Harry was in the middle of a very animated story about one of her UNI professors when music interrupted her and caused both the Watson twins to look over at the piano. John couldn't remember living in this house without it being there. He remembered having to take lessons as a kid and hating it. He'd never had an ear for music. Harry had escaped the awful piano lessons in lieu of ballet, which she'd hated just marginally less than John hated the piano. Andy was taking lessons now, poor thing. The Watson children had never heard a tune flowing out of the old piano. Not without a slew of wrong notes or an awkward and incorrect rhythm. So when a very lovely rendition of Ave Maria began to fill the air of the Watson household everything paused.
It sounded how velvet felt. Warm and soft. Lush. Full. Dark. John knew it was a silly thought, but it was all that crossed his very blank mind as he watched Sherlock's back arch and bounce, exaggerating the beats so Andy, with his much smaller arms and fingers, could keep up.
Andy turned to look up at Sherlock and John caught a glimpse of the boy's wide, toothy smile. It was apparently contagious because John could feel his mouth turn up and even saw Sherlock's cheeks pull tight in smaller grin.
"Careful, Johnny, you're gawking," Harry said, nudging John with a grin.
John decided not to say anything. Especially since he had no clue what to say to that. He really had been gawking. Who could blame him though? Watching Sherlock play was rather fun, the way he bounced a bit to help Andy keep time, his long, pale fingers dancing across old yellowing keys, that black slicked back hair catching the lighting and shining a little bit. It was beautiful.
After a few more measures Andy and Sherlock reached the end of the piece which was met with a small round of applause.
"Oh," said a man's slightly surprised voice, "that was lovely, wasn't it?"
All eyes turned to focus on the very tall, very tired looking Wilbur Watson leaning against the kitchen doorframe with a small glass of scotch in his hand. John felt his body tense seeing his father. John and Wilbur did not have a bad relationship by any means, though John couldn't say he always enjoyed the man's company.
Wilbur Watson had a very particular air about him. He commanded respect and formality to the point that it nearly felt like walking on eggshells to be around for long. John had not gotten his height from his father's side of the family. Wilbur towered over most people and used it to manipulate and intimidate people when he saw fit.
Wilbur's blue eyes moved to meet John's and he gave a bland smile, "It's nice to have you home."
So goddamn cordial about every goddamn thing, John thought, already annoyed. "It's nice to be home."
"Who's our guest?"
John and Sherlock stood synchronously and both moved to stand before Wilbur. As introductions were exchanged John could see his father breaking Sherlock apart in his head. A sneer here at the name, a raised eyebrow at "my friend". He was sure Sherlock could see it too.
"A friend? I don't know that John's ever mentioned you to us," Wilbur said with a bored smile.
Sherlock's head cocked a bit and John bit his lip, hoping Sherlock tried to keep his smart remarks to a minimum. "I suppose I'm a rather new friend, Mr. Watson."
John breathed out a relieved sigh when he heard his mum's voice call from the dining room that dinner was served. He said a small prayer, hoping that these two men would keep it together.
Sherlock stroked a finger down the stem of his wine glass with a bored expression. The dinner conversation was disappointingly dull, consisting mostly of Harry talking about her classes and Mrs. Watson catching John up on neighborhood gossip. Mr. Watson, "Wilbur, I insist," hadn't said a word since their interaction in the sitting room. Sherlock had been chancing glances at the odd man between bites of roast.
John however seemed completely enthralled in whatever nonsense that Mrs. Rogers from Tully Lane was recently involved it. He was smiling and nodding and asking questions and it was bizarre. He and John didn't exactly live a very exciting life together, but he was sure they'd never discussed something as mundane as Mrs. Rogers from Tully Lane.
"Alice, don't talk the boy's ear off, he doesn't care," Wilbur said suddenly, stopping his wife midsentence. His wife blushed, a bit embarrassed. Sherlock felt John tense beside him and he looked across the table at Wilbur. He was a classic narcissist, manipulative, used to getting his way and being listened to. Sherlock wasn't sure why but he sincerely wanted to find something awful about this man, like that he was having an affair, or several, or that he was a drug trafficker. But he didn't see anything of the sort.
"So Sherlock," he began, stabbing a bit too forcefully into his roast and cutting a bite sized piece, "how'd you and John meet? Do you go to UNI together?"
He was about to respond when John stuttered next to him, "Sherlock's j-"
"John," Wilbur said, his voice suddenly darker than before. The tone made John's mouth snap shut. "I was speaking to our guest. I'm sure he's capable of answering for himself."
Wilbur turned to Sherlock again, an unfriendly smile on his lips. "Please excuse him."
Sherlock returned the cold smile. He was well versed in this little game that Wilbur Watson was trying to play.
"No," he said finally. "I don't go to UNI with John, we met at a park actually," Sherlock finished with a chuckle that was meant to sound amused.
"Oh, really? How quaint."
There was a moment of silence and Sherlock looked at John who appeared to be trying to crawl out of his own skin.
"I'm happy to have you for dinner, Sherlock, but why aren't you with your family this evening?"
"Dad," John said in a low voice, a warning. Sherlock gave an infinitesimally small smile of thanks.
"John, do not interrupt me again," Wilbur said. And with that Sherlock's smile died immediately. He looked about the table first at Mrs. Watson who was avidly avoiding meeting Sherlock's eyes, then Harry who was in the middle of pouring herself a second (third?) glass of wine. Lastly, Sherlock looked down at Andy, who sat beside Harry opposite him. He was looking down at his feet with an embarrassed expression. The boy's eyes darted up to meet Sherlock's briefly in an expression that very clearly said "sorry".
"I am not particularly close with my family."
"Really? How strange. Why is that?"
"Wilbur," Mrs. Watson said with a nervous smile, "that's rather rude isn't it?" Her thin hands wrung tight around her napkin. Wilbur looked up across the table at his wife for a moment, as if contemplating something very complex when his lips broke into a very fake smile and he turned back to Sherlock.
"Alice is right, please excuse me."
Sherlock sat back in his chair and gave a tight smile. "No need. I have not seen my family in a long time."
He could see John turn to look at him in his peripheral.
"What a shame. Why not?"
"Why is your family afraid of you, Mr. Watson?"
All sound came to a halt in the Watson household. There was no breathing, no clinking of forks or knives against china, no sound of cold December wind blowing through the house even though they all knew it was drafty.
"Beg your pardon?" Wilbur said in a half laugh.
"It is because you're abusive? Not physically, of course. That's not right. But verbally yes? Of course yes. You tell your twenty-two year old son to be quiet and he listens like a child. You interrupt your wife, who is kneading that into dreadful wrinkles. Harriet drinks to be more amiable and make it through dinners with you. Andrew hasn't said a single word since sitting at the table. Bit odd for a five year old to be so quiet, isn't it? So yes, verbal abuse fits quite well doesn't it?"
There was a bit of shuffling across the table as Harry stood on unsteady feet to take Andy upstairs to bed and away from the scene that was about to unfold. No one spoke as the two quickly made their way out of the room to the stairwell.
"Andrew," Sherlock, said, turning around to see Harry halfway up the stairs with a silently crying little Watson in her arms, "it was lovely to meet you."
The boy didn't smile, but waved a small hand as Harry continued up to the boy's room.
When they were out of earshot Wilbur finally spoke. "How dare you! What makes you think you can come into my home and accuse me of such things? Who in the hell do you think you are?"
Wilbur looked like a beet when he was angry and for a quick moment that make Sherlock chuckle. And that made the vein in Wilbur's forehead swell in rage.
"Didn't your father teach about respect?"
"My father," Sherlock said with a laugh, "the only thing my father taught me was how to splatter my grey matter from one wall to the other."
John gave a start beside him and placed a warm hand on Sherlock's knee. "Sherlock..."
"What is it then?" Wilbur said, throwing his silverware down on his plate, the clatter making Mrs. Watson jump. "Are you two fucking? Turned my son into a fairy?"
"Oi!" John said, pushing himself away from the table to stand and glare at his father beside him. "It's not any of your damn business and I'll not let you talk to Sherlock like that."
To say that Sherlock was taken aback by John's sudden outburst was a bit kind. Sherlock stared a bit wide-eyed up at John who was far too preoccupied with Wilbur to see his expression.
"You'll not let me?" Wilbur asked condescendingly as he stood. He was just taller than Sherlock and so he completely dwarfed his son.
"No, I won't. Sherlock is my friend and I'm not going let a twat like you," the rest of John's sentence was snipped off the sound of Wilbur's hand connecting with John's face. The loud THWAP echoed through the house and John stumbled for footing before catching himself on the back of his chair.
Mrs. Watson gave a small cry and went to tend to her son. John's cheek was bright red, but the skin wasn't broken. "Wilbur!" she said, turning to look at her husband in shock. When he said nothing she turned back to John, inspecting his cheek.
"Is he living with you?" Wilbur asked panting.
To Sherlock's surprise, both he and John responded in unison, "yes."
Wilbur sat back down, pick up his knife and fork, setting to work on cutting a stalk of asparagus into smaller pieces. Sherlock watched him drag it through a bit of the juices that had leaked out of his roast before popping it into his mouth. The man chewed slowly, as if he had to constantly remind himself how to do so.
Finally he said "Get out."
Exactly twelve minutes and fourteen seconds later, after John had given his mother and Harry goodbye hugs and snuck upstairs to place a small parcel on the foot of his sleeping little brother's bed, he and Sherlock were walking out the door with a bottle of homemade eggnog in John's hand.
Wilbur Watson was still chewing asparagus at the head of the table when they left.
Hello, Dearies! Sorry for such a small chapter update. I've stayed up all night writing the update, it's currently 6:50. I like to complain. Sorry. I had originally intended to have the chapter much longer, but I found that this was a better place to cut off the chapter. It makes a bit more sense, structurally. Again, sorry that it took so goddamn long for me to update. I hope you enjoy it. I'll get right on writing the next chapter, which you guys will LOVE.
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