"Do not ever doubt my love for you..... "
The words, whispered soft and low, were punctuated by a steady rhythmic beep.
"I'm here... always here, right beside you ... I need you ... now ... here .... with me."
A sweet familiar scent ... warmth .... the beeping continued.
"Sherlock." His name floated through the mist. "Sherlock..."
The weight of her hand on his shoulder provided an anchor. He struggled and pulled, trying to raise himself up from the depths ...
His lips moved but produced no audible sound. The beeping quickened.
These two! Ellen stood just outside the doorway, tray in hand, and watched them.
The room was dark except for the halo of light over his bed. She sat close up and facing him in a hard back chair that she'd wedged between the bed and the monitors. He, as usual, had skewed his upper body to lean in closer to where she sat. A book she'd been reading lay open and soft murmurs were being gently tossed between them.
Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson were all banter and squabble when she was in the room but the love flowing between them was palpable. They seemed from another age, a more restrained time, when soft feelings and tender touches were a private and very personal matter.
Her grandparents had been much like that; never kissed, held hands, touched in affection ... not in public at least. But they loved each other dearly; never straying very far from each other. She remembered family gatherings where Baba and Gigi would sit side by side and whisper to each other in the old language that none of the grandkids understood. And she remembered the happy gleam in their eyes, the quirk of a mouth or the raise of an eyebrow that triggered some mutual thought, some shared memory.
Ellen admitted it - she had been shamelessly nosy. She asked about them. They were business partners and friends, roommates, but she was assured that's all they were. Mmm hmmm .... Right. That's why Dr. Watson, who could certainly read the chart and understand just how well Mr. Holmes was recovering, spent countless hours at his bedside. And Mr. Holmes! Surly, irascible Mr. Holmes, who would not bend to the requests of his doctors or nurses became almost docile in her presence. Almost. He still put up a fight but it was all show for her sake. With a look and a stern word or two, he'd let Dr. Watson reign him in and submit to whatever tests or medication were required.
Ellen smiled to herself and knocked on the door jamb before walking in. "Good evening. Are you ready for your dinner, Mr. Holmes?" They pulled away from each other and straightened up.
"Oh joy. My evening gruel arrives."
Ellen placed the tray on the bedside table, "Barley soup, orange juice, toast and yogurt, as you requested." He looked at the meal dismissively and pushed it away.
Dr. Watson spoke up. "Eat! .... Or do you want me to force feed you again?" She raised her eyebrows at him and tilted her head.
Ellen caught the small twitch, almost a smile, that crossed his face before he resignedly moved the tray back.
"I'll leave him in your good hands, doctor."
"Thank you, Ellen." Dr. Watson rewarded her with a smile.
As she walked away, she heard his voice behind her. "Here, Watson, have some of this. You're looking as horrid as I feel."
"You do say the nicest things, Sherlock... pass me a spoon."
"Are you going to feed me?" His voice was a whispered leer.
"You wish. Come on, start on the soup before it gets cold."
Ellen shook her head, she'd miss these two ...
Head shaved, he lay on the gurney waiting to be wheeled away to meet his fate.
"You don't have to stay. I've been told it can be quite a long process."
Joan stood over him, with every muscle in her body rigid with anxiety, she feigned nonchalance. "Oh, I'm not staying. Jimmy Choo's is having a sale, thought I'd do some shopping then have a leisurely lunch..."
The fear lessened in his eyes. Her hand laid lightly on his forearm. She bent over him and kissed his cheek. She lingered and they quietly whispered their love and goodbyes.
"Ready to go Mr. Holmes?" The orderly's voice pulled them apart.
She walked beside the gurney as they made their way down the hall towards surgery. He turned his head in time to catch her wiping at her eyes.
"Try not to spend too much at Jimmy Choo's."
She smiled, "I won't."
The double doors of the surgical wing appeared before them. She stopped and watched as they wheeled him away.
He opened his eyes. The hospital room was dark but he could make out his partner, twisted like pretzel, asleep in the chair beside him.
"Watson." No response. He knew how heavy a sleeper she could be. "Watson!" He repeated loudly.
She jerked up in the chair and winced. "What's wrong?" She unfurled her feet from beneath her.
"Why are you here?" He asked but gave her no time to answer. "Go home, get some rest."
"I will." She grimaced as she stretched her neck. "When the next nursing shift takes over, I'll go. The night nurse isn't as attentive as she should be."
He looked at her bemused, touched by her caring and not sure how to get her to take care of herself equally. "I'm being released tomorrow ..."
"I know but ..." she shrugged.
He sighed. "Get in bed with me." Sherlock moved over and lifted the sheet.
"Sherlock, no. I'm fine..."
"If you won't go home, you're getting in. Come on. You're tiny and there's plenty of room. I won't have you hurt yourself on my account."
Every muscle in her back ached; just stretching out for a minute or two would help... Without further thought, Joan lowered the bed rail and climbed in, stretching her full length out beside him. "Oh, god, that does feel good."
Sherlock covered her with the sheet. Joan turned on her side. "What if the nurse comes in?" She whispered.
Sherlock adjusted the pillows. "She'll have to find another bed. I don't think we have enough room for three."
She chuckled softly. Exhaustion overcame fear of getting caught and side by side they fell into a deep sleep.
At five a.m., the morning nursing shift took over. Ellen entered the room quietly to check on her patient only to find she had two instead of one in her charge. She watched them sleeping close and safe and opted to skip getting his vitals.
She smiled as she left the room, "... business partners, right ..."