Creative
by vignette
Rating: PG
Fandom: Original Characters
Disclaimer: These characters are my own, but they are purely fictional.
Author's Notes: This story is set in England in the 1850s, to avoid any confusion regarding the behaviour of my little Victorians...

"Do keep up, Dervish!" the young man called over his shoulder to his friend who was some yards behind. "Iv' got twice as much kit as you and I can go at this pace quite happily." This was perfectly true; whilst Dervish merely carried a leather briefcase, his companion had a large bag slung over his left shoulder, a smaller bag in his left hand and a wooden frame tucked under his right arm. He stopped too wait for his companion, making a show of tapping his foot in mock impatience. "Come on!" he added, for good measure. "I want to get there while the light is still good." Having caught up, John Dervish scowled.

"I thought the whole point of getting out and into nature was to be inspired by it. How I am supposed to faithfully represent nature, Marvell, if I can't even stop to look at it?" he complained.

"All in good time," Charles Marvell replied, with an air of knowing that infuriated Dervish, who continued to air his grievances.

"As for your light, you've picked the greyest day of the year to come out sketching," he added, looking up at the sky, which was indeed covered ominously with clouds. "I'm all for nature, but in December?"

"Faithful and true representation," Marvell reminded him. "Which, of course, includes a bitter English morning." Dervish threw him a dark look which Marvell shrugged off. Charles knew his friend too well to suspect that anything was really awry. It was simply John's way to grumble about everything with that stormy look in his eyes. The two men could hardly be more different. Charles's own boyish blonde curls and twinkle eyes were a stark contrast to his friend's dark, brooding looks. Few men could understand who two people who seemed so different in appearance and character could have become so close.

But then few people knew their shared passions for art and the splendour of the world around them. Few had witnessed their animated conversations on the importance of creating beauty by reflecting with accuracy what could be seen. This shared connection was forged deeper still by their love of the Cotswolds, where Dervish lived with his uncle. He had no need to reside in London like the rest of their set; being a poet and not a painter he had no need to be near the academy. Besides, during the term time he went up to Cambridge to study for a history degree he neither wanted nor needed. Consequently, as Marvell knew, he spent more time in the pub and by the river than in lectures. During vacations he came back to the Cotswolds. Marvell came to visit as often as he could, much preferring the hills and villages to the city. Therefore he had come to know the countryside well, painting it often. Today, with his friend's blessing, he was leading their expedition.

A few minutes later, the two men reached their intended destination. It was a small stream that emerged from the foot of one of the hillocks, next to which grew a small cluster of delicate tress, the roots of which crept above ground. The water was fast moving, flowing downhill with a pleasant gushing noise. The branches of the trees rustled in the strong breeze that whipped up the grass at their feet. The scene was unspoilt, but strangely desolate in the grey winter light.

"I came here in Summer," Charles explained, gesturing to the brook. "But it was all dried up then, of course. I wanted to use it in the Endymion painting that I've planned."

"Not exactly a Greek paradise though, is it?"

"Call yourself a poet? Have a bit of imagination."

"Forgive me, but it is rather difficult on a day like this. It is bloody freezing and I find the though of a warm fire and a brandy far more inspiring that a bleak hillside."

"Really? I thought you enjoyed being wilfully morose," Marvell replied sardonically, turning back to set up his easel. With a snort of derision, Dervish skulked off, realising he was getting nowhere. Sulkily, he sat down beneath one of the trees and yanked a notebook from his bag. How he was supposed to think with that oppressive sky above him, filled with wrath as if it were waging war with everyone below ...t... As soon as the image of the bloodthirsty heavens entered his mind, Dervish's frown vanished. Quickly, he pulled out a pencil and began to scribble notes.

John rapidly became absorbed in his work. The battlefield image of the sky had given him the idea of a romantic epic; warring knights who fought as the lightening blazed above them. However, what they would not realise was that, in the darkness of the storm, each side would slay its own, thus highlighting the futility of man when faced with the elements. He was so taken with this idea that he did not notice the wind pick up and the drops of rain begin to fall until Marvell tapped him on the shoulder.

"I think we'd best head for home," he said. Already his sketching kit was repacked and his easel tucked once more under his arms. "We could be in for a storm." Glancing upwards, Dervish found it hard to disagree.

They were halfway home when they first clap of thunder echoed across the horizon. Immediately the rain, which had previously been a light drizzle, began to fall heavily, barraging the two men with icy droplets. They looked at each other and, as one, began to run along the footpath that wound through the hills. They did not slow down once they reached the village but pounded down the cobbled street until they reached the front door of the house belonging to John's uncle. They tumbled inside, panting and soaked to the skin.

"I haven't run like that since school," said Charles, struggling to catch his breath. "What awful weather!"

"You had better get rid of that coat; it's wet through," Dervish told him. As his friend peeled off the heavy woollen garment, Dervish took his bags and then the coat. "We'd better get you warm and dry," he finished, an unexpected softness entering his voice. Marvell flushed but agreed to be bustled into the drawing room and sat close to the fire. Ever since falling ill as a very young child he had had a weak chest and as such was susceptible to colds and chills. It was never a simple head cold either; what started as a sniffle would go on to his chest and force him to bed for a fortnight.

Still looking worried, John stoked the fire and called for the maid to fetch a blanket and put on the kettle. After ensuring that the blanket was wrapped around his friend tightly, he stood back and surveyed Charles as if looking for immediate signs of illness.

"Please stop staring at me as if I were a prized cattle," Marvell told him. "I will be fine; a bit of rain never hurt anybody. Besides, you are dripping wet too. You should change your clothers." Dervish shook his head vehemently.

"I should check the outbuildings are secured; Uncle won't have seen to them. I'll only be a moment," he explained, heading back out into the rain. Staring after his friend, Marvell shook his head and then shivered. He was loathe to admit it, but it had been very cold outside in the rain and it would be a while before the fire and the hot tea, which the housekeeper had brought, would take effect. Pulling the blanket close around his shoulders, Charles stared blankly into the fire, imagining patterns in the hypnotic, dancing flames.

The next thing he knew, he was being woken by the sound of the fire being mended. Blinking and rubbing his eyes, Charles focused on the figure of his companion, who was kneeling by the open fire. John's hair was still wet, droplets of water glistening on his dark locks. In the fire light he looked very tired.

"Afternoon," Marvell mumbled, stretching awkwardly and stifling a yawn.

"Actually, it's more like evening now," Dervish corrected him, jabbing the coals with the poker.

"How long did you let me sleep?" Marvell asked, outraged. "And you've only just got back in your hair is wet again." The other man looked down guiltily.

"I did not mean to be so long," he began apologetically. "Only, after I'd shut up the stables I saw Harmerson, the game keeper for the estate behind us. Anyway, he explained how the wind had torn down a branch which he had to move. I couldn't let him do that alone. Then he invited me back for tea, which I felt rude to refuse. I am sorry for leaving you alone, but I assumed you would manage."

"Of course," Marvell assured him. "Must have been hard work though." Dervish nodded.

"Harmerson is not as young as he used to be. Usually he has his son to help him, but the lad was laid up in bed with a cold. Nasty one too, by the way he sounded when we got back." During his explanation, Dervish had been contemplating the fire. Deciding that it did need more coal, he picked up the scuttle and shook it a little too fiercely, sending a small cloud of coal dust into the air.

"Hhhh... hihhishoo! Hhhh... hihkishooo!" sneezed Charles as the fine particles irritated his nose. He felt his nose twitch again and his breath caught. "Hihh... Hhh..."But the sensation went away and he sighed before clearing his throat. "Excuse me," he said, trying not to sniffle.

"Yes," continued Dervish briskly, a hint of playful sarcasm entering his voice. "A very nasty cold. Absolutely nothing like the one you've managed to catch."

"What are you talking about? That was the coal dust," Marvell protested. "Honestly, I feel fine."

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Dervish told him, the quotation falling from lips curved into a cynical smile. Then, seeing the look of annoyance on his friends face, he added, "Marvell, you get caught in the rain, then you sleep all afternoon and wake up sniffling and sneezing. You finish the story." A rare frown pinched Marvell's cherubic mouth.

"I don't know," he snapped. "You are the poet you write it." The situation was made even more irritating since his nose was still itching from the coal dust and the sneeze that refused to materialise.

"It's obvious that you are ill," said Dervish, in a way that seemed to indicate he was rather enjoying the predicament. "You are never this irritable otherwise."

"I'm only irritable because you refuse to listen!" Marvell cried. "If I say I'm not ill then y-ou... sh-sh... hih... should... hhh... b-beli...Hihtishooo!" Precisely at the wrong moment, the stuck sneeze decided to release itself, jerking his whole upper body forward. Sitting up again, he saw Dervish's smug expression of victory.

"Bless you," he said innocently. Furious with the circumstances and his friend's sense of humour, Marvell stood up, snatched up the blanket and marched out of the room. "I hope you're going straight to bed, Charles," Dervish called after him. Marvell replied only by slamming the door behind him.

***

When he awoke the following morning, Charles Marvell felt surprisingly well. Better, in fact, that he had in weeks. Turning in early had left him feeling refreshed and energetic. Rolling on to his back, he stretched out satisfactorily and threw off the bed covers. Peering through the curtains, he saw the sun, though still low in the sky, seemed determined to peek through the clouds. Perhaps he and John could make up for the disaster of yesterday and he could finish his sketching. That way he would at least have something to work with when he returned to London next week. A pang of hunger reminded Charles that he had missed supper last night, so he set about getting himself ready to go down for breakfast, humming as he did so.

Habits, once formed, are hard to break, John Dervish thought to himself as he opened his eyes at almost precisely half past seven. He didn't feel particularly awake. His body seemed strangely heavy and his temples pounded with a dull ache. Worse still, there was a horrible scratching in his throat, which he inadvertently inflamed by trying to clear, leaving it defiantly sore. Without meaning to, Dervish sniffled slightly, drawing his attention to that fact that his nose felt dreadfully stuffy. He sniffed harder, hoping that it would clear, but to no avail. Groaning, he buried himself deeper in the blankets.

"But I don't get ill," he mumbled to himself. "I don't catch colds." The only consolation he could think of was that Marvell would be feeling as awful as he was, judging by his display last night. Being ill might not be so miserable if there was someone else suffering with him. Besides, he should be thankful. He would probably shake this thing in a few days, whereas poor Charles would be coughing and sniffling for at least two weeks. Reluctantly, John hauled himself out of bed and dressed for breakfast, remembering to take an extra handkerchief with him.

"Hope you don't mind that I didn't wait for you," Marvell said, in between mouthfuls of toast as Dervish arrived in the breakfast room. His friend shook his head and reached for the tea pot.

"How are you this morning?" he replied, conscious of how hoarse his voice sounded. Marvell, however, seemed not to notice.

"Absolutely fine," he said. Dervish jerked his head up so fast that the tea pot splashed on to the tablecloth.

"What about last night?" he asked, in disbelief.

"Well, as I tried to tell you, it was you being heavy-handed with the coal scuttle that made me sneeze. I wasn't taking ill at all," Marvell explained. This was too much, John decided. Not only was he wrong about Marvell, he had the indignity of catching cold himself. Charles would hang, draw and quarter him for this; he would never live it down. No, he was not going to give Charles that satisfaction. But his friend was already eyeing him suspiciously, adding, "You, on the other hand, do look a bit peaky."

"Up late reading last night," Dervish lied. Marvell looked slightly disbelieving, but did not press him any further. Instead, he changed the subject.

"I thought we might go back to that stream today," he suggested. "It looks a lot brighter out than yesterday." But John wasn't listening; his nose now not only felt stuffy but was tickling in an extremely distracting manner. It was not an unfamiliar sensation; he knew what was about to happen. The tickled grew stronger and stronger and he reached for his handkerchief. Any second now it would...

"Hahhkushhuh!" With his nose buried in his handkerchief, John could feel his face redden. Desperately, he tried not to sniffle as he removed his handkerchief.

"Bless you!" exclaimed Marvell, who didn't seem to find anything untoward in this. "So, what time shall we go out?"

"Later, maybe," replied Dervish, wincing at how thick he voice sounded. Hastily, he gulped down the rest of his tea and stood up.

"Off so soon? You haven't eaten anything."

"I know. I er... I want to finish a letter," Dervish explained, stumbling over the words in his haste to think up an excuse. Without waiting for his friend to reply, Dervish headed upstairs to the room that he used as a bedroom and study.

Once inside, John sank into a chair with a rather pathetic sigh. He couldn't possibly feel this dreadful, he decided, rubbing at his sore eyes. After all, it was nothing but a mere sniffle from spending too much time in the rain. He was a man, and would not be defeated by a sore throat, dripping nose... a dripping and extremely ticklish nose...

"Hhhhrushuhh!" The powerful, harsh sneeze threw him forwards and made his throat and head ache more than ever. Their strength left him dizzy as he sat up feeling weak and drained. John found his handkerchief and tentatively blew his nose into it, which made a horrid wet sound. Dervish groaned and closed his eyes; it was evidently very possible that he felt this dreadful.

Maybe he could just curl up here and sleep for the rest of the day. Not moving seemed like a very good idea. But the instant John decided on that course of action, he realised that he wanted a glass of water. Doubtless Charles would be more than happy to fetch it for him, but that would require telling him. Then not only would Charles have a good laugh at his expense, he would want to be cheery and entertaining, and John knew he would want only to be left alone.

A knock at the door spoilt some of his solitude. John started and the stood up quickly as he heard the voice.

"Dervish? May I come in?" called Marvell politely. Hastily, John positioned himself at his desk, grabbed a piece of paper and pen, before clearing his throat as best as he could and replying.

"Of course." Marvell stuck his head around the door with an amiable smile.

"Not busy are you?"

"As a matter of fact, I am quite," John lied. "I have some letters to write."

"Never mind. I suppose we will have to go out this afternoon then."

"Really, I think I shall be tied up all day..." John's nose was prickling again. He sniffled, hoping it was discreet enough for Marvell not to notice.

"Oh, I'm not letting you work all day," his friend protested, coming inside the room. "Where would the fun be in that?"

"I have things that need finishing before we go to London," John argued, now rubbing at his now with his index finger to try to stop it from itching. It didn't seem as if it was going to work; the tickle was resolutely intensifying.

"You work too hard," Marvell informed him, toying with straightening a picture. "All this and Cambridge too..."

"You know very well I do no work at Cambridge... Hhh-aahhshuhh!" Involuntarily he groaned and sniffed hard. Every sneeze seemed to make his nose and head grow stuffier and left him feeling weaker than before.

"Bless you," Marvell said quietly, adding curiously, "That's the second time this morning."

"I know, the servants are hopeless at dusting. I shall have to have words," Dervish lied.

"Indeed," Charles said, not sounding as if he was entirely in agreement. "But you know, you do look awfully pale and tired."

"The rain kept me awake last night," John explained hastily. A satsified smile crossed Marvell's face.

"Yes, it was loud," he concurred. "I should let you get on with your work. See you at lunch." And with that he left. As Charles closed the door behind himself, John sighed and then lay his head on the cool table, sniffling. He had just about convinced him. Groaning, he forced himself to get up and climb back on top of the bed covers. Realising that his nose was running, he pulled out his handkerchief before realising that it was already useless. He dragged the second from his pocket and blew his nose with that instead. If he kept going through handkerchiefs at this rate he would run out by tomorrow. Why did he have to catch this damned cold whilst Marvell was here? His friend wouldn't buy the work excuse for long; John was going to have to become more creative.

Once out of earshot of his friend, Charles began to laugh. Dervish did look at sight; pale face, runny nose, watery eyes Charles hadn't seen someone so obviously suffering with a bad head cold in years. The worst part was how he tried to cover it up with excuses about dust and being kept awake. He certainly wasn't going to get much work done this morning with all that sniffling and sneezing he was doing. Poor old John, Charles thought to himself, you're too stubborn to ask for any help. Help, though, was definitely what he needed and if John wasn't going to ask for it, Charles would just have to be creative.

Charles decided that his first action would have to be lunch. Old Uncle Dervish didn't take meals with his nephew but still insisted on dictating menus for the house. This usually consisted of meat (undercooked), vegetables (stringy) and some variety of potatoes (salty) or dumplings (heavy), which did not constitute the ideal diet for nursing a cold.

"Good morning, Mrs Parsons," Charles called as he entered the kitchen. The robust woman with her hand in the sink turned around, smiling.

"Mr Marvell, what are you doing here? As if you don't get paint everywhere else in this house, I'm not letting it into my kitchen!" she scolded good-naturedly. Her eyes twinkled; the cook liked young Dervish's friend with his easy manners and dashing smile.

"I've not got paint on my hands, I promise," Marvell said, holing them up, as if for inspection. "I'm here to ask a favour."

"And what would that be then?"

"I want to change the lunch menu for Master Dervish and myself," he said, pausing to take in the woman's confused stare before adding, "To chicken soup."

***

John spent the morning trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep. Though his limbs were heavy and his eyes ached with tiredness, every time he drifted off to sleep, he would be awoken again by his nose running or another violent. Eventually, he gave up on trying to sleep and just lay miserably on his side, snuffling into his handkerchief. When the lunch bell rang at one, he almost decided not to go, but then realised that his presence would be swiftly missed. Groaning, he hauled himself out of bed and straightened his clothes before heading downstairs. When he reached the table, Charles was already there.

"Did you get much work done?" he asked amiably.

"A little," replied John. It was all he trusted himself to say. Even with his stuffed head, he could tell he sounded awful. He tried sniffling discreetly to unblock his nose, but it didn't work. Perhaps it was a blessing; at least he wouldn't have to taste how bad lunch was. At that moment, Mrs Parsons entered carrying a trap that had two steaming bowls on it.

"Soup?" asked Dervish, sounding confused.

"Grocer couldn't deliver today," Mrs Parsons explained, although she looked at Marvell when she did so.

"Indeed," he confirmed. "I went over to see what had happened and it seems that the chap has caught a rather bad cold, from what his wife told me. It would appear that something is going around," he added pointedly. John felt his cheeks go hot and stifled a cough.

"Very well," he said. "Thank you, Mrs Parsons." Thanking that at least there wasn't much to eat, John began the soup. Despite his cold, he found it tasted rather good. The hot liquid seemed to warm him up and soothe his throat, while the steam from the bowl cleared his nose. Rather too well, in fact, as he could feel it start to run and quickly scrubbed at with his handkerchief. Luckily, Marvell seemed distracted by something out of the window.

Pretending to look out of the window, Charles suppressed a smile. His plan was working perfectly and in any case Dervish was too sick to bother himself with anything being awry. Charles was pleasantly surprised by Mrs Parson's skill at making soup; it far surpassed any of her other meals. He risked a glance at his friend, who had a familiar, helpless expression on his face and a handkerchief clucthed ready in one hand.

"Hhhh.. Huhhrushhuh!"

"Bless you," said Charles sympathetically, thinking he couldn't pretend to ignore such a strong sneeze. John coughed and looked pained.

"I don't seem to be very hungry," he mumbled hoarsely. "I.. erm... ate a lot last night."

"Of course," Charles agreed.

"Did you still want to go back to the stream today?"

"I think I've changed my mind on that," Charles told him. "I want to draw something new and I need your help."

"Oh, well, Marvell, I'm terribly busy and I really should..."

"Nonsense, you can spare me an hour; that is all it will take."

"No, really. I have letters that I should have replied to days ago..."

"Then they can wait another day," Charles argued with a flourish. "Or at least an hour." John allowed himself to nod begrudgingly as an acceptance of defeat.

"Fine," he consented miserably, forgetting himself and sniffling more audibly. "But only an hour. What exactly is it you want me to do anyway?"

"Sit for me," Charles said simply. "I've got it all set up in the drawing room."

As they entered, John noticed that someone had made up the fire so that it blazed heartily, throwing out welcome warmth into the room. The armchair that Marvell had sat in the day before remained drawn up to the fire and the blanket, which John swore he had put in the linen closet, was draped over the arm. For a second, John had the urge to fall into the chair and not move from the fire for at least three days, never mind what Marvell thought. Then his stubbornness returned; it was only an hour and then he could get back to sleep.

"I thought you had it set up," he said, glancing around.

"I do," Charles explained. He led his friend to the arm chair and sat him down. He took a step back and stared at him. "No, more towards the fire, I think." He motioned for Dervish to stand up and the man complied wearily. Swiftly, Charles adjusted the seat so that it faced the fire at a sharper angle and Dervish sat back down. Next, Charles picked up the blanket, unfolded it and lay it over his friend. He made a pretence of arranging the folds artistically, but in fact simply ensured that it was tucked in firmly. "Comfortable?" he asked.

"Quite," John replied, truthfully. "Although I do see how this fits in with the Greek paradise."

"Oh, this is for something different more social realism," Charles lied, opening up a tin of pencils. As he did so, he heard Dervish sniff slightly harder and his breath catch.

"Huhh... Huhrushhuh! Huhhkutschuhh!" Charles didn't say a word but peered up surreptitiously. Those sneezes sounded harsher than before and seemed to leave Dervish shaken. His eyes glistened sadly and he was shivering, even in the warmth of the fire.

"Right," said Charles. "I want you to lean your head to the right and close your eyes, as if you were going to sleep." John did as he was instructed. "Still comfortable?" Charles asked, a little more gently. John mumbled something that sounded like assent and so Charles leant against the other chair and began to sketch.

John tried to relax and stay as still as he could, but this was difficult since the last set of sneezes had not really cleared his nose. Every time he inhaled, a prickly feeling set him on edge. With each breath in, it grew stronger until it was impossible to control any longer.

"Hhhh...Kuhhtushh!" he sneezed, his head snapping forward forcefully.

"Bless you," Charles said sounding distracted, as his pencil skipped across the page.

"Sorry," John apologised. Carefully, he attempted to resume his previous pose. Marvell looked up at him and then back down to the page

"Your head needs to be a little more to the left," he instructed. Dervish complied willingly. "Perfect," Charles told him, as he began to sketch again. John sighed and closed his eyes. There was still a faint itching. He knew he should blow his nose but he didn't want to disturb Charles and draw more attention to himself. Instead, he settled for twitching his nose slightly, hoping that would relieve the awkward sensation. It did not.

Still, it wasn't too unbearable, John thought. Just a slight prickling sensation, one that was now making his eyes start to water. He could feel it catch in the back of his throat now. The only thing to do would be to sneeze and get it over with.

"Hhhh..." He exhaled; nothing. And yet the horribly tickle in his nose was no going away. He inhaled more strongly this time, hoping to coax the sneeze out. "Hihhh...! This was torture. The sneeze had stuck firmly in his nose, though it was obviously aching to come out. "Hihh... yihhh..."

"For goodness sake, Dervish," Charles said, pretending to reprimand his friend. "If you are going to sneeze, get it over with." John was about to explain that he would very much like to get it over with, if only his obstinate nose would let him. But then when he opened his eyes and the light struck them, the sneeze seemed to unstick itself.

"Huhhshuuh! Ishhuhh! Yihhshuhh!" he sneezed without pausing for breath. "Hhhuhrushhuh!" Finally, the tickle had subsided, leaving his nose painfully stuffed. Dragging a handkerchief from his pocket, John blew his nose wetly.

"Bless you," Charles said briskly, before adding, "Put you hand back where it was on the arm of the chair, please." Sniffling pitifully, John did as he was told. The strength of the sneezes had made his head ache dreadfully, sending shooting pains across his forehead. His whole body felt weak and weary, and even in front of the warm fire the occasional shiver absorbed him. With his eyes closed, the tiredness that had been pursuing him all day finally overcame him...

***

Opening his eyes again, John noticed that the room was darker than before. The roaring fire seemed to have died away, leaving only embers softly burning in the grate. Still, he felt pleasantly warm underneath the blanket. He remembered that he had been sitting for Charles and supposed he must have fallen asleep. But where was Charles? John glanced around and saw his friend sitting in the other chair, pouring over a book. He cleared his throat awkwardly and Marvell looked up.

"You are awake," he said smiling warmly.

"How long did I sleep for?" Dervish asked, hoarsely.

"Oh, at least two hours, I should think. I would have woken you, but sleep is the best medicine for a bad cold." Dervish felt his face flush with a heat that was nothing to do with his fever.

"How long have you known?" he mumbled, looking at the floor guiltily.

"Well, I could hardly fail to notice you sniffle and sneeze your way through breakfast a practise you seem to have kept up all day," Marvell remarked. "What I don't know is why you did not simply tell me you weren't well."

"Because you would have been merciless to me after how smug I was last night," Dervish replied.

"Of course I would have been," Charles agreed. "But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have looked after you. Honestly, you must have been so miserable up there in you room all alone." John nodded meekly. "Dervish, I know how miserable it is to be ill; I'm usually laid up half the winter with one thing or another. I had to resort to such creativity to help you feel better."

"What do you mean?" John asked, confused.

"The chicken soup, getting you to stay by the fire I planned it all," Charles explained. "Otherwise your stubbornness would have only made you feel worse."

"I've been an idiot," John admitted, before quickly raising his handkerchief to his face. "Huh-uhshuh!"

"I'm sorely tempted to agree with you and bless you," replied Charles. "But I'll forgive you, if you mend your ways and come to bed like a good patient."

"I think I can manage that," said John, standing up stiffly and heading towards the door. Charles was about to follow him when his eye caught the piece of paper lying on the floor. On it was the drawing he had done of his friend, sound asleep in the chair. Briefly, he contemplated what to do with it. It would be rather cruel to show it to Dervish. It wasn't very flattering; no one looked good when they were ill. Decisively, he pulled out one of the books from the shelf above the divan and slipped the sketch inside the cover. Charles replaced the book and went after his friend.


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