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One To Live With

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It was almost more than I could stand, to see Holmes smugly grinning at me when once again I was falsely subjected to the specter of his imminent death, all in the name of catching yet another criminal of little renown.

This time it was a 'fall' from our windows which, unbeknownst to me was cushioned in advance by a very large pile of old mattresses, waiting in ready for his descent.

My cry of horror was so loud and, obviously, very convincing as the villain gloated over his triumph in my presence. He was ready to do me in, I suppose, barring Lestrade's perfectly-timed (again, in advance) entrance, directly after the boasting confession.

My frantic protestations as I ran to the window, craning out to look for the, presumably, smashed remains of my love were laughed at, most loudly by Holmes himself as he entered the sitting room with a flourish, sitting as pretty as he pleased, lighting his pipe and waving away his shocked adversary.

"So, what do you think, Watson?" He truly was pleased as punch.

"I thought you were dead," I replied faintly, wondering if I could find the energy to drag the mattresses away and then toss him from the window. Luckily for him, I couldn't.

"Exactly!" He put out the pipe and patted my arm. "Wonderful response as always, Watson. It brought out, shall we say, the worst in our opponent. Your terror was most convincing."

I stared at him. Was it possible for him to be so cruel? Or was he just immune to any and all feelings of empathy, as geniuses sometimes were? As I loved him, I chose to be believe the latter, but that didn't mean I was going to let him get away with it.

Not this time. Once was one thing, this was the final straw. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to nod at him. "Yes, it was very effective, Holmes. You honestly convinced me that you had been killed."

He bowed, like an actor receiving an ovation, genuinely flattered. "And now, my dearest, I'm going to buy us a wonderful dinner, to refresh our ourselves with. Ready in an hour?"

Little did he know that I was already formulating a 'lesson' of my own to impart upon him, whether he wanted to learn it or not. I cleared my throat and shook my head with a wan smile. "I'd love to, but ... I ... uh ... I am not that hungry at the moment, but you should certainly go. In fact, I think I might take a lie down, if you don't mind," I said, knowing that any deception he'd sense in my words would play perfectly into what I was planning.

He frowned. "Not hungry? You? But ..."

I walked up to him and as sadly as I could muster, I leaned in to kiss him. "Just remember I love you," I whispered and thinking of his 'death' I allowed my eyes to mist over. "Always."

Now he was concerned, but I ignored his wide eyes and went directly to my room where I hadn't slept in a few years. This would give me the added advantage of not strangling him where he lay, as well as give him pause as well as allow me to fully formulate my 'teaching exercise' -- a medical role play that he would never forget.

~*~

Fortunately, my many years of living with Holmes had taught me that the subtler the 'clues', the more likely he was to jump to a desired, if erroneous, conclusion. As I wasn't much of an actor, this would suit my purposes perfectly as I made a visit to my old friend Stamford's office.

He was an up and coming lung specialist by this time and would understand all too well once I explained what our 'old mutual friend' Sherlock Holmes had been up to.

He also was a wicked prank artist, if our shared days at St. Bart's were any indication. "So, what do we give you? Laughing sickness? Beri-Beri? A new strain of leprosy?" he asked, rubbing his hands together in quite the jolly manner.

"Tuberculosis," I answered and he stopped laughing to whistle in surprise.

He stared at me. "You're not joking about, are you?"

"No, I am not. He needs to stop this cruel and unusual method of deduction before I die of heart failure," I said firmly. "And we must be subtle about it. I'd like you to write me out a prescription for the medication used for advanced cases, something out of the ordinary, as you would give to a dying patient. Don't worry, I won't fill it. I also need you to take a blood sample from me. Do you know a friendly undertaker, by the by?"

"Oh John," he murmured, laughing softly. "I'm certainly glad I'm not on your bad side."

After receiving all I needed from Stamford, I headed to the mortician employed by Bart's. Concocting a story about wishing to start pricing my burial costs in advance -- just as a wise financial precaution that he heartily endorsed, I received a neatly written estimate for my coffin, funeral and proposed plot.

Armed with that, the prescription and a vial of my own blood, I headed home and skipped lunch, locking myself in my own room, but not before crumpling up and tossing out the prescription in the rubbish bin outside. Once that was done, I very carefully tucked the funeral estimate into one of my medical books lined up over my desk.

It was then a quick skip to a very cold bath and a few moments spent ruining two good handkerchiefs with a tiny bit of blood that I made sure to mix with saliva and spit onto them from my mouth. A little bit on the teeth wouldn't hurt either, feeling rather like a vampire once I was done, but oh, it would be worth it.

After that it was to the settee, where I lay, shivering and rather blue-lipped as Holmes suddenly stormed into the sitting room, the crumpled prescription clutched in his hand.

"Holmes ..." I greeted him brightly, which would make him even more suspicious. "My dearest, I wasn't expecting you home so early."

He stared at me, taking in my entire appearance before storming over to my bookshelf where he easily found the disturbed volume, and the undertaker's receipt.

I made a noise and sat up and while I might not have been a good actor, fortunately he was too distracted by his terror to pay much mind. "What is this?" he asked me, the receipt and prescription quivering in his trembling grip, his face the most awful shade of white I'd ever seen it. "Watson, what is this?"

I looked at his tortured expression and was almost tempted to confess all, but the memory his falling to his 'death' was still fresh enough to allow me to carry on. Instead, I hung my head. "One is something I no longer need and the other ... Holmes, please. Let us not waste whatever time we might have together."

He gasped and knelt in front of me, grabbing my shoulders and staring at my face. His hands were all over me and easily found the stained handkerchiefs, which he dropped as if they burnt his hand. "Why? Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, his entire body shaking with shock. He shook his head. "No. I don't accept this and you shouldn't either. We will fight this. I'll go to Mycroft and ..."

"Holmes, I'm a doctor. Don't you think that I've already exhausted all avenues?" I asked him. Feigning exhaustion, I lay back down on the settee and closed my eyes. "I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want us to lose whatever time we had left to your search for a cure that doesn't exist. My love, please, let it go."

I peeked out from one eye and watched as he began to pace frantically, practically tearing the hair from his head. He was in such distress, clearly in tears and it was then that I thought it might be a good time to end the ruse, come what may.

"I know it must bother you, somewhat, to think of me dying," I said calmly.

He stopped and stood over me, confused. "Of course, it bothers me. Are you mad? I cannot live without you."

"Just as it would bother me if you were dying ... or dead. I'm quite sure I'd find myself as you are now, distraught." Slowly, I sat up and held his gaze which quickly began to go from terrified to comprehending. "I mean, if I were to be faking my own imminent demise, just for sport, that would be a terrible, most unfair thing, wouldn't it?"

His expression took on a terrible look of raw fury, but I didn't flinch. "You did all this to teach me a lesson?"

"Yes,I did and I hope it took," I said calmly, watching him struck utterly silent for the first time in our acquaintance.

A silence that didn't last long. "What I do is not for sport!" he roared and his fist pulled back, but he checked it just in time as I refused to move.

"The way you do it is!" I yelled back, jumping to my feet. "You can catch these monsters in a dozen different ways, but no, you choose the most dramatic, the most theatrical, unaware of how it makes me feel! Unaware is what I hope, uncaring is the more likely answer. Still, you needed to know how it felt and there it is! How did it feel, Holmes, to think for but a few moments that I was dying? Tell me, how did it feel?!"

His tear-stained face crumpled. He stumbled to his seat, falling into it hard. "Awful," he whispered after a long moment. "As though the world had caved in on me and all hope of everything was lost." He rubbed a hand through his hair. "But surely, that can't be the way you felt those times when I ... I ... did those things?"

"Why do you say that? Don't you think I love you as much as you love me?"

He looked away and my heart sank. I knelt down beside him and took his hand in mine. "Holmes, surely you realize that my world would end if you were no longer in it? That I cannot live without you?"

"Why not? You'd probably do better without me to drag you down," he replied, his voice so small and sad, it was heartbreaking to hear. "I had no idea, Watson. I thought, perhaps, that you'd be mildly relieved and, I don't know, amused by my ruses, but never did I dream that it would hurt you as badly as this. I ... I'm afraid I underestimated the results of such methods. I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

"If you forgive me," I replied immediately and kissed his hand in apology. "I never would have gone this far merely to hurt you, please believe that. And now I know you didn't either."

"A promise?" he asked a few minutes later, cupping my cheek. "No more faking our deaths? I'm afraid heart failure will take one of us away in the aftermath and one will be merely annoyed at the other for being a jester."

"I promise," I said, grinning at him. "Although you must say, I had you going there for a minute."

His tremulous grin turned into a frown. "You did not. I knew you were faking the moment ..."

"The moment I told you," I finished for him. "Remember, a doctor is the worst of criminals, for I had the method, the means and the motive. Now, as for that dinner, what are you buying me?"

"Buying you?" He made a face. "My dear Watson, after that performance, you shall be buying me dinner. And it will be an expensive one. Pfft, buy you dinner."

Of course, an another argument started, but this was one I could live with.

~*~

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