After Disaster, Tea
The protracted thudding from upstairs was enough to make a soufflé fall. Fortunately Martha hadn't made a soufflé since 1983. She waited a moment and heard nothing more. Not intruders, in that case; otherwise the ruckus would have continued as John took them to task.
Sherlock had gone out early and John had just gotten home. She knew her boys' schedules and routines as much as they had either schedules or routines to know. Someone had to keep an eye on them, after all.
Minutes passed and the continued silence from above began to feel wrong. It wasn't that either of the boys was heavy footed, but she could still usually hear a footstep or two over head when one or the other was home.
Might John have gone straight to bed after his long night at the clinic? But if he had gone straight to bed, what had caused that racket? She thought about what John normally did after a night shift. Normally, when he came home in the morning, he showered and then napped until the afternoon, depending on the rest of the day's plans.
Showered. Oh dear. She suddenly knew what had caused the noise. Grabbing the spare key for the boys' flat, she hurried upstairs as quickly as she could. She knocked first and waited for a response. When none came, she knocked again and called out John's name, putting an ear to the door. She could hear no one moving within the flat.
Still calling out to John, announcing her presence, she unlocked the door and went inside. He wasn't in the sitting room, and she hadn't expected him to be. That noise had come from the bathroom. She u-turned from the entryway into the kitchen and through there to the closed bathroom door. She hoped it wasn't locked, too, as she'd no key for that one and removing the doorknob was something she hoped to avoid.
She knocked at this second door. She heard water running on the other side. True to form, John had opted for a shower after work. "John? John, dear, are you all right? I heard a thumping."
There was no reply. "Oh dear." She tried the knob and was relieved when it turned and the door opened.
It took a moment for her to sort out the scene.
The shower rod was broken, half fallen and half suspended from the ceiling anchors, and the curtain lay askew across the tub. That blocked the water from the showerhead, sending it bouncing and splashing off the vinyl to splatter everywhere but where it belonged. Minding her footing on the wet tile floor, she hurried over and shut off the water.
"John?" She carefully pulled the curtain back, not wishing to bring the rest of the bar down on John, who was most certainly under there. Yes. There he was, at once sprawled and folded awkwardly in the tub, one foot hanging out over the side, and as unconscious as ever she'd seen him. "Oh dear!" she exclaimed again. "John!"
She grabbed the big bath towel that hung nearby and tucked it over the most personal of his naked bits. It was more for his sake than hers; at her age she was well aware of what a man's body looked like unclothed. She simply hoped to avoid any embarrassment he might feel upon waking up naked in front of her.
Awkwardly and a bit painfully, she knelt by the tub and patted at his wet cheek. "Wake up, dear. John? Come on. Time to wake up."
John groaned and his head shifted against the side of the tub. He winced before he even opened his eyes. "What--?"
"You fell in the tub, dear. Are you hurt anywhere but your head?"
He tried to sit up but his hand slipped against the porcelain. She reached out to steady him at his shoulder.
"Careful. It's slippery."
He pulled his limbs together from where they'd splayed in his fall and she helped him upright into a proper sitting position.
"Of course, dear."
He put a hand to the back of his head and winced again. "Helluva goose egg." He peered at his fingers. "Not bleeding. That's good."
"I'll get you an ice pack, shall I?"
"That'd be-- Yeah. Thanks."
She pushed herself to standing with aid from the edge of the tub. "Can you get to your feet on your own?"
"Umm..." He appeared to finally be realising the position he was in: naked and barely covered by a towel in front of his landlady. He shifted a bit, testing his mobility and steadiness. "I wish I could say yes, but--"
"That's all right, dear. Let me get my footing here and then--" She made certain her feet were secure on the tiles, and then braced one leg against the tub. "All right. Up you come."
Together they got John from the bathtub, losing the towel in the operation. Once he was steady enough, she transferred his grip from her arm to the sink and reclaimed the towel for him. "Here you are. You wrap up and have a sit down. I'll be right back with ice."
He thanked her again and she bustled out to the kitchen.
By the time she'd bagged up some ice and wrapped it in a kitchen towel, John had managed to don his bathrobe and find a seat on the sofa. She handed him the ice pack. "Here you are. I'll put the kettle on for tea, shall I?" Not waiting for an answer, she popped back into the kitchen, filled the kettle, and set about putting together a bite of something to go with the tea. She found crackers in the cupboard and set them on a tray on the table. "I'm not going to find anything nasty if I open the fridge, am I?" She had dared the freezer because it was necessary. This time she wanted a warning, just in case.
"I don't think so."
"Hm." She opened the refrigerator and without looking around too much gathered up cheese and a bag of grapes--shockingly ordinary things to find in the boys' kitchen, she thought with relief. Soon enough, she emerged with a tray of nibbles and the tea. She set it all on the coffee table in front of John. "There. That should fortify you. Do you need me to call Sherlock for you?"
"No thanks. I'll be fine in a bit. No need to distract him with trifles right now."
"Hardly a trifle, dear. You could have been seriously hurt." But she dropped the subject after that. She had no doubt John would receive sympathy from his flatmate in whatever particular fashion Sherlock might privately express it. "Do you need anything else?"
"Your company? Unless you're busy. I feel like I've got a bit of concussion and as tired as I already am..." He looked hopeful and apologetic.
"You're 'fine', are you, you concussed boy?" She shook her head. "Of course I'll stay." She fetched a second mug for herself and took a seat.
"You're a treasure, Mrs Hudson."
She smiled. "Drink your tea."
Not more than an hour later, Sherlock returned home to an unusual scene for which his keen eyes and quick mind rapidly deduced an accurate explanation. "You're all right, John?" he asked immediately, kneeling down between the table and the sofa to get a good look into John's face.
"Headache the size of an elephant but yeah. All right."
Sherlock rose and turned in one fluid motion. "Thank you, Mrs Hudson. I've no doubt you've been extremely helpful."
Martha stood, not at all offended to be dismissed so politely but definitely. "Now that you're here, I can get on with my baking." It was a ruse they all understood. She was in no rush to bake anything. She simply knew they wanted their privacy--and they knew she knew it.
"Thank you again, Mrs Hudson," said John. "Sorry to have caused you alarm."
"Don't mention it, dear." She paused at the door. "Let me know if you boys can't fix that curtain rod yourselves. I can get someone in to do it. I'll simply add the charge to your next month's rent." She closed the door behind her with an impish grin. She did so enjoy teasing them once in a while.
Back downstairs, she went first into her own kitchen. Perhaps she would bake something after all. She pulled out an old, worn copy of Julia Child and went looking for a recipe for chocolate soufflé.