All right. These are not drabbles or even double-drabbles. Perhaps I will manage to curb myself for future submissions...
Harry had come to him with toothache. All the metalwork and glass was polished. There was a large engraving - teeth, a diagram of a cleft palate and John's favourite bone - the alveolar process.
He showed Harry to the big steel chair with the wide footrest and the soft leather padding, tilting it smoothly, comfortable for them both.
"Hurts, does it?" His voice was sympathetic as he fell into professional focussed reverie, sliding open the drawer of his cabinet, revealing his instruments laid out equidistant in perfect rows, neatly labelled. "Open wide."
He didn't expect speech from his friend now, but simply small noises of consent or dissent. "Ahh, it will be this molar that's troubling you. It's not too far gone. I can easily fill it, and it has been a long time since your teeth were scaled. Maybe on a later visit. Look! I've nitrous oxide all ready for you!" He gestured almost grandly to the big copper tank that dominated the room, the smaller glass bottles, the brass burner.
His hands were gentle, as he steadied Harry's jaw, investigated the bad tooth with a small pick. The nerve was not exposed, he was relieved to see. The tooth would be quite functional for his friend and the operation would be easy. Just a little caries needed removal. "It's hurt to brush that tooth lately?" His voice was low, calm, conversational. A reply wasn't needed - he spoke rather as reassurance that he was present and interested in his patient.
"I'll just clean that for you, and then we can start with the NO2
. To fill the tooth, I just need to drill tiny holes to hold the filling in place."
He holds up a closed fist to demonstrate. "Imagine this is the filling surrounded by your tooth. The idea..." He pushes the fingertips of his other hand between the fingers of his fist. "The idea is that these projections of gold will enter the solid tooth so that the filling may not fall out or be pulled upward." He visibly tries to raise his hand while holding his fist stationary.
"Just small holes. And with the NO2
you won't feel it. You will be asleep." He smiles kindly and offers Harry the patient-activated saliva pump. It is a bottle on a stand with two lengths of tubing, one leading to a rubber bulb and the other to a rounded hooked mouthpiece. "If you are bothered by the amount of moisture in your mouth, you can squeeze the bulb to draw it into the bottle. As often as you wish, though I may ask you to do this also. He begins to work with his picks to remove the caries while Harry tests it. He is very careful, his hands strong, sure and slow. It does not hurt.
"I'd offer you scotch, but it brings to mind the... erroneous... picture of the fool with a bottle of whiskey and a pair of pliers, practicing dentistry without training. It does not interact negatively with the nitrous oxide, but it is better to be sober for an operation. I'll give you some afterwards. Laphroaig, for the mellow yet distinct flavour today, I think."
"There. Nothing to worry about. Just breath in slowly, through your mouth. No fancy technology that can be disrupted. Look, a simple spigot. It's pressurised by the weights there outside the tank. Nothing can go wrong - there are no moving parts once the gas is produced." He gives Harry the mouthpiece and turns the spigot, very slowly, watching carefully, gently holding his nose closed until he relaxes and snores as it reccommended in his dental courses. He closes the spigot just as Harry's eyes begin to close, careful to avoid suffocation.
He rests his friends' head properly and eases his mouth open. John knows he must work quickly and perfectly, for patients wake quickly from the nitrous oxide, seemingly unaffected. He starts the drill going, the wheel singing under its speed - the poportions of the wheels mean the drill on its cable spins very quickly, and again Harry's wizardly effects on modern equipment will not touch John's simplicities of iron, glass, leather and wire. Ah, there is the poor tooth. He quickly drills the tiny holes into the solid sides of the cavity. It will hold nicely. This is a very simple case.
Harry is still sleeping and John uses the saliva pump, then lines the bottom of the cavity with gutta percha he has prepared. This will insulate the nerve from hot coffee of cold ice cream conducted by the gold filling. He is very happy, doing something he is very good at, for which he has perfect confidence. He suppresses an inclination to hum, simply on Harry's behalf. Patients suspect it is a result of inattention, rather than the inverse.
He wakes gradually and John explains about the gutta percha - it is a type of latex, denser, insulating and hardening more reliably than rubber without shrinking. Harry's concentration is a little off, but John tells him anyway, shows him the sponge gold. "See, I will compress this into your tooth, over the gutta percha, into the little holes that I drilled until it is absolutely hard and solid, completely filling your cavity. And then we will look at the impressions of your upper teeth and finish it off with the gold foil so the articulation of your bite does not suffer."
He works thoroughly, wanting his friend's teeth to be perfect. They are good teeth, and he wants to do them justice, taking his time, attending to care and the smallest detail. When they go out for steak John doesn't want Harry in pain or unable to eat properly.
At length he completes the work and tilts the chair upright again. He shows him a mirror and encourages him to use the pump, to spit in a basin if he desires. "There! A brand new gold filling. Just from the work there will be a small dull ache, barely perceptible if you don't think of it." He thinks of all the horrendous injuries his friend has suffered, most notably the melted hand, and considers this is very little indeed.
John waits for him to look and to recover from sitting with his jaw open. "Would you like some scotch now?" He takes out his flask and gestures with it over a silver cup. He also offers a complimentary toothbrush and a small reel of silk floss.