Disclaimer: Not mine. Writing them for pleasure, not profit.
Genre: "Five times" fic
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock/John, Harry/Clara, Moriarty, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade
Summary: Sherlock isn't the only person John has saved from death. This is the story of five people who owe John Watson their lives and one (of the many) who does not.
Above All, I Must Not Play at God
1. The Unknown Soldier
John woke to haze a colour and sound that was bright and loud and yet distant, words fuzzy and indistinct. He could see someone in front of him but his eyes refused to focus on them, preferring the blandness of a blur. Whoever they were, they were yelling at him, pushing something into his hands. He could feel it, heavy and hard against his skin, more real that the snatches of conversation around him that came to him out of the muddle.
IED. It had taken out the truck ahead of theirs. He remembered seeing it ripped apart as he was thrown back and...
"...6 dead...injured, 3 seriously..."
John's focus snapped back. He heard the yelling all around, the distant gun fire, the groans of injured men, saw the soldier – Davidson – in front of him and felt the reassuring bulk of the medical kit in his hands. He rubbed a bloody hand over his eyes and pulled himself to his feet. Davidson hooked an arm under his and all but dragged him upright and then over to the ruined truck.
There was a soldier lying in the dust, leg torn open from calf to thigh, his blood jetting out in a distinct rhythm, spraying high into the air like a fountain in far away Trafalgar Square. He was clutching desperately at the source, screaming out his horror and fear, but his attempts to stem the flow were useless. His femoral artery had been severed.
John grabbed Davidson's hand. "Press here," he ordered and pushed him down onto the wound. "Hard!"
The soldier cried out in pain and Davidson shuddered in disgust. The rush of blood merely slowed from a torrent to a gushing. They weren't that far from the base but at the rate the boy was bleeding out, he would be long dead before they got there.
John pulled out a syringe, quickly found a vein on the boy's arm and administered morphine. Some of the terror in the soldiers eyes faded along with the pain, but he still watched John with a mix of hope and trust and fear that John would be content never to see again in all his life.
John scrabbled in the medical kit, pulled on sterile gloves and began opening the sterile packets containing clamps and a scalpel.
"Hold him." He told Davidson.
Davidson nodded and braced his arms over the soldier.
John began to explore the wound, removing shrapnel as he went. It wasn't hard to find the artery, but he had slice open more flesh to reach a portion to clamp. The jet shut off when he clamped it. But the boy was still loosing blood rapidly from the tear.
He couldn't clamp them all.
John got up, struggling to retain his balance when the world tilted sharply.
Davidson looked horrified. "Where're you-?"
John ignored him and stumbled to the wreckage. His head ached from the movement and he could feel his own blood trickling down his neck and soaking his clothes. It was so hard to concentrate and it wasn't until he saw what he had come over here for that he remembered what he doing.
John pulled what he needed from the ruined vehicle – a length of cable and the barrel of a smashed rifle – and returned to the soldier, falling to his knees rather ungainly. He looped the cable around the soldier's leg using a knot he remembered from the Scouts and fixed in the end of a ruined rifle before pulling it tight. The soldier moaned in pain and would have arched away had Davidson's grip not held him down.
John pulled tighter still, stalling the circulation, and when he could go no further he tied it off. Blood still oozed but significantly less than before. John grasped the rifle barrel and twisted, digging the cable even more into the soldier's flesh. He showed Davidson how to manipulate the barrel to alternate between ceasing the blood flow and allowing the circulation to continue.
Then he got up, taking the kit with him. As he hurried towards his next patient, he realised he could hear a transport coming.
He glanced back at the soldier. If the make-shift tourniquet was good enough, his circulation wouldn't be hampered to the degree that he'd lose his leg. If it wasn't, well, prosthetics were improving all the time.
Either way, he'd live.
2. The Not So Random Stranger
There was something strangely familiar about young man in the centre of a gang of youths. Nothing John could put his finger on but a glance at Sherlock as they broke into a run told him that he saw it too.
They had been walking in the general direction of the new sushi bar on the Southbank, taking a somewhat erratic path through Waterloo, fresh from a case that had culminated in a mad dash through the station. John revelled in these moments: there was a sharpness to Sherlock's conversation that spoke of his self satisfaction at solving the puzzle and John was usually starving by this point – having abandoned dinners left, right and centre – so the food, whatever it was, tasted far more delicious than it would otherwise have done.
Shouting had interrupted their conversation and that's when they'd seen him, surrounded and out numbered but not afraid. Instead he was talking, replying to their hate in a steady voice – keeping them talking in the hope that help would arrive.
John felt an immediate rush of admiration for the man. And then a stab of fear as one of the youths approached, something dull and glinting in his hand.
John snapped to halt, his Browning in his hand in an instant. "Drop it!" He yelled out.
The youth looked up. His lip curled in a nasty sneer.
"Drop it or I will shoot you."
The youth hesitated.
"27 metres." Sherlock said. "You were wondering about the distance. Not far enough to spoil my friends aim, I assure you."
The youth continued to hover, caught now between his unwillingness to gamble with his own life and his desire not to appear weak in front of his gang.
The sound of sirens broke the stand-off and the youths scattered.
John put his gun away and walked towards the young man.
"Thank you," he said in a soft Irish burr. He held out his hand. "James McCarty."
John shook the hand and introduced himself and Sherlock. "Do you know why they were after you?"
"Your shoes say otherwise." Sherlock stated.
James half smiled, looking confused. "Shoes?"
Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "You're wearing trainers with your suit."
"I've worn trainers with a suit." John pointed out, although he didn't add it had only been the once and a right muppet he'd felt at the time too.
"You don't work in a bank."
James chuckled nervously. "How could you-"
"You do not have any weakness in your ankles or arches so your choice of footwear is not limited by a medical need. You're not carrying a sports bag – unlikely you were on your way to the gym. The trainers are new but the wear around the bottom of the legs suggests you've been employed for a least a year. Your choice is arbitrary then - you expected to participate in a physical activity."
"Look, they were just kids being bastards."
"This area is too public for a random attack." Sherlock said. "Clearly there is a reason but you do not want to share it with us."
James looked from Sherlock to John then back again. Finally he laughed. "You must let you buy you a drink." He looked at Sherlock. "Both of you."
They learned, much later, that his real name was James Moriarty.
But by then John liked him, maybe too much.
3. Mrs Hudson
"I bought you some peaches, dear," said Mrs Hudson, putting a supermarket bag down on their crowded coffee table. "It was 2 for 1 on the punnets and I'll never eat them all."
John looked up from his copy of The Guardian. He didn't much care for peaches. "Thank you," he said, because he'd been raised right and because it didn't do to insult someone you may need to rustle up a snack for your date when the fridge was full of body parts instead of food.
"Besides," she continued coming over to Sherlock and looking at him critically, "the vitamin C will do you good, Sherlock. You've been looking a bit peaky. Everyone appreciates a man with a bit of colour in his cheeks." This was aimed in John's direction.
John sighed and returned to his paper.
"Look at this mess. I'll just clean up a few of these shall I?" She said as she began to collect up the dirty mugs and stack the books. "Just this once, mind, I'm not your housekeeper."
"Cup of tea would be nice, Mrs Hudson." Sherlock called out.
"I'm not your housekeeper," she repeated but brought them both tea and biscuits a few minutes later.
John heard her pottering about as he read and sipped his tea. She kept up a conversation as she worked – something about her **** and a disagreement that had arisen between two of its members – he offered the occasional non-committal 'mmm' to give the impression he was listening and because one of them should at least make the effort and he knew Sherlock never would.
"...and I do think a man should, don't you, Dr Watson?"
John looked up. "Mmm?" Even though he suspected that wouldn't fit this time.
Her voice drifted back from the kitchen. "It's the mark of a good man," she was saying, "my husband was never very good at it. He did try when we first got married but he found it messy and he never could get it right." She sighed. "It was very frustrating."
John shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
"Perhaps you could do it for me sometime, Dr Watson?"
"What!" John cleared his throat, "I mean, er..."
"Maybe I should have a taster first." She came out of the kitchen, "can I try one?" She held out one of cyanide covered biscuits Sherlock had been experimenting with. "They look delicious and it's been so long since a man's made me biscuits."
She brought it up towards her mouth.
John came flying across and snatched the biscuit from her fingers just as she opened her mouth in preparation to bite.
She stared at him in disapproval. "You could just have said 'no', dear."
It had fallen silent and still, like the world had pressed the pause button and everything had stopped. Then finally Sherlock became aware of the air going in and out of his lungs but laborious so, as if they'd restarted in slo-mo and were caught in moment of time that ran not like sand through an hour glass, but like treacle.
Someone was shouting, a dull drone of unrecognisable sounds. He turned his head and saw Jim lying where the voltage charge had thrown him, body crumpled into a odd sprawl of limbs as if he were a puppet whose strings had been suddenly cut. Sherlock's head continued moving through the treacle until his eyes found the source of the noise.
James Moriarty, Jim's younger brother, crawling on his knees towards his fallen sibling. The tears tracking down his cheeks sparkled in the sunlight, the kind of open and gut aching grief he had only recognised as a concept in the past but John was giving him understanding of.
So far away now, left behind, eyes full of anger and fear as Sherlock sailed away in the cab without him but safe...
And yet in front of him, cupping his face in his hands and swiftly checking him over.
"John" He forced the word passed his lips but it was drowned out by another voice calling that same name, louder and more urgently.
James was calling for John, pleading.
Brain damage due to oxygen deprivation: unlikely.
John's eyes – so blue, so full of the decency he had come to depend on – met his.
Sherlock could never give it.
The hands against his cheeks were hot and felt like a brand. They tightened reflexively and then were gone.
Sherlock watched as John hurried to Jim's side, rolled him onto his back, checked his vitals and began CPR. James wept out words of thanks between pleas at his brother to live. Two decent, honest men fighting for the life of a man who didn't deserve to survive.
And then Lestrade was in front of him, blocking his view and filling his ears with inanities that Sherlock had to work to filter out to hear what was happening.
James pleas turned to thanks.
Conclusion: Moriarty would live.
5. John Watson
Clara looked beautiful.
Her hair was plastered to her sweat soaked brow, dark circles smudged her eyes and the oversized T-shirt she wore was rumpled, damp and stained. But she still looked absolutely beautiful and Harry told her so, kissing her soundly to drive home the point.
"I do not." She grumbled, but the happiness in her eyes and in her smile was more telling than her words.
Harry kicked her brother's ankles, "John." She prompted and made "back me up here" gestures with her hands.
John dragged his eyes away from the bundle nestled in Clara's arms. "What?"
Clara smiled at him. "Your turn.." she said and lifted the bundle, "...dad."
John's breath hitched at that and his heart pounded like a marathon runners as Clara carefully placed their baby in his arms.
John Watson Jr, or JJ, opened squinty eyes briefly at the movement.
He gazed down at the tiny boy, studying the faint trace of very blonde hair on his scalp, the minute nails on his little fingers, held his tiny foot in his palm and pressed his lips against the soft delicate flesh, lost in the wonderful scent of this small person who had already claimed the largest share of his heart in just 20 minutes of life.
Then he remembered the previous title holder, "Sherlock."
Clara smiled, "Harry's gone to get him."
John hadn't even registered that she'd left.
She reached up and stroked her son's head, then met John's eyes. "Thank you."
He bent and gave her a kiss on the lips before returning to his attention to JJ. He wanted to say that she had done all the work, that a wank into a cup nine months ago was hardly the same as the twenty hour labour they had watched her go through, but the words didn't come. It seemed disrespectful to the baby he cradled when really all that made him was one of the most loved and wanted children born.
The door opened and Harry and Sherlock entered. John could read the tension in his eyes and once again cursed the hospital's policy of only allowing two people into the delivery room with the mother. It had felt like a betrayal leaving him outside and yet...
His fingers tightened on the bundle in his arms.
...and yet he wouldn't have missed this for the world.
"He's the spit of John, poor thing." Harry said.
"That is the most probable genetic outcome for a male child." Sherlock replied and eyed the baby warily.
John met his eyes. Then he smiled. He tried to pour all his happiness into the smile and all the words he wanted to say to Sherlock but couldn't right now.
Sherlock reached out and cupped the small head in his palm. John watched his small son's eyes blink open at the touch. His son and his lover meeting... It was perfect in its broken messed up way and not at all like he'd imagined...not like he had...
He shut his eyes against the old pain.
Not at all like he'd planned with...
John's instincts had made him turn back. The two men at the end of Millennium Bridge had bothered him, even at a distance. They were the only people he could see on the eerily empty bridge and while he knew it was nothing more than paranoia, he still steered Mary around and began walking back to the St Paul's side.
He glanced back. The men were following.
Mary's hand felt cold in his.
"Probably nothing." He said but began walking faster.
She looked back at the men. They didn't speed up, but nothing in their body language spoke of taking a stroll.
John stopped before they reached the end. There was a man coming towards them and it should have been a surprise, it should have been impossible, but John felt no disbelief.
Moriarty smiled at them. "I didn't get an invite to the wedding." he said in that sing-song voice of his. "And here I thought we were friends."
John's hand tightened around Mary's. He felt her squeeze back.
"We wanted to keep it small," John replied. "Just family, close friends, no lunatics."
Moriarty eyes flashed. "Now don't be like that, Johnny Boy, especially as I broke out of prison just to congratulate you." His voice turned chiding. "Don't tell Sherlock now, he'll get jealous." He raised his hand. The gun he gripped glinted dully in the light. "And see, I bought you a wedding present."
"I think I prefer a toaster."
The barrel of the gun kissed his forehead, ice cold against the heat of his brow.
"No..." the word was soft in his ear, as if it had escaped Mary's lips without her knowledge, "please..."
Her words drew Jim's attention and his head turned. There was a covetous gleam forming in his eye that made John's stomach lurch. "Was she a beautiful bride, Johnny?" He asked and then snapped his head back to John and screamed, "shall I make her a beautiful WIDOW?"
Mary screamed, clutching at John, "please, please, he saved your life..." Her voice was nothing more than a desperate whisper.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you?" His sing-song tone completely at odds with the gun he pressed so viciously into John's skin. "No good deed goes unpunished." His head tilted to the side. "No, I am grateful though and just a tiny bit...disappointed...but I'm not surprised. Dr John Watson of the Army Medical Corps, a good soldier and an even better man, Sherlock Holmes' moral compass... Has he forgiven you for saving my life?"
John tried hard to stifle the flinch.
"I see he hasn't. Will you forgive yourself?" He chuckled, "I'll give you a gift, doctor, to say thank you. You can save another life. Yours, Sherlock's or..." his eyes flickered to Mary. "Hers."
John looked at Mary and she slowly and deliberately shook her head and mouthed 'no.' Tears were welling her eyes.
John didn't hesitate. "Hers."
He felt one of the men grab him from behind and braced him.
"Off you go, Mrs Watson, there's a good little wife." Jim said softly and then yelled "RUN!"
"Go!" John told her. "Please...?"
She was crying so hard her words were inaudible but he could read her lips, "I love you."
She backed away, passed the men, steps trembling, never turning away, keeping her eyes locked with John's for every last second.
Moriarty began laughing. "Haven't you learnt yet, Johnny-Boy... I am so changeable."
John felt the gun leave his forehead a split second before the sound of the shot nearly deafened him.
Mary's body jerked and a fat line of blood split from a perfect circular hole that appeared on her brow like a flower bursting into bloom.
John screamed, struggling against the hold.
And he went on screaming until Moriarty brought the butt of the gun down repeatedly on his head and a black nothing swallowed him.
A paramedic was in process of draping a blanket around John's shoulders as Sherlock approached. The man was talking softly but receiving no reply.
John didn't look up when Sherlock stopped in front of him. Sherlock wondered if John was waiting for him to speak first or if he even realised who it was.
He sat down beside John.
Some minutes ticked by and Sherlock observed the forensic team and the police officers milling about.
Lestrade came to give his condolences and say the questions could wait for a day or two then retreated. Sherlock watched his back as he pushed through the crowds of gawkers that had built up.
"You were right."
The harsh words didn't sound like John's.
"I usually am."
"I shouldn't have saved him."
"You're a doctor. You save lives." Sherlock said. "Good men or bad, that's what you do."
"She'd still... If I hadn't... She wouldn't..."
All true, of course, and John would have to learn to live with that. Platitudes were pointless. Sherlock didn't care for them and John would not accept them.
A violent shudder ran through John and he stumbled awkwardly to his feet. The blanket slipped from his shoulders and puddled at his feet. Then he sat back down heavily on the bench, as if his legs would no longer support him, misjudging the distance and almost sliding down. Sherlock put out his arms instinctually to steady him, pulling him back onto the bench. John leaned into him until he was taking his weight and all but holding him up.
John pressed his face into the curve of Sherlock's neck and shuddered again, bone deep and harsh. He felt something wet trickle over his Adam's apple and soak into his collar.
John shuddered again and this time it was accompanied by a strangled choke.
John was sobbing and trying not to.
Sherlock lay an awkward arm around him, holding him as he fought a losing battle. John pressed closer, knuckles going white as he clutched at Sherlock's shirt.
It was uncomfortable.
His phone bleeped and he pulled it out.
Did the Watson's enjoy my wedding gift? - JM
Sherlock's fingers closed around the phone, gripping it tightly. This time, Moriarty would die. Even if the cost was Sherlock's own life.
- Canon!Moriarty does have a brother who is confusingly also called James.
- The title is a line from the Louis Lasagna version of the Hippocratic Oath, which is often recited at graduation ceremonies.