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There’s a thunk against John’s bedside table. Glass on wood. Water shifting inside a cup.

Silk sssssips against itself. Against skin. Robe.

A weight dips the bed beside John’s hips. He feels them tilt towards it.

Skin - soft, cool - settles against John’s forehead. He wasn’t aware of just how sweaty his hairline was until that touch.

John blinks his eyes open as slim fingers shift to push his fringe back. His eyelids feel paper-thin, dry, like birch ash. His throat is raw, the skin of his lips tight; his tongue sits thick and heavy in his mouth.

John swallows, sniffs in a breath. “Hhh,” he tries. It’s supposed to be ‘Hey.’ John coughs shallowly.

"Didn’t mean to wake you," Sherlock murmurs. His hand stays against John’s forehead.

"Hhm," John shifts his pelvis. All his joints sing their discomfort. "S’okay," he manages. "…wha’ time is’t?" He swallows again, makes a face.

Sherlock’s hand lifts from John’s forehead and takes his wrist, lifts and guides John’s hand to hold the cup. John is just propped up enough that he can take a few careful sips. He groans at the relief the cool water provides. “Ohh, that’s better. Thank you.”

Sherlock takes back the cup.The thunk against the wood is lighter this time, pitched higher.

"What time is it?" John asks again.

"Gone six," Sherlock murmurs. "You wanted to check your temperature at six." He sounds unsure of himself, somehow.

John opens his eyes. Hadn’t noticed them falling shut again. “Then where’s the thermometer?”

Sherlock holds it up. “But, well.” He pulls at his lower lip with his teeth. “You were sleeping. So.” His hand finds John’s forehead again.

John smiles. “I’m awake now. Besides,” he says, shifting his head back and forth, not quite pushing into Sherlock’s touch, “that’s not very accurate.”

Sherlock blinks. “Your current temperature is at 99.5 give or take .2 degrees,” he says with a lift of his chin.

Laughing hurts, shakes John’s aching torso and clenches sore muscles. He doesn’t care to stop, though, wheezing his way through it.

Sherlock’s eyes narrow, but there’s a mischievous challenge in them. “Fine, then,” he says. “Shut up and open up.”

John wants to say something cheeky about how those two commands technically cancel each other out, but he settles for a quirked grin and raised eyebrows.

Sherlock rolls his eyes and clicks his tongue. John opens for the thermometer and ignores the muttering about ‘doubting accuracy’ from his unlikely caretaker.

After a moment Sherlock stops, and they wait in silence. Sherlock shifts his weight, and the silk of his robe sighs against the cotton of the sheets. John’s fingers itch to touch, but fever is a leaden weight in his arms, an effective restraint.

Biip-biip.

Sherlock takes the thermometer. Instead of saying anything, he just holds the display for John to see, doing a poor job of controlling the smirk on his face.

"Ninety-nine point seven," John reads out. "Huh. That’s bloody —"

"I’ll be accepting your apolo —"

"— amazing," John finishes, and has the pleasure of seeing Sherlock flush and fail to finish a sentence. He watches Sherlock look down at the thermometer, fiddling with it.

There’s a sweet ache in John’s chest that has nothing to do with the fever. He wants to say something, but before he can decide on what, his body decides on coughing. The laughter seems like a bad idea now, but he’s stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that finding.

"You should rest," Sherlock says after John’s stopped, worrying at his lip again.

John draws air in laboriously. “That’s my line.” He accepts the cup again, and the tablets popped from blister packs by Sherlock while he coughed. He drinks the rest of the water, washing down the medicine and its foul after taste.

"That must mean it’s good advice, then," Sherlock says calmly, taking the cup again. Now both hands have something to hold, and they still.

John groans at the pain in his throat. “Then why don’t you ever listen to it when I say it?”

"Because I’m impossible." Sherlock’s smirking, but he’s looking at John through his lashes, and the whole effect is devastating in a way John’s been coming to terms with.

Still, Sherlock has a point, so John snorts at him and his point — and his thieving of John’s lines, while he’s at it. It’s ridiculous that John should be sick when Sherlock is the one who fell in the Thames last week. Twice.

John shivers, his eyes flickering shut. It is good advice, though, and he is tired. He’s fading from wakefullness with each moment, whether he wants it or not. God, it’s been years since he was this sick.

He feels Sherlock shift, knows he is getting ready to stand, to leave. “Check on me again?” John asks, forcing his eyes open again, and Sherlock smiles one of his soft, sideways smiles.

"Alright."

Sherlock’s weight lifts from the bed, and John’s body curls towards the warmth left behind.

He’s on his side now, pitching forward fast into sleep. “Thank you,” he says, and he wants to say so many other things, but he’s mumbling already over the familiar shapes of ‘thank’ and ‘you’ — and the words he has in mind are wholly new territory. He’ll need to be well-rested to traverse them, to keep from stumbling.

John has a vaguely urgent concern that whatever those words are, they have to be said right.

In the meantime, he’s just as vaguely aware that Sherlock is lingering by his bed — deciding whether to take the cup? — but then he says: “Anytime, John.”

That sounds somehow right, too, and some of John’s urgency seeps away in a sigh — then he’s gone, hands curling into the sheets as he sinks into sleep.