The most dangerous word in any human tongue is the word for brother.
It was a cold night, and Sherlock had lost his favourite scarf.
Well, lost was perhaps the wrong word. He'd had it torn away from him by a rush of air, sometime between his leap from the second storey of the warehouse and his rather less than perfect landing on the asphalt below. And he'd been entirely too disoriented in the moments that followed to see where it had gotten off to.
His leg was broken—the left—and there was a rather disconcerting amount of blood running down the side of his face. Nothing immediately life-threatening, nor particularly interesting, so Sherlock pushed the diagnoses and the pain away for a moment to contemplate the scarf.
Five and a half metres, perhaps, between the second storey window and the ground. Winds south-southwest, at around twenty-three kilometres per hour. Cashmere scarf, fine knit. Probable location . . .
His thoughts stalled for a moment. Probable location . . .
"Damn," he said aloud. The information refused to form a coherent solution in his head. This, combined with the fact that the pain in his leg was growing worse, led him to an altogether different conclusion: it was time to ring John.
With fingers that were alarmingly clumsy—when had his limbs begun to tremble?—Sherlock reached into his coat pocket. It took a few tries to close his hand around his mobile, and then an exhausting and altogether unbearable effort to pull it out. He was frustrated with the way his body was responding to his commands. So imprecise, awkward, slow. It was agonising.
After a brief struggle, he managed to press the proper series of buttons, and the phone began to ring. Once, twice, five times. And then John's voicemail: "Hello, you've reached John Watson. Leave me a message and I'll call you back, soon as I can. Sherlock, get your own damn milk."
The corner of Sherlock's mouth turned up in a smirk. Very nice, John.
He sat there for a moment after the tone, his mobile pressed to his ear, before ending the call and letting his hand fall into his lap. He was starting to feel really ill, pain racing up and down his leg and stabbing at the side of his head, his stomach turning unpleasantly. And the shaking was becoming worrisome.
He had to try someone else.
His first thought was Lestrade—he had called the DI in situations like this, before John, and the man had always turned up. Furious, usually, and with a prepared lecture ("You can't chase after criminals, Sherlock. You're a civilian, you idiot!"), but there was always something in his tone that suggested worry, and an exasperated sort of fondness. Unfortunately, Lestrade was in Somerset, visiting his sister, until Friday.
That really left just one person, much as the idea pained him.
Sherlock briefly entertained the thought of calling up Molly Hooper, or Mrs Hudson. There had to be someone else. Anyone else. He even, for a fleeting moment, thought of Anderson. And, of course, there was always the option of dying out here instead . . .
But in the end, it had to be Mycroft.
Especially since Sherlock had gone and lost his scarf.
Miserably, he forced his fingers, even clumsier now than before, to dial his brother's private mobile. As he expected, it took only two rings before Mycroft answered. After all, the last time he had called his brother, four years previously, he had just overdosed on a particularly potent mixture of cocaine and heroin. Such things tended to create a sense of urgency, he found.
"Sherlock?" Mycroft said sharply, his voice lacking its usual smooth condescension.
Sherlock had had the words prepared, a brisk and clinical evaluation of his situation, with a few carefully placed insults: he had been doing some legwork, because he was fit enough to gather his own intelligence, and had met with a minor setback. Could Mycroft send a driver, please, if he was not too busy feeding the Colombian government false information?
But the words would not come.
"Sherlock," Mycroft repeated insistently.
Sherlock forced words from his numb lips. "Need . . . you," he mumbled. "East End."
There was a short pause, then: "How badly are you hurt?" Mycroft's voice was carefully even.
Again, much to Sherlock's frustration, his eloquence failed him. He was beginning to realise his injuries might be more serious than he first thought. "Head," he said shortly. "Leg."
"All right. I've got someone pulling up your location." There seemed to be quite a commotion in the background; typing on a keyboard, and the fluttering of papers, and quick footsteps. A car starting.
It wouldn't be long now; someone would come for him. The relief seemed to sap his remaining energy. It was becoming unbearable, the slowness, the pain, the cold . . . the cold . . .
"Mycroft?" he whispered.
"I'm here, Sherlock." His brother's voice, far away.
He had to tell him. "Lost it. My scarf."
"It's all right," Mycroft said, in a gentle tone that confused Sherlock.
"No. Your . . . scarf. The one you gave . . ." This was important. Sherlock had to make his brother understand.
"I knew what you meant. It's all right." Despite the words, Mycroft sounded tense.
It was getting difficult to hold his mobile to his ear; Sherlock was going to have to end the call, even though he was strangely reluctant to do so. "Mycroft. Going . . . to hang . . . up."
"All right. Five minutes, Sherlock. Stay awake."
And then the call ended. Sherlock let the mobile clatter to the ground, let his hand fall to his side. His eyes closed, and he let out a long breath.
Mycroft had said that it was all right about the scarf, but it wasn't. It was Sherlock's favourite. Navy. Cashmere. He had stolen it from his brother's wardrobe, before Mycroft went to university, as one of many protests—not talking for days, a string of bad marks in school, and a particularly memorable "experiment" on the evening meal—to prevent his brother going, but it had done no good, of course.
Not four months after Mycroft had left, Sherlock ended up in hospital with a broken wrist and a number of bruises, courtesy of classmate Alan Henshaw and his gang. Henshaw had mysteriously come into possession of a very nice navy scarf, while Sherlock had lost his.
Then, over the Christmas holiday, just as mysteriously, Alan Henshaw transferred schools. The scarf somehow made its way into a neatly folded bundle on Sherlock's bed, the day that Mycroft went back to uni, with a note pinned to it: Do tell me if you ever lose this again. –M
And now, Sherlock had lost it again.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! he chided himself. He tried to shift position, to settle himself more comfortably against the wall of the warehouse, but moving was a mistake. Miserably, Sherlock hunched over and threw up what little was in his stomach onto the pavement. Tea, he realised detachedly, that John had forced into him this morning, knowing he would absolutely refuse food on a case.
Good, reliable, predictable John. Suddenly, all Sherlock wanted was to be home at Baker Street, with prescription painkillers, his violin, and a grumpy army doctor fussing over him. If only Mycroft's assistant would get here . . .
And suddenly, as if he had summoned them, he heard running footsteps, and there was a hand touching his face very gently. Sherlock's eyes snapped open, and for a moment, he couldn't process what he saw.
Mycroft, Mycroft, kneeling in front of him, touching his cheek. He blinked, confused. When was the last time that Mycroft had come for him? He could recall only assistants and drivers, doctors, clients, that his brother had sent to him.
And never mind that; when was the last time that Mycroft had run?
Sherlock only just then realised that his brother was speaking to him, in a very clipped, serious way.
"Sherlock? I'm here, it's all right. Just look at me. That's it. Ambulance is two minutes away."
He tried to say something, he really did, but he couldn't coordinate the effort. Instead, he sat silently, holding Mycroft's gaze, until flashing red lights forced him to close his eyes, and a very comfortable darkness swallowed him up.
He woke to the steady beeping of a heart monitor, and to John's soft snores.
Before opening his eyes, he very carefully organised his thoughts. The Chris Collins case. Smugglers. Five murders, all professional hits. The warehouse in the East End. Ah, yes. Cornered, illegal firearms, a poorly calculated jump out of a second storey window. Pain, calling for help. Vague memories of his brother. And now the hospital, and John.
He sighed quietly as everything fell into place, and opened his eyes to look at a very white ceiling. God, he hoped he was not badly injured. Hospitals were so desperately, dreadfully dull. He tried to sit up, which only resulted in intense pain in his leg. An involuntary, strangled sound escaped his lips.
That, of course, woke John.
"Sherlock!" John said, looking both thrilled and worried. He put a hand on Sherlock's shoulder and pushed him back down. "Easy, easy. Don't move. You've been hurt."
"You don't say," Sherlock rasped, his throat dry.
John smiled a real, genuine smile, while fetching him some water. "God, I don't even mind your sarcasm, I'm so relieved. You certainly know how to put everyone in a panic. Lestrade even drove back up from Somerset."
Sherlock scoffed. "Just a broken leg and a concussion. Boring."
John became suddenly serious, and Sherlock really looked at him for the first time. Hair mussed, stubble on his cheeks, favouring his bad shoulder. All of which pointed to several days' worth of sitting in a hospital chair.
"No," John told him. "Not boring. When you landed, you broke almost every bone in your foot. Not to mention your leg. Compound fracture. You lost a lot of blood."
Sherlock stared at him. Surely he would have noticed blood . . . but then, his memories of the entire incident, from the time that he had hurled himself out the window, were very confused. Perhaps he had been briefly unconscious, and then in shock.
"I rang you," he recalled, trying to understand.
It was immediately apparent that that was the wrong thing to say. John paled. "I'm so sorry, Sherlock. I had silenced my phone. When Mycroft texted me that you were in hospital, and I saw the missed call . . . And then that message, God, that was . . ."
Sherlock could only remember sitting in silence after getting John's voicemail. He looked at his friend blankly.
John swallowed. "Thirty seconds. I could hear you breathing, crying. It sounded really bad. I'm so sorry."
Sherlock frowned. "It wasn't your fault," he said dismissively. "And I don't remember that, not really."
John gave him a weak smile. "I don't expect you would. You almost lost the leg. Three separate surgeries, you know. But they tell me you'll make a full recovery, and I agree with them, after seeing the x-rays."
It was a very difficult thing to process. His memory—his mind—had never failed him like this before. Sherlock tried to look down at his left leg, which was propped up on several pillows. It was swathed in plaster and bandages from his toes up past his knee. He could feel stitches pulling at his skin, and a dull, painful throbbing, but otherwise felt all right. But then, he was receiving intravenous painkillers.
"Mycroft?" he asked. "He really came for me?"
John nodded. "I've never seen him like that," he said. "He was livid. I never really believed it before, but you were right. The most dangerous man I've ever . . . will ever meet. Those men, the ones that trapped you in the building . . . I'm not sure I want to know what he did with them."
Sherlock tried to remember what he might have said, or done, while talking with Mycroft, that would cause his brother to react so strongly. Had he cried, or ranted incoherently, or . . .
And then he remembered his scarf.
"Oh," Sherlock whispered. "Oh."
Eight weeks later, when Sherlock was able to hobble around a bit on crutches, he and John returned to Baker Street. Though the guest house that Mycroft had provided for their use had been exceedingly luxurious (and a single storey, which was its primary appeal), it was beyond wonderful to return home.
Sherlock insisted upon struggling up the stairs to their flat on his own, though he permitted John to walk behind him in case he should fall. He had been doing enough of that, these days, in PT.
When they finally entered the flat, Sherlock collapsed down on the sofa, exhausted. John hurried to prop his leg up on the armrest with his Union Jack pillow. "Anything I can get you?" he asked.
John had been absolutely marvelous since this whole nightmare began. When Sherlock had thought he would die from the boredom, or had been in terrible pain, or was so frustrated with his slow progress that he had refused to speak or eat for days, John had known, and understood, and done whatever was required. Even when that meant yelling and cajoling and taking every insult that Sherlock's considerable intellect could devise.
"Did Lestrade bring by any more case files?" Sherlock asked. That man, too, was a godsend.
"I left them on your bedside table," John told him, moving toward the kitchen. "Later," he said.
Sherlock, being Sherlock, was not about to abide by that. Carefully, he manoeuvred himself off of the sofa and grabbed his crutches. As quickly as he was able, he limped into his bedroom, looking for the stack of manila folders. Instead, a neatly folded bundle on the end of his bed drew his attention.
Letting out a breath, not daring to believe it, Sherlock sat down on the mattress. He only had to touch it for a moment to be sure.
His scarf, freshly laundered, exactly as he remembered it.
Pinned to the cashmere was a note: Found again. Do try to hold onto it this time. –M
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed my first venture into the fandom. Do let me know how I did; I adore reviews!