Title: Sensory Perception - Part 2
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Category: First Time, H/C
Date: September 2010
Setting: Season 1
Disclaimer: Sadly these characters are not mine.
Warning: Slash, H/C
Spoilers: The Great Game
Word Count: 3154
Summary: What happens when the world's only consulting detective loses one of the things most dear to him – his sight.
Notes: Feedback is better than nicotine patches.
.: Sensory Perception – Part 2 of 6 :.
John?" Sherlock whispered. "Is that you?"
In the ochreous wash from the street light, Sherlock's blown pupils gave him an almost reptilian look. His face was pale and pinched, emphasising the toll the emergency surgery had taken on him.
Seeing him awake now, unexpected emotions warred within John. Sweet relief that Sherlock had pulled through against the odds, but underneath a sharp current of despair for his blindness.
"Yes, it's me", John replied. He tried to pitch his voice normally but it sounded forced even to his own ears.
Sherlock sank back down, resuming his near foetal position. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to say anything further, John limped around to the other side of the bed.
"How do you feel?" he enquired gruffly, tilting his head.
There was no reply.
John frowned and retrieved Sherlock's medical notes from the end of the bed. He squinted in the poor light as he tried to decipher the consultant's scratchy handwriting. Without a second thought, he reached to flick on the reading light above the bed. As he did so, the younger man beneath him recoiled.
"Did you see it?" John demanded, his heart hiccuped with hope.
Throwing the clipboard on the bed, he eased Sherlock onto his back. John leant forward and examined his wide eyes, moving his plastered hand over them to see if the pupils reacted.
"No," came the adamant reply.
Sherlock turned over onto his side once more, curling his back body up.
"I saw you flinch!"
"Time perception's a bastard when you're blind." Sherlock's reply was full of flint and self-loathing. He paused before continuing more quietly, "I thought that it was morning already."
A misplaced remorse flooded through John. "Apologies," he muttered.
Picking up Sherlock's medical notes, he spent the next few minutes scanning through them. The consultant's view was pretty clear. The chances of Sherlock developing even partial sight again was low. The damage from looking right at the point of explosion at the time of detonation was severe. Although his knowledge of ophthalmology was limited, it seemed that the consultant was being diligent and through. Something bilious twisted deep within his chest as he resigned himself to agreeing with the assessment.
John hooked the notes back on the bed before easing himself into the visitor's chair. He studied the man lying before him, bed-messed dark curls hiding those once sharp, blue orbs. Sherlock's hands were pulled close to his chest bone, as if to shield the scars of that night. Where he had once been full of whip-crack energy, his body barely able to contain such a forceful temperament, Sherlock now looked subdued and defeated. John worried that his physical injuries were healing a lot faster than his psychological ones. God, he was a bloody expert on that.
The kind of care they had received just wasn't possible on the NHS. John's own osteopath and nerve trauma specialist had seemed more than a tad extravagant for what the X-rays told him was a run of the mill broken hand. Albeit, in four separate places.
Rubbing his good hand over his eyes, John tried once more to drag Sherlock into conversation. "I suppose we have Mycroft to thank for our current accommodation," he mused, hoping that the mention of his brother would provoke a reaction from Sherlock. He was disappointed.
After a short time, John rose, leaning heavily on the arm of the chair.
"I'll leave you to it then," he said quietly and reached over to flick off the reading light. If Sherlock flinched once more, neither of them designed to comment on it.
With one last glance over his shoulder, John left the room and quietly closed the door.
Unable to sleep after his somewhat futile visit with Sherlock, John had channel surfed until the sun had come up. The arrival of breakfast was a welcome diversion. As he devoured his scrambled eggs on toast and drained the last of his orange juice, John reached a decision. He grabbed his copy of The Guardian where it lay on the bed and hobbled with purpose towards Sherlock's room.
"Good morning," he greeted the care assistant as the man exited Sherlock's room.
"Good morning, Doctor Watson. I've just changed his pyjamas and helped him clean his teeth." The man smiled kindly, hiding the acerbic abuse he'd received for his efforts. "He should be feeling a little brighter for it. Can I get you anything?"
John asked for tea and coffee and then thanked the man and stepped into the room.
Sherlock had, at least, changed position. He was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling. One finger was picking at a loose thread in the bed sheet.
John had thought a lot that morning about how to handle Sherlock's blindness. He had decided that pretending it didn't exist or tiptoeing around it, wasn't going to work. The best way would be to be pragmatic and try not to feel embarrassed or guilty that he still had his own sight.
"Morning, Sherlock", he said brightly.
He thumbed on the flat screen TV, hinged to the wall. BBC One came into life, the weather bulletin predicting another cold, windy day in London. John un-tucked the newspaper from under his arm and settled down into the chair. He supposed that Sherlock would speak in his own good time. After all, there were often days that went by when they hardly said more than a few words to each other.
Struggling to hold the paper in both hands, it rested on his lap. He lost himself in the headline stories about the upcoming budget cuts, frowning with reference to the amount the MoD was going to have to save and what that would mean to the front line troops in Afghanistan.
Around quarter of an hour later, the care assistant reappeared with a tray of steaming pots and crockery. John motioned for him to set it down on the small table over Sherlock's bed.
"Do you want me to help Mr Holmes with this?" he asked.
"It's fine, thank you. We'll manage."
For the first time, the smell of coffee seems to rouse Sherlock and he slowly eased himself more upright in bed, wincing as his stitched abdomen pulled.
John sniffed at the different pots to identify which was which. Then he opened the teapot to give it a good stir. Leaving it to brew a little longer, he poured Sherlock's coffee, taking care that he didn't fill the cup too full.
"Two or three?" he asked.
"Three," came the quiet reply. John held the sachets of sugar in his good hand and ripped them open with his teeth.
He manoeuvred the table closer to Sherlock, and then took his hand. The man stiffened slightly at the contact, but John held it firmly and led it first to the edge of the table, where Sherlock's fingers closed over the edge, and then to the coffee cup.
"Try and use both hands to keep it steady," he advised. "It's around half full."
Sherlock nodded, and his long pale hands closed around the warmth of the cup. He sat like that for a minute or so, before slowly raising the cup to his mouth. John winced a little as it gently collided with his teeth, but Sherlock seemed lost in the heat and aroma, and carefully sipped at the black liquid. John smiled slightly as he noticed a slight relaxation in Sherlock's frame as the caffeine worked its magic through his veins. John poured his own tea, and settled back into his chair and turned his attention to the television.
A loud curse made John whip around to face Sherlock, where he immediately took in the sizeable coffee stain on the man's pyjama top.
"Oh crap," John said in an apologetic tone and leant forward to take the coffee cup from Sherlock. Sherlock swiped at him with the back of his hand, catching him in the jaw.
"Goddamn it, John. Leave me be!" The coffee cup lurched precariously in his other hand. John's gaze narrowed, observing how the emotions seemed to play so obviously on Sherlock's face, compared to his sighted days. The man would be mortified to know how easy he was to read now.
"I'm trying to help you," John said in a patient but steely tone, attempting to reach for the coffee cup as it sloshed more hot liquid onto the bed sheet.
"I don't need a fucking mother hen!" Sherlock shouted and with a mixture of petulance and frustration, he threw the coffee cup across the room.
The shattering brokered a heavy silence.
"I'll come back when you've decided that you're no longer a child," John said sternly.
It was only when John had left, leaving Sherlock listening to a TV that sounded abnormally loud in the silent room, that he noticed that the news presenters often read out the time.
Later on that day, Sherlock finally succumbed to asking his care assistant where John was.
"He's left, Mr Holmes. His injuries weren't as severe as yours. He's been free to leave for a few days now."
Sherlock said nothing but turned over in bed, and tried to ignore the feeling of shame that flooded through him.
221B seemed rather empty.
Mrs Hudson had seen to the refit of the windows, and most of the broken glass had been disposed of, but the rest of the mess was left untouched. John's nose wrinkled. There was definitely smell of rotting flesh emanating from the kitchen. Sighing deeply, he decided to put the kettle on before making a start.
The tidying was slow going as he was doing most things one-handed, but the lounge was starting to look better. He was putting books back on the bookcase one by one, an excavation process which had already turned up a petri dish of teeth and a plate of desiccated toast crusts, when his mobile rang. Not recognising the number, he punched the green button.
"John Watson," he answered.
There was no response.
He could faintly hear breathing. God, he hoped it wasn't that bastard Moriarty. He hoped to hell that the madman had been swept straight down into the fiery pits of damnation when the bomb had exploded. Lestrade hadn't been exactly forthcoming on the forensic details Anderson and his team had found, which unsettled John no end.
After a couple more seconds, he said acidicly, "I don't enjoy prank calls". He went to punch the red button.
"Wait..." came Sherlock's tinny voice from the speaker.
"Sherlock?" he said.
"John..." More silence. Then, "I am sorry for earlier..."
"Are you certain about this, Doctor Watson?" Both men knew that the consultant was referring to the earlier incident. John scribbled his signature across the bottom of the form. He nodded with a sigh.
"Yes, " he said simply. "I'll take full responsibility for his care." He passed the hospital discharge papers back. The consultant handed him Sherlock's upcoming appointments, and John tucked the piece of paper into his back pocket.
Picking up the sports bag he limped into Sherlock's room.
This time Sherlock looked anxious to see him, twisting his body to face the doorway.
"Yes, it's me," he said, noticing absently that the earlier coffee stain had already been cleared up. John placed his sports bag on the bed, but he wasn't ready to let Sherlock off the hook straight away. He pinched his nose, and then spoke his mind.
"I know that this is difficult for you, Sherlock. You have sustained serious injuries, both physically and psychologically. I am here to help you where I can, but I refuse to be your emotional punch bag. You will have to take on the responsibility for your...rehabilitation yourself."
Sherlock said nothing.
"You are the most intelligent man I know. You will find a way to cope with this, once you get that genius brain of yours working on the problem."
"I...", Sherlock started. Then in a smaller voice, "Perhaps you are right."
"Of course I'm right. Anyway, I've come to break you out."
John suspected that part of Sherlock's withdrawal was due to being cooped up in the hospital. Not enough stimuli to get his brain working, and an unknown environment that he couldn't picture in his brilliant mind. Sherlock was like a wild animal who had been held too long in captivity, all the fight and spirit had been drained from him.
"We're going home?" the fearful tone in Sherlock's voice was unexpected.
John's eyes narrowed. "Yes. That is what you want, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes." The reply was a little too quick for John's liking.
"I brought you some clothes from home." Rifling through Sherlock's room had been an interesting exercise in itself.
"Describe them." John unzipped the bag.
"Navy trousers, pale blue shirt, briefs."
John passed each item of clothing to the detective, watching as his fingers danced over them them. Fingering the cuffs and collar of the shirt, Sherlock asked, "The Ralph Lauren?" John checked the label in the collar. He had chosen this one as one of the few shirts Sherlock had that didn't use cufflinks.
Sherlock threw back the covers, and John helped him until he was seated on the edge of the bed, his bare feet just grazing the floor.
"Do you want me to get one of the nurses?"
Sherlock shook his head. He'd had enough of that indignity to last a lifetime. But then as the reality of trying to dress himself became apparent, especially with his injuries, he looked over to where he thought John was standing. John heart fell a little when he realised that Sherlock's gaze was off by a few degrees.
"Need a hand?" he asked.
"Yes, well. Perhaps I do. Just this once mind."
"Right you are."
John punched the privacy light on the wall, and then moved over to help Sherlock, who's nimble fingers were making good work on his pyjama top. However, he struggled to shrug out of the garment, wincing in pain.
"Here," John said quietly and eased the top off the man. He leant forward and checked Sherlock's dressings on his chest and back. John's touch seemed far less of an intrusion into his personal space than the care assistant's had been, so Sherlock permitted the impromptu examination without comment. John's rough fingers investigated that his dressings were still stuck down firmly, covering the stitches. He was pleased that no bleeding was visible.
Sherlock hissed when John accidentally skimmed the deep bruises below his sternum. The extensive purple yellow mottling was a violent explosion against the expanse of pale skin. John flushed with guilt in the knowledge that he had inflicted this on Sherlock with his own bare hands.
"Sorry," he murmured. Unsure as to whether he was apologising for hurting Sherlock just now or back then.
Sherlock's hand stretched out until it encountered John's right arm, and then curled around it.
"Thank you," he said in a low voice and both of them knew he wasn't just talking about now.
John placed his good hand over Sherlock's and squeezed reassuringly, not trusting his voice. Sherlock's hand slipped down his arm until it came in contact with the cast. His fingers darted over the slim hard shell, grazing John's sausage-like fingers.
"Thank you," he said again.
John reached for the shirt and gently guided Sherlock's arms into it. Placing Sherlock's hands on the bottom button and hole, he left him to do the rest up. He didn't want the detective to feel more of an invalid than he was. Getting the shirt on felt like a small but significant triumph, even if Sherlock fumbled with the cuffs for a painful minute.
"Okay?" John asked as he reached for Sherlock's pyjama bottoms. The other man set his jaw and nodded. As quickly and as clinically as he could, he stripped the bottoms off and then fed Sherlock's legs through the DKNY briefs, and then eased the taller man off the bed. He had a fleeting thought about Sherlock's comment about Jim's designer pants only a short few days beforehand. Then John busied himself with the trousers to give Sherlock a moment of privacy to arrange himself.
John knelt at Sherlock's feet, inhaling sharply as his leg twinged, and placed a hand on the bare ankle. Sherlock's hand slid through John's hair to grip his head to help him balance, as he lifted first one foot and then the other through the trouser legs. Sherlock flushed slightly at the spurious tableau of intimacy they must have made. Luckily John seemed oblivious to it as he lifted the trousers until Sherlock's hands were able to grab them and finish dressing himself. When they were done there was a fine shine of perspiration on Sherlock's face, the effort of getting dressed was more than he had expended for a while.
John had found an old pair of loafers in the back of Sherlock's wardrobe and so he slipped those onto Sherlock's bare feet. Certainly, neither of them would be able to cope with shoelaces for a while yet.
"It's cold out today," John said. Sherlock heard the graze of heavy material, and his hand shot out.
"It was in the flat," John said watching as Sherlock's hand stroked the material of his beloved coat, his eyes closing briefly.
"Obviously..." Sherlock murmured, his tone contained the ghost of their old banter. John smiled and helped him into the overcoat.
John pressed Sherlock's gloves into his hand. "The left one's on top," he said quietly. Sherlock nodded and pulled them on with little problem. "Sorry, couldn't find your scarf anywhere."
Sherlock carefully turned up the collar of his coat but said nothing.
Sherlock took a breath and took one step forward. Suddenly, he had an overwhelming sensation of disorientation and fear. Leaving the bed behind, he had no frame of reference to his location. It was as though he had stepped off the end of the world into a grey vortex of confusion. His breathing quickened and his balance wavered, but before he could stumble he felt John's step up close to him. The warmth of the other man's presence was a sturdy anchor within his own private maelstrom.
"Okay?" John asked, concern lacing his voice.
Sherlock gave a shakily little self depreciating laugh.
John guided Sherlock's hand to the crook of his left elbow and Sherlock held his left out in an unconscious attempt to detect any obstacles. Slowly, like a pair of old men, they made their way out of the door.
.: End of Sensory Perception – Part 2 of 6 :.