John was still quite easily exhausted and slept a lot, but now that he desperately wanted to drift into unconsciousness just to pass the time, he couldn't get a wink of sleep. If it hadn't been for the bloody leg, he would have got up and paced the room. There was no television in the intensive care unit and reading was too exhausting, so John simply stared at the ceiling, waiting for the hours to pass by and Sherlock to return.
"Would you like somebody to visit you for a distraction?"
John started. He had been entirely absent-minded, therefore hadn't noticed Mycroft's arrival in the room.
"What? No. – No, thanks."
"Mrs Hudson and Ms Hooper keep calling me, asking for permission to pay you a visit."
"That's lovely of them, but... not now."
"Waiting is ...obnoxious, isn't it?" Mycroft stood in the door, apparently indecisive whether to stay or leave.
"I'm quite fed up with it, admittedly. - Sit down, Mycroft, you're making me nervous – more nervous to be precise."
Sherlock's brother raised an eyebrow at the command, but took a seat in the chair by the wall on the other side of the room, crossing his legs and looking at the man in the bed intently, however, without saying anything.
"He'll be fine," John remarked when he felt that the silence had become a little awkward and on a sudden impulse to say something of a soothing nature, although he wasn't fully convinced of it himself.
"Yes," Mycroft said plainly without taking his eyes off the ex-army doctor.
"I'm afraid, Mycroft." John hadn't intended to say anything about it, particularly not to Mycroft, it had just slipped off his tongue and he sighed, irritated.
Mycroft's eyebrow shot up before he lowered his gaze, resigned. "John, you know that I'm not a man of sentiment; and yet, I have to concede that the effect all this has on me is quite... unsettling."
"You may have tried to pull the wool over my eyes, Mycroft, but I have seen too much and I know you aren't the iceman you keep pretending to be."
"I'm not the one who didn't believe me when I said I cared about Sherlock. Remember, John?"
"Yes, ... yes, I do. But..."
"Tell me this, when you were in Afghanistan, how did you manage to cope with what you saw?"
"I didn't – and you know that, Mycroft!"
"Oh, you mean what you call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You know my opinion, John."
John shook his head in annoyance, snorting disbelievingly. "It's simply impossible to have a normal talk with you!"
"Again, it wasn't me who started this talk."
"You are a...!"
Mycroft grinned, fanning the flames of rage in John. "Let it out, John. We will soon be spending some time together, thus I think it is essential to eliminate any lack of clarity."
John stared at Sherlock's brother. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"As far as Sherlock's well-being is concerned, no," he replied, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands on his lap. "What I wanted to say is that one develops strategies to survive."
John clenched his fists and gritted his teeth to overcome the fury he felt inside. A little more collected he said, "I don't think it's a good idea to stay at your house Mycroft. No – let me explain!" The older Holmes had leaned forward and had wanted to interrupt John, but shut his mouth again, signalling Sherlock's flatmate with a wave of his hand to go on talking.
"You know I have no real idea as to how the mind palace thing works, but from what Sherlock says – remembers – I have a feeling that something is wrong with the way the information is stored or brought to the surface. He talks about things he didn't have the faintest idea about before the shot. Things he had deliberately deleted from his memories. And all of a sudden they are there. I'm not sure if that's a good sign."
"I generally share your worries, but the specialists say that there is nothing visible on the EEG or on the MRI, so there's nothing to worry about."
"I assume, though, that your specialists have also told you that global retrograde amnesia can rather be a problem of the psyche than of physical damage."
Mycroft hesitated for a split-second. "We'll have to wait, John. Rest assured that I have already taken steps to help Sherlock." John perceived a faint aura of anxiety in Mycroft's body language and he was convinced that the man was hiding something from him.
"Oh, you have? What steps?" John enquired.
"Finding the man who helped Sherlock create his mind palace."
"Your friend – Tobias whoever it is, right?"
"Correct. If there is anything wrong with Sherlock's mind palace, he will be the one possessing the ability to help him repair it."
"I really hope you're right! Aren't you at all worried that these re-emerging memories could be a... bad... sign?"
Again, Mycroft hesitated before answering. "I don't think so. As I said, there is nothing to worry about."
John didn't believe him, but sensed that further probing wouldn't lead anywhere. "Apart from that, have you found out anything about the driver or the connection of the body to the Tabun?"
Mycroft got up from his chair and started pacing the room, his hands clasped behind his back and his leather soles clicking a muffled rhythm on the PVC-floor of the ICU.
"Nothing we could definitely work with to catch the one pulling the strings. The driver was just a stooge, a nobody, slow-witted, with a tendency towards domestic violence. According to military records he was unstable, therefore rejected by the army, but without any discernible connection to my brother. We're still investigating."
"With all the means you have at your disposal – that's all you have so far?" John asked disbelievingly. He had assumed that the personified British government would be able to solve the case within hours or days at the most, and now disappointment about the fact that even Mycroft hadn't been able to find any further clues spread inside him. However, the traces of agitation told him that Mycroft was hiding something from him; maybe he knew more than he was willing to divulge. John scrutinized Sherlock's brother, who had stopped pacing and was leaning against the wall by the entrance of the ICU, one of the rare spaces in the room where leaning on it was at all possible. The two men stared at each other for a few seconds before Mycroft shrugged.
"Although it may sometimes be your greatest wish and at the same time what you would hate about me the most, to my greatest regret, I am not almighty."
"No,... I see, but you are also not entirely sincere."
Mycroft raised his eyebrows, then smiled humourlessly.
"And my brother's ability to read people has apparently slightly rubbed off on you. I am slightly surprised, however, to what extent I have been, if you want to express it thus, wearing my heart on my sleeve lately."
"Oh, so, you admit it. What is it then?"
"I fear, dear John, that that's none of your business," he replied coldly, leaving no doubt about the termination of the topic.
John was fuming. "You were the one telling me that we needed to get things straight before... moving in with you!"
"Yes, I recall having said it. And yet, there are limits that you have to accept."
"I see," John hissed, "you set the terms."
"It's my house," Mycroft stated, slightly tilting his head and producing another of his smiles that didn't quite reach his eyes, before straightening his neck and raising his chin, thereby radiating his superiority.
John was entirely fed up with the Holmes' secretiveness. Throughout all that had happened recently, he had had the feeling that they had finally joined in a common course; and yet, Mycroft's rather arbitrary waves of concealment raised doubts in the ex-army doctor. The prospect of staying at the Holmes mansion and being under Mycroft's control made John squirm with discomfort and a feeling of uneasiness. As soon as he was able to climb stairs, they would return to Baker Street. Recovery went better in places where one felt home.
As every talk with Mycroft seemed destined to end in a skirmish, John decided that it was better to go back to staring at the wall rather than raising his blood pressure. Apparently, Mycroft didn't object to it as well as he took his seat by the wall again, folded his hands in his lap and stared at nothing in particular. God knew what he was thinking about.
After some time the hissing sound of the opening ICU door could be heard and Sherlock's bed was rolled in. Mycroft literally jumped from his chair and John sat up in his bed as quickly as possible. The doctors told the two waiting men that everything had gone well and that the induced coma would only help the healing.
Sherlock looked again pitiful with yet another intubation and the white dressing on his head, under which some of his dark curls peeped out. It was a bit odd, though, that they hadn't shaved his head entirely. John had to smile involuntarily when the image of a bald-headed Sherlock and his reaction to it crossed his mind. He would have been furious. As much as the Consulting Detective loathed such banalities as going to the hair-dressers, which was definitely below zero on his scale of necessity to leave the house, leading to his hair length being rather long, he was still somewhat vain of his black curls. Who knew, maybe the nurse preparing Sherlock for the first operation had fallen in love with the unruly dark mess – or he would wake up having a tonsure. John couldn't withhold a laugh and in response was being glared daggers at by Mycroft. Aware of the indecency, he mumbled a repentant "Sorry," but had to bite his lips to stay serious.
All of a sudden John painfully
realised that he would be missing the banter and jokes between him and Sherlock
that were mostly at each other's or somebody else's expense, however, were
based on their true friendship. For the time being he was a stranger to
Sherlock, as everyone else was. It would be a long road ahead...