John Watson won his battle with consciousness after what felt like ages and opened his eyes to a slight dizzy feeling. He found himself grateful for the darkened room. As his eyes struggled to focus, he was surprised to find Holmes watching him intently. Mycroft Holmes.

"Mycroft?" he croaked before accepting water from the man in question. His brow furrowed with worry and he pulled himself up as much as the pain would allow. With a groan, he relaxed back into the bed. "Where's Sherlock? Is Sherlock okay?"

"Only if you considered Sherlock to be okay in the first place," Mycroft replied dryly. "He's fine. I sent him home to rest and regroup."

"What happened?" John asked. "Where's Moriarty? Please tell me someone shot him."

"Unfortunately, no," Mycroft replied. "He has vanished, though Sherlock is still concerned with the possibility that he will return to finish the job that is you. Hence, my vigil."

John stared at Mycroft for several moments. "Vigil?"

"Oh, yes. Sherlock is refusing to leave your bedside-unless I am present-so that no one has access to you without being carefully scrutinized. I'm afraid you'll be a pariah to the staff here in short order. He's very worried about you." The last statement was infused with a bit of amused wonder.

John closed his eyes and fought off the light-headed feeling, forcing himself to concentrate. "You think I'm in danger?"

"Sherlock does."

"Do you?"

Mycroft was silent for a full minute before answering. "Not immediate danger, no. I believe Moriarty has left the country."

John nodded his acceptance. "He doesn't seem the type to end things quickly. It seems more likely that he'd let us run until the lead snaps taught and our collars choke us."

"Agreed." Mycroft sighed deeply and sat back in his chair, crossing one leg over the other in a relaxed pose. "Sherlock knows this, as well. Regardless, it will be several days before he accepts whatever evidence I can amass, sees things clearly and behaves reasonably. Until then," Mycroft said with a slightly mocking urgency, "we are to be on constant guard."

John didn't know how to respond, so he didn't. They sat in silence for a while before Mycroft spoke again, softly, as he idly inspected his shoes. "He loves you, you know."

A moment passed before John replied. "Yeah." A beat later, "Why?"

"Your simplicity, I imagine." Mycroft offered a small smile at the dirty look Watson offered. "I'm not insulting you, John. Quite the opposite, in fact. You possess a rather simple and direct nature. In this way, you offer Sherlock something that most people do not." John was looking rather bemused, so he elaborated. "Acceptance."

Mycroft looked into the space before him, focusing on some unseen truth as he spoke. "Put simply, Sherlock sees too much. He can meet a person and within minutes know more about them, in many ways, than their families, spouses, or friends ever could." He paused, lost in his own thoughts for a moment. "There's an intimacy in that, John. In knowing someone so well." Mycroft looked John in the eye. "And yet finding yourself an enigma to others. Imagine starting a relationship that way, any relationship; knowing someone so well, but finding them struggling to understand anything about you."

"It sounds incredibly difficult," Watson finally said.

"Most people can't accept it. Him. He makes them uncomfortable. To them, it's an invasion of privacy. To Sherlock, it's simple observation. I image they feel a sense of powerlessness, an imbalance. It angers them, and they direct that anger towards Sherlock."

"To be fair," John said, "he does seem to delight in exposing others to themselves in the most abrasive manner possible. It's no surprise his arrogance angers most people. Especially when they first meet him."

"It didn't anger you."

John pondered the truth of Mycroft's statement. He had felt some irritation and disbelief at Sherlock's dismissive arrogance during their first meeting, and several times since. However, he had left that encounter filled with curiosity and admiration more than anything else. Aside from a just a dash of irritation, he had been rather charmed. Intrigued. In truth, during his time with Sherlock, any anger he had felt towards the man regarding his keen skills of deduction related more to his easy detachment of the human element in his puzzles, not his arrogance or the truths he exposed. "No," he admitted. "It didn't anger me."

"No," Mycroft reinforced the statement. "You accepted the pseudo-intimacy, the...invasion, with barely more than a twitch."

"Well," John said. "I suppose I never considered it invasive. We all look at people and make assumptions about them. He's just much better at it than most. Also, he's not always right."

"And there's your simplicity," Mycroft stated. "You simply know who you are, and who people are. You simply aren't threatened by Sherlock. I think he respects you for that. You don't blame him for his gift."

"Just for his being an ass."

"Exactly," Mycroft laughed. "Anyway, he wasn't always like that. An ass."

This peaked Watson's curiosity and he turned curious eyes to Mycroft.

"There was a time, in his youth-his very early youth-that he tried to have friends, to connect with people." Mycroft shook his head. "But kids can be cruel and they disliked him for always having the answers. It isolated him. I suppose it's been like that for so long that he expects the world to hate him."

"Surely not," John protested. "He has followers on that website of his."

"Admirers, John. Admiring someone doesn't necessarily imply liking them. Anyway, what Sherlock lacks in companionship, he seeks in adulation. But still he remains isolated. He has become trapped by his brilliance." Mycroft paused and glanced at Watsons leg that had been wounded during war. "Pain and loneliness and exposure to the darkest natures of people. These are things to which neither one of you are a stranger. I suppose he has found a soul mate in you in that respect."

The two men sat in silence for several moments before Mycroft's eyes darted to the open door and he stood. "Well, I'll leave you to your rest." He bowed slightly before straightening and walking toward the exit. He made a right in the hallway and paused just beyond the open doorway-just out of Watson's line of vision-to meet his brother's eyes.

Sherlock stood straight, back against the wall, arms at his sides, facing forward. His eyes were his only movement as they locked onto Mycroft's. The brothers stood suspended as an understanding passed between; Mycroft's understanding that Sherlock heard his conversation with Watson, and Sherlock's understanding that Mycroft's words were intended for him as much as they were for his friend.

Sherlock remained standing against the wall for some time, waiting until he heard John's breathing deepen before he looked into the room. Watson appeared to be sleeping. Sherlock stepped softly in and made his way over to John's bed. He stood for some time simply looking down at his friend, thinking about his brother's words and his own feelings for his flatmate. Eventually, he placed a hand lightly on John's arm before leaning down and touching his lips very softly to his friend's forehead. Straightening, he moved to the chair, and prepared to sit vigil.

"So," John said, not bothering to open his eyes. "The great Sherlock Holmes is human after all."

Sherlock smiled, glad that John hadn't bothered to continue the charade of sleep. "Imagine that," he answered with amusement. Then he sat back and watched John fall into a genuine slumber.

Much later, watching the rhythmic breathing of John's slumber, Sherlock muttered into the darkness. "John Watson. My friend."