Day 1

Title: Day 1
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Rating: PG
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Sherlock has a cold while on a trip away from London to consult on a case.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2014 project for tinadp

As they disembarked from the train, both men headed straight for the Tesco Express at the station with a suitcase apiece in tow. The ride from London hadn't been particularly long, but the cafe car on board hadn't been operational and it was now well past lunch. Both men claimed items that would qualify for the latest discount deal: a sandwich, a bag of crisps, and a bottle of water each. But though Lestrade took his straight to the register, Sherlock poked around the rest of the store for a little while.

After a few minutes of strolling up and down the aisles, Sherlock realized he didn't know what he was looking for exactly. He finally found himself in the medicine aisle, looking at the array of remedies from which to choose. Even if he'd had a week to run experiments, he still wasn't sure he'd be able to get through them all.

“Sherlock!” Lestrade called from the entrance to the store. “Hurry up. We do have a crime scene to get to, you know.”

Sherlock knew. That was the whole reason he had let Lestrade drag him across the country. But he also knew he wasn't going to be able to make it through analysis at a crime scene if he didn't take some sort of decongestant immediately. “Hhh'Ehptchhh!” Sherlock sneezed, getting a hand up in place at just the right time. He walked down the aisle and helped himself to a small pack of tissues he found there. It was small enough that he would be able to conceal it on his person. He took out a tissue already and folded it to his nose. Then he rubbed at his nose, at the tickling bridge and the already sensitive nostrils. He rubbed until the urge to sneeze that he'd felt since getting up before dawn that morning finally back off a bit.

The entire train ride had been torturous. He had perfected a way of rubbing at his nose to keep from sneezing. The problem was that it was impossible to rub the way he wanted and not be spotted by the inspector. And though Lestrade was not at the same level of brilliance as Sherlock Holmes, even he couldn't miss the way Sherlock's hand had kept reaching up to give his nose a firm squeeze and rub. So whenever he had sensed Lestrade might be growing suspicious, Sherlock had made for the toilet compartment at the far end of the train car. Once inside, he had relaxed and let loose with any number of body-shaking sneezes in him, and then he had blown his nose on toilet paper until he had felt quite himself again.

He would not have that luxury at the crime scene, so Sherlock was in the market for assistance. Only there were too many choices on the shelves before him. What did John give him whenever he caught cold? Sherlock tried to think back, tried to imagine the box in John's hand. But all he could come up with was John dragging a chair up to Sherlock's bed to sit beside him, hand him tissues or to place cool cloths on his head. John gave him pills, yes, but Sherlock usually took them off of John's palm not out of a box. And whenever John handed him a steaming cup of something, he obediently drank it down without asking what was in it. In retrospect, that had been a bad idea, but he trusted John. John was a doctor. John always knew what to do to make him feel better when he was sick and miserable.

At least recognizing the Lemsip product name, Sherlock moved to that section of the shelf. However, there was more than one product there. A handful of different flavors jumped out at him from black current to lemon to apple and cinnamon. Then there were different strengths—original, max. There were packets and tablets. Overwhelmed, Sherlock took out his mobile and started dialing John's number at once.

It rang and rang and was just about the switch to voice mail when John answered, sounding rushed. “Hello? Sherlock?”

“John, I need your help.”

A deep sigh met this statement. “Sherlock, I thought I told you, most of the clinic staff is under the weather and they desperately need me here. I can't possibly get away just now, not even for a case. I thought you understood that.”

It had been a poor excuse, because John was his friend and, thus, supposed to help him before total strangers who wandered into the clinic as treatment. But John had been insistent and eventually Sherlock found it was easier to let John have his way than continue to attempt to reason with someone who was being so unreasonable. And Sherlock could not deny that it would be nice to have John right here, right now. All he would have to do was make a demand or perhaps appeal to John's soft heart by whining and pouting a little bit; that almost always worked. But, honestly, he didn't want to pull those cards out just at the moment. If John wished to stay in London and look after strangers instead of coming out to the country side to attend his best friend, then so be it. “huhhh...” Sherlock pressed the tissue at his nose. “h'YIHSchhhhh!

“God bless.” There was a pause, during which Sherlock wiped his nose. Then John asked, “Sherlock, are you ill?”

Sherlock cleared his throat, “What amazing powers of deduction you have, John. Sniff! I need someone to take care of me. Come up on the next train.”

Another pause followed the statement, this one longer. Then John spoke up, “Sherlock, I have patients.”

“Yes, I’m well aware. That’s why I want you here. You’re patient with me.”

“No, I mean there are people here with appointments I need to see. Isn’t Greg up there with you? Ask him to take care of you. I’m sure—”

“No, sniff!” Oh dear. Now he was sniffling and sounding like some petulant three-year-old. Sherlock rubbed at his nose. “No, I can manage. Only... I'm in a store and I don't know what I should buy. What do you give me when I'm ill with a cold like this, John?”

John replied with amusement in his voice, though Sherlock did not understand why that would be. He told Sherlock precisely what medicine to buy and when to take it. Sherlock took in the information and hoped to remember it, but knew he could always ring John again to ask. He couldn’t be expected to remember such insignificant details.

“Sherlock!” Lestrade was back at the front of the store. A plastic grocery bag swung from his wrist and half of a half of a sandwich was in his hand. “Any time now.”

Sherlock took his purchases to the counter to get them rung up while Lestrade paced around outside the store. A few minutes later, they were in a cab, heading for the crime scene. Lestrade polished off his lunch while Sherlock merely nibbled at his. He wasn't particularly hungry, he realized. But he had managed to swallow some cold medicine and wash the pill down with water just before leaving the train station. The packets of Lemsip would have to wait until he was at the inn and had access to hot water., but John had assured him that this cold medicine would help once it kicked in. Sherlock hoped that would be soon.

Already he felt like sneezing again. His throat felt scratchy. His nose felt warm and full and irritated. And his head felt achy and heavy. In all, he didn't much feel like doing anything apart from stretching out under the covers of a bed. Except that he did not have that luxury now. Now he was headed to a crime scene where he would have to work, deduce, preform. Local law enforcement were already on the scene, which meant having to deal with people who didn't understand his work process and just traipsed about, complaining about Sherlock's methods and contaminating the crime scene. Sherlock had absolutely no interest or patience for such people today. Not to mention it would be more people he would have to hide his cold from, and just hiding it from Lestrade had been difficult enough so far today.

They arrived at the crime scene after a twenty minute ride. Lestrade paid while Sherlock climbed out and took the opportunity to rub at his nose with a tissue. Sherlock would never call himself an optimist, but he did feel confident he would be able to make it through this without giving himself away. His strength of will was stronger than his cold. That was pure fact. Sherlock dropped the used tissue and the uneaten portion of his lunch in a rubbish bin by the curbside before following Lestrade up to the cottage where a diplomat's body had been found early that morning.

The man had been in the countryside on a week's holiday and had rented out this cottage. His entire staff back in London as well as his embassy had all known of the plan and he had already been there for half a week, so many of the neighbors and folks in town would have seen him. Therefore, the list of potential suspects was virtually endless, and local authorities found themselves with too many avenues to explore. Pressured by the embassy and their own government to resolve the matter and hold the murderer accountable, Scotland Yard's finest had been called in and Sherlock was, of course, better than them all.

Still, this quaint cottage hardly looked like an ideal place for a murder. For one, it was just as cold inside as it was out, and Sherlock's nose ran just as much as well. He had learned, however, that if he inhaled very softly, slowly, and steadily, he could sniff silently. Lestrade and the other officers were none the wiser, especially as all of them seemed focused on him the moment he walked into the room where the body had been found.

It had since been removed to the morgue for an autopsy, where the brilliant doctor on staff would no doubt rule that death had occurred due to a gunshot wound the man had taken to the head. What out-of-the-box thinking that was. A taped outline on the floor showed Sherlock where the body had been found and in what general position, though it was a strange one, with limbs at strange angles. Blood stained the carpet in one area around part of the body. And another tape mark across the room showed where the gun had been found. Only one bullet was gone from its chamber, presumably the one currently lodged inside the victim's head. This lovely little cottage would never be the same again. Good luck renting it out for the rest of the season.

“Hate to see such a terrible murder happen in such a beautiful place,” said Lestrade, shaking his head in disbelief at the scene before him. The whole room was quintessentially quaint. Wicker furniture. Doilies on side tables. Flowers in vases.

Huh… h’YKSchhhhh! Too many flowers,” he said, which wasn’t quite a lie so much as a statement that hinted at the cause of his sneeze though, in truth, had absolutely nothing to do with it. He knew Lestrade wouldn’t figure that out, though; the man wasn’t that clever, especially given his previous statement. “It wasn’t a murder, Inspector. It was a suicide.”

Sherlock was ill. Sherlock was ill and starting to feel miserable. Sherlock was ill and starting to feel miserable and he had been dragged all the way up here on the train just to spend ten seconds in a crime scene that turned out to be a suicide. This was coming close to being one of the worst days in recent memory. He had half a mind to march right out of the cottage and see if he couldn’t catch the taxi cab driver before he got too far down the dirt road. But what he truly wanted was to just turn around and head out so he could blow his nose a few times and perhaps pop a cough drop when Lestrade wasn’t watching.

So that was what Sherlock did. He turned around and started for the door. “Hang on a tick!” Lestrade called after him. Then, when Sherlock looked over his shoulder, knowing perfectly well he shouldn’t, Lestrade continued, “Care to explain?”

Sherlock did not care to, of course. He gave a deep sigh of frustration. “Well, it’s perfectly obvious, isn’t it? He came here with the explicit intention of offing himself. Why else did he bring an empty suitcase on this trip? For show, of course. He had to keep up pretenses.”

Lestrade searched the room and noticed the small, hard-sided suitcase just inside the door. But what Sherlock knew he hadn’t noticed was that the suitcase’s zippers were both half open. All the way closed or all the way open might indicate he had not unpacked or he had already unpacked everything, but only halfway meant he hadn’t bothered putting anything in them before leaving home.

“But, Sherlock, the handgun was found on the other side of the room. Do you really think he shot himself in the head and then threw it across the room in disgust?”

This was so simple. How had none of them noticed? It was very nearly infuriating. “The lights are so dim in here because it’s an old house, old construction. That means old wiring. Wouldn’t be useful as a permanent residence but as a rental, it does fine. The owner probably doesn’t come ‘round too often, just pops in to tidy up between guests. And the owner would want to make this chore go as quick as possible. Therefore, help is enlisted.”

“A maid service?” Lestrade asked.

Sherlock pinched the bridge of his nose. He was pretending to be dramatic when, in truth, his nose was starting to tickle madly. He quickly sped up his deductions. He ran a finger over the mantle and held it up, caked with dust. “Obviously not. No, it’s something else, something that’s feeding off the house’s limited amount of electricity. Something hidden or out of the way so it won’t interfere with the decor.” There was one logical place for it to be. Sherlock dropped to his hands and knees and lowered his head until he had a view of the space beneath the couch. “Ah-ha.”

Lestrade sunk down as well, peering under the couch. Their eyes met from opposite ends of the couch but, in-between, was a Roomba, or some generic knock-off thereof, at its docking station. Sherlock waited a moment, seeing the recognition finally alight in the inspector’s eyes. Then Sherlock allowed his own eyes to close. “Hahh-YITTCHhhh!

“The dust,” Lestrade wrongly guessed, rubbing at his own nose. He reached under with a gloved hand and extracted the cleaning machine. “Do you mean to say this pushed the gun clear across the room?”

“Nothing is more likely. The door was locked from within. Few people knew of his vacation, because he didn’t intend for anyone to stop him. He acquired a gun, left his reality behind, and ended his own life.” Sherlock rubbed at his nose as he stood up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…” This time, when he marched proudly toward the door, Lestrade did not stop him.


Lestrade broke the news to the local investigator, who would most likely soon get an earful from some embassy official. He made sure that the little vacuum got tagged and bagged appropriately. Then he stepped back to let everyone do their work without him. Sherlock had been right; this was a wasted day, but how was he to have known that? Coming up here had seemed like the best solution until now, even though Sherlock seemed to be coming down with something.

He’d been sneezing on and off all morning, and Lestrade had pretended to not notice most of them because Sherlock refused to admit he was under the weather. Lestrade had begun to play a game with himself, trying to guess how much it would take before Sherlock finally broke down and admitted he needed something. He had thought for sure that train ride would have done it, but he had obviously underestimated the stubbornness of Sherlock Holmes.

He could hear Sherlock now, just outside the cottage, sneezing his head off where he thought no one could hear him. “Yihshhhh! Hihtshhhh! Yehtchhhh! Yihshhhh!

Lestrade shook his head and took out his mobile again. It rang four times before it was answered. “Hello, Greg. Is everything all right?” John Watson sounded concerned.

“Fine, fine,” Lestrade replied. “Except that the murder turned out to not be a murder, and I think Sherlock’s trying to hide a head cold from me. The thing is, he’s hiding it quite badly at the moment. And if I’m going to have to spend the rest of the day on the train ride back to London with him, I think I’d better get him something.”

John was quiet for a few seconds, and, before he could answer, Lestrade realized why.

“Holy Hell, you knew he was sick, didn’t you? Did he call you?”

John gave a sigh. “Why do the two of you never talk to each other properly? Why must you always go through me?”

“Because you’re the doctor, and you’ve taken care of Sherlock before.”

“Not what I meant.”

“What does he need, John?”

Again, John was quiet. Lestrade heard rustling from the other end. “He’s already picked up medicine.”

“All right, but he still seems pretty miserable.”

“Yes, well—” He stopped in mid-sentence. “Hang on, Greg. I have another call I need to take. Could you hang on for a second?”

Greg did. He listened to the silence on the other end of the phone, wondering what he should do. Then he listened to Sherlock some more, sneezing from outside. How had Sherlock not guessed the walls were so thin?

When John clicked back to resume the phone call, he sounded exasperated. “I can’t believe this. I have patients to see. If you really want to help Sherlock, why don’t you just talk to him?” John hung up before Lestrade could answer.

Lestrade stood just by the front door, next to their suitcases for a moment, staring at his phone. The next train heading to London was scheduled to leave that evening, which meant a choice between boring paperwork at the local department or sitting around a train station for half a day. Neither option seemed too exciting and neither one seemed suitable for someone with a head cold.


Sherlock’s head swam. He could use a cough drop and he’d gone through all the tissues he had on his person, loading his pockets with soggy discarded messes that made him shudder. The only thing that could make the situation he was currently in tolerable was that they would be heading back to the train station immediately and soon he would be back home. He could call John to come home and care for him. John was a doctor. John always knew what to do.

But when the door opened and Lestrade came out with their luggage, he could read on the man’s face that this wasn’t over. He just hoped that didn’t mean paperwork. Sherlock felt a few drops of rain strike his face and hands. Brilliant. And now it was starting to rain.

“I called a cab. Then I asked around,” Lestrade told Sherlock. “There’s a pub in town that serves a good Shepard’s pie.”

“Pub food?”

Lestrade nodded. “Good, hearty pub food. And someplace warm and dry. And tea. Lots of tea. Best thing for a cold, I guarantee. The next train out isn’t until the evening, and I’m sure you’d be more comfortable there than ill at a cold train station.”

He knew. But how could he? Sherlock narrowed his eyes. Sherlock gave him a long, hard look. Sherlock sniffled.

“Oh, of course. Here.” Lestrade dug a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it over.

It was still warm when Sherlock pressed it to his nose and blew. He wasn’t going to admit to Lestrade how good that felt. He wasn’t going to admit he should have asked for help earlier. But he was definitely going to keep this handkerchief. He rubbed his nose with it, fairly certain he was never going to stop doing this; it felt too good. “Pub food would be fine.”