Sherlock was a crow.
Anything shiny - as in morbid, peculiar or actually shiny - caught his attention and was quietly picked up. He found interesting trinkets all the time in crime scenes. He doesn't tamper with evidence (Obviously. Why would he temper perfectly good evidence just because he found it interesting?), but he would take items that were not related to the crime. Lestrade had asked Sherlock to stop taking things, but Sherlock was too busy pickpocketing a packet of gum from him to pay attention.
Sherlock could be a cat, bringing junk to play with and then leaving it in the corner. He toyed with his newly acquired item until he grew bored of it and tossed it aside, leaving the discarded item where it landed. John learned to ignore Sherlock when he's playing with his things. After Sherlock finished with it, John would try to return it or throw it away, like that time Sherlock dipped a stuffed rabbit into an acid bath. Sometimes, Sherlock gave his finds to John as gifts ("This is incredibly thoughtful of you and I appreciate the gift, but please take it back. That watch must cost almost a thousand pounds!"). John never understood why he did that. Maybe it was Sherlock's way of poking fun on John. Then again, that was a rather fine gold watch.
One day, Sherlock found a goldfish.
It was swimming in its round glass bowl just a few feet away from its murdered owner. That case was an easy one. It was obvious that the victim had been killed with a blow to the head with a metal stapler, not the lamp. The lamp broke because the culprit - a man from her work in a fit of jealousy over her salary increase - had tripped over it
Sherlock knew the fish wouldn't be taken care of properly with all the fuss over the death. The victim lived alone and he didn't think that any of her friends would be bothered to take care of it. So, he took it. When he was done, he bid farewell and picked up the fish bowl on his way out.
John wasn't at the crime scene. He was doing out doing errands when Lestrade called Sherlock. When John returned, he found Sherlock sitting on his favorite chair with his knees perched on the chair and his eyes staring intently at the bowl.
"What's that?" John asked as he went to place the groceries at the kitchen.
"A goldfish, obviously."
John scrunched his eyebrows together, confused. Sherlock added, "It was on a crime scene."
"Oh?" John walked towards Sherlock, now interested. "Is it evidence?" He looked down at the fish. It looked like an ordinary goldfish to him.
"Of course not. I found it."
John's eyes flickered up to Sherlock. "You stole it?"
Sherlock scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course I didn't steal it. I simply removed it from ill equipped caretakers."
"So, you stole it?"
Sherlock didn't answer. He simply stood up and marched over to his room, slamming the door behind him.
The next day, Lestrade called to ask if Sherlock had taken something from the crime scene. Sherlock turned off his phone after that. He was having too much fun with his new pet. John told him to take the fish back, that it wasn't their's, and that it's owner probably missed it, but Sherlock ignored him. Sherlock spent the entire day lying on the couch and staring at the fish, marveling at the tiny, orange creature swish its fins and blow bubbles at the surface. It surprised John how still Sherlock was that day.
"That fish must really be something," John mumbled that evening.
"Huh?" Sherlock looked away from the bowl for a moment. He chuckled at the look of displeasure on John's face. "Are you jealous that I'm paying more attention to the fish than to you?" John's silence was answer enough.
Nobody knew why Sherlock had picked the least interesting animal in the world as a pet. He didn't "rescue" the fish out of goodwill. At least, that wouldn't be something Sherlock would do. Maybe it was another way for Sherlock to bring attention to himself.
A few days after the arrival of their new family member, John found Sherlock asleep on the couch with the fish bowl on his chest. John went to take the bowl before Sherlock accidentally spilled it.
"I am awake."
John was not expecting Sherlock to speak up, almost falling backwards in surprise. Sherlock sat up, being careful not to jostle the fish bowl. After his heartbeat returned to normal, John asked, "What were you doing with the fish?" He took the bowl from Sherlock and placed it carefully on the cluttered table.
Sherlock sat up and stretched his arms. His joints popped loudly. He must have been lying there for a while. "I was meditating," he mumbled.
"Meditating?" John said, suspicious. He didn't think Sherlock would have the pacience to lie down and relax.
Sherlock nodded. "Organizing information. Also, I have a name."
"A name for what?"
Sherlock nodded towards the fishbowl. "A name for Hamish."
John twisted around to look at the fish. "Hamish? You named the fish Hamish?"
Sherlock frowned at John. "Didn't you hear me?"
John sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why did you name the fish after me?"
"And you spent the entire day thinking of that?" John asked, skeptical.
"Of course I wasn't." Sherlock actually sounded insulted. "I was organizing my thoughts and I found the appropriate name for our fish. Don't you like it? I named him after you."
"I have yet to determine the sex of the goldfish," Sherlock said as he pulled his arms over his head, "But since Hamish is a male name, I'll regard him as male for the time being."
John let the subject drop. Giving the fish a name gave it some sort of permanence to it. Especially since Sherlock named it after John. Wouldn't Swimmy or Fishy be a better name than Hamih?
Golfishes had short life expectancies, right? Anyway, it was just a matter of time until Sherlock grew bored of it and John would have to find a suitable home for it. If he couldn't return it, maybe Mrs. Hudson would want it. She wanted to knit a fishbowl cozy for it, even though John told her it wasn't necesary. No use having it around if nobody wanted it.
Sherlock didn't grow bored of it. If anything, he grew more attached. John was convinced that Sherlock was doing it to annoy everyone and bring attention to himself. John wasn't even sure if Sherlock really wanted it. Sherlock regularly frgot to feed it ans John had to be the ine go take care of it. John wasn't happy that Sherlock sometimes neglected it, but felt sorry for the poor thing. It wasn't it's fault that Sherlock had a habit of abandoning his finds.
Those days were relatively quiet. Sherlock and John barely go out of the flat. Between quickly solved cases, Sherlock would sit on his chair or lie on the sofa, just staring into the bowl. He insisted that it helped him think.
John couldn't disagree. Sometimes, Sherlock would leap up to call Lestrade, go for a chase or find another clue, having a "Eureka!" moment while thinking with Hamish.
It was just a fish. And a stolen fish at that. A dull, stolen goldfish. He shouldn't be getting so attached to it.
After days of having Sherlock almost spilling Hamish when he found a new conclusion, John was used to Sherlock's sudden comments and observations. He didn't expect this one.
"Which one do you think sounds better: Hamish Holmes-Watson or Hamish Watson-Holmes?"
John nearly choked on his tea. After managing to place his cup on the table next to his chair, John asked, "Are you giving the fish our last names?"
John groaned. He didn't want to ask what Sherlock was he was thinking of. He did anyway. "Why are you giving a fish our last names?"
"Because he's ours," Sherlock said, as if that was the most obvious thing in the world.
"He's not ours. It's your fish. It's not even your fish because you stole it," John pointed out. How long was Sherlock going to keep insisting this? That they were raising a goldfish together as if it was theirs.
Sherlock paid no mind to John's bitterness. "Actually, I think 'Watson-Holmes' sounds better." Sherlock looked up at John for confirmation.
John sighed. "Whatever makes you happy."
Sherlock smirked and raised the bowl up to the light. His clear eyes looked distorted and otherworldly through the glass. Not that John ever would ever say that outloud.
Then Sherlock ran off, disappeared without warning. He left an note, not a text, that read, "Have gone to Belfast. Will return by the end of the week. Please take care of Hamish. -SH"
Okay then. Sherlock had run off, leaving John with Hamish. Great.
John considered giving away Hamish or returning him or something. Sherlock wouldn't miss him. Of course, he would notice and he would throw a hissy fit over it. He'll get over it. Maybe.
Still, John couldn't do that to Sherlock. Sherlock did have some strange connection with the fish. Was connection the correct word? Sherlock did spend a lot of time having staring contests with it. At least Sherlock still hadn't skinned the poor fish alive for an experiment. Yet.
And he did say "please". . .
So, John took care of Hamish. He would feel guilty if he let something happen to Hamish. It was a simple task, just make sure that he was fed and that his bowl was clean. John didn't know why he was so adamant about Sherlock returning him. Hamish wasn't messy. He wasn't a dog or a cat that was chaotic and needed constant attention. Nobody had come to claim it as their missing goldfish. Lestrade had dropped the subject after a while.
John wouldn't admit it to Sherlock, but looking at Hamish swim circles in his bowl was quite relaxing. He also wouldn't admit how quiet and lonely the flat seemed without Sherlock experimenting, thinking outloud or talking to Hamish as if he understood a word he said. When Sherlock returned, he was pleased to find John holding Hamish up to the light, much like he did.
Life moved on for the three of them. John stopped pestering Sherlock over Hamish. He actually grew fond of the little guy. Taking care of him stopped being an annoyance and became something they did together. Platonically. At least that's what John thought.
The pair grew more relaxed, more domestic, but never think that they had mellowed out. Criminals still needed to be chased and brought to justice. Sometimes, the consulting detective stopped to "consult" with his fish. John was always nearby, marveling how Sherlock's mind worked while looking into Hamish.
John grew a habit of saying, "Don't forget to feed Hamish," when hs went out, either for errands or a useless date they all knew wouldn't end well. Once, while he was distracted figuring out if he had everything he needed, John leaned over to kissed the top of Sherlock's messy head and quietly walked out of the flat. He didn't realize what he had done until he shut the door behind him. He heard a deep chuckle from the other side of the door.
John blamed Hamish. Sherlock thought it was natural succession made faster by using a simple goldfish.
It wasn't as if John didn't stare at Sherlock as much as Sherlock did to Hamish. Of course, there were completely different reason behind the staring.
Raven locks and pale skin. Skillful hands and smooth paces. Eyes almost as clear as the water in Hamish's bowl. John noticed that, among other things. Sherlock had noticed. He liked the attention. He had a fish because he wanted attention.
John wouldn't initiate anything with Sherlock. He need something to drive him in the right direction. Something that brought them together discretly. They already had a hobby together, a home together and many memories together. They needed a living being between them, sometime to take care of like a child.
That is, if their child was tiny, orange and had gills.
One day, John noticed that Hamish tended to gasp at the surface of the water. A quick search on his laptop told him what he needed. "I think Hamish needs a larger bowl," John said to Sherlock.
Sherlock didn't look up, still slumped in his chair and sliding his fingers over his violin's strings. John wasn't sure if Sherlock had heard him, so he continued to say, "I read on a blog that said that if your fish is gasping on the surface, it might need a larger bowl."
"You're actually caring for Hamish's health," Sherlock said, a smirk forming on his face.
"Um, well," John said, "If we're going to take care of him, we might as well do it properly."
Sherlock's smirk spread into a smile. "I'll find an new aquarium for him." He stepped away and started playing The Aquarium from The Carnival of the Animals. It was all going swimmingly. They had something significant together, even if it was a fish.
He didn't get a chance to find one. The next morning, John found Hamish struggling to remain upright. The frantic swipes of his fins alarmed John.
"Sherlock, I think there's something wrong with Hamish," John called out, bent over the living room table to get a closer look.
Sherlock appeared from his bedroom. He picked up Hamish's bowl, causing the poor fish to lose his balance and sink to the bottom of the bowl. Hamish struggled to remain upright, gasping at the pressure of the water.
"Can't you do something? You're a doctor," Sherlock muttered. That was supposed to be slightly sarcastic. His face was expressionless, but John saw a bit of concern in his eyes.
"I'm a doctor, not a veterinarian," John answered. His heart tightened as he saw Hamish struggle to get up. He tried to tell himself that it was just a fish. But one look at how Sherlock was holding the bowl told him that it was more than just a fish.
As John searched the Internet for an explanation, Sherlock watched Hamish.
When did he grow so concerned over a fish anyway? He wasn't supposed to get attached. Granted, Hamish was good for bouncing ideas off of. It was a fish. They weren't even in the same class. Still, this fish was different. He had a name and significance. It had a personality, how he would look back at Sherlock as if saying, "Hello there!"
Hamish bobbed upside-down as Sherlock tapped the glass to get him to move.
"Hamish stopped moving."
Sherlock wrapped his arms around the bowl. Some of the water spilled onto his gray shirt. He didn't mind.
They had a funeral service at the bathroom. Hamish swirled into the great beyond.
"Should we, I don't know, say a few words?" John mumbled awkwardly. He didn't know goldfish funeral ettiquite.
Sherlock remained quiet. They stood the the bathroom for a while, barefooted with Sherlock clutching the empty bowl.
Finally, Sherlock blew out a breath and mumbled, "It's the strangest thing. To become so attached to such an insignificant creature."
John placed an arm around Sherlock's shoulders. Usually, Sherlock didn't like to be touched, but he yielded to John and leaned closer to the shorter man.
"He wasn't insignificant," John mumbled as he squeezed Sherlock's shoulder, "He was a goldfish. He was ours. He was Hamish Watson-Holmes."
With that, John wrapped his arms around Sherlock, gasping like Hamish had gasp at his last moments. Sherlock placed his head on John's shoulder. It was incredibly confirting. Hamish was gone but they remained and had each other.
Later, John found Sherlock lying on the floor, his arms wrapped around Hamish's empty bowl, curled like a sleeping kitten. John laid down beside him and wrapped his arms around Sherlock.
Sherlock stole John's wallet while they were lying together. He still knew how to do that.