It's crept up on him slowly. He's done his best to ignore it, because sometimes that does work and it goes away without further intervention. The body is just transport, after all, and whatever interferes with The Work automatically becomes less important. So he's ignored the persistent chills, the slow dragging feeling of exhaustion, and the occasional bout of coughs that left him breathless and doubled over. For a little while, it even started to seem like it was going to go away, and he threw himself into the case with more zest than ever, determined that this serial rapist would not win.
But the morning after the case is solved, when he has nothing else to focus on, he wakes up early and the room spins violently when he stands up. Normally he sleeps for hours after a case but even though he's exhausted he can't sleep. He leaves his bedroom and finds John sitting at the kitchen table, finishing off a cup of tea in between bites of un-buttered toast. A single glance says that John is running late: the bottom of his shirt is missing a button, he hasn't bothered to add milk or sugar to his tea, and he spares Sherlock no more than a cursory look when normally he'd be taking the chance to coax food down Sherlock's throat before the infamous black mood sets in.
"I'm running late," he says, affirming the obvious. "Try to eat something today, would you?"
The thought of food turns Sherlock's stomach. He grimaces and manages to make it across the room to the sofa, where it's not so much that he throws himself down as his legs just give out and he collapses ungracefully. He feels hot and shrugs his dressing gown off, leaving him in just a pair of pyjama bottoms. "John," he says.
John pauses. "What?"
Sherlock squints at him, trying to mentally calculate the chances of John staying home to take care of him instead of going in to the surgery. But it's hard to think; his brain is moving sluggishly and as a result his thoughts are moving a fraction of the pace. "I don't feel well," he says finally.
John looks at him closer, moving into doctor mode automatically, but an alarm on his watch beeps and he jumps, losing focus. "I don't have time for this today, Sherlock," he says with a sigh. "I'm going to be late and Sarah will kill me at this rate. You're going to have to entertain yourself today." He hurries across the room, grabbing his jacket on the way by. "Oh, and I don't appreciate you lying to try and make me stay home," he adds as the door sweeps shut behind him.
Too late, it occurs to Sherlock that the long pause before he answered John makes it seem like he was concocting a story. He does do that sometimes; everyone knows that he resents John's work at the locum and that he does his best to call John away every chance he gets. But this is different. He pouts to himself, annoyed that John didn't believe him, and closes his eyes in an effort to stop the room spinning. He can't remember the last time he actually admitted to being sick and, annoyingly enough, his brain points out that may be a part of the problem. John is too used to Sherlock trying to get his attention to realize that Sherlock was serious.
Well, it's not like he really needs John. He survived on his own for thirty years before John came around. He puts a hand on the arm of the sofa and pushes himself into a standing position. His whole body wobbles and he falls backwards heavily, causing the sofa to scrape against the floor. Sherlock presses his hand to his face, half-expecting Mrs Hudson to come thundering up the stairs to find out what he's up to now. But when a few minutes go by and no one barges in, he remembers that Mrs Hudson isn't home. She was going to visit her sister up north for the week and she left very specific instructions on not destroying the flat. She has nothing to worry about. Sherlock has never felt less like doing an experiment in his life.
He closes his eyes again and finds himself drifting, sliding in and out of a restless sleep. At one point he registers that his body is shivering with the cold and he grabs his gown, pulling it over him. A familiar beeping disturbs him and he fumbles his mobile out of the pocket of his robe. The screen is blurry and it takes him a moment to focus on the words. It's Lestrade. There's a new case: a body has been found downtown missing the right eye and a kidney. Sherlock stares at his mobile for a few seconds, waiting for the excitement and adrenaline rush to sweep over him. It never happens. For quite possibly the first time ever he feels like turning down an interesting case in favour of staying in bed.
"Transport," he mutters, hoisting himself to his feet. It takes effort to remain standing and he totters awkwardly to his room, absurdly grateful that he doesn't have the extra flight of stairs to climb that John does, because there's no way he'd have the strength to make it. Just getting dressed in a pair of pants and button-up shirt leaves him sweating and breathless. He's still cold, though, so he snags one of John's jumpers that's a little too large for John and tugs it on. It fits Sherlock almost perfectly (it's a little too short in the arms and at the waist, but it smells like John so who cares?) and when he pulls his coat over that, he finally feels warm.
He texts Lestrade back to let the man know he's coming and starts down the stairs. Midway down another fit of dizziness nearly sends him sprawling. He catches himself just in time and clings to the rail the rest of the way. A cab pulls up as soon as he puts a hand up and he crawls into the backseat, snapping off the directions to the cabbie in between a series of rough coughs that make his throat burn with pain. The cabbie eyes him warily but seems to decide it's best not to ask when Sherlock glares at her. He leans against the window, pressing his forehead to the cool glass, and stares vacantly out the window at the passing scenery, not even paying attention when his mobile pings with a series of new texts.
The crime scene is located in a seedier part of London. Sherlock gets out of the cab and wanders in the direction of the flashing lights. No one disturbs him, as by now they all know better than to get in the way of the consulting detective and a crime scene (the results are never pretty). Lestrade looks up and greets him with a terse nod.
“No John?” he asks, eyes flicking past Sherlock.
“Surgery,” Sherlock mumbles, swiping a hand across his forehead. It’s hot. He unbuttons his coat.
Lestrade sighs. “Try to behave anyway.”
Not deigning to respond, Sherlock crouches and begins examining the body. Or he tries. This, he realizes, must be what it’s like to be one of the lower masses. He’s seeing details, things that he knows are important, but he can’t think of what they might mean. It’s massively frustrating. He’s also cold again. He conceals a shiver as an agitated shift and rises back to his feet, too quickly. A hand lands on his shoulder and he twists to see that Lestrade is staring at him with narrowed eyes.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Sherlock says, blinking heavily. He’s not about to tell Lestrade that he’s sick. Really, the man should notice, considering that he’s seen Sherlock at his worst several times before. Lestrade is the one who helped him through a fair portion of his detox.
“Is this about John being at the surgery?” Lestrade lets go and folds his arms. “I’m not calling him, Sherlock, no matter how poorly you try to look. The man has a right to a life outside of you.”
Sherlock gives him a sneer, remembering all over again why he’s needed in the first place: even Lestrade doesn’t notice what’s right in front of him. He turns away and his stomach lurches unpleasantly as Anderson and Sally wander over. Normally he’d greet them with a sharp comment but if he opens his mouth something entirely different is going to come out. Instead he swallows hard and pretends to be absorbed in examining the body (there’s blood mixed in with something dark and oily on the arm, but what does that mean?).
“Get on with it, Freak,” Sally says.
“Your victim works in a jewellery store,” he says, deciding to act like she’s not there. He’ll talk solely to Lestrade and leave as soon as they’ve got enough to go on. “A high end one. This was meant to look like a serial robbery but it’s not. It’s more personal.”
Lestrade pulls out a notepad and gets ready to write. “How do you know?”
How does he know? It’s there one moment and gone the next. Sherlock opens his mouth and then closes it. He’s getting colder, the shivering perceptible now, and the alley is moving. Or is that him? Lestrade looks up from his book and starts to say something, then pauses. A look of alarm spreads over his face just as Sherlock feels the disorienting sensation of falling. When he opens his eyes again, he’s on the ground and there are voices shouting around him. Everything has gone hot and blurry and bright and his head hurts terribly. What is he doing? Why is he here?
Oh yes. A crime scene. He tries to get up but warm hands on his shoulders stop him, pushing him down gently with very little effort. “Leggo,” he slurs. If he turns his head he can see the body, but it feels like a vice has been gripped onto his head and he can’t turn in either direction.
“Sherlock, don’t. You’re sick. God, you tosser, why didn’t you tell me you were actually ill?”
Silvery hair flutters in his vision. It shimmers in the light and he closes his eyes. He knows who this is; he knows that voice, the one that’s taken care of him before. It’s... It’s... “Dad,” he rasps.
“No, it’s me, Lestrade.” If possible, he sounds even more concerned than before.
“Dad,” he says again, more urgently. Yes. That’s right, isn’t it? It’s hard to think but he knows this much. “Dad, I – ”
“Shh, alright, I’m here. Just lay still, alright? I’ve called John and he’s on his way.”
John. Yearning floods through Sherlock. He wants to see John very much.
“Shh,” he says again. Did he say something? There’s a high pitched buzzing in his ears and his throat feels scratched raw. “Shh, sunshine, John’s coming and I’m here. There’s no need to be upset.” Fingers comb through his sweaty hair. It’s soothing. His body relaxes against his will.
More voices mutter around him. He tries to listen but they’re speaking too quietly. At some point he begins to shiver. Someone puts a blanket over him but it doesn’t help; the cold has slipped into his bones and is spreading from the inside out. The hand stroking his hair never stops. He doesn’t know how much time has passed before he feels another hand on his forehead. It’s blessedly cool and he sighs, opening eyes he didn’t realize he’d closed.
“Sherlock,” John says, “can you hear me?”
He nods and that’s a bad idea; his stomach tightens and lurches and he chokes. Someone pushes him into a seated position just in time for him to vomit, but nothing comes out. His stomach is empty, seizing on nothing, and he weakly spits a mouthful of bile onto the ground before sagging backwards into strong arms. Weakly he pushes the blanket away as a wave of heat sweeps over him. The cool hand returns to his forehead.
“What do you think? Hospital?”
“No, Sherlock hates the hospital. I think I can care for him at home.”
“Alright. Let’s go.”
There’s a dizzying, disorienting feeling of moving, and then nothing.
Dreams. He knows they’re dreams, or at least he thinks they are. Hopes they are. There’s John, and Lestrade, and sometimes even Mrs Hudson, and he can’t do anything but watch. Moriarty is there, always an indiscernible shadow that hangs over everything, one that feels an unholy amount of glee at killing. He loses count of the times and ways in which they die: most often by fire, but his mind is nothing if not creative and proves that he can be truly inventive when it comes to the ways of death. His throat aches with the effort of trying to cry out, of trying to remain silent. At one point he swears he sees Mycroft and he lowers himself to begging his brother for help, only maybe it doesn’t come out right because for the first time that he can remember Mycroft looks genuinely taken aback by the words he’s saying.
People fight with him and he struggles, straining against what they’re trying to get down his throat, knowing that it’s another plot of Moriarty’s. Familiar voices speak and he recognizes them, sort of, enough to know they’re safe, and in between one dream and the next he allows them to pour liquids into his mouth and even swallows, though that still hurts. He alternates between being so cold he’s shivering and being so hot that even the lightest fabric is too much, except maybe that’s a part of the dreams, too, he doesn’t even know anymore. The line between reality and dreams has blurred and he thinks, maybe he’s died already and this is it, this is where he’s ended up.
Then the hands come back and pry his mouth open, something bitter dissolves on his tongue, and a comforting wave of black nothingness swallows him whole.
His head is throbbing when he opens his eyes to his bedroom at Baker Street. Lestrade is sitting beside his bed. So many dreams have started this way that Sherlock just stares at him, trying to discern whether he’s real. Lestrade has his head tilted back at an angle that will likely give him neck problems for the rest of the week and his eyes are shut. His breathing is slow but shallow and he’s not sleep, more dozing, ready to wake up at the slightest hint of provocation. One of his hands, oddly enough, rests on top of Sherlock’s arm. Sherlock looks at it blankly and wonders how he came to be here. He moves his arm a little and Lestrade jolts awake.
“Sherlock!” he says immediately, reaching out, and looks taken aback when he realizes that Sherlock is awake. “You’re... bloody hell, are you with me?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says, or at least he tries to say it. The word grates against the abused, raw flesh of his throat and he chokes, making it come out in one long, awkward hiss that ends in a bout of pained coughing. Lestrade grabs a cup and perches on the bed, sliding an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders and levering him up, pressing the cup to his mouth.
“Come on, sweetheart, there’s a good lad,” he says in a low, encouraging voice. He makes a pleased sound when Sherlock parts his lips and accepts the flow of cool water. “Keep drinking, good, it’ll make you feel better.” He keeps the cup tilted until Sherlock has emptied it and then gently eases him back against the pillows. “You stay here. I’m going to let John know you’re awake.”
Sherlock closes his eyes as Lestrade walks out. The water has helped, washing away days of dryness, and now he feels tired. His head still aches, though, and it prevents him from going back to sleep. He hears footsteps outside his door and his eyes open a little as John hurries into the room. John is speaking to him but nothing registers, just the tone of his voice, which is all concern and worry and, neatly hidden beneath the layers of emotions, true fear. He can sleep to that voice, wants to drift off listening to it, but then John shakes his shoulder, hard, and it clears the fog from Sherlock’s head, forcing him to wake up a little.
“Sorry,” John says when Sherlock glares at him. He doesn’t sound sorry. “But now that you’re lucid I’ve got to get some medication in you, Sherlock. It’s that or the hospital.” There are pills in his hands and he feeds them to Sherlock carefully along with more water, colder this time, but not so icy that it irritates Sherlock’s throat.
“Dad?” Sherlock asks, his voice low and hazy. A good representation of his mind at the moment. There are things that he should be able to deduce, details that he knows means things, but he can’t string them together like he normally would. His head feels heavy, sluggish, and it’s difficult to focus.
John stares at him for a moment and then there’s something odd on his face when he brushes the curls off of Sherlock’s forehead. “He had to go back to work, Sherlock. He was only here for a moment to make sure that you were alright. You’ve been out for a few days now. Had us all worried.” He attempts a smile that fails badly.
“I’m fine,” Sherlock mutters.
“You’re not and you know it. Go back to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”
That shouldn’t be as comforting as it is. Sherlock instinctively wants to disregard the gentle command, wants to stay awake and find out what that strange look on John’s face means, but his eyes shut automatically and he breathes in, breathes out, and when he opens his eyes again the room has changed. He’s alone and the sunlight shining in through the window has gone silvery and cold – moonlight, a distant part of him notes – and his head isn’t throbbing quite as badly as it was. He also has to piss and the pressure in his bladder is urgent enough that he thinks he knows what woke him up.
If John were in the room, he'd scold Sherlock for standing, but since he's not Sherlock pushes the covers away and swings his legs over the side of the bed. The room spins, the floor shifting beneath his feet, and he staggers, catching his balance against the wall. Grimly, he inches his way towards the door, refusing to be taken down by something so trivial - it's bad enough he's been asleep for as long as he has. The door has been left open just a little and he hooks his foot around the bottom edge, pulling it open. Just that tiny bit of exertion leaves him sweating and breathing heavily, but he feels a sense of accomplishment that gives him the strength to make it into the kitchen.
There are voices coming from downstairs, he realizes. John's warm and familiar tones rising in frustration, Lestrade's slightly deeper voice in a calming way, and... Sherlock scowls. Mycroft. He feels like his brother might have come by at some point earlier but that's unlikely. Mycroft has never liked being around Sherlock when he's ill; Sherlock has a distinct memory of being sick as a child and having Mycroft banish him to his room for the evening because his brother didn't want to get sick. If Mycroft's here, he must have some ulterior motive. Good thing John knows how to deal with him, and Lestrade is there for back-up, so that's alright.
He totters into the loo and props himself up against the counter. It feels good to release the pressure on his bladder, but it's almost like his strength goes into the toilet along with his piss, because as he tucks himself back into his pants he realizes he can no longer hold himself up. He tries to grab at the counter but his hands skitter uselessly across the smooth countertop and he tilts, falls, ending up on the floor, sprawled against the bathtub. His right wrist aches but the pain is distant. He stares blankly at the toilet and smiles to himself as the door swings open. John barges in and is leaning over him immediately, eyes wide with concern.
"Fucking hell, Sherlock, what were you doing?" he demands. In spite of his scolding tone, his touch is exceedingly gentle as he takes Sherlock's wrist and examines it for damage.
"Had to pee," Sherlock mumbles. "Did you know that piss is a source of strength in the human body, John?" It makes perfect sense but John doesn’t seem to appreciate his genius. Neither does Lestrade, lingering in the doorway, whose mouth twitches like he might laugh except he looks worried.
"What?" John looks incredulous. He puts his free hand on Sherlock's forehead and swears. "You're burning up again." He stands up. “Lestrade, watch him for a moment. I’m going to get some medication and then I think we’re going to have to put him in the shower for a bit. If we don’t get his temperature down soon he’ll have to go to A&E.”
Lestrade enters the room as John leaves and hovers over Sherlock, who pays him no attention because Mycroft has appeared in the doorway. Mycroft examines the scene dispassionately, taking everything in. Sherlock stares back at him, wondering why his brother is there. He doesn’t realize he’s asked the question out loud until Mycroft responds.
“I was told that you hadn’t left the house in two days,” he says. “Wanted to make sure you hadn’t accidentally killed yourself or John.”
Sherlock feels a spike of indignation. He’d never kill John. “I don’t want you here. Go away.”
“Still the child, as always.” Mycroft sighs, like it’s such an annoyance for him to take the time out of his schedule to visit even though no one asked him to, and adds, “I can’t recall the last time you were truly ill, Sherlock. Most of the time you were just faking it so that Mummy would feel sorry for you.”
“Liar,” Sherlock mumbles - Mycroft, annoyingly enough, tends to remember everything - but his comment goes unheard as Lestrade straightens and glares at Mycroft.
“He’s not faking this time, Mycroft,” he says dangerously.
“No, I suppose not.” There’s a disdainful look on Mycroft’s face as he glances at his brother again. “Much as Doctor Watson caters to you, not even you would have the acting skills necessary to get by a doctor.”
Sherlock scowls but he doesn’t get the chance to retort; his stomach cramps, like someone has reached inside and grabbed hold of his intestines and twisted, and a sharp tugging sensation in his oesophagus makes his throat tighten in warning. He tastes bile and gags.
“Dad, m’gonna be sick,” he gasps, lurching forward. Lestrade nearly ends up in the bathtub in his haste to get out of the way. Sherlock hangs over the toilet, throwing up bile and the water that he swallowed earlier. It tastes revolting and leaves a film over his tongue that makes him want to be sick all over again. He places his forehead against the cool porcelain and closes his eyes, breathing raggedly, hands clenched into fists. His stomach continues to spasm but there is nothing left to come up. Losing control like this is bad enough, but for it to be done in front of Mycroft is humiliating. He shudders and tries to think, to come up with something that will make his brother want to leave. As it turns out, he doesn’t have to.
“Alright, Mycroft, time for you to go,” John says. He is standing behind Mycroft holding the paracetamol in his hands. “Unless you want to help.”
It’s hard to say who looks more horrified at that idea, Sherlock or Mycroft. Mycroft beats a hasty retreat - possibly the only thing he has ever actually fled from - and John comes the rest of the way into the loo. He kneels down beside Sherlock and pushes a couple of pills into his mouth, then puts a cup of water to his lips and helps him to drink. Sherlock accepts a couple of mouthfuls before turning his head away when his stomach roils threateningly. John seems to realize what’s wrong because he sighs but puts the cup aside.
“Come on, Sherlock, into the tub,” he says quietly, putting a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder. Sherlock tries to stand up but his muscles have all gone all limp and weak; his legs fold underneath his body, refusing to support his weight. Lestrade finally steps in, taking the bulk of Sherlock’s lanky frame, and helps John manoeuvre him into the tub. They don’t bother to take his pyjama bottoms off. John turns the tap on and warms the water, or at least, that’s what it seems like, but the water is still frigid when it hits Sherlock and he flinches and tries to get away.
“It’s alright, Sherlock, don’t do that. This will make you feel better.” Lestrade crouches into a position that must be awkward and allows Sherlock to cling to him, lets the younger man bury his face against Lestrade’s chest. Sherlock shivers from head to toe and a soft whimper escapes his throat. He doesn’t like this, not at all, why are John and Lestrade doing this to him? Maybe they’re not really John and Lestrade, maybe this is some plan of Moriarty’s, a plot to drive Sherlock out of his mind or hurt him or…
A warm hand settles on his head and begins a gentle massage, tugging lightly at the roots. Through the muddled haze Sherlock registers the pleasurable sensation and whimpers again. Lestrade used to do this for him all the time, on the nights when the withdrawal became too bad to handle. He’d pin Sherlock down and stroke his hair until Sherlock either passed out or was able to function without too much pain, whichever came first. Sherlock has never told anyone or even remotely inferred he likes having his head rubbed; he’s pretty sure Lestrade hasn’t, either. Maybe, then, it really is them.
“Dad,” he mumbles. The throbbing in his head is beginning to recede, struck down by the firm pressure of Lestrade’s fingers, and the water isn’t quite as cold as it was before. The confused, disorienting flood of panic that had nearly overwhelmed dies away and he takes a shuddering breath.
“I’m here, sweetheart.”
“I’m here too, Sherlock,” John says from somewhere behind him. He puts a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder as proof and then gently splashes water up across Sherlock’s back, wetting the skin. It’s starting to feel good and now he can feel exhaustion weighing down his bones, the way it does after he’s been awake for three or four days during a case. John sighs and when he speaks again, he sounds relieved. “Go to sleep, love. We’re here and we’ve both got you, I promise.”
When he wakes up again, he has the sense that he’s been sleeping for a long time. Consciousness is slow to return, like his body is leisurely coming out of a state that is unfamiliar to it – and really that’s not all too far from the truth. He stares up at the ceiling blankly for a few minutes before the sound of dishes clinking together in the kitchen makes him stir, looking around. His room is otherwise empty but his door is open and light is spilling in. If he listens, he can hear the sound of the television and John’s voice as he mutters about the news.
Sherlock shifts restlessly on the bed and feels a sting of pain in his right hand. He looks down and notices that an IV has been inserted into his veins. The pole stands beside his bed with an emptying bag of saline attached to the tube. Even though he thinks he doesn’t, he must make some noise because suddenly John appears in the doorway.
“Sherlock, you’re awake,” he says. He’s carrying his medical kit and he sets it down on the bed, though he doesn’t open it. He reaches out and puts the back of his hand to Sherlock’s forehead instead, then checks his pulse and stares into his eyes. “You look better and you’re not nearly as warm as you were before. Do you understand me?”
“I’m not an idiot,” Sherlock says sharply.
John grins, looking inordinately pleased to be hearing that response. With a quick flick of his wrist, he opens the kit and takes a thermometer out. “Yes, you are.” And when Sherlock opens his mouth to respond he stuffs the thermometer in. “Don’t talk, just hold that there until it beeps.”
The thermometer beeps a minute later and John takes it out. He seems pleased with what he reads, but he continues his examination anyway, ending with listening to Sherlock’s heart with his stethoscope and then urging Sherlock to drink a glass of water and making him take a couple more paracetamol. Sherlock doesn’t protest and he tells himself that it’s because he’s still tired and John can be notoriously stubborn about these kinds of things, but really it feels nice to have all of John’s attention focused on him, where it should be, so he submits to it with just enough sulking to make John oblivious to this.
“I had to ask Sarah to bring me an IV,” John says. “You were so dehydrated at one point. Couldn’t keep anything down.”
Meaning, Sherlock knows, that John went far out of his way to keep Sherlock out of the A&E. The words “thank you” stick in his throat and he takes another quick gulp of water to avoid responding. His stomach feels fine but John takes the glass away from him anyway, not wanting to risk another bout of vomiting caused by drinking too fast.
“You’re doing much better. I’d like you to stay in bed for this morning but if you continue to improve you might be able to move out onto the sofa this afternoon,” he says.
“Can’t I move now?” Sherlock asks. There is a note of pleading in his voice that makes him uncomfortable. He doesn’t mean for it to be there, but - he’s been in this bed for days now and he still remembers the dreams he had. Consciously, he knows that Moriarty is dead, but Moriarty is the kind of nightmare that lingers long after he’s been destroyed. He wants to be somewhere he can make sure that nothing’s going to happen.
John sighs and reaches out to push a sweaty curl off of Sherlock’s forehead. “Yes, alright,” he says, and the way he doesn’t argue makes Sherlock wonder.
It’s a slow progress. John removes the IV first before he slowly helps Sherlock to stand. Lestrade isn’t there to make the process easier (and just where is he anyway?) and John’s bad shoulder burns and trembles when he tries to support Sherlock’s taller, lankier weight by himself. Sherlock isn’t much help: he’s disgusted by the way that his legs shake under him, though at least they hold him this time; he has a vague memory of trying to stand and having his feet come out from under him. That fleeting memory makes him remember something else and he looks down at John quizzically.
“Was Mycroft here?” he asks.
“Yes.” John grunts as they stagger the last couple of feet and then breathes a sigh of relief as Sherlock sinks down onto the lovely, comfortable sofa. He starts puttering around, making Sherlock more comfortable, as he adds, “Twice, actually. The first time your fever was so high you were hallucinating. You kept talking about Moriarty and asking Mycroft to stop him.”
Sherlock frowns slightly. One of his more annoying habits when he was younger had included talking in his sleep; he thought he’d trained himself out of it long ago. Apparently not. He’ll have to work on that. “And the other time?”
“I kicked him out before he saw too much,” John says after a noticeable, split second pause. It’s a lie, obviously, but Sherlock is willing to wait and deduce the truth of the matter later on. He’s not anxious to hear what else Mycroft is going to have to lord over him for the next however many years.
“Where’s Dad?” The question, the name, seems natural, feels natural, and John reacts to it without skipping a beat, like it’s the way things have always been, and because of that it takes Sherlock a moment to realize what he’s just said. He stiffens slightly, his hands unconsciously clenching into fists. Another bad habit, though not one he can blame so much on his youth, borne from too many days of being out of his mind with pain and illness and having Lestrade treat him like the child he and his wife were never able to have. They’ve never discussed it and Sherlock prefers to forget it happens. This is the first time he’s done it in front of someone and he feels his stomach twist apprehensively as he peers up at John.
“He’s at work, Sherlock,” John is saying, seemingly not having noticed Sherlock’s anxiety (typical). “He was here this morning but Donovan called him in. He had to go even though he didn’t want to.”
“Of course he did,” Sherlock says. The idea that Lestrade returned to work already makes him feel strange, but surely that’s just because there’s a case and he can’t work on it, right? “The Work is always more important.”
John rolls his eyes and lightly cuffs Sherlock on the shoulder. “Some of us have different priorities. Lestrade took time off so he could stay here and help me to take care of you, you know.” Now he’s watching Sherlock closely. “For a while there neither of us could leave the room without you panicking. He really cares about you, Sherlock.”
The weight of John’s gaze makes Sherlock squirm. He doesn’t know what to say in response and the longer the silence stretches the more he panics, but eventually John’s face softens. He stands up and goes into the kitchen and soon Sherlock hears the familiar sounds of tea being prepared. Sherlock sits alone, his stomach tight, staring off into space. Was John expecting him to say something about Lestrade? Is it supposed to matter or mean something that he can’t control himself when he’s sick? Just one more way his body betrays him, and it’s infuriating sometimes. He wishes John hadn’t mentioned it.
It’s a few minutes before John returns, this time with two cups of tea. He hands one to Sherlock and takes a seat on the sofa again. “Sherlock,” he says, staring into the liquid. “Next time you’re really sick, I want you tell me.”
Sherlock sips at his tea. Not too sweet, just how he likes it. It feels good, warming him from the inside out. “I did tell you.”
“No, that’s not - well, yes, you did, but…” John exhales and rubs a hand over his face. He looks tired. “I want you to make me listen if I think you’re having me on. You could have died, you know. If you’d been here alone in the flat and fainted, and your temperature spiked…” Now he looks distressed. “I should have been paying more attention. I will from now on, but I don’t want it to get this far again.”
“It won’t,” Sherlock says, and then, because it seems like the right thing to do, he adds, “Thank you.” And this time the words don’t stick in his throat.
John’s resulting smile is sweet. “You’re welcome.” He finishes drinking his tea and then stands up, stretching. “Think I’ll have a quick shower. Will you be alright?”
“I’m fine.” It’s the truth. The throbbing in his head has faded to a manageable ache and he feels better just being out of his bedroom. “Just pass me my phone.”
John fetches it without complaint and then disappears in the direction of the bathroom while Sherlock checks his texts. There’s a handful: a couple from John the morning he was sick, the ones from Lestrade that he didn’t look at on the way to the crime scene, and a few from new clients, all with cases that he can solve just with the meagre information included in the short texts. He deletes them all and then opens up a new text, staring at it thoughtfully. After a moment of contemplation, he slowly types out a three word text, sends it, and then deletes it. By the time John comes back out, he’s curled up into a ball sleeping, and John just smiles fondly, relieved, and strokes his hair a couple of times before going to prepare something to eat.
Thank you, Dad.