Title: Old Mother Hudson
Author: Erin Giles
Characters: John, Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock
Summary: Mrs. Hudson isn't their housekeeper, she's their landlady, but sometimes she has to step in and play the role of carer, guidance councillor and general mother figure.
'John, love? Are you alright?'
'Yes, thank you Mrs. Hudson.'
'It's just I heard something smashing, and I thought you might have knocked one of Sherlock's-' She broke off as she appeared in the kitchen doorway to witness John shakily trying to gather up discarded pieces of mug from under the kitchen table.
'What on earth are you doing under the table?'
'Dropped a mug.'
Mrs. Hudson bent down slightly so she could see John sweeping up bits of mug with the side of his palm into a small pile. He coughed into his shoulder a couple of times.
'Let me get a brush, love. You'll cut yourself doing that.' She retrieved a dustpan and brush from under the sink that John didn't know he and Sherlock owned and bent down to help him clear up the pieces. She glanced up at his face as he coughed into his shoulder a second time before letting out a tired sigh. His eyes were drooping, gaze not quite focused on the task at hand, cheeks flushed in an unhealthy hue as he swallowed carefully.
'Are you feeling alright, dear? You look a little peaky.'
'Long week,' John mumbled as he used the back of a chair, the kitchen table and the work surface to pull himself to his feet again. He swayed a moment, stood gripping the back of the chair with one hand, right hand shaking as it clutched at the bits of porcelain he'd managed to retrieve. Mrs. Hudson watched him as she pulled herself unsteadily to her own feet, her hip giving her a bit of jip. She was too old to be down on her hands and knees on the kitchen floor. She reached the back of her hand out to feel his warm forehead, tutting slightly before taking the larger pieces of mug from him.
'John, dear, sit down before you fall down, will you,' she said as she shuffled past him to deposit the pieces of mug in the bin.
John pointed almost pathetically at the kettle that had just finished boiling, but Mrs. Hudson was manhandling him towards the living room now. John put up little resistance and all it took was a hand on his shoulder for him to drop into his armchair at Mrs. Hudson's insistence.
'You boys will be the death of each other one day. Running yourselves into the ground until you're fit to drop. It's not decent.' Mrs. Hudson went back into the kitchen and started making John the tea he so desperately needed.
'It's not Sherlock's fault.'
'Yes, well, he's not exactly considerate is he. Dashing about here, there and everywhere and expecting you to follow. I heard you both getting in at five this morning and then the door went again at eight. You off out to work, no doubt. He forgets that you need sleep.'
'Sorry,' John mumbled as he tried to untie his right shoe.
'For what, dear?'
'Waking you up.'
'Oh, no, not you, dear. Old age. It gets you up in the morning. Aches and pains.'
He's got one shoe off when there's the sound of a teaspoon clinking against the side of a mug, shortly followed by a hand on his shoulder.
'There you are, dear,' Mrs. Hudson said as she placed a mug of tea on the table beside John, handle turned towards him. 'Now how about some dinner?'
'I'm fine, thank you, Mrs. Hudson. I'm grateful for the tea.'
'Nonsense, dear. You're in no fit state to be working the oven and you need something in you before you faint clean away. When was the last time you ate anyway?' She paused long enough for John to give her a blank look. 'You'll be as skinny as Sherlock if you don't eat something soon. Now, what will it be?'
Mrs. Hudson was moving back into the kitchen already. 'I suppose I should see what you've got in before I start offering you culinary delights I can't provide. And I haven't even got much in myself, not with this awful weather we've been having. I haven't had a chance to get out to the shops in between the raindrops. I had to cancel my coffee morning with Mrs. Russell the other day.'
John let Mrs. Hudson's reassuring ramblings wash over him as he toed his second shoe off without even undoing the laces. He curled his socked feet into the rug as he lent his head against the back of his chair, gripping the armrests to try and stop his hands shaking.
John was almost asleep when Mrs. Hudson came back in from the kitchen, putting a plate of scrambled eggs on toast down on his lap and pressing a set of cutlery into his left hand.
'Now don't you be getting used to me waiting on you hand and foot. I'm only doing this because you look ready to keel over any moment, and then who would keep Sherlock in check so my rent got paid on time.'
John looked down at the scrambled eggs on toast, wondering if he had enough coordination to use the knife and fork. Mrs. Hudson was sitting down in Sherlock's chair with a cup of tea she'd made herself, evidently intent on staying to make sure John cleared his plate. He started on what suddenly seemed to be the daunting task of eating food.
'How's that sister of yours?'
John looked up sharply, scrambled egg dropping off his fork with a wet slop back onto his plate.
'She's um-' John coughed into his fist. 'She's fallen off the wagon again.'
'I'm sorry, love.' Mrs. Hudson smiled sadly. John resumed eating, hoping that the matter was closed.
'My husband was the same, you know. Most amenable man I've ever met until he got a drop of whisky in him. Still, I suppose it affects everyone differently. One two many Sherries and I'm prone to drop off in my chair.' She chuckled, sipping on her tea. 'Still, nothing to be done about it if they don't want to change, is there?'
'No, I suppose, not.'
'Doesn't stop you from lying awake at night wondering what trouble they've gotten into, though, does it? You keep waking yourself up, expecting the phone to be ringing, police on the other end telling you to come pick them up out the gutter, or collect them from the police station. It's terrible of me, I know, but I did hope a couple of times, just for a moment, that it would just be them telling me he was dead, just to stop all the fretting.'
John swallowed the mouthful of eggs and toast he had been chewing on for the last minute, but didn't say anything.
'What about the other lady in your life? Miss. Sawyer. It's been a while since I've seen her round here. Sherlock's not scared her off has he?'
'Sarah and I have had a falling out.' John looked back down at his plate. He'd managed to digest one slice of toast but the second one remained untouched. 'We're um- I may have made some false assumptions.'
'Nothing an apology won't solve, dear. She's a clever girl, she'll see you for the idiot in love you are.' Mrs. Hudson laughed and John looked up sharply. 'Oh, now, don't look at me like that. I may not be Sherlock but I can see you're smitten. I can almost hear wedding bells on the horizon.'
John flushed red and coughed a couple of times as Mrs. Hudson pulled herself to her feet. She picked up his half finished plate and disappeared into the kitchen with it, talking as she went. 'I'd suggest giving her a call in the morning and taking her out for coffee somewhere and try and explain yourself without opening your mouth to change feet. But before that I'd suggest some sleep, and not in that chair of yours.'
Mrs. Hudson was back in the living room now, a hand under John's elbow, encouraging him to his feet. 'You'll wake up with an awful stiff neck in the morning. And don't go setting the alarm either. Sunday tomorrow, so you've got nothing to get up for in the morning. If the rain's eased off any I'll pop out and restock your fridge for you. Heaven knows Sherlock won't think to do it.' She was guiding him up the stairs now. 'I'll try and encourage him to leave you be as well. You need the prescribed eight hours, minimum, otherwise you'll be blurting out whatever comes into your head when you meet Miss. Sawyer tomorrow, and that won't do any good, will it?'
They were stood in the doorway of John's bedroom now, and John had never seen anything more glorious in his life than the duvet pulled taut across his mattress.
'Now you get yourself into bed and I'll bring you up a glass of water and some paracetamol, try and bring that fever of yours down.'
Mrs. Hudson disappeared out the room before John had a chance to protest. He found he didn't really want to though. It was so nice to have someone look after him for a change that he almost wished Mrs. Hudson would return with a teddy bear and read him a bedtime story before tucking him in for the night. He missed his mum sometimes, and Harry had been an extremely poor substitute. He rolled his eyes at himself before he was stepping out of his trousers and pulling his shirt over his head without undoing the buttons, letting them both fall to the floor. He crawled underneath the duvet with his undershirt and boxers still on, shifting around restlessly, trying to get comfy. His coughing drowned out Mrs. Hudson's return, so that when she spoke he started slightly.
'Maybe I should see if I can find some cough medicine as well.' Mrs. Hudson was picking up John's clothes when he opened his eyes. She'd left the paracetamol on the bedside table next to a glass of water.
'Leave them, Mrs. Hudson, you've already done more than enough for me this evening.'
'Nonsense, dear. It's nice to feel needed.' She continued folding up his shirt and trousers before placing them on the chair in the corner of the room. 'I'll go have a look and see if I can find some cough medicine if you'd like?'
'I'll be fine,' John said, swallowing down the paracetamol.
'Alright, dear. I'll see you in the morning then.'
She turned at the bedroom door to look back in on John Watson blinking at her from within the confines of his duvet. In that moment he looked nothing like the competent doctor, the stalwart soldier and the long-suffering flatmate of Sherlock Holmes that Mrs. Hudson had come to know and love.
'You're quite welcome, dear.' She flicked the light switch on the wall. 'Now get some sleep.'
She heard the door go at just after eleven and she called out before she was even on her feet.
She heard his feet still on the third stair as she pulled open her front door.
'Sherlock, is that you?'
'Mrs. Hudson?' He asked as he came back down the stairs and peered round the banister to regard his landlady.
'Have you got a minute, dear. I'd like a word.' She held open her door a little wider, inviting Sherlock in.
'I was just on my way to get John. I've got a lead that-'
'That can wait.'
'Two minutes, Sherlock.' She put a hand on her hip and stood back to allow enough room for Sherlock to enter her flat. He hesitated for a moment before ducking his head slightly and acquiescing with Mrs. Hudson's request.
He perched nervously on the edge of one of Mrs. Hudson's overstuffed armchairs, waiting to see what she had to say. She lowered herself very deliberately into the armchair opposite him.
'Now, about John.'
Sherlock's back straightened slightly.
'Are you trying to kill him?'
'You heard me perfectly, Sherlock. The poor man's been run into the ground this last week and you haven't even noticed. Now you know me, I don't like to interfere with you boys and what you get up to, but when one of my tenants comes close to collapsing in my arms it concerns me.'
'He'll be fine after a good night's sleep. I gave him some dinner and sent him to bed.' Mrs. Hudson's eyes narrowed slightly as Sherlock tried to stop himself from laughing at the image she'd just painted. 'But you are under no circumstances to go disturbing him and dragging him out into the streets at this time of night.'
'Sherlock, I know that you care about him, so please, just let him get some sleep for one night and then you can drag him out again tomorrow lunchtime chasing after your criminal classes again.'
'Well, I suppose that my lead can wait until tomorrow, but I resent the implication, Mrs. Hudson, that I drag him anywhere. John willingly follows.'
'And that's just the problem Sherlock. You ask him to jump and he says, "How high?"' She held up a hand to stop him from interrupting. 'He admires you Sherlock, but you are not his entire world. He has to think about his sister and Miss. Sawyer.'
'I am quite aware of Harry's late night phone calls and the circumstances surrounding his and Sarah's disagreement.'
'Then why in heaven's name are.' She stopped herself midsentence. 'Oh,' Mrs. Hudson let out a breath as she suddenly realised Sherlock's intention. 'You've been keeping him busy all week to take his mind off things with his sister and Sarah.'
Sherlock licked his lips, but didn't say anything.
'Sherlock, love, I know you don't like to talk about things, but you could have just sent John down to me for a cup of tea instead of almost killing him through exhaustion.'
Sherlock scratched the back of his neck and his hand twitched towards his iPhone that was vibrating in his trouser pocket. 'I admit that my approach was rather unorthodox.'
Mrs. Hudson had nothing to say to that. She just laughed. 'I'm assuming your case can wait until morning?'
'I solved the case yesterday.'
'Oh, you are silly, Sherlock.' Mrs. Hudson huffed out a laugh before pulling herself to her feet. 'Would you like a cup of tea before you go?'
'No. Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. I think I'll just retire to my room. I have some reading I need to do.'
'Goodnight, Sherlock.' She hugged him tightly before letting him go. He gave her a warm shy smile before he opened her flat door.
'And if I hear that violin of yours before midday I'll be confiscating it!'