A/N: Disclaimer.

Chapter 8: Wading through Procedure

Wednesday morning at precisely half-ten, Sherlock Holmes pushed through the double doors of the St. James Group Home. He strode right up to the service desk with his usual glide, where Sarah blinked up at him in surprise.

The consulting detective had wanted this to be a day in which all pretenses were dropped, and wore a face that matched accordingly: his professional demeanor, blank but for the barest spark of excitement. Between the sheer cheekbones, the piercing eyes and the smart cut of his jacket, he was unknowingly giving off the perception of a man with sharp edges. Sarah had begun fidgeting in discomfort the moment he'd walked in the door.

"I'd like to adopt a child," he announced with little fanfare, gloved hands coming to rest against the files he had tucked in the crook of his arm.

The woman stared, bewildered. "What? Oh! Um, let me just –" she stammered, eyes passing over him before flitting to her desk. She lit up after a second though, beginning to rummage through a drawer before surfacing with some papers. Clearly she draws comfort from the familiar arms of bureaucracy and procedure…how dull.

"– if you could please fill out these forms –"

"No," Sherlock replied, not in the mood to be kind and doddle. "That won't be necessary, I've everything right here."

The older woman pursed her lips at the cold response, and Sherlock wondered if he should have bothered with the niceties after all. "I see. I'll just take a look at those, then," she said, eyes already on the proffered pages. A practiced hand reached out to withdraw a pair of spectacles from the top drawer even as she pulled the files closer.

Perusal of the documents apparently required several long, drawn out minutes. She must have had enough time to read through them three times over by now, Sherlock thought exasperatedly, fighting the urge to browbeat her into cooperation.

Finally, finally, she looked up at him with wide eyes. "But these already have a child listed? I don't understand, we've no record of you visiting any of our children, Mr. Holmes. Do you have a prior claim on Harry from before he was placed in the system?"

"No, nothing like that," he negated, following the vague backstory Mycroft had provided him. Perhaps not done with every pretense after all. "I visited him a time or two at the home in Surrey. I've been away on business for a bit, but when I returned to town I found out he'd moved to this location."

"Yes, he's been here for quite some time now." There was a slight relaxing in her posture after his spiel, a lowering of her shoulders. It makes her seem smaller, Sherlock thought, like a bird that's finished puffing up his plumage.

I suppose she was distressed at the idea that someone would want to adopt a child he'd never met…Sherlock debated very briefly about bringing up the sob-story face he used on witnesses, raving about some 'instant connection' with the boy when he first met him to play on her heart-strings, but discarded the idea in almost the next breath. While it might deliver Sherlock more quickly to the boy's side, it also had the potential to backfire. Witnesses could be nuisances, but this woman likely had the power to deny him something he was coming to want very badly.

Feeling a little more comfortable and back on familiar ground, she gifted him with a soft smile and a suggestion: "Would you like to arrange an interview with Harry today? I'm sure you have quite a few things to catch up on if you've been on business for long."

Sherlock clenched his hand into a fist in his pocket in an effort to halt the words itching to come out of his mouth: I don't want an interview, you twit, I explained my purpose here very clearly upon entry. I am here to adopt a child, I've even told you which one I want and provided all of your silly paperwork, now go make it happen!

"An interview would be ideal, thank you," he gritted out. Though gracious was not a face he wore often (and made incredibly difficult by clenched teeth), it suited the situation and seemed to satisfy the woman. Sarah gave a pleased nod, all smiles again with the belief that she had delayed a hasty decision.

"One moment please," she said primly, a hand already on the phone. She spoke into it for a few moments, arranging for someone named 'Mrs. Roberts' to bring Harry to the staff room for an adoption interview. Sherlock just kept silent and tried to refrain from fidgeting.

"Well, I suppose you don't really need one of these, as you've already met with Harry before, but just in case," she broke off, typing something on her computer.

Sherlock had an idea as to what she was alluding to, but it was the whirr of a printer from behind the desk that confirmed his suspicion. Sarah twisted in her chair, quickly gathering materials from around her workspace, before turning back to present him with his very own nametag, the proper name listed at last. A monkey sticker as well…It immediately brought to mind the trip to the zoo, earning a wry smile from the detective. A quick, searching glance at the receptionist confirmed she hadn't been insinuating anything – while perhaps paranoid, it had become habitual for Sherlock to check more closely on any subtle, suspicious actions after Jim from IT had slipped by him.

"You should look into changing your ink cartridge soon," he murmured, noting the slightly faded type of his name.

A bland noise of agreement, and then, "If you'll just follow me, I'll take you back to the staff room for your little chat with Harry."

The staff room was much the same as it had been two days ago, although Sherlock noted the snack machine had yet to be restocked. A young woman in her mid twenties was occupying a table nearest to the kitchen. The papers sprawled around her and red pen in her hand would have told Sherlock she was a teacher at the home, even if he had missed the more subtle signs: chalk in her hair, from brushing back her bangs, hand puppets stuffed into the pockets of her dress, a silver apple necklace – someone enjoys clichés, although, he conceded, perhaps it was a gift.

Sherlock took a seat at a table on the opposite side of the room, closer to the couch and vending machine. He watched as Sarah wandered over to speak with the teacher, ostensibly inquiring after some of her students. Their voices dropped low for a moment, and Sherlock caught sight of a darted glance in his direction from the teacher. Money says Sarah's asked her to keep an eye on me during this little 'interview' then. Good practice, although not exactly high security here…she could do very little to stop me were I an actual kidnapper.

The two women chatted for another minute or so before Sarah traipsed back over to his side of the room; Sherlock was at a loss for why given the lack of conversation, until the door finally opened and a third woman entered, leading the boy.

Harry surveyed the room with a pinched, worrying expression (likely thinks he's in some sort of trouble) before catching sight of Sherlock. His face turned almost hungry then, disbelief prominent as his eyes darted around a second time, reassessing his initial thoughts of what was happening. Or so Sherlock hoped, anyways. He could be looking for who's the authority in the room, or simply confused.

But Sherlock didn't miss the quick look at his nametag as the boy drew closer, and suppressed the urge to crow in delight at the intelligent precaution. He doesn't want to blow my cover; how prudent, Sherlock thought, pleased.

"Mr. Holmes!" the boy exclaimed, happiness suffusing the words.

A noise of confirmation from Sarah, who Sherlock had quite forgotten when the boy walked in the door, finally informed the detective of her reasoning for returning to his side: She wanted a look at the boy's face to ensure he knew who I was; the door swings open to the right – her view would have been blocked had she stayed near the teacher.

"Harry, Mr. Holmes here has asked to set up an adoption talk with you," Sarah said kindly, with soft, fond eyes. Sherlock was treated to the sight of blatant surprise on the boy's part, and nodded in agreement when searching green found his own content grey.

"Mrs. Stewart will be just over there for your chat, so you let her know if you need anything, and we'll leave you to it," Sarah finished, one last pause to let Harry speak up if he was uncomfortable with anything. When the moment passed, she collected the second teacher and made her way out the door, returning to her post.

Pen scratches filled the air for a while. Sherlock watched as the boy relaxed enough to straighten up and take a few uncertain steps closer.

"You…you really want to adopt me?" He asked finally in a quiet tone, either not eager to have his voice carry or simply not capable of more volume at the moment.

Either way, Sherlock matched his low voice, his own baritone smoothly sliding into the register. "I do," he confirmed gently.

"But why?" The boy demanded helplessly, hands flying up to tug at his hair. He'd come close enough that Sherlock chose to make a slight gesture to the chair next to him before answering. The boy clambered up without hesitance, which pleased Sherlock to no end: already comfortable following my nonverbal suggestions; that implies he's open to learning and guidance from me. Perfect.

"I asked you when we first met to play a game with me; you might remember that I mentioned I'd been in that disguise for some time," Sherlock began; he'd considered carefully how he wanted to explain this the day before. While many children would be too excited at the prospect of gaining a home to question the reasons much, he knew Harry was different – he was too wary of his surroundings, too careful around adults, too self-contained to react differently.

"The funny moustache, yes, I remember," the boy piped up. He was leaning forward on the edge of his seat now, small legs swinging slightly the way children tended to do in seats too large for them.

"The reason I was in that disguise, going around to children's homes, was that I was looking for a special child, one who possessed what I consider to be the most important skill," Sherlock revealed. "The ability to observe."

A beat for thought. "You want to adopt me because I told you your moustache looked funny?" Harry asked, face screwed up in a questionable manner, having translated Sherlock's words for himself. "But I bet lots of kids saw that, they just didn't say anything."

"Perhaps," Sherlock conceded. "But the nerve to speak up is also a fine quality; some have it in excess and overstep their bounds, but you always think before you speak, don't you?"

Harry shrugged then, looking away. I've touched on a remnant of his past, I suspect.

"It's important," was all the boy said, an echo of the answer he'd first provided when Sherlock had questioned his surveillance of the playground at their initial meeting.

The consulting detective was not good with feelings; this was a certifiable fact anyone who had met him could and would confirm. But he had known going into this interview that he was going to need to be a little more open and find the words to convey all of the things he barely understood. Meet the boy halfway, John prompted.

"That it is," Sherlock nodded in agreement. "You also told me that I'm lonely, which is quite an accurate assessment, I assure you. I used to function best alone," he gave a wry smile, "or at least I thought I did. But then I met someone who showed me in no uncertain terms that that is simply not the case." A quick glance showed the boy was all ears, gaze locked on his once again, so Sherlock continued. You've always been my saving grace, John. Perhaps that will carry over here as well.

"My best friend," he still relished in the ability to claim a friend at all, "Dr. John Watson." He paused, beginning again with a soft look. "He's gotten married now, so I decided to try something new as well. I've been searching for a companion, someone I can teach all of my skills to; you have the potential, Harry," he acknowledged, using the boy's name for the first time aloud. "Our game showed that: you're quite intelligent, self-composed, and very observant."

A breath. "Do you think you might be interested?"

The boy was looking up at him with eyes so wide they seemed to take up half his face. "I, I want to, but…" Harry trailed off, casting a distressed glance towards the teacher in the corner before looking back at Sherlock. He leaned in closer, as if conveying a secret. "Sometimes," the boy licked his lips, voice suddenly raspy, "sometimes I do weird things."

It had all the air of a confession, which puzzled Sherlock; this was not a turn he had expected this conversation to take. He searched for a safe response, before settling for a truth. He'll find out eventually anyways.

"John tells me I do as well," the detective shared. When it became apparent the boy was still at a loss for what to say next, he continued, "I play the violin at odd hours, sometimes I don't talk for days at a time, and I can enumerate the differences between two hundred and forty-three types of tobacco ash, to name a few of my quirks."

The comments had drawn a weak smile from the boy, but he was still looking uncertainly towards the teacher. "The point is, Harry, that I'm not an easy person to live with; I'm a man of many flaws, but if you can accept those, I believe I can handle anything from your end of things."

He cleared his throat then, suddenly considering another reason the boy might be lacking words. "That being said, if you do not want to leave your life here, I would understand–"

"No! That's not it, not it at all," Harry rushed to answer him, leaning forward again to snatch Sherlock's sleeve from where it rested on the table. Sherlock was surprised by the action, and absently caught sight of Mrs. Stewart looking over with concern. But his attention was all on the boy, whose eyes were swelling with something delicate. That's hope, John provided.

"I've not been responsible for another person, before. I might be terrible at it," Sherlock warned, but the serious tone he'd meant to convey was lost somewhere along the way. He swallowed. "But I'll try, if you'll have me."

The boy considered for a half second, losing that desperate, scared look, before responding frankly, "I've never really had a responsible adult before the home, so I don't see why I need one now."

That startled a laugh out of the detective. So mercurial, he thought. "Are you game to give it a go, then?"

"Yes," the boy said quietly. A little firmer then: "Yes."

Sherlock gave a pleased nod, abruptly standing to stride over to the teacher in the corner. "Who do I speak to about adopting Harry?"

Mrs. Stewart had been somewhat dumbfounded, but had called someone, so Sherlock returned to the boy and they discussed small things for a while, both in need of some levity. Sherlock learned that Harry's favorite color was red, that he liked the monkey bars because he enjoyed heights, and that he found ninjas intriguing because they could pass anywhere unseen. In turn, Sherlock had shared that his favorite color was blue, because many of its pigments were produced by iron complex cyanide reactions, some of the first chemical experiments he had conducted, that he was a master of hide-and-seek, and that he was quite fond of pirates.

Harry had just begun to clumsily repeat a few of the Arabic words he had picked up from one of the other children in the home when a female voice interrupted them from the door.

"Mr. Holmes, if I could have a moment of your time?" It was phrased like a request, but Sherlock was certainly familiar with the insistent tone that labeled it a demand.

Sherlock suspected this was the woman the teacher had called; the no-nonsense voice suggested he might finally be getting somewhere in this process (part of him had feared Mrs. Stewart had simply phoned Sarah in an attempt to delay him). He tossed a nod at Harry, who was looking uncertain again, and rose silently.

Mrs. Stewart cleared her throat, drawing up a warm voice. "Harry, dear, why don't you come help me with some marking? I need someone to put the 'great job' stickers on these papers."

Sherlock heard the boy cross the room to sit at the test-ridden table before the staff door closed behind him, leaving him face to face with a sharply dressed figure; she's got the air of a businesswoman or lawyer of some sort, that shark-like quality. Balance of probability says lawyer, considering her affiliation with the home.

The woman was on the younger side of thirty, clearly fierce in demeanor; she still had the fire in her that came from working with injustice, one that hadn't been dulled by facing too many broken children.

"The St. James Group Home has a policy of conducting extensive interviews with all of its potential parents," she said with a thin smile. "I have quite a few questions for you."

Sherlock shot his own razor-edged smile at her in response. "Lead on."

The interviewer, a woman named Ms. Tate, had led him to one of the unused classrooms down the hall before launching into what would have surely been a daunting and exhaustive interrogation for anyone else.

(You've listed your occupation as a 'consulting detective;' is this a paid position? Do you feel you have adequate time to care for a child? What if anything should happen to you in the line of duty, have you thought to make preparations for Harry in that event?)

As it was, Sherlock answered to the best of his ability, if somewhat curtly. He provided five character references promptly upon request (when and how Mycroft had finagled those, he did not even begin to speculate) and maintained his composure throughout by silently deducing as much as he could of the woman's past, studying her as much as she was studying him.

(No nail polish, pantsuit, high heels, but not stilettos, hair in a severe bun – has a history of not being taken seriously as a woman in her field, then. Probably tried for tax law or corporate before this. But the noodle necklace – obviously a gift from one of the residents – and her current occupation suggest a weakness for children…)

It was dull, but at least he hadn't descended into audible mocking yet. And so it went, for forty-five minutes, until she was moderately satisfied (or had at least stopped eyeing him as the enemy). Finally, she explained that the home reserved the right to conduct another interview(s) at any point in the adoption process, and led him back to the staff room.

They returned to find the two remaining occupants in much the same position as before, although Harry had taken up coloring on some spare bit of paper while the teacher was grading yet another set of spelling tests. Both looked up at the sound of the door opening; the teacher quickly returned to her task, but Harry tossed a questioning look at Sherlock.

The corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched upwards in the smallest hint of a smile, but it was enough to have the boy untucking his legs in a scramble to hop off the chair. He scampered over to them quickly, bringing an arm up to hastily smooth down his hair.

Ms. Tate smiled down at the boy. "Let's take a seat, shall we?" she prompted, heading for the round table Sherlock and Harry had occupied earlier, probably in an attempt to maintain the illusion of privacy from the teacher.

"Harry, Mr. Holmes, I'd like to discuss with you the next steps in the adoption process," she said, making eye contact with each of them in turn. Sherlock noticed that Harry earned an extra smile; she's making it very clear who the priority is in this situation, he thought with some satisfaction. As it should be.

"There are three stages to this," she continued. "In stage one, one of our social workers will be assigned to your case, and will visit Harry at," she paused to look down at her notes," 221B Baker Street several times over the next two to three months. These visits will be both planned and unplanned, to make sure we are getting the full picture."

The boy looked a bit alarmed for a moment, so she reached over to pat his hand. "We just want to make sure you're happy, Harry.

"Stage two will consist of monthly visits petering out into bimonthly visits at your case worker's discretion," she continued. But she'd turned her attention back to Sherlock, and missed the flash of confusion on the boy's face at her word choice.

Sherlock wanted there to be no misunderstandings between them over this process, so he broke in to explain: "She means that, once the case worker decides it's a beneficial – good – situation for both of us, her check-ins will decrease from once a month to once every two months."

Ms. Tate granted him a surprised, but pleased expression. "After she's satisfied, you'll go to stage three, where you might only receive a visit or two a year."

"If things don't," throwing a considering glance at Harry, she reconsidered her next few words, "if things don't work out, for either of you, or if you wish to make use of some of the counseling services available through the home, here are copies of our numbers for both of you." She handed them each a small business card with multiple numbers listed; Sherlock watched as Harry took his, biting his lip and peeking hastily in the detective's direction. The detective gave him a small nod, not entirely certain what he was reassuring the boy over, before tucking his own card away with all the rest of the papers.

"Would you like to go home with Mr. Holmes today, Harry, or would you like to wait until tomorrow?" Ms. Tate asked kindly.

Harry deliberated for a moment, before turning to look at Sherlock. "Will I be able to come visit my friends again soon?"

"No reason we couldn't," Sherlock replied, a bit surprised the boy was close enough to anyone he wanted to visit – every time Sherlock had come upon him, the boy had held himself rather separate from the others. But then, the image of a younger boy being tugged along behind Harry at the zoo came to mind, and things snapped into place. "I won't have any cases on for a while," he assured.

"Then I'll go today, if Miss Jane promises to tuck in Joshua tonight," he decided, with an eye on the teacher in the corner, who had been trying (but failing) to hide her eavesdropping.

"I'll be sure to tell her," Mrs. Stewart agreed hastily.

"Excellent," Ms. Tate smiled. "I'll just call down your social worker, Lacey Williams. She'll drive you both back to– "

"Baker Street," Sherlock provided, when it was clear the woman needed prompting.

"Yes, Baker Street, to make certain it's a suitable environment. Harry, why don't you run upstairs to collect your things? You didn't drive, did you, Mr. Holmes?"

"No, I prefer cabs," Sherlock stated, vaguely annoyed at the intrusion into his space, even if it had been somewhat expected.

The three separated at the lobby, Harry flitting up the stairs and Ms. Tate to call down the case worker, leaving Sherlock to linger on one of the armchairs against the wall in an effort to avoid being drawn into conversation with the receptionist again.

A clatter from the top of the stairs a few minutes later drew Sherlock's attention. One lone, battered suitcase was clutched in small hands; it looked disproportionately large next to the boy and it hit Sherlock then that here, what he was looking at, was an entire world for this particular child.

Sherlock had never been attached to material things, but he'd always had them, the benefits of growing up in an upper middle class family. John had come sparse to Baker Street as well, accustomed to the life of a soldier living on modest means; but the doctor had fought for his presence in 221B from the first moment he stepped foot there, with the comment about Sherlock's clutter. Looking at the boy from the bottom of the stairs, Harry seemed so small then that it would be easy for him to be lost in the flat, swallowed up by experiments and dust.

Well, I was looking to share my world. He can have a piece of it until he makes his own.

"Ready to go then?" Some time in the last few seconds, Ms. Tate had reentered with a dark skinned woman, who Sherlock presumed to be this Lacey Williams character. Introductions were made all around, files crossed hands, and Harry gave one last hug to a teary Sarah when she emerged from her behind desk.

The car ride was largely silent; Lacey had attempted to make small talk at first, but it was clear neither Sherlock nor the boy were much for conversation. Harry spent most of it with his nose pressed to the glass of the back window, watching London's life pass them by. Sherlock occupied himself eyeing the boy in the reflective surface of the windshield and cataloguing changes in the London surroundings.

At the beginning, every time the car had slowed down, Harry had taken to looking around eagerly. When it became evident that they had quite a ways to go, he'd settled down a bit, so he was unprepared for the noise of Lacey sliding the car into park when they finally pulled up to the curb in front of 221B.

"Here we are," Sherlock announced, taking the initiative to exit the car first. He went around to retrieve the boy's bag from the boot, pulling out his keys along the way.

"We're just up the stairs," he told them both upon entry, feeling uncomfortably like some sort of tour guide. "Mrs. Hudson, the landlady, lives on this bottom floor. She's in and out quite a bit." A quick gaze around revealed to Sherlock that Mrs. Hudson was thankfully out for the moment, gone to the shops for dinner, he speculated. Don't want to overwhelm the boy anymore.

They were up the stairs in a matter of moments. Sherlock looked towards Harry then, trying to gauge how the boy was feeling about all of this; thankfully, he appeared too consumed in curiosity over all of the little knick-knacks in the living room to be distressed over a new environment.

Lacey, Sherlock noticed, was poking around the kitchen area, lifting up some of the cleaned beakers on the counter. Having anticipated that he would not be allowed to take the boy without some sort of inspection of his flat, Sherlock had done his best to clean up most of the experiments he'd had running. He'd not been to Bart's in recent weeks, so luckily there were no body parts around currently – that had been his main concern, since both John and Mrs. Hudson still tended to vehemently object to those sort of experiments, and they were already quite used to his habits.

He breathed a sigh of relief when she left the lower cabinets alone: he couldn't bear to interrupt the study he'd been doing on the long term effects of different types of acids on various materials (cement, highly acidic dirt, tarmac and the like), so he'd stashed it down there, out of the way.

"My room is just down the hall, along with the washroom," he said, keeping up the running commentary to fill the silent scrutiny. "Your room is upstairs, Harry; Mrs. Hudson aired it out yesterday. We'll have to get you some of your own things, of course."

Harry looked up at him, a bit surprised. "Why don't you go put your things away?" Sherlock suggested then, having run out of rooms to show them.

Lacey smiled at that, and followed Harry up the stairs for a quick minute. Sherlock could hear quiet footsteps treading around from above, and busied himself with making tea to give his hands something to do.

A single set of adult footsteps on the stairs had Sherlock bracing himself in case she found something inadequate. Grin and bear it, he thought, you can fix the little things easily enough. Mrs. Hudson will be over the moon to assist you.

"Not exactly a child's room," she remarked blandly from behind him.

Sherlock stiffened for a moment, before turning to find the woman leaning against the entryway; how was he to know what a child's room was supposed to be like? Sherlock's current room didn't differ all that much from the way his had looked as a boy; different bedspreads and sheets, of course, and he supposed the walls were a different shade, but the set up was much the same. "I wanted to give him the chance to decorate it to his liking," he said finally.

It seemed he had passed some sort of test, then, because Lacey made a noise of approval and cracked into a small grin. "It seems like everything is in order, Mr. Holmes, so I'll just trot up to say 'bye to Harry, and you'll be hearing from me again within the week. Stacey provided you with my number, right?"

Recalling the card he'd been given, Sherlock assumed Stacey was referencing Ms. Tate and nodded.

"Wonderful. I'll be seeing you soon!"

By the time the kettle was whistling, Lacey had gone and Sherlock had found two clean-looking cups to serve tea in. A creak on the stairs behind him a few minutes earlier indicated Harry had returned, but the silence between them lingered, both parties uncertain where to go from here.

Sudden banging from the downstairs door opening and shutting made the boy jump, right as Sherlock began pouring the tea. The familiar pattern of keys clinking into a dish, followed by the thunk of vegetables and cans hitting a counter assured the detective that Mrs. Hudson had returned.

"Sherlock!" She called, now on her way up the stairs, "I picked up a chicken for dinner tonight, and if you don't help me eat it, I'll call John!"

Rolling his eyes at Mrs. Hudson's idea of a threat, Sherlock peered over his shoulder in time to catch sight of Harry's bewilderment. He shot another reassuring smile, inwardly reflecting that he'd used that expression more times today than he likely had in his entire life. A trend that will probably continue.

Sherlock brought the teacups over to the table, nearer to where Harry was rooted. "Milk?" he asked companionably, blatantly ignoring the impending arrival of his landlady.

The boy startled a moment at the question, before nodding and stepping over to the fridge to pick it out for himself. Sherlock was appreciative at the initiative; there's that adaptability kicking into gear again.

"Sherlock? Are you ho–" Mrs. Hudson asked again, breaking off when she came through the doorway and noticed him perched near the table. "There you are!"

"Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock interrupted with a reproachful voice, before she'd had a chance to catch sight of their guest frozen in the corner, "my new flat mate moved in today. It was quite remiss of you to be out when he arrived," he teased, lifting a corner of his mouth.

"Well, if you'd told me when he was going to arrive when I asked you about it yesterday, I'd have been here!" She admonished good-naturedly. "Is he upstairs, then?"

Sherlock's slight beckoning motion had Harry stepping cautiously away from the fridge to set the milk on the table, drawing Mrs. Hudson's attention. Sherlock had the pleasure of observing as the landlady's face ran the gamut of emotions, from surprise to dismayed understanding, to elated enthusiasm as she realized Harry's presence meant there would be a child around to spoil. Sherlock knew she liked to pretend now and then with Sherlock himself, overgrown child that he was, but it wasn't the same; the dependence wasn't quite there the way it was between a true child and an adult.

"Oh! Sherlock, when you said you'd be continuing to cover the second rent as well, I thought – well, it doesn't matter what I thought," she said, coming to terms with the situation quickly. The boy's not the only adaptable one, Sherlock thought fondly. Turning to Harry, she softened her voice and asked, "Are you hungry, dear?"

Harry looked at Sherlock for guidance; Sherlock merely gave an encouraging eyebrow raise in response, wanting to break that habit of turning to the nearest adult for direction (but also secretly pleased it was him that Harry had turned to).

"Yes?" Harry answered, though it came out more like a question due to the rising tone. Testing the waters, good for him. We did wind up skipping lunch, didn't we? Sherlock realized absently. Food was never high up on his priorities, after all. Though I suppose that will have to change, he thought, eyeing his charge.

"I'm Mrs. Hudson, but you can call me Nana, if you like," she offered with a genial smile. "What's your name, dear?"

Sherlock lifted an eyebrow entirely for the landlady this time, surprised at this response but gratified at the easy relationship blossoming between the two.

"I'm Harry," the boy introduced shyly.

"That's a good name, love," she told him gently. She brought her hands together in a clap then, asking, "Now, would you like to come help me with dinner? I have some potatoes that could do with some peeling."

Sherlock watched as his young charge brightened, nodding furiously; is he happy with the notion of dinner, or of being given a task? Sherlock wondered, already interested in seeing new sides of the boy.

In short order, Mrs. Hudson had ushered them both down the stairs to wash up, but not before catching sight of the detective's expression. "That's quite enough out of you, Sherlock Holmes," she blushed.

A/N: Well, that was exhausting. In a good way :).

Thanks for all of your patience in waiting to get this chapter out guys! Our event this weekend went well; ironically, when I was mid-event all I wanted to do was work on this story, so I had the skeleton for quite a while. It took pretty much all of today to flush it out though; while it's not a lot in comparison to some of the stories up here, dropping nearly 6k words in one day makes me tired, so let me know if y'all catch any mistakes - it's not as thoroughly vetted as I usually try to be.

I hope everyone is pleased that Harry is finally in Baker Street; I know this chapter was a lot of bureaucracy, and it's probably not even close to how the true system actually works, but I couldn't in good conscience let Mycroft's governmental background remove every single obstacle, so we have this mix of rushed procedure :D. Don't hate me.

Sherlock surrounds himself with such awesome people. I hope to be half as lucky in my friends :).


P.S. I love you all - 60 some odd reviews for last chapter?! You guys are incredible!