"Tea," John uttered and saw Sherlock literally jump. He had apparently been lost in thought.
"Since when have you started creeping through the house?" Sherlock asked accusingly.
"Since you have deafened your ears to the outside world," John replied drily, leaning his crutch against the wall by the door and taking one of the mugs in his other hand to relieve his already red skin from the heat. "I'm not creeping, Sherlock. You're just distracted. How could I be creeping with that thing on?!" With a nod of his head he pointed to the crutch and his injured leg.
The tall man slowly turned to face John, his eyes shockingly unconcealedly mirroring his inner turmoil. He was pressing his lips together, which added to the miserable and bitter expression of his overall body language. For a moment he didn't say anything; he seemed to be hesitating. John was preparing for yet another snide remark, therefore, Sherlock's next words baffled the ex-soldier.
"I've gone through it again," the Consulting Detective admitted sheepishly, having lowered his eyes and avoiding John's glance.
It was now the latter's turn to indecisively hesitate for a tick. After a brief moment, however, he forced himself to limp up to his friend, holding the cuppa out to him.
"I heard you, Sherlock. I wasn't joking when I said you'd been screaming and calling for your brother for a couple of hours. - Wanna talk?" John tried carefully.
The Consulting Detective reached for the mug and took a sip, his concentration apparently utterly focussed on the drinking process. On the second sip he threw John a glance over the rim of the mug as if he was assessing John as to whether he could entrust his flatmate with the experiences of his abduction. In the very back of his mind, John was slightly hurt by the look, although he knew that Sherlock wasn't one for blurting out matters of emotion to anyone, particularly not when he was the one suffering from them.
"You could wait for Mycroft instead, if you want," the doctor offered.
For a minute, Sherlock's glance seemed to be turned inwards before he focussed again on John, apparently ignoring John's remark.
"I don't think word can express ...," he started saying very quietly, but let the sentence trail off, clasping his hands helplessly. This was a gesture so boyish and insecure that for a split second John rather saw the child Sherlock in front of him.
"... the terror?" he tried to help out. "Look, Sherlock, you're talking to an ex-army doctor, invalided home, suffering from PTSD – and I think that's pretty much what you're suffering from as well –, struggling through psychotherapy, so, don't tell me how hard it is to express the terrible experiences and the numbing feelings that come along with them. It's worth giving it a try, though, you know?" John leaned to the doorframe, taking a sip of his tea and watching Sherlock attentively. "I think we've already had this kind of talk."
Sherlock had turned back towards the window, showing no reaction. John wasn't even sure if he had grasped what he had just said. He should probably give him some rest. When he was just about to retreating reluctantly, realising that Sherlock wouldn't talk to him, the Consulting Detective whispered, "I was... so... cold."
John could hear the effort it took Sherlock to say these few words. He knew from his own war experiences that it really wasn't easy to say what had happened and to put any of the emotions into words. He didn't dare moving, his cup of tea raised half way to his mouth, afraid of ruining the first weak attempt of Sherlock's to talk about his abduction.
Sherlock didn't say anything for some time and John could only hear his strenuous breathing. It was obvious that he was very upset, the breaths becoming shorter and more ragged, and at some point John realised that Sherlock was sobbing. The older man was tempted to walk up to him and comfort him, however, he wasn't sure about how Sherlock would react, if he even wanted to have someone trying to physically comfort him, so he just stood and waited. His leg started hurting and he wanted to move, but still he remained in the exact position that he was in. The Consulting Detective had hunched his shoulders and only the occasional shaking showed that he still hadn't regained his composure.
"There must be something abnormal about me that I didn't suffer from claustrophobia or any other phobias after that." Sherlock resumed talking after blowing his nose and wiping away the tears, still his back turned on his flatmate. Normally, Sherlock didn't bother with other people's opinions about him or with what was considered normal, but John thought that it had probably been different in his youth when everyone had tried to find out why he had been so different from other children.
"You couldn't remember, Sherlock, so I assume, you couldn't develop any of the phobias." John added carefully.
"Maybe..." Sherlock mumbled distractedly. Sherlock's jumps in thoughts could be somewhat frustrating when they were trying to solve cases, for instance, but John knew that he had to be very patient now and that it didn't matter whether Sherlock actually listened to him, as long as he kept talking.
"He looked so... evil, John. You know I'm not good at reading faces, much better though today than as a child, but that look... it was... pure..." Sherlock was struggling to find the word that would fit. "...hatred," he finished the sentence, and John felt an unpleasant tickle at the small of his neck.
"Actually, I don't know if it was hatred, but I had never seen it before," he went on, "I ran, you know, but like in a classical nightmare, I was too slow. He caught me and for a moment I remember I was convinced I was about to... die. I didn't want to die. I wanted to get away, but there was the rag over my face, Chloroform, and I knew I wouldn't be able to escape. And do you know what was worst? I knew nobody would come looking for me..."
The ex-army doctor knew that Sherlock was wrong. All the talks he had had with Mycroft had revealed one thing very clearly: all the time the older Holmes had taken care of his much younger brother, protected him, rescued him, had a careful eye on him. He hadn't been alone, but apparently the bloody Holmes-typical aloofness had left the child Sherlock insecure of his family bonds and, thus, of their support and love. John wanted to say something, but apparently the mental throwback to the events of the abduction and their processing had started: The words were pouring from Sherlock's mouth, sometimes as a coherent and sober summary of the incident, sometimes ragged confessions of his churned emotional state, sometimes just bitter sobs and sometimes even outbursts of ungovernable anger. John stood and listened, ignoring the throbbing pain in his leg, forgetting about the tea in his mug that was getting cold. He felt as if he was nailed to the spot, unable to move, taking in what his flatmate was confiding to him.
The images caused by Sherlock's graphic descriptions were crawling into John's consciousness, leaving cold traces on his skin and making his hair stand on end. He knew about methods of torture as they had been trained in the Army to endure them, but these were the descriptions of a child being tortured for John didn't see the adult Sherlock anymore but the suffering child. He felt a lump forming in his throat and tears welling in his eyes. The doubts he had had about Mycroft taking action in deleting his brother's memories of the abduction were dissolving into nothingness. It was almost unbearable to simply envision what Sherlock had gone through, and he could only vaguely guess what it had been like when the child had returned, broken by the torture, physically and mentally on the verge of an abyss.
John didn't know how long they had been standing there, Sherlock facing the window, he himself watching his back. He hadn't felt much apart from the pain that was Sherlock's. When the Consulting Detective ended, they still didn't move, but John perceived distantly that his leg had gone completely numb. And yet, it didn't matter – not now. He was still leaning against the doorframe and clinging to the mug that just was now as cold as his hands were. John was shivering slightly and his heart was beating violently. Sherlock was standing absolutely still, the sobs slowly subsiding, and after a while John could hear just his regular and seemingly calm breaths.
The doctor cleared his throat in order to say some soothing words, when Sherlock turned around slowly. His view, however, only rested on John briefly before focussing on something behind him and his eyes narrowing to slits.
"How long have you been standing there?!"
"Long enough, brother dear," Mycroft replied, an unfamiliar tone of sadness and softness in his voice.
John shot around, forgetting about his leg, which wouldn't follow his too quick movement, so that the doctor tripped and lost balance. The mug flew through the hall, the remaining cold tea spurting everywhere before clattering on the floor. Mycroft intrepidly caught John, putting him back to his feet and giving him one of his particular artificial smiles.
"Now, now, John. What a tumultuous welcome."
"Damn, Mycroft! I will install a set of locks at our flat door if you don't stop sneaking in! Jesus!" John scolded.
"Do you think that would keep me out?" Mycroft asked patronizingly, pouting his lips as if he was in fact contemplating it. "I don't think so," he stated after a brief moment, adding yet another fake smile.
"I need to sit down," John grumbled, throwing a glance at the mess in the hall, and limping to the living-room. He would take care of it later.
The ex-soldier sensed that it was probably time for him to retreat for a while. At some point of his terrifying report Sherlock had apparently forgotten whom he had been talking to. He had just spoken from his heart and, therefore, revealed to John that brother Mycroft had meant a lot more to him that he nowadays was willing to admit. Thus, the siblings had to talk openly and hopefully overcome their tenacious childish feud – eventually.
John dropped into his armchair by the fireplace, closing his eyes and trying to order his thoughts. He couldn't hear the brothers speak, so they had probably shut the door to Sherlock's room. Many loose ends of Sherlock's personality seemed to shift into place in the view of his experiences and the memory deletion. The Consulting Detective hadn't been able to recall the caring side to his brother's personality, he only remembered being left behind by him, and all Mycroft's struggles of keeping a careful eye on his brother so that no harm could be done to him, had thus been mostly misinterpreted as patronizing.
John's thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he heard Mycroft say:
"So,... little brother. How are you now?"
Apparently, they had neither shut the door nor had they talked already. John wasn't sure if he really wanted to witness their talk, but at the same time he didn't feel like getting up and strenuously crawling up the stairs to his room. Therefore, he just stayed.
"So,... big brother. Caring is not an advantage, huh?" Sherlock returned, imitating Mycroft.
"Depends, really, Sherlock. I couldn't have let you die – imagine how upset Mummy would have been."
Sherlock huffed. "Mummy, yes. - I... never..." He was apparently searching for the right words, "... said thank you."
"No, of course not. I wouldn't have expected it anyway, Sherlock. And I don't expect it now."
"Didn't think you would." Sherlock mumbled, almost unintelligible for John. "Still, - thank you."
"Are you getting sentimental now, brother mine?" Mycroft wanted to know, and John could visualise the raised eyebrows of the older Holmes and the edges of his mouth turned up, his head slightly tilted.
"I guess I've really had my trip on emotions today."
"Don't get addicted then. - Will you cope?"
"Actually, Mycroft, John was right. Talking does help a little."
John raised his eyebrows in surprise. Either Sherlock meant it or he simply wanted to get rid of Mycroft.
"If you need my help, little brother, let me know." Mycroft offered.
"Whatever help that could be, I wonder," Sherlock muttered and John grinned. One particularly astonishing thing about the Holmes brothers, and especially Sherlock, was that one second they could be charming, sentimental (although they would never admit it) and amiable, and in the very next second they could be the most remarkable gits the sun had ever shone on.
"Do me a favour, Mycroft. – Next time knock, if you don't want to be shot some day because John mistook you as a burglar. He can sometimes be a bit touchy, you know?"
John heard Mycroft's snorting. "Imagine what would happen if I was found in your flat with a bullet from an illegal army weapon in my body that could easily be traced back to John. You and John had better put up with me calling on you every now and then, Sherlock."
Steps could be heard and seconds later Mycroft
nodded his good-bye to John, swinging his umbrella in a well-practised,