Chapter Notes: This fic started out as a one shot posted on vomit_bunny's LJ page.
I thought it was an amazing idea and I told her so, she encouraged someone to write the sequel because she said she only had the oneshot, well my muse set up in a cloud of Honduran Cigar smoke and began to offer variations on that original tune.
The resulting fic has some of the best dialogue I have ever written and has a nice thread of tension throughout.
Remember this is vomit_bunny's idea I don't think she has a fanfiction account so if you wish to tell her how awesome this first chapter is you can visit her and leave a review here:
Once again neither I nor vomit_bunny own Sherlock or any of their variation on ACD's original universe, you can thank Moffat/Gattis for that, and while you're at it thank Gatiss for his Mycroft.
John opens his eyes and stares blearily at the ceiling. White, boring, institutional.
It takes him a moment to realise that someone is talking to him.
"What do you remember?"
He tries to turn his head towards the voice but his eyes have drifted shut before he manages to answer.
He watches the nurses as they fuss.
"What do you remember?" the doctor asks.
"I." He pauses and thinks for a moment. "There was an explosion."
"What do you remember?"
He giggles. "Boom!"
"It's okay, John, we're just adjusting your medication."
He wants to laugh at that but the sound seems to catch in his throat and it comes out as a sob instead.
"What do you remember?"
"Okay," the doctor replies, making a note on his chart.
"My friend. Sherlock Holmes. He was with me! Is he okay?"
"You need to calm down, John."
There's a doctor, or at least a man in a white coat, standing over him, adjusting an IV, when he wakes. His IV he realises after a moment.
"Hello, John," the doctor says, his accent pure Oxbridge. "What do you remember?"
He thinks. "Um."
"I, what. What happened?"
"You were caught in an explosion. Minor burns and abrasions for the most part, but you took some shrapnel to your back and neck, a piece of it fractured the base of your skull."
He lets out rush of air and tries to process the information.
"Are you alright, John?"
Something at the back of his mind demands attention. "Where's Sherlock?"
"What do you remember?"
"Where am I?"
"You're safe, John."
"Where am I?" he asks more insistently, trying to push himself up from the bed.
"You're at Selly Oak," the doctor replies, easily pushing him back down onto the bed.
"There was an IED, John. Do you remember?"
"I remember an explosion."
"We've had this conversation before?"
"Several times," the doctor explains. "Confusion is very common with this type of head injury."
"I know," John replies frustratedly. He shuts his eyes and takes a calming breath. "I'm sorry."
"No, I really don't think you do."
"Do you remember asking about Sherlock Holmes?"
He doesn't, but that's not important. "Is he alright?"
"John," the doctor begins carefully. "Who do you think Sherlock Holmes is?"
"He's my friend," he answers, trying to pick through a jumble of memories. "He was with me when the bomb went off."
"No one else on your team was hurt, but-"
"Team, what team? What are you talking about?"
"I need you to calm down, John. We had to sedate you last time."
John stares at the wall. His room is utterly devoid of anything of interest; even the blinds are constantly kept shut, not that he thinks a view of Birmingham would really improve things. He stares at the wall and tries to connect all the pieces in his head.
He looks up when the door opens and catches a glimpse of stark white corridor beyond his room before he focuses on his visitor. She's new and everything about her screams psychologist.
"Hello, John. I'm Dr Mathews."
"I hear you've been feeling confused, John."
"I'm not confused."
"John," she repeats, trying to build a rapport by stressing his name, he thinks. "Can you tell me about Sherlock Holmes?"
"What would you like to know?" he asks, a little confused, not that he'll admit it, that his psychologist wants to talk about Sherlock.
"Did you meet him in Afghanistan?"
He frowns. "Of course I didn't."
She smiles at that, encouraging.
"I met him when I got back."
The smile doesn't slip exactly, but it does strain around the edges.
"We share a flat," he adds.
"Two hundred and twenty one, B, Baker Street?"
He forces a tight smile. "Yes."
"Tell me, John, have you ever read anything by Arthur Conan Doyle?"
"What? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Would it surprise you to know that Sherlock Holmes is a character created by Doyle?"
"Would it surprise me to learn that my best friend is fictional?" he retorts sarcastically. "You know, it probably would."
"I'm not trying to upset you, John."
She has a book with her when she comes back, puts it on the bedside table but doesn't mention it as they talk about Afghanistan and what he remembers or what he thinks he can remember. He can read the cover, though, A Study in Scarlet.
"Would you like a look?" she asks after his eyes flick to it for what feels like the hundredth time.
He reads the first page, the first paragraph and shuts the book, looking at her incredulously. "Am I not real either?"
"John Watson is a fairly common name," she points out reasonably.
He throws the book across the room when Dr Mathews leaves, angry and ashamed, as if reading it is capitulation of some sort. It hits the wall with a loud thump and fall to the ground, pages open, spine bent.
He ignores it for the rest of the day, focusing on the comings and goings of the hospital personnel, instead. He can only remember, not that that's worth much at the moment, three members of staff, well four with his psychologist. It's still the oddest shift rotation he's seen.
He eventually asks one of the nurses to fetch the book for him. She babbles excitedly when she sees the cover, she's a huge fan, used to read them as a child, and has he got a favourite? John didn't even know there were others.
He reads A Study in Scarlet, it's really just a nineteenth century version of A Study in Pink with a story about Mormons tacked on. Nothing someone couldn't fabricate from reading his blog, okay there are parts where the author would have needed to have seen inside their flat or have eavesdropped on their conversations but it's not beyond the realms of possibility. John holds onto the idea with all his worth.
"I need to borrow your laptop," is the first thing he says when Dr Mathews comes back.
She doesn't argue, just hands him the computer and talks him through connecting to the wi-fi. Part of him is disappointed, he'd hoped she wouldn't let him, that she'd argue.
His blog and Sherlock's web page don't seem to exist. "That's not right." He feels muddled, and scratches distractedly at the IV port on his hand. He tries typing Sherlock Holmes into google. The first result is a wikipedia page about a fictional detective and he gives up and closes the laptop.
He feels sick.
"I don't see why I should believe you," he manages to say. "I don't really have much of an incentive, if you're right I'm mad."
"I don't think you're mad, John. I think you went through a traumatic experience, both physically and mentally, and your mind created somewhere safe for you while you recovered."
He wants to laugh at that, because safe is the last word he would use to describe his life with Sherlock, but he holds back, a little afraid it'll come out closer to hysteria.
"But you need to let it go now."
It's all so completely reasonable that he feels a bit guilty when he insists that she leave.
"Really, John," she says the next day, and the way she uses his name still grates, "I'm not your enemy. There is no grand conspiracy."
"I know," he replies tiredly. Sometimes he dreams that they come for him: Lestrade or Mycroft, once, memorably, Mrs Hudson, but most often it's Sherlock. Nearly always Sherlock, in fact, who strides in as if he owns the place and explains away all of John's confusion so easily, a neat little solution to terribly complex problem.
"It's not real, John."
He turns on his side and closes his eyes at that, ignoring her until she leaves. He's a coward, he realises as he listens to her talk to his doctor about increasing his medication, but he doesn't care.
He opens his eyes and stares blearily at the ceiling. It's white, boring, and institutional.
"John," someone prompts.
"I'm sorry," he starts, turning his head and frowning in confusion. "I can't remember your name."
The doctor smiles. "Don't worry," he says. "It's Moran. Dr Sebastian Moran."