John held Calvin tightly around the chest as the two-year-old splashed his feet in the fountain, mesmerized by the way the drops sparkled through the air in the high noon sunlight. He was talking softly to himself, sing-songing long, involved stories; narrating the world around him, translating it into his own private language to make sense of it. A warm wind blew across John's skin, stirring his sweat-damp hair and making the leaves in the trees murmur in harmony with his son. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek on the top of Calvin's head.
Not so many years ago, the summer after Sherlock had returned to him, in fact, come back from the grave he'd never actually rested in, John had spent the hottest days of a sweltering July at Sherlock's side, holed up in an empty house waiting for the right moment to make their move on Sebastian, the last living member of Moriarty's gang. And then August had been given over to chasing the man pell-mell out of London, out of England all together, finally running him to ground in Morocco, high in the Atlas mountains.
They'd nearly died a dozen times over and John had never felt more alive. Until now. Maybe he was getting old. Maybe he was getting soft. He bent down to scoop up the clear, cool water of the fountain, dribbling it over Cal's warm forehead. Calvin wiggled around to look up at him. Getting so big but still he had that baby rubberiness to him, contorting his body without thought to bring his papa into view, his head resting against John's chest, eyes shining, beaming up at him. John ducked his head to kiss him right between his eyes. Calvin wrinkled his nose and laughed and reached up with both hands to take fistfuls of his hair and plant a wet kiss on John's cheek.
John hugged him tightly and felt like he was back on top of that mountain, looking down on the world. And this time he wanted to shout, out loud for everyone to hear, He's mine! This one, right here, this is my son!
"Sherlock Holmes. No, you have the right number, this is his phone. One moment."
Sherlock crossed the living room to stand in the doorway to Calvin's bedroom, watching John in the final stages of encasing their son in cardboard and tinfoil
"Hold still, let me just...there. Oh-ho, Cal you look fantastic! Let's call dad. Sher--" John turned, about to stand, and nearly took out Sherlock's knees. "Oh, sorry, Sherlock I didn't know you were right there. Look at Calvin, look how great the costume turned out, doesn't he look amazing."
Sherlock crossed his arms and leaned against the door. "What's he meant to be?"
John blinked up at him, face blank. "What--what do you mean, what? He's a Dalek, for God's sake. I know you know what that is."
"As-ter-ma-nate!" Their five-year-old piped up helpfully, waving around the miniature toilet plunger John had bought earlier that day as the final touch to the costume. "As-ter-ma-nate!"
John laughed out loud, rocking back on his heels with tears in his eyes. Sherlock simply lifted his eyebrows and offered the mobile. "It's the hospital."
John groaned and pushed himself to his feet, taking his phone and pulling the door closed as he left the room, saying, "This is Dr Watson."
A few minutes later he returned, shoulders sagging. "I've been called in."
"No!" Calvin threw the plunger and Sherlock had to skip back a step to avoid being hit.
"Calvin Jack," Sherlock snapped, but John laid a hand on his shoulder before he could continue.
He went to kneel in front of Cal, looking sadly into his face. "I'm so sorry, buddy. But someone needs me. A sick person needs their doctor."
Calvin pulled off his foil-wrapped cycling helmet and threw that, too. John caught both small hands in his.
"You can still go trick-or-treating, Cal. Daddy will take you."
Behind him, Sherlock shifted uncomfortably.
John looped a long, itchy scarf around Sherlock's neck and settled a slightly squashed hat atop his head. Sherlock didn't blink until John had stepped away, surveying him with a smile that didn't quite hide his disappointment at being left out.
"You look great. Much better than I would've. Just...grin a lot and then tell everyone how ridiculous humans are. You'll be a natural. Oh, and jelly babies, I got some."
Sherlock caught John's wrist as he turned away, pulling him back. He wrapped his arm around John's waist and trailed fingers down his jaw, looking into John's wide eyes.
"Don't go," he said, echoing Cal's plea.
He felt John sag against him. "Don't you do this to me, too. He's enough, he breaks my heart."
"Because he needs you. I need you. I don't know how to do these things." He kept his voice as bland as he could, but he knew John heard the anxiety there nonetheless.
John lifted up on his toes to kiss Sherlock, lingering for as long as he could with the guilty clock ticking in the back of his brain.
"You'll hold his hand, take him door to door, and make sure he says thank you. Look out for big kids and dogs and child-snatchers." John pulled back and adjusted the scarf, nodding encouragement. "You'll have fun."
"Fun?" Sherlock didn't let go of John's wrist. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do less than this. I should call Greg--"
"We can't call Greg for everything, love. Go on."
"I'm not the one Calvin wants for this."
John, his voice sounding tired and patient, said, "Sunshine--" and broke off as they both blinked. That was what they called Calvin, not each other.
Sherlock drew himself up, building his walls back up, preparing to hide, until he could forget, how much the thought of this simple task bothered him. John bit his lip and fussed once more with the scarf.
"You will have fun," John murmured after a long moment. "He's so excited. As soon as you see how much fun he's having, you'll love it."
"Mm. Perhaps." Sherlock ducked his head to kiss John's temple briefly, stepping away. "You should go, they need you."
When John returned home, eleven o'clock gone, it was to find Sherlock stretched out on the sofa with Calvin curled up in his lap, head on his chest, both of them sound asleep. Candy wrappers and cheap plastic toys were scattered about all around them, chocolate all over Cal's face and his fingers and a small, incriminating smear in the corner of Sherlock's mouth that showed the five-year-old wasn't the only one responsible for the mess.
John knelt beside them and smoothed a hand over Calvin's head. The boy stirred and woke slowly. Sherlock continued to breath deeply.
As Cal blinked his eyes open, already smiling, John whispered, "Did you have fun, buddy?"
Cal nodded, whispering too. "Daddy shouted at Pete's daddy that my costume was better than his. He said Pete looked dumb. Pete was trying to steal my candy and daddy stopped him."
John closed his eyes for a moment and let out a quiet sigh. Oh, dear. He leaned forward and kissed Calvin's forehead. "Do you wanna go to bed?"
Calvin shook his head, lifting his head carefully to look up at Sherlock, then said, conspiratorial, "Daddy said we could sleep down here all night and have candy for breakfast."
"He said no such thing," Sherlock intoned without opening his eyes, and Calvin's face fell.
John laughed and gathered Calvin into his arms, standing up. "C'mon, lads. Let's go to bed. You can sleep in with us tonight, how's that?"
Calvin left a sticky chocolate kiss on his cheek, and Sherlock cracked an eye open to direct a peaceful smile up at them.
"We haven't had a snow like this since the year you were born, Cally Jack."
Calvin was prancing through the park, delighting in the swish-swish of his new snow pants and the crunch-crunch of his new snow boots. A few flakes were still drifting idly down to join the drifts that had blanketed London overnight.
His fingers clumsy in his downy mittens, Calvin worked to pack a snowball, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth, breath steaming in the chilly air. Lestrade stood and watched him, hands at his sides, ready to duck whenever the inevitable happened.
The snowball soared past his left knee. "Whoa, good shot there Calvin you almost got me!"
Calvin grinned and reached down for another handful, giggling breathlessly
Lestrade laughed and said, "Oh, no you don't," wading through the thick snow to grab Calvin around the waist and tackle him into a drift. He went down with a shriek and immediately began trying to rub snow in his godfather's face.
Half an hour later, lying with the protective wings of their snow-angels all around them, Calvin said, "I'm going to be seven next week. That's older than your son was."
Lestrade blinked, swallowing thickly at the unexpected change in topic, before turning his head to look over at Calvin. The cold snow prickled against his cheek. Calvin was staring intently at him, and all Lestrade could manage was a soft, "Yeah."
"Does that bother you?"
This was a new thing of Cal's, this sudden sensitivity to other people's emotions, and Lestrade wasn't sure where he'd picked it up, though he suspected it must have come from one of his teachers. Sherlock displayed all the empathy of a lump of clay and John, though he felt everything deeply, was not always vocal about it. Lestrade had tried to take it on himself to be the one to ask Calvin, How does that make you feel and How do you think you would feel if that happened to you? but he wasn't always there - hadn't been able to be there much these past few weeks, what with the Herenburg case taking up all of his free time...
...he shook himself. He was doing that thing again, that deflecting thing, and Calvin deserved better. Giving a small nod, not breaking eye contact, he said softly, "Yeah. It does."
Calvin's face was an open book of childish anguish before he clenched his jaw and turned his face away, looking so impossibly like Sherlock that it had Lestrade's heart pounding in his chest. He reached for Calvin's hand and squeezed it.
"Does it bother you?" He asked Calvin.
Cal looked back at him, eyes watery, and nodded. "Do you wish he was alive instead of me?"
Lestrade's jaw went slack and he sat up, blood rushing to his head as he wondered how the hell none of them had ever anticipated this. He pulled Calvin to him and the boy came readily, burrowing down into his lap as Lestrade held him tight, shaking his head. "It doesn't work like that, sport. That's not how life works."
"But, you wish he was still alive."
Lestrade buried his cold nose in the boy's woolly hat and fought to keep the catch from his voice. "Every day."
"And you gave me his name."
"Yeah. To remember him by, and honour him. Honour both of you. Not to try and pretend you're someone you're not."
Calvin was quiet for a long time, considering this. Lestrade felt him start to shiver, and realized that he, too, was fighting off trembles brought on at least in part by the cold. Jesus bloody Christ, where had this come from?
Calvin kept his head ducked and Lestrade could barely hear him as he mumbled something into his scarf.
"What was that?" He asked, bending to put his ear next to Calvin's lips.
"I said, I'm sorry that Jack got sick, because I wish that we could be friends, and I don't want you to be sad because I have his same name but I'm not the same as him."
Lestrade wrapped him in a fierce embrace, saying gruffly, "You and Jack would be great friends. And so can we, Calvin. You and me, we're great friends, right?" Calvin nodded and Lestrade grinned at him. "That's right, we are. And I'm not sad, not at all. You could never make me sad. You're the best thing...the absolute greatest boy I could ever have hoped for for a godson. Do you believe me?"
Calvin nodded and put his arms around Lestrade's neck, hugging him for a minute before tackling him backwards into the snow, this time succeeding in plastering a handful of snow to his already-chapped face.
Sherlock and Lestrade each held one of Calvin's hands as they walked through the park on the way to the cinema, swinging the ecstatic boy between them every few steps.
John walked on Sherlock's other side, hands in his pockets, enjoying the warm spring breeze on his face, thinking of nothing besides how nice this was, after such a brutal winter.
Sherlock was monologuing about his most recent case, paying no attention to the fact that no one was paying any attention to him, hardly even listening to himself; it had been weeks since the four of them had been together and he was basking in the warmth of their companionship.
Lestrade was quiet on the far side of the path, conflicting emotions tugging at him. It had been so many years, now, but still springtime was hard. The lovely weather that had whispered sweet lies of renewal and rebirth as his son lay dying in a snow-white hospital bed.
John glanced over at Lestrade just in time to notice his slight grimace as he and Sherlock swung Calvin once again.
"Here," he said suddenly, crossing in front of them and detaching the seven-year-old's hand from Greg's. "Let me for awhile. He's getting too big for this, anyhow, let me spell you."
Sherlock looked at John, forehead creasing. This had always been his and Lestrade's task, the height differential between them being less inconvenient than between him and John. But he saw Greg willingly surrender to John's offer and step away, rubbing his shoulder. John took over, and Greg came around to walk beside Sherlock.
Old habit, that. John and Sherlock had been together for so long, now, that the five years Lestrade had known Sherlock before that shouldn't feel like much of anything. But still, they did; still he felt most comfortable with the consulting detective. And John, bless him, saw this and understood and wasn't fussed. Sherlock may have been a great man, may even have crossed over the line to being a good one, but John really was the very best. John had saved Sherlock without ever once trying to change him, and for that Lestrade would live in continual awe and gratitude toward him.
Sherlock watched Lestrade thinking, and after several long minutes asked very softly, words meant only for Lestrade, "Do you realise that you're as indispensable to this family as either John or I, Lestrade?"
Lestrade turned skeptical eyes on him.
"It's true. It's quite true. And very...baffling. I don't understand how it came to be this way. Were you this important to me before Calvin was born?"
It was the kind of question only Sherlock could ask, and Greg realised suddenly that he loved him for it. There was no one like Sherlock Holmes, and God knows Greg wouldn't want there to be, but he was endlessly thankful that he got to have the one-and-only in his life in this way.
"No," he said with a short shake of his head, "not in this way, at least."
"And I to you?"
A harder question to answer. There had been a time, certainly, when Sherlock had been all-important. When Jack was gone and his wife had left and Lestrade had had no one. Even before that, Sherlock had been unendingly kind to his child and Jack - well, Jack had rescued Sherlock from himself. But the tragedy of his death had forced apart his parents and strained the already tenuous friendship between Lestrade and Sherlock, and the bond between the two men melted from a mutual respect of sorts to one of obligation.
It was two years before Lestrade was able to see Sherlock as anything but a crutch, a link to his past that was as painful as it was necessary. But then Sherlock had met John and had...oh, transformed was as good a word as any. Everyone needed someone to save them, it seemed, even if no one would ever have thought it. And now the man beside him was, in addition to being as much a royal pain in the arse as he'd ever been, a joy and a dear friend and, yes, a good man. A friend, not a crutch. Not a painful necessity. He was...
...he was looking at Lestrade with a deep furrow between his brows, watching him think.
"You were important, for a time. But not like this." Lestrade shook himself and looked at Sherlock, smiling faintly, trying to lighten his tone. "And I know John wasn't."
"Ah. So, in essence you are saying that it was the miraculous birth of a child that brought us all together. Or, I should say, back together." Sherlock glanced his way once more and gave the smallest of nods and Lestrade knew that his silence had been read and understood. "Lestrade, I think we may safely assert that my child is like unto the Messiah."
Lestrade laughed and Sherlock joined in. John grinned at Calvin, sharing in their enjoyment but not asking to be let in on the joke.
Calvin tugged on his fathers' hands, smiling at everyone, and leapt into the air with a whoop, John and Sherlock swinging him up until he felt for a moment like he was about to fly.