In the controlled chaos of getting the girl off to hospital, Donovan loses sight of Sherlock. When she sees him again, she’s surprised to find that someone has wrapped him in a blanket and leaned him against a wall. There’s a half-full bottle of water next to him and as she gets closer, she can smell the mint that he’s sucking on, a stronger scent than the vomit that had splashed onto his shirt, staining the front of it. The exertion he’d been through had meant he’d been violently ill when it was over. Donovan had only seen such a thing from marathoners at the finish line.
He’s pale and sweaty, head low, chin tucked into his neck. “Sherlock?” It takes a moment for him to look up and another for his glassy eyes to focus on her. “Can the paramedics come take your vitals?”
He blinks slowly, then nods.
Donovan motions for a waiting paramedic to come to them.
“Can you get him some sweetened tea or juice?” the medic asks sotto voce.
“Of course,” Donovan replies. She motions to a PC to fill the order.
The paramedic approaches Sherlock and drops to her knees. “Sir, my name is Mandy and I’m a paramedic. I’d like to check your pulse and blood pressure. Would that be okay?”
“Fine,” Sherlock whispers.
The paramedic gets to work. “Sergeant Donovan told me you’ve had major thoracic involvement in recent years?”
“Are you feeling any pain?”
“That’s to be expected. Can I touch your shoulders?”
The medic palpates gently and Sherlock barely reacts. “Okay. I don’t think you did any serious damage, but we’ll know more once the adrenaline has worn off. Your pulse and blood pressure are quite elevated. I’d like you to drink something sweet and sit for a bit while we check on the other witnesses. Then, I’ll take your vitals again to see if I feel you need to go to hospital or not.”
The PC arrives at that moment with a steaming cup of tea and a doughnut. Donovan sits down beside Sherlock and helps him drink a few sips. He shows interest in the doughnut, but his hands are shaking too badly to hold it. Donovan holds it up to his mouth. He takes a bite without comment, so she feeds him a few more morsels before his hands stop shaking enough that he can continue feeding himself.
This feels so intimate, but this Man Sherlock is not the Boy Sherlock she used to know. The man breathing heavily next to her knows not just that he’s human, but that this is not a personal failing. This man now fills a plate when food is brought in during investigations and eats with everyone. This man sometimes surprises her with her favourite coffee drink that she only allows herself if someone else is offering it. This man even once asked her if she had anything in her purse for a headache.
The medic returns after some time and finds Sherlock’s vitals to be close to normal. “His best friend is a GP and waiting for him at home,” Donovan says.
“That makes it easier for me to send him home, then. I want someone to watch him overnight.”
“Of course. I’ll take him home myself and let his friend know.”
The two women help Sherlock to his feet. He’s steadier with the sugar in him, but clearly worn out. He drops heavily into the passenger side of Donovan’s car. When he makes no move to attempt to buckle his seat belt, she does it for him, realising at the last second that the movement would have pained him.
John Watson is waiting at the kerb in front of 221B Baker Street. He thanks Donovan and then helps Sherlock out of the car before bundling him upstairs.
“Hot bath?” he asks once they are in the flat.
“And food. Lots of food.” Sherlock’s stomach growls in solidarity at the statement. John chuckles at that.
In the bathroom, he helps Sherlock remove his shirt, tutting at the bruises forming on Sherlock’s pectorals. “I’ll get you some tablets while you finish undressing.”
When he returns, Sherlock is reclining in the bath. He accepts the glass of orange juice and two paracetamol tablets John hands him. “Do you want to eat in the tub?”
“No. Can’t stay long — going to fall asleep.”
John returns to the kitchen. There are eggs on the counter and a survey of the fridge reveals some mushrooms and bit of gammon steak. He’s about to ask Sherlock if an omelette would be okay when he hears footsteps on the stairs. He peers out the kitchen door and sees Donovan coming up carrying a large carton of chips.
“Oh, brilliant, ta!” he says gratefully. Sherlock doesn’t really need nutrition as much as calories and and emotional comfort. Chips are perfect.
“Sure,” she says. “Have him come in for his statement soon as he’s well enough to, okay?”
“'Course. Tomorrow, though?”
“That’s fine. I’ll text you soon as we have a better idea what’s going on with the girl.”
Sherlock can’t get out of the tub on his own. It’s just like during his recovery from being shot. His upper body is too weak and in too much pain for him to be able to push himself to a standing position. He and John have a routine for that. When Sherlock calls for help, the tub is already drained and he’s wrapped a towel around himself as best as he can. John offers the necessary steadying force for Sherlock to get up using only the strength of his legs.
John helps him into pyjama bottoms, a tee-shirt, and a dressing gown, then they head to the lounge where Sherlock collapses bonelessly on the couch. He perks up when John hands him the carton, to which he has added a generous amount of ketchup.
“When did you learn CPR?” John asks as Sherlock begins inhaling his chips.
“After I had no idea what to do with Private Bainbridge. So I could do it for Rosie. And because it’s something everyone should know.”
“I don’t mean this to sound condescending, but I’m proud of you. That you cared enough to take the course, to remember what you learned, to pound on that girl’s chest until the paramedics got there… You did everything right. I wish I could have seen it.”
Sherlock loses interest in his chips. “I’m going to hear that sound for a long time.”
“That’s the sound of you doing it right.”
Sherlock swallows hard and nods. He stares down at the carton in his lap for a moment before resuming eating, but with less enthusiasm.
He’s done and starting to nod off when John’s phone chirps. He takes a glance at it and frowns.
“She didn’t make it, did she?” Sherlock asks hoarsely.
“I’m sorry, no. But Sally says she woke up briefly and her parents were able to say their goodbyes. I know this will feel hollow, but you gave that girl’s parents a lot.”
Sherlock nods. “I can get a measure of comfort from that.” He lets out a shuddering breath.
He and John have gone through so much counselling to repair their relationship since the Culverton Smith case that they are no longer afraid of being emotionally naked with each other. When alone together now, there are no labels, no societal expectations. Sherlock doesn’t make to stand, so John leans in and holds him for a moment. Sherlock doesn’t return the embrace, but presses against John briefly before pulling away.
He sniffles, “I’m really very tired. I’m going to bed.”
“Okay. Molly’s got Rosie so I’m staying. Leave some paracetamol and water by your bed in case you need them. I've got some cream to massage your shoulders in the morning.”
“Fine. Thank you."
Sherlock reaches his bedroom door and calls out one last time. "Please text Sally a thank you from me."