Sherlock was still asleep on the couch where he'd left him when John returned from his half-day at the surgery. He didn't stir when John walked over and sat on the coffee table, didn't wake until John placed a hand on his forehead. Even then, when his eyes opened, they stared blankly at John for half a second, as if he didn't recognise him, or expected to see someone completely different. Then he sniffed a little and resettled, wincing visibly as he stretched his neck.
“I suppose you're not the one responsible for transferring your medical records to the clinic, attention, me,” John said.
Sherlock blinked, grimaced, and looked away from John's face, focussing on a patch of wall instead. John could read embarrassment, possibly even shame in the lines of Sherlock's expression. Complete medical histories were stark, impersonal – but at the same time, intensely personal – documents of fact. He couldn't hate Mycroft's interference, not when Sherlock was laid low under the weight of illness and post-case fatigue. The early childhood penchant for chest infections, and once, pneumonia that resulted in a two week hospital stay, was invaluable knowledge. And yet, it felt like a betrayal.
“Well, just to double check, no penicillin allergy?”
Sherlock shook his head once, a lethargic roll of head on the cushions. John didn't recall him ever looking so defeated.
“Good. Medicine time, then.”
John produced a small bottle from his bag, and Sherlock rolled his eyes, the first sign of temper John had seen in at least a day.
“Really? I'm not a child, John,” he rasped. A papery, crackling whisper, totally unlike his usual, resonant tone.
John shook the bottle, listening to the liquid gloop and slosh. “No. You're just a difficult patient that I don't trust not to palm pills. Plus, this will be easier to swallow. Sit up.”
Sherlock shuffled up a little, but either lost interest or energy halfway. John found himself placing a hand at the back of Sherlock's neck, steadying his skull, while he spooned the liquid Amoxillin into Sherlock's mouth.
Perhaps it was the position, leaning over Sherlock. Perhaps it was Sherlock's breathing, shallow and ragged. Perhaps it was the bitter-saccharine smell of the translucent white liquid disappearing between Sherlock's lips, Sherlock's hair damp and greasy under his fingertips, but John suddenly found himself holding his breath. Imagining a very different tableau entirely.
Then the moment shattered when Sherlock looked up, his eyes shuttered, and opened his mouth for inspection, lifting his tongue.
Committed for treatment aged nineteen, benzodiazepine therapy.
Patient confrontational and obstructive.
Therapy approach altered.
John blushed, looked away. His hand was still on Sherlock's neck, the spoon dangling loose between the fingers of his other hand. A drop of liquid had fallen to rest on the wooden floor; it looked obscene.
“I distinctly remember you lamenting the over-prescription of antibiotics,” Sherlock said, and it was somehow an apology, forgiveness. Absolution given for knowledge unsought.
“You don't eat, you don't sleep, you ignore all the natural warning signs of your body in favour of solving puzzles, plus this flat has been like the Arctic for the past three weeks and you have no sensible clothing. None. Not so much as a cardigan. Add that to your persistent chest infections as a child, smoking as an adult, and I think I can comfortably put you in the At Risk category.” John rubbed his thumb across the nape of Sherlock's neck. Sherlock's eyelids fluttered, then he turned his head towards John, eyes still closed, seeking a caress like a cat. John's hand slipped round to cup Sherlock's cheek. His thumb rested close to Sherlock's mouth, close enough, in theory, to reach and gently trace his philtrum without stretching. He didn't.
“Silk is insulative,” Sherlock murmured, his words a buzz against John's hand. John waited for a beat, expecting more information, but none was forthcoming. Perhaps Sherlock was too exhausted to argue, even in this gentle fashion. Perhaps he simply couldn't remember.
“Not nearly enough. Not with Snowpocalypse going on outside,” John countered, and Sherlock snorted derision. It was probably the most undignified intentional sound that he'd ever heard Sherlock make. It also started off a flurry of coughing that ended with Sherlock sitting upright and doubled over, cradling his sore stomach muscles with both arms. John sat down behind him, rubbing Sherlock's back until the spasms ceased.
“You're warm,” Sherlock mumbled, seemingly inanely, until John realised it was a continuation of the conversation.
“I do have other things to do, you know, other than being your personal temperature regulator,” John said fondly.
“No, you haven't,” Sherlock countered, leaning his weight back against John until John gave up, gathered him in. It was the closest they'd ever been, just to be close. They were a bundle of limbs and angles, not quite comfortable, not yet.
Later, John told himself. There will be another day.