Title: Cold Case Day
Characters: Sherlock, John, Sarah, Abby, Mrs Hudson, Molly, Lestrade, Gladstone
Summary: Abby Watson turns two years old. Sherlock Holmes attends her birthday party.
Author's notes: Set in the Abby 'Verse (Christmas Future, Otitis Media, The Voice in Counterpoint, Perfect, Decent Proposals, all uploaded here)
"... and so, the motive is clear, but there was no one with that motive, so it can't be the motive, but there was no other possible motive. It must be here, somewhere."
Gladstone huffed, and put his chin on his paws. Sherlock gave him an absent pat on the head while he looked over the cold case files sellotaped to the fireplace. He was sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table, and Gladstone was lying next to him, pore to pore despite Sherlock's attempts to push him away.
Mrs Hudson's tread sounded on the stairs. Gladstone's tail waved back and forth in anticipation. She was limping again. Almost time for another cortisol shot for her hip. Sherlock kept telling her she didn't need to come upstairs all the time, but she did it anyway.
"Sherlock, you're not dressed!" she scolded.
"Excellent observation," Sherlock replied.
"I wish you wouldn't make such a mess with your papers," she said.
"Don't touch them!" Sherlock warned.
She sighed and put her hands on her hips. "It's time to go," she said.
"Go where?" he asked.
"It's Abby's birthday today," she said. "You said you'd come to the celebration."
Sherlock frowned. "Didn't she just have a birthday?" he said.
"Not since last year, dear," she said. "Go and get dressed properly."
"No, I'm certain I bought her a present," Sherlock insisted. "I know I did. What was that for?"
"Christmas," Mrs Hudson said.
"Is that right?" Sherlock said. "Maybe. I thought her birthday was in the spring, anyway."
"It is the spring, dear," she said.
Sherlock looked out the nearest window at the weather. It did seem to confirm that hypothesis. "Oh," he said. "Well, I'm busy. Give my regrets."
"You aren't busy, you're making a mess," she said. "Go and get dressed."
Sherlock sighed. He weighed the various consequences of failing to comply with Mrs Hudson's orders, and how John would react if he reneged on his promise, and whether or not that would be worse than attending the celebration. John was very sensitive about his child. It was probably best just to go. He got to his feet and went to change. Mrs Hudson was waiting at the front door for him. So was Gladstone, his leash in his mouth and his tail wagging enthusiastically.
"Very well," Sherlock said. "Go ahead, Mrs Hudson. I'll walk over. I need to stop at a cashpoint, anyway. I suppose some sort of present is required."
Sherlock unclipped Gladstone's leash, and the dog bounded into John's home, baying joyously.
"Hey, mate!" John said, bending down to greet him. "Hi! Hi! Yes, hello. I saw you yesterday, don't act like I've been neglecting you. Hey, Sherlock."
"Hello," Sherlock returned. He thrust Abby's present towards him. "Here."
"This is an envelope full of cash," he said. "Are you hiring me as a hitman?"
"It's your daughter's present," Sherlock explained. "I had little notice."
John leafed through the notes, frowning. "This is too much, take some of it back," he said.
"Keep it. I'll forget something else that's important to you," Sherlock said. "Consider it an advance."
"It's too much," John repeated.
"Money isn't a problem," Sherlock said.
"It's not one for me, either," John said. "I don't need it."
Sherlock wished people would state their true objections upfront, so he didn't have to stumble around blindly, trying to pacify what he thought was the problem, when it turned out to be something else entirely.
"It's not a comment on your financial situation," he said. "I forgot her birthday; I didn't have time to get a present. I always received money for my birthday. If you don't want it, I'll take it back, but you're being unreasonable. I thought I was supposed to be some sort of uncle figure. Isn't this what they do?"
John sighed. "Yeah. Fine," he said. "But we're putting it away, and don't buy me anything else this year."
"I can guarantee that I won't," Sherlock said.
John grinned. "C'mon, we're all in the living room," he said.
"I can't stay for long," Sherlock said. He found it best to set a time limit on a social visit, so he could get out quickly when he'd had enough.
"That's crap," John replied. "It must be Cold Case Day by now. You have nothing to do."
Sherlock glared at him. "What do you mean 'it must be'?" he said.
"Two weeks since our last case," John answered, smugly. "Your thaasophobia always kicks in about now, so you drag out the cold cases to try to find something to distract you."
Sherlock sometimes regretted sharing his methods with John. He didn't like having them thrown back at him. "Stop using that word. It's not accurate," he said. "I don't fear boredom, I simply dislike it."
John snorted. "C'mon," he said. "Give me an hour and I'll let you off the hook. It'll kill some time."
Sherlock followed him into the living room. He hadn't liked the sound of 'all', but it seemed to consist only of Mrs Hudson and Molly, aside from the rest of the family. No one Sherlock would have to try to behave 'properly' around.
Abby ran over to him when he arrived. She'd become much steadier on her feet since the last time he'd seen her. He couldn't remember when that was.
"Hap' Bir'day!" she said, throwing her arms wide before she wrapped them around one of his legs.
"It's not my birthday," Sherlock told her.
"We're still working on the whole birthday concept," Sarah said. "She's been saying that to everyone we've seen today. What's this?" John handed her the envelope with Abby's present in it. Sarah let out a whistle. "Christ, Sherlock, the blackmail payment isn't due until next week." Sherlock glowered at her, and she grinned back, placing the envelope on top of the pile of presents next to the sofa. "It's very thoughtful, thank you. Sit down."
Sherlock reached down and gave Abby a pat on her head before using the sash of her frock to detach her from him. She stumbled back, but his grip held her up until she found her footing again. She clapped her hands together, seemingly for no reason, and turned her affections on Gladstone, who had more patience for them than Sherlock did.
He sat down next to Molly on the love seat. She'd had her hair cut: a neat bob around her chin. She seemed to be self-conscious about it.
"You look older," he told her.
She appeared to take this as an insult, though all he meant was that it suited her better than the childish persona she tended to cultivate.
"It's nice," he added, and she beamed at him.
"I just wanted a change," she said. "So I told them to do whatever they wanted, and this is what they did. I was a bit shell-shocked, but I'm starting to like it."
He nodded, and let her chatter to him, though he didn't take most of it in.
Abby attacked Gladstone, who seemed not to mind. She pulled on his ears, and hugged him around the neck. He licked her face, making her giggle. John eventually dissuaded her from that, and she moved on to be spoiled by Mrs Hudson.
"Does anyone want coffee or tea?" Sarah asked.
Everyone put their orders in. Molly offered to help, and sprung up to assist. Sherlock took the opportunity to give himself some more room on the loveseat. Both he and Molly had scrunched themselves up against the arms so they wouldn't touch each other.
"Take your coat off, stay a while," John said.
Sherlock shrugged his coat off and dropped it on the floor.
"Sherlock, go and hang it up!" Mrs Hudson scolded. "And you should have removed your shoes. You're ruining Sarah's nice, clean living room."
"Don't worry about it, Mrs H," John said. "We mostly just dumped things down the hall so no one could see them."
"You weren't supposed to tell them that!" Sarah called, from the kitchen.
Sherlock kicked his shoes off, and put them on top of his coat. Mrs Hudson was too busy fussing over Abby to take notice of him.
"These are Abby's hands, and those are Abby's feet, and this is Abby's tummy," she cooed, tickling her until she giggled. "And this is Abby's nose." She placed a kiss there. "She's such a big girl now. Two-years old!"
"Is she two now?" Sherlock asked.
"Yes," John said. "Today, in fact. Why, how old did you think she was?"
"I don't keep track," Sherlock said. It didn't seem a long enough time for her to have been alive for two years, although he often only remembered her existence when John spoke about her.
"Do you know how old you are?" John asked.
Sherlock tried to cast his mind back to the morning's papers for the current year. "Thirty-...nine?" he guessed.
"I can't believe you had to think about that," John said. "Do you even remember your birthday party?"
"I remember being force fed a fairy cake and everyone making jokes about impending middle-age," Sherlock said. "Is that to what you're referring?"
John shook his head. "Do you know when anyone's birthday is?"
"No," Sherlock said. "Birthdays aren't important. It's not as though anyone does anything to be born. Why are we celebrating Abby? If anything, we should be celebrating the fact that Sarah successfully—"
John raised a hand. "Stop," he said. "Think about what you were going to say. Think about the fact that we are talking about my wife." Sherlock opened his mouth to continue. "Think."
"I don't know what's wrong with me talking about it," Sherlock said. "You managed to procreate, I assume you know what body parts she possesses."
"Think," John repeated.
"Yes, fine," Sherlock said. "You see my point at any rate. Birthdays have no value. They just take up room in my hard drive."
"Your Uncle Sherlock is very cynical, isn't he?" Mrs Hudson said to Abby."Yes, he's a very grumpy man."
Molly and Sarah returned with the drinks, and a plate of snacks and desserts. Molly handed him his coffee, and hovered around, looking unsure about sitting down. He refused to stuff himself into the corner again. She perched on the edge, her body tensed up. Finally, she slid to the back and sat properly. Their knees touched. She seemed to find this awkward, and a moment later she put herself on the floor to pet Gladstone.
"Let's do presents," John said. "Lestrade said he might be by later, and not to wait for him. He's wrapping up a case."
"Well, we already know Uncle Sherlock bought Abby a university education," Sarah said, putting the envelope aside. "Let's see what other presents you have, sweet girl." She transferred Abby into her lap, and handed her a present. "Do you remember how to do this? You were pretty good at Christmas."
Present opening was a good chance to practice deductions. Judging from the size and expense of the presents from Abby's maternal grandparents, it was obvious they were divorced and trying to outdo each other.
Molly's presents were in equal parts practical and sentimental, as befitted the role of godmother. There were clothes, and also a little charm that seemed to be a tradition. Sherlock gathered it went on some sort of bracelet that Abby could wear when she was older.
Mrs Hudson had crocheted an afghan, made up of a multitude patches, each one a different pattern and colour scheme. It had the same disregard for proper cohesion that the walls of Baker Street did, but, like at home, managed to work together in an eye pleasing arrangement. She'd obviously put a lot of effort into it, but was unwilling to admit to it.
There were toys from Sarah's siblings, and some sort of ornate rocking horse from Mycroft. Sherlock didn't understand why Mycroft felt the need to give Abby presents. He rarely saw her. He suspected that Mycroft was attempting to provide compensation to John for being Sherlock's friend, and since John wouldn't accept cash, he did it in the form of presents for his child.
"Do you want to put it together?" John asked.
"I can," Sherlock said.
John handed him the box and Sherlock sat down on the floor with it. John looked over the instructions to see what tools he would need.
"God, this looks like something from IKEA," he said.
"I'm good at reading those," Molly said. "I'll help Sherlock."
She scooted over to sit next to him, taking the instructions from John. Apparently sitting beside each other was acceptable in a work situation, but not a social setting. Gladstone sniffed the pieces thoroughly, before picking up one of the leg pieces and walking away with it.
"Drop," Sherlock commanded. The piece fell to the floor. "Retrieve." Gladstone picked it up again and returned it. "Go and sit down." Gladstone went to sit on Sarah's feet, looking abashed.
"Wow, he's good," Molly said. "It must have taken ages to train him."
"It only took twenty-six hours," Sherlock said. "I was bored and had consumed an admittedly unhealthy amount of caffeine."
"That's not even the most impressive thing, either," Sarah said. "Gladstone: distraction."
Gladstone got up from Sarah's feet and began to limp around the living room, whinging. He traced a path around to Sherlock, and fell over on his side, whimpering softly.
"People like to help dogs," Sherlock explained. "He'll play injured until I've completed what I need to, unseen. Gladstone, up."
Gladstone leaped back to his feet, and wagged his tail.
"What a good boy!" Molly said, petting him. "Such a smart doggie."
John returned with the tools needed, and Sherlock and Molly set to work, falling into the sort of rhythm they had when they worked together at the lab. Abby wiggled until Sarah set her down, and then she came over and started stealing pieces as well, but only to hand them to Sherlock. She would squat down and pick up a piece, hold it out until he took it, then wait until he put it back on the floor, and do it again.
"Abby helping," she said. "Good girl."
"I don't need that piece yet," he told her, when she handed him the handle for the forth time in a row. "You're not helping. Bad girl."
"She's trying," Molly said. "Can you give it to me?" Abby picked up the piece and put it into her outstretched hand. "Yay! What a smart girl! High five!"
Abby slapped her hand against Molly's. "Molly!"
"That's me!" Molly said, flushing with pleasure. "Has she worked out your name yet, Sherlock?"
"I've no idea," Sherlock said.
She turned Abby around and pointed to Sherlock. "Who's that, Abby? Who's that there? Is that Sherlock?" Abby mimicked her pointing, but didn't seem to understand the question. "Yeah, that's your Uncle Sherlock. Let's wave at him. Wave at Sherlock."
Molly waved. Abby opened and closed her hand at him.
"Wave back, Sherlock," Mrs Hudson said.
He wiggled his fingers at her a few times.
"Yay!" Molly said. "See Sherlock waving at you? Who's that?"
"Gamma," Abby said.
"No, Gramma's over here," John said, pointing to Mrs Hudson. He explained to Molly, "'Mrs Hudson' is a bit long, so we went with something shorter."
"Aww, that's sweet!" Molly declared.
She and Mrs Hudson beamed at each other and Sherlock resisted the urge to vomit.
Molly kept attempting to teach Abby how to identify people, which kept the child distracted and away from Sherlock's work. However, by the time he had the rocking horse put together, he was sick of the sound of his own name—especially in the high-pitched squeak Molly was saying it.
Thankfully, Lestrade arrived before Sherlock lost his patience entirely, and everyone's attention was drawn to him while he was greeted. Except for Abby, who hid her face in Molly's shoulder.
"Hey now, you know Greg," Molly said. "He's a very nice man. See how much Gladstone likes him?"
"That's because he smells like the butcher's," Sherlock said. He twisted to get a look at Lestrade.
Two days on a case, four hours of paperwork, missed lunch, culprit apprehended, not interesting.
"I will never eat steak again," Lestrade said. He crouched to pet Gladstone. "I didn't know I needed to bring a present for Sherlock, too. You're a bit big for that horse, mate."
"Ha," Sherlock said, humourlessly. "I'm assembling it for Abby. My brother's present for her. Hence the ostentation."
Lestrade came over to give Abby her present. She whimpered and fled to Sarah.
"Are you being shy?" Sarah asked, pulling Abby into her lap. "Hmmm? He's brought you a nice birthday present. Look, it's Angelina. You like Angelina. See?" She held out her hand and Lestrade brought the present over. It was a mouse cuddly toy, dressed like a ballet dancer. "Can you say hi? Say hi to Greg! Wave!" Sarah waved at Lestrade. Abby hid her face again. "Sorry, Greg."
"No worries," Lestrade said. "Happy Birthday, Abs."
He moved to sit on the loveseat. Sherlock put the finishing touches on the rocking horse, which included real leather reins and an inlaid ebony saddle. Whichever assistant had chosen it had expensive, if impractical tastes.
Everyone started doing that thing that Sherlock hated at social gatherings, where they all spoke to each other, but not as a group. They spoke over and under each other in pairs, or trios, breaking off and rearranging into new pairs and trios, the topics switching and weaving in and out like some sort of off-key symphony. Sherlock cared very little about what was being said, but he couldn't turn off his mind and there were too many signals and shifts in body language, so that it all became too much of a cacophony in his head and he felt twitchy and awkward.
He stood up and went to the kitchen for more coffee, taking his time while he made it, and then staying in there to drink it. Sarah arrived after several minutes, with the empty cups.
"You okay?" she asked.
"Yes," he said.
She rinsed the cups out in the sink. "Thanks for coming," she said, while she worked. "It means a lot to John."
Sherlock gave her a shrug.
"Harry was supposed to come, but she bailed on us this morning," Sarah went on. "He's acting as though it doesn't matter, but it does. Thanks for not bailing, too."
Sherlock shrugged again.
"We're going to do the cake now," Sarah said. "And then you're free to leave."
"I'm free to leave at any time," Sherlock said. "I'm not being held at gunpoint."
She narrowed her eyes at him and waggled her eyebrows. "Don't be so sure," she said. She retrieved the cake from the refrigerator. A homemade one, simply decorated. She stuck a candle shaped like the number two in it, and lit it."I'm going to bring out the plates and silverware, can you bring the cake?"
He obliged. Molly sat on the loveseat with Lestrade now, and John had moved to the couch with Abby. Sherlock took the cake out and sang along with the badly off-key chorus, setting the cake down on the coffee table. Abby looked very suspicious of it. She kept looking to John for reassurance.
"Daddy what?" she asked, pointing to it.
"That's for you," John said. "You have to make a wish and blow out the candle. Go like this." He demonstrated, and Abby puffed her cheeks out. "Good girl. Let's blow out the candle. One, two, three!"
The candle went out with a puff of John's breath, and everyone clapped. Gladstone sniffed at the cake, hiding under the table after Sarah told him to get away.
The commotion of the cake cutting gave Sherlock an excellent opportunity to slip out to the front hallway. He belatedly remembered his coat and shoes were in the living room, and he couldn't figure out how to retrieve them without attracting attention. He could forgo the coat, but shoes really were necessary. He'd resigned himself to stay when John came around the corner holding both items, Gladstone trotting behind him.
"You'll probably need these," John said.
Sherlock took them and put them on.
John looked at his watch. "65 minutes, not bad," he said. "Thanks."
Abby arrived with icing on her face, beaming up at her father. "Miam miam!" she said, holding out sticky hands to John. She noticed Sherlock, and held out her hands to him. "Miam!"
"Uncle Sherlock is going, Abs," John said. "Say goodbye!"
Abby toddled over and tilted her head back to look at him. She wrapped her arms around Sherlock's leg and steadfastly refused to let go until he crouched down to her level to pry her away.
"Bye!" she said. "Sh'lock!"
"Hey, she got it!" John said. "Good job, Abs."
Abby put her very sticky hands on Sherlock's cheeks and patted them several times to ensure he was as sticky possible. She put a wet kiss on his nose with a loud 'mwah!', then turned and ran back to the living room. Gladstone quickly took her place to lick the icing she'd left on Sherlock's face.
"I believe I have earned a reprieve from at least the next two gatherings," Sherlock said, pushing Gladstone off and straightening up.
John's attempts to hold in his laughter were largely unsuccessfully, but he managed to agree to the terms. "Do you want some cake to go?" he asked.
"I think I've had enough, thank you," Sherlock said, chuckling now himself. He found it very hard to keep a straight face when John started laughing that hard.
"Better go before Mrs H comes at you with a napkin," John said.
Sherlock shuddered at that thought. He looked down to Gladstone. "Staying or coming?" he asked.
Gladstone pulled his leash from the hook at the door, and wagged his tail. Sherlock bent down to attach it, and gave a goodbye to John before taking Gladstone home.
Once he was home and cleaned up, he settled back in to look at the case files. Gladstone placed himself next to him on the floor, and inched closer and closer until he was right up against him. A short time later, Sherlock's mobile beeped. John had sent a video file to him. He opened it up. Abby appeared on screen, on her rocking horse.
"Hey Abs, what's your horsie's name?" John's voice asked, in the background.
"Sh'lock!" Abby said.
Sherlock rolled his eyes, but seemed to be smiling as well. He texted John back to 'thank' him for sharing, and put the phone away.
"So, as I was saying, before we had to go through all that rigamarole," he said to Gladstone. He found it useful to talk aloud, and Gladstone was as good an object as any to direct the conversation. "The motive has to be here somewhere..."