It was pouring with rain outside, and the weather was only set to get worse over the course of the day. John was already in a foul mood, which was only made worse when his phone rang, and he saw that the called was Sherlock. He picked up the phone but didn't say any form of greeting, not that Sherlock would notice anyway; he was never one for formalities.
"John, when do you want to move back into Baker Street?"
John sighed into his phone. He was fed up with Sherlock's pestering. Sherlock had been gone for two years, and now he expected John to just pick up where they'd left off. Well, he was wrong; John had changed in those two years, and he'd lost something of the connection he'd had with Sherlock. Sure, he was glad he'd got his best friend back, but he couldn't see how things would ever be the same between them again.
"I'm on my way to work. Can't we sort this out later?"
John could practically hear Sherlock thinking through the phone. "You're taking a cab to work, why? Normally, you take the tube."
"Do you ever watch the news? There's a strike on. I can't take the tube today."
"John, you know I don't bore myself with trivialities. There's a case you might be interested in; I'm heading over to Scotland Yard, why don't you meet me there?"
Exasperated, John sighed again. "Sherlock, which part of 'I'm on my way to work' didn't you understand?"
There was silence for a moment. "You used to drop work for me." The slight hurt in Sherlock's voice nearly made John cave, but then he reminded himself that Sherlock had abandoned him first, not the other way around.
"I need a reliable income now – I can't afford to go gallivanting off around London with you all the time, just so you don't have to look strange by discussing your ideas with a skull rather than a living, breathing, human being."
Sherlock was quiet for several seconds, as if considering something. Then, appearing to give up on the case idea, he returned to the original issue. "Why don't you come over after work so we can decide when you can move back in?"
John noticed that Sherlock said when and not if. He was trying to come up with a plausible and Sherlock-proof excuse for why he wouldn't be able to come over that evening, when fate decided to create an excuse for him. There was an almighty crash and John was thrown forward in his chair, making him to drop his mobile, but not disconnect the call; another impact to the side of the vehicle caused it to spin out of control and roll twice before colliding with a lamppost, which effectively stopped the motion. John was only vaguely aware that he'd vomited before he passed out.
"John? John! What happened? Answer me!" Sherlock's controlling and aloof tone had instantly changed to one of horror and panic when he heard the unmistakable sounds of a collision, or several, he deduced. "John, please, say something." He begged. There was no response.
It took Sherlock more than half an hour to find out from Mycroft where John had been taken (St George's Hospital), and then get himself there; in which time he'd managed to irritate the cabbie so much with his irate tapping and instructions to hurry up that he'd been informed he'd never be picked up by that particular driver ever again. Sherlock thought that would be all for the better.
He was met at the entrance by a pristine-looking Mycroft, who grabbed him by the arm to stop Sherlock from running right past him, and causing chaos, loose in the wards. Mycroft pushed him into an empty visitor's room and let go, standing between Sherlock and the door.
"Get out of my way, Mycroft. I need to see John."
"That won't be possible, I'm afraid."
"What? What do you know?" Sherlock staggered back after a sudden thought. "He's not…He's not dead is he?" The word 'dead' came out more like a breath of air than a real word, but Mycroft got the idea of what his brother was asking.
"Sherlock, stop letting your emotions get to you and just think. If John had been killed in the accident, he would have been taken straight to St Bartholomew's Hospital, where they deal with corpses, not here, where they deal with live people." There was a pause where Mycroft twirled his umbrella infuriatingly, studying the contours of the fabric closely, as if the secrets of the universe were held between the soft folds of the material. "John is currently in surgery. I could not find out a lot of details, but I found out as much as I could at this time. The accident involved three vehicles, including the one John was in, which was impacted twice, causing it to roll several times before colliding with something. Two people were killed, including the taxi driver, and three more have been taken to hospital."
Mycroft stepped a little closer, and looked at Sherlock carefully before continuing. "John, as I said, is in surgery. I do not know the full nature of his injuries or current condition, but I believe he sustained some sort of head injury, along with several possible fractures."
Sherlock's vision blurred slightly. Head injury, fractures. It was all wrong. John was meant to be the strong one, invincible and steadfast. What if he had permanent brain damage, or a severe disability, or died? No, that didn't bear thinking about.
Sherlock blinked back into the real world to find that his brother had eased him into a chair, and was now kneeling in front of him. Mycroft had let his mask slip a little, showing Sherlock concern; not just for him, but also for John. It seemed that John had become rather dear to both the Holmes brothers over the past few years.
When he spoke, Mycroft's voice had lost all of its superiority and command; he spoke softly and gently, with a reassuring hand resting on Sherlock's knee. "John will pull through, Sherlock. He's survived so much; he'll make it. I'll make sure they let you see him once he's out of surgery, even though you're technically not next of kin."
Sherlock nodded his thanks and understanding, not trusting himself to speak at that moment.
After a few seconds of silence to allow Sherlock to collect himself, Mycroft spoke again, but kept his voice low and gentle. "I do care about you, Sherlock. Both of you. John has made both of our lives so much better. I hate to see that he hasn't been so welcoming since your return; maybe this could be an opportunity for you to show him that he can trust you, and that you do care about him, because right now, I'm not sure he believes that."
"You're advocating sentiment? Shouldn't you just tell me to move on and forget him, because he's only serving as a distraction now?"
"I should, but I won't."
"Because I know that his absence distracts you more than his presence ever could. You need him, Sherlock, and I need him too."
The two brothers stayed that way; heads bowed towards each other, postures slumped, breathing heavy, for almost an hour. They were both lost in thought. It was only the possibility that John might be out of surgery that broke them out of their reverie.
John was indeed out of surgery, and in the Intensive Care Unit – a place nobody ever wants to be, because the patients are at a crossroads between life and death, with no way of knowing which road leads where.
After a stern word from Mycroft, the two men were permitted by a doctor to see John, who had been put in a separate room at the end of the ward (also Mycroft's doing). Sherlock took a seat one side of John, and Mycroft the other. John looked incredibly pale, and still had a ventilation tube inserted, breathing for him to keep him alive. Various other tubes and lines ran in and out of him, and several machines were beeping in the background. Sherlock laid his hand on top of John's, and traced small circles into John's skin with his thumb. He didn't know if John was aware of the touch, but it comforted him to think that he might be doing at least something to help, which eased the crushing feeling of uselessness which was manifesting itself inside him.
Twenty-or-so minutes passed before Mycroft announced that duty called, and he therefore had to leave. Sherlock knew – and Mycroft suspected that Sherlock knew – that Mycroft could really have stayed for a while longer, but he wanted to give Sherlock some time alone with John. Stiffly, he rose from his chair and came around to Sherlock's side of the bed, where he laid a steadying hand on his brother's shoulder. Then, in silence, he turned and walked out of the room.
Mycroft didn't look round, but if he had, he would have seen a single tear trail its way down Sherlock's pale cheek.
A/N: This fic is a work in progress. The next chapter should be up in a couple of days. Reviews are always welcome. :)