John pulled his phone out of his coat pocket and pressed a few buttons at random, wondering if something was wrong with it. It seemed strange that he could have spent the whole weekend in Cardiff without a single text from Sherlock. But the taxi would drop him off at home in less than five minutes, and he had.
He wasn't going to complain. It was nice to be able to visit with Bill and his wife, and their two kids without constantly answering (or ignoring) his phone. And he certainly didn't need the extra frustration after watching the Cardiff Blues beat the Wasps 21-5. At least he'd had Bill to commiserate with. (To say that watching important matches-okay…any matches…-with Sherlock was frustrating was a ridiculous understatement.) Still, he had expected his flatmate to text at some point. Sherlock hadn't spoken a word to anyone for four days when John left for Cardiff, and he'd hoped some interesting crime would have jolted him out of his sulk by now.
Mrs. Hudson opened the door before he got a chance to pull his keys out of his pocket.
"Dr. Watson! Finally! I thought you'd be here yesterday! Have you heard any more? Oh it's dreadful..." Her eyes were red, and she had thrown her arms around him right there in the doorway.
"Mrs. Hudson, what is it?" John tried to push her off while not dropping his baggage on her foot. She pulled away.
"It's Sherlock! You didn't hear? Oh he must be…oh! When I saw the men come in those suits…and Sherlock looked so pale, and I wasn't even allowed to talk to him, but he called and said he had called you, too, and not to worry, but he sounded ...and then they went up to the flat and I don't know what, and…"
John wasn't entirely sure what Mrs. Hudson was on about, but it was clear that something was very wrong. "Mrs. Hudson, what happened to Sherlock? Someone kidnapped him?"
"No, no. He has some disease, and he said I'd be fine, but the police were here to bring him to the hospital. And Mycroft said that he would…"
"Yes, and I thought he looked quite upset…and…"
"Sorry, Mrs. Hudson. I have to call Mycroft. You go fix yourself a cuppa, and I'll…" And he was back out the door, trying to hail another taxi with one hand while he tried to find Mycroft's number on his phone with the other.
"John, stop trying to hail a cab. The car should be in front of you in forty-seven seconds precisely. The driver was held up by traffic."
"Yes. What happened. Where's Sher…"
"The driver will bring you here. Everything will be made clear when you arrive."
"You hung up on me!" John shouted to…Mrs. Hudson. "He hung up the bloody phone!"
"Did he say how Sherlock is?"
"No. He's sending..." And the car pulled up, and he jumped in.
He dialed Mycroft again, but the phone rang out. He tried Lestrade and at least got an answer.
"Where is Sherlock?"
"John? Why are you asking me? You're his babysitter, not me."
"Mycroft sent the car for me and something's wrong, but he won't tell me."
"Sorry. I haven't contacted him for over a week. Nothing he'd think was interesting."
He put his phone back in his pocket, and stared out the window, and tried not to think too hard about what could have made Mycroft act so mysteriously.
Er…Well, that wasn't quite right. But Mycroft had sounded…not-perfectly-cool. And Mrs. Hudson had said something like that, too. He hoped wherever they were going wasn't very far.
About two hours later, John was dropped off in front of what looked like an office building in the middle of nowhere, where he was met by the nameless assistant he had taken to calling "Blackberry" in his mind.
She took him down a few corridors, and he didn't even try to ask her any questions. He was ushered into a room where Mycroft waited with some tea and food set out on a table. One look at Mycroft was enough to confirm his worst fears during the interminable drive. Mycroft didn't look properly a mess, but considering his usual standards of appearance, the slightly askew tie, and the even more slightly rumpled suit were shocking.
"What happened, Mycroft?"
"Do sit down, and take some tea, and eat something."
"Glaring at me like that will do nothing for you, John. You will be no good to anyone at all if you don't eat something."
"Tell me what happened."
Mycroft looked very hard at him for a minute or two, and then said, "Sherlock is dying of an experimental strain of the Ebola virus."
"Wh-what?" John whispered, and dropped into the nearest chair.
"Yes. He will not last a week." And it was the almost crack in Mycroft's voice more than the words that made his statement hit home.
"There was no foul play except on his own part. My brother was bored, and managed to procure a sample for himself. Illegally. He clearly did not show the care that he should have."
"The bloody idiot!" John shouted, jumping up again.
"You needn't worry. Your flat has been carefully decontaminated."
"You know I'm not…How could he have been so…so…"
"You know how. There is no need to pretend to ourselves that my brother is not…extremely foolhardy."
"Yes, but…" John swallowed and clenched his shaking left hand. "Where is he? I want to see him."
"You may see him and talk to him as soon as you wish. But you will not be allowed to enter his room."
"What? Why not?"
"This is a highly contagious, experimental form of the Ebola virus. He is on airborne isolation, and no one but authorized personnel is allowed to enter."
"I'm his doctor. And I'm a soldier. I was trained to deal with bioterrorism before I was deployed to Afghanistan. You could authorize me. You should authorize me."
"We have competent medical professionals looking after him. Your services are not needed."
"Maybe not, but I'm needed. I'm his friend."
"He has specifically requested that you not be allowed in."
"He was quite clear on the matter."
"He can't stop me."
"I can. I respect his wishes."
"Mycroft, you never..."
"He's dying, John. This is not the time for perpetuating our feud."
"Not for his own good?"
"Not for your own good."
"Fine. Where can I at least talk to him?"
"Janice will take you. I should warn you: He has started slipping into delirium at times during the past five hours. I do not know how he is right now. I will be in my temporary office across the hall should you need to speak to me again."
John followed the young nurse into a room with a large plexiglass window. And he looked.
The VS monitor wasn't angled towards the window, so he couldn't see it; but he didn't have to. Sherlock had never looked particularly healthy. How could he, when he regularly skipped meals, and slept so sporadically? But seeing him like this was another shock. He was emaciated and he was paler than pale. The dark circles under his eyes make his face look like a skull. He was on oxygen. He had multiple IVs. Even so, his usual nervous energy wasn't completely gone. His fingers were twitching, and he seemed to be mumbling under his breath. John couldn't make out any of the words.
He turned to the nurse. "Has he been lucid recently?"
"Last time I was in here he was talking about green icing and a cake in the rain. Completely barmy."
All of a sudden John felt himself let out a loud, nearly hysterical. laugh. But at the strange look from the nurse his ears grew red and he coughed. Then he registered what she'd said, and turned to her, and started shouting:
"Barmy? That man is dying and you say, 'barmy?' It's.." and a sound distracted him.
"Sherlock?" John looked through the window, and saw that Sherlock had turned his head towards the window.
"John?" It hardly sounded like Sherlock's voice.
"Hey Sherlock. You're...not doing well." he said lamely.
He'd had no idea that a man that weak could look supercilious. "Obviously."
John gave a little grin. And then fished around for something to say. "So...'MacArthur Park'?"
Sherlock coughed and then rasped, "Someone...told me it..." He paused to catch his breath. "...it could keep you...sane."
"Conscious, Sherlock. I tried to remember the words so I wouldn't fall asleep."
"Asleep. Yes...yes...I don't want to fall...asleep...John."
John could feel a tear prickling in the corner of his eye. But the still embarrassed girl was in the room with him. And Sherlock was on the other side of the window. So he cleared his throat. "Why, Sherlock? Why do you have to be such an idiot?"
Sherlock didn't say anything.
"Why won't you let me in there?"
"Much more necessary than the one you took to get yourself here. And don't try to say it's not safe. Your brother already gave me that. You know as well as he did that I'm trained for situations like this. And that I can put on the proper protective gear as well as the next person."
Sherlock just looked at him for several minutes through his swollen red eyelids. And John swallowed again, when he realized that there were tears spilling out of the corners of Sherlock's eyes. Sherlock Holmes was crying. When he spoke again it was barely a whisper, but it was somehow stronger-more determined than any of his previous statements.
"John...John Watson. I...saw you...at...the pool...Moriarty...you almost died...I...almost...killed you...I." He stopped and closed his eyes. He didn't open them again. "You are...my...friend...only one...I...can't...kill you again."