A/N: Sorry if this chapter is disproportionate to the other one. Wanted to get it all done. Also, took some liberties with mobile phone records / gps tracking. All I know is, my mum can track where I am at any time via my mobile (twenty-three, I am, and she still does this!) and can save it to a map on her PC, so… I donno, maybe that's what's going on here. It's not important! This isn't a case!fic, it's a sick!fic, so please enjoy. :)
Cold. That is all his body registers at first. It crashes into him with the force of a speeding car, and for a moment the shock of it takes his breath away. Then his vision sharpens and he sees Lestrade some distance down the river, struggling against the current. It's dragging at him, pulling him away from John and his team on the banks, pulling him away from all hope of rescue. There is panic in his eyes. Sherlock swims with the angry churn of the river, teeth chattering already. Only there is something wrong. No matter how hard he swims, he cannot reach him. Lestrade is being pulled further and further down the rushing river, his head dipping frequently as fatigue starts to set in. Sherlock opens his mouth to shout some word of advice, some clever solution, but he can't get his breath and anything that comes out is lost to the wind anyway.
And it's cold. So very cold.
And Lestrade disappears under the water for a beat. Two. Three. He doesn't reappear –
Sherlock does not wake with a start. He claws his way back to consciousness with agonising slowness, that great brain of his struggling to reboot. He feels foggy and faint, and registers sluggishly that there are cool fingers pressing into his skin. John's. He calms instantly and focuses on the touch – now at the pulse point in his wrist; now at the lymph nodes in his throat; now, so gently, at the fractured ribs; now thumbing his eyes open one at a time.
The pressure of the light against his sleepy vision elicits a groan from Sherlock. John's hands retract themselves and Sherlock is silently mournful of their departure. He blinks his eyes open and tries to focus on John's face. "What are you doing?" he asks by way of greeting. His voice is abnormally rough from the irritation in his throat and from disuse.
John is sitting on the edge of the couch upon which Sherlock has been sleeping, and now he shrugs. "Have to make sure you haven't slipped into a coma." He says this as if it's not the first time he's done so.
A frown darkens Sherlock's features. "How long have I been asleep?"
There is a pause as John glances first at his watch and then at the clock on the mantel. The momentary silence is not just so that he can figure the time; it's so that he can decide whether to tell Sherlock the truth. "Sixteen hours," he says at last. He gets to his feet swiftly to make his escape, offering "Tea?" at the same time that Sherlock says –
"What!" And then Sherlock is trying to extricate himself from the tangle of blanket and couch cushions, only that sends a lightning flash of pain down his side and he releases a strangled cry but doesn't stop what he's doing.
John's hands are on his shoulders then, pushing him back down into a supine position. "Take it easy," he's saying, and then, "Sherlock – Sherlock?"
Blackness swallows him. Just for a minute or two. It's as wonderful as it is troubling. Easy, repeats John's voice in his mind. What's easy about this? He has a case he should be working on and instead he's quite literally stuck here on the sofa.
John's face is wearing an expression of the utmost displeasure when Sherlock manages to crack his eyes open again. "You. Have. Pneumonia."
Obviously. "You drugged me." It's the only explanation why Sherlock would have slept a solid sixteen hours.
John looks hurt now. "I would never," he says sharply. He sits again and grabs the case file off of the coffee table, placing it in the prone detective's hands. "You're sick, Sherlock. Why your vastly intelligent brain cannot comprehend that, I will never know. But you are, and you agreed that if I took you home, you would do whatever I said, so – "
"We agreed?" Sherlock blinks. Struggles to recall. Is met with an error message. "I remember no such agreement."
"Yes," John replies firmly. "We did agree. We had a whole row right in front of the nurse. And you said, John, I will comply with any order you give, so long as you get me out of here. Only it was a bit more colourful than that."
Sherlock looks sour.
"I am no more pleased about being your nurse than you are to have me as one, Sherlock, but you've given me no choice. Someone has to see that you don't kill yourself." John reaches for one of the pillows that has fallen to the floor. "Can you sit up?"
Wordlessly, Sherlock nods, and pushes himself upright. John sticks a couple of the pillows behind his back and opens the case file for him. Fills him in on what the Yard has uncovered in the meantime, and lets him work for a little while, sans nicotine.
Sherlock is thoroughly cowed by the news that he has made a promise to John. He feels duty-bound to honour it. He meekly accepts tea and water and medications for his fever, and even chokes down some soup. He falls asleep in the evening with most of the river case spread out across his blanketed body.
The tile is cold beneath his hands and knees and his head is pounding, but there is a gentle voice in his ear and the warm press of a body at his left side, holding him in place. Fingers in his hair. "All right, Sherlock, that's it… Easy now…"
His eyes are watering and he is staring down into the toilet bowl, which is clouded with vomit. He does not remember coming in here to do this. His stomach heaves again at the thought.
John has a hand on his back and this time says nothing as Sherlock's stomach struggles to come up with something. There is nothing, though, and after a series of painful heaving, it finally seems to realise that and gives up. Sherlock slumps, and John catches him round the chest before he can knock himself out on the toilet bowl.
Somewhere beyond the fog of fever, Sherlock is aware that John has pushed him back against the bathroom wall. A pained moan falls from his lips as his brain registers the strain that vomiting has put on his injuries. He lets his eyes slide closed and listens to the tap running for a moment. Then there is a cold, wet flannel between his hands and Sherlock uses it to wipe his face. The flannel disappears and is replaced by a glass of water, which John makes him raise to his lips and sip from.
"Slowly," he advises when Sherlock is just a smidge too eager.
His breath comes in short, quick spurts.
"Easy," John says again. He seems to like that word. "Try to breathe normally." Hyperventilating surely won't help things.
Sherlock anchors himself to John and somehow manages the grievous effort of slowing his breathing. He opens his eyes and the room comes into sharp focus all at once.
John is sitting on the edge of the bathtub, looking down at him. He is wearing a jumper over his pyjamas, and is leaning forward with his forearms braced on his knees. His hands hang limply between. He does not look worried or harried or upset; his expression is placid.
For some reason, this observation calms Sherlock, too. He lets his head fall forward, stretching strained muscles in his neck, and passes a hand over his face. In the stillness of the washroom, the details slowly return, but they are vague and disjointed. Sherlock remembers waking in a cold sweat only an hour or two after having fallen asleep. He remembers stumbling painfully from the couch to the hallway, remembers John meeting him there and half-dragging him to the bathroom. He must have cried out or something to disturb John from whatever it was he'd been doing.
"Thank you," Sherlock says at last, pushing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets.
John nods and hums his acknowledgement. "Think it was the antibiotics," he says after a moment. "We need to get something more substantial than soup in you before the next dose."
Sherlock sighs. "I cannot even conceive of food right now."
"In the morning," John agrees, then kneels in front of him. "Back to bed."
Sherlock steels himself for the excruciating journey back to the sitting room.
"…never seen him sleep so much in one sitting."
"Not sure if that's alarming or comforting."
"Probably the best thing for him right now."
"I don't know. His alibi is going to be tough to crack, Sherlock." Lestrade is seated in an armchair. His left arm is in a sling and he's waving around the case file with the other.
John is leaning against the mantle, sipping tea.
Sherlock is – still – on the sofa. It has been two weeks since he checked himself out of the hospital. The pneumonia has mostly resolved (now reduced to a hacking cough and a runny nose), but the rib fractures still keep him from doing any serious leg work. He's periodically up and about now, but John has forbidden him from major case work, and Lestrade is backing the good doctor up on that front.
"Not at all," Sherlock says, swinging his legs over the side of the couch. He reaches across the coffee table and sifts through a few stacks of paper in disarray, wincing at the pull in his side. He slides one sheaf of paper out and hands it over to Lestrade. "He made a call at eleven-fifteen PM, from his mobile. GPS location puts him at the riverbank."
John snatches the paper out of Lestrade's hand without warning and stares at it. "How did you get this?" he asks. "This cannot be legal."
"I don't want to know," Lestrade moans.
"You don't want to know." Sherlock smiles fiendishly. "Do I even need to point out the fact I solved your case from my bed, while you had the whole of Scotland Yard running about the country?"
"Oh, sod off." But Lestrade is grinning. Case closed.
A month later, the three of them are staring down at a body in the morgue. Sherlock is deducing and inspecting and examining, rattling off words and random phrases that seem to have no relevance whatever to the body on the slab. Then he slams to a halt midsentence and one hand strays to the side of the metal gurney. His eyes are glassy and unfocussed. Lestrade and John exchange a look, and John grabs Sherlock by the back of his coat and pulls him down into a nearby chair, pressing his head down between his knees. He taps the back of Sherlock's neck with his fingertips as a silent reminder.
Sherlock takes a breath.
He's lost weight from being ill, and he still can't run far without stabbing pain in his ribcage. His stamina is shot. He gets dizzy spells. At night a residual cough rattles his chest. But all of this is temporary, and all of this is second to The Work. Especially since he has John around to remind him to do such mundane things as breathing.
When Sherlock lifts his head from the vicinity of his lap, he is smirking. It's the arrogant I've already worked this out smirk that he wears when he's nearing the end of a promising case. "Tar," he states. "Tar from Cardiff." And with that he stands, claps John on the shoulder, and strides out of the room, simply expecting the others to follow.
The look is exchanged again, and Lestrade can't help but laugh. He shrugs with his good shoulder and nods toward the door.
Off they go to pursue the tar from Cardiff.