Disclaimer:They may now be in the public domain but I feel it only right to say that Holmes and Watson and the wonderful concept that drives them do not belong to me. Obviously, right?

Beta'd by med_cat, however all remaining errors story wise and author note wise are entirely my own.


Ills and Bravado

Chapter Three

When next I awoke it was a slow process. I felt warm and snug. Blankets. My head felt stuffed with wool from ear to ear. There was pain, now that my mind had time to register it, but it was muffled. It stood to reason there had been morphine involved in this.

"Watson? Old friend, are you awake?"

That voice, that ever so welcome voice. Holmes. I had no real desire to rouse myself just yet, but there was something so foreign in Holmes' tone that I could not avoid it. Somehow he sounded quite... tremulous. I wished to relieve him of whatever worry might have caused that change in tone. I opened my eyes with a struggle, and even then only managed half-mast, I fear. "Holmes?"

What came out was a rough imitation of my voice at best, followed by a series of wet-sounding drawn breaths of air. I was reminded of my previous state of illness in that moment. The consulting detective stood nervously beside my bed, looking nearly as pale as the white walls and blankets of the hospital room I found myself in. His shoulders sagged in some relief as I had addressed him. "Yes, dear chap. You are on your game this morning."

"Holmes. I don't understand..."

At this point my roughened throat rebelled against my speaking and I was set upon with a bout of coughing so hard I was nearly doubled over on the bed. Holmes was half sitting on the bed with me in an instant, his handkerchief pressed to my lips and his other arm wrapped in support around my back as great wet-sounding coughs worked through my chest. This stirred the previously muffled pain in my ribs and abdomen and both added their complaints to my fit.

"Easy Watson, easy," Holmes commanded. "You are still quite ill, my friend, and must not overexert yourself. Water?"

I nodded assent, with tears in the corners of my eyes brought on by the struggle for breath. I could just see before Holmes folded the cloth the thick and sticky greenish phlegm smeared on his handkerchief. No blood this time. Why did I remember blood? My friend brought me a glass of cool water which I was more than pleased to indulge in. Slowly, I was instructed, as it had been some two days since I had last ingested any amount on my own.

"What happened?" I gasped softly, as Holmes retreated with the glass. I touched a trembling hand to my congested chest and queried, "Pneumonia?"

"I'm afraid so, Watson. What do you recall?"

Holmes stepped back to the bed on asking this. I imagined he would deposit himself in the armchair pulled up nearby. The talk of two days without intake of food or substantial water and the dark bags beneath Holmes' eyes bespoke of a long vigil spent in that chair. It was with some surprise then that Holmes hitched a hip onto my bed to sit directly beside my shaking form. "I was... to run errands for you, was I not?"
I knew myself to still be feeling the left over effects of morphine and with the presence of pneumonia in my system I was likely to be running at least a low grade fever. With these truths in mind, I found myself somewhat unsure as to my sensory perception, for I was nearly certain a hue of blush crossed my friend's otherwise pale features. "Yes. I had sent you out to retrieve a list of supplies that evening. Do you recall what happened then?"

"I fear I'm rather fuzzy..."

Holmes patted my right shoulder gently from his position beside me on the bed. "A condition for which you are not to blame, my dear Watson. I was hoping you might fill me in on specifics, but it is not important. I have drawn accurate conclusions of the events of your evening from the facts at hand."

My companion shifted uneasily beside me for a moment before continuing. "I have much to apologize for, Watson. I instructed you to go out to fetch my supplies Thursday evening ignoring all evidence of your being in no condition to do so. You, for obedient is my Watson, endeavored to complete the task. When you had not returned by ten that night, Mrs. Hudson was quite beside herself with worry. I made a most grievous error in assuming that I had offended you with my black mood and commands and that you had simply chosen to stay someplace else for the night. I should know my Watson better, of course. If I ask something of you, you follow through no matter your own feelings on the subject.

"Mrs. Hudson, bless her intuition and sound mind, took matters into her own hands and contrived to have a few of our Irregulars set about looking for you. It seems they have a soft spot for the kindness that both you and our dear landlady show to them and would happily work for either of your causes without my presence. I digress. Our irregulars spent a better portion of the evening on the task, but one was successful in the early hours of Friday morning."

"Charlie," I acknowledged, for I had a vague memory of the boy's dirty face and wide fearful eyes.

Holmes offered me a nod of approval before continuing on. "Indeed. He fetched two of our local constables who, in turn, sent you on to a hospital. Charlie then ran back to our flat to tell Mrs. Hudson of your location. The good woman had the presence of mind to storm up the stairs and inform me that she was going to Charring Cross to check on Doctor Watson and suggested that if I did not want to make a complete blackguard of myself that I had better join her."

Despite the shivers coursing through my body and the pain burning through my chest and abdomen, I could not but offer a small smile at the image this conjured. I would have to be sure to find a means of thanking both Mrs. Hudson and young Charlie for their involvement in the affair.

Holmes laced both arms about himself as though he too were suffering from a chill and slouched against the headboard. "I was... not expecting that. And I fear all the completely unjustified anger I might have felt toward your person the night before left me in such a rush I might have collapsed to the floor were Mrs. Hudson not suddenly there to fold me back into a chair. To hear that you were in the hospital suffering of exposure and untold injuries... Ah, but my dear Watson I am falling into your habits of romanticizing the unimportant.

"Mrs. Hudson and I of course were here as fast as humanly possible only to be told we had to wait to visit with you. You were yet in surgery when we got here. It seems you had been mugged and beaten before being left out in the cold. You had suffered from to broken ribs and one brutal blow had set you to bleed into your abdomen. You were in surgery for the internal bleeding.

"When we were allowed to visit you the doctors made it very clear the condition you were in. Which was not at all good, my dear Watson. They had stopped the internal bleeding and bound your ribs, but what had begun as likely just a chest cold had become pneumonia brought on by weakness and exposure. Between that and hypothermia, they were concerned you would not survive the night."

At this, Holmes drew his hands from around his middle to scrub at his eyes and run them through his already untidy hair. The unmitigated pain I saw cross his features prompted me to say with a tiny smile and a little humor, "It would appear that I survived the ordeal, Holmes."

My friend released a sharp bark of laughter for this. "Yes it would."

I laughed as well, and realized I should restrain that desire in the near future as I found myself in the throes of another round of coughing. Once again Holmes offered his physical support through the course of the fit. Upon being plied with more water and given a few moments to catch my breath I settled back into the fluffy pillows and felt the pull of exhaustion on my awareness. I was aware, however, that Holmes did not seem to be done. He repositioned himself to be seated on the bed beside me and squirmed in a way most unnatural to my stoic friend for some moments.

"You have been sitting here keeping vigil since?" I prompted.

He did flush this time, I clearly saw it was no fluke of my imagination. "Yet one more thing I must offer apologies for in this horrid mess."

I could not but reprimand him for this over-abundance of guilt in one who claimed to me emotionless. "Holmes, really..."

"No Watson, you must let me finish. I fear I allowed my emotions to rule my judgment when I was told you were unlikely to survive. I was angry with the situation, with those who had attacked you, and most decidedly with myself. And I was afra... well. I am truly lost without my Boswell. Instead of staying by your side for that trying day and night I left Mrs. Hudson to attend you and set about to have my way with those who had injured you and left you so.

"It was no great feat of detecting on my part to find the men responsible. The leader of the group had kept your most distinctive walking stick and foolishly attempted to pawn all of your shopping at one place. It took few inquiries to track him and his friends down. I must say, my friend, I am impressed with the damage you inflicted on that lot before they brought you down. They will be spending some time in jail, thanks to our friends at Scotland Yard. I retrieved your stick, Watson, but I don't know what they might have done with your coat."

I recalled the old woman in the depths of the night as she stripped me of the coat and scarf in question. "They did not take it," I noted Holmes tightening of the shoulders and gave a small shake of my head, "It is of no importance who did Holmes. I imagine she may have more need of it than I in the coming winter. And you are not at fault for this, you do realize?"

"It was I who sent you into this dreadful predicament."

"Did you force illness on me?" I questioned pointedly. "Did you beat me, or leave me out in the elements?"

"I might as well have, Watson, for as little help I have been to you in the matter! And it was at my prompting that you were out in that evening snow to be caught up in such antics."

"Holmes..."

"No Watson. There is nothing for it. The guilt is my own and I will not allow you to try to unburden it from me. However, if there is anything I might do for you in the mean time..."

I sighed carefully, fearful of the uneasily resting dragon in my painful chest. I suspected it would take time and patience for this reminder of humanity in Holmes to recover as much as it would take time and rest for my body to recover. We would both eventually be well. I sagged with fatigue into my pillows allow my eyes to droop closed for a moment before a thought struck me. A grin crossed my features and I opened my eyes to focus on my friend's dour form. "I say Holmes, there is one thing you might do."

"Anything, old chap."

"If in the future you find yourself on a tight schedule with your chemical projects, perhaps you could run out and fetch your own sodium nitrate, there's a good chap?"

~Finis


A/N: This was written for a prompt on the LJ community Watson's Woes. I post the prompt here because it really gives away the plot.

Prompt: As given by mywittyuzername for watsons-woes September Cold-Related H/C Comment Meme.

"A Trip to The Shop

So, Sherlock/Holmes is being his grumpy self and though John/Watson has a cold he tells John/Watson that he run out to purchase some things that he insists he needs.

It is rainy, then snowy. John/Watson gets what Sherlock/Holmes needs and starts back home when he is mugged and severely beaten. No one pays attention to him for some time.

Finally, he is taken to the hospital. However, the outlook is grim. Very grim.

Guilt, shame and tender care from Sherlock/Holmes

Any verse."

So, this story was officially my attempt at a full length SH story. I was pretty terrified about it, but I got a lot of reassurance from nice folks and I feel far more confidant in my abilities now. And I do love a good Watson whump. What do you think, does it earn a passing grade?