John lurched awake, stiff and uncomfortable in the hospital chair, his gaze going immediately to the still figure on the bed, then to the read-outs on the machines banked up on either side.
He looked down at the hand which was wrapped in his own. The strong, capable hand which usually moved with such precision, such purpose. The long fingers which could tame a violin into surrendering its most exquisite notes. So fragile looking now, so still, the blue veins too evident through the pale, pale skin.
He almost smiled, thinking of Sherlock’s reaction should he open his eyes and see John holding his hand. The eyebrow would most definitely quirk at such an imposition, he knew.
He shifted his gaze, as if by staring at Sherlock’s eyebrows he could encourage their movement but there was nothing. His eyes roamed over the high cheekbones, the long jaw, the surprisingly full lips. The most alive, most aware, most vibrant person John had ever met – where had he gone?
Behind him, the door opened but John did not look round. The staff had tried to keep him out at first, insisting that he wasn’t family, had no connection, no rights, but John had put his head down mulishly and refused to budge. Mycroft stepped in before they came close to dislodging him.
They only had a patient at all because of John, Mycroft pointed out, with an approving smile which John barely noticed. It was he who reached and twisted Sherlock, so that the bullet which would have entered the back of his head actually just skimmed across it instead.
There had been arguing but John hadn’t listened any more. He had enough experience of the Holmes brothers to know who would win.
“No change?” It was Anthea, making her early morning check on Mycroft’s behalf.
John shook his head. He did not want Anthea in the room. Anthea was not concerned about Sherlock. She didn’t care whether the figure on the bed still housed his spirit or whether it was just a shell, an empty house. It did not matter to her; Sherlock was just an item on her agenda, she didn’t care.
He glanced round. No bandage swathing her head. No needles in her arms. No ventilator keeping her breathing. Eyes open, conscious, alert, awake… he couldn’t look at her for long. Why did it have to be Sherlock whose body was lying in this bed? So many other people, none of them so alive as Sherlock, none of them so unique, none of them so important.
As a doctor, John knew that it was wrong to think this way, of course he knew. To resent everyone else for walking and talking when Sherlock could not; it was wrong.
As a man, he didn’t care. Better it was almost anybody else, better it was Anthea, better it was John himself, better it was anyone at all than Sherlock Holmes, who would leave such a hole in the world. When he next remembered to turn around, she had gone.