A/N: Done for the Sickfic Challenge over at the Mrs Hudson's Kitchen forum:
Challenge: Write a sick!fic of 500 or more words in which Lestrade falls ill/ is injured, but hides his woes from Sherlock and company. Suggestion, Lestrade thinks no one will care as his self-esteem is low since his wife left (again).
Ever wondered why Lestrade was mysteriously absent during The Blind Banker? Me too. Here's what happened afterwards.
Lestrade twitched violently out of sleep. For a few seconds he blinked in confusion, wondering where the hell he was. The realisation came to him in one fell swoop: he was at the Blue Lantern Hotel because Julie had thrown him out three days ago; he felt like shit, and he'd woken because someone was banging loudly on the door. He sat up awkwardly. Couldn't be staff, unless the building was on fire. He couldn't remember his own date of birth at that moment, but he distinctly remembered that he'd put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door before collapsing into bed to sleep out the rabid flu he'd managed to catch from somewhere.
The knocking wasn't going away – it was loud, rapid and impatient, and going straight through his pounding head. He winced and dragged himself to his feet, pausing to stretch out his aching legs before shuffling over to the door and sliding it open, chain attached.
Shit. Should have expected this.
There was no way Sherlock was going to leave, so the only option was to let him in. Coughing into one fist, Lestrade opened the door without speaking and Sherlock strode past him sulkily.
In a strop again. I knew he'd hate Dimmock.
"Lestrade, if you're going to use a marital tiff as an excuse to call into work when there's an important case on, don't ever leave that idiot Dimmock in charge again. I despise him." Sherlock barged into the little room, heading straight for the kitchenette as if he owned the place.
"Not my fault. I don't pick my replacements," Lestrade said hoarsely, coughing into his hand again. "How'd you find me?"
"Oh, don't insult me. Julie's thrown you out again, and you'd obviously choose a modestly priced but not dingy hotel located approximately halfway between your children and your workplace. Child's play."
Lestrade sighed in resignation, then coughed again. That dry hack was driving him crazy. "Yeah, um. Anyway, as interesting as the case was, no doubt, not a good time for it right now," he said.
Sherlock was purposefully making instant coffee – for himself, since it would never have crossed his mind that he should offer any to Lestrade. At this he looked up, spoon suspended in mid air as his gaze darted over Lestrade from head to toe for a few silent seconds.
"You're ill," he remarked.
"I feel like shit, Sherlock." Lestrade went over to the small desk bolted to the wall where he'd placed a box of tissues. The box was looking perilously close to empty.
Sherlock glanced over to the unmade bed and then back to Lestrade, who was trying not to blow his nose – that had been a bad idea the night before, and had started an hour-long nosebleed he'd nearly gone to the A & E for. Taking the last handful of tissues in the box, he shuffled back over to the bed, sitting down unsteadily and rubbing the back of his head with his palm.
"Have you… consulted a doctor…?" Sherlock asked him awkwardly. He shook his head.
"No need. It's just the flu," he said, voice now muffled by the tissues.
Lestrade gave him a withering look. "It's flu, Sherlock. If you start suggesting I've got some horrible deadly disease you read about in a journal somewhere –"
He was cut off abruptly when Sherlock, who had crossed the room to him while he'd been speaking, put one cool, thin-fingered hand on his forehead.
"You didn't mention the raging temperature you have," he said disapprovingly.
"Yeah, that's just flu, too." Lestrade gently slapped his hand away. "I'll be fine once I have a hot shower and sleep it off. Take the hint." He rose, a little painfully, and made his way over to the bathroom.
"I'll wait," Sherlock said grimly, folding his arms.
"That'd be right."
Lestrade slammed the bathroom door after himself and threw off his track pants and t-shirt as quickly as possible under the frigid fluorescent light. The water was a little reluctant to run at a reasonable temperature, and it was a few bone-chilling moments before he was able to step under the hot shower spray. Tilting his head back under it, he reeled, lost his balance and staggered a little, grabbing at the soap shelf to steady himself and grateful when it didn't collapse under his weight and crash onto the tiles at his feet.
Shit. I'm a lot dizzier than I was last night.
He slid down onto the tiles, aching head still firmly under the flow of hot water. Yes, he was doing this. He was having a shower… sitting down. And his Man Card was going to be revoked forever if a soul ever knew about it. He wondered dully if Sherlock would be able to deduce it when he finally had to emerge from the bathroom and face the annoying git again. Sherlock was muttering away in a baritone out there, probably on the phone to somebody.
As the minutes went on, Lestrade forgot that the main point of a shower was to get clean; the hot water was lulling him to sleep. He shut his eyes and let himself haze out for a while, only startling back on full alert when hot water filled his nostrils and slid up to the back of his throat. He coughed it out, blew his nose into his hand (again hoping Sherlock wouldn't deduce that one) and reached up to turn the tap off.
It was only when he clambered unsteadily to his feet and grabbed the nearest clean towel that he realised he'd forgotten to bring clean clothes into the bathroom with him. And there was no way, he reflected, that he was wandering out in a towel while He Who Had No Social Skills was out there. The clothes he'd been wearing probably stank of the heavy sweat he'd been in all day – it was hard to tell with his nose all bunged up the way it was. But that was going to have to be Sherlock's problem. Slithering back into his clothes, he dried his hair as best he could with his towel and reluctantly went back out to the room, stumbling back over to the bed. He curled up on it with his back against the wall and his knees to his chest, shivering.
Maybe wetting his hair had been a bad idea.
Sherlock was still in the kitchenette, though Lestrade did his best to ignore him. He was fuzzily trying to work out the most effective (and not necessarily the most tactful) way of saying "go away" to him when Sherlock, who had crossed the room without his noticing, nudged him and put a hot mug in his hand.
"What's this?" he asked, blinking in confusion. His question had just come out in one thick-tongued, incomprehensible slur.
"Soup," Sherlock responded with a straight face. Lestrade realised he'd found the box of instant soup packets he'd bought on the way to checking in, and which he'd thrown in the desk drawer and hadn't bothered with since. "I called John. He said to give it to you. You've clearly not eaten anything in two days."
"Yeah, trying to beat your record," Lestrade mumbled into the cup, taking a sip of what appeared to be hot water with clumps of soup powder floating in it like gravelly icebergs. But it was hot, and it had badly-needed calories. Sherlock had been a little under the mark on how long it had been since he'd had the energy or inclination for anything that wasn't coffee, so he sipped it patiently.
Sherlock didn't know how to make instant soup. Instant soup.
Had he never added a packet of soup powder to hot water in his life before?
"Better?" Sherlock asked hopefully. Lestrade, coughing a little, gave him an encouraging thumbs-up, remembering all those horrible breakfasts of burnt toast and stone-cold eggs that the kids had made him for Father's Day in years gone by. As if taking the hint, Sherlock said nothing for the next few minutes, which if anything was even weirder and more unsettling than when he talked non-stop at high speed for hours on end.
When he'd reached what could fairly be called the bottom of the cup, Lestrade got up to bring it back to the sink. He'd taken two steps when both calves seized up viciously.
"Oh, Christ-" he hissed, dropping the mug as his legs gave way and a grey mist flooded the room. He scrabbled blindly to stop himself falling; bony hands suddenly clutched him roughly under the armpits. He sank down a little against them as Sherlock steered him backwards and back down onto the bed.
"You're dehydrated," Sherlock muttered, plucking the mug off the floor and taking it back to the sink. Lestrade slumped over, forehead on his knees, until Sherlock nudged him to sit up again. He put another cup in his hand, but this one was filled with cold water; then he opened Lestrade's other hand and dropped two white pills into his palm. Lestrade looked at them blankly for a few seconds, trying to keep his trembling hand still.
"What's this?" he slurred.
"Paracetamol." Sherlock sighed heavily. "What did you suppose I'd give you for raging influenza?"
"Dunno. Ringer of cocaine?"
Sherlock's mouth twitched. "No, that's the cure for migraines. Do try to remember these things, Lestrade."
Smiling a little, Lestrade tipped the paracetamol down the hatch and managed to drink most of the glass of water, which Sherlock took back to the sink for him. Then he slumped over onto the bed again, tucking his hands under his armpits.
"John's on his way now," Sherlock commented, pulling the duvet over him.
"Is 'e?" Lestrade mumbled. "Good for 'im."
"He says you should try to sleep if you can."
"I would do, if only you'd shut up."
The answer was profound, instant, almost shocking silence. Sherlock went back to the kitchen and boiled the kettle again, presumably going back to making his own cup of coffee this time. Lestrade, in between violent bursts of that bloody annoying cough that had kept him up for most of the night before, listened to him patter around softly for a few minutes. He was just on the verge of sleep when he heard Sherlock pull the desk chair out gently and sit down.
"Sherlock?" he slurred.
"I thought you were sleeping."
Lestrade pulled the duvet tighter around himself, smiling briefly as he tentatively waded into a restless, feverish sleep.