John stared at his friend for a few seconds, his mind completely blank.
“It’s me,” he said. “It’s John. John Watson?”
Not even a flicker of recognition in Sherlock’s eyes. He looked frightened and apprehensive, like a deer caught in headlights.
“Should that mean something to me?” he asked blankly.
John stared at him, his eyes wide. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “No, it can’t be…”
“Look,” Sherlock said, his bright blue eyes darting from John to the door, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, I don’t know who you are, so please, don’t hurt me.”
“Sherlock, I’m not going to hurt you!” John said, raising his voice out of sheer desperation.
Next to him, Mary sat up with a start, blinking drowsily. “John?” she yawned, rubbing her eyes. “Is Sherlock- oh,” she said, spotting Sherlock’s open eyes. She smiled. “Thank goodness you’re alright.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened even more. “Who’s Sherlock?” he asked, looking bewildered.
The smile dripped off of Mary’s face. She frowned. “You’re Sherlock. Sherlock Holmes.” She turned to John. “Is this some kind of joke?” she demanded of her husband, well aware that the two of them liked to mess around with her and everyone else. Who knew what kind of trick Sherlock Holmes would think of?
John was still staring at Sherlock, his mouth open slightly. He slowly shook his head. “No, I- I don’t think so,” he stuttered. Taking a deep breath, he said calmly, “Sherlock, if this is a joke, stop it right now. It’s not funny. This could be serious. Drop the act.”
Sherlock looked from John to Mary, his dark eyebrows furrowed. “What act?” he asked. “Please, just- just tell me what I’m doing here, and who you are.” He thought about it a moment. “While you’re at it, could you tell me who I am?”
“This can’t be happening,” John said, getting to his feet. Sherlock jumped slightly as the chair scraped against the tile, then winced, putting a hand to his bandaged head.
“This cannot be happening,” John repeated, pacing back and forth. “There is no way- this is a dream. That’s it. I was the one that got knocked out and I’m in the hospital right now having this dream-“
“John,” Mary said, getting to her feet, “John, calm down. You’re scaring him.”
“I’M scaring HIM?” John shouted, his panic overwhelming him. “Sherlock BLOODY Holmes doesn’t remember a single BLOODY thing and I’m the one scaring HIM?”
“John!” Mary hissed as Sherlock put his head in his hands, letting out a soft moan. Returning to the bed, she asked him, “Does your head hurt?”
Sherlock nodded weakly, not lifting his head. Mary turned around and walked across the room, glaring at John as she went. “I’m getting the doctor,” she stated. “Do not yell at him anymore, and do not try to force him to remember anything. This could just be temporary.”
John watched her go, frowning. He knew it could be temporary. That wasn’t what was bothering him.
What was bothering him was the fact that it could be permanent as well.
John breathed in and out slowly, trying to keep his heart rate down. He knew if he started panicking, he’d start yelling again. And obviously that would not be very good for Sherlock at the moment.
He turned around and looked at the bed only to find Sherlock already staring at him. His eyes were narrowed, and he looked thoughtful.
“I’ve got amnesia?” he asked slowly.
John slowly walked over to his bedside, keeping his movements unnecessarily slow. He wasn’t sure why; he just felt very cautious around his friend, who seemed fragile without his memories. The normally imposing detective looked small in the bed without his cocky smirk and dismissive attitude. While John often complained that Sherlock was an arrogant prick, he was disturbed by the sudden change in the man.
“Yes,” he said. “I’m afraid so.”
Sherlock blinked, looking around the room. “I’m in the hospital with a concussion, and I’ve got amnesia,” he mused softly to himself. “Well, this can’t be very good.”
The door opened again, and the doctor from before bustled in, scribbling something on her clipboard.
“Dr. Watson,” she said, “I’m going to have to ask you to step outside. I need some time with Mr. Holmes. I believe your wife is in the waiting room.”
“Right,” John said, backing away from the bed. “Um… thanks.”
The doctor simply nodded in his direction, already focused on her patient. John turned and quickly slipped into the hall. He could practically feel Sherlock’s eyes on him as he shut the door behind him.
Feeling dazed, John strode through the hallway in the direction of the waiting room. He wasn’t quite sure what to feel at the moment. Shock? Fear? Anger at Sherlock for landing himself in this situation in the first place? John couldn’t quite decide.
“Mary,” was the first thing out of his mouth when he walked into the waiting room.
Immediately his wife was there, her arms wrapped around his neck. “It’s going to be fine,” she said, her voice muffled. “He’s going to be fine, alright?”
“Alright,” John echoed.
Neither of them was satisfied with the empty promise lingering in the air.
“He is suffering from retrograde amnesia,” the doctor said simply.
John shut his eyes. He had known this diagnosis was coming, but to finally hear it made him feel sick to his stomach.
“He has no memory of anything from his past and knows little about his own personality. Nothing about his family, friends, job, or past experiences have been retained. Unfortunately, there are two ways this could go: it could be a temporary case, and could last only a few hours, days, or maybe weeks.”
“And the other way?” Mary asked nervously, gripping John’s wrist.
The doctor hesitated. “It could be permanent,” she admitted. “But these cases commonly-“
“What do we do?” John asked.
The doctor stopped, taken aback at the interruption. “Sorry?”
“What can we do to help him?” John asked, pronouncing each syllable slowly and carefully.
If the doctor was miffed at being spoken to like a three year old, she didn’t comment. She was probably accustomed to dealing with the short tempers of people who’s loved ones were ill.
“We’ll keep him in the hospital until his concussion is healed,” she said. “Then, we have some medication he can take that could help. But if you were to take him back to his home, reintroduce him to people he knows, take him to places familiar to him- that could spark some memories. But you can’t give him all this information all at once. You have to be very careful about where you take him and how you handle flashbacks and other memory-returns. Especially if he has had any traumatic experiences.”
John nodded slowly. “Right… sorry,” he said, “but did he behave kind of… I don’t know… telepathic?”
The doctor frowned. “Could you elaborate?”
“Did he know everything about your life,” John explained. “Or maybe did he talk to you about different types of tobacco ash?”
“No,” the doctor said, looking confused. “He was disoriented and confused, but he seemed quite normal. Why?”
John cursed inwardly. “No reason,” he said casually. Glancing at the closed door, he said, “Can we-?”
“He’s sleeping at the moment,” the doctor explained. “He’s exhausted. You can visit him when he wakes up. Until then, you’re free to wait in the waiting room.”
“Thank you,” Mary said, giving her a small smile. Still gripping John’s hand, she turned and guided him back to the waiting room and to a pair of chairs in the corner.
“We need to call Mycroft,” John said, sitting down with a thump. “And Lestrade.”
“Are you alright, John?” Mary asked worriedly, looking at him. “You look kind of pale.”
John shook his head. “I’m fine,” he said, pulling out his phone. Scrolling through his contacts, he stopped on Mycroft’s name and pressed dial, holding the phone to his ear.
The phone only rang once before there was a click.
“I’m dealing with matters of the upmost importance at the moment and if this is not incredibly important I’m going to be quite angry,” Mycroft’s voice said coolly and smoothly without an interruption.
“Your brother’s in the hospital,” John said bluntly.
A moment of silence permeated the line. John waited impatiently as Mycroft put away whatever it was he was doing. The words ‘brother’ and ‘hospital’ always seemed to get his attention.
“What has he gotten himself into this time?” the older Holmes finally sighed, back on the other end.
John hesitated. “He got hit in the head. Hard,” he added. “He’s in the hospital with a concussion and… well, amnesia.”
The line went silent again. “Amnesia?” Mycroft repeated, sounding, for once, flabbergasted.
“Amnesia,” John affirmed.
Mycroft took a deep breath. “Typical,” he muttered, sounding suddenly exhausted. There was another click and the line went dead.
“He’ll be here in ten minutes,” John said, pulling his phone away from his ear and looking through his contacts once more.
This time the phone rang for much longer before someone picked it up.
“Hello?” Lestrade’s tired voice said.
“Greg? It’s John.”
“John!” Lestrade perked up immediately. “How’s Sherlock? Sorry I haven’t been over, I’ve been caught up at the station with those smugglers. Has he woken up yet?”
John grimaced. “Well… yes?”
“You sound doubtful,” Lestrade said suspiciously. “What’s wrong?”
“Something’s not right,” John said slowly. “In addition to a concussion, Sherlock has retrograde amnesia.”
“Amnesia?” Lestrade exclaimed loudly. “He’s got amnesia?”
“He can’t remember anything.”
Lestrade cursed loudly. “I’ll be over there as soon as I can,” he promised. “Are you holding up alright?”
Why did everyone keep asking if John was alright? Sherlock was the one with the problem, not him. “I’m fine. I’ll see you soon, then?”
“Yeah, alright,” Lestrade said heavily.
John hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket. He turned to Mary, who was sitting next to him with a sympathetic look on his face.
“How’d they take it?” she asked.
John sighed. “As expected. They were mostly just shocked. I mean, who would have thought Sherlock Holmes could get amnesia? It’s just so… un-Sherlock.”
Mary bit her lip. “Are you positive you’re alright?” she asked again.
“Sherlock’s the one with amnesia,” he reminded her.
Mary looked at him sadly. “That’s precisely why I’m worried.”
Mycroft emerged from his brother’s hospital room looking fatigued. He swung his umbrella distractedly, looking troubled.
He was met in the waiting room by John, Mary, and Lestrade, who had all been standing around for the past ten minutes watching the door anxiously. Mycroft stopped in front of them, heaving a sigh.
“He didn’t recognize me,” he said, his voice surprisingly calm. “He has no idea who he is or where he is. His deduction skills are all but gone because of his lack of memory. No memory means no stored information to base his deductions on. He’s picking up on things quickly, however; he has that going for him. And I believe he found me quite annoying.” He thought about it for a moment. “At least some things haven’t changed.”
“Can we go in and see him?” Lestrade asked.
Mycroft cast a glance at the door. “Be my guest,” he said. “When he’s discharged, you have my permission to take him back to Baker Street. He’s probably safest there. Until then, I will try and get in touch with our parent’s to let them know what’s going on. They’re on vacation in the Caribbean at the moment, and will not be home for several weeks.” He wrinkled his nose slightly before nodding in their direction and strolling out of the hospital.
Mary and Lestrade immediately started towards the door. John lingered behind them slightly, suddenly afraid to go in. He had no desire to stare into his best friend’s eyes and see a complete stranger looking back. He didn’t want to have a conversation with him without Sherlock making some arrogant comment or telling him exactly what he was going to be doing that night from the state of his shoes. But at the same time, he wanted to be with him because that’s what he did: he stuck by Sherlock Holmes even when the prat went and got his memories knocked out of him. And John knew he needed to help his friend.
He walked into the room a few seconds later than the other two, swinging the door shut behind him. He looked over to see Lestrade and Mary standing next to the highly suspicious looking Sherlock.
“Sherlock?” Lestrade asked cautiously.
“That’s what everyone keeps calling me,” Sherlock sighed. He glanced up at Lestrade. “Who are you?”
Lestrade looked hurt for a moment, but quickly replaced it with a smile. John realized this must be difficult for Lestrade. He had known Sherlock for so long, and even though he pretended that he was as annoyed by the detective as everyone, John knew he cared deeply about him.
“Sorry,” Lestrade said, “you don’t know me, do you?” Sticking his hand out, he introduced himself. “Greg Lestrade.”
“Nice to meet you, Greg,” Sherlock said, giving him a quick smile.
Yup. This was getting strange.
“I’m Mary,” Mary said, “Mary Watson. And this is… this is John.”
“John Watson,” Sherlock recalled. He met John’s eyes, and for a moment they stared at each other. “It’s nice to see you when you’re not yelling.”
“Sorry about that,” John said, walking closer to the bed. “I was a bit upset. Still am, actually. You see, you and I were… are… friends. Pretty good friends.”
“Really?” Sherlock asked. He nodded slightly to himself. “Alright. Pleasure to make your acquaintance, John Watson.”
John got a lump in his throat. “Likewise.”
“How do you feel?” asked Lestrade.
Sherlock shrugged. “As good as one can feel with a concussion and a totally blank memory.” He lightly touched his bandages, wincing slightly. “Remind me again how I got here?”
“You and I were searching an abandoned warehouse for members of a smuggling ring when some bloke hit you over the back of the head with a pipe,” John said without thinking.
Sherlock’s eyes widened. “Am I part of the police?” he asked, confused.
“No,” Lestrade said. “I’m the Detective Inspector for Scotland Yard. You come in and help on cases when we need your help.”
Sherlock frowned. “Why would you need my help?”
Lestrade snorted. Mary shot him a reprimanding look. “You’re very… clever,” she said carefully.
“Clever enough to be asked to help on cases by Scotland Yard?” Sherlock asked dryly.
“Yes,” the three of them said simultaneously.
Sherlock blinked. “Oh,” he said. “Interesting.”
“You don’t happen to feel clever at the moment, do you?” John asked carefully.
Sherlock narrowed his eyes. “Are you insinuating that I’m not clever?” he asked, affronted.
“No,” John said hurriedly, “it’s just… you’re normally… well, we won’t get into that at the moment. You must have other questions.”
Sherlock eyed John for another moment. “Yes,” he said. “What do I do? I mean, what’s my job?”
“You’re a consulting detective,” Lestrade said. “Only one in the world, you made up the job.”
Sherlock raised his eyebrows. “What’s a consulting detective?”
“When the police are out of your depth- which is always,” John said with a slight smile, “they consult you.” He glanced at Lestrade, who was shooting him a grumpy look. “Sorry, Greg.”
Sherlock looked amused. “The police don’t consult amateurs,” he said matter-of-factly.
John’s smile slipped off his face. He cleared his throat. “No,” he said quietly. “They don’t.”
Sherlock looked at John, puzzled by his sudden change in mood. What he couldn’t know- or couldn’t remember, is probably the better term- was that John was remembering that taxi ride, years ago, when Sherlock had first demonstrated his deduction abilities. That smug look the detective had worn, the cocky glint in his eyes- it had excited John, who had spent months wandering around London without anyone interesting to talk to.
The police don’t consult amateurs, Sherlock had said.
Someone knocked on the door. A nurse poked her head in. “Five o’clock, visiting hours are over,” she said.
“We’ll be out in a moment,” Mary said.
When the door was shut again, Lestrade turned to Sherlock. “I’ll be seeing you soon, mate,” he said. “Get some rest. You’ll have your memory back in no time.”
Lestrade turned away from Sherlock, looking pleased. “It’s kind of nice having him remember my name,” he muttered to John on the way out.
“Tell the nurses if you feel any discomfort,” Mary ordered. “We’ll be back to see you tomorrow.”
Sherlock smiled slightly. “I will, Mary,” he said. “Thank you.”
Mary smiled quietly before glancing at John. “I’ll give you a moment,” she murmured, following Lestrade out the door.
John shoved his hands in his pockets awkwardly. Sherlock stared at him with those disconcerting blue eyes, an almost familiar calculating expression on his face. Now that he had woken up a bit more, John could almost pretend this was the Sherlock he had become best friends with years ago.
“I expect I’ll be seeing you quite a bit, John Watson,” Sherlock said.
“You would be correct,” John said. “I would like to see your memories back as soon as possible.”
Sherlock sighed, leaning back against his pillows. “You and me both,” he said. Nodding at the door, he said, “You’d better be going before the nurses start barging in here. They seem pretty serious about visiting hours.”
“Don’t I know it,” John chuckled. Walking across the room, he opened the door, then stopped. Turning back, he said, “Goodnight, Sherlock.”