Sherlock was standing in the hall of the Holmes mansion, hands buried in his coat pockets, his eyes exploring every corner of the large room, however, there was no sign of recognition visible on his face. John was leaning heavily on his crutches, exhausted from the journey and slightly overwhelmed by his first impression of the manor.
The last days in hospital had gone by rather uneventfully, or as uneventfully as one could say in viewof the circumstances. Contrary to John's fears, everything had gone well with Sherlock. The awakening had been a moment of hope for the Consulting Detective's memories to return, but to everyone's regret nothing had changed and Sherlock still couldn't recall anything. As soon as he had been able to speak properly, he had questioned John about his life, his habits, his family and friends, about everything that one would want to know about oneself.
John had tried to answer the questions in as detailed and truthful a manner as possible, however, he had realised that he knew very little about his friend's youth and pre-Baker-Street life. When he had told Sherlock about his peculiarities, he had been rewarded with an occasional laugh or frown. It had been good, on the one hand, to see Sherlock smile or laugh, but, on the other hand it turned John's heart over to see his friend estranged from him. The older man felt that Sherlock had instinctively trusted him, but he missed his "old" companion with all his rudeness and flaws.
The ex-army doctor was still worried about the Consulting Detective's mind palace as every now and then he surprised John and himself with small pieces of knowledge that John knew he had definitely deleted some time ago.
In order not to be confined to a wheel-chair during their stay at the Holmes mansion, John had mustered all his will-power and had forced himself - and his physiotherapist – to get started with the walking training and to grin and bear the pain every step had caused him. It had been like an explosion in his leg first, but had slowly subsided to a rather dull pain with some occasional peaks. John simply hadn't wanted to be completely helpless under Mycroft's custody; moreover, being able to stand on his feet was much of an improvement to his self-confidence and ease.
Only three days after Sherlock had woken from the second induced coma, he had insisted on getting up. However, when he had tried to stand upright for the first time with the help of a nurse, which he had accepted rather reluctantly, he was swaying like a blade of grass in the wind and his hands shot up to his head, pressing his palms against the temples as if to prevent his skull from bursting, and he had had to sit down again instantly. Paradoxically, the lack of memories hadn't obviously done anything to change his stubbornness as he had been his usual selfduring the tough negotiations about the extent of help he would need. He had grumbled and growled and hadn't wanted to accept that he simply needed some more time. After two more attempts, Sherlock had finally stood on shaky legs. John hadn't been able to suppress a grin at the sight of the World's only Consulting Detective, his skinny legs poking outfrom under the hospital gown, and yet a somehow proud expression on his face, which transmuted in an instant into an irritated frown over his roommate's reaction.
They had spent the next couple of days "exercising", most of the times falling into a deep exhausted sleep right afterwards. Both John and Sherlock had wanted to escape the depressing atmosphere of the clinic room. The ex-army man had in fact never really disliked hospitals to such a degree before, presumably due to the fact that he had never been personally involved so much. It was one thing to be a doctor and regard the hospital as your work place; it was an entirely different thing to be a patient or to be in the position of worrying about a patient.
While in hospital, John had witnessed a few moments of strong uneasiness, if not fear, in Sherlock's body language and upon questioning him about it, he had only received vague answers. Of course, they hadn't spoken about Sherlock's abhorrence of hospitals since John wouldn't have been able to explain it anyway, but again he discerned that it had to be not just any quirk of Sherlock's but something deeply-felt, emerging even without any memories of earlier clinic stays.
When the doctors, after sheer endless examinations, had found it tenable to release Sherlock and John, they had lectured them on various dos and don'ts in order not to jeopardise the healing process, which had been completely unnecessary because of Mycroft's meticulous precautions. They were accompanied by a doctor who was supposed to remain in the background, and yet to keep a careful eye on the two men; plus, it had been arranged for Molly Hooper to pay them a visit. Mrs Hudson had been invited as well, but her sister hadn't been well, so she had had to call her visit off with a heavy heart. She had been quite upset and only a talk with John on the phone could convince her to leave for her sister's. John thought it would be better anyway as it would probably be too much for her if Sherlock didn't recognise her. She was, after all, no spring chicken anymore.
Sherlock had remained silent all the time while Mycroft had informed them about his arrangements and it became obvious that he felt quite insecure as he was fumbling around with the small magnifying glass that he had found in his coat pocket, frowning.
Mycroft had brought them clothes from home: a suit and matching shirt for Sherlock, and a pullover and track-suit trousers for John, who wouldn't fit into any normal trousers with his broken leg and the metal apparatus. Sherlock hadn't shown any surprise about the high-quality tailor-made suit and shirt and had just got dressed without any comment, albeit rather slowly.
Sherlock's apparent discomfort had only occurred later when decisions had been made over his head and he had had nothing to say to it. 'No wonder', John had thought; he would be spending the next weeks in an unfamiliar place surrounded by utter strangers and everyone would be expecting him to remember the people and the place. He could imagine that it had to be a frightening feeling his flatmate was experiencing. There they were now, standing in the quite impressive and somehow intimidating hall of the Holmes mansion. On the left hand wall, there was a massive dark mahogany staircase winding up to a gallery on the first floor, its posts carved and turned. They were standing on parquet flooring of a lighter shade of brown a step away from a huge woollen Persian rug in mainly red and bluish colours. To their left and right, there were double swing doors as well as a single door on each side and another one under the staircase. The hall was furnished with heavy wooden chairs that would have complemented a king's throne and the same king's army in armour – or rather only the metal pieces, being nonetheless imposing. A gigantic chandelier was hanging from the wooden ceiling, its crystal elements reflecting the light in myriads of sparks around the upper part of the wall. John didn't know too much about architecture and arts, but from what he knew, the chandelier couldn't be as old as many of the other pieces of furniture in the hall, which were, most likely, medieval. Someone of the Holmes family had to have had a liking for pompous light. John was stunned by the splendour of the entrance and it seemed as if Sherlock was also slightly stunned, although John didn't have the impression that his friend was particularly fond of what he saw.
John wondered what the other rooms looked like. At first sight, it didn't seem likely that he would encounter any unusually modern fittings and furnishings anywhere in this house, and yet he suspected that such rooms as the bathrooms and kitchen would only be old-fashioned – or rather classic – in style, most certainly not in age.
All of a sudden, Sherlock turned left and walked towards the single door, whose leaf appeared as if it was weighing a ton, massive and dark and rather uninviting.
"The master of the house will be in the library, I assume," he stated plainly.
John almost dropped his crutches, and could only pull himself together a split-second before, instead, his jaw dropped. Sherlock had almost reached the door.
"How do you know?!" he asked, completely baffled.
"Most mansions' libraries are on the left side of the entrance hall, because of the general orientation to the directions of the entire house and, therefore, the incidence of light in the library that allowed reading later in the afternoons or evenings in times of merely candle light, therefore, it's west-oriented. My... brother isn't here yet, but told us that he would await and receive us here, the butler left through the door under the staircase, most likely in the direction of the kitchen and servants' rooms only to call my brother in the library – I heard a faint sound of ringing. Why call him and not knock on the door? Hmm, most likely safety precautions, if government issues were top secret – servants do have their eyes and ears everywhere. Don't ask. No, I don't remember and it's nothing miraculous, John."
The stunned man looked down at the carpet, shaking his head.
"Tss..., Sherlock, you're incredible. How could you possibly know that?"
"I didn't know – apart from the general knowledge – I observed."
"Oh, yeah! I forgot. Sounds quite familiar, Sherlock," the doctor muttered.
The Consulting Detective looked at him with a frown. "Does it though?" he wanted to know.
"It's more or less the first thing I got to know about you – that you observe. – Sherlock, you may have lost your memories about who you and we are, but you are still pretty much yourself, as far as I can tell. It seems as if you can't recall only what concerns your personal experiences. Your general knowledge seems to be unaffected."
"And still, it's a bit... distressing not to know who you are," Sherlock remarked already slightly absent-mindedly, eyeing the door. "I wonder why he lets us stand around here for ages. He should have awaited us here."
"We've only just arrived, so keep calm. He might be busy –or it's tactics." John mumbled the last bit to himself. He suspected that Mycroft could indeed have waited to let Sherlock take in the first impressions of his former home in the hope that it might trigger his memories to come back.
Suddenly, the door to the supposed library flung open and John caught a glimpse of the imposing old-fashioned room stuffed to the high stucco ceiling with books. His view fell on a dark, shiny carved desk on which a disturbingly modern laptop was sitting. Mycroft almost bumped into his brother, stopping short just in time. The two men faced each other for a brief moment with slightly predatory glances, before Mycroft's expression changed to a smile.
"Welcome home, Sherlock. John. I suggest sitting down in the living-room and having a cup of tea. You need to rest. Make yourselves at home." He was gesturing in the direction of the double-winged door, walking past Sherlock and entering the room first. The younger Holmes stared after Mycroft for a short while before following him, John limping behind the two. He was grateful to be able to sit down. The journey had been more strenuous than he had imagined sitting in a very comfortable limousine and being driven to the countryside could be. Sherlock had to have felt the same way as from time to time he had screwed up his eyes, his complexion slowly turning from pale to chalk-white.
Upon entering the living-room, John was surprised byits brightness. The French lattice windows were decorated with heavy cream-coloured curtains matching the sofas and armchairs in the room. The other pieces of furniture in the room originated from different centuries, some being rather massive and medieval-looking, others more delicate and embellished. John suspected them to be genuine Hepplewhites. The colossal silken carpet reflected the light in beautiful pastel-colours. On the left hand side there was a fireplace with a richly decorated white mantelpiece with some family photographs in silver frames on it. John was curious if there were any pictures of young Sherlock and his family.
On the opposite side, attached to the living-room, there was the dining room, furnished with the same kind of heavy medieval chairs and table as in the hall. A knight's armour was standing in the two corners of the room that John could see from his angle, as if guarding the guests at the table. Although a crackling warm fire was burning in the fireplace, John felt slightly chilly and intimidated. This had nothing to do with the cosy narrowness of 221B that, despite its often rather messy state, offered a certain security and privacy that John was missing in the atmosphere of the Holmes mansion. He could imagine that it had to be fun for a child to play knights in this house on a visit or on holidays, but children didn't need adventures all the time and growing up in the reminders of ancient times didn't really fill the ex-army man with pleasure.
After their refreshment with tea and sandwiches, which were served by a butler, they were shown their guest-rooms. John gained a vague idea as to why it was entirely natural for Sherlock to leave John to prepare tea or dinner most of the times, being used to being provided with such things by a servant.
The room he was allocated to was as luxuriously old-fashioned as what he had seen of the house so far. However, the en-suite bathroom was expectedly modern and yet classical with golden taps. The Jacuzzi he found behind a partition wall, however, surprised him and he cursed the injured leg that wouldn't allow him to use it. Being a guest in the Holmes home wasn't too bad after all and John sensed that money wasn't a big issue here.
Before he could finally rest, there was another examination by the doctor, whom they hadn't seen upon their arrival. John was already on the verge of sleep when the man left the room, satisfied with what he had found.
During the next couple of days, Sherlock and John spent most of the day either in their rooms, resting, or sitting in the extraordinary library by its fireplace, reading, talking just a little, or simply doing nothing but staring into the dancing flames, watching the fascinating colours of a birch fire. However, from day to day, John noticed an increasing restlessness in Sherlock. As soon as the sutures were removed from his flatmate's scalp, and there was no need for the dressing anymore, he shook his hair free, apparently regretting it instantly as he screwed up his face and slumped in his chair. Although he wouldn't actually admit it, he still had a nasty headache. He immediately inspected his head in a mirror and was obviously pleased that the remaining hair covered the bald spots quite successfully.
The two men didn't see Mycroft very often. There was always one meal that they took together, but there was hardly any of those that wasn't interrupted by the British Government's phone ringing, calling him to urgent business.
One afternoon, Molly paid the two men a visit. Being entirely overwhelmed by the size and splendour of the mansion, she appeared even shyer and more confused than normal.
When she entered the living-room, where a short briefing of Sherlock as to who Molly was had just taken place, she only managed a thin, "Hi."
John gestured her to come over to the sofa. As he had rested his leg on a cushion on a stool, he remained seated. Sherlock got up, adjusting his blazer and closing the button in a seemingly innate movement.
"Hello, ... Molly. Nice to meet you – to see you, I mean."
The pathologist gave Sherlock an insecure smile that was rather more of a grimace than it was supposed to be. It was, undeniably, a spectacle to see a polite and hospitable Sherlock, leading her to the armchair opposite where he had been sitting before and offering her tea.
Molly took the fine porcelain cup filled with steaming milky tea from Sherlock and took a sip, which burnt her mouth.
"Shit," she sputtered before she was able to monitor her language. "Uuh, sorry. I..."
Sherlock looked at her with some curiosity, as if he couldn't really believe what John had told him about Molly - her professionalism, her remarkable ability to put up with the occasionally most annoying man John had ever known and her braveness during the time they had been in the coma (some facts of which he only knew from what Nurse Deborah had told him). Her outburst seemed to disturb the image John had painted a tad. Apart from furrowing his brow, however, he didn't show any reaction to it and just went on with an attempt small-talk, which appeared so odd to John that he couldn't withhold a humorous grunt.
Both Sherlock and Molly stared at him, the younger Holmes rather evilly. John could read in Molly's eyes, however, that she was as baffled about the usually unfriendly man's behaviour as John himself was.
"Your lipstick quite matches the colour of your shirt. Suits you well," Sherlock complimented her, and both John and Molly burst into laughter about the ridiculousness of the situation. Sherlock was entirely puzzled and getting rather annoyed by then.
"Children!" he muttered, dropping into the sofa and pulling his knees up to his chin in a huff, ignoring his shoes on the cream fabric.
After the two laughing people had calmed down a bit, they filled Sherlock in about the reasons for their amusement. They told him about the Christmas drink that they had once had and where Sherlock had utterly humiliated Molly by making comments about her lipstick. It was good to see, though, that even Molly could laugh about it today, as Sherlock's humiliation had spoiled her Christmas that year. He didn't actually join in their amusement, but frowned and John apologised to him, sensing that it wasn't funny at all to be laughed at when you didn't have the faintest idea why exactly you were making a fool of yourself.
Within an hour things settled a bit and they spent a rather pleasurable afternoon together, recalling anecdotes about Sherlock and Molly's work in the morgue and the laboratory, however avoiding more really awkward situations. It would be soon enough that Sherlock would remember them and resume his old behaviour towards the pathologist.
When the sun was already setting, Mycroft suddenly stood in the doorway, watching Molly and John chatter and laugh and Sherlock listen and at least smile.
"Good afternoon," he announced, causing everybody to quiet down and look at him.
The older Holmes put a smile on his face and approached Molly, who had got up from her armchair, smiling at Mycroft. To John's surprise, she didn't appear insecure this time.
"Hello Mycroft. Nice to see you again."
John stared at the two, who were now standing opposite each other, exchanging genuine smiles and a handshake that was crowned with a hint of a kiss on the hand by Mycroft.
"It's my pleasure," he purred.
John almost choked on the cookie that he had just bitten into and Sherlock looked at him quizzically. Of course, Sherlock didn't know how odd the situation was. Had John not known about the crush Molly had on Sherlock, he would have had the impression that the two were flirting with each other. He did choke on the crumbs of his biscuit when Mycroft invited Molly to stay for dinner, which, unfortunately, she had to decline due to other duties.
After Molly had left, Sherlock excused himself quite soon, skipping dinner; and although it had been a very interesting and entertaining afternoon, John longed for his bed, too.
Despite his restlessness, Sherlock became increasingly quiet during the next few days, which John observed with growing worry. One beautiful sunny afternoon he asked Sherlock to go for a walk in the mansion's grounds.
The Consulting Detective threw an I-know-exactly-what -you-want-to-talk-about glance at John, but simply shrugged and left for the garden.
"Thanks for waiting," John muttered and followed his friend, carefully putting some weight on his injured leg while walking, supporting himself on the crutches. He caught up with the thoughtful man on the patio, where Sherlock was waiting, exposing his face to the warm spring sunshine.
"You want a tan?" John asked cheerfully.
Sherlock answered with a questioning frown.
"I gather, I'm not actually the usually nut-brown golf player type of man, aren't I? Although, technically, I know how to play golf."
"Haha, no, not really. The darkest tan I have ever seen on you was more of a light cream colour. Usually, people would rather suspect you sleep in a coffin and only come out at night." John joked. Suddenly, an idea struck him. "You technically know how to play golf. Do you also technically know how to play the violin?"
"Hmm, yes, I think so. You pull the strings that begin to vibrate and, depending on the frequency and amplitude of the sound waves, you hear different tones and volumes. Need more? - What are you aiming at, John?"
They hadn't talked about the violin so far. "I don't mean that technically. You do play the violin, Sherlock. According to you, it helps you think. I was wondering..."
"... whether I can still play it and whether it might help bring my memories back." Sherlock finished the sentence, raising his eyebrows.
"I guess that wasn't a difficult leap. Yes, exactly. We could have Mycroft get your violin," John suggested, glad to have come up with something that could probably distract his friend from pondering too much.
"Thank you, John, but..." The sentence trailed off.
"What is it?" he probed, his worries suddenly fanned.
"I'd rather we went home. As much as I haven't got the faintest idea of what "our home" is, I long to go there. This... this here doesn't feel like home at all. It's making me... nervous."
John's eyebrows shot up. So, it hadn't been a misperception that Sherlock felt ill at ease in the Holmes mansion - as did he himself.
"We have to talk to Mycroft." he replied, on the one hand relieved that Sherlock had confirmed what he had sensed before, on the other hand concerned about the practical side of returning to Baker Street.
When they talked to Mycroft about it at dinner, the older Holmes wasn't pleased about it, but apparently, his brother's welfare was more important to him this time than insisting on his standpoint. And eventually, three days and myriads of precautions taken later, a black limousine drove them back to London.