It was astounding, John thought as he loaded another box of toys into Greg Lestrade's car. He had no idea that they had acquired so much stuff in such a short amount of time. All he could do was thank whatever deity was around that Greg was helping them move and letting them use his car. He couldn't even imagine trying to deal with work, a two and a half year old child, movers, and a truck all at the same time. Sure, it was slower going- they were only able to load whatever the car could fit. But they still had time left on their lease, and there was no particular hurry. 221B Baker Street wasn't going anywhere.
John wiped the sweat off of his brow after he put the heavy box of toys in the back of the car. The car was so packed that there was only room for the driver, and only just. The poor thing was sitting so low to the ground that any speed bump would cause the bottom to scrape the pavement. They had this moving thing worked out though, since they had been doing this for several weeks already. They would load up the car, Greg would drive it over, and John and Rosie would follow behind in a cab. Sherlock would watch Rosie while John and Greg unloaded, and John unpacked. It seemed to work well.
Of course the only issue was that John's flat was much larger than Baker Street, which meant that they were leaving almost all of the furniture behind, and as he unpacked, he had to decide what stayed and what would be donated to charity. There just wasn't enough room for it all. It helped that they now had an extra room, since Sherlock had turned 221C into Rosie's bedroom. It was small, but she loved it, and that was all that mattered.
“Thanks, Greg. “ John clapped his hand, and Greg pulled him in for a short, sweaty hug. John pulled away and took a couple of steps back into the living room. He looked around the flat. It was weirdly almost empty, and that brought a sting of pain his heart. He remembered when he first moved in here. Mycroft had actually helped him find it. It was less than two weeks after Sherlock had jumped off the roof of St, Barts, and about a week after the funeral. John just couldn't go on living at Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson was disappointed, but she understood.
It had been just his place- huge and empty for months. He slept there, but it didn't feel like home. It was just a place or him to rest his head when the world got too heavy and exhaustion overtook him. He expected, hoped, desperately clung to the idea that Sherlock would come back. So he never made his house a home. And then, Mary came into his life. The world moved on, and so did he. His house started to become a home. And when Rosie came along, it truly seemed complete.
After Mary had died, it really didn't seem much like home any more.
Greg noticed John's sudden silence, and put a hand on his shoulder. “You okay, mate?”
“Yeah. It's just... It hasn't been this empty here in a while. Just... a lot of memories. That's all.”
Greg nodded his head. “Take your time. Sherlock and I can unload this batch if you need a bit. I'll see you at Baker Street.”
“Thanks. We'll be there in a moment. “ Greg headed out and John got Rosie's day bag and car seat ready.
“Yes, sweetheart. We're gonna go see Uncle Sher.”
“Sher!!” Rosie clapped her hand excitedly.
John chuckled. “I'm beginning to think you love him more than me!”
“I love daddy!” John smiled, picked her up, and gave her a kiss on the nose. “And daddy loves you too, sweetheart.”
A few weeks later, Greg was back over at John's flat. This was it- the last trip. There were only a few boxes left, then John and Rosie would close this chapter of their lives forever. John knew that in time Rosie would never remember this place, but he would never forget it.
When they had loaded the last box into Greg's car, John nodded his thanks. “I'm going to be just a few minutes. I... want to talk to Rosie for a moment, then we will meet you at Baker Street.”
“Okay, we'll see you there.” Greg softly closed the front door behind him, and John stood in the flat, empty except for the furniture they couldn't take. A lone tear rolled down his face. He shifted Rosie to his right arm and wiped his eyes with his left.
“Yes. We will never see this place again. And it has a lot of wonderful memories. Your...” he faltered for a moment, his voice broke.. “Your mother and I, we lived here, and we raised you here, and when.. when... she died... it was just you and I. You spoke your first word here. You crawled for the first time here...
The tears were flowing now, but he didn't try to stop them.
He smile sadly at her. “Yes, that is where we will be living from now on. And you will have the pink room downstairs all to yourself.” He smiled down at her fondly. “There are good memories at Baker Street as well. Did you know that you took your first steps there? I'm not sure if I ever told you that story. I didn't even get to see it.. Sherlock was in his chair, and you were on the floor. And apparently you decided that you wanted to see him. You got right up and walked over to his chair.”
She giggled and clapped her hands again. “Wanna see Uncle Sher!”
“Okay, okay, my love. Let's go home.” John wiped the tears from his eyes, picked up her day bag and car seat, and locked the door to the flat for the last time. For a moment, he stood under the archway at the front door, letting the breeze cool the tracks of the warm tears on his face.
“Goodbye, Mary.” He whispered to the wind. “It's time for me to move on.”
It didn't take long to settle into a routine in Baker Street. When John was working, Sherlock would watch Rosie. If he had a case, then either Mrs.Hudson, or Molly if she was off would watch her. Once in a blue moon, “Uncle Mike” would come around. He would never stay long, but Rosie always looked forward to it, because he always had a little something for her. At Sherlock's request, he started bringing over books. Sherlock was teaching her how to read. She was bright, but she wasn't even three years old yet, so it was slow going.
One day, after a Mycroft visit, Rosie was flipping through a cardboard book about animals that he had brought her. Her obsession with elephants had waned some since the hospital stay, though she still slept with the blanket/plush that Mycroft had given her many months before. Sherlock was out on a case, and Mrs. Hudson was visiting her sister. It was a rare moment when John and his daughter were alone.
Rosie suddenly put the book down and turned her big blue eyes to her father, who was sitting in his chair. He had a book in his hand, but he had been reading the same passage about a dozen times now. His mind was in a dozen places this evening. He just couldn't concentrate.
“Daddy?” John was actually kind of glad to have an excuse to put the book down, as trying to read it was doing absolutely no good.
“Yes, my dear?”
“Uncle Mike said 'Brother Mine' to Uncle Sher. What that mean?”
“Well, they are brothers. They have the same mother and the same father. Mycroft is the older brother and Sherlock is the younger.” Best to leave if there for now, he thought to himself. Perhaps when she was much older, they could tell her about the other Holmes, but it was all still too raw still, and besides, she was way too young. “Do you remember a while ago when we visited your Aunt Harry?”
She nodded her head..
“Well she is my sister. I am her brother. She is older and I am younger. We also have the same mother and the same father.”
“Do... I have a sister or brother?”
John sighed softly. “No. You are an only child. There are families with only one child. Your Aunt Molly is an only child. She has no brothers or sisters. So that's okay too if you don't.”
“What... if I want one?”
John scrubbed his hand down his face. No no no. It's WAY too early for this talk, John thought to himself. “Well, your mommy... she passed away, so you can't have a brother or a sister.”
For a moment, Rosie went quiet, like she was deep in thought. He knew that she was trying to understand, but even as bright as she was, she was too young to really grasp the concept yet.
Before she could ask anything else, John started again. “Sometimes, family is not related by blood.” He picked her up and held her tight, walking her around the room while he spoke. “Sherlock is not related to me by blood, but I consider him family, and he considers me the same. I know it's sounds confusing. Think about it this way. The people that you love the most, they are family. Sometimes they are your brother or sister, mother or father, or your daughter..” He gave her a little tickle, causing her to wiggle in his arms. “And those people you love the most, they are your family, whether you are related to them or not. Does that make sense?”
Rosie nodded her head, then let out a long yawn.
“Oh, it's way past your nap time.” He said as he looked up at the clock on the wall. “Come on, I'll put you down, and I bet by the time you get up, Sherlock will be back.” All he got in response was a sleepy nod and a tiny balled fist rubbing her eyes.
Sherlock came home not long after Rosie had been put down for her nap. John had finally been able to get past that one passage in the book he was reading, and had been enjoying the rather rare silence. Despite knowing that peace and quiet was a thing of the past now that Sherlock was home, he found that he didn't really mind at all.
Evening time. Rosie had been fed and was playing on the floor with a plush pink unicorn that Mycroft had brought her. When he had given it to her, Sherlock and John exchanged smiling glances. They could only imagine how Mycroft felt buying that at a toy store. Or maybe he had ordered it online, that was more his forte. Either way, he may never admit it, but he was willing to swallow his immense ego and pride for this little girl. That showed that he really did love her, even if he had no idea how to overtly manifest it.
Sherlock, on the other hand, had no qualms about showing how much he cared for Rosie. While John was watching some 'crap telly', Sherlock was on the floor, playing pretend. He had a wooden knight, who today was apparently going to save the princess unicorn from some unknown threat.
All of a sudden in the middle of the game of pretend, Rosie puts down her unicorn and gives Sherlock a very serious look.
“Rosie. Are you alright?”
“Uncle Sher...” She pauses for a moment.
“Can.. umm.. can.. I call you.. Papa?”
Silence. Utter, utter, silence. John turns off the telly and looks between his daughter and Sherlock. She had never mentioned wanting to ask Sherlock this, which was unusual for her. It was as much as shock to him as it was to Sherlock.
“Uncle Sher?” Her eyes got big.. and moist. And his heart melted.
“Of... of course... if... you want to... sure.”
John could only call Sherlock's look 'a deer in the headlights'. He hadn't seen him like this since he had asked him to be his best man. Quickly, John got up, scooped Rosie into his arms, and held her tight. John could tell that Sherlock needed time to process this. “Okay ,love. It's time for your bath.”
“Is he ok?”
John looked back to Sherlock, who still hadn't blinked yet. “Yes. What you did was a wonderful thing. You surprised him. That's all. That was really, really sweet of you and I know he's honored. Let's get you all washed up.”
While John was getting her bedtime clothes ready and letting the water run, he heard the door to 221B close. Sherlock had gone out, probably to clear his head. John wanted nothing more than to run after him to make sure that he was going to be okay, but he had a daughter to think of first. He just hoped that Sherlock didn't delve too deeply into his own head. He'd seen where that had lead before.
By the time John heard the door open again, Rosie was already asleep. John was making tea in the kitchen. It was a chilly night out, despite the warm days, and a nice cuppa was a good way to wind down an... eventful evening, he figured.
Silently, like a cat, Sherlock fell into his chair, staring at John in the kitchen while he bustled around, making the tea. A few minutes later, a cup was gently slid into Sherlock's slightly shaky hands.
John collapsed into his own chair and took a sip before addressing his friend.
“Sherlock, I... I had no idea she was going to do that. She hadn't even talked to me about it. We were talking earlier today about family, and about how not all family is related by blood.” He paused to take another sip, taking longer than necessary to see if Sherlock would respond.
“I will talk with her in the morning about it. I'm sure she will be fine with calling you Uncle Sher...”
“It's... it's okay.” His deep baritone voice interrupted John's thoughts.
“I.. don't mind. I was just... surprised.”
“You and me both.” John muttered, smirking slightly. Surprisingly Sherlock responded with the slightest of smirks of his own. “It's honestly OK if that makes you uncomfortable.” He continued.
Sherlock shook his head softly. “No. Its...” he trailed off. “Do... you mind? This means that she has a Daddy and a Papa. That might seem odd to some.”
John shrugged. “Our 'family' dynamic may not be normal, but a family we are. “
“People are going to think that we are a couple.”
He scoffed and put his cup down, leaning towards Sherlock. “Do you really care about that?”
Sherlock shook his head, closing his eyes tight. “John, you should know by now that I don't give a rat's arse about what people think about me.” He opened his eyes and looked straight at John, smiled for a moment, then dropped it. “I do worry about you and Rosie. I don't want you or especially her to get harassed for what people think that we are.”
“Screw them.” John chuckled. “If there is an issue, we will deal with it. We know that we are... well... about the most dysfunctional family ever, but a family nonetheless.”
For the first time in a long time, Sherlock laughed. A true, long, hearty laugh. It was infectious. After a moment, John was laughing as well. They laughed until they had tears in their eyes and they could hardly breathe.
When it was finally over, there was a comfortable silence. There was nothing else that really needed to be said.
They were a family, and that's that.