“Mycroft.” John’s voice was practically a painted picture of gentle instruction. Mycroft looked up from his phone to where John stood in the doorway of the en suite bathroom. He was wearing a pair of cotton pyjama bottoms and a dark gray t-shirt that was loose-fitting at the shoulders but pulled taught across his belly.
He looked perfectly fine--there was a spot of toothpaste on the left corner of his mouth, but that was all that appeared amiss. The hint of something wavering in his voice was what made Mycroft’s stomach bunch.
“What is it, John?” He sat up and turned the duvet away from his legs.
“I need you to do something for me.” John’s voice was, again, veiling something Mycroft couldn’t place. It was worrisome, to say the least.
He swung his feet over the side of the bed and started to stand, the word “anything” ready to pass his lips when John held up a hand, halting him.
“I need you to be calm,” he said, taking a cautious step further into the room. He suddenly looked like a man trying to tread cautiously in a mine field. Mycroft braced himself. “I need you to promise me you’ll be calm.”
Mycroft’s brow furrowed, a small point appearing just above his nose. His brain immediately began to formulate a thousand different scenarios that could warrant John’s preemptive demand for composure.
“Remember our plan?” John asked. The man was a font of serenity, clearly hoping to project the feeling onto his partner. He was failing, of course. Mycroft was near panic by the time John sat down on one of the two chaise lounges at the foot of the bed. The uncertainty of the moment was threatening to drive Mycroft through the floor with its weight. John should have been moving toward the bed; the pair of them should have been curled together by now.
“Our plan?” Mycroft echoed, not sure what his lover was referencing.
“It’s a bit shot to hell,” John said, placing a hand on his swollen belly. And then Mycroft understood the tension in the man’s jaw; the way he grasped the left arm of the chair with white knuckles when he sat down. As if on queue, his face contorted for a long moment. Immediately, Mycroft was on his knees in front of him, no care in the world given to his silk pyjama bottoms.
“No, no, it’s not time yet,” Mycroft said. His fingers fumbled with his phone for a moment before he was able to steady himself. He had to get Anthea. He had to get John to the hospital. “It’s too soon.”
“We’re only a few weeks out,” John said on an exhale once the pain had ebbed. “A little undercooked, sure, but should be healthy.” He took a deep breath and held it for a moment. Mycroft was quickly overwhelmed with the fear that their child would be born in the very room it was conceived in.
“Stop that,” John said, clearly reading him like a book. “We’re going to go to the hospital, they’re going to prep me for surgery, and you’ll be Daddy Mycroft while I’m in a drugged stupor.” Another deep breath, another tight grip on the arm rests.
“Anthea is ordering the car,” Mycroft said. Every effort was being taken to remain calm, for John’s sake, but he would have been lying if he said he wasn’t nervous. What man wouldn’t be? John, however, was a doctor--surely he knew how these things went. But they didn’t have a bag packed for the hospital, and Mycroft was in his pyjamas. He didn’t like rushing, but what choice did he have?
And as he sat in the back of the town car several minutes later with John spread out across the seats, head in his lap, he couldn’t help wondering how he was lucky enough to be in this very situation.
There were a lot of things to discuss--so many things to plan. It was killing Mycroft not to be able to arrange the rest of their lives with a few phone calls and a snap of his fingers. He was a man used to having his way, and he wasn’t prepared for this.
Very few things in his life had been able to surprise him, but this was certainly at the top of that list. Tucked into bed with John Watson for the first time in two months, Mycroft felt a subtle pull just below his heart as he watched the younger man sleep. John was shirtless, and he had pushed the covers down to his waist and raised his left leg above the duvet. This wasn’t something Mycroft thought he would be privileged to see again so soon. He couldn’t help watching the gentle rise and fall with each of John’s quiet breaths.
Their break had been precipitated by Mycroft’s inability to delegate tasks among his team. He knew he took on too much, but it hadn’t been clear to him just how much he was sacrificing for his work until John had suggested they take some time apart; prioritize. Now, Mycroft knew where his priorities needed to be, just not how to get them there.
Content that he wasn’t dreaming and that John wasn’t about to disappear into the recesses of his dreams, Mycroft rested his head against his own pillow. His fingers found their way onto John’s stomach and rested there, tentatively. It was still a mystery to him that there was a life in there. Something that hadn’t existed two months ago was now growing--a little grape-sized person who was half of each of them.
It surprised him; took over his every thought each time John was in his line of vision. Even when he was in his office, the thought was constantly in the back of his mind. Just yesterday he had rescheduled an important phone call with an American ambassador because he had gotten caught up in research about first trimester development. Next week, the baby would begin to grow fingernails. The following week would find their child able to open and close a fist, all while being smaller than his own little finger.
Mycroft had never known anyone who was pregnant. It was something he realized once he had begun all of his internet searches into the subject. The only child he’d ever known at birth was Sherlock, and while he remembered that his mother had swelled to the size of a small boat, he didn’t remember finding it curious or fascinating. He supposed it was much different when it was your own child’s development you were tracking through the use of internet slide shows and coin-to-fruit comparisons.
His fingers traced a circle in the peach fuzz around John’s belly button and rested down again. He swallowed the urge to sigh. Mycroft Holmes was not patient. He wanted to see how John’s stomach would stretch and curve; wanted to feel their baby moving under his fingers. He hadn’t known how much he desired any of these things until he had to wait for them.
John’s left hand slipped sleepily to entwine his fingers with Mycroft’s. He hummed contentedly, squeezed softly. “M’croft,” he mumbled. His eyes were moving beneath his lids, ready to look around in the darkness, but it seemed his body was trying to hold on to the last moments of sleep.
“Shhh,” Mycroft replied. A blush immediately crept up his collar. John always tended to catch him when he watched him sleep, but he couldn’t help it, especially not now, not with what he knew. He didn’t want to miss a minute of this. “Go back to sleep.” He had to get up and head to his office, but he hadn’t wanted to set an alarm and risk waking John. His internal alarm tended to work well enough. Well, it worked well enough to wake him an extra forty minutes early so he could just watch John sleeping.
The hand holding his squeezed him close when he tried to pull away. When his eyes found John’s in the faintest of early morning light, something in the back of his mind told him that he always wanted to be the first thing John saw when he woke. If he could start his day off with such a dose of unbridled adoration, he’d never have a poor day in the rest of his life.
“When will I see you again?” John asked. His voice was low and gravelly with sleep.
“It’ll likely be a few days.” Mycroft regretted the time that fell between them, but if he was going to train someone to take on his tasks in as short a time as seven months, he had to kick up his workload in the meantime. Fortunately, John nodded in sleepy understanding. Mycroft made another move to get out of the bed, but John held him firm. “You should get back to sleep,” Mycroft said.
“You know we won’t be able to feel anything for another two or three months.” John squeezed his hand again, almost apologetically, and his eyes told Mycroft that he’d been caught. Of course, John was incorrect. He would likely be able to feel movement on the inside of eight weeks; it was Mycroft who would be left waiting.
“Of course,” Mycroft replied. His thumb moved over the skin of John’s stomach, still flat as the day they’d first fallen into bed together. “I think it’s the knowing that has me affected.” It’s an admission, though he knows he should be getting out of bed and letting John sleep.
“Mmm, that’s common, I think” John said, rolling over onto his right side. He was more awake now; the exact opposite of how Mycroft wanted him to be.
“Mhmm. I’m sure there are other things that will have you affected, as well, but we can explore those later.” John’s voice had an almost teasing edge to it, and the way he stroked Mycroft’s fingers as he disengaged from their hand-holding was far from innocent. His fingertips nearly tingled in anticipation of that promise, but he reminded himself that he had a job to get to; a number of political crises to solve before he could even have breakfast.
When he’d finally managed to pull himself out of the comfortable warmth of the bed, it didn’t take him long at all to prepare for the day. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he’d be able to do this a year from now, or if his early mornings would be owned by a shrieking infant in need of milk and a cuddle. Somehow, the latter is preferable in a way he never thought it would be.
He quietly padded around to John’s side of the bed and pressed a kiss to his forehead. The affectionate gesture is bordering on a side of domesticity that they’d never explored, but it felt called for, given Mycroft’s current head space.
“Thank you.” The words were whispered on an exhale and he started to move toward the door, but John caught him by the wrist. Reflexes; light sleeper. Military. Mycroft would’ve expected it if he hadn’t been feeling so sentimental.
Mycroft turned back to the bed and let his fingertips brush over John’s stomach again, a silent confirmation of what John already had to know, even in the grogginess of morning.
“I didn’t exactly do this by myself,” John replied. The words weren’t accusatory; they actually came with a small smile as John pushed himself up on his elbows. “You’re well and truly stuck with me.”
Mycroft smiled and made the split-second decision whether to leave their morning at that or to say what he was thinking. Maybe his preference for the latter came from the lack of morning tea in his system or the direct link to the sentimentality he felt, but he spoke nonetheless.
“For all our differences, my brother and I are really quite the same. Solitary, a bit socially intolerable, useless in matters of heart.” He paused and sat on the edge of the bed, indenting it just next to John’s thigh. “Yes, I’m a bit more house-trained than he, but at the core, we’re similar. And I never thought anyone would want to share this with me.” For the third time that morning, his fingers splayed over the skin of John’s abdomen. “Or, for that matter, that this was something I’d want. So I find myself wishing to thank you.”
“I think that goes both ways,” John replied. Their fingers linked together once more, and they stayed that way until Anthea called him to the car.
That isn’t to say that he didn’t keep in touch with John. Quite the opposite, actually. He frequently called--though mostly to postpone dinner to another evening, or to inform John of the latest information he’d learned about their child’s organ development. John, forever the patron saint of patience and understanding, humored him while he prattled off facts about weeks ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen. The other man sighed when Mycroft announced that he would have to travel to Australia, and John’s voice had been a bit tense when the call from Australia had announced another impromptu trip to New Zealand.
Mycroft knew that he wasn’t making much of a show of passing on his responsibilities, but it was early yet and he couldn’t exactly send Anthea on her own.
He had been looking forward to returning home to Chelsea and finally talking things through with John--arrangements that needed making, doctors appointments, living situations, the like. What he didn’t expect (though he thought perhaps he deserved it) was to call John only to have the other man say he was out with Sherlock on a case and likely wouldn’t be done until late and maybe Mycroft was better off going to bed after such a trying business trip.
Though tempted to fall into the downy plushness of his bed, Mycroft remained awake, sitting and watching the fire in his parlor, sipping at a brandy until he raised the glass to his lips and found it empty. At that point, he called the security team he had tagging Sherlock and John to find out if they’d yet retired. It was nearly three in the morning.
“They’ve just apprehended a suspect, Sir. I expect they’ll return to Baker Street shortly.”
Mycroft relaxed a bit, though he was frustrated at the very idea that John had been running around out in the cold at such hours. There was no way he could stop him, but weren’t they both meant to be cutting back on their vices? Mycroft on his work and John on... Sherlock.
His phone rang just as he was readying himself for bed. John’s name lit up the screen and Mycroft sighed. He didn’t fancy arguing just before bed. It would only mean that the pair of them would wake up angry in the morning.
Before he could even utter a greeting, John said, “Open the bloody front door. It’s freezing.”
Puzzled, Mycroft made his way downstairs and found John standing on the front step, a taxi driving away behind him. The first thought in his mind was that he needed to get John a key. The second was:
“You should be sleeping,” Mycroft said, stepping aside for John to enter.
“So should you.”
John walked straight by and to the stairs. Mycroft followed without question until they reached the bedroom, at which point John turned and faced him.
“I’ll have you know I’m furious, just to get this out of the way.” John’s fingers worked at the buttons on his coat before shrugging it onto the chest at the foot of the bed. “We’re meant to be working on this, Mycroft.”
After their absences from each other, Mycroft’s eyes immediately went to John’s belly, looking for any sign of change. After all, it had been nearly a month. But nothing.
“I’m exhausted.” John’s statement didn’t mean much when he was standing in the center of the room, looking as though he had no intentions of falling asleep anytime soon. “But my parents didn’t want me to make their mistakes. Fuck, Harry doesn’t want me to make her mistakes, and damn it, Mycroft we are not going to bed with this hanging in the air.”
Mycroft remained silent, though it wasn’t for a lack of things to say. He just wanted to let John have his piece.
“If we go to bed cross, we’re going to wake up cross on different sides of London, and we’re going to go another week without seeing each other because we’re both too bloody proud.” John took a deep breath. “You told me you were going to cut back on the work. A month and a half ago, you sat at Baker Street and you swore I wouldn’t be alone in this. But where were you when it was time for the first scan? Do you know how many ways that could’ve gone wrong? What if there hadn’t been a heartbeat?” His voice broke and Mycroft wanted to reach for him, but he didn’t think his arms would be welcome. It only took a moment for John to regain himself before he continued. “And then you just come back and want me to drop everything and come see you, because you’re Mycroft Holmes, the bloody British government and who cares if your security team nearly botched Sherlock’s investigation?”
That was likely a rhetorical question.
“I... admit that I haven’t done everything in my power to ensure that I would be able to step away from my position more frequently,” Mycroft said, trying to remain delicate. He knew from research that John’s hormones were spiked and that he didn’t have much control over his temper and mood swings. However, he also knew from experience that John Watson tended to let things simmer until they boiled over, and that he couldn’t just downplay the emotions to the pregnancy. “These last few weeks were a whirlwind of unexpected complications,” he explained. “I can’t go into further detail than that, but do understand that it will not happen again.”
Mycroft’s hands found John’s waist after a half dozen tentative steps forward. “I meant what I said those weeks ago, and I still do. But I will admit that neither of us are completely holding up our ends of the bargain, if the bags under your eyes are anything to go by.” He wasn’t accusing John of not taking care of himself, not in so many words, but the concern he felt when he saw the exhaustion plain in that expressive face wasn’t something he could tuck away.
“Tonight was a one-off,” John said nonchalantly. His words were punctuated with a yawn. Mycroft drew him closer.
“From here on out, then.” Mycroft rested his chin on top of John’s head. He knew the other man hated it, but when John buried his face against the side of his neck, they both let the tension from their row dissipate.
“Coat pocket,” John whispered against his throat.
Mycroft, content to fall asleep standing there, was briefly confused by John’s words and made a sound that suggested so.
“A bit of motivation for change. In my left coat pocket.” John lowered his eyes and stepped away, eyeing the coat on the trunk as he did. He walked around to his side of the bed and started unbuttoning his shirt. Even though Mycroft knew it would be impractical for John to return to Baker Street tonight, he was still happy that the man chose to stay.
Mycroft reached for the jacket and turned it over in his hands. When he reached into the pocket, he found a thin square of paper and withdrew it. The side that faced him was plain white, and he looked up at John, who motioned for him to flip it over.
When he turned it over in his hands, his breath caught. There, in black and white and shades of grey, was their baby. Foreign, alien to him but somehow familiar. He stared for a long moment at the bulbous head, the disproportional body, the tiny little point on the head that could only be a nose.
He was frighteningly overwhelmed by the feeling that he would do anything in his power for this incredible little person.
After gently placing the printed photo down on his bureau, he curled up against John’s side in the bed. “I love you.” He pressed his lips against John’s shoulder. Their fingers wrapped around each other on John’s stomach once more and Mycroft pressed closer to him.
“It’s Dr. Watson--” Mycroft started to correct, but John grabbed his hand and squeezed. Hard.
“She can call me whatever she bloody wants to, so long as there is a room here with some variation of my name on it.”
They helped John onto the bed and the nurse informed them that a doctor would be in to see them shortly.
“Mycroft,” John wheezed.
“Yes?” Mycroft hurried over to the side of the bed.
“If you don’t stop pacing, I will end you. I told you to be calm. This?” John gestured to where Mycroft had been walking back and forth. “This is not calm.”
Mycroft sat on the side of the bed. “My apologies.” He took John’s hand, but John shook him away.
“I don’t want to break your fingers.” There was that calm, a certain air of nonchalance that made Mycroft wonder what John Watson was made of.
“Can they give you something for the pain?”
“They might offer,” John said, leaning back against the pillows. “But I’m hoping they’ll take me right up to surgery so we won’t have to worry through this. Then again, if we get a doctor who doesn’t believe in surgical births without physical merit, I may or may not kill someone.”
They had found out from John’s mother, about halfway through the pregnancy, that their family had a history of cervical complications. As such, most of the children born on his mother’s side had been results of cesareans. It had seemed only logical to schedule one rather than wait through hours of labor to find out if John’s cervix was properly functional or not.
Mycroft felt more helpless than he could ever remember feeling. He didn’t like seeing John in pain; he liked knowing that there was nothing he could do about it even less. Even so, he could hardly believe that in barely a few hours, he could be watching his son or daughter take their first breath.
Just one more surprise.
They hadn’t talked about this. It seemed they had discussed almost everything else about their child, but knowing what to expect in terms of the child’s gender hadn’t been at the forefront of their minds.
Mycroft looked at John, who was lying on the examination table, paper shirt rucked up to just above his ribs. Even at 20 weeks, the change in his body was minimal. Mycroft’s impatience, however, certainly showed. Regularly.
They shared a look and then answered each other with opposite preferences. Mycroft, no surprise, wanted to know the sex of the child. John wanted to wait.
“Well, go on and try to deduce it, but know that if you figure it out and tell me, I’ll be cross with you,” John said, effectively ending the conversation. Mycroft wanted to shoot back that John was a doctor and should be able to figure it out on his own, but he assumed that if John didn’t want to know, he’d likely avoid looking.
Mycroft decided that if John wanted to wait, he would wait. Even though it would likely drive him crazy.
But when the baby came up on the little screen, Mycroft was thoroughly distracted and didn’t even have thought to look for the baby’s sex organs. Instead, he saw little hands and feet. A little head that looked a bit more natural than it had two months ago. And it was moving.
“How does that even fit in there?” John asked aloud, though it sounded more like a rhetorical question than one that expected an answer. His tone was incredulous. “I mean honestly, I can’t feel a thing and I haven’t gained even a hint of a bump.”
“Well, development looks normal. Heartbeat is strong. It’s not unusual for the baby to be a bit small, given your age, and since this is your first child, we don’t know how late you’ll start to show. With how it’s growing right now, I’d say you won’t have a very noticeable bump until between twenty-six and thirty weeks.”
“Is it just that it’s sitting low?” John asked.
“Could be a little shy, yeah,” the technician said.
A little shy. The words followed Mycroft all the way home. Even though the words were joking, he hadn’t given the child much by way of personality yet. He hadn’t felt the baby move--and John promised he hadn’t felt much, either--and he couldn’t determine if the child was going to have his or John’s demeanor when there wasn’t any action to build from.
“We’ll have to decide what to call ourselves,” John mused over lunch. They’d gotten takeaway because John hadn’t been hungry before their appointment but had suddenly felt famished afterwards. There had also been an intense craving for butter chicken involved in the takeaway decision.
“What do you mean?” Mycroft asked. He tucked his napkin under his chin to avoid getting any curry on himself before he returned to the office. When he removed the lid from his container, John’s eyes looked at the chicken longingly. The one thing they did know for sure about their child was that it would not tolerate John eating any kind of spices.
He licked his lips and opened his own container before continuing. “I mean we both can’t be called ‘daddy,’ now can we?”
“I think I’d prefer to be called ‘father,’ given the gamut of parental terms.”
“Absolutely not,” John said through a mouthful. “Not going to happen.”
“This child will be the poshest, smartest thing to walk the halls of whichever prep school we decide to fling them at, but I draw the line at him or her calling you father. This kid isn’t going to be a third as formal as you.” John paused and gestured around them with his fork. “Had this dining room ever seen styrofoam containers before I invaded it? I’m still worried that knight fellow is going to spear me for not wearing a napkin.” John smiled good-naturedly, but Mycroft couldn’t help bristling slightly at the accusation.
He leaned back in his chair and regarded his partner. “Well, I certainly can’t imagine anyone calling me ’daddy.’”
John looked at him for a moment before slowly setting down his fork. His face transformed into a bright ball of laughter and he leaned forward over the table, trying to calm himself. He covered his mouth to keep from spitting out his half-chewed chicken.
“What’s funny?” Mycroft felt like he had missed something important.
John straightened himself a moment later and swallowed, shaking his head. “I’m just imagining a mud-covered six-year-old running up to you in your three-piece suit calling out ‘Daddy! Daddy!’” He chuckled again and picked up his fork.
“Ah, so you’re assuming we’ll have a boy, then,” Mycroft mused.
“Don’t be presumptuous.” John chewed and swallowed, but there was a small bit of sauce tempting Mycroft at the corner of his lips. John licked his lips when he saw the way Mycroft’s eyes had been distracted. “Little girls like mud, too.”
Mycroft tugged his napkin from his collar. “No child of mine will want to be within a hundred yards of a mud puddle.”
“Then this will be interesting, because no child of mine will be able to resist.”
It was around the time that Mycroft realized this sad fact that he began to unload more of his workload and reassign government projects to other divisions. He was concerned about his brother living alone again, but it wasn’t as if he would be able to keep John away from Sherlock. They were practically two sides to a coin, and he didn’t fancy that he would ever be able to get between them.
He harbored no ill will toward his brother for the bond between the pair of them. As surely as he had never expected to find someone to share his life with, he’d never expected anyone to love Sherlock so unconditionally. John Watson was a breath of fresh air for the both of them.
“Have you told anyone at work why you’re suddenly dumping more work on them rather than taking care of everything yourself? Or do they just think you’ve finally snapped and are abusing your power?” John smiled at him as he stirred at a pot of pasta. It had been nearly two weeks since they’d last seen each other and John had insisted on cooking dinner rather than going out to a restaurant.
“Only Anthea knows for the time being,” Mycroft answered as he dug through a cupboard for the spaghetti strainer. “I don’t see that it’s the business of anyone else.”
“Are you planning to tell anyone?” John drew a single strand of spaghetti from the pot and pressed it between two fingers to check the texture before dropping it back into the pot with a small shake of his head.
“You and my dear brother are the extent of my personal circle and seeing as each of you knew before me, I don’t think there is anyone I need to inform of the occasion.”
John pulled a face and stirred at the pasta, but said nothing.
Later, when Mycroft turned down the duvet and waited for John to finish brushing his teeth, he idly wondered which spare room they should convert into a nursery. Neither of them were very well suited for a small child, though he supposed in the beginning everything didn’t need to be child-proofed, since the little he or she wouldn’t be doing all that much toddling about. Still, with the rest of the flat furnished to the nines, he had a hard time picturing colorful cartoon characters on the walls or stuffed animals protruding from a toy box.
Or, for that matter, any hint of a child anywhere in the flat. But there was time. They’d work it out.
John poked his head into the room from the threshold of the bathroom. “Mycroft?”
Mycroft set his phone on the bedside table after checking his alarm. He’d set it for half six, which was the latest he’d let himself sleep on a weekday in years. His eyes lingered on the scar on John’s left shoulder as the man leaned sideways into the threshold.
“I’ve got something to show you, but you need to close your eyes.”
Mycroft raised an eyebrow but sat on the edge of the bed and did as he was instructed.
“Mycroft Holmes, if you even think about opening your eyes before I tell you to, you will regret it.”
The thought had crossed his mind, obviously, but he wasn’t going to cheat. He was rewarded a moment later by the sound of John padding barefoot across the carpet until he stopped directly in front of Mycroft. He was about to open his eyes when John’s hand covered them.
“Not yet,” he said. “Can I trust you or should I keep my hand here?”
“I assure you I have enough self control to keep my eyes shut,” Mycroft replied with an amused huff.
John’s hand drew away with a featherlight caress. He stepped away and, for a moment, Mycroft was confused, but then there was a soft clicking sound and the red hue in front of his eyes faded to dark. John returned and took his hands. The confusion was fresh until his hands were placed low on the fronts of John’s hips before slowly being guided upwards. For the first time, he could feel the telltale curve of the little life beneath his palms.
The skin was warm under his fingers and even though this recent development was by no means how one would picture 27 weeks of pregnancy to look, it was certainly a development. And Mycroft wanted to look.
“John,” he said quietly, somehow managing to keep his eyes shut as anticipation thrummed through his veins. “I want to see, John.”
“Shh,” John replied, moving their hands up further still. “Just a moment.” He shifted on his feet and brought Mycroft’s hands to rest just below his belly button, pressing them there gently. Mycroft was about to speak again when he felt it; the faintest of flutters under the heel of his left hand.
His eyes snapped open and he looked up to see John smiling in the dim light. His own lips curved into a wonderstruck smile. There was another flurry of movement under his palm that made him feel almost giddy.
“When did this start?” He was nearly breathless, as if he’d just run a marathon.
“I think I just woke up bloated one morning and stayed that way, about a week ago,” John explained. His fingers trailed down to where this new pouch-like belly protruded from his hips. The drawstring on his pyjama bottoms was loosely tied. “As for the moving bit, he or she started acting up around this hour a few days ago. Sherlock was abusing his violin, and I think that may have had something to do with it.”
Mycroft didn’t ask how long John had been able to feel the baby moving. He knew it was unlikely that that had been the first time John felt it; it must’ve just been the first time it was hard enough to be felt externally.
“Once Sherlock noticed, it was hard to keep his hands off me,” John explained, though when Mycroft shot him a worried look, he shook his head. “He’s interested in a purely scientific way. Wants to know how the baby reacts to different outside stimuli. I told him in no uncertain terms that this child is not one of his experiments, in the womb or out.”
“I make no guarantee that I’ll be able to keep my hands off you,” Mycroft said, pulling John closer. “Nor do I guarantee that I’ll make any effort to try.” He pressed a few open-mouthed kisses to John’s collarbone, all while keeping one hand on the other man’s hip and one just to the side of his rounded belly.
“You’re welcome to be as handsy as you please,” John said, tilting his head back in invitation. “I suppose it’s meant to be part of the package.”
“Oh?” Mycroft’s lips pulled gently at the pulse point at the base of John’s throat.
“Mmm, of course,” John hummed. “I swell up like a balloon, get sore at the ankles and striped like a zebra, and all the hormones I kick out will tell you it’s the hottest thing you’ve ever seen.”
The older man chuckled and spread his knees so he could pull John closer. “You’re a spectacle to behold, John Watson.”
“Always glad to entertain.” John’s fingers were absentmindedly working at the buttons on Mycroft’s nightshirt. When he opened the shirt and slipped the forest green silk down his partner’s shoulders, he gently pushed on those very shoulders until Mycroft scooted back on the bed, propped on his elbows.
When John straddled his hips and leaned forward for a kiss, Mycroft wrapped his arms around him and held him close, wondering why it had been so long since they’d last done this. Maybe it was something built into Mycroft’s psyche that told him he didn’t want to risk hurting the baby--no matter how many times John told him that continued intercourse during pregnancy wasn’t going to cause any complications.
But right now, he felt young. He felt alive; almost indestructible. One hand rested on the small of John’s back, pulling his lover closer yet as his tongue traced his bottom lip. His right hand slipped along the curve of John’s stomach possessively before tugging at the tie of his pyjamas.
After, when they settled into the covers, quiet and sated, Mycroft’s hand once more found the downward curve below John’s belly button and rested there, ready to drift into sleep.
“I think the baby has the hiccups,” John said suddenly.
Mycroft blinked his eyes open and asked John to repeat what he’d just said, just to make sure his sleep-addled brain hadn’t misheard him.
“I’m serious. I think the baby has hiccups. I keep feeling this little... jump. Just here.” He took Mycroft’s hand and placed it to the right of where it had been a moment prior. Sure enough, after several skeptical seconds, Mycroft felt a little jolt. Six seconds later, another. And then another.
“This may be the most bizarre thing I’ve ever encountered,” Mycroft mused, caught somewhere between mildly horrified and slightly entertained. “Post-coital hiccups.”
“Oh, God.” John shielded his eyes with one arm and laughed. “That’s a story that is never leaving this room.”
Now that the moment of truth was impending, Mycroft was beginning to feel strangely nauseated. They’d given him a cap and mask and a sterile gown and rubber gloves. He understood the necessity, but it just made him feel like the first real contact he had with his child would likely give the newborn the plague. Because he wasn’t already nervous enough about all of this.
“I removed the waistcoat.” He smiled, even though John could only see the crinkle at the edges of his eyes.
“I don’t want you to be concerned, but I think I may be in love with the nurse who gave me the epidural,” John said. His face looked more peaceful than it had prior to the gargantuan needle, which told Mycroft that the anesthetic was working its magic. It made him feel better, as well, to know that John wasn’t experiencing quite as much discomfort. John, however, hadn’t seen the needle. Mycroft had, and it left him thankful that he wasn’t on the receiving end.
“Is it socially acceptable to tell me you love someone else while you’re giving birth to my child?”
“As good a time as any,” John replied. Mycroft took his hand and held it as the doctors and nurses around them began to move about like a well-oiled machine. The squeeze he gave was as much to reassure John as it was for himself.
Oh God, he thought. I’m about to become a parent.
“If you have somehow defied the laws of reproduction and gotten a second one in there, I will draw and quarter you,” John had threatened. He had followed it up with a playful slap of a pale yellow paintbrush to Mycroft’s cheek. Needless to say, they hadn’t finished painting that afternoon.
Now that they were only nine weeks from the arrival of the Unnamed Miniature of Mycroft and John, things were starting to solidify as actualities rather than concepts. They couldn’t hide the fact that John was pregnant anymore, and Mycroft was fully aware that everyone at the Yard had first assumed that the child was Sherlock’s. Sherlock, for his part, had been horrified at the very insinuation of it and had informed everyone that while he took an active interest in the baby’s life (at which point John had reminded him, again, that the baby was not a test subject), he’d had no part in its conception.
It seemed every time they turned around, someone was giving them a gift, or unsolicited advice. They had three different books of baby names, a rocking chair that went against every bit of decor in the flat, and a three-tier “cake” made out of diapers. Mrs. Hudson had knitted a blanket. Molly had bought them the smallest jumper Mycroft had ever seen, and he had been amazed by it until he saw the tiny pair of socks that she’d bought to match.
“I’m going to have a team put the furniture together,” Mycroft announced. “Painting has been a lovely experience, but I draw the line at trying to read Swedish.”
“They’re not that complicated, Mycroft. Plus, there are pictures.”
“Just let me bring some people in. The nursery will be finished in an afternoon and we won’t bicker over placements because everything will be done for us.”
“Yes, to your specifications.”
Still, John didn’t say a word against it when they arrived back at the flat two days later to find a fully-furnished nursery in the room next to their bedroom. He didn’t say anything in favor of it, either, but Mycroft suspected that was because he didn’t like to admit that sometimes it was truly easier to give the work to a team of professionals.
They were packing up some of John’s things at Baker Street when Sherlock decided to inquire about his niece or nephew’s name.
“You’re not going to name it after one our parents, are you?” Sherlock was perched on his chair with his elbows on his knees. “That would be horribly unoriginal.”
“We haven’t decided on a name yet, no,” John said. He seemed surprised how many of his own possessions had become mingled with Sherlock’s to the point that he wasn’t sure what was whose anymore. Mycroft watched him trying to sort things out; watched him check the inside flaps of books he wasn’t sure about. “Any suggestions?”
Sherlock shook his head, looking utterly bored with the topic already.
Fact was, Mycroft and John had discussed names several times, but each time, they’d been unable to find something that would fit. Their own names were on completely opposite sides of the normalcy spectrum. A name didn’t get much more plain than John Watson, and Mycroft Holmes had a ring to it that alluded to a certain amount of power and respect.
They didn’t want something on one end of the spectrum, they needed their child to be somewhere in the middle. Memorable, but not in the way that would incite schoolyard bullying or strike instant fear in the hearts of playdates.
There was also the debate about whose surname the baby would take, though that was like fighting an uphill battle, since each man wanted the child’s last name to be the other’s.
It had become such a sore subject between the two of them that Mycroft considered trying to bend the rules about taking a child out of the hospital without a name for the birth certificate. He knew he could get around it if the situation truly warranted something so drastic, but it was possible that if they took that route, the baby would never get a name.
It was when one of the doctors said “And here she is!” that everything in the world seemed to right itself; four little words coming in clearer than ever. And when the shrill crying began a moment later, Mycroft let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. While he knew, deep down, that he would come to wish the crying would stop in the coming weeks, months, years--for the moment, it was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. A voice that was new to the world; breath that wouldn’t be drawn if it weren’t for him and John.
The room was a bit chaotic for Mycroft’s brain to follow, but he was keenly aware of the position of the baby in relation to himself. Four feet away, her lungs were being cleared and she was being wrapped in a warm blanket. He held John’s hand tightly and tried to catch a glimpse of the newborn through the nurses who were tidying her.
Her. God, it was foreign to him, but familiar. He’d barely had time to get used to knowing she was in there and suddenly she was out in the world and he was expected to be responsible for this little person.
One of the nurses turned around and started walking toward him. The tiny bundle in her arms had stopped crying, though Mycroft feared that when he took it, the baby would start wailing all over again. All the same, when the baby was offered to him, he accepted her without a second thought, carefully cradling her head in the bend of his arm.
People had tried to give him their children in the past; tried to get him to hold infants and toddlers because he had so much as glanced at them. Babies, he knew, would never really be his area. But that scrunched up little face was half his own making. It was the kind of moment where he thought “I never want to give this up” and was instantly gratified with the knowledge that he’d never have to.
He turned toward John and leaned in close, bringing the baby’s face into his line of sight, since he was still very much unable to go anywhere as the doctors fixed him up from the surgery.
“Hello there,” John said quietly. He looked truly exhausted, but he still managed to raise a hand and set it on the pink-blanketed bundle. He smiled favorably. “I bet you’re going to be ginger.”
Mycroft chuckled and leaned forward to press his forehead to John’s, the baby held between them. He felt overwhelmed by too many emotions; too many things that needed sorting.
“Does she have a name?” one of the nurses asked.
“Aurora Holmes,” John replied. His voice was low with emotion, though there was certainly a tired edge to it. It was, after all, nearly four in the morning.
His eyes were shining slightly when he met Mycroft’s before looking back at the baby. They both stared at her for a long moment, just watching her breathe, but it wasn’t because they were wondering if they’d made the right choices about everything that led up to this moment; it was because they knew they’d done something right.
Mycroft thought that if they could just keep doing that--getting something right and surviving the bumps and curves along the way--they’d be okay.
Aurora Holmes was going to be the poshest, most brilliant little girl to ever jump in mud puddles.