The Case of Peter's Rabbit
A dirty, leathered hand covering his mouth, Peter awoke with a start and wriggled out of the way, hiding under the blankets of his bed and clutching his stuffed rabbit.
"Don't make a noise, Peter. Get up. Come on, now," the voice belonging to the hand coaxed. Peter poked his head back out of the sheets, sweaty hair sticking up at odd angles in the moonlight.
"No. Mommy says I have to stay in bed. I have a fever," the child whispered, wiping his nose with the back of his hand and leaving a trail of snot on his racecar pajamas.
"Your Mommy says its okay. You're coming with me now. Hurry up, we're running late. Help me pack a bag," the hand grabbed a hold of Peter's, leading him from the bed and over to his drawers, turning a picture frame over on its way and hurriedly stuffing things into a knapsack. Peter passed a book to the hasty hands and fought the urge to cry. The hands took no notice, pushing him quickly out the door.
"Wait." Peter turned around, tucked his rabbit back into bed, kissed it, and followed the dark figure down the hall and out of the house.
Finding an empty bed at dawn the next morning, his mother phoned the police.
Worn down from a long hard day at work, John Watson trudged up the stairs, dreading what he would find. Sure enough, Sherlock sat crumpled on the couch, head in his hands.
"I am a doctor, you know. You could have called," John muttered irritably, depositing his coat and bag on the floor and flopping into his armchair across from Sherlock. Sherlock slowly uncoiled and fixed John with a weary stare.
"From your attitude, I'm assuming Mycroft phoned." His voice was as lifelessly monotone as the rest of him, pale and glassy eyed. Dragging a shaky hand through his hair and curling his long legs into his chest, Sherlock exhaled slowly and closed his eyes. John was torn between irritation and pity.
"Yes. I was in the middle of surgery and your brother, not you, your brother, who for all I know is not even in London, called me and told me to stay away from the flat, our flat, because you were ill and wanted to be alone. When were you going to tell me? You could have texted. Or do your thumbs not work?" John bit sarcastically, worried when it failed to get a rise out of Sherlock. The younger man uncoiled again, returning to the position John had found him in when he arrived: his feet flat on the floor, elbows on his knees, and the balls of his hands pressed into his eye sockets so that from the side he looked rather like a strange lowercase q.
"Sherlock?" He made no response. John frowned.
"Sherlock? I can't help you if you don't talk to me." Sherlock obstinately continued to be mute, breathing deeply and deliberately as if attempting some new, lowercase yoga.
"Fine. If you're going to be that way, I'm going to take a long, hot shower and make myself some tea," John grumbled, standing up and making his way through the scattered scientific experiments to his room.
"No. Don't…" John almost didn't think he heard him, but a quick backward glance revealed that Sherlock had ceased being a q and was looking up at him.
"Why…" As the question left his lips, John realized the answer. Leaning limply back into the couch, hands fumbling restlessly with the hem of his bathrobe, Sherlock's breathing had sped up so that he was practically hyperventilating. The consulting detective wasn't ignoring him; he was nauseous. Thus, John couldn't shower in case Sherlock needed the loo.
"Are you going to be sick?" John asked, eyes darting about the room in search of a bin. Sherlock closed his eyes and grimaced with frustration.
"This is ridiculous. There's nothing left." He grumbled plaintively.
"Can you make it there on your own?" Sherlock stumbled swiftly across the room, answering John with a curt door slam and the sound of heaving. John sighed, grabbed a glass from above the kitchen sink, and carried the water to his flat mate.
"Sherlock?" John knocked softly on the now quiet bathroom's door, "are you alright in there?" There was a moment's pause before Sherlock replied with a very terse, "fine."
"Can I come in?" John asked more as a formality than a question, his hand already turning the doorknob. The younger man blinked up at him from the floor. He was kneeling on the cold tile, right arm hugging the toilet bowl, left propping up his head. He looked incredibly young and utterly exhausted.
"Do you need anything? Water?" John sloshed the glass as he said this and, from the look on Sherlock's face, it was a poor choice. Breathing heavily once more, Sherlock gagged and then heaved, bringing up nothing but yellow bile.
John's stomach flipped in sympathy. He passed the glass of water back and forth between his hands, not sure if Sherlock would be at all receptive to a reassuring back pat and in need of something to do. Even as a medical professional, he always felt a bit lost and helpless in these sorts of situations. Sherlock's voice, hoarse and weak from his current activity, interrupted John's musings.
"Could I actually, um, have some privacy? I know… I know you're a doctor and all, but, uh…" Sherlock winced, dragging a shaking hand through his hair and shifting his arms and legs uncomfortably as if a new position might cure his illness. John nodded, but Sherlock was no longer looking at him, his focus returned to the task at hand as he retched once more.
"Sure. I'll be right outside if you need me." Placing the water glass down on the ledge of the sink, John left the bathroom, closing the door softly, and sitting on the floor beside it.
Police swarmed the London flat, taking pictures and asking questions of anyone and everyone. It was a big deal when anyone connected to politics got kidnapped.
Sitting nervously on the couch in the midst of the commotion sat Peter's parents, Jorge and Lucille Conjito. Lucille cried softly into Jorge's shoulder, still in her pajamas and bathrobe. Jorge, though dressed, looked pale, frightened, and stricken with grief as if he had given up on his son or already knew Peter's fate.
"Hi, I'm Detective Inspector Lestrade. I'm sorry we're meeting under these circumstances, but let me be the first one to assure you that we're doing our best to find your son. May I ask you a few questions?" The inspector stood before the couch, pen and pad in hand, nervously shuffling his feet. He didn't normally take these cases. Normally, his victims were already dead, but everyone was incredibly busy back at headquarters and the Conjito case needed priority.
"Sure, if it'll help. I'm Jorge. This is Lu," the bespectacled father spoke, shrugging his left shoulder and motioning for his wife to face the inspector. She nodded, grabbing a wad of tissues and blowing her nose.
"I'm… I'm sorry. I'm just so worried… Peter's so young and he's ill." She broke into tears. Lestrade made some notes on his pad.
"How old is he, exactly?"
"6, he turned 6 this past January," Jorge answered, crossing his arms across his chest and shivering. Lucille continued to cry.
"And what exactly is wrong with him?" The inspector squinted at Jorge who had broken out in a sweat.
"Nothing serious, it's just a bug he picked up at school. You know how kids are, always getting sick." Jorge smiled awkwardly. Lucille glared at him.
"Peter had a fever yesterday, Jorge. You have no clue what's wrong with him. It could be serious! And now he's gone God knows where…" She broke down again. Jorge frowned and passed the tissues.
"Lu, please…" he whispered, placing a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off and left, scurrying in the direction of the bathroom. The inspector cleared his throat.
"Do you know of anyone who would take your son? Any enemies?"
"None." Jorge shook his head.
"What about at work? You're employed by the Mexican embassy," the inspector pressed.
"Sure, I've rubbed a few people the wrong way before, but not enough to do this. No one would do this. No one would take Pete," Jorge dragged a hand across his face, removing his glasses.
"What about your work? Are you working on anything that could cause… political issues for someone? Anything at all."
"I can't… what I'm working on right now is very strictly need to know." Jorge bit his lip. The inspector scribbled more notes on his pad.
"Alright. Have you noticed anyone hanging around watching your son? In the neighborhood, at school…"
"God, you think? Oh God," Jorge's face grew paler and he looked a bit sick. "I don't, I don't know about that. You'd have to ask Lu. I'm usually at work all day. Pete and I read stories together at night, but during the day I'm at work or I'm… God, Pete." Jorge stood, heading shakily in the direction of his wife.
"I'm sorry. I… my wife," he muttered over his shoulder.
The inspector whipped out his phone.
When Sherlock emerged, he looked pale and shaky, like a wrung out sponge. Casting a vacant glance at John's position on the floor, he shuffled slowly back to the couch, clinging to the wall and gingerly flopped down, curling onto his side. John followed, taking a blanket off Sherlock's bed en route and spreading it out over his friend.
"Can I get you anything else? What are your symptoms exactly?" Sherlock closed his eyes and sighed. John rolled his.
"Really? You're going to make me guess?" A flicker of a smile passed over the ill man's face as quickly as a chill, over ridden by the taut muscles of a headache. John shook his head. Sherlock was ridiculous.
"Fine… Besides the obvious nausea, you have a headache and are quite possibly dizzy, judging from the way you've been moving to and from the loo. You're also achy if your restlessness is anything to go by… and how high is your fever?" Sherlock nodded slowly, affirming John's deductions. John couldn't help but feel a bit proud.
"Somewhere between 37 and 38," Sherlock guessed, shivering slightly and gathering the blankets closer to himself. John brushed his hand across Sherlock's forehead with a nod, coming to the same conclusion.
"Have you taken anything?"
"No. No hope of keeping it down." His eyes still closed, Sherlock's words began to slur together, sickness and sleep weighing down his tongue.
"How long has this been going on anyway?" John asked, trying to remember when the call had come in from Mycroft. He hadn't been able to break free from surgery for a while after the message and Sherlock had still been asleep in bed when he left that morning.
"Since I woke up… 8? 9?" Sherlock mumbled, turning so his face was partially obscured by the couch pillow. John's concerned frown deepened.
"You've been vomiting since 8 or 9 this morning? Really? Sherlock, it shouldn't be going on that long. Do you have any other symptoms that I don't know about yet? Abdominal pain?" John reached his hands back out towards Sherlock's abdomen only to have them weakly batted away by Sherlock's long, clammy fingers.
"No. No. No appendicitis… And I haven't been physically ill since then, just generally sick. The actual vomiting thing comes in waves." Sherlock swallowed forcefully and curled into a tighter ball, stomach somewhat unsettled by the memory.
"How many times would you say you've vomited?"
"Good God, John, how the hell would I know? Please just stop doctoring me and let me sleep," Sherlock growled, scowling and drawing the blankets so high about him that all John could see was his glowering face.
"Right. Sorry. I'll just go and leave you to marinate in your own sick, then." The scowl morphed back into an exhausted grimace at John's frustrated retort.
"John…" Sherlock sighed his name as an apology, too tired and sick for further effort. John sighed in reply and wordlessly moved a plastic lined trash bin close to Sherlock's head. Sherlock nodded in gratitude.
"You're sure you don't need anything? I'm going to run to the shop, pick up some Gatorade or something with electrolytes. Ought to do you good…" John offered, picking his way across the room.
With a grunt, Sherlock rolled completely over so that his back was now towards John. John rolled his eyes. He'd dealt with many patients in his time as a doctor, but he had a feeling Sherlock was going to be a whole new ballgame.
"Good night, Sherlock," John muttered to the sleeping creature occupying his couch. Silently as possible, John slipped his shoes and coat back on and, grabbing his wallet and keys, went back out of the flat.
An hour or so later, Lestrade was getting desperate. The techs were finding nothing and the detectives little else. Whoever had taken Peter knew exactly what he was doing and how not to get caught. To make matters worse, Sherlock wasn't answering his phone.
Lestrade was about to take yet another discouraged coffee break when he felt a hopeful vibration in his pocket.
Glowering at his phone, Lestrade angrily returned a text. "Missing child. No evidence. Political father. Right up your alley. I'll pick you up myself."
His phone chirped back almost instantly.
"If I could come, I would. I, however, cannot. Send the file. SH"
Resolved to gain Sherlock's assistance, Lestrade left word with the others on the scene and drove off to 221 B.
Climbing the stairs to the flat for the umpteenth time that day, John shifted the plastic bags of groceries, trying not to drop anything, fish his keys from his coat pocket, and make it up the steps at the same time. He cursed under his breath as the flimsy strap of one of the bags broke, its other arm stretching precariously and slinging its contents back and forth. Hopping on one foot, John balanced the bag on the precipice of his hip and finally found the keys in his pocket. The fact that the door turned out to be unlocked and hanging open and that Sherlock was no longer on the couch did little to improve his mood.
"Sherlock?" John called, unsure of whether or not the ill man had relocated to his own bedroom, was once again occupied in the loo, or was up to something else entirely. Placing the bags of groceries down and shutting the door, John was startled as two people rounded the corner of the living room.
Detective Inspector Lestrade waved awkwardly at John, guilt clearly written across his features. Having exchanged his pajamas for his normal attire, Sherlock leaned against the doorframe behind him, looking equal parts pale and determined. John crossed his arms over his chest and adopted the tone he'd used giving orders in the army.
"John, look, I know he's ill and I feel awful about having to drag him in, but we need him on this," the inspector pleaded.
"No." Deducing that a long-winded debate was beginning, Sherlock returned to the couch, leaning into the cushions, swaddling his coat more tightly around himself, and closing his eyes.
"No! He's been ill all day and is in no condition to go off gallivanting around London on some case. As a doctor, I cannot allow it. I mean, seriously, look at him. He can't even keep his eyes open." John motioned to Sherlock who opened his eyes and glared at him in defiance. Lestrade sighed in frustration and rubbed a hand over his face. Sherlock took his loss for words as a cue.
"They need me on this, John." He leaned forward as if preparing to stand and shrugged, tensing to hide a shiver. John seethed.
"No, Sherlock. They've solved cases without you before. They're not idiots, at least not all the time." John glared at Lestrade who rolled his eyes and dug his hands more deeply into his pockets.
"It's a child." John rolled his eyes at Sherlock. Of course, it was a child.
"Can't you just give him the file?" John gave up on convincing Sherlock, he was hard enough to persuade when he was well, and turned back to the guilt-ridden Lestrade.
"He has it. He says he needs to go there… Honestly, John, I wouldn't ask this of him if we weren't at our wits end. We've been over the place an infinite number of times, but we don't know where to look and time is getting away from us. It'll just be an hour. Promise." John sighed, nodding.
"Fine, but no more than an hour and I want you back in bed resting afterwards." John pointed at Sherlock who made to stand, but quickly sat back down with his head in his hands, swallowing forcefully.
"Sherlock?" John took a step closer to his friend, noting that the trash bin he'd moved to the couch earlier was no longer there.
"Just a moment," Sherlock mumbled, gritting his teeth and disappearing in the direction of the bathroom. John sighed, turning back around and picking up the discarded bags of groceries. He carried them into the kitchen, opening and shutting the drawers loudly both to convey his annoyance and to cover up the noise of Sherlock's hurling.
"I'll, uh… I'll wait in the car." Sensing the ill will heading his way, Lestrade left the flat. The groceries in their respective places, John sat down in his chair, closing his eyes, and waited for Sherlock.
The car ride across London had been nothing short of miserable. John remained juvenilely silent, stubbornly angry with Lestrade and Sherlock, the former for dragging his ill friend out of the flat and the later for complying despite his unfit state. He refused to speak even when Lestrade attempted to make small talk. Sherlock was equally silent, pale brow pinched with the focus required not to vomit all over Lestrade's back seat. Noting Sherlock's condition through the rearview window, Lestrade artfully pulled over in time for Sherlock to decorate the roots of a metropolitan tree. His own stomach nearly rebelled in empathy, guilt, and stress. By the time they reached the Conjito house, Lestrade was seriously regretting phoning Sherlock and John.
Insecurely mumbling the circumstances of the kidnapping and the information they'd gleaned so far, Lestrade led Sherlock and John through the flat, past the parents who'd returned to the couch, and into Peter's room. Donovan, who'd been squinting around the room, turned around and smirked when they entered.
"Well, look who's here. You look awful, Freak. Up all night?" Sherlock huffed at her and rolled his eyes, choosing to ignore her rather than waste his energy, and began to study the room. John briefly entertained the thought that Sherlock's annoyed huff was his attempt to spray her with his germs.
"He's ill, Donovan. Lay off, would you?" John hid the angry growl behind a smile and pretended not to be killing her forty different ways in his head.
"Why don't you go see if the techs have anything?" Lestrade asked, peacefully defusing the situation.
Meanwhile, Sherlock had made his circuit of the bedroom, stopping to stare blankly at the bookshelf, normally perfect posture stooped, hands in his pockets. John was sure it was to hide the fact they were shaking.
"His father, he works for the embassy, you said. Mexico?" Sherlock rasped. Lestrade nodded.
"He says his work is all need to know, but yes. Mexico." Sherlock nodded, returning to the boy's bed and staring at the stuffed rabbit. His gaze narrowed. Removing his hands from his pockets, Sherlock extracted it from the blankets.
"Send this to Molly. Have her pay close attention to its face." Turning back to the bed's nightstand, he grasped a downturned picture frame, careful not to leave any fingerprints.
"This, too, it will have the perpetrator's prints on it." Handing the frame to a flustered Lestrade, Sherlock turned towards the door.
"Now, if you wouldn't mind, I would like to go back to bed." Sherlock hunched further down in his coat, shivering. Lestrade passed the rabbit and frame to a passing tech officer with Sherlock's instructions.
"Have you solved it, then?" He asked hopefully. Sherlock nodded, closing his eyes and collecting himself silently before responding.
"Yes. Perfectly obvious - the father works for the Mexican embassy, a country known for its role in drug smuggling. He's also obviously undergoing withdrawal from whatever drug he's been using. Whoever took the boy knew the father; the family portrait on the nightstand was turned over. The boy was also familiar with him, enough not to make a fuss when he showed up and convince him to leave in the middle of the night despite his illness. The storybook missing from his collection is Peter Rabbit. The boy has a stuffed rabbit, which he took the time to tuck back into the sheets. Chances are there will be traces of whatever the kidnapper used to wake and manipulate the boy on the rabbit. Given the connection to drug smuggling and its abundance of floating particulates, the rabbit will also have clues as to where the boy was taken, probably also where the drugs are kept."
"Brilliant." Sherlock smirked briefly at John's hushed compliment and headed through the door. John followed close behind, Lestrade lagging to give orders to various minions, taking the father in for further questioning and placing a rush on the lab.
Sherlock leaned dizzily against the hallway wall while John unlocked the door to the flat, shooting him a concerned glance.
"How are you feeling?" John asked, swinging the door open and stepping aside to let Sherlock pass. Keeping his coat on, but stepping haphazardly out of his shoes, Sherlock curled back up beneath the blankets on the couch.
"Ill, but less nauseous than before… Perhaps all I needed was a case." John smiled, brushing his hand against Sherlock's forehead again.
"You've still got a fever. Why don't you try to sleep it off? I'll be within shouting distance the rest of the night." Sherlock nodded, rolling tightly into a ball smaller than one would believe for a man of his height. John walked back towards the door, checking the lock and removing his own coat and shoes.
"Hey, is it alright if I shower now?" His question received no more than a sleepy grunt in response. John shook his head.
"Goodnight, Sherlock," He mumbled for the second time that day, switching off the lights and heading for a long, hot shower. He turned back to squint at the sleeping man in the dark living room, unsure if he'd heard a response.
"Goodnight, John… and thank you."