Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 5,916
Warnings: includes mention of childhood bullying, and discussion of eating disorders
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to way more powerful and wealthy people than me.
That Sherlock would collapse at the end of a long case is hardly surprising – the man pushes himself too hard, everyone knows that.
It’s a straightforward problem with an obvious explanation... Isn’t it?
We’ll never be done
Sitting on an uncomfortable armchair in the visitors’ room at the hospital, John groaned quietly to himself. How could he possibly have allowed this to happen? And how – and the thought made him groan again, this time much louder – how the hell was he going to explain all this to Mycroft? Knowing that Sherlock’s brother had already arrived and had gone into his room to visit him, John sighed heavily. As soon as he came out, Mycroft was going to kill him.
And as if in response to the thought of his name, Mycroft Holmes walked through the swing doors at the end of the corridor. John watched in dread as he steadily approached. As always, there was little trace of emotion on Mycroft’s face and John had no idea whether he was going to have him killed quickly, or killed slowly and painfully, or whether he would simply have him shipped off to some country that John had never heard of. Gripping the arms of the chair tightly, John forced himself not to stand up or, worse, fall to his knees begging for mercy. As Mycroft got closer his gaze slid down to John’s white knuckles and a small smirk flickered briefly across his face. John scowled back at him and waited as Mycroft settled himself into the armchair opposite before lifting his furled umbrella to rest across his thighs. Its resemblance to a sheathed sword didn’t escape John’s notice. Mycroft sat silently for a long moment, then looked across to John sternly.
“Tell me what happened.”
- - - - - - -
John suppressed a sigh. “I was having dinner with Meghan,” he said, trying to din the name of his latest date into Sherlock’s brain even though he knew that his friend would instantly forget it. “I didn’t say what time I would be home. How can I be late?”
“I expected that you would be back before now.” Sherlock was pacing rapidly between the fireplace and the sofa, his eyes frantic and his hands held up and moving jerkily as if he didn’t know whether to fold them in front of his mouth, put them on his hips or, John thought worriedly as he watched Sherlock’s fingers flexing, plunge them into his hair and tug at it. He took a step closer to his friend but Sherlock flared past him and continued on to the fireplace before turning and heading back towards the sofa.
“Is there a case?” John asked. “Do we need to go somewhere? I had my phone on vibrate – you could have texted but I checked it occasionally and there were no messages.”
Sherlock whirled and headed back across the room again. “There’s no case,” he spat.
“So why do you need me home?”
“I don’t need you home,” Sherlock told him, throwing him a sarcastic look as he swept past. “Why would I need you home? I simply stated that you were home late.”
“And yet.” John gestured at his friend’s continued pacing but kept his voice calm. “Clearly you’ve got something on your mind. I assume you wanted someone to discuss it with.”
“Disappointing as it may be to you, John, I can actually cope when you’re not here.”
“So what’s all the fuss about?”
“I am not fussing,” Sherlock said viciously. “I don’t believe that I have ever ‘fussed’ in my life. I merely commented on your late arrival. It’s you who’s fussing.” He spun around again and John looked at him in concern as he wobbled slightly before starting another march across the room.
“Sherlock, what’s wrong?” he asked.
“There’s nothing wrong,” Sherlock snapped, reaching the sofa and turning around once again.
Then he stopped, swaying a little on the spot and still talking rapidly as he continued to berate John for his lateness, although John noticed with some alarm that there was suddenly a slight lisp in his speech.
Then he stopped. He fell silent and his entire body locked in place, only his eyes flickering rapidly from side to side as he appeared to realise at last that something really was wrong.
John was already stepping towards him, his hand outstretched in concern, when Sherlock’s eyes turned to him and filled with fear.
“John,” he said softly.
Then he fell.
- - - - - - -
John knew all the technical and medical words, of course, and he had had most of them said to him by the admitting doctor during the last couple of hours since Sherlock had been brought into the hospital, but for some reason the medical part of his mind had abandoned him for the moment and only one word was hammering at the inside of his brain. Malnutrition. Sherlock was suffering from malnutrition. Sherlock – the man who, when he could afford it, could choose to eat at some of the most exclusive restaurants in London; the man who had recently been paid over £25,000 by a Saudi dignitary after tracing the disgruntled employee who had stolen his briefcase ... The man who shared a flat with a bloody doctor, for Christ’s sake.
Of course Sherlock ate less when he was on a case. Of course he sometimes didn’t sleep for more than an hour or two at a time when he was concentrating on solving a delightfully complicated set of clues. John had learned long ago that it wasn’t worth getting into an argument with his flatmate about how he should take more care of himself. But Sherlock had also learned that no matter how wrapped up he might be in his work, whenever a determined doctor put a sandwich or a bowl of soup or a small plate of takeaway food in front of him he should at least pick at some of it if he wanted to avoid any distracting interruptions to his train of thought. Two complicated cases had been passed to Sherlock by desperate detective inspectors within the last month and John’s ‘eat this or I’ll talk to you’ routine had been wheeled out more and more frequently, each greeted with an impatient sigh but – so John believed at the time – an occasional pause to take a bite, spoonful or forkful of the food he had been given.
Thinking back, John wondered just how much of those meals Sherlock had actually eaten and how much had been secreted in the bin or poured down the sink as soon as John left the room.
- - - - - - -
“It’s my fault.” John shoved his fingers through his hair and grimaced. “I’m a bloody doctor, Mycroft. How could I not have noticed?”
“You shouldn’t blame yourself, John,” Mycroft told him, although his expression suggested that John should indeed hold himself responsible. “Sherlock has always had a somewhat ... lax attitude to his own health.”
“And I know that,” John said in frustration. “He doesn’t eat properly; he doesn’t sleep enough; he pushes himself too hard. God knows I spend most of my time trying to keep him healthy, but why didn’t I notice that he was getting in this state?”
He turned away, haunted by the memory of Sherlock’s collapse, and irrationally angry at Lestrade for the nonchalant comment which John was beginning to realise had set off this drastic chain of events.
- - - - - - -
“Blimey, Sherlock, you’re getting fat!”
Sherlock turned and narrowed his eyes at Lestrade. “I fail to see how gaining four pounds during the last eight months can constitute ‘getting fat’, Inspector,” he snapped.
“For you, it’s getting fat,” Lestrade said with a grin. “Anyway, you should have seen your shirt front stretching when you reached up to the bookcase just then. How those buttons managed to hang on is a bloody miracle!”
Sherlock shot him a dark look and turned away briefly, then spun around and proceeded to rattle off a string of observations about the case which Lestrade had brought to him.
Hindsight was a wonderful thing, but now that he thought back John couldn’t understand why he hadn’t realised – as the conversation had continued – that the distant look on Sherlock’s face was more than simple concentration on the facts of the case.
- - - - - - -
“He knew where I was, Mycroft. Normally I can’t get through a date without him texting me or turning up and dragging me off. If he needed me, why didn’t he call?”
“He knew that he was reaching the limits of his strength but was too proud to admit it. He simply hoped that you would come home in time and would realise that something was wrong and compel him to eat something.”
“For God’s sake!” John said in exasperation. “He’s not a bloody kid! And it’s not like the kitchen was empty! If he was hungry, he could have got something, or gone down to Mrs Hudson if he was too lazy to feed himself – she’d have happily stuffed him full of food.”
Mycroft looked away, clearly uncomfortable talking about his brother in his absence, but then he sighed and looked at John again.
“He has come to rely on you. When you insist that he eats, he eats. When you tell him to rest, he will rest. You are his conscience, and without you he reverts back to his old ways.”
“God, I know he behaves better when I’m around but I can’t be there all the time.”
Mycroft raised an eyebrow and looked at John pointedly. “Nevertheless ...”
“Yeah, okay,” John said tiredly. “But this has obviously been going on for months, and I was there nearly all the time. How did he manage to hide it from me? And why?”
Mycroft looked at him silently. John threw up his hands in irritation.
“I can’t help him if you don’t give me some kind of clues here,” he said. “He’s obviously got issues that I don’t know about, and I’m not asking for his bloody life history. Just give me some idea of what I’m dealing with here.”
Mycroft looked away again.
“Oh for crying out loud, you annoying twat!” John burst out loudly. “Your brother is lying in that room with drips in his arm, having successfully half-starved himself in front of a bloody doctor! Do you want me to help him or not? If you trust me enough to call me his conscience, then you’ve got to let me have something.”
Mycroft fingered his umbrella as he turned a thoughtful gaze towards him, and John wondered whether there really was a sword concealed inside it and whether Mycroft was considering using it. Right now he didn’t care.
“Help me,” he said more quietly. “He’s your brother, and I know the two of you don’t get on, but obviously you care about him or you wouldn’t be here.”
He leaned forward in his chair. “This is far worse than his usual non-eating behaviour. Something set him off – I can guess what it was but it’s not important now. But if you don’t give me some idea of how to deal with it he’s just going to get worse, and next time he might do himself lasting damage. Do you want me to save him or not?”
He glared into the impassive face in front of him as Mycroft remained silent. “If you really don’t care what happens to Sherlock, then get out and don’t ever let me see you again, because if you set foot near me I will punch your bloody lights out and the entire British government won’t be able to stop me. But if you want to keep him alive and healthy, give me something. One word. Just one damned word to save your brother’s life. Is that really so much to ask?”
Mycroft opened his mouth and then closed it again. For an appalling moment John believed that he wasn’t going to say anything further, but then he straightened even more in his chair and appeared to brace himself.
“Malcolm,” he said.
“I am not refusing to tell you what you need to know, John,” Mycroft continued, “but despite my concerns about my brother, I am fully aware that if I were to talk to you about what you so delightfully call his ‘issues’, our already difficult relationship would become even more complicated. Sherlock would consider it an utter breach of trust. He has to tell you, and I fear that you may find it almost impossible to persuade him.”
He looked at John sternly. “But you must persuade him. You have to understand what brought on this behaviour, and in order to do so you must compel him to tell you about the trigger that began it.”
He lifted his umbrella and stared at the tip for a long moment before lowering it to the floor, then looked at John again.
“Make him tell you about Malcolm.”
- - - - - - -
John walked into the kitchen, poured a glass of water and took a can of beer from the fridge. Returning to the sitting room he put the glass onto the table and then sat down in his armchair. Sherlock was standing at the window looking out into the street but after a few seconds he turned and looked at the glass.
“I would prefer tea,” he said without meeting John’s eyes.
“Get it yourself,” John told him tersely.
Sherlock looked round at him. “Ah. You’re angry with me,” he said.
“Nope,” John replied. “But I’m not your housekeeper any more than Mrs Hudson is, and she’s not home anyway. If you hadn’t discharged yourself two days before the doctors were ready to release you, she might be here and would be delighted to fuss over you, but she isn’t. If you want tea, there’s a room just behind me. It’s called a kitchen. You’re a genius – I’m sure you can work out where everything is.”
Sherlock turned away again, but after a while he reached over to the table, picked up the glass and took a sip from it.
John wasn’t sure how to proceed from here. The nine words that Sherlock had just spoken had been about as much as he had said in the last five days barring repeated sulky pronouncements of “Not now, John,” every time John had tried to initiate any kind of conversation during his visits to the hospital.
He was reluctant to use the name that Mycroft had given him; unsure whether Sherlock was emotionally stable enough to cope with hearing it. However, the longer this black mood continued, the less likely it was that Sherlock would be willing to open up when John did broach the subject. Ever since they had become flatmates all those months ago, Sherlock had never kept his threat/promise that “Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end,” but this continued silence, his refusal to respond to any attempt to get him to talk since returning home four hours ago, was worrying. John needed to take action before Sherlock sank so far into depression that it would be nigh-on impossible to pull him back out of it.
Maybe it was worth the risk. John straightened in his chair and braced himself.
“Tell me about Malcolm.”
Sherlock whirled, his eyes blazing with fury. “Mycroft had no right ...” he began.
“Mycroft had every right!” John burst out. “He may be a lot of things – and most of them are bloody awful – but you don’t for a moment believe that he would say the name just to be spiteful. And for your information, that’s all he said – just the name. He wouldn’t tell me anything about who Malcolm is or was, didn’t give me the slightest clue what Malcolm was to you, and I haven’t got the foggiest idea what he has to do with your collapse.”
He pointed angrily at his friend. “You don’t have to tell me anything at all. You can stand there and sulk for the next year if you want. God knows I could never force it from you, and Mycroft is never going to say another word about it. So you can shut up and pout and give me the silent treatment if you want – and a fat lot of good it’s going to do you. I know how stubborn you are and how you think that you know best, and if you don’t want me to help you get through this, I can’t do anything to change your mind. It’s up to you, Sherlock.”
He sat back as a shocking thought suddenly occurred to him. For a moment he wasn’t sure whether he should voice it or not, but the realisation was painful and true, and he looked across to his flatmate and spoke honestly.
“But if you won’t talk about this with me – me, the person who’s supposed to be your best friend, then I might as well pack my things and move out right now, because I’m no bloody use to you and we’re clearly not the friends that I thought we were.”
Sherlock narrowed his eyes, apparently contemplating whether John was trying to use emotional blackmail to force him to speak. John held his gaze determinedly, hiding nothing, allowing the seriousness of what he had said to show on his face. Sherlock would never respond to fake pressure and he needed to see that John meant what he said. For almost a minute they continued the battle of wills, then abruptly Sherlock straightened up and stared at the bookcase in front of him.
“Paul Malcolm. He was the leader of the main gang of bullies at school. You probably assume that Mycroft and I went to an expensive prep school and then an even more expensive boarding school. You’re wrong, John – our parents weren’t well-off enough to send us to public school. We went to a standard primary school and then to the local grammar. But with our intelligence and our upbringing ... our ‘posh’ accents ... we were the obvious targets for the bullies.”
His face twisted as it took on an uncanny resemblance to a young boy spitting out insults. “‘Oh, look, it’s Fatty Holmes,’ was Malcolm’s favourite war-cry across the playground, immediately followed by what the prefects whimsically referred to as ‘just a bit of rough-housing’ but was usually far more violent than simply some shoving and hair-pulling.”
John nodded. “And you saw Mycroft being bullied like that and resolved never to be in a position where you could be accused of being overweight.”
Sherlock’s eyes flickered. “It wasn’t Mycroft they were taunting, John – it was me.”
John frowned, but then caught up. “Oh. They called you ‘Fatty’ because you were so thin. Like calling a brainy kid ‘Thicko’ ...” He trailed off, embarrassed at the over-appropriate analogy.
Sherlock, however, seemed oblivious to the unintentionally apt reference. He chewed on the inside of his cheek, a look of irritation on his face which John recognised as his ‘Do keep up, John’ expression, then sank tiredly down onto the nearby dining chair.
“They called me ‘Fatty’, John,” he said slowly, as if explaining it to an idiot, “because I was fat.”
John bit back an automatic, “What?” before it escaped. Sherlock’s gaze, not quite meeting his own, was haunted with memories. John forced himself to take on board what his friend had just said. “So ... you and Mycroft were both overweight kids?”
“No.” Sherlock’s voice was quiet. “I was the fat one – always was. I was overweight by the time I was ten years old, and continued over-eating into my teens. Mycroft, on the other hand ...” His tone was bitter. “... was a normal size for his age.”
He straightened up in the chair and his voice became a monotone as he continued speaking.
“It was me who stood out in the playground and on the playing fields. I couldn’t run around like the other children, was always picked last for teams, was useless at sports, was laughed at for being the fattest kid in the school, had no friends because I was too intelligent for them and didn’t want to associate with them ... So the bullies singled me out.”
John nodded again, struggling to even imagine his friend as a fat child. “And being bullied made you unhappy, so you were comfort-eating and became even more overweight.”
“For God’s sake, John, stop being so bloody polite,” Sherlock snapped. “If my doctor had used the word ‘obese’ instead of letting me hide behind his stupid diplomatic phrases like, ‘You could do with losing a bit of weight,’ all through my teenage years, I might have realised how bad it was and maybe would have done something about it earlier.”
He glowered at John. “As it was, I stayed in denial for far too long, pretending that everything was fine. I carried on over-eating, put on even more weight and continued to ...” He air-quoted the next phrase. “... ‘have the crap beaten out of me’ at school. It continued the whole time I was there – when Malcolm and his friends left, others took over, and I kept eating to try and take my mind off it.”
“Why didn’t Mycroft step in?”
“You’re forgetting the age difference between us,” Sherlock said. “He was eighteen and in his final year when I moved up to secondary school. Malcolm and his cronies were two years older than me but didn’t really notice me until after Mycroft had already left.”
“Did your parents know about the bullying?”
“My parents didn’t pay much attention to me or Mycroft,” Sherlock said. “Father already had interests ... elsewhere and had stopped caring about anyone in the family; and Mummy was never able to cope with the fact that she didn’t understand a word her children said. She was affectionate enough, but couldn’t handle a conversation with either of us once we passed the age of eight and so she stopped listening.”
He looked reflective. “I never came home with bruises – Malcolm and his gang were too clever to leave visible evidence – and as long as I ate the meals she provided, and asked for second helpings, she felt she was doing her parental duty. If my drastic weight increase bothered her at all, she didn’t dare ask about it in case I explained it to her in words she couldn’t understand.”
“So what happened to change the way you ate?” John asked.
Sherlock began to chew on the inside of his cheek again and John hastened to reassure him.
“No, it’s fine if you don’t want to tell ...”
“Mycroft,” Sherlock interrupted. “When I was sixteen, Mycroft came home. He’d been away at university and then got a job which sent him all around the world, but when he was twenty-three he joined the British government and consequently was based in London. Mummy wasn’t well at the time and so he moved back home.”
He shot a quick glance at John. “It may surprise you to know that we had a more ... cordial relationship when we were younger. He hadn’t been able to visit for over a year and he was shocked when he saw me. Obviously I never weighed myself but I had probably put on another two stone since I had reached my teens and couldn’t even walk up the eight steps to the front door without getting breathless. We had several conversations ...” He grimaced. “Well, he talked at me and I ignored him or denied that my weight was a problem. He tried every course of persuasion he could think of during the next few months, and then finally he took drastic action.”
John stared at him, imagining the various courses of ‘drastic action’ that Mycroft could have taken. Sherlock looked back at him as if reading every option that John was considering.
“You would never guess it if I gave you a month to work it out,” he said wryly.
“Go on, then,” John said.
Sherlock turned his gaze away again. “He started matching me meal for meal,” he said, his voice dispassionate. “Every time I ate something, he would eat just as much. Of course he couldn’t be at home during the day but when he came back after work he was able to estimate how much I had eaten during the day and would consume a similar amount. He would stuff himself full of snacks and then sit down at the table and force himself to eat exactly the same amount of dinner as I did. It worked against him sometimes – if I was particularly irritated with him I would eat even more than usual just to challenge him to match me. He always succeeded. Occasionally it was too much and he couldn’t help but vomit, but as soon as he recovered he would replace what he had purged. He put on four stone in three years.”
His eyes flickered momentarily even though his voice remained neutral. “His metabolism was worse than mine. The weight piled on drastically, he had to buy larger clothing every six months, and while he never reached my level of obesity, he too was morbidly obese and equally in danger of having a heart attack or a stroke. And while I tried to ignore it or deny what was happening to him, one day ...”
He drew in a sharp breath through his nose. “One day I accidentally walked in on him in the bathroom while he was shaving. He was stripped to the waist and I saw ...” For the first time his voice showed a trace of emotion. “He had stretch marks on his abdomen and arms. The fat itself didn’t bother me but somehow the stretch marks made me realise what he was going through. For me. Just to try and make me come to my senses. Because he cared.”
Sherlock snarled the last word, then lowered his head. For one hopeful moment, John thought that this was the sentence which would finally make Sherlock break. But as Sherlock raised his head again and looked across at him, it was John’s own eyes that filled with tears. Sherlock looked at him curiously.
“Why are you upset?”
“Dunno.” John swiped at his eyes and shrugged, feeling like an idiot.
“I’m interested. Tell me.”
“You went through a lot – both of you. I mean every family has problems. Hell, look at me, and my sister, or Greg and his marriage, or Mrs Hudson and her husband, but you two really went through it. I’m not upset so much as angry on your behalf, or behalfs, or behalves, and don’t you bloody dare.”
He scowled at Sherlock, who shut his mouth again. “Nobody deserves to be that miserable, Sherlock, and I’m sorry that you and Mycroft had to go through all that just because of some pathetic little shit who enjoyed bullying people. And yes, he probably had issues of his own, but still ...”
He stopped, lost in thought. A memory of Mycroft’s comment to him on the first night that they met had surfaced and suddenly his slightly strange pronouncement that “You can imagine the Christmas dinners” made more sense. Actually, a lot of things made more sense: Sherlock’s utter disdain for his physical self and consistent refusal to give in to his body’s demands; the obsessive need to control and restrict his eating, his sleeping, even his (lack of) sex life; not to mention his dress sense – wearing such tight shirts and well-fitted clothes, partly to look as slender as possible and partly to give him advance warning if he was putting on weight again. And the constant sniping about his brother’s weight was understandable too: Sherlock’s bitching about his brother’s diet was the only way that he could bring himself to display concern if he thought that Mycroft was slipping.
Sherlock was watching him thoughtfully. John mentally shook himself and returned his gaze.
“So what happened?” he asked.
“I stopped over-eating,” Sherlock said. “Not instantly – after all those years I was addicted to food and I had occasional spectacular relapses, but most of the time I was able to control what I ate and it became easier as time passed. And by then I had an interest in criminology and had something to distract me from thinking about the next snack. Also, when I was at university the grant wasn’t huge and I had little money – and Mycroft refused to give me any even though he was being paid well, plus he was now able to try and match my weight loss and wasn’t going to encourage me to lose control again. I had to get a part-time job just to fund my research and most of the time I could barely afford to eat ...”
He paused as if uncertain whether to continue, but then tilted his chin stubbornly.
“On the rare occasions when I did have some money to spare, I found another way to control my cravings.”
“Which was?” John asked. The look on Sherlock’s face suggested that he wasn’t going to like the answer.
Sherlock looked at him defiantly. “I replaced food with cocaine.”
“Okay,” John said evenly. The news didn’t exactly surprise him, and there was no point making an issue of it. Sherlock looked a little startled for a moment, but then continued.
“It was only occasional – I couldn’t afford a regular habit and research equipment took priority. And then I found something else that helped.”
His expression implied that this wasn’t such a negative pastime, so John encouraged him on with a nod.
“Running.” Sherlock continued. “I never got into jogging, of course – not really my thing as you can probably imagine, but I would run to and from work, and in between classes, and it felt good after the first few attempts and it got easier as time went on. Initially I was running just for the exercise; but then I began investigating crimes, poking around where I shouldn’t, and then I was running for my life.” He quirked a brief smile for the first time in days. “I seemed to burn off a lot more weight that way.”
John returned his smile.
“And after I left university and was still steadily losing weight, and even though he wasn’t succeeding in matching me, Mycroft bought me something which I wanted, something I considered would be an important aid in my new chosen career as the world’s first consulting detective. He knew I couldn’t afford it, so he bought it and told me I could have it once I was worthy of it. It wasn’t the only reason I continued the weight loss, of course; by then I had almost completely lost interest in food and was well on my way to controlling my sleep patterns as well so that I could concentrate on the work, but that additional incentive helped. He handed it over fifteen months later.”
He stopped to take a sip of water.
“After I got down to a suitable weight, it was difficult to stop there. I was so used to restricting my food intake that I continued with my regime, and even when I had an ... episode with cocaine that resulted in me being taken into hospital and the doctors told me that I was now underweight, I found it distasteful to consider eating more again, knowing what could happen if I lost control.”
He looked across to his friend. “There’s nothing more to tell you. You know the rest.”
Sighing, he sat back and ran his hands through his hair.
“Are we done, John?” he asked tiredly.
“No,” John said casually. He sat forward in his armchair. “Oh, I’m not going to try and dig out every last piece of information about your past – it’s none of my business. We don’t ever have to discuss this again if you don’t want to. I know you’re not one for talking about family or your past, and I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me this much. But I’m a doctor, and I’m your friend, and I don’t have your ability to just ‘delete’ things. Actually, even if I could delete this, I wouldn’t but I won’t ever ask you to talk about it again unless you want to. But as a doctor and as your friend, I care about you and I don’t ever want you to be this ill again. I know you well enough to realise that fussing over you and noting everything you eat and every time you sleep will only piss you off and so I’m not going to do it. But I will keep an eye on you, and if I feel that you’re starting to slip again, I’ll bring it to your attention and you can decide whether to do something about it or not.”
He locked eyes with the thin, pale man sitting at the table and smiled slightly to show that his next words were not a threat. “So no, Sherlock, we are not done. We’ll never be done.”
They stared at each other for a long while, and it was Sherlock who finally looked away. He gazed at the bookcase while he absorbed John’s words, then took a deep breath and stood up. Looking down at his flatmate, he gave a small nod in acknowledgement of his offer.
“I stink of hospitals.” He turned and headed towards the door. “I’m going to have a shower.”
- - - - - - -
Sherlock returned to the sitting room half an hour later. He had only spent ten minutes in the shower but had stayed in his bedroom for another twenty minutes to allow the redness in his eyes to fade. When he walked in, still buttoning his shirt, John put his newspaper onto the floor beside his chair and stood up.
“I’ve spoken with Angelo,” he said. “He’s reserved us a table and he’s cooking one of his specials for us. It’ll be light but nutritious, and it’ll be ready in ten minutes. Coming?”
He picked up his jacket and turned towards Sherlock, his entire body language making it clear that there was only one answer to his question. Sherlock tried to return his determined look with a stubborn expression of his own.
“You’re not going to mother me, John ...” he began to remind him, but John interrupted.
“Good, because I’ve got no intention of mothering you,” he told him firmly. “Smothering you in your sleep, maybe, you exasperating berk, but otherwise no. I’m going to Angelo’s because I’m bloody starving. Are you coming or what?”
Despite his efforts, Sherlock couldn’t stop a small smile forming. He turned away in an attempt to hide it and got ready to go out.
“So what was the incentive that Mycroft bought you?” John asked curiously, keeping his head lowered as he pretended to search through his pockets for his door keys. Sherlock felt a strange surge of gratitude towards the man who was going to so much effort not to embarrass him. Taking a sharp breath to suppress such unnecessary emotions, he clapped John on the shoulder before preceding him down the stairs. As they reached the ground floor, he turned his head slightly to direct his reply over his shoulder as he continued towards the front door.
“He bought me a coat.”
John’s startled but delighted laugh followed him out onto the street, and Sherlock smiled once more as he looked down the road and raised his arm to summon an approaching taxi. As John reached his side and the cab pulled over to the kerb, Sherlock suddenly realised that he was hungry.
For the benefit of those who work in different weight measurements than those given above:
2 stone = 28 pounds = 12.7 kg
4 stone = 56 pounds = 25.4 kg
Additionally, a grammar school – which I don’t think exists any more – is/was a school for children who passed an exam at the age of 10 or 11 which was designed to pick out the more intelligent kids. Pupils started there at the age of 11, and could stay on until 16 or 18.
‘Public school’ was a generic term for independent (mostly private) schools to which more wealthy parents could send their children if they could afford the fees. Grammar schools (and comprehensive schools for the ‘less clever’ kids) were collectively known as secondary schools and were funded by the state with no fees charged for attendance.
Don’t ask me why private schools were called public schools. Oh, the joys of the English language ...
Also, the above is my best recollection of how it worked, and I stand to be corrected!
My love and thanks as always go to verityburns. Without her wise and light-handed beta work and diplomatic re-arranging of the various sections, you would have been totally baffled as to what I was going on about (I mean, you still may be, but it would have been a lot worse!). Not to mention that the story would have contained a hell of a lot more “slightly”s. One day we will have to arrange a hostage exchange: she can give me my slightlys back and I’ll return her skipload of commas and ellipses. ;-)
Also thanks to her and the other members of the gang (anarion, atlinmerrick, mirith, and StaceyAlbright [get an LJ account, woman!]), because it was the chats with them about this story – this bloody endless story which took so many months to get out of my head and onto the screen after my initial thought of “Sherlock was fat as a child!” – which kept me encouraged enough to keep wrestling on with it. Mirith in particular came up with the genius idea about Sherlock wearing tight shirts (stops to dribble for a moment ...) and well-fitted clothes to warn him of any weight gain. Thank you so much, guys.