A/N: John POV.
"You're sure about this?" John is demanding, and his voice has a razor edge to it. One can hardly blame him. Sherlock is lying unconscious and shivering on the sofa as John swabs Mycroft's arm in preparation for a blood draw. The room is tense at best.
"No," Mycroft says honestly, his mouth thinning as the needle slips beneath his skin. "We can be sure of very little now, except that the abrin will kill him if we do nothing."
"He should be in hospital. I don't have the right equipment here. I need an NG intubation kit, proper monitors, blood, a crash trolley—"
"And if he was in hospital, they would never allow this sort of radical, untested treatment, and Sherlock would be allowed to die. I know that is not what you want. Any equipment you need can be brought to the flat." Not as if they could have fit an entire crash trolley in the boot of the Bentley.
John nods toward the bag filling with Mycroft's blood. "A bit late for that, don't you think," he snaps, feeling that this plan of theirs is entirely too rash and impulsive and downright stupid. "And what about you? What am I meant to do with you if you've poisoned yourself?"
"I have poisoned myself," Mycroft reminds him. "There was not enough abrin in the serum to be toxic, however. You needn't concern yourself with me. Focus on my brother."
"This is insane, Mycroft."
"Calm yourself, Doctor Watson. Unless you have a better idea..."
John doesn't, and so he falls silent. He knows that Mycroft is right, but at this point, he needs someone to blame, and Mycroft is the older brother – the responsible one, the one who's supposed to keep Sherlock in check when he comes up with these cockeyed plans. He hasn't done so, and yet John has no better solution to the problem, and so he shuts up. He puts the bag in Mycroft's lap and turns to the pile of equipment haphazardly assembled in the kitchen and puts together an IV rack, mumbling something about hardly sterile as he returns to the sitting room and prepares to cannulate a vein in the back of Sherlock's hand.
Sherlock's eyes flicker open as the needle slides in. John can feel his brows coming together as he looks down at him, watching the drawn face as the detective struggles to focus. The lithe body tenses, and Sherlock makes a strained noise, teeth chattering. "Shh," John soothes. "Just a quick pinch, over in a moment. There. Not so bad."
"John. I don't… I don't…" Sherlock tosses his head and sucks down a sharp breath. A violent shudder ripples through him. He opens and closes his mouth several times as though he wants to say something but can't find the words, and finally melts back into the cushions as his eyes fall shut once more in restless repose.
John stands, looming over Mycroft, and says in a tense whisper, "I need drugs."
Nodding, Mycroft takes out his phone with his free hand. He presses a few keys, and moments later his assistant appears in the door of 221B.
With pursed lips, John makes a list of the necessary equipment and hands it over to the assistant. "Take it from inventory," he orders her tersely. "Not from A&E."
The girl nods her understanding and disappears as quickly as she had materialised.
"John," Mycroft sighs out minutes later, and John turns to look at him. The bag is full.
The bag hangs lazily from the rack, startlingly red, vying for space with the saline. It looks very small and unpromising, and yet they have hung all their hopes and Sherlock's very life upon it.
"Now we wait."
John is as close to panic as he has ever been. He has seen men die. They have died in his arms, under his hands, or just out of his reach. They have died in terror and in calm. John has handled it all with poise. This is as close as his resolve has ever come to visibly cracking.
The words are as frightening to speak as they must be to hear.
He hears himself give orders as though from a distance. His hands are sliding under Sherlock's arms, dragging him roughly off the couch and onto the floor. "Move the coffee table. Call Anthea – find out where my damn trolley is! Now, Mycroft!"
Time slows down and John feels as though everything around him moves with theatrical slow-motion grace. Sherlock's face is calm in sleep as he is pulled unceremoniously down onto the carpet. John straddles his narrow hips, locking his hands together over the easily palpable sternum of the unconscious detective. There is no heartbeat beneath his palms. He throws his weight downward, and Sherlock's chest gives easily with each compression. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Ten. Twenty. Thirty. John breathes for him.
Sherlock's face is so peaceful, so beautifully still.
Ten. Twenty. Thirty compressions. Two breaths.
Still no pulse.
"Come on, Sherlock," John grates out between compressions. Something wet appears on the tip of Sherlock's nose and John realises that it is a tear. His own. "Don't die. You are not finished yet."
Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Breathe.
Ten. Twenty. Thirty.
The body beneath John is still and quiet. John doubles his efforts, and his breaths come out in short, wheezy sounds of panic with each compression. Somehow, he sucks down a real breath to give to Sherlock between sets, but the thin chest doesn't rise.
It is over. If they were in a hospital, and Sherlock were just a patient, John would have called it by now. He would not be trying to resuscitate a patient who had died of abrin toxicity, because he would know that it was fruitless. Abrin is deadly. Abrin poisoning cannot be cured.
John growls nonverbally and starts another set of compressions, harder this time. Something cracks beneath his strength.
Nothing. There is nothing, and still Sherlock has that terrifyingly perfect look of serenity on his face. He should be in pain. He should be screwing up his eyes and wrenching himself away and –
Something flutters beneath John's palms and he stops. Leans close, checks for a pulse with his fingers against Sherlock's throat. It's there. It's weak and it's uneven, but it's there. His chest expands under John's hand as he takes a shallow breath. John barks orders at Mycroft, and the two of them hang drugs from the IV stand, dancing around each other in their hurry. That done, John sinks down to Sherlock's side once more, checking vital signs until he is satisfied that they are steady.
Then, in a rare display of emotion certainly not fitting a man of his profession, John crumples forward, burying his face in Sherlock's chest as his fingers tangle in the fabric of his shirt. Sherlock's heartbeat is a weak but comfortingly steady flutter beneath his forehead. John's body shudders with the effort of a sigh, and when he rises a moment later, he has left twin tearstains on Sherlock's shirtfront.
John is shouting, but because it's him, it's more like a roar. With one hand he's gesturing violently at his patient who now lies stable but still in obvious danger on the sofa. The other hand is clenched into a fist at his side. It is a clear threat to Mycroft, who stands before him with his hands in his pockets.
"He nearly died," John is grating out, his composure hanging by a thread. "Do you care at all?"
"Of course I do," Mycroft replies, and his tone cuts like a knife; his eyes do further damage. "You are treading on dangerous ground, John…"
"He needs to go to hospital. Now."
"Why? So the so-called professionals can administer palliative care and send him to hospice?" Mycroft spits the word out with disgust. "You know what will happen, John. They will force us to stop all treatment. He will die. I am not prepared to allow that. Are you?"
All of a sudden, John's chest is heaving with ragged breaths, both hands clenching and unclenching fists at his sides. He can't seem to get enough oxygen into his lungs to satisfy the burning in his chest. The room tilts violently to the left as his ears fill with the sound of rushing water.
Mycroft's hands close around his shoulders, cold and strong, and push him down into a chair. He kneels before the stricken doctor. "John, look at me. Breathe." Calm as ever, Mycroft waits for John to look him in the eye, and takes an exaggerated breath, then another until John seems to get the idea and do the same.
"I'm sorry," John whispers.
Mycroft is shaking his head. "You are a capable man. I would not have had him brought here if I did not believe that. And if anything happens – "
"No – "
"Listen to me! If anything happens, it will not be your fault. Do you understand?" A pause. "Answer me."
John is ashamed of his weakness. John is scared of his weakness. John suddenly understands why there are rules against treating one's own family members. He takes a steadying breath and draws himself up. Mycroft is right. He has all the proper equipment now. If anyone can see Sherlock through this, it is him. He must put aside his fear. He must do this, he must be strong and he knows he can, for Sherlock. "Yes," he says softly, "I understand."
Sherlock's condition remains stable through the evening.
Mrs. Hudson comes and goes. She acts as nurse now, because Mycroft has become too sick to be of any help. Even though it goes against common practise, John has taken another half-pint of Mycroft's blood, and this has made the elder Holmes even more debilitated. Mycroft had originally suggested another full pint, but John insisted that it would leave him too weak to fight off the poison. The ensuing debate resulted in the compromise of half a pint.
"Go on," John is telling Mycroft now, his hand insistent upon the elder brother's shoulder. "I've made up Sherlock's room for you."
Mycroft is pale, his hands shaking. John has given him a once-over already – amidst much protesting – and is confident that his symptoms will subside as his body cooks the serum. He allows John to help him to his feet, resigned, and makes his way toward the hall. He pauses beside the sofa, looking down at his little brother, and reaches out to run his fingers through the wild hair. The touch is brief, and Mycroft straightens and turns to John with a questioning look.
John's mouth twitches upward in something that wants desperately to be a bracing smile. "I'll come and get you if there's any change."
This seems to satisfy Mycroft somewhat, and he nods before retreating to the bedroom.
John takes advantage of the privacy of the empty living room by slouching, running his fingers back through his hair. He hasn't slept, hasn't eaten, hasn't even sat still yet, and he isn't sure how long it's been since they left the lab. Time has blurred into a cyclone of Sherlock-related concern.
Ever intuitive, Mrs. Hudson appears at his side with a gentle hand on his elbow. "Have a cup of tea, dear," she whispers, as though she might wake Sherlock if she speaks in a normal voice. "Have a sit. I can keep watch for a little while." She gestures at the portable monitors steadily beeping out the rate of Sherlock's heart.
For the moment, all is still and quiet, and tea does sound very appealing. Reluctantly, John nods. He will be no use to Sherlock if he's incapacitated, himself. He squeezes Mrs. Hudson's hand and drags himself to the kitchen.
He's standing beside the kettle when he notices, for the first time, that the sun is rising on a new day. In a moment of blinding clarity, he reminds himself that with each passing hour, Sherlock's chances improve dramatically. He clings to that thought, folds it up into a neat little golden square and tucks it into his breast pocket.
There is very little evidence as to the effectiveness of the antidote. Recovery from abrin poisoning is a slow process, and some of the symptoms can persist for weeks. Indeed, Sherlock's body is still ravaged by fever and intermittent seizures, and the faint rales in his left lung have spread to an all-over rattle that resonates deep in his chest with each breath. He drifts in and out of consciousness. He is incoherent during the brief periods of wakefulness. At this point, all John has to conclude that the medicine is working is the very fact that Sherlock is still alive outside of the seventy-two hour mark. He can treat the symptoms and make his friend comfortable, but he has no idea if the antitoxin is doing its job properly.
It's just a waiting game. A very tense one.
"He looks better." Mrs. Hudson has basically taken up residence at 221b by the third day. She seems to think it's her job to take care of John and Mycroft, as they are busy taking care of Sherlock. The pleasant chirp of her voice and her quiet bustling about the flat has a calming effect.
"A bit," John agrees, studying his patient's pale face. He watches the rise and fall of his chest, counts the breaths as they go in, assuring himself that he's still alive. Against all odds, he's still alive.
There has not been a repeat of the frightening cardiac episode from earlier. John cannot pin down precisely what happened then, but he has this nagging feeling in the back of his mind that if they had waited much longer to administer Mycroft's serum, Sherlock might not have recovered as he did.
For what feels like the hundredth time, John drags a few instruments from his bag (which now lives on the floor by the sofa) and performs a brief examination. It probably isn't necessary, but it makes him feel better. He checks the IV line, writes down Sherlock's pulse and respiration rates, feels the shape of the lymph nodes and abdominal organs, listens to to his heart and lungs. His eyes scan the makeshift chart once more, reminding himself of medication dosages and times. He is nearly through, packing it all away again, when Sherlock stirs.
John's name is on his lips, but his voice is faint. Grey eyes struggle to open and stare, unfocussed, at the ceiling as he squirms weakly in apparent discomfort.
"Sherlock?" John says softly, one hand on Sherlock's shoulder. "Sherlock, you with me?"
There's no response aside from a slight moan, though he does turn his head in the direction of John's voice. His movements are restless, almost nervous, and John realises that his friend is probably hallucinating. His eyes roll back, before he blinks and refocusses on something John can't see.
Mrs. Hudson taps John's shoulder. "Should we try to get him to eat something while he's awake?"
"No," replies John, shaking his head. "It's no use. He's not fully with it. Though if he doesn't wake enough to eat soon I'm going to have to tube him." He grimaces, dreading the idea. Nasogastric intubation is not a pleasant experience by any stretch of the imagination; however, if he's to fight off the poison, he needs some fuel with which to do it. And God knows when was the last time he actually ate before this ordeal.
By the afternoon, Sherlock's restlessness has intensified to a force of nature. John doesn't know what terrors he sees in wakefulness, but the stark periods of unconsciousness are almost preferable to this unadulterated fear. All attempts at soothing him are ignored at first and then violently rejected, Sherlock's poisoned mind causing him to lash out physically. The doctor receives a black eye for his efforts, and stumbles back from the couch.
Mycroft emerges suddenly from the bedroom, sleep-mussed and clearly alarmed by the commotion. He catches sight of Sherlock anxiously thrashing on the sofa, and then John, who is seated on the coffee table and still reeling slightly. "He's still hallucinating," the elder Holmes observes, moving quickly toward his brother. He leans over the arm of the couch, stroking a hand through Sherlock's hair, eliciting a hiss of displeasure from the detective.
"I need to sedate him," John states, resignation in his voice. He is already preparing the syringe. "Otherwise he runs the risk of pulling the IV, or hurting himself."
"Or others," Mycroft adds, rounding the couch to sit at his brother's side. He takes one of his hands and makes quiet shushing noises that do nothing to calm Sherlock's tense muttering.
John unloads the syringe into the IV line, watching as Mycroft continues to speak in a low voice, bending over the younger Holmes in a way that is uncharacteristically tender. Slowly, the detective's body calms and he quiets, eyes drifting closed again in artificial sleep. John waits until his breathing evens out, and then discards the syringe and drops down into a chair, sighing with relief that he can at least cure one symptom. It's a drop in the bucket, he knows, but it is better than nothing. His eyes wander over Mycroft now, taking educated guesses at his condition with a practised eye. "How are you feeling?"
Mycroft's mouth thins to a grim line and he sits back a little, releasing Sherlock's hand and pulling the quilt from where it is bunched at the end of the sofa. He spreads it over his little brother and clasps his hands in his lap, eyes locked on Sherlock's face. "I… have been better," he admits. "But if it works, then…" He finishes with a shrug and finally drags his focus toward John. "He hit you?"
"Ah… well, yes." Without knowing why, John grins as he touches the tender bruise forming around his left eye. Then he laughs softly, shoulders shaking for a moment as he comes to grips with this idea: Sherlock punched him. In the face. While basically unconscious. He shakes his head in disbelief, sobering as he wonders what nightmares caused such a reaction. "I donno what he was seeing, but it scared him. I probably shouldn't have tried to touch him when I did."
"Mm." One corner of Mycroft's lips has turned up in a wry smile. The room falls silent for a few minutes, but then John is standing and putting a guiding hand on Mycroft's arm.
"Back to bed with you," he orders.
For a moment – just a moment – it looks as though Mycroft might argue. But then he nods, getting to his feet with some effort and shuffling back toward Sherlock's bedroom. If the situation were not so serious, John might have taken some great pleasure in finally seeing the prim and proper Mycroft Holmes so off-kilter.
Mrs. Hudson chooses that moment to return to the flat from a grocery run. Her eyes widen at the sight of John's injury, which she detects from across the room with her landlady-not-housekeeper superpowers. "What's happened to you, dear!"
Yet again, John finds himself chuckling. "Long story."
Mrs. Hudson is insisting that John have a dinner of some sort, when Sherlock's fever spikes suddenly. A preliminary alarm starts to tap out a warning from one of the monitors next to the sofa, and the conversation ceases as John's attention is immediately absorbed. Swiftly, he strides over and inspects the readings, brows coming together in a frown as his eyes scan the glowing red numbers. "Jesus," he huffs. The vee of his neck stands in sharp relief: anxiety. "His temperature's skyrocketed." He moves to check the IV lines as Mrs. Hudson approaches Sherlock's side, ever the concerned mother hen.
"Oh, he's drenched," she clucks, pushing matted curls back from Sherlock's high brow. "The fever's breaking."
I hope you're right, John thinks, but as he joins her he can see that she is. Sherlock's shirt is soaked clean through, as is his hair. John sends Mrs. Hudson to go and fetch a basin of water and some flannels from the hall closet, and drapes his stethoscope around his neck before peeling the quilt back from his patient's quivering form. Sherlock seems to notice the sudden change, and his eyelids flicker momentarily but fall closed again.
I'll have to cut his shirt off him, John realises. He knows he cannot get it off him without disturbing the IV or having to pull Sherlock up from his supine position, and he wants to do neither. Extracting a pair of bandage scissors from his bag, he sets about relieving Sherlock of his clothing. The shirt cuts easily thanks to the moisture accumulated in the fabric, and John discards it on the floor before setting about the work of getting Sherlock out of his trousers.
Which might have been easy enough if not for the hiss of pain that John hears as the fabric rasps over Sherlock's legs, the thin body jerking in protest.
"You're okay," John soothes, quickening his pace. "It's alright."
But it is clearly not alright, and as Sherlock slogs toward consciousness, his right hand starts to claw at the cannula in his left. His movements are weak and cannot do much damage, but it is clear that he is rousing, and the last thing he needs is to rip the damn thing out. Then his fingers are scrabbling toward the heart monitor's electrodes attached to his chest, as though he can't decide which he wants rid of more.
Mrs. Hudson returns with the required items, and sets them down on the coffee table. She clicks her tongue disapprovingly as she sees that their patient is apparently trying to remove the lines, and sits down beside him. "Shh, leave it alone, dear," she coos softly, and gently tries to pry his hands away.
No sooner do her fingers close around Sherlock's wrist than he arches in pain, a cry passing his lips as he wrenches out of her grasp with surprising speed. His eyes snap open and dart wildly and Mrs. Hudson, startled nearly to tears, jumps up and backs away to let John through.
"Sherlock?" John is at his side in a moment, examining him critically though he can see nothing wrong.
"I only touched him," Mrs. Hudson offers, shaking her head. She returns to where her boys are, and begins soaking a flannel. "He acted as though I'd burned him!"
"It's okay," John says gently. "He probably still feels cold from the fever; a normal person's body temperature would seem very hot to him. You only just startled him is all, don't worry." He offers her a comforting smile before turning to the stricken detective, who is now more or less relaxed but fighting the effects of sedatives and illness-related fatigue. His breaths come a bit too quickly for John's liking, but he can attribute that to the apparent fright he received from Mrs. Hudson, and the discomfort he must be feeling from the drugs and the affliction itself. "Sherlock," John calls, watching his face for any reaction, "can you hear me?"
Sherlock doesn't speak, but his eyelids drag open again and once more his right hand is fumbling for his left, searching out the IV connection.
John intercepts him, taking his hand, and gets approximately the same reaction as Mrs. Hudson did – Sherlock gasps in apparent pain and pulls away. Once he is free of John's grasp, though, he tries again, and again John stops him. "What is it, Sherlock? What's wrong?"
"Burns," Sherlock chokes out, pressing his head back into the pillow.
Bewildered, John checks the lines and the cannula itself. Everything is perfectly in place. It shouldn't be hurting him. What Sherlock is saying doesn't make sense at all. "What burns?"
With a groan and a cough, Sherlock lifts his head slightly, but he's weak and he drops back down again after a moment. "Everything."
Everything. Well, that isn't helpful at all. John shakes his head, and takes a damp flannel from Mrs. Hudson. "I know you're uncomfortable," he says softly, "but the fever's finally breaking – that's a good thing. Try to –"
Whatever advice John was about to give is lost, though, as Sherlock cries out again and thrashes violently the moment the cold cloth touches his skin. John is startled, drawing the flannel away, and Sherlock takes advantage of the moment to make another go at the cannula, clawing viciously at his own hand. Involuntary tears of pain have sprung to the corners of his tightly closed eyes.
"Okay!" John says, fighting Sherlock's hands apart yet again. He chokes the IV line and, taking the slender hand between his own, carefully removes the cannula, discarding it carelessly on the coffee table for the moment. "Okay, it's gone, Sherlock, it's gone, it's out…"
Sherlock's chest is heaving, ribs flashing rapidly in and out, each breath carrying with it a taut sound of panic. His entire body is shaking, and he is clasping and unclasping his hands, making weak fists and then releasing them, fingers twitching in between repetitions. A muscle in his jaw ticks. His eyes are closed again, but he is at least partially aware, that much is evident.
John exchanges a puzzled look with Mrs. Hudson, who is poised beside him with the towels in hand. He purses his lips and fits the earpieces of the stethoscope, intent upon a more thorough examination. It seemed like the IV was irritating Sherlock, but the puncture in the back of his hand looks perfectly normal – it shouldn't have been uncomfortable in the least. Then the towels – which weren't cold enough to elicit a pain response like that. John is baffled.
He doesn't get very far in his investigation into this phenomenon, though. The moment the head of the stethoscope makes contact with Sherlock's ribs, the detective shies away with a gasp and a groan that is almost a sob, and John is quick to pull away. Frowning, he pulls the plugs from his ears and almost on impulse reaches out, dragging his index finger lightly down Sherlock's shoulder. A similar reaction occurs, and John withdraws immediately.
"Allodynia…" the doctor murmurs thoughtfully, and begins peeling the electrodes from Sherlock's chest.
"Sorry?" Mrs. Hudson is shaking her head. "What's the matter?"
"Ah – mechanical allodynia. Pain response to touch." He sits back a little, absently pulling the stethoscope from his neck and dropping it into the bag at his feet. Allodynia could be caused by any number of things – the sedative, the anti-fever medications, the antitoxin serum, or the toxin itself…
"Should I fetch Mycroft?" asks Mrs. Hudson now, cleaning up the towels.
Shaking his head, John sighs. "No, he needs rest, don't disturb him." But I need to remember to ask him if this has happened in the past. John has never seen Sherlock truly ill before, and this could just be something that happens to him when he's sick. It is not uncommon for patients to develop allodynia as an illness behaviour, but John is concerned that the poison may have done some sort of neurological damage to cause such a severe incidence of it. In which case it may be permanent. The chances are small, but it is still a nagging worry in the back of John's mind.
Without use of monitors or the IV, John is forced to stay by Sherlock's side to keep account of his condition. Periodically, he has no choice but to put him through the agony of contact for an injection or to take his temperature, but they finally have a stroke of luck around one in the morning: the fever breaks. John watches with satisfaction as the tympanic thermometer bleats out a reading of 37.5, and then goes down a point of a degree before he removes it.
Now, finally, he can be certain: the serum is working.
It is the sound of a heavy tread on the stair that wakes John early the next morning. He has fallen asleep in the armchair beside the sofa, which is unsurprising if not entirely understandable. With some effort, he opens his eyes to see Lestrade standing in the doorway, looking breathless and awkward. John shakes off the last vestiges of sleep and waves him in.
"Ah... sorry. Didn't mean to wake you." Lestrade steps inside but doesn't shed his coat. He gestures at the sleeping detective with a handful of paperwork. "How's he doing?"
"Better," John says with a definitive nod. "The antitoxin he and Mycroft developed seems to be working, finally." He stands, stretches, and knuckles his eyes. He knows he's only been asleep for a couple of hours, but at this point of exhaustion, that's almost worse than if he had never gone to sleep at all. It'll be hours before he is able to shake the drowsiness. He makes a vague gesture toward the kitchen. "Coffee?"
The DI nods and they both trudge toward the kitchen, though John seems to have an eye on Sherlock at all times. "Ah, so, were you able to get anything further out of Lucerne?" Up to this point, they have been keeping each other posted on their respective situations via hasty texts sent during rare free moments. Since yesterday afternoon, though, John has been maintaining radio silence as Sherlock's condition required closer monitoring.
Lestrade shrugs and digs a couple of mugs out of a cabinet, inspecting them carefully for fermented organs before plunking them down on the work surface beside the cream and sugar. "He didn't have anything, not really. Tried to act like the information about the abrin was some sort of gem of knowledge - didn't know Sherlock had already figured it out. He was just trying to buy himself some time out of a cell, I imagine." Greg's scowl is laced with bittnerness at having his time wasted like that. "Unfortunately, it looks as if we're back at square one, at least until this one's back on his feet." He nods toward Sherlock.
"I don't know when that will be," John admits as the coffee maker groans to life. "The fever is down, and he seems to be improving overall, but many of his symptoms are still presenting just as strongly as they were before. Abrin toxicity is a difficult thing to come back from."
"Nothing permanent, though, right?"
"Can't say for sure, but I don't think so. I only mean it may be a while before he's, y'know, fully operational again. It's not uncommon with this type of poisoning for symptoms to linger for a few weeks."
Lestrade looks as though he has a stomach cramp. "He won't do well with that. Sherlock's never been sick a day in his life."
A third voice floats through the kitchen from the doorway. "Not entirely true." Mycroft is leaning heavily upon the threshold.
John makes a disapproving noise in his throat and starts to cross the room. "You have no business out of bed," he says. "Between the two of you, I swear—"
"Oh, don't fuss, John," Mycroft replies disdainfully, flapping a hand at John. He draws himself a glass of water and leans back against the sink, his eyes on his brother through the kitchen doorway. "He had a migraine disorder as an adolescent, you know."
"No, I didn't know," John replies, not gently. He glances at Lestrade, who just gives him an uncomfortable shrug. Then he remembers something from yesterday, and asks, "Did he happen to have allodynia as a symptom of migraine attacks?"
Mycroft nods with a painful frown. "He couldn't even stand to be clothed when it was at its worst, much less touched in any way."
John finds it hard to believe that Mycroft and Sherlock did a whole lot of touching anyway, but he decides to keep that bit to himself. The information, however, is comforting – if it is typical Sherlock illness behaviour, then perhaps this incidence of allodynia is indeed fleeting and not neurologically-rooted at all. If that's the case, then it will probably abate within the next day or two, as the worst of the poison works its way out of his system. So long as he continues to respond favourably to the antidote, that is.
The coffee maker beeps, signalling it is finished with its work, before John realises the room has plunged into silence. Mycroft rouses himself from whatever reverie he's fallen into, and makes a painful retreat back to Sherlock's room. "Keep me apprised of the situation, John," he murmurs, before disappearing down the hallway.
John hums his assent and pours a cup of coffee for Lestrade and then one for himself. Lestrade sips the scalding liquid and runs a hand through his hair. "Bit odd, seeing him like that."
"I was thinking that yesterday," John admits sheepishly. "Might be funny if not for... well." He nods in Sherlock's general direction. Lestrade nods his understanding and the two stand in comfortable quiet for a few moments, sipping coffee.
"Well, I'd better be off," Lestrade sighs after a while, finishing his coffee and rinsing the cup in the sink. "Just thought I'd come and check in. Even Donovan's been asking after him."
"Yeah. Anyway – looks like I have a case to solve. I'll send over the details tomorrow; when he's feeling up to it, you can let him look over what we've gotten the past few days and see if he can make some sense of it. At your discretion, of course."
"Right. I'll keep you posted then. Thanks, Greg." John follows the DI to the door and the two bid each other farewell.
It is ten o'clock in the morning when Sherlock finally stirs. John perks up a bit from his half-awake slouch in the nearby armchair, watching closely. He is relieved to see that Sherlock's movements are not the agitated, uncomfortable stirrings of a man trapped in the throes of nightmarish hallucination, but rather the slow, groggy motions of someone trying very hard to separate themselves from sleep.
Rousing himself fully, John drags himself to the sofa and kneels on the floor beside it, reluctant to get too close and cause pain. Shortly after Lestrade left, John had taken the liberty of forcing Sherlock back into clothes – it was much too cold in the flat, even with a quilt – and that had not gone over so well. He is hesitant now to touch him at all.
"Sherlock," John calls softly, trying to pry him from the grasp of drugs and sleep. Sherlock moans in response and John tries again. "Sherlock, talk to me." Very lightly, his fingers brush against the radial pulse of his left wrist and, unsurprisingly, the detective hisses and pulls away. But his eyes open, and that is something. John hears a noise escape his own throat as he watches Sherlock stare unblinkingly at the ceiling. After a few moments, Sherlock turns his head with some effort, fixing those clear grey eyes on him. John is frowning. "...Sherlock?"
"John," sighs the detective, and his face goes through several changes as he struggles to come to some sort of conclusion as to the situation at hand. It is clear that he is disoriented and confused, and this is distressing to him.
In a low voice, John says, "You're okay. Your hairbrained plan worked, as usual." He lifts a hand to touch him, to reassure him, then drops it at the last moment. It's hard for him to remember not to touch.
"It was close, though." The voice is faint and drowsy, but coherent. The part of his brain housing deductive reasoning is apparently still functioning.
"Yes, it was." A pause, just a heartbeat. "Do you know where you are?"
"I'm fine, John."
The sound of shuffling feet reaches their ears, and shortly thereafter so does the sound of someone being ill in the bathroom. John winces, seeing the recognition spark in Sherlock's gaze. "The abrin solution made Mycroft a little sick," he explains, "but he's okay. The transfusions made him weak as a kitten, though." He smiles wanly, and sees Sherlock return the expression, and the relief that floods through him is almost overwhelming. Two days ago I thought I was losing you, he thinks, and suddenly the room is spinning. John puts his head down on the edge of the sofa as the breath goes out of him like a candle being snuffed out. A weight introduces itself to the top of his head, and he feels Sherlock's long fingers moving softly through his hair. Duty forces him to lift his face. "How are you feeling?"
Sherlock's hand falls to John's shoulder as he thinks about his answer. John considers advising him not to bother lying or downplaying his symptoms or leaving anything out, but his flatmate surprises him by saying, "Achy. Everything... hurts." The fingers of Sherlock's other hand pinch the fabric of his own t-shirt, tenting it over his chest.
"That seemed to start last night," John says with a nod. "Somewhere along the way you developed a pain response to any sort of pressure."
The frown that mars Sherlock's pale features is a sign of his comprehension. "Will it pass?"
"I don't know. I think so."
Silence engulfs the sitting room. John watches as Sherlock's eyes fall closed. He is still awake, but it is clear that he is not far from sleep.
"Lestrade stopped by earlier," John says into the quiet.
Sherlock drags his eyes open and looks at John again.
"Lucerne didn't have anything useful to say. He danced around for a bit and then tried to use the information about abrin like it was something we needed. Lestrade tossed him back into a cell."
"How long has it been?"
"Since the lab? Three days."
Sherlock wrinkles his nose unhappily. "Has Lestrade gotten any more information on who was behind all this?"
"Not a whisper."
"Then the game is on."
John can't help but laugh. "Ah, no. The game is not on. You need to rest. And eat. And thank your brother for poisoning himself for you."
"Mmm," is the only response Sherlock musters.