Phone abandoned on the sofa, John was surprised when he pulled open the front door to find Greg on the other side, fresh from work and carrying a blue-and-white bag containing bottles of lager. Part of him had hoped the DI would turn up whilst most of him had assumed that Greg was simply being conversational. His smile, half surprised and completely relieved, told Greg this in a moments glance.
"Letting me in, then?" Lestrade smiled lightly at the shorter man.
John rolled his eyes at himself, "Yes, of course, sorry – come in." He stepped aside, pulling the door wider as Greg strode in and pushed it closed with a muffled bang, slipping the lock across out of habit. "Sherlock's asleep." He nodded toward the stairs leading down, "Panned out on the sofa with some criminology bible and didn't get past the first chapter." He pointed Greg into the kitchen.
"How's he doing?" Greg asked, leading in, and placed the bag of cold bottles onto the counter.
"He's stuck on this idea of Mycroft and fingerprints, something," John waved his hand. "But he's sinking and I don't like it. This is angry and self-deprecating; the depressions he had before, the periods of lounging and moaning, I could handle – this is darker and it's kind of frightening." John said with his back to Greg as he sifted through the kitchen draw for the bottle opener. Turning around, opener in hand, he took in Greg's sympathetic expression and couldn't decide whether he loathed it or appreciated it. "I don't know how to help him; he was quiet all day but I didn't see this coming – not this fast or thick. It's just as though a switch went and he…stopped being able to pretend he was OK."
Greg took the opener from John and uncapped two bottles, handing one to the Doctor who showed him through into the dining room. "Can you get in touch with therapists at the hospital?" He asked, pulling out a chair and sitting down as John took the one opposite.
"Sherlock and a therapist, I can't see that happening." John took a sip of the ice-cold lager and sighed somewhat orgasmically at its cathartic effects.
Greg let a laugh run through his nose breathily brought his bottle to his lips, "No, neither can I." he conceded, "But it's worth looking into, if only to find out how you or I can talk to him."
John gave an unexpected laugh, "You?" He clapped his hand to his mouth, "Sorry, I didn't mean that to sound so…like it did. I just – you'd be willing to do that, to beat his inner mind out of him?"
"Wouldn't be the first time," Greg shrugged his left shoulder, elbows taking his upper body weight against the table. "Sherlock was thirty one when I first witnessed him during an OD. I was called to the flat he had in Montague Street by his brother. When I arrived – without the team as it wasn't strictly our division – Sherlock was fitting. His hair was plastered to his face, his skin cracked, his lips bleeding and his body was jerking in so many tight, angled directions it was like a recreation of the Exorcist." He took a deep breath, eyes unfocused as he remembered, and John's mouth hung open slightly in shock.
"Shit…" he sighed, eyeing Greg and shaking his head in disbelief.
"We thought he was going to die, Mycroft and I. I held his head in my lap whilst Mycroft eased him into the recovery position but the fit didn't stop. I've seen drug addicts and ODs, but I'd never seen this before then. He was so close to frying his brain with whatever cocktail he'd taken. The fit didn't stop for ten minutes, ten, whole minutes. Mycroft and I just sat there, nursing him, sitting in the filth that was his home; needles, cigarettes…just disgusting, filthy chaos."
John took another sip of his lager as Greg did and waited, both loathing and needing to hear more. He didn't push or ask questions, he waited for Greg to go on his own steam. This was Greg's way of reaching out and connecting with John on a basis on anything other than professionalism.
"He was put into a medically induced coma for a week; when he was brought around again he couldn't use his left arm for about a month – he had intense physio to build up the use again, he was like a stroke victim. I locked the door two days after woke up, just went over and locked the door to the room Mycroft had procured," he paused a moment, sipped his drink and shrugged his shoulders, "I told him that he was going to talk to me, to tell me why, and until he did I wouldn't leave and neither would he."
John's brows rose up, "And it worked?"
"Four hours of silence, two of me talking at him and three of him breaking down and finally opening up; I got a bollocking for failing to show up for work but it didn't matter because he told me some of the things he'd been through, some of the reasons he allowed himself the weaknesses he did. He's…so enigmatic until you make him be honest and then he can't hide behind the coat anymore and he just, I don't know, kind of crumbles." Greg looked at John, mouth turned down, and shrugged his shoulders once again – it seemed like he couldn't make sense of it any more than John could. "He came to me a few times after that, would call me when he was feeling the itch, would work solely for me for hours on end. He slept on my sofa, he slowly came back to himself and then he knocked back again. But the thing is he came to me, he talked to me because I made him and that's what you have to do. Literally or metaphorically, John, you've gotta lock the doors."
Bottle between his fingers, wet with condensation, John nodded broadly at Greg's manner of trying to help. "Yeah-," he nodded, eyes wide and locked with Lestrade's. "I have, haven't I?"
Greg nodded, draining what remained in his bottle, "Bite the bullet, so to speak." His face fell but John laughed. "Sorry," he quickly mended.
"No, it's fine," John chuckled and waved his hand. "Truth is, it's good to talk, to laugh – I love him but the intensity gets a bit stifling. This is good-," he gestured his bottle at Greg, "Time out."
"How are you?" Greg asked with emphasis on the 'you'.
"I'm fine," John creased his face. "I have my moments of cloudiness when I consider throwing in the towel but I'd never do it. I love him too much to walk away when he needs me."
"You need time to get used to the new life though, John; space, your own grieving period." Greg said smoothly. "I don't know much about adjustments to things like this, but I know it's not easy. The divorce broke me; it's taken a while to get used to the differences. You've got to take care of yourself, as well as him."
It was late when Greg left. Where John had nursed two bottles over there few-hour session, Greg had drained four. John didn't judge him on that – the man worked hard and deserved the break. He placed the two, remaining bottles of lager that Greg had insisted he keep into the fridge and placed the empties into the bin. He fixed himself a slice of toast and ate it whilst he shuffled around the kitchen, filling and setting the dishwasher and washing machine respectively before cleaning down all of the counter tops.
Before he ventured back down to join Sherlock, unsure whether he'd be greeted with the Detective awake or asleep, he filled the kettle and brewed two cups of tea. He turned the kitchen and hallway light off with his forehead – both hands occupied by a mug – and walked slowly down the stairs to the basement, his socked feet silent on every step. The entire floor was dark but for the flickering of the television. The volume was way down low but not quite muted. Sherlock lay still, arms up by his face and mouth slightly open, still sleeping soundly on the sofa in the exact position John had left him in earlier, the sofas throw-over cast around his legs and tummy. His breathing was long, slow and deep and his eyes moved behind the heavy lids; he was dreaming and John couldn't help the fond, adoring smile that pulled his lips taught and brought a sympathetic, adoring frown to his brow.
Not having the heart to wake him, John slipped quieter still around the room, switching off the television – leaving Sherlock's tea on the table – and waddled across to the bed. He set his tea on the nightstand and stripped to his underwear before pulling on a t-shirt and loose pyjama pants. The room black but for the small stream of light that filtered through the high window, he climbed into bed and rested back on the headboard to drink his tea. He listened to Sherlock's soft, almost infantile snuffling breaths with a swell in his heart.
Whatever was going through Sherlock's mind – positive or negative – John was determined enough that moments like this, the soft, intimate, adored moments of closeness and love, would withstand whatever darkness fell over them. Whether Mycroft was guilty or not, if Sherlock was wrong or right, he'd be there for him and they'd remain a unit because John needed Sherlock – needed these moments – just as much as Sherlock needed him.
He didn't remember falling asleep and he couldn't work out what it was that had woken him, but Sherlock's eyes snapped open in the thick darkness and he felt a slight seizing of his body as though he'd been startled. It took a moment for him to gather his bearings, but he soon registered where he was. His arms were aching, wanting to cramp and beginning to tingle from being held up above his head for so long and as he lowered them down he hissed, despite himself. He bore the weight of his upper body against his arms; hands braced against the sofa, he himself into a sitting position with a huff. He grunted at the effort it took to maintain his balance and reach down with one arm to pull his legs around so that he could sit properly against the back of the sofa.
His eyes adjusted slowly but he could soon make out the shape of the furniture scattered around him with the small amount of light that came through the high window; the curve of the L-shaped sofa, the coffee table and the television. Behind him, he could hear John's gentle snores and it comforted him somewhat to know he wasn't completely on his own. He sighed into the cool air that circulated the basement and rest his head back onto the top backrest of the sofa. He pulled the woollen throw-over closer, comforted by its softness in an infantile way and sighed, blinking his eyes to clarity.
Then his face contorted as a sudden, sharp spasm twisted tightly somewhere in his mid-back. He hissed a breath in through gritted teeth as the forty-seconds of pain and tightness seemed to last a millennia. "Ugh…" he huffed, his teeth pushing tightly together, and couldn't help himself when the groaning turned into a deep, throaty cry of pain as the spasm seemed to intensify before dispersing. "Argh! Uh…" he inhaled and exhaled sharply through his nose as his body took a moment or two to relax from the sudden tensing. He felt lightheaded from the hyperventilation and he gripped the couch with both hands for stability.
But it seemed the noise, small though it was, was enough to rouse John and see him immediately worry. "Sherlock?" he called out, voice gruff from sleep, and the room burst into a dim light as John switched on the lamp at his bedside.
Sherlock, his head hanging back over the sofa, turned to look at John as he huffed out a final breath, finally relaxed again. "Sorry," he said with a soft frown, "Spasm."
John was out of bed in a flash and moved across to the sofa, his hand on Sherlock's head as he bent over the back of the couch. "Gone?" he asked, fingers caressing Sherlock's slightly clammy cheek.
Sherlock nodded, looking sleepily up at John. "Sorry I woke you."
"No, it's alright" John shook his head and crouched further down to place a kiss on Sherlock's forehead. This Sherlock liked, noncommittal touching. He smiled gently. John snaked his hands down Sherlock's front, turning the gentle forehead kiss into a lip-to-lip kiss, still soft and unrushed, whilst his fingers roamed down Sherlock's chest to his tummy.
"OK…" Sherlock's hands clasped around John's wrists; "Please, not now," He asked, looking up at John, upside down, above him.
Nodding, John gave Sherlock another soft kiss as he pulled his hands back. "Alright," he spoke softly. "Your belly's a bit distended." He commented as he straightened, "Your bladder," he elaborated. Sherlock frowned at the sudden intrusion of word and felt a humiliated flush rush his cheeks, though he didn't know if John could see it. "You maybe didn't void your bladder properly earlier," he suggested on a yawn as he walked around to push Sherlock's chair closer to the sofa. "Can you remember how much?"
Sherlock blinked uncomfortably and John sensed it. "John, don't…"
"As your Doctor, not your partner," John looked down on him carefully before sitting on the edge of the coffee table. "Please – the last thing I want is you retaining urine and ending up with a UTI."
Sherlock licked his lips and shrugged, "Just over four hundred mil." He said, "I can't remember exactly."
"Want to try again?" John said gently, "It's gone half three in the morning, you've been out of it since early evening." He rose to his feet, bringing Sherlock's cold cup of tea with him, and wandered toward the stairs to head up the kitchen. "I'll put the kettle on, seen as we're both awake, and let you get sorted, yeah?"
He didn't wait for Sherlock's reply, simply slipped away to leave the Detective to his own devices. He'd found out early on that this was the best for them all. When he returned to the basement, mugs of tea in hand, Sherlock was just leaving the bathroom, reaching for the cord to turn off the light as he passed through, back into the main room. "All sorted?" John asked to which Sherlock nodded and offered up information before John even asked for it.
"Five hundred and twenty mil," He looked wide awake now, the long sleep he'd had all evening having eradicated his fatigue, and John knew that he wouldn't be going back to sleep tonight so resolved that he, too, would sit up.
"Good," John nodded and waited for Sherlock to move from his chair to the sofa and get comfortable before he handed him his mug. His hands wrapped around his own hot drink, John flopped unceremoniously into the sofa beside him and yawned for effect. "Knackered." He fluffed his words.
"You can go back to bed, you know." Sherlock stated bluntly, "You don't have to sit up and mind me, I'm not a child." He looked both contrite and adorable in the same breath and John could only smile at him.
"No, you're not; I've yet to meet a six-foot child." He sipped his tea, "Anyway, maybe I want to sit up with you – maybe I like you when you're awake in the middle of the night and a little more pliant and suggestible."
"I'm never suggestible." Sherlock replied and if he truly was insulted, it didn't show. "Can I remind you whose hands were wandering round whose body not ten minutes ago?" he quirked a smile in John's direction. "Really though," he sobered, "I didn't mean to wake you so you can just go back to bed."
"No, I meant what I said, I like sitting up with you." John reached across and touched Sherlock's cheek.
Sherlock was gradually getting more used to this – the way John liked to touch and hold him, especially since the shooting – and he was beginning to find it was OK. There were times when he could do without the fussing and petting, but it made John happy and Sherlock so often felt, recently, that he needed to do all he could to make John happy.
A comfortable quiet fell between the two of them as they drank their tea and lasted without awkwardness. It was John who permeated it, a few minutes on, as he leaned forwards to place his empty cup on the coffee table. "You seem more relaxed than earlier." He commented. "When we got back from the station, you seemed a bit – I don't know, scattered."
"I felt it." Sherlock admitted. "I can't make sense of my thoughts – every time I think I have something, think I have an idea and know what happened, my back spasms or I try to do something and realise I can't and then my mind scrambles as though somebody's attempting ECT."
John always sat quiet on moments like this; the moments when Sherlock was candid, open and honest about how he was feeling. They rarely happened, but when they did they were profound and enlightening to John and he never wanted to inject into them with himself in case Sherlock would recoil and stop talking again.
"I can't focus on it, the case." Sherlock continued. "All I can think about is the chair, about the things that have stopped, about the things that have to be a certain way from now on. There is a very real chance, a very real chance that my brother was involved in some kind of Government cover up and was planning on someway having Lestrade out of the equation. By proxy, he did this – if what I think is true, if I can work it out and get my brain to just do what it used to, there could be a proof in there that says my brother is responsible for this." He placed his left hand onto his thigh and looked up at John.
"Maybe that's why you're finding it harder to figure this out, because it's personal? Because maybe you don't want to believe it or find out if your theories are true?" John suggested. He shifted in the sofa, turned a little to face Sherlock, and took a deep breath. "If I ask you something, suggest something, will you listen and hear me out before jumping in and taking my neck off?"
Sherlock knew instantly something was coming that he wasn't going to like but he trusted John in a manner he'd never trusted in anyone else, so he nodded. "OK." He muttered quietly.
"Give up the case." John said, bluntly. "Be there for the questioning on Tuesday, help Greg and the team by all means, but don't pursue it yourself. Your body and mind can't cope – you can see that yourself with how you felt today. Let Greg take the wheel and step back at least a bit. Please?"
"But this is Mycroft," Sherlock said bluntly, "This is my brother – he…this is my case, it's for and because of me."
"Precisely," John brushed his hand through his hair, "Too close for comfort, too close to home. You are in no state of mind nor are you physically strong enough to chase this one down on your own. I'm not saying abandon it or turn away or stop trying and fighting for its conclusion and some closure – for the truth – but leave the leg work and the guts to Scotland Yard and please, stay with me – work on your physio, start counselling."
"I can't." Sherlock shook his head, his voice even in a way that told John he at least accepted his opinion.
"No, you can, you just won't." John sighed, "I don't want to ever stop you working or being everything you ever were, but what I want to see is you become strong enough to be that way. Physio for a few months, talking to someone – me or somebody professional – and then start taking cases; I know this is different and it's bloody difficult, but it's essentially the same and I just want you to know that I want you to step back, not for forever just for a while. If you won't, that's OK, that's down to you, but I just want to see you gather strength. At least think about it?"
"I'll think about it." Sherlock nodded, a resigned fatigue etched on his face. "I'll think about it." he repeated and reached out to John, touching the Doctor's cheek in the same manner that he liked to touch Sherlock. John smiled tiredly and leaned into the touch, turning his face a little to lay a kiss on the palm of Sherlock's hand.