Characters: Sherlock, John, OC, Donovan
Summary: Sherlock is left in the same room as Lestrade's five-year-old daughter for about fifteen minutes.
Fill for this prompt from sherlockbbc_fic.
Note: Because she is fantastic, blienky27 drew Emily's portrait of Sherlock according to the description from the original fill on sherlockbbc_fic! According to her, since Sherlock never told Emily his age, she guessed.
Lestrade’s child is five years, seven months old and leaning on her elbows over a piece of A4, crayon in hand, humming. Sherlock is understandably put off by the situation. Donovan knew the girl was in here when she pushed him into the room and told him to wait. He imagines her now, smiling to herself in the smug way she has, taking as much time as possible with the files he needs. He imagines her imagining him trying to fight away a five-year-old insistent on plaiting his hair.
He is honestly surprised. He rather thought Donovan feared he'd dissect a child, given the opportunity.
The girl is sitting with her short, chubby legs curled under the staff room coffee table, just in front of where Sherlock sits with his body held unconsciously away from her. Her humming is distracting. The faint squeak of the crayon on the paper is distracting. From what, Sherlock is uncertain. Perhaps from the very mechanisms involved in respiration.
She drops the brown crayon and lets it roll away across the table. It teeters perilously at the edge while she selects a light blue from the large box before her. They are all mismatched, he notices, entirely out of order; forest green sits beside rose red sits beside indigo. No pattern. All slipped back into place without care, or perhaps with great haste. It’s difficult to tell whether the randomization and the colorful smudges along the cardboard rows are the result of a child who cares very little for the things she owns, or one who is shepherded rapidly from one place to another and given no time to gather her belongings in the proper way.
She picks up the piece of A4, looks at it for a moment, cocking her head first one way and then the other, then twists her body around at the waist to look at Sherlock. “Do you want to see my picture?”
“Not particularly,” Sherlock mutters.
She smiles and holds it up anyway. There is a very thin man with remarkably swollen hands. There is a line of dark green at the bottom on which everything seems to rest, apart from the man’s right foot, which dips down below the line as though it has been swallowed by the Earth. Everything above the line is covered with wide swaths of blue drawn back and forth from many different directions.
Sherlock assumes he is supposed to give some sort of praise. Instead, he draws his mobile from his pocket.
“D’you know who it is?” the girl prompts, scooting closer to Sherlock on her knees, until she is sitting directly at his feet, her chin at the level of his patella.
He sighs. “I have no idea.” He looks through his messages. Nothing new, and no one to bother presently.
“It’s you!” she cries, delighted, jabbing the paper closer to him, as though proximity would help him identify the stick figure with dark hair and round, sightless eyes.
He glances at the paper, then back at his phone. “It doesn’t look like me.”
She turns it back around and looks at it for a very long moment. Sherlock is almost certain he has efficiently ended the conversation and will no longer be bothered. Then she drops the paper into her lap and sits back on her heels. “I’m Emily,” she says.
“We’ve met.” There is absolutely nothing to look at on his phone, and yet he is still staring at it, as if doing so will make someone text him announcing a triple homicide for which his urgent assistance is required. “When you were three. You vomited on my coat.”
She laughs. It annoys Sherlock. Children are allowed the strangest reactions in social situations. If Sherlock was informed that the last time he’d met a person, he had vomited on them, and he proceeded to laugh at that information, there would be awkwardness, perhaps physical violence. Emily had the freedom to laugh and expect nothing but his scowl in return.
“What’s your name?” she asks. She latches her hands onto the fabric of his right trouser leg, looking up at him, expectant.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sherlock tells her. “Let go of my trousers.” Sherlock scans the room. It’s as though everything interesting has been emptied out of it in preparation for his having to distract himself from this persistently annoying presence. Not a book, not a television – not even a women’s fashion magazine, where at least the level of emaciation in the models is more engrossing than Lestrade’s child.
“What’s your naaaaaame?” Emily asks, over and over again, pulling hard on his trouser leg at every stressed, extended syllable, smiling because she knows she’s annoying him and she’s enjoying it.
“Fine!” he shouts, pulling his leg under the chair and away from her. “Sherlock. My name is Sherlock Holmes.”
“Sherlock,” the girl repeats. “My daddy talks about you sometimes when people from work come over.”
“I’m certain he does,” Sherlock mutters.
“How do you spell it?”
“Your name,” she says, as though he is being deliberately slow. “I want to put it on your picture.”
Sherlock rests his arm on the arm of his chair, then his head on his hand. He closes his eyes. “If I tell you how to spell my name, I expect you to sit quietly at the table and leave off bothering me.”
The girl turns to the table and scoots back to it, then picks up the black crayon. “Spell it.”
Sherlock sighs. “S - H - E - R - L - O - C - K.”
She falls quiet. There is once more the squeak of crayon on paper. Sherlock lets out a long, silent breath and relaxes back into the chair, his head tipped against the wall behind him. At last. Silence. No doubt now that Donovan is drawing out the amount of time he needs to spend in this room with this frustrating child. She is probably informing half of Scotland Yard of his current location, drawing up the security footage of the break room, recording it for posterity, forgetting which files he demanded in the first place.
“How old are you?”
“Oh, for--” Sherlock sits up and leans forward, irritated. “What does it matter? I told you to be quiet.”
She grins, her eyes traveling over his face, and he is absolutely certain he looks ridiculous. Flustered and loud over a child. She turns back to her paper, but continues talking. “When you write somebody’s name down, you’re supposed to write their age, like in the newspaper. I’m--”
“You are five years, seven months, fourteen days and six hours old,” Sherlock murmurs, hunched down in his chair, petulant.
She turns her head, eyes very wide, eyebrows at about the level of her hairline. “How d’you know that?” she asks, almost breathlessly.
“I’m magic,” Sherlock says with sarcasm, waggling the fingers of both hands at her.
She seems remarkably pleased at this revelation. She turns back around to face him fully, and Sherlock realizes too late that he has now created a monster which will be difficult to kill. “Are you like Harry Potter?”
“Am I like who?” The name is familiar, but it doesn’t connect to anything immediately in his mind. Some children’s icon, at any rate, something about magic, and he is absolutely certain the girl would be more than willing to explain in great, rambling detail.
“Harry Potter!” she shouts. “He’s a wizard! He can do spells and fly on a broom and things. I thought all wizards knew about Harry Potter. He’s famous!” She stops, suddenly, and a shadow falls over her face. She brings a hand up to her mouth, a self-comforting gesture, probably only weaned away from thumb-sucking within the last year. She stares at him with kindling fear. “Are you a dark wizard?”
What in the name of God is this child talking about?
The door opens then, and John enters, like some sort of cardigan’d savior. “Oh thank God,” Sherlock breathes.
“Sherlock?” John asks, eyebrows raised. “I was looking for you. Donovan said you’d be--” He stops, catching sight of the girl sitting in front of Sherlock. “Oh,” he says. And he smiles. “Hello. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
The girl stands up and hurries over to John, then takes his sleeve and pulls to bring him down closer to her. He bends over, looking earnestly interested in whatever she has to say, and Sherlock can’t help but watch the careful change of expressions on John’s face as the girl whispers in his ear. They are exaggerated, for her benefit, even though she can’t see them, and Sherlock can see the brink of laughter just approaching, kept away only by sheer force of will. When she finishes, she looks at John expectantly, and John looks over at Sherlock.
“I don’t think he’s a dark wizard,” John says, tilting his head as though examining Sherlock closely. “Do you?”
“He sounds like Snape,” she whispers loudly.
Another wave of hilarity sweeps over John’s face before it is quickly concealed. Sherlock wonders who Snape is, and whether this will be the theme of teasing around the flat for the next few days. Or until he hides ten frozen rats in John’s bed. That tends to curtail mockery rather nicely.
“Snape’s a good guy, though, right?” John asks. “He saves Harry loads of times. And why would a dark wizard be hanging about with the police?”
The girl considers this. She watches Sherlock, taking him in, almost eerily intent on understanding him, knowing whether he is good or bad. Sherlock likes her for a moment, then. He likes the level of thought behind her eyes. He likes the careful way she seems to weigh John’s point.
“All right,” she says finally, and smiles. “He’s good, then.” She looks up at John. “You’re right. My daddy wouldn’t let dark wizards in here.”
“Of course not,” John agrees easily. “I’m John.” He holds out his hand.
“I’m Emily.” She takes his hand and pumps it up and down, almost throwing John off-balance.
Sherlock hides a brief grin behind the lapel of his coat, hunched low as he is in his chair.
“Who’s your dad, then?” John asks when he’s regained himself. “Does he work for Scotland Yard?”
“This is Lestrade’s spawn,” Sherlock yawns from the other side of the room.
“That’s Detective Inspector Lestrade to you, Sherlock,” John says, and the girl smiles.
“My daddy’s the boss of everybody!” she says cheerfully.
“Well, he’s certainly the boss of a lot of people,” John says, amused and a little awkward. “Sherlock, was there a reason you were waiting in here?”
“Donovan has been arranging the paperwork I need for the last fifteen minutes.”
John smirks. “She set you up to be trapped with a kid.”
“It was mildly inventive for her.”
The door opens again, and Donovan stands there, a few file folders tucked under her arm. “Sorry about that,” she says, grinning, not sounding sorry in the slightest. “Bit tricky to find, these ones. How was the wait?”
“Lovely,” Sherlock says. He stands, pulling his scarf back around his neck. “Give me the files, Donovan.”
She rolls her eyes, but hands the files over when he walks to the doorway. He glances through them, making certain they are the correct ones. Names and dates all right. He lowers them and looks back at John. “Come on,” he says, then starts off down the hall.
He hears John saying goodbye to Donovan. Then, a little louder, saying goodbye to the girl, saying he was pleased to meet her, how he hopes to see her again soon. Sherlock can’t hear the child’s reply, is already waiting impatiently at the corner for John to hurry up and join him, looking at his watch, thinking about the current case, the files in his hands, the many thousands of connections in them.
John is halfway down the hall toward him when the girl shouts from the doorway, “Wait!”
Both Sherlock and John turn. She disappears into the room again, then runs back out and down the hall, stopping in front of John and shoving a piece of paper at him. “You have it,” she says.
“For me?” John asks. He looks at it. Sherlock can see that he is smiling from the pull of his jaw, even from behind. “It looks just like him, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” she says. She leans around John to stick her tongue out at Sherlock. “Next time I see you, I’ll draw one of you, okay?”
“That’ll be great,” John says. He holds out his hand. “Thank you very much.”
“You’re welcome!” She enthusiastically shakes his hand again. Then she runs back to the room, to Donovan standing in the doorway, expression somewhere between a smirk and a smile. When the girl goes inside, Donovan follows, and shuts the door behind them.
John turns and starts once more walking toward Sherlock, carefully tucking the drawing into his pocket. “She got you just right,” he says as he joins Sherlock at the corner and they continue on.
Sherlock sighs. “Should I expect more of your ridicule?”
“I wouldn’t doubt it.” John looks back over his shoulder, as though he can still see the room. “What’s she doing here, anyway? Lestrade’s not off for a while. Does her mum work, too?”
“Her child-minder is ill,” Sherlock said, sounding bored. “Lestrade wouldn’t bring her to work with him unless he had no other options. Her mother died in childbirth a few weeks after I met him.”
John stops in the middle of the hallway. Sherlock does, too, and looks back over his shoulder, questioning.
“Sorry,” John says. He shakes his head and starts to move again. “It’s just, I didn’t know. It’s a shame.”
“It is what it is,” Sherlock says. He repositions the files under his arm and presses the button to call the lift.
John frowns, annoyed. “I’m sure Lestrade appreciated your view on it.”
Sherlock looks at him, his expression neutral. “It may be the only reason he trusts me.”
The lift opens, and they step inside.
It is four in the morning, and Sherlock hasn’t slept. Will not sleep, until the case is behind him. Sleep is a useless, extended interruption of thought. The need for it annoys him, like most basic needs, and he knows he will fall prey to it eventually. Now, though, all he needs is the blood sample chilling in the refrigerator.
The need for sleep is obviously less abhorrent to John. Sherlock slips down the stairs to find John in the lounge, sitting in an armchair, his neck rolled to the side at an angle which will no doubt ache come morning. Sherlock could shake him awake, could send him upstairs with an empty, biting comment, but the effort isn’t really worth it, when John will wake up annoyed and uncomfortable and unable to fall back to sleep in his own bed. Better to leave him where he is, to let him pay for his mistake in the morning instead of right now, with his light snores filling the dark room.
There is a book on the floor by his feet, tumbled out of his hands, and Sherlock slips closer to read the cover. He is a bit pleased when he sees it is one of his own. The fact that John fell asleep reading it doesn’t take away from the fact that John attempted to read it at all. He picks it up, checks the page, and puts it on a table. Then he goes to the kitchen.
It is lit only by the muted orange glow of the lights in the back alley through the window. Sherlock steps around the table and heads for the refrigerator. He pulls it open.
Something flutters to the floor.
Brows furrowed, he leaves the door open and leans down to retrieve the object. Paper. Folded once. The edges of the folds split the page in halves and quarters. He brings it into the light.
The drawing. He’d forgotten about it, obviously. With the other, staggeringly more important things on his mind, it had slipped away. He looks at it now, in the light of the refrigerator; what was apparently his own likeness, all straight lines and blue and black. The swollen hands. The careful coloring within bounds. Crayons worn down and blunt with use.
It is the latter, he realizes, looking closely at the picture. He’d wondered earlier, seeing the brutal blend of colors in the girl’s box of crayons, whether they indicated a child who cared little for her belongings, or a child who cared very much for them, but who was rushed to move at a moment’s notice.
Her father’s job holds strange hours. She is shipped from place to place, whomever is able to take her. Whatever hour. Asleep, awake, at play. She is interrupted.
And John had hung her drawing on their refrigerator.
Sherlock rolls his eyes toward the ceiling, a smile touching his lips. It had been a whim, probably. He’d been in the kitchen and reached into his pocket, felt the picture, saw the magnet and made the connection. It might have been to annoy Sherlock. That was likely at least half of it. He would find it in the morning, and he would shout, and John would laugh.
Instead, feeling strange – feeling, perhaps, forbidden, clumsy, impractical – feeling childish, Sherlock shuts the fridge and puts the picture back. Two mismatched magnets at the top two corners. Quite secure.
“I knew it,” John says from the doorway.
Sherlock turns. He frowns, annoyed. “Were you lying in wait for me?”
“Not really,” John says. He’s smiling, his eyes still half-asleep, draped against the doorjamb like he can hardly hold himself upright, but he still looks pleased. “You conveniently woke me up. I knew you cared about that kid.”
Sherlock huffs. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc.”
“After it, therefore because of it. You assume my affection is for the child.”
“You hung her picture back up on the fridge.”
“I don’t know her,” Sherlock says, exasperated. “I’ve met her twice since she was born.”
“Then why?” John asks. He is honestly curious. No trace of smugness, now, no trace of humor. He stands a little straighter in the doorway, honestly wanting to know why Sherlock would give in to sentimentality for a moment. Sherlock finds himself as close to embarrassment as he believes he can come.
He looks away. “Her mother,” Sherlock says. “I liked her mother.”
John frowns. “I thought you only knew her for a few weeks.”
Sherlock looks back at him then, with his own honest surprise. “Do you really think it took me more than a few weeks to like you?” he asks.
John looks briefly pleased and startled by the honesty in the question. He clears his throat. “I’m sorry, then,” he says. “I didn’t mean to--”
Sherlock waves the apology away. “I was upset by her death, but it was useless, so I stopped.”
“I understand not many people are capable of that,” Sherlock says wryly, his lips twitching. “But, yes. I stopped.”
John frowns. “Doesn’t look like you’ve done a very good job of stopping.” He gestures to the drawing on the fridge.
Sherlock turns to look at it for a moment. Then he sighs. “I stopped enough,” he says. He looks at John. “Go to bed. And stop trying to provoke emotional responses from me.”
“We’ll see,” John sighs. He pushes away from the door and turns to go. But then he stops. “I’d wondered,” he says, without turning, speaking very carefully, “I’d wondered why you didn’t just leave her. When Donovan left you in that room. I wondered why you didn’t go looking for her and leave Emily by herself.”
Sherlock is caught out without a prepared response. He watches John for a moment, feeling deeply uncomfortable, deeply ridiculous, as though he has been caught in some ludicrous act. Which he supposes he has. He attempts a shrug. It comes out nearly acceptable. “Donovan was supposed to be watching her,” Sherlock says. “And there will be no talk of me being a nanny.”
John looks over his shoulder, grinning slightly. “Not from me,” he agrees. “But I should expect some of it from the police, if Donovan has any say.”
“Go to bed.”
“Going,” John says. He crosses the lounge toward the door. “Please try to sleep at some point.”
Sherlock doesn’t answer. He looks at the drawing in the weak orange light from the alley. Thick lines, bright colors; it was done by a strong hand. No eye for detail, yet, but he saw the way she looked at him that afternoon; the open stare, doing nothing but taking him in, making a decision. He liked it in her. Her mother was a bit like John, he knows; she was the sort of person who seems to understand the way he works, to appreciate his strangeness, to be annoyed but not entirely put off by it. The sort of person who keeps close, and fails to judge, and fails to be afraid. He met her five times, but he liked her in five minutes, and that never happens. Then she died, and he was no worse for it. Not really.
He taps the picture once, thoughtful. Then he opens the fridge, takes his blood sample, and walks out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
John is sleeping with his bedroom door half-open when Sherlock passes. He pauses briefly there to peer inside and see John sprawled over the bed, uncovered, clothed and snoring again. A smile once again quirks the edges of his lips. Sentimentality, he thinks. Childishness.
If John were to die, Sherlock would be worse for it. And he supposes that might be some sort of progress.
He closes John’s door and walks to his own room.
He turns on the light and sets to work again.