So, yeah. First ever OC/Sherlock story. Been putting it off because they're so difficult to write correctly. It's so easy to get these things all wrong and I love the books, (BBC) show, and characters too much to disgrace them. Hope it's not a massive disappointment, I hope you like it, and I hope I did the characters justice. Oh, and gross sobbing ensued when I wrote the first half of this chapter, because reasons.
I thought I understood it, the war. I was "fighting for Queen and country, bringing salvation to oppressed peoples of different nations." and "gaining honor and integrity by stitching up our wounded soldiers on the battlefield." And, for a long time, that was enough for me. It was satisfying, it was exciting, it was fast-paced and quick-thinking.
The war, as a matter of fact, was how I met John Watson, the chief medical officer for my division. The man was extraordinarily good at his job; he could have a long-gone soldier rushed into his OR, and within an hour spit him back out, grinning, saying, "He'll be ready in a few weeks." and we all regarded him as a miracle worker. In reality, however, John Watson was a miracle himself. He had been living the (boring) civilian life in London for the past few years after having his left shoulder thoroughly shot to bits, which compromised the motor control in his hand.
But allegedly something amazing happened; something so amazing that he was back in Afghanistan two years later, his hand and shoulder completely normal and functioning, and he was putting broken men back together.
We officially met in the OR when I dragged in a child civilian who was losing blood faster than we could replenish it. John scooped him up, stitched a leaking artery and set a broken leg, while I acted as his assistant, even though I was a medical doctor myself. But in emergencies, you do whatever is required of you, and in that moment, I was required to pass John clamps and sponges and the like, so that's what I did. I was his assistant for over twenty-five surgeries that day.
And after that particularly grueling shift ended, we stayed up talking over a bottle of whiskey and a cigarette. "My best mate back home kicked his smoking habit a few months before I was deployed again." he said after taking a long drag. "Wonder what he'd say if he saw me."
I took the small, white death stick, put it between my lips, and inhaled the hot smoke. It burned my lungs and nose, but I tried not to make a face. "He'd probably say you look like hell," I smiled ruefully, passing it back to him. John laughed in agreement and promptly smashed the cigarette into the sand. "He'd actually tell me the prognosis of every single man I worked on today." he replied, his eyes distant. They returned almost instantly, and he added, "He would also say he asked me for milk an hour ago."
"Flatmate then?" I inquired lightly.
"Yes. He's quite extraordinary."
"So you two are domestic then?"
"Wha - ? No, no, god no. I seriously don't understand why everyone thinks that."
"Well you can't just go around talking about him with goo-goo eyes!" I joked. It was slightly true though from what I'd just seen, but I figured they were just close. Everyone had that friend they just clicked with and got along with really well (mine was blown up in an IED).
And that was the night my friendship began with John Watson. We would talk at mess hall, between shifts at the med bay, and at night when the world was so quiet you wouldn't even suspect a war was going on. We'd make crude jokes and share private thoughts; we almost ended up snogging once after a particularly difficult day (we lost five men in three hours, despite surgeries and hours of CPR, and we were running off of caffeine and adrenaline and horror), but it never led to anything more. But tonight was different. John was different. At first I thought it was because of the transfer orders we both had received that afternoon, but after a few moments of silence, I could tell it was something more than having to move out at 0600 tomorrow.
"Can I tell you something?" he asked softly, shifting so that he was lying on his back. He liked looking at the stars on a clear night, because there were just so many of them out here. They just went on and on and on, never ending, and it was sometimes the only thing that reminded me that someone somewhere had no idea there was so much bad happening.
"I think I'm going to die."
"We're all going to die, John."
"No, I mean here. I don't think I'm going to make it back to London, Liz. I don't know why, I just… feel it." he breathed, his brows furrowing until they met in the middle. My chest instantly ached.
"Don't talk like that," I began curtly. "You've got a crazy, brilliant flatmate waiting on you to pay half of the rent, remember? All of those adventures you told me about."
John usually would have smiled or chuckled to himself, muttering, "Crazy bastard" under his breath. Tonight, he didn't. Instead, he bit his lip and exhaled heavily through his nose. "Yeah, yeah I do. God, what is Sherlock going to do without me? He can barely keep the flat from being destroyed by his experiments - dear lord, the fridge probably has body parts…"
"John," I warned, wanting to change the subject. Losing your mates was always a real possibility out here, a daily occurrence, but if you dwelled on it, you'd lose your mind.
"You could…" he turned to me suddenly, his eyes careful and calculating, but warm and oh so characteristically John. "You could… move in with him, if I don't make it." he suggested.
"John," I exclaimed. "Look, I know it's the twenty-first century and men and women live together, but what you're asking isn't that simple. I don't even know his name, or anything about him."
"Liz, he needs a doctor and someone with a strong moral compass. And someone with thick skin, which I know you've got. And, despite what he's going to say, he needs a friend."
"What, you're his only friend?" I asked incredulously.
"John, I'm sorry. You know I'd do anything for you, I'd even die for you, but this is just completely…"
"Insane?" he smiled. "Yeah, it is. And it's exactly what you'll need once your tour is over. Adjusting to civilian life isn't easy, trust me. I've got a journal full of notes in my nightstand at the flat, it would tell you how to deal with his mood swings and everything. And his name is Sherlock Holmes," he paused, smiling a bit more. "And the address is 221B Baker Street."
I stared at him for a full minute without saying anything. "That last sentence did absolutely nothing for your case here." I said, pursing my lips in a tight line.
John rolled over, and sighed. "Yeah, you're right. I'm probably just paranoid. Lack of sleep and all. I'm going to turn in - be ready to go at 0600."
We were ambushed. There was blood everywhere, and everything I tried wasn't working. The scent of burning oil, blood, and twisted metal was taking a backseat to the sound of gunfire and shouting. Mostly the shouting, especially coming from the man below me whose chest was literally shredded open from IED shrapnel. I was picking out what I could, trying my best to ignore the spray of bullets that seemed to be getting closer.
"Shit," I muttered, my hands shaking as the tweezers slipped from my grip and into the bloody mess of the soldier's chest. "Leave it, you can't get it all out." a voice yelled above me: John.
"Then give me enough time to stitch him up." I called back, pulling out the black wire from my pack.
"I don't think we have enough…"
"There's a lot of them coming in…"
"John, shut up and let me -"
Two days later, I woke up in a dusty hospital wing, my throat scorching and dry. My eyes were gummy and sore, mucus crusted in the corners. There was a dull throbbing just below the hollow my my neck; my ribs screamed when I took a deep breath. My fingers felt dry and thick, coated with something (probably dried blood) I couldn't be bothered to check. A low ache in my back made me try to slide onto my side, but as soon as I moved, the spot high on my sternum wailed loud enough that it ripped an animalistic cry from my sandy throat, and sent nurses crowding over my bed.
They said I was lucky to be alive. They said I was a miracle, that it was a miracle I managed to crawl back so someone would find me even though I had a bullet lodged in my chest. And I nodded shallowly, my eyes settling on the ceiling above me as I thought I understood the gravity of what they were saying. But once the sun set and nurses came less frequently so I could sleep, I felt hot, stinging water on my face.
No one tells you your friends are dead immediately. In fact, they usually don't mention your friends at all for the first few days if they're dead. If your friends survived with you, you'd know as soon as you were conscious enough to understand words. No one ever mentioned John.
It took me a few weeks before I was healthy enough to return home, discharged from my duties as an army medic. I spent countless, endless hours lying in an uncomfortable bed that someone else could be using, staring at the ceiling as everything I tried to forget played over and over on repeat. John was dead because of me, because I decided to be a hero and try to save someone who was beyond saving; I should have been found lying in the hot sand, my body unrecognizable from the ammunition that pierced my skin. I should not have been allowed to live when other people were so much more deserving.
Each and every time the medic would make his round (his name was Brook, and he was a small, skittish man), he would look at my chart and beam at me, explaining that I was getting stronger and healing up 'quite nicely'. Each and every time he would recite the nauseating news to me, I would roll my head away from him; I could practically feel his stare change from overly animated to quietly solemn. As a medic, I had seen this behavior before in soldiers who had survived an accident but their mates had not, and I thought I understood it, but until now I had never understood it.
Because until now, I had never understood that surviving something so terrible could leave you with so many open wounds that were never really allowed to scab over. Every hour, every minute, every second tore the makeshift stitches out again, letting it ooze and bleed until you didn't think it could possibly bleed anymore. But each day, it got a little easier to sew them back up again, even if hatred for yourself became the thread. I repeated this endless cycle of tearing and sewing until finally, finally they shipped me on a plane to Heathrow.
By the time the flight attendant had taken my drink order, I found myself finishing up the process. I had sewed all of the wounds back up so as not to bleed or disturb the innocent and make them uncomfortable, because they will never understand, but that's not their fault. The inside of my body was littered with big, white gashes and lumps of scar tissue (the biggest one was a knot on the top of my sternum, just below the hollow of my throat, which a friendly little bullet had made) that no one was able to see. And the longer I sat there, waiting for my plastic cup of lukewarm, spring water to arrive, the more these lumps began to merge together and settle low in my chest, simmering in a toxic stew that seemed to radiate so strongly that I was surprised I wasn't glowing or that the other passengers couldn't see it. And by the time I had landed in Heathrow, far away from the hot Afghan sand, the toxic lump in my chest had hardened until it hardened all of me.
Located two inches below my heart, was hate.
My mother was waiting for me just beyond airport security, her face already wet with tears as her dark eyes scanned the crowd of arriving passengers coming out from the gates. My duffle was slung over my shoulder, my uniform was slightly crumpled from the hours of sitting in economy, my hair managed to stay back in the tight bun I was so accustomed to wearing it in. I walked right up to her, expecting for her to wail and throw her arms around me in the dramatic fashion she enjoyed, but instead she glanced up at me and said, "Sorry, you must have the wrong person, I'm waiting for my daughter."
"Mum," I said through a tight jaw. "It's me."
"Elizabeth?" her voice sounded surprised, as if everything she couldn't believe what I had said. "My god, you look... well, you've just lost a bit of weight. I didn't recognize you darling, I'm so sorry..." she laughed and pulled me into a tight hug, her face buried in my shoulder. "It's wonderful to have you home." she murmured into my uniform, attempting to slide my bag off of my shoulder. My fingers tightened around the strap and I pulled away. "I've got it, it's fine." I said hurriedly.
My mother's eyes softened, and her jaw set. I'm sure she had been reading dozens of articles and blogs online on exactly how to deal with returning soldiers with PTSD and a toxic lump in their chest - neither of which anyone could visibly see, therefore found it even more of a taboo subject. "Okay, okay. Dad's in the car, let's not keep him waiting. How was the flight?"
It was terrible. It was dull. I kept wishing the engines would fail and - "It was fine. How's Sophie?" I inquired, switching the subject to the ten-year-old black cat that was waiting for us back at home.
"She's great, actually. Had kittens a few weeks ago. They're simply adorable; oh, there's two black ones, a grey one, and a few white ones. We're not sure how the white and grey ones happened, but - " But then again, you're not an expert on feline genetics "Then again, I'm not an expert on feline genetics."
Mum laughed at her own 'joke', and I gave her a genuine smile, because it was nice to hear her laugh. It was unbearably frustrating that people didn't understand what was really happening in parts of the world, but at the same time it was unbelievably relieving. My parents would never know the crunch of sand in your teeth after a sandstorm, or the permanent scold of the sun, or acquire the calluses guns left on your hands.
I stayed with my parents for a few weeks; people came in and out of the house like it was a giant revolving door, all wanting to see me, even though they shouldn't, and the toxic lump two inches below my heart seemed to grow more and more. Still, I humored everyone by smiling and trying to make conversation over dinner (over coffee, over dessert, over lunch, over afternoon tea) with those who stopped by. But it was a tiring business, and at the end of the day I was exhausted. It was draining, trying to act interested in the ordinary (boring) lives of everyone, because I couldn't relate to Cousin Emily's new diet or Uncle Hugh's job promotion, or anything else. I wasn't up-to-date with the pop culture, or what Doctor Who episode had everyone in emotional distress (apparently it had something to do with statues that didn't allow you to blink).
John was right when he told me that adjusting to civilian life was harder than I ever anticipated. You just didn't know what to do anymore. John had never mentioned anything about nightmares, but those were greeting me more nights than not; I would go to bed exhausted, and wake up in the throes of an anxiety attack, draining all the energy I had gained and causing the knotted scar on my chest to throb.
But after a few weeks, things around the house had settled down, and I was finally able to carry out the last request John had of me. I discussed with my parents the idea of me moving into a flat sometime soon and getting a job, and they seemed more than eager to assist. So one evening when Mum was out playing Bingo with her friends and Dad was catching up with his at the pub, I typed in an address to Google Maps, and then headed out the door to hail a cab.
"221B Baker Street." I told the cabbie as I shut the car door. He nodded, turned on his signal, and pulled off from the curb. I stared blankly out the window as London whizzed by me, completely oblivious to who I was or what was happening. The world kept on turning, no matter what happened. A contented hum escaped my throat.
"Baker Street." the cabbie said, pulling up. I got out, paid him (with a generous tip, because I couldn't be bothered to deal with change tonight), and walked up to the black door and rang the bell before I could change my mind. Soft footsteps shuffled just beyond the door, and an ambiguous silhouette transformed as it neared the door. An old woman in her night robe and slipper swung the door open, her eyes bright and sweet. I must've had the wrong address.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I must be mistaken - " I began, my cheeks burning.
"Nonsense. You must be here for Sherlock, dear, correct?" the woman asked. Something about her voice made the toxic lump below my heart melt slightly; it was caring, it was honest, it was loving. It was the type of loving that made her seem even older than what she was, as if she had seen many things and wasn't afraid of any of them.
"S-sherlock Holmes, yes." I stammered, licking my lips as I glanced around nervously. Suddenly the entire idea of this was completely and utterly mad, but I couldn't turn away now, not when I was right here and John had -
"Come in, dear. Sherlock! You've got a visitor!" the woman yelled up the stairs, pattering around me to shut the door.
"I don't have visitors, Mrs. Hudson, I'm on a case!" a baritone voice replied from somewhere up the stairs, positively smug and brattish.
Mrs. Hudson looked back at me, sorrow in her eyes. "Sorry, deary, but when he's in moods like this, he really won't budge. You can come back tomorrow though, if you'd like."
"Okay. Can you just tell him that John Watson sent me, and - "
A door opened somewhere upstairs. "Send her up, Mrs. Hudson." the voice called, this time more reserved and relaxed than before. I glanced at Mrs. Hudson, who smiled and nodded at the stairs. "You said the magic word." she winked before puttering back into the floor-level flat. "Have a good night, deary."
"Thanks. You too." I replied softly, my eyes flicking to the narrow flight of stairs before me. It took me approximately thirty-three seconds to square my shoulders and remind myself that I had survived a fucking war, so a flight of stairs shouldn't be a problem; it took me fifteen seconds to make it up the flight of seventeen stairs (I counted them to suppress a panic attack that lingered just in the back of my mind); and it took me two seconds to let out a breath I didn't know I was holding, and walk through the open door at the top.
Okay, that was chapter one. If you guys like it, I'll write a chapter two, and if you like that, a chapter three, and so on. Hell, you guys know how this thing works. Thank you for reading. Reviews are much appreciated, just so I have feedback to work with and to help improve the story.