Sherlock spent the entirety of John's stay at the small village hospital tormenting the staff, demanding instant diagnoses, and generally hurrying them all along. He even threatened to sic Toby on one particularly slow-moving nurse, but the woman only looked at the exhausted canine, asleep under a waiting-room seat, and shook her head.
His constant harrying quickly wore thin on his brother's ghost, too. "Oh, shut up, Sherlock," said Ford, utterly out of patience with him. "You're not helping at all, you know. Shut. Up!" Eventually he gave up. The next time he went to check on John, he decided to stay with him, leaving his useless brother to his own devices.
John was pleased to see him. He wanted company, but Sherlock was being kept out of the exam room by a hyper-diligent orderly with enormous forearms.
"I think they're blocking him because he's so annoying," opined Ford.
"He might be less trouble if you let him in here," John said to the doctor currently wrapping his foot in supportive bandages. "Sherlock, I mean."
The man was grey-haired with a knowing look on his lined face--not the sort one usually expected to be working evenings in A&E. "That is not my experience where the Holmes boys are concerned."
"So you've met them."
Nothing more seemed needed saying, so John fell silent.
"He's not met me," Ford said. "I'm no trouble at all."
John almost laughed, but at that moment his ankle protested its handling by shooting a pain from his peronius longus all the way to his skull. He gasped instead.
"Nearly done," the doctor assured him.
Ford sat on the bed next to John, his ethereal body making no impression and providing no warmth. "This is all my fault," he said morosely.
"Not your fault," grunted John through clenched teeth.
"I'm glad you feel that way," said the doctor. "You certainly took a nasty spill. This ankle is in poor shape. You'd have been better off breaking it."
"Yeah. I got that impression myself."
"I understand you were at Weavers Pond." Something in the doctor's tone caught John's ear.
"Is that unusual?"
"I'm sure someone must go there on occasion. However, it's been years since I've heard of anyone."
John focused on Ford who looked about as sick as a ghost could look. "Why is that?"
The doctor glanced up in surprise. "Has no one told you?"
"No." He had his suspicions, but no facts to go on, and that was no way to formulate a theory.
"I'd say it was a private family matter, but it's no secret to anyone who was here at the time."
"Were you here?"
"Yes. I was barely a year in residence here when it happened. Terrible business. There you are! All done." He stepped back to admire his handiwork.
John was about to ask him to go on with his story when Ford's small voice pleaded, "Please don't."
"I'll have a nurse come with a chair to wheel you out."
"That's not necessary."
"I think you'll be glad for it. Crutches and that shoulder are not compatible at the moment. I'm sure you understand, Doctor Watson." His use of John's title emphasized his point nicely.
"Right." Had John been thinking clearer, he'd have realised it himself. His left arm was in a sling and now his left ankle was swaddled tighter than Baby Jesus. He wasn't going anywhere under his own power for a day or two at least. He sighed.
"I can send Sherlock in now, if you'd like."
"If you must," said Ford as John replied, "Yes. Thanks."
There was no time for private conference between the doctor departing and Sherlock bursting into the room. "John. How are you?"
"Well enough, I suppose." John accepted help swinging his legs over the side of the exam bed, unevenly balanced as he was with one arm temporarily out of commission. "Grab my other shoe and my jacket, would you?"
"I'm going home," Ford announced and disappeared before John could blink.
"Of course." Sherlock collected the items as he went on. "I've got some pain pills from one of the less incompetent nurses."
"I hope they're for me, not you," John wise-cracked. What little analgesic he'd been given earlier was already wearing off. A nurse appeared with a wheelchair, and Sherlock insisted he be the one to help John into it. He pushed John out of the exam room to the waiting room where they collected Toby.
"Give him here," said John.
Sherlock hefted the exhausted dog onto John's lap and rolled them both through the halls towards the hospital entrance. "I've signed you out already."
"Thanks. Gonna be a day or two before I can hold a pen reliably. Why couldn't it have been my right shoulder?"
"You're the one who chose to go anti-clockwise, putting your left side to the pond. When the rock rolled under your left foot, it naturally took you down onto your left side."
"I was there, thanks." He oughtn't to have been surprised by Sherlock's deductions, but something didn't quite ring right. "You got all that from me lying in the dirt?"
Sherlock wheeled him outside. Night had fallen while he was being treated. John glanced at his watch, which had fared better in the water and mud than his phone. It was nearly half-past eleven. A cab already waited for them in front of the hospital, and conversation was temporarily suspended.
Sherlock's reply was entirely unsatisfactory, of course. John intended to follow up, but by the time they were settled into the cab and on their way John had forgotten he'd asked a question at all.
They reached the house to find Sneller, and Ford, waiting up for them. Fortunately, it was late enough that the garden party was long since over and all the guests gone home. John was relieved to have the fewest witnesses as possible to his dishevelled and dependent state.
It was a small production getting John up the front stairs and into the house. One of the sturdier house maids stood waiting there, but not for John. She swiftly scooped up Toby and whisked him off, presumably for a bath and a hearty meal judging from the woman's gentle clucking and kindly murmurings in the dog's floppy ear. Much to John's frustration, Ford followed the dog. He wanted a chance to speak privately with the boy, but that wasn't what Ford wanted right then and such things were subject to the ghost's whims.
"I took the liberty of relocating Doctor Watson's things to a room on this floor, sir," the butler said.
"Well done, Sneller." It was a mark of Sherlock's concern for John that he offered the compliment without someone else urging him to it.
Sneller led the way and, with Sherlock doggedly supporting John, they reached the room. Sherlock thanked the butler and closed the door, shutting out the world at last.
John wanted to fall directly into the big, inviting bed but he knew he couldn't. He leaned wearily against the wall. "God I'm filthy. I want a bath."
"I'll draw one for you. Sit down before you fall. There's a bathroom through here." Sherlock crossed the bedroom to a door that opened onto a small but fully equipped en suite. Soon John heard water running and Sherlock returned with a glass of water and two pills. "I said, sit down. Take these."
John could barely bring himself to do it; the comfy chair by the unlit fireplace looked so inviting and so expensive. He gave in, of course, and furniture cleaning bills be damned. He took the offered pills and washed them down, handing the glass back to Sherlock who set it aside.
"I hate being an invalid."
"Stop whinging. You're not an invalid." Sherlock helped him out of his remaining shoe and sock, placing both with their mates that he'd chucked in a corner when they'd come in.
"I know. I just--"
Sherlock caught his gaze. "I know."
Conversation was reduced to logistical matters until John was stripped to the skin and carefully ensconced in hot, sudsy water, with his bandaged foot elevated awkwardly on the edge of the claw-footed tub, safe from the wet. He sighed and leaned back, letting the heat soak into his battered body and mind. His eyes fell shut.
"Stay awake," ordered Sherlock.
John didn't open his eyes. He could hear Sherlock moving about the little room. "I am for now. I do get to sleep tonight, you know."
"I had a mate at university who fell asleep in the bath once. He was in there for ages. He'd locked the door and I couldn't rouse him even shouting and pounding. I swear I thought he was dead. I finally got a screwdriver and took the doorknob off to get in to him. He was asleep with his nose not half an inch above the water line. Scared the hell out of him when I woke him up. Water splashed everywhere." He chuckled at the memory.
"Can you sit forward? I'll wash your hair for you."
John didn't object. It needed doing and he couldn't do it on his own one-handed. He'd ditched the sling pretty promptly, but that didn't mean his shoulder was fully mobile yet. Sherlock knelt on the hard tile floor and John opened his eyes at last, adjusting in the tub as best he could.
"It's not so bad being injured if this is the pampering I get."
"Don't get used to it." But Sherlock said it with gentle amusement.
John shut his eyes again and luxuriated in the feeling of Sherlock's fingers scrubbing hot water and shampoo through his short hair, cleansing it of dirt and clay.
"What happened at Weavers Pond?" John asked eventually.
"You were there, as you cleverly pointed out."
"No. I mean before. No one goes there anymore."
"You're being evasive."
Sherlock poured warm water over his head to rinse it and John briefly cared less about the answers to his questions.
When an answer did come, it didn't come in Sherlock's voice but Ford's. "I drowned. Under the ice."
John wiped water from his face with one hand and looked at the young ghost who was perched on the lid to the loo. "The doctor called it terrible," he said.
Ford nodded, shrugged, looked away.
"A death in the family tends to be seen that way, yes," replied Sherlock. "I'm sure this was no different. I was too young to be aware of it. I've only heard stories, and none were very detailed. As you can imagine, no one cares to talk about it."
"And you didn't pursue it? That's not like you."
"Even I can recognise a boundary upon occasion, John."
"He doesn't want to upset Mummy," Ford explained.
"Of course," said John. "I'm sorry. About everything today."
"You needn't apologise to me. I'm delighted you got me out of the damned garden party, although I'd rather you'd not done it in such a spectacularly self-destructive fashion."
"I'll try to remember that next time."
"Do." Sherlock pulled the plug at the same time he turned on the taps, letting fresh water chase dirty down the drain. "Temperature all right?"
"Fine." John let Sherlock bathe him, pushing aside all irritation at his inability to manage it on his own. Now that he was warm, clean, and reasonably comfortable, and the painkillers were kicking in, he was less inclined to complain about, well, anything really.
Ford's quiet voice brought him back from a near doze. "I guess he's pretty good to you, isn't he?"
"All the time, though? Not just when you're hurt or sick or something?"
"Mm-hmm," murmured John again softly.
"What's that, John?" Sherlock asked, rinsing soap from John's back and shoulders.
"Nothing. Just feels nice, that's all."
Ford still looked doubtful. "You'll be okay now, right?"
John didn't dare another verbal response. He didn't want Sherlock becoming concerned that his head injury might be more than a simple concussion. He raised an eyebrow and quirked a hint of a smile in a what-do-you-think? expression.
Ford huffed a sigh and stood. "Good. I'll see you in the morning, then. I'm going to check on Toby." He vanished, but was back again in a wink. "You know. I suppose he's not completely useless after all. But he's still thick. I told him you slipped, you know. He'd not have got that bit without me, and without that, he'd only have been guessing at the rest." Then he was gone, leaving John to fight back laughter and only marginally succeeding.
"Sorry. Ticklish," he lied.
"No you're not," Sherlock contradicted. "Not there anyway."
"No, I'm not."
Sherlock came around to look at him directly. "Your pupils seem to be responding normally now, but your behaviour is--"
"Is a result of being overtired and on some pretty hefty painkillers. Now help me up. I want my bed. Please."
Sherlock briefly considered arguing. "All right. Don't move. I'll get the towels."
Another small production number ensued until a short eternity later John was dry, dressed in his pyjamas, and tucked under the covers.
"The doctor told me you could sleep later but shouldn't be left alone tonight."
"Suits me." John yawned.
"Give me five minutes."
John chuckled, drowsy and close to sleep. "No promises."
Sherlock ducked out, and five minutes later, he returned dressed in his navy silk pyjamas and dressing gown. He'd brought with him a book on organic poisons and preservatives. John was fast asleep and didn't stir as Sherlock turned off the main light. He took up his post in the chaise by the window and turned on the little reading lamp.
Even consulting detectives need to sleep and eventually Sherlock drifted off, the book slipping from his hands to the floor.
For the first time in his life, he dreamed about his brother Sherrinford.