One Small Touch
The Key Found Inside
Sherlock hated hospitals. More than anything else, they reminded him of the weakness and frailty of the human body that he had to endure. He often referred to it as nothing more than a transport for his mental faculties, and that was the reason he ate little and slept less. He could endure pain to a greater degree than most people. And he could shut down the needs of his body if he wanted to do so. And most of the time, he did just that. Desires were secondary when they were desires of the body. He had denied them all for more than a decade. Desires for foods, drinks, sleep, movement, sex, all of those things had nothing to do with his mental capacity. Some delighted in the excess of sweets, alcohols, sloth, exercise, and carnal activities, but when the shuttering need for any of those things surfaced, he simply closed down that and supplanted it with an activity to stimulate his mind instead.
That was why the drugs became so attractive. They did sate a physical need, of a sort, but mostly they granted something to mental capabilities. The stimulants allowed his mind to expand and clarify, the depressants allowed him to slow his mind down when it became too rapid. And most of all, the drugs made it easier to slip away from the memories. He didn't even remember when touch began to trigger anxiety. Perhaps it was immediately, perhaps months after the incident. It was only a short while until Terry and the others were gone, but before they left, they had left an indecent brand on Sherlock's life and peers. Before, he was that weird kid that liked to show off. Now, his world included whispered conversations about his sexual proclivities. He set those things aside and never deemed to respond to any of them. To do so would acknowledge that something had happened. And he couldn't do that, because if he did, he had to remember. And more than anything he did not want to remember. That was the first purpose of the drugs. And they worked so well, he felt like he was drowning in them, and he was perfectly happy to do so.
Still, by the end, he graduated with a dual degree in chemistry and physics, a perfect grade point average and top of the class. The whispered conversations continued, but had died to speculation, and rumors. He spent most his time avoiding others, and when he was forced to interact would insult and berate people to keep them away. And it worked, most the time. But it would be inevitable, he'd make someone angry enough to reach out and try to grab him or push him, and then he'd lash out violently, his senses on fire, anxiety shooting through the roof and wanting nothing more but to get away from that person. It was perfectly illogical. He researched the reactions, discussed them with professors, and determined it was a phobia. And the treatment was systematic desensitization, but there was no guarantee that it would work if the root of the problem wasn't dealt with, that is, whatever triggered such an extreme phobia.
Then there was the overdose. He'd been out of uni no more than two weeks, in a new small flat that Mycroft found for him, working on his experiments and doing nothing of real import. It had been a complete accident. He hadn't overdosed on purpose. He normally mixed his own solution of cocaine and heroine. A cocktail that he preferred that put his mind exactly where he wanted it. But his supplier claimed that he had some premixed with the saline for injection. He was dubious about it, he didn't like his stuff cut with anything else, but he'd gone to the same man for almost three years now, and he'd never steered him wrong. The solution he used was 7%. The one he got was a 10% solution, and what he didn't know is that it was laced with ketamine. When he added the liquid heroine, and shot the solution, the effect was immediate. He knew something was wrong and grabbed his phone, managing to call Mycroft before he lost consciousness.
He woke to the bloody hospital. It had been three weeks, and they'd kept him sedated through the detoxing. His body still craved a bit, full detox took six to eight weeks, but the worst part would be over. He blinked and saw Mycroft sitting beside the bed, reading the newspaper. Sherlock sighed and Mycroft glared at him.
"I didn't try to kill myself. It was an accident," he said immediately, voice hoarse and rough from disuse.
"I should hope it was an accident. One that will not be repeated."
He spent a long time in a rehabilitation clinic after that. It was exceedingly tedious, dull and boring, and by the end, he'd probably alienated three quarters of the staff, and slugged the other quarter at some point in response. He'd had no less than eight panic attacks over the phobia before he left the place. It seemed the therapists and nurses didn't understand that he didn't want to be touched. They all seemed to think there was some special exception for them personally, that somehow they were the one that could get through to the toughest patient in the place. They were all incredibly wrong.
It wasn't long after Mycroft picked him up and deposited him in a new flat that he found himself bored to tears. He knew Mycroft was watching him, and the desire for drugs was strong. He knew it wasn't possible. He still missed the feeling, though. The clarity that didn't come from anywhere else. Finally, he got annoyed at a murder case that was in the paper. The answer was so glaringly obvious even from the junky pictures in the paper. So, he found the person's name in charge of the case, a Detective Inspector Lestrade, and headed to New Scotland Yard to request a meeting. He ended up sitting an hour in the receiving area until Mycroft walked in and sat beside him.
"Why are you here, Sherlock?" he'd asked softly.
Sherlock handed him the paper. "Look at this! Bunch of bloody idiots! Can't solve the case, and I've done it in less than ten minutes just from the papers. I came down to explain it to the idiots, but the bloody idiot won't see me. Too busy, he said. Some I intend to sit in this spot until I pass out from lack of food, water, or sleep, or he will come talk to me." He said the last loud enough to be heard by the receptionist who glared at him.
Mycroft stared at his little brother. And what he found made his heart leap. There was fire in his eyes. The sparkle, the life that had been missing for so long, it was alive in there. And he realized what was missing. Sherlock had a reason, a purpose, something he could do. Mycroft nodded and went to the receptionist slowly. After a few moments, a silvery haired man came down from the elevator, and shot a confused look at the receptionist. Mycroft smiled and waved him to where Sherlock was sitting.
"Tell him, brother. I've exerted a bit of influence for you."
Sherlock just stared for a long time. Never in his time as the British government as he called him had Mycroft used his influence to get something for Sherlock.
So Sherlock handed the paper to Lestrade and began to unravel the entire case without seeing a stitch of official evidence, bodies or crime scenes. Mycroft watched with a soft smile that was hidden behind a perfect mask of indifference. Could this be the answer? Sherlock was animated, talking a mile a minute, spinning out flawless observations and deductions, and then stopping when the DI needed clarification and further explanation of a point, making sure to drop a snide remark on the obvious lack of intelligence in his division. Finally he was done and bid the man good bye.
Mycroft stopped him from leaving, watching as Sherlock left. They had had a long conversation about his brother, the drug use, and an idea that had formed in his brain. An exchange. In return for remaining clean, Sherlock would be called in on cases that Yarders were in need of help with. Simple, really, the Yard got solved cases, and Sherlock had a reason to stay away from self-destruction at the hands of chemicals.
It was a week later Sherlock ended up nearly breaking Lestrade's jaw in his office when he'd reached out and yanking him back from the doorway to keep him from leaving yet. At first Lestrade was angry and then he saw. And he understood. The door was at his back, and he was pressed against it tightly, and Greg knew panic like that. He rubbed his jaw and moved around and talked him down off the attack, and when it was done he apologized, which Sherlock rarely did, but he liked Lestrade, and explained that he couldn't be touched like that, one of the reasons he refused to shake hands with others as well.
It was on a his first scene with Anderson when the forensics man decided that Sherlock really needed to move from his position immediately and had planted both hands on his biceps to bodily move him. Sherlock had frozen and flung around, hitting him right in the nose, sending blood flying and Sherlock falling backward to the floor, eyes wide and panicked. Lestrade had seen Anderson move to do it, and he was too late to stop it. It really was an automatic reaction, he realized. There had been no thought between the touch and the reaction, it simply happened. Anderson was yelling and threatening, and Sherlock was staring up with wide eyes as Anderson stood over him and Lestrade knew this would end badly if he didn't act quickly.
He shoved Anderson back and out of the way and dropped to his hands and knees in front of Sherlock, catching his eyes and talking him down like he had the last time. It was harder this time because Anderson's yelling had set off something else, and his eyes were not seeing him. When he was somewhere near normal, he led him out of the room, without touching him, of course, and put him in a cab home, promising he could come back after he'd settled back down, and he'd gotten Anderson out of the scene.
Sherlock avoided Anderson at all costs, mostly because when he tried to explain, the man with the bandaged nose told him to piss off and leave him alone. He usually apologized for these incidents, because they were out of his control, and that was really the only thing that made him apologize. He felt he should be in complete control of his body, and in those moments he was farther from it than he wanted to be. And to be honest, the whole thing scared him a bit. To be that out of control, it just sent him to a place in his mind palace that he'd locked. There were locks around that door, and there were fingernail scratches on the wood. Unlike the rest of his mind palace, this door was rough, old and weathered. Scratches, dents, and strange streaks of red decorated it, and it was locked with so many locks that Sherlock didn't think he had all those keys at all. The only thing he knew of locked tighter than that room was his own heart.
Sealed in someplace deep, was that part of himself that he didn't want anyone to see or affect. Heartless, they called him that. They claimed he had no feelings, that he was a machine, and felt nothing for the victims of the crimes he solved. He didn't understand. Why couldn't they see what he did? How could he solve cases if he let sentiment get in the way? Sentiment clouds judgment in far too many ways. Desire to see the good in people led people to ignore the obvious. So Sherlock did what others could not, or would not, do. He disconnected himself and looked at things objectively to such an extreme level that he was considered heartless.
The truth was he had a heart, one that yearned to be unlocked from the confines he had forced on it. A heart sat there, beating, wanting to be touched in a way that only one other had before, and that had ended so badly. But the heart didn't care how much it hurt, really. The heart wanted to be touched, caressed, loved…but it could not escape. To this lock, there was no key. Sherlock made sure of that.
At least, he thought he'd made sure of that. Leave it to fate to provide him with the one person that could forge the key to unlock the shuttered part of his self that he never wanted to release. And that person sat beside him now, arms crossed on the side of a hospital bed, surrounded by the sound of machines, and the smell of antiseptic. Soft sleeping sounds escaped his lips as his head rested on his crossed arms, face turned toward the head of Sherlock's bed. He smiled, reaching out tentatively with his right hand and brushed it over the short, blonde hair.
"Sherlock!" he exclaimed, snapping to a sitting positon.
"How long was I out?" he asked.
John smiled. "Not that long. I had them keep your sedated until they were done. Took your brother stepping in, though to get them to do it. Claimed it was a risk, and I explained it was better than them not being able to treat you at all."
Shelock nodded. "Can we go home? Can't you take care of me there? I can't let them change the dressigns, you know that. I wish I could just let them, I really do, John."
"Hey, don't worry. I've already been cleared to take care of everything from here out, but you'll have to stay tonight, just to make sure the patch up holds on the femoral artery. And after the blood transfusions. I'm glad your brother keeps a stock on hand…the hospital was low on your blood type. You had more blood than I'd have liked, but it doesn't matter. You'll have a painful recover, the bullet in your leg nicked the bone, and that's going to hurt like a bitch," John said with a sigh. "And you can't have narcotics, so we'll have to deal with the less effective medicines."
"That's okay John, as long as you're there, it's okay. I'll do fine. I know you're the best at what you do."
John blinked, surprised at the sudden compliment. He smiled, leaning over and brushing the hair from his forehead. "You had me scared. Good lord, Sherlock, I was covered in your blood when I went in the waiting room. I swear, my pants and shirt went right in the biohazard disposal. And my pants too! You can't imagine how scared I was that you'd lost too much. We do have to watch out for infection. My hands weren't really sterile when I went in and pinched the artery closed while we waited for the medics to get there."
"It felt weird, when you did that," Sherlock said thoughtfully. "It hurt, but it was more numb than anything, but it felt strange to have someone's fingers…" He stopped, wide eyed. John knew exactly what happened. He reached out and squeezed his hand.
"Hey, let's not talk about the terrible day we've had. It is dinner, and they're going to bring you some really terrible hospital food, and you are going to eat it, else I will not take you home tomorrow. Understand?" John said, arching a brow.
The look of pained surprise faded, replaced by a petulant pout. "I ate yesterday!"
"Sherlock…you are going to eat when they bring you food. And if I'm not happy, you will stay here tomorrow night as well," John insisted as the door popped open and a nurse came in with the aforementioned tray of food. She sat it down with a grin and reached out to pat Sherlock's shoulder as she spoke.
"Here, Mr. Holmes, there…hey!" she exclaimed as John snatched her hand in midair. She glared at him. "Excuse me, I can have you escorted out, Mr.?"
"Dr. Watson. Sherlock is hapnophobic. You do realize that means you aren't to touch him, I know it is in his chart," he said, letting her go.
She glanced at his hand laying protectively on him. "Obviously a mistake, because you're touch him, doctor."
"And I'm the only one who can. Hence the reason his chart states all medical procedures from now until discharge are done by me and only me. Otherwise, he'd have to be sedated every time they needed vitals or blood," John explained, squeezing Shelock's hand tightly again. His breathing was quickly approaching hyperventilation just from the thought of the nurse patting him like that.
"Sherlock? Come on. Me and you, remember," John murmured softly, brushing his hand over his soft curls. "Remember…you have to eat or I'll make you stay another night instead of taking you home. The food's here, as bad as I predicted, but you need to eat. After you slow your breathing down. Breathe, in…now out. In… now out."
Finally, Sherlock's breath slowed and he opened his eyes and glared at the tray. "But John," he whined. "I told you I ate yesterday! I don't need to eat today."
The nurse frowned and looked at John, who gave a long suffering sigh. "Sherlock, you need to eat every day. Not just every three or four days."
"I drink tea, with milk and sugar even. That counts."
"Sherlock. Now. Eat. Or I will make you stay," he said sternly.
Sherlock glared at him and grumbled under his breath but at his tray slowly. It was truly not worth the effort, but if it was all he could get, he would eat, just to make sure John stayed happy. Because more than anything, he wanted John to be happy. And if eating disgusting hospital food would do it, then that is what Sherlock would do.
He smiled at the doctor, who was fretting over the machines, checking to make sure the IV was set right and the antibiotics were feeding properly. Then he fluffed the pillows behind him and sat back down.
"John, you should go get some sleep while you can," he said softly.
"Sherlock, you've had several major shocks in a row. And currently, I'm the only person that doesn't trigger massive amounts of anxiety in you. I can't leave. You know how hosptials are, vitals, blood, all that mess, all night long. No, I'll stay, then tomorrow after lunch, I'll get you settled back at Baker Street. Mycroft has already sent all the supplies I needed over as well as stocked the pantry and fridge with enough food to feed a small regimental army," he said smiling. "I can't have you pulling out any stitches, so don't argue about me staying. A full blown panic attack could cause a lot of damage that they spent a good part of today fixing. I won't have it."
"Yes, Dr. Watson," Sherlock said with a grin. "Or, in this case, you sound more like Captain Watson."
John arched a brow. "Yes, well, whatever gets it through your thick skull that you need to listen to me, that's what I'll bloody well do, Sherlock Holmes."
"Giving everyone trouble already, eh, Sherlock?" came Lestrade's voice from the door.
Sherlock smiled at him and shook his head. "John exaggerates."
"Sherlock, I don't think so this time. You gave us all quite a scare. If John hadn't been there…there wasn't any of us that could have done what he did. I mean, I knew you'd been in a war zone, but to see you work like that, I was amazed," Greg said, crossing his arms and leaning against the doorway.
"Yeah, well, you learn how to patch up things with boot laces and tinfoil when you're out in the field. Luckily, boot laces weren't required this time. Though I did have to tie off an artery in the field one time with one of mine before," John said softly.
"Amazing, is what that is," Greg said with a soft sigh. "Anyway, I'm going for a pint, I know you aren't leaving, John, but Mycroft is in need of some relaxation, and after nearly an hour I've convinced him to go with me."
Sherlock grinned. "Good luck, Greg. Mycroft could use someone else to harp on besides me," he said finally. "And maybe you have his key."
Greg shook his head and headed out of the room, and John frowned at Sherlock. "What was that about?"
Sherlock sighed. "Keys, John. Mycroft and I…there are some things that we have no keys for, you know. Things that are locked up tight, away from everything else, and then one day, out of nowhere, someone shows up with a key that should not even exist. But there it is. Shining and glittering and golden. And well, neither of us know what to do. Maybe Lestrade has that key for Mycroft. No one else has ever come close to getting him to go to an actual pub before." He paused for a long moment. "Sentiment, is it worth it?"
"Of course, Sherlock," John answered without answering. "Most beautiful and terrifying and ugly and amazing things in the world are wrapped up in sentiment."
Sherlock nodded. "They certainly are. I…might have found my key…"
John wasn't sure he heard the last part correctly. "Might have found your key?" he asked softly, tightening his grip on the frigid hand he was holding.
"My key, John. Weren't you listening? I can't see any other explanation for why you can touch me and no one else can. I think…you might be my key."