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Scheherezade

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SCHEHEREZADE

 

Chapter One: Glory to him who sleepeth not!

“John. Oh, John…”

 

John lurched awake in that harsh, “Afghanistan” kind of way he’d almost forgotten about—instantly alert for danger or disaster, heart pounding, searching for the threat. He was standing next to the table in Mrs. Hudson’s kitchen, not sure how he got there, a blanket slipping off his shoulders and Mrs. Hudson was standing next to him. Tears streamed down her face.

 

“What’s happened? Did Mary call?” Mary was out with a group of her friends from work; a sort of early bachelorette party, apparently. That had given John a perfect excuse to go haring off with Sherlock (and wasn’t there a quick hiccup to his heart at that thought—”not dead, not dead, still not dead”). They’d spent hours watching some hapless group Sherlock suspected were involved in a human trafficking ring, and come back with no information and soaking cold everything after huddling out in the icy rain for four hours. Mrs. Hudson had invited them in for hot toddies, and … that was the last John remembered. He glanced quickly at his watch—they’d been back not quite two hours.

 

“Oh, John, I’ve done something terrible. I didn’t mean to, I really didn’t, but he was so tired… And now he’s, well, he’s — please can you come upstairs?” She paced back over towards the stairs, swiping at the tears still running down her cheeks. John shoved the chair and blanket aside and hurtled up the staircase.

 

He stopped short at the top—the flat was in near-darkness, only the dim light from the kitchen hood giving any illumination. He reached for the light switch, only to have Mrs. Hudson snatch at his wrist. “No, dear—the light makes him worse”, she gasped. “Worse, how?” he demanded. His eyes were scanning the dimly lit room—someone had clearly been very ill by the sofa, but no one was there now. “Where is he? What’s wrong with him?”

 

But then he heard the noise—a low anguished murmur that rose and fell like conversation, in some unrecognizable language. And it came from Sherlock, who was huddled far back under the desk. Without a thought, John flew across the room and onto his knees, reaching for Sherlock—only to have him shriek and throw himself further back, still continuing that awful noise.  Without taking his eyes off Sherlock, John snapped at Mrs. Hudson. “What did you give him? Christ, his pupils are like marbles!”

 

Mrs. Hudson sobbed. “I’m so sorry, John. I was only trying to help. He hasn’t slept at all since he’s been back, you know—not at all. And you were cold, and he was so tired, but he couldn’t sit still, and… and… Ispikedhistoddywithmyherbalsoother.”  She clapped her hands over her mouth like a child. John snapped instantly into Doctor Mode. “Get me the bottle, right now. Wait—before that. What happened? How did he act? When?”

 

Mrs. Hudson had stopped sobbing but was still trembling. “He kept flitting about the kitchen after you fell asleep—couldn’t stop. So I suggested he go upstairs so he wouldn’t wake you. I thought if he sat for a bit the tonic might work. I left the doors open so I could hear. And after a bit it got quiet, and I went up and he was asleep on the couch. So I came back down and made a cuppa for myself, but then I heard him being sick upstairs. So I went dashing up—I did call you, John, but… and when I got upstairs, he didn’t know me. I was so frightened. I’ve never seen him like that, even when he was using, well, you know. And I tried to get him to come downstairs to you, and he pulled away and got back under there in the dark. I turned the light on and that, that, it scared him, and he started making that terrible noise. Please, John, what can we do?”

 

This was making John more uneasy by the moment. “Right, then. Go get the bottle, and then call a cab. We’re going to have to take him to A+E, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to want to pump his stomach. Tell me when the cab gets here.” Mrs. Hudson moaned but scuttled back down the stairs. John set himself to coaxing Sherlock out from under the desk. Based on the earlier reaction, he took a very cautious approach this time—slowly crawling back under the desk and sitting so close to Sherlock that their shoulders nearly touched. The agitated, painful litany continued; Sherlock’s voice rose and fell but never grew louder than a hoarse whisper, as if he was afraid someone would hear. “Sherlock?” he said, very softly. The voice stumbled momentarily. “Sherlock, mate. We need to leave now.” The voice started up again, but less certain. “You’re frightening Mrs. Hudson.” He slowly, carefully reached out and touched Sherlock’s hand. “Let’s go get you sorted, yeah?”

 

For the first time, Sherlock looked fully in his direction, pupils so dilated his eyes were almost black. He blinked, slowly, and the sounds stopped. And finally, finally, a breath, and…. “John?”

 

By the time the taxi arrived, he’d managed to coax Sherlock out from under the desk and gotten him wrapped in two blankets. John and the cabbie, between the two of them, half-carried him down the stairs and into the car. John climbed in and wedged Sherlock up against him, and Mrs. Hudson hurriedly got in from the other side. “Mrs. Hudson, you really don’t need to—“

 

“Yes, I do”, she snapped, and that was the end of that.

 

As they trundled along, John realized he’d missed something important. “What did you mean, earlier, when you said he hadn’t slept? He’s been back almost a week—when did that start? And how do you know?” Mrs. Hudson sighed. “I’m an old woman, John, with a bad hip. I don’t sleep much. And I know that every night since he’s been back, if he’s not away somewhere, he’s up. Playing the violin, pacing, something—he’s up. Haven’t you seen the circles under his eyes? And how thin he is? He’s just not right, poor dear, and he certainly won’t tell me why. Perhaps he’ll tell you.” And John, for the first time since Sherlock’s return, really looked—looked at Sherlock as he was today, rather than just seeing “Sherlock” as an indistinguishable whole.

 

Sherlock looked ill. His eyes were closed, and his eyelids looked like bruises against pale skin. The fine bones of his wrists stood out. The exotic cheekbones were even more prominent than usual. And John realized that his arm around Sherlock’s waist was feeling something under his shirt—something other than clothing. Just as he started to explore that particular concern, though, they pulled up to A+E and were swept inside.

 

As it happened, John knew the attending physician slightly—a smart woman, and trustworthy. He handed over Mrs. Hudson’s bottle, and gave a brief history. As he expected, the best option was to pump Sherlock’s stomach—a mixture of rum, toddy mix and whatever the hell was in that tonic just didn’t sound like a wise thing to try and sleep off, particularly in light of the extreme reaction it had caused. Sherlock was in for a very uncomfortable time over the next hour or so, then. John had just started in to the treatment room when his mobile phone rang. He glanced quickly at the display and closed his eyes: Mycroft. Mrs. Hudson saw him hesitate, and marched after Sherlock on her own in full protective mode.

 

John answered. “Mycroft, do you really watch the CCTV at midnight?” Mycroft was wise enough not to take offense. “What’s wrong with my brother, John?”

 

“He’s been drugged.” He heard Mycroft’s quick breath and realized he could have phrased that better. “No, not intentionally. It was accidental.” 

 

Mycroft paused a little longer than might be considered normal. He really did care for his brother, in his own obsessive kind of way. “Do I need to come? Do you require any assistance?”

 

“They’re pumping his stomach. He should be fine, but he probably would prefer you not see him like that. I expect he’ll be home in a few hours.”

 

Mycroft sighed. “You’re quite right. It would bring back… unfortunate memories for both of us.” John held his peace. It was easy to forget that Mycroft had been the one to deal with Sherlock’s addiction, and (judging by the little John had put together over time) had saved his life more than once in the process. Mycroft continued, a bit hesitantly. “John, you may wish to have the doctors also check Sherlock’s back and ribs whilst he is under care. He is not quite as recovered from his … activities as I suspect he has led you to believe.”

 

John all but exploded. “What? What’s wrong with him? We’ve been running all over town these past few days and he never said…” Mycroft interrupted calmly. “Nothing serious, John, or I would have intervened. But I assume he may need some minimal care at this juncture that I am sure he has ignored.” John heard a different voice briefly in the background. “I must go now, unless you need additional assistance from me. Please call me when Sherlock returns to Baker Street, no matter the time, if you would. Goodnight, John.”

 

John dropped his phone back in his pocket and walked back to the treatment room, where vile noises indicated that Sherlock’s treatment was underway. He signaled from the doorway to a slightly-green Mrs. Hudson and took her place at the far side of Sherlock’s bed.

 

A fairly nasty hour later, Sherlock was awake, exhausted and wretched. John pulled the treating physician aside and relayed Mycroft’s information about Sherlock’s possible injuries, which lead to an ugly five-minute argument. John finally, out of patience, threatened to call Mycroft back unless Sherlock allowed the staff to remove his (now frankly disgusting) shirt and assess the situation. Sherlock, by this time in a rare old temper, ordered John out of the room. And John, recognizing that Sherlock had had enough drama for one evening, went.

 

John settled on a bench beside a dozing Mrs. Hudson. He texted Mary to let her know what had happened, and Mary was her usual sweet self (Oh, dear. Poor boy. Do you need me to come?). Two hours later, against the advice of the A+E doctor, Sherlock insisted on leaving. The sun was just starting to glow on the horizon as they pulled up in Baker Street. Sherlock proceeded to climb out of the taxi himself, and made it halfway up the stairs before stumbling to a halt. John just laced an arm around his waist and hauled him carefully up the rest of the way. Mrs. Hudson tottered along behind and started to make tea before John pointed her back downstairs. He’d already given her a stern lecture about the stupidity of ever giving anyone any kind of drug without their knowledge (and of course felt a complete cock when the tears started up again).  Sherlock had also stopped her when she tried to apologize, and told her, with a surprisingly sweet smile, that he just needed prior notice if she planned to poison him again.

 

John waited until Sherlock was settled in bed before he said what needed to be said, in as calm a voice as he could muster. “You have been beaten, extensively and repeatedly. You have three cracked ribs only partially healed that must cause you considerable pain. You have extensive deep muscle bruising across your entire back, and two deep puncture wounds that have recently reopened after partial healing. You have small amounts of blood in your urine. And you told me none of this, while we chased terrorists and you pulled me out from under a bloody bonfire, after riding a motorcycle up and down staircases across half of London.”

 

Sherlock’s eyes were closed, but he swallowed and opened his mouth to speak.

 

John stopped him. ‘No. Not now. I know you’re miserable. I know you somehow thought that, if I knew you were unwell, you couldn’t convince me to come with you and do what needed doing. I understand that. But Christ, Sherlock. You have to realize that…what happened before? It’s still raw. It’s still here.” His left hand clenched over his heart. His voice was cracking now but he couldn’t stop. “I have to know you’re OK. But even more than that? I have to trust that you’ll bloody tell me if you’re not. Please. Please.”

 

Sherlock tried to answer and failed, his lips clenched and those dark eyelashes damp. Then he nodded, twice. Firmly.