“Can I come up?” Greg asked, in lieu of kissing John goodnight at the front door.
“Rosie’ll be asleep in my room, but you can come up for a night cap,” John offered, silently damning the construction crew for not having 221C habitable just yet.
“Not that I wouldn’t want to stay, but I’m more interested in seeing how Sherlock held up tonight,” Greg answered with a sparkle in his eye.
John laughed. While he did trust Sherlock with his life, and Rosie’s too, tonight was the first time he’d watched Rosie by himself. Mrs. Hudson was on a lovely Mediterranean cruise and Molly had taken a weekend holiday with her newest beau, a friendly bloke who didn’t seem sociopathic in the slightest. John was happy for her.
Sherlock had assured them that he’d have no trouble with Rosie. “She’s a child, John. How hard can it be?”
“She’s three ,” Greg emphasised, but Sherlock waved him off.
“Yes, emotionally and intellectually on par with Gladstone,” Sherlock gestured to John’s dog, “And I think I’ve trained him well.”
John and Greg had shared a look, but John shrugged. “Just keep her safe. Text me if there’s a problem.”
As he’d received no text, not even a complaint, John had to assume the night had gone well. He and Greg climbed the stairs and opened the door.
“Sherlock!” John exclaimed. His flatmate was sitting in the window sill, a cigarette dangling from one hand and a half full ashtray beside the other. “I thought we discussed no smoking in the house!”
Sherlock turned slowly to John, eyes weary. “She’s in your room watching Peppa. No secondhand smoke in there.”
“Why are you smoking at all?”
“It’s been a trying evening.”
Greg bit back a chuckle and John elbowed him slightly to shut him up. “What happened?”
Sherlock dramatically waved his hand, sending ash onto the floor. “What didn’t?”
John sighed. He’d worried Sherlock might underestimate Rosie. “That bad, huh?”
“Did you know, you cannot reason with someone who has no desire to listen to reason?”
This time, Greg didn’t catch himself, and he laughed out loud. “Welcome to parenthood,” he teased.
“I don’t recall her being this obstinate, nor this crafty for John. Nor Molly. Nor Mrs. Hudson.”
“Well of course not,” Greg supplied, “She knows she can’t get away with it with them.”
“What should that matter?”
“Says the smartarse consulting detective who can only work with Greg, since none of the other DIs can handle him,” John pointed out.
Sherlock rolled his eyes.
“So, are you just going to whine about it, or are you going to tell me what happened?”
“After you left, I made her dinner. When I went to fetch her from your room, I discovered she’d locked the door. I asked her to open the door. She laughed. I had to come back downstairs to get the lockpicks to free her.”
Sherlock took another drag of his cigarette and slowly exhaled. “I discovered why she’d locked the door. Because she knew that taking the thick black permanent marker and drawing all over the floors and walls was not allowed.”
Greg grimaced while John just pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I took the marker away, set her on her time out bench, then went to fetch the surgical spirits from the bathroom to clean the floors. By the time I returned, she’d locked the door again. I went to my lock picks again, but of course, my lock picks were still in your room. So then I had to rifle through the drawers to find suitable replacements. And while I can, I assure you, I do not enjoy trying to pick a lock with a spare bit of metal and a skewer.
“I could hear her jumping on your bed and giggling, up until the moment I unlocked the door, at which point she was back in time out, acting as innocent as any hooligan might. I made her sit until I’d cleaned up the ink, then brought her down for dinner. Which of course, was now cold, much to Rosie's disgust.”
“I was washing my hands of the ink, so she attempted to bring her plate to the microwave herself. Needless to say, the risotto ended up all over the floor.” Sherlock flicked the ash out the window, then took another huff. “At least Gladstone was well fed.”
“Oh, but the dairy,” John lamented.
“Quite right. Your dog’s flatulence was certainly symbolic of the rest of evening.”
Greg make a choking noise, and John turned to find him red from holding in his laughter.
“God, Sherlock, I’m so sorry,” John apologised.
“Oh, I’m not done yet,” Sherlock snipped. “I warmed another plate of risotto and sat her down to eat. I knew better to leave her alone, so I sat with her. Which did nothing to prevent Gladstone from finding a new chew toy.”
Sherlock held up a mangled bit of plastic. “My pocket magnifying glass. As I attempted to wrangle it from the dog, your daughter announced she needed to use the restroom. Glad as I was she was able to reach the toilet in time, I was less thrilled when I heard the water from the bathtub faucet running. I abandoned Gladstone to turn the water off, only to find myself confronted with yet another-” Sherlock stabbed his cigarette out in the ashtray, “Locked door.”
John covered his mouth to hide his smile. He felt bad for Sherlock, but thought he might finally get Sherlock to understand that raising children was not a ‘simple matter of reason and willpower, really John, how can you let yourself be outsmarted by a three year old?’
“Yes, I suppose it’s all very humorous when it’s not happening to you.”
“We did try to warn you,” Greg managed to say without cracking up.
“Indeed,” Sherlock lit up another cigarette, ignoring John’s frown. “Concerned for your daughter's safety, I did not take my time picking the lock, but just broke the door down. Rosie giggled, sitting in the bath fully dressed, splashing in water up to her belly button and covered in my roseleaf soap.”
“I’ll buy you another,” John interjected, wishing Sherlock’s soap didn’t cost twenty pounds a bottle.
“That was the least of my worries. A sopping child, drenched in soap, is very difficult to catch, and even more difficult to peel out of wet clothes. Once I’d dried her off and placed her in her teddy bear pajamas, I allowed her to play on my bed while she watched Sarah & Duck on her tablet. I changed out of my wet clothes in the bathroom, watching her through the window. I took her and the wet clothes down to the machines, then brought her back up.”
“Well, she does love Sarah & Duck. Did that help?”
“For about five minutes. And then I made the mistake of taking a piss.”
Greg winced while John dropped his head into his hands. “Then what?”
“I walked back into the room to find Rosie with the pot of risotto in her lap, scooping it out with her little fists as though I had been starving her all night, and beside her was Gladstone, gnawing on a brand new bone.”
“Bone? But I didn’t-” John stopped, “Oh no, oh god no, tell me it wasn’t-”
“Yes, the humerus of a 51 year old diabetic that I got from Molly just yesterday.”
“But how?” John asked, astounded, “That drawer was-”
“Locked. Yes, I know. It seems your daughter has a talent for both locking and unlocking locks.”
“ Christ .”
“Was not of assistance this evening.”
“So then I retrieved the bone from a very stubborn Gladstone, stripped the child once again, along with my sheets, and brought her back down to the washing for a new load. Which is when I discovered that my roseleaf soap, in large amounts, creates clouds of bubbles that spew from the machine and cover the floors. At which point, I simply dropped the sheets into the bubbles and walked away.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“I came upstairs, bathed both her and the dog, then placed Rosie in her pen with Peppa on the telly and came in here for a smoke. At least she’s not escaped her pen yet.” Sherlock took another drag before being interrupted.
“Daddy!” A blur flew through the room and attached itself to John’s leg.
Sherlock scowled and chucked the last of the cigarette out the window.
“Rosie, sweetie!” John hoisted her up, “How was your evening?”
“Good. Sherwock made bubbles! Lots of bubbles. A mountain. And they were on the floor and my clothes and Gladstone are in the bubbles.”
“I heard.” John tried to look cross, then asked, “Gladstone is in the bubbles?”
John looked around, not seeing the dog anywhere. “Gladstone?” he called out, then looked to Greg.
“I’ll go check.”
Ten minutes later, after a stern talking to about locking doors, Rosie had apologised and sat cuddled on John’s lap.
The door swung open, revealing Greg, grasping a struggling Gladstone under two front legs. Both he and the dog were drenched, reeking of Sherlock’s shampoo, and a load of bubbles sat perched on Greg’s head in the shape of a bowler hat.
John’s eyes opened wide. Rosie clapped her hands gleefully from John’s lap.
To everyone’s surprise, deep, genuine laughter echoed throughout the room. Sherlock had finally cracked. John looked to him with concern, but Sherlock was smiling wide and wiping tears from his face as he gasped. Rosie laughed in response, then John and even Greg joined in.
Peals of laughter echoed through the room for several minutes before its occupants calmed enough to speak again. Rosie had climbed from John’s lap to Sherlock’s, Greg had given John his bowler hat bubbles, and they all settled down in a much more peaceful mood than had graced the room when John and Greg first arrived.
“So,” John began after a moment of quiet, “Same time next week?”
Greg bust out laughing once more, and Sherlock looked stricken. But then a wry smile came over his face.
“I’ll be out of town. But you could always ask Mycroft.”