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Another Surprise, Courtesy of John Watson

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"So that's it?" John stuck a hand on his hip, his own exhale hot on his lips, frustrated - again - with Sherlock - again - for refusing to engage in any of the decisions at the moment. "You're not going to help. Not interested in it at all, yeah?"

Huffing, Sherlock made a face. "Listen, do what you want. It's Sam's birthday, with Rosie's birthday coming up. I have no idea. Write them a cheque. Get them a joint gift, I don't know, video game system or something." Sam was turning eleven, Rosie coming up on six, and birthday gift ideas were particularly challenging.

John sighed. "You really don't have an opinion about this."

"I really don't."

"And you're not looking to help me here." He brushed a weary hand over his face, pinched the bridge of his nose, just barely, and resumed the frustrated, both hands on hips posture. "Apparently."

"Just take care of it." The smile was just a little bit sinister, manipulative, and it rankled in John's gut. "You always manage to."

John decided then. It had come up a few times before, he'd been hesitant, but now, suddenly... It was time. "Okay. A joint gift, maybe. Like you said. But this weekend, we'll take the kids, go shopping, and we can all pick it out."

"Fine."

"And accessories."

"Perfect. You make the decision, I'm sure I'll love it."

"A joint gift." John worked to keep the sparkle out of his eye, not looking to raise Sherlock's suspicion. "And accessories."

"Agreed. Just do it. It'll work fine."

++

"You have to be kidding me."

"You said that you didn't care."

"You said video game system."

"No, you said video game system as an example of a joint gift."

"You never said ... this."

"You said 'do it,' and 'perfect,' and 'it'll work fine.'"

"You know perfectly well, this is not what I had in mind."

"I said we would go pick it out together. And accessories." John spoke quickly, keeping his voice low enough that the children wouldn't hear them. Though they weren't paying them a lick of attention. "You agreed."

"John."

"Be careful next time you refuse to help, refuse to get involved, and leave a decision to me." John looked over, where both Sam and Rosie were in the middle of a litter of adoptable puppies who were licking, climbing, wagging, and stepping all over both of them. Both kids were giggling, the gut-bubbling, belly laughing variety, and it was downright adorable, amazing, the joy that was radiating between children and dogs, dogs and children. "Well, Sherlock. I did, in fact, as instructed, make a decision."

"Do I have any veto power here? Any say here whatsoever?"

John blinked, glancing at the kids, at Sherlock, whose annoyance was almost certainly token. John knew he liked dogs well enough and it was mostly his stubbornness that was making him cantankerous. "Do you really think that's what you want to do?" John imagined having to tell the kids that they were just here to play with the dogs, and knew they'd deal with it if it really came down to that. "I mean, of course, I do actually need you to be on board with this." John was as serious as he could be. "But speak up now, before they get any more attached. If you really don't want to, well ... I haven't actually officially told them yet."

"This is me not being the worst parent ever." Sherlock was looking over at them, really enjoying their happiness, the whole manner they were living in the moment.

"I need you to say yes."

"Yes."

John smiled. "It'll be fine." Hearing that had been not only helpful, but necessary. Very soon, time to get excited. He knew it would be a moment none of them ever forgot.

"And why is he here again?" Sherlock glanced over at where Mycroft stood, watching, also thoroughly amused. John couldn't tell if he was more entertained at the antics of the puppies with the children, or at the annoyance of his brother.

"His contact. Connections. I asked, he came through. And so, when he wanted to be here ..."

"... to witness this. Your undoing, brother mine. Your comeuppance." Mycroft leaned back, hands in his pockets, completely entertained. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world." An exchange of phone calls, an arrangement, a short trip to a home a bit outside of the city, reputable breeder. The location, beautiful, sculped buildings, lots of grass, a nice yard, both sire and dam on site. On their arrival, the kids had just spilled out of the car and the puppies had descended. "Indeed, Sherlock, you should not underestimate your husband. Clearly he is your better half, and clearly, he has bested you."

John chuckled just a little at the brothers, and while he was watching Sherlock he missed the face Mycroft apparently made at his brother. He saw an initial reaction, though, and he knew what had transpired. His chuckle died in his throat.

And oh, did Sherlock glare at that. Mycroft seized the moment. "Careful, Sherlock. I even have some fabulous suggestions at some puppy names that I'm sure your children would find quite favourable."

John smiled, unable to squelch the happiness just welling up within him, as well. "Come on, then. Let's go help pick one." He twined his fingers into Sherlock's and led him over to where Rosie was laying on the ground and Sam was sitting cross-legged, the puppies clamoring for places in their laps in order to lick at their smiling, giggling faces and romping about in excitement.

John hoped they weren't getting peed on too much. Mycroft was probably hoping that as well and that the puppies were saving it for his brother.

++

Baker Street seemed overrun and its occupants (save one) quite focused on the newest family member. Sam, Rosie, and John gathered around in the sitting room as she sniffed, got acquainted, nosing at furnishings and dust particles and every scent that had ever been left in the room. Each held out a hand from time to time, trying to get her attention. She gave them token sniffs, and then would approach Sherlock. Who ignored her.

A few moments later, the puppy sidled up closer, resting her fuzzy chin on Sherlock's knee.

"She wants you to pet her." Sam spoke up then. "Pet her!"

"No thanks." Sherlock was intent on something he was reading on his mobile. "Move along then," he said to the dog.

Tail wagging. Sniff, sniff. Paw on Sherlock's shoe. Then paw on Sherlock's knee.

Sherlock lifted his head from his phone, paused to stare into the dogs eyes. "There are three other people who would like, far more than me, to be your friend. Go on then." In response, the dog sat down, tail wagging, just staring and waiting for Sherlock's attention.

"She won't move until you pat her," Rosie told him. "Go ahead so we can get a turn again." There was, unsuprisingly, a faint pout of envy.

He tapped her softly on her head, and she did temporarily resume her exploratory activities, circling the room, sniffing the rest of her new family.

She always returned to Sherlock. Wag, wag, wag.

"We should take her out for a walk, let her, you know, take care of business." John said finally, knowing that housebreaking a dog was going to require vigilance from the beginning but it would be worth it. Their flat has been sort of taken over with accessories. Pink collar, pink leash (though Sherlock drew the line at getting the one Rosie had chosen with rhinestones), food and water bowls also in pink, a few chew toys (though Sherlock absolutely forbade the one with the high-pitched squeaker in it), a pink fleece-lined dog bed.

Sam clipped the leash to her collar, and John, Sam, and Rosie crossed the room to the door. The dog went to the door with them, then turned to look over her shoulder - and then balked, refusing to leave the flat until Sherlock grudgingly joined them. She wound her leash around his ankles, much to his dismay, and continued to look up at him with something John might have called affection (except that he didn't want to speak that out loud just yet). There had been enough eye-rolling already, and John didn't want to push it.

While they were outside, Sam holding the leash this time, he did fall into step beside Sherlock, taking his elbow briefly, a gentle squeeze, a reminder, an assuring presence.

"You okay?" he asked quietly.

"I certainly hope the pedigree comes through. I could not abide a dog who isn't brilliant. And trainable."

Upon returning to the flat after several successful behaviours of the dog, Sherlock got involved with some computer work while the kids tried to teach the puppy about sitting, laying down, rolling over, and getting used to her new dog bed.

When it came time to retire for the night, they discovered they needn't have bothered with the dog bed.

Rosie wanted the dog to sleep with her, and even cleared off a spot for her. Sam wanted the dog to sleep with him and considered trying to lure her with a few pieces of kibble (until John did overrule that, establishing a no dog food in bedroom policy).

The dog had other things in mind, and selected Sherlock as sleeping partner of choice, though, digging at the doorway until John finally opened it before she chewed through the frame or dug a hole in the floor, then whining until she was picked up and put on the bed (both are denying that either did it or said it was okay), and then nosing at Sherlock's neck until he patted her.

She curled up near the top of the bed, on Sherlock's side, and her eyes closed as she rested her chin on her paws. "Just for a night John."

"It's a bad idea."

"She'll settle in, and then we'll move her."

"I disagree. Once you start, it's very hard to break a habit."

"Don't think you're one to lecture me on the problems about breaking bad habits."

"Suit yourself."

John curled up, actually very tired and thankful that at least he didn't have to share his side of the bed. He was almost asleep when he could hear Sherlock's hand rubbing on the dog's head, the softness of the caress on her puppy-soft fur soothing. And very very sweet. He kept completely still when he heard Sherlock chuckling lightly, thinking it was only to himself. John fell asleep to the quiet sounds of the dog's fur being sweetly and tenderly stroked.

++

From the front door of his home, observing his front kerb, Mycroft's eyes were bright, sharp daggers as he watched his brother and family approach. Sherlock followed Sam and Rosie to the door, John tagging behind. They'd been called out on a case, a favour for Mycroft, who in return had agreed to keep the children for the two nights that John and Sherlock would be out of town. He had, apparently, not been counting on the dog joining them.

In his home.

At all.

"What is that beast doing here?" He stood imperiously, unmoving, a human barricade in his front door. "I distinctly remember not including ... it when we spoke."

"Her, by the way, as you are well aware. You mean Sam and Rosie's fur-sibling?" Sherlock teased, laying it on thick. "Remember when you insisted on being present when ... they ambushed me with her? When you all ambushed me?" Sherlock gestured broadly with his hands, and then Mycroft and Sherlock engaged in a stare-down. "Turnabouts," he uttered quietly, fiercely.

"I never agreed to this. Why isn't she with Mrs. Hudson?" He frowned as John handed the leash in his direction while Sherlock shouldered the bag that included her food, bowl, brush, blanket, and a couple of toys. "Or at a kennel?"

"Ginger does not stay in a kennel." Sherlock's expression, gravely serious, matching his words.

“And Mrs. Hudson is away.” John chuckled at Sherlock's protectiveness. "Here you go. The kids'll take care of her." Reluctantly, Mycroft huffed. "Sam, can you take the leash, make sure she gets settled?"

"Sure papa, see you."

"Make sure Uncle Mycroft shows you a good time, and a good weekend. Give him no peace whatsoever." Sherlock snickered, but neither kid particularly responded to that, so used to the nature of the Holmes brothers fake-fussing at each other.

John and Sherlock turned back to the car, where the Uber driver was still waiting for them, and their last sight before heading off on their newest case was Sam and Rosie waving, Mycroft looking dour, and Ginger was whimpering and her soulful eyes were watching Sherlock as if her best friend was never going to be seen again.

++

The days flew by, case solved with minimum of haggling, nothing illegal, and no threat of imminent physical danger. John had a great time; Sherlock would have rated the case as boring, less than a three, but he did throw half a temper tantrum and deduce some financial fraud and two marital indiscretions as an added bonus.

They had texted Mycroft with their expected return to London time, at which point Mycroft informed them that he would return the trio directly to Baker Street, and they settled on a time.

They had barely set foot in the door when Mycroft arrived, the children and the dog all bounding up the steps. Mycroft entered last, allowed the whirlwind of hugs and greetings occur, before handing Sherlock a large, cardboard box.

"What's this?" He could feel that it was rather heavy, contents of the box rather full, and not anything they’d sent with the kids and dog for their visit.

"I believe you'll find it rather self-explanatory."

Sherlock set it down, while Mycroft stood, arms crossed, waiting. John watched while Sherlock began to unpack.

 

Inside the box:

two damaged umbrellas, both handles chewed, one of them had been a custom, handmade edition that Sherlock recognised as a gift from a foreign dignitary

one half-eaten expensive Italian leather shoe

one partially digested, unimaginative wool sock in a clear plastic bag

a somewhat frayed charging cable - rather, most of said cable

some bits and pieces of what had likely been a magazine

some stuffing from a pillow that possibly had been upholstered with gold thread

two television remotes, most of the buttons chewed off

and the remnants of what may have been a pair of navy blue silk boxers, mostly eaten, only the waistband remaining

 

At the bottom of the box, Sherlock pulled out a folded piece of paper.

"Is this ...?"

Mycroft huffed slightly, rocking back on his heels. "Yes, an itemised accounting --"

Sherlock whistled slightly, and Ginger rocketed from wherever she'd been in the flat, skidding and tumbling all over herself in her eagerness, there at their feet in order to come when she'd been called by what was still her favourite human on the planet. Her eyes were bright, mouth open, body tense and ready for action. More importantly, ready to please.

With remarkably quick dexterity, Sherlock tore the bill in half, held it out to Ginger. "Here, good girl."

The paper disappeared, in almost a single gulp.

And so did John. His laughter - the gut-wrenching, hysterical, probably tears-streaming down his face kind - was quite audible to all of them as he fled the room in self-protective retreat. And probably for a little while, audible at Speedy's too.