When Abby started saying his first words, John was relieved that they really weren’t all that remarkable.
Perhaps that was the wrong way to put it. After all, he was always amazed how adorable it was to hear him fumble a bit over each new word as he learned it, repeating syllables for far too long (“nanabananana”) or being a bit too young to successfully make certain sounds (“Unca Mycough”, to Sherlock’s endless delight). And it was always phenomenal to see realization click in Abby’s deep blue eyes as his vocabulary expanded word by word.
It was simply that he had been dreading that something odd or inappropriate might tumble from the baby’s lips, given that he was the genetic product of two extremes. Mycroft had told him that Sherlock’s first word was “no”, which in itself wasn’t terribly unusual. However, that was all he said until he was months into his third year of life, when he suddenly began speaking in full sentences as if he had been doing that all along. Count on Sherlock to cut out the inefficient baby talk stage of his life altogether.
John, on the other hand, had begun to speak relatively early. He didn’t attribute it to anything special on his end, especially given the type of words he said. No, he just had a mischievous sister five years his senior who was enthusiastically willing to work a long con. When their parents were around, his sister always seemed to be trying to teach infant John sweet words: “Johnny, say ‘love’!”, “Johnny, say ‘happy’!”, “Johnny, say ‘smile’!” But as soon as they were alone or at least out of ear-shot, Harry showed her true colours: “Johnny, say ‘tits’!”, “Johnny, say ‘arse’!”, “Johnny, say ‘sod’!” She repeated the filthy words she’d picked up from friends’ older siblings much, much more than the nice ones.
And that was how John Watson’s first word came to be ‘wanker’, lovingly exclaimed at his mother. Harry always brought the story up at least once whenever they were trapped together at a family gathering and had been doing so for as long as John could remember.
So when Abby - 18 months old and absorbing words like a sponge - suddenly began saying something new, John nearly had a heart attack, terrified that history was repeating itself.
John turned slowly from the kitchen sink, eyes wide and face pale. He had only turned his back for a moment to fetch a cleaning rag when he’d heard that. “Wh-what was that, Abby?” he asked in a slightly choked voice.
Abby was sitting in his high chair, grinning brightly and staring intently at a rogue splotch of vegetable puree that had landed on the edge of the chair’s tray. John had allowed Abby to try feeding himself a little during his lunch, hoping to promote hand-eye coordination. What he got was a few spoonfuls that happened to make it to the baby’s mouth and about twice as many spoonfuls smeared against his cheeks, nose, and even – somehow – in his dark curly hair. At least he got a few laughs and some good future blackmail material out of the ordeal.
“Bug!” Abby said again jovially. He pointed at the splotch.
The only thing that ran through John’s head as he approached the baby was, Please don’t be trying to say ‘bugger’. Please don’t be trying to say ‘bugger’. Please oh please oh please don’t be trying to say ‘bugger’.
To his relief, a housefly had landed on the dollop of puree. “Oh, thank Christ,” John mumbled. Louder and more exuberantly, he added, “Yeah, that’s a bug, Abby. It’s called a fly. Fly. Ffflyyy. Can a smart boy like you say it?”
John chuckled. “Good job! You’ll get those L’s figured out in no time.” With a bit of effort, he got the slightly creaky kitchen window open. “Now, unfortunately, Mr. Fly can’t really stay here, since he doesn’t pay rent. Can you say bye-bye to Mr. Fly, Abby?”
Abby clenched and unclenched his slightly sticky right hand repeatedly, wiggling it back and forth in an awkward wave. “Bah-bye!” he crowed.
Several minutes (and quite a few stifled swears under his breath) later, John managed to shoo the fly out the window, which he promptly shut. When he turned back to Abby, the messy baby had a confused and slightly sad expression on his face.
“Fwy?” the baby asked.
“He had to go, Abby,” John said. He sighed, looking thoughtful for a moment before something seemed to occur to him. “How about this: I start up my laptop, and I can show you loads and loads of pictures of other bugs, okay?”
“Bug!” Abby exclaimed happily, clapping his hands together.
John smiled, reaching down to ruffle the baby’s puff of hair fondly. When his hand came back smeared with some of the stray baby food, he scowled slightly. “But first, you need a bath.”
“No baff!” Abby cried, kicking a little as John lifted him up. “No, no, no!”
“Sorry, not open for negotiation.”
Abby squealed in displeasure, continuing to kick a bit. After a moment, he went limp, accepting his damp fate with a resigned pout. “Buggah,” he grumbled.
“Oh, God,” John moaned.
When Sherlock returned from working on a case, John had to explain why he was showing their baby pictures of black widow spiders.
“It isn’t a complaint,” Sherlock said, peering over John’s shoulder at the pictures. “Latrodectus mactans is not a boring species. Any creature that lends its name to a certain type of female serial killer deserves a second look. Although I expected you to be more of a ‘The cow goes moo’ sort of parent, not the ‘The venomous spider eats her mate to sustain her babies’ sort.”
John sighed. “To be honest, it started with ‘The cricket goes chirp’, ‘The caterpillar turns into a pretty butterfly’, and ‘Let’s count the spots on the ladybird’, but once we got to praying mantises, one thing led to another and things got a bit out of hand.”
“Ah,” Sherlock said in understanding. “A ‘whazzat’ loop.”
As if on cue, Abby wriggled on John’s lap and pointed to another picture in the Google Image results and loudly asked, “Whazzat?”
“Try to say ‘What’s that’, Abby. And it’s a scorpion,” John said. “See the tail? It’s another type of inse-“
“Arachnid,” Sherlock corrected. “As was the spider. Arachnid.”
“Nawackny,” Abby tried to repeat. He clapped happily and babbled something less coherent.
“Yeah, well, they’re all crawly things you don’t want to find in the flat uninvited,” John said. “I’ll make that its own phylum. Oh, and Sherlock, don’t think that I haven’t noticed your new look. Why, exactly, are you covered head-to-toe in flour?”
Sherlock shrugged, causing a bit of the white powder to puff into the air. “Murderous baker,” he said, as if that explained everything about his situation.
“Right,” John said. He nodded and then adjusted Abby so he could see Sherlock. “Abby, look at Daddy.” The baby squealed in surprised mirth and laughed so hard he gave himself hiccups. “Can you think of something he needs?”
Abby continued to giggle, occasionally interrupted by hiccups. After a moment, he responded, “Baff!”
By the time Absalom was two years old, Sherlock felt he owed John tremendously for inadvertently encouraging the toddler’s immense fascination with insects, arachnids, and other such creatures.
When their son was still a newborn, Sherlock had privately wondered what would happen when Absalom started forming and expressing his own preferences as a unique individual. Would he share his own narrow but intensely focused interests? If so, he was certain John would develop a stress hernia by the time Absalom entered his first year of school equipped with a thorough knowledge of neurotoxins but no idea what sound a monkey makes (Sherlock only knew that one from personal experience, having got on the bad side of a mob of irate Rhesus macaques in New Delhi during his takedown of Moriarty’s web. In retrospect, he wouldn’t have been surprised if the monkeys were part of the web themselves).
What if Absalom developed tastes similar to John’s? Sherlock dreaded having to catch up on all those tedious Bond films or endless, illogical series of Doctor Who just to have even a passing idea what his family kept babbling about. And God forbid the child became interested in football. The only thing that sport was any good for was murders performed during riots, and even those were wretchedly dull.
But Absalom’s burgeoning interest in things with exoskeletons was acceptable. It was age-appropriate enough that it wouldn’t alarm teachers if he was still interested in it when he started school, but nowhere near boring. More than that, it was practical for Sherlock to become further acquainted with the world insects. They were often an important part of crime scene work, as forensic entomology could help determine everything from length of decay to whether or not a corpse had been moved postmortem.
John whole-heartedly encouraged the insect research Sherlock would do with Absalom on his lap, provided no pictures of maggot-covered corpses were involved.
John came to regret being quite so encouraging the day he realized he was now out-voted.
“John! John!” Sherlock called exuberantly as he raced down the stairs from Abby’s room. The two year old was sitting on Sherlock’s shoulders, grinning excitedly and holding onto his father’s hair for balance. “Absalom and I have been talking, and we have reached a conclusion.”
John put down the paper he had been reading and looked up at his mate and son. “Yes? What is it?”
“Absalom and I are in accord. We really must have bees.”
John’s face went blank. “Bees.”
“Lotsa lotsa bees!” Abby exclaimed.
“Oh my, yes,” Sherlock said. “Loads of bees.”
“Sherlock, in case you missed it, we live in the heart of London. Kind of not the best place to raise bees. Probably breaks a few zoning laws.”
“Bees make honey!” Abby said insistently. “Go on toast.”
“He’s absolutely right, John. You’d never have to go to Tesco’s for honey again. Furthermore: Absalom, what sound do bees make?”
Sherlock fixed John with a triumphant look. “As you can see, we’re very well-researched on the subject. Not putting that effort to use would be a shame.”
Despite himself, John found himself chuckling. “That’s what bees say, Abby?”
“No!” Abby said, laughing as if it were the silliest thing he’d ever heard. “Not say. Wings go fast. Bzzz bzzzzz!”
“God, you’re brilliant,” Sherlock said, tilting his head to kiss the toddler’s bare right knee, just exposed by the hem of his shorts. Abby laughed again, his skin tickled by the affectionate gesture. “Understanding the difference between vocalizations and rapid wing vibrations at your age. Absolutely brilliant! Where’s my phone? I need to gloat at Mycroft and possibly several of the dregs at Scotland Yard over how well you’ve turned out. Upstairs!”
He took off quickly towards the stairs, and Abby buzzed the whole way up.
John shook his head fondly, chuckling under his breath. Just as he reached to return to his paper, Sherlock called out, “Don’t forget that you’re outnumbered, John! One day we shall have our bees!”
John immediately dropped the paper, dashed to his laptop, and went to work trying to find an interesting case for Sherlock. Or five cases. Make that six. Six would be good; maybe that would distract him long enough to forget the promise of bees.
The older Abby got, the more apparent it became that modern urban life was a round hole and he was a square peg.
By age four, he was the type of child who was ludicrously outdoorsy, though not in a sporting way. His favorite activity was visiting parks. Large ones with areas that included everything from wide, open fields with tall, burr-filled grasses to soggy marshes – not the small, artificial parks that contained plastic jungle gyms, sandboxes, and – God forbid – other, noisier children trampling on what little good could be found in such places. He loved nothing more than exploring a proper park: crawling on hands and knees through a thicket to get a closer look at a disused snake burrow, watching a line of ants and using them to count as high as he could, or seeing the morning dew still clinging to a spider web. On one very special day, he’d even found a stag beetle.
It was like he was destined to live in the countryside, but had somehow ended up in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. Even though Regent’s Park was only about two miles from his home, it wasn’t quite the same. Perhaps, if the universe operated on a balancing system, that meant there was a child in Northumberland who was bored out of his mind living in the middle of nowhere.
During one of their frequent visits to Regent’s, John sat beneath a tree watching Abby carefully investigate the mud surrounding the lake. The boy knew not to get too close to the water. Truth be told, it wasn’t even much of a concern; while Abby liked fish well enough, he preferred reptiles, amphibians, and insects, and the shore was an ideal place to look for such creatures.
John saw Abby freeze momentarily as he was creeping through some tall reeds. He seemed to be looking at something very thoughtfully. Slowly, he stooped and picked something up. He peered at it for about a minute, turning his head this way and that to get a good look. John wondered if he’d found an interesting rock or twig. Finally, he turned to John and started rushing back to him.
“Papa! Papa!” he called. As he got closer, John could see that he was cradling something gently in both hands. When he finally made it to John, he held his hands up to him, panting, “Look!”
It wasn’t a rock. It was a common frog with a wounded foot. The webbing on its back left foot was torn a bit, probably the work of a predator it had managed to escape.
“That’s very interesting, but go put the frog back, Abby,” John said. “You shouldn’t touch the animals here.”
“But Papa, look at her foot! She’s hurt! If we leave her alone, herons will gobble her up!” The boy’s blue eyes were filled with concern. His lips quivered a bit and he continued, slightly shakily, “And… and she isn’t scared of me at all. She knows she wants to get better.”
“We can find a park worker, then. They’ll know how to fix it up.”
“She’s not an it!” Abby said heatedly. Now there really were tears in his eyes. “Please, please, let’s look after her. She already likes me. I don’t know if she’d want anyone else looking after her!”
“Absalom Wade Holmes,” John said in a warning tone.
“Please? I don’t want her to be alone.”
Something about the way his son said that sentence struck John still. He looked closely at the boy, taking in the surprising amount of tenderness in the way he held the frog. As for the frog, it really didn’t seem to be scared or trying to get away; he wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign given its current state. John sighed. “She’d have to eat bugs, you know,” he said. “She can’t just change her diet because you like bugs too.”
A glimmer of hope appeared in Abby’s eyes. He nodded enthusiastically. “I know,” he said. “That’s nature.”
“And someone will have to clean her tank every now and then, because it certainly won’t be me.”
Abby nodded again. “I know. I’ll do it. I’ll do anything. I’ll even explain it to Daddy.”
“Actually, knowing him, he’ll be all for it. Though he’ll probably have to be told not to dissect her,” John murmured. He rubbed his hand over his face tiredly and said, “Fine. But remember: if I see any signs that you’re not obeying what I’ve said about this, she’s coming right back here. Understand?”
“Yes!” Abby exclaimed, partially in understanding and partially in joy. He carefully moved the frog so she sat in one of his hands, and he slung his free arm around John’s neck in an enthusiastic half-hug. “Thank you.”
John smiled and patted the boy on the back. “Alright,” he said. Abby ended the hug as he began to stand. “Let’s get going. Hold my hand so you don’t get lost.” He reached out and Abby placed his frogless hand in John’s.
As they were heading out of the park and back toward home, Abby regaled him eagerly with all kinds of facts about frogs. John remembered most of them from his own childhood, but there was one thing he was curious about. He asked, “Why are you so certain it’s female?”
“She doesn’t have big pads on her froggy thumbs,” Abby explained. “Boy frogs do. So Poppy is a lady frog.”
“Mm-hmm,” Abby nodded, grinning. “Hoppy Poppy. That’s her name.”
John was right. When they returned to 221B, Sherlock had no problems with allowing the frog to stay. He’d scoffed when John told him that the frog was absolutely, positively, under no means allowed to be used in any experiments, but that was the extent of the issue.
Sherlock had a spare tank left over from an experiment involving a severed foot and fifteen goldfish, which he donated to Abby for Poppy’s home. With a little help from the internet, the tank was soon set up with everything a frog would need in an artificial environment. They placed the tank on the desk Mycroft had given Abby for his fourth birthday, and Abby was pleased that he could see it easily from his bed.
After being tucked in and receiving goodnight kisses on his forehead, Abby began to drift off. “’Night, Poppy,” he murmured sleepily.
As he was falling asleep, he heard his parents’ voices talking quietly outside. Being so close to sleep, he only heard bits and pieces of the conversation, and what he did hear was forgotten by morning:
“– said he didn’t want her to be alone, but I think he was talking about himself too.“
“Then, you think it may be time for –“
“– besides, we might not have much longer if we do decide to have another.”
“Do you want another, John?”
“I – yeah. I think I really do.”
“Then we’re in agreement.”
Abby saw Mrs. Hudson, the woman he called his grandmother, nearly every day, but every two months or so, he’d stay with her in her flat for a few days.
It had been happening for as long as he could remember, and though he enjoyed those sleepovers very much, he wasn’t exactly sure why they happened when they did. They were different from the times she babysat him when both his parents were needed for a case. His parents always acted a little strange in the days leading up to the sleepovers, touching each other more frequently and sustaining the contact for longer than usual. Then there was the fact that everything smelled a little strange for a couple of days before he went to his grandmother’s and for a day or so after he came back. Abby had no idea what any of it meant; whenever he asked about it, his parents would just say that they’d tell him when he got older.
Well, John would clap a hand over Sherlock’s mouth and say that, anyway.
“Gran!” Abby exclaimed as Mrs. Hudson opened the door to her flat. He was hugging her hips and grinning up at her in an instant.
“Ooh!” Mrs. Hudson laughed, surprised by the abrupt hug. “Hello there, precious boy! Come to stay a few days with me, eh?” She ruffled the boy’s hair fondly. Looking up, she noticed that Sherlock was carrying a glass tank with bits of leaf, twigs, and other such things inside. “What’s that, then?”
“That’s Poppy!” Abby said. “She’s my frog. I found her last month. She was hurt, but now she’s all better.”
Mrs. Hudson gasped. “A frog! Oh dear. Well… she can stay, but no coming out of that tank,” she said. She opened her door wider, inviting her guests in. “Last thing I need is a frog loose in my flat. Hopping around, getting into my herbals. What if I got a wart?”
“Okay, Gran. But people don’t get warts from frogs!”
They settled the tank onto Mrs. Hudson’s coffee table, near the sofa bed Abby used when he stayed over. Once it was in place, John set a paper bag by it. Mrs. Hudson frowned in confusion, hearing a slight rustling from inside the bag and seeing it twitch slightly. “Er, and the bag?”
“Crickets for Poppy’s dinner!”
“Crickets,” Mrs. Hudson moaned. She rushed to her kitchen and returned with a large kitchen clip, which she snapped over the folded top of the bag. She backed away from it, eying it suspiciously.
John chuckled nervously. “I really am sorry about this, Mrs. Hudson.”
“Oh, I… I’ll manage,” Mrs. Hudson replied, smiling weakly. “Besides, it’s only for a few days. And two months from now, I can manage again.”
“Actually,” John began. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. “We, ah… we might not need you to watch Abby like this for quite a few months after this.”
“What do you mea- Oh! OH!” Mrs. Hudson exclaimed. She clasped her hands together in excitement. “You’re not taking your precautions? Oh, that’s wonderful! I’d say ‘good luck’, but that’s such a Beta thing to say, isn’t it? Well, you two had better go on; don’t want things getting out of hand while you’re here, do you? Ah, this is so exciting! Drink lots of water when you get the chance, you two!”
Three days later, Abby returned to his family’s flat, greeted by the strange smell that was always there after one of his sleepovers.
Three weeks after that, Abby wondered why his Papa’s scent was different. He found out he was going to be a big brother and received a (somewhat redacted) lesson on the beginning of new life.
Three months after that, he had his first real encounter with the fact that everything with a beginning has an ending.
John was doing a bit of washing up when he felt the tug on his trousers. When he glanced down, Abby was there, still in his pajamas, looking troubled. “Abby? What’s wrong?”
The boy was holding his frog’s limp body. “Poppy won’t wake up,” he said quietly. “It… I opened up her tank to give her crickets, but she was where she fell asleep, and she won’t wake up. It’s time to give her breakfast, but she won’t wake up.”
John took in a deep breath and held it in for a moment. He released it slowly, murmuring, “Oh no.” He dried off his hands and carefully kneeled down until he was at Abby’s height. He cradled the boy’s chin with one hand, his thumb gently stroking his soft cheek. He offered his other hand and said, “Please let me see.”
Abby carefully handed the frog over. He sniffed and said, “Can you help her wake up?”
John frowned. The frog was clearly dead, and likely had been since she fell asleep the night before. He leaned forward to press a kiss on Abby’s forehead, right where his fringe curled from his hairline. “I’m going to wrap her up in something and leave her in here for now, okay? We need to have a talk in the living room.” He felt Abby nod slowly.
John stood. He wrapped the frog in a clean, unused dishtowel and reached down, taking Abby’s hand. They walked into the living room and John sat in his chair. Abby started to climb into his lap, and John said, “Careful about my middle. Remember why?”
“’Cause of the baby,” Abby replied. He finished climbing cautiously and settled onto John’s lap.
“That’s right. Right now, it’s inside of me and needs me to keep it alive. In a few months, it’ll be born and will live here with us. It will be able to breathe on its own and its heart won’t need mine to help it. That’s the start of life. But if something has a start, it also has an end. That end is called death. And… I’m sorry, but Poppy isn’t sleeping. She’s dead.”
“That’s what being dead looks like?” Abby asked. This wasn’t the first time he’d come across references to death; he’d heard about characters ‘risking death’ or having dead parents and having to go live with wicked step-relatives. But in those stories, the dead characters just weren’t around. Poppy was still there; she just wasn’t moving. “When will she stop being dead?”
John frowned. “She won’t. Once something is dead, they don’t come back.” Faked deaths excluded, a dusty and slightly bitter little corner of his mind added.
Abby started to sniffle, and John felt a tear drop onto the arm he’d looped around the boy’s waist. “Don’t be dead, Poppy,” Abby murmured, pressing closer to John. God, but the words made a familiar ache rise in John’s chest, and their sting was only exacerbated by the tears soaking into his collar. He found himself going a little misty-eyed, even if he’d never been attached to – or particularly liked – the frog.
After a few minutes of quiet crying, Abby asked, “How did she die?”
“I don’t know,” John replied. He sighed. “She didn’t seem sick, but I don’t know how frogs act when they’re ill. We don’t know what age she was when you found her, so she may have been quite old.”
Abby’s body went stiff. “Old?”
“If something doesn’t die from another cause, like an accident or a sickness, then they usually die from old age.”
“Is Gran going to die?” Abby asked, his voice quietly terrified.
John’s breath caught in his throat. He cleared it and said, as soothingly as possible, “Your grandmum’s very healthy. There’s absolutely no reason for you to worry about her, okay? Understand?”
Abby nodded, but the tension didn’t drain out of his little body. Several minutes of quiet later, John suspected that the child had fallen asleep, being emotionally exhausted but at least physically comforted by their embrace. Carefully, John reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to contact Sherlock.
STILL AT BART’S?
Just now leaving. Why? – S
ABBY’S FROG DIED. HE’S VERY UPSET. BE QUIET WHEN YOU ENTER THE FLAT.
Understood. – S
When Sherlock returned, John had carried Abby up to his room, where he sat on the bed watching the child nap. John jumped slightly when Sherlock placed a hand on his shoulder, but gave him a weak and watery smile. “I’d order you to explain death to this next one, but I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” he said quietly enough to keep from waking Abby.
Sherlock sat next to him. “I have been told that I lack finesse in such matters, yes.”
“Speaking of which, be careful how you talk to him about this once he wakes up. Because I swear, Sherlock, if you say something like, ‘Oh, it was just a frog’ -”
Sherlock frowned, legitimately confused. “Why would I say that?”
“- I’ll… wait, what?” Now it was John’s turn to squint in confusion.
“Why would I dismiss something so important to Absalom completely out of hand?”
“Because… it’s… what you do?” John looked even more confused. “You’re generally not great when it comes to the feelings of others, children included. I mean, you made that Cub Scout cry just the other day.”
“He walked the Garroting Grannie across the street, increasing the time I needed to capture her by hours,” Sherlock grumbled. “Besides, when have I ever treated Absalom in such a way?”
John opened his mouth, ready to string together a long list, but nothing came to him. He thought a bit longer, but eventually gave Sherlock a deeply impressed look. “Um, never. That I can think of off the top of my head.”
Sherlock nearly preened. “There you are.”
“That’s a bit good, then,” John said, grinning. He leaned into Sherlock’s side. “A bit great, actually. I’m proud of you.”
Sherlock’s lips quirked up in a faintly pleased smile, though it dulled somewhat when he glimpsed the empty frog tank. “Shall I remove the tank?”
“No, it might do him some good to help sort through it,” John said. “We’ll ask him what he wants to do with it. And maybe see if he wants to have a funeral.”
“What?” John asked defensively.
“John, having a funeral is pointless. And no, this is unrelated to the deceased’s status as a frog. You know my opinion on the afterlife, and you can’t tell me that you’ve got an especially pious background. How often did your family attend church?”
“Occasions such as…?”
“Christmas and Easter.”
Sherlock gave him a pointed look.
John sighed and added, “Christmases and Easters when we could be arsed. But Sherlock, it’s not like all funerals have to be religious. Besides, they help people feel better. Allows them to sort out their feelings a bit, remember good times. Maybe even feel a little hopeful.”
“What’s a funeral?”
Sherlock and John startled slightly and turned to see Abby awake, rubbing at his sleep- and tear-reddened eyes. John reached over to stroke the boy’s hair and said, “A funeral is one way of honouring someone who has died. You remember them with other people who loved them. You tell stories about them and say what you loved about them. It’s kind of like a celebration of their life.”
Abby sniffed. “I want to have one for Poppy,” he said resolutely.
John gave Sherlock a triumphant look. Sherlock sighed and muttered, “If we’re going to fill his head with rubbish, it will at least be entertaining rubbish.” Louder, he said, “Absalom, let me tell you how some believe the Vikings honoured their dead…”
That was how, two days later, Sherlock Holmes, Absalom Holmes, and John Watson (who would never change his surname on principle) came to stand on the bank of the Thames, all wearing Viking helmets. In John’s case, very, very grudgingly so. A small wooden boat sat at the edge of the water. The frog’s body lay nestled inside, adorned with wildflowers from the park of her origin.
“Sherlock, remind me why I am aiding and abetting in bringing more of your impossible genes into the world again?” John asked.
“O Frog Odin,” Sherlock proclaimed dramatically, ignoring John. “We offer unto you the spirit of –“
“Hoppy Poppy Frog!” Abby added, matching the drama perfectly.
“– that you may judge her worthy of entering Frog Valhalla, where she may dine endlessly on a sumptuous smorgasbord of crickets, mealworms, and jeweled beetles of every colour imaginable. Absalom, who loved her and knew her best, shall now say a few words about the deceased.”
Abby cleared his throat and said, “Hoppy Poppy was a good frog. She could jump real far and she hardly ever wet on me. Her favorite food was crickets. That’s good because I don’t really like crickets because they’re noisy, but not in a good way, like bees. The end.”
John, who still couldn’t decide if he was mortified or amused, finally spoke up. “Abby, in times like this, it’s probably better to say ‘Amen’.”
“Oh, don’t correct him on that, John,” Sherlock said. “‘The end’ is far more eloquent and accurate.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a long lighter. He nodded to Abby and said, “If you would be so kind as to start her on her journey.”
Abby nodded back and moved forward to set the boat adrift. Once it was afloat, Sherlock set it alight. As the strangest family in London watched the tiny, flaming boat drift away, John nudged Sherlock in the side. “Fine,” he muttered. “You proved your point.”
“Funerals don’t make a lot of sense when you really think about them, and they are possibly inherently ridiculous.”
Oblivious to his parents’ sarcastic back-and-forth, Abby heaved a big sigh. “I feel better,” he announced. “I’m still sad that Poppy is dead, but I’m happy I knew her. The funeral was nice.”
Sherlock made a contemplative little noise. “And it seems you proved your point as well, John. It appears we’re tied, at least this once.”
“What do you mean ‘this once’?”
Abby took one of Sherlock’s hands in his left and one of John’s in his right. As they began the trek back to the flat, Abby asked, “Papa?”
“When the baby is born, could we call her Poppy? Daddy says she will be a girl.”
John made a small, choked sound, which he tried to cover with light laughter. “Well, if Daddy’s right-“
“When, John. When I am right.”
“– IF he is right, we’ll just have to see if that name suits her.”
Incidentally, Sherlock was right. But fortunately for John, that name wouldn’t fit her at all.