Prompt: Here. John and Sherlock get back home hurt and exhausted after a long case. John accidentally falls asleep and leaves Sherlock unconscious in the bath. (Read the longer prompt if this makes no sense.)
Word count: 2600
Category: Gen, although could be pre-slash.
It was late when they finally stumbled back to the flat - or early. John had begun to lose track of the hours.
In any case, it was dark.
Sherlock had stopped talking. The only reaction John had been able to get out of him during the cab ride home was when he had tried to check his friend's vital signs, and been slapped violently away for his trouble. Which was continuing to worry him, as Sherlock had almost certainly been hurt during the scuffle with Morton.
"We're here," the cabbie called as he pulled in against the kerb. John handed over the fare wordlessly.
"Sherlock!" he said sharply, when Sherlock didn't move. "If you don't get out then I'm calling an ambulance for you, like it or not."
Sherlock pushed himself out and onto the pavement, and then just stood there while John unlocked the front door, as if he didn't know what to do with himself. John slipped an arm around his body and took his weight, which was met with no protest.
"You're in shock," John said, as he helped Sherlock slowly up the stairs.
"Don't be ridiculous," Sherlock said.
"I'm not. And have you actually eaten or slept since we started this case?"
"Boring." Sherlock leaned against the wall.
John pulled him upright. "We're not stopping half-way up the stairs."
"I'm filthy," Sherlock muttered. "It's intolerable."
"No, Sherlock, what's intolerable is that you let yourself get into this state." John finally succeeded in getting Sherlock into the flat. "Sit down. I need to examine you."
"I want to get clean. Your obsessionness can wait until later." He shrugged John away and stumbled into the bathroom, where he turned both taps on full. John followed him, exhaustion blurring the edges of his vision.
"Why are you being this stubborn?"
"I'm not. I'm doing nothing but making perfectly sensible requests." He swayed and nearly fell over.
"Okay. Okay." John turned off the taps, since the tub had already nearly reached full. "I know you're hurt, so at least a bath will clean out any wounds."
"Excellent," Sherlock said. He tugged at his scarf. John carefully untangled it from around his neck, and then helped unbutton the heavy dark coat before it slithered down into a pile on the floor. He was too tired to consider picking it up.
Sherlock grabbed John's shoulder for balance as he kicked his shoes off. "Maybe you should sit down," he suggested. He would quite like to himself. His legs felt as if they belonged by rights to someone else.
Instead Sherlock transferred his grip to the edge of the bath and simply slung himself over the side and into the water. Some of it splashed over the side and onto John's shins.
"What?" Sherlock asked languidly, sliding himself further down so that the water lapped over his shirt-collar. He rested his knees together against the wall and shut his eyes. Damp was stealthily creeping along the as-yet-unsubmerged fabric of his trousers.
"You can't do that," John said, rather pointlessly.
John stared helplessly at the other man. He wasn't sure even whether to class him as a friend or as a patient at that moment. He blinked, and it seemed to last a very long time, long enough for him to start to lose his balance and have to throw out a hand to grab the door frame as his eyes snapped open again. "This is ridiculous."
"Isn't," Sherlock mumbled.
"You're in the bath with all your clothes on!"
"I'm allowed to. They're my clothes. And my bath."
John felt that he should be able to come up with several very coherent reasons why this was, in point of fact, ridiculous. But exhaustion and the after-effects of too much adrenaline were combining to make his head feel full of fug. There wasn't room for coherency. "I'll find a towel," he said. It was about the only helpful thing he could think of. "And, um, some dry clothes."
Sherlock gave a tiny shrug and didn't reply, so John made his way, slightly unsteadily, to the floor space by Sherlock's bed where he tended to keep his clothes. Bending down made his head spin. He stood up, but then, alarmingly, the room spun instead, tilting and tipping him onto the bed. He pressed his eyes closed for a second to try and block out the giddiness. Then...
Grey daylight filtered in through the hastily-drawn curtains. John drowsed and idly gazed at the patterns it threw against the wallpaper. He'd slept in his clothes, which was uncomfortable. But at least he'd slept. He felt as if he had just crawled out of a great yawning chasm of exhaustion, the cobwebs of which still hung in his head.
Wait. The view was wrong. This was the wrong room to wake up in.
His forehead creased as he tried to pull events out of the clinging blackness behind him.
The part of his brain containing last night's memories woke up explosively. John pushed himself off Sherlock's bed and legged it to the bathroom. "Sherlock!"
Sherlock wasn't moving. His head rested against the tiled wall, his body also slumped against it, while his breathing barely stirred the water's surface. The water itself was clouded from the mud which had soaked out of his clothing, with a faintly reddish tinge. It looked as if had leached its colour from Sherlock's skin.
By now it was, of course, cold.
John, after the single horrified moment it cost his brain to take in the scene, didn't waste time. He plunged both hands into the bath, grabbed hold of Sherlock beneath his arms, and pulled.
Sherlock slid out of the bath and flopped onto the tiled floor like a wet seal, water pouring off and pooling around him. John patted his face. "Sherlock! Sherlock, can you hear me?" He checked the man's pulse and breathing. Both were steady, although weak, which was some relief. "Why do you do things like this?" he demanded.
And then stopped. This wasn't Sherlock's fault. This was his. He was the one who had left a barely conscious Sherlock lying in water for hours. Him, a doctor.
This wasn't the time for personal guilt, though. "Okay, Sherlock, I'm going to try and warm you up." He unbuttoned the front of the sopping dark shirt and carefully manoeuvred it over Sherlock's shoulders. There was a long gash over his ribcage which the water had kept from sealing. John hadn't even noticed the corresponding gash in the shirt until then, but quickly spotted it as he spread the fabric across the floor and then quickly examined the wound. Deep, but not unduly dangerous. Another thing to be thankful for.
Sherlock was very thin. John had never realised quite how much. Each of his ribs was perfectly embossed on his white skin.
Again, though, that wasn't a useful thought right now. At least he had made sure that the flat now contained a well-stocked first aid kit, conveniently located in a bathroom cabinet. John pulled out a length of gauze and taped it in place across the gash - it wasn't a particularly sturdy solution but it would suffice for now.
"Towels," he said aloud, and stared around, but he still couldn't find any. "Sherlock, what did you do with all the towels?" he demanded.
John tipped his head back to face the ceiling, and squeezed his eyes shut for a second. "Oh, thank God. Sherlock, can you hear me?"
"Mmm." It was very quiet. Sherlock wasn't really awake as such. But, again, it was something. The world was full of compromises this morning, but John would take as many as he could get.
"Okay. Listen to me. You're freezing cold and I'm going to get you to the bed."
It wasn't far, but John knew his own limitations so he took hold of Sherlock under his arms and dragged him, feet with their wet socks scraping along the carpet, head lolling down on his chest. He hoisted Sherlock onto the bed and efficiently stripped him of his remaining clothing. Goose pimples spiked his skin where it was removed. At least Sherlock's pyjamas were easier to find than wherever the hell the towels had got to; balled up and dropped on one of the pillows. He didn't resist being dressed by John. Nor when John put his hands against his skin to check his temperature again.
"You can chime in anytime, you know," John said as he pulled the duvet out from underneath Sherlock and then folded it around him. "I know I tell you to stop talking, but right now it'd be really good." He realised that a good portion of his jumper was sodden from the bathwater. He pulled it off and dropped it to the floor.
The urgency was, for the moment, gone. Which left a leaden weight of guilt settling in John's stomach, and the worry which hadn't lessened but had just moved back a little to give him some breathing room. It couldn't lessen; not with Sherlock still looking a few shades from a corpse. And still cold.
Illogically embarrassed, John climbed into the bed and put his arms around Sherlock in such a way that he could feel both the man's breathing and pulse. He lay tense, wanting desperately to apologise, but with Sherlock in no state to either accuse or forbid, the most he could achieve was selfish gratification at the act of confession, with the risk of disturbing the rest Sherlock desperately needed. But it was comforting to lie there with him, and with the reassurance that the evidence of a living and healing body brought. John felt himself automatically shift into a closer hug and didn't stop it. It would allow him to pass his warmth to Sherlock faster, after all.
He relaxed into the weariness which again rose to claim him.
"Hullo John," Sherlock mumbled, and John struggled, blinking, back to wakefulness. The shadows had shifted and lengthened. It must be early evening now.
With a start he remembered that both his arms were around Sherlock, and realised that while he had slept Sherlock had curled against him, one of his arms now lying over John. "Hi," he said. "How do you feel?"
"Confused," Sherlock said, which John would never have expected him to admit to.
John hastily extracted his limbs from the tangle as he sat up. "You passed out in the bathtub and I accidentally went to sleep looking for a towel," he said, getting it all out in one breath. "I was bringing your body temperature up."
"Ah," Sherlock said calmly, turning onto his back. "I was wondering if it was something along those lines."
"Can you open your eyes, please?" John asked, since it had not yet happened.
Sherlock did so. The usual penetration of his stare was dulled, clearly from the tail-end of exhaustion and mild hypothermia. "You look worried," he said. "Don't be. I'm fine."
"Well, don't move about too much. There's a temporary dressing on your side where you were stabbed with a knife and didn't tell me, and I'll need to examine it properly."
"Of course," Sherlock said, in an absent way which John recognised as being no guarantee whatsoever of listening to what he'd just been told. Nonetheless, he got up.
"I'm going to get some breakfast together. Or lunch, supper, whatever. I'm starving and God only knows how hungry you are after not eating for however long it was."
"Good idea," Sherlock said, in the same tone.
John escaped to the kitchen. There wasn't much food. There was never much food. He was always meaning to do a proper shop...
"But you're still worried," Sherlock said suddenly. John jumped, and turned to see him supporting himself against the doorway. "You're getting more worried. Why?"
"I told you to stay still!"
"I am still. Look, I'm standing perfectly still. If you send me back to bed like a naughty little boy it'll mean moving again."
John turned his back to fill the kettle.
"Now you're getting angry too."
"Fancy that," John muttered.
There was a slithering sound behind him. John ignored it and opened a cupboard to find the tea bags. There was a slight cough. John paused, just so Sherlock would be absolutely certain to know he was aware, and then delicately placed a tea bag in each mug. He continued ignoring the sounds behind him as he waited for the kettle to boil.
"Um, John?" Sherlock asked finally.
John stopped, but didn't turn. "What?"
"I need you to help me."
"Say the magic word."
"For goodness sake," Sherlock muttered, and then, louder, "Alright. Please."
John helped Sherlock up off the floor where he was now sitting by necessity, and walked him the nearest armchair, taking most of his weight.
"Thank you," Sherlock said, once he was settled. The current weakness of his much-neglected body didn't show at all in his voice. "Is the tea ready?"
John raised his eyebrows. "If you move before I say you can you don't get tea."
"Seems fair enough."
John wasn't quite sure if he meant it, but he went and got the first aid kit and then the tea, and found that Sherlock had indeed not stirred. After he had handed over the mug Sherlock rolled his eyes and lifted his pyjama top.
"Thank you," John said levelly. He pulled away the gauze and examined the gash. It looked clean, and was beginning to close on its own. That was a relief. He wasn't sure how he'd have persuaded Sherlock to go and queue at A&E for stitches. He cleaned it with antiseptic anyway.
"Ouch!" Sherlock complained, between sips of tea.
"Don't be a baby," John said. He dressed the wound more carefully this time, and then glanced at Sherlock's face as he finished to see that the penetrating look was back in full force. "What?"
"Why are you worried that I'll be angry with you?" Sherlock asked.
"How did you -" John began.
"It's perfectly obvious, there's no point in denying it." He frowned slightly. "You aren't concerned about having slept in the same bed as me, I hope? That was a perfectly sound and logical decision."
"No!" John insisted. "Well, alright, a little, but that hardly matters. Aren't you angry that I left you to pass out in the water?"
Sherlock finished his tea. "It isn't as if you did it on purpose, is it?"
"Of course not!"
"Then I don't see why you're concerning yourself with it."
John gaped at him. "Well - I'm really sorry."
"Of course you are. You have a very highly developed sense of morality and fairness. However, you shouldn't let this instance trouble you."
Sherlock shrugged very slightly. "Now that we've cleared that up, are you going to make us anything to eat?"
John was still trying to get his head around Sherlock's particular brand of logic, and trying to work out how he could possibly be that reasonable about an act of carelessness which could well have killed him. "What?"
"You said I wasn't to move. So you'll have to bring the food to me," Sherlock said, with a grin which clearly showed how pleased he was with himself.
A good dose of irritation was just the thing to begin to drive out guilt, apparently. John stood up without a word and headed towards the kitchen.
He'd probably be able to make it up to Sherlock all too soon, when next time came, after all.