John was discharged from the hospital two days after the birth, but Absalom's stay needed to be longer. Although he exhibited no signs of distressed breathing, anemia, or any of the most deeply serious problems which often came with preterm birth, he had a little trouble feeding and his low birth weight made it a bit difficult for him to keep a steady temperature on his own. Even with Dr. Wilson's confidence that the issues would resolve as he put on more weight and grew stronger, the brief times John and Sherlock spent away from him were still stressful.
Much to Sherlock's dismay, John had begun calling the baby 'Abby' less than twenty-four hours after his birth, and the name had stuck fast. What was even worse was that Mycroft had picked up the habit as well. A disdain for nicknames was one of the previous few things Sherlock would admit he had in common with his brother, so it was somewhat jarring to see it go. But this sudden betrayal of ethics wasn't what irritated Sherlock. No, it was the smug, secretive look that crossed Mycroft's face every time he said 'Abby' that really vexed him. He just knew it was something more than Mycroft goading him over a pet peeve.
It seemed to perplex John as well, to the point that he openly asked Mycroft about it a week after the baby's birth.
"You're right, John. I normally do dislike nicknames," Mycroft had replied with that infuriating little smirk Sherlock hated so much. "However, it would be quite hypocritical of me to dismiss this one. I proposed it, after all."
John's brows had knitted together in confusion for a moment, but then some terrifying revelation seemed to settle over him. His eyes went wide and he had stumbled into a chair, muttering strange things about initials the 'A.W.' and abandoned warehouses. Whenever Sherlock pressed him about it, he would rapidly change the subject.
But that was nothing compared to what had happened two weeks after the birth, when Dr. Wilson announced that Abby was far enough postnatal that a simple blood test would reveal if he was an Alpha, Beta, or Omega.
"Boys make it so difficult to tell just from looking," she had said. "Testing for certain genetic markers is really the only way to know until puberty hits. Some parents don't want to know for tradition's sake, since the practice has only been around for about a decade, but-"
"Oh, we're finding out," John said resolutely.
"I'm sure I can dedu-," Sherlock began.
"No. No, we are finding out. Right now. Because if it turns out he's an Omega, I can prepare him for what will happen as he gets older. He's not going to end up like me and get the shock of his life in the middle of rugby practice."
"Irrelevant. He's not going to play rugby at all," Sherlock groused.
"He will if he likes. Now, please, doctor – the test."
When the test results came in, Sherlock had despaired at the verdict: Omega. He repeated the word in surprise, clasped his head in his hands, and began to pace wildly. Irritated, John had asked if Sherlock was really that displeased that their son was an Omega.
"Yes, though not in the way you think," Sherlock replied. "God, John, don't you see? Teenaged Alphas are monsters, run ragged with endless vile thoughts! And our son will be the target of those thoughts!"
"Erm, I remember being a teenager. It's kind of a two-way street, Sherlock," John said. "Not just Alphas."
Sherlock ignored him and continued, "We are doomed if Absalom has inherited your more alluring qualities. Just look at yourself, for example of how things will be for him! In school, you had at least a dozen Alphas creating sick fantasies about you!"
"Okay, now I know you're overreacting. That number is way off," John said, crossing his arms. Secretly, he was a bit chuffed over the rogue compliment hidden in Sherlock's fretting, but he couldn't let it distract him from Lecture Time. "It was only two, maybe three."
"Wrong! When you used Facebook, twelve of your former school 'chums'," Sherlock practically spat the word. "Would always 'like' your relationship status when it switched from 'In a Relationship' to 'Single'. You thought they were just having a tease, trying to cheer you up in their own boorish way, but no. No, oh no, no, they liked it because they thought if you crossed paths, they'd have a chance. And those were just the ones brazen enough to do such a thing! Who knows how many possessed a few more grains of tact but shared the opinion?"
John frowned. "How do you know about that? I deleted my Facebook page six months before we met."
"John, we have approximately fourteen years to find ideal places to dump the bodies," Sherlock said. Something flashed in his eyes and he continued, "Unless we make a comprehensive list of every Alpha who may meet Absalom and send them a preemptive warning. No, no, the former is easier, let's stick to that. Now, peat bogs may conceal bodies well, but they have a nasty preservation habit. Normally quite handy for my purposes, but in this particular case..."
"We are not killing Abby's eventual schoolmates! He's fifteen days old for fu- Pete's sake, just let him be a baby for a while. And also, how did you access my deleted Facebook?"
Quite the argument ensued, but John was mostly certain he had managed to convince Sherlock not to go to such lengths. He wasn't absolutely sure, though, so he filed it away as a subject that may need revisiting later on. Maybe something like, "Pass the butter, Sherlock, and stop thinking about how much arsenic you'd need to be effective against a teenaged Alpha's metabolism."
Finally, just under three weeks after the birth, Absalom was deemed thriving enough to leave the hospital. Fortunately, the media fervor over Sherlock's return had died down slightly over those intervening weeks. While there were a few paparazzi present at Baker Street, they were easy enough to handle, especially with Mrs. Hudson telling them all off for upsetting the baby by making such noise and using such bright, flashing lights.
And, at last, Sherlock and John began to settle into the ebb and flow of this new stage of their life together.
Three months passed in relative peace until the next wave of the Cold War hit.
All things considered, Absalom was a wonderful starter baby. If babies were capable of thoughts more complex than 'hungry now', 'lonely now', 'cold now', and 'dirty now', it would be easy to conclude that he felt a bit guilty for insisting on showing up so early and had decided to make it up by being as even-tempered as possible. He rarely cried or fussed when there was no reason to, and he was easily placated once his needs were addressed. He settled surprisingly quickly into solid sleeping patterns, and John was relieved to only have one sleepless creature in the flat again.
He was such an agreeable baby that John elected to return to part-time work at the surgery sooner than he'd predicted. Sherlock had protested strongly at first, bringing up every possible con he could think up, going down an increasingly elaborate and preposterous series of 'what-ifs'. John cut to the quick of the issue: Sherlock's overwhelming concern of failing in his duties as a parent if left alone with the baby. He had never even alluded to that as one of the cons, but John didn't need him to for him to know.
It took over a week of constant positive reinforcement to convince Sherlock that he was doing very well with Absalom and that even the most innately nurturing people needed practice and experience to be good with babies. That combined with the fact that Mrs. Hudson would gladly assist with Absalom's care if asked eventually helped push Sherlock into making peace with John's decision to return to work.
It was John's second week back at work when the incident occurred. Absalom was having a nap, and Sherlock took the opportunity to run a quick (non-lethal in any capacity) experiment on the relative drying speeds of earth moistened by different liquids. He'd just set the timer on the clod of dirt he'd saturated with a liter of orange juice (organic and pulp-in, very important) when a faint sound came from the baby monitor he'd brought with him into the kitchen.
He waited for a second to be sure, but the sound came again, a bit louder and more insistent. He listened closely, ear close to the speaker. "Whimper starting at E flat, rising to A flat. Bored and hungry, in that order. Right." He quickly prepared a bottle of formula and made his way up the steps to John's former bedroom, which they'd converted into the nursery.
"Papa is at his job today," he said as he opened the nursery door and headed for the bassinet. "So none of the good stuff until tonight, I'm afraid. This formula will have to do, even if you feel it pales in compar-"
Sherlock's jaw clamped shut as he looked down at his son. Absalom blinked John's dark blue eyes at him in happy recognition, smiling sloppily around the fist he had in his mouth. He cooed in time as his little legs kicked, knowing that he'd soon be picked up.
A red sniper's laser danced directly over the tuft of dark hair on the baby's right temple.
Sherlock turned around the room, eyes darting wildly and cataloging anything and everything. The window, not at all as he had left it. It was wide open. Some kind of paper lay on the sill, weighted down with a rock. He aligned himself so the laser sight hit his own torso (infinitely, indescribably preferable to the alternative) and walked slowly and purposefully to the window. Absalom began to fuss louder over being ignored, but Sherlock could barely hear it over the ringing in his ears.
He made it to the window, removed the rock, and lifted the paper. It was a card. The front had the phrase "CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR BOUNCING BOY!" in a gold, elaborately curled font at the top with a cartoon of a flying stork carrying a smiling, blue-swaddled baby in its beak below.
With his hands trembling slightly, Sherlock opened the card. The inside contained a photograph and a few handwritten sentences (strong grip, one of the most precise and steady hands he'd ever seen).
LET'S MAKE A DEAL: I WON'T KILL YOURS IF YOU DON'T GO SNIFFING AFTER ME AND MINE.
NOD IF YOU AGREE TO MY TERMS. SLOW AND DELIBERATE.
P.S. HE HAS HIS EYES.
Sherlock's gaze flicked to the photo. In it, a baby boy grinned at him with a mouth full of milk teeth. He had a shock of copper-tinted brown hair, and his eyes were obscured by a pair of dark sunglasses he was playing with. A cupcake adorned with purple frosting, rainbow sprinkles, and a single candle sat before him. A first birthday.
Sherlock lowered the photo slowly, allowing his eyes to take in the world outside the window. He looked everywhere, but couldn't pinpoint the exact trajectory of the laser on his chest. He released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and nodded. Once, twice. Slowly, so slowly.
"Deal," he croaked, the words coming out a sharp rasp over dry lips.
The laser was off in an instant. Sherlock slammed the window, which startled Absalom into actual sobs, and shut the blinds. Heart racing, he nearly fell over himself as he dashed back to the bassinet. He quickly yet carefully lifted the baby out, and cradled the infant's head as he pressed him close against his chest. He moved to a corner as far away from the window as possible, keeping his eyes trained on it. He breathed through his nose, harsh and heavy. With his back against the wall, he slid to the floor, rubbing the crying baby's back soothingly.
When John came home, he was greeted by a still-shaken Sherlock and a nursery window which had been bricked over.
Not long after the laser sight vanished from Sherlock's chest, a man walked down the street. He carried a guitar case, wore a pair of sunglasses, and walked with the confident stride of someone who knew first-hand that every CCTV in the area had been shot out with a silenced gun.
That's not what everybody else on the street saw, though. He was just a cool Omega musician with his sixteen month old baby strapped to his back, out for a leisurely stroll. Nothing odd about that. Charming, even.
"Want to go see the duckies at the park, Jamie?" Sebastian Moran asked.
Jamie laughed and clapped. "Duckies! Duckies!"
END NOTES: Thank you so much for reading and for any and all feedback! This is the end of the main story, but there are 3 epilogues. The first two are already completed and posted up on my account at AO3 (under the same name I have here), and I'll begin bringing them over tomorrow. I'm working on the final epilogue now and hope to finish it before I move across the world at the end of the month, but we'll see what happens. :I
Once again, thank you all.