I wrote this fic as a commission from FeliciaHM as part of the Sherlock fanfiction auction to raise money for DashCon 2014. The request was for John/Mycroft, and she let me take the reins as to what kind of fic this would be. So here's a 5+1 pseudo-sick!fic. :D

I had a lot of fun writing this, and I'm really tempted to write more in this 'verse (especially John and Mycroft's coffee dates, if I ever get around to it).

Beta'd by my awesome bestie/roommate Aki and Brit-picked by the lovely Laura!

Enjoy!


1.

John didn't realize he was falling until about halfway into his descent.

There'd been a split second of hesitation on his part, which gave their assailant just enough time to hurl him over the railing of Waterloo Bridge and send him careening towards the depths of the Thames far below. He was approaching the water far too fast for his liking, only giving him enough time for a few disjointed thoughts.

Is Sherlock okay?

Shit, we don't have any backup.

This is going to be bloody cold.

Thankfully John had enough sense to suck in a deep breath of air before breaking the surface of the water and plunging into cold darkness.

The freezing temperature of the water tore at his skin like knives, seized his muscles, sent his body into shock and almost forced him to expel the precious oxygen still in his lungs. He tried to open his eyes, floating dirt and sediment and the chill of the water stinging badly enough that he immediately forced them shut again. His limbs felt leaden and stiff, but he kicked his legs and wheeled his arms as hard as he could to propel himself up, up, up.

He could feel an inky blackness seeping into the corners of his thoughts. His oxygen supply was depleting fast from exertion, and his mental facilities were suffering for it. He was having trouble moving now, the lack of air weakening and paralyzing what little use of his muscles he had left. Through his burning, now squinted eyes, he could barely make out lights above him, distant but closer than before. If only he could just push himself a little bit further…

Almost there—

John came to with splutters and coughs wracking his body in quick succession. He turned over onto his side, choking and spitting up the water that had accumulated in his lungs. He sucked in a few deep breaths, grateful for the oxygen being welcomed back into his system. Shivers were beginning to settle in now, and as John was finally able to push himself upright, he could swear his bones were rattling with the shakes.

The EMT who'd brought him back into consciousness draped one of those garish orange blankets over his shoulders and slowly helped him to his feet. A cursory glance around told John he'd ended up on the South Bank of the river. As he was being escorted to one of the awaiting ambulances just uphill from the riverbank, he was practically ambushed by one Detective Inspector Lestrade.

"John! You alright, mate?" the silver-haired man asked, skipping right past the pleasantries out of concern for his friend.

John gave a nod that had him in a momentary dizzy spell. "I'm fine, Greg," he said, voice slightly raspy from his aquatic escapade. "Good timing, though, what with the medics and such. I didn't think Sherlock called for backup. Where is he, anyway? Is he all right?" His eyes skittered back and forth around the scene in search of his mad flatmate.

"Actually, John…." Lestrade hesitated, digging his hands deep into the pockets of his greatcoat. "Sherlock didn't call us."

Having spotted Sherlock off arguing with Donovan, who had their assailant cuffed and in custody, John relaxed and allowed himself to be lowered to a sit at the back of the ambulance. The EMT silently went about checking his vitals. "He must have. How else could you know we were here?"

Lestrade was quiet for several moments, as if contemplating whether or not he wanted to tell John the truth. Finally, he said, "Sherlock's brother rang me."

"Mycroft?" John's eyebrows rose so high, they almost met his hairline. Well, that was new. John knew Mycroft controlled every CCTV camera in London proper, and he liked to keep surveillance on both him and Sherlock, but he'd never actually intervened in their affairs before.

"Lucky he did, too. Else you might have…well, you know," Lestrade went on to say, clearing his throat. John couldn't help but agree; he might have actually drowned if not for Mycroft giving Lestrade and his team a heads-up on the situation.

John heard Sherlock calling out to him, saw the man rushing over to see him, but he was too focused on the fact that, indirectly, Mycroft just saved him from a very cold, watery fate.

He reminded himself to buy Mycroft a coffee or something later. It was the least he could do to show his gratitude, seeing as he now owed the man his life.


2.

John figured he should have been at least partially surprised to come home to half the fire department stationed outside his flat. In reality, though, any surprise of the situation quickly gave way to annoyance. From the looks of it, Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson had already been safely escorted out of the building so it could be inspected. Thank goodness for that. Still, this was not on the top of the list of things John wanted to come home to after a long and trying day at the surgery.

"It seems Sherlock is up to no good, as per usual," came a voice from beside him.

John started, almost dropping his satchel. Odd. He hadn't even noticed the black car pull up beside him, much less the man now standing level with him. Sherlock would have chided him for such poor observational skills. "Hullo, Mycroft," he greeted, trying for all the world to appear calm and collected.

The two hung back a few paces, away from the scene, watching things unfold from afar. Mrs. Hudson looked to be straddling the border between angry and hysterical. Sherlock, though his words were indistinct from a distance, was yelling at the various firefighters coming in and out of the building. The firefighters themselves seemed to be holding their ground rather well against the irate detective. One woman even managed to shut him up with a few stern words and a finger pointing angrily into his face. She deserved a medal for that one, John mused with the ghost of a grin.

"Can't leave him alone for five bloody minutes without him destroying something." The doctor laughed humorlessly and shook his head. "To think I was hoping to have a nice evening in. Takeaway and crap telly and all that."

"Fear not, John," Mycroft replied, lazily swinging his umbrella back and forth beside him. "I've already prepared temporary accommodations for the three of you until your flat becomes habitable again."

Again, John really should have been surprised by this. Instead, he just said, "Sherlock's not going to be happy about that."

The British Government incarnate let out a small chuckle, his lips forming into a tight smile that betrayed not a hint of his thoughts. "Sherlock's happiness hardly matters at this point. What matters is that you all have someplace to stay while repairs are being made."

John gave a nod and a hum in agreement, letting silence fall over them once more. A few moments later, he tilted his head to glance at the taller man beside him. "Thanks, Mycroft. I appreciate you doing this for us."

"It's no trouble at all, John," Mycroft said airily, keeping his gaze pointedly forward. He stilled the swaying of his umbrella by stabbing at the concrete with the metal tip.

Squaring his shoulders and tightening his grip on his bag like he was preparing for battle, John said, "Well, time to go yell at your brother. He's not getting off the hook that easily."

Well-meant though John's intentions were, he didn't even get the chance to carry the actions out. Before he even took a step, Sherlock was already stomping his way over to the pair, his grey-blue eyes cold as glaciers.

"What are you doing here?" the younger Holmes spat at his brother, his tone accusatory as if Mycroft had been the one who damaged the flat with his scientific carryings-on.

"I'd have thought my reason for being here would be obvious," Mycroft said with an alarming amount of poise and patience—then again, John had never seen the man lose his cool before. He doubted that something as trivial as this could really, truly rile someone like Mycroft Holmes.

"Of course; you do have a horrid habit of sticking your abnormally large nose where it doesn't belong."

"Sherlock," John warned. He wasn't going to stand for Sherlock being a complete arse when Mycroft was going out of his way to help them. Anything else he would or could have said, though, died in his throat when Mycroft placed a cautionary hand on his shoulder.

"Are you really so selfish that you'd refuse my aid just to spite me? You aren't the only one temporarily out of a home. What about Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock?" Mycroft paused; his gaze falling from his brother's pouting face to John's handsome, curious face. "What about John?"

John felt very small under such an intense stare. It didn't last, though, because Mycroft then turned his attention back to his brother, waiting for an answer. His hand still rested on John's shoulder, and Sherlock seemed to take much interest in the lingering contact, if his suddenly narrowed eyes meant anything.

Finally, the detective heaved a frustrated sigh and threw his hands up in dramatic surrender. "Fine," he acquiesced at long last. "I'll go inform Mrs. Hudson. But I am not riding in the same car as you." He fixed his brother with a nasty glare before sulking his way back to Mrs. Hudson. After his departure, John couldn't help but laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of the entire situation.

"That was easier than I expected," the doctor admitted. He knew from experience just how stubborn his flatmate could be. Then again, the brothers were cut from a very similar cloth; of course Mycroft would expertly use his persuasive skills to change Sherlock's mind.

Mycroft didn't dignify John's comment with a proper response, and instead removed his hand from John's shoulder and said, "Allow me to phone for another car, then. I'll leave the rest to you."

John nodded. "I know it's not much in terms of repayment, but…when you're free, I could treat you to coffee again…?"

"You owe me nothing, John," Mycroft said, though his expression softened just a tad and John could have sworn he saw the barest hint of an actual smile. "But coffee would be lovely." And with that, Mycroft headed back to his car to make said phone call.

John oddly found himself missing Mycroft's company. But he couldn't dwell on that right now; he had a grumpy Sherlock and irritated Mrs. Hudson to deal with at the moment. Everything else could wait.


3.

"You g-great bloody g-git," John stuttered as shivers coursed through his short, compact frame. His teeth chattered uncontrollably and his hands shook too badly to even press the buttons on his phone—not that his impaired use of his mobile mattered anyway, because whatever signal he'd had in this damn freezer was too unstable to be of any use.

Sherlock acted as if he hadn't heard John's complaint, continuing to pace the length of the freezer with his gloved hands steepled beneath his chin. He showed no outward sign of being cold—his greatcoat was buttoned all the way up, his muffler tied snugly around his neck. John wasn't so lucky with his outer garments, and he was having a hard time keeping the shivers at bay. He also knew that if he stayed still, he would endanger himself even more to the cold. So even though he was still cross with Sherlock for getting them locked in a meat freezer in the first place, he followed the man's example and started moving about the freezer himself.

Another fifteen minutes passed by in uneventful silence, save for the occasional growl from Sherlock and the incessant chattering of John's teeth. John noticed that there was a blue tint staining Sherlock's lips and imagined his own might appear the same. A Bit Not Good. More than A Bit Not Good, in fact; if they didn't get out of there soon, they ran the risk of developing hypothermia. Possibly dying from it. It wasn't a death that John was really looking forward to.

"Sherlock—"

Before John could even voice his entirely pointless observation concerning their increasingly dire predicament, his phone chimed with the alert of a text message. With haste and clumsy fingers, John fished his phone from his pocket. He couldn't even feel the press of the buttons against the pads of his frozen fingertips.

"You actually have signal in here?" Sherlock asked with a shiver, his warm breath caressing the shell of John's ear. Biting down the mild surprise at his flatmate materializing behind him and invading his personal bubble, John unlocked his phone and immediately looked to his service indicator.

"B-Barely…I have one bar now, but it hasn't been c-consistent at all…" he muttered, his breath slightly fogging the screen of his mobile before frosting over at the edges. He opened the newest message, reading it with Sherlock peering over his shoulder.

Activate the GPS on your mobile.

Tell Sherlock to do the same.

Mycroft

"What good will that do with inconsistent s-signal?" Sherlock snapped, whirling away from John to go stalk around some pork cuts. "All it would d-do is eat up our phone batteries."

"It'd be worth a try, unless you have some other g-genius plan to get us out of here," John snapped right back, acting on what Mycroft instructed them to do. Honestly, working with Sherlock was like babysitting a temperamental three-year-old sometimes. His signal was lost before the GPS function fully switched on, so he tried different areas of the freezer to garner at least one bar of service.

With a dramatic huff, Sherlock pulled out his own mobile to do the same. "He didn't even bother texting me. Why would he only text you?" he wondered aloud, tone petulant as ever.

"P-Probably because he knew you'd just ignore him…ah!" John exclaimed, clutching his phone tight and remaining as still as he could—a difficult feat considering the earthquake occurring in his muscles. "My GPS is on! Any luck with yours?"

"None," Sherlock replied curtly. "I'll keep trying."

John concentrated hard on his mobile as if by willing his life force into the device, he could somehow keep the signal from going out again. It never ceased to amaze him that Mycroft seemed to have a sixth sense as to when they were in trouble. He wondered, not for the first time, just how the man could have known what he and Sherlock (mostly Sherlock) had gotten up to this time. It was extremely uncanny that he could just know when he was needed. And he always had the proper aid waiting for them. It certainly was useful, at the very least. He was a sort of omniscient being, just trying to look out for his little brother.

John didn't get to think much more on the enigma that was Mycroft Holmes, because an unfamiliar, muffled voice derailed his train of thought.

"Mr Holmes! Dr Watson! Are you in there?"

Oh thank God!

Later, after having been sufficiently warmed up, released from professional medical care, and back in the safety of 221B under the blanket from the sofa, John decided to text Mycroft. After all, if it weren't for the elder Holmes, he and Sherlock would have been no better off than the shanks of lamb keeping them company in that blasted freezer.

Thanks Mycroft. For your help.

JW

A response came faster than John could blink.

It really is no trouble.

Just tell my brother that he should take better care of your, and his, safety.

Mycroft

It took John a few moments to type out his own reply.

Duly noted.

Are you sick of coffee yet?

JW

Not at all. Do you have a time and place in mind?

Mycroft

Thursday at 11? You pick the place.

JW

Thursday at eleven it is. I'll text you the place at a later time.

Mycroft

Great! See you then.

JW

Until then.

Take care of yourself, John.

Mycroft

John smiled before setting his mobile on the coffee table. He burrowed deeper into his blanket and fell asleep within minutes, warm and content.


4.

Tied up and locked in a car boot was not the way John Watson planned on spending his Saturday night.

Yet here he was, wrists bound with zip ties behind his back, face squashed into the rough carpet, and an equally-bound Sherlock lying on top of him. The weight of the taller man was making it hard to breathe, as was having one nostril closed off by the floor. He painfully felt every bump they went over—a migraine was beginning to take root in his temples from all the jostling about.

"Fuck!" John cursed as the car hit what he assumed to be a pothole and his head slammed hard into the floor. "Any bright ideas on getting us out of here?" he growled at Sherlock, his voice half muffled by carpet.

"Shut up, John; I'm trying to think!" Sherlock complained as he wiggled around atop his friend, causing the poor doctor almost as much bodily harm as the damned car. "The release latches only work when one has the free hands to operate them!"

"No shit, Sherlock," John grumbled. He flexed his fingers, which had started to go numb from the lack of circulation to his hands. "This is really not how I envisioned this night going."

"You were the one who went chasing down the suspect," Sherlock argued, accidentally elbowing John in the small of his back as he squirmed. "Don't blame me for this."

"But you're the reason why we get into these pickles in the first place—ow!" John very nearly screeched as the car skidded to a full stop and the two of them went flying forward. They crashed right into the hard covering of the back seats and John swore he felt a couple of his ribs crack. Perfect.

Sherlock let loose a stream of impressive profanities of his own, but his voice was drowned out by angry yells from outside. John strained to listen to what was being said, but he couldn't make out anything beyond indistinct shouts. Then there was noise of a different kind—thuds and bumps and cracks, the bangs of guns going off, the thumps of bodies hitting the ground. Suddenly John was very glad he and Sherlock were locked in the boot; he dreaded finding out what was happening just outside.

When the ruckus died down, John let out a pained grunt as he shifted a bit. His ribs were killing him. "What the bloody hell—"

And then there was a bright light illuminating their enclosed compartment. John squinted his eyes shut and welcomed darkness again for a few moments before daring to open his eyes again.

"My, my, what a mess," a familiar smug voice said with a tsk.

"Oh, for God's sake," Sherlock griped from where he was lying on his back next to John. "Wipe that smirk off your face and help us out of here, Mycroft."

When John's sight finally adjusted to the blinding whiteness of the headlights shining on them, he found himself staring into the mostly-blank-but-slightly-amused face of Mycroft Holmes.

"Good evening, John," he greeted conversationally before stepping aside to allow his men access to the boot. Sherlock was rescued first, and then John was finally pulled to freedom. He grit his teeth at the throbbing pain in his ribs as he was moved by Mycroft's men. The ties binding his wrists were snipped right away and as he was lowered to a sit on the back bumper for a rudimentary examination, he glanced around at the carnage. Bodies were everywhere—not just any bodies, but those of his and Sherlock's kidnappers. They were all still alive from what he could see from afar, just very beaten up. The doctor blinked once, twice, then turned his gaze to Mycroft who was nonchalantly wiping blood off his umbrella with a handkerchief.

Of all the things John could have said to the man, the only thing he managed to ask was, "How?"

Mycroft, handing the bloody handkerchief off to one of his lackeys, gave John a long stare. There was a strange softness in his light eyes. "I've had my eye on these men for some time. I was alerted that they were on the move again, and that they had hostages." He paused as if contemplating something. "I saw fit to deal with them personally, as it were."

"I see. Political enemies of some sort—ah!" John winced as he shifted slightly, the throbbing ache transforming into a shooting pain in the right side of his abdomen.

Mycroft was at his side in an instant, looking more concerned than John had ever seen him. "John?" he questioned softly. "What is it?"

"Ribs," John replied, trying to breathe as painlessly as possible. "Think I broke a few."

Mycroft pursed his lips a bit, giving pause before seating himself on the bumper next to John. "Shall I phone for an ambulance?" he asked, his voice still quiet and gentle, not sounding like himself in the slightest. John marveled at the thought of Mycroft actually caring about his well-being. Maybe he really was concussed, bordering on delusional. But he gave a small smile and shook his head.

"No, it's fine. Just drop us by the A&E and we should be all right from there."

"I don't—"

"Yes, Sherlock, you're going too," John said sternly, giving his best friend the steeliest glare he could muster. He didn't care how much Sherlock detested hospitals; as a doctor, he couldn't allow his friend to go unexamined in good conscience. Sherlock glared right back at him through one swollen and blackened eye, displeased instead of defiant, before glancing to his older brother. A teasing sort of smirk lit up his features then, and he leaned against the bonnet of the car parked right behind the one he and John had been trapped inside. His posture was casual, but his face told another story entirely.

"Careful, Mycroft. Your concern is showing," he said in that usual holier-than-thou tone. The one that seemed to come naturally to both brothers. A purely Holmesian trait.

For the most part, Mycroft looked as impassive as ever. But there was something off in his eyes, something John couldn't quite put his finger on, that gave away his apathetic air. He looked like he actually wanted to hit Sherlock, give him a good smacking with his umbrella. A moment later, though, Mycroft discreetly sucked in a breath and focused again on John, pretending Sherlock hadn't said anything incriminating to him at all. "Allow me to accompany you to Accident and Emergency, then," the elder Holmes offered.

John fully expected Sherlock to protest, but the git just stood there all smug-like, arms crossed, wearing that I-know-something-you-don't-know expression that had pissed off many a man over the years. "That'd be nice," the doctor agreed with a nod. He grimaced again as he made to stand, and Mycroft laid a steadying hand on his shoulder. Sherlock snickered. John ignored him.

And then, the little blond man let out a bit of a pained chuckle. "I'm going to owe you coffee for the rest of my life, aren't I?"

Though seeing the tiny smile Mycroft gave him in response, John was more than okay with the prospect. Even if his wallet disagreed.


5.

Everything was numb. So terribly numb.

John could barely feel his body. Sure, he felt the rough material of the hospital gown against his skin, the weight of the sheets covering him, the stab of IVs in his arm. Anything beyond those foreign sensations was more or less lost on him. He experienced little to no corporeal feeling save for the heaviness in his bones. How was that even possible? And what was that incessant beeping? His morphine-muddled brain took an absurdly long time to catch up with reality and put two and two together. It finally clicked a few minutes later, when he tried to shift on the bed and pain shot through his abdomen.

He was in hospital, his addled mind supplied. But he couldn't recall for the life of him the reason why. His memory was fuzzy at best, though vague images of a darkened alley and the shine of a blade conjured themselves in his mind's eye. And blood. There was blood.

Would explain the pain, then.

John let out a series of quiet grunts and hisses as he tried shifting again, wary of the stab wound in his side that blossomed with throbbing pain. Another dose of morphine would be soon coming, he hoped. Though he counted himself lucky—things could have been a lot worse and, comparatively, this didn't hurt nearly as bad as when a bullet ripped through his shoulder. Knowing that didn't make the situation any better, but it was a comforting thought nonetheless.

When he finally opened his eyes, John found himself in a darkened room with a single beam of light leaking from the hallway through the door. The curtains were half drawn, but he could see that it was nighttime out still—or again? He had no idea how long he'd been out exactly—the lights of the city glowing against a black, starless sky. It was also a relief to discover that he was the sole patient in the room; the other bed remained blissfully empty. The emptiness of the room itself was unsettling, though. He at least expected Sherlock to be lurking in the corner somewhere, possibly in a sulk. But there was no one. Just him and the machinery.

John forced himself to take a deep breath, which irritated his injury and he let out a jagged exhale through gritted teeth. He tried to swallow down the pain as best as he could. His parched throat made it hard to swallow anything. Water would be a good idea, if he could somehow get a hold of some. He didn't quite have the sense of mind yet to use his nurse call button.

"—was absolutely reckless of you."

At the intrusion of the voice, John stilled for a moment before tilting his head towards the entrance of his room. Two shadows, long and slender, partially obscured the light coming through the ajar door.

"I assure you, I had everything under control," another voice bit back. Sherlock's voice, John was sure, coming from the hallway.

"Clearly. Which is why John is currently in hospital after having been stabbed, Sherlock," said the first voice, which John identified as belonging to Mycroft. It didn't sound like Mycroft, though. Not really. This voice was filled to the brim with cold fury that made John shiver just hearing it. But John didn't see why Mycroft would be so angry. Sherlock was fine, wasn't he? Nothing to worry about there. There was no reason for the brothers to be bickering outside his hospital room in the middle of the night. And for that matter, what was Mycroft even doing here?

"You act like this is all my fault. He knows full well the dangers that come with the job. I'm not forcing him into any of this; he follows me of his own accord, Mycroft, in case you've forgotten." Sherlock paused, and John watched his shadow on the floor shift closer to Mycroft's. "Are you not the one that brought his danger addiction to his attention when you first met him?"

Bleary though his hindsight was at the moment, John remembered all too well the first time he'd met Mycroft (although kidnapping would probably be the more accurate term). He remembered the abandoned warehouse, the single chair in the empty space, the tall, posh man leaning on his umbrella as he picked John apart at the seams. His worth as a human being had been tested that night, all out of "concern" for Sherlock, the constant worry that his baby brother would get himself into mountains of trouble as he was wont to do.

But somewhere along the line, slowly but surely, that concern seemed to shift targets.

It was a minute before Mycroft answered his brother, his tone equally scathing. "This is a different matter entirely. He may know the dangers, but that does not exempt him from them. He could have died tonight, Sherlock. And look at you, not even the slightest bit perturbed by that fact."

"How dare you suggest I don't care about my best friend? I wouldn't be here if that were the case," Sherlock snapped, the annoyance in his voice tipping over into actual anger at this point. "What about you, brother dear? You always say that 'caring is not an advantage.' Yet here you are, caring far more about your little brother's friend than you really ought to." There was a pregnant pause, and John found himself holding his breath, waiting for either of them to speak again. "Fess up, Mycroft. You're not fooling anyone, least of all me."

For the first (and hopefully last) time ever, John actually heard Mycroft Holmes stutter. "I…I've no idea what you're talking about."

"Bollocks." Sherlock's deep voice dropped significantly lower in volume, just above a whisper when he spoke. But it was hard and unwavering.

John heard Mycroft clear his throat, and then heard Sherlock release a resigned sigh.

"You have feelings for him. Don't you, Mycroft?"

The machine measuring John's vitals started beeping like crazy. His pulse had sped up quite a bit, according to the jagged green line on the monitor. Increased heart rate was normal when a patient was in pain, the doctor part of John's brain told him. But he was sure that wasn't the only reason his heart was racing. The meter showing his oxygen levels flashed on the screen, warning that he needed more oxygen in his system. It was then that John realised he had to actually breathe, but breathing too deeply was painful. Why did he have to be so stupid and set off the bloody machine? Now his room would be crawling with nurses any minute now and they'd insist on hooking him up to an oxygen tank and—

"John!" Sherlock cried as he dashed into the room, reaching John's bedside in a few long strides. His grey eyes glanced at the beeping monitor, then at his friend. "What's wrong? Are you in pain? Trouble breathing?"

"I'm fine, Sherlock," John rasped, his throat completely raw from disuse. He really needed some water for that. He tried to move a bit to get more comfortable, but the pain from his injury made it difficult to do so. It didn't help that the medication was wearing off, and he needed another dose. "More painkillers would be nice," he said with a small smile hidden behind a grimace.

"I'll fetch the nurse." With that, Sherlock swept out of the room, leaving the door wide open and brushing past the tall figure of Mycroft Holmes outside in the hall. John watched his friend go, and his dark blue eyes, clouded with pain, met another, lighter pair.

Mycroft stood stock still just past the doorjamb, an expression of worry and fear etched across his usually carefully-blank features. He looked wrecked, and John didn't like that. He wanted to reach out and wipe the mournful look off Mycroft's face, but he was too far away and John couldn't get out of bed.

"Mycroft?" John called out weakly, his breath coming in shorter gasps as the pain in his side kicked up a notch, overcoming the lingering numbing effects of the morphine. Silently he pleaded with the man outside his door, begging him to come here can't we talk about this why are you looking at me like that stop it hurts just…

I want you here with me.

But Mycroft just stared at him, stood rigid in his place, frightened out of his wits. His eyes hollowed out more and more with every second that passed. John couldn't find his voice—it was trapped in his throat and he couldn't swallow. The pain was nearly blinding and where the hell were the nurses and why the hell was Mycroft looking for all the world like he'd seen a damned ghost?

Then, a shadow settled over Mycroft's face, his expression hardening into something resembling misery, and a steely kind of resolve. Finally tearing his eyes from John's, the elder Holmes turned and left, making his way down the hall and out of sight.

And John felt nothing but pain.


+1

John had neither seen nor heard from Mycroft since that night in the hospital three weeks ago. When John was released some days later, there was a package of medical supplies and some extra food waiting at 221B, as to be expected from the elder Holmes, but aside from that, there was nothing. No texts, no phone calls, no unexpected visits. Even Sherlock seemed to be put off by his brother's lack of communication, which was just plain weird in and of itself.

So one day, John decided to phone Mycroft. He hadn't forgotten the conversation he'd overheard between the brothers—he was positive he didn't imagine the whole thing, but Sherlock declined to comment on the matter—and he wanted answers. John had rather foolishly hoped Mycroft would step up and tell John himself, and so now it was up to the doctor to find the confirmation he sought.

The phone rang twice before someone answered.

"Good afternoon, Doctor Watson," a feminine voice said from the other end of the line.

Well, that was unexpected. At the very least, John thought Mycroft would have screened his call and let it go to answerphone. Anthea picking up the phone was a bit of a surprise.

"Uh, hi Anthea. Or…whatever your name is." John swallowed and cleared his throat. Christ, why was he getting all worked up? It was only Anthea, for God's sake. "Is Mycroft around? I'd like to speak with him, please."

"I'm sorry," she said, not sounding the least bit sorry, "but Mister Holmes is ill today and cannot take any calls unless it's a dire emergency."

At that, John's stomach sank. Was it that Mycroft had been sick this whole time? He hoped not, because not only did that make him worry, but it also made him feel like a complete tit for waiting this long to contact Mycroft. "Is it anything serious? Cold, flu?" he asked, both as a doctor and a concerned friend. Not friend. Friend? Oh, hell.

"Walking pneumonia," was Anthea's matter-of-fact reply. John let out a sigh of relief. At least it wasn't something too horrible, and something that could be easily combated with antibiotics.

"Would he be, ah…object to having visitors?" he inquired as he paced about his room. He felt a bit stupid asking such a thing; if Mycroft wasn't even taking calls, then why would dropping by be in any way okay? When Anthea didn't answer, John cleared his throat and tried again. "That is…um, would it be all right if I came to check up on him?"

There was an even longer pause on the other end of the line. Finally, Anthea spoke up. "I suppose Mr. Holmes would be able to see you for a little while. I will relay this to him. Would you like us to send a car for you?"

"Um. Yes. Yes, that would be great. Thank you," John replied. Lord knew Mycroft had no short supply of nondescript black cars that existed for the sole purpose of carting John across London every time they met up. And kidnapping him on occasion.

And that was how, over an hour later, John found himself in the foyer of Mycroft's home, clutching a bag of shopping from Tesco. He'd asked the driver to make a stop on the way so that he could prepare Mycroft some chicken soup. The perfect sick food. It didn't occur to him until after the fact that the British Government probably had an entire team of chefs at his disposal, certainly with much better skills than John and his own mediocre cooking skills, but it was the thought that counted, right?

And John had sure been thinking about this—whatever this was—since his release from the hospital.

"Welcome, Doctor Watson," Anthea said as she materialized at the bottom of the stairs. "Mr. Holmes is asleep currently, and it would be best to leave him undisturbed for now."

The doctor nodded. "I agree. He'll need rest, in whatever capacity."

"Is there anything I can do for you in the meantime?"

"Actually, could you show me to the kitchen? I'll whip up some soup so he'll have something to eat when he wakes up." John gestured to the bag in his hand, which Anthea only just then seemed to notice. If there was the barest hint of a smile on her face, John didn't see it.

"Of course. This way," the brunette replied, leading John through a handsomely decorated hall and dining room into the kitchen. It was exactly as John had expected—a spacious area with amazing counter space, elegant cabinets, and only the best and most expensive appliances all in stainless steel. Well, John thought, as long as he could figure out how to work all the fancy knobs on the stove, he'd be fine.

As John set his shopping on the worktop and set about searching for the various utensils he'd be needing, Anthea gestured to the phone on the far wall by the sliding glass doors to the back deck. "Should you require anything, that phone leads to my direct line. All you have to do is dial eight," she informed him. "As soon as Mr. Holmes is awake, I will inform him you're here."

"Thanks, Anthea," John said with a smile as he pulled out a reasonably-sized pot from one of the lower cupboards. Anthea nodded and vanished, probably to do important government work of some sort.

It took John a few minutes to gather his bearings in the unfamiliar (much cleaner) kitchen, but once he found a cutting board and a good knife, he set to work on chopping up the meat and some vegetables for the chicken soup. He hummed quietly as he worked, slicing the carrots, celery, and onion with a surgeon's precision before sliding the cut-up veg into the pot with the chicken. He set the pot to heat for a while and decided to make himself a cup of tea in the meantime. Now where did he see the mugs again?

It felt a little surreal, he mused as he set the kettle to boil, being in Mycroft's kitchen and cooking soup for the sick man. They hadn't spoken in weeks, and now that he thought more about it, he felt like an intruder. Maybe Mycroft hadn't wanted to talk to him, or see him for that matter, and John was just pushing his luck. Taking advantage of a situation when Mycroft was vulnerable in more ways than one.

Hell, who was to say the elder Holmes wouldn't have him thrown out the minute he awoke?

But that night in the hospital, something changed. And John just couldn't let it go.

On second thought, maybe he'd be lucky enough to finish the soup and leave before Mycroft could even stir.

The kettle clicked off and John poured the scalding water into his mug, watching the murky brown spirals twist and flow into the water as his tea steeped.

"Good afternoon, Doctor Watson," said a raspy voice from the doorway.

If John had been holding his mug right then, he would have had a steaming, burning mess on his jeans. He spun around, almost knocking his tea off the countertop. So, they were back to formalities now.

"Mycroft, you shouldn't be up," John said lamely, giving the man a good once-over. He looked horrible—dark shadows under his eyes, skin pale and drawn, hair a bedraggled mess. And really, it shouldn't have surprised him as much as it did to see Mycroft in his pyjamas and dressing gown, but it was a sight that would take a bit of getting used to. He looked nothing at all like the icy, controlled, most powerful man in Britain. And the way he was leaning on the door frame for support made John want to instinctively rush to his side and guide him to at least sit, but he didn't want to push his boundaries.

"There are many things I shouldn't do that I do anyway," Mycroft replied cryptically before letting out a hacking cough that shook his entire body.

Boundaries be damned, John abandoned his tea and stepped over to the sick man. He was pleased that Mycroft made no protest when he gripped his arm and shoulder to lead him to a chair at the kitchen table. "Sit," he said firmly. "I'll make you some tea."

Mycroft's only reply was another bout of coughing as John went about preparing said tea. He rummaged around the cabinets in search of some honey to add to the lemon ginger tea to help with the cough. Finally finding some, he spooned the sticky stuff into the mug and stirred it maybe a bit more than necessary. Finished, he brought the tea over to Mycroft and set it on the table.

"Here, drink this," he instructed. "I'm making some soup, too. Should be ready soon. Is there anything else I can get you?"

Mycroft cradled the mug in his hands and blew on the steaming liquid. "No. Thank you, Doctor Watson."

The second use of his title and surname was like a punch to the gut. Resisting the urge to sigh, John headed back to the stove to check on the soup. It was almost to a boil now—not too much longer.

A heavy silence fell upon them; John could feel its weight hanging on his shoulders. He cradled his own cup of tea before taking a huge gulp that almost made him sputter. His back was turned to Mycroft, and he wasn't sure he could muster the courage to turn around and face him. He was at a total loss of what to say or do, how to broach the incredibly delicate topic of it. The desire—the need—to know his standing with Mycroft and tell Mycroft how he felt in return was overwhelming, but paralyzing at the same time.

John was bad with feelings. Mycroft, who was ten times more closed off than John, even more so.

"John."

The beginnings of the soup started to boil. John set the pot to a simmer, giving a noncommittal hum in response. Back to first-name basis now, it looked like.

Coughing a little, Mycroft asked, "What are you doing here?"

John gave a sardonic smile, thankfully still turned away from Mycroft. "I should think that was obvious," he said, gesturing to the pot on the stove.

Mycroft sighed with a slight wheeze and hitch of breath. "What are you doing here?" he repeated calmly—well, as calmly as a sick person could, anyway.

There were a million things John could have said to that—a million reasons, a million excuses as to why he had invaded Mycroft's home when the man had fallen ill. Even his usual line, "Trust me, I'm a doctor," could have applied here. But for a few moments, John said nothing, any words he could have said lodging themselves in his throat.

"I didn't imagine it, did I?" he began, swishing his tea around in his mug. "In the hospital. You and Sherlock, talking outside my room."

It was Mycroft's turn to fall silent, and John downed the rest of his tea in one go.

"No. No, you didn't," Mycroft admitted at length, clearing his throat before another coughing fit could start up.

John pursed his lips. "What does that make us, then?" he said to the cabinet.

"…What do you want it to make us?" Mycroft said with a hesitance that was not in his nature.

Taking a deep breath, John finally found it in himself to turn around and face the man sitting at the kitchen table. "I want…" He cleared his throat, swallowed, and tried again. "I want this…us," he gestured between the two of them, "to be something. If you want us to be something."

All right, it wasn't the most eloquent thing John had ever said. But the startling, unexpected clarity in Mycroft's eyes made it seem as though he at least got the point across.

A small smile slowly made itself known on Mycroft's sickly features and he gave a tiny nod, his body sagging with relief. "Very well. I suppose this officially makes us…something, as you put it." Mycroft finished off the last of his tea, and it wasn't but a few seconds that John was already at his side and sliding the mug from his hands.

"Let me make you another cup," John said with a small smile of his own. He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to Mycroft's forehead, lingering for a few moments before heading over to the kettle. He checked the soup while the tea steeped, pleased to note that it was almost ready. Replenished tea in hand, John went about his mother-henning as only a doctor could, asking Mycroft about his antibiotics and making him promise to get some rest after eating, which Mycroft readily agreed to.

And everything was as it should be.


The scene in the hospital with the machine going all crazy is actually based on when my mom was in the hospital a few months ago, and I had to keep reminding her to breathe deeply because she kept setting off the oxygen meter. XD And Mycroft's case of walking pneumonia is based on my own experiences with it last year. Miserable stuff, I tell you. Miserable.

Until next time,
Chibi