Paved with Love
This is the first story in the Ava Watson Verse and is the story of Sherlock and John after Reichenbach through the eyes of a five year old. Sherlock's story is told in Rocks of Salvation and Nest Among the Stars.
Meeting Sherlock Holmes
Just as Ava's Daddy seems to get in a spot of trouble, an old friend of his shows up.
There were things in life that Ava Watson knew for certain. Things like, on a Sunday, Daddy would make an extra special effort to make sure that her spellings had been learned and that she washed her teeth thoroughly. Like the fact that Mr Hepper, her teacher, hated her for some unknown reason that she thought had to do with Daddy. Like every so often, when Daddy took her for a walk at the weekend, he would pass somewhere and get lost as if remembering something or someone that made him very sad.
Like it was just her and Daddy and whoever Daddy got sad over was long gone.
And, recently, that Daddy was worried.
When she'd torn her coat on the door at school he'd gone funny. Like he wanted to yell at her but didn't. Instead he sat, with a needle and thread, and stitched.
And that he didn't have the baby sitter over to watch her anymore (like she needed a baby sitter at the age of five!). And he was always around now, flicking through the papers and counting the tins in the cupboard.
They were poor.
Daddy hated his new job. It made him clench his hands when he came home and stand over the kitchen table as if he wanted to break it into a billion little pieces. He smelled like the homeless man down the road did when he went into the shop for his special fizzy drink that she couldn't buy until she looked older than twenty one. Or at least that was what the shop man had said.
Sometimes, Daddy would sit and stare at nothing while stroking her hair. Sometimes he would stare at a violin that was always left untouched on the wall. Which, when she thought about it, was a strange place to keep a violin.
Daddy hadn't been home.
It made her mad because when they taught fire safety at school they said that you have to go and tell an adult if you smelled smoke. But they had never said what to do if the adult wasn't home. Daddy usually told her the really smart things. Like what she had to do if Daddy got hurt changing a light bulb and fell down (call 999) and what to do if someone broke in (hide out of sight and grab the phone to call 999 really quietly from your hiding spot). She'd thought about calling 999 because that seemed to be the thing to do when an adult was hurt or busy when something urgent was happening but somehow it didn't seem like the smart thing to do.
So instead she sat and glared at the door, holding Charlie Bear close to her.
Daddy was mad at the man on the phone but trying not to be. And it wasn't in that way that he was with her sometimes when he was trying to calm himself down. Instead, it was as if he was going to shake apart he was trying to keep so still.
"I can't do it again. You said it was a one off-" Daddy closed his eyes and shook his head. "You know I do...there must be someone else...I...this has to be the last time."
When he hung up Ava stared up at him wide eyed. "Are you going out again?"
Daddy had shown her the number. He'd made her recite it every hour that they were together so that she could call the bar and ask for him if she needed him. He went over every possible thing that could happen.
It was almost fun.
"Stacy Webber doesn't get to stay home on her own and she's nine," Ava told Daddy as he kissed her goodbye with a funny look on his face.
"You can't tell anyone," he said after a moment. "It has to be our secret."
"No-one?" she asked, a little put out.
"What we're doing," he knelt in front of her, "It's..." One of those far away smile appeared again. "It's a bit not good. Ok? I'm not supposed to leave you on your own."
"I'm just gonna sleep," Ava muttered, sulking.
"I know." Daddy drew in a deep shaky breath. "But I'd get told off."
Daddy watched her for a moment and then shook himself. "By lots of people."
Daddy's bedtime stories were the best. Other mummy's and daddy's read books to their children, but Daddy told her special stories.
The best stories.
Stories of a silly man who could tell a person's story from the shoe polish they used and the tan lines they had. Who was the bestest and quickest texter ever and forgot that some people take offence at the truth. But the silly man never saw how much his faithful side-kick loved him and was utterly clueless about the whole thing.
It was funny but sad at the same time.
Daddy said that nothing was ever one or the other.
"Does the world's best detective ever figure out the side-kicks secret?"
When Ava woke up there was blood on the sink.
Just a little bit, covered up by a tissue as if someone had tried to wipe it all away.
Daddy didn't take her to school that day. When he got up (way after Jeremy Kyle had finished) he had a face that looked like he'd been playing with Mrs Harris' eye-shadow.
But it didn't wash off and he winced every time he moved.
They had mash potato for dinner.
The market was the best thing about Saturday mornings. It made Daddy smile and all the people shouting out that they had the best things to buy was the one of the funnest things about market mornings.
"How do you know which one's telling the truth?" she asked eyeing up the two fruit and veg sellers that were shouting loudly over each other.
Daddy stared down at her with another strange expression.
"I spent far too much time with him," he muttered.
She didn't think she was meant to hear that.
Daddy's omelette was one of the best things he could cook. She was allowed to help beat up the eggs while he fried some of the vegetables they'd bought at the market.
The doorbell went just as he
poured the mixture in.
"Can I answer it?"
Daddy nodded, glancing over at the door. "Make sure the chain's on before you do."
When she opened it and peered through the gap that was almost big enough for her head, she saw two men standing on the other side. Both were tall and dressed in the long coats that rich people seemed to wear.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"Ava!" Daddy shouted from the kitchen, "Manners!"
"Please?" she asked, pretty sure that they hadn't done anything to be given a thank you.
One of the tall men with curly dark hair and pale eyes that were narrowed at her, bent closer.
"I have the chain on the door," she told him.
She could hear Daddy coming from the kitchen.
"And I know your Uncle," the man said, flickering his eyes all over her face.
"I don't have an Uncle," she scowled up at him.
Daddy had stopped behind her.
When she glanced back he looked like he'd been frozen. As if time had stopped for him and kept going for her. She stepped back from the door suddenly unsure of what to do.
"John, open the door," the pale eyed man demanded.
Daddy just shook his head as if the pale eyed man could see him. Keeping his eyes fixed upon the wood he reached out a hand to grab Ava's shoulder and pull her away from it.
"Doctor Watson, I understand you may be shocked but_"
"I can get in you know. Even with a chain," the pale eyed man snapped over the other, umbrella wielding man.
Daddy launched at the door and slammed it.
Then locked it.
Then put the dead bolt across.
Then sat with his back against it, head tilted back and shaking.
"I need you to go to the kitchen and climb up onto the work top to turn off the cooker switch. You remember the one that looks like a light bulb but is red? Stay away from the cooker though," Daddy said after a moment.
Ava shifted from one foot to the other, then ran to do as she was told.
When she got back the man was still calling through the door.
"We both know I'm more stubborn that you John. I'll stand out here all night if I have to."
Daddy was staring at the ceiling and shaking his head.
"Go to bed Ava," he said softly.
Ava stepped towards him, "Do you want Charlie-Bear to keep you company?"
Daddy stared at her and then nodded.
"You have a child."
Ava stirred as Daddy stroked her hair but didn't let him know she'd woken up.
"Obviously," Daddy said in a way that didn't suit him.
"I know who the mother is."
Daddy paused, "Then you know there is nothing more to be said on the matter."
There was a long silence. Long enough that Ava almost fell back to sleep.
"You're still angry."
"Five years Sherlock. Five whole years."
"I'm aware of that."
Ava fought sleep. Adults took so long to talk to each other.
"Is it done with then? The cat and mouse game you play with each other?"
"Then why are you back?"
The silence went on for so long that Ava fell back asleep before the strange conversation finished.
Daddy was spitting mad.
The other man was standing in their living room looking rather bored.
"I fail to understand what you are so attached to here," the man said dismissively. "The old flat is far better."
"The old flat has only two bedrooms." Daddy drummed his fingers on the table.
"This only has one. What is the difference?"
"I am not sharing a flat with Sherlock again. I have a five year old I do not want her finding his...experiments in the fridge."
"Sherlock has offered to compromise with that."
Daddy snorted. "Sherlock doesn't understand the meaning of the word."
The man glanced over at Ava and she stared back. Looking unamused the strange man looked back at Daddy.
"I will make this clear then Doctor Watson. I am not asking you to move back. I am telling you."
"Do you really think you're in a position to argue?" the man asked as he stood. "The moving van will be here in three days."
"I have work-"
"That pitiable excuse for a job? Hardly fitting of your skills. The old surgery you once worked at has a job opening-"
"I have a child-"
"I believe there are such things as child-minders these days. Or, failing that, Mrs Hudson."
The new flat was big. But the pale eyed man (or Sherlock as Daddy called him) stared at her as if she was an odd maths sum that didn't quite add up right.
But then he would look at Daddy as if he was the strangest thing to walk the planet, so maybe that was how he looked at everyone.
"Yes?" Daddy looked better. They'd had spaghetti bolognaise for tea which had been brilliant.
"Can you tell me a bedtime story?"
On the sofa Sherlock sighed.
Ava had learned it was his way of saying that she was talking too much.
Daddy smiled and nodded. "Go do your teeth and get into bed, then I'll come in."
"Don't draw the shower curtain," Sherlock said after a moment and in a very bored tone.
Ava huffed. "Can you tell me more stories about the world's greatest detective?"
Both Daddy and Sherlock snapped their gazes to her. Daddy shifted uncomfortably and then stood suddenly.
"Why don't we do your teeth together?" Daddy said loudly.
"I want to know if he ever finds out that his side kick loves h_"
"Upstairs," Daddy snapped looking pale.
He didn't follow her so she lurked just behind the door. As per usual it took them ages to say something to each other.
"Delete that." Daddy sounded utterly tired.
"Impossible." Sherlock seemed more interested than she'd ever heard him sound.
"You don't pick me up from school," Ava said staring up at Sherlock who was busy giving the school the usual scrutiny he saved for new things. She waited for him to dismiss what he saw as unimportant.
Weirdly, he narrowed his eyes back at her.
"Why doesn't your teacher like you?" Sherlock asked.
"That is not an answer," Sherlock huffed.
Ava glanced back at Mr Hepper who was chatting to Gerry Bonder's Mum.
"I don't care," she replied.
"You don't care that it isn't an answer or that he doesn't like you?"
Ava squinted up at him, hating how tall he was because it always meant she had to look up at the sun. "He's not very nice," she settled for saying when he continued to look at her expectantly.
"Because he's mean."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "I meant what does he do that makes you think he isn't...nice?" Sherlock said the word nice like someone might say a bad word.
"He only likes smart children."
"You are smart," Sherlock said it as if it was a fact. "He likes children that conform."
"What's that mean?" Ava asked wrinkling her nose.
"Sheep," Sherlock spat. "What else?"
Not sure they were understanding each other, Ava scuffed her shoe on the ground. "He doesn't like Daddy. And he doesn't like children who don't buy the school coat."
"Coat?" Sherlock glanced around and then a funny look crossed his face. "Ah."
"You can't tell Daddy," Ava said suddenly. "He wants me to like school."
Sherlock glanced down and quirked an eyebrow.
"He'd be upset."
Sherlock looked back up and over her head. "Indeed."
She changed schools the following week.
"A. N. D."
"Well done," Daddy nodded. " So how about Sand?"
"S. A. N. D."
"Great. What about_"
"Enough." Sherlock sat up from the sofa he'd been lying on.
"You don't have to be here," Daddy said not looking up. "You have a room."
Ava watched them both.
"I'm sorry?" Sherlock asked striding over to them, still in his dressing gown even though dinner would be ready in twenty minutes.
"I assume we're interrupting the great deducing." Daddy studied the spelling list with more interest than was needed.
"The book said she needs to use it in a sentence."
For the first time in days Daddy looked up at Sherlock. "I'm sorry, what?"
"The book." Sherlock tapped his hands on her homework book dismissively. "If you intend on following the unimaginative and dull approach then at least do so correctly."
Daddy just stared at Sherlock as if he'd grown two heads. "You read Ava's homework book?"
"I do know how to read John."
"Yes, but it's a five year old's homework book," Daddy said as if he was talking to an old person.
"And?" Sherlock leaned back, but the way he looked at Daddy made it seem as if he was daring him to do something.
"Spellings are boring," Ava told Sherlock, thinking maybe he had missed the point.
Instead Sherlock looked at her triumphantly. "See? Ava agrees."
Daddy leant back too. "Then by all means Sherlock. Do your worst."
Ava never told Daddy, but homework with Sherlock was far more interesting than homework with Daddy.
After all, no-one else at school could say their Daddy's friend had brought home an owl and a cat just so they could draw the pictures for a story accurately.
Daddy and Sherlock weren't talking.
And it wasn't like when they'd first moved in together and they'd been polite. This was epic. Like when she'd fallen out with Hannah and they hadn't spoken for three lunch times and four break times.
"Why won't Daddy talk to you?"
"Because he's being dull." Sherlock tapped away at the laptop.
"Because he's afraid."
"Daddy isn't afraid of anything," Ava told him.
Sherlock glanced at her before continuing his tapping.
"Are you the world's greatest detective?"
"I'm a consulting detective," Sherlock corrected her.
"You are overly fond of that word today," Sherlock muttered.
"But you said people who don't ask what they want to know are boring."
The smallest hint of a smile appeared on Sherlock's face.
"Remind your father of that please."
Ava was woken up by the shouting. After a week of silence she supposed it was only fair they made up for it.
Their voices rumbled and she couldn't make out the words. But at least they were talking.
But then they went silent again.
When she went to see what was going on she stopped dead in the doorway.
Daddy and Sherlock were kissing.
Worse than that, they were snogging.
"Mrs Price told us you have to be married to do that."
Sherlock's eyes snapped open and stared at her while Daddy yelped and threw himself halfway across the room.
They both just watched her.
"Does this mean you're friends again?" Ava asked them.
"I..well..."Daddy looked at Sherlock as if for help who just stared back at him.
"I think you should be. Even if snogging is gross."
"I...thank you," Daddy stuttered.
"Amy Harris said her mum got ill from snogging too much."
"Did she?" Daddy sounded a bit lost.
"And that it's wet and yuck. But if you like doing it I suppose you can."
"That's nice of you," Daddy swallowed. "Perhaps you should go back to bed."
"Ok." She smiled brightly at him and then went back to bed.
And, before she fell asleep she heard them both laughing together for the first time.
They didn't act like a couple. They never held hands and Daddy never seemed to spend the night talking to Sherlock in his room like some people on TV seemed to. But they were talking. Even if they seemed to be acting a bit weird around each other.
But then, that was grown-ups for you.
"Where were you?" Ava asked Sherlock as he tuned the violin.
"Why didn't Daddy go with you?"
"Because he was looking after you."
Ava turned it around over and over in her head that night. Daddy had been sad because he hadn't been with Sherlock. She was pretty sure now that Sherlock was the detective in his stories and that he had been the side-kick.
Maybe that was why they were acting strange. Maybe she'd split them up and now they liked each other again maybe they wanted to make sure they never had to split up again.
Maybe they were going to send her away. Maybe back to the old flat. Maybe that was why Daddy hadn't been home recently.
She didn't want to go away.
Clutching Charlie-Bear close, Ava wandered out to the sitting room where Sherlock was playing the violin still.
"Please don't send me away," she sobbed.
The violin made a horrible screeching sound as Sherlock whirled at the sound of her voice and stared in confusion.
"Are you hurt?"
Ava blinked at him through her tears. "If I say yes can you not send me away?"
"Send you..." Sherlock looked around and seemed to steel himself. "Why would we? What did you do?"
"Daddy had to look after me last time and now you want to be together and you'll have to send me away."
Sherlock shook his head. "What?" he looked utterly baffled. "How on earth have you come to that conclusion?"
Ava shrugged. "I don't know," she said in a tiny voice. "Mrs Price said people who fall in love want to be on their own."
"Mrs Price is an idiot," Sherlock muttered.
"No she isn't." Ava wiped her nose on the back of her hand.
"You are not being sent anywhere," Sherlock said firmly.
"Even if you don't like me most of the time?" Ava asked.
Sherlock watched her for a very long, long time and then slowly put the violin down and made his way over to her. Ava watched as he stopped in front of her and then sat on the floor.
"Why do you think I don't like you?"
"I've told you before that is not a valid answer," Sherlock tilted his head to the side. "Tell me the evidence."
"You get annoyed that you have to hide the jar of fingers and all the other things."
Sherlock continued to watch her.
"And you hate that I watched CBBC."
Sherlock seemed to nod at that.
"And...you don't like it when I ask you questions, even though you try to get Daddy to ask questions."
Sherlock breathed in.
"And you don't like sharing Daddy with me," Ava squared her chin and waited.
"You are so much like your father," he said eventually.
Ava shifted. "Is that good?"
"I hate hiding my experiments," Sherlock said slowly, "But that's more to do with your father than with you. I despise that channel. It caters to you rather than encouraging you to think."
Ava screwed up her nose, almost sure she'd understood that.
"You ask excessive questions when you don't really care about the answers and rarely try to work out the logical conclusions on your own. But then, most people do that."
Ava clutched Charlie-Bear and waited.
"And most of all I do not want to share your father with anyone."
Ava stared at the ground.
"But for no-one else would I suffer all of that."
Ava looked back up, confused.
Sherlock huffed in irritation. "Your father would not send you away for anything or anyone. Nor would I permit anyone to remove you. It is something we have agreed wholly on."
Ava still stared.
Frustrated Sherlock stared at the ceiling. "I don't hate you."
"Oh." Ava smiled. "Good."
The film had been way too long and boring but Mrs Hudson had liked it and so Ava hadn't complained. And her flat was really warm and smelt like jam and flowers.
She'd fallen asleep really easily.
And woke when she was being carried up the stairs.
The smell was all wrong. Daddy usually smelt like vix cream and like soap and polish. The smells this time were of outdoors and rain and moss.
And it was higher up than usual.
"I didn't realise the time otherwise I'd have sent her up," Mrs Hudson was saying. Ava risked peeping over the shoulder of the man carrying her and saw through sleepy eyes that Mrs Hudson was looking fondly surprised.
"It's alright," Sherlock said, shifting Ava a little as she snuggled into his neck. "I'll put her to bed."
"I can do it_"
"It's perfectly fine Mrs Hudson," Sherlock said firmly and continued up the second flight of stairs.
"Not sleepy," Ava muttered into Sherlock's scarf, determined to put up some fight.
"I can see that," Sherlock replied, sounding amused.
"Where's Charlie-Bear?" Ava asked.
"I have him," Sherlock said gently, manoeuvring them all through the door. "How was your film?"
"Boring," Ava muttered.
There was a pause and then a chuckle. "My sympathies."
Ava turned pushed further against him, comfortable and yawned. "Want Charlie-Bear."
Sherlock rearranged and Ava found herself with Charlie-Bear in her arms while still in Sherlock.
It never occurred to her to ask why he hadn't put her to bed.
Daddy was stroking her hair.
"You trust me in this?" Sherlock asked.
"Yes," Daddy said simply, sounding tired.
"You do understand that I am not equipped to deal with this. I had the child in tears yesterday."
Daddy sighed and sounded far away as his hands withdrew from her hair. "And yet she's not suffering from any severe mental trauma?" he asked mockingly. "Sherlock, she's five. Five year olds cry over anything. I had one in today who cried because they couldn't remember which toe it was they said was hurting."
Ava felt Sherlock's sigh and his chin brush the top of her head. "She asked me why I hated her."
"And I imagine you now want to argue that she's the only child to worry about a step-parents affection."
Sherlock was still. "I am not her step-parent though."
Daddy sighed and then the bed creaked as he sat. "Fine...father's new gay partner."
"Don't be facetious."
"Can you take my point?" Daddy muttered. "It's a normal reaction."
The bed creaked as Daddy stood up again and Sherlock seemed to be pondering.
"Her teacher's an idiot."
"You think everyone's an idiot."
"You should allow me to put her in a better school."
"I thought that was what we did." Daddy was moving around the room with that annoyingly calm tone of his.
"I'm offering to pay for_"
"I know," Daddy cut Sherlock off. "Take the hint."
"Can I ask why not?"
"Because she's fine where she is."
"I don't want her to settle for fine," Sherlock snapped.
"And I don't want her to feel she has to live up to some ridiculously high Holmesian expectation," Daddy snapped back. "Just...she's fine where she is for now. At the end of the school year we'll talk about it."
Long fingers stroked her cheek gently. "That's ages away."
"So says the man who couldn't understand why I was upset about him vanishing into thin air for five years."
"I understood it, I simply chose not to let it stand in the way of things," Sherlock muttered.
Daddy simply leant over Ava's head and from the sounds of it gave Sherlock a kiss. "Tea?"
"I'm fine." Sherlock's arms tightened a bit.
Then Daddy left, shutting the door quietly.
"Do you always spy on us when you're meant to be asleep?" Sherlock asked as Daddy put the kettle on in the kitchen. He didn't sound as mad as she thought he would.
"No. Just when you talk about me," Ava rolled her head on his shoulder to look up at him, "Is that ok?"
Sherlock sighed. "I suppose so. Don't tell your father though. He'll be paranoid for months otherwise."