The first thing he registered was pain. The second thing was the vein in his hand was being punctured. The third thing was a steady beep beep beep. Sherlock Holmes opened his eyes, and was greeted with the ceiling of a hospital. For a few moments, he was disoriented, but then it all came flooding back.
"John, look out!"
The man leered over his gun, aimed straight at the army doctor. Sherlock jumped, heard a bang, and all was silence.
Shot defending his friend. The bullet must have only grazed his head as he was still alive, but he must have a severe concussion. He moaned gently, head swimming, and turned to look around the room. John was asleep in the chair, and suddenly Sherlock realized he was seeing something completely new about his best friend.
His soul was brown.
The concussion must have done something to his brain because somehow he saw onto another plane of reality. He lay there, staring, not understanding what his brain was doing to give him this new insight. John stirred. He blinked confusedly for a few seconds as his mind woke from its slumber.
"Sherlock, thank God."
The rich walnut brown of John's soul impressed Sherlock to the point of silence. John's look of relief turned to one of concern as he thought perhaps there was brain damage.
"Sherlock? Say something."
"Like what?" Sherlock's gaze hadn't moved, even as John moved his chair closer to the hospital bed.
"I don't know. What's my brother's name?"
"You don't have a brother."
John smiled, relieved once again. "Oh, thank God, we thought there might have been permanent damage after the bullet—"
"Grazed my skull," Sherlock finished. "A perfectly logical assumption. One that I probably would have made."
"And everything's fine? You feel alright?"
"Obviously not," Sherlock snorted. "I've been shot and am in the hospital, dosed with morphine. You know the pain. You know I'm not alright. And there aren't nearly enough painkillers in my system," he finished with a wince, falling back to his previous position.
"I'll get the nurse."
"No," Sherlock said sternly. He wasn't sure why he said it with such vehemence.
"Okay," John said, somewhat taken aback. "I'll stay. Mycroft will be here in a few minutes—maybe he'll do it." Right on cue, the elder Holmes brother walked in, and Sherlock noticed his curious new phenomenon was not limited to John. Mycroft was a deep graphite grey. Sherlock stared.
"What is it?" Mycroft returned the stare.
"Nothing." Sherlock shuddered with pain.
"He, uh, he says the morphine isn't high enough."
"Then why haven't you gone to tell the nurses?"
"I didn't want him to leave," Sherlock said, again not fully knowing why.
"Really," said Mycroft. "I'm hurt. You want him here but not your brother?"
"It's not—it's not like that. He…I…" Sherlock's face screwed up in pain. He could hear his pulse increase and blackness threatened to overwhelm him again. He struggled against the sound that wanted to escape, but failed.
"Sherlock," said John calmly and levelly. "Sherlock, relax. You need to calm down." His soul pierced the blackness around Sherlock's mind and led him back to consciousness. It was like a cup of hot tea when you have the flu—something to reassure you, something brown and wonderful. The darkness relented and full consciousness resumed.
A young man entered, a nurse. Sherlock was relieved to find that he could not read the soul of his new caretaker.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" The colour of tropical waters flooded Sherlock's mind at those simple few words and he felt he was drowning, not in water, but in personality.
"Yeah, he's still in a lot of pain. Can we raise his morphine?" Both John and Mycroft looked at the nurse.
"Um…I'm not sure," he said. "The dose is already quite high—"
"It's not enough," Sherlock snapped.
"Well, you can raise it some more," John said. "I'm a doctor. I know how high is too high."
The door opened and Mrs. Hudson entered. "Oh, you're awake, dear." Eggplant. "Thank heavens for that." She put her hand to her heart. Not long behind her was Molly Hooper, whose soul was the colour of a pea-pod, brandishing flowers. Mike Stamford, brown paper bag, a reassuring look for his friend.
Two browns, grey, green, purple, blue, and the attending physician's yellow. Sherlock felt very ill, and, overwhelmed from his new senses, passed out.
During the recovery period, no more than two people were allowed to visit Sherlock at once. After he was discharged, he returned to Baker Street on a strict diet of boredom for a few weeks. Lifting his violin to his chin, he ran the bow across the strings and was instantly overcome with the tones and shades of red. The impression was so strong that he threw his violin away from him, terrified. John rushed into the room.
"Sherlock! Are you alright?" The walnut flooded the room. Sherlock just stood, staring at his violin.
"Yes," he said, distracted. "Yes, I'm fine. I just…dropped my violin." Footsteps thundered up the stairs, and Detective Inspector Lestrade entered the room.
"Sherlock, I know you're under stress, but we really need you." Light grey with a hint of blue, like dirty ice. And rough, like an unpolished stone. Why was he now feeling textures as well as colours with his soul? John, the colour of walnut wood, the sensation of fleece, shook his head.
"Don't be stupid. I of course I can." Sherlock glared at his friend. "I'm not disabled."
John sighed. "You're still on pain meds!"
"And I can think. My brain is still fine. That's all I need." He picked up his coat. "I'm coming."
One thing Sherlock learned over the next few months was that everyone had a colour and a texture. Donovan, pea-soup green, the texture of yogurt. Anderson, vivid yellow and scaly. Dimmock, deep blue and shag carpet. Even people he didn't know for very long could trigger a response, and he didn't need to be in their presence. The blackness of Moriarty's soul permeated any discussions of him, as did the sinister stickiness like that of dried cola. The victims of the murders he solved even grew colours as he learned about them, though in that case, sensation was rarer. Emotions had colours, too: red for anger, blue for sorrow, gentle yellow for joy, and a dark green for boredom. Ice blue was for hate and humour was an explosion of many colours. He never told anyone about his newfound abilities, for he didn't want them to change the way they treated him. He wasn't insane. Synesthesia is not uncommon, though the particular manifestation of it was.
The perceptions never changed for the rest of his life. There was no correlation between people of similar personality or moral standing, and the logic of it eluded Sherlock. It irritated him, but he learned to live with the peculiar sensations, which, on some days, struck him with such vividness that he was unable to feel as though he was in the moment. It shocked him into detachment beyond the normal levels; he felt as though he walked in a painting, striding amidst colours rather than people.