John wants to bang his head on the refrigerator floor at the irony. He would, too, if he weren't up on his tiptoes and dangling by his handcuffed wrists from a meat hook. Mycroft, who has been far more cooperative than John, is also handcuffed but has generally been left to his own devices and stands far too placidly next to John, watching their kidnappers shout into a phone.
Sherlock is on the other end of the line, because Sherlock is who they want and John hasn't been kidnapped in a while. Mycroft, who'd finally deigned to meet John at a café, was just along for the ride, an ironically unimportant player in this little drama in spite of being one of the most important people in the country. John shuffles on his tiptoes and debates the pros and cons of going back to meeting in obscure locations and Mycroft goes about picking the lock of his handcuffs with a pin he'd pulled from the hem of his coat.
The situation wears on interminably as their kidnappers argue amongst themselves in between arguing with Sherlock who is for once not being a complete dick. John and Mycroft make quiet small talk to pass the time. The lock of Mycroft's cuffs click open, but he leaves them around his wrists, loose enough to slip out of but just tight enough to be convincing. John bounces on his toes, confident that he'll be able to jump high enough to get the chain of his cuffs over the hook but missing the weight of his gun. Mycroft's people arrive in force, or at least Mycroft says they do. John has no reason to doubt him.
During another shouting match between the kidnappers and Sherlock, things escalate drastically. John isn't terribly surprised, (the world would probably implode if Sherlock went more than a few hours without being a complete bastard), but it is a little worrying when the man shouting into the phone aims the waving gun at him. John reminds himself that most kidnappers try to keep their hostages alive until their demands are met, but he gathers his legs under him, getting ready to jump. Mycroft goes very still beside him.
John can't hear what's being said on Sherlock's end, but apparently he manages to find some tact at the last moment, because the muzzle of the shouting man comes down. He doesn't relax, of course, because a tactful Sherlock is too good to last, and then Sherlock goes and proves John right by saying something that pisses the man off something awful, because the gun comes right back up and fires.
John is mid-jump before the gun even goes off, but it's already too late, rest in peace, Johnny we hardly knew ye, and the bullet strikes home, piercing cloth and flesh and muscle like so much cheap newsprint.
Except John lands flat on his feet, bound hands free before him, whole and hale and looking at Mycroft's broad back. Mycroft, who stepped in front of John at the last moment, whose greater height and mobility translate a shot to the heart into a shot to the liver, damaging but not quite as instantly fatal.
A commotion breaks out among the kidnappers. A similar commotion breaks out among Mycroft's people outside. The negotiations between both parties breaks down and John ignores it all, guiding an unsteady Mycroft down to the floor as best he can with his hands cuffed together. He focuses on stanching the blood and assessing the damage, his hands steady with adrenaline and practice.
“Ouch,” Mycroft drawls, peering up at John through squinting eyes.
“I'd kiss it better, but that'd probably hurt, too,” John snarks back.
Mycroft tries to sigh in mock resignation, but it pulls at the wound and he flinches mid-exhale.
“Stop that,” John snaps.
Mycroft obediently subsides and shuts his eyes, his face still too placid for this whole ridiculous situation. There are still signs of strain: increased pallor, sweat, tightening of the finer facial muscles, and John focuses on these rather than letting himself think about the fact that Mycroft Holmes just took a bullet for him. Right now, Mycroft Holmes is shot in the abdomen. John can introspect later.
John looks up at the familiar sound of gunfire. It echoes weirdly through the abandoned meat processing plant and is almost drowned out by the kidnappers' arguing. Guns are waved, authority is challenged, and the group descends into armed anarchy. The smart thing to do would be to quietly drag Mycroft to a more sheltered position, but the refrigerator is empty save for the rows of hooks and John's hands are literally tied--
Except they aren't, when he looks down again. Mycroft's strained grin is smug and his wrists are bloody from where he'd been working around his own wound to pick the lock of John's handcuffs.
John appreciates the thought, but taking advantage of two free hands would mean releasing the pressure on Mycroft's gunshot wound, a risk he's not willing to take. He might miss the war, but he certainly doesn't miss his patients dying under his care.
John and Mycroft watch the situation devolve before their very eyes. The refrigerator might have been an excellent defensive position had their kidnappers been going up against London's finest, but against Mycroft's professionally trained squad they're rats in a leaking bucket and they know it. Backed into a corner, they do the only thing they can do: they bar the single door and threaten the hostages.
Mycroft's blood seeps steadily out from beneath John's hands and John can see him wavering on the edge of consciousness. The threats might buy their kidnappers precious minutes of safety, but for Mycroft, those precious minutes are increasingly deadly. The negotiation team seems aware of this and makes hasty promises of safety for every member of the kidnappers. The kidnappers' infighting quiets down, but the atmosphere remains tense, and after some very skilful fast talking on the part of the negotiators, they agree to allow a medic in with a first-aid kit to treat Mycroft.
In Afghanistan, John spent enough time around Americans to get to know the 'we don't negotiate with terrorists' sort. He figures Mycroft's people to be above that, to be cunning enough to use the terrorists' mindset against them, and that's almost what happens. Unfortunately, whoever is in charge of this particular operation either thinks he's smart and is incredibly stupid or is just plain stupid.
The door opens and the medic comes through carrying a white case with a red cross printed on its front. John looks from him to the wide-open door and his soldier's instincts prickle. Under his hands, Mycroft stiffens.
The bullets that come through the refrigerator doorway are disappointingly predictable. The medic dodges out of the line of fire and brings up his own gun, firing point-blank into the startled kidnappers. It's a textbook example of the element of surprise.
The gunmen go down one after the other, but the remaining few scatter and return fire, guns already out and cocked from their previous infighting. The medic goes down in a spray of bullets, the man who shot him following soon after. After the brief but fierce firefight, there's only one kidnapper left, a lower ranked thug who'd had the sense to hide behind the door. An armoured and black-clothed soldier edges into the room to subdue him, but when he raises his gun to fire, he doesn't turn it on the soldier.
He turns it on John.
John is already throwing himself to the floor when the gun goes off, expecting an arm or shoulder wound for his trouble, and the bullet actually does hit him this time, plowing into the meat of his pectoral up near his armpit. There's a burst of gunfire and the man dies in a messy splash of red.
John looks at his shoulder and then looks up at Mycroft, who is inexplicably sitting up. Mycroft gives him one last smug grin, (still too damn placid for this whole damn shitshow), and faints, falling into John's arms like a swooning maiden but twice as heavy and with three times as many bleeding bullet holes.
Mycroft wakes to the sound of John playing Scrabble against himself.
“I'd say 'good morning', but it's just gone six in the evening,” John says.
Mycroft licks the inside of his mouth, wondering how long it had been since he'd last brushed his teeth. “Good evening, then,” he replies, voice rough from disuse. “How long have I been unconscious?”
“Two weeks,” John replies casually. He lays out another set of tiles on the Scrabble board. Five letters. Mycroft is too buzzed from whatever drugs they've given him to care.
“Sherlock came by a few times,” John continues. “Said that he'd had some words with your 'masters'. Heads rolled, apparently.”
Mycroft watches John rearrange the tiles on his rack. After a protracted silence, John looks up at Mycroft.
“You've never been on the good drugs before, have you?” he asks, amused.
Mycroft blinks. “Mmm, no.” He wonders what John's point score is. John taps the Scrabble board with a tile. Mycroft likes the noise it makes. He flips it up and runs it nimbly over his knuckles and Mycroft stares.
“You're an idiot,” John says, apropos of nothing.
“Am not,” Mycroft shoots back. It's a terribly childish thing to say, but his internal filter seems to be broken.
“Are too. You took two bullets for me, the second of which did you more damage than it would've done me. You're an idiot.”
Mycroft scowls. “Neither was particularly fatal.”
“Individually, no. Together, yes. Idiot.”
“Stop calling me that. And obviously not, if I'm still alive enough to be called an idiot.”
“Your surgeon would say otherwise. Twice. You're very lucky, for an idiot.”
“Or what, you'll keep pouting at me?” John laughs. “Idiot.”
Mycroft Holmes does not pout. “Why do you keep calling me that?” Mycroft Holmes also does not whine.
John goes unexpectedly serious. “Why did you get in front of those bullets?”
“Because.” Mycroft wants off of whatever drugs they're giving him. They've reduced his conversational skill to the level of a child's.
“Of?” John presses.
“You,” Mycroft answers grudgingly. “You're...necessary. You make Sherlock--” he pauses, thinks, “--better.”
“So you saved my life for your brother's sake.” John leans back in his chair, blinking like he's been struck by an epiphany. “You really do worry about him, don't you?”
Mycroft glares and does not pout, because he's already told John as much and he dislikes answering whose answers are already known.
“And what about you?” John asks.
Mycroft briefly considers being obstinate and saying 'What about me?', but he's tired and drugged up and would like to go back to sleep, so he just answers with a truth. “You're useful. It's easier to talk to Sherlock when you're there.”
It's not the truth, though, and John smiles like he already knows what it is that Mycroft isn't saying.
“Glad to be of service,” he says cheerfully. “But you're still an idiot.”
Mycroft scowls, but the door of his hospital room squeaks open before he can reply.
Sherlock sticks his head into the room and says, “John's right. You are an idiot. And Mummy's very upset with you. Let's go, John.”
John reaches into the bag of Scrabble tiles to replenish his rack. “I think I'll stay a little longer. Say hello to Mrs. Hudson for me.”
Sherlock looks between his idiot brother and John. “Stay and do what, watch Mycroft snore and spell out as many Bond girl names as you can remember?”
“Sounds like a plan,” John replies. “Good night, Sherlock. And pick up some eggs on the way home. Chicken eggs, please.”
Sherlock looks between the two of them and snorts. “Right. Evening.” The door clicks shut behind him.
Mycroft watches John lay another set of tiles on the board, eyes blinking as he fights off sleep. “You don't need to stay.”
John nudges the placed tiles into a neat line. “You're right, I don't. But I want to.”
John's smile is the last thing Mycroft sees before he loses the battle against sleep.