January was bitterly cold. John had dressed nicely, tucking his maroon shirt into his cords. He had even managed to put on a tie. He stalled in front of the mirror, rolled his eyes, and pulled on his thickest jumper. He decided that he would rather be warm than drawing any second glances. Who was he trying to impress, anyway?
He gathered everyone's coats and his and Sherlock's wallets before continuing on downstairs to 221-C, where Jack and Sherlock had wandered off to as soon as they had returned from school.
Jack was chattering away, recounting the entire day at school in excruciating detail. John was surprised to find Sherlock was mostly silent, only occasionally interjecting to ask questions of Jack or encourage him to continue.
"And Jessa fell down and scraped her knee. She was making such a fuss, and while Ian and Ahmed ran to get help, they're the fastest; I was trying to wash the wound. It had dirt and stuff, it needed to be clean, but she just kept screaming. I couldn't hold her down. She wouldn't listen to me, she wouldn't listen and I got in trouble. They thought I pushed her down, but I didn't."
Sherlock hummed thoughtfully, and John took a small step closer to the lab. After a moment Sherlock cleared his throat and said, "People cease to be logical when injured or pressured, Jack, you must remember that. And you cannot help someone who doesn't want to be helped. In such a case, you should just leave it be. An infection would have taught her to accept help more readily in future."
Jack scoffed, and Sherlock chuckled. "I had to stay after, in any case," Jack grumbled, and John decided to interrupt them at that moment.
He pushed open the door to the lab and sighed at the mess. They appeared to be in the middle of building a rocket. Jack was painting all the balsam various colours while Sherlock worked on stringing the fuse. "Alright then men, it's time to get going if we're going to arrive to the party on time," John said, surveying Jack and Sherlock's appearance. "Jack, tuck your shirt in. Sherlock, it's bloody freezing, are you sure you'll be warm enough? That shirt is made of silk."
"I'll be fine," Sherlock grumbled, standing up. He pulled his suit jacket back on. "We shall finish our rocket tomorrow, for now we must bow to the social niceties expected of the human race."
"You speak as though you aren't one of us," John said, rolling his eyes as he held out Jack's coat. "Hat and mittens are in the pockets."
"If I were only associated with the two of you I wouldn't mind," Sherlock said as he took his own coat out of John's arms. "But as it happens there are far more idiots than not. And it will take a great deal of willpower on my part to avoid pointing out that irrefutable fact at this ridiculous New Year's party Jack's school is insisting we attend."
John sighed. "We aren't staying long, just long enough for the conference with his teacher and then we're off. We'll be back in Baker Street in time for tea."
"Can we have pizza?" Jack asked as he pulled on his hat, following John out the door. Sherlock trailed behind, pulling on his leather gloves.
John shook his head. "We'll see."
"That means no," Sherlock said under his breath, and Jack groaned. Sherlock brushed past both of them and skilfully hailed a cab.
The party was the brainchild of Jack's teacher Miss Karch. She had wanted to try a different way of approaching the parent-teacher nights, and had settled on having a New Year's party the weekend after the New Year.
John had thought it was a novel idea, and Sherlock had written off the whole idea as 'patently ridiculous'. But Jack was excited to introduce all his friends to his parents, so when they arrived Jack didn't hesitate to start making the rounds, taking John by one hand and Sherlock by the other. Sherlock offered everyone a tight smile as he pulled out his mobile, texting swiftly. John dutifully shook hands with parents and waved at Jack's classmates until they reached a young woman with bright red hair and a wide smile, which was only enhanced by the crimson lipstick she wore on her plush lips.
"Miss Karch!" Jack said, dropping John and Sherlock's hand to give her a hug.
The teacher kneeled down to hug the boy back. "Hey Jack! Are you having fun at my party?"
Jack nodded and stepped back from her. She straightened her waistcoat and looked up at Sherlock and John. John noticed her gaze lingering over Sherlock, and he cleared his throat. "Dr. John Watson, nice to meet you," John said, holding out his hand.
She blushed and took his hand, laughing a bit. "Rachel Karch. I'm Jack's teacher, it's a pleasure to finally meet you, Jack talks about you constantly."
John's smile grew wider. "All good, I hope." He couldn't help the glance he spared for her ample bust.
"Very good," she said, her eyes flicking back to Sherlock.
John cleared his throat, elbowing Sherlock in the ribs. Sherlock sighed and put away his phone. "Sherlock Holmes," he said, without preamble. "A pleasure. John says we are supposed to have a conference of some sort?"
Miss Karch's brow furrowed just slightly before her face regained its positivity. "Right, of course! I'm sure you're very busy, what with your cases and such…" at John's curious glance she blushed again and said, "I've read your blog, Jack mentioned you were detectives and his surname was sort of a tip-off. I don't want to scare you, I'm not…a crazy fan girl or anything, but…I understand your time is very valuable. If you want to come with me to my office, we can talk very quickly?"
Perfect," Sherlock said with a slightly false smile, putting himself between John and Miss Karch. "Inform your other guests of your whereabouts and John and I will see ourselves in? Great."
Sherlock didn't wait for her response before he led the way into Miss Karch's office.
"Sorry about him," John muttered to Miss Karch before he looked down to Jack. "Why don't you play with your friends while we have a talk with your teacher, yeah?"
Jack nodded and disappeared into a group of children, approaching a little girl with a bandage over her knee. "It's alright," Miss Karch said, patting John's arm. "I'll be just a moment."
"I'll make sure he doesn't destroy your office," John said to her before he followed Sherlock's trail, like he always did.
"She likes you," Sherlock said without preamble as soon as John entered the office.
John sighed, dropping down in one of the chairs across from Miss Karch's desk. "Most people do. I'm a likeable enough bloke."
Sherlock huffed, his pacing not slowing. "You know what I mean. She is attracted to you, sexually. You promise comfort."
John sighed, massaging his temples. "She was looking at you. She's just…curious. And star-struck. Calm down, yeah? She's Jack's teacher."
Miss Karch entered, straightening the flower hair clip in her hair. John thought she and Molly would be great friends, even though the teacher had a photograph of two Jack Russell Terriers on her desk instead of cats. "Sorry," she said as she sat down, motioning for Sherlock to do the same. He did reluctantly, and she smiled, looked between them. "So what I wanted to talk to you about the most is Jack's…curiosity. He is a very intelligent and thoughtful boy, but as you know he was in trouble today."
"He said he got in trouble for pushing down a girl, but in actuality he was trying to help her," Sherlock said, his tone cold.
Miss Karch crossed her arms, her smile not wavering. "I am aware, yes. That was not the case. He was in trouble because he held her down to take samples. He admitted this to me later." She sighed, looking away from Sherlock's scowling face to John. "Now I love Jack. He is one of my best students and is always eager to help, and I wanted to make you aware of the situation on my end. I have had a talk with him about listening, but this may be a talk you should have with him as well. Most kids have a hard time with impulse control, but with Jack I feel like giving him logical explanations as to why he is not allowed to do some things would be the best option. He's terribly smart, and he really dislikes being talked down to."
"I wonder where he gets that," John muttered, and Miss Karch glanced at Sherlock, who was back on his phone. John rolled his eyes and turned back to Miss Karch. "Thank you very much. I think Sherlock has already had a bit of a talk with him, but I will as well. He's a bit too smart for his own good, at times. Putting experiments first. We'll work with him to learn how to talk to other kids; he's not really been around many kids in his life. And our life is rather…hectic." John coloured a bit, shaking his head. "Thanks for approaching us about this."
"Of course," Miss Karch chirped, standing up. "I just want to keep an open dialogue between us, and really be a united front in helping Jack learn proper school behaviour. I don't want him to be bullied, and I don't want his classmates to be scared of him. I know being around someone who is highly intelligent can be a bit daunting."
John chuckled as he stood, holding his hand out for her to shake. "Believe me, I know. I've lived with a genius for years. He's really good at making me feel like an idiot."
Sherlock narrowed his eyes a bit and tossed his phone in the air, catching it swiftly. "Are we done here?"
"Yes Sherlock, we're done," John sighed, dropping Miss Karch's hand. "Thanks again, Miss Karch."
"Please, it's Rachel," she said, crossing back over to the door, waving them through. "If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact me. I'm always here."
"Thanks," John replied, already looking for Jack's head in the crowd.
Sherlock watched Miss Karch sharply as she moved over to a gathered group of parents. He smirked when she turned back over her shoulder at John, briefly. He tucked away his phone and followed John through the crowd.
They arrived back to Baker Street, Sherlock leading the way. Jack was surprisingly quiet as they climbed the stairs to 221-B, and John had the boy's hand tightly in his. Sherlock stilled just outside the door, his head cocked to the side slightly.
"Someone's in the flat," Sherlock said, his voice low.
"Posh," John said, rolling his eyes as he laid a hand between Sherlock's shoulder blades. "There's no one in the flat."
Sherlock's hand hovered over the door handle. "Did you lock the door when we left?"
John sighed, reaching around him to unlock the door. "Of course I did. You're being paranoid, Sherlock. It's fine."
"It's all well and good until we get murdered," Sherlock muttered, looking down at Jack, whose eyes were wide and innocent. "You should have brought your gun."
John rolled his eyes and pushed the door open, stepping into the flat to turn on the light. "I wasn't bringing a gun to Jack's school, that's ludicrous. Come on then." Sherlock followed him hesitantly, making sure to keep Jack behind him. He started to speak, but was interrupted when a group of people burst out of Jack's room, yelling "SURPRISE!" Jack's voice joined in from behind him, and Sherlock looked to John, frowning.
"It's your birthday, idiot," John said, laughing.
Molly, who was holding a cake, stepped forward to put it on the kitchen table with a smile. "Surely you didn't forget your own birthday, Sherlock."
"Happy birthday Sherlock!" Jack shrieked, launching himself onto him, wrapping his arms around Sherlock's neck. "We surprised you good! Dad didn't think I'd be able to keep the secret from you, but I did! I was really good!"
"You were!" Mrs. Hudson said, clapping her hands as Greg pulled her into a half-hug.
"Well…say something, genius," Greg chuckled, his smile wide.
Sherlock cleared his throat, wrapping his arms around Jack. "I am…surprised. It's hard to surprise me. Obviously."
Mycroft stepped toward John, arching a brow. "I believe my brother means to say thank you."
"Of course," Sherlock said, putting Jack down. "Thank you," he said, pulling Mrs. Hudson into a hug, then Molly, and then, after a moment's hesitation, Greg. He glanced to Mycroft warily, and his brother offered him a half-smile. It was enough.
"Cake!" Jack said, circling the kitchen island twice before he dragged Mrs. Hudson over to cut it.
"You need some dinner first, I've a roast going down in my flat that should be about done," she said, tapping him on his nose. "Greg dear, can you help me bring up the food for everyone?"
"Yeah, of course," he said, dropping a kiss on Molly's head before he followed Mrs. Hudson downstairs.
Molly started setting the table, and Mycroft raised his eyebrows and tilted his head towards John, who was studying the hem of his jumper with interest. Sherlock rolled his eyes minutely and cleared his throat, crossing to him.
"Was this your idea then?" Sherlock asked, leaning into him.
John's ears coloured, but he looked up at Sherlock steadily. "I figured you'd forgotten. Mycroft said you're turning forty."
Sherlock scoffed, and John grinned. "I'm terribly old."
John licked his lips and averted his eyes. "Being old is proof that you're still alive."
Sherlock felt something clench in his chest, and he raised a hand to wrap his fingers around John's wrist. He could feel his pulse, and it was racing, and Sherlock's smile widened. "Thank you. This was a wonderful surprise."
John looked back up at Sherlock, his smile bright but hesitant. "I'm glad. I was a bit worried."
Sherlock leaned in, grazing his nose along John's jawline. His stubble caused a slight burn, and his skin was warm and soft. "I want you to kiss me," Sherlock hummed, closing his eyes.
John's breath was shaky. "Molly and your brother are right here. And Jack might eat all the cake if we don't watch him closely enough."
"Sod the cake," Sherlock sighed, and before he could take another breath John's lips were against his. Hesitantly at first, but with Sherlock's instinctive gasp of their shared breath John pulled him closer, resting a steadying hand on Sherlock's hip.
John was the first to pull away, his entire face red and his lips wet. Sherlock embraced the overwhelming affection that flooded his body at the sight of him. "Happy birthday," John said with a breathy chuckle.
Sherlock ached to say 'I love you'. And so he did.