PROMPT: Sherlock's in a deep coma, considered completely vegetative. One person, however, keeps visiting him and talking to him-knowing he probably can't hear anything, knowing it's just for their own benefit and not his. They do this for months, maybe years.

Then, unexpectedly, Sherlock starts to recover. As he regains the ability to communicate, he asks after his visitor-because he could hear, see, he was excruciatingly aware of everything around him all the time and couldn't do anything about it, and if not for those regular visits giving him something to deduce and concentrate on he would've gone completely insane.

Can be shippy or not; the visitor can be any character, the more unexpected the better.

TL;DR: Somebody visits Sherlock while he's in a coma. He can hear everything they say.

Alternate Universe.


Volunteer Hours

It was a weekly question, but something about it made him dig his fingers into the cheap leather arm-rests every single time it reached his ears.

"How's your blog going?"

It was like being asked for his homework, and god, she knew the answer. Anybody with ten seconds on their hands and an internet connection would know that he hadn't touched the damn thing, but his reply was the same as it ever was.

"Good," he cleared his throat, "very good."

She let a beat pass, then wrote something on her clipboard. This time, it was 'still has trust issues'. Last week, it had been 'desire for change'. He hadn't bothered to argue that most human beings his age wanted change. He hadn't been able to find the energy. He still couldn't- not really. "You haven't written a word, have you?"

There it was, like clockwork. He opened his mouth to speak, to force an issue out of what she had written down in an effort to change the subject, but she shook her head and tilted the clipboard up and away from his prying eyes.

"I know that you're tired of the suggestion by now," she said, "but if you really don't want to blog, I can honestly try to help you find something else to do. Like…"

Her voice trailed off and she leaned forward. John could see 'still has trust issues' again, but she came up with an idea before he could mention it.


John's comment died on his lips.


"Where-ever you like. There's an animal shelter nearby, a few nursing homes and I'm sure that the hospital could use a few visitors…"

She paused and a small, hopeful smile reached her eyes.

"They might even be looking for staff soon, Doctor."

As a rule, John did not like to take the advice of other doctors. He had not toiled away at medical school for years to be too incompetent to take care of himself. He went to the therapist because it was covered by the NHS. It was something to do. It kept Harry from asking him to 'be honest' every week on the phone. It gave him the much-needed impression of actually trying to stop the constant nightmares and the impulse to duck and cover whenever a car exhaust backfired. He needed that semblance of an illusion more than he needed the actual appointments and he knew it. She probably knew it too.

But there he stood, heavily leaning on his cane, ignoring the slow, dull throb of pain in his leg as he looked up at the hospital.

He didn't need padding for his C. V. and he certainly couldn't handle a job in a hospital if it required a lot of moving around. In fact, there was a library ten streets away…

Blogging suddenly seemed a little more appealing.

He slowly headed inside.

"To be honest," Dr. Stein told him, laying a hand on his shoulder as they walked, "we have plenty of volunteers for the children's ward – we always have and we always will – but we could really use somebody to talk to some of our patients in the neurology ward."

John let her steer him through a set of plainly marked glass doors, away from the brightly coloured displays that surely led to rooms and rooms full of small children with depressing back stories. They probably weren't in want of a bland army veteran with post traumatic stress disorder. His puppet shows would be mediocre at best.

Oh, was she still talking?

"We have a few patients that don't have many constant visitors, and they could really use some company. Just ten to fifteen minutes with them would be a massive help, since we aren't sure how conscious they are when they're under. You understand, of course."

John nodded and she stopped in front of one of the rooms, hesitating with one hand lingering on the door.

"We can put you on the children's ward if you like. Some volunteers don't like the idea of speaking to somebody that can't reply or react-"

"I don't mind," he said, cutting her off before she made any more excuses for him. "In fact, I think I might prefer it."

The smile that she gave him was refreshingly genuine.

There were three patients that he was asked to visit. An elderly man by the name of James Howell that had suffered an aneurysm, an old woman named Margaret Monroe that had had a stroke and a younger man called Sherlock Holmes. He had been a detective, Dr. Stein had told him, before he suffered trauma from a head injury. A criminal had managed to beat him down with a lead pipe.

John spent ten minutes with Mr. Howell and fifteen with Ms. Monroe.

He spoke a little about the news and the weather at first, but it had lapsed into an awkward silence rather quickly. At least, it had, before he realised that there was little to feel awkward about. Still, the fact remained: he didn't have much to say.

Mr. Holmes was the last one on his list, and he was already tired and a little abashed. For all intents and purposes, he was talking to himself. He was discussing things with people that would probably never respond or, if they were in there after all, they probably didn't care about what was happening in the current political atmosphere. Nobody would know the difference if he left at that very moment.

But John did not do things in halves. He walked down the hall and, with only a little hesitation, he slipped into the final room.

At least it didn't smell like old people. Mr. Holmes was on a drip, with a feeding tube, but the window had been opened and a vase of flowers sat on the sill, drooping slightly in the cold. A small card, signed with a simple 'M', protruded between an orange carnation, a zinnia and a dahlia. The air was surely cold and crisp enough, and the hair on Mr. Holmes' arms was nearly standing up, so he took it upon himself to shut the little window.

"Sorry," he found himself murmuring as he fussed with his cane and sat down, "it's a cold day. The weather is miserable, but one would expect that from Autumn." He pulled at his leg and adjusted his position, wincing awkwardly as he tried to settle back and relax for a moment. He wouldn't need to be there long- nobody would notice if he left quickly…

His eyes finally fell on Mr. Holmes properly, and he cut the thought short.

He was just about his age, perhaps younger, and he looked as if he was simply sleeping. His eyes were shut, his breath was slow, his chest rose and fell.

It occurred to John, perhaps belatedly, how unusual it was for a civilian to fall into such a vegetative state. He had seen it happen in Afghanistan, of course, but this was London. This was a normal hospital, and Mr. Holmes did not have that awful, sunken look that many other comatose people tended to take on. He had not flattened out against the bed, as if he would eventually become part of the mattress. His cheeks were pale and thin, but they weren't ashen. He probably didn't have any bedsores yet.

On top of it all, even though his curly black hair had grown long, even though it dangled limply against his eyes and the bridge of his nose, there was still something appealing about him. Something intelligent, dulled by sleep and inactivity. Something interesting.

"Detective work was probably fascinating," he said. "I don't have any experience, but I did think of it a few times when I was a child. I liked Dupin and sometimes, Poirot. I couldn't stand Father Brown, though."

He was entirely sure that Mr. Holmes, if he was conscious, would not care. He was even partially convinced that something like this would happen in limbo, if it even existed. He could scarcely imagine being trapped in a body, unable to respond, with only the world's dullest man to listen to.

"I consider myself observant," he said, trying to push away the self-consciousness, "but I've only really had experience with medicine. Patients lied a lot to me, even when I was working in Afghanistan. I hadn't expected it quite as much amongst soldiers, but I could generally tell anyway. I was good at diagnostics. People lie, but their bodies don't."

He paused.

"I suppose that's detective work in itself, but perhaps more mundane. Like investigating a shoplifting charge when grand larceny is taking place across the street. When I was back on the front, if it wasn't a bullet wound or shrapnel, it was almost always an S.T.I. in some form or another."

Mr. Holmes couldn't see his smile, but he certainly hoped that he could hear it.

{Also: Dahlia: Dignity; Elegance; Good taste; Instability / Carnations (Orange): Fascination; Womanly love; Devoted love / Zinnia: Thinking / In memory of an absent friend.}