Yuletide fic: The Sleepover (Sherlock RPF, gen)
Title: The Sleepover
Fandom: Sherlock RPF
Characters: Martin, Benedict
Rating: PG, gen
Word Count: 2,769
Disclaimer: BC really did have pneumonia during the filming of Sherlock, but that is the only factual element of this. Everything else is FICTION, and no profit will be made from this fic.
a/n: written for themazeballet for Yuletide 2010, and originally posted here on AO3
a/n: thanks to lizzlie for a super-fast and just plain super brit-pick and beta and to calamitycrow for getting the ball rolling and giving this a final once-over.
Summary: "I’ve drafted a letter to Olivia for you,” Martin said. “It explains, quite kindly, that we’re running off to Ibiza together as soon as shooting is over. You thank her for all the good years, apologize for ending things so abruptly, and tell her she’s welcome to keep the motorbike. It’s over on the table. All you have to do is sign."
When Martin stumbled back from the loo, he found Rupert, Bruce and Ken still leaning over Benedict.
“It’s no good,” Rupert said, turning to look at Martin. “He’s completely out. Keeps curling in on himself like a hedgehog when we poke him.” Rupert sounded as if he were painfully torn between concern and the desire to draw an indelible-ink moustache on the BBC’s newly-minted Sherlock Holmes.
“See?” said Ken. He dug a finger into Benedict’s side. As predicted, the sleeping form let out a disgruntled mffftt, and tried to burrow its way deeper into the couch. It did not wake.
“Alright, alright,” Martin intervened. “No need to demonstrate. Just—just leave him be. I’ll deal with it later.”
“Are you sure?” Rupert asked. “I expect the hotel can send someone up to shift him back to his own room.” Martin waved him off. “I don’t know what possessed us to let him come along tonight,” Rupert continued ruefully. “He’s barely recovered. Mark will kill us if he has a relapse.”
“Gatiss?” said Bruce, who was an assistant director of photography. “The Director-General of the BBC will kill us. Personally. With his bare hands.”
They all stared blearily at Benedict, who was now indulging the kind of lip-smacking and snuffling people rarely did when they were awake. Martin tried to remember what had possessed them--not just to let their just-getting-over-pneumonia Sherlock accompany them to the pub, but also to let him tag along with them back to Martin’s room when the pub closed, to share a few shots of his carefully hoarded single malt.
“I’m fine,” Benedict had insisted, and he had indeed seemed fine—laughing and drinking and doing impressions of all and sundry. He’d even snuck outside the pub to smoke a cigarette or two—and they definitely should have put a stop to that: standing out in the cold couldn’t have done him any good, never mind the nicotine. But no, Ben had seemed fine right up until the moment when he’d sagged into the sofa cushions and started to snore.
“Well, what’s done is done,” Martin said, with the calm acceptance of events peculiar to the truly soused. “You lot go on to bed—I’ll make sure he gets back to his room okay.”
“If you say so.” Rupert lingered behind the other two, anxious. “Make sure he stays warm. And get him to drink some water when he does wake up—he’ll be dehydrated.”
“Yes, Dad.” Martin gave Rupert’s shoulder a friendly shove, steering him towards the door. “How many children did you say you had, again? Ten, is it now? Twelve?”
“You’re one to talk,” Rupert grumbled, but he accepted Martin’s direction, and eased himself out with only a brief worried look over his shoulder.
Left alone, Martin shivered. The hotel’s dilapidated heating system seemed to have surrendered again to the numbing cold, as it did on a regular basis. In the beginning, Martin had complained. Every time, the staff had sent up a cheerful bloke with an impenetrable Welsh accent, who had tinkered with the radiators, grinned when they began to warm up, and left. Everything was always on the fritz again two hours later. Martin had finally admitted defeat and stuffed a stack of wooly jumpers into his bag the next time he was home.
And so now, instead of ringing management, Martin clumsily dragged the duvet off the bed and settled it over Benedict. It was ugly but generously filled with down, and Martin had grown quite attached to it during the long, frigid shoot. Nevertheless, teasing aside, Rupert was right, and Ben probably needed it more than he did.
It was funny, he thought muzzily, as he bent to tuck the duvet more tightly around Ben’s shoulders and found himself pausing to study a hitherto unnoticed spray of freckles along his jawline: after months of seeing that face almost every day, he should have stopped being surprised by it by now. And yet, there he was. There seemed to be always something new about it—the twist of a lip, the slant of a blue-green eye. True, recent illness had changed it yet again, had drawn the lines around Ben’s mouth more deeply, carved away the flesh from the austere arc of his cheekbones. But that was no reason for Martin to feel this: this continual sense of something close to wonderment at the fantastical being who had been plunked down in their midst.
Christ, Freeman, you are one sappy drunk, he told himself sternly. He shook his head to clear the alcohol, and tried to remember where he’d stowed the extra jumpers.
Martin had just managed to get warm enough to fall asleep, hunkered down under several layers of wool and the room’s thin, ineffectual extra blanket, when something woke him.
A grating sound, wet, painful. Coughing.
Martin rolled over and blinked—tried to figure out why someone would be hacking up a lung in his room in the middle of the night. Ridiculously—probably still drunk—his first thought was that the cheerful plumber had come up to fix the radiator again—even though he knew that would never happen without several angry phone calls, especially not at this hour. But then he remembered—
Martin swung his legs over the side of the bed, head and stomach protesting a little, and padded cautiously to the half-open door of the bathroom.
“Ben?” The lights were off, but he could just make out his co-star, hunched over the sink, shoulders shaking. “You alright, mate?”
Benedict nodded, but he couldn’t seem to get enough air to actually form words. He tried, in a gasping sort of wheeze, but that just set him coughing again.
“Anything I can do?” Martin felt useless, the cold beginnings of real worry starting to pool in his stomach.
“Inhaler.” Benedict got the word out between a set of harsh, phlegmy barks. “Coat pocket.”
Glad to have a concrete task, Martin scrambled to find the device, returned with it triumphantly in hand.
It did the trick, thank God. A few hits, and Benedict was able to calm the coughing down to measured, raspy breaths. He spat and stayed hanging over the sink, clearly exhausted.
“Shouldn’t have had those fags,” Benedict finally said, low and hoarse.
“Yeah, you could be right about that,” Martin said dryly. But he felt a stab of guilt all the same--somebody should have stepped in to defend Benedict's lungs. He should have stepped in. On impulse, Martin moved a little closer, putting a hand on Ben’s back, just to reassure himself that air was entering and leaving his lungs freely. After a minute, he moved his palm to the bare nape of Ben’s neck—checking for fever—and was relieved to find the skin cool, if a little clammy.
“Come on,” he said. “Go and sit down--I’ll make us some tea.”
Martin located the packet of paracetamol while he waited for the kettle to boil, popped a couple out of the blister pack into Benedict’s grateful hand, and took two for himself—waking up halfway to a hangover was never a good thing.
By the time Martin passed him a steaming mug, Benedict had wormed his way back under the duvet, and was sitting with his knees drawn up, looking like a six-foot-tall Dickensian waif. His hair stuck out in every direction, and he was so pale he was almost green.
“You’re not about to be sick, are you?” Martin asked with some trepidation.
“No.” Benedict shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he added.
“Reassuring, Ben, reassuring—thanks for that,” Martin said. He moved the room’s small bin closer to the couch, just to be safe.
Then he settled himself on the other end of the sofa, resisting the urge to steal some of the duvet back, and flicked on the telly—it didn’t seem like a particularly chatty moment. But Benedict made a small sound of discomfort, as if the noise hurt his head, so Martin turned it off again.
They sat in silence for a few moments, concentrating on their tea. It was oddly companionable—all these months of living in each others' pockets had given them that much—the ability to be comfortably quiet together.
Then, “Sorry,” muttered Benedict. “To get you up in the middle of the night.”
“No worries. There were years of my life when I never slept a night through. This kid or that—always something. Your body gets used to it. Like riding a bike.”
“Ah,” said Ben, “the rigorous training of parenthood. It’s like the Royal Marines.”
“Only more so, mate, only more so. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
They went back to their tea.
“Well,” Benedict said awkwardly, after a few minutes. “Thanks for letting me crash, but I should let you have your couch back—go on downstairs.”
He set down the mug and threw off the duvet with an air of determination, pushed himself up. He swayed for a moment on his feet. And then quickly sat back down again.
“Dizzy,” he murmured sheepishly, holding his head gingerly between his hands, as if worried it might float away.
Martin suddenly wasn’t at all sure that Benedict should be on his own—he didn’t seem quite capable of taking care of himself at the moment.
“Look,” he said, “it’s almost morning anyway. Why don’t we just swap? You take the bed—I’ll kip on the sofa.”
Benedict cast a quick, longing look at the bed, but then shook his head. “No—I couldn’t do that to you—I’ve already stolen your covers for half the night. You’ll end up ill, too.”
“Ah, but I'm prepared.” Martin tugged meaningfully at his multiple jumpers. "I'll be fine. Besides, it’ll be light in a few hours anyway. Go on—“ He gestured towards the bed in what he hoped was an imperious manner.
“Okay,” said Benedict. “But only if—I mean, it’s quite a big bed—plenty of room—“ He gave Martin a wide-eyed look, halfway to pleading. “Besides, there’s only one decent duvet, and your heating seems to have copped it again.”
Martin frowned at him—trying to suss out the ethics of the situation. But he couldn’t really seem the harm in it. It was bloody cold. And if this was the only way to make Ben stay where he could keep an eye on him, then—
“Yeah,” he said. “Okay.”
The bed was big, but seemed considerably smaller when forced to contain Benedict’s endless limbs as well as Martin’s more modest ones. Still, they squirmed around a bit, and were able to position themselves so that the down duvet covered all vital areas without any personal space being unnecessarily violated.
Benedict fell back to sleep almost immediately, a slight, wheezy hitch in his breath the only hint of the night’s travails. Martin stayed awake a little longer, listening, and thinking that huddling under the covers with an Old Harrovian in the depth of a bitter Welsh winter should have felt a lot stranger than it actually did.
He woke once while it was still dark, warmer than he’d been in weeks, as if he were cozied up to a sun-warmed wall. The wall turned out to be Ben’s spine: they’d somehow shifted around so that they were sleeping back to back, bodies pressing into each other, unconsciously seeking heat.
Martin thought for a moment about moving—it didn’t seem quite seemly for adult men to pile on like dogs or children—but the warmth and comfort were so lulling that he fell asleep again before he could do anything about it.
The second time Martin woke up, he was flat on his back, grey morning light was coming through the windows, and Benedict was up on one elbow staring at him.
There was no trace of last night’s helplessness in his eyes. On the contrary, he was studying Martin with a nearly Holmsian intensity.
“What?” Martin rubbed at his nose, fighting the uneasy feeling that he’d awakened mid-snore.
“Nothing.” Benedict gave him a secretive half-smile. “Just doing some character work.”
“Oh?” Martin didn’t like the sound of that. “Trying to decide how many months it would take my body to decompose?”
“No, nothing like that.” The smile widened, grew devilish. “Wondering how often John and Sherlock wake up together like this.”
Martin snorted. “Just about every morning, if you believe the buzz on the Guy Ritchie movie.”
“Martin, what have I told you about staying off the internet?” Benedict chided.
“But how else will I keep up on the Lindsay Lohan gossip? No, don’t answer that. Anyway, your Sherlock’s married to his work—he says so. And Mark gave us that little lecture about the validity of asexuality as an identity, remember? So, no, to be honest, I don’t think they ever do.”
And thinking he had dismissed that uncomfortable issue, Martin started to shift away. But Benedict held his gaze.
“And yet, here we are--you and I,” he said, still looking down at Martin.
Ben’s breath was a little sour with cigarettes and old booze, but it didn't matter. The rich timbre of his voice, unmarred by the scratch of late nights and illness, sent an involuntary shiver through Martin—one that seemed to start at his toes and end with a disruption in his own breath.
There was a question in Benedict’s eyes, something poised on the brink of being asked. And suddenly Martin was too warm, acutely aware that he was still stretched full-length beside him, so close he could feel the heat of Ben’s body through all the sheets and jumpers encasing him, as if along bare skin.
Surprised, Martin realized that he might actually be interested in what Benedict was so obliquely offering, that part of him was yearning to get closer, to push his fingers into that wild hair, learn the long lines and sharp angles of that body with his hands as well as his eyes. What if we let it happen? he wondered. Would anyone blame us? Wouldn’t it just be another kind of character work? Wouldn’t it just be one of those things?
But before he could get any farther, Benedict broke the moment.
An odd little furrow appeared between his eyebrows, and he said, in a different voice yet again, “Erm, we haven’t already—have we? I mean, last night—we didn’t--?”
It was enough to snap Martin out of his speculations. Because, really, an opportunity like that was too good to pass up.
“You don’t remember?” he asked, feigning shocked disappointment. “Funny, that. It went on for quite a long time. I was terrific,” he explained. “And you were quite good, too. Somewhat lacking in the stamina department, of course--quite understandable, though, still convalescing and all. And some of your technique was, well, a bit on the baroque side, if you know what I mean. But enjoyable all the same.”
“Was it?” Benedict didn’t seem to know how to respond. “Uh, thanks?”
“Oh yes. And then I got you dressed again—socks and all—and tucked you in. And now you don’t remember. Can’t say I’m not a bit hurt by that.” Martin pouted.
The corners of Ben’s mouth quirked up. He’d cottoned on to Martin’s teasing, of course, but, being Ben, was prepared to spin it out as far as it would go.
“Sorry, sport.” He gave Martin a cocky leer. “Under the influence and all that. I’ve got stamina in spades when I’m sober.”
“Mm.” Martin pursed his lips in mock disbelief. “Well, don’t fret about it. I’ve drafted a letter to Olivia for you. It explains, quite kindly, that we’re running off to Ibiza together as soon as shooting is over. You thank her for all the good years, apologize for ending things so abruptly, and tell her she’s welcome to keep the motorbike. It’s over on the table. All you have to do is sign.”
Benedict broke into a wide grin. “Ibiza? What sort of cheap tart do you take me for, Freeman? It’s Mauritius or nothing.”
It wasn’t much, but it sent them both into a fit of weak, helpless giggles. They lay side by side on their backs, gasping after a while with the ridiculousness of it all. When they finally settled down, Benedict yawned hugely, jaw popping on the intake of breath.
“Go on,” Martin said, squinting at the bedside clock. “Go back to sleep—it’s only nine o’clock on a Sunday—nothing to get up for.”
“Yeah?” Benedict asked.
So they did.