Thank you so, so much to Chappysmom on ao3 for editing and for generally batting forth ideas with me - it's been so much fun and I'm so excited about the next part. Thanks also to anyone who has continued to read this - I think I went a little off track so it's been wonderful that readers have continued to follow when this became far more angsty than what was intended.
His son was exhausted. A day's adventure out to go wherever he wanted, to whatever he wanted had been enough to tire even the most daring of thirteen year olds.
Strange; part of Sherlock ached at the fact that he could no longer lift his son into his arms and carry him when he was tired; that he simply had to help him along and wake him up when he started to doze in the taxi home.
There was another part of him that dared to wonder. Anna's prison sentence would keep her from being in John's life until the boy was in his late twenties, Mycroft's offer meant that Sherlock had a chance of keeping his relationship with John a good one…
When John was older he might stay. He would have a grown up son at his side.
Picturing that was terrifying and exhilarating. Sherlock almost found himself burning with curiosity at the idea. Something about seeing his son at three and then looking up to see him at thirteen…
Twenty three? Would John have finished university by then? Would he go? Would he move out? Have a girlfriend or a boyfriend or a fish to keep him company? Would that bloody dog still make John laugh?
Would John have remembered what happened to him as a small child? Would he have worked it out? Would he have bought their lie and hate Mycroft?
Perhaps if he were old enough when he started to ask the questions…perhaps they could tell him.
Or perhaps not, Sherlock thought, shifting uncomfortably at the mere thought.
Would John one day provide him with grandchildren? The thought made Sherlock frown in displeasure at the idea of an entire brood but maybe one or two…a chance to glimpse what John himself would have been like as a baby.
Would they see each other every weekend? No, more than that, surely.
Certainly. John could go to university in London; he could pop and see Sherlock whenever he wanted…
A friend and a son.
Sherlock found himself smiling at the idea.
For the first time, John growing up didn't seem quite so much as if Sherlock would lose him.
Mycroft would lose him.
Sitting alone, staring at the darkened window, Mycroft could admit that.
He loved John, adored him. But John wouldn't need him forever and the older he got, the better his relationship with Sherlock became.
And with this promise…
He needed something else. Something to distract him.
As his mind churned over a few ideas, one especially started to stick in his mind.
One that involved having to ask questions of a certain red-head with freckles in order to understand the education issues better…
It would be business, he decided as he felt something within him raise a doubtful eyebrow. Just business.
"And of course," Edmund said as he led Lucian and Bella down the hallway. He was such a helpful young man, Bella thought as he led them down. Far more cheerful than the Grinch that used to be the Events Co-ordinator. "This is the main room," he announced with a flourish as he opened the doors.
They stood on a staired balcony which led down into a room set up at the moment for a wedding. The wooden dance floor not quite as Bella remembered it but still roughly in the same position. The stage beyond it could easily be set up for an elegant jazz band just as it had been all those years ago.
To the side, the huge windows were covered with elegant curtains and tied to the sides. The middle windows were in fact large doors, opening up to a balcony for their guests to get a little air.
"Do you wish to have a look around?" Edmund asked smiling at them.
Bella nodded, "That would be lovely," she said, pulling at Lucian's arm. "Do you remember-"
"No," he teased her, looking amused. "No, I don't remember following a beautiful blonde out here only to have her barely give me the time of day. I don't remember using every possible trick in the book just to get her to agree to have breakfast with me."
Edmund chuckled. "It must be strange seeing the room again."
"No," Bella said shaking her head. "Merely strange to hear how much of a grudge my husband still holds. I married you in the end, didn't I?"
Lucian smiled but, even as he looked around seemed to struggle to hold onto the humour.
"Do you mind if we have a moment to look around? Just the two of us?" Bella asked Edmund.
"Of course not," Edmund said sounding pleased. "I'll come back in five minutes. Would you like anything to drink?"
Bella shook her head and waited until Edmund had left the room. "What is it?" she asked softly, turning to look at Lucian firmly.
"I…" Lucian looked around. "Nothing, dear."
Bella tiled her head and a smile graced her husband's lips at her doubtful expression.
"These big parties," Lucian said. "I'm not entirely sure I'm in the mood for one."
"You are turning sixty," Bella said reaching for his hand. "A lot of people will want to celebrate that. And you should too-"
"I understand that but…" he shook his head. "I'm being silly."
"But?" Bella prompted.
"These rarely end well for us," Lucian confessed after a moment or two. "Wedding anniversaries, new year's celebrations, birthdays. Big parties tend to bring out the worst in us."
Sighing at the idea, Bella tugged her husband to the nearest chairs so they could sit to talk properly. "There have been more good ones than bad ones," she said with a smile. "You proposed to me at one. I told you about Mycroft at another. And our wedding was beautiful."
Lucian seemed to soften at the memories. "I wanted to tell the whole world," he said distantly.
She watched him with amusement, remembering how foul his mood had been up until the moment she had told him they were going to have a baby. It had been so soon after their wedding that she had been nervous, worried about the timing. Seconds after telling him she had been berating herself for being such an idiot.
"I loved you even more for that," Bella said quietly. "My friend Charlotte had told her husband that month and he reacted as if she had told him the weather may be a little wet."
But Lucian's mind had gone down a different track apparently as he fiddled with the fork in front of him. "We've spent over half our lives as parents," he said, sounding baffled by the idea.
Bella studied him and inwardly sighed, making a note to thank Edmund for his time.
A party was not what Lucian wanted.
Apparently, turning sixty turned you introspective.
That night, Lucian found himself unable to sleep as he lay in bed. In the end, he gave up at four in the morning and lumbered downstairs to his study.
Half way there he changed tack and went into the room that Bella called their little library. It was almost her own equivalent of his study.
Grabbing a couple of albums, Lucian made himself a coffee and sat in the lounge, opening up the oldest one.
Funny how much the pictures had changed, he thought with a smile. The colour was almost pastel, casting him and Bella into a warmed glow as he stood behind her, hugging her and laughing at the camera. Both their hands cupped her pregnant stomach as she laughed up at him, her head turned to his.
As sexist as it might be, he had hoped for a boy then. He felt as if he might know more about raising a boy than a girl. A little girl would have terrified the life out of him.
Now though…he stroked a thumb over the picture, allowing himself to wonder. Bella had suffered a miscarriage between Mycroft and Sherlock but it had been far enough along that they had been told it would have been a boy too.
He shook the thought away. If that child had been born then chances were that Sherlock would not have been and he couldn't wish his youngest son away, no matter what.
A few pages along, Mycroft appeared. Both his sons had their own baby albums, filled with picture after picture of them but Lucian had always preferred these family ones. Mycroft had been such a quiet baby, as long as he was in either his or Bella's arms. Heaven help anyone who took him from them though. And he had been such a serious little soul, Lucian thought. He and Bella had laughed when their son had started to sit and crawl and they had rolled oranges across the ground for him to chase. Mycroft had watched three oranges roll by him and then had looked at them as if pained that they thought he might chase them.
He'd been promoted when Mycroft had been three, Bella pregnant. He'd been away travelling when she'd suffered the miscarriage and his father had told him to get over it. Bella could be upset if she must, but Lucian had no need to be. There would be more.
He'd been so young and stupid. His wife had needed him and he'd stayed away. The evidence was clear in the pictures as they suddenly became just Bella and Mycroft. His wife looking thinner and less vital, less confident suddenly.
It seemed so strange to realise that it was only recently that she'd started to regain that fire he'd seen in her when they'd first met.
Slowly, he started to filter back in.
The first picture in the new album was his favourite. Seven year old Mycroft with a newborn Sherlock, staring at his brother as if confused by Sherlock's presence, but curious. Bella's hand cupped Sherlock's head gently, keeping him steady.
Bella's pregnancy with Sherlock had been difficult. It had been the first time that Lucian had ignored his father properly as he had refused travel options and stayed close to home to help Bella. Twice they'd thought they might lose the baby and Sherlock had been born early, tiny.
But, ever true to form, had squawked indignantly when he'd been born. And when left alone. Sherlock had declared his boredom to the world at the age of five seconds and had whined about it ever since.
He smiled as he felt Bella come up behind him and peer down over his shoulder.
"Is this what happens when you turn sixty? You become lost in the past?"
Lucian nodded. "I don't want a party," he said suddenly, turning to look at her.
"I cancelled it," Bella agreed calmly.
Lucian smiled and gazed up at her. "I can see so many mistakes I made, looking through this. With you, with the boys."
Bella frowned as she walked around, sitting opposite him. "Mistakes?"
"Not you," Lucian said firmly, suddenly realising how it might have sounded. "Just…I wish I could have done better."
Bella watched him closely. "You hold yourself to stupid standards," she scolded. "Back in those days…our circle didn't expect fathers to spend lots of time with their children. I was the envy of all our friends because of how good you were with the boys. How thoughtful you could be. You'd look after them for a whole day sometimes-"
"Yes, not impressive these days but then?" Bella reached for his knee. "And we have a wonderful family, Lucian. Complicated and difficult at times, yes. But wonderful. I mean…Mycroft now smiles. Sherlock seems to have finally embraced his responsibilities and John has managed to not have any bad reports home from school for six whole weeks."
Unable to help it, Lucian laughed at the idea. "I suppose, for us, that is good."
Bella nodded. "I feel…" she hesitated and then seemed to draw strength. "I feel like we've finally turned a corner," she confessed. "Mycroft and Sherlock are raising John in their own bizarre way. We've aired all our dirty laundry; it doesn't feel like there's years of buried tension anymore. Sherlock, on the rare occasion, even voluntarily comes to see us."
Watching her, Lucian felt something within him lighten.
"I think…I think that's something to celebrate. Our family, getting through everything that has been thrown at us."
Lucian looked down at the album in his hands and sighed when Bella placed the most recent one on top.
Pictures of John. Looking nervous, shy and so very young. Of Sherlock starting to relax more and more, of Mycroft starting to look happier. The odd glimpse of accord between them all.
"Sunday dinner," Lucian decided. "That would be what I would want. All of us, having Sunday dinner."
"This is it?" Sherlock asked blankly as they walked into the house.
Even Mycroft looked suspicious. Between them, John looked between Lucian and Bella as if they might suddenly break into song.
"This is it," Lucian confirmed.
"And there will be another party…" Mycroft trailed off, clearly expecting one of them to pipe in.
"He isn't the Queen, dear," Bella scolded as she ushered them into the lounge. "He doesn't need two birthdays."
"And yet that never stopped you before," Mycroft murmured as they took their seats. "Is there a reason for choosing an intimate gathering over a large party?"
"I wanted a family lunch," Lucian said simply, feeling oddly amused by his son's bafflement.
"And your friends?" Sherlock asked still seeming lost.
"He's old now," Bella said as she offered Mycroft and Sherlock wine. "He can be cantankerous. People expect it."
"Aren't there like…two years between you two?" John asked, wrinkling his nose as he peered at Sherlock's wine glass.
"I'm in my fifties and your grandfather is in his sixties," Bella said simply. "I'm no-where near as old as he is."
John opened his mouth and then closed it again when Lucian shook his head.
"Besides," Lucian said as he picked up his glass. "I wanted to toast us."
Sherlock looked pained and his groan was almost inaudible. Beside him John looked curious and Mycroft gazed at the ceiling as if pleading for help.
"To my family," Lucian said, raising his glass. "For making me proud."
Sherlock pressed his glass to his forehead as if to hide from the sentimentality. Opposite Lucian, Bella raised her glass. "To our grandson," she said with a smile. "For bringing us all together."
John looked torn between pride at her words and following his father's and uncle's reactions. Mycroft glanced between the two of them warily.
"Mycroft?" Bella prompted.
With an uncomfortable glare, Mycroft twirled the glass in his hand and sighed. "To no more secrets being revealed," he said lifting his glass. Then, as if something had just occurred to him, he smiled and turned to his brother.
Sherlock glanced at Mycroft, an odd expression on his face; one of both annoyance and oddly…relief. Then he stared back at them all and pulled an annoyed face. "To…John not being in a fight for almost seven weeks."
"Hey," John yelped.
"Your turn," Sherlock muttered. "Quickly. Let's get this dreadful moment done with."
"Can I have wine then?"
"No, you cannot-"
"John?" Lucian prompted, trying to end their spat. "Your turn."
"To…" John frowned as he thought, chewing at his lip as he mulled it over. Then a slow smile crossed his lips. "To being accepted."
Lucian nodded, pleased.
"Which includes when I get in fights," John added as he took a sip of his lemonade.
Sherlock pinched the bridge of his nose, muttering something about John's intelligence. Lucian laughed as John merely pulled a nagging face and was swotted over the head for it.
"Do not hit your son while he's holding one of my glasses," Bella scolded as she got up to check on dinner.
"I thought you were toasting me," John called after her. "Surely I matter more than the wine glasses?"
"We toasted the glasses yesterday," Bella called back.
Years ago the boy in front of him would have curled in worry, bitten his lip and glanced longingly at the door.
The boy barely existed now, Lucian thought as John stuck his tongue out in Bella's direction. His grandson was confident, happy and at ease with his place in the world.
Long may it last, he thought as he stood to help his wife and left his boys to it.
December: The Best Intentions - Sherlock truly had the best intentions when it came to raising John. But those mean nothing when faced with James Moriarty.