(Also posted under the same title and username on AO3!)
Disclaimer: Sherlock's brand new world belongs to the Beeb, Gatiss and Moffat. Sherlock and other characters belong to ACD.
Rating/Warnings: Gen, PG. Very light spoiler for 1.03.
A/N: For schweinsty's help_pakistan auction prompt regarding H/C for sick Sherlock. Thank you for donating to disaster relief!
Summary: Sherlock Holmes is ill and the world does not come to an end. Film at 11.
It Takes a Village
"Tea. With lemon. Drink it while it's hot."
"I don't take lemon." Sherlock's usually deep voice was far deeper than normal, congestion sending it down to depths where it might require a miner's helmet. His throat rasped as he spoke. He was sitting cross-legged on the sofa in a nest of books and papers like a giant attenuated hamster, interrupted while eviscerating a cardboard tube.
John put the tea next to Sherlock on the side table. "You take it with lemon until you get over the congestion. Drink."
"Yes, Nanny." Sherlock eyeballed the mug and left it sitting. A very grumpy hamster.
John glared. "Your brother warned me you're a complete wanker when you're ill."
"And you need to eat. There's loads of soup." John gestured at the covered tureen in the kitchen, wrapped in a towel to keep warm and sitting on the counter next to a retort stand.
Sherlock hunched down into his robe. "Not eating that revolting broth."
"It's not revolting, Mrs. Hudson made it before she left!"
"It's chemically the same as if a chicken could sweat."
"No it bloody isn't!"
"Near enough. Salt, water, chicken fat. Sweat. Revolting."
Strangling a patient is never a cure for anything, John reminded himself, watching Sherlock ignore his tea and cough mightily into a handful of tissues.
They'd both caught the cold initially; everyone they knew had had it, in Baker Street and in Scotland Yard. Sherlock blamed Anderson for being the primary vector. But it was just a cold, everyone was miserable for a while, sales of paracetemol, tissues and Lemsip increased in the shops on Baker Street and near Scotland Yard, and eventually, they'd all gotten over it.
Everyone but bloody Sherlock Holmes.
John hadn't noticed, thought the occasional morning bout of coughing and lingering deeper tone to Sherlock's voice was just relating to his history of smoking. Of course Sherlock would be ignoring his own need to rest. Of course he'd been taking massive doses of cough suppressants. Of course he hadn't actually eaten much of anything and left his immune system starved for anything to work with in fighting secondary infections.
Sherlock didn't want to be bothered by the demands his body made; John knew this, and chastised himself for not being more aware. He'd assumed that Sherlock's suddenly intensified need to keep distant from him and other people was a precaution against being re-infected, even thought it wise, rather than the obvious ploy to avoid his illness being found out it was revealed to be.
It had all come to a head yesterday in Lestrade's office. Lestrade had called Sherlock in for a statement on a recently closed double-homicide case where the victims had died five days apart yet still killed each other. In the middle of pacing back and forth, delivering a detailed staccato pontification on the significance of the exact shade of dirt in the second murder victim's shoe treads, Sherlock had staggered.
While John and Lestrade exchanged glances, Sherlock had stood staring into the middle distance, mouth open, leaning on the back of a chair.
"Something wrong with the evidence?" Lestrade had asked, because really it did look a bit like Sherlock having a brainstorm about some hidden clue.
But John saw then what he should have seen before; the laboured breathing, flushed face and non-case related glitter to Sherlock's eyes. John had barely stood up in time to catch the collapsing detective. Lestrade came out from behind his desk as John struggled with his sudden awkward armful of half-insensate flatmate and helped ease Sherlock into one of the chairs.
Lestrade looked from the detective to John and back. "What's-"
"'m fine," Sherlock muttered, swatting as John put a hand to his forehead and an ear to his chest to hear a distressing gurgle in the detective's lungs.
"Bronchitis, if not pneumonia. Sherlock, you idiot!"
"You know you're being an absolute idiot about all this," John repeated in the sitting room now, echoing his memory and glaring at Sherlock in his paper nest on the sofa. "And irrational into the bargain."
John could tell that stung. Good. Sherlock glowered. "Don't doctors have some kind of rule where you're required to be nice to ill people?"
"Not when they're bloody fools who don't take the time to take care of themselves! You won't go sleep properly in your room-"
"And have you traipsing in and out every half hour twittering like a morning lark, no thanks."
"You won't eat-"
"Fine." John ran a hand over his face. "Tell me what you will eat, I'll make it."
Sherlock coughed into his tissues and raised an eyebrow.
"Whatever, I'll order it in, I'll ask Mrs. Hudson."
"She's out for the day."
"Small mercies. If she heard what you've been calling her broth she'd never make us tea again."
"Can't have that," Sherlock got out, strangled through another bout of coughing.
"You've got to eat something."
"You fainted. In Lestrade's office."
Sherlock grimaced. "I did not faint, I sat down unexpectedly."
"You would've 'sat down unexpectedly' in a heap on the floor if it wasn't for us catching you."
John's jaw set. "You have serious chest congestion, which you've needed to clear out but haven't because you've been taking massive doses of cough suppressants so you wouldn't appear sick as you were. As a result, instead of taking some time to get well and cough out the gunk in your lungs, you trapped it there, festering and growing septic."
Sherlock's lips pursed. "Where are my cough suppressants?"
"In the bin!" John snapped. "You need fluids, bed rest, decongestants and expectorants, and you need to take your antibiotics. You most emphatically do not need cough suppressants!"
With a canted eyebrow, Sherlock coughed accusingly.
Bloody impossible- "How about I put it this way?" John sat, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in front of him, staring intently at Sherlock. "Your lungs gather oxygen, stick it in your blood, which goes to your brain. Your lungs right now are so packed up, you are impairing the level of oxygen in your bloodstream, and thereby impairing your brain. If you do not stop, get rest, take your meds and eat something you will get a full-blown case of pneumonia out of this instead of the mild one you've already got, and your life will become very, very boring for the next several weeks, if not longer. Am I making this clear to you?"
"I'm not an idiot, John."
"Could've fooled me. So, what do you want to eat?"
John closed his eyes and counted to five before opening them again. Just a little bit of strangulation. Not much.
Sherlock tilted his head to the side. "You've gone a rather intriguing shade of red."
There was a knock on the door downstairs.
"Fantastic," John snarled. "What now?"
He went down to the door and found Lestrade there, holding a paper bag like he wasn't quite sure he wanted to be seen with it.
"If it's a case, no. Absolutely not," John whispered, hoping to avoid alerting Sherlock to the Detective Inspector's presence. "He can't. You saw yesterday."
"I know, I wouldn't even give him a house-breaking case right now." Lestrade murmured.
"I can hear you conspiring, John! Let him come up!" Sherlock croaked loudly, then lapsed into a bout of coughing.
John scowled and allowed Lestrade to pass. "He might need housebreaking at that."
"Has for the past five years at least." Lestrade grinned and headed for the sitting room, while John retreated into the kitchen to try to clean the worst biohazards out and get over the need to strangle sense into his ill flatmate.
"Lestrade!" Sherlock rasped with something approaching glee. "Tell me you've got something!"
"Not what you've got, thank God." Lestrade hung back in the door to the sitting room. "You sound like death! Gave us a scare yesterday."
Sherlock waved a hand dismissively. "It's nothing. Sniffles."
"No it bloody isn't and drink that damned tea!" John shouted from the kitchen.
"Oh, and I'm being kept hostage by a mad doctor who's trying to drown me in chicken sweat and lemon tea. Nothing I can't handle."
John glared and went back to keeping half an eye on the conversation while sorting cookware from lab-ware. Not that Sherlock would be touching either. Stubborn bastard.
"Tell me you have something, Lestrade. Anything."
"No, no. Nothing."
Sherlock pinned him with a red-eyed stare.
"Well it wasn't much of anything, really." Lestrade shifted his feet. "Anderson can handle it."
In the kitchen, John winced.
"Why do you all insist on kicking me while I'm down?" Sherlock moaned theatrically.
"Really, Sherlock, it'd just be a waste of your time."
Sherlock's rejoinder was lost in a deep bronchial cough. John frowned, putting a cluster of used tea cups on the counter next to an erlenmeyer flask of dubious content and standing in the archway to the sitting room.
"D'you know what my gran used to do when we got coughs when we were little?" Lestrade asked as Sherlock regained his breath slowly.
"Lacking the presence... of your grandmother... it would be a challenge to deduce."
John refrained from muttering about barbarism and cruelty to children. "Effective, yeah, but nasty."
Lestrade nodded. "Dry mustard powder made into a paste on a cloth. Used to burn like anything, but it'd clear up congestion. Mum made her stop because it gave us blisters if it was on too long."
Sherlock looked up intently. "Leaves blisters, you say? What sort?"
"Thank you, Lestrade," said John, crossing his arms. "I'm trying to get him better, not help him discover new ways to injure himself."
Lestrade's turn to look hurt. "Just trying to help."
"You can help by giving me something to do-" Sherlock's voice strangled on the last word and he fell into a bout of deep coughing. John and Lestrade stood by, awkward, watching. John knew this was what Sherlock needed - to clear out the congestion - but it was hard to watch nonetheless.
After a bit the coughing slowed and Sherlock leaned his head back against the sofa, breathing like he'd been running for miles.
Lestrade looked at John, who shrugged helplessly, then back at the sick consulting detective. "I'll see what can be dug up from the cold cases. Put an open offer 'round to local police departments in outlying areas, see if they've got any stumpers they'd like a hand with."
"Nothing that might involve him needing to leave the flat or chase anyone down," John admonished.
"No, of course not, just documents and records and things."
Sherlock grunted, voice roughened by the coughing, "I'll try not to breathe on them."
Lestrade looked alarmed for a moment, glancing at John, who shook his head.
"Secondary infection, bacterial, not contagious."
"Ah. Good. Oh and here." Lestrade opened the bag he'd been awkwardly holding behind himself with half a smirk. "The uh, guys thought you might need one after your fainting spell."
He held out an orange shock blanket. Sherlock snarled wetly.
John grasped Lestrade by the shoulders and steered him down the stairs towards the door. "Yes, fine, thank you, let's not bait the bear now, Detective Inspector."
As John and Lestrade reached the entryway, someone knocked.
"What is this, bloody Victoria Station?" John muttered opening the door. A nondescript courier with a Bluetooth phone in her ear stood on the step. A waft of curry smell curled out from the insulated bag she carried.
John shook his head. "I'm sorry, we didn't order anything, you've got the wrong flat."
"We never have the wrong flat." The courier thrust the surprisingly heavy insulated bag into John's hands and left, disappearing down a side street.
"Smells like curry," Lestrade observed on his way out the door.
"Yeah, I noticed that, thanks."
"I just meant it's probably not a bomb if it smells like curry." Lestrade touched his brow in a mock-salute. "Good luck with your patient, Dr. Watson."
Lestrade checked for traffic and trotted across the street to his car. John frowned down at the insulated bag in his hands and lugged it inside.
"Is it a bomb?" Sherlock called hopefully.
Even with his head stuffed up, Sherlock had ears like a bat. John set the bag down on a kitchen chair. "Lestrade doesn't think so. Smells like curry."
"Could still be a bomb." Sherlock stifled another cough. "Curry as a camouflage."
"I think we've both had quite enough bombs for quite a while." John pulled a large glass jar with a latched sealing lid from the insulated bag. A note was attached to the neck of the bottle with a red gingham bow, and an orange-yellow semi-liquid sloshed inside. "Some kind of curry soup?" he ventured.
Sherlock coughed into his tissues. "I'd almost rather it was a bomb. It's from Mycroft. Probably poisoned."
"He's your brother, Sherlock, he's not trying to poison you."
"You didn't grow up with him."
"D'y'ever think maybe he actually cares?"
Sherlock's sharp laugh degenerated into another bout of coughing.
John pulled the ribbon off the bottle and unfolded the note.
Curried pumpkin soup. Old family recipe, attached for Mrs. Hudson. Will keep three days with proper refrigeration, but I suspect long-term storage will not be an issue.
"Curried pumpkin soup, it says." John picked up the jar again, contents swirling lazily.
"Of course it does."
"It's still warm." John unlatched the lid and the curry smell increased a thousandfold. "It does smell good."
"Can't smell a bloody thing." Sherlock shuffled into the kitchen, clutching the bright orange blanket Lestrade had brought around his shoulders.
"Of course you can't smell-" John did a double-take and set the jar down abruptly on the counter. "What are you doing up! Back to the sofa or off to bed!"
"I thought you wanted me to eat things?"
Second double-take of the day for John Watson. "Go back to the sofa, I'll bring you some soup."
Sherlock grunted and shuffled away. "Just a bit. Probably only a mild poison. Mycroft's always underestimating me."
John didn't even bother trying to look for a clean ladle or bowl, but poured the soup directly from the jar into a mug and carried it into the living room before Sherlock could change his mind.
Sherlock was settled back on the sofa wrapped in the orange blanket, coughing and muttering over a handful of papers from his nest. John went to set the mug of curry soup down on the table next to the mug of lemon tea but was intercepted by Sherlock's empty hand. He put the mug in it and watched as Sherlock sniffed the contents and sipped.
That's something at least. John watched Sherlock take another couple sips before turning back into the kitchen. He lifted the insulated bag from the kitchen chair and found it still had a significant weight. In the bottom of the bag was a sizable bottle of Glenfiddich. John sighed and texted Mycroft.
-Sherlock's eating the soup. Was I supposed to put the scotch in it?
His phone chimed almost immediately.
-Absolutely not! That's for you. Before the end of the week, dear doctor, you're going to need it. MH
John looked back into the sitting room. As John watched, Sherlock shook his head and pitched his handful of papers over his shoulder, sending them fluttering down behind the sofa while still retaining his grip on the mug of curry soup.
All things considered, Mycroft was probably right about that too.
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