Title: Interlude (1-13/?)
Universe: A Messy Business/Never Too Late
Word Count (this bit): whatever 13x221 is. :P
Warnings: kidfic, general schmoopiness, ghastly amounts of fluff
General Summary: Wee!John's first Christmas with Sherlock.
This Part Summary: New Scotland Yard's Christmas party, Mycroft being a general creeper, Anthea dancing with tiny!John
A/N: Promised holiday arc. This is AU from A Messy Business, since AMB and NTL are set in September-October and I have no intention of letting my kidfic turn into another Insontis epic (which I am also in the process of updating, for those of you who are also Trek fans). Just imagine for a minute that somehow John doesn't get switched back and so has a Christmas with Sherlock as a child.
A/N2:I just churned out fifteen 221bs in the...two hours since I finally got my new laptop set up (if you're not keeping up on my personal drama, my hard drive was wiped this week by a virus which is why I've disappeared for four days), so there quite possibly are typos and it may not even make sense; be kind, plz? *puppy eyes*
Lestrade had been quite adamant. "Sally will kill me if I don't make you bring the kid along," he'd been forced to say, because no one messed with Donovan unless he was missing more than half his brain cells. "She's completely in love with him."
"And that, Inspector, is far more disturbing than the fact that he is over three months late in reverting to his proper age," Sherlock had responded wearily. The novelty of caring for a little boy had worn off a few weeks before, and to be honest Lestrade was surprised at the incredibly unending patience Sherlock still possessed toward his diminutive flatmate. Usually the man had the attention span of a bumblebee, but he had been nothing short of amazing as a caretaker for tiny John Watson.
But now, five months after the accident, Lestrade'd gotten out of a half-sloshed Sherlock at pub night (Mycroft had been child-minding, which was more frightening than the last riot scare had been) that Sherlock was more than ready to have his friend return to his proper age.
John, bless his little heart, had seemed to sense Sherlock's weariness of late, and had during this discussion moved from darting boisterously about the room with a toy laser gun, to retreating into the nearest corner, armed with a stack of picture books.
Sherlock had been careful to not indicate how he'd not anticipated caring for a little one for so long, but even so Lestrade made certain to ask John every time if he wanted to come over and stay for a while. John unfailingly refused, although he did seem to love it when one of them would give poor Sherlock's brain a rest once a week, taking John to the zoo or something.
Now, he'd been going to suggest shipping John off to Mycroft's, since they technically didn't allow children to the NSY's holiday gathering due to alcohol consumption, but Donovan had insisted they let Sherlock bring him - because John had promised earlier in the year that he'd come and it wasn't his fault that he was only five, now was it?
When Anderson pointed out the shaky ground that logic was teetering on, he tucked tail and ran at Donovan's death-glare. "Besides," Sally added sensibly, "who would the Freak get to mind him? The landlady's down with a cold, and that creeper of a brother of his is apparently coming tonight as well, some PR move with Whitehall."
"He's only five years old!" he'd exclaimed. "Speaking of PR, how will that go over if the wrong people find out?"
"Sherlock will just have to say he couldn't find a baby-sitter."
And so it was, that Lestrade found himself wishing he'd popped a few paracetamol before attending this Christmas/Solstice/Politically-correct-Winter-Holiday party, especially because Sherlock seemed to be doing his best to alienate all and sundry. From insulting the Minister of Defense's wife to siccing Mycroft on a shady PC who currently looked about to wet himself, Lestrade had spent the last ninety minutes putting out fires and hadn't even had a drink yet. He most definitely did not get paid enough.
He was debating the logistics of diving under the refreshment table and crawling to the stairs, when Sherlock materialized out of nowhere, two flutes of champagne in his hands.
"You are not giving that to John, I don't care how old he used to be, Sherlock!"
Grey eyes rolled toward the decorated ceiling. "I am not so foolish, Lestrade. You looked like you needed one, after dealing with the Super's undersecretary."
Shocked into silence by the uncharacteristic gesture, he drained the flute in one swallow.
Sherlock's eyebrows climbed. "Another?"
"No, thanks though," he sighed, placing the glass on the table. Then he froze. "What did you do with the kid?"
"No, your secret love-child by a previous marriage - of course John!" he all but shouted at the insufferably unperturbed detective. "Don't tell me you let him loose in this bedlam?"
"Do you suppose I would let him anywhere near an unsupervised Anderson and whatever atrocity he calls that?" Sherlock demanded indignantly, waving a disgusted hand toward the dance floor.
Lestrade relaxed. Sherlock was more protective than a mother bear; therefore John was in no danger.
"Where is he, then?" he asked cautiously, peering about the room to locate the child before he did heaven only knows what, no doubt at Sherlock's direction.
He was surprised to see a small smile quirk at Sherlock's lips as he indicated the dance floor. Lestrade craned to see and then broke out with a laugh of his own.
Mycroft Holmes's (extremely gorgeous) PA had apparently been convinced by the inexorable power of puppy-eyes to put away her mobile for a few minutes, and was currently coaxing a beaming five-year-old through a basic waltz step.
"Starting him a bit early, are we?" he observed, grinning.
Sherlock favored him with a spectacular eyeroll. "It is hardly my fault that my brother's staff are so susceptible. Or that John is most adept at procuring what he wants by any means possible."
"Well thank heaven you're not so 'susceptible,' then," Lestrade observed innocently, his eyes on John's tiny designer jumper and the collector's edition Paddington Bear which was currently tucked safely behind Mycroft's legs along with a discarded Blackberry.
Lestrade was momentarily distracted by preventing Anderson from borderline harassing Sergeant Donovan, who was doing her best to chat up the kid from ballistics who'd seemingly not been scared off by her despite all efforts, and by the time he'd made his way through the human morass back to check on Sherlock (he was the typical worried father figure for all these idiots, apparently) John and whatever-her-name was had gone their separate ways. Sherlock was standing entirely too close to the punch bowl with a five-year-old holding his hand, John looking curiously on tiptoe at the chocolate fountain which occupied the other end of the table.
So far, so good; Sherlock was apparently having a civil conversation with Dimmock (Christmas miracles), John was behaving himself, standing quietly beside his caretaker (further miracles), and no one had yet told a horrible politician joke (even further miracles).
He should have known it wouldn't last.
In the poor kid's defense, this was no place for him to be entertained, and Sherlock even five months later still had not quite mastered the art of foreseeing when John was reaching his limits. Even as an adult, Sherlock had often simply not realised how exhaustive their lifestyle was, and though the man tried hard it just didn't always happen now that John was just a little boy.
John began to fidget, tugging on Sherlock's hand. Sherlock ignored him, discussing some cold case with Dimmock, and Lestrade saw a pout forming. It was, after all, past a little one's bedtime, and John looked only minutes away from a tantrum.
John murmured to himself, tugging harder on Sherlock's hand. "Sherlock," he said, after being ignored for the third time.
"I am talking, John; wait a moment," Sherlock answered, glancing down for long enough to ascertain that the child was neither ill nor needed the toilet.
"Now!" John said, louder, pushing against the detective's legs.
As Sherlock staggered slightly, Dimmock hid a grin and Lestrade relaxed.
"John, behave yourself," Sherlock said severely. John quailed, hiding behind his legs. "There is no need for histrionics; keep still for ten minutes longer and I believe we can both leave then, eh?"
John peeked around his legs hopefully. "Promise?"
"I promise," Sherlock said, smiling. "Now, do you remember what I told you about how to properly spy on people?"
Lestrade resisted the urge to bang his head against the nearest solid object.
"Yessss," the child said, frowning.
"Well I want you to sneak up on Sergeant Donovan and see if you can surprise her, all right?"
"Under the miss-ssel-toe?" Blue eyes blinked up innocently at the two men, and Dimmock choked into his brandy.
Sherlock gave his tiny flatmate a feral grin. "If you can, then quite so, John."
Lestrade smiled as the little one toddled off toward Sally and her not-really-boyfriend-yet. He watched with some interest as Mycroft Holmes's eyes flickered at regular eight-second intervals to keep the child in sight, and was relieved to see most of the Yard was watching with nothing more than indulgent fondness. A few of the politicians looked askance at the appearance of a child, but weirdly enough they all seemed to be taking their cues from Mycroft Holmes - and since the man was completely unruffled, none dared be otherwise.
Someday he would coax out of Sherlock who exactly this bizarre sibling of his really was.
He lost sight of John momentarily as the child slipped through a gap in the crowd and then began creeping along in the shadows, darting from one to the next in fine proper spy fashion (he was far too young to be watching Bond, thank you, and Sherlock was going to get a fine dressing-down for showing him those movies when Lestrade remembered to do it).
All would have been well, had the child not suddenly tripped over an extension cord (blasted fairy lights were a fire hazard anyhow!) and gone flying into one of the room's massive support beams.
Horrified, Lestrade was already running when John's head struck plaster with a thud that made everyone within fifteen feet gape. He reached the little one's side in seconds, skidding to an ungainly halt (confounded dress shoes!), and carefully bent over the crumpled form.
To his relief, John's eyes were open, though his little face was screwed up in those five seconds of utter shock which always precedes the arrival of pain in a child's body. He scooped John up just as the first whimper escaped, and in the next moment had two little arms flung about his neck and an earful of wailing toddler.
"Hey, hey, shhhhh," he soothed, moving swiftly through the crowded room (honestly, you'd think the idiots had never seen a crying kid before, what with all the disgusted looks he was getting).
"Hurts, 'Stwayde," John sobbed.
Sherlock was going to have kittens, he thought, hearing the returning speech impediment. A moment later, seeing murder gleaming out of the man in question's eyes, he wished fervently that he'd accepted Gregson's trade for office-minding duty.
"What happened?" Sherlock demanded, as if Lestrade were solely responsible.
"Shhh," he soothed, as John began crying anew. "Here now, go see Sherlock, eh?"
Lestrade was shocked, when John shook his head vehemently and clung to him instead, hiding his face from them both.
"John?" Sherlock's voice was gentle, but Lestrade heard the painful surprise - hurt, almost - in it.
The child refused to look at them, only steadily cried into Lestrade's shirt. Someone glided past them - Dimmock, he registered in the back of his mind - murmuring "I'll get some ice," and he didn't know what to do other than cuddle the little one close, despite the confusion emanating from Sherlock.
"Why don't you want to go see Sherlock then, John?" he asked gently, bending over the mop of tear-soaked curls.
"Mad," was the muffled answer, and he stared at Sherlock over John's head. Sherlock shrugged, his eyes betraying sheer helplessness.
"Mad? You think he's mad at you?" he asked softly, threading one hand through the child's hair to ascertain the damage. He felt a rising bump on the top of the child's head - but no blood, and even the bump was not swelling near as much as he'd seen before.
"Yes," John sniffled, scrubbing at his left eye.
Lestrade stomped on Sherlock's foot. Giving an indignant look, the consultant subsided grudgingly and Lestrade continued hesitantly, "Why do you think Sherlock is mad at you?"
"Tol' me to be quiet," was the miserable whisper. "Not s'posed to cause twouble! I sorry!"
"Okay, it's okay," he murmured, patting the child's back.
The tension leeched instantly from him, because for one horrible second he had worried that Sherlock's methods of discipline were instilling fear in the child. Obviously, this was not the case. He'd seen cases of verbal child abuse before, and no victim ever worshiped the ground the abuser walked on like John adored Sherlock. Most likely, the uncannily perceptive child had picked up on Sherlock's recent weariness with the entire situation and had interpreted it as a lessening of affection rather than the simple exhaustion it was.
Smiling fondly into the little one's bowed head, he met Sherlock's incredulous look and mouthed I have no idea with a shrug of his own. However, this was as good a time as any to check up on things, and so he felt he could be forgiven his next (necessary, as a policeman) question. "Does Sherlock get mad at you very often, John?"
"What the -"
"Shut it, Sherlock," he snapped warningly.
"Lestrade, what are you implying?" the amateur hissed furiously, worrying at his thin lips.
"John?" he asked. John hid his face, still crying quietly. "Does Sherlock get angry with you?"
"Nooo," was the murmur he finally received, and he exhaled slowly.
"Then why do you think he's mad at you now, kiddo?"
"Dunno." John sniffed, his small chin digging into Lestrade's collar-bone.
"John," Sherlock said quietly. One blue eye peeked out warily, watching him with an unfamiliar uncertainty. "Whatever have I said to make you think such a thing?"
"Ice!" Dimmock called cheerfully, waving a cloth wrap, and wondered why he received triplicate glares of Doom.
Sherlock snatched it without a word, which didn't appear to faze Dimmock. "Come here, John," he said gently, and after a moment's hesitation John held out his arms for transfer. Sherlock knelt on the floor, heedless of his tuxedo, and propped the little one on his knee, carefully applying the ice-pack to the child's head.
"Ow!" John shrieked upon contact. "No!"
"Yes," Sherlock admonished sternly, ignoring the amused looks he was getting from about half the occupants of the room (Lestrade was trying not to be embarrassed, because they really were smack in the middle of things). "It will make it feel better, John."
"No want," the little one sobbed, tugging at the hand which held the ice firmly against the contusion.
"Shhh, I know." Lestrade caught the bent of his pointed look and hastily retrieved the forgotten stuffed bear, which Sherlock presented to his small flatmate. "Hold tight to him until this melts, all right?"
"Wight," was whimpered into the soft fur. John ceased tugging on Sherlock's hand, moving instead to clutch at his beloved bear.
For a moment silence reigned, as those around them began moving back to their merrymaking, ignoring their odd little group in true characteristic British fashion. Lestrade was relieved that no well-meaning but pompous politician started a lecture on safety measures and policies regarding children at such gatherings.
"Now, John," Sherlock said quietly, as he checked the melting ice. "Why would you think I would be angry with you for 'causing trouble,' when you did not intend to?"
"You tired of me," John sniffled, picking aimlessly at a loose bit of fuzz on the bear's head.
"Sure?" The child's eyes were still filled with tears - whether from pain or from this entirely new and unexpected insecurity, Sherlock had no idea. Regardless, either possibility was equally abhorrent.
He stood, holding the child at eye level. "John, I will never, ever get tired of you," he said solemnly. "Never have, never could, and never will."
"Ah..." What on earth was a pinkie promise? He telegraphed a frantic SOS to Lestrade, who only shrugged helplessly at him. It was Dimmock who hastily demonstrated the apparently necessary motions with his opposing little fingers.
"Pinkie promise," he agreed doubtfully, attempting the same basic motions as a tiny finger extended to meet his.
Children's traditions these days were increasingly bizarre.
John's smile brightened the room, but it was a police camera that blinded them.
"Anderson, so help me God I will kill you one day and no one will be able to identify your body," Sherlock snarled.
"Get lost, Anderson," Lestrade sighed, rubbing his temples. "What d'you need those pictures for, anyway?"
"I'm making a calendar!" the man called over his shoulder, grinning at Sherlock's outrage.
Dimmock shook his head. "For the love of heaven..."
"I'd buy one," Lestrade said thoughtfully.
Sherlock sounded like a spluttering radiator, much to John's amusement. The child was giggling into the consultant's jacket, head pain apparently forgotten.
All three of them jumped (and John squeaked) when Mycroft Holmes suddenly materialized beside them.
"Is he all right?" he asked without preamble.
"Ah...who, exactly, are you, then?" Dimmock inquired warily.
"My brother, Mycroft Holmes," Sherlock sighed, waving his free hand in his sibling's direction.
Dimmock gaped, horrified. "There's two of them?"
"And of course the kid loves him," Lestrade muttered, grinning.
"Are you quite all right, John?"
"Okay." The child frowned as he rubbed his head. "Where's Anfea?"
"Who?" Lestrade asked.
"My personal assistant, Detective Inspector," the elder Holmes explained. "She is going to fetch the car to take you both home, Sherlock."
"I would prefer a cab," Sherlock growled.
"Not me!" John piped up, beaming.