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Capacity for Love

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Valentine’s Day was fast approaching and Hamish Watson-Holmes was ready. The 4-year-old had spent his week at nursery school being read books about the holiday and coloring hearts with pink and red markers. They didn’t look anything like the hearts Papa cut open on their kitchen table while Daddy was at work though.

These hearts were pretty and symmetrical- sometimes small, sometimes made with lace, but they were hearts all the same. Papa had once said that the heart powers the whole body, so it’s important to study it and treat it with care.

That’s why Hamish was planning on making the best hearts possible for Papa and Daddy. They deserved all the power they could get. Maybe his hearts could give them the energy to push him so high on the swings that he could touch the clouds!

No matter what the outcome was, tomorrow was going to be great. Mrs. Hudson had dropped off Valentine’s cookies to their flat an hour ago and Papa had already let him eat one. Even Papa joined in on the afternoon snack. Why couldn’t it be Valentine’s Day all the time?

Papa was busy at the other side of the table, typing on his phone and mumbling to himself. Probably talking to Lestrade. He had visited last night and stayed long after Hamish went to bed to discuss the conclusion of a recent case.

Grown-up talk was boring, so thankfully Daddy had raced him up the stairs to his room at bedtime. They read three library books before Daddy had tucked him in. And of course he had plugged in the star shaped nightlight before closing the door. Daddy knows how the light makes good dreams.

How lucky Papa was to have Daddy as his Valentine.

As Hamish put the finishing touches on his project, he slid off his chair and rounded the table to look up at his Papa.

“Is this good enough for Daddy?”

Sherlock pressed send before peering down at the messy art extended towards him. “Hamish, it’s brilliant! Daddy will be so excited when you give it to him”.

Hamish beamed. “Do you have anything for Daddy?”

“As a matter of fact, I do, Hame. We’re going to dinner tomorrow night while Molly comes over to watch you. We’re not much for giving each other gifts, so a night out will be perfect for us”.

“Daddy likes dinner” Hamish nodded thoughtfully. “Do you think he’ll do something for you?”

Sherlock laughed lowly, “Oh, I’m sure. Daddy is very talented. He knows what I like”.

Hamish thought of a number of things Daddy could do well. Play the clarinet (though Papa always covered his ears). Make the yummiest carbonara with peas. Bundle him up in lots of layers when they go to the park. Daddy could do almost anything.

“You’re Daddy’s first Valentine, so he has had lots of time and practice”, Hamish finally said.

Sherlock paused, taking in his son. He had a bit of glitter in his sandy hair, and marker smudges on his fingers, but he knew that his 4-year-old was wise beyond his years. It was evident in the way he carried himself and spoke. Their little man. John had always agreed with him that they should be honest with Hamish whenever they thought he could handle it. And he couldn’t bring himself to be dishonest with him right now.

“Well”, Sherlock said slowly. “Hamish, both of us had been in love before. Daddy and I were in our mid-30s when we met, and we were very lucky to have met people who made us happy before we knew each other. Does that make sense?”

Hamish shook his head no. “Daddy always says that you’re his shoemate. I only have two of each shoe. They don’t match with any others”.

Sherlock pulled his son onto his lap with a laugh. “Soulmate, love. Daddy is the most special of my Valentines and I don’t want any others anymore but him. You might meet many people that you love, but when you find the one who is your best Valentine, you’ll know”.

“Are you sure, Papa? How did you know the other people weren’t your best Valentine? Were they bad?”

“No, Mishy, not bad”, Sherlock replied softly. “Sometimes people just grow apart and out of love. That happens, but it’s not bad. It doesn’t mean you need to stop caring about them, it just means that they’re not the one you’re meant to spend the rest of your life with”.

“But what happens to them? Do they not get to love anymore?” Hamish said worriedly, curling up into his father’s arms.

Sherlock did a quick headshake. “Not a chance. We have an endless capacity for love. Do you remember the Christmas card we got in December from my friend Victor? It had a picture of his daughter Grace in it. She’s about your age”.

Hamish nodded.

“Well, he was my first Valentine. We met during our first year at university and parted ways right before graduation. But that doesn’t mean I stopped wanting him to be happy. We kept in touch and we sometimes still ask each other for advice. It’s helpful to have a lawyer friend when you’re a consulting detective, you know. The legal system is an unfortunate burden to my job. Anyway, Victor met his husband while on holiday in Australia and they’ve been each other’s best Valentine ever since”.

Hamish had never considered that Papa could be happy with anyone other than Daddy. He had special smiles that only came out when Daddy was around. It was hard to believe anyone else could have that effect on him.

“But what about Daddy? He had other Valentines too?”

“Many Valentines in fact”, Sherlock said with amusement. “Daddy’s got a knack for making people weak in the knees”.

“Knees?” Hamish said with a furrowed brow.

“Ah, never mind about that”, he said with a flick of the wrist. “Yes, Daddy had other Valentines. And I’m grateful to them. I’m glad other people held and cared for his heart before I earned the privilege. It made me feel even more special to have the chance to love Daddy”.

Sherlock rocked back and forth slightly, holding tight to Hamish. “You know how Daddy was in war. We’ve explained that to you before. Well, Daddy met one of his Valentines at war, and thank goodness he was there. It makes me sad to think of Daddy all scared and lonely. Any bit of love he could get to brighten up his days was a wonderful thing. When he came back to England, he was very sad. But thankfully we met and recognized that we were best Valentines. Your Daddy is a strong man, Hame. More than I could ever be. I’m honored to have been a part of him becoming happy once again”.

Hamish had seen the scary scar Daddy had on his shoulder, the one that still flared up in pain when he bumped it or after strenuous physical activity. He had even been woken up by the nightmares and crying from downstairs on the rare occasions they occurred. There was nothing more frightening than seeing Daddy afraid, but his parents had promised him that everything was fine. They explained that sometimes it is just hard to get all the scared out. It didn’t mean Daddy wasn’t going to be ok.

“Do you understand?” Sherlock said, turning Hamish to face him. “We all deserve the most love possible. It’s a great responsibility to love someone and be loved in return. And when we meet our best Valentine, we have to hold hands with them and not let go. It’s important to let them know how much they are loved. And when you have more love than you know what to do with, you can give some away to your little ones”. He kissed the top of his son’s head.

Hamish smiled. “I get it, Papa. Papas and Daddies love each other a whole lot. And that’s why we celebrate Valentine’s Day”.

“That, and to placate the pushy greeting card companies”, Sherlock said, rolling his eyes and setting Hamish back on the kitchen floor.

“But yes, that’s why. So why don’t you go hide Daddy’s heart under your bed until tomorrow morning? Then we can sneak in another cookie or two before he gets home and makes us eat a vegetable”.

As Hamish scampered off to keep the paper heart a poorly kept secret, Sherlock thought about his best Valentine and their shared little Valentine. It would be a few years until Hamish went out into the world to learn the joys and sorrows of love. But until then, they would try to keep his heart safe in their circle of family and friends.

At that moment, Sherlock heard the faint click of the outside door and smiled at the clunk of John wiping off his snowy boots below. His shoemate, indeed.