A/N: Why, yes, I have been infected by the Sherlockian flu. Truth be told, I wrote some of my very first "fanfiction" a thousand years ago in Holmes's world. I have to admit, I like this new world so very much more than the Victorian one! The title is from Arthur Conan Doyle.
The rain was coming down in a cold drizzle as Sherlock and John made their way across the street. There were already a number of vehicles blocking the road and police tape was stretched across the entrance to a building next door to a popular club. There was a large puddle out front with a shoe half-drowned in it, lying on its side. Sherlock watched as three people walked past it, not even giving it a second glance. He paused to look at his watch, he had an appointment that he needed to keep, but Lestrade's call had interrupted his night. Earlier in the day he had received a message via his website that read "I have important information, meet me tonight…" and gave an address. Since the murder was located conveniently close to his meeting, he'd agreed to come when he'd been called.
The body was curled in the corner of a room. Police filled it, as usual, no doubt destroying evidence as they tromped through like a herd of rampaging elephants. Someone was tapping his foot half a beat off time to the bass boom coming from the club next door. Sherlock ignored them all as he walked towards the body. It was the third case in two weeks. The other two had been spectacularly uninteresting and, frankly, he had no idea why Lestrade had bothered to call him. Even Anderson's inept intellect could have handled them. He was hoping for more from this one, it had been a singularly annoying week with nothing to do.
He glanced at the floor as he approached the body. There were several muddy footprints on the floor—bare feet with a fallen arch. Sherlock glanced at the body again. No shoes. He stepped carefully up to it, a part of his mind listening to John speaking with Lestrade, the rest focused on what lay before him. The man was in his mid-twenties, healthy, his feet heavily callused, wearing casual clothing from an expensive designer. There was something vaguely familiar about him. He bent closer. Tattoo on left forearm of koi fish and a skull, right ear pierced twice with rings designed to stay in permanently. There was the distinct smell of alcohol on his breath and something else Sherlock couldn't quite place. It niggled in the back of his mind, but he couldn't put a name to it. He'd smelled it before. Closing his eyes, he cast through his mind trying to find the elusive scent, but it escaped him for the moment. There was a fresh cut on the right hand, post mortem. Sherlock shifted the hand enough to look at it, trying to figure out where the cut had come from—a ring had been removed. In the tattoo there was a red raw area. He pulled his magnifying glass out to get a better look. Blistered skin, like a burn or allergic reaction, but why just there?
Finally, he stood, a little too quickly it seemed. Everything waivered for a second, he blinked and John was at his elbow, steadying him and looking at him with a little frown. Sherlock blinked again then looked at Lestrade. "How long has this parade of people been wandering through here?" he asked.
"They found the body two hours ago," Lestrade answered.
"Two hours, two hours!" Sherlock away from to the body. "Who moved him?"
"Obviously he's been moved."
"What?" Lestrade repeated, glaring first at Sherlock, then over at the team gathered at the door.
"Really?" Sherlock sighed. "Look at the footprints. They stop…" He paced off the distance. "At least two meters from where he is. Do you think he stopped here and jumped over there before he died? He had to have been moved." He looked up into the blank stares of five people. "And his shoes? Did you even bother looking at the one outside to see if it was his?" More blank stares. "The shoe, outside in the puddle, it's an expensive shoe, which would match the rest of what he is wearing." One of the five turned and walked out. "John?"
Without another word, John walked to the body, carefully checking it as Sherlock watched. The doctor knew his methods, and would know what he was looking for, but he'd discovered that John occasionally saw something he didn't. Which, he had to admit, was extremely annoying. John had his frown of concentration on his face, Sherlock saw the instant the doctor found something, it registered in his eyes.
"Who reported the body?" Sherlock asked, watching John.
"Anonymous caller," Lestrade said.
"Someone did CPR," John said, standing.
"How do you know?" Anderson asked derisively.
"His ribs are broken," Sherlock said, looking at the man. "Surely you noticed that?" He hoped that was right, he'd completely missed that, and wondered why.
"Yes, they are," John said as he stood.
"So, he had someone with him in here. Who?" Sherlock watched the others scramble around looking for the identity of the unknown person. "If it had been a friend, they wouldn't have left him," he mumbled more to himself than anyone else.
"No," John answered his mumble. "They would have tried to get him to a hospital, or at least waited for the police. A good Samaritan?" The doctor leaned closer. "Someone who found him at the last moment, and tried to save him, but there was no way to help, so he left him?"
Sherlock nodded. "Whoever it was took his coat."
"They didn't take his shoes?"
"No, can you even see the footprints?" Sherlock waved his hands towards the floor. "At least one of the shoes is outside. There's nothing else for us to see, you can proceed to destroy the rest of the evidence, Anderson." He walked past the man, giving him a smile as he went. John was right behind him as they walked out into the cold night, heading towards the meeting place from the note.
Why hadn't he noticed the ribs? The fact was beginning to disturb him. It was the second time that day he'd overlooked something John had seen. The first had been easily dismissed, he'd been distracted after a discussion with Mycroft, his brother could irritate him faster than any other human being on earth, and knew exactly which buttons to push to get under his skin. Mycroft had been cross, several key persons had failed to come in to work and he was after Sherlock to locate them. When Sherlock had refused, Mycroft had been less than pleasant and the call had ended up with Sherlock breaking the connection halfway through a word from his brother.
He stopped at the corner of a building, leaning against the wall, feeling odd. His heart was hammering and those small things were becoming larger the longer he thought about them. He spotted a couple walking towards them. The light caught the man's watch, and the woman was wearing a short skirt and matching coat. She was wearing high heels and leaned into her companion, face turned up, laughing at something he'd said, "Do you see them, John?" he asked.
"Yes, of course I do."
"What do you notice about them?
John frowned at him, and looked again. "Affectionate, just married maybe?" He paused. "I'm wrong?"
Sherlock sighed in relief. "About almost everything."
"Oh?" John asked in his long-suffering voice as he watched the pair.
"Yes, he's wearing a wedding ring, she isn't, so lovers—but more than a one night stand."
"How do you know that?"
"He's wearing a Rolex, and her clothes, while nice, aren't designer, however the pendant she is wearing is a large diamond—so a recent gift. The flowers she has would indicate a longer association as well, you don't give flowers to someone you have no intention of seeing again."
John shook his head. "What was that about?"
"What? Nothing." Sherlock set out again, feeling better than he should about that simple set of deductions. Somehow the two things he'd missed had made him doubt himself, but he'd just proved there was nothing wrong with his mind. It was still functioning. He scratched his arm, the nicotine patch was bothering him.
"Sherlock?" John stopped him with a hand on his arm. "What was that about?"
"Nothing." He tried to pull away, but the doctor was apparently in a mood as well. "I missed the ribs, John." One thing he'd learned over the past months was it was often better to just tell John what was going on than be badgered to death by the man. Honestly, sometimes he was worse than Mrs. Hudson—he was like a hound on the scent, and once he had it there was no rest until the truth was out.
"The ribs?" John frowned, then his face cleared. "It was easy to miss."
"Not by me," he growled and stalked off a few paces. He heard John sigh but the doctor stayed quiet, giving him space.
They waited for nearly an hour after the appointed time. Sherlock watched each person as they walked by, noted each passing car. One DB9 slowed, the driver obscured by the reflection on the window. After a moment it sped off down the street. Sherlock watched it go, it wasn't out of place in the neighborhood they were in, but there had been no reason for it to slow down. Ten minutes later he decided it was time to go.
When they reached the flat Sherlock went up the stairs without a word, took off his coat and scarf, picked up his violin and tuned everything out. He knew John sat down at the desk, he could hear the tapping of the computer keys, but he ignored him. After Bach's Sonata in A Minor, John left, heading up the stairs to his room. Sherlock played a little longer, then reached for the nicotine patches. He slapped on two and flopped down on the couch. He let the memory of the room with the body play in front of his eyes, the foot prints on the floor, the way the body was curled in on itself. The broken ribs he'd missed, but John had noticed. The saliva, the scent of alcohol and something else, every detail he'd seen then and all the ones he could bring to mind now. There was that familiarity too, it was just a fleeting impression, but it was there. He sat up, the patches weren't helping. He stuck on three more, paced around the flat several times, then flopped back on the couch.
He didn't know when he started absently rubbing the fingers on his left hand together, but when he became aware of it, he knew it had been going on for some time. Maybe he'd played too long, the tips were feeling odd, a little numb, the way they did when he played sometimes—but usually that was after many hours.
"Have you slept at all?" John said, coming into the room with a cup of tea in his hand.
Sherlock sat up and reached for the tea. It took more effort than it should have to get his fingers to close around the cup. "I was thinking."
"Yes," John said, neither an answer or a question. "Did they call with the autopsy yet?"
"And you didn't call?"
"Not yet. It's early, isn't it?"
"It's after eight."
"They should have… When did we leave last night?"
"Ten, we got home just before midnight." John had shifted, eyeing him. "Wha…"
Sherlock was saved from the inevitable question by his phone. "Well, Lestrade?"
"Nothing more, except the autopsy said some of his organs looked a little blue."
"Looked a little blue?"
"Yes," Lestrade said.
"They actually said looked a little blue? Nothing more? What color blue? Which organs?" Sherlock demanded.
"I just read it to you the way I got it."
"I'm going down myself."
"Why can't I?"
"Because it turns out that the body belonged to George Culverton-Smith."
"As in…" Sherlock asked.
"Yes, as in the Culverton-Smiths. When they showed up to claim the body, I certainly couldn't stop them. The autopsy was finished and I am not going to tell one of the Culverton-Smiths they can't have whatever they want. I like my job."
"I didn't realize they had someone that age in the family."
"I didn't either, but Reginald Culverton-Smith came in here with proof that it was some distant cousin and I was told I had to release the body."
"Reginald?" Sherlock looked up at John. "When did he get back in the country?"
"Never mind, Lestrade," Sherlock broke the connection. "Reginald Culverton-Smith claimed the body."
"The body was in his twenties, maybe even a little younger."
John was up and at his computer a moment later, fingers flying over the keys. "The youngest listed member is Reginald."
"I know," Sherlock said. "So why did he want that body?" He leaned back, steepling his hands then frowning when he realized he couldn't feet the fingertips of his left hand at all and the right was tingling as if it was asleep. He pulled them apart and tried making them into a fist to wake them up, aware suddenly of how clumsy his hands were. The reason he'd stopped playing last night because his hand was aching. He stared at them, bringing them up and turning them over. He tapped the left with the right, he couldn't feel the tap at all, it was like having Novocain in his skin.
"Give me your hands," John said. Sherlock hadn't heard the doctor move.
"There's nothing wrong."
John wasn't taking no for an answer and grabbed his hands, turning them over and looking at them. He picked up a pin and poked at Sherlock's left hand, watching his face the whole time. Sherlock could feel the pressure of the pin on his hand but nothing more until it reached his wrist. John did the same thing on his right hand—the reaction was much quicker. "How long has that been going on?"
"A day or two."
"How long? One day or two?" John was staring into his eyes. "Sherlock?"
"I don't know. I noticed my hand was asleep yesterday, but it got better," he said defensively.
"Are you sure?"
"I think so." Sherlock was really not used to thinking about things like that, and a hand going to sleep was merely an inconvenience to be dealt with, nothing more.
Walking into Bart's always made John a little nostalgic. It was only a small twinge, but the lingering scents there triggered a memory of youth and bright dreams. He felt a sense of melancholy for what might have been for a few seconds, then he was back to himself. Though a little more battered than the youth that had first entered the place, he was far more sure of his place in the world than he had been back then. He'd changed, part of that was due to the war, part to the man who was stalking in front of him in a cloud of fury. They'd had what Mrs. Hudson insisted on calling a "little domestic" before heading out and Sherlock was still fuming. John wasn't angry—he was worried.
It was his own fault. He'd made the suggestion that Sherlock should be seen by a doctor and the scathing reply John had received was "You are a doctor, and you have seen me." The discussion had digressed from there. It finally ended with Sherlock grabbing his coat and storming out of the flat, and John tagging along behind as they headed to Bart's.
Sherlock was right, of course, he was a doctor, and a damned good one, but this had him concerned. The numbness had first triggered the "stroke" warning, but that had been quickly discarded. Since then he'd been running through possible causes from a pinched nerve—all tossed away—to something rash the man himself had done in the name of "not being bored."
"Molly!" Sherlock said as he spotted the small woman, she turned towards them and blushed, she always did. John wondered if she always would. "Did you handle the Culverton-Smith autopsy?"
"I need to see the report," Sherlock said.
"The family has claimed the body, I can't hand over the…" Her blush suddenly deepened and John wondered what Sherlock had done to elicit that response. "I'll get you a copy." She turned and walked away.
They stood in silence. Sherlock kept his back to him and John took turns watching the hallway for the return of Molly and watching his friend rub the fingertips of his right hand together. He was running through possible causes again, when Molly reappeared. She went to hand the file to Sherlock and as he reached for it, the papers slipped out of his hand. John bent over and picked them up. He tucked them into the folder and opened it for Sherlock to read, without being overly obvious about the fact. It also gave him a chance to read the report, Sherlock sometimes forgot to hand them over when he was done.
"Next page," Sherlock whispered soundlessly. John flipped the page. "Blue, it does say a little blue. What's blue?"
"I'm not sure." John frowned at the page, turning to the next. There was nothing else of interest, not even Sherlock could accuse him of missing something in an autopsy report. He closed the folder and handed it back to Molly. "Thank you," he said.
"I'm putting this back right away," she said and left them in the hallway.
"Blue," Sherlock muttered. John glanced over at him, the detective was sweating. "What's blue? We need to see Lestrade." With that he turned and stalked away. John sighed, apparently he hadn't been forgiven.
The silence between them just got thicker as they hailed a taxi and headed towards Scotland Yard. Sherlock was brooding and John was watching him. He was still sweating and his breathing seemed a little off. John would be hard pressed to say how he knew it was off, but when you spend as much time with someone as he did, you noticed when things were wrong. And that's what it was. There was something deeply wrong, and he was trying desperately to figure it out. He was sure the answer was there, he just needed to figure it out. Not a stroke, not a dozen other things, and it was getting worse, it had been steadily getting worse for the last few hours.
Lestrade was at his desk when they arrived and as usual, Sherlock just ignored all rules of decorum and walked calmly through like he had an engraved invitation. John couldn't help but smile, that authoritarian stride had given them access to many a place they shouldn't have been. People tended to assume that they were supposed to be there, and since Sherlock believed he should, no one had ever dared to stop him. Most of the time John found it amusing.
"Well, Lestrade?" Sherlock said.
"Good morning," the man replied sourly.
"There is no George."
"George," Sherlock said, then huffed. "Culverton-Smith. There is no George."
"I was told there were papers proving it," Lestrade said wearily. John looked at him. He looked a little grey.
"Are you alright?" John asked.
Lestrade looked up. "Just a touch of flu, I think."
"I need to see those papers," Sherlock snapped.
John tuned him out. Lestrade was absently rubbing the fingers of his left hand together. It wasn't a gesture he'd noticed before, so he looked closer without seeming to stare. Lestrade was definitely off-color. The discussion between the detective inspector and Sherlock was getting a little heated when John noticed the box of nicotine patches. He usually wouldn't have taken note, but they were the same brand Sherlock had just purchased at the shop down the street from 221B. While Lestrade was distracted by Sherlock, John slid them off the desk and into his pocket.
"What is the meaning of all this?" a new voice demanded. John looked up in time to see a blond man stride up to them. "Well? I will not have my family investigated like…"
"Like what, Reggie?" Sherlock said, his voice cold.
"Well, well, well, I should have known you'd be at the bottom of this invasion of my family's privacy," the man said.
"John, this is Reginald Culverton-Smith," Sherlock said. "We were at university together."
The man looked over John like he was a stray dog, then turned to glare at Sherlock again. "I won't have this."
"Won't have what?" Sherlock asked.
"This invasion of my family."
"Your family is without a George, so I doubt I am invading anything." Sherlock returned the glare. "I thought you were still abroad, or did daddy dear finally clear up that mess with Veronica Billings?"
"Veronica Billings?" John asked. The name sounded familiar—then he remembered, she was a young woman who had died some years before.
"As you well know, I had nothing to do with that," Culverton-Smith said.
"Of course not, you've just been away all these years traveling."
"I have been, I took advantage of my family's position and have seen a great deal of the world, unlike some others I could name." He cast a pitying glance at Sherlock and Lestrade, pointedly ignoring John. "I've only just returned."
"And already a dead body," Sherlock said mildly.
"What are you implying?"
"Nothing, Reggie, just an observation."
"This man is not to touch anything regarding my family. Is that clear?" Culverton-Smith said, leaning on Lestrade desk.
"Yes." The word was grated out. John filed the reaction away to think about later.
"Very good. Stay clear, Sherlock, or I will have you up on charges this time," the man said, his face red, then turned and walked away.
"This time?" John asked.
"We had some words the last time we chatted," Sherlock said.
"Some words that came to blows, although it was determined that Culverton-Smith was at fault." Lestrade sighed. "Veronica Billings, we never did solve that one."
"We?" John looked at the two of them, feeling out of place.
"It was one of the first times we met," Lestrade said. "Only briefly, mind you, the case was closed very quickly."
"It was. Something about…" Sherlock stopped mid-sentence, a light suddenly flashed in his eyes. "George! I still have that file." He turned, swayed, John reached out a hand to steady him and Sherlock was off.
"Is he okay?" Lestrade asked,
"No," John replied, the feeling of dread that had been growing steadily getting worse.
"John!" Sherlock shouted. "We don't have all day!"
They arrived back at 221B in less than an hour. Sherlock had tuned out during the ride back, no doubt putting pieces of the puzzle together. For once, John didn't mind the silence. He had his own puzzle. Lestrade had obviously been ill, his hand numb, but it wasn't as pronounced as Sherlock's, so whatever was going on, Lestrade hadn't been as exposed. The murder scene from the night before came to mind, but the police had been there before Sherlock had arrived, which would mean Lestrade would have more exposure rather than less. He was so lost in thought, he didn't notice the cab had stopped at the flat. He got out and walked up the stairs, still turning the facts over in his head. There was something there, he just needed to figure out what it was.
Sherlock was already digging through one of his piles one-handed. He growled in frustration. "John, come find this file," he said, standing up—and nearly falling over. John managed to get there before he fell and sat him down in the desk chair.
"Veronica Billings, of course," Sherlock said, sounding short of breath.
John started going through the pile. Sherlock's filing system left something to be desired. It wasn't alphabetical, or by date—in fact he had never figured it out, but it worked. Sherlock could generally lay his hands on whatever he needed within minutes of starting the search. It didn't take too long before John located the file folder marked "Billings, Veronica", he picked it up and put it on the desk in front of Sherlock. His friend's eyes were starting to look glassy. John opened the file and went to get his medical bag.
While Sherlock was distracted with the file, John took his blood pressure and listened to his lungs and heart. Every now and then, Sherlock would mutter and John would flip the page as he continued his examination. It wasn't encouraging, and if he couldn't figure out what it was soon, he was afraid it would be too late.
"I knew it," Sherlock muttered to himself. "I thought I remembered him." He fidgeted. "Leave me alone," Sherlock snapped.
John stepped back and noticed the pack of nicotine patches. He went to get the ones he'd taken from Lestrade. He pulled a patch from each pack and examined them. His hands started shaking when he realized that each of the patches had a tiny slit in the plastic wrap. He dumped out the whole box, they all had the slit. John put on a rubber glove and opened one of the packages and pulled out the patch. It looked normal—except…What's that? He carried it over to Sherlock.
"Look at this."
"It's one of my patches, yes, John, thank you, I'm busy."
"Sherlock, look at it."
For a moment John thought Sherlock was going to ignore him, but then he saw his friend zero in on the patch. His hand fumbled for the magnifying glass. John picked it up and held it for him as Sherlock examined it. "There's something else on there."
"Yes, and on the ones I took from Lestrade."
Sherlock beamed at him. "You took them from Lestrade?"
"Thank you," John replied, feeling that small warm rush of pride he always felt when Sherlock complimented him. "But why?"
"I think I know," Sherlock said, leaning back. "Look at this." His hand was laying on an open page of the file for Veronica Billings. It was an autopsy report. It didn't take long before John caught the notation that her organs were colored "purple-ish." He read the rest, including what the cause of death had been. "She was poisoned," Sherlock said. "I always thought she'd been, but the case was closed so quickly. She'd been dating Reggie, then she left him for another man. She was found dead about a week later. Lestrade and I both pushed as hard as we could, but the Culverton-Smiths stopped us at every turn, and we had no hard evidence, just a hunch."
"Purple could be blue," John said.
"I think it is. The exact same poison." Sherlock smiled, that feral smile he had when he was on the hunt. "Aconite."
John froze, staring at the patch. Aconite, he should have known! It was all there before his eyes, he just hadn't seen it in so long. They still used it elsewhere, but it had fallen out of use in the West for the very reason he was now facing—fatal poisoning.
"Get them off, Sherlock," he said, yanking at his friend's sleeve. "Get those damned things off now!"
"Aconite!" He pulled out his phone and dialed Lestrade, holding the phone with one hand while trying to pull up Sherlock's sleeve with the other.
"Hello?" Lestrade was unaccustomed to John calling him on his mobile.
"Greg, your nicotine patch, take it off!"
"Take it off, wash your skin and go get checked, tell them you have aconite poisoning." He broke the connection and yanked Sherlock's sleeve all the way up. "Damn! How many of these things do you have on you?"
"Five," Sherlock said. "I changed them last night, they didn't seem to be working…"
"Damn!" John ripped the patches off and cleaned the area the patch had been on. "You and these damned patches. We have to get you to hospital." John was starting to panic.
"No, don't be ridiculous," Sherlock said.
"Sherlock, you have aconite poisoning, it's why your hands are numb, why you are sweating, you've had it on you for at least a day, death from an oral dose is hours!"
"I know what I am talking about. Your heart rate is erratic, you…" John was at a loss.
"Yes!" Sherlock cocked his head. "Yes! Aconite!" he said his eyes bright. "It's perfect. Perfect!"
"You're right! And we need to arrive as publically as possible."
"We want to make sure they know I've arrived." He stood up, only to sit down again.
John was already calling for help.
Forty-five harrowing minutes later, Sherlock was lying in a hospital bed and Lestrade, having just arrived, was sitting in a chair beside the bed. He'd ordered a raid on the chemist shop the patches had come from, only to find that the shop had been broken into overnight and was boarded up, the owner long gone.
John was pacing, keeping an eye on the corridor and the lift doors. He was considerably calmer now that the countermeasures for the poisoning were in place. Sherlock was complaining about the oxygen and the IVs, but John had put his foot down. Sherlock had surprisingly acquiesced, leading John to think his friend was far more ill than he'd let on. Lestrade was fine because—as John pointed out to Sherlock—he used the patches correctly and didn't slap on an entire pack at once. Even so, he kept his eyes on the monitors, watching the steady improvement there.
"You're sure you caught it in time?" Lestrade asked.
"I didn't, it was Sherlock," John said.
"No," Sherlock said. "I was talking about the autopsy report."
"What about it?" Lestrade asked. "I told you what was in it."
"Not that one!"
"Then what are we talking about?"
"Veronica Billings—she was killed by aconite poisoning. It acts extremely quickly and can turn the internal organs purple—or blue."
"Just like George Culverton-Smith."
"Exactly, we just need to verify the connection."
"What are you talking about?"
"He wasn't a Culverton-Smith, he was George Billings. Veronica Billings had a cousin, younger than she was, but he worshiped her. I think he sent me a note to meet me the night he was killed. Which is why we are here."
"You're hoping to get the evidence we need?" Lestrade asked.
John turned around and frowned at them. "He's set a trap."
"Yes," Sherlock said. "For Reggie, he'll want to make sure I'm too far gone to recover."
"Which explains the ambulance," Lestrade said.
"A little theatrical even for me, you must admit." Sherlock smiled.
John was watching out the door. "He's coming!"
"I knew it."
John and Lestrade slipped quietly into hiding as the door was pushed open. "Ah, Sherlock," Culverton-Smith said. "How nice to see you here."
"How did you know I was here?" The weakness in Sherlock's voice made John's stomach twist, even though he knew it was partially an act.
"A friend called and let me know you were here, I thought I would come and make sure the job was finished."
"Oh, stop the act. You know what's going on."
"I do, aconite. Deadly if consumed, but equally deadly if it comes into contact with the skin." Sherlock drew in what sounded like a pained breath.
"Yes, it worked just fine for that little bitch, and everything was forgotten until her cousin started snooping around," Culverton-Smith said.
"George Billings, he followed her around like a puppy."
"Yes, and when he heard I was back in the country he started blackmailing me, saying he was going to go to you and the police with what he knew."
"What he knew?"
"About Veronica and a few other things. He'd been following me for two months before he came to me with his offer."
"And your counter offer was death?"
"Yes. It was working just fine until he contacted you. I had to speed things up a little and hurry the poison along. Unfortunately for you, it's now your turn."
"What are you…."
John didn't wait, he burst from their hiding place and tackled Culverton-Smith before he could get the needle into Sherlock's skin. Lestrade was half a step behind him—lucky for Culverton-Smith. John was seeing red, and it took Lestrade and an orderly to get him away from the man. John stood, straightened his shirt and walked out of the room to get control of his temper. He was ready to kill Culverton-Smith, and he would be tempted to take a swing at Sherlock just for letting himself get into a situation like this. It took an entire circuit of the hospital grounds before he was calmed down.
Lestrade and Culverton-Smith had departed and Sherlock had been freed from the various lines and wires that had been attached to him. They were as tiresome coming off as they had been going on. He was feeling shaky, the fact he hadn't recognized the poison working in his own body was bothersome. Once again John noticed something he missed. Unfortunately, he knew a lot about the actions of poisons, and between his own knowledge and the look on John's face, he knew things were more grim than everyone had been letting on. John's reaction to Culverton-Smith had been surprising. Sherlock smiled. John still surprised him.
He shifted and sighed, he knew as soon as John walked back into the room, the doctor would try to insist that he stay here to be monitored. Sherlock had no intention of staying, so he was ready for a fight. As he waited, a woman wandered up the hall, her expensive perfume lavished on so thoroughly that it filled his room. He started coughing—which made his chest and head hurt, and when he stopped he found himself supported by John.
"All set?" John asked.
"What?" Sherlock wheezed.
"Are you ready to go?"
"Yes… You don't want me to stay?"
"No reason to," John said, his voice mild.
Sherlock frowned at him. That was not what he'd been expecting, and in a way it was a little disappointing. He'd spent the last five minutes coming up with reasons to not stay and all his hard work was gone just like that. He stood, John steadied him as he swayed and they made their way out of the hospital.
"This was all about Veronica Billings?" John asked as they got into the cab.
"Yes. If he'd stayed out of the country it wouldn't have mattered, but he came home."
Sherlock sighed. "Sometimes, John… His father was dying, it was in the papers, Mycroft is quite put out by it all. Culverton-Smith the elder is an important member of the government. Once his father was gone, the entire estate would pass to Reggie."
"Ah," John said, then was quiet.
"You were going to kill him," Sherlock finally said as they neared the flat.
"Me?" John sounded innocent.
The doctor turned to him. "I was. And if he comes for you again, I will."
"Well," Sherlock said. "That's settled."
They pulled up at the flat and Sherlock had never been happier to see it. John helped him up the stairs and settled him on the couch, asking if he wanted an extra pillow or needed an additional blanket before ordering him to stay there and walking out of the room. Sherlock could hear him in the kitchen fussing. He was contemplating the various stains on the walls that Mrs. Hudson claimed she was taking out of their rent when John appeared with a cup of tea and a handful of pills. "Here, take these, you'll need to take them every four hours for the next three days."
"Is this why I got to come home without a fight?"
"You have a doctor, no need to stay in hospital taking up space," John said, his voice light.
Sherlock glanced at his friend, there was a crease of worry on John's forehead and his hands trembled just a tiny bit as if he were preparing himself for battle—or just gotten home from one. "You arranged it," Sherlock said, knowing it was the truth.
"I guessed you would rather be here," John said, smiling.
Sherlock looked down, his own hands were still trembling, but he could feel the cup against his skin. John had explained just how close it had come to killing him, After contemplating the steam rising off the cup, Sherlock looked up. "John?"
"Yes, well…" John cleared his throat. "What is it with you and poison? First the cabbie and now this."
"I'll arrange to be shot next time," Sherlock said, grinning at John.
"No, god no," John nearly shouted. "This was interesting enough."
"Yes, I haven't been bored for days." Sherlock waited. "John?"
"I'm bored," Sherlock said and started laughing. John shook his head and joined in.