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.
“Yes…Hello, this is Carla Sanchez, I’m a receptionist from the ICU at St. Bart’s Hospital. We have you listed as Victor Trevor’s emergency contact..?
We’re calling to see if you had time to speak to his doctor quickly. It’s a bit urgent. Just a moment—”
“—this is Dr. Lin Xie, I’m his primary physician. Sorry, I’m in a bit of rush, but we wanted to call you while you were available. Victor’s visual responses have been deteriorating and a CT scan this afternoon revealed an area of his brain filling with fluid pressing up against a major part of the visual cortex. We’re going to need to drain it before it affects him mentally.
The procedure is called a lumbar tap - or a lumbar drain. It’s relatively common, but not often performed on coma patients. We’d like to check with you before we go ahead.”
For once, Sherlock did not let his phone ring out. He picked it up on the third ring, a hasty thumb swipe and an almost too quick “Holmes” as a greeting.
He listened to everything the doctor’s told him, not interrupting them as they explained their procedure. They wanted his permission, he realised after a moment.
"Do what you must, yes." He sounded almost like he was giving an order, trying to distance himself again and again.
"I will be there within the hour to see him when he comes out… Yes, that will be fine. yes… Very well. I will see you soon. Thank you." He hung up, already moving to collect all his necessities. There was no hesitation this time, no conflict. He was making his way to Bart’s, and this time he would stay and see.
He’d known a day after Victor’s admission to the hospital. The paper hadn’t been what tipped him, but instead his brother for once. The elder Holmes monitored all the hospitals for such untraceable names, just in case it were his dear brother who had wound up in such a situation.
Sherlock was torn. He was ripped in half on the inside, unable to make a choice while his own opinions warred within him like an angry maelstrom of grief and detachment.
Victor was in hospital. Victor was hurt. Victor Victor Victor.
He shouldn’t care. He should have cut the other man off, cut him like one would cut away a digit should it be home to a festering wound. A clean break a clean cut. One that would heal and be almost seamless.
That hadn’t been possible.
Caring wasn’t an advantage.
His brother’s words constantly rang in his mind these days, constantly reminded him of his weakness and his failures, of the humanity he tried so desperately to shed. All the walls he’d built, the careful little fort he’d concealed himself in was self protection, to prevent anyone getting in, getting close, him getting hurt. Mycroft taught him, Mycroft told him.
All lives end.
What if this one was to end? Would Sherlock be able to reconcile with himself this time? Let another person drift from his lift as an echo of a better time?
Two hours later, he’d been at St Bart’s hospital. He’d asked about the man who’d been admitted with gun wounds. The John Doe. Said they lived together. The receptionist made an assumption and he didn’t correct her.
It wasn’t visiting hours, she told him.
He made up a lie, making good use of the presumption she’d made. A story of being out of town, unable to come before, unable to go home without seeing him.
Quick directions, quicker steps, and he was there.
The room was cold, it was so cold and so dark and painfully sterile. He was rigid with discomfort, imagining the chill that seeped in his bones. His shoulder ached, the memory of the last time he’d been in such an awful place, out of his mind on pain killers, being treated for the wounds that would never truly heal. But, here he stood for the man he wished he could ignore. Here he stood, despite his own ghosts.
Victor was laid in the bed, covered by a thin and starched stiff cotton sheet, his modesty kept by the awful blue and white gowns all patients were given. He looked paler than Sherlock remember, gaunt and tired. He was older by only a few months, but now that could easily be a few years. The detective took quiet steps closer to the bed, to the ominous beeping machines that recorded Victor’s vitals and monitored the solutions that were seeping into his system. He made no noise, just simply stared at his friend as still as a statue.
There were no notes to read, but he needed to know the damage; the physical, at least. He carefully peeled back the white cotton sheet, torn about removing the flimsy gown. It wasn’t Victor’s modesty he wished to protect, but more Sherlock didn’t know if he wanted to see what had happened.
In the end he couldn’t do it, but instead chose to delicately trace his hand down Victor’s front and sides,his touch fleeting and gentle, like a distant memory, feeling for the anomaly that would show the wound sites that were bandaged and padded. He found three, and his mouth had gone dry by the time he’d tugged the sheet back over the man.
He didn’t speak. There was nothing to say, but he didn’t want the other to know he’d been, to know that there had been a stranger in his room while he was so vulnerable. Instead, the consulting detective took a seat, content to just regard the man that he knew he couldn’t cut loose, to the wound that would fester and fester until it became too late, until it wasn’t a digit or a limb being removed by everything. Until he was stripped bare.
He let time slip and ebb away, let nurses come and console what they thought was the distraught lover and offer hope. He would live, they said. He’d pull through, they said. He just had to wake up, they said.
Do you want a drink? A bed? You can stay if you want, we won’t say anything. He shook his head to the offers, thanked them in a voice that was hoarse from misuse and they left him too it. He hoped Victor hadn’t heard that voice, though perhaps if he had he’d never attribute it back to him.
All hearts are broken.
Unbidden, the detective rose and returned to the receptionist’s desk. He wanted to know if he could be put as next of kin. She said of course, took his number, promised to keep him updated. Sherlock thanked her, lingering for a moment longer as if he would return to Victor’s side at vigil, but thought better of it. He left, promising to return later to the concerned and thoughtful receptionist. She bid him a good night and wished him the best.
First of all, I’m not tagging this as OOC because I need as many people as possible to see it, so I’m flaunting your tumblr saviours.
Long story short;
To pass one of my modules this year, I need to compose a research study on a topic of my choice. I chose text based discourse (that’s just talking online/text).
I need volunteers (as many as possible please!) to basically do a 5 or less minute questionnaire for me.
The only personal question I ask is your age group, which is important given the nature of my topic. I don’t need a name or anything that can be identified as you personally.
The questions literally ask about acronyms and text talk. That’s pretty much it.
Absolutely anyone can take part, be you a close friend, random stranger, simply stalker etc etc. I just need to have a decent body of data to work with.
If you’re willing to take part, please submit me an ask.
I’ll reply with the questionnaire/send you it over skype. If you could fill it out and SUBMIT it back to me on here or on skype, I’d be eternally grateful.
(Send asks to Greg please, not this account. This one just has the most followers.)
Long term hibernate for Sherlock once more.
This’ll basically end when I can actually think like him again.
As it stands, all activity has moved to Greg, so if anybody is a’wantin’ me, direct your attention his way.
Shame, because you’re going to have to. Not too long, though. I don’t want you forgetting me.
[He frowns, finally giving the other his complete attention]
Then why come now?
1. Offtopic. I bought a mug that looks quite similar (a little identical) to John’s in A Study in Pink. Just sayin’. My future flat mate is currently “Mycroft” in my phone and we’re texting as Sherly and Myc. I however will buy big comfy jumpers ofr next year when we live together
2. I’m struggling with Sherlock again. I’m still in the mood to use him, but I’m lazy and whatnot, so I don’t know if it’s me or the muse. Either way, I’m thinking he’s going to be inactive again.
3. Cian is on a long term hibernate because I’ve forgotten his email.
(Bold is the only important thing really.)
Nothing that can’t wait, Holmes.
We’ll talk when you’re not so…tetchy.
[He glances up, regarding the stranger for the first time; a quick cursory glance, nothing more.]
I’m not prepared to wait.