Prompt: Stuck at Home
[Being Various Expurgations From The Journal
of Doctor John Watson]
For the most part, I have accepted that my experiences at war have meant that I will never be quite the hale and hearty man I was before. Trifles that would not have slowed me down a whit earlier in life can now knock me back for a day or two. Not that falling into the Thames in December could be called a trifle, of course. Still, it was a frustration that Holmes suffered no more than a slight congestion, whilst I woke the next morning with a fever and persistent wracking cough.
Upon our arrival home last night, Holmes had petitioned Mrs Hudson for hot soup and tea for us both. She tutted her way back down the stairs, exclaiming to no one in particular that her tenants needed a dose of common sense. There was no counter argument that could be made to that. Alone, we stripped off our sodden garments, then wrapped up in our night shirts and dressing gowns before settling yet again in front of the fire.
“I sense a theme developing in our life,” I commented drily.
Holmes gave me a fleeting smile. He glanced towards the open door and lowered his voice. “Perhaps it is all a part of my devious plot to remove you from your clothing,” he said.
I was surprised at the jesting remark, but when I looked into his eyes there was something darker, something heated, visible. My tongue ran across my lips, a nervous habit since childhood. But before I could reply, Mrs Hudson returned with our tea and soup.
By the time our meal was finished, my fever had already appeared and I had coughed more than once. Once we were alone again, Holmes came and knelt in front of my chair. He lightly brushed one hand across my cheek, frowning a bit as he realised how my temperature had risen. “The fates do seem to conspire against us, my dear boy.”
I nodded ruefully. “Oh, the fates be damned. We will triumph. But, sadly, we cannot fight against an infection like this. I do not want to pass it on to you.”
“Pah,” he said. Then he leant forward and kissed my forehead with a tenderness that few would have ascribed to Sherlock Holmes. “Might I at least sit with you until you fall asleep?”
“I would like that very much,” I said with utter honesty.
And so I collapsed in my bed. Holmes pulled a chair very close and settled there. He took my hand in both of his and held it gently. It was thus that I fell into a restless, feverish sleep.
It was early the next morning when I awakened, feeling little better but at least, thankfully no worse either. The first thing I noticed was that the chair was now empty, which only made sense, of course. I would not have expected my friend to spend the entire night sitting there. But wait…not quite empty. I reached out to take up the single sheet of paper, upon which were a few words in Holmes’ usual elegant scribble. Luckily, I was quite accustomed to deciphering his script.
A telegram from Lestrade. Some complication with the frozen vicar case. Will return as soon as possible.
My first reaction was one of disappointment that I must remain here at home whilst my friend was off adventuring on his own. My second was to fret that he might find himself in some difficulty without me there to assist. My third thought was that I needed the water closet.
I shuffled off, did the necessary and then headed for the parlour instead of my bedroom. Billy was sitting in the client chair, reading one of Holmes’ less respectable newspapers, but he jumped to his feet as soon as I walked into the room. “Morning, sir! Mr Holmes told me to wait here in case you needed anything. Do you need anything?”
“Tea, please,” I more or less croaked out, before dropping onto the divan. The room had that empty feeling which always existed when Holmes was not in residence. There was a warm knitted blanket draped over the back of the divan and, although there was a good fire going, I tugged at the blanket until it was covering me.
Very soon, Billy delivered the requested tea as well as some toast, no doubt added by Mrs Hudson. I drank and ate and actually felt somewhat improved by the nourishment. Then, even before the tray had been collected, I fell asleep once again.
The whispers were hot and damp against my ear and they pulled me up from my sleep. “Holmes,” I mumbled. Then, surprising myself as much as Holmes, I pulled him down for a kiss. Only then did I even think to glance at the door. Thankfully, it was closed, so I kissed him again. “I missed you,” I said.
“A case is quite tedious without having my Boswell at my side,” Holmes replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Much improved.” As I said the words, I realised that it was the truth.
“Excellent,” Holmes said. Then he pulled the blanket up so that he could slip underneath it and pressed against me.
It was warm and familiar, for all that this was still so new to us. I nuzzled at his hair. “By tomorrow night, I shall be fit for any plans that you might have,” I teased him.
“Hmm,” he replied, not sounding as pleased as I had anticipated, which was rather disappointing. Then he added, “Mycroft will be delighted.”
Startled, I pulled away just a bit. “Mycroft? Why should your brother..?” Then I recalled the date. “Oh. Tomorrow night is his ball.”
Still snuggled together, we both glumly considered that prospect.
Holmes sighed. “Although I do very much look forward to seeing you in your new evening clothes,” he pointed out.
I chuckled. “You surprise me. Sherlock Holmes is not usually given to seeking out the bright side of things.”
He gave a helpless shrug. “Since I now know that you share my feelings, life seems much more bearable.”
“Even attending one of your brother’s damnable gatherings?”
Instead of replying, Holmes somehow managed to scoot even closer to me. He kissed me.
At some point, I went to bed. Instead of sitting in the chair, Holmes stretched out next to me on the bed, still clothed, save for his cravat, waistcoat and shoes. We neither kissed nor conversed. Instead, I drifted back to sleep wrapped in his arms and dreamt that we were dancing at the ball.
The room was bright and colourful, filled with sparkling images that were much like a performance of The Nutcracker we had once seen. At the time, we both thought it was somewhat overdone, like a cake layered with too much icing and too many pink sprinkles. But now, as Holmes held me close and we moved around the glittering room in perfect harmony, it was all an impossibly sweet dream. And even in my sleep I promised to remember it when I woke.