By the time Sherlock gets back to Baker Street, the effects of Mary’s drug have nearly worn off. Sudden clarity, however, does nothing to prepare him for the sight of John Watson throwing the door to 221B open just as Sherlock rounds the landing on the stairs.
“Where the hell have you been?” He’s got Rosie on one hip and a bottle in his free hand. Sherlock’s return has clearly interrupted a late dinner for the baby if the grumpy look on her face and way she reaches for the formula is any indication.
“How long have you been here?” he croaks and John’s look turns thunderous.
“Since I came home from work to find Mary gone and Rosie with the neighbors,” he snaps, though he’s clearly not angry with anyone actually present.
“Is she all right?” Sherlock asks as he ascends the last remaining stairs and runs a hand down her pajama-clad back.
John releases a weary sigh before replying, “Yeah.” It’s drained and resigned, but not surprised. He steps back into the flat, watching Sherlock trudge through the door, and only then does he seem to notice the fugue in Sherlock’s features as the man collapses on the sofa. “You okay?”
He grunts an affirmative. “Paper laced with a sedative. I must have been out for - ” he glances at his watch - “two hours.”
“Jesus,” John mutters, unconsciously bouncing Rosie as she starts to fuss. “C’mon, you feed her. I’ll get my kit.”
“I’m really fine,” he protests with not a little fear, but accepts the baby that John is handing over. It’s to her credit that she only whines for a moment before settling in with a silent Finally in her eyes when Sherlock raises the bottle to her lips.
“See? Give her some food and she’ll love you forever,” John states as he returns with the spare kit from the cabinet in the toilet.
Is it like that with all Watsons? Must cook more, Sherlock thinks before mentally berating himself. Idiot.
“Why are you here?” he finally asks as if it only just occurs to him that John and his daughter are back at 221B. Certainly not a rare occurrence, but not as often as Sherlock might allow himself to hope.
“What do you mean?” John asks as he fiddles with the penlight, but Sherlock can read the tension in his shoulders.
“Why come here? You have a perfectly good flat that surely can cater better to the needs and whims of an infant. I haven’t even disinfected the table after the incident with the ears.”
John sighs. “Can we not?”
“I didn’t mean - “ he begins, but is cut off as John shines the torch in his left eye, followed by his right. Sherlock sees spots as the light is switched off and John presses two fingers to the inside of his wrist, gently taking his pulse with his capable doctor hands.
“Heart rate a bit elevated and pupil dilation still sluggish, but you’ll live.” Then he smiles. “And I disinfected the table as soon as I walked in, you loon. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson by now. Ears? Really?”
Sherlock ducks his head bashfully before Rosie knocks the bottle out of his hand, promptly proclaiming herself to be finished. “Oh,” he murmurs, staring from the nearly empty bottle to the baby and back again. “Now what?”
“She needs to be burped,” John replies. He’s returning the light to the kit, which is why he misses the look of immediate and intense alarm that crosses Sherlock’s face.
“Burped?” he asks, voice high.
John chuckles as he stands with a pop and a groan, deftly pulling Rosie from Sherlock’s arms and draping a cloth over his shoulder. “C’mon, darling,” he murmurs, situating her properly and patting her back. She rewards him with a burp a moment later and, luckily, no spit-up. “See? Easy peasy.”
The two of them look, frankly, adorable so Sherlock lets the ‘easy peasy’ slide. He also allows himself the use of ‘adorable’ because there really is no other word for the sight before him.
He swallows hard, feeling the smile slide from his face. He could never have this. It doesn’t - they don’t - belong to him.
“The trace?” he asks, voice rough, already halfway to his laptop on the table. He catches sight of John’s face in the mirror above the mantle and the crease between his eyebrows makes Sherlock’s stomach clench. “Can’t be sure that she got a flight out this late, but you never know.”
“It’ll still be active in the morning,” John quietly replies. His voice is soft, placating, and Sherlock is mortified to find that the inflections that work to calm the infant work just as well on him, apparently.
He looks up to find John smiling at him. Just a little uptick at the corner of his mouth. He’s still doing that unconscious fatherly swaying in the middle of the room as Rosie’s eyelids droop in post-feeding lethargy.
“But,” Sherlock straightens, “you don’t care where she’s going?”
“Not tonight. I’ll care tomorrow, but I just - ” his shoulders slump and the frown is back. He’d been making a good show of things, but the anxiety in his eyes when he first greeted Sherlock at the top of the stairs is rapidly gaining ground. “I just don’t have the energy,” he finally admits.
Sherlock is glad. To be frank, he doesn’t have the energy either.
John clears his throat and nods to the pair of bags sitting just inside the kitchen. “Tonight, I just want to put my daughter to bed, watch a Bond, and share a scotch.” His expression is carefully guarded, but the hope shines through anyway. “I think we’ve earned that, don’t you?”
Sherlock thinks of Baker Street and how cold it’s seemed. How empty, even when it’s full of people. He glances at the roaring fire John built to ward off the bitter damp, at the child that John helped make softly snoring on his shoulder, at the balloon with John’s silly scribbles still bobbing in the air. He thinks of the packaway crib no one knows he’s purchased, hiding in the back of the closet in John’s old room. He wonders how long they can pretend until Mary decides they’ve had enough peace.
His mind has been whirring for approximately forty-five seconds, wondering what tools he’ll need to nick from Mrs. Hudson to assemble the cot’s many pieces and whether or not John will finally make him change his first nappy, before he realizes he hasn’t actually said anything.
He looks up and John is staring at him like he knows exactly what Sherlock is thinking. And perhaps he does. He’s pretty damn smart, after all.
“I think we’ve earned it, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he finally whispers. “I think we have.”