Just a Cough
by Deb Zorski

A/N: I should not be starting a new work, not without finishing at least one other... but inspiration strikes! This piece inspired by a GMD artwork of the same title, by sapphiregamgee over at DeviantArt. Many thanks for the permission to write a fic around that artwork. ~DZ~

Chapter 1:
What started as a tickle in his throat at the start of the morning was interrupting Basil mid-sentence with choked coughs only a few hours later. He struggled to inform his client of the arrest of the madman who strangled her sister to death, growing increasingly frustrated with himself. He could barely get out more than a few words at a time, and every so often he'd even be cut off between syllables with a wheeze.

"Mr. Basil, you don't sound very well," his client noticed worriedly as she handed him a glass of water. "After all you've done for me, I hope you haven't taken ill."

"This helps, thank you." Basil nodded gratefully as he lied to her, every sip of the water stinging his throat instead of soothing it.

"I can't thank you enough for solving my sister's murder." The lady mouse's eyes watered as she reminded herself of the tragedy and Basil did his best not to wince at her emotions. "You've brought our family the closure we needed. Truly you did."

"Yes, well," Basil cleared his throat, setting the water glass on the table. He'd hardly drank it. "I'm happy to be of service, madam." He nodded at her briefly with a flash of a smile before rising to his feet. "I apologize but I must leave. I have another case tomorrow morning."

"Yes, of course. You must be incredibly busy." She dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief and sniffed delicately. "Thank you again, Mr. Basil."

He tipped his deerstalker cap to her in his gentlemanly fashion but sank against the stairway railing once the front door was closed behind him. His sigh of exhaustion quickly dissolved into harsh coughing, after which he groaned softly and shut his eyes against a wave of dizziness. The walk back to Baker Street would be incredibly long.

After an exceedingly long day of patients, and a fear that he would forever be trapped in his consulting room, Dawson was glad to see the unmistakable deerstalker cap of his friend making its way through the crowd of workday-weary mousefolk.

"Basil! Basil, my dear fellow!" Dawson shouted eagerly in catching up to his friend on the corner, frowning in dismay when he heard Basil cough deeply.

"Yes, Dawson… I presume it has been a long day for you?" Basil sounded positively exhausted, looking a bit pale as he regarded the doctor. "Otherwise," he continued, reacting to Dawson's astonished expression. "You would not be so delighted to see me walking back to our rooms at Baker Str-" his last word was abruptly cut off as he was seized with a painful bout of coughing, bringing his fist to his mouth to cover it, his arm pulled closely to his aching chest.

"Oh dear, Basil…" Dawson knitted his brows in concern as he looked both shocked yet uneasy at the sound of his friend's health. "You don't sound at all well."

"Just a cough, Dawson." Basil smiled wanly as he assured his friend of such trifles. "Nothing to worry about. Besides…" he cleared his throat, grimacing as he swallowed, "I have another case to begin in the morning. I have no time to be ill."

Dawson shook his head with a wry smile. "Illness doesn't respond to your logic nor your busy schedule, Basil. If you truly are sick then your case must wait while you rest."

"No need to-" Basil started coughing again, "worry yourself." He had to physically stop walking, leaning forward slightly and bringing both hands to his face to cover his coughs, each one harsher than the last.

By the end of the fit his hands trembled even as he shoved them in his coat pockets, while he drew a quick steadying breath and glanced at Dawson with his usual confident air. "I'm fine."

"Very well, Basil." Dawson murmured worriedly, grateful that they had reached the door of 221 1/2 Baker Street. If Basil were to collapse, at least they were home, and at least the sitting room couch was warm and comfortable.