John blamed Stella and Ted.
It had seemed like a fairly innocuous invitation: some time ago, Stella-and-Ted (most of his friends came in pairs now that he was married) had gone to the Highlands and toured several whisky distilleries. They'd bought several bottles, never really drunk much of the stuff, and thus had decided to host what the email called a SINGLE MALT CELEBRATION.
It was a silly reason to have a party, but there it was. He and Mary turned up at Stella-and-Ted's snooty Highland Park home where they were given tiny shot glasses of the various whiskies and a sheet of card upon which to make their notes. There were fancy little plates with sausages, cheese, cornichons, caramelized onion, and that annoying sort of cracker which is too brittle either to dip or to be smeared upon.
The problem occurred when the thirty middle-aged professional types had the rather hysterical realization that they actually had a free evening without any young children to look after. The tiny shot glasses didn't contain more than enough to get people slightly tipsy… but Stella-and-Ted had a substantial liquor cabinet that was just going begging.
Three hours later, someone had plugged a Spotify playlist of "Hits of the Nineties" into the stereo. Blackstreet was playing "No Diggity." The liquor cabinet was significantly depleted. A high-level BBC executive was grinding on a woman who was very something-in-Parliament on top of the coffee table. John Watson was licking salt off his wife's neck before taking a shot of tequila and biting into a desiccated slice of lime.
He looked into Mary's eyes, blearily, and they both came to the simultaneous realization that this was absolutely sodding ridiculous.
They left. Normally Mary had a greater capacity for liquor than he did, but since she was at the point of doing her "Woman of a Thousand Voices" accents (an excellent party trick which also had served her well in her previous career) they decided to leave the car and take a cab home. It was nine thirty in the evening. He wondered when they'd gotten so old and pathetic.
They got home. He paid the cabbie, and then massively overpaid the babysitter because he had forgotten about her and had given all their small notes to the cabbie. They crept silently to look in on the baby, who was sleeping in that unsettlingly still infant manner. Mary carefully laid a hand on Sophia's chest. She nodded when she found that the baby was breathing in the exact same quiet way that she always did, and then they crept out again.
They made gentle love. Then they did some really disgusting headboard-rattling things because at his age and especially with a skin full of hard liquor, getting off was not a given with just gentle lovemaking. Mary, by the sound of it, enjoyed both very much.
And then they slept. Passed out, really, but of course passing out is for teenagers and they were mature, respectable adults.
At three AM, John awakened with a throbbing head, a bladder the size of Papua New Guinea, and the feeling something had died in his mouth. A trip to the loo and a swig of mouthwash took care of the latter two, but a rummage through the medicine cabinet produced nothing in the way of relief for the first one.
He wobbled back to the bed. Mary was naked, face down on top of the duvet with her head buried in the pillow. It was boiling in their bedroom, and he once again made the resolution that they would actually buy an air conditioner this summer. He patted her bum and said, "Mary?"
"Gnnargg," she said into the pillow.
"Sorry. Do you know where the aspirin is?"
"Fhmsthpht." Which wasn't particularly revelatory, but when she pulled one of her hands from under the pillow the bottle was clenched in it. John took the bottle and after a brief struggle with the childproof cap managed to get two of the capsules out. He swallowed them with the aid of the lukewarm water on the nightstand, crawled into bed, and dropped immediately back off.
At four-thirty, his phone made the "Bunk-bunk" sound that announced an incoming text. He lifted his head, found that the pain had been replaced by a low-grade awfulness, and read.
-*Ritualized* serial and/or mass murder. Five dismembered torsos, dead about three days at first glance, painted and *carved* with what NSY will only describe as "mysterious" symbols. Idiots. Construction site in Mayfair. Haven't had one of these in *years*. Come to this address at once. –SH
He considered getting out of bed, decided that the deceased weren't going to get any deader for Sherlock's lacking a sounding board, then set the phone back on the nightstand and went back to sleep.
-Where are you? The SOCO won't let me on the site because apparently it is "extremely unsafe." Going to Barts to examine torsos. -SH
-Look, I can see from the GPS that you are at home and from the activity log that you are reading these. Get down here. –SH
And that little privacy invasion was something that would have to be addressed. Later. When he could be awake enough to be irritated.
Mary's phone made its quiet chime, and he could hear her rooting around in the pile of mysterious feminine apparatus that covered her nightstand to find it.
"Darling, Sherlock wants you to go and have a look at his torso," she said, yawning.
"On it," he replied, and they both nodded back off.
At six, inevitably, the baby monitor crackled and an "Aggahabah" echoed through the bedroom. John rolled to his left side. Mary rolled to her right. They faced one another, silently, while Sophia's pleasant early-morning babble swirled around them.
Since Mary had given up her job, she took all the late-night (or really sodding early) baby care duties, except on the weekend. Then they would share the work, which was normally fine since Sophia was quite an easy baby and mostly slept very well. It was just every now and then neither of them were really in the mood, and then they'd have these miniature versions of the Cold War to decide whose turn it was.
He did the marital equivalent of installing the H-bomb in Turkey by suggesting, mildly, "Bet Sophia'd like to be nursed."
Mary laughed with absolutely no humor and said, "I'm sweating straight gin. Nothing coming out of my body this morning is going into her body. So since I am currently her third favorite person after you and you in a different outfit what I bet she'd really like is for her Dad to give her a bottle. There's plenty in the fridge."
John tended to lose when they played marriage cold war. He attributed this to the fact that Mary'd been trained by the actual CIA and thus had experience. It certainly wasn't that she always had very valid points. The baby had recently stopped seeing him as "Okay but not Mum," a category which he'd shared with Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson, and the postman. These days she was madly pro-John and viewed Mary mostly as a sort of upper servant. But obviously there must be some reason why it was clearly Mary's job to go and get up and tend to her.
He was trying to think his way out of this emotional Bay of Pigs when there was a shuffling noise as the baby, making "brr brr brr" sounds, moved in her crib. Then, blessedly, a synthesized version of the Blue Danube began playing over the baby monitor. It was being played by one of the ten thousand pieces of plastic that now filled their house… an aquarium-styled music box that hung into the baby's crib with big buttons suitable for use by small hands.
"Is she…" he asked.
"Self… soothing?" Mary replied.
It appeared that she was, and he whispered "Bless Fisher-Price."
"She is such a good baby."
Détente. He pulled Mary into his arms, buried his face in the crook of her neck, and closed his eyes as the waltz and the baby's babble played through the monitor. Until about two minutes later when a new voice, a much deeper one, spoke over Sophia's.
"Good morning. And I see they're neglecting you, too."
He could feel Mary lurching into full awareness. She stared at him, and whispered in horror-struck tones, "The calls were coming from inside the house."
Then she burst into giggles and rolled over to look for her glasses. Weakly, he said, "It's just possible that he might look after her for a bit."
Even he didn't believe this, and Mary just rolled her eyes and said, "Yes, because that's something he does."
In fact, the next words from the monitor were, "Oh, dear God. That's disgusting." This announcement was followed by Sherlock striding into their bedroom. The man always strode, never just walked, although in this particular case the effect was spoiled since he was carrying the baby at arm's length, as far from his pristine white shirt as possible.
Sherlock looked down his nose at them and did that eye-flicking thing before saying, "Scott. Zelda. Good morning." John was grateful to note that Mary had at some point put on a t-shirt and underwear. He only wished he'd thought to do the same thing. The baby chimed in with a gleeful shriek and a "Mamamamamamama!"
Mary grinned and held out her arms to receive Sophia, saying, "That's right, darling! It's Mama and Dada!"
Sherlock snorted and said, "Really, Mary, let's not be sentimental. It's babble. Fairly few children are capable of meaningful speech much before one year of age and given this one's difficulty with coming to terms with the pincer grasp it's hardly likely that she's as advanced as all that in other areas."
Mary lowered her arms. John cocked his head. They both stared at Sherlock, who blinked and said, "What?"
"How do you know that?" asked John.
"How do you not know that?" Sherlock retorted.
He could feel himself starting to grin. "We do know that. Because we're medical professionals and parents and have read books on the topic. Whereas you, six months ago, expressed surprise that human infants, unlike puppies, are born with their eyes open."
Sherlock frowned, "Well…"
Mary interrupted whatever bullshit excuse Sherlock was about to make with, "You like our baby."
"You think she's fascinating," John added.
"You want to cuddle her and teach her to solve simple crimes," Mary concluded.
"Piss off, the pair of you," Sherlock said, his ears turning ever so slightly pink. He set Sophia carefully at the foot of the bed, where she grinned gummily at her parents and blew a spit bubble. "Someone needs to attend to this child, who is sitting in her own filth. Someone else needs to help me look at my photographs and decipher the markings on the torsos. And John, regardless of which you select, you need to put on pants."
Mary picked up the baby, saying, "Oh, Sherlock, really, she's not sitting in her own fil- oh, dear God. That's disgusting."
"Sherlock, you happen to be in my bedroom -," John said.
"Gagggabaaah!" the baby shrieked.
"What did that woman feed her? And why isn't she crying?" Mary said, staring down the back of Sophia's diaper.
"I'll go and make some coffee," Sherlock said, smugly.
"And it's not as though anybody can spend more than six hours in Baker Street and not see you naked," John called to Sherlock's retreating back.
He sighed a bit, got out of bed, and shrugged on his dressing gown. "So which would you rather… torsos or diaper?"
"Honestly?" Mary said, grimacing, "We're a bit spoiled for choice. But I need to pump so why don't you go look at his pictures? Though if you can put a bottle in the warmer I'll love you forever."
"Oooh. What'll I get if I put on the kettle and make you a pot of tea, too?"
Mary smiled, that slow secret smile that always seemed to promise something. "Nothing I'm willing to describe in front of innocent ears. Go on, then."
John knotted his belt and walked to the door. He didn't know what made him turn around and look behind him, but he did.
Mary's hair was a punky mess, as it always was in the mornings, and she was making fish faces at the baby. Sophia was burbling and grabbing for her mother's glasses with her chubby hands. There was coffee and a mystery downstairs, and possibly an adventure was in the offing. Both his girls were rumple-faced with sleep and entirely contented and out of nowhere he felt the need to say, "Mary? Do you ever feel like you don't know what you did to deserve the luck you've got?"
She looked up at him and smiled and said, "Almost every day. Now bugger off, this diaper scenario is going to be nightmarish and I don't want to scar you."
John blamed Stella and Ted. And Sherlock, Mycroft, Harry, Mike Stamford, Jim Moriarty, the NHS and the CIA and hell, possibly the BBC.
He could blame, but he couldn't actually complain.