Author's Note: This story exists entirely outside of all my other Sherlock fics, just in case you were wondering where Emma was hiding. She's not there.
Since John had met Sherlock Holmes in their late twenties, he believed he had only seen him grow attached to a handful of people. He rarely embraced anyone, rarely kissed anyone and very rarely held onto anyone. However, when the two men were in their thirties and John's wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, it was as if everything John knew about Sherlock was nixed when he was in the presence of that boy. Anthony broke all of Sherlock's rules, and when they met, Sherlock changed from the borderline sociopath most people thought he was to something John had trouble describing. If he had to choose a title, though, he would have settled on "father."
There was a period of three years in which Sherlock Holmes had fooled John Watson into believing he was dead. While he was gone, John did an incredible thing: he moved on. Yes, there was the period of denial, the period of grieving, but eventually he allowed himself to live again. A year and a half after the Fall, John found himself engaged to the perfect woman, and by the time three years were up and Sherlock had decided to reveal his survival, John's wife had given birth to a son. A beautiful boy, with light hair like his father and brown eyes like his mother.
Anthony was seven months old when he and Sherlock were introduced. He didn't do much, but developmentally he was quite average and John's life revolved around him, irrationally believing that his son was the most precious life in the entire world. In fact, one of the first things he did when Sherlock returned (after an only slightly tedious case to solve) was bring Sherlock home to meet his wife and child. Sherlock greeted Mary by whispering a brief, "Hello," but Mary was the physical sort, and she pulled him into a tight embrace, Sherlock patting her back cautiously. John left to collect Anthony, and brought him back to the living room where Sherlock was trying to make small-talk with his wife. Interrupting, John simply plopped Anthony into Sherlock's arms, and the detective's eyes widened in what John could tell was close to fear.
John suddenly wondered if Sherlock could handle holding the baby, and began to reach out to take him back, but he stopped when he saw Sherlock's eyes narrow in curiosity and his hands wrap around Anthony, drawing him into his chest. The three adults sat around the living room, and it wasn't long before Anthony had fallen sound asleep in Sherlock's arms, the tall man never even letting go of him to take a sip of the tea Mary had brought out. Sherlock didn't give much of any attention to the boy, of course, but he never complained about holding him, and only let him go when Mary gathered him to put back in his cradle as Sherlock left their house for 221B.
"Come back soon," John ordered him as they said their goodbyes, and he thought he could see Sherlock's eyes darting towards the nursery as he answered:
Sherlock came back to visit often, not only to pick up John for the case of the week but to sit and visit, getting to know Mary and discover the life that John had built for himself over his three-year absence. Anthony would occasionally be awake during these visits, and whenever he was in the room Sherlock's focus would seem a little torn between John and the baby. Mary would often plop Anthony back down into Sherlock's arms, or seat him on the kitchen table in front of him, his legs dangling off the edge as he twiddled with some toy or another. Sherlock would remain a part of his conversation with John and Mary, but he would always place a cautionary hand around the boy, gently keeping him from slipping off the edge of the table.
A few months after Sherlock's return, John and Mary were sitting alone in their kitchen, filling out a will regarding Anthony, who was sound asleep in his nursery on the second floor. Mary wrote out all of his family member's names, and then stopped at a section midway through the form.
"We never did decide on Godparents, did we?" John noted, seeing her pause.
"Well, how's Harry been holding up these days?"
John pursed his lip. "I'd rather we went with Molly." Molly was the one who had introduced John to Mary. The two women were old schoolmates and best friends. Mary nodded and wrote down Molly Hooper next to the title Godmother.
"And I think the rest is clear, don't you?"
John chuckled. "I should give him a ring first, make sure he's willing."
"That won't be necessary." Sherlock had let himself into the house, surprising, but not frustrating John and Mary. "Your back door is open," he informed them, his eyes digging into John accusingly.
"It's a nice neighbourhood," John retorted, shrugging.
"You should know better: there are...hundreds of criminals out there! Thieves, murderers...kidnappers!"
John sighed and gave Mary an exasperated look, but she was already bent over the will, smiling slyly as she wrote next to the title of Godfather: Sherlock Holmes.
There were times at which John thought that Sherlock took greater pride in Anthony's developing than even he did. When Anthony was one-year old, he began to pull himself up to his feet. The new plane of height had him discovering the world in a completely different way, and he would often play with all the interesting things he could now reach. One day, Sherlock had joined John and Mary for tea, and the trio were sitting in the kitchen while Anthony wandered around its edges, until he came to one of the low cupboards. John watched his son patting on the door for a moment and returned to his conversation with Sherlock. John could easily tell that Sherlock was only pretending to listen, as his gaze was always moving away from him. By the end of whatever tale John was telling, Sherlock's focus was entirely on Anthony, so John joined him in watching the baby boy. He wrapped his tiny fingers around the handle and opened the cupboard door.
"As I was saying-" John began trying to re-enter their conversation, not hugely moved by the moment, but Sherlock interrupted him.
"Fantastic!" Sherlock got up from his seat and crouched down on the ground next to Anthony, staring at his every move.
"Sherlock...?" John rested his chin on his hands and glanced at Mary, who seemed both delighted and amused by Sherlock's antics. "Sherlock!"
"John, don't you see?"
"He opened the cabinet, John!"
"Technically it's a cupboard."
Sherlock rolled his eyes, and then let them go back to the baby.
"Sherlock, stop it."
"Stop...deducing my son."
Sherlock stood, frustrated. Anthony was opening and closing the cupboard repeatedly.
"John...he opened the cupboard."
"Yes, Sherlock. He's a baby. They like to touch things. See what they do."
"As always, John, you have seen, but you have not observed." And then Sherlock had that glint in his eyes, the one he would only get at the end of a particularly intriguing case. Looking back, John would describe it as pride, except that it was not pride in the detective himself, it was in that tiny boy next to him. "Anthony did not open the cupboard to see how it worked," he explained. "He opened it to see what was inside!"
John would often speak of this as the day Sherlock became obsessed with Anthony's deducing education. Throughout the next year, Sherlock would come over multiple times per week just to visit the boy, watching him play and growing ecstatic when he would discover a new skill or even a new toy (the majority of which were gifts from Sherlock himself). There were multiple times that John would come home from work and Sherlock would already be in his living room, greeting him with things like:
"He's figured out the light switch!"
"John, he can tell the difference between a major and minor chord! Just watch his reaction while I play!"
Mary would always be nearby, if not in the room, watching the two. John's usual reaction was to simply join her, and they would enjoy viewing the bizarre interactions of Sherlock and Anthony.
It wasn't just Sherlock who delighted in Anthony, either. John's son adored his Godfather, and it was not unlike him to drop whatever he was entertaining himself with (whether it be a plaything or even a feeding) to climb his way to the father figure, showing off how his walking was improving every day.
The only thing that ever worried John about his boy was how quiet he was. At 14 months old, Anthony was motoring around rooms and inspecting every crevice, but he still hadn't said his first word yet. John suggested that Sherlock begin using the same childish terms he and Mary had become accustomed to, such as "Mummy" and "Dada" and "Doggy", so that he would hear more of the same words more often, and not the advanced language that Sherlock would communicate with, but the man simply scoffed, replying:
"Please. When he does start talking, wouldn't you prefer he do so eloquently, and not in a juvenile fashion?"
Sherlock was not actually present for Anthony's first word. It happened as Mary was putting a particularly rowdy Anthony into his cradle, and after the two parents had kissed him goodnight, they heard him coo, "Baba." 'Baba' was the word Mary would use in exchange for "bottle", and after a few minutes of praising Anthony and then settling him back down for bed, John and Mary went to their own bedroom. When the lights were off and the two were whispering about the day's events, Mary began to giggle.
"Oh, poor Sherlock. He'll be so disappointed." John laughed and pulled his wife into his chest, falling soundly asleep.
Sherlock came over the next day, and after a few minutes of catching up with the couple, he immediately began his light switch training with Anthony, this time with a flashlight. He was trying to get him to understand the difference between "light" and "dark", and why moving the switch would create light and get rid of it. Midway through the day, Mary came into the room with Anthony's bottle, which the boy addressed with his newly discovered word:
Mary turned her eye to John, who let his own gaze fall onto the bewildered Sherlock. He half expected Sherlock to roll his eyes or scoff, but instead it was Sherlock who lifted the boy into the air, exclaiming:
"Brilliant! John, did hear what he just said?"
John simply grinned and looked back at Mary, the two silently deciding to keep the previous night their own little secret.
By his second birthday, Anthony had learned all sorts of different words, and his parents decided to throw him a small party with some other couples and their babies from the neighbourhood. The party was lovely, but midway through John received a text from Sherlock.
New case. Complications. -SH
John texted back.
No. Enjoy the party. -SH
John was a little worried about his friend, but remained at his home, figuring that if something was the matter he should remain with his family. He had almost expected Sherlock to show up that night, after he had solved whatever case he was working on, but he didn't. John tried texting the man, but to no avail. By the end of the next day, he still hadn't heard from Sherlock, but was holding his cellphone in his hand as if he expected a response any second. Mary was on the floor, helping Anthony with a finger painting set Molly had bought him.
"Think something went wrong?" she asked, intuitively.
"I'm gonna try calling him," John whispered-partly to himself-as he dialled the number and put his phone to his ear. He let it ring until his call went to voice mail, and then hung-up. He shook his head and was putting the phone in his pocket when it began to vibrate. He opened his new message:
Away for a while. Quit fretting. -SH
John rolled his eyes and watched his family, Mary's pajamas already partially covered in the finger paints. He couldn't help but feel a little angry with Sherlock for missing the important day before, but the feeling was overwhelmed by his concern regarding his friend's safety. He decided that if Sherlock needed help, he would ask for it himself.
A week later, John still hadn't heard anything. He was on his Friday lunch-break at work when he texted Sherlock:
Fretting. Where are you?
No response. When John returned home that day, he bolted up the stairs to his bedroom and changed into what he called his "case clothes", a sweater, his coat, and a pair of flexible pants with a good pocket in the back to carry his army rifle. He was just planting a kiss on his napping boy's cheek when Mary appeared in the doorway, holding out her own cellphone to John. He picked it out of her hands and opened her latest message:
He's coming after me. Don't let him leave the house. -SH
John was pissed, but he gently handed the phone back to Mary and changed into his sweats, following Sherlock's instructions by staying home all weekend. He kept his rifle in his sweater pocket for some reason, though, and had it nearby at all times. Eventually, Monday morning rolled around, and John was woken up by his cellphone before his alarm went off.
Call in sick. -SH
John reluctantly did so, his grogginess enhancing the sickly sound he had added to his voice for authenticity. Instead of falling back asleep, he got up, put on his sweater (the rifle still in its pocket), and went to Anthony's room, sitting in the rocking chair Mary used to breastfeed in. The toddler was awake, playing with the bars on his crib. John thought he looked like a prisoner, and had the idea in his mind that Anthony was bored. He was restless, like Sherlock without a case. He was restless without Sherlock. It was still dark outside, and John fell asleep watching his son.
It was very late morning when he woke up. John nearly had an attack when he looked at his watch, thinking that he had slept through work, until he remembered his earlier awakening. Looking to the crib, he saw that Anthony was absent, and John bolted out of the chair and down the stairs to the living room, where a man in a dark hoodie and a knit cap was holding Anthony.
"Get out of my house!" He ordered, pulling out his gun, cocking it, and pointing at the back of the man's head. The man gently put Anthony down on the ground and slowly lifted his hands.
"John!" He heard Mary yell from behind him, and he nearly pulled the trigger. "What are you doing?"
John's brow furrowed and he looked at Anthony, who was reaching up for the strange man to lift him again. He turned back to Mary. She was holding a tray with three teacups, a pot and some sugar crystals. Neither he nor Mary took sugar in their tea. He dropped the gun, putting the safety back on.
"Could have just woken me up," he muttered as Sherlock picked up Anthony and turned around.
"Yes, but you looked so content. I didn't want to wake you," he said, removing the cap with his spare hand. John mouth gaped open when he saw Sherlock. His right eye was blackened, and there was dried blood under his nose. He had bruises all over one side of his face, blending into his hairline, and John could tell that he had some poking out of his neckline.
"I told him I'd take him to the hospital, but he insisted upon some tea first," Mary tattled on him, placing the tray on the coffee table. John sprung into doctor mode. He snatched Anthony from Sherlock's arms (to what seemed like both of their disdain) and ripped off Sherlock's zipped hoodie and the t-shirt underneath.
"If you won't go to the hospital, then you'll just have to do with me. Now." He pushed him down into an armchair and rushed into the kitchen for his advanced First Aid kit. By the time he had come back to the living room, Sherlock was already bouncing Anthony on his knee and drinking tea with Mary. Anthony was poking at Sherlock's bruised chest, saying, "Ouchie," repeatedly.
"Ouchie, indeed," Sherlock muttered as John began working on him, having to manoeuvre around Anthony to clean out cuts and properly place bandages. He finished by cracking a self-cooling ice pack and practically pounding it over Sherlock's eye. Mary had left for a moment and came back with an old sweater, which Sherlock accepted graciously. His body was covered, but the injuries on his face were still very visible.
"You should've told me," John said disdainfully as he himself finally sat down, picking up his own teacup.
"No, I needed you here." That was all Sherlock would say on the matter, and the group went on to have their normal conversations, Anthony's eyes darting around to whoever was speaking. Eventually, his eyes began to close, and Mary went to collect him.
"Naptime," she sang, and Sherlock let her take Anthony up to bed, caressing his light hair as Mary carried him away. The two men were alone.
"You should still go to the hospital," John told him half-heartedly, already knowing he wouldn't.
"Too many questions."
"Who what, John? Don't be vague."
"Who's after us?" And when John asked, it was clear that the 'us' wasn't John and Sherlock, it was Mary and Anthony...and John himself, he supposed. Sherlock shrugged. "Please, Sherlock, I know you better than that. You wanted me here to look after them."
"No one is after anyone. It was just a rather dangerous case. I didn't need you getting hurt."
"Don't lie to me." John would have yelled, but it wouldn't have accomplished anything. Sherlock looked uncomfortable, not accustomed to having anger between them. There was a long time of silence before Mary came back down.
"Lunch?" she offered, immediately noticing the hostility in the air.
"I think I'll go. Thank you, Mary." Sherlock stood to leave, and John walked him to the door habitually, Mary staying behind to clear the tea tray. Sherlock was about to let himself out, picking up the hoodie he had left by the door. He reached into it's pocket. "By the way," he said, pulling out tiny, yet smartly wrapped box, "this is for Anthony. For his birthday."
John sighed as he took the gift, suddenly guilty about having been so angry at Sherlock. "Thanks. You want to wait so you can be here when he opens it?"
"No, thank you," Sherlock answered simply, shaking his head. John observed Sherlock's face, and all of a sudden he realized the extent of Sherlock's dishonesty.
"You're going away again." It wasn't just a deduction, it was an accusation. Sherlock shrugged and opened the door, but John pushed it shut again.
"John, I must go-"
"How long, Sherlock?" John was livid.
"I can't say," Sherlock told him, honestly. John hung his head, unable to make eye contact with Sherlock, his disappointment too all-consuming. Sherlock cleared his throat and let himself out, locking the door himself before closing it. John would have let him go in silence, but instead he unlocked the door, threw it open, and yelled at Sherlock's back:
"You don't have to do this alone! I know you think you do, but I'll come. We can deal with this...whatever it is."
And Sherlock stopped, turning his battered face to John.
"I'm not doing this alone, John. I'm just...I'm taking care of one side, and you're taking care of the other."
John nodded, understanding. Sherlock would handle the villian. John would protect his family.
Sherlock wasn't back for over a year.
To be continued. Hope you enjoyed, and please let me know what you think!