Title: Very Good Indeed
Author: Still Waters
Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock. Just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.
Summary: John Watson was a doctor, trained to observe details; a fact Sherlock had never been more aware of than when a drugged John's lifesaving instructions were based on an unlabeled syringe and an unconscious murder suspect's body.
Beta: Many thanks to the lovely mrspencil for taking the time to check my dialogue and medical protocols for blatant Americanisms.
Notes: AKA my "John is awesome" story. I feel like John's military persona often overshadows his medical background; an observation that made me want to write a story where, thanks to his medical training, he was able to deduce details Sherlock couldn't; details that would enable him to instruct Sherlock on how to save his life. This story was the result – John getting drugged while subduing a murder suspect and calmly instructing Sherlock on what to do, Sherlock being surprised by John's deductions and skill while also dealing with the uncomfortable emotional fallout of John being hurt, and Lestrade's intuitive sense on how to manage a shocky Sherlock Holmes. I really enjoyed delving into the characterizations and friendships here, and truly hope I did the characters justice. Thank you for reading.
John was grappling with their latest murder suspect on the kitchen floor of the man's flat, when he felt it: a sharp pain in his right thigh. Stabbed, then. Great. But not quite right for a stabbing. Muscular pain, yes, but no tearing, no rush of blood. Until there was a rush – the sensation of liquid pushing into his body rather than out - followed by the thin pull of an object being removed and familiar sound of plastic and metal hitting the ground.
John spared a glance at the floor as he rolled to his feet and grabbed the fleeing man from behind in a choke hold, the sinking feeling in his gut confirmed by the glint of an empty 3ml syringe.
Not good at all.
Being stabbed by anything qualified as "not good," but needles came with the double threat of whatever drug was in them plus any other blood that they might have come into contact with before stabbing into you. John adjusted his stance. Unknown substance, intramuscular administration – no matter what it was, he didn't have much time; certainly not enough to subdue the man while leaving him conscious for whenever Sherlock wandered in to see what was going on. Blood choke, then. Bilateral carotid pressure, unconsciousness in eight to thirteen seconds. No choice. He shifted his elbow midline and pulled back, bicep and forearm cutting off crucial circulation. The man made a feeble attempt to paw at John's face with the hand that wasn't losing its desperate grip on the arm locked around his throat, rough finger pads barely brushing John's cheek before dropping heavily. John guided the man to the floor and rolled him onto his stomach, put one knee in the small of his back to keep him down, and pulled his hands back in manual restraint.
John closed his eyes against the image of the man's skin as the first wave of dizziness assaulted him; the sudden, sickening knowledge of just what it was that he had been drugged with.
Good weapon. Clever. Easily accessible for a man like him and just as potentially lethal as a knife or gun. John could appreciate the ingenuity as much as he knew Sherlock would, but Jesus Christ, he was in trouble.
Squaring his shoulders in preparation for the upcoming battle, John bellowed for Sherlock, who came barreling around the corner, words spilling forth at his typically impossible speed before processing what was actually going on. "Brilliant! False door in the closet, sound-proof room…." He finally noticed John on the floor. "Ah, Mark Cooper. Well done, John!"
"Sherlock," John sighed, willing back the frighteningly non-psychological tremors starting in his hands, "just…..restrain him, please."
"Right," Sherlock nodded, briefly wondering why John wasn't simply holding out a hand for the restraints to do it himself, before pulling a pair of handcuffs from his coat pocket.
John rolled his eyes at the cuffs, probably pick-pocketed off one of Lestrade's squad, as he shifted off Cooper's back, giving Sherlock room to work. Taking a steadying breath through the sounds of Sherlock dragging Cooper aside, John worked his way to his knees, swayed dangerously, and promptly decided that getting into a supine position now, rather than collapsing from an attempt to stand, would be the most prudent clinical decision. He lay down, swallowed back the nausea, and attempted to measure his accelerating heart rate with shaking fingers while a shakier mind worked to estimate how full that syringe may have been…..and why it had even been in that type of syringe, unless specifically loaded, and intended, as a weapon.
"As I was saying, this room….." Sherlock had his back to John, picking right up where he had left off as he secured Cooper to the heating pipes.
"Sherlock," John murmured.
The man never failed to amaze him. It had taken Sherlock a full several seconds to process that John bellowing his name across the flat and sitting on an unconscious murder suspect required his attention, yet now, his name a weak release of air that John could barely hear with his own ears, not only immediately punctured the space between them, but also the endless flood of Sherlock-speed speech. Sherlock stilled as if punched, whirling around and running to John's side on a billowing rush of coat fabric.
"John?" Sherlock's brow furrowed as John winced against the heavy thump of his flatmate's knees on the floor. "Are you all right?" Obviously not, he chastised himself – lying flat, color pale, sweating, tremors in extremities, swallowing against nausea. "Where are you hurt?" he clarified, eyes and hands skimming for a wound.
"Sherlock," John swallowed, eyes drifting to his left.
Sherlock followed John's gaze to the empty syringe lying alongside a toppled stool. "Drugged. He drugged you," Sherlock noted, the statement darkened by a breath of righteous anger that surprised even him. "What was it? Did he say what it was?" Of course he didn't, why would he? Stupid! Think! "Statistically, probably a sedative or paralytic," he reasoned, eyes widening as hurried hands grabbed at John's jacket. "John, what are you feeling? I need you to describe…."
John's reach may have been clumsy, but the hand that grabbed Sherlock's ever-present scarf was surprisingly steady. "Sherlock," he cleared his throat, trying to put as much force behind the command as remained in his rapidly decompensating body. "I have maybe five minutes of consciousness left," he closed his eyes, willing back the dizziness. "If I'm lucky," he amended, reopening them and silently broadcasting the importance of his next words to Sherlock's openly worried face. "I need you to listen and do exactly as I tell you, all right? Can you do that for me?"
Sherlock watched, fascinated, as John forcibly blinked the relentlessly encroaching haze from his eyes, catching a glimpse of the confident officer and experienced physician waiting for an order to be acknowledged within battle's surrounding chaos. He uncurled John's hand from his scarf, took a breath as his fingers brushed against the too rapid pulse in John's radial artery, and pushed down the very specific panic that only John seemed able to induce in him. Sherlock had made an ongoing study of the layers of data underneath John's words, looks, and actions since coming to understand that it was within the nonverbal that John was truly found. So right now Sherlock knew, beyond a doubt, that John was trusting him with his only chance at survival. Sherlock sobered further with that knowledge, his face the picture of determination and readiness. "What do you need?" he asked, setting all his considerable attention on what John had to say.
John let out a breath at Sherlock's focus, squinting at the sound of approaching sirens. "You called Lestrade?"
"Texted him the location of his murderer," Sherlock waved dismissively. "Irrelevant. What do you need me to do?" he repeated.
John frowned, eyes distant.
"John!" Sherlock barked, grabbing the sides of John's face and forcing the physician's focus. He swallowed roughly at the sudden disorientation in the normally sharp, grounding eyes; a disorientation Sherlock quickly determined that John should never display again.
John shuddered, blinking sluggishly. "Hmmm?" he swallowed thickly, the simple act requiring significantly more effort than it should have. "Right," he struggled to refocus. Having Lestrade call would actually be better – faster response time and it would free Sherlock for the other task. "Good. Call Lestrade, have him send for an ambulance. Tell them it's an insulin overdose and to prepare for a hypoglycemic emergency."
"Insulin? How…." Sherlock interrupted.
Despite the intensifying tremors, John's eyes narrowed in an amazingly familiar, and oddly reassuring, display of exasperation.
"Right," Sherlock pushed back his inherent need to know and shut up so John could continue.
"While you're on the phone, go back to the bedroom and bathroom – look for a glucagon kit. Orange box. Insulin-dependent diabetic, so he should have one. If I'm unconscious when you get back, follow the instructions – inject it straight down into my thigh, then turn me on my side. May make me vomit, but that's okay. All right, Sherlock? You understand?"
The question was ridiculous as it was far from all right. John was in serious trouble and he was the medical man, not Sherlock. But Sherlock understood. And really, it all came down to six words: "Can you do that for me?"
This was for John. The answer was simple.
"Yes," Sherlock confirmed confidently.
"S'good," John slurred, clumsily patting Sherlock's hand through closing eyes. "Go."
Sherlock bolted to his feet, a bullet following the hammer's crack of John's weak command, already calling Lestrade as he rushed for the bedroom. He wasn't sure exactly what glucagon did, but it was obviously an emergency drug for diabetics, so that narrowed down where to look. Lestrade hadn't even finished his answering breath before Sherlock was off and running. "Call an ambulance. Tell them John is suffering from an insulin overdose and to prepare for a hypoglycemic emergency," he repeated John's words exactly, ensuring he didn't neglect any vital information.
"Bloody hell," Lestrade swore. "Calling them now. We're just pulling up."
Sherlock stuffed the phone back in his pocket, scanning the room with rapid, scientific focus. Bathrooms were traditional for lifesaving equipment, but while they did have a first aid kit in that location at Baker Street, the one they used most often was the one stationed in the kitchen, as that was where most of Sherlock's experiments were performed and went awry. So, location was linked to the place treatment would most likely be needed. He knew diabetics had to eat regularly, so logically it would follow that first thing in the morning, after fasting overnight, would pose the greatest risk of complications requiring emergency assistance. Ah, there - used glucometer strip on the bedside table. Top drawer, front, pushed to the side within easy reach from the bed. Orange glucagon kit.
"John, I have it!" Sherlock shouted, a breathless combination of triumph and concern, already opening the kit as he rushed back to John's side. "John?" the concern won out as he reassessed his flatmate's condition around reading the glucagon instructions. John was several shades paler, increasingly diaphoretic and tachycardic, and most importantly, completely unresponsive to Sherlock's voice; John, the man who could be on the verge of shock or exhausted collapse, and yet still ask if Sherlock was okay first. He dug his knuckles into John's sternum, wincing internally at the memory of medical personnel doing the same to him during past overdoses. No response. He filed a mental note to ask John why such an important drug required so long to prepare (honestly, reconstituting a powder, mixing thoroughly before drawing up for injection….John was slipping away…there wasn't time for this). Lestrade's squad was running down the corridor as, not wanting to lose any of the drug through the fabric, Sherlock pulled John's trousers down enough to access the thigh muscle as instructed. He had just finished emptying the syringe into John's leg when Lestrade burst in and John began to seize.
"John?" Sherlock's own body reflexively stiffened as John's limbs spasmed, head rolling as his breathing came in gasping grunts. This wasn't supposed to happen. John hadn't talked about seizures. He was supposed to get John on his side; protect him from vomiting. That's what John told him. This didn't make sense, didn't fit what John had said. Did he fail to move John fast enough? Should he still do so? Would that help? Make this stop? Sherlock was rigid on his knees, blank eyes rooted to John's convulsing form, his ever-racing mind, processing and making leaps even in sleep, suddenly stuck in one, standstill moment. All that existed was suffocating, paralyzing panic and the rare, sick feeling of having no idea what to do.
But then Lestrade was there, kneeling on John's other side, pillowing his jacket under John's head and pulling the physician onto his side. The flurry of activity brought Sherlock a muddled level of focus, and he numbly helped push John toward Lestrade as the DI got John as close to a recovery position as he could with the spasms.
"The ambulance is five minutes away." Lestrade considered Sherlock for a moment, eyes betraying the compassion behind his next question: not a DI's calculated inquiry for case information, but rather, the words of a friend; one working to distract a quietly distraught Sherlock and shield his shocky struggle from the surrounding, prying eyes of those who had never gotten past his seemingly impenetrable surface. "Sherlock, what happened?" he waved a hand toward where Donovan was collecting the still unconscious Mark Cooper.
Sherlock was silent, eyes fixed on John, one hand still on the physician's back where he had helped push him on his side, as if forgetting to remove it, unconsciously needing the contact, and calculating the depth of the problem by some hidden qualitative value in the spasming muscles, all at the same time.
"Sherlock," Lestrade said gently, making sure his body language projected nothing more than a focused DI providing medical support to the rest of the squad around them. "His airway's clear, head's protected, and if he vomits, he's in the safest position for it. All that's left to do is wait it out. Now, tell me what happened."
Sherlock's eyes never left the tight lines on John's face as he told Lestrade about searching the flat, locating the hidden, sound-proof room, John incapacitating the suspect, and finding out about the drugging. "I couldn't hear John…." He gestured sloppily toward the soundless room, trailing off as monotone guilt gave way to a dulled, "why is this happening?"; the words delivered as blankly as the case information preceding them.
Lestrade followed Sherlock's impossibly intense, yet simultaneously muted, gaze as it traveled the length of each of John's spasming limbs before resting back on the pale face. The question hung in the air - dull, distant, on the verge of shock, yet with a whisper of almost childlike pleading.
"What? The seizure?" Lestrade asked. He was probably the only person besides John who knew Sherlock was nodding without ever seeing the slightest movement of his head. "Well, your brain may be able to function without it," he said, "but the rest of us need food for glucose to keep everything running. Insulin pulls glucose out of the blood, so too much insulin and the brain shuts down from a sort of lack of petrol, as it were. Seizure's a sign of that."
Sherlock's eyes narrowed, flickering over Lestrade stormily. "How do you know that?" he spat.
Lestrade shrugged off the vitriol. He'd dealt with enough people at the worst points of their lives to be able to recognize the difference between an emotional explosion born of shock, and Sherlock just being a callous bastard as usual. "Got someone on the squad who's diabetic. We all learned what to do." He immediately honed in on Sherlock's unchanged face, responding as if what he instinctively knew had actually been spoken out loud. "Don't try and figure out who it is. Leave them alone," he pleaded, leveling a warning finger at Sherlock's bowed head.
Sherlock ignored the rebuke as if he hadn't been thinking of doing such a thing, despite the fact that part of his brain had somehow managed to disengage enough from his unresponsive, seizing flatmate to start running through a mental list of Lestrade's squad members. "How did he know it was insulin?" Sherlock murmured instead, the gradual slowing of John's tremors allowing the unresolved question to resurface.
The paramedics burst in before Lestrade could venture an answer, firing questions while taking up positions around Lestrade, as if instinctively knowing not to even try moving Sherlock. Lestrade stood and moved back, keeping Sherlock in view as one paramedic began cutting off John's jacket and jumper for IV access and heart monitor placement while the second began swabbing John's finger to check his blood glucose level.
"How long's he been fitting?" the one cutting asked.
"Eight minutes," Sherlock replied without thought.
Lestrade sighed. Of course part of Sherlock's brain had counted; couldn't even be in shock like a normal person.
"Do we know how much insulin?" the paramedic asked.
"There's an empty syringe, there," Sherlock motioned across the floor. "No vial. I didn't see it happen."
The paramedic's eyes followed Sherlock's gesture. "That isn't an insulin syringe," he pointed out. "Are you sure it was insulin?"
"Yes," Sherlock's reply left no room for argument.
The paramedic continued anyway. "How?" he demanded.
Sherlock's eyes darkened with fierce, unwavering certainty, a palpable chill tightening his default 'isn't it obvious?' tone. "Because John said it was."
The paramedic moved to speak again, but Sherlock cut him off with the angry, agitated rush he reserved for particularly useless people. "He's a doctor. He must have seen something or recognized specific symptoms as they appeared. He had me administer glucagon," he held up the empty kit.
The paramedic checking the glucose level looked up. "Bloody hell, when did you give it?"
"Seconds before the seizure started."
"Doc here knows what he's on about, that's for sure," the paramedic said, checking with his colleague to see if the IV was in place yet. "If his glucose is this low after glucagon…." He whistled, "You might have just given him a chance."
Sherlock dropped back on his heels, considering the paramedic's words. While he had no tolerance for the stupidity of those who underestimated John Watson, it was apparently all too possible to forget that, as a doctor, John was trained to observe details. With body language still marked by military habits, John's history as a soldier tended to overshadow his continued skill as a doctor; a fact that Sherlock had never been more aware of than right now, surrounded by confirmation of John's very skill, his own heart heavy with the almost unforgiveable error of having treated John like so many other people did: overlooking what was right in front of them. He never saw Lestrade move to his side, eyes only on John's face as the world condensed to the clipped delivery of glucose orders and vital signs, hiss of oxygen, beep of heart monitors, and rustle of equipment packaging hitting the floor. Sherlock snapped back to focus with the rattle of the stretcher indicating John was secured for transport, and jumped to his feet.
Lestrade stepped in front of him. "I'll take you," he insisted, holding up a hand against the upcoming protest while calling over his shoulder for Donovan to take over. "Saves them from wasting another ambulance."
Sherlock turned a watered down glare at Lestrade, more angry that he was too out of sorts to understand where the reference was going, than anything else.
Lestrade's eyes softened while still maintaining the normalcy of sarcasm. "You may be in shock now, but once you get in that ambulance and start acting like yourself again, those two," he waved at the paramedics, "are more likely to throw you out the back for another ambulance to deal with, than put up with you." He studiously ignored Sherlock's half-snarl because, as it wasn't accompanied by a verbal counterattack, he knew that he was understood and the offer accepted. "Good," he nodded, striding to the door. "Come on."
Twelve hours later, Sherlock was folded in a visitor's chair like a dark gargoyle, chin on knees, watching every move John and his equipment made, when John's eyes finally fluttered.
"John?" Sherlock shot up, wincing as the sharp slap of his shoes hitting the floor produced a sluggishly startled jump from his friend.
"Sh'lock?" John slurred, squinting in the direction of Sherlock's voice through half-open eyes. "Y'okay?"
It was far from unexpected - in fact it was a core aspect of John's character - but the way he made checking on Sherlock's wellbeing a priority over his own compromised condition still somehow took Sherlock by surprise. "Fine," he said, trying to peer into John's lidded eyes to dispel the memory of the unsettling disorientation he had last seen there. "Your blood glucose has stabilized, as have your vital signs," he informed him.
"S'good," John murmured.
"I've kept notes, if you'd like the numbers," he offered helpfully.
"Just goin' sleep s'more, okay?" John's eyes drifted closed.
Sherlock compromised by pulling the chair closer to the bed; a strategic relocation to better assess John's eyes the next time he regained consciousness. "Okay," he agreed.
It was only once he said that it was all right that John's breath evened back into sleep.
Another eight hours and John was finally sitting up in bed, alert and supplementing his IV fluids with slow sips of tea. More importantly, his eyes were John again. Sherlock looked down into the tea John had insisted upon him drinking, unable to wait any longer. "How did you know it was insulin?"
John smiled affectionately; the question must have been driving Sherlock crazy since Cooper's flat. While teasing him about not knowing something was normally good-natured fun for John and an exercise in eye-rolling and affronted evasiveness for Sherlock, John also knew his friend well enough to see the cracks in Sherlock's stoic deductive façade. His drugging had obviously rattled Sherlock, enough to take "normal," even in their strange definition of the word, out of the day's equation. So, straight, honest answers to ease Sherlock's puzzle-thriving mind back to normalcy, it was then. "Didn't really," he admitted. "It was more of a guess."
"It wasn't a guess. You are too proficient in your craft to have simply guessed. You knew," Sherlock insisted.
John hid his touched reaction to Sherlock's vehement confidence behind another sip of tea. "His fingers."
"His fingers?" Sherlock echoed, mind already working.
"I noticed his fingers while restraining his hands. Calloused, with multiple pin prick scars – classic for an insulin-dependent diabetic who checks his blood glucose several times a day."
Sherlock's eyes brightened. "Oh….clever!" he breathed, putting it all together.
"Quite clever," John agreed. "Knew you'd appreciate it."
Sherlock looked back up from his thoughts. "Diabetic fingers," his face warmed with a wide, proud smile. "Brilliant, John. Absolutely brilliant."
John couldn't mistake the relief underlying that praise, along with a hint of an as yet uncompleted adrenaline crash. "Lucky," he corrected Sherlock with a smile of his own. "Lucky that he had glucagon and that you were there to give it. Knew it wouldn't do much for that level of hypoglycemia, but hoped it would give me a chance until the ambulance arrived. Thanks for all that, by the way. You know, shutting up and doing what I asked for once."
Sherlock shrugged off the gratitude, his mind going back to the words that had brought John to their first mutual crime scene.
"You're a doctor….any good?"
Very good indeed. A fact Sherlock would never forget again.
"Glad you were right," he responded, both to the memory and their present discussion.
John grinned. "I may not be the world's only consulting detective, able to identify an airline pilot by his left thumb, but I'd hardly be worth my medical license if I couldn't identify a diabetic by his fingers."
Sherlock's eyes sparkled.
"What?" John asked, immediately wary.
"You need to teach me more about that," Sherlock steepled his fingers thoughtfully.
"Why?" John asked slowly, instantly recognizing the signs of Sherlock plotting some ridiculous experiment.
"It could be important for our next case," Sherlock ignored the distrust, speaking as if the potential need was obvious.
"Right. You have no other motive right now," John gave Sherlock one of his practiced 'I know exactly what you're up to' looks.
"Of course not," Sherlock huffed. "I…."
"You're going to try and deduce the diabetic on Lestrade's squad, aren't you?" John tilted his head, seeing right through him.
Sherlock bolted upright in his chair. "You know?"
"Of course I know! He collapsed during the pet shop smuggler case, remember? I treated him until the ambulance came, then rode with him to hospital. Wasn't back at the flat until the next morning."
Sherlock stared at him blankly.
John sighed. "Of course you don't remember. Why would you?" he threw his hands up in exasperation.
Sherlock's blank look faded, briefly replaced by a fond relief at the return of normalcy between them, before settling into focused scientific planning.
Lestrade came around the corner with a knock. "What doesn't he remember now?" he asked, eyes lighting with a mischievous flash of excitement at the prospect of learning some other bit of common knowledge that Sherlock wasn't aware of.
Sherlock's glance held a predatory gleam. "It's a 'him.' Narrows it down until I can examine the fingers…."
John and Lestrade shared a long-suffering look, before John deferred to Lestrade's considerably less exhausted vocal cords, allowing the DI to bellow for both of them.