Prompt: Sherlock gets sick only a few days after John moved in. Cue awkward caretaking, worrying about overstepping boundaries and Sherlock hiding his cold because he's trying to impress John/doesn't want to appear weak.



Overstepping Boundaries


Less than a week in 221B Baker Street and John Watson had learned a lot. He’d learned that what he craved was excitement. He’d learned that his new flatmate was possibly the most brilliant person in the world. And he’d learned that his damn therapist might have been right about his leg all along.


He’d also learned that Sherlock Holmes didn’t know the first thing about boundaries. A skull on the mantle. Eyeballs in the microwave. Test tubes on the table. Then there was the violin playing at three in the morning. The barging in to ask him questions at all hours. And the borrowing of items John would have considered personal like his laptop and his toothbrush. If it had to do with Sherlock, there was an excellent chance John was going to find out about it. It was unavoidable, as his flatmate.


Which was why John was surprised when, at two in the afternoon, he realized he hadn’t seen Sherlock all day. To be fair, when Sherlock had proposed they share a flat together, Sherlock had explained that he might go days without speaking. But not being heard and not being even glimpsed were two different things altogether.


Deciding it was crap, John deleted the last sentence he’d written in his blog. He was trying to describe what it was like to walk in and see Sherlock with the pink case, and he just couldn’t figure it out. He’d thought he’d known Sherlock then, and that one scene before him had immediately called it all into question. John wasn’t sure he had the vocabulary to properly describe it, the way his new flatmate could be so incredibly brilliant one moment and the next entirely oblivious; he didn’t even know that the Earth moved ‘round the sun. Actually, that wasn’t half bad. He’d have to put that into the write-up somewhere.


John looked up from the laptop, staring in the direction of Sherlock’s room. What was Sherlock doing that kept him holed up in his room all day? And did John actually want to know? Was he overstepping his bounds just by sitting and wondering, even?


John returned to his blog post. It still needed a title. Good titles could make or break a blog, and so far his titles had been nothing special. But, then, he only had a couple readers—at least one of whom was related to him and another of whom was his paid therapist—so maybe it didn’t matter quite so much what he titled a post as long as he titled it something. Or perhaps he could ask Sherlock for a suggestion; the man was insanely clever, after all. That is, if he ever saw Sherlock again.


John’s fingers froze, the rest of him was likewise still. He leaned back in the chair. This wasn’t just his imagination; it was strange that he hadn’t seen the man. It was strange to live in a small flat with someone and not see him. Was Sherlock giving up on eating? Or was he sneaking to the kitchen when John wasn’t looking? And, either way, why? Why now, after throwing himself into John’s life so dramatically, was he suddenly MIA?


He had to be up to something. Something dangerous? John hoped not, but he didn’t know Sherlock all that well yet. He had eyeballs in the microwave… why not the rest of the body in his room? Or, worse, some sort of chemical experiment or a bomb. He could be playing with any number of things. In which case, John deserved to know. If he had actually had drugs or something harmful, John needed to know so that he could deal and not accidentally blurt it out to the police in the future.


So, before he’d even consciously made the decision, he pushed his chair back and started walking to Sherlock’s room. The flat was quiet—an eerie silent, actually, which just magnified John’s amount of dread. He could hear each footstep on the stair and felt certain Sherlock must have heard them as well. But when he knocked on the closed bedroom door, there was a crash like something being dropped and a startled cry. “Sherlock?”


The door was flung open and Sherlock stood there, hastily tying the belt around the waist of his robe. As he did so, John peered around the room, looking for some evidence of what Sherlock had been doing. The good news was that he didn’t see anything in particular that screamed ‘bomb.’ But there wasn’t much else he could make out; the room was as cluttered as the rest of the flat.


Sherlock pulled the ends of the tie into a tight knot, then he studied John for all of three seconds before saying, “How’d you figure it out?”


He looked absolutely devastated. And John had absolutely no idea why or what Sherlock was talking about.


“Was it the noise then? I tried especially to be quiet. I was under the covers and everything. I mean, if a pillow could mask the sound of a bullet, it should work for this.”


John’s gaze traveled to the bed. It was unmade, covers going every which way and four pillows bunched up at the head. John spotted some balled-up discarded tissues on the nightstand and, suddenly, he put it all together in his mind. He wondered if this was actually something like how Sherlock worked cases, collecting little bits until they suddenly came into his head as a fully-formed idea. John doubted any such idea would make Sherlock blush, however, and John’s face was certainly flushed.


Sherlock had been having a wank. An exceptionally long one, considering it had lasted all morning, but at least it wasn’t a bomb.


“Or was it the smell? Was that it? I thought about opening a window, but I was too chilled already.”


Utterly embarrassed for Sherlock, decided the only safe place to look was the floor. John held his hand up, trying to get some silence from the man.


Sherlock either did not notice or did not care. “Was it the missing orange juice? I wasn’t certain you would notice that as you only drink orange juice three times a week odds were in my favor that this wasn’t one of them.”


John lifted his head. Orange juice? Sherlock was an enigma, yes, but who masturbated with orange juice? John was clearly missing something important here.


He could ask, but then Sherlock would know he hadn’t figured it out. John took another look at the room—at the rumpled bed, the tissue box, the empty glasses and teacups, and the ripped-open packet of lemsip. Oh no. John could have kicked himself.


“How long have you felt ill?”


Sherlock moaned and threw himself onto the bed. “Ages!” John took a few steps closer. Should he see if the man had a fever? He was a doctor; that’s what he did. But, then, a good doctor would probably have noticed this earlier. Noticed the strong scent of menthol in the room. Noticed Sherlock looking paler than normal. Noticed the flush around his nostrils. Noticed the bit of a croak in his voice.


Sherlock buried his face in the pillow. “The sneezes began last night. Huh-huh-KITchhhhh!”  


“God bless. Are you taking something for this?” John walked over to Sherlock’s bedside, climbing over several piles of books along the way.


Sherlock shook his head, snuffling and rubbing his nose against the pillowcase.


“Well, you should. I am a doctor, Sherlock. You might have told me.”


H’Kschh! Kitshhhh!


“I could have helped.”


“There’s no cure for the common cold. What could be gained?”


“I could have made you more comfortable.”




John pulled a tissue from the box and waved it at Sherlock’s face. Sherlock ignored it. He muttered, “Didn’t want to overstep my boundaries.”


“Too late for that,” John replied. He reached out and felt the man’s forehead with the back of his head. Then he rolled Sherlock to the side, freeing a blanket. He laid it over Sherlock and tucked it around the man. Then John ducked into the bathroom. After rooting around in the medicine cabinet for a few minutes, he emerged with a pack of tablets and a cup of water. But he had to wait for Sherlock to stop coughing into his pillow before administering the medicine.


Once the pills were down, John saw Sherlock’s nose twitch and pulled his hand back quickly.




“God bless.”


Sherlock sniffled into his pillow. “No need to say that. It’s a simple sneeze. As many of 40,000 droplets at up to 200 miles per hour. huhhh-Hihshhhh!”  


John took a step back. He hadn’t heard a sneeze described quite like that before. But, then, he’d never had a patient quite like Sherlock before either, someone who’d been feeling ill since last night and only now… “Wait, last night?”




“You started feeling sneezy last night? Sherlock!”




“Sherlock, you used my toothbrush last night!”