Chapter 1: After midnight, Baker Street
It was late. So late it was early again. John’s eyes felt gritty and he knew the scotch was a bad idea, but the case was solved and Sherlock was back and had been clean since his short-lived exile so some celebrations were in order. It was just barely a month of so-called sobriety, but John would take it.
There was a fire burning against the chill in the front room at Baker Street as Sherlock held out his glass and John topped it up. In truth, the scotch was an even worse idea for Sherlock - who knew when the man had last eaten or slept, but they were slouched in their chairs just as they used to as flatmates and John wasn’t going to deny him anything.
“I still,” John repeated, “don’t understand how you realised pruning shears were the murder weapon.”
Sherlock took a large swallow of his drink and leaned forward in his seat, “The notice from the council regarding the allotment waiting list. They had only recently moved into the flat - if they had lived somewhere with a garden before they’d still be holding on to their gardening tools while they waited to see if they would get an allotment.” The detective took another gulping swallow, then looked at his glass accusingly.
Sherlock patted his own face gently, then more firmly, “My face has gone numb.”
John looked down at the bottle. Cask strength. “Oops.” He spun the bottle to show the label to Sherlock.
The detective began to chuckle, “Only you, John, would accidentally buy cask strength. Didn’t you learn your lesson on your stag night?”
“I think we both learned our lessons on my stag night.”
“That night was carefully calibrated.” Sounding vaguely outraged despite still chuckling, Sherlock continued, “If you hadn’t cheated...”
John began to giggle as well, “The look on your face in that poor woman’s apartment. Then you…” He had to pause to catch a breath, “vomited on her rug.”
“Not my finest deduction.” That set them off all over again and it was a good few minutes until Sherlock came back to his senses to find he’d slipped even lower in the chair, legs sprawling forward and entangled with John’s, the other man still giggling softly as he stared at the fire.
The firelight made John look younger; cast his hair more towards the gold of when they’d met rather than the greyish hue of late. They’d known each other a long time now, Sherlock realised, and felt something twist sharply in his chest as a result.
Sherlock let an ankle press against John’s, and the other man didn’t pull away as he usually would. Tentatively, but deliberately, Sherlock slid his other foot forward to more firmly press the length of his calf against John’s. There was a warmth even through the doctor’s jeans; a closeness that left him hungering for more contact.
“Sherlock?” John peered at him, easy smile still in place. “You’re sliding.”
Instead of what he should have done, which is laughed and straightened up, something else came out instead: “I am so sorry John. I didn’t mean,” Sherlock waved a hand in the air between them, “I didn’t mean to feel so much for you. And once I did… I didn’t know how not to.”
John sat up abruptly, pulling his legs back and Sherlock missed the contact immediately. He set his glass down on the table with a clunk and looked sharply at the other man, inebriation masked or evaporated entirely. “What did you say?”
Sherlock shrugged, helplessly, and hated the feeling of being at a disadvantage.
“That’s what I thought you said.” John cocked his head to one side and stared at the other man until Sherlock dropped his gaze to his own lap. “How long?”
Without looking up, Sherlock said softly, “Since you said told me I was ‘amazing’ in the black cab.” He fiddled with his glass, and continued, “Since the moment I deduced you shot the cabbie to save my life. Since you first made me a cup of tea at Baker Street. Since I jumped off Bart’s to keep you safe. In short,” Sherlock swallowed, unable to meet John’s eyes, “Forever.”
Suddenly, John was there, bending over his lap and Sherlock didn’t know what to do even as John clearly did and then with a rasp of stubble that wasn’t entirely unpleasant John was kissing him, first gently, then desperately, and Sherlock was just doing his best to keep up.
And then John was somehow in his lap and Sherlock dropped his glass with a thud onto the carpet. The kissing continued and some panicked part of Sherlock’s mind was wondering what, exactly, he was supposed to be doing with his tongue even as John showed him very clearly how that part of the experience was supposed to work.
“Sherlock,” John pulled back with a gasp even as he settled more firmly against the other man, “Is this alright?”
And what could Sherlock say, but “Yes,” even though he didn’t know quite what he was agreeing to. And then John surged back towards him and started undoing buttons and Sherlock thought Oh, that was what he’d just agreed to. And time seemed to be going very slowly and far too fast, and it was terrifying and marvelous all at once.
They ended up in his bedroom, pressed together under the sheets with John hanging on to him as if afraid to let go. The bedside lamp was on and Sherlock felt a finger trace down one of the scars on his back. “You had these when I tacked you in that bloody restaurant, didn’t you?”
“I deserved it.”
“Yes, you did, but I’m still sorry. You didn’t deserve everything else.” Sherlock wasn’t sure what was encompassed in the ‘everything else’, but didn’t want to break the moment to ask. They stayed that way for hours, John simply holding him until a greyish light started to come around the edge of the curtains.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun it was over. John gave one final squeeze, then released his hold and began to slide to the edge of the bed. “I have to go back.” There was Mary, his wife, and in just a few more weeks there would be a baby as well. “You understand?”
“Of course.” And he did.
They didn’t meet each other’s eyes.
Chapter 2: 9am, Embankment
He took up smoking again. It would be a complication when the baby arrived, but Sherlock doubted he’d actually see all that much of it. Of her, he reminded himself.
He threw himself into cases as well, which pleased Lestrade to no end. Actual, honest, Scotland Yard cases, not mysterious clients and vague leads from his website. Without John to wade through the emails it just wasn’t the same.
Sherlock hadn’t seen John since what his mind palace had simply labeled The Night and locked away in a room of intimate detail and confusion. The memories themselves were jumbled, like a video with missing frames. Emotion, surprise, sensory overload, he didn’t know what, had scrambled his usually reliable record.
There were half a dozen draft texts on his mobile, all unsent:
Case – NSY 30 mins. SH
Lestrade has triple homicide, potentially Russian mafia, could be dangerous. SH
Counter-terrorism agent missing. Lestrade thinks murder, more likely hiding from gambling debts. SH
Bart’s morgue, now. SH
Found a foot. Whitechapel Station. Medical opinion appreciated. SH
I miss you. SH
The last one bothered him. He’d been thinking about a pattern of blood spatters on a windowsill in Shoreditch, fiddling absently with his mobile as he did so, and looked down to find he’d tapped out the message. Instead of deleting it entirely he condemned it to his drafts folder, frowning as he did so. Even his transport seemed to have a mind of its own these days.
If Lestrade noticed something was off he didn’t comment, only once noting that John must be “busy getting ready for the new arrival – haven’t seen him in ages,” to which Sherlock had responded with a grunt and a snap at Anderson for blocking the light as he tried to examine a body. If the detective inspector heard when Sherlock took off after a suspect with the words, “Quickly, John!” he didn’t say anything.
Mycroft had also dropped by, ostensibly about the counter-terrorism agent, but his eyes had flicked around the flat, taking in everything and nothing and no doubt reading volumes from the number of dust motes on John’s chair and the angle of the seat cushion.
As Sherlock sprinted across the Golden Jubilee Bridge towards Embankment station, Lestrade just a few feet behind, the winter sunlight, crisp air and thrill of the chase had the blood singing as it went pumping through his veins. Perhaps the sun was in his eyes, or perhaps there were too many tourists to dodge, but as he went to pass a busker he was completely unprepared as an elbow caught him and used his own momentum to flip him towards and then over the railing. The shoes he only noticed as his own feet left the ground: the hallmark of an accomplice. No steel pan musician would wear shoes like that – hell to stand in day after day. Then there was the view of a railing going past him and a shout from Lestrade somewhere behind and a brief second to contemplate the fact that he was going over the edge head first, and it was a multi-story drop onto the pavement and bicycles left by tourists below.
Chapter 3: 11am, Wembley
It was a killing shot: right between the eyes from across the Ikea parking lot. A professional courtesy, perhaps. Mary had fallen immediately, little spatters of blood landing on John’s jumper where he still held the handle of their trolley. There had been people screaming and then an explosion of sirens everywhere and John had been yelling that she was over eight months along and they had to save the baby.
Hours later John’s fingers were clumsy on his phone as he tapped out a text message to Sherlock: They were wrong: it’s a boy. I named him William
He took a breath and forced himself to type another: Mary didn’t make it.
In truth, the full name he’d scrawled, numbly, on the form was William Hamish Watson-Holmes. John didn’t know what had possessed him to add the Holmes; he had no claim on it. He sat on a plastic hospital chair and unlocked his phone every twenty minutes for the next four hours. The messages stared back: unacknowledged and unread.
He held the baby, his son, now pronounced well and out of harm’s way, although meant to stay in hospital for observation. The messages remained unread.
He had a disappointing cup of coffee in the maternity waiting area and was deliberately not contemplating having to go home to the flat without Mary when there was a familiar tap, tap, tap of an expensive umbrella on the hospital floor. John dropped the cup into the bin and looked up at his guest, “Hullo, Mycroft.”
“John.” Mycroft lowered himself into a chair across from the other man, somehow managing to look at ease despite the setting. “The incident this morning…”
“Do you know who it was?”
“Roughly,” Mycroft inclined his head slightly, “My sincere condolences. It’s being taken care of – I’m managing it personally.” He cleared his throat and asked, “How is William?”
Of course Mycroft already knew about that. “Fine. He’s fine. Brilliant, actually.” A little scrap of life that was John’s – it was overwhelming to say the least.
Mycroft fidgeted in his chair, uncharacteristically. “There was another incident this morning…”
“With Mary’s…” John couldn’t bring himself to say ‘shooter.’
“No.” Mycroft shook his head and looked almost apprehensive. “With Sherlock.”
The texts. John sucked in a breath. “What happened?”
“Sherlock was in pursuit of a suspect with Detective Inspector Lestrade over the Golden Jubilee footbridge when he was pushed over the railings. He landed on a parked bicycle and the pavement below.”
John knew the footbridge well, and the drop to the road below once you were clear of the river itself. In answer to his stricken look, Mycroft merely put a folder on the table: a copy of Sherlock’s medical records. John flipped it open, scanning quickly. He recognized the name of a neurosurgeon – a world class consultant from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Broken bones, suspected potential spinal damage, induced neuroprotective state.
John read the last words again: Induced neuroprotective state and looked up at Mycroft. “You have him in a drug induced coma?”
“Yes.” Mycroft rocked forward in the chair with his hands folded on the butt of his umbrella, as if it was propping him up. “It was a clear recommendation given the circumstances. We don’t…” He cleared his throat and tried again, “We don’t know for how long, or what the situation will be when it’s time to bring him out.” Mycroft shifted in his seat, uncomfortably, and added, “He went over head first and was only partly able to break his fall.”
They sat together in silence, John reading over the medical notes more closely a second time. Eventually, Mycroft asked, “What can I do, John?”
“I think you’ve done all you can at the moment. I recognise the neurosurgeon: he’s the one I’d want…”
“No, John.” Mycroft gave a small smile as he cut the other man off. “I meant for you.”
For him? John didn’t have a clue what he needed right now. To wake up, perhaps. To not have another decision to make. To never have to go back to the flat in Richmond with the pink nursery and Mary’s things everywhere. In truth, there was very little of John in that flat. Very little he was attached to.
Mycroft had been watching John’s face very closely, and after a moment felt confident in what to offer. “Perhaps you’d like a hotel room nearby? I gather they want to keep the baby for a day or two at least. Anthea could collect a few things from the flat that you may need.”
The offer was surprising, but not unwelcome. “Yeah.” John was under no illusions about just how familiar Mycroft already was with his personal belongings. “Yeah, that would be good.”
Mycroft made a move as if to stand, then added, calculatingly, “I must confess I was surprised when I was forwarded a copy of the birth certificate.”
A hot flush of embarrassment shot through John when he realised what the comment was really about. “The last name… I’m sorry, Mycroft. I don’t know what I was thinking. I can change it…”
“You don’t have to.” Mycroft’s sharp looked softened slightly and he continued, “It’s fine, but do be aware… if you meant to make a formal connection, that’s the sort of thing I take very seriously.”
Oh. John didn’t know what he’d meant when he scrawled the name on the form. While he foundered, trying to come up with an answer, Mycroft stood and gathered his umbrella. “I have commitments this afternoon, I’m afraid. Anthea will make arrangements with the hotel shortly.”
John stood as well, awkwardly, and feeling rather stunned. “Thank you, Mycroft.”
Mycroft spared him one last careful look before he turned on his heel and the tap, tap, tap of the umbrella faded down the busy corridor.
John slumped back into his seat and opened the medical file again, poring over the rushed notes and inconclusive results.
Chapter 4: No particular morning
Sterile smell, but quiet. No announcements or squeak of shoes up and down a corridor. No alarms. Very quiet: a private hospital.
Dark. No: eyes closed. Sherlock could feel his brain sluggishly trying to start up. Open, he told his eyes. Open. They did, but only slightly, and the light sent a stab of pain right into his skull. More than a bit not good then. God, he was tired, but he forced himself to look, blurrily, around. A ventilator, not on, but standing by. There was an itch of nasal cannula in his nostrils and a faint hiss of forced air. It was all very beige. Definitely a private hospital room.
There was a splash of colour looming over him: reds and pinks. Focus, he commanded his eyes again and they resolved into flowers. The name eluded him. He groped for it and found his mind palace in a jumble – some doors to rooms smashed, some gaps where he knew somehow things were missing. Flowers, he found it, index cards organized by petal type with notes of range, pollen, and Victorian symbolism. Dianthus barbatus, also known as Sweet William. Something tickled his mind that there was meaning in that name, but he couldn’t imagine what it could be. Exhausted, he let his eyes slip shut again.
Surfacing seemed to happen more rapidly the next time. An awareness of a light behind his eyelids and then they opened almost on their own accord. Beige, ceiling, the familiar nasal cannula, sterile air… and something else…
He dragged his gaze over to the right, towards the light from the windows, and found he was being watched, intently.
Blue eyes, bright and focused, the baby was strapped into some sort of car seat or carrier carefully placed in the centre of the large table next to the bed. Bright and focused, oh, not a newborn. Sherlock forced his eyes to focus and looked more closely, two months old, at least, perhaps three. And wearing blue: a boy?
It didn’t make sense. He tried an arm and it wouldn’t cooperate; he’d clearly been out a while. The baby gave a soft coo of interest and wrinkled its nose. Sherlock stared back and tried to deduce. A soft thatch of blond hair, blue eyes – but most babies had blue eyes at that age. Little blue trousers, striped shirt and a pale blue knit cap with a pink design on the front. The cap – there was something about the cap. Soft, expensive fibre, that much was clear even several feet away. But it wasn’t a design in pink, but gothic letters, very specific… W-U-S? Mycroft had gone to Westminster – did he have a hand in this? But even registering for the under school should be a long way off, unless this was a sign of a back door, and perhaps it was.
It was exhausting, but he forced himself to look at the baby more closely. Masked as they were by baby fat, there was no trace of a Holmes on the features. The wrinkling of the forehead, however, was somehow familiar. There was a tread approaching down the corridor outside, but he just couldn’t keep his eyes open.
Later: hands on him. Manipulating his arms, his legs. Therapy, his brain supplied without bothering to open his eyes. Tedious. He slept.
A voice, he knew the intonation even though the words stayed masked in a fog. His brother: speaking to him. Even more tedious.
Much later. Different light. Different day? “Ah! Ah, ah, ah!” Then a noise not unlike a squeak. Sherlock dragged his eyes open to find the baby was back. Same cap, different blue outfit: definitely a boy.
Sherlock stared at the baby and it thrust a hand in its mouth, sucking on its fingers and staring right back. “Shhh,” he tried, but his mouth was so dry he couldn’t get the sound out. Forcing past the pain in his throat, he whispered, “Shh, shh, shh.” The baby was watching intently so he forced himself to continue, “Shh, shh, shh.”
“Zzzsh.” Muffled around the fingers.
“Shh, shh, shh,” Sherlock managed, coaxingly.
An answering, “Zzzsh, zzzsh, shhh.”
There were footsteps approaching again, but he was feeling lightheaded from the effort of whispering. His eyes slipped closed, but he dimly heard the door to his room open.
“Zzzshh, shhhhh, zzzzzshhh, shhhhh,” the baby continued.
“Well, there, William, that’s a new sound for you.” A surprised voice, tired, exhausted even, but happy.
“Sssssssshhhh, sssshhhhh, sssshhhh!”
A pause, then, John’s voice, softly, “Sherlock?”
Yes, thought Sherlock, as he sank away, Yes, John.
Chapter 5: Another unknown morning
“Ah, ah! Shhh, shhh!”
Sherlock opened his eyes, slowly, and found the baby again on the table nearby. There was something propped up against the carrier. A sign. The letters swam nonsensically, then cleared into the words, “Press call button.” All capitals – slight slope to them: John’s handwriting.
This was easier said that done. Right hand. It would be in his right hand. And yes, there was something cradled there. Close he told his fingers. Close, close, close. Something must have happened because there were footsteps again, but running this time.
John. Wild-eyed, casting his eyes over baby and the detective. “Sherlock? I was talking with the nurses at their station. Sherlock, can you hear me?”
He tried to make a face that said, Of course I can hear you, John. Don’t be dense, and again some part of the message must have come through because John’s face crumpled into something alarmingly emotional. Sherlock frowned, John was upset - he hadn’t meant to do that at all.
“No,” John seemed to understand somehow and sank into the bedside chair even as he picked up Sherlock’s hand, “No, I’m happy, Sherlock. I’m happy you’re awake.”
Oh, he supposed that made sense. It looked like John wanted to say something more, but a nurse and a doctor strode into the room as well and suddenly John was being pushed aside and they were shining lights into his eyes and reading monitors and it was all too much light and noise.
Three hours later he was still awake and sulking. Sherlock hadn’t seen John since the medical staff suggested he come back later, after the diagnostics were done. The poking, prodding, and prompting had finally ceased, leaving him exhausted but unwilling to simply go back to sleep if he could help it. The verdict seemed to be positive as the nurses had been smiling at him a lot, but it hadn’t been spelled out in detail.
There was a click, click, click of men’s dress shoes approaching down the hallway and he groaned internally. Decidedly not John coming to see him.
Mycroft actually smiled when he came into the room, which told Sherlock just how serious whatever had happened must have been. “Good morning, Sherlock.” He settled into the chair John had been forced to vacate several hours ago. “I got the good news a little while ago.” Sensing the question he elaborated, “You’ve been in the neuro-rehab ward for some time, as we waited for you to come back to yourself properly following a period in an induced coma.” Sherlock frowned his confusion and his brother nodded. “You were in pursuit of a suspect across the Golden Jubilee footbridge with Detective Inspector Lestrade and were pushed over the railings. Ring a bell?”
None whatsoever. Sherlock thought he’d remember something like that. He wandered through his shattered mind palace, but there was nothing remotely like a recent case to catch his eye.
“I thought not. You had a rather bad landing: three broken ribs, compound fracture of your right arm, pelvic fracture, some concern over your back and a skull fracture with immediate swelling of the brain. Fortunately, it appears the pressure was relieved in time and the induced coma more of a precautionary measure. Muscle wasting is an issue. It will take a while, but you should recover.” Mycroft leaned over the edge of the bed and seemed to be searching Sherlock’s features for signs he was understood. Apparently satisfied by what he saw, he smiled again and even appeared visibly relieved.
Sherlock licked his lips, the remnants of ice chips from earlier still moistened his mouth, and managed to whisper, “Boy?”
A muscle twitched in the side of Mycroft’s jaw. “The baby? John’s. Turns out their scan wasn’t so reliable after all.” A slightly troubled look was back on Mycroft’s face and he leaned closer, voice dropping for his brother’s ears alone. “Mary was killed. Long-range, high velocity, single shot across the Ikea parking lot in Wembley. I’ve taken care of it – an individual grudge that was held against her directly. Nothing we could have foreseen unless she’d told us what to look for. It’s fine now: no one will come looking for the boy. I promise.”
Sherlock blinked, unaware his eyes had been starting to slip closed until Mycroft gave his hand a little shake and repeated, “They’re safe. I promise.”
Chapter 6: The next morning
There was a smell. Something cooked. His brain fought for the word, then finally supplied, bacon. There was a rustling noise, breathing, at least one person nearby.
The baby as well, from the sound of it. Sherlock managed to drag his eyes open to find John sitting next to the head of the bed, eating a bacon butty in a Pret wrapper, a takeaway coffee on the table next to the baby carrier. Catching the movement of Sherlock’s eyes opening John wiped his hand across his mouth, smearing a trace of flour over his cheek, and abandoned his breakfast.
“Sherlock?” He leaned over the head of the bed, making eye contact with the detective.
God, it was effortful, but Sherlock persisted and managed to say in return, “John.”
It was worth it when a broad smile lit up John’s face in response. “Hey. You’re back with us.”
That required a longer response. Sherlock gathered his rattling thoughts into a sentence and managed, “Gather I wasn’t.”
“No, not for a while.”
“It’s fine. It’s all fine now.” What is cost John to say that, sitting in a hospital after some unknown amount of time with a baby and no wife, Sherlock couldn’t imagine. The baby gave a little screech from his carrier, not upset, but unwilling to be left out. John’s smile broadened in response, “I believe you two have already met.” John unbuckled the carrier’s straps and lifted the baby out to sit propped on his lap facing Sherlock, “This is William.”
Sherlock’s eyes widened and he gave a look at John as if to ask, Are you sure.
A flicker of unease crossed John’s face. “I, ah, hope you didn’t go with ‘Sherlock’ due to some dislike for ‘William’.”
No, not at all. His grandfather had been the first to call him by his middle name, given they shared a first name, and the moniker had stuck. He tried to smile back that William was a perfectly fine name so far as he was concerned and John seemed to relax further into his chair as a result.
“Greg wants to come by soon. He feels bad even though he shouldn’t.”
Greg? Lestrade. Why would he feel bad? Oh, right, Mycroft said they had been in pursuit of a suspect together. “Caught?”
John frowned, then understood, “Yes, the suspect was caught in the end, and the accomplice that pushed you over the bridge. Greg made sure to get a few more charges tacked on to them both and you’d fortunately explained all your deductions before you took a tumble– they won’t be out for a long time.”
Good. A satisfying ending, then.
“Sherlock,” John held the baby a little more firmly against his stomach, “Do you remember much? Of the accident… or before?”
The accident? No. Before? The case itself, perhaps? He widened his eyes slightly and managed to get out, “No, it’s…” How to convey the smashed doors in his mind palace, the mess of information, “Not there. Or jumbled. Don’t know.”
“Right.” John’s smile shifted to something a little more brittle. “That’s fine. To be expected, really.” Something was wrong. Something wasn’t what John wanted, but Sherlock had no idea what it could be. The baby began to fuss and the moment was broken. “We’d better go – you have speech therapy at ten. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
Yes. Yes, please. Or even this afternoon. Instead what came out was just, “Alright,” but John seemed to understand even as he whisked the baby back into its carrier in a practiced motion.
Chapter 7: That same morning
A car pulled up to the kerb before John had to think about lugging William down onto the underground. It was a familiar, and welcome, intrusion into his day to day life, but as he pulled open the door he was surprised to find Mycroft already sitting in the spacious back seat.
“Good morning, John.” Mycroft gave a thin smile, “I thought we could do with a chat.” John hesitated briefly, then pushed the carrier in and strapped it in place in the middle of the back seat before sliding in after it. Mycroft waited until John’s seat belt was buckled before inquiring, “How is my brother this morning?”
“A little better. Managed to string a couple of words together at a time, and I think he understood everything I said to him.”
Mycroft nodded and appeared to look out the window for a moment as the car nosed its way into the traffic. Once they had gone several blocks he turned back to look at the other man. “He will remember, John. I don’t know what happened, exactly, between you two, but I can guess.”
John gave a non-committal grunt in reply, horrified at what Mycroft might be thinking.
“My brother…” Mycroft appeared to think for a second and then carried on, “My brother is unsophisticated in matters of relationships, but never think he doesn’t care. He cares deeply, more than anyone gives him credit for, and likely more than you may imagine. Whatever,” Mycroft’s cheeks pinked slightly and John wished the seat would swallow him up, “happened several months ago may have seemed impossible at the time. Or a mistake. Or any one of a thousand unfavourable things, but, remember, John: you’re here now with the chance to live your life the way you want to live it. Never squander that.”
The car pulled up in front of the Diogenes Club and Mycroft smoothly opened his door. He fixed the doctor with one last hard look before he climbed out of the vehicle: “Sherlock will remember, John, eventually.”
The door closed with a thud, leaving John alone in the back seat with his son.
“Well, William.” John scrubbed a hand over his eyes as the car pulled back into the traffic towards west London, “What is your Dada going to do now?”
Chapter 8: Seven days later
John wasn't coming today: he was taking William to visit his sister. Harriet had been doing well and given the lunch was to celebrate her birthday he'd been loath to cancel. In truth, Sherlock had still been largely sleeping through the visits, but they both seemed to be comforted by them anyway. His parents had visited as well, as evidenced by the postcard periodic table tacked to the wall and daily tear away calendar of famous criminals propped up on the table - they were thoughtful people in their own way. There was also a pair of lurid knitted socks he'd resolved not to wear, then been unable to pull away as a nurse forced his feet into them.
The scent of expensive soap preceded Mycroft into the room, perfectly timed after breakfast and with a reasonable gap until his next therapy session. He seemed bombarded with them all day long: speech (going very well), occupational (such as it was), and physical (frustratingly slow progress).
"Good morning, brother mine."
"How are you feeling today?"
"Remember anything yet?"
"No. Should I?"
Mycroft smiled, thinly, "Probably not. It wasn't the crime of the century, in any case. How about a deduction?"
Sherlock frowned, knowing he was being baited but also knowing it was probably for his own benefit. He cast his eyes up and down his brother and hazarded, "You've gained two pounds."
"You can do better."
He looked more closely. "Your regular barber is on holiday..."
"In Majorca, where he's taken his mistress three times in the last year and got the soap that his assistant used on you this morning." It was a painful rush of words, and exhausting, but heartening to get out.
Mycroft smiled approvingly, "Well done."
“Is this a social call, Mycroft?”
Mycroft brushed a mote of dust off his sleeve. “Is it ever?”
“I rather thought we could talk about John.”
“What about him?”
“Did he mention he’s moved back to Baker Street?”
No, he hadn’t. Feeling at a disadvantage, Sherlock shrugged, “I’m afraid I didn’t think to ask if he was enjoying living in his dead wife’s former flat. I gather it’s not the done thing.”
Mycroft snorted. “Since when did that ever stop you?”
“Make me.” It was a particularly low blow. Mycroft sensed it as well and quickly steered the conversation in another direction, “Actually, I was wondering what you thought of your little namesake.”
“Objectively attractive baby – symmetrical, right number of digits, discernible features. Hitting all milestones early, despite the trauma of his arrival.”
“Quite an interesting name John selected.”
“William? Hardly. They hadn’t spared a thought for boy’s names, and I’d suggested it at the airfield. Given the trauma of the morning it was probably the first thing to fly into John’s head. He fixates like that, you know. Sometimes very inconvenient for deductions.”
Mycroft looked… amused. It was a look that always faintly alarmed Sherlock when he was confronted by it. Particularly as the source was often at Sherlock’s expense.
“Actually, brother dear, I was referring to his full name.”
Sherlock frowned. The baby had a full name? Of course it did, but he couldn’t remember it ever being mentioned.
Mycroft stood as if to leave and in doing so passed over a piece of paper: a copy of a birth certificate for William Hamish Watson-Holmes
Sherlock read it once. Twice. Then turned back to his brother, “Why would he do that?”
“Why indeed, brother mine.” As he walked out the door Mycroft made one brotherly parting shot back over his shoulder, “He’s sleeping in your bed.”
Watson-Holmes. Sherlock frowned in confusion. His eyes caught on the latest bunch of flowers dropped off by John. The same type as before – there must be someone between Baker Street and the hospital keen to flog them. He remembered something from the first day waking up – there had been something to do with the flowers, something he hadn’t been able to identify. He went back into his mind palace and cast around in the jumble until he found the section on flowers, still not put back to rights.
On the back of the index card covering petal type, range and pollen of Sweet William was a more detailed entry:
Meaning (historical – present day)
Request for one smile
See poetry: Sweet William’s Farewell to Black-ey’d Susan: A Ballad:
- Sweet William, a sailor, and black eyed Susan, his beloved, will be parted when he is at sea. Poem is of the two meeting aboard ship, then having to separate again – with sweet William assuring his love and fidelity all the while
That was… interesting.
Something was missing – he could sense it, deeply. There amidst the chaos of the accident and coma there was something more deeply ‘off’ in his mind palace. What, he wasn’t sure.
There was only one way to find out: Sherlock made himself comfortable, and set to work putting everything right in his mind.
Chapter 9: The missing door
Sherlock rarely went so far as to sort through his entire mind palace. For starters, it took days, and second it was generally unnecessary. When space was running short it was easy enough to filter through random facts until something suitably esoteric from a previous case could be found and deleted. The last time he’d gone through everything had been just after Moriarty’s trial, when it was clear an end-game was at hand and no small detail could be permitted to be missed.
That time, however, had been different. That time everything had still been in an orderly structure. This time it was making order out of chaos. He started where he’d last been: the flowers. That was a quick job, no more than five minutes to get the information back in order and placed carefully away. Childhood was next: largely undamaged, it merely took a walk through the memories and facts he’d felt worth salting away and then closing the door carefully behind him. There was something rattling away in the dungeon, deep and dark, but it was still contained so he ignored it and carried on.
His mental Baker Street – the rooms themselves suffused with memories and facts. Again, there was something off, something he couldn’t see, but could sense like a recently vacated room. He went through Baker Street twice, straightening and fixing, but soon everything was away as it should be and nothing stood out beyond his own sense of unease.
Other wings were more straightforward: past cases, chemistry, anatomy, botany, biology, judo, twentieth century secret societies, symbolism in nineteenth century poetry... Facts to be gathered up from the ground and shattered shelves, re-ordered and put back in place. Some he deleted, others he highlighted to make easier to find in future.
The therapists kept tugging him out to speak or attempt to make a pretend cup of tea or push back, weakly, against their own hands, but after every session he retreated back to his mind palace. John visited, hugging the baby on his lap and chastening Sherlock that if he spent all his time in his mind palace it wouldn’t help his physical therapy along. Something about the way John bit his lip sent Sherlock back to his mind palace with renewed interest, scouring the Baker Street rooms over and over again.
He played his violin, wondering vaguely how long it would be before he could play a real one again. In his mind, he was standing in the front room at Baker Street, sunlight streaming through the windows, swaying around the room as he played. As he paused by the fireplace and looked back, something caught his eye: not a door, but the suggestion of a door-frame. A faint shimmer, almost made of the air itself, it hung next to their chairs. Sherlock tilted his head left and right, finding the angle that seemed to bring the door-frame into sharper resolution. Dropping the bow into his chair, he reached out, carefully, towards the shimmer, and his fingertips ran into something solid.
This hadn’t happened before in his mind palace. With an index finger, Sherlock traced around the edge of the frame, and as he did the door itself slowly appeared: dark green, solid wood, well polished brass handle, and a plaque in the centre at eye height that read, The Night.
He set down his violin and tried the handle, but it only barely rattled back and forth. Locked. He didn’t usually lock rooms in his mind palace. Perhaps it was jammed, still damaged from the fall. Strange.
He surfaced to find John watching him with a slightly worried look, “Hey, you there?”
The doctor had already sat down, pulled William out of his carrier and settled the baby on his lap. “You were deep this time?”
“There’s lots to be sorted.”
“Just about, I think. It’s hard to tell.”
William gave a little grunt and Sherlock turned his attention to the baby: even more noticeably bright eyed, but needing John’s support to sit upright. Another blue outfit – soft bamboo fibre and cotton, expensive brand, the same cap as before.
John caught Sherlock looking, and just as the detective started, “Mycroft…”
Cut him off, “Mycroft has been very good.”
“Mycroft has been meddling.”
“He bought baby clothes, Sherlock. Everything I had was pink. And got me a hotel by the hospital.” And cleaned out the flat for me, saving my things and donating Mary’s to charity went unsaid, but likely deduced.
“Which was a thoughtful gesture, but that cap is meddlesome.”
John looked down on William’s cap in confusion, the pink lettering obviously indecipherable to him. “Huh?”
“It’s for his old school, John. He’s practically signalling to the posh peoples of London exactly what this child is worth.”
John twisted down to get a better look at the cap on his son’s head. “W-U-S?”
“The under school for Westminster.”
“Oh.” John frowned, “And that is…”
“A very good school.”
Sherlock considered the map in his mind and noted, “One bus ride from Baker Street for the under school, one faster tube for Westminster itself.”
“Convenient. Do I want to know what the fees are?”
Remembering the birth certificate, Sherlock said, “I have a suspicion that won’t be an issue.”
“Oh, God.” John leaned back and closed his eyes, “How did Mycroft Holmes decide to take an interest in me?”
“Hmmmm. Rest assured, you brought it upon yourself.”
“That’s not reassuring at all.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes, “Nothing about Mycroft ever is.”
John laughed and William joined in with a little squeal of his own.
It felt good, Sherlock realised. It felt good to see the two of them laughing together, John, egging his son to laugh even more loudly. There was a lightness in his chest that he hadn’t felt in a long time. John caught him looking and, for some reason, the doctor’s cheeks flushed slightly. Sherlock felt the locked door in his mind palace rattle slightly. “John…” He started.
“Did you hear about Mrs. Hudson?”
Mrs. Hudson? Sherlock blinked at the sudden change of subject. “What about Hudders?”
“She had a falling out with her sister. I think it was some disapproval over the herbal soothers.”
“But those have been an open secret for years.”
“I didn’t say I understood it, I just said they’re not speaking.”
“She’ll come around eventually. They always make up.” Sherlock contemplated the situation and added, “Eventually.”
There was a knock at the door and a physical therapist poked her head into the room. “Sorry, Doctor Watson, but Hr. Holmes' therapy is due to start.”
“Right.” John looked almost… relieved? He stood up quickly and got William settled in his carrier. “We’ll be back tomorrow morning: we’ve got an appointment this afternoon for vaccinations.”
“Oh.” Sherlock smiled at the baby, “My sympathies, William.”
John gently patted the baby’s foot. “He’ll be all right, won’t you son.”
The baby grunted and John gave Sherlock one last quick smile before he hurried from the room.
The therapist finally gave up after fifteen minutes – Sherlock’s distraction had been palpable the whole session. Finally alone, the detective settled back onto his pillows and closed his eyes.
The Baker Street in his mind palace appeared immediately, the faint shimmer in between their chairs by the fire still apparent. He circled it once, twice, until it turned back into the green door.
Sherlock concentrated, hard, and the door handle gave a little shudder. It was unlocked. He turned the handle and stepped through the door into darkness.
Chapter 10: The Night
Sherlock’s foot collided with something that gave a hollow clank and rolled. He bent down and caught it in his hands, raising it up as a dim light appeared and the scent of…scotch? It was an empty bottle, lettering on one side, cask strength. Then there were noises, it sounded like someone in pain. It sounded like himself… moaning. No, not in pain.
And then all at once there was John in front of him, close, very close, scotchy breath hot on Sherlock’s face. Then the memory seemed to skip and John was on top of him, kissing, pressing hard. They were in the front room of Baker Street, by a fire, and then John kissed him again and the memory skipped and they were in his bedroom, and he didn’t know, didn’t know what… Someone was moaning again, loudly, desperately. Suddenly he was pulled backwards, the door slammed with a bang and he was back in his hospital room, alone, breathing heavily, aroused, and terrified, all at once.
Oh, he thought, between gasping breaths. He waiting until his breathing calmed down, thoughts whirring. Was this what John was skittish of, and what Mycroft kept hinting at? And when could it have happened? Some measure of retrograde amnesia was to be expected – of the actual fall, for example. But this? The memory itself seemed corrupted, skipping and flickering. Was it even real?
Steeling himself, he forced himself back into his mind palace. The green door in the front room was gone: instead, it had been replaced by another nondescript door amongst the rest, only the label of The Night suggested it was anything extraordinary. Was it real? He wondered, tracing his index finger over the lettering on the door.
Apprehension high in his throat, he turned the handle and entered again, trying to stay calm and search the memory for clues.
Chapter 11: The truth
The sun had set. Sherlock blinked and lights from the building across the road swam into focus. He was exhausted, a sheen of sweat had wicked into his cotton pyjamas and left him chilled. There was a tray of food left within reach, and his strength had just about reached the point where he could feed himself competently. Rice pudding. Boring. The spoon was still clumsy in his fingers, but he managed to take a mouthful.
He chewed the mushy offering and thought. The memory was real, that much was clear, and it had probably been in that disjointed state since it was created. They had obviously been drinking, and that was clearly an issue with the memory, but there was an undercurrent of surprise, shock, and apprehension throughout it that was probably also part of the problem. He’d forced himself to stay through the memory to the end, to the feeling of being curled up in bed with John. It had felt good. It had felt like home.
From what he could tell it had taken place within a few weeks of the accident. The fact there wasn’t anything more recent with John suggested that they hadn’t spoken about it. Hadn’t seen each other in the intervening time. What that meant, Sherlock wasn’t sure.
He remembered Mycroft’s parting shot from the other day, He’s sleeping in your bed. Unbidden, he recalled the feeling of being curled up with John in that same bed. Did John think about the same feeling? He’d known that he felt too much for John, and had felt too much for far too long. His own words, echoed, from the memory, “I didn’t mean to feel so much for you. And once I did… I didn’t know how not to.” Sherlock finished the meal without coming to any sort of resolution, just the same thoughts whirling round and round again.
The next morning brought an added complication in the form of a set of papers delivered by a nurse. He was still staring at them when John popped his head around the door. “Morning, good time?”
Sherlock managed a smile in return, “As good as any.”
John was wearing a navy jumper under his winter coat and clutching a cup of takeaway coffee. He smiled as he took a seat and offered, “I left William with Mrs. Hudson. She dotes on him badly, but it also has its uses when I need to run an errand.” Noticing the papers on Sherlock’s lap, he asked, “What’s that?”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow and said dryly, “Discharge papers. Evidently the bones have all knitted satisfactorily, my brain has been pronounced fine, and muscles are building up again. I’m ready for a lower acuity unit or home and physical therapy.”
John took the papers, skimmed them, and smiled. “Congratulations. How are you feeling?”
“Weak.” Sherlock shrugged, “Achy, at times. Bored. I haven’t been able to convince Lestrade to drop off any cases.”
“I’m sure you’ll be allowed some now – a few cold cases should be part of any good recovery regimen. The stairs will be a bit of an issue, but I guess once we get you in it will be okay if you have to stay there for a while. We can do a lot of therapy in-house.”
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “You’d stay at Baker Street? If I came home now?” Surely John didn’t have time for him. Not with the baby as well.
“Of course. But be warned all that talk of not needing much sleep is going to be tested. William doesn’t make it through the night. And he wakes up early.” The little crows feet at the edge of John’s eyes had deepened noticeably in the last year. For once, Sherlock didn’t feel it was entirely his fault. “Unless… you’d rather not live with us. We can move to a hotel and then get a flat.”
“No!” John visibly jumped and Sherlock forced himself to continue more calmly, “No, I didn’t think you’d want me as well. That’s all.”
“Of course I’d want you, Sherlock, always. Just, let me get back to Baker Street and clear things up a bit.” John gave a laugh that sounded almost nervous, “William and I have sprawled out a bit.”
He’s sleeping in your bed.
“I don’t think I need much space, John.”
“Right. Of course.”
He’s sleeping in your bed. Why the words had to keep coming in Mycroft’s voice was beyond him. Perhaps his brain wasn’t quite as recovered as the doctors thought.
John took a gulp from his paper cup, winced as if he might have burnt himself, then threw the still half-full drink into the bin. Rattled. John was rattled. A horrible thought occurred to Sherlock: what if John didn’t want him to remember the night? What if he was happy to pretend it had never happened? What if they had agreed to pretend it never happened?
John was already standing and inching towards the door. “I guess I’d better go and get the baby things out of the way. Can you ring me when you know what time they’ll release you?” It was still easier than texting for Sherlock’s fingers. He was out the door before Sherlock had a chance to reply.
Chapter 12: Home
The bedroom had been quickly put back to rights, that much was clear. The sheets and duvet cover were still warm from the dryer when Sherlock was slid into the bed, pillowcases smelling of laundry soap. John’s possessions had been cleared out, but a stray sock was trapped against a leg of the dresser. Still, it felt good to be home, even if it was just another bed. The journey had been unpleasant, particularly being carried up the stairs to 221B by two burly porters. He could manage some steps in his physical therapy, but they refused to even let him try his own stairs and John hadn’t backed him up.
The drone of voices in the front room, John getting a rundown of instructions from the physical therapists and doctors, trailed off and Sherlock heard the porters being seen out. Footfalls on the steps, the thud of the front door, then John moving around the kitchen.
There was a tap at the door and two steaming mugs of tea preceded John into the bedroom. Sherlock held out a not-too-shaky hand to take his mug. “Where’s William?”
“Napping, thank goodness,” the skin under John’s eyes had a bruised look to it, “Just put him down. He has a cot in the front room. I’m afraid you’re going to hear me going up and down the stairs in the night.”
“Not a problem.”
John chuckled, wearily, “You say that now.” He took a sip of his tea and closed his eyes in appreciation of the hot drink. To Sherlock he looked on the verge of collapse.
It seemed to take a force of will for John to get his eyes back open.
“Go take a nap.”
John shook his head.
“You need one.” Sherlock narrowed his eyes, “You forget just how many times I’ve seen you sleep deprived. Go take a nap. Now.”
“Will be fine. You said you’d just put him down so he’s bound to sleep for a while. I’m awake, Mrs. Hudson is home, and I’m sure if he truly objects his crying will wake you up anyway.”
Ruefully, John conceded defeat. “You’re right about that. Are you sure?”
“Positive.” Sherlock snagged a chemistry journal that had been thoughtfully placed beside the bed. “I’m going to read, and you are going to sleep. We’ll be fine.”
That John didn’t put up any further argument spoke volumes.
The journal was interesting enough – it had come in while he’d been in hospital, and Sherlock lost himself in the articles for a while. Sometime later he was vaguely aware of a sound upstairs, the floorboard creaking, then a deep muttering, a louder exclamation, then more creaking. John: having not just a nightmare, but a full-blown night terror. It had been a fairly common occurrence when he’d first moved in, but eventually, with time, they had faded into something more manageable and thankfully much more rare.
There was nothing he could do, so Sherlock simply waited until it seemed to slow down, then cease. No sounds from upstairs. Evidently, John was still asleep.
No sounds from upstairs, but a faint whimper from the front room. William must have woken up. The whimper came again, and Sherlock didn’t doubt the baby was working himself up into a full-blown cry. The clock at the bedside table indicated that John had only been asleep for half an hour. Surely the baby was supposed to stay down for longer than that? William whimpered a third time and Sherlock put his journal aside and contemplated drastic action.
To the extent that a small baby can express surprise, William’s face was the picture of it as Sherlock came crawling into the front room. He was sure he could have walked the distance, but given the circumstances having to explain a fall to John would have been more than a bit not good. At least the baby stopped whimpering as he drew up alongside the cot and they contemplated each other through the bars.
Nothing visibly wrong with the child. Sherlock slipped a hand between the bars and checked, but the diaper was clean as well. “Just bored then?” He whispered, “I sympathise, but we do need to let John get some sleep.” William wrinkled his nose and Sherlock tried a smile, which got him one in return. “Let’s see if we can’t keep each other entertained.”
John woke up, slowly, for the first time in recent memory. There was a sound, he dimly registered, somewhat familiar, but faint. Wiping a patch of saliva from the corner of his mouth he blearily contemplated his alarm clock. Four o’clock in the afternoon. His eyebrows raised in surprise: he’d slept for two hours. And he feltgood as well. Refreshed.
The weight of responsibility came crashing back down immediately. He’d slept for two hours with William and Sherlock unattended downstairs. He clambered out of bed and took the stairs two at a time, only to stop in surprise on the threshold of the front room.
There was Sherlock, sitting on a cushion dragged off the chair and leaning against the side of William’s cot. John blinked. Sherlock had his violin, and was plucking the strings in a passable rendition of a lullaby. William was wide awake, but quietly watching.
Sherlock finished the last two notes of the melody, frowning when one was slightly sour, then turned to look up at John. “I told you we’d be fine.”
John looked from the detective to his son, and back again. “You shouldn’t be on the floor.”
“I’m fine.” Sherlock put his violin back in its case, snapping the clasps shut with finality. “Although…” He brushed his overlong curls back from his face and still managed to maintain his dignity as he said, “I wouldn’t decline a hand getting back into my chair.”
“You’re utterly mad,” but John was smiling, fondly, as he said it and even Sherlock couldn’t help but smile back at his own expense.
The feeling of John’s strong, careful arms around him as he was lifted made Sherlock take a sudden gamble: “I remember, John.”
“The accident?” John was concentrating more on the logistics of getting the cushion back in place and Sherlock on top of it than the actual conversation.
Sherlock waited until he was seated and looked back up at the other man. “The night.”
John visibly deflated. “Oh.”
“It’s still a little… confused… but I don’t remember it badly.”
The implied question was plain: why had John seemed to actively avoid the topic, or any prompting of Sherlock’s memory? “I dream of her dying.” John looked down at his hands. “We were talking together, laughing, and then it just ended.” He took a shuddering breath and confessed, “And yet, sometimes…. Sometimes I wake up remembering the fall and being glad it wasn’t you. So what kind of husband does that make me? What kind of father?”
“A human one.”
“And you’d know all about that?”
It was a low blow and an old argument, but Sherlock let it glance off him. “More than you’d think.” He reached up and took John’s wrist, using his limited strength to guide the other man down to sit on the arm of his chair. “I know your principles matter to you, but sometimes life isn’t so conveniently black and white.”
“I was unfaithful.”
“And you went back to her, because it was the right thing to do. Despite all her lies, and everything she put you through.”
John was silent for a long moment, then muttered, “I don’t deserve you.”
“Most people would say the converse was true.” Carefully, as if approaching a wild animal that could lash out or flee, Sherlock raised John’s hand and placed a gentle kiss on the palm. Sherlock waited, motionless, until something in John seemed to give and he felt the other man bend down and press a gentle kiss on the top of his head.
William gave a little babbling noise and John stiffened, brought out of the moment by the reality of the situation. “What are we going to do? I can’t stay here with a baby, and I need to go back to work eventually. I only have so much paternity leave.”
“Of course you should stay.” Sherlock tilted his head to one side and raised one eyebrow, “or was that not the intent behind naming him Watson-Holmes?”
A wince went through John’s entire frame. “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I did that. It just sort of… happened.”
“I don’t mind, you know. Actually, it’s rather flattering. As for my family…”
“Oh, God, I didn’t think…” Because of course there were other Holmeses with the right to an opinion.”
Sherlock talked right over him. “So far as my parents will be concerned, he’s their only grandchild, and unless Mycroft does something spectacularly out of character he’s going to remain that way.”
“And you?” John couldn’t quite bear to let himself hope, couldn’t bear to let himself feel something that felt like happiness fluttering in his chest for the first time in months.
“John, we both know it’s likely my days of dashing across London are over.”
“But you can’t give up…”
“And I won’t. I’ll have to farm out a lot of the legwork, which means my life is going to be a lot less dangerous.”
Sherlock allowed his lip to curl up slightly in amusement at John’s bemusement. “I gather it would be frowned upon to take him to crime scenes, but I’m sure we can make sure William is well looked after as we work on cases.”
“Can I think about it? This is a bit overwhelming.”
“Of course.” The words tasted like ashes in Sherlock’s mouth, but he forced himself to say them anyway. “Take as long as you need.”
Chapter 13: The ending
The Sainsbury’s bag bumped against John’s leg as he walked, but it felt so good to be out of the flat that he didn’t mind. He’d ducked into a wine merchants on a whim and on his way out almost knocked into the last person he expected to see entering the shop.
“Mrs. Hudson?” He blinked in the spring sunlight and held the door open. “Is something wrong – were you looking for me?” He was sure his mobile hadn’t rung while he’d been in Sainsbury’s.
Mrs. Hudson smiled with carefully calculated levity, “Of course not, John. I just realised I needed to pick up some sherry for my sister.”
That explained her presence in the shop, but so far as John was concerned not why she wasn’t at home given that he’d left William and Sherlock in her charge less than an hour ago.
The question must have been plain on John’s face because she pushed past him with the breezy assurance, “Sherlock is baby-sitting.”
John didn’t think he could have possibly heard that correctly. “Sherlock is baby-sitting?”
“That’s what I said, dear.” She made a beeline for the sherries, deliberately dismissing him and any concerns he might have raised.
John would later be ashamed to admit that he’d run home, carrier bags bruising his knee. He forced himself to stop on the front steps and take several slow deliberate breaths in an attempt to not look flushed from the exertion. He took the steps slowly and quietly, relieved that there wasn’t any crying coming from the flat above.
In fact, there wasn’t any noise, until he heard Sherlock’s deep voice just as he was about to open the front door, “No, no, no, you have to plant like this, William. Your head is still disproportionately heavy to the rest of your body.”
John paused, then carefully eased the door open to see… legs?
Sherlock and William, both face down on the floor in the front room. As John watched, Sherlock appeared to demonstrate something and then adjust the baby’s posture slightly.
The detective lowered himself back onto the floor and narrated, “One arm under, arch your back and use the weight of your head like this.”
It looked like Sherlock was trying to teach William to roll from his stomach to his back. John felt something unexpected swell in his chest as he watched for another moment, then carefully eased the door shut before he could be noticed. John stood on the landing as he considered what to do, then quietly set down his shopping just outside the door and headed out again.
The kiosk was still set-up outside Baker Street Station. John paid for what had been his usual order, then hurried back to the flat before he could lose his nerve. Taking the stairs two at a time, he opened the door to find William and Sherlock, side by side on their backs on the floor, both smiling.
John stepped into the room slowly, trying to mask how quickly his heart was beating. “You’re looking pleased with yourself.”
“William is an excellent pupil.” Sherlock propped himself on up his elbows, still rather weak himself. Whatever he was going to say next was forgotten as he got a glimpse of what John was holding.
The bouquet of Sweet William flowers was a swirl of reds and whites against the dark colours of the flat.
Sherlock stilled entirely and the smile slipped slightly from his face. He watched carefully as John took one, two, three steps into the flat, then crouched down.
Neither man seemed inclined to speak, so John decided that as the bringer of the offering it was only fair he explain it. “I don’t need to think about it anymore.”
And Sherlock, whose self-assurance was second in the world only to Mycroft Holmes’, actually looked nervous. He sat up fully and licked his lips once before he asked, “And…”
John handed Sherlock the flowers, “For the world’s greatest consulting detective, with a veritable encyclopaedia of botany and symbolism in that head of yours, you’re hesitating to make a deduction.”
John closed the gap between them and whispered, “You shouldn’t,” before kissing Sherlock carefully on the lips. He pulled back to find Sherlock’s face transformed by the awestruck excitement that usually accompanied an exclamation about Christmas.
“Really, John? You’re sure?”
John smiled at the detective, and his son on the floor next to them both. “Sure.” He leaned in for another quick peck on the lips. “Always sure.”