"We're letting him rest," the nurse whispered with a wink of her eye, smiling at John, "He must be very exhausted."
"He had been a bit touchy today," John whispered back huskily.
She came over to John's bed, and while checking the monitors and syringe pumps she kept whispering.
"You know, Dr Watson, the loved ones all react very differently here; some bawl and cry, others don't say anything at all, some even faint. But what happens to all of them, if there is any love left in them, is that they suddenly realise what they would miss if the person in the bed didn't survive – that can actually make you a little touchy. Unfortunately, some of them have to cope with a loss later, but any way, lives will never be the same after this here." With a sweeping gesture of her arm she indicated all the apparatus in the ICU.
John knew that she was right. Ending up in an ICU always meant that one's life had been in danger and he had experienced it before, after the shot in his shoulder. He had changed in many ways, had often thought about what the world would have been without him, if it had mattered to anyone. Back then the realisation that his death would only have affected very few people had been a bitter one. His world had changed, though, after he had met Sherlock. There were now a couple of people he cared for and who cared for him, not to forget there was a kind of mutual dependence between himself and his flatmate, which had come to the fore rather frequently lately.
A quiet moan could be heard from Sherlock's direction and Mycroft's head shot up. He looked around the room, confused, before regaining his bearings and observing his brother who kept moaning.
The nurse hurried to Sherlock and pushed a button on her bleeper that she had dug from her tunic. John knew that it would call the doctors to the ICU to once again check the vital signs and the brain function. Mycroft didn't avert his eyes from his brother and John wished he could just get up from his bed and walk over to his friend to do the examination himself. He had become quite used to being Sherlock's doctor that it felt rather odd to watch others do what he felt was his duty.
The nurse looked at the data on the monitors, frowning.
"You're a bit strained, Mr Holmes, aren't you? Shush, it's all fine," the nurse said to Sherlock in a voice that reminded John of a mother talking to her child. It wasn't too far-fetched, for they were in fact as helpless as children and needed someone to look after them.
"What's the matter?" Mycroft wanted to know. He still looked weary and the green protective clothing was creased, contrasting the usually flawless appearance of the older Holmes. However, nothing was usual about this situation and John had to admit to himself that most likely his doubts about Mycroft's honourable intentions towards his brother had indeed been unjustified. The man was just so aloof and always beamed an aura of mysteriousness that one involuntarily developed the impression that he wasn't entirely human and, therefore, was dangerous. Although John every once in a while even denied Sherlock's humanity when it came to matters of empathy, he had learned that apparently for both the Holmes, their often rude behaviour was in fact a kind of self-protection.
Only a minute after the nurse had called the specialists, the four men entered the room and surrounded Sherlock's bed. John couldn't see either Mycroft or Sherlock anymore. He knew, though, that he would become aware of what was going on, so he just waited and listened carefully when they spoke to Mycroft.
"It is nothing to worry about, Mr Holmes, it is just that when patients wake from a coma they often go through dreams that feel very real for them. We tried to suppress it, as we told you, but we can't control it entirely. It's a good sign, though, because we know he will be with us again soon. He will still be weak but maybe he'll keep his eyes open for a longer time than last time. We'll adjust his medication and then wait until he can communicate himself. Deborah will be at your side and call us if necessary."
So, Deborah was the nurse's name. John hadn't even wondered about it. He was a little surprised as to how little interest he had in finding out about who took care of them. He hadn't even wondered about the place they were in and for the first time John really looked around. Unlike the other hospital room Sherlock and John had found themselves in after the Tabun poisoning, this intensive care unit didn't differ so much from the ones John knew. The equipment was first-class, but there was nothing that gave a hint as to whether this was any of the British Government's secret hospitals or just a public one. To his left there were space and connections for another ICU bed, which had never been occupied during their stay, though, at least as far as John could remember. So, if it was a regular hospital, it had to be a rather small one with just three ICU beds. Experience, however, though involuntarily, told John that this had to be a special hospital as Mycroft would have taken care that Sherlock and, therefore also he, would get the best treatment. Since the British Government wouldn't be contented with average abilities, the staff working in their medical institutions would be of the highest calibre. He was distantly wondering if, again, there were any secret drugs or the like involved in their recovery, but in all honesty, he wasn't all too eager to find out. What the eye didn't see...
The doctors had left the room again and John focused his gaze on Mycroft who suddenly rose from his chair, leaning in on Sherlock as he had done upon his first awakening. Nurse Deborah joined him on the other side of the bed.
"There you are," Mycroft simply said.
When John heard a croak from Sherlock that was a clear attempt at speaking, he couldn't refrain from sitting up in his bed way too fast in order to get a proper glimpse of the Consulting Detective. Although he felt a sharp pain in his body, the urge to stand by his friend made it bearable. He desperately wanted to get up, but he knew that it wasn't a good idea. Patience had always been something he had expected his own patients to practise, but now he could sense the impossibility of it.
"Get me a wheelchair!" he exclaimed, causing both the nurse and Mycroft to look at him, their surprise clearly written on their faces.
"Dr Watson," she said with a voice that reminded him strongly of his primary school teacher when he had said something stupid. "Your body isn't ready to cope with such exhausting exercise like getting up from your bed. Forget it." She gave him a silly-boy smile.
John felt a flash of anger at her look. "I know best what my body is able to cope with, so get me a wheelchair!" he barked.
"Doctor Watson, you know your medical record. I guess that your power of judgement is still a bit under the weather – blame it on the pain killers. I will not let you get up!"
John ground his teeth. "For God's sake, yes, I know my record, but you don't know..."
"Stop it!" Mycroft interrupted them. He had alternatingly watched Sherlock, the nurse and John and was looking at his brother's flatmate and Deborah with an angry frown now.
"Don't you think that there's something more important at the moment?!" he ranted. "Isn't it better for my brother to be surrounded by the people who care about him – and who he cares about most?" he added, piercing the nurse with his gaze.
"Yes, I think so. That's why..." - "Exactly, Mycroft,..." John and Deborah replied simultaneously.
To John's great astonishment Mycroft cut them off in mid-sentence. "Well then, if Dr Watson thinks he can cope, get him a wheelchair." His face was blank and the look quite intimidating. It was incredible how Mycroft managed to suddenly put on his business-like mask and radiate the message that no contradiction would be tolerated.
Nurse Deborah hesitated, her mouth still open as if she was about to say something in return. After a moment of contemplation, she shook her head and turned to leave the ICU. John realised that he definitely wasn't in a public hospital as no nurse would have given in so quickly if not conscious that the person giving her the order was one of the most important people in Britain. The ex-army man looked at Mycroft curiously, but the latter was focused on scrutinizing his brother and didn't pay any attention to John. He was wondering whether the reason for the fact that Mycroft had just stepped in for him lay in the acknowledgment of the possibility that Sherlock would probably be more pleased to see his flatmate upon regaining consciousness rather than his own brother. It had to be a sad thing for a sibling to realise that they weren't as important as friends, but John thought that Sherlock and himself were quite alike in that aspect. Seeing Harry upon wakening would have evoked a strong urge in him to simply cut her out by closing his eyes again.
Another rasp could be heard, however still unintelligible. John knew that it had to be very hard for Sherlock to speak as he had been intubated and sedated for a longer time than he himself.
"Take your time, Sherlock, and take it easy." Hearing Mycroft speak in a soothing manner, felt like something John would never get used to. And yet, he felt a whiff of the relationship that Sherlock and his brother must have had in their youth.
A short time later Deborah entered the room, pushing a wheelchair, which she placed at John's bedside. She looked a bit irritated, but didn't say anything about it.
"Right, Dr Watson, I'll help you with the cables and tubes."
He smiled at her gratefully, but her response was slightly restrained and it crossed John's mind that she was most likely acting against her principles and professionalism, so he couldn't blame her; quite on the contrary, he generally appreciated nurses like her, but not now and not with him.
It was a painful realisation that he had overestimated his fitness a tad after he had finally taken seat in the wheelchair. He felt as if he would collapse in a minute, but tried not to show it. Mycroft's gaze, however, signalled him that it had to be visible. John was on the one hand surprised and on the other hand thankful that Sherlock's brother didn't comment on it and just furrowed his brow.
For the first time, John had a clear vision of Sherlock, which gave him a slight shock. The cables sticking out from his skull looked surreal on his friend. He had seen it before on other patients, but he had never even distantly felt the same uneasiness then. Sherlock opened his eyes occasionally, but from his perspective John couldn't see the man's whole face. It was only because Nurse Deborah had lowered the bed that he could see anything at all.
"Hi Sherlock," John managed to say when he was sure that his voice wouldn't betray him because of the exhaustion he felt and the lump that was forming in his throat at the sight of his friend.
Very slowly, the Consulting Detective turned his head just so that he could see John in the eye. He turned his head back towards Mycroft, which apparently cost him a lot of effort. John was a bit distressed as there had been something in his look that he couldn't interpret.
Once more Sherlock tried to speak. "Who... are...you?" he whispered barely audibly, his voice being hoarse and strange.
John and Mycroft exchanged a
look of shock. It had been the lack of recognition that John had seen in