"Why does he never answer the bloody door!" Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade bit out through chattering teeth. He and Sally Donovan were stood on the doorstep to 221b Baker Street late at night and in the frigid weather that had descended upon London for the last two days.
Sally was about to press the doorbell for the sixth time when she halted "Wait… I can hear footsteps!"
The door was unbolted and Mrs Hudson's long suffering face appeared before them "Oh dear, have you two been out here long?"
"We have, yes. Sherlock's not answering the door… again. May we come in?" Greg enquired, hopping about from foot to foot in an attempt to keep warm.
"Yes of course dear." She stepped aside to allow them entrance." You know, I found the doorbell in the fridge the other day. Apparently he put it in there because 'it kept ringing'. Such a funny man, makes no sense at all to me most of the time. He does the strangest things in that flat. Why just yesterday…"
"Yes, thank you for letting us in Mrs Hudson. We have an important case to solve so we'll just go on up." Greg interrupted Sherlock's chatty landlady for fear that she might keep them on the staircase for hours.
Greg and Sally hastily made their way upstairs and upon finding the door to Sherlock and John's flat open, they let themselves in. Sherlock was lying on the sofa in his pyjamas and robe, arranged in his usual pose with his hands pressed together in front of his face, eyes shut, not acknowledging them in the slightest.
Greg leaned in to whisper in Sally's ear "He's in his mind palace".
Sally Donovan rolled her eyes and watched as Greg silently approached the prone detective before shouting "Sherlock!" in his face.
To his credit Sherlock didn't jump as expected but simply cracked one eye open lazily at the Detective Inspector. "Not today" He mumbled and shut his eye again.
Greg turned to look at Sally who had her mouth open and hands out as if to say 'why do you even bother with him?'
"What are you doing that's so important?" Greg demanded.
"I'm busy." was Sherlock's short and petulant reply.
"With what? You appear to be lounging around in your pyjamas." Greg's irritation was mounting rapidly.
"Not interested. Thanks for stopping by."
Greg decided to ignore the dismissal "Sherlock, we need your help, a man has…"
"I said… not today Lestrade!" Sherlock rose off the sofa, stepped over the table and stomped in to the kitchen. Greg and Sally could hear him turn the kettle on and set about making some tea.
DI Lestrade sighed in frustration before following him "Listen Sherlock, we don't have time for your tantrums. A man has been abducted and those responsible have left a variety of strange and interesting clues for us to follow, almost like they want to play a game of hide and seek with us. It's right up your street."
Sherlock paused his tea making and Greg could see that his interest had been piqued. "That's got to be a 7 at least, surely?" the DI asked hopefully.
Sally and Greg watched as Sherlock showed uncharacteristic hesitation before answering "Yes, fine. Lay any information and clues out in the front room and I will take a look at them in a minute."
"Thank you!" Greg said appreciatively and motioned for Sally to follow him in to the front room to get started, leaving Sherlock free to finish making the cup of tea and disappear upstairs for a few minutes.
As soon as he re-emerged, Sherlock studied the evidence with great enthusiasm, becoming lost in the pile of paperwork and photos which he had started arranging all over the floor.
15 minutes passed and several links and new deductions had already been made. Unfortunately the mood in the flat descended in to hostility as Sherlock began expounding upon Sally Donovan's personal inadequacies and failures as a sergeant. Once again Greg found himself acting as peacemaker between the two, rather than focussing on the case.
Sally was shouting "You are such a…"
"Oh come on… try to get this in to that vacuous cavern where your brain should be…"
Sherlock stopped when heavy footsteps could be heard coming down from upstairs. All three looked up to witness a very rumpled and bleary-eyed Doctor Watson making his way unsteadily towards the kitchen.
"John, go back to bed." Sherlock called out in a commanding tone.
The doctor appeared to ignore him and carried on blundering his way around the flat.
Greg took in his friend's appearance, observing his flushed face, sweaty forehead, glazed eyes and staggering gait. "Mate you look terrible. Is everything ok?"
Still no response from John so Sherlock and Greg leapt up to follow him in to the kitchen.
"John what are you doing?" Sherlock enquired with more volume than was really necessary.
John turned to face them, dropping a mug on to the hard floor as he did so. The mug shattered loudly and pieces scattered far and wide, leaving John looking shaken.
Sherlock rushed to his friend's side, taking his arm and guiding him around the sharp remains. He pulled out a chair for the distressed doctor and addressed him softly "Sit down here a minute. What is it you need John?"
"I'm er… sorry 'bout that. Um… I'll clear up the mess…"
"No it's fine John, what were you trying to get? Sherlock crouched down so that he was at eye level with his sick friend and placed a comforting hand on his arm.
"Um… I… um…" John mumbled and looked around the kitchen as if he'd forgotten where he was. "Tea… I was going to make tea."
"I've already made you one, it's on your bedside table." John looked blank. "I brought it up a quarter of an hour ago." Sherlock tried to jog his memory.
"Oh sorry, didn't realise." John managed before swaying so violently he would have toppled off his chair if his flatmate hadn't caught and stabilised him so quickly.
"What's wrong with him?" Sally asked from the doorway, watching as Greg and Sherlock took hold of an arm each to prop the sick man up.
"His work colleagues believe that he's caught a virus which has been doing the rounds at the surgery." Sherlock informed them whilst taking the doctor's pulse. "He'll be fine, he just needs to rest." The detective looked pointedly at his friend.
"So this is why you wouldn't come to Scotland Yard…" Greg sighed "Why didn't you just say that John was sick?"
"As if he would refuse a case just because his flatmate had a virus… no he's just being difficult as usual!" Sally interjected. "Don't let him pull the wool over your eyes, he doesn't really care, he's just a good actor. Freak doesn't have real feelings; he just manipulates other people's."
John's head snapped up at this, swaying on his chair as he yelled "Hey! Leave off! Don't you come in here… with… with your…" He pointed and squinted at the Sargent as he cast about for the words eluding him. "…Your attitude and your… your nasty words!"
"Calm down John." Sherlock gently grabbed his flatmate's flailing arms and pulled them down in to his lap, then turned to give Sally a cold glare "You're not helping Sargent."
"Have you rung his sister? Maybe she could look after him for a few days?" Greg suggested, wanting to be helpful but the look of disgust he received from Sherlock told him that he'd said the wrong thing.
"That insipid alcoholic?..."
"Oi! That's my sister…" John began to protest weakly.
"She's hardly fit to look after herself! Besides, I'm looking after John."
"Oh well…" Sally's voice was dripping with sarcasm "that's ok then… thank goodness he has a rude, self-obsessed psychopath to take care of him!"
Sherlock ignored Sally's comments and turned to his best friend, pulling him to his feet. "Come on John, you need to get back to bed."
Sherlock slipped an arm around John's waist to help him walk but he came over with a sudden dizzy spell and Greg had to step in and help again. Together they steered the wobbly doctor towards the stairs, virtually dragging him as they went.
"Sherlock… Sherlock…"John moaned breathlessly "Stop… can't… just sleep here." And with that he attempted to slide to the floor, taking his two friends with him.
Now in a heap on the floor, Sherlock turned to Greg seeking his help "Best not attempt the staircase, we'll put him in my room."
"Get up John, you can't stay here." Greg commanded in his most authoritative voice and gave the man a harsh tug upwards. "Up you come!"
All the DI got in response from John was a low moan while he resolutely kept his eyes closed and lolled his head on Sherlock's shoulder.
Sherlock felt John's fevered brow, hot and wet with sweat, and decided enough was enough. Putting one arm under John's knees and the other behind his back, with the help of Lestrade he hauled his friend up and carried him in to his bedroom.
"God you're heavy!" He exclaimed as he deposited John none too gently on to his bed. Greg helped Sherlock to rearrange the covers so that they could get him tucked in while John tried to speak, now slurring words in his fever induced state.
"What're you doing? Where are we?" John's hands started pushing at the duvet, struggling to get them off.
"This is my bedroom John and you are going to sleep now." Sherlock told him clearly while fighting for control of the duvet.
"What.. What?" John remained confused but finally allowed Sherlock to tuck him under the covers. "Why's Greg here?" he asked staring blearily up at the Detective Inspector.
"I came over with a case." He told the sick doctor gently.
John's face scrunched up looking perplexed. "But why are you in Sherlock's bedroom?"
Greg sighed "Helping you in to bed you daft sod."
"Why am I in Sherlock's bedroom?"
Greg turned his attention to the consulting detective exasperated. "I think I'll just go back to looking over the files and leave this to you."
Lestrade joined Sally in the living room again, where they could hear the muffled conversation coming from the bedroom.
John: "Has Greg gone home?"
Sherlock: "Probably not. Lie back down John!"
John: "He should go home…"
Sherlock: "Stay there! You'll feel better if you get some rest."
John: "…It's better when it's just us. I'm hungry. Let's have dinner."
John: "Can we have takeaway?"
Sherlock: "I will get you something to eat and drink if you stay in bed and promise to sleep afterwards."
From their vantage point on the floor, the pair observed Sherlock now bustling around the kitchen in an unusual display of domesticity, first clearing up the broken mug remains and putting some iced water and buttered toast on to a tray, before disappearing to deliver the goods to his sick flatmate.
When Sherlock returned he gracefully dropped to the floor and resumed analysing the photos scattered around him without even glancing at the pair from Scotland Yard.
Greg and Sally shared a look between them, then the DI cleared his throat before attempting to start a conversation with the consulting detective.
"Shh!" Sherlock interrupted pre-emptively.
Greg opened his mouth to speak but again Sherlock got there first "Thinking. Don't talk." He snapped.
They watched as Sherlock moved photos around and muttered quick deductions under his breath. Again Sally gave her boss the look that asked why they put up with his rude behaviour.
Lestrade whispered a reply to Sally's unspoken question "We need him on this case!"
"Can you two shut up!" Sherlock shouted angrily.
Greg and Sally rolled their eyes at each other but remained silent, pretending to go over the evidence again when in truth they had already exhausted all of their ideas on the case.
After a few minutes Sherlock moved to sit on the sofa with a thick pile of papers, breaking the silence by informing Greg of his deductions "The victim knows his kidnapper Lestrade, there's plenty of photographic evidence to support that supposition. I believe these interviews with his family may hold the key to breaking this case but it may take me a while to read them all. Go back to Scotland Yard, I'll contact you when I know who to search for."
"Why don't we help you go through the family members and their statements?" The DI suggested, then turned around as he heard John enter the sitting room again.
"Oh for goodness sake John, stay in bed!" Sherlock reprimanded him with his usual lack of patience.
John continued on his path without acknowledging anything said to him. He staggered up to the sofa, shaking with his arms wrapped around his chest, then plonked himself next to Sherlock.
"I'm c..cold." He murmured quietly, leaning against the detective.
Sherlock, with a resigned look on his face, reached behind him to pull out a blanket and adjusted John so that he was lying down on his side with his head in Sherlock's lap and his back to Lestrade and Donovan.
John protested at first but soon settled and closed his eyes, shivering and snuggling his face into Sherlock's stomach. Meanwhile Sherlock rested one hand gently on the doctor's shoulder and resumed silently reading through the family's statements.
Greg and Sally gave each other a look that said 'am I really seeing this?'
Once it became evident that Sherlock was going to stay silent for a long time, they continued reading statements and reviewing photos, waiting for the genius detective to enlighten them with his deductions.
After 20 minutes of silence from Sherlock, Greg decided to push the man for information and get this case going again. He was about to disturb the peace when he saw that Sherlock's left hand was entangled in the sandy blonde hair in his lap, slowly twirling it around his fingers, deep in thought. John was fast asleep, his deep breathing fairly noisy in the quiet flat.
He nudged Sally and her head popped up to follow his gaze towards the pair on the sofa. Her eyes went wide when she saw the affection being displayed by the apparently sociopathic detective.
Greg cleared his throat. "Er... Sherlock? Do you have anything for me? Any leads?"
"The nephew has a holiday home in Kent. I believe you will find your missing man there." Sherlock replied without looking up from the papers he was reading.
"Sherlock, how long have you known this?" Greg exclaimed, extremely annoyed.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Sally demanded.
"A man's life could be at stake and you couldn't be bothered to tell us where to find him!" Greg continued.
Finally Sherlock looked up and addressed the officers from Scotland Yard.
Sherlock took a deep breath "The missing man got his nephew deeply involved in a drug dealing ring as a way out of the crippling debt caused by his long-term TV shopping addiction. The nephew's girlfriend found out and subsequently left him, leading him to seek revenge from his irresponsible uncle who introduced him to the dangerous group of men now ruining his life."
Sally and Greg stared open-mouthed at the detective.
"How did you get all that from those statements?" Greg asked in disbelief.
"It's obvious isn't it?" Sherlock replied before his attention was taken by the sleepy doctor beginning to wake in his lap.
"Sherlock!" Greg shouted, becoming annoyed at the lack of detail forthcoming from the detective.
"Lestrade I'm going to have to ask you to keep it down, John needs to sleep." He stated calmly and quietly.
The two Scotland Yard officers gave loud sighs and paced around the living room in frustration.
"Right…" Greg brought his voice down a notch "Donovan, get on the phone to the team and tell them where to go. Let's find out if Sherlock's right."
"Of course I'm right."
The DI valiantly fought the urge to punch the aggravating man for his cockiness and instead started gathering up the files and papers scattered around the room while Sally phoned the Yard.
John stirred in to consciousness and looked up at his friend with uncomprehending eyes "Sherlock?" his voice sounded gravelly. "Why are there still people in our flat?"
Sherlock addressed Greg in his usual dismissive tone "Good question… I gave you the lead you needed Lestrade. Off you go."
"Alright alright, I'm just clearing up!" He replied tersely while he continued to scoop up the mess with Sally's help.
"Can you walk John? We should get you back to your bed." Sherlock asked tenderly.
"I'm comfy here thanks." John mumbled, snuggling back into the blanket.
Greg and Sally didn't miss the indulgent smile on Sherlock's face as he looked down at John and continued playing with his hair, either not noticing or not caring that he was being watched.
"You can go now Lestrade." The consulting detective's sharp voice cut through the silence.
"Yes, ok. We're off then."
"Text me with the outcome."
"Alright." Greg started backing out of the door feeling awkward as if he was intruding on a private moment. "Night Sherlock."
Of course Sherlock didn't respond and so Greg and Sally hurried down the stairs and back out in to the freezing night air where they gave each other a disturbed look.
"Well that was weirder than usual!" Sally exclaimed as she opened the car door.
"Agreed!" Greg climbed in to the driver's seat and slammed the door against the cold.
"Do you think something is going on there?" Sally asked curious.
"Between those two? Nah! John would have said something… surely?"
"Whatever it was, it was creepy. Never seen the freak act like that."
"Do you think it was an act?" Greg asked.
Sally shrugged and Greg turned his attention back to the road, eager to see if Sherlock's deductions proved correct.
End of part one.