Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mrs Hudson (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:2,530
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. You can also find the story at A03 and FF.net.
John was awoken around three AM by the sound of something horrible being inflicted on someone. No, something. It was the sound of a violin being brutally tortured.
Over the months he'd lived with Sherlock, he'd grown used to him playing at all hours of the night. Sometimes, when John woke up from nightmares, he even found the noise soothing. This was the sound of an instrument in distress, however, and there was no turning over and going back to sleep with that racket.
He got up and padded downstairs. Sherlock was facing the window and holding his violin, his back to John.
“Sherlock?” John asked. “You okay?”
Sherlock jumped like he'd been startled. It was normally very hard to startle Sherlock. He whirled around to face John. “Fine,” he said. He tried to play again, wincing at the noise that came out. John could suddenly see the problem—Sherlock's left-hand moved on the frets well enough, but his bow arm moved erratically, if at all, and screeched on the strings. “Only... er... bow... trouble.”
“No kidding,” John said. It became apparent this was the wrong with to say, as Sherlock pouted and turned away from him in a strop. “Maybe you should take it easier on yourself? Playing the violin is running before you can walk. It's going to take time to get your dexterity back.”
“If... force then... fast,” Sherlock said, to the window. “Need control. Need... better hands.”
“Ah,” John said, understanding Sherlock's motivation.
Sherlock whirled back around on him. “No 'ah',” he said, angrily. “No 'ah'. Fine. No... head... erm... erm.... look in. Fine.”
John sighed and held up his hands in surrender. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything by it,” he said. He nodded toward the evidence wall, hoping to change the subject. “Any new thoughts?”
It just wasn't his night that night as this seemed to make Sherlock even more upset. “No! Can't... think. No... er... er... focus. Look but... wander... and... and... and... and...” he snapped his mouth shut to stop the stammering and made a face that John had come to think of as 'hitting the reset button', closing his eyes briefly and starting again. “Thoughts but no... logic and look away and... not memory and... broken. All... all... broken.”
“You're not able to focus on it? Is that what you mean?” John asked, trying to make sense of the rant.
Sherlock nodded. “Brain roam,” he said, making floating gesture with his hand.
“Your hemiparesis is on the right,” John said. “That means your left brain is damaged. That can affect focus and short-term memory and attention span. It might just be part of your injuries.”
“Too many... in-jur-y,” Sherlock said, and it was the first time John had heard him call it anything but 'blood'. “Hands and feet and... mouth and... and... see. Maybe... all head broken. Not... clever now.”
“No, that's not true,” John said. “You've proven you can solve cases, Sherlock. You noticed Sarah's lipstick on my forehead after I washed it off and you saw that girl had been pushed down the stairs after only seeing her for a few seconds. There's nothing wrong with your logic or your observation skills. Anyone who has been through what you have been through would have trouble concentrating. And you're tired, which isn't going to help things. You need to sleep.”
“No,” Sherlock said. “Can't.”
“The police have had this case for a month and haven't come up with anything,” John said. “Mycroft has looked into it and hasn't come up with anything. You're not going to solve it in one night and it can wait until morning. When you're rested, you'll be able to focus better.”
“No, no, not... won't,” Sherlock said. “Can't. Can't... sleep because... not sleep.”
“Sorry?” John said.
Sherlock touched his head. “Since... in-jur-y, sleep... worse,” he explained. “Bad before. Never... good... sleep but... worse now. Can't.”
“You have insomnia?” John said. Sherlock nodded. “And I don't suppose you thought to tell anyone at the hospital about this?” He received an indifferent shrug here. “Insomnia comes with head injuries, Sherlock. The neuro people would have been able to help. We all thought it was just you being you.”
“Pills,” Sherlock said, with distaste.“Not... want pills. Can't pills.”
John sighed. “There's more than pills. There are relaxation techniques—meditation or behaviour therapy. Chamomile tea or valerian root and other herbal things. I used to take chamomile pills when I couldn't sleep. If you had told someone instead of insisting you're fine all the time, it could have been sorted out weeks ago, you clot. Now you're more sleep deprived than normal and in a mess.”
“Fine,” Sherlock muttered. Louder he added, “not... cl-cl-clot.”
John laughed. “Yes, you are,” he said. “Look, there's nothing I can do about it now, but I'll try and see what we can do in the morning. In the meantime, even lying down and resting is better than being up, driving yourself mad. Put down the violin and go to bed.”
“Boring,” Sherlock said. He put the violin back in the case, though.
“Get used to being bored,” John advised. “Because you need to rest.”
Sherlock nodded, once, in a very hostile manner and went over to the couch, curling up into his usual ball on his side. “Just think,” he said. “Not... rest.”
“I know you're not,” John said.
But he counted it as a victory anyway.
Sherlock was gone from the couch by the time John came down again the morning. He wasn't in the kitchen either, and for a brief moment, John was pleased he'd gone to bed. Until he saw that Sherlock's bedroom door was open. Sherlock, when he did sleep, always shut the door. John went down the hallway and peeked in. No Sherlock. The door to the loo was open, so no Sherlock there either. He hurried back down into the kitchen and living room, as though he could have somehow failed to notice a six-foot tall detective with a bald patch and a limp. No Sherlock.
He turned and raced down the stairs to the ground floor, his heart pounding in his chest. He half expected to see Sherlock sprawled and broken on the floor, but the hallway was empty. He was about to pound on Mrs Hudson's door when the front door opened and Sherlock hobbled in.
“Oh, thank God,” John said. “What the hell are you doing?!”
Sherlock looked surprised at this greeting. “What?” he said. “Just... history.” He pointed to the newspapers he had tucked under his arm.
“Did you go downstairs by yourself?” John asked. Sherlock made a non-committal gesture that John knew meant yes. “You can't do that, Sherlock.”
“Can,” Sherlock objected. “Was... do. Fine. Not child. Don't need... hands hold.”
“You have very little control over half your body,” John said, trying and failing to keep his voice calm. “If you lose your balance or trip, you won't be able to catch yourself. It's stupid, okay? It's stupid to go downstairs without someone spotting you.”
Sherlock's cheeks were starting to flush red. “Stop!” he ordered. “No... scold me. Not child. You not... er... parent. You just... er... er... bothersome! You fussy and tell... tell... orders. Bored. Sick... sick of you. Leave alone! Fine!”
“Oh, believe me, I would love to leave you alone Sherlock,” John snapped back. He could hear his voice raising, but couldn't seem to stop it. “I can't, though, because you're a complete idiot who can't be trusted to make reasonable decisions! I am sorry, Sherlock, but you are not fine, okay? You are not fine. No matter how many times you say it or how much you believe it, you are hurt. You are injured. You have brain damage. You have to take it easy. Do you have any idea—? No, of course you don't. You wouldn't.”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at him. “What?” he demanded. “Not ask... help. Never ask. You just... doctor me and—and...” his fingers clenched up by his throat. “Close. And...ugh! Not need. Not want.”
The door to Mrs Hudson's flat opened and she emerged. “What is going on out here?” she demanded.
“Sherlock came downstairs by himself,” John said.
“Sherlock!” Mrs Hudson scolded. “That was silly. You should have called for me, I would have helped.”
Sherlock scowled. “Not... need... help,” he said, slowly. “Not... want help. Fine. Not need... fuss. Just... just... just... alone! Want... alone! Too much... people! I think... home and... alone! Not... breathe close and... er... er... rules and... child make me. Fine! I... I fine.”
“Oh my God, if you say you are fine one more time...” John muttered.
“That's quite enough of that from the both of you,” Mrs Hudson scolded. “You two need a break from each other. John, go upstairs. Sherlock, come with me.”
Both men started to protest, but she silenced them with a Look. She pointed to her flat and Sherlock stuck his nose in the air, but lasted for only a few seconds under her stern gaze before he pouted and limped into it.
“I'll take care of him, John, you go upstairs,” Mrs Hudson said, giving him a pat on the shoulder.
John sighed and headed back up to the flat. He felt like throwing things. He wasn't sure why he was so angry, but his fingers were twitching at his sides and he didn't know what to do with himself. It was like all the frustration he'd been trying to hold down had bubbled over. He was tired and Sherlock was tired and everything seemed worse than it was. He satisfied himself by kicking one of Sherlock's shoes across the floor and then rolled his eyes at how childish that was. He took a few calming breaths and put on the kettle to make coffee.
He took his coffee out to his chair, looking over Sherlock's evidence wall. It looked like he'd printed out some still frames from the CCTV footage. They were on the mantelpiece, leaning against the wall underneath the mirror. John couldn't see anything unique about them. His eyes kept being drawn back to the evidence photo of Sherlock's bloodied coat. The collar of it was soaked and John guessed that even if it was ever released from custody, it wouldn't be salvageable.
Eventually he decided he didn't want to look at that any longer, and moved to his laptop to check his e-mail. There was a cheery one from Sarah, hoping that Sherlock was doing well at home, and to let her know if he needed to get out of the flat for a bit. Stamford had e-mailed as well, also sending good wishes for Sherlock's recovery and hoping that he wasn't driving John too mad, mate. Harry had sent a short one, in her usual serial killer style like her keyboard had neither a shift key nor any punctuation on it besides exclamation marks. It always took a bit of parsing, but John eventually worked out that she too was hoping Sherlock was okay and that they could get back to solving cases soon. She was dying to hear about them, several exclamation marks.
He was in the middle of replying to Sarah when the distinctive thump of Sherlock's stomp-drag sounded on the stairs, along with Mrs Hudson's cooing murmurs. He'd just sent it off when they arrived at the top, Mrs Hudson with her hand under Sherlock's elbow.
“There we go,” she said. “See, no trouble at all, Sherlock. You mind what I've said.” She turned and went back downstairs.
Sherlock came over to the table and sat down across from John, spreading one of the newspapers out so he could read it without having to hold on to it.
“So,” John said, after a bit of silence. “You grounded?”
Sherlock snorted a laugh he quickly tried to cover. He put a serious look on his face. “No... pudding,” he said, in an aggrieved tone.
They both started to laugh then, harder than they should have because they kept setting each other off.
“What did she say?” John asked.
Sherlock waved dismissive hand. “Bored,” he said. He sobered up a bit. “She say... need... er... er... sorry you. But not... not... my fault if you... anger. But... not try to... anger you. Not... not... not... er... purposeful.”
John thought there might have been an apology in there somewhere, worded skilfully so that no apology was actually given. “I'm sorry for stifling you,” he said, feeling he should reciprocate. “I don't mean to. It's just... I'm a doctor, so it's hard for me to not be able to...”
“Fix?” Sherlock suggested, looking pleased to be able to produce the right word on cue.
“Yeah,” John said.
Sherlock nodded. “She say... same,” he said.
“She's smarter than both of us,” John said.
Sherlock looked doubtful.
“Did you sleep?” John asked.
Sherlock shook his head. “Lie down, but... no sleep,” he said. “Awake always.”
“I'll take a look around and see if there's anything that might help you,” John said. “No pills. Just herbal stuff, or something. You're supposed to be getting ten hours of sleep at night when you're recovering from an head injury. I think that would probably require a miracle and heavy drugs, but a few hours at least would be better than nothing. We're also going to have to find some people for the physio and speech therapy.”
“No,” Sherlock said.
“Sherlock—” John started.
Sherlock raised his hand to stop him. “Not no,” he said. “No. No.” He grabbed a pen and scribbled on the edge of the newspaper. “A—aware.” He touched his head. “Weiß.”
It took a moment before John caught on. “Oh, you mean no as in know, not no as in no,” he said. Sherlock nodded. “Sorry. I didn't realize it was a verb.”
Sherlock scribbled again. “Pronouns... hard,” he said. “Choose. Easy-faster for... er... skip. Slow with pronouns.” He frowned and concentrated. “I...I... I... know. I know... know... that. I know that.”
John grinned. “Brilliant. That's the first grammatically correct sentence I've heard you say,” he said.
“Words... find hard, so skip,” Sherlock said. “I know... wrong but... can't. Skip, so fast. If look... slow speak.”
“You're doing really well,” John assured him. “It's much better than it was. But you need some more help. Do you think you could handle someone coming in here a few times a week? Would that be better than going out to see them?”
Sherlock shrugged. “Annoying... both,” he said. “Better... here, maybe. Busy me. No... er... time for... move.”
“I'm gonna see if someone knows someone who'll come in,” John said. “I'll ask Stamford. He knows everyone. Someone is bound to know of somebody.” Sherlock shrugged again. “I'll make you a deal. I'll try not to be so pushy if you try not to be such an idiot.”
“Not idiot,” Sherlock mumbled. He looked up at John and nodded. “Deal.”