AN: This story is dedicated to my very close friend, Lily. She recently had a double kidney transplant and still can't eat solid food, and as a diabetic Halloween candy wouldn't be a possibility anyway, and so I decided to give her something else sweet; she happens to be a huge fan of this particular, uncommon pairing. Hope you're feeling better, Lil, and you'd better enjoy this because everyone else is likely adpt to kill me.
It wasn't that she was scared… Oh, no. Martha Hudson was not a woman who scared easily. She supposed it was because she rejected the usual fictional fare that most Scottish women embraced. Brownies, sirens, kelpies… Bunk, every bit of it. Brownies were baked in the oven, sirens were what policemen used, and kelpies were those horrid biscuits her old aunt Yettie Hudson used to make out of seaweed.
Scared was not the right word at all. On edge… Yes, that might be a better phrase. She was often on edge with Mr. Sherlock Holmes living about her, and usually with good reason. The man was a genius, she would not attempt to debate that, but his brilliant mind was paired with the often-shown demeanour of a child, one who liked fires and large explosions.
So she was on the edge. It was All Hallow's Eve, after all, and an overgrown lad like Mr. Holmes might well be tempted to pull some silly stunt bent on making her life a living hell. Dye the entire pipes red so that the tap water ran like blood, maybe? Or perhaps some exploding powder where she least expected it.
She did not know, and, hating the unknown, she was on her guard. If it was one think Mrs. Hudson hated, it was being off her guard. She ascended the stairs cautiously, empty laundry basket balanced on her hip, knocking on the door and receiving no answer. She knew the doctor was gone, hard at work helping the sick, and while she had heard the door slam many times after he had left, she did not know if the other half of her rent was present.
Twisting the knob and pushing the door open, she gaped and dropped the laundry basket with a noisy clatter.
There was an intruder! A large man in a dark coat, a hat tilted over his face, rummaging through Mr. Holmes's desk, obviously intent on something, He turned at the sound of wooden basket on hardwood floor, eyes focusing on the woman.
A shrill shriek escaped her lips and she turned to flee before a familiar voice from the unfamiliar form called out to her.
"Mrs. Hudson, it's me!" spoke Holmes, removing the padded hat that made him look even taller than he was. "It's just a disguise! My apologies, really, I weren't expecting you up."
She stopped in her steps, squinting at the bulky figure. Was that indeed Mr. Holmes? He looks as if he were a great deal heavier (and lord knows he could stand to be quite a bit heavier, but currently it was to the extreme). His face was also not as sharp, more rounded, but the more she looked the more she identified that it was clay disguised by makeup. His grey eyes and high forehead made his identity obvious.
"Mr. Holmes!" she exclaimed with a huff of indignation. "Honestly! What all have you got in that coat? You look three times your size!"
"Padding, very light weight." Despite appearing regretful, he also seemed rather excited that his disguise had worked so well. "I'm very sorry I gave you a fight, Mrs. Hudson; I'm merely getting ready to go out in this, you see, and I'd forgotten my key."
The Scotswoman put her hands to her hips, face setting into a scowl. "You have me no such thing, Mr. Holmes! I was a little distressed at the prospect of being robbed, but I was not frightened."
He quickly held up his hands in a peaceful gesture, knowing better than to tangle with her. "Of course, of course." He quickly replaced the thickly padded hat on his head, giving it a joking rap. "I built a protective layer into this as well, you know. As good as any riding helmet." He went to leave, pausing only to throw an infuriating smile her way. "And honestly, I think even you can be scared, Mrs. Hudson." He disappeared before he could be rebutted.
Fuming, Mrs. Hudson stalked off to Dr. Watson's bedroom to dump the neat hamper he kept his worn clothing into her own larger hamper. That juvenile man, thinking he had scared her with a mere stunt like that. Although she had to admit, the disguise had been quite impressive; he had looked like an entirely different man in it. Pity he could not shift personalities as easily as he did external appearances.
The night was largely uneventful. She did several loads of laundry, hanging them over the fires to dry. She mended a bit, but for some odd reason her stitching was a bit less straight than it usually was, and so she got little done.
Perhaps it was the holiday spooking her a bit… Just the general idea, of course, for she did not believe in ghosts or even in stray, wandering spirits. But all the stories inducted into people since birth of spooks and creeps wandering the streets (there were enough spooks and creeps in London on any other day) that it was an almost natural thing to be edgy about October the 31st.
Natural. Yes, that was the word for it. Natural.
Dr. Watson had come home for a change of clothes and a very quick meal before heading back out. Young people took the night as an excuse to drink themselves stupid and then use their stupidity as a token for immortality, therefore creating much work for the healers of the city patching them back up. Mr. Holmes did not return in that time, nor when she drifted off to sleep in her armchair, novel in hand.
She was awoken shortly after midnight by a rattling and nearly jumped out of her skin. The door. It was the front door.
Mrs. Hudson's heart was pounding in her chest. It was either a burglar or a ghost, and either way she did not want to face it and yet she knew she had to. Mr. Holmes kept so many important papers, pieces of evidence… A burglar might free a murderer or hang an innocent man. She was a just woman, that wouldn't do.
As for ghosts… They weren't real. It had to be a burglar. Likely a living one. She hoped. Maybe it was just the wind, too… Or Dr. Watson or Mr. Holmes… But they knew the trick to the door, to jiggle the key just right. It sounded as if someone was picking it, or they had a key but were unfamiliar with the lock. Perhaps either one was overtired… That could be it…
She grabbed her heaviest frying pan on the way to the entryway. Just in case.
Sherlock Holmes had promised his brother that he would sent a very specific bundle of files to the Whitehall offices on October 31th. Mycroft Holmes was not a patient man, and when it was obvious the clock would tick into November 1st,he'd blown the dust off the spare key he kept for insurance purposes and gotten a hansom to Baker Street. He'd just finished a long case and had consumed far too much coffee to even consider sleeping, anyway.
He needed those papers. Not physically needed them so much as wanted to teach his younger brother a lesson in punctuality and responsibility by making him fret over losing older brother's files.
He would have knocked had it not been so late; he did not want to wake the whole household, and he knew Sherlock would be out, anyway. He was afraid he had made a bit of noise trying to turn the key, however, having never actually let himself in before.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw a familiar female, his brother's landlady. By all accounts a very pleasant person, a good cook, a rather intelligent woman (he saw far more open to such a concept than his brother), and a capable housekeeper. He opened his mouth to apologize if he had awoken her.
She dashed him in the head with her frying pan.
Mrs. Hudson, in her defence, had not thought he was a burglar. Or a ghost. Or a ghost burglar. No, she had gotten a glance at him and thought he was his brother.
The scene had been quite clear in her mind; Mr. Holmes, devil that he was, had come back in that padded costume of his and decided to wake her up and startle her, a small revenge for her rebuttal of him earlier. A child so impish deserved a whack over the hand. Or, in this case, a whack over the head. He had said he had a protective layer in the hat; it would likely barely tweak him.
As it happened, Mycroft Holmes did not have a protective layer save for his skull.
He stumbled, reeling from the blow, striking the wall with a broad shoulder and clutching at his head, now sans a hat but leaking blood about his face. "What in the hell was that for?!" he managed to bark out. He did not usually use such language, especially towards a lady, but he was usually never in such a circumstance.
Mrs. Hudson was startled when she heard the door open. She was terrified now that she heard a voice a few octaves below what she had been expecting. The weapon fell from her hand. "Oh good God… You're not Mr. Holmes! I mean, you are, but… I thought you were your brother!"
"My brother!" Everything was spinning now, and he tried to brace himself on the wall. "My good woman, unless Sherlock has gained a rather large amount of weight in a week and a half, you need something beyond spectacles!"
"He had this disguise on before he left… Oh my, was he purposely trying to be you…? My, never mind, you look quite pale! Can you make it into the kitchen? You should sit down…"
The trip into the kitchen was a little hazy, but things did come into focus a bit more when the landlady became to clean the blood away from the dent and resulting gash she had put in him. Devil woman.
"It doesn't look as if it should need stitches," she fretted, swapping at the cut with rubbing alcohol. "Though it looks like a goose egg is forming. I really must apologize again… Quite honestly, I didn't think I'd swung so hard, must not know my own strength… I'll get some ice."
Mycroft could not help but close his eyes, wanting to give in to the sickening sleepiness that was tugging at him, at the same time hoping his brain wasn't bleeding and wouldn't start to pour out his ears. Everything bad that happened to him was because of his brother, he finally decided. He had nearly had his hand cut off when he was twelve because of his brother, he had been fired from his beginning position in the Italian embassy because of his brother, and now he'd been smashed over the head with a frying pan because of his brother.
He wondered if he could possibly exchange him for a sister at this point, perhaps his parents kept the receipt lying around. Yes, a sister… Smart and witty but not sarcastic or crude, an artist in the family's tradition, perhaps with some well-mannered children. Uncle Mycroft. He was sure he could enjoy that.
Then there was something very cold on his skin and he jumped, remembering that he did not have a pleasant sister but a decidedly unpleasant brother, and therefore was having a frying pan wound treated by the very person who had inflicted it.
"I put on some tea," she offered, pressing the ice to the side of his head. "If you want it. I don't think you should fall asleep just yet, in case of concussion."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson." Might as well be polite to the woman, even if she was an attempted murderess. "And… I'm sorry if I gave you a bit of a fright. It was the last thing from my intentions."
A denial was on the very tip of her tongue, but she withheld it. She had done enough to the poor man. "I'm sure, Mr. Holmes. I am the one entirely at fault."
"Well, were I a burglar, I believe I would think twice against committing the act again," he managed to chuckle even through it made his head ache. More. "And I must say, I have never had an assailant so skilled at first aid."
She meant to thank him for the compliment and tell him it was quite sweet. Instead, what came was "Oh, my, you've been assaulted enough times to make a comparison?"
His cheeks flushed slightly. He supposed he should be grateful he had enough blood left to blush. "I have a somewhat dangerous job."
"I honestly didn't know so many people hated accountants… Poor thing." She gave the wound a gentle brush, turning as she heard the tea kettle. "Right, then, tea and bandages. Just stay still, I'll be back shortly."
Mycroft smiled. It was somewhat of a crooked smile; perhaps a concussion was not too far from the truth. He'd really have to think of a decent story of why accounting was such a risky profession…
Four days latter, the bell was rung, and Mrs. Hudson left her knitting to go check it. Standing on the stoop was Mr. Mycroft Holmes. She could just barely see the white bandages under the brim of his hat.
"I'll announce you to your brother," she offered, turning to ascend the stairs. A light hand on her elbow stopped her.
"The gash is beginning to heal over," spoke the elder Holmes with a nervous yet genuine smile. "And as you were the attending physician, I'd prefer if it were you to continue treatment. I happen to have an intense discomfort with clinics, however; would you perhaps like to temporarily move your practise to the French café on Wingmore Street?"
Mrs. Hudson had plenty of blood to colour her face red. "I… I'll need a hat."
He folded his hands behind his back. "I will wait. I must admire you on the décor of your waiting room, none of those horribly outdated periodicals."
She paused, considering, finally giving up on considering. "You're every bit as odd as your brother, but I think I must more prefer this particular style of odd." Mrs. Hudson left to fetch her hat, for the first time rather glad she became spooked by spirits.