“What do I say, John?” Sherlock stuffed his hands into his pockets. “I know it’s customary for one to speak to the deceased, ridiculous a ritual though it may be.”
“I don’t know, love,” John said, crouching in order to sweep the packed snow off the gravestone. He brushed his bare fingers over the name and dates, ignoring the bitterly cold marble. “You’re the one who knew him. And it’s not customary, it’s just...sometimes people find comfort in it. Even if you know they can’t hear you. Just...do whatever feels right, yeah?”
“None of this was right,” Sherlock said, and John rose to his feet in order to squeeze his elbow.
“I know.” He balled his hands into fists and stuffed them in his jacket, and they spent a quiet moment staring at the name. The cemetery was deserted and there was an eerie stillness to the place, the kind of ringing silence that often accompanied a recent snowfall. The world was white, from the ground to the sky, and the horizon blurred so that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began. Only the bare brown of the trees broke up the landscape, and the gray of the lonely graves.
“When was the last time you were here?” John asked finally.
“The day he was buried,” Sherlock answered. “It’s...irrational to visit cemeteries. Pointless. The dead are dead; it’s a waste of time to pretend otherwise.”
“And yet, here you are,” John said, and then amended, “Here we are.”
“Indeed. Though I can find no logical reason as to why it seemed...appropriate.” Sherlock scowled at the gravestone.
“Sometimes things just feel right, and we’ve no idea why,” John told him. He nodded at the grave. “You could always tell me about him, you know. Instead of talking to a headstone.”
Sherlock blinked, and then glanced over at him. “What would you like to know?”
“What would you like to tell?” John asked instead. “I should probably know a bit about the child my son is named after, yeah?”
“I’ve told you about him,” Sherlock said, frowning.
“I know of him, yes. But not about him.” John shuffled his numbing feet. “There’s a difference.”
“Is there,” Sherlock mused. “He smiled a lot.”
His eyes met John’s, questioning. Is this right?
John gave him a reassuring nod. “Did he?”
Sherlock looked away, focusing his gaze off somewhere in the middle distance. “It was obnoxious, really, how much he smiled. No one should have reason to be that happy.”
John chuckled. “Well, knowing who his father was, I’m sure he had good reason to be.”
Sherlock blinked. “Do you believe so?”
“Yes. Yes, of course,” John said softly. “Was that ever something you doubted?”
“He lived most of his life in hospitals and in pain.” Sherlock hunched his shoulders. “I can’t imagine what there was for him to be so pleased about.”
“I can,” John said immediately. He nudged Sherlock with his shoulder. “Go on. What else?”
“He enjoyed my hair.” Sherlock took his hand out of his pocket and mimed a twirling motion. “Liked to - tug on it, pull it, twist it.”
John smirked. “I’m sure you loved that.”
“It was...tolerable.” Sherlock shrugged. “And he had this abnormal fascination with trains.”
“Sounds pretty typical to me,” John said with a chuckle.
“Is it? Seems a bit dull,” Sherlock said vaguely. “He also had this fear of thunderstorms, though I’m given to believe that that’s a fear most children share.”
“C’mon, really?” John huffed. “You can’t tell me that when you were a child you didn’t give thunder or lightning a second thought.”
“Oh, I did. Of course.” Sherlock sniffed. “I found them quite fascinating.”
John snorted. “Of course you did.”
Sherlock opened his mouth to speak again, but then something over John’s shoulder caught his gaze, and instead he quietly announced, “Lestrade is here.”
John turned as the familiar dark car pulled over to the side of the gravel road and parked. Lestrade got out and approached them, feet crunching over the wet snow. He was carrying with him a small bouquet of yellow flowers.
“Well, hello,” he greeted, an eyebrow raised in slight surprise. He knelt to put the flowers on the grave, brushing the name with his fingers before straightening. “I’d’ve thought you two would be at the hospital.”
“You got my message, then?” John asked.
“I did.” Lestrade gave them a quick smile. “I was just on my way there, in fact, and then I thought - well, it seemed only right to stop here, first.”
He clasped first John’s hand, and then Sherlock’s. “Congratulations, the both of you. How is he?”
“Good,” they both said at once.
“Very good,” John added. “Er - sleeping, now, but...good. His mother as well. It was a quick labor.”
Sherlock nodded in agreement, and Lestrade burst out laughing.
“You two,” he said, shaking his head. “God, you both look shell-shocked. It’s a baby, you dolts, not a bomb. Smile, for heaven’s sake. He’s healthy, right?”
They murmured in assent.
“Got ten fingers? Ten toes? Makes odd noises?”
“‘S a bit overwhelming, that’s all,” John said quietly.
“Well, yeah, it is at that.” Lestrade’s gaze strayed to the headstone for a moment, and then he looked back at John. “Paperwork’s all in order, I assume?”
“Yeah,” John said, and then felt a ridiculous smile spread across his face. “Yeah, he’s ours. Oh!”
A thought occurred to him, and he fished through his pockets for his mobile. “Here.”
He flipped to the picture he’d had enough sense to snap at the hospital a few hours after the birth. The baby, swaddled in a green blanket that had been a gift from Mrs. Hudson, had just fallen asleep in Sherlock’s arms. He handed the phone to Lestrade, who took it and gave a pleased smile.
“Well,” he said after a moment, brushing a thumb affectionately across the screen, “Calvin Jack. Look at you.”
He handed the mobile back to John and added, “He’s beautiful.”
“He is, at that. Even more so in person.” John nudged his abnormally-quiet husband. “Right?”
“Hmm?” Sherlock said, glancing first at him and then at Lestrade. “Oh, yes, right. Quite right.”
Lestrade snorted and reached out a hand to grip his shoulder. “I know that look: pure terror.”
“I am not,” Sherlock said, “terrified. I am merely...concerned.”
“Well, stop it. You’ll give yourself a heart attack, you get any more tense.” Lestrade nodded at John. “You, too, Doctor.”
“That’s not possible, Lestrade,” Sherlock huffed, “and you know it.”
“Look, do yourselves - do Calvin - a favor, yeah?” Lestrade told them. “Go get some food and some sleep before you take him home. Try to relax a bit. You’re going to make mistakes. It happens. But you’re also going to be great parents. So - deep breath, yeah?”
Sherlock looked unconvinced by the words, and Lestrade squeezed his arm. “You were good with Jack, Sherlock. You’re going to be great with Calvin.”
“Jack was not an infant when we met,” Sherlock pointed out. “And as he had a habit of liking everyone, I don’t see how that’s a good indication of what type of parent I will be.”
“Look at it this way,” Lestrade said bracingly. “I know a thing or two about parenting, and I say that you’ll be fine.”
“Thank you, Greg,” John said, when it became apparent that further speech was beyond Sherlock, and he gave his husband’s arm a gentle tug. It was only right that they give Lestrade some time alone at the graveside. “Come. We should get going.”
“I’ll be right behind,” Lestrade told them. “I just -”
He waved his hand vaguely, and John nodded.
“Of course. Take your time. We’ll be there.” John turned to go, but Sherlock had dropped into a crouch next to the headstone. He reached out a leather-gloved hand and brushed it across the name, tracing the letters “ack” with his fingers before resting a palm over the “ade” at the end.
And then he was on his feet, tightening his scarf and pretending that the sudden line of red under his eyes was a product of the cold. He nodded a goodbye to Lestrade, whose own face had gone quite tight, and said, “Greg.”
“Sherlock,” Lestrade returned hoarsely.
John reached for Sherlock’s hand and heard, as they strode away, the crunch of Lestrade kneeling on the dense snow and a whisper of, “Hello, son,” that echoed through the empty cemetery. Sherlock’s hand tightened in his at the sound of the words; John squeezed back with equal force.