John had only been away for four days. Four short days. He had made Sherlock meals (not that he would eat them, but they were there anyway and it made John feel better) and left them in the fridge, but not near the hands.
He had left instructions for Mrs Hudson, begging her to check on him once a day to ensure that he hadn't stopped breathing because he decided it was boring or felt like doing an experiment with fire.
He confiscated his gun and all of the possibly explosive chemicals.
Everything should have been fine. Lestrade had promised to not ask him for help on a case, but would check on him. Everything should have been fine.
And John thought it would be. Because after he arrived back home, the flat was still standing, Mrs Hudson didn't seem to be in shock, and there was not a couple dozen texts from various people insisting that John come home NOW.
It looked promising.
Even some of the meals were missing out of the fridge, which hopefully meant Sherlock had eaten them, but as John knew all too well, could have meant a number of different things.
Except Sherlock didn't greet him, didn't berate him for taking off when he absolutely needed him, didn't continue the conversation exactly where they had left off when he had left, didn't even appear. But Mrs Hudson had said he was in, even though "he did look a bit peaky last I saw". Which John hoped meant exhaustion, not illness, or worse, drugs.
But when John wandered into Sherlock's bedroom, after softly knocking and getting no response, he found it a mess, but empty. John gave up at this point and headed up to his bedroom.
Which was where he found Sherlock, sleeping in his bed, looking, as Mrs Hudson so eloquently put it, "a bit peaky" and eyes glossy with fever.
"Umm... what're you doing in my bed?"
Sherlock glanced around, like he had only just realized where he was.
"I was... I was... doing something." He sounded confused. His voice was raspy and unsure.
"Are you not feeling well?"
Sherlock struggled to sit up a bit, then shook his head hesitantly.
"Right. Well you just stay there, and I'll be right back."
John retrieved his medical bag from its designated place in the kitchen and headed back upstairs to Sherlock, pausing only to grab a glass of water, figuring Sherlock would need to take some sort of pills, and at the very least, need to stay hydrated.
He returned to find Sherlock in the same position as he had left him, slouched over the pillows like a giant rag doll, scowling.
"Sit up," John demanded. He stuck a thermometer in his mouth with instructions not to talk and waited until it beeped. "It's 39," he frowned. "I'm gonna listen to your heart and lungs now, so scooch over."
Sherlock crawled across the bed a little bit until John figured there was enough room and sat down, rubbing his stethoscope between his hands to warm it up.
It was only when John went to lift up Sherlock's shirt that he realized Sherlock was wearing one of his favourite jumpers. He barely held back a snicker as he managed to ask why on earth Sherlock was wearing it.
"I think... I was... cold." He seemed a little unsure.
As John motioned for him to take a deep breath so he could listen to his lungs, Sherlock began coughing, and what started out as just a clearing of his throat, turned into a minute long hacking which left him panting when it was over.
John was alarmed.
"Sherlock, how long have you have that cough?"
"How long were you gone for?"
John rolled his eyes. "Four days."
"Mmm... three days?"
"And you didn't think to, perhaps, go to the doctor or anything?"
"You're my doctor," he replied simply, closing his eyes and collapsing back into the pillows, exhausted by the effort.
"Right. Of course."
Peering intently at Sherlock, John noticed the tiniest tinges of blue in his lips. Grabbing his hands, despite Sherlock's minimal efforts to keep them from him, he examined his nails to find them decidedly lacking in the normal pinkish colour they should possess.
"That's it," he announced. "We're going to the hospital."
Sherlock's eyes widened, and he struggled to sit up in the bed, wheezing as he told John "I'm fine. Really. No hospital."
"Sherlock, you've got pneumonia!"
"Excellent deduction. But what are they supposed to do about it there what you can't do here?" He paused for a moment to cough again. "Hmm?" he finished, rather weakly.
John closed his eyes and rubbed them with the heels of his hands for a moment, thinking.
"Alright," he said finally. "Here's what we're going to do. We're going to the hospital so you can get a chest x-ray and I can pick up some stuff, then we'll come back home." He eyed Sherlock's hesitant look. "And if you decide to fight me on that one I'll call Mycroft. And you can bet his idea of treatment will be very different from mine. Got it?"
Sherlock nodded pitifully, and it was decided.
Five hours later as they left A&E (which was pretty quick for a Sunday afternoon, although John suspected some part of 'not the British government' had a hand in that) Sherlock was still grumbling about being dragged to the hospital.
John let him until they reached the flat, at which point he demanded Sherlock go to sleep right now on the couch.
"What about the meds?" he asked innocently.
"Intravenous," John announced triumphantly. "So you just sit there and behave while I get a line, and then you will go to sleep, or I will drug you." John grabbed his left arm and began scrutinizing the veins.
"Other one," Sherlock mumbled. Seeing John's confused look, he added "the veins in my right arm are better."
John nodded, understanding what Sherlock was saying. He got the line on the second try and busied himself with trying to set up the IV somewhere above the couch. He finally gave up and shoved a nail in the wall to hang the antibiotics on.
Sherlock eyed the large bag that John had toted home from the hospital.
"What's in there?"
John followed his glance over to the bag, and by way of explaining, pulled it over and removed its contents.
"Pulse ox machine," he said, removing a contraption Sherlock was familiar with, although never this small before. He nodded, and John continued, not unpacking the bag, but shrugging the bag down around the final item, which was revealed to be a large cylinder, most likely of oxygen. Sherlock rolled his eyes exasperatedly.
"Very unnecessary John," he pointed out.
John raised an eyebrow, as if he needed to remind him of his earlier threat.
Sherlock huffed, but allowed John to stick the clip on his finger, and waited while John checked his email for the x-ray in between checking to see if it had calibrated.
After what seemed like forever, John pushed his laptop towards Sherlock, a black and white image on the screen, and checked the display on the pulse ox machine.
Sherlock examined the x-ray, which he assumed was of his chest, but besides seeing the vague outline of two lungs and a heart, provided no useful information to him. John's face, however, was an entirely different story.
But whatever was there was a bit out of reach of Sherlock's mind right now, because it didn't make sense. Perhaps John was right about him needing to sleep. He sighed, which was unwise, as it lead to a coughing fit, and John looked over at him, concerned.
"87 percent on room air, until you started coughing" he announced. "Then it went down to 79 percent."
"Not good?" Sherlock offered.
John almost smiled. "A bit not good, yeah."
Sherlock could tell John was worried, very worried in fact, but couldn't care enough to figure out why, or how to fix it. So he just closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
It worked for all of about five seconds, until John began poking him, and when that didn't work, kneaded his sternum with his knuckles.
"What?!" he gasped, sitting up, away from the pain.
John looked angry. "You can't sleep right now!"
Sherlock was confused. "But you just told me to..."
"Yeah, well that was before I checked your sats. I can't let you go to sleep like this, you might never wake up," John pointed out. Sherlock groaned. John quickly added "but it's okay, I have a solution."
Sherlock watched blearily as John did something, his eyes may have closed for a moment, and he missed what had happened, but he was trying really hard to keep them open.
He was definitely awake after John attacked his sternum a second time, wanting to make sure he knew what was happening.
John held up tubing.
"I'm gonna put this on your face. Don't pull it off or I'll tape it to you."
Sherlock managed a slight nod, and John began situating the tubing around Sherlock's ears, prongs pointing into his nose awkwardly. He wanted to brush it off, but remembered John's warning, and besides, his arms felt much too heavy to move.
So he lay there as John stood back satisfied and noted the numbers on the machine, nodding to Sherlock. He managed to stay awake while John fiddled with dials, and finally notified Sherlock "93 percent. Much better." before covering him with a blanket, and he promptly fell asleep.
John sat in his chair, pecking out a blog post he would probably never publish, occasionally glancing at Sherlock to ensure he was still breathing and the pulse ox monitor to ensure his brilliant brain would be okay. He saved his blog post as a draft and closed the window, leaving only the image of Sherlock's chest x-ray open. Very, very obvious pneumonia. He was surprised Sherlock was still awake and lucid when he arrived home. Most people would have been entirely unconscious. Of course, he reminded himself, most people would have gone to get antibiotics when they first felt themselves getting sick. Sherlock was hardly normal though, and John still couldn't decide if this was good or bad. Perhaps both.
Sherlock stirred, and John peered over at him, noting the comforting rise of his chest, even if it was accompanied by wheezing. His heart jumped every time Sherlock coughed, afraid that he wouldn't be able to catch his breath. Should have called Mycroft. It was going to be a very long night. And day. And night. Week.
Sherlock awoke sometime in the dark, gasping for breath. This must be what drowning feels like. He had almost drowned before, but was blissfully unconscious for it, only waking up in the hospital with aching lungs and a crushed chest. That was preferable.
He was going to drown and be awfully awake for the entire thing. Near the bottom of his list for preferable ways to die.
"John..." he gasped, clawing at the tubes on his face, forgetting entirely what John had told him earlier about them, only hazily thinking that they must be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.
Sherlock could see him out of his dimming peripheral vision, dashing about, digging through the bag he had unpacked earlier. What is he doing? He probably could have figured it out, but wisely decided to spend all his available energy on making his chest rise and fall.
In. Out. Up. Down. Inhale. Exhale. Oxygen. Carbon dioxide.
And John was there, shoving plastic on his face while simultaneously injecting something into his IV line. Sherlock struggled against his hand, irrationally thinking that John was trying to suffocate him. But as soon as John's other hand finished with the needle, it came over to prop Sherlock up against the couch cushions, then moving to smooth Sherlock's hair when he was finally upright. John whispered to him reassuringly.
"Shh... it's okay Sherlock. Just breathe. The mask is going to help you breathe."
And as soon as Sherlock stopped panicking, he realized that John was indeed correct, that he could think about more than just forcing his diaphragm to contract, that it was okay, John was there to take care of him.
He relaxed and nodded at John, who also visibly relaxed when Sherlock managed a muffled "kay".
And into darkness again.
John sat with Sherlock on the couch for a while after he passed out again, not really wanting to leave the world's only consulting detective alone. He could have died, John realized. He still could. What about his brain? No, no, it's fine, it was only for a short time. Could have been long enough. Saturations that low... SHUT UP. Whoa, temper. You are a doctor. 69 is a bad number.
John willed himself to quit thinking.
He glanced at Sherlock, half propped up against the pillows, half propped up against John's body. It seemed to be easier for him to breathe like this. Sighing quietly, John grappled for his phone, almost out of his reach, and texted Sarah, informing her of the situation. And perhaps begging for help. No, not begging, hinting.
Sherlock has pneumonia. Won't be able to come in to work for at least three days. He's currently on IV antibiotics and oxygen and I'm holding him up so he can breathe. Perhaps you could bring over some more supplies before or after work. Thanks. -John
John must have fallen asleep for a little while, because when he felt his phone vibrating on his lap, there was pink seeping in the windows and his foot had fallen asleep.
You're at the flat?! -Sarah
Yeah, you know how he is. -John
But if he's that sick, he shouldn't be too hard to get to a hospital. -Sarah
John's only response to that was a shrug, and that couldn't be communicated through texts, so he threw the phone across the room, frustrated.
It was only as he watched it bounce, noting dully that perhaps Sherlock would like to research that when he was better, that he realized how stupid that was. Noting Sherlock's relatively deep breaths, he figured he was probably deep in sleep, and wouldn't awaken if John escaped out from under him.
So John situated him carefully on the pillows, watching his sats the whole time, and once confident that he would not fall off the couch or stop breathing, crept across the living room to retrieve his phone. Of course, his sleeping foot protested this, and John cursed every squeak he made hobbling across the floor. He had one message from Sarah, which read:
I'll come over with stolen supplies for you. Because I'm a fabulous person. -Sarah
John snicked, and turned around to head back to the couch and was startled to see Sherlock's eyes open and watching him.
They were still feverish, but bright above the oxygen mask. John supposed that was a good sign.
For some reason, John was sitting behind him. Sleeping. Sleeping behind him. Had he not gotten the message when Sherlock informed him we was married to his work? Sherlock lay there pondering that for a moment, recalling the events that had taken place in the darkness, noting that he did feel a bit better, although still exhausted and short of breath.
Sherlock felt something vibrate, John's phone, his brain provided, and he felt John startle. Sherlock assumed his sleeping state, not really wanting to speak to John just yet or have a thermometer shoved under his tongue. Sherlock listened as John sent and received a couple texts, probably with Sarah, and then as he threw his phone across the room.
John began moving, and Sherlock did his best to act limp as if he was asleep while John repositioned him carefully on the pillows. But Sherlock couldn't help cracking open his eyes to watch John hobble across the living room, foot asleep, and smile at the message. But apparently his brain was working a little slowly, because it was only as John turned to look at him that he remembered he was supposed to be sleeping. Drat.
So Sherlock had to sit patiently as John asked him questions, stuck a thermometer under his tongue, rechecked his lungs, and replaced the mask with the tubing that Sherlock had apparently ripped off during the night. He recalled that. Vaguely.
Frankly, Sherlock was surprised that the IV was still in, remembering how he panicked. John explained.
"I taped it very, very, very well. Even if not for that circumstance, I figured you would probably pick at it a lot."
Sherlock was saved from the more probing questions by a ring of the doorbell, and Mrs Hudson's voice accompanied by another female one. Definitely Sarah.
"I come bearing gifts," she announced as Mrs Hudson let her into the apartment with only the briefest of knocks. Good thing John wasn't still on the couch with me.
Sherlock frowned. Their ideas of gifts were very different. Sarah had brought medical supplies, where Sherlock would have preferred some new chemicals or perhaps a nice body part from the morgue.
"Don't wan'em," he announced, flinching at how raspy his voice sounded. He attempted to roll over to face the wall, but the numerous wires and tubes were getting caught, and not to mention John was right there, pulling him back. Sherlock attempted his best scowly face at him, but it didn't work.
"Thank you Sarah," he said pointedly, obviously trying to compensate for Sherlock's lack of appreciation.
She shrugged, eyeing John's hand on Sherlock. "Need anything else?"
"No," John replied firmly, removing his hand from Sherlock's arm.
"Let me know," she called over her shoulder as she left with a quick nod to Mrs Hudson, who looked a little bit petrified.
"Oh dear. I didn't think he was this bad," Mrs Hudson fretted.
John's heart broke a little for her. But he knew as well as anyone that she would have had little chance of convincing him to see a doctor or take pills.
"It's all right. You know how he is when he gets sick. Absolutely refuses to admit it." He hesitated, seeing the look on her face, knowing she wasn't hearing a word he said. "Mrs Hudson?" he said loudly. "Perhaps you could make us some tea." That seemed to register, because she blinked.
"Alright, but just this once dear because Sherlock's sick and I can see you've been up all night with him. I'm not your housekeeper."
John smiled as she bustled off to the kitchen.
John sat in his chair sorting out the supplies Sarah had brought while sipping his tea. Mrs Hudson had muttered about 'the state of the place' and was now tutting about the kitchen, washing dishes, despite weak protests from Sherlock not to touch the bowls right next to the fridge.
Sarah had obviously taken into careful consideration how difficult Sherlock was to deal with, and helpfully included multiple sedatives, but no pain medication.
Most importantly she had brought an oxygen concentrator, which brought great relief to John. He had worried about how much was left in the tank, especially after he had cranked up the flow when Sherlock had woken gasping for breath in the middle of the night. That was awful.
It had reminded John of men who had been shot in the chest in Afghanistan, not in the heart, but in the lung, and away from the makeshift hospital, he could not save. He could only watch as they literally suffocated on their own blood as it filled their chest cavity, leaving no room for air.
At one point last night, Sherlock had even coughed up a little blood, nothing serious, likely just due to the insane amounts of hacking he had been doing, but seeing Sherlock with blood on his lips, struggling for breath had horrified John all over again. Except this was London and he would be damned if he ever lost someone ever again.
So John was reassured when he hooked the tubing up to the concentrator, noting that the tank was less than a quarter full by now, and happily watched while Sherlock's sats were maintained in the low 90s. He didn't even mind Sherlock eyeing him as he smiled stupidly.
He lost his smile as he pondered how to go about asking Sherlock.
"Um, Sherlock. D'you have to go to the bathroom. Cause I can-"
Sherlock butted in, rolling his eyes. "I am quite capable of doing that myself John."
His piercing glare lost a little something when he had to break it to cough for a moment, and wasn't quite the same afterwards.
John nodded. "Right," he said as he began to unhook the wires and tubing. "Up you go," he grunted, lifting Sherlock up off the couch from underneath his arm, ignoring his pitiful protests. "I'm just helping you get there. I'm sure you can handle being in there on your own." John waited outside the door of the bathroom until he heard a flush, and water running, running, running, for a suspiciously long time.
"Sherlock," he called, knocking. No response.
The door had no functional lock, which John had learned the hard way, being in the shower when Sherlock had burst in, insisting that he needed something from under the sink and it was too important to wait, and besides, there was a shower curtain.
He called out once more, and hearing no response, turned the knob, but met resistance when trying to open the door. God don't tell me he barricaded it. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He pushed harder, and realized what the resistance on the door was, when he heard a thump and saw Sherlock fall over through the crack in the door.
Sherlock looked around blearily as John stepped over him to turn off the water, then knelt down next to him.
"What the hell did you do?"
"Fell... asleep?" he offered.
John only rolled his eyes as he heaved Sherlock up off the floor and practically carried him back to the couch.
Sherlock barely protested, instead lying back as John snapped the pulse ox back on Sherlock's finger anxiously.
"79," John noted grimly, weaving the oxygen tubing through Sherlock's wild hair, positioning it and slapping Sherlock's hands away as he tried to fidget with it.
Once he was confident that Sherlock was satting well and not going to start pulling at things as soon as his back was turned, he popped his head in the kitchen where Mrs Hudson was still busy with the multiple 'experiments' that Sherlock had developed over the last four days.
"Mrs Hudson? Can you just keep an eye on Sherlock for 10 minutes or so? Just make sure he doesn't pull anything off," he added, noticing the sudden look of horror on their landlady's face. She nodded timidly, and John led her back to the living room.
"Sherlock," he announced. "I'm going to take a shower and change and Mrs Hudson is going to supervise to make sure you don't do anything stupid. Got it?"
Sherlock only nodded miserably.
John turned, smiling at Mrs Hudson reassuringly, and crawled up to his bedroom for clothes.
He was exhausted. He briefly thought of skipping the shower and instead just napping on his bed until Mrs Hudson got concerned and called up to him, but remembered as soon as he saw it that Sherlock had been sleeping there just yesterday afternoon. The sheets and bedding would need to be changed first, and he just didn't have the energy for that.
A nice hot shower would do wonders he assured himself as he trudged back down the stairs, peeking at Sherlock and Mrs Hudson as he headed to the bathroom.
Bored. Sherlock's brain was functioning only minimally and he was still bored. He eyed Mrs Hudson.
"Mrs Hudson?" he asked pitifully, attempting to throw in a small cough, which worked to a certain extent, but led to a coughing spell that left him wheezing. "Can you get me my laptop?" he smiled at her weakly. She looked a bit dubious. "I'm bored," he whined.
Mrs Hudson seemed to give in a bit, because she eyed him suspiciously, but still asked him "And where is it, dearie?"
Sherlock frowned. That was an excellent question.
"It's either in John's room or my room."
She crossed her arms, looking rather frightening for someone so small.
"I could go look myself..." he ventured.
Mrs Hudson fixed one of those piercing gazes on him. If he didn't know better, Sherlock would have suspected that's what killed her husband.
"Or not..." he muttered, more to himself than Mrs Hudson, who had begun to head towards the stairs. So he just sat there on the couch, waiting, pondering whether he'd have enough time and energy to go to the kitchen and rescue an experiment.
Not likely, he decided, which was a good thing, because as soon as he determined that, Mrs Hudson was back at the bottom of the stairs, remarkably sneaky for someone of her years. She was indeed holding Sherlock's laptop. If she wondered why it was in John's room, she wasn't saying. But her eyes twinkled.
"Thank you," he said quietly as she handed him the laptop. Mrs Hudson smiled.
"Of course dear. Would you like a cuppa?"
Sherlock nodded, wondering when his laptop had gotten so heavy. Perhaps it would crush him. The weight of the internet and the collective knowledge and stupidity it contained. He could very well drown in it if he didn't drown here on the couch first.
And while he planned to publish a blog post, his body seemed to have other plans, and fell, fell, fell, asleep.
John was absolutely thrilled with himself for not falling asleep in the shower. And it did make him feel a bit better, even if not more awake. Perhaps Sherlock would sleep, and he could rest too.
So he found it hilarious, perhaps too much so, lack of sleep can do that, that Sherlock was already passed out on the couch when he walked back into the living room, laptop sitting on his chest, open to his blog.
John carefully removed it from atop Sherlock and placed it on the table next to the hot cuppa Mrs Hudson had just made.
Except this cup wasn't made for Sherlock, it had milk in it. But Mrs Hudson knew how Sherlock took his - oh. It was for him. He plodded into the kitchen where she was cleaning again and gave her a hug, startling her a bit.
"Doctor Watson!" she exclaimed, swatting him playfully on the head. "Don't sneak up on me like that."
John blushed. "Thank you for the cuppa. And watching Sherlock. And I assume, retrieving his laptop."
She only nodded knowingly and headed for the door.
"I'll leave you alone now. If you do need me, I'll be downstairs or next door."
She paused at the door, then glanced between Sherlock and John and winked before leaving.
John was too tired to even protest, instead, just plopped down in his chair and fell asleep.