Characters: Mrs Hudson, John, Jasmine (OC), dæmons
Warnings/Triggers: some mild sexual content (discussion of romance novels), depression, wounds
Spoilers: References to all three Series.
Word Count 3,255
Summary: Mrs Hudson finally makes it into the hospital to visit John, just in time to provide a little bit of comfort.
Author's notes: Fourth part of the Visit Series following after Sherlock, Molly, and Lestrade's visits.
The 'music' Jasmine plays for John is this sort of thing. Music with binaural beats and a certain number of hertz is believed to help with pain relief.
Knowledge of His Dark Materials is not required. All that's necessary to know is that, in this world, humans' souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animals. There's an excellent primer here.
For reference: Subira (a dwarf mongoose), Carwyn (a raven), Benvolio (a river otter).
Mrs Hudson did not like hospitals.
At her age, hospitals were where people went to never return. To go and become old and get pumped full of medicine and wither away while their dæmons faded into Dust. When she was a child, it was a place people went when they were very sick and they often didn't return either. Hospitals were for other things, too, she knew, like bringing life into the world. But she had never done that and she still associated them with a place to avoid at all costs, even if it was just to visit someone in there. She didn't like the idea of people she cared about being ill like that.
John had been in hospital for almost two weeks, however, and Carwyn declared it was time they went and saw him. Mrs Hudson knew he would survive now. Those first few days had been touch and go, even once he awoke. There had been a chance of all sorts of complications that Sherlock didn't hesitate to tell her about. Sherlock was worried about them himself and so needed to say them out loud to face those fears. Mrs Hudson preferred to keep her fears quiet so she didn't have to look them in the face.
“It's rather nice, for a hospital,” she said to Carwyn, as she entered the lobby.
“Well, time has moved on, Martha,” Carwyn said. “It's not like when you were young. Which floor is John on?”
“Fourth, I think,” Mrs Hudson said. “I suppose those are the lifts there.” She waited for one and rode to the fourth floor. “Oh my, there are a lot of ways to go here.”
Carwyn used a wing to point to the signs. “I think he'd be on the general surgery ward, wouldn't he?”
“Yes, that sounds right,” Mrs Hudson said. None of the other wards seemed appropriate for John's injury.
She followed the arrows until she reached the right unit. There were a few people wandering with hospital gowns and IV poles. She let them have the right of way and looked about to see if she could find John's room. 423 was the number she was looking for.
“They have them on the little plaques next to the door, like a hotel,” Carwyn said. “That's 412 there, and there's 414, so he'll be on the other side of the corridor. Up that way a bit.”
The door was closed when Mrs Hudson found it. She looked through the window and could only see through to the window in the room; the bed wasn't in view. She gave a tentative knock, not wanting to bother him if he was sleeping. The lights looked a little dim.
The door was opened a moment later by a young Afro-Caribbean woman who was pretty and pleasant looking. An otter dæmon peered around her legs, blinking with friendly, curious eyes.
“Hello there,” the woman said. “Can I help you?”
“I'm looking for John Watson,” Mrs Hudson said.
The woman gave a smile that made Mrs Hudson feel less out of place. “You've found him,” she said. “Who should I say is here?”
“Mrs Hudson,” Mrs Hudson said.
“No need to ask to come in, Mrs H, just get in here,” John's voice said.
The woman stepped back to let her pass into the room. Carwyn nuzzled Mrs Hudson's face with his beak to give her a spot of courage before they went in. She wasn't sure what she was going to find.
Whatever she might have been expecting, it wasn't this. John was laying flat out with little needles sticking out of his legs just below his knees, in the webbing of his thumbs, and one in the middle of his forehead. A stereo was placed on the table next to his bed and a strange noise was coming from it, reminding Mrs Hudson of the sounds of blood rushing through the head. Subira was dreamy looking, resting on her stomach with her paws under her head.
“This looks like one of Sherlock's experiments,” Carwyn murmured.
“Or a pagan ritual,” Mrs Hudson said.
It didn't seem to be bothering John, whatever he was having done to him. “Hey Mrs H,” he said. “Come in, sit down.”
“If you're in the middle of something, dear...” Mrs Hudson said.
“I just have to lie here. Come on and keep me company,” John said. “Jasmine's turning me into a pincushion. Did you lot get introduced?”
Jasmine got the job done, introducing herself and her dæmon, Benvolio. Carwyn bobbed his head to him and flew over to greet Subira, nuzzling her with his beak and stroking it down her back as he said hello. Mrs Hudson clasped John's outstretched hand, trying not to dislodge the needle there.
“S'just accupuncture,” John explained. “Jazz thinks poking holes in me will help reduce my stress.”
“You were nearly asleep, don't pretend you're sceptical,” Jasmine said. She slathered some lotion over her hands and went to the foot of his bed to rub his feet.
“Sit down,” John said to Mrs Hudson. “Please. It's fine. Ignore Jazz, she doesn't mind.”
“I don't,” Jasmine agreed. “I'll be out of your hair in a few minutes anyway. I'm just doing a little reflexology.”
Mrs Hudson took a seat in the chair by the bed. Carwyn flew over to her lap. She smiled at John. “It's nice to see you. I hope you don't think I was ignoring you. I just didn't want to be in your way. I never know what to do in this sort of situation. There are so many tubes and lines, I'm afraid of pulling something out.”
“I'm line-free now, so you don't have to worry,” John said. “I've not really been great company, anyway. You haven't missed out on much.”
“Sherlock says you've had the wheels off your Zimmer frame,” Mrs Hudson said. “I'm not sure what that means, exactly, but he said it as though it was a good thing.”
“Sherlock remembered that all the way from here to home?” John said, his eyebrows rising in surprise. “And then thought to tell you?”
“I ask,” Mrs Hudson explained. “I always ask when he's been to see you. And sometimes he remembers.”
John grinned. “Yeah, that sounds more like it. Anyway, it just means that I have to work a little harder to walk, which means they think I'm well enough to work harder,” he said. “So, it's a good thing, yeah. I'm thinking I'll be out of here pretty soon.”
“That will be lovely!” Mrs Hudson said. Carwyn flapped his wings with excitement. “It will be so nice to have you back home again. It's not been the same. Everything is quiet. I like having both of you there. It doesn't seem quite right with just Sherlock.”
It had brought back memories of when Sherlock had gone away and John had moved out. Those were two of the loneliest years of her life. She knew she couldn't expect the boys to live there forever—they were tenants, tenants passed through—but it had still been such a blow to her life. She'd never expected to lose Sherlock in that way—she hadn't known it was all fake at the time. It was devastating. Especially after John went away and hid from her. She'd never known joy like the two of them coming home and now there was a chance she would lose one of them again. Her heart couldn't take this up and down drama at her age.
“He hasn't blown up the place yet, has he?” John wondered.
“No, but he's certainly trying to destroy it,” Mrs Hudson said. “The mess he makes! Fingers in the sink again. If I have to pull one more thumb from the drain—flooded the whole room!”
“Martha, you're scaring Jasmine,” Carwyn scolded.
Jasmine did indeed look a little alarmed.
“I'm sorry, dear,” Mrs Hudson said. “He asks permission for the fingers first.”
Jasmine seemed to think better of responding and just returned to massaging John's feet, but Benvolio blinked in open curiosity. Mrs Hudson wasn't sure she could explain Sherlock where it would sound any better. She'd tried in the past and there was just no way to explain Sherlock to someone who didn't know him properly. He sounded mad, and Mrs Hudson supposed he was, really, but not in a bad way. He was just a little boy who didn't know what to do with himself and made mischief as a result.
“Now, how are you?” Mrs Hudson asked John. Carwyn tilted his head to one side to listen to the response. “You look like you've lost a lot of weight.”
“A lot is laying it a bit thick,” John said. “But probably a few pounds, yeah. The food here is rubbish and I haven't had that much of an appetite. I've actually started to get hungry again, though, so that's probably a good sign.” Subira shot him a playful look and chittered. “Yeah, or not. I could probably stand to keep the pounds off.”
“Tosh,” Mrs Hudson said. “You need your strength, you should be eating properly.” She reached into her handbag and pulled out a little parcel. “I did bring some scones in to have with your tea. I know you like them. I thought they might be a treat.”
Subira brightened, raising her head and sniffing the air. “Brilliant,” John said. “Thank you. People keep smuggling me in food, I should start a proper Black Market.”
Mrs Hudson placed them on the table, next to a large stack of novels. “Looks like you've been doing a lot of reading,” she said.
Carwyn went over to look at the titles. “They're all romances,” he said. He lifted his head and nodded wisely. “You shouldn't judge.”
John's grey cheeks had added a bit of pink to them. “Sherlock's got me working on a case,” he said. “A plagiarism case. Some romance novelist has been accused of using uncredited material in her books. Sherlock's been having me go through and highlight what sounds out of place and look it up in a special search engine to see if it matches anything. It's a boring case, so he's pawned it off on me.”
Mrs Hudson picked up the top book, which had a topless man in a passionate embrace with a half-dressed woman, their dæmons entwined at their feet. “Oh my,” she said. “They seem a bit rude, don't they?”
“Rude is one word,” John said. “It's like a fill-in-the-blanks. Timid, shy woman with a rabbit or mouse dæmon meets a big, manly bloke with a wolf or tiger dæmon who sweeps her off her feet, awakens her passions and has lots of sex with her. She teaches him how to be gentle and not as much of an arsehole, and they live happily ever after. Every single book, that's what happens. There's been times I've thought I was seeing a plagiarised passage only to realize it's just that it sounds so bloody similar to all her other books. Do women really like all that?” He looked between Mrs Hudson and Jasmine.
“I don't read quite those types of ones,” Mrs Hudson said. “I like the ones with counts and duchesses and heiresses running away. I like a bit of adventure in mine. But I suppose they are a bit same-y.”
“I've read a few. I wouldn't say I liked them. They're not supposed to be realistic, they're escapist,” Jasmine said. Benvolio nodded in agreement. “Sometimes we want a big, manly bloke with a wolf or tiger dæmon to have mad, passionate sex with us. It's not even about the plot or the characters. You just sort of skim through to the steamy bits.”
“Yeah, that's probably why she's got away with that much plagiarism,” John said. “No one's actually reading the in-between bits.”
“Well, it's nice to have something to keep you busy,” Mrs Hudson said, replacing the book on the pile. “I'm sure Sherlock appreciates the help.”
Subira let out a soft, sceptical snort. “He told me I had to earn my keep,” John said, with a grin. “He only took the case for the payday—we're apparently getting a massive amount of money from the publishers if we can prove the plagiarism before the release date of her latest novel. S'odd, he's not usually interested in the money. I suppose I'm not keeping up my share of the rent at the moment.”
“Now, don't worry about the rent,” Mrs Hudson said. Carwyn gave him a stern look. “Sherlock gave me his share of the rent already this month and you can pay yours when you're out again. Just a little extension. I've a little money from that scratch ticket, so I'm hardly desperate for funds.”
Subira smiled warmly at them and John looked a little relieved. “Thanks,” he said. “I will pay you, once I can get to a cashpoint.”
“I know, dear, I was never worried about that,” Mrs Hudson said. “You'd have gone to quite the extreme to dodge me to have done this to yourself to get out of paying.”
John took on a look of mock annoyance. “Crap, you're on to me,” he said. “All my plans are foiled.”
“I've always been very good at book-keeping,” Mrs Hudson said. Carwyn shifted uncomfortably. Some of her book-keeping over the years had not been very wholesome. “It's very hard to escape me. I don't take excuses from everyone, you know. Just the ones I like.”
“Well, there's me out,” John said, with a smirk.
He joked his way around affection. In some ways, he wasn't much better with it than Sherlock was. Sherlock could accept it, he just wasn't very capable of giving it. John hid his affection in jokes and teasing so that he could play it off for a laugh if it wasn't reciprocated. The two of them weren't a good pair. It was perhaps for the best they weren't involved (if indeed, they weren't, sometimes Mrs Hudson thought they acted just like a proper couple).
Subira gave John a nudge, and he lost a bit of his smirk to settle it into a smile. “Thanks,” he said.
“There's no need for that, I'm just being decent,” Mrs Hudson said.
“That's a rarity in the world,” John said.
“I hope not,” Mrs Hudson said.
Jasmine removed her hands from John's feet and wiped them on a towel, then plucked the needles from him and tossed them into the little bin with the spider hazard symbol on it. “All right, that's me done,” she said. “That should help you get some sleep.”
John nodded. “Sure,” he said. “Nothing like being poked and prodded to send you off to dreamland.”
“You'll see,” Jasmine said. Benvolio scrambled up to turn off the odd whooshing noise from the stereo and lifted it up in his arms. “You'll be ringing me up tomorrow to come back and do it again. But on the off-chance you don't, I'll see you in a few days unless you have any major problems. I think you're pretty good now, you might even be gone home by the time I come back again, but I'll drop in before you go to give you some instructions.”
“Thanks,” John said.
Jasmine gathered up the rest of her things into her bag and took the stereo from Benvolio, then slipped quietly out with a goodbye to John, Benvolio bowing to Subira with his paws clasped together.
Carwyn got on the bed to sit with Subira once they left, putting his wing over her back and his beak on her head. She made a soft, peeping noise and rolled into his side. Mrs Hudson and John smiled at each other.
“You've been having trouble sleeping?” Mrs Hudson asked.
“Yeah, just in the last few days,” John said, dismissively. “I'm not sure what that's about. The pain is a lot better. I just...feel jumpy. I think I need to get out of here. I'm sick of the bed, sick of the walls, sick of the food. I'm sick of myself.”
Mrs Hudson patted his hand. “I think that's a good thing,” she said. “It means you're well enough to be bothered. If you were still very poorly you wouldn't have the energy to be annoyed.”
“Huh, there's a theory,” John said, with a half-smile. “Puts a nice spin on it, anyway. I don't much fancy being sick, me. I much prefer when it's other people.”
“You just have to remember that if you were your patient you'd be advising yourself to keep resting and getting better,” Mrs Hudson said.
“I know, and I'd hate me,” John said. “There's a thing called ICU psychosis, you know. Old people get it when they're trapped in the hospital for too long. They lose track of time and get mental.”
“You're not mental,” Mrs Hudson scolded. “That's not a nice word. You're just out of sorts.”
“Is that what it is?” John said.
“I expect so,” Mrs Hudson said. “And you're a bit sad, I reckon.”
John flicked his head to the side in very slight acknowledgement. “I'm just a bit sick of myself,” he said, again.
Mrs Hudson reached out and took his hand, rubbing it with her thumb. “It's all right to be sad,” she said. “Don't be too brave.”
Subira made a soft, sad noise, and Carwyn pulled her right under his wing so that Mrs Hudson couldn't see her any more. John's eyes were wet, and he stuck the heel of his hand in them to wipe away the tears.
“He's just exhausted, poor thing,” Carwyn said. “I expect that's the problem. He needs a night of good sleep, then he'll feel much better.” He nodded to himself and stroked Subira with his wing, nuzzling at her head.
“I've brought a bit of knitting for myself,” Mrs Hudson said. “Why don't you turn on the telly and we'll watch something together?”
John pulled the arm with the telly on it over and they settled on Hollyoaks. Mrs Hudson pulled her knitting out and started to stitch, John fading fast in the bed. His eyes kept fluttering and he'd open them wide to keep himself awake.
“Now, I don't need to be entertained, dear,” Mrs Hudson said. “You just go to sleep if you want. I'll see myself out. I just wanted to get a good look at you, I don't mind if you aren't riveting company.”
John gave her a sleepy smile. “Cheers, Mrs H.”
He slipped off to sleep after a while, but Mrs Hudson stayed put until the end of the show because she didn't want to disturb him until he was properly off. And also she wanted to know what was going to happen on the show.
“There we go,” Carwyn said, softly. He lifted his wing and Subira snuggled into the covers. “That's a good job, Martha. I think he needed a bit of comfort. It was good that you came in today, I think. Maybe it's good that you waited. Sherlock wouldn't be very good at this sort of thing.”
He flew down to pick up a rogue ball of wool and brought it back to her, giving her cheek a nuzzle. She patted his head and stood up, pulling John's covers up properly around him. She turned the telly off and sneaked out of the room, leaving John dozing peacefully inside.