John finds Sherlock having another panic attack.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
After the conversation with Henry's therapist John wandered a bit aimlessly around the pub, realising he wasn't sure if he wanted to go to their room and face Sherlock right now.
Right now he wished he had his own room, but this had been the only vacancy.
Thank god, they got one of those, not a double room, though it wouldn't really matter because Sherlock usually didn't even try to sleep during a case. He'd have the bed for himself.
He wondered if there was a chance he'd get any sleep at all while they were staying in Baskerville.
Sharing the same room with a hyperactive detective, who loves to think aloud all night.
He was a bit unnerved about Sherlock's plump manipulation, the way Sherlock had used to make him speak to the therapist. In addition, his comments earlier had stung.
Well, maybe more than stung.
John found himself outside, in front of the pub, alone in the dark and with only a lantern here and there. He sat down at the tables and thought about how Sherlock had acted during their 'discussion' a few hours ago. The cool night air cleared his mind a bit, enabled him to think about the events with less anger and more reflectiveness.
Now, that he thought about it, he had never seen the other man this desperate, desolate and out of control - even disoriented if he was reading the signs right.
Sherlock had been agitated by his feelings.
For god's sake, the man never even blinked while threatened by several guns or other mortal dangers. Only Moriarty had managed to provoke a reaction of disturbance or maybe fear, which had passed fast, right after he had stripped John of the bomb.
The man was a rock, but hours ago, he had been shaking with anxiety.
He had a panic attack, and of course he had all those feelings humans had, but they seemed to be perceived different by Sherlock.
John was sure his flatmate would describe them completely different than everyone else, maybe even feel them different - everything was so intense about Sherlock.
In many different situations John had seen how good Sherlock was at masking his feelings entirely or fake them if he thought an act was necessary. And he was able to do it with astounding precision and very convincingly.
The average fellow citizen reacted to Sherlock's behaviour with irritation, often even hostility, sometimes interested and observing, but quite often unnerved.
John himself had found it difficult to handle his intensity several times in the past, though he had known since his first day as Sherlock's flatmate that the man seemed to have quite vivid emotions.
Most of the time, Sherlock just handled them carefully, entrusting almost nobody with them ever – except John. Sometimes it was pretty rough to live with that, or with the grumpy behaviour that comes with a new set of experiences.
Sherlock seemed not to be able to connect a normal description of an emotion to what he felt, wasn't able to find the right words.
No, that was wrong, he just needed time to sort it out, compare it, translate the average human's description into his understanding - trial and error in this field.
He observed, intense like today, being as honest and sarcastic with himself as he was with other people. Though usually the detective did this kind of observations about himself in private. The fact that he had entrusted John with these innermost issues today was - now that he thought about it - heart-warming.
He had not only allowed John to witness his distress, he had even tried to talk about it, but the matter at hand had disturbed the discussion about exactly that matter - the panic attack had bugged his analysis. Why the aggression?
John had thought about trying to convince Sherlock to retreat to their room, but his shaking and breathlessness had made him doubt they'd reach it without making a scene. And Sherlock wasn't listening to him anyway, at least not to a level that was necessary to calm someone down.
Maybe John's lack of understanding the situation at first (out of sheer denial about what was enfolding before his eyes - anxiety attack - Sherlock? No way!) Sherlock had turned away in frustration, which had manifested in yelling about him being fine.
The doctor wondered what the other man had done since he left.
It wasn't the best idea to leave him like that - even though (or maybe because) he had tried to get rid of John by being harsh and insulting. The doctor now realised he should have stayed, as invisible as possible, but nearby.
Considering to which degree Sherlock was usually able to force his feelings behind a mask, the attack must have been very rough, since a lot had reached the surface. A normal person would have probably been screaming on the ground, out of his mind and hyperventilating, close to passing out.
Yes, Sherlock had had problems forcing his respiration to follow his will but he had stayed present and focussed.
How much longer had the detective sat alone at the fireplace?
Obviously, at least long enough to find out who Henry's therapist was and that she was in the pub.
John was sure his friend hadn't been steady enough on his feet to walk back to their room without help for at least another fifteen minutes after he had left.
Damnit, he should have kept an eye on him. But he had needed time to cool down. Maybe Sherlock had calmed down, too. John was finally ready to go check on him.
Before heading for the twin room, he ordered two drinks at the bar.
When he reached their door, he stopped in front of it and listened.
He tried the door as quiet as possible - it was unlocked.
The room was only dimly lit by a small lantern with a candle inside.
Strangely enough, Sherlock was sitting with his back to the door in one of the two armchairs. His hands rested against each other in the familiar position. He didn't react to John's entrance.
John stopped being quiet and moved louder than usual to make his presence known.
He placed the drinks in front of the other man, on the small table. Then worked himself out of his jacket and threw it onto a nearby stool.
When Sherlock still ignored him, he stepped closer to the other man, to try to make him communicate and make an abrasive examination of his behaviour.
But his friend didn't react at all, not even a blink. He was staring blindly ahead, obviously not seeing what was happening around him. Or maybe he had just retreated into his Mind Palace.
"Sherlock?" John asked gently.
Then the doctor noticed that Sherlock was still trembling and in serious worry now John knelt down in front of him.
This can't be good.
"Hey?… Can you hear me?"
No reaction. This alone wasn't unusual, but the shivering… and Sherlock was still paler than normal, his breathing was laboured and sweat was visible on his face.
"Sherlock, I'm gonna touch you," John warned in a calm voice.
The moment he gently wrapped his fingers around Sherlock's wrist, the man jerked back in surprise, making a startled noise.
"It's alright, it's me… just me."
Eyes now wide open in surprise, Sherlock gulped for air, flailing to get rid of John's touch.
The doctor stepped back, his hands outstretched.
"Easy… easy!" John raised his voice, "Come on, don't do this… Calm down."
After a few seconds Sherlock's expression started to show recognition, he was aware who John was.
"I want you to take it easy now. We're perfectly safe here, we're able to defend ourselves, nothing will happen, everything is quiet and secure."
Sherlock didn't react to the words, though he was panting now.
Had he been in this state the whole time?
"Sherlock, I can help you with this. I know exactly what it feels like to go through this kind of panic attack, had my share after… after Afghanistan… You don't need to do anything, just go with what I do or say," John rubbed his hands against his own arms to warm them up a bit, then stood in front of Sherlock.
"Close your eyes, I'm gonna switch on the lights."
Sherlock ignored the warning and blinked when John lit the bedside lamp.
"You will now slow down your breathing a bit… do some deeper breaths."
He saw Sherlock's jaw muscles clench, but the change in breathing was so minute that he decided to push a bit more.
"Come on, a deep breath now… breathe in… and out…"
Sherlock was at least trying to follow his instructions, that was a good sign. He repeated the instruction several times.
"… Breathe in… I'll touch you now… and breathe out…"
The doctor stepped closer again and put one hand gently on Sherlock's forehead.
The detective jerked slightly but didn't move away.
So John slipped the other around his nape, it was a bit bold to try that, but he wanted to test the waters.
Sherlock blinked several times but the level of agitation stayed the same. John raised his eyebrows, either Sherlock was quite out of it or he trusted John more than he had realised.
"That's it, relax… and another slow deep breath… in… and out," John tried to speak in a soothing voice and breathed with the rhythm while just standing there maintaining physical contact.
He was surprised Sherlock allowed him to do this, he had expected resistance. Nevertheless, this worried him even more than being yelled at would have. Sherlock despised being touched and this was completely out of character.
He waited and after some time, Sherlock managed to breathe easier, but the shaking remained the same. The detective's skin was clammy and he was tensed up to the max.
"I want you to lie down, on the bed… Can you walk?" John asked.
Sherlock's only response was a minute shake of his head.
John slowly let go of his nape and turned to the bed; he flipped back the duvet.
"You can't walk or you don't want to lie down?" John tried to make him reconnect to reality.
"No sleep," it was only a hoarse whisper.
"You don't need to sleep, just lie down a bit. You're white like a sheet and you need to relax, your muscles will be sore in the morning from being all tensed up for hours, come on."
Slowly, he slipped his hands under Sherlock's armpits and around his waist to help him up.
But his flatmate was not eager to go to the bed.
A wave of dizziness washed over Sherlock once he was upright. Orientation was slipping when the room darkened and moved around him.
When John felt him sway, he immediately tightened his grip, then dragged him towards the bed.
"Sit down," John pushed him down to sit on the edge and saw Sherlock's coat in a heap on the floor, though his scarf was still around his neck.
Gently, John removed it, having no difficulties keeping him sitting since he was stiff as a board.
"What drinks did you have?" He looked around the room for used glasses.
"Just the drink a'the bar," Sherlock answered, now a bit more present.
"Okay, let me get some water. You're okay sitting here for a moment?"
After Sherlock nodded he took his pulse to make sure he wouldn't faint and fall, then hurried to the mini-bar for a glass.
Seconds later a glass half full of water appeared in front of Sherlock's face. The stressed man just stared at it.
"Whatisit?" Sherlock seemed to have problems focussing.
"Water, pure countryside tab water, maybe from a nearby spring."
"The guide didn'trusthe water."
"Fine," The doctor returned to the bathroom, poured the water away and took a bottle of water from the bar.
While pouring water into a glass, with his back to Sherlock, he added a dose of the medication he had given Henry before and which had been still in his pocket.
He returned to Sherlock with the new glass and placed it in his hands, even though he was trembling he trusted his flatmate to hold it.
"Mineral water, new bottle, sparkling," John informed.
"You put somethin'in it?" Sherlock asked, his voice tense.
This was the first fanfiction I ever wrote. In fact it was the first time ever I wrote anything. Never written before, and never written anything in English before (except of course at school of course, but that was ages ago).
Standard disclaimer: Sherlock, John and all other mentioned characters belong to BBC and the guys who invented them. I just borrowed them for fun. I wrote this for my personal delight and improving my english, no copyright infringement intended. No money changed hands and no profit is being made.
PS (added long after the original publishing):
This story is based on my experiences with panic attacks, but everyone experiences them different. Many people feel as if they can't breathe, although I have trouble breathing I don't feel as if I can't, sometimes I feel the side effects of hyperventilation, but most of the time I hold my breath to counteract it.
Please note that in different countries treatment varies a lot and that what is given (medication and treatment-wise) in your country isn't necessarily considered a good idea in others and vice versa. In my country doctors seem to do many things about meds very different from for example in the US. I am sure doctors argue about the 'right' way a lot, but this is not the place for such a discussion.
Once I was given a sedative to which I reacted a lot worse than Sherlock does here; although since the situation was 'not having a friend nearby' to help, it was horrible.
Besides, this is not medical advice but my first try to write fiction and I am aware of course that for the H/C effect I used medication in a 'not accurate' way. I used it in a way I sometimes wish it could work.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"You put somethin'in it?" Sherlock asked, his voice tense.
John swore inwardly, even in this state Sherlock's observing skills were working well enough to deduce this… like on autopilot. He had proven to have a good skilled one of those before.
"Sherlock, I know you already said you have no friends, but as your doctor - not your friend, I believe you trust in my medical skills - so as your doctor, listen to what I say: just drink it! You're sweating a lot and you need to calm down and get some rest, just drink it and lay down."
The doctor helped him raise the glass to his lips and Sherlock looked up at him, directly into his eyes, frowning, almost staring, an odd expression of sadness or maybe guilt in his eyes.
Sherlock suspected John had drugged the water, but during the past two hours he had had deep regrets for his spiteful words about not having friends, almost to an amount that made him want to go search for John… but he couldn't think of a way to take the words back, so it was no use. And he was well aware that whenever he had tried to apologise in the past he had done it wrong, made it even worse.
People had not reacted well to his tries to make things right.
Not knowing how to do it, he abandoned he the idea. But then he became even more frustrated with his own behaviour, well aware that John was keeping up with him although he complaint he was such a nuisance so often.
John was the first human being in a very long time who treated him well; who wasn't annoyed about him within minutes.
He knew and saw every day that John cared. Nobody had ever cared about him like John did. He never had a friend before. He was not really sure if John considered Sherlock one, but…
The fond touches the doctor had given him in the past minutes left a warm safe humming somewhere in him… and now John was guiding his uncontrollable hands.
So patient and helpful…
Gratitude swept over him and it was like another heavy wave of emotions threatening to rush him away.
The onslaught made his mind stumble and deafened him for a moment, until it had washed past him long seconds later.
He was hesitating to speak, feared to say something wrong or do something wrong, again.
John cared and he had been an idiot.
What was it with his feelings today?
They were are all exaggerated he suddenly realised, not just the fear.
There was also sadness, shame, and anger about his body betraying him… all much too intense, hard to endure… and needing so much energy to be kept at bay.
Usually, he didn't even recognise those, they were just not relevant, a mere whisper in the dark his mind had no trouble at all ignoring. Usually, they were so faint that they weren't even recognisable as such.
Sorting through them to find out what they were was difficult, they overwhelmed him.
He felt odd, tired and lost… disoriented.
Maybe he should shut off, retreat into the palace, give John and himself some peace. But he had tried to use the palace constantly in the past hours, it hadn't worked.
It was as if the doors were blocked, it was a very frustrating feeling to be debarred like that.
If they were at home he'd do some experiments, try to figure out what had gone wrong.
This was not normal!
But they weren't home, the foreign surroundings made his mind itch; he felt not safe, he wanted to be home.
It was not just that he wanted to do them for his own pleasure, he needed to do them to figure out what was going on. He had realised something was not right about this hours ago, but failed to act upon the understanding. In addition, he was not home and had no equipment available.
Oh! The military labs where there, he could use those!
During the past hour he had distracted himself by planning tests to determine what was wrong with him and Henry.
Maybe he should tell John about his deductions.
But, no. Whatever he'd say right now, it would be wrong, John would get angry and leave again.
He tried to sort through his database that contained extremely well mannered behaviour patterns, but the right thing was hard to find, and the search process used a lot of brainpower.
His mind stumbled several times and he had to start at the beginning again. After the fourth reset he gave it up.
Only possible option: do nothing and say nothing… but that could also be interpreted as rude.
He was at the end of his endurance and had run out of ideas.
His body's stress reaction had consumed a lot of energy. He was beyond tired and exhausted, maybe that interfered with his thinking processes, too.
It was - even in normal situations - very had to find sleep, and in this state he'd never find it by himself.
He had manoeuvred himself into a deadlock that had no way out, not even a way back. He needed a more thorough reset.
Therefore, he drank the whole glass in one move, desperate to get away from it all.
When John saw Sherlock began to drink he let go of his hands, brought a stool to the bed and fetched some clothes from the ground.
A few moments later, the detective tried to put the empty glass to the nightstand but his aiming was so far off that John had to jump to catch the falling thing because Sherlock had placed it aside the surface.
He gently took Sherlock's shoulders and upper back and slowly pushed him down sideways.
To his surprise, the detective didn't fight him. Next, he lifted his legs onto the bed, which resulted in Sherlock lying on his back in a slight twist due to the small bed. His flatmate didn't move, he remained in the exact position John had let go of him and stared at the ceiling.
"Sherlock?" John took his wrist again, the pulse was still way to fast, "Do some more deep breaths for me, will you?" he encouraged.
Slowly, Sherlock started sucking in a shaking breath and John opened his shoelaces to remove his friend's footwear, the socks he left.
The doctor returned to his open medical bag and fetched a tube, then squeezed a very small amount of additive free Aloe Vera Salve on his fingertip.
"This smells good, I'll put some on your face. It's just an anti-allergic and perfume-free lotion. I want you to inhale the subtle scent and concentrate on how soft and good it smells and feels."
He applied some lotion on the point between Sherlock's eyebrows, using gentle pressure, and some more next to his nostrils.
Sherlock flinched minutely at the touch, but inhaled slowly.
Smell was important in situations like this, John hoped the sensory input would give Sherlock a focus to stay present in reality, kind of a counterpart for the ugly reality of the panic.
"Get comfortable, relax… the bed is soft and warm," he tried to coax him into unwinding.
"No, 'ts not," Sherlock argued with an exhausted voice.
"Then at least move into a comfortable position," John suggested to the shivering man while sorting through the blankets and covering Sherlock with the warmer one. He had never needed to encourage a patient to do that before. People usually did this on their own.
When Sherlock didn't move he unbuttoned his sleeve cuffs from the outstretched arm that was conveniently hanging over the edge of the mattress. He started rolling it up and sat down on the bed, next to the supine figure.
"Taking your blood-pressure. Any nausea?"
"'m fine, just leave it…"
It sounded almost like a plea and now Sherlock started to move, slowly dragging his arm away.
"No, you're not. You're cranky and still fighting to keep the panic at bay. Now, would you please shut up and let me do this!" John's voice had become louder and this could be interpreted as a bit harsh.
The consultant's breath hitched and he squeezed his eyes shut.
John reached for his wrist once more but this time, Sherlock jerked back.
He turned away to lie on his other side, back to John, his face almost touching the wall.
John shifted to the stool to give him some space, counting to ten and hoping for the medication to work soon.
Was a normal dose enough or had Sherlock such a high tolerance that it would be effectless?
He stared at Sherlock's back for a minute and noticed the trembling was worse than ever. He knew Sherlock didn't like to be touched, but it had been okay a moment before.
For several minutes, he tried to convince Sherlock to let him do this, but the other man didn't react or just shook his head.
Just when John decided to take a shower to clear his head and give his friend some more space Sherlock finally moved.
"John…" his voice was hoarse and shaky and he sounded terrified, as he slowly and slackly rolled back into a supine position.
His face was white as a sheet and his respiration shallow and fast.
This time, he didn't fight when John took his wrist to check his pulse and then rested his hand on Sherlock's clammy forehead.
What had just happened?
"What is it? How do you feel?" the doctor asked.
Sherlock blinked slowly, while obviously trying to concentrate on taking deeper breaths once more. His silence was a bit unnerving.
"That's absolutely normal in the aftermath of a panic attack, your respiration adds to that, too. Just try to loosen up. Any nausea?"
"Before, yeah… Now... feels odd… weak… pressing down on me… heavy," Sherlock's breathing slowed down.
"I gave you something to help you relax, just go with it. It's starting to work… It's how it feels when it's kicking in."
"You drugged me?" Sherlock blinked slowly, his voice low and a bit slurred, but there was no surprise or anger in his tone.
John slowly moved his thumb over Sherlock's pulse point at his wrist to comfort him, most people found this calming. However, John was not sure why his friend didn't fight his touch now. His breathing deepened and John could feel his body slowly starting to relax a bit under his hands.
So this was comforting the tense man?
Sherlock's eyes slowly closed half, but stayed that way, probably still taking in everything around him, but his gaze was unfocussed now.
"Sleep, Sherlock… I'll make sure to wake you in case you start to dream… Just sleep, mate."
A few moments later the detective seemed to start drifting but then a minute shake of his head showed John he still wasn't ready to let go. But he relaxed further and exhaled with a silent groan.
Sherlock was fighting the urge to just let go and sleep, as if the detective knew he should give his body some rest but was too afraid to let go.
For several minutes the only movement in the room was their breathing and John's thumb still moving over Sherlock's wrist slowly… Now and then Sherlock blinked.
But the longer the silence lasted the more restless Sherlock became.
When John finally realised Sherlock wouldn't drop off anytime soon he decided to do his best to find out what had happened. Maybe Sherlock needed input, idleness usually made him uneasy and worse, John knew that, so he removed his hand from Sherlock's forearm, which caused the detective to open his eyes wider in alarm.
"It's okay, just let me check your vitals."
He took the sphygmomanometer from his bag and wrapped it around Sherlock's upper arm. His patient for the time being just watched him from under his half closed lids. Though obviously calmed and relaxed by the medication it failed to knock him out completely, as it should have by now.
The doctor slowly unbuttoned Sherlock's shirt and warmed the stethoscope while putting on gloves. Then he auscultated his lungs and heart and examined him thoroughly.
"'ake blood," Sherlock mumbled.
"Want you… to draw… blood," he explained, his words very slow and obviously difficult to get out.
"I'm not sure this is a good idea right now."
"Need to test it." Sherlock became more agitated again, obviously preparing for an argument.
"You just had a major panic attack, this might not be the right moment-"
Sherlock did not beg!
He must be sure it was very important.
"Alright… I agree with what you said earlier. This kind of attack is not normal for you. I'll take the samples and send them to the nearest lab in the morning for analysis."
Sherlock visibly relaxed, sank back deeper into the mattress.
After fetching the equipment, the doctor wrapped a tourniquet around his arm and rubbed his crook with an alcohol wipe.
"Just relax, I'll hurry."
Sherlock huffed in what might be a hint of sarcasm.
Right, with his history he was not afraid of needles and John didn't need to hurry therefore.
John placed his hand back on Sherlock's forehead while waiting the necessary seconds until the site was sterile. To his utter bewilderment Sherlock relaxed under the intimate touch.
John studied his features for a moment, then returned to the task at hand.
He inserted the cannula and drew five vials of blood, while Sherlock continued to observe him through l half closed eyes.
Then he drew some more of the already used medication into a syringe.
"This will make you sleep, I'll be right here, everything is fine…"
He knew Sherlock was aware what he was doing and was absolutely sure he would have uttered any objections. But he just continued to watch the doctor.
So he flushed the catheter with saline and injected the medication.
After removing the needle John pressed some gauze over the injection site and guided Sherlock's arm up to his shoulder for pressure on the pad.
Gently shaking the vials to mix the blood with the different additives, he stood up and slipped out of his gloves and then his shoes.
He packed the samples and stored them in the mini-bar's freezer, all the time watching Sherlock who still followed his every move.
When Sherlock's breathing sped up again and John saw him blink rapidly several times he suspected Sherlock was starting to feel the effect of the medication. He assumed Sherlock wanted to escape experiencing the situation on one hand, but on the other was somehow afraid to sleep or give up control.
He returned to sit on the bed's edge.
"Easy… Don't fight it," John tried to convince him.
When Sherlock's hand jerked a few centimetres towards him and he saw a spark of panic in the half closed eyes, he slowly took the hand and wondered if this was what Sherlock needed.
Was he really asking for contact? The chance that it was just a random movement was much higher.
"Just sleep… I'll keep watch."
Sherlock's lids blinked once more, then his eyes finally fluttered shut.
His breathing deepened and John saw and felt his body becoming more and more heavier.
It was a process that took several minutes until he was really limp and most of the tension gone.
John had never observed him fall asleep before, he realised.
Was it always such a fight or just now because he was tensed up?
Took it always such an effort to let go and relax?
He decided to keep an eye on this in the future. If it was, no wonder that the detective doesn't like to go to bed and try to sleep… or fall asleep, whatever the problem was with this.
He waited some more minutes, then positioned the armchair next to the bed, lifted his legs onto the stool and took his book from the nightstand to read. Though John was on alert all night Sherlock slept through it almost without any problems.
Once he got slightly uneasy, but when John started to read his novel out loud in a low voice Sherlock calmed immediately.
This was the first fanfiction I ever wrote, it was written in September 2013, a few weeks after I had seen the Sherlock episodes for the first time.
I hope you excuse any typos or grammar mistakes. I am not a native speaker but I am trying my best.