When I awoke Mary was at my side, faint traces of tears on her face. When I said her name, she let out a gasp and grabbed my hand.
"John, you're awake!"
The events of the day- past few days?- slowly came back to me.
"Mary." I relished saying her name, because I had been certain I would never again. "How did you get here? I thought I..."
"I know," she said softly.
"I had hours if not minutes until my death. Mary, I told Holmes to tell you..."
"I know that too," she said. "Now you may tell me yourself." I begun to say it, but she cut me off. "No," she said with a smile. "There'll be time."
"How did I come to be cured?" I asked, overwhelmed with love for her.
She hesitated for a moment. "You were very ill for two days. I feel I should leave you to rest."
"No, I must hear."
"Two days ago Mr Holmes arrived on our doorstep," she said carefully. "I could be wrong, but he seemed...on the verge of tears."
"That is quite unlike him."
"He told me what had happened, and confessed it was entirely his fault."
"That is also quite unlike him," I almost said, before realised that it wasn't, not really, and especially not now.
"He mentioned a man called Ainstree, possibly the only person who could help, and told me how he had left London." She paused. "He also gave me your last message."
"Mary, I'm so sorry, it must have been..."
"You have nothing to feel sorry about," she said firmly. "Holmes told me he wasn't giving up, and left, and I resolved that I would not give up either. Ainstree had gone chasing after a lie, and I followed him."
"And you brought him here?" I gasped. "How?"
"It wasn't easy. I went to the train station, I sent telegrams, and I asked so many questions of so many people. At last, having caught a train myself to the place he was instructed to go, I found him in a terrible rage, having realised he had been fooled."
"My goodness, Mary!"
"I talked to him for almost an hour, aware of your time running out. At last I convinced him to see you. I took him back to London, back here, and me and Mr Holmes and your landlady waited downstairs in fear while he worked."
I reached up and kissed her. She gave a beaming smile.
"I will never be able to thank you enough."
"You won't have to," she said. We sat in silence for a long while, and then I fell asleep, her holding my hand.
When I awoke Mary was no longer there, but Holmes was.
"Mary?" I asked.
"My dear fellow, if you are mistaking me for her..."
"No! I'm not delusional, have no fear. I was asking where she was."
"She is downstairs, resting. She's been at your side for days."
A pause. "So have you, I imagine." I said.
He waved his hand. "There is no doubt you would do the same for me."
"I am so sorry," he said once again. "This is an end to my dramas. I've kept you in the dark too much."
"You have apologised quite enough, Holmes."
"But I thoroughly should. If not for your wife, you would be..." He seemed unable to get the word out.
"Dead, yes. You must thank Mary."
"I have done so. A thousand times." Sounding very uncomfortable, he said, "She is a wonderful, wonderful woman."
"Yes, I know."
Holmes pulled up a chair and sat beside my bed. "Did she tell you what she did to me?" He sounded rather wounded.
"She slapped me."
I could not help but burst out laughing.
"Ah, Holmes, this has been a very trying time for you."
"Yes," he said, very quietly. I could not leave my best friend looking so miserable.
I lifted myself out of the bed.
"Come, let's go downstairs. I feel quite better now," I said.
Holmes smiled, and took my arm to assist me. We went downstairs to see Mary and Mrs Hudson, and all was well.