The Adventure of the Country Birthday - 12

"John, this was a brilliant idea. I'm so glad you brought me out here to help celebrate your birthday!"

The five of us finished our tea and carrot cake. We continued to chat and to speculate on what would become of the Cunninghams and the outcome of the lawsuit.

After a while Mr. Acton insisted on taking us all out to dinner. Mrs. Brown politely refused, saying that she wanted to make us something "really special" to celebrate the success of the day, and that she would have it ready for us when we returned.

So, it was four of us that went to dinner in town. We ate at a small Italian restaurant, similar to Angelo's in London. To my great surprise, Sherlock accepted a glass of wine when the bottle arrived. Sherlock doesn't normally drink at all, especially with people he doesn't know well.

I was very pleased to see him eat most of his seafood linguine. After he finished his first glass of wine Sherlock had another, and then another. It was the most I had ever seen him drink in one evening. It was certainly beginning to affect him, he could barely keep his eyes open. When I considered what he had been through that day, I wasn't surprised.

When we had finished dinner and the conversation lagged a bit I decided enough was enough.

"As Sherlock's doctor, I have to insist that he go home and get some rest."

The other two agreed and Mr. Acton paid the bill and the Colonel got his car. We took Mr. Acton home and by that time Sherlock was fast asleep in the back seat.

Mr. Acton whispered his thanks and goodbyes and I took the front seat of the car for the drive back to the Colonel's.

"He going to be ok?" asked the Colonel.

"Yeah, he'll have some nasty bruises for awhile, but no permanent damage."

The Colonel nodded. "I'd apologize for the very unrestful time he's had, if it didn't seem as if he'd enjoyed it so much."

I chuckled quietly. "I think it's done him a lot of good, in spite of the close call today. He did get a lot of rest, and Mrs. Brown's been able to get quite a bit of food into him. He enjoyed the bees and, aside from the assault, greatly enjoyed the unexpected bonus of a case. He's probably going to want to go home tomorrow."

"And so you'll be leaving."

I shrugged. "I think he's ready. And I'll still be keeping an eye on him."

"Don't you always?"

"Well, yeah."

We exchanged a smile.

"I've really enjoyed having you guys. Feel free to come any time."

"Thanks, Mike. But be careful! With an offer like that, and such a precedence as this, Sherlock may show up for every stolen bicycle."

We shared a quiet chuckle.

When we got back to the house, I went and woke Sherlock up.

"C'mon Sherlock, we're back. Get up so you can go to bed."

"Not yet," Sherlock complained, "Mrs. Brown's dessert, first."

"That's right!" said the Colonel, "I forgot!"

The three of us made our way to the breakfast room, Sherlock staggering a bit from drink and/or fatigue. When we got there we were greeted by a small but spectacular chocolate cake covered in strawberries next to a bucket of ice holding a chilled bottle of sparkling dessert wine.

An hour later the three of us had devoured the cake and emptied the bottle, by then I had to almost carry Sherlock up the stairs and to the bedroom.

We said good night to Mike and shut the door. Sherlock made his way to the bed and flopped down with a sigh.

"Right, Sherlock, get your pajamas on and get in bed."

Sherlock made an indistinct grumbling noise. I sighed. It looked like it was going to be up to me.

I went over to him, slumped over sideways on the bed and started taking off his shoes and socks.

He opened up his eyes and smiled blearily down at me.

"You're a cheap date, Sherlock Holmes," I chuckled, "a few glasses of wine and I'm taking off your clothes."

Sherlock gave an offended huff, "Not cheap. " He yawned, "Just tired."

I sat him up and began taking off his jacket. "I can imagine, after the day you've had."

I got his jacket off and took it over to the closet to hang it up. As I turned around to come back, I saw that Sherlock had got off the bed and toddled over to me. He pulled me into an awkward hug, hunched unsteadily over me and swaying slightly.

"John," he breathed into my ear, "I'm sorry for worrying you." His breath smelled like wine, chocolate, and strawberries.

"Here, let's get you back on the bed," I said, worried that he might topple over.

I got him sat back on the bed and began unbuttoning his shirt.

"I wish I would have known that you faked the collapse and the mistake, but I can see now that you never really had the chance to warn me ahead of time. You're forgiven."

I slid his shirt off and tossed it into a pile of dirty clothes we had begun. I began unbuckling his belt and asked, "Where are your pajamas?"

Sherlock waved vaguely and then said, "I'll just sleep in my underwear."

"Ok, well, can you stand up for a second and I'll get your trousers off?"

Once he had stepped out of them, putting his hands on my shoulders to balance he collapsed back on the bed.

I hung the trousers up in the closet as well, then came back to the bed. I sat down next to Sherlock's prone body.

"Can I take one more look at your neck before you go to sleep?" I asked.

He rolled over onto his back and raised up his chin. I ran my hands over his neck, checking for damage. He had been checked over at the hospital earlier, but I had to satisfy my own mind that there was nothing to worry about. I pressed a few spots, asking him what hurt and what didn't.

"How about your fingers and toes? Any tingling?"

"No."

"Any difficulty breathing?"

"No."

"Turn your head side to side for me."

As he did that, I carefully ran my hands over the bruises left by Alec Cunningham. I fought down a sudden wave of anger. I noticed Sherlock watching me through half-lidded, sleepy eyes. I decided it was time for me to quit worrying and go to bed myself.

After I was done getting ready for bed, I slipped under the covers, assuming that Sherlock was probably already asleep. However, after I had settled in, he came scooting over and draped himself over me like he had the night before last.

While I was trying to formulate a response to this action Sherlock began speaking again.

"John, you're the first person who's every hurt for me before."

"What? What do you mean?"

"Today, when you felt bad for my pretend mistake. I could see that you were hurt and embarrassed for me. No one has ever felt that way for me before."

I paused, then said, "I don't think you're being fair to your brother when you say that. I know that he feels hurt for you when you hurt."

"Mmmmm," grumbled Sherlock against my chest, "well if that's true, the way he demonstrates it is annoying."

I chuckled softly, "Maybe so. Just try to remember the sentiment is real, though."

"Ok," he muttered. After a moment he raised his head to look up at me. "John, I want to go home."

His fruity and chocolaty breath came ghosting up to me. I felt a little guilty for not having made him brush his teeth before bed, but not guilty enough to take action at this point.

"Sure, we can go home tomorrow, if you get good sleep tonight and I feel you're rested enough."

He took the hint, "Goodnight John." He put his head back down on my chest.

"Goodnight."

I realized after a second that I had unconsciously put my arms around him as he cuddled against me. I sighed to myself, but then thought, well, I could have lost him today, I think that makes hugging him acceptable doesn't it?

And, we'd be home tomorrow and then things would get back to normal.

So, I squeezed him thankfully to me for a second or two, causing him to rumble contentedly against me, and then in a few minutes I was asleep as well.

The End!

A/N: Thanks to all who have followed this story. I would love to hear your reactions now that it's finished. Obviously, I now have to make some revisions to "The Air Conditioner" which takes place after this story.

After I make those revisions I'll start on a new story. It will be about the murder of Mummy Holmes, which was first mentioned in "The Adventure of the Swinging Snitch".