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‘Oh, shit.’

John, who was examining the corpse on the floor, looked up at the profanity and raised an eyebrow at his partner. ‘That’s not like you, Sherlock. You usually reserve swears for Mycroft and particularly juicy serial killers.’

‘And Game of Thrones,’ Rosie added from the corner. ‘Particularly the last season. He hates the plot holes.’ John sighed. ‘Rosie. You are thirteen years old. You should not be watching Game of Thrones.’

Rosie batted her big blue eyes and flicked her reddish-brown hair behind her shoulder, glancing at Lestrade. ‘Oh, it’s fine. I’ve seen worse.’

John resisted the urge to smirk and Greg laughed out loud, fondly ruffling his god-daughter’s hair. ‘Rosamund Watson, you are a liability.’

Rosie wrinkled her nose, as she always did when someone uses her full first name, and flopped on a wooden chair by the door. ‘Papa, I am so bored. I hate crime scenes, I hate the Yard, and I hate Anderson.’ She narrowed her eyes and looked around. ‘He’s here. I can feel his presence.’

But John wasn’t really listening anymore, attention drifting to Sherlock, who was still standing motionless, staring at his phone. It occurred to John that it wasn’t like Sherlock to lose concentration at a crime scene, especially a locked-room mystery like the woman on the floor, and so he approached him from behind, placing a hand gently on his arm and saying, ‘Love? What’s going on?’

Sherlock’s mouth was fixed in a thin white line. His skin was even paler than usual, and his hands were holding the phone so tightly that John could see the vivid blue tendons clearly against the stretched-out skin. ‘Sherlock-‘

‘Lila’s in labour,’ he choked out, and John’s vision narrowed. ‘I’m- what?’

‘She’s in labour.’ Sherlock finally snapped out of it, looking around the room wildly. ‘Fuck. Don’t you think they’re a bit early, John? It’s only thirty-seven weeks. Ok. John, we need to go, we don’t have much time.’

Rosie squealed, and Greg covered his ears with both hands. ‘Is it happening? Papa, Dad, am I going to be a big sister?!’ She sprung to her feet, clapping her hands ecstatically (numbly, it occurred to John that his daughter should not be dancing around a corpse, but it was not the time to correct her behaviour). ‘Right.’ He took Sherlock’s phone, scrolling through the message quickly, and then nodded. Battle-stations ready, he said to himself, before taking Sherlock’s shoulders and pressing his forehead against the forehead of the man he loved.

(‘Ugh,’ Rosie said, disgusted. ‘Come on, fathers, there’ll be time for this after your child is born.’)

‘Hey,’ John whispered, ignoring his daughter for the moment, looking his partner straight in the eye. ‘Hey. Stop. Look at me.’

Sherlock’s eyes stop darting and he focuses on John, breathing gradually slowing down. ‘John-‘

‘We’re going to go to the hospital,’ John murmured. ‘We’re going to find Lila, we’re going to watch our child being born, and we’re going to leave that hospital in the next few days with our family complete.’  

Sherlock nodded, closing his eyes, and John’s heart contracted with love for the man he would follow to the ends of the Earth. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you,’ Sherlock managed to say, eyes still closed and hair flopping beautifully over his forehead. I hope they have Sherlock’s hair, John thought giddily, reaching up with one hand to move the errant curl back into place-

‘For real,’ Rosie said, and both John and Sherlock turned their heads to look at their daughter. ‘Are you going to stare into each other’s eyes for the rest of the evening, or are you going to collect your child? Christ, fathers.’ Sherlock chuckled slightly, his colour slowly coming back, and chucked Rosie under the chin. ‘Alright, alright.’ And then, glancing at Greg, hair covered in dust from the untouched room and coat swaying around his shins, ‘You’ll have to solve this one alone, Lestrade. We have to go and have a baby.’

Greg smiled, reaching out to pat John on the back as he walked past. ‘Good luck, mate. Let us know how it goes.’ Then, after a pause, ‘I’ve got ten quid on it being a girl, so try and do me proud, yeah?’

The taxi ride to Bart’s was long, tense and absolutely brilliant. Rosie and Sherlock sat next to each other like two peas-in-a-pod, almost vibrating with excitement, their right legs bouncing up and down to an identical tempo. John was quieter, thinking about the last time he went to Bart’s for this reason- he was only thirty, caught up in an emotional rollercoaster with the wife he loved and the best friend who’d just returned from certain death, and yet the moment he had laid eyes on Rosamund Mary he’d known he would do anything for her. After the death of his first love, her mother, he’d fallen for his true love, Sherlock Holmes, and created the unconventional but unbelievable family he had now-

And soon there would be a final addition, half-Sherlock and half-John, and as John stared at his partner, who was now frantically discussing the benefits and disadvantages of the name ‘Octavia with his daughter, he was overwhelmed with how lucky he was, how lucky his daughter was, and how lucky his soon-to-be child was.

An eternity (or half an hour) later they pulled up outside Bart’s. Sherlock tossed a wad of cash at the cabby, not even pausing to accept the change, before sprinting into the building. ‘John!’ He shouted as he ran. ‘Come! Let’s go!’ He paused, looking back, Rosie by his side. ‘John!’

Smiling to himself, John followed his partner and daughter inside the hospital, pausing at the front desk. ‘Hiya, Sheila,’ he said to the receptionist (a nice girl who was often on the desk when Sherlock came in to go to the morgue). ‘Lila Thomas? Maternity ward?’

Sheila tapped something into the computer before glancing at Sherlock, who was now pacing back and forth by the elevator. ‘Is somebody a little nervous?’ She whispered, and Rosie, standing next to John, barked out a laugh. ‘He’s shitting himself.’

‘Language,’ John hissed as Sheila frowned and said, ‘I’m sorry, John, but when it’s time for the birth your daughter won’t be allowed in the delivery room.’

They’d planned for that, but her shoulders still slumped. ‘But- it’s my sister.’

Sheila shook her head. ‘Sorry, love.’

By the elevator, Sherlock slammed a button and shouted, ‘JOHN! ROSIE! COME!’

‘She’s in a private room.’ Sheila raised an eyebrow. ‘I didn’t know you had money.’

Sherlock, who was now hitting his head repeatedly against the closed metal doors, said loudly, ‘Mycroft. Doesn’t matter. John. I will break down this door.’

‘No you won’t, drama queen,’ John scoffed at the same time as Rosie said, ‘I’ll help him. Come on.

‘Floor 4, room 2.’ John nodded, grabbed his daughter’s hand and followed Sherlock to the elevator, which was now open and containing a very excited thirty-nine year old detective.

His heart was racing as they moved up the building in total silence, each struggling with internal emotions. His daughter looked half-scared and half something else entirely, and for a moment he wondered if she was finally having the sibling-envy he’d been expecting since they sat her down seven months ago and told her, God willing, she’d have a little sibling. ‘You ok?’ He whispered to Rosie, and Sherlock stopped mouthing the periodic table in order to look down in concern. ‘Rosie?’

She flashed them a quick smile. ‘Just excited. Hopefully they’ll be fast, right? I don’t want to sit in the waiting room forever.’

Sherlock took out his Infant Notebook, flicking through the pages until he found what he was looking for. ‘As it’s Lila’s third birth, I’m hopeful it will be fast. As long as there are no…complications.’ For a moment, he looked as panic outside as John knew he was inside, but it was soon hidden back under his façade as he pocketed the book and laid a protective hand on Rosie’s shoulder. ‘And you’ll only be alone for a little bit, darling.’

Rosie nodded, and John’s heart clenched in his chest as he watched the two of them together, tall and small, dark and light, father and daughter. ‘You mean, come out again.

Sherlock groaned, and the elevator grinded to a halt. ‘I do love those jokes. Please, continue with them.’ But the tone of his voice was too nervous to be jokey, and Rosie didn’t say anything else as they walked along the corridor, pausing in the waiting room so Rosie could drop off her stuff, and then continuing another five metres to room 2, floor 4.

John wasn’t really sure what he was expecting when he walked in. It had all been very fast with Mary, a lot of shouting and running and a room full of people, but Lila was lying in the hospital bed filing her nails, with their doctor, Ella, sitting on a chair in the corner of the room reading a magazine. John had to do a double take, looking at them both in amazement. ‘I’m sorry, have I wandered into a spa day?’

Sherlock was already next to Lila, talking in a low voice, so Ella replied, flicking to a new page. ‘Your brother-in-law insisted a doctor be present at all times, just in case. I was chosen.’

‘Christ.’ John put his head in his hands, cursing the over-protective uncle over and over in his head. ‘That’s not necessary.’

‘I’m being paid a hefty extra-time fee, so I’m perfectly happy.’ Ella grinned, and Lila laughed from the bed. ‘So am I. Funny, isn’t it?’ Mycroft had offered to pay Lila for carrying their child, and had also requested a scan of the specimen beforehand (‘Good genes,’ he said snootily as he judged John’s collapsed pavlova at Sunday dinner, ‘are highly important. Just because they’ll be half Sherlock doesn’t mean they’ll be free of…anything else.’): Sherlock had agreed for him to pay Lila because Mycroft still owed him for sending him into exile fourteen years earlier, and telling James Moriarty all his secrets. ‘Right. Well. Great that that’s going on without us knowing, but…is everything ok?’

Sherlock stopped pacing to listen to Ella, who sighed and put the magazine down. ‘She’s six centimetres dilated, waters haven’t broken, baby is absolutely fine.’ She checked her watch. ‘And contractions are not coming particularly frequently, so I’d say we’re in for a long haul, boys. Hope you didn’t have plans for tonight.’

Sherlock huffed. ‘Well, actually, I was going to go and throw plums into the path of moving trains to investigate-‘ And then, seeing John’s face, ‘I mean. Nothing, of course.’

Lila shifted slightly, looking slightly pained, and Sherlock backed away looking alarmed. ‘I’m going to- go check on Rosie, she’s been a while. Yes. Call me if you need me.’ And, with a sweep of the coat and a shake of the curls he was gone.

John laughed and looked down. ‘Sorry. Anything involving vaginas is- not his thing.

The contraction passed and Lila’s face settled into a grin. ‘I know. I will miss Sherlock, he’s so funny.

Ella, who was digging through a cupboard in the back of the room, snorted. ‘Not the word I’d use.’

John sat down next to the bed. ‘Well you’ll be seeing plenty of him.’ And then, shyly, ‘We were hoping you’d be godmother.’

Lila shrugged. ‘Sure.’ When John looked aghast, she burst out laughing and punched him (none too gently, either) on the left arm. ‘Joking, John. I’m honoured, although you didn’t need to do that- I’ve loved this whole experience. And August needs his weekly dose of Rosie.’

Lila’s oldest child, August, was eight and thought the sun shone from Rosie. ‘Dunno what she’ll think of that.’ John glanced at the door as it opened and Sherlock reappeared, Rosie tagging behind, looking so like a nervous child John was filled with an insatiable urge to protect this man, the bravest and best man he knew. ‘Sher?’

Sherlock looked across and raised an eyebrow. ‘John?’

‘We’ll be ok.’ He reached out and Sherlock crossed the room, taking his hand and bringing it gently to his lips, in an old-fashioned gesture that still took John’s breath away, nine years after he first did it. ‘As long as you’re here, my John, I’ll believe that.’

And that was pretty much it for eight hours. Four o’clock became five, and six, and seven, and so on until John was pretty sure if a baby didn’t arrive shortly he’d have to collapse in the chair Ella had been in when they arrived. Now, however, she was up and looking alert, standing next to Lila, who was finally (‘Finally,’ Sherlock said with an eye-roll when he returned from the toilet to find her waters broken) in full-blown, child-is-imminent labour. John was dressed in blue scrubs, Sherlock was similarly attired but looking much grumpier about it, and they were about to be fathers.

Horatio, August and Katiya’s (Lila’s two-year-old daughter) father, had arrived a couple of hours before and was now holding his wife’s hand, helping her through the contractions. John was on the other side, trying to be supportive even as his heart tried to burst out of his rib cage, and Sherlock-

Sherlock was standing, stock still, staring out of the window. ‘I’ve forgotten to do something, John.’

‘That’s it,’ Ella said urgently, guiding Lila’s feet into the stirrups. ‘Come on, girl. Almost there.’

John hovered anxiously between Lila and the window. ‘Sherlock, I really think you should come over here-‘

‘FUCK!’ Lila screamed, and Horatio groaned as she clutched his hand. ‘I’m sorry, darling, but you might have just broken my hand.’

‘What is it?’ Sherlock wondered. John couldn’t believe that this man, standing calmly in hospital scrubs, his child’s arrival in the very near future, was the same man who’d freaked out when he’d gotten a text saying they should come to the hospital. ‘Sherlock-‘

‘OH!’ His face lit up, and he turned around, grabbing his coat from the window sill. ‘John! I remember!’ 

And then he was gone, out of the room, leaving a doctor shouting at their pregnant surrogate to push.

‘SHERLOCK!’ John shouted, and Lila screamed back, ‘Don’t start shouting! That’s way too fucking stressful!’

‘Sorry,’ John whispered, now hovering by the door and staring in horror at Sherlock’s rapidly retreating figure as it cut towards the waiting room, a million thoughts pushing for dominance at the front of his brain. Did he leave something on fire in the flat? Has he got a serial killer locked up somewhere? Has he decided he can’t do this?

Has he decided he can’t do this?

His own child. A proper commitment to John, something that tied them together, a son or a daughter for them both. Sherlock had refused marriage, refused a civil partnership, refused to share a bank account, refused pretty much everything that tied them together legally, and it was absolutely ridiculous that John was standing here now, because he knew Sherlock wouldn’t do that, couldn’t do that, not to their child, but he couldn’t help that thought, the way he hadn’t been able to help that thought from zooming around his brain at least once a day for thirteen years. Maybe Sherlock had never really forgiven him for forgiving Mary, for choosing Mary, for watching him get on that fucking plane with all those things unsaid.

Maybe Sherlock had never forgiven John, just as John had never forgiven himself.

He was moving now, one foot in front of the other, following Sherlock down the corridor subconsciously, lips moving silently. Sherlock, Sherlock, Sherlock-

‘…need to talk to you.’

John froze, a single step away from the corner that would expose him to the waiting room, and the man and girl he knew were sitting there. A voice, his daughter’s, warm and full of sleep, came next. ‘Dad? What time is it?’

‘Midnight. Just past, actually.’ John could almost feel Sherlock smiling down at her, love sparkling in his eyes, and in his voice. ‘Your sibling is almost ready to arrive, though, so I thought I’d wake you.’

Rosie was wrinkling her nose, John thought, as she said, ‘Ugh. Clearly they’re going to be just like you. Constantly delaying everyone.’

‘Probably,’ Sherlock agreed. ‘Like me, like John, like you.’

A pause, and then Rosie, in a very small voice, said, ‘You think?’

‘You’re their sister,’ Sherlock said quietly. ‘God knows I deny it, but all siblings are like each other in some way. People seem to think Mycroft and I are-‘

‘Clones of each other?’ Rosie laughed, and in that moment John could picture her mothers laughing as she held their daughter, waving her chubby arms at Sherlock as he walked through their front door, how happy he’d been to have them all together. ‘Yeah.’

‘Whatever I say about him,’ Sherlock replied seriously, ‘He was always there for me. As I hope you will always be there for…for the infant.’

He’d refused to call their child baby, saying it was ‘unnecessarily colloquial, Jawn,’ and Roise had started picking it up too, in the way she picked up so many of his bad habits. ‘I will be.’

‘And,’ Sherlock said, and John could tell he was working up to something because his voice was almost trembling, the deep baritone taking on a slightly higher edge, ‘I would like to be there, too.’

Rosie sighed. ‘I don’t think you’ll be a terrible father to your kid, Dad, of course you’ll be there for them-‘

Sherlock huffed. ‘Has anyone ever told you, Rosie, that you’re so like John. Always interrupting me. What I mean to say is, I’d like to be there for my children. In every sense of the phrase.’

John inhaled sharply, just as Rosie made the same noise. ‘What?’

‘Rosamund Watson,’ Sherlock said, very seriously, ‘How would you like to become Rosamund Watson-Holmes?’

John had to risk it. He peeped around the corner, and saw his daughter staring at his partner, who had his back to him, with shining eyes, brimming with unshed tears. ‘Dad-‘

‘I should have done it earlier, I’m probably missing the birth of your sibling and John will kill me,’ Sherlock said dramatically, flopping back. ‘But I had to do it now, Rosie. I’m not trying to replace your mother, I could never do that, but you mean more to me than almost anything on the planet, and because being your father has been my greatest honour, and I want you to be mine in name and in law as well as in heart.’ He paused. ‘If you’d like?’

Rosie nodded, frantically nodded, and threw her arms around her father with a choked sob, and John wiped a single tear from his eye, every thought he’d had before banished, before he started backing away, back to their other child, letting Sherlock Holmes have a moment with his, their, eldest child.  

Somewhere, he thought as he re-entered room 2, Mary is watching, and Mary is content.

Lila was still pushing, and Ella shook her head at him as he stopped on her right hand side. ‘Almost missed it, John-‘

‘What did I miss? Still holding onto my child, Lila?’ John looked at Sherlock, who was leaning against the door frame, and tried to smile as if he hadn’t been shamelessly eavesdropping. ‘Sherlock-‘

‘I know you were listening.’ Sherlock bit his lip and looked at the floor. ‘I know, I’m-‘

‘Brilliant,’ John whispered, and they were in each other’s arms for just a moment, two heads pressed against each other, two pairs of eyes locked, before Ella said, ‘Boys. I need you here.’

It was only a few minutes longer before their son was delivered into the world, with big blue eyes and a few errant dark curls stuck to his forehead, wailing with a dramatic air that befit a son of Sherlock Holmes.

‘Brilliant,’ Sherlock said when he was weighed and wrapped and snuggly in a woollen, dark blue sleeper suit that befit a son of John Watson. ‘Absolutely perfect.’

Lila had been moved to another room after several choked thank you’s, and it was just the three of them in the room, fathers and son, until Ella reappeared quietly in the doorway. ‘Here she is, boys.’

Rosie crept in, pausing a couple of feet away, looking suddenly shy. ‘Papa-‘

John reached out an arm and hugged his daughter fiercely to him. ‘Rosie, darling, we’ve got someone we want you to meet.’

The new son, brother, Watson-Holmes, opened his eyes and stared at his sister, blinking slowly before opening a gummy mouth and cooing. ‘Hello, little brother,’ Rosie murmured, and Sherlock smiled. ‘We’re going to call him Elijah Thomas.’

Rosie grinned. ‘That was one of my names.’ She sat on the other side of Sherlock and looked down at her brother, taking in the downy hair and perfect fingernails and bright, bright eyes. ‘Hello, Eli Watson-Holmes.’

Ella, standing by the door, picked up John’s phone from the table and raised her eyebrows in silent question, and John, the only one looking, nodded quietly and looked back down at his son, his son and his daughter and his partner, as she snapped a picture-

But it wasn’t just any picture. It was the picture that took pride of place in Baker Street, hanging over the desk. It was the picture that saw a daughter’s GCSE exams, a daughter’s A levels, and the heartbreak of a daughter going to university, not just once but twice. It saw a son going to primary and secondary school, a son breaking his arm and a son and a father blowing up the kitchen for ‘science, Papa!’ It saw two men return home when they dropped their youngest child at university, it saw cases and murders and the one pavlova that ever rose. It saw a new consulting detective with dark, curly hair and bright blue eyes take over the family business, all from its place above the desk.

It saw two adults and two children, two men, one girl and one boy, two fathers and two children, but most of all it saw a family. And John knew, the moment that picture was taken, that although it had been a while since he'd found his family, his family was finally complete.