Author's Note: Sorry for being a day late. I had a migraine yesterday. Thanks to SHfan for caring enough to ask about it.
Some of you wondered about the nasty broth. In the story, Holmes refers to an old wives' tale about putting moldy bread on wounds. Holmes also learned that the broth was left to spoil twice. Remember back to science class and what Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928. The answer is at the end of the story.
Also, I told you that my real name is actually quite ironic. I'll share with you at the end of the story what that means.
Please enjoy and review. It may inspire me to write another.
He shook his head in reaction to the cold water dropping onto his forehead.
"Yes, yes. Feels good, doesn't it?"
Holmes' eyes fluttered open.
"Nice ice water. Good enough to get that fever down for a bit, isn't it?"
"Feels good," Holmes uttered through parched lips.
"Just what I thought." Watson smiled broadly.
"Just to see you."
Watson hesitated. The leg was certainly a worthy topic. He busted his sutures when he fell from his bed and the wound on his thigh had been swelling and bleeding ever since. "I'm feeling better, Holmes."
"I can see the tension in your jaw, the perspiration at your brow, and the way you're holding your body. Feeling better must really be painful."
Watson shook his head. "You're unbelievable."
"Where's Mary? She was here."
"Were you harsh with her?"
"She'll not tolerate our reckless behavior without responding in kind. It's a lesson for me."
"I was getting quite used to her. Is she returning?"
"She's off to find the Sisters of St. Joseph. Left her in a hansom cab with two constables. We need some of that unholy broth."
"She's another adventurer."
"I don't know what I'm going to do with her."
"Marry her. I suspect we'll both be the better for it."
"This fever will take me."
"No, Holmes, you're fighting it. You're going to get better."
Holmes' eyes closed. Watson frowned. "Holmes? Holmes?"
Holmes sunk back into unconsciousness.
"I need more ice!" Watson bellowed to the policemen gathered at the entrance to the aid station. Lestrade and Clark came trotting over.
"Sorry Doctor, the ice is gone."
Lestrade threw up his arms. "We've put out a citywide bulletin, but our sources have dried up."
"Is Mr. Holmes improving?" Clark ventured.
"No, the fever's high. We need to cool him."
"We've asked at all area restaurants."
Watson glared at Lestrade. "It's not good enough."
"Doctor, I haven't been home in a week. I sleep in a chair. I can't remember when I last ate. I'm doing everything I can think to do."
Watson sighed. "Of course, Inspector. It's been too much for all of us. We'll not forget what you've done."
"I can't think of anything else to do."
"But I can. You have to remember that we've lost time, Lestrade. We've forgotten what day tomorrow is."
"Tomorrow is the Queen's birthday. I would have forgot myself but the nurses were talking. Every year on the Queen's birthday, The Royale, has a midnight toast of iced champagne. They have ice."
"They wouldn't dare in the midst of an epidemic."
"It's The Royale, Inspector. Of course, they would dare."
The inspector's eyes widened. "Clark! Get 10 men and follow me!"
Watson watched them race out of the station and then he turned his attention back to Holmes. He was keeping his hand on Holmes' pulse, and it was running much faster than normal. His friend more likely had hours left than days. The fear of it gripped his gut.
He tried to focus only on Holmes, but the issue of his leg refused to be ignored. The throbbing was now joined by stabbing pain. He hadn't cut the bloody pants leg, partly because he didn't want to know and partly because he had no idea what could even be done with it.
Clark found an old potato sack, and inside he put chopped up pieces of the confiscated ice. He laid it gently on Dr. Watson's bad leg. The doctor couldn't suppress a low moan. The ice was going to be the only anesthesia he would allow himself. Finally, he let out a deep sigh and lay back in his chair.
"You could lose the leg." The voice was weak but unmistakable.
"Holmes!" Watson lurched forward.
"It does neither of us any good if you lose the leg. Go home."
Watson grabbed his wrist and studied Holmes' face. His pulse was still thready and the fever was there, but the ice Lestrade liberated was starting to cool him.
"Hush now! I'll deal with the leg. On the scale of things I'd prefer not to lose, you rank higher."
Holmes slowly shook his head. "Don't be a fool. This fever is winning. Ice won't be enough. You know so. I can see it in your face."
"I don't know any such thing." Watson frowned.
"Let's not argue. I have things I need to say."
"Watson, listen to me."
Watson bowed his head and waited.
"You'll miss me, but we're different in that I would be lost in the world without you and you will know how to carry on. You'll have Mary. You'll make new friends—"
"Stop!" Watson shook his head. "Don't do that."
For once, Holmes looked confused.
Watson wagged a finger at him, his chin trembling through his words. "Don't tell me what I'll feel. Don't you dare!"
"John, I've upset you."
Watson dropped his head for a long moment. When he looked up, his eyes were wet. "Losing you would break my heart. Don't you dare make it sound trivial!"
"I'm sorry." Holmes placed his hot, clammy hand on Watson's.
Watson wiped at his tears with his free hand. "You will not give up. I won't forgive you if you do. You have to fight. Do you hear me?"
Holmes nodded almost imperceptibly. The strain of exertion was showing in his tired eyes.
Watson held Holmes' hand with both of his. "I know about fighting. You have to block out all your fears. Just focus on getting through today. I'll be with you the whole time."
Holmes had drifted off. Watson squeezed his eyes closed and prayed for his friend.
Watson jerked upward.
Mary knelt before him. "We've come."
He let out a deep breath and looked up. Sister Michael stood before him, a pouch of broth in her hands. "Please Sister Michael, help us."
She nodded. "I'll do the best I can. The constable is bringing some boiling water. I see you've made a mess of the work I did on your leg."
The exhaustion, the pain, and the fear crowded his throat and he choked on a reply.
"Yes, I can see what you've been up to. We'll have to set this right. Move aside Miss Mary, I've work to do on your intended."
"Holmes first, Sister." He croaked at her.
Sister Michael took the soggy bag off the top of his leg. "I'll make time for both of you. I've never met such obstinate fellows as the two of you. Never."
"I'll not have it!" sounded from across the room. A white-haired doctor came striding toward them, Inspector Lestrade and Constable Clark following in his wake.
The doctor pointed a finger at Sister Michael. "I'll not have her here with potions. It's enough that I've let Dr. Watson pine over his dying friend as if there's hope. Real medicine gets practiced here. The nun must be removed!"
She stood up. "Doctor, I assure you that I am only here to help."
"You have no respect for science."
"But I do. I just believe that science is not merely practiced by White English male doctors."
Watson leaned over to Clark. "I need a pistol."
Seduced by the doctor's calm voice, the exhausted Clark reached into his jacket and handed him Holmes' weapon. Watson took it, pointed it at the doctor, and cocked it. "I'll shoot you dead if you touch him. I'll shoot you in the heart."
The room went silent as everyone stopped to watch Watson's trembling arm point at the aid station doctor. The doctor froze, his mouth open.
"You'll not touch him and you'll leave Sister Michael be."
Lestrade woke as if from a trance. "Easy now, Dr. Watson. Easy now."
Watson stared at the doctor with red-rimmed eyes, his whole body shaking.
"I'm reaching over. I'm going to help you with the pistol." Lestrade's hand gently enveloped Watson's. "We'll point it at the ground now. Then the constable will reach in and take it from us."
Watson looked at Lestrade, eyes blinking. "He'll let Holmes die."
Lestrade shook his head. "Not while I'm here. If there's any threatening to do, you'll best leave it to a professional. Now let the gun drop into Clarky's hand."
Watson's trembling hand finally released the gun and Clarky pulled it to him as if it was the most precious of jewels. The doctor leaned heavily against a post. "Arrest him, Inspector. I want him in jail."
Lestrade glared. "It's not going to happen that way, Doctor. What's going to happen is this: You'll turn around and leave us. The sister here will have access to all the supplies she needs or you're the one to be arrested. I'll see to it myself."
"I'll have your badge!"
"Well, go to it then, I have many supervisors that need contacting. Just leave us in peace. The good doctor and Mr. Holmes will need their rest now."
The doctor turned and marched away while Sister Michael opened her bag and knelt between her two patients. Mary sank into a chair while Lestrade sighed heavily and turned to Clark, taking him by the arm. "You and I'll be having a conversation one of these days about handing over side arms to desperate men, especially when either of them are these two particular blokes."
It took a few seconds for his eyes to focus when he opened them. He felt the energy to do little but blink. Speaking seemed to incorporate muscles he'd forgotten and so he waited.
Soon Mary Morstan leaned over him and shrieked. "Sister Michael! Sister Michael! I think his fever has broken!"
Mary patted his cheek softly.
Sister Michael appeared. Immediately, she had her hands on his face, checking his face, feeling his forehead. Holmes resisted the attention but the nun was insistent.
He shook his head at her and growled. "Watson?"
"Of course, where was my head?" Mary held his hand and leaned away so that he could see that Watson was sleeping soundly in the bed next to his.
"Watson?" He looked back at Sister Michael.
She nodded. "His leg is going to make it. The sutures were a mess, but I pulled those out and opened the leg again. The infection hasn't worsened. He'll just have to start over a bit."
Holmes still looked distressed at Watson's still form.
"Don't worry. I slipped him a good bit of Laudanum. He needs the rest."
Holmes relaxed back into his pillow.
"Mary, he'll need some water for that dry throat, and he's due for another dose of broth."
Lestrade came up, smiling broadly. "I could hear you clear across the room. Is this the news we've been waiting for?"
Holmes could manage little in greeting, but the inspector didn't seem to notice.
"We had a deal, Inspector." Sister Michael stood up.
"Aye, we did, Sister. Gather up your nuns. You'll have the run of the place, I suspect."
She picked up her robes and trotted for the entrance and Lestrade followed. Mary appeared again with a mug of water. She propped him up on a pillow and put it to his lips. The cool liquid was like nectar in his mouth and he reached for more.
Yelling broke out in the background, Inspector Lestrade's voice and an unknown man providing most of the noise.
He looked at Mary. "What is that?"
"Sister Michael made a deal with the inspector. If you woke after she fed you the broth, he agreed to let her sisters come in and administer the broth to anyone who will take it. The London Medical Aid Society is likely leaving in protest at this moment."
"Are you ready for your medicine?"
Holmes wrinkled his nose. "Unfortunately I am."
She gave him a spoonful that he swallowed without protest. "You'll be happy to know that John is back on the broth too. Sister Michael believes it might help his leg."
"Will you wake me when it's time to feed him?"
She smiled. "I wouldn't want you to miss it."
He put up his hand after a few more spoonfuls. "Are you confident that Watson is mending?"
She nodded. "I believe it now that you're awake. Seeing you will be some pretty powerful medicine for my John."
He reached for her hand. "Mary, he's the best part of our lives. There isn't another man out there like him."
"He needs both of us, Sherlock."
He nodded. "Yes."
She leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
He turned the corner into the room, a scowl spread across his face. He leaned heavier on the cane these days, but it was just nice to see him on his feet. Holmes was standing beside a body slumped over at a dining table.
"Watson, I'm so glad you've come. We have a case! A man was murdered during a dinner party. Poisoned, I thought. We have the guests waiting in the next room."
"We do not. You have a case. I was eating dinner with my new wife when your goons showed up and dragged me out of there like a common thief."
Holmes looked past him at Clarky. "Did you kidnap or arrest him?"
"That would be unlawful, Sir."
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "No harm done then. Just needed your counsel, Old Chum."
Watson leaned on his cane and twitched his mustache. "So what can I do for you, Holmes?"
Holmes sniffed the air. "It was roast beef night at the Watson residence, I believe. Clarky, did you know that Mrs. Watson makes the most delectable Yorkshire puddings?"
The constable stifled a grin. "I have heard this, Sir."
Watson frowned. "You are at the house almost every week for roast beef dinner. What's your point?"
"Clearly, I wasn't there tonight as I have this extremely complicated case on my hands."
"The doctor's missus offered to wrap you some dinner," Clark offered.
"Yes, but I told her it was unnecessary," Watson countered.
Clarky pulled a small box from behind the door and handed it to Holmes. "However, Mrs. Watson insisted. She was most concerned that Mr. Holmes wouldn't eat."
"I don't remember that."
"You were getting your coat, Dr. Watson."
Holmes took the cloth off the box and peered in. He picked out a Yorkshire pudding and bit into it. "Heavenly."
Watson waved his cane at Holmes. "Do you mean to tell me that I was pulled from my home after a long day to provide a meal for you?"
Holmes pulled out a delicate piece of beef and began chewing on the end. "Of course not, Watson. I need you. The food is just an added benefit since you've married. Didn't realize it until I tasted Mary's food. Now be a good fellow and help me determine a cause of death."
"You said it was poison."
"Yes, yes, I thought it was poison, but now I am not sure. There is no evidence of vomiting or bleeding from the mouth. Could you have a look?"
Watson nodded. "Just a quick look and then I'll be on my way."
"Oh no, Watson, I'll need you for the interviews. Should take us most of the night." Holmes dug through the box of food.
Watson started to protest but just shook his head, went over to the corpse and began an examination. Holmes sat down next to him with his roast beef dinner. He sopped up gravy with the last Yorkshire pudding. "He has a surprised look, Watson, doesn't he?"
Watson sighed deeply. "He almost looks to have had a heart attack, but I am just not sure."
Holmes looked around for Clark. "Did you mention anything about dessert? I thought that maybe Mary had made another trifle."
Clarky piped in. "I did ask about that, Sir, but the doctor's missus says it wouldn't travel. She invites you to the house after your interviews to have a slice with a cup of tea."
"Come on, come on, Watson. We must get to the proverbial heart of this. A decent trifle doesn't sit well longer than a day, you know."
Author's Note, Part II: My name is Sheila Moriarty. I loved the stories since I was a kid, and once read the complete works in a tent in the backyard when I was 12. It took me three days. I still get regularly asked if I know about Sherlock Holmes' arch nemesis, Moriarty. Contributing to that is the fact that I am currently an Assistant Professor at a state university.
The answer to the nasty broth is that it had pencillin in it. Penicillin grows in certain kinds of mold and so I added it to the miracle broth.