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A Family Cleaved

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There are too many people in Rosie's house. It is quite troubling. They wear black suits and dresses and crowd into the chair room. She knows some of them, like the lady who gave her a lolly at daddy's office. Others are strangers, which she is not supposed to talk to.

Rosie peeks between the bars on the stairs that lead up to her and Daddy's room. This is where she and Nana play Spy, and they sneak up on Daddy and Beebee when they come home from the work.

Rosie has trouble sneaking now because the pink cast on her leg makes too much noise. Even now she thumps, thumps, thumps down the stairs in an awkward rhythm. She keeps both hands on the railing so she won't fall. She falls a lot because she gets dizzy and her head hurts and she can't see very well, but she's getting better. She can make it down the stairs by herself now.

Nana waits at the bottom and takes her hand. Nana wears black too. She had to help Rosie this morning because her dress had buttons in the back that she couldn't reach. The dress is itchy, and bunches up under her arms and she sweats under the stocking on her right leg. The pink cast goes up to her knee on her other leg so she can't wear both stockings. Nana said she looked pretty. Rosie does not feel pretty. Pretty is smiles and bows and color. Not pretty is black and crying and hurt. Everyone says she looks pretty. Except Beebee. He didn't say anything when Rosie asked, just adjusted the black bow so it wasn't crooked no more. Everything is crooked nowadays. She feels like she is tilting on a boat, just one false step from tumbling.

Everyone smiles, but the smiles are crooked, like Beebee does when he doesn't want to get in trouble. Their eyes don't wrinkle.

Rosie cranes her head to try and find the curly black hair. Beebee has such pretty hair. But he doesn't like when she plays with it and pulls too hard. She puts pretty clips in it though.

She tugs on Nana's sleeve. "Where's Beebee?" she says.

Nana looks around too, then she nods towards the hall to Beebee's room. His door is open, but the loo shut. She starts to slide her hand away from Nana so she can wait outside the door, but Nana doesn't let go. Rosie frowns and looks at her and tugs her hand back.

"Why don't we give him a few minutes?" Nana says, rubbing Rosie's shoulder.

"I want to help," Rosie insists. Beebee doesn't let her help much anymore. He keeps his doors shut, like Queen Elsa did with Anna. Rosie feels like she's always knocking. Beebee never knocks for her.

When Nana shakes her head again, Rosie huffs and hobbles to the green chair. She likes Daddy's chair better because it's soft and warm, but after Rosie came home from hospital, Daddy's chair was gone. She asked Beebee where it went, but all he said was that he would get her a new one. He hasn't.

Dr. Molly, in her black dress, carries a pot of something steamy and it smells good, but now this is getting out of hand. Why is Dr. Molly wearing black? Rosamund is truly starting to hate - H-A-T-E - the color black. Daddy always tells her that HATE is a big word. He says it is okay to have big emotions. He gets big emotions too. But Rosie has to think about them before she says something that she cannot take back. Someone might get their feelings hurt.

She still feels sorry that she said she hated Daddy. He took away her favorite toy because she made a big mess in the kitchen. He put her in time-out and she couldn't have screen time for several days. She told him she didn't mean that she hated him, and Daddy said he forgave her. Hating wasn't unforgivable.

Rosie knows down to the tips of her toes that she hates the color black.

Dr. Molly is not wearing her cosy jumper. She always wears pretty, pretty jumpers all of the time. Black is a yuck color on her. Rosie does not say hello.

Uncle Greg follows behind Dr. Molly. He carries white flowers. Nana takes them from him and adds them to the growing pile on the table.

He sees Rosie and she twists her body and hides her face in the chair. She can smell Beebee's perfume in the leather. A heavy weight drops down beside her.

"There's my flower!" Uncle Greg growls playfully and hauls her into his lap. Rosie squeals and twists and wriggles to avoid tickles.

Uncle Greg kisses her cheek and she squeezes him tight. He sits back so he can look at her. She loves her Uncle Greg more than the other one. She told him so. And he told her that she was his favorite too. He always hugs her and brings her treats. Even now, he hides both hands behind his back.

Rosie puts one finger on her chin like she's seen Beebee do, and watches her uncle's eyes. Beebee taught her that whenever Uncle Greg lies, he tends to bite his cheek and look away from the right answer.

She points to his right hand, and Uncle Greg shakes his head and bites his cheek.

She grins and grabs his arm and pulls as hard as she can and he grunts and puffs, but Rosie knows she is strong and pulls his hand out. His hand is clenched tight around the prize but Rosie pries his fingers open and there it is!

A blue bow with a flower in the middle. She smiles for real because it is such a pretty color. It's better than pink, because her cast is pink and she is sick of that color. She wants it off her leg. She tried to take it off a few days ago with scissors, but Nana caught her and spanked her. She is not allowed to handle scissors without Nana or Daddy present.

This pretty blue bow is the best color. It's not sad. It's the color of the sky. Uncle Greg fixes it to her hair, pins it back on the right side of her head and kisses her cheek again.

"Am I pretty?" she says, because she has to know. Uncle Greg won't lie to her.

He picks her up when he stands, and this high, she should be able to look in the mirror above the mantel, but just like Daddy's chair, it was gone when she came home. She asked Beebee why, and he told her that it got broke. Beebee doesn't lie to her, but she knows there is something spicious about the mirror's disappearance, because the one in the loo is gone too. Spicious is the word that Uncle Greg uses when he's talking about something that seems out of the ordinary.

Uncle Greg squeezes her tight and looks her right in the eye. "Honey, you are so pretty," he says. "But you are also so smart like your Beebee and so brave like your Daddy. And we need princesses like that."

Rosie buries her face in his shoulder. "Would you marry me?" she asks.

He laughs. "I would, but Stella'd have my head if she knew I had another lady in my life."

Rosie thinks about this. "Well, if Stella dies too, then I'll get to marry you."

He blushes pink like a rose, and his eyes shift like marbles rolling. "I'd, er, well... We'll see."

Uncle Greg's head turns, and the room hushes. Rosie twists and at last sees the curly dark hair. Beebee wears black too, but he always wears black, because that is his work suit. Daddy says he likes to be fancy for his clients. This time though, he wears a necktie. Nana must've made him. His face is smooth again. At breakfast he still had a scratchy beard, and it tickled Rosie's cheek when she hugged him. He frowns at the room, eyes scanning corner to corner.

Beebee does not like being around people. Daddy says he's just not a people person. Rosie likes that word. It makes her think of a person with a bunch of people stacked on top of them.

She wriggles down from Uncle Greg's arms and hobbles to her Beebee. He blinks and looks down at her, eyebrows making a squiggle and his mouth tightens. Rosie hugs his leg because that is as high as she can reach. She can reach her arms all the way around. Beebee is very tall, but also very skinny. Daddy says he's not as tall as he seems, but Rosie knows better because Daddy is very very tall and Beebee towers over him.

Beebee's hand rests in her hair. She looks up. "Uncle Greg gave me a bow," she tells him.

Something is wrong with his eyes. They look too big for his long face. He touches the bow and his frown softens. He bends down and picks her up. Beebee is all bones, not like Daddy. Daddy is best at snuggles in his chair. She said so, and Daddy made her go sit with Beebee because she hurt his feelings.

It's still not good. Beebee is stiff and his shoulder digs into her cheek. All hard edges like a countertop. She squeezes her arms around his neck to show that she still loves him. She wishes he would hug her like Daddy.

"Grandma called," he whispers low in her ear. "She and Grandpa will be here soon."

"Do you like my bow?" she says.

He looks, but he doesn't see. "I do."

"Uncle Greg gave it to me."

Beebee looks over her head and Uncle Greg smiles and walks towards them.

"I've told them not to..." Uncle Greg keeps his voice low. "Anything you don't feel like doing, you know."

Beebee nods while looking at the floor. Rosie looks too to see if there is something there.

"We'll follow the hearse from here. Police escort."

"I know."

Uncle Greg grips his shoulder. "You'll let me know if you need to leave, yeah?"

Beebee rolls his shoulder away from Uncle Greg's hand. He lifts Rosie away, and she whines and tightens her good leg around him.

He won't look at her. "Rosie, come on."

"No."

Uncle Greg curls both arms around her and Beebee takes her hands off his neck. "Go with Lestrade."

She grabs his shirt. He is not listening to her! Why won't he listen? "Why?" she yells.

"Ey." Uncle Greg hoists her up. "Inside voice."

She twists her head around to try and grab her Beebee again but he is gone. She turns to Uncle Greg and wriggles. She can usually get put down if she squirms enough, but he's got a tight hold on her this time. If she was bigger, she could punch him and make him put her down. But hitting is bad.

She points after her beebee. "I don't want to!"

"I know," he nods. "But he needs alone time right now."

She shakes her head. No he doesn't. She is his favorite person. He said so. His first best friend after Daddy. Why would he not want her with him anymore? He always wants her with him, except at crime scenes, which Daddy says she's too little for. If Daddy were here, he would point his finger and tell Beebee that he is being mean.

Why won't Daddy just walk in through that door and make everyone go home? They would play doctor and he would say she doesn't have to wear the cast no more. He would kiss her eye better and magic heal it. And they would sit down and play cluedo with Nana, and Rosie would win because she is the best at that game. And Beebee would smile again.

But Beebee said Daddy won't come home, because he is going into the ground today.

 


 

Rosamund has been to the cemetery before. It was during the day, when the ghosts were all asleep. She and Daddy walked down a path to a black stone under a tree. Daddy said her mummy had passed away when Rosamund was a little baby, and that she was in Heaven. Rosie knows that her mummy is under the black stone, but her eyes got put in the sky. Daddy laid flowers on the black stone and Rosie set a card next to the flowers. It was a piece of pink construction paper from her daycare on which she had drawn a rainbow and a smiling sun. It's what Heaven is supposed to look like.

Daddy's eyes are in Heaven too, is what Nana said. Rosie drew a picture of him, but she got his wings wrong. So she keeps it folded up so no one can see what it looks like. She doesn't know how to write yet, so she asked Nana if she would write her letter to Daddy. Rosie signed it though. She knows how to write her name. Her letter and picture will be buried with him.

Mummy's stone looks the same as it did before, maybe a a bit dirty from rain and leaves, but her name is still in bright gold letters.

A shiny twin stone sits beside hers, with a deep, black hole punched in the ground.

Just like home, there are too many people here. So many blurring faces in a sea of black.

Her Grandma and Grandpa are here. Grandma's eyes get watery when Rosie hugs her.

"You're looking so much better darling," she says.

She and Grandpa were at the hospital the first few nights. They took turns reading her books. Then Beebee made them leave. He's not very nice around Grandma. Rosie likes their house out in the country. They got a swing for her for when she stays with them over the weekend. And Grandpa reads to her with all his funny voices, and Grandma makes the best pies. She always smells like the food she bakes. It's a good smell.

She holds Grandma's hand and helps her walk. She and Grandpa stop. They look confused. A man steps out of a black car. He's not wearing black. His suit is blue. An umbrella hangs from his arm, even though it's sunny out. Rosie scrunches her nose. She knows this umbrella man.

"Did he say anything to you?" Grandma says.

Grandpa shakes his head.

Grandma huffs. "It wouldn't hurt to call ahead, would it." She sees Rosie looking. "You remember Uncle Mikey don't you?"

Rosie hides her face in Grandma's leg. Yes. She remembers Mr. Mycroft.

Grandma strokes her hair. "Say hello, Rosie."

She does not.

Mr. Mycroft is an odd fellow, like Daddy says. Beebee says he is a nuisance. Rosie thinks so too. He always carries an umbrella with him, even when it is sunny. Rosie knows he doesn't like her. He never smiles, and looks at her as if she's annoying him even when she's just sitting and not making any noises. At Christmas she drew a picture of him and he told her that her lines were not straight and that it looked nothing like him.

Rosie keeps her hand on Grandma's skirt. She tries to stop her from hugging Mr. Mycroft. She might turn to stone. Grandma hugs him, and he winces and does not hug her back. He shakes Grandpa's hand. He does not look at Rosie.

"I won't be staying," he says. He holds out the rose.

Grandma crosses her arms. "You knew him for as long as Sherlock. I should say you very much owe your time to him."

"We - " His blue eyes lock onto Rosie. Beebee has similar eyes, but he does not look like he is looking into you. Mr. Mycroft's eyes want to turn her to stone, like the monster in the book. She quickly looks away.

"We owe nothing to the dead, Mother."

Grandma looks very very cross.

Grandpa takes Rosie's hand. "Let's give them some privacy shall we?"

Rosie nods and follows him. He swings her hand.

"Did my daddy give Mr. Mycroft money?"

Grandpa raises an eyebrow. "Oh surely not. Mycroft never accepts money."

"But he owes him. Money," she clarifies. "He can give me the money and I'll promise him that he doesn't owe Daddy anymore." She would hide it in her secret place until her daddy came home.

Grandpa shakes his head. "Oh, no, no. Not money. Your father did a big favor for Mycroft. So now he feels like he has to repay him."

"With money?"

"What does a rambunctious tyke like you want with money?"

"Nana talks about rent a lot."

"Well you won't have to worry about that for a while. No, your uncle Mycroft thinks he has to do a favor for your father, because he did a favor for him."

"What favor?"

Grandpa crouches in front of her. He taps her nose and she looks right at him. "He took very, very good care of your Beebee for us."

"When?"

"Since before you were born."

Her eyes widen. That is a very long time.

Grandpa is frowning. Beebee is sitting on a stone bench beneath a tree talking with a general. He looks like a soldier. Blue hat on the side of his head, and fancy gold shoulder hats. He has medals over his coat too. Rosie's daddy was a soldier. He fought the bad guys.

Grandpa lets her lead him over to the soldier man. She hugs Beebee's leg.

"Rosamund," he says softly. "Say hello to James."

She peeks up. This close, she sees that there is something wrong with the soldier's face. The skin is wrinkled and pink on one half. His eyes look like clouds. Sad.

He holds his hand out. Rosie takes his hand and he shakes hers.

"Hello Rosamund," he nods. "It's an honor to meet you."

She sucks on her lower lip. "Are you a soldier?" she says.

He nods. "I was. I started out with your father when he was a soldier."

"Did the bad guys hurt you?" She points, but then she remembers that pointing is rude, so she puts her hand down.

"In a way," he says stiffly.

"Do you have a gun?"

"Yes," he says.

"My daddy has a gun. I got to hold it. You're not supposed to ever point it at anyone."

"That's... very smart of him to teach you that." He looks away from her.

Grandpa says it's time for the funeral to start. So he leads her away from them. Everyone gathers around the black box above the deep black hole in the ground. A man in a white gown gives a speech and reads from the Bible, which is a book about stories of God and Jesus. He talks about Heaven, and Rosie likes how he describes it, and why her daddy was brave and will now watch over his loved ones.

Tomorrow morning, she will wake up and Daddy will be watching her and she will jump up and spank him because he took much too long to get home. But then she will kiss him because he is home and that is all that matters. He'll make her leg better and her eye.

At the very back of the crowd, Mr. Mycroft and Beebee stand. Mr. Mycroft looks bored, but Beebee looks like he will crumble. He looks lost.

Lots of people say goodbye to the black box. Grandma leads Rosie to the front and together they lay flowers on the headstone.

The rest shuffle up to the box one by one, and leave in the order they come. In the end, Rosie and her family are left.

Beebee does not lay a flower on the grave. He presses his palm on the stone, and kneels in the soft earth, his back slumped over. Mr. Mycroft stands at his side again. Rosie sits with him, playing with the grass.

She looks at the headstone, her father's name etched deep into the black rock. She will take care of her Beebee. At least until Daddy comes home from Heaven.

He will be like a bright comet zooming through the sky. Daddy took her to the museum once and they saw all the stars in the sky. He will be the brightest one of all.

 

Chapter Text

The world keeps turning. The sun still rises. Cars vrooming down their street. People going to work. Dr. Molly and Uncle Greg visit on their days off. Rosie wishes her world would start turning again.

Daddy's chair and the mirrors are still gone.

Beebee spends lots of time in his room or in the loo. It's odd how much he likes to be clean, but after the funeral he never shaves. He has shadows in his face and his hair is limp. His beard has grown back. And he wears the same clothes for days at a time. On rainy days, he sleeps a long time and will wander into the chair room and just sit. He never plays his violin. Rosie will climb into his lap and pull his arms around her. Never says good morning. Just sits, staring past the telly, until Nana comes up with breakfast.

One day he just laid on the couch with his back turned to the room for the entire day. Nana laid a blanket over him and told Rosie to leave him be. "Rainy days" Nana calls them.

Something is missing from him. He doesn't smile much. He yells a lot. And when he looks at Rosie, it's like he's looking over her, or something is separating her from him. Maybe she's not really there. But she can hold his hand, and hug him, so she knows she is still here. She wonders if Beebee knows he is there.

Rosie gets rainy days too. On those days, she doesn't want to eat, because food tastes funny. And she doesn't want to play anymore, no matter how much Dr. Molly tries to get her to. So she watches the telly, and colors. Sometimes she just sits with the crayons in her hand because she doesn't know what to color.

Bedtimes are hardest. Beebee will try to do it like Daddy did, but she can't snuggle with him for a story. He'll kiss her forehead and turn on the moon shaped nightlight. She has to have the nightlight and the hall light on, because she's started wetting the bed again, something she hasn't done since she was a little baby.

Only stupid people wet the bed when they're four years old.

She says stupid things too.

One night Beebee had to make food because Nana was out and Dr. Molly couldn't come over. Rosie tried to help. He almost had to call the fire truck. So they went to a restaurant instead. Angel's. He's a man with a beard that gave them a free slice of pie. And Beebee wiped off her upper lip because she made a mess, and he smiled. "No mustaches for Watsons," he said.

It started raining on the way home, so he covered them with his big coat. And he let her curl up in his chair and watch Moana before bed.

It was such the perfect night. She looked at the empty space in the chair room, suddenly feeling that empty space in her tummy, and said she wished her Daddy was there with them. Whatever happiness, however brief, that had filled the evening, evaporated. Her Beebee was quiet for the rest of the night.

She hit her legs with a hanger when she was alone. Why couldn't she have just kept quiet and pretended it was okay? She does it every single day.

She does other stupid stuff. Her stomach still hurts when she thinks about the day at the shops.

It was a special day, because it was normal. Beebee has never liked the shops, so Rosie always went with Daddy or Nana. She helped push the buggy until it got too heavy.

Nana didn't push a buggy that day. She carried a basket and Rosie helped her choose what food they needed. Nana needed help picking a flavor of pudding that they were going to make for desert.

They turned the aisle to the cereals, and there he was. Her father, in the flesh, with his back turned to them. Maybe it was because they were doing something normal so he could come back. Suddenly the world felt right side up again. Rosie felt frozen and terrified and relieved all at once. She never thought it was possible to feel so many big things after so long of blankness.

Her daddy, with his short graying hair and his dark coat, was pushing away his cart with a carton of milk and eggs. As if he hadn't been gone a day.

She didn't think. She only knew that she had to get to him before he vanished again. Rosie broke free from Nana and ran as fast as she could to him, ignoring the stupid plaster on her leg that tried to trip her. She crashed into him from behind and wrapped her arms tight around his leg. He was real and warm, not like the cold ghosts under ground.

He gave a shout of surprise, which meant he was there. He was really there! She was hugging him, even after everyone tried to tell her that he was gone. It would take a giant to pry her away. She made sure to grip him tight so he couldn't escape her and Beebee. He would finally smile when he saw who Rosie had found. He would smile for real!

"Oi, you all right there?"

She felt his hand on her shoulder, trying to push her away. She shook her head and clung tighter.

"Rosie! Rosie, darling. What are you - "

"Ma'am. This your kid?"

"Yes. Rosie, come on, let go."

"No!" She cried.

A hand touched her shoulder, so gently. "Honey? Are you alright? Is this your granny?"

Her daddy wouldn't say that. He knew who Nana was! Had he been gone so long that he had forgotten?

"Rosie, please," Nana said. "You need to let go."

She twisted her head and screamed at Nana. No words. Just screamed until she had to draw a breath in again. Through her blurring vision saw her flinch back. Why would Nana want her to let go? She'd found him again, after so long. 

She craned her head up to tell her daddy, and choked. Felt like a huge hand grabbed her lungs and squished them like a balloon. She tripped back into a pair of knees that dug into her back. Nana, some part of her knew.

Her lungs and mouth weren't working right. Breaths stuttering out, the world spinning.

Up close, she could see who it was, but this face was a stranger's. It wasn't right. But why? Had her father been gone so long that she was forgetting what he looked like? Of course this stranger wasn't her father. Her daddy had blue eyes, and this man's was brown. His face was too long, nose too big.

She turned her face into Nana's leg and shut the world out. In the darkness of her trouser legs, she wept. Soaking the fabric with hot tears. She could hear Nana's biting, sharp voice above, and another man's. It sounded like they were arguing.

She felt a hand at her back and somehow her legs started walking. Cold air lifted her hair off her shoulders. The sounds of cars and people shouting. At last they stopped next to a bench.

Nana knelt in front of her. Rosie stared at her hands, blurring in and out like she was looking at them under the water, as if they could give her the answers she so desperately wanted.

Her breath hitched. "I thought... Daddy..." She broke off with a wail. Nana's face came into focus again. 

Her mouth was too tight, her face strained like she was being pulled in five different directions. She was hurting, Rosie knew, but she was hurting more. She curled into Nana's lap and cried into her shoulder. Nana was shaking too.

They never go back to that shop.

A few nights later, Nana is giving Rosie her bath, and the door suddenly opens. Beebee, dressed in his blue dressing gown, crouches next to the tub. He never intrudes on bath time because he says everyone need their privacy. This time, he takes the flannel from Nana and tells her that she can get ready for bed.

He plays mermaids with Rosie until she is pruney, and he helps her dry off. She points out that he has not had his bath yet, but he says he will after Rosie goes to bed.

Beebee rubs her head dry with the towel. "Don't you worry about me, my bumblebee."

She stands on the toilet and pokes his chest. "No you're my beebee." She holds his face in her hands. "It's okay though. Now it's my job to worry," she tells him.

This close, she sees how dark the circles under his eyes are. He looks sleepy, which is odd because he sleeps so often. She rubs her thumb across his scratchy beard.

He jerks back. Rosie curls her hands back to her chest. She must have scared him. He rubs his arm and squeezes it like it's hurting. He helps her down from the toilet and combs her hair out, being extra gentle because her head is tender, like his.

He forgets to kiss her goodnight when he tucks her in.

-x-

They are alone for the first time in a week. Dr. Molly had to leave early tonight. The other doctors needed her. Nana is gone today and tomorrow, and the day after that. Rosie didn't want her to go. Beebee didn't even say goodbye.

They are both having a rainy day.

Mr. Mycroft was here today, and he only left after Beebee shouted at him and threw something. Rosie peeked through the slats in the stairs and watched him go. He spotted her as he was stomping down. His eyes were like ice, and he sniffed before continuing.

Rosie wants to throw something too. Her cast came off but she has to go to a doctor's house and do her exercises. She limps like an old person now. It may go away when she grows up, but Beebee said it was unlikely. She will be like this for the rest of her life.

Today the pain was back, but Dr. Molly was only allowed to give her a small pill. Rosie did not help her cook in revenge.

Beebee shuffles his fork around the plate. He hasn't looked up once, won't talk, won't eat. Rosie sets her princess cup down with a loud clack. It is too quiet without the telly on.

Beebee blinks. His eyes flick to her plate and he frowns. "You haven't eaten enough."

She wrinkles her nose. "It's stinky."

He glares at his own plate, shifts the broccoli to the side. "Stupid, making this. She knows you hate it."

"I want pudding."

He stabs his noodles. "No."

"Yes."

"There is no pudding." He gestures with his fork. "Eat your pasta."

"I don't like it."

"You've liked it up until now."

She folds her arms across her chest and slumps in her chair. She refuses to look at the food.

It's not a good day. Tonight's dinner is not making it better. It's not the same. Sometimes make believe can help her feel better. Pretending Daddy made dinner or read a story, then she can stomach meals she doesn't like, or help herself fall asleep if she pretends that bedtime was normal.

She meets Beebee's eyes. "I wish Daddy made it."

His slow movements freeze. His entire body winds itself tight and tense. She waits for his reaction, almost hopeful for something over than this bland apathy. For a moment she thinks he is going to crawl back into his shell like the turtle he is. He opens his mouth then closes it, and gives himself a hard shake.

"Well John isn't - " He flings his fork down and scoots his chair back with a rough scrape. He stands and grabs his plate. "Molly made it, so you will eat it."

Rosie grinds her teeth. She kicks the table leg. He won't play pretend with her. It's not hurting them! It's only make believe, not real. So it's okay. It makes everything normal.

Tears prick the corners of her eye. "I want my daddy." She throws her cup. It bounces off his hip and rolls across the floor. She doesn't see where it stops.

She huffs and pushes the plate away. She knows she is being stupid for wanting him back, but maybe if she says it often enough, then he will come home, or they will give her what she wants. They will give him back. She doesn't know who they are. Whoever decided to take him away.

Beebee tosses the plate and fork in the sink with a clatter. It makes her jump and she knows she is making him angry, but she's even angrier. She crosses her arms and turns away from her plate, because if she looks at it any longer, she'll throw it.

He sits down next to her and scoops up a forkful of pasta and points it at her mouth. "Finish your dinner. You are a big girl now."

She hits the fork out of his hand. "No!"

The kitchen is silent except for the fridge's humming. She is sick of his stupid face, with the scratchy hair and his pink eyes. She wants to hit him. She pushes the plate side ways and it clatters off the table.

Beebee is up faster than she's seen him in weeks and he grabs her arm before she can get away. He pulls her out of her chair and over his legs. He spanks her legs and she screams and kicks him.

Beebee has never spanked her. That was Daddy's job. She never kicked him though. She's never wanted to hurt him before.

He pushes her towards the door. "Go to your room. There's no telly tonight."

Rosie whirls around. "No!" she roars.

He stands, and he is very tall but Rosie is even taller. She won't let him bully her.

He points over her head with his shaking hand. "Go to bed now or you won't go to Molly's tomorrow."

She shoves as hard as she can. Her hands slap useless against his legs. "I don't want Molly," she screams. She beats him with her fists.

He grabs her arms tight in his knobby hands and shoves her away. "It doesn't matter who you want because you'll never get him."

She whirls around, heaving big breaths in and out of her nose.

"Liar!"

He shoves the chair back and stabs his finger at her. "Don't you ever call me that."

"You are."

"I'm not!"

"Nana told me. She said you played dead and made Daddy sad. Now he's dead and you're still here!"

It's so sudden and unexpected that she's not quite sure what's happened. A sharp smack to her right cheek, just under the eye patch. She blinks for a moment, her head snapped to the side. She raises her hand to touch the burning patch of skin.

Her eyes flick up. His hand is still raised - so she knows it was him. But he is frozen in place, mouth agape like he just realized what he did.

Every bad feeling is narrowed down to the adult in front of her. That he won't play pretend. That nothing is normal anymore. That the stupid driver ran through the light. But she can't hate the entire world right now, that just seems like too much for her. But her Beebee happens to be in the same room.

She stomps her foot hard, pain ratcheting up her leg, and he is blurry because she's crying. "I hate you!"

He flinches back and grabs his hair. His fingers curl into claws and he shakes. He half turns from her and folds into himself.

"Christ," he whispers.

Not a sound in their home. Even the cars outside have stopped. The only sounds are her heavy breaths because her chest is shrinking. Beebee's mouth twists and he wipes his hand across it. His shoulders slump and he wraps his arms around his middle. He looks so small and lost, like how she feels.

She didn't mean it.

"Just - go to bed," he says softly. "I don't want to see you the rest of the night."

She didn't mean it.

"I-" Her voice catches in her throat.

He grabs something off the table and Rosie doesn't see it leave his hand because she squeezes her eyes shut, but she hears it smash against the wall.

"GO AWAY!"

He wants her gone. He's going to send her away and then she won't have anyone. It's all her fault.

She stomps up the stairs as hard as she can, breaths hitching with sobs, and slams the door. Then she opens it and slams it again, and again and again and again until Beebee screams at her to SHUT UP! There is a big crash downstairs.

And she falls on the floor and covers her eyes and screams and screams until she is sure Daddy can hear her in Heaven.

-x-

Rosie wakes up from a nightmare. Her pants are wet, the front of her nightgown soaked. And her leg aches.

"Oh no," she whispers.

She reaches across to wake her daddy, but feels the cold empty side of the bed, and she remembers. She curls her legs in and hugs herself. She wants to go back to sleep, but she cannot stay like this. She can smell the pee.

"Beebee?" she calls. It's still night. So he might be asleep. It's too dark even with the nightlight. The shadows grow and she can't see what is in the corner but she knows it just moved.

She hears a scratching and screeching sound like nails on a screaming chalkboard from downstairs. Goose flesh prickles down her arms.

Rosie hobbles downstairs, and the screaming gets louder with each step. She holds onto the railing so tight she digs her nails in.

Light from the chair room seeps into the hallway, lighting the way. She pauses on the other side, the screeching is making her head hurt, and she can smell something sour from the chair room, like it has seeped into the walls.

She peeks between the door and the jam and sees Beebee by the window, twirling and spinning while stroking the stick for his violin up and down in rapid movements without any rhythm.

He giggles and something in his eyes makes Rosie's stomach tighten. They're too wide, glimmering, like underwater.

He's drowning. 

He points to the space where her daddy's chair is supposed to be. "Noh, you are!" He hiccups and his shoulders hitch, making the violin screech. He glares at his chair. "Ohh, shut UP Myc!" he screams. He waves something away. "Th'ell d'you know?"

He shakes and his hand drops the bow and he grabs a bottle on the table. He takes a big, long gulp before his eyes snap open and he shouts and hurls the bottle at the wall, sending glass splintering in all directions.

Flashes of glass sprinkling against the asphalt next to her hand, and screeching metal leave her shaking in the cramped hall. The walls are closing in.

She wants her daddy. He could calm Beebee down. When he's angry, he attacks his violin, and he yells at Nana, but he doesn't look angry now. Rosie doesn't know what is wrong with him. She has never played pretend like this. He seems to think there is actually someone there. Daddy would know what to do. 

Beebee gives a twirl again and sways before collapsing back into his chair. He grabs another glass bottle and raises it to the space in front of him.

"Always keep me -hic- kept me right," he says. He snorts and giggles. "You know you do." And he laughs again, his shoulders hitching up and down like the chair is bucking under him, but then his chin drops to his chest and Rosie realizes that he isn't laughing. His mouth curves down in a mangled attempt at a smile and he wipes his wrist across his eyes and his shoulders buck again, this time with a choke.

His head falls back after he takes another gulp from the bottle and his eyes close. His violin drops to the floor. Rosie flinches. Beebee has told her how much he loves that violin, and how she has to be careful with it if she ever holds it. To see him toss it around like an old coat...

Rosie gathers what little bravery she feels below her heart, and eases the door open. It creaks and there is the sound of shifting, tinkling glass. Her eyes dart down at her feet and broken glass litters the space where she would step. She freezes. Daddy tells - telled her that broken glass is dangerous. She could cut herself.

Beebee's eyes snap open and he blinks slowly in her direction. Rosie opens her mouth, but doesn't know what to say. She suddenly feels like she has just seen something private, like walking in on someone when they are in the toilet.

But Beebee doesn't yell at her like she is expecting. He says nothing.

She swallows. "I... I had a bad dream," she says, gripping the door tight.

Beebee looks away and his shaking hand grabs the bottle from the floor. He sways a bit when he stands, like he's on a boat, and drags his feet as he walks down the hall. Maybe he is going to get the smelly cleaning spray. She hears the door slam. And the house is quiet once more. He doesn't come back.

Rosie doesn't want to go back upstairs. She will be alone and the bed is wet. Daddy wouldn't want her to step on the broken glass though. She takes the door to the kitchen and goes the long way into the chair room. She sees the pile of icky pasta and broccoli on the floor where she pushed her plate off the table. They will clean it tomorrow.

Nana will be home tomorrow. It will be okay.

She climbs into Beebee's chair and curls up, resting her head on the arm.

The tears dry on her cheeks long before she falls asleep.

-x-

A loud clatter jolts her from sleep. It takes her a moment to remember where she is. Back sore and legs cramped from sleeping curled up. There is faint light coming from outside the windows.

She sits up. Her tummy growls. She's starting to wish she'd eaten the pasta. Maybe Beebee will make her some. 

"Beebee?" she calls.

She can see down the hall. His bedroom door is still shut, as is the door to the loo. She eases her legs over Beebee's chair and stands.

She tiptoes down the hall. Listening for him.

The tap is running in the loo. She knocks twice. "Beebee?"

Muffled coughing. He sounds sick.

She knocks again. "Are you alright?"

He groans, like he's hurt. He needs help.

She twists the knob. It turns. "I'm coming in."

The door creaks open, the sound of running water much louder.

The door won't open any wider. Something heavy is blocking it. She can fit her hand through the opening, and the first thing she sees are his bare feet. On the floor. She throws her shoulder against it, pushing hard and she hears Beebee groan.

She finally manages to squeeze through the opening. Her feet splash through the water on the floor. Beebee is lying in the middle of the puddle, one arm twisted under him and his legs bent at awkward angles. His bottom is blocking the door from opening any more.

Rosie drops to her knees by his shoulder. "Beebee? Beebee can you wake up?"

His face is pale, and he's breathing like he just ran a million kilometers.

She shakes his shoulder. His eyelids flicker, and she sees a flash of pure blue, before he closes them again. He mumbles something.

A part of Rosie wants to burst into tears. She's never seen Beebee like this. He needs a doctor. And normally her father would be his doctor, but he's not here right now. 

You'll take care of him. 

Rosie gulps and wipes her wrist across her eyes. 

"What do we do whenever we see someone hurt?" Daddy asked.

"Stay calm."

Calm. She had to keep her brain from going all crazy. Sirens, shattering glass, car horns. 

"Are they breathing? Are they awake?"

"Call an ambulance!"

999. She needs to call an ambliance.

She needs a phone.

She peeks in Beebee's pockets, but they are empty, except for a folded piece of paper. Then she remembers that Daddy kept his phone on the table by the bed. So maybe Beebee does the same.

She heaves open the slide door to his bedroom and sees the black phone next to the clock.

She slides it open and presses 9-9-9.

Her heart starts thumping really hard as the phone rings. She goes back into the loo and sits next to Beebee's head. White drool leaks out of his mouth. His teeth chatter with shivers.

"Emergency Service, what is your emergency?" says a lady on the other end.

Rosie freezes up. This is an emergency. She needs to talk to this lady. She has to get Beebee help.

She finally gets the words out, but she talks too fast. The lady tells her to take a deep breath and slow down and start again. So Rosie tries to calm down. Her chest is still tight with worry. The lady is nice to her. She asks her lots of questions, but Rosie is afraid because she can't answer them right. She doesn't know what's wrong with Beebee, and she didn't see him fall, and there's no one home right now. But the lady promises that people will be over to help her and her beebee.

She stays on the phone with her the entire time. When Rosie starts crying, she tells her to hold Beebee's hand. She doesn't know if it comforts him, but it helps her. He's cold.

His breaths start shuddering. He coughs again and more drool leaks out. Rosie strokes his hair like Daddy did when she gets sick. He feels sweaty, or maybe that's just the water on the floor. Her thoughts drift to darker images. Will his gravestone be black too? Would he want white flowers or red?

She tells the lady to make the doctors hurry. She doesn't want to lose Beebee. She would give up her good leg if it meant her Beebee didn't have to die.

Two people in green finally arrive. They carry Beebee down the stairs on a stretcher. Rosie follows barefoot. It is cramped inside the ambulance with four people. She doesn't remember her first time in the ambulance, so it's brand new to her. Halfway to the hospital, he starts jerking. The doctors cut his shirt away and when Rosie starts crying, the lady doctor tells Rosie to close her eyes and count as high as she can.

Uncle Greg meets her at the hospital. They wait in the waiting room and Mr. Mycroft, still dressed like an office man, arrives with Nana a few hours later. She brings Rosie a pair of boots.

Mr. Mycroft is the first one to speak to a doctor.

"This was in his dressing gown." She hands him the folded piece of paper. He looks at it, brows furrowed.

"It may have been an accident," the doctor says.

He sniffs. "Does it matter?"

"In this case, we need to determine if further help is needed. I understand he recently lost his partner."

Mr. Mycroft pockets the paper. He grips his umbrella so hard it creaks.

Rosie tugs on his sleeve. "Can I see my beebee?"

He raises an eyebrow and looks like she just spoke french to him. She wrings her fingers together, feeling the butterflies in her tummy. She doesn't know how to explain. He's going to think she's stupid. 

Nana's hand rests on her shoulder, calming her. "Sherlock. It's her name for him."

Mr. Mycroft looks away. "He's resting. The medicine is keeping him asleep."

They let her see him anyway.

There are tubes in his arms and mouth. He looks like a ghost. Like he's dead. A machine beeps in time with his heart to tell them that he is still alive.

She looks up at Mr. Mycroft. "What's wrong with him?"

There is something in his cold eyes that she has not seen before. He doesn't look as scary now. He looks like an ordinary man with an umbrella.

He sighs. "He's not ready to get better yet."

The doctors allow them to stay with him for an hour. Rosie crawls up on the bed, careful of the tubes, and curls up at his side.

Mr. Mycroft sits in the chair at his bedside. He doesn't look up from his phone.

She manages to drift off, and wakes when she hears Dr. Molly. She keeps her eyes closed because it sounds like she and Mr. Mycroft are arguing.

They keep their voices low so Rosie has to listen hard.

"It was your night," Mr. Mycroft hisses.

"I know. I know. I... I had to leave. They needed me, I had no idea that..."

"You knew that Mrs. Hudson was gone for the weekend. You are her godmother for god's sake."

Dr. Molly is quiet. But then she raises her voice. "Don't you dare dump all on me. You're his brother. Why didn't you look after him if you were so worried?"

"I told you - I TOLD you - what a danger night looks like!" Mr. Mycroft is almost yelling now. "You knew this Miss Hooper."

Rosie doesn't like this, so she yawns and pretends to be waking up so they'll stop talking.

Dr. Molly has to leave though. Her eyes and nose are pink, and she does not look at Mr. Mycroft. She kisses Rosie. "Bye-bye love. I'll see you soon."

A nurse tells them they have to leave too. Mr. Mycroft gestures for her to follow. "Come Rosamund."

Rosie climbs off the bed and takes his hand. She holds onto his first two fingers. He doesn't try to hold her hand.

Mr. Mycroft takes Rosie back to her house and Nana helps her pack a small case with her clothes and toys. She falls asleep in the car. She wakes up when they arrive at a new house. It is bigger than anywhere she has ever seen. A lady shows Rosie a new room. The wallpaper is yellow and brown. No purple or blue.

There is a long mirror in the corner of the bedroom.

Rosie, still in her pee stained nightgown, creeps to the mirror and opens her one good eye. She touches the eyepatch, and her reflection does the same, so she knows it is her in the mirror. The pink, wrinkled lines across her forehead and cheeks from where the window burst open. The fuzzy patches where her hair is still growing back after the surgery because her brain got too big.

Her first thought is how ugly she looks. And she wants to cry. But then she remembers the soldier from Daddy's funeral. She didn't think he looked ugly. Daddy would never have said that he was ugly. The soldier looked strong. Brave. Brave enough to look at his reflection. Brave enough to go to a funeral.

Rosie isn't brave enough yet. Instead she turns the mirror sideways so it faces the wall. The sun is shining through the window by the time she falls asleep. Even then, she dreams of her reflection chasing her through a hospital. No matter how many doors she tries, she cannot find the way out.

-x-

A few nights later, when she comes down for a glass of water, she hears Mr. Mycroft talking on the phone. He says Beebee's name. All traces of sleep flit away and she bursts into his office and pulls on his arm.

"That's Beebee," she insists.

He ignores her. "Yes that's her."

She backs away, wringing her hands. She hasn't heard anything about Beebee in days. She bounces on the balls of her feet, rocks herself.

Finally he says, "Rosamund would like to speak with you."

Mr. Mycroft never says hello or goodbye or please or thank you. He said it wastes time. Daddy would say he is rude.

He gives the phone to her. She presses it to her ear, clutching it with both hands because it is expensive and she does not want to drop it and get in trouble.

"Rosie?" Beebee's voice rasps on the other end.

He sounds sick. Rosie's stomach turns. "It's me," she says.

"Hello sweetheart..." His voice hitches. He clears his throat. "How - how are you?"

Her breath hitches. She doesn't mean to cry, especially with Mr. Mycroft watching her.

She sniffles. "I want to go home."

"You... you can't just yet. You have to stay with Mycroft. I-I can't take care of you right now."

"Yes you can!" She squeezes her eyes shut and tears leak down her cheeks. He must still be angry with her. "Beebee, I'm sorry what... what I said. I'm really sorry."

She just wants to go home.

"I'm sorry too. But you can't come home. Not until I'm well."

"Did you take cold medicine?" That always helped when Daddy gave it to her.

"I.. yes," he sighs into the phone. "Yes love. I did. But I have to stay in hospital for a while. They're going to help me stay better."

She turns away from Mr. Mycroft. "Then can you come get me?" she whispers.

He is so quiet, Rosie thinks he has hung up. But then, a mumbled, "Maybe," rattles through.

Rosie's insides twist. "Oh...Okay."

"Hand me back to Mycroft now?"

She nods and holds the phone up for Mr. Mycroft. He takes it and turns his back, dismissing her.

She is halfway back up the stairs when she realizes she didn't tell Beebee that she loved him. Part of her wants to turn back, but the bigger part is too tired.

She returns to her room and sits on the window seat. There is no moon out tonight. Sheets of rain pelt the glass. There is no nightlight, so she keeps the light on in the closet.

She gets out a piece of construction paper and her crayons. She colors a picture of her daddy, with his silver hair on top. Then she gets another paper and draws her Beebee, with his curly black hair.

She crawls back into bed and lays her daddy on her right side and her beebee on the left. Just like home. She kisses each paper cheek and whispers goodnight.

The colors have bled into the sheets from her tears by the time she falls asleep.

Chapter Text

 

Sherlock had been expecting a client at five o'clock, so John took Rosie for new trainers. Her old light up Rainbow Dashers had been ruined by a daring trip through a mud puddle at the park. And without the lights, they were just regular old trainers. And they couldn't have that, now could they?

John had been at surgery for the morning and afternoon shift, but wanted to get Rosie out of the flat for this particular client. Nothing that Sherlock couldn't handle, but better to be safe with their girl.

It had been a bigger case involving a security scandal with an art museum. Four paintings had been vandalized and the security guard was under fire for allowing it to happen. The security tapes had been wiped. It was intriguing. Nothing stolen, no one harmed. It seemed to be nothing more than a case of extreme art criticism.

His Watsons left at ten minutes to five. The client was late. It seems trivial, yet when one is cursed with detailed memory, one cannot help but reminisce upon these insignificant fractures of the past. Insignificance evolves to desperate significance when one yearns to remember every last detail.

After, he had requested permission to open an investigation with Lestrade. Murder, he hoped. Malicious intent upon him for some grievance he'd caused. It must have been. At least then, fault could be identified. But, as he'd been told many years ago, he could see through everything, except when there was nothing to see through.

His name was Terrance Noland. He had worked a low income job and police found evidence of other robberies in his flat. But on that specific day, a little after five o'clock, he had robbed a bank and was being chased by three police cars. He jumped a curb and hit three people before crashing into a light pole. Without a seat belt, he was ejected from the windshield and killed instantly in oncoming traffic. Of the three people he hit, only one survived. After multiple surgeries, her broken leg would be usable, but her left eye could not be salvaged.

It's easy seeing it from a distance. No cleanup necessary. No point in descending into an apathetic stupor. 

And yet that had been his last client.

 

-x-

 

He taps his fingers on the arm rest in time to the music. Song, a fifty seven year old second generation Hong Kong descendant, knows he enjoys music rather than stone silence, so now there is always music playing during their hour together. She married young, in her early twenties, but only for four years before she decided to return to school. She has remained single ever since, and works alongside her mother in a flower shop. Deductions flit over her head much more clearly than they have been the last few weeks, like stretching an old muscle.

Mycroft pays her handsomely to visit him while he's stuck here. They hold his sessions in his room, or a cramped, artificial imitation of what a doctor believes a room is supposed to look like. Of course there is the squeaky metal frame, the thin mattress he is convinced is stuffed with newspapers, and a small bedside table. Everything is bolted to the floor. The window will open a few inches to let in a breeze.

Only the best for rehab.

Song nods. "How do you feel when those thoughts come up?"

Stupid question. Most of her questions were stupid. Of course he couldn't say that, not to her face. That would be rude. And Mycroft told him he had to behave while he's here.

"It's for the best I don't," Sherlock says, after careful consideration.

Song watches him carefully, observing him in a way he is not used to. "Well, we all know what's best. It's best I don't eat crisps for lunch every day, but I do. I like 'em." She winces and shifts to a more comfortable position. "But we get into a habit that's hard to break sometimes because that's all we know. Switching to a healthier option, like carrots, or rewiring your brain not to go down those paths so your thoughts don't end at 'what might have beens'."

More out of habit lately, he found his thoughts trailing back uselessly to what happened. Useless to think about if John had left only two minutes later. If the bus had been slower, if the damn client had shown up when he was meant to. It seemed the entirety of London was in-tune with itself to result in that exact moment.

Sherlock shuffles his feet across the white tile floor. The plastic hospital tag is digging into his wrist today, like a shackle reminding him of his name lest he forget while hallucinating from withdrawal. Very kind of them.

"It's not practical," Sherlock admits, sounding abhorrently like Mycroft. What was the point in thinking about what might have been if it never was? "John is dead. There's nothing I can do to change that."

Song leans forward slightly. "There's a difference between knowing someone is dead, and accepting it, and dealing with it in a healthy way. That is what this," she gestures vaguely between them, "is about. Helping you move forward to acceptance."

His eyes dart over her shoulder, where John stands steadfastly against the door, guarding it.

Sherlock frowns. How on earth did John get in here? Perhaps they've changed out his doctor again. At last, he will have some competent help. John has helped him plenty in the past. Although he doesn't feel particularly comfortable with him in here during his session with Song. Since Rosie cannot visit him, John has taken it upon himself to appear at the most inopportune times. Sherlock will have to talk to him about that later. Boundaries of course.

Sherlock digs his thumb into his wrist. "I'm not sure I can."

Song eases back into the chair again. "There's not a goal of when we need to reach that. But it's a goal that we have. So when you feel like you're ready to leave, you have the tools to continue on your own."

John smirks and rolls his eyes. Sherlock has to bite his smile off in return. Really John. You must know better. He can't giggle; he's in therapy!

Sherlock, still retaining a semblance of gentlemancy in this luney house, walks with her to the exit when their hour is up. He takes advantage of the rare sunny day, and walks through the garden.

Mrs. Wannop, in her usual grey dressing gown, is trimming some flowers along the fence line. She sits down with group discussion every Wednesday in the rec room. Her daughter killed herself eight months ago, and she has been in and out of programs for substance abuse since. Her husband sent her here after her second overdose. Mr. Wannop visits every Monday and Friday and weekend during visiting hours.

She recognizes Sherlock from group session, when he decides to go. He would much prefer to talk in private, or not at all, but it's not as though everyone speaks at once. The moderator gives everyone a chance to speak, and only them. Sometimes Sherlock listens. More often he enjoys deducing the patients and pointing out their obvious problems before the moderator can intervene. He has been kicked out twice.

Suffice to say, not many patients here like him.

She shades her eyes from the sun as she looks up at him.

"What d'you think?" she says, holding up the bouquet. "Should brighten up the room nicely." She smiles.

Sherlock sits cross legged next to her. The ground is damp from the sprinklers. He plucks some weeds away and absentmindedly ties them into a chain, like he used to for Rosie. Though she always took her flower jewelry off because they attracted bees, and the little darling, no matter how many times Sherlock explained to her, could not let go of her fear of being stung.

"You'd think they'd make the rooms a bit more cheerful. A whale with, 'Take to the skies!' isn't exactly motivational. I've named him Alan."

Sherlock wrinkles his nose. His poster, he remembers, was a sunrise over a mountain range.

"You don't have to keep them up." He had taken his down and stuck it in the alcoholic's room next door.

She tucks a daisy behind her ear. "I complained so much to Mr. Wannop that he had a little gamble with me. A good sign. We used to gamble each other quite a lot in our younger years. If I take the poster down while I'm here, I have to leave him my china cup I nicked from Buckingham. My prized possession you know."

She twirls a flower between her thumb and forefinger. "He knows how much I hate that poster though. How easy it is to ignore a slogan just to spite it all. But I won't lose that teacup, mind you."

Sherlock rips the flower chain. "It's easier than you think." After all, how easy was it for him to choose the needle over a child.

"Are you coming tomorrow?"

He blinks. "Tomorrow?"

"Circle group. You've missed the last three."

He looks at the shredded flowers in his palm. "I've been attending private sessions."

She nods, understanding. "You seem the private type. Is it going well?"

A low droning flies past his ear. A blur of yellow hovers over the flowers, passing over one to the next, the cycle of nature present before his eyes. He follows it through the garden, crouching on his hands and knees. At some point, Mrs. Wannop leaves him.

Later that night, long after the lights have shut off, Sherlock lays as flat as he can on the cold linoleum floor. John raises an eyebrow from the edge of the mattress, looking down at him.

"Experiment," Sherlock whispers. He stretches his arms and legs out like a starfish.

John leans against the bed frame, intrigued. "What kind?"

Sherlock sucks in a breath and releases it. He pulls in his limbs, making himself small. He waits a few moments and stretches his limbs out again.

"Don't you see John? I clearly wasn't meant to be a person. I am adapting to nature and becoming an organism dependent solely upon my vegetating mind."

Easy enough to do. Nature without the need to have a purpose in life. It just is. Existing as it was meant to. No need for finding others except for the need to procreate. See? John already did that. Sherlock will become an azalea. Grow in a garden in Sussex Downs near the bees. Recycle himself into nature through those intelligent little insects.

Rosie giggles and rolls onto her back and stretches her arms high above her head, copying him. She is two, with her curly blonde hair bouncing in the two pigtails on either side of her face, still round with jiggling baby fat. Both her big, blue eyes blink lazily at him.

"Dada look, I'm growing."

John hums, but doesn't look up from his book.

Rosie rolls to her side and takes Sherlock's wrist between her tiny fingers. "I'm going to pick you now. You tell me 'No, I'm such a pretty flower!' "

"No," he gasps, horrified. "I am such a pretty flower!"

The little gardener heaves on the stem of his arm, dissolving into belly gulping laughs when her strength perseveres and he flops to the floor, having successfully been uprooted.

His laughs trail off. He looks at his John, the last time he saw him.

"You'll walk in through that door, and say...'Time to go now.'"

But the door remains shut, and thus he passes another night in Ward 12. His eyes are now tinged pink from sleepless nights rather than the pink of self medication.

Days, filled with their meaningless distractions, pass by easier than the nights. All of the patients here suffer from the constant distracted insomnia that plagues them during withdrawal. Sherlock only remains here so the doctors can deem him well enough, by Mycroft's standards, to get back to the work.

Well enough.

Is anyone ever well enough? What is the rating system to deem someone well enough? You must be this well to ride on this coaster. "Just out of shithole" seems to be where Sherlock would put it.

"Well enough" to not to want to forget it all, to flush the poison down the loo.

He will never be truly clean. He may one day be independent from his crutch, but the limp is still there. Sherlock has never allowed himself to hope that he could rise above old habits. He is no better than ordinary people who find sports and companions to fill the void in their lives. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how many drugs he took, he would never be able to reach the emotional apathy of his brother, or his enemies.

 

-x-

 

He goes to group therapy.

A circle of plastic chairs have been set up in the middle of the rec room and sweaty rehabitants fill them with second day clothing. They're all users of some variety or another. Alcohol, cocaine, heroin... it all comes up, along with their personal grievances. 

Griefs, Sherlock corrects. Griefs. A grievance implies something to complain about that can be fixed. Griefs are personal, ones that drive a person to addiction or more severe methods of managing internal pain. 

A woman who stole from her terminally ill sister to pay for more drugs, a teenager with long sleeves who tried to drink bleach, a father who abandoned his family to chase the drink. A junkie who tried to overdose with a small child in the next room.

It is a nonjudgemental space.

Mrs. Wannop is there as usual, in the chair to Sherlock's left. She chews her thumb, and keeps rubbing her forehead. Bad night for her, Sherlock deduces. The moderator says it's her turn.

She squirms in place. "You read... and telly always tells you, it's like... losing a limb." She sucks in her cheeks and shakes her head. "It's not." She shrugs. "I could cut off my own hand and be sad or angry, but - "

Zach, a young addict in the middle of his gap year, raises his hand. "Why'd you cut off your own hand?"

The moderator intervenes. "An analogy." He nods to Mrs. Wannop. "Please continue, June."

She's looking somewhere in the middle of the floor with a deep frown. "Why'd I... I dunno. I wouldn't do it for shits now would I?" She straightens up. "I tell you what I'd do. You see that surfer girl who got her arm bit off? She went back to surfing. She's quite good. You can do lots of things one handed." She looks down at her hand. Her cuticles are bright red from where she's chewed them. She flexes her fingers. "It's just a hand. Doesn't make me laugh. It doesn't know me. It writes. It texts. Helps me speak. Helps me open doors. But that's what the other hand is for."

She chews on her thumb again, pauses for so long that the moderator has to prompt her to continue.

She wipes her thumb on her jeans and her mouth twists in a snarl. "Losing a limb." She shakes her head. "It's not. You're going about your business, and you get a call saying a piece of the planet suddenly fell off into space. And it's gone forever."

The circle is silent for a moment, then the moderator leans forward. "There's an emptiness there, isn't there. How did you fill it?"

Her eyes are dry. "I haven't. I mean, I quit all-all that. But... what do you do now that you can't die?"

She looks at Sherlock for the first time, and something about the loneliness in her gaze resonates with him in such an intimate way that he sways in her direction, as if gravitated to her.

"Sherlock?" the moderator says.

Now they are all looking to him for an answer. What could he know? John had all the answers. John was the one who went to therapy, the one who could comfort clients after a disturbing case. 

Sherlock swallows. "I suppose you... wait for equilibrium to establish again."

It's quiet for a moment. 

Then, a gentle voice, "Would you like to talk, Mr. Holmes?"

He looks around the circle from the corner of his eye. The addicts sit, slumped or hunched over in their chairs, bored, or red-eyed, some bouncing their legs in anticipation, others staring out of the window. They have their secrets, their reasons. None of which are particularly important. And yet Sherlock still feels the creeping shame deep in his chest.

The world was empty once, yes, back when he still had the desire to fill it with something of substance. He would fill it shallowly, again and again, until he ran out, and decided there was no point in trying to find more. He would end it all, there on the bathroom floor. Nothing existed outside of that room. There was only the running water, and morphine.

He finally shakes his head to the circle of eyes. His shame is his secret, not to share with strangers. Even strangers who may have done worse than him.

As they continue discussion, he watches Mrs. Wannop. 

Equilibrium, a place where they could exist without threat of ground crumbling.

John had altered his entire world into an unfamiliar territory where he forgot what it was like to be alone. His doctor had inserted himself into his life and memories, part of his beating heart.

Man is adaptable. Why else have humans been able to survive for several thousand years and outlive the pre-humanoid members of the homo genus? But surely somewhere along the line, there was grief and mourning of a male homo-erectus who had nothing more to live for, which is why they are now extinct. When will homo sapien encounter his last relationship because he cannot bear to live after his love is gone?

But even though John is gone, the smallest parts of him are coded into Rosamund Watson. Echoes of him left in the world, like ripples finally reaching the shore of a pond. The mug he left on the table in the living room. The last bill he opened. The last text message. 

The lives he saved.

 

-x-

  

He talks about Rosie for the first time.

"Have you talked to her," Song asks, "since coming here?"

Sherlock swallows hard and shakes his head. "Once, after I was admitted." Though he hadn't called to specifically talk to her, she just happened to be in the same room as Mycroft. She should have been in bed. Though he doubted Mycroft was keeping track of her sleep schedule, letting her run about the maison like a wild child.

"How was she?"

Sherlock remembers her little voice, hurt, on the other end, hushed because Mycroft was certainly breathing down her neck the entire time.

"She thinks I'm ill with the flu." She had sounded confused. Understandable. Mycroft had probably explained it to her in his limited way. It was better that she did not understand what had happened on their last night together. She is so young after all.

"You don't seem very okay with this. Does it bother you?"

"She won't starve."

But apparently that was a not good thing to say because she frowns. "You can be starved of other necessities. From what you've told me, it seems like you and your brother are distant."

He takes a sip of water. One would say that, wouldn't one.

"How do you feel about her being there?"

Feel. Sherlock looks down so she won't see his eyes roll. Always feeling with her. Could she, for once, see this from a practical standpoint?

For the duration of his time here, and for how long it would take for him to be well enough, he will never be able to take her home. Mycroft spoke to him several weeks ago about the court order from Child Protective Services. His brother is willing, and has more than enough money to make sure she will be well off. Well enough.

It doesn't matter what he feels about this, doesn't she understand?

"She won't need me," he says.

Song taps her pencil in thought. "What sort of activities did you do with her, before?"

He looks at the curtains, a small smile forming. Anything and everything that he could with her and John. He adored being part of her world, watching her grow from infancy, to a rage on two legs that refused to go down for her nap, to when he and John first took her to daycare. He was the emergency contact, should John not be available.

Crime scenes were strictly off limits, but they played detective sometimes on his days off and he showed her how he solved a crime, censoring some of the more grisly ones. It was a game she adored, especially if she could solve a case with him. 

She is devilishly clever.

He tells Song about the one and only case they did bring her on. No blood, no murder. A prized show dog had vanished the night before Westminster, with only a blue dye handprint as the clue. Their girl was beyond thrilled to help find the baddie. They were allowed backstage to investigate and Rosie helped by petting every dog and asking if they had seen their friend.

"In the end it was the groomer."

"The groomer?" Song blurts.

Sherlock grins, which turns into a giggle. "The dog's - excuse me -" he snorts, and composes himself. "The dog's owner was a very wealthy old woman with stage three cancer. After she died, all the money would go to her dog. The groomer had worked for her for nearly twelve years, with all her show dogs, and didn't feel he was adequately compensated." He smiles at the memory, feeling the cracks widen. "That was her first, and last case."

Their laughs trail off into silence. Sherlock's composure breaks, and he covers his mouth, his throat suddenly tight. He misses her so desperately in that moment that it's as if a piece of himself has been torn away. The thought of her growing up in that enormous house, which might as well have red velvet ropes at every corner because it is more a museum preserve than an actual place of dwelling, makes him shrink. She will be trapped, ruined, because of him.

The sound of her little voice on the other end of the phone, I want to go home, and he couldn't even give her that. He has failed her. Failed John in the most unimaginable way. Before, he would have done anything for her, and now, with John gone, it's as if his vows died with him.

Song hands him a tissue. He presses it to his eyes and sits there shaking. Eventually he calms down enough to wipe his eyes and nose. He tucks the tissue into his pocket.

"You were very happy with John and Rosie," Song says gently. "You didn't have that for a very long time. Growing up with your brother, and I imagine parents, with high expectations would make it challenging to find companionship and love. And when John died, you felt that you had to revert back to how you coped before. But you are stronger than that. You are not alone. Reengage with the people in your life, to where you're comfortable going back to them to be vulnerable."

 

-x-

 

Mrs. Hudson visits. It is the first time they are in the same room together since he woke up in hospital, where she slapped him.

She had glared at him with such a look of hatred that he felt himself shrink. An angry film of tears brimmed in her eyes, but did not fall. He had never seen her shake with anger before, not even when he started using again after Mary died.

"She called emergency services you twat!" She hit him on the head with a rolled up magazine. "Never in my house. You promised me. Never in my house. Around our girl no less."

She threw that magazine at the wall and hit him three times with her hand before the nurses were able to lead her away. She nearly hit them too. She glared at him over her shoulder.

"One phone call you idiot! That's all you needed. One."

That was the last time he saw her.

That is all I would've needed.

John watches him as he dials her number.

He doesn't expect her to answer. The heavy weight in his stomach lifts when she does. He is still not comfortable on the phone, but they talk for twenty minutes. He has never been good at talking to her about her more mundane interests, but it is good nevertheless to hear her voice. They ignore the more pressing issues, leaving that to a face to face meeting, which she agrees to more enthusiastically than he feels is necessary. He would prefer to text her, but he knows that will not be received well, nor address the issues properly.

She meets him on a Wednesday during daytime television hours.

She wears a lavender dress with blue flowers. When she hugs him, he can smell eucalyptus on her. She's been burning those aroma candles in her apartment then. She feels much smaller than last time he hugged her. Her hair is greyer.

Worry, he deduces, or grief

Absence has not been kind to her either. 

They sit at a table in the visitor's area, two cups of earl grey tea breaching the space between them.

They start simultaneously.

"I shouldn't have - "

"I'm sorry - "

He pauses, and she gestures for him to start.

He nods. "I want you to know, I am sorry. For everything Mrs. Hudson. For Rosie. For... everything."

She slowly twists one of her rings, eyes elsewhere. "I shouldn't have left you there."

"You are not required to be at my side every moment. I do know you have a world outside of Baker Street."

Her hand slide across the table until the tips of her fingers touch his. "I didn't even want to go." She shakes her head, the rims of her eyes growing pink. "She... she just begged me to stay. And when I found out..." She dabs her eyes with her sleeve, looking past him for a long moment. When she looks at him again, it's as if she is in pain.

"I've never needed to tell you about what went on with Frank. You have always been good about that. But of all the ways..." She shakes her head. "If I ever find you with drugs in my house again, I will kill you Sherlock Holmes."

It is her way of saying that he is still welcome in her home. That he still has a home.

He meets her eyes. "I don't deserve you Mrs. Hudson."

She kisses his cheek and hugs him with one arm. "You're getting better," she whispers in a heavy voice.

She cups his cheek as she straightens, the pad of her thumb rough over his skin. 

He and John watch her leave. She waves goodbye as she gets into the cab. 

"She's right."

"What about?"

But John doesn't answer. And when Sherlock turns to look, he is gone.

Living is harder, so Sherlock is learning. So the dead have taught him for many years. It is easy to find a corpse in an alleyway, easy for them to be dissected, to find out what happened to them in death. There are so many ways one can die, after all. But the lives they led, the people they loved, the ones they betrayed, are always complicated. 

But it is easier when others accompany him on such journeys.

 

-x-

 

Equilibrium arrives with an old friend.

Sherlock is in the gym with Luis, the boy who tried to drink bleach, for a sparring session. Since Mrs. Wannop left, he has been attempting civility to others. He finds they aren't terribly annoying after all.

Luis is bright, and quick with punches in the ring. He calls Sherlock, Old Man, and he supposes he is, compared to the boy in front of him. He, after all, can remember a time when Walkmans were still popular. Luis barely has memory of dialup.

The doors to the gym open, and an attendant crosses to the sparring ring with a note.

"Mr. Holmes?"

Luis tries to cut him in the ear when Sherlock turns to look. He catches the boy's arm and pushes him back into the ropes.

"Playing dirty again," he tuts. He turns and glares at the attendant with the note. He bites the velcro of the glove and rips it off. "Please tell me I'm being expelled."

Luis chokes on his bottle of water. He grins at Sherlock.

The attendant gives him a look and hands him the note.

 

Could use some consulting.
L

 

He looks up, eyes wide. "Where is he?"

"Visitor's - "

Sherlock doesn't give the attendant time to finish. He's halfway out the door, one boxing glove still on his hand, a familiar high pumping through him. 

He bursts into the visiting room, disrupting a family sitting in the corner. On the opposite side, next to the wide windows overlooking the garden, sits Detective Inspector Lestrade.

He looks years older. For a moment Sherlock wonders how long he has been in rehab, but then he realizes it is because perhaps the the last time they saw each other was at the funeral. The DI has lost weight, and his hair is different, cut shorter on the sides. His face seems to have aged in such a short amount of time. All he needs are thin wire rimmed glasses.

But whatever case he could have possibly brought to interest Sherlock is erased from existence because of the blonde curly head sitting across from him. 

The floor seems to drop out from under Sherlock. 

She is here. In the same room.

A wave of longing swells in him, the months she has been absent from his arms. His legs twitch, wanting to carry him to her. He almost reaches out for her, to hold her again and feel her heartbeat against his like how he cradled her as a baby.

But then the sheer fucking shame of what he did swells in him like a tsunami, threatening to consume him. He needs to leave before she notices, before it all comes back, before she demands to know why he did it... 

He retreats a step, then another, Lestrade coolly watching him. He backs away until he is just outside the door, struggling to breathe. He cannot do it. Cannot face what he has done.

The door opens and Lestrade is there. Sherlock prepares himself to be reprimanded, to be told to 'man the hell up' and face the consequences. But instead, Lestrade looks at him with a gentle gaze, with no judgement, no anger, only the need for understanding.

"Bit mean springing it on you like that, I know." He rubs his neck sheepishly.

Sherlock nods, swallowing the lump in his throat. 

"I haven't told her why we're here. She thinks we're on a case, top secret stuff, y'know. I figured it'd be like a plaster. Just rip it off." He squeezes Sherlock's shoulder. "Yeah, it's gonna be rough, but you're all she's got."

"What about you?"

Lestrade crosses his arms and shrugs. "Not her godfather." 

A terrible decision on John's part. He glares at him over Lestrade's shoulder, but he isn't looking at Sherlock. He is watching through the window, a hand pressed to the glass.

Oh. Of course. Sherlock looks away. John hasn't seen Rosie in months. Of course he mustn't disturb the father.

Sherlock straightens, just a few centimeters taller than Lestrade. They have known each other for almost fifteen years now. Sherlock was never close to his father, never respected him in the same way that Lestrade slowly gained his over the years. And he knows now that Lestrade has never had a reason to respect him. But all he asks of him is that he speak to the closest thing he has known as a daughter.

Sherlock wipes the sweat from his forehead and nods. It is the right thing to do.

She is coloring when he sits down with her. Lestrade decided he would stay outside to give them time. When she realizes who it is, she goes unnervingly still. She sets her marker down.

Her hair has mostly grown back from the surgery on her skull, but she's still thin, and there are shadows in her cheeks that don't belong.

Little sleep, not eating. Anxiety, he deduces. Not uncommon for children who have been removed from their guardians.

He wonders who dressed her. A closer look and he spots a missed button at the back of her neck. Either an elderly nanny, or someone who couldn't bother to care about her appearance.

He half expects her to leave. Say, sod off freak, and move on. But then again, she is four and a half.

"Hello Rosie."

She looks him up and down, and frowns at the wrist with his hospital tag. She looks back up, not quite meeting his eyes. 

"I know you weren't expecting to see me. I can go away if you want." 

She traces a line on her drawing and shakes her head. Her silence, while not a protest, is unnerving.

He takes a deep breath, recalling Song's sessions like a tape recorder on fast forward.

Acknowledge her feelings, accept blame, apologize, he concludes. 

He clears his throat. "Rosie I know you must be confused, and that's my fault," he says. He presses his palm flat against the metal table. "I left you, and you needed me."

She knots her fingers together, squirming in place and looking at him from the corner of her eye. 

"You can hate me darling," he whispers. "It's okay."

She swallows and curls her fingers into a fist. "No. I don't hate you," she says softly.

His throat feels far too tight. "That's far more than I deserve from you." 

She looks around suspiciously. "You live here now?"

"For a little while, yes."

She squints with her good eye. "You don't look poorly."

"I'm better than before."

"Did the doctors hurt you bad?"

Sherlock blinks. "Doctors?"

She picks at some skin around her nail. "In the ambliance."

So she had seen it all then. 

"Amb-u-lance," he corrects gently. "It didn't hurt. The physicians were helping me."

His throat had been sore for days after they forced him to purge.

"You made yourself sick..." She frowns, trying to solve a puzzle in her head. "So you could go to hospital."

He feels his stomach twist and thinks hard before answering. Even then, the explanation is clumsy. "I had to go to hospital because I hurt myself on the inside."

It's not a lie, but it is preferable to the whole truth.

She twists her fingers together and looks away. He can see her eyes growing pink. She bites her lip. "You wanted to leave me too," she whispers.

Not her, but the world. The world that had been so cruel as to take John Watson from him. But he wants a second chance with her, no matter how thin that chance might be. As badly as he wanted to be with John, he now wants to be with her more. 

She is alive. Here. In front of him.

John Watson is dead and cold in the ground.

"Not you darling. I was... I was so very sad because John - because your daddy's gone." His throat tightens. It is difficult to get the words out. "I thought I was alone. My brain was sick, and it made me forget how much I care about you, darling. I care about you so, so much. And I want to stay with you."

Her composure breaks. Her eyes squeeze shut and she sobs once into her hands. She weeps something unintelligible.

"I'm sorry?"

She hiccups and wipes her eyes.

"It was m-my fa-ault." She stares at him with red, glimmering eyes. "It was my job."

He is so confused. How could she possibly think this was her fault? He rubs her shuddering back, feeling the knots in her spine. "I don't understand," he says helplessly.

She looks up, tears leaking down her face. "Muh-my job. To be-be doctor. I'm s'posed to take care of you now." She gulps and ducks her head down into her hands again and weeps.

Sherlock once fell off the Thames bridge. It was a long way down, with time to think. But oddly, the only thing he could hear in his head was a high keening as he braced himself for impact. The landing was like hitting concrete, and knocked the breath from him.

This is a similar feeling.

"No. No, darling please don't." He slides from his own seat to kneel next to her. "Listen to me.  Rosamund. Are you listening?"

He takes her precious face into his hands. She blinks owlishly at him, fat tears sliding down her face. Sherlock feels his own tears as well.

Damn you John Watson.

"It was not your fault. It was mine. My fault. Because I made myself sick from missing your father so much."

She wipes her nose but still doesn't look at him. He knows she doesn't believe him, but that's normal. It will take much more than words - and more time - to convince her that she was not to blame.

John is standing over Rosie's shoulder, stroking her hair gently. Rosie doesn't seem to feel him.

"Broken heart," he murmurs. 

And if her father's temperament hasn't been coded into her veins, through and through. Watsons do not heal easily. They keep their grief - and anger - close. He strayed from his vow with devastating consequences, but he will not make the same mistake again. Just as he was for John, Sherlock will be there for her.

"But I have a doctor now, who is teaching me not to be sad anymore."

She blinks in surprise. "Miss Penny talks to you too?"

"Miss Penny?" He returns to his chair and scoots it closer to her.

Rosie nods. "She talks to me about when I get sad."

Sherlock gulps. "That's... good. Very good. Do you feel better?"

She shrugs again. "She taught me a trick." She turns her arm over and pulls up the sleeve, and for half a moment, Sherlock feels the blood drain from his face.

But instead of bruises and scarring, smiley faces stare up at him. All over her arm, drawn in blue felt tip marker.

She looks up with a small lift in her mouth. "Every time I'm happy, I get to draw a smile face. And then when I get cross at Uncle Mycroft, I look at them smile."

There at well over twenty on the one arm she bares to him. Probably from this day alone. 

He props his elbows on the table. "You get cross at Myc often?"

She gives a big nod. "Um-hum. But I haven't broken anything in years. So he gave me a present."

A bloody present. Sherlock will have to investigate once he gets out. Find out exactly what present his brother had used to wheedle his way into her good books, something he swore he would never let happen.

"That's very clever of you," he says instead. She beams. "But I don't want to hear of you breaking anything else."

Her lower lip sticks out. "It was an accident. One time."

He bites back a grin. "No such thing as an accident."

She tilts her head to the side and looks at him funny. 

"What?"

"Uncle Myc says that too. So now I'm not allowed to have accidents."

Surely this is nothing more than genetics. He is as different to Mycroft as the British are to the French.

"Well..." Sherlock refuses to acknowledge the heat in his face as embarrassment. "We are brothers after all."

She looks over her shoulder and for a second, Sherlock thinks she can see John, but she gives a shy wave towards the window where Lestrade is. Sherlock half turns as well, and motions for him to join them.

The DI returns to the plastic chair across from hers, leaving Sherlock in the middle, for the rest of their time together. He feels as if a part of his crumbling world has been stitched with hers, and somehow, they have formed a shaky, fragile universe. It could come apart so easily at any moment, but what matters is that they have managed this much, despite Sherlock's mistakes.

Once, she laughs out loud, and Sherlock feels goose flesh on his neck it is so haunting. He hasn't heard her laugh in ages. Her voice has haunted his memories, drugged and foggy as they were, by screaming that she hated him.

Now, she looks up at him, still smiling, and uncaps a purple marker. She pulls down her sleeve and draws a smile. Sherlock watches her, completely entranced.

At a quarter to four, Lestrade looks at his watch. "We'll have to get going. The aquarium closes at 6."

A wave of reality crashes over him. At some point in their visit, he forgot that they would have to return to the world of sobriety.

Rosie grins and pushes her chair back from the table. "We get to go see the Dory fishes!"

"I did promise," Lestrade says.

Rosie gathers her colorings and tucks them haphazardly under her arm, with the markers gripped tight in her hand. 

Sherlock walks them to the door, where the receptionist nurse buzzes them through. 

"'Ey." Lestrade tugs Rosie back. "Say goodbye to Sherlock."

Sherlock crouches at her level, but doesn't hold his arms out. It is not a requirement that she hug him, and he doesn't want her to feel uncomfortable.

He holds out his hand instead. "Thank you for coming to see me Rosie."

She looks at his hand strangely for a moment, then takes his first two fingers with hers and bobs her wrist up and down.

"Bye-bye Sherlock."

The crack widens considerably in his chest. He wonders for a moment if she is merely mimicking Lestrade, that Bee-Bee is still in her vocabulary somewhere. But then he realizes that this was inevitable. Children learn to correct themselves when disapproval is met by authority. Mycroft - no doubt - has corrected her numerous times to the point where Bee-Bee has become synonymous with childish. 

But she is a child. She was once his child, and he has lost the privilege of Bee-Bee. Instead he is another name to her. Plain, and forgetful. 

"Bye-bye love," he whispers.

He straightens and lets Lestrade hug him. Tears leak down his nose. He presses his thumb and forefinger against his eyes, and keeps still so he won't feel him shaking.

Lestrade squeezes him like he will vanish if he lets go. Sherlock hugs him back, resting his chin on one broad shoulder, his arm around the other. Lestrade's breath hitches and he pulls away, wiping at his eyes.

He clears his throat and holds him at arm's length. "We'll get you back out there in no time."

Sherlock snorts. "Is the infallible Scotland Yard not fairing well in my absence?"

Lestrade smirks. "We could do with an outside consult now and then."

"Are we going?" Rosie says at his hip.

Lestrade smiles and looks down at her. "We sure are Flower."

Before he loses the chance, Sherlock suddenly pinches Lestrade's sleeve between his fingers. The DI turns, brow raised.

"Thank you Greg," Sherlock says. 

Lestrade's brows furrow. He rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably, then gently squeezes Sherlock's wrist in return.

"Call me when you're ready to leave. I'll take you home."

He holds out his hand for Rosie to take, and the door shuts behind them. But this time, it doesn't feel permanent. A strand of thread has been left for him to take, thin and fragile, but it will inevitably guide him back to Rosie's half of the world, where, one day, it might become whole again. 

That night, he thinks about Rosie and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson and takes the cheap ballpoint pen from his bedside table. Slow and careful, like Rosie, he draws a simple smile on his wrist. It smiles up at him in the moonlight until he falls asleep.

It is the first time in months that John is not there to say goodnight to him. 

 

-x-

 

He would like to use, to snuff it all away, or cut the festering memory out, drown himself in liquor to have a restful night.

But he remembers. And if Rosie remembers, then so must he.

Children learn from their influencers, little chameleons that reflect their environment. He will not become a cheap reflection of his brother.

And Rosamund will not reflect him.

He must do better.

He does not use, and he doesn't drink.

Instead he talks to Song. And has tea with Mrs. Hudson. And consults for DI Lestrade.

He grieves still. On nights when there is nothing to do.

He cries and Song listens. They find solutions together. 

Days turn to night. 

He thinks of Rosie and John.

Another smiley face.

Start again.