'My experiment, John. Get your own.'
'He's not an experiment, Sherlock, he's a child!'
'Look, Sherlock, the fact that you put him in the same category as the fingernails in the fridge or the mould patterns in the sink- and I still say, by the way, that you're just trying to get out of cleaning- just goes to show how unfit a guardian you really are. And having a doctor at your beck and call does not make up for anything horrible you might do to the poor boy! You need to give him up!'
Sherlock spun round to look at him intently. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, John, but is it not irresponsible to remove a traumatised child from a nurturing environment in which the child feels safe?'
John laughed, somewhat hysterically. 'Nurturing? Safe? Sherlock, this place is about as far from nurturing as it is possible to get, and the poor boy's probably-'
John didn't know exactly how he'd meant to finish that sentence. 'Terrified out of his bloody wits,' probably, or something to that effect. But all at once he'd noticed Sherlock's raised eyebrows and hunched shoulders and, for the first time, broke eye contact to let his gaze drift down to the boy in question. The boy, apparently, who had indeed decided that Sherlock's arms were a safe place to be, and drifted off to sleep with one hand clutching the man's purple scarf and the other hidden away with the rest of his tiny body inside the folds of that ridiculous coat.
John sighed, and rested a hand over his eyes. Okay.
Think like Sherlock, even.
John closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to watch those long, pale fingers absently fiddling with a tuft of scraggly black hair.
The boy, for whatever inexplicable reason, had decided to trust Sherlock. A bond of trust was no insignificant thing to an abused child. Therefore, in order to bring the him out of his shell in order to initiate treatment, Sherlock should really stay in the picture, at least for a little while.
Point one to Holmes.
So, on to the environment. Well, Sherlock might be somewhat qualified as a general tutor- on most areas of study, anyway. And John was indeed fully qualified to provide the physical medical care for a child, even a skittish, malnutritioned one. The mental treatment was something else, though. John himself was hardly over his own mental battles, and he didn't know any more about child psychology than had been mentioned in passing in classes. Such things weren't really a problem in a war camp.
Besides, John just wasn't cut out for that sort of thing. He might be able to shove his emotions back when it came to handling the entrails of a screaming soldier on the sands of Afghanistan, but he didn't think he could do the same when it came to listening to the boy- scrawny, adorable little thing that he was- talk in his polite little voice about why each of his ribs could be counted while his cousin looked like a juvenile walrus. Psychiatrists, especially a psychiatrist trying to help an abused child, had to be calm, steady people who could keep their personal emotions at bay, and read between the lines, and pick up on what the boy would refuse to say based on all the little clues he let slip...
Someone just like Sherlock, really.
No, no, no. That was a properly bad line of thought to follow. Sherlock didn't show emotion because he didn't have emotion. He wouldn't be able to empathise. He'd probably read all the books and websites out there, give all the proper responses the textbooks suggest...
No. No. They needed a professional. Sherlock couldn't technically be called a professional anything.
But he was fairly sure they wouldn't be able to take the boy to a proper child psychiatrist without some kind of legal identification. Hell, they didn't even know his name, let alone his birth date or insurance information! And if they tried to pass him off as Sherlock's child (never John's; at least those two had similarly fluffy black hair and narrow features, though the boy's face should fill out to proper childish roundness with a few weeks of good, regular meals), and someone found out, the boy would be taken away and probably sent back home. And even if he wasn't, he'd still be taken away and put up for adoption- and who in their right mind would allow Sherlock and him of all people to adopt a child? Two single men, neither financially stable, one completely mad and the other overcoming PTSD?
Of course, a sweet, pitiful boy like that would probably be snapped up right away, and probably by a lovely young couple with an Audi station wagon and a slobbery old spaniel. A semi-detached in Barnes or Kensington, and the grandparents would live on a little farm in the Cotswolds with an orchard and sheep and native cattle, just like the bloke off Countryfile. The little boy would grow up chasing piglets through the apple trees on the farm in summer and throwing bread to the ducks on the Serpentine in winter, a purple scarf tucked carefully around his neck...
John jolted so hard in his surprise that he actually took a step back. His fantasies had started out with a pleasant young blond woman and her vaguely Jamie-Oliver-lookalike husband, but finished with himself watching out the farmhouse window and Sherlock holding the boy's hand on the lake shore. He clapped both hands to his temples and met Sherlock's all-too-knowing eyes.
'I'm insane,' he muttered. 'I'm certifiably insane. Fine. Keep the kid. I'm going to the shops.' He spun on his heel and headed to the door.
'Don't forget milk!' Sherlock called after him. 'And get some colourful cereal and juice boxes and some edible things with cartoons on them.'
'Yeah, yeah,' John muttered. He was careful not to let the door slam shut on the way out.
John did indeed pick up a box of mixed berry-flavoured cereal, a number of different fruit juices, and boxes of macaroni cheese with the characters from some children's television show printed on the front. Some biscuits and ice cream, because he had a feeling the poor kid probably didn't get much of that at home. As his professional side was close to crying at the pitifully low numbers on the cereal's nutrition label, he also added a hefty stock of healthy snack foods to the trolley: apples, bananas, grapes, dried berries, carrot sticks, celery, crunchy peanut butter, hummus, whole grain crackers, oat biscuits, malt loaf, flavoured yoghurts, tea cakes. On top of all that, before he could forget to swing by the end aisles, went a child's soft toothbrush, swallow-safe toothpaste, some no-tears shampoo, and hypoallergenic shower soap.
At least one good thing would come out of this, he mused, eyeing a display of No Refrigerator Necessary Apple Sauce Squeezy Tubes- Eat On The Go! While Sherlock seemed to subsist on less to eat than a bug, the boy would be having three proper meals each day. Maybe his flatmate would learn to do the same, if John pointed out the necessity of positive role modelling. With that in mind, he shuffled things around to make more room in the trolley and added supplies for a week's worth of full breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for three: eggs, potatoes, sausages, frozen chicken breasts, things for salads and soups and stews and curries. He was rather enjoying himself, John realised, as the pile in the trolley grew ever higher. It was sort of nice, shopping for more than just himself or his mad, demanding flatmate. More than just sort of pleasant to be buying more than milk, hatchets, and pigs' bones. Well, that should be everything for now. He dug into his pockets to find the credit card...
The credit card. He'd taken Sherlock's, of course, but he never knew just how much was on the damn thing. The idiot turned down payments at the most inconvenient times, and his trolley probably added up to a couple of hundred pounds. Anyway, how was he going to carry it all home by himself? John cursed himself for ten kinds of idiot. He'd gotten swept away by a glowy little dream of it all, a kind and responsible Sherlock and a happy, bouncy little boy squealing 'Uncle John!' whenever he came home. And it all came crashing down at the thought of a credit card and a long walk. Typical. Sherlock would probably deign to laugh at him, were he here. Not that the man didn't have eyes and ears in the oddest places.
Suddenly quite cheerful again, John wheeled his trolley to the customer service counter and waited patiently until the bored-looking girl finished taking back a box of something from an annoyed older woman ('They just don't make things like they used to!'). When his turn came up, he smiled politely.
'Hi, could I leave my things here just a mo? I accidentally left my wallet in my car, just need to run out and get it,' he lied, very pleasantly.
The girl mumbled something John assumed to be assent, because she hauled the trolley behind her counter. He tucked his hands in his pockets, strode out of the store, and began looking around. There had to be...yes...there! John hurried down the block and across the street to the CCTV camera. Looking straight into it, he said, very clearly,
'Sherlock's going to steal the Queen's handbag.'
Then he stood there, idly humming and mentally counting down. Ten...nine...eight...seven...
A black town car pulled up in front of him without even the slightest squeal of breaks. The rear door was thrown open, and Mycroft stepped out, umbrella in hand and a distinctly unimpressed expression on his face.
'Doctor Watson,' he said crisply, and with every indication that this was not a particularly pleasant surprise. 'I believe you have something to tell me?'
John smiled very sweetly. 'Actually, it's your driver I need. Alright?' he said, ducking a quick nod to the blank-faced woman still in the car. Anthea smiled slightly but didn't look up from her Blackberry. And to the driver, 'Would you mind driving round the block and pulling up in front of the shop doors down there? Give us about five minutes, yeah? Ta.' Then he shut the door. The driver hesitated. Mycroft raised an eyebrow (a rather Sherlock-like expression, really, but John valued his life too much to mention this), but John just kept smiling impassively, so the Holmes brother tapped his umbrella on the roof of the car, and it moved on.
'Now that you've commandeered my car,' Mycroft sighed, 'what is my dear brother up to, Doctor Watson?'
John shrugged, hands in his pockets. 'The usual, really. I lied about the queen. I'm pretty sure, anyway...you never know with him, do you? And he's stolen a boy, and I need you. Come on!'
He could understand why Sherlock did it, he thought, as he headed back towards the supermarket. It was annoying as all hells when you were the one left hanging, but being the one to walk away, knowing the irritated man behind him would follow, was rather satisfying. Indeed, Mycroft's shiny shoes were tapping along the pavement, quickly catching up. 'When you say, 'stolen a boy'...'
'It's nothing sordid,' John offered, as they ducked through the automatic doors. He wound his way quickly to the counter where his trolley waited and took it back with another quick, 'Ta!' Mycroft followed, silently but for the annoyed tapping of the umbrella on the linoleum tile floor, all the way to the checkout queues. 'He's a sweet kid, really. And I don't think we've stolen him so much as rescued him, personally, but I suppose a court wouldn't necessarily see it that way.'
'I see,' Mycroft said, in a way that suggested he most certainly didn't but was either too polite or too suspicious to say so. 'Rescued from what, exactly?' He looked so out of place, standing in a shopping line at Asda with the harried mums and loud teenagers in his perfect pinstripe suit, that John almost wanted to laugh.
'A really unpleasant aunt and uncle,' he said instead, quietly. 'I know it's not exactly legal, but...just trust me on this one. He's a million times better off with Sherlock than he ever was with them.'
'An illuminating statement,' Mycroft murmured, tapping his umbrella at their feet. 'Very well. What is it you hoped to ask me to do? Give you legal rights to the child, I suppose? I must confess, I've never seen my brother as a particularly paternal type.'
John snorted. 'You wouldn't think so, would you? And I don't really know what we're going to do about the legal status thing yet. We've not talked about it.' The two heavily made-up girls in front of them finally finished paying for their cases of beer and John began piling his purchases out of the trolley to be rung up. 'You should see him though, really. Holding the kid in his arms and rocking him to sleep like it was the most natural thing in the world. And the boy's completely attached to him already, too. Trusts him more than he does me, and I reassure children for a living!'
Mycroft watched with a detached gaze as the teller swiftly scanned and bagged each item. 'Doctor Watson, as interesting and enlightening as this little chat has been, I am still entirely unaware as to what it is you called me for,' he said finally, a touch of impatience in his polished tones.
'That's two hundred twenty-eight, fifty-seven p,' the clerk cut in.
John turned to beam at Mycroft. The man scowled. John just kept beaming. Mycroft sighed, and reached into his pocket.
John refused to let the silence feel uncomfortable on the ride back to the flat. Mycroft sat sullenly- or as close to sullen as the stiff Holmes ever got, he supposed- next to his assistant, and the driver, a fair, youngish man who looked like he probably bare-knuckle boxed at the weekends, seemed to be biting his lip to hold back a smile. When they reached Baker Street, the driver rather decently came back to open the door and ask if he needed help with the bags. At a sigh and wave of assent from Mycroft, John happily accepted, and between the two of them, they hauled the trove of carrier bags up the stairs.
Before John could fumble for the door knob, Sherlock threw it open, staring at the driver with distaste.
'You're Mycroft's man,' he glared. 'I knew that was his car in the street. John!' Sherlock whirled to face his flatmate as John squeezed past him to head for the kitchen. 'Why is Mycroft here?'
'I asked him,' John called back, setting the carrier bags on the floor. Sherlock strode quickly to the kitchen, the driver trailing behind him.
John stared at Sherlock, then gestured widely to all the bags. 'You think I could've brought all this back walking? Besides, I didn't know if we could pay for it.'
He watched as Sherlock's eyes narrowed, quickly adding it all up. He brightened. 'Well done, John. There's hope for you after all. You, shoo.' Sherlock waved the driver impatiently out of the flat before John could even call out a quick thank you. 'How did you get him there?'
'I told him you were going to rob the Queen,' he replied, sorting through the bags to get the cold things into the refrigerator. 'Where's the kid?'
'In bed. Sleeping, one presumes. Did you get milk?' Sherlock wandered out of the kitchen and spun on his toes to flop gracefully on the sofa.
'Yes, I got milk. And cereal, and juice, and everything else you asked for, and everything else a growing boy should need for a little while. Did you at least make sure my gun was hidden away before you put him in there?'
John could hear Sherlock's scoff even as he sorted things into the freezer. 'Of course I didn't put him in your room. You keep war relics and medical things in there. He might've stumbled across all sorts of dangers.'
John frowned and straightened up, wadding the empty carrier bags into a ball and moving on to the fruits. They had a fruit bowl somewhere; he knew they did...oh. There it was, on the counter and full of belt buckles, for some reason. 'Then where is he?'
Another scoff. 'My room, of course.'
John almost dropped the jar of peanut butter. 'What?'
Sherlock glanced over, frowning. ''What' what? Did you mishear, or do you object to my choice of location?'
John stared. 'Your room? As in, the room I've never seen, and which is probably full of all sorts of completely child-unsafe things?'
Sherlock rolled his eyes. 'Of course it isn't. Safer than yours, even. My firearms are hidden behind much more than an easily-picked drawer lock.'
John sputtered. 'What do you- did you pick-' He threw his hands into the air. 'No. I'm seeing this for myself.' He strode towards the bedroom. Sherlock threw himself off the sofa to stand between John and the door, towering over him with a mulish expression on his face.
'Why not?' John asked, crossing his arms. He'd respect Sherlock's privacy, but not if it meant leaving the poor boy in a room full of poisons and suspicious moulds. Sherlock probably never cleaned the place, for God's sake!
'He's fine,' Sherlock stated with finality. 'It's safe. It's clean. He has pillows and blankets. He has a monitoring system. What more do you want?'
John felt dread creeping over him. My experiment, Sherlock had declared. He imagined heart monitors and hidden cameras and needles... 'What kind of monitoring system, Sherlock?'
The detective grinned triumphantly, reached into the pocket of his trousers, and, with a dramatic flourish, pulled out-
'A baby monitor.' John sighed. 'Why do you even have a baby monitor?'
Sherlock looked shifty for a moment, and John decided he probably didn't want to know, so he cut him off.
'Fine. No. That's fine. You keep that, and I'll leave him for now, but it's already seven o'clock and if he's not up on his own by eight you'll have to go in and wake him for dinner, okay?' John raised his eyebrows. 'This is important, Sherlock. He's severely underfed and suffering malnutrition like you'd expect to see in a child on the streets or in a third-world country. His aunt and uncle didn't quite starve him but they were close enough to it.' He put his hands on his hips, staring Sherlock down and trying to impress upon him the importance of what he was saying. 'He needs to eat three healthy meals a day, every day, and snacks in between, alright? No skipping meals because you want to see how it affects his...skills, whatever they are, or having him eat only whatever junk you feel like eating. He'll end up in hospital from complications of nutritional deficiency soon if you do that. I get that he's your experiment, you're taking care of him, but I'm going to override you if you're not keeping him well. Do you understand?'
Sherlock fixed him with intent, pale eyes throughout his little speech, clearly taking in and analysing every word. John only hoped he chose to agree. Suddenly, Sherlock tsked. 'Well, obviously, John,' he sniffed. 'And I hope you intend to do something about your deplorable habit of eating nothing but sandwiches, takeaway, and the occasional forage through the fridge. That's hardly a good habit to teach him.'
And with that Sherlock swept away to the belt buckles, leaving John gaping in his wake. As always, he thought tiredly.
Wow, so much response so quickly! I thought I was one of only a few with a Sherlock/Harry crossover fix :) Anyway, I'll try to put this out fairly quickly and regularly. I'm also fixing a few little things- I accidentally had Mycroft calling John by his first name. Anyway. Thanks for watching!