Sherlock Holmes was going mad. He was aware of the slow disintegration of his mind, but at the same time, the thought of preventing it was absolutely inconceivable. It had started slowly; a gradual creeping of fog into the peripheries of his mind, then a cracking that had begun almost imperceptibly, but would in time, he knew, spread into the centre, until his mind splintered like a mirror into a myriad of tiny fragments, taking his sanity with it.
He could pinpoint the precise moment of onset. He had been sitting looking at a sample under his microscope, not focusing on it, but staring at it, unseeing, while he pulled together the delicate threads of his latest case into a cohesive whole. A characteristic feeling of dread, a metallic taste at the back of his mouth that came with a sense of impending doom. It had shaken him enough to make him look up from the microscope, stand up and walk out of the lab, ignoring John entirely, and walk straight to the nearest newsagents. There he had bought a packet of the cigarettes that he hadn't smoked for over a year, taken them back to the alleyway which had always been his favourite hiding place on the non-smoking site, and smoked two, end to end, waiting for the nicotine to calm his shaking hands.
Back in the lab fifteen minutes later, he ignored John for a second time, took up his seat on the stool once more, and focused again on the sample under his microscope as if nothing had happened. Contained, he thought smugly, put away until such time as it was convenient for him to allow the darkness to creep over his mind. Controlled as it always was until a time of his choosing. He couldn't postpone it for ever, he knew that from bitter experience, because the darkness would always win eventually, but it would have to wait; until the case was over, until he could allow himself to fall. Then and only then would he retreat to the flat, take some diazepam from the hollowed out book that not even Kate knew about, and retreat into sleep until the fog cleared and he could function once more.
Kate worried about these episodes, he knew, but respected him enough not to interfere. She understood why the drugs for him were not an option, why he preferred to manage it this way, as he had been managing it for years, as he had always managed it.
The second episode came equally suddenly while he was talking to Lestrade, looking at some new evidence - a note from the killer. A whispering at the back of his head, followed by a feeling of constriction, as if the walls were slowly closing in on him. For a second he was convinced that was exactly what was happening, then he blinked and the walls shimmered and returned to their original position. An illusion then, or a delusion rather, that felt vaguely familiar.
'Sherlock,' Lestrade's voice came, as if from a distance, then again with concern, 'Sherlock, are you okay?'
He mentally shook himself, 'Fine,' he said, with one last visual check that the walls were where they should be. With a few abrupt comments he turned and left the room. Leaving suddenly and without warning was fortunately something that he excelled at, and was therefore unlikely to cause alarm. He kept his pace slow but purposeful, feeling like a strange parody if himself, until he knew that he was safely out of sight of both the station and the surrounding cctv cameras. Then and only then did he allow him to sink down against a wall away from public view, head resting on his knees for just a second, slowing his breathing and forcing away the panic. The thought of telling anybody what was happening to him never crossed his mind. To do so would make it a reality. This was absolutely not real. This was under his control, just as it always was.
By the time the case had reached its conclusion (boyfriend, it was always the boyfriend, how predictably boring), he was aware that this was very, very different to anything that he had experienced in a very long time. Unwilling to allow himself time alone with his thoughts, he lingered on the case for much longer than he usually would, forcing John to go back over details again and again, into a minutiae of detail, until each and every thread was neatly tied and clipped.
It was the Kate in the end who forced him to address it. Of course it was. Beautiful, perceptive Kate, who knew him better than anyone else in the world, even after the ten short months that they had been together. Kate who had turned his world upside down and forced him to confront his demons so many times in the past. She wasn't going to let this go; he knew it as soon as he saw her expression.
It was Wednesday night. He had come back to the flat to pick up his lap top, planning on returning to the lab, to find Kate sitting on the sofa, flicking disconsolately through the tv channels. Kate rarely watched television. She was normally to be found curled up with a book. Trouble then.
'I thought you were on a late shift,' he said suspiciously.
'I got off early,' she said. 'There were loads of us and it was pleasant for a change.'
Pleasant, not quiet. Saying quiet in an Emergency Department was like saying Macbeth in a theatre. A sure harbinger of death and destruction.
He narrowed his eyes at her, unconvinced.
She sighed. 'Okay, I traded a shift,' she said. 'I wanted to talk to you.'
'I'm on my way back to the lab,' he said.
'Of course you are, and you wouldn't have come back here if you'd known that I was here.'
'Don't, Kate,' he said tightly.
'Don't what? Don't stop you from ignoring whats happening?' She stood up and went over to him, taking both of his unresisting hands in hers, as he fixed his eyes on the ground.
'I'm not ignoring it, ' he said slowly, 'I'm dealing with it.'
'Can I help?' she asked simply.
He looked at her, so caring, so worried, and cupped her cheek with his hand. 'I don't think so, not this time.'
'Does work help?'
He looked at her, considered, and for the first time in their relationship lied to her; for her own protection, and because he knew, intrinsically that something awful would happen of he told her the truth. Because he trusted her, but he trusted the whispering voices in the back of his head more.
'Yes,' he said, 'it helps.'
'Then I won't interfere,' she said, then hesitating slightly reached up and kissed him gently.
He kissed her back, and for a split second considered staying here with Kate this evening, ignoring the work and forgetting himself in her, but it wouldn't work, he knew, and the crash afterwards would be even worse, and if it got any worse then his mind might fragment entirely. He couldn't risk it, couldn't let his guard down even for a second.
'I have to go,' he said finally pulling away.
To Kate's credit she didn't try to stop him, didn't protest. She did, however, phone John as soon as the street door slammed behind him.
'No luck?' John asked. He had been involved in the conspiracy to send Sherlock back to 221B for his laptop after John's had mysteriously died in the lab and resisted even Sherlock's attempts to restart it.
'He's not talking; he says that he's dealing with it.'
'And is he?'
'I have no idea,' Kate sighed, 'but it feels different this time. It's as if he's afraid to give into it.'
'Maybe he's just trying to get through it without going to bed for three days.'
'Maybe. But will you - can you keep an eye on him John? Make sure he's okay.'
'I can try,' John said. 'But if he won't talk to you, Kate, then I don't see what chance I have.'
Sherlock tried. He tried every weapon that he had in his considerable arsenal. He tried work, he tried distraction. He tried ignoring the voices, he tried arguing with them. The one thing that he would not try, for no logical reason that he could discern, was diazepam; because he knew without a shadow of doubt that if he numbed his mind with drugs, then this time the darkness would win.
It was darker, deeper and infinitely more threatening than anything that he had experienced for years. And the voices, the voices were something else entirely. By Friday evening he was exhausted. He was unable to concentrate on anything, the voices drowning out any attempt at coherent thought. He had been sitting at the lab bench for a good two hours, head in hands, trying to force his thoughts into the right components. Finally, frustrated he gave up and went home, walking to delay the moment when the flat door would close behind him and the darkness would come. He hesitated for just a moment outside and thought, irrationally, about just continuing on walking - out of his life, out of this feeling; as if he could shed his old life like a skin and emerge new and shiny and unmarked. As if he could leave the blackness behind him, in the flat, in London; as if it could possibly be that simple.
Irrational, of course it was irrational. There was, of course, a simpler way to escape this, to make it all stop; but that was something that he wasn't ready to contemplate, whatever the voices said, not yet.
Wearily he unlocked the street door, then made his way slowly up the stairs, pulling off his scarf as he went. Kate was at the kitchen table, tapping away at her laptop. She looked up as he came in, then seeing his face came over without a word to where he stood just inside the door, and wrapped her arms round him. He rested his forehead against her shoulder, wishing that he could stay there forever.
'Are you ready to talk about this now?' she said softly into his hair. He shook his head and held her tighter. He had been deliberately avoiding her all week, she realised, and what she felt now was despair, radiating from him in waves.
'I want to help,' she said finally.
He straightened up and shook his head. 'You can't, Kate,' he said throwing himself down on the sofa and resting his head back against the back of it, eyes closed.
She hesitated, then recognising his need for space, sat down in the armchair opposite him, 'It's different this time.' It was a statement, not a question.
'How? Tell me?'
He shook his head, eyes still closed. 'I cant, Kate, I can't talk about this, not now.'
'Could you - talk to someone else about it maybe?'
His eyes jerked open and he sat up, staring at her in disbelief, 'Like a psychiatrist? You want me to see a psychiatrist?' he snapped.
She went and sat next to him then, wrapping her arms round his stiff, resistant frame until he relaxed, and buried his face in her shoulder, as she said, 'No, no, of course not, not if thats not what you want, I just meant - a GP maybe, somebody who could get you some medication.'
'No medication, Kate,' he said, his voice catching, 'and no doctors.'
She smiled slightly despite everything, 'Apart from me.'
His arms tightened, 'Apart from you, just you.'
As they sat there entwined she could feel everything that he could feel as he finally let his guard down. Misery, despair and more - there was fear in there, fighting to get free behind the logic. She tightened her hold on him, 'Don't be afraid,' she whispered, 'we'll get though this, you'll see.'
He pulled away, and stood up, angrily brushing away tears that he didn't want her to see. 'It's fine,' he said, 'it's fine,' as if trying to convince himself. He kept his face turned away from her, as if that could disguise what he was feeling. 'I need to sleep,' he said as he walked towards the bedroom, and seconds later the door closed behind him.
Kate sat there, frozen, head in hands for several minutes, trying to work out what on earth she should do. Phone John was her first impulse, but he was away at a wedding, it was his first weekend away in months, and she didn't want to spoil that. Besides, if Sherlock didn't want help, then what realistically could John do? Talking to him would make her feel better but John feel worse, and what would be the point in that?
She considered phoning her friend Alice, but felt strangely disloyal even contemplating that. This was private, after all, and she had never mentioned Sherlock's lows to Alice, or his previous psychiatric history. Alice would understand, but would she judge? Perhaps. And Sherlock would hate to think that she knew, he was still so ashamed of it, looking on it as a weakness, something that should be overcome by willpower alone, no matter what Kate said.
And was this so very different? Another low, worse and deeper than normal, but what was to say that a few days of sleep and whatever it was that he took, that he thought she didn't know about, wouldn't get him back on track just as it always did? Better to ride it out with him then.
She left him for ten minutes, then quietly went and opened the bedroom door. Fast asleep, curled up on his side with his back to the door. She knelt on the bed next to him, kissed him on the cheek, then pulled a blanket over him and left him to sleep.
Woken from sleep only a few short hours after she had finally gone to bed, she blinked and looked at the green glare of the alarm clock. 1.32 am. Sherlock was muttering and twitching in his sleep. She reached an arm across to touch his shoulder and he threw her off, as if she had slapped him, almost shouting now, but not in any language that she could understand. Nightmare then. She shook him awake murmuring his name, telling him it was okay, it was just a dream, and then he sat bolt upright head in hands, talking furiously, 'Shut up,' he was yelling, 'just shut up,' then almost sobbing, rocking, 'Please, please ,just stop talking.'
Assuming that he must still be asleep she reached out a hand, then reconsidering, sat up too and pulled him towards her so that his head was resting on her shoulder, rocking him, 'Its okay, you're safe,' she repeated.
He turned to look at her, and she realised that he was awake. Then he started to cry, great racking sobs as she held him, and rocked him and stroked his hair. Until last night she had never seen Sherlock cry in the ten months that they had been together. 'Help me, Kate,' he whispered, 'Make them stop.'
'Make what stop?' she asked gently, but that only made it worse. She sat there and held him for a long, long time, until he finally pulled away and stumbled off to the bathroom, where she found him several minutes later, hands clenched onto the washbasin, staring at himself in the mirror and having a furious whispered conversation - with himself? Trying to talk himself out of the nightmare, maybe. She stood silently, wondering how best to announce her presence, and then as she stood and listened to what he was saying, she realised with a cold, gut churning realisation that what she was hearing was one side of a conversation with somebody that only he could hear.
She had spent the last eight years of her life working in Emergency Departments, with a fair number of mental health patients among all the rest. In that time she had met patients with just about every variation of depression, self-harm, personality disorder and psychosis that you could come across in a text book; but witnessing the man that she loved in the throws of full-blown auditory hallucinations was almost more than she could bear. She resisted the impulse to allow herself to slide to the floor on knees that had suddenly gone weak, bury her head in her arms and cry, and forced herself into work mode.
'What are they saying?' she asked quietly.
Sherlock started, only just registering her presence.
'The voices that you're talking to,' she continued calmly, 'what are they saying?'
He closed his eyes and shook his head. She allowed him a few minutes silence before grasping his shoulders, 'Come back to bed,' she said, trying to keep her voice calm and level.
'Thats only going to make it worse.'
'Then we'll find you something to take to make it better. I know that you've been taking something, Sherlock, I'm not stupid. Nobody could possibly sleep that long without pharmaceutical help; so where are they?'
'Inside The Pickwick Papers; second shelf of the bookcase, twelfth book from the left,' he whispered, still unable to look at her, but allowing her to guide him gently back to bed.
Dickens, of course, the one book that she could be guaranteed never to open the cover of.
She went and retrieved the book, an antique edition, it must have upset him greatly to have to destroy a book like that she thought. She later found out that it had been his father's favourite book; a petty revenge then, storing his drugs inside it. She wondered what else had been hidden between those cut out pages over the years, and decided that was a thought that it was better not to dwell on.
Inside she found maybe twenty diazepam tablets in a small white bag with a press close top, not obtained by legal means then, of course not. There were also a few sleeping tablets, zopiclone by the look of them in another bag, and just two blue lorazepam tablets in a third. She closed her eyes, and steadied herself against the bookcase for just a minute before taking them through to the bedroom, with a glass of water for him to take them with. She had known that he had dabbled in drugs in his late teens and early twenties. Cocaine, speed, heroin even, though smoked, never injected. Chasing the dragon to chase away the memories and the darkness. Dangerous enough though, serious drugs, not just the odd joint or an ecstasy tablet on a Saturday night. But this, this proof of what he procured for himself, because of his stubborn refusal to look at this as an illness was something else entirely. 'He's still Sherlock,' she reminded herself firmly, 'this is just his way of coping. It's not your place to judge, and at least he has something that will help him now.'
Walking back into the bedroom she found him sitting on the edge of the bed, back turned towards her. 'What do you want?' she asked gently, placing the glass on the water on the table next to him. 'Lorazepam and zopiclone? That would seem like the best cocktail.'
Rubbing his face with one hand, he turned towards her slightly. 'Two of each, yes, that should work.'
'Two? Are you sure, only that seems..'
She tailed off. 'A lot? He tilted his head slightly as if considering, his back to the room again, not willing to face her. 'Not really, I've taken a lot more. I used to take a lot more. Two of each is fairly standard for me.' She took out the tablets and stretching across the bed unpeeled his hand from where it was gripping the mattress and put the tablets in it. He swallowed them, silently.
'Its okay, you know,' she said, stupidly she realised, as soon as the words had left her mouth.
He gave a bitter laugh, 'It's not though is it? None of this okay. Me asking you to get the drugs that I've procured illegally to stop the voices that just won't SHUT UP!' he almost shouted the last two words, then suddenly lay himself down on the bed, still facing away from her. 'None of this is okay, Kate,' he whispered. 'You should get out of this, go, before you end up even more hurt by me than you have been already. Leave me to my demons before they get to you too.'
Hesitantly she lay down next to him and curled herself round him, reaching an arm across his chest to pull him in close to her, so that they fitted together as perfectly as they always did.
'I'm not leaving you, you idiot,' she told him, 'I'm never leaving you, you know that.'
'I'm trouble, Kate,' he murmured, his voice already starting to become slurred from the medication. 'You should leave before you end up as dirty and broken as I am.'
She kissed his shoulder though his t-shirt,' You're ill, Sherlock, thats all thats making you feel this way. It will get better, I promise.'
He shook his head slowly, 'I don't think so, not this time.'
And for once Kate could think of absolutely nothing to say to him. No way to make this better for him. She just held him tight as his breathing finally slowed and he fell asleep.
He was still sleeping when she woke the next morning, and she closed the door softly behind here as she left the room. Mid-morning she found him awake and staring at the wall. 'Can I get you anything?' she asked. He shook his head silently. 'More tablets?'
He rolled over and looked at her. 'Please - and Kate, ' he hesitated. 'Hide the rest will you? Somewhere that I can't find them.'
She nodded, 'Okay, if that's what you want.'
She brought the bags in. 'No more lorazepam, unless you want me to...'
'No, Kate, I wouldn't ask you to do that. The GMC would take a very dim view of you prescribing benzos and sleeping tablets for your boyfriend I suspect. Wait until John gets home, he can get me some more.'
He picked out several diazepam tablets and a zopiclone and swallowed the lot.
'Why is it better if it's John?' she asked quietly.
'Because I'm registered with the practice he locums for,' he said, not looking at her, staring at his hands where they lay strangely immobile on the duvet. 'I thought that you knew. He's the only doctor that I'll go to. John doesn't like it either, but he keeps it above board. Racks it up as a home visit, writes notes on the system and everything. It's mainly been for injuries until now, but still.' He shrugged.
'Is that - ethical?' Kate asked, despite herself. He's still a friend.'
'And you've never treated friends, colleagues? Never written them up for antibiotics for an ear infection or similar?'
'Fair point,' Kate said quietly as he lay back down again, waiting for the tablets to kick in. 'So the tablets in the book?'
'No, not from John, as you well know. Not in fact prescribed to me at all.'
He sighed. 'I've shocked you, Kate, again.'
She considered, 'No, not really. I assumed that you'd bought them on the street. Homeless network?'
'Can get me just about anything that I need, and most things that I want. Yes.'
'I wish you wouldn't,' she whispered, unable to stop herself.
'Don't lecture me, Kate,' he said sleepily, 'not now. You know what I am, you've always known. I'm never going to toe the party line. You need to decide if you can accept that.'
She opened her mouth to protest, kicking herself for giving him yet more ammunition for his self-loathing, but he was already asleep.
Letting himself into 221A Baker Street shortly before midnight after a throughly enjoyable two days away, John Watson heard shouts coming from the flat upstairs. Doubting himself, he listened more carefully to check where the noise was coming from. An argument? Kate and Sherlock rarely argued, and certainly never like this. An intruder possibly? He contemplated going up there, but he was always wary of invading their privacy uninvited. It was a delicate balance living downstairs from your best friends. He listened hard. Mainly Sherlock's voice, with Kate's voice trying to calm him. He reached for his phone. Kate answered it on the first ring.
'John, are you home? Can you come up? And bring your visit bag, I think that we're going to need it.'
'Kate, are you okay? What's going on?'
'Just come up John, please.' Kate sounded uncharacteristically stressed.
Two minutes later, John was at the door. 'Its open,' shouted Kate in response to his knock. 'Come through.'
Sherlock was pacing round the bedroom, talking to people who weren't there. Kate, who looked exhausted, was trying to reason with him.
'Please tell me that he's taken something,' was John's first reaction.
'No, this is all him,' Kate said. 'I told you it was different, remember? But he wouldn't talk about it. Its been bad since Friday night, that's when he finally gave in to it. I don't know how long the voices have been there, he won't tell me, but they're getting worse. He wouldn't let me call anybody.'
John walked tentatively up to his friend, 'Sherlock?' he said calmly, 'can you tell me who you're talking to?' Sherlock swatted him away as if he was a fly, and continued with his animated conversation. Talking, listening, responding, arguing even in this. His voice too low for them to make out what he was saying. This was obviously a private conversation.
'Christ,' John murmured, then snapping open his visit bag, 'What do you want to give him?'
'What have you got? He's had lorazepam, that worked for a while, then diazepam and zopiclone, but now? I don't know. Haloperidol I suppose, have you got any?'
'Rapid sequence tranquilisation protocol says haloperidol and lorazepam, Kate, we both know that.' John said slowly. 'And that is what we're talking about, isn't it?'
Kate covered her mouth with her hand unconsciously, swallowing hard as the reality of the situation hit her.
'I suppose,' she murmured, sitting down hard on the bed.
John shot her a look. 'Come with me,' he said, shutting his bag and locking it again, then grabbing her hand and pulling her towards the door. 'Next door, Kate, we need to talk about this.'
'John, I can't..' she protested, looking at Sherlock who was still pacing and talking, using his hands in an attempt to illustrate a point.
'I don't think that he's going to miss you, Kate,' John murmured quietly, 'and we need to work out what we're going to do. Come on.'
Taking her into the living room, he gently pushed her towards the sofa, 'Sit,' he said, before pulling the armchair a bit opposite a bit closer and leaning forwards, so that he could watch her face. Classic listening pose, Kate thought dazedly, recognising what she did herself at work. He's treating me like a patient.
'You okay?' John asked quietly.
'John, my boyfriend's psychotic and talking to people who aren't there, of course I'm not fucking okay,' she spat at him.'
John looked slightly shocked, and then his lips curved upwards into a smile. 'Do you know, I don't think that I've ever hear you swear before,' he said slowly. 'I'll take that as a no, then.'
Kate buried her head in her hands for a few seconds, then looked up at John, pushing her hair back from her face, 'Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean to take it out you. It's just been a very long twenty four hours.'
'He's psychotic, Kate.'
'Yes he is,' she replied simply.
'So what do you want to do?'
'How do you mean?' Kate asked, confused, as if the answer was obvious.
'I mean do you want me to sedate him now, or do you want to wait until the ambulance gets here?'
'Ambulance? John, no, we can't.'
Now it was John's turn to be confused. 'Kate you can't seriously think that we can keep him here like this. He needs help, proper help. He's ill, he needs proper psychiatric care, medication, we can't do that here.'
John took a deep breath, let it out again, and considered carefully. Kate was the partner of his best friend, and entirely independently of that one of the people that he cared about most in the world. She was a good friend, as well as being Sherlock's girlfriend, but this, this was more than even he had expected. She loved Sherlock so passionately, so completely, that she would do absolutely anything for him, even if it was the wrong thing to do. 'You know why, Kate,' he said levelly. 'It isn't safe.'
'And sending him away to be looked after by strangers is?'
Sherlock's voice in the next room went from murmuring to shouting. They looked at each other for a split second, then both raced back into the bedroom, John just beating Kate to the door, to find Sherlock huddled in a corner, hands over his head, shouting and swearing.
'Sedation, now,' John said firmly. 'Lorazepam and haloperidol, and we discuss the rest later. Yes?'
'Fine by me,' Kate said, sitting herself on the floor next to Sherlock and pulling him close. He seemed almost oblivious to her presence, still shouting, but neither did he pull away. He barely flinched as John pushed up the sleeve of his t-shirt and injected him with the sedatives, slowly and carefully, while Kate cradled his head against her, stopping him from looking.
'Thank you,' she said quietly, as John turned to dispose of the needle and syringe.
'You can't be his girlfriend and his doctor, Kate,' John said. 'I suggest that you let me take on the latter job.'
Kate nodded, not trusting herself to speak. Bless John Watson, so good, so kind and usually so entirely accepting where Sherlock was concerned.
Sherlock's voice had dropped back to a murmur and Kate felt his body relaxing. 'Let's get him up,' John said, 'while he can still walk.'
Between them they got Sherlock on his feet, and supporting him on one side each, somehow managed to maneuver him onto the bed, making sure that he was lying safely on his side before Kate pulled the duvet over him and squatted on the floor next to him, watching his sleeping face.
John pulled a sats monitor out of his visit bag and made a few brief checks, then satisfied that Sherlock was safe indicated the door with his head. 'Come on,' he said to Kate, 'I'll make you a cup of tea.'
Kate looked dazed as she sat herself down at the kitchen table, lost in her own thoughts. Silently John slid a cup of tea across the table to her, and sat down in an adjacent chair.
'We both knew that this was coming, Kate,' he said quietly. 'We were both aware that at some point it was likely to get out of hand.'
'I know, John, especially having seen how bad his lows are, but somehow that doesn't make this any easier.'
'Do you know what triggered it?'
She shook her head 'No, not really. I'm not even sure that there was one specific thing. He wouldn't talk about it, just told me that he was handling it, he didn't even tell me about the voices, I think he was afraid to admit what was happening.'
She sipped her tea, thoughtfully and then pushed it away as if such a normal thing had no place in the events of that day.
'It's not your fault, Kate,' John said quietly. 'You couldn't have stopped this.'
'What if - no,' she shook her head, not wanting to voice the words.
'What if you caused this?' John asked, 'That's Mycroft's poison all over again. You didn't cause this, Kate. He's been happier and more stable in the time that he's known you than I've ever seen him. This was always going to happen sooner or later, it was just a matter of time.'
'The demons in his box,' Kate said quietly.
'Exactly,' John said, reaching out and placing his hand over hers. She looked up and him, 'Thank you, John, for being here,' she said, squeezing his fingers gratefully.
'I wouldn't be anywhere else,' he said, 'Crazy bastard that he is, he's my best friend and I owe him, ' he frowned slightly, 'I owe him my life, I think, and now its time to repay that debt,' he looked at Kate to make sure that she understood, 'because I want to, not because I have to.'
'Because he's worth more than either of us.'
'Exactly, ' John said, removing his hand gently from Kate's with a final squeeze.
'John,' Kate hesitated, 'Did you and Sherlock ever.. I mean - were you ever more than just good friends?'
John looked puzzled. 'Look its fine,' she said, 'I'm just curious.'
'You mean did we ever...' he laughed, realising what she was asking. 'God no, Kate, of course not. I'm straight, and Sherlock - well until you came along I would say that Sherlock was pretty much not interested in anyone but work.'
'Oh. Good,' Kate said, then catching John's eye, they both dissolved into giggles. 'I'm sorry,' Kate said, some time later, wiping her eyes with a tissue and handing John the box.
'I have no idea where that came from.'
'From the murky depth of your subconscious I imagine. Why on earth didn't you ask before if you were worried about it?"'
'Because I thought Sherlock would laugh at me, and because - If I'm honest - I never really realised how much you cared about him until today.'
'Oh Kate,' John said, coming round to her side of the table and enveloping her in a swift hug. 'I do care about him - as a friend, never anything more. No disrespect but he's not really my type.'
'Good, ' Kate said, grinning at him, 'Glad we cleared that up.' Then remembering why they were there shot a worried look towards the bedroom.
'I'll go and check on him, he's my patient, remember?' John said, getting up.
Kate waited silently for him to return, drinking her tea, and listening to the slow drip, drip of the tap that she hadn't quite got round to replacing the washer on.
'He's fine,' John said a few minutes later, coming back to sit at the table, 'obs are fine and he's sleeping peacefully. That lot should knock him out for a few hours at least.'
Kate remained silent.
'What do you want to do, Kate,' John asked quietly. 'Because you know what I think we need to do, and if you don't want me to arrange his admission to the NHS place, we could phone Mycroft, get him into a private clinic.'
Kate shook her head, 'He said no doctors, John.'
'I don't think that he has the capacity to make that decision anymore, Kate. And this is absolutely not something that we can deal with on our own.'
'I can't bear the thought of sending him away,' Kate said, 'You know how he is, he finds it hard enough to trust people when he's well, but like this? How on earth would he cope with that? And you and I both know what would happen if we send him away somewhere with people that he doesn't know when he's as paranoid as he is.'
'He'd get out,' John said slowly, 'Even like this, he'd find a way to get out. He is far too clever for anyone to be able to keep him anywhere that he doesn't want to be.'
'Exactly,' Kate whispered. 'I can't think of anybody that could keep him safe, apart from us. Thats why we have to keep him here, John, somehow we have to find a way to do that.'
'Not on our own, ' John said firmly, 'he needs a psychiatrist Kate, just tinkering around with sedation isn't going to do him any favors. He needs hard-core psychotropic medication, and I'm not the person to start him on that.'
'Do you know anybody?' Kate asked, sounding almost desperate, John wondered if she had slept at all in the last twenty-four hours, 'A psychiatrist who would come and see him here, someone who could help us without just having him sectioned?'
John was silent, considering, 'John?' Kate asked tentatively, 'Is that a no?'
'I'm thinking,' John said. 'Telling Mycroft, trying to get him into the clinic used by his people, which incidentally is very good indeed, isn't an option I presume.'
'Not unless all else fails, ' Kate said firmly. 'He wouldn't want Mycroft to know, John, you know he wouldn't, and Mycroft would just take over. He's his next of kin after all.'
'Shame you're not married,' John said absently, then looking up sharply, 'I'm sorry Kate, I didn't mean..'
'No, its fine, you're right. Its not as if he hasn't ask me, I've just never seen the point. But you're right, if we were married then I would be his next of kin and able to make decisions for him when he's like this, well influence them at least.'
'So no Mycroft then, and hence no clinic,' John said, filing away this new piece of information for later processing. Had logical, unromantic Sherlock Holmes really asked his girlfriend to marry him? How things had changed.
'They could keep him safe there Kate, you know, they're used to secret service people, even he wouldn't be able to get out.'
She shook her head. 'He'd still hate it. He's better off here with us, if we can.'
'Fine, then I know just the man for the job. Ed Harris, the psychiatrist who looked after me when I got back from Afghanistan, sorted out my medication, put me in touch with Ella, my therapist. I referred several private patients to him when I did that stint in the surgery off Fleet Street. He's good Kate, he's very good, and he's sensible. He's tough enough to take on Sherlock, and he can think outside the box enough to at least consider the idea of keeping him here. I'll phone him as soon as it gets to a reasonable hour.'
Kate looked at the clock on the cooker. 2.47am. Where had the time gone?
'Do you think that you could sleep?' John asked. 'I'll watch him if you like. You look exhausted Kate.'
She shook her head. 'I don't think that I could. How about you? Why don't you go and get some sleep and I'll let you know if he wakes up.'
'I'm not leaving you with him like this,' John said, and Kate felt oddly relieved, she was - not scared of being left alone with Sherlock exactly, but apprehensive. If he tried to get out of the door, she wasn't entirely sure that she would able to stop him. 'Besides,' John was continuing,'he's my patient, remember? I need to keep an eye on him while he's under all that sedation.'
So Kate made some more tea while John checked on Sherlock, and then realising that she hadn't eaten for nearly twenty four hours, some sandwiches. 'I feel like a student,' she said, as she and John took up their posts on the sofa and armchair respectively, door open to listen out for Sherlock, 'Eating toasted sandwiches at 3am and waiting for the dawn.'
'Kate, if Ed Harris says that he needs admission then we'll have to contact Mycroft,' he said, 'there isn't another option that I can think of. It's the only way of keeping him safe.'
'Agreed,' Kate said, 'but lets wait and see what this psychiatrist of yours says first.'
'What are you going to do about work?' John asked, 'If we do manage to keep him here.'
'I'll phone them first thing and arrange some carers leave. Realistically I'm going to need it whatever happens.'
'Kate, just so you know, I'm absolutely with you on this one. I am more than happy to help you look after him here 24/7 if thats what it takes, and I suspect that it might well come to that. I just need you to know that, you're not on your own.'
Silently, Kate reached out and squeezed his hand, not trusting herself to speak. 'Thank you,' she whispered finally, and then they both retreated to their own thoughts, and Kate finally and unexpectedly to sleep. Dimly she was aware of John pulling a blanket over her, and then when she woke later of him returning to the armchair from checking on Sherlock, to pick up the book that he must have been reading. Watching over both of them while they slept.
Light was just starting to come through the living room curtains when Kate sleepily rubbed her eyes and sat up the next morning, pushing off the blanket.
'Morning,' John smiled at her. 'Tea? Kettle's just boiled.'
'Please, thanks,' Kate said, standing up and stretching. 'Sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep. Is Sherlock okay?'
'He's fine. I gave him some more sedation about five. He was just starting to wake up, and was talking rubbish. He didn't even seem to recognise me, he just kept on talking about somebody called Simmonds. Any idea who that is?'
Kate shook her head, 'Not a clue,' she said. Checking on him on the way to the bathroom she found Sherlock sleeping peacefully, and on the bedside table, in John's careful hand writing was a sheet of paper, with several columns ruled on it. Blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturations, respiratory rate, times next to each carefully recorded set of observations, and on a second sheet, times and doses of medication.
'You okay?' John asked quietly from the doorway.
'Fine,' Kate said. 'It's just seeing all of this..'
'It's important, Kate, and if you're serious about keeping him here, then it's going to get a lot more serious. Why don't you go and have your shower, and then we'll sit down and talk about this.'
By the time that she had come out of the shower and got dressed, careful not to disturb Sherlock, John was sitting at the table making lists, two cups of tea in front of him.
'The blue mug's yours,' he said, not looking up from his list.
'What are you doing?' Kate asked curiously.
'Working out what kit we're going to need if we're keeping him here,' he said. 'I can get most of it from the surgery, replace it later. I've come up with cannulation kit, IV fluids, giving sets, a decent obs machine because my hand-held sphyg is going to drive us mad. Anything else that you can think of?'
'Obs charts,' Kate said, 'We can probably find those online and print them off, some form of drug chart, syringes and saline flushes, more drugs. John -'
'Its fine, Kate,' he said quietly. 'I phoned Ed Harris while you were in the shower. He's coming over in an hour. He sounded - intrigued, and he thinks that there's a chance that we can keep him here.'
'Good,' Kate said.
'Kate I need you to do something for me. Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think that you can make rational decisions about this, so let me make at least some of the decisions for you. Can you do that?'
Kate nodded, unable to look at him. 'Okay,' she said.
'We'll try to keep him here, that's the best that I can promise, but if its not safe, then he'll have to be admitted.'
Kate realised what he was saying. 'You'd sign his section papers?'
'If I have to, yes. We'd need a social worker too of course, but if it comes to it, I would. If that was what it was going to take to keep him safe.'
Kate had no idea how to reply to that, realising the position that she had put John into; he might be forced to section his best friend. John, however seemed very calm about the possibility.
'Will you be okay here for twenty minutes if I go and have a shower and make myself presentable? I think that he'll sleep for a while longer.'
'Of course,' Kate said.
'Try not to give him any more sedation unless you have to,' John said, 'He needs to be awake to talk to Ed Harris, but any problems either shout or phone - I'll have my phone right by me.'
Kate went and sat by Sherlock, watching him sleep from the chair in the corner, and desperately trying to work out what he would want her to do. He would hate to be admitted she knew that. He still had nightmares about his admission as a teenager. She toyed briefly with the idea of keeping him here, whatever the psychiatrist said, but realistically she knew that this was not an option. And John had made it clear that he would section him if it came down to it, even if that was against her wishes, how strange. So Sherlock's fate would be entirely in the hands of a man that she hadn't even met yet. For all for their sakes, she hoped that he made the right decision.
Hearing John's footsteps on the door a little later she checked her watch, half eight, time to show that she could be useful. She was just wrapping the blood pressure cuff round Sherlock's arm when John stuck his head round the bedroom door. 'Okay?' he asked quietly.
'Fine,' she said, concentrating on listening for Sherlock's pulse to come back into hearing under the cuff. John was right. The manual sphyg was going to drive them mad. She jotted down the numbers on the obs chart, next to the other readings. John checked them.
'Don't trust me?' she asked with a grin despite everything, amused at his need to check.
'Sorry, old habits die hard, of course I trust you, in fact you're probably better at this stuff than I am.'
Sherlock stirred and opened his eyes as Kate unwrapped the cuff. 'Hello,' she said, kissing him on the forehead. 'How is it?' He blinked and looked at her in confusion. John put a finger to his lips and slipped out of the room before Sherlock could see him and ask more questions.
'Kate?' Sherlock asked questioningly.
'Of course. How many other women do you keep in your bedroom?'
'I feel awful,' he said, dragging himself into a sitting position and rubbing his head
'I'm not surprised,' she said
'What happened?' he asked.
'It got worse,' she said, 'much worse. John's here, he's called someone, he's coming to see you shortly.' She handed him a glass of water, which he took from her with hands that shook slightly, but nevertheless he drained the glass in one. Maybe the IV fluids wouldn't be necessary after all.
'More?' Kate asked.
He shook his head, rubbing his eyes as if he could clear his head, before asking suspiciously, 'Who did he call?'
'A psychiatrist. I'm sorry Sherlock, we had to.'
Sherlock closed his eyes and for a moment Kate thought that he had gone back to sleep. 'I can't do this, Kate,' he said sadly. 'Not again, I just can't.'
She sat on the bed next to him and squeezed his shoulder, 'I know that you can't, not on your own and thats why John and I are getting you some help.'
'I didn't hurt you, did I? Last night - I can't remember.'
'No, you were fine, why?'
'I just thought - it doesn't matter.' He rubbed his head, 'they're still there,' he said, 'the voices.'
'I know, we're hoping that the psychiatrist, Dr Harris, can give you something to stop them. Will you talk to him.'
'I'd talk to anybody who can make this stop,' Sherlock said wearily.
There was a ring at the door, then the sound of John's footsteps going down the stairs to let Ed Harris in. 'I'm scared, Kate,' Sherlock said very quietly. 'This is so much worse than anything that I can remember. It's like falling and not being able to stop yourself. Objectively I know exactly whats happening to me. It's as if I'm watching myself going mad from the outside, but I can't stop it.'
There was a quiet knock on the bedroom door, and Kate went out to talk to Ed Harris, who had been escorted upstairs by John. A tall distinguished looking man in his mid fifties, grey hair clipped to military shortness, Kate liked him immediately. There was honesty in his grey eyes, this was a man that you could trust with your life, yes he would do very well indeed.
'Sorry,' she said, shaking his hand, realising that she had been staring for much too long, 'it's been a tough couple of days. Thank you for coming.'
'Come and sit down with us, Ed Harris suggested, 'and tell me whats been happening from your point of view, I'll tell you what I think I can offer, and then if you're happy I'll go and see Sherlock.'
Of course, Kate thought, because if he saw Sherlock and thought that he couldn't help then he would be duty bound to section him, but if he didn't see him he wouldn't have an obligation to do so. Definitely a man of principles, a man that you could trust.
'John has filled me in a little on events of the last few days,' Ed Harris was saying, 'but I'd like to go further back if I can. John said on the phone that there was a previous psychiatric history, tell me about that.'
'He was admitted to a child and adolescent unit at the age of sixteen with depression, sectioned I think' Kate said. 'He said that he was hearing voices then too, and by the sound of it he was psychotic, he was certainly paranoid.'
'Psychotic depression?' Ed Harris asked.
'Exactly. He doesn't talk about it, but I think it was more complicated than a simple admission. He was in there for several months, in the end his brother discharged him, against the clinicians advice, I've never heard the full story. Its not something that he likes to talk about.'
'Not exactly a positive experience for him then.'
'Do you know where this unit was?'
'Somewhere in North London I think, or just outside.'
Ed Harris narrowed his eyes slightly. 'Elmhurst maybe?'
'That sort of rings a bell,' Kate said, 'but then that might be from work. Its not there any more is it?'
'No, its merged with one of the other units, for the best in my opinion. The practices there were at best - unconventional. If Sherlock was in Elmhurst then I'm not surprised that he's so resistant to the idea of admission. How long did he stay on medication for after he left there, do you know?'
'A year or so I think, he didn't like the way they slowed him down. He stopped taking them at University and he's refused to see a psychiatrist since then.'
'John mentioned that he's had bipolar symptoms.'
Kate sighed, pushing her hair back from her face, 'John's known him for longer than I have, but he gets lows, bad lows, bad enough to take him to bed for a few days. I only found out a couple of days ago that he self-medicates for them, diazepam, lorazepam, zopiclone to get him through.'
'Not prescribed I presume.'
'No,' Kate said shortly, 'acquired through other means.'
'Which is not in itself uncommon,' Ed Harris said calmly. What would ruffle this man, Kate wondered? Whatever she said was met with acceptance and understanding. John had chosen well.
'How long do they last, these lows?' he was asking.
'A few days, a week at most. What was the advice that Mycroft gave you John?'
'Make sure that he's up by the end of day three, and starts eating by the end of day six,' John recited. 'He's been having them since he was a teenager apparently.'
'Mycroft Holmes?' Ed Harris asked.
'Is Sherlock's brother, yes. I imagine that you've come across him.'
'I've had dealings with him, not professionally I might add, or rather not as a patient. Does he know?'
'That Sherlock's ill? No,' John said, 'Sherlock doesn't want him told, but for what its worth, Kate and I are more than capable of standing up to Mycroft.'
'I'm sure that you are,' Ed Harris said levelly, 'but that might explain why Sherlock is down on the list on government employees who have access to certain privileges, including the clinic which you and I discussed John. Should admission prove necessary then that might be a good option..' He considered for a few moments, then said, 'So the lows we've discussed. Highs as well? Manic episodes?'
Kate was starting to feel uncomfortable discussing Sherlock if he was patient, but reluctantly continued. 'When he's on a case he's like a man possessed, he can go four or five days without sleeping, he won't eat if he can avoid it, the only thing that he'll drink is coffee; he talks much too fast and has boundless energy. Are those hypomanic episodes? I'm not sure. He's very rational with it, extremely logical, so they're certainly not true mania.'
'And do the crashes come after these episodes?'
'Once the case is finished, yes.'
'Then I think we have our answer, or as much as we can without talking to Sherlock. And this episode started when?'
Kate considered, 'Eight, no nine days ago,' she said, 'Friday before last was the first time that I'd noticed it. I was waiting for the crash and it never came.
'End of a case?'
'Yes, but it was as if he couldn't leave it,' John explained. 'He kept going, dealing with minutiae of detail that usually wouldn't bother him, working long hours, spending all night at the lab which is unusual for him outside the time pressure of a case.'
'So why was this one different?'
'It was as if he was afraid to let himself fall,' Kate said, 'he told me as much on Friday night. He said that if he started to fall then he didn't think that he'd be able to stop.'
'So worse than normal, and the voices?'
'I'm not sure,' Kate said. 'He started talking to them early hours of Saturday morning, that was the first time that I was aware of them.'
'I caught him muttering to himself last week,' John said, 'I didn't think much of it at the time, his behaviour is never exactly orthodox, but I don't think that I've ever seen him doing that before.'
'And when did things deteriorate?'
Kate looked at John, unsure how to answer that. 'From what Kate's said, he finally gave in to it on Friday night, self-medicated yesterday because he was finding it difficult to cope, ' John said finally, 'then last night he became overtly psychotic. By the time I came to see him he was agitated, having prolonged conversations with his voices and starting to shut down. He wouldn't respond to us, although he seems a little more coherent today. We've kept him sedated since then.'
'And is he awake now?'
'Yes, his last sedation was a little after five this morning.'
'And he's happy to talk to me?'
'He wants help,' Kate said quietly, fighting to remain rational. 'He's scared and he can't cope with whats happening to him. He said that he'd talk to anyone who could help him.'
'Which is a good sign. And you wish to keep him here, yes?'
'If you think thats possible,' John said. 'Kate and I are both medically trained, we are fully prepared to provide 24/7 care between us, but we can't do that without proper psychiatric supervision. We can, effectively, provide nursing care, but we would leave the medical side of things to you.'
'Good,' Ed Harris said, 'its unconventional but we'll see what we can do. Anything else that I need to know?'
John shook his head and looked at Kate, 'Just - if he's rude, don't take it personally,' Kate said, 'that's just him, he doesn't find interacting with people easy at the best of times, and don't treat it like an idiot or you'll have no chance.'
Ed Harris smiled. 'He sounds not dissimilar to his brother in many ways. Shall we then? Kate would you introduce me? I think that might be best.'
Knocking softly at the bedroom door, she found Sherlock awake, sitting up in bed. He was curled up, arms wrapped round his legs, head resting on his knees, like a child.
She rested a hand on his curly head, 'Sherlock it's me, I've brought someone to see you,' she said gently. Then when he remained silent, 'How is it?'
'Horrible,' came the quiet reply.
'Can you tell me about it?' Ed Harris asked.
Sherlock uncurled himself and considered his visitor. 'You're a psychiatrist,' he said coldly.
'Yes. Ed Harris.' He held out a hand which Sherlock reluctantly shook. 'I understand that you were in Elmhurst as a teenager?'
Sherlock nodded. 'Then I suspect that you have good reason to distrust my profession. For what its worth I'm sorry for what must have happened to you there. It had a reputation that institution, and not a good one. I hope that you will give me a chance to prove that there is another side to my profession, a gentler one.'
Ed Harris was evaluating Sherlock, even from his silence, Kate noticed, just as she did herself when faced with a difficult patient. His list would now read 'Man in his thirties, distressed, agitated, distracted, probably hearing voices. Withdrawn but interacts to some extent, reduced spontaneous speech, poor eye contact'. She didn't want to think about the rest.
Very slowly and carefully, to avoid startling Sherlock, Ed Harris had pulled a chair up next to the bed and sat down. His tone was calm and reassuring, every move calculated to engender trust. 'Please let this work,' Kate thought, watching Sherlock, because if he refused to talk to Ed Harris then she knew that they really were out of options.
He looked at Ed Harris, eyes narrowing slightly, making his own deductions. But then he looked down again, rubbing the side of his face and then the back of his neck as if trying to erase something. 'I'm too tired for this,' he muttered.
Kate sat down on the opposite side of the bed and squeezed his hand. He looked up at her, so vulnerable suddenly, his eyes searching hers, silently asking for help. 'John trusts him,' she said softly, then flashing a look at Ed Harris, 'I - trust him, Sherlock, I think that he can help. Let him try, please, for me.'
Sherlock gave an almost imperceptible nod, then looked down again, muttering something. 'Who's Simmonds?' Kate asked, catching the last word.
'The psychiatrist from Elmhurst,' Ed Harris replied, 'Of course. Is that who you thought I was Sherlock? Who the voices told you that I was, from my voice outside?'
Sherlock nodded again.
'Were you Neil Simmonds' patient?'
'Then that explains a lot. Everywhere I go I seem to be trying to untangle that man's messes, even now. Castration would be too good for him.'
Sherlock looked at him with new respect, 'The man was an idiot,' he said coldly. 'An unpleasant, power-crazed, easily manipulated idiot.'
'I could add more to that description, but yes. For what its worth, Sherlock, I was on the disciplinary panel for Neil Simmonds after his activities at Elmhurst came out. I wanted him struck off, but I was outvoted.'
Sherlock nodded, then swallowed hard, and twisted his head away, although if trying to escape from the conversation or from the voices Kate couldn't tell. 'I don't want to talk about this,' he said finally.
'Which is understandable. So what would you like to talk about?'
He looked at Ed Harris; dependable, honest, good, he thought; too tired to make any more complicated deductions. 'Can you help?' he asked.
'Yes, if you'll let me.'
'Can you make them shut up?'
'With medication, yes.'
Sherlock nodded slightly and then was silent, eyes closing again wearily.
'Kate, why don't you leave us to talk for a little while.' Ed Harris said quietly.
Sherlock's eyes flew open, suddenly suspicious. 'Why?' he asked, grabbing Kate's hand.
'Because there are things that you may find it easier to say if Kate is not in the room. Sherlock whatever those voices of yours may be telling you, I am here to help. You need to decide who you are going to believe.'
Sherlock gave a small nod and let go of Kate's hand. Kate kissed him quickly on the forehead and then slipped quietly out of the room, closing the door behind her.
'Thank you,' Ed Harris said. 'So if I prescribe you medication, will you take it?'
Sherlock looked at Ed Harris, unflinchingly; the first time that he had made eye contact since the psychiatrist had walked into the room. He was right, it was easier to be honest without Kate here. 'I would take absolutely anything that would stop this, yes.'
'Even if that something would result in your death?'
Sherlock looked away. 'I just want this to stop,' he said.
'I need to know if you have plans to harm yourself, so that I can decide if it's safe to keep you here.'
'I could lie.'
'You could, but you won't,' Ed Harris said, catching him in a firm gaze. 'Because underneath all of that attempt at self-protection you know that I am the best chance that you have of getting well, possibly the only chance.'
Sherlock looked away, frustrated and held his head again.
'What are they saying?'
'They're telling me not to trust you.'
'And I'm telling them to shut up and to let me talk to you.'
'Good. Do you argue with them much?'
'Yes, but it doesn't help it just makes them louder.'
'The best way to stop them is with medication.' He reached into his bag and took out a bottle of tablets, shook two onto his hand and handed them to Sherlock. 'Try these.'
'What are they.'
'Of course,' Sherlock said softly, picking them up, and turning them over in his fingers, but not taking them.
'Did you have those before?'
'They were some of the many, yes.'
'And did they help?'
'I don't really remember. They made me sleep, I think, and something worked. Eventually the voices stopped.'
'I can promise you that they will work if you take them. Not straight away, but eventually if you take them for long enough. You need to decide if you trust me enough to believe what I'm saying, or if you think that I am part of the conspiracy.
Sherlock reached across for the glass of water by the bed, and swallowed the tablets silently.
Ed Harris nodded slightly. 'Good,' he said again, 'then we agree that we're on the same side.'
'You make it sound like a war,' Sherlock said wearily, squeezing the bridge of his nose.
'It is a war, Sherlock, that is exactly what it is. That brilliant mind of yours is trying to tear itself apart. I am trying to prevent that from happening.'
'So you want to do battle with my mind?' Sherlock sounded exasperated now.
'No, I want to help you to battle against your illness. Your mind and your illness are two entirely separate entities.'
Sherlock was silent. Coldly, stonily, silent.
'Someone has said that to you before,' Ed Harris said.
'No, someone else.'
'Another psychiatrist? From Elmhurst?'
'Yes. James Harrison. He was good. I liked him.'
'I know him,' Ed Harris said sounding surprised. 'I worked with him for a while in Edinburgh. He's a good man, James Harrison, a good psychiatrist.'
'He told me this would happen,' Sherlock saiid. 'When I came off my medication, he warned me that it would come to this.'
Ed Harris allowed him a minute or so to contemplate, and then said quietly, 'Sherlock you controlled your illness for what seventeen years without medication? That is a remarkable achievement.'
'Sixteen years, nine months and five days,' Sherlock said, then seeing Ed Harris' face. 'Approximately.'
'Exactly, I suspect. We need to switch off that brilliant mind, Sherlock, at least for a while. Which means sedation, a lot of sedation, to give the other medication that I am going to prescribe for you a chance to work.'
Sherlock sighed. 'Fine. Sleep sounds like a very good option at the moment.'
'And I need you to stop trying to engage with those voices of yours. Arguing with them will only make them worse. If you can't ignore them then you need to take more medication until you can ignore them. Try distraction, try talking to people, try anything other than arguing with them. Can you do that?'
Sherlock looks disgruntled. 'They're irrational and they talk rubbish. Its very tempting to argue with them.'
Ed Harris smiled slightly. 'They're you, Sherlock,' he said after a pause, 'so they know exactly what to say to provoke a reaction, just as you do.'
'Another example of my mind working against itself?'
'Precisely. How are they now?'
Sherlock considered. 'Quieter,' he said, 'much quieter.'
'Because you've taken medication and because you've been too distracted by talking to me to engage with them. Do you see my point?'
'How would you describe your mood at the moment?'
'Is this what your lows are usually like?'
'No, this is worse, much worse. There's no bottom to this one. I just keep falling.'
'Does that scare you?'
'Yes. I don't want to think about how much worse this can get.'
Ed Harris allowed him a moments silence, before saying calmly. 'We were talking about risk. From what you've just told me, I have no doubt that the best place for you to be at the moment would be in a specialist inpatient unit.'
'You mean a psychiatric hospital.'
'Not in the traditional sense of the word, no. There is a private clinic not far from here, used mainly by government employees. I took the liberty of checking the database before I came here. You may not be aware that you are listed as a government employee, whether through your own work for the government or through your brother's connections I wouldn't like to speculate, but either way it is a facility that you have access to.'
'I want to stay here.'
'Just so that we are clear what we are talking about, the clinic would provide you with one to one nursing care from highly trained psychiatric nurses. You would have better nursing there and it is my belief that you would recover quicker should you agree to an admission.'
'Thank you, but no.'
'Because you don't believe that you need admission or because you don't choose to be admitted?'
'Then would you allow me to treat you here?'
'And you will take the medication as prescribed?'
'Yes.' Sherlock hesitated, 'But not lithium, I hate lithium. And tell John and Kate not to tell me what the tablets are. If I know, then I'll be tempted to play around with them. It's better that I don't know.'
'Very well, I'll let them know. Which brings us back to safety. If I am to allow you to remain here, then I need to be sure that you will not be a danger to yourself or others.'
'I'm not a danger to anyone else.'
'And to yourself?'
Sherlock considered. 'If you're asking has the possibly of suicide crossed my mind, then, yes, of course it has, it's only logical. I told you that I would do anything to make this stop, and I would. Realistically, John and Kate have got me on so many drugs that I can't even walk to the bathroom on my own without falling over. They keep the drugs away from me, I presume locked up, and it's a fair bet that they've removed every sharp implement and dangerous weapon in the flat. So realistically am I going to do anything? No, I'm not.'
'Because I don't want to die. Why would I want to die? If the drugs can alleviate my symptoms then I want to get well.'
'Do you believe that you can? '
'No, but logically I know that what I believe is incorrect.'
Ed Harris was intrigued. Sherlock Holmes really was the most fascinating patient he'd come across in a very long time. He remained so very logical, even in his psychosis.
'Why is it incorrect?'
'Because if you didn't believe that I could get well then you would be sectioning me. Besides, from what I can remember this illness is very much like that which I experienced as a teenager. I recovered from that.'
'So you did,' Ed Harris said softly, 'and you will recover from this. So, here is what I propose. You remain here, only because your friends have assured me that they will keep you safe and provide you with twenty-four hour supervision and care. You will take your medication and you will try to begin eating and drinking. I will come and see daily, and if at any point you become non-compliant or I have concerns for your safety then I will have you admitted. Agreed?'
'Fine.' There was a pause and then Sherlock said uncertainly. 'Thank you.'
Ed Harris permitted himself a small smile. 'I think that I will enjoy working with you Sherlock. It will certainly be challenging - for both of us I suspect. But I can promise you that I will get you well, if you allow me to.'
Sherlock considered this statement and then reached out a hand to shake Ed Harris'. 'I'm relying on it,' he said.
'Then I will see you tomorrow. Are you happy for me to tell your friends what we have discussed?'
Sherlock looked surprised, 'Of course,' he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 'But not my brother.'
'Ah, Mycroft Holmes, yes. That could prove - difficult. He can be very persuasive in my experience, and when traditional means fails he often uses, lets say less traditional ones. All I can promise is that I will do my utmost to prevent him discovering that you are my patient, or the extent of your illness.'
'And that is the best that I can ask,' Sherlock said, before closing his eyes again wearily.
Kate and John looked up from quickly from where they were sitting at the kitchen table ad Ed Harris walked out of Sherlock's room closing the door softly behind him.
'Is he okay?' Kate asked, getting up.
'Yes, surprisingly compliant, but I suspect that you'll want to check for yourself. Why don't you go in and see him, while I write a few notes?'
Kate smiled at him gratefully as she went into the bedroom. Sherlock was still sitting up in bed, hands templed under his chin, deep in thought. He didn't acknowledge her presence as she walked into the room and jumped as she sat on the side of the bed and touched his shoulder gently.
'Sorry,' she said, 'I didn't mean to startle you. You okay?'
'Kate,' he said, as if surprised, then rubbed his face. 'Dr Harris gave me some haloperidol. Its doing odd things to my head.'
'Did he help?' Kate asked.
Sherlock considered, 'I think so. Talking to him helped, but now - I don't know.'
'Do you want some more medication?'
'Not yet. Can you put the radio on though? And then you can go outside and talk about me.'
Kate gave him a look she usually reserved for drunks making inappropriate comments at five am.
'Well you are going to talk about me,' he said.
'You can come and join the conversation if you want,' she told him as she switched the radio on.
'No its fine, I think I'll sleep.'
By the time Kate that got back to the living room, Ed Harris and John had moved to the sofas and seemed to be discussing a list of medication.
'Your tea's there, Kate,' John said as she came and joined them.
'I was just discussing medication with John,' Ed Harris said. 'The good news is that whatever my initial reservations may have been, I believe that keeping Sherlock here is eminently possible. I would still advise an admission, his illness is certainly severe enough to warrant it, and he would undoubtably get better quickly with specialist care. He, however, is adamant that he wishes to remain here, and given the level of care that is available to him from you two, I think that is reasonable.'
Kate closed here eyes for a moment in relief. 'And the diagnosis?'
'Psychotic depression, as John suggested, although I very much suspect that he has bipolar type 2 from your description of his mood, and I will ensure that any medication he is given is appropriate to that provisional diagnosis until he is well enough for formal testing. He has made it clear that he wishes to avoid lithium if possible, and that would seem reasonable. I would suggest a combination of antidepressants and antipsychotics for now, together with some fairly hefty sedation for at least the next few days. Orally if he will take it, intravenously if he won't. I suggest a cannula for ease of administration, and for the fluids which he will almost certainly need once he is on sedation.'
Kate flashed a look at John who nodded calmly, before asking. 'I don't want to sound as if I've getting cold feet, because I'm not, but intravenous sedation here seems a little - well risky. We don't have any resuscitation kit here; no reversal agents, no oxygen, nothing.'
'I can arrange for everything that you need to be delivered from the clinic,' Ed Harris said calmly. 'If you stick to the regime I propose then the risk of an adverse event will be low, but I agree, you need to be prepared for any eventuality. I would imagine that between the two of you, you have the skills to deal with anything that might happen?'
'As long as we've got the kit, we'll be fine,' Kate said quickly. 'But if we get equipment from the clinic won't Mycroft find out?'
'He has no access to the records there,' Ed Harris told her, 'and I certainly won't be giving him any information. I'm sure that it won't surprise you to know that we have ways of anonymising patients, and I will ensure that happens in this case. I will visit Sherlock daily, and in addition I will give you my mobile number. If you are concerned about anything, at any point, no matter what time of the day or night, then I want you to phone me, either of you. I can give advice, or if the situation deteriorates, which it may, I can arrange admission within an hour.'
They were interrupted by a thud and the sound of Sherlock's voice shouting from the bedroom, Kate got in there first, John and Ed Harris hovering by the door. The radio was on the floor and Sherlock was shouting at it, 'Shut Up! Shut Up!' Over and over again, his voice cracking, his head buried in his hands. Kate didn't hesitate, she switched off the radio, still going despite its fall to the floor and wrapped her arms round him until he grew quieter. He was shaking, still muttering. 'Its okay,' she soothed, trying to work out what had happened to make him react like this.
'Did you hear voices in the radio, Sherlock?' came Ed Harris' voice from the door, as if answering her question.'
'Bastards,' muttered Sherlock, 'it's not true, it's not true.' He had his head buried in Kate's shoulder as she held him tight. He pulled away slightly and stared at her as if trying to work something out. 'Were they talking about me?' she asked. He nodded.
'Did they tell you that Kate was part of the conspiracy?' Ed Harris asked calmly.
Sherlock nodded again, miserably. 'Why would they say that? It's not true.'
'Do you think the voices are real?' Ed Harris asked.
Sherlock was still staring at Kate. 'They're me, they're inside my head; so why would I say that about Kate, why would my subconscious create that?' In his eyes Kate read sorrow, fear, despair and absolute self-loathing. 'It's not your fault,' she whispered.
'But it's me,' he said. 'How can that be coming from me?'
John had disappeared transiently to fetch his bag from the living room and reappeared with lorazepam in a syringe. At a murmured comment from Ed Harris as Kate tried to comfort Sherlock, he took other equipment from his bag, and gently tried to disentangle Sherlock's hand from Kate, but Sherlock shook him off.
'Give me your hand, Sherlock, ' John said firmly, 'I'm going to put in a cannula.'
'So that he can give you medication faster,' Ed Harris said calmly, and so that we can take some standard blood tests that I will require anyway.'
'To see if I've been drugged? You think that someone's drugged me?'
'I think that it's unlikely. Do you think that is what has happened?'
Sherlock shook his head miserably, but he let John uncurl his hand from Kate's back and insert a cannula. Minutes later John was injecting the lorazepam, and Kate felt him relax and he allowed her to lie him down in the bed, where he quickly fell asleep.
'Bandage it in, would you?' Kate asked John as she rearranged the pillows under Sherlock's head, eyes never leaving his face. John nodded and wrapped a wide white bandage on either side and eventually over the port of the cannula, preventing it being easily dislodged, tying the ends in place.
'We'll see you outside in a minute,' John said finally, realising that Kate needed a moment alone with Sherlock.
Kate was having her first moment of real doubt since this had all started. What on earth was she doing? She was a sane, intelligent woman, did she honestly believe that she and John could keep Sherlock here in this state, when he was hearing voices coming out of the radio, and was busy inserting both her and probably John too into his conspiracy theories? Finally reluctantly, she went out to the living room and silently resumed her seat in the chair.
'Having second thoughts?' Ed Harris asked. 'Its only natural, Kate. Its difficult enough seeing any patient that distressed, but when it's someone that you care about I can only imagine how hard it must be.'
'It's not about me,' Kate said, 'it's about whats best for Sherlock.'
'What would be best in theory,' Ed Harris said, 'would be for him to be admitted, however he is so adamantly against that, I think that we should respect his wishes, if we can.'
'Is he sectionable?' John asked quietly.
'Strangely enough, no, not at the moment. He is not a risk to himself or others, and he is rational, that is part of the problem. He is too rational, he is trying to make sense of his own psychosis, and that is only making matters worse. That is what you just witnessed. His voices were telling him the Kate was part of a conspiracy against him. The average psychotic patient would have become paranoid and acted accordingly; Sherlock conversely becomes agitated and distressed because he is trying to have a logical argument with them, then when that fails he starts berating his own subconscious for coming up with a suggestion that he views as irrational.'
'But he's arguing against himself so he'll never win,' John said softly.
'So what do we do?'
'You keep him sedated as I have already suggested, exactly as you did just now. Allow him to wake up for sufficient time to take his medication, to drink and to try to eat, although I suspect that will be difficult for the next few days, then sedate him again. I want him awake as little as possible . We need to switch off that powerful brain of his so that he is no longer possible of creating the complex arguments that are causing so much damage, until the medication starts to kick in.'
'And how long will that take roughly?'
'Six weeks to reach the peak effect, but you should see some change in mood and a suppression of the hallucinations within a week, enough I would hope to be able to reduce his sedation.'
A week, Kate thought. She could do this for a week.
'I presume that a private psychiatric nurse is not something that you would contemplate? I could arrange one, to give you both a bit of respite.'
Kate shook her head, 'No, Sherlock would hate it. He's so intensely private, he wouldn't want anyone other than me and John looking after him when he's like this.'
'Then I will arrange for a delivery of medical equipment to you this afternoon, together with a supply from the clinic pharmacy.'
'You're not going to just give us a prescription?' Kate asked.
'I think you might raise a few eyebrows in your local chemist if you went in with a prescription for the amount of intravenous lorazepam and haloperidol that I'm going to suggest. Better to not raise awkward questions, if it can be avoided.'
'Thank you,' Kate said quietly, touched by his thoughtfulness.
'I'll email a drug chart across to you later, John,' Ed Harris said, 'and I'll telephone later to see how things are going, but if any time things start to get out of hand, phone me and I'll send the cavalry round.'
John nodded and Kate sat silently for a while, then finally looked up to see Ed Harris considering her with a trained eye. 'You don't have to do this, Kate, you know,' he said gently. 'If its too much, then we can arrange an admission. Sherlock may not like it, but I am sure that he could be persuaded that it would be the right course of action.'
'I want to try,' Kate said, 'for his sake, I want to at least give it our best shot, and if it doesn't work, then fine, I'll persuade him that he needs to be admitted. John? What do you think?'
'I'll back whatever decision you make, Kate,' John said quietly, but the care and concern in his eyes almost tipped Kate over the edge. 'It's your call.'
'Good, lets try this then,' she nodded as if trying to convince herself.
'You're sure?' Ed Harris asked.
'Yes,' Kate said firmly. 'We'll try to keep him here, with sedation, and see what happens. If he gets worse then we get him admitted.'
John showed Ed Harris out, and Kate could half hear a murmured conversation between them at the bottom of the stairs. Details of deliveries and interim drug regimes, no doubt.
Kate went and checked briefly on Sherlock, who was sleeping peacefully. Walking back into the kitchen she flicked on the kettle in the kitchen, then realising that more tea was the last thing that she wanted, flicked it off again and sat down at the table heavily, head in hands for several minutes before she realised that John had let himself back into the flat, and was sitting watching her.
'Sorry, I should have knocked,' he said.
'Don't be silly.' she said, 'This was your home long before it was mine, and if we're going to be looking after Sherlock between us its going to be your home again for the next week or so.'
'In that case, why don't you let me make you some breakfast?' John asked, heading towards the fridge and considering. 'Omlette?'
'I'm not really hungry,' Kate started to say, then seeing John's face, 'You're right, I need to eat, that would be great, thank you.'
'And then why don't you go down to my flat after you've eaten and try to get some sleep?' John was saying. 'You look exhausted, Kate. You've hardly slept for two nights, apart from a few hours on the sofa.'
'You haven't slept either.'
'I'm an ex-soldier remember? I'm used to it. Plus I haven't got the emotional investment that you have.'
'Is that what Ed Harris was talking to you about downstairs?'
'Partly, yes. He told me to make sure that you were looking after yourself, so that you could look after Sherlock. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. This isn't going to be over in a few days, or even a few weeks. It's going to be months before he's back to normal.'
'If at all,' Kate said quietly.
'Hey, don't talk like that,' John said, coming over and pulling her up and into a hug. 'He'll be fine, Kate. He's done this before, remember? This isn't new for him, it's us its going to be tough on, you especially.'
Kate silently returned his hug for a few minutes. 'How are you staying so calm?' she asked finally.
'I'm just a little more disconnected, I guess. It's not that I don't care about him, but I don't have the guilt that you have associated with it. Plus this is my comfort zone - home visits, psychotic patients, looking after people in their own homes, not to this extent maybe, but still,' he shrugged, 'this is all part of my day job. It's different because it's Sherlock, of course it is, but he's still my patient, and I'm still sure that I'm doing whats best for him. I'm not sure that you are.'
'I don't know what I think anymore, ' Kate said, with a sigh,'but it's not about me, is it? It's about him, and what he wants; and what he wants is to be kept here.'
'Exactly,' John said. 'So that's why you're going to have some breakfast, and then let me watch Sherlock while you get a few hours sleep, so that you can be here when he wakes up.
The promised equipment and drug supplies arrived within two hours, before Kate had had a chance to go and try to sleep. Between them, she and John transformed Sherlock's bedroom into an approximation of a hospital room, with more organisation than she would ever have thought possible. It felt better though, safer to have it all there.
'That's because it looks more like your comfort zone now,' John told her with a chuckle. 'Nice and clinical, with kit everywhere.'
When he woke, Sherlock seemed to barely recognise them, and they swiftly sedated him again, unable to coerce him into taking the tablets that Ed Harris had prescribed. Ed Harris phoned them that evening, with the results of the blood tests. 'I'd put up iv fluids now,' he said. 'He's heading that way anyway. Has he drunk much today?'
'Very little ,' Kate said. 'He's too sleepy, and he wouldn't take any medication at lunchtime either.'
'Don't give him an option,' Ed Harris said, 'it sounds harsh, but if you wait until he's just starting to wake up and then put tablets into his mouth and offer him water via a straw then most patients will swallow the tablets before they're awake enough to know what they're doing. Start a fluid chart for him, but sedated is how we want him and if that means iv fluids then so be it. Any more psychotic episodes?'
'No, he's been very settled.'
'Good. So I will come and see him tomorrow morning, I'll get my secretary to phone to confirm first thing, but probably around eleven. Any problems overnight, phone me.'
Ed Harris was right, when Sherlock stirred later that evening, Kate managed to persuade him to swallow an alarming number of tablets, before helping him to groggily stumble to the bathroom. He remained silent throughout, half asleep, barely aware of his surroundings, and was asleep again within minutes of getting back into bed. Given the number of sleeping tablets that he had inadvertently swallowed, Kate didn't expect him to wake up any time soon.
'Why don't you go and get some sleep, John?' she said finally an hour or so later. 'I don't think that he's going to wake up until the morning with that lot on board, and if there are any problems, then I'll phone.
'You're sure? I can stay if you want me to.'
'No, it's fine.'
'Where are you going to sleep?'
'I'll put the blow-up mattress on the floor next to the bed, I don't want to risk disturbing him.'
'Its probably safer that way too,' John said thoughtfully, then 'Sorry, Kate, I didnt mean...'
'No, its okay, you're right. If he wakes up confused and thinks that I'm someone else then - yes, I'll sleep on the floor.'
Exhausted, Kate slept surprisingly well. At about five she heard Sherlock shouting in his sleep and woke to find him sitting up in bed, hair sticking out at mad angles, muttering.
He didn't respond to her touch, or her attempts at gaining his attention, but nor did he resist when she took out gave him another dose of lorazepam from the syringe that she had hidden above the door the night before, and eventually, still muttering, he lay down next to her, wrapping sleepy arms around her and resting his head on her shoulder. It was after eight before Kate woke again, texted John to let him know that all was well and headed into the shower.
John arrived shortly after nine, looking refreshed and with a shopping bag in each hand. 'You've been to the supermarket already?' she asked.
'The one down the road opens at eight. I went as soon as I got your text, I was up anyway, thought that I might as well get us some supplies in while I had the chance.'
'No problem. So how was the night?'
'Fine. I gave him some more sedation about five; he was awake but talking rubbish, other than that the medication worked a treat.'
'Ed Harris knows what he's doing,' John said. 'And did you sleep?'
'Good. You look better than you did yesterday.'
'I've had time to think about it as well. Its okay John, isn't it? It's not so crazy.'
'It's not crazy at all, Kate, it's fine.'
Ed Harris seemed pleased too when he visited later that morning, despite the fact that Sherlock was more interested in sleepily talking to his voices than to him. 'He seems much calmer,' he said, 'which is exactly what we're trying to achieve. He's stopping fighting it, and thats an important stage, Keep going as you are, and as long as you can get the medication into him we should be fine. Any problems, you know where I am, but otherwise I'll come and see him again tomorrow.'
The next few days passed in a blur of medication, observations and companionable silence for John and Kate; both more exhausted than they cared to admit from the strain of looking after Sherlock, and the need to sleep with one ear open.
'You know, I quite like him sedated,' John said one evening as they were eating dinner in the kitchen at 221b. They had even permitted themselves a rare glass of wine, something that Kate was still feeling guilty about. It felt a little like drinking on duty, but as John pointed out, she would still be under the drink drive limit, and the most that either of them was going to be doing that evening was administering a pre-prepared dose of sedative.
'I know, he's a lot less argumentative this way,' Kate said, 'but I think that the fun's just about to start.' Ed Harris had suggested that they tried to wean down the sedation the following day, enabling him to attempt something approximating a proper session with Sherlock and to assess the need for further sedation.
'If it's disastrous, if he's still overtly psychotic, then you'll have to re-sedate him,' he had warned them, 'but until we try we have no idea of how well the medication is working, Five days is normally my limit for initial sedation, and its been seven already. He's much calmer, he seems to be talking to his voices less, time to wean it down.'
'So it's sort of like a sedation hold in ITU, but on a lower level?' Kate said.
'So how do we do it?'
'You can't stop all of his sedation at once, he'll just get agitated. I've drawn up a new medication regime for him - he handed Kate a drug chart. 'Starting tomorrow morning we'll halve the lorazepam and the haloperidol. If he gets agitated then you can add in some pericyazine, I've got some for you here, and I'll add it to the list of medication to be delivered from the clinic next week. Any problems, anything at all, phone me. Otherwise I'll be in to see him just after five, at the end of my afternoon appointments.'
'Fine,' Kate said.
'Try to get him eating if you can,' Ed Harris said, 'it would be nice to get him off that drip too. In a few days I want him up and out of bed for at least a few hours a day, but one step at a time.'
'He's not going to like it,' John said thoughtfully.
'No, I suspect not, few patients do. Being sedated is easy, sleeping is easy, facing up to the reality of their situation, to the factors that made them ill in the first place is much, much harder.'
'Sherlock isn't generally very good at facing up to anything that he doesn't want to,' Kate said quietly.
'Obviously not, or he wouldn't have tried to conceal his illness for so long. I'm expecting a battle, Kate, and thats fine. I can assure you that I'm more than equal to the challenge.'
'I'm sure that you are,' Kate said with a small smile, grateful yet again to John for finding exactly the right person to help Sherlock.
Sherlock woke up briefly the next morning, swallowed the tablets Kate gave him without a word, looking dazed, and slept until the afternoon.
Kate was checking his blood pressure mid afternoon when she realised that he was staring at her. 'Hello,' she said gently, smiling at him as she unwrapped the cuff from his arm. He stared at her blankly for a minute, 'Kate,' he said as if only just working out who she was, then he blinked, rubbed his eyes and looked round the room in confusion.
'Where am I?' he asked.
'Home,' Kate said, 'Baker Street. We brought in some kit, that's all.'
Sherlock gave her a quizzical look, and Kate watched him silently take in the drip in his arm, the medical equipment dotted around the room, the drug chart on the bedside table.
'What happened?' he asked.
'You got ill,' she told him, 'just like before. You were hearing voices, I didn't know what to do, so I called John.'
'And he gave me an injection that made them stop,' Sherlock said softly, 'I remember.'
He pushed himself up into a sitting position, Kate automatically reaching out to free the intravenous line attached to his arm. He looked at it again and considered. 'How long, Kate?' he asked finally.
'Just over a week,' she said, watching his face, gauging his reaction. 'We had to keep you sedated, I'm sorry.'
'No, it's fine,' he said, his eyes searching her face as if he could find answers there. 'You really did all this just to keep me here?'
'John helped,' Kate said, 'he's just next door, and we called in some help too - I'm sorry Sherlock we had to, we couldn't do it on our own.'
'And he was responsible for the sedation I presume?'
'Then that would explain it,' he said quietly.
'Why I feel so horrible.' He looked confused for a second then surreptitiously sniffed his T-shirt. 'I don't smell,' he said, sounding dazed, 'If I've been in bed for a week, then why don't I smell?'
'I washed you,' Kate said with a smile.
'Oh.' He was quiet for a moment, considering.
'Do you mind?' Kate asked finally, unable to interpret his expression.
'No, surprisingly I don't. It's fine.'
'So how is it, really,' she asked, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.
'Odd,' he said, fixing her in his unflinching gaze, 'My head feels - numb, its hard to think at all. I know that if I dug underneath it all I would feel awful, but somehow its easy to ignore it. I remember this - from before, feeling as if everything was just shut down,' he frowned, 'I don't like it, but its better than the alternative.'
'Are the voices still there?'
'Yes, but they're quieter than they have been,' he stopped and squeezed the bridge of his nose, 'but they're getting louder.'
'I'll get you some more tablets,' Kate was saying as they were interrupted by a soft knock on the door.
'You're awake,' John said, sticking his head round the door. 'How are you?'
'I have no idea,' Sherlock said wearily, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. Kate presented him with some tablets, which he swallowed without hesitation, looking at irritation at the tube in his arm.
'Can you take this out? Its annoying.'
'If you'll drink, then of course,' Kate nodded. 'Do you want me to cap it off now?'
'Please, and then I want a bath I think. What time is this psychiatrist coming?'
'In about an hour,' Kate said, looking at her watch. 'How did you know?'
'You let the sedation wear off,' Sherlock said with a yawn, watching Kate as she disconnected the drip but left the cannula where it was. 'You wouldn't have done that unless he was coming to see me, you would have timed it.'
John smiled and shook his head.
'What?' Sherlock asked.
'You're on enough medication to floor a baby elephant and you can still work that out?'
Sherlock frowned, 'It's not a difficult deduction, John. Kate told me that you'd had a psychiatrist in to help you. By rights I shouldn't still be here. If he's been assisting you to keep me sedated at home then it makes sense that he would be coming in to see me daily. If you stopped the sedation then it would, of course be timed to coincide with his visit. It's hardly rocket science.'
He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat there experimentally for a moment, before standing up. 'Where are you going?' Kate asked.
'To have a bath,' he said, frowning. 'If I can walk that is. What on earth have you been giving me?'
'Do you really want to know?' John asked.
'No,' Sherlock said shortly, before silently allowing Kate to assist him to walk to the bathroom.
'Is he awake?' Ed Harris asked as he arrived punctually at his scheduled time
'Yes,' Kate said. 'You were right, the sedation didn't wear off until a couple of hours ago, but he's awake and talking sense.'
'Good. How is he?'
'Miserable, guilty, frustrated; but other than that better than I expected.'
'Has he needed any more sedation?'
'I gave him some pericyazine and haloperidol, the voices were bothering him, but we managed to hold off the lorazepam, he wanted to be awake to talk to you.'
'Does he remember me?'
'I'm not sure, he hasn't said. He knows that you've been involved in his care though, and he wanted to know when you were coming. He says he's happy to talk to you.'
'Good, then lets not delay any further.'
Kate knocked on the bedroom door. Sherlock was sitting up in bed, eyes closed. 'Sherlock?' she said. He opened his eyes, 'I'm not asleep,' he said. 'I was just - thinking.'
'Hello Sherlock,' Ed Harris said, 'Do you remember me?'
Sherlock frowned, 'You look familiar, but -' he looked puzzled, 'No, not really. You're the psychiatrist, I presume.'
'Ed Harris,' he said, holding out a hand for Sherlock to shake. 'We have met, many times, but I'm not entirely surprised that you don't remember.'
'Is that the drugs, affecting my memory?'
'Partly, and partly the psychosis. Your mind can play odd tricks on you. You may well remember more in time.'
Sherlock looked away, caught in painful memories. 'It won't be like before, that much I can assure you of,' Ed Harris told him gently.
'How do you know about before?'
'You told me. About Elmhurst and Neil Simmonds. I also talked to James Harrison, with your permission. He filled me in on what happened with the ECT and the memory problems it created. This is entirely different, but I suspect that the memory problems are not coincidental. They are tied in with your previous experience, with your paranoia.
'So - I've invented them?' Sherlock asked sceptically.
'Not exactly, it's more complex than that, I think. Your mind is creating ammunition for itself, providing you with reasons that you shouldn't trust people, that you should remain in the psychosis. The memory problems, I suspect, are a part of that.'
He allowed Sherlock a moment or too to process this, then asked, 'What do you remember?'
Sherlock considered and spoke slowly, trying to piece together the information as he went, his mind working painfully slowly through the sedation.
'I remember talking to Kate on Friday evening, taking some diazepam and going to bed,' he said. 'After that it becomes very confused. I remember voices, I remember people being in the room and trying to get away from them, I remember voices coming from everywhere; from the radio, from the wardrobe, from outside. I remember John injecting me with something, and I remember Kate holding me and talking to me. The rest is similar - voices, Kate, John, odd snatches of memory, nothing coherent.'
Ed Harris nodded, he was sitting by the bed now, how had that happened? Kaleidoscoping time, another uncomfortable memory.
'Are your experiences in Elmhurst why you are so unkeen to accept an admission?' he asked.
'And the other reason?'
Sherlock looked at him as if he was stupid. 'Because I don't want to,' he said bluntly.
'It would be easier for you.'
'I don't think so,' Sherlock said quietly.
Ed Harris was silent for a moment before asking, 'So how are you, really?'
'Physically or mentally?'
'Both, but how about we start with physically.'
'Pretty awful. That's the medication I presume.'
'Together with the fact that you haven't eaten for the best part of a week, yes.'
Sherlock remained silent, but the tension on his face spoke volumes.
'Was eating a problem before? In Elmhurst?' Ed Harris asked, conversationally.
'But Kate and John tell me that its not unusual for you to go this long without food during these episodes.'
'And from your tone I take it that you're not ready to discuss that yet.'
Ed Harris paused, considering his next comment, 'Can we leave it then, that you will try to start eating in able to be allowed to remain here.'
Sherlock sighed, 'If I have to, then yes.'
'And how about the rest of it?'
Sherlock considered, 'Fairly numb, actually, which I imagine is the medication again. It's better than it was certainly, still not great, but better.'
'And now honestly?'
Sherlock shot him a sharp look, 'How did you know?' he asked.
'From your affect, from the fact that you're obviously trying to ignore the voices, which are still distracting you and from what Kate has told me.'
He frowned, 'What did Kate say?' he asked.
'She told me that you were miserable, guilty and frustrated; I believe those were her exact words. She's an extremely perceptive young lady.'
Sherlock closed his eyes and remained silent.
'Sherlock this will not work if you can't be honest with us. Pretending that you are getting better when you are obviously still profoundly depressed helps nobody, least of all you.'
There was a long silence. 'Can you tell me honestly how you are feeling?'
'Horrible,' came the choked reply.
'Can you see this getting better?'
Miserably Sherlock shook his head, face turned away.
'Was it better when you were sedated?'
'Then I suggest that we rack up the sedation again, with the proviso that you wake up often enough eat and spend a least a few hours a day out of bed.'
'Do you mean why bother? Because it is necessary.'
There was another long silence before Ed Harris, gauging the flickering expression on Sherlock's face asked, 'What are your voices saying now?'
'Awful, awful things,' Sherlock murmured.
'Do you believe them?'
'Are they giving you logical solutions to the situation that you find yourself in?'
'If you mean are they telling me to throw myself off the nearest high building, then yes, of course.'
'And are you listening to them?''
'I'm trying very hard not to.'
'Then let's get you something to make them easier to ignore.'
Ed Harris got up, and opened the bedroom door. Kate looked up as he did so. 'Everything okay?' she asked.
'Could you get Sherlock some more lorazepam and haloperidol please?'
Kate nodded, and Ed returned to his seat.
'Will you act on what they're telling you to do?' he asked calmly.
'I don't know,' came the clipped response.
'Do you think that its logical?'
'Could you act on what they're telling you to do?'
'Not like this, no.'
'Then the danger time will come as you recover physically, I think.'
'And yet you still won't contemplate an admission.'
Kate came into the room with a pot of tablets and a fresh glass of water.
'Thank you, Kate,' Ed Harris said. Kate contemplated Sherlock who was looking exhausted, slumped back against the pillows, face impassive, eyes closed. She put the water and the tablets down on the bedside table.
'Hey,' she said, touching his arm. 'I've got some tablets for you.'
He opened his eyes, looked at her and then, unexpectedly his face crumpled and he began to cry. Kate instinctively pulled him in close to her, cradling his head with one hand, the other stroking his back. Her eyes met Ed Harris's over the top of Sherlock's head. Still calm, he was obviously unconcerned by this. He was much, much more used to this than Kate, more disconnected.
'I'll give you a few minutes,' he murmured, with an encouraging smile at Kate, to show that this was part of the course, and he let himself out of the room, leaving Kate with Sherlock.
Finally Sherlock pulled away, and Kate handed him the tablets, which he swallowed without complaint.
'You knew,' he said flatly.
'Of course I knew.'
'And yet you let me pretend that everything was getting better.'
'I know. I'm sorry. I think that I wanted to believe it too. So tell me, honestly.'
He frowned and swallowed hard. It's like drowning, Kate, over and over again,' he said finally. 'If hell isn't like this, then the devil is missing a trick.'
'Do the tablets help?'
'They make it stop.'
'I let them wear off too much then,' she said sadly, angry at herself for letting him get like this. 'I was so intent on having you awake enough to talk to Ed. I should have given you more. I'll know for next time.'
Sherlock shook his head, slumped back against the pillows again, eyes closed. Kate arranged herself on the bed next to him, and pulled his unresisting body, closer to her.
'How can I help?' she asked.
'Having you close - helps,' he said his voice cracking, 'always.'
After maybe ten minutes, he nodded slightly and opened his eyes. 'Its better now,' he said. 'Can you ask Ed to come back in?'
'Are you sure?'
He nodded. 'Its the only way that it's going to get better, Kate, I know that.''
Walking into the living room she found Ed Harris and John sitting cradling cups of tea at the kitchen table, murmuring quietly together.
'He's ready for you to go back in,' she said, and Ed Harris nodded slightly and went back in to see Sherlock, while Kate sat down in a spare seat and unable to prevent herself, rested her head on the table and for the first time since Sherlock had become ill, began to cry.
John's hands were on her shoulders within seconds. He was standing behind her, she realised, just letting her know that he was there. Rubbing her back slightly, soothing, comforting, not trying to get her to stop.
Eventually she pulled her head up and he silently handed her the box of tissues. 'Tough, isnt it?' he said quietly. His concern set Kate off again, and this time he turned her chair round, and gave her a slightly awkward hug.
'Stop being so bloody nice to me,' she mumbled. 'Its just making it worse.'
'Do you want me to tell you to pull yourself together?' he asked.
'Pull yourself together, Kate, this isnt helping anyone,' he said, in mock severity, then more gently, 'Is that better?'
'Yes, much thanks,' she said, blowing her nose loudly.
'Horrible?' he asked.
Kate sighed. 'He's just - destroyed, John. I've never seen him like this before. Even when he has lows before, he's always been in control. He's sad, but he knows that it will get better. This time he can't see a way out of it and that's - tough to say the least.'
'He will get better, Kate. We just need to give the medication a chance to kick in.'
'And if it doesn't? Because you and I both know that it's not a done deal.'
'Then we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But we have to say positive, for all of our sakes. Medication does normally work, it's just a case of finding the right medication and giving it enough time; and psychotherapy and later CBT should take care of the rest.'
'He should be in hospital, John.'
'Yes he should, but he won't, and you know how stubborn he is. After what happened to him as a teenager I can't say that I blame him for his reluctance to be admitted. It didn't exactly do a lot for his ability to trust people, by the sound of it.'
'He trusts us,' Kate said flatly.
'Exactly, but how many other people? I'm amazed that he's let Ed Harris in as much as he has, but that's because we're both here. Without us -' he shook his head,'I don't think that anyone would have a despite everything, despite how tough this is on you, I genuinely believe that he's better off here.'
Kate nodded, then got up and walked to the bathroom to wash her face, spending several minutes staring at herself in the mirror, trying to find the strength to stay positive. She was tough, she knew that she was tough, but she needed to disconnect to get through this. Being able to feel everything that Sherlock was feeling was usually an advantage, at the moment it was just painful. She needed to find a way to be there for him but to create some kind of barrier between her and him, because like this she was no use to either of them.
By the time that she walked back into the Living Room, Ed Harris was sitting on the sofa, talking to John and scribbling some notes.
'Is he okay?' she asked.
'Better than he was, I think. I suspect that he's asleep. By all means go and check.'
Kate opened the bedroom door quietly. Sherlock was indeed asleep, breathing slowly, his face calm in sleep. Not wanting to disturb him, she returned to the living room. The two men looked up as she walked back in to the room.
'You're right, he's asleep,' she said.
Ed Harris nodded. 'He did well, for a first proper session,' he said. 'He has given me permission to share with you what we discussed. James Harrison warned me that he had huge issues around trust as a teenager. It took him weeks to get him to engage with him to the level that he has with me today, and I suspect that I have you two to thank for that.'
'We were talking about that earlier,' John said. 'He doesn't trust many people, but he trusts us, with his life I think, and the fact that we trust you, that I have been your patient in the past - that helps.'
'Precisely. So, upsetting as today may have been for you Kate, I have to tell you that this is no worse than I expected. He is in fact a great deal more rational than the majority of patients in his situation, and that is to his advantage. He should by rights be in hospital, but he continues to refuse admission, and forcing an admission on him in the context of his past experience would cause untold damage. He may recover without an admission, he may not, but when it comes I would like it to be within his control, because control, I suspect is extremely important to him.'
Kate nodded. Ed Harris made some adjustments to the drug chart, and then left them with strict instructions to call him with any concerns. As soon as the door had clicked shut behind him, John held out his keys to Kate.
'I want you to take these and go and get some sleep,' he said. 'The bed in the spare room's made up for you,' then when Kate started to shake her head, 'No arguments, Kate,' he said firmly. 'You're exhausted. You're no good to anyone, least of all Sherlock, like this. He'll sleep for hours anyway. If he needs you then I'll come and get you.'
'I don't think that I could sleep, ' Kate said, 'there's too much going round in my head.'
'Then at least go and lie down for a few hours with a cup of tea and a book. You've hardly been away from him since this whole thing started. You've been great at making sure that I've had time away, but you need a break. Go on, give it a try, and I'll bet you any sum of money that you'll be asleep within ten minutes.'
Reluctantly, Kate agreed. She was glad that she hadn't taken John's bet. Within five minutes of lying down she was fast asleep, and when she woke up it was almost nine o'clock.
'Sorry, sorry,' she said, letting herself back into the flat, 'I didn't mean to sleep for so long.'
'Told you,' John said with a grin. 'Better?'
'Yes, much thanks. Is he okay?'
'Fine. He woke up about an hour ago, wouldn't eat but drank a pint of water with a bit of bullying, took his medication and has gone back to sleep.'
'Did he ask where I was?'
'I told him that I'd sent you to get some sleep, and he said, 'Good,' and told me that you weren't as tough as you liked to pretend that you were.'
Kate smiled, 'Now that sounds more like the old Sherlock.'
'He's still in there, Kate. He's battered and bruised, but I don't think that he's defeated; not yet. He's still fighting.'
'He wasn't this afternoon,' Kate said quietly.
'No, but I think that talking to Ed helped. He seems to be more accepting of it, anyway, so something is obviously working.'
Kate yawned,' Sorry,' she said. 'How can I still be tired?'
'You've got a weeks worth of sleep to catch up on,' John said with a smile. 'I vote that we take shifts from now on, that way you can catch up on sleep during the day when he's asleep. And tomorrow, I want you to go out for a couple of hours, just to the supermarket if you want, but you need to get out, remind yourself that there's a world out there.'
'Maybe,' Kate said evasively, 'we'll see how he is.'
Then John left to get some sleep himself and Kate settled herself on the air mattress beside the bed. In the early hours of the morning, she heard Sherlock stir, and sit up, before his face appeared over the side of the bed.
'What are you doing down there?' he asked, sounding a little dazed from the medication.
'I didn't want to disturb you,' she said.
His facial expression said it all, so she pulled herself up off the floor and into bed beside him. 'Roll over,' he murmured, reaching across an arm to pull her close so that they fitted together, perfectly as they always did, her back pressed against his chest, so that she was entirely surrounded by his body. Kate closed her eyes for a moment, savoring the closeness, the feeling of his arms around her, the sensation of being safe, of being cherished.
'I missed you,' she murmured.
'I didn't go anywhere.'
'No, but you weren't here either. It was like your lows, but worse. You were here in body, but the real you was somewhere else entirely.'
'Its going to be a long, hard road, Kate,' he said sadly.
'Is that what Ed Harris told you.'
'Yes. And I'm not a good patient, I warn you.'
She smiled,' I'm sure I've dealt with worse,'
'I'm sure that you have.'
He was quiet for a long time, and she thought that he had gone back to sleep, but then he very quietly said, 'Thank you, Kate.'
'For what?' she asked, turning to look at him.
'For not giving up on me,' he said, kissing her gently, before pulling her even closer and swiftly falling asleep.
Kate was woken several hours later by Sherlock twitching and crying out in his sleep. She turned to look at him. Nightmare, by the look of it. She couldn't wake him, so settled for holding him and talking to him softly instead, hoping illogically that her voice might somehow get through into his subconscious, into his dream. Finally he managed to wake himself, and sat bolt upright, his eyes darting around the room, still breathing fast, still looking for the creatures from his nightmare.
Kate reached out to touch him and he jumped. 'It's okay,' she said gently, 'it's just me. It was just a dream, you're safe.'
He looked at her, confused and then silently threw back to the duvet, and sat on the edge of the bed.
'Where are you going?' she asked, wondering if he was sleep-walking.
'Bathroom,' he said shortly, before standing up.
'Do you want some help?'
'No,' he said in a tone that left no discussion. He lurched into the wall, swore softly as he steadied himself, and walked unsteadily to the bathroom. Kate waited until the bathroom door closed behind him and then went into the kitchen to fetch some tablets. By the time she got back to the bedroom, he was sitting huddled up in bed, head resting on his knees.
She touched him gently on the shoulder. His T-shirt was damp with sweat, it had obviously been some nightmare. 'Take these,' she said. 'They'll help.' He reached out a hand in silence and took the pot of tablets, tipped the lot into his mouth, and washed them down with half a glass of water before resuming his former position.
'I've got you a clean T-shirt as well,' she said gently. Still not making eye contact he pulled off his damp t-shirt and took the dry one from her, and silently pulled it on.
She climbed back into bed next to him, unsure what she could do to help. He didn't seem to want physical contact, but at the same time she wanted to make sure that he knew that she was there. 'Can you talk about it?' she asked, but he just shook his head and remained as he was. Finally after what seemed like hours, but could only have been ten or fifteen minutes he uncurled and lay down with his back to her, still silent, and fell asleep.
Kate looked at the clock, 06.17. She lay there watching Sherlock sleep, and wondered whether to give up on the night and get up. The next thing she knew her phone was bleeping with a text and it was half past eight. Text from John. 'Everything okay?'
'Fine, not up yet. Come up in half an hour?'
'I'll bring papers,' John texted back.
And breakfast it turned out, as he arrived at the door thirty two minutes later, laden down with the Saturday papers, croissants and fresh orange juice.
'Thanks,' Kate said.
'Well I thought if we were going to be stuck here all day again, then we might as well catch up on the world outside. Besides, its part of my plan to re-socialise you,' he said with a grin. 'By the way have you heard from Mycroft?'
'I've had a couple of missed calls from him, why?'
'Have you checked Sherlock's phone?'
'No, I switched it off when he first got ill, hang on.' She retrieved it from where she had hidden it inside the food mixer (no danger of him accidentally finding it there. Sherlock saw no point in cooking when there were take-away establishments, who would do it for him). 'Battery's flat' she said, plugging it in to charge. 'Why, did Mycroft phone you?'
'Yes, last night, and not for the first time. He's got a case for Sherlock.'
'What did you say to him?'
'I told him that he was in bed with flu and wouldn't be up to any cases for a week or so.'
'Did he believe you?' Kate said, as she went to make coffee.
'Difficult to tell with Mycroft. I think so. I kept it as close to the truth as possible. Even told him we'd had the local GP in, for in a second opinion, just in case he'd spotted Ed Harrison's visits.'
'John if he finds out...'
'I know, Kate, he'll have Sherlock admitted before we can blink.'
'So what do we do?'
'More of the same, I think. He'll find out eventually, but we can try and delay it for as long as possible. In the meantime I might have to offer to have a look at the case to shut him up, if he'll let me. He'll phone you eventually, I'm sure, so you need to have your story ready. I would suggest just telling him that Sherlock's still not well and you don't want him going back to work too soon. I though mentioning avian flu as a possibility might stop him turning up round here with a basket of fruit - you know how phobic about disease Mycroft is. He'll stay away if he thinks that Sherlock might be contagious.'
Kate put the coffee pot onto the table with a sigh. John had already found plates aand knives, and was pulling butter and jam of the fridge. It was amazing how easily he slotted into life here.
'I can try,' she said, 'but I'm useless at lying John, you know that.'
'So don't lie. Just tell him that Sherlock's ill and not ready to go back to work for a while. How was the night by the way?' he asked.
'Um- weird,' she said, not entirely sure how to explain it. Then in response to John's confused look. 'He woke up at about two, and asked me why I was sleeping on the floor. He was very - normal. He thanked me for being there, and told me that he was going to be a difficult patient. Then he had a nightmare a few hours later and wouldn't talk to me at all. Once he'd managed to wake up, he just sat there curled up, took some medication and went back to sleep.'
'So you had another bad night,' John said with a sigh. 'I wish you'd let me do some night shifts, Kate.'
'I want to be there for him, ' Kate said, 'I think thats when he needs me most. But catching up on sleep during the day sounds like a good idea, you're right. We can take shifts.'
She got up and went over to Sherlock's phone, now charged enough to switch on. 'Thirty two missed calls from Mycroft,' she said. He doesn't give up easily does he? Do you want to listen to the voicemails?'
'We probably should - see what he's after.'
Kate put it onto speaker. There were twelve voicemail messages from Mycroft, becoming increasingly more irate, all demanding that Sherlock contact him. None gave details of the case.
'What does Mycroft want?' came a surprisingly articulate voice from the bedroom. Kate and John froze. They hadn't for a minute considered that Sherlock might be awake and hear.
'He's been trying to contact you about a case,' Kate said as she walked into the bedroom, John close behind. 'He phoned John yesterday to see where you were.'
'Give me my phone,' Sherlock said, with his old note of authority still looking groggy from the tablets, but pushing himself to a sitting position, none the less.
Kate hesitated. 'Kate,' he said,' still holding out his hand for the phone, 'You know Mycroft. If he doesn't hear from me directly then he won't be able to leave this, and I don't want him turning up here and working out what's really happening. Mycroft is one complication that I can do without at the moment.'
Kate silently handed him his phone, and he listened to the messages one by one, before rapidly tapping out a text, squinting slightly to focus on the screen.
'What are you doing? Kate asked.
'Texting Mycroft, and telling him that as I'm practically on my deathbed he needs to piss off and leave me alone. What did you tell him - flu?'
'Yes,' John said.
'Mycroft won't buy it,' Sherlock said with a yawn. He was speaking more slowly than usual, his voice slightly slurred from the medication that Kate had given him only hours before, but his brain was still working at twice the speed of anybody else's. 'Flu might keep me in bed for a week, but I'd be bored stiff and itching for a case by now, recovered or not. Better come up with a secondary infection. Legionnaire's maybe? No, I haven't been anywhere where I could have caught it. Mycoplasma, that would fit. Two to three weeks of illness, with a viral pro-drome, or it could have been a secondary infection from influenza, that will buy us a couple of weeks at least.' He was continuing his rapid typing as he spoke.
Less than three minutes after the text had been sent his phone rang. 'Which part of ill don't you understand, Mycroft?' he snapped as he replied. And his voice was perfectly weary, and just croaky enough to fit his story.
'John told you - influenza and now they think Mycoplasma, we're waiting for serology results. Besides its none of your business. I'm ill, I'm in bed, I am not available to do your scutt work for you.'
A pause and the sound of Mycroft's clipped tones.
'I don't need your doctor, Mycroft,' Sherlock tried to snap, but was too tired to make it sound convincing, 'I've got Kate and John and a colleague that John brought in as a second opinion. I just need you to piss off and leave me alone.' And he hung the phone up abruptly.
'Do you think he was convinced?' he asked, lying down again, uncharacteristically unsure of himself.
'Well you sound convincingly ill,' Kate said, 'And it's close enough to the truth to tie up if he does some digging.'
'Of course he'll dig, so I'll have to make sure that the GP records tie up,' John said, walking back into the bedroom after her with Sherlock's medication, which he handed to Kate. Sherlock was lying in bed, eyes closed. Thinking, Kate imagined.
'He'll check for blood tests too,' Kate said, sitting on the bed next to Sherlock and putting a hand on his shoulder, so that he opened his eyes to look at her. She held up the tablets, but he just shook his head.
'If you don't take them, then I'll get John to hold your nose until you open your mouth,' she told him firmly. 'Don't be an idiot.'
'I need to think straight,' he said.
'No you don't. John and I will sort Mycroft out, and thinking straight ends up with you in the state that you were in yesterday, remember? Just take the tablets, Sherlock.'
Reluctantly he sat up, tipped the contents of the pot into his mouth, and washed them down with water from the glass that Kate handed him, then drained the glass, and lay back down again.
'Before my mind stops working entirely, tell me what you're going to do,' he said, 'because you know that Mycroft will check.'
'I'm going to make sure that the notes at the surgery tie up with what we told Mycroft.' John told him, as Kate tried to work out exactly what they were going to do. 'I've got remote access on my tablet for home visits and there's a glitch in the system, allowing me to log in as a locum and put in any name that I chose, so we can make it fit with the story of one of my colleagues coming to see you.'
'And the serology for mycoplasma? Because you know that he'll check for that too.'
'We'll send off today. We ought to check some bloods anyway, and I can drop this lot into the hospital later with the appropriate clinical details. It'll take a week or so for the results to come through anyway, so hopefully it will be enough to throw Mycroft off the track.'
Sherlock didn't look convinced. 'Any more ideas?' Kate asked.
He shook his head, 'No, I think thats the best that you can do. But hide some of the medical kit in here can you? Stick it in the cupboard or something, don't take it out unless you need it, just in case.'
'You think that Mycroft will turn up here?'
'I'm sure that he will, Kate,' Sherlock said with another yawn. He looked as if he was ready to go back to sleep. 'You know Mycroft. His need to know and to interfere will always win through in the end. You need to hide anything that shouldn't be here; drug charts, medical kit, medication, all of it. Hopefully if Mycroft does turn up, and finds me in bed, then he'll believe the flu story, and not the alternative.'
Going into the kitchen to make breakfast for Sherlock, which he would almost certainly refuse to eat, Kate beckoned John to follow her, then slid the glass door shut behind them.
'This is just going to feed his paranoia, John,' she said. He's going to be seeing cameras in every corner soon, it's not what he needs at all.'
'I know, but what do we do about it?'
'I think that we give Mycroft a bit of credit and tell him what Sherlock needs,' Kate said, taking out her phone and pressing the button to call Mycroft before she could reconsider, ignoring John's horrified look. Mycroft answered on the second ring.
'Kate, what a pleasant surprise.'
Kate found herself laughing despite everything, as much at the relief of tension as anything else. 'You're not surprised at all, Mycroft,' she said. 'You're too much like your brother. You knew exactly what I was going to do before I did.'
'Still. I take it this isn't purely a social call?'
'No. Mycroft, I need you to do something for me.'
'I need you to trust me when I say that John and I are doing our best for Sherlock.'
'I'm sure that you are.'
'And I need you to promise that you won't try to interfere.'
'And by interfere you mean...'
'Check up on us, send round bogus delivery men to spy on us, have surveillance put on the flat; do you want me to go on?'
'I am just - concerned, Kate.'
'I know that you are. But believe me when I tell you that John and I are doing everything humanly possible to get your brother well. If at any point his illness becomes more than we can handle then we will get him into hospital, but at the moment he is better off here. He is getting the right treatment and should make a full recovery, but he needs rest, Mycroft, and quiet, and not to have to worry about who is watching him or why.'
'You are in short asking me to allow you to take responsibility for Sherlock without my interference.'
'Precisely. Can you do that?'
'Of course,' Mycroft replied smoothly.
Kate wasn't fooled, however. 'Will you do that?' she asked, after a short silence.
Mycroft paused, 'I would like to come and see him for myself,' he said carefully. Kate tried hard not to groan. 'Its contagious, Mycroft, and whether its mycoplasma or something else, believe me, you don't want what Sherlock's got.'
'You and John seem unbothered by your proximity to him.'
Kate didn't try to hide her exasperation, 'Its not Ebola virus, Mycroft, and don't forget that John and I are around sick people all the time, we've got good immunity. If you want to come and see him then I can't stop you, he's your brother, but I just don't think that it would be good for Sherlock, thats all.'
'If I stay away will you promise to keep me updated and to contact me if there is anything, absolutely anything that he needs.'
'Then I will leave him securely in your and John's hands.' There was almost an edge of relief in Mycroft's voice as he said a curt goodbye and hung up.
John was staring at Kate in open mouthed. 'You do realise that you nearly gave me a heart attack?' he said, sitting down heavily on a chair.
'Sorry,' Kate said, 'it was a bit mad wasn't it? But you know Mycroft. If I hadn't phoned then he would have had someone round here within an hour. Gas leak, impromptu census, who knows what he would have invented, but he wouldn't have been able to leave it alone.'
'And will he leave it alone now?'
'I think so. If you notice, I never said what was wrong with Sherlock, I just said that he was ill, that he was on the treatment and that he needed time to get better. Mycroft may suspect what's going on, but I don't think that he'll interfere, not now.'
'Let's hope not. So what do we tell Sherlock?'
'The truth,' Kate said, as if it was obvious, 'always the truth.'
Sherlock was lying on his side, facing away from the door, absolutely still, his breathing slow and steady, but then just as Kate had decided to leave him to sleep, he quietly said, 'I'm not asleep. I'm trying to work out whether to be angry with you or not.'
'And have you come to any conclusions?'
'I haven't decided yet,' he said, rolling over to look at her.
'How did you know?' Kate asked, sitting down heavily on the side of the bed.
'Noises, Kate, or rather the lack of them. I heard you shut the door to the kitchen, and then I didn't hear the sounds of pans and cooking. Just near silence, murmured voices, then just your voice; a telephone conversation to Mycroft I presume, then John talking and you sounding relieved. So - what did you say to Mycroft?'
'What do you think that I said?'
He rubbed his forehead, 'I'm too tired for guessing games, Kate, just tell me.'
'I appealed to his better nature.'
'He doesn't have one,' Sherlock retorted automatically.
'Yes he does, Sherlock, especially where you're concerned. The way I saw it, he was going to turn up here unless I did something to stop him, or send round some bogus delivery men or gas engineer to spy on us. You're paranoid enough as it is, and that's the last thing that you need, to jump every time the doorbell rings. So I phoned him and told him that he needed to trust John and I to do the right things to get you well, and that interfering would only make you worse.'
'Did he work it out?'
'I don't know,' Kate said honestly. 'I don't think so. He might suspect, but if he does then he's keeping those suspicions to himself. I think that he'll do what I asked, Sherlock, I think that he'll leave you alone to get well.'
'Then I'm not angry,' he said quietly.
'So how are you?'
He shook his head. 'Horrible,' he said, then looking away, 'it's not getting any better Kate. In fact its getting worse the longer that I'm awake.'
'Ed Harris is coming later. He'll help.'
'It will get better, its just going to take time for the medication to kick in properly.'
'Time,' he said softly, 'I remember that from before too. Always being told to give it time.'
'But it did get better last time.'
'It took the best part of four months, Kate,' he said fixing her with his unflinching gaze. 'I can't -' his voice broke and he closed his eyes, 'I can't cope with this for the next four months.' He was, Kate realised, trying very hard not to cry.
'Hey,' she whispered, putting her arms around him, until eventually he sat up and allowed himself to be held. 'It's just a bad day, thats all. I'll get you some more tablets and you can sleep, that will help.'
'What about Ed Harris?' he asked into her shoulder.
'I'll phone him and see if he can come later instead.'
He pulled away and nodded. 'Thank you,' he said, formally, remotely.
'You're not giving up on me are you?' Kate asked lightly.
He shrugged. 'I can't see a way out of this, Kate, not one, even without Mycroft's interference.'
'Bloody Mycroft,' Kate muttered as she headed for the kitchen to fetch Sherlock some tablets.
'Whats he done now? John asked. She had almost forgotten that he was there, sitting on the sofa in the living room, idly flicking through the television channels.
'Other than make things worse all over again? Nothing.' Kate said.
John looked at her and considered. 'You need a break, Kate; some time away from here.'
'How can I?'
'Fairly easily I would say,' John said, taking the pot of medication out of her hand. 'Judging by this lot he'll sleep for hours, I'll phone Ed and ask him to postpone his visit until this afternoon. In the meantime, I want you to go out and do something, anything to get out of this flat. Go and see Alice, better still go and do some shopping, go to a gallery, just - do something normal.'
Sherlock didn't question John's presence in his room with the tablets, just took them silently and lay down wearily.
'I sent Kate out for a few hours,' John told him.
'Good,' was Sherlock's only reply before closing his eyes and falling asleep.
Kate arrived back at 221b just as Ed Harris was ringing on the doorbell. For a horrible moment she had mistaken the tall, overcoated figure at the door to the flat for Mycroft, come to check up on his brother at all. Then she had recognised the greying hair and had felt her heart return to its correct position from where it had taken up temporary residence in her mouth.
Lunch with Alice and a few hours wandering round the National Gallery had done wonders, John was right. There was a whole world out there that she had almost forgotten existed, and Alice had been - forthright and honest and empathic without being overly sympathetic. She thought that Kate was mad, to not have Sherlock admitted, of course she did. 'You do realise that no sane nurse would ever have done what you've done, don't you?' she said. 'Only two doctors would be barmy enough to think that this was a good idea. We would have had him admitted as soon as he started talking to people who weren't there. Wouldn't catch a pair of nurses offering to provide twenty four-seven nursing and giving iv sedation in their own home.'
'Keep your voice down,' Kate muttered, looking round the gallery restaurant. 'It's meant to be a secret remember?'
Alice chuckled. 'You're catching his parnoia, Kate.'
Kate closed her eyes and sighed, 'You have no idea,' she said.
Alice touched her arm with a gentle hand. 'I'm sorry, you're right, I don't. I was just trying to joke you into a better mood. For what it's worth, I think that what you're doing is amazing, Kate. But you just look - exhausted, and if I'm being brutally honest more than a little defeated, but I want to help, if I can. So go on, tell me what you're worried about.'
And so Kate did. She talked to Alice for hours; over pasta, and pudding, through rooms and rooms of paintings at the National, most of which she hardly registered, and then again over coffee before reluctantly heading home after hugging Alice hard at the tube station and thanking whatever variety of deity might be up there for friends like Alice. Closer than a sister, more understanding than a lover could ever be, even Sherlock; especially Sherlock who loved her unconditionally but who still found her emotions a strange mystery even when he was well.
'Bad day I hear,' Ed Harris said, as they walked up the stairs to the flat.
'Did John tell you?'
'A little. My office also had a phone call from Mycroft Holmes, indirectly of course. Don't worry, they're far too discrete to say anything, but it sounds as if his people have been calling round all of the offices on Harley Street, trying to dig for information. Not just psychiatrists, you'll be glad to hear. It would appear that he's aware that Sherlock is ill, but not the exact nature of his illness.'
'He's not a man to take no for an answer,' Kate muttered, wondering where all of this would lead.
'He has no control over what happens to Sherlock, you realise,' Ed said as she let him into the flat. 'That decision would still rest with me as his doctor, and with those who I consider to be most able to decide what is in his best interest, which is undoubtably you and John, not Mycroft.'
'You don't know Mycroft,' Kate said with a note of resignation in her voice.
'Oh but I do,' Ed Harris said, 'and I can assure you that I am more than prepared to take him on if it comes to it.'
John was coming out of the bedroom as they walked into the flat and shook Ed Harris' hand in greeting.
'Is he awake?' Ed Harris asked.
'Yes, but not talking much. Perhaps you'll have better luck.'
Sherlock was sitting up in bed as Ed Harris entered the room; knees pulled up, tracing patterns on the duvet cover with his finger and looking as if he was trying to work out a very complex equation.
'Why do people do it?' he asked, without looking up.
'Do what?' Ed asked calmly, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to the bed.
'Why do they bother to get through this, knowing that the best case scenario is that it will all happen again in a few months or a few years time?'
'Because they learn how to manage it, as you will, as you have up until now.'
'Has my brother worked it out yet?'
'Not as far as I'm aware. He certainly hasn't had any information from me or my office which would enable him to draw any conclusions about the nature of your illness.'
'Ah yes, my illness,' Sherlock said bitterly. 'Why don't you all just call it what it is and be honest about it.'
'And what is it?'
'Madness,' Sherlock said. 'Pure, unadulterated madness. Isn't it?'
'You can refer to it in whatever terms you prefer, although technically the term madness generally implies irrational behaviour with a lack of insight, neither of which I would say apply to you. You have a psychiatric illness, from which you will recover in time and with the correct medication.'
'I hate - the medication,' came the reply, 'and it isn't working.'
'You haven't given it a chance.'
'I've given it two weeks.'
'And today aside, it is starting to have an effect. Are you hearing voices again?'
Sherlock shook his head.
'Maybe. Is it paranoia when you think that you are being watched; when you think that people are talking about you when they genuinely are?'
'That depends on if your thoughts are proportional or disproportional to the degree of threat. Yours, I suspect, are disporportional.'
Sherlock closed his eyes, rested his head on his knees for a few seconds, and then turned his head to look at Ed Harris with more honesty and desparation then he ever had before. 'I can't - do this,' he whispered, 'Kate, John, they keep telling me that it will all be fine, that I can get though this, but they are wrong. I can't.'
'Despair is a powerful emotion,' Ed Harris said calmly, 'but a false one. This is not real, Sherlock, this is part of your illness, of the paranoia if you like. This belief that you cannot get well, that the best thing for your friends and the wider world would be to take yourself out of it. That you cause pain, and suffering, to others as well as to yourself, and that nothingness, that non-existence is the only logical solution.'
Sherlock looked away and rested his head on his knees again. 'I didn't say that,' he said in a slightly muffled voice.
'You didn't have to.' Ed paused, and then very slowly said, 'Sherlock I want you to consider what I am about to say very carefully. I think that we have reached a point in your illness where an admission would be in your best interests. It would be easier for you in hospital, to say nothing of safer, and it would be nothing like Elmhurst, that much I can promise you. Medical care aside, I think that you would benefit greatly from the input of our nursing staff, and I have no doubt that you would recover more quickly there than you could ever hope to here.'
Sherlock considered for a good ten seconds before saying quietly. 'Do I have a choice?'
'At the moment, yes, if you can assure me that you will remain safe here.'
'I'm not going to do anything, not now.'
'And when you recover enough to be able to process a plan?'
'I don't know, I don't think so. I wouldn't do that to Kate.'
'Then I suggest that you hold onto that.' He paused for a moment enforce asking, 'So will you agree to an admission? For Kate's sake as well as your own.'
Sherlock considered and then slowly shook his head, 'I would prefer not to,' he said.
'Can you tell me why?'
'It is hard enough to deal with here, but in an unfamiliar place, with strangers? No, then I think that I really would become truly mad.'
'You told me not five minutes ago that that was exactly what you considered yourself to be.'
'Yes I did, didn't I. Perhaps I was mistaken.'
'I'm told that you are never mistaken.'
'No, I like to think that I'm never mistaken. There's a difference.'
'Then can I propose that your judgement at the moment is flawed, and that you need to allow others to make decisions for you until your insight returns.'
'Including about admission,' Sherlock said flatly.
Ed Harris leaned back in his chair and considered him. Time for a change in tack.
'Why are you so against this?' he asked.
'I told you.'
'No, you gave me an explanation, not the explanation I suspect.'
Sherlock ran his hands through his hair, 'Elmhurst.' he said quietly, as if that explained everything. Then when Ed Harris remained silent, 'I won't risk that happening again. Being trapped in a place like that, not knowing who to trust, not knowing who to believe, and always with the feeling that someone else, whether Mycroft or my father, was pulling the strings.'
'I have told you that it would be nothing like Elmshurst. Psychiatric care has moved on a great deal in the last nineteen years, Sherlock, and I would have hoped that you had learnt to trust me by now. I would be the person in charge of your care, the person that you would have to trust, there as here.'
Sherlock shook his head, 'Its not about that. I do trust you, but there are too many other variables. Too many other people, too many potential enemies. I won't risk it, not while I have a choice in the matter.'
'It is a government run institution. Do you honestly believe that people could get to you even in somewhere with security systems that robust?'
'Mycroft could get to me, could control my care. And as for the rest? It's always possible. I'm safe here - outside these walls? I'm not so sure.'
'Do you think that people are watching you? That they're somehow trying to get to you?'
'I know that they are, and that's not paranoia, that's the nature of my work.'
'But these beliefs are stronger since you have become unwell.'
'Yes, and worse still since Mycroft started interfering. I can't stop thinking about it, wondering what he will do next, and if not him then somebody else.'
'Can you block out these thought?'
'No. They just go round and round. That's why I had to sleep earlier, sleep is the only thing that stops them.'
'Then they are paranoia, whatever shallow basis in reality they may have. They are by definition intrusive and therefore part of your illness.'
Sherlock looked at Ed Harris and then closed his eyes as if he was in pain. 'When does this stop?' he asked.
'When you accept your delusions for what they are, and when we get your medication right.'
'Meaning more tablets.'
'I think that would be wise given today's events and what you have just told me, yes.'
'And more side-effects.'
'Would you prefer to continue feeling like this?'
Sherlock shook his head, 'No,' he said quietly. 'I can't cope with this.'
Ed Harris allowed him a few minutes contemplation, then asked, ''The events with your brother today have upset you, have made things worse?'
'Do you know why?'
'Because he won't leave this alone. I know Mycroft, and despite Kate's request, the fact that he has been making phone calls, or having them made on his behalf proves that he is unable to leave this alone. He will discover the nature of my illness and he will interfere, and that will make everything worse.'
'Would you like me to speak to him?'
'No,' Sherlock looked panicked now. 'Please, no. Whatever you do, don't contact him.'
'Then what do you suggest?'
'I don't know. I can't think straight, medication again I presume, but I can't think of a single way to get him to stay away.'
'Then let me propose one. If your brother saw you walking into a Harley Street office on say Thursday, talking and functioning, then he would take that of proof of your recovery. Yes?'
Sherlock frowned, 'I would imagine so.But its not that simple.'
'Why not? Drug side-effects aside I see no physical reason why you should not get up, get dressed and take a taxi-cab to my office on Thursday morning. That gives you two days to get yourself used to being out of bed for progressively longer periods, and leaving these four walls would undoubtably be beneficial for you. I share offices with a number of other clinicians from various disciplines for obvious reasons, and I assure you that not even your brother will be able to discover that you are coming to my office and not to one of the others. You are far from the first patient of mine to require anonymity.
Sherlock swallowed hard.
'Does the idea of leaving here make you feel anxious?' Ed Harris asked.
'Yes,' Sherlock admitted said shortly.
'All the more reason to push yourself to do it then. Sometimes the only way to overcome your fears, Sherlock, are to confront them, and the longer that you stay in this flat the worse your paranoia about the outside world is going to get.'
'It's not paranoia. I told you.'
'Some of it is paranoia, and the reality, that your brother may well be having you watched, will only be resolved by being seen to leave this flat. If you remain here, how long do you honestly believe that it will be before he comes knocking on your door, or works out the truth in other ways?'
'Do I have a choice in this?'
'Not if you want to get well, no. I want you out of that bed for at least short periods each day, and I want you in my office on Thursday morning, or an admission will, I think, become inevitable.'
Sherlock sat himself up against the back of the bed, and contemplated Ed Harris for several minutes. 'Are you always this forceful with your patients?' he asked finally.
Ed Harris chuckled, 'Only when it is required, and when a particular course of action needs to be pursued.'
'Then I will be at your office on Thursday morning,' Sherlock said quietly.
'Good. Now tell me what you think Mycroft's motives are.'
'He wants to control me.'
'You don't think that he wants to control me?'
'I think, after everything that you have told me about your childhood and your time in Elmhurst and immediately following that, that Mycroft feels responsible for you, that he is concerned for your welfare.'
'If he was genuinely concerned for my welfare then he would realise that he should leave Kate and John to look after me, and stop interfering.'
'That would be the logical course of action certainly, if guilt and emotion didn't come into it.'
'Mycroft doesn't have emotions.'
'Doesn't he? I've never met a human being without emotions, Sherlock. Some hide them better than others, but they are always there, interfering with logic.'
'They don't interfere with logic if you don't allow them to. Mycroft would never permit that.'
'Then why is he acting in a illogical manner?'
Sherlock frowned, then eventually said quietly, 'I don't know.'
'Because there is no other logical explanation.'
Sherlock looked at him. 'You're asking me to think of Mycroft as a human being with normal emotions.'
'Rather than your arch-nemesis who is plotting evil machinations against you, yes, precisely. There is only one logical conclusion, Sherlock, you are aware of this, and only one course of action open to you.'
'Tell me again.'
'You continue taking your medication as prescribed, you accept that you will get well, but your illness prevents you from seeing that at present, you start to leave this room for short periods of time, and you come to my office on Thursday morning to continue your treatment there.'
Sherlock nodded, then asked, 'What day is it today?'
'Monday. So - I will come and see you tomorrow as usual, and you will work on spending at least a part of the day out of bed. I will adjust your medication, and you will make some attempt to get back to normality. Yes?'
Sherlock nodded again. 'Thank you,' he said quietly.
Ed Harris reached out a hand, but instead of his customary handshake, instead laid a paternal hand on the younger man's shoulder. 'You will get well, Sherlock,' he said, 'I guarantee it.'
Leaving Kate with several alterations on Sherlock's drug chart, Ed Harris left 221b with assurances that he would telephone first thing in the morning to see how things were. 'But as always,' he said as he reached the door, 'if you're concerned, then phone me before, any time.'
Walking towards the bedroom, Kate almost walked into Sherlock, who was walking into the living room, rubbing his eyes. 'What are you doing?' she asked, genuinely surprised.
'Exploring the land of the living,' he said yawning. 'Ed Harris has told me to get up, so I'm getting up. I thought that I'd swap the bed for the sofa for a few hours, see if the delights of daytime television had improved and would take my mind off my dear brother's possible plots, then maybe a bath later.'
Kate grinned, despite herself.
'What?' Sherlock asked crossly, throwing himself down on the sofa and reaching for the remote control.
'Nothing,' she said shaking her head, then at his cynical look. 'It's just that this morning I thought that we'd reached the point of no return, and now look at you. Ed Harris is a miracle worker.'
Sherlock continued flicking through the channels without commenting, then asked hopefully, 'Tea?'
Kate smiled, 'Coming right up,' she said.
John stuck his head out of the door of 221A as Ed Harris came down the stairs. 'Everything okay?' he asked,
Ed looked confused for a moment. 'I didn't realise this was your flat,' he said.
John grinned. 'Sherlock and I used to share - long before Kate. Then my girlfriend of the time wanted to move in with me, and - well.'
'Three's a crowd?'
'Exactly. This flat became free and it made sense for us to move in here. Plus Sherlock isn't exactly the easiest person to live with.'
'I can imagine. Have you got a moment, John? I wanted a word.'
'Of course, come in. Can I get you a cup of tea, or,' John looked at his watch, ' since its now officially the evening, something stronger if you'd prefer. I've got a bottle of red open.'
'Tea would be fine, thank you,' Ed Harris said, walking in and looking round. John's flat was surprisingly clutter-free after 221B, although designed to an almost identical template.
John saw him looking round, and smiled. 'Living with Sherlock does that to you - makes you crave the minimalist effect. Plus army training - you know.'
'Not a sock out of place?' Ed said. 'I'm the same. Old habits die hard, I think I'm still expecting a surprise inspection from the C.O.'
'So,' John said, bringing the tea over to the sofa. 'How is he?'
'Better than this morning by the sound of it, but still very low. I have tried again to persuade him that an admission would be in his best interest, but without success I'm afraid.'
John sighed, 'It would certainly give Kate a break, she's finding it harder than she lets on, I think. It's not her style to admit defeat, but two weeks of this would be difficult for anyone.'
'Which is something else that I wanted to discuss with you. I am concerned for both of you in this situation. You are putting yourselves under huge amounts of pressure to get Sherlock well, a task in which there is no guarantee of success.'
'You - think that he will need an admission anyway,' John said slowly.
'I think that I have rarely seen a patient with such profound depression and such a long and complex psychiatric history managed successfully out of hospital, yes.'
Ed allowed a few minutes silence to let the information sink in.
'But he's getting better,' John said. 'The voices, the paranoia..'
'Have improved, certainly, although he is still significantly more paranoid than he is letting on. Those thoughts are still there, he has just learnt to keep them buried.'
'Until Mycroft stirred everything up today.'
'Precisely. The smallest knock and he crumbles. He is extremely vulnerable, John, and his mood is still cycling. More concerning still, now that he is no longer sedated and is more capable of what he believes to be rational thought, he is at risk of acting on his impulses.'
'So we need to make sure that we keep someone with him.'
'And that he cannot get out of the flat alone, exactly.'
John ran a hand through his already ruffled hair for a moment, considering. 'Just so that we're clear, what are you worried that he might do?'
'He tells me that he has no definite plans at present, but he does not believe that he can get well, and at his worst, he cannot cope with himself or the the way that he feels about the world. For him at that moment in time there is only one logical solution to his situation, and whatever he does is likely to be violent, and may occur without warning.'
'But not violent towards me or Kate,' John said shaking his head. 'I know Sherlock, he would never -'
'No, I'm not suggesting that either of you are in any danger, only himself. I presume that you have - tools for your job which have been removed from the flat.'
John considered the Browning pistol which had been safely secured in a new location in 221A, which he hoped not even Sherlock would find without difficulty. The key to its box was also safely hidden. He thought too about all of the spare medication which he was keeping for Kate, leaving only a few days supply in 221B, and the knives and even razor blades, which he had been put in charge of.
'We've made it as safe as we can,' he said, 'although I think you're right. An overdose or a few superficial cuts on his wrist aren't his style. If he's going to do it, he'll do it properly. But if you think that he is at risk, shouldn't we be pushing for an admission, one way or another?'
'It may come to it, but I would still rather that it was his decision. Given his trust issues, a section would do more harm than good at the moment, I think.'
'Do you know why he is so against being admitted, other than the obvious?'
'Elmhurst, I think, and his experiences there. I am unable to access his notes without alerting his brother, they're locked in an MI6 vault, it would appear, and have been since Sherlock was in his early twenties, but from what Sherlock tells me about his time there I am unsurprised that he is unkeen to repeat that experience.'
John nodded, 'So where do we go from here?'
'Watch and wait, as always. I have adjusted his medication a little, put up the olanazapine, let's see what that does, and its still early days. If he becomes overtly suicidal then we will be left with no choice. But John, as his GP you could be put in a difficult position, I need you to be prepared for that.'
'You mean that you would need my signature on the section papers. Yes, I'm aware of that. Thats fine. If it comes to it I would happily take part in the process. Whatever it takes to keep him safe.'
'Good, then we're agreed.' Ed paused, 'So how are you, John, really. It can't be easy for you.'
'If you mean is it bringing up uncomfortable memories, then yes, a little, but actually I'm finding it easier than I thought I would. Sherlock's experience is very different to mine; but the blackness, the despair, the feeling that the whole world is coming crashing down about your ears and you are the only person who realises it, those feelings I remember well.'
'Have you seen Ella recently?'
'Not for eighteen months or so, no. I went back to see her after Sherlock disappeared, as you know, when she sent me to see you and I went back on the antidepressants for a while. Then I saw her again when he reappeared, to talk things through for a while, say all the things that I couldn't say to him, but since then, no.'
'Then I am going to suggest that you go and talk this through with her as well. A little pre-emptive therapy if you like, because if it does come to an admission , then that will be difficult for both you and Kate. Even if we manage to avoid that, then he pressure of the last weeks and the knowledge of what might have happened is likely to hit both of you after the event, especially you, given your past history. Some time invested away from the situation now to start to unravel your own thoughts and emotions would seem sensible.'
John nodded thoughtfully. 'Then I'll take your advice, thank you, although it's Kate that I worry for.'
'Which is why I think that she needs to distance herself from the situation a little. Sherlock is leaning on her more heavily than I think that even he lets on. He depends on her for support in a way that he does not depend on you, I think. Tell me, does he talk to you about how he is feeling?'
'Not really. He never has. He'll tell me if he's having a bad day, if he's hearing voices, but its very much information only. I think that Kate is the only person that he really opens up to. He told her more in the first weekend of their relationship about his past, than he told me in five years.'
'Does that bother you?'
John considered, 'Not really. I knew Kate before, that helped. She hasn't had an easy time of it either, and she and Sherlock are perfect for each other, I'm just glad that he's found someone who he can be himself with. I never saw it happening before Kate came on the scene, and he has been so much more steady since she came along, until this episode, of course.'
'Which brings us to the question of Kate herself. She always seems very in control when I see her, but it can't be easy for her. I presume that her trip out this afternoon was your suggestion?'
'She was at breaking point. She needed some time out, but she's a good talker, Kate, and a few hours with a good friend seems to have set her straight.'
'What is she doing about work, do you know?'
'She's on carers leave, for two weeks initially, so she's meant to be going back in a weeks time, but I know that she has concerns about that.'
'I would suggest that her going back to work is precisely the correct thing to do - if you think that you could manage Sherlock on your own, that is.'
'Of course. It doesn't take two of us now that he's not being sedated, and I agree. Kate needs some distance from it all.'
'Can I leave it to you to discuss it with her or would you rather than I brought it up?'
'No, that's fine. Kate and I get on well. I'll talk to her about it later. Its been tough on her. She cares so much about Sherlock, I can only imagine how horrible this whole thing must have been for her.'
'All the more reason for her to try to regain some semblance of normality. I have left Sherlock today with something resembling an ultimatum, which isn't my normal style at all. I have told him that I will come to see him tomorrow as usual, but that I expect him in my office, up, dressed and functioning on Thursday morning.'
John pulled a face, 'I can't imagine that went down well.'
'No, but as I explained to him,allowing him to continue lying in bed, staring at the wall isn't doing him any favors either. Interesting enough, it was the threat of Mycroft's interference which has persuaded him of the logic of this course of action.'
'Ah, yes, Mycroft,' John said softly. 'Do you have any advice on that particular problem?'
'He won't get any information from my office, I can assure you. Sherlock's notes are all entirely anonymised, and only I know his true identity. My notes tend to be - crytic to say the least and I doubt that even Mycroft would recognise his brother from them. But seeing Sherlock leaving this flat and walking into a doctors office is undoubtably the best way to reassure him that all is well, and prevent him from turning up at your door.'
John nodded, thoughtfully. 'Do you think that Sherlock can do it?'
'Physically there is no reason why he can't, and if he isn't up and lying on the sofa upstairs by now, then I'd be extremely surprised. He's a stubborn man, John, and that may well prove to be his salvation.'
John smiled, and shortly after Ed Harris left a few minutes later, found himself bounding up the stairs in considerably better spirits than he had been for days.
Kate let him into 221B, motioning for him to stay quiet, and there was Sherlock, fast asleep, stretched out in his customary position on the sofa.
'He's up,' John said with a grin, as Kate slid the door to the kitchen shut between them.
'Well, technically he's still horizontal,' Kate said, trying not to smile, 'but yes, he's up.'
'And it only took ten days,' John said, still smiling.
'Mycroft would be horrified,' Kate agreed, then suddenly serious. 'Did we ever come to a conclusion about that one?'
'Ed Harris has suggested that letting Mycroft's spies, and let's face it there will be spies, see Sherlock up and functioning should be enough to reassure him, and I have to say I think that he's probably right. Plus let's face it, he's not going to get better by lying in bed any longer, so it kills two birds with one stone.'
'So now he's lying on the sofa instead. Being devil's advocate, I'm not sure that that's much better.'
'Looks like he's reclaimed the remote control though, that's always a good sign. Small steps, Kate, remember? And this is the way that he always goes, so maybe we just think of it as a deeper and more prolonged version of his normal lows.'
'Maybe,' Kate said, but she didn't sound convinced.
'What's up?' John asked, 'You look worried.'
'Something Ed Harris said today about Sherlock getting better quicker with an admission. I'm just not sure that we're doing him any favors keeping him here John. He's still so miserable. What if we're just reinforcing his behavior, letting him stay here when we should be telling him that going into the clinic is his only option.'
'You honestly think that he'd listen to us?'
'No, but - oh I don't know.' Kate sat down heavily on one of the chairs and buried her head in her hands for a moment. 'Ignore me, I'm just tired,' she said finally, looking up
John sat down next to her, taking one of her hands in his and squeezing it. 'Ed Harris is worried about you, about the pressure that you're putting yourself under. He thinks that you should go back to work, give yourself a bit of distance.'
'How can I? I can't leave you to look after Sherlock on your own.'
'Why not? Think that I can't handle him? Kate, don't take this the wrong way, but he's my responsibility too. I've known him for a lot longer than you have, remember, and I know that your claim to him trumps mine, but still - let me help, please, don't take it all on yourself.'
'You really think that I should go back to work?'
'I think that you need to Kate, for Sherlock's sake as well as your own. You were ready to crack earlier, a bit of time away would be good for you - trust me.'
Kate sighed, 'I think that work's struggling for staff anyway. I got a text from Jo this morning, asking if I knew when I'd be back. I told her that I'd let her know tomorrow.'
'Then tell her Monday - I can take Sherlock to see Ed Harris and stay with him while you're at work. If it becomes too much then you can always go back on leave, but I honestly think that going back to work will help.'
Kate nodded. 'Thank you John - again,' she said. 'How about you. You can't exactly go back to work I presume, but what are you going to do to get back to something resembling normality?'
'Ed Harris thinks that I should book some sessions with Ella, my old therapist,' John said with a rueful shrug, 'so I'll phone her tomorrow and see when she's free. Don't worry, I'm fine,' he said, at Kate's concerned expression, 'it's just that given what happened in the past, he's worried that I'll crash when this is all over - too many memories of what happened to me. Personally, I think that I'll be fine, but I can see the sense in what he's saying, so better to take some time out to deconstruct things now than to risk it.'
'I didn't think of that,' Kate said, 'You never talk about what happened to you when you came back from Afghanistan. Was it like this?'
'Similar, yes, but not as bad,' John said shortly, then 'Sorry, Kate, I don't think that I can talk about it, not really. I wasn't paranoid, but I did have the most awful flash-backs, intrusive memories, and the depression was just - well, depression is depression I suppose, but you never realise how bad you can feel until you're down there and can't get yourself back up.'
'But it was a long time ago,' he said, mentally shaking himself. 'Shall I make some tea?'
He busied himself with the kettle and cups. 'John-', Kate began, picking up on his discomfort.
'It's fine, really,' John said with his back to her. 'Just - memories, you know? Ed Harris is right. Talking to Ella would do me good, and then I thought I'd do some work on the website, maybe write up some old cases, tie up some loose ends. I need to get back to doing something useful too.'
'What you're doing here is useful,' Kate said softly. 'John, you are the best friend that Sherlock, or I, could ever wish for. I just hope that you realise how much we appreciate you.'
'I do,' John said, handing her a cup of tea. 'Now come on, let's put the telly on and see if his highness is ready to wake up and entertain us by shouting at CSI and telling us why its all so improbable. Once he starts doing that, then we'll know that he's really starting to get better.'
The mornings were the worst. There was a moment after waking, when everything felt - fine, when his mind was calm, then gradually the darkness would creep in, a dark fog that threatened to overwhelm him entirely, and left him wanting to curl into a ball and sleep until it all stopped, just as he always had before.
But this time, it wouldn't work, he knew. Ed Harris had told him time and again that this episode could not be terminated by drugs and sleep. That even the medication alone would not be enough, that he had to force himself to face what was happening to him in consciousness, not in oblivion. That he had to get up and out of bed each day. That he had to wash, dress, eat, communicate, and at least act like a functional member of the human race. Anything less, he had been told, would only destroy his already broken mind further. He had to ignore the voices, still whispering in the corner of his head, telling him that sleep was the only option. He had to listen to Kate, to John, to Ed Harris. He had, in short, to do what he was told to do, and that was never something that came easily to him.
The lurking threat of Mycroft's interference was always there in the background, the drive that had made him force himself out of bed on that first day, that had made him force down the panic and walk outside the door, a few days later, and into the taxi that would take him to Ed Harris' office on Harley Street, flanked by John and Kate, one on each side. Kate looking at him anxiously every few minutes as he remained silent throughout the journey, her hand firmly in his, anchoring him to reality. Without Kate he would have given up long ago, he knew. He wouldn't have cared what Mycroft would have done with him, would have just allowed himself to fall, and to keep on falling.
Ed Harris had been waiting for him in his consulting room, had come to greet him, walking out of his office as soon as they walked through the door into the reception area, and greeted him with a smile. 'You made it,' he said. 'I knew that you would.'
Sherlock had walked into his office in silence, leaving Kate and John outside to wait, and had selected the arm chair out of the wide array of seating options, resting his head against the back of it for a moment and closing his eyes.
'Tough?' Ed Harris had asked, as he came in and closed the door, before taking a seat opposite him.
'No worse than I expected,' Sherlock had replied tersely.
'You expected that you wouldn't be able to do it.'
'Now - I'm here, and that is enough to throw Mycroft off the trail for a while I would imagine.'
'And tomorrow will be a little easier.'
'I'll take your word for it.'
'So how are you?'
Sherlock shrugged. 'Still here. Still walking, talking, breathing.' There was an edge of bitterness to his voice, he was aware.
'And functioning, which is an achievement in itself. Rome wasn't built in a day, Sherlock.'
Sherlock looked down, frowned, contemplated his hands, twisting in his lap as if they had a life of his own, and then finally, dropping his guard, said heavily, 'I don't want to be like this.'
'Of course you don't. You want to get well and to get back to your normal life. Do you believe that is possible?'
He shook his head slowly, 'I can't see it, not today.'
'Can you accept that it is your depression making you believe that?'
'I think that it is logic making me believe that.'
'And yet your recovered before.'
Ed Harris allowed him a few minutes silence, before saying calmly. 'There is only one quick-fix solution to this, you know that.'
'I won't have ECT.'
'And I'm not advising it as such, especially given the extent of the memory problems that you experienced from it as a teenager. I am simply telling you that ECT is the only quick fix solution to your current mental state. Anything else will take a minimum of six weeks to reach its full effect.'
'You haven't mentioned an admission yet.'
'That is not a quick fix solution. It would get you well sooner, certainly, but the primary objective would be to keep you safe and to make it easier for you while you recover.'
Sherlock stayed silent.
'I take it that your opinion on that is unchanged.'
'Then we continue as we are. I take it that you are not ready to consider starting cognitive therapy either? It might well help.'
Sherlock shook his head, 'I can't talk to anyone else about this, not yet.
'Very well. But would you agree that your symptoms are improving, albeit slowly?'
'The voices are better certainly, but as for the rest, I'm not so sure.'
'Then you will have to believe me when I tell you that objectively your mood is improving. You are communicating better, you are functioning better.'
Sherlock nodded. 'Perhaps.'
'Are you eating?'
'Kate leaves me with little choice.'
'Sleep isn't a problem, staying awake is.'
'The only way to improve that would be to cut down on the lorazepam.'
He shook his head again. 'You misunderstand me. I don't want to be awake for any longer than I have to be.'
'Fine. So what would you like to talk about today?'
Sherlock shrugged. 'Whatever you think will help.'
Ed Harris paused for a moment, then said, 'You're very defensive today.'
Sherlock sighed and rubbed a hand through his already tousled hair. 'I know,' he said finally.
'You're uncomfortable in unfamilar environments.'
'Have you always been like that?'
'And how do you usually manage that discomfort.'
'I - try to take back control, often by behaving in a way that makes others uncomfortable.'
'And does that make you feel less uncomfortable?'
'It makes me feel more in control, certainly.'
Ed Harris nodded. 'Tell me, did you ever get formally tested for Aspergers or autism? James Harrison tells me that he suggested it but that you were reluctant.'
'Because I don't want to be labelled. I know what I am. No label will change that.'
'It might make it easier for others to understand you, for you to understand yourself.'
'I understand myself perfectly, and I don't feel the need to make things easier for others.'
'Not even Kate?'
Sherlock frowned slightly, 'Kate understands me without a label.'
'So, to return to the original question, being here makes you feel uncomfortable.'
'Being anywhere other than 221B or the lab makes me feel uncomfortable. New places are worse.'
Sherlock looked at him as if he was stupid. 'Its not that obvious a question, Sherlock,' Ed Harris said calmly. 'The majority of people don't mind unfamiliar places, unless they have anxiety disorder, which you obviously do not.'
'I don't know where the escape routes are,' Sherlock told him finally, 'Ways out, possible paths of attack. It takes a while to work that out. I find new places fascinating because there is so much data there, information to gather, but I can't stop my mind from working, so they're not relaxing. Take this office, for example. I find it hard to concentrate on what you're saying because I'm working out how old your children are now, based on the age of their school photos, how long you've been married for, why you have not one but two Bill Bryson books and a biography of a footballer on your bookshelf when you're obviously more of a tennis and a rugby fan.'
'So you find new places distracting.'
'Can you stop yourself analysing?'
'No. It drives Kate mad. She tells me that she doesn't want to know the life story of the waiting staff in every restaurant that we go to, she just wants my full attention.'
'And you can't do that?'
'Alcohol helps. Thats the only reason that I drink.'
'Do you drink to excess to switch it off?'
'No, you misunderstand me. Half a bottle of wine means that I can relax enough to stop analysing; diazepam does the same. But I don't enjoy being intoxicated.'
'Because you don't like being out of control?'
'How often do you use diazepam?'
'More often that Kate - or John, know.' Sherlock said tightly.
'No, maybe twice a week at good times, more often during a low.'
'So you're self-medicating.'
'How long have you been doing that for?'
'Since I was in Elmhurst. They were prescribed at first, after that I found - other sources.'
'And the other drugs?'
'Got me through the lows, yes.'
'Did it ever get out of control?'
'Once or twice, yes. The heroin was a mistake. It was more addictive than I would have credited it for. I thought that I could handle it, but in the end it was controlling me.'
'Did you inject?'
'No, I smoked it.'
'Every few weeks to start with, then once a week or so, then as often as I could without being detected.'
'Did you smoke it at college?'
'And what happened?'
'It got out of control. I scared myself in the end. Mycroft found out and got me into a rehab place.'
'And you agreed to this?'
'I was out of control. I didn't like it.'
'Does that make me autistic?'
'Possibly. It would fit.'
'Kate thinks that too - Aspergic to be precise. She said it once, early on, as if it was a foregone conclusion.'
'And did that bother you?'
'Surprisingly, no. She uses it to explain my behavior, to try to understand why I act the way that I do.'
There was a short silence, then Ed Harris said, 'We were talking about your drug use.'
'Did you use again after your time in rehab?'
'Mycroft kept a tight reign on me. Monthly urine samples were a condition of him continuing to support me financially through my PhD and beyond.'
'And you never found a way to cheat at them?'
'Occasionally, but Mycroft worked it out. After that he ensured that they were carried out in a way that made it impossible to cheat, even for me.'
'And since then?'
Sherlock sighed. 'I've dabbled, I've tried most things, never heroin, never opiates, I know where that path leads now. I tried cocaine for a while, that sharpens the mind and is less addictive. Amphetamines help me focus too, ritalin is easy enough to come across, but the crashes afterwards were getting worse, and I haven't used for the last two years or so.'
'Other than the benzodiazepines.'
'Could you stop those if you had to?'
Sherlock gave him a long, considering look, 'I'm not addicted to those, if that is what you are implying. I use them because they help. I could stop them, yes, but the alternatives would be worse.'
'What would the alternative be.'
'This.' Sherlock said simply, resting his head against the back of the armchair and closing his eyes again.
'Do you need a break?' Ed Harris asked after a short pause.
'No, I'm fine, just tired. It took a surprising amount of effort to get here.'
'You've been in bed or lying on the sofa for almost two weeks. It will take time to build up your physical reserve again.'
Sherlock frowned, then said reluctantly, 'Irrational as it may sound, I just want to fast-forward to being back to normal again.'
'And yet to get back to normality you have to go through the process of recovery.'
'There has to be another way. I keep on turning over the possibilities different drugs, different ways of doing things.'
'And I have told you that there is only one quick fix solution.'
Sherlock sighed and rubbed a hand across his head. 'I know.'
'But the fact that you are talking about fast-forwarding is interesting. It indicates that you believe that you can get well.'
'You believe that I will get well.'
'Yes, I do.'
'Then I accept that my judgement at the moment is flawed, and yours is likely to be intact.'
'And can I propose that accepting another person's judgement over and above your own is a large leap forward for you.'
Sherlock nodded slightly, but gave no other reply.
'Tell me, did you use drugs before you went into Elmhurst. before your initial illness?'
'Of course, but nothing else.'
'Why of course?'
'I was at public school, you know what those places are like. '
'From what I'm told drugs are often freely available also.'
'I liked smoking, it calmed me down. I tried whatever variety of plant life everybody else was smoking, but I didn't like the effect.'
'And yet you drank alcohol.'
'My mother was half French. I was given wine with meals from the age of ten. Of course I drank alcohol.'
'From what age?'
'Thirteen or fourteen.'
'Where did you get it from?'
'It was freely available at home. As long as my behavior didn't become too extreme then my parents turned a blind eye. In fact they encouraged me to drink when we had guests. I was less likely to say something awkward, more controllable I presume after alcohol, and any social gaffs that I made could be attributed to the alcohol.'
'And not to your autistic spectrum disorder.'
'If thats what it is then, yes. My father just called it being difficult. He wasn't a man who dealt in labels either.'
'What did he deal in - punishment?'
Sherlock twisted his head away eyes closed for a few moments, assaulted by unwanted memories, struggling to regain control.
'I don't want to talk about that,' he said tightly.
'Painful memories?' Ed Harris asked after a pause.
'Then now is not the time to explore that avenue, but you know that eventually..'
'That I will have to talk about my father, yes.'
'Have you ever talked about it?'
'No. James Harrison tried. He knew what had happened, but I never felt able to discuss it.'
'And during your time in rehab - at University?'
'Did you try?'
Sherlock gave him a look of derision. 'During rehab? No, I hated that place. I told them that I wasn't an addict, I was simply biologically addicted to heroin due to a miscalculation. They spent four weeks trying to brainwash me into thinking that I was wrong and they were right.'
Ed Harris' lips twitched slightly at the thought of a student Sherlock Holmes coldly and calmly refusing to accept the mantra that using drugs to excess must make him an addict.
'Did you crave the drugs?' he asked.
'My body craved the drugs, but I told you, it was biological. My opiate receptors were down-regulated, there was a tipping point at which my own endogenous endorphins were no longer enough and I needed more and more of the extrinsic drug.'
'Does that not make you an addict?'
'No, because I didn't enjoy being high. I used to escape from how I was feeling.'
'And to escape from intrusive thoughts?'
'And at no point did you consider that medication was a safer way to do exactly that?'
'Medication required regular psychiatric review, which I didn't want; and numbed my mind to a state in which I could hardly feel anything. More to the point, I could barely think straight. It slowed me down too much.'
'Whereas the drugs you could take as and when you need them. I see.'
'So do you think that I was an addict?'
'No, I would say that you were probably correct. You were addicted, but you don't have the personality type to be a true addict. Your control issues almost certainly over-rode the addiction. Did you crave heroin after you stopped using?'
'Not after I got out of the clinic, no. They offered me methadone, in fact, and I declined. I preferred to just get detoxed and be done with it.'
'And how was it. The detox?'
Sherlock shrugged, but his eyes narrowed. 'As you would expect,' he said. 'Painful, unpleasant, but the diazepam helped, and it only lasted a week or so. The three weeks of obligatory therapy afterwards were more painful.'
'Did you engage with the therapy.'
'I didn't like them, and I didn't trust them to go delving around inside my head.'
Ed Harris stared of the window for a few minutes, trying to work this through and then looking at Sherlock again said, 'Did they try to make you do group therapy.'
'And I would imagine that you found that difficult.'
'Why on earth would you want to sit around discussing your life story with a group of strangers? Or listening to the life stories of a group of strangers for that matter.'
'So how did you cope with it?'
'I remained silent as much as was possible, and tried to limit my sarcasm when it wasn't possible. Sometimes I allowed myself to be provoked into making comments that were - unappreciated.'
'I can't imagine that that went down very well.'
'I had 'all privileges revoked'', Sherlock made exclamation marks with his fingers to show his derision for the term, 'for the majority of the time that I was there, yes.'
'And given that the majority of privileges involved visits, phone calls and social interaction, I can't imagine that bothered you that much.'
'Not at all, in fact. Being sent to my room, alone, to contemplate my behavior was even better.'
'So what happened?'
'I left,' Sherlock said, as if it was obvious.
'Without your brother's knowledge I take it.'
'Did you climb over the wall?'
'Close. I pickpocketed one of the staff members, let myself out in the middle of the night and stole their car.'
'Where did you go?'
'Home, of course. By the time that Mycroft got up in the morning I'd drunk half a bottle of my fathers forty year old Cognac. I told him that he'd driven me to it, and that if he ever tried to put me in anywhere resembling that hell-hole again then he was likely to have a murder to try to explain, and not simple car theft.'
'And what did Mycroft do?'
'What he always did. Confiscated the cognac, had me put to bed by the staff, and had the car returned with a combination of threats and bribes to ensure everyone's silence. Then he had my records from the clinic effectively erased and locked in the same filing cabinet as my Elmhurst records, I would imagine.
'And you still believe that your brother only wishes to interfere and not to help? What he did for you, what he continues to do, would be construed by most as care.'
Sherlock frowned, considering. 'Or as interfering.'
'Sherlock you have to accept that time and time again, as a teenager and as a student and even, from what you have told me, in recent years, you have relied on your brother to ensure your removal from a number of extremely difficult situations, and he has never once failed to give you that help.'
He paused for a moment to allow this to sink in. 'May I propose that had you not relied on your brother so heavily and for so long, then he would not feel the need to keep a constant check on your welfare.'
'There is a difference between ensuring my welfare and interfering in my life,' Sherlock said.
'But is there a difference between taking pre-emptive aversive action to prevent you from ending up in danger and interfering? I would that it is a thin line. Have you ever stopped to consider things from Mycroft's perspective, to imagine how difficult it must be for him?'
'You're saying that I am responsible for Mycroft's behavior?'
'I am saying that your brother obviously cares deeply about you, and feels an extreme sense of responsibility towards you. Created, I am sure, by a combination of your parents premature deaths resulting in his guardianship of you, and his belief that your psychiatric state is at best fragile.'
'A belief that this episode will only prove to consolidate.'
'Possibly. But you have Kate now, and she has proved herself more capable of ensuring your welfare when that is required. Mycroft may find it hard to relinquish his guardianship of you after nearly two decades, but I suspect that in some ways he would find it a relief.'
Sherlock was silent, contemplating.
'You're not arguing, Sherlock.' Ed Harris said quietly.
'Because I believe that you may be correct,' he said, sounding slightly surprised.
'Good. Then I suggest that before our next session you come up with a list of all of all the times that you have gone to Mycroft for help and received it, and we can discuss this further. Now is there anything else that you wish to bring up before I get Kate and John in?'
Sherlock shook his head, still reeling from the shift in reality which this explanation of Mycroft's role in his life had resulted in.
'Thats what therapy is all about, Sherlock,' Ed Harris said gently. 'Learning to look at things from another angle, realising that what you though was fact may just be interpretation after all.'
'But I'm always right,' Sherlock said, sounding slightly confused. 'Always.'
'No, as you told me yourself, you like to think that you're always right. There's a difference.'
Sherlock was still looking dazed as Ed Harris ushered Kate and John into the room. 'You okay?' Kate asked, picking up on his confusion.
'Yes, fine,' Sherlock said looking up at her. 'Much better than earlier, in fact. Its just we've been talking about Mycroft.'
'And you've realised that he's not a pantomime villain after all?'
'Something like that.'
'So,' Ed Harris was saying. 'I wanted Kate and John to come in and discuss the plan for the next few days. You've made good progress getting here this morning. I would suggest that we continue with daily appointments for the next few weeks at least.'
'Weekend too?' John asked looking doubtful.
'Saturday, certainly. If things go well then I was going to suggest a brief telephone consultation on Sunday, then appointments again from Monday.'
'Fine,' Sherlock said, sounding distracted.
'I would suggest that you go back to the flat now and sleep for a few hours, with the help of lorazepam if necessary, then spend the rest of the day trying to keep yourself distracted in whatever way you can. No telephone though, and no internet.' Sherlock opened his mouth to protest, but Ed Harris held up a hand to silence him, 'No, Sherlock, external events are too uncontrolled. The smallest thing could trigger thoughts and memories that you are not in a state to be able to process. Similarly I would suggest that you are careful of what you watch on television. No news, no current affairs, no documentaries. In fact, drama as far removed from normal life as possible would seem like the best option.'
'CSI and NCIS it is then,' John muttered.
'Whatever you wish. Its about distraction, and not allowing Sherlock to dwell on his thoughts too much. Your thoughts will naturally lead to the negative at the moment, Sherlock, that is to say you will see the negative in any situation. If distraction does not work, then you need to either talk about what is going through your mind, or if you feel unable to do that, take medication and sleep. The important thing is not to allow your mind to get stuck in a negative spiral that you cannot get out of.'
Sherlock nodded. He looked exhausted, Kate thought. 'Time to go home?' she asked him softly, and he looked up and smiled at her gratefully. 'Yes - please,' he said, getting to his feet.
'You have done well today, Sherlock,' Ed Harris said, shaking his hand. 'I'll see you tomorrow.'
He had remained silent in the cab on the way home, caught up in his own thoughts, but grateful for the warmth of Kate's hand in his. Walking into 221B, Sherlock hung up his coat in silence, before standing, with uncharacteristic uncertainty, in the middle of the living room.
'You okay?' Kate asked gently.
He started, and stared at her for several seconds, as if only just working out where he was. 'I'm fine, just - thinking too much,' he said.
'Are you going to try and sleep?'
'I think so,' he said distantly, sounding dazed and preoccupied.
'Are you thinking about Mycroft?'
'Among other things, yes. It's so strange, Kate, I've spent most of my life resenting Mycroft's interference, but Ed Harris is right, I do rely on him; I've always relied on him.'
'Maybe you should try telling Mycroft that one day.'
'Tell him what?'
'Thank you, maybe?'
Sherlock looked confused, as if unsure how to respond to this.
'Sherlock,' Kate said, walking across to him and taking both of his hands in hers, 'Don't lose yourself in this entirely. I'm glad that you're sorting your head out a little, I really am, but don't change too much.'
He smiled at her sadly. 'I'm broken, Kate,' he said softly, 'And I don't know if even Ed Harris can put me back together again.'
'I can't think of a better man for the job,' Kate said, then rubbing a thumb across the dark shadows under his eyes, 'You look exhausted. Do you think that you could sleep, or do you want some lorazepam?'
'I think that I'll sleep without it,' he said. 'Will you come and lie down with me, just until I'm asleep? I - would prefer not to be alone at the moment.'
Kate nodded, and kissed him gently. When she woke, several hours later it was already starting to get dark outside. She hadn't meant to fall asleep. She looked at her watch, five o'clock. She had slept for the best part of four hours, and Sherlock was showing no signs of stirring. She slid out of the bed, careful not to wake him, and went to phone John.
'Everything okay?' he asked, answering it on the first ring. 'I was about to come up and check on you.'
'Fine, thanks,' Kate said, 'We fell asleep, sorry. Sherlock's still sleeping. Do you want to come up?'
'Only if you want company,' John said. 'It sounds as if you could both do with some quiet time. How about you phone me if you need me, otherwise I'll come up first thing in the morning.'
Half an hour later, Sherlock came yawning out of the bedroom, tying his dressing gown round him as he went and threw himself onto the sofa.
'Better?' Kate asked.
'Tea?' he asked.
'You didn't answer the question.'
'The evenings are always better than the mornings,' he told her, finally looking up from the television. 'Kate there's something that I was talking about with Ed Harris this mornin;, something I realised that I'd never told you.' He looked uncomfortable for a moment.
'You don't have to tell me anything that you don't want to,' she started to say, but Sherlock cut in.
'No, I want you. I don't want to have anything hidden between us, but I just never thought that it was important. The heroin, Kate.'
Kate was suddenly worried, not sure how she would react if he told her that he had injected after all. Why smoking seemed so much more acceptable to her than injecting she had no idea, but somehow a history of intravenous drug abuse would put him into the league of hard core drug users, and she didn't know if she could cope with that.'
'What about it.'
'It was - worse than I led you to believe,' he said slowly, watching her face to gauge her reaction. Kate had always been dreadful at poker, her face was too expressive, one of the many things that Sherlock was grateful for. It made it easier to read her emotions. 'It got out of hand,' he continued, then, 'no, not like that, I didn't inject, its just - I got to a point where I couldn't stop, where I was - addicted I suppose. I wasn't controlling it, it was controlling me, and it was controlling my life.'
'Its a very addictive drug,' Kate said with a small shake of her head, as if he wasn't telling her anything that she didn't know. 'So what happened?'
'Mycroft found out. He sent me to a rehab place to get detoxed.'
'Oh,' she frowned, unsure how to process that information. 'When was this?'
'Summer of my second year of collegE. I was there for a month, I hated it. I never touched heroin again.'
'And somehow you think that was a weakness? Needing other people's help to get off it, I mean.'
'Its not something that I'm proud of,' Sherlock admitted quietly.
'Is that why you never told me?'
'I thought that you would think less of me if you knew.'
'Does John know?'
'Did you tell him?'
'Yes - there was a time, early in our friendship, when using drugs was - more tempting, when I was using more than the benzos. I told him because I wanted him to watch me, to make sure that I didn't go back there.'
'Safety-netting,' Kate said, not attempting to hide her surprise.
Sherlock shrugged. 'I suppose.'
'And yet you didn't feel the need to do the same with me,' she sounded interested rather than upset by this fact.
'I wasn't tempted to use when I was with you. You're enough to keep me interested, Kate, I don't need anything else.'
'You trust John, don't you.'
'With my life. Where is he by the way?'
'Downstairs. He said that he thought we needed some quiet time. I wondered if it was him who needed some time out.'
'Rubbish. He's just trying to be gallant, yet again. Phone him and tell him to stop being such an idiot and to get up here will you?'
'Phone him yourself,' Kate said with a smile, throwing him her phone. 'I'm going to go and cook dinner - tell him that I'm doing Thai curry and that there'll be enough for him.'
She stopped in the middle of cooking some fifteen minutes later to listen to the soft murmur of voices coming from the living room - John's tenor. and Sherlock's deeper baritone. It sounded as if they were talking about Sherlock's session with Ed Harris, and she marveled again at the depth of their friendship. There were things that Sherlock would talk to John about that he wouldn't broach with her. She had got little out of him about his sessions with Ed Harris, and yet here he was discussing them freely with John. It sounded as if they were talking about Mycroft. Whether because Sherlock, with his newly learnt sensitivity didn't want to burden her with details that she might find upsetting, or whether because John's past experience with depression had been more similar to his, she couldn't say; but either way she was glad that he could connect with John on that level. It was also, she realised, the first time that she had heard him talk this freely since he had become ill. Conversation with him recently had been mainly limited to short answers to her questions and little spontaneous information, another symptom of his depression she was aware, but hearing him having such a prolonged conversation was - reassuring, normal, a memory of how things used to be. She rested her head for a moment against the smooth wood of the door, and allowed herself for just a moment to believe that life might one day get back to the way they had been before.
'Do you want to eat at the table or in here?' she asked twenty minutes later when the food was nearly done.'
'Table,' said Sherlock to her surprise. 'If I'm going to re-enter the land of the living then I might as well do it properly.'
In the midst of the conversation he was eating absent-mindedly, as if unaware of the fork lifting the food to his mouth, in the same way that she had discovered that he would eat while working on a case if she left a plate of food by his right elbow without comment.
It was a little before ten when Sherlock yawned and announced that he was going to bed. Kate waited until she heard the bedroom door shut behind him before offering John a glass of wine. 'He wouldn't mind you know,' John said.
'I know, but it just seems mean to drink in front of him when he can't at the moment.'
'He's never been a great drinker at the best of times, Kate, you know that. He only really drinks to be sociable.'
'Which given his previous issues with addiction, and the way he's used other drugs in the past seems odd, doesn't it?'
'Did he talk to you about that too?'
'Yes - I didn't know, I don't know how I could not have known. I knew that he'd dabbled, but not how far it had gone.'
'Does it bother you?'
'Yes, and no. If he'd told me that he'd injected-'
'He didn't,' John cut in.
'I know, but still, if he had, I don't know how I would have reacted to that.'
'Does the fact that he's been through rehab bother you? It happens to the most surprising people, Kate - we saw it all the time in the army. It's the way that some people deal with their stress, especially combat stress in that environment. A couple of drinks in the evening to unwind after the day becomes a couple of bottles, and so it begins. I've seen good men, good soldiers, invalided out because of problems with alcohol abuse, or drug use, and it was worse in those who had been invalided out for medical reasons. When you've been used to the structure of the army it's difficult to fill your days and to find your place back in the civilian world when that structure has gone for the first time in fifteen or twenty years.'
'Did it happen to you?' Kate asked, suddenly curious.
'No,' John shook his head. 'I had a couple of weeks, when I first came home, when I was probably drinking more than was good for me; when it was tempting to crack open a bottle at eleven in the morning because you were stuck in your room, and even walking outside would result in pain. But I had Harry as a lesson to me, remember? I knew where that path led, and I knew it was in my genes, so I put a stop with it. Besides, the alcohol just made the depression worse.'
'He told me that he talked to you about it, years ago, when he was worried that he might be tempted again.'
'You never lose it, Kate; once its there, the temptation never goes away. But Sherlock is too self-aware to let it control him again. He's the most controlled man that I've ever met.'
'Has he talked to you about it to you before in those terms?'
'From time to time, yes.'
'And yet he hardly mentioned it to me before today.'
'Of course not,' John said, refilling both of their glasses, then smiling at Kate's expression. 'He doesn't want you to see him as flawed. He loves you too much for that.'
'But if that means that he can't talk to me about things that have happened to him in his past, then where does that leave us?'
'With him talking to me, and maintaining the illusion that you still think that he's perfect?' John said as if it was obvious.
'He does talk to you, doesn't he, I mean really talks to you, I've never really noticed that before today.'
'He talks to you too.'
'Yes, but about different things. Rarely about the past. Not since that first weekend. Why is that, do you think?'
'I would imagine because he finds it too painful,' John said, then in response to Kate's confusion. 'Look at it from Sherlock's perspective. I'm a bloke, and therefore when he has a conversation with me, he gets an objective response, not an emotional one. He can't cope with emotion at the best of times, you know that, and you wouldn't let things go. You'd keep on asking questions, good questions, but maybe questions that he doesn't want to answer. Then those questions go round and round in his head, and eat holes in him.'
'Until he talks to you,' Kate said with a sigh.
'Maybe, or maybe its better not to allow those questions to be asked in the first place. It's not in my nature to push things. I'm more of a listener, I'll always let him lead the conversation, act as a sounding board, both for cases and for other stuff, thats just the way I am.' He gave a shrug. 'If it makes you feel better, before I came along he used to talk to his skulll.'
'Its just strange that I've never noticed it before,' Kate said, 'I just assumed that he didn't talk about it to anybody, but listening to you two earlier this evening, I realised that he really does need both of us. Not that I didn't realise that before,' she said hastily, 'it's just - oh I don't know.'
'You thought that you should be enough?' John said softly. 'You are, Kate, but he doesn't have to make that choice, does he? We both care about him in different ways, and the past few weeks have shown that he needs both of us in different ways.'
'I know that,' Kate said, 'I've always known it - its just, the addiction stuff that came out today, it just sort of shook things up a bit, changed the way that I see him a little maybe, not in a bad way, but still..'
'It's natural to have doubts,' John said, reaching for her hand across the table and squeezing it. 'You've had a hell of a time over the last couple of weeks, we all have, but he's still Sherlock. What you've found out today doesn't change that.'
'It doesn't change anything, I know that. It's just - strange, thats all.'
'I think thats pretty much how Sherlock feels about all the stuff thats come out about Mycroft too.'
'That worries me too. I know what Ed Harris is trying to do, but he's shaking his world view, John, and I'm not sure that Sherlock is ready for that.'
'Maybe it needed to be shaken, and he did seem better this evening, didn't he? Better than I've seen him for a while.'
'He does seem better, almost too much better. I can't work out if its real, if his mood is still cycling, or if he's just putting on an act, that's what worries me most. That he's just pretending to be getting better.'
John shook his head, 'No, Kate, we both know him too well for that; we'd pick up on it, and you of all people know when he's down. It's been nearly two weeks, the medication is finally kicking in, why not let yourself believe it?.'
Because it seems too easy, Kate wanted to say, and because some sixth sense told her that the storm wasn't over yet.
Sherlock woke the next morning, opened his eyes and then closed them again quickly as memories flooded in. He had woken in the early hours, and not wanting to disturb Kate, had lain there for what seemed like hours, going over and over what Ed Harris had said to him about Mycroft. Theories had gone round repeatedly in his head, and yet he was unable to dissect out the truth, and that had brought more guilt, and more pain.
'Try these,' came a quiet voice, and Kate was there, glass of water in one hand, pot of tablets in the other. He sat up, took them and then lent forwards slowly, until his head was resting against her shoulder and her arms came round him.
'How did you know?' he asked.
'I always know,' she said. 'But this time you've been shouting out in your sleep for the last hour or so, so I knew that the dreams weren't good.'
'I don't remember the dreams,' he said, 'but I've been thinking about Mycroft, I can't stop thinking about it.'
'Would talking about it help?'
He shook his head where it rested on her shoulder. 'I don't think that I can,' he said. 'Perhaps with Ed Harris later.'
'Could you talk to John about it, if you can't talk to me?'
'I did, last night. Nothing's changed, I just can't untangle it.'
'I want to help,' Kate told him.
'I know, and you do. Just by being here, you do. I just -' he paused and rubbed his face, 'I can't bear feeling so drugged out all the time. I can't think straight - about anything. My brain isn't working at all.'
'You need the drugs, Sherlock.'
'I know, I know. I don't want to go back to where I was before - it's just frustrating, that's all.'
'I need to talk to you - about going back to work. I'm meant to be going back on Monday, but now...'
'Go, Kate,' he said with a sigh. 'John will be here, and in some ways it will be easier.'
Kate tried not to look hurt by this. 'You can't stay here with me forever,' he said, with uncharacterstic insight. 'Perhaps you going back to work is the kick that I need to get back to normality.'
'Do you think that you can?' she asked quietly.
'No,' came his reply. 'Of course not, but that's all part of it, isn't it?'
He got up and walked heavily towards the bathroom. 'I'm going to have a bath,' he said. 'Don't worry about me, Kate, I'm not worth it.'
It was easier that day. Getting dressed was still an effort; trying to eat enough breakfast to keep Kate happy, when everything tasted like cardboard; getting into the cab between John and Kate, despite his grumbling protests that he didn't need both of them.
'Shut up and stop being an idiot,' had been John's considered reply.
'You're feeling sorry for yourself.' John had said quietly to him as the cab had pulled away from Baker Street.
'No, I'm not,' Sherlock had replied, feigning indignation.
'Yeah you are,' John chuckled, 'but at least you're feeling something, that's an improvement I suppose.'
Sherlock turned to look out of the window past Kate. There was a whole world out there. He felt strangely disconnected from it, as if he was watching everything on a television screen; but it was still there. He'd almost forgotten about the world in the last two weeks. His world had narrowed to the four walls of 221B. To Kate, and John, and Ed Harris. He felt bruised and battered, and ridiculously vulnerable, but still here he was, at least starting to reconnect. And it felt - not exactly good, but better at least. Better than lying in the flat, trying hard not to think.
'The sedation is wearing off and the medication is starting to work,' Ed Harris said when Sherlock finally arrived at Harley Street, and told him about his experience in the cab. 'How was the rest of yesterday?'
'Better,' Sherlock said. 'I slept for most of the afternoon, and then the evening was - better. I talked to John about Mycroft, had dinner with John and Kate and it felt - almost normal.'
'Good. Did you come to any conclusions about Mycroft?'
He shook his head, 'I can't think about it anymore. It's all just been going round and round. I accept that it's something that I need to process at some point, but I can't process thoughts well enough at the moment to come to a logical conclusion.'
'Are you still paranoid about him trying to find out about your illness?'
'No,' Sherlock said, sounding surprised, 'In fact I've hardly thought about it. How strange.'
'Because we have exchanged one intrusive thought for another ,' Ed Harris explained to him. 'A useful technique. Not that the way that you saw your brother didn't need to be challenged, but a useful side-effect of it if you like, is that it has reduced the paranoia. And that is exactly what CBT could do with your other thoughts, if you gave it a chance.'
But Sherlock shook his head. 'Not yet,' he said quietly. 'I can't face it yet.'
'In a couple of weeks; will you face it then?'
'I'll think about it.'
'So tell me the two sides of the argument inside your head about Mycroft.'
'There are approximately thirty different arguments at the moment.'
'Can you give me a summary?'
'I accept that Mycroft is unlikely to be entirely bad. As you say, he's not a psychopath, or a sociopath, or any of the many things that I have been labelled as over the years. I accept that he shares certain personality traits with me, formed no doubt from a combination of genetic and the nature of our up-bringing. I accept that his motives in interfering in my life have at times come from concern for my welfare, but I still believe that preventing me from bringing shame and disrepute to the family name has often been a more powerful motivator.'
You belive that he is ashamed of you.'
'I'm not sure that ashamed is the correct term. It implies a concern about the opinion of others that I am not convinced that Mycroft has. His concern is that I might somehow make him appear less in control, less - impenetrable.'
'And yet your brother has gone to great lengths to protect you on occasion.'
'Why uncharacteristically? Relationships within families are complex, Sherlock. Why is it not possible that Mycroft can both be concerned for your welfare, and at the same time find you frustrating, and even embarrassing?'
'Because its not logical.'
'Why does it have to be?'
'Because Mycroft is always logical.'
'Was his behavior in taking your side over your father while you were in Elmhurst logical?'
'No, it was guilt.'
'What do you think that he felt guilty about?'
'Not preventing my father from beating me half to death.'
'Is guilt logical?'
There was a long silence.
'Tell me about Elmhurst,' Ed Harris asked.
'Why?' Sherlock was suddenly defensive.
'I would like to understand why you have been so determinedly against an admission.'
'You know its reputation.'
'All too well, but other than my conversation with James Harrison, I know little about your experience there.'
Then when Sherlock remained silent, 'They gave you ECT.'
'Did you understand why?'
'No. The first few sessions, I was too out of it to know what was going on. I just knew that I would wake up unable to remember, and feeling awful, and then the next day they would take me back to that room and the same thing would happen all over again.'
'James Harrison tells me that you argued very convincingly against it.'
'He didn't listen. In retrospect, I don't think that Neil Simmonds gave him a choice.'
'I don't think that you gave him a choice, Sherlock, if I'm going to be brutally honest.'
'I didn't want ECT. That should have been my choice.'
'When you were first admitted you were virtually catatonic by all accounts. You wouldn't talk, you wouldn't eat or drink, you wouldn't take medication, that went on for several weeks. ECT was the only option.'
'It was barbaric.'
'The way that they did it at Elmhurst, I have to agree.'
'Are you going to tell me that it is all so much better now?'
'It is rarely used these days; but for selected patients it is very effective. The voltages used are lower, we use muscle relaxants, which they didn't at Elmhurst, so you are less at risk of injury and the muscle pains afterwards are less severe. I have patients who will come to me telling me that their depression is getting worst and requesting ECT.'
Sherlock looked sceptical. 'It's a quick fix, Sherlock, something that can get you back to a normal level of function within a few weeks, a fast track if you like, for selected patients.'
'I will never agree to have ECT,' Sherlock said coldly, almost angrily.
'And I wouldn't suggest it, given your previous memory problems from it, unless it became the only option.'
'I thought that I was getting better.'
'You are, but your mood is still cycling, which means that further lows, worse lows remain a distinct possibility.'
'I'm not 'cycling', whatever that means,' Sherlock retorted, stubbornly.
Ed Harris sighed. 'Tell me about Monday, after your contact with Mycroft.'
'I was paranoid,'
'Which continued until yesterday morning.'
'But in the evening?'
'It was much better. It was almost - normal, no not normal, but I could function, at least to some extent.'
'And this morning?'
'Awful first thing, but now getting better.'
'Draw it,' Ed Harris said, handing him a piece of paper and a pencil. 'Draw me a graph, days of the week along the bottom, mood score from zero to ten up the side. Ten being contentment, not happiness, and zero being complete despair. Start with last Sunday, and plot me a score for each morning, afternoon and evening, then join them up and see what you have.'
Sherlock did so, frowning in concentration as he accurately plotted each point, then stared in disbelief at the graph that emerged.
'Now do you believe me?' Ed Harris asked.
'That's natural isn't it? Some days are worse than others, some parts of the day are better than others.'
'It depends what you mean by natural,' Ed replied, taking the paper and pencil back from him. 'Your mood shifts over the course of the day, from black despair to something approximating a normal low mood. What we need to do is to try to level that out to somewhere in the middle. If we can reduce the shifts, then the blackness will be less.' He drew a gently undulating line in the middle of Sherlock's peaks and troughs to illustrate his point.
'I don't want any more medication,' Sherlock replied automatically.
Ed Harris stared at him and then his lips curled into a smile despite his best effort. 'Forgive me, Sherlock, but there seem to be many things that you do not want. You don't want to be ill, you don't want CBT, you don't want your brother to find out about your illness, you don't want an admission, you don't want medication. Unfortunately I am all out of magic wands, so what do you suggest?'
'The medication is starting to work. This -' he waved his hand around the calm office, 'is starting to work.'
'Yes it is, but without additional medication you will continue to experience mood swings, and I cannot predict what the effect of those will be.'
'You're talking about lithium.'
'Possibly, or carbemazepine, or valproate. Lithium is an old-fashioned drug, but one that I think would work well for you. It is also good for refractory depression. I was going to suggest that we start on that, and then switch to a more modern drug in a few months.'
'I hate lithium.'
'You took it before?'
'Yes, for a little over a year. It blunted everything, I hated it.'
'That could partly have been an effect of your depression.'
'No,' Sherlock shook his head, fighting to stay rational, 'I don't want it.'
'How about carbemazepine.'
'Does it make you lose your balance?'
'In some patients, yes. Why, did you try that before?'
'They gave me something, in Elmhurst. It made me so unsteady that I couldn't walk across the room without falling over. I took myself off it.'
'Valproate then, it's a milder drug.'
'I don't think so.'
'Can you tell me why?'
'I already did. I'm numb enough already. My mind is barely functioning. I won't take anything that will make that worse.'
'Then how about we come to an agreement? We continue as we are for another two weeks, and then discuss it again then.'
There was a pause. 'Has Kate discussed going back to work with you?' Ed Harris asked.
'And that's fine too. She can't stay with me forever; she has her own life to lead. Better for her to get back to normality.'
'Do you believe that you can get back to normality eventually? Back to work, back to your old life.?
'No,' Sherlock sighed, 'but then a week ago I didn't think that I could get out of bed or leave the flat either, and yet here I am.'
A soft buzzer sounded from across the room. 'Time's up, ' Ed Harris said. 'What will you do for the rest of the day?'
'Sleep, watch television, try not to think.'
'You could try writing things down. Theories about Mycroft, what you remember about yur childhood, anything that comes into your mind.'
Sherlock shook his head, 'I don't think so,' he said.
'You look uncomfortable with the idea, did you try that before?'
'And your trust was broken, somebody read what you had written without your permission.'
'Then its all about trust again, isn't it. The only people who would have access to what you write would be Kate and John. You need to decide if you trust them enough to put it all down on paper.'
'I trust them with my life,' Sherlock said automatically.
'But do you trust them with your memories? That is the question.'
Sherlock was quiet on the taxi ride home; sitting eyes closed, head resting against the cool glass of the window, considering what Ed Harris had said. When they reached 221B he silently held his hand out for tablets, in response to Kate's calm suggestion that he should sleep, and then retreated to the bedroom, accepting sleep as the only logical way of switching off his brain.
When he woke several hours later, Kate was alone sitting at her computer at the desk in the living room, as he staggered in yawning and threw himself down on the sofa, automatically seizing the remote control and flicking through the television channels rapidly.
'Better?' she asked.
'A little,' he said, not taking his eyes off the television. 'Ed Harris wants me to talk to you and John about what I can remember about what happened when I was a child and in Elmhurst.'
'About your father?'
'That is part of it, yes.'
'And you don't think that you can?'
'No.' He was silent for a while, frowning for a few seconds at a bad reconstruction of a crime scene, before switching the television off in frustration.
'Can you write it down?'
'That's what he suggested, but I don't think that I can do that either.' He stood up and started to pace around the room, picking up pieces of paper from the desk and putting them down again, tossing a glass paperweight from hand to hand. The frustration was building. He wanted to sweep the whole lot, computer and all onto the floor. He wanted to break something, probably several things, to make his anger physical, to transfer it out of his head and into the real world, yet the overriding logic that he could not escape, told him that he had to contain it.
Instead, he paced to the window and looked down at the people walking up and down Baker Street. Little people leading their little lives, all so naively content in the smallness of their existence. For perhaps the first time in his life, he envied them the simplicity of their thoughts.
'I need to get out of here,' he said finally. 'Let's go to the Heath.'
Kate looked up at him in surprise, and concern, and then after a moments consideration slowly shook her head. 'It's a long way, Sherlock. I'm not sure that you're up to it.'
'You don't trust me?' he asked trying to keep the anger out of his voice.
'You're not angry with me,' she said softly, walking over to him and taking both of his hands in hers.
He glared at her, jaw clenched, and then realising that she was right, slumped slightly to rest his head on her shoulder. 'How about some pericyazine to take the edge off things,' she asked softly, as her hand came up to rest on his head.
'I don't want any more drugs, Kate,' he said sadly. 'I just need to get out of here.'
'Park then?' she suggested. 'It's closer, and we hardly ever go. You can pace there to your hearts content, and it's not too far to get home if-'
'If I flip out and you need reinforcements?' he asked bitterly, but his head stayed where it was, and there was sadness in his tone now too.
'If you decide that it's all too much and you need to come back here and sleep.' Kate said.
Ten minutes later they were walking down Baker Street, towards Regents Park, where the water was sparkling in the autumn sunshine. If John had been surprised at their decision to go out then he had hidden it well, although he had looked concerned when Kate declined his offer to escort them. She had felt Sherlock's hand tighten in hers at John's expression, trying to control his anger again. This was new, and she wondered what this new twist would mean. Another stage in the acceptance of his illness, or something more sinister?
'We'll be fine, John,' she told him quietly. 'I'll call you if there's a problem. We just need to get out for a while.'
And John to his credit had kept his concerns to himself and let them go.
'Which way?' she asked Sherlock, when they reached the fork in the path which lead them either over the bridge and towards the open air amphitheatre and the cafe, or right, beside the canal and later towards the quieter area across the road which bisected the park.
'This way,' he said, indicating the canal path with his head.
His hand was more relaxed in hers now and his face had lost its tension. 'You look better,' she observed.
'I just couldn't stay cooped up in there any longer. This anger, Kate, I remember it from before. It comes so quickly and it's so difficult to control.'
'Have you talked to Ed Harris about it?'
He shook his head, 'It's new,' he said. 'It comes from frustration, I think. I want to think myself out of this, to dissect it all out and throw out the blackness. I want to get back to normal and I can't.'
'That's what your sessions with him are for, surely.'
'I don't like relying on other people, you know that,' he said quietly, eyes focused on the path ahead.
'You can't fix this yourself,' she said, trying to work out where this was going.
'So it would appear, but it doesn't stop me needing to try.'
They crossed the road and continued along the path beyond. There was a wooden hut selling drinks and snacks, and Kate stopped to buy them both coffee, while Sherlock found a sheltered bench almost hidden under the trees, and sat down.
'I want to help,' she told him as she handed him his coffee and sat down next to him.
'You do,' he said shortly, then when she failed to react, 'I mean it Kate, without you I think that I would have given up long ago.' He was looking out over the park, not trusting himself to make eye contact with her.
'If by giving up you mean agreeing to be admitted then maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing,' she said lightly.
'That's not what I mean,' he said calmly, taking a sip of his coffee.
She looked away, unable to control her expression for a moment, hoping that he wouldn't notice, but of course this was Sherlock Holmes, and even like this, he missed nothing. 'It's a logical decision, Kate,' he told her calmly, squeezing her hand, nonetheless, to let her know that he was aware of the impact that what he was saying was having on her.
'It's the cowards way out,' she told him, 'and you're not a coward.'
'Hence I am still here,' he said, heavily.
'It's not logical, either,' she told him, trying not to think about the surreal nature of discussing the pros and cons of suicide with your partner while sitting drinking coffee in Regents Park on an autumn afternoon.
'I can't live like this, Kate,' he told her, very calmly, 'and I don't see how I can recover and get back to my old life, so where does that leave me?'
'Your illness makes you think that you can't recover, your judgement is impaired by that. From where I'm sitting, it's not logical at all. Statistically millions of people every year suffer from depression, and the vast majority recover. You've only been on the medication for two weeks, it takes at least six to reach its full effect, and then there's the therapy, CBT, all kinds of other options.'
'But I'm impatient, Kate,' he told her, 'I don't want to wait for it to get better, even if I thought that it could.'
'And yet you are still here,' she said quietly.
'For you,' he said simply. 'Only for you.'
'I don't think that guilt is a good reason to do or not do anything,' she said, 'but for what it's worth, I'm glad that you see me as a reason to keep fighting.'
'I wouldn't do that to you,' he told her, still looking away over the park.
'Is that a promise?' she asked lightly.
'For now, yes. As long as you believe that this will get better, then I will accept your judgement.'
'Have you talked to Ed Harris about this?'
'Many times. Every session in fact.' Then watching her expression, 'I'm sorry, this is difficult for you. I shouldn't have said anything.'
'No, I knew,' she said, reaching up to stroke his face. 'I don't want any secrets, Sherlock, I need to know whats going on inside that head of yours. And of course you've thought about it. I just need to know that it's safe to keep you here.'
'Its all about risk, isn't it?' he asked, putting an arm round her and pulling her close, 'that's what I'm told. About intent and ideation, and the risk that I will carry through a plan to completion. At the moment that risk is low, but that doesn't mean that it's not there.'
'You can get through this,' she told him. 'We can get though this.'
'And that's a question of probability too.'
'No it isn't,' she said pulling away slightly to look at him. 'I know you. You're strong, you can get through anything. That is what this illness does, don't you see? It's like a parasite, and it takes away hope, and without hope, what do any of us have? But I know that you will get better. You did before. If I didn't believe that you could get better, then I would have had you admitted long ago to keep you safe.'
'Hope,' he said softly. 'That was meant to be in my box beneath all the demons, wasn't it?'
'Perhaps,' Kate said carefully, 'there's a box within a box. Maybe hope is at the bottom of the inner box; perhaps you have to open that first.'
'And yet I can't seem to find the courage to do that,' he said quietly.
'What you father did to you was unforgiveable,' Kate said, 'I've seen people destroyed by less.'
'It could have been worse. Parents do worse things to their children, don't they?'
But Kate shook her head. 'I don't think so. Abuse comes in different shapes and forms; from desire, from anger or from hate. Knowing that your father hated you, or at least appeared to, that's what you find hardest to take, isn't it?'
'Perhaps I was impossible to love,' Sherlock said bitterly.
'Your mother loved you.'
'Yes she did,' he said quietly, 'but not enough to stay.'
'Do you think that's where it came from?' Kate asked. 'Did your father see your mother in you, perhaps? Was he punishing you in the hope of driving her back to protect you, or something else?'
'Did he doubt that I was his child, you mean? The thought has occurred to me.' He was very calm now, very analytical, a glimpse of the old Sherlock, weighing up the evidence, considering.
'Have you asked Mycroft?'
'We've never talked about it,' Sherlock said quietly.
'Did he beat Mycroft?'
'Not in the same way, I don't think. Mycroft would get the cane for misdemeanors when he was younger, but they were few and far between.' He sighed, 'My father enjoyed beating me, Kate. It made him feel in control, I think, it was the only way that he could control me. He would find excuses to beat me, as a way perhaps of taking out his anger at the world in general.'
'Did he drink?' Kate asked.
'Almost always, and yet never enough to lose control.'
'And when he was drunk -'
'Would he find fault with me for breathing, drag me by the ear to the outhouse and beat me until I stopped struggling? Yes.' His voice wavered, and Kate pulled him close and held him for a long time.
'I'm sorry,' she whispered, 'I'm so, so, sorry.'
'Lets walk,' he said after several minutes, standing up and pulling her to her feet, taking her cup from her and dropping both in a nearby bin as they passed.
'What I find frustrating,' he said to her as they walked, calmer now, 'is that I can't leave it. I don't understand why I can't move on. It happened, it is done. My father is dead, so why does it still have such power over me? It was nearly twenty years ago.'
'Because you've never dealt with it, I suppose,' she told him. 'I think that you have to bring these things into the light, look at them, examine them, at least try to understand them before you can finally lay them to rest.'
'Have you laid David to rest?' he asked curiously. 'Those memories, I mean.'
'In a way,' she said, intrigued that he had made the connection. 'But then I never tried to bury it. I fell apart, Sherlock, after I lost the baby and after what happened with him. I had a lot of counselling; I went through it time and again, with the police, with Alice and only then with the counsellor. But it was different. He wasn't family. There was no reason for him to love or care for me. I made a bad error of judgement, and that hurt, but there wasn't the betrayal, the loss of trust that must have come from what happened with your father.'
'Did you get depressed?' he asked.
'Of course,' she said, 'but mine was reactive. It got better with time, with talking, with knowing that he was a long way away, and that I wasn't going to make the same mistake again.'
'So you walled yourself off,' he said quietly, 'you decided that the solution was not to trust anybody in the same way again.'
'Until you came along, yes,' she said quietly, smiling up at him, despite everything. He gripped her hand tighter.
'You're very brave, Kate,' he said finally, 'braver than me.'
'No, I'm really not,' she told him softly, 'I just couldn't stay away from you.'
He sighed and wrapped his arm around her as they walked in silence back to Baker Street, grateful for her warmth and her closeness and the absolute certainty that was Kate.
Wrapped up in their own thoughts, neither of them registered the limousine parked illegally outside Baker Street until they were almost on top of it. It was only the rear door opening and the suited figure of Mycroft Holmes getting out of the car, straightening his coat that broke Kate out of her revery.
'Sherlock, at last,' he said, and Sherlock looked - dazed, barely reacting to his brother's presence. The anger from earlier had gone and now he just looked exhausted.
'Mycroft.' he replied, wearily. Then more slowly, 'I'm sorry it's not a good time.'
'It is never a good time, it would appear,' Mycroft said, his gaze sweeping up and down his brother, observing, analysing; taking in his thin frame, the bruise like shadows under his eyes, and worse still the blankness behind his eyes. Would he work it out, Kate wondered? And if he did would he have the sense to keep his mouth shut?
'I heard that you'd been ill.'
'I'm fine, Mycroft,' came Sherlock's automatic response. 'But I'm not up to investigating any cases for you yet, if that is why you are here.'
'Actually, I bumped into John earlier, gave him a lift home, a fortunate coincidence.'
Liar, Kate thought, there were no coincidences with Mycroft Holmes.
Sherlock was standing silently next to her, eyes fixed on the ground. Too tired to react to his brother, too tired to enter into his usual battle of wits with him.
'You look exhausted,' she told him gently. 'Why don't you go in and lie down? I'll talk to Mycroft and be up in a minute.'
He nodded gratefully, and held out his hand for the proffered keys. Mycroft watched him go in analytical silence, and as the door shut behind him, Kate heard the murmur of voices and then the sound of not one but two sets of footsteps on the stairs. Good, John had been watching out for them and would stay with Sherlock until she had finished talking to Mycroft.
'He looks awful, Kate,' Mycroft said quietly, still looking at the door. And there was concern in his voice, and care, and somehow Kate wasn't surprised by that. Somehow it was easier to deal with Mycroft as a concerned relative than it was as the machiavelian figure who was a threat to Sherlock's recovery.
'He's been very ill,' she told him honestly. 'What did you expect?'
'I want to help,' he said bluntly. 'There must be something that I can do. Different doctors, a second opinion, different treatment.'
'He's getting better,' she told him. 'John and I have got it under control. He's getting the right treatment, he just needs time now.'
Mycroft narrowed his eyes slightly, 'Don't ask,' Kate thought, 'please don't ask if this illness is purely physical, because we both know that I'm dreadful at lying.'
But Mycroft simply said, 'Very well, if you're sure. But if there's anything that he needs...'
'I'll phone you,' Kate said firmly, 'but for now Mycroft, the best thing that you can do is to stay away. The last thing that Sherlock needs is stress, or a reminder of the work that he's unable to do at the moment.'
Mycroft nodded, and then without another word, got silently back into the car and was gone.
John was waiting for her when she got back into the flat. 'Did he take something?' she asked.
'No, he said that he'd sleep without it. What did Mycroft have to say for himself?'
'Very little, really. I think that he just wanted to see Sherlock for himself. He did look a bit shocked at how ill he looked, but he didn't ask the question.'
'Thats probably because he asked me earlier, after his car picked me up outside the supermarket.'
'What did you say?'
'I stuck to the story. I'm better at lying than you Kate, remember. Whether he believed me or not is another question.'
'In a strange way, I don't care,' she said. 'As long as he stays away, that's what matters.
And stay away Mycroft did, through the whole of the next two weeks, as Kate returned to work and the three of them fell into a routine of visits to Dr Harris, almost daily walks in the park as Sherlock became increasingly frustrated by being trapped in the flat, and almost hourly arguements with Sherlock about why looking through old police reports was not a good idea at this time.
There was a visit from Lestrade, too, while Kate was at work one day. He denied that he had been sent by Mycroft, claiming concern for Sherlock, but John told Kate that he looked too guilty to have been there entirely of his own volition.
'Did Sherlock talk to him?' Kate asked.
'Enough to convince him that he was genuinely ill, I think. Lestrade wanted to know when he'd be well enough to start investigating cases again. I said a month at least, but that I'd be in touch. Then he tried to persuade me to look into some cases on my own, I declined.'
'Because you'd never keep Sherlock from getting involved?'
'Exactly, although that wasn't the reason that I gave. I'm going to use the time to write up some old cases for the blog instead, but not while Sherlock's around.'
'How did his session today go?'
'Who knows? Ed Harris doesn't look concerned, but Sherlock talks to me about it less and less. I think that Ed's trying to get him to talk about his father, but he won't - or can't.'
'He is getting better though, isn't he?'
'Of course. He's just frustrated, Kate. Its a long slog, and he's not a man who enjoys doing anything slowly.'
Sherlock was sitting on the side of his bed, listening to them talk from behind the half closed door. Frustrated, that was one way of describing it. From his dressing gown pocket he took out several orange haloperidol tablets and turned them over in his fingers, contemplating. If he took them then the voices would stop, he knew, and yet the voices were the closest that he got to logical thought these days. They were becoming strangely useful to him, providing arguments and counter arguments. They were fascinating in their complexity and deprived of other ways of occupying his mind, he found that he preferred them to the emptiness. Walking to the bathroom, he listened to Kate and John's voices quieten as they realised that he was awake, then shutting the door behind him, he washed the tablets down the sink. He would keep the voices for now, because anything was better than the emptiness, and because maybe, just maybe, his fathers voice would give him some of those answers that he needed so desperately.
He was standing on a roof. He knew this place. He had been here before, but this time there would be no magic tricks, no clever optical illusion of lines of sights and different level roof tops to jump between; no lorry-full of air bags to drop into, and no homeless network to orchestrate his escape at the bottom.
There would be no escape at all this time, only silence and peace and a way to finally, finally stop the voices and the pain and the darkness.
The voices in his head were deafening. Dimly he was aware that stopping the haloperidol had probably been foolish, but the numbness, the emptiness had been more than he could bear. The voices gave him a focus, something to argue against, something other than the mess inside his own head and the memories of his father and the outbuilding and the pain. His father's voice was the predominant one now, but at least the insults had stopped. His voice was softer now, almost caring, telling him that this was the only option, the only way to stop this, that it was kinder to both John and Kate, to stop burdening them with the responsibility of looking after him; that he was broken beyond repair, and that his choice was simple - a lifetime of pain and dependence, or oblivion. The answer seemed obvious. Kate and John would be upset, of course, it was only logical, but the message that he had left on his phone made it clear that he absolved them of any and all responsibility. This choice was his and his alone. Better a short period of grieving for both of them now than a lifetime tied to a broken shell of a man, unable to walk away, unable to live their own lives.
He was not afraid of death, and he knew how to fall after all, he had spent long enough studying it in the past. He knew how to fall in order to survive. A simple reversal of the facts told him exactly how to fall to ensure that survival would be impossible. Now all that he had to do was jump. It was logical, entirely logical, so why now that he was here, why was it so very difficult to stand on that ledge and to do what he had been planning to do for days?
He walked up to the ledge, standing with the toes of his shoes pressed up against it and looked out over the lights of London. His city, he knew every inch of it. Every street, every alley, every bus lane. He could tell you the twists and turns of every tube line, could make his way round any of them blindfolded. He knew the intimate details of the Thames as it wound its way through this ancient city. Every bridge, every muddy beach, every boat and their usual mooring. His city, it was appropriate that his end should come at the very heart of it.
He knew with absolute conviction that what he was about to do was his only option. Logic dictated it, his fathers voice reinforced it, but there was another voice now, drowning out the others. Calm, gentle. It said simply, 'No, Sherlock,' and 'I love you,' over and over again. Kate.
He frowned, his certainty suddenly wavering as he remembered her; what it felt like to hold her in his arms; to have him in his bed; to wake up next to her, and watch her sleeping face; to provoke her to anger, simply for the joy of hearing the clarity of her arguments, so clear, so incisive. To see the joy in her face when he arrived to meet up from work unexpectedly; to know beyond all doubt that he was loved, that he mattered, that he was accepted.
'For you,' he told her silently,'I'm doing this for you.'
'No,' she replied, 'You're doing it for yourself. I thought that you were brave, Sherlock, I never thought that you would take the coward's way out.'
Then as he stepped back from the ledge and sank in a sobbing heap against the wall of the staircase, suddenly lost, her voice over and over again, saying, 'No Sherlock,' and 'I love you,' all over again.
Time and place had narrowed to this roof and this hour of the night. Three am, when the body's cortisol levels are lowest, when sleep is deepest, when the most deaths occur in those already occupying the twilight world between life and death. A huddled shape in a dark coat, lost among the shadows of the rooftop, almost invisible. Cold, alone, suffering, wanting desperately to stop the pain, to stop the voices.
Everything that he was, everything that he had happened to him had brought him to this place and this decision. The voices, his past and logic left him with only one possible course of action, but against that, one small calm voice in the storm was stopping him from doing what he must, and yet all of his conviction was unable to stand against it. And so he sat, huddled down in his coat on that rooftop, waiting for certainty or the dawn, whichever came first.
Part 2 - 'Redemption' now also posted.