Edit: There is nothing like looking at who's been reading your story to be reminded that friends of Sherlock Holmes are all over the world. I'm deeply touched to see how people of many countries can enjoy stories together, and I'm very grateful for it all.
His returning footsteps sounded at my bedroom door just as I washed my face—he hadn't said why he needed to leave a moment, probably left to scribble down reference notes.
"The yarders are learning their place at last, Watson," I chuckled, reaching blindly for the towel beside my basin. "When I told Inspector Morton of my plan, he gave a twist of his brows but held his tongue, an impressive feat for any man with official power." I studied my appearance in the mirror, towel at the ready to correct a missed spot.
Watson moved quietly in the reflection, setting something down on my bedside table.
I turned to see him arranging a few biscuits on a plate, then uncorking a bottle of claret. I set down the comb I had just picked up, and joined him by the side table. "But where is your glass? We must both celebrate!"
"Never mind, Holmes. Have a biscuit—and sit down, man, you look ghastly pale."
"More so, I imagine, since washing off the rouge."
He made a sound of acquiescence. "You really weren't confident enough in your costuming abilities to rely on them solely?"
"Unfortunately not, Watson." I passed him the biscuit plate. "I could risk no chance of you seeing through the disguise; for maximum effect I wanted to become as skeletal as possible, and then of course the effects of dehydration cannot be mimicked."
"I do hope you haven't done yourself permanent damage, Holmes. I—I insist you make a priority, tonight and tomorrow, of getting yourself rehydrated. Your simply must drink plenty of water."
"I assure you, no compellment is necessary," I said, feeling the sticky dryness of my mouth. I raised the glass of claret to my lips, watching him over the rim. "You haven't asked much about the case, or about Smith."
He nodded absently, the biscuit untouched in his hand. "You know Holmes, you said you were going to the police station. It might be best to talk later, after you've given them your help."
"So it would," I agreed slowly, setting down the glass and returning to my mirror. I picked up the comb, though my eyes were still on his reflection. He quietly replaced his biscuit on the plate, and sat on the edge of my bed, chin in hand. When he saw me looking at him in the mirror he straightened and smiled, and for the first time in living memory I could not, for the life of me, remember how a comb worked.
"Watson—would you be good enough to lay out some clothes for me? I'm a generous fellow when it comes to fame, and I'd rather some other deserving man get the laurels for being the first to appear at a police-station in a dressing gown."
I fumbled through the rest of my toilet and came to survey the outfit he'd laid on my bed; he was just smoothing out a silk tie. His fingers ran along the black edge.
I cleared my throat; he jumped and looked up at me with distant eyes. "Oh! sorry, sorry Holmes. Yes, I have it all ready for you, as you see—just finished—I'll step out while you change, and do eat a little more of your biscuit, at least." He spoke easily, and getting to his feet he left the room, shutting the door behind him.
I stood in the centre of the room, hands clasped behind my back, and listened to the sounds of London for a time; picking up the wine glass, I gave a silent toast for a case nearing completion, then dressed and left my room.
"Ready to go, Watson?" I was already reaching for my coat.
"Ah—before we go, Holmes, I—"
"Whatever it is, you can tell me in the cab, can't you. An honorable man keeps his word and I don't wish to be tardy. Let's pack up that infernal box and go outside."
"It's only I hoped…"
"There will be plenty of time in the cab to fill you in on the case," I assured him.
He nodded silently.
Watson seemed to sit a little away from me in the cab. "The illness is not, as I originally said, contagious by touch," I broke the silence as we rattled through the foggy street. "Rather it is passed by contact through infected blood. That is why Smith was not afraid to shake me. He did me no harm; no permanent damage was done me by this episode, I assure you."
"It all works out for you, doesn't it?"
"It does indeed. Smith in chains, the Yard suitably impressed—the only downside will be having to be subject to another florid tale."
"And what makes you so certain I'll be chronicling this…'adventure'?"
"Ah! to be sure, I haven't told you the outstanding features. Well you see, Smith's nephew—"
"I don't care. That's to say, I'd rather hear later, Holmes, after I eat. You will eat too, won't you?"
"While your biscuits were delicious, I do think I could stand something more. I believe we should make a stop at Simpson's on our way home from the police station."
"To sign autographs, maybe, but not to eat," he said a little shortly. "You can't turn from a three-day fast and start eating normally. Biscuits are already pushing the boundaries of good sense; for the rest of the evening you must keep to simple things, like bread or soup."
"Well—I'm sure something on the menu will pass your medical standards."
Watson rested his chin on his hand as he looked out the window at the nebulous swirl of fog.
I felt it wise to say nothing further, for the duration of the ride to the Yard.
My flair for the dramatic has a way of painting scenes in my mind. The newest scene—painted over the course of several days, the last three in fact—had been keeping me from going insane. As I lay in bed, miserably bored and with thirst clamoring louder and louder for my notice, I painted lovely images of how this was all going to end. Watson would be startled, then amazed at my iron determination to carry the thing out; we'd have a long, magnificent dinner at Simpsons, and I imagined the menu before my eyes—I read it over and over, tasting each item until I had exactly chosen what I should order.
I'd allowed my brain to tread over and over the same track, something I normally avoid, for the very reason I now faced: I simply could not leave the rut and accept the thought that he might prefer a different plan. I had decided everything right down to the drinks and appetizers, so it was not with obstinacy, but rather inevitability that I picked up the conversation as we were leaving the Yard, by reminding him that Simpsons did, after all, serve soups.
"Good. Have soup then," Watson said flatly.
"I will." We walked on fragile silence a few paces more. "And…what will you have?"
"Whatever Mary is serving."
"But…what about Simpsons?"
"If you want to make yourself sick by eating a full meal too soon, that's your business entirely. If it's no difference to you—and I'm sure it isn't—I'd like to have dinner with my wife."
The creeping, suspicious smoke that had been irritating my hopes burst into flames, and in the November evening I stood, as my fancies burned alive. "You are the most inconsiderate man I know." Of a sudden, I found it necessary to lean rather more heavily on my walking stick.
He turned smartly to face me. "I beg your pardon?"
"Certainly you could have made someeffort to accommodate my wishes." My voice sounded strange to me, and I felt a ringing in my ears.
Watson gave me a sharp look. "Are you going to faint?"
"I'm not entirely sure."
He dragged me to the nearest bench; that part is a little blurry in my memory, but anyhow, when we'd sat, he instructed me to put my head down so the blood would rush to my brain. I nearly fell off the seat, but he caught me and held me steady until the spell passed. There was something horribly stiff and cold about him, and I struggled to sit up as soon as I possibly could.
Watson picked my hat off the ground and brushed it off slowly.
Damp leaves fell to the cobblestones, and then he was handing the hat back. My hand had a tremor as I reached to take it, I cursed silently. I had been a fool to think I could so easily shake off the effect of three days' fast; I knew in my heart I had to go back to bed. I was on the verge of blacking out. "All right, Watson. Take me home, and then have your dinner."
I dozed a little on the cab ride, blinking awake in confusion as the cab pulled to a halt. "Where is this?"
"I took you home."
To be continued