Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mycroft, 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: 3,222
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.
Sherlock was already in the lift by the time John left the viewing room. He was too late to catch him and hurried down the stairs to meet him at the bottom floor. Sherlock looked blank and completely exhausted—as tired as John had ever seen him.
“Do you feel any better?” John asked, once they were in the cab home. “That he's been caught?”
Sherlock gave a shrug that could go either way. He didn't talk at all during the ride back to Baker Street, even if John asked him a question. All he received were nods and shakes of his head and neutral shrugs.
Mrs Hudson was at the door when they arrived home, dressed in her night things. Sherlock passed by her without a word, making his way up the stairs slowly.
“Mycroft rang me,” she whispered to John. “I've searched through all the usual hiding places, but I didn't have enough time to be thorough. Did you really catch who—who hurt him?”
John nodded. “Yeah. He's been arrested,” he said.
She looked relieved. “So, it's over now?” she said. “We don't have to worry about him being attacked again?”
“No,” John said, with a reassuring smile. “No, he's safe now. Thanks for looking, Mrs H. I'll stay up with him.”
“Let me know if you need anything,” she said.
John thanked her again and caught up with Sherlock on the stairs. Once they were up in 221B, Sherlock went to the kitchen table and resumed work on the experiment from the previous night. John made some dinner and a cup of tea for himself.
“You—” John began, uncertainly. “Er, if you... do you need to—?”
Sherlock's only response was to take John's mug from his hand and claim the tea for himself. John sighed and made another cup, taking it to the living room along with his dinner.
He was up into the early morning, making sure Sherlock wasn't going to do anything stupid. He could get in reckless moods sometimes, and though the obvious outlet was drugs, there was a risk of him purposely putting himself in extreme danger or experimenting with volatile chemicals. A different sort of high, a way to distract his brain from the noise of his thoughts. A 'dry' drug.
John had never seen him high by the standard definition. He'd seen him high on cases and high on his cleverness, but not high on drugs. He suspected there was cocaine on hand somewhere that they hadn't found in their searches, but as far as he knew, Sherlock hadn't relapsed since he'd known him. It was always a risk, though, and John felt safer with Sherlock in his sight, until the mood passed.
Mrs Hudson came upstairs around six the next morning and sent John to bed, taking over the Sherlock Watch. Sherlock hadn't said a word all night, just sat in the kitchen and worked on his experiment. John had spent most of the night trying to write a blog entry that explained what happened without naming names or giving away information that might comprise the case at the trial. In the end, he'd settled on something simple.
'The person who assaulted Sherlock has been arrested. I hope things will start to get back to normal now.'
By the time John woke up in the afternoon, Sherlock seemed to be out of the danger zone. In the days that followed, however, he slipped into a sort of fugue that lasted for weeks. He moped around the flat, snapping at anyone who tried to speak with him, and refusing to eat. The breakdown that John had been expecting since Sherlock came home from the hospital seemed to have arrived, but he'd expected an angry outburst, not this morose sulking.
He didn't want to solve cases. He turned off his mobile, and, when that didn't make enough of a histrionic statement, he put it in the freezer. When Lestrade tried to get hold of him through John, he put John's mobile in the freezer.
“How to defrost a mobile” did not yield much advice on Google.
He didn't get dressed or leave the flat except to go to physio. John was relieved he was at least keeping those appointments, as well as his speech therapy sessions. It meant that Sherlock still wanted to improve—that however depressed he might be, he still had some motivation left.
That's what it was, really. Just pure depression. John remembered that part of his own recovery: those days when it felt like it was never going to get easier and it was simpler just to stay at home and feel sorry for himself. That was when he finally agreed to start seeing Ella—when he was so miserable even he didn't want to put up with himself. However, when John suggested to Sherlock that he get some help, first gently and then a bit more firmly, all he received was a cold glare in reply. Eventually, he gave up.
It was hard not to lose his patience. He knew there was no way to 'snap out' of depression, and he was sympathetic, but at the same time he couldn't feel too sorry for Sherlock if he wouldn't do anything to help himself. He would have loved to tell him to stop sulking and buck up, but that was the equivalent of telling a person with cancer to cheer up and stop growing cells. The only thing he could do was wait and hope that Sherlock would come to it by himself.
Even Violet, who had so far dealt with anything Sherlock had thrown at her without missing a beat, lost her patience with him.
John was downstairs with Mrs Hudson, pairing socks from a large pile of odd ones she had dumped into his lap. He was also watching Lydia, the Connie Price replacement, with her, and thinking that it might have been worth risking Sherlock's wrath by staying up in his own flat. Then he heard the sound of someone stomping down the stairs.
“Oh dear,” Mrs Hudson said, succinctly.
John unearthed himself from the sock pile and hurried out to the hallway.
Violet was pulling on her coat, looking furious. She had two little red spots on her cheeks and her lips were set tight.
“What did he do?” John asked.
“Mr Holmes has decided he doesn't feel like working today,” she said, her usual crisp vowels falling in on themselves in her anger. “He'd much rather spend his time seeing how far he can push me before I lose my temper. So I thought it best to leave before he succeeded any more than he already has. Please inform him that he has not driven me off. I will return on Friday as usual, and you can bet that an apology will be part of his exercises.”
“I'm sorry,” John said.
“It is very much not your fault,” she assured him. “Everyone has bad days. I have noticed that Sherlock seems to be having a lot of them lately, though.”
John nodded. “Yeah. Me too. I don't know what to do. He won't listen to me, or anyone, really,” he said.
“I find with people who've had life-altering things happen, like strokes or head injuries or illnesses, they tend to react like people who've lost a loved one,” she said. “They go through the stages of grief, like they're mourning their old lives. It could be he's just hit the sadness part of it. But, if I can make a suggestion?” John nodded. “Find someone he will listen to.”
“I don't even know if there is anyone,” John said. “But I'll think about it. Thanks. I'm sorry. He's an arse at the best of times.”
She nodded. “I like him, I think,” she said. “I don't know why. But he's not feeling it today and I'm not going to bash my head against a brick wall. It won't help either of us. I'll try again on Friday.”
“Let me pay for your cab or something,” John said, as she turned to go.
“No, don't worry about it,” she said. “Really. I've had a lot of abuse thrown at me in my lifetime. I can handle it.”
She left and John went upstairs, trying to keep his temper in check.
Sherlock was sitting at the kitchen table, working on an experiment like nothing had happened. He flicked his eyes over to John when he arrived and the expression in them was that 'sod off' look he'd been wearing for days.
“Just so I know,” John said. “Are you making an effort to piss off everyone who's trying to help you or does it come naturally? Is it a game or something?”
Sherlock heaved a great put upon sigh. “She... sensitive,” he said. “Over... overreact.”
“No, Violet is not sensitive,” John said. “She's put up with your crap without flinching. So, I'm guessing you really tried to get to her today, for whatever stupid reason you have. Did that genius thing where you look for a weak spot and then step on it.”
Sherlock shrugged, uncaring. His eyes moved to John's hand, which was clenching and unclenching by his side. “Why... angry? Not, er, not your... problem.”
“I'm angry because you're acting like an arsehole to a person who has no reason to be treated like that,” John said.
“You... not here,” Sherlock objected. “Don't know what... what happens.”
“No, but I know that Violet has put up with a lot from you and you managed to make her so upset she stormed out...” John looked at his watch. “Ten minutes after she arrived. I thought you liked her, or at least respected her. I thought things were going well. So, do you really not see when you're going too far, or do you just not care?”
Sherlock shrugged again. John's fist clenched a little tighter.
“Listen, I'm not your dad, I'm not a relative, I can't tell you what to do,” he said.“But I am your friend, though I don't know if that actually means anything to you. So as a friend, let me give you some advice. You're entitled to be upset, you're entitled to be angry and scream and shout or lie around in your pants and stare at the ceiling. Whatever you want. But you're not entitled to piss everyone off. You're not entitled to treat the people who are trying to help you like crap. Be miserable on your own time.”
“Don't need help,” Sherlock muttered. “Fine.”
“Yeah, I know,” John said. “You're brilliant.”
“You not... understand,” Sherlock snapped. “You not... know.”
“Oh yeah, Sherlock, you're right. 'Cause what do I know about getting hurt over something you had no control over? Or losing the use of your dominant hand and wondering if you'll ever be able to do the only profession you've ever been good at again? Or walking with a cane? Or sitting around feeling useless?” John said. “What could I know about that?”
“You... talk,” Sherlock said. “You able.”
“Yeah, and I had no one to talk to,” John said. “And do you know what? It wasn't great. So just remember when you've driven everyone off and you're all alone, that you're fine and you don't need help. And you put yourself there.”
Sherlock lifted his eyebrows in a mocking expression. “Done?” he asked.
“Yeah,” John said. “Yeah, I'm done Sherlock.”
Sherlock made a shooing gesture at him. “Leave. I'm... I'm work,” he said.
John gave him a brisk nod and turned to go.
“Close door,” Sherlock added. “Want alone.”
“You don't need help, remember?” John said. “Do it yourself.”
It was a sign of how bad things were that Mycroft actually requested to meet John later that day, rather than yanking him off the street. Granted, he did it by hacking into a cashpoint, but it was the thought that counted.
“Do you have Violet on your payroll or something?” he asked, sitting in the side room at the Diogenes Club. “How do you know what's going on?”
“Miss Hunter was quite firm in refusing my offer for bonus pay,” Mycroft said, with a smirk. “She's a very self-possessed young lady. Whom, I understand, my brother has managed to drive off?”
“She'll be back, I think,” John said. “She's due back on Friday. Whether or not Sherlock is going to cooperate is another matter.”
“How bad?” Mycroft asked.
“Belgravia,” John said.
Mycroft winced slightly. “Better or worse than that?”
“'Bout the same, I'd say,” John said. “Violet said something about him grieving. I guess that's what he was doing then, too. Grieving for Irene Adler.”
“More the loss of a challenge, I'd say,” Mycroft said, with a small smile.“Sherlock has never been particularly good at handling his grief.”
John sighed. “I don't know what to do any more,” he said. “And I don't even know if it's my business. I can't force him to get help. He doesn't want it. Maybe it's best to leave him alone and let him...”
“Self-destruct?” Mycroft suggested. “It's not a pretty sight, John, believe me.”
John leaned forward and rubbed at his forehead, feeling as always like he was trapped between two Holmeses. Usually he was inclined to take Sherlock's side, but he and Mycroft were on the same page this time. Mycroft's methods were mental, but he cared about Sherlock. John wondered if Sherlock knew, or even cared, how many people were worried about him.
“I think he just needs to sort of accept what's going on,” John said. “He needs to admit that he's badly off and it's not going to get better overnight. I think that having the assault case hang over him was a distraction. He concentrated on that, so he didn't have to think about how bad things were. And now he doesn't have that distraction, or any sort of satisfactory answers for it. Not ones he understands anyway. And it's like he's just shut down—like he can't face it. He needs to get to the point where he can face the truth, and then he can start to really get better. I don't know how to get him there, though. He's not going to listen to me.”
Mycroft nodded, looking a bit grim. “Then it may be time for more drastic measures.”
Mycroft hadn't elaborated; he'd simply claimed he needed to make an urgent phone call and kicked John out. It didn't take long to figure out what he meant, though, as the next day, Mrs Holmes suddenly appeared at Baker Street. There was no warning. The doorbell rang, Mrs Hudson answered and a few minutes later, Mrs Holmes arrived at the top of the stairs.
“How nice to see you again, John,” she said, greeting him warmly as though this was a planned visit. “How are you?”
John glanced to Sherlock, who was curled up on the couch and did not acknowledge that his mother was there. Then he glanced around the flat, which looked as bad as it always did. “Er, good, thanks,” he said. “Sorry about the mess.”
“I raised Sherlock and Mycroft,” Mrs Holmes said, her eyes twinkling. “I cannot be fazed. By anything. At all.”
John believed it.
She turned and went over to the couch, frowning at the smiley face on the wall. She opened her mouth, but seemed to think better of mentioning it. “Move your legs, please,” she ordered.
Sherlock pulled his legs further into his chest and she sat down at the end of the couch.
“Do you want a cup of tea?” John asked.
“Yes, that would be lovely, thank you,” she said.
“Sherlock?” John said. He didn't get a response, only annoyed blinking in reply. Sherlock had given up even snapping at him. Now he just ignored him all together.
“John has asked you a question, Sherlock,” Mrs Holmes said. “Answer him, please.”
Sherlock made a face. “No,” he said, tersely.
John nodded and went into the kitchen to make the tea, keeping an ear out for the conversation in the living room.
“I have spent five hours on a train, stuck listening to the most annoying woman in creation,” Mrs Holmes said. “I believe I deserve at least a greeting, if not a medal for arriving here without blood on my hands.”
“Not... ask... ask to come,” Sherlock objected. “Made... you. Mycroft... made you.”
There was a light, lady-like snort. “Sherlock, I would hope you would know that there are very few people in the world who could get me to do anything I didn't want to,” Mrs Holmes said, sounding exactly like Sherlock when he made one of his boasts. “And Mycroft Holmes is certainly not one of them. Now, sit up and behave properly. You are not a child.” A shuffling sound could be heard.“Thank you.”
John stuck his head out of the kitchen. Sherlock was sitting up now, slumped in his seat with his arms crossed, and looking pouty. “What do you take?” John asked Mrs Holmes.
“Milk and one sugar please,” she said.
John ducked back into the kitchen. Mrs Holmes switched to French, and he couldn't follow it at all. He guessed that was probably her intention. Whatever she was saying, Sherlock would only answer with “fine”, said firmly. Then the fines took on a slightly less firm tone. Then there was a long string of French, during which Sherlock didn't respond at all, even though there were pauses there for him to fill in.
John was in the process of carefully bringing out the tea when there was a sudden odd choking sound.
The doctor part of John's brain connected this sound to a blocked airway and he rushed into the living room without thinking about it, ready to intercede. He stopped so abruptly that the tea sloshed over one of the mugs and burned his hand. It didn't even register in his mind, because the sight in front of him was so shocking.
There was no cardiac arrest, just Sherlock slumped forward over his knees, with his hand over his eyes and his shoulders racked with choked sobs. It was such a foreign concept that he could show that sort of blatant emotion that John momentarily thought he was having some sort of coughing fit.
Mrs Holmes cooed gentle words and brushed a lock of hair from his forehead. He seemed to be trying to gather himself, but only managed to pause for a few moments before the sobbing started again. She wrapped her arm around him and pulled him in, rubbing his back. He stuck his face in her shoulder and the sobs softened, though John could see the tears dripping from his chin.
He realized he was standing there, holding tea and gaping, none of which was any help in this sort of situation. He hovered, feeling extremely awkward and then, being the brave soldier he was, turned, put the tea down and went to see if Mrs Hudson had any more socks for him to pair.