Within twenty-four hours of meeting Sherlock, John was convinced that the man wasn’t afraid of anything. He was sure Sherlock knew the definition of fear, but John doubted that he’d ever truly felt it, at least not as an adult.
That belief persisted until Moriarty, and the pool. He saw then that Sherlock could be afraid, knew what fear tasted and smelled and felt like, because he’d read it on his face when he realized John was strapped into a bomb.
Still, that was an extraordinary circumstance. In regular, everyday life, Sherlock was fearless. He could be confused, irritated, puzzled, angry, silly, depressed, even anxious in social situations, but afraid? No.
And then came the stupid scuffle in the Charing-Cross tube station with Mathews, a wild punch, and suddenly there was Sherlock, absolutely white-faced, blood dribbling down his lip, staring at the ground. At the half of a tooth Mathews had knocked out of Sherlock’s jaw.
John had never seen such absolute, blank terror on anyone’s face, much less Sherlock’s.
“Easy, easy,” John crooned, one arm around Sherlock before he was even aware of moving to his side. “I’ve got you. It’s okay, Sherlock, we’ll get you to a dentist right aw…”
John was going to say they’d get him there right away, that there was every chance the tooth could be saved, and even if it couldn’t, he could have a replacement put in and no one would ever know the difference. All true, and all the kinds of things you might say to someone shell-shocked by the sight of one of his own teeth lying there on the ground in front of him. But he cut himself off abruptly when felt the giant tremor run through Sherlock’s frame at the sound of the word dentist. Stopped even before Sherlock started shaking his head frantically.
“No no no, I’m sure it’s fine, I’ll just tuck it back in, no need to call anyone…”
Shit. Of all things. John knew a phobic reaction when he saw one. And if Sherlock wasn’t phobic about dentists, he’d eat one of Mrs. Hudson’s tea-cozies.
He could have argued. He knew better than to try. “Okay Sherlock, whatever you say. Just let me pick up the tooth for safe-keeping, in case you change your mind, and we’ll go give Lestrade our statements.”
Sherlock blinked, but didn’t question John’s apparent change of heart. Still shocky, John guessed. He remained unusually compliant, even holding the first-aid chemical cold pack against his jaw without complaint. His subdued behavior made it a far simpler matter than John had feared, to give Greg a high sign, to make sure the Inspector kept Sherlock distracted and occupied while John placed a swift call to Mycroft.
John wasn’t surprised that Mycroft immediately understood the problem. He was surprised as hell to hear a brief check in the elder Holmes’ words when he assured John that of course he knew an excellent …dentist… and that he’d send a car ‘round right away.
Apparently both Holmes brothers shared something more than height, coloring, and brain-power to burn. If Mycroft wasn’t also dentist-phobic, John would eat an antimacassar along with the tea-cozy.
Huh. Apparently he was hungry. Really hungry, or he wouldn’t keep imagining eating some of Mrs. Hudson’s more terrifying bits of incidental décor.
He also felt like the biggest traitor in the universe when Sherlock looked up, saw Mycroft flanked by several extremely large assistants, and froze, blanching white as paper.
“Sherlock,” Mycroft said. One word, his brother’s name, spoken in a gentler tone than any John had heard him use before.
Sherlock shot John a single agonized look before straightening up to stand as tall as possible while facing his brother. “I suppose you’ve already made all the arrangements?” Although John could tell he was trying, Sherlock couldn’t quite manage to make all the words come out as crisply as usual.
“Of course.” Mycroft should have sounded supercilious, the way he always did when delivering a fait accompli to Sherlock. He didn’t. “The car is waiting.”
Two of the overly-large assistants sidled closer to Sherlock. John doubted that either one of them had a chance in hell of catching Sherlock if he decided to bolt, but he wouldn’t put it past Mycroft to have more men stationed at every possible exit. In fact, he’d be profoundly disappointed in the man if he didn’t.
Either Sherlock realized this, or he wasn’t in the mood to cause a scene. He glared at the encroaching assistants before throwing down the cold pack and walking stiffly to Mycroft’s side. “Let’s go, then.”
Everything went smoothly until they emerged from the station. Sherlock took one look at the waiting car and stopped dead. John could see fine tremors shaking his lean frame. His pale eyes glazed over, and John could practically feel Sherlock struggling against his fight-or-flight reflex.
Mycroft saw it, too. He grabbed Sherlock’s arm. At first John thought it was to hold his brother in place, but then he heard an odd hissing sound, and Sherlock sagged abruptly.
“What the bloody buggering hell!” John thundered. He darted closer to support Sherlock’s weight as the taller man’s knees threatened to give out. He caught a glimpse of a shiny metallic cylinder in Mycroft’s hand, something that looked like it came right out of a James Bond film.
Sherlock leaned heavily on John’s shoulder even as John got an arm around his waist. “No, John, s’okay,” he slurred. “Better this way.”
“Trust me, John, it really is,” Mycroft added smoothly, before John could get over his amazement at Sherlock’s muddled rhyming. “You have the tooth?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Excellent. If you’ll give it to me, we’ll be on our way. You should return to Baker Street. You’ll need to make certain preparations for Sherlock’s return. I’ll have Anthea bring a few essentials around.”
John tightened his grip on Sherlock. “Wait, wait – there’s no way I’m leaving Sherlock alone, not like this! I’m going with him.”
“Really, John, that would be most inadvisable…”
“I don’t care what you say, Mycroft, I…”
The single, softly-spoken word brought the argument to a dead stop. Both men fixed their attention on Sherlock, but he only had eyes for John. “Please, John.”
John felt a myriad of emotions – concern, anger, confusion, and underneath it all, a stinging hurt that quickly morphed into comprehension. Sherlock didn’t want John to see him like this. Didn’t want him to witness his fear, a phobia so strong his brother knew to drug him at the first opportunity. Didn’t want to appear weak – which he wasn’t, John didn’t think any the less of him for this, but that was a discussion for another time. “Okay, Sherlock, if that’s what you really want. After all, you’re going to be fine; you’ll be fixed up in no time. I’ll just go home and get everything ready for you, yeah?”
If anything, Sherlock’s weight grew heavier on John’s shoulder. Sherlock leaned down until his nose was practically buried in John’s hair. “Thank you,” he breathed, so quietly John was sure no one else heard him, even Mycroft.
John didn’t say anything. He simply tightened his arm around Sherlock’s waist for a brief moment before letting him go.
Within minutes, Mycroft’s assistants had Sherlock stowed safely in the back of his sleek town car. The last glimpse John saw before the door closed was of Sherlock’s head lolling on Mycroft’s shoulder. He couldn’t help but hope that he drooled all over Mycroft’s expensive suit. Then the door closed and the car pulled away, leaving John alone to find a cab.
By the time Sherlock returned to the flat – moving mostly under his own power, but clearly heavily drugged, and with every step minded by two of Mycroft’s minions – John had everything set up. He’d made up the sofa into a temporary bed. He had a full stock of ginger ale, soup, crackers, and soft foods. And he had a stack of DVDs ready to watch. Most of them were ‘gifts’ from a couple of their most recent clients, on the case John had blogged about as “The Geek Interpreters.” John hoped that at least some of them were watchable.
“John,” Sherlock mumbled as his minders guided him to the sofa. “Oh, John.”
“His medications,” one of the two men said, handing John three separate vials. “He’s got another appointment tomorrow, to fit a permanent crown. We’ll be back then to pick him up.”
A permanent crown inside of a day was unbelievably fast, but John wasn’t surprised. Mycroft had undoubtedly pulled strings. And given that he apparently intended Sherlock to remain mildly sedated until all the work was done, time was definitely of the essence.
Now John just had to survive the next hours with a moderately stoned Sherlock. He shuddered.
As it turned out, Sherlock on painkillers and sedatives wasn’t entirely unlike a bored Sherlock, but with longer periods of silence, an unpredictable funny bone, and vastly slowed reaction times. He ruthlessly (and slurringly) mocked the first few episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and John had to agree; the floating crystal jellyfish were rubbish, as was much of the acting. Red Dwarf started out promisingly, but something about Cat freaked Sherlock out, so John put those DVDs aside for later. He knew better than to even try any of the old Godzilla movies, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to know what “Mystery Science Theater 3000” was all about, much less discover what Sherlock would make of it. Growing desperate, he grabbed the first non-garish DVD he could find in the stack: a nice brown cover, with a spaceship, some soberly-dressed people, and a harmless-sounding, pretty name.
Within five minutes of the two-part pilot episode, John was vastly entertained, but also extremely confused. Was this TV show science fiction, or a western? And why were they spouting occasional phrases in Chinese?
“Mandarin, John, not just Chinese,” Sherlock mumbled, and John started. He hadn’t realized he’d voiced his question aloud. “And it’s obvious that in this show, the Chinese won the space race, at least partially.” Sherlock’s forehead wrinkled. “Their accents are atrocious.”
“Well, they’re Americans.”
“No, I mean the Mandarin. But the American accents are boring, too.”
Despite that mild criticism, Sherlock appeared content to watch this show. He wriggled so his head was in John’s lap and his feet dangled over the arm of the sofa, and then lay there, blinking heavily, sometimes near dozing, but not complaining except when John got up to change discs, make use of the bathroom, and coax more medicine, fluids, and food into Sherlock.
“You’re a lot like the captain,” Sherlock said abruptly, at the start of yet another episode.
“What?” John felt taken aback. He didn’t think he had much in common with the brooding leader of the crew. He could relate far better to the doctor on the ship, the one with the crazy sister, and to the incredibly hot, entirely competent, second-in-command. Although if he could pick and choose, part of him really wished he could be the pilot. He was clearly having the most fun.
“You are,” Sherlock insisted. “Battle-hardened veteran. Brave. Stubborn. Poor choices in women, well, except for the obvious, and even there he’s sabotaging himself. Loyal, sometimes stupidly so.” Sherlock peered at the captain, currently strutting around the screen. “You have a much better arse, though.”
“What?” John said again, only this time it came out as more of a squawk. He stared at the screen, where the captain stood entirely in the buff, backside prominently on display. Despite himself, he couldn’t help but give it a critical assessment. “Really?” he added doubtfully.
Sherlock huffed, eyes bright but glazed. “I said so, so of course really. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe, and you definitely have the more aesthetically pleasing posterior.”
“Oh. Thanks for that, I guess.”
“It’s just the truth.” Abruptly, Sherlock turned to the telly, then back to John. “What about me?”
“What about you what?”
“My arse. It looks better than that, I hope?”
John blinked again. It had been a very long day, and he was starting to wonder if he was hallucinating this entire conversation. He gave the screen another considering glance. “He has a very nice arse, but yours is better. You’ve a leaner build, and so the proportions and contrast are much better.”
“Oh good. I thought so, but it’s hard to observe one’s own arse.” Sherlock yawned, then pinned John with another intense look. “But who am I?”
“Huh?” John stopped wondering if he was imagining the conversation and started worrying about unexpected side effects and adverse drug reactions.
“Which character am I, John? I already told you I think you’re most like the captain. Which character am I most like?”
“Sherlock, you’re unique.” The words came out before John could even think about them. They were absolutely true, but Sherlock scowled, clearly ready to pout. “But if I had to say, I think you’re most like the doctor: incredibly bright, incredibly talented, but willing to sacrifice everything, go against society and devote all your talents to doing what you think is the right thing.” Sherlock’s eyes widened, and John hurried on. “Although you’re sneaky like the Shepherd, too, and you know lots of things that you shouldn’t, like he does. And you could be a companion if you wanted to be.”
“Oh.” Sherlock blinked, then looked back to the telly. “I thought you’d say the mad sister.”
John chose his next words very carefully. “She’s smart enough and dangerous enough, but you’re not mad.”
“Oh,” Sherlock said again. A minute passed in silence before he spoke again. “Rewind this bit, John. We talked over the entire scene, and now I can’t figure out what’s going on.”
That makes two of us, John mused, but obediently restarted the episode chapter. Firefly was an interesting show, after all. And he had a lot to think about.