“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.
As always, thank you, Skyfullofstars, for being the best beta reader EVER. You are so very wonderful, and I am so grateful for all you do for me!
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 20
Chapter 21: Perspective
“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”
― Shannon Alder
When I went through physio after I took a bullet to the shoulder in Afghanistan, my American physiotherapist, a petite ginger named Shirley, often wore a t-shirt that read, “PT stands for Pain and Torture.”
She had a point.
My current physio, Abdi, certainly subscribes to the theory that if it’s not hurting, it’s not working. I still feel ridiculous, becoming winded by simple exercises using only a theraband for resistance, but he is determined to get a strong head start on strengthening and stabilizing the muscles of my upper back, shoulders and arms, even while observing the activity restrictions that are in place for my neck. The exercises he has taught me should be simple, but I still find them exhausting.
As I struggle to finish my final set of arm curls, Abdi leans in close.
“Come on, Doc – focus! Three more! Really put some effort into these…three! That’s it…two!” A huge grin breaks over his dark, handsome face. “Last one…great!”
I’m profoundly grateful to allow my arms to drop, as the spinal injury has left me with all the strength of a toddler. Abdi sits back, and his slim, agile fingers unwrap the therabands from my grip, coil them into a neat loop, and drop them onto the table nearby.
“All right, Doc, you are finally done with your last inpatient physio session! How are you feeling about that? Are you ready to go home?”
Wiping the sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand, I take a long pull at my water bottle, then smile tiredly back at him.
“Yeah, I’ve been ready. Sherlock’s already taken most of my things back to Baker Street, and he’ll be back this afternoon to pick me up.”
Grace, my usual nurse, has arrived to walk me back to my room. Abdi and I rise to our feet, and he extends a hand. I can see him assessing my grip as I shake hands with him. I try to squeeze a bit harder, and he laughs.
“I reckon you’ll do just fine, Doctor Watson. I’ll see you on Thursday. Don’t forget these!” He passes me the looped therabands, then squeezes my shoulder. “Remember – the more regular you are with your physiotherapy, the less time you’ll have to spend with me.”
He tips Grace a cheeky wink, and flirtatious smile. “I’ll see you later, Miss Grace.”
She tosses that glorious crown of braids, raising an eyebrow at him; but I see a dimple in her cheek as she bids him a good day, and we begin the slow walk back to my room from the physio gym.
As I pass through the ward of neuro patients, I’m profoundly grateful for Mycroft’s influence, which ensured that I have spent my recovery time in a private room, instead of a ward bed. Trying to keep Sherlock from alienating everyone on the ward is hard enough when there are doors to close behind him. I shudder to imagine how he would have behaved these past couple of weeks, if he had been set loose on the general patient population.
Grace carries my walker slung casually over her back, making no attempt to try and get me to use it. The hospital requires that I have a stabilization device when walking the corridors, but my recovery has progressed to the point of no longer needing it to maintain my balance. She catches my sidelong glare at the walker, and laughs, her head thrown back in amusement.
“You’ll be glad to be rid of this old thing, and no mistake,” she says, swinging it back down from her shoulder as we enter my room. She parks it in a corner, then turns to face me.
“Will you be needing any help with your shower, Doctor Watson?”
“I can take care of that, thanks,” rumbles a deep baritone from the door. We both turn to see Sherlock leaning casually against the doorframe. Dark smudges shadow his silvery eyes, but otherwise he looks as natty as he ever did – if one discounts the weight loss that has left his formerly snug shirt loose across the expanse of his chest.
Grace’s dimple appears again, and she gives me a sidelong smirk.
“Hmmmm…mind you leave the collar on, then.”
Sherlock catches her knowing glance, and scowls at her. “We are capable of following the same instructions we’ve followed for days now,” he growls.
Unfazed, Grace smirks at us as she moves to the door, filling her palm with antibacterial foam before she closes the door behind her. Sherlock turns back to me, grumbling under his breath.
“Ridiculous woman – honestly, it was only that one time,” he mutters, as he closes the door and moves to assist me in undressing. I can’t help but shiver at his touch as he unbuttons my shirt, allowing his cool fingertips to linger more than strictly necessary.
“Well, to be fair, Sherlock, you did give her quite an eyeful,” I laugh, as I remember a few days previous, and Grace’s unflappable demeanor shaken at last, when she opened the bathroom door to find Sherlock on his knees before me, his gorgeously full lips wrapped around my enthusiastic erection. Her dark eyes had been comically wide, as she gasped and hastily closed the door.
Remembering her incensed cry of, “Doctor Watson, you put that cervical collar back on right now,” I find myself giggling again, as much as I did on that day.
“Reckon we could get away with an encore?” I ask, grinning at my fiancé. His multifaceted eyes glow at me, as he, too, remembers that afternoon. He bites his lower lip; then resolutely moves on to assist me with removing my shoes.
“Let’s save it for Baker Street,” Sherlock chuckles. “Come on, John – let’s get you cleaned up, and go home.”
“I do want to make one stop first, you know.”
Sherlock sobers, and nods. “I know.”
It’s only a short walk from The National to the Royal London Hospital next door. After my discharge is complete, Sherlock and I slowly, carefully negotiate the few steps to the pavement on Queen Square; then turn left, to make our way to the corner of Boswell and Great Ormond Streets.* Closing my eyes for a moment, I lift my head to savour the rush of a fresh, cool breeze on my face.
It is a lovely day, and the sound of the wind rustling the leaves in Queen Square is music to my ears after a long hospital stay. The pure pleasure of walking arm-in-arm with Sherlock, feeling the warmth of his body against my side, our steps naturally syncing up as we stroll slowly along the pavement, is such a rush of joy for me. I feel a lump rise in my throat, knowing that I’d thought I would never have this simple pleasure again. As always, Sherlock seems to read my mind, squeezing my arm a little tighter with his own.
“I know, John,” he murmurs softly. “I know.”
I squeeze back, and swallow the emotion back down. The time of mourning is over, and it feels a bit ridiculous to find walking down a street together to be so poignant. It’s time to look forward, not back. I smile at my fiancé, and try to put a little more spring into my step.
I’m easily exhausted, however, and am grateful for Sherlock’s arm by the time we reach the long accessibility ramp that leads to the door of the Royal London. As we enter the front doors, Sherlock steps away, only to materialize beside me a moment later with a patient transport wheelchair. It’s a sign of how worn out I’m feeling that I don’t bother to argue, but simply sit gratefully in the chair.
Sherlock wheels me along to the acute care floor, and navigates his way through corridors painted with cheerful murals with the ease of a frequent visitor. We pause outside the partly-closed door of a private room, and peer inside.
A motionless figure slumps in a visitor’s chair beside an empty hospital bed. I glance up at Sherlock, slightly alarmed, and he nods reassurance as he knocks on the doorframe. Instantly, the visitor’s head whips up in a tangle of mousy-brown hair, and Wiggins’ fierce blue eyes dart back and forth between us.
“Where is Edwin?” asks Sherlock, as he wheels me into the room.
“Dialysis,” she replies, relaxing a bit as she recognizes us.
Poor Edwin has not had nearly as much success in his recovery as I have. Having arrested at the scene, and once more in the OR, the main focus of his care initially was simply keeping him alive, and stopping the internal bleeding. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of his troubles.
Penetrating abdominal trauma, especially perforation of the small bowel, as Edwin had, frequently leads to peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity. Unfortunately, Edwin’s peritonitis led to sepsis, a system-wide infection that put a great deal of strain on his other organs, especially his liver and kidneys. We thought we were going to lose him, but his youth – and the excellent care provided by the Royal London – has helped to pull him through. While there is hope that he may recover some kidney function, he still needs dialysis at this point in order to cleanse the toxins from his blood.
I glance around the room, and recognize one of Mrs Hudson’s food cartons on the bedside table. Mrs Hudson has always been a pushover when it comes to rescuing strays, and it’s easy to spot the signs of her motherly instincts at work. Mrs Hudson has been a nonstop presence during the recovery from our confrontation with Moran and Adair, baking biscuits and bringing meals by the hospital; first for Sherlock, then for me as I improved, and obviously for Wiggins as well, once she learned of the young woman’s constant vigil by Edwin’s side.
‘Wotcher, Mister Holmes, Doctor Watson,” sighs Wiggins, with a tired smile. Her haggard, gaunt face is haunting, and I wonder if she has gotten any sleep in the past weeks. Probably not much.
“Wiggins, why haven’t you been staying in the room my brother arranged for you?” Sherlock asks.
Defiant blue eyes meet coolly analytical, silver ones.
“You know me, Mister Holmes – I don’t want that sort o’ thing. He’s helpin’ Edwin out, and that’s enough for me. I don’t need anythin’ from ‘im.”
Sherlock’s gaze never leaves hers, and after a pause he nods slowly. “All right.”
A rattle at the door startles us, and Wiggins jumps to her feet as the nurse’s aide wheels an ancient-looking, skeletal man with deeply jaundiced skin and a distended abdomen into the room.
“Edwin!” she cries – and I’m deeply dismayed to realize that the emaciated figure on the gurney is none other than our young genius. While I knew, intellectually, that Edwin’s liver and kidneys had been compromised, it’s another thing altogether to see the damage wrought by sepsis and multi-organ failure. The deeply-sunken eyes that once sparkled with keen intelligence now gaze dully ahead, with little life or interest in them.
I’m speechless. Yet I know better than to sit here staring – I’m a doctor, for God’s sake! I need to pull it together. The nurse’s aid finishes getting Edwin into bed, gives him his call light, and smiles his way out of the room.
While I’m still struggling to find words to greet Edwin, Sherlock seems to have no trouble. Of course, he has been here frequently, checking in on his two young protégées.
“Ah, Edwin – looking better today, I see.”
(This is looking better? Edwin must have looked horrific.)
Edwin’s dull gaze brightens a bit, and he looks up at Sherlock with a hint of a smile.
“Alrigh’, Mister ‘Olmes?” Those sunken eyes move slowly from him to me, and the smile widens slightly. “Doctor Watson – they finally lettin’ you out?”
“No offense, Doc, but yer lookin’ a mite ropey,” Edwin says, with a hint of a cheeky smirk.
And I’m finally startled into conversation. “Well, that’s a bit rich, coming from you!”
Edwin snorts with weak laughter. I find myself laughing, too, but also looking him over with a more critical eye. Now I can see that the appearance of age is largely due to his extreme weight loss, combined with the jaundice. It doesn’t help that someone has clipped his formerly long hair quite close to the scalp, while beard stubble has grown out on his face, accentuating his already gaunt cheekbones and jawline.
Still, as I look closer, I can see the hopeful signs of a recovering patient: an ease of movement that indicates a lack of pain, excellent oxygen saturation and heart rate on the monitors beside him, and a certain, indefinable quality that you learn to recognize as a doctor, a sort of energy that is missing in the dangerously ill. Edwin doesn’t have a great deal of that vibe yet, but it is there.
Hearing a keyboard clatter behind me, I turn to see Sherlock logging in to the computer terminal in the corner.
“Sherlock!” I hiss reprovingly, knowing I should be more scandalized at him hacking so nonchalantly into the NHS computer system. Aquamarine eyes glance dismissively over his shoulder at me, as he taps away at the wall-mounted keyboard, pulling up a patient chart.
“Here, John – take a look at Edwin’s chart and tell me what you think.”
I look at Edwin, and he gives me a wry grin. “Go on, Doc – I’da cracked into the system long since if I had the medical know how. Take a gander an’ give me yer honest opinion.”
Rising unsteadily from the wheelchair, I step up beside Sherlock to glance over Edwin’s chart. Sherlock draws me closer to the monitor on the wall, and I’m aware again of the warm, solid reality of his body beside mine, and the citrusy tang of his unique scent makes my heart trip just a little bit faster in my chest.
Reading over the surgical notes in Edwin’s chart, as well as the nursing notes during his stay in ICU, it’s amazing that he pulled though. I’m looking over his liver and kidney values, though, and I can see that the numbers are improving daily.
“It’s still uncertain, but I’d say it’s quite likely that your liver will recover. I’m less certain about your kidneys, but you’re young – I’d give them a pretty good shot at coming back, as well.” I look him hard in the eye, and say, “You’ll need to keep fit, and stay away from alcohol and drugs, though, Edwin – you can’t tempt fate after an injury like this.”
Edwin chuckles weakly in reply. “I’ve never really messed around wit’ either one, Doctor Watson. The one time I tried, Wiggins put paid to that in a ‘urry. Said she didn’ want me followin’ in Mister Holmes’ footsteps…” he trails off, looking embarrassed, as Sherlock shoots him a dark look.
“Excellent progress, Edwin,” Sherlock says, as he pointedly logs out of the computer and steers me by the elbow to resume my seat in the wheelchair. Despite the brief time spent standing, I’m grateful to sit again.
Sherlock draws up the other hard, plastic chair, arranging it so he can sit beside me.
“So what’s next for you, Edwin?” I ask, worrying about his care once he is discharged.
“Mister Holmes – Mister Mycroft Holmes, tha’ is – has arranged a shelter for a few weeks, until I’m on my feet again. Then ‘e says I’m headed for Glasgow, goin’ to uni, learnin’ to make prosthetics an’ all.” Edwin smiles, and looks gratefully at Sherlock. “It’s wha’ I’ve wanted ta do since I were a little lad. I’ve always thought I could make robotic arms an’ such that’d work better than the dross you see soldiers comin’ ‘ome with.”
Sherlock smiles approvingly at Edwin at his mention of soldiers, and glances at me. “I feel certain Doctor Watson would be glad to write a letter of recommendation, should the need arise, if you want to make a connection with an army hospital after you finish university.”
“Absolutely,” I add. “God knows, they could use more minds like yours working at Headley Court.”*
Edwin grins weakly at me. “Cheers, Doc. That’d be champion.”
A tap at the door interrupts the conversation, and a petite, blonde nurse in royal blue scrubs steps in.
“I’m sorry, but Mister Haley really needs to get some rest,” she says, glancing at each of us in turn. “Dialysis takes a lot out of him right now.”
Sherlock rises immediately, and turns my chair towards the door.
“We’ll be back again, Edwin,” he says, giving his young protégé a nod. “Wiggins, join us for a cuppa?”
Wiggins picks up her rucksack, shakes her hair back from her eyes, and nods. The three of us bid Edwin goodbye, and his eyes are already closing before the nurse has even closed the door behind us.
Wiggins wordlessly leads the way through the brightly-painted corridors, to the ground floor canteen. The three of us find a table in a quiet corner, and Wiggins offers to go get three cups of tea. She waves off our offer of money, but I notice Sherlock clandestinely slipping a few folded notes into her pocket as she turns away, and smile to myself. Sociopath, my arse.
Sherlock stretches his legs out before his chair, tipping his head back to gaze at the ceiling, as he absently twines his fingers with mine. How did I ever take for granted the simple pleasure of feeling these long, graceful fingers enfolded in my own? I softly caress the back of his hand with my thumb, grateful to be able to feel the texture of his smooth skin, and the crisp little hairs that grow so sparsely there.
“So, what do you really think, John – will Edwin survive?” The worry that Sherlock didn’t allow to cross his face in the hospital room is showing now in the lines between his brows.
“He’s young, and his numbers are improving,” I reply, “But what have his doctors said?”
“They seem hopeful – but you know that you’re the only doctor I truly trust,” he says, squeezing my hand in his.
I laugh softly. “I’d think you’d feel a bit of trust towards Miss Bhamra and Doctor Sorenson by now.”
“Only because you weren’t available to treat yourself,” he replies, in a haughty voice, but with a smile tugging the corner of his mouth.
“Idiot,” I say fondly, squeezing his hand in return.
We look up as Wiggins approaches our table with a small tray bearing three paper cups of steaming tea, a small beaker of milk, and sugar packets.
“Here you are, Doctor Watson, Mister Holmes – their tea isn’t the worst,” she says, placing cups before us both, then sitting and adding an obscene amount of sugar to hers. Sherlock adds milk to his own cup, but before he can take a sip, his phone chimes. Pulling it free from his trouser pocket, he checks the message, frowning.
“Mycroft is insisting that I call him. The git never will understand the superiority of texting as a form of communication. So tedious.” He pulls on the replacement Belstaff that Mycroft magicked up from somewhere, swirling its long folds around him. “John, will you stay here with Wiggins for a moment?”
“Of course.” I’m actually glad to have a few minutes to talk to this strange young woman, who Sherlock trusted with his secret when he couldn’t even trust me.
That still stings a lot more than I would like.
Sherlock steps quickly out of the main doors in order to make his call, and a heavy silence settles awkwardly between us. For a few moments, Wiggins and I just watch him oscillating on the pavement outside of our window.
At last Wiggins turns back to me, her gaze twitchy and nervous. After a moment, she breaks the quiet with a decisive question.
“How do ya get used ta bein’ a killer, Doctor Watson?”
Startled, I meet her eyes.
“What do you mean?”
A wry, annoyed expression crosses her face. “You know what I mean, Doctor Watson. You’re a soldier - you’ve shot men before.” She swallows hard, and adds, “How do ya make the guilt go away?”
Well, I’m probably not the best person to give her guidance on this, but it’s not like she has a lot of resources for dealing with the aftermath of taking a life.
I shift in my wheelchair seat, wishing yet again that the damn cervical collar didn’t force my head and neck into such a high position. It’s going to be a long few months. I gather my thoughts for a moment, then try to answer her question.
“I think it’s probably different for each person, Wiggins,” I start, suddenly, realizing my error. “Wait, I’m sorry, your name is actually Valentine Macdonald, isn’t it? Would you rather be called Valentine?”
Her reaction is startling; fury twists and darkens her face, changing her features to something frightful, seething with loathing and wrath.
“Don’t you ever call me that,” she hisses. “My name is Wiggins. Just Wiggins.”
Christ – did I ever say the wrong thing there!
“Sorry…I’m really sorry,” I stammer, taken aback by her vehemence. “But – can I ask you why you chose Wiggins as your name?”
I know I’m treading on thin ice here, but I don’t understand. I had no idea that this quiet girl could be so volatile.
She watches me silently for a moment, and I’m put in mind of a spooked, untamed animal, considering approaching a human for the first time. I remember Sherlock’s description of her when we were in the cave in Dartmoor:
“Wiggins is a bit like a feral cat, I think. She still looks like the rest of us, but has reverted to the wild type. She is unwilling to allow others to domesticate her. So I do what I can – pay her enough to allow her to eat well and afford shelter in inclement weather, and provide her with a sort of unofficial protection. She would refuse anything more.”
I wait, unmoving, trying to show her with body language and patience that I’m no threat to her. Slowly, Wiggins relaxes back from her hunched position in the chair, and finally pushes the tangle of hair back from her haggard face.
“Did you ever read Ender’s Game, Doctor Watson?”
Surprised, it takes me a minute to track what she’s talking about. After a moment an old paperback book, passed around in the ward of Camp Bastion Hospital, comes to mind.
“Yes, I believe I did – kids battling aliens, right?”
She laughs, rather bitterly.
“Right. That’s the one. The sister’s name is Valentine.” She spits the name as though it is the foulest of epithets. “She’s the sweet ‘un, the gentle ‘un. Valentine Wiggin.” She studies her cup of tea for a moment, then says, “Right after I made it out on my own, I picked up that book in a shelter, an’ I really liked it. That author gets it – adults can’t be trusted. Ever. I liked the way the kids took charge o’ their own lives.”
She falls silent, and I’m breathless, never having expected to hear such an impassioned speech from this normally quiet young woman. After a moment, I hesitantly ask.
“So…why didn’t you choose just ‘Wiggin,’ with no ‘s’?”
“Because I’m not named after Valentine Wiggin. I chose my name for all three o’ the Wiggin siblings – not just the sister, but the ruthless brothers that fight and kill when they have to in order to win the game. My name is Wiggins – plural. So I never forget that I can fight if I must.”
I find myself gazing at her in admiration, this woman who has been forged in the fires of absolute hell, and thank God that Sherlock had her watching his back while he was gone. At that moment, all of my bitterness towards Wiggins for her part in the deception is swept away. I smile at her.
“Well, Wiggins, I think you just answered your own question. How do you get used to having killed someone? I think you consider the situation, and ask yourself if the world is a better, safer place with that person gone. I’ve seen people die, good people, and couldn’t sleep for knowing they were gone. I’d have no trouble sleeping if my bullet had been the one to take out a monster like Moran.”
She considers that for a moment, and even smiles a bit. “Maybe you’re right.”
We sip our tea in silence, as I consider the best way to ask another thing that has been bothering me. Sherlock is still talking intensely on his phone outside, but I know that his patience with voice calls is pretty short. If I want to talk to Wiggins about this, now is probably my only chance.
Hesitantly, I ask her, “Why did you shoot Moran in the head, Wiggins? A body shot would have been easier, and you might have simply injured him. Why did you shoot to kill, if killing a man would bother you so?”
She cocks her tousled head to the side, thoughtfully.
“I wasn’t really thinkin’ things out at the time, but…well, I think it was ta pay ‘im back for Edwin, and for me.”
“But…but…I thought it was Adair that shot Edwin,” I stammer, confused. Am I forgetting how things happened?
“He did,” she replies, matter-of-factly. “He deliberately put Edwin through so much pain, same as ‘e used to do ta me years ago, back when ‘e would…back when…” She trails off; then shakes herself abruptly, and takes a fortifying gulp of tea. “Adair was a sick, sadistic bastard, Doc. He was about to shoot Edwin again – and Moran shot him instead.”
I look at her in confusion. “…And that was bad because…?”
“It’s not bad at all. It was more compassion than anyone but Mister Holmes…and you, o’ course, Doctor Watson…has shown me in my whole life.”
Confused silence reigns for a moment. I still don’t understand. Why would she shoot to kill Moran, if he saved Edwin’s life?
“I’m sorry – you lost me somehow, Wiggins. You say you killed Moran to repay him…why, exactly?”
“You ‘eard the sirens, Doctor Watson. In another minute that house would be crawlin’ with coppers. ‘E wasn’t gettin’ out o’ there alive. Man like that is like a wild thing, like a wolf. He’d die in prison, in a cage. Mister Holmes’ brother woulda made bloody sure ‘e rotted in jail. So I set ‘im free – to pay ‘im back.” She smiles sadly at my astonished expression.
“Don’tcha see, Doctor Watson? Now I owe Moran nothin’ – Any debt is paid. It’s better that way. Owin’ people … it’s not for me. I make my own way.”
*I swear on ACD’s grave that I didn’t make the street names up, but how could I not include the fact that John and Edwin are recovering at hospitals on the corner of Boswell and Great Ormond Streets? It was irresistible! Clearly, John Watson was fated to go to this hospital!
**Headley Court is the main British rehabilitation centre for injured members of the British military.