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24 January 2013 @ 10:42 am
Sherlock: Lost for Words (13/16)  
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: 4,537
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.



<-- PREVIOUS CHAPTER





According to Sherlock, time did not speed up or slow down; only a person's perception of it did. But if someone had asked John, he would have insisted that time pretty much stood still that day. Of course, a day spent trying to keep Sherlock Holmes quiet and in one spot was not exactly a laugh. Every time John's attention wavered for an instant, Sherlock made an attempt to escape. It failed each time. Especially after John took his cane away. It didn't stop him from trying; it just made him lurch around, dragging his foot behind him until John felt bad and gave the cane back.

Lestrade was good about keeping them updated, stepping in as each development occurred.

“Face rec between your composite and Verringer is 72%,” he said. “Which is pretty good considering we only have half a face to work with and sometimes we don't even get 100% on two full, straight on photos of the same person. I need you to look at a photo array, Sherlock. Can you pick him out of here?” He held a page of photos of similar-looking men.

Sherlock pointed to one without hesitation. “Yes,” he said.

“You sure?” Lestrade pressed.

“Much,” Sherlock said.

Lestrade nodded, though he didn't confirm if Sherlock had chosen the right one or not. John thought that wasn't allowed, as it might encourage the witness to either change his or her mind or keep believing in something false. “All right. Donovan and Cook are working on the CCTV footage. Now that we know who we're looking for, we can try to pick him out and track his route that way. I'll let you know how it goes.”

John thanked him. Sherlock tried to escape. John made him sit down again.

In the afternoon, DI Gregson stuck his head in to ask if Sherlock would come take a look at a case for him. They'd worked with him a couple of times in the past and Sherlock considered him 'acceptably intelligent'. John wondered if Lestrade had asked him to find something for Sherlock to do. It seemed unlikely, as the only time John had seen Gregson and Lestrade interact, their conversation had been entirely comprised of insults to one another. However, it did take Sherlock up a floor and so completely out of Lestrade's way. Maybe they'd called a truce.

Sherlock had solved that in a couple of hours and returned to his sulking in the break room. By that time, Donovan and Cook had managed to find Verringer on the CCTV footage and track his route to and from the crime scene. His face was heavily shadowed by his hoodie, but the figure left from Verringer's block of flats and returned there again, all within the right time frame. They couldn't get him right to the crime scene, but it put him in the area at the time of the crime.

Lestrade was working on phone records and brought in a report on that around tea time. John had fallen asleep on the couch and was awoken when Lestrade marched Sherlock back into the room.

“Sorry,” John muttered, rubbing his eyes. “I didn't mean to nod off. What's up?”

“I have Verringer's mobile records,” Lestrade said. He pointed to the couch and waited until Sherlock had sat down again before he continued. “There's no record of him ever contacting Sherlock directly, he probably used a burner phone for that, but he did use his mobile at the right time in the area of the crime scene. We can pretty much definitely place him there. That should be enough to get a search warrant, combined with Sherlock's composite, and ID, and the footage of him. I'm waiting for the judge to ring me back.”

He left again. Sherlock's good foot bounced anxiously on the floor, out of synch with his bad one, which only managed every other bounce.

They were clearly getting into the really agitated stage of waiting now. Sherlock sprang to his feet every time someone walked by the room and then set into pacing. John gave up trying to keep him calm and lay back down on the couch, keeping his feet out of Sherlock's way.

Finally, after Sherlock had paced for a solid forty-five minutes, Lestrade returned.

“Warrant has been issued,” Lestrade said. “For his flat and the garage where his cars are. We're going out now. I'll try to keep you updated. It may take a while.”

“Good luck,” John said.

“I want... come!” Sherlock said.

“No,” John and Lestrade said, together.

“Sherlock,” Lestrade said, in his parental voice. Sherlock was winding up for a fight.“I promise I will handle this. I will find what we need and I will have him put away. You've worked with me long enough to know how stubborn I am. Bulldog tenacity, isn't that what you said?”

“Not... compliment intend,” Sherlock replied.

“Well, I'm taking it that way,” Lestrade said. “Let me do my job. I owe you that, and I won't let you down. All right?”

Sherlock wavered on his feet, looking anxious and exhausted and about ready to explode. “Yes,” he said.

Lestrade smiled. “All right.”




They brought Jason Verringer in around nine o'clock that night. Mycroft arrived at the same time, though John hadn't texted him. He must have found out some other way. Lestrade let the three of them into the viewing area that looked in on the interrogation room. Sherlock and Mycroft were silent, both looking straight ahead, both leaning on their cane and umbrella respectively, and their fingers working bouncing patterns on the handles, almost in unison. For the first time, as John got a view of their profiles from the side, he could tell they were related.

He didn't know what he expected Jason Verringer to look like. Facial composites didn't really do justice to anyone and criminals, as an abstract concept, still wore black and twirled moustaches in John's mind, even though he knew that was demonstrably untrue. Verringer came in and sat down at the table. He looked normal. A clean-cut, handsome, middle class-looking kid. He looked like every other twentysomething out on the street. But he looked nervous.

“Is that him?” John asked.

“Yes,” Sherlock said, no doubt in his voice. “You see... er... plate?” he wiggled his thumb at John. “Er...”

“Thumbnail?” John guessed.

“Bone,” Mycroft said. “His thumb has been broken and healed recently.”

Sherlock scowled at him. “Yes,” he agreed, reluctantly. “I do that. With... head.”

John thought that was a fairly novel way to describe getting punched in the face. “I did that once,” he said. “Punching a bully at school, before I learned how to punch properly—Harry taught me that. I had my thumb inside my fist. He must have done the same thing.”

“Suggests a rather amateur approach,” Mycroft noted.

“There's not a lot about him that ever suggested he was criminal mastermind in the first place,” John pointed out. “Just patient, and lucky.”

The door opened again and an older man in a posh suit walked in. John guessed he was the solicitor. Lestrade and Donovan followed shortly after. There were a few moments of organizing papers and getting the tape recorder set up.

“I appreciate you coming in,” Lestrade said, politely.

“You made it pretty clear I didn't have a choice,” Verringer returned.

“You don't have to say anything,” the solicitor said.

“But it's in your best interest to answer our questions,” Lestrade said.

Donovan finished fussing around with the recorder and established the time and who was present in the room and that Verringer knew what his rights were, etc. Then they set down to business and the atmosphere went from slightly tense to positively choked.

“Can you tell me where you were on the night of March 29th of this year? Between eight pm and midnight?” Lestrade began.

“I was at home,” Verringer answered, promptly.

Lestrade raised his eyebrows. “You didn't have to think on that,” he said. “That's impressive. If someone asked me where I was two months ago, I'd have to give it a think. You sound pretty sure of yourself.”

“I have a good memory,” Verringer said, undeterred.

“So, you're sure?” Lestrade pressed. “Anyone who can vouch for that?”

“I was alone,” Verringer said.

Lestrade smirked a little. “All right. Well, I have your mobile records here and it tells me you answered a call around 11:20, from the Strand area,” he said pushing a piece of paper with a bit highlighted on it towards Verringer. “From someone named... Aaron Lowrie?”

“My friend's mobile was broken, I lent it to him for a few days,” Verringer said. “Aaron must have rung him. We all know each other.”

Lestrade pushed a photo towards him. “So this still here, from the CCTV footage, this isn't you making that call at the same timestamp?”

Verringer shook his head. “It couldn't be,” he said. “I didn't have my phone.”

“S'funny, that, because this bloke here,” Lestrade said, tapping the photo, “he came out of your block of flats and returned there that night. So maybe you know him?”

“There are lots of people in my block,” Verringer said. “I don't know everyone.”

“So this man who has your mobile and lives in your building, you don't know him?” Donovan asked.

“I bet lots of people were making calls that night, maybe you have the wrong man,” Verringer said. “It doesn't have to be my friend. You can't even see his face.”

Lestrade nodded. “Maybe,” he said. “Now, like you, I remember that night very clearly, because I was called to a crime scene. A friend of mine was assaulted in that same area, around the time this call was made.”

“I'm sorry,” Verringer said, with false sincerity.

Beside John, Sherlock shifted in place a little and Mycroft glanced over briefly. He and John shared a look, which both concluded that he was fine for the moment.

“Do you know Sherlock Holmes?” Lestrade asked. He pushed a photo of Sherlock across the table. “That's him, there.”

Verringer made a show of looking. “I don't think so,” he said.

“He's in the papers a lot,” Donovan said, and she couldn't quite disguise what she thought of that. “You've never seen him before?”

“I don't read the papers very often,” he said. “They don't report the truth.” This was said with venom. John wondered if he was bitter about how the media had reported his brother's trial.

“I've talked to Mr Holmes, who is out of hospital now, and he says he's met your dad,” Lestrade said. “He asked for his help in your brother's case. But you don't know him, never heard of him?”

Verringer shrugged. “My dad spoke to a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of people who didn't want to help. I'm guessing this man said no. If he hadn't, I might recognize him.”

“How about like this?” Lestrade said, showing him the photo of Sherlock pre-surgery. “Do you remember him like this?”

Verringer blanched a little and swallowed, but shook his head. The solicitor complained about showing disturbing pictures to his client and ordered Lestrade to get to the point.

“This guy has a brother, too,” Lestrade said. “His name is Mycroft Holmes. You must know him?”

Verringer hesitated here. He didn't seem to know if he should acknowledge that he knew him, which would make more of a case against him, or to deny it and risk having proof thrown at him to show he was lying.

“I know... I know of him,” he settled on. “He worked on my brother's case. My dad knew him. He... was in charge of helping my brother. He didn't do a very good job.”

“Did that make you angry?” Donovan asked.

“Yes,” Verringer said. “Of course.”

“Angry enough to do something about it?” Donovan pressed.

“No,” Verringer said, with not quite enough defence to be believable. People who were actually innocent tended to get more upset when they were accused of things they didn't do.

Donovan showed another picture. “We searched the garage where your car is,” she said. “We found this wheel brace behind a workbench.”

“It must have fallen,” Verringer said. He had started to sweat a bit and took a sip from his water.

“Do you see right here?” Donovan said, pointing to a specific part of the photo. “Where the handle meets the socket? We found traces of blood there. The rest of it was really clean, considering s'been lying around a garage, but there's definitely blood, up in the narrow indent there. The DNA is being run now. Do you think it might be Sherlock Holmes's blood?”

Verringer shrugged.

“I think it will be,” Donovan said. “Because the socket is a bit warped right here, there's a little bit that sticks out. And our forensics team was able to definitively say that it matches the wound on Mr Holmes' head exactly.”

Verringer didn't say anything.

“There's another thing,” Lestrade said. “Mr Holmes remembers who attacked him. He made this composite for us.” He showed the photo Sherlock had mocked up. “Looks a lot like you, don't you think? You have the same little scar there on your lip, see? A medical friend of mine says that's from a cleft lip repair. A... 'unilateral complete cleft lip'. You had that, didn't you?”

“A lot of people do,” Verringer said.

“This bloke on the CCTV footage does too,” Lestrade said. “See on this still, here? He got pretty close to the camera there and you can just make out the scar. You still don't think it's you?”

“It... it can't be,” Verringer insisted.

“No? Well, me, I think that's a pretty good case,” Lestrade said. “And so does the judge. Which means he thinks I have grounds to take a DNA sample from you. Mr Holmes was able to grab his assailant's wrist and we have DNA from under his fingernails. Am I gonna find it matches yours?”

Verringer swallowed again. He looked scared now, like a little kid. Sherlock had stopped breathing and John touched his arm, making him jump and exhale again. He gave him a brief a nod before looking back to Verringer, his lips working silently. John thought it might be 'c'mon', but he couldn't be sure.

“I don't know,” Verringer said, finally.

“You seemed pretty sure earlier,” Donovan said.

Verringer went silent again.

“Look, Mr Verringer,” Lestrade said. “I don't think you ever went with the intention of killing Mr Holmes. I think you were angry and you wanted to hurt someone for hurting your brother. That's understandable. I have siblings and I've felt like killing people who've hurt them before. And you must have known when he went down that he wasn't dead. But you didn't finish him off. You walked away. If you confess now, I can make sure the judge knows that. It'll help you in the long run. But if you keep denying it and that DNA comes up as a match...” Lestrade shook his head, the implication that horrible things would happen hanging in the air.

Verringer shot a look to his solicitor, who murmured something John couldn't make out. Verringer hesitated and looked lost.

“Do you want a minute to think about it?” Lestrade asked, gently.

Verringer nodded.

Lestrade flicked the tape recorder off and took it with him. He and Donovan left the room and Verringer and the solicitor leaned in, whispering furtively to each other. Verringer kept shaking his head.

Lestrade entered the viewing room. Sherlock's shoulders had finally relaxed a little. Mycroft was still watching the conversation intently. He looked pale and his lips were drawn tight. The grip on his umbrella made his knuckles white.

“Do you think we have him?” Lestrade asked, watching Verringer and the solicitor.

“He's really scared,” John said. “He's just a kid.”

“Bad... bad kid,” Sherlock snapped.

“Stupid kid,” Lestrade corrected. “He's a stupid rich kid who's never had to deal with anything bad in his life that daddy couldn't fix and didn't know what to do with himself when he couldn't. So he did something stupid to make himself feel better and has to deal with the consequences, which he doesn't have too much experience with either.”

“You sound very knowledgeable, Inspector,” Mycroft said.

Lestrade shrugged. “Criminals have types,” he said. “Sort of like...er... what's the word? Archetypes? You stick around enough and you know there's really only a few stories being told. You just have to find out which one it is.”

“Nothing...sun new,” Sherlock muttered.

“Exactly,” Lestrade said. He looked over to Sherlock, judging. “If he tries to negotiate a deal, you okay if I accept?”

Sherlock didn't answer. Lestrade opened his mouth, but then seemed to think better of whatever he was going to say. He moved his gaze to Mycroft, who was still watching the conversation with a laser-like focus. John wouldn't be surprised if he could read lips.

“If he serves time, I will be content,” Mycroft said. “In prison. That should make him understand how to better deal with his anger. The length of his imprisonment is negotiable, though the longer the better. Does that suit you, Sherlock?”

Sherlock frowned and his hand danced on his cane for a moment. “I want... why,” he said. “Reason. Ess-essplain. If... er... erm.... avouer—”

“Confess,” Mycroft translated.

“Yes,” Sherlock said. “If... co-fess. You do... what is... want.”

Lestrade nodded. “All right,” he said. “I'll give him a bit longer to stew. That's always good for making people think clearly. I have to get forensics in to swab him, too. Should make a statement.”

“You've done very well, Inspector,” Mycroft said.

Lestrade looked surprised. “Er, thanks,” he said. “Don't get any ideas about recruiting me, okay? I'm happy where I am.”

“The thought never occurred to me,” Mycroft said. “You made your loyalties very clear some time ago, if you recall.” He touched his jaw, briefly.

There was clearly some sort of private joke there, as both men grinned. Lestrade ducked out of the room again.

“You okay?” John asked Sherlock.

“I don't...” Sherlock started. He struggled and ermmed for a bit, getting more and more frustrated with himself. Mycroft's face contorted in sympathy, but Sherlock had his back to him and couldn't see. “Why? I don't... why?”

“You don't understand,” John said. “You want to know why he did it.”

Sherlock nodded. “I need... why,” he said.

Verringer's DNA sample was taken, after his solicitor read through the warrant with great diligence. The forensics girl swabbed inside his cheek. He looked about ready to throw up when she was finished. He was done now, John could tell. He had that tired, almost relieved look that people got when they were found out. When they didn't have to hide any more. Premeditated killers tended to look more like they were annoyed at being found out. It suggested that, however thought out it was, he wasn't a psychopath.

Lestrade and Donovan returned. Sherlock's back went rigid again. It took a long time for a deal to be negotiated, but eventually both parties agreed on terms, and Verringer agreed to try and explain himself, off the record.

“After my brother was convicted,” he began. “I was really angry. Just so angry, I couldn't think. I know everyone thinks he was guilty, but he wasn't. He couldn't have been. It wasn't like him at all to do something like that. He never hurt anyone in his life. I know he was innocent. I needed...I was so angry and I needed to understand why no one would help. Why they thought he could do something like that. I wanted to talk to Mycroft Holmes, to tell him he was wrong and to... know why he didn't do more. To try and convince him to help.

'I tried to contact him, but I couldn't get through. I left so many messages and just... nothing. I just wanted to talk, but all I kept getting were secretaries and under-secretaries and interns and it was impossible to get hold of him.”

Mycroft frowned. “I didn't receive any of those message,” he murmured.

“Not... reply if... were,” Sherlock pointed out.

Mycroft nodded. “True. I might have at least known he was... upset, however,” he said.

“Upset's putting it mildly,” John said.

“Then Alex died,” Verringer went on. “He was sick and he didn't tell anyone and he died. He shouldn't have been there in the first place! If anyone would have listened!” His eyes flashed and John could see the temper there, something wild and scary waiting to come out. Verringer stopped and controlled himself. “I was so angry. I kept thinking I would get less angry, but I didn't. I was Alex's big brother. I was supposed to look after him and... he's gone. I couldn't take it. I didn't know what to do. I just kept thinking that if Holmes had listened, if he'd understood, that Alex would still be here. But he was like a ghost. I couldn't get near him. It was like he didn't even exist.

“I have this friend who works for the government. Not a big job, just a low-level position. I talked to him about seeing if he knew how to get hold of Holmes. He said it was impossible. But while we were talking, he mentioned this brother. Sherlock. I remembered the name from my dad going to talk to him. I didn't... I'd never put them together, though it's pretty obvious. Stupid names, they must be related, right? And my friend mentioned that he'd heard the brother had been there all hush-hush the night before Holmes decided to withdraw his objections. And I knew... I knew it must have been Sherlock who convinced him. He's supposed to be this clever detective. Some sort of genius. He must have influenced him. And... I was just so angry.”

Mycroft was surreptitiously texting. John felt very sorry for this friend of Verringer. He was certainly out of a job and John suspected that was the very least of what he was in for.

“I kept thinking that if he had a brother, this Holmes, he should have understood,” Verringer said. “He should have be able to understand what I was feeling and at least returned my call. And I was so angry. So I... thought what he'd feel like if someone took his brother away and... I couldn't get it out of my head. I kept... thinking about it. I just wanted to hurt him—hurt them both, the way I had been hurt. The way they'd hurt me and my family.

“So, I sort of started planning. Just in my mind. It made me feel better. My friend was mugged a couple of years ago and they never found who did it, because there were no cameras. So I knew where would be a good place to go. I wasn't going to do anything for real, not really. But then... I saw on his friend's blog that he was going to be away for a few days. I started reading the blog after I found out about Sherlock. I wanted to know who he was. What sort of man he was. Anyway, it seemed... perfect. And I was so angry, I thought it might help. It might make the anger go away. So, I convinced him to come. I didn't really think he would. But he agreed, and even then I sort of thought that maybe I'd just talk and try to explain, but... I was so angry and when I saw him I just...”

Verringer stopped and looked exhausted. “He went down. And I ran. I should have chucked the wheel brace properly, but I was too flustered and I haven't had the nerve to go back and retrieve it. ” He gave a little laugh. “I've been waiting to get caught. I was surprised I wasn't. I thought maybe it meant I did the right thing but...” He shook his head. “And Sherlock's still alive and who knows what Holmes is thinking. Bloody iceman probably doesn't even care.”

“And are you still angry?” Lestrade asked.

Verringer nodded. “Yeah,” he said, with another bitter laugh. “I'm furious.”




Verringer was given a piece of paper to write his full statement out—on the record. John imagined it would probably be slightly less damning, as the solicitor was directing him very firmly in what he was writing.

Sherlock didn't say anything. He looked like a lost child. John didn't think he was satisfied with the reasoning involved. He wouldn't understand something that had no common sense. He walked out of the interview room and told John not to follow. John decided to listen, for the moment.

“He won't be pleased,” Mycroft noted. “He won't like it. He wanted something bigger. A big, clever conspiracy against him. He won't understand. We hardly have a bond enough to speak, let alone be compelled to avenge one another.”

John frowned. “Verringer seemed so sure of himself,” he said. “There's really no chance his brother was innocent?”

Mycroft shook his head. “No. The evidence was extremely incriminating. I asked Sherlock to come in to see if there was anything to suggest he hadn't done it, not that he had. I was looking for any reasonable possibility that he might have been innocent. There was nothing. It was rock solid. I will grant that it was perhaps not in his character, but he was very high on an illicit substance. It tends to bring out the hidden aspects of one's character. Otherwise, I'm afraid it's just a brother's affection.”

“It's sad,” John said. “It's sad all around. For everyone. It's bloody pointless, all of it.”

“Yes,” Mycroft agreed. “And that's why Sherlock won't like it. Watch him, John.”

“Yeah, I know,” John said. “Danger night.”

Mycroft nodded. He looked about as tired as John felt.

“You know it's not your fault, right?” John said. “I mean, you couldn't have known. It's not a logical train of thought. No one could have predicted how Verringer would react.” He knew he was saying this to himself as much as to Mycroft. Hearing Verringer say he knew when to attack Sherlock from reading the blog was like getting punched in the stomach.

“He is my brother and it's my job to protect him,” Mycroft said. “And I failed. I appreciate your sentiments, but it is very much my fault.”

John noted that Verringer had said almost the exact same thing about his own brother. So maybe, whatever the world's opinion of Mycroft Holmes, he wasn't such an iceman after all.




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