At last I pushed off the dark thoughts. My patients would not be amused to hear my excuses for tardiness, and so with an effort I left off staring gloomily at my reflection, and finished my toilette.

Holmes was already starting on his bacon and eggs when I came out, and he glanced up as I pulled out my chair.

Spreading my napkin, I sighed and reached for the toast.

"Watson?"

"Hm?"

"Ah…I wonder if you should just have tea today? D'you think?"

I looked up. "Whatever are you talking about?"

His eyes were troubled, averted. "I don't want you to…aggravate your condition."

"What condition?" I dropped my toast, fixing him with a bewildered stare. "I'm hale and hearty as ever. I'm perfectly fine, what made you think otherwise?"

"Oh—well…you—this morning, and then…yesterday and…" he was colouring deeply and picking at a splintered part of the table.

I grasped it then, and was quite touched at his concern. "You thought I had an upset stomach because I was in the lavatory so long?"

He nodded, colouring deeper.

"You are--oh, Holmes. I'm fine; I was just…looking in the mirror."

Holmes nodded slowly, his brow furrowed. "And not liking what you saw, apparently."

I didn't know what to say. A fragile silence fell down about us, and when I nibbled on the crust I felt my swallowing much too loud.

Holmes steepled his fingers, bumping the peak of the index fingers gently on the end of his nose for a moment before speaking. "You know, as near as I understand friendship—which, admittedly, is not terribly well—it doesn't expire with age."

"Doesn't it?" I kept my voice even.

"No it doesn't." His eyes wandered up to meet mine.

"Then…then perhaps I…" in the time it took to loosen the words from my throat, Holmes had placed his hand over mine. A smile coloured my voice as I finished. "Perhaps I won't have to look in the mirror anymore."