Marill: This little fella was written for 221B Slashfest. It is a Christmas fic. Hope that's still cool like me. ^.^
Sherlock dashed across the pavement, his heart drumming in his ears. A cold wind whipped his bare face, threatening to knife its way through his billowing coat. The element of surprise had failed him; or, more accurately, one of Lestrade's men had failed the element of surprise. Never mind. He could tear the sergeant's dignity to shreds once the thief turned murderer was subdued.
Miles Zmolek. Late thirties, low profile criminal until Thursday morning when he shot and killed his housekeeper.
Almost missed that left turn… Sherlock curbed his pace to dart into a tight passage that Zmolek had clearly taken moments earlier. He was heading for the docks, then. Sherlock came to a stop at the end of the alley, warm breath escaping into the cold in a little cloud of steam. He made up his mind to go to the right this time, guessing that Zmolek was planning to make his escape via boat.
His focus was on the nine vessels lined up at the end of the wooden pier. He was taking in the details he could see from his distance away, quickly trying to determine which boat was the most likely means of escape. He had just narrowed his focus to two cargo ships– one bound for the Continent, the other for the Middle East – when his ankle struck something cold and unyielding. Sherlock's momentum threw him to the concrete, his right arm curling up to take the brunt of the impact. There was an audible crack, a tearing sensation, and the rest of his body slewed across the rough gravel.
Sherlock struggled to take measured breaths. He had torn a hole in his trouser leg, a stinging cut bleeding freshly from his knee. He was still a little dazed when someone grabbed the front of his shirt and jerked him into a sitting position.
He wished John hadn't been so petty and just agreed to accompany him on the hunt for Zmolek. With a little persuasion on Sherlock's part, he might have done; but unfortunately John had had a bad day at the clinic – something to do with a pharmacy mix up and a handful of irate patients. So instead he'd planned to spend an evening in, decorating for Christmas and watching old comedies. Sherlock knew people liked that sort of thing, that they had emotions invested in the holidays. He knew this, but he didn't understand it. As far as he was concerned, doctors shouldn't be allowed to have bad days. Apparently, that was the wrong thing (or the 'bit not good' thing) to say, as John had stopped talking and gone upstairs, slamming doors. So Sherlock had sent a couple of texts that remained unanswered before he set out on the case, alone and indifferent..
Now, with a mad fledgling murderer snatching him up by his collar, and with his right arm in no small amount of pain, Sherlock suddenly felt the want of slightly more adept social skills. At least in interacting with John.
"How did you know it was me?" Miles growled in Sherlock's face.
Sherlock would have been happy to oblige him with an answer, but the informative voice of the very sergeant Sherlock had to berate later shouted, "He's gone this way!" and caused a bit of panic in Zmolek. He struck Sherlock smartly across the face before sprinting off again.
Sherlock rolled to his left, unbearably sluggish, but not yet ready to give up the chase. His chin throbbed and he worked his jaw to ensure that nothing had been knocked out of place before he stood up on trembling legs. He tucked his right arm securely against his diaphragm, immobilising it as much as possible for the running he was about to do. He still had a good head-start on the Yarders, so he took off after Zmolek, his own pace marginally reduced from his injuries.
Zmolek managed to elude him by darting between some shipping crates. Sherlock was persistent, despite his fatigued body pleading with him to slow down and rest. He ran along the pier, cursing himself for losing track of his opponent, and came abruptly to a halt as he spotted Zmolek. He was about fifty metres away, standing on the ramp leading up to the first cargo ship – as Sherlock had suspected. And he was holding a gun – which Sherlock hadn't expected.
A flash of light; an alarming BANG. Searing pain leapt into Sherlock's thigh. He might have yelped, but he couldn't be sure. He definitely collapsed, jarring his arm. But that was, unfortunately, only the beginning. Sherlock's right leg, the uninjured one, was suspended in the air. He moved it around in a detached, experimental way, then realised that half his body was hanging over the edge of the pier, dangling precariously over the freezing water.
Still, he threw his head back to see if Zmolek had got away. Nowhere in sight. Probably wouldn't be caught. Sherlock tried tipping his weight over to the left, to pull his other half back onto the safety of the wooden pier. He felt a shriek of pain in his left thigh again and his vision darkened. His ears appeared to be clogged with cotton and Sherlock began to wonder if he was going to be able to pull himself back onto the pier after all.
Then, his body tipped over the edge and he felt himself falling through sheets of wind, roaring blood filling his ears. A sharp crack of pain and shock hit him when he converged with the water. He sank like a stone after that.
John's phone played its cheery little ring tone, disrupting his comedy marathon. He'd left the decorations in their assorted boxes against the wall – Sherlock was going to help him, come hell or high water. He had just started watching Zombieland, which he paused resentfully when he saw that the call was from Lestrade.
Without giving the inspector any chance to persuade him to run off into the night to help the Met, John said, "Not interested, Lestrade. Sherlock already tried to get me to come out for a stakeout that may or may not be successful. It's minus-ten out there, and falling, and I'm perfectly happy where I am."
"That's fine, John," Lestrade was finally able to say. "I'm not asking for your help on the case. I just need you to convince Sherlock to let us take him to the hospital."
John froze. Now he felt guilty for his high and mighty speech to Lestrade. "What…what happened?" he finally asked.
"He's been shot. He was chasing Zmolek and he fell into the Thames," Lestrade said gravely. John felt a chill come over him, despite the warmth from the fireplace. "He can barely string two words together, but he's being stubborn and won't get in the ambulance. You have to talk him into it-" Lestrade paused, and John could hear other voices talking to him in the background. "John, never mind. He's just passed out so we're taking him in."
Lestrade hung up. In a panic, John tried ringing right back but it went straight to voicemail. He called Donovan next and was able to extract the name of the hospital.
Running on autopilot now, John dressed himself in tracksuit-bottoms and his heaviest coat and thundered down the stairs to call a cab.
John couldn't have felt more out of his depth if he tried. He was very underdressed for the weather and he found himself wandering reception like a tourist on the streets. His guilt over the entire situation was like carrying an extra body on his shoulders. Typical of John's luck to work this way. The first time he wants a night in, some quiet away from the chaos of Sherlock's world, and the man falls into a river. And gets shot, apparently.
But that was Sherlock. It was John who'd deviated from the norm. Accordingly, he should be the one to blame.
John stumbled upon the second reception and spotted three men in uniform – and Lestrade. The DI was speaking on his mobile and, when John got close enough, he could hear his end of the conversation. "No, he's going to be fine. Just needs to warm up…yeah, they're keeping him overnight to be safe." Lestrade acknowledged John with a nod, then finished his call.
Relief washed over John in cool waves. "So, Sherlock's going to be okay? It's not too serious."
"What?" Lestrade's forehead wrinkled in confusion. 'Oh! No. Sorry, John, no – I was talking about Clarky. It was him who fished Sherlock out of the river. Got a bit of a chill, but he'll be fine…"
The extra body was back, but this time it weighed heavily on John's chest. "And Sherlock?"
It was hours before Sherlock was stable enough to receive visitors. Even then, the nurses on the ward were hesitant to allow a pair of non-familial acquaintances to see him. John eventually pulled rank and assured the head nurse that they had no intentions of disturbing her patient.
John and Lestrade entered the hospital room, unsure what state Sherlock would be in. The room itself was incredibly warm; so much so it was a little uncomfortable. John wasn't surprised to find Mycroft sitting at Sherlock's bedside; Lestrade was, as he'd never been formally introduced to Sherlock's brother.
"Ah, John," said Mycroft as he stood to greet him. His face was its usual impenetrable front of casual courtesy. "I'm so glad you could make it. I rather hoped there'd be a familiar face here, when he wakes up." John blinked as Mycroft shook his hand. He peered over the older Holmes' shoulder to look at Sherlock, catching a glance of the white cast on his arm, but was distracted by Mycroft.
"What? You're not staying?" John asked.
"I have to find the man who shot my brother. Obviously, I wouldn't ask you to do anything more dangerous than sitting in." Mycroft raised in eyebrow, a tiny show of emotion that froze John in place. "You can stay with him through the night; or I could return, if you want to leave."
Ouch, John thought. "No, I can stay," he assured him.
"Good," said Mycroft. He made for the exit with a cheerful, "Nice to have met you, Inspector," as he passed Lestrade.
Now that the blur that was Mycroft had left, John's attention focused exclusively on Sherlock. He didn't even answer Lestrade's side question of "Who was that?" For John, there was only the unruly dark-haired mess of a man covered in hospital machinery on the bed. Sherlock was receiving warmed air through a humidifier, as well as warmed intravenous fluid. His gunshot wound was buried under the thick, scratchy blankets. There was a small heating pad across his neck and a larger one lying over his chest. John sank into Mycroft's vacated chair. Sherlock looked, despite all the various equipment strewn across him, very peaceful. John chalked that up to the cocktail of painkillers and sedatives he was on.
He sat there for a minute, wondering if perhaps he should reach over and take Sherlock's hand. His fingers hovered over the prone wrist and instead moved up to his face, to brush lightly against the bruise forming over Sherlock's cheekbone. He drew his hand back to his lap. Wouldn't be very manly to be seen holding your flat-mate's hand as if he was your dying wife.
At least not with Lestrade in the room.
Some time later, John woke up in the blackness of the hospital room, his neck and lower back irritably sore from sleeping upright in a shabby chair. He blinked away the sleepiness from his eyes, wondering what had woken him up. Then he noticed that Sherlock was awake and realised that that was probably it.
"Hey, mate," John said softly. He shunted his chair closer to Sherlock's bed and noted that Sherlock's teeth were chattering. He had pulled his blankets up to his neck. "It's the rewarming making you feel cold, I'd guess," John suggested aloud. He looked at the room, wondering if they had a thermometer somewhere. "Don't worry, I'll go and ask the nurse for more blankets…"
Sherlock halted John with a grunt. His eyes were half-lidded and glazed from the sedatives he was on, but it was quite clear that he wanted John to stay with him. Sherlock rolled over onto his left side, wincing at the pain in his thigh as he did so.
Slowly and carefully, John climbed under the covers and into bed, behind Sherlock. He wrapped his arms under wires and around Sherlock's chest, hoping to add to his friend's warmth. Sherlock coughed as John got settled in behind him. A short time later, he stopped shivering, and John fell asleep wrapped around him.
John went home around the same time Sherlock began complaining the next day, taking it as a cue that he was feeling much better and would definitely live through his experience.
Exhaustion had taken its claim on Sherlock for a part of his time there, preventing him from complaining enough to be able to leave. As usual, he hadn't been eating or sleeping for a few days before the case, making his injuries and hypothermia that much harder to get over. He recovered steadily, by pure willpower and his desire to get home, and began to irritate the staff with requests for wheelchairs and trips down to the morgue. Two days later, when the nurses had had enough of him, John went up to the hospital to help him get home.
Sherlock was now using a cane to keep the weight off his bad leg until it got a bit better. His cast arm annoyed him immensely – it was itchy, and made even small movements difficult.
John was not pleased by the two things Sherlock brought back from the hospital with him: his magnified attitude and a lingering cough. The attitude could be ascribed to his injuries giving him no end of stress and grief, and Sherlock generally acting in a manner to which he was accustomed. The cough obviously had its beginnings in Sherlock's near-drowning in the Thames and his subsequent spell as a guest of the NHS.
"John, my tea!" Sherlock demanded from the sitting room. "During this lifetime, if you would!"
John gripped the edge of the work-surface to stop himself from beating a harsh reply, as Sherlock had descended into hoarse coughing. He put two cups of tea on a saucer with a couple of lemon wedges, feeling every bit Sherlock's personal servant, and headed to Sherlock's new permanent roost, the sofa.
Sherlock took the tea ungratefully and then sniffed it as if he hadn't just asked for it. John ignored his scowl and started unpacking the boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic. Sherlock sipped his tea, secretly delighted, while he watched John struggle to untangle a string of lights. After all the knots and kinks had been worked out, the lights were wound around the room, held up by nails that insisted on falling out, much to John's frustration. Eventually, he got them up with a combination of masking-tape and glares.
Sherlock would have enjoyed John's aggravated trials much more if the man hadn't insisted on playing an old Christmas film on the TV that Sherlock was facing. Something about a very tall man, wearing ridiculous green tights, acting like a child, and running around the streets of Manhattan. Sherlock was deeply disturbed.
John cheerily hummed to himself as he unfolded the three foot Christmas tree and ruffled its branches to make it look fuller. He hung tiny ornaments and miniature wrapped sticks of rock on it. John liked Christmas. He particularly liked that he wasn't going to have to see any family on this one. As far as his sister knew, he was on-call Christmas Eve and Day, and couldn't get out of it. Essentially that was true, but John was third down the on-call list, so it wasn't terribly likely that they'd need him.
While Sherlock was temporarily distracted by his Blackberry, John took the last decoration out of the box. He sneaked up behind the unsuspecting detective and slipped the red Santa Claus hat on snugly over his head.
Sherlock, who realised what John had done, looked up coolly and announced: "You're dead to me."
John snorted. "All right, well, I've got to go help Mrs. Hudson put up the wreaths. Ring me if you need anything."
Sherlock tore the infuriating hat off his head and threw it at John with his good arm, missing by mere inches. He went back to clicking on his phone.
John helped Mrs. Hudson with a heavy box of wreaths, wondering just how many the landlady wanted him to put out.
He was perched on a step-ladder, trying to hang a particularly heavy wreath on a nail above the first storey window. He had his right foot on the front rung of the ladder and his left on the back rung, which, according to Mrs. Hudson was terribly dangerous and too frightening for her to stick around and watch. But John was careful and not afraid of heights. Not since working with Sherlock, anyway.
John noticed a person passing by out of the corner of his eye and spared them a glance as they ducked into a cab. Then he almost lost his balance as his saw a dark coated figure limp into the car. "Sherlock?" John demanded. By the time he had half-jumped, half-skidded down the ladder, the cab was a street away.
Cursing, but willing to give Sherlock the benefit of the doubt, John hurried upstairs to see if his flat mate really was gone.
He was. John growled as he snatched up his phone to read the lone message that was blinking at him. Assisting Lestrade on a brief matter. The man really is helpless without me. I won't be long.
John bypassed his usual routine of texting Sherlock to berate him and demand that he return home at once. Instead he dialed Lestrade directly, prepared to give the DI a good piece of his mind.
"This is Lestrade," said the culprit.
"This is Dr. Watson," John said. "Tell me, Inspector: Am I going to have to kill you? Am I?"
Lestrade stammered for a moment before collecting his thoughts. "I just need him to look at one thing and then he's done," he said.
"That one thing had better be the front door to our flat," John snarled. "Send him home right now! He's not ready to be up and about, running around after you!"
"Listen John, he was more than willing to come," Lestrade tried to reason. "And besides: I've got a family of kids here who're about to experience their first Christmas without a dad, and we can't even tell them who's responsible. So, I think their problems are a bit bigger than yours or Sherlock's right now. I'll send him back when he's done."
With a click, the phone went dead. John scowled but remained in the flat, prepared to boil up a hot bath and some Lemsip for Sherlock whenever he made it home.
And that's how Sherlock ended up with a bad case of pneumonia on Christmas Day. John was always on call when it came to Sherlock.
They had hot soup for lunch, as it was the only thing that was slightly less than revolting to Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson had spent the better part of the morning making homemade stew for John and leaking off the broth for Sherlock.
Sherlock coughed and wheezed and shivered. John alternated covering him with blankets, placing cool cloths across his face and taking his temperature. He had accumulated more than his fair share of "I told you so"s, and was fully immersed in his caretaker role. As always, Sherlock took up residence on the sofa, but was feeling less than his normal abrasive self; John's mind conjured up the word "docile."
He brought Sherlock a cup of hot honey in the afternoon, hoping to soothe his friend's scratchy throat. Sherlock, lying across the sofa like a discarded rag doll, looked at John with apprehension and shame.
"What's wrong?" John asked. He set the tea on the side table.
Sherlock looked down and cleared his throat. "The muscles in my stomach are sore from coughing… I don't think I can sit up without…assistance."
John nodded. Without another word, he went to Sherlock's back and gently lifted him up into a seated position. Then he handed him the tea.
Sherlock cleared his throat and coughed for a second. "Thank you. If you want, I'll even watch one of those ridiculous Christmas films with you."
John brightened instantly. "That reminds me: I've got something for you." He went to their little tree and chose one of the four parcels underneath, presenting it to Sherlock.
Sherlock eyed it dubiously.
"Merry Christmas," John grinned.
Sherlock unwrapped the box, shredding the poorly taped paper, and opened the package. He pulled out something red and warm and wooly. His eyebrow rose. "What is that?" he asked.
John glowed. "A pair of long-johns," he said. "You know. For the next time you decide to jump into a frozen river."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "It was hardly a jump." He placed the box on the floor. "I…I'm afraid I didn't get you anything, John…I've been somewhat preoccupied." A harsh cough illustrated his point.
John's expression sobered. "The best gift you could give me is to get well." The moment he said it, John felt like a total sap. Clearly, it had made Sherlock uncomfortable, because he was diligently avoiding John's eyes.
John chuckled and added, "Physically, I mean. I don't hold out too much hope for you reaching mental wellness in my lifetime," just to make the moment less awkward.
Marill: And, thank you thank you thank you cakeholecat for beta work! You are AMAZING!