“John, you have to answer it!” John blindly takes the phone from Mrs Hudson’s hand, his attention still fixed on the perfume on the side table.
He doesn't bother with a greeting. “Where are you?”
“Leinster Gardens. I think you should join me,” Sherlock replies.
“Leinster… you've just been through major trauma, Sherlock, you should be in bed! What the hell are you doing there?”
“I’ll explain when you get here. I’ll text you the address. Don’t tell anyone else. Anyone at all John, I'm serious.”
“Why – oh never mind.” John sighs. “Fine, send me the address. And God help you if you've done yourself more damage.” John terminates the call and stands, tracing his finger over the perfume bottle lightly.
“Where is he then? Is he okay?” Mrs Hudson asks and John startles.
“Fine, he’s fine. I'm just going to get him and haul him back to hospital. No need to worry.” John smiles, a brief twitch of the lips and then he’s racing down the stairs. He jumps into the first cab he can flag down.
o O o
“I suppose I should be grateful you at least brought that,” John points to the bag of fluid hanging beside Sherlock’s head.
“I waited as long as I safely could, John, I'm not an idiot.” Sherlock snaps.
John cocks his head as he approaches and a slight crease appears on his forehead. He grasps Sherlock’s arm and pulls up his sleeve, frowning.
“Really? It doesn't look that way from here,” he says, as he follows the tubing from the saline drip to find it lying impotently on the ground.
“Sherlock, you were shot,” he says, exasperated, “You died on the table. You died! You've had major surgery. Any one of those things would have you bed ridden for weeks. All three at once - it’s a miracle you’re alive at all. I nearly lost you - again - and now you’re…” he trails off and waves his hands vaguely at Sherlock.
“I know. I know all that. Stop wasting time! There are things you need to know, if you haven’t figured it out already. I left enough clues in the flat that even you should have noticed.”
“I did notice and I'm drawing some conclusions that I don’t really like, Sherlock, so I need you to explain it to me. But before you do - I'm not foolish enough to believe I can convince you to return to the hospital, but I am going to examine you. Take off the coat.”
“John, there isn't time for this,” Sherlock starts to protest.
“Make time. Take the coat off,” he says, the words clipped and precise. John glares at Sherlock, his jaw clenched, his hands in fists at his sides.
“Oh fine, if you’re going to be like that about it,” Sherlock huffs, standing. He removes his coat and jacket and unbuttons his shirt, exposing the dressing on his chest.
John checks him thoroughly while Sherlock stands stock-still; his barely-controlled impatience almost palpable. John sighs and draws back.
“Fine, you’re fine. Okay I get it. Just make sure you tell me if anything changes, okay? You shouldn't be up and about yet, you stubborn git.”
“Can I get dressed now?” Sherlock asks, sarcasm dripping from his tone. John waves his permission.
“What’s so urgent that you had to compromise your health?” John asks, as he helps Sherlock back into his coat.
“Mary.” Sherlock replies perfunctorily.
John swallows. “You had her perfume at Baker Street.”
“Yes, good, you noticed. I thought you might but one never knows. John…” Sherlock pauses, turns John on the spot and backs him towards the chair, his hands on John’s shoulders. “Actually, you should sit.”
“Sherlock, I'm not going to bloody sit down. Just tell me what’s going on!”
Sherlock licks his lips, hesitant. John frowns. Sherlock doesn't remove his hands.
“It was Mary at Magnussen’s office. Mary incapacitated Jeanine and the security guard. And it was…it was Mary who shot me.”
John shakes his head, his knees buckling beneath him and Sherlock eases him into the chair.
“I'm sorry John. I knew she was hiding something, since the day I met her, but I never looked into it. I should have. You just seemed so happy with her and she even liked me. I suppose that should have been warning enough. I didn't want to know. If I knew then I’d have to tell you and then you’d hate me for it like you did when I had to fake my death. I didn't think I could stand that again. I'm sorry. It’s my fault it got this far.”
“No, that – that doesn't make sense... You’re confused. You were shot. You lost a lot of blood. You’re mixing it up.”
Sherlock kneels in front of John, his gaze gentle. “No, John,” he says, uncharacteristically softly, “I wish I was, but I'm not. It was Mary.”
“Mary’s just a nurse, Sherlock,” John says plaintively. “She’s just a nurse. Why would she do any of those things?”
“I'm not certain,” Sherlock says crisply. He stands and starts to pace but winces and leans against the wall instead. “I have some ideas but you know how I feel about theorising before I have the facts. She’ll tell us herself. She’ll find me soon and there are steps we need to take to prepare before she gets here. She mustn't know you’re here. She won’t tell us anything if she knows you’re here and until you know whatever secret she’s so desperate to keep we’re all in danger. John? Are you listening?”
John’s shoulders are shaking; muffled sounds come from behind his hands which are shielding his face. Sherlock tentatively puts his hand on John’s good shoulder and shakes it lightly.
John looks up. He’s giggling, laughing uncontrollably. He shakes his head, squeezing his eyes closed and gasping for breath.
“John, stop. Stop it. Look at me. Breathe. You’re fine, just breathe.” Sherlock squeezes John’s shoulder in time to his own breaths, inhale-squeeze-exhale-release. After a few minutes, John seems to pull himself together.
“Sorry. I'm sorry.” John swallows and grinds the heels of his hands into his eyes. He takes a deep breath.
“Okay. You said Mary is coming here and we need to prepare? Tell me what I have to do.”
Sherlock holds John’s gaze a moment more, then nods. “Stay here. Turn your collar up and rough up your hair. If you’re seated the height difference won’t be apparent and without the overhead lights on, she’ll assume you’re me. She’ll tell us everything.”
Sherlock’s phone chimes with a text. “Ah good, she’s just arriving. Get ready quickly. I’ll be around the corner. Just don’t move, whatever you hear don’t give it away for god’s sake.”
John settles in the chair, ruffling his hair and standing his collar up. Sherlock walks away, dialling a number on his phone and switching off the lights.
“Can’t you see me?” Sherlock is saying.
John takes another deep breath, and waits.