It took a good day for it to set in. The aching limbs, the feverish shivers, the throbbing headache that couldn’t be escaped and only got worse when Sherlock tried to find something, anything, to do to try and distract himself from the pain. There didn’t seem to be any flu medication in the flat, and the thought of venturing out when he felt like this was impossible.
It was just his luck on the timing too, as Mrs. Hudson had left for the weekend to go visit her sister and John was away for a medical conference. The only thing that could possibly make him feel worse would be if Lestrade called him for a case. He couldn’t possibly take one now, not when it hurt just to think of moving, not to mention running after criminals.
He miserably turned over from where he was curled in bed, shutters down and door closed to minimize outside stimulus, and tried to think of the last time he had gotten sick and what he had done to feel better. The only things that came to mind of sickness was when he had been a child and had a nurse or his mum to care for him, and the months he had spent after his near overdose. The memory of his detox made his stomach churn sourly with the memory of clinical hands on him, the best doctors Mycroft could hire of course, but strangers all the same.
His eyes drifted to his phone, thinking of calling his flat mate back home, the only doctor he felt comfortable with, but no, John had told him not to call or text him at all unless it was an utmost emergency. He closed his eyes against the memory that flashed through his head, ‘Not if there’s a case, not if you run out of milk, not if the bloody flat is on fire. Let me have this weekend and then I’ll go back to being your lackey when I return, him?’ He had said it with a grim smile that didn’t quite take the comment into the realm of humor. His next thought was of calling Mycroft and what he might have to do to pay his brother back for taking care of him. Sherlock swallowed thickly against the real pain in his throat and the imagined fist gripping it. The phone stayed inactive where it was on his bedside table.
He reached out of the cocoon he had created of his blanket and duvet to grab for the cup of water he had kept near him since he had first started feeling bad and groaned when he felt how empty it was. He’d have to get up and refill it, and he should probably get some sort of food in him as well, though he wasn’t sure what he would be able to keep down. Slowly he pulled himself up, wrapping himself in his dressing gown and holding a blanket over his shoulders for good measure as he padded on thickly socked feet towards the kitchen.
He grimaced as he felt how weak his transport had become, actual tears prickling his eyes at the pain and effort filling his cup and searching for food took him. Frustrated, he moved to the living room to sit on the couch, rubbing his eyes free of tears that wouldn’t seem to stop coming. The light coming in the windows seemed especially blinding and as his headache flared, he moved to lay on his side with a moan and buried his face in the back of the couch, wrapping his blanket around him as best he could. Pain slowly faded to a bearable level and with relief, Sherlock dropped back into sleep, happy to ignore his body for a while longer.
Awareness came slowly, then all at once he was hit by the pain, drawing another moan out of him. It felt like his very bones were on fire, his whole body burned and ached from head to toe. He heard something distantly, the thing that woke him probably, but he couldn’t concentrate on it. The noise fell to the background as he shivered, each contraction causing even more pain.
Suddenly there were hands on him, turning him slightly. He whimpered and tried to pull away and they gentled, touching his hands, then his forehead and cheeks. There was the noise of someone speaking, then they retreated. Sherlock sank back into a fitful rest.
The hands returned, this time pulling him up against something warm and solid, then there was a cup pressed against his lips, a hot liquid that tasted cloying and sweet as he opened his mouth to it. He let his head fall to the side as he finished drinking, feeling the gentle cool of the couch leather warm quickly on his fever hot skin, then nothing as he slipped into sleep again.
When Sherlock surfaced again, he was feeling marginally better. Or at least he wasn’t feeling worse. He laid motionless for an indeterminable amount of time, staring at the ceiling and listening as someone moved about the flat. He vaguely remembered several repetitions of the earlier administration of what must’ve been medicine, and wondered how long he had been out.
Hazily, he listened to the steps get closer, wondering who his brother had sent over to take care of him, and how much he would want in return for taking care of his brother who never seemed to be able to take care of himself. He was distracted from the sour line of thought by a soft exclamation and the smell of something rich and salty.
“So you’re awake finally. Must be starting to feel better, yeah?” Sherlock twisted his head quickly in the direction of Lestrade’s voice, wincing slightly at the echoes of pain in his head.
“Mycroft didn’t send you.” He said, rather stupidly, grimacing and vaguely throwing an arm up to wave the statement away. “Why are you here?”
“Must be feeling better if you can be rude to the person taking care of you. I came over because I wanted your opinion on something, but you weren’t answering your phone.” Lestrade spoke while he helped Sherlock settle into a more upright position, propped up with pillows. “And I stayed because you’re an idiot. Only you could live with a doctor and nearly die of a fever. Where is John anyways?”
“He’s busy, I wasn’t to call unless it was an emergency.” Sherlock shifted uneasily as he registered that Lestrade had been the one to nurse him back to health over the time period he had been delirious. He watched Lestrade shuffle pillows in front of him, a bowl of soup in his hands that he was being very careful not to tip. He wondered what he would owe Lestrade for this favor.
“Not meant to call..? What the hell does that mean?” Lestrade muttered to himself. “And what, you thought your near death via fever didn’t count as emergency?” He said more directly to Sherlock.
“He said I wasn’t to call even if I got a case,” Sherlock said, finally moving to help Lestrade balance the pillows in his lap and taking the spoon he was offered. “I didn’t think it would qualify.”
Lestrade looked on, bewildered, as Sherlock began to help himself to the soup.
“You think your life rates lower than a case in John’s eyes?”
Silvery eyes flicked in his direction momentarily before dropping again.
“I know it. This weekend trip of his is to take a breather from me, as he is starting to realize he can’t take living with me and is only using our acquaintance as a direct source of adrenaline in his life. He will soon begin searching again for a woman that he wishes to marry so that he can have a good excuse to move out and begin a new part of his life, leaving with a heartfelt promise to keep in touch but in reality forgetting my number soon after that.”
Lestrade scowled, making a mental note to have a conversation with both Sherlock and John later, once Sherlock was feeling better. There were obviously some issues there, whether it was communication or cruelty, well, he’d find out from John when he got home. “Well what about your brother then? Where’s Mrs. Hudson?”
“Mrs. Hudson is visiting her sister, she does so every other weekend now since her sister’s health has begun to decline. Mycroft would demand reparation, the thought of owing him more for something so trivial was distasteful.” Sherlock finally looked up from the soup to meet his eye. “I would also like to know what you would like in return for this favor, I’d rather know now then find out later at an inopportune time.”
Sherlock could almost see the storm clouds form along Lestrade’s brow. “Either you admit right now that you know nothing about me or you take that back. I can’t believe that you think I would make you pay me back for taking care of someone I consider one of my closest friends.”
His frustrated voice irritated Sherlock. Did Lestrade think he was drawing conclusions with no proof? “I’m only saying it from experience. You made me pay you back for all the times I came to your crime scenes high.”
Lestrade sighed. “That was a different situation Sherlock, and being sick is a lot different then putting my career in danger because I have to tell my superiors that my informant was some, at the time, random coke head.”
Sherlock went back to sipping at his soup as he considered the validity of Lestrade’s statement. Finally, he nodded slowly. “I take it back.”
Lestrade’s relaxed slightly, moving to sit on the coffee table in front of the couch so he could still face Sherlock.
“I think you need to reconsider your thoughts about your brother as well, do you really think he wouldn’t take care of his own brother without demanding something in return?”
Sherlock’s response was quiet and assured. “Yes. It’s how things have always been between us, always a balance of one owing the other. Ever since we were children.” Lestrade’s sighed heavily, letting his posture slump so he could drop his head into his hands. He needed to have words with Mycroft too it looked like, and again with Sherlock, so they’d stop being horrible to each other and Sherlock would stop expecting it.
He looked up as Sherlock’s spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl in surprise. He was looking drained and Lestrade jumped to his feet again.
“Here, let me.” He gently pulled the bowl and spoon away from Sherlock, moving the pillows and encouraging him to stand, only needing to support him a little. “Do you need to go to the loo or anything?”
Sherlock nodded and let Lestrade lead him down the hall. He left Sherlock there to do his business and hurried back to the kitchen to make another cup of tea and grab a glass of water, which he then set down in Sherlock’s bedroom before going back to check on him in the bathroom.
Sherlock was slumped against the doorframe, looking pale but healthier then he had the whole time Lestrade had been there. When Sherlock saw him, he stood up and slowly led the way back to his bedroom, walking under his own power easily this time. Lestrade still fussed a little when Sherlock settled back into bed, tucking him in as much as Sherlock would let him.
“You’re already looking a lot better, how are you feeling?”
Sherlock rolled his eyes and turned on his side so his back was facing Lestrade. “I’m doing fine, mother. Now if you would let me rest..?”
Lestrade huffed and threw his hands up, turning on his heel in a sharp motion. As he left the room however, he heard a small “Thank you...” and he let himself smile as he went back to tidy the living room and dishes he had made while taking care of Sherlock.
“Sherlock? I’m home!” John called out early Monday morning, pushing the front door closed with his hip and setting down his suitcase and briefcase so he could take off his shoes and jacket. He looked around, surprised at the clean and quiet state of the flat more than anything, moving farther into the room as he moved his briefcase over to his side of the desk.
“Sherlock?” He called out again, so distracted by the papers he was pulling out of his briefcase that he almost threw them in the air when Lestrade appeared silently in front of him. “Jesus Greg, what are you doing here?”
Greg seemed to silently consider him in a way that made John feel very uncomfortable before speaking. “I’ve made some tea, why don’t you come sit with me for a moment? I’d like to discuss some things with you. Also, keep the volume down if you would, Sherlock’s sleeping.”
John stared at him as he set off towards the kitchen, presumably fetching the tea. Setting down his papers, he followed him, glancing down the hallway to see that Sherlock’s door was shut.
“What’s going on?” He said, his voice lowered obligingly. “Is Sherlock okay?” Lestrade silently led the way back to the couch in the living room, giving John a moment to make up his tea before he started to speak.
“Sherlock’s been sick with a fever this weekend. I came in sometime Saturday night and he was completely out of it, then he started to actually wake up and feel better about mid-afternoon on Sunday.” John tried to get a word in, but Greg held up his hand to stop him. “Now I’m not saying he would’ve died from this fever, he’s still young and strong, he probably would’ve made it through fine, and maybe even by the time you got home. But he could’ve actively been dying, and he would not have tried to call you for help. Do you know why that is?”
John shook his head slowly, warily watching the color rise in Greg’s cheeks, something that usually only happened when Sherlock messed something up at a crime scene, or ran off without telling him what lead he was following.
“He would not have tried to call you, the only doctor he trusts, even if he was on death’s doorway, because he thinks you hate him and are going to move on in life and leave him. Do you have any idea why the fuck that might be?” Lestrade demanded, trying to keep his voice down.
Hesitantly, John opened his mouth to answer, becoming more confident when he wasn’t shushed again.
“I don’t know, maybe I’ve been a bit harsh on him lately? He’s just been such a dick, playing the stupid violin at all hours of the night, doing experiments all the time, not talking one day, not leaving me alone the next! It just feels like I’m living in a madhouse recently, and I didn’t sign up to live with-“
“Bullshit! I could quote you back from your first couple weeks when you moved in, you were enamored with the same things you’re bitching about now! He’s done this the whole time you’ve known him! So what’s changed, John? It isn’t him, although obviously he’s been picking up on signals you don’t even realize you’re putting off. I suggest before you try and talk to him, you get the fuck out of here, go for a walk or something, and figure your fucking shit out. When you figure that out, then make a decision on if you’re going to accept your friend, the person you chose to trust, or if you’re going to leave! Because if you don’t figure this shit out, I’ll make you get out of his life, cause we both know he wouldn’t do a damn thing to protect himself. He’d hurt himself to let you pretend you weren’t hurting him and you know it. So go, figure your shit out, and when you come back, you better have made a fucking choice.” Lestrade was standing by the end of his rant, having pulled John to his feet.
Completely bemused, John clumsily put his jacket and shoes back on, picked up his suitcase, set it back down, then left the room. As his quick steps faded down the stairs, Lestrade let out a sigh and turned around, only to see Sherlock leaning against the doorway to the hall. Lestrade winced.
“Did I wake you up?” He raised his arm and dropped his head forward, rubbing at the back of his neck in embarrassment. “I didn’t mean to yell.”
“You didn’t have to do that.” Sherlock said quietly after a moment.
“Yeah, I did. You never would’ve done it, or you would’ve, but it would be too late. Hopefully this opens his eyes and he can stop himself from making the situation worse.” He glanced up suddenly. “You could take it easy on him a bit, too, you know. Violin all night, busybody all day, almost seems like someone was exacerbating the situation, huh?”
A very light blush colored Sherlock’s cheeks and he turned away, moving into the kitchen to help himself to some tea.
“It’s possible I was hurrying the situation along. If he was going to leave, I’d rather he do it sooner rather than later, so I could figure out if I needed to begin saving up. I’d need to figure out a new financial situation so I could afford the flat on my own. Just because he leaves doesn’t mean I need to find a new home.” Sherlock said, decisively stirring sugar into his tea.
“You wouldn’t get a new roommate if he left?” Sherlock’s back stiffened at Lestrade’s question.
Lestrade turned away to go find his own tea.
“Then if I were you I’d figure out a way to get back in John’s or your brothers good graces, Mrs. Hudson won’t let you bum around here forever.”
It was late Monday afternoon when John finally made it back to the flat. Lestrade, still there even though Sherlock had tried kicking him out several times, felt bad for him, even though he had been the one to kick him out in the first place. He looked exhausted, joints stiff with cold as he removed his jacket and shoes and moved to take a seat in his armchair by the fireplace.
He looked up as Sherlock wordlessly deposited a cup of tea on the table next to him and sat down across from him, crossing his arms and avoiding his gaze studiously.
Greg sat casually on the couch, practically watching the tension between them thicken until he sat forward and clapped his hands together loudly, startling them both.
“So? I feel like both of you have things to say, and I was hoping you wouldn’t need someone’s help to coach it out of you, but here we are. Someone make a first move please, I would actually like to go home at some point this evening.” He opened his palms toward them, gesturing for someone to speak.
“Since I am also very excited for Lestrade to go home, I’ll begin.” Sherlock broke the silence first, looking vaguely in the direction of John’s left ear. “I’m sorry for pushing boundaries because I felt insecure, I’ve been told by many therapists that I have problems healthily expressing my emotions because of my stunted childhood experiences.”
John looked pained, but took a deep breath and seemed to fully relax into his chair for the first time since he walked into the flat.
“I’m sorry for being absent and overly touchy about small issues. I, uh, I think we’re all aware of my trust issues, I don’t think Mycroft kept a lid on that one.” He huffed a small laugh at his weak joke before continuing when there was no other response. “But I, since day one, have trusted you. And I don’t know if it’s because I was relieved to find someone who I could. Well. Could follow, could take orders from, but maybe, since coming out of the army, that was a very comforting thing to find. But I know. All good things come to an end, even when you feel very sure of your place in the world, and so maybe because of that, because what I have here, with you, is... good. Very good. I expected it to. Well, to end. Past experience shows that I tend to sod things up when I’m happy. Since I was a kid. With my parents, my sister, relationships. My career. So maybe I just. Started doing it, again. Because I expected it to happen. So. Yeah. I’m sorry.” John finished, looking down and away, then quickly picking up his tea and taking a sip.
Sherlock was staring at John, seemingly frozen, and Lestrade prayed that he would move soon because he didn’t want to interfere now. It was going surprisingly well and they seemed to have forgotten about his presence. But he was afraid if Sherlock didn’t respond soon, John would run away, afraid he had been too vulnerable. Thankfully, Sherlock leaned forward.
“So this isn’t because of a girl?” John sputtered in his tea, quickly putting it down as he tried to contain his unexpected laughter
“What? What would a girl have to do with this?”
Sherlock shifted uncomfortably, but didn’t back down. “Your desire to have a wife and children. I thought you were going to leave so you could have that?”
John seemed genuinely confused.
“When did I ever give you the idea I wanted a wife and children? I don’t think a woman would have me, and I don’t think I want a woman at this point. I’m a wounded veteran with nightmares half the nights of the week and no patience for anything like children. I realized in the relationships I’ve pursued since I came back from Afghanistan, I’m not the same person I used to be, but I don’t know how to be myself in a relationship. And I tried being my old self, but I was always faking it. So by the time I realize how to be myself in a long term relationship with someone... well honestly I think I’ll be too old to want children anyways. So no, I won’t be leaving this place, or you, for a relationship any time soon.”
He settled back in his armchair. Greg quietly stood, gathering his jacket and things and making his way towards the door. Sherlock and John hadn’t broken eye contact since they had started really opening up to each other, so he figured that not only was his work here done, he could probably leave without either of them noticing-
“Finally heading home, I see. Thank god, I was afraid I was going to have to tell Mrs. Hudson that she had a new tenant when she returned.” Sherlock’s dry tones cut through his train of thought.
Lestrade sighed and turned around.
“Yeah, I figured I could leave you two to your own devices since I’m confident no one will be tearing out anyone else’s throat. I’ll call you guys if I hear about a case, but otherwise I’ll see you around.” He waved and turned to head out, but was stopped again.
“Lestrade.” He turned, meeting Sherlock’s gaze.
“Thank you. You didn’t have to do this, and I know that it’s because you have a ridiculously large measure of patience for me. But I appreciate it. Thank you.”
Lestrade smiled, a warm feeling (appreciated, for once) blooming in his chest. “You’re welcome.”
He knocked twice on the doorway and nodded a final goodbye to them both, then headed out.
Walking down the street, he pulled out his cellphone, pressing a number on speed dial and waiting for them to pick up. Finally the ringing cut out as the recipient answered the call.
“Yeah, hi, Mycroft? I was wondering if we could set up a meeting. Why yes, it does have something to do with the fact that I spent the whole weekend at Sherlock’s place. Yes, you are such a good super sleuth for putting that together. Yes, I am being rather acerbic on this fine night. Sounds good, see you then.”