"Come down and visit," her sister had said. "What's the harm? It will be fun. You'll get a bit of a break from your renters, you'll be able to spend some time with the kids, and the fresh air will do you a world of good."
Martha Hudson made a mental note to never, ever listen to her sister again.
"So this is your flat?" Edna Fisher wandered around the kitchen, not even trying to be subtle about her curiosity. She picked up a plate and flicked it with her fingernail. The resulting ping made a smug smile cross her lips as she set it back down and swept a finger across the counter. "It's... very quaint, Martha."
"Thank you," Martha said flatly, silently cursing the day that she had chosen to run to the grocer with her niece. She'd run into Edna and, after a bit of chat, she had, in the way of being polite, extended an invitation for Edna to drop by 221 Baker Street any time she was in London. She had never actually expected Edna to take her up on the offer. She thought somewhat longingly of her plans for a quiet day spent with an herbal soother in front of the telly and sighed. "Shall I make us a cuppa?"
"That would be lovely." Edna sat down at the table without being asked and continued to look around, taking in every detail. "I was rather hoping your son and his husband would be around so that I could meet them as well."
The kettle nearly slipped from Martha's hands. She tightened her grip at the very last second and worked hard to make her voice come out calmly. "No, I'm afraid not, dear. They're quite busy."
"What a pity." Edna was visibly disappointed. "I was looking forward to meeting the famous Sherlock Holmes, but if they're not around, I suppose that's alright. Did you know, Martha, that my boy Andrew was just recently promoted to the head of his law firm? And Lucy is getting married to a very respectable young boy. I heard he may have a relative in the royal family." She beamed.
"How nice for you," Martha murmured, putting the kettle on to boil. She got out some biscuits and put them on the table. "I'm sorry, I don't know when Sherlock or John will be back. Always out solving cases, those two."
Edna nodded slowly. "Well, I suppose we'll have to have a chat, just the two of us. I must tell you about Marigold. She's having twins, you know, but they're not sure who the father is. I think - "
Fortunately, Martha never had to hear any more about what Edna thought of Marigold's twins. Edna fell silent when she heard a door outside the flat slam shut, followed by the sound of male laughter. One higher-pitched and giggly, the other low and deep and rumbly. Her eyes lit up and she was out of her seat and striding back towards the door before Martha could stop her.
"As I live and breathe, Sherlock Holmes!"
Sherlock and John both turned to stare at the tall, grey-haired woman that had flown out of their landlady's flat. She was advancing towards Sherlock with manic glee dancing in her eyes. Sherlock actually took a half-step backwards, causing John to give him an amused stare over his shoulder.
"Do we know you?" John asked politely.
"Oh, and you must be Doctor John Watson." Edna was beaming. "What a terrible time it was for you, Doctor, with that all that silly little business with that detestable Richard Brooks."
John tensed, his polite smile tightening fractionally. "Thank you," he said stiffly.
"Edna, the tea is on," Martha said somewhat desperately. Of all the times for the boys to return! She just hoped she could get Edna out of the crossfire before she pushed one or both of them too far. "Won't you come and tell me about Marigold's twins?"
"Not now, Martha, I came here today just so I could meet your boys," Edna protested. "After you told me about them, I knew I just had to drop by and meet them!" She turned to Sherlock and smiled. "It's a shame I didn't have the chance to meet you before, young man. You would've been an excellent match for my Lucy if you'd been inclined that way."
Sherlock stared at her for a long moment without responding, mercurial eyes taking in every detail, mind whirling. John twitched, torn between stopping Sherlock before he could launch into Edna's life story and letting the detective chase the annoying woman away. Fortunately, he didn't have to do either, because a second later a surprisingly genuine smile lit up Sherlock's face. John and Martha exchanged baffled looks.
"Indeed it is a pity, but John and I are very happy," he said, sliding an arm around John's shoulders. He pulled the shorter man closer so that there was no space left between their bodies. One of John's eyebrows rose to his hairline, but fortunately he was familiar enough with Sherlock's strange little plans to remain silent. "I'm sorry, my mother has never mentioned you and we weren't properly introduced. You are?"
"Edna Fisher." She stuck out her hand and Sherlock grasped it tentatively for about two seconds before letting go. "Won't you join us for a cuppa? Martha's just put the kettle on."
"You can come upstairs," said John, resting his hand on Sherlock's opposite hip. He was starting to catch on. "It won't be as good as the way Mum does it, but we'll manage."
Martha flushed. "Oh, you don't need to do that, dear - "
"It's no problem." John slipped out from under Sherlock's arm and hurried up the stairs. Edna seized Martha's arm and physically pulled her along, leaving Sherlock to bring up the rear.
Edna looked around eagerly once they were in the boy's apartment. Her eyes widened at the sight of the skull and the other somewhat macabre decorations, but she seemed to have enough sense to know that her opinions should be kept silent this time. Martha sat down on the couch while Sherlock and John went into the kitchen. Their voices could be heard rising and falling in a low murmur, accompanied by the clinking of dishes as someone - presumably John - put the kettle on to boil.
"They're wonderful," Edna said, and Martha jumped.
"Your son and his husband." Edna looked a little wistful. "I can tell that both of them love you very much."
"I am fortunate," Martha agreed, her eyes softening. Sherlock could be a pain sometimes, and if he didn't stop putting holes in her walls and floors she was going to kill him, but she truly loved him. And there weren't enough positive things about John, who was Sherlock's perfect match whether he knew it or not.
John brought them both out a cup of tea then, and he was smiling, though it looked noticeably more strained as he retreated into the kitchen. Martha took a sip of her tea and then started, nearly slopping it down the front of her sweater when the door suddenly opened.
"Go away, Mycroft!" Sherlock shouted.
Mycroft Holmes rolled his eyes. He nodded to the women and walked into the kitchen without waiting for permission. "Control yourself, Sherlock. I am only here to get the chip, nothing more."
"I don't have to give it to you. I'm the one who retrieved it."
"That chip is a matter of national security, Sherlock."
"Then you shouldn't have lost it!"
"Who was that?" Edna asked curiously, plunking a sugar cube into her tea.
"Sherlock's brother." Too late, Martha realized what that implied.
"You have another son?" Edna's voice was loud - too loud, Martha realized when the squabbling in the kitchen suddenly went silent. "Martha, I had no idea. Why didn't you tell me?"
Martha opened her mouth and then closed it. She was speechless.
"She didn't tell you because her oldest son isn't very bright. And he's fat, too." Sherlock stomped across the floor, heading for his violin. He picked the instrument up and moodily plucked at one of the strings.
"Sherlock!" John snapped, standing in the doorway. He turned to Edna. "Mycroft occupies a very important place in the government," he explained tersely. "It's generally for the best if no one knows what, exactly, that entails."
It didn't really explain why a mother wouldn't mention her own son, but Edna looked too awed to care. "How marvellous," she breathed.
Mycroft appeared in the doorway beside John, tucking something into the pocket of his jacket. "It's a minor position, nothing to get overly excited about," he said, giving her a disarming smile.
"Oh I'm sure that's not the case," Martha said quickly. Even if it was all a lie, she couldn't help enjoying this. It felt so good to get something over on Edna for once, to see her stand there and gawp, unable to formulate a good defense against three young men with bright futures. "Any position in the government is something to be proud of, Mycroft."
He looked at her and something odd flashed over his face. For a moment, he almost seemed to have been struck speechless before he was able to shake it off. "Yes, Mum, you're quite correct. I'm sorry to leave so quickly when you have a guest, but I've left a lot of people in charge of things that they're really not equipped to handle." He strode across the room and, surprising everyone, including himself, bent to give her a kiss on the cheek. Sherlock's jaw dropped as Mycroft straightened up again. "Sherlock. John. Ms. Fisher."
"How did he know my name?" Edna whispered once he was gone. She looked a bit terrified.
"It's a Holmes thing," said John. "They're all bloody annoying that way. I'm glad you're not one of them, Mum."
"I wouldn't mind," Martha said quietly. She could think of worse things in life than to be the biological mother of two men like Sherlock and Mycroft.
Sherlock glanced at her and frowned before he sat down on the sofa. Martha took a place in John's armchair when John sat down beside Sherlock, close enough that their knees brushed together. Edna took the last remaining place in the room, though she seemed noticeably more distracted than she had before. Almost restless. John began telling a few stories about his and Sherlock's adventures, and although it was evident that she was listening with an avid ear, she kept looking at the door.
Martha drank her tea, shaking her head affectionately as John started drifting off mid-word. His eyes kept closing and his chin would sink down onto his chest before he'd jerk himself awake and continue. Sherlock just smiled indulgently and absently rubbed the back of John's neck with his hand, clearly lost in a world of his own. Knowing that it was time for them to leave, she caught Edna's eyes and both of them stood up.
"It was lovely to meet you," Edna said in a whisper as John's head fell forward again.
"And you." Sherlock didn't even look at her. His attention was all on John. There was a softness in his eyes as he tilted John back to lean against him more firmly. John curled into him willingly, nuzzling his head against Sherlock's stomach with a sigh.
"I'll show you out," Martha told her, keeping her voice quiet. They slipped through the door and went down the steps.
"You have a lovely family, Martha," Edna said as she fetched her coat and purse.
"I do, don't I?"
"I would say I'm sorry for barging in, but I'm not. It was a joy to meet all of your sons."
"It's quite alright." And it was. Martha was already planning what she would do to make it up to John and Sherlock, starting with ignoring the next few experiments that went wrong. Maybe.
"I'll talk to you later, then?"
The second the door was closed, Martha hurried back up the stairs to speak to Sherlock and apologize. She stopped short when she saw that Sherlock's eyes were closed, his head resting on top of John's hair. A warm smile crossed her face and she tip-toed over to the closet. John kept a dreadful orange blanket in there that seemed to be some sort of private joke between the two of them. She fetched it and spread it over their bodies, tucking them in securely. Sherlock's eyes opened and he blinked at her.
"Go back to sleep, love," she whispered tenderly. "Thank you so much for playing along, Sherlock."
"It was no problem. I should tell you, though, for future reference that Edna's son is being sued for sexual harassment and her daughter is a lesbian." He yawned.
Martha swallowed a laugh. "I'll remember that the next time I have to sit through her stories. Good night, Sherlock."
"Good night, Mum."
It was spoken so softly she barely heard it, but there it was. Martha's smile broadened and she ran her hand over his curls before she retreated to the door, pausing to look back at them just before she went through. For all that they had brought trouble into her life, she wouldn't have wanted her boys any other way.