|In Sickness and In Health
Author: Lavender and Hay PM
Isobel is unwell and needs Elsie's help. Will contain Carson/Hughes and Isobel/Richard. Set mid series 2.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Isobel C. & E. Hughes - Chapters: 5 - Words: 6,270 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 07-15-12 - Published: 06-25-12 - id: 8254827
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I have no idea where this came from. I haven't written Elsie/Isobel friendship for a while and I fancied writing something slightly dark. Set mid-series 2, but not really compliant with canon because it's not going to mention Isobel leaving.
She knows what that sound is; it's unmistakable and the house is a hospital now, she hears it all too frequently. Still, it sends a tiny shiver up her spine. She had not expected to hear it here in the cold and quiet corridor that runs around the back of the house where the hospital has set up its offices; that sound is usually confined to the ward. For a few moments she hovers outside the bathroom door, she counts to five and doesn't hear anything else. Tentatively, she taps on the door.
"Are you alright?" she calls as softly as she can, realising only then that she had no idea who to expect on the other side of the door. Absurdly, she almost laughs, realising that there is no way that whoever is on the other side of that door is alright, "Can I do anything for you?"
"Mrs Hughes?" a voice, equally quiet and so shaky she barely recognises whose it is, replies, "Ca-?"
"Do you want me to come in, Mrs Crawley?" Elsie asks, her hand already resting on the door handle.
"Please," Mrs Crawley replies, her voice equally small.
Entering the tiny bathroom, Elsie is confronted by the sight she had imagined, and yet is still thoroughly shocked by. Isobel Crawley, her face as white as the hospital linen, her eyes wide, red and watery, kneeling on the floor in front of the toilet bowl, where she has evidently just thrown up. As hard as she can, Elsie tries not to upset the woman more by letting her surprise show. Isobel's hands are shaking a little. Elsie blinks hard before she speaks.
"You've been sick," she states mechanically, her own hands clasped hard, "I'll fetch you the doctor."
"No!" Isobel blurts out forcefully, looking slightly panicked by the suggestion, "Don't do that."
"You're not well," Elsie tells her, "You of all people know that you must be sensible about things like this. Unless you're telling me this happens all the time?" she cannot help but raise an eyebrow sceptically.
Isobel gets up uneasily but makes it to her feet before Elsie can help her; flushing the toilet, wiping her mouth and crossing to the sink to run her hands under the cold water. Then she sits down in the shallow stone niche in the wall, her hands resting on her knees.
"I get ill like this very easily, it's nothing extraordinary," she speaks slowly, measuring her words, "I often feel nauseous when I'm exceptionally worried about things."
Well, Elsie thought, that certainly made sense. It wasn't as if anyone was having an easy time at the moment, but Elsie could at least be thankful that her own son wasn't away fighting.
"Then if it's not the illness that's out of the ordinary," she told her, perching beside her, "Surely it makes sense that you should tell Dr. Clarkson that you are so very worried."
"I'm not telling Richard," Mrs Crawley repeated, even more firmly than before, "Then he'll only worry about me."
"And I think he'd be quite right to, at the moment," Elsie replied honestly, not remarking upon the use of the doctor's Christian name.
"No, you don't understand," Isobel insisted, "I mean, he'll really worry about it. He'll worry about me."
"I should think he would," Elsie replied, deciding to err on the side of caution and opt for the more innocent line of argument,"He can't do without you here, he'll need you to get better."
"Mrs Hughes," Isobel spoke with a hint of sharpness, "Please don't pretend you don't know what I mean. He'll really worry about me because we're lovers."
Elsie sighed. Yes, she thought it might have been something of that description. Isobel cast her a wary look.
"I know you won't tell anyone," she told her, almost as an afterthought.
Elsie was quiet for a moment.
"You're lovers and he doesn't know that you're ill?" she asked, a little incredulously.
A shadow seemed to fall over Isobel's face, her expression darkened distinctly, though Elsie had no idea how.
"We're lovers rather more in theory than in practice at the moment," she replied finally, looking at her knees.
Biting her lip, Elsie extended an arm rather timidly around Isobel's shoulder. Feeling the comforting gesture, Isobel smiled a little, inclining her head a little towards Elsie, and sniffed.
"But you haven't...-" Elsie knew she was intruding, but couldn't quite work out how to phrase her intrusion, "You're still-... together, as it were?" she asked.
"By God, I hope so," Isobel replied, without a hint of irony, "When all of this is over at least, if we can't before then."
"Then you need to talk to him," Elsie told her, "You have to tell him that you're unwell."
"He has enough to worry him without this."
"He needs to worry about this," Elsie insisted, "If he's worth bothering with he'll want to worry about you, and look after you."
Isobel looked at her very hard for a moment.
"He is," she assured her.
"Then, tell him. Tell him this evening."
"I don't know how to. I don't know how I'd begin. At the moment it's almost as if we don't need to speak to understand each other, so we don't. That, and we hardly ever have the time."
Elsie knew exactly what she meant. She couldn't help but fleetingly think of Charles, but pushed him to the back of her mind for a moment.
"You do need to, though," she pressed on, "He obviously can't read your mind entirely."
Slowly, Isobel nodded.
"You're right," she told her, "I should speak to him."
She said it as if it was the most difficult thing in the world.
"If you like," Elsie suggested, "I could say something to him beforehand, so that he knows that he needs to see you properly this evening, away from here."
"Would you?" Isobel asked, "You don't mind? I don't want you to feel as if I'm using you as some kind of go-between..."
"I suggested it," Elsie reminded her gently, "I don't mind. I'd like to help you."
"Thank you, Mrs Hughes."
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