Dinner Table Conversation #1
Sherlock was the one who had left the dye he'd been experimenting with in a spot where Rosie could reach. John had returned from tending to the laundry and saying hello to Mrs. Hudson, to find that Rosie had turned herself into a 4 year old canvas of very odd colour, head to toe, covered in speckely brown spots, black lines, completely stained hands, and a big grin.
According to John's Laws of Irresponsibiity, then, it was up to Sherlock to take her into the bath to attempt to uncover the little girl from the mess she'd made of herself, while John put the finishing touches on dinner and set the table. "You allowed this, you are cleaning it up." Both Sherlock and Rosie turned to him as if they no longer spoke English. "Rosie, bath." His tone and his direction was enough to at least get her moving down the hall. "You too," he said, a hint of a smirk, and Sherlock whirled annoyed on a heel and followed.
Sam took a spot at the table, and John joined him, grateful that Rosie's artistic adventure didn't involve making a terrible or otherwise catastrophic mess in the flat. Dodged another bullet, so far anyway. For all John knew, the bathtub was going to be problematic after they were finished, but ...
"Your day at school was good?"
"Yes papa." He smiled and uttered a quiet thanks as John set a glass of water in front of each of them.
"I'm guessing your homework is done."
Sam nodded. "I have a question." John made a wide sweeping gesture, sitting back in the chair and grateful for a few uninterrupted minutes. He could vaguely make out the sounds of splashing water, Sherlock speaking, and presumably quieter moments when actual scrubbing was hopefully taking place in the bath. "You were talking with someone on the phone, papa, about how one of your patients at the surgery got sick. He was a student, at uni."
A few days previously, John had indeed triaged a patient by phone and then had related the back-story about the uni student he'd sent to the A&E who was sleep deprived, malnourished, run-down, over-extended, and had contracted some sort of viral illness. They had talked a bit about how people who were exhausted, overworked, with a sleep deficit were more prone to illness for a little bit when John had ended the call. "Yes. I think he's still in the hospital, but he's improving." Taking a sip of his water, John wondered at the question. "Did the story upset you?"
Sam shook his head but kept quiet for a moment, and John could sense the tension in the room. He tried to wait Sam out, but after a few minutes, he opted to probe again, gently. "Are you feeling okay? Or worried that one of us ...?"
With a pleading look about him, he stared hard at John and blurted, "I think mama got sick because of me. She was tired, and ... " His eyes sought out John. "Did she have to work too hard that she couldn't ..." Sam promptly burst into tears then, and John didn't hesitate at all before drawing him close, pulling him into his arms.
"No. That's not why." He rubbed his hand lightly over Sam's back, smoothing down his hair while he clung. Heat radiated off the boy, from being so upset and working so hard to keep a handle on himself.
When Sam was calm enough to listen, John soothed him further, explaining, "Your mama getting sick had nothing to do with taking care of you. It was not your fault." Sam clearly didn't believe him given the sad look about him. John tried to explain it differently. "The disease she had was just one of those terrible things. Nothing she did caused it, and it was nothing you did." Sam shuddered a bit, exhaling fiercely, then left his eyes closed as he seemed to finally settle and lean more comfortably on John's shoulder. "Not your fault," he whispered again. "Do you understand me?"
John pressed his arms away enough that he could see Sam's face, looking intently into his bright, still somewhat tearful eyes. And very slowly, although he was still shaky, Sam nodded.
"It's really important that you don't blame yourself." John spoke gently, his voice a very hushed volume. "Your mama getting sick had nothing to do with anything you did or didn't do." Sam nodded again, but the struggle was evident even as he let John hold him. "If this bothers you again, please talk to me about it?"
He nodded again, thoughtfully, and this time it was a little more genuine.
John hugged him close once more, then let his arms relax. Usually, Sam would pull away almost immediately. This time, he didn't move. John closed his eyes, smiling, enjoying the way Sam's head tucked under his chin as they stayed there.
Dinner Table Conversation #2
John kept a weathered eye on the table. Sherlock, redecorating his plate, shifting the contents with the tines of his fork, arranging things into something complicated - likely a chemical equation - that only he would understand. Not hungry, then, he's about finished. Rosie, all her favourites gone and the remnants of everything she didn't care for untouched on her divided plate; she'd ultimately done well. Sam's plate, curiously and atypically remained fairly full.
"You just not hungry?" John asked him, wondering if he was getting sick or if his stomach was upset.
"I ... yes, I guess not." Reluctantly, he picked up the utensil, took a half-hearted bite.
"If you're not hungry, that's fine. You can be done."
Sherlock raised a brow, peered a bit peckishly down his nose at John. "You usually fuss more than that at me, you know. Bloody food nag you are." He punctuated his words with his fork, pointing it for emphasis.
John bit down, clenching his teeth, wishing for the millionth time that - just every now and again - Sherlock would at least attempt to act like an adult and not nitpick in front of the actual children. Since they'd had a bit of a problem with Sam and some minor food issues in the past, John hardly ever said anything about any of them eating, or not eating, and Sherlock knew it. In private, even, John rarely said anything to him either. Perhaps it was just a long day and John's usual filters were off-line, and he'd had enough, so he opted to speak up. He spoke coolly, his delivery calm and low. "You know what? You can be done too." Before thinking better of it, he let his control slip even further. "Why don't you go clean up your toys, go get a bath, and I'll tuck you in when I'm done cleaning up the kitchen and taking care of everything else."
Ignoring John's quietly delivered barb, Sherlock rose, began clearing the table and his own plate, scraping the leftovers into the bin, rinsing dishes, putting away the food.
"So," John began, helping Rosie down - also done - and wiping her hands before letting her scamper off leaving only John and Sam still sitting. He sighed, took a relaxing moment to diffuse his annoyance, a few deep breaths before speaking to Sam. "What's troubling you? Anything I can help with?"
Sam pursed his lips, keeping his eyes downcast, but didn't say anything.
John knew not to push hard. "Okay, if you change your mind --" John spoke slowly, and was rewarded for his patience and his intuition when Sam did finally start talking.
"In my village, it was very common for us, mama and I, to be hungry. Some days, most days, it was one meal. If that." He glanced into the kitchen, where Sherlock had also turned, listening quietly, a hip balanced against the sink. "Here, there is so much." He raised those bright Watson-blue eyes to look evenly at John. "Would it be possible for me to eat less and we could send a little," and he touched at the edge of his plate, "my share, my extra, back to my village?"
John smiled, remembering some of the food concerns that Sam had expressed early on, the food insecurity, the hoarding that they'd managed to slowly, patiently overcome. Sam had made so much progress, and John was so impressed that despite the hardships he had known, that he was still able to see the needs of others. "Tell you what," John said slowly, "I like the idea, but I'm not sure that sending the actual leftovers would work. It would get messy, and the food would probably spoil, in the heat and stuck in the mail for that long time."
"Oh yeah," Sam looked a bit crestfallen.
"But I do think, though, that this is a great idea. We do have plenty and can definitely share. And help out somehow." John shot a quick glance over at Sherlock who was looking at both of them with such fondness. John belatedly realised that Sherlock was probably looking for any excuse to eat less. "So let's think of some ways to make it happen."
"And perhaps we can find some people who are already there who can get packages and help those who need it most." Sherlock had his mobile out already. "I'm certain I can come up with something." His fingers flew over the screen, and there was some muttering, "Let's see, ... military liaison office perhaps ... humanitarian services ... Peace Corps?"
"In the meantime, while you're thinking about it, I have a little English saying to tell you about." John asked Sam about whether people in Afghanistan ever went fishing, and Sam nodded. "So the saying goes something like, 'give a man a fish, and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.'" John waited as Sam was quiet, unmoving, thinking, probably still converting some of the words between English and Dari and back again. "Does that make sense to you?"
"I guess, yeah." His brow was still a little furrowed, but he made an attempt to restate the meaning. "One only helps for a little while. The other, for longer."
Smiling, John nodded and considered where to lead the conversation next. "Is there a parallel, that we could think about and maybe help in a way that's fixing the problem for a long time rather than just, you know, giving people food?"
"Like finding something that won't run out?"
"Or that replenishes itself. Grows."
"Sustainable." Sherlock interjected the word, then explained it a little more fully. As an example, he asked Sam, "Did your village have chickens?"
"So chickens lay eggs. You still have the chicken afterward. And it can lay more eggs. Sustainable." Sherlock smiled at Sam's expression as he truly seemed to understand, and he asked him, "Would milk fall into this category?"
"What about bacon?"
Sam had grown quite fond of John's fry-ups on the weekends, and particularly enjoyed those meals that included bacon. "No."
"Chickens, sheep, and cows are expensive, though," John said carefully. "Not only to purchase, but to house and feed them." He pushed back from the table then as Rosie came back over holding her blanket and a book. "Are there other things you can think of that would be more like teaching someone to fish?" John snuggled with Rosie but did not interrupt their discussion, and she thumbed through the book while tucked under his chin.
"A garden maybe."
"Which also takes land, to either use, borrow, or rent," Sherlock clarified. "Did your village have an area, like a central place, open space, that people could use?"
John frowned, snuggling Rosie and flipping open the book. He didn't start to read right away. "I remember, there were a lot of things that grew pretty well there."
"Heroin being one." Sherlock waggled his mobile, with a tiny smirk. "It'd be a lucrative --"
"No." John rolled his eyes at Sherlock before saying it again, "no." He turned back to Sam. "So wheat, barley, rice all grow pretty well."
"Well, if we're going to stick to legal means," Sherlock began.
"And moral, ethical means," John clarified, sending a somewhat exasperated glare in Sherlock's direction.
"... there are groups working there in the country, and making a difference. They fund-raise and provide basics like clean water, healthcare, humanitarian aid, things like that." Sherlock shrugged. "It makes more sense to join a group that's already connected, already there." He tapped at his mobile again. "There are some options. There's still a military presence there. Looks like they mostly want monetary donations."
Sam remained quiet and thoughtful. After a bit, he glanced up at John and with a small, wry grin, asked, "So how old do I have to be to get a job?"
Dinner Table Conversation #3
"So, tomorrow night is a special night," John began, glancing around at them all, at the table, dinner just about over, "Sam, I think it'll be your turn to pick your favourite food."
Sherlock's eye narrowed, and John smiled, a challenge issued. With a quirk of his mouth, he silently mused, See if you can figure it out, genius, before I fill everyone in with the motivation and the explanation.
"Hot dogs!" Rosie chimed in with excitement.
"No," John said with a shudder. Again, he rued the day that he'd given in, just that one time, when she had apparently fallen in love with the most unhealthy food he had ever let into the home. Well, actual food of the edible type, knowing that - although Sherlock didn't do it anymore - there had in times past been some very unhealthy food choices, refrigerated sometimes, in various stages of incineration, rot, fermentation, and for all John knew, near-botulism. "Sam gets to pick."
"That's not fair."
"You'll be able to pick another time."
"I want to pick first."
"Tomorrow night is Sam's turn. And for a special reason." John didn't rise to the level of argument that Rosie was trying to engage, and he turned to Sherlock. "Figure it out yet?"
"Give me a moment."
Rosie started to complain more, getting down from the table to approach John's chair, beginning to argue that Sam always got special treatment and that it should be her turn first. "Stop," John said, shushing her. "Just listen, because I think you'll end up liking what the reason is for." He paused, saw her pout, and added, "I might actually need your help to make it extra special. You and Sherlock both, okay?"
Sherlock rolled his eyes, and John wasn't sure if it was because of how quickly he had diverted her mini-tantrum or at the ridiculousness of his claim. "I don't know. But I'm sure it's a lame reason ..."
Move on, Watson. So John enlightened them. "It's Gotcha Day tomorrow."
Sam, Sherlock, and Rosie all blinked in synchrony. "What on earth is gotcha day," Sherlock breathed, and then whatever he'd been thinking or expecting clicked into place. "Ohh. Oh, gotcha day. Of course." He nodded slightly, then cocked his head. "Although it does desperately need to be renamed. Something else. Anything else." Sherlock shuddered and muttered rather viciously, "Gotcha day."
"Gotcha day is perfect the way it is." John glanced at Sam. "Do you understand what gotcha day might be about?"
With a frown, Sam was shaking his head slowly.
"It will be a year tomorrow, when we gotcha." John knew it would further escalate Sherlock as he explained to Sam. "When we gotcha. We got you."
"God John, please stop."
"Gotcha day." He couldn't resist throwing the phrase in one last time before moving ahead. "We'll have a special lunch, I think, and maybe go out afterward for something special." He leaned down to pick up Rosie and set her on his knee. "And I was thinking you, young lady, could help with decorations."
"We can do balloons."
"Pink and purple ones. And sparkles."
"You realise it's for Sam. Do you think Sam wants pink and purple?" John smiled at her giving the question some very serious deliberation, and turning to stare intently at Sam.
"I'm okay with pink and purple if you want," he told her.
"We could do blue, I guess," Rosie conceded, knowing it was one of Sam's favourite colours. "Maybe yellow for your mama? Would that be okay, papa?" Sam's football boots and some other gear were yellow, and they all knew the reason why.
John swallowed around the lump that had formed in his throat at Sam's skillful negotiating and at Rosie's thoughtfulness. When John didn't answer right away, Sherlock smirked and muttered, "We could do a veritable rainbow, perhaps."
The men exchanged a discreet eye-roll, knowing that none of them particularly needed the symbolism, but neither kid noticed. Sam finally turned back to John. "Gotcha day, I've never heard of it. Did you make this up?"
"No. Heard about it from a patient at the surgery. And I liked it. Because we all do have good things to celebrate, don't we? And it was an important day."
"Can we order pizza?"
"If that's what you want, of course."
Sam chuckled then, and the question that had triggered his giggling came bubbling up then. "So does gotcha day include presents?" His eyes twinkled. "I was thinking, maybe a mobile?"
"No. No mobile." John sighed at his persistence. "You're nine."
"Lots of my friends at school --" Sam tried again.
"No." It was not a new argument.
"It does, of course, include presents though. But you and Rosie give them to papa and me." Sherlock's delivery was spot on, believable. "Sound good?" For a moment, Sam's eyes were wide as he considered the truth of the statement, and how he was going to manage something unexpected, like a gift. Sherlock pressed again, "Guess you both better get busy making something. Or finding someone to sponsor your shopping trip. Uncle Mycroft comes immediately to mind."
John dipped his head to hide the grin, and Sam caught the gesture, realising only then, that Sherlock was having him on, and his eyes narrowed in disbelief and mild annoyance.
John finally spoke. "I've got something planned for all of us, for the whole family. It's going to wait until tomorrow."
Sherlock cleared his throat. "I could figure it out."
"No you can't." John raised his chin defiantly. "No way. It's only something small, for us to do."
Dinner ended up being more lighthearted, and eventually, the evening progressed with typical busy-ness. Eventually, the kids were in bed and the kitchen was cleaned up, the flat restored to order. John sighed as he sat down, relaxing finally, enjoying the stillness and peace of those moments when they had the flat to themselves. And were still awake.
"London Zoo tickets," Sherlock said, quietly, in case someone was still up.
"No." John couldn't stop the small, confident, secretive grin. He had been so careful. He'd made reservations, he'd left no paper trail, he'd said nothing to anyone.
Sherlock narrowed an eye, a little frustration visible around the edges of his face. He hazarded another guess, although a ridiculous one. "Little boat tour on the Thames?"
"No." John couldn't stop the actual face of disgust at that idea. He tried to avoid tourists and the touristy things whenever possible.
"Oh, I don't know, perhaps a little visit to Cereal Killer Cafe?" The gleam in his eye was back, followed by an unparalleled, swallowed-a-canary look. And he positively assumed a quiet gloat, pleased with himself, his pale eyes twinkling as he waited for John to react.
John clenched his teeth. "I don't know ... How could you possibly have known that?"
He held up John's mobile, which John hadn't even realised he'd misplaced. "Search history."
"I cleared that, I swear it."
"Not all the way. Found it hidden in plain sight. You closed the tab but didn't clear the search engine." He shrugged but there was victory in it. "You just need to know where to look."
John pursed his lips, knowing that living with a bloody detective like Sherlock came with this particular risk. No harm done, though, and he was still looking forward to enjoying the outing. "Don't ruin it for them."
"Wouldn't dream of it." With a faint chuckle, Sherlock leaned close to John. "Don't ruin it for me."
"You realise it's actual cereal. Edible, like, breakfast food. Cereal."
"We'll see about that. I may be planning a surprise of my own."
Dinner Conversation #4
Sam was in the shower, Rosie was already in bed, and John had just made a discovery in Sam's backpack, while checking for remnants of food before it spoiled or made a mess inside.
One paper from Sam's teacher, dated three days ago, explaining that Sam had gotten in trouble, and that he was expected to discuss it with his parents, have John write out a response, have the form signed and returned, and that the teacher hoped that would be all that was required.
And then there was a paper dated today: One detention notice for failure to turn in a note requiring parental signature.
Two papers, no details, and a lot of questions.
The shower shut off, some hustling about in the bathroom, and footsteps pounding upstairs and then back down. Sam, dressed in his pyjamas and sparkling clean from the shower, came out to the kitchen to tell John and Sherlock goodnight. He found them both seated at the table, his backpack there and open, and both papers just sitting there waiting to be explained.
His eyes opened wide and he stopped in his tracks when he caught sight of what awaited him. "Oh."
"Have a seat," John said, a cool order, one that brooked no further discussion. Not that Sam was an arguing type. Sam sat. There was a bit of a staring match, Sam looking mostly horrified, a little embarrassed. John was hoping to wait him out, wondering at the explanation and mildly concerned, more than the fact that something had happened, but that Sam was hiding something, that he hadn't felt safe enough to share whatever it was with them.
Sherlock finally took a deep breath and said, more amused than he probably should have been, "I'm pretty certain that it will go easier for you if you start talking, don't you think?" His delivery was casual enough, and John looked between them, still waiting.
"He shoved me first."
"Who did? One of your classmates?"
"Outside on the playground." The story came out slowly about a child from a higher grade level than Sam, had been making comments to him for over a week, complaining about foreigners, berating his clothes and his dark skin and blue eyes, telling others that they should avoid him. Calling him a refugee said in a sneering voice. Sam said he'd been trying to ignore it, trying to avoid the boy, until a few days previously, the day the first note was sent home, Sam told him to stop and they got into a yelling match. "He told me I don't belong here and that I should go home." Sam's voice was quiet, low, monotone. "He shoved me first. I pushed him back." Apparently the boy must have known that there was a playground monitor there, that they were being watched, and so he'd exaggerated it, sitting down with a cry and a very vocal complaint. Sam had been sent inside to his teacher.
"So you didn't tell us about this," John said, laying his hand on the letter from the teacher. "How come?"
His shoulders raised, questioning and he didn't answer.
John continued. "And then you got into more trouble, didn't you?"
Sam nodded, his eyes moist. He blinked quickly, and then looked up to find John's. "Are you going to send me back because I got in trouble at school?"
"Of course not." John didn't specifically let any emotion show, although the question seemed to tear at his insides for a moment. "No. Send you back to Afghanistan?" He hesitated, waited for Sam to confirm that's what he'd meant. "Absolutely not. Of course not." Breathing in deep, willing himself to calm down for a multitude of reasons, John exhaled again and willed his voice more neutral. "So, tell me, what is your last name?"
Sam frowned, not understanding. "Watson."
"Where do you live?"
Sam glanced up at each of them briefly, then back to his lap. "Here. London."
"Whom." Sherlock said the word quietly, and John growled low as he reached out with his foot, pressed hard on his toes. He would have fussed back, but didn't want to change the focus of their conversation, the message.
"You. Rosie. Sherlock." John rolled his hands around each other, encouraging Sam to continue. "My family."
"Those are hard, unchangeable facts. And although I would prefer - no, I expect you to behave and not get into trouble, there is nothing you could ever do to change those facts. This is home, your home, and this will always be your home." When Sam looked down, John tipped his face back up to meet John's eyes. "Do you understand that?"
With a small sigh, John pointed at the other paper, the detention slip. "You do have to serve this detention, though."
"Even though he started it? And he shoved me first?"
"I'm afraid so."
"That's not fair."
"You do realise the detention is not for the shouting or the fighting." Sam frowned at John's words, so he explained, "It's for not talking to me, not getting the first paper signed."
Sam's eyes were big again as he realised that connection.
"And that's just at school. Because unfortunately, you're in a bit of trouble here at home too."
"I am?" Sam seemed surprised at that. He looked a few times between John and Sherlock, and appeared mildly upset at the thought.
Sherlock frowned then. "I'm not sure that's ..." he began but stopped immediately when John drastically increased the pressure on his foot again and silenced him with a warning look.
"Is it unclear," John began, talking slowly, "what you are in trouble for, here?"
"No." John wondered at the wisdom of that, and hedged, "Well, no, not exactly."
Sam huffed a little. "I didn't tell you. I didn't get the paper signed."
"Partly." John angled his head. "I'm not that upset about the argument, and I'm definitely not upset that if he shoved you first that you shoved him back. It's important to defend yourself if it gets to that point. Although you need to be very smart about it, because your school doesn't tolerate fighting. Not at all. They have to enforce their rules. But I will always, always," John chucked Sam under the chin, "stick up for you if that were to happen again."
"I know." John considered the rest of their schedule for the week, wondering about revoking privileges or adding chores as appropriate consequences for this rather slight offense. "So I think tomorrow, after your detention, you'll need to call your football coach and explain why you'll be missing practice on Thursday this week."
"But that's not --!" Sam began to complain, then perhaps thought better of it, stopped talking. The stubborn streak within him made him not want to answer, not to agree, and John could see his jaw clench.
"Hmmm?" John worked hard not to snicker at that, Sam's irritation, that he wouldn't actually speak.
"Consider yourself fortunate. As a kid, I used to get grounded for a week."
Sherlock made a scoffing sound. "My mum used to look at me with sad eyes and tell me that I had disappointed her by my atrocious behaviour."
John tried to imagine all the challenges of disciplining boys like Sherlock and his brother, and tried not to shudder. To Sam, he said, "It's a practice, Sam. Not Saturday's game. That wouldn't be fair to your teammates who are counting on you." John waited again, and he could see Sam thinking about it. "I do suggest, though, that you don't let something like this happen again."
With a flair, John signed both pieces of paper that were on the table, and handed them to Sam, who tucked them into his backpack.
John could feel the mood lightening a little, and he had something more he needed to say. "I just want to remind you that you can tell me anything - anything - about your day or what you're feeling or if you're sad. Please don't be afraid to talk to us, okay? If someone's bothering you." Nodding, Sam seemed a little more at peace. "It's almost always better to speak up about something, even something you've done wrong. Waiting doesn't usually help."
"I am going to reach out to the school, by the way. About the way the other boy is bullying you. It's not okay." Sam frowned at that. "I know you can handle it, but they do need to be aware of it, to keep an eye on it. Don't worry, it'll just be a little chat, that's all."
"And then perhaps a threat from Uncle Mycroft if needed." He held up his mobile, a questioning look about him, a little too eager for John to give permission.
"Sherlock." John shook his head and spoke in a whisper.
Sam chuckled again, and John ruffled at his hair, let his hand brush affectionately along his face before sitting back.
"I'm curious," Sherlock set a hand down on the table over the backpack, shaking it a little to draw attention to the paperwork that was now tucked inside, "how you were planning on getting away with being late coming home from school. This was, as I recall, scheduled for tomorrow, right? This detention."
"I don't want to tell you." Sam's eyes were bright as he lifted his chin after he spoke.
"In case I might need to use it again sometime. My excuse." Sam was probably, John thought, taking the piss. But no matter whether he was teasing or not, he had certainly figured out how to push Sherlock's buttons.
Sherlock leaned in, closer and closer, until his forehead rested against Sam's. "You'll never, never get away with it." Both of them were chuckling, for different reasons, and John knew that each was issuing a challenge in their own way. It made him more than a small amount nervous.
"Guess that's why you didn't notice last week when ... oh wait, never mind."
"To bed," John said, intervening before Sherlock got more riled up. Sam got up and almost immediately turned to go upstairs. "Wait, good night," John reminded him and he returned for a quick round of hugs.
"He was kidding, right?" Sherlock asked as soon as they were alone.
John could only shrug. "I think so."
"You know something, don't you?" Sherlock demanded. "Did he really get away with something? You, I could understand," he grumbled, "but did I miss something?"
Intentionally, John simply stared back at Sherlock, his eyes wide, letting whatever emotion play across his face as it came to him, trying to look secretive, and guilty, and then waiting to be deduced. Sherlock's eyes narrowed, he was completely displeased, and before he became more agitated, John finally took pity on him. "No. There's nothing. But you are kind of fun when you're feeling threatened."
"I can think of another kind of threat that we both should find much more fun than this."
"If you shove me, I'm going to shove you back."
"I'm counting on it."
Dinner Conversation #5
Rosie eyed Sherlock's plate. "If you're not going to eat that, can I have it?"
In answer, he pushed the plate over and she snapped up the last crisp.
"Can I have Sam's too?"
Sam had opted to rest instead of coming to the dinner table, claiming his stomach was hurting and that he was feeling queasy. John couldn't think of a time since Sam's arrival on Baker Street that he'd chosen laying in bed instead of joining them for dinnertime.
"Finish your greens first, and then I reckon." John's brow creased, and he listened for any noise coming from upstairs.
"He's fine," Sherlock muttered. "Though perhaps Rosie will finish yours too if you don't want them."
For as much attention as John usually paid to good nutrition, he was uneasy about it and did not engage. "Think I'll run up and check --"
Sam's twelve year old, slightly wobbly voice came from the top of the stairs. "Papa?" The word was faintly tremulous and quiet, then followed by a faint moan.
John was at the bottom of the stairs almost immediately. "Tell me," he said quickly, noting the pallor along with flushed cheeks, the way he pressed a hand to the right side of his belly as he descended. And the way he was hunched over as if standing upright would have been terribly uncomfortable.
"I feel so sick." One hand came up toward his mouth, and John could tell he was nauseous.
John saw immediately that he was pale, a bit green about the gills. He half carried, half lifted him into the loo, helped him as his stomach heaved, contents ejected. He was then assisting with a quick mouth rinse when Sherlock appeared at the door. "What can I get you?"
Sam winced as John helped him stand. "Couch first, I'll have a look."
Sam's brow was sweaty as John eased him onto the cushions. "I'm hot," he whispered. "And my ..." his hands were lightly protective over his abdomen, " ... stomach hurts."
"I know. Maybe a cool cloth?" John suggested, and Rosie was the one who delivered it. "I'm just going to take a little look here. A feel," he said to Sam, noting that Sam wouldn't even lift up his own legs from the floor to the couch. He moved the tee shirt up just a little, tucked a confident, clinical hand up against Sam's mid-abdomen, starting in the center. He studied Sam's face as he began to gently move his hand, sliding it to Sam's right side, fingers pressing in just the smallest amount.
McBurney's point - specific pain. Rebound tenderness - oh, yes. John's assessment was quick and as gentle as he could make it.
"Ow! Ow! Stop!" Sam moaned, "No more!" reaching to grab at John's hand that had already, almost immediately ceased moving.
"What is that all about?" Sherlock muttered.
"Thinking we'll be heading to the A&E." John spoke quietly to Sherlock, and Sam simply lay there, trying to curl up, really not paying attention anyway. He mouthed the word 'appendix' and Sherlock nodded.
"Call you an ambulance then?"
"Not necessary. Probably anyway. Maybe you could check out how close an Uber might be?"
He opened his mobile to do as John asked, and John knelt down again next to Sam.
"So," John began, "we're going to take a little drive over to the hospital, so they can take a look at your stomach. See what's going on. Get you feeling better."
"What is it?" Sam's eyes were a little glazed, but he looked worried.
"Yeah, what's wrong with Sam?" Rosie asked, standing with all of her seven-year old sass, arm on her hip. "Why are you taking him to the hospital?"
"Well, clearly you're not feeling well, with fever, and vomiting, and --"
"For god's sake, John," Sherlock muttered. "I think what papa isn't telling you is that he thinks you probably have appendicitis and probably need to have it removed."
"Ta for the sensitivity," John grumbled back, then to Sam he laid his hand over his forehead. "Seems we need to get your stomach checked out. Sometimes, there's an organ inside there, over here," he said, indicating his right side of his belly, "called an appendix, which can get inflamed, swollen, infected, and make you feel, well ..." John gestured at where he was lying on the couch, "terrible."
Sherlock had his mobile out, the app open, and he flashed the screen at John so he could see. "There's an Uber driver only a block away and available. Okay?"
John nodded. "I'll go get a few things together."
Moments later, Sherlock spoke from the bottom of the steps to John, who had just finished packing Sam's slippers and pyjamas, his blue bunny, his favourite baseball cap. "Driver confirmed. He's on his way."
Sherlock met John in the hallway at the foot of the stairs with a set of track pants, a tee shirt, John's charger, and two of John's latest medical journals that hadn't yet been touched. He grabbed toothbrushes from the hall bath.
"Mrs. Hudson's out. I'll stay here, obviously, see if I can make arrangements. I'll join you when I can." They could hear street noise, and Sam gave another moan as he tried to get comfortable on the couch. "Hopefully."
Sherlock was holding a rather sober Rosie when the Uber app sounded with the notification that the driver had arrived. John carried Sam and the small overnight bag he'd packed. "I'll let you know. It might not be, I guess." John shushed Sam when he moaned a little at the change in position.
"I think we both know it is."
John shrugged. "Appears to be, yes. Some imaging, lab work. And then we'll see."
"Let me know." Sherlock nuzzled at Sam's head as he held the door for them to cross through. "Be well. See you soon."
The text messages told the rest of the story.
Arrived. Trouble getting his IV in and labs drawn, poor thing.
He just had some pain medicine so he's sleeping unless we're bothering him.
Molly is out of town. Greg claims he has an obligation tonight, something about work and teaching an annual, mandatory class. SH
I told Greg it won't help his underlings get any smarter. SH
Especially if he's teaching it. SH
I don't understand why he blocked my number. Again. SH
Yes, goodness, what a surprise.
The surprise is actually that he ever unblocks it.
He doesn't, I steal his phone and do it myself. SH
Waiting to hear back from my useless sibling. SH
CT scan in progress now.
They're letting me watch from the control room.
Steal me something while you're in there. SH
Something unusual, something I'd like. SH
He looks so little on the trolley.
And that's a firm no, by the way.
He looks kind of terrible. Rosie ok?
Rosie's fine. One would think you don't trust me.
You holding up all right? SH
Sort of. I guess. I mean, this is routine stuff until it happens to your own family.
We're okay. His pain is intense though, when he's awake.
Want me to bring him something stronger? SH
Berk. Of course not.
Take a deep breath. Relax. Obviously I was kidding. SH
The comment was supposed to make you giggle. Like at a crime scene. SH
I know, sorry. He just looks so ... nvm
Text me when there's news. Or if you need another inappropriate and poorly timed response. SH
A little while later, John texted again.
They're calling the surgeon now. White blood cell count very high (infection) and CT results "ominous"
Sam's worried, the anaesthesiologist was just here, they gave him a little sedative
The anesth. didn't find it amusing in the least when I asked for some
Well, you're not amused when I joke about it either. SH
He'll be fine. SH
And so will you. SH
Surgeon doesn't even look old enough to drink. But they'll be taking him to the operating theatre soon, maybe 20 min
Wish you were here. Any progress finding a sitter? [unsent]
John sat there a moment, staring off, wondering if Harry was available that evening. He looked over at Sam again, who was resting, face flushed, eyes closed, breathing fast. Under his skin, John knew his body was at war, fighting off an infection, making every attempt to win the battle that was raging. He looked forward to the surgeon's work, to fix and remove the problem, yet he was so very nervous too. The hard part was not letting it show in front of Sam.
His finger was hovering over the send button when he heard a familiar cadence of footsteps in the hallway, then a noise at the doorway, and Sherlock strode into Sam's room in the A&E. "Mycroft," was all he breathed as he crossed the room. Gently, he brushed his hand over Sam's forehead as he whispered a quiet hello. Sam opened his eyes a little and gave a small one-sided smile that acknowledged his presence. From the bedside, John simply touched Sherlock's elbow, squeezed once. It was thanks and I'm glad to see you and we're better now.
Things happened quite quickly from there. Sam dozed lightly, medicated, until the OR staff arrived. They dropped off John and Sherlock in the specific waiting room for the OR while Sam, all appropriately gowned and capped, disappeared through the restricted access doors into the depths of the OR. A little more than an hour later, the surgeon came to find them sitting side-by-side on the uncomfortable waiting room chairs, quietly all by themselves in the dimly lit room. John recognised him, stood, and took in all that he could from the confident smile that reached the man's eyes, the nod, the angle of his head, the reassuring but silent purse of his lips.
"Phew," John breathed, "that's good news." He could feel the tension in his shoulders ease, and he reached out to take Sherlock's hand, their fingers twining together briefly before releasing again.
"He didn't even say anything." Sherlock blinked, wondering if he'd missed something.
"He didn't need to."
The official update was spoken quickly. "He did quite well. Routine appendectomy, no perforation. Surgery was successful, tiny incision, no complications. You can come see him now."
John exhaled for the first time since coming to the hospital, and he fell into step along with Sherlock as the doctor led them back to the recovery area.
Dinner Conversation - Plus 1
"So I have good news." Sam was still at the table, fidgeting, his most recent growth spurt leaving him sore, hungry, and awkward in so many of his movements. At fifteen, he was a man-child. He fussed with hair gel, hair styles, and trendy clothes and in the next breath, he was singing in the shower and trying to curl up on the couch to watch telly with his parents.
"So remember the papers you signed when I applied for that internship for next year? It was for a class, a couple of weeks, as part of a economic issues class?"
"Sure. So you --?" John asked, knowing the answer already.
"Yes, I got accepted."
"Congrats. Who is it with, did they tell you yet?"
"Well," he said, taking a deep breath and looking more nervous than he really should have. "Here's the thing: I talked with my teacher to get permission to change it up a little."
"Okay," Sam wiped his sweaty hands on his knees. "Well, I was wondering if you could help me set up a meeting with Uncle Mycroft."
John couldn't stop the somewhat surprised snicker. "He's your uncle. You don't need to call a meeting to talk to him."
"It's about the internship," Sherlock clarified, shooting a quick glance at John. "Keep up, John."
The serious look on Sam's face kept John from grinning any further. "Of course." With a quick glance over at Sherlock, who was also studying them intently, John gathered his thoughts. "What's on your mind?"
"I want an internship in Afghanistan. And I was hoping he could help me set it up."
"Afghanistan." John repeated, breathed out again, tilted his head with a frown. "What are you hoping to do there?"
"The scope of the project is to design and carry out something for the benefit of the community. There are guidelines, which I'll have to still follow, obviously."
"You would need a place to stay. Someone to stay with ... I mean, there is a tremendous amount of details that would need to be lined up." He glanced at Sherlock. "All the travel."
Sam was nodding. "So, yeah, I know this is not what anyone usually does. It hasn't actually been done yet." He could see both of them with some hesitation. "But they didn't say no, the coordinator at school." Sam looked steadily at each of them in turn. "And I should point out, neither did you."
"There's a parent meeting soon, next week, I think. And I know it's going to require a lot of work. But the community service, in a place like that," his voice trailed off. "I think I would really like to do this."
"So the requirement is community service. Of course, you've picked a community 7000 plus kilometers away?"
Sam smiled, and it was a maturing, good-natured smile. "Will you help me?"
"We'll see," John said, as noncommittally as he could. "But I guess you should think about brushing up on your Dari."
Sam smiled again, broader, an excited expression. "Yeah?" His mobile buzzed then from his pocket, and he removed it to check the screen for the incoming call.