A Gut-Wrenching Experience
Well… I was stuck on the two or three more serious stories (at least one, maybe two reunion fics, as well as a serious bit of psychodrama involving John trying to help Sherlock develop some insight into his dreadful behaviour) that I was working on, so I decided it was time for something easy. How about a medical story, aka Sick Fic?
Summary: John struggles with an illness that is at first routine but miserable and then becomes downright dangerous…. And might it be Sherlock's fault that he is ill in the first place? Read and find out… Not meant to be slash, just once-in-a-lifetime friends, but feel free to read it however you like.
Warnings: none except for medical gobbledegook and graphic descriptions of physical misery. My apologies if the medical stuff gets too graphic but I live/eat/breathe this stuff in real life so it's not always easy to know where to draw the line. My medical/hospital knowledge is all US-based, so I also apologise for any Americanisms that creep into that area.
Disclaimers: I don't own the boys or their friends. We're all just having fun here, and spreading the love. I do own the plot, on a very personal level, as some of John's illness (though only some of it, thank goodness) is based on my own recent experiences.
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Part One: Very Domestic and Capable
"John, I'm back finally." Sherlock looked at the time on his phone as he entered the flat. The trip down to NSY had taken longer than he had expected, thanks to unusual traffic patterns and a particularly dense cab driver. The ride back had been tedious in the extreme, with no John to discuss the completed case with or to make admiring (or annoyed) comments about his thought processes.
Entering the flat, he didn't see John immediately. That in itself was unusual, as John was overall a sociable fellow who liked to spend time in the sitting room and kitchen – even in a companionable silence – rather than his own bedroom, unless he was actually sound asleep. But as he walked around and hung up his coat and scarf, he could see that the bathroom door was closed. His flatmate was indeed at home and was probably getting ready to take an after-work shower.
Sherlock, craving tea to offset the chill of the wet and blustery weather outside, put the kettle on to heat. He hesitated before the mugs, then decided to get out the actual teapot. John will most likely want some tea as well, and it's not as if it is any more trouble to make a full pot.
Just as the kettle began to whistle and just as he was pouring the resultant merrily boiling water over the tea into the waiting teapot, he saw John out of the corner of his eye, emerging from the bathroom. As he finished pouring and put the kettle back into its base, he turned to look at his friend.
John didn't look as if he'd just come home from his erratic hours as a locum tenens at the surgery. In fact, clad as he was in pyjamas and robe, he looked as if he'd just crawled out from under the blankets of his bed. Sherlock looked more closely, and saw the pasty complexion and the beads of sweat on his forehead. Against his will, his sensitive nose also noted the unpleasant and pungent aromas coming from the recently vacated bathroom.
"H'lo, Sherlock. Bit indisposed." Was that a shudder passing through John's sturdy, compact frame? "Think I'll head back to bed." He was actually leaning on the wall in the corridor, looking extremely shaky.
"You worked today?"
John grimaced. "In a manner of speaking. Came home early. No point in seeing patients if the doctor is sicker than they are."
"I've got tea brewing," Sherlock said. "You could sit down and have some, before you go back to bed."
He could see John appearing to consider the option, then his friend nodded. "That's probably a good idea. I need fluids, and I'm cold."
Sherlock watched closely as John made his unsteady way into the kitchen and sat down. He didn't need a thermometer to tell that his friend undoubtedly had a roaring fever; the fact was evident both in his appearance and in the waves of heat coming off of the man. On the other hand, while he looked miserable, he didn't appear to be dehydrated or especially shaky. Once John was seated, Sherlock poured him a cup of tea, added milk, and placed it within reach.
"Thanks." John sipped at the scalding liquid. "Must have picked up a bit of a virus from the patients. In fact, I can visualize one little kid in particular who probably gave me this." He sighed. "Tea is just what I needed."
"Fever, sweats, diarrhoea… vomiting?"
John sighed again. "Never any hiding anything from you, is there? No, no vomiting, but no appetite either. I slept for a couple of hours after I came home, but still work up feeling pretty awful." He swirled the cup of tea. "This has only been lasting about 24 to 48 hours in the kids. Hopefully at my age I'll be over it even faster."
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John made his way back upstairs soon after that, and Sherlock settled in with a book while he thought half-heartedly about dinner. It felt strange to have John incapacitated after the conclusion of a case; usually after a case of any size they would both be in a celebratory mood and perhaps heading out to one of London's many ethnic restaurants. They'd order something new and tasty and analyze both their successes and those aspects of their work that could use improvement.
It was clear that John was in no shape to go anywhere, yet Sherlock was hungry after his usual erratic intake of food during an active case. And despite John's illness, perhaps a spot of dinner would set him up and help him feel better. Feeling suddenly decisive, he walked upstairs and knocked on his flatmate's closed door.
There was a sort of answering moan. Sherlock opened the door and peered inside. He could just barely see John in the dim light, curled up on his side in bed. The room was warm and stuffy and the air none too fresh; he wrinkled his nose involuntarily.
"John, I'm going to order some takeaway. Are you at all hungry?" He added, "Does this kind of illness require any specific kind of food?"
John's head emerged from the cocoon of blankets. "Ugh. Um, yes, a little bit hungry." He appeared to think for a moment. "Something light, I guess. Asian? Soup or rice, maybe a bit of fish? Not very much, though." He tightened his arms over his belly. "I tried having a bit of toast right when I came home, and it went right through me.'
"I was thinking about Chinese anyway. I'll get you some soup and plain rice."
"Thanks," answered John hoarsely. "Um… Sherlock, the blanket over there… do you think you could hand it to me?"
There was a spare blanket folded up and resting on top of John's dresser. Sherlock fetched it and, ignoring John's original instructions, spread it carefully over the portion of the bed than contained John. He noticed as he did so that John's teeth were chattering, and he shook his head.
"I'll bring your food up here when it comes," he said, and frowned with faint worry when an un-protesting John merely burrowed further into the bed and made no response.
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The food arrived about 45 minutes later; during that time, Sherlock observed that John made two more shaky trips down the stairs to disappear into the bathroom for prolonged periods. The second trip was carried out in some haste, he noticed; John was clearly a man with a mission on his mind. He looked white and miserable when he emerged to drag himself slowly up the stairs to his room.
Lacking a proper bed tray, Sherlock was about to go downstairs to plunder Mrs. Hudson's kitchen when he remember the baking sheet that John had used earlier in the week for … something, Sherlock couldn't remember what. He grabbed it from the cupboard, lined it with a tea towel, added the takeout containers of rice and won ton soup and a spoon, and felt very domestic and capable as he carried it carefully up the stairs to his friend's room.
He kneed the door open in lieu of knocking, and was gratified to see John sitting up in bed with a bedside lamp turned on.
"That smells wonderful," admitted John. "I'm suddenly starving."
Sherlock set the makeshift tray down on the bed, carefully. "Good. You're the doctor, but I would hazard a guess that your hunger means that you are already getting better."
"I hope you're right," John agreed fervently, and picked up the spoon to tackle his soup. Sherlock watched him take a few bites, then nodded to himself.
"I'll be back in a while to check on you."
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Downstairs, he ate his solitary meal of General Tso's Chicken, rice, and eggrolls, and sipped more tea. When he at last went back upstairs to collect the tray, he was pleased to see that John was sound asleep and that every bit of soup and rice had been consumed. He picked up the tray and its contents and made his way back downstairs as silently as possible, obscurely proud of his amateur nursing efforts.
He returned to reading on the couch. John slept for about an hour, then Sherlock heard the upstairs bedroom door open and the already-familiar sound of his friend half-walking, half-sliding down the stairs to get to the bathroom as quickly as possible. Again, he disappeared into the bathroom for a long time.
This cycle repeated itself several more times. Each time, the interval that John spent in bed was shorter, while the interval he spent in the bathroom was longer. Sherlock finally gave up on his book and got out his violin; John clearly wasn't sleeping anyway and some music to cover up the distressing sounds from down the hall was rapidly becoming a priority.
He kept an eye out for John, though, and put the violin down once he saw his friend's white and pinched face emerging from the bathroom.
"John, come here for a moment."
"I'm dying, Sherlock. Whatever it is, it can wait."
Sherlock stood up, and crossed the distance between them in a few seconds. "You're not dying. But you need to come sit down out here for a moment." He put a hand under John's elbow and propelled him rapidly to the couch, meeting little actual resistance.
"Now. Sit, and drink something. You're going to become dehydrated. What would you like? Water, tea?" He mentally ran through their rather pitiful inventory of potable liquids. Wine and beer were probably not good options.
"Water," John croaked.
He fetched his friend a tall glass of cool water and watched him finish it. "John," he said as the last drops disappeared and John lay down on the couch, "I think you had better sleep downstairs tonight."
John shot him a dirty look. "When a man's sick, he wants his own bed. And privacy, damn it."
"I'm worried that you are going to fall coming down the stairs. It would be safer for you to be closer to the bathroom."
"Sherlock, I appreciate the concern. And you've been a big help so far, much more than I really expected. But…" John scrubbed at his sweating forehead with his wrist. "But this isn't like taking care of some hero in a novel with a glamorous illness. I hurt… I hurt a lot, and my gut is making horrible noises, and I've got terrible gas, and so my bedroom smells worse than any experiment you've ever concocted in the kitchen." He sighed. "My temp is going up and down, and first I'm freezing and then I'm way too hot. I'm pretty sure I was talking in my sleep and snoring both. Believe me, you don't want me down here."
"You aren't strong enough to keep going up and down the stairs. It's a fact."
"I'm going back up." John sat up quickly.
Much too quickly, as it turned out; Sherlock could see the blood leave John's face as his eyes rolled back into his head and he fainted right back onto the couch.
"Somehow," he said conversationally to his friend's unconscious form, "I think I will be winning this argument, John."