A/N – I once again bow to ScopesMonkey.

Warnings – A major character has a serious illness and this story revolves around unpleasantness of that. There will also be sexual situations, dirty words, etc. Be warned.


In the Clearing…

…stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
'Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains. ~ Paul Simon The Boxer

Sherlock walks into the bedroom with the tray balanced on one hip. He stares at John a moment, asleep with the covers pulled up almost to his eyes. He is almost the same colour as the sheets surrounding him, almost paler than Sherlock himself. The detective frowns, noticing the sheen of sweat covering John's brow. Sweating and still cold enough to be bundled under the covers.

Sherlock crosses the room and sits the tray on the bedside table. He picks up the glass of water that has been sitting there and replaces it with a new one. He's done this every few hours for the last four days, ever since John came home sick from the clinic.

He sits down on the edge of the bed and John doesn't stir. Sherlock watches him for another second before becoming alarmed with the realisation that if it wasn't for the sounds of the quiet snores John might very well appear dead. He chokes back a horrified gasp and pushes the thought away.

It's just the flu, John just has the flu.

He leans over and gently places a kiss against his husband's forehead. It was still too warm. Sherlock brushes the back of his fingers over the forehead and estimates that it was still almost exactly the same as it was four days ago. It hasn't fluctuated at all, even with the medication. Sherlock finds this particularly alarming, but John keeps insisting that it isn't high enough to be concerned about.

Typical doctor being a horrible patient.

Sherlock grabs a napkin off the tray and dabs it across John's forehead and cheek, wiping away some of the moisture. He doesn't like the sweating at all or the dry cough - or any of it. He doesn't like John being sick.

He sets the napkin aside and runs his fingers through John's hair. "John," he whispers and the doctor doesn't stir. This is something else out of the ordinary, John is usually very easy to awaken. He moves his hand around and cups the too warm cheek. "John," he says a little louder. The doctor moves at that but snuggles deeper into the pillow. Sherlock's frown grows as he finally puts his hand on John's shoulder and shakes gently. "John," he says much closer to a normal volume and the hazel eyes snap open and stare up at him.

They are glassy but still alert. He eyes Sherlock, reconciling this moment with whatever he was just dreaming, then he sucks a deep breath through his nose and stretches. Sherlock doesn't miss the slight wince as the muscles and joints ache because of the illness and the lack of activity. John doesn't say anything about that though, just rolls onto his back, letting out a yawn as he pushes himself up to sit against the headboard.

"You were asleep for almost seven hours," Sherlock states. He knows the exact amount of time down to the second but John tends to find information that detailed unnecessary so Sherlock rounds. John frowns but doesn't seemed alarmed. Sherlock wishes he were alarmed.

"This is one hell of a flu bug," he says, letting out another yawn. He pulls the blanket up higher on his body, shivering. Sherlock has had the heat on for two days and is walking around in little else but boxers and an undershirt. It's stifling in flat, but he won't complain.

Sherlock just nods, gesturing to the tray. "I have brought medication and some food and beverage for caloric intake. Which would you like first?"

John frowns and Sherlock knows that he is not hungry. He's hoping that John will consent to eat without a fight though. Sherlock is prepared to fight, if necessary, prepared to win.

"I'll have some toast," John says after a moment and Sherlock reaches for it. "Plain please." Sherlock nods handing over the lightly buttered bread. The detective studies his husband's features intently while he eats, prepared to grab the bucket from the floor at the first sign of nausea. It doesn't come though. John handles the toast today; he'd been unable to do that yesterday.

It's a sign he's getting better, the detective tells himself. Sherlock then hands over the orange juice and the pills. John needs the ascorbic acid to help his recovery, and it is recommended to take the medication with juice or milk. John doesn't drink plain milk.

The pills, too, go down without incident and John drinks most of the orange juice. Sherlock lets himself smile as he sets the ginger ale next to the glass of water. He's greeted with a smile in return. It's the first real one he's seen in days.

John's eyes flash to the dresser and Sherlock knows that he's spotted the skull. Sherlock feels better knowing that it is in the room with John at all times, that there are eyes always watching. He knows it is ridiculous, it's a skull and cannot actually convey information. However it does no harm, either, so it will stay.

"If your fever has not dropped by tomorrow I want you to see a doctor." Sherlock broaches the subject directly and before he's finished speaking John is shaking his head. "Yes," Sherlock adds quickly before John can argue.

"I am a doctor," he says.

"And you are asleep all the time. How are you supposed to tell me how to properly care for you if you are unconscious?"

"You are caring for me perfectly," John says reaching a hand up to scratch his head. He lets it fall to his shoulder settling his fingers along the back of his neck. He rubs there.

"Yet you are not improving." John shakes his head. He brings the fingers behind his left ear and Sherlock expects him to let the hand drop. He pauses, running his fingers down his neck.

"I have the…" he starts but trails off. Sherlock watches him, watches the fingers on their smooth journey.

"What?" he asks, momentarily alarmed. John huffs out a sigh and shakes his head again.

"Nothing, the lymph node is swollen," he drags his fingers around to the front and press under his jaw. Sherlock knows this gesture and watches as the other hand comes up, checking both sides. "Swollen up here, too."

"Doesn't that mean that you are ill and should see a doctor?"

John sighs again, letting his hands drop. "It means that my body is processing something that it doesn't like. They swell for all kinds of reasons that don't require a doctor's visit: allergies, colds."

Sherlock feels a pang of concern, it is one of the few downfalls he has found with being in love with John. He worries, almost constantly, about his husband's wellbeing. He reaches a hand over and places it on John's thigh. He really doesn't want to fight.

"Please," he says. The pleasantry is rarely used and therefore almost always works. Sherlock can see in the split second before John huffs in annoyance that it has worked today.

"Will it make you feel better if I go?" Sherlock nods immediately. John huffs again. "All right then. Will you call the clinic? I'll go first thing in the morning."

"Of course," Sherlock says. "Would you like me to request a specific doctor?" Sherlock knows that John likes some of the doctors on a personal level and some of them he respects. He doesn't, however, know which one John wants to see when ill.

"Matthews if he's available, if not Henderson." There is a clip in his voice that means he's annoyed with Sherlock. Usually the detective would be concerned with this, he doesn't like when John is unhappy with him, but he will ignore it today. John doesn't feel well and has consented to go to the doctor. That is all that matters.

John pushes himself back down into the bed and pulls the covers up. He rolls over and faces away from Sherlock, another indication that he is annoyed. Sherlock ignores this, too. He gathers up his items on the tray, stands, and head back down stairs. He puts everything away and settles on the couch with his mobile. He dials one of the two phone numbers he hasn't deleted from his memory, both of which easily connect him to John. The receptionist answers.

"Hello, Emily, this is Sherlock Holmes."

"Hello, Mr. Holmes," she interrupts, Sherlock often finds her pleasantness annoying. "How is Dr. Watson feeling?" Her concern is genuine.

"He is still not well. Is Dr. Matthews available to see him tomorrow?"

"Let me double check, but I'm sure we can fit him in. We're missing him around here." Sherlock pushes down distaste at this. Emily has worked with John for almost six years, it is understandable that his absence would be noticeable in her daily routine. She puts him on hold and he listens to the annoying recording relaying their hours intermixed with horrendous instrumental music. He holds the phone away from his ear so that he doesn't have to actually hear it. It takes exactly 179 seconds for her to come back on the line.

"We can get him in tomorrow morning at 10:30, will that work?"

"Certainly," Sherlock replies.

"We'll see you then." He hears her typing, probably entering John's appointment into the computer. Sherlock rings off and tosses the phone onto the couch. He sighs and brings his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around them. He rests his forehead on his knees. He only sits there for a minute before he unfolds himself and climbs the stairs again.

John is curled up under the covers facing Sherlock's side of the bed. The detective climbs in. John opens his eyes and Sherlock can immediately tell that he is no longer annoyed. Sherlock throws an arm and a leg over the doctor and presses their bodies together. John lets out a contented noise and puts his forehead against Sherlock's chest. The detective can feel the heat radiating off his husband, he rests his chin on the top of John's head and holds him until he falls asleep.