Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own OCs, should I create any for these stories.
Author's Note: Seventh story in the Captain No Longer arc. Follows directly after Through the Looking Glass. Also completely ignores Jo's canon departure/Sarah Jane's showing up to UNIT. Just…bear with me, okay?
The Doctor hadn't been joking when he said it would take time to help Mike come back to himself.
It had taken several attempts in the first place to convince Mike that Benton was back to normal and knew who he was, and to remind him that he wasn't John Benton. It had been incredibly slow going, though, as he still reacted like Benton no matter how much they tried to treat him like Mike Yates. Finally, Benton had decided some form of action needed to be taken, or things would never change.
First to go had been the Sergeant's stripes. When Mike wouldn't give them back himself, Benton had crept into the barracks and gone into Mike's locker while he was sleeping and switched them out for the Captain's pips, as well as Mike's peaked forage cap. Mike had protested upon finding them in the morning and had tried to return them, but Benton (with the Brigadier and the Doctor backing him up) refused to back down. So reluctantly, Mike had begun wearing the pips and cap again, looking rather uncomfortable with the whole affair.
Next was booting Mike from Benton's spot in the barracks, sending him back to his own quarters. That one had taken a lot more convincing, as Mike had outright refused at first. The Brigadier had needed to make it an order before Mike would comply, and even then he still grumbled privately about it not being right.
But no matter how they dressed him up or where they made him live, Mike still wouldn't fully accept the fact that he wasn't Benton. They had almost given up on ideas to help bring him back to himself, when Jo had hit upon something one afternoon.
She had been watching the Doctor as he worked in his lab, and had started thinking out loud. "I do wish there was some way we could help Mike. He just doesn't seem to respond to anything we try. He didn't really start thinking he was Benton until I told him that John and I had started going out, though. Do you think that might be the cause?"
"That could be it," the Doctor had agreed. "Losing the girl to 'himself' must have been a rather unfortunate blow to his confidence. Did you say anything in particular to him at the time?"
Jo thought about it for a moment. "No, not really. I just told him what happened, and showed him the drawing John gave me as a present."
"Drawing?" The Doctor's eyebrow raised. "What drawing?"
"This one." Jo pulled it out of her bag, handing it over. "I'm sure I showed it to you already."
The Doctor examined the drawing, finding nothing out of the ordinary - it was simply a regular pencil sketch of Jo. Then his eyes caught on the small signature in the lower right-hand corner. "Jo, did Benton tell you he drew this?"
Her brow furrowed. "I believe so. I didn't know he could draw, but then again, I never knew he could dance until recently, either."
He held up the drawing, pointing out. "Jo, does this look like Sergeant Benton's handwriting at all?"
Jo looked at it closely. "No, not really. His handwriting is a lot messier than this. Even when he thought he was Mike, he couldn't copy it exactly." Then her eyes widened in realization. "Right after I showed Mike the drawing, something changed. I could see it in his eyes; it was like he gave up. He stopped trying to stay 'Mike' after that."
The Doctor nodded. "Exactly. Now, I happen to know that Mike's enjoyed drawing for a long time, though he doesn't tell a lot of people about it. In fact, the only reason I know is because I happened to catch him doing it one day on patrol. So perhaps that was his way of dealing with this situation - no one knew that it was a 'Mike' trait, so he continued to do it in secret. But Benton using his drawing - unintentionally, I assume, as he thought he was Mike - must have been what really caused the breakdown."
"Do you think getting him to draw again might help him, Doctor?" Now Jo looked worried. "Oh, I do hope that I haven't caused him to be stuck like this forever. I should have paid closer attention to the drawing. I would have noticed that it wasn't John's handwriting right away. If only I'd seen…"
"Jo," the Doctor cut her off gently, "What's done is done. Now, we can't change what's already happened, but we can try to help Mike now. Maybe this will be the push he needs to make him realize that he really is Mike Yates."
"You're right," Jo agreed, standing up. "I only hope we're not too late."
The Doctor had assured Jo that the human mind was a very resilient thing, and that given time, Mike should be able to recover his identity. However, it was hard to believe that when Mike just sat there looking extremely uncomfortable in his own uniform, staring at the pencil and paper that Jo had brought him as if he had no clue what to do with them. "…I'm not quite sure I understand, Miss Grant."
"The Doctor said it would help. He said you would know what to do," Jo replied, frowning slightly at his use of formality. "And it's 'Jo', you know that."
"Sorry, Miss," Mike apologized. "It's just… I don't draw. I'm not sure how the Doc thinks that this will help."
"But you do draw! The Doctor said he saw you doing it once."
Mike frowned. "He must have been mistaken. I don't draw; never have." Then he shook his head, as if to clear it. "Captain Yates likes to draw…. but how would I know that? He never told me…"
"That's because you are Mike Yates," Jo reminded him gently. "Somewhere inside, you know that's true, too."
"But I can't be Mike," he said in a strained whisper. "There's nothing left for me. He took it all - rank, place in UNIT, family visits, accent, you… he even took drawing."
In that moment, Jo realized just how truly shattered Mike had become by this entire ordeal. "Is that why you stopped trying to be Mike?"
He nodded slowly. "Why should I have held onto 'Mike' when he was doing a better job of it? All I had left was the act."
"But Benton's alright now. He's back to normal, and he just wants to see Mike back. We all do," Jo pleaded.
"Doesn't surprise me, Miss Grant," Mike said, no longer meeting her eyes. "I'd like to see him again, too. But what if I'm not sure how to be Mike Yates anymore?"
Jo had left Mike alone after that, no longer able to hold back the tears. It was frustrating, seeing him in this position - she had no doubt that he still wanted to be himself again, but to hear that admission; that he wasn't sure how to be Mike Yates anymore? It was heartbreaking.
Benton had come across her in the hall as she headed back to the lab and had asked what the problem was, but she really didn't want to talk to anyone right now. So she had just shaken her head and vaguely gestured back to the mess hall where Mike had been sitting, before walking off again.
Benton looked down the hall at the retreating figure of the clearly-distraught Jo, and debated for a moment whether he should go after her. Then he decided that Mike probably needed his help more right now if talking to him had caused Jo to react like that. With that said, he made his way over to the mess hall, where he found Mike sitting at a table, aimlessly scribbling on a piece of paper. "Mind if I join you?"
"Go ahead," Mike replied distractedly, still writing on his paper. Benton sat, then leaned over to get a better look at whatever he was doing. Jo had confided in him earlier about their idea to help Mike out by getting him to draw again, and for a moment, he thought it had worked. But as he got closer, he realized that the Captain was scrawling out a list instead: two headings reading Mike Yates and John Benton, and what looked like characteristics underneath both. Some were crossed out, some circled, and others underlined. Benton couldn't make heads or tails of what the list was supposed to signify.
Just as he was about to ask what it all meant, Mike let out a frustrated huff and stopped writing, dropping the pencil to put his head in his hands. "I can't do this."
"Can't do what, Sir?" Benton asked mildly.
"Can't be Mike Yates. I don't know what's Mike, and what's John anymore, because I've had to be John so long that I've forgotten how to tell the difference." He looked up, and Benton could see the agony in his eyes. Benton started to apologize, as he truly did feel horrible about how this had all gone, but Mike stopped him. "Please don't apologize. It wasn't your fault; we all knew you were under the Trickster's spell, or oojah, or whatever it was." Then he sighed. "I want to be able to be Mike again; really I do. I just wish I knew where to even start. Everything's a huge muddle now."
Benton looked thoughtful for a moment, trying not to show how bothered he was by the similarities of Mike's accent and speech pattern to his own. "Well, how did you become John? You clearly did a very thorough job of it, if you don't mind my saying so, Sir."
Mike laughed mirthlessly. "I really did, didn't I? Deepest cover I've ever had to pull off. Had to build it up bit by bit before it was believable, though. The first month or so, you kept thinking there was something wrong, because I wasn't 'Benton' enough. You wondered if I'd been taken over or was an impostor."
"I did?" Now Benton couldn't help but look slightly amused. "Didn't harm you at all, did I?"
Mike shook his head, unable to stop a small smile of his own. "No; just locked me up in a storage bin until the Doc had convinced you I really wasn't an invading alien life form."
"Sorry about that," Benton replied sheepishly, rubbing at the back of his neck. Then he sobered. "So if you built up being 'John' bit by bit, couldn't you do the same for 'Mike'?"
"I suppose so." Mike nodded slowly. Then he looked back at his list and frowned again. "But where do I start?"
Benton flipped the list over, revealing a blank sheet of paper. "Just work backwards. Drawing was one of the last things you lost, so it should be one of the first things to come back." He handed Mike the pencil, before standing up and preparing to leave. "Just… don't give up on yourself, Mike."
His piece said, Benton left, leaving Mike to look at the blank paper in front of him, wondering what to make of it. After several minutes, Mike picked up the pencil, and began the tentative beginnings of a rough sketch.
Benton, watching from the corridor - out of sight of Mike - let out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. Perhaps things could eventually be alright, after all.