Word count: 1907
[This chapter takes place about a year after Season 4 of blessed memory.
(To start from the beginning, click here.)
“Come back to Baker Street.”
Sherlock blurted out the sentence without warning, and John frowned. They were in John’s living room and John had been talking about Rosie and the upset stomach she’d had yesterday. He’d been complaining about how he had spent all night cleaning up vomit and worse, and then Sherlock came out with what seemed to be an irrelevant instruction. John sighed quietly, assuming that Sherlock was bored with talk about babies and domesticity.
“Got a case, then?” he asked a little tightly.
“No.” Sherlock looked uncomfortable. “I meant, move back to Baker Street. Come back and live there again.”
John stared. Sherlock wasn’t meeting his eyes; he was perched on the front of the sofa and was fiddling awkwardly with a loose thread on the blanket draped over its arm.
“Why ...” John swallowed. “I mean, you know I can’t.”
“Why not?” Sherlock asked quietly, still not looking up.
“Why not?” John asked, fury starting to bubble up inside him. He paused and forced himself to apply the lessons he had learned during the anger management course he was three-quarters of the way through. Why was he feeling anger? Was he angry at himself, or at the person who had started the feeling of anger? Reluctantly he admitted to himself that, in an ideal world, he wanted to go back to the place he still thought of as home, but it simply wasn’t possible and therefore Sherlock’s suggestion was upsetting him. It wasn’t specifically Sherlock’s fault that John’s rage was rising and so he shouldn’t take it out on him unless it later transpired that Sherlock was deliberately provoking him. Right now, that was unlikely. If anything, Sherlock was simply being thoughtless.
“Look,” he said, forcing himself to stay calm. “It’s not practical. That flat would be a death trap for Rosie. There are stairs everywhere and the bedrooms are on a different floor to the living room and the kitchen. And the kitchen’s a disaster area at the best of times. Jesus, Sherlock, the stuff you keep in the fridge – imagine once Rosie can reach high enough to open the door and take stuff off the shelves!”
“Child gates,” Sherlock said.
“What?” John asked.
“Mrs Hudson and I have had workmen in, fitting child gates at the top and bottom of each flight of stairs,” Sherlock said, still not looking up. “Even if you don’t come back permanently, you can visit more often and bring Rosie with you because there’ll be child gates keeping her away from the stairs. Also, the workmen attached child locks to the fridge and on all the cupboard doors in the kitchen, the bathroom and the living room.”
He looked up briefly at John, then his gaze skittered away and he stared towards the window. His tone was uncertain.
“The spare bedroom next to yours is being redecorated and made child-safe,” he continued. “Again, even if you don’t move back, you could stay over sometimes if you want to, or Mrs Hudson could babysit if we have to go out on a case and Rosie could sleep upstairs. The furniture is arriving on Thursday. Mrs Hudson and Molly helped to choose it.”
“Sherlock ...” John said, shocked, but his friend appeared to have got the bit between his teeth and pressed on.
“I’ve talked with Mrs Hudson and she realises that she’ll never get round to sorting out the basement flat and renting it out. She’s agreed that I can have it, can get the damp sorted out and can convert the kitchen into a lab. The living room and bedroom down there can serve as storage rooms for my equipment and anything else that Rosamund shouldn’t have access to. The bathroom’s already fit for purpose. When I’m working I can shut myself down there and stay out of her way. At the same time the upstairs areas will be child-safe. She wouldn’t be in any danger.”
John’s eyes were wide and his chest was tightening with hope and excitement. Sherlock kept talking.
“I realise that there’ll be times when having a child in the flat will be irritating, but once I’ve got the basement to retreat to, it shouldn’t be a problem. It really would be more convenient for all of us. It wastes time when I have to come all the way out here or you have to travel to Baker Street when I need your assistance on a case. The primary schools near me have better standards than the ones around here, and Regent’s Park is just over the road for somewhere for her to play and get fresh air. I’m sure I can persuade Mycroft to increase our security cover so that Rosie is monitored at all times. You moving back into the flat would be convenient for all of us.”
“And that’s the reason you want us to move in, is it, for the convenience to you?” John asked.
Sherlock fidgeted with the blanket. “Mrs Hudson misses spending time with Rosie,” he said.
“And ...?” John prompted.
Sherlock grimaced. For a moment John thought he wouldn’t answer but then Sherlock said softly, “I miss you.”
Only in soppy romantic fiction do people feel a warm glow spreading through their body. Despite that, John felt a warm glow spreading through his body. Almost as if he could sense it, Sherlock scowled at him.
“Don’t think for a moment that I’m starting to get sentimental, John,” he said. “It’s just more practical ...”
“I know you kept the teddy bear,” John said abruptly.
He hadn’t meant to blurt it out, and now he and Sherlock fell silent. Eventually John cleared his throat.
“I saw it in your wardrobe when I was clearing my stuff out of the flat,” he said uncomfortably. “I know, I had no reason to go in your room but ... well ... you know .. I wasn’t thinking straight back then.”
“You gave me a gift,” Sherlock mumbled. “It would be rude to dispose of it.”
“You sat it on the shelf,” John said.
“Yes, but ...”
“You sat it on the shelf,” John repeated pointedly.
Sherlock raised his head and looked John in the eyes for a long moment before he eventually said softly, “Yes.”
Things were beginning to feel awkward, and John felt it was time for a little levity. He also needed a distraction from the original topic of conversation.
“Of course, you realise that it’s the law to give a teddy bear a name?” he said nonchalantly.
“Is it?” Sherlock asked.
“No,” John smiled, “but it ought to be.”
“It has a name,” Sherlock said, not meeting his eyes and looking – in John’s opinion – adorably sheepish.
“Seriously? You gave him a name? What is it?”
Barely opening his lips, Sherlock mumbled five syllables.
John giggled. “You’re going to have to tell me so that I can actually hear it.”
Sherlock drew in a breath through his nose and, still mumbling but with a tiny bit more volume, said, “Saint Bartholomew.”
Only in soppy romantic fiction do people’s ... Anyway, despite that, John’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open. Sherlock looked anxiously at him.
“I thought it seemed appropriate,” he hurried to explain. “I thought that, because you bought it ...”
“Sherlock,” John interrupted softly, “I understand the reference. Thank you. It’s a great name.”
Sherlock smiled a little. “She can’t have it,” he said.
“What?” John asked.
“Rosie. If she sees it, she’ll want it. I’ve seen her with other teddy bears. I saw the way she protested when she was playing with Mrs Turner’s granddaughter and wanted her teddy bear, and Mrs Turner told her she couldn’t have it. Clearly Rosie is a born arctophile.”
“She’s a what?!” John asked.
“An arctophile. Someone who loves teddy bears,” Sherlock explained. “I’m sure she’ll acquire many of them as time goes by. If you do move back ...” his eyes flickered towards John for a moment, and John could see the hopefulness in his expression, “... Rule One will be that she never goes in my bedroom.”
“Good luck with that,” John retorted. “If she starts living with the world’s only consulting detective, how long will it be before you teach her how to pick locks?”
Sherlock grimaced, but there was also a slight smile on his face. John continued.
“You’ll have to make the locks on flat C totally unpickable except by a genius,” he said. “Maybe you should move Bart the bear downstairs where she can’t get at him?”
“His name is Saint Bartholomew,” Sherlock said pompously.
“I do beg his pardon,” John said, then grinned.
Sherlock returned his smile, then looked at him more seriously. “What do you think?” he asked. “Would you consider it?”
“Oh, Jeez ...” John stood up and walked away across the room, his mind racing. He turned back and looked at his friend.
“Are you sure you’ve thought this through properly?” he asked. “I mean, you’re doing everything to make the place safe for Rosie, but Sherlock, she’s a kid. She’ll be noisy, and she’ll be unwell at times and want attention, and she’ll be having hissy fits at other times, and she’ll interrupt you all the time when you’re trying to concentrate, and as she gets older she’ll be talking and distracting you and she’ll want help with her homework when you’re trying to think ...”
He broke off when he saw Sherlock begin to smile. He laughed briefly.
“Yes, all right, I know that sounds just like you, but maybe that’s the problem. If we come and live with you, you’re going to be responsible for helping to bring her up and teach her how to be a rounded human being. You can’t just escape to the basement whenever she’s pissing you off; it wouldn’t be right.”
“I know it will be a responsibility,” Sherlock admitted, “and I won’t always get it right. But I’m prepared to try.”
John walked closer. “You have to do more than try,” he told him worriedly. “Please, Sherlock, I’m really tempted, but if it all goes wrong and we have to move out again, it’ll kill me. You need to be sure that you can cope with both of us living in your home.”
“Our home,” Sherlock said quietly. “It would be our home.”
He stood up and looked into John’s eyes.
“I’ve thought about this for some time,” he told him. “It isn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. I discussed it many times with Mrs Hudson before we called in the workmen; I talked about it with Molly; I even discussed it with Mycroft – you can imagine what his reaction was – and I’ve imagined every possible way it could go wrong. But I’ve also imagined the ways it could go right.”
He hesitated, then committed himself.
“I think we belong together, John,” he said. “There’s nobody else who could tolerate me and care about me like you do. And I know that she’ll drive me mad sometimes, but I am very, very fond of Rosie, and I’m not just willing to live with her, I want to live with her. I want to live with both of you.”
John blinked against the prickling feeling in his eyes. Sherlock stepped a little closer and looked at him pleadingly.
“Will you come back, John?”
He held John’s gaze, and then asked the question which he really meant to ask.
“Will you come home?”
On to Chapter 4