Based on: Only When I Laugh
Title: Better medicine
Note: Written for the BritSlash Comic Relief
Challenge March 2001.
The days tended to drag.
That was the trouble when you spent most of the time in bed.
Archie wasn't having a good time at all. No-one seemed to believe he was
really ill, least of all his fellow patients, yet he had to stay in
hospital. It was imperative.
It had become a bit of an obsession, thinking of new twinges and pains to
use as an excuse.
The last time they'd discharged him he'd been back before the end of the
day. That was thanks to Figgis. Roy was a good friend - who else would
have broken out of the hospital, made for the nearest pub and persuaded
half the local population they had pork pie poisoning.
Thank god for Roy Figgis.
Without him, what would he be? He had no job outside the hospital, very
little money, and hardly any friends. Here he had Figgis. And Norman of
course - but not in the same way.
Archie didn't even want to consider what Figgis would say if he ever
founded out how much he was needed.
If Roy was discharged Archie knew he'd probably never make contact again.
That was unthinkable
And now he was genuinely ill - with the flu. He had a red nose. Sniffles,
a throat so sore he could hardly speak and a headache that stretched from
the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair.
Which meant he'd been moved to an isolation ward, so as not to affect the
It was funny really, coming into hospital and getting genuinely ill. But
Archie couldn't really see the humour at the moment.
He missed Figgis, he missed the jibes and the banter, the arguments that
kept them connected.
The only thing he could do to pass the time now was sleep. And sleep meant
Not that they were bad dreams - some of them were really quite enjoyable -
but it was becoming increasing more hard to talk to Figgis without
blushing. It had been a few weeks since they started.
If he visited him here now, at least he could explain away the redness as
just another flu symptom.
Although Roy wasn't visiting.
Where was he? He could at least bring some grapes and a newspaper.
Gupta had come in to check on him a few times, but it wasn't the same.
"Tell me Gupta," Archie croaked, "is everything all right in the ward?"
"You want to know about your friends?" Gupta said cheerfully. "They're all
fine. No change - they're still where you left them."
"Figgis hasn't had any sort of a relapse then?"
"Relapse? No, no. He's fine. A bit down perhaps, but nothing out of the
"Yes. Maybe he's missing you." Gupta laughed and left, leaving Archie's
medication on the bedside cabinet.
Missing me? Archie thought.
The theory cheered him somewhat.
"Gupta mate - is he any better?" Figgis grabbed Gupta by the arm, an
anxious look on his face.
"Well of course he's all right Mr Figgis. What could be wrong? It's only a
little head cold."
"If it's only a head cold Gupta, why did they move him? Why are they
keeping him away from m...here? You can tell me mate, there's actually
something seriously wrong with him this time isn't there?"
"Oh dear no. He's fine. Nothing he won't be over after a few days rest."
"You don't have to keep it from me. I can tell he's in a bad state.
Otherwise they would let us visit him wouldn't they?"
"Don't be silly Mr Figgis. I told you, he's fine."
"Where are they keeping the body - you don't have to break it to me
gently. He's dead isn't he?"
"He's in ward 10. He's not dead - I just came from seeing him. Unless he
was a ghost of course."
Figgis' response was drowned by an enormous sneeze.
"Oh dear, Mr Figgis looks like you might see your friend very soon.
There's an extra bed in isolation - I think you'd be better off there."
"There's nowt wrong with me..." another sneeze.
"I'll go and prepare your bed."
Archie couldn't help smiling. His boredom looked like it was coming to an
end - now he could indulge in a good old slanging match with Figgis.
Although of course, that wouldn't be so easy with his throat in such a
"Good to see you," he managed to say, before a coughing fit interrupted
"Dear oh dear - this is what I have to look forward to is it?"
"I'm afraid it is fairly inconvenient," Archie said huskily.
"Well at least I'll get a sexy voice out of it - you sound like Fenella
"Aw, don't be like that mate," Figgis continued, "I'm only joking."
Archie waved dismissively.
"Ah - good. You can't speak. Ideal situation mate." Figgis leaned back in
the bed smugly.
"I can speak," Archie managed, "Why are you here anyway, you seem all
"I was sneezing. They thought they'd best send me here away from the ill
people who aren't sick yet."
"Has Norman caught it?"
"No - he's fit as a fiddle. Apart from the obvious. It's just you and me
mate you and me."
Archie shivered. Must be another symptom, he reasoned.
"I hope you can stand being in isolation with me for a few days. I know
how you feel about me and all," Figgis said.
"Whatever do you mean?" Archie said defensively.
"It's no good pretending ..." Figgis left it hanging for a while, as
Archie shifted uncomfortably in his bed, "I know you can't stand the sight
Archie laughed with relief. Only it came out more of a strangulated cough.
"That's rubbish. I don't hate you Figgis; I actually quite admire you. In
a funny sort of way."
"Oh yes? How funny?"
"Hilariously funny. Now go to sleep or something, " Archie rolled over.
Figgis was looking at him strangely - Archie could see him from the corner
of his eye. "What?"
"Nothing. Just thinking." Figgis was silent for a moment and then, "You
know this is the first time we've been alone - you no, without Norman
"What are you wittering about Figgis. Spit it out man." Archie could feel
"You know the best way to get rid of a fever is to sweat it out?" There
was a definite slyness in Figgis' voice now.
"Yes. So I've heard. Chicken soup is supposed to be good too."
"Well I don't know about that, but I'm sure I can help with the fever
Maybe it was the flu, but Archie could feel his chest tightening. He held
back an urge to gasp. He said nothing. Did nothing.
"Come on man - you know what I'm talking about." Figgis sounded impatient
Archie turned towards Roy's bed.
"If I did, would it make a difference?"
Figgis smiled. "You're more canny than you let on. And you can't fool me
Archie Glover. This isn't something you haven't thought of too."
"But I have a headache."
Figgis snorted. "I guarantee I can make you feel 100 per cent better."
"God you're romantic." Archie shook his head. Why Figgis, of all people?
Why this melancholy, clownish little man? How could somebody so free of
couth have so much affect on him, a man of culture and refinement?
If only, he thought, if only.
Archie pushed back the blankets and let Figgis in. If nothing else, they
were sure to be warm tonight.
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