Tired, he was tired. His body felt heavy and limp. He distantly perceived some sounds, muffled first, but slowly becoming more distinct - beeps and hisses and someone breathing. Breathing – dull! There was something on his face and a light stream of air was brushing his nose and lips – he was wearing a breathing mask. Why that? He generally did consider breathing boring, but not so boring that he would actually forget about it.
The beeps were quite soothing in so far as they were coming in a regular pattern, however, the sound could get annoying when listening to it for longer. He remembered that he had heard the same sound not too long ago, so he recognized what it belonged to – a heart monitor. The only question was whose heart monitor it was. He was wearing a breathing mask, so probably there was a reason why he needed monitoring of his vital signs, therefore, he assumed it was his.
Breathing mask and heart monitor - the thought of being hospitalized struck him painfully. He hated hospitals, but he couldn't actually remember why. There were pictures appearing and disappearing, a young man with dark curly hair in agony, being tied to a bed; the same man screaming, yelling; again the same man rocking backwards and forwards in the corner of a room. He recognized the man - that was him. He couldn't recall why he had been in such miserable conditions, but he still felt the emotional pain. Emotional? He wasn't emotional. He was functioning. Dysfunctional. The word came to his mind. It had been used when talking about him quite often. It had to do with hospitals.
However, where he was didn't entirely feel like a hospital. It felt familiar. Familiar. Family. John. John! His flatmate. His friend? His brother? No, not brother. He wasn't family, in the literal sense, but he was his family. There was other family, brother, Mycroft, he remembered, but he didn't trust the other family as much as he trusted John. John could be annoying from time to time, reminding him of how he was supposed to function in the "normal" people's world, but he was reliable, honest, loyal, caring. He liked him. No, he generally didn't like people. Liking had to do with sentiment and he didn't go in for sentiment. John was his counterpart; he appreciated his company and sometimes even his ranting since it helped him find a balance. John had saved his life – he… had… saved… his… life. The words dripped into his consciousness. He was alive. But what reason was there why he shouldn't be so?
His brain wasn't functioning properly, his mind was a mess. Something had happened, but what? And where was John? And why did he feel he needed him? That was in fact strange and unfamiliar. He had to open his eyes to have his visual senses working and helping him to order his thoughts, but his eyelids were so heavy.
Finally, Sherlock fought his eyes open, groaning from the effort it took him, and from the pain that shot through his head.
"You're back," he heard a familiar voice say. John, he was there. Oh, and he wasn't in a hospital, he actually was in his own bedroom. John had been sitting in the chair opposite his bed. He put something on the floor and came over to him, sitting down on the edge of his bed. Usually, Sherlock would have disapproved of that, considering it too intimate, an invasion to his privacy. He hated when someone touched his bed, let alone sat on it. However, with John it was ok. Actually, John looked pale and tired and – something else. Worried? Usually Sherlock was quick in deducing situations, but this time he failed. There was a lot of data flowing in, but he couldn't process it.
The breathing mask was annoying. It put pressure to his slightly hypersensitive skin. He had to get rid of it, so with all the strength he could muster he lifted his hand to his mouth. The movement caused him a throbbing pain in his chest, which was also familiar to him, but he couldn't quite recall why.
John pre-empted him and took the mask away for him. Sherlock looked at his flatmate's face. His eyes were red, his skin around them a bit swollen. Had he been crying? In fact, it looked like it, but why would he cry? John was an army man - well, ex-army - and he didn't cry. He ranted, shouted and yelled, but he didn't cry. What was wrong? If his brain hadn't more or less shut down, he would have been able to deduce instantly. As much as he sometimes wished his mind would give him peace, he longed for his ability to read everything and everyone to come back. Everything around him seemed to hurl questions at him that he couldn't answer.
Sherlock wanted to speak, but the sheer attempt sent a flash of pain through his throat. It was all sore. He tried to clear it cautiously to avoid more pain. A meagre and hoarse "What..?" was all he managed to get out, his voice not really obeying him. Why was his throat hurting so much?
John understood. "Oh, you tried to compete with the pig that you had harpooned once. At least our living-room and the bathroom look like it," he explained with a smile.
Sherlock closed his eyes. The harpooned pig, yes, he remembered, but why would he compete with a dead pig? A vision of blood on his body crossed his mind and there were fragments of memories. John weeping. Impossible – although, he had red eyes. Mycroft, his brother, swearing. Impossible, he would never lower himself to using inappropriate words. Mrs Hudson stroking him. Impossible – she cared for him, but why would she touch him? His mind was really playing tricks on him!
And suddenly everything shifted into place and the memories came back, however, the fragments still didn't make sense.
John had gone to Germany to get some documents about Tabun and he himself had stayed in Baker Street to get to the bottom of why there were gaps in his mind palace. So he had spent most of the time thinking, shutting himself from the world outside, when he had suddenly felt a sharp pain in his head and the nosebleed had started with just a few droplets first. However, the dripping had turned into pouring and that into spurting, and Sherlock had started worrying about it. By the time he had called John, he had already left unsightly spots on the carpet. He remembered getting some ice from the fridge and going to the bathroom because the bleeding had still gone worse.
"Oh, nosebleed," Sherlock managed to croak.
"Yes, your nosebleed. You almost bled to death!" John ranted as if it had been Sherlock's fault. Well, John tended to exaggerate, so Sherlock guessed that it hadn't actually literally been bleeding to death.
"That bad?" he probed.
"Worse." Sherlock didn't understand. So he assumed that he had almost bled to death, which would be an explanation for all the medical equipment attached to him - and for his overwhelming tiredness. However, what could be worse than dying of a nosebleed, as John had implied? Sherlock looked at his flatmate questioningly. He really looked weary, but apparently didn't want to talk about what had happened, as he simply dismissed talking any further with a wave of his hand and a meagre "Later."
If he didn't want to tell him, Sherlock had to find out himself as much as possible. He slightly shifted in his bed in order to be able to see the rest of his body, when a piercing pain shot though his chest again and through his neck and he involuntarily tried to push it away with his hand. What was that? He had a dressing on his neck, obviously covering a wound that was causing the stabbing pain. He had had a nosebleed, so why did he have a wound at his neck?
"Don't touch, you had a little surgery. That's also the reason why your voice is a bit hoarse," John explained.
That made sense. "Intubation?" he whispered.
The doctor nodded. "You would have choked on your own blood. Really, Sherlock, there was a lot of it, I can tell."
"Hmm, remember the bathroom," he croaked.
"Yeah, I found you in there. You are very thorough in everything, you know? You can't just get a nosebleed, no, you have to get anunstoppable arterial nosebleed!"
John shook his head, looking at him. "Can't you just once be ordinary?"
Ordinary! It was ordinary enough that he was lying here in his bed at John's mercy. Ordinary and embarrassing. Although in his subconscious Sherlock knew that this was more or less ridiculous taking into consideration that he actually felt as if his body was made of lead, he decided that he wanted to get up. He just wanted to regain control over his body and get rid of the cables that were annoying him.
John laughed at him, warning him of a most probable and quite intimate contact with the floor in case he would try to get up as he had lost half of his blood. He pushed away Sherlock's hands from the patches of the heart monitor.
"Half of my blood?" Sherlock asked disbelievingly.
"Yup, about so."
"Oh." That explained a lot. Losing half of your blood was dangerous. John had found him in the bathroom, so he had to have collapsed by then, because he couldn't recall that part. If he had actually lost so much blood, John had needed help. There was only one person who could provide them with medical equipment that could be left in any private person's flat.
He pointed to the heart monitor. "Mycroft?"
John nodded. "Yeah, I had to call him. You know, arterial nosebleed isn't just a petty affair, but I guess we share an archenemy now."
Archenemy? John had once told him that people didn't have archenemies, so what had he done? He knew that his flatmate didn't approve of his brother's secretiveness and that he felt uneasy in his brother's presence, although he always pretended to be relaxed. So what had happened? Sherlock raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"I – I punched him in the face," John explained hesitatingly, looking down at his hands.
Ouch! He had gained experience with John's fist for himself, although he himself had actually forced him into punching him as part of his disguise back then, but John had been enraged, not wanting to let go of him. He had proven that he was more a fighter than his outward appearance would suggest.
"Well, so there was too much subtext in what he said?" the Consulting Detective stated with much effort and a smile on his face. "That was – brave, I'd say."
Punching his brother in the face was brave - well, and stupid. Sherlock wasn't a physical man, but there had been times when he had wished he could have done exactly that.
"Oh, as much as I would like to take that as a compliment, I reckon that in this case your brother actually was correct in what he once told me – sometimes bravery is by far the kindest word for stupidity. He wasn't pleased, as you can imagine."
Yeah, he could imagine that. And his brother was dangerous. Never ever would he let anybody humiliate him publicly. So either it had been just the two of them present, which was unlikely, given that there had been surgery on him, or there must have been a reason why Mycroft had tolerated it.
"At least he didn't get you assassinated instantly, so you must have impressed him somehow." Sherlock whispered, his eyes already closed in exhaustion.
"Well, there's something – human about him, in fact, Sherlock, when it comes to you."
Mycroft and human, those were two words that really didn't go together. Mycroft was his brother, and they were human beings – fine – but humanity wasn't an attribute that suited Mycroft. Being human had to do with caring, and caring wasn't an advantage. Mycroft had pointed out that matter of fact to him one night when he had actually doubted that just a tiny little bit.
Sherlock only made a little sound of annoyance. "Why did you punch him?"
"Well, it wasn't subtext, which annoyed me, but you, Sherlock Holmes, had begged me not to take you to a hospital and I had to convince your brother of it."
"I never beg."
"Believe me, you do! You have very human moments, too, although, admittedly, you were not fully conscious by then."
Sherlock didn't say anything, instead he looked away slightly embarrassed. Had he really begged? How – defective! He hated hospitals, yes, but he wasn't sure about the reason for it. The pictures of him in poor condition came back, but there were no clear memories accompanied by them. Had he once deleted them? Oh – the deleted memories! He had to talk to John about what he had found out, but he had to admit to himself that he needed some more rest. His mind had to work properly for that, as well as his voice, so he had to postpone it.
His flatmate got up from the bed in order to get Sherlock something to drink, unnecessarily instructing him to stay where he was.
Sherlock gripped John's arm. It was a reaction that he was surprised about himself. He had suddenly felt something that was close to being worried – about John. His hand closed around the lower part of the elbow and he felt something under John's sleeve. A dressing? A thick dressing.
"You look pale," the Consulting Detective stated.
"Do I? Well, I must admit, it wasn't a really pleasurable day, quite exhausting, to be honest."
Sherlock locked eyes with John. The doctor was hiding something from him, he avoided talking about what had happened. Why should he have a pressure plaster on his forearm if not for a removed IV cannula? John was pale and tired and the occasional blinking of the eyes were signs that he was dizzy.
He, Sherlock, had lost a lot of blood, John was pale, tired, dizzy, had had an IV cannula in his arm. He was aware that John had saved his life by showing up just in time, but could it be that he had donated him some of his own blood to save him from bleeding out?
"You said I lost half of my blood - did I get any transfusions?"
"'Course you did. You'd be dead otherwise!" John exclaimed innocently.
"Was it stored blood?" Sherlock probed.
John lowered his eyes. So, it hadn't been just stored blood. Why that, he didn't know, but the facts were obvious and led to the conclusion that he had a bit of John's blood in his veins! And all of a sudden he remembered where the throbbing pain in his chest had come from – apparently he had been closer to death than he had yet realized. He was speechless. In fact, he felt numb. Was he really getting emotional? Emotions were disturbing, they kept him from thinking.
"Ok, you want to hear the full story, right?" John asked.
Sherlock nodded. "In every detail."
"Water first," John instructed and left for the kitchen
There was something that disturbed Sherlock about John – his eyes were red from crying, apparently. It didn't make sense and he didn't really want to hear about it. Crying was sentimental, which John could be occasionally, but it shouldn't be related to him. Sherlock closed his eyes, not knowing how to deal with John being all emotional about him. It made him insecure.
When John returned to the bedroom, Sherlock heard him set the water on the nightstand, and drop into the chair, sighing heavily.
"Try not to be too emotional, ok?" Sherlock mumbled, fighting the overwhelming tiredness.
Much to his shock, instead of just rolling his eyes, like he normally did, John shot up, glaring daggers at his flatmate and launched into a tirade about what it felt like to nearly lose a friend. When he finally drew breath, he seemed to subside a bit and stomped from the room. Sherlock heard him pacing the living-room.
He hadn't meant to upset his flatmate. He just didn't want to talk about emotions that he couldn't understand. So, in order to finally get to know what all this was about, he tried to soothe John by saying "It's fine."
The doctor went back to Sherlock, still snorting with rage, and gave him a lecture on which words to use instead of fine. Sherlock didn't really understand what John's problem was. The average native speaker of English had an active vocabulary of about fifteen thousand words at maximum, and fine was one of them, so why not use it on a regular basis, why waste thinking about another word if this one expressed exactly what he wanted to say? Although, Sherlock had to admit to himself that he did actually use this word to avoid any further questions, so he was supposed to feel at least a tiny bit guilty. In fact, he didn't feel guilty; he was amused about the many words John enumerated that would be appropriate to say instead of just fine.
When John had finished his rant, Sherlock teased the doctor by repeating "Fine." It was accompanied, though, by a smile that he couldn't suppress. First, John stared at him, but Sherlock saw that his anger had disappeared as he finally replied with a grin.
The Consulting Detective was tired, but he had to get something out.
"John, I am aware that it must have been quite stressful for you, not least of all because you were clearly more involved than just any doctor, I do get that. I think, sometimes it's actually good that you literally put pressure on me - at least my chest feels like you did. Erm, …"
John looked at him disbelievingly, his eyebrows raised.
"Are you trying to say thank you for saving my life?"
What happened right that moment was nothing Sherlock remembered having experienced since his childhood, nothing he had ever wanted to experience, since he considered it a flaw, although he occasionally made use of it deliberately, and, most of all, nothing he could cope with: tears welled up his eyes!
He was washed over with emotions! He, Sherlock Holmes! He was used to being called an emotionless machine without a heart and it didn't bother him; but what happened right now was proof enough that he had been wrong, as exactly his heart was betraying him now. He was grateful, yes, but there was something more, something much stronger that he couldn't find a word for – and it made him cry! How… ridiculous!
He closed his eyes to prevent the tears from falling and from John finding out about his mental – or emotional – condition, however, a single tear found its way down his cheek.
"It's fine," John whispered, turned around and left the bedroom, clearing his throat.
Sherlock's mind was whirling. So, that was what John meant when he was talking about being friends. There was actually more to it than relying on someone, being honest and straight. It had to do with emotions. As suddenly as they had hit him, they were gone and Sherlock felt like himself again, more or less controlled and without the very unpleasant disturbance of emotions that blocked his mind.
When he opened his eyes again, he saw John leaning at the doorframe and watching him, his hands clinging to a cup of tea.
"Do you think emotions are chemicals that are transferred with blood donations?" Sherlock asked cautiously.
John threw his head back and laughed with all his heart.
"Sherlock Holmes, you are a bloody nutcase!"
"I can handle that," he replied with a smile on his face, however weakly, already drifting into sleep. Losing half of your blood was exhausting!