“John, wake up! Lestrade’s got a case for us!”
He groaned, burying his face deeper into the pillow. His head felt cloudy and heavy and his throat felt raw. He had drank all of the water in the glass beside the bed and loathed the idea of getting out of bed to refill it. He heard his phone chime with a text but didn’t move to look at it. He felt like he was dying.
“Nngh,” was his only reply. He heard Sherlock push open his bedroom door but couldn’t bring himself to care.
“What are you doing? You’re wasting time, let’s go!”
“Sherlock, I feel terrible,” he mumbled against the pillow, turning his head slightly so that he could try and get more air into his clogged nostrils. “My allergies are killing me.”
“Oh come now, you’re being quite the annoyance. Take some medication and let’s go.”
John shook his head but then groaned when the motion made his head pound harder. “I’m not going. I can’t move, Sherlock. I feel awful.” His eyes cracked open. “You’ll have to go without me.”
“If I go without you then I won’t have you to ‘show off to’ as you so often accuse me of doing.” Sherlock rolled his eyes with a tsk. “Rather useless, you’re being.”
“Sherlock,” John pleaded, knowing that asking the man for a glass of water or to fetch the medication for him was completely out of the question, “I can’t.”
The detective huffed before leaving the bedroom abruptly, slamming the door behind him.
John weighed the pros and cons of staying in bed longer, prolonging the inevitable suffering of his body, before he dragged himself up into a sitting position. His head throbbed painfully and he sighed as he raised a hand to it. Wrapping his bed sheet around him as Sherlock so often did when parading around the flat, John slowly made his way from his bed to the bathroom where he didn’t bother to turn on the lights. He opened the medicine cabinet and withdrew a nasal spray and a bottle of allergy pills before shuffling back to his bedroom. He would medicate, shower, eat, and then probably curl up in his favorite chair downstairs while he waited for Sherlock to return.
He tried not to worry about what might happen to Sherlock without him there.
John was asleep on the couch, curled up in a ball, when Sherlock returned to the flat. The sound of the door opening disturbed him from sleep, military training kicking in as John sleepily blinked his eyes open and peered out around him. He hadn’t remembered moving to the couch where Sherlock so often draped his body – normally John stuck to his chair. He couldn’t stop the sleepy little smile that crept up on his face when he saw Sherlock looking the same as he had when he had left. There wasn’t any visible blood or bruising on his – the, the – detective, and all of Sherlock’s limbs seemed to be in one piece. The only sign of unease was the slightly put-off expression Sherlock wore as he stared down at John.
“You don’t normally sit there.”
John couldn’t help but pull the pillow he had been spooning that smelled faintly of Sherlock closer to his chest. “No, I don’t.” He rearranged the blanket that was draped over him to cover his shoulders. “How’d it go?”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed slightly before he swept deeper into the flat, peeling off his coat and hanging it on the hook. “Utter waste of time. The answer was so simple that it’s something of a wonder Lestrade ever made it to Detective Inspector in the first place.”
John’s eyes slipped shut as he listened to Sherlock prattle on about solving the case. When Sherlock paused, John interjected, “I knew you’d solve it. You always do.”
He didn’t see the way Sherlock’s gaze zeroed in on him. “It wasn’t anything of a challenge. Rather boring, actually. Certainly not something worth blogging about, I’m sure.” It came off slightly scathing and there was something in Sherlock’s voice that told him Sherlock was still rather peeved he hadn’t come along, simple case or not, but the medication hadn’t done anything to help the cloudiness in his head and John frankly didn’t have the strength to take Sherlock’s bait.
Sherlock didn’t move. John guessed he wanted tea but he wasn’t about to make it for him when he felt terrible. Let Sherlock make his own damn tea for a change, John thought glumly as he squeezed the pillow tighter once more.
“If you took medicine then why are you not feeling better?”
“It’s allergies, Sherlock. They don’t go away after a few hours. I expect I’ll be out of commission for a week or so.”
“A week?” Sherlock sounded scandalized. “I can’t go on cases without you for a week! They’ll be so terribly boring!”
“And I make them interesting?”
A pause. Then Sherlock said, in something of a rushed breath, “Well you don’t make them insufferable the way Lestrade and his lackeys do. And besides, who will protect me from getting shot?”
“I imagine that’s what Lestrade’s bulletproof vests are for,” John mumbled. He unclenched one of his hands from the pillow and shakily reached out for the glass of water beside the couch. Slowly he drew the glass to his lips and let the room temperature water sink down his throat before putting the glass back and sighing against the pillow under his head.
“What if I give you stronger medication?”
“Sherlock,” John tried to warn, but his voice was soft with sleep and exhaustion, “don’t. Just let me rest. Do you think I like being out of commission? I can’t take shifts at St. Bart’s or go on dates or work on my blog that you so often scoff at or do any of the stuff I enjoy besides going on cases with you. I don’t like being so…useless, Sherlock.” He knew his voice had hit a slightly whiny tone but he didn’t care. He felt like a child again, needing his parents to take care of him when he stayed home sick from school. But Sherlock wasn’t compassionate and hated sentiment above all else. All John could do was hope that Lestrade or Mycroft would call and require Sherlock’s assistance immediately so that he could be left alone in the flat again to rest. “Just leave me be for a bit.”
Sherlock didn’t reply. John thought he heard him leave the room but he wasn’t sure and didn’t care. Sleep was overtaking him and he caved willingly.
The next time John opened his eyes, the evening light of dusk poured in through the windows. He stared at his phone for a few moments before slowly reaching out and tapping it, bringing the screen to life. 6:47, the clock read. Have I really wasted the entire day sleeping? He shuffled to sit up, letting the blanket pool around his waist and over his legs. Sluggishly he scrubbed a hand over his face while his stomach let out a growl. Had he even had lunch? He couldn’t remember. He remembered Sherlock coming home and talking about the case he had worked alone. The memory caused him to look around the room and fine Sherlock sitting in his chair, fingers steepled against his chin, staring at John impassively. The sight made him jump in alarm.
“Jesus, Sherlock! What…?”
The detective didn’t move. “You snored.”
“You snored. You normally don’t snore but you’ve spent the last three hours and twelve minutes snoring.”
“Sorry…?” He still wasn’t quite awake despite Sherlock startling him and his mouth hadn’t quite caught up with his brain. “Wait. Did you just sit there and watch me sleep?”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed in an attempt to hide his true thoughts. “Sometimes I can hear you at night when you’ve had a nightmare and are driven awake with fear. But you never snore.”
For some reason, the thought of Sherlock knowing and tracking his sleeping patterns made his face color. Blinking, John let the hand fall away from his face as he stared at Sherlock in confusion. “Allergies, Sherlock,” he reminded him. “My –”
“Drink,” Sherlock commanded, nodding his head to the table beside the couch. John looked down and saw that his glass of water had not only been replenished but had been filled with ice. An allergy pill and the nasal spray sat beside the glass waiting for John to take his second dose for the day.
“Ah. Thank you, Sherlock.” He was surprised and it was evident in his voice. He hadn’t expected this kindness from Sherlock. Granted, it was nothing to sing praises about, but considering Sherlock normally didn’t care about anyone else’s well-being but his own, John figured it had to count for something.
Sherlock didn’t answer but at the second rumbling of John’s stomach, he stood up and went brusquely to the kitchen. John couldn’t see him as he drank the water and took the medication but shortly Sherlock returned with a plate of salmon and vegetables.
“Mrs. Hudson,” he explained, resting the plate on the table in front of John. “I saw her while I was leaving the flat and told her of your situation. She insisted on making you dinner – said these foods should help if you’re suffering from allergies.”
John couldn’t help but smile. Bless that woman. She truly was a saint. “This looks wonderful.” He picked up his fork and asked as he was about to dig in, “Won’t you have any?”
“I’ll eat later. Not terribly hungry at the moment.”
John gave him a stern look. “Sherlock –”
The man waved him off. “Eat. You’ll need your strength if you’re to continue chasing me all over London.”
“Thank you.” He wasn’t sure what exactly he was thanking Sherlock for – whether it was for bringing him food from Mrs. Hudson and some water or for something else entirely – but it felt right to say. And, judging by the funny way Sherlock looked at him as if he were some puzzle Sherlock couldn’t quite figure out, it was the right thing to say.
He was drifting off on the couch again. Sherlock had turned on the telly for no reason other than to provide background noise while John ate but now the doctor was pleasantly full and feeling swaddled in the extra blanket Sherlock had tossed to him earlier. Sherlock had moved from his chair to the end of the couch and sat a few inches away from John’s head.
“Your shoulder will stiffen uncomfortably if you spend the night here.”
“Mmmm, probably,” John sighed out in agreement. Cracking a smile, he suggested, “You could always carry me to bed.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes but John didn’t see it. The doctor’s eyes had closed and he was resting peacefully knowing that Sherlock was beside him. Other than the ache in his head and the soreness of his throat, all was well.
“What hurts the most?”
“‘M head,” John replied. He was expecting Sherlock to drug him with something to shut him up and probably knock him out for the week until the pollen had cleared up a bit. But instead, gentle fingertips lightly skimmed the skin on his forehead before clever fingers sank into his hair, pressing the warmth of a palm against his temple. The sensation felt so nice and it had been so long since anyone had touched John in this way that he couldn’t help the little sound of pleasured delight that slipped out from his lips. He thought he felt the slightest of tremors in Sherlock’s hand at the noise but those long fingers began carding through his short hair, sending him off embarrassingly quickly to sleep. “Sherlock,” he whispered just before sleep consumed him.
Sherlock wasn’t just disappointed that John hadn’t been present to see him scold Lestrade into an embarrassed puddle – he was more frustrated over the fact that John was completely incapacitated by allergies of all things. Sherlock didn’t have allergies. He didn’t have to worry about pollen or pets or any of the numerous things that caused John’s head to pound or his nose to clog. There were times, like during their first case together or that incident with the Chinese smugglers, where John Watson had seemed so inhumane to him, possessing talents far more admirable than those of an average soldier or doctor. Sherlock had developed something of a dependence on John, expecting him to always be by his side and not sidelined by anything. Sherlock knew that John would be right as rain before he knew it but it was still rather disturbing seeing his favorite doctor out of commission.
He hadn’t meant to touch John – hadn’t meant to stroke his fingers against John’s skin in a tender display of physical comfort – but after John had moaned and leaned into his touch, Sherlock found that he didn’t want to pull his hand away. Strange, he thought. A purely biological response to want to provide comfort to someone suffering. But even after John resumed snoring with his mouth open and drool lightly pooling against Sherlock’s favorite pillow, Sherlock didn’t take his hand away. He watched the short strands of John’s hair as they shifted underneath his touch. John paused in his snoring to mumble something incoherent and turned his head into Sherlock’s touch, causing Sherlock’s fingers to spread against his skin. Sherlock’s fingers traveled down John’s face lightly until he could cup John’s cheek in the palm of his hand. Strange. Impractical. Not of any significant use.
“Sherlock,” John whispered against his skin.
Sentiment, Sherlock thought with a scoff. But he couldn’t help the tiny smile that ghosted his features as John mumbled his name again in sleep. His doctor was going to be fine.
There would be more opportunities to impress him.