Characters: Sherlock, Molly, Lestrade, John, Mycroft, daemons
Warnings/Triggers: gunshot wounds, references to lots of blood in a past tense, references to dead parents, bittersweet, a bit angsty
Word Count 3,767
Summary: Sherlock waits for John to live or die, and learns what it's like to be the one waiting instead of the one being waited for.
Author's notes: Sorry about the flurry of daemons stuff of late, I sometimes get in a daemonic mood. I started writing this before Series Three, and so I'm just going to say it's alternate to that, as the stories in this verse are already out of synch with the regular canon. Follows and makes references to Clouds and Ashes.
Knowledge of His Dark Materials is not required. All that's necessary to know is that, in this world, humans' souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animals. There's an excellent primer here.
For reference: Subira (a dwarf mongoose), Tzophiya (a Grey Lourie), Hisoka (a Pallas's Cat), Duinn (a Japanese Flying Squirrel), and Leala (an otterhound).
When Sherlock was a child, well-before Tzophiya had settled, they used to experiment to see how far they could go from each other before they couldn't stand it any more. They became very good at being apart, good at splitting up so they could take in more of an area at once, and meet again to discuss what they'd found. Once, it had felt like a thousand plasters being slowly ripped off at the same time. Now, it was just an unpleasant tug, and when the pain started, they knew to come back to each other again.
Sherlock doesn't mind the tug tonight, because it suits his mood. He wouldn't be comfortable anyway, so he might as well be uncomfortable and get the information he wants. Tzophiya is good at going unnoticed, and no one really expects to see a dæmon without their human. She can perch up high and spy and report, without any one noticing her. It's also saving Sherlock's sanity a little. He can't deal with hospitals. There's too much information there; too many people, too many smells and sounds. So much data coming in at once that he can't prioritize it. He's happier in the waiting room, by himself, tucked in a corner where he can't see the outside corridors. Tzophiya is off trying to overhear something about John's condition. He's in the ICU; he went directly there from surgery instead of going to recovery. It took them three hours to repair the damage done by the bullet. It shattered inside him and bounced around.
John is the opposite with his dæmon. They never stray too far from each other. Even when he was bleeding to death on the pavement, Subira was right up on his chest, and his heart rate plummeted when the paramedics tried to move her. Even unconscious, they knew where they were in relation to each other. Sherlock is often surprised when Tzophiya pops up somewhere; he doesn't keep much track of her.
“Well?” he asks, as she swoops into the room and lands on a nearby chair.
“I couldn't get close enough to the room to see in,” she says. “If you moved to the chair near the door, I might be able to, but it would be a stretch. I heard one of the nurses coming off duty saying he's very shocky still. The surgeons are concerned he might start bleeding again; they've asked the nurses to keep an eye out for that. His CBC showed slight improvement. They think if he makes it through the night, he'll likely have a chance at recovering.”
This matches Sherlock's own assessment of the situation. He'd been the one trying to keep John's blood from pouring out of him. He knows what the chances are.
“What about the staff?” he asks.
“None of them are distracted or overtired. One of the nurses is capable, the other one is not. The capable one is in charge of John's bed bay,” Tzophiya says. “If he dies, it won't be through staff error.”
Sherlock nods. Tzophiya ruffles her feathers a little, and then sits down on the chair next to the one Sherlock is in. They have to wait now. The culprit has been found; Sherlock has nothing to distract himself with. He could go home, of course. No one is forcing him to stay. But home or here, John is still dying, and Sherlock wants the information as soon as it is available.
It seems quite unfair to be losing John so soon after his mother's death. There are so few people that Sherlock bothers to keep track of at all; it's annoying that they would all decide to leave him at once. His heart isn't very big, he's not sure if it can take quite the amount of damage it's been dealt lately. It hurts now, some sort of odd psychosomatic pain, like John's limp. Like a heart attack, he imagines. Only emotional.
“You could go in and sit with him,” Tzophiya comments.
“What's the point of that?” Sherlock asks.
“I don't know,” Tzophiya admits, sounding confused. “But, it's what people do, isn't it?”
“I suppose so,” Sherlock says.
Neither of them move.
Sherlock identifies Molly's shoes on the corridor floors long before she makes the waiting room. Tzophiya flies up to sit on Sherlock's shoulder; a pre-emptive strike against Duinn's tendency to hug. He can't get to her up there.
The little flying squirrel scampers in first, looking around nervously, and then making a quick, anxious dash to Sherlock's feet. His paws are clasped together, and his tail swish-swishes back and forth in agitation. Molly follows a step behind, coming over and standing in front of Sherlock, her eyes red and puffy.
“There's no change,” Sherlock said, before she can get too worked up inquiring. “I don't want to talk about it. You can stay, I don't care.”
Molly nods, touching his hand briefly before sitting in the chair next to his. “If you change your mind, I'm here,” she says.
“Thank you,” Sherlock says.
Lestrade comes in when his paperwork is finished. His stupid, clumsy otterhound trots by his side.
“The arraignment is on Thursday morning,” he reports. “He'll be held until then, and afterwards mostly likely. If he doesn't plead guilty, he's an idiot. Did you get hold of John's sister?”
“Was I supposed to?” Sherlock asks.
“She'd want to know, Sherlock,” Molly says.
“Why? She's never been involved before, why should start caring now?” Sherlock asks.
“It's different...when...” Molly tries. “Maybe she'd like the chance to say goodbye, if...she has to.”
Sherlock shrugs. “I don't know her phone number,” he says. “Ring her if you want. I don't care. I can guarantee she's drunk at this hour of the night.”
“Sherlock,” Tzophiya scolds. He flicks her off his shoulder with annoyance. She hops back up and pecks his cheek. “Be rational.”
Sherlock clenches his jaw. “Fine. Her number will be in John's phone. I have it,” he said. He removed the mobile from his pocket.
“Is that evidence?” Lestrade asks, with disapproval.
“Why, were you going to do something useful with it?” Sherlock says. Another peck to his cheek. “It's not evidence. He was holding it when he was shot, I picked it up so he wasn't lying on it. It's nothing to do with what happened. Here, do what you want with it.”
Lestrade takes it from him. Leala snorts, scolding. Tzophiya flicks her tail at her. Lestrade goes out in the corridor to make the phone call.
“It's okay to be angry,” Molly says. “But, other people are upset, too. You're not the only one. I know it's hard to think about that, when you're upset. Sometimes it helps to know that, though. That you're not alone.”
“She'll make a scene,” Sherlock says.
“She's allowed to,” Molly says. “So are you.”
As Sherlock predicted, Harry Watson doesn't answer her phone. Lestrade decides to try again later on. He takes a seat, Leala laying down across his feet.
“I'm going to go in,” Molly says. “I think someone should sit with him.”
“You don't have to, Molls,” Lestrade says.
“I don't mind,” Molly says. “I sat with my dad when...I'll be okay. I don't think he should be alone.”
She leaves the room, Duinn scampering after her, chattering inanely. Tzophiya gets off of Sherlock's shoulder, now that she's sure she won't be attacked.
“So, truthfully,” Lestrade says. “Is he going to die?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says. “I'd say it's about a 90% chance. If he makes it until morning, perhaps 75%. It will decrease every day after that, so long as he doesn't throw a clot or get pneumonia or—”
“Okay,” Lestrade says. “Okay, Sherlock. Thanks.”
They sit silently for a while. Lestrade tries Harry again. No answer.
Sherlock rings Mrs Hudson with an update. She doesn't like hospitals. He doesn't think she'll come. He's warned her about John's chances. She says the last thing she said to John was goodbye, and he had kissed her on the cheek. She feels she can live with not seeing him, if need be. Mrs Turner is with her. She'll be fine for now.
Lestrade gets up two hours later and goes in to the ICU. Molly comes out again. Tzophiya gets on Sherlock's shoulder.
“Greg is going to sit with him for a bit,” Molly says. “I was fine, but I think he needs his chance. John looks very comfortable. I don't think he's in pain.”
Sherlock isn't sure if that's supposed to be reassuring. He's dying; does it matter if he's in pain? Will it change anything if he isn't? Molly sits down again, Duinn in her lap. He makes a few attempts to engage Tzophiya in conversation, but she doesn't respond.
“I could come in with you, if you want to go in,” Molly says, after they've sat for a while. “If you want to say goodbye.”
“He won't be able to hear it,” Sherlock said. “What's the point?”
“It might make you feel better,” Molly says. “It might make him feel better. We don't know what he can hear or think or feel. He should have family with him.”
“Harry isn't answering her phone,” Sherlock says.
“I wasn't talking about Harry.”
Sherlock finally consents to go in at three AM. Molly comes with him, through her own insistence rather than his invitation. Sherlock keeps his vision narrowed so he doesn't have to take in the rest of the patients in the unit. He doesn't need to see their chances of survival, or how they came to be there, or whether the family members visiting are there through guilt or duty or desire.
Lestrade sits in a chair by the bed, Leala lying beneath it with her chin on her paws. She gets up when Sherlock and Molly arrive, and tugs at Lestrade's trouser leg. He gives Sherlock a sympathetic smile and leaves.
John has tubes all over him, and is wired to within an inch of his life. There's a lot of beeping that Sherlock has to work hard to eliminate, so he can concentrate on the ones come from John's machine. The line is irregular.
Subira is sidecarred to the bed in the bassinet they use for smaller dæmons. Someone has placed John's hand to touch her; presumably a compromise to keep his heart rate down. Tzophiya jumps up on the edge of the bassinet and peers down. Subira looks quite pale.
“What am I supposed to do?” Sherlock asks. He sat with his mother when she was dying, but she was conscious—painfully so.
“Whatever you want,” Molly says. Duinn climbs up and sits down next to Subira, his tail winding around her head. Tzophiya steps down into the bassinet, but doesn't touch anyone. “You can talk to him, or—or hold his hand. Or just sit here. Whatever you want. I can leave you alone, if you have something you'd like to say in private.”
Sherlock shakes his head, not really sure what he wants to do. He takes a seat next to the bed and sits there. It's not much different from sitting in the waiting room. He sits for a few minutes, and Molly and Duinn slip away silently, so he's on his own. Tzophiya still sits next to Subira, but not touching her.
“You probably can't hear me,” Sherlock says, somewhat surprised at himself for speaking. “I've been unconscious before, I don't remember anyone speaking to me. But, I suppose if you can hear me, I should say something comforting. I don't know what. It's not going to be okay. You're going to die, and even if you don't, you'll have a long recovery ahead of you. You've done it before with your shoulder, so I suppose you know what's in store. In any case, whatever you decide to do, I don't really have any control over it. I've done all that I can. If it's not enough, it's not my fault. I would appreciate it if you made an effort to live, however. And if you're not going to make the effort, you should just stop lying around. It's tedious. Just...die. You said when Mummy was dying that sometimes people need permission, so...I suppose I could grant you it. Die if you have to, but hurry up. You know I have no patience for waiting.”
There's no response, but Sherlock isn't expecting one. Tzophiya gives Subira a gentle nudge with her beak, as though trying to shake her awake, and then flies over to his shoulder. They sit silently, and wait.
Sherlock is baffled by the idea he might have fallen asleep. He doesn't fall asleep in normal circumstances, why on earth should he start now, when it's so important to stay awake?
He wakes up and is disorientated to the time and place. Tzophiya lifts her head from under her wing and they stare at each other, confused. There are no windows in the ICU. He looks at his watch. It's nearly seven. John is still alive, as evidenced by his ECG. He beeps, therefore he is. In fact, Sherlock can see his eyes are open. He's not awake, he's too out of it to call it that, but he's conscious. He's looking around.
Sherlock clicks his fingers for a nurse, and stands up to get a better look. John's eyes find his face, but there isn't much recognition there.
“It's about time,” Sherlock says. “I don't know why you have to drag everything out.”
Subira makes a series of pained peeps, not uncommon for dæmons coming out of sedation. Tzophiya lands beside her, and pokes her to shut up. John's fingers wiggle over her fur, looking for her. His pinkie nearly hits Tzophiya, who dances back from it.
The nurse finally arrives, and Sherlock steps back for her to work. The doctor is summoned, and John is examined. The prognosis is cautiously optimistic.
“He's lasted the night,” the doctor says, to Sherlock. “Your partner's chances have improved considerably.”
“Thank you,” Sherlock says, dropping into the part of concerned husband. It doesn't matter if it's inaccurate; it's giving him access to privileged information. He can grill the doctor all he wants, and get the answers he's looking for. Tzophiya nuzzles Subira affectionately to help create the illusion. “Thank you so much.”
He asks a few stammered questions about John's condition, and beams lovingly at the results. The doctor leaves again, and Sherlock drops his smile. John is still vaguely conscious, but not for long. They've given him more medicine. Sherlock steps over to the bed and John's eyes find him and there's almost recognition in them. Nothing he'll remember, but Sherlock thinks he knows who he is.
“I'm revoking my permission,” Sherlock says.
John falls back asleep.
Sherlock stays another ten minutes to make sure the nurse that's taken over the shift-change is capable. She'll do. He leaves, and goes out to corridor.
For some reason, his legs decide to leave him. Molly is talking with Mycroft at the door to the waiting room. Sherlock doesn't know why Mycroft is there, but he's only just arrived—come out of a meeting, hasn't eaten since the night before, has had too much coffee and wants a cigarette. Sherlock can't stand up any more, and he can't fall down there, so he quickly walks away, looking for somewhere to quietly collapse where he won't be bothered. He finds a quiet side corridor with no one in it, and leans back against the wall, sliding down into a crouch, his head in his hands. He's shaking all over and Tzophiya's feathers are all on end. She perches on his knees and hides in the arc of his bent chest.
“Sherlock?” Mycroft says.
Sherlock can hear the pad of Hisoka's paws on the floor.
“Don't say anything,” Sherlock says. “I need to...I'm not sure what I'm doing. So, don't...help.”
“All right,” Mycroft says. “May I know if it is good news or bad?”
“Good,” Sherlock says, and his hand tremble even more. “It's good. Why am I reacting like this if it's good?”
“Because you couldn't react like this when it was bad,” Mycroft says.
Sherlock doesn't think that makes sense, but emotions never make much sense to him. Whatever is going on, he has no control over it, and realizes he's going to have to let himself lose control to get rid of it. He sits right down on the floor, and slowly eases the cramp in his chest so it's not holding in everything so tightly. Hisoka sits nearby, and Mycroft leans against the opposite wall, looking down thoughtfully at his mobile.
“The Diogenes Club is using new floor polish, are they having monetary problems?” Sherlock asks.
“I believe they've stopped making the brand they were using previously,” Mycroft says, lifting up foot briefly to examine his shoe.
Sherlock nods. Tzophiya is breathing heavily, and he realizes he is as well. Huffing sort of pants.
“He's not out of the woods yet,” Sherlock says. “He may not be fine. It's going to be a while before he's fine.”
“Yes,” Mycroft says.
“But he's not dead,” Sherlock says.
“No,” Mycroft says.
Sherlock's pants are almost sobs now, and he can't turn them back into pants. “I was afraid he would be,” he says.
“I know,” Mycroft says. “But he isn't.”
“Is this how he felt when I died?” Sherlock asks.
“I imagine so,” Mycroft says.
“No wonder he hit me so hard,” Sherlock says.
It's a few days before John is anything close to conscious. He comes to here and there, but is so very narcotised and sedated that it's about as fruitful to hold conversation with the walls than it is to try to make get any sort of sense out him. Subira keeps wandering around drunkenly and bumping into the sides of her bassinet. Tzophiya scolds Sherlock every time he laughs at her, while simultaneously chuckling herself.
Finally, Sherlock pays a visit when John is semi-upright, the head of his bed raised. Subira is curled up in his lap, over the blankets. It's the first time Sherlock has seen her out of the bassinet, and, though she looks a little blank in the eyes, she's not quite so sedated as she was. Tzophiya flies ahead of Sherlock and lands on the bed railing, calling a little 'gane' to her. Subira blinks at her, and twitches her nose in reply.
“Hey,” John says, his voice a little distant and a bit too mellow to be fully himself. “I was wondering when you'd get here.”
“I've been here,” Sherlock objects. “You just don't remember. I've been here quite a bit.”
“Is that because we're married?” John asked. “Because the nurse thinks we're a lovely couple, and you're a very devoted partner.”
Sherlock shrugs as he takes a seat. “It was easier,” he says. “They assumed; I ran with it. There were greater things to worry about than our marital status.”
“We don't have a marital status,” John says. “Which I told the nurse, and she made me be re-evaluated for brain damage from the hypoxia. So, thanks for that.”
“Anyone with any sense could see we aren't a couple, it's not my fault that people are dense,” Sherlock replies. “The only reason they assume we are is so they don't appear to be homophobic. Everyone wants to reassure you that they are perfectly comfortable with same-sex partnerships, so they rush to assume we're together so they can show off about it. Besides, your sister is hardly capable of making medical decisions. I took on a role that would allow me to help plan your care if need be.”
“You're my power of attorney, you have that right already,” John said. “I changed it after Harry had her last big meltdown, and I realized she was going to be useless if anything happened to me. I needed a cold-hearted bastard, and you were the closest to hand.”
Sherlock looks to Tzophiya to see if she knows anything about this. She sometimes remembers things he doesn't bother to. She shrugs, apparently as clueless as him. “Well, you should have told me that,” he says.
“I'm pretty sure I did,” John says. “Because you would have had to sign something agreeing to it.”
“Oh,” Sherlock says. “Well, no harm done.”
“Except for where they think I'm either delusional or ashamed of our relationship,” John says.
“Are you ashamed of our relationship?” Sherlock asks, feigning hurt.
“Yeah, but for so many more reasons than that one,” John says. “Which doesn't exist.”
Sherlock smirks. “How are you?” he asks.
“Pretty fucked up,” John admits, which is unusual for him. “S'gonna be awhile before I'm back on my feet, I'm sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Sherlock asks. “You didn't shoot yourself.”
“I won't be much good to you,” John says. “No one to run around and be stupid with.”
“I'll make do,” Sherlock says. “I did before. You're more of an asset than a necessity.”
John smiles slightly. “I like how that was insulting and complimentary at the same time,” he says. He's starting to fade back into a drugged stupor. His words are heavy. “Just don't get too used to it.”
“I won't,” Sherlock promises.
Subira topples sideways into John's lap, unable to be upright any more. She curls around her stomach protectively. John must be in pain. Tzophiya looks to Sherlock, and when he doesn't do what she wants, dances over to the pain pump and looks at it pointedly. Sherlock presses the button for John.
“Nurse said you've been here every day,” John says.
“Well, you've been very lazy, lying around,” Sherlock says. “I have to come every day or you'd never bother to do anything with yourself. Now that you're up and about, I can find something better to do with my time.”
John smiles, stupidly. His eyelids are half-closed. “Fuck off,” he says.
Tzophiya titters softly. “Don't be vulgar,” Sherlock says. “I'm going. Don't get too much sleep, you'll rust. Your brain has already atrophied, you wouldn't want your muscles to the same.”
“Don't, it hurts to laugh,” John says.
“I'm sorry,” Sherlock says. “I'll leave.”
Sherlock stands up. Tzophiya bobs her head to Subira, who tries to raise a paw and just flops over instead. Tzophiya flies to Sherlock's shoulder, disgusted.
“Goodbye,” Sherlock says. He turns to go, but turns back. “Thank you for making the effort.”
“S'zat mean?” John murmurs.
“Nothing,” Sherlock says. “Get some rest.”