For The Better

Word Count: ~1.600

Summary: "Do you want to hold her?" John asked. Sherlock took a step back, clenching his hands to fists in his pockets ... and wondered why he was scared.

Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson

Pairing: John/Mary (background)

Rating: PG

Spoiler: The Sign Of Three

Setting: after His Last Vow

Author's Note: This started with an image stuck in my mind and I built the rest around that.

Beta: tardisjournal, thank you!

Disclaimer: I'm not making money with this fanfic. The tv show Sherlock and the characters appearing within it belong to their producers and creators. Any similarities to living or dead persons are purely coincidental and not intended.

xxx

"There we go," John said when he approached Sherlock, holding his daughter in his arms. Sherlock pushed off the wall he'd been leaning against to wait and shoved his hands in his coat pockets. He was strangely nervous. He had been since John's text had reached him half an hour ago, disturbing his night of experimenting on the effect acid had on finger nails.

I'm a daddy. Coming to the hospital?

Now, the bright lights of the hospital corridor made John look a bit pasty and tired, but a content smile was lingering on his face. He was holding his daughter so expertly, as if he'd never done anything else. Sherlock peered down at the pink little face snuggled into the white blanket wrapped around her. Her eyes were closed, her soft features relaxed, her nose twitching every now and again, her lips pursing.

She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

John's soft voice was barely loud enough to be heard. "Meet Sherlock," he whispered, stroking a finger down his daughter's cheek. The blue eyes opened – hesitantly, as if she wasn't quite sure Sherlock was worth the effort.

"Settled on a name?" Sherlock asked.

"Not quite."

She made a soft noise, a little huff of breath and reached up a hand.

"Look at that," John said and smiled up at him. "She likes you."

Sherlock was tempted to point out the silliness of that statement. She was barely three hours old and surely not capable of expressing any kind of affection that wasn't linked to her parents. Instead, he said, "Unflappable judge of character, no doubt."

He kept his hands in his coat pockets, even though they itched to touch, to run through the downy blonde hair and make sure this little person was real and healthy and ... Sherlock swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. How very strange, to be feeling so much for someone he'd just met. His connection to John-the strongest he had in his life-had been instantaneous, too, but not as deep right from the start. It was almost alarming, the way he wanted to lean in and loom over her and huddle closer to John to keep harm away from her.

"Do you want to hold her?" John asked.

Sherlock took a step back, clenching his hands to fists in his pockets ... and wondered why he was scared.

John chuckled. "It's alright," he said then, stepping closer again. "Just take her gently. Like I'm holding her, yeah?"

Sherlock frowned but slowly raised his hands, letting John place his child in his arms.

"Like that," John said softly. "Good." He fussed with the blanket until it was arranged to his liking, then he grinned up at Sherlock. "Don't be so tense, it's okay. She won't explode."

Sherlock grimaced, bending his knees a bit to bounce her awkwardly and then settled on standing still again. John was watching him with an amused chuckle and, embarrassed, Sherlock said, "You should really settle on a name."

He tried to relax a bit but it was hard. Holding her was the strangest sensation, completely new and terrifying in a way. She stared at him, her eyes roving over his face. Sherlock shifted his hold slightly, wondering whether he was gripping too tight or pressing her too close or if she would be more comfortable if he adjusted his arms just so. Maybe if he splayed his hand on her back a bit more and slid the other a bit higher and …

"You're doing fine," John said calmly. His fingers combed through his daughter's hair. "I'm just going to go and check that Mary's settled, yeah?"

"You'll take her with you?" Sherlock asked.

"She's fine with you. Just don't drop her." John winked and turned to leave.

Sherlock shook his head. "John-"

"You're fine. You're her uncle, Sherlock, get acquainted. I'll be back in five minutes and I'll just be down the hall anyway, so don't fret." With that, he turned away and headed back to Mary's room a few doors down.

Sherlock watched him go until the door closed and then gave a sigh, looking down at the baby in his arms. She was still scrutinizing him.

"Well ...," he said and then bit his lip, lost for words. She didn't understand a thing people said to her and yet, it seemed profoundly important to say something meaningful. At least this time. During their first meeting.

She yawned and a tiny hand came up to stretch, curling into the smallest fist Sherlock had ever seen. Without really being aware of it, he brushed his fingers over the smooth skin of her knuckles. She huffed a breath, her nose twitching.

"You're early," Sherlock finally settled on. "It wasn't Mary's due date, yet. You sent John into a right frenzy. I think he's more the worse for wear than your mother right now."

Her nose twitched again as if she needed to sneeze and then her fist opened and her fingers splayed against Sherlock's palm. He closed his hand around hers gently. She looked up at him as if he was something worthy of further consideration, a slight frown on her forehead, her blue eyes intent. He couldn't help but think that the shade was somewhere in between John and Mary, even though his scientific knowledge scoffed at that notion. He knew rationally that eye colour developed later on and that she probably couldn't see him that well, that he was probably just a blurry figure looming above her ... but that didn't really matter because she was lying in his arms and she didn't cry or seem uncomfortable and all the other things Sherlock had been secretly scared of.

It was essential, getting along with her. She was the most important thing in John's life which made her the most important thing in Sherlock's. He'd prepared accordingly, built a nursery in his mind palace and filled it with knowledge, bought things for his flat that would be needed during visits and made a spreadsheet of things he needed to do and get in the near future up until she would be about six years old.

In the end, nothing – not the books or the practise in setting up the travel bed or the packs with nappies stored in the bathroom – had prepared him for this: actually holding her and talking to her and being regarded with calm trust and acceptance.

She yawned again, a tired noise escaping her and then she turned her face towards Sherlock's chest, into his coat, and closed her eyes. Moving his arm carefully, Sherlock cupped her head in one hand, thin blonde hair tickling his fingers.

She fell asleep, content in Sherlock's arms.

Unconditional trust.

This had never happened to him before outside of his family. Even John had needed time to get used to him and then had become a help for him to evoke just that in others. He'd proceeded to fit his softer, kinder personality around Sherlock's sharp edges so that more people could come to see him as someone worthy of respect and affection. Sherlock had come to rely on that.

He didn't need John with this little person, though. He could provide everything she needed right now and it made him feel like the biggest, best man on Earth. He relaxed a bit and let out a breath he hadn't been aware he'd held, leaning back against the wall and crossing his ankles.

He was so distracted by staring at the baby that he didn't even hear John approach until he softly asked, "She asleep?"

Sherlock took one concerned glance at him and answered, "As you should be."

"I can't. I'm too giddy." He stared at his daughter and Sherlock couldn't even imagine what John might feel, considering his own feelings were already quite strong. He made to hand her over but John shook his head. "She looks comfortable."

"Is Mary okay?"

"Fast asleep. Totally exhausted." He was still staring at his daughter and stepped closer, kissing her temple.

"She's beautiful, John," Sherlock said. "I know it's a social convention to say that, but I really mean it. She's extraordinary."

"Coming from you, that's a compliment."

"I'm just being honest."

"I know. Thank you, Sherlock."

"You go now," Sherlock said. "I'm sure there are calls you need to make." He looked down at the baby. "I'll be fine for a few more minutes."

John smiled warmly. "Yeah." He shook his head. "Not right now, though. Just ... give me a minute." He propped himself up against the wall next to Sherlock and leaned close, looking at his daughter. And Sherlock knew he had probably already done this with Mary after the birth, just staring, but it meant the world to him that they were doing it now. Just the two of them adjusting to the new presence in their lives.

John took a deep breath. "This doesn't change anything, you know. Between us, I mean."

Knowing John was just trying to help with that statement; that John was just trying to spare Sherlock the pain of acknowledging that John's priorities had been shaken up yet again, he scoffed. "Don't be naive. It changes everything."

He shouldn't like it, he preferred the people around him not to change, to be where he expected them to be. He'd minded Mary's presence at first, just a tiny bit. John's distracted glances at his mobile, the quick calls, the texting in cabs ... it had worked out alright in the end. And it would this time, too.

Sherlock smiled. "It's for the better, though."

END

03/14