What are we doing tomorrow?
Sherlock. What are we doing tomorrow? Or do you and Mycroft have plans? We haven’t talked about it.
Is there some reason why tomorrow is distinct from other future Wednesdays?
Are you serious? IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Oh. That. I hadn’t thought about it.
Okay then. Sherlock, what would you like to do tomorrow for your birthday?
I don’t know. What does one do on birthdays?
Are you kidding.
I believe you intended an interrogation point at the end of that sentence.
Do you not want to celebrate your birthday? Just checking.
Right. OK. Three choices: 1) We do nothing. 2) Naz and I bake you a cake, you come over, we have takeway and make you wear a silly hat, cuddles on the couch after bedtime. 3) Posh dinner out, noisy sex marathon at Mycroft’s place.
It’s a Wednesday.
You have Nazir. We can’t have dinner/noisy sex marathon because you have Nazir.
Mary and me can swap.
Mary and I.
Fuck’s sake, Sherlock.
Cake + takeaway + change of location (hotel?) + noisy sex marathon.
Sounds like a plan. You book the hotel though. Now I just need to wrap your gift.
WHAT IS IT??????
You’ll find out tomorrow. ;)
I hate you.
Does the stalking ban forbid any patronage of Fine Grind?
John picked up his phone from where it lay next to him, trying to make sure he didn’t look like he was slacking off on the call. “No, I can absolutely turn that around by Tuesday,” he said absentmindedly, and texted back, Nope. Mind if I join you after my call’s over?
Sherlock texted back quickly. I’m not terribly talkative right now.
That’s fine. Status?
45% mad. Still fine to be in public.
What’s the line, 50?
“John?” asked the Annexin exec.
“Yes, sorry,” he said, dropping his phone. “The biggest issue is you don’t have the half-lifes expressed clearly enough. Could you have the chemists send me the raw data for that, please?”
“Sure,” she said, taking a note.
Sixty-five, Sherlock texted. Although I am reluctant to go out if it gets above 55% in case of unanticipated spikes.
Smart, John said. Down in ten.
Josh dashed between his front door and the cafe without his coat, laptop under his arm. He hesitated for a moment at the door, admiring Sherlock silhouetted against the light from the front window, flat white cooling untouched. God, his boyfriend was lovely. He sighed, shook himself, and waved to Julia as he went over to join him at the table. The other chair was opposite from Sherlock’s, but John swung it around and sat down next to him, reaching out to gently stroke his hand where it lay on the table.
Sherlock rose to consciousness gently, and turned his hand over to hold John’s. John smiled at him. “Morning, love. Vauxhall this morning?”
“Mmm.” Sherlock dropped his head onto John’s shoulder.
John managed to get his arm around Sherlock’s waist and his laptop onto the table at the same time. “I have to work, do you mind?”
“Mmm,” Sherlock said, and shook his head.
Julia dropped a filter coffee on the table. “All right, John?”
“Yeah, it’s good. How’s the back sink?”
“Not clogged again yet, thankfully.” She arched a pierced eyebrow at Sherlock on his shoulder. “Should I start comping him too, then?”
John suppressed the giggle that threatened. “Nah, he’s loaded.”
“Expense account,” Sherlock muttered.
“Exactly,” John said.
“Right, then,” she said. “I’ll bring biscuits when they come out the oven, yeah?”
“Ta,” John said, picking up his coffee. Sherlock snuggled in further. He kissed his forehead and drank his coffee. Work could wait a bit.
Sandra would never understand why in the name of all that was holy they took the Year Ones to the V&A. Couldn’t take them to the sculpture galleries because some parent would absolutely pitch a fit about their precious snowflake seeing a bunch of marble willies (not that she particularly wanted to deal with the giggles either), and most of the stuff was a bit too esoteric for them anyway. The British Museum, that one made sense, but it was saved for summer term. She swears she’s going to argue for switching it next year, but she’s sworn that for three years running, so. “Ellen, Naz, Consuela, stay in line,” she called out as they turned the corner.
“Sorry, Ms. Cummings,” they said, and did not, in any way, get back in line. She sighed.
The eternally perky guide led them to the particular embroidered dress she was going to lecture on. The girls, at least, quieted down at that, as did the calmer boys. Sandra sighed and crossed her arms, and settled in to hear about embroidery and fabric history and whatever else was on today’s menu.
But just as she’d started to tune out and write her shopping list in her head, there was commotion behind her, and then, out of her peripheral vision, there was a giant flapping batlike blob that catapulted into a bloke and knocked him over.
She spun around, and saw that the bat-thing was actually another bloke in a big coat, who was now pinning the bystander to the ground in a rather intimidating hold. There were shouts and flails and oh dear lord, this was an actual emergency, he could have a gun, he could be anyone, oh lord. She stepped between the lunatic and the children, trying to figure out if there was an exit.
“Are you mad? Let me up!” shouted the pinned man.
“No,” said the madman. “Because you’re Edgar Lewis Leavings, responsible for approximately one-tenth of the non-conflict-related art thefts in Interpol’s database, and you were most certainly just planning on stealing the paduka in the last room.” The pinned man tried to object, and the madman slapped the back of his head. “Oh, stop it, you already have a buyer lined up, I could see it from your pockets.”
“Sir,” said a security guard, looking as panicked as Sandra felt, “I’m going to need to ask you to let him up.”
The madman cast him a withering look. “Um…no,” he said, sarcastically.
“Sir, the police have been called.”
“Excellent,” the madman said. “Double handcuffs for this one, you should see what he did in Florence. Not pretty.”
There was a shifting near her thigh, and when Sandra looked down, it was Naz peering around her legs at the debacle in front of them. “Get back, dear,” she said, trying not to sound hysterical.
Naz ignored her. “Sherlock?”
The madman swiveled his attention. “Hello, Nazir,” he said cheerfully, as if he weren’t straddling someone he’d just accused of art theft on the floor of the V&A. “Are you enjoying it?”
“It’s fine,” Naz said with a shrug.
“Of course you aren’t, they haven’t taken you to any of the interesting rooms yet. Number eight is a personal favorite,” the madman said.
“What’s in room eight?”
“Cool,” Naz said enthusiastically. “Can we go?”
At this point, a bunch of Scotland Yard officers rushed in, making a great deal of noise. “I need to clear this bit up first,” the madman said to Naz, “might need to wait until tomorrow if I get arrested. Yes, hello,” he said to the officers, “you’re all in entirely over your heads. Let me just get my identification from my left-side inner pocket, and trust me, it’s worth your heads not to shoot me over it.” He pulled out a badge holder from the pocket and flipped it open. “Sherlock Holmes, MI-6. You’ll want to make some calls.”
“Bloody hell,” muttered the pinned man.
“Ms. O’Neil?” said Naz. Sandra looked down, entirely confused. “I’d better go with him. Just in case.”
She didn’t really know what to say to that.
This, honestly, was not a call Sally Donovan had been waiting for. I mean, the man was dead—and she had had that on her conscience, though she still thought going up the chain was the best option. And then he wasn’t, and something smelled fishy in that story of his about SIS, but that wasn’t her division anyway, so she just moved on. But it turns out that when the Yard’s greatest debacle managed to catch an international art thief by accident, and when the exhausted sounding handler on the other end of the line from Vauxhall Cross refused to have anything to do with him, well, they looked for any officer with any relevant experience. Apparently, that was her. Lucky her.
But what really surprised her was the kid, who was holding on very tightly to Holmes’s hand when she went to pick him up from the holding cell and transport him to her office while they figured out what to do with him. Before she could get a word in, the kid looked right at her and said fiercely, “If you’re going to arrest him you have to let him call my dad first.”
Holy shit. There was another generation of Watson.
She had, in fact, called Watson herself. He’d momentarily gone into a panic when she said “an incident at the V&A,” because the son, Naz, had been there on a field trip, which was 100% not a coincidence, she was sure, meaning that…had Holmes been a volunteer? No, not possible, he’d been a stalker is what he’d been. So she’d locked Holmes in her office and sat down at her sergeant’s desk with some printer paper and crayons and waited for Watson to show.
Which is where she and Naz still were, while Watson and Holmes were yelling at each other in her office. Honestly, it didn’t look any different from the old days, except for the munchkin at her side, who kept glancing up at his dad and his…whoever, monitoring the progress of the fight.
She tried to distract him. “So, where do you live, Naz?”
“Baker Street,” he said, looking back down at his paper. “We used to live in Lewisham, but when Mum and Dad divorced they got a new house with flats instead. It’s got a cafe downstairs, even.”
Oh Christ, they were living in that dump? She changed the subject. “Do you have any pets?”
“I want a dog,” he said, “but Mum’s allergic. Dad says maybe fish.” He wrinkled up his nose.
“Yeah, fish are kind of rubbish,” she agreed, and added a smiling sun to her picture.
“I think Sherlock wants a dog too, because he pets all the ones in the park,” Naz said conspiratorially, “but it would have to live at his brother’s house and he stays at ours more now, so his dog would be lonely, and I wouldn’t get to play with it anyway.”
She didn’t know what to say to that, exactly, although she supposed that it answered some questions.
Her mobile rang; it was the superintendent, telling her to release Holmes. She got up to let them out of the locked office, and found that the yelling appeared to have dwindled off and been replaced by hysterical laughter. Mad, the both of them.
Watson smiled at her a little tightly as he walked out of the office and over to his son. (She supposed she wasn’t forgiven; she didn’t think she needed forgiveness, if anyone asked her.) He knelt in front of Naz. “I suppose there’s no chance we can just avoid telling your mother about this, right?”
“Daddy,” Naz said, looking at his father as if he were very, very stupid. “She runs the schools.”
“Good point.” Watson kissed the boy’s forehead. “Come on, let’s go home.”
“Park first,” Naz said. He pushed his drawing on top of hers. “You can keep my drawing, Inspector Donovan.”
“Thanks, Naz,” she said, and gave a little wave.
Holmes stood next to her and adjusted his coat. She looked up at him—his hair gone gray at the temples, the lines around his eyes, the same arrogant profile. He smirked down at her. “You’ve done well for yourself, Inspector.”
“Yeah, I have,” she said, not sure whether or not to be defensive.
“Unsurprising, but pleasant to see,” he said, and honest to god, winked. He reached into his breast pocket, pulled out the carrier his SIS ID was in, and slid out a card from behind it. “Should you find yourself in need of my services,” he said, offering it between two gloved fingers.
She took the card. It wasn’t an official business card or anything (she supposed SIS didn’t give their agents business cards, really), but the type you got printed at an office store. It read:
International Man of Mystery
Solver of Many Problems
Creator of Many Others
“That’s the most egotistical card I’ve ever seen,” she said, staring at it.
“Birthday gift from John,” he said. “Take it up with him. I look forward to your call.” He swept over to where Watson and Naz were waiting, took Naz’s offered hand, and followed them over to the elevator.
She looked down at the card again. Really, she should have refused to take it. Should rip it up right there, drop it into the bin.
She sighed. When she went back into her office, she tucked it into a drawer.
“Mary’s going to murder us both,” John said tiredly, as he and Sherlock settled on the bench.
“Surely you exaggerate,” Sherlock said, handing him the second coffee he’d been holding.
“Sherlock, you just caused an international incident during Naz’s field trip. Which you weren’t supposed to be on.” He shook his head. “A whole class of little traumatized Year Ones.”
“It was exciting, not traumatic,” Sherlock sniffed.
“You couldn’t have kept tailing him and called it in?”
“He and Nazir’s class were about to be in different rooms. I couldn’t follow them both at once,” Sherlock said, sulking into his lapels.
John didn’t even know what to say to that. He was saved by his phone buzzing in his pocket, but it was a temporary relief, because it was Mary calling. He shot Sherlock a look. “Hello, Mary,” he said, trying to sound neither exasperated nor amused.
“What the fuck, John?”
So much for that. “Yeah, okay.”
“Honestly, your fucking cuntknuckle of a boyfriend—“
“That’s a new one,” John muttered.
“I’m not even on the incident response chain! I shouldn’t have had to deal with this at all!”
“I know. I know. It’s ridiculous,” John said, trying to be calming. “But everyone’s fine, in the end, so. Hopefully it’ll go away soon.”
“Is he there?”
John chose to deliberately misunderstand. “Naz is over on the climbing thing, want me to call him over?”
“John,” Mary said, as flatly as possible.
“Right,” John said, and held out the phone to Sherlock.
Being a coward, Sherlock hit the speakerphone button. “Good afternoon, Maryam.”
“Do you really think I’m not going to yell at you on speakerphone?”
“I was hoping to be sworn at a little less.”
Mary sighed. “This was a shit thing to do, Sherlock.”
“I apologize. Though for the record, I did. You know. Catch a globally-reknowned art thief.”
“While being a creepy stalker.”
“Technically, I was a patron of a major London cultural institution.”
Mary growled. Literally, actually growled.
“I think what Sherlock means,” John said, “is that he’s sorry for the mess he caused, and he promises not to stalk Naz on field trips any more.”
“You know, if you’d just filled out the bloody volunteer form this would have caused about eight times less trouble,” Mary said. “Do you know how hard it is to get parent volunteers for primary field trips?”
“Fine, I’ll volunteer next time,” Sherlock said.
“How about if I make you dinner tonight to relief some of the stress?” John tried.
“Honestly, John, one of the perks of divorcing you was not having to eat your cooking anymore.”
“Better.” She sighed. “Right. If you cause any more international incidents between now and when I get home from work, do it well away from anything affiliated with the London Educational Authority, yeah?”
“Good plan,” John said.
After they hung up, Sherlock dropped his head onto John’s shoulder. He wrapped an arm around him. “Nothing but trouble with you.”
“Lucky for me you like it,” Sherlock said.
“That’s because I’m an idiot,” John said, and kissed his hair.
They watched Naz climb on the other side of the playground. The wind blew dead leaves across their feet. John laughed. “You know, it’s been a year.”
“A year since Mycroft told me you weren’t dead.” John squeezed him a bit. “I don’t remember the date, but yeah. It was January, and it was a playground like this, and he cornered me and told me I had to come save you.”
“I highly doubt he phrased it that way.”
“Closer than you would think.” John kissed his hair again. “I can’t believe it’s just been a year. So much has changed.”
“Regrets?” Sherlock asked.
John wasn’t sure if he was fishing or not. “Not a one.” Sherlock raised his head. He was smiling, so it was fishing. John ran his hand down Sherlock’s face. “I missed you.”
“I missed you,” Sherlock said. He leaned in and brushed his lips across John’s.
“Dad! Sherlock!” Naz called out.
They turned. “Hey, Naz,” John called back.
“Are you looking?” he said, from his vantage point at the top of the climbing gym.
“Yes, nicely done.”
“Sherlock?” Naz demanded.
“Fantastic,” Sherlock called back.
“Watch me,” Naz said, as he headed out across the monkey bars.
“Be careful,” John called back.
“I’m fine, Dad.”
Sherlock put his head back on John’s shoulder. John rested his head against him, breathed in his smell, watched his son climb, and knew, really knew, that it was all okay.