Title: The Voice in Counterpoint
Characters: Sherlock, John, Abby, Sarah, Gladstone
Warnings/Triggers: brief swearing
Word Count 2,897
Summary: A case is interrupted by John's family, and Sherlock doesn't mind as much as he thought he would.
Author's notes: Written for a request of Sherlock's POV on being part of John's family. It has taken me four attempts, but I think I have it now. One day I won't have to write eight thousand words before I find the ones I need.
Set in the same 'verse as 'Otitis Media' and 'Christmas Future' (both uploaded here). Set after the latter, by a few weeks.
"Your wife is here," Sherlock said. He listened more closely to the tread on the stairs. "With your daughter." He sniffed. "And food."
"That is the best thing anyone has ever said," John declared. He raised himself from where he was hunched over case photos and stretched backwards, his spine crackling. His knees did the same when he stood up from the floor. "Christ. I'm getting too old for this."
"You say that every case," Sherlock said.
"Well, I'm not getting younger," John said.
"I just meant you're still here," Sherlock said. "So, clearly you enjoy the work more than you dislike the crepitus in your joints, and should just shut up about it."
"That's probably valid," John admitted. "But don't expect sympathy when you get older."
Sherlock decided a break might be useful at this point, to give his brain a chance to process the new information he'd learned. John be would distracted anyway. He stood up as well, earning a snort of protest from Gladstone, who had been lying in a void in papers with his nose pressed to the sole of Sherlock's foot.
Sarah arrived, fresh from work and the child minder's and a pseudo-Greek restaurant's take away counter, in that order. Abby toddled at her side, clutching the owl toy Sherlock had bought her for Christmas. He was oddly pleased by how much she enjoyed it.
"Greetings weary detectives," Sarah said. "How's the case coming along?"
"Slowly," John said. He kissed her warmly, and then crouched down to where Abby had wrapped herself around his leg. "There's my girl! Hey, sweetie! How are you?" He hoisted Abby into the air, raising above his head with a 'whoosh' noise, before settling her on his hip. "Have you been a good girl for Mummy?"
"Daddy!" Abby said, kissing him on the cheek. She pointed to Sherlock. "Cha!"
"Yeah, that's Uncle Sherlock," John said. "Did you want to say hi? Wave!" He waved at Sherlock. Abby opened and closed her hand several times, until Sherlock felt obliged to wave back to make her stop. "There we go."
"I come bearing dinner," Sarah said. She set down the bags on the coffee table."I hope you haven't eaten yet. I thought we could have a makeshift family meal. It's been a bit."
"Sorry about that," John said. "This case is impossible."
"No, it's not," Sherlock said, annoyed. "Stop saying that. No solution is impossible. It's just difficult to find at the moment. You shouldn't have ordered for me, I won't eat."
"I didn't," Sarah said. "This is their idea of dinner for two. We always have leftovers for days."
She retrieved plates and silverware from the kitchen, then started unpacking the bags. John did a semi-waltz around the living room, cooing to Abby and making her giggle.
Gladstone hurried to the kitchen, and emerged carrying his bowl in his mouth. He bumped it against Sherlock's ankle, and wagged his tail expectantly.
"Yes, all right," Sherlock said.
He went to the kitchen to get the kibble, Gladstone hot on his heels.
John had acquired the dog, an odd bulldog/beagle/terrier mix, during the period he (sarcastically) referred to as "The Hiatus", and brought him to Baker Street once he moved back in. Then, when John had moved in with Sarah, he'd taken Gladstone with him but claimed he was 'unhappy', so he was returned to 221B after a few months. John and Sherlock now shared a sort of informal joint custody, the dog moving between homes when one or the other visited. Gladstone didn't seem to mind, and was, apparently, 'happier', once the arrangement was put in place.
Sherlock scooped out the kibble, and Gladstone put his bowl on the ground so Sherlock could drop it in. He left him to eat, returning to the living room. John had put Abby on the floor now, and she was toddling around, exploring. She started to pick up the papers from the floor, and Sherlock hurried over to stop her.
"Those have an order," he said. "Stop that." He took the papers from her and put them back in place.
"Ennn!" she objected. She squatted down and picked up another piece of paper, then held it out to him. Sherlock took it from her, and she clapped her hands together. "Yay!"
"This is not a game," Sherlock told her. He put the paper back, and plucked her up under her arms, depositing her on the other side of the coffee table.
"Stop!" she said.
Sarah and John were both laughing. Sherlock glared at them, which only seemed to make them laugh harder.
"I'm sorry," John said. "It's just, I love watching her get to you. You're the smartest bloke in the world, and my 20-month old knows just how to set you off." He sobered up to give Abby a stern look. "Abby, it's not nice to take other's things."
"Oh no!" Abby said, solemnly.
"That's right," Sarah said. "You come and sit down and leave Uncle Sherlock to be cross by himself."
She led Abby by the hand to the edge of the coffee table, and put a plate of food in front of her: cut up into pieces Abby could easily pick up. Abby selected a piece of chicken and stuck it in her mouth.
"Miam, miam," she said.
"Good girl," Sarah said.
"She seems more vocal than she has been," Sherlock noted.
"Yeah, she's been chatty lately," John agreed. He added to Sarah, "Sherlock was fussing about her speech development."
"I was not fussing," Sherlock objected. "I said that she seemed very quiet for someone of her age. It was an observation."
"She's pretty much right on target for her milestones," Sarah said. "Every child learns at a different rate."
"I wasn't fussing!" Sherlock said.
She and John exchanged smiles that annoyed him to no end. He ignored them.
Overall, he found it interesting to track Abby's development, more than he was concerned about it. She was the first human he'd been able to watch grow from her first hours, and it was rather fascinating to see her go from nondescript infant, to a toddler with a developing personality. Knowing her parents made him able to see how their genetics played out. She had John's nose and Sarah's eyes, was slightly undersized, like both her parents, and favoured Sarah's longer limbs versus John's squat stature. She had an attentive, quiet personality, and seemed content to entertain herself most of the time.
"She's been more talkative since you got her that owl," John said. "It talks and she babbles back."
"Thanks for that, by the way," Sarah said. Her tone was very sarcastic.
"I've been thoroughly lectured on the downfalls of toys that make noise," Sherlock assured her. "Though, I still maintain that you could simply remove the batteries."
"We do that, but then she just acts like it's died," Sarah said. "And she wanders around pressing the buttons, looking mournful. We always put them back in."
"We are terrible parents," John noted.
"I know," Sarah said, with a laugh. She gave Sherlock a scrutinizing look."Your hands are shaking. When did you last eat?"
Sherlock looked down and found his hands were trembling quite badly. And, now that he thought about it, his knees were a bit weak. He often found the feeling of impending doom that came with low blood sugar rather conducive to clear thought, but as it was always followed by loss of consciousness, it was short-lived and not particularly helpful in most situations. He took the plate of food Sarah held out and sat down to eat it.
"I had a sandwich from Speedy's," he said.
"That was two days ago," John said.
"Oh," Sherlock said. He didn't understand how people kept such strict track of time.
"Eat the vegetables, not just the carbs," Sarah said.
"I'm not a child!" Sherlock complained. He ate a carrot to appease her.
"Good boy," Sarah said.
He gave her a simpering smile. She served John and herself, then settled down on the couch to eat, her foot playing with John's on the floor.
Sherlock had found that in most relationships, be they family or romantic or platonic, there was a rhythm to the conversation. If people liked one another, the rhythm was smooth and consistent. If they didn't, it was jarring and off-balance, like limping footsteps. Even if he couldn't hear the words or the people were speaking a language he didn't understand, if he listened to the rhythm, he knew whether or not they liked one another. When new people entered the conversation, the rhythm sometimes altered, either getting out of sync, or adapting to include the new person.
The conversation in the Holmes family had always been allegro, words and banter moving fast and lively. His parents never showed much physical affection to each other, but he always knew they got along by how consistent the rhythm was, so that he could tell it was them, even if he was several rooms away and could only hear the buzz of voices.
John and Sarah had a similar rhythm to the way they communicated. Not as fast, a more leisurely andate scherzoso. Sherlock knew when John was on the phone with Sarah, even if he ignored the stupid smile and relaxation of his shoulders. He recognized the rhythm. They started it up now, chatting about Sarah's day at work and how the case was going.
In general, Sherlock could mimic a rhythm and insert himself smoothly into a conversation to put a person at ease, or play a part. He knew how to modulate his pace and tone to get information. He found, though, when he was included in discussions with John and Sarah, he didn't have to find the rhythm, he fit into it naturally. Maybe not in harmony; more in counterpoint, but he didn't throw off the beat. He added a new element to it.
"Where's Mrs H?" Sarah asked. "I knocked on her door to see if she wanted to join us, but she didn't answer."
"She's on a date," John said.
"No!" Sarah said. "Really? Good for her. Who with?"
"This man we met during a case last month," John said. "He was very smitten with her, and we convinced her to let him take her out."
Sarah looked to Sherlock. "What's he like?" she asked.
Sherlock assumed she was looking for precise details if she was asking him."Widower, early 80's, former architect, very well-to-do," he said. "Good education, in reasonably good health, replaced right knee, happily married for several decades. His wife has been dead for approximately ten years. Illness, I think."
Sarah turned to John now. "Is he nice?" she asked.
"He seems to be," John said.
"He's not after her for any nefarious purposes," Sherlock added. "Nor is he inclined to cheat."
"Good," Sarah said. "Good for her."
Gladstone rejoined them now, sitting down next to Abby on the floor. She held out a carrot, and he took it very gently from her. She patted him on the head, and he licked her face, making her giggle.
"Puppy nice," she said. "Sh'luk!"
Sherlock frowned. "Was... was that my name?" he asked.
"Yeah, we've been working on names," John said. "She doesn't see you enough to really connect yours, though, so she sort of uses it like an interjection."
"Or a swear word," Sarah said. "Which is how we usually use it."
"Ha," Sherlock said. "Aren't you going to correct her?"
John shrugged. "She'll figure it out eventually. You can try, if it bothers you."
"It doesn't," Sherlock said.
In truth, he felt a bit...something that she was trying. Maybe proud? He wasn't used to feeling proud of people; he wasn't sure if he knew what it felt he was disappointed, or annoyed. Whatever it was, it wasn't unpleasant.
"Was there a Mr Hudson?" Sarah asked. "Or is Mrs just a courtesy title?"
"There was," John said. "Sherlock had him killed."
"I did not," Sherlock objected. "I merely saw that he was put in a position to be executed. It's entirely different."
"Mmmhmm," John said, sceptically.
"So, not a nice man, then?" Sarah said.
"He was a sociopath," Sherlock said.
"A real one, or a pretend one like you?" John asked.
Sherlock glared at him. "He was, as your wife put it, 'not a nice man'. Mrs Hudson doesn't like to talk about him, so I suppose that means we should respect her wishes, or something."
He finished eating, and returned to his work. He wasn't sure what it was about putting oneself on the floor that attracted animals and children, but within thirty seconds, he had both Abby and Gladstone hovering around him.
"Go away," he said, to both of them.
Gladstone turned in a few circles, and lay down with his flank pressed to Sherlock's back, facing the stairs to defend the flat if required. Abby lowered herself sit on her knees next to him, looking very seriously at the photos, as though she planned to work on the case. She watched him picking up the photos and papers to look at them, and did the same, raising a paper to her face, then putting it down when he did, or handing it to him.
"John!" Sherlock said, giving him a beseeching look via the mirror over the fireplace.
"She's just trying to help, Sherlock," John said, smirking.
"She's not succeeding," Sherlock said.
He waited, but Sarah and John looked to be enjoying his suffering too much to offer aid. He would have to distract her himself. He turned around and pulled open a drawer in the coffee table. Gladstone snorted again at being disturbed, and hopped up on the couch next to Sarah.
"Here," Sherlock said, grabbing a variety of office supplies and putting them on the floor. "Amuse yourself with these."
Abby crawled over to investigate. She quickly found the stapler quite interesting, and began to repeatedly depress it, making delighted noises as she did.
"Sherlock," John said, a warning in his voice.
"There are no staples in it," Sherlock said. "It's fine."
He returned to his work, pushing the 'ker-thunk' of the stapler to the back of his mind, and half-listening as the rhythm of John and Sarah's conversation started up again, throwing in his comments in counterpoint as required. It made for an interesting symphony. Especially once Abby realized that smacking a ruler against the coffee table made excellent homemade drums.
After they were done eating, John and Sarah went to do the washing up in the sink. Abby took her ruler to the kitchen to bang on some pots Sarah put out for her. Sherlock didn't particularly care for this movement of the symphony. Neither did Gladstone, who put his ears back and hid under the coffee table. Sherlock imagined they were both grateful when it ended.
"All right, I'll let you get back to work," Sarah announced, when the dishes were all in the drying rack. "Are you going to be home tonight?"
"Errr..." John said, glancing over to the spread of papers.
Sarah smirked. She leaned forward and whispered something in John's ear that even Sherlock's hearing didn't catch. The tips of John's ears turned pink, and he muttered something about 'looking forward to that'. Sherlock resisted a childish urge to pretend to gag, or tell them to get a room.
"Do you want to say goodbye to Uncle Sherlock?" Sarah said, to Abby. "Let's say goodbye." She blew a kiss in his direction, and Abby copied, with a 'mwah!' sound and 'bye-bye'.
Sherlock refused to blow a kiss. If he'd ever done it in his life, which he couldn't remember, it would have been ironically. He settled on wiggling his fingers at her instead. "Yes, goodbye," he said.
John walked Sarah and Abby down to the front door, returning several minutes later with that stupid smile on his face. His 'family' smile. "Thanks for putting up with that," he said.
Sherlock shrugged. "Breaks are good for reanalysis. They let the brain work in the background," he said."And being with your family gives you energy."
John groaned as he sat down on the floor again. "Does nothing for my joints, though," he said. "Fuck. Okay. Connections between Harris and Delmar..."
Gladstone came over and settled down in the void in papers where he had been before the interruptions, hooking his chin over Sherlock's foot. Sherlock gave him a few pats on the head.
In truth, the interruptions weren't too much of a burden. Sherlock had assumed that John having a family of his own would make him unreachable and distracted and useless. In fact, it made him calmer and more content, which in turn made him a better investigator. Sherlock hadn't been abandoned so much as adopted into the family, and he didn't mind that. He was content to be the voice counterpoint and to be Uncle Sherlock.
Provided they all went home when he was tired of them.