"Seriously? What happened…?"
Melissa stirred and opened her eyes a crack. It was early - no later than half-seven, judging by the light coming in the bedroom window. What day was it, anyway...?
It was way too early for a Sunday morning. Greg was on the phone, standing at the end of the bed in his boxers and in all his middle-aged, slack-paunched glory. She smiled to herself sleepily. The big, darling, insecure idiot would have a conniption if she mentioned he was starting to get little love handles. He had no idea how much she cared about him, even though it'd be two years together in December.
"God, is he going to be all right?"
She frowned. Is who going to be all right? Greg looked worried. Really worried. He met her gaze as she sat up and mouthed, what is it?
God, please don't be Matthew.
"It's Sherlock." He cupped the receiver for a moment. "He's in hospital. John says it's his appendix – sorry, John. Having two conversations at once over here." Smoky jumped up on the bed beside him and he stroked her absently as he listened down the line. "So it was… hang on, how could it have been on the wrong side…? Okay, well, I'll take your word on that one. What do you want me to do?"
Melissa, trying not to huff, got out of bed. There was nothing for it. Whatever John wanted Greg to do, he was probably going to need help. Although she admitted that she bore Sherlock no malice – would even reluctantly admit to liking the insufferable bastard – he couldn't even get hospitalised at a civilised hour for everyone.
"When can I go home?"
This childish little performance was the direct result of some clot of a nurse telling Sherlock all about his adverse reaction in recovery. Inwardly, John was furious about it. There was no need to tell anyone they'd been a crying wreck under those conditions, let alone blurting it out to the proudest man in Britain.
… Maybe the second proudest. The proudest had just gone on another search for coffee and was obviously counting down the minutes for Stephen Hassell to get onto Lord Winbourne about an investigative rampage in the A&E department.
"Sherlock, you asked me the same thing sixteen minutes ago." John glanced at his watch and pulled Sherlock's blanket up; he was still having noticeable fits of shivering. "And also seven minutes before that. You can go home when you're well enough to go home."
And that was certainly not going to be for a while. Sherlock had by this time regained his mental capacities and his composure, and been moved from the recovery unit to a private room. But he was white-faced and weak, and obviously having a lot more pain than he was prepared to admit to. John, glancing him up and down, wondered whether the hospital gown was making him look more fragile than he was, or whether he'd lost weight again without him noticing.
Might ask his doctor how he stacks up against the BMI.
"That isn't a proper answer," Sherlock complained hoarsely. "Whose idea of 'well enough' are we using?"
Trust Sherlock to slur grammatically.
John glanced up at the whiteboard that hung above Sherlock's bed. "Dr. Grantham's, it seems," he read out. "You need to have a normal body temperature for a start, and…" He got up briefly from his chair by Sherlock's bedside and plucked his patient chart from the bottom of his bed. "Your last reading was an hour ago. It was 38.7 then. You have a serious infection."
"Hardly my fault..." he protested weakly.
"I don't care whose fault it is, you won't be sent home with a temperature that high… hey. Leave that alone."
Sherlock had feverishly started picking at the IV taped to the back of his left hand.
"Yeah, you've probably got a mild allergy to the tape." John said distractedly, still running over the particulars on Sherlock's chart. "I'll get them to use a material-based one next go. Anyway. You need to finish that course of IV antibiotics and kick down that infection. Your digestive system needs to be back up and running normally. You also need to be cleared of any possible complications, have manageable pain levels, and take yourself to the bathroom and back with minimal risk of passing out and cracking your head open on anything. In the land of miracles, it'll be two or three days. Realistically, it'll be a week."
John decided not to tell him how long it would be before he'd be off jumping off buildings and chasing down buses again. That bad news could wait, and so could the discussion about exactly where Sherlock was going to spend his convalescence. Baker Street was out of the question. Sherlock couldn't be trusted five minutes on his own in the flat; he'd die of boredom, if some crazy experiment didn't kill him first. And Mrs Hudson wasn't going to be up and down the flat stairs all day nursing him.
"Sherlock, come on," he said gently. "You know you're not well enough to go home."
Sherlock, lying limp against his pillows, took a shallow breath. "The... the case..."
"Yeah, the case can wait. Your health is more important. Edwin Bartlett will still be dead while you recover."
"I hate hospitals."
"No, you hate being a patient at hospitals." John was looking at his chart again. "Everybody does."
"Well... I hate it more than everyone else. Water."
"'Please' wouldn't go astray," John reminded him. "And you can't, sorry. You're on nil-by-mouth until tomorrow. You can have ice… Sherlock, listen." He stood up. "I don't know how much of this patient chart will mean anything to you, but I understand it, and it's serious. You could have died. And you could have died because you didn't ask for help when you should have... and I'd appreciate it if you looked at me while I'm talking to you, Sherlock."
Sherlock sighed and looked up at him.
"You must have been in agony all day before things finally erupted like that," John said. "It was only after you lied to me about being in pain and nearly dropped Charlie - "
John blinked. Sherlock had slurred his apology about nearly dropping Charlie while they'd been on the way to the clinic. Since he'd never mentioned it again, John had assumed he couldn't remember apologising at all.
"Did it ever occur to you that we were really worried about you at that moment?" he asked. "And Sherlock, if I had any idea the amount of pain you were in, I'd have raised hell to get you a hospital bed. If you'd spoken up earlier, you'd be here overnight and back at work in a week, so forgive me for not being more sympathetic. You scared the hell out of me. Never do that again."
Sherlock was silent for a few seconds, as if contemplating the merits of mentioning a serious illness to a doctor, versus allowing it to nearly kill him. "Okay," he said at last.
"I'll hold you to that... hey, the morphine pump's right here..." Sherlock had just winced dramatically. John took his wrist and guided his hand over to the nearby PCP.
"Why'sit still hurt so much?" Sherlock switched the pump to maximum flow and exhaled carefully.
"Because you've got a deep, direct incision in your abdomen, that's why," John said. "They don't do neat keyhole surgery when you're in the middle of dying and they don't know what's wrong with you yet. Again, if you'd said something..."
"Yes, I understand..." Sherlock's gaze shifted to a spot behind John's shoulder. "What're you doing here?"
John didn't need to turn around to work out that Greg had just appeared in the doorway. He had a weighted laptop bag over one shoulder and seemed upbeat, despite the early hour.
"Just back from picking up your landlady from the station. You're welcome," he said, coming over to the bed. "I take it from your cheerful, friendly tone that you don't really want this stuff I picked up from the flat?" He put them on a nearby chair, then passed the phone to Sherlock, who grasped at it like a greedy child.
Lestrade glanced at John. "You look awful," he said, but it was unclear which man he was speaking to.
"How's Mrs. Hudson?" John asked, wondering if Sherlock had gone right back to researching the Bartlett case again, or trying to. He was still clumsy with the anaesthetic, and now with a dose of morphine in his system, it was clear from his unfocused pupils that he couldn't really see his phone screen properly.
"She's fine," Lestrade said. "Bit tired from her trip and worried about everyone's favourite consulting detective, but you know what she's like. Wasn't all that impressed to find Sherlock's stomach contents all over the upstairs bathroom, but I didn't offer to help her clean it up. She'll be in to see you this afternoon, Sherlock, if you're feeling up to it. She sends her love."
"I don't want Mrs. Hudson's love," Sherlock retorted, giving up and putting the phone down on the mattress. "I want to go home..."
"Oh, God, so do I," John said wearily into his hand.
"You go, then," Lestrade said. "I've got nowhere else to be right now. My day off, and Mel's over with Mrs. Hudson."
John looked at him, torn between inclination and duty. "He'll drive you up the wall, Greg…"
"Yeah, well." Lestrade shrugged. "I did cope with him for five years before you'd ever heard of him, John. And Mycroft coped with him before that – and don't tell me he's not around, 'cause I caught him having a smoke outside when I was on my way in. We'll be fine. I'll call you if you're needed."
"No, you won't."
"Okay, how can I put this better?" Lestrade folded his arms. "Go home before I arrest you."
"… On what charges?"
"… On charges of resisting an order from a senior police officer. Go home."
The house was quiet and still when John slipped in the front door just over half an hour later. Not quite believing his luck that he hadn't walked in on another one of Charlie's operatic performances, he fed the cats their breakfast and then ducked over to the fridge for his own, making himself a slapdash sandwich and a cup of tea and savouring the silence for a few minutes.
Fast asleep. The snuffles over the baby monitor in the living room were a dead giveaway.
"Hey, get down," he muttered as Toby jumped up on the counter beside him. He hoisted the disgruntled tabby onto the floor again. "You know you're not allowed up there. Been holding up the fort without me, then, you useless lump of a cat?"
Toby slid up against his legs, and John caught a gentle hold of his tail for a second, just to annoy him. Casper he liked, but Toby was… Toby. He was special, no matter how much John addressed him as "useless lump" or "bloody cat." Like Molly, he'd refused to allow John to push him away after… all that had happened.
After rinsing his breakfast dishes and leaving them to drip-dry on the sink, John went upstairs. He opened the nursery door, pausing for a second before going softly over to the cradle. Charlie lay asleep on the mattress, dressed in a little white pinafore, her arms flung above her head. Having a chance to look at her in repose, he saw for the first time that she was losing that scrawny newborn look; she was all chubby cheeks and dimpled elbows and knees. Blonde hair that had started to grow rampant. And she may well have been able to scream at the decibel level of an Airbus, John reflected, but then, she had healthy lungs, and they should be grateful for that.
Well, they could be grateful for that while she was sleeping.
She also, much to her father's amusement, 'talked in her sleep.' John smiled at the little murmurings that were so much like Molly's nocturnal conversations with herself, then left the nursery door open a crack and crept into the bedroom. Molly was curled up in bed, also fast asleep, even though it was now past ten-thirty. He quietly shed his jeans and slipped into the bed beside her, and she stirred.
"Everything okay?" she murmured.
He moved her soft hair aside to kiss her neck. "Appendicitis," he said. "He's fine.. or he will be. We'll talk about it later. How was Charlie?"
"Fell asleep all right," she said. "She'll be up again soon, though."
"Back to sleep, then… it's okay, I'm not going to bother you for sex." He slipped one arm around her waist and kissed her shoulder. There was silence for half a minute. He assumed she'd fallen asleep again, and was on the verge of sleep himself, when she spoke up softly.
"Do you think, maybe later, you could… bother me…?"
He smiled to himself, drawing her closer and kissing her shoulder again. "I don't think that will be a problem."