Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Lestrade (this chapter)
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, blood, injuries, trauma, discussion of DNRs and of 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: 3,825
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: None.
Mrs Hudson returned to her knitting once they were home, but she seemed to have stopped baking. John took that as a sign she was feeling better about Sherlock. He was able to eat his (small) dinner quietly and take a few minutes to update his blog and respond to comments. He'd kept the entry about Sherlock's injury very vague, simply saying that he'd been hurt and was unable to take on cases at the moment. There had been a flood of good wishes on the blog in response to the entry, but he hadn't had time to thank anyone for them. He made a new entry now, to thank everyone all together, and then went through to respond to some of the ones from people he knew personally.
It was odd to be the in the flat without Sherlock. He didn't often go out, really only for cases, and John was usually with him when that happened. John wasn't used to being on his own any more. He was used to clinking beakers and violin playing at all hours and weird smells coming from the kitchen or derogatory comments as he watched telly. With Mrs Hudson's cleaning spree, the flat seemed unlived in and eerie, like Sherlock had never been there. There was even room to eat at the kitchen table, though he didn't because it didn't feel right.
Lestrade called to check on how Sherlock was doing. John updated him and told him that Sherlock was ready to talk to him. They agreed to do it during visiting hours the next day. John went to bed early, feeling a bit lost, like he had all week. Without cases or Sherlock's mad hobbies, there was very little to do on his own, and the moment he didn't have anything to distract himself with, all the worry came rushing in. He didn't know what to do with himself.
He had a restless night's sleep, unable to settle his mind and then having nightmares when he finally nodded off. Since Sherlock's injury, John had been having more nightmares than usual. In general, they'd eased a little over his time at Baker Street, but had never gone away completely. Usually he could pinpoint the trigger—a body lying a certain way at a crime scene or footage of soldiers on the news, or old black and white war films on telly. He supposed in this scenario, when of his 'comrades' was hurt, it wasn't surprising that he was having nightmares of endless wards of patients that he could neither get to nor help in time. All his guilt and his feelings of helplessness that he was trying to ignore crept in at night and invaded his dreams. He woke up feeling like he hadn't slept at all.
Sarah called in the morning, asking him if he could cover for a doctor who had a family emergency. He accepted readily, happy to get out of the flat for a while and have something to distract himself with. The other doctors were chatty and cheerful, and John had lunch with them and Sarah. Though they all politely inquired about Sherlock, the conversation didn't revolve around him. John felt like it was all he'd been talking about with everyone lately, and it was nice to have a change of topic.
Lestrade met him outside the hospital after work. He looked strained and worried. John knew he was working hard on the case. Sherlock, as much as everyone disliked it, was part of the team and when one of their own was attacked, it was a challenge that needed to be answered.
“Christ, this place is like a hotel,” Lestrade muttered, when they entered the lobby.
“Private healthcare,” John said, with a shrug. “Mycroft pulled out all the stops. Probably for the best. You know how Sherlock gets in hospital. They have more patience for him here.”
“Probably used to rich twats,” Lestrade said. “How's he doing?”
“I haven't seen him yet today, but I talked to him on the phone this morning to let him know you were coming,” John replied. “He's harder to understand on the phone, when I can't see what gestures he's making, but sounded about the same, maybe a little better. ”
“My mum had a stroke a few years ago,” Lestrade said. “Sort of a similar thing, isn't it? She's still a bit dotty, but she's a lot better than she was, with the physio and stuff. She had the speech thing too. It had a name...a-something dysphasia...”
“Anomial?” John suggested.
“That's it,” Lestrade agreed. “She couldn't do names. She could tell you all about it, what it did or what you used it for or what it looked like, but she couldn't tell you the name. She had to talk her way around everything. Couldn't do our names either, me and my sisters' and their kids'. She called me 'lad' all the time. She's better now. She calls me by my dad's name a lot, but I think that's the confusion thing, more than the speech thing.”
John nodded. “Sorry,” he offered.
“Not your fault,” Lestrade said, with a shrug. “I just meant, I know what it's like. So... it gets better.”
“Thanks,” John said.
“And how are you doing?” Lestrade asked, eyeing him critically.
“I'm okay,” John said, not sounding particularly reassuring even to his own ears. He felt like crap. “Just a bit tired.” He didn't think Lestrade believed him. “I'm fine.”
“Let me know if there's anything I can do to help,” Lestrade said.
“I will,” John said.
They walked the rest of the way in silence. Sherlock was up in one of the armchairs today. He was dressed in the pyjamas and dressing gown John had brought in for him a few days earlier, finally out of the patient gown he'd been in since he'd been in hospital. He was looking out the window, lost in thought. It was such a normal pose for him, that John felt a bit relieved. A step toward normality. He looked over to John and Lestrade when they arrived, nodding a hello.
“You look better,” John said.
“Rain,” Sherlock explained. He made a gesture above his head like water falling on it . John thought he probably meant shower. “Wash... and also... also... er... razor. Rain... s-solo, but... razor... help.” He wrinkled his nose, clearly not pleased about the help. “No... shampoo yet... because... er... er... blood.” He pointed at his head.
Sherlock had been refusing to let anyone bathe him since he'd woken up. He wasn't going to do it until he was allowed to do it by himself. John wasn't sure if it was just a control issue, or if he didn't like the idea of a nurse seeing him naked. He expected it was the former, as Sherlock didn't seem to have any qualms about walking around in public in a bedsheet.
“Yeah, you have to wait to wash your hair until your wound heals up a bit more,” John said. “Probably not too long, though.”
Sherlock nodded. “Hair...” he couldn't seem to find the word for it, so just made a disgusted face. Despite all his idiosyncrasies, Sherlock was meticulous about his grooming. John imagined he probably felt pretty grimy not being able to wash his hair. He squinted at John now. “Doctor... er... today?”
“Yeah, I was called in,” John said. “How did you know?”
“Clothes,” Sherlock said. He touched his shoulder. “Wrinkle... because... because... grey... no... white... white... lab.”
John smiled, happy to hear some deductions again. “Good eye,” he said.
Sherlock nodded. He looked to Lestrade. “Quiet you,” he said. “Er... er... nervous?”
“Nope, just waiting for my turn,” Lestrade said. His smile seemed a little forced. Seeing Sherlock's state for the first time was jarring, John knew. “I was hoping to talk to you about what happened, if you're up to it. I know you don't remember much, but anything might help.”
“Fine,” Sherlock said. It was his favourite word—the one that came the most easily to him. Well, 'fine' and 'bored'. And 'no'. “Er... shh... er... progress?”
“Right,” Lestrade said. “Well, it's a bit thin at the moment. The tech folks have managed to track your journey on CCTV from when you left Baker Street to where the assault happened, but there aren't any cameras on the scene itself, so we go blind right at the important part. We know you were there about an hour before the homeless guy found you, but we don't know when precisely the assault took place. It looks like that's where your destination was, you didn't end up there by accident. It doesn't look like anyone was following you, but without knowing why you were going there it's hard to look for suspicious people around the area. We have no physical evidence, and the only thing forensics can tell me is that you were hit with something metal. I don't even know what weapon was used.”
Sherlock made a superior face. “My... case... er... solve... case... me,” he complained.
“There wouldn't have been a case if you hadn't buggered off on your own without telling anyone what you were up to,” Lestrade told him.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Don't... memory,” he said. “Can't... scold... don't... memory.”
“I can and I will,” Lestrade replied. “You may be a genius, but you're a bloody idiot.”
Sherlock scowled. “Questions,” he ordered. He looked down at his hands for a moment. “Words... broken, so ask... ask...” he growled and pointed at John. Sherlock still couldn't get John's name out. “Doctor. Ask doctor for... er... sense.”
“I've understood you pretty well so far,” Lestrade said. “Just take as much time as you need, I'm in no hurry. We'll go slow and give you time to think, okay? If I need to you repeat anything, I'll ask, and if you still have trouble, maybe you could write it for me.”
Sherlock nodded. John brought over the rolling table with the paper on it for him, then took a seat on the hospital bed, for lack of a better spot. Lestrade took out his notebook and made a few notes before he said anything.
“So, do you remember anything about the assault?” Lestrade said. “Do you know why you left your flat or who you were going to meet?”
Sherlock was silent as he thought for a bit. “No,” he said. “Er... black.”
“What about before the assault? Were you working on a case?” Lestrade asked.
“No case,” Sherlock said. He pointed to John. “Aeroplane... for doctor... er... er... meeting, so... so... solo. Ss... er... science.”
“John was doing science or you were?” Lestrade asked.
Sherlock pointed to himself. “Solo and... science,” he said. He wrote on his paper. “Ess-perment.”
“Oh, okay, yeah,” Lestrade said, with a nod. “Sorry. You were doing one of your weird experiments things. All right. When was this?”
“Always,” Sherlock said. “Morning... and... and... later... er... same. Always. Long ess-perment.”
Lestrade wrote some more. “You were working on your experiment all day,” he translated. “We're trying to get your mobile records, but your phone was pretty smashed. The techies are trying to pull information from the SIM card. Do you remember anyone calling you or you calling anyone?”
“Maybe call, but... er... working,” Sherlock explained. “Not... not... ears... because working. Wrote... call...” he wrote again and opened and closed his mouth, then shook his head. He moved his thumbs in the air, the right one jerking out of synch with the other, not as smooth a movement.
“Text,” John supplied.
“Test,” Sherlock agreed. “Test...” He wrote on the paper again. “Mo-lly. For cases. But... no. So... more... ess-perment.”
“And no one e-mailed you? You didn't get a letter? No one came to visit?” Lestrade asked.
Sherlock shook his head, thoughtfully. “Door... maybe... but not... not... answer,” he said. “Because—”
“Experiment,” Lestrade said, with a smirk. “Right. I see the pattern here. We pulled the cab number off the video and found the cabbie using it. He doesn't remember you saying anything about what you were doing. Apparently you told him to leave his wife because she was cheating on him. He wasn't very inclined to be helpful. My impression is that's because you were right.” Sherlock grinned, proudly. “Do you have any idea why you would have gone to that area of the city? We couldn't think of anything that might interest you there. Except... er... well, a lot of drug deals go down there.”
“No,” Sherlock said, firmly. He looked to John and repeated, “no. Clean... not... dr-drugs.”
Lestrade didn't look entirely convinced and John didn't like the little tinge of doubt in the back of his own mind. “The thing is, we can't rule it out because you can't remember why you went,” Lestrade said. “So... it's a valid line of inquiry.”
Sherlock was scribbling violently. “Donovan,” he said, spitting out the word with venom. “Donovan... idea.” The look on Lestrade's face made it clear that Sherlock was right. “She... stupid. So... er... er... never... ears... no... no... drugs. Other... er... reason maybe... sometimes... sometimes...” He was scribbling again, but the word didn't seem to come to him. He slammed his hand down on the table in frustration.
“Do you want a break, Sherlock?” Lestrade asked. “We can give you a bit of a rest.”
“Fine,” Sherlock snapped. He glared at the paper.
John leaned forward to see if he could help him out, raising an eyebrow to ask if it was okay if he stepped in. He never knew if it was helpful or insulting, and he could only imagine how frustrated he would be if someone kept trying to finish his sentences or pretend to know what he was trying to say. Sherlock nodded to give his permission.
“In... information?” John read, trying to sound out the letters Sherlock had written down. 'In famation'
“Again,” Sherlock ordered.
“Information,” John pronounced, clearly.
“In-fo-ma-tion,” Sherlock repeated. He nodded. “Yes. Man... in-fo-ma-tion.”
“So you go there to get information from someone,” John said.
“But you weren't working on anything, so why would you need information?” Lestrade asked.
“Not... know!” Sherlock said, his voice raising. “Don't... don't... memory!”
“Okay, Sherlock, okay,” Lestrade said, soothing. “Can you tell me this man's name?”
Sherlock shrugged. “No... no... name,” he said. “Not... imp—imp...” his fists clenched and unclenched and then he just shook his head, giving up.
“Where do you usually meet him?” Lestrade asked.
“Need... ink,” Sherlock said. He wrote out the address for Lestrade and handed the paper to him.
“I'll see if we can track him down,” Lestrade said, squinting down at the writing.
He shot a confused look to John, who made a surreptitious gesture to the door, implying he'd figure it out once they were outside. He didn't think Sherlock would appreciate John correcting his writing. Lestrade nodded back. Sherlock scowled at them both, clearly very aware of what they were doing.
“Er, he might be able to give us some information,” Lestrade said, quickly.“Thanks, Sherlock.” He smiled and closed his notebook. “I think that's good for now. If you think of anything else, let me know, all right? And I'll keep you updated as best I can.”
Sherlock turned his face away, looking frustrated and tired. “Fine,” he said.
Lestrade nodded, standing awkwardly in silence for a few moments. “All right then,” he said, finally.
Sherlock suddenly sat up in his chair. “Test,” he said. “I think... test.”
“Sorry?” Lestrade said.
“Before... leave... maybe... maybe... memory test,” Sherlock said.
“A test—er text from who?” Lestrade asked.
“Maybe...” Sherlock pointed at John. “You?”
“No, I didn't text you,” John said. “I never try to contact you when I'm away because you don't answer the phone.”
“No, you,” Sherlock insisted. He furrowed his brow, thinking. “You.”
“I don't think so, Sherlock,” John said, gently.
Sherlock frowned and shook his head. “Test,” he said, more to himself. He looked to Lestrade. “You see... phone... see.”
Lestrade nodded. “All right. Thanks. I hope you feel better soon.”
Sherlock shrugged and turned his face away again. John followed Lestrade out of the room. They paused by the lifts, while Lestrade retrieved his notebook again and wrote a few more bullet points in it and John figured out the address Sherlock had written down. Somewhere in the Strand area, not far from where Sherlock had been assaulted.
“You don't really think he was after drugs, do you?” John asked, after Lestrade had added the address to his notes.
Lestrade rubbed his face. “No,” he said. “But I'm the only one. Everyone else on the case has it pretty much closed as a drug deal gone wrong. Every damn officer that Sherlock has ever insulted or antagonized or made to feel like an idiot is more than happy to label him a drug addict and say it's his own fault.” He sighed. “I know what Sherlock is like when he's using. He was clean when I met him, but I don't think for long, and I made it very clear he can't work with us if he ever goes back to it. And I think it gave his mind something to do—a better high. That's why he works with us. But he's had a few setbacks and I know what they look like. He's not in that place right now, or he wasn't. Whatever he was doing there, it wasn't to buy drugs. It might have something to do with it, some case or something, but he wasn't there for himself.”
John nodded. “I wish I hadn't gone to that conference,” he said. “I keep thinking if I'd been here, he wouldn't have been hurt.”
“You couldn't have known,” Lestrade said. “And you might have just been in here with him. You've been good for him. It's good that he has you around. He'll get himself together. Sherlock's the most stubborn, determined person I've ever met. His brain will figure it all out. He'll probably solve his own damn assault from his hospital bed. Listen, is there anyone you can think of who had a grudge against him or might want to hurt him?” John just raised his eyebrows at him. “Yeah, I know it's a stupid question, but has there been anything in particular lately. Any threats, any disgruntled clients, anyone he got in the way of?”
John thought back. “We get threats all the time,” he said. “Nothing's ever come of it. We mostly ignore them. There was a father who was a bit miffed Sherlock wouldn't take on a case to help his son. That... Verringer thing.”
“That kid in Thailand?” Lestrade asked. “I didn't know you were involved in that.”
“We weren't. Sherlock wouldn't help. He said it was obvious the boy was guilty,” John explained. “And there was a husband a little while back who threatened to sue on some grounds, I can't remember what. He hired Sherlock to find his wife and Sherlock did—with another man. He was a solicitor. I think he was just blowing off steam. And there was another person who claimed Sherlock ruined their business by getting one of their employees arrested, but, I mean, the employee was guilty, so there's not much he could do about that. And—”
“Okay,” Lestrade held up his hand. “Yeah, I can see this might not be the best angle to came at it from. You don't have a list of who doesn't want him dead, do you?”
John laughed. “You, me, Mrs Hudson,” he said. “And Molly. And some days... I don't know if you and I count.”
“Yeah,” Lestrade agreed. “All right. Well, I guess I'll get back to work. I was sort of hoping to have more to go on, but I guess I'll have to make do. Hopefully some of the test results will come back soon.”
John smiled in sympathy. “Let me know if you find anything,” he said.
They said goodbye and John returned to Sherlock's room, taking a seat on the bed again. Sherlock looked exhausted. He gave John a weary sort of look. John thought he looked as weary as John felt.
“You... think... think... drugs,” Sherlock said.
“No, I believe you,” John assured him.
“You think... you... gone... so... er... er... cheat,” Sherlock pressed.
John hated when Sherlock plucked thoughts of his head like that. It was exactly what he had thought, for the briefest moment in the back of his mind. One of the wriggling, nagging thoughts that he wasn't even aware he had until someone spoke it out loud.
“Look,” Sherlock said, pushing up his sleeves. He had trouble with the left arm, since his right wasn't cooperating. “Old... er... er... needle... not... new.”
“I don't need you see your arms, Sherlock,” John said, keeping his gaze purposefully away from the old scars. “I believe you.”
“Sure?” Sherlock pressed, studying John carefully.
“Yep,” John said.
Sherlock tilted his head to one side, contemplating. “Why?” he asked, after a moment. “Just... me... no... no... proof... for... truth.”
“Because friends trust each other,” John said.
Sherlock wrinkled his nose. “Sen-sentiment,” he complained.
“Besides, if you were using, I think I'd notice a personality change,” John said. “And you're the same annoying dick as you've always been.”
Sherlock lips twitched a bit. He pointed to the bed. “Move,” he said.
John got up and tried to hover without hovering as Sherlock slowly got to his feet. He had a cane, but waved it away when John offered it to him. He sort of lurched, balanced himself on the nearest object and dragged his foot along. John kept a steadying hand on his shoulder, undeterred by Sherlock's glare. It took a few minutes, but he managed to get to the bed and into it without incident. He looked pale and drawn.
“Go 'way,” he told John.
John chuckled. “Okay, Sherlock. Try to rest.” Sherlock nodded and John thought he might actually comply with the order.
“To-tomorrow,” Sherlock said, making it halfway between a statement and a question.
“Yeah, I'll be here,” John promised.
Sherlock nodded and rested back on his pillow. “Pred-pred-... obvious, you,” he said. “Boring.”
John smirked, knowing he was just blustering. “I don't have to come,” he said.
“Fine,” Sherlock said. “You... fine. Come. Fine. But... now, go 'way.”
John left, thinking that, in his own passive-agressive way, Sherlock Holmes might have just admitted he liked having him around.