Whatever laughter lingered around his lips on the subject of the crayon fiasco dissipated quickly, faltered and crumbled away, unable to support to pretense of itself. Victor glanced up at Sherlock, and was glad that he didn’t have to meet his eyes, for fear of what they might say, and what his own would respond with. He shifted more now, sitting straight up, his spine rod-like in stiffness. Victor attempted to disguise this by reaching for the water, and pouring himself a cupful even though he wasn’t at all thirsty.
Of course, that was the trouble with pretenses. They had to be carried out. He raised the cup to his lips and drank and wished he didn’t have to, while the cool liquid coursed nonetheless down his throat.
“Right,” he spoke to fill the silence, and then fell silent, as though perhaps a nurse or doctor would come striding in and whisk him away; he had not wanted that before but now he hoped for it, because that would delay his answer just a little more.
“Right,” Victor whispered again, desperately. Nothing came to save him. He slid his fingers around the corner of the sheets and knotted it around his knuckles and wished he could walk so he could put a little distance between them, and not have to answer this when he could smell what brand of cigarette Sherlock had smoked that morning - Lambert & Butler - and that vanilla scent that always followed him wherever he went, and what cologne he had used to cover up the smell of alcohol….
“There is a case,” he began, stopped, and started again, pouring himself a little more water and clearing his throat. “In my closet, between the last two pairs of trousers…and- oh, must we talk about this now,” he forced a little laugh into his voice and smoothed his hands back through his hair, his back to Sherlock, his feet on the ground, poised to run.
Every movement that he felt against him was rigid and tense, and from that alone Sherlock knew he’d over stepped one of their few boundaries, one of the rare invisible lines that ran between them to form the area of ‘we don’t talk about it’. Part of him knew he should be guilty, that this wasn’t the time to broach a sensitive subject given the gulf that had crept between them again. But, the more rational and analytical side of his mind told him that it would need to be done sooner rather than later and it would be simply easier if he dealt with it. Perhaps in the same breath he could be rid of his own shot…
“There isn’t anything to talk about, is there?” Sherlock murmured as he let his head fall forward where his cheek brushed just at the side of Victor’s temple. “I saw the marks. You need to be careful with needles; prolonged use leaves permanent scars.” He murmured, thinking of the few little white marks that had faded but not enough to be invisible. “A man in your position should have been more careful. I’d have suggested thighs.” The conversation was so natural, even if it were one that Sherlock knew Victor would rather prevent.
“I presume the addiction is not as severe as to require rehabilitation, however that means I am going to need your honesty in the future, Victor.” Sherlock’s arm around his friend shifted to be fractionally tighter, a movement that could either be seen as a supportive hug or a need to hold on and create an anchor. “I will help you through this, I know it is difficult.” Typically, that was one of those things that people just said, a line of support from ignorant people that had no idea what they were on about. But this was Sherlock and he was only too familiar with what it meant to ween himself away from the demon that danced so tantalisingly at the fringes of resistance.
“I know it is difficult, Victor.” For once the typically mocking tones were kind, the hand that had left the other man’s falling back into place. “But we do not have to discuss this now. However we will need to at a later date, just so you are aware.”
John accepted the water and drank slowly as directed. He was in no hurry to be sick again. He was sure he’d not be feeling quite right for a while before Sherlock told him as much. A serum meant to give the illusion of death was pretty much guaranteed to have nasty side effects. He drained the first glass and then the second, but he could feel Sherlock beginning to get antsy. There was a definite rise in tension about the other man, like a rubber band readying to snap.
He didn’t really listen to the exchange between Molly and Sherlock. He wanted to trust that the girl wouldn’t slip up so the less he knew of her the better. He just pretended to be elsewhere. Which wasn’t too difficult in all actuality.
When Sherlock called for his attention, announcing their departure, John carefully tried to get off the table. His legs felt like lead, but he was standing. At first he was inclined to disregard the offer of help but as he made move to step his entire equilibrium swayed oddly to one side and he grabbed instinctively for Sherlock again.
“Yeah, that stuff really… Strong stuff. It was pretty scary. Help would be appreciated,” John said, his mouth already feeling dry again. “I take it you’ll want to know some things about how your little concoction took effect. Feelings, etcetera?”
It was the most he’d spoken since coming to, he wasn’t entirely sure he could keep steady speech up at the moment.
Sherlock was ready for the lurch of the once-good doctor, however he was not satisfied with their height differences. To adequately provide support, he’d do better to shove his shoulder under John’s to take his weight. However, he made do with looping his arm under the other man’s arm pits and clasping him firmly around the ribcage. It pulled on his shoulder and he could feel the strain on his joint, however the detective made do and supported the man as adequately as he could.
“I planned on simply taking some of your blood and analysing any long lasting effects. If you wish to provide more however, I will make use of it.” He said as he waited for John to comfortably find his feet and adjust to using him as a crutch.
“But for now, I’d appreciate it if you simply focused on not vomiting on me.” Sherlock said dryly, moving in an attempt to prompt John into move along the corridor.
He called a quick goodbye to Molly, one the woman stuttered a response to before John and Sherlock but the pair were already making their way down the corridor. While it wasn’t exactly the best action given the other man was struggle to remember which foot came next, Sherlock knew that the longer they spent in the morgue meant the harder it would be to remain undetected. Speed was the key here.
The pair made their way gradually through the lower levels towards the exit where Sherlock pulled his accomplice towards the street.
“Act drunk. It serves as an explanation.” He muttered under his breath, busy looking around as they walked. “Head bowed, slurred speech, nothing over the top. Discretion.” They were on the main street now, the crowds of tea time had lessened to those who finished that bit later or dwelt in the twilight. However, it was much easier to spot a cab and hail it without releasing John. For the effect of anyone watching, he even muttered a curse about the “sack of shit” he bundled into the car.
“To Baker street.” He said to the cabby, shooting a poisonous glare at the ‘drunken’ John. “Put your belt on by yourself, you pisshead.” Vulgarity wasn’t his forté, but Sherlock was a master of disguise and pretense. All of this, just to make sure nobody questioned a man dragging another.
He closed his eyes as Sherlock’s hands settled to cover his own and sighed a little, soft and through his nose. “Goodness,” he breathed a little laugh that set off a string of quiet coughs he caught and muffled in his throat just in time. When he recovered he finished, shaking his head a little, “Suffering might be a little extreme, isn’t it?”
Victor’s hands shifted, fingers brushing along the inside of Sherlock’s palms, listening to Sherlock’s detailed and length explanation of just how much help Victor was going to need. And he was right, of course. He was just forgetting that Victor wasn’t the only one who needed to recover from this. Victor, for one, couldn’t so easily put out of mind how ashen and exhausted Sherlock had looked that afternoon he briefly stopped by, how his hand lay just centimeters from a bottle of whiskey.
Watching those nearly imperceptible soft twitches of Sherlock’s skin in response to the grazing of his own touch Victor lost focus again, continuing to, thanks to the influence of the medications and some in part to Sherlock’s heady presence, zone in and out of the present moment. It was the other man’s low baritone that he could clutch at to draw him back from whatever tide had washed in and taken his thoughts again, the rumble of Sherlock’s murmur against his shoulder blade. When he was paying attention again Victor snorted softly and dug his index finger into the center of Sherlock’s palm.
“Where would I be without my trusty colouring book, of course. And maybe we can work on your own colour identification skills in the process, hm?” His voice was light and the little grin he sent his old friend playful. “Could be quite the asset. We’ll have you telling green and yellow apart in no time.”
Wincing as his muscles began to protest being left as they were for so long, Victor straightened and sat up slightly, one hand braced along the mattress while the other drifted to restlessly rub his lower spine where the spinal tap had been inserted just a few days prior. “Clothes, however, I really would appreciate,” Victor continued, gesturing at himself loosely and making a face. “I feel like I’m in a shopping bag.”
He met Sherlock’s eyes and his own gaze, for a moment, softened. Before he could truly stop himself out slipped: “Thank you, Sherlock,” his voice warm though hoarse and sincere. Whether he meant thank you for the visit or the promises to bring what Victor lacked, or Sherlock’s mere presence, was unclear, but he smiled smally nonetheless.
Sincerity was something that rarely came between the pair of them, at least to this degree. They had a volatile relationship at the best of times, preferring to instead keep everything light hearted and friendly. Occasionally they had fallen into the murmurs of ambiguities and half truths, and maybe they had even opened up their feelings once or twice but it was rare, given their ten year relationship. But this was what happened for them and this was what worked. They knew the lies and the when they avoided answering.
So Sherlock simply smiled and moved along with his friend to make sure that he wasn’t making him uncomfortable. He rolled his own shoulders to prevent himself from settling and growing far too comfortable and shutting down again.
“I’m not colour blind, I’m able to see the difference between basic colours you cretin.” Sherlock mocked the other man, rolling his eyes. “You’re never going to let that crayon situation just be forgotten, are you?” he said ruefully, letting his head roll backwards to regard the ceiling with a lazy grimace.
“I will make sure however you get clothes. I’m afraid no suits however. I may even just buy you new clothes; joggers and t shirts and whatnot.” The grimace changed to a superior smirk, knowing that he’d struggle to find anything most people would call comfortable in Victor’s house. Perhaps he’d find a few pyjama bottoms or something; he couldn’t remember what Victor wore when he was asleep.
He let the conversation slip for a few moments, his chest rising and falling with the comfortable weight of Victor on the left hand side. His mind was wandering, drawn to the marks he’d seen multiple times on his companion’s arm. Sherlock mulled it over in his mind, weighing up the pros and cons of talking about it.
He sighed. The thoughts of them rarely having serious discussions came back as a haunting reminder, drawing an almost bitter thin smile.
“I also need to know if you have any more drugs in your flat that I need to remove.” He said quietly, keeping his eyes fixed on the pale white of the tiles as if not seeing Victor would make this easier for the pair of them.
guys gusy guys
can we like tango chat some time
because i don’t ever need to get up again
He smiled a little at the directness of Sherlock’s response, as unsugared as always. Victor could be assured that if Sherlock said it had failed to truly affect him - directly, he’d said, and Sherlock never said extra words unless they were necessary to his meaning - than it had, and for that he could only be grateful. He already owed enough apologies, after all.
Victor’s lips twitched up, coinciding with that morbid amusement Sherlock emanated on just how far gone they both were. Victor had not forgotten that sole day he entered Sherlock’s flat to find him asleep, after all, his fingers just grazing a pile of casework and a bottle on top. The detective looked hard-worked and thinner and paler since Victor had seen him last. For once, it was simply that Victor was the one to go to the extreme.
But as much as this was true — move into Baker Street? It wasn’t as simple of a decision as Sherlock phrased it to be. True, the journey up to the flat and back down to the street would be far less difficult. There would be someone home to assist him if his limbs were to give out, a possibility that was more probable than he’d like to admit. And there was the matter of security. Sherlock was the brother of Mycroft Holmes. If nothing else, there would be no Mafia men knocking on his door, though it did put Victor closer to another risk - the government itself.
He was a murderer, after all. A murderer, a criminal, a thief, a liar, a cheat. Victor’s lips parted and then closed again softly, his hand settling in the crook of his arm and rubbing over the irritated skin from his forearm to his wrist, where the damning scars were bare, their freshness telling everyone what they needed to know about the habits he’d harboured for the past few month. What if he couldn’t stop? What if he dragged Sherlock down too?
He could feel Sherlock’s breath on the rim of his ear.
“As much as I appreciate your allowance of Gloria’s presence,” he chuckled, patting the back of Sherlock’s hand to better communicate that, “I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you. They’ll likely send a homecare nurse with me, and I’ll have to continue therapy, not to mention the work I have to catch up on…I couldn’t bear being a burden on you or Mrs. Hudson.” Victor straightened, lifting from Sherlock’s shoulder so he could twist slightly and look properly at him, face to face. “It won’t be easy,” he cautioned, and then added to lighten the mood, “since you really, really do not get on with Gloria.”
He’d made the offer genuinely so when Victor turned him down, he was mildly surprised. “If I had thought you would be a burden, I wouldn’t have offered my home to you.” He reprimanded his companion. He was more than aware however, that Baker Street needed cleaning up. The curtains had not been drawn for the past month and the place was developing a smell of stagnation. Mrs Hudson had been banned - which she’d agreed to when she’d discovered the bottles - so the place was in dire need of a clean. That would be the only burden Victor would create, but Sherlock knew his situation needed to change.
“I would never pick her as a companion however I would have suffered her.” He murmured softly, letting his fingers return to Victor’s hand, resting back around his slender digits even though there was no fear the cup would topple when it was resting between their thighs.
“If you will not come to Baker Street however, I would insist that you would allow me to come to Lexington street. There will a lot for you to do, and I am no stranger to the recovery process.” It was a rare inclination into the life of Sherlock Holmes, the man who spent his time running around London and had been damaged more times than he would often admit. Broken bones rarely set him back, but operations had done. While he’d never been as severely injured as his best friend, he still had some inclination to what Victor would go through. “You will need someone to walk Gloria, to fetch you shopping, and possibly to do minor tasks around the flat. I need not stay, if you do not wish that, however I would like to come by each day at least to make sure you are doing well.” Sherlock gave no hint of argument in his second offer, determined that his companion wouldn’t be alone. While Victor had (unbeknown to Sherlock) considered Mycroft as a danger, Sherlock predominantly considered him as an asset, for once. He was giving serious contemplation to asking the other to monitor Lexington street, though knowing Mycroft it was already there. They argued and always had, however the elder Holmes always looked out for his baby brother.
“Though this is something we aren’t exactly close to. You’re in here for another week or two at least, I would imagine.” Sherlock smirked thinly. “Sadly, you did nearly die and the doctors seem to find this a problem.” He said it in an offhand manner, not even sparing a thought for offering the information delicately. Victor was alive and well, and to him, the rest were ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
“If you’d like I can bring you some clothes and personal effects. Books and a nice colouring book and pens to keep you occupied.” It was a rare glimpse of humour, but Sherlock was well and truly content; sat in a room in a building he detested with a nearly-absent friend who was far from a shadow of his former self, he was content.
It has come to my attention that some of you don’t have my new skype. So, I’ll do this good and simple.
highcheekbonescollars is my skype. Just add me. Because I’m a silly fecker, I’d appreciate URL’s in the request thingy.
And just sayin’, I posted this publically for a reason. If you want to add me, no matter who you are, go for it.
He shook his head at the look of dissatisfaction and raised his eyebrows, leaning back a little so their eyes would meet. They’d established in university itself, in a short-lived, boredom-fueled experiment during winter break, that any coffee offered by public institutions with access to all people - police stations, libraries, hospitals - would always have terrible coffee as a ploy to ward off those people who came mostly to loaf.
Chuckling soundlessly other than a heavy nasal breath Victor straightened and relaxed back into the support Sherlock’s arm and chest offered, feeling his deep voice vibrate through his back and into his bones like he hadn’t felt in a long time. Sherlock wouldn’t see from this position when Victor’s expression flickered and he glanced down.
The mood had shifted, if nearly imperceptibly. Sherlock was waiting for an answer, some sort of peek ahead out of these hospital walls that were offering Victor some sort of waiting period, like purgatory between heaven and hell, before he had to step out into the fire. “I’ve missed her, and she’s…getting on.” He’d never mentioned her age to Sherlock before. “It’s better that she stays with me, now that I can offer a stable home as long as I can.”
His words were careful, making room for the possibility that the law would catch up to him and demand answers and that home wouldn’t remain for very long. And that was when the bittersweet realization settled that he had been dodging, that they were again failing to look directly at the matter, pretending it didn’t exist, and after last time Victor owed it to Sherlock and himself even if neither of them preferred it.
“This wasn’t fair to her or the friend I gave her to. The arrangement lasted too long, and I went on the way I did too long. And I don’t want to live like that anymore.” He was shaking his knee absently, restlessly, without noticing it, jostling the cup over and over while he stared down into the rippling surface. “I affected you like this, too…and…I’m sorry. To everyone.”
“Offer a stable home as long as I can”.
He was going to return to Lexington street when he was discharged to carry on as normal. The business will continue, his life will tick over, and it will be the same. Until, that was, whatever put him in the hospital eventually caught up with him. Sherlock frowned at the very thought, the old and uncomfortably familiar feeling of someone wanting to commit harm being just there. The thought of a shadow, dogging Victor’s steps and waiting for the next opportunity to strike was a blow even to his normally to frozen core. He had been hounded by ghosts and monsters for too long, he did not want the same for Victor. Security was a must, but not only that, support. He never trusted anyone with his secrets, and that had been a flaw; another wedge to shove between them when they finally came to the fore. That could not happen again. Already their relationship was so fragile, as delicate as a butterfly’s wing. Another tremor and it could shatter, break until there was nothing left but an echo of what was.
He glanced at the steaming cup of coffee, taking a mouthful when Victor apologised. It made him perk his eyebrow, setting the nearly empty cup aside quietly. “Your actions had very little effect on me directly. I’m not someone you should apologise to.” He spoke honestly, not mincing his words; that had never been their way and he did not plan on changing that now. “But this is when amends are to be made. Solitude seems to have disagreed with us.” Sherlock spoke with a strangely misplaced smirk on his features. “When you’re free of this horrific place, I insist that you move into Baker Street.” He turned his head to meet the downcast eyes of his best friend. “Mrs Hudson would be happy with it, but there are also less stairs to climb than Lexington street. You may take my room.” He shrugged. “I’ll even allow you to bring Gloria.”
While I adore you for this Anon and whatnot, you should know I’m not on Sherlock as often as I was. Greg takes up my time now, and I’m only currently able to interact with Victor because that’s all Sherly is offering up.
I lav u too. c:
The manners with which Sherlock said goodbye to her, even if a farce, impressed Victor, but the detective quickly shattered that illusion soon after. The first few times he pressed one or two buttons experimentally Victor thought nothing of it, but soon he realized that Sherlock was not just touching one or two to get comfortable but them all, asking for his feedback as though it were a study.
It was so sudden and spontaneous the businessman hardly registered the arm that slipped down to cross over his back and the hand somewhere near his hip. He was too busy protesting and then conceding and saying yes just to please Sherlock when he was indeed comfortable, though once or twice exasperated “Sherlock!”s and “this is going to break”s and “you are an absolute child”s slipped past tinged with laughter.
In fact, by the time Sherlock decided he had his fun and they were more reclined than before, with the section in the middle lifted so their legs bent a little at the knee - the best position to avoid his feet going numb or any possible bedsores - Victor’s laughter was getting the better of him. It escaped in little breathy bursts, cracked and sometimes inaudible in his rough throat, but it felt intoxicating even if it itched. It was uncomfortable and pleasant all at once, the familiar stutter of his diaphragm, the stretch of his facial muscles. He shook his head and nudged his elbow lightly against Sherlock’s side, like they did once, and quieted to listen.
“Oh, I….” He began, his expression turning blanker, his eyes emptying. Gloria. Elizabeth. “She’s been staying with a friend of mine for almost months now. I was so busy I didn’t want her to suffer for it, so I thought it a better arrangement. I haven’t seen her in some time. But I’m sure she’s much happier there than she’d be here, they get along.” Victor’s tone was light, but he missed his closest friend. He wished he could see her now, but with risk of her hiring him, it would e some time before he saw her again. “Do you miss her?” He arched an eyebrow, meeting Sherlock’s eyes.
There it was again, that familiarity that settled around them as comfortably as a blanket. Even after everything they’d been through, Sherlock still couldn’t sever the bonds of their friendship. Every wall he’d tried to create to prevent Victor getting close and to stop him getting out, those walls needed to be pulled down. There was no need to protect a man that got shot in his own time. The pain of knowing Victor had been with John, had put himself in a relationship that was only alien to Sherlock, all of that was insignificant. They were who they were, and the amiable companionship that they’d always had was just there, just waiting for them both.
The breathless and scratchy laughter of his companion drew that rare little curl of lips that felt misplaced, stiff, unused. “Careful.” He chastised, but it wasn’t meant in seriousness. It was good to be able to laugh and smile and pretend that there was no world beyond the white clinical confines of their room.
“Hardly.” He said gruffly, glancing to Andrea who’d returned with a steaming disposable cup. A bright grin and a sheepish thanks were her reward, something she brushed off with the reassurance she was happy to help given the rough time they’d been having. Sherlock thanked her again and she took her leave with the comment of being “only around the corner!”
Sherlock smirked and leant for the cup she’d left on the bedside table, blowing it for a moment before taking an experimental sip. His expression said it all.
“You’re lucky you can’t drink this. It’s nearly as bad as what they serve in the Yard.” He complained as to be expected.
“I’d been hoping you’d finally gotten rid of her.” Sherlock then continued as if there had never been an interruption. He continued to sip at the coffee he proclaimed unpleasant, grimacing faintly as he did. “I presume you’ll want her back when you get out of here.” There it was, the first little scratch at the question that neither wanted to broach. It wasn’t just asking the obvious, but asking what next? Would it be normality, this ulterior life that lead to his near death, or perhaps even something else.
The steadiness of Sherlock’s rhythm with no erratic finger twitches of sixteenth-notes told Victor that he wasn’t doing so as much out of thought as of a gesture of comfort he didn’t know he was offering. The idea made Victor’s lips curl up despite himself, settling slightly more against Sherlock’s arm, his meager weight from months of poor health hardly making much of a difference at all.
An apology began to form on his lips after he heard Sherlock speak. Victor hadn’t wanted to hurt him. On the contrary, he had kept him out of the entire matter for Sherlock’s sake, so that he didn’t have to know what it was that Victor’s hands were so calloused from and why he didn’t sleep at night, and a selfish part of him didn’t want Sherlock to see how weak he’d become.
Victor had really believed he could hide something from Sherlock Holmes. That was his first mistake.
His eyes darted up to the disturbance and he smiled at the kindly receptionist who, when the nurses were busy, would come by now and then to check up on Victor and fluff his pillow or fill the jug with fresh water. The delicacy with which her hand lingered on the doorframe and the careful tone of her voice, combined with the odd fond way she watched them, reminded Victor again what she thought the nature of their relationship was.
“I’m alright, thank you, Andrea,” he declined politely. He couldn’t have anything else but water and juice and what nutrition they gave him through the tubes - he was to start with soup for tomorrow. “Do you..?” he left the question open ended and tilted his head to send Sherlock another glance.
The casual body language felt natural and strange all at once, as Victor was conscious of not only how they felt, always physically familiar even after such an absence, but how they must look to her, with their heads bowed together in quiet conversation and their hands clasped over the glass. Playing the part came all too easy.
Hospital beds were notoriously uncomfortable, hard and unyielding to the occupant. The time he’d spent trapped on a bed not too long ago lurked in his muscles like a long forgotten memory, but strangely now, here with Victor cramped onto a bed that didn’t offer either movement, left him content. Sherlock smiled over toward the kind receptionist, glancing at the jug on the side. “I believe there is enough water to suffice, but if I could trouble you for a coffee, I’d be terribly grateful.” Like a man would don a coat, Sherlock donned the perfect facade of a sheepish partner, at loathe to leave his ill companion. Andrea smiled and inquired how he’d take it and she disappeared with a promise to be back soon.
Alone again, Sherlock shifted marginally so that his pose wasn’t one of stiff support but more reclined and relaxed himself, arm shifting from where it had cradled solidly around Victor’s upper shoulder blades down a little so it became trapped between bed and body. His right hand released the cup for a moment, reaching down to the side for the remote for their bed. Like a child, he began to fiddle with the buttons so the bed rose and fell, tilted and straightened, bent and flattened. In an uncharacteristic and somewhat misplaced display of humour he prompted Victor to “Say when” for every angle the bed could be positioned at.
When they eventually settled, he dropped the remote between their touching legs and let his hand curl around Victor’s and the cup once more.
“Where is Gloria?” He asked suddenly, angling his head just slightly to catch Victor in the corner of his eye, judging his response from his peripheral.
He failed to drink for a few moments and tilted his head to the other side so he could look up at Sherlock for a few moments, eyes flickering over his features to assess and observe while Sherlock’s arm remained as a gentle weight against the back of Victor’s neck and their sides pressed together and maybe their ribs lined up just so, too. And Victor could smell tobacco, and something like vanilla, and…
“I wouldn’t have complained. I’ve been a perfectly good patient,” he murmured back, taking another look at Sherlock as his lips hesitated because caution had, in recent months, become a second language to him, and then with their fingers brushed Victor rose the cup to his lips, careful with how much he drank. Just a few sips and he had to lower it again, turn his head away and down to choke away a little cough at the water’s cool slide against his aching throat.
Sherlock’s arm felt safe, even when his insides were squirming with the itch to run from confrontation.
“I’m not running any marathons soon,” Victor pointed out wryly about his condition, the bottom of the cup resting on his thigh, while their fingers still cupped it together. “I’m…catching up, I suppose. They say it’s been a week and the confusion is to be expected. It’s not as bad as it could have been; there are reported cases of weeks and months without waking, and I can speak clearly now, and I’ve been going to physical therapy, so…” he trailed off. “The sooner I can get out of this bed, the better. Are you - I mean, has work been…alright?”
The idiocy of his own question registered and Victor winced. Maybe he was having more trouble thinking than he thought.
Sherlock didn’t relinquish his grip on friend or cup, simply let Victor guide where the cup went. The arm around his shoulders however twitched as if it were to shift, in his mind a thought of rubbing gently between shoulder blades as if it would work a warmth into an unused windpipe. He refrained.
“You’ve been here a while, Victor.” He offered quietly, fingers tapping quite gently against Victor’s and the cup in a steady but completely absent minded rhythm. ”If you remembered half of this I’d be impressed.” Lips quirked at the corner in an almost uncharacteristic display of humour. It had been too long since those lips had let the whisper of a laugh or a ghost of a smile be found, been too long since they offered anything other than a scowl or uninterested indifference. Isolation had not been beneficial for him, and neither had the abuse he’d allowed his body to suffer through misplaced thoughts.
“From what the doctor has told me, you’re doing well given you were on death’s door once or twice.” There was no fear in offering such information, but the thought of that alone was enough to settle a heavy weight in his stomach, a block of ice that served as a reminder that he nearly lost his friend. It had hit hard when he’d first been told, frightening him away for an evening. The following day however, he’d been there as a sentinel, leaving rarely.
Not even Victor’s question could serve as deviation. How had things been? Dire. He’d broken the only rule he’d set himself, he’d given up, and then he’d nearly worked himself dead. But Victor didn’t need those honest truths. He didn’t need lies too, however.
“Things have been difficult.” He said quietly, internally pleased that their position prevented Victor from directly being able to see his face, see the bitter sadness that lingered in his eyes. “But I have managed.” Sherlock murmured, turning then to look at the door.
Andrea stood on the other side, smiling at the pair of them. She bobbed her head around the door.
“Everything alright for you boys?” She asked quietly, as if afraid to break the quiet which settled around the pair of them. “Can I get you anything? Tea, coffee, blankets?”
Every muscle Victor could command was rigid and tense, ready to spring if he should need to flee, because his body hadn’t quite come to the realization that he couldn’t move much at all, let alone break out into a full sprint away from a spring of feeling that he’d muffled down and plugged up with time. Time had kept them apart where they had drifted. They hadn’t spoken at all in weeks, save a few texts sent when Victor wasn’t in his right mind, and even then Sherlock’s replies had been terse.
The message was clear and Victor held it to his chest and used it to staunch the feeling; Sherlock did not want to see him, couldn’t stand to see him after the entire ordeal, and Victor anyway had much to do. So like with all wounds Victor didn’t look at it and tried to put it out of mind and for a while it stopped aching, until it didn’t like now.
Sherlock’s sudden words struck him dumb and his brain, slow to restart, struggled to keep up for a few moments and left him floundering, cracked but slowly healing lips parting. Machines whirred and beeped in conversation for the both of them before Victor caught up and he relaxed back against the inclined back of the bed, spine settling into the comfortable pillow but still drawing a little wince from him.
Here was a part to play that he was being given, and Victor slipped into the role for any observing eyes. “Ah,” he mumbled in acknowledgment and turned his head so Sherlock filled his gaze and let his hand fall to his side, fingers brushing Sherlock’s. That wasn’t purposeful but the contact drew a little smile he gave in return wasn’t feigned, hardly pulling his old dimple or twinkle, but creasing his eyes enough to warm them a little. The caution remained, but the nurse by the window didn’t see that, just saw Victor turn his head and the intimate distance of their hands.
What could he say? Apologize? Explain? Avoid?
“Were you…here long?” Victor’s husked but smooth voice now cracked and ripped on certain syllables from the strain of intubation and over a week of disuse. “You could have woken me..”
It was a good thing that the detective had his back to the window in the door so that they could not see, not clearly. His body language would cry a man who was tired but relieve, spending time with a man he cared for enough to rarely vacate the uncomfortable hospital seat. His features showed none of that, they showed very little at all. A small flicker of surprise touched his eyes however at the chaste contact of fingers. He understood plainly enough and shifted his hand so he was loosely holding the other’s digits, a small little connection that so starkly illustrated the small changes each suffered. For once, it was Sherlock who was warm to the touch, and Victor who was cool; slowly leeching what meagre heat his companion could share.
He wished that he could say something, voice the turmoil that sat in his chest and writhed within, deep within. Part of him needed to confront Victor; demand answers, demand an explanation, demands for something, for anything. But he was Sherlock. He found the answers out himself, deduced them from whatever fact was provided and made his own conclusion. This was Victor. Answer would come because it would be provided willingly.
His expression softened, that internal conflict remedied for now to leave him merely concerned but relieved. The operation had been a success and the pressure had been relieved from his best friend’s brain. His vitals were stable and he seemed to be quite alert. His voice however. That was a different matter. Without prompting Sherlock rose and let those cold fingers slip from his gentle grip. He poured water from a jug on the side.
“I’ve been here for…” A glance at the clock that ticked over on the far wall, dull tone punctuating every silence that sat between them for the expanse that only seemed to grow and grow. “A couple of hours.” He smiled and turned to offer the cup to his friend. However, the hand that lifted unsteadily from the bed to grasp for it with unresponsive fingers made him step closer still.
“If I had woken you, you’d only have complained.” Sherlock said as he let Victor take the cup but did not quite remove his own hand. Instead, he let his own hand support the cup over his friend’s, lifting it toward his lips carefully. The tremor that shook through his hand worried the detective.
Being Sherlock, he perched on the edge of Victor’s bed, against his friend with scorn for the chair he’d recently occupied. Gently, like one would cradle a child, Sherlock let one arm loop around Victor’s shoulders to support him and the other kept the cup in unsupportive fingers.
“I feel it an insulting question to ask, however I see no easier way without making demands. How are you?”
If it wasn’t for the medication Victor wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink. Since waking he had begun to remember what had happened before he had lost consciousness, remembered it all - the red pain, the black death, the white shirt around a gaping bullet hole. Only one took out a good piece of him, on his thigh. The other had bounced off the dogtags on his chest, and one more had grazed his fingers, enough that they were tightly wound in bandage but nothing more.
He tried not to look at the wounds so he wouldn’t remember, he tried not to blink so guilt wouldn’t descend on him in that fleeting darkness. He focused on the little exercises they gave him to improve his fuzzy eyesight and slurred speech and motor control, but it wasn’t ever enough. Sometimes, he wished he had gone after all - but then he would breathe in fresh air from the open window or open a get-better card and change his mind.
It was in the middle of one of those exercises that he had fallen asleep, the rubber ball resting against his side that he was given to improve his grip. The medication helped him ignore the whispers in his head and the beeps of the machines, and now, it made him oblivious to Sherlock’s presence until sleep lifted gently as it would, like fingers slowly pulling back a veil. He shifted and took a deeper breath, rasping slightly past his still recovering lung and his raw throat, and his eyelids flickered…
and then they opened. Victor blinked once, twice, thrice, to clear his vision, and then braced his free hand against the bed to carefully shift into more of a sitting position - and then he realized he wasn’t alone at all. His eyes were caught on a figure besides him, a figure he knew well from hundreds of photographs and thousands more memories..
“Sherlock,” Victor rasped, his eyes wider than usual with bewilderment and anticipation and something a little like fear, because Sherlock was never supposed to know about any of this.
Time ticked by with scant regard, minutes developing into an hour, an hour developing into longer. Time just stretched, but everything in their little room, the bubble of their privacy was a constant. Victor’s chest rose and fell in the same controlled and measured rate. Muscles twitched occasionally under the heavy hospital issue cotton and the deplorable gown, sometimes his face would crease into a frown and lips would part as if to murmur a quiet secret. Sherlock drank it all in, his eyes absorbing the details he had missed and the details he would sooner forget. It saddened him however, in the peace of their existence he would see those signs. There were still secrets between them, stretching a gulf he never thought to be bridged. But when a man is asleep, a man is vulnerable. A man gives up what he would sooner hide.
An addict always would spot another addict.
He’d inadvertently lain a hand on his friend’s bed. Not touching him, simply the material, as if to offer a sliver of support, as if to pass on a coin or a token that would say Yes, I too suffer.
The hand withdrew. He didn’t notice when. His own body was shutting off gradually, his mind and eyes all that remained in Sherlock’s own consciousness. Watching, blinking mechanically, collecting and storing data. He could feel a heavy weariness settling in his bones, the pressure and ache of a body that was tired and bone weary. The eyes that had stayed to devour the sleeping man closed gradually, each blink lengthening until eventually lids pressed closed and darkness enveloped him as gentle a mother would her child.
His mind did not succumb to such sleep, however. His mind processed what it saw, the imprint of Victor that lingered behind closed eyelids and the imprint of knowledge that neither wanted passed on.
A voice disturbed him. He’d retreated so far, allowed his mind to wander the routes and the channels that it sought, to ponder thoughts and feelings as one might idly consider the movement of clouds. Slow, steady, gentle, but on course.
A voice pulled him back. A voice he did not know. A voice from a man that was nearly a corpse.
Sherlock’s eyes were instantly open. He was never one to look asleep save when everything he had - mind and body - equally gave up and turned off. No, moments like this he looked simply like a statue, like a device left idle for too long that turned to stand by. Press a button, and it was turned on as if the power had never dwindled.
They regarded each other for a moment. Sherlock not allowing his gaze to drift or wander, nor did he allow his eyes to betray those sensitive thoughts, the thoughts that so recently had haunted and plagued him. Even awake like this, he were a statue carved from granite; cold, hard, inexplicable.
Eventually, he blinked and a mask was lifted and he gave a thin, nearly invisible smile.
“They believe we are married, or soon to be.” He spoke softly, his deep baritone muted and distant, as if speaking from further away. There was no explanation for this greeting, because there were no words he had to say. They both could tell, even in their respective states, this was a scenario neither would have dreamed of. This was something neither was prepared for. When unprepared, humanity had a reliable response; find something natural and familiar. And so, Sherlock tried.
It had become almost like a routine. Sherlock would roll up at whatever time he pleased and the receptionists would be more than willing to let him in. The kindest one to him yet was a pleasant woman called Andrea who had been there the very first time he’d walked in. She made sure that they were all aware of the ‘situation’ of the coma patient and his wayward partner. So there was never an issue when he appeared a few hours later.
The call had come on Saturday, informing him that Victor was coming around and regaining consciousness. Sherlock didn’t visit.
It was three days later before he finally drummed up the confidence to go to the hospital. Three days of knowing that his best friend had come around, was out of the critical situation, was going to be well.
He stepped into the clinical hospital at an obscene hour, greeted by Andrea with a cheery hello and a quiet comment about being a stranger. They passed a few minutes, and she waved him in.
It took precisely 124 steps to get to Victor’s room. He made that journey in a minute usually, but this time it took him 4.34 minutes. All the way he was conflicted on what to say, what to do. Should he even be there?
He didn’t know. Knocking wasn’t what he’d done since Victor was admitted, and Sherlock never did when they’d awkwardly cohabited.
Padding inside, Sherlock regarded the sleeping man spread on the bed, so alike the body he’d seen every visit before. There were still bandages on his head from the operation, still the beeping machines and the wires and drips. The only difference was the colour of Victor’s cheeks. They were red from the warmth of the room, and it was heartening, even if it were something so simple as that.
Sherlock took his normal place of vigil at Victor’s side in the horribly uncomfortable chair, but he’d never complained. He just sat, just watched, and waited.