The hardest part is waiting for John to wake up. He can get awfully stroppy when Sherlock cuts his sleep short – or at least, that’s what Sherlock wrote in their book. John penned in an answer, pointing out that not everyone has frighteningly abnormal sleep patterns. Sherlock answered that there’s nothing frightening about it… and that conversation continued for a full two pages over several weeks.
Sherlock paces as he waits, picking up his violin and setting it down again without playing, practically bouncing in excitement.
Finally, finally John wakes up, water running in the bathroom announcing that fact. Sherlock sets the kettle to boil – the book says John likes it when Sherlock makes tea for him – but John comes out before the kettle has clicked shut, and Sherlock can’t bear to wait a second longer.
“What’s going on?” John asks, yawning, as Sherlock drags him to the sitting room. “Can you give me two minutes—”
“I gave you almost eight hours. I was waiting for June second and it’s been June second for seven hours and thirty-seven minutes. Here. Sit down.”
John looks pained as he sits on the sofa. “We don’t usually celebrate June second, you know,” he says with a sad smile.
Sherlock doesn’t reply and presses into John’s hands a couple of pages he printed from an online medical journal. John looks at Sherlock sitting next to him, then at the pages, his eyes running briefly over them before he gives a short nod.
“I’ve read this before,” he says. “It’s one of the longest and most detailed study of a patient with anterograde amnesia.”
“So you know about the maze,” Sherlock says, barely suppressing his grin. “And how—”
“The patient solved it progressively faster, even though he had no memory of solving it previously, yes. It’s the same principle as muscle memory. It’s why you can learn new pieces on the violin and get better at them over a few—”
“Ask me about my mind palace,” Sherlock cuts in, smiling widely.
Something shifts in John’s expression, minute but still noticeable. Not hope; not yet. The hope that hope is possible, maybe.
“Tell me about your mind palace,” he asks quietly.
“Ask me about the music room,” Sherlock says, his smile widening a little more.
“Tell me about the music room.”
“Ask me what was on the piano.”
“What was on the piano?”
“Before the illness? Nothing. There was nothing on the piano.”
John blinks, licks his lips, and asks in a murmur, “What’s on the piano now?”
It took a long, long time. A text file on Sherlock’s phone lists the first day Sherlock tried to create the memory cues, along with all the days after that when he found nothing on the piano and tried again, the first day when something – a shadow more than anything else – appeared on the piano, and all the small steps after that until now.
It’s not a cure, not even a solution because Sherlock didn’t know it was there, wouldn’t have known to look for it if his phone hadn’t told him to check.
But it is… something. Progress. The proof that Sherlock’s brain might be trained to remember in new ways – or not so new; he’s been using the method of loci for more than half his life, after all.
“This is on the piano,” he says, pointing at his arm, then at the two lines on his chest, framed by tattoos representing the chemicals associated with love. “And this. Three new memo—”
He can’t finish, not with John’s mouth pressing hard against his.
It’s okay. They can talk about it later. They have all the time in the world. It’s not like either of them is going anywhere.