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Never Do Harm (BBC Sherlock, spoilers for series 3, part 6/6)


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This is spoilery and pretty angsty, with some caretaking and possibly a hint of M/M in coming chapters? I'm still figuring out where I want to go with this.

(It has not been beta'd, so, as always, I apologize for any language butchering!)

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Lean, lithe and lissome, moving with the effortless elegance of a dancer or perhaps a big feline, Sherlock Holmes is a man who seems to treat every room he enters as a theatre stage. A detective, yes, but above all else he is a performer; dramatics come as naturally to him as acute observation and cold reasoning.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that when his self-inflicted lack of sleep and ill-nourishment finally start taking their toll on his immune system and he comes down with that cold I have been warning him about for weeks, he can't just suck it up and suffer in silence as the rest of us mere mortals. Oh no. Not Sherlock Holmes.

"John!"

I lower my cup of coffee, my eyes rolling so far back I half expect to see my frontal lobe, centre in the brain for emotions such as irritation and anger.

"No", I call back, by some miracle keeping my voice calm, "I told you, I'm not giving you any more painkillers. I still have a hippocratic oath to keep."

"'...never do harm to anyone'", Sherlock quotes darkly, as he comes shuffling into view through the kitchen doorway like a gaunt ghost, complete with a white sheet wrapped around his body and lifeless, sunken eyes.

"Do you realize how much harm you are going to cause – most likely already have caused - to a large number of people by refusing me the relief I need to be able to think? That murderer won't catch herself, John."

"Herself?"

"Obviously."

I put down my cup on the table with a decisive bang.

"Look, Sherlock, you're not dying. It's only a cold. Let Lestrade and his merry men at Scotland Yard handle this one. I'm sure they can struggle through a couple of days without your expertise."

"All evidence point to the contrary", he mutters, and wipes his nose with the side of a large, sinewy hand, running half the length of his forearm across his top lip when his hand proves inadequate to mop up the leakage. He sniffles, once, twice, and the sound makes me picture someone drowning in wallpaper paste. Curse my associative mind.

"If you're out of tissues, you can use the paper towels by the sink", I say pointedly, trying not to shudder when he obeys my suggestion, making a big production of blowing his nose in the middle of the kitchen.

Oh, why the hell not? There's a bowl of human tongues in the vegetable box in the fridge, and some kind of intestine swimming in the blender by the stove. A light sprinkle of rhinoviruses won't make much of a difference.

"Uhh, I must have lost half my weight in mucus by now", he groans, leaning his tousled, fever-sweaty head back and breathing heavily through his mouth, his nose completely blocked.

"Yes, thank you, I'm trying to eat my breakfast here?"

"Like you haven't seen worse, doctor."

He presses a fresh paper towel to his now red-tinged nose and drags himself across the floor back into the living-room, flopping down in his favourite armchair like a limp spider, long arms and legs going everywhere.

"I can't recall treating bullet wounds on the battlefield ever being half as stressful as babysitting an ill consulting detective", I say between mouthfuls of bacon and egg. Then my jaw stops moving mid-chew as I notice Sherlock's sheet slipping down his side, for a second revealing the square adhesive bandage fastened to the skin between his lower ribs, before he wraps the white cloth tightly around himself again.

The doctors at Bart's had wanted to keep him for another week, but he had insisted.

I told them I would look after him. I was going to move back in, after all. His live-in P.A. Just like old times.

The sight of his injury has made my skin go cold and I have to force myself to swallow. It doesn't matter that his eyes are closed – even through his mild fever haze, I know he will have noticed my intake of breath and the second of non-chewing silence. I wish he didn't. I'm glad he does. Notice, I mean.

I don't want to think about it.

"It's not just the headache", he says, as though resuming a conversation from earlier, pinching the bridge of his nose tenderly between his thumb and forefinger, his voice growing thicker and breathier as he speaks. "It hurts when I... I-hh..."

Oh.

"Hhh!-IIESCHhh!"

Ow.

He jerks forward, pressing a hand to his abdomen and clenching his teeth, his pale face etched with pain for a few seconds. When he straightens, panting slightly, there are fresh beads of sweat on his brow.

"Bless you", I sigh, finally giving up on my eggs and getting up to join him in the living-room. Sitting down in the deep, well-worn chair facing his: "I'm sorry, but no more pills for another couple of hours. You'll just have to try and..."

He sniffles wetly and presses a knuckle to the side of his nose, his eyes already growing moist and unfocused.

"Hh... huhh -"

"...not sneeze", I finish lamely, and reach a hand out to his shoulder in order to steady him as he is doubled over once more, this time letting out a soft groan at the end of a merciless:

"Huh'ISSCHuh! Uhhh."

"What are you even doing up?" My voice is very low now. "Come on, let's get you back into bed. You can try not to sneeze while being horizontal instead."

Coughing feebly, reluctantly, into a curled fist, he nods and stumbles to his feet without protests which, in itself, is rather alarming.

What was that about treating bullet wounds on the battlefield?

I shake my head as I follow him into his bedroom. I'll have to take a look at that bandage, just in case.

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(TBC, hopefully)

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*groans* VoOs... You can't do this to me. It's not fair. This is so f-ing good. And... I am such a sadist :lol:

These two lines in particular are just perfect.

That murderer won't catch herself, John.”

Herself?”

“Obviously.”

flopping down in his favourite armchair like a limp spider, long arms and legs going everywhere.
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I lower my cup of coffee, my eyes rolling so far back I half expect to see my frontal lobe, centre in the brain for emotions such as irritation and anger.

Cue me snorting a laugh. OH JOHN!!

...wipes his nose with the side of a large, sinewy hand, running half the length of his forearm across his top lip when his hand proves inadequate to mop up the leakage. He sniffles, once, twice, and the sound makes me picture someone drowning in wallpaper paste.

*swoon* I don't know why I find this description of congestion so lovely, but I do. It's perfect.

Uhh, I must have lost half my weight in mucus by now”, he groans, leaning his tousled, fever-sweaty head back and breathing heavily through his mouth, his nose completely blocked.

AUGH I can totally see him ... perfect understated description of someone with a head cold. Love it.

He presses a fresh paper towel to his now red-tinged nose and drags himself across the floor back into the living-room, flopping down in his favourite armchair like a limp spider, long arms and legs going everywhere.

UM perfect line is PERFECT <3 Spider!Sherlock is such a brilliant image.

VoOs, you're a Sherlock-level genius. I adore this and cannot wait to read more!

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OMG!!!! I seriously don't care that I've only watched ep. 1- I HAD to read this... and just...

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing you are! Honestly, it isn't even right! :notworthy:

If I have a VoOs shrine, does that make me seem creepy?? :ninja::blushing:

I'll have to give more coherent feedback later.

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"I lower my cup of coffee, my eyes rolling so far back I half expect to see my frontal lobe, centre in the brain for emotions such as irritation and anger."

Bahahahahahaha! lol.gif My three favorite things: John Watson sass, coffee, and brain jokes!

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So amazing! I adore your use of such visually evocative language, giving us a mental image of the fic. So beautiful. And, I agree with all the previous commenters about the best lines, but I also love the image of his injury hurting more when he sneezes. I really, really hope you continue this. :yes:

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Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging comments, everyone. group.gif As always, I'm just really happy to have someone reading my Sherlock ramblings. blush.png (Oh, and Ouro? I think "*groan*" is probably the best compliment one could get on a fetish fic. Heh. stunned.gif )

Balancing humour and angst is a fine skill, one that I have yet to master. This is what happened instead:

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His bedroom resembles a bomb site. Piles of books, newspapers, scribbled notes, half-empty teacups, pieces of dried-up, shriveled orange peel, three laptops and at least twice as many phones litter the floor around his bed. On his bedside table is an empty tissue box, most of its former content balled-up and tossed under the bed. The bed itself is a chaos of pillows and twisted blankets.

“No bed sheet”, I say before I can stop myself, true to my habit of stating the obvious. I take two steps towards his dresser.

“No need”, he says, and I freeze in my step, not turning around as I hear him pull the sheet off his shoulders and shake it out across the mattress.

Suddenly, my mouth is dry.

It's not like I haven't seen him like this before. Some things are just unavoidable when you share a flat with someone for long enough, especially if that someone happens to be Sherlock Holmes. The only time Sherlock can be bothered complying with social conventions is when he's trying to manipulate someone in order to gain information from them. We're talking about a man who once strolled straight into Buckingham Palace, naked except for a sheet, without as much as batting an eyelid. He's also a man capable of shamelessly faking a relationship for over a month just to break into an office. I've seen him spring out of the bathroom and run to his laptop without even bothering to rinse the shampoo out of his hair - never mind taking time to tie a towel around his waist – simply to follow the digital trail of some vital clue that had dawned on him while he was taking a bath. If I was stupid enough to comment, he'd look at me with impatient disbelief, bath water still trickling down his face.

“You're a doctor for Christ's sake. You've seen naked bodies before. Now this...” and he'd show me a clip of surveillance footage of someone disappearing into thin air, or completely changing appearance between stepping in and out of a taxi, or of an old artifact at the natural history museum suddenly exploding, “...this is something I guarantee you have never seen before.”

With time, most eccentricities become normalities. With time, two people can settle pretty comfortably into each other's everyday lives, as most of the awkward edges get rubbed off. Three years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and grabbed the other end of the sheet to help him make the bed more quickly, not giving his state of undress a second thought.

Now the situation feels too intimate. I'm uncomfortable. Out of place. An intruder. It's been two years and eight months since I used to live in this flat, and the reason I am here now, staying here now, is because of that wound that is causing Sherlock to move more gingerly than he'd normally do, as he finishes making the bed behind me.

I don't turn to look at him until he has climbed under the blankets and I can feel his gaze boring into my neck.

I fully expect him to say something sarcastic about my embarrassment, but he doesn't. He just watches me silently, intently, his peculiarly light eyes a tad glassy but nonetheless alert, no doubt reading my face, my posture, every hair sticking to my clothes as effortlessly as I would read a newspaper page. For some reason, his silence makes me feel even more foolish.

I clear my throat.

“Right. I'll take a look at... that... for you, and then you are going to rest. Doctor's orders.” I nod my head towards the mess on the floor. “No more sleuthing, okay, or I shall have to ask Mrs Hudson to bring you her chicken soup. You remember what happened last time.”

“Vividly”, he confirms, and then gives a small shiver. Whether it's fever chills or simply a reaction to the recollection of Mrs H's curative cuisine is hard to tell.

“Good. Now - “

I lean closer to examine his bandage, but before I can remove it to have a look at the wound he raises a hand, signaling me to wait.

“Hold on, let me juh-just... hh... ”

At first he tries to fight it, scrunching his nose up and sniffling as sharply as his thick congestion will allow, but in the end it is a losing battle. Even before his left hand comes up to catch the impending sneeze, his right one is pressing firmly against his diaphragm in preparation, putting pressure on the damaged muscles in an attempt to ease their burden. One final, urgent intake of breath - “Hehh!” - and then:

Hh'hNKSHh!”

Hissing through his teeth biting down on his lower lip, he leans back against the pillows again, eyes closed and nostrils tensing with another gurgling sniffle.

“You know what the worst part of this is?” he says, his voice an abyss-deep, croaky parody of its usual self.

“The sneeze-induced muscle cramps?”

“Not being able to smell anything. Without a functioning sense of smell, my observational capabilities are down to a mere seventy-five percent. I feel handicapped. Unless I can smell it, I can't be sure.” He opens his eyes and looks at me, and I can feel my stomach drop.

Can't be sure of what?

But he is already gearing up for another sneeze. They seem to come in inseparable twos, like a double punch to his already abused stomach. Any attempts to rub the tickle away seem futile, and soon his head snaps down toward his chest again, his brow creased with a mixture of itchy irritation and pain.

Hih'kSCHuh! Ugh, for the love of god...!”

“Bless you. Next time, try to press your forefinger hard against your upper lip. That usually helps.” I sit down at the edge of the bed and start loosening the bandage. “They teach you that in the army, you know. How to stop a sneeze.”

“Really?” He raises an eyebrow.

“Really. An untimely sneeze while you're sneaking up on the enemy? Could result in a...”

I trail off.

Concentrate on the task at hand, Watson.

The sutures are holding together nicely. There really isn't much to do except clean the stitched-up area and change the bandage, so that's what I do, initiating my army doctor auto-pilot and stubbornly pretending that I'm not hyper-aware of my former (re-established?) flatmate's bare, mole-speckled skin under my fingers as I tend to his wound.

Ballistic trauma.

'Surgery', he had called it. The gun shot that one week earlier had caused him to flatline. For one minute and five seconds he had been... again...

No. Thinking about it still makes me feel nauseous, like there's suddenly a black hole where my stomach should be.

Sometimes I wonder if he's trying to protect me by protecting her. Justifying her actions, in that backward way of his. Everything is backwards now. I keep it all at bay because the alternative is to fall apart, and we don't have time for that kind of nonsense. That's not how we do things.

We. And who are 'we'? Until a month ago, I thought I knew.

“There”, I say, putting the last piece of bandage tape in place and rising from the bed. “Do you need anything else? I can make tea.”

“I know deduction isn't your strong suit, John, but I'd never dream it was this bad. Do I need anything else?” His voice has grown so stuffy his words are now barely recognizable as English, and he's sniffling with every other breath. Still, there is a hint of a smile in his eyes as he peers up at me from his nest of blankets.

“More tissues. Right.”

Opening the door that connects his bedroom to the bathroom, I hear him gasp for breath behind me, pause for a second, and then let loose two quick, harsh-sounding sneezes, almost back-to-back.

Hih'ESCH!-e'kSCHuh!!”

Another pause.

“Well, that didn't work at all. And now I could really use those tissues.”

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(TBC...)

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Oh God yes. Especially the last 2 sneezes; they sound so desperate. And the entire mental dialogue of John's . . . . .

I am in love with this story.

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I just adore that this is narrated in John's POV. That makes it so ridiculously perfect. VoOs, this is extremely dark and lovely and painful, and I am enjoying every word of it. And hah, Sherlock actually tried what John suggested with his forefinger, didn't he? :lol: Poor baby (though what a gorgeous visual, hnnghn).

Sometimes I wonder if he's trying to protect me by protecting her. Justifying her actions, in that backward way of his. Everything is backwards now. I keep it all at bay because the alternative is to fall apart, and we don't have time for that kind of nonsense. That's not how we do things.

We. And who are 'we'? Until a month ago, I thought I knew.

:cry: Noooo-hoooo-hooooo! Guhhh. Looking forward to more, even though it'll more than likely break my heart. :cry:

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Another pause.

“Well, that didn't work at all. And now I could really use those tissues.”

:lmfao: Brilliant.

Oh Sherlock. :wub: You loveable idiot.

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(Thank you cally, Spoo, and TheCake. heart.gif )

This part: light on sneezing, heavy on the angst. I'm very angry with Steven Moffat for certain choices he made when writing His Last Vow, and this is how I handle my frustation, I guess. By adding more pain. With a bit of fetishy-ness on the side.

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When I return, one of his laptops seems to have mysteriously teleported from the floor and onto his lap, where he is typing away at it using only one hand as the other is occupied pushing up against his dripping nose.

“Wiggins just texted me something rather interesting”, he says, his eyes glued to a satellite view of what looks like a graveyard in Google Maps. “Last night someone was spotted sneaking around the cemetery where the body of the first victim is buried. They seem to have been measuring the distance between gravestones. Now, if this -”

Without a word, I reach out and slam the laptop shut over his fingers.

“Ow! What are you...”

“Chicken soup”, I remind him.

“But if they're measuring the distance between gravestones it suggests that they are going to try and dig a tunnel to break into his grave -”

“Mrs Hudson..!” I begin, raising my voice threateningly.

“Alright! Alright!” He drops the laptop back on the floor with a disappointed grimace.

“Tissues. Nasal spray. Cough drops. Glass of water.” I place each item on his bedside table as I list them. “Now, how about that tea? Do you want some?”

He takes a breath to answer but promptly starts to cough instead, an irritated, hacking cough that bends him double and leaves him gasping and cringing in the aftermath. That is answer enough.

Soon the balsamic scent of honey-laced tea fills the bedroom. For reasons I'm not quite clear on I find myself lingering by his bedside, watching my reluctant patient sip his tea and occasionally eye me over the edge of the steaming mug as if to say: look, I'm drinking it, what else do you want from me?

It strikes me how small he looks. Almost frail. So far from how I'm used to seeing him; larger than life; someone who instantly dominates the room and always demands a lot of space, a lot of attention. Well, the latter is still true, I guess, probably more so than usual now when he is ill, but Sherlock Holmes in a sickbed? It just looks like some sort of mistake.

As I watch, a look of foreboding unease flicker across his features and he quickly puts his mug aside. He reaches for a tissue, folds it over his nose and gives a short blow, kneading the bridge of his nose between his steepled fingers, clearly trying to stave off another brewing tickle.

No such luck.

Slowly, his eyes narrow into watery slits. The crease between his eyebrows deepens and his mouth falls open with a series of quivering inhales, pitch rising with each breath, culminating with a kind of audible question mark:

Hhh... hh... hihh-?...”

It's not a question of 'if', but a question of 'when'.

Hih'kSHHgh!

A grunt of pain, a sniffle, a gasp.

Hh!'IISSCHuh!” The sneezes are getting heavier, more over-powering, as though the cold is finally starting to wear him down.

“Bless you.”

“Honestly, John”, he snaps, his jaw stiff with pain and his hand still clutching his side, “of all the pointless polite phrases in the English language - and god knows we have an abundance of those - blessing has to be the most moronic. It's a sneeze, not a plea for deliverance.”

I let out a sigh like a punctured bellows.

Why do I even bother?

“Well, I got you your cold-sufferer's survival kit. As I said, try and get some rest. I'll be in the kitchen.”

I turn to leave, and then, without warning, his hand closes around my wrist. I stop and look down at him again, eyebrows raised in surprise.

“I'm... sorry, John. Thank you.” Eyes downcast, voice a low murmur. I can hardly believe my eyes, or ears.

He releases my wrist and sits up a little straighter, hesitates for a moment, and then says:

“You haven't read it yet.”

It's not a question, so I don't answer. I just wait for him to continue, dread rising in my chest like icy water.

He clears his throat, with some difficulty by the sound of it, and looks at me with a close to unbearable sharpness, through fever-glaze, dark circles and all.

“Are you going to?” he asks.

That is a question, one that I have asked myself countless times a day for the last four weeks. I didn't have an answer then, and I do not have one now.

I want to leave.

“I've explained to you how she saved me”, Sherlock says, something like urgency slipping into his voice. “She needed to buy herself time, and she knew she could incapacitate me without killing m -”

“No, Sherlock”, I interrupt. The words are quiet, but I feel like I'm shouting. “Don't you dare give me that crap again. You forget this is my field of expertise too. As a doctor, and as a soldier, I can tell you that it is, in effect, impossible to calculate the exact severity of damage a bullet shot to the chest will cause. No matter how short the distance, no matter how good a shot you are, no matter what kind of medical or anatomical knowledge you possess, there simply is no way to guarantee a non-fatal wound in that situation.”

I take a breath and clench and unclench my fists a couple of times. As I continue, I have to exercise all my self-control to keep my voice steady.

“She couldn't be sure, Sherlock. She was ready to risk your life to keep her secrets buried.”

Buried like the real Mary Morstan in Chiswick Cemetery.

“You know this as well as I do. So don't. Give me. That crap”, I repeat, my voice now barely more than a whisper. “Just like you expected me to give you a warm welcome when you returned after having played dead for two fucking years, you now expect me to... to just shrug my shoulders and accept that my wife very nearly killed my best friend? Shrug my shoulders and move on, because I'm, what did you call it? 'Abnormally attracted' to nutcases like you two? Hm?”

“You were there. Back at Leinster Gardens, you heard what she said. She did not want to risk losing you. She did what she deemed necessary to protect you.”

I laugh, and it is a laugh devoid of all humour.

“You complete bastard. You admire her, don't you?”

“Naturally.” His pearly, penetrating eyes lock with mine as he adds:

“I also understand her.”

No, Sherlock. We're not going there.

“Fuck you. Both of you.”

I sit down at the edge of his bed again, hands in my lap, staring at nothing. A minute goes by, maybe longer, and then:

“She's carrying our child”, I say, faintly.

“Yes.”

Silence. Broken only by his valiantly suppressed coughing. When the convulsions finally let up, he has broken into a sweat again, and his hands are shaking slightly as he lowers them from his face. Pale, exhausted, serious.

“You know, I was so sure that you were going to use... this thing... as a way of luring me back here,” I say, not entirely sure what it is I am confessing.

He looks straight ahead, expression unreadable.

“Why would I do that?” It's an honest question, without a trace of sarcasm. His hand makes a small movement, as though he's about to reach for something again (my wrist?), but then it falls back against the mattress, completely still.

“I don't know”, I say, and I can hear my own words as though from a great distance. “You should try and get some sleep now. Holler if you need anything.”

And with that, I get up and flee.

It's not until I sit down to finish my cold breakfast that I notice the tension in my shoulders and back. My muscles are aching from it, and there is a centre of dull pain pulsating just beneath my left collarbone.

I sit completely still and stare at my plate, waiting for it to go away.

Eventually, I'm able to convince myself that it has.

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(TBC, maybe, perhaps, I'm not sure mellow.png )

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“No, Sherlock”, I interrupt. The words are quiet, but I feel like I'm shouting. “Don't you dare give me that crap again. You forget this is my field of expertise too. As a doctor, and as a soldier, I can tell you that it is, in effect, impossible to calculate the exact severity of damage a bullet shot to the chest will cause. No matter how short the distance, no matter how good a shot you are, no matter what kind of medical or anatomical knowledge you possess, there simply is no way to guarantee a non-fatal wound in that situation.”

I take a breath and clench and unclench my fists a couple of times. As I continue, I have to exercise all my self-control to keep my voice steady.

“She couldn't be sure, Sherlock. She was ready to risk your life to keep her secrets buried.”

First of all: thanx for bringing this up! i really love mary and i think she´s great for john but i still thought this whole "she saved me" part was a bit fond...

and maybe? not sure? WHY?????? this is so good!!!! I really hope you continue :)

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Oh my goodness. Your descriptions of the simplest actions are just... so utterly original and perfect. Your sense of the characters and the probable inner dialogue they must be having is flawless, too. This is one of those stories I would happily read without any sneezing at all.

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Oh I've been meaning to say how I'm enjoying your awesome story (so far, cause you better write more)!!

Sherlock and John's interactions are priceless and wonderfully done too! Those sneeze spelling are to die for, they make me warm in all the right places haha! Please continue darling! <3 :)

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I think I just died. This is one of the most amazing stories I have read in a long time. The sneezes are just perfectly timed and you write both characters so well. Please please please continue!!!

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That was amazing writing, my dear. I think I want to be you. I'm incapable of plot and fluff and filler are my middle names. Oh well I'll improve. I'm very angry at Moffat right now, but I'm sure Doctor 13 will redeem him I guess.

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Hnnnggghh. This fic. It's so incredibly hot and beautiful and sad and funny and ughh I don't even know what to say now.

I just... Your writing style. It's so vivid and descriptive and clever and I know it sounds cheesy, but it touches my soul. Please never stop writing. :heart: Seriously though, you have a gift. It's impressive.

And there is one bit that I loved in particular: (I mean, I adored everything, but this stands out)

The crease between his eyebrows deepens and his mouth falls open with a series of quivering inhales, pitch rising with each breath, culminating with a kind of audible question mark:

“Hhh... hh... hihh-?...”

It's not a question of 'if', but a question of 'when'.

You describe the build-up so vividly, it's probably the most interesting build-up I have ever read, and then you take those words and sort of turn them into an abstract thought. It's absolutely amazing.

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Oh my goodness, you are all too kind. *hides behind hands* Thank you. >////<

This part: Mrs H; fever dreams; more sneezing; less angst.

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“Hoho?”

I look up from my medical papers to find Mrs Hudson standing in the doorway, a hesitant little smile on her lips.

“Am I interrupting? Are you busy?”

“No, no, not at all”, I say, grateful for an excuse to take a break from my reading. It's not like I'm getting anything productive done anyway. I feel like I must have read the same paragraph four times by now, and yet my brain doesn't appear to have registered any of its content.

“Do you need help with anything, Mrs Hudson?”

“Oh no, love! I'm off to the shops shortly and I was just wondering if you need anything?”, she explains, clasping her delicate old lady's hands together in front of her, her friendly smile widening.

This sweet, generous lady. We don't deserve her.

“That's very kind of you, but I think we're good”, I say, smiling back at her.

“And how is he doing?” She gestures with her thumb in the direction of Sherlock's bedroom, and I tip my hand from side to side a couple of times, fingers open, palm down.

“Not too great, I'm afraid, but he'll live.”

She bites her lip with a sympathetic frown.

“The poor thing. He always gets a fever with his colds, it's like clockwork. I keep telling him he needs to take better care of himself.”

“It's just a spot of man-flu”, I say, trying my best to sound cheerful but ending up sounding like I've got something caught in my throat instead, at least to my own ears. “In a couple of days he'll be up and about, sabotaging doorbells and playing the violin at ungodly hours again. He just needs a bit of rest.”

“Oh, I'm sure you're taking good care of him, love”, she says, and then her tone gets more serious: “We're both very glad to have you staying with us again, John. Take all the time you need, alright?”

I can only nod my head in thanks, suddenly not trusting my voice to hold.

With a wink and a final smile, our landlady disappears back down the stairs. I look at my watch. It's almost two o'clock. Time to check in on Sherlock and, if he is awake and wants them, give him his pills.

“Sherlock?” My soft tap on his bedroom door receives no answer, but I can hear a faint, unidentifiable sound coming from the other side when I put my ear close to the white-painted wood. My hand hovers above the door handle for moment as I have a brief debate with myself, and then I push it down, letting the door swing open just a crack. “Sherlock?”, I try again, angling my head to peak inside the dimly lit room. Once again, I feel like an intruder.

As it turns out, Sherlock is not awake. He is dreaming. More specifically: he is having a nightmare. That's what the sound was. Mumbling. Whimpering. His head is moving restlessly from side to side on a sweat-drenched pillow, dark strands of hair pasted to his damp forehead, the tendons in his neck standing out as he twitches and tosses, tangled in his sheets like a...

“S-stra...”

What was that?

“Straight... jacket...”

At the sound of his stammering panic I finally shake myself out of my stupor and step quickly over the threshold, leaning down to grab his shoulder.

“Hey? Hey, it's okay, mate, wake up, you're dreaming.” I shake him gently. His chest begins to heave and his eyelids flutter as his consciousness struggles to the surface through the claustrophobic, sticky fog of fever. When his eyes finally open, his gaze seems to focus on a point somewhere above my head, white visible all around his pupils.

“You need to put me in a straight-jacket too”, he croaks out, still caught in the claws of his fever dream. “Just like... him... need to control it...”

“Calm down”, I say, somewhat taken aback by the uncharacteristic, naked fear in his voice. “It was just a dream. You were having a bad dream. Your fever is pretty high, so I'll give you some antipyretics with your painkillers, alright?”

He blinks. Stares blankly at me for a couple of heartbeats. Then he takes a deep breath:

“You have just spoken to Mrs Hudson. Before that you were working on your medical paper for two hours but you didn't make any progress. Since you were in here last time, you've had another coffee and a banana. You were thinking of heading out, but then you changed your mind.” Breathless and stumbling somewhat, but all are correct and all are delivered in his usual supersonic speed.

“Welcome back to planet Earth”, I say with a faint smile.

“Just checking”, he mutters hoarsely, and rubs his palms over his face. “That was... deeply unpleasant.”

“It sounded like it. And you'd almost managed to twist yourself into a mummy in these sheets. No wonder you were raving about straight-jackets.”

For a second I think I can see a glint of worry flicker in his eyes, but then he shakes his head and wraps his arms around himself as a violent shiver runs through him. He gives a long, drawn-out, noisy sniffle, thick with built-up congestion.

“I'm freezing.”

“Yeah, like I said, your fever's gone up. Here, gulp these down.” I put his pills down beside his glass of water.

“In a moment”, he says, distractedly, holding a fist up to the underside of his nose, his breathing growing shallow and erratic.

Huhh... hh... hih'ESCHgh-uh!”

“This cold just won't give you a break, huh, Sherlock?”

He waves a hand in my general direction, a gesture that could mean 'shut up' just as well as 'wait', his tortured expression already announcing the fast approach of the obligatory second sneeze.

Hh'IIESCHhh!”

Normally that would be it, but barely has he straightened before his breath starts to hitch again. Desperate to rid itself of three hours' worth of virus-ladden, tickly congestion, his body has apparently decided to rebel against its usual pattern of two sneezes in a row and send the detective into a full-blown sneezing fit instead.

Hh! - Hhh! - Hhhh!'NKSHHh! Ugh, god...” Eyes watering profusely, he gives his nose a downright painful-looking rub, only to buckle over with the next: “-hn'KSCHh!”, and another: “Heh'ISHHh!”, closely followed by a punishing “'hih'EESCHHuhh!!”

“Christ, Sherlock!” I'm not sure if I should laugh or be worried. “You okay there?”

“W-what does it look like?” he manages, at last, turning to reach for the tissue box and almost keeling over in the process.

“Like you could use some painkillers right about now”, I say, watching him wince as though every breath is hurting him. “Take them as soon as you're sure you won't, you know, just sneeze them right out again.”

Still panting slightly, he brings a handful of tissues to his swollen nose and lets out a kind of half-sneeze, half-nose blow into their folds, ending with a barely intelligible “Why me?”

“You're Sherlock Holmes. Even your colds couldn't be anything less than spectacular.” I grin at him, and continue to do so until his indignant glare melts away and he gives a small chuckle.

“Not spectacular enough to be blog-material, I hope”, he says.

“'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Vicious Virus'? It has nice ring to it, don't you think?”

“Oh, go and write your paper, doctor!”

---------------------------------------------

TBC (?)

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Heeheehee! I think you're striking the balance of comedy and angst just fine. Maybe not in each section, but in the piece as a whole. :yes: I'm enjoying every minute of it!

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