Here it is! The endish part of the story. I say endish because there is one more short little epilogue thingy, but as far as the exciting and climactic storyness goes, here you are. Enjoy!
Pole stood silently in front of the cell for several seconds before responding. What Holmes was suggesting was preposterous, but if there were only the slightest possibility that what he was saying was true, then there was a chance that John Watson would live; because at least when he had left the infirmary, that had still been up in the air.
On the other hand, if he was trusting Watson's life to a man with no medical training and who was clearly guessing at best, that was negligence, which could also lead to Watson's death. As well as a hell of a lot of trouble for him legally.
Pole released the intercom button, sensing briefly that from behind the soundproof door Holmes was shouting at him in frustration. He had to think about this. He needed time for what Holmes was suggesting to sink in. He needed time to come up with a plan.
Unfortunately, it was all time he didn't have. A phone rang from the guard's desk, breaking his thoughts. The guard answered.
"It's for you, Captain." He said to Pole. "It's urgent, sir, what would you like me to tell them?"
"I'll take it here, soldier." Pole said, taking the phone from the guard's hand.
"This is Captain Pole." He answered. "Please tell me Watson's still breathing."
"He is sir, he's been intubated." The medic responded, not understanding the Captain's stab at humor.
"Something I should know, or did you just call me for the fun of it?"
"Sorry, sir. There's something odd happening. He's in a medically induced coma, or he should be, at least, with as many sedatives as we've given him for the trach."
"But?" Pole prompted.
"But… he's still a GCS 8t." Puzzling. A Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8t meant that even with the trach (which reduced part of the score to 1), he wasn't anywhere near a coma.
"Does his file show any history of drug use?"
"That was our first thought as well, but no sir. Whatever he ingested before seems to be cancelling the effects of the sedative." Pole looked up at Holmes's expectant but frustrated face behind the glass.
"Alright, I'll be there in a minute, and I'm bringing Holmes. This may seem completely insane, but I'm going along with his idea."
"Are you sure that's a good plan, sir?" The medic asked.
"No, but at the moment it's our only plan." Pole placed the phone back on the cradle, the medic's words echoing in his head. Was he making the right choice in trusting Holmes? Possibly, possibly not. Would he? Yes, because it was the only plan he had at the moment, and Holmes seemed certain it would work. In any case, the idea seemed valid; he just hoped that Holmes could see it through.
"Soldier, I'm taking this prisoner with me."
"Sir, you were the one-."
"I changed my mind, soldier."
"None of my business, sir, just sign here." The guard replied, handing a clipboard and biometric scanner to Pole.
"That it?" he asked.
"Yup. I'll unlock the cell."
Sherlock didn't so much allow Pole to escort him out as he did drag Pole back through the detention area doors and down the hallway to the elevator. Combined, the phone call and letting him out of his cell could only mean one thing, and that thing didn't exactly bode well for John.
"Wait! Wait, there's something I need to explain!" Pole shouted as Sherlock stabbed the elevator button six times and then began to look for the stairs.
"Then start talking, I can listen and hurry at the same time."
"Gifted like that, are you?" Pole asked under his breath. Sherlock seemed not to hear.
"Give me your card." Sherlock demanded, having found the staircase that would lead them back to the infirmary. The elevator still hadn't arrived.
"Your ID. Give. Me. Now!" Sherlock nearly shouted. "And you haven't explained anything yet!" He pointed out. Pole sighed and slid the card through the security slot by the staircase doors, but Sherlock beat him to punching in the code. "Don't bother changing it, John lives and your secret's safe with me." Sherlock said matter-of-factly to Pole's stunned expression. It didn't seem like a threat, but then this man hadn't really cared much for rank except when he was using Watson's to get his way, and if he had an ID code, and that would be enough to cause damage.
Sherlock raced up three flights of stairs, dragging Pole behind him like a bag of laundry. Pole found it difficult, but he explained the best he could about John's condition and the drug counteracting the sedatives as they ran faster and faster towards the infirmary. When they arrived, Sherlock wasn't even breathing heavily.
"It isn't the hallucinogen. It's his mind. From now on its all his mind." Sherlock insisted. "When we get inside, take another blood sample, test it, and then compare the amount of drug in his system to what there was in his system when you brought him in. We need to see how fast he's metabolizing it."
"That's a given, I'm sure my medics have already figured that out." Pole said. Sherlock held his hand out for the card to open the infirmary doors. Pole didn't give it to him.
"Mr. Holmes, I promise I will let you do whatever you feel it right to save your friend, regardless of your answer, but I would like to know one thing before I let you in." Pole said, forcing Sherlock to look at him in the eyes.
"What is it?" Sherlock asked urgently.
"Do you have any proof at all of what's wrong with Watson, or are you just going by a gut feeling?" Pole asked. Sherlock stopped for a second, slightly affronted by the question. When he answered, it was in an urgent voice
"Captain Pole, I don't make decisions based on gut feeling. I don't have proof; in my line of work proof is a very relative term. What I do have is evidence. Evidence that what's wrong with John is completely in his mind." He paused, staring unwaveringly back at Pole. "I know for a fact that other people have been exposed to the drug in Watson's system. I know for a fact that the dose Watson ingested was tiny compared to the doses ingested by others. I also know for a fact that not everyone exposed to the drug had hallucinations, or even experienced any sort of heightened sense of fear. From this I can deduce that there needed to be two separate elements, the drug and the environment, for the effect to live up to it's potential. Therefore the fear was a product of the mind, and so therefore the extended effects of that fear, including the shock that's killing him and the adrenalin that is counteracting the sedatives, were ordered by his mind. Do you understand why the only way to solve this is to break the hallucination?" Sherlock asked. Pole nodded. "Good. Now we just have to do it." Pole nodded, humbled. "Key card?" Sherlock prompted. Pole handed it over.
"But what do you have in mind, Mr. Holmes?" Pole asked. "We barely even know what the hallucination is of."
"No, Captain, you barely know what the hallucination is of because you still haven't fully wrapped your mind around what's happening. I have. For now I'll talk to him, see if that works. If it doesn't, we'll go with my original plan, which was to humor him until it passes, or until we figure out something better." Pole nodded and handed over the card, then pulled it back again.
"What do you mean by that?" He asked.
"About having wrapped your head around the effects of the drug." Sherlock paused for a moment. He looked at the keycard, then back at Pole's set face. He wouldn't get the card until Pole got the answer he wanted. Fine.
"I have previous." He stated. Pole raised an eyebrow but finally gave the card to Holmes.
"Okay, save your friend and you don't even have to tell me the rest of that story."
The first thing Sherlock noticed was how quiet the infirmary had become. Barely a half-hour before, the medics had been calling orders and informing each other of pertinent information. Now there was only one person there, and he stood off to the side, his eyes shifting between John's struggling form and the monitor. He looked up as Sherlock and Pole entered the room.
"Leave us." Sherlock said to the medic, who looked at Pole for approval. Pole nodded.
Now Sherlock rounded on John. Pale. Sweaty. Definitely alive but in also definitely still in a great deal of pain. His breathing was uneven and catchy beneath the oxygen mask. Someone had extubated him when the sedatives hadn't worked and breathing seemed to be becoming more and more difficult.
"Come on, John. Come on." Sherlock mumbled. He had no idea of what to say and the words of hollow encouragement sounded strange and somehow foreign coming from his mouth. Suddenly he wasn't sure that his plan would work. It hinged on him being able to provide comfort, and not in proofs and numbers and extrapolations and deductions as he would have hoped for had their roles been reversed; but in compassion and encouragement and sympathy and empathy. And that was where things became difficult for him. By definition, he had empathy for this. He'd felt fear that night by the fire. Doubt. Confusion. The feeling that he couldn't trust his own senses. All because of the drug. But what would have come as comfort to him last night would have been the knowledge that he'd been drugged or to have Watson telling him what was real and what was not in a solid, concise manner. He'd already tried that with Watson, though. It hadn't worked, and that was because, fundamentally, he and Watson worked differently when it came to the idea of comfort.
He took the chair Pole offered him and sat down at the edge of Watson's bed. Once again he tried to imagine the scene Watson was experiencing. He pictured the white sheets blossoming with drying blood. The lack of people in the room. The sheer terror when nobody was helping him. The helplessness when he realized there was nothing he could do to make them understand why he was dying and how they should help him. Frustration coupled with fear coupled with anger and horrible, horrible pain that he couldn't block out that radiated from the wounds all over his body. The wounds he knew would soon end his life if no one stepped up to the plate and helped him.
Sherlock tried to reconcile it all in his mind. The feelings were so dull to him, so fragile when he did manage to bring them to the surface. He didn't feel this way, couldn't feel this way. But he had to.
Gingerly he reached out to hold John's hand. He wasn't sure what that expressed exactly, but he didn't really care. It was something he'd seen John do for patients on more than one occasion. Even if there was no medical relevance, at least maybe it was a way to show that there was someone there, that they weren't completely alone. John flinched away from his hand at the touch and Sherlock wasn't quite sure what to do with the reaction.
"It's me, John." He said quietly. "We're friends, you know. I've… never really been able to call anyone that." He wished Pole would leave the room. "Listen, I know you're hurting. I want you to know that you're not alone in this. You're going to be okay." Sherlock grimaced at his own words. It disgusted him not to be able to tell John the truth, reiterate what he'd said before about the drug and the hallucination and the experiment and his mistake, but that hadn't worked before and he'd made the decision to stick with this route of helping John. "There's blood, a lot of it and you're scared and exhausted and you want someone to care for you. But they can't do it." He was saying it out loud more for himself than for the wounded doctor, but as he drew breath to continue the commentary, John seemed to notice, turning his head ever so slightly in Holmes' direction. Sherlock tried again, a little awkwardly, to take hold of John's hand. This time, John took hold. He was listening. "John? You have to keep listening to me. You're a scientist, John, a doctor. You know what's happening to you. You need to show me, because I don't." He knew John's mind wouldn't be affording him the luxury of speech or even coordinated movement, but if he could get him to stay conscious, if he could get John's mind on what it needed to do to fix him…
"What are you doing?" Pole whispered.
"His mind nearly killed him." Sherlock began, whispering, trying to keep his voice low so Watson wouldn't hear the plan. "The vividness of the hallucination- he's a doctor- he knows every last bit of the process that would lead to his death. He also knows every last bit of what his body would need to do to heal. I'm trying to use the drug in a way it was never designed for, to undo it's own damage. If I can make Watson's mind go through the procedure for healing similar wounds, it doesn't matter what we actually do, because he'll hallucinate the whole thing." Pole nodded slowly.
"Are you sure?"
"That's an interesting approach."
"It will be fascinating if it works. And it probably will if there's still enough of the drug in his system to keep a hallucination going." Sherlock said grimly, turning back to John, who had pulled Sherlock's hand closer to what in his mind's eye he saw was a freely bleeding claw mark. "Yes" Sherlock said. "I know. Bandages. They put them on when you passed out earlier." Sherlock saw John relax a bit. He forced the image in his own mind to change to reflect what he had just told Watson. No more blood. just clean, white dressings. It was working. The lie was comforting to John and that was- ? Sherlock paused for a second, understanding suddenly dawning on him. He knew what the drug did, a hundred times the complexity of what he'd originally thought. He would have stopped to marvel at the compound's elegance if he'd had the time.
Comfort. That was the key to turning around the hallucination! The drug didn't work exclusively on fear. The focus on fear was just because on a battlefield, fear would be the strongest and most easily induced state. Change the fear to comfort or happiness or contentment and it would change the hallucination too! It could work with any strong emotion. He himself had not felt predominately fear at all, but doubt. Which for him was something far more threatening. "John, focus on me. I'm here to help you. So is Captain Pole. Anything you need. Just focus on what needs to happen and we'll do it, okay?" Sherlock said, in as comforting a tone as he could manage. The bedside manner was a forgery on his part, most of his brain was screaming at him to tell John the truth. But there could be no doubt or the fear would return and take over. They didn't need to do anything, just as long as John hallucinated that it was happening, it would save him. "You don't even have to say it, just think it. Just think it and-" Sherlock cut off and looked wide-eyed between John, Pole, and the monitor. John had suddenly gone completely limp. "John! John, come on, fight it. You'll be alright, I promise, just keep-"
"Mr. Holmes, it's alright! I don't believe it, but I think what you did worked."
"Vitals are stabilizing, he's coming out of shock."
"I know, the sedatives are finally taking effect. You said the hallucination was what kept them from working and you managed to break it." Pole said, dumbfounded. Then he sharpened again. "For the record though, Mr. Holmes, that's not how it normally works."
Sherlock sat back in the chair, looking almost as surprised as Pole had. For some odd reason he wanted to laugh at the absurd intensity that had consumed the last several minutes. The outlandishness of the task he'd undertaken had both overwhelmed him and given him a fascinating and exhilarating problem to solve. For now though, there was no drive to find some other insane task to complete as there would be normally. He felt perfectly content to sit at John's bedside and watch as Pole adjusted leads and equipment and wait for his friend to wake up. For the first time, even though it was faint and little and a bit childish, Sherlock felt a spark of comfort in just watching someone else breathe.
Whewph! Yup. Finished, sort of. There will be an epilogue, as I said earlier, but I felt this chapter was getting a bit long to tack it on here. Thank you all! I think this is the most response, in alerts and favorites at least, that I've gotten for any story. Thanks for continuing to bug me about it until I got it done. I hope you all liked it!