Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Lestrade, Donovan (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: 2,671
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.
With Sherlock's mum in town, John felt a little less burdened. He knew that she would be visiting and he could take a day off here and there. He did so a few days later, after she texted him to let him know she would be visiting that day. He called Sherlock to warn him that he wouldn't be coming and got a very 'so what?' response, which made him feel pretty stupid for worrying about it all this time.
He went out to the pub with Stamford, whom he hadn't seen in weeks. There was a match on and some of the other lads were there and it was the most fun he'd had in ages. He came home feeling very content and positive about the world in general, though that might have just been the slight buzz from the alcohol. He hadn't got pissed, just a bit tipsy and that turned out to be a good thing, because he'd put one foot on the stairs to go up to the flat when his mobile rang.
It was well-past eleven and no one called at that hour, unless it was bad news. He didn't recognize the number, which made him more nervous and took his buzz away very fast.
“Hello?” he said.
“John!” Sherlock's voice came through the line. He sounded urgent. “Come now! Nurses... not listen. Not... see.”
“What's happened?” John asked. “Are you all right?”
“Murder!” Sherlock said. “Head blood... not... random. Come now.” The phone was hung up and John was left with a dial tone.
He turned around and walked back out the door. He'd been home such a short time that he was able to hail the cab he'd just got out of again. He couldn't decide whether to be annoyed or thrilled that Sherlock was raving about murder in the night.
At least it was another step toward normality.
Lestrade was in the hallway when John arrived at the hospital. He looked confused. Donovan was there too. She just looked annoyed.
“Oh, good, John,” Lestrade greeted him. “Maybe you can figure this out.”
“What's wrong?” John asked.
“I dunno,” Lestrade said. “He called me shouting about murder, but he's so worked up I can't make heads or tails of what he's telling me. I think it has something to do with the patient in the room next to him, but I don't know what he's trying to say. He told me to go away and wait for you. He's in there.”
John stepped into Sherlock's room and found him attempting to pace with his cane. He grabbed John by the shoulder when he saw him, looking relieved.
“Make... sense!” he ordered. “Not... understand me. Make sense... so understand.”
John raised a calming hand. “Okay, Sherlock, relax,” he said. “What's going on?”
“Murder!” Sherlock said. He pointed to the wall separating his room from the one next to it. “Female... head blood... fall er... er... stairs.” His speech, which had slowly become more fluent, was broken again in his excitement.
“The woman next door has a head injury from falling down some stairs,” John tried to translate.
Sherlock nodded. “Male... not husband but... kiss... and er... er... arms.... blood... and... say... random, but not random,” he went on. “Push.”
“You think her boyfriend pushed her?” John said. “It wasn't an accident. It wasn't random.”
Sherlock threw his good arm up in triumph and pointed at Lestrade, who was listening from the doorway. “See? Making sense,” he told him. “Say... say... much times but... stupid... not understand.”
“Okay, okay,” Lestrade said. “Why do you think the boyfriend pushed her?”
Sherlock ran a hand down his forearm. “Arms... blood... from... er... er... catch,” he said. “But wrong... blood... wrong.” He made a clawing gesture. “Sharp. Fingers.”
“He has wounds on his arms from her fingernails,” John said.
Sherlock nodded. “Yes! He says... catch... try... but... li... li... er.... er...menteur,” he said. “Not say... true things. Wrong blood.”
“Why is it wrong?” John asked.
Sherlock blew out a long breath and looked very daunted at having to explain himself. He opened his mouth, but all he could get out was a sort of 'ta-ta-ta' sound, bouncing on it like an aeroplane propeller starting up. He sometimes got stuck on sounds and couldn't seem to work past them. He shook his head, looking frustrated. Then he teetered backwards on his feet and John reached out and grabbed his arms to keep him from falling.
“See?” Sherlock said. He grabbed John's forearm and made a raking gesture on it. John realized he'd faked falling to explain his point. “Go... like this. Not his.”
He lurched forward now, and grabbed John by the throat with his good hand. His other hand did the same after a few extra moments of effort. “Stop,” he ordered.
John had already instinctively grabbed Sherlock's arms in an attempt to not be throttled.
“Wounds.... up down,” Sherlock explained, nodding toward John's hands. “If push.” He gave John a weak shove and John stumbled back, losing his grip on Sherlock's arms. “Up down. His up down. Not... catch. Push.”
“Maybe he just caught her a different way,” Donovan's sceptical voice said, from somewhere behind Lestrade.
“Quiet, not... need you,” Sherlock replied, in a perfectly dismissive tone, like she was some little fly buzzing around his head. “I... er... correct. Also... blue... er... er...” he pointed to his neck. “From... from... hands. Think... fall... but hands.”
There was silence now, with John and Lestrade looking at each other, trying to work out if this was something they should be taking seriously. Sherlock looked between them, his eyes lit up with excitement and a big smile on his face.
“Are you sure?” Lestrade asked, after a moment.
“Yes,” Sherlock said, firmly.
Lestrade nodded. “All right, I'll look into it,” he said.
“He has a head injury, sir!” Donovan objected. “You can't really think he saw anything.”
Lestrade looked back to Sherlock. “How did you notice it?” he asked.
“Bed... past door,” Sherlock said, tracing the path with his hand. “See... er...” he pointed to his neck again. “And also... arms. He walk... next. Also... hear...” He frowned and hummed four notes under his breath, then half-spoke, half-sang in the same rhythm “con-ve-sa-tion.”
“Sounds like Sherlock,” Lestrade said to Donovan, with a shrug. “No harm in giving a look 'round. He's solved three cases from looking at newspaper articles while he'd been in here. I think his brain is working just fine. C'mon and show me what you mean, Sherlock. Do you mind?”
Sherlock shook his head and limped out of the room. Lestrade stepped back to let him through and followed him into the next room, one hand hovering as though to be prepared to catch him if he tripped. Donovan stood in the hallway with her arms folded, looking furious.
“I can't believe...” she muttered. She shook her head and looked at John. “He's still running around causing trouble, even with a brain injury. You'd think he'd have learned his lesson by now. Someone's whacked him over the head and he still doesn't see that maybe he should stop poking his nose around where it doesn't belong. If it even was a case-related thing.”
John's hands clenched by his sides. “He wasn't looking for drugs, you know,” he said, remembering what Lestrade had said about the general view of his team.
“Even he doesn't remember what happened,” Donovan said. “Or he says he doesn't. We've been looking for weeks and there's nothing. No evidence at all. Don't you think it's pretty convenient he was out of camera view? Sounds like he was doing something shady, don't you think?”
“No, it sounds like someone lured him there and attacked him where they wouldn't be seen,” John replied. “Absence of evidence doesn't make a case.”
She shrugged. “Doesn't not make one either,” she said. “I know you think he's your friend—”
“He is my friend,” John corrected. “He's my best friend. And he really, really doesn't need people doubting him right now. It's hard enough for him as it is. So maybe you two could call a truce on whatever insane feud you have going.”
“I'm just saying it was bound to happen,” Donovan said. “The way he runs about, someone was bound to get to him. Whatever the reason. Watch out you don't get yourself hurt, too.”
“Thanks,” John said, tersely. “Thanks for your concern.”
“John,” she said, and for a moment her usual cold demeanour was gone. “I'm not enjoying this. I don't like seeing him hurt. It's not like I hoped for it, or anything. But I do mean what I said. Be careful. One day he's going to get himself in over his head and it's all going to come tumbling down. Make sure you don't go with him.”
“John!” Sherlock bellowed from down the hall.
“I'll be fine,” John told her.
He hurried to catch up with Sherlock. He was hovering outside the patient's room, looking angry.
“Can't... let,” he said to John. He pointed to Lestrade, who was speaking into his mobile near the nurse's station. “Can't... look-see, because... allow not...”
John wasn't quite following. “You're not allowed to go in?” he guessed.
“No,” Sherlock said, nodding his head. This only confused John more. Sherlock sometimes swapped words with their opposites. It was a form of paraphasia, a subset of dysphasia. He said up when he meant down or nurse when he meant doctor. “Need... ask mum. Can't... let.”
John still wasn't getting it. Lestrade thanked the person on the other end of the phone and returned to them.
“The girl can't give us permission to examine her, because she's not lucid enough,” he explained to John. “So I had to ask next of kin. Her mother's agreed. There's a constable on his way over with a permission form. Once she's signed, we can go in and look. She seemed a bit suspicious about the fall too, so maybe you're right, Sherlock.”
“Not... maybe,” Sherlock declared. He looked to John. “You go... look. Not... er...” he made the handcuff gesture he used for 'police'. “So... okay.”
“I don't work here, I don't have any more right to be in there than Lestrade does,” John said.
Sherlock sighed. “Useless... you!” he snapped.
“Sorry,” John said, with a shrug.
It took about twenty minutes, which seemed much longer thanks to Sherlock's impatience, but finally the permission to examine the girl came over the fax machine. Sherlock was first through the door.
He and Lestrade went to either side of the bed. The girl was asleep. She was black and blue all over and her head had been completely shaved and wrapped in bandages, obviously a post-craniotomy patient. A very young nurse followed them anxiously into the room, looking like she didn't know what to do.
“Look,” Sherlock commanded John. “You... doctor. See.” He pointed to a specific area of her neck.
John grabbed the torch from the bedside table to get a better view. Her neck was as bruised as the rest of her. John could see some of the bruising was deeper than the rest. He tried to mentally eliminate the rest of the bruising and focus only on the darker areas.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I see it, Sherlock. Fingers.” He held his hand near her throat and his fingers matched up roughly with the bruise pattern.
“Me too,” Lestrade said, with a nod. “But I don't know whether I'm only seeing it because I want to or because it's actually there.”
“Yeah, that's what I was just thinking,” John agreed.
Sherlock gave an impatient sigh. “Eyes,” he said. “Look for...” he struggled with the word. “Er... er... blood dots.”
“Petechiae?” Lestrade asked.
“Is she asleep or sedated?” John asked the nurse. He didn't want to pull her eyes open and have her wake up, wondering what the hell was happening.
“Sedated,” she replied. She hesitated, biting on her lower lip. John gave her an encouraging look. “I thought something was wrong. She seemed scared—agitated. That's why we had to sedate her. I wanted to tell the doctor but...”
John nodded. A lot of doctors didn't like getting advice from nurses. They looked on them as maids or housekeepers. Which was ridiculous, because any doctor worth his salt should know that if a nurse thought something was wrong, there was something wrong.
“Can you get me an ophthalmoscope?” he asked her.
“I'll vouch for anything,” Lestrade said, when she hesitated. “You won't get in trouble. He's a doctor and I'm a copper. It's all fine.”
She went out of the room and came back a moment later with the ophthalmoscope. John pulled on some gloves and gently pried open the patient's eyes, examining them for petechiae.
“Maybe,” he said, after a few moments. “Possibly.”
Lestrade sighed and rubbed his forehead. “I don't know if I have anything to go on. I guess I'll question the boyfriend. No harm in that. Come back and ask her when she wakes up. I'll need to get someone in to photograph the bruises before they fade too much. Does that satisfy you, Sherlock? Will you go back and be a patient now?”
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “Tell me... me... answer?”
“Yeah, I'll let you know if you were right,” Lestrade agreed. “Now go back to bed.”
Sherlock was apparently content with this and walked back to his room. John followed him, and made sure he got to bed safely. He looked extremely pleased with himself.
“You pub,” he said to John. “Er...er...” He puffed out his cheeks a little. “Friend... Barts. Name can't.”
“Stamford,” John said.
Sherlock nodded. “You pub... with.”
Yep,” John agreed. “First night of fun in weeks and you have to discover a murder attempt.”
“Murder fun,” Sherlock said, with a sniff.
John laughed. “Sure it is. Try not to cause any more trouble before morning, all right?”
“Maybe,” Sherlock said.
John grinned. He headed out to the hallway, where Lestrade and Donovan were in a heated argument. They were speaking too softly for John to hear what they were saying, but their body language told him all he needed to know.
The nurse watched them with wide eyes. “I've never had the actual police come before,” she said. “Just security. I feel like I should have noticed something was wrong.”
You did,” he reminded her.
“But I should have said something,” she said. “I'm supposed to be a patient advocate. But it's tricky, isn't it? Because if you're wrong, it's really bad. I mean, to accuse someone of that and have it be wrong. The doctor said she was just anxious because of the head injury, but I think it was because of the boyfriend. He's dodgy.”
“You should always trust your instincts,” John said. “They'll get more tuned as you go along. When you've done this for years, it'll be like having ESP. You'll know what's wrong before it happens.”
She nodded. “Your... er... friend?” she said, clearly uncertain about what label to put on Sherlock. “He's really clever. I'm on permanent nights, and he's not a very good sleeper, so I've talked with him a bit while he's been here. He's interesting. He's not much for manners, but he's really smart. He knew everything about me. Is that ESP?”
“Something like that,” John said.
“He's really clever,” she repeated.
Sometimes, John thought, it was important to celebrate the small things. Like the fact that however banged up Sherlock's brain was, he could still spot a murder attempt as it rolled by him on a trolley.
He smiled and nodded at her.“Yeah. He is.”