Title: Lost for Words (Chapter 16 of 16)
Characters: John, Sherlock (Main), Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Molly, Violet (this chapter)
Rating: R
Warnings/Triggers: swearing, blood, injuries, trauma, discussion of DNRs and withdrawal of life support, deals with depression and PTSD, features a character who cannot speak or move without difficulty, which some people may find upsetting.
Spoilers: Everything aired
Pairings: none, just epic friendship
Chapter Word count: 3,183
Beta/Britpicker: aelfgyfu_mead and aeron_lanart. All remaining errors are mine.
Summary: Sherlock is assaulted by an unknown assailant while John is away at a medical conference, leaving him with a severe brain injury. While his intellect and personality are intact, he's lost the use of his right-side limbs and his ability to speak freely. John suddenly finds himself as the main source of support, and possibly a caregiver, to a flatmate who is struggling to do the things he loves most. And Sherlock Holmes has never been the best of patients.
Author's notes:

Last chapter! This one is sort of an epilogue.

Thank you very much to everyone who has been reading, faving, reviewing, commenting, and generally following this story. I really appreciate it!

It was eight months after the assault and John was, perhaps unwisely, having a Christmas party. He felt like they all deserved a party after a year of Irene Adlers and Baskerville Hounds and months and months of recovery. They deserved to celebrate that they were all still alive and mostly healthy. Sherlock didn't seem to care one way or the other, which was tantamount to enthusiastic approval from him.

John invited Lestrade and Molly (who was brave, considering what had happened last year). He also invited Violet who, he gathered from Sherlock's deductions about her, didn't have much in the way of family to spend Christmas with. Besides, she was such a fixture at Baker Street now that it felt odd not to include her. Even Sherlock seemed to regard her as some sort of friend, whatever he measured that by. She fit in well to the little collection of misfits who seemed to be drawn to 221. She'd accepted the invitation with enthusiasm.

"Oh, you look lovely, dear!" Mrs Hudson greeted her warmly, when she arrived at the top of the stairs. "That shade of blue suits you so well."

Violet flushed and smoothed her dress out. "Thank you," she said. "Hello, everyone. Happy Christmas."

There was a chorus of Happy Christmases in return. She had spent enough time with Sherlock at the lab and Scotland Yard that Molly and Lestrade knew her almost as well as the Baker Street residents did.

"Hello, Sherlock," she said, pointedly. He hadn't been in the chorus. He looked up from the violin he was tuning and nodded at her. "How are you?"

"Fine," he said.

"Who's fine?" she pressed.

Sherlock glared at her and she grinned back. "I am fine," he pronounced, clearly. "This is... this a party, apparently. I shouldn't have to... practice. I shouldn't have to... school."

"Never the wrong time to practice," she declared. She nodded to the violin. "Am I finally going to hear you play?"

"I still... I am still, I can't..." Sherlock said, struggling a little. He stopped and started again. "I'm not... perfect. It won't... it won't be important because... everyone has no sense of... art."

"No one has any sense," she corrected.

"Oh, God, I don't think I can take two pedants in the room," Lestrade moaned. "Sherlock's bad enough on his own. Let me get you a drink, Violet. What's your fancy? We have cheap beer and wine worth more than my house."

"I will warn you that I get more grammatical when I'm squiffy," she said, with a smile. "So if you're trying to loosen me up, it won't work. But I would love some wine, thank you."

Lestrade brought her a glass and Sherlock finished tuning up. He dragged the bow experimentally across the strings and did a few scales, his arm working agilely up and down. There was no screech, just beautiful, resonant notes.

"Requests?" he asked.

"Freebird!" Lestrade called.

The joke was lost on Sherlock, who simply went into 'O Come All Ye Faithful' of his own accord. Mrs Hudson was already a bit tipsy and she started to sing along, which prompted Molly to join in, so she wasn't on her own. Then Violet chimed in with her rather lovely soprano and John and Lestrade shrugged at each other and rounded out the chorus, both of them off-key and generally ruining the song. There was also a lack of consensus on how the second verse went, and four different sets of lyrics were being sung at the same time, prompting everyone to fall into hysterics and Sherlock to stop playing with an affronted look on his face. This made them laugh harder.

"I can't... art, with you... plebs," he said, snootily. This caused more laughter. "Shut up!"

He tried to hold his annoyed expression, but ended up chuckling himself. He shook his head and started into a new song, playing over the laughter. John wasn't familiar with it, but it had a Spanish flair to it and once everyone had calmed down, a hush fell over the living room as he played it. There was a round of applause as he finished with a flourish.

"I've never heard that one before," Molly said. "It's very pretty, Sherlock. I'm glad you can play again."

Sherlock nodded a sort of thanks and played one more song, this one a lively 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', before he lost interest. He settled in to a chair at the computer desk to be antisocial, and everyone ignored him while they celebrated and talked and drank.

"First year I don't have to do the in-law thing," Lestrade noted, making a cheers gesture with his drink. "Can go to my sister's and watch all the sprogs open their presents for once. You doing the family thing tomorrow, John?"

John nodded, taking a long sip of his drink. "Yeah, I'm meeting Harry for lunch," he said.

Molly cocked her head to one side in the universal gesture of sympathy. "How is she doing?" she asked.

"I think... better," John said. "I mean, she sounds better. I don't know about the drinking thing, that's always hit-or-miss, but she's not as scattered as she usually is. She made the reservations this year. Ahead of time. That's... never happened. Anyway, what are you up to, Molls?"

"Dinner at my brother's house," she said. "He's had a baby—well, his wife has, of course—and it'll be her first Christmas, so we're all going to spoil her rotten. I have the sweetest little outfits and I'm going to dress her up and it will be wonderful."

"Nieces and nephews are the best," Lestrade said. "You can wind them up and then send them home and let other people deal with the aftermath. What about you Mrs H?"

"I'm going to my sister's in Leicestershire," Mrs Hudson said. "Though I don't know how I'm going to manage the train with all my parcels. I swear the next generation multiples by the minute. So many presents to keep track of for nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews and all those godchildren. I know I've forgotten someone, but I just can't remember who."

Molly hastened to reassure her that it would all be all right. "Does that mean that Sherlock is going to be on his own?" she asked.

"Yes and he's thrilled," John said. "Apparently his family 'find it difficult to coordinate their schedules', so he doesn't have any plans. He's dying to have us out of the flat for a while. He probably won't even notice we're gone."

"We have stifled him a bit," Mrs Hudson said. "You and I fuss too much, since his... incident." She never liked to use the world 'assault'.

John noticed Violet had wandered off when the discussion of family started and she looked to have been attempting to engage Sherlock in conversation. Apparently she'd succeeded, as he was giving her an ear if not his full attention, nodding along to her words while he looked at the laptop screen.

"I know it's a stupid reason not to take the job, but it just seems weird," she was saying, when John approached. "Plus, I can't really commute. I'd have to move."

"You leaving us?" John asked.

"Maybe," she said. "I've had a job offer, but I'd have to go to Wales and there are some conditions with it that seem a bit dodgy. But the money is... ridiculous. It's a stupid amount to pay for speech and language therapy and it all seems legit. I was just seeing what Sherlock thought. He sees things I don't."

"Take the money," Sherlock said, bluntly. "You need it. Look at your shoes. And if you need... er... if you get... if you worry, you can ask for mine—my help. I...owe you that."

Violet smiled. "That would make me feel much better about it, actually," she said. "Thanks. I can still work with you by Skype, so I won't be gone completely. I think you're about ready to move on, anyway. You're one of my most self-directed patients. I think I could give you tasks and check in once in a while."

"Agreed," Sherlock said.

"What you are you doing?" John asked, as Sherlock refreshed the BBC News web page for the fifth time in the last minute.

"I'm hoping for murder," Sherlock said. "People get... get homicidal at Christmas. Families all... all together and...er... trapped. Should be starting soon."

John rolled his eyes. "I bet you'll miss him," he said to Violet.

She laughed. "I will," she said, with a wink.

Molly tapped John on the shoulder, leaning in to whisper in his ear. "Presents?" she asked. "Should we do it now?"

He turned to whisper back. "Yeah. He's trolling for cases. We might not have his attention for long."

She slipped down to the ground floor, where she'd left her bag of presents so Sherlock couldn't guess what they were before it was time. He was very fond of ruining surprises, even if he was begged not to spoil.

"We're going to do presents now," John said.

"So?" Sherlock said.

"So, stop bah humbugging and pay attention," John told him.

Sherlock made a bit of a fuss but came over to join the group once Mrs Hudson stepped in. He flopped on to the couch next to her and she patted his knee. John retrieved his own presents from the cupboard.

John and Sherlock had already exchanged presents, which was that they agreed to go halves on a new microwave that would be used entirely for food and never for experiments. Sherlock wasn't much for present giving—he simply didn't care. He was excellent at picking them out, though, because he knew what everyone wanted or needed or should have. There didn't seem to be any sentiment behind it; he just went to the appropriate area, pointed at something and said 'this one'. And it was always the right one.

They'd already given Mrs Hudson her present earlier, which was a digital camera. She was always lamenting about her lack of photos. A quick lesson was all it took, and now she was shooting like a pro, with a memory card full of pictures of Sherlock telling her to stop taking pictures of him. She prepared herself for photo taking now.

Molly had baked goods for everyone, except Sherlock, who didn't eat. They were little biscuits shaped like everyone's initials.

"I couldn't find the V," she told Violet. "So I had to take the A and cut out the middle bit. Some of them are wonky because of that."

Violet assured her that they were fine.

Mrs Hudson had scarves for everyone, except for Sherlock, who already had one.

Lestrade had various gift cards for everyone, except for Sherlock, because he didn't like anything.

John always gave with the understanding that it was from both Sherlock and him. Molly had a shoulder bag made up of recycled juice packets sewn together as part of a business project for women in the Philippines. Lestrade had a desk caddy to replace the one Sherlock had thrown out the window to explain his point during a fit of dysphasia. Violet and Sherlock had already exchanged gifts at their last session. Violet had a travel coffee mug—because every time John saw her she was always mainlining coffee, though that could just be because she was trying to keep up with Sherlock. She'd given Sherlock a pen with built-in callipers that had been a big hit.

John found it amusing that, for all Sherlock would decry gift-giving as sentimental and useless, he seemed to be very miffed that there was nothing for him. He sat in stony silence, looking very put out. Violet, who wasn't in on the plans, shot John a confused look and he tried to reassure her without attracting Sherlock's attention.

Finally, when all the presents had been opened and fussed over, Molly reached into her bag and pulled out a large parcel. It was wrapped with festive kitten-themed wrapping paper, which meant that Molly could only have done it herself.

"This is from all of us," she said, handing it over to him.

"Molly did most of the work," John said. "It was her idea."

"But everyone helped," Molly insisted. "They all chipped in."

"I didn't," Violet declared. "I have absolutely no idea what's going on. But if you like it, I will take credit for it."

Sherlock looked bemused. "I don't... don't need presents," he said, but looked pleased nonetheless. He opened it with surgical precision and stopped when the contents started to be revealed.

It was Sherlock's coat—or a replica of it. The original, even after the case was solved, was too mangled to have any hope of restoring it. He hadn't been too bad over the summer months, when he didn't really need it, but by autumn he was lamenting it like a lost loved one and went on a tear around London for a replacement; none had suited. The one he'd settled on was, apparently, extremely unsatisfactory, and John had been listening to him complain about it for months.

"It's not exactly the same," Molly said, as Sherlock shook it out and admired it. "They stopped making the style, so I couldn't buy a new one. But I printed out pictures from the Internet—do you know there are whole blogs devoted to what you and John wear?—and your brother found a tailor to make it custom for you. The fabric is a bit lighter, but I think it's almost the same and I think the belt is a little wider and I'm not sure if the red thread is quite the right—"

"Fine," Sherlock interrupted.

"What's fine?" Violet prompted, with a grin.

"The co-coat is fine," Sherlock said, and that was about as close to 'wow that's perfect' as they were going to get.

"It better be fine, it was bloody expensive," Lestrade declared.

"Gregory!" Mrs Hudson scolded.

Lestrade looked abashed. "It was," he said. "I'm not saying I minded or anything. But I could have bought five coats for the price of that thing."

"And all... all unstylish," Sherlock returned.

He stood up and shrugged the coat on, his hands automatically moving up to pop the collar. It was indeed a really close match, and it fit perfectly. They were lucky that the tailor had all of Sherlock's measurements already. He twisted at the hips and watched the bottom swirl around. Mrs Hudson took a picture.

"Th-thank you," he said to Molly, bending down to give her a kiss on the cheek. Molly flushed a red that John wasn't even aware a person could achieve. Mrs Hudson took another picture.

"Happy Christmas," Molly said, her voice a little dreamy.

"We just need to get you a deerstalker and the look is complete," Lestrade said.

"That is not... not my hat," Sherlock said, firmly.

Lestrade's mobile rang and he frowned down at the screen, going in to the kitchen to answer it. Sherlock continued to admire his coat in the mirror, turning from side to side and scrutinizing it from all angles.

"The tailor said if you need it fit better, to come in," Molly said. "There's some money left in the budget for that. Mycroft wanted to contribute, so we ended up with more money than we needed."

Sherlock's nose wrinkled slightly at the mention of Mycroft, but even that couldn't dim his enthusiasm by much.

"I think you look very smart, Sherlock," Mrs Hudson said, taking another photo. "Stand still so I can take a proper one."

Sherlock did stand still, not because Mrs Hudson had asked him to, but because Lestrade had exited the kitchen and Sherlock was frozen in place, like a hopeful puppy waiting for a treat.

"Triple homicide," Lestrade declared and Mrs Hudson's flash went off as Sherlock was in mid-triumphant jump. "Must be big to call me in on my night off. Happy Christmas. Don't expect a birthday present."

"Why... why would I?" Sherlock said. He climbed over Molly's legs and headed for the door, with an impatient glance over his shoulder. "C'mon, John."

John sighed and got to his feet. "Yeah, m'coming," he said.

Lestrade patted Molly on the shoulder. "Sorry to ruin your big moment, Molls," he said.

"Oh no, that was better than I was expecting," Molly said. "He really liked it. And now he'll be happy because he has a case. So, it's all fine really. Call me if you need me at the lab later on. I'm free."

Lestrade said he would and wished her a Happy Christmas, following Sherlock downstairs.

"Do you want me to take you home?" John asked Violet and Molly. "All the drunks will be out by now."

"You're welcome to stay here, too," Mrs Hudson offered. "I think The Sound of Musicis on and there's still nibbles and drinks."

Molly and Violet both agreed that they would love to watch The Sound of Musicand promised to be careful when they went home. Sherlock arrived back upstairs to yell at John. Since he'd been granted the right to do the stairs on his own again, he took every opportunity to use them, even if it wasn't necessary.

"Hurry—now!" Sherlock said, making a marching motion.

"They're not going to get up and walk away," John said.

He found his keys and coat and went down with Sherlock, who gave an absent wave in response to the girls' goodbyes. Outside, Lestrade was bouncing on the balls of his feet against the cold, looking out for a cab.

"You look like you again," he said, when Sherlock arrived next to him.

"That's what I was thinking," John said.

"It's only a...a coat," Sherlock said. His words weren't quite convincing, as he was hugging himself around the waist as though cuddling with the garment. "It's a... a... erm... good coat, but it's only a coat."

"It's just nice to see," Lestrade said, giving John an amused look behind Sherlock's back.

And it was. John found himself slightly emotional. Seeing Sherlock look like himself and bound around like himself and play the violin and insult people with near fluency was a lot to handle in one night. It was probably the wine or the cold or both, but John felt his eyes well up a bit and had to blink hard to prevent tears from forming.

"You...okay?" Sherlock asked, frowning at him. "If... sick, don't come. You'll be... be annoying."

John found it amusing that Sherlock would assume a display of emotion meant illness. "Fine," he said, throwing Sherlock's mantra back at him."I'm fine."

Sherlock grinned at the words.

"Me too."