The fever is getting worse. Not that there should be a fever in the first place. The man is a doctor and doctors should not get sick. Especially this one. And yet here he is, laying on his bed drenched in sweat, the cool rag pressed to his forehead doing little to help.
He mumbles to himself in his sleep. Disconnected phrases that make little sense but are spoken with such fear laced into the words that there is little doubt the memories he is reliving are extremely painful. Holmes, who is sitting in a chair watching his sick friend intently, comes to the conclusion that it doesn't take a genius to figure out what Watson is seeing.
"Get out of my room," he snaps.
Holmes, who has been staring at the ceiling in silent contemplation, almost believes that his companion is talking to him for a startling second. But when he leans forward to get a closer look at Watson's face he finds it screwed up in pain-- and possibly anger-- with his eyes shut tightly, his face turned away from Holmes altogether.
"I'll shoot you all. I know what you did to Williams."
Williams, Holmes recalls, was the first patient to die on Watson when he was in the war. The first complete sentence out of his mouth in hours is about a young boy who couldn't be saved.
"Watson…" Holmes mutters, unsure of what else there is to do. The Nanny had already sent up drinking water and before his condition had worsened Watson himself had refused to let Holmes give him any of his pain killers.
"Holmes… what are you doing in Afghanistan?"
Recognition and understanding of my voice means that brain damage is unlikely. Complete sentences imply that he is becoming aware of himself. Confusion due to vivid hallucinations that do not match up with real surroundings.
"This isn't Afghanistan, old boy," he says, keeping his voice carefully neutral. "We're in London."
Watson lays still for a moment, seeming to take this information and try to make sense of it. The process must be difficult for he starts to frown in deep concentration. After a few moments his eyes open briefly to glance around his surroundings. He quickly squeezes them closed again, the dim lighting painful in his highly sensitive state. He groans once, asks for water that is immediately given to him before falling back to sleep.
For a good hour he rests, his posture more relaxed and his face no longer flushed from fever. Holmes sits in the same chair, watching the even breathing closely for any signs of distress. If he does not recover quickly the detective is going to punch Lestrade multiple times in the face, regardless of the fact that he is much sicker than Watson is now. The absolutely brilliant and distinguished inspector is to blame after all. If he hadn't gotten sick himself and had the nerve to visit Watson for a check-up none of this would have happened. He and Clarky had to stop by Baker Street two days before, saying they weren't feeling their best. Watson recommended bed rest and the two officers were sent on their way. The next day their simple cold took a turn for the worse. In only a day the two had matching fevers that were so high they were causing hallucinations, though unlike Watson's, theirs had taken an almost comical turn. The two are currently locked in a hospital after they had a rather long conversation in which they not only talked of Clarky's affection for Lestrade's beard (which he found 'dreamy') but also how the two of them made the cosmos due to the stars in Lestrade's eyes and the moon shinning from within Clarky.
Watson had spent too much time with them and caught whatever it was that they had, but Holmes-- who had been locked in his room for the third straight day at the time-- managed to stay as healthy as a man who never ate or slept could be. Instead he was stuck sitting by and watching as his closest friend got progressively worse without being able to do anything. If he was a sane person, he surely would have gone mad by now.
Unable to stand doing nothing for so long, Holmes rewets the cloth on Watson's forehead and lays it carefully back in place. A stray drop of water travels down the doctor's face and he stirs. "Holmes?"
"Ah, you're awake again."
"Yes and my head feels slightly better now. At the very least I'm not seeing things. And you're not supposed to be in here, I could infect you."
A mother hen even when you're the one sick? "You're sure everything's alright? How many fingers am I holding up? Remember, thumbs don't count."
"Actually, it's five. I had another two up behind my back."
"So it was a trick question."
Holmes simply smiles in response, though the gesture is slightly strained and short lived. Watson reaching up to take his pulse doesn't help either; his condition seems to be improving, but the look on his face speaks volumes. The realization is like a blow to the stomach. This won't last long.
"There's… there's something I should tell you," Watson says once he drops his hand limply to this side. He has closed his eyes again, his expression is bleak and Holmes knew before he has even drawn breath to speak that this conversation is going to be breaking every carefully constructed rule they have. "I would like to thank you... Hearing your voice helped my head more than the water and sleep did."
"Erm, uh, yes," Holmes says briskly. "Well. Happy to help, old boy. Especially if it means that you will, er, not have another relapse."
Watson nods, causing the cloth to fall into his eyes. He lays still for a moment, as if debating whether or not he has the energy to move it back to its proper place.
"...You won't have another one, will you?"
Watson sighs deeply, and finally moves the cloth back up. He is silent for a moment, carefully choosing his next words. "Holmes, you saw Lestrade and Clarky. They think they're married and spending their honeymoon on the actual moon. I'll have another. But... it was... nice... having you there to bring me out of it. Though that does not mean that you can continue to visit me."
"What's going to happen if I'm not here, then? You're just going to continue trying to shoot at shadows," Holmes gestures to a bullet hole near the window where Watson had fired in his delirium. "You might even injure yourself in the process of trying to incapacitate that chair, your 'enemy'."
Watson sighs before answering, his voice sounding tired. "Then take my weapons away from me now before I lose my mind again. I don't know why you let me hold onto them this long. And the better question is what would happen if you were there while I'm shooting at shadows and injure you. Then it wouldn't matter if they cured me in time, I wouldn't be able to live with myself afterwards."
In his frustration Holmes forgets that Watson is speaking of things they have agreed not to speak about and instead gets up and begins pacing the room. "So you just expect me to leave, then? As if I have no knowledge that any moment after I walk out that door you might be lost in some fantasy of the past?"
"Yes. I do not want you getting hurt in some way as well. Who's going to look after me if you're hurt? And there is no way of knowing if the other delusions will be as... bad as the last one. I might start imagining you and it will all be fine."
"Oh, please. Watson. That was horribly and hopelessly romantic. Made my stomach turn." But he's stopped pacing and is smiling slightly despite himself. "However, I may just approve of such dreams…" he adds quietly.
Watson laughs, but stops quickly because it makes his head spin. "I'm not in my right state of mind; I assure you that if I was I would never say such a thing."
"If you were in your proper state of mind," Holmes replies, fighting to keep his voice light and casual, "I'm sure I would have actually vomited from the nausea-inducing powers of your words, old boy. You are a writer, after all. Your kind tends to not only exceed, but horribly over saturate the normal limits of revolting mush."
"You would not vomit. You would have had to eat something first," Watson points out. His eyes are starting to droop, and Holmes suspects he won't be coherent for much longer. "You find me revolting?" The teasing tone is lost as Watson's words start to slur together.
"You really are a Mother Hen. And no, my dear. I do not find you revolting. Quite the opposite in fact, as even at this moment you look rather gorgeous. What with the fever and all that. Does wonders for your complexion."
"You look rather dashing yourself. That pink shirt really brings out the orange in your eyes."
"What color did you say my eyes were?" Holmes asks, hoping that he simply misheard Watson even though he is sure he didn't.
"Orange. And why are you wearing Gladstone's collar?"
"Watson. Now isn't the time for joking around. My eyes are brown. They're your favorite. Not orange. Brown."
"They don't look brown," he says as he squints at his companion in an attempt to be sure. "And why are you wearing Gladstone's collar? It does not match your dress."
"That is my cravat, you are referring to. It's yours, actually. I took it from your closet. Because of our barter system." Watson looks confused. "You do remember the barter system, don't you?"
"We have a barter system?"
"Yes. We do," he's getting desperate and worry is clear in his tone. "It normally consists of me taking your clothes, and not the other way around. Occasionally I accidentally ruin the garments I borrow. You pretend to be angry about it, but really you're not because your lips always twitch upward when you berate me for it."
"That doesn't make sense. And I don't own an evening gown so that one must be yours."
"It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense in the slightest. But it's what we do. It just... it just works. You honestly do not remember, Watson? This isn't an evening gown. It's your favorite white shirt. Well, it was, until a few days ago when I spilled various chemicals on it--see, this green splotch here by the sleeve--and myself then you refused to speak to me for three hours, twenty-seven minutes, and fifty-two seconds. I remember. I counted. You can't tell me you don't remember that?"
He knows before he asks that Watson doesn't remember. His eyes are glossy and he's starting to tense up as the pain sets in again. "But where's the tea kettle?"
Holmes slumps into the chair, his head resting in his hands. "It's... It's on the stove."
"But the stove is at the wedding."
His mind is now lost to me. Ignoring him could result in anger which would potentially lead to injury. "No, old boy. It isn't. They... they called it off, actually. Perhaps you should get back to sleep."
"But they were such a beautiful couple. Why did they call it off?"
Humoring him without any emotional interference would be much easier if the question didn't sound so earnest and concerned. "Lost the spark, I suspect. Come now, Watson, go back to sleep now."
"But the bed has snakes and dolls in it. I can't."
Holmes sighs, wondering when their positions became so switched that he was now the responsible one trying to convince a stubborn child-like mind that it was time to sleep. "Don't worry. I'll get rid of them. Rest assured."
"But someone has to take care of the houses," Watson says, sitting up and staring intently at Holmes with his eyes shining yet oddly absent looking.
This point is important. He is attempting to fight the fever enough to relay a message. Houses is the key word here because… "He... They will manage. The houses are... The houses will be fine. Don't you worry."
"No. The houses needed the chicken."
Houses clearly means me. I call him a Mother Hen which would be translated into a chicken.
"The chicken... Please, just go to bed, Watson. Really. Do not trouble yourself," he gently pushes Watson back down on to his pillows. He picks up the now warm cloth that has fallen onto the bed leaving a large wet spot on the sheets and dips it back into the cold water that Mrs. Hudson has brought up.
"But someone has to tell the house that the chicken loves it."
Holmes promptly drops the cloth but he is positive it did not hit the floor yet because there wasn't a sound. Clearly time itself is standing still because he can't hear anything except for an uneven breathing he vaguely realizes is his and everything is becoming slightly blurry though he can't fathom why.
"The house... The house feels the same way, John."
Watson is glaring at him now, "But the chicken is with the grass so it didn't tell the house! It has to tell the house because the grass is turning blue."
Grass. Grass is part of a yard. Scotland Yard. Lestrade and Clarky are much sicker than him. He thinks he is dying which is why he is saying this.
"I will tell the house for the chicken. Don't worry. The message will be safely delivered while you sleep."
"Do you promise? It has to know. Very important. The chicken never told the house."
And it's true. During their years of living with each other and everything they've been through neither one of them has ever said it. Never spoken of the feelings that they both knew were there. They had a form of casually flirting with each other when they were alone, and had shared a bed many times, but they had come to a silent agreement that they were never to speak of it.
"I... I promise. The house never told the chicken, either." His voice is shaking as badly as his hands and he's coming to the realization that his vision is blurry because he is sick as well and it's causing his eyes to leak.
"Because the house wants the handcuffs," Watson answers, his tone bitter.
Handcuffs. The Yard was grass so it isn't police. Adler then.
"The house most certainly does not want or really even like the handcuffs. It prefers chickens."
"The house is obsessed with the handcuffs. It didn't care about the chicken so the chicken went to the ring but it doesn't like the ring it wanted the house but the house was caught in the handcuffs."
Rings represent marriage. Mary.
"No, no. The house is... very selfish, and very petty. It...It was afraid of losing the chicken. But the house can be very stupid when it comes to the chicken, so it endeavored to make the chicken jealous with the handcuffs, because it thought that was the best possible way to keep the chicken's attention. The house does need the chicken. Very much."
Somewhere in the course of Holmes confession Watson opened his eyes once more. "Holmes..? Is that you?"
"Ah, Watson! You're awake!"
"Is it alright? Do you need anything?"
"Water. Sleep. A gun."
"I can provide you with two of those three options, old boy. Care to guess which two?"
"A gun would lead to sleep."
"Not the kind of sleep a doctor should condone, you know."
Watson begins to massage his temples, "I'm a patient."
"But still a doctor, making you the absolutely worst kind of patient there is."
"Fine. Water and sleep then."
"Oh dear. You must really be ill, Watson. No snarky comment about how the position of worst patient is already filled by yours truly?" His tone is light and playful but his body language is screaming worry.
"I am. Now will you be so kind as to get me some water?"
"Anything for you, old boy. Right, then. Here you are. Drink up."
Watson props himself up on his elbow, gratefully drinking the contents of the glass handed to him. "Now sleep while I still can. And you're not supposed to be here."
"Just a short visit. A check-up, if you will. Nothing more, nothing less, Watson."
Even when he's falling gracelessly back into his bed and his eyes are sliding closed he manages to sound stern despite the exhaustion evident in his voice. "You've been here… hours… go away…"
"First you go to sleep, and then I'll go home. Promise."
"Fine. Goodnight Sherlock." And just like that he's asleep.
"G'night dearest," Holmes answers, standing to stretch his tired limbs. He walks to the door, intent on keeping his promise, but pauses before opening it. He turns back, staring at his greatest friend for a moment. "...Love you, John."
The really sad thing about this fic (apart from the obvious angst) is that most of this was pre written and it still took me two days to write it. A few things I should clear up, one is that all of Holmes' dialogue was not written by me, but by the amazing OrangeStar because she rocks like that. She also beta'd this for me. Another thing is that this was taken from an RP type thing on Face book (further proof that I suck because all I really had to do is copy and paste everything I said earlier and change the format) so a lot of things probably don't make sense just because it had a lot of outside influence.
Oh, and I was told by a few people that this made them cry… so if you fall under that category, I apologize.