Coming home next Weds. to see you and Mrs H. Working strange hours so any problems contact M.
John smiled as he flipped the postcard back over, shaking his head at the cartoon on the front with its allegedly hilarious gag about breaking wind. No doubt Sherlock hadn’t even looked at it before buying and sending the thing.
Mrs Hudson had sent word to both John and Sherlock the week before to inform them she’d be returning to London the coming Wednesday. Both men had been pleased at the news - Sherlock because he knew Mrs Hudson wouldn’t stand for John not taking care of himself and John because he imagined there might actually be something for him to do now that Mrs Hudson was back - repair work on the house, perhaps, and there would at least be some company in the evenings should he want it.
More cheerful than he’d been in days, since Sherlock’s last letter, John managed the stairs with relative ease, the card from Sherlock and a couple of other letters clutched tightly in his hand. He went back into the flat and switched the wireless on, humming under his breath as he went to fill the kettle. He grinned at the photograph of Sherlock in his Home Guard uniform, looking incredibly surly, that he’d rested against one of the canisters. He’d have to see about getting that one framed.
‘You’ve beaten Sherlock to it, Mrs Hudson,’ John said, grinning widely as he stepped out onto the street to meet Mrs Hudson, who had just climbed out of a taxi, suitcases full of her belongings being stacked next to the door by the driver.
‘Oh, John, look at you!’ Mrs Hudson pressed a kiss to his cheek and embraced him briefly, the familiar smell of her lavender perfume rubbing off on John’s shirt collar. She held him at arm’s length and looked him up and down. ‘Much better than when I saw you last,’ she said with a pleased nod, her blue felt hat dropping a couple of inches lower.
‘Well, I was in a hospital bed with a hole in my shoulder when you saw me last,’ John said, kissing Mrs Hudson’s cheek as she’d kissed his. ‘It’s lovely to see you.’
‘Likewise.’ She beamed at John and patted his shoulder, going to settle up with the driver.
A red bus rounded the corner just as John bent to take one of the larger cases inside, rolling his shirt sleeves to his elbow and bracing his weight on his good leg, grasping the handle.
‘John!’ a deep voice called just as John was about to straighten and pick the case up. He turned his head so that he was facing the road and smiled when he saw Sherlock launch himself from the back of the moving bus, coat and scarf flying behind him as he landed, graceful as ever, on the road, one hand holding his hat on his head.
‘Sherlock!’ Mrs Hudson exclaimed. ‘What on earth do you think you’re doing, young man, throwing yourself off the back of a bus like that? You’ll do yourself an injury, you will, and I won’t be the one putting you back together--’ she stopped talking abruptly as Sherlock swept her into a tight hug, kissing her soundly on the cheek.
‘I’ve missed you too, Mrs Hudson,’ he said, grinning widely and hugging her again. ‘The place has been falling down without you here - quite literally, as you’ve no doubt heard.’ He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her towards the door, bending to pick up one of the cases next to the step.
John was waiting just inside. ‘I’ll let you do the honours, Mrs Hudson,’ he said, smiling as he handed his and Sherlock’s spare set of keys over to her.
Eyes wrinkling with her smile, Mrs Hudson took the keys from John and slipped one into the lock.
‘Hello,’ John said quietly to Sherlock whilst her back was turned, squeezing his arm.
‘Hello,’ Sherlock replied, taking John’s hand in what could be mistaken for shaking it, rubbing his thumb over the soft inside of John’s wrist. ‘I’ve missed you,’ he whispered as Mrs Hudson stepped inside her flat and laughed gleefully, flipping the light on.
The morning sun poured into the dusty hallway from the open door.
‘I’ve missed you too,’ John murmured with a sad smile, squeezing Sherlock’s hand before letting it go. ‘Come on, let’s get everything in for her.’
An hour later, after taking the dust sheets off Mrs Hudson’s furniture and putting her suitcases of belongings in the appropriate rooms in her flat, the three of them were sitting at the kitchen table in 221b. John fussed with a pot of tea as Mrs Hudson opened a tin full of things to eat she’d brought with her, laying the crab paste sandwiches and slices of dripping cake out on a plate.
Sherlock was in the sitting room, bent over the gramophone. He’d spent five minutes flipping through his and John’s record collection and had selected a few that he knew to be either Mrs Hudson’s or John’s favourites. He rested the needle on the record he picked off the top of the shortlisted pile and went back into the kitchen, the gramophone crackling to life, cheerful piano music filling the flat.
‘Oh, I do like this one,’ Mrs Hudson said, brushing the crumbs off her hands into the bin.
‘I know you do,’ Sherlock replied, taking advantage of her turned back to squeeze John’s shoulder affectionately.
Seated at the table, John smiled up at Sherlock and pushed a chair out for him. ‘Sit down,’ he said, reaching into Sherlock’s pocket and taking his cigarettes and lighter out.
Sherlock pulled Mrs Hudson’s chair out for her, kissing the top of her head before he sat himself at the head of the table. He took the cigarette John had pushed out of the packet for him and put it in between his lips, leaning forwards, placing the tip in the small orange flame that snapped up when John flicked the wheel of the lighter.
‘Care for one, Mrs Hudson?’ John asked, holding the box out to her with his shaking left hand.
‘Thank you, dear.’ Once Sherlock’s cigarette was lit, John leant over the table to light Mrs Hudson’s for her. Cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Sherlock poured the tea, doing John’s last so it would be strongest. He added sugar to both his and John’s cups, along with a splash of milk for all three of them that John had made up from powder that morning.
‘I have missed you both,’ Mrs Hudson said after she’d inhaled deeply from her fag, looking a bit misty round the eyes as she reached to hold John’s trembling hand.
‘Well, you’re back now, so you needn’t spend any more time missing us,’ Sherlock said, blowing a lungful of smoke above their heads before sipping his tea. His shin was pressed against the back of John’s calf underneath the table.
‘Oh, you’re quite right. It won’t half be a relief to be back in my own home, I can tell you.’
‘I know the feeling,’ Sherlock said. John smiled at him.
‘How’s your sister?’
Mrs Hudson pursed her lips. ‘I’ve never known anyone to fuss about things like she does, Doctor Watson. Shot my nerves to pieces, she did, carrying on about bombs and death and how frightened she was.’ She drew some smoke in quickly. ‘She’s not been the same since her George was killed during the last war and I shouldn’t be unkind, but...’
John smiled, drinking his tea. ‘I can imagine she’s been quite a trial.’
‘I forgot how nicely diplomatic you are about these sorts of things,’ Mrs Hudson said, raising her eyebrows and exhaling steadily.
Sherlock chuckled, getting up and changing the record when Stardust reached its end and began to hiss. It was a sunny day for March and the usually gloomy kitchen was bathed in a warm light that came from both its own window as well as the windows in the living room. Sherlock’s hair was tinted auburn where he stood, slipping the record back into its sleeve, humming under his breath. John’s hair was blonder than usual and the lines on his face less deep.
‘Let’s see about some sandwiches, shall we?’ Mrs Hudson inhaled from her cigarette a final time before stubbing it out in her saucer, handing John one of the small plates sitting in a stack in the middle of the table. ‘I’m sorry it’s nothing special, but I don’t need to tell you what a game it is getting a decent bit of food these days...’
Smiling, John shook his head. ‘You certainly don’t,’ he said as Sherlock returned to the table, taking a small triangular sandwich for himself, biting into it and moving round the kitchen in a quick solo foxtrot to the record he’d put on, one hand on his chest and the other holding his sandwich aloft as he twisted and turned, sashaying his hips.
‘Oh, Sherlock, you silly thing!’ Mrs Hudson exclaimed, pressing her hand to her mouth as she giggled. ‘Sit down, sit down, come on, we don’t want you choking.’ Sherlock kissed the top of her head again and took his seat, sipping his tea.
‘Idiot,’ John said, grinning, pushing a plate with a slice of dripping cake on it towards Sherlock.
Sherlock grinned back, wide and easy, curls tumbling over his brow.
Mrs Hudson went back to her own flat a few hours later, after tea. Sherlock had gone and bought another loaf of bread and they’d had some of it with the jam Mrs Hudson had made in Kent and brought with her rather than open one of the scant few tins in the cupboard. John had gathered the crockery off the table and was now standing at the sink, washing up, as Sherlock fiddled with the gramophone. The needle scratched gently against the record as Sherlock placed it at the edge, static crackling for a couple of seconds before Moonlight Serenade began to play.
Long arms wrapped around John’s waist as Sherlock pressed himself against John’s back. ‘Care to dance?’ he murmured, resting his chin on John’s shoulder and looking out of the window. The sunshine had gone, replaced by dark clouds, threatening rain.
John laughed, lifting a mug out of the murky water and placing it on the draining board. He turned and caught Sherlock’s lips in a soft kiss, lifting one wet, slightly soapy hand out of the water to touch to Sherlock’s jaw. ‘I don’t dare, not with this leg.’
‘Pity,’ Sherlock murmured, kissing John’s temple and resting his forehead against it, closing his eyes. ‘How’ve you been?’
‘Fine,’ John replied, wiping the dishcloth over the plates they’d used. ‘That photograph of you in your uniform improved my week no end.’
‘Oh, don’t I look ridiculous?’ Sherlock muttered, kissing the top of John's ear.
‘I thought you looked rather handsome.’
‘Wrong. I look a fool. I expressly told them that I wasn’t having any of it, playing at soldiers in a field, for God’s sake. It would be bad enough if it was just with the others at BP, but there’s dozens of old boys from the Somme and every other stretch of mud from Ypres to sodding Verdun bawling about jerries and--’
‘Oi, have a bit of respect,’ John said, turning to frown at Sherlock. ‘It’s easy for you and all of your clever chums to sneer when you’ve never slept in a trench or been shot at.’
Sherlock flushed and looked away. John kissed his forehead. ‘It’s not much of an ask, Sherlock, playing at soldiers a couple of times a week,’ he said quietly, drying his hands on the teatowel hanging on a peg underneath the sink before turning and pulling Sherlock into a tight hug.
‘You really like the uniform?’ Sherlock mumbled into John’s shoulder, the bridge of his nose and his cheeks still pink.
John laughed. ‘You look smashing. I want to see about a frame for it, even if you’ve got a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp. Here.’ He slid his right hand onto Sherlock’s back and moved Sherlock’s left hand onto his shoulder, interlacing the fingers of their other hands and stepping close enough that their chests were brushing. ‘You wanted to dance.’
Glancing at John, Sherlock began to move backwards as John led them in a faltering box step to the music. They reached the living room and Sherlock stretched one of his arms out to start the record again. He pressed his lips to John’s forehead for a long moment as they moved slowly around the sitting room, John wincing every now and again.
‘I stand... at your gate... and the song that I sing is of moonlight,’ Sherlock murmured into John’s ear along with the music.
‘Escaped being erased, this one, has it?’ John asked with a smile, glancing over Sherlock’s shoulder and sighing in relief when he saw the door was locked.
‘Music never gets erased, John, no matter how awful it is,’ Sherlock replied. ‘Shh.’
They danced until the end of the song, John dropping down onto the sofa as soon as it had finished. Sherlock lay down next to him, resting his head in John’s lap. Rain began to tap at the windows, the clouds having moved closer and grown darker. John turned the lamp next to them on and carded his fingers through Sherlock’s hair as the gramophone hissed quietly.
‘No pomade today?’ John asked, scratching Sherlock’s scalp.
‘I know you don’t like it.’
‘You just don’t look like... you.’ John bent and kissed Sherlock, tracing the curve of his jawline.
‘I ought to go soon,’ Sherlock whispered, reaching up to straighten the knot of John’s tie. ‘I’m on duty in the morning.’
John sighed and nodded. ‘Alright.’ He kissed Sherlock again. ‘I’ll see you next week, though?’
‘Next Friday, yes. I’ll meet you at the station at ten.’
‘And it’s not long until Easter.’
‘No.’ Sherlock was quiet for a minute, though he caught and held John’s left hand, bringing it to his lips. The tremor made John’s knuckles brush back and forth over Sherlock’s mouth. ‘Will this rotten business ever end?’ Sherlock asked, eyes closed.
The rain started to come down hard, pelting at the windows
‘One day,’ John said, his voice quiet. ‘One day.’