Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mrs ('Mummy') Holmes (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: 3, 058
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 went home, updated Mrs Hudson, ate dinner and went to bed. He slept for nearly twelve hours and woke up with a much better outlook on life, though he still felt anxious and unsure of what to do with himself. He spent the day catching up on things he'd been ignoring, including buying groceries and sorting through the mail. They were simple things, but they were things to do that helped give a sense of normality and he felt better for getting them accomplished.
He headed out to the hospital at the usual time, with a book that Sherlock had requested. He arrived to find a woman in Sherlock's room. His first, immediate thought was 'oh, Sherlock's mother is here', which was odd because he'd never met her before or seen a picture or spoken to her. In fact, he'd sort of written her off as a mythical being created by Mycroft and Sherlock to hide the fact that they had actually been grown in labs. It seemed impossible that there was a woman out there who had somehow manage to produce two such insane, unique people. They seemed like they should have popped into existence fully formed.
Yet here she was, and John knew her right away. Not just because of the family resemblance, but because she was holding Sherlock's hand and he was letting her. John couldn't think of anyone else in the world he'd let do that—at least not with the apparent ease that he had.
They both turned to look at him when he came in, which meant John now had two pairs of identical sharp grey eyes appraising him. It felt like those dreams when you walked into lecture halls naked and knew everyone was looking at you.
“You must be John!” she said, in crisp, RP tones. She smiled at him and it was unnerving, because it was Sherlock's smile, but warm. “I'm Metrodora, Sherlock's mother.”
She held out her hand and John crossed the room to take it. “John Watson,” he said.
Up close, he could see the resemblance even more strongly. She had the same aristocratic bone structure, or, John supposed, Sherlock had the same as hers. Her eyes moved in the same quick way as Sherlock's and her frame was long and lean like his. John couldn't see much of a resemblance to Mycroft, but then Sherlock and Mycroft didn't look very much alike at all.
He did notice she had the same ease as Mycroft, the feeling that she was exactly where she was supposed to be at any one time. Sherlock had a restless energy that made him seem like he was constantly moving. Even when he was sitting still as a statue, it was obvious his brain was racing. She was a steadier, calmer presence.
“I've heard nothing but good things about you from my boys,” she said, giving his hand a firm shake. “It's so nice to finally meet you, though I wish it were under better circumstances.”
He shot Sherlock a 'you could have warned me' look and Sherlock gave a careless shrug in reply. He didn't seem particularly affected one way or the other to have her there. He didn't look pleased or displeased. He just looked like he always did—superior and vaguely bored.
“I'm very sorry I've been absent,” she went on. “I was out of mobile range, and the island I was on was quite remote. I had to wait several days for a plane to arrive after I received the message from Mycroft. Thank you very much for seeing to Sherlock's well-being.”
“It's no trouble,” John said.
“I very much doubt that, but thank you,” she said. She gave him a bit of an amused smile. “At your ease, Captain. Please, sit down.”
John realized he was standing at strict attention, as though he were on parade in front of the Queen. He tried to relax his posture a bit and ended up in the 'easy' state of alert, which only made her smile more. He cast about for a place to sit. She was in the only chair. He finally perched himself uncomfortably at the end of Sherlock's bed, near his feet. He had absolutely no idea what to say to her. He didn't know anything about her—what, if anything, she did for a living or where she lived or if she and Sherlock got on well with each other. It was fine, though, because she seemed perfectly happy to do the talking for him.
“Mycroft's message sounded very dire. I expected far worse. I understand there's been quite an improvement from the initial injuries, though,” she said.
“Fine,” Sherlock told her. “Fine. Not... fuss. Fine.”
“I know, dear,” Mrs Holmes said, in an absent, dismissive fashion. “I hope Sherlock hasn't been too much of a bother. He's never been a good patient.”
John laughed. “He's behaved himself pretty well,” he said. “Except for the escape attempts.”
“Very good,” Sherlock said, in an insulted tone. “Very good... spite... bored.” He nodded toward John. “Paper.”
John had completely forgotten the book he was carrying in the shock of seeing Mrs Holmes there. He handed it up to Sherlock. “Yeah, sorry. That's the one you wanted, right? Poe? In French?”
Sherlock nodded. “French... read better,” he explained. “English words... more... more... thoughts need.”
“Usually it's the other way around,” John said. “The second language tends to be more affected than the primary one.”
“Words order... er... er... proper... French,” Sherlock said.
“I've noticed you're using something closer to French syntax sometimes,” Mrs Holmes said. “Though, English is such a cobbled together language, perhaps the French grammar is easier to puzzle out. You learned both languages simultaneously but I suppose you do use English far more often. Est-ce que c'est plus facile pour toi de parler le français?”
“Non,” Sherlock replied. “L'anglais... plus...” he searched for a word here, then shrugged. “Simple.”
“Interesting,” Mrs Holmes said.
Sherlock nodded an agreement. John suddenly felt like he was the weird one in the room for not caring much how Sherlock's brain worked, only that it did. Maybe it was a genetic thing.
“I don't want to tire you out Sherlock, so I'm going to go now,” Mrs Holmes said, clapping her hands together in a gesture he'd seen Sherlock make when he was about to embark on something. “I will come back and visit soon, though. Tiens-toi bien..”
“Oui,” Sherlock mumbled, like a child. John rather enjoyed seeing him put in his place so easily. Apparently even sociopathic geniuses had to listen to their mothers.
“Will you show me out, John?” she asked.
“Oh, er, yeah,” John agreed.
“Going... talk... about me,” Sherlock said. “Er... er... calumny.”
She smiled and kissed his cheek. “That's exactly what I plan to do,” she agreed. “But the way I said it is polite. And there will be no calumny involved, I promise. Take care of yourself. If you need anything, I'll be staying at the townhouse.”
“Fine,” Sherlock said. “Fine.” He picked up his book and stuck his nose in it, as though demonstrating how fine he was.
She gave him an affectionate look. “Yes, Sherlock, we all know,” she said.
John walked with her out to the lifts and tried not to think too much about the fact that he was alone with Sherlock's mother. He had the full force of her attention now, and it felt like he was being interrogated with one of those bright lights shining in his face, like on American police dramas.
She wasted no time in getting down to business. “Now,” she began. “I want to know about the analgesic situation.”
John blinked at her. “Sorry?” he said.
“What's he receiving for the pain?” she clarified. “Has he been given opiates?”
“Oh!” John realized what she meant. “No, no. He refused anything intravenous as soon as he was coherent enough to do it. He's on paracetamol now, that's all. I had to force him to take that, even.”
She looked relieved. “Good. My sons tried to conceal how bad the drug situation was, but I am aware of it,” she said. “I wouldn't want a relapse, though I don't want him in pain either.”
“No, he was very firm about not getting anything habit forming,” John assured her.
She nodded. “We're going to have tea,” she announced, when the lift reached the ground floor. It was not a suggestion, it was a stated fact.
John knew better than to argue with a Holmes on a mission. He followed her silently into the café, where he was ordered to sit down because she was paying.
She placed his cup in front of him and he reached out automatically to spin it around and take it with his left hand, only to find she'd placed that way already. He had to spin it back again. She took a seat opposite him and once she was settled, she put her sharp focus on him once more.
“I want to know about his condition,” she said. “I know Sherlock and Mycroft are both lying to me about how bad it is. I want to know the truth. I did some research online while I was waiting for my plane, but that's hardly useful. You're a doctor, so I want your opinion. I'll know if you're lying.”
John thought she would, too. He was struck with the sudden thought that this is what Sherlock would be like if he actually cared about people. She had all the same intensity, but it was focussed on him and it was slightly terrifying. At least Sherlock rarely paid attention when someone spoke to him.
“Neuro isn't my forte, but I'll do my best,” he said.
He outlined Sherlock's condition, not pulling any punches about the severity of it. He started out using layman's terms, but quickly realized he was being patronizing and stuck to a more scientific analysis. She nodded along, stopping him only here and there to ask questions or get clarifications.
“So, if the ideal circumstances should happen and everything goes for the best, is there a chance for him to make a full recovery?” she asked, when he was done. “Is that reasonable to hope for?”
“Absolutely,” John said. “The brain is often able to reroute around damaged areas and sometimes the dysphasia just goes away spontaneously. And as stubborn as Sherlock is, I think he can work through it. However, it's also possible that he'll retain problems with his speech for the rest of his life. It's hard to say with certainty. Usually people recover as much as they're going to within the first year.”
She nodded. “Thank you,” she said. “I prefer to know all the facts when I can.” She took a sip of her tea. “I would also like to speak to you about what happens when Sherlock is discharged. If he requires long-term care, it might be best for him to come home with me. It seems a lot to ask you to be responsible for him.”
The nurses and doctors had been pressuring him about that as well. The object of every patient's care plan was to get the patient home or to somewhere where he or she could be looked after, post-hospital. Technically, Mycroft was in charge of working with Sherlock for those sorts of decisions. The Holmes brothers weren't exactly good at working with each other at the best of times, however, and they were somewhat at an impasse. Sherlock wouldn't speak to Mycroft and always knew when Mycroft was using John as an ambassador. No decisions had been made, and John had been concentrating more on getting through day to day. He hadn't thought about what might happen once Sherlock came home.
“I want what's best for Sherlock,” Mrs Holmes went on, before he could answer. “And I also want him to be happy. I've always found that Sherlock does best when he's parented from afar. That's something Mycroft has yet to understand, though why he feels the need to parent at all is an entirely different matter. I want to respect Sherlock's wishes, and I don't know if his living with me would be the best for him psychologically, though of course I would be more than willing to take care of him if I felt that it would be to his benefit. However, if you feel that you can't continue to live with him, we have to plant the seed now. Sherlock responds far better to being nudged than forced. He has to think he's come to the decision himself.”
John's first, gut reaction was to say 'of course I can continue to live with him, I'm not going to abandon him because he's a bit injured', but he forced himself to think rationally about it. He couldn't guarantee to be around forever. What if he decided to get married or had to move away for some other reason?
“I think, even if he doesn't get any better than he is now, he would still be able to look after himself,” he said, after he'd thought about it. She'd sat quietly and waited for him. “I mean, as well as he did before, anyway. He can dress and feed himself. He can move around, and that's only going to get better. As far as I can tell, his decision-making skills and impulse control haven't been affected. It would just be his speech, and plenty of people go their whole lives unable to say a word and do just fine. The only problem I could foresee is the stairs, but there are ways around that.”
“So, you think, even if you weren't around, he could function on his own?” she asked.
“Yeah,” John said. “And it's early days yet. It's more of a tincture of time now, as my Gran would say. It's wait and see.”
“No one would think less of you if you decided you couldn't handle it,” she said, studying his face carefully.
“I know,” John said. “And I really don't think it'll be a problem. And if it is... well, we can deal with it as it comes.”
She smiled. “Good. I'm glad,” she said. “He really has been so much better since you became his flatmate.”
John was surprised at that. “Really?”
“Oh yes. He's never stayed so long in one place,” she said. “He was in and out of different flats every month or two. And I've only received three phone calls from Mycroft since you moved in together. I used to get about five a month. I think you must be a very good influence on him.”
“I don't think anyone can actually be an influence on Sherlock,” John said, with a smile. “He's pretty stubborn.”
“We all are,” Mrs Holmes said, with a shrug. “It's in our nature. And Sherlock has the Vernet sense of the dramatic too, I'm afraid. Too much art in the blood, I think. It's liable to take the strangest forms. He's a very bright boy, but he really does the most ridiculous things sometimes.”
John thought that was about as apt a description as he'd ever heard for Sherlock.
She proceeded to do a full interrogation on him as they finished their tea. John suspected it was supposed to be small talk, but the combination of her questions and her intense gaze made it seem like he was being drilled on Mastermind or something. Was he settling into civilian life? How did he like the army? Did he miss it? Where was he working now? Did he like that? Did he miss trauma? Was Sherlock recovered after the incident in Belgravia? She didn't know all the details, but Mycroft had been very worried about him, you know.
John answered, trying very much not to say 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am' like he was speaking to a commanding officer. It was like a combination of Sherlock interviewing witnesses and Mycroft pulling his superspy routine. He could see a lot of Mycroft in her when she spoke, actually. She had the same authority that made it very difficult to not tell her everything you knew. She also laughed the same way as Mycroft, and that was unsettling.
He was very grateful when she announced that she was going. It had only been about twenty minutes, but it felt like hours.
“If you give me your mobile, I'll put my numbers in for you,” she said. “In case you need to reach me.”
John handed it over and opened his mouth to talk her through putting the numbers in, but she had it well in hand. Most older people John had encountered still regarded all technology as witchcraft, but Mrs Holmes was clearly as tech-y as her sons.
“I'll give you my mobile number,” she said. “And the number for the townhouse as well. I'll be staying there while I'm in London. Oh, I might as well put in the other numbers too, in case you ever need them. There's our home in Lincolnshire, and I'll give you the one for the beach house in Nice too. I'm usually there for part of the year.”
She handed the phone back and he rose to walk her out to the door and hailed a cab for her. He saw her off and went back into the hospital, feeling slightly overwhelmed. It was a very odd reaction for a mother to have about a serious injury to one of her children. Just pure calm logic. He'd expected a bit more anxiety from her. He supposed it wasn't really surprising, considering the family to which she belonged.
John thought about what might have happened if it had been him who had been hurt and his parents were alive to react to it. His mother would either be hysterical or pretending nothing was wrong. His father would be terse and angry and pretending nothing was wrong. And Harry would likely get pissed and do something stupid.
He had to wonder, in the end, which family was really the more dysfunctional one.