Help by Amaya Ramiel
DISCLAIMER: Characters obviously not mine, and all of that.
A/N: Although I have written short fics in the past, this is the first time I'm actually daring to publish one. Apologies for any OOCness. Please R & R ^_^. Hope you enjoy it.
POVs change, but they are marked.
Sherlock Holmes was sitting on the couch in the common room at 221B with his laptop propped up on his folded legs, typing away a new article on the subject of poisons and undetectable toxins for his website. He wasn't making much progress however, as his eyes continually darted over to the clock, wondering where John was.
The doctor had been working a shift at Bart's since the day before, but he had assured Sherlock sometime in the afternoon that he would be home by eight in the evening. The detective had been both relieved and exasperated, he had spent most of the evening before and that morning texting John asking him when he would return to drive Sherlock's boredom away. But now it was past nine, and though Sherlock had started texting John once more twenty seconds past eight, he had yet to receive any replies.
Sherlock knew that a lot of the times John refused to text back out of frustration or anger with him, so he wasn't worried at all at first. However, John wasn't the type to be late, especially an hour late, without notification.
Maybe he had stopped somewhere? Did they need anything from the grocery store? No, John had bought the necessary foodstuffs two days ago; surely they weren't out of milk yet. Maybe he stopped at the pub? Sherlock quickly dismissed that possibility as completely absurd, and wondered for a moment why he would even have considered it.
While a one hour delay wasn't indicative of much, Sherlock couldn't help the nagging feeling that something was out of place.
It had been a very long day; two if you wanted to be technical, but John catalogued his days according to when he was able to get to sleep, so he figured it was a long day that simply spanned two regular ones.
John was tired, exhausted was more like it, and he wanted nothing more than to get home, have dinner and collapse into his bed. He really wanted to do the latter right away, but he knew that if he didn't get some proper food in him, he would be sorry the following morning. Around three in the afternoon he had finally caved into Sherlock's insistent texts and replied that he would be home when his shift finished. At seven thirty he finally exited Bart's and started his journey home, hoping to arrive there at or before eight so that Sherlock wouldn't start texting him constantly again. He would probably get home and discover the reason why the younger man had been texting him so much was because he wanted a glass of water, or wanted him to scratch an itch on his nose, or something equally trivial and absurd.
Some days, most days John amended, he could not understand how Sherlock's brain operated.
The doctor attention was focused on his thoughts, and so he never noticed that he was being followed until he was roughly pulled into a darkened alleyway. His military training kicked in instantly and he was able to twist out of his assailant's arms and deliver a punch that likely broke the mugger's nose. However, he wasn't counting on the fact that the reason the man had pushed him into the alleyway was because that's where he had his backup waiting to complete the ambush.
Even as he punched the first assailant, John's head exploded in pain as a second mugger struck the back of his head with what felt like a metal pipe. John didn't have time to contemplate this though, mostly because he couldn't seem to focus thanks to the violent blow, but also because the first robber had recovered from his punch and was currently pummeling his midsection.
John tried to fight the daze that was threatening to envelop his mind and defend himself, but the second mugger slammed him again with the pipe, this time across his right side and back.
John fell to his knees, as a strained cry involuntarily escaped his lips. Somewhere in his addled mind he contemplated the possibility that he might have one or two broken ribs now, in addition to the cracked skull.
Once he had fallen his assailants gave up their attack, quickly rummaged through his clothing for his wallet and cellphone, picked up his medical bag and ran off, leaving John crumpled among the forgotten garbage and rainwater puddles in a dark London alley.
When next he could think with some degree of coherence, John wondered how long he had been lying in the alley. At first he couldn't remember what had happened, but as the pain from his injuries made itself known, the entire event rushed back into his mind so quickly he almost passed out again.
Slowly turning on to his left side, while clutching his right side tightly, the doctor tried to push himself into a sitting position. The motion left him breathless and gasping, an action he found particularly difficult as he could feel a heavy painful pressure on his right side that prevented him from fully expanding his lungs.
Broken, two definitely broken, he thought as he fingered the ribs on his right side and gasped twice, once as his fingers put light pressure on the broken ribs, and again when the first gasp elicited even more pain.
While half-sitting he had managed to forgo the pain in his head in favor of the pain in his side, but as John placed his hand on the wall next to him in an attempt to raise himself, the movement caused his head to feel like it was splitting in two. The white flash of hot pain blinded him for several minutes, and he fought the waves of nausea that hit him as well. However, every breath he took to try to calm both his head and stomach only served to aggravate his bruised lung and broken ribs.
Once his head stopped swimming so violently, John concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, as he slowly made his way toward the entrance to the alley. He knew he was had to do something, probably get help, but he couldn't concentrate enough to figure out how to do that.
He didn't even know where he was. Somewhere between… he began, but his brain refused to provide him with the necessary information.
As he emerged stumbling from the alley, pausing several times along the way to allow his vision to stabilize, he noticed that there were hardly any people on the streets. Something told him this was unusual, and that it meant something important, but he couldn't figure that out either.
As he made his way along the sidewalk, leaning heavily on the wall for support, he saw a phone booth. Phone! Call – call who? His brain provided, Call.. help... help, must get help.
Trying to put two thoughts together felt like swimming through treacle, and John had to fight unconsciousness once more as he stumbled his way into the phone box.
If Sherlock has been annoyed when an hour had passed and John failed to arrive, then he was extremely worried when eight o clock went by, and then nine. Around nine he had finally given up trying to text or call the doctor, he clearly wasn't going to pick up, and had called the hospital. He learned that Dr. Watson had signed off at half pass seven, and hadn't expressed any desire to go anywhere else but home. In fact, the nurse he had spoken to, who was quickly filed under 'very stupid' in his mental catalogue, had mentioned how the doctor had emphatically commented how much he couldn't wait to get home and rest.
Sherlock cursed himself for being so stupid and not doing something earlier. He had convinced himself that he didn't care what John did, and because he was annoyed the man had gone off two work two days before instead of staying home and entertaining his bored flatmate, he had stubbornly refused to worry. Now it was clear that something must have happened along the way to Baker Street.
Just as he was considering calling Mycroft for help, Sherlock's phone rang with an unknown number. Panic surged through his mind for a moment, his thoughts briefly considering scenarios that involved a particular criminal consultant and John being used as ransom for some hellish plot. However when he answered the phone the first thing he heard was an operator voice asking him whether he would accept the charges for the call that had been placed.
Confusion entered his mind as the detective tried to fit this detail with his previous knowledge of Moriarty and his schemes. It didn't seem to make sense. He accepted the charges regardless, and waited for the call to come through.
When the call connected he couldn't hear anything at first. Then, pressing the phone to his ear even more, he distinguished the labored breathing on the other side.
"I… , more labored breathing, "I think so… who… who is this?"
John stared at the public phone in the booth wondering how the hell it was supposed to work. Almost instinctively his right hand lifted and picked up the phone, bringing it to his ear. His other hand was still firmly clamped on his right side, while his entire body slumped against one of the walls of the booth. He couldn't even remember how he had managed to get himself inside it. Everything had a hazy tint to it, and focusing on anything was becoming increasingly difficult.
John gave up trying to read the instructions written next to the phone, but relying on instinct again he pressed the number that would get the operator. Who am I calling? John knew this bit was important, but it was just so damned hard to think. Help… I need help, he concluded again.
When the operator answered he stated as clearly as he could the number he was calling; how he got the string of numbers out in one go, he couldn't explain, but the number seemed to jump out at him from some corner of his pain-riddled brain. And when the operator informed him he hadn't put any money into the phone, he asked for the charges to be reversed.
The entire conversation left him even more exhausted and winded than before, and his legs gave out as he slid to the floor of the booth. I made the call, that was all that mattered, that was all his mind had been able to focus on and process, and now he felt darkness seeping into his vision as he struggled to remind himself that there was another step… a purpose for placing the call.
The phone rang shrilly in his ear, and he almost dropped the plastic apparatus to clamp his hands around his head to stop it from slitting apart any further. He suppressed the urge however, and soon he heard a voice on the other side.
John! That's me! What was he doing again? He couldn't remember.
"I.., John could barely breathe anymore, and each intake of air felt like someone was digging a knife into his side. "I think so…" It feels like that's my name anyways. But who had he called? "Who.. who is this" John asked, dizziness and nausea threatening to take him under.
"Sherlock, John! What's happened, where are you?"
Sherlock! That was important; John couldn't remember why, but it was important. But the man asked questions.. too many questions. But he called him for something… what was the purpose again?
"Help." John whispered finally.
"John, you're hurt, I need to know where you are to help you." John could hear the rustling of clothing through the phone, and the worry in the other person's voice.
"I… don't know." He responded feebly yet desperately.
The sound of a door opening and closing came through the phone line. "It's alright John, just look around, tell me what you see."
John wondered how would that help, but he did as he was told. He looked around him and answered back as quickly as he could.
There was momentary silence on the other side, before the man, Sherlock- his mind reminder him, answered back.
"Yes John, you are in a phone booth. That's good. Now, look outside, through the glass, tell me what you see outside." The man seemed to be speaking slowly, for which John was thankful as it gave him time to process what each word meant.
John turned his head around and tried to peer through the grimy glass to see the street outside. As he moved his head a stifled cry escaped him as the movement caused the back of his head to brush against the wall he was slumped against.
"Are you alright", came the worried voice again.
"Hurts", was the only reply he could think of.
Looking past the glass he could make out colors and shapes, but he didn't know what they meant. With each passing minute it was becoming more and more difficult to concentrate. In addition, there was something wrong with his vision, he couldn't make out the shapes very well.
"I know John. Now, what do you see John." The voice repeated.
"Uhm… colors… uh.. yellow.. a lot.."
"Ok, good, what else? Think John."
That seemed the one thing he was incapable of doing at the moment. Nevertheless he did his best to describe what he saw.
"Yellow.. I think.. it's a place.. and a blue sign… with an animal… what's it called?" John struggled to remember, it's so simple, he knew this, what was it?
"A bird!", he said triumphantly, before his ribs protested and he uttered another painful moan.
"That's good John, well done, I think I know where you are. I'm coming John, alright. Just hang on. I have to hang up; I'm going to call an ambulance. Can you hear me? Help is on the way John."
John could only mumble an inarticulate reply before the line went dead. Help, that was good, because he didn't think he could hang on at all.
"I think so…. who, … who is this?" Sherlock felt his chest constrict at that. John wasn't even sure of his own name. Sherlock ran through all the possible injuries he might have sustained. Head injury, with a concussion was definitely top of the list. The labored breathing seemed to corroborate this, but it was also indicative of more trauma, perhaps bruised or broken ribs.
He decided to answer John's question first, then try to ascertain what had happened.
"Sherlock, John! What's happened, where are you?"
He instantly knew he shouldn't have flooded John with too many questions when the doctor's labored breathing increased, denoting his distress.
"Help." Sherlock froze at John's whispered plea. Never had he heard the doctor sound so small and lost. The word had burst out of John as though it was the only thing that mattered, and as Sherlock considered the situation, he agreed. From what he had heard so far it was obvious John was suffering from a severe concussion, one that prevented him from even remembering his own name clearly. The labored breathing and the faint whimpers that Sherlock could hear through the phone were indicative of other serious injuries.
Sherlock couldn't imagine how John had managed to get in a phone booth and call him while in such a state. That John had called him and not 999 also indicated where Sherlock ranked in John's subconscious of 'sources of immediate aid'. He didn't know if that was flattering, or if he should be worried at how much trust the doctor had evidently placed on him.
The detective went through this thoughts in an instant, and hurried to comfort John as well as he could while he rushed to put on his coat and scarf.
"John, you're hurt, I need to know where you are to help you." He had to find the doctor before he lost consciousness, a very dangerous possibility for someone with a severe head injury. If John had been heading home, as Sherlock assumed he was, then he was probably mugged along the way.
That was the theory Sherlock was working on. It seemed implausible that Moriarty would have abducted him only to dump him back in some unknown street where John could have easily stumbled unto other people. It was equally unlikely that John had been injured accidently, for then he would have still had his cellphone with him and wouldn't have had to resort to using a payphone.
That left being robbed somewhere between Bart's and Baker Street, so Sherlock only had to follow John's regular route to find him. Still, if the doctor could provide him with any details about his location, Sherlock could get there faster by following shortcuts.
John's quiet and feeble reply came as no surprise to him, however.
"I… don't know." Of course he doesn't know, Sherlock berated himself, The man can barely remember his own name, he's not likely to identify where he is.
Rushing out of 221B, Sherlock answered, "It's alright John, just look around, tell me what you see."
Anything, a street sign, a street vendor, a building, anything!
"Phone." John said quickly, and Sherlock closed his eyes as he realized how bad John must be. He has a concussion, Sherlock reminded himself, needs simpler, more precise commands.
"Yes John, you are in a phone booth. That's good. Now, look outside, through the glass, tell me what you see outside." The detective spoke slowly and clearly, putting emphasis on specific words trying to will John into understanding.
He knew it was a long shot, with such a head injury John would likely be experiencing compromised vision, and would be unable to read any signs he saw, even if he could comprehend what they were.
Sherlock was running down the street following John's regular path to the hospital when he heard sounds of rustling that indicated John was moving around in the booth. A sharp cry sounded suddenly in his ear, shocking Sherlock to a full stop. It was filled with so much pain that Sherlock had to take a calming breath before he asked John if he was alright.
His response made Sherlock break into running again.
"Hurts". John's words were slurred and heavy, and his breathing kept coming in short gasps.
"I know John. Now, what do you see?" He needed John to concentrate, even though he knew how hard that was for the doctor at the moment.
"Uhm… colors… uh.. yellow.. a lot.."
Sherlock's mind whirled as he sought to interpret John's words. He put himself in John's place, a person inside a phone booth, heavily concussed. Yellow? It could be that color, it could also be similar colors that John simply wasn't able to identify. "A lot", he had said. A large sign perhaps, mostly yellow in color, or the canvas eaves in a store, or a display. Sherlock's raced through London's streets ahead of himself with his mind, trying to find possible things John could be seeing. He needed more information.
"Ok, good, what else? Think John."
Please John, give me something more to go on.
"Yellow.. , John repeated again. "I think.. it's a place.. and a blue sign… with an animal… what's it called?"
Sherlock could feel John's frustration, even in his weak voice. How exasperating it must be, he imagined, to know you know things, but be unable to access that information. He wondered briefly whether that was a biological defense mechanism. The body is compromised, so it puts all its resources, including the mind, into fixing the body. The hard drive is so occupied it can't search for information or perform any of its regular functions.
Suddenly John's triumphant answer rang in his ear. "A bird!" But his happiness at identifying such a simple detail was cut short as another pain-filled moan escaped his lips. Sherlock knew they were running out of time. Yellow… and a blue sign with a bird. Sherlock's internal map of the city rushed by his mental eyes, and then he found it. There, on the other side of the street John usually took, a new pub had opened last week. They had tacky curtains that John had commented on in passing as being of one of the ugliest shades of yellow he had ever seen. The pub had put up a sign in blue neon lights advertising their Friday nights, and their logo was a seagull in flight.
"That's good John, well done, I think I know where you are. I'm coming John, alright. Just hang on. I have to hang up; I'm going to call an ambulance. Can you hear me? Help is on the way John." Sherlock hoped that would be enough to motivate John to keep himself awake. He knew from experience how difficult it was to fight the impulse to sleep when concussed, and John had done great so far in staying as alert as he could. But Sherlock could tell he was fading fast, and he needed the ambulance to arrive as soon as possible.
Sherlock could hear the ambulance in the distance as he arrived on the street opposite the pub John had described and saw the phone booth with a figure collapsed on the cramped floor and slumped against the booth's wall. Quickly he opened the door, thankful that it opened outward and not inward, and surveyed John Watson.
There was a lot of dried blood down the back of his head staining the transparent wall, and down the doctor's neck. John's left arm was wrapped around his midsection, holding the right side of his body tightly. The injured man seemed to be unconscious, so Sherlock gently but insistently shook John awake.
"Come on John, wake up. You have to wake up."
Drawing in a sharp breath through his clenched teeth which dissolved into another groan, John pried his eyes open and stared at Sherlock.
"I know you." He whispered, and Sherlock noted there was the ghost of a smile on his lips.
"It's Sherlock, John." The detective had to struggle to keep his voice even for a moment. For some reason it hurt that John could barely recognize him, and yet at the same time it made him strangely happy to know that he was probably one of the few people John would still recognize in his current state.
"Help." John's eyes could barely focus, but they still tried to gaze up and smile at him, and Sherlock knew John's remark was not meant as a request for aid, but as a statement. Sherlock was help, his help.
The sound of the ambulance pulling over and paramedics rushing out permeated the silence of the night, and John spared a glance at them through the open door. A frown appeared on his forehead momentarily as he tried to remember what it meant. Sherlock provided him with the answer.
"You're going to be alright now."
"Good", John whispered before the pull of the darkness was too much on him, and he let himself fall into its welcoming arms.
A/N: That's it! My first published fanfic, yay! Hope it was good. I thought about extending it to include a hospital scene, but somehow it felt fitting to leave it here. Comments and advice are welcomed.