John swears he sees the shadow of a giant four legged creature thrown up against the wall when he breathes, “Jesus Christ” and stumbles back. The back of his leg hits a drawer of a lab bench and he flings out a hand to steady himself.
He doesn’t register it at first because the hound snarls and the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. His heart pounds and he needs to move, needs to get out of there. The door won’t open so he climbs into the cage and tells Sherlock to please, please hurry—
It isn’t until the lab space is illuminated in stark light and Sherlock is insisting that everything will be alright that he notices.
It’s half embedded into his wrist.
They have protocols for needle sticks at the surgery. John remembers fast forwarding through a powerpoint on blood-borne pathogens before he had started working. It had just been another training module at the time, fine print to read before signing the contract. He should have paid more attention.
“Are you sure you don’t want to do this in private?” Dr. Stapleton asks, looking at Sherlock.
“He would figure it out anyway,” John says.
“I see,” she says as she looks down at the clipboard in her hands, “Well. Dr. Watson, I have to start off with informing you that the substance on that needle is very highly classified. We have several controlled substances here with applications that might be held to a different ethical standard than in most traditional research groups.”
“Please, spare us the theatrics,” Sherlock says.
To her credit, Dr. Stapleton doesn’t look away from John’s face when she tells him that he’s infected with a virus.
Increase in cognitive function correlated with NTV infection
The Neurotargeting Virus (NTV) was discovered in 2009 in an isolated family of common chimpanzee. Previous literature has shown that the virus is difficult to transmit but can be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. The mechanism of infection has yet to be established but the virus has been shown to primarily affect the nervous system. This study compared the cognitive abilities of chimpanzees infected with NTV (n=4) with control animals (n=5). In a range of tasks scored blindly, the infected animals consistently showed significantly higher cognitive function. These findings are significant for possible application of the virus or its mechanism of action in the treatment of developmental neural disorders.
“I don’t believe it,” John says when they’re in the cab on the way back to 221B, “How the hell hasn’t this virus exploded in the scientific community yet? I’ve read almost every issue of the BMJ since getting back and there’s been absolutely no mention anywhere.”
“Don’t be so surprised by what the government can hide from you, John,” Sherlock says as he looks out the window, “I hardly think this would be the worst of it.”
“This is—this could change the entire field of neurology! And they’re just sitting on it, hoping to make, what? Supersoldiers?”
Sherlock turns and smiles, all teeth. “Not particularly fair, is it? For those of us who spent years cultivating our genius.”
John puts his face in his hands and laughs. “Of course you’re going to make this about you.”
Sherlock looks at John. He reaches forward to put a hand on John’s arm but it never quite makes contact.
“I’m fairly certain that you’ll be fine,” Sherlock says, “There was only a miniscule chance that there was even enough on that needle to properly dose a human. Combine that with the fact that the needle didn’t hit any major blood vessels and the distance that it would have to travel to penetrate the blood-brain barrier—it all suggests to me that your immune system will find the virus before it can cause any real damage. Wouldn’t you say so, doctor?”
John rubs at his forehead but he sounds a little grateful when he says, “I suppose so.”
John notices it first when he manages to get through his backlog of patient paperwork in less than three hours. It’s not that the work is any less tedious or that he’s suddenly gained a new intuition for the hospital charting software. The words just come to him more easily, like they’re bypassing his brain entirely and leaping from his fingers onto the page.
He eats lunch in the canteen. Sarah sits with him when their breaks coincide, sometimes Molly joins them. But there are always two Indian doctors who sit together at a table near him, speaking in Punjabi. John catches himself half listening to their conversation and realizes that he’s following the rhythm of the language. He’s picking out what could be nouns and what are likely verbs, just by listening to the inflections in their voice.
He has a new patient who tells him that she’s lost five pounds in the last month without doing anything different. She tells him that she’s been having diarrhoea constantly, that sometimes when she lays in bed at night, it hurts to swallow. He barely takes a look at the lab results on her blood tests before he thinks Zollinger-Ellison syndrome and he’s right. He hasn’t encountered it before as a physician—but now he remembers perfectly the textbook page that he had read during foundation training years and years ago.
Mycroft shows up at 221B with a file in hand.
Sherlock doesn’t look up from the book that he is reading and says, “Go away Mycroft.”
“Hello,” John says. He’s cleaning coagulated pig blood from the sink because Sherlock doesn’t understand the concept of biohazard. His arm is tired from scrubbing half the kitchen.
“I’m not here for long,” Mycroft assures Sherlock, “I’m just here to give this to John. Burn it after you read it.”
“If you could just set that on the table—yes, great, thank you.”
The moment that Mycroft leaves, Sherlock throws down the book and pounces on the file. John wants to peel the rubber gloves off and demand that Sherlock clean his own messes for once. Instead he dumps more baking soda onto an errant bloodstain and watches Sherlock out of the corner of his eye.
Sherlock flips through the papers, scattering paperclips. He glances through the figures, stops only once in a while to read something on a page. John keeps scrubbing for a few more minutes, indecisive in his terror about discovering more about the virus. There is no best-case scenario.
Eventually he throws the sponge down into the sink and takes the seat across from Sherlock. Sherlock hands him the sheaf of papers he’s already perused and John starts to read.
Fifteen minutes later, Sherlock gets his attention by tapping on the back of his hand. John looks up and Sherlock shows him the article that he’s reading.
John scans through the abstract (… simian model produced animals capable of understanding written communication in the form of pictographs four weeks post-infection…), and then he laughs once, humourless.
“Well,” John says, fixing his eyes back on the paper in his own hands, “Something about monkeys on a typewriter and Shakespeare.”
And if Sherlock is looking at him speculatively now, John keeps his eyes locked on the article in front of him and pretends to read.
“Do you feel any different?” Sherlock asks, two weeks after Baskerville.
John shrugs and grinds more pepper into the olive oil. They’re seated at a fairly nice restaurant where Sherlock is waiting for his latest suspect to show up so he can confirm a few theories about the man. John’s starving and Sherlock’s been tearing his half of the bread into tiny pieces.
“No sudden insights?” Sherlock presses, “No racing thoughts that you can’t quite keep up with?”
“I can read faster,” John says, and then, “Why do you have three pieces of bread if you’re not going to eat them?”
It’s a Tuesday afternoon in his office when John discovers that he can read an entire page of text in a few moments. It feels like his mind physically lifts all of the words off the page and delegates different sections to different parts of his brain which all process simultaneously. He sees patterns of words, can recite individual sentences from memory.
He doesn’t know whether to feel relieved or disappointed when he memorizes four pages of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason out of curiosity and doesn’t understand it any better than he did before.
Mutation in NTV allows for cross-species transfer to infect mice
Modification of a stretch of positively charged loops (35-40, 152-157) in the viral glycoprotein 75 allows the NTV virus to make the cross-species leap from chimpanzee into mice. Although the viral mechanism of infection is still not fully characterized, it is believed that due to the low transmission rate and common symptoms that the murine NTV virus behaves similarly to the original. This discovery marks a significant progression in the study of the NTV virus as it allows for in vivo studies to be conducted in a more effective animal model.
Sherlock’s text takes him to Battersea where there’s been drug-related deaths—not the normal gang activity but three wealthy socialites who have all been deposited in the bins behind nightclubs, a red rose sewn into the skin over their hearts and a small plastic bag of a heroin-cocaine mixture stuffed into their mouths. Sherlock leans over the newest body with his magnifying glass out. John arrives just in time to hear Sherlock berate Lestrade with, “You should really have called me in earlier.”
“The case was just transferred to me this morning,” Lestrade replies and nods at John in greeting. John steals a pair of gloves from one of the evidence collecting crew and crouches next to the naked body.
“Time of death?” Sherlock asks, using one finger to pull down the woman’s jaw. His eyes fix on the packet of white and John thinks for an insane second that Sherlock is going to ask if he can test the drugs.
John bends the woman’s arm—it’s pretty stiff. “I’d estimate at least eight hours. Didn’t someone take her temperature?”
Sherlock waves him off, “It rained earlier today. Useless.” He runs a finger over the rose, “Cause of death?”
There are no marks on the body to suggest a struggle. “A toxin?”
“All of the other victims came out clean,” Lestrade offers.
“Asphyxiation,” John suggests.
“Hm,” Sherlock says.
“The suspect’s probably a mortician,” John adds.
Sherlock actually looks at him this time but John can’t tell if he’s surprised. “I see we aren’t lagging behind too far today.”
Lestrade crosses his arms. “What am I missing?”
“Stitching on the rose is too neat to be anything other than a practised hand,” John says, “That and the fact that her makeup looks almost untouched. If she was awake, she would have probably been crying at the time of death. Someone touched her up afterwards. Mortician fits both of those.”
“Or it could be a female surgeon,” Sherlock says, “That was just a lucky guess if you missed the formaldehyde.”
John looks down at the body. And then, “The packet in her mouth.”
“A tinge of purple,” Sherlock agrees.
After they’ve cleared the crime scene and John is in the midst of hailing a taxi, Sherlock touches his shoulder and asks, “Are you sure you don’t feel any different?”
“Maybe a little,” John admits.
Dr. Stapleton starts their daily phone conversation with, “We really appreciate that you’ve been so generous with your time over the last month, John,” and John knows that he’s going to have to make a trip to Baskerville. He’s been expecting this since Mycroft stopped by with the papers.
“Day thirty is this Sunday,” Dr. Stapleton continues, “You won’t have to take time off from work or anything. We’ll provide accommodation and compensate you well.”
“Okay,” John says, “You’ll have to provide transportation.”
“I’m coming with you, of course,” Sherlock says when John tells him that he’ll be gone for the weekend. He’s reading the newspaper in his bathrobe, phone balanced on his knee. No new cases then.
“You don’t have to,” John says, setting his briefcase in its usual spot next to his chair, “I’m sure it’ll be very dull. They’ll probably be putting me through my paces the entire day. You’ll be bored out of your skull.”
“Nonsense,” Sherlock replies as he shuts the newspaper, “I’m sure if I get bored, I’ll find ways to entertain myself.” It’s an ominous promise that John is sure he’ll regret later but he doesn’t want to make the four hour round trip by himself so he tells Sherlock that they’re leaving Saturday afternoon.
John doesn’t listen to Dr. Stapleton’s instructions before he takes the IQ test because he’s distracted by the research assistants who pipe up with, “Please don’t touch that sir,” every once in a while as Sherlock wanders too close to an expensive looking piece of equipment. But it turns out that they’ve set him up with Raven’s Progressive Matrices on a computer and all he has to do is click the correct answer in the progression of images and the test takes him to the next question.
When John finishes, he finds Sherlock sitting at Dr. Stapleton’s desk, shamelessly going through her notes. He looks up as John enters.
“Where’s Dr. Stapleton?”
“No idea,” Sherlock says, looking back down and flipping to the next page in her lab notebook, “How’d you do then?”
“Don’t know if they’ll even tell me,” John says, sitting in the seat across from Sherlock, “Doubleblind experimentation?”
“It can’t be doubleblind if you know you’ve been infected,” Sherlock points out, “And they’ve given you a full hour but it’s barely past the forty-minute mark now. There’s no need to be modest, John.”
“It wasn’t too hard,” John says, picking up one of the journals on her desk, “Wonder if they’ll let me see any of the infected animals.”
“See you in two weeks,” Dr. Stapleton says by way of goodbye when John leaves the Baskerville facilities. Major Barrymore escorts them off the premises but doesn’t say a word to them—just frowns at Sherlock as he hands John the keys to the vehicle they’re lending him.
Sherlock has pilfered what John is sure is confidential data under his coat and he flips through them now as John drives back to the inn. John wonders if they’re going to get a call later about the importance of keeping sensitive information private.
Over dinner, Sherlock cuts his fish into tiny bits and eats maybe two pieces. John finishes his vegetarian lasagne entree in ten minutes and resists the urge to complain about the lack of meat on the inn’s dining room menu. He also tries to keep his eyes from straying to Sherlock’s plate too often.
“Do you understand why I use a mind palace?” Sherlock asks, breaking another chunk of perfectly good fish. John wants to reach over the table and grab his wrist, tell him to stop ruining his food.
“Sort of, yeah,” John says, “Easier to organize things spatially, I guess. Easier to catalogue memories that way and to find them again when you want them.” He scrapes at the bottom of his plate with his fork.
“I could teach you, if you’d like,” Sherlock offers, “I suppose you’d be capable of it now, wouldn’t you?” He takes a sip of the Pinot Grigio he’s paired with the fish that he hasn’t eaten and tilts his head, “You could order another entree.”
John doesn’t know why he’s so hungry and he’s a little embarrassed to be caught, “I’m not ordering another entree.”
Sherlock sets his wine glass down and pushes his plate towards John, “Have mine, then.”
John considers protesting but he really wants the fish. He glances around the room before picking food off Sherlock’s plate.
“Do you want to learn?” Sherlock asks, picking up the glass again, “It’d be a much more efficient way to organize your mind.”
John starts off by using 221B as a place to organize his thoughts. The living room is for all of his memories associated with Sherlock: papers on the desk describe old cases, notes folded up and cradled in the skull for all the locations that Sherlock might have run off to when he’s not in the flat. He keeps his memories of the war locked up in the nightstand where he keeps his gun underneath paperback books and scrap paper he’s written all over. In his mind, he can lock the drawer.
The kitchen is reserved for his medical knowledge, his latest patients are the letters on the counter, one for each of them and if he opens the envelope he can see each chart in his mind’s eye. He keeps textbooks in the cupboard, and when he runs out of space there, he moves into the oven.
But John’s been devouring research articles in his free time, because understanding them keeps his mind occupied and he gets anxious when he’s not thinking. Figuring out the puzzle of the human body is infinitely more interesting than what he’s going to have for dinner or what Sarah’s going to think about his new tendency to remain motionless and stare out the window for long periods of time after lunch.
This must be what it’s like to be Sherlock, John realizes.
NTV enters neural cells by binding to receptors Ap52, NF25 and LGUR-gamma
The Neurotargeting Virus (NTV) was discovered in 2009 and remains a poorly characterized lentivirus which specifically targets brain tissue. This paper identifies three potential receptors that the virus binds to, found primarily on nervous tissue: Ap52, NF25, and LGUR-gamma. Potential receptors were identified by protein-protein interaction screening and verified by co-localization via confocal microscopy. Knockdown of expression was achieved in HCN-1 cells through transfection of siRNA for each identified receptor. Wild type and knockdown HCN-1 cells were infected with NTV and characterized 48 hours post-infection. Viral infection induced rapid proliferation and limited differentiation in the WT cells whereas knockdown cells proliferated at a much slower rate. Results will be verified in vivo using conditional knockout mice.
Sherlock has cleared off half the kitchen table to reconstruct a miniature model of a crime scene with the breadbox and broken bits of a broccoli head. John looks at it in the morning when he goes to make coffee before heads off to the surgery and calls out, “Do you want some?”
“Sugar, please,” Sherlock replies from where he’s laying on the sofa, one arm over his eyes.
“What’s this on the table?” John asks as the coffeemaker starts to gurgle.
“A murder,” Sherlock replies ominously.
John pulls two mugs from the cupboard and sets them on the counter. He leans over the kitchen table and studies the pieces—the saltshaker has been tipped on one side and Sherlock has put sticky notes indicating every ground-level entryway on the breadbox which must be the building where the victim was murdered. Sherlock has drawn possible trajectories from the breadbox to the saltshaker, equations scribbled haphazardly. Saltshaker must be the victim then.
John retreats to the coffee machine and pours himself a cup. He dumps two spoonfuls of sugar into Sherlock’s mug and stirs before delivering it to Sherlock.
Sherlock looks up at him as he takes the mug.
“Are you sure the victim was even shot from the building?” John asks, wrapping his hands around his cup of coffee, “What if he was just planted there?”
Found bullet shells in sewer. Ask Molly if she can spare a cadaver. – SH
She can’t. – JW
Bart’s has ballistics gel. – SH
I’m not stealing it. – JW
Pick up gelatine when you do the shopping. I’ve run out. – SH
Sherlock sends a text to demand his presence but John begs off because of a headache he’d developed sometime around his four-thirty patient. When he gets home from the surgery, he takes two aspirins and a thirty-minute nap. When he wakes up, he feels a bit better.
Sherlock has been nagging him about the gelatine and they’re out of vegetables so he shoulders the backpack he uses to carry groceries home and heads out. He’s thinking about ways to reduce turbulent flow in the design of cardiovascular stents while he shops in effort to keep his mind off the fact that his headache is probably a result of the infection.
He does the shopping on autopilot. He remembers to get the stupidly expensive brand of orange juice that Sherlock likes so much but he’s too busy not thinking about his headache that he forgets the gelatine until he’s a street away. He considers saying fuck it but eventually turns around and goes back.
“What do you use as your memory device?” Sherlock asks. He’s been bouncing a ball off the wall of their flat for the last twenty minutes in complete silence.
“What?” John looks up from the newspaper he had finished reading fifteen minutes ago, front to back. He had been thinking about the effect of trade embargoes on the global development of technology—barely an afterthought mentioned in one of the articles—and as he looks at Sherlock now, all he can see is the parabolic equation of the ball, motion to potential to motion again and he blinks it away.
“The place where you spatially organize your thoughts.”
“Oh,” John says, “I use 221B.”
Sherlock bounces the ball a few more times. And then he says, “I suppose I was expecting something bigger.”
“I also use Afghanistan,” John adds, “Not really connected but I’ve moved all of my medical knowledge there.”
Sherlock sets the ball aside and looks at John, “Not many distinguishable features in a desert.”
“I don’t like to draw arbitrary lines in science,” John agrees.
Roehampton Club, 10 minutes. – SH
The back of the man’s head has been smashed in with a golf club.
“Dreadful,” the head manager keeps saying as Sherlock lifts the sheet covering the man, “Absolutely dreadful. Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of this establishment.”
“Who found him?” Sherlock asks, “When? Quickly now.”
“The groundsman,” the manager says, “Just half an hour ago.”
“He’s been dead for much longer than that,” John says without bending down to check the temperature or the state of the corpse’s rigor mortis. Sherlock pulls the sheet off entirely and circles the body, magnifying glass out.
“We don’t let anybody onto the grounds who isn’t a member or a staff member,” the manager tells them, “Mr. Keinon signed out his tee time alone and there was nobody else who signed up for the same time near this hole.”
John watches Sherlock lift the man’s hand to inspect the fingernails, open his mouth to see the broken teeth from where his face had made contact with the pavement. He doesn’t have to think about it to know the force and trajectory of the club that crushed the man’s skull, the height that it was swung from, the exact areas of brain that had been damaged, axon bundles and nuclei. He looks at the man and matches him up against the hundreds of cases they’ve done before.
“Where is the groundsman?” Sherlock demands.
“I’ll go get him,” the manager says and hurries away.
“Well?” Lestrade asks.
“I’ve got three theories,” Sherlock answers.
John looks from the body to Sherlock’s face. He steps closer, puts a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder as he whispers, “Isn’t it obvious?” into Sherlock’s ear, “You remember that murder up in Wormwood—the one with the ivy house and the two cats.”
“You think it’s the wife,” Sherlock’s voice is low, glancing over at Lestrade.
“Look at the positioning of the blow,” John nods towards the body, “Look at the watch he wears. His shirt. He’s having an affair with a woman thirty years his junior and his wife found out. The pattern fits.”
“Perhaps we should consider each case on an individual and independent basis,” Sherlock replies as he snaps his magnifying glass shut.
But in the end, John is right.
John wonders for a moment if Sarah would write him a prescription for Imitrex if he asked—and his mind brings him the structure of sumatriptan and breaks the small molecule down, posing the most effective precursor materials to synthesize it, suggests possible solvents and catalysts. It’s ridiculous because John hasn’t studied organic chemistry since university and he’s only recently expanded into reading chemistry papers. They’re much drier than the molecular biology he’d been sticking with before—but he likes looking at the mechanisms, likes teasing out the basic rules for synthesis, likes imagining three dimensional models of each compound.
Now, by the time he’s finished at the surgery, he has a migraine. He establishes a new routine: two Nurofen after he sets his briefcase down, and a twenty minute nap on the sofa.
Sherlock is never at the flat. He doesn’t text, but John knows that he’s out investigating another case or doing research.
John doesn’t need to make excuses any more. Sherlock just doesn’t invite him.
John doesn’t mind eating dinner by himself. He doesn’t even mind the fact that Sherlock’s stopped texting him demands. He worries, though, that Sherlock is spending too much time at crime scenes and not enough time eating or sleeping.
John does mind, however, when Sherlock sits at the living room table and ignores John’s “Oh, hello,” and “New case then?” and “What’s it about?” Fifteen minutes later, John tries with “So how about dinner?” and “Do you need any help?”
“I don’t need your help,” Sherlock snaps.
John is too tired to feel angry, “Is this what this is all about then? Afraid that I’m going to swoop in and steal your glory?”
“I’ve been solving these cases for half a decade,” Sherlock says, “I know what I’m good at, John.”
“Christ,” John says, “Sherlock, might I remind you who locked me in a laboratory for an experiment? Who terrified the shit out of me just to test his hypothesis?”
Sherlock goes rigid in his chair, knuckles whitening around the armrests.
“I never asked for this,” John snaps and leaves to his room.
John avoids Sherlock by staying late at the surgery and reading the pathology textbooks that Molly still refers to every once in a while.
“What are you two fighting about?” Molly asks as she peers through a microscope at a liver sample sent from the Yard, “Sherlock’s asked me to lend him my badge. I thought he had you for that?”
John’s half distracted by epidemiological statistics and thinking up possibilities for anti-malarial treatments, “I’ve threatened his ego and he’s sulking.” He wants to add what Sherlock did to him, but the confidentially papers he signed at Baskerville prevent him from saying anything more.
“I didn’t know his ego could be threatened,” Molly says, looking up and smiling at him, “I thought it was a bit like a black hole—can’t be destroyed but sucks up everything around it.”
“Evidently not,” John says and motions at the textbook, “These are very old statistics, aren’t they?”
Chelsea Harbour, kidnapping, 5 minutes. – SH
John? – SH
Bogged down at the hospital, have fun. – JW
John takes two Nurofen and tries to sleep but he can’t stop thinking long enough to doze off. After ten minutes of trying, John gives up and goes into the kitchen. Might as well as try to do something productive.
The kitchen table has been a mess for the last two weeks—Sherlock’s samples have all dehydrated in their petri dishes and John is willing to bet that there is lost correspondence under the mess of newspapers and scrap paper. He starts by stacking Sherlock’s experiments and sifts through the papers.
One flutters to the floor. John picks it up and recognizes it as a page from the articles Sherlock stole from Baskerville when they had gone in for his initial check-up. The article is cut off but there are two figures taking up the bottom half of the paper, two panels of immunohistochemistry: wild type and infected brain tissue from chimpanzees.
John stares at it for a long time. His brain is filling in all of the gaps—the stains they used, the stains they could have used to get a better picture, the function of the brain structure that the figure has been taken from. He’s extrapolating implications, possible treatments, therapeutic uses. But one conclusion keeps coming back, over and over again and suddenly his migraines make so much more sense.
Dr. Stapleton answers on the third ring: “Hello, John? Has something happened?”
John’s still staring at the paper when he says, “You’ve been keeping data from me.”
“I’m going to Baskerville,” John tells Sherlock.
“I’ve got a case,” Sherlock replies.
“Where’s the boyfriend, then?” the innkeeper asks as he pencils John into one of their rooms, “Everything alright?”
“We’re fine, thanks,” John says as he takes the keys.
“This looks like cancer,” John says, slapping down the page he has kept in his pocket all the way from London. Dr. Stapleton looks down at it.
“You told me that you didn’t know where my migraines were coming from,” John hisses, “You told me that none of the animals had shown any sign of discomfort. What the hell was the point in lying to me?”
“We thought it would be more humane,” Dr. Stapleton says in a small voice, “If you didn’t know. If you didn’t know what was going to happen.”
John’s knuckles whiten as he stares down at her, “And what’s going to happen?”
Sequential proliferation and degeneration of neurons in prolonged NTV infection
NTV infection has been previously characterized to significantly change the behaviour of mice over the course of two months. Previous literature has shown that for the first month, cognitive abilities appear to increase before reaching a peak and then declining. Our studies show that this behavioural change is mirrored by changes in neural tissue. Histologic analysis of infected murine samples taken bi-weekly over the course of two months show two distinct phases. The first phase occurs initially after infection and is characterized by axon growth, high proliferation of astrocytes, and limited re-entry of neurons into the G1 phase. The second phase occurs approximately one month after initial infection and is characterized by the degeneration of the neural tissue. Future studies will aim to determine the origin of the degenerated tissue during phase 2.
“Is it painful?” John asks. He looks into her face, shoulders straight.
“You have to understand that our results so far have been limited to only a few studies,” Dr. Stapleton begins.
“Don’t sugarcoat it,” John says. His voice is flat. He feels like he’s twenty-eight again with the Afghan wind sweeping sand into his face and the roar of helicopters above. “Is it painful?”
She hesitates, but then she admits, “By the end of the infection, our animals seemed distressed.”
There was a coping technique that John adopted when he was a field medic.
It was that he was already dead. The bullet just hadn’t found him yet.
“Why?” Sarah asks him when he tells her that he needs to resign from the surgery, “You’ve been a great physician! You’ve been on fire these last few weeks. Terry and I were discussing promotions for the end of the year and your name came up.”
“Personal reasons,” John says over the phone, “I don’t think I’ll be in London for much longer.”
“Are you all right, John?”
“Yes,” John says and he makes himself smile, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.”
Was expecting you back this morning. – SH
Not sure when I’ll be back. – JW
Has something happened? – SH
More tests. How is your case? – JW
Not boring. – SH
He reads the developmental neurology he’d only skimmed over in university, the stuff he crammed during foundation training but didn’t fully understand. He reads about epigenetic markers in cancer biology, reads every virology paper he can get his hands on. He exhausts all of the remotely relevant papers in Science, Nature, and Cell before methodically moving into Neurology and the Annals of Neurology.
“Have you slept?” Dr. Stapleton asks when they prep him for a cognitive assessment, “You look terrible.”
John is too busy thinking about using growth cones to target the creation of specific synapses to give her more than an absent smile.
They test him with a different set of Raven’s Progressive Matrices. His mind is preoccupied but he manages to finish in fifteen minutes anyway.
John hasn’t left the research facility in over thirty-six hours. He’s consumed two sandwiches, five Nurofens, and several cups of coffee. He’s discussing the possibility of storing memory in the form of epigenetic markers with one of the neurologists when she tilts her head and says, “You’ve got a—”
She touches her nose and John frowns. He lifts his hand to wipe his nose and it comes away with blood.
Five minutes later, he’s hit with the worst migraine he’s had yet. It feels like his entire head is cramping up, insistent on squeezing his brain into an even tinier space than his skull.
“Are you all right?” the neurologist asks.
He’s about to wave her off, tell her that he’s fine—and then everything goes black.
When John wakes up, he lies on the hospital bed with his eyes closed, wishing that the silence in his head would stay that way.
He opens his eyes and recognizes the hospital from the colour of the walls and the layout of the room. Not Bart’s, but he’s back in London.
Sherlock sits in a chair next to him, staring at his phone.
“How long was I out?”
Sherlock’s fingers still and he looks at John. “Eighteen hours. They gave you a lumbar puncture to relieve the intracranial pressure.”
John winces at the idea and resists the urge to touch the bandage.
Sherlock puts his phone away and moves closer to John’s bed, “Mycroft told me everything.”
John shuts his eyes again.
“Why didn’t you?”
John doesn’t know how to reply to that clipped tone. He doesn’t owe Sherlock anything and he doesn’t have time or energy to deal with Sherlock’s ego right now.
“How long?” Sherlock asks.
John keeps his eyes closed.
“How long?” he demands again.
He opens his eyes. He can’t read the expression on Sherlock’s face.
“I did this,” Sherlock says.
John swallows. He thinks that perhaps he should deny it, that he should absolve Sherlock. But what he says instead is, “It’s fine.”
“No, it’s not,” Sherlock says and John doesn’t know what to say to that.
“Oxford,” Mycroft says as he hands John an envelope of papers, “They’ve got excellent facilities there and several leading scientists in their field. I’ve already set you up with one of the research groups. They know about your situation and they’re eager to begin working with you.”
John pulls out the first page and sees the profile of an elegant older Indian woman—Dr. Patel, trained in the States, PhD in neuroscience. He recognizes some of the published papers on her CV as ones that he has already read.
“I’ve ordered furniture to a flat near the research facilities,” Mycroft continues, handing over a set of keys, “They’re a bit economical but I hope they’ll do.”
“Thank you, Mycroft, really,” John says, “But isn’t this is too much?”
Mycroft pauses and then, “My brother revealed the circumstances of the initial infection.”
“Is that it?” John’s fingers tighten over the keys, “This is penance for his actions?”
Mycroft looks at the ground and clears his throat. “I suppose this is a good moment as any to inform you that Sherlock will be joining you in Oxford.”
Won’t Lestrade need you? – JW
London has survived for hundreds of years without me. – SH
Sherlock packs a small bag of clothes. He leaves his experiments and his violin in 221B. John packs up a few shirts and laptop and fits all of his personal belongings in a duffel bag.
They tell Mrs. Hudson they’re going to be on holiday in the countryside and she winks at them and tells them to have a good time. John goes in to sign his resignation and Sarah hugs him before he leaves. She tells him to call if he wants to come back, or if he ever needs anything.
The new flat is smaller than 221B. John lets Sherlock claim the bigger bedroom because he doesn’t foresee sleeping much for the next three months. Maybe two months. His brain offers up calculated probabilities based off several different variables. He stops thinking about it before he terrifies himself.
The morning after they move in, John wakes up to Sherlock wiping down the counters in the kitchen.
“You never clean,” John says.
“It’s a new flat,” Sherlock replies and doesn’t meet John’s eyes.
John accepts the silent apology.
“This building just went up in the last five years so all of the facilities are very new,” Dr. Patel says as she shows them around her lab, “I just had a PhD graduate so I’m giving you his bench. We’ve cleared out the desk at the end.” She glances at Sherlock who’s examining the radioactivity benchspace, “We can clear out the desk behind you too, for Sherlock. The tech sits there, but we can just move her to the other side.”
John takes a seat at his new desk. Someone has left scratch paper and a four-coloured pen next to the keyboard. He picks up the pen, already imagining ways to fill the blank pages.
“Mr. Holmes told me that he’s arranged it with the university so that you have access to any of the research facilities here,” Dr. Patel says, “The government is sparing no expenses in funding your project. I’ve been assigned to hire you senior research associates and you’ll meet them before the end of this week.”
“We’re all excited to have you here, John.”
John looks up at her. She smiles at him.
He starts to feel optimistic.
femptometer – small, isolation of spin properties
dimensions, which one?
materials scientist, bioengineer, programmer
neuron tracking –
The research associate that Dr. Patel hires is named Clarinda. She’s in her late thirties and was in the process of getting tenure at MIT before jumping at the chance to work with John.
“They released the existence of NTV to the scientific community just last month,” she says the first time she meets John, “I knew immediately that this was the topic I had been waiting for all my life. And then the call went out for this position, and well—” she smiles and shakes his hand, “—it’s an honor, Dr. Watson.”
Later, when John has his head down on the kitchen table and his eyes closed in effort to organize his thoughts, Sherlock sets two aspirins and a cup of water down next to his arm and says, “I don’t like that woman.”
“You don’t like anybody,” John replies, not lifting his head.
“She sees you nothing more than a curious experiment.” John hears the chair scrape across the ground as Sherlock takes a seat. “A unique specimen to be tested on.”
“Isn’t that how you saw me?” John asks, half distracted.
Sherlock doesn’t answer. John eventually lifts his head.
Sherlock stares back at him, his lips pressed into a thin line.
“You friend, Sherlock,” Clarinda says one day as she cuts slices of paraffin embedded brain tissue, “He’s not traditionally trained, is he?”
“He has a degree in chemistry,” John replies, scanning through a paper on drug targeting using magnetic nanoparticles, “He’s a brilliant forensic pathologist.”
“I don’t mean any offense,” Clarinda says, “But you need researchers who have dedicated their lives to the study of the brain. For your circumstance, I mean.”
John puts down the paper, “Sherlock is here volunteering his time.” His voice is sharper than he intended it to be.
Clarinda’s hands are steady on the machine and she doesn’t look up from her work, “If I’m to help you, I need a team. One that knows what they’re doing. One that I can communicate effectively with, without stopping to explain neurological concepts that would have been covered during someone’s PhD.”
John stares down at the paper. He doesn’t want to admit that she’s right.
“I’m sorry, John,” she adds, “I can see how close you two are.”
Sherlock fights with the hairnet when they’re suiting up to look at the Baskerville chimpanzees which have been shipped to Oxford’s animal facilities. Clarinda pulls a hair tie from her wrist and offers it to him, but Sherlock scowls and ignores it.
“Some of these animals are many months post-infection,” Dr. Stapleton tells them. She’s in Oxford only for the week to transition the animals but John’s working with Dr. Patel to offer her a position on their research team. “I’m going to warn you now that they’re not going to be the most energetic.”
John straightens his posture as the door opens. He’s just examining patients, nothing more.
“These cages are three months post-infection,” Dr. Stapleton says as they walk past five chimpanzees split up into two groups. The chimpanzees turn their heads as they walk in—two of them move to the front of the cage to get a better look. Their cages are organized neatly, food in one area, sleeping quarters in another. Someone has given the animals a pencil and sheets of paper and John can see recognizable pictographs scrawled across the pages.
“Here we have five months post infection,” Dr. Stapleton says as they stop near another set of cages. The three chimpanzees in here are curled in on themselves, turned away from one another. The food has been untouched. The animals stare out into space.
John looks at them and feels sick.
Sherlock circles the five month cage once. He walks over to the three month cage. One chimpanzee reaches out for him. He looks at it, then leaves the room altogether.
“They know,” John hears himself say. His mind is slowing down, becoming curiously blank.
“Pardon?” Dr. Stapleton asks.
“Them,” John nods in the direction of the three-month post infection animals, “They know what’s coming. You should separate these groups.”
There is silence. And then Clarinda says, “I’ll see if we can requisition another room.”
John stares at the unmoving chimpanzees and for the first time in weeks, doesn’t think at all.
They order Chinese take-away. Sherlock gets as far as opening the box of pineapple fried rice. John manages to eat two pieces of broccoli from his beef and broccoli before he’s done too.
“I’m—” Sherlock starts, staring at his food, “—useless, aren’t I?”
“No,” John says.
“I can’t solve this,” Sherlock says, “I’ve set this in motion and now I just have to step aside and watch it play out.”
“I need you,” John says, “Here. With me.”
Sherlock stares at him. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness.”
“Please,” John says and it scares him how much he means it.
I’m going to pick up my violin and a few of the things I left behind. – SH
See you then. – JW
Subject: Clearance for Baskerville
Did you just request clearance for Baskerville? I thought all of the animals and material had been transferred already?
I’ve personally expedited Dr. Stapleton’s paperwork and she will be officially joining you before the end of the week.
Tell me you didn’t lie about London and head straight to Baskerville. – JW
What were you thinking? – JW
No, I know exactly what you were thinking and: ARE YOU MAD? – JW
Where are you? – JW
The taxi gets into London late at night. John’s spent a full day talking to one of the most talented computer scientists at Oxford and he’s not even sure if Sherlock’s going to be at 221B by the time that he arrives. He doesn’t know what he wants to say to the other man beyond the wild burst of panic in his chest, the way that his mind had automatically gone to project timelines, phase one, phase two—and then with sickening clinical detachment, how absolutely brilliant Sherlock might have become.
He takes the stairs two at a time and finds Sherlock sitting in the dark with only the moonlight and the upstairs light to illuminate the entire flat. He doesn’t turn as John flips on the light.
“Jesus Christ,” John breathes.
Sherlock steeples his hands and looks straight ahead.
“You didn’t,” John says.
“Couldn’t get past the guards,” Sherlock affirms.
“Are you—what did you think would happen, Sherlock?”
Sherlock looks up at him. “I would find an answer. The cure.”
“Fuck you,” John says disbelievingly, “Fuck you, you absolute bastard.”
Sherlock stands to face John, “Am I wrong? Who better than me to try?”
“I can’t,” John tries to deliver his words steadily but the words choke him, “Your death wish. I’m not going to stand by it, Sherlock.”
“And you would rather I stand by and watch you die?” Sherlock snarls as he stalks forward, “You would rather I watch you become like one of those chimpanzees, who can’t tell their head from their arse, let you wither away in the most undignified way possible?”
“I can fix this,” John shouts back, “I’ve still got time! Why can’t you trust me?”
Sherlock shoves him and his shoulderblades hit the wall. Sherlock closes in, hands fisting at John’s collar. John can feel him trembling. His voice shakes when he speaks.
“I cannot lose you,” Sherlock says, “Do you understand?”
Subject: Relevant papers and query
I’ve attached two papers that are relevant to the discussion we had yesterday. The 2003 Kaiser et al. paper is similar to the sort of framework I think would be appropriate for this system, albeit it’s not nearly as complex as ours will be. Let me know what your thoughts are. Also this is a long shot but would you happen to know any materials scientists who might be appropriate for this project? I’m meeting with a couple of biochemists at the end of this week but all of them have worked primarily in drug targeting and I’m looking more for an engineer.
I really enjoyed our discussion yesterday and you definitely had me thinking about noninvasive measures of tracking, especially with the problem of the blood-brain barrier. In trying to think of ways why your proposed mechanism wouldn’t be feasible, I came across a paper which I am attaching for your consideration. Let me know how you might work around the specificity problem this paper addresses?
Made and ordered the primers you wanted. The four antibodies we ordered on Tuesday came in. I’ve ordered in another twenty mice too and planning to start tox screens on the compounds we narrowed down.
Five months and three weeks after the Baskerville incident, John sits down at his desk in lab and picks up the paper he had been distracted from reading the day before. He stares at it for a long while. Then he sets it down and leaves to take a long walk around campus.
He has lost the ability to read Mandarin.
He loses Urdu and Hindi before he pulls Dr. Stapleton aside.
“I think it’s starting,” he says, “How quickly can we set it up?”
“Subramanian hasn’t sent the revised schematic yet,” Dr. Stapleton says, “And we’re still in negotiations with the hospital to use their power grid.”
She catches his arm as he turns away, “John. Are you sure?”
John swallows and nods.
John spends most of his day at work copying his shorthand notes into a longer form that other people can understand. Sometimes he finds himself staring at an abbreviation or acronym, a string of words that had meant something to him at once and he can’t remember what it means at all.
He reads articles in French at least once a day, just to make sure that he hasn’t lost that too—but when it takes him nearly ten minutes to struggle through an introduction, he stops.
Dr. Stapleton hands him a stapled packet with a new set of Raven’s Progressive Matrices and says, “I don’t want to be insensitive, John.”
“No,” he says and picks up a pen, “I understand.”
It takes all his concentration to finish in thirty minutes.
When John gets home, Sherlock is playing his violin. A series of short angry notes punctuates the silence as John closes the door behind him and then Sherlock stops playing.
John’s taking off his coat when Sherlock begins to loosen his bow and asks, “When did it start?”
John freezes. He keeps his voice neutral, “Pardon?”
“When did phase two start?” Sherlock turns around, bow still in hand.
“What makes you think—”
“Do not take me for an imbecile, John,” Sherlock snaps, “It takes you longer to read things. You haven’t been writing down your ideas as often as before and there are persistent ink smears on the side of your hand—you’ve obviously been copying your notes. Which could only mean one thing: when did it start?”
John rubs his forehead and relents, “Earlier this week.”
“And how long will it be?”
John takes a breath and considers telling Sherlock to go fuck himself. But what he says instead is, “Two, maybe three months.”
John’s half asleep when the knock comes at his door.
“What?” John mumbles.
The door opens. Sherlock steps into the room. John opens his eyes more fully and looks at him.
Sherlock stands at the foot of his bed. John can’t see his face clearly in the dim light. Standstill.
John breathes through his nose and then moves over to make room for Sherlock. Sherlock climbs beneath the covers next to him and John turns toward him.
Sherlock touches his lips and the question dies before John can ask it. Sherlock traces the curve of his cheek, his jawline, and stops over the heartbeat in John’s neck. John’s breathing shallows out.
“Do you understand?” Sherlock whispers.
John makes coffee. He stirs sugar into one of the cups.
“Do you know what I’ve planned to do?” he asks. He can hear Sherlock’s footsteps pause outside the kitchen.
“If it works, it will be revolutionary,” John continues.
Sherlock steps next to him. He takes the cup with sugar.
“You inspired me, you know,” John says.
Sherlock takes a sip of coffee, looking out the kitchen window at the students passing below.
“I’m going to take a screenshot of my mind,” John says, “And when we perfect the growth serum, I’ll restore my brain to that screenshot.”
Sherlock looks at him.
“It’ll work,” John says and he wills them both to believe that it’s true.
The engineers found a more efficient circuitry path to overcome that issue with overheating. I assume Mr. Holmes has already emailed you about the hospital setting aside three generators in a couple of weeks? Pretty sure it’s because my American friends got whiff of the machine and they’ve been salivating at the chance to see it tested. There’s no way Oxford’s going to let the NIH steal such an important project.
PS. You realize that if this works, you could name your price at any institution, right?
Subject: Re: success
Please keep me updated on the efficiency of the new ratios in the growth serum. How long until we move to chimpanzees?
PS. Flattering but unlikely.
John forgets the equations governing the color states of gluons. He forgets how to read Russian. He forgets the bond length of silicon.
He cannot translate any more of his old notes because he doesn’t understand them.
Dr. Stapleton hands him another test. This time, he takes the entire hour. He avoids looking at the pity on her face when he gives it back to her.
When they put his head into the machine, John feels a sense of déjà-vu. He knows that he designed the machine, that he had worked out kinks in the application of theory with the engineers. He knows he helped pick the materials surrounding his head. But when he closes his eyes and tries to recite what every part does, he’s at a loss for words.
Sherlock waits for him in the lobby. He stands when John walks through the doors, a bit unsteady on his feet from the mild sedatives they gave him to make him stay as still as possible.
John nearly trips over an elevated bit of pavement when they leave the hospital and Sherlock hauls him back, keeps an arm around his shoulders. John leans into him.
“I think we should go back to London,” John says.
John goes through the correspondence they’ve missed for the last three months while Sherlock is away at Scotland Yard. Mrs. Hudson wipes dust off the kitchen table and chats about the holiday she took to the countryside not even a year ago. John tries to engage in the conversation but he really just wants to be left alone.
“Are you alright, dear?” Mrs. Hudson asks, hand on his shoulder. He nods and smiles.
“I worry about you boys all the time,” she says, patting his shoulder, “You’re the sons I never had.”
He puts his hands on hers, squeezes it, “Thanks, Mrs. Hudson.”
It wasn’t the knowledge that was the best part. It was the potential for knowledge. I don’t remember the feeling of having knowledge, the only thing I remember is the excitement of knowing there were boundaries to push, that I could push those boundaries, that there was an endless void in front of me and I was setting sail into it for the first time. That was the best part. I don’t miss knowing things, not really. I just miss the inspiration that hits you, that moment when you realize that you’ve stumbled across something novel and beautiful.
Quarterdeck, 15 minutes. – SH
Lestrade greets him as he arrives at the building. “I heard from Mycroft,” he says, as John suits up, “I’m really sorry, John.”
John nods at him, “Let’s keep that between the people who already know.”
“Yes, of course,” Lestrade says, “That’s a given.”
“Is Sherlock already here?”
John climbs the stairs and wonders who else Mycroft has told.
Subject: Request for Interview
Hello Dr. Watson,
In light of your extraordinary contributions to the field of neurology and biomedical technology, we are deeply interested in your research. We would be honoured if you accepted an invitation to interview with our journal. Should you respond in the affirmative, we would love to make you our feature story for the next issue. We would, of course, provide travelling expenses and accommodations. We look forward to hearing from you.
Nature Publishing Group
John sorts through the cans in the trolley, “You bought brand name everything. Why?”
“Doesn’t it make a difference?” Sherlock asks. He leans against the trolley handle, phone in his hands. “I’ve read that it makes a difference.”
“Yes, in your bank account, perhaps,” John steers them back in the direction of the canned soups.
Later, Sherlock shifts the bag of groceries to a better position as they’re walking back to the flat, “How much did we save, then?”
“You’re shit at shopping,” John replies, but he’s smiling.
I forget more and more things every day. I was browsing the internet and realized that I wasn’t able to read Finnish any more. I don’t know when I lost that ability. Things that I no longer know:
- The periodic table by heart
- The synthetic steps to create caffeine
- Last year’s top five infectious diseases, broken down by country
- A list of all countries, along with capitals and major cities
- How to not be scared
A bit of mixed news:
Good – the 13:4:1 ratio seems to work well. We’ve scaled up the experiments to chimpanzee and we’ll have definitive results in a couple of weeks. Restoration machine is coming along nicely, I really do think that everything is going to work out. :)
Bad – We’re down to n = 4 on the four-month chimpanzees. Still trying to figure out if there’s a way to speed up the infection.
Subject: Re: mixed
What happened to the chimpanzee? Technical problem or from the virus?
Thanks for keeping me updated.
Subject: Re: mixed
Truth be told, it killed itself.
I’m sorry John.
Sherlock has only been sleeping regularly in his bed for the last week, so it surprises John when he wakes up in the morning and is actually disappointed in the lack of a warm body pressed up against his side. There’s an indent in the sheets but when John puts his hand on it, it’s not warm. He checks the time. Half past nine.
His laptop is open on the kitchen table. It’s facing the direction of Sherlock’s side, which means that Sherlock’s been reading his emails again.
He makes tea while the laptop starts up. His phone buzzes on the counter.
“Hello?” He sits down with the tea, clicking on the email client.
“Hi John,” Lestrade says, “I’ve been trying to text Sherlock all morning about a case but he hasn’t been answering. It’s a bit urgent so could you tell him to check his phone?”
“Sherlock isn’t with me,” John replies as he reads through the last email he received. His heart sinks. “I’ll let him know when I see him though.”
“Thanks John,” Lestrade says and hangs up.
Your brother is the stupidest man I have ever met. I need a lift to Oxford. – JW
I’m not a taxi company. Anthea is on her way. – MH
“John, what?” Clarinda catches herself just in time before running into him with an ice bucket, “What are you doing here?”
“He’s here, isn’t he?” John demands, “I’m going to kill him. Swear to god I’m going to kill him.”
Clarinda doesn’t say anything but she looks left, towards the break room. John moves past her.
Dr. Stapleton gets to her feel when John appears at the door—Sherlock remains seated and doesn’t look surprised. “John,” Dr. Stapleton says, “I didn’t realize that you both would be here today. I would have at least prepared a powerpoint—”
“Could I speak to Sherlock?” John says calmly, “Alone?”
Dr. Stapleton looks between the two of them before gathering her notes and passing John on the way out the door. John shuts it after her.
“You are here for one reason only,” John says, “And don’t even try to deny it.”
Sherlock folds his hands on the table and looks up at him. His smile is dangerous, “And what reason is that, John?”
“I won’t let you.”
“I’m an adult, John,” Sherlock says, rising to his feet, “Dr. Patel is the head of this research group. You cannot decide for me.” He’s looking down at John, using every inch of his height to his advantage and John wants to punch the stupid wanker in the face.
“You think you’ll be able to escape it?” John demands, “You think you’re not going to end up like one of those chimpanzees? That somehow because you’re the almighty Sherlock Holmes, none of these rules will apply to you?”
“Do you hear yourself?” Sherlock shouts, “Do you hear the doubt in your voice? Do you hear the words that are coming out of your mouth?”
“I believe,” John says.
“No you don’t,” Sherlock says.
John takes a steadying breath. Sherlock stays out of reach, taking a step back as John steps forward.
“I would do anything to save you,” Sherlock says, his eyes wild, “Things you can’t even imagine, John. This? This is nothing.”
“You’re worth more to London than a hundred of me,” John says and it’s Sherlock this time with the wall at his back, Sherlock this time who’s trapped.
“I don’t care about London.”
“Do you care about me?” John asks.
“Let me give you a reason,” John says and kisses him.
Sherlock’s mouth opens under his and John fists his hands in Sherlock’s hair, presses him against the wall, and wants so badly to slide right into Sherlock, to bind Sherlock to him so that he can’t leave, can’t make stupid decisions about throwing his life away. He kisses Sherlock and hopes that Sherlock can hear everything that he isn’t saying: not you, not for me and the quiet burn of desperation underneath.
In the morning, John wakes with Sherlock drawing equations on his shoulderblade. He keeps his eyes closed, recognizes a cos and asks, “Are we in polar coordinates?”
Sherlock’s finger stills. John rolls over and opens his eyes. The morning sunlight makes a halo of Sherlock’s hair.
John leans up and kisses him, bare skin sliding across bare skin as he fits himself against Sherlock. Sherlock slides a hand into John’s hair, breathing quietly through his nose and tilting his head to get a more comfortable angle. They lie there for a while, Sherlock’s thumb stroking at the soft spot behind John’s ear.
“Okay,” John murmurs, pulling away reluctantly, “Do you want coffee?”
Sherlock groans, turns away and covers his eyes with the back of his arm.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
And later when Sherlock gets dressed and scowls at the mug that John hands him, John laughs and kisses the corner of his mouth before saying, “Good morning,” because it is.
Ran into complications with the growth serum, namely that we’re still trying to find the perfect dose to body mass ratio. It’s going to be a bit different for you, though, and we obviously can’t test on any other humans so we want to be absolutely sure about our simian results before deciding on anything definitive for humans.
I am waiting for the day I become too stupid for Sherlock Holmes.
“Time of death?” Sherlock asks as he digs through the woman’s pockets.
John bends the woman’s arm, and realizes that he has no idea what he’s doing.
Sherlock looks up at him, “John?”
John looks back at him. Sherlock must read the panic in his eyes because he stands and turns towards Lestrade, “I have two theories.”
Clarinda sends him the articles the research group has published about the last half year’s worth of work. They’ve dominated the last two issues of Nature and John is proud of them. He attempts to read Novel method of inducing specific axonal growth in mature brain tissue because it has the least intimidating title of all of the articles she sends. He gets through the abstract by googling the words he’s forgotten and he understands maybe fifty percent of the introduction. He doesn’t understand the results at all though, and gives up long before he reaches the discussion.
It’s pathetic, John realizes, because he’s first author on half of these papers and no less than third author on the other half. He has vague memories of sitting at a computer and typing up some of these manuscripts.
He doesn’t delete the emails but he doesn’t mention it to Sherlock.
It apparently doesn’t matter because Sherlock buys two copies of the journals. He leaves one copy out on the kitchen table for John and shelves the other next to his anthropology texts. He never brings them up.
John realizes that this is the closest Sherlock will come to acknowledging what is happening.
At night, Sherlock bruises John’s collarbone with his teeth and fucks him slow. John lifts his hips with every thrust and loses himself in the hot breath on his neck, hands on Sherlock’s arse as he pulls him in deep.
John tries to read while Sherlock is out solving crime but the books have too many words in them and John finds it difficult to concentrate. He tries to read one of his old favourites—Hemingway, because the man writes short sentences—but it’s too boring, the characters aren’t doing much and John just doesn’t get it. He’s frustrated enough to throw the book against the wall but then feels bad about it so he picks it up and reshelves it.
Television isn’t too hard to understand so he spends a lot of time watching programs. He starts off with the documentaries because there’s still a stubborn part of him that insists on proving that he’s still smart but those get boring after five minutes of interviewees blabbing on about something or another.
But in the evening, when John laughs too loud with a laugh track at some sitcom, he catches the expression on Sherlock’s face just as he turns away and John stops watching television, at least when Sherlock is in the room.
He calls Harry because he might never be able to talk to her again. She’s suspicious at first but warms up to the idea of unloading all of her issues with Clara onto John. She spends five minutes bemoaning the fact that the price of gin has gone up at her local off license and demands to know Sherlock’s gotten him maimed at a crime scene yet.
At the end, John says, “I love you, Harry,” which earns him thirty seconds of silence.
“I guess you’re not too bad either,” Harry says eventually, “Love you, John.”
Just got a massive increase in funding for this project because we’ve successfully restructured a mouse brain to a previous state. This is a huge breakthrough John! We’re working our hardest to get the right dosage for chimpanzees but I don’t think a celebration would be amiss. Hope you’re doing well!
Subject: Re: Almost!
John will not be answering any more emails but we would appreciate if you continued to send updates. I will be sure to pass on to him all of your recent accomplishments. We both look forward to the day he can definitively be treated.
I have lost something but I do not know what it is.
On Sunday, he and Sherlock go to the park. The leaves crunch underneath his feet and John likes to step on a bunch of them at once for a really satisfying crunch.
They take a seat on a bench and Sherlock starts to deduce things about the people who pass them by. One woman is having an affair with her gardener. A man who jogs by has forgotten his anniversary.
Sherlock talks fast and John doesn’t catch everything that he says, but he likes listening to the sound of Sherlock’s voice. And Sherlock even lets him hold his hand on top of the bench, so John is content to stay there for the rest of the afternoon.
How close are you to a treatment? I am concerned about the level of John’s degeneration.
Subject: Re: Update?
I’m thinking at least two, three weeks. How is John?
Subject: Re: Update?
Is there anything you can do to speed that up to a week, or a week and a half?
Subject: Re: Update?
I’m afraid that doing so might jeopardize the efficiency and safety of the restructuring process. This is John’s brain we’re talking about here.
Sherlock looks sad most days. John isn’t sure what Sherlock is sad about. He gives Sherlock hugs and says, “I love you,” a lot because those are things that would cheer John up.
Sherlock never says, “I love you,” back, though, which makes John sad. But then both he and Sherlock would be sad and that would just be too much sad in one room.
Sherlock is disapointed in me.
Did you ever find a way to expedite the progression of the infection?
Subject: Re: Query
He said you might ask one day. I promised John that the stock was safe with me—so, no, Sherlock, we never found a way to expedite the progression of the infection.
Sherlock takes him to the morgue one day because Molly called him in for a consult and John is happy to see Bart’s again. He’s also happy to see Sarah who says hello to him with a hug, but then she asks him questions that he’s not sure how to answer. It doesn’t take long for Sherlock to come to his rescue though.
“He’s just really tired today, been having migraines,” Sherlock tells her. He doesn’t let John hold his hand though, so John tries to hold onto his wrist. Sarah tells John that she hopes he feels better. He smiles back at her when she smiles at him.
Sherlock runs a hand through his hair and takes John’s hand once she’s left. “Let’s go home,” he says. John would very much like to go home.
Sherlock comes home one day to find him reading the newspaper on the sofa.
“What are you doing?” Sherlock asks.
“Reading,” John answers, looking at the next page of the newspaper. He had been hoping that Sherlock would be happy that he was doing something that smart-John would have done.
Sherlock tugs the newspaper out of his hands and turns it right side up before handing it back to John. He sits in his chair and puts his face in his hands.
John puts the newspaper away and goes over to Sherlock. Sherlock’s shoulders are shaking and he keeps his face in his hands. John hugs him from the side and tells him, “I love you,” over and over.
The hospital has agreed to lend us their generators next Monday. We found some of John’s old notes and have since had huge success in adjusting the dosage of the growth serum. We will be calibrating the restoration machine for human use for the rest of the week and we will be ready for John by Monday. Please arrive Sunday.
The hospital smells funny. People keep calling him “Dr. Watson,” and he feels important for a bit. After a while, though, he kind of wants to tell all of them that he’s not smart enough to be a doctor.
He remembers Clarinda and gives her a smile. She shows him the machine that they’re going to put him in and tells him that he’s been very brave. He tells her that Sherlock has helped him be brave and she starts crying.
Sherlock tells him that they’re going to make him better, that they’re going to make him smart again.
“Will it hurt?” John asks.
“No,” Sherlock says and holds his hand.
“I’m scared,” John says.
Sherlock laughs and kisses his hand in front of all the nurses, “Me too.”
They put a mask over his nose and mouth and tell him to count backwards from one hundred.
Sherlock is there with him, holding his hand. He thinks he hears Sherlock say, “I love you,” just before he falls asleep.
Congratulations. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. – MH
Subject: Permanent position
I realize that you are still in the recovery stages and may not be looking for a position for quite a while, but I just wanted to extend the offer of a permanent position on my research team. I would also happily put in a word for you with any of the department chairs at this university if you are looking to seek professorship. Thank you for all of your hard work and I hope you have a speedy recovery.
When John opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is Sherlock draped half over his hospital bed, asleep.
John blinks away the fogginess in his mind and reaches forward, carding his fingers through Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock stirs and sits up.
“You’re awake,” Sherlock says.
“I am,” John agrees.
“How do you feel?”
John reaches forward and tangles his fingers in Sherlock’s. He smiles.