colebaltblue: (sherlock)
[personal profile] colebaltblue
Title: The Baker Street Home
Author: [livejournal.com profile] colebaltblue
Characters/Pairings:Sherlock Holmes/Mrs. Hudson
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: none
Word Count: 5181
Summary: Sherlock Holmes was a young consulting detective. Mrs. Hudson was a slightly older sensible businesswoman. John Watson didn't see anything wrong with that.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] tweedisgood for [livejournal.com profile] holmestice summer 2013.



Sherlock Holmes has been dead now for two years. Mary and I had settled into our sitting room after a lovely, informal dinner with Mrs. Hudson.

"John." Mary broke the quiet. "I cannot help but wonder a bit about Mrs. Hudson and your Sherlock Holmes."

I startled, but hid it well. I supposed that it wasn't impossible for Mary to have seen something in Mrs. Hudson's sad eyes or subdued manner. She had had little opportunity to visit our landlady before I began to invite her to spend time with us after Holmes's death and so would not have seen the things I saw. But Mary was intelligent, thoughtful, and observant. It was why I fell for her. I looked up at her shrewd gaze.

"She misses him, John, more than you'd suppose a landlady might, especially one who had to put up with him as a tenant."

I smiled wryly at her, "no, she does not act like a woman relieved not to have strange people climbing her stairs at all hours any more, does she?"

"That is why you have her over, you kind man," Mary said, it wasn't a question.

I pinched the bridge of my nose as I considered. It wasn't my secret to tell. If Mrs. Hudson had not taken Mary into her confidence it wasn't my place to share it. Yet, a confidence held between husband and wife wasn't betraying anyone and Mary was discreet.

"Their situation was..." I paused, looking for a word, wracking my brain for a descriptor for what they were, which was as unique as the two of them. "It was, unusual."

Mary smiled a little amused smile, "I would have expected nothing less."

"Sherlock Holmes cared little for what society thought of him, beyond seeking their admiration for solving their little puzzles. Even those were done more for his own amusement than anything else." I began.

Mary shifted slightly, folding her hands in her lap. "John, you will not shock me. For a man as unique as Mr. Holmes it is not surprising that he would have a unique domestic situation as well. And I am not naive. Your Mrs. Hudson is a smart businesswoman with the unusual luxury of not having to depend on a man, relation or not, for her situation in life. I can understand why she would be loathe surrender that."

Bless my wife.

Then, "unusual luxury?" I asked, unsure if I should be offended or not.

She smiled at me, "not all men are like you, John."

I stood and extended my hand to her, she rose and we headed for the stairs.

"You will understand, Mary, if I speak no more on the subject, and if I ask you to keep your new knowledge to yourself. Theirs is not my story to tell. For all his unusualness, Holmes was a private man and I am loathe to violate the trust he placed in me," I said as we slipped into bed together.

"Of course, John."

The next morning I found myself in Marylebone after a house call and called in on Mrs. Hudson. She smiled when she saw me, a light sparking in her eyes; while she may have loved Sherlock Holmes as he loved her in return, the two of us were also quite fond of one another. We had done our best to comfort one another since he had died. She welcomed me into her small, but comfortable sitting room and promptly rang for some tea. I looked up as she fussed with the maid and prepared the tea, imagining I could see through the floor into our own sitting room exactly above my head.

When I glanced back at her, she was watching me sadly.

"Does he?" I began.

"Yes," she answered quickly. "Every month, promptly and without delay, the full rent. He won't hear of me reducing it even though it is empty and therefore the house does not require so many staff. I've even been able to keep Billy and Katie the scullery maid, although they have little to do these days."

"I suppose we all grieve in our own ways," I said, attempting to be philosophical. "Mycroft Holmes prefers to preserve the memory of his brother in situ, and who are we to remark upon that if the bills are paid."

Mrs. Hudson chuckled slightly, then sobered. "It is a comfort," she said. "I sometimes find myself in there, attempting to ensure that the slipper is aligned just-so."

I smiled widely at her. "Don't tell me you've tidied up, Mrs. Hudson!" I said in mock incredulity.

She laughed, the sad look leaving her eyes for just a moment, "Oh no! Doctor Watson, I wouldn't want the ghost of Sherlock haunting me because I disturbed some filing system only he would understand."

It was like that, these more recent months, being able to laugh and poke fun at Holmes. Shock had turned to a dark grief which had lingered for months. I had Mary to support me, her gentle touch and patient understanding. Mrs. Hudson had her terrier and the museum upstairs. I stopped in as often as I could and eventually convinced her to begin to call on us once a week, which had turned into a standing invitation to dinner on Tuesdays and tea with Mary on Fridays. I was glad that I knew her secret for the thought of her being alone with her grief over him broke my heart. She had damped my shoulder more than once in those first few months, and I hoped I had comforted her as she mourned his loss. It went a bit beyond propriety and it made me uncomfortable the first time that I had awkwardly patted her shaking back. But their relationship was hardly within the bounds of propriety and far from usual and I did not think that Sherlock Holmes would begrudge his best friend one bit for comforting his wife in all but name.

***

When I had first moved into the rooms at 221B with Holmes, I had thought him a shy and awkward man. I quickly learned, however, that the man was neither shy nor awkward, but rather that my first impression of him in our new digs, almost stuttering as he introduced Mrs. Hudson, our landlady, while refusing to meet either one of us in the eye, was unusual for him.

Wrapped up in my own recovery from Afghanistan and the laudanum it had left me needing, I paid little attention to anything, really, those first few months. My days grew brighter and more exciting, for nothing quite excites a man to be awoken from an early evening doze by a strange London cab driver hovering over him. Who then promptly straightened and revealed himself to be my flatmate.

"Holmes! You gave me such a fright." I said, clasping my hand to my beating heart.

" Indeed, Watson, for you are white as a sheet and I can see your pulse racing. The fear response is a remarkable thing, giving us either the strength to stand and fight or to run away," he said as he wandered towards his room, stripping off his clothes as he did so. I glimpsed his thin but well-muscled back just before he disappeared. He returned moments later clothed in his much more usual garb shrugging into a housecoat.

A moment later there was a knock on the door to our sitting room and it eased open to admit our landlady with a tea tray.

"Doctor Watson, Mr. Holmes," she greeted us with a nod as she stepped forward to our small table where we took our meals when we were at home. "I heard you come in, Mr. Holmes. Martha had just prepared my tray so I thought you might appreciate one as well."

"Thank you Mrs. Hudson!" I exclaimed. I glanced over at Holmes when he didn't respond immediately. His cheeks had a faint blush to them that made him look younger than his twenty some years and he was staring fixedly at the tray.

"Yes, many thanks, Mrs. Hudson," he remarked as if snapping out of a daze.

Mrs. Hudson opened her mouth as if to say something more, then closed it and left us with a quick nod. I was puzzled for a moment, but quickly forgot all about the odd exchange as I took in the spread on the tray and tucked in. With some gentle teasing about my appetite, our evening progressed as usual.

After a few months as Holmes's flatmate, I began to wonder just how Mrs. Hudson, a respectable businesswoman in her own right, holding the lease on 221 Baker Street lodgings and shop, tolerated someone as eccentric as him. I arrived home one afternoon after spending a few hours at my club to find a much perturbed Mrs. Hudson on the landing, arms crossed at her chest and jaw set. I opened my mouth to enquire what the matter was when I heard it. The frantic squealing screams, which I truly hoped was a pig in distress and not a client, and the rather creative if a bit muffled cursing of what I desperately hoped was Holmes.

"I-" I started, only to stop under the intensity of Mrs. Hudson's glare. I looked up the steps again, trying to pull together a response that would help ensure that I would not have to move out that afternoon, or if I did, would at least guarantee me a good reference. Then I saw what could only be muddy boot marks all the way up, and streaks along the wall that I desperately hoped was mud and not something else the pig had left behind.

"I'm sorry," I tried.

"Don't you dare apologize for him, Dr. Watson, unless it was YOUR idea to bring a pig into my house that wasn't already butchered and salted." Mrs. Hudson bit out the words with a ferocity that rivaled any sergeant in the Army.

"No ma'am," I replied automatically.

The door opened and Holmes's head appeared, a little disheveled, but looking remarkably put together for a man who sounded like he was quite literally wrestling with a pig.

"Ah Watson! You've returned. Excellent. I require your assistance, surely you've captured a greased pig before. You attended public school in Scotland, so I'm sure you enjoyed such provincial pastimes!" He said in a rush, and then slammed the door. I stared, unsure of what had just happened.

Mrs. Hudson let out an incredibly unladylike snort beside me. I looked over to see her biting her lip, looking very pained. Our eyes met and I started chuckling. Which set her off. Within a moment we were both holding our sides laughing uncontrollably.

"Well," I said nodding to the stairs.

"Yes, Doctor, I suppose you should go and assist him. If you would be so kind as to ensure that the damage remains minimal, I would appreciate it," she said, with a shake of her head, as she turned to let herself into her part of the house. I set off up the stairs, a bit worried about what I would find at the top.

The next morning the stairs were clean and not a trace of dirt was to be found anywhere. Holmes and I had done our best in our sitting room the night before, but clearly the maid had been hard at work before we rose to take breakfast. That afternoon when I returned to the house, all was quiet and calm and Mrs. Hudson was not about. I found Holmes at our table reading the afternoon edition of the paper. He looked up as I came in.

"Watson! I hope you have been successful in enquiring into starting a practice here for I have to share the unfortunate news that our rent has been raised slightly. Fortunately I took on a new case this afternoon and should be able to cover the initial payment!" I didn't know whether to roll my eyes, sigh, or laugh as I took off my coat and hat and set my stick down. It appeared that Mrs. Hudson was prepared to tolerate a tenant such as Holmes, provided he made it worth it.

I rarely had an opportunity to see Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock Holmes interact and so I missed the early clues that Holmes's shy awkwardness was specifically reserved for her and no one else. It wasn't until I was able to observe his interactions with a remarkably lovely and eligible young woman that I realized just how unusual his propensity to look anywhere but directly at Mrs. Hudson, to seem at a loss for words, and even to blush on occasion was. With other women, he was smooth and sophisticated, genteel, polite, and appropriately distant so as not to encourage affection. He would take their flirtations in his stride and return them with a casual grace that was never insulting, as he made it quite clear he was uninterested.

Briefly, I supposed him of a different persuasion, but he handled the faltering attentions of a young male client with the same graceful ease as he did the women. It was clear that he recognized the man's interest but simply smiled and sent him on his way with a gracious and easy nod and hearty shake of his hand.

However, with Mrs. Hudson, he was short almost to the point of rudeness. He failed to meet her eye, his hands would flutter while he talked, rather than emphasize his words with careful precision, and he would almost always disappear into his rooms as quickly as he could after an encounter with her. I tried to make it up to her with politeness whenever I could, but along with apologizing for Holmes, I also sought to ensure that she would raise our rent only when he did something truly ridiculous - thankfully the greased pig incident had NOT been repeated.

Then one day, it hit me when I saw him wring his hands after she had departed. And I laughed before I could help it. He turned to me with a pained expression.

"Watson! Have a care!" he exclaimed.

I immediately sobered, feeling for him. For while I had never been as overcome as he clearly was, I had found myself awkwardly tripping after a pretty girl more than once.

"Holmes, but she is certainly ten years your elder?" I tried.

He sighed, "twelve, but that hardly matters."

I looked across at the closed door to our sitting room that Mrs. Hudson had departed through only a moment before.

"Have you?"

"No!" he said, looking horrified. "Watson, I shall not, I could not. She is a businesswoman of independent means, doing quite well for herself I might add, who most certainly would have no interest in a man twelve years her junior and the second son of a country squire with no income!"

"Income? You certainly have an income Holmes, and a respectable one at that. You're a handsome fellow, kind and generous even if you are a little odd, many women would consider themselves lucky to have you." I was being a bit optimistic to him. While he was handsome, kind, and generous, he also clearly cared little for society and its rules. Being solicitous to a person was easy and second nature to him, but to the world in general, Sherlock Holmes cared little for society and what it thought of him. And when faced with a case that fascinated him, he was single-minded in his pursuit of an answer, to the point where eating, drinking, and sleeping were neglected, even for days at a time. He could be trying when in one of his black moods, and I doubted a wife would tolerate the same three minor phrases being played repeatedly on the violin for hours on end. Then, of course, there were the bullet holes in the wall - his experiment in predicting the flight patterns of a sparrow had not gone well and I had eventually rescued the frightened bird and set it free - the visitors from all walks of life at all hours, and the occasional wound that I had been called upon to stitch closed or doctor up. On second thoughts, perhaps not many women would consider themselves lucky, so much as cursed.

Holmes was looking at me with a wry smile, as if he could read my thoughts.

I sighed and threw up my hands. Holmes laughed at me, "You always have been an optimist, Watson, that is one of the things I do enjoy about you."

Now that I knew, however, I observed him as best I could whenever Mrs. Hudson was around before quickly realizing that for a landlady, even one with tenants as difficult yet charming as us, she was around more than one might have expected.

If we were both in, it wasn't unusual for our tea to be delivered by our landlady as often as it was delivered by the maid. Mrs. Hudson always took care to show our more respectable clients to our door, even if she did leave the less savory ones to Billy the page. And Holmes was often met with sighs of exasperation and a fond, yet hidden, smile rather than demands to vacate immediately, when some of his experiments didn't go as expected, or rather, did.

Being well-versed in the intricacies of love or at least lust and courtship aimed and fulfilling that lust, I began a careful observation of Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock Holmes, and the interactions of the parties named therein. Being the keen observer that he was, Holmes was more than aware of what I was doing. However, it gave him something else to focus on during his interactions with Mrs. Hudson and that turned out to be quite a blessing indeed.

I nearly punched the air with my fist the first time I caught Mrs. Hudson blushing at something Sherlock Holmes said to her. Because he was so concerned that I was going to say, or do, something to "encourage" him, he was much more relaxed around her than normal and offered her a smile and a soft thank you as she delivered our afternoon post. He even managed to rise and collect it from her, rather than wave his hand in the direction of the table and stay engrossed in whatever he had been doing before she had arrived.

After she had left he turned and caught my grin and muttered, "oh, bugger!" before tossing my mail at me and stalking off to his room. It was rare that I got to truly laugh at Holmes and I relished the moment. I quickly grew tired of watching them pretend that they, individually, were the only interested party, and surprised both by inviting Mrs. Hudson to join us for tea. Holmes could hardly protest without being rude. Mrs. Hudson started to protest, but I smiled in a manner women have called "charming" before, and begged her to grant me an afternoon of civilized conversation, or at the very least conversation that did not revolve around chemical experiments. She laughed prettily, looked at Holmes and agreed.

I swear I had no advanced plans other than to find some way to force the two of them to spend more than a moment in each other's company. Holmes has long accused me of being an evil and devious man for what happened next, but I did not plan it. We had just settled in and our conversation was finally warming up to something that resembled a casual flow when a knock at the door admitted Billy.

"Begging your pardon sirs, ma'am," he said with a quick bow and a knuckle to his forehead, "but Doctor Watson, sir, there has been a request for your presence at a Mr. Henry's residence, sir."

I immediately sat up. The Henrys were clients of mine. Mr. Henry was formerly Captain Walter Henry, of the 66th Berkshire Regiment, who had returned to England with his English-born wife after we saw action at Maiwand together. It was Captain Henry who was my biggest and earliest supporter as I slowly built a private practice as a doctor here in London. His wife was pregnant and near term, the summons could only mean she was at her time. I sent an apologetic look towards Holmes, who was doing his best not to glare at me too obviously, and Mrs. Hudson who looked a bit flustered by the change of events.

"If you will both excuse me, Mrs. Hudson, Holmes, it appears Mrs. Henry's time may have come," I said as I stood and hurried to fetch my valise and take the cab the Henrys’ page was holding for me at the front door. The cab pulled away and I allowed myself to grin, I really could not have planned it better.

I returned home in the small hours. Holmes was awake and curled in his chair in front of a small fire, reading by the weak light of a lamp. He was silent as I walked in and did not look up. I set my valise down and stripped out of my coat and hat, hanging them up before heading over and settling myself down across from him.

"If I were not already certain that planning and executing said plan to cause a woman to begin labor at a precise moment was wholly beyond your capability, even as a medical doctor, Watson, I would be offering you my begrudging praise at being quite masterful." Holmes didn't look up from his book as he spoke. I allowed myself a small smile.

"Well, seeing as fate intervened, how did you enjoy tea with Mrs. Hudson?"

Holmes sniffed. "Fate. I don't believe in fate, Watson, at least not a fate that would cause me to take tea with our landlady after the gentleman that had extended the invitation abandoned us."

"I suppose since I did not return home to find all my wordly possessions on the front step and you banished from her presence forever, it went well?"

Holmes sniffed again. I handed him my hankerchief and he threw down his book in exasperation.

"I hardly understand why you would be upset with me, Holmes," I said with a grin. "Certainly her company didn't disappoint?"

"Hardly," he mumbled as he stared at the book he had tossed to the floor.

"See, there, Holmes, was that so hard?"

"Clearly you have never had any difficulty in speaking with women, Watson, but do try to take pity on those of us that have, or do. Your compassion would be very much appreciated." Holmes's voice could be cutting indeed when he wished to make it so. His public school accent clipped and formal, sharpening his words. I laughed in response and excused myself to go to bed. If tea had really been that terrible, Holmes would have been in one of his legendary black moods and not waiting up for me to return home, in the company of a book. Two years of living with the man had taught me that much at least.

Feeling as though I had done quite enough, I spent the next month studiously leaving Holmes alone on the subject of Mrs. Hudson. That is not to say that I didn't observe carefully, or ensure that I encouraged her up the stairs when I had to step out to take a housecall when Holmes was home, or speak of her casually to him whenever I had the chance. But I kept my knowing smirks to a minimum as I watched him pine away for her.

One evening, after a difficult housecall with an ailing patient whom I could do nothing for other than provide a bit of comfort, I stopped in at my club and sent a note home to Holmes not to expect me. While he could disappear for hours or even days on end with no communication, I did my best to keep him informed of my comings and goings. I had planned to drink myself drunk, lose my pocket change in a civilized game of cards, and to sleep it off upstairs before returning home on the morrow. But late that night I found myself craving the comfort of my own bed and the familiarity of the way the light played across the ceiling of my room at night, so I ordered a cab and stumbled home.

I was quiet as I climbed the stairs, but since I saw a light spilling from beneath our sitting room door I thought I should at least say goodnight to Holmes before retiring to sleep. So the sight that greeted me when I opened it surprised not only me, but Holmes and Mrs. Hudson as well. I stammered a quick goodnight and retreated as fast as I could, but I was aware that I had broken whatever spell had been binding them together until that very moment.

Holmes and Mrs. Hudson had been standing by the fire, his hand upon her cheek, bent down and kissing her softly. His other hand had been about her waist and her arms around his neck. It was sweet and based on my experience, not likely to lead to anything else that night, especially not since they had been interrupted. I heard the door open, a soft murmur of voices, a pause and then feet retreating down the stairs. I cringed, upset with myself for interrupting their moment, and hoping that I hadn't completely ruined whatever was clearly starting between them. I was so busy worrying about how to apologize to Holmes in the morning and swear that I would never do something like that again that I missed the sound of him climbing my stairs and opening my door.

"Watson," he said and I started, whirling around to see him standing in my doorway.

"Holmes, I-"

"All is well, Watson," he interrupted me with a soft smile. I smiled back and sat down on my bed and gestured him into my room.

"Truly?"

Holmes smiled wider and nodded, looking shy for a moment. Then he looked troubled.

"Watson, I know that you are a..." he searched for a word, "liberal man when it comes to the choices made by others, but often what a man can tolerate outside his home, he cannot tolerate in it." Holmes paused, before going on, "Violet and I have no interest in marrying each other, for a variety of very valid reasons. Yet, I have no desire to expose her to ridicule and censure because of her association with me in any other way than my landlady."

I nodded and Holmes stepped into the room and seated himself on the small chair I often draped my clothes on.

"But, I do love her, and she loves me and we neither of us wish to deny that of the other."

I began to understand what he was saying, asking of, really, to me. Sherlock Holmes did not wish to marry the woman he loved, for his reasons and for hers, yet he wished to love her openly and fully within our house.

"I can understand if you wish to have no part of such an arrangement, Watson, but I do ask that if you leave, you keep what you saw tonight private, for her sake as well as mine."

"Oh Holmes," I said, reaching out and clasping his hand in mine. I traced the tendons and ligaments with my thumb. "Sherlock, I am so happy for you, and for her as well. We do not get to decide whom we love, or how, and I will always be a friend to you. I cannot and will not cast judgment or censure upon you for your choices as long as they do not purposely hurt others. I will stay here in our digs as long as you'll have me and you can assure Mrs. Hudson that to me, she will always be my landlady in public and Sherlock Holmes's wife in private."

Holmes eyes gleamed at me as he gently slid his hand from mine, "thank you, John, I had hoped that you would understand." He rose gracefully as he always did and left me with a gentle pat on my shoulder. After the door closed softly I listened to his retreating steps and smiled as they didn't pause once he had descended from my room, but had continued on down to hers. I sobered for a moment and thought of his words, and mine, and wondered if perhaps he knew more than what had been said between us, if he had understood that some of those that "three-continent Watson" had loved in the past were lovers that society would not have looked kindly upon him having.

I hoped that although I was happy here with Holmes, as his biographer and companion, entertained by his work and enchanted by his friendship, I would find love of my own someday. For the time being, the sweetness of Holmes and Mrs. Hudson was soothing to my soul. They were discreet and private, but that did not mean that at times I didn't catch a clasp of the fingers or a kiss here and there between them. I was even embarrassed one evening to realize that I had inadvertently caught them in a moment of passion albeit from the other side of a door, but a hasty and silent retreat on my part and return a few hours later ensured that they were unaware.

As Mary and I prepared to set up house and practice in Paddington, she asked me sweetly if Holmes would be lonely without me to share the flat with him and if he would seek another flatmate out. I had a laugh and shook my head, and answered that was unlikely. And that even if he did seek someone out, they were unlikely to be as tolerant as I was of his domestic habits.

****

Now that we were approaching three years after Holmes’ death, the pain of his loss had lessened to a gentle ache. I still dropped in on Mrs. Hudson as often as I could. She had done an admirable job comforting me after the loss of Mary such a short while ago, ensuring that I ate and was looked after in my empty house by Martha, whom she had sent to attend to me.

It was one afternoon as we sat in her little sitting room at Baker Street close to three years after Holmes had died and a year after Mary’s death that I asked her if she ever thought she'd find someone else. She smiled sadly and shook her head. I nodded in return, understanding how she felt through my own losses. She clasped my hand in hers. "Doctor Watson, I am forever grateful to have found him in the first place, knowing him, loving him and being loved by him has made it all somehow easier to bear."

Profile

colebaltblue: horse (Default)
colebaltblue

May 2014

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18 192021222324
25262728293031

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 21st, 2017 04:32 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios