Sherlock had been sitting stock straight on the couch for the worse part of an hour. He had placed hands to his lips as if in prayer and left them there, concentrating on the wall of newspaper clips, copies of police reports, and pictures of the newest unsolvable crime pinned to the wall with tacks. Sherlock had left his cup of tea on the mantelpiece across the room as well and he missed it. At the moment, however, he felt he was missing something, something vaguely important…
John had left him for the week to go visit his sister, Harry, in Cardiff where she kept a small flat with two cats and an obnoxious amount of dairy products judging by her voice on the phone. He would have told her she was sensitive to milk products if she hadn't hung up on him this morning. John still hadn't arrived yet. The train was delayed. But that wasn't the point, that wasn't the thing that eluded him. Something about Mrs. Hudson.
Sherlock loosened his tense body with a small cat-like shake and stood up, mentally cataloging with disdain how many years it would take before his body would give out on him after constant abuse. Only the smallest twinge of guilt entered his thinking after remembering for the briefest moment that John was gone and couldn't berate him on his bad posture.
But Mrs. Hudson's shadowy image moved to the forefront of his mind and he leapt into action. He went out the door, still in his robe, tucking the swinging ties into his pockets absentmindedly before barging into Mrs. Hudson's tidy apartment. If John were here Sherlock would have told him that they had a special relationship that did not need the boring precedence of knocking at one's door. Sherlock smiled as he imagined John's retort: "She does knock, Sherlock! Do you always have to be rude?"
"Mrs. Hudson?"Sherlock asked the darkened room. Everything looked a bit too tidy, a bit too clean. Something was off. He tried again.
Why he still called her Misses Hudson and not Miss he would never know, habit probably, even after her husband died thanks to Sherlock's skill. After checking all the rooms and reassuring himself that she was gone, he went back up stairs to find his mobile.
Message to: John Watson
John, Do you know where Mrs. Hudson went?
Message to: Sherlock
I thought she went to go visit her niece in the hospital up north. Why?
Message to: John Watson
Sherlock suddenly remembered what Mrs. Hudson had told him several hours before. She was leaving and the flats would be his to take care of for a few days. As a favor, she had said, holding up an index finger to ward off his protests. He had sighed and told her he would. She left her pink colored list of to-do's in the eye socket of his skull. As he was looking around for the skull, there was a knock at the door. He tried ignoring it at first. The knocks became louder. Perhaps they could hear him shuffling through the piles of newspaper and leaves of paper on the floor in search of the skull underneath them. He stopped a moment, and sat on back on his heels and waited for the knocker to go away.
Bang Bang Bang.
Not going away then, he thought. He went to the door and found beyond it a man almost short enough to be midget. He bit his tongue. Mrs. Hudson had said something about being polite to her other tenants.
"You Holmes?" asked the man.
"My sink is leaking."
"I suggest you find a plumber."
"You are supposed to be in charge, no?"
Sherlock sniffed and straightened up, making himself bizarrely taller than the other man.
"You should know Mrs. Hudson's plumber then. So why don't you call him then."
That was probably on her pink list, Sherlock thought. Now if only he could find it. The little man wasn't the sort to leave a problem alone without a good reason so he decided to do something a bit drastic.
"Won't you come inside?" He said putting on his fake polite tone.
The man eyed Sherlock suspiciously a moment before following him into the apartment. His eyes grew a little wider when he saw the collected mass of paper and the wall of pictures of a rather bloody murder scene, but he walked into the living room trying to avoid stepping on anything.
The little man lasted five minutes more in that apartment and no more. He left as soon as Sherlock had tried to hand him a pink slip (which supposedly had the number of the plumber on it) of paper stuck deep in the eye socket of a man's skull. Sherlock had informed the skull was a friend of his, trying to be polite and make small talk and such. Clearly, he was doing it wrong.
The note said Sherlock had to watch over the flats from that day (Wednesday) to Sunday. Sherlock texted John this information, hoping his exasperated tone carried over in his message. John only laughed at him in text speak and wished him good luck, and made him a bet that on Friday 221b would be in shambles or Sherlock would be ready to beg Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and John to come back. In Sherlock's mind, the bet was on.
After the midget left, nothing quite happened except the woman on the top flight of stairs had fallen and needed an ambulance. Sherlock had helpfully made her a cup of tea and reassured her that her legs weren't broken, she just had a bad sprain.
Thursday Morning: The woman's husband had come knocking very loudly at his door while he was doing a very important experiment with a water snake. Sherlock shushed him and received a bloody, but gratefully, unbroken nose.
Thursday Afternoon: An ambulance stopped at 221b to get the woman. Apparently, her husband had convinced her that she needed medical care beyond a cup of tea and some aspirin.
Thursday Night: The water snake died after being tortured for 4 hours and 22 minutes. At the moment it died Sherlock thought he smelt smoke.
Friday morning: The fire alarm in one of the apartments on the first floor went off. A kid had lit one too many candles. Sherlock decided not to call the fire brigade after reprimanding the child. He bugged Lestrade instead. Lestrade hung up on him.
Saturday: The husband of the fallen woman came back, and this time with a cricket bat. Sherlock and him had a standoff in the hallway, where Sherlock understandably won with John's gun and an arrogant expression.
Send Text to: John Watson
How long does one put popcorn in the microwave for?
Is this your cry for help?
re: To John Watson
*sigh* I don't know. It's different for each microwave. Try reading the directions or pushing the Popcorn button. And leave me in peace, I'm actually having a nice time with Harry for once.
Re: To John Watson
John got home early on Saturday night to 221b with a feeling of growing dread stuck to the lining of his stomach. After getting Sherlock's vague texts all week about fire alarms and cricket bats, water damage to another tenant's floor and then something about popcorn, John decided it was best to go home and make sure Sherlock didn't blow up the place with a microwave experiment. And he had realized he had left his gun at home. That was never good where Sherlock is concerned.
The flat was mysteriously quiet as he brought his luggage upstairs. He didn't go into the living room, not just yet, not when he might have to drop his luggage because of tortured animals running between his feet or whatever. He put his things on his bed and went back down, cautiously. It was still too quiet.
John walked into the living room to find the lights off and Sherlock curled up in a high back chair watching television. He stepped on something in the dark, something paper that rustles a little: an empty popcorn bag. There was possibly over two dozen popcorn bags on the floor, all in various stages of completion or were burnt judging by the smell. Kernels were scattered everywhere as much as John could see in the light of the television.
Sherlock looked back at him sharply, and went on eating what was probably the only good bag of popcorn in the entire lot, his feet tucked under his knees.
"You're back early," he said, without a hint of surprise, though John wanted to believe he was just little.
"Fun night in?" John replied, wanting to ignore the subject of why he came back early.
"I'm bored," said Sherlock, popping another piece into his mouth.
"Did you figure out the case then?" John had noticed the wall of photos and clippings had disappeared since he had gone.
"It was the butcher." replied Sherlock, getting up and turning off the television leaving them in near complete darkness for a moment before flipping the light switch. "from corner deli." he continued, indicating the corner of their very street.
"I'll have to let Mrs. Hudson know she's been buying bad beef."
"Indeed. I already threw out what I could find in her freezer. And other tenants as well."
"How are the other tenants?"
Sherlock ignored him. Apparently not that well. Hence the texts for help.
"I see you experimented with the microwave," said John, walking into the kitchen to assess the damage. Only the normal test tubes on the table and a few more half-popped bags of popcorn, thankfully.
"Did the microwave survive its first instance of normal usage?"
"It did." Sherlock said simply. John picked up the last unused package of popcorn and began to crack the plastic package open.
"That particular brand needs 3 minutes and 23 seconds for maximum efficiency," said Sherlock from the doorway.
John nodded his head, put the bag in the burnt, buttery smelling microwave and set the timer for 3 minutes and 23 seconds. He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and watched it spin slowly round.
It was silent for a few moments while microwave did its only burst of heating magic.
John got the full bag of popcorn and headed back into the den.
"So," he said, trying not to let himself smile, "tell me what happened. Make sure you find Mrs. Hudson's list before she comes home."