I really thought I was done in this verse. Then I heard Sherlock say some of these lines in my head and this was born. Significantly shorter than the other two, but really, I think if this was any longer, my teeth would've gone rotten just writing it.


"I can recognize a shoe fetish in the way a man toes off his trainers," Sherlock grumbled, rubbing at his temples with his forefingers. "I am a bloody genius." He glared down at the little orange-haired child who was staring up at him with tearless eyes. "I can figure out what will make you stop crying."

The wailing had begun almost as soon as Mrs. Hudson was out the door. Sherlock had sent the woman to tend to her ailing sister. Everyone always said he lacked compassion, but he'd known she needed to go. He'd let her go. He admitted now that perhaps he should have made her wait to leave until Mycroft and John returned, but if she was going to catch a train at a decent hour, she had to leave right away.

"Don't you dare take that child upstairs, Sherlock Holmes," she'd said before closing the door and hurrying off in a cab.

And now he was stuck with a one-year-old in Mrs. Hudson's kitchen. The baby had looked almost distressed when her familiar caretaker had left the room, but upon hearing the door close outside, she'd broken down in hysterics. It wasn't as if she had anything to be afraid of. Sherlock was sure he didn't look that terrifying. Sure, he'd missed a lot of sleep and his hair was likely akin to a rat's nest, but that didn't make him the Bogeyman.

"Are you hungry?" he asked. She stopped crying long enough to stare at him blankly and take a deep breath. Then she started again. "I don't even know what you eat." What do you feed something that only has four teeth?

He supposed he could go upstairs and get his laptop to search the internet, but Mrs. Hudson had been adamant that he not dare take the baby upstairs. Chemicals, fumes, sharp objects, she'd said. "Not a proper place to have a full-grown man, let alone a child," she'd said. And he knew enough about child-rearing to know that it probably wasn't a good idea to leave her alone while he researched proper nourishment.

Sherlock turned away from Aurora's high chair and opened one of the cabinets. Oatmeal seemed a possible candidate, but Sherlock wasn't sure he wanted to have to worry about how hot it needed to be for her to not scald her tongue. The refrigerator offered no viable solutions, unless- "How about this?" he asked, turning around and holding out a jar of strawberry jam. He could just spoon feed it to her, surely. Fruit was good for growing people, wasn't it?

The child cried louder and wiggled in her seat, waving her arms around as if to deter him.

"You are impossible," Sherlock said. "What if I just..." He stepped closer to her and put his hands under her armpits before lifting her out of the high chair. She stared up at him with wide eyes that were John's in every way except color. The crying stopped as he held her out, a foot and a half in front of himself, and they shared a moment, sizing each other up.

It took him a moment to wrap his mind around the fact that he was holding a human being in his hands. She was practically the size of an over-grown Hummel doll, not to mention that she had cheeks that were stained from her exertion.

The child swallowed, then hiccuped, then reached out two chubby fists toward him while wiggling her legs.

"How long until you learn to speak?" he asked. "Surely you must behind in your development. You've just turned one, yes?" Part of him had been expecting some sort of answer. Of course, he wasn't so lucky.

He drew her closer to his chest hesitantly, ready for her to start screeching again at any moment. But when she curled against him and put her head on his chest just as curiously as he wrapped his arms around her, Sherlock relaxed a bit.

The peace was short lived.

Apparently, little Aurora expected something more from him now that he was coddling her. When that something didn't come, she began to fuss, pushing against his chest with stubby little fists.

"What?" Sherlock asked, exasperated. Isn't it time for bed yet? he wondered. Fall asleep.

Surely he had something upstairs that would put the baby to sleep until her parents got home. "Come now, Aurora," he chided, bouncing her up a bit.

He was going to kill his brother and former flatmate.

No, a voice deep within his hard drive cried. God forbid they leave her to you.

Sherlock doubted such a situation would ever arise. His brother knew how he felt about children; the fact that this was the first time Sherlock was alone with the baby spoke volumes to his feelings about children.

The crying started again three minutes after he picked her up.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked her again. "Do you want to be bounced?"

He began to move her up and down a bit, but that didn't help and he knew well enough that shaking a child was a bad idea. Drawing her back in to his chest, he cradled her head in his left hand and started rocking slowly.

Almost instantly, the crying ceased.

"Thank God," Sherlock mumbled. He let his chin rest on top of her curly head. She had inherited Mummy's curls the way he had, but she had Mycroft's ginger hair. It would darken in her late teens the way Mycroft's had done, but until then, it would be the color of a ripe carrot.

Unfortunate.

One pale little hand had a hold on the collar of his burgundy button-up, occasionally flexing as if the child was anxious about being in the arms of a stranger. Sherlock remembered watching John pat her while holding Aurora in the very same position, so he gave her a tentative pat on her diaper-clad bottom. When she didn't wriggle or cry, he continued the gentle tapping of his palm until he thought she might be asleep.

Her breathing was even, tiny chest rising and falling against his own.

Of course that was the moment his nose itched.

Sherlock scrunched up his face and nearly went cross-eyed with the effort not to sneeze. There was nothing he needed less than for Aurora Holmes to wake up crying because his body didn't want to cooperate.

Where am I supposed to put her? What do little people sleep in? She was wearing a yellow and pink one-piece cotton getup, complete with little feet. He supposed this was what she was meant to wear to bed, since Mrs. Hudson had probably been preparing her when she'd gotten the call from the hospital about her sister.

Sherlock kept patting along absentmindedly, moving in little circles through Mrs. Hudson's kitchen. He didn't see any blanket nests to put the child in, and he certainly didn't think it was a good idea to take her in the living room and set her on the couch. Children were very round; surely she'd roll right off of it if he set her down. He didn't need to explain that to his brother.

"Sorry I've lost your daughter. Perhaps if you didn't breed such a circular child, she wouldn't have rolled away." Yes, that would go over well.

In fairness, Mycroft had skipped enough meals since Aurora's birth that the man had lost at least two stone. Apparently raising a child was as time-consuming as Sherlock's cases. It was John who was a bit pudgy around the middle, but if you brought it up to him, he would mutter that it was still baby weight from the pregnancy.

Sherlock was sure most of the baby weight was currently resting in his arms.

"Oh, little Rory, what am I to do with you?" Rory. Where did that come from? His whispered words hadn't disturbed the slumbering one-year-old and he continued to pace around.

Rory. He dug back in his mind, wondering if he'd ever heard John or Mycroft refer to the child by such a name. Nothing came to mind. Mrs. Hudson? No. The number of times Sherlock had encountered the child in her year of personhood numbered in the single digits.

Hm.

-o0o-

Mrs. Hudson wasn't answering her phone.

If you asked Mycroft or John who panicked, both of them would point fingers at the other rather than admit that he had lost his composure. In reality, they had both gone through various stages of grief while the car raced back toward Baker Street.

"I'm sure everything's fine," Mycroft had said while contacting the security team trained on the flat.

John was the first inside and he did a complete sweep of Mrs. Hudson's flat before declaring it empty and tearing up the stairs into 221B.

"Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson's-" He had never thought it physically possible to skid to a halt outside of a moving vehicle, but that was exactly what he did when he saw Sherlock Holmes laying on the couch, dressed in a burgundy top and fancy trousers, sleeping with his daughter cradled against his chest.

Mycroft was barely a moment behind him and had a very similar reaction, though perhaps with more class than a noticeable skid.

"Well... that's..." Mycroft began before trailing off. "I don't know what that is."

"It's bloody adorable," John said, already reaching into his pocket. He pulled out his phone and stepped closer, trying to get a good angle for a picture. Even without Mycroft or John in it, this picture would be Christmas card gold. If he could wait that long. Which he probably couldn't.

He'd send the picture to his entire email list as soon as he got home.

The sound effect of the phone's shutter brought Sherlock out of sleep. One eye opened slowly and took John in, camera phone and all. He opened his other eye grudgingly and then rolled his blue eyes dramatically before carefully sitting up. The baby stirred with a soft sound of protest but didn't wake. He held her out to her fathers.

"I'm certain she needs a new diaper, but I don't know how it works," Sherlock whispered when John slipped his arms around the baby and slowly drew her from Sherlock. "And I don't know when she last ate. I wasn't sure what to feed her when she cried."

"Ah, I doubt you know when you last ate, either, so I'm not surprised." John chuckled quietly and shifted his weight between his feet, rocking back and forth the way Sherlock had earlier in the evening. Sherlock wondered if it was his natural stance when holding the baby. Further data needed. "How long has she been asleep?"

Sherlock checked his watch. "About 82 minutes, give or take."

"She'll probably wake up hungry on the way home," John said over his shoulder to his partner. "Do we have a bottle?"

"In the car, yes," Mycroft answered.

"Thank you for taking over," John said, stepping backwards while still rocking the baby sideways. "Though it would've been nice if you told us you had her. We could've come back sooner."

"Mrs. Hudson told me not to call you unless there was an emergency," Sherlock said. It was more matter-of-fact than the imposing speech he'd planned when he'd first left his experiments to play uncle. He'd wanted to call them right away and make them take the screaming child back to Chelsea. But Mrs. Hudson had made him promise not to interrupt their "date night." Apparently it was important for new parents to spend time together without dirty nappies in the way.

Sherlock didn't see why. He was afraid if John and Mycroft had too much alone time, it would result in more crying little people.

In the end, it hadn't been as bad as he'd expected it to be, but he now understood what he'd overheard John tell Lestrade several months back. Lestrade had asked if John thought he and Mycroft would have more children. John had replied that the pair of them woke up to the screaming every morning as if it was an alarm to take their birth control.

But in small doses, Sherlock imagined the baby wouldn't be hard to deal with. Maybe he'd learn something if he spent more time around her. Human development had always been something of an interest...

"I wouldn't mind doing this again," Sherlock said before he could think better of it. John and Mycroft wore exact mirrors of surprise, even when they couldn't see each other. "I think if I knew more about children, it might be a good study. And... Rory seems to like me." After the initial screaming wore off, anyway, but he wasn't going to tell her fathers that.

"Rory?" John asked, his face a bit sideways.

Sherlock shrugged. "I like the way it sounds."

John blinked twice at him and licked his lips before looking down at the little bundle of yellow in his arms. "Rory, then." He shifted her weight. "Well, we'd better be getting her home. If we're lucky, she'll wake up and fall back asleep in the car before we get home."

"Good night, then," Sherlock said. He turned and left the room, heading back to his experiments before the other two men had even had time to take another breath.

Mycroft and John exchanged a look of disbelief before seeing themselves out.

-o0o-

When Aurora Holmes introduced herself to her classmates for the first time at the age of five, she announced herself to be Rory Holmes. When asked what she liked to do, she had a list similar to her classmates, but different all the same: "I like glitter and playing with dolls and pretty dresses and making things go BOOM in Uncle Sh'lock's kitchen."