Sherlock was laid low before he'd even registered the intruder's presence in his flat. John, though forewarned by Sherlock's hasty descent, could do nothing to prevent his own fall. Mrs. Hudson wisely refused to have anything to do with the aftermath, clearing out to her sister's house in the country. Anthea decided to step in at that point, motivated in part by Dr. Watson's poor condition, but mostly by the thought of the overtime and hazard pay she could accumulate by volunteering for service. She'd have enough cash to buy her own island soon, she promised herself when the strain of coping with Sherlock got to be too much.
The man himself was slumped exhaustedly on the sofa, arms folded triumphantly across his chest while he shot her a malevolent glare. "Trying to assuage your guilty conscience?" he croaked. "It won't work, I assure you."
Why he insisted on continuing to speak when (1) it had to be hell on his abused throat and (2) she hadn't answered or even acknowledged a single one of his ludicrous comments was not a question that could be answered after a few moments' consideration. It was just who he was: a stubborn fool who might very well hold his breath until he passed out if he didn't get the last word in every conversation. It was best not to engage.
Still, she wasn't a saint. If he was going to continue to hammer home his contention that Mycroft had made him ill by disposing of his used tissue in the bin in 221B's kitchen, then she was not going to hide her intention to treat the patient who wasn't constantly raving about his brother's germs with all of the kindness that would be wasted on Sherlock. "What – what are you doing?" he rasped, seeing her take his box of extra-soft, lotion-infused tissues and leave a dispenser of the cheap, rough stuff in its stead.
"John," she called up the stairs, "I've got you the nice tissues. I'll be up in a moment." She turned sharply, surprising Sherlock, who looked very young and miserable when he wasn't scowling determinedly at her. "I could leave you some, if you like," she said pleasantly, waiting to see if he would take the bait. Mycroft might not admit it out loud, but she knew he knew how much easier his life had been once he'd acknowledged that she was in charge of things; his little brother would crack too. "I'll be making tea for John. If you'd like a cup, all you have to do is say so." Sherlock was staring at her, round-eyed, like she'd started speaking in tongues. "Come, come, you were perfectly ready to speak up before. Why have you gone silent now?"
He still refused to speak, so she retreated gracefully, allowing him a temporary reprieve. She filled the kettle with water and began a search for some biscuits. By the time she had the tray ready, she looked over at the sofa, only to find it empty, the blanket hastily flung over one arm. She sighed and headed up the stairs with the tea. John was in bed, the duvet rumpled around him, and he had listed until his forehead hit Sherlock's shoulder; Sherlock's eyes blazed defiantly as she entered the room. "I see it all now," he hissed dramatically. "Mycroft didn't spread his germs here just to make me ill; he did it to allow you a way to force yourself in here, probably at your behest. You –"
"Sherlock," John said tiredly, surprising her, as she'd thought he was asleep. "She's here to help. Let her, please."
"She's intruding in our flat!"
"You are a lunatic," John said without inflection and without raising his head from Sherlock's shoulder; she saw that Sherlock had angled his body to stay between her and John and was the slightest bit touched at his idiotic gallantry.
"Thank you," John said, reaching out one trembling hand for a cup of tea. "Er – I don't know your proper name, sorry."
"Mary," she said, charmed despite herself, unable to fathom why a man with red-rimmed eyes, sweat-stained pyjamas, and completely ludicrous bedhead should draw the truth out of her when all of the traps Mycroft and Sherlock had set had failed. "Mary Morstan. And you're most welcome."
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