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My Days End Best

Chapter Text

Sherlock was recovered from Serbia on the 10th of October, but the day John remembers is the 13th, when Sherlock returned to London. John was sat at a fancy restaurant with one Mary Morstan, ready to propose. He couldn't have asked for a better deterrent from what would have been a big mistake. 

It only took a day for John's curiosity and old feelings to win out over his anger toward Sherlock. He showed up to Baker Street unannounced, and listened to Sherlock's explanation. He would deny it if anyone asked, but he broke down and Sherlock just held him for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes.

The fact that Sherlock had done this for him, for Mrs. Hudson, and even Lestrade, without sparing a thought toward his own safety, was absolutely heartbreaking. He cared so much for the people in his life, and in the end John had repaid him for it with several punches. True, he hadn't known yet. But he did know Sherlock, and he should have assumed from the very moment he saw him in The Landmark that there was a reason for all of this. Never cruelty.

Then Sherlock had asked him if it was the right thing to do to inform someone that their partner is unfaithful. John, of course, said yes and that's when he learned that Mary is not the sweet nurse he thought she was. It didn't take him long to get over her, his thoughts were now occupied with Sherlock. So in the end, it wasn't a big deal, it was a whirlwind relationship he planned on settling for after all.

After a couple weeks, John moved from his depressing bedsit back into 221b.

After a couple months, they got fully back into the swing of taking cases.

After a couple more, the anxiety that Sherlock was going to leave again had mostly dissipated. Thanks in part to him promising that he would always involve John if people were threatened again, but also in part to Sherlock confessing that he realized while he had been away that they are much stronger together than they ever could be apart. And perhaps the whole fall could have been avoided had he involved John in his plans from the second Moriarty was released from prison.

Things were never going to go back to the way they were before the fall, but they could get close. Sherlock confided in John about the PTSD he developed from being constantly undercover and the time he was tortured. John opened up in return about what his nightmares really contain, and how he sometimes still has panic attacks after hearing loud bangs. They were changed, but their friendship had grown stronger because of it.

 

Chapter Text

Sherlock just received a text from Lestrade, requesting his assistance at the latest crime scene, as he walked back into Baker Street. He ran out of body parts in the middle of the night and walked around London instead of waking up John. (Last time he woke John before 7am without a case, he was yelled at and did not want a repeat.) However, now that a case was involved, Sherlock wasted no time in sprinting up both staircases until he barged into John's room. 

"John, get up."

He only received a gentle snore in reply.

"John," Sherlock flicked the light switch. "We have a case!"

John groaned, "What time is it?"

"Doesn't matter." He marched to John's closet and grabbed the first suitable outfit he could find. Turning, he threw it towards John, smacking him in the face.

This time he grunted. "Oi, do you want me to come or not?"

Ignoring him, Sherlock turned and walked out. John could hear him call out "You've got ten minutes, it's a serial killer."

John rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and clumsily reached for the phone on his night stand. The time read 4:43am. Too damn early.

Despite the time, John was a military man so it took less than the allotted ten minutes before he stepped into the kitchen. Sherlock handed him a mug of tea and butter on toast, much to his surprise.

"Thank you."

Sherlock hummed and steered him towards the door. John supposed he would be eating in the taxi then, ceramic mug and all.

~~~~~~~~~~

 By the time they reached the scene, the sky was still pitch black and dark as the back alley they stepped into. It was lit only by portable overhead lights. Lestrade greeted them and informed John of basic details such as the time of death, cause of death, and victim's identity. Sherlock only half listened as he crouched over the body to examine it himself. 

The victim was a male, late twenties, dressed in cheap but clean clothes. A discarded hypodermic needle lay in his right hand, and the sleeve on his left arm was rolled up, revealing a fresh puncture wound. Gloved hands pulled up the other sleeve, this time revealing many healed over track marks. Sherlock examined both hands closely, as well as the position of the body. He stood up when John came up beside him.

John noted the needle and vomit stain trailing down the man's mouth and cheek. "This isn't a regular OD."

"Why?"

"Well for one, you said there's a serial killer. And two, if it was, you would have no reason to be here."

Sherlock smirked, and John took that as the silent praise it was. "Lestrade." 

The Detective Inspector walked over to join them.

"Our killer injected the victim with..."

"Heroin." Lestrade filled in.

"With heroin. A high enough dose to be lethal, and there appears to be some amount of effort to make it look self-induced. Clearly the murderer isn't very bright as he didn't make sure someone left handed used their left hand to inject themselves. The edge of the palm has ink smears, obviously from writing, probably notes at university. He used to be an addict, but hasn't used in some time. He must have left school during the worst of it and re-enrolled recently now that he's clean."

John cleared his throat. "Was clean."

The lack of praise stung a bit. (Sherlock was waiting, but John's compliments were still down by 20% since the fall.) "Yes, that's the most important piece of information. Well spotted." He snapped.

Lestrade raised his eyebrows, but didn't comment. "Believe it or not Sherlock, we figured all of that out already. I wanted you to see the scene yourself though, since the other victim we believe is from the same killer has long been cleared up."

"How are you determining which are actual overdoses and which are murders?" Sherlock asked.

"That's what you're here for."

~~~~~~~~~~

An hour later found Sherlock and John sat in an empty conference room at Scotland Yard, surrounded by every case file on a drug overdose victim in London in the last year. They only had the current body and one other from a few weeks ago as definite murders. At the time, Lestrade thought it was a one off until this new body showed up in similar fashion. He informed Sherlock that contacting him for a boring case was not on the top of his to do list, and felt this would be another cold case. However, now they knew the killer was still out there and targeting more people. The only connection being cause of death and drug use.

Sherlock went through the write ups, looking for anything to stand out. This quickly proved fruitless and John suggested they start by sorting everything. Sherlock agreed, knowing it would make it easier to find patterns. The deaths were sorted by drug used, body found inside or outside, and whether they were an addict or recovered addict at the time of death. It took until the sunrise ended, but they eventually had a full index. With only two victims to profile, the scope of other overdoses was too broad to search through. At this point, any one of them could be a murder victim.

John stretched and yawned. "I need coffee. Want any?"

Sherlock merely hummed in response.

"Alright then." John grabbed his mug and left the room.

By the time John came back, Sherlock discarded multiple files as obvious accidental overdoses. He looked up as John walked in and saw that John brought him his own coffee. John handed it over without a word, and started on one of the untouched piles.

"Thank you, John." Sherlock took a sip and felt a tightness in his stomach at knowing it was made exactly how he likes it.

John smiled slightly, pleased that his mood earlier seemed to have abated. 

Hours later found them only slightly closer to identifying victims. They now had a growing pile of potential ones, which John began searching the social media profiles of. Anything to try and figure out more about them which wouldn't have been listed in a case file of what was seemingly an accidental death. The two were silent besides a few frustrated grunts, the shuffling of papers, and the typing on a keyboard.

Sherlock was getting antsy. So much data, but no way to connect them. It was all just too broad. He stood up and began pacing the room, rubbing his hands through errant curls in the process. John noticed, but wasn't sure he could say anything to be that "conductor of light" for Sherlock's brain.

The next circle he made around the table he said, "I feel like Lestrade, it's hateful."

"How do you mean?"

"I've narrowed down all points of data to one conclusion, which is to wait for another murder. I'm supposed to be preventing that, but here we are. Clueless as Scotland Yard's finest."

John closed the laptop and crossed the room to the detective. He caught his arm and gently tugged Sherlock to a seat. "We only have two known victims from a serial killer. How could you possibly deduce things with that amount of information?"

Sherlock's arm tingled at the point of contact, even though it was covered by his sleeve. The warmth from john's hand bled through and he cursed himself for not rolling them up earlier. John was so, well, John, that he ached. "Because I'm Sherlock Holmes."

"Which means you're human, not psychic. As much as it seems sometimes."

The two chuckled and John suggested they go home and sleep, to pick up everything with fresh eyes later. Surprisingly, he met little resistance from Sherlock and the two donned their coats and left.

Chapter Text

The two woke later that evening, Sherlock annoyed, and John well rested. John ate and managed to force some food into the detective as well before heading back to Scotland Yard.

The search began once more, though this time the room held a dim glow from dusk rather than the muted orange from this morning. A knock came from the open door frame and Sherlock jerked around, ready to tell the intruder to piss off, then halted as he recognized Lestrade.

"We need to talk."

"Obviously."

The silver haired man stepped in and leaned his hands on the table, looking between John and Sherlock. "I need to know what details can be released to the public. We have almost nothing, but maybe putting it out there that drug users are at risk would make people more cautious. Or it would encourage our killer to get cocky, now that there's limelight."

Sherlock replied without looking, "Drug users at risk? Who would have thought?"

"Sherlock." John chastised.

"Bit not good, I know. Any information could do anything, without a motive we have nothing to decide on."

"Maybe he's making a statement...on drugs?" said John.

"No, there's no audience. If he wanted to make a statement, we wouldn't be struggling to identify who's an actual victim."

Lestrade pinched the bridge of his nose. "Then there's probably not a higher risk of more deaths if we release an official statement?"

Sherlock bobbed his head, deliberating. "Probably not."

"Alright," he sighed. "I'll have Donovan write it up, let me know if you find anything."

With a nod from John, he left the room. The room was silent, but Sherlock's mind was whirring. 

If he couldn't make progress on the victims, he could at least narrow down the motive. It couldn't be lust, as the autopsy report showed no signs of sexual abuse. It didn't appear to be a thrill seeking kill either. An overdose would have been boring, to administer and to witness. There were no signs of torture or struggle either, making it even more unlikely. Driven by psychosis? Statistically unlikely, and no signs of it either. But a mission based killing, addicts were considered a plague on society to some. It made sense, though they could really do with actual evidence to suggest this rather than speculation.

"He's only killing drug addicts that we know of. There's no sexual abuse, no notes, no fanfare, no torture. He's trying to rid the world of addicts."

John frowned, "That's...okay." He turned back to the laptop's screen.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"You disagree." A statement not a question. Sherlock tried not to let that sting.

"Not with you, you git. The murderer."

"Oh."

"Yes 'oh.' I don't think drug addicts are a waste, of the NHS' time or of anything. And I certainly don't think they should die." John stared until Sherlock met his gaze. "We need to find him."

Sherlock felt John was talking about him directly, his worth. And maybe he was. It made his stomach flip regardless. "We will."

A haunted look came over John's face. "Promise me you won't go out alone. Not until this case is over."

"Mycroft made sure of my history not being public knowledge, I'm perfectly safe." 

"No excuses Sherlock, just. Please. I can't have anything happen to you again."

Sherlock swallowed a lump in his throat. John was staring at him with so much conviction, the pain of loss evident across the tight lines in his face. "Okay. I promise."

Satisfied, John let himself breathe again and turned back to the screen once more. Meanwhile, Sherlock had trouble returning to his own analysis due to the beating of his heart.

The silence of earlier this morning made a reappearance for the next couple hours. Sherlock was about ready to resign himself to waiting for another murder victim when John suddenly sat up straight and the sound of clicking and typing sped up. One didn't have to be Sherlock to deduce what that meant.

He stood up and rushed to John's side, placing one hand on the back of the chair and the other on the table. "What did you find?"

John paused momentarily as his brain processed the way Sherlock was framing his body, close enough to smell his body wash and fancy conditioner. Ignoring the desire to lean closer and inhale deeply, he shook himself and spoke. "I knew I recognized this name, London Rehab. Two of the people from the files so far have mentioned this on their Facebook's, plus our current vics. Look," he pulled the two profiles up. "Jessica Reiner and John Bolt, both were being treated there and both were found in a back alley."

Sherlock scrolled through and sure enough, they were. He grinned, tugged John up from the chair, and begun spinning him around by the shoulders. "John, you are magnificent. I knew you were smarter than most! All we have to do is go down there with a warrant and get a list of names and cross reference them with our files."

John smiled at the praise and laughed at Sherlock's exuberant reaction, he felt the excitement as well. This was the break they've been looking for, they could finally move forward. They made eye contact and only now did John realize how close they were. Sherlock's hands still clasping his shoulders, faces flushed from excitement and something else. John's breath hitched and he glanced at Sherlock's cupid bow lips.

Sherlock's pulse sky-rocketed for reasons completely unrelated to the case. John was staring at him, at his mouth, and licking his lips. And Sherlock started leaning forward like a man possessed by his desires alone, when a phone went off.

The two startled and sprang apart, as if the phone were a person pulling them. Sherlock walked around the table and mussed his curls in frustration. How could he forget himself in the moment? Let himself come so close to revealing what he's successfully kept buried for years?

John looked at the caller ID, Mrs. Hudson, and answered the phone. His voice came out hoarse so he coughed then tried again. "Hi, is everything alright?......tell him we're not taking cases right now.....I'm sure it is but ours is probably more important." He sighed, "I guess just, we'll stop by." He hung up his mobile and looked at Sherlock who had a question in his eyes. "There's a new client waiting for us, he says it's really important, that the police won't listen to him and he won't leave until we've seen him."

Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Dull."

John shrugged and tugged on his jacket. "Text Greg about the warrant on the way."

"Who?"

"Oh for- Lestrade. And you call yourself a genius."

Sherlock didn't let John see his smirk on the way out.

Chapter Text

The two arrive at Baker Street just as the sun sets and shadows fall across the street. John unlocks the door and nearly trips over a pram tucked into the side of the foyer. He makes a mental note of their client not being entirely alone, and heads up the seventeen steps to enter their flat. Sherlock follows close behind, eyes glued to his mobile screen as usual.

Mrs. Hudson and a young man, no older than his twenties, sit on the sofa sipping tea. Mrs. Hudson cradled a blanket wrapped infant in one arm, cooing gently at it.

Sherlock was the first to break the silence, "As Mrs. Hudson no doubt informed you, we aren't taking new clients." He glanced up from his phone to give a quick fake smile, then froze, brain processing the data. The man's eyes were puffy and red, a crumpled tissue lay in his hand. Dried spit up stained the shoulder of his shirt, unwashed and wrinkled. The short sleeves on his shirt bared the healed track marks on his arms to Sherlock's flitting gaze. All points of data led Sherlock to one conclusion.

"Apologies, forget what I said, we'll take the case." Sherlock walked across the room and grabbed the designated client chair from the desk, he dragged it to the center of the room and threw his Belstaff onto the coffee table, heedless of the papers scattered on it.

"What?" John questioned, though he moved to sit in his chair by the fireplace regardless of any confusion.

Sherlock said, "You'll find he's pertinent, and Mrs. Hudson you are dismissed."

The landlady tsked at Sherlock, but complied, handing the baby back to its father and closing the door behind her as she left. The man took great care in stepping around the coffee table and sitting himself in the wooden chair, cautious of the sleeping baby.

"Start from the beginning," Sherlock said. "No detail is unimportant at this point."

The man cleared his throat, "I'm Emmett Wilson. I need your help because my mates are being killed and the police don't believe me. I go to this narcotics anonymous meeting on Sundays and you make friends there you know?" He sniffed. "It just happens in a place like that. But three months ago one of em didn't show up. That's not abnormal, but then he didn't come back at all. I tried going to his group home and they said he was dead. Back on the poison they said. I didn't believe it, he wouldn't've touched that stuff again."

John took his pause to speak, "Relapses are normal, and overdoses are really common within them."

"I know, but this wasn't one of em. I knew Tobias, he wasn't at risk when it happened. But the next month it happened again. I was scared and I went to his flat the same day he missed the meeting. The door was unlocked, but he'd never leave it unlocked."

Sherlock interrupted. "Could you give us the full names? Then you may continue."

Emmett frowned, "Yes sorry. Tobias Huxley, James Cross, and Laney. So the day after, the coppers found James' body too. The last one was-" He broke off as his voice choked up, breaking on the last word.

"Your wife," said Sherlock.

Emmett nodded and began crying despite his best efforts to hold his emotions at bay. The baby in his arms stirred at the shaking, and made distressed whimpers, feeding off its father's emotions. John stood and gently took the baby from his hands, then he turned and passed the bundle over to Sherlock who stared at him like he was being handed a live bomb. John handed their client a box of tissues and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Sherlock brought the baby closer, pulling it to his chest to protect it from falling. He had never held a baby and had no idea what to do. He stared down at the tiny face, eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

John decided to distract Emmett, so he would be able to continue the story. "Who's this?"

Emmett looked up and realized John was referring to the baby. He cleared his throat a few times and wiped his nose. "Eleanor, she's my daughter. She'll be four months soon, it's why I got clean. We were going to do it together, me and the wife, once we found out she was pregnant. I've never known better motivation than her."

"I'm sorry for your loss, that must have been very hard." said John. 

Sherlock began rocking the baby when her whimpers hadn't died down on their own. He swayed his arms to a slow tempo, the same he used when composing songs that remind him of John. She stared into his eyes, seemingly captivated by this stranger, and was coaxed back into sleep. Then he heard John call his name, evident from his tone that this was not the first time it was called.

He cleared his throat, "Your wife was the third victim. When was this?"

"One month ago, I went to the police for help, but they didn't believe me."

"And you're certain all of these weren't relapses?"

"I'm positive Mr. Holmes, I knew them. And I know this was murder. Can you help me?"

Sherlock leant back in his chair, "Do you know what rehab centers, if any, your friends and wife had been to?"

He blew his nose in the tissue and nodded. "We all went to the same one, London Rehab, it's how come we went to the same NA meetings, because the doctors there all told us to."

"This is the work of a serial killer Mr. Wilson, your information will prove invaluable to the search I'm sure."

"Thank you," he sighed in relief. "If there's anything else I can do, I want to help. I need to for them. For Laney."

John replied, "We'll let you know." He glanced at Sherlock, heart warmed at the sight of him cradling Eleanor. Though he did need to talk to him alone, so he made eye contact and nodded his head in the direction of the kitchen.

Sherlock sat up and bent down to transfer the baby back to Emmett's arms, careful to support her head during the movement, then joined John in the other room. Sherlock pulled his phone from his pocket and read the text from Lestrade (he felt the vibration earlier, but hadn't wanted to disturb the baby). 

Warrant approved, meet there tomorrow at 7am.

He replied a quick affirmative and spoke to John. "We go to the center tomorrow at seven."

John frowned, "What if he kills again tonight?"

"He won't, he's waited at least a couple weeks between killings so far."

"Okay," he sighed. "That's good, okay." His posture went stiff, military-like, and he walked back into the living room. "Emmett."

"Yes?"

"We have things under control right now, there's no immediate danger for you or anyone else tonight, but that won't last. Tomorrow we're going to the rehab center and we'll get protection for every potential victim. Just focus on yourself and that little girl."

With that, the man collected his things and left his number with John before leaving, comforted in the fact that his daughter and him would be safe tonight.

Chapter Text

Due to the nap, Sherlock stayed up all night. His transport received more than enough sleep for the next couple days, no matter what John thinks. Sleep was so pedestrian. Why couldn't they just wake up the employees and be allowed in the building tonight? Why couldn't they just break in? Why did no one seem to care that the whole case could be solved much quicker if they were like him. 

At least John understood him. He always had, even if he disagreed with the practicality of it. Anyway, it was clear to him that whoever the killer was, it was someone working in the rehab center. They knew names of patients and addresses. Could it be a doctor or psychiatrist, someone specifically in the field to get close to the very people they loathe? He was certain he'd determine exactly who it was once he was able to interrogate the employees.

He stood from the leather chair and began pacing the room. The more confusing matter in his head was the matter of John Watson. John would go cold at the flip of a coin right after treating Sherlock how he normally does, with awe and respect. Surely it had something to do with unresolved feelings about the fall. But Sherlock apologized, and explained why. John knew, and still he acted sometimes as if Sherlock intentionally left him alone to suffer. Maybe he should talk to John. Really talk. They both avoided it when things became tense, but he didn't know how much longer he could handle it. He wanted to stop walking on eggshells, but he wasn't sure what was acceptable anymore.

He shook his head, as if to rid the thoughts physically. He would have to wait until the case was over to attempt discussing things, it wouldn't do to distract himself from a serial killer. Unable to keep still though, he reached for his violin and resigned himself to plucking a soft rhythm out of its strings. One that came to mind earlier while rocking the baby.

~~~~~

 John awoke the next morning from his own alarm, and not the lanky detective yelling at him. He made his bed, showered, and got dressed with military quickness and efficiency. He entered the kitchen, hair still damp, and found Sherlock sitting at the table and drumming his fingers. Sherlock was clearly agitated and wanted to leave as soon as possible, though they still had time to indulge in a cup of tea.

John flicked on the electric kettle and settled his back to the sink, arms crossed in front of him. "Did you get any sleep?"

The drumming abruptly stopped and Sherlock just stared at him in response.

"Yeah, thought so."

Sherlock didn't feel like replying, he was busy staring at John's hair and thinking about how it would smell if he stood and pushed his face into the crook of his neck. He'd have to settle for inhaling the scent from John's clothes later, once they'd been discarded in the bathroom's hamper. That was probably, most definitely, frowned upon for flatmates to do.

John turned and grabbed two mugs from the cabinet, then added their respective favorite teas (English breakfast for John, Earl Gray for Sherlock). Then he poured the hot water, not bothering to wait until the kettle fully boiled. While they steeped he prepared Sherlock's exactly the way he liked it and received the John only smile in return.

They drank in comfortable silence, the kind only close friends and lovers could share. As still as the morning was, there was an undercurrent of anticipation thrumming through Sherlock's body. He felt confident that they would find strong suspects today, not to mention getting everyone at risk under protection so the killer couldn't strike again.

Sherlock put his empty mug down with a soft thump and leapt from his chair. He called back while putting on his coat, "Come along John."

John hoped the morning would go rather quickly so the two could find somewhere to eat sooner rather than later.

~~~~~

Sherlock and John arrived at London Rehab before any staff, but they didn't have to wait long for the secretary to show up.

"Hi, sorry for any wait, we're just about to open for the day."

Sherlock's sardonic response remained internal as John saw his mouth open and elbowed him. John spoke instead, "It hasn't been long, don't worry."

The man finished unlocking the doors and allowed the two entry behind him. Motion sensitive lights flickered on on their own as the man, Mr. Evans going by the nameplate on the desk, took a seat and fired up the computer.

"Are you here to make an appointment?"

Sherlock held out his mobile, the pdf of the warrant on screen. "Actually we're detectives, here on police business. I need a list of every patient with a narcotics addiction, along with their address and numbers."

Evans froze, surprised by the information. "Can I ask why?"

"A serial killer has been targeting your recovered patients. We will also need to interview every staff member, beginning with those who have access to medical records."

The secretary's mouth gaped like a fish out of water, "I'm- I'm not a suspect am I?"

Sherlock sighed, "Obviously not, you're not intelligent enough to go this long without being caught."

"Sherlock." John chastised him the same moment Evans squawked in indignation. "I apologize for my partner's behavior, sir." He flashed the grin he used when picking up to appear as friendly and charming as possible. "I'd really appreciate if you could get that list to us as soon as possible, and we'll interview staff as they come in and try to keep it brief."

Part of Sherlock wanted to complain about John acting that way toward others, and the other part wanted to kiss him for making the idiot secretary willing to cooperate. When doctors and therapists began coming in for the day, Sherlock left John to wait for the patient list and started meeting with each individually. 

It was easy to rule out all of them. None fit the profile, had alibis, and seemed genuinely nice overall. It wasn't a surprise this place was highly rated. Meanwhile John received the list and had it faxed to Lestrade so former patients could begin having protection. There weren't enough officers to watch them, so Lestrade's solution was to have them checked onto the same floor of a few different hotels in the area. A couple cops could be stationed at the ends of each corridor.

In the waiting room, John assisted Lestrade by calling some of the potential victims and informing them of everything. He finished his portion of the list just as Sherlock came back out into the room. John knew by his face that there was no luck. 

"Sherlock, there's plenty of workers who I'm sure work different days or different shifts. The important thing is that all the patients are safe now." 

Sherlock listened to him, and wondered if John really hadn't noticed that he placed a comforting hand on Sherlock's arm. That hand was everything to Sherlock, but he had other things to focus on right now. "I know, it's just tedious. We'll have to go to them instead."

"I'll ask for Evans to email us a list of those not here right now. Do you think our killer will catch on and leave now that his pool of victims is gone?"

"Not sure, we still don't have much data on him. I don't know how he thinks yet." The disdain was obvious in his voice.

John rubbed his arm once then moved away to talk to Evans, then the two left. He was certain he wouldn't get to eat for hours yet, but accepted this as a usual part of the work.

Chapter Text

The two men took a cab, and Sherlock gave the instructor an address for a more expensive neighborhood just outside the city. During the drive, Sherlock took the list of patients from John and scanned it, frowning at what he saw.

John noticed. "What do you see?"

"The names are in alphabetical order, but if you rearrange them in chronological order from when they sought out treatment, the murders follow it exactly." He leaned close to John so they could both peer at the paper. He definitely wasn't distracted by John's cologne.

John ignored the tickle of Sherlock's curls against his cheek and focused on the words in front of him instead. Sure enough, in order of date, the names of each victim were in succession. He noticed something else too. "Sherlock, Emmett's name is next."

They made eye contact and Sherlock quickly gave the cabbie a new address, Emmett's, and promised a couple extra tenners if he sped. There was no reason to think that the killer somehow got wind of the investigation already and planned to break the current modus operandi, but who knew really? They frustratingly still had nothing on the type of person the killer is and no idea how much oversight he has over the rehabilitation center.

About twenty minutes later, and to their relief, Emmett answered the door of his cheap flat. "Mr. Holmes? What uh-"

"Sherlock, please." He interrupted and walked through the doorway. "You're the next target."

John sighed internally at Sherlock's usual obliviousness to social norms, and flashed Emmett an apologetic smile in Sherlock's stead.

The father closed the door and followed them inside. "How do you know? What do I do? What about Ella?" He wrung his hands anxiously.

Eyes scanning the space, Sherlock replied. "Killer's going chronologically through the list of patients, of which you are next. We're going to place you under our own protection as I trust John more than any number of stationed officers, which will of course include your daughter."

John stood taller at Sherlock's praise. To be trusted so fully by this man, when he thinks of himself as useless and merely a backboard for Sherlock's deductions during cases. Sherlock felt he was capable, more so then trained officers who hadn't gone through career ending injuries.

Emmett sat down on the sofa and ran his hands through his hair, the bags under his eyes were even more pronounced than yesterday. "How does that work then? Will you be staying here with me?"

Sherlock tutted, "No this won't do, the lock on the door isn't even functional. Pack a bag for Baker Street."

"And a collapsible cot."

"Yes, and that, quickly now."

~~~~~

The three, well three and a baby, shared a cab back to Baker Street. It was cramped with Emmett and the baby on the driver's side, John in the middle, and Sherlock against the other door. John of course, was in the middle due to being the smallest, though he would outlive God arguing that he's the average male height in the UK and Sherlock is just unnaturally tall. In any other situation he would complain, but not this one. This one gave him the perfect excuse to press fully against Sherlock without restraint. He could feel his best friend's warmth from foot to hip and all the way up to his bad shoulder. Though calling it his bad one feels like a misnomer right now due to the almost therapeutic warmth.

Sherlock kept his face turned toward the window and stared unseeingly at London. If he let himself look at John at this proximity, he worried he wouldn't be able to control himself. Control his desire to lean even closer, or control his face to not give away his feelings for the good doctor. What he could do is close his eyes and pretend they just finished a case and were cuddled up on the ride home, ready to collapse into bed together. Their bed.

Of course fantasies are only that and sooner rather than later they arrived at Baker Street, the familiar red awning of Speedy's welcoming them back. Sherlock and John carried Emmett's bags while he held Eleanor, and he was careful not to jostle her as she was mercifully silent the entire ride. 

Sherlock plopped the nappy bag unceremoniously on the floor by the couch while John went straight upstairs to his own room. He came back down and explained to the others.

"You can stay in my room, that way there's room for the cot and you two can stay together. Plus, if anyone breaks in they have to come through this room first, where Sherlock and myself will switch off guarding."

Sherlock envied their client for getting to stay in John's bed, but comforted himself in the fact that Emmett probably didn't care how John's scent lingered behind and would be the perfect opportunity to catalogue it uninterrupted. His next thought however, was realizing that this was the perfect opportunity for John to sleep in his bed. With him. Wait, no, one had to stay in the living room at all times of the night. That wouldn't do. He could easily come up with ways in which both would be able to sleep in the bed and also be alerted of any intruder. Something important nagged at him though, just poking at the back of his head.

"Sherlock."

He snapped his gaze to John. "Hmm?"

"What do we do about the remaining interviews?"

The poking ceased and Sherlock realized this is what he'd forgotten. "Obvious, you stay here with Emmett and I go back out and conduct them."

John's shoulders set and Sherlock realized he must be missing something important. "Remember what you promised earlier?"

Right. "I may have forgotten. But John, I'm not going to stay here and ignore the case just because you're unnecessarily worried. I don't think you've thought this through."

"You know you don't accurately gauge threat levels. I agree this was poor planning, but you need to find a different option."

Sherlock prepared to open his mouth when a throat clearing interrupted them. "I'm just gonna go upstairs then. You two seem like you need a minute alone." Emmett took the nappy bag and went upstairs, and the sounds of a disgruntled waking baby grew fainter behind him.

The disruption allowed the anger between them to simmer down. "Mycroft has the flat bugged I'm sure, we can both go and have one of his minions monitor the entrance. No one besides those we know are allowed entry."

John sighed, "And what if someone we don't know does try coming in?"

"Then high level security officers will be here within minutes." 

It sounded like a fine enough plan to him, and he was worried that Sherlock would run off without him regardless. Agreeing was perhaps the only way he could keep Sherlock safe. "Fine, but we come back before it gets dark and we eat now before heading out."

Sherlock wanted to argue that food was a waste of time, but it was still an affirmative answer and he didn't want to test the stubborn soldier. He could have him pinned on the floor if he wanted to after all. That didn't sound like a negative thing at all actually, but in this case it would just waste more time they couldn't afford. "Okay. Cook something, takeout takes longer."

Relieved, John waltzed into the kitchen to begin preparing lunch, leaving a now sulking Sherlock in the other room. He made a mental note to make enough food for their guest as well then got started.

~~~~~

 John suggested sectioning the interrogations into covering those who were scheduled to work at the center today versus those who were scheduled on other days. They made it through several staff members, some being discredited immediately by being on maternity leave or out of the country during the time of the murders. To John, they made progress. To Sherlock, they didn't make nearly enough progress.

Sherlock was aggravated. Of course this would be the first interesting case in months and simultaneously be a case in which multiple people seemed apt to tie his hands. He stared out the window of their cab, one hand closed in a fist and pressed against his frowning mouth. The other rested in the space next to him.

John knew how frustrating this must be for Sherlock, but he accepted the circumstances for what they were. He reached down and rested his hand on top of Sherlock's free one, giving it a squeeze. "Stop, I'm sure you'll solve this by the end of the week."

Sherlock froze at the contact and turned to face John. The small point of contact pulled him from the loop of thoughts which switched between frustration and self loathing. It felt steady and warm, and he focused on the calluses for a moment, imagining how they'd feel caressing his face instead. Finally, he spoke. "Doesn't matter."

"It does. You were brilliant today and that's all anyone could ask for."

"No, I was just going down a list someone gave us. Even Anderson could do it." Oh how he desired to flip his hand over and interlace his fingers between John's. Did he have any idea what this did to him? Did he even realize how long they'd been touching?

John huffed a small laugh, "He'd only do that by accident, you still used that big brain of yours." He smiled softly at Sherlock and gave his hand one final squeeze before letting go.

Sherlock didn't have long to miss the contact because they finally arrived back at home. He paid for the cab this time and the two went inside together.

They found Emmett and Mrs. Hudson playing with baby Eleanor in front of the fireplace which was steadily warming the room and lending a gentle glow in the growing darkness of the world outside. The infant was showing off her newfound ability to sit up unassisted for a few minutes, and the two adults wasted no time in praising her.

Mrs. Hudson was the first to notice Sherlock and John's arrival, "Oh boys, isn't she just the most precious thing?"

John smiled back at her and went to join them.

"I'd be more inclined to agree if she weren't currently drooling," said Sherlock. 

"You drool in your sleep dear." 

Sherlock's face heated and John laughed.

Then John said, "See? Drool doesn't matter, you look adorable when you sleep." 

Mrs. Hudson didn't comment and everyone acted as if John hadn't said what he just said. Sherlock's body was still malfunctioning, more so now. What did that mean? Why would John say that? It could be completely platonic, but what if it wasn't. No, John would never feel that way toward him and it'd be best not to entertain that possibility. 

"I'm going to my room. Experiment."

He may have tripped on the edge of the rug on the way and the others may have hidden their laughs. He wouldn't know, he was busy trying to remove himself from the situation and bury himself in a non existent experiment.

 John didn't comment on his abrupt departure, but he did take off his jacket and make a mental note to check on Sherlock later. He updated Emmett on their progress or lack thereof and informed him that it would probably be a few days before they found their guy.

Afterwards, Mrs. Hudson rose slowly from their spot on the ground. John helped her up, as she groaned from the strain it placed on her hip. 

"I best go downstairs now or I'll miss my soaps."

Her departure made John realize how late it had gotten. "Sorry I didn't realize the time, you must be starving."

Emmett picked Eleanor up from the floor and bounced her a bit on his hip. "It's all good, your landlady made scones to hold me over. She's very nice."

John smiled, "She is." He then made his way to the kitchen to grab a takeout menu that was pinned to the fridge. "Are you alright with Indian?" 

"More than. It's been so long since I've had it." 

"Perfect, you can look over this while I go tell Sherlock." He handed over the menu and padded over to Sherlock's room.

Stood in front of it, he didn't hear any noise, so he knocked before entering quietly. Sherlock only locked the door if he wanted privacy or no interruptions, so John knew was relieved to have welcome access. The room was only lit by a lamp on the side table, which cast light on the coat adorned man curled up in the middle of the bed. John held back a sigh at the sight. How this man managed to look adorable when you could barely distinguish any part of his body, was beyond him. 

He leaned against the frame of the door and crossed his arms. "So how's the experiment of avoiding people going?"

Unseen to John, Sherlock smirked. "Horridly, I can't seem to ever get away." He'd had enough time to reign in his emotions and react to John like his proper self again, rather than some sentiment ridden fool.

John chuckled, "You talk to me when I'm not here, so it's quite possible that's the result you favor."

Sherlock closed his eyes. If only John knew how accurate that was. After meeting John, he didn't know if he'd survive going back to a time without him. The thought of going back to John was the only thing that kept him alive during his two years away. His thoughts were broken up by that very man.

"Anyway, just letting you know I'm ordering Indian. You're going to eat, so I'm ordering your regular."

Sherlock rolled over and sat up to face John. "Fine, but I'm not eating at all tomorrow. You're going to make me fat."

John just smiled wider, "That's the plan. Also you should come interact with the baby. I think you'd find they make great subjects for studies, you could start a new spreadsheet."

Damn John Watson. The mere suggestion kickstarted his brain into thinking of the variables he could observe.

~~~~~

 Sherlock rejoined the other two in the living room a short while later, now clad in pajamas and his blue silk robe. John handed him tea that was still warm, he must have guessed Sherlock would be out soon. He grabbed his laptop and set it on the floor, then placed the baby toys in a neat line. 

Emmett observed with confusion and John ignored it in favor of starting a blog draft for their case. Besides, it's far from the first time he witnessed the curly haired man prepare for an experiment.

Once everything was set up to his specifications (laptop on hardwood so it wouldn't overheat and toys in front of him but off the blanket he draped on the floor). "Emmett was it?"

He just nodded.

"Yes, I'm going to conduct an experiment on your daughter so if you could place her on the blanket in front of me that would be swell." 

Emmett was about to protest when Sherlock interrupted him. "Of course I'm not doing anything that could harm her. I may be a sociopath, but I'm not a psychopath. I'm going to observe what type of toy satisfies her most, which would of course prevent some tantrums."

"Oh, well in that case, thank you." He placed a kiss on Eleanor's forehead and laid her down belly first on the blanket, then moved to sit on the couch nearby so he could keep an eye on her.

"Don't, this is for my benefit because you will likely be here for the next 48 to 72 hours."

John snorted from the kitchen.

"Jokes on you Mr. Holmes, cause it'll still help me."

For the next half hour, Sherlock performed the experiment and recorded his observations in the spreadsheet on his computer. He counted how many times Eleanor reached for each toy to begin with. Then he held up each toy within her reach and pulled it away before her tiny fingers grasped it. He noted how annoyed that made her and internally marveled at how expressive she was. He concluded that the yellow plush bear was her favorite and rewarded her patience.

Sherlock knew she couldn't move around much at this stage to actually play with the toy, so he picked her up and settled her upright in his lap. He placed one hand on her belly to prevent her from falling forward, and the other hand on the bear to snuggle it against her. He didn't feel self-conscious as he noticed the girl's father leaving the room earlier to talk with John in the kitchen.

Babies weren't so bad he supposed. At least not this one. She seemed to like him, and had big blue eyes that reminded him of John. Eleanor also didn't scream when he handled her, like all the other babies he'd met once they were separated from their parents. 

While he'd stopped paying close attention to her, said baby decided his hand was much more fascinating than the bear. She bent forward and latched her mouth to the side of Sherlock's thumb and gurgled.

Sherlock grimaced at the feel of saliva and used the bib around her neck to wipe off his hand once he pulled her away. 

"That was rather rude."

The girl turned her face to look at him and gave him a big toothless grin as if to say she knew exactly what she was doing.

The doorbell downstairs rang and Sherlock looked up only to see his flatmate standing at the entrance to the kitchen and watching him with a, dare he think, besotted smile. His face heated and he cleared his throat. "I'm not getting that."

John just smiled harder and finally left the room to get the takeout.

Sherlock closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steady himself. After the case, he reminded himself. After the case they could talk. He reopened his eyes and stood up, baby still in hand. He went into the kitchen and handed her back over to Emmett carefully.

"She likes you. Usually this little one screams bloody murder when a stranger holds her." He started rocking her in his arms. "Isn't that right?"

It was obvious to Sherlock how much he loved her. Emmett was sleep deprived and grieving, probably still craving cocaine, but devoted all of his energy to this baby. He hadn't complained about her, and he probably never felt the need to. He accepted all of the hardship of being a single parent effortlessly, all because it meant he would get to keep her.

The sound of John's footsteps up the stairs pulled him from his thoughts. 

"I thought I was going to starve before it got here." He placed the plastic bags on the table and began removing styrofoam boxes from them. He didn't bother asking Sherlock to fetch the utensils so he got them himself and dug in.

During this, Emmett started heating up a bottle of formula for the baby, and stabbed at his own food while waiting.

Sherlock opened his own box and picked at some of the curry covered chicken. He sighed when he noticed John glaring at him and deliberately put a bite in his mouth, raising his eyebrows to say, "happy?"

John smirked and resumed eating himself.

~~~~~

That night, Emmett already went off to sleep by ten, which left Sherlock and John alone. Sherlock spent some time intruder-proofing the flat. He tied a trip wire across the bottom of the doorway and secured it to the couch and a desk which he'd moved to the right position. Then he tied several cans filled with coins together and positioned it so that the string tying them all together, was held in place by the door latch. If opened, the cans would crash to the floor and surely wake up everyone. To top it off, he shoved the client chair under the door handle so whoever tried to get in would have to force the door loudly. He didn't bother with the windows because the fire escape led to his bedroom, and the others were on the second floor with no easy access.

Several times during this process, John made a comment. "Is this really necessary? I don't mind switching off guard duty with you. I was a soldier remember?"

Sherlock just kept reiterating that he was doing it to keep himself busy because otherwise he wouldn't stop thinking about how much time they were wasting. This was partially true, but of course wasn't the real intent of his booby trapping. He wanted to make sure there was no reason for him or John to stay awake tonight. If they both went to sleep, then they would both be in Sherlock's bed. It was his only opportunity and he was not going to lose it.

"Well, at least you can sleep then. I know you're knackered from last night, don't try and deny it." 

Oh no, Sherlock was quite awake actually. "When have I stopped being able to lie to you John Watson?"

"Since you came back. You've gone soft."

Sherlock scoffed and sat opposite John in his leather chair. "Hardly."

John rolled his eyes. "Will you be up long?"

"Probably." No. "Why?"

"I'm quite tired myself, I need to set up sheets on the couch though."

That wouldn't do. "Nonsense, just sleep in my bed. You'll throw your back out and be grumpy all day, and I won't allow that."

John bit his lip, "You sure?"

"Yes, just go. We've shared a bed before John, it's not that different."

John beamed at him, "Oh so you are going to bed?"

Sherlock hadn't meant to let it slip that he'd also sleep in the bed. He was just going to slip in unnoticed after John fell asleep. He must be more tired than he thought. "Shut up before I change my mind."

John mimed zipping his lips and raised his hands in surrender.

Sherlock muttered under his breath and went to go take a quick shower. He normally slept in only his pants, but that probably wasn't proper bed sharing etiquette if said bed sharer has only a platonic relationship with him. He certainly didn't want to misstep in such a precarious situation. (Well, precarious to him). At least he had the foresight to change into pajamas earlier, so he didn't have to walk in the room clad only in a towel. As much as he wanted John to be with him undressed, he'd just feel vulnerable given that there was no guarantee of reciprocal feelings.

He ended up deciding to go with the shirt, pants, and trousers. So he finished up his nightly routine then entered the bedroom, curls still damp, leaving a few drops on his shirt. Sherlock found John already tucked under the blankets and based on the clothes littering the floor, deduced that he was only a shirt and pants. So maybe it was okay after all?

He must have stood at the doorway just staring for a bit because John said, "You good?"

"Yes," he flapped his hand near his head. "Just thinking about the case."

"Well stop thinking and let yourself rest. You'll think better once you've had some sleep." John placed his phone on the side table and plugged it into the charger.

Sherlock rolled his eyes, but got into the vacant side of the bed. (His preferred side, John must have noticed.) "Yes, doctor."

Sherlock plugged in his own phone and turned out the light, then checked to make sure the door was open so any noise from the living area would wake them. Although he didn't plan on sleeping anyway. He couldn't let one second of this night go by not experienced.

Sherlock laid stiffly on his back while John made himself comfortable and laid on his right to keep the weight off the old wound. This happened to make him face Sherlock, who steadfastly refused to look at him. He needed to wait for John to fall asleep before he could begin cataloguing the lines on his face without getting caught.

John hummed and said, "Have you ever babysat for someone?"

"Of course not. Why?"

"Today, with Eleanor, you just seemed so..."

Now Sherlock turned on his side, which placed their faces only a foot apart. "So what?"

"Comfortable. Dare I say you even enjoyed it." He smiled.

Sherlock scoffed, "I was merely imitating what I've seen other adults do."

John reached out and poked his nose. "You were smiling at her, the one you only use with me and Mrs. Hudson."

Sherlock wrinkled his nose. "She proved to be a good research subject, that's all."

"I'm sure."

John flipped back over to his back while Sherlock stayed facing him now, not as out of his depth as before.

"Goodnight John."

"Night." He yawned.

Sherlock fell asleep while watching John's diaphragm and chest move with his breathing. His body synced up with it against his wishes and pulled him under.

~~~~~

 Some time in the night, a muffled whimper roused Sherlock from sleep. He jerked upright, concerned first that the intruder broke in and was inflicting pain on Baker Street's inhabitants. Another whimper, this time definitely coming from John, disregarded that worry and replaced it with a new one. He looked down and saw John tangled in the sheets, face down. His hands were clenching and unclenching the sheets and the pillow muffled any sounds coming from his mouth.

Waking John from his nightmares was far from a new thing, but he'd never done it while in the same bed. Wary that John could mistake him for an attacker, Sherlock didn't touch him and instead called out to him.

"John."

No response.

Louder and firmer this time. "John, wake up."

It worked this time as all movement seized for a moment before John fought his way out of the sheets, but this resulted in tangling him further. Sherlock stepped in this time. He tried soothing John with his words while working to free him from the stupid sheets.

"John shhhh. You're safe, it was just a dream. We're in Baker Street."

John's breathing began to even out once he was no longer trapped. His expression was distraught, at the man firmly gripping his biceps, he pulled Sherlock into an even tighter embrace.

"You're okay."

Sherlock held him back and placed one hand on the back of his neck. "Yes I'm fine. Everything is okay."

John ignored him and just kept whispering the same phrase over and over. "You're okay. You're okay."

Sherlock thought about his own anxiety after waking from a nightmare about John, and needing to sit against the edge of his bed and listen to his breathing to know he was alive and safe. With this in mind, he pulled John into laying down, half on top of him from the embrace. Sherlock then took one of his hands and pulled it up to his neck and tried to make John find his pulse point. 

John was confused, but finally understood what Sherlock was doing when he felt the steady thrum under his fingers. He was so grateful for this man. Having tangible and measurable proof of Sherlock's life helped chase away the last vestiges of panic from his nightmare. When his breathing was normal once more, he moved his hand down to settle across Sherlock's chest, but did not remove his body from the other man's.

Sherlock continued carding his fingers through John's sandy hair. He felt a twist in his stomach at John experiencing such pain, and sick that taking on this case was probably the cause of it. His nightmares had mostly seceded, and it was obvious to him that this case was a trigger for their return. With this guilt, he couldn't lose himself in the feeling of John holding onto him. He wished more than anything John would just choose to do this instead of needing it as an anchor for staving off a panic attack.

Neither of them pulled apart for the rest of the night, even when they both fell back asleep. Both of their minds dreamless.

Chapter Text

Sherlock woke slowly, enveloped in warmth and the smell of John. This brought him to the realization that they were still holding each other, cuddling. Judging by John's respiration rate, he was awake too. This was to Sherlock's surprise, because surely John would want to remove himself and get up from his platonic friend's embrace. He didn't know what to think of it and honestly didn't want to think at all or he'd let himself entertain the idea that John feels something more for him.

They'd shifted positions somewhat, which placed John's head higher up on the bed. Sherlock's was tucked into his neck and John's arm was still wrapped around the brunette's chest. Perhaps John hadn't moved because he wanted to be courteous and not wake Sherlock, especially after what happened in the night. For this, Sherlock desperately wanted to slow his breathing and continue feigning sleep, but he knew they needed to get moving. There was a serial killer after all.

"We need to get up."

Oh. John knew he was awake. Damn. But he still didn't move? What Sherlock wouldn't give to know what was going on in the man's head.

He decided to play it casual, not let on that he stayed because of their position, but instead stayed because he was tired.

He spoke around a forced yawn, "Mmm, yes. I'm a bit tired still from last night."

He realized what that implied too late to retract his statement, as John already sat up and turned so his feet hung off the side of the bed. He cursed himself internally for putting the tension in John's posture.

"Sorry. I'll stick to the couch tonight." John's voice was clipped and embarrassed. He made to stand up and leave the room when a hand grabbed his wrist.

"That's not what I meant. John, it comforted me to know I was there and could help. Please don't think you did something wrong." 

John peered at Sherlock through his peripheral vision and could just make out that the lanky man stretched across the bed to reach him.

"Your sleep schedule is already shit enough without me bollocksing it up."

He squeezed John's wrist. He needed him to know. "You didn't, I slept better last night than I have in years."

Sherlock did say please, so John thought he must be serious. He didn't hand those out often.

He sighed, "Okay. I'm going to make breakfast."

When he passed through the doorway, Sherlock's voice stopped him.

"John?"

"What?"

"Are we good?"

The vulnerability he could hear in Sherlock's voice tugged at his heart. "Of course."

~~~~~

Once dressed, Sherlock followed the scent of bacon into in the kitchen and took in the sight of John cooking and Emmett bottle feeding the baby. Sherlock had far too much to eat yesterday so he planned on avoiding anything this morning. On second thought, the sizzling of the food made the temptation of just one bacon strip too much. He would allow himself to steal one from John's plate.

Sherlock grabbed the tea John already made for him and sat down at the table. It was strange. The setting was domestic, even with a client and his baby here. The baby maybe even made it more domestic, despite Sherlock never planning on having one. He never considered being a father because it was ridiculous to entertain the idea that someone would enter a long term committed relationship with him. And more ridiculous that they would trust him to be caring and responsible for another life. He'd be an uncle one day though. It was only inevitable that John find a new girlfriend, fiancée, then wife. He'd rather go back to Serbia because it would hurt less.

He shook himself out of his reverie and noticed the food was finished being cooked and the two men were settled at the table with plates in front of them. John raised his eyebrows at him, silently asking him to eat something too. Sherlock reached over and stole a small piece of bacon from John's plate and ate it quickly. John rolled his eyes.

"Sherlock, can you hold Eleanor please? She'll get fussy if she's not fed, but I'm starved."

Startled, and with no reason to protest, he agreed. Emmett carefully passed over the baby and then the bottle of formula once he had her safely cradled in his arms. He was at a loss at how to actually feed her though.

John saved him, as usual. "Tilt the bottle so the teat is completely filled with milk. Eliminates air. And angle her up a bit more."

Sherlock adjusted his positioning and moved the bottle so she could drink from it. She latched easily and grasped her hands around the fingers closest to her. He couldn't help but smile down at her.

"That's perfect Sherlock."

Sherlock looked up and John was looking at him like he was adorable, not the baby. He cleared his throat and refocused his attention on the tiny human in his hands.

 

Chapter Text

After breakfast, Sherlock received a text from Lestrade.

Logan Brown arrived through Heathrow this morning.

Sherlock stood and handed the baby back to Emmett. "John, one of our workers is back in London after a very conveniently timed holiday."

"Same plan as yesterday?"

"Already texting Mycroft." Sherlock disappeared into his room to get dressed.

John informed Emmett and went to remove the night's DIY burglary alarm. He'd already gotten dressed before making breakfast, as some attempt of distancing himself from the way he woke this morning. He woke exactly as he'd constantly imagined, enveloped in Sherlock's warmth. However, it wouldn't do to think Sherlock 'I'm married to my work' Holmes liked it in the same way he did. 

Speak of the devil, the consulting detective waltzed into the room and grabbed his coat. He held the door open for John and followed him out. 

While Sherlock hailed a cab, John asked Mrs. Hudson if she could keep their guest company. She agreed, as she'd already planned on doing so so she could see "the lovely girl" again.

~~~~~

It wasn't long before the two were outside Brown's flat building and hitting the knocker. It reminded them of Baker Street, but cheaper. After a minute, the landlord opened the door with a cautious air about him.

Sherlock noted that there was a break in recently, and though the man wasn't hurt, he was shaken. It would be best to tread as friendly as possible.

Sherlock placed his hand on the small of John's back and moved closer to him. "Hi, don't tell me we missed Logan?"

The man blinked. "Who are you?"

"Oh, silly me." Sherlock chuckled. "He was my counselor at the center and I wanted to surprise him." Here, he placed his other hand on John's bicep. "This is John, my fiancé. Just engaged!" He even bounced a bit on his toes for added affect.

John quickly caught on and smiled his best honeymoon phase smile at his 'fiancé,' which frankly wasn't that hard.

The man opened the door a bit wider, picking up on their perceived harmlessness. "Congrats. And uh, yeah you missed him. He left an hour ago."

Sherlock pouted theatrically.

John covered the hand that was still on his arm, with his own. "It's okay darling, we can just go there and slip in between appointments."

He sighed, "You're right. As always." Then he turned to the landlord. "Thanks anyway, sir."

Sherlock and John started walking down the street, waiting for the click of the door shutting. As soon as it was heard, Sherlock dropped his hand from John's back. He didn't want to make him uncomfortable. Unbeknownst to him, John already missed the contact.

 "We're not actually leaving, are we?"

"Of course not. Why question the man when we'll get much more honest answers from his flat?"

John snorted and followed Sherlock to the back of the complex. He thought his friend must be looking for the fire escape. "So you really think he's the one?"

He made a dissenting noise, "Best not to come to conclusions without the evidence."

"...so yes?"

"Yes."

John laughed, "I thought so."

They stopped talking once they reached the ladder. It was important not to alert the landlord of their presence.

Sherlock was tall enough to jump and reach it, pulling it down with his body weight as he landed. He climbed up, and John followed closely behind. He would never make the same mistake as he did during the blind banker case.

At the second floor window, Sherlock pulled out his lock picking set. At John's confused look, he explained. "Old window. The lock can be reached from outside, if one has a long and thin tool." 

With an easy flick, the mechanism unlatched. The two of them worked together to open it, as there wasn't a normal ledge for leverage like there would be on the inside.

It was bright enough to see inside just from the daylight, so Sherlock immediately started analyzing everything. It was sparsely furnished, with used furniture probably found in thrift stores. The personal touches were minimal, including a few framed paintings and some fiction books on the coffee table. Maybe the man spent most of his time elsewhere, or just hadn't planned on staying here long.

John wasn't sure what they were looking for. Syringes maybe, or drugs?

He whispered his question and Sherlock replied they had to find a laptop and files. Sherlock would look for the syringes and drugs. John felt a bit uneasy to think about how Sherlock would be better at checking good places to hide such paraphernalia. 

He lost himself in the search instead of thinking about it longer. John opened and closed the drawers of every desk, dresser, armoire, and anything else he could find in all the rooms. He found a laptop under the bed though, so that was promising. He took it to Sherlock, who uncovered nothing except a hidden compartment in the floorboards which held a couple butt plugs.

Sherlock took the proffered laptop and settled comfortably onto the couch with it. John was about to protest because they shouldn't move anything around, but decided against it.

"Oh my god."

"What?" John quickly rounded the couch to look at the screen.

"He doesn't have a password John. What kind of moronic murderer doesn't keep a password on their computer?" He looked seriously disturbed by this.

John stifled his laughter around his fist, they still had to keep quiet after all. This man, was ridiculous. John went back to wandering around the room, he knew it would take a while because there was a lot to search through. He knew not to disturb Sherlock, so he played an app on his phone for the next ten minutes.

Sherlock's groan indicated that there was some type of development. John put his phone away and walked over.

"Well?"

Sherlock ran his hands through his hair and said, "There's a file on here, but it's encrypted."

"Don't you always deduce everyone's passwords?"

"Yes. That's why I'm frustrated, John. Our man has more than one brain cell apparently. He must have used one of those random character generators for the password, because it certainly has nothing to do with his life."

John placed a comforting hand on Sherlock's shoulder and squeezed. "What now?"

Sherlock contemplated the options. Honestly, not much from their plan had changed. "We question him at work, get an answer that indicates probable cause, then we'll have a search warrant and the cyber team can open the file."

"Okay."

~~~~~

Erasing any trace of their search from the flat was easy. They were well versed in that by this point, and didn't move many things around in the process.

Logan Brown was at the rehab center as expected, and Sherlock and John were posted outside his office. His patient was out in a few minutes, so they didn't have to wait long.

The two walked in, and Sherlock took in all the data he could about this man. There wasn't anything that stood out and said "killer," but he supposed the successful ones never really do.

"I'm Sherlock Holmes, and this is my partner Dr. John Watson. We're investigating the murders of several people who are former patients of this center."

Brown gasped, but the surprise in his face lasted a few seconds too long to be real. "Are you serious? Why would someone do that?"

Sherlock stalked closer, towering over him easily because he was standing. "You tell me."

"Why would I know? That's a horrible thing to do!" He spluttered.

"We know about the files. Your hit list, so to speak." Sherlock guessed the patient information was what was hidden in the locked folder. The man just needed to believe he already saw them.

Sweat began forming by his temples. "I don't know what you're talking about, what files?"

"Stop playing stupid. We have more than enough evidence to have you arrested right now. You'll have a lighter sentence if you just confess."

His mouth opened and closed, but it seemed as though his excuses ran out.

"It's very convenient that you flew out of the country the day after our latest victim was found. You realized you got sloppy or- no. You read the papers and saw that Scotland Yard finally realized these were murders, not overdoses. You panicked and fled."

John stopped Sherlock then. "I'll call Lestrade, just make sure he doesn't run."

Sherlock grinned at Brown. "Oh I don't think he'll be going anywhere."

Brown gulped. 

Chapter Text

Sherlock and John took a cab to Scotland Yard and met Lestrade outside the interrogation room occupied by one Logan Brown.

"When do we get the search warrant?"

The DI crossed his arms. "I should get it by the time I'm done with this guy."

"I have nothing to say to him until I can search his flat."

"Good thing I wasn't planning on asking you to do the interrogation. I swear you forget you're not actually a part of the force sometimes."

John cut in, "Nah, that's just the entitlement."

Sherlock was offended that John didn't take his side, but felt better when he noticed the man smiling. Joking then. Right.

Lestrade said, "I'm going in now, you have full access to the observation room as usual." 

And with that he entered the room with a guard and several files pertaining to the case.

Sherlock and John stepped into the adjoining room where Donovan was already sitting. John nodded to her while Sherlock ignored her and focused on the man behind the two way mirror.

Inside the room, Lestrade placed each file folder on the table spread out, so all seven could be seen. He opened each and placed photos of each victim on top. He stood with his hands on the table and leaned forward a bit to tower over the killer, giving off an air of authority and aggression. 

"Your lack of alibi combined with the timing of your departure, and your occupation and relevant access to patient records, gives us more than enough evidence to search your home. If we find something direct, you will be prosecuted for these seven murders and get life in prison. If you cooperate with us, I can make this process go by much quicker. But right now you don't have any options."

Brown was visibly anxious and trying hard not to show it. Which of course, inadvertently made it more obvious. (Unwavering eye contact, leg tapping, nose scratching). Instead of answering, he simply shook his head.

Lestrade leaned even closer. "If you are who I think you are, we will find everything we need to indict you. Don't hold your breath."

With that, he backed off and left the room. Sherlock and John met him in the hall where he was informing the security guard to leave him in there until the search was completed. It would be an attempt at further intimidation.

"Search team's ready to go, I'll text you two the address."

Sherlock smirked at the fact that Lestrade hadn't considered they already searched it themselves. "No need, it was on the patient information list."

He furrowed his brows, "You remember that?"

But Sherlock was already waltzing away, so John answered for him. "Mind palace."

"Ah."

~~~~~

Sherlock was pacing back and forth and muttering to himself in the foyer of Brown's flat building. He wasn't allowed in until the police completed the official search, after all he was only a consultant. But that left him moody and impatient. He'd already checked on Emmett and Eleanor's status at Baker Street, so there literally wasn't anything to do.

John watched the man from his perch on the stairs. The long Belstaf flowed behind Sherlock each time he changed direction, imitating a cape. He wished he could go over to him, wrap him in his arms and bury his face in his neck, then tell him they'll be able to read the files soon. He liked to think that Sherlock would actually be distracted by him, and focus his attention on John so the storm in his brain could calm down.

His thoughts were interrupted when the landlord they met earlier walked down the stairs. "Why did you two lie to me if you were working with the police? I would have answered any questions."

John stood up to talk with him properly. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that. My partner likes disguises, he's a bit dramatic." He couldn't help but to stare at Sherlock again.

The landlord looked between the two and thought for a minute. "But you are actually partners?"

"Yes." John answered without thinking, but after catching the look he was being given he corrected himself. "I mean no. No, not that kind of partner."

"Oh. Well you know what they say."

"What do they say?"

"A disguise is a reflection of oneself." He smiled and walked into his own flat.

His words echoed those of Irene Adler's long ago. It couldn't be true though. At least not with them. Sherlock uses disguises all the time, and they're all picked specifically to get the information he needs. It has nothing to do with himself. Right?

"What?" Sherlock had stopped pacing when he saw John's gaze fixed on him, deep in thought.

"Nothing, just zoned out." John said.

Sherlock was going to question him further, but Lestrade gave them the green light from upstairs. The two jogged up and Lestrade handed Sherlock a laptop.

"You get ten minutes with this, and don't argue because I know that's plenty of time for you."

Sherlock took it and immediately started searching random files. He needed to pretend at least for few minutes, that he didn't already know about the specific encrypted file.

Meanwhile John asked if they found anything else. They didn't. Lestrade said he was surprised that there weren't any traces of drugs here, but conceded it was possible that Brown got rid of them before he went on holiday. Something about that stuck in his head, but he brushed it aside. They'd find any important information in that file.

Sherlock said, "The moron doesn't have a login password, but somehow managed to encrypt this file."

Lestrade took it back and looked it over. "You weren't able to deduce the password?"

"Obviously not, otherwise we'd be reading the files."

"Alright alright, we'll take this back and have the cyber team open it." He turned to the room. "Anderson, you lead the clean up."

Sherlock scoffed and John elbowed him, but they followed Lestrade out the door. The silver haired man took his patrol car, and Sherlock of course hailed for a cab instead.

~~~~~

Back at the Yard, Brown was still cuffed to the metal table in the interrogation room. He'd been given water and some food, but no contact besides that.

The laptop was handed off to the cyber team, but Sherlock didn't have much confidence in that. The password was random characters, and depending on how long it was, it could take months or years to crack. He had higher chances just talking to Brown directly.

Lestrade waved him and John into the room, but didn't send in an officer for security. He knew John had that covered.

The door closed behind them, and John moved to a corner of the room where he took up a power stance. Sherlock smirked outwardly, but ogled inwardly. His friend was very much a captain right now and not a doctor. He shivered a bit at the thought of John directing that stance toward him.

Brown asked, "Did you find anything?"

"The laptop. What's the password?"

"I don't know."

Sherlock sighed. "You created it, and you didn't write it down anywhere so you memorized it at some point."

He didn't reply.

"Then answer me this, when we open the file, will we find all the patient information?"

Brown blinked a little too long to be normal.

"That's a yes. See, honesty isn't so hard now is it?"

Sherlock then collected the pictures and held them up one by one, giving details of each person's life. The one with Emmett's wife seemed to have the most affect.

"This is Laney. She found out she was pregnant and got clean. Her and her husband Emmett kept each other going and went to meetings together. Their daughter Eleanor is almost four months old now, did you know that? Did you even know she had a child? Do you even care at all about the families and friends of your victims? Your kind never realize that when they murder one person, they murder that entire person's family too." He placed the pictures down along with his hands and a bit of force.

Brown flinched back, he looked horrified.

"I-I didn't know. I don't stay in contact with them when they stop seeing me." He covered his mouth with his hands, slightly muffling his speech. "But they don't change. They-they don't make families."

Sherlock gave him an extra foot of space now that he seemed willing to open up. "Who's they?"

Brown looked back up at him. "Addicts."

"Why did you do this to addicts?"

"'Cause they're a drain on society. They're a danger to others and they're a burden to everyone. Even the people who claim to love them would be relieved if their junkie whatsit or other disappeared."

Sherlock sneered, "Most of your victims proved this to be nothing but a myth spread by those who lack empathy and brain cells. Congratulations, you've done nothing but waste resources yourself for committing these crimes in the first place. Now what is the password?"

"I don't know! I lost it!" He yelled.

Sherlock stayed still for a moment. Unknown to the others, he was utilizing the frustration room in his mind palace to scream about what an idiot this man was. He took a deep breath in and exhaled slowly. The man had basically admitted to the contents of the file and never flat out denied guilt. He got the response he needed for the most part, so his work was done. He turned to the mirror and said, "That should be enough." Sherlock exited the room quickly with John trailing behind.

He didn't stop to talk to Lestrade, so John did and hoped his friend would at least wait for him outside.

Lestrade said, "We have a wobbly confession and a stack of circumstantial evidence, so it shouldn't be an issue to prosecute. Not as clean cut as I'd hoped though."

"They usually aren't."

"They usually are when he's involved."

John shrugged and made to leave, but was stopped with a hand on his shoulder.

"Make sure he's okay. I don't know how much he's told you about his past, but it wouldn't be unlike him to internalize this. As much as he likes us to think he's invincible."

"I will."

John rushed out of the building and was disappointed at the empty pavement until he spotted Sherlock leaning against the side of the building and smoking a cigarette. His heart twisted a bit, he knew what that meant.

"Where did you get that?"

"The new intern smokes and is very unobservant." He took a long drag.

John huffed, "Of course."

The two stood in silence until Sherlock finished and stubbed out the butt then tossed it into the nearest bin.

"You okay?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Things got pretty heated in there."

Sherlock knew he was referring to the interrogation. "Yes, I was trying to be intimidating and it worked."

Sherlock started walking toward the street, but was halted by John grabbing his wrist. He turned around to face him. He could see concern written in the creases of his forehead and slight downturn of his mouth.

"Sherlock, all the things he said about addicts aren't true."

Sherlock furrowed his brows, "I know. I told him otherwise."

John shook his head. "No. I'm trying to say that I know those things aren't true. And I would never feel that way about you, even if you relapsed."

Sherlock's gaze switched between John's eyes, trying to find some hidden condescension or other meaning.

"I just felt you needed to hear that. That's all." He let his hand trail down a couple inches and laced his fingers with Sherlock's then gave them a squeeze. When he felt Sherlock tentatively squeeze back, he let go and continued to the street to hail their cab.

Sherlock was frozen from the weight of John's passing touch and the words. The words which meant so much to him, but John would never know the extent. He closed his eyes and filed them in the vault of things said to him he'd never forget. Maybe one day, when John was gone from Baker Street, he could pull them out and remember the time John was still here and believed in him.

"Sherlock?"

He looked up and saw John half inside a cab. No doubt the driver was annoyed.

"Coming."

Chapter Text

Back at Baker Street, they found Emmett playing with Eleanor on the rug in front of the fireplace. Mrs. Hudson was in the kitchen cleaning some dishes and stopped when they entered the room. 

She walked over, brushing her wet hands against her skirt. "You can do the rest, don't be lazy dears."

"We just finished a case Hudders, certainly the opposite of lazy no?" said Sherlock as he greeted her with a kiss to the forehead.

John smiled at Sherlock's rare affection so casually displayed. The reminder of the conclusion to the case must have raised his mood. 

Emmett picked up the baby and spoke, "It's really finished?"

"Yeah, sooner than we thought to be honest." John said.

Emmett breathed a huge sigh of relief. "We're going to be okay baby girl." He brought her to his face and snuggled his nose against hers, letting the stress of the past few days dissipate. 

In response, Eleanor babbled happily and smushed his cheeks with her tiny hands.

"I'll go pack up, if one of you could take her?"

John stepped forward to accept the offer and cradled Eleanor up against his chest, one hand on her back and one under her bum. Emmett jogged up the stairs, leaving the rest alone.

Mrs. Hudson said, "You saved that man's life, and his baby's. I'm proud of my boys."

John smiled and Sherlock said, "Just business as usual, don't let sentiment get the best of you."

"I know you care dear, but I'll let you pretend."

In response, he scoffed and took up his violin by the window. He was playing a soft melody, akin to happy children's music, when Emmett came back down.

John walked over and strapped the baby in her carrier, taking care to make the straps secure but not too tight.

Mrs. Hudson said her goodbyes, kissing Eleanor one last time, before going back into her own flat.

John helped the father carry his bags outside to the pavement so he wouldn't need two trips. 

As Emmett climbed inside, and John handed him the carrier, he spoke. "Tell Sherlock thank you for me, yeah?"

"Of course. Take care of yourself and the little one."

"I will."

John pulled a business card out of his pocket and handed it over. "You can always bring her to my clinic for check ups, I'd be happy to see her again."

Emmett took it. "Thank you, we'll have to hang out sometime. In happier circumstances I hope. No one's been half as kind or helpful as you guys."

"You're welcome." With that, John shut the door and watched as the cab drove away. He looked up at the windows of Baker Street and made eye contact with Sherlock. He wanted to broach the subject of Sherlock's past, but wasn't sure now was the best time. Though, he supposed there would never be a best time because the topic would always be uncomfortable. He figured it would be like pulling teeth.

He sighed and walked inside.

~~~~~

The rest of the day and part of the evening, Sherlock could tell John wanted to say something. Something he felt was important, but difficult to talk about. He observed the tension in John's shoulders and slight crease in his forehead. Whenever John thought Sherlock wasn't looking, he would stare at him, open his mouth like he would speak, then close it again. After most of the day consisting of this behavior, Sherlock was at his wit's end over not having deduced what exactly it was.

Sherlock moved to his chair and brought his hands together under his chin, staring at John all the while. John was in his own chair, pretending to read for the past hour. Sherlock noticed how he'd barely turned more than five pages.

"John."

"Hmm?"

"Say what you've been wanting to say all day before I text Molly and bring another head home."

At that, John closed his book silently and placed it on the side table. He made eye contact with Sherlock and looked sheepish at being accurately called out.

He crossed his arms and said, "So I've been thinking."

"Thrilling."

"Git. So I've been thinking, because of this case. About you."

Sherlock's mouth formed a silent 'oh' and he sat back in his chair. "You want to know about my past. More than what I've told you."

John rubbed the back of his neck. "You know what? It's none of my business, I know you value your privacy." He stood up, presumably to go to his room.

"Stop." Sherlock waited until he sat back down to continue. He squeezed his hands together in a rare show of anxiety. "I'm not the same man I was two years ago. You're right when you say the fall changed me. It has, but I've also been trying. To change. That is."

John did his best to look non threatening, he didn't want to pressure Sherlock but he also didn't want him to think he couldn't open up.

"You're my best friend John. And this is your business. You know it's very hard for me, but I understand now that-" He closed his eyes and sighed. "I'm not a sociopath, and I should talk about my...feelings." The last word was said with scorn. As much as he was trying to be open, it was difficult to let go of the facade he'd used to protect himself for years and years.

"I've never thought for a second you actually were a sociopath. You weren't trying very hard."

Sherlock looked up, surprised.

"What kind of sociopath kisses their landlady, offers to help an invalided soldier, and worries about said soldier's mental health? Just during our first day together, might I add."

Sherlock's mouth formed a 'v' of a smile, and felt a weight lift off his shoulders. He knew now, he could tell John anything. He would talk about his past for the first time. Really talk about it.

"Can you make something a bit stronger than tea? Then we can talk."

John stood up and squeezed Sherlock's shoulder as he passed by. "On it."

Sherlock started a fire and closed the curtains while John fetched them a couple glasses of whiskey. The room now held an orange glow from the fire and the red tinted lamp. The atmosphere was suitable for a difficult topic of conversation, as it felt comforting and private.

John placed everything on the side table then moved that so both of them could reach it. Then he pushed his armchair a bit closer to Sherlock's to make it even easier.

Sherlock wasn't at all comforted by how close John's knees were to touching his. Nope.

They allowed a few moments to settle and finish their first drink, after which John added another two fingers to each glass. Finally, Sherlock was ready to start.

"I suppose I should start at the beginning?"

"Whatever you're comfortable with."

"Alright." He steeled himself to begin.

"I didn't have friends growing up. Nor did I at university. Except for one person." He paused to take a sip. "I met Victor Trevor in one of my higher level chemistry courses. He didn't react like the others did to my deductions, he was impressed. I did a lot of rude things to deter him, but he never gave up. It didn't take long before we started talking more and studying together. He was rather intelligent and we conducted experiments together. He introduced me to friendship. He introduced me to a lot of things." Sherlock frowned and downed the rest of his glass.

John wasn't a fan of this Victor guy who was obviously the cause of Sherlock's distress.

"One time when we were studying, he kissed me. We were a couple after that, I suppose. Never in public though. I mean, it wouldn't have been safe at the time, but we never went to places where it was safe to be open like that." Sherlock changed position, and couldn't maintain eye contact with John. "We did other things, but it hurt. I complained and he offered a solution. I was high for the first time, and it was a solution. It felt like the answer to a lot of problems at the time. I wasn't bored anymore, my mind quieted whenever I shot up. I didn't do it terribly often then. Not yet."

John's fists were clenched in his lap, and he finished his drink while Sherlock was speaking. He was appalled that this man would hurt Sherlock, and offered drugs instead of empathy. His heart ached for though. For this young Sherlock who was so alone in the world that he didn't know or think he should stay away from Victor. He wished he was there, he wouldn't have let this happen.

"A couple months later, I came home to our shared flat and he was in bed with someone else." Sherlock's voice was carefully devoid of feeling. "He told me he loved me not long before that. I thought he did, and it was stupid to believe him. After that, I was truly alone except for the cocaine. It offered a 7% solution that I convinced myself was enough. I failed out of university and moved between abandoned houses. Mycroft couldn't stop me, he wasn't nearly high enough in the government for the needed resources. He did find me eventually. I took enough to overdose by accident. Stupid miscalculation. I wandered onto one of Lestrade's early crime scenes and solved it before collapsing. I detoxed in hospital, finished university, and stayed clean so Lestrade would keep calling me."

"You found a new solution."

"Yes. Solving crime utilized my brain in its entirety. It's a good replacement, but there's still bad days." Here, he looked up again. "I can get through those days now though. Do you understand?"

Given confidence from Sherlock's bravery and the alcoholic buzz, John leaned forward placed a hand on Sherlock's knee. "I think I do."

Sherlock forced himself to take a few deep breaths and placed his hand on top of John's. The combined heat from their hands radiated up his body and chased away the coldness he felt when he recalled everything Victor had done.

"Sherlock, I am so sorry. You have a huge heart and deserve so much happiness, and you got all of that pain instead. I wish someone, or me, had been there to tell you you deserve better than Victor and that you were good enough, and he wasn't. I couldn't be there, so I'm telling you now. You're never going to be alone again. The fall was the last time, I promise you."

John held his gaze steadfastly. There was a world of guilt, pain, and compassion in those eyes and combined with his words it pushed Sherlock. His traitorous body formed tears which he prevented from dropping, but only just barely. It would be a long time before he believed the words John was telling him. After all, a lifetime of being conditioned to believe one doesn't matter, doesn't reverse itself in the span of a single conversation.

But he would try and remind himself of John's words. And maybe let him know when he's having a danger night. He felt he owed John the honesty, but he also knew John would help him through it. As for John never leaving Baker Street, he hurt too much to think about the truth. So he let himself, just for tonight, to believe that John meant it because Sherlock was as vital to him as he was to Sherlock. To believe that John meant Sherlock fulfilled his needs in a life partner. And loved him in all the ways Sherlock loved him.

He didn't know what to say, but he hoped 'okay' was enough.

"Okay."

"Okay." John smiled and stood up, though he took Sherlock's hands and tugged him up as well. "Come here."

Sherlock went willingly into John's arms. John had one wrapped around Sherlock's back and the other clasping the back of his head, a lover's embrace. Sherlock warmed at the intimate contact and closed his eyes. He wrapped his own arms around John's back and let his brain stop analyzing. He inhaled the scent of home and John and relaxed. He hadn't felt so at peace ever, not even in Baker Street before the fall.

As all hugs do, however, it ended. John seemed as reluctant to let go as Sherlock had and neither were ready to go their separate ways. John suggested they watch crap telly before going to bed and Sherlock agreed because it meant not going to bed now.

They sat on the couch together, sharing the plaid blanket from John's chair. Their sides were pressed together, and both pretended like it was a normal amount of physical closeness. They needed the comfort and reassurance after the heaviness of their conversation.

One episode of a show turned into two, turned into three. And lulled by the noise, alcohol, and mental exhaustion, Sherlock felt John's head fall to his shoulder. He was loathe to move them or end their contact, so instead he slowly laid down and pulled John with him. They lay side by side now, with Sherlock's back pressed against the back of the couch and John plastered against his front. He'd wait until the morning to worry about their positioning and what it implied. For now, he would feel loved. 

Chapter Text

Sherlock woke first and simultaneously cursed and thanked his bladder for forcing himself to extricate his body from John's. It was a convenient way to avoid any awkwardness, even though it cut things shorter than he wished. He carefully removed his legs from the tangle of John's and climbed over him to reach the floor. John only sighed in response but kept sleeping. Sherlock studied him for a moment, the curve of his back, the now sleep mussed hair. How he wished that was every morning. He tucked a blanket around John, then left.

He quickly used the loo to shower and do his business, making sure to artfully style his curls as usual. He dressed in a suit, including the jacket as some form of armor.

Talking about Victor Trevor with John last night had been...something. He couldn't necessarily say it reopened old wounds because they hadn't been closed in the first place. It's more like they'd been covered with gauze and now John had removed them. To deal with Victor, Sherlock buried his experience and resulting pain deep in the basement of his mind palace under lock and key. He knew it wasn't technically healthy, but he didn't think feeling it was any healthier. But he knew differently now. It didn't feel as if that part of his life was tucked away anymore. 

It wasn't taking over his mind palace like it had many years ago. Instead, it was like all those memories were neatly ordered and placed on shelves in different rooms. Categorized as data now, not hidden as a virus. He could breathe finally, instead of walking through that part of the palace on tiptoes, afraid of unleashing what was tucked away. He'd never experienced this before. Was it just talking to John? Or talking in general? He needed more data to find that out.

Because of this and the recent resolution to the case, he was ready to confront John about the unspoken tension between them. It seemed like anger John still held towards him about the fall. But sometimes the tension seemed like the moment before two people kissed for the first time. Maybe there were two separate issues. He'd have to tread carefully because he absolutely did not want to get his hopes up with the second thing. He was already lacking in emotional intelligence, he didn't need to make things harder for them by revealing his desires only to have them not reciprocated. 

Sherlock rubbed his hands down the suit jacket, making sure it was straightened properly, and reentered the living room. John was sitting up on the couch and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

Around a yawn, he said, "Sorry for trapping you here last night."

"How did you know I slept with you?" The connotation of those words brought a flash of embarrassment to him.

John smiled, "There was a Sherlock sized indent next to me."

"Ah." Sherlock didn't know what else to say. "Tea?"

"You asking me to make it or offering to make it?"

"Offering." He looked as confused as John felt. He turned and marched into the kitchen before John could say anything else.

He could hear John groan as he stood up and padded upstairs. Sherlock sighed. He couldn't avoid the awkwardness after all.

In his room, John got dressed and planned to shower later. He wasn't sure what to do about last night. Would Sherlock rather he not mention it? Or were they past the hiding now? He didn't want to scare him off, especially after how honest he was last night. So he figured he'll just wait and see if Sherlock says anything. Though it did seem like Sherlock didn't know how he wanted to approach the whole thing either. He even offered to make tea.

When John made it back downstairs, the tea was indeed made, and the two of them settled into their respective chairs quietly.

Sherlock cleared his throat and said, "Thank you. For last night." Forcefully nonchalant.

John glanced up and saw Sherlock looking carefully away and tapping his fingers against his mug. He decided to not make a big deal about it. "Anytime."

His smile was hidden by his next sip of tea.

~~~~~

Their morning was slow and quiet. John was working on the first draft of the case while Sherlock was doing a routine deletion of unimportant data in his mind palace. They were interrupted only by Lestrade texting to say that all potential victims have been released from protective custody and the court date wasn't set yet on account of they still haven't found any signs of the drugs or syringes in Brown's flat. 

Brown's stupidity was very inconsistent, and something about it bugged Sherlock in the back of his mind. He'd revisit that later, right now John was his priority. It was honestly a laughable effort on his part to claim to everyone that the work comes first when John always takes priority.

"John."

"Hmm?"

"Are you still angry about the fall?"

John froze and then closed his laptop and placed it on the side table, giving his full attention to Sherlock. "I forgave you, you know that."

Sherlock nodded to himself. "That's not what I asked."

John sat back in his seat and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm not angry about the fall."

"But you are about something?"

John half smirked, "You can read me at the most inopportune moments."

Sherlock wrung his hands together. "Have I done something? I know I slip up sometimes, but I've been cleaning up after experiments with organic or hazardous materials and not playing the violin loudly when you're trying to sleep and paying the rent on time though that's actually Mycroft's doing-"

"Stop, Sherlock. It's none of that, which I do appreciate by the way."

He was anxious and implored John with his eyes to say what he'd done.

John sighed and sat forward in his chair and placed one hand on Sherlock's knee. "I'm just worried that you'll leave again or go galivanting off during a case and get yourself killed for real. It's not your fault, at least not completely. I should take your word for it that you won't do it again, but I know how that brain of yours works and sometimes you do things and think later. This is just an aspect of our trust that I have to regain."

Sherlock looked at him earnestly. "What do I do to fix that?"

John smiled softly at him and squeezed his knee before sitting back again. "You can't I'm afraid. It's just going to take some time. I'm sorry I made you feel like I was punishing you, I'll work on that."

Sherlock wished the point of contact would return. "You haven't done anything wrong."

"I have, just accept the apology."

Though Sherlock still felt he deserved any ill will, he conceded to John's command to make him happy. "Fine, it's- I accept."

"Good." He stood up and clapped his hands together. "What should we do today?"

"Let's go over the case. There's a detail we're missing, but I haven't figured out what." 

Chapter Text

The wall above the couch still contained a collage of photos and documents from the case. Sherlock always waited until the suspect's verdict was announced before taking it all down, for some sense of closure. Lucky for them, his meticulousness allowed them to jump straight into reexamining every detail.

Sherlock stood on the couch while John stood in a socially acceptable way, behind the coffee table.

John said, "How should we go about this then?"

"Recount the information to me, you always say something that lights on a new point of interest."

John smiled and cleared his throat. "Mmm, so six recovering addicts who were all patients at London Rehab were murdered by injection of their drug of choice. All the bodies were found in back alleys or ditches."

"Places that are almost hidden, easily secluded."

"Yes, and there were no signs of struggle on any of them."

Sherlock turned his head to face John, one eyebrow raised. "Which means?"

"The killer had some way of making them obedient."

One side of Sherlock's mouth quirked up. "Continue."

John crossed his arms, "Unknown where Brown got the drugs from to do this, but I guess he'd just need money and...um."

"It's fairly easy to procure drugs John, just take out some notes and find a party at the nearest university."

"Right," John frowned but kept going. "He targeted victims through a patient list at his job as a counsellor, and his reason for doing so is stupid."

Sherlock hummed in agreement, "Expand."

John sighed, "He thought they were wasting the NHS' time and would always turn back to drugs, and wouldn't get jobs, and hurt people."

Sherlock's eyes still scanned the files.

When he didn't say anything else, John voiced his own opinion. "I don't understand his motive."

Sherlock spun around to no doubt tell John to stop being an idiot, but John cut him off. "No, I understand it. I mean, I don't understand how that would lead to killing all these people. One? Yeah, he's very angry. But why go after so many others when he's just miffed? You're always saying that love is a more vicious motivator, but he didn't give us any indication that was the case."

John knew he was right when Sherlock's eyes widened and he leapt over the coffee table onto the floor. "See, this is why I need you." He said as he pulled out his phone and began texting.

"To Lestrade?"

"Yes, telling him to start a new interrogation with that in mind."

"And as for us?"

The sent noise pinged on Sherlock's phone and he tossed it on the couch. "We're going to do some digging about Brown on the internet. See if we can't find an answer first."

Excited to have made the breakthrough in the case once more, John fetched his laptop and settled into his chair to start looking. Sherlock settled across from him, and the only thing that was missing was tea.

Sherlock said, "If you think I'm making tea again you're mistaken."

Of course he knew what John was thinking. John resigned himself to permanent maker of tea once more and stood up to head into the kitchen.

~~~~~

They searched for about a half hour without yielding any results. Brown had no secret lover, had no tragic childhood, had no dead parents or relatives of note, nothing. His life was as average as they come.

Sherlock was up and pacing near the case wall, but John kept looking through social media to see if they missed something. (They didn't).

John looked up at the sound of a disgruntled detective making a loud thump. Sherlock had flopped onto the couch and started running his fingers through his curls in frustration.

"I'm sure Lestrade will get it out of him."

Sherlock gave him a dubious look, "Do you hear yourself speak sometimes?"

John raised his brows and put his laptop away. "I'm going to pay Mrs. Hudson a visit."

Sherlock felt guilty by the time the door shut. There was nothing for it. John would come back when Lestrade texted back new information.

~~~~~

Another half an hour went past and finally, Lestrade texted back, though with nothing new. Sherlock tried forwarding the text to John but realized he left his phone in the room when a quiet ping sounded somewhere.

Frustrated with the case (and himself if he was being honest, which he wasn't), he stomped down the stairs and into Mrs. Hudson's flat. His eyes quickly observed that they were having tea at the dinner table and fresh scones.

"Brown maintained that what he originally said was his only motive."

John furrowed his brows and frowned, "That's weird then."

"Yes. How could someone as inept as him successfully plan and murder six people over several months and still maintain enough anger to follow through?" Sherlock stole a part of the scone on John's plate and chewed on it while thinking. "That's the least of what I'm confused about. He's a moron. I really doubt he has the intellectual ability to pull this off and I don't mean that as an insult or an exaggeration this time. He's proven this with the laptop, but he's also simultaneously proven himself a capable serial killer?"

John huffed, "It's like he's two people."

Dawning panic took over Sherlock's face and made John's heart drop into his stomach.

"What?"

"You're right, it has to be two people."

John stood quickly, "Everyone is still in danger- Emmett is still- Oh god."

Sherlock was already dialling Lestrade as he ran out the front door of Baker Street.

John grabbed their coats from the hanger by the door and rushed out to meet him and caught the tail end of the call.

"-send everyone back into protective custody immediately and have an ambulance sent to Emmett's address."

Sherlock cursed the speed of available cabs until one finally pulled up and let them in. He shouted the address at the cabbie and promised a sizable tip if he could reach there as soon as possible.

Inside the car, John nudged Sherlock with the Belstaff and the two made eye contact. The anxiety they felt was mirrored.

Did the other person know they were distracted, focusing only on Brown? Did he know they knew the order of kills? There were too many unknowns, all of which leading John to think they were too late. He wanted to be hopeful, but he had a sick feeling in his stomach saying otherwise.

Luckily, traffic wasn't terrible and the cabbie really wanted the extra money, so they made it to Emmett's fairly quickly. Though not before Scotland yard and the ambulance.

Sherlock threw several notes at the driver and jumped out, followed closely by John. No personnel were outside by the cars, so the two of them ran inside and John collided with Sherlock who stopped suddenly just inside the door.

John stepped around him and gasped. A few paramedics were surrounding Emmett who was laying on the floor. It looked as though they just stopped treating him, but instead of readying him for travel, they slowly packed away medical supplies as if they had all the time in the world. Which meant-

"Fuck. Fuck."

He looked at Sherlock, but Sherlock's face was an unreadable mask besides the slight downturn of his mouth. He didn't know what to do and distractedly noticed his hand was grasping the elbow of Sherlock's coat.

Emmett was dead.

Chapter Text

Lestrade must have noticed them in the doorway because he appeared in front of John, blocking his view of Emmett. His eyes held sympathy and frustration both. He opened his mouth and Sherlock cut him off.

"Where is Eleanor."

"Who?"

"The baby, where is she?" 

Sherlock didn't wait for a response and headed to the bedroom only to find her cot empty. His eyes scanned the room, and he noticed that the nappy bag was missing too. Promising. A killer wouldn't take supplies if they planned on just killing the baby. Ransom maybe? Leverage? Not important. He failed Emmett. He didn't investigate hard enough he didn't...He didn't.

His fists which were clenched tightly around the rim of the cot began hurting, his tendons were strained. He clenched harder and closed his eyes.

When Sherlock didn't appear again, John made his way to the bedroom too. There he saw Sherlock standing over the cot, defeated. He walked over carefully as if approaching a wild animal.

"Sherlock."

Sherlock shook his head but stayed silent.

John noticed how tightly he was holding onto the bar, so he walked close enough to touch and placed his hand over the top of Sherlock's. 

"She's out there, yeah?" He wrapped his other hand underneath the bar, successfully cocooning Sherlock's fist in his. "So she needs you. Come on."

It took a minute, but eventually, the hand under John's loosened and let John's pull it away from the bar. Once both hands were released, Sherlock's breath hitched at the pain of blood flow returning to overstrained tendons and muscle.

John gently massaged each hand until the color had fully returned, then looked up into Sherlock's face. It was rather close due to their position. Sherlock's eyes held so many hidden feelings, but now really wasn't the time to address them.

"Ready?"

Sherlock nodded once and the two made their way back to the main room. John stood off to the side where Lestrade was overseeing the investigation and tried examining the room without looking too closely at Emmett's body. No point in removing a person if they're already dead.

Beyond the body on the floor, it was apparent that a struggle had taken place. Lamps, books, and pillows were strewn about. The coffee table was also definitely knocked out of alignment with the sofa. Sherlock was combing the room for things Anderson's team would miss.

Lestrade cleared his throat. "I've already sent out an alert for a missing baby, aged 4 months. If she's dropped off at any hospital or orphanage in London, we'll be the first to know."

"3 months."

"Sorry?"

"She's not 4 months old yet."

The DI shifted his weight awkwardly. "Right. And we have our men placing the ones on that list back into custody."

"Good that's...good."

John started thinking that maybe he and Sherlock were too close to this case now. He wasn't stupid enough to suggest they go home before finding Eleanor but after that. Maybe.

Sherlock gracefully made his way back over, avoiding stepping on any 'evidence' the investigation team was photographing. "They struggled, obviously. He was prepared, paranoid, and tried to subdue the attacker. But somehow the killer got the upper hand. Maybe he was able to get his gun out. I don't know."

Lestrade didn't comment on the unfinished deduction. "We'll find him, we always do."

"I do."

Lestrade rolled his eyes, "Yeah yeah."

The walk back out was quiet, even the landlord was gone. It was probably for the best he wasn't here to witness the tragedy of his tenant. The ambulance was gone as well, the paramedics had left while Sherlock and John were in the bedroom.

Sherlock hailed a new cab and furiously texted Mycroft once they sat inside.

 

Check all security cameras near or along Greyson St and any place someone might drop off an unwanted infant. -SH

I'm not your personal butler. -M

Done. -M

 ~~~~~

Sherlock and John waited in Lestrade's office for him to come back and give the green light for another interrogation of Brown. During those few hours, John managed to coax a full cup of tea and a few crisps from a bag he got in the vending machine. He felt the success was due more to Sherlock being in another world than it was Sherlock actually conceding to the consumption of food.

Lestrade finally arrived, and to their surprise, already with the necessary paperwork. Sherlock could jump right in.

John settled in the observation room this time, along with Lestrade and Donovan. He felt no need to reign Sherlock in this time.

Inside the room, Sherlock slid a photo of Emmett and another of a baby, to Brown.

"We know there's two of you, who is the other murderer."

Brown's eyes widened at the picture, and still, he denied it. "It was just me."

Sherlock slammed a fist down on the table and levelled his face with the man. "Stop it just stop lying. We don't have time for this. Your partner just killed the next person on the list, the one single father with a baby remember?"

"I- I- yes I remember." He swallowed.

"Because of you and your lack of divulgence, this innocent infant is without parents, lost to a faulty adoption system. Where she's likely to just end up right back with drug users, this time not recovered. If not already killed by your partner instead."

Brown looked as if he was about to cry. Pathetic. "I didn't mean to. Really, I swear, I wouldn't have gone after a family. I- Do you really think he'd kill a baby?"

"Absolutely. The baby would just slow him down, no reason to keep it." Sherlock's eyes were gray steel, imploring this man to give them something. Anything.

He stared hard at Brown, noting the distress and the guilt. He moved back when he saw the moment of decision in Brown's eyes.

"It's. He's gonna kill me if you catch him. He'll know."

"Nothing to fear, you'll have the utmost protection in London's finest prison."

Brown hesitated once more, then finally spoke. "He's my landlord."

Sherlock's mouth dropped open, forming an 'oh'. His head jerked up and stared into the one way mirror as if he could see the others behind it. He left the room and ran into John in the hallway, who grabbed his arms to steady them.

Lestrade ran down the hallway with Donovan. He called into his radio to send any nearby units to Brown's address, and the rest he voiced was lost as they reached the elevator and the doors closed.

"We're not going with them?" John asked.

Sherlock shook his head. "No point, he won't be there. He still has Eleanor, so he's likely wandering around somewhere."

"How could we miss this?"

"He was right in front of us John. I thought he was scared from the break in, but he was scared of us, he knows who we are." Sherlock clenched his fists once more, this time in his hair. "Stupid. Stupid. Slow."

"Hey." John moved his hands underneath Sherlock's, who let him. With both hands now carding gently through his curls, John said, "We're still going to get him. No one lost here. You're not slow."

"Emmett lost. And Eleanor."

"She won't." John used his captain voice, hoping it had some kind of effect on Sherlock.

It seemed to, as the man let himself breathe properly.

John slowly removed his hands, and Sherlock felt the loss as hard as he gripped the cot earlier. "Mycroft has people on relevant CCTV cams, we just have to wait for them to spot something."

"We're waiting at home. At least there we can rest."

They both knew they'd be unable to rest, but it was the principle of the thing that mattered.

Chapter Text

On the ride back, John could tell that Sherlock was losing himself to the recesses of his mind, no doubt beating up himself over this. His expression was unreadable, but tension was held in his body. Not that of a spring ready to uncoil, but the tension of a murderer waiting on a guilty verdict. Perhaps what he was feeling was exactly that. John knew Sherlock always blamed himself instead of the perps when an investigation failed. They hadn't had a case like this since Sherlock returned, but John suspected he might be more upset than any other case before the fall.

This was one of the negative ways the fall changed him. Now, Sherlock was too quick to feel like a burden or a failure. John needed to get him refocused, and after the murderer was caught...well then he'd find a way to help Sherlock deal with the guilt.

Once the cab pulled up to Baker Street, John paid quickly and followed Sherlock's slowed gait inside the flat.

Sherlock went straight for the couch and sat perched, with his knees pulled up and arms wrapped around them. His coat bunched out at the sides and his shoes were leaving marks from God knows what London detritus. Despite his overall muted affect, John could tell by the tapping of his fingers how impatient he was waiting on an update.

Tea, John decided, was needed. Tea was their unspoken communication for most things these days. Right now a fresh cup of Earl Grey with two sugars and a splash of milk would say, "Hey, we got this." John remained in the kitchen until the preparation was finished and then headed back to Sherlock.

Sherlock had only moved to rest his head face down on his knees, hands now gripped his curls. Something tugged in John's stomach at the sight. He walked over and sat down in front of Sherlock on the coffee table and pressed the warm cup against one of Sherlock's hands.

Some part of Sherlock must have been at least mildly interested in the tea because he slowly sat back upright and took it from John.

Their eyes met, and though nothing was said, John's gaze was like a momentary balm on the chaos in Sherlock's mind.

"Where's yours?"

"Hmm? Oh, I'm good." John wasn't thinking about himself right now.

Sherlock blew out a long breath over the tea, pretending that his sigh was just to cool it down. After taking a sip and deliberating he spoke.

"It's entirely possible he's keeping away from any visible CCTV cameras, he's proven himself smart enough so far."

John said, "Where would that leave him?"

Sherlock took another sip and scanned the files on monitored locations to find the holes. "Parks, the docks, most small residential areas."

"And where could he have gone in the span of three hours on that list?"

Sherlock said, "The radius is rather sizeable if we're talking about a straight line, but we're not. And with the amber alert going out on radios, any cabbie with half a brain would recognize him. Which concerns me now that I say it aloud. Perhaps the landlord will avoid getting in vehicles and because of the alert. There's no way he doesn't know. He was playing with us, going after someone else right when his partner was in custody. He's too confident."

John rubbed his forehead, "We don't even know his name."

"Lestrade does, and so does Mycroft. It wouldn't have taken long to check, but the name is unimportant to us now."

"Right, okay. So where does this put him? These factors."

Sherlock pulled out his phone and opened up Google maps. He typed in Brown's address and zoomed out. "There are far too many parks to be searched by foot." He glared at the device then turned the screen off.

They still just had to wait.

~~~~~

After two hours and no news, Sherlock had progressed to laying on the couch in a fetal position, still fully clothed including shoes. John couldn't bare just sitting around any longer. He felt worse about how Sherlock felt than he did about the killer still running about. He thought he should probably feel more guilty about that.

He spent the better part of the last hour trying to decide what he could do for Sherlock until a memory came back to him.

One of his closest relationships in the past had been with a commander of his in the army. Sholto. He'd been there for John after a mission went bad. John lost a 20-year-old, a kid really. He knew it wasn't his fault, the wounds were too deep and he didn't carry a hospital out in the field, but he felt responsible. Like a father almost.

Sholto had taken one look at John when they got back to the barracks and led him to the private shower in his own room. There, he washed John's body and hair. Sometimes the only thing a person needed was physical intimacy.

Sherlock and John weren't like that though. Not together in that sense. But John thought maybe running a bath would be a platonically acceptable alternative.

John went to the bathroom while rolling up his sleeves. There he turned the water on and plugged the drain. He thought about adding Sherlock's favorite bubble bath but decided against it because he wasn't sure if the smell would overload his senses right now. Better to be safe. He watched it fill for a minute then went back to where Sherlock was.

Sherlock opened one eye to peer at him, having heard his footsteps come back in. "You taking a bath?"

"No, you are."

Sherlock's brows furrowed and John chuckled. He pulled Sherlock to a sitting position and removed his socks and shoes for him. He could sense Sherlock staring at him, causing the back of his neck to burn. He felt embarrassed and that this was a bad idea, but there was nothing for it. He made it this far, he was a soldier, he would see it through.

John stood back up and took Sherlock's hand to pull him all the way up. Sherlock still looked confused. John rolled his eyes and took Sherlock's coat then led him to the bathroom by a hand on the small of his back.

"Strip and get in, but leave your pants on."

Sherlock just looked bewildered now.

"You trust me, yeah?"

Sherlock nodded.

"Then I expect you to be in that water when I get back."

John left him to go make another cup of tea. Sherlock probably didn't need another one, but it was an excuse to give him privacy to get in the tub.

By the time John got back, the tub was full and Sherlock was in it with his legs stretched out as much as they could in the short porcelain. John placed the cup on the ground near Sherlock's upper body and turned off the tap.

Any thoughts of keeping things platonic vanished at the sight of Sherlock's exposed skin. His long limbs were pale and begged to be cherished, kissed. He wondered if they ever had been. He thought Sherlock deserved someone who would who would frame every inch of Sherlock's body in care and protection. Far too much pain had been dealt to this body, physically and emotionally. John could see the edges of Sherlock's back scars curving over the tops of his shoulders. As garish as they were in deepness, and redness on some, he knew the pain inflicted on his mind from the torture was far worse.

He didn't want to stare too long, afraid Sherlock would notice, though he seemed to have fallen back into that dark place again. John kneeled next to him and cupped water in his hands then let dumped it on Sherlock's curls. When Sherlock didn't object, he repeated the process until they were properly soaked. Next, he reached for Sherlock's expensive shampoo and popped the lid, secretly taking a whiff of the light lemon scent. John poured a generous amount into one hand and put the bottle down, then reached for Sherlock's hair and started massaging it in.

Sherlock exhaled a shaky breath and dropped his shoulders. The gentle massage through his scalp, which was always rather sensitive, became a new focal point. It worked effortlessly as a buoy to keep him from drifting too far out to sea.

John smiled when he felt Sherlock begin pressing into his hands, seeking more contact. With that, any leftover anxiety over this act was erased.

Once Sherlock's hair was more than shampooed, John repeated the process of dropping handfuls of water on his head to rinse it out. Thank god there was still conditioner to do, John was far from ready to stop running his hands through Sherlock's hair after being granted this opportunity.

Sherlock hummed while he was rubbing in the conditioner. John had never seen him so relaxed. Scratch that, he'd seen him more relaxed one other time, which was when he woke up cradled in John's arms. Please god, let that happen again. And again.

All too soon Sherlock was clean on the only part that could kind of pass as platonic. John didn't even think about attempting to clean his body, that was a step too far. Even for them, right now, at that moment.

He wiped his hands dry on a nearby towel and took a moment to stare at Sherlock's face. What was originally tensed in tightly hidden pain, was now smoothed out and serene. He tried committing it to memory as best as he could, though he had no mind palace.

Finally, he sighed and got up to leave.

Sherlock's eyes shot open in panic. John couldn't leave him now, the thought alone was terrifying. He reached a delicate balance of peace with guilt bubbling just under the surface, and if John left it would destroy the surface tension and plunge him back down.

"John."

John froze at the poorly contained panic in Sherlock's voice. He turned to face him. "Yes?"

"Stay?"

Sherlock's eyes were imploring, and even if they had been closed there was no way John would leave him after he asked. It was a wonder he'd even asked at all. To voice his insecurity so readily...John would never.

"Of course."

John came back in and shut the door behind him softly. He sat down next to the tub with his legs stretched out. His leg would surely ache later, but it was worth it.

Sherlock visibly relaxed and his heart rate climbed back down. With one last boost of courage, he lifted a hand out of the water and rested it on the edge of the tub and closed his eyes.

John looked at the hand and understood the delicate gesture for what it was. He would not leave Sherlock despondent. John placed his own hand firmly on top and gave it a squeeze. The last thing he saw before he closed his own eyes to settle in, was the tiny upturn of the corners of Sherlock's mouth.

Chapter Text

After the bath, Sherlock was back to his senses enough to stand at the window and wreak a cacophonous symphony out of his violin. As much as it grated on his ears, John couldn't agree with the sentiment more. The sun had set and London grew dark and the baby was still out there. John knew logically that even if the baby was abandoned somewhere without formula, she would survive for a while yet as long as she was bundled up. The thought was still painful though.

John ordered Sherlock's favorite takeaway to try convincing him to eat anything, but it was a lost cause. No amount of prodding or cajoling could pull Sherlock from his violin right now. He ate alone, sat in his red seat, so he could still watch Sherlock. It almost scared him how much he cared for the other man. Almost. He just had to remind himself how much Sherlock cared for him in return. They both killed and sacrificed for the other. It probably wasn't healthy, but John didn't care. He needed Sherlock as much as he needed to breathe.

Sherlock continued scratching at his violin, oblivious to John's thoughts, until the shrill sound of his phone ringing echoed through the flat. He tossed the bow on the couch and tore the mobile out of his jacket pocket, and turned to face John as he answered on speakerphone.

"Mycroft."

"An infant was dropped off at Princess Royal University Hospital approximately ten minutes ago."

"Is she harmed?"

"No, and before you ask, yes I have men getting in position at the nearest stations and airport."

Sherlock blew a long breath out, not particularly caring at the moment if Mycroft picked up on his relief. "How are we picking her up?"

"Sherlock, she's to go into foster-"

"No."

A few beats, and then, "Very well. I'll send a car to transport you two."

Sherlock hung up without waiting for a goodbye or wasting his time on a thank you.

John was relieved as well, though his was written all over his face. "Where is that?"

Sherlock went to retrieve his coat and scarf and John followed. "Outside London, anywhere from one to two hours. Closer to one at this time and with Mycroft's driver."

"Okay." John walked behind Sherlock and stopped next to him on the pavement outside. "You don't think he'd be stupid enough to try leaving the country do you?"

"No, he wouldn't right now. I suspect he's going to lay low in a cheap hotel for a few days if he has enough cash. He wouldn't use a card because we can trace that."

"We've got him cornered."

"Yes, but that makes him dangerous, desperate."

John bumped Sherlock's shoulder with his, "We'll be fine as long as you don't run off without me you git."

Sherlock leaned into John but kept contact instead of just bumping back. "I promised."

They stared at each other, and John's urge to clear his throat to break the moment was already taken by a black car pulling up to the curb. The two of them got in and road all the way to the hospital in silence. John wasn't sure if it was actually tense or if he was still thinking about the look on Sherlock's face. Either way, the ride felt much longer than the hour and fifteen minutes it actually was.

 ~~~~~

Much to Sherlock and John's surprise, Lestrade was chatting with the receptionist at the hospital when they got there.

"What are you doing here?"

Lestrade turned around. "Always a pleasure, Sherlock."

"How did you get here faster than us?"

"Sirens, mate. Anyway, you didn't think you could just walk out of here with a baby that has an amber alert did you?"

Sherlock huffed. "No." Yes.

Lestrade motioned to a clipboard on the desk in front of him. "Just sign this and you all are set. I filled out the rest while I was waiting."

Sherlock grabbed a pen from his pocket and read over the contents of the paperwork. It was a temporary custody forming which allowed the police to sign Eleanor over into the care of one Sherlock Holmes until Zachary Evans was in a prison cell. Seeing the name written made Sherlock's blood boil. He wondered if he would have been better off never learning it. He made a mental note to delete it as soon as the case was closed. He read through the rest of it and signed his name at the bottom with more force than necessary.

Lestrade took the clipboard and ripped off the top sheet and handed the bottom carbon copy to the receptionist for hospital records.

The receptionist thanked both of them and made a call to the maternity ward for Eleanor to be brought down. They knew the nurse who was holding her was close when the agonized wails of a baby drew nearer.

Sherlock flinched at the noise, though luckily no one saw because they were all looking at the double doors expectantly.

As soon as the doors opened, Sherlock expected himself to stride over and take the baby girl out of the nurse's arms, but instead, he hesitated. This infant was now an orphan, because of him. She would hate him. She couldn't cognitively recognize what he'd done at this age, but he felt irrationally that she must know.

The baby peered at John and then zeroed in on Sherlock when they were within seeing distance. She shrieked and reached a hand toward him. John noticed Sherlock's unwillingness to meet her, so he placed his hand on the small of his back and pushed forward steadily. It worked, and Sherlock finally moved and reached out for the baby as well.

The nurse handed over Eleanor gently, waiting for Sherlock to get a supportive grip. Sherlock cradled her in his arms and leaned his face down when she still reached her tiny hands up. The fists latched onto Sherlock's curls as soon as they were close enough and her cries quieted down to the occasional whimper. Sherlock shushed her then whispered low enough that no one could hear, "I'm sorry."

Sherlock didn't know how long he was staring into the blue eyes and keeping up a constant 'shhh' but, it was long enough for Lestrade and the nurse to leave. He looked up only when he felt a hand at his shoulder and found John standing with Eleanor's nappy bag in tow and a soft, solemn look on his face.

"Let's go home."

The two of them left the hospital and reentered the car that brought them there as if they were new parents. And in a way, they were.

 ~~~~~

It was past eleven when they finally crossed the threshold of Baker Street again. They were ready to tumble immediately into bed, which brought up a big problem.

"We don't have a cot for Eleanor," John whispered. She was fast asleep in Sherlock's arms with a full belly from a bottle of formula on the car ride back.

Sherlock thought for a minute and came up with a solution. "Come."

John followed him to Sherlock's room and watch him gently lay the baby on his bed. "Get her into pyjamas while I make the cot."

John did as instructed, curious to know what Sherlock would do. Luckily, the nappy bag contained spare nappies and a change of clothes along with formula and bottles. The outfit he pulled out was a soft pink onesie, and it wasn't difficult to change the girl, as she was sleeping due to the lack of wriggling.

Meanwhile, Sherlock emptied the bottom drawer of his dresser and lined it with a quilt that was folded on a chair in the corner of his room. The quilt was big enough and drawer small enough that it could line the whole thing while also being folded over a couple times for a makeshift mattress pad. Then he left the room and came back in with the plaid fleece blanket that usually rested over John's chair in the living room. He motioned for John to move the baby into the drawer and Sherlock laid the blanket over top of her loosely.

As sweet as it was, the doctor in John spoke up. "Perfect makeshift cot, but we need to swaddle her in the blanket like this." The job he did made it so Eleanor's arms were tucked in and she was surrounded by the warm embrace of the fabric. "She could suffocate on the loose blanket, and she's not rolling around yet so she'll be safe like this."

John stood up and caught the terrified look on Sherlock's face. His stomach dropped and he took Sherlock's hand. "No Sherlock you didn't do anything wrong. I only know because I'm a doctor and teach some patient's about SIDS."

Sherlock covered his face with his free hand. "That's the problem, John. I didn't know. I killed her father, it's only fitting I accidentally do the same to her."

John's heart absolutely broke. He turned Sherlock to face him and cupped his face in his hands. "Stop it. That wasn't your fault and neither would this be. But no harm is coming to her, we're both here for her. You can research all about babies tomorrow, but you're doing your best right now and that's enough. Please, don't do this to yourself." I love you.

Sherlock got his breathing back under control by matching it with the steady, slow blinks of John. He couldn't tell John that he stopped believing he was at fault, but he would try. "Sleep in here tonight."

John relaxed and removed his hands from Sherlock's face, ignoring the cold that replaced it. "Of course."

As he left to go upstairs and change, he heard Sherlock say, "Only because there are no baby monitors and I'm not getting up every time she cries."

"Of course." He replied, smiling to himself. He was starting to believe there was a specific reason Sherlock was doing these things. These little touches, the bed sharing. He started suspecting that maybe his reason was the same one John had for agreeing with it.

The two of them settled into bed comfortably, on opposite ends. Though one hand from each breached the empty space in the middle and lay next to each other. Not touching, but close.

Chapter Text

A whimper woke John later, five hours according to his phone, and he quietly but swiftly made his way out of bed so as not to disturb Sherlock. He tiptoed to the dresser and kneeled down, making soft cooing noises so Eleanor would know someone was there. He picked her up and cradled her in one hand so the other could grab the nappy bag on his way out of the room.

Once in the living room, he flicked on a lamp and sniffed the baby's nappy. It was due for a change, but she was also probably hungry.

First, John fetched a towel from a rack in the bathroom, laid on the ground, and rested Eleanor on top, giving her forehead a kiss as he let go. He made a quick stop in the kitchen to microwave some water, and while it was heating he went back into the living room and prepared to change the girl.

He unswaddled the now restless baby and made quick work of the nappy, and set the dirty one aside for now. They would need a proper rubbish bin for them, otherwise, they just had the regular bin which contained no odor eliminating properties. The thought stalled John for a second, who then wondered why they never had one in the first place. He constantly had to take out the trash when it was barely full due to Sherlock's disposed of organic matter and noxious substances. It was a chemistry professor's worst nightmare.

Eleanor's patience ran out and she emitted a series of vowels until John shushed her and picked her up.

"Let's get you some formula, hm?"

The process was tricky, as John had only one arm free. His babysitting knowledge from youth came in handy, so he was able to mix a bottle and heat it in the water without too much hassle. Once completed, he settled onto the couch and fed the little girl. He finished the whole task by gently burping and returning her to the drawer-cot.

Thankfully, she was sleepy from the bottle and went straight to sleep. John thanked whoever was out there and climbed back into bed on top of the covers. He was too tired for much more than that. He fell asleep quickly to the sound of his flatmate breathing deeply.

~~~~~

As with all babies, it wasn't long until she awoke once more. When her cries grew from whimpers to wails, John elbowed Sherlock in the nearest part of his body he could reach. He met his mark if Sherlock's responding gasp was anything to go by.

"Your turn, git."

Sherlock sighed but did get out of bed. He stood up and stretched while peering at John.

The blonde was curled up and uncovered by the blankets. That wouldn't do. Sherlock took his half of the duvet and threw it over John. He would be nice, but he wasn't going to be polite about it.

Then, he finally walked over to the dresser and picked up little Eleanor. He waited until they were in the living room to begin soothing her because he'd rather die than admit to anyone he participated in that incessant baby talk adults always do.

"Shhh, no reason to fret. I'll be feeding you as soon as google tells me how to make formula."

The time it took for Eleanor to be satisfied was longer, and overall the two of them had a much rougher morning than John had in the middle of the night. It made Sherlock tense with perceived incompetence.

He felt mildly better once everything was complete and the baby was happily snuggling into the crook of his arm. But he had research to do.

With one hand, he cradled the baby. With the other, he browsed a multitude of websites including new mother forums and milestone blogs. He'd ordered a few books that weren't available to read online and expected their delivery in the next 24 hours.

A text from Mycroft interrupted his research.

If you are going to use my money to purchase books, I advise you not to spend it on material that will only be useful for a few days. -M

Returns exist. -SH

It's amusing you think I would believe for a second that you would take the time to return anything. -M

Piss off. -SH

Sherlock scowled at the reminder of Eleanor's imminent departure. What did that matter? He still needed to do his best, especially after all he hasn't done for her.

"You're lucky you're an only child."

"Ah," she responded.

~~~~~

Ensconced on the couch doing research is how John found them hours later when he finally woke for the day. He definitely caught the tail end of what sounded like Sherlock speaking to her about an old case.

"Hungry?" He called from the kitchen.

"Never."

John smiled to himself, "Eggs on toast then." One day, he thought, Sherlock would admit he had an appetite.

He made breakfast quickly and once the two of them finished eating, he cleared his throat. "We need to make a list of essentials to get for Eleanor today."

"No need for us to go anywhere. Mycroft's lackeys will do it."

John knew if Mycroft really couldn't afford to spare the manpower than he would say something. So he didn't argue the matter and brought out a pen and paper from the table in the living room. "We need a bottle warmer, cot, more clothes, nappies, wipes, and dummies. Anything else you can think of?"

Well, Sherlock thought, he forgot the baby monitor but that's not important. "No, besides what's already in her bag, she hasn't reached the developmental age for more items."

"I see you've done research then."

Sherlock looked down at the cooing baby in his lap, "Obviously."

Unspoken between them was Sherlock's fear from last night. John thought he knew how to distract him. "Send a picture of this list to Mycroft and then you can continue your spreadsheet from when Emmett was here."

Sherlock perked up at the new possibilities. "Excellent idea John, I already have five different studies to conduct."

John warmed at the praise and took the baby Sherlock handed to him. He looked at the dishes at the table witheringly and accepted that he'd have to clean them later.

"John," Sherlock called from the living room. 

"I'm coming," and to Eleanor, "he's going to tire us out."

Eleanor smacked a hand against his chest, and John laughed before joining Sherlock in the other room.

~~~~~

Sometime later, a couple men arrived at Baker Street to drop off a few bags and one box of supplies. They left discreetly without a word, though John did thank them. 

The baby was down for her nap, so Sherlock and John were able to open everything and organize unimpeded. They didn't talk much during the work, but at one point John held up a yellow striped onesie with a cartoon bee in the front. Sherlock feigned nonchalance and John raised an eyebrow. Sherlock got up and moved the now constructed cot to the bedroom so John couldn't see the blush now staining his cheeks.

When all was done, the two realized how much they were relying on busywork today. In its absence, there was nothing they could contribute to the case. They both trusted it in Mycroft's hands, but this left Sherlock bereft and with only his thoughts to occupy himself.

While John made tea, he covertly watched Sherlock pace around the room and pause once in a while in front of the case wall. John wracked his brain to think of any distractions when the blessed (for once) sound of a baby crying came from the other room.

"I'll get the bottle ready if you fetch her?"

Sherlock was already halfway down the hall, "She's not an object John."

John rolled his eyes, it was just a verb. Interesting though, that Sherlock treated her with such...care? Of course, he knew Sherlock would never treat a baby as if they were an object, but he never imagined Sherlock would have no reservations about it either. He thought Sherlock would take to it like a dog person takes to cat sitting, reluctantly and with the motivation of reward. It was sweet and made John think Sherlock may actually want to be a father one day. He'd have to ask him about it later. The thought also pooled acid in his stomach. What person would Sherlock leave Baker Street for? The "body is just transport" and "married to my work" facade was shit. But Sherlock didn't seem to have an interest in dating, to his knowledge. It's possible, he supposed, that Sherlock went on dates while John was at work. The thought rancoured.

"John."

"Hmm? Oh, the milk." He'd completely forgotten, stuck as he was in his thoughts.

Sherlock shifted Eleanor to his other arm and spoke to her. "I'm beginning to wonder if the books are wrong about when attention span increases. This man is forty times your age and still forgot what he was doing."

John swatted at Sherlock who smoothly stepped out of range. "Arse."

Sherlock clucked his tongue. "Shush her brain is like a sponge."

"She can't speak anything yet!" John laughed.

"Well you don't want that to be her first word do you?"

Eleanor let out a short yell.

John handed Sherlock the now heated bottle, "I think that means yes actually. Though I doubt she'll remember anything we said when she actually is old enough to say her first word."

Sherlock travelled to his leather chair and held Eleanor at an angle, along with the bottle at the perfect angle he memorized from that first time John instructed him. She quickly latched onto the teat and began sucking.

"And when would that be?"

John came over to watch and sat in his own chair. "When she turns one."

Sherlock's eyes bulged, "One? Why does it take them so long?"

"Their brain needs to develop more, it's just how it is." He found his quite amusing.

"I'm fairly certain my first word was earlier than that."

"I'm fairly certain it wasn't."

Sherlock raised his chin, "Well I'm a genius, so obviously my brain developed faster than most."

John raised his hands in surrender. "Alright alright, but probably not more than a month. Two at most."

Sherlock scoffed. "Ella, you're probably a genius too. You showed interest in texture in toys earlier than what the website said."

John froze, and his lack of response must have been noticeable because Sherlock stared at him.

"What?"

"You called her Ella."

Sherlock rolled his shoulders. "Yes."

"Why?"

He sighed, "Because she has a three syllable name and is it not common to shorten them when speaking?"

"It is just," he smiled. "Sherlock Holmes gave a baby a nickname."

Sherlock felt embarrassed. John was making entirely too much of a big deal about this. "This can't honestly surprise you, I have a skull named Billy."

"No you're right, it's just sweet is all." John stood up, stretched, and walked a couple feet to plant a kiss on Eleanor's forehead. It was, at the time, the only way to prevent himself from doing the same to Sherlock instead.

Sparks ran across Sherlock's spine from where John placed his hand for balance while he bent down and kissed Ella. He was thankful the conversation was over, as he would have been speechless.

"I'm going to check in with Lestrade," John said as he left the room. One part of his mind called him a coward and the other part yelled at the former and said this wasn't the time.

Chapter Text

Lestrade informed John they had officers going to every hotel within the designated radius of the hospital Eleanor was dropped off at. They provided each place with a picture and a description of the killer, but none of them had seen him yet. He was working alongside Mycroft, and both agreed that it was highly likely their man found somewhere abandoned to squat in.

John wondered how long that would be feasible, and Lestrade responded it couldn't be long because the nights were dangerously cold.

"Our best hope is that he comes out and one of Mycroft's people spot him on CCTV. He's smart, but he knows he's trapped. It's only a matter of time before he gives up and turns himself in, or tries making a run for it."

John relayed the information to Sherlock who suggested they station people at any nearby location with a boat and access to the sea. Sherlock knew the only way the killer would come out of hiding is if he had a guaranteed method of travel, likely one posited to him by local homeless people part of a crime network.

John said, "That sounds a bit far fetched."

"No, wherever he's hiding he probably stumbled upon a network. Drugs are moved quietly all the time."

John conceded, as did Lestrade who positioned officers at the dockyards instead of the airport and train stations.

~~~~~

The rest of the day was spent establishing a routine with Eleanor, who was surprisingly regular in her food and changing needs. The two friends alternated duties, which wasn't a problem except for Sherlock's less than stellar ability to change soiled nappies.

John kept telling him, "The more you do it the better you'll get."

And Sherlock kept saying, "I shouldn't need practice. I know all of the logistics and have higher than average dexterity, there is no logical sense behind this being difficult."

John just smiled to himself and handed Sherlock more wipes.

The naps were a different monster, but Sherlock and John tried their best to convince her to sleep. Ella, it seemed, decided to ruin her sleep schedule after a relatively perfect first night over. They tried feeding her, changing an already clean nappy, giving toys, giving dummies, and rocking, all to no avail. Even the dummies were spat out onto the floor. John thanked his foresight to buy multiple to cycle through, so they didn't constantly have to wash the same one.

Finally, an idea formed in Sherlock's head. Whenever he heard John tossing around upstairs during a nightmare, he would play the violin to soothe him into better dreams. If it worked for John, why not this infant?

He instructed John to lay Ella into the small wooden cot which they had positioned in front of the foot of Sherlock's bed. John, too defeated by the incessant crying, did as asked without question.

A short minute later, Sherlock joined John in the bedroom with his violin and bow in hand. He stood near the bed and raised his arms to the proper position and began to play.

John sat down, entranced by the beautiful and almost haunting quality of the notes which were delicately pulled from the instrument. The piece was soft and airy, with a simple melody that lulled one into closing their eyes and taking deep breaths. It sounded like the gentleness a mother would have while kissing her baby, but in audible form.

Eleanor cries grew quieter and eventually ceded entirely. She couldn't keep her eyes open and yawned a final time before letting sleep pull her in.

Sherlock finished quietly and just watched the sleeping baby for a few moments.

John didn't want to break the delicate bubble they were in, but he had to know. "Did you write that?" he whispered.

Sherlock pointed his bow toward the doorway and the two moved to the living room. Here they could speak at a normal volume without waking the baby.

"No, I found it online."

"What's it called?"

Sherlock seemed hesitant to say, he avoided John's gaze. "Ella's Lullaby."

John beamed. Sherlock could be so thoughtful with the most trivial things. "So which came first, the nickname or the song?"

Sherlock crossed his arms, "It's possible I knew about the song before meeting Eleanor."

John mirrored his position. "I see."

"Shut up," Sherlock said and put his violin away before plopping onto the couch. "And order take away."

John chuckled at the man's antics. So his nibs finally admits hunger. John didn't point it out, it would only encourage a strop, and pulled out their favorite menus. After a whole day of baby rearing, he was definitely too worn out to cook something substantial.

~~~~~

It wasn't until John was ready for bed that he realized they never ordered a baby monitor. But this did mean he gets to sleep in Sherlock's bed again, so he pretended as if this piece of information never occurred to him. What was the harm?

Sherlock was very aware of the fact that they had no baby monitor and more aware of the fact that John remembered and still didn't mention anything. Perhaps John felt more rested when they slept together too? Sherlock had fewer nightmares and actually slept almost a full eight hours, which was unheard of for him. All those articles about the merits of physical bonding being healthy and rejuvenating were correct. He could almost feel the oxytocin cycle through his brain when he woke up the last few mornings.

He spent the night before tracking John's sleeping pattern and knew John should enter the REM stage after about an hour and a half after falling asleep. Once in that stage, Sherlock would move closer to him. Not touching, but close enough that John would feel his body heat and hopefully subconsciously react to it and move forward to wrap his arms around Sherlock. Sherlock reasoned it wasn't taking advantage because he wasn't the one initiating contact.

So that's where Sherlock found himself. He laid on his side facing John and watched the slow movement of John's chest. John kept going to bed in pants and a t-shirt, which made Sherlock wonder how it was supposed to be possible for him to not stare at the exposed thigh muscles. On top of that, the boxer brief style only confirmed what Sherlock deduced about John's size based on his gait.

Sherlock's musing was interrupted by a furrowed brow forming on John's face. His face grew pinched in confusion as his eyes moved under his lids. Sherlock felt the urge to smooth a finger across the little wrinkle but refrained from doing so. Instead, he turned onto his other side and scooched backwards until John's chest was almost pressed against his back.

It wasn't long before John's body sensed his and John threw an arm around the source of heat. John shuffled closer and sighed into Sherlock's neck.

Sherlock's breath hitched at the feeling of John's warm breath against the nape of his neck. Though his breathing was unsteady at first, he matched it to the movement of John's chest against him. His heart ached for this to be normal, for it not to be born out of circumstance these lucky few times.

~~~~~

Around three in the morning, Sherlock's phone went off and woke all three of 221b's residents. Eleanor gave a startled cry at the rude awakening, and both John and Sherlock sat upright.

John was mostly startled by their positions before moving. He must have curled against Sherlock in the night and his body still radiated with lingering warmth.

Sherlock got out of bed quickly and tripped when he pulled the duvet halfway off the bed due to its being wrapped around one of his legs. He pointed toward the cot with one hand and answered his phone with the other.

John finally moved into action and picked up Eleanor, rocking her so she would calm down.

"Where was he?" Sherlock asked.

The phone wasn't on speaker mode so John was unable to hear, presumably Lestrade, respond.

"Don't be an idiot...I need to speak with him," and through gritted teeth, "Fine." He hung up and threw the phone onto the bed then mussed his hair in frustration.

While Sherlock's back was turned, John spotted a small patch of drool on his shirt collar where John's face must have been resting. He walked over and poked it with the hand that wasn't supporting Ella before realizing what he was doing.

Sherlock whipped around with a question in his eyes.

"There was a bit of drool, sorry."

"Oh." Sherlock's face heated, but thankfully John couldn't see due to the dark room. He cleared his throat, "Lestrade's officers arrested him just now. He won't let us go down and see him until morning, and even then I'm not allowed to interrogate him."

John came closer to him and transferred the baby into Sherlock's arms. "As much as I want you to interrogate him so you can get a few punches in, I have to agree because I don't have the money to bail you out."

Sherlock huffed.

"What matters is that he's caught. You did that. He would never have stopped killing."

Sherlock looked down at Ella and gently ran one of his hands through the short smattering of brown hair on her head. "It was both of us, John. Do start realizing how much you contribute to the work."

Sherlock missed the soft smile John had for him.

Ella interrupted with a cry.

"Hmm, sounds like the 'my nappy needs a change' cry."

Sherlock grimaced, "Hop to it."

John laughed, "Oh no, we're doing it together. Come on."

Sherlock rolled his eyes but followed.

Chapter Text

Once Ella's needs were met, John went back to sleep with her while Sherlock stayed up doing God knows what to work off his impatient energy. John wondered if maybe not all of Sherlock's frustration was caused by being unable to confront the killer, and was perhaps also partially caused by the sudden imminent departure of Eleanor.

Sherlock was observably attached to the little girl, and more than a bit intrigued by her. He could only hope Sherlock didn't grow too emotionally attached. A voice that sounded suspiciously like Mycroft's whispered the word "Redbeard" in his ear.

John sighed. It would just be another thing the two got through.

~~~~~

Sherlock kept himself busy the rest of the night. He played through no less than ten different scenarios involving his confrontation with [name deleted].

His favorite consisted of the two of them, a locked room, and no surveillance. 

Sherlock knew how difficult the journey of sobriety was and still continues to be. All of the victims were just past one of the hardest parts. His worst cravings occurred just out of rehab, and he's certain these victims, like himself, were doing their best. Only to have their hard work cut off so cruelly from a couple uninformed and vicious morons. It made him sick.

Not to mention the families and friends of all the victims. Eleanor in particular. At least the others didn't have a whole human depending on them for everything.

And now she would be handed off to some parents who may or may not be good people. Most people weren't to be trusted in his experience. The thought of Eleanor going off to some random people filled his gut with nausea.

Emmett trusted him. He failed majorly in one respect, the only thing he could do left is to make sure Ella was okay. More than okay.

How quickly the little one captured his heart with deep blue eyes that looked at him as if he could do no wrong. Like she was already doing her damndest to learn about the world.

He made a mistake in letting himself get involved. It always ended up hurting him in the end.

Mixing random kitchen chemicals didn't help ease his anticipation or any of the many thoughts rocketing around his brain. So Sherlock was relieved when John finally woke up and came into the room with Eleanor wrapped in the plaid blanket.

"She'll need to come with us to the station."

Sherlock hummed in acknowledgement (Mrs. Hudson was still visiting her sister) and retrieved an outfit for her that was purple and covered in little daisies. 

~~~~~

Between the two of them, they managed to get Eleanor totally dressed including a coat and hat, and inside a baby carrier which Sherlock insisted was strapped to himself. He preferred it over the idea of the pram. This way Ella would receive his body heat and stay warmer.

At Scotland Yard, the trio garnered many double takes. Donovan would never believe in a million years that she would one day see Sherlock Holmes walking around with a human baby strapped to his chest, looking for all the world like it belonged there. Sherlock strode through the halls with a sense of grace and both hands placed on the carrier in an act of support that wasn't actually needed. There were definitely pictures covertly (not really) taken.

Lestrade did a double take as well when Sherlock and John entered his office. He frowned but didn't verbally comment on it. "You can view the interrogation, but that's it. You won't even be allowed in the halls while he's being transported."

Sherlock scoffed. "You know what I think about this decision."

The silver-haired man tried to placate him. "You're too close to this one, sorry mate."

Sherlock bit his lip, frustrated. But he knew, however begrudgingly, that Lestrade was right.

The small group made their way to interrogation room B where Donovan was already set up at a table with a clipboard for writing down the killer's confession. She eyed the baby skeptically and said, "If she cries, you're out."

Sherlock double checked that Ella was still contentedly sucking on a dummy, "She won't."

Sherlock and John positioned themselves on the far wall and waited for the interrogation to begin.

It only took a minute for Lestrade to escort the killer into the adjoining room. The man looked as unassuming as he had when John spoke to him the day of the search warrant, dressed in a cardigan and loafers with no sense of urgency about him.

John sensed Sherlock stiffen beside him, so he leaned over until their shoulders were pressed together.

Lestrade's aim was to be calm and conversational. This man held no remorse for his victims, knew there was no escaping, and knew there were piles of evidence stacked against him. He would likely confess with little prompting. Some knew when they were beaten.

The DI crossed his hands over the top of the case's file folder and leaned back in his chair, shoulders purposefully relaxed. "You've denied the presence of an attorney and affirmed that you know your rights. Please state your name to proceed."

The man smirked slightly, "Zachary Evans."

"You worked as a landlord, and your only tenant is Logan Brown, correct?"

"That is correct."

"Mr. Brown named you as an accomplice in the stalking of six victims, and sole perpetrator in the murder of all six. Is he lying?"

Evans rolled his eyes, "He refused to even be on scene during the killing. He just passed along information to me. His spineless arse missed out on the good stuff."

Lestrade readjusted in his seat by crossing his legs the opposite way. "So you admit to killing all six?"

Evans smiled, "Yes."

"How did you do it?"

"I watched them, studied their routine for a couple weeks. The easiest ones always left their flats at a certain time, and from there it was simple to choose an alley and wait until they passed by." He looked thoughtful for a moment, "They come so willingly when you have a gun on them. Totally silent and compliant. The gun was never loaded, all they had to do was run away or scream for help."

Sherlock moved his hands away from Eleanor, he didn't want to accidentally harm her with his clenched fists.

"One of them did fight actually. He was manic, I think trying to protect his baby from me. As if I was the one hurting it. Stopped throwing punches real quick when I managed to get a hold of the gun again. Then I injected him and took off."

"Taking the baby and killing so soon after a suspect was in custody was a bit of a beginner's mistake."

"Yeah," he rolled his shoulders. "I thought I could pull that off. I think that's the same problem Mr. Holmes has, thinking we're cleverer than we are."

Lestrade's brows furrowed, "What do you mean?"

"He and his boyfriend gave me a little visit before your department searched Logan's flat."

Donovan turned around and glared at the man in question, "Seriously?"

Sherlock shrugged.

Evans continued, "They both talked to me, and Mr. Holmes had more than enough time to 'deduce' me. He discounted everything he saw because it wasn't clever enough. He wanted to find a supervillain so he missed what was literally standing in front of him."

Lestrade was obviously caught off guard, though he should have guessed Sherlock dragged John to a breaking and entering sooner. "This is irrelevant to your confession. What I need to know is your motivation."

"I'm sure you heard it from Logan. We bonded over our philosophy of addicts. They're a drain on society, they should be left to die, not treated. There's no treatment for that, they will always start using again and hurt other people."

"You say that as if you're speaking in the general sense, but we both know that's not entirely true. If your only motivation was societal and moral based, then you know this crime was pointless. You know it won't send a message and you know six people is nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is personal."

Sherlock observed a flash of contempt on Evans' face, one corner of his mouth raised. It seems Lestrade had something hidden that Evans never expected to be brought up.

Lestrade opened the folder in front of him and pulled out an old case. One written up for a car collision a couple decades ago. "You were in a car crash with your wife and kid, hit by someone high on heroin."

The killer's fists clenched, but he tried to remain otherwise unaffected.

"You let your hatred fester, and never got over it. What would they think if they saw you now? Taking others' lives, making someone else's child an orphan?"

Hands slammed on the metal table along with the metallic clank of the cuffs. He spoke with quiet conviction, "They all deserved to die. They would have hurt other people."

Lestrade stood up and closed the file. "No Mr. Evans, they wouldn't have. Congratulations, you won't be leaving prison." He left the room and motioned for the guarding officer to escort the killer back to a holding cell.

Sherlock was silent and stared at the one-way mirror with a hard look.

Donovan finished up her notes and clicked the pen closed. She was supposed to make sure the consulting detective left the room and returned to Lestrade's office, but John shook his head at her once. She looked between him and Sherlock and decided against an argument, and left them alone.

Once she was gone, John moved in front of Sherlock and placed one hand over a clenched fist and the other against the side of Sherlock's stony face.

"Okay?"

Sherlock met his gaze but didn't say anything. He didn't want to lie to John (who would see right through it anyway), but he couldn't bring himself to admit that he wasn't okay either.

John understood, as he usually does when it comes to Sherlock's unspoken language. "Lestrade can call us about the debriefing later, let's go home." He took Sherlock by the sleeve and pulled him out the door. John texted a short explanation to Lestrade one-handed as they made their way out of Scotland Yard.

Sherlock was in that scarily pliant state he gets when he was too inside his head, following John and not registering where they were going.

John's phone vibrated and his heart dropped when he read the message from Lestrade.

Hold up, you have to grab the baby's medical papers and birth certificate. I wrote the address of the adoption center on a sticky note on the front. I already broke protocol enough for you two to watch her, she has to be dropped off today.

John groaned.

Sherlock looked at him in askance and John told him to wait on the pavement. It took around five minutes to come back outside, file in hand, where he found Sherlock speaking softly to Eleanor and bouncing slightly on his feet to soothe her. Honestly, he would chuck the files in the nearest puddle and just go home with Sherlock if he could. But he couldn't. So instead he steeled himself.

"Sherlock." He waited until Sherlock looked at him, then held up the file.

Sherlock easily deduced what they were and his face morphed into one of loss. He tamped it down quickly, but John already saw it.

The drop off at the adoption center was...distressing to say the least. It only took a few minutes, but it was enough. John kissed Ella goodbye while she was enveloped in Sherlock's arms. And Sherlock kissed her goodbye as well, but haltingly handed her over to the awaiting worker.

Eleanor immediately disliked being handed off to a stranger and began wailing in earnest. She reached her hands out to Sherlock and looked utterly betrayed. The worker tried soothing her to no avail and left the room quickly, baby crying growing fainter as the door closed behind her.

If it broke John's heart, he couldn't imagine how much worse it was for Sherlock.

The receptionist assured them that Eleanor wouldn't be in foster care very long, as there were many couples looking to adopt infants. It wasn't reassuring.

John signed off on the remaining paperwork and the two left the building.

Acid churned in Sherlock's stomach the entire ride to Baker Street. Ella's terrified cries echoed around the halls of his mind palace, so he couldn't even retreat to there. How was he to protect her now? She was alone, without connection to the remaining few people she trusted. He knew logically she would gain trust of whatever insipid adults she was placed with, but how could Sherlock know that for sure? There was always a possibility that she would be placed with a family that didn't treat her with the care and attention she needed.

Different horror scenarios played out in his head uninvited.

Ella growing up in an abusive home with parents that hit and screamed.

Growing up in a home with many kids, all older, and the parents never paid her attention. She received a good grade in school and showed it to them, only to be waved away because 'I'm busy.'

Growing up in a home of anti-vaxxers, getting ill with something preventable and lethal.

Growing up in a ho-

Sherlock looked down at the hand John had wrapped around his own. John must have been able to tell how hard he was thinking. In reality, he was trying desperately hard to not think at all, but the intrusive thoughts wormed their way in.

In Baker Street, he tried removing his coat only to realize the baby carrier was still strapped to his body. It sent alarms off in his head and he needed it off now. Now. 

John saw him getting tangled in the straps and helped him remove it quickly. He also noted Sherlock's breathing had elevated to panting, and he was in serious danger of beginning to hyperventilate.

Sherlock through his coat and suit jacket on the ground. He was sweating and felt too hot all over, but at the same time, his body started shivering. He felt a weight pressing on his chest and he couldn't catch his breath but he really needed oxygen right now please because the nausea was getting worse and he'd like to stop it. He didn't know what he needed, but his mind screamed 'danger' and 'get out.' Disconnectedly he recognized it as a panic attack. Thank you brain, how helpful to name it, can you please stop it?

John was afraid to touch Sherlock, he wasn't sure if it would make his panic worse. He tried talking instead. "Sherlock I need you to listen to me. Can I touch you?"

Sherlock's eyes were closed tightly and one hand gripped his curls and pulled while the other was fisted in the front of his shirt over his heart. He tried focusing on John's voice, but there were so many things happening at once.

John moved closer and spoke again, calmly and softly. "Sherlock, can you take a breath in while I count? In one, two, three, four, five. Out one, two, three, four, five, six, seven." He kept the repetition going and eventually Sherlock must have heard him and tried following along because his breathing grew less rapid and his fists slowly relaxed. They did this for around five minutes before Sherlock abruptly looked panicked and fled to the bathroom.

John followed him and reached the bathroom in time to see Sherlock vomiting in the toilet. He thought Sherlock would be embarrassed so he backed out and tried closing the door.

"Stay."

John was surprised, but came back in and closed the door behind him before sitting on the tiled floor next to his friend. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Rub my back," he whispered hoarsely. Sherlock was already embarrassed by having the full attack in front of John, it wasn't too much worse to ask for this comfort. When John started rubbing his back, a sense memory came to his mind of the times when his mother would do this for him after a particularly bad day of school.

Sherlock retched a couple more times before wiping his mouth with toilet paper and flushing the contents. Exhausted, he leaned against the bathtub. He kept his eyes closed to avoid whatever expression was on John's face.

There were a few lingering tears on Sherlock's face that weren't wiped away, so John leaned forward and gently removed them with caring fingers. He ignored the hitch of Sherlock's breath and said, "Let's go take a nap."

Sherlock nodded and John helped pull him up off the floor. John fetched him a glass of water while he brushed his teeth and the two met up in the hallway. Sherlock looked at his room where the cot was in view from their position.

Wordlessly John went to the stairs in direction of his own bedroom, and Sherlock followed.

They'd never slept in John's room together, but their combined exhaustion didn't leave room for awkwardness as they settled under the covers. They were only apart for a few moments before John curled up around Sherlock's back, effectively spooning him. Sherlock needed the comfort of physical touch right now, he argued. And if John could benefit from the comfort too, well, no one would know.

Chapter Text

It was still morning when they got in bed, so John could only laze around for a few hours before his traitorous stomach signalled hunger. It growled audibly and he groaned into Sherlock's shoulder blades. He didn't want to leave their cocoon of comfort, but neither of them had eaten anything all day.

His hand was laying across Sherlock's chest, so he tapped his fingers a few times and puffed out a sigh. "I'm gonna go cook something and bring it back up, yeah?"

Sherlock only shrugged in reply.

"Okay."

John carefully slid out from behind him and padded across the room and down the stairs. His body tensed up when he took in the living room and saw the scattered baby belongings. A changing pad here, some stuffed toys there, even the discarded pyjamas from that morning. The best course of action for now, he decided, was to move all of this to Sherlock's room where it could be shut away until Sherlock himself decided he was ready to discard (donate) it.

For lunch, he went with some quick sandwiches and a box of Sherlock's favorite biscuits. Strategically, he only made the sandwiches for himself so Sherlock would be more tempted to eat by stealing them off his plate. He also brewed fresh tea and carried it all upstairs on a tray, because unlike Sherlock he wasn't a heathen who tried carrying everything in his hands and then playing stupid when it eventually dropped to the floor.

Sherlock sat up in bed when the smell of tea wafted to his nose, with the inquisitive searching look a dog has when they hear food being dropped into their bowl. John smiled at the comparison and handed over the cup of Earl Gray, prepared the way Sherlock's sweet tooth likes.

He then set the tray on the comforter and sat cross-legged on the bed across from Sherlock. They didn't talk as they ate, there was no need. Sherlock nibbled on the biscuits and John ate his sandwich. John pretended he didn't notice when Sherlock started breaking pieces off and consuming them as well. Maybe, John thought, Sherlock was actually hungry. He would be too if he'd expelled anything left in his stomach from the night before. Regardless, the fact he was making an effort filled John with warmth.

When their little meal was complete, Sherlock came downstairs with John. John wondered if he just didn't want to be alone until he spotted the man staring at the case wall. Shit. He knew he forgot something earlier.

Sherlock began untacking all of the photos and documents and set them in a pile on the couch below him. He kept his face carefully blank and the new the sooner all visual stimuli were gone, the sooner he could work on deleting the whole mess from his mind palace. He'd gone after multiple serial killers anyway. He reasoned there was no dire need to keep this one in his vaults.

He put the whole mess in the rubbish bin without a word and went back to the couch where he flopped down and raised his hands in their classic prayer pose. He closed his eyes and opened them to the halls of his palace. Ella's cries from earlier still echoed, so he ran through it until he turned down a branch and opened the double doors of the case wing. He slammed the doors closed behind him, effectively sealing off the noise. It couldn't touch him here. For this case, he'd subconsciously filed Emmett and Eleanor in a different area, one better suited to emotions. He simultaneously cursed and thanked himself for doing so.

Sherlock straightened his suit jacket and walked to the newest filing cabinet. It was dark in color, almost black, and the paint was scratched and dented all around. The tracks on the drawers were rusted and bent slightly out of shape, making it difficult to pull them open. He had to wrench them open.

Sherlock manually pulled the contents of the drawers out and crumpled them up, leaving them in a pile on the ground. The final file he grabbed belonged to the killer himself. The label on it was blank and if he looked at it too closely he would be able to make out indentation of a name, only the letter 'Z' was discernible. It seemed the quick deletion he made during the interrogation was successful in keeping the man's name out of his head. That man didn't deserve a name or any recognition at all.

He crumpled up that file too and once everything was in the pile, a box of matches appeared in his empty hands. He took out three and struck them across the black strip along the boxes side. Once lit, he tossed them on the pile along with the rest of the box and watched the contents of the cabinet become engulfed in flames.

He needed to watch it burn to ash, or he couldn't be certain that all of the information was removed.

~~~~~

When Sherlock went to his mind palace, John took the trash out and settled himself in his chair with his laptop. He had no desire to type up a draft for the case, however, he thought maybe he could write a post about attitudes toward people with substance abuse disorders. He didn't want to give this killer any direct attention, as it's one of the things he wanted. Instead, he'd use the anger to fuel the spread of information and hopefully inform people about what those disorders are like and what recovery looks like. Anything to help get rid of the general public's myths about such things.

It took him about an hour to finish the rough draft, and by the end, he was too tired to go back through and edit right now. He'd do it later.

John glanced at Sherlock and sure enough, he was still in his mind palace. His brow was furrowed in concentration, so whatever he was doing didn't look terribly stressful. John left Sherlock to it and grabbed the book he was partway through.

He'd been reading on and off in between cases, but he was always hesitant to start because he usually had to put it down in the middle of an interesting part. Cases weren't exactly on a schedule. However, he was nothing if it not determined.

The determination was futile at the moment. Every few paragraphs his mind and gaze wandered back to Sherlock. They both grew rather fond of Eleanor in the time she was with them. She wrapped her little hands around their hearts and pulled until they were sufficiently under her spell.

John hadn't particularly thought of himself as a potential father figure, before. He was terrified of becoming his father and passing the abuse to another generation. Sometimes his anger was a rage that reminded him way too much of his father's drunken verbal beatdowns. Those instances left him shaking and guilty in bed at night, on the verge of panic.

But taking care of the baby sparked a want inside that he hadn't known could ever surpass the fear. It didn't matter though. He wasn't ever going to fall in love with someone else, and Sherlock deciding to raise a kid with him in Baker Street was as ridiculous a thought as Sherlock having some secret third sibling. Right?

The natural caretaker role Sherlock took on in the last few days was, for lack of a better word, adorable. He did it with single-mindedness and compassion. Never giving up even when learning those new skills were difficult. Because he wanted Ella to be cared for, he didn't want to let her down.

Perhaps there was more to it than the guilt John suspected. Perhaps Sherlock, deep down, wanted a family. A want that was beaten into submission from the cruel words of bullies and family alike. It was terribly sad, John thought, that Sherlock maybe never got the chance to want this.

Maybe they could get a dog? People always end up treating them like human children anyway, it would be good for them.

~~~~~

That night there was an unspoken agreement that Sherlock would sleep in John's bed again. Sometime around nine, John started his nightly routine and Sherlock followed suit when the loo was freed up.

In bed, John waited until the lamp was turned off to speak.

"I have a shift at the clinic tomorrow, I already took off too many days for this-"

"I know."

John couldn't judge his tone, and certainly not his face in the darkness. John scratched the back of his neck, "'Course you do."

Sherlock said, "You set an alarm on your mobile before getting in bed, but most telling is that it's not even ten yet."

"Right," he shifted under the sheets a bit. "Any experiments planned tomorrow?"

Sherlock merely hummed.

"Just try not to set anything on fire...again."

Sherlock huffed out a small laugh. "Goodnight John."

"Goodnight."

~~~~~

Sherlock felt the double absence in the morning harshly. He tried distracting himself with updating his tobacco ash spreadsheet, then identifying the types of mould he secretly grew under the lip of the sink, then indexing John's socks, and finally with composing. Nothing seemed to work.

No doubt his childhood therapist would say, "The only way to avoid feelings is to feel them!" in her annoyingly chipper manner. At the time, it was a stupid method of trying to force him into showing empathy and all emotions in his face. Of course, he felt such things. Just, in a different way than everyone else. The emotions were complicated and overwhelming enough on their own, he didn't want some person trying to force him to do things to look normal. His mother immediately fired the woman when he told her the things she said. Mummy sat him down and said, "You never have to do anything you don't want to do. I know how much you care, that woman is an idiot."

When he grew older he understood what the woman was trying to do. She wanted him to act normal because how he was acting was "sociopathic" and "retarded" depending on the person who decided to insult him. His mother didn't want him to act any different than he did. The only thing she ever stopped was the times when stimuli in the world was too much too fast I need out out away, and he accidentally harmed himself. She would hold him close and tight with his hands firmly clasped in hers to prevent them from ripping at his hair. A reaction he still had these days, albeit he was in much more control of it now.

However, the quote from the therapist, in a different context, seemed useful. Like right now, where he couldn't find a way away from the inner turmoil over Ella. Perhaps the only way to move on was to confront the feelings head on.

So head on it was. Sherlock put his violin and bow away carefully and made his way to his bedroom door. He took a steadying breath then opened it and went inside.

The bits and bobs they purchased for the baby were mostly on his bed and in the cot. He approached the cot and began rifling through the items, analyzing them based on how much they used or didn't use an object. A plush bee stood out from the pile, and Sherlock took it and sat down on his bed.

He ran his fingers back and forth across the stripes, watching how the fluffy fibers laid down in the path of his hand. One of the wings were slightly rumpled with dried spit from when Eleanor would suck and chew on it. It was her favorite from the meager selection they bought for her short stay.

In Sherlock's head, he could see Ella crying and missing this toy. He didn't think she would be handed off so quickly. He thought they had more time, they would have packed a bag for her. Now she was starting over with new people and new objects again. That level of unreliability must be detrimental to her development. This would definitely sway her toward the side of mistrust in Erikson's psychosocial stages.

It was unacceptable. The whole thing. And as much as he tried justifying his anger at her departure solely on the rapid environment changes, he couldn't deny that he was angry because he missed her. He wanted her back, and maybe that wasn't such a terrible idea. He couldn't trust anyone with her care and already did the research. So why not?

He ignored the whispers gnawing at his heart that declared him too volatile and inconsiderate to care for someone. For once, he wouldn't believe them.

Still clutching the bee, Sherlock pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialled Mycroft's number.

~~~~~

The clinic was a welcome distraction for John. He still worried about Sherlock, but it was put on the backburner while expecting mothers and false alarm flus and broken bones marched through his office. He was exhausted when his shift was finally over.

The only break to his focus was during lunch when Sarah asked him about the case. He couldn't blame her for being curious, she always did want to hear the stories even if she despised the idea of ever participating again. He kept to the facts and just so happened not to mention Emmett and Eleanor staying with them. That would only spark more questions which he didn't have the emotional energy to answer right now.

The tube ride and subsequent walk home were uneventful and John liked the small bit of exercise.

He also wondered how Sherlock was doing. Probably conducting some sort of experiment, but John's phone received no alarming texts from him so he was probably fine.

They would see to having Mycroft's people remove all of Eleanor's things soon. Preferably tomorrow so they could sleep in the same bed again.

John smiled himself at that last thought and lost himself in picturing it as he unlocked the street door and jogged up the steps. He opened the door to flat B and walked through the living room to the kitchen, glancing at Sherlock briefly to say hello.

Then froze and turned slowly around.

On the couch laid Sherlock, but he wasn't alone. The small sleeping body of an infant laid on his chest with a bee firmly caught in the grasp of a tiny hand. It had to be Ella.

Sherlock stared back at him and brought a hand to his mouth in a shushing gesture. But his face was also smoothed out and relaxed with the smallest hint of a content smile tugging at the corners of his lips. His other hand laid on Ella's bum, protecting her from sliding off onto the floor.

Of course he did. Of course Sherlock somehow ended up with the baby while John was gone no longer than eight hours.

He shook his head in amusement and mouthed the word "later" at Sherlock, before going back to his task of making tea for the evening. He also noticed that the bottle warmer was set up again near the toaster. How in the world were they to deal with this?

 

Chapter Text

After Sherlock put Eleanor down for a nap, John pointed to the couch and said, "Sit."

Sherlock complied and John took a seat next to him, leaving a couple feet of space in between.

John just raised his eyebrows at Sherlock as if to say "explain yourself."

Sherlock cleared his throat and clasped his hands together. "We hadn't given her the bee toy when we brought her to the adoption center, so naturally I took it upon myself to deliver it. She was already placed with a foster family so I went to their home instead and John it was terrible. The wife was clearly going to enforce harmful stereotypes and messages about femininity and the husband was a cheater who I estimate would leave that woman in about three years. This would be harmful to Ella's development and I knew she needed to be removed immediately and apparently, the fastest route of removal was adoption and now here we are."

John narrowed his eyes and nodded, "Mmhmm. And what's the actual story?"

Sherlock sighed and tilted his head up. "I'd be much better suited to take care of her than anyone else, it would be most beneficial to her proper development and Emmett would not have wanted her with someone untrustworthy."

When Sherlock looked back at John, he found John giving him the warmest look. One which brought blood rushing to the surface of his cheeks. "What."

"You missed her."

"Yes, I suppose that played a role as well." Sherlock rolled his eyes to avoid maintaining eye contact.

"It's okay to care about her. She's one of the loveliest babies I've met."

"The loveliest."

"Of course."

"So we're in agreement." Sherlock stood up then abruptly fell back onto the couch when John's hand gripped his arm and tugged backwards.

"Hold on, this is a really big deal, Sherlock. Adoption is huge, you can't just impulsively bring a human life into yours."

"John," he waved his fingers impatiently in the air. "I know I can be impulsive, but I would never do that with a decision like this. It's sudden, but don't think for a second that I haven't run through many scenarios in my head looking for any possible negatives. Between the work and my inheritance, I have more than enough money to support her financially. We know of no less than three people who are qualified to babysit during cases and emergencies. My experiments can be kept above ground level so she's unable to reach anything dangerous, and when she gets older I can simply move them elsewhere. Our line of work is no more dangerous than that of a police officer or firefighter or soldiers, and they have families all the time."

John leaned back against the couch and let himself process all of that before speaking. "You really did think about this."

Sherlock nodded.

"What about when she needs her own room? There's only two in this flat."

Sherlock waved one of his hands, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." It was funny, in a sad way, that John thought he would still be living here when Eleanor was a toddler. That was more than enough time for John to find a stable girlfriend he would leave Baker Street for.

John was still hesitant, but he couldn't deny the relief he felt at seeing Ella resting once more against Sherlock earlier. It looked right and felt right. She already belonged with them, by some strange coincidence. And he didn't doubt for a second that Sherlock would be able to provide Ella's emotional needs. I could think of a lot of people that would, but he saw Sherlock for who he really was. Someone who was incredibly selfless and gave everything to the people they cared for and expecting nothing in return. Loyal to a fault and willing to give everyone a chance. Only when people ruined that chance by treating him like a freak by default did he turn cold toward them.

He knew Sherlock would take to this well, and surprise probably all of their coworkers in the process. But ultimately, Ella would never feel alone again, never experience such dramatic changes in her life again. She could have stability now, and this way the two of them could also talk to her about her birth parents when she got older. Any other adoptive family would know nothing about them besides an old yellowed newspaper clipping, if that.

John stood up, "Alright, let's get her things set up while she's asleep. And you need to make some calls to Mycroft. Or we could go shopping ourselves?"

Sherlock couldn't hide his beaming smile if he tried. "Shopping, I don't trust Mycroft's cronies' taste in baby clothes."

John stifled his bark of laughter with a fist as they entered Sherlock's bedroom and began rearranging.

While putting the few items away, John kept stealing glances at Ella laying asleep in the cot. She seemed so peaceful, a complete opposite from their separation the previous day. Every time he looked at her, he felt a stirring in his gut, the same one he had looking at Sherlock. The feeling that said, "I would die for you in a heartbeat."

~~~~~

After feeding and changing the baby when her nap was finished, the three of them went to a baby supply store to purchase enough things so that her presence in the flat would be unequivocably permanent.

There was a brief argument over which store to shop at (John wanted somewhere cheap because she would grow out of everything in a couple months, Sherlock wanted somewhere expensive because the material was higher quality and therefore more comfortable.) Sherlock won, obviously, but John worried that Sherlock would end up being one of those posh people who dress their infants in stiff formal wear all the time. Luckily this wasn't the case.

They left with an assortment heavy in dresses and rompers. Sherlock left John to choose pyjama wear and shoes (as long as the shoes matched the clothes). To top the whole arrangement off, Sherlock picked out a variety of headband bows, which had removable bows for when Ella grew hair and they could just be clipped on.

As they walked out, John joked, "We're not the royal family, we don't have to dress her as such."

"Certainly not, we have better taste," Sherlock said and punctuated his statement with a kiss to the top of Ella's head.

The last store they went to, they got some much needed items like a bath, nappy bin, nappies, towels, flannels, and a nightlight. They also begrudgingly bought the baby monitor (a higher tech video version).

There were too many bags to carry back to the flat, so Sherlock texted Mycroft to send a car for them. When it pulled up to the curb, Anthea stepped out to help transfer the bags inside. Not before greeting the little girl, though.

She also helped them move the bags inside Baker Street before nodding her head in a silent farewell and leaving.

Sherlock smelled Mrs. Hudson's perfume and noted that she must have come back from her sister's while they were out.

And sure enough, they heard footsteps and then her door opened, as she must have heard them come in.

John moved to hug her first, "How was your sister?"

She gave him a kiss before responding, "Oh, you know how siblings are."

Then John moved out of the way for Sherlock, giving Mrs. Hudson a view of Ella. She gasped and brought her hands together. "Oh, she's still here?"

Ella made grabby hands toward her so Sherlock took her out of the carrier and handed her over. "Yes, I've adopted her actually."

Mrs. Hudson beamed at him. "Of course you did dear."

Sherlock's forehead creased in confusion, "This behavior is not characteristic of me, how could you possibly have guessed this?"

"Sure it's not."

Sherlock looked to John for help, but finding none he pouted and grabbed some bags to take upstairs.

Once he was out of earshot, John asked, "How did you know, actually?"

"He doesn't want to be alone again, and I don't think he likes the idea of her being alone either. It just makes sense to me."

John felt confused. "But he has me, I'm not going anywhere."

Mrs. Hudson sighed, "He doesn't know that. He doesn't know how you feel about him."

She knows? How does she know? John's face heated and his heart rate picked up at the thought of someone knowing. It would be more likely for Sherlock to deduce his feelings the more people who know.

Mrs. Hudson was done waiting for a response. "You two drive me mad, and not with the messy flat." She kept muttering to herself as she walked up the stairs. "Men, hopeless, the whole lot of them."

John took a few moments to settle his thoughts so they wouldn't show on his face when Sherlock saw him upstairs. It sounded to him like Mrs. Hudson truly thought Sherlock felt the same way. That he would welcome it. John wanted to hope she was right, but it was too likely that the tension the two men shared lately was just John seeing what he wanted to see.

And revealing has feelings now could go very badly now that a baby was involved. He didn't want Sherlock to kick him out due to awkwardness, but if Sherlock didn't return the feelings that was the only way John could see the conversation going. And he didn't want to leave Ella, not now that they really had her.

The whole thing was a big mess. He wished he could divorce himself from emotion like Sherlock faked being able to do. It would certainly be easier that way.

Chapter Text

Mrs. Hudson coddled the baby while Sherlock and John put all of the new supplies they purchased away. They didn't need to make much extra space for Eleanor's things, however, that would change the older she got. For now, they simply had to clear off counter space in the kitchen, clear out a couple drawers in the bedroom. The final touch was setting up the video monitor in a way that angled it at the cot. John hoped it would be broken and therefore postpone the sleeping arrangement change, but as expected, it worked perfectly.

The rest of the day went by slowly, as they had to reestablish a routine with Eleanor. They learned to take advantage of her naps by using them for experimenting (Sherlock) and finishing a blog post (John).

The blog post was written in a way that neglected to tell their audience that a new member had joined Baker Street. It reminded John that there were much bigger problems to worry about than whether or not Sherlock left glassware or chemicals in reach of the floor. The duo had quite the public presence due to Moriarty and Sherlock's return. Their place of residence was no secret, it was even listed on Sherlock's contact information. John thought about how Lestrade didn't have any social media presence nor his address and phone number available through online databases. Anonymity online was something common to officers, especially ones with families.

The problem, John realized, lied in the fact that officers tended to remove their online presence early in their careers. Any information on Sherlock and John had been easily accessible since the beginning, so now it was impossible to remove it. Being a sitting duck for criminals never bothered them before, they knew they could take care of themselves. But now they had a baby to think about. They really were putting her in an unsafe position. John knew this was a conversation with Sherlock that couldn't wait.

He put his computer away and went to the kitchen where the man himself was measuring out an unknown substance with a micropipette.

"Sherlock."

"Hmm."

"Sherlock."

He finally looked up, "Yes John?"

John rubbed a hand across his face in exhaustion. "I don't think we've thought about this enough."

"About what?"

"About Eleanor." John sat down at the spare chair and Sherlock finally put his tools down to give John his full attention. "You know how Moriarty came here once? And the bomb across the street?"

Sherlock nodded.

"That absolutely cannot happen again, not with Eleanor here. It was already too much risking Mrs. Hudson like that."

Sherlock absently started rubbing his thumb against his other hand. "We didn't exactly let that happen."

"But we kind of did. Our address is online, which is fine for regular clients, but sometimes we get the occasional revenge visit."

"Yes, that is...a problem."

"So," John leaned back and crossed his arms. "What do we do?"

Sherlock went into his mind palace and ran through a multitude of scenarios. Scenarios ranging from the worst possible case to the best. A couple things crystallized as the best course of action.

"Mycroft will install a state of the art security system, video surveillance, alarms on the windows and doors, something stronger than a basic lock."

"Okay, what else?"

"We're to take clients on a set schedule, that way there is stability even with the use of a babysitter. And we take them on a case by case basis. High profile cases are out the door, too much room for blackmail and psychopathy. I take it you're as keen as I am to never encounter another Moriarty?"

John scoffed and nodded.

"As long as the gunfire is directed at us instead, we're fine."

"Uh uh. That's not good enough."

Sherlock's eyes narrowed, "Lestrade does that all the time, he has kids."

"Yes, but Lestrade has backup and doesn't go gallivanting off on a lead without telling anyone."

Sherlock sighed, "I've not been doing that anymore remember?"

John held up his hands. "Alright, but also if we think we've happened upon someone dangerous we call for backup. Every. Time."

"Acceptable."

John was satisfied for now and got up to prepare the bottle Eleanor would be expecting once she wakes up. "How come I don't have to fight you on this?"

Sherlock was texting Mycroft about the security details, but still had one ear open for John. "What do you mean?"

"You're just agreeing to all of these changes I've wanted for years."

"Oh. Well, there's just a bit more incentive when the person I'm making the changes for regularly soils her own pants."

"In other words, I can take care of myself."

"Exactly!"

~~~~~

That night, when they went their separate ways to bed for the first time since the case started, there was a lingering moment in which they both stared at each other after uttering "goodnight."

Sherlock, unable to stand the weight of it, walked into his room without another word.

John went to his own with a sense of having missed something important, and nothing but a baby monitor as a companion.

Both of their beds felt too big and cold. They wondered how they ever slept at all without the other being there.

John tried to ignore the coldness by tossing and turning. It must have been close to one in the morning when he'd finally resigned himself to a sleepless night.

Meanwhile, Sherlock was sitting in the center of his bed with his arms wrapped around himself. He knew he probably could fall asleep without John, but he didn't want to. He even tried holding the sleeping Eleanor to get that human connection, but it wasn't the same. He wondered if John felt the same.

In his mind palace, he weighed the pros and cons of a possible solution. He could use the monitor as a walkie-talkie of sorts and ask John to come to bed. But that would open himself up to scrutiny, and possibly reveal his true feelings. But John was a good man, if he didn't want to then he would simply ignore the message and feign sleep. That is if he isn't already asleep and wouldn't hear it at all. On the other hand, John could be awake and hear it and listen. Honestly, the chance of that happening, albeit slim, was enough for Sherlock to push his roiling anxiety aside.

He walked over to the cot and said just loud enough to go through, while not waking the baby, "John." He hoped his meaning was clear, and climbed back into bed and faced away from the door.

A few minutes later, he heard the springs of John's bed upstairs and then subsequent padding of socked feet down the stairs and through the hallway. Sherlock remained still while the door opened, and presumably, John walked in.

John got into his usual side (when had it become his?) and said goodnight for the second time. This time though, it was accompanied by a smile.

Sherlock hummed in response, and the two could finally sleep peacefully. You know, when Eleanor wasn't waking up at four in the morning.

~~~~~

Instead of responding to the texts, Mycroft showed up at Baker Street the following morning. When he walked in, he found John laying on the floor with the baby (playing with some plush toy) and Sherlock absent from the room.

John was about to ask how he got in when he realized Mycroft probably had a key to most doors. "Morning. Sherlock isn't awake yet."

Mycroft smiled, though it looked somewhat strained as usual, and made himself comfortable in John's chair. "I see that. And tell me, how was the 1000 thread count sheets?"

John was suddenly made very aware of the position he woke up in where Sherlock's octopus limbs were wrapped around his torso with his head laid over the heart in John's chest. John looked up, "How-"

A hand held up cut off John's question. "There is an almost dried patch of drool on your shirt, it could be from the infant, though with that angle it's more likely to be from a bed partner."

John was mortified. If he'd known Sherlock's brother was coming he would have at least showered. God knows nothing slipped past the man, less even than passed Sherlock's observations. Nevertheless, he couldn't form a single response. It's not what you think? It's none of your business?

Mycroft cleared his throat to take John out of his thoughts. "You have complete control over his heart. I advise you use that control to avoid breaking it."

John could hear numerous threats to his person in that tone, and he believed Mycroft would follow through on every single one. He had no intention of breaking Sherlock's heart, he only hoped Sherlock wouldn't break his.

"That won't be a problem."

"What won't be a problem?" Sherlock asked as he walked into the living room.

John's blood pressure was really getting a workout this morning. "Our new security, right Mycroft?"

Mycroft humored him. "Hmm yes."

Sherlock bent down to give Eleanor a kiss hello then faced Mycroft. "This is why we need better security."

John stifled his laugh with a fist in his mouth and Ella cocked her head at the strangled noise.

Mycroft grimaced. "Are you sure Dr. Watson wants to take care of two babies?"

Sherlock picked up his violin with sharp movements. "Is there a reason you're here as opposed to, I don't know, using your phone?"

"Yes, actually," he said while putting wrapping his hands around the handle of his umbrella. "I came by to make sure this whole thing isn't just charity or some twisted form of penance you've brought on yourself."

Now it was Sherlock's turn to grimace. "I don't need to and won't explain myself to you. Just put in the order and leave."

Mycroft rolled his eyes and looked to John for help.

Why he thought John would be on his side, no one knew. John raised his eyebrows at him and remained quiet. Though the little one squawked at no longer being the center of attention.

"I'm not returning her, she's not an object Mycroft," Sherlock said.

"What is she?"

"She's..." my daughter. He couldn't get the words out.

Mycroft smirked, "You can't even say it, what makes you think you would be a good father?"

John had enough. He stood up with Eleanor and pointed a finger at the front door. "Out."

The Captain Watson tone brooked no argument and Mycroft left, hopefully feeling chastened.

Sherlock knew he wasn't able to hide the flash of hurt that flit across his face at Mycroft's words. And it seemed John saw it. He sat in his chair, violin now on the ground, with his hands trembling slightly. Mycroft was right, and he hated him for it. For throwing his own fears back in his face. He knew Mycroft was just trying to get him to give up this whole 'charade' but it wasn't fair.

He came back to the room when Ella's face swam into view. John was knelt on the ground in front of him, pushing her gently into Sherlock's chest. Sherlock obediently moved his hands to cradle the girl and smiled down at her. She still had the same balming effect as she did when they first met.

He finally sighed and spoke. "He's right."

"Mycroft?" John sounded skeptical.

"We have no idea what we're doing."

John placed a hand on top of Sherlock's, the one supporting Eleanor's head. "I disagree. Between the two of us, we know as much as the average new parent. We're okay."

Sherlock agreed about the theoretical knowledge but didn't have the energy to argue about what exactly Mycroft was implying. So he changed the subject. "Hand me my phone."

Business as usual then. John fetched his phone from the bedroom, where it was still plugged into its charger. Their fingers brushed as he handed it over.

Sherlock quickly composed and sent a text.

We will not be taking cases for the next two weeks. -SH

Why? -L

Is everything OK? -L

Sherlock. -L

Sherlock didn't see the other messages as he had already set his phone on do not disturb and tossed it across the room onto the couch. "You should probably inform your followers that we're on a 'vacation' for the next two weeks. That should be enough time to find a suitable babysitter."

"Good idea." John took his laptop out and began composing a post which said just that.

~~~~~

The two of them had a rather uneventful day, not including Mycroft's visit. At one point, John received a concerned text from Lestrade whom he simply replied to with "we just need a break." They decided to begin the search tomorrow and just relax for the rest of the day. It was very...domestic. John thought he could get used to doing this with Sherlock.

John made dinner while Sherlock played a concert for Eleanor who was propped up with pillows and absolutely captivated by the performance. Speak of the devil, she refused to have her usual naps so only the music calmed her overtired tears.

The flatmates ate in comfortable silence, broken only by the babbles of the baby sat in Sherlock's lap.

John feared their nightly routine for bed would be awkward. It was one thing to admit to each other in the bravery that only night provides, that they needed the other's presence to sleep. And another thing entirely to do so in the day.

In the end, he shouldn't have been worried. Sherlock rocked the little one to sleep and got in the bed on his side, pulling the covers on the other side back to leave an open invitation for John. John smiled and slipped into bed beside him. It was easy really.

And it was that same cover of darkness that led Sherlock to open his mouth instead of falling asleep like every cell of his body begged him to do instead.

"You've heard Mycroft mention the word 'Redbeard' correct?"

"I think so," he whispered. Obviously, he had.

Sherlock's eyes traced the watermarks in the ceiling rather than turning to face John. "He was an Irish Setter, a dog my mum got me when I was in primary school. She thought I should have a friend, and I suppose she was right. I didn't have any because I didn't speak until I was seven. I'm not really sure why I didn't. But having him, I spoke immediately to teach him tricks."

John could hear a smile behind the words, but his stomach knotted because he knew this wouldn't have a happy ending.

"For years, Redbeard was by my side, always. We explored the whole estate to collecting things I deemed important for experiments."

John pictured a happy kid Sherlock, running around and crawling through the dirt with a bucket to put worms in.

"I was very distractible as a kid," his tone changed. "Out of sight was literally out of mind, which is dangerous."

He stopped speaking though the story wasn't over. John tried to give him a push to finish it by scooting closer until Sherlock could definitely feel his body heat.

"One day, I saw a group of flowers across the street. Big purple ones I hadn't seen before. Without thinking I just ran for them, and he followed me like he always does. But there was-" A crack in his voice forced Sherlock to take a breath. "He got hit and didn't make it."

John didn't want to picture a devastated Sherlock, but he couldn't help it. Unable to stop himself, he placed a hand on Sherlock's chest. "Sherlock, you don't think that was your fault do you?"

His silence was answer enough.

"You were a child, doing what children do. It was a freak accident, could have happened to anyone. It wasn't your fault."

Sherlock took a shaky breath and wiped away the stubborn tear that managed to escape. "It's possible I do something like that with Ella. That's why Mycroft is right."

John's fist clenched around the fabric of Sherlock's shirt. "No, Mycroft is fucked up for making you think this. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that you'll never do something careless like that. Because you will, we're human. There's a possibility that either of us does something like that. The chances of that mistake harming her are very small though. And it's just a possibility parents have to accept, okay? We're more likely to get carried away watching telly and she starts screaming to let us know we forgot her lunch."

Sherlock laughed at that, though it was wet.

"Besides, you're smarter than most people, so you're already going to have less mistakes than others."

"Fewer."

"See?"

Sherlock lightly smacked the hand that was still on his chest and John chuckled. Both froze though at the tiny sigh coming from the end of the bed. Thankfully it didn't turn into crying.

Neither commented on the fact that their hands still rested together on Sherlock's chest, and it felt too late to move them without being awkward anyway. Why not?

Chapter Text

Sherlock enlisted Mrs. Hudson's help for the babysitter search while John was at the clinic. An advertisement was put out on one of those apps, with quite a few stipulations, and they've received eight responses so far. Sherlock reflected on the construction of the ad while they waited for their first potential person to arrive.

~~~~~

"No men? Isn't that a little...sexist?" John asked.

Sherlock clicked his tongue, "Not at all, they're statistically more likely to secretly be a murderer, rapist, or kidnapper."

John crossed his arms. "Wouldn't you be able to detect that during interviews?" 

Sherlock's face darkened, ghosts from their past making a reappearance. "I've missed people in the past, I won't make that mistake with my- with Eleanor."

John understood then. "So, only non-men who graduated with a degree in some branch of child development with years of babysitting experience who are also single and I quote, 'not as boring as your grandmother'?"

"Unfortunately. You made me cut out all of the important stuff."

"Important?" John laughed. "Like not owning reptiles and disliking reality TV?"

"John, hundreds of people die from salmonella every year, I'm not taking that risk."

"You," he was wheezing now. "You keep body parts next to food!"

"Not anymore!"

 ~~~~~

Needless to say, it took most of the week for this many people to respond to the ad.

Mrs. Hudson sat on the couch with Ella while Sherlock sat next to her with a spreadsheet open on his laptop. If they passed the process, each person would be scored on different categories and the one with the highest number of points would be hired. The categories included availability, personality, preparedness for emergencies, knowledge, Eleanor's receptiveness to their presence, and other factors.

After the first several people, Sherlock's mood was lowered abundantly as they all failed to answer what he considered basic questions or were too boring or Ella cried when they held her or, or, or. Mrs. Hudson told him he was maybe being too harsh and should let them have more time to answer such questions.

Sherlock relented to this advice when he let the next person in, someone nonbinary if the they/them pronouns listed on their profile was anything to go by. They were in their early twenties and dressed, not casual, but efficient for that of babysitting. Material that wouldn't pick up stains easily and was comfortable enough to crawl around in after a child who'd just learned mobility. They pulled a file out of a small tote bag and handed it to Sherlock while reaching to shake his hand with their free hand.

"Connor, right?"

"Yes, it's nice to meet you. This is my resume and schedule, I wasn't sure if you wanted me to bring anything?"

Sherlock looked over it silently, so Mrs. Hudson piped up. "Thank you, dear, would you like to meet Eleanor?"

They were pleased the elder woman seemed much less cold. "I'd love to." Connor introduced themself to the baby as if she were an adult, and Eleanor gave them a gummy smile in response.

The man finally spoke again and said more than asked, "Would you hold her while I ask you some questions?"

"Of course." Connor took the baby from the woman, pulled her close to support her body. Eleanor immediately felt dejected at leaving her caretaker's arms, so she turned her head and tried to seek them out. Connor quickly noticed the increasing anxiety on her face and shifted her to their hip so they could reach one hand into the tote and pull out a toy.

"Eleanor, what's this?" They squeezed a small fabric square in front of her face, causing the toy to produce a crinkly noise.

Ella's attention was immediately diverted to this and she stared at the object in wonder before grabbing it. She realized that moving it produced the sound, so naturally she started shaking her fist and let out a series of vowels in excitement. She'd never heard this sound before.

"There we go, see? Strangers aren't so bad." They looked up, ready to answer questions, and saw the woman smiling and Sherlock staring at them with barely contained surprise. Connor wondered for a moment if they'd done something wrong, but waved the thought away as just anxiety.

Sherlock mentally shook himself and typed a couple scores into the spreadsheet, Connor was already making a great first impression. "What would you do if she showed signs of a fever?"

"How old is she?"

"Four months a few days ago."

"Then I would take her to A&E."

Sherlock noted this and asked the rest of his medical questions. Connor moved through them with ease, so it was obvious that they remembered whatever was taught on that subject at university. He moved on to security questions.

"Who would you let into the flat?"

Connor shifted Eleanor to the opposite hip. "...no one?"

"Hmm." Sherlock was about to type, but Connor spoke again.

"I mean, uh. Are there other people besides you that have access to the flat or who you would allow here without your presence?"

Sherlock switched the score to be higher, "Yes, actually. Mrs. Hudson here is my landlady and is always allowed, there is also my friend and flatmate John Watson. You will meet him if you're hired."

"Only you three, got it."

Sherlock kept asking more questions and Connor answered most of them in a way that suited Sherlock's requirements, while also showing a willingness and understanding to correct themselves if the answer wasn't exactly what he wanted. The entire process took around half an hour and they both met and exceeded Sherlock's expectations.

He didn't think they would come across someone better in their list, but the scientist in him meant he had to interview everyone anyway. So Connor was sent out with a "we'll be in touch if you're chosen."

Eleanor even seemed a bit sad when they left.

The last few interviews were conducted over the next few days, and in the end, it wasn't surprising. Sherlock messaged Connor that they were hired, and somewhere in London Connor excitedly showed the message to their flatmate.

~~~~~

The two week period of learning and situating came to a close, and Sherlock was thankful. He needed a case soon or he was going to start throwing tantrums too. It seemed John was also done only providing care to the masses. Apparently, people with fevers keep coming in, expecting some kind of treatment, as if they didn't know mild fevers are meant to run their course at home.

Therefore, there was a dual sigh of relief when Lestrade's text tone came from Sherlock's mobile. Sherlock replied to the message and told John to get Ella's carrier.

"Are you serious?"

Sherlock furrowed his brows at John in confusion while he started getting Ella buttoned up in her coat and hat.

John walked over and put a hand on Eleanor's head. "You can't take her to a crime scene, Sherlock."

Oh. A flash of hurt went across Sherlock's face. "You would do well to give me the benefit of doubt. We're going to Scotland Yard so I can look at photos from the crime scene because our babysitter isn't available on Tuesdays."

"Right." John felt like a right arse. He does know Sherlock better than to do that, Sherlock has done nothing but proven over and over what a capable caretaker he is. Feeling acid in his stomach, he got the carrier and fit it over Sherlock's shoulders and Belstaff. 

Sherlock picked up the little girl and talked to her as he settled her into the carrier. Since she hit four months, she's enjoyed Sherlock talking to her greatly. She always responds with her own jibberish language, and Sherlock acts as if he knows exactly what she's talking about.

John grabbed the nappy bag and they headed out.