“John! On your left!” Sherlock shouted, rounding the corner of the abandoned office building. His coat flared out behind him and it was all John saw before he turned his head sharply to the left, catching the killer they were chasing running off quickly. John skidded to a stop and pushed off of the wall, directing him the way the murderer went. As soon as he could, John picked up his speed again. He was on the man’s tail, and letting adrenaline push him forward one more meter, John leapt forward and tackled the killer to the ground.
The man struggled under John’s grip, throwing a few punches towards his chest, but each one was muted by John’s swift accuracy in avoiding the blows. The murderer cursed at him, making word-filled venom spot John’s face. He had always hated being spat on, but instead of lingering on the fact that he was being covered in a stranger’s saliva, John cringed and called out Sherlock’s name, trying to raise his voice above the screams of the man beneath him. It was getting increasingly more difficult to hold down the man, who was still insistent on fighting and would not admit defeat.
“Sherlock,” John warned, taking his sight of vision off of the criminal to search the room for the detective. He expected to see his friend come into view, but instead, was met with an empty room. The only audible sounds were the man’s wailing and John’s heavy breathing. “For God’s sake, Sherlock!” he tried again. His heart, already pounding at heavy eighth notes, started to speed even faster, pulsing in sporadic beats as his friend remained silent.
Suddenly, a dense crash rang throughout the building and John was caught off guard. The convict took advantage of the moment of distraction and kneed John in the gut. Winded, John fell to the floor, his body not reacting quickly enough to stop the man as he jumped through the window and out of sight. Bringing a hand to his stomach, John wheezed and got up, stumbling his way through the door. He shouted Sherlock’s name a half dozen times before he almost tripped over him in a room three doors down the next hallway.
He looked around the room, noticing that the remnants of a glass wall lay shattered on the ground. Oh, god. Sherlock didn’t lie as if to protect himself. It looked like he had been thrown across the room and catapulted through the window. Dropping to the floor, John put two fingers on Sherlock’s neck and, gratefully, found a slow but definite pulse.
John vaguely remembered calling the police; he vaguely remembered Sherlock being pulled onto a stretcher and into the emergency vehicle; he vaguely remembered the ride to the hospital, but he didn’t remember being handed a coffee by Mycroft in the waiting room.
“It wasn’t a matter of if my brother would end up here, John; it was simply a matter of when,” Mycroft said, relaxing into the cheap chair on John’s left.
John looked at Mycroft, searching for any sense of fear or anticipation, but came up empty. However, John knew it was there. With each attempt to box up his emotions, Mycroft became a tad more vulnerable. And although it wasn’t on display, irony was Mycroft’s greatest adversary.
“I never said it was my fault. With or without me, he’s an idiot,” John said, tapping his fingers on his cup, echoing the ticking of the clock.
Mycroft pondered John’s words for a moment and looked at the ceiling. “I don’t disagree. After all, the greatest danger Sherlock faces is, in fact, himself.”
John smirked as best as he could. “Don’t you think it’s a little early in the morning to be philosophical?”
Quite the contraire.”
With a slight snort, John took a sip of his coffee. The bitterness didn’t do anything to calm his nerves, only jolted him back into the reality of where he was. He bit his tongue softly, trying to evacuate the now unwelcoming taste from his mouth. He tapped his foot, an unfortunate habit of nervousness he had picked up upon his return to London.
They sat in remedial silence. John replied to a message on his phone every one and a while, and Mycroft’s eyes never left his own phone, the other hand busy with the handle to the umbrella, which was pinched between two of his fingers as he turned it slightly in the crack of the tile.
It was another half hour before a nurse came out of the double doors, heading in their direction. They both stood up, distractions forgotten.
“Family of Sherlock Holmes, correct?”
Mycroft nodded slightly in confirmation.
The nurse gave direct eye contact to both men, taking turns as she spoke. “His vitals are good. He’s stable, but—“
“But?” John cut in, feeling his legs growing hot and heavy.
The nurse hesitated before continuing. “But he’s comatose.”
John asked, “A barbiturate-induced coma?” She shook her head. “Then what damage was done? Was it the cerebral cortex? RAS?”
“There was a failure in ARAS functioning. We’ve ran MRI scans, and we’re monitoring his brain waves now. You can see him now. The bruises make him look worse than he actually is. If you’ll follow me…”
The petite lady showed them to a private room that was just off of the corner to the bathrooms. The minty-colored walls made the hallway feel colder than normal, and as John turned into the room, he let out a sigh of anguish. Sherlock looked bad from where he was standing. Bright flourishes of blue and purple covered Sherlock’s face – his lips swelled to double their size. His left arm was casted, handing in a sling a few inches above his chest, his right buried under the cut-rate blanket. A respirator was hooked to the sides of his face, covering his mouth and nose, his steady beats on the monitor, assuring John each moment that Sherlock wasn’t brain dead.
“We’ve relieved the pressure and drain the fluids from his head, so he may wake up at any time. I’ll leave you. Buzz the button by the bed handle if you need anything.” The nurse left, and John shuffled out of the way to let her though the door. He hovered by the doorframe, letting Mycroft slowly head towards the bed. John watched him carefully, almost concerned.
Gradually, Mycroft looked over his brother, bringing a hand across Sherlock’s cheek before letting it fall mechanically to his side. He looked back up, emotions ethereal on his face. “Unfortunately, I cannot stay. I have no doubt my brother will be with the most trusted of company.” He walked to the doorway, said, “I will try to come by again tomorrow. Do please inform me if there are changes,” and then walked out.
John stepped forward timidly, finding it eerie that this was the first time he had ever seen Sherlock so quiet. With each step he took closer to the bed, and to Sherlock, his skin tingled, and the fear of Sherlock never waking up again – never being Sherlock again – zipped through his veins like a fire blazing through a forest, conspiring against the pieces of hope keeping him together.
He didn’t blame himself, he really didn’t. But John thought about what could have happened if he had decided to check up on Sherlock just a minute earlier. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t be in this mess.
He sat in the chair next to the bed and reached up, rubbing his hands over the front of his face, drawing at the bits of stubble -- he must have missed them while shaving -- and wondered what the hell he was going to do next.
John ended up calling Molly and Lestrade, letting them know what was going on. Molly didn’t take well to the news – constantly asking about his diagnosis, wanting every detail. Painfully, John had to grab the medical clipboard from the end of Sherlock’s bed to satisfy her. Lestrade cursed under his breath and became more distraught, saying that he would try to get out of work as soon as he could; John assured him that it was all right if he was a while. The hardest call John had to make, though, was to Mrs. Hudson, who he could hear flaunting around her flat, trying to collect herself.
“Oh, I always knew he would get into some kind of trouble – all those risks he takes,” she said. “How about you, dear? Are you all right?”
“Me? Oh yes, I’m doing fine. Thank you.” John answered, surprised.
He heard shuffling. “I’ll be there in a jiffy. Did you want anything, John? I baked some biscuits this morning. I’ll bring those.”
“That sounds lovely. See you soon.” Food. John had forgotten all about that. Now that he thought about it, the last thing he recalled consuming was the tea and toast he had for breakfast. That must have been… seven hours ago, now. His stomach growled and clenched, obnoxiously reminding John that eating would probably be a good thing right about now.
Mrs. Hudson arrived with the biscuits, and Lestrade soon after with some coffee. Molly had come earlier, but couldn’t stay. They settled into an easy (well, as easy as the situation could warrant) conversation, facing each other in a semi-circle around Sherlock.
John was in the middle of telling a story about a show he watched with Sherlock a few weeks ago, when they heard a slight groan from the bed. John turned instantly and was up from his chair in no more than a second.
“Sherlock?” John asked, his heart beating quickly.
Sherlock twitched his pinky and a few seconds later and blinked open his eyes.
John immediately pressed the call button, but never took his eyes off of his flat-mate. “Sherlock.”
Sherlock’s eyes darted around the room, scanning the three of them like a book. His hand reached up and removed the breathing unit from his face. His mouth opened a few times before he cleared his throat and prepared to talk.
“It appears I have amnesia.”
John was thrown back, and he was about to ask for clarification when Sherlock spoke again.
“I’m in a hospital, I’ve just woken up. You are saying a name, probably mine, and I don’t know who any of you are, nor am I able to recall the name ‘Sherlock; with any of my cognitive abilities. Also, my head is throbbing. I was in a coma, not sure how long, though.”
John tried to move. He tried to turn back and look at someone else, but he couldn’t tear himself away. All he could think, all that was going through his mind was…
Oh, god, no.
“I do apologize,” he continued, since the rest of the company in the room couldn’t seem to speak. “This must be hard for you as well. You all seem frightened. If it helps, I don’t feel as if I’ve lost any elementary skills, nor does it seem like my education has vanished.”
Flabbergasted, John stepped back and bumped into Lestrade, who seemed just as stunned. The person in the bed was not Sherlock Holmes.
John was caught in a nightmare. He reached and reached, trying to grasp the cool pressure that vehemently treaded between his fingers and laced around them like the hand that’s just a ghost now. It searched for the echoes that once were strong, confident – now desperate to survive. It was a lingering potency, if still there. And god, John hoped it was still there. Sherlock was a madman, a brilliant hero. Sherlock was his friend. They worked. Would they work now? People were shaped through experiences and became individual proteins that lead their lives. If Sherlock’s protein was different, would he still be the same? On the flipside, John wondered how Sherlock – or whoever this was – was adjusting. Even though his brain capacity hadn’t been damaged, not remembering oneself couldn’t be easy. John could not imagine.
He called Mycroft, who barely said a word before telling that he’d arrive shortly. It was an hour before they finished the tests and allowed him to see Sherlock again. When he walked into the room, Sherlock sat propped up in bed, reading some kind of book. His eyes lifted from the book to John.
“John,” he greeted.
“You remember me?” John asked, hope rising in the chest.
Sherlock frowned. “No, sorry. I’ve been told we‘re flat-mates.”
“Right.” John couldn’t help but to feel disappointed.
“I’ve also been told I have you to thank for my life.”
Exhaling, John shrugged. “You have me to thank for the reason that you have amnesia.”
Quirking his lip, Sherlock put the paperback off to the side and crossed his arms as best as he could with the cast. They had taken him out of the sling a little while ago, and now he was just left with a hard cast that he would have to wear for a few weeks. “Are you trying to tell me you’re the person who threw me through the window in the office?”
John cringed and Sherlock noticed.
“Sorry,” he added. “I’ve had some trouble identifying how to approach delicate subjects. Must be the medications.”
John almost laughed at the words that came out of Sherlock’s mouth. It was terrifying, and the only reaction he could succumb to was bringing a hand to his face to rub his eyes. He blinked back to restore his vision and gave a tight-lipped smile. “Not the medication.”
Sherlock tilted his head, puzzled. “Sorry?”
“You,” John clarified. “You’ve always been like this. Well, at least for the duration that I’ve known you -- and Lestrade, apparently. He’s known you five years longer than I have.”
“Lestrade of Scotland Yard. Yes, his name did come across the summary I obtained earlier.”
John was about to speak when Mycroft walked into the room, wearing his most auspicious poker face. “Hello, Mycroft,” Sherlock said instead.
“Always a quick learner, Sherlock. Doctor Watson,” he said, turning to face John, “would you grant me the favor of a minute alone with my brother?”
With a quick glance towards Sherlock, he nodded. He told them that he would go to get some get something substantial to eat, but he would be back. With his comment, he walked out of the room. As he stepped out of the hospital and into the crisp October evening air, John realized how uncomfortable he felt. His shirt stuck to his body by groups of sweat (probably from anxiety and the chase earlier), his shoulder felt irritated from the cold weather, and most of all, his mental health was far from satisfactory.
John had never lost anyone to amnesia. And yes, it was a loss. All of the memories that were formed, all of the laughs and jokes told, the progression of their friendship were all unknown to Sherlock now. But what surprised John the most was this revelation of the new Sherlock. He was still just as brilliant, but was not the same person. He was nice and compassionate – both of which were a foreign language to Sherlock. The imbrications of Sherlock’s mind were something John didn’t think he’d ever understand, and to be honest, he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to.
Was it Sherlock’s history – his past – that made him like this? Was that the answer to his sociopathic responses? Mycroft had mentioned their resentments, mentioned Sherlock’s drug addiction all those years ago.
John stopped outside the door at Baker Street and leaned against the wall, letting most of his weight be carried by the structure. It occurred to him that Sherlock was starting over. He was rediscovering everything, stuck in the grace that was innocence. John felt sorry for Sherlock, for that is something he would not wish upon anyone, especially Sherlock and his lagniappes.
He showered first, letting the hot water pound on his body in vicious cycles, shading him with light pink skin. He re-dressed and when he entered their living room, a detonation of remorse pounded John and beleaguered him with every step he took. All of Sherlock’s experiments, all of his things, would either be forgotten or re-learned. God only knew how hard that would be for Sherlock. John certainly wasn’t looking forward to Sherlock coming home. However, sometimes familiar surroundings could trigger a memory, and that was the hope that John clung to.
With a bag of Italian takeaway in his hand that John grabbed from a nearby restaurant, he made his way back into the hospital. On his way to Sherlock’s room, John looked up to see Mycroft making his way out of the hallway, wearing a slight frown even though his posture remained statuesque.
He cleared his throat. “It seems my brother is intellectually intact, but his behavior has changed significantly, as I’m sure you’ve noticed.” Mycroft broke eye contact. “He’s asking for you.”
“Yes. Again, I must go. However, I’ve given consent for you to take him home in the morning. He’s been given clearance since he hasn’t had any fits and his vitals are adequate. Good evening, John.”
John watched Mycroft leave, feeling sympathy at its finest. And sympathy for Mycroft was unusual. His stomach grumbled as the smell of the alfredo infiltrated his nose. Sherlock looked like he was caught in the middle of a daydream when John walked in, but he immediately dropped whatever had held his attention and smiled at John.
“You’re cleared to eat normally again, so I figured some pasta would be a good start,
John joked, settling into the seat beside Sherlock so that the arm in the cast was on the opposite side of him.
John opened a container and put it on Sherlock’s tray, handing him a fork. “Amnesia is an interesting thing: very changeable, many variables. I remember foods, items that I prefer and prefer to avoid.”
“But not people,” John asked in between bites, “and not who you are?”
Sherlock made a face, wiping at the sauce that has fallen to his chin. “If you must simplify it so, then yes.”
They ate in comfortable silence. John enjoyed knowing that Sherlock was alive, and he enjoyed eating something that gradually stopped the dizziness in his head. Sherlock spent a moment with his eyes closed, gripping his fork tightly in his hand.
John put down his utensil and looked at Sherlock. “Are you all right?”
Sherlock mumbled a barely audible “yes” before opening his eyes again and looking up at a concerned John.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”
“Anything,” he said.
“Were we involved?”
“What?” John asked, caught off guard.
Sherlock scrunched his eyebrows. “A relationship. Were we more than just flat-mates?”
“I’m not gay,” John said matter-of-factly
Sherlock’s eyes widened. “No, I wasn’t asking--”
John cut him off with a chuckle and the crease in Sherlock’s brow furrowed even deeper. “Why are you laughing?”
“We’ve had this conversation before – the first time I met you. We had Italian, actually. Well, I did, anyway. You didn’t eat.”
“Why didn’t I eat? And I’ve asked you before?” Sherlock asked, desperate for information.
John crumpled up the napkin in his hand. “You said you don’t eat during cases. And it was the opposite. I asked you.”
“You asked me? I thought you weren’t gay,” said Sherlock, his gaze analytical on John’s face.
“No, I mean, I guess the wording in my sentence was a little odd, looking back at it now. I wasn’t asking.”
Sherlock took a drink from the cup of water by his bed and spoke again. “I’m not in a relationship, correct? I’m sure the person would have been by already, so the idea is ruled out.”
“No. You say you’re married to your work. At first I didn’t believe it, but you’re very dedicated.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
“You’re a consulting detective.”
“The only one in the world,” they said in unison. John held Sherlock’s gaze for a second. “Did someone tell you that last part?”
“No,” Sherlock said.
“You just remembered?”
“It seems so.”
John smile reached his eyes. “That’s good. Really good.”
Sherlock frowned. “I wouldn’t hold out too much hope, John. Just because I’ve recovered some minimal information doesn’t ensure the return of things more important.”
Sherlock’s pessimistic attitude was something John was used to, so he dismissed Sherlock’s statement, knowing fully well that nothing could guarantee the full return of his memory. But as a doctor (an army doctor, especially), he had seen cases of amnesia where nothing ever returned, and to hear Sherlock gain a bit of his knowledge back gave him hope, and gave him the satisfaction that Sherlock could grasp a sense of his extraordinary purpose.