Title: Longer Ways to Go, part 4
Rating: PG-13 for some language. And to be safe.
Summary: After the standoff at the pool, and with some help from Mycroft, Sherlock's determined to disappear from England with John in tow, and work to bring down Moriarty's entire operation in secret.
Characters: John, Sherlock, not-Anthea.
Disclaimer: All the cool things like characters and references and anything resembling coherent thinking belongs to ACD and the BBC/Moff/Gat. All medical mistakes, and other mistakes, of which I am sure there are several, I claim as mine.
Spoilers: The Great Game
A/N: Takes off from the end of ep. 3, The Great Game, so yeah...some SPOILERific stuff. This is getting a bit out of hand, you think? I struggled mightily with this part though, so hopefully it stands up to scrutiny. Maybe stuff will start to happen in the next part! These boys just like malingering, apparently. Feedback is love, and if there's a mistake that's really obvious/annoying/detrimental/etc. please don't hesitate to let me know and I will attempt to fix it.
Every day for a week, John rises just as the sun begins to hoist itself over the horizon. With gradually lengthening strides, he paces around the semi-detached Zürich house until his strength fails him.
From his room on the second floor, he traverses the hallway to the staircase descending charily from step to step. Once his feet touch the level hardwood of the ground floor, he goes a circuit through the rooms, supporting himself against neutral coloured walls, and hanging off doorframes. All the while, he monitors each breath. Carefully measuring every inhalation and exhalation he makes his way through the sitting room, the dining room, and the kitchen. The only room he avoids lies off the main hallway. Unlike the rest of the house, it’s dim and cloistered, and naturally, Sherlock immediately claimed it as an office. Already, the walls are plastered with maps, photographs, concentrated masses of text, and innumerable scribblings in Sherlock’s messy hand. John slows, and peers through the doorway curiously each time he passes, but he never enters, feeling dimly like it would be an invasion of privacy – perhaps because Sherlock’s not invited him. But then he’s never needed an invitation before. Something’s shifted though, John feels. Since their arrival Sherlock’s managed to be more secretive than usual. Admittedly, he’s always been distant, and noncommunicative on a fairly regular basis, but usually John’s been able to prise enough information out of him to at least be of help as a sounding board. Sherlock’s keeping secrets this time, despite his typically irrepressible desire to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen exactly what’s passing through that massive head of his. John distinctly recalls telling him that he didn’t want to be protected, yet he can’t but conclude that Sherlock’s newly awakened recalcitrance toward him is an attempt to do so, regardless. As if he wouldn’t notice (at least eventually).
Sherlock has noticed John’s routine though, and the fifth time he wanders by in a single morning, he feels it necessary to intervene. The meticulous breaths frequently interspersed with coughing that herald the presence of his friend’s infuriatingly timid silhouette in the door grate on his nerves, and he none too politely suggests that it might be best if John simply stay in bed.
John, who was unaware Sherlock had felt his scrutiny, is rather taken aback.
“I’ll be damned if I get pneumonia on top of everything else,” he replies gruffly, but he quickly moves on. He doesn’t pass by again.
However irritating his movements might be, they seem to have the desired effect: John doesn’t develop pneumonia. He does, however, develop another infection thanks to the still present chest tube, and he’s flat on his back forthwith. Not-Anthea-not-Aphrodite-not-Dorothy advocates passionately for the decision to return to hospital, but John is adamant he can treat himself. He says the necessary antibiotics were provided in abundance as a parting gift from Kilkenny in a flash of fatalistic foresight, and anything he needs help with, he can coach either her or Sherlock through. Sherlock doesn’t think this proposition fully sound, but relents on the condition that if John’s health further deteriorates in any significant way there will be no debate about checking him in.
“It’s your own fault, you know,” he says that evening, when he brings John some weak tea in bed. “Pushing yourself too hard. I have no sympathy.”
“Thank you,” John replies. “And thank you for the tea, though I don’t know how you managed it.”
“Oh, that was The Missus,” he says, acknowledging the efforts of Mycroft’s ex-PA with the title he bestowed upon her in early days. Unlike John, he’s not bothered to even ask her name. She’s merely a physical reminder of the leash Mycroft has them on – a fact which John finds comforting, but which Sherlock views as suffocating. As a result, relations between Sherlock and the PA have steadily and mutually degenerated.
Acting as liaison has thus far, turned out to be a job somewhat lacking in intrigue. Updates are sent direct to Mycroft only in the event of some significant occurrence. Since they’ve arrived the largest of these has been the sudden disappearance of the communal toothpaste, which was later discovered half empty in Sherlock’s dubious care, and subsequently not worth a mention. In her now ample spare time, and for lack of any particularly interesting exploits, she’s taken charge of everything from meal preparation to yard work. Sherlock refuses to provide any easy outlet for her mounting boredom, making every effort to check her offers of help before she can formulate them. John’s no better, stubbornly resisting her proffered arm on his morning rambles through the house. She’s since begun diverting herself in town and has shown hints of quite a refined appreciation for wines and spirits, recently bringing home several bottles of claret to line the cellar, all courtesy of the British government.
“Well, thank you anyway,” John mutters again, lowering himself back onto the pillows and closing his eyes.
Sherlock removes the cup from John’s boneless fingers, and clears the tray to the floor. He sits absolutely still on the edge of the mattress, torso twisted halfway round to face John head on. There is a short silence.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“For God’s sake, I’m fine,” John says with little force.
Sherlock’s less certain of that. He rests the back of his hand on John’s forehead.
“Your temperature’s up. Just over ninety-nine degrees, I’d say.”
“S’okay,” John insists. “Get me some paracetamol and let me sleep for a bit.”
“Would it not be best to go to hospital at this point?” he says, getting to his feet and pulling the blankets down.
John opens his eyes, and glares at his flatmate.
“Look at you,” he says. “All uncertain. It’s rather sweet, actually.”
“Sherlock, let us have a bit of a kip, and it’ll sort itself out.”
He reaches for the covers, replacing them over him as if to close the discussion.
Hours later Sherlock hits an impasse while buried beneath the oceans of paper in his study. He’d prefer to carry on without involving John, since he’s learned just how successfully that’s worked out. His head’s too full to seriously entertain the notion of sleep, but he’s lost for an outlet. With his violin currently incommunicado, and his skull no longer an option either, Sherlock grudgingly returns to John’s room late that night to break the silence and talk through his working theory on the operating practices of Moriarty’s organisation. Prepared to give, this once. To his distress, he’s met by troubled murmurings and sweat soaked sheets. Out of his depth once again (a state that’s becoming alarmingly frequent) he shouts up the stairs to the PA, asleep in her room on the third floor.
Awake in an instant, her hurried steps race down to join him. From the urgency in his voice she’s prepared for kamikaze warriors, or rampaging lions, or comically bungling thieves at the very least. What she doesn’t expect is a dishevelled consulting detective, with wide, dark eyes standing ramrod straight at the base of the stairs. She stops short in surprise.
“Well?” he demands, when she fails to follow the line of his arm flung out in the direction of the doctor’s bedroom.
“Go in there and do something!”
“What on Earth –” she says. Without doubt, sleep has slowed her ability to comprehend, but she’s fairly certain the man isn’t making any sense.
“He’s running a fever,” Sherlock explains, as if to an exceedingly dim child. “Much higher than before.”
“Well what am I supposed to do about it?”
“I don’t know! You’re a woman! You’re supposed to know these things!” He’s positively irate now, gesturing wildly and shouting in her face.
“Oh, is that so?” she asks, insulted regardless of the underlying seriousness of the situation.
“Yes, that is so,” Sherlock replies, reigning in his volume and substituting it for a controlled yet biting imitation of her voice before adopting his own threatening tones again. “Now fix this, while I go call the hospital!”
He turns and sprints down the stairs to grab his phone from the study, leaving her dizzy in the wake of this wild exchange. She tamps down a surge of irritation at the realisation that she does in fact know the basics of lowering a fever. She wishes for a moment that she didn’t, if only to antagonise Sherlock, but that would be childish and really he’s been thrown enough already. Not to mention he is her employer (sort of), and John, who’s innocent in all this, would be the one to suffer. All very good reasons for her to put her head down and get to work. Still, she’s very tempted.
In the bathroom, she retrieves a clean cloth and runs some cool water first into a glass, and then into a shallow bowl. The bottle of paracetamol is perched precariously on the ledge of the mirror where Sherlock discarded it earlier. She grabs it too, and juggling the supplies in her arms, marches back across the hall to John’s room.
She turns the lights on, but keeps them dim enough so that she can just see the outline of the furniture she’s doing her best not to collide with. Her toe connects with the base of the bedside table she’s cleared to put the bowl, glass, and medication on anyway and she curses roundly. She sits and dampens the cloth in the bowl. John squints in the light, voicing a faint protest.
“Hush,” she whispers.
She pulls the cloth over his face and along the base of his neck, and wonders when her career as a governmental aid became interchangeable with that of Florence Nightengale.
Soothing the fevered brows of broken soldiers, indeed.
She continues her ministrations, slowly bringing John round to some semblance of consciousness.
“Hey,” she says when at last the flood of indecipherable words slows. He draws in a shuddering breath, coughing weakly.
He looks blearily up at her and his expression folds itself into one of complete confusion.
“Sarah?” he asks, tangling a hand awkwardly in her dark locks.
“Sorry John,” she says, responding more tenderly than she ever has before. “Not even close.”
She separates his hand from her hair, and sets it back at his side.
“Oh,” he says. His disappointment is evident even in the midst of his exhaustion. “Sorry.”
“Not to worry. Sherlock’s called the hospital.”
“Oh,” he says again. “I’ll pick up more jam tomorrow, then.”
“Nothing John. Can you sit up for a minute?” she asks, but she’s levering him upright before he can answer.
The change in altitude seems to aid in dragging him further into wakefulness, and he’s soon aware enough to prop himself up as she dumps a couple pills into her hand.
“Swallow these,” she says, handing him the tablets, then the glass of water in succession.
“Thanks,” he says. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I was making much sense a moment ago.”
“Not really, no.”
He slides down the headboard, and is just dropping off again when he mumbles a sheepish, “Maybe we should go to the hospital.”
John’s greatly dismayed when he wakes up yet again to sterile walls and diffused lighting, but this time with hospital food and regulated visiting hours.
“Do you think we might stop doing this, please?” he asks, when Sherlock steps in the next afternoon.
“You know, that sounds like the best idea I’ve heard in days. Not surprisingly,” he replies, in remarkably good humour. “But for now, I’d be grateful if you did your best to recover yourself as quickly as possible. You can’t imagine what it’s been like living alone with Her.”
“The Missus, obviously.”
“Sherlock, it’s been a day!”
“Has it? How tedious.”
John snorts, tucked, as he is, in bed, and Sherlock reluctantly allows an amused smirk to stretch across his face.
“Hurry up and get well, John. The house is empty without you."
A week later when John signs himself out of the hospital for the second time in as many weeks, he sees his new alias for the first time.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding me.”
Link to Part 5