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A Dad By Any Other Name

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John scoops two bowls and three mugs into the kitchen sink. Nine years on and he still hasn’t got Sherlock on a bloody acceptable feeding schedule, the git. John loves his small, unconventional, ridiculous family. Rosie had been so excited leaving the house this morning. John smiles at the memory…


 

“I’m going to know more than everyone because Papa already taught me.”

Sherlock caught John’s eye, then hid his smirk behind his paper. Rosie was due to start Biology lessons this term, and Sherlock had done nothing to hide his pride. John, on the other hand, continues to believe that modesty is an admirable trait. Sherlock had focused very hard on the international section of the paper while John tried to explain the ridiculous notion to his daughter. 

“Just because Papa taught you the scientific method -“

“And experiments!”

John rolled his eyes indulgently and ruffled Rosie’s hair.

“Aaaand experiments, does not mean that you get to make the other kids feel bad about it.”

“But whyyyyyy?”

Rosie whined, knowing her Dad had very little patience for whining. John had turned toward Sherlock with pleading eyes. 

“Sherlock, some help please.”

He heaved a put-upon sigh but closed the newspaper and leaned over the table toward Rosie. 

“What is the first step of the scientific method?” 

At that point, John had thrown his hands in the air and gone to pour himself another cup of tea. Apparently, this was going to be a multi-cup kind of morning. Rosie crinkled her brow and thought hard, before a smile lit her face.  

“Hypothesis.”

“Very good.”

Rosie beamed. 

“You’re quite proud of yourself, aren’t you?”

Rosie nodded hard as Sherlock dropped a kiss on her cheek. 

“Did you get to show off?”

Rosie giggled an affirmative.

“Did anyone’s feelings get hurt?”

Rosie’s face scrunches adorably.

“No.”

“Exactly. You can be proud of your accomplishments and show them off without being a — “

“— bully.”

John had interrupted, anticipating Sherlock’s vocabulary choices. 

“I was going to say know-it-all.”

John grinned in spite of himself. 

“No, you weren’t.” 

Sherlock’s lip quivered with barely contained humor.  

“Know-it-all!”

John’s hand stole around Sherlock’s neck and pulled the man to him for a quick peck on the lips. With Sherlock seated, John had the unusual pleasure of leaning down to capture his kiss.  

“And don’t you forget it.” 

The words were somewhat muffled between warm, soft breaths and needy presses. Soon, Rosie started to squirm and they had broken apart, breathing heavily. Sherlock stood and John, ever practical, took command. 

“Alright, time for school. Have you got everything? Book bag? Lunch? Yes? Good. Have a wonderful day.”

John had dropped a kiss on top of Rosie’s head as she rushed by to wrap herself around Sherlock’s legs. She burrowed her face into Sherlock’s hip and clung to him tightly. John’s eyebrows had drawn together in confusion. Rosie never had separation anxiety. She bounded away from them on the first day of preschool and never looked back. But Sherlock had given John a reassuring look as he sat back down and gathered Rosie to him. She nestled her head in the crook of his neck and he kissed her forehead while crooning softly. 

“What is it, love? It’s just another day of school. You like school. Now come on, what’s wrong?”

Rosie sniffled so softly that only Sherlock could hear it and raised her mouth to his ear.  

“What if I don’t know enough?”

Sherlock was shocked into silence for a moment. It never occurred to him that she would have that fear. He pulled back so that he was looking down into her ruddy, tear-stained face. His face was so gentle. John froze in the middle of drying a pan and wished he had spent some time cultivating a mind shack, as Sherlock had suggested. To recall this memory in every single detail would be a treasure. He soaked up what he could, knowing he’d never recreate it perfectly. Sherlock smoothed away Rosie’s tears with his fingers. 

“You didn’t know how to do your sums before school, did you?”

Rosie lifted a tiny fist and wiped her nose as she nodded. 

“School is supposed to teach you what you don’t know. It would be a bloody waste otherwise.”

Sherlock whispered the last part conspiratorially, but John heard anyway.

“Oi! Language!

Rosie giggled and hugged Sherlock. 

“I love you Papa.”

If Sherlock’s eyes were a little wet, John was kind enough not to mention it. 

“Alright, Rosie-Posie, let’s get you off to school, yeah?”

All giggles once again, Rosie donned her bag and flew down the stairs. 

“Don’t forget to come straight home after school!”

John called after her. 

“I will Dad!” 

Was the last exasperated thing John heard before the door slammed shut.  


 

Coming back to the present, John shakes his head, sets the now-dry pan on the side, and drains the cold egg water from the sink. As he gathers the last of the dishes off the table, John notices the corner of a textbook sticking out from underneath a placemat. Checking the time, he realizes he is late to the surgery as it is. 

“Damn it.”

He calls down the hall, hoping Sherlock can hear him over the shower. When no answer is forthcoming, he hurries down the corridor and slips the door open a sliver. Which is why he is surprised by a pale arm snaking through the gap and yanking him into the small room. John’s body is pressed nose to toes against Sherlock’s very hard, very naked form. The detective clearly hasn’t stepped into the shower yet, a small mercy for which John is grateful. He doesn’t have the time to change again and make it to work at a reasonable time.

Sherlock smirks down at him with a predatory glint in his eye that makes John forget whatever inconsequential bit of trivia had brought him into the bathroom in the first place. Crowding toward him, Sherlock stretches his arms behind John, closing the door and pinning him to it in one move. John’s heart beats a staccato rhythm in his chest and his breathing quickens. Sherlock’s face is so close to his own that he could count the man’s eyelashes. Wants to count the man’s…maybe he’ll count them

Another time, he thinks as Sherlock’s soft full lips crash against his own. Before he realizes it, his own hands are grasping Sherlock’s buttocks and pulling him closer. The warmth of the man seeps through John’s clothes and he can’t get enough. Sherlock’s arms still bracket his head. John pushes his advantage and winds his tongue down Sherlock’s jaw to nip along that glorious neck. One of John’s arms slides up Sherlock’s spine to wrap tenderly around the back of his neck. His fingers twine into the curls at Sherlock’s nape. John tastes salty sleep-sweat and syrup. Rosie must have had some on her face when she burrowed into Sherlock’s neck earlier. The earthy-sweet combination makes John groan and grip Sherlock’s head harder. 

Sherlock whines and arches into John’s touch. His arms shake against John’s ears. John sucks delicately against Sherlock’s Adam’s apple and feels Sherlock grind against his thigh. He palms Sherlock's ass and lets his middle finger rest in the crease between his buttocks. John gives gentle pressure that teases while encouraging the grinding. Sherlock is moaning and sucking on John’s ear. 

Suddenly, Sherlock jerks back away from John, which is completely unacceptable. John grabs for him, but his naked body affords no purchase. John groans softly.

“John. You’re supposed — to be — at the —surgery.”

Sherlock is panting hard between words. His irises blown wide, eclipsing everything else. The man is bloody irresistible. 

“John!”

John comes back to awareness at the sound of his name. He had been lost in his head for a moment there. 

“Sorry, yes. I was just…”

John peels himself off the bathroom door and closes the space between them. His hands run up Sherlock’s chest, neck, chin to cup his cheeks. 

“You’re so beautiful.”

John kisses him gently then steps back. He runs his hand through his own hair and looks at the ground. There was something important he meant to say…

“Rosie left her bio book on the kitchen table. Can you take it by the school?”

Sherlock blinks then refocuses. 

“Of course, John.”

Both men are still stunned minutes after John has left the flat. 

Sherlock showers, dresses, and sits down at his microscope. The paraffin samples he prepared last week are finally ready for analysis. He is so engrossed in what he is doing, that it is just after noon when he remembers the biology book. Pushing aside the samples, he grabs the text and jogs down the stairs. 

The city is busy this time of day and it takes him thirty-five minutes to reach the school. It takes another 12 minutes to check in through the school’s security protocols. By the time Rosie is paged to the headmaster’s office, it’s gone one. Sherlock wishes he had paid better attention to Rosie’s schedule. Maybe she’s not got bio until this afternoon. He doesn’t hold out much hope. 

The headmaster’s secretary pages Rosie to the office, and offer Sherlock some tea while they wait. Sherlock, now partial to John’s particular tea-making prowess, politely refuses. Rosie is so deep in her own head as she enters the office that it takes her several moments to realize that Sherlock is standing there. When she notices, her face blanches and she begins to shake. Sherlock’s hands shoot out instinctively to catch and comfort, but Rosie twists away. 

“Don’t touch me!”

Sherlock recoils as if slapped.

“Rosie?"

She glares at him, her eyes full of mistrust. 

“I brought your biology textbook.”

Sherlock holds the book up in front of himself, at a loss for what else to do. He has no idea why Rosie is acting this way. 

“I already had bio.”

She spits the words at him like an accusation. Sherlock tucks the book back under his arm. He supposes he did mess up by not bringing it by promptly this morning.

“Rosie, I’m sorry I didn’t bring it earlier…”

Rosie’s laughter is high-pitched, shrill, and completely unnatural. 

“I’m not mad about the stupid book!”

She’s really screaming now. Sherlock is completely out of his depth, but he tries to comfort and reason with his daughter, who lashes out viciously.

“You’re a liar! You’re a liar, and I don’t care what you say!”

Sherlock looks at the headmaster, but the man looks just as confused. 

“Rosie, I don’t—”

“Save it! I don’t believe anything you say! Do you know what we learned in biology today?”

Sherlock shakes his head no; it seems safer than speaking. Rosie narrows her eyes and breathes a single venomous word:

“Reproduction.”

Sherlock is still lost. Rosie, clearly not getting the reaction she was looking for, spirals totally out of control. 

“We learned about reproduction! How a mum and a dad have a kid! I asked the teacher how two daddies have a daughter, and she laughed at me! It’s not possible! You lied to me! You’re not my real dad! You can’t be! It’s not scientifically possible! I hate you!” 

The secretary barges into the room, frightened by the noise level. She’s now holding Rosie back while the headmaster suggests that Sherlock leave now and give Rosie some time to cool down. Sherlock, completely blindsided and crushed, leaves the textbook and flees. 

Across town, John washes his hands and sits down to an unappetizing Pret sandwich. He pulls his mobile out of his desk drawer and notices six missed calls from Rosie’s school. Conspicuously absent are any messages from Sherlock. This can’t be good. Sherlock went down there to drop off Rosie’s book. If the school is calling so persistently, something must have happened. He should have 57 unanswered texts from the detective, but he doesn’t even have one. 

He drops the sandwich in the rubbish bin, raises the phone to his ear, and listens to the voicemails from the school. Halfway through the second message, he clicks off. There was a verbal altercation between Sherlock and Rosie when Sherlock dropped off Rosie’s book?  Sherlock was asked to leave? What happened? John looks at his watch - 2:33pm. Rosie is safe at school for the next hour and a half. He needs to find Sherlock. Now

Though he doesn’t answer any texts or calls, Sherlock is not actually hard to find. When John enters the flat, he immediately notices the rigid figure seated on the sofa. 

“Oh, Sherlock.”

The soft words do not reach the detective who seems frozen in the act of gripping his own hair. Any movement at all would be encouraging, but Sherlock is motionless. John moves deliberately slowly to kneel in front of him. Carefully, he peels Sherlock’s fingers out of his curls and places the detective’s hands at his sides. John brushes the tangled curls out of his eyes and raises the Sherlock’s chin to make eye contact. He still looks a million miles away, but he is not fighting John.

“What happened?”

The question is soft, but Sherlock flinches as if John had physically hurled it at him. John grips the detective’s hands in his own, offering comfort and an anchor. He runs his thumbs over the soft skin of his palms and waits. Sherlock is very pale and up close, John can tell that he is shaking. 

“John.”

The word is barely a croak. John bends closer just to hear it. Sherlock swallows several times, attempting to lubricate his throat without sufficient hydration to complete the task. Drawing a reusable water bottle out of his travel bag, John encourages Sherlock to drink. He sucks greedily and soon the bottle is empty, though it had enough water left in it to moisten Sherlock’s throat back to working order. Taking the empty bottle from the detective, John tucks it back into its compartment.

“And you said you would never have use for a reusable water bottle.”

The joke is a weak attempt to dispel the tension. It doesn’t work, but Sherlock seems resigned to power through.

“I messed up, John. I messed up and I don’t know how to fix it. If I even can fix it. She was so angry. You didn’t see her. She hates me now. She hates…”

Sherlock’s voice chokes into silence as he heaves in breath and suppresses a sob. John, still mostly at a loss as to what has happened, does his best.

“Alright now. Deep breaths, Sherlock. I need you to calm down and tell me what happened. Can you do that?”

Sherlock nods, focusing solely on evening out his breathing, and after several long minutes, succeeds. His glistening eyes fix on John, who feels their pain throb deep in his own stomach. Bracing himself, John nods in what he hopes is a reassuring manner and waits for Sherlock to speak.

“After we…you know. After this morning, I forgot about the textbook. I didn’t really remember until around noon when I was changing slides on that paraffin analysis I’ve been working toward. Anyway, I went to Rosie’s school as fast as I could and I apologized about being late with the book. But Rosie wasn’t mad.”

John’s eyebrows draw down in confusion.

“She wasn’t mad? I don’t understand. Then what happened?” 

Sherlock sighs and continues. 

“She wasn’t mad…about that. Apparently, the first lesson of the term was on reproduction and the teacher had some opinions on the scientific impossibility of same sex parents.”

John’s hands clench around Sherlock’s and he works hard to ease back on the pressure.

“Did you tell the bastard that our family is none of his goddamn business?”

Sherlock shakes his head sadly.

“I didn’t quite get that far. Rosie was hysterical. She—”

The sob finally fights it way out of Sherlock’s chest and his shoulders shake with the effort. John cups his hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck and draws the man forward to rest their foreheads together.

“What happened, love?”

John’s voice is gentle, but Sherlock’s is barely a whisper.

“She said I’m not her real dad.”

John goes completely still. Never in a million years did he think this would even be a question. Sherlock has been in Rosie’s life from the beginning and no one cares more deeply for her. Rosie may not be Sherlock’s biologically, but she sure as hell is just as much Sherlock’s daughter as she is John’s.

“Oh, love. You know that’s not true.”

“I will always think of her as my daughter, John, but she may not choose to see it that way. I can’t force her. I just…I love her so much.”

Sherlock looks up at John and fixes him with the full intensity of his magnificent mind.

“I never thought I would love another human being as much as I love you, but God help me, John. She had me from the moment I held her. There isn’t a thing in this world I would not do to keep her healthy, happy, and safe. But I just keep failing and I don’t know how to be better. She deserves better and I don’t know how. I just don’t know.”

John runs his hands through Sherlock’s curls.

“You listen to me, right now. You can’t choose your own biology, Sherlock, but family? Family is earned. It’s a choice that you make every day. Family is the people you love, the people you put first, the people you think about every morning when you wake up, and every night before you go to bed. They are the people that lift you up, that inspire you, that fill your days with laughter and happiness. They make you safe. They make you better.”

John looks at Sherlock hopefully, but the detective just seems confused.

“Sherlock, I don’t have your way with words. I say what I mean, and what I mean to say more than anything else…You are family. You have been from the very first moment. I have always chosen you, and you have always chosen us. Always. Even when that meant struggle. Even when that meant sacrifice. Even when it meant loss. You choose us every time. After Mary…”

Now John’s throat catches.

“After all that, you are the one who lifted us up. You inspired us, made us laugh again. You made us safe, and you make us better. You give all your love, unreservedly, without any expectation in return. You love deeper and harder than anyone I have ever known, and that is why Rosie always has been and will always be yours. Your love is written into her bones in a way that science will never comprehend. It is a fundamental part of who she is. I’m sorry that she said those things to you, and I am sorry I wasn’t there. But you have to know she didn’t mean them.”

John.”

The kiss is a desperate press, seeking reassurance. After the unusually wordy exchange, all that is left to be said is communicated with hands and lips and skin. After all, they have always been rather good at nonverbal communication.