Hi. :) *Looks sheepish.* I know, it's been forever. You all thought I'd forgotten this story, I'm sure. I'm pretty certain you guys have forgotten! But I suddenly decided that I really wanted to finish this. Series 3 definitely helped. There's only one more chapter after this and I plan to have it done by end of next week. If you're still interested, I really hope you review and let me know that this isn't terrible. Getting back to a story after such a long hiatus is tough. But that's what the Sherlock fandom is all about, right? Long hiatus'? Anyway... really hope you enjoy this!
Heroes Don't Exist
John awoke abruptly and on edge, as he had done for the past few months. This morning was no different. He groped around for the alarm clock on his bedside table, hitting the "snooze" button, and then letting out a weary sigh. Six am already. He gazed up at the ceiling, wondering how many hours rest he'd managed during the night. Three or four maybe, if he was lucky. It was the norm for him these days, surviving on only a few hours sleep. The nightmares had come again, of course. Every time he closed his eyes, he was always back there, back in their front room, looking on helplessly as his best friend was...
John frowned. Going over this again was not helping anybody. Sherlock definitely wouldn't thank him. And maybe that was why he revisited that horrendous day every night in his dreams. He couldn't talk about it, couldn't face up to it. Not to Sherlock, who had decided it would be best to never mention that day, or O'Donnell, ever again. He couldn't mention it to Mrs Hudson, who became distraught at any reminder of that afternoon. Lestrade knew Sherlock had been attacked, but not the severity of it. He had even visited Sherlock in the hospital. John had been surprised he had been told, as Mycroft had gone to a lot of trouble to cover up what had happened. John supposed Lestrade had cared enough to do some digging. He had been the only one.
It was as though there was no one to talk to. His therapist was unable to help him; how could she possibly understand how he felt? She tried to say all the right things, obviously. But that was her job. Her words of wisdom was not what John needed right then. He needed someone who understood. He needed someone who would make all the pain, and the horrors go away. And the only person, apart from Sherlock, who could make that happen for him was Mycroft.
His thoughts turned once more to Sherlock, and the shadow of his former self that he had become. After being released from hospital, for the first few weeks, John had hardly seen Sherlock. The man had retreated into himself, hardly emerging from his room let alone leaving the house. The confident, strong man he had once been had been replaced by a nervous and jumpy version and John was at a loss as to how he could help him. Sherlock needed more than John could offer but he refused to see anyone else. He was distrustful of everyone except for John, and absolutely point blank refused to see or even speak to Mycroft. All Sherlock ever replied to John when he tried to convince him to contact his brother was with the same automatic response:
"He wasn't there when I needed him, John. It's too late now."
And that was all he could get out of Sherlock. All John wanted to do was to support his friend, but Sherlock didn't want to be helped. He wanted to be left alone. Although John knew Sherlock believed he could get through this on his own, it wouldn't be that easy. He was a rape victim now. For him to face what that bastard had done to him, Sherlock needed professional care. John, despite his best efforts, was not able to provide what Sherlock needed. But Sherlock didn't see it like that. "You're my doctor, John. Why do I need another?" Sherlock had also become very nervous, but tried his best not to show it. Even though Sherlock now ventured out of his room more, and seemed more comfortable in John's company, there was never any real conversation between them. Sherlock would keep his eyes trained on his laptop screen, apparently "researching." John had no idea what he was working on, he hadn't even attempted to find a case since "that day."
Due to Sherlock's refusal to let him assist, Mycroft stayed in contact with John via text message. He was always in touch, demanding constant updates on how Sherlock's recovery was progressing. In return, he did pass on some information about how the search for the gang was going. Not that Mycroft ever gave much away, for John's "own good," supposedly. John did have confidence in Mycroft though. He remembered the look of barely contained fury on the man's face back in the flat that day, and knew that not only would Mycroft find O'Donnell, but he would also make sure he paid in full for what he had done to Sherlock. John reminded Mycroft constantly that when he did find the bastard, no matter what the punishment was that Mycroft decided upon, John wanted to be there when it happened. He had drilled that into Mycroft enough times.
John picked his watch up from his bedside table and glanced at it. He sighed. It was time for him to get ready for work. In fact, he was running late. No time for a shower now.
He dressed quickly, and picked up his suitcase on the way to the door. As he crossed the living room, making for the stairs, he paused to call out for Sherlock. There was no reply, so he tried again. He knew Sherlock would be awake. He was always awake. Why would he want to sleep? Not with the dreams he suffered. No one would.
"Sherlock?" John called out, the impatience clear in his tone
It turned out three times was the charm.
At last, Sherlock replied to him, his voice somewhat muffled by his closed bedroom door. "Yes, John?"
"I'm just leaving for work," John called back, trying to keep his voice steady. "Do you want me to bring you anything?"
John frowned. This was the usual cold response he got from Sherlock.
He took a deep breath.
"How about dinner? Will you be hungry?"
"I suppose so."
"How about Pizza?"
"Whatever you think is best, John."
And then the conversation was over.
Swallowing hard, John was suddenly reminded of another conversation the two men had had just before that night had happened. His heart hurt. He didn't know what to do for the best. All he wanted was his best friend back. All he wanted was to help him, in whatever way he could.
"See you later, Sherlock," John whispered. He didn't expect a reply.
He picked up his jacket, switched off the living room light, and made for the stairs.
John sat back with a sigh. Lunch time, at last. It had been a busy morning. John had arrived seven minutes late, apologising to his long suffering receptionist, who had given him a lazy smile and informed him his first appointment was due in five minutes. Mrs Eleanor McIntosh, seventy-one, with a nasty, infected boil. John had let out a weary sigh, thanked her and had gone into his office, preparing himself for the stampede. He wasn't disappointed.
One after another, they came through his door. The sick and infected, needing his help and advice. Some were easy; give them a sympathetic smile and ear, followed by optimistic news and then write out a quick prescription slip and they went off on their way. A couple had had more serious problems and it felt like they took all their troubles out him. He was their GP though, that was what he was there for. And, after all, spending ten minutes listening to Mr Marshall's relationship problems (since when had he been an agony Aunt?) was a lot preferable then trying to get through to Sherlock right then. And that was how it always went for John. No matter what he faced at work, his thoughts always inevitably turned to Sherlock and his inability to help his best friend. He took another bite out of his Chicken sandwich he'd brought on the way to work, and closed his eyes, tiredness hitting him once again.
He really needed to have a good night's sleep. Couldn't fall asleep on the job again. This was his practise now, no Sarah to bail him out.
He had to get it together. Only then, would he be any use to Sherlock.
The sound of the intercom brought him sharply out of his musings. He frowned, glancing at his clock. He'd only been on lunch for twenty minutes, surely he didn't have an appointment booked in?
He pressed the button. "What's up, Liz?" He asked.
"There's someone here to see you, Doctor Watson."
John scowled. Couldn't he have an hour's break?
"I'm at lunch, Liz." He said, with annoyance. "Is it urgent?"
There was a pause, before she spoke again. "He says he's an old friend, doctor. He says he knows you and Sherlock, that you go way back. He wants to know if Sherlock is okay now he's out of hospital." Another pause. "I didn't know Sherlock was ill..."
John's discomfort had grown as she had spoken. No one knew Sherlock had been ill. The whole thing had been covered up by Mycroft. They only people who knew were Mycroft, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, a trusted group of doctors, and John himself. With an ever growing sense of dread, John scrapped back his chair, stood and walked around his table. He pushed open his door, saw Liz, who smiled at him with some confusion, and then his eyes met the man sitting, waiting patiently for him, grinning broadly.
Joseph O'Donnell clapped his hands together, and quickly jumped to his feet. "Doctor! Thanks for seeing me. Sorry to drop in all unannounced like this."
John stared at him, breathing hard, his hand still grasping his door handle. He couldn't believe the scum was sitting in his work place. The last time he'd seen him, he'd had to sit and watch him brutally assault somebody he loved.
John blinked hard. He couldn't picture that now. He had to stay calm, and get through this. Somehow.
He turned hurriedly to his receptionist, who was now watching him closely, intrigued. "Liz, I forgot to go to the bank this morning. Can you pay a cheque in for me please?"
Liz frowned. "Of course, doctor. If you like." She glanced at both men, and obviously felt uncomfortable. "Do you want me to go right now?"
John nodded. "Yes please." He handed her the cheque. "Thanks."
She took it, and then headed for the door without a word, closing it quietly behind her.
Now, O'Donnell and John were alone.
"You bastard," John snarled, trying to reach his mobile phone, which he'd slipped into his pocket. "You've got the nerve to walk in here, after what you've done?"
O'Donnell raised an eyebrow.
"You're not trying to keep my attention off of the fact that you are taking your mobile out of your jeans pocket, are you, John?"
John stopped moving, but didn't say anything. He took his left hand out of his pocket, and swallowed hard.
With a smirk, O'Donnell threw down the magazine he'd been holding, and then kicked the small table away from him, knocking it over. He then chuckled, that same snicker that made John's blood run cold.
"Sorry about that," he drawled. "I'm sure you can have 'Liz' there pick 'em up for you. Pretty little thing." He stuck his hands in his pockets and titled his head. "Shall we go into your office, doctor? Might be more comfortable, don't you think?"
John came to his senses, giving himself a shake. He balled his hands into fists.
"What are you doing here?"
O'Donnell gave him a wounded look. "That's not very nice, is it?" He waved toward John's office once more. "I'm not here to cause any trouble, John. All I want to do is talk."
"And if I call very loudly for help?" John hissed. "There are people watching this surgery-"
"Mycroft's people, you mean?" O'Donnell smiled, showing teeth. "They won't be interrupting us. I'm pretty good at sneaking into places, doc." He leaned closer, and John recoiled away from him, pressing his back against the wall. "And you won't be calling out, or sending out some kind of signal at all, will you?" He very carefully pulled a knife out of his pocket, and toyed with it. John couldn't take his eyes off of the sharp blade. O'Donnell met his gaze again, and beamed. "I'd have plenty of time to slash your throat with this little pretty, John, and be out of here long before they even realise there's a problem."
John's breathing hitched, and he couldn't help but shiver. O'Donnell saw, and smirked yet again.
"I don't want to hurt you, doc. Like I said, all I want to do is talk to you. So why don't you goand sit in your big important doctor's chair and we'll have a nice chat, yeah?"
John wanted to lunge at him. O'Donnell obviously read the intent in John's eyes, as he pressed the top of the blade against his own finger, drawing blood. He then gave John a knowing frown.
"You don't want to be doing something stupid, Doctor Watson. There's no need for this to get nasty."
"Bit late for that," John snarled.
Joseph laughed. "Fair enough. But we can be civilised people now can't we?" He smirked. "And you remember what I'm capable of, right? You don't need a reminder, I take it?"
John glanced down. He saw a flash of Sherlock lying on the ground, O'Donnell standing over him triumphantly, the sound of laughter and jeers ringing in John's ears...
The Irishman didn't bother to wait for a reply. With a cruel leer, he strode past John, going into his office, and collapsed down into the patient's seat, waiting for John to sit opposite him.
John followed him in and closed the door behind him tentatively. He looked at the other man with pure hatred as he slowly sat down.
He was certain, more certain than ever, that he would never hate another human being as he much as hated Joseph O'Donnell.
O'Donnell was sat back in his chair, his body language showing how confident and nonchalant he was. He acted like he owned the place. Owned John. He smiled at him, and leaned closer. "So," O'Donnell said, pleasantly. "How is Sherlock doing?"
John fought to control himself. There was no way he was going to talk about Sherlock to his rapist. Instead, he placed his hands together on the desk in front of him, and asked, quite calmly. "What do you want?"
"No small talk?" O'Donnell asked, with a shrug. "Fair enough then." He leaned closer. "It's come to my attention, from a third party, that you've been looking for me." He smirked. "You and Sherlock's big brother. I thought I'd make it easy for you." He gestured theatrically. "Here I am."
John tried to keep his cool. "When Mycroft catches up with you-"
"The Holmes boys don't scare me, doctor." O'Donnell told him. He picked up a pen from John's table, and played with it. "Tell me though, does the name "Moriarty" scare you, by chance?"
John froze. "What do you know of Moriarty?" He hissed.
Another cold smile greeted his question. "I know all I need to know," he shot back. "And that's enough for me." He dropped the pen, and John jumped at the noise. "I think you should ask Mycroft to back off, otherwise he might cause himself, and lots of other people, an awful lot of trouble."
John glared. "Tell him yourself."
Joseph shook his head. "Nah, I think it would be better coming from you."
He stood up then, pushing his chair back. "I guess I should be off." He held his hand out to John, and shrugged when the other man didn't take it. "You tell Sherlock something from me. Tell him I'll see him real soon."
John felt sick. He didn't trust himself to reply.
O'Donnell sauntered to the door, and gave John a quick salute.
"See you, doc."
And with that, the man swaggered out, leaving a very pale John Watson to stare after him. Coming to his senses, John grabbed for his phone, and quickly made a call.
"I know why you are calling, John."
John gritted his teeth. "You know who was just here?"
"I do indeed. You are being watched, John."
"Then perhaps you can tell me how am ex-convict psychopathic rapist just walked in here with a knife?"
Mycroft didn't respond for a moment. "I apologise that you had to deal with that, doctor, but it was a very clever bluff. He'd have never used that knife on you. He doesn't want you dead, John. You're too valuable."
John blinked. "Valuable? To who?"
Mycroft coughed. "To my brother."
John's hand tightened on the side of his desk. "Is he going to go after Sherlock again?"
"Perhaps that is his plan." Mycroft said softly. "But he will not get the chance. We now know our friend is very over confident, and this will be his downfall. Everyone has a weakness. Our arrogant Mister O'Donnell just made a huge mistake. I'll see that he pays for it. Leave it to me."
"Whatever you do, Mycroft, I want to be part of it. You promised me that."
"As you wish, doctor." Mycroft replied, simply. "Oh and John? Don't tell Sherlock any of this. It will be a lot easier on him, and us all, if we keep this from him. Once the animal has been brought to justice, he will thank us for our discretion. I will contact you again soon, Doctor Watson."
And with that, Mycroft cancelled the call. John stared at his phone for a few seconds trying to digest everything that had happened.
It was a few moments later that John realised that he was still shaking.
It was just after seven when John finally arrived home, armed with pizza. He threw his keys and the Pizza box onto the table, pushing all of Sherlock's mess out of the way. He took his jacket off then, draping it over the back of his chair.
Steeling himself, he called out: "Sherlock, I've got pizza."
"I'm not hungry, John."
"You don't have to eat it, Sherlock. Just try and be sociable for a change."
John actually chuckled under his breath, despite himself. He wasn't doing this again, not that night. With a frown, he walked to Sherlock's room, and rapped on his door, so hard he made his knuckles hurt.
"Leave me alone!"
John put his hands on his hips and glared. "Sherlock, you can't keep hiding away from me."
Sherlock went quiet. John sighed. "Please, Sherlock. Open the door. I've hardly seen you for days."
"You live with me, John."
"You know what I mean, Sherlock! Come out here and talk to me!"
Sherlock threw open the door, glaring daggers at John.
"What do you want?"
"Hi Sherlock," John retorted, putting the plates down beside the pizza box. "How you doing? Good day? Constructive?"
Sherlock frowned, but did move into the living room, allowing his bedroom door to close behind him. He looked a complete mess, his hair dishevelled, and he was still in dressing gown.
John watched him. "What have you been doing?"
Sherlock shrugged. "Working." He sat down opposite John. "You?"
"Yeah, the same." John replied, and then coughed. "It's nearly nine, Sherlock. You need to eat something."
Sherlock frowned, but did as he was told, and took the plate John offered to him, but not before giving him a glare.
They sat together silently. Sherlock didn't touch his pizza, whereas John merely nibbled on one slice of his.
Finally Sherlock spoke up. "How was your day, John?"
John flinched. He bit his lip before replying. "It was fine. Busy," he swallowed, starting to sweat unhelpfully. "Really busy. Lots of bugs going around at the moment-"
"Did you see anyone interesting?" Sherlock cut across him.
John had no idea what to say. He stared at Sherlock.
'Did he know? How the hell could he be? He never leaves the flat...'
After a moment to compose himself, John answered. "No one you'd be interested in, Sherlock, to be honest." He took another bite out of his pizza. "What about you, did you do anything-"
Sherlock didn't want to talk about his day.
"Are you still texting Mycroft?" He snapped. His eyes bored into John's.
John leaned back, and rubbed at his forehead. "I hear from him sometimes."
There was a pause before he spoke again. However, John knew what was coming.
He wasn't wrong.
"Is he still looking for O'Donnell?"
John put down his slice of pizza. He couldn't look at Sherlock. He thought back to O'Donnell's impromptu visit. He wanted nothing more than to tell Sherlock everything that had happened but Mycroft's words of warning made him pause.
Finally, with a small smile to his best friend, he simply replied with "yes."
Sherlock instantly went on the attack.
"I asked you to keep me updated," he threw at him, his anger already evident. "Mycroft is doing everything he can to keep me in the dark. I needed you to be different. I asked for one thing, John. Why didn't you tell me?" His gaze bored into John's. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
John fought to control his own temper.
"Mycroft asked me to keep it quiet until we-"
"So?!" Sherlock exclaimed. "Since when do you obey Mycroft? You're my friend! Not his! You're supposed to care about me!"
John stopped. "I do care," he replied carefully. "Shit, Sherlock, you have no idea."
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. "Why would you side with Mycroft over me? After everything I've done for you?"
"You don't understand anything, do you?" John retorted, close to tears. "This isn't about Mycroft. This is about what's been going on between us! I don't even know what you want from me anymore," John covered his face with his hands. "Jesus, Sherlock, are we even still friends? Most of the time, you can't even bring yourself to look at me and both of us know why."
There was an uncomfortable silence between them.
"Why would you say that?" Sherlock said quietly. "Why would you even think it?"
"Because it's true! I can't stand it when you shut me out!" John spat to him. "You won't talk about what he did to you, it's like you don't trust me, and that's been killing me!" He was imploring him now. "I've been through hell too, Sherlock!" John stood perfectly still, trembling slightly. "I was there that day too..."
A dark look spread across Sherlock's face. It caused John to shiver just by looking at him.
"I'm sorry it's been so hard for you, John." Sherlock told him, softly. His tone was laced with sarcasm. "It must have been so tough, everything you've been through. Having to watch the attack like that. I've been very selfish haven't I? Acting like it was all about me!"
"I didn't mean it like that, and you know it."
"Is there anything else you want to say?" Sherlock hissed. "Anything else you want to get off of your chest? Come on, John! I'm listening!" He gestured angrily. "Isn't this what you wanted?"
"Sherlock," John warned. "That's enough-"
"It wasn't even me they came here for, was it?" Sherlock snapped, leaning closer. "You should have been the one he raped! Not me!" His eyes were blazing. "Then it really would be all about you, wouldn't it? Just like you obviously want it to be!"
That was the last straw. John couldn't hear another word. He got up from his chair, making his way to the door, and pulling it open. He glanced back. "You finish the pizza, Sherlock." He muttered. "I've lost my appetite."
He then grabbed his jacket, and walked through the door, taking off down the stairs, two at a time. He paused at the door, looking back upstairs, and saw that Sherlock was stood at the top, peering down after him.
"I'm going for a walk," John called up to him. "I need to clear my head."
Sherlock frowned, and then threw him a disinterested look. "Don't let me stop you."
He then disappeared back into their flat, and closed the door, now shutting John out in every possible way.
John balled his hands into fists. "Fine."
And with that, John marched out, allowing the door to slam behind him. He made his way quickly across the road. By the time he had reached the pavement opposite, the red haze had begun to clear, and he was already regretting his stupid loss of control. He looked back up at the flat window, and let out a weary sigh. He knew he shouldn't have let Sherlock get to him, Sherlock was still recovering, trying to get his head around what had happened to him. The majority of people would never be able to come back from such a horrific ordeal. It said a lot about Sherlock that he even had a chance to get past it. But one thing was only too clear, if Sherlock was to fight back, then he would need John's help.
John rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth, still hesitating. He should go back in there, he should be there for Sherlock, whether Sherlock wanted him there or not. Especially after O'Donnell's visit to him today. John didn't want to leave Sherlock alone. But it wasn't as simple as that. John needed to figure out what had happened for himself, he needed to get over how guilty he felt.
He needed to stop blaming himself before he could truly help Sherlock...
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by his phone, notifying him that he had received a text. He reached for his phone at once, assuming the new text was from Sherlock. He pressed the button, opened the text, and read it.
His blood promptly turned to ice in his veins.
The text was from Mycroft, not Sherlock. And there were only two words, but they meant everything to John: