A/N – Thanks to ScopesMonkey for letting me borrow the John she created in A House Divided. I had an idea floating around and John, as she wrote him, provided me with the inspiration I needed to write it. I'm also borrowing John's fallen friend, Jamie, from her in a later chapter of this. Thanks!
Warning – Rated M for content, not for good times. This story is very dark, dealing with death and the mental ramifications. Ultimately there will be a pacifying ending, but it's dark until then. There are cuss words, death of innocent teenagers, some mild gore, and drunkenness to follow. Don't say I didn't warn ya.
Disclaimer – Not mine…
The Ones We Carry
I was tired, exhausted actually, and hadn't eaten anything in close to 24 hours. It was a bad combination for my attitude on a good day. Add the fact that Sherlock was frustrated to the point of belligerence and it was a recipe for a meltdown.
In the moments before said meltdown, I was sitting on a bench, outside the morgue, at St. Bart's. I had my elbows on my knees and my forehead resting on my palms. I'd just 'assisted' on my third post-mortem in 18 hours, all three of them 15-year-old girls. Which was hard enough, but the fact that there were still 5 girls missing made it worse. And Sherlock, the World's Only Consulting Detective, my friend, my flatmate, my lover for exactly 5 months, was having no luck in locating them.
He was pacing the hallway, randomly kicking or banging his head against the wall. I knew he was mentally berating himself for missing, whatever it was he was missing. He was talking to himself in the disjointed way he does when moving the pieces about. I wasn't actually listening, not that I could have followed along if I had been.
I was trying to erase the image of Emily Harper from behind my eyes. Emily Harper, 15, from Cardiff, found on the bank of the Thames in Westminster this morning at 11 am. She'd been dead only a few hours. Cause of death, unknown, even after the post-mortem. No physical trauma or evidence of suffocation, the medical examiner thought, and I concurred, that it must be some type of toxin. We would know more after the toxicology reports came through, but those couldn't be rushed, much to Sherlock's irritation.
Emily had followed Rebecca. Rebecca Jenkins, 15, from Kent, missing 3 weeks, found in an abandoned flat in Wimbledon at 2 pm yesterday. She'd been dead at least 36 hours before they'd found her.
Rebecca had followed Rosa. Rosa Martin, 15, from Whitstable found on the side of the A1 just past Islington, 6 am yesterday. She'd been dead about a week.
None of them had been easy, but it was Emily's face I was seeing behind my closed lids. Maybe because she was the one I'd just finished working on. Maybe it was because I was so tired. Maybe it was because Emily still looked like a little girl. Where Rebecca and Rosa had the taken on the definite air of young women, Emily looked like barely more than a child.
I'd seen many dead bodies before, too many. Both a career in medicine and a war had provided ample opportunity. They tended to blur together in a mix of illness, wounds, blood, and bandages. But there were always those that stayed with you, with me. They had nothing in common, other than staying vivid in my memory. I had a suspicion the Emily would soon have a place among them.
Jennifer O'Malley, with her flaming red hair, on vacation with her husband and son from Dublin. Hit by a drunk driver, husband had died at impact. I'd still been a house officer. I'd worked on her long after she'd gone; trying everything I could to bring her back. She'd been only a few years older than me. I hadn't wanted her to be dead. I hadn't wanted that boy sitting in the waiting room, completely unharmed, to lose both his parents. She was the first patient I lost. I remember the sounds in the room, the way her chest felt as I did compressions, her pupils as…
"You must have missed something John. There has to be something there. How was the toxin administered? I need this information."
I looked up and he was standing about half way down the hallway. Dark circles and bloodshot eyes revealing his own lack of sleep. He'd never admit that weakness though. He'll work until he literally drops dead if need be. His grey eyes were glaring at me accusingly, as if I was deliberately doing a poor job to annoy him. Because naturally, with 3 dead teenage girls and 5 still missing, it was all about him and the difficulty he was having solving the case.
I took a deep breath before responding. It's a technique that has prevented many arguments, and I was too exhausted to argue then.
"Sherlock, you are more than aware of the toxins that can be administered without a physical trace. Not to mention that I am not a medical examiner by trade, but the man who is didn't find anything either. Why would I be keeping information from you?" I managed to keep my voice calm and my gaze on him steady. I hoped it would redirect his attention away from me and back onto the case. Based on the pattern we only had about 48 hours before I was watching another post-mortem on a kid.
It appeared to work. He was still annoyed, but he darted his eyes to the morgue door instead.
"I need to see the body." He announced and walked in. I didn't follow. I fought the nausea over someone else touching that girl, especially Sherlock whose intentions were cold and calculated. I knew he was only trying to find who did that to her, so I pushed the irritation down. Emily would have enough people to mourn her; she didn't need Sherlock Holmes as well.
When the nausea passed, I stood and went into the small locker room, desperately wanting to get out of the scrubs. Somebody, Molly perhaps, had left a towel and a little travel set of toiletries on the bench. I was so relieved; I'd never wanted to take a shower more. I dropped the scrubs in the bin, and stood under steaming hot water, feeling some of the mental grim leave my body along with the physical.
I couldn't stand there too long though. There was still a kidnapper and now murderer out there.
I dressed and headed back towards the morgue. I was a few steps from the door when the bellowing, "JOHN" came down the hall. I closed my eyes and sighed before entering.
He was standing next to Emily, one of his gloved hands on her head, the other pointing at it. A flash of true anger flared in his eyes, and I was momentarily surprised by it. Sherlock was almost never genuinely angry at me.
"I told you there was something else." He spit the words at me. They felt like fire shooting through my body. I repressed the urge to fire back. Instead, I breathed deep, again, and closed the distance between us.
I looked around quickly for Steve the Medical Examiner. He was nowhere to be seen. Great, I was obviously about to be belittled for something he missed.
Sherlock was holding her auburn hair parted on one side and his pointing finger was directing me towards her scalp. I leaned close and didn't notice anything. I was about to point this out when his index finger jabbed into her head, pointing me to a small dark mark. It looked like a tiny mole.
"The injection site," his voice was full of venom. The words cringed down my spine.
I straightened and met his eyes. "Does this information help in some way?" I didn't see how, but then, I rarely ever did.
He somehow managed to look angrier. And when he spoke he was doing absolutely nothing to control the tone or volume. "Of course it helps. Only an imbecile would think otherwise."
The insult, clearly directed at me, didn't surprise me too much. Our becoming intimate with each other had calmed him, especially in regards to me, but it hadn't tamed him. Not by a long shot.
I stood there and didn't say anything. My words didn't matter. My goal was simple; contain my temper until he had completed his tirade.
"God John, why did I even bother letting you sit in on the post-mortem? You provided me no information at all. Worthless. Can you explain to me what you have accomplished today? Nothing, that's what! There are 5 girls missing, perhaps you'd forgotten that. Or perhaps five is too big of a number for you to count to." I should have left then, turned and walked out. I could have avoided him until his brain caught up with his frustration. But I didn't, I let him continue.
He pointed at Emily, lying on the table. "Look at her, John. There are five other girls out there John. Don't you care? You care about everyone else, every stray cat, every homeless addict. But this girl isn't worthy of your compassion. What about the five missing girls? Are they?" He reached the line, the limit of my tolerance. And Sherlock, being Sherlock, blew right across it. Sherlock, being Sherlock, knew exactly what to say to get a rise out of me.
"How am I supposed to catch the killer, John, if you don't perform your job competently? I need the information. If left up to you her death would be a waste."
He paused, still staring at me eyes aflame. And a split second after his mouth closed, I saw the change in his eyes, the realization. He'd seen something in my face to give him pause. He saw it in my face, before I'd even felt it. He knew it before I did. But when I did, when the anger boiled over inside of me, I didn't hold back.
My voice came out of me like water through a ruptured dam. "Fuck you. Fuck you and your fucking superiority. God knows why you let the rest of us stupid idiots breathe your fucking oxygen. God! How horrible it must be to have to speak to the rest of us who can't count to five. What did you ever do to deserve being stuck on a planet with us? You should write a letter to whoever is in charge of those things. It's probably fucking Mycroft, so just text him. Then the two of you can go off to Holmesian Brilliant Land and laugh at the rest of us."
I pointed at Emily. "But while you are there remember one thing for me, one fucking little thing, HER name is EMILY. Her mother is Susan and her father is Tom. She's an only child. She was 15 years old, 15 FUCKING YEARS OLD. She wanted to be a concert pianist. She just had surgery for carpel tunnel and was doing vigorous physical therapy so that she could play again."
I pointed to the wall of refrigerated drawers.
"Second row, third drawer, Rebecca, also only 15 fucking years old. Mother Lucy, Father Joe. She has a birthmark on her neck and had her appendix taken out a year ago. She wore a gold necklace with a football on it. She wanted to make the National Team."
I moved my finger over and down. "Fourth row, sixth drawer, Rosa, 15 fucking years old. Mother also a Susan, Father Doug. She was a bone marrow donor for her younger brother two years ago, he had leukemia. She wanted to become a doctor and cure cancer."
I could see the regret move across his face, the remorse. I sure as hell wasn't going to stop. "And I will dance the cha-cha naked from here to Istanbul and back screaming 'Sherlock Holmes is the Most Brilliant Fuck on Earth' if you can name just one, JUST ONE, of the girls that is still missing." I paused knowing he couldn't do it. He wasn't even going to try. He wasn't angry anymore, far from it. That only fueled the fire.
"Joh…" He started reaching out a hand to grab my arm. I stepped back, out of reach, and continued yelling. Fear crossed his features before he reeled it in.
"How dare you suggest that I don't care? How DARE you? When this is over and you file this all away in your vastly superior intellect, only to bring it out again when you need to gloat over how brilliant you are, I'll have added them to the list of faces I see in my sleep. I'll dream about them and the lives they should have had. The lives they deserved. Thanks for 'letting' me take part in the post-mortems. I really, truly appreciate it."
I stop then, having run full speed into my wall of exhaustion. When I continued a second later my voice was back to normal, tired, but normal. "They were kids Sherlock, kids. She," I pointed back at Emily, "was worth 200 of me. She was smart and had her whole life in front of her. And as you so happily pointed out, I'm worthless. Nothing I could ever do would make her death a waste, Sherlock; the man who killed her already did that."
I shoved my hands in my pockets and looked away from him. I focused on Emily. She had the unmistakable pallor of death, lying on that cold metal table. She looked frail and sad. In my mind, I could clearly see the photo that the police were using in the missing person notices. Her auburn hair had been shining, green eyes bright. She'd had a smile that could light up a room. My throat constricted painfully, and there was a burning in my eyes.
I'd decided to join the Army. I'd decided to go to war. I'd taken all the chances and been punished for it. I was shot and it was horrible, but I lived. Emily was busy being a 15-year-old girl and she'd died.
I gulped down a breath and turned, heading back out the door. I had to get out of that room. I headed down the hallway towards the lifts. I needed fresh air, sunshine. I was suffocating under a pillow of rage. It was pounding in my ears.
I pushed the call button and closed my eyes. The picture of Emily appeared in my mind and immediately it was superimposed by the image of her on the metal table, an overweight medical examiner pulling her insides out.
And Justin Mathers, 19, American, Land mine…
My hands fisted in fury, grabbing the only thing in my pocket, my mobile. Just as the bell dinged letting me know my car arrived I yanked my mobile out of my pocket. I turned slightly and threw, as hard as I could. As it flew towards the wall I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. Sherlock had followed me. His face showed nothing but concern, until the crash of the mobile. It shattered, pieces flying everywhere. My eyes left him to watch with satisfaction as the pieces skidded this way and that. For just a second, the feeling was euphoric, an odd sense of empowerment and accomplishment.
Then I looked back at Sherlock and saw the concern that had been there a moment ago laced with terror. He was terrified for me.
The euphoria morphed to guilt. I'd distracted him, refocused that vast intellect on me. I might have been able to see the true value in those young women, but I was the only thing that mattered to Sherlock. I took the backwards step into the lift and he took the step to follow. I held up my hand and he stopped, his eyes imploring me to let him follow, to let him make me better. I gave a quick shake of my head, my throat tightening up, again.
"Find them." I said as the doors closed, separating us.