Day 7: Sunday
"He's waking up."
Sherlock winced. He felt like he'd been hit by a truck. His foggy mind slogged through what memories were available for review and he almost laughed. Oh. He WAS hit by a truck. Well, that explained why everything, and he did mean everything, hurt.
"Can you hear me, Mr. Holmes?"
Sherlock tried to tell the annoying voice to shut up and go away, but there was something in the way, some hard presence in his throat, and, with no other choice, he opened his eyes.
The light was painful, too bright and too white and too much, and he squinted, feeling like his head was going to explode. There was a woman hanging over him, her face too close, and he reared back, or he would've, if there was anywhere to go. Behind her, a man was holding a chart, white lab coat and stethoscope and faintly strained expression.
Sherlock blinked at him, head aching, nausea curling through him, forcing his mind to do its job. Trauma specialist, six years on the job, two at this hospital, lived in the west end, happy marriage, gay. His eyes flickered. Cat. Tortoiseshell coloring. Another flick. Fisherman. Fly fisherman, to be exact. With a feeling of relief, he let his eyes fall shut again.
Brain was fine.
"No, Mr. Holmes, stay with us," the man said, and Sherlock grimaced at him.
This thing in his throat hurt, and he reached up, his fingers fumbling, at the mask, the tube inserted in his mouth, his hand finding the taped edges and pulling before either of them could do anything about it.
"No, wait, stop-" The nurse was squeaky and annoying, and he shoved her hand away, panic blooming in his chest like a wave of pain. She twisted around, calling for an orderly, and Sherlock reared up, kicking at the bedding and yanking his arm away from the IV stand, almost unsetting the needle in his arm.
Memory and panic and where was he, and what was he doing here, and where the hell was John? The Doctor was trying to grab him, and he wasn't having anything of that, and something crashed to the floor with a metallic bang. He was trying to talk, through the thing in his throat, around it, and it was impossible, and he wanted his voice back, now.
Wrenching one arm out of the doctor's grip, he reached for the tube, and a strong hand grabbed his wrist.
"That is enough," John said, and Sherlock's head jerked around, his eyes finding John's, and okay, it was okay, he wasn't...
He wasn't alone.
John was breathing hard, his face pink with exertion, his jacket thrown over his shoulders. He met Sherlock's eyes, frowning beneath the beetled brows. "That is quite enough," he said, and it was softer now. His fingers flexed on Sherlock's wrist, pulling his arm down. "Do you understand me? Nod if you can understand me." Sherlock nodded, and he grinned. "All this fuss," he said, and there was affection there in the scolding words. "For heaven's sake, Sherlock."
"Thank you," the doctor said, as Sherlock relaxed back to the bed.
"My fault." John shifted his grip to Sherlock's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "I shouldn't have left." Sherlock glanced at him, he looked tired and battered, dark circles under his eyes and his hair disordered. "I just wanted a cup of coffee," he told Sherlock.
Yes, that sounded good.
The doctor was leaning over him, and Sherlock spared him a moment and a glare, making the man laugh. "Why am I dreading taking the tube out?" he said to Sherlock.
"Leave it in. He's so much more pleasant when he can't talk." John gave him an innocent look when Sherlock moved his glare in his direction.
"Unfortunately, vitals look good, breathing's regular, blood tox came back clean, so we've got no excuse to keep it in." He peeled the tape away from Sherlock's face. "I need you to take a deep breath in through your nose, and when I say go, push it out through your mouth, as hard as you can." Sherlock nodded. "Ready? Go."
The tube came out and Sherlock coughed and gagged, his shoulders bucking with the force of it. John's hand tightened on his and he slumped back to the pillows. "Don't ever do that again," Sherlock gritted out, his voice raw and raspy.
"What, intubate you? If you need it, you're getting it. Do your best not to need it, and we won't have to," John told him.
John nodded at the doctor and the nurse, who was checking Sherlock's IV and noting his chart. He waited for both of them to finish and leave before he turned back to Sherlock. "What, last week? Let me see. As far as I know, you made full use of your texting plan, destroyed the wall of a museum, insulted a single mother on a budget, became a viral YouTube sensation, got us banned from the nearest market, involved a minor in a dangerous experiment that included radioactive material, got into a bar brawl in a hospital waiting room, won, got three stitches in your hand, stole a corpse, got into a fight with an ambulance, lost, suffered blunt force head trauma, nearly drowned, and, oh, yes, gained a Facebook fan page dedicated to your hair." John's lips quirked. "Busy week, even for you."
"I know what happened to me," Sherlock said impatiently, grimacing. "What happened to you?"
John's eyebrows arched. "I solved my case, saved some lives and got home right on time," he said, his voice mild.
"And you got shot." It was a supposition, an educated guess, but John flinched, just the tiniest tick. It was enough for Sherlock to know he was right, and the rage was sudden and surprising. "You got shot again, I knew that-"
"I didn't get shot," John said calmly.
"Take your coat off."
Sherlock struggled upright, his free hand grabbing for the metal rail on the side of the bed, and John sighed. "Fine, stop it before you hurt yourself." He let go of Sherlock's hand and leaned forward, shrugging the coat back off of his shoulders. His left arm was splinted tightly against his chest. He sat back with a sigh. "I wasn't shot. The body armor stopped the bullet, just the way it was supposed to, but it hit in a bad place. Broke my collarbone."
Sherlock's vision went gray at the edges, and for an instant, he felt dizzy, unstable, and then John's hand was there, on his shoulder, pushing him back against the pillows. Sherlock collapsed back, sucking in air through his teeth, too fast and too hard for his raw throat. "How," he gasped out, "is that not shot?"
"Didn't break the skin," John said, grinning.
"If someone points a gun at you and discharges a bullet, which makes contact with you," Sherlock snapped, "then you've been shot."
"If you're going to be pedantic about it, which, let's face it, you always are." John's hand lifted from his chest, and Sherlock realized, a bit too late, that he'd made a mistake, because now John's hand wasn't holding his, and he had no excuse to get it back.
Moreover, John was looking at him with the most curious expression on his face. Sherlock frowned. "I told you-"
John held up his right hand. "Don't even begin trying to lecture me," he said, shaking his head. "I came through this week better off than you." His eyes narrowing, he stood and reclaimed Sherlock's chart from the end of his bed. "Massive trauma to the body and head, you were unconscious before you went over the side of the bridge, which means you were out when you hit the water. If Lestrade hadn't been right on your heels, you would've drowned, Sherlock." He glared over the top of the chart. "Jesus, I can't leave you alone for a bloody minute, can I?"
"No, you can't, so don't do it again."
John dipped his head forward, his shoulders tensing up, and Sherlock froze for a second, just a second, until he realized John was struggling not to laugh. The impulse under control, John looked back up at him, shaking his head. "You," he said, his voice warm and comfortable and so familiar that it made Sherlock's chest ache, "are incorrigible."
Sherlock grinned at him, until a terrifying thought struck. "Wait, did you say that Lestrade-"
"Saved your worthless life? Why, yes. Yes, he did. Went in after you without a flinch." John settled back in his chair with a faint sigh. "Says we owe him a drink, because he's sure he's going to catch his death of cold."
"I shall never hear the end of it," Sherlock said, horror dawning in his voice. "He'll lord that over me for the rest of my life."
"Yes. That's true."
"You could at least pretend to be reassuring about this," Sherlock said, trying for a glare and failing. It wasn't worth the effort.
"Since when have you been interested in false hope?" John asked, just as the door opened. He glanced over as Mycroft swept in. "All set?"
"As much as my limited abilities can produce." Mycroft gave Sherlock a faint smile. "And how are we feeling?"
Sherlock didn't dignify that with a response. "I am ready to go home."
"No, you're not," John said, before Mycroft could open his mouth. "Between the water in your lungs and probable concussion, you're staying under medical observation tonight."
"Fine. You're a doctor, observe me. At home." Gritting his teeth, Sherlock sat up, struggling to push himself to the edge of the bed.
"Sherlock," John said, sighing. "I really need you to stay here tonight. It's important that you're properly monitored to make sure that-"
"I am going home, the rest of you can do as you'd like," Sherlock said, twisting on the bed to get his legs over the side.
"John isn't well enough to take care of you tonight," Mycroft said, his voice blunt. "If you won't show a modicum of intelligence for your own health, I would hope you'd consider his."
Sherlock froze, his eyes coming up to meet John's. John gave him a faint smile. "I'm tired," he admitted, and Sherlock didn't know if it was true, or if John was manipulating him. "And if you would just stay here tonight, it would be a relief."
His shoulders slumping, Sherlock sighed. "One night."
"One night," Mycroft agreed.
"Unless you show signs of infection tomorrow," John said.
It was impossible to avoid the thought that they were ganging up on him. "John," he whined, and John reached out to push on his shoulder with a grin.
"Lie down, Sherlock, and maybe Mycroft'll get you a cup of tea."
"I believe I can do that," Mycroft agreed. "A nice herbal blend." Ignoring Sherlock's disgusted face, he headed for the door. "Anything for you, John?"
"Ah, no." John rubbed a hand over his face. "No. I'm fine."
With a nod and a faint smile, Mycroft slid out of the room, shutting the door behind him. John shifted in his chair, looking for a comfortable position and not finding one. Sherlock felt a stab of guilt, and he ignored it, he ignored it because even though he should tell John to go home, he didn't want to be alone again, he didn't want the silence and the nothing, and the... Alone.
And in the end, he was selfish and cruel and wanted what he wanted. He closed his eyes, misery sinking into his bones.
There was a faint brush of fingers against his forehead, and he opened his eyes to find John leaning over him, his expression concerned. Sherlock managed a tight lipped smile, but John didn't return it. "What's wrong?" he asked instead, his voice filled with a kindness that made Sherlock ache. "Are you in pain?"
"No," Sherlock said, and regretted it when John took his hand away. "You need to sleep." John waved him off, despite the lines of exhaustion carved in his face and the dark shadows under his eyes.
"I'm fine, Sherlock, really." He gave Sherlock a look. "It's just been a long day. You scared he hell out of me."
Sherlock managed a slight smile. "That wasn't my intent."
"It never is, and yet, that's often the result." John rubbed a hand over his face. His face hidden from view, he repeated, "You scared the hell out of me," and this time, his voice shook, just a little, but enough. Enough to drive the guilt even further into Sherlock's psyche.
Guilt wasn't a feeling he enjoyed, and Sherlock shifted on the bed. "I'm... Sorry."
John dropped his hand, looking in Sherlock's direction. "You're sorry you got caught," he said, with a ghost of a smile. "Let me see your hand."
Sherlock offered him the wrapped palm, and John went to work on the gauze bandage. He checked the stitches with a critical eye, and Sherlock let his head fall back, his hand held securely in John's. "I blame you, actually," he said, trying for arch superiority.
"Oh, you would, you rotter." John glanced at him, one eyebrow rising. "I'm kind of curious to hear what kind of twisted logic you're going to attempt now."
"If you were around, I wouldn't have-"
"Let's stop with your horrible, horrible lies right now," John said, lips twitching. "You most certainly would've, and I would've been behind you, yelling and waving my arms like a lunatic in a vain attempt to slow you down."
"I listen!" Sherlock said, stung.
"You listen. Sometimes. When you feel like it." John started to rewrap Sherlock's injured palm, taking his time and struggling a bit due to his one-handed attempts. Sherlock took over for him at the end.
John slumped back, rubbing his forehead as if it hurt. "It looks good. So does the rest of your chart. Full recovery, if you don't make this worse. Who am I kidding, you're going to make this worse, somehow."
I'm fine, he wanted to say. I got along without you, you know that, right? I can cope. I am fine on my own. He opened his mouth, the script prepared, and instead, he heard himself saying, "Did you miss me?"
John sighed. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Sherlock, don't be stupid."
The pain was sudden and stunning. Humiliation had a physical taste, a metallic, bitter tang in the back of the throat, like the burn of acid. After a lifetime of humiliations, Sherlock felt he should be used to it, to that way that his throat tightened, preventing him from swallowing or breathing, and it was worse now, even worse than when he was a child, and had no defenses against the sudden, staggering feeling of rejection.
It was so much worse, because it was John.
It was something to be borne, he supposed, and he could've done that so much better if he wasn't trapped here, trapped by the fact that he was an IDIOT, he'd tricked everyone around him into thinking otherwise, and wasn't that his greatest accomplishment, but there were people with an IQ half of his that were able to not get hit by cars, that was not something to brag about, that he couldn't take care of himself and he couldn't cope, and he was lying here, trapped, and that ache beneath his breastbone felt like a heart attack now, it wouldn't go away, and it should've, because John was back, and shouldn't that have fixed-
His head snapped around, meeting John's eyes, and it was the proudest moment of his goddamn failure of a life that he didn't flinch, didn't curl into a ball and make embarrassing sounds of pain or loss or Jesus, for once in his broken life, could he please just be normal? "Yes?"
John sighed. "This is what I mean. About the listening. You ask questions, and then you don't even bother listening to the answers. Did you even hear me?"
"Hear what?" Sherlock arched his eyebrows.
That earned him an eye roll. "I said, 'Don't be stupid, Sherlock. Of course I did.'" John's smile was normal, familiar, and his hand was back on Sherlock's forehead, stroking, and the gesture had none of the awkwardness that Sherlock was expecting, it was just...
And just like, that, everything was okay. Because it was John. Always John.
It was possible that the burn in his eyes was visible, because John's smile died. "Sherlock?"
"I missed you," Sherlock said, and tried to pretend it didn't sound like the words were ripped out of him. He cleared his throat. "I can't..." He swallowed, once, twice, and the second time he coughed, and wasn't surprised when John turned away from him. He was surprised when John turned back an instant later, guiding a straw to Sherlock's lips.
The water helped, and he gulped at it until John took it away. "Don't make yourself sick."
"I can't cope alone any more," Sherlock said, as John put the cup down, and John's head came up, concern on his face. "I used to be able to. Now I can't." His face twisted, and his eyes burned, and he turned his head away, frustrated.
John just sat there, quiet and still and, well, John. "Explain," he said at last.
Sherlock glanced over at him, and John arched an eyebrow. "I need more data," he said, his lips twitching. "So explain what you mean. You can't cope? Without me? Cope with what?"
He'd been so secretive, for so long. Why bother talking, if no one bothers to listen? Why bother explaining yourself, if no one understands? Why bother, at all.
Except, John always understood. Didn't he?
"I spent all my time dealing with trivialities," he gritted out. "Everything takes so much effort, so much-" He made an incoherant sound. "I got arrested just trying to buy milk! I couldn't make anyone do what they were supposed to do, couldn't make them understand, couldn't do anything, because there was so many things that you do, and I couldn't do any of them, it was just..."
His fingers curled into fists. "I lived my whole life on my own, up until you moved in-" Something shifted in John's face, something horrible and pained and empty, and Sherlock ignored it through ease of long practice. "I was alone, I was always alone, and I was fine, and you left, and everything was horrible, was just intolerable, and I used to be able to cope!" he yelled.
John waited until he finished, his brow wrinkling as he absorbed the information. "So," he said, at last, "your only reason to have me around is to do the shopping and talk to people."
Sherlock opened his mouth, closed it. "No."
"That's pretty much what I got out of your explanation," John said.
"No, it's not-" Sherlock's mouth twisted. "You're missing the point!"
"Okay," John said, easily. "What's your point?"
"It wasn't like this before," Sherlock burst out. "I didn't-" He sucked in a breath. "You left, and I was completely at sea, everything is a frustration now, everything's so-" He couldn't even find the words, his hands coming into fists. "It wasn't like this. Not before."
"Before, you didn't bother trying," John said, and Sherlock froze, the data falling into place with the finality of a completed experiment. His head jerked towards John, eyes blinking rapidly, and John smiled. "You didn't bother trying," John repeated, "and I don't know why, maybe because you didn't care, or didn't think it was worth it, or, I don't know, Sherlock. But before, you wouldn't have tried. Now, you tried. You gave it your best shot, and it didn't go so well, I know, but you tried. You did the best you could, and that's-" He grinned. "I'm really proud of you, Sherlock."
Sherlock stared at him. "I am not a child, to be manipulated by a golden star and a bright red A written on my charts," he snapped, and he knew it was a lie even as the words were coming out of his mouth; worse still, John knew it was a lie, too, because he rolled himself to his feet, fetched Sherlock's chart, and, fishing a pen out of his jacket pocket, did just that.
"It's not red, but I think it works." He held it up towards Sherlock. "A for effort, C- for nearly dying. Different classes, different marks."
"You're mocking me," Sherlock said, slumping low, but there was a warmth there, warm and safe and pathetically proud. It was pathetic, he knew it was. Knowing that didn't stop him from basking in the approval.
"Not in the least." John put the chart aside. "Sherlock, I realized something this week. I spent the last few days with your voice in the back of my head. Poking and nudging and scolding me into doing things differently than I would've, before I met you.
"You weren't there, but you were, because I knew what you'd do. What you'd have me do. I'm not going to say that I did things exactly the way you would've, I'm not you, I'll never be you, I'll never have your genius. But knowing you..." He paused, sighed.
"Sherlock, I'm not the same person I was before I met you. You changed me. Made me, if not better, than different. And I like the person I've become because of you. Even if I could, I wouldn't go back to being the person I used to be." His right hand, his only good hand right now, because he couldn't use his left, because he'd been shot, and Sherlock shuddered, his whole body shook, even as John's hand, warm and comforting and alive, touched his hair. "Maybe that's the way to think about it. Do you want to go back to being the person you were before you knew me, Sherlock?"
He'd been controlled then. No one bothered him or made him do things that he hated, awkward uncomfortable painful things, no one made him eat or made him wear lab goggles or took his cigarettes out into a snow bank and stomped up and down on them in a fit of pique. No one moved his things or brought home a stack of staff paper when his whole supply got ruined by a poorly placed cup of coffee, without even being asked.
No one complained about body parts in the fridge and ran interference with Donovan or organized his books and disorganized his papers. No one made him do dishes or do laundry or balance his checkbook or say hello to the annoying twit who ran the newsstand every morning, really, was it necessary to do it every morning, couldn't yesterday's hello just carry over to today as well?
No one made him answer Mycroft's calls or stop texting reporters at Lestrade's press conferences, no one harassed him about his sock index or made him breakfast or let him sit a little too close on the couch. No one complimented his violin playing or defended him or, strangely enough, bragged about him.
It had been comfortable. Familiar. Easy. He'd learned what he could and couldn't do, how to control his environment, how to minimize the unpleasantness that accompanied the rest of life. He'd been fine with it.
Mostly because he thought that his natural state was one of isolation. It was certainly easier. But it was also, well, lonely.
"No," he said at last. "No, I don't want to go back to that." And it was the truth; the thought was depressing, like a weight, like a recently discovered phobia he hadn't even known existed. He took a deep breath. "I'm not good at most of this."
"No one is," John said.
John shrugged. "Honestly, Sherlock? It's easier for me to do it, because you need me to." He grinned, despite the exhaustion in his eyes. "In the land of the blind men, the one eyed man is king, after all. I'm just less socially awkward than you."
"I am not socially awkward," Sherlock said.
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response, Sherlock."
"That is unkind," Sherlock said, but his mouth twitched into a smile.
"I'm known for that," John said. He smiled. "I was lonely, too."
"You were not," Sherlock said, hearing the pout in his words.
"Yes, I was. I was pathetically happy to get your email. Your texts, not so much. Your texts are a pain in the ass, Mr. Holmes."
"Short form verse," Sherlock corrected.
"Thank you, e. e. bloody cummings." Laughing, John patted his pocket, an involuntary tic, checking on his mobile. "I did like reading about the museum case."
"Did you?" Sherlock perked up, the way he always did, the momentary rush of John's approval enough to cheer him up, no matter what else was happening. "What'd you think?"
"Brilliant. As always." John gave him a look. "Though I do wonder why you didn't just slide the wall open and get the icon out the same way the guard put it in, as opposed to smashing through it with a crowbar."
"How often do I get to swing a crowbar at Anderson and not get arrested?" Sherlock said with a shrug, even though it made his entire body hurt.
"Good job with only getting arrested once, by the way."
"I thought that was well done of me," Sherlock agreed. "Though I do think it was unfair that I was arrested at all."
"I'm surprised you weren't tased."
"And that does not surprise me. Color me not at all surprised," John said, yawning. He shifted again, trying to find a better position on the chair, and it wasn't going to work. They simply weren't built for a grown man to sleep in, at least not one with a fully functional spine.
Sherlock tried to ignore the gnawing sense of guilt, and failed.
"You should go," he said, at last. "That's not comfortable."
John waved his good hand in Sherlock's direction. "Thanks, but I've slept in worse places."
"Not with a broken collarbone." Sherlock studied him in the low light of the lamp. "You should go." The words were pulled from him with actual effort, and he hated them. Hated saying them, hated that John should follow them.
John heaved a faint sigh, trying to twist so he could rest his head on the back of the seat. It wasn't going to work. "No, thanks."
"I can't," John said, and his voice was stark and thin. "You scared me. I'm not quite over that yet. So, yeah, I know you're fine, intellectually, I know you're fine, I can see that, but I'm not-" He swallowed, and when he glanced away, his eyes glittered with moisture, just for a second, before he blinked it away. "I'm not willing to leave you alone tonight. So just, I don't know, find some way to cope with that."
Sherlock paused, and the words were coiled somewhere deep inside his head already, where he could cling to them later. "Okay," he said at last. "But you can't sleep in that chair." Maybe Mycroft could find him a cot somewhere. Sherlock struggled up into a sitting position. Hell, with what Mycroft owed them, he could damn well go out and buy a bloody cot, if that's what it took.
"Well, if I can't leave and I can't sleep in the chair, and I need to sleep, that doesn't leave much by way of choices," John pointed out, his voice not shaking quite so much now. He toed off his shoes and stood. "Move over."
"What?" Sherlock blinked up at him.
"You heard me, move your beanpole self over. I'm tired, and you're tired, and thanks to Mycroft getting you a private room, you've got the only bed." He grinned at Sherlock. "Move over, you selfish git."
And Sherlock was confused enough, and relieved enough that he wasn't leaving that he did it, moving as far over on the hospital bed as he could get. John boosted himself up on the other side, his right shoulder against Sherlock's left. For a moment, they both lay there, balancing as best they could on the narrow bed, and then John started to laugh. It was quiet, uneven at first, building into an almost painful sounding guffaw.
Sherlock looked at him, confused, and John met his eyes, nearly crying with the force of his laughter. "Oh, God, this is the worst idea I've ever had," he gasped out. "This is not going to work at all, my God, I'm losing my bloody mind." Laughing, he groped for the edge of the bed, but it was awkward, having to reach across his body with his good hand, and he winced, but he was still laughing, and Sherlock realized, with a start, that he was getting up.
Without even thinking about it, he rolled onto his side, pushing closer and letting his head fall against John's shoulder.
They both froze for a second, and then John shifted back. "Sherlock?"
"It's fine," Sherlock managed. His heart was pounding, and the angle pulled hard on his IV, but he didn't want to be alone. "It's fine. Isn't it?"
John paused, and sucked in a long breath, and Sherlock could hear it, his cheek against John's shoulder, and then, John's quiet, almost mumbled, "You must be drugged out of your mind."
"Mmm. Drugs," Sherlock agreed, and sure, that was fine, whatever, as long as John stayed where he was.
Another pause, stretching out in painful degrees. John shifted, twisting and pushing himself farther up on the pillows, and Sherlock resisted the urge to grab hold of his shirt and cling. "Lift your head," John said, and when he did, John shifted his body, sliding his good arm under Sherlock's head. "There."
Cautious, a little fearful, Sherlock lowered his head back down, and found that it fell naturally in the hollow of John's shoulder, against his chest, and it was fine. He wiggled closer, and it was better than fine. John turned his head, just a little, and Sherlock felt the faint brush of his breath in his hair, and he relaxed, for the first time in more than a week.
Yes, this was just fine.
He yawned, exhaustion overtaking him, and he almost, almost managed to stop himself from resting a hand on John's chest, right next to his face, but he didn't. And John didn't object, so that was fine, too. He closed his eyes and let the exhaustion sweep over him.
A thought occurred to him, and Sherlock stirred. "Wait, did you say something about a Facebook fan page?"
"For your hair." He heard, rather than saw, John's yawn. "I am not asking questions. I am avoiding it at all costs. But there it is."
"More than fourteen hundred fans when I stumbled across it. Apparently, your hair is quite popular."
"For God's sake, why?"
"That is one of the enduring questions of our time." John chuckled, and it stirred Sherlock's hair, and he shivered. "Cold?"
"No." Sherlock closed his eyes, deciding that he could think about that more tomorrow. Or later. Sometime later. Much later. For now, he was just going to close his eyes, and stay here, safe and warm and appreciate that the ache in his chest was finally gone.
When he walked in with a cup of tea, Mycroft wasn't surprised to find them both asleep. The position in which he found them raised both eyebrows an alarming degree, but with a faint sigh, he pulled the door shut behind him. "This co-dependancy," he announced to the unconscious duo, "is reaching laughable levels."
But he said it so softly that neither of them so much as stirred. Which was, after all, just the way he wanted it.
Shaking his head, he opened the closet. Picking up the folded blanket that was on the single shelf, he unfolded it with a flick of his wrists. He covered them both, pulling the blanket up as far as he could on Sherlock's shoulders. His brother muttered under his breath, and snuggled down, his chin tucking in in a childlike gesture.
Mycroft paused for just an instant, his hand ghosting over Sherlock's disordered curls. "For heaven's sake," he whispered, hoping that it registered on some subliminal level, "would the two of you please just sleep together? This denial nonsense is becoming tedious, and it's unbecoming of you."
Sherlock grumbled in his sleep, one hand coming up to rest on John's chest, and John turned his head, just a bit, rubbing his cheek against Sherlock's hair.
"Pathetic," Mycroft said, his eyes flicking up towards the ceiling. It was an eye roll without the effort, a gesture he employed often enough around his younger sibling. Still, there was a faint smile on his lips as he left the room, turning off the light as he went.
The guard he'd stationed outside gave him a respectful nod, and handed over his attache case and umbrella. Mycroft took them both with a murmured thank you. At the nurse's station, he picked up the paperwork that was waiting for him and he continued up the corridor.
He rapped his knuckles against the door and opened it. Greg Lestrade looked up from the hospital tray table, which currently held a stack of paperwork. "It is way too late to deal with you. Aren't visiting hours over?"
"Not for family," Mycroft said with a saccharine smile.
Lestrade stabbed a finger in his direction. "See, that thing? That thing you do, that is creepy. I cannot tell you how creepy it is, there are no words." He was fully dressed and sitting on top of the covers, his shoes next to the bed and his hair disordered. Mycroft wondered which of his underlings had brought him the paperwork; it was against his doctor's orders.
The fact that the doctor got his orders from Mycroft was another thing entirely. He thought it best not to bring that up.
"I'm hurt." Mycroft said, taking a seat in the visitor's chair. "And after I went through all the trouble to get you discharged now, well after the usual hours." He held up the file with one languid hand. "But if you'd prefer to stay the night..."
Lestrade had already grabbed the folder. "Thank you. And you are not my next of kin, so I am not asking how you got this done."
"Actually, I have paperwork that says otherwise," Mycroft said with a wide smile.
"Creepy. So bloody creepy. I need you to stop doing that." Rolling his eyes, Lestrade pushed the tray table out of the way and swung his legs off the side of the bed. He jammed his feet into his shoes and stacked up his files.
Mycroft picked up the top folder and glanced at the contents. "Stop doing what?"
"I really have no idea what you're talking about. I am merely attempting to assist you. It seems the least I can do, after all the trouble Sherlock has caused you."
Lestrade took his folder back and snapped it shut. "Yeah, this week has been hell. You send John Watson off again, and I am taking emergency leave. You are on your own. Sherlock has been a nightmare to deal with, you know that? Two cases, an arrest, two hospital visits, and I swear I've got an ulcer. Plus, between Donovan and Anderson, I'm going to have to carve out time for another session of sensitivity training, and that always goes so well."
"Mouthful of bees?" Mycroft asked, arching an eyebrow.
He collected his jacket from the other visitor chair and shrugged into it. "So many goddamn angry bees, I am not kidding. I've got my dignity to consider, and I've stripped down twice in public this week."
"I'm so sorry I missed that."
"Creepy," Lestrade told him with a flat look, and Mycroft had to work at not laughing.
He cleared his throat. "Yes, well, there's a car waiting, if you'd care to get a ride home."
"Cheaper than a cab." Collecting his work, he fell into step with Mycroft. "More likely to end with me dead in a ditch, but you're going to have me killed at some point. No point in putting it off, if my file's already been stamped."
"Such paranoia doesn't become you, Greg." Mycroft's lips twitched, just a bit, at the corners. "Don't be concerned. Saving Sherlock from drowning bought you at least a few more weeks of continued survival."
"Wonderful." He glanced at Mycroft, amusement in his eyes. "How is the hard-headed lug?"
"Exceptionally cranky. Did Dr. Watson stop in to see you?"
"You know he did. Not for long, but I was glad to see him." Greg chuckled under his breath as they waited for the elevator. "So glad to see him."
"It has been a trying week." Mycroft rubbed his forehead, his umbrella hanging on his elbow. "And judging by the reports I've begun to receive from his trip, I will be doing damage control for some time."
Lestrade gave him a look. "How bad."
"Let's just say, I will need to sit Dr. Watson down come to an accord as to just how much we'll be telling Sherlock. Everything came out right in the end, there's really no call to panic him at this juncture." Mycroft felt the little twitch by his eye, a muscle pull that he couldn't quite suppress, and he pressed a finger there. "It would be inadvisable."
"Oh, THAT bad. Wonderful." Greg held up a hand, forestalling any additional information. "I really do not want to know. Not at all. I'd prefer to maintain plausible deniability."
"That is a wise choice." Mycroft grinned at him. The trip through the hospital didn't take long, and Lestrade was silent for a time.
"You know this is your fault," he said at last.
Mycroft nodded. "Yes," he said, his voice betraying some element of his mental state, and he pulled himself together. "It always is. It's an impossible situation. But yes. I am left only with a sea of paper. Of notifications that come too late, and reports that cover the aftermath, and it is always left to the two of them to protect themselves. I am, after all, worse than helpless."
Lestrade glanced at him, pausing at the hospital's main door. His hand on the handle, he studied Mycroft. "Neither of them would accept full time bodyguards, even if you could get the expense approved." When Mycroft's lips curled up, he groaned. "Of course you could get it approved. But they wouldn't have it."
"No. They wouldn't. Which leaves me as a distant observer, waiting and-" He gave a faint shrug. "Paperwork. What can I do from a distance, Detective Inspector?"
Lestrade smiled. "Clean up the mess in the end."
"That, I excel at. I am a glorified janitor," Mycroft agreed. "One without the sense to just set out traps for our most troublesome mice."
"What sort of traps would even work?"
"I lean towards snipers, but I've been told I'm excessive."
"And creepy." Lestrade opened the door. "You start posting snipers on the rooftops around Baker Street and I'm putting in for a transfer to somewhere that isn't here."
"I stand forewarned as to your intentions." Mycroft padded towards the car, swinging his umbrella. "Care for some dinner?"
"Yes. Wait, are you coming? In that case, no."
Mycroft struggled against the impulse to giggle. "That is just beneath you. Allow me to treat you as a reward for saving Sherlock."
Lestrade stopped beside the car, eyes narrowing. "Let's get one thing straight," he said after a beat of silence. "I jumped in after your loopy brother because it was him, not because you've been making my life a living hell since I met him. Despite you and your occasional bouts of creepy, I really do like Sherlock-" He paused, eyebrows snapping down. "Huh. That's not actually a lie. Whatta you know. He may be a pain in the arse, but he's our pain in the arse, Mycroft, and he is a friend of mine, and even if he wasn't, it's kinda my job."
"No," Mycroft said, arching an eyebrow. "It's your nature." He gave a faint smile. "That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be rewarded for it."
His mouth opening to retort to that, Lestrade paused. Frowned. "There's something wrong with that, but I'm too bloody tired to figure it out." He turned back to the car, and to his credit, he didn't jump or shriek upon finding that Anthea had materialized between him and the door and was holding it open with one hand. The other was on her ever present mobile. "There had better be booze, wherever we go."
"It would be my pleasure to get you, as they say, liquored up," Mycroft said with a smile.
"And there's the creepy again."
Sherlock was bored.
That didn't mean he had any intention of answering the buzzer. There was bored and then there was bored and attempting to correct the boredom. He hadn't quite reached the latter stage yet, but the damn bell just kept ringing.
"MRS. HUDSON!" he bellowed, but she didn't reply either, and my God, what sort of complete psychotic was at their front door, anyway? Why would buzzer finger just not give up?
With a snarl, he stomped for the stairs. Stomped down the stairs. Stomped to the door. Wrenched it open. "What," he asked, his voice a good imitation of Mycroft's at his most dispassionately unpleasant. "What is it that you want."
The young man on the stoop stared at him,eyes wide and mouth parted, just the tiniest bit. Under his freckles, he seemed a little pallid, and his eyes were flickering up and down. Sherlock glanced down and realized that the bone saw was still on. He turned it off with a flick of his wrist and stood there.
Turning it off didn't seem to make much difference, now the boy was staring at the blood and bone flakes that were dripping on the welcome mat. It wasn't deliberate, but now that it had happened, Sherlock was rather pleased with the effect. Maybe that would keep random passers-by from ringing the goddamn bell.
"What is it," he snapped at the most recent abuser of their bell. "Are you selling sweets, are you collecting for charity, are you here with a case, are you lost, what is it."
His head jerked up, and to Sherlock's surprise, a faint smile curved his lips. "And to think I doubted him." When Sherlock's eyes narrowed, he pulled himself up straight. "I'm Corporal William Cooper," he explained. "I was looking for Captain Watson."
"You missed that by a few years, he's been discharged," Sherlock said, going to shut the door, but the boy was remarkably fast, getting his foot in there before he could. Sherlock glared at it.
"He saved my life just a few months ago," Cooper explained. "In Afghanistan? You're Sherlock Holmes, he told me all about you while he was there." He gave Sherlock a bright grin. "I'm home on leave, and I just wanted to stop by, see him? Say thank you?"
Sherlock's shoulders tightened, and he resisted the urge to kick the boy's foot out of the door and slam it shut. John had been remarkably close mouthed about the whole thing, and it was- He froze, his eyes going wide. "He saved your life."
Sherlock leaned forward. "You were there when he was shot."
Cooper had enough sense to realize he'd just wandered in over his head, and began backpedeling, both physically and verbally. "You know, if he's at the surgery, I can just come back later tonight, no reason to put yourself out-"
Sherlock grabbed him by the front of his shirt and dragged him inside. "Thank you, don't worry, comfortable living room, might as well rest there while you wait, you were injured, weren't you? Left hand side, just above the hip, slight tendon damage judging by the way you're walking, you bought that shirt yesterday, and you proposed to your girlfriend just recently, how nice, mazel tov."
"Wait, how did you-"
The front door of 221 Baker Street slammed shut with staggering finality.
London, The Surgery:
John was saying good-bye to a girl with a marked case of the chicken pox and her rather overworked mother when his mobile buzzed in his coat pocket. He glanced at the clock, but he was on schedule, and the day was almost over. Might as well take a second to find out what Sherlock wanted.
Retreating to his desk, he took out the phone and checked the most recent text.
'You are never allowed to go anywhere alone again. SH'
Amused, John leaned back in his chair, his fingers flying.
'Playing with chemicals without a fume hood again, Sherlock? JW'
A moment later, there was a buzz.
'Not a joke. Never. Again. SH'
John rolled his eyes.
'Go take a nap, Sherlock, you were up late. JW'
'Warned you that there would be consequences. SH'
John frowned. "Consequences?" he wondered aloud. "What is he TALKING about? What consequences? Consequences of what?"
The mobile buzzed again, and he pushed up the most recent text, not recognizing the number. 'Hi, Captain Watson, it's Cooper. In London on leave. Wanted to stop by and say hi, Sherlock is v. intense. Why is he running your passport through the paper shredder? Cooper'
John's forehead hit the desktop. After a moment, he sighed and replied:
'He can sense fear. Just sit still and nod when he starts yelling. Better yet, compliment him. I'll be home soon. JW.'
The reply from Cooper's number was almost immediate. 'This phone has been confiscated by the authority of 221B Baker St. For more details, come home. Now. Not SH'
John winced. 'Give him his phone back, Sherlock. JW'
'No. You got kidnapped AGAIN. Absolutely not SH'
John rolled his eyes. 'I went to rescue my assistant. I learned from the best. JW'
There was a significant pause before the reply came. 'So, you LET yourself get kidnapped. By armed military personnel. Which resulted in you getting shot. You are never leaving the flat again. Still not SH'
John closed the texting window and hit speed dial. "Hello, Mycroft? How quickly can you arrange protective custody?"
"Does this have anything to do with the fact that my other line is blinking?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't answer that, if I were you." '
(Author's Note: This is the first piece I've written and finished on my own in close to ten years. I apologize for the unevenness and poor plotting. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to leave me feedback, corrections and pointed out plot holes. Without it, I doubt I'd have had the courage to keep posting. Thank you! )