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Quite Contrary

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Sherlock Holmes had very rarely been anything other than a royal pain in Greg Lestrade’s arse.

He was sassy, condescending, and far too aware of his own brilliance. Greg needed that brilliance—god help him—more often than he cared to admit, but in the seven years he’d known the man there had been more than one instance where he had seriously considered simply letting a case go unsolved rather than have to deal with that snark.

So whenever Sherlock wound up drugged, ill, or in any other way incapacitated, Greg felt something that could only be described as glee.

It was probably mean, or would be, were it anyone other than Sherlock Holmes. But even when Greg was sick the detective had no qualms with picking the lock to his flat and dumping the brunt of whatever black mood he had fallen into right into the broth Greg was trying to get down.

So when John called and told him that Sherlock had been shot, the initial pang of worried exasperation had fled as soon as he’d heard the man was out of danger, swiftly replaced by the determination to capture the moment of weakness and use it to stem the flow of insults the next time that bloody long coat swooped down on one of his crime scenes.

“They’ve got him pretty heavily drugged up,” John informed him as they climbed the pristine white stairs of the hospital, “so he’s mostly just babbling.”

Greg smirked at that. He knew that once upon a time Sherlock had had a drug habit, but he couldn’t help but think that the number one way to piss off the World’s Only Consulting Detective was to cloud his mind. He thought back to the time Irene Adler had drugged him, and he’d spent a good half hour in the police car muttering about dogs and a pirate called Redbeard. He’d buy the woman dinner if she wasn’t dead.

“Oh, they probably won’t allow you to use that,” John warned as he readied the camera on his mobile.

Greg shook his head, saying, “Thought I might take a video,” and gesturing to the phone. He half expected John to berate him for that, but instead the doctor grinned. Upstanding man, John Watson.

And he was going to, as John led him up to the door and quietly let them inside. He even formed a vague thought of how the dim lighting in the room would make for a poor quality video as he readied his finger on the “OK” button that would start the recording, filling with a giddy sort of anticipation like a child about to pull off a theft from the cookie jar.

But when he caught sight of the man strewn limply across the bed within, he’d never been more sober in his life.

Sherlock’s eyes were closed in sleep, and were it not for the rise and fall of his bandaged chest he would have looked dead. Even so, the bareness of that chest only emphasized the outline of his protruding ribs, looking about to break the skin with each inhale. And he was so sodding pale, was he meant to be that pale? He’d been pasty before, but now even in the dim light Greg could see the grey tinge his skin had taken on, a sign of the strain his body was under trying to piece itself back together.  

Shit, he thought. Shit.

His damn finger couldn’t bring itself to press “OK”.

John, who had been gazing at his friend with pursed lips, glanced at Greg with raised eyebrows.

“Are you gonna…” he nodded at the phone, not seeming to have caught on to Greg’s change of heart.

He couldn’t. Not when the man who’d jumped off a bloody roof for him was laying gutshot in a hospital bed. Not when the drug-induced haze was most likely the only thing keeping him from being in what would probably be excruciating pain. Sherlock had never been the most considerate person out there, but that was a new level of cruelty that Greg didn’t quite want to reach.

He shook his head, lowering the phone. “I don’t want to,” he admitted. John, surprisingly, nodded solemnly at that, and Greg considered how the doctor must have been there when it had been even worse, when they weren’t even sure of Sherlock’s survival. Fuck Irene Adler, it was Dr. Watson who deserved to be treated to dinner.

Sherlock shifted in his sleep just then, head rolling to the side so that he was tugging on the tubes aiding his breathing. A bubble of air scraped its way out of his throat, probably mean to form a word, but it never quite got there. It made Greg’s hair stand on end.

John just let out a tired sigh and strode around to the side of the bed, reaching out a hand to attempt to relieve the pull on Sherlock’s cannula in a way that said he had done this before.

But the second his fingers made contact with Sherlock’s skin, the detective’s eyes snapped open and the hand that he probably really shouldn’t have moved shot up to grip John’s wrist, halting his attempts and pulling alarmingly at the IV taped to his skin.

“Шта дођавола мислиш да радиш?” the detective demanded in a slurred but remarkably sinister voice.

What the fuck?

“What did that—“ he started to ask.

“Sherlock,” John interrupted firmly, disregarding Greg’s confusion. “You need to let go or else they’re going to have to redo your IV.”

 But Sherlock didn’t let go, panting, eyes darting over John’s face erratically as though trying to register information he couldn’t process.

“John,” he finally said thickly, hand moving instead to grip at the doctor’s shirt. “John.”

Even with morphine pumping through his bloodstream to the point where he forgot how to speak English, he could recognize John. Suddenly Greg felt as though he was intruding on something private.

John was nodding, utterly calm, slowly massaging the hand that gripped his shirt in an attempt to get Sherlock to loosen his grip. “Yeah, Sherlock,” he said encouragingly, “Yeah, it’s me. But you’ve got to let go now, yeah?”

But Sherlock didn’t let go; in fact, he seemed to tighten his grip and even pushed back against the doctor’s attempts to get him to lie back down, lips twitching in an effort to form words with which his brain would not supply him. It was a picture of utter confusion, frustration, almost desperation—and it looked so foreign on Sherlock’s face that for a moment he almost looked like a completely different entity. And Greg had wanted to bloody film it.

John,” Sherlock insisted a third time, as though the first two repetitions had gone unheard, “it’s…it’s…”

“Alright,” said John soothingly, finally succeeding in prying his shirt from Sherlock’s grip and nodding as the detective’s eyes began to droop. “It’s alright; we’ll talk about it later.”

“Quite contrary,” Sherlock replied, clearly struggling to remain alert even as he sagged back against the pillows. “Quite contrary,” he repeated, closing his eyes.

Greg was surprised by the wave of relief that overtook him when Sherlock once again went under—one would think that the deathlike stillness of sleep would have seemed worse than any sort of movement that would prove he was alive, but that had been sodding awful. Because Greg had seen Sherlock spew nonsense under the influence of drugs, and it had been hysterical, but that had not been nonsense. That had been a man who was desperately trying to get a message across and couldn’t, and for the life of him couldn’t understand why.

John checked Sherlock’s wrists where the IV drip was plugged in and nodded, satisfied that he hadn’t done any damage. Then he gave Greg a grim little smile, I’m sorry you had to see that.

“He does that,” John said simply.

Greg cleared his throat. “Was that Russian, or what?” he asked, remembering the threatening tone with which Sherlock had spoken.

John shrugged. “Didn’t quite sound like it,” he said, “but Eastern European, yeah. You know Sherlock, he speaks pretty much everything.”

Greg nodded, but it didn’t sit right with him. None of this did. “And the whole ‘quite contrary’ bit, any idea what that was about?”

“Oh, probably just babbling,” John waved a hand as though to dismiss it. “Not the first time he’s said that, but I guess we’ll have to wait for an explanation when he’s more lucid.” He smiled amiably, as though his best friend hadn’t just had a small breakdown.

Greg nodded again, mindlessly. “Quite contrary,” he muttered, trying desperately to figure out why that phrase rang a bell.

Quite contrary.

Quite cont—

How does your garden grow? The rest of the verse fell into his head, and he very nearly gasped aloud.

Oh, no.

With silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row…

 “Mary, Mary,” Greg murmured, aghast.

“Come again?” asked John politely.

Greg snapped his head up to meet the doctor’s curious gaze, but the truth stuck in his throat. “I said give my love to Mary,” he lied, a sinking feeling slowly settling into his gut. “Sorry,” he added, “I’ve gotta run. Text me with updates, yeah?”

“Oh, right,” John agreed, looking a little surprised by Greg’s hasty retreat. “Same to you.” He shook hands with the doctor, and then he was out the door, the nursery rhyme ringing in his ears.

If he had been trying to tell them…

Even shot through the chest and drugged to the gills, Sherlock Holmes was utterly brilliant. But this—if Greg was right about what he’d said—this was very highly Not Good.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

He stopped into the nearest deli and bought four new packs of cigarettes.