Mycroft's mobile rings.
It is midnight. He knows the call is urgent. Only his superiors, the very few of them that existed, and Sherlock know his number and neither of them would phone for anything less than a matter of utmost importance. Sherlock in particular, given last time he had called was when he has just overdosed on heroin. Though his superiors will be, most probably, angry if phoning at midnight (or perhaps alerting him about a crisis in national security), they would still be preferable to Sherlock's voice on the other end on the phone. Sherlock has John now, though; it is not the same Sherlock from when he overdosed, alone, friendless on the cool, December evening five years ago. Why would Sherlock choose to phone Mycroft?
Mycroft picks up, saying "hello" in a voice with a sharpness he didn't fully intend. He is greeted with silence. "Hello?"
The silence makes way for soft grunts.
Mycroft closes his eyes. He recognises the sound. They are the grunts he has heard too many times: Sherlock, trying to hide physical pain. A moment later, though, they increase in volume until they are almost cries. The loud, exposing kind that Sherlock detests. Mycroft nods. He's not sure why. Self-talk? Stoic acceptance that the situation is so bad that not even Sherlock can't mask it? Determination that he is going to help his brother, yet again?
"Can you hear me?"
There is a groan of affirmation.
"How badly are you hurt?"
Mycroft knows why Sherlock didn't phone for an ambulance directly. Sherlock must have, by trying to stop crime, ironically, been involved in another. Recovery by public ambulance would lead to arrest. Mycroft agrees with Sherlock's decision: he cannot be bothered to talk his brother out of prison, while Sherlock himself somehow talks himself further in. Again.
Sherlock does not bother to answer that question. "Powell... Street."
His brother's voice, soft and weak and papery. It doesn't sound like Sherlock.
Mycroft presses enter on his laptop, and knows that in under 3 minutes, a car - fully-equipped for any emergency - will be leaving.
"My people are on their way, Sherlock."
"Hurry," is the reply.
It is then that Mycroft requests his own car too. It is then that his heart beat becomes so loud that it seems to drown out the sound of his feet rushing down the stairs. It is then that Mycroft runs for the first time in years.
As he waits outside his house for the car, he closes his eyes. Hurry. A request for desperate help from Sherlock Holmes? He should have guessed.
The only explanation for Sherlock phoning Mycroft for help instead of John (a trained doctor; the only person that Sherlock considers a friend; more than a brother to Sherlock than Mycroft had ever been). The only explanation for a call when Sherlock could still speak (in the past, he had waited until he could barely utter a word before deciding that it's perhaps time for a phone call). The only explanation as to why Sherlock had asked Mycroft to "hurry".
The car pulls up, forty six seconds after he had requested it. There will be words. Later. He gets in. The driver already knows exactly where he needs go, and he knows that he needs to get there quickly.
"This is for John," says Mycroft.
Sherlock doesn't honour him with a reply. Of course it is for John - had Mycroft not worked that out already?
"I'm here, Sherlock."
London street lights flashing by his window; Mycroft barely looks at them.
"Quicker," says a strangled voice down the phone.
There is a strange sound then; it almost sounds like a sob. At that, another noise tells Mycroft that Sherlock has dropped the phone; not hung up, dropped it. He can tell by the pitch.
Mycroft, in a very controlled voice, tells his driver to accelerate.
"The speed limit, sir?"
"That hardly matters." The driver opens his mouth to speak, but Mycroft already knows his objection and interrupts. "The police will not not hassle you."
The driver hesitates for only small moment before accelerating. Mycroft had that way of coming across as someone who had power of a government. He does, after all.
When he arrives, there are already been people around the bodies: two dark figures, motionless, one spread-eagled and one stretched like an arrow, its arm being the tip, as if its only purpose was to touch the other. And it had only just failed.
Mycroft grabs the nearest man, so roughly he surprises himself. "How is he?"
"He'll be fine." Mycroft's employee. He knows which 'he' Mycroft is asking for. "John though..."
Myroft lowers himself next to Sherlock, vaguely aware of everyone moving. There's a sickening feeling of water, leading the rebellion, crumbling Mycroft's towering defences, until a small leak, out of the corner of one eye, falls onto Sherlock's outstretched hand, which jumps in response. Sherlock, in the last throws of consciousness, follows the tears progress dribbling down his finger - and then past it, to John's own finger lying motionless. Mycroft's younger brother frowns. Some small curiosity, even now, that makes Sherlock's forehead crinkle and, as he begins to pass, out, he stares at John Watson's thumb.
Mycroft had watched all that in sharp clarity, as if time had slowed down just for him, and once Sherlock had closed his eyes everything, perhaps in compensation, becomes fuzzy. Gently, Mycroft places a hand on his brother's cheek and feels the tell-tale dampness. He spreads his hand out in front of him, staring at the glistening droplet delicately balanced on the end of one fingernail. The night where both brothers cried.
Hands took Sherlock away from Mycroft. A stretcher. A mask. Sherlock first; John left on the ground. Sherlock's finger still curled round John's, but then quickly the link breaks and Sherlock's arm swings from the stretcher instead as he is rushed away. John's lies on the tarmac, motionless. Caring is not an advantage.
Mycroft, alone in the centre of the crime scene, considers the evidence because that's what Mycroft does, in situation's he's familiar with and especially in the situation he in now.
Smudges of blood extending from where his brother's feet had been to the spot his brother must have fallen. Eight metres to document Sherlock's crawl to John. For about half the trail, only Sherlock's left hand print is visible. The grunts had been that of physical exertion then as well as of pain, holding a phone with one hand and pulling a weakening body along the ground with the other. Two or so metres from John's body, the right hand print appears and the phone lies near it. That was where Sherlock discarded his phone because he had needed to reach John. Or maybe that was when John had died. That would explain the sob, yes, but not the last two metre stretch of blood. That suggested hope. Surely Sherlock, of all, had not succumb to irrational hope?
"Will he be okay?" he asks, to a near figure.
Mycroft had felt his lips form the words, but the voice was not his own; it was quiet and lost, soft and papery; it was the voice of a hopeless child. It was the voice of Sherlock on the phone. They stop; after all, they were in no rush to move John. The dead do not care where they lie.
"His chances are good. We reached him quickly. We cannot be definite though."
They stride off to gently take John's body away.
They are in Mycroft's house, in a room that is more medically equipped than any public hospital, used when he does not want the police involved. Mainly, it is used by Sherlock.
Sherlock's back, at this very moment, is towards the world. Eyes still, unmoving but open. Hands knotted, locked. Mycroft has no doubt that the brain, though, has not stopped. The Doctors, being idiots, are confused because Sherlock is fully conscious, and yet not responding - for four whole days. Mycroft, however, understands completely.
There is no one in the room. Mycroft finds his finger to reaching out to touch Sherlock's shoulder. It feels odd to touch his brother for a reason that is not wholly practical, or an accident like a slight embarrassing scrape against each other when passing a over cigarette. Mycroft watches as the silk of the dressing gown dips under his fingers; its creases, heavy from being continuously worn over the last four days, flatten as he increases the pressure; his fingertips lower until he can feel the heat of Sherlock's skin.
Sherlock isn't even aware of it, Mycroft knows that; he understands that occasionally the hot processes inside one's brain – by one's, he is referring to Sherlock's and him own - take up all the senses.
Mycroft feels his hand tighten on his brother's shoulder. It is only when he hears Mrs. Hudson come up the stairs that he removes it.
The joyfulness of her eyes is smothered by silence as she sees Sherlock unmoving on the bed.
There's a crash as she jumps. Mycroft knows from the sound that it was the smallest of the twelve ceramic figures on the windowsill near the door that fell, landing first on a vase, and then bouncing onto the wooden floor, twice, three times, before smashing. She had mistaken his voice for Sherlock's. Mycroft knows what had expected when she came through the door: Sherlock, on his feet, asking angrily where his coat and scarf are so he can stride into London with bright eyes-
Mycroft turns around as her mouth slowly closes.
"Mycroft...Sorry..." she says softly, her eyes finally landing on him, backing away slightly."I didn't think you'd still be here. i didn't realise how bad he was. I'll...give you some space. I'll just pick up..." she goes back round the corner to she smashed pottery "...these pieces, and then I'll be gone. I-"
"I invited you here."
She pauses, and goes very still. "But-"
"Sherlock has protected you venomously in the past," Mycroft hears himself saying. "He does not do that to just anyone. You are as entitled to information as myself." She looks at him strangely. "And you are entitled to sitting pointlessly with me by his side too. Feel free."
She takes a seat gingerly and looks at Sherlock, managing manages a small shake of the head before she collapses into herself, her hands shaking as she reaches for support, anything. She regains control without Mycroft, thankfully, retracting her hands from the open air in front of her and slowly wiping the tears off her cheeks.
"I thought...when I heard...that at least I have one of my boys still...but..." She collapses again, awful sobs, dragging in lungfuls of breath. "Why is he like this? It's been four days! I need him back!"
Mycroft looks back at Sherlock.
"I think, Mrs. Hudson, that he's working on a case."
It explains the extra two metres of dries blood towards John's corpse: Sherlock wanted hope. He was desperate. He wanted a shred of evidence that John was alive, that he knew only he could find. And so he had continued his crawl. And he hasn't stopped. Those moments before he passed out, the frown. He had seen something and taken if for evidence that John was alive. And now he is trying to figure it out.
Mrs. Hudson looks up, cheap make-up in streaks down her face; she looks tired.
"What do you mean? I've brought him lots of cases."
There is a stack of newspapers on the bedside table.
"He's working on a much more important case."
Mrs Holmes dismisses this statement, apparently, as a Holmes' eccentricity and not once to be questioned
Mrs. Hudson closes her eyes for a long time before opening them. "And John...I cannot believe..." She says quietly. "What is Sherlock going to do without him?"
This, apparently. "He will manage. The same as he did for the years before John Watson."
Mrs. Hudson looks up at him. "You really think he managed before John?"
Luckily, that was when the Anthea entered, with a steaming plate. Mrs. Hudson thanks her softly.
Anthea shrugs, leaving the room in a bored fashion. "I didn't make it."
Mrs. Hudson turns to Mycroft. "Aren't you eating?"
Mycroft sits in his office. The Bulgarian prime minister was being an irritant. It is then that the buzzer from security. goes off. He gives Anthea, who is sitting by him, a look. She nods; she knows to stay with Mrs. Hudson. He strides down the elaborately decorated corridor to his front door, dialling Sherlock's mobile number. His brother picks up after three rings.
"Oh Mycroft, you are getting slow."
Sherlock's voice is excited; and mocking; Mycroft can tell he is on a high. Not a drug high. A case high. He got his energy back fast. It will disappear just as quickly.
"You picked up. So you do want something from me. What?"
Mycroft can hear the rush of traffic; he is outside then. He doesn't bother to ask how Sherlock got through security: it was no doubt using his scarf or something equally ridiculous.
Mycroft leaves his front door now, and opens it, stepping out onto the street; he is not going to leave this to one of his men. On the street now, looking left and right, he tries to work out where his brother would go.
Mycroft increases his walking pace, navigating on guesswork. Thankfully, his hunches are usually correct. "Why? You're under perfectly good care here."
"You know that's not the reason, Mycroft. The thumb! He's not dead! The thumb!"
Mycroft has the sudden image of Sherlock's stretch hand, reaching for John's, grasping it tightly, the sweat on his forehead, his eyes blinking as he loses consciousness, but staring so intently at John's thumb that it was almost as if it represented his whole future. It did. Sherlock's voice, down the phone, as gleeful as it gets: a clever problem, that he has solved and that Mycroft has not. Even better, one which means that he will get his best friend back. But he has got it all wrong. In moments of stress, one's body can betray you. It can cry in front of your employees. It can override your control. Rebel and hijack. During panic. Fear. Desperation. It can do even worse: it can trick you; make you think something's there when it's not, so it's easier. Sherlock had done what he never does; he had, fingernail-digging in everything he believes in, chosen emotions over logic. Meet John Watson, anomaly. Even after death.
"Are you walking Mycroft? Your breath is louder than your voice. I can barely hear you talk."
"That is irrelevant, Sher-"
"I'm surprised you haven't fainted yet."
"And that's the beautiful thing! Brilliant! " Sherlock continues. "He did it so cleverly! I have been such an idiot. It took me four days to work it out. John is alive.I knew there was something odd about the thumb."
Mycroft increases his pace but he knows that he won't get to Sherlock before he reaches the hospital; Sherlock will use the back alleys, and walks faster than Mycroft. Anthea would have sent a car to trace him, so when he finds Sherlock he can take him back, but the only way to reach Sherlock was through walking. He is down a particularly dingy alley now. He wrinkles his nose, and delicately kicks a piece of litter away with his shoe.
"I need to find John. He left me a message! What if he never got to hospital-"
"Of course he didn't get to hospital! He is dead"
There is a long silence.
Eventually, a sound, a very quiet reply. "He is not dead."
Mycroft is almost running now. "The body was DNA-checked-"
"Oh, Mycroft, learn from your mistakes-"
Mycroft's hand tenses around his mobile. "That woman had connections. You thought she was dead too."
"Yes, and so this time experience is talking."
"And where's the evidence? You are jumping to conclusions. You need to stop this."
"What? Potentially saving John's life?"
It is then that he sees Sherlock, twenty metres down the pavement from him, one hand on the stone wall for support, running along it as he moves forwards, his feet twisting over themselves as he tries to keep balance while still trying to reach to his destination. He had somehow found his clothes, and was wearing his normal coat and scarf. He is barely a quarter of a mile from Mycroft's house, in the fifteen minutes since he left. And Mycroft though that he wouldn't be able to catch up. Mycroft takes Sherlock's elbow. Sherlock jumps, before his gaze rests on Mycroft's face.
"This." Mycroft watches Sherlock's expression. Carefully. He pauses before speaking the next word, as if it is too disgusting to skim over his lips, "sentiment. You need to stop."
There is a slight pause. "It is not sentiment. I'm simply overriding a murder case."
"Come on, Sherlock," Mycroft says quietly.
"Get. Off," Sherlock pronounced each word like a piece of jagged tin.
It is sudden, Sherlock's kick. He aims for where Mycroft's knees will buckle, hard, and has slipped out of his brother's fingers before Mycroft can stop him, and begins to run down the alley, but Mycroft catches him before he can get any further; he has always been stronger than his brother, but at the moment Sherlock is weak. He grabs his arm Sherlock spins around, and meets Mycroft's eyes.
"Come on Sher-"
Mycroft does, and raises both arms up in the air.
"Okay, but only because you aren't going to get much further. When you ran, I believe you tore your stitches. You are losing blood." Mycroft nods at a small stain on Sherlock's shirt. "If you exert yourself much more, I will have no choice but to call for my ambulance - equipped with a stretcher - to take you back to my house."
Sherlock starts to back away, but Mycroft has grabbed his wrist again before he can get anywhere.
"What are you doing, Sherlock? Do you really think that you're going to make it on this wild goose chase to the hospital? I will not have you endangering yourself!"
Sherlock strains against Mycroft before his legs give way and he slumps against the wall. "You will look at the body."
"LOOK AGAIN!" Sherlock slumps further down the wall, a growing circle of blood on his cream shirt. "Check the hospital!"
Mycroft takes his hand. Sherlock wrenches it away, his face crinkling into anger as unwavering and stubborn - and desperate - as a child.
"I will not move unless you do. And I will cause all your paramedics to quit if you send them."
Mycroft doesn't bother to ask how he intends to so, though he has no doubt he will. If they were Sherlock's conditions for him returning to the house, Mycroft would complete them.
They lay him down on the bed, though Sherlock refuses to change into pyjamas, and continuously mutters about thumbs. Mycroft had requested the doctor to re-do Sherlock's stitches, which had come even more undone as Sherlock 'walked' up the stairs. To force Sherlock to be dragged or carried though (or on a stretcher), Mycroft knew, would only make Sherlock more defiant, cause more injury and make any future cooperation less likely. Before Sherlock sleeps, he grabs Mycroft's wrist - just as Mycroft had done to him before.
"The...left...thumb... A message...Look... And then...Nearest hospital, probably. But hurry, still could be in danger if not there."
Mycroft had been out all night; he returns home when it is nearly light, tired, straining and not ready for the sight of Mrs. Hudson in the kitchen.
"You're still here," he says.
She doesn't look offended; Mycroft supposes she is used to comments like that from his brother.
"Are you alright?"
"He is in hospital."
"But he was right there in the bed-"
"No," Mycroft shakes his head slowly. "Not Sherlock." Mycroft can barely form the words. "John is in hospital. He had escaped the kidnapping...That's what Sherlock was doing that night, trying to save John from a group of Russian thugs."
Mycroft looks up at Mrs. Hudson who is blank.
"They timed it so when Sherlock got there, they were to kill John."He pauses; his own anger making him sick. He does not look at Mrs. Hudson as he talks."Of course they didn't have John so they simply had to get someone who looked very much like him. You know, cosmetic surgery, the lighting, the angle Sherlock ... They even rewrote the DNA records. Irene Adler all over again. One should learn from their mistakes." He rubs his right eye, still not meeting Mrs Hudson's gaze, feeling that if he keeps talking, perhaps he will never have to. "It was to get to Sherlock, to lure him to them. A plot a little too stupid for Moriarty, but the plot of a mastermind all the same. John meanwhile was found three streets away by an old man who phoned an ambulance. He was too injured to speak, had no identification but recovering now. Chatty, actually."
Finally, Mycroft looks up at Mrs. Hudson who is clutching the table.
"Complete and utter luck."
He leaves Mrs. Hudson sitting there. He is too tired to care.
A patch of moonlight rests on Sherlock's face, so when he open his eyes, they are an even sharper blue. When Sherlock speaks, his eyes stare unmoving at the ceiling.
"Which hospital did you find him in?"
There is no relief; not once did Sherlock believe that John was dead; Mycroft feels even sicker.
"As I thought." Sherlock turns away from Mycroft, as if that is all there is to say.
"Sherlock." There is no reply. "Luck, Sherlock. That's all it was."
"No, Sherlock. You were wrong-"
"We've been through this! John left me a message-"
"John did no such thing"
There is a long pause, and finally Sherlock turns his head, and stares directly at Mycroft. "The left-"
"I talked to him, Sherlock. He had no idea what message you're talking about."
"There were three strokes," says Sherlock, sitting up slightly, as much as his stitches allowed "Code for-I came to the rational conclusion."
"No! Sherlock. No! You came to the emotional one. You were simply obsessed enough to find a message that wasn't there. And lucky enough that he was, in fact, alive. Even if John hadn't been found in St. Bart's, even if John was never found... You would look for him. Convinced despite the evidence. Or curled up in a ball on the sofa for the next year until you made up some more idiotic evidence. An endless cycle, endless denial, all because you cannot accept John Watson is dying."
Sherlock is very still.
Mycroft stands up, and starts walking to the door before his face curls into disgust and he turns to Sherlock.
"We wouldn't have just lost John, we would have lost you as well! Caring is a disadvantage Sherlock. Remember that."
Mycroft begins to walk out the room, before he hears Sherlock say, quite clearly, one more thing: "Bring me him."
A few weeks later, Sherlock visits Mycroft. He and John are exactly the same as before: a blog, petty arguments and countless solved cases. Sherlock feels safe again. He is brought to the study to wait for his brother, who comes in with a tray of tea (not that he had prepared it), frowning. He sits down opposite Sherlock. Of course, he is the only one who drinks the tea.
Sherlock looks relaxed, as in control as when Mycroft visits Baker Street. "I cannot get the image of you running through the streets of London out of my head."
"Get to the point, Sherlock."
"The night you came to tell me that you had found John in hospital. I was too distracted by your inane shouting to really consider you."
"I see," says Mycroft. "Splendid. Is that all?"
Sherlock stands up; he never sits still for long.
"A combination of your shirt, eyes and forehead told me that you had only eaten a cheese sandwich, not slept at all and had ignored your work completely in the four days previously. You had not been looking after yourself at all. What had been happening in those four days?"
Mycroft sets down his cup.
"On top of that, the tear on your cheek, when you were crouched over my body. Yes, I remember that." Sherlock stands up, taking his coat which is draped over the back of his chair. "Caring a disadvantage, Mycroft. What would you do if I died? Not much different I presume."
He leaves Mycroft with his tea.
A/N: Please review! I'd love to know what you think