An uneasy peace has fallen over Uncle Mycroft's house. It's been quiet for a while now. The Children were worried at first. They gathered together on the hearth and glanced suspiciously from time to time at the dusty television, but didn't say a word. They stayed that way until they heard the unruffled voices of both Uncles in the hall outside the office where the interrogation had taken place. Only Molly showed any sign of any anxiety that they hadn't heard Uncle Mycroft's either.
"But… But what if something… What if the Moffiss was finished with him, and it-?"
"Yeah," Amelia said, not sounding overly concerned, "That'd be really awful." She knows he went through her sketchbook. She found it this morning with greasy fingerprints all over and a sad face drawn above her favourite picture of the Gaffatt under their inevitable attack. She needs a new one now. There are still blank pages scattered through the book, but that doesn't matter. In fact, she wishes she had it now and she could put it in the fireplace.
In short, Amelia is really not that bothered what happens to someone who could in a place like this, all full of Moffiss, all full of Moffiss himself.
She is, however, a bit bothered about Rory. He's using the edge of the sofa for a pillow and Scrabble across his knees like a rug. He's pretending to sleep. But a few times now Amelia has caught him listening to things or opening his eyes. She's a bit bothered about that. So she gets up from the hearth, goes over and flumpfs herself down on the couch above. "Just lying down," she says, for the benefit of John and Molly. "Just resting my eyes!" Then, once her head is down on her curled up arms she whispers to Rory, "Are you alright?"
The tiniest little scratch of fabric as he sneakily nods.
So, left alone and thinking the other two are sleepy, John and Molly look at each other. "Do you want to play a game?" he says.
"Um… Riddles!" Uncle Sherlock teaches them riddles. Well, no, that's not quite true. He tells them riddles and then refuses to tell them the answer. Weeks at a time have been lost to head-scratching. How could they ever forget the trauma of 'what gets wetter as it dries'? The Uncle had to intervene when he found the four children standing in a row all knocking their heads against the wall over what gets wetter as it dries.
Molly cried for sixteen straight hours, which was right through the next school day and rather difficult to explain. John couldn't face bath time for a week afterward.
But it has left them with an excellent stock of puzzles for each other.
"Okay," Molly says, "I'll start. Um… poor people have me, rich people need me, if you eat me you'll die. What am I?"
"Well done! Your turn."
John thinks hard. Molly is very clever and anyway, all their riddles come from the same source. He has to pick one that Uncle Sherlock is unlikely to have told her before.
This is his selection. "A man is driving down the road. He doesn't have his headlights on, and there's no moon in the sky. All of a sudden a woman runs out in front of him, but he stops in time. How was he able to see her?"
Molly immediately goes to work. She reconstructs the scene of the near collision in her mind and focuses on it. No headlights, no moon. What other sources of light could there be?
"Oh!" she cries. Then lowers her voice because Rory and Amelia are, after all, both pretending to sleep. "Oh, I've got it, I've got it. The woman was on her phone. He saw the light from her mobile."
"No!" John laughs, just as loudly. He too lowers his voice for the sake of the pretenders, "You're wrong! It's so simple. He didn't have the lights on and there was no moon because it was daytime."
"Oh." Molly wilts. That is quite simple. Or maybe it's just simple because John already knew. But she feels tricked. She feels like he implied night time heavily enough that it's really not fair to turn around and tell her she's wrong just right off like that. "But-" she begins, "But mine works too."
"No it doesn't, because if it was daytime he wouldn't even be able to notice the light from her phone, it would be drowned out."
"No, but my version is at night-time."
"But she ran out in front of him, Molly, it would be too quick."
"It depends how open his field of vision is, John. If there were woods on either side of the road, fine, yes, too quick. But if it's big fields or desert or something he'd have seen her coming miles away. So I'm not wrong after all, am I?"
"You're still wrong because it's not the proper answer."
"It's still an answer that still works!" Molly can feel her fists balling up. She starts to stand. John, too, feels himself getting up, even before he really knows why. Maybe that's why they're called stand-up rows. You stand up. Whether you mean to or not, you just do. "You can't call me wrong when I'm actually right!"
"But you're only right if it was night-time and the whole riddle is based around it being day-time, so you're wrong!"
They are square to each other now, face to face and shouting.
Rory lifts his head up from his arm and whispers to Amelia, "Should we be pretend-wakened because they're shouting? Or do we stay pretend asleep?"
She considers that, and lifts up her elbow to ask out from underneath, "How deep pretend-asleep are you?"
"Pretty deep, yeah."
"So you should probably grumble and shift, but stay asleep. But yeah, probably I should be pretend-wakened."
"Will we go for that, then?"
"I think we should, before we become unbelievable."
So Rory, as discussed, grumbles and shifts, before settling back into his little space. Amelia peels herself up, with a big pretend-yawn and a big-stretch. Overkill, in Rory's opinion, but then he's still pretend-asleep and can't tell her so. "What are you doing?" Amelia yawns over at the fight. "What are you shouting for?"
But the only answer Amelia gets is that John points at her and barks out quickly, "There's no way Amelia had been lying down long enough to need a yawn and a stretch that big-" Rory nods sagely where no one can notice him, "-therefore she wasn't asleep at all and just pretending to make Rory feel better!"
Rory snaps up straight, "What?!"
But John isn't paying attention, and only turns back to Molly and says, "Ha! So I solved that one and I'm still smarter because I know that the sun's in the sky when the moon isn't!"
Molly can feel the beginnings of tears making her eyes hot, her voice tight, but she's not done yet, no, sir. Molly's not even on the ropes yet, and shouts back, "Not-even-necessarily-or-anything-because-what-about-dawn-and-sunset-or-in-the-winter-when-you-can-still-see-the-moon-and-!"
"Amelia, I don't need you to make me feel better, I'm alright!" "I swear, I was actually sleepy, he's just being really stupid!" "I'm not stupid, I'm smarter than Molly and I'm probably smarter than the rest of you!" "Don't shout at Amelia when you were wrong anyway, it was nothing about making me feel better because I don't need to feel better." "You do because you're scared of the Gaffatt because of last night." "Shut up, Molly, I'm not scared of anything!"
The door is suddenly flung open with a great thud against the wall. There stand the Uncles, looks cool and detached. Not angry, but not happy either. They glance at each other and then back, to the laboured breathing of the four red-faced, raging Children.
Uncle Mycroft, apparently still tied up in the office, groans loudly, "Do watch the wallpaper, won't you?"
That noise is all they need. From hearth, from rug, and jumping down from sofa, the four of them rush, each claiming a leg to tug on, each trying to give their version of the tale all at once. Rory is at such pains to deny ever feeling anything that might be called fear that he almost drags the Uncle down to his knees. Another glance, and the Uncles lean down at once. One hand per child, they push the lot of them back to a safe distance, separated equally from legs and each other.
"Now," says the Uncle, "we were going to ask for your help with this-" and he shows them the mysterious envelope with the purple writing on it. "But I'm not entirely sure you can all be trusted to work together right now."
Uncle Sherlock sways his head. "Brief analysis of body language and all of them having faces like wet trout can confirm those suspicions, Uncle."
"Therefore, we'd better get to the bottom of this."
A hard wooden chair is brought from the corner of the room and set in front of the fireplace. Molly is the first one to be picked up and set down on it. "Young Miss Hooper," says the Uncle, in his very best courtroom voice, "What on earth was all the blooming shouting about?"
"John said I was wrong when I wasn't."
"Oh. Oh, well, that is a terrible slight."
"But it's not true because she wasn't right anyway and-"
"Bailiff," the Uncle mutters, and nods to Uncle Sherlock.
Sherlock sweeps down and bundles John up into the armchair. "The defendant will kindly calm down before we hold him in contempt. There is one more murmur of protest, but under the sharp eyes of both the cross-examiner and the bailiff, John falls sullenly silent.
Now the Uncle turns back to trying his case. He paces back and forth across the parquet, "Explain for us, Miss Hooper, if you possibly can, what exactly happened?"
"Well, John told me a riddle. And I gave him an answer. He said I was wrong, just because it wasn't the answer he'd heard. But my answer was right too, just in a different way."
For the benefit of the judge and jury (who are also the Uncle) the riddle is repeated, and both answers are presented for his approval. He sits down on the couch, between Rory and Amelia, and has a good ponder over those. He thinks as loudly as he possibly can, with lots of 'hmm' and 'haaa', lots of nodding and shaking his head and making little gestures in the air.
Then, finally, "I'm ready to deliver a verdict, if you'd all like to hear it? In the case of Hooper vs Watson, I find in favour of the plaintiff." Only Sherlock begins to applaud. "Of Molly," the Uncle corrects, and that's enough. Rory and Amelia give a little cheer. John, however, is up out of the dock-slash-armchair in a flash, and crosses to stand in front of the judge.
And he is definitely not going read and definitely not starting to cry, but it's all very unfair and he asks the only question that ever matters to an eight-year-old boy; "Why?"
"Because the original riddle does not state that it was day or night. It's a flawed riddle. Under the rules that the riddle sets out, Molly is as right as you are."
"Oi!" shouts the Bailiff, clearly no longer worried about being held in contempt. "I taught him that riddle!"
"Well, I'm sorry, old spud, but it's an awful one. Now, Children, why is a raven like a writing desk?" The aggrieved Bailiff clears his throat and points to either side of the Uncle. He'd quite forgotten that Rory and Amelia aren't speaking either. So the Judge, Jury and Uncle whistles the Bailiff in. Miss Hooper is removed from the stand and Mr Williams put in her place.
While he squirms, adjusting to the hard seat, the Uncle reaches for John. He pulls him up under his arm and whispers, "Wasn't your fault. Was that silly other Uncle of yours. He'll stand there and argue that it's not a riddle if you state what time of day it is. And that's a point. But really it's a little bit of a cheat. I think you see that now, don't you?"
He'll get over it. They'd have forgotten on their own, but there wasn't time to let them. The Courtroom drama is elaborate, but it speeds things along considerably.
"Now," and the Uncle turns to his next plaintiff, "Mr Williams, what is your great big grumpiness today?"
"Molly said I was scared of the Gaffatt. And John was backing her up. And they said Amelia was only pretending to sleep next to me so I'd feel better about it."
"But…" The Uncle furrows his brow in a mockery of confusion, "But aren't you all afraid of the Moffiss? I know I am. Uncle Sherlock?"
"Rory, frankly I'd be worried about you if you weren't. So that answers for John and Molly. As to Amelia, I'm not saying she did or didn't want you to feel better. But if, just if, just for the sake of argument if, if she had, wouldn't that have been a nice thing for her to do? No, sorry, resting my case on that one. Get out, before I book you all for wasting the court's time." The Children, looking thoroughly unsure of what just happened, slide down from their seats and begin a slow, nebulous migration towards the door. "Nah, I'm only joking. All of you, get up here round me."
They rush back to hop up on the couch, burying his arms and knees in a dogpile all love and gratitude and pointy little joints that take the smile off his face. Sherlock pulls the witness stand over and sits down close. He's got the white envelope in his hands. And now that the Children can be trusted, he passes it to Amelia.
Reading from the cover she says, "A place for the Doctor and Sherlock and the Kids – smiley face – if you boys are clever enough to find me. What does that mean?"
"It means whoever wrote that wasn't very clever herself," Uncle Sherlock informs her.
"It's a woman?" Molly pipes up.
"Obviously. I'll explain to you when you're older."
John whispers across to her, "Purple pen," and receives a thoroughly venomous look for his efforts.
"Anyway, I happen to know she isn't very clever, because she has only addressed it to your Uncle and myself. Which means she was forgetting that we have four very bright little friends to help us out. Don't we, Uncle?"
"Absolutely. Rory, open that envelope, would you?"
The Uncles watch, and the Children gather with bated breath, while Rory tears the top open.
There is one small slip of paper inside. Rory squints at it for a while. John is the first one to sigh and fall back, flopping into the sofa cushions to moan, "It's a riddle…"
Molly takes the slip and reads as prettily as she can -
"Detective, remember yellow paint
Doctor, remember love's restraint
Littlest, where do all letters start?
Ginger, what did you get in art?
Boys, dulce et decorum what ?,
And pirates drink what when they're hot?"
Amelia stretches out her foot and laughs, kicking Sherlock's knee, "She didn't forget about us at all!"
[A/N - Guys, I'm sorry that updates have been so patchy on this tale. It's harder to write than most, to keep coming up with stuff and make the style consistent. I've decided, in order to get it totally right (because you all deserve that) I'm going to update it once a month, religiously, last week of the month. And they will be worth it, I make that my promise to you.