When he couldn't stand it anymore, John told Sherlock through the locked door that he would go on a walk for a couple of hours and left the flat. He needed to talk to Mycroft, who hadn't shown up since the night he had filled them in with Sherlock's terrible experiences and his involvement in deleting the memories of them in order to save his brother's life.
John stepped on the pavement, closing the front door behind him with a slam, and inhaled the fresh air. It was a still chilly early spring day; the rays of sunshine, however, were already warming his face and brightening his own mood a tad. He hailed a taxi and gave the address of the Diogenes Club, where he would surely find Mycroft.
Upon arriving at his destination, John noticed that he was already expected by an elderly man in a black suit with perfectly shiny shoes and a bow tie fixed at the very stiff and uncomfortable looking collar. He pretty much looked like a butler, but said nothing except "Follow me, Dr Watson". So, Mycroft was already one step ahead of him – as usual.
They walked through some rooms and corridors, all embellished with dark precious wood, full of heavy antique furniture and uncountable amounts of books. The sounds of their steps were muffled by the thick carpets. No other person was to be seen and the one attempt John had made to talk to the "butler" had been dismissed by a curt shake of his head. John felt a bit shabby in his jeans, jumper and parka. The atmosphere in this building was quite intimidating, which fit Mycroft, though. John wondered whether it was possible not to become like Sherlock's brother when you worked in an environment like this. At least you wouldn't wear casual clothing anymore, because it simply wouldn't be an option in such a place.
After seemingly endless corridors, John was shown a room and offered a chair – without speaking of course. John took the seat and looked around in the room. Everything appeared to be heavy and –important. He jumped a little when Mycroft suddenly stood opposite him. Sherlock's brother hadn't made a single sound upon entering the room and John wondered if he had just appeared in front of him.
"So, he's not doing particularly well." It was a statement, not a question. Either Mycroft had been expecting it or he knew.
"I had warned him."
"Yes, you had, Mycroft; but if you were Sherlock - of all the possible explanations in the world, would you have expected this one? How could he possibly have foreseen this, eh?"
Mycroft had started pacing the room, turning around suddenly and facing John with a grim look on his face.
"You are like children, John, annoying little creatures who keep pestering and don't obey a "no". And then they come running and want to be consoled by their parents because they have burnt their fingers and it hurts!"
John was dumbfounded. It seemed as if both the Holmes brothers had suddenly built ramparts of insults in order to deter anyone from talking to them sensibly. He got up from the armchair and turned to leave, although he wasn't sure if he would be able to find his way out of here. There was apparently no use in talking to Mycroft.
"Wait!" the older Holmes said with a low voice, "My apologies."
The doctor turned around with a very surprised look on his face, his eyebrows raised questioningly.
"Sit down, please." Mycroft pointed to the comfortable armchair John had sat in before. He cautiously slid into the depths of the soft piece of furniture again. Mycroft went to a cabinet, opened it and took out two crystal glasses and a crystal glass bottle with a dark golden liquid in it. Scotch, it seemed. The aristocratic man just held up the glasses briefly, but John understood and nodded. Apparently, in these rooms speaking was reduced to the absolute minimum.
After Mycroft had poured them both a glass and they had taken the first sip of the excellent Scotch quietly, John started a second attempt.
"He's having nightmares. He says they're not pictures but the echo of his fear, just emotions and they are getting stronger and more frequent. I suggested he should see a therapist, but he refused. He doesn't eat, doesn't speak, doesn't talk to anyone, avoids me and stays locked in his room most of the day. He's slipping through my fingers, Mycroft. Tell him what happened and he can relate the emotions to something, as unpleasant as it might be. He's close to a meltdown and I'm not sure what he will do then. Tell him."
Mycroft thoughtfully tossed the drink in his glass, looking at it as if it held the answer.
"I can't." His voice was quiet, without any of his usual disdain or sarcasm.
"Tell him," John insisted, leaning forward in his armchair and glaring at the man opposite him.
Mycroft looked up from his glass and straight into John's eyes. The ex-army man scrutinized the older Holmes. All his superiority had crumpled and there he was again: Mycroft Holmes, a human being, full of emotions, of worries, looking exhausted and despairing. John was convinced that not many people in the world had seen him drop the mask that gave him an untouchable authority. And yet, it was a doubtful privilege.
"I can't, John. I really can't. The memories have been haunting me for years; I could cope with them because they weren't my experiences. Sherlock has almost died once because of them, I won't let him die now. And die he will, if not physically then mentally. - I can't. Do not probe me any further, I beg you."
"He is dying mentally right now! Tell me what to do, Mycroft, because, honestly, I'm at the end of my tether."
Mycroft wiped his face with his hands. "Be yourself, John, and just keep an eye on him."
"Yeah, I know, and if anything happens I'll call you, right? Don't you see that it's not as simple as that? At least you should try to talk to him as his brother. I can't get through to him anymore."
"He will not be pleased to see me."
"Who knows, Mycroft? He might be needing you more than you could probably imagine. You should at least give it a try. You were the one who helped him back then so maybe you are the only one who can help him now. It's at least worth an attempt."
"Well then. I have business to attend to, so I have to excuse myself." All of a sudden Mycroft had put on his shield of indifference again, nodded John a good-bye and left the room. Was he fleeing?
Once again the ex-army man was left speechless. Had that been a "yes" after all? Talking to the Holmes brothers had always been a testing of the interlocutor's patience, but this time John felt that he simply couldn't muster the necessary amount of it to process what had just happened, so he took the likely expensive crystal glass, emptied it and threw it against the wooden wall, causing probably the loudest noise that the house had heard in years. The glass scattered and covered the fine thick carpet with sparkling shards. John nodded militarily, turned around on his heels the same way and almost bumped into the "butler", who didn't say a word, just gestured at him to follow him.
A taxi was already waiting outside. On his way back to Baker Street, John closed his eyes, leaning into the seats of the cab. He was out of his depth, no doubt. He could only try to prevent things from worsening, but he was fairly sure that he couldn't make them any better.
John also wished he could go back to something like a normal life soon. He was tired of being in constant worry and stress. He wanted to go back to working in the practice. He wasn't even sure if Sarah would take him again as he hadn't been to work in weeks. On the phone she kept saying it was fine, but he wasn't sure if, in the likely case that any other doctor willing to do the locum work showed up, she would keep his place. Also, there were some other priorities in life that he should pay more attention to, like probably Sarah herself. He just needed some time off. He had once wished anything would happen to him, but now he wished that for once in weeks nothing would happen to him. Nevertheless, he would never ever let Sherlock down, thus, his "other" life had to wait a little longer.
After the taxi had fought its way through the heavy London traffic and John had realized that he didn't have to pay for it, courtesy of Mycroft, he entered 221B, almost dreading going into their flat in expectancy of either an absent Sherlock, locked in his room, or one who hurled abuse him. However, what he actually found was nothing that he had expected.
"What the bloody hell
are you doing?!" John shouted hysterically, rushing into the