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Until the Bandages Came Off (Sherlock)

Title: Until the Bandages Came Off
(An Optional Epilogue to "The Shadow Boys Are Breaking")
Author: Morgan Stuart
Fandom: Sherlock
Disclaimer: This universe does not belong to me; I'm just an appreciative visitor. I make no profit from this fan work.
Description: They were broken. Now they're putting each other back together again.
Historian's Note: This takes place after the Sherlock episode "The Great Game."
Chinese Translation: available here and here by freya_fsc



"Sherlock, you're not supposed to be working," Mrs Hudson scolded as she entered 221B, a bag of groceries in each arm.

Propped up by pillows and swallowed by the folds of his dressing gown, Sherlock appeared every bit as fragile as an antique bisque doll. He'd insisted on remaining on the sofa – which, to be fair, was often where he'd slept before the explosion anyway, when in fact he did sleep – and ceding his bed to John, so as not to put them on separate floors during their initial recovery.

"I'm not working," he huffed. "I'm texting John."

Mrs Hudson knew better than to take his sharp tone to heart. The aches of his injuries, not to mention his concern over the man responsible for them, made him impatient and short-tempered. She'd come to appreciate that he refused his pain medication not because he didn't need it, but because he feared wanting it too much.

As he'd told her more than once, he needed to keep a clear head, now more than ever.

"John's just in the other room, Dear," she said evenly, nodding toward the open door. "And he should be sleeping."

Sherlock shook his head. "I deduced from the strain in his voice that shouting is uncomfortable for him in his present condition. Texting is easier when I require an update on his status."

When I require an update on his status. Mrs Hudson hid a grin even as she welcomed the fierce protectiveness that blossomed in her chest.

My boys, she thought.

"And he's not sleeping at present; he's eating," Sherlock added. "Lestrade brought takeaway. John's been craving a curry. As you know, he hated the hospital food."

"How nice of the detective inspector," she said, lowering her burdens into a chair. "I'm sorry I missed him. He brought some for you, too, I see." Indicating the tray on Sherlock's lap, she added, "You could do with some meat on your mending bones."

Rolling his eyes, Sherlock said, "Lestrade couldn't stay, but he left something for you in the kitchen."

She surrendered to a heartfelt smile as she made her way to the bedroom door. "Oh, did he now? How lovely! Let me check in on John, and then I'll go see."

John Watson looked as though he should have remained in hospital. Grey faced and hollow cheeked, he seemed slighter when contrasted to the bulk of the casts and splints that held together his battered body.

Half-sitting now, wedged upright on each side by pillows and folded blankets, he was shoveling curry into his mouth with a relish that was nearly obscene.

Mouth full, he waved a stiff and bandaged arm.

"Hello, John. Need anything?"

"I'm good, thanks." His voice was weak and hoarse, belying his words, but she'd expected no less. "How's your day?"

Sweet John, she thought.

"Fine, Dear. Just back from the market. Stew for dinner?"

"Oh, God, yes." His eyes threatened to roll in their sockets. "You, Mrs Hudson, are a saint."

"Thanks for noticing, Dear." With a wink, she said, "I'll be back later to collect your tray."

Pointing toward the mobile at his side, she added, "That does have a mute button, you know. When you're ready for a kip. It won't do if he keeps you texting 'til your thumbs fall off."

They shared a conspiratorial look of fond amusement.

As she re-entered the sitting room, she said, "You're not eating."

"Your powers of observation are astounding," Sherlock replied. "Ever consider a career at the Yard?"

She ignored him. "Is there something else you fancy instead of curry?"

"No."

"Sherlock Holmes, you're no bigger than a minute. You need food if you're to heal."

"'No bigger than a minute'? A curious phrase."

"I have a deliciously sordid past," she said, deadpan. "Perhaps I picked it up in some foreign land as I roamed the great, wide world in my wanton youth."

His lips twitched. "Of course." Playing along.

With a loud sigh, she shook her head. "Back then I had dreams and aspirations. Now I'd be happy if only my tenant would eat his curry." In a stage whisper, "Age, Sherlock: it's a sad business."

He gave her and her chatter a mock glare.

"You're my landlady, you realize, and not my nurse."

"I'm a twenty-first century woman; I can be whatever I want to be. Or so they say on telly." Her hands went to her hips. "Don't think I won't sit on your chest and force feed you if necessary."

"I had a collapsed lung. I have four broken ribs. And my hip, my leg. What isn't broken is torn, burned, or bruised," he said. "That would be most unpleasant."

"So you'll tuck in, hmmm?" She tried for a stern look, playing out the scene between them, grateful that she still had the chance to do so.

It had been a very near thing. For both of the men. For days.

At last, surrender. With a meekness the landlady felt certain was feigned, Sherlock said, "Yes, Mrs Hudson." And then, to punctuate the words, he ate a bite.

"Good boy." She meant it.

On the kitchen table sat a wide terra cotta pot holding three contrasting sets of planted flowers: one hardy and bright and one small and sweet, the third as delicate as miniature bells.

Cut flowers were gorgeous, but Mrs Hudson always had preferred potted plants, growing things that could be nurtured and protected and coaxed into bloom. She wasn't surprised that the detective inspector, of all people, would understand. He, too, would value what lived, what lasted.

Nestled between the three plants was a card, a clipped blossom affixed to its envelope. The card read merely "To Mrs Hudson," followed by four names that identified the flowers.

"It's beautiful," she said, warmed by the kind-hearted gesture. Then, glancing over her shoulder at Sherlock, "Any message?"

To her delight, he was still eating.

After swallowing a mouthful, he said, "I suspect the plants themselves are the message. Lestrade's late wife had a volume explaining the so-called 'language of flowers'; he used it to determine a motive in one of the earliest cases on which I consulted. After that, seeing its value, I committed the book to memory."

Card in hand, Mrs Hudson drifted back toward the sitting room. "You don't know the name of the Prime Minister, but you remember the meaning of every flower?"

"Knowing the Prime Minister has never assisted me in solving a case. Knowing the messages behind various flowers has proved useful on three separate occasions. For example, that mutilation in—"

"I don't need the gory details, Dear," Mrs Hudson interrupted. She raised the card in her hand. "Care to translate for me?"

He nodded. Distracted as he was with something new to occupy his mind, he didn't seem to notice that he was making significant headway on his lunch.

"Chinese chrysanthemum," she began.

"That's cheerfulness under adversity."

Lovely man, she thought, recalling Lestrade's blush as she had teased him.

"And blue periwinkle?"

"Early friendship."

She smiled, quite touched.

"Lily of the valley."

"A return of happiness."

Yes, she thought. They're home now, aren't they? Alive and mending.

"And this last one: it must be the blossom on the card. Milkvetch?"

Sherlock frowned, his gaze turning inward. Then, "Ah! Astragalus."

Brows raised, Mrs Hudson waited.

"It means, 'Your presence softened my pain.'"

She remembered that grey, rainy morning of tears and despair and tea.

"That makes sense to you," Sherlock prodded.

"Yes. Yes, it does." She blinked and sniffed. At his curious look, she said, very quietly, "You weren't the only one hurt by that explosion, Sherlock."

Their eyes met for several heartbeats. "No, I wasn't," he conceded at last.

His voice said, "I'll get Moriarty," but his expression said, "I'm sorry."

"I know, Dear."

His gaze fell to his curry, as she wiped her eyes and retrieved the groceries.

Some time later she returned from the kitchen with a steaming mug of tea in hand. Sherlock was nodding drowsily like the seriously wounded man he was. His long fingers curled loosely around his mobile. His tray rested on the floor beside him. His food was gone.

Mrs Hudson put the tea where he could reach it. When she brushed a gentle hand against his curls, he didn't protest.

"Lestrade said he'd visit again tomorrow," he mumbled.

"That's good." She smiled to herself. "I'll make scones."


THE END

Vital Stats: Originally written in July 2011.

The title is taken from lyrics to the song “Time” by Tom Waits.

Comments

( 75 comments — Leave a comment )
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bk7brokemybrain
Jul. 7th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
Awwwww! You had me blinking and sniffing with those flower meanings. *dabs eyes*
Lovely follow-up. I'd love to read more of this world.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:47 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you so much! I'm so glad you found the "language of flowers" part to be moving. I figured that, now the crisis was over and it was clear the men would recover, Lestrade would want to thank Mrs Hudson for being there when he needed her, but it's nothing he could say out loud. So he had to "up his game" to convey his gratitude. Plus, since he knew about the "code," and he knew Sherlock knew that he knew, this gift might also serve to occupy Sherlock for a few minutes, at least.

I'm so glad you liked it as a follow-up to "The Shadow Boys." You've put a smile on my face! Thanks, as always, for reading and leaving such wonderful comments.
donutsweeper
Jul. 7th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
This is 1000 kinds of adorable and sweet. I love your Mrs. Hudson
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:49 am (UTC)
I'm so happy you liked it, especially Mrs Hudson! Thank you.
goldvermilion87
Jul. 7th, 2011 06:37 pm (UTC)
I love the way you were able to develop Sherlock's and John's characters through their interactions with Mrs. Hudson. And your Mrs. Hudson is lovely! :-)
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad the characterization works, especially Mrs Hudson (and the way the others relate to her). I really appreciate your kind words!
bluerosefairy
Jul. 7th, 2011 07:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I do adore Mrs. Hudson. She definitely has a soft spot a mile wide for her boys, Lestrade being added to the list.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:51 am (UTC)
Thank you! You're so right: she does care for her boys, and now she counts Lestrade among them.
litlover12
Jul. 7th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
So lovely! You capture them all so well.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so thrilled you think so. I really appreciate your reading and commenting. Thanks.
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:57 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much! I'm so glad you think so. I appreciate it.
capt_facepalm
Jul. 7th, 2011 09:30 pm (UTC)
I hope Moffat and Gatiss come up with a aftermath story as good as this (and "The Shadow Boys Are Breaking") is/are! Well done!
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:58 am (UTC)
Oh, what a lovely thing to say! You've made my day. Thank you. :)
sethra2000
Jul. 7th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC)
Awwwwww, *sniffle*, glad they are all on the mend.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
Me, too! :) Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!
noirrosaleen
Jul. 7th, 2011 11:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is gorgeous and sweet and only a little sad. *love*

When I saw you'd posted, my immediate reaction was to say "Oh Christ", open it in a new tab, and read everything else on my friendslist first, so I could read all of it with my eyes and head clear. Then I went and got the tissue box, and THEN I read this.

Possibly a bit drastic, but you've made me paranoid. ^_^
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm so glad you liked it! *hugs*

Your description of your reaction had me in fits. Sorry for all the trauma. You're such a good sport to continue to read my work, and I appreciate it more than you'll ever know!

Thanks for your feedback, as always.
belleferret
Jul. 7th, 2011 11:59 pm (UTC)
Ah, Mrs. Hudson loves her boys so dearly, and they and she both know it though they pretend it is a casual relationship. It's a little playacting that they all go along with, until it really matters. Then they show that love in such beautifully simple ways.

I can see them all so clearly, and my hearts breaks for them and is mended by them.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
It's a little playacting that they all go along with, until it really matters. Then they show that love in such beautifully simple ways.

So perfectly put. It's true! I'm so glad this worked for you. Thanks as always for reading and for your amazing comments. You always speak directly to the heart of the matter.

weefreethings
Jul. 8th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
Yay for Mrs. Hudson!
I'm hoping for more of her in season 2. Her relationship with Sherlock is interesting. I think you're doing a great job with them here:

"You're my landlady, you realize, and not my nurse." is utterly excellent. XD
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Yay for Mrs. Hudson!
Oh, I do hope for lots more of her, too! I was so glad to hear that she'd be back.

I'm so glad you enjoyed this, especially the line about her being his landlady, not his nurse. ;) Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
(Deleted comment)
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC)
He does! And a good reference book. ;) His late wife's influence continues to be felt, I think.

I figured that, now the crisis was over and it was clear the men would recover, Lestrade would want to thank Mrs Hudson for being there when he needed her, but it's nothing he could say out loud. So he had to "up" his usual "game" to convey his gratitude. Plus, since he knew about the "language of flowers," and he knew Sherlock knew that he knew, this might also serve to occupy Sherlock for a few minutes, at least, when he most needed something to divert him - a gift with two recipients, in a way.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I appreciate it.
beledibabe
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
Lovely!

Oh, boys.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 12:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked it.
darthhellokitty
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:51 am (UTC)
Oh, god, this is so lovely. Bless Mrs. Hudson and her boys.
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 12:58 pm (UTC)
I'm delighted that you liked this! Thank you so much. I do love Mrs Hudson and her boys (all three of them!). :)
amedia
Jul. 8th, 2011 01:56 am (UTC)
With a loud sigh, she shook her head. "Back then I had dreams and aspirations. Now I'd be happy if only my tenant would eat his curry." In a stage whisper, "Age, Sherlock: it's a sad business."

I absolutely love your Mrs. Hudson. I can totally see and hear her.

"'No bigger than a minute'? A curious phrase."

It is, and I'd love to know the story of where Mrs. H picked it up! I once heard a wonderful expression that related time to a person's size from a woman I was in line with at the grocery store. She and I were tut-tutting over the super-skinny models on the covers of the magazines and she said, "This girl is like six o'clock, straight up and down!"

I also loved how the mini-mystery of figuring out the language of the flowers made Sherlock feel sufficiently better to finish his food - you have a narrative gift for allowing the events of the story to speak for themselves, eloquently and softly.

ETA: Oh! And I can't believe I forgot to comment on this marvelous moment:

Knowing the Prime Minister has never assisted me in solving a case. Knowing the messages behind various flowers has proved useful on three separate occasions. For example, that mutilation in—"

It's pricelessly funny because it's pitch-perfectly IC and because it's just about to verge on the gruesome. And it's just what the story needs, like that little bit of tartness that keeps something from being too sweet.

Edited at 2011-07-08 02:06 am (UTC)
morganstuart
Jul. 8th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Your lovely comments have made my day. Thank you! I'm thrilled that my take on Mrs Hudson seems right to you. She's difficult for me to write, and I so want to do justice to her.

I loved the "six o'clock, straight up and down!" I'll have to remember that one. "No bigger than a minute" comes from my grandmother. In my tongue-in-cheek, fantasy!backstory for Mrs Hudson, she's something of a Forrest Gump character, showing up at all the major cultural events of the era. So that would mean she probably picked up that turn of phrase in the US Ozarks, perhaps while travelling with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez during the early folk music movement. You know, some years before her torrid affair with Mick Jagger, and before she went to India with the Beatles to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. *wink* LOL!

also loved how the mini-mystery of figuring out the language of the flowers made Sherlock feel sufficiently better to finish his food

Oh, it's wonderful to hear that this worked! Thanks so much for mentioning it. I was hoping that would come through. If he was in pain, and just dwelling on it, I figured he'd never eat a bite.

I also loved the idea that Lestrade would imagine his gesture as something of a gift for Sherlock as well as Mrs Hudson. Because Lestrade knew about the "language of flowers" (and he knew Sherlock knew that he knew!), he might realize the mystery/translation could serve to occupy Sherlock for a few minutes, at least, at a time when Sherlock needed something to divert him.

It's pricelessly funny because it's pitch-perfectly IC and because it's just about to verge on the gruesome.

Oh, this makes very happy! I'm so glad it worked.

I can't thank you enough for your lovely feedback. It's so helpful to know what struck the right note, and so encouraging to know you liked this. I really appreciate it!
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