alert that was ready to break loose from its leash as soon as it scented a close game.

"Oh please, neither is he. All he has is an access to explosives, not to guns. Otherwise he would've simply shot Mason. Come on," Sherlock almost pleaded, "We'll take a quick look around. Possibly, there's nothing here at all. If so, we're just going to have to make for the second address."

John shook his head, disapproval evident in his eyes. He released a resigned sigh and let go of Sherlock's arm, watching with reprehension as his friend bolted towards the front entrance.

 ooo

Inspecting the basement door lock Sherlock felt a familiar surge of fluttering anticipation. The lock was recently opened, though not with a key. He extracted his own lock picks and, after nimbly getting rid of the obstacle, ventured his way downstairs into obscurity of the basement, lighting his phone torch and decisively ignoring the fetid stench.

Making it to the end of the staircase, Sherlock raised the phone light to get a better look around, and froze. The basement was professionally mined. It was clear as day that going into the dense thickets of wires without competent training was utter madness. He and John needed to leave the premises immediately; the police could be informed later.

Sherlock flung himself upwards, vaulting two stairs at a time.

John. He must find John.

 ooo

John made it all the way up to the first floor landing, on constant alert and with a gun in his hand. The doors to the apartments were closed, and John thought he didn't experience the slightest inclination to break through them. Thus concluding, he began ascending higher, mindful of his footsteps and treading as light as he could.

One of the second floor doors appeared to be slightly ajar, and John, holding his breath, gingerly tiptoed towards it. A hysterical fit of laughter was bubbling up in his ribcage at the thought of a homeless person begging him not to pull the trigger and promising, hand on his heart, to change and adopt a socially accepted style of life.

Entering the apartment with an unlocked door, John soundlessly tiptoed through the tiny, scarcely lit hall and pushed the door to the left, simultaneously taking a step forwards.

There was a hunched man squatting next to the plinth who straightened sharply at the intrusion and turned to face John. In his hand he held an object with an antenna which reminded of a remote control for a child's plaything. John let out an abrupt breath and conjured up his best doctor's tone:

"There's no need to be worried, I'm going to slowly put my gun down…"

The man snorted, shaking his head.

"Actually, you may very well keep your gun where it is. You won't be fast enough to use it. I'm going neither to jail, nor to any mental institutions."

"Allow me to lower it nevertheless," tried John, carefully doing as he said. "Then we're going to calmly vacate this building. You don't want any victims, I know that much."

The man huffed out a brisk laugh.

"And then what? You're going to let me go on my merry way? I highly doubt it."

"Let's not make any rash decisions, shall we?" John hurried to continue, intending to drag the time out as long as he could, and then maybe he'd come up with a better solution. However, there came a sound of stomping feet from the staircase, startling the bomber and making him freeze, but only for what seemed like a half second. His finger darted to the button on the remote control. He pressed down on it.

 ooo

Nearly hurling himself up onto the second floor landing, Sherlock took a moment to assess and analyze the unfolding scenario: a swung open door to one of the apartments with John already inside, and opposite him stood a man with a remote detonator in his hand and an insane smile wide across his face.

It took Sherlock another half second to generate the most prudent guide for action; in one fast jump he could reach the window opening of a load-bearing wall of the landing. It would be the safest option and it would leave him relatively unharmed, while the risk of getting himself scratched by breaking glass could be overlooked as insignificant.

Sherlock started to move moments before the floor began trembling under his feet and a deafening crescendo of an oncoming blast stuffed up his ears.

As if in slow motion, John turned just in time to have Sherlock's arms wrap around him in a tight grip, sending them both flying onto the floor. Sherlock had barely a few second at his disposal in order to calculate the safest position in the room they'd better occupy before the building would collapse on their heads. Alas, that safest place did not guarantee them any reliable salvation, for there were too many random variables. The probability of making it in one piece at the spot where John presently stood boiled down to no more than a mere half of one percent, and given the state of already spreading fissures on the ceiling the geometry just didn't leave any alternative to that prognosis. They needed to relocate themselves three metres to the right, at the vector directed at a thirty degrees angle relative to the trajectory with which Sherlock's body would launch towards John in the next second. Thus assuming, Sherlock threw himself in John's direction, imparting to their collision all his body mass and momentum, and sent both of them into a short flight.

'Made it,' Sherlock thought in what felt like a mirthful triumph as he landed onto the dusty floor which was still giving way under their very feet, and released John out of his embrace. He was just about to evaluate their current chances of salvation when the back of his neck burst in a sudden pain, and darkness took him in.

 ooo

The first sensation to reach John's brain was a sharp, piercing pang in his right leg. He was alive. That was definitely good news. Although, a throbbing drum which greeted its way into John's head and a disgusting taste of copper in his mouth were not so much. Running a loop of memory in his mind, John encountered only a hollow emptiness. He half-opened his eyes and had to blink rapidly at the dust that momentarily attacked his vision.

Mason's case. The explosion. The preceding hours flashed brightly before him, and John scrunched his face in a pained grimace as a whirlwind of excruciating ache fired through his head. The next thought made him flick his eyes open again and cast an anxious glance around his immediate surroundings.

"Sherlock," he managed, his voice hoarse and raucous, as he reached out a hand to press his fingers against the detective's throat. There was a pulse, a steady one, albeit slightly elevated. The doctor drew a relieved sigh. Sherlock's eyelids fluttered. He let out a small groan and slowly opened his eyes to look up at John. John attempted one of his best encouraging smiles.

"You all right?"

"Alive," Sherlock croaked in response, running his tongue over his dry lips and grimacing, "Yourself?"

"Likewise. I just wanted to check if you're in one piece."

The scarce room amid the rubbly debris was a crepuscular haze of grey light which certainly gladdened the heart since it meant the air was coming through as well. However, the illumination was too dim to let John properly examine his friend. He braced himself on his elbow trying to get closer to Sherlock, but something was keeping his right leg in place. John lowered his eyes and saw his unmoving limb transfixed by a reinforcing steel beam. The metal stick, about one centimetre in diameter, was descending from above, running through John's thigh and disappearing under the floor, the length of it therefore remaining unknown. Thin rivulets of blood streaked down his leg.

"Damn it," there was a quiet curse. John started and immediately turned to look at Sherlock assuming the detective discovered a grave injury of his own, but Sherlock was, too, staring at John's leg.

"It's nothing," John hurried to assure him in the most cheerful voice he could muster, hastily unlocking the belt off his trousers. His pulse ran wild and he felt a slight dizziness overcome him, the din of the blood roaring in his ears. John needed to stop the bleeding, and fast. Sherlock's condition was yet to be determined but they needed to maintain the only doctor they had in a conscious state of mind; otherwise, should he pass out, he wouldn't be able to help Sherlock at all. "Check if your phone works in here."

Pursing his lips in a tight line, Sherlock fished his mobile out of the inner pocket of his suit jacket, as John, forgetting the gloominess of the circumstances, couldn't hold back a smile. Imagine that. A mere mortal was quicker on the uptake beating to it the world's best detective. The smile was instantly wiped off his face when he heard a terse and dismal:

"Broken."

Morosely tossing the now useless device away on the floor, Sherlock bit his lip hard, which didn't seem like a good sign to say the least, and crept up towards John.

"Give me that." Sherlock took the belt from John's hands and reached out to slip it under John's leg, trying his best not to disturb him in the process of that action. He braced himself, preparing to tighten the improvised tourniquet.

"As strong as you can," John warned him. "This is exactly the kind of case when pity for the patient might be only harmful."

Sherlock shot him a fast, caustic look and he tightened the belt with all his might. Forcing down a shriek of pain, John started to slowly even out his breathing.

"Now let's take a good look at you." John propped himself on his elbow and leaned forward. His leg burst out in a twinge of acute pain but he studiously ignored it, willing himself to concentrate on the next problem at hand. Sherlock, however, startled at John's abrupt movement and his hand darted to grip hard at the doctor's forearm.

"Careful," he hissed.

"The arterial vessel is now clasped above the level of injury," John explained in a patient tone of voice as Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I won't be able to examine you as proper as I can if I'm only half-turned towards you," he added.

"You're treating your leg as though you won't make any use of it anymore." Sherlock was eyeing John's miserable limb with a strained expression on his face.

"Let's consider it my little revenge for its psychosomatic antics," John gave Sherlock a light smile, inviting him to share the joke. Sherlock threw a stern look at him, not a trace of amusement in his features.

Letting out a quiet sigh, John took Sherlock by the wrist and began calculating his pulse.

"Leg and arm bones are intact. Brain concussion of mild or average severity. A possibly fractured ribcage. Most likely a few broken ribs," came Sherlock's machine-gun fire assessment. Almost wincing at his last observation John carefully placed his hands over the detective's shirt right at the place where the thorax was supposed to be.

He grazed his palms from Sherlock's clavicles down to his lower ribs, his vertebral ribs, gingerly palpating and taking a close note of Sherlock's facial expressions. All of a sudden, an inch lower to the right of his sixth rib the detective's shirt was thoroughly imbrued in blood.

The corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched with displeasure.

"Fairly superficial."

John hurried to unbutton Sherlock's shirt, uncovering the place of the trauma so that he could have a better look.

"Damn it, I don't even have a torch light," he complained through gritted teeth. The wound, which was not superficial at the very least, reminded of a cut inflicted with a large shred of glass. Not only the skin was abraded, but so were muscles along the lower edge of the rib. The bleeding was quite copious and the blood had already impregnated Sherlock's trousers as well as his shirt. John pressed up his lips for a moment. They could only hope the injury was not penetrating and that the intercostal vessels were left intact. One way or another there was really no way John could insert any sutures at the present moment. The doctor took a deep breath and unzipped his jacket.

"No," Sherlock concluded in a curt tone and started pulling off his own coat. The initiative rightfully deserved some credit, for the narrow compass of the gorge they were trapped in didn't introduce a lot of room for maneuver. John stared at him, a blank confusion clearly written all over his face.

"Why not mine?"

"November. The house is not equipped with a heating system. Cold exposure is not the best addendum to a blood loss. My shirt is already soaked through and unfeasible for the preservation of warmth."

John thought it was better not to engage in the argument; instead he promptly ripped off Sherlock's shirt transforming it into bands of necessary breadth. He manufactured a compressive roller and swathed Sherlock's chest as tight as he could at the phase of exhalation, additionally tightening the bandage with his scarf.

It was, by all means, not even close to enough but that was the extent of all John could do at the moment.

"Any other superficial injuries?" he accentuated, bitterly.

Taking a brief glance at his doctor's pale worn-out face, Sherlock abstained from an acrid remark in response to John's sarcasm which evidently leaked through the tone of his voice. Then the doctor's sure hands flitted over Sherlock's body, checking up on his limbs and establishing the absence of other sources of bleeding. Seconds later, John's swift fingers returned to the back of the detective's bruised neck, gently probing the bones at the place of the trauma.

"Do you feel any giddiness, maybe nausea?"

"I'm fine." Sherlock felt an absurd impulse to smile at the familiar worry in John's voice, his friend still scrutinising the detective's body with close attention. Sherlock thought he could just close his eyes and they would be sitting in the living room at Baker Street. He quickly made himself snap out of the reverie. They weren't at home and he wasn't the only one injured. "Only your leg?"

Pulling away from Sherlock, John patted his shoulder in a reassuring gesture.

"Yes," he replied, helping the detective put on his suit jacket back and his coat on top of it which proved to be a tricky task in the narrow space they were cooped up in.

They carefully lied back on their previous spots.

"I don't think we'll have to wait for a long time," John broke the silence eventually while Sherlock was taking a critical stock of their trap. "Even though Lestrade doesn't know our whereabouts, still the explosion of a whole house, albeit uninhabited, couldn't have stayed unnoticed. There are people who live here, after all."

"I wouldn't be so groundlessly optimistic," responded Sherlock, all the while inspecting the debris in search for any conceivable chinks or apertures in the rubble. "Certainly, they're going to remove the wreckage eventually. However, they might not assume there could be people trapped underneath. It wouldn't go amiss for us to consider a possibility they're not going to get through to us just as fast."

"Well, in that case," John began with firm conviction, "We have to try to stay alive until that happens."

"Otherwise, I'll feel bad for the pancreas."

John gave him a perplexed look. Sherlock was pensively gazing up at the ceiling, lost in thought.

"My experiment with the pancreas. I've spent a great deal of time waiting for the right material in the necessary state of acute pancreatic necrosis and a lot of effort to create an isolated system with stable warm temperature. Now it's all for nothing."

Sherlock let out a small sigh as John suppressed a smirk.

"I almost envy this pancreas," John fought a shiver that trailed down his spine, almost imperceptibly. "I wouldn't mind a system with stable warm temperature for myself."

"Nothing much to envy, John," said Sherlock, a put-upon indifference lacing the tone of his voice. "I've kept it in the freezer for forty eight hours prior to that."

"Well, thank you for relieving me of such a petty sentiment," John snorted before he could help himself and Sherlock echoed his laughter. It must have caused him a certain amount of pain, too, given the state of his ribs.

John half-closed his eyes and tried to at least partially abstract away from the splitting pain in his right leg. He was immediately brought back to reality by an almost desperate:

"John!" Either he imagined that, or Sherlock's voice really shook with undisguised panic. John grudgingly forced his eyes open and gazed at the detective. Sherlock was propped on his elbow and looked at him, wide-eyed, his breathing shallow and rapid.

"Don't you dare pass out on me," he demanded in a strict voice. "You said so yourself that we're going to stay alive until we're rescued. So don't even think about it."

There was a touch to John's hand, and as he glanced down he saw, in bewilderment, Sherlock's hand wrap around his wrist, stroking softly and running a thumb lightly over his knuckles. John gave Sherlock's hand a gentle squeeze and smiled.

"You once said you would be lost without your blogger. So don't count me out just yet, I'm not leaving you alone."

John waited for Sherlock to return him a weak smile in response and, as he tried to settle more comfortably he suddenly felt a wet, dank concrete under their hands. John frowned and reached out his other hand to explore the surface. The floor of their trap had a slant downwards in Sherlock's direction. John extended a hand to make sure his assumption was correct.

"It really is damp down here," Sherlock interrupted John's investigation, knitting his eyebrows in a darkened frown. "I think the collapse of the building caused a sewage leak. You don't have to worry, John, there's a crevice next to my feet so it has a drain. We won't be drowning here like two kittens in a bucket." Sherlock smiled a reassuring and slightly complacent smile.

John's eyes widened.

"You idiot!" he hissed in an angry, outraged voice, feeling his heartbeat quicken. "And you decided it would be the smartest idea to just keep wallowing in a sewage puddle so that in addition to cold exposure and blood loss you'd get all waterlogged to the skin?!"

In reply to that indignant tirade Sherlock simply rolled his eyes heavenward and started to explain in his favourite, 'what can I do if everyone's an idiot' tone which could drive even a saint out of his wits.

"John, your leg is immobilised and you can't exactly move anywhere to vacate a dry spot for me. The rest of the moistureless space won't be enough to accommodate all my body even if we lie side by side. To sum it up, a part of me would still be getting wet which, taking into account our close proximity, would only lead for our consequent, and in that case mutual, saturation."

Sherlock bestowed upon John a look of annoyed condescension reminiscent of that of an adult's explaining to a child it wasn't supposed to touch a frying pan on a scalding burner of the stove.

"Idiot," John repeated in a fatigued voice. He couldn't accentuate it with an appropriate emphasis, for all his fury suddenly wore off. "Come here."

"John, I've already explained—" Sherlock started in an exasperated fashion but John wouldn't have any of it.

"Come. Here."

John squeezed Sherlock's hand in a tight grip of his own and met his gaze. After a few seconds of a silent visual contact Sherlock thinned his lips and began shifting towards John.

John drew him towards himself, very carefully and gently, mindful of his injured ribs, and then endeavoured to press his body against Sherlock's as close as he could manage.

"This way we're just going to freeze together," Sherlock grumbled gloomily somewhere into John's shoulder. The doctor slightly changed his position, trying to exhale against Sherlock's bare neck.

"It's warmer to freeze together," he countered, smiling, and Sherlock huffed out a mirthless snort.

 ooo

One way or another, it was indeed dreadfully, arctic-like, limb-numbingly cold. At the mere thought of how already drenched Sherlock was faring through this ordeal, a fit of shiver ran across John's spine. Pretending to want to check out the time that passed since the tourniquet had been placed, John took Sherlock's wrist and looked at the clock dial. The detective's hand was ice-cold to the touch. John clutched him closer to himself.

"Sherlock, do you remember that heat last summer when we had no idea where to escape from it?"

"Oh God, John," Sherlock shook his head and released a resigned sigh, immediately biting his lips at the sharp pain in his chest and trying not to groan as he waited for it to fade away.

"Easy now," hushed John, pulling slightly away and gazing at the detective with a worried expression on his face. "You can sigh later as much as you want."

Sherlock shot him an angry look but remained silent.

"By the way," John ploughed on, bringing their bodies closer again. "You may laugh, but it's a medically proven fact. If the memories are bright and strong enough, they're capable of substituting real sensations. Or, at least, to alleviate them."

Sherlock's mouth quirked in a sly grin and a sparkle glistened behind his eyes.

"Maybe we could economise on the heating system, then? We could shower with cold water as well, come to think of it."

"And this is coming from a man whose endless showers leave no hot water to even speak of," John retaliated. "Just so you know, I'm already close to turning into a yogi."

"This is only logical, John. One better suggest only those things one has tried and knows from experience."

John suppressed an urge to stick his tongue at Sherlock.

"By the way, John," Sherlock lowered his eyes in an innocent fashion. "It's unhealthy to repress your motoric impulses. That's also a medically proven fact."

"After a life with you I'm immune to practically everything," John mumbled as Sherlock gave him an ironic smile.

"Nice to hear that Sherlock Holmes' strengthening influence on John Watson was duly appreciated."

"Well, it certainly can't possibly be overestimated," John remarked mordantly.

"Certainly," Sherlock echoed, a tinge of pride in the earnest tone of his voice. Looking askance at the detective's smug grin, John snorted, trying not to out-right laugh.

"Oh, John, what would you even do without my influence? You don't value your health, you hold back your emotions." Sherlock pursed his lips in a disapproving manner, concealing a smile behind the gesture.

They lay in silence for several minutes. John's leg had time to go completely numb; the ache was now less sharp and piercing, but duller and more tugging. He started to doze off again, and was woken up by Sherlock's voice, again.

"John, what was your favourite subject at the university?"

John lazily half-opened one eye to make sure that Sherlock, who had just asked him an ordinary, everyday question, wasn't a figment of his imagination. The detective was eyeing him with a serious expression and seemed to be genuinely expecting an answer.

"Why?" John inquired, exhaustion seeping in his voice.

"Doctor, I thought neither you nor me are better off in a sleeping haze, considering the surrounding cold and the state of our injuries. So what about the favourite subject?"

"Pathological anatomy."

"Oh," uttered Sherlock, sincerely surprised. John let himself enjoy the exclusive astonishment painted over his friend's features before smiling crookedly and adding:

"It was a joke."

Sherlock cast a deprecatory look in his direction and John just smiled.

"Honestly, I don't know. I just studied." John clenched and unclenched his fists a couple of times, restoring the blood flow, and thought that with all the cold and immobility the interval before the needful slackening of the tourniquet should better be reduced to an hour and a half instead of the usual two-hour long period.

"Then we better start preparing for it," Sherlock said in a quiet voice. John rolled his eyes.

"They would've burnt you at stake in the Middle Ages, you know."

"At least it wouldn't be so cold there. You're thinking too loud."

They said the last phrase in unison. John lifted his eyebrow in an insidious arch, while Sherlock scowled, clearly miffed. Feeling an unusual urge to pat Sherlock's hair, John mentally kicked himself back to reality and, in order to avoid the detective's another observant comment on the suppression of his motoric impulses, he spoke in a formal voice, bringing up his professional tones:

"Right. You just have to slacken the tourniquet while I press my finger against the femoral artery. Then we wait five minutes before tightening it back, but not in the same place, a few inches higher. It's all fairly simple."

Sherlock obviously knew all the nuts and bolts of the process, but listened to John's instructions anyway. Then nodded.

John smiled at him, encouragingly.

"It's going to be all right."

"I'm sure of it," followed the detective's terse reply as he repositioned himself, moving down, and stopped, hovering right over John's thigh. John quickly fumbled for the femoral artery and pressed down on it with force.

"Go ahead," he commanded.

Without another word, Sherlock slackened the belt and raised his eyes to look at John. The doctor bit hard on his cheek; the sensations were beyond description. His forehead was beaded with cold sweat. Sherlock swallowed audibly and decisively reached out a hand to John's thigh.

"Let me."

John briefly shook his head.

"You better not… strain… your shoulder girdle," he got out in a broken voice, his teeth gritted.

"John!"

"Sod off."

Sherlock tipped his head to one side in disapproving agreement. Then, all of a sudden, he extended his free hand to place it on John's shoulder and squeezed gently. Squinting at Sherlock's hand John noticed that the long fingers were slightly trembling. The detective, who usually could boast of a perfect sense of time, was now staring at this wristwatch, his gaze never leaving the sweep-second hand on the dial. John took a profound breath.

"I'm fine, Sherlock. It just… feels as if it went stiff from sitting too long."

Sherlock's eyes darted to look at him.

"I'm not the one who needs support right now, John."

Arguable statement. John didn't say it out loud, smiling instead, though the smile came out a tad wry.

Five minutes later the tourniquet was tightened around his thigh yet again and John leaned back, relief in his facial expression as he fluttered his eyes shut and tried to instill into his brain the concept of his right leg being a separate organism whose painful sensations had nothing to do with him personally. Feeling a fuss unfolding right next to him and unmistakingly construing its source, John, without even opening his eyes, stated, his voice impassive:

"Sherlock, if you're going to cover me with your coat now, I'll bite you."

With that, John stared at him pointedly and Sherlock stopped in his tracks, his coat halfway down his shoulders.

"Honestly, I'm not a child and not even the only one injured here. Get it back on and just lie down beside me." John granted the detective with a short, heavy-loaded look and expanded: "Or I'm going to take off my jacket and jumper too, and we'll be happily numbing away together."

"'Bite you' and 'lie down beside me', and then you're wondering why everyone takes us for a couple?" Sherlock grunted, lying back down and wrapping his arms around John.

John just huffed.

A quarter of an hour passed when John's attention was riveted to a new noise. There was a rather distinct murmuring sound of purling water coming from nearby. John frowned in perplexity and listened harder. Naturally, Sherlock noticed it, too.

"Yes, John, it's definitely there," the detective thoughtfully chewed on his lower lip and then elaborated, "It seems the water has been gradually filling some sort of a niche, or a tank, and we were reached only by a small outflow of the stream. Now that tank is filled to the brim and the entire water flow is streaming towards us."

John lifted his head, hoisting his body onto his elbow and trying not to disturb Sherlock as he did so. He glanced over his friend's shoulder at the far end of the narrow space of their trap right where the detective landed after the explosion. At the present moment there was running… well, not a mountain river, but a mountain brook all right.

"Luckily, we have a drain," John said, shuddering involuntarily. Sherlock gently untangled himself from the embrace and levered himself up with a free hand, his head almost brushing the ceiling. He cast a cursory glimpse in the direction of their feet, his forehead creasing as he updated their perspectives, absorbing new data.

John narrowed his eyes at the detective's intense expression.

"Sherlock?"

He turned to face John, unease suffusing his rigid features.

"The water is definitely rising. And quite rapidly, at that." Sherlock peered at their feet again. John followed the line of his gaze, but didn't discern anything in the semidarkness. Moments later, Sherlock lay back down, steepling his hands beneath his chin in his habitual fashion as he pensively tapped his fingers against his lips, staring at the wall in front of himself. John remained silent, unwilling to distract Sherlock from his thoughts, although what could possibly be excogitated in such circumstances was entirely beyond him. The gorge appeared to be rather confined and they were already lying practically at the very top of the sloping surface. Even unlimited in his movements, Sherlock wouldn't have another spot to climb up, should the level of water rise too high. John looked at the detective who was too engrossed in his musings. It seemed it was going to be Sherlock who would have to watch his friend die right next to him. John's face twisted with pain at the mere thought of it and Sherlock, a shudder running through him, surfaced out of his ruminations. He shot an odd look in John's direction and started talking, his voice impetuous as usual and his tone calm and composed as though they were sitting in their chairs next to the fireplace and not lying trapped under the ruins.

"Okay, there are two viable options. The first one is that the drain outlet is insufficient for such volume of the stream. The second is that the stream dragged along a mélange of small debris and concrete crumbs and obstructed or limited the capacity of the drain. We would be better off with the latter. Until the water rises too high, we're bound to sort this out." Over the course of his summary conclusion Sherlock had already pulled off his coat and his suit jacket. Resolutely and with evident determination, he covered John with his coat and then carefully folded his jacket, reaching out to tuck it under John's head.

"What?" Sherlock asked brusquely and almost defensively as he caught sight of the doctor's soft smile. "It's the driest place."

"Obviously," John agreed, a smile still playing over his lips.

"Obviously," affirmed Sherlock. He started to slowly spin one hundred and eighty degrees round, wincing at every movement and doing his best not to kick John in his tracks, withdrawing his elbows and knees and proceeding as cautiously as he managed.

"Now I know what it's like to be in the tube during the rush hour," he remarked, panting.

"No, you don't," John's smile widened even more. "I'll take you to the tube during the rush hour some time. I recall your strong dislike for inaccurate comparisons."

Sherlock turned to look at him, his expression very serious all of a sudden.

"Deal."

Eyes locked, they gazed at each other a lot longer than the lame joke required. At length, Sherlock gave a small nod, turned around and crawled on all fours along the stream. A few feet ahead of John's legs their cave ended in a vertical slab with the water running through a crack underneath it. It was the same crack Sherlock had noticed at his very first inspection of the gorge. Now it wasn't in full sight and a small gap in front of it now appeared to be transformed into a rather deep pool. A few seconds ticked by as Sherlock watched the level of water increase, then he propped himself against the slab with one hand, the other one merging into water, his fingers moving along the concrete as he tried to feel the crack under the wall of stone. Damn it, his chin was already touching the freezing water, while the length of his arms wasn't enough to reach the drain. He would have to take a dive.

The thought made Sherlock cringe and he had to bite his lip hard, holding back a groan of pain as his ribs protested wildly against the abrupt movement.

Damnation. Sherlock wrinkled his nose in disgust and straightened his back, ventilating his lungs before he would have to venture a deep breath.

"Well, what's there?" John inquired, his voice strained.

"I can't reach it, so I will have to dive."

"Sherlock! No! You should not breathe deeply!"

But Sherlock wasn't listening, for he knew all too well himself that he shouldn't. There were no other options anyway. Seconds after, he drew a deep intake of breath, trying his damnedest to ignore his ribcage which all but exploded in an agony of stabbing pain.

If the gorge alone was relatively dim-lit, the underwater realm could be very well defined as pitch dark. Hastily snapping his eyes shut, Sherlock continued by groping his way to the drain. It was supposed to be right there, he thought, but all he could fumble was a cairn of concrete crumbs and miniature rubble. He quickly inspected an area adjacent to the crack and came to the surface as he felt his thoughts started to disintegrate from lack of oxygen.

Propping himself with both hands against the slab, Sherlock, doubled over, desperately struggled to recover his breath. He was managing short intakes of air, willing himself to keep up a measured pace and staving off an approaching cough. As soon as a flashing kaleidoscope of motley patches of light flanked with dark blots in front of his eyes quieted down, Sherlock hazarded a glimpse back over his shoulder.

John was leaning on an elbow, all his body bent at an almost right angle relative to his legs, as he silently watched his friend, eyes wide open in horror. It seemed that as soon as Sherlock plunged himself headlong under water every fiber of John's being launched towards him, momentarily forgetting his pierced leg.

Sherlock sent him a reassuring smile, wiping wet locks of hair out of his eyes.

"It's going to be all right. The stream brought along a lot of small dregs, and it clogged up the drain. I'm going to clear it out and plant a few bricks in front of the drain lest it gets obstructed again. I've already fumbled a few bricks down there. They should suffice for the time being."

Sherlock sent John another bolstering half-smile as the doctor swallowed, licked his lips and said, his voice husky all at once:

"Don't you dare. Don't you dare get down there again. If you're short of breath and if you start choking, I won't even be able to help you. I won't be able to reach you."

Sherlock delivered his most haughty grin.

"Do you really think I'm going to end my life by choking on sewage waters?" He rumpled his face in disgust. "My, my, Doctor Watson, I never knew your opinion of me was so low."

"Sherlock," John was glaring at him now, his expression grave, as he refused to acknowledge the joke. "With fractured ribs—"

"John, we're wasting our time now," Sherlock's face became sober as well. "Or would you rather have me drown after I'll have fully enjoyed the view of yourself breathing in water and dying on me?"

He all but spat the rest of the sentence, but John was holding Sherlock's intent gaze, unwavering.

"But, Sherlock, there's a chance they will find us before—"

"Or there isn't. What then? The water level is rising, and we're in no position to wait until the last moment. I can't dive properly because of this sodding, dysfunctional ribcage."

Tilting his head to one side for a second, John glanced briefly at his trapped leg. He slowly looked up back at Sherlock, a radiant smile spreading over his face.

"We can rotate me round this metal stick! I won't be able to dive instead of you, of course, I simply won't reach it, but at least I'll be able to assist you in some way. Come on, help me out with that, I don't have enough strength, this stick is too close to the edges of the wound." John started examining a piece of finned reinforcing steel which had pierced his thigh. He had an expression of someone who was ready to test an exciting new cooking recipe rather than to subject himself to a torture worthy of a sophisticated sadist. Involuntarily, Sherlock edged backwards a little, as though afraid John would somehow force him to take part in that dubious enterprise.

"Well, Sherlock?" John clenched his teeth and glanced up at the detective. "The tourniquet is tightened, and—"

"Have you gone completely out of your mind?" Sherlock hissed, a flash of anger crossing his face. "What, tightened around your brain, more likely? Your leg would be as good as amputated after that."

Deciding hereby to put an end to that pointless altercation, Sherlock averted his gaze and took a profound intake of breath, trying to ignore a myriad of sparks that scintillated wildly in front of his eyes as soon as he did so.

"Sherlock! Damn you!" a shout erupted in his wake. Moments later, the water filled his ears and muffled up John's righteous admonition.

His second time underwater, Sherlock promptly searched out the clogged crack and set to hastily clearing out the passage, his hands moving as swiftly as he could make them to. As soon as the drain was at least partially unblocked, Sherlock sensed the water precipitating straight through. It was excellent news. It meant the water way was finally free. Otherwise all his torments would've been all in vain.

Sherlock made a few extra efforts, and at long last the drain was liberated of all the rubble it had generously gathered. It was too soon to come to the surface though, since he had to fetch a few bricks over there in order to prevent new obstructions; if not, it could all very well turn into a Sisyphean toil. His increasing pulse was throbbing loud in his ears, his chest tightening, as he leveraged his left hand against the concrete wall just as a precaution. He lodged one large brick there, then another one followed suit. Sherlock had to make use of his left hand as well when his movements became slower and less coordinated, his fingers refusing to obey and shaking erratically. It would be better to also budge that heap of rubbish further away, but his ribcage was already bursting inside out from lack of air, an anxious beacon bellowing in his head in an urgent plea for oxygen. Making an abrupt movement, Sherlock attempted to straighten his spine in order to lift his head above the water, entirely forgetting his broken ribs.

A sharp, excruciating twinge of pain thundered through Sherlock's body, making him fold into himself again as he came dangerously close to out-right inhaling a mouthful of water into his lungs. Sherlock pushed his hands off the bottom of the pool and rushed upwards, panic racing through his mind. Almost doubling over again, he managed to reach out his hands to grab at the concrete slab as he forced his head above the surface, immediately taking a breath. As his nose and mouth were barely above the water level, he inhaled a mixture of air and sewage, his lungs scorching and burning in protest. Sherlock's whole body was panic-stricken while he convulsively tried to recover his breath but only wheezing and coughing instead. His vision darkening, Sherlock put his last bit of strength into pushing himself off the wall. With a desperate launch forwards, he finally climbed onto the floor, his frazzled body keeling on one side.

A few minutes that passed while Sherlock was under water seemed to John like an age-long wait. He spent several seconds mulling over the possibility of rotating himself on his own, but quickly abandoned the idea because of too high a risk of intense pain shock. Instead, John settled for moving himself into the most optimal position in order to sit as close to Sherlock's legs as possible and have at his disposal a certain amount of space for maneuver. As soon as that was accomplished, he fell quiet and started biting at his lips nervously, expecting.

When Sherlock's legs gave a sudden twitch, knees buckling in a convulsive jerk, and when his waist muscles strained spasmodically, it was all too obvious that the situation was out of hand. As though of its own accord, John's body dashed forwards as far as his immobilised leg allowed, as he entirely forgot to breathe. For more than a minute John had to watch, helpless and powerless, as Sherlock, finally emerging on the surface, gasped for air, nearly coughing his lungs out, his hands scrambling for something to hold onto. It was evident that the detective was about to lose it and black out from pain and lack of oxygen as the water seemed to be holding him down, refusing to let him go. Sherlock, however, kept wheezing and coughing when, by some miracle, he drew his legs to himself and pushed off the concrete wall. A split second later the heavy, waterlogged figure fell onto its side on the floor.

Nearly dislocating his spine, John reached out to grab Sherlock by his arms and dragged the sagging body towards himself, simultaneously mustering all his willpower so as to not succumb to panic and not let fear take over his mind.

Stop it, John Watson, he chided himself. Stop it right this second. It's Sherlock.

Quickly lay Sherlock on his back. Check his pulse. Tilt his head back and lift his chin up. Pinch Sherlock's nose. Open his mouth. Take a full breath and blow it into Sherlock's lungs. Pull away. Push down in the center of Sherlock's chest. Once again. Check his carotid artery. Don't you dare do that to me yet again, Sherlock. Take a full breath…

There was a whistling sound of breath intake, and John immediately turned Sherlock on his side, waiting until the reflex nausea would subside. Then, he leaned forward right to Sherlock's ear and started talking, his voice low but firm, as John's one hand squeezed the detective's shoulder, his other one stroking circles on his back.

"Not too deep, Sherlock, do you hear me? Not too deep. In and out. In and out. Not deep."

Noticing that Sherlock heard him and even followed his instructions, John finally evened out his own breath. He retrieved his trembling hand, releasing Sherlock's shoulder and catching sight of the distinct red imprints his fingers left on the detective's pale skin. "There, you're doing just fine. Keep going. Yes, like this, not deep."

Moving a soothing hand up and down his back, John encircled his other arm around Sherlock's waist, his palm lying flat on his stomach.

"Now look at my hand and try to breathe with your stomach, not with your chest."

Sherlock obediently glanced down at John's hand, at the same time casting a glimpse at the far end of the sloping gorge. There was no pool of water there anymore. Sherlock smiled and whispered in a hoarse voice:

"I did it. And you doubted me."

"Idiot," John breathed out, drained of all strength, as he leaned his face against Sherlock's soaked hair. "Stubborn… idiot. Fucking hero."

"John, I told you—"

"I remember. Shut it."

Sherlock was too exhausted to argue so he simply rolled his eyes in response. His chest was aching and he wanted to cough, and very badly at that. To exacerbate the matters even further, there was a salty coppery taste in his mouth which grew all the more distinct. Meanwhile John let go of Sherlock and covered him with his coat, then he set to hastily pulling off his own jacket. The detective quickly prevented him from succeeding in doing so, turning to face him and bringing a hand to the doctor's elbow.

"John, wait."

"Sherlock, I'm busy… Shit."

John was clumsily trying to extricate himself from the sleeves when Sherlock, tiredly closing his eyes, swallowed audibly and explained in a quiet voice:

"To wipe me dry and to warm me up is not a top priority task right now."

Something tugged painfully in John's chest. His jacket forgotten, he swallowed and glanced at Sherlock.

"Why?" his voice came husky, but steadfast and peremptory.

Sherlock flickered his eyes open, skimming a fast, observant look over his friend's posture and face. There appeared an odd expression in his features… regret?

"The rib seems to be severely fractured after all."

John decided not to waste any more time talking. With one rapid movement he checked Sherlock's pulse, pressing two fingers against his throat, then he budged forwards and carefully half-lifted Sherlock in order to lean his body against his own, positioning the detective as vertically as the height of the gorge allowed to do so. It wasn't going to lessen the bleeding, but at least Sherlock wouldn't nearly drown once more, this time choking on his own blood. John rearranged the coat which slid down a little and added his own jacket atop. Since his jumper and shirt were now inaccessible, he reached out a hand to grab Sherlock's suit jacket which lay neglected on the floor nearby and set to gently wiping dry the detective's dripping hair. They remained silent. John was raking his memory for all feasible methods of emergency help in case of internal bleeding caused by a traumatic lung injury, refusing to believe he was useless and couldn't help Sherlock in any way imaginable.

Swearing loudly in his mind, John put the jacket away and took Sherlock's wrist in his hand, controlling his pulse once more, his other hand wrapping around Sherlock's waist, gingerly pulling closer towards himself.

"Try to take superficial breaths," John said in an undertone, slightly moving Sherlock as he tried to position him as comfortable as possible, gently placing the detective's head onto his shoulder. "Are you okay like that?"

The corners of Sherlock's mouth curved up a little.

"It's fine."

John smiled back, his smile warm and confident as he forced his lips not to tremble. He could rest later, he thought, but right now he needed to give Sherlock all his attention and support. Even if they were only moral ones.

"Don't worry, the vessel is not arterial, your pulse is stable, even though a bit frequent. Your jugular veins are not swollen. You don't even have lip cyanosis," Not yet, John corrected himself. "It's nothing, we're going to be fine."

"John, I always knew you were a crappy actor," Sherlock huffed, closing his eyes in a tired way. Then, belying his own words, he held out a hand, slipping it under his coat, and gave a light squeeze to John's palm that encircled his wrist. And then didn't remove it.

"Hey," John raised his other hand which was resting on Sherlock's waist and brought it up to the detective's forehead, wiping damp locks away from his face. "Now I'm going to keep you awake. An eye for an eye."

"How petty of you."

"Always a joy to discover a new side to your friend."

One corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched up, his smile almost momentarily fading away as he heaved a convulsive intake of breath, trying to suppress a coughing fit. Biting hard into his lip, John didn't take his eyes off Sherlock. Right now, right at that moment, he would have traded his other leg for some codeine and analgesic. Yet there was no one to bargain with.

Sherlock's pulse became even more frequent and his lips acquired a purple tinge.

Stroking a hand through the detective's hair, John desperately strained his hearing, hoping against hope to discern a noise of rubble being dislodged. They needed to get help, and fast, until it was too late for Sherlock. John wasn't even considering his own well-being. He cared neither for his own physical state, nor for what it would be like to get dug out of the debris in a few hours. A few hours that Sherlock definitely wasn't going to last. All John could think of at the moment was the detective's gradually blanching face and his shuddered breathing as he had to fight for every intake of air he attempted. How did that happen that John hadn't been able to stop him, yet again? He had been right next to him, yet again, and he had let that happen. Again.

"Don't even start it, John. Don't start thinking it's your fault," Sherlock pitched his voice low, yet adamant. John nearly startled, caught by surprise.

"You shouldn't talk right now, Sherlock," the doctor gazed at Sherlock in concern. Even in the dim light of the gorge his friend's unsettlingly pale face was far too evident. "It'll cause more coughing fits, and right now you-"

"I'm familiar with physiology, John. Much like yourself," Sherlock's eyes were boring into John's. The latter fought the urge to avert his gaze. Right in that minute he hated their ability to talk to each other with as little as an exchanged glance. John felt like the gorge's temperature dropped at least twenty degrees. Sherlock swallowed, breaking the short silence that had followed his statement, and continued, "So please be so kind as to not interrupt me."

John gave a weak nod while Sherlock half-closed his eyes for a moment, conjuring up his strength before resuming to speak.

"A hero is thought to be someone who shielded a person they hold dear. It's rubbish. I've only chosen something that is easier. It's egoistic, but you already know I never was an altruist," a smile crept up onto Sherlock's lips as he was looking John in the eye, but the doctor couldn't bring himself to smile back. Sherlock lingered, measuring his breath, and went on:

"Don't blame yourself for my choice. Or better then, blame yourself for becoming the most important person in my life, for not only putting up with, but for loving me and accepting me for what I am without reservation. And for believing, for always blindly believing in my genius as well as in my heart."

John exhaled, letting out a shuddering breath, and bit into his lips preventing them from trembling. Short while later, he understood the futility of his endeavours and, in one quick motion, drew Sherlock closer, hugging him around the shoulders, his face leaning to brush against Sherlock's temple, as he restrained himself from squeezing the detective as tight as he wanted.

"It was our life, our adventure, our choice," Sherlock continued to speak. "'Could be dangerous', remember? You could be the first to go, but I was luckier," his voice trailed off for a moment. "Promise me something, John. Promise me that you won't 'forget'  to tighten the tourniquet back around your leg when it's the next time to lessen the pressure. Promise me to live."

Sherlock coughed and fell silent. John felt as he pulled away a little and opened his eyes, catching the detective's sharp gaze pinned to his face as if remembering its every trait. Meeting John's glance, Sherlock offered him a weak smile and threw his head back against his shoulder, not breaking the eye contact. Almost unaware of what he was doing, John grazed the back of his fingers over the jutting cheekbone, swallowing down a lump that had lodged in his throat. There was a faint shiver which skittered over Sherlock's body, and he was coughing again, this time failing to anticipate the oncoming fit. This time, there was blood on his lips.

"Don't take deep breaths and try to hold them for a bit before the coughing fit approaches." John was surprised at how even and confident his own voice sounded. Sherlock blinked in assent and attempted to abide by his instructions. Suddenly, his wrist which rested on John's thigh gave a twitch and he half-opened his mouth, wanting to say something, only to start coughing once more.

John clutched his shoulder, "Don't say anything!"

Sherlock shook his head in a weak, exhausted motion as he pointedly looked up in the direction of the ceiling. John traced his gaze but didn't notice anything. Only if…

"At last!" He managed to make out an indistinct, far-away sound somewhere above their heads. Now it boiled down to making themselves known.

"Your gun…" Sherlock croaked, his voice hoarse and feeble between the shuddering inhaling.

Of course!

John hastily whirled his head around, intense eyes scanning the gloom of the narrow gorge. He had held his gun right in his hand before the explosion. Searching it out in this obscure, shadowy hell and on the scant surface powdered with concrete dust didn't seem like an easy task to begin with, and that was putting it mildly. The gun had been in his left hand, and John had regained his conscious while lying on his back, which meant…

"I'm going to lean you against the wall, all right?"

Very slowly and as cautious as he could possibly manage, John gingerly moved Sherlock up a little and, covering his bare back with his jacket, seated the detective against the wall, tucking him in his coat. "Don't you die here while I'm fumbling in his thick dust."

John gave a reassuring squeeze to Sherlock's shoulder and met his gaze for a moment before rushing to search for his gun. He could only hope it would be within his reach. Oh God, please, he almost begged.

When his fingers brushed along the cold metal, John experienced a most overwhelming surge of adrenaline. With an outcry of joy, John sat up straight as he heard a husky voice saying in his back:

"There… between the slabs… ricochet…"

Not wasting another second, John fired. And again. And another time. And once more. He waited a half a minute pause and fired for the fourth time. Hastily clicking the safety back on, he stowed the gun behind his trousers and turned to face Sherlock. Deciding it was best not to disturb him with any more of the shifting, John simply put both his hands on Sherlock's shoulders and began talking, his voice fast and eyes directed straight at the detective.

"Don't you dare die on me, do you hear? Gather all of your bloody willpower and all of your bloody stubbornness which you can very well boast of, and breathe, for fuck's sake. They're going to get through to us and you're going to be alive by that moment, do you understand? Come on, Sherlock," John ran his gaze over the detective's cadaverously pale face, one hand sliding to check his rapid, irregular pulse, as a beseeching note laced John's voice. "Hang in there, okay? Concentrate on my voice, concentrate on my hand," John squeezed Sherlock's shoulder more tightly. "Come on, breathe and keep your eyes open. There's that pancreas which is waiting for you at home, and I know it's going to be tainted while we're in the hospital. But I promise I'll personally ask Molly to get you another one. I'll kneel in front of her in the middle of the morgue if I have to and she won't be able to refuse me."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Sherlock forced out weakly, and John smiled.

"I know. Hang in there, Sherlock, they're going to get here very soon. We haven't solved all the puzzles and we haven't finished the last season of Doctor Who," John was blurting out everything which was springing to his mind, scarcely even censoring it, because the most important thing was to keep Sherlock concentrated on something and therefore keeping him awake. Right now Sherlock's eyes were pinned to John's and he was even smiling just a little, so John ploughed on, "I'm not going to let you go, you know? I'm not going to. We'll be running around London again and we'll be dining in our café and you'll be firing out intimate details of our neighbours' lives. You'll be pulling me out of my dates with your text messages and I'll be swearing but I'll be coming anyway, and—" the noise above sounded nearer. "I'll agree to play Cluedo with you, and I'll even let you make up your own rules. And we'll be sitting in front of the fireplace, and there will be raining outside, and we'll be home, "John's voice caught in his throat and he trailed off, trying to win over the lump that had stretched there again, "And it's going to be all right, Sherlock," he added hoarsely after a moment's pause. "We're going to get out of here, both of us. You're going to make it. Because I know you. You won't give up that easily."

Sherlock's gaze went out of focus and he coughed one more time, whispering in a blurred voice:

"I'm sorry, John. It's… slipping away. I… I can't."

"Sherlock! No!"

John let go of Sherlock's wrist and grabbed him by the shoulders with both hands, but Sherlock's eyes rolled up and his head dropped to one side in slack motion. Pressing two fingers against his carotid artery, John drew a convulsive sigh. Sherlock's heart was beating. Not taking his hand from his pulse, John edged forward and brought his cheek closer to Sherlock's lips to feel a weak breath of air. Sherlock kept on fighting.

John was sitting in an awfully uncomfortable position, bent over his fixed leg, but moving Sherlock right now was out of the question. His pulse and breathing needed to be under strict supervision in order to, if the worst were to come, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation right away. What could be the worst that might come John feared to even think.

As the working team cleared out parts of the blockage and seemed to have sorted out their way closer, illuminating the dim twilight of the tunnel with an electric light, John shouted at the top of his lungs:

"There's an injured man with traumatic hemopneumothorax, respiratory insufficiency and no less than a second scale haemorrhagic shock! Hurry up!"

Nearly losing his voice by the time he ended the sentence, John wiped a tired hand over his face and turned quietly to Sherlock.

"You made it. Sherlock, they're almost here. Hang on, it's almost over."

Minutes later the first EMT struggled forward through the blockage, a mask and an oxygen cylinder tucked under his arm. The second EMT followed suit.

"Fractured ribs, traumatic hemopneumothorax, respiratory insufficiency and second scale haemorrhagic shock," repeated John just in case, helping two medical technicians faster the straps of the immobilising corset on Sherlock for transportation.

"Yes, sir. Thank you," nodded one of them in acknowledgement as they promptly carried Sherlock upwards and out of the previously obstructed gorge.

At length, John let himself relax and leaned back, closing his eyes.

"Sir, I'm going to inject you with a sedative and an analgesic and we're getting you out of there right after." John simply nodded in response presuming he might as well not bother opening his eyes once more.

 ooo

The beeping of the cardio monitor above his left ear had already started to mildly annoy him. Nausea was persistently driving up to his throat, his head felt fogged and clouded. He needed to open his eyes and ask. He needed to ask...

Forcing his heavy-leaden eyelids open, John applied all his efforts to focus his gaze on something as he saw Mycroft sitting next to his bed. John opened his mouth to ask him, but the tongue didn't obey him, listless and sluggish, and his lips felt sealed to one another. Mycroft leaned a bit forward, propping a hand against the edge of the bed and gave John a reassuring smile.

"Sherlock's alive, John. His doctors say he's stable and going to be alright. He will fully recover."

John swallowed audibly and closed his eyes. Alive. They did it.

He was about to doze off again as a sudden thought struck him back into consciousness. John opened his eyes again, striving to keep Mycroft in focus and fighting an uneven battle with his vocal chords. There was another slight smile on the older Holmes' face.

"They managed to save your leg, John. It will certainly require a couple of weeks of physical therapy, but doctors feel quite optimistic about your prospective full functional recovery. You'd better rest now."

That saying, Mycroft leaned on his ubiquitous umbrella and started getting to his feet.

John gave him what he thought was a thank you blink and closed his eyes, finally sliding into black, dreamless unconsciousness.

 FIN