Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mycroft, Molly (this chapter)
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: 4,070
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.
Previous chapters can be found here. The page will be updated as new chapters are posted.
John was called into work every day for the next few days, which he was happy about. He would visit Sherlock after his shift was done and then go home to have dinner with Mrs Hudson. It was a routine, and when things were up in the air like they were, a routine suited him fine.
Sherlock also started his physio and speech therapy, which meant by the time John arrived in the evening he was in a fairly foul mood. Sherlock hated doing things that he wasn't good at, and in this case, where progress was slow or even non-existent, he seemed to be determined to be as difficult as possible. He wasn't bad about the physio, John often found him dutifully working on his exercises when he arrived, but the speech therapy seemed to make him crazy.
“Like... child,” he complained to John, after the first session. “Stupid... games... like... er... nursery. Not... stupid.”
“I know Sherlock, but your brain isn't working with your mouth,” John said. “So you have to teach it how to do it again. It's going to be a lot of work and frankly, it's going to be rubbish to do. You just have to keep practising.”
“Bored,” Sherlock muttered, looking very much like a child for all his insistence. “Not... like it.”
John just smiled and let him complain, offering reassurance if he thought it would help. He didn't think it did and he didn't think Sherlock bought his optimism. Which was probably smart, because sometimes John didn't even buy his own optimism.
The nurses were clearly not enjoying Sherlock's mood swings, but John actually found them a bit comforting. This Sherlock—the one who complained and was bored and refused to do what he was told and caused trouble—that was the Sherlock that John was used to having around. To see Sherlock actually fighting back a little was good.
“Nurses... feed me,” he grumbled, pointing at his untouched food tray with disgust. “Always... make me... eat because... er... blood iron... wrong. You eat.”
“I'm not going to eat your food so the nurses don't bug you,” John said. “You need to eat a lot more than you have been. You need food to get better and yes, you're probably very anaemic. I don't know how you don't pass out when you put on your shoes. Eat your food. They'll put in a feeding tube. I'd put in a feeding tube, if I was your doctor. ”
Sherlock pouted. “I eat... you eat,” he bargained.
They eventually came to an agreement that John would eat the jelly, if Sherlock would eat the soup and roll. He did so like he was eating nails, but managed to get it down.
Another sign of normality was that Sherlock managed to steal his CT and MRI images from somewhere and demanded that John explain to him what they meant.
“You can barely walk, how did you—never mind,” John said, as Sherlock pulled the films from where he'd hidden them behind his pillow. John took them and stuck them up on the light box, a little curious himself to see the damage.
John had always wondered what the inside of Sherlock's head looked like. He'd expected maybe a system of clockwork gears or a computer motherboard. It just looked like every other brain, though. It was a bit disappointing.
“All right, well this is the film from when you were first brought in,” John said, pointing. “There's the haematoma. You can see where the white area is, that's the blood. It's pretty substantial.” Sherlock frowned at it. “And this is the one from after the burr hole. The haematoma is gone, but you can see some swelling in these areas. It's pretty close to Broca's area, which is probably why you have the dysphasia. This is the one from the day you woke up and this fourth one is from yesterday. The swelling is a bit better, but you still have some intracranial pressure.”
Sherlock glared at the area where the swelling was, as though he could will it away. “Bad?” he asked.
“Honestly?” John said. Sherlock nodded. “This is pretty mild compared to what I'm used to seeing. But it's not good. Neuro isn't really my area of expertise, I prefer thoracic, so I can't be as certain as I'd like. You have to be a bit barmy to do neuro. You'd be good at neuro.”
Sherlock nodded. “Yes,” he agreed. John grinned. “You... think... better me?”
“Prognosis is good, yeah,” John said. “But you have to cooperate.”
Sherlock sighed. “Bored,” he said.
“Do what you're supposed to and you can do things where you won't be bored,” John said.
Sherlock stuck out his tongue at him and John laughed. Sherlock glared at him for a few moments, then snorted and joined in.
Molly came to visit a couple of days after Lestrade. She appeared at the doorway of Sherlock's room and gave a timid knock, hugging her handbag to her chest
“Hi, Sherlock!” she said, cheerfully. “I thought I'd come to visit you. Erm, obviously, because I'm here. But, if it's not okay, I can go. I probably should have called first... but, I wanted to get you a present, like a Get Well present, but I couldn't think of anything you actually, erm, liked, so I brought you a card and also—also some autopsies? Well, not actual autopsies, because you can't drag corpses around and stuff. But files.” She took a breath. “Should I go?”
Sherlock looked slightly overwhelmed at this greeting and blinked at her a few times. “Au-au-tos-py?” he asked.
She nodded, her ponytail bouncing. “Yeah. I thought you were probably bored in here, so I brought some files that I thought you might find interesting. There was a bloke in with situs inversus incompletus. That was pretty neat. Well, not for him. Well, don't know if it bothered him. He didn't have any defects from it. He was shot.”
Sherlock's eyebrows raised with interest. “Come,” he said. Molly entered the room and John vacated the chair so she could sit in it, patiently reassuring her that he didn't mind.
Molly spilled the files all over the floor while trying to pull them out of her handbag. John helped her clean them up and gave them to Sherlock, who balanced them on his lap. “I'm glad you're all right,” she said, as he paged through them. He nodded, absently. “Oh, I got you a card, too.” She pulled a pink envelope out of her bag. Sherlock took it and put it on the rolling table, unopened. “See, you can see the levocardia, but the rest of the organs are transposed through sagittal plane. If you were available, I would have called you to observe, since it's sort of rare.”
Sherlock nodded again. “In-interesting,” he said. Molly beamed.
“I'm going to get a coffee,” John said, taking the opportunity while Sherlock was distracted. “Do you want something, Molly?”
“Oh, yes! Coffee would be great,” she said. She fumbled in her handbag for her purse. “I think I have some money...”
“I'll cover it,” John said.
“Are you sure?” Molly said.
“I can afford it,” John assured her. “What do you take?”
“Milk and two sugars, please,” she said. “Decaf, if they have it.”
John didn't think he wanted to see what Molly would be like on caffeine.
He headed down to the café on the ground floor. It was a very nice little place and he'd spent quite a lot of time there in the first few days, when Sherlock was still unconscious and John didn't want to leave the hospital for fear of something happening while he was gone. The girl working the cash recognized him.
“How's... Sherlock, is it? How's he doing?” she asked, as she worked on his order.
“Much better, thank you,” John said, surprised she remembered.
She smiled. “I'm glad to hear it. I think it's sweet that you're here all the time. I wish my boyfriend cared that much about me.”
John groaned inwardly. “He's not...” he began, but didn't have the energy. “Milk, two sugars. Thanks.”
He took the coffees back upstairs, but stopped at the door to Sherlock's room and backed out again. Molly was leaning in, looking very earnest as she spoke and Sherlock seemed to be paying attention. John felt like he was intruding on something. He waited outside, trying not to listen in. A few phrases still came his way, as Molly's voice rose and fell. 'Not want to worry him...', 'if you need to talk...' and 'you can have me...'. John didn't know what it meant.
He went in after Molly's whispers died away. Sherlock was staring at her, looking bewildered and she was blushing. Which was pretty much their standard MO, John thought.
“Thanks!” Molly said, when John handed her the coffee.
Sherlock went back to looking at the autopsy reports. Molly and John chatted about their respective workdays, with Sherlock sighing every once in a while to indicate that he was bored by the conversation.
“I better get going,” Molly said, when she was done her coffee. “Toby will be wanting his supper. I'm going to have to take those back, Sherlock. Sorry.”
Sherlock let her take the reports, with a bit of a pout. He pointed to one. “Tell...tell...” he looked to John and made the gesture of being in handcuffs.
“Lestrade,” John supplied.
“Lester,” Sherlock tried. “Tell Lester... nanny. Nanny... kills. Look... er... socks, no... shoes. Shoes.”
Molly's eyes widened. “Oh. Okay. Erm, I'll write that down. That's important.” She borrowed Sherlock's pen and wrote it on her hand. “Nanny. Shoes. Okay, got it.” She put her handbag over her shoulder after dropping the reports back into it. “I hope you feel better, Sherlock. I'm glad you're okay.”
Sherlock nodded. She smiled at John and turned to go.
“Mo-lly?” Sherlock said. She turned back. He seemed to be struggling with what he wanted to say. He wrote it down. “T'ank you. Thanks.”
John felt his mouth drop open and he closed it again with a snap. She flushed happily and beamed. “You're welcome, Sherlock,” she said.
“What was that about?” John asked, after she left.
“What?” Sherlock asked. He leaned back on his pillows, making a waving gesture as though dismissing a servant. “Go 'way.”
John didn't argue. He knew when Sherlock had had enough company. He smiled as he left. Sherlock may have lost a lot of his words, but at least he'd learned some new ones.
“Oh, you're here,” the nurse greeted John, when he arrived at the hospital a couple of days later. The tone of her voice indicated that what she really meant was 'thank God you're here'.
“What did he do?” he asked.
“Oh, he's just having a bad day,” the nurse said. “He's in a mood. He usually perks up after you've been here, or calms down, depending.”
John was surprised by that. It wasn't something he had taken note of, but he often suspected Sherlock put on a bit of show of being all right for him. “What happened?” he said.
“Well, it got off to a bad start,” the nurse explained. “We had a new patient in with echolalia and there was a problem with her room, so she was out in the hallway for a while, quite early in the morning. He hasn't been sleeping well and he was finally resting when she arrived and she disturbed him. She's been settled in now, but Mr Holmes was rather annoyed by her. Then I gather physio didn't go very well today. You know, sometimes you just have off days.” John nodded. He remembered that from his own physio sessions. Some days you just couldn't get the hang of it. “And then after that, when he was still upset, the hospital chaplain came in. He goes around and sees new patients, just friendly little visits. But, well–”
“It's Sherlock,” John said, understanding.
“Well, I don't know about that,” she said, politely. “But I suggested that perhaps Mr Holmes wasn't in the best mood and... well, that sort of ended in tears.”
“Literally?” John asked. She nodded. “Who was crying?”
“The chaplain,” the nurse said. “He made the chaplain cry.”
“He can hardly even speak!” John said.
She shrugged. “So, after that, he wouldn't eat lunch and got a bit stroppy about that with me and now he's just... well, he seems a bit down.”
John thanked her for the warning and headed into Sherlock's room. He was curled up on his side, knees to his chest and turned away from the door. John recognized it as his sulking pose. He walked around to see if Sherlock was awake and found him staring out the window.
“Hello,” John said, testing the waters. Sherlock didn't answer. “In that sort of mood, are we?” No answer. It was always best to ignore Sherlock when he was like this. Just like a child; it was attention seeking-behaviour, and it couldn't be rewarded. John picked up a newspaper from the rolling table and sat down in the armchair with it. “If you feel like acting like a grown-up, let me know.”
He read the newspaper. Sherlock didn't move or speak. He could do this for days, John knew, and he'd made up his mind that if Sherlock hadn't said anything by the time he was done with the paper, he would just go home.
Of course—of course—Mycroft decided to pay a visit in the midst of this. It had been nearly two weeks since Sherlock's assault and Mycroft hadn't set foot in the hospital since it happened, but of course he had to choose the worst possible time to finally come and visit. At least it got Sherlock upright.
“No, no,” Sherlock said, sitting up and pointing violently at the door Mycroft had just entered through. “Go.”
“Yes, it's nice to see you too, Sherlock,” Mycroft said, with a smirk. “How are you?”
“Fine,” Sherlock said. “Go... now, Myco.”
Mycroft's face softened for a brief moment, so fast that John wasn't even sure he hadn't imagined it. “You used to call me that when you were little,” he said.
This was apparently the wrong thing to say, as Sherlock flushed red. He grabbed for the pen and wrote on his paper. “Myco... Myco,” he tried again, getting redder with each failure. He pointed at the door again. “Go. Come to... gloat. Don't... want.”
“I did not come to gloat,” Mycroft said. “I was concerned about you.”
Sherlock snorted. “Concerned?... No,” he said, his words even more halted than usual. “Wait... long... long... if... concern.... Come... come to...er...er... laugh.”
“Sherlock, I would never do that,” Mycroft said, firmly. He looked insulted at the suggestion. “I would never come to laugh. Not when you're—I wouldn't do that.”
Sherlock turned his face away and glared at the wall. Mycroft gave John an entreating look, but John wasn't particularly inclined to help him out. He'd been keeping Mycroft updated about Sherlock, but his lack of obvious concern had been a bone of contention between them.
“Mummy is on one of her treks to the far ends of the Earth,” Mycroft said, with a sigh. “I don't think she has mobile service where she is. I've left a message at her hotel, but she hasn't responded yet. That was several days ago.”
Sherlock looked back now. “No,” he said. “Not... tell. Not... rowy. Fine. Fine.”
“If it were one of your normal shenanigans, I would agree with glossing over it,” Mycroft said. “But she needs to know what happened, Sherlock. This is a long-term scenario. You aren't going to be well for some time. She'd want to know.”
“Fine,” Sherlock insisted. He made an angry gesture. “Always... tell. Always... always... mouse.”
Mycroft looked confused. “Mouse?” he said. “I don't know what you mean.”
John knew Sherlock meant 'rat', but he hesitated before stepping in and by that time Sherlock was already yelling.
“Mouse! You always.... tell,” he said. His face was bright red now, furious and maybe embarrassed. John wasn't even aware Sherlock could show that depth of emotion. “Always... tell... because me... bad and you... good. Make... look... look... er... er... er... best you.”
“That is childish and untrue,” Mycroft snapped. “Besides, there would no need for me to tell her anything if you didn't keep getting yourself into these situations.”
“Mycroft—” John warned.
“Sit-sit—...” Sherlock stumbled. He shook his head and moved on. “Because do things! Not... sit... sit... like you. Sit... and... watch... eat and-and-and fat. You... back... always... always... er... strings.” He made a gesture like moving a marionette around. “Always... not... danger.”
“Sherlock—” John tried, now.
“Yes, and I remain safe while you cause everyone grief,” Mycroft said.
Sherlock was starting to turn purple and John had had enough. “I think you should go,” he said. Mycroft opened his mouth. “Now, Mycroft. This isn't good for him.”
Mycroft nodded. John got up and escorted him from the room. “Goodbye, Sherlock,” Mycroft said, before he left. “I do hope you feel better.”
“Fine!” Sherlock hissed.
Mycroft smiled, a bit sadly. “I know.”
John saw him out to the lifts, giving the nurse a reassuring nod that everything was fine. She had her hand hovering over the phone and he wouldn't be surprised if she were about to page security.
“What the hell was that?” he demanded. “You were in there less than five minutes! D'ju come just to rile him up?”
“Of course not,” Mycroft said. “I came under the delusion I might visit him like a normal family member, but apparently we're incapable of that.” He shook his head. “I knew what to expect, but... his speech... I thought if I gave him time to recover, it might be better.”
“Easier, you mean,” John said. “For you.”
“I know you think I've been neglectful,” Mycroft said. “But after what just happened, do you think I would have been any help coming sooner?”
John sighed. “No,” he admitted. “I suppose not. It's been a bad day for him. Bad timing on your part. Maybe in a little while, when he's had more therapy and he can speak more fluently.”
“Perhaps,” Mycroft said, but didn't seem too hopeful about it. “Please keep me updated. I do have an interest in his welfare, whatever my appearance. And I'll cover whatever he needs in terms of therapy or procedures. But for God's sake, don't tell him that!”
“No, God no,” John said, and they both laughed.
“Is there anything I could have sent for him?” Mycroft asked. “Does he need or want anything?”
John thought. “If you could find a way for him to wash his hair without getting it wet, he'd be thrilled,” he said. “And, I dunno, does he—have you ever seen him eat anything voluntarily? Did he have something he liked as a kid? He really needs to eat and it's like pulling teeth.”
“I'll think on it and get back to you,” Mycroft said. “Perhaps I could have something sent in for him.”
“Thanks, that might help.”
The lift arrived and Mycroft departed. John returned to Sherlock's room. His face was back to its normal colour, but his fingers were tapping in agitation on the rolling table and he was breathing fast.
“You okay?” John asked.
“Fine,” Sherlock replied. John was getting very sick of that word. He gave John an appraising look. “Anger... why?”
“He was upsetting you,” John said. “You have a hole in your head. Raising your blood pressure isn't good for you.”
“No, before... anger... before,” Sherlock pressed. “When... arrive anger.”
John hesitated. Sherlock just stared at him, inquisitively. “When you were first injured, he called me,” John began. “They called him, because he's your emergency contact, and he called me. I thought I'd meet him here, when I came from the airport. He couldn't be arsed to leave the meeting he was in. He hasn't come once to see you until now. I've had to update him by phone and even when... there was a time when we had to consider what to do if you didn't wake up or if you woke up and you weren't...” John made a vague gesture. “You. He wouldn't even talk about it. He wouldn't even give me five minutes. Just said that he'd trust my decision.”
“You doctor,” Sherlock said. “Better... er... logic... know more...”
John rolled his eyes. “That's what he said. That's not the point. The point is... I don't get along with Harry, but if she was as badly off as you were, I'd be there in a heartbeat. He was acting like a prat and it pissed me off.”
Sherlock nodded an acceptance of this. “If... bad...” he said, thoughtfully. “If... er... sleep... always. I not want... want... alive.”
“I know, Sherlock, you've told me,” John said. Sherlock looked confused. “You don't remember? We worked that assault case last year. The victim was brain-dead and the family wouldn't take him off life support. You told them they were idiots and made me promise that if that ever happened to you, to make damn sure I didn't let you carry on like that. And to donate your brain to science.”
Sherlock grinned at this. John shook his head and smiled back.
“Did you really make the hospital chaplain cry today?” John asked.
Sherlock laughed. “Yes,” he admitted.
“Sherlock, that's not funny,” John said, but laughed himself. “What the hell did you say?”
“Nothing,” Sherlock said. “Only... look. He talk. I... shush. And...” he made an unwelcoming face, demonstrating how he'd looked during the incident. “He come from...” he frowned here, searching for the word. He made a prayer gesture. “Comfort... she... dying. He very... sentiment. Not my fault.”
“Only you could make someone cry by saying nothing,” John said.
Sherlock sobered up again. “Bad day...” he said, quietly. John nodded, he hoped in an encouraging way. “Emotions... lots. No... no... control.”
“That's normal after a head injury,” John assured him. “It goes along with—”
He stopped himself before he finished the thought.
“What?” Sherlock prompted.
“Brain damage,” John said. He went on quickly at the look on Sherlock's face. “I know you think of brain damage as being unable to feed yourself or gorked or whatever, but you have to realize that any scenario where you've had severe trauma to your head causes brain damage. Yours isn't that bad, but the hemiparesis and the dysphasia—that's brain damage. It's not going to be easy to heal, Sherlock. You have to be patient.”
Sherlock nodded and for a moment, just one moment, it looked like he might cry. He blinked hard and it was gone, but that moment of vulnerability was awful for John to watch. The fact that Sherlock was telling him about how he felt made him feel a bit sick. It was a good thing—Sherlock needed to get it out. Even him losing his temper with Mycroft was probably for the best, to release some of the anger and frustration. Still, it was hard to see someone who always had complete and easy mastery of their emotions fighting to keep control. It was like Baskerville all over again, but worse because there was no drug to blame it on. It was just Sherlock.
“D'you want to get out of here for a bit?” John asked.
Sherlock looked hopeful. “Where?”
“We could go down to the café,” John suggested. “You can watch people and tell me who's having an affair with who.”
“Push? Chair?” Sherlock asked.
“Yeah, you'd have to go in a wheelchair,” John said.
Sherlock made a face. “Okay,” he said, reluctantly. “Coffee?”
“We'll see,” John said.
“Means... no,” Sherlock grumbled. John smiled. “Okay.”
“And you're not allowed to make anyone else cry,” John added.
“Not... fault!” Sherlock objected.
John laughed and went in search of a wheelchair.