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24 January 2013 @ 10:23 am
Sherlock: Lost for Words (12/16)  
Title: Lost for Words (Chapter 12 of 16)
Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mycroft, Lestrade (this chapter)
Rating: R
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, blood, injuries, trauma, discussion of DNRs and withdrawal of life support, deals with depression and PTSD, features a character who cannot speak or move without difficulty, which some people may find upsetting.
Spoilers: Everything aired
Pairings: none, just epic friendship
Chapter Word count: 4,099
Beta/Britpicker: aelfgyfu_mead and aeron_lanart. All remaining errors are mine.
Summary: Sherlock is assaulted by an unknown assailant while John is away at a medical conference, leaving him with a severe brain injury. While his intellect and personality are intact, he's lost the use of his right-side limbs and his ability to speak freely. John suddenly finds himself as the main source of support, and possibly a caregiver, to a flatmate who is struggling to do the things he loves most. And Sherlock Holmes has never been the best of patients.
Author's notes:

Previous chapters can be found here. The page will be updated as new chapters are posted. You can also find the story at A03 and FF.net.


John ended up going out in his pyjamas, or, more accurately, an old pair of scrub trousers and a t-shirt. He didn't think Sherlock would wait long enough for him to get dressed properly.

This turned out to be a problem when they arrived at their destination, John's cab pulling up behind Sherlock's. It was a posh looking building with 'Diogenes Club' on a discreet plaque by the door. Despite the early hour, it appeared to be fully operational. A snooty person snootily informed John he could not enter the premises in what he was wearing. Sherlock was fine, he had hadn't changed since they'd come home from Scotland Yard. He was cleared, and went into the club, leaving John behind to argue with the concierge. After some debate, the concierge provided John with a jacket, and threw up his hands in a way suggesting that it was no longer his problem. John wondered if there were lions waiting to attack anyone who wasn't dressed in a bespoke suit.

He caught up with Sherlock in a sitting room, which was full of quiet, posh looking men. Mycroft Holmes was among them, sitting reading a newspaper by the fireplace. Sherlock was limping his way over, the noise of his cane earning several glares. A person could hear a pin drop in the place. It was dead silent. John received many a disapproving look, presumably because the lions had failed to keep out the riff-raff like himself.

Sherlock stopped by Mycroft and poked him with his cane. This was unnecessary, as Mycroft had already noticed him and was looking up in confusion. He and Sherlock seemed to have a conversation entirely with their eyebrows and then Mycroft stood up and led them in to a side room.

“This must be urgent for you not to have texted,” Mycroft said, once the door was closed. “And you seemed to have dragged the poor doctor out of bed.”

“He... follows,” Sherlock said, with annoyance. “I not... invite. Like... stray.”

“Cheers,” John muttered.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Mycroft asked.

Sherlock struggled with his words for a few moments, looking like he was trying to pull the sound from his throat or push it out from the other side. “You... understand me?” he asked, finally. “I need... talk. You... follow?”

“Yes, you're making perfect sense,” Mycroft assured him, looking concerned now.

Sherlock nodded. “I need... face see,” he explained. “So... no test. You know? You know who.... erm...?” he pointed to his head. “You... secret me?”

“No, of course not,” Mycroft said. “If I knew, Sherlock, believe me, I would not keep it to myself. Why do you ask?”

Sherlock pulled the paper from his pocket and handed it over, watching Mycroft carefully as he looked at it. “You know... him?”

Mycroft nodded, slowly. “Yes, it looks like Jason Verringer,” he said. “It's not an exact likeness, but they all have these retrousse noses. Why?”

“He... culprit,” Sherlock said. “He's... reason I... erm... er... er... broken.”

“You are not broken,” Mycroft said, a bit sharply. It was the first time John had seen him display any sort of typical big brotherly attitude. Clearly no one was allowed to call Sherlock broken, not even Sherlock. “Are you sure?”

“I... re-mem-ber,” Sherlock said. “And also... I... connect. I... er... er... les indices.”

Je comprends,” Mycroft said, his accent as flawless as Sherlock's. “You deduced.”

“Someone want to fill me in here?” John interrupted. “Who is Jason Verringer and why would he want to hit Sherlock in the head?”

“He is the brother of Alex Verringer,” Mycroft said. “I assume you know about him?”

John nodded. “Yeah. That uni kid who went to Thailand on school break,” he said. “Murdered two girls there. His dad came to ask Sherlock for help, but Sherlock turned him down. He was miffed, but... not homicidal. I don't see the connection. Sherlock didn't have anything to do with what happened. Did he?”

Sherlock was pacing around the room, looking agitated and not paying much obvious attention to the conversation. He looked like crap. John was worried about him.

“You might recall there was quite a tug-of-war over jurisdiction and a good deal of press debating whether or not our government should have extradited him or if the British consulate should have offered him asylum or who should be sent over to represent him in court,” Mycroft said. “I was in charge of those negotiations.”

“Ah,” John said, somehow unsurprised. “But that's you, that's not Sherlock. He didn't have anything to do with that.”

Mycroft shifted on his feet. “That's not strictly true,” he said. “I felt that if Verringer was guilty, the Thai government had every right to try him there and imprison him. If he was innocent, however, I felt that it was important for us to step in and honour his status as a British citizen. I asked Sherlock to review the case for me.”

John looked over to Sherlock. “You didn't tell me about that,” he said.

Sherlock shrugged. “I... not interesting,” he said. “Ov-obvious guilty. Open shut. Not... not... worth hours, really.”

“I wondered why you were so quick to get his dad out of there,” John said. “You didn't even let him finish, that's why he was so angry. You already knew.” Sherlock nodded. “So, Sherlock advised you not to take action and that guided your decision. Yeah, I'm putting the pieces together now. And then Verringer was convicted and died in prison. He had an infection of some sort... what was it? Endocarditis?”

“Yes, he had a previously unknown heart defect, and must have been exposed to some bacteria or fungus there,” Mycroft said. “He didn't report feeling ill until it was too late. The family blamed the British government, of course. They still believe he was wrongly accused, and so they said that he was placed in unsafe conditions that led to his death.”

John shook his head. “But that was months ago,” he said. “I mean... I understand they're still upset, obviously they would be, they're entitled, but why would this brother take so long to act?”

“If you recall, I did point out the crime seemed very well thought-out,” Mycroft said. “It required a perfect storm of circumstances. Sherlock being willing to come. It being dark and deserted. There being no cameras. Being able to attack him before he could react. The fact that you were away, so he was on his own. I imagine it took some time to cook up.”

“But why Sherlock?” John insisted. “I didn't know he was involved, how would Jason Verringer know about it?”

“People talk,” Mycroft said. “Even those legally required not to talk. There is a reason I don't trust my employees implicitly. There is always a chance for classified information to get out. And my relationship to Sherlock isn't classified. I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to figure out, given a little time and effort.”

“All right,” John said. “But why Sherlock and not you? No offence, but it's much more your fault than his.”

Mycroft nodded, looking studiously stoic. “It is,” he agreed. “And if you couldn't get to me, which, as you know, is extremely hard, who would you go for?”

“Your brother,” John said, with a nod. “Who was involved, however remotely.”

"Brother... for... brother," Sherlock said, carefully.

Mycroft looked over to him. “I'm sorry,” he said. “I shouldn't have involved you.”

Sherlock dismissed this with an angry wave of his hand. “I just...” he began, and fought with his words some more. He stammered badly, bouncing on a 'sh-sh-sh' sound for several seconds. Mycroft, who hadn't had as much direct exposure to Sherlock's dysphasia, looked alarmed and a bit embarrassed.

“Start again,” John said. “Work around the sound.”

“I want,” Sherlock tried once more. “I think... maybe you... know and... cover because... gover-gover-government face...er... er... er...er...”

“To keep the government from looking bad,” John interpreted, seeing Sherlock starting to grow frustrated. “You knew and didn't say in hopes of covering it up and not making the government look any worse over the whole affair.”

Sherlock nodded, flashing a brief, grateful look John's way. “You would,” he accused. “You would... if... wanted.”

“I would,” Mycroft agreed. “If I felt it was for the best. Which I don't. And I didn't. And if I had, I would have at least told you in private. I wouldn't let you wonder for the rest of your life. I am not that cruel.”

Sherlock watched his face carefully and they held each other's gaze for several seconds. "Next time. I... never help," Sherlock said, his jaw set hard. "No... ask. Not for... anything. You... fix problems... yourself fix. Always... always I... bad and you... fine. You safe. Me... trouble.”

“I am sorry,” Mycroft said. “I am very sorry.”

Sherlock shrugged, making no sign that he'd accepted the apology.

“We should tell Lestrade,” John said, disrupting the icy silence that had filled the room. “There's no real evidence, still. He'll need to build a case. We should let him get started.”

“Please keep me informed,” Mycroft said. “I have as much of an interest in it as you.”

John nodded. Sherlock remained silent, looking the most frigid John had ever seen him. He turned and left without saying goodbye.

After leaving the Diogenes Club, John and Sherlock went directly to Lestrade's house. It was unlikely he'd be at Scotland Yard this early, and it was probably for the best to approach him alone and explain everything, without the rest of the Yarders there to throw suspicion over the whole thing. It was very clear from working with them again that they were all convinced Sherlock had been seeking drugs when he was attacked. Sherlock didn't seem to care, but John found himself frequently on the unpopular side of the debate.

“How did you make the connection to Verringer?” John asked, during the cab ride. “You don't usually follow the news.”

“When... er... no... leads, I look... erm... book you,” he said. He made a typing motion. “Erm... words, you. Talk about me.”

“The blog,” John said.

“Yes,” Sherlock said. “And... er... pen words. Little book.”

“My notes,” John said.

Sherlock nodded. “I search... all names. You say names... and I look... er... images. For memory... help. No... memory but... when... face find, I... know... “ he gestured around his lower face. “I know... I see'd. See'd? Er... saw. So... I look again names and... er... sis-no, brother... look like. I... look more facts and find.”

“You did all that while I was asleep?” John asked.

“You... train loud, for wake,” Sherlock said.

John nodded. It wasn't the first time he'd heard that. He was trained to be on call and go to sleep as fast and deeply as possible before he was woken for another patient. “I'm sorry I haven't been much help,” he said.

Sherlock shrugged. “You never,” he said. “You... not job... thinking. You... feet help. Er... move help.”

“Was that a compliment?” John said.

Sherlock shook his head, though his lips twitched up at the corners. “Ye-...No.”

“Oh, fuck,” Lestrade greeted them when he opened the door. His hair was all over the place and he was in pyjama bottoms and an old t-shirt with the Met Police crest on it. “This can't be good. C'min. I need coffee if I'm going to have to talk to you this early in the morning.”

John had never been in Lestrade's house before. He suspected it was probably his childhood home, as there was a makeshift growth chart marked on the kitchen door jamb, with marks for 'Greg' at various intervals. There was also a 'Tina' and 'Jenny' marked. John assumed they were his sisters.

The fridge was covered with photos of various young people—Lestrade's nieces and nephews. There were also thank you cards tacked up and a couple of drawings from children—including one with what was clearly a very frowny Sherlock in addition to the friendly looking Lestrade.

Sherlock seemed like he'd been there before, as his eyes didn't roam as much over the place as they did when he went somewhere new. More like he was cataloguing what had changed rather than deducing what every object and colour meant.

“Do you want coffee?” Lestrade offered, as he stumbled around the kitchen blearily. He didn't really accomplish anything for the first thirty seconds and then managed to flick the kettle on and find the coffee tin.

“Yeah, that'd be great,” John said. “Thanks.”

“Yes,” Sherlock said.

Lestrade found mugs and prepared the coffee, then flopped down in a chair at the kitchen table with a sigh. “Okay. Hit me. What's happened now?”

Sherlock explained the situation, with John chiming in where it was needed to help him along. Lestrade frowned down at the facial composite.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered. “I checked the father's alibi. I didn't check the brother. I didn't know...dammit.”

“You...check why?” Sherlock asked.

“John gave me the names of a few people who you'd ticked off,” Lestrade explained. “It wasn't much, but I had nothing to go on, so I looked in to them. I was able to confirm Verringer Sr was home when you were attacked. I should have thought of a sibling. It was hard enough to get grounds to ask around about him. I had no evidence. I had to do it on the sly.”

“Don't beat yourself up,” John said. “None of us knew.”

Lestrade didn't look reassured. “Lemme get the case files, I have a copy in the office,” he said. He got up and left the room, returning a minute later with a manilla folder. “Here we go. Show me how you worked this out. You can point, it might make things easier for you.”

Sherlock seemed surprised as Lestrade spread out the photos and reports over the table. “Why?” he asked, again. “Why... have?”

Lestrade stared at him. “It's an ongoing investigation,” he said. “It's not solved. I keep all my cold cases here, and I look over them once in a while and see if anything new comes to me. I keep telling you—I'm a copper. I've been one for over thirty years. I'm not a genius, but I do my job. Sometimes even without your help. Now, show me what I missed.”

Sherlock went slowly through his reasoning process. It was always hard to watch him do this. What should normally have been one long hard-to-follow monologue became a stammering, start-and-stop, wandering ramble. It was especially hard, when it was obvious where he was trying to go, not to speak for him so he wouldn't have to struggle. It was hard to be ahead and wait for him to catch up. John supposed that's what Sherlock must feel like all the time—waiting for the world to catch up to his cleverness.

Sherlock explained the deductions and facts about the assailant that had emerged over the course of the investigation. Jason Verringer was 6'2", right-handed, brown-haired and a car enthusiast, which might explain why a wheel brace was his weapon of choice. He restored old cars as a hobby. Sherlock had learned all this from his Facebook page.

“I don't suppose he changed his status to 'whacked Sherlock Holmes in the head' at any point?” Lestrade asked.

“I check.... I check night in... er... erm... question,” Sherlock said. “No... changes. No... significance which... er... odd because always up-update. All days, but not... not that one.”

John was amazed at how calmly Sherlock was able to lay this all out, pointing to photos of his clothing and the crime scene, which were stained with his blood. He spoke dispassionately, and even though he used 'me' and 'I', he could have been talking about someone he'd never met. The only time he flinched at all was when looking at a picture of himself taken at the hospital before surgery, when he was still unconscious and half-dead looking. He didn't dwell long on that and moved another paper over it after he was done. John noted that picture wasn't up on the wall at home.

“All right,” Lestrade said, rubbing his face with his hands. He still looked a bit stunned from being woken up so early. “Here's what's going to happen. We are going to do this by the book, to the letter. You are not going to be involved. If this guy is the culprit, I want him in jail, and I don't want him wriggling away because of any unusual practices. We are going to gather evidence ourselves, based on your recommendations, and work like actual police officers, and no one will say we didn't follow procedure. Is that understood?”

Sherlock made a foul face. “You never... catch alone,” he declared. “You... all time... and never catch now. You need... help mine—my help.”

“We didn't have any leads before,” Lestrade replied. “Now we do. You can come to the Yard, if you're going to be difficult about it, which of course you are. But you cannot interfere. You can sit quietly and wait. And if and when we bring him in, you can watch the interrogation, but you can't participate.”

John stepped in before Sherlock could object again. “All they need to do is build up enough of a case for a judge to allow a DNA sample to be taken,” he pointed out. “The DNA from under your fingernails is on file. If it matches, he'll have a hard time explaining that away. Let them build the case. You've done all the heavy work. Let them do their jobs.” Sherlock still looked sceptical. “If you interfere, the whole thing could be thrown out of court. Do you want him to get away with it?”

Sherlock sat in stony silence for a minute and then nodded. “I want... update,” he said. “I want... knowing happens and... and... er... nouvelles. Erm... news.”

“I can do that,” Lestrade agreed. “I can keep you apprised. If you behave.”

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed.

“All right. One thing I do need you to do is write a full witness statement,” Lestrade said. “Everything you remember. I don't want to do it orally because if I have to clarify what you've said, it could be construed as me leading you on. I know your writing's a bit dodgy too, but there is a programme for witnesses who can't speak, where you can pick out the words you want. It takes ages, but it might help. Do you think you could handle that?"

Sherlock nodded. "Easy," he said. "I... not stupid... just words wrong. I know... what... saying want. Just... can't."

“I know, Sherlock," Lestrade assured him. "I didn't mean it like that; I just want to do it the easiest way. We'll head in to the Yard, and I'll put you up at the PC. Lemme get dressed, and I'll take you in.”

“I'm gonna run home and get dressed, too,” John said. “I'll meet you at the Yard later on. Is that okay?” Sherlock nodded. “Do you need anything from home?”

“Er... laptop,” Sherlock said, making a typing motion.”I have... files for... important. Help. And also... ball. I not... not... physio today. I... void. Er... er... cancel.”

“Fair enough,” John said. “I'll call them once the office is open and let them know. Try to cooperate, okay?”

Sherlock pouted. “Yes.”

John had a quick shower, got dressed and wolfed down some breakfast, sensing it would be awhile before he'd get to eat again. He grabbed what he needed and headed out to Scotland Yard. Sherlock was in Lestrade's office, clicking at a collection of words on the screen to make his statement. John had offered him an app for his phone that did something similar, but he was too stubborn to use it. Violet also preferred for him to try to speak, rather than relying on other forms of communication. In this situation, though, John didn't think she'd mind him getting a bit of help.

“Do you need anything?” John said.

“Shush,” Sherlock replied.

John shushed. He sat in a chair in the corner of Lestrade's office and waited. It took nearly two hours for Sherlock to write out his account. He took several breaks along the way, to shake out his hand and 'order... thoughts'. By the time he was content with it, most of the rest of the Yarders were in and Lestrade was holding a sort of scrum in the bullpen, explaining the situation. He finished and everyone broke off, heading for phones and PCs and evidence lockers. There were some sour faces, but most people appeared to be willing to help.

“You... er... make right," Sherlock said, before he printed the report out. "Look and... fix wrong things."

John swapped seats with him and read over the report. It was mostly coherent, though the word order was funny in some places and in others words were missing or doubled. The words he'd had to type in rather than choose from the list were often spelled wrong. John left the syntax alone, but fixed up the spelling to make it clear what Sherlock meant, checking with him before he corrected anything to make sure he wasn't putting words in his mouth.

Most of details of the report John already knew, but there was a bit more about the actual assault itself. Sherlock agreed to meet 'the assailant' and was attacked as soon as he turned the corner. He didn't remember much, but had seen his attacker's face, and knew that there was a brief scuffle before he was hit with a blunt object. He lost consciousness immediately and only remembered waking up three days after the surgery. It was all to the point and free of speculation. There were just the facts as Sherlock remembered them, no deductions based on them and no implication that it was Verringer who was the culprit.

“He didn't say anything?” John asked. “When he attacked?”

Sherlock shook his head. “I sound... not re-mem-ber,” he said. He made a twisting motion with his hand. “Like... dial down. Er... volume low. I...er...er...” He pointed to his ear. "Er...tinnitis."

“I suppose people don't have battle cries in real life,” John said. “Still, it would be helpful if he shouted something like 'you keel my brother, prepare to die'.”

Sherlock gave him a confused look. “No... accent,” he said. “Why have you... Spanish?”

“It's a film thing—never mind,” John said, with a smirk.

Lestrade entered the office and John gave him the report he'd printed out. He read it over and had Sherlock sign it. “Great, that'll do nicely. Now, go sit in the break room and stay out of our way. I'll keep you updated as best I can.”

There were several strong objections to this plan, to the point that John had to grab Sherlock by the arm and pull him away. Even then, he stuck his heels into the floor like a toddler but still didn't have enough control over his limbs to put up much of a fight.

“I... dislike!” he announced, as he flopped on to a couch to sulk. “They... mess up. They not... good like me.”

“They're your friends,” John said. “Well, they're your colleagues. They want to help. Trust them.”

“No,” Sherlock said, folding his arms across his chest.

“Trust me then; you can do that, right?” John said. Sherlock shrugged a shoulder. “I trust them.”

“You... stupid,” Sherlock muttered.

“Play with your ball and shut up,” John said, tossing it to him.

“Not dog!” Sherlock objected.

“I dunno, I have been taking you for a walk everyday,” John pointed out.

Sherlock glared at him.

“And you are pretty messy,” John continued.

Sherlock continued to glare at him.

“And I have seen you chew on the furniture,” John added.

“For... essperiment!” Sherlock burst out. “I bite, not... chew.”

There was a brief moment of silence before John snorted and started laughing. Sherlock scowled, but then his lips twitched and he laughed as well. John sat himself down on the couch opposite and prepared for a long day.