Present Day, 221B Baker Street.
'Tell me about before,' Kate said, brushing a stray curl of hair back from his forehead.
'When you were ill before. You never talk about it. Tell me why you were so against being admitted.'
They were lying facing each other in bed, limbs perfectly opposed, close enough to touch, close enough to hear each others slow breathing. This was what she had missed, Kate realised, this easy intimacy, this feeling that they could tell each other anything. This closeness that clothing and other people interrupted, that needed darkness and silence, and the feeling that the world outside could have stopped and the two of them would still go on unaffected.
Sherlock smiled slightly, that beautiful half smile that Kate loved so much, and reached out to trace the line of her face, her cheek, her jaw, her lips with a careful finger. 'You've never asked.'
'It wasn't the right time. Now, I think, maybe it is.'
He sighed, considered for a long moment, then finally said, 'It was like hell Kate, there's no other way to describe it. I was in that place for months, heavily sedated, filled with medication that I didn't want. I was convinced that I was being drugged or poisoned. My head was full of voices. I didn't know who to trust, I didn't know who to believe. It was just a mess.'
'Because of the paranoia?'
'Mainly, yes. Mycroft didn't help. He told me not to say anything about my father, but he wouldn't say why and I couldn't remember. He was trying to protect me I think, and to protect the family, but it just made things worse.'
Kate shook her head, 'I don't understand.'
'They gave me ECT, Kate, early on in my admission, when I stopped eating and drinking. It wiped my memory, almost completely. I had no idea of where I was or what had happened. The nurses would explain, I would just start to regain a few memories and then they would take me back to the treatment room and wipe it all again, over and over.'
'You never told me that you had ECT.'
'It didn't seem relevant.'
'And thats why you were so against having ECT this time?'
'Mainly, yes. Its rare, apparently, memory problems that profound, but I won't risk it again.'
'Did the memories come back?'
'Some of them. Most of my childhood memories were entirely wiped out. Primary school education, first day of school, birthday parties, everything. I remembered my mothers funeral but very little else. I couldn't even remember where I lived. I remembered the fields and the woods, strangely, but the house - no.'
'Primary school - so thats why you didn't know that the earth goes round the sun, as John is so fond of reminding you.'
'Exactly. Very basic stuff, that everyone knows I had to learn all over again. Basic skills were all there, reading, writing, maths, but hard facts are memory based, and they had all gone.'
Kate remembered the number of times that John had quietly teased Sherlock about his lack of basic knowledge, and Sherlock's silence about it. It must have brought up painful memories every time. 'Why didn't you tell John?' she asked. 'He would hate to think that he was teasing you about something with such a horrible cause behind it.'
'When it first came up I hadn't known John for that long. Easier to pretend that I'd deliberately deleted it than to admit that I had been a psychiatric inpatient and had my mind blanked for me.'
'But John had his own issues when he came back from Afghanistan. He would have understood.'
'Perhaps. But I couldn't talk about it Kate. I wanted that box kept locked.'
'And Mycroft? Why didn't he tell you what had happened? To help you understand.'
'Because he thought it was better that those memories remained lost. My father had made it very clear to him that any allegations from me would be interpreted as delusions. He had the director of the clinic in his pocket, and when I did start to remember, my father authorised a second course of ECT to wipe out the memories, and had my psychiatrist, the only one who I had told what had happened, transferred to another hospital. The other staff were ordered to treat it as yet another delusion, to be treated with medication and electricity. Mycroft was trying to protect me, I think, however misguided his attempts may have been.'
Kate was genuinely shocked. 'But Sherlock, thats abuse, negligence, whatever you want to call it, from the psychiatrist who went along with it, I mean.'
'Its gone, Kate, in the past. He was reported for it, he never got to do that to another patient again, but I was lucky in a way. There were staff in there who put their own jobs on the line to keep me safe, to get me out of there. I owe them my sanity if not my life.'
'So how did you get out?'
'Mycroft saw sense eventually, when he realised what my father was having done to me. He got an independent psychiatric opinion, got a court order to lift the section, and took me home. It wasn't easy, but it was better than being in that place, and I had good support. It took me a while to get back to normal, much longer than this time. I had less to get well for. My mother was dead, my father as far as I was concerned was a monster, although by then permanently disabled by the cerebral haemorrhage. I had Mycroft but other than that I was alone.
Kate was trying hard not to let her emotions show in her face, but Sherlock knew her too well. He smiled and cupped her face, stroking her cheek with his thumb as if he could wipe out the concern that he saw there.
'Its all right, Kate, truly. It was a long time ago. Its different now. I have you, and that was a reason to get well in itself. But if you want to know why I have problems trusting people and why I was so against being admitted this time round, well there's your answer.
'But to use ECT on a sixteen year old for that purpose. Sherlock, thats abuse.'
'Yes, I suppose that it was. The psychiatrist involved was investigated, I gave a statement. They restricted his practice for a while, but he's still working, although no longer allowed to use ECT I understand.'
'So Mycroft saved you in the end.'
'Yes he did. He went up against my father for the first time in his life. He chose a side.'
'Which explains a lot.' Kate said.
'The responsibility, Sherlock, that he feels for you. The endless need to meddle in your life, or to protect you, depending on your perspective. Thats where it comes from isn't it?'
Sherlock shrugged, 'You're the empath Kate, not me. I've always assumed its about Mycroft's need to control, to win.'
'And yet this time he's been remarkably restrained when you think about it. He hasn't really interfered. He's left it to me and to John.'
'But can you imagine what would have happened if he'd discovered that I was ill at the beginning?'
'He would have had you sectioned and admitted. Of course he would. But would that really have been so bad?'
'It would have been exactly like before, Kate.' Sherlock said softly, 'And can you imagine how I would have reacted to that, given what I've just told you.'
Kate closed her eyes, images flooding into her head of a screaming, struggling Sherlock being forcibly sedated and bundled into an ambulance.
'Exactly,' he said quietly, 'and that is why I am so, so grateful to you and John for keeping me here.'
'But it didn't stop you being admitted.'
'No, but when it did happen it was at least partly under my control. Thats what you gave me. The ability to walk into that place voluntarily, knowing that it was the right thing to do, not to be carried in there kicking and screaming. That made all the difference in the world.'
'At least I know now why you're so against ECT.'
'I won't risk losing my memories, Kate, not again, and there's no guarantee that I wouldn't, so no, I don't want ECT, not now, not ever.'
'Okay,' she nodded, 'No ECT; but was it better this time, really?'
He smiled at her concern. 'So, so much better Kate. Truly. I knew that I was safe, and I knew that I was loved, even when I didn't want to be. And even at its worst, it wasn't like before. I knew who to trust this time. You, John, Ed Harris. You taught me that, I think, taught me how to trust. Before I couldn't trust anyone.'
'I can't bear to think about it. You must have felt so alone, it must have been terrifying.'
'Its gone, Kate. You can't change what happened, nobody can, but its over, finished. Time to move on.'
'So are all of the demons out of the box?'
'I think so. Its empty now, that box, cleaned out and put away.'
Kate hesitated. 'Should I - would it have been better to have left it locked?'
He shook his head. 'You couldn't have Kate. I had to open the box to be able to be with you, and that was what I wanted, so very much. Besides it was always going to open eventually; I was a time-bomb, thats what Ed Harris says, and when a psychiatrist says that you have to believe it. Sooner or later it was always going to explode, I'm just glad that you were there when it did.'
She kissed him gently, and then held him for a long, long time. Partly because she wanted to feel him close, and partly because she desperately wished that she had been there to comfort the scared, lost boy that he had been. Sherlock was right, she couldn't change what had happened to him, but she could be there for him now, and she could make sure that he never felt that alone again. She had meant what she had said to Mycroft all those months ago. When madness had come, they had faced it together. They had battled the demons in his box and they had won. And if it happened again then she would battle them again, time after time, until the war was over.
Thats it, finished. I'm going to leave Sherlock here, with Kate, with all of his demons out of the box and finally coming to terms with what happened to him. For anyone who is confused, the idea behind this epilogue is that he's fairly recently home after another episode of mental illness resulting in his first admission to a psychiatric unit since Elmhurst. Kate and John tried to keep him at 221B to start with, but eventually due to the events that I've written about in Descent, they had to admit defeat and persuade him to be admitted. Ed Harris is his psychiatrist. I'm aware of the similarity in names, but nothing else seems to fit and I wrote about Ed Harris long before I invented James Harrison, so I'm letting him keep his name.
If you want to read more about Sherlock and Kate and their backstory, have a look at my Girl In the Scarf story. I've also started exploring what might have happened immediately before this epilogue in Madness and Memory, and there's more of that story to come.
Thank you so, so much to all of you who have read this, especially those of you who have left reviews. I can't tell you how much it meant to know that people were reading this and enjoying it. Without the reviews I think I would have given up on it long ago.
If anybody is interested in the themes of the story, I got a lot of the initial inspiration from Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, and the character of James Harrison is I think at least partly inspired by Rivers, in a less broken form. I also recommend James Frey's 'A Million Little Pieces,' which is more about recovery from alcohol and drug abuse than pure mental illness but still covers a lot of the same themes, and of course Alexander Master's amazing book, 'Stuart, A Life Backwards,' for a look at the impact that abuse can have on a life. Stephen Fry's wonderful documentary 'Secret Life of the Manic-depressive' is also available on youtube and provided me with a lot of insight and material for this story.
I'm not going to stop writing, so watch out for more here soon. If the next thing I write receives half such a positive response then I'll be happy.
Thank you again for reading, you're all wonderful x