"State of Shock" (AU)

Sherlock Holmes returned to consciousness in slow, measured stages to find John Watson slumped in a chair and texting by the side of his hospital bed.

If Sherlock had simply been asleep, then he would have sat up quickly, alert and ready for the day… as was his usual way. The snap-to attentiveness that he usually exhibited upon awakening would no doubt have caused the other man to jump in surprise. John had no clue about that tendency; several of Sherlock's more private quirks, such as his sleeping habits, had thus far remained private. The two men, although good friends sharing a flat, did not share that kind of intimate relationship.

However, in this instance, Sherlock forced himself to come back to the world in careful observational steps. He eased open his eyelids and took in the basics, such as his supine position in the strange bed, the sensation of his beard stubble against the crisp white pillowcase, the particular intensity of his body odor, the unmistakable scent of hospital, the shape of the room's windows, the glow of a London sunset behind the curtains-

St. Matthew's, Sherlock thought with quiet certainty, as he pieced together the architectural layout based on the scant evidence at hand. He also factored in his last known location in to that conclusion-the public pool into where he and Watson had encountered Moriarty, and where Moriarty had prepare to have the two of them shot and killed.

Where Holmes shot the explosive vest which lay on the tile floor between the three of them, disrupting Moriarty's plan with a fiery catastrophe that should have consumed them all.

He figured that some quirky miscommunication between wires and electronics and explosives had saved him. He owed his life to that precious second and a half, that meager gap of time that occupied the moment after he fired the gun that he held in his hand and when the bullet connected with the explosives. He also realized that he owed his life to the quick actions of John Watson. He replayed the events in his mind-the recoil of the gun against his palm, the sudden leftward surge of Moriarty as the man lunged towards the swimming pool, and John's incredibly strong grip around his torso as the ex-soldier shoved both of them into the water, just as the concussion of the blast swept over the area.

"Two days, then?" Sherlock mumbled.

John, engrossed in his text messaging (no doubt with his intended girlfriend, Sherlock thought with the touch of a smile), didn't even look up.

"Quite right," John responded.

"Coma?" he inquired.

"No," came the calm reply. "Just unconscious."

The thin snatches of a headache began to probe around his eyes and forehead, but Sherlock ignored the feeling and turned his head farther to one side to better study John's still figure. His sharp gaze took in his friend's awkward position in the chair, the pained expression on his face and the unnatural stillness with which he held himself.

With some effort, Sherlock summoned up the courage to speak again. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

He wanted to say more, but his keen ears picked up the sound of familiar footsteps in the hospital passageway. A few moments later, Mycroft Holmes entered, his umbrella in hand and dressed nattily in a gray suit, one of the few unchanged and unchanging factor in Sherlock's life.

The two brothers locked eyes for almost a full minute before they simultaneously looked away. Sherlock opened his mouth to speak again, then puffed out a breath of air.

"Shall I give you a lift back to Baker Street, John?" Mycroft asked, although the cheerful tone did not touch his detached countenance. "The guards say that you've been here all day, and you should be resting. My car is downstairs, as it would certainly do no good to stick you into a cab, with all that jostling. It would be quite uncomfortable, I imagine."

John nodded as he looked up and closed his phone, then stood up with some effort and a sharp grunt of pain.

"I'd appreciate that very much. Thank you, Mycroft."

"And thank you." Mycroft forced a brief smile as he returned the compliment. "For looking after this wayward brother of mine." He gestured toward the door. "I'll be there in a moment."

"Right." John gave Sherlock a nod and a concerned look, touched him briefly on his exposed right arm, then moved slowly out of the room without another look back.

Sherlock waited until John's footsteps dissipated before he spoke. "How badly is he hurt?"

"Took a considerable amount of shrapnel to the back from flying tiles and concrete and such. Sixty stitches." Mycroft walked to the end of the bed and hung his umbrella over the footboard. "Given the nature of the debris, it could have severed his spine, so I'd say that he got very lucky. As did you."

"What of Moriarty?"

He shook his head. "There's no sign of him. We did recover a few bodies from the building-all of them were men with extensive criminal records who were armed to the teeth, and highly sought-after in several countries besides our own. So that's a bit of a feather in your cap. Lestrade was both impressed and resentful."

"As is his usual state, where I'm concerned." Sherlock reached up to probe at the bandages on his head, then let his hand fall back onto the bed. He glanced up at Mycroft and swallowed. "Is it any worse?"

Mycroft said nothing.

Sherlock's upper lip curled. "I'm asking you a question, Mycroft."

His brother remained silent.

"I'm asking you. Are there any more signs of brain damage?" he demanded in a sharper tone.

"There should be, given what you went through," came the somewhat sullen reply. "You got off incredibly light this time, I'd say."

The fear retreated from Sherlock's eyes and he let his pained head sink back into the pillow.

"I've had three specialists analyze your current scans against the old ones," Mycroft continued in a detached tone. "They can detect no further physical damage." He paused. "Sometimes I want to blame it for how you are, you know. But then again, you've always been this way."

The edges of Sherlock's lips turned upward. "I've always been an 'irritating bastard,' you mean?" he inquired.

"Among other things. But your various dysfunctions could be attributed to that accident-"

"Or perhaps it's simply my lovely personality," Sherlock interrupted abruptly. His hands curled over the blanket and sheet that covered him, and he gripped them tightly as he squeezed his eyes shut.

Mycroft stepped over and picked up the call button beside the bed and pressed it. A nurse came promptly at his calling.

"This patient needs medication now. He's awake and beginning to feel pain. Please tell the physician in charge. Thank you."

The firm, dismissive tone of his voice kept the nurse from saying anything, and she snapped her mouth shut, nodded and backed out of the room, then went away. Mycroft set the button back down, stepped back over to retrieve his umbrella, then hooked it over one arm.

"Foresight, Sherlock," he said gently. "You've always been a bit lacking in that. Living too much in the moment, ignoring the connections all around you… Time and again, you've run across the work of Moriarty, only you failed to recognize it for far too long."

"We can't all be spiders like you," Sherlock replied in a strained voice, "connected to all the elements of the world around us, sensitive to every tendril of existence that ripples down our web."

Mycroft sighed. "Most people, no. It's beyond them. That's simply not an aspect of consciousness that's within their grasp. But I suspect that with your great mind that you could have been. Once."

"Let's not dwell on the past," he said with a sigh of his own. "Least of all, not now." He blinked. "Watch out for John. Make sure he's all right."

Mycroft managed a brief yet genuine smile. "Of course. As if he were my own brother."

The elder Holmes almost made it out the door before the sharp, sarcastic remark came out.

"Better than that, if you don't mind."

The long, silent drive through the congested streets of London and back to Baker Street held no tension in it, merely the comfortable silence of two men buried in their own thoughts. John had ceased the texting that had so occupied him back at St. Matthew's Hospital, and Mycroft had deliberately switched his own cell phone off upon entering the vehicle.

Although he did not physically assist John in the painful journey from the car up the stairs to the flat, Mycroft accompanied him and matched the other man's slow, careful steps, offering silent companionship as a means of support. As John made it to the sofa and sank down onto the worn cushions, he gave Mycroft a look of quiet appreciation. Mycroft, for his part, went into the kitchen and retrieved a glass of water for John.

"Take your pills, Doctor Watson," he chided him in a low voice as he held out the glass. "Bravery is all well and good in front of others, but there's no need for private suffering."

"Right," John replied in a strained voice.

He reached for the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a prescription bottle, then shook one of the pills into his palm and swallowed it, chasing it down with a quick swig of water. He paused, took another couple of sips, then set the glass down on the floor-a closer and more convenient reach for him than the end table.

John's eyebrows went up in surprise as Mycroft planted his feet apart on the floor. "There's something you want to say?"

"Oh, there are several things I want to say. First of all, thank you for saving my brother's life. I know he's probably already thanked you, but it was quite the dramatic gesture. That was quick thinking, on your part, diving for the pool."

John gave a slight movement to his head-one which, if not for the injuries to his back, would have been accompanied by a shrug. "There was nowhere else to go, really. The water acted as a cushion against the explosion, versus the concrete walls and metal lockers that would've fallen in on us had we remained where we were. I didn't expect us to be washed into the floor below, of course, but with the way that the building crumbled, it probably saved our lives."

"A bit of an air pocket, I'm told?"

"Yes, barely large enough for the two of us. It's a wonder we escaped intact."

Mycroft nodded. "I would also like to apologize on behalf of Sherlock, for putting you in such grave danger in the first place." He looked down and tapped his umbrella against the floor, then lifted his head again. "I'm afraid that Sherlock has always been quite headstrong, with little concern for his own well-being and even less concern for others. The mystery comes first for him, but the consequences? Not so much."

John smirked. "Yes, I have noticed that. And I understand that being associated with him has its costs. He's described himself as a highly-functioning sociopath. I don't suspect much good can come out of a situation such as this, but I am nonetheless fascinated by him. And willing to accept the risks." He paused. "Anything else?"

Mycroft hesitated. "Yes," he replied at last.

John blinked. "Well?"

"Well, as a physician, I believe that you should also be informed of Sherlock from a medical perspective. There are elements of my brother's personality that are not entirely due to idiopathic personality traits. I'm afraid there's a more serious aspect to take into consideration. You see, some time ago, he experienced an accident which resulted in severe head trauma." He hummed as he watched John's gaze skitter to the side and the wheels in his mind begin to turn. "I can see you're making some connections now, John."

John gave a brief nod of his head. "There have been… I've seen minor things in his… ways. Traits that would correspond to a brain injury."

"The details of the accident are unimportant, of course," he said with a wave of his hand. "But the lasting effects cannot be discounted."

"How bad was it?"

"Oh, quite severe. He had to re-learn how to walk. How to eat. How to write. How to function in regular society without experiencing some sort of inappropriate outburst."

"A lesson still not yet learned," John muttered. He gave Mycroft a quick glance. "Sorry."

Mycroft smiled. "Don't be. In fact, I don't think he ever learned it before then. He's always been a bit… odd. Then again, so have I. Only my particular oddities had a direction to them, and were channeled into government service, and thus have become highly treasured and protected. Sherlock's talents have pretty much marked him as an outcast. He doesn't 'fit.' He never has."

"Consulting detective," John said to himself.

"Exactly. He's made his own way in the world, pursued his own interests, and even created a title for himself. He's had to forge his own niche in order to be accepted. If you consider the backhanded respect that he receives from the police department as any form of acceptance."

John reached for the water again, took another sip, then set it down again and leaned back into the couch with a low groan. He let out a sharp sound as he struggled to make himself comfortable, then sighed as the pain retreated.

"Damn it," he hissed.

Mycroft nodded at him. "Get some rest, John. Enjoy the evening. Knowing Sherlock's determination, I'm sure he'll be out of the hospital by tomorrow regardless of what the doctors might say. Then I suspect it will be a rough recovery on your part as you'll no doubt be pressed back into service as his… companion." He gave him a sly wink.

John flushed. "I'm not his-"

Mycroft grinned and held up a hand. "Only joking, John. But if I know anything about my brother, it's that one minor incident such as this won't slow him down."

"Ha. 'Minor incident.' Is that what this was?"

"Oh, yes. You've only just gotten to know him. Give it a while. Then you'll see what you've really gotten yourself into."

With a casual swing of his umbrella, Mycroft stepped to the door and headed down the stairs.

"Good night, John," he called behind him.

"Good night, Mycroft," John replied.