“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,
and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
– Edna St. Vincent Millay
Author note: Part 5 of the "No Heart For Me Like Yours" series. This story contains quite a few spoilers for the rest of the series, so it would probably make much more sense to read the series in order, as it tells how John and Sherlock got to this point.
Once again, sorry for the long hiatus - I had to get to the point where I could ignore Season 3 before I could post again!
Thank you again, Skyfullofstars, for being the best beta reader EVER. You are wonderful, and I am so grateful for all of your help!
Thanks, also, to those of you who left reviews, and private messages, asking me to write the rest of this story. It means more than I can say.
Sherlock belongs to Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock Holmes originally belonged to Sir Arthur Coanan Doyle. I own nothing. This makes me very, very sad. Written for fun, not profit.
Warnings: Sherlock/John. Slash, slash, somewhat graphic slash. Major, major spoilers for Season 2. Not Season 3 compliant.
Trigger warnings: Suicidal ideation; references to previous abusive relationship, references to non-con, references to sexual assault, references to child prostitution/abuse, references to homophobia, paralysis, despair.Please read and review!
Read Chapter 19
Chapter 20: Wait For Me
“Now everyone dreams of a love faithful and true,
But you and I know what this world can do.
So let's make our steps clear so the other may see.
And I'll wait for you...should I fall behind, wait for me.”
For a long, frozen moment, nobody moves. Then Wiggins’ white fingers, still clenched tight around Adair’s Glock 17, begin to tremble violently, along with her puckering chin.
She’s dangerous as hell right now. I’m in no position to talk her down, but someone has to, and Sherlock seems to have turned to marble.
“Wiggins,” I gasp out, trying not to moan at the burning pain that builds in my arms and shoulders. “Wiggins, it’s okay. Put the gun down, now. It’s all right.”
There’s no response. Her glassy, china-blue eyes gaze vacantly toward the space where Moran stood, rather than at his prone body, in a classic thousand-yard stare.
Sherlock finally seems to snap out of his own daze. He takes a slow, careful step towards his young protégé.
“Wiggins, it’s over,” he rasps, his voice still roughened from Moran’s chokehold. “Put down the gun.” He takes another measured step, then another, carefully skirting Adair’s motionless body as he draws close to her. “Wiggins?”
Finally, finally, she blinks rapidly, and turns to focus on Sherlock. Her voice is shaky, higher than normal from adrenaline.
“I shot him.”
Sherlock reaches gently for the gun, carefully directing the muzzle away from himself, before easing it from her white-knuckled grip. Her emptied hands hang in the air for a moment, unsure of what to do.
“Yes, you shot him, to stop him from shooting me,” he murmurs. “I certainly prefer this outcome.”
Wiggins gives him a trembling little smile, and Sherlock returns it, before he turns his attention to the Glock in his hand. He efficiently ejects the magazine, pulls back the slide, expertly eyeballing the chamber and barrel to make sure the gun is empty; then, aiming carefully at the floor, pulls the trigger on the empty gun to decock it, before pushing the disarmed gun into his jacket pocket.
Bloody hell. When did my boyfriend become so proficient in handling a weapon? I can’t help but groan a bit at the sight. We really, really need to talk about his time away.
Wiggins drops her attention to Edwin’s motionless form in her lap, but Sherlock whirls towards me, drawn by my groan. Gracefully sidestepping Moran’s sprawled body, Sherlock leaps across the room in a couple of long strides, dropping to his knees beside me.
“John!” Long, trembling fingers slip down to my throat, feeling for my carotid pulse. I try to give him a reassuring smile as he cups my cheek in his shaking palm.
“I think we could use that ambulance now, love,” I gasp, still fighting the burning pain in my neck and shoulders. The sharp tingling has spread to my mid-chest and upper back now, and while it’s reassuring to have some sensation returning, it’s also quite unpleasant. I try to suppress a shiver, since it seems to worsen the crushing, burning pain, but it’s so cold in here…
“Hold on, John. I’m calling Mycroft.”
Behind him, I hear Wiggins crying, “Edwin! God damn it, Edwin, breathe!”
Edwin! How could I have forgotten the brilliant young man who risked his life to help Sherlock? Adair shot him in the gut…if he’s already unconscious, already apneic, then he’s probably hemorrhaging badly…kidney? Liver?
There’s a rhythmic pounding now, the sounds of CPR all too familiar to an old army medic. I should really get up and help her…
My detachment from the situation should be more unsettling than it is. I’m starting to drift again, the roar of waterfalls and machine-gun fire building again in my ears. Shivering, I watch as Sherlock snatches his mobile from his pocket, powering it on and dialing with shaking fingers.
When it is answered almost instantly, he barks, “We need an ambulance and backup now! Agents down – John is down, Mycroft! John! For the love of God, hurry!”
Wiggins is grimly pounding away at Edwin’s chest in rhythmic compressions now, pausing every ten pumps to breathe into his slack, unresponsive mouth. She is gasping for breath, pushing her own body to the utmost to keep Edwin’s body going. His glazed, lifeless eyes gaze unseeingly towards the ceiling.
Danny Foley, bleeding out in the sands of Afghanistan…
Sherlock drops the phone to the floor with a clatter and crouches over me, absolutely oblivious to the drama going on just behind him.
As sirens begin to wail nearby, he gently strokes my cheek, my hair, pleading, “Stay with me, John. Talk to me, John. Please.”
Warm drops fall onto my cheek. Is it raining in here?
No. It’s tears falling on my face…Sherlock’s tears.
I blink up at him, trying to clear my increasingly blurry vision. That’s amazing – Sherlock is surrounded by a sparkling silver aura that matches his tear-filled eyes. How is he doing that?
I want to stroke his face, to soothe his tears away. I try to reach out for him, but my fingers only twitch vaguely. Sherlock gently presses my hand down to hold it still, covering it with his own trembling palm.
“Do not move, John!” he barks, his voice distorted by a sob. “It’s imperative you remain as immobile as possible. The ambulance is just outside. They’re almost here.”
He strokes my sweaty fringe back from my eyes. How can I be sweating when it’s so cold?
“Talk to me, John, please!” Sherlock begs.
I gaze into his wide, terrified eyes, thinking of how close I’ve just come to losing him again. My heart is so full of love for this man. Why can’t I summon up the words to tell him what I’m feeling? And what is that roaring sound, anyway?
“Sh’lock…” Hmmm. I’m slurring a bit. I clear my throat, and try again. “Sherrrrr…”
It’s no good.
As feet pound up the stairs, with shouts of the first responders echoing through the empty house, the sparkling grey mist surrounding Sherlock descends on me, blotting out the light.
I can hear the muted activity of an intensive care unit: beeping monitors, murmuring voices, rubber-soled shoes squeaking on lino floors. I struggle to open my eyes. My eyelids are so bloody heavy…too heavy…
“Doctor Watson,” the voice repeats. “You’re out of surgery now, in the recovery room. You need to remember to breathe.”
Oh. Breathing. That’s right. Funny the things one forgets.
Bloody hell. Can’t they see that I’m sleeping?
“Doctor Watson, you need to take another breath.”
I drift again…
“Johnny?” Harry’s voice rouses me. “Johnny, can you hear me?”
I open my eyes. Harry looks terrible – dark circles beneath her eyes, the skin pouched and puffy from crying. Her short, stylishly cut ash-blonde curls are limp and unbrushed. The revolting greenish-beige of the cubicle’s privacy curtain behind her does her no favors, rendering her normally golden-toned skin sallow and dull.
My throat is burning, alarmingly full and tight, and I recognize the sensation of a trach tube in my airway. I may be an old hand at this; as a surgeon, I know intellectually that the tube is there to help me. But the visceral panic that rises in my gut is a hardwired response, and I try to lift my hand, to tear away the obstruction to my breathing.
I can’t move my hands.
My terror skyrockets, and the heart monitor beeps frantically. Gentle but firm hands grip my shoulders, and a soothing voice says, “You’re all right, Doctor Watson. Just relax.”
An orderly gently grips Harry’s arm, urging her back toward the gap in the curtain.
“Ms Watson, we’ll need you to return to the waiting area while we extubate him.” She is resistant, gazing back over her shoulder at me.
Then the nurse who has been trying to calm me injects something into my IV, and as my panic fades, so does the sight of my sister, her hazel eyes wide with fear as she reluctantly leaves the cubicle.
As I drift back off, I wonder…where is Sherlock?
Oh, Jesus…was it all just a dream?
Yet again, the first thing I’m aware of is the steady beeping of a heart monitor. Opening my eyes is still an inordinately difficult task. When I finally manage it, a warm shaft of sunlight from a large picture window beside me falls across the white thermal blanket tucked around my body – and casts an auburn glow through the tumble of short, dark curls resting on the bed beside my right hip. I try to lift my hand to stroke through those silky locks.
I can’t move my hand.
I must have made some noise in my panic, because Sherlock is sitting up now, looking rumpled and sleep-mussed. He scrambles to press the call button. A woman’s cool voice responds almost immediately.
“How can I help you?”
“Doctor Watson is awake,” snaps Sherlock sharply. “Please alert Miss Bhamra and Doctor Sorenson without delay.”
“They’ll be paged straight away, Mister Holmes,” she replies, and the intercom goes dead.
Sherlock turns back to me. He has a frankly alarming black eye, as well as numerous contusions, some bandaged with butterfly strips, and horrifying, finger-shaped bruises stand out lividly against the pale column of his throat. Smudges of exhaustion shadow his eyes. The weave of my thermal blanket is firmly imprinted across his right cheek in dark pink checks. I want to touch that imprint, feel the creases and divots on his normally smooth skin…but I can’t lift my hand.
I groan in horror, and try again to move – and discover that my hand has merely been restrained by the firmly-tucked blanket, nothing more. I can lift my hand. Oh, thank God. I try wriggling my legs, and am relieved to find that I can control them again, despite the rather snug blankets. Unfortunately, the rigid cervical collar brace around my neck is far more confining.
Sherlock helps me to extricate my hand from the confines of the blanket, for which I’m grateful – my arm feels remarkably weak. He lifts my fingertips to his lips and kisses them softly, then cradles my hand gently against his chest.
“How are you feeling?”
“Thirsty,” I manage to rasp out. My mouth is dryer than a desert, my throat painfully raw from intubation.
Sherlock carefully lays my hand back down on the bed, before pouring me a cup of water from the plastic carafe on the bedside table. I watch the graceful dance of his fingers as he pours, unwraps a drinking straw, drops the straw into the cup and brings it my lips.
“Slowly now,” he says, as the first sip wends its glorious way across my tongue and down my abused throat. I want to remind him that I’m a doctor, thank you, and know how to manage post-surgical care – but I’m too busy savouring the magnificent, brilliant perfection of water. I’m embarrassed at my whimper of protest when Sherlock takes the cup away.
“You can have more in a few minutes,” he soothes me, stroking my fringe back from my forehead. I want to lean my cheek into his hand, but the cervical collar on my neck holds me rigidly in one position. I weakly lift my hand towards it.
“That has to stay put for now, John,” Sherlock says, capturing my fingers in his own.
Before I can argue, a gorgeous nurse of Amazonian proportions enters the room. Her dark hair has been braided into dozens of tiny cornrows, which are gathered up in a loose, twisting coil on top of her head, emphasizing her extraordinary height.
“Good morning, Doctor Watson,” she says in a melodic Caribbean accent. “I’m Grace, your nurse for this morning. How are you feeling?”
She approaches the right side of the bed, gently rearranging the blankets to access my other arm and chest, taking my vitals in an efficient, unobtrusive way. Then she reaches for my left hand, meeting Sherlock’s gaze in a silent request for him to relinquish it. With a huff he lets go. She merely smiles, revealing a dazzling mouthful of white teeth, and she checks my IV port. I can’t help smiling back – you’d have to be dead to resist such a smile.
As soon as Grace releases my hand, Sherlock threads his fingers through mine, shooting her a jealous glare.
“When might we expect Miss Bhamra and Doctor Sorenson?” he asks. “I would have assumed that they would be anxious to check on their patient.”
She chuckles. “They’ll be along shortly, Mister Holmes. I took the liberty of alerting your brother as well, as he requested.”
“Bloody Mycroft,” grumbles Sherlock.
She smilingly ignores him. I find myself impressed with her composure – Sherlock tends to discomfit most of the people around him, and this nurse is no more ruffled than I usually am. She finishes her tasks, then asks if I’m in much pain. When I indicate that the pain is manageable for now, she hands me the call button and takes her leave. As the door closes behind her, I shift my gaze to Sherlock.
“Sherlock – where are we?” I croak.
“You’re at the National*, John.” His voice still has the throaty rasp of his near-strangling by Moran. “You’ve just had posterior spinal fusion surgery to stabilise your spine. The body armour protected you from penetration by the bullet, but the impact was still hard enough to fracture your C6 and C7 cervical vertebrae. The impact also caused a high degree of transient cervical cord neuropraxia, which is why you were temporarily paralysed.”
I grin weakly at him.
“You sound like you’ve been studying.”
“It’s useful information. You never know when this might be pertinent to a case.” He pauses, and his expression softens. “Besides, John, what else could I do for the hours you were in surgery? I thought I would go mad, thinking I was losing you.”
I regard him thoughtfully.
“No, not a very nice sensation, is it?” I whisper.
He blanches, his eyes unable to meet mine.
“I’m so sorry, John. I’ll apologise again for putting you through that – every day for the rest of my life, if you need for me to do so. I will not, however, apologise for saving your life. I would do anything to avoid losing that.”
I can either keep browbeating him for this, or we can make a fresh start.
“It’s all fine, Sherlock. Just…never leave me out of a decision like that again, okay? I was absolutely lost without you.”
His soft lips brush across my knuckles, and I accept the tacit apology.
Suddenly, I realize…
“Sherlock – what happened to Edwin? And Wiggins?”
“Edwin?” Sherlock blinks rapidly. “Oh, yes - Edwin is just next door at the Royal London. They were able to resuscitate him at the scene, and he underwent emergency surgery. It was close, but they were able to save him. He’ll be in hospital for a while, but he should survive. Wiggins is watching over him like a mother hen, Mycroft tells me.”
Oh, thank Christ. If that poor boy had been killed, I’d have carried the burden of his death along with Danny Foley and Aisha Wazir, people that I’ve let down when I was needed.
At that moment, there is a tap on the doorframe, and Doctor Nigel Sorenson, my GP, enters the room. His milk-white, freckled face breaks into a smile when he sees me.
“Good morning, John! It’s great to see you awake.” He walks over and reaches out to shake my hand. Sherlock reluctantly releases my hand again, and withdraws to a chair in the corner, allowing the doctor room to work, but avidly watching every step.
I manage to extend my hand to shake Dr Sorenson’s, dismayed by the residual weakness of my arm and hand. He takes my hand in his, and the handshake turns into an assessing grasp, testing the strength of my grip. Then, he has me grip two of his fingers and tug on them, then tells me to spread my fingers wide as they can go and hold them firm, while he attempts to press them together again. Next, he turns my hand over to fold my fingers into a fist, and presses my hand down towards the floor.
“Extend your wrist for me?” He presses against the top of my hand, testing the strength of my resistance against the pressure. “Good.”
As he pulls out a reflex hammer, beginning to tap and evaluate the reflexes in my elbow and forearm, there’s a rap at the door. It opens to admit Grace, the nurse from earlier. She is closely followed by a tiny woman in a white coat, her thick, dark hair pulled up into a coil at the nape of her neck. Warm, brown eyes sweep appraisingly over me.
“Good morning, Dr Watson, I’m Rupa Bhamra, your neurosurgeon.” Despite her diminutive size, the confidence with which she moves could rival Sherlock’s usual presence. “Dr Sorenson, how is our patient?”
Dr Sorenson offers her his usual jovial grin. “Normal reflex response in most of the right arm, except for slightly diminished brachioradialis reflex. I was just about to check the left.” He circles the bed and peels the blanket back from my left shoulder, exposing that arm and hand so that he can continue his grip assessment, then repeats the reflex series. He pauses, rechecks my left forearm, frowning slightly.
“A touch of clonus present on the left, and slightly diminished brachioradialis reflex in both arms.” He looks up at me, peering over the edge of his rimless spectacles. “Is this stronger than your previous tremor?”
“Not really,” I say, glancing over at Sherlock. His brows have contracted down into a worried frown. “Maybe a little stronger, but I am feeling pretty weak right now.”
Miss Bhamra nods. “Ah, this would be the intermittent tremor from your previous gunshot wound.” She shakes her head, adding, “It’s a shame you could not have come to me at that time. It’s entirely possible that we could have done something to minimize the neurological effects of that injury.”
Well, hell, that’s fantastic. Nothing like finding out that a permanent tremor could have been avoided.
“Still,” she continues, “we won’t allow such a muddle to happen this time.” She moves down to expose my legs and feet, pulls a Wartenberg pinwheel from her pocket, and continues the neuro evaluation, and I can’t help but smile at the sensation of mildly painful pinpricks running down my legs and over my feet.
Thank God, my legs still work.
As I follow Miss Bhamra’s instructions to flex and extend my legs and feet in various ways, I’m more grateful than words can ever say. That horrid absence of feeling as I lay on the floor of the empty house was utterly terrifying, and the relief at experiencing normal sensation in my legs is enormous.
Sherlock’s laser-like gaze follows her every movement. He asks a few pointed questions, demonstrating his sudden startling knowledge of neurology, and she answers him with cool assurance, unruffled by his imperious attitude. My respect for this tiny woman’s collected bedside manner grows by leaps and bounds.
Miss Bhamra finally resettles the blanket around my feet, washes her hands again, and dons gloves before laying the bed flat and carefully rolling me to my side with the help of Grace and Dr. Sorenson. After carefully opening the rigid cervical collar, she peels back the dressing on the back of my neck, closely examining my incision. With a pleased hum, she reapplies the dressing; then refastens the bloody uncomfortable collar, resettling me on my back and inclining the bed again.
“Sorry, Dr Watson – I know it’s not the most comfortable device in the world. We’ll need to keep your neck immobilised for about six weeks, possibly longer. It’s imperative that you follow this instruction, in order to avoid possible spinal nerve damage.”
I groan inwardly at the restriction, but force a smile.
“I understand. I’m lucky to be here – I’m not going to chance ruining that.”
Dr Sorensen grins at me. “Bloody close call you had there, John.”
“Quite,” adds Miss Bhamra. “Dr Watson, you are going to need to undergo extensive physiotherapy, in order to regain as much of your neurological function in your arms as possible. It is entirely possible that you may experience some permanent weakening in your hands and forearms, but we will do our best to help you regain full function. I am…” she pauses, then continues, “...optimistic for your chances of a complete recovery.”
A complete recovery.
My eyes meet an opalescent gaze that burns across the room with so many unspoken emotions. Miss Bhamra and Dr Sorensen are both still talking, but I ignore them completely as I reach out weakly towards Sherlock.
He stumbles forward from his chair in the corner to seize my hand, and then his warm, trembling lips are on mine, completely oblivious to the medical team standing around us. He’ll never forgive himself later for losing his self-control like this, but I don’t give a good goddamn as I manage to lift my other hand to cradle the stubbly jaw, and kiss my exhausted lover…my fiancé…my everything.
* The National Hospital for Neurology (NHNN) and Neurosurgery and Institute of Neurology (ION) in Whitechapel, London. Often referred to as The National or Queen Square. Adjacent to the Royal London Hospital.
Read Chapter 21