Prompt on kink meme: "I'd like a fic where John is sick, and Sherlock channels his copious concern through agitation and annoyance and is kind of uncomfortable with the whole "caregiving" concept. So he's a prat but still more or less takes care of John ... sort of."
x x x
It took the milk going sour for Sherlock to notice something was amiss.
He'd just come down off a three-day stint. When he opened his eyes, he saw the space around the sofa was littered with crumpled backings peeled from his nicotine patches, but that wasn't too unusual. John refused to clean up after Sherlock's episodes (that was John's word choice; Sherlock preferred brainwork), according to some bizarre "principle" of his. Mrs. Hudson usually took care of that sort of thing, but she was out of town for the weekend, visiting a friend.
The flat was silent, which indicated that John might've stepped out, but his coat was still on the hook. A quick peak through the curtains however, revealed it was a sunny day; mild, too, perhaps, so maybe he hadn't needed his coat. Inconclusive.
That was when Sherlock drifted into the kitchen to make himself tea. He didn't usually partake in such a mundane task, but as John was not in the immediate vicinity, and possibly not in the flat, and as the only way to know for certain either way involved much more effort than boiling water and fetching a tea bag and some milk—well, due to the circumstances, the great world's only consulting detective Sherlock Holmes found himself making his own cup of tea.
When he uncapped the milk and detected its spoiled odor, however, he began to worry.
Maybe this was a sort of domestic punishment for Sherlock disappearing into his mind palace for so long. They'd had spats about that before, but—no, the bread had mold. The apples in the bowl on the counter had gone soft. His eyes darted to the shelf, where the jam was kept. And there it was, the unopened jar John had bought a week ago, for when he finished the old one. But he hadn't finished the old one, and surely—Sherlock checked his phone just to be certain three days had indeed passed—he would've done so by now.
There were no new plates in the sink, either, and it was highly unlikely John had eaten takeaway for every meal. There should've at least been cups, but no. All the same dishes from three days ago.
So. John hadn't been in the kitchen for the past three days. Sherlock went back into the living area, scanning the room. The newspaper sitting on the table next to John's chair was three days old as well.
He took the stairs up to John's bedroom two at a time, all thoughts of making tea entirely abandoned. He found the door open and stepped inside without saying anything.
A misshapen, blanket-covered lump huddled in the middle of the bed, squished into the pillows, used tissues strewn around it. It strangely, fleetingly reminded Sherlock of waking up surrounded by his own discarded nicotine patch backings.
The lump—which was John, obviously, but there was something indescribably pathetic about his position, and thus, lump—coughed and then groaned miserably. Sherlock decided it was time to announce himself.
The lump turned over then, shook off the blanket and tissues. The top of John's face appeared, from the nose up, but that provided more than enough evidence. The red blotches stark against pale, sweating skin. Hair that needed washing. Red-rimmed eyes. A bit of mucus dripping from his right nasal cavity. He'd deduced it even before John croaked, "Sherlock. I'm sick."
"You're sick," Sherlock affirmed flatly, still regarding him with a stoic, narrow-eyed stare.
"Yeah." John started wriggling himself into a sitting position, his face flushing further with the effort it required. He sighed when he finished, gathering the energy to speak. "God, I feel terrible, my head, my throat… I was wondering when you'd come up to check on—wait, where are you going?"
"I've…got a case," Sherlock lied, without really knowing why he lied. But the sight of John, and all those tissues, and his bed hair, and his blotchy cheeks—they all inspired a… panic within him. The only thing he knew to do was leave.
"Sherlock, I've been lying here for three days." John's voice had gone poignantly hoarse, nothing but a wheezing squeak, really. "Least you could do is get a dying man some tea, you bastard."
x x x
"So I've made the tea."
"Brilliant." John lifted his head when Sherlock didn't move. "Come on, bring it over."
"Right." Sherlock found himself walking on tip-toe the first couple steps and quickly corrected himself.
"D'you mind handing it to me?" John asked, as Sherlock started to lower the cup onto the night stand.
"Of course," he answered stiffly, and held it out towards John. As he did so, John coughed and Sherlock flinched, sloshing the hot drink onto John's fingers as it passed between their hands.
"Ouch—Jesus—ah—shit." The four exclamations came in quick succession, the last hissed through John's chapped lips.
"Well," Sherlock said, surveying the overturned cup, the stained bedclothes. "You needed to change your sheets, anyway, right?"
x x x
John stood shivering with fever in the corner as Sherlock made up his bed.
"Can't you go any faster?" John's voice creeped up into a nasally whine. Sherlock gritted his teeth and ignored him, roughly yanking down a corner of the sheets. This earned him a scoffing noise from John. "Ugh. You're rubbish at this."
"As I suggested before, you can make your own bed, if you like," Sherlock huffed as he unfolding a fresh blanket.
"I'm sick. Have a little mercy, Sherlock. I'm incapacitated, for Christ's sake."
"You seem perfectly capable of criticism," Sherlock grumbled darkly.
"What was that?"
"Nothing." Sherlock flashed him a big, sarcastically innocent grin and received a look of disgust from John. He patted the bed, rumpled but finished. "It's all ready. Hop in."
Sherlock took a step back, towards the door, as John crawled under the covers.
"If that's all you'll be needing, I'm afraid I—"
"Hold it right there. I need a new cup of tea. You made me spill the other one."
"I didn't make you do anything. All I did was make you a cup of tea."
A brief staring contest ensued. Sherlock shut his eyes and clenched his jaw.
"Right. I'll go make you another cup. Anything else?" He opened his eyes, already poised to turn on his heel.
"Well, some food would be nice."
"This isn't a restaurant, John," Sherlock snapped, even though he knew John was being perfectly reasonable.
John's mouth hung open for a moment, but he quickly shut it and gripped at the sheets in frustration. "Sherlock! I haven't eaten anything. In three days. I've been living off cough drops and water from the tap in my bathroom!" He tried to raise his voice, but his words sort of wilted somewhere in the back of his throat. "I need to eat something."
"Fine! But I'll have you know, thanks to your irresponsibility, all the food in the flat's gone bad. So I'm not sure what I can make for you."
This stunned John into a silence longer than before. "…My… My irresponsibility?"
Sherlock pressed his lips together and held his ground, not saying a word.
"You're joking, right?" John continued, shaking his head. He coughed a few times and then lay flat against his pillows and shut his eyes. "No, of course you're not. You know what? Forget the tea, Sherlock. Go work on your very important case."
"No, I mean it. Go." His voice had a strange power to it, despite its raggedness. "And shut the door on your way out. I'd hate to disturb you when I start coughing up all my internal organs."
x x x
An hour later, Sherlock knocked timidly on John's bedroom door. He never did anything timidly, but John being ill inspired a whole new host of feelings and actions from him, he'd discovered.
He didn't get an answer, so he pushed the door open with the same measure of caution.
John was still lying lump-like in bed, of course. He appeared to be sleeping now, his breath coming out in a whistly snore from his clogged up nose.
Sherlock moved to John's bedside, tip-toeing all the way this time. He'd just deposited the tray on his night stand and was turning to go when John spoke, stopping him.
"Sherlock? What are you…"
Sherlock turned back, seeing a bleary-eyed John sitting up and squinting at what Sherlock had left for him.
"What is that?"
Sherlock lifted his chin dismissively, looking down his nose at John. "Surely your powers of observation aren't so abysmal that you can't figure it out for yourself. Even if you are incapacitated."
"Well, it looks like… soup. And tea. And an orange."
"Yes. Vitamin C for a cold, and all. Though there's no proof that it actually—"
"But we don't have oranges."
"Usually we don't, yes. I took the liberty of doing the shopping myself."
"So the soup…"
John's mouth hung open for the second time that day, but this time there was a smile hiding at the corners of his mouth. "From scratch, you said? And I thought this wasn't a restaurant."
"I know how to open a cookbook and buy ingredients, you know."
"Could've fooled me."
"Your gratitude is overwhelming. Please, stop before I blush."
"Right. Thank you, Sherlock. I mean it."
"You're welcome. You're quite demanding when you're sick, you know."
"Oh, sod off. A sick person shouldn't have to demand a cup of tea or a bit of food."
"Sorry that I'm not accustomed to seeing you sick," Sherlock retorted, feeling flustered. "How should I know what to do when you're like this? It's annoying."
"Annoying?" His smile drooped a little.
"Yes. What with the food going bad and you not doing the shopping, and you coughing and spilling tea on your sheets, and… and… the tissues! It's very… It's inconvenient."
"Tissues?" The smile was gone without at trace. "My tissues are inconvenient to you? Oh, I'll tell you what's inconvenient—"
"So just don't do this again," Sherlock interrupted. "Because I really don't know. What to do. When you're so. Incapacitated."
John took two labored, congested breaths, in through the nose, out the mouth. Coughed, sniffled, shook his head. But now the smile was back on, full force.
"Well." His pleased tone made his words curl warmly. "I apologize for making you feel so helpless."
"I'm not helpless," Sherlock started, but John held up a hand.
"Don't ruin it. Please. I've only just stopped being angry with you. You'll make my temperature even higher than it already is."
Sherlock begrudgingly but obediently shut his mouth.
"So, can you hand me the—no, wait, I should get it myself." John leaned forward and picked up the soup, taking the spoon in his hand. "Jesus, I'm starving," he said, just before he took a big slurp. He held it in his mouth for a moment, looking thoughtful. Then he swallowed. "That's horrible. What recipe did you use?"
"The one in the book!" Sherlock answered with exasperation, hating how excited he'd been for John to try the food he'd made. "I followed it exactly."
"Huh." John took another spoonful.
"I thought it was horrible," Sherlock said with an indignant sniff.
"It is. But like I said, I'm starving. You left me up here for three days. Had another one of your episodes, I presume?"
"Brainwork, if that's what you mean."
"And all you've got to show for it is horrible soup."
They smiled at each other.
"It's the thought that counts, isn't it? That's what mediocre people say."
"Did I just hear you call yourself mediocre?"
"As a soup-maker, perhaps. Don't sound so excited."
John nodded, setting the bowl down and reaching for the tea.
"Well, you're right, Sherlock. It is the thought that counts."
x x x