John and Sherlock were never really normal...
"I imagined I'd find you down here."
Sherlock doesn't move from his place on the floor by the incubator. Behind him, feet tread closer, soft and unhurried on the linoleum. They're accompanied by a tapping noise, distinct and well-remembered from all the days it has climbed the floors at Baker Street beside its owner. The fabric of an expensive suit ruffles as Mycroft descends to sit next to him, awkwardly folding into his place on the ground.
They sit in silence for a moment, half-listening to the monitors, to each other's breathing.
"Where's John?" Sherlock asks after a time.
"It's my understanding he went home some hours ago to shower and change. He wants everyone to visit tomorrow morning, I've been told."
His brother snorts. "You're here a bit early, then."
Beside him, Mycroft's shoulders lift in a thin shrug. "I'm an uncle now. I must..." he hesitates, "care."
"Haven't you always?" He turns and looks at his brother, really looks. Observes, as is his job. Worry lines vanishing into smooth skin as Mycroft returns his gaze. "John says it's because you do care. That you interfere because it's the only way I'll 'let you in.'"
Mycroft says nothing. Sherlock's head falls to the side, and he shakes it, a humorless smile on his features.
"I did this, you know."
The smile disappears. A frown jumps up to take its place. "What?"
His brother turns to face him, and Sherlock blinks in surprise. Because the smile etched there isn't the self-aggrandizing, postured little simper he wears in nearly all their dealings. There is something genuine in the strange vulnerability of Mycroft Holmes in that moment. Sherlock knows faked vulnerability when he sees it. This... this is...
"When you were born, Mummy told me that my job was to always take care of you. So at night, for the first few weeks after you were born, I would sit by your cradle and tell you stories. Just to let you know that someone was there. Would always be there." He sighs, a hand stroking restlessly down his thigh. "When Father left and Mummy sort of... vanished in her grief, for that time, that was what I did. And when you were a mess at university, I came and got you out. And I made sure John was right for you. I tested him. And I tested you."
"I never asked for your help, Mycroft."
He purses his lips. "No, you didn't. But I gave it to you anyway."
"Out of duty."
"Isn't duty some form of - of love?"
Above their heads, Amelia starts to whine. Sherlock's on his feet in seconds, opening the latches on the glass windows and sliding a hand through, a shushing sound on his lips. With a practiced ease, her fingers latch around his, soft baby-pink skin on pale ivory. She'd had some jaundice, but after nearly two weeks changing feeding habits and with a bit of phototherapy, the sallow tint to her skin was at last beginning to fade. The grey of her beginnings hadn't returned, either, but she's still being monitored for brain damage after that initial scare. The blood tests don't prove anything, nor any of their other tests.
Only time will tell, it seems. But with any luck, they'll get to go home tomorrow. Oh, how he longs to take her home, and really begin.
"Home, Amelia," he murmurs, wiggling his fingers. Distal, middle, proximal phalanges. Her grip, surprisingly strong, tightens. He squeezes gently back.
"Should you be doing that?"
His eyes flicker away from his infant's face, stare at some irrelevant piece of floor where the tile is chipped just at the top. "It's not a matter of 'should' or 'should not.'" He turns back, but his hand stays in place. He will not let go. "If you're doing it because you have to, it's different than doing it because there is nothing else you can do. Duty is a cage. Love is still... still a sort of... boundary, but only because it's better behind it. It's not - it's not something I can explain," he sighs, frustrated with his inability to, for once, speak coherently on a subject. This has never been his area. And how to make Mycroft, of all people, understand, when he's only just beginning to really get it himself?
But looking at his brother again, dragging his eyes up from the floor to rest hopelessly on his face, he wonders if perhaps they are not so different after all.
"Could I -"
He hesitates, a fraction of a second where he wonders - and then nods. Mycroft is equally hesitant, shuffling in a way he never does, not when it's anyone but the two of them. Sherlock squeezes once more, then withdraws his hand. The opening yawns. Amelia's squinting face peers out. Tentatively, Mycroft reaches in.
Proximal phalanx. She grips it tight in her fist.
They're all the same basic parts, in the end.
Mycroft's face is amalgamated emotion, unreadable and lost probably to even himself. But when they don't let Amelia go home that next day and he comes down at night to his brother already on the floor by the incubator, his back to the door as he stares up at his sleeping niece and weaves a steady murmur of stories to wrap her in sleep, Sherlock thinks they might have found that lost thing.
Mrs. Hudson peers between the two of them, arms crossed and head tilted to the side. "Are you sure?"
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "I know that it's cold and I'd like to be in my flat right now, so yes, by all means."
"What he really means is," John says around an exasperated sigh, "we'd be honored." He flashes their landlady a tired, but honest, grin.
A blush jumps up to her cheeks, fanning out over her face as she waves them off, but her smile's real, too. She steps down off the stoop and halts in front of John, arms outstretched and expectant - an odd contrast with the apprehension on her face. Sherlock watches curiously as John deposits their daughter in Mrs. Hudson's arms, and she goes still and near white. She'd had a similar reaction back at the hospital that first time she'd seen Amelia.
"Cried on my shoulder for about an hour afterward," John had admitted when all their guests had left, voice low, the memory shimmering in his eyes. "Especially when I mentioned all the complications."
But she doesn't cry this time. That brave woman is back. She looks down at Amelia and her face breaks, fractures, explodes into a brazen smile, unbeatable in every sense. A sun that won't go down.
The fear of another lost daughter not coming home, perhaps. That had done it at first.
So yes, he supposes. Yes, they're honored to banish that once and for all.
Mrs. Hudson pivots, staring up at the whitewashed walls of Baker Street before she marches through the open door. "Feels like just yesterday your daddies were moving in here, lovestruck as anything and not believing a word any of us said about the matter..." She laughs, and it floats out onto the street, tendrils of sound that beckon them up the stairs behind her, onwards and upwards to better things.
Happiness out of making someone else happy. Ridiculous. He's starting to believe that humans are little else.
He shuts the door behind them and follows John up to the flat. To their home.
"Knew you wouldn't be out of the game for long!" crows Lestrade, beaming as they strut into the morgue. Behind him, Molly waves an excited greeting. But the both of them stop short when Sherlock steps out from behind John. Hmm. Likely the device strapped to his chest, where a placid-looking Amelia is staring out calmly from behind her carrier at the rows of bodies and various instruments of dissection. He thinks she's handling it well.
"Oh, no you don't," Lestrade says warningly, just as Molly mutters a "Dear god," and removes her gloves. The both of them step forward and command as one, "Give me the kid."
Lestrade ends up holding Amelia, walking her around the supposedly less-threatening parts of the morgue and cooing to her in stupid voices, while Molly seems content to play with her feet and make the same stupid noises, only with different words.
"Never had to tell you to cheer up around a body before," John remarks, smugness lifting the corner of his lips.
"Oh, shut up," Sherlock sneers, and very intentionally focuses on the dead jewel thief rather than the two idiots playing with his daughter.
He does cheer up a bit when he finds the amulet inside the victim's stomach, though. Marginally intriguing, that.
He feels a warm, remembered stir, the beginning cadence of a metronome as the tempo changes, a pulse as familiar to him as his own heartbeat - the countdown of a crime waiting to be solved. He grins, the glimmer in his eyes nearly feral as it alights on John.
"Six ideas. Not counting the one about the blueberry-flavored wristband."
"We are not helping paint her room bloody pink," Harry grits out through clenched teeth.
Clara stares her down. Sherlock has seen serial killers with similar expressions. "Pink is a fine color. She can like any color she wants to," she says with a haughty sniff.
Harry jabs at the palette, engagement - re-engagement? - ring catching the light and refracting over the shades in a rainbow of colors. "Green and orange. It's exciting."
"Oh, yeah, 'cause she lives with your brother and his mad husband; not like she'll be getting enough of that," Clara retorts.
Harry ties up her hair and readjusts her overalls as she stands. Sherlock tilts his head, passively wondering if murder is about to be committed in his own home. Paint brush as the weapon - no, he doubts he's ever seen that before. "Green," she says threateningly, brandishing said paintbrush, "or no sex for a week."
Clara's mouth twitches. "You wouldn't."
"I so would."
Now Clara's standing, her hand creeping towards the pink can of paint at her elbow. "No, I mean you wouldn't last a day," she taunts, before she grabs the can and dashes up the stairs, cackling madly.
"Clara!" Harry shrieks, darting after her. "I swear to god and all his angels that if you paint one stroke of that vile color on my niece's walls I will personally -" a door slams and cuts off the rest.
"So," John comments idly into the silence, taking a sip of his tea. "They're getting on."
Behind him, Amelia giggles in her playpen. Sherlock can't help but agree.
And baby makes three. See you soon, boys. - JM
Sherlock's eyes zip up from his mobile, rest on John where he's sat on the sofa. Amelia's sleeping on his chest, her curling, dark hair tufting under John's chin. It shifts with every quiet breath he takes. Their eyes meet across the distance, something unspeakable reaching out between them. To have, to hold.
Sherlock half-runs into the living room, the desperate meet of their lips careful not to disturb the sleeping child.
"We won't," he manages. Though for some odd reason, he's not afraid. Not anymore. There's a quiet resolve in the way his trembling hand curls over her thin shoulders and pulls them all together as one. That is, after all, how it all began.
"No," John agrees, and kisses him again, kisses away all that ever remained of fear.
Amelia breathes a happy sigh and dreams on.
No, John and Sherlock were never really normal, per se, but since 'normal' so often meant 'boring' in the pedestrian circles of their world, they never stood a chance at that. Especially not when what they found - though not always pleasant or comfortable, and certainly not normal - was better.
From a small bundle of cells, to this:
It's late afternoon in Regent's Park when John sets Amelia on his shoulders, old injury forgotten in the joy on his face, and takes off into the autumn-sunset light.
Something blooms in Sherlock then, as their laughing silhouettes lance across his vision. Or perhaps it is just turning its face to the sun.
Content. I am... content.
He hurries to catch up, watching as their daughter stretches her fearless arms toward the freedom of the sky.
First and foremost, a gigantic, enormous, colossal thanks to KT, without whom I confess most of this would not have been possible. I owe you so incredibly much.
Next, to my NICU nurse of a mother, for answering all my seemingly-incongruous questions and blessedly not asking any herself. One day, I'll tell you about this. Or apologize, whatever comes first.
Additionally, to all my poor friends who have listened to me bitch and wax rhapsodic in turn about this fic for the past year.
Lastly, to you, reader, if you've gotten this far. I'm sorry for being so completely terrible at replying to reviews, but know that I have read and loved each and every one of your amazing comments, to say nothing of the overwhelming amount of favorites, follows, and just general support. You have kept me going. You have been the driving force at work. You are what has made this journey so incredible, and I'm hugely proud to say it was you who led me to the finish of my first multichap. I hope you enjoyed the ride as much as I did. So once again, as we depart this universe at last - thank you.
If you're looking for more of my work, you can always check out the page. All going as planned, I should also be back in December with another NaNoWriMo multi-chap, this an as-of-yet-untitled Teenlock Summer Romance AU set in the French countryside, ha, so if that basic concept is up your alley I'll hope to see your lovely faces (er, icons?) around here again.
Love and thanks,