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Triage (Sherlock)

Title: Triage
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: Donovan didn't want to see this, and Sherlock didn't want to be seen – especially by her – this way.
Historian's Note: This takes place between events in the first and second series of Sherlock.
Warnings (Highlight to Read): Descriptions of injuries, mild language.

Head lolling at an angle, Sherlock observed her with an over-bright gaze. "You're not…" His voice was breathy and far too high-pitched. "Enjoying… this…"

He sounded surprised.

Donovan stared at him. What the hell was she meant to enjoy? Kneeling in the damp in the middle of the night? Finding her boss face-down on the concrete? Minding the Freak whilst his flatmate gave emergency aid to Lestrade?

Sherlock glanced down at her hand where it held his sodden scarf to his shoulder, and then she understood.

For a genius, he could be astoundingly thick.

"No, 'course I'm not," she answered.

She leaned even closer to him, until she could feel the moist warmth of his shallow panting against her cheek. He couldn't twirl and stride off on those long legs this time. There were certain things he needed to understand.

"Listen: I've wanted to slap that smug grin off your face every time you've acted like someone's violent death was a gift-wrapped present meant for you. I've wanted to shut that clever mouth of yours every time you've insulted a victim, a victim's family or friends, members of my team, or me."

She took a measured breath, proud of the evenness of her voice. There was a reason Lestrade looked to her when it was time for a press conference.

"Most of all, I've wanted to force your words back down your throat every time you've belittled one of the best men I know and then made him thank you for it." She nodded in the direction of the fallen detective inspector. "You play with his career and his reputation and his life like they're your toys, and he lets you, because he cares more about stopping killers than protecting himself. If it were up to me, you'd never be allowed anywhere near him or a crime scene again."

Propped against the brick wall, Sherlock continued to study her with those alien, unsettling eyes.

"But not once," she continued, "have I wanted to see you stabbed and bleeding and left in a back alley. I wouldn't want that for anyone. That's why I'm a cop. You're the one who doesn't feel empathy, not me."

He made no reply.

His eyelashes were still wet from the involuntary tears inspired by his wound, and this made him seem fragile and young and, for once, absurdly human. So, too, did the darkening bruise on his cheek.

God, how much blood did that skinny body hold? The scarf at his shoulder was drenched and dripping, slippery and unwieldy now under her fingers. Ignoring the nauseating stench of gore, she reached for her own scarf and unwound it from her neck. As quickly as possible, she exchanged the two, putting more muscle behind the pressure in the effort to staunch the flow.

Sherlock thrashed once, a harsh jerk that rippled out the full length of his limbs; the grunt he made ended as a whine.

Automatically she opened her mouth to apologise for the added pain she'd caused, but she caught herself in time. "Go on then," she offered instead. "Say something. Anything. You need to stay conscious."

"Lestrade?" A whisper.

She risked a glance over her shoulder.

When Watson had intercepted her in the alley, drawing her down beside Sherlock before she could get to Lestrade, she'd nearly turned on him with the full force of her adrenaline-fuelled anger and fear. But of course, he'd been right: Lestrade needed his skill, not hers, and Sherlock required assistance, as well.

To be fair, she reckoned she had more reason to trust Lestrade to Watson than she'd given the doctor to trust Sherlock to her.

It appeared that her confidence in the man wasn't misplaced. Despite the cold bite of the night air, Watson had stripped to his vest. His jumper pillowed Lestrade's head; his jacket covered Lestrade's lower body. His shirt was turning a bright crimson as he pressed it with visible force against Lestrade's abdomen.

She could just make out the calm, steady rhythm of Watson's speech, punctuated now and then by the brief, ragged hoarseness of Lestrade's responses.

She sagged a bit in relief, and Sherlock shuddered beneath the scarf. Her coat slipped further down his torso, and with her free hand she drew it up and tucked it more closely around his sides.

"He's bleeding, but he's conscious," she said.

Some of the tension in Sherlock's sharp-angled frame eased at this news; she felt it through her fingers.

Unexpected, that.

"Keep talking," she urged.

He inhaled as if to respond, but only a gusty sigh followed. His eyes fluttered shut.

"Sherlock. Freak. Talk."

His lips twitched. "Not... just now."

She cursed silently to herself before trying another approach. "All right. Make me do all the work, then. What's today's date?"

"Boring." Alarmingly faint.

He began to list to one side. As she struggled to resettle him in a more upright position, he sucked in a sharp breath through his teeth and held it, trembling. Then he was watching her again from beneath damp lashes, pale eyes glittering with shock, boneless as a rag doll.

"Tell me about the case," she said. "What’s your theory?" She waited a beat. "Come on, genius. Impress me."

"Not theory." His long throat worked as he swallowed. "Solution."

"Right. I'll believe it when I hear it." Deliberately provocative.

"Brent Maillard."

"Maillard did it? He wasn't even on our suspect list. What did you find out? How could you possibly know that?"

His brow furrowed in a pained frown, and once more his eyes fell shut. "Astigmatism," he murmured. "Steel-cut oats. Swine flu. Peter Tork." Then, emphatically, "Oysters."

Bloody hell. Was he was explaining his deductive reasoning or ranting in delirium? As likely one as the other, for all that she understood any of it. She couldn't begin to imagine how those seemingly random things related to one another or the alleged perpetrator.

At least Sherlock was still conscious, still talking. For that matter, her scarf was only partially stained; the blood came more sluggishly now. She reminded herself of Watson's reassurance that the wound itself wasn't that bad, as long as the bleeding could be checked.

"Keep firm pressure on it," he'd directed her, his personal plea audible beneath the professional instructions. "Keep him warm. Keep him awake."

She looked behind her once more and found the doctor returning her gaze. Strain had redrawn his features in stark, grim lines as he hunched against the chill. One of his hands forced the makeshift bandage against Lestrade's belly; the other curled around the detective inspector's wrist, monitoring the man's pulse.

"How long?" he called to her.

The ambulances, of course.

Before she could consult her watch, she saw his eyes shift and widen. The transformation was immediate as Watson shed his role of healer for that of protector, rising to a defensive crouch in front of Lestrade. Donovan swivelled in alarm, getting a foot underneath her, readying to shield her own charge from new threat.

The shadows moved at the mouth of the alley.

Anderson had found them.

"Check on the ambulances!" Sally shouted at him. "Two of ours are down!"

He jogged forward, mobile to his ear, nodding.

When she turned back to Sherlock, she found one elegant eyebrow raised.

"Two… of yours?" he whispered.

"Say you're insulted, and I'll happily feed you this scarf." She readjusted her hold on its fabric. Sherlock managed a rather anaemic snort before he grimaced.

Anderson spoke rapidly on the phone. Donovan's next quick glance revealed him handing Watson's jacket back to the shivering doctor and draping his own long coat over Lestrade in its place.

"No, don't you dare," she said, as Sherlock's head pitched forward. She eased it back to rest against the wall and patted his cheek lightly. "Stay awake. Your sidekick over there will murder me if you die on my watch."

"Not my… sidekick," he managed with obvious effort.

"Fine. Whatever you say. Keep talking."

"Cold," he said.

She adjusted her coat to cover more of his chest, folding a lapel over his uninjured shoulder, pinning it with his lax weight.

Anderson approached, scrubbing a hand across his stubbled face. "Five minutes for the ambulances."

"Lestrade?" she asked.

"Should be in hospital now. It's an ugly wound." He crossed his arms against the night air, hugging himself, clearly shaken.

Sherlock didn't look at Anderson, but Donovan could sense that the consulting detective was listening attentively.

"The doctor knows what he's about, though, I'll give him that," Anderson continued. "Sally, what the hell happened?"

"Seems to be related to the Yarbrough case. Payback, maybe. I can ID three of them, at least. So can Watson," she said. "Bastards."

"Need any help" – Anderson turned a cool glare on Sherlock – "with this?"

Donovan felt Sherlock's lean muscles tighten under her hand. With his injury, that must've hurt. Sherlock blinked up at her, eerily pale and utterly expressionless, awaiting her response.

"No, we'll do," she said. "Go watch for them at the street, yeah? And get the rest of the team here. The scene will need to be secured."


As Anderson retreated, Sherlock nodded once drunkenly and slumped back against the bricks.

"Not long now," she told him. "Hold on."

An ugly wound, Anderson had said. Christ. No, she couldn't afford to dwell on that at the moment.

"Don'tforget," Sherlock slurred. She ducked her head in order to catch his fragile words. "BrentMaillard."

"Brent Maillard. You're certain?"


"Brent Maillard." She rocked back on her heels and searched his face, watching as his lids drooped closed. "Got it."

Beneath her coat his hand flapped vaguely, as if he'd intended to make one of his dramatic gestures but realised too late that he lacked the strength. "TellJohn. TellJohnto… ridewithhim… tohospital…" His tongue darted out and wet his lips. "Watchover…"

When his eyes opened abruptly, she started in surprise. For a long moment, they simply regarded each other, exhaling white clouds into the blackness together.

"Yeah, I will. Thank you." She meant it.

Sherlock broke eye contact first, turning his face away to stare into the dark, his bruised cheek to the dank wall. The trembling in his limbs intensified. If he could've melted into the bricks by sheer effort of will, she guessed he would've done.

It pained her merely to look at him, splayed out brokenly, gulping shallow sips of air. Just as much as she didn't want to see this, she understood that Sherlock didn't want to be seen – especially by her – this way.

Faced with such a portrait of miserable vulnerability, she recalled what she'd told him about empathy.


"I'll ride with you, then," she said.

His answer was brittle, over-enunciated, and scarcely loud enough to hear: "Not. Necessary."

"Didn't say it was," she said.


She straightened the drape of her coat so that its fabric warmed the bare flesh at his neck.

After several heartbeats, the wail of sirens echoed from a distance.

About bloody time.

"Can'tstopyou," he whispered at last. "Obviously."


A final look over her shoulder showed Watson bending low over his patient, talking with gentle urgency, his free hand gripping Lestrade's shoulder. The doctor must have felt Donovan's eyes on him; he glanced up at her, his gaze sliding to Sherlock and back again, an anxious question on his face.

She offered him her best approximation of a smile, given the circumstances, and a nod that she hoped was reassuring. He responded in kind.

"Not long now," she repeated to Sherlock.

The sirens swallowed all other sound.


Vital Stats: Originally written in November 2011.


( 108 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm so happy that you liked it. I really appreciate these kind words.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 09:38 am (UTC)
Oh, my. Lestrade too! God, I want to see this from John's side. Or maybe I don't. GAAAH! And oysters!
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
Augh, John's side would be wrenching, wouldn't it? Two patients, and one doctor who wished he could be with both at once. GAAAH indeed!

And oysters! :) <- I couldn't resist!

Thank you so much for reading. I really appreciate it.

Edited at 2011-11-23 02:14 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - rabidsamfan - Nov. 23rd, 2011 11:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 22nd, 2011 09:46 am (UTC)
I squealed out loud at how wonderful this is. Also you don't see much of Sally in fics and its even rarer to see nice sally whilst still keeping to character, so that was particularly lovely.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
I squealed out loud at how wonderful this is.

This utterly makes my day! I can't thank you enough.

I'm really pleased that Sally seems nice and yet in character, here. That's wonderful to hear. Thank you so much for reading and for leaving such encouraging comments! I appreciate it.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
I really love Sally. This feels very real.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:18 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that Sally feels real here, and that you like her! Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate them.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC)
This is excellent. Sally being totally professional and also seeing a little beneath Sherlock's usual veneer and responding to his rarely shown emotions.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, I appreciate it so much! I'm very happy you liked it.

Sally being totally professional and also seeing a little beneath Sherlock's usual veneer and responding to his rarely shown emotions.

This! You've put your finger on exactly what I hoped to convey. I'm really thrilled that this came through and that it worked for you. Thank you, my friend!
Nov. 22nd, 2011 01:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, loved the dialogue between Sally and Sherlock. Very nicely done; thank you!
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it! It's especially wonderful to hear that the dialogue between Sally and Sherlock worked. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
I was transported. I want more of this! You write Donovan so well. You took me there.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC)
Oh wow! This really thrills my heart. I'm so happy that this felt present and real to you, and that you like my take on Sally's character. I can't thank you enough for your encouraging words. They mean a lot.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
"That's why I'm a cop": the unrecognized obvious in fourteen letters.
And I say, is there a limit to how *good* your writing can be?
You had me trembling here.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 10:56 pm (UTC)
"That's why I'm a cop": the unrecognized obvious in fourteen letters.

Oh, I'm so glad that this line worked for you!

And I say, is there a limit to how *good* your writing can be?
You had me trembling here.

Wow. To say this makes my day is an understatement. I can't thank you enough! It's wonderful to hear that this felt immediate and moving to you. Thank you, my friend, for your lovely and generous words.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'm not a big Sally fan, but you won me over with this story. Sherlock was excellent in his suffering and reactions, and Sally was perfect in her dislike for Sherlock tempered by her ability to recognize his pain and suffering and see beneath his veneer. And huzzah for her showing the real reason she resents Sherlock - for the way he treats Lestrade! Cause yes, Lestrade is wonderful and I can believe that he inspires great loyalty and affection from his team.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
but you won me over with this story

Oh wow! What a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much.

I'm so glad that both Sherlock's and Sally's characterizations felt right here. I'm also really pleased that you liked Sally's real reason for resenting Sherlock. It struck me as early as the press conference scene in ASiP, and then throughout the episodes, how protective she seemed of Lestrade; in fact, she seemed to react worse when Sherlock mocked Lestrade in public than when he insulted her. I'm so happy that this worked for you.

As a fellow Lestrade lover, I agree: he is wonderful, isn't he? :)

Your kind words mean a lot. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 04:31 pm (UTC)
Wow. I love everything about this!
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, this makes me so happy! Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
Oh you. You manage to paint everyone perfectly here, while focusing on Sherlock and Donovan's fraught relationship. John and Lestrade are perfectly heroic (John ready to fight off a new attacker FTW!), and Anderson is appropriately jerk-y (but not too jerk-y).

My heart melted at Donovan's defense of Lestrade:
"You play with his career and his reputation and his life like they're your toys, and he lets you, because he cares more about stopping killers than protecting himself."

That's our Lestrade! I love that he has this Donovan in his life, who recognizes his value and feels such loyalty.

I really enjoyed the slow thawing of sympathy between them, here. Her realization that John had given her more reason to trust him with Lestrade than she'd given him to trust her with Sherlock was particularly poignant. *happy sigh* So enjoyable and right as always, my lovely.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, this thrills my heart! I'm so very glad this worked for you. I'm so glad everyone's characterization seems right, including heroic!John and not-too-jerky!Anderson. :)

I'm especially pleased that Donovan's defense of Lestrade seemed fitting. It struck me as early as the press conference scene in ASiP, and then throughout the episodes, how protective she seemed of Lestrade; in fact, she seemed to react worse when Sherlock mocked Lestrade in public than when he insulted her. There was also a genuineness to her warning John away from Sherlock, recognizing John as someone who cared and seeing Sherlock as someone who didn't. She didn't have "the whole picture," but from her perspective, a certain hostility to Sherlock made sense.

I'm really, really pleased (and relieved!) that the slow thawing between Donovan and Sherlock came through, as well.

Her realization that John had given her more reason to trust him with Lestrade than she'd given him to trust her with Sherlock was particularly poignant.

Oh, thank you for this! I never got that line quite like I wanted it, but it seemed to me to be one of the most important ideas in the story. It means a lot that you found it to be poignant.

You've made my day, my dear. Thank you so much for your kindness.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm delighted that you liked my interpretation of her. I really appreciate it.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Oooo! Sally!fic. Very cool to see her internal workings, especially her rabid defense of her beloved boss. And I was getting very nervous at the end thinking that maybe Sherlock wasn't going to make it. 0_0
Very tense fic! Loved the teeny details that halped me fill in so much, like John's gentle urgency (BAMF Doctor!), and Sherlock's slurred list of clues. Wow.
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked this, my friend! I'm so glad the tension seemed appropriate, as well as the characterizations. It's so helpful to know what details worked for you (I love BAMF!Doctor John so much), so thank you for telling me. As always, I'm grateful to you for reading and commenting. Thank you so much!
Nov. 22nd, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, I do love your take on Sally. That was brilliant. Sherlock was so wonderfully Sherlock even when he's suffering from severe blood loss. And Lestrade's going to be okay, right? Right?
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
I'm so tickled that you like my interpretation of her! I'm really glad to hear that Sherlock's characterization seemed right, too. Thank you so much for this. Thanks to John's BAMF!doctoring, I know Lestrade will be fine; he'll be back being his fantastic silver fox self soon. LOL!

Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate them.
Nov. 22nd, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
I do love your Sally - so human in her devotion to Lestrade and her recognition of Sherlock's vulnerability and capacity to feel real concern for Lestrade, beneath his desultory behavior.

(I also love that you slipped in the oysters. Though I refuse to believe he's dying. No ma'am. Nor is Lestrade. We all know you need him for your next fics.)
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so very glad that Sally seems right - and human - here. Thank you so much for this.

Aha! I'm glad you liked the ACD reference with the oysters. ;) I couldn't help myself. And no worries; they will both be fine, I know it! Like you say, we need them for more ficcery. ;)

Thank you very much, my friend. I appreciate it.
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