He had a growing headache and there was a dull pain at the base of his back, both of which John Watson attributed to chasing around his raving lunatic flatmate who was in turn tracking a serial killer through London. He had a bit of a bug--probably coming down with the flu, which was going to be vastly inconvenient, since he had always managed to keep his immune system up, for Sherlock’s sake.
For one thing, he couldn’t just let Sherlock Holmes go running off in the middle of the night with three nicotine patches per arm and a terrible idea. And second: He didn’t know what Sherlock’s immune system was like. All the bacteria he grew in the flat probably meant he’d be indestructible against biological warfare, but the common cold could be deadly against someone with nutrition like Sherlock’s.
He knew he was just worrying about nothing. So he’d felt a bit nauseous that morning. No need to go running to Barts.
“Oi, earth to John Watson,” Lestrade said, waving a half-empty pint in front of him. The amber liquid sloshed against the sides, what’s left of the foam clinging and then seeping down.
“Sorry.” John shook himself out of his worries. He didn’t feel terrible; maybe his flu worries were far-fetched. It was entirely possible that the detective inspector had been right: All he needed was a night away from Sherlock and the flat and the deductions.
“You look on the verge of a wobbly. Everything all right?” Greg sipped his beer. “You’ve only had one pint. You can’t possibly be anywhere near sloshed enough for tears.”
“Do I?” John asked. He felt fine in the face. Couldn’t think of any reason for his eyes to be as glassy as Greg implied. “Am I flushed?” he asked, touching the pads of his fingers to his cheeks. “I don’t fancy myself getting the flu, but ‘tis the season.”
Greg put down his drink and tilted his head, frowning. “No, I don’t think you look pinker than usual. Could just be the light. D’you feel sick? We can head out, though I’m sure Sherlock will just take the opportunity to ask you for vomit samples.”
The idea itself made John’s stomach turn and he had to swallow down the nervous laugh that tried to bubble out of him. It unnerved him that he couldn’t tell whether Greg was being serious or joking. It was just as likely that the silver-haired man didn’t even know himself.
“If you’ll excuse me...?” John thumbed over his shoulder as he pushed out his chair, indicating the loo in the back corner of the pub.
Greg nodded and waved him away.
John didn’t feel sick outside of a faint swirling in his stomach, but he wanted to get away from the assault on his senses that the pub was increasing with each moment. The smells--had everyone around him put on cologne and perfume this evening?--and the increasing noise levels as the pub got more crowded were making his headache worse. Yet there was a part of him that would feel guilty for not seeing a calm evening through, especially when he didn’t know when the opportunity for another would arise.
He pushed open the door to the loo, but before it even had time to close behind him, he had backed out and stood in front of it, practically turned to stone as the sign posted just below the little male icon caught his attention for the first time.
GOVERNMENT WARNING: (1) According to the Surgeon General, men and women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. (2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.
Below the posting, it reminded the pub patrons to drink responsibly.
John swallowed and read it again.
Pregnant? No. I can’t be pregnant. He pushed the door open and leaned against it when it closed. I’m just reacting terribly to a sign on a door. So what if I’ve never paid it mind before? There are no symptoms. None. Well, the nausea. But that’s the flu. People get the flu. Everyone gets the flu. I don’t get pregnant.
John turned the lock and slid down to sit on the tiled floor.
Men and women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.
The words echoed in his head and he tried to add up every strange feeling he’d had in the last few weeks. The situation was like something off of daytime telly--surely it was purely paranoia that was causing him to backtrack over the last month and a half.
Stop, he told himself. You’re a doctor. Look at the symptoms objectively and make a diagnosis.
But so many things could add to pregnancy that aren’t pregnancy, said a little voice in the back of his head. Ever the optimist.
Headaches. Check, but he put that one at the bottom of the list, since he lived with Sherlock and had been suffering headaches since returning to London from the war.
Spotting. Cramps. John bit his lip. There’d been a bit of blood a week or so ago, but with his birth control, that wasn’t uncommon. In fact, it was on the list of possible side effects on the side of the package.
Missed menstruation. He couldn’t actually judge this one, since his birth control regulated him to bi-annual cycles.
So only one was actually a verifiable symptom that was different from the norm. That had to be a good sign. But the fact remained that the only ones left--fatigue, mood swings, mild back pain--were all parts of his everyday life living with Sherlock Holmes.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, no, this isn’t happening. He couldn’t panic in the pub loo. That just wasn’t an option. And still, there was no conclusive evidence that he was pregnant. It was probably just panic.
And maybe the panic is just the hormones rearranging themselves, responded the voice again, now taking on a clear tone of Not Optimism.
A knock on the door vibrated through the back of his head and John scrambled to his feet.
“John? You okay?” Greg sounded awkward on the other side of the door, like he certainly didn’t want to hear any details if John wasn’t perfectly all right.
“Fine,” John choked out. He dusted off the back of his trousers and adjusted his jumper before pulling the door open with a feigned smile. “I... I think I’m going to head back to the flat,” he said. “An early night should fix me up.”
“I’ll drive you.”
“It’s fine,” John said quickly--too quickly. Greg turned back to him and studies him with a quizzical expression. “I--I’m going to make a stop at Tesco first. For medicine. Flu medicine. Paracetamol. The like.” Stop talking.
Greg shrugged, clearly counting John as a lost cause.
John couldn’t help agreeing, just a little.
* * *
John had administered pregnancy tests to so many patients in his time at various clinics and hospitals. The general comment from most of them was always about how awkward it was to have to pee on the little end of the stick, or how difficulty it was to pee in the cup when they were doing a straight urine test. He’d always assumed it was just small talk, but now he knew it was actually very uncomfortable.
The bit of plastic in his hand was practically having a seizure as he tried to steady his shaking hands. Combined with the fact that he would actually have to aim at it while also ensuring that his urine fell into the toilet and this was turning into a project that would surely get Sherlock’s attention if he wasn’t careful.
You have six minutes before he wonders where you went. Make the most of it.
John took a deep breath and tried not to think about what he was doing. He’d gone 36 years without ever having to take a pregnancy test--or having to wait on the other side of a door while a nervous partner took one--and he hoped he’d never have to take one again.
This will all be over in three minutes.
He set the test on top of its box before tucking himself back into his jeans, closing the lid on the toilet, and sitting down to rest his head in his hands. It was stressful, of course, and there was always the chance of a false positive. He’d seen them all too often, especially with generic Tesco tests and the like. It was also much later in the day than was advisable to taking a pregnancy test--one was supposed to take the test first thing in the morning, when the hormones were most present.
But John, who often chided Sherlock for being impatient, couldn’t wait until morning. He’d never sleep with the idea of an unplanned pregnancy ticking away at the back of his mind. Then again, he doubted he’d be able to sleep if the test came back as anything other than negative.
Up until now, the thoughts had only been about himself--about how he could have let this happen, about what he’d do if there really was a child, about all the choices he’d have to face if the test showed him that scarlet plus sign. And even then, his subconscious reassurances that it would come back negative hadn’t even let him break the surface of “what if?” But now, as he rubbed at his temples with freshly-steadied hands, he let his mind flood with a whole new set of worries, unbidden.
There was Sherlock to worry about. A child couldn’t be raised at Baker Street--John himself could barely inhabit the place without constant fear of tetanus. And Sherlock couldn’t be expected to help care for a child that wouldn’t be his, and a child would need constant supervision and care and, dear God, the nappies and messes and if Mrs. Hudson thought the smiley face was bad, she hadn’t ever dealt with a two year old who’d found a set of markers.
I can’t handle two children, John thought, thinking to the overgrown six year old downstairs who was currently plucking petals off of roses and then subjecting them to different sorts of acid just to prove a point.
And what about the father?
John swallowed. He hadn’t even let himself think of Mycroft since the shortest flash of memory at the pub when he’d been trying to pinpoint when this could’ve happened. Six weeks ago, the last time he’d seen Mycroft. The Goodbye for Now, as John had taken to calling it internally. The Intermission, as Mycroft had referred to it before leaving John at Baker Street that evening. The Good Riddance, You’re Better Off, in Sherlock’s own words.
Oh God, no. John swallowed, knowing that his three minutes were almost up and he was either going to be more relieved than he’d ever been in his entire life or he was going to spend the rest of the night wanting nothing more than to get smashed while simultaneously being denied the option because he was responsible.
That fucking sign is the reason I’m in this situation, John thought. It’s going to be negative and I’m going to kick myself in the arse for being so paranoid.
Realistically, he knew it wasn’t the sign’s fault that he was currently sitting on the toilet and offering a myriad of things to whichever deity would listen--Please, God, I swear I’ll never ask Sherlock to do the shopping again. I’ll never so much as imply he should raise a finger in the flat or do the washing or get the milk and I’ll never complain again when he makes me trek across London in the snow so I can get him a pen. It was his own fault insofar as anyone could take blame.
Mycroft’s job was demanding, and was, while still a closely guarded secret, clearly more than just a “minor position” in the government. The man got less hours of sleep than Sherlock, which was something John had suspected to be impossible. It had been clear once their relationship started to progress past the six-month point that he was running himself ragged in his efforts to court John (his words) and maintain world peace (John’s words). It had been John who suggested a break--a doctor’s recommendation rather than a lover’s. If he had allowed himself to be selfish (something he’d considered), he was sure he would have been spending his night away from Baker Street at Mycroft’s posh flat in Chelsea.
Can’t raise a child there, either. The thought was entirely unsolicited. He didn’t need to think about any of those things. The test would be negative. He could go on with his life and pretend it never happened, because a negative test would mean nothing had happened.
But what if it’s not? he asked himself, mostly looking for more reassurance from his subconscious that he was right. He had a feeling that he was being crazy; he hoped his worry was unwarranted.
Six and a half months hadn’t been enough time for either himself or Mycroft to discuss long-term intentions. They had still been getting to know each other, after all. It had taken long enough to get around to the shagging--four (mildly torturous) months that had only seen a large handful of planned dates and impromptu (yet oddly romantic) kidnappings. Overlooking the fact that the elder Holmes’s schedule had gotten in the way of their budding relationship would have been to ignore a tap-dancing elephant.
John didn’t know if Mycroft ever planned to settle down and have children--or, if he did, if John was the kind of man he’d want something like that with. Unsurprisingly, John didn’t think he could answer the same question. He’d been a bachelor for so long; had never enjoyed being tied down to one place, needed adventure to keep his blood pumping.
His heart hammered in his ears as he turned his wrist over to check his watch. It had been three and a half minutes since he’d taken the test, nearly five since he’d entered the bathroom. Sherlock would be curious soon if his experiment wasn’t going well.
Just look at it. It’s a piece of plastic. It can’t hurt you. Just look at it, dispose of it, and move on.
John took a deep breath and looked up for the first time since he set the test down, reaching for it with hands that had begun to tremble once more. When his fingers grasped the smooth plastic, he closed his eyes again, covering them with one hand as he drew the test toward himself.
He exhaled, barely a breath away from hyperventilation, and peeked through spread fingers.
John bit his lip so hard he felt the skin break. He was at once on the verge of crying and laughing hysterically.
* * *
“John.” Sherlock had knocked sharply three times now, each time saying John’s name with increased annoyance.
“Bleeding Christ, Sherlock, just a minute,” John said, still staring down at the test in his hand. Nothing in his life had prepared him for this. The sinking feeling in his stomach just seemed to get deeper and he would’ve sworn he felt something stirring in there, no matter how improbable.
He’d given news to men and women who had been happy to be pregnant, appalled, shocked, mortified to be pregnant. Never had he expected he would be on the other side of that giving himself his own questionable news.
If he ever thought about having a child, he didn’t expect to carry it and he certainly didn’t think he’d feel quite so ambiguous about it.
“John, if you don’t open this door, I’m going to assume that you have been attacked and I will break it down.”
“The only person threatening me right now is you, you great idiot,” John said, trying to keep his voice steady. He shoved the test into the box and then the box into the bag, but he was reasonably certain that Sherlock would figure out what it was in less than three seconds if he carried it out. Hiding it was even less of an option, since the crinkle of the bag would likely tell Sherlock that John was hiding something.
He resorted to stuffing it in the back band of his pants and tugging down his jumper. He just wouldn’t turn his back to Sherlock before he got to his room. Good plan? No, but it was the only one he had at the moment.
Oh, God, how long can I possibly hide this from him?
And he’d know. As soon as Sherlock knew, he’d know it was Mycroft’s, and then Mycroft would know because Sherlock would send him some cryptic text and oh God, everyone would know as soon as Sherlock knew.
John pulled the door open and looked up at Sherlock. He’d never done more praying than he had already today--not even when he’d been on the battlefield--but he hoped he had one left in him for the night: Please, God, don’t let him take one look at me and know.
“Did you need something?” John asked, keeping his voice steady as Sherlock’s eyes poured over him.
“Lestrade texted me. Lestrade always texts you.” His eyes leveled on John’s face and he crinkled his brow. “He said he thought you might be sick and that I should keep ‘the racket’ to a minimum and perhaps make you tea.” Sherlock tilted his curly head slightly to one side, glancing past John into the bathroom, where there were clearly no signs of illness. “However, you appear to be quite capable and all right, so I was hoping you’d make the evening tea and perhaps give me a hand with my acidic rose petal experiment. I’ve already burned myself twice--” He held up his hand to show the marks. “I’m hoping you can keep an eye on things for me so I don’t have--”
“Sherlock, much as I’d love to watch you burning up flowers, I’ve had a long day and I’d like to go to bed early. Greg was right--I’m not feeling right.” I may never feel right again. John tried not to think too loudly lest the words be written on his face, but Sherlock kept staring at him, waiting for some sign of something more than fatigue.
“You don’t look ill,” Sherlock noted.
“You can’t see the flu this early, Sherlock,” John said, sticking with his alibi to Greg. It was likely that the D.I. would see Sherlock the following morning and comment on the flu. That would work. That would keep Sherlock from being suspicious of John if he stayed in bed for days.
Well, the reality was that he’d probably be afforded one night and half a day before Sherlock bored of Sick John and decided he had to get better so he could come out and play.
Oh, God, it’ll be too dangerous. I can’t be running around London in this state.
“You don’t have the flu, John. What is it? You look like you’ve just been given a death sentence.”
John wasn’t sure he’d ever heard actual concern in Sherlock’s voice before outside of a life-or-death situation.
“I’m just tired, Sherlock. Please let me by.”
Sherlock set his mouth in a thin line before angling his body only just enough to let John squeeze by him. John was too tired, too emotionally distressed, to realize exactly what he’d done, which was to give Sherlock a half-second advantage.
The taller man had the Tesco bag in his hands and was tearing it open before John had time to fully turn around.
“Sherlock, damnit, give that back, you insufferable child!” He reached for it desperately, nearly knocking Sherlock into the wall in his efforts. But he knew it was hopeless--as soon as the consulting detective had opened the bag, he’d seen the box inside, and he didn’t need to see the surely-broken-by-now plastic bits to know exactly what the result was. “Fucking hell, Sherlock, this is private,” he said, now ripping the bag from fingers that made no effort to hold it back.
Sherlock, for his part, looked slightly flabbergasted and didn’t say a word as John stood and stared between him and the bag.
“You’re....” The deep voice was a bit higher than usual and John wasn’t sure he’d ever known Sherlock not to complete a sentence.
“I’m not talking about this with you, Sherlock,” John warned. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ve barely had time to process it myself.”
“And...” Sherlock cleared his throat. “And Mycroft?” His voice was set back in its proper octave.
“I haven’t spoken to him recently. You know that. Sherlock, I need to go to bed. I can’t--”
“But it is his. It’s Mycroft’s child.”
John blanched at the very insinuation that it might not be. “Of course.”
Sherlock relaxed visibly. The tension he released was one John hadn’t even realized the other man had been holding since the revelation. Was Sherlock being... protective of his elder brother?
“Sherlock, you know there’s been no one else--”
“I asked a question and you answered it, John, there is no need to proceed with further explanation.”
“I’m just wondering who else you think could possibly--”
“You spend a lot of time with Lestrade. I wasn’t sure--”
“God, Sherlock, no--”
“John. The conversation is over. You may go to bed now.”
John swallowed and wrapped the bag back around itself until he held a rectangular box wrapped tightly in plastic. His reasoning for keeping it had been to ensure Sherlock wouldn’t find it tucked away in the rubbish bin, but now that the cat was out of the figurative bag, he could dispose of it in whichever way he pleased.
After tossing it out, John headed to his room and crawled into bed, his skin still prickling with at least two dozen different sorts of emotions.
First and foremost, there was a baby. He slipped his hand under the t-shirt he wore to bed and pressed his fingers against the spot just above his belly button. His flesh hadn’t begun to harden yet, but that would come in the immediate weeks. The skin under his palm was even, but he knew in the coming months, that would change as well. He’d swell as if he was a balloon being blown out from the inside.
John pressed his hand flat against his belly, imagining that his own pulse was the butterfly flutter of his unborn child. An hour ago, he had been having a pint with a mate, trying to keep his mind off of the man who was probably off somewhere in London being important and stopping full-on world wars. Now he had to figure out how he was going to tell that very man that he was going to be a father.
That brought its own unwelcome wave of smothering confusion. Would Mycroft insist on quietly remedying the situation? It was a possibility, though John wasn’t sure it was one he could entertain for himself. If they had different views on how to carry on, that would certainly drive a wedge further between them. John could never afford to raise a child on his own, but he also couldn’t imagine himself receiving a monthly check from Mycroft for essentials.
But could he imagine himself spending the rest of his life with Mycroft? That was equally uncertain.
Six and a half months did not a forever make.
John closed his eyes and remembered the first time Mycroft had approached him as anything more than his brother’s long-suffering flatmate.
It had been mid-March and John had been alone in the flat when the bell had rung. It was so uncommon for anyone to actually ring them. Lestrade walked in whenever he pleased, Sherlock usually barged up the stairs at a run, and they had few other visitors besides. He’d taken the kettle off the stove just short of a boil, just in case he was about to be carted off to pick up Sherlock from jail or do damage control at a crime scene.
Mycroft had been on the other side of the door, his closed umbrella tapping against the side of his foot despite a mid-afternoon drizzle.
“Ah, Dr. Watson, I was hoping you’d be in,” he’d said with a pleasant smile. There had been an almost sheer layer of vulnerability in his face, but he was formal and cordial all the same.
John had politely informed him that Sherlock wasn’t around--out seeing a man about two dozen fingers or something equally worrying--and offered Mycroft a cup of tea as they’d ascended the stairs to the flat.
The faint nervousness had never quite faded from Mycroft’s features, even after John had agreed to lunch, then dinner, then dinner again, followed by a night of theatre, and then a few walks in parks when milder weather permitted. Each time they’d kissed, John had wondered if Mycroft expected him to change his mind about finding him attractive. It would have been off-putting if John didn’t have the patience and understanding of a saint. However, there was one thing that tended to bother him above all else: The man always tasted like peppermint--as if he had brushed his teeth whenever John wasn’t looking, just in case their lips were to meet.
After their first night together, John woke up next to the taller man to find him propped up on an elbow, studying him intently (and also sputtering apologies for doing so). John had taken the opportunity to kiss him properly, toothpaste and morning hygiene be damned. They’d made love again, but it was the rare, sleepy, early morning kind that had left them calm and sated without a care for what was on for the rest of the day.
The thing about Mycroft was that he was terribly insecure for a man of such political suave and power. John blamed a lot of it on his poor body image--which he in turn blamed on his lover’s younger brother--and had set himself to turn the other man around and prove to him that he was desirable.
At the time of their break, John had believed he was finally making some headway.
John sighed and turned over in his bed. As he adjusted his pillow and pulled the covers up around himself, he couldn’t ignore the thought that had plagued him each night for the last six weeks: Mycroft’s bed was much more comfortable, and he had become used to it during the short-lived intimate side of their relationship.
Waking up with Mycroft meant getting up at three in the morning to a call from his emergency line more often than it meant having a late lie-in, but a quick peck on his forehead and a whispered apology were never an unwelcome side of their temporary domesticity. On one occasion, Mycroft had returned before dawn and crawled back into the bed, insinuating himself next to and around John so perfectly that the doctor had woken up wondering if he had dreamed up a national crisis.
You can’t raise a child in an environment like that, John thought. Not with him running off at the slightest war cry from Russia or North Korea or whomever we’re fighting with tomorrow. And he won’t give it up any more than Sherlock would give up deductions.
It would be a compromise, of course it would. But how much could you compromise with the British government?
* * *
Three days later, John had a terrible bout of cramps that seemed determined to unravel him from the inside out. Sherlock had put on his concerned face when John had nearly doubled over making tea, but it wasn’t until John spent too long in the bathroom that Sherlock became insistent again.
“John.” Sherlock knocked three times in quick succession before repeating John’s name.
“Sherlock, I’m fine. Just a bit of a cramp. It’s perfectly, ah, normal.” But oh, for the love of God, it hurt. One of the perks of being on birth control meant that he didn’t experience menstruation or the accompanying cramps. The slight spotting he was currently observing was also normal (generally not six weeks in, but he was telling himself it was fine--it was all fine, it had to be). The pain shouldn’t have been quite so overwhelming, but it was the only vaguely worrying factor.
“John, open the door or I’m calling 999.”
“God, Sherlock, I’m fine.” John zipped his trousers and opened the door. “I’m a doctor. I can take care of myself and some cramps.”
“I think we should go to the hospital.”
“Absolutely not.” Mycroft would know in an instant if John were to set foot inside a hospital. They may have been on a break, but it didn’t mean that John and Sherlock had been downgraded in terms of security and observation. If anything, Mycroft had probably upped the security protocols so he’d be sure to get John back in one piece if the workload ever happened to decrease.
“John, you’re pale as a sheet, you haven’t been able to keep anything down all day, and your legs are shaking from the force of the cramping. Now, procreation isn’t anywhere near my area of expertise, but I’m sure you’re not meant to be this bad off so early on.” Sherlock held John’s coat out to him. “Come or I will call you an ambulance, which will only attract my brother’s attention to the situation more quickly.”
John shrugged his coat on and followed his flatmate on wobbly legs, though all he really wanted to do was hide in bed for the remainder of his pregnancy.
* * *
“It’s Dr. Watson,” Sherlock corrected, standing as the doctor entered the examination room. “And I don’t understand what is taking so long. We’ve been here for hours and his pain is hardly being managed.”
“I’m sorry. Dr. Watson, I’m Dr. Marshall.” The red-headed woman reached out a hand to shake John’s. He was sitting on the wrong side of the white coats, in his opinion. He hated wearing the breezy hospital gowns, but he had just been taken for an ultrasound and was meant to be waiting patiently for the results. Which, he had to assume, had just walked in the room in a cloud of vanilla perfume (quite unprofessional, perfume on an A&E doctor, he thought) and clicking heels.
“I understand you’ve been having some abnormally strong cramping,” the woman said, reading it off his chart before looking up at him with warm, brown eyes that didn’t look like they were about to give him bad news, but he had seen enough people give that look before informing a spouse that their loved one hadn’t survived.
He swallowed down the ball of dread that was creeping up his throat. “Yes,” he said. “And a bit of spotting.”
“He could barely stand this morning with the force of the cramping,” Sherlock added from behind the doctor. “That’s why I insisted he come here for tests.”
The doctor smiled patiently at John before turning to Sherlock. “Are you the father?” she asked, extending her hand to him.
“Sherlock Holmes. Certainly not,” he huffed. “I’m just his flatmate.”
“Ah, I see,” she said, dropping her hand when it went ignored. She turned back to John, her heels clicking slightly against the floor as she did so, echoing off the walls as John waited for the verdict. “Well, Dr. Watson, the good news is that everything looks normal.”
John let out a breath he’d been holding captive. “Really?”
“You’re about five and a half weeks along, so your body is adjusting. If you’re stressed about the pregnancy or if you’re not getting enough rest--” Sherlock huffed again from across the room, clearly reading an insinuation from the doctor that John hadn’t interpreted. “--It’s not uncommon for your body to react to that stress. But everything is going quite smoothly, and if I were you, I’d go ahead and schedule a twelve-week check up just to make sure that things keep on that track. Aside from a bit of an iron deficiency--which is fixable with pre-natal vitamins--you’re perfectly fine.”
Perfectly fine. John practically floated on those words all the way back to Baker Street.
The cloud seemed to settle around him in a thick haze when the taxi pulled up behind a sleek, black town car just outside the flat.
Oh, God, not now, John thought as he opened the taxi door. I can’t do this right now. I can’t see him.
When he turned around to pay the fare, John saw that Sherlock had made no move to get out of the taxi. In fact, he was looking at his phone and reaching to close the door at the same time.
“Lestrade. A case,” he said before prattling off another address to the cabbie. They were gone before John had time to register the fact that he had just been left alone at 221B without any excuse not to confront the situation.
John looked up at the windows, expecting to see Mycroft looking down at him from the sitting room, but there was no sign of life from inside the flat.
He took a deep breath and entered.
There was no sound from upstairs as he carefully took the steps one at a time, ignoring the churning in his stomach that was now an even further imposition on his cramps.
“John.” Mycroft was in the doorway at the top of the stairs, looking down with such a relieved expression that John wondered what terrible scenario he’d dreamed up after seeing Sherlock tucking him into the cab earlier. “John, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, yes,” John said when he reached the top. “Could use a cup of tea, though.”
“Yes, yes,” Mycroft said, stepping aside and letting John into the flat. “Of course, let me.” He quickly moved to help John out of his coat, but the shorter man shrugged him away.
“Really, Mycroft, I’m fine. Just give me a moment to get settled.”
Mycroft swallowed and stepped away, visibly unsure of how to proceed.
John hadn’t meant to snap at him, not really, but he didn’t say anything until he had put the kettle on and returned to the sitting room, where Mycroft was still standing in the same spot John had left him in.
“You can sit, you know,” John said, gentler now. “I’m not going to make you leave when you’ve only just arrived.”
“Actually, I’ve been here a while,” he replied. He took a seat in one of the armchairs anyway. “I thought you’d be back sooner. You....” The older man cleared his throat and fiddled with one of the buttons on his suit jacket. “I was informed that you were being taken to the hospital. I thought... I thought that perhaps they were mistaken about who the patient in the scenario was--that maybe Sherlock had botched an experiment. When I got here, I called Sherlock--he said it was you.” Mycroft met John’s eyes for the first time in several minutes. “I’m... a bit at a loss, John. I’ve never been in a situation where I didn’t know exactly where I stood with someone. I had hoped... that my calling by this afternoon wouldn’t be seen as too forward. But I wanted to see with my own eyes that you were all right.”
“I am,” John said quietly. The kettle sang a moment later and John nearly tripped over the end table in his haste to leave the room. He poured the tea as slowly as the water would go, and then spent the full four minutes standing at the counter, watching the tea steep.
“John.” Mycroft cleared his throat. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to impose,” he began.
“No, Mycroft, you’re not--”
“No, John, I shouldn’t have shown up without notice--”
“You don’t have to leave, Mycroft,” John said, noticing that the other man had put on his coat and donned his umbrella.
“I do, John. I... I don’t wish to renege on our agreement--”
“It’s a bit late for that,” John muttered under his breath before he could stop himself. He clapped a hand over his mouth and shook his head as Mycroft’s face twisted in a mixture of hurt and humiliation. The other man turned toward the stairs. “No, Mycroft, wait--” John rushed after him and took the steps two at a time until he was able to catch the back of Mycroft’s collar. “Please, we need to talk.”
John grimaced at his word choice, given the current situation, and when Mycroft turned around, the elder Holmes’s face was a mask that may as well have been painted on in the last thirty seconds.
“Come upstairs,” John requested. He let his fingers skirt along the edge of Mycroft’s collar and hoped that the gentle touch would bring back some sense of security to his lover. If he could just trigger the memories of every time his mouth had traced the very line his fingers now followed, he knew that the Holmesian mask would disappear. “Please, Mycroft.”
The mask was still set on Mycroft’s features when the other man nodded tersely and began up the stairs.
John fetched the tea mugs--just milk in his own and extra sugar for Mycroft--before settling himself in his armchair. His partner had removed his coat and was sitting stiffly across from John, his cup almost immediately ignored after a polite sip and short, appreciative nod that John had not forgotten his preferences.
“I went to the hospital this morning at Sherlock’s insistence,” John began. He spoke slowly, not sure of what his next word would be until he’d already said it. “I’m sure I was just as surprised as you are now.”
Mycroft’s face hadn’t changed, but still he responded, “It must have been serious to warrant my dear brother to be forceful about a trip to A&E. I’ll admit that that was why I was skeptical to believe it was you who was in need of treatment.”
“It turned out to be nothing,” John said, twisting his mug in his hands. “Just your basic stomach cramps, but Sherlock was a bit of a mother hen about it.”
The elder man’s brow furrowed. “You wouldn’t have gone if the cramping hadn’t concerned you.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t concerned, just that... well, I didn’t think they were anything to be too worried about.” John was getting closer to the reveal and was feeling more and more flustered by the moment. Mycroft’s gaze was studious, but there was a part of the other man that seemed to be asking him to get to the point.
“You have been very pale as of late, John,” Mycroft noted and John’s stomach did a little flip at the fact that his lover had truly been keeping track of him. “I’d been a bit concerned myself. Thought you may have been getting the flu.”
“I... Ah, well, I’ve got a bit of a stomach bug, but...” He paused. “I doubt it’ll go away anytime soon,” he added with the utmost care. It wasn’t a lie by any means, but the way Mycroft shifted forward in his chair had crumbled the mask he had been wearing, showing the lines of vulnerability and worry on every inch of his face.
“Are you sick?” Mycroft asked quickly, eyes darting all over John as if looking for lumps and tumors or patches of missing skin and lost limbs. “I can find you whatever sort of specialist--”
“Mycroft, no, no, nothing like that,” John said, scooting forward in his chair and reaching out for his lover’s hands. The long, cool fingers caressed his own as he clasped them and pulled Mycroft just a bit more forward in the chair so their knees touched. After so many weeks of denying himself even the faintest amount of contact with the man, the feel of his hands and the gentle warmth radiating from his legs to John’s was almost exhilarating.
Take it all in, he told himself. He may never want to speak to you again after you tell him....
John took a deep breath and leaned forward, tilting his head up as Mycroft leaned in and then their lips touched in the most chaste of parted-lip kisses, very similar to the goodbye-for-now kiss they’d shared just over six weeks ago. How successful their break had been that they’re now here and wanting each other just as much as before.
They were now unlocking their goodbye the same way they’d sealed it.
“Mycroft,” John whispered, drawing back. He bit his lip and tried to find the words. Two words, one contraction, ten letters, one apostrophe, one space, but he couldn’t get his mouth to form them. Over the next minutes, his lover tried to speak on three separate occasions, but the smaller man silenced him each time with a kiss or a “shhhh” or just by shaking his head at him.
John pressed his forehead to Mycroft’s and decided that the best way to break the news to him would be to say it quickly. Unfortunately for John, his quickly spewed “Mycroft, I’m pregnant” sounded more like “Mcrftmpigant” which simply made the other man sit back and stare at him, clearly checking for symptoms of a stroke.
“I’m pregnant,” John said on an exhale. He held what breath he had left and watched as the words wrote themselves in the reaction on Mycroft’s face. First came a questioning glance, as if his brain had to wrap itself around the concept of pregnancy, like he was wondering exactly how one got pregnant, followed immediately by a sharp intake of breath and a nervous, broken exhale, during which he gripped John’s fingers painfully. His face looked slightly startled now, and John felt almost dizzied with nerves and a lack of oxygen as he waited for the emotions to stop playing over Mycroft’s face.
After the initial confusion and shock came an air of disbelief that settled over the room, but the good kind, not the “Whose child is it?” kind. That was where Mycroft settled and when he did, he leaned forward again to touch his face against John’s.
“How long have you known?” he asked. His breath was warm. One of his fingers was stroking John’s hand and the other hand had come up to cup John’s cheek, thumb lightly tracing over his bottom lip as though the sandy-haired man was a brand new creature to be explored.
“Three days,” John breathed. “I didn’t know how to tell you--”
Mycroft nodded, which in turn made John’s head bob just slightly. “Well, now I know.”
Where do we go from here? John wondered.
“I...” Mycroft leaned away and released his partner’s hands as he settled back into the chair. “I’d like you to keep it.” His voice was just barely above a whisper and he looked like a contradictory response from John would break him.
“Of course I will,” John replied instantly. That had never been a question for him, not even when he had desperately been hoping for a negative test.
“And I... I understand if my lifestyle isn’t appealing to you--if you don’t want me to be a part of the child’s life, but I’d like to provide for you. Doctors, now, education, anything, later--”
John’s head was spinning so quickly that he wasn’t sure he could keep up with Mycroft’s offers. What did that mean? Did it mean that this was on him? That Mycroft didn’t want to try the compromise business or that he didn’t expect John to be in this for the long haul?
“Wait, wait, I need you to stop right now,” John said, waving his hands and probably looking entirely like a madman. “What are you saying?”
Mycroft swallowed and repeated his list--the bit about doctors and care and ensuring that John and the child would be provided for--but John shook his head before the man was even close to finished his spiel.
“That’s not what I mean. I mean what are you saying about... us?”
The man in front of him took pause and carefully considered his next words. “I suppose I’m saying that if you aren’t amenable to being in a long-term relationship with me--”
“I am,” John interjected. “I am very amenable.”
John leaned forward in his chair and tried to pull Mycroft out of the shell he had retreated into moments ago. “I love you, Mycroft. I was falling in love with you before, but at the end there, I knew it. But love isn’t easy--we both know that, because we’re both crazy enough to love Sherlock and he’s the hardest person in the world to love--but you and me could make this work, loving each other.”
John practically threw himself out of his chair and on his knees in front of Mycroft, spreading the other man’s knees and crawling between them so he could be closer to him. Arms unfolded and wrapped around him and when he was close enough that he could look up and breathe the same air as his lover, he continued: “This isn’t something we can just try. We’re going to have to make sacrifices--both of us--because that’s what love is. It means you’ll stop running off to Downing Street in the middle of the night in exchange for changing dirty nappies or dealing with boogie men in closets. It means I’ll stop getting myself strapped into Semtex vests and chasing around your madman brother until all hours. We can’t do it halfway, Mycroft.”
Mycroft nodded, his breath quick. “John, I--I’ve always planned everything, so you must understand that this is very... this is very out of sorts for me. Not having control of the situation is no small discomfort, and I’m trying to see every possible outcome--”
“Stop trying to think so far in advance. Just--Mycroft, look at me.” John took the other man’s face in his hands and burned his own gaze into green eyes. “Do you love me?” he asked. He supposed it was a hard question to start with, considering the words had never been spoken outside of quick breaths just before or after orgasm, which was when one was susceptible to such thoughts.
“Yes,” Mycroft whispered.
“Do you want to raise this child with me?”
Mycroft’s hands traced John’s sides above his jumper, making him shiver at the sense memory of those hands on his skin. “You have no idea how much, John,” he answered.
“Are you willing to reassign aspects of your career so you can be a father to this child?” This was the answer John expected to take the most time to consider, but it was barely past his lips when Mycroft’s reply came:
“Consider it done.”
“And... Well, I just have one other request,” John said, caressing Mycroft’s freckled cheek with his thumb.
“Anything.” The way Mycroft said the word made John truly believe that the man would do anything he asked and it sent a nervous tingle down his spine.
“Promise me we will give this baby a name with less school yard bully appeal than yours and Sherlock’s.”
“Oh, most definitely,” Mycroft replied, smiling now for the first time since John had gotten home from the hospital. John almost hated to interrupt the smile, but he felt like this was the sort of occasion that warranted a kiss to cement the deal.
And this one was an agreement John never planned to unseal.