basingstoke: Sherlock Says: WRONG (cartoon sherlock)
[personal profile] basingstoke
Title: Cartilage

Fandom: Sherlock (BBC)

Sequel to Eggcrate.

See warnings and tags at http://archiveofourown.org/works/155074

*

*

John woke up because someone was poking him. "What, Sherlock?" he muttered.

"I'm hungry," a little girl said.

John opened his eyes. Sherlock's little sister Easter was standing by the bed. "What--you--" He rubbed his eyes. "Hi," he said. "Does Sherlock know you're here?"

"No. He wouldn't wake up. Is he on drugs again?"

"No, he's just tired. We had a long week." John pulled his dressing gown from the chair and wrapped it around himself under the blankets.

Easter watched him. She had the face of one of those little-girl killers from the horror films. She'd put on some height since the last time he saw her; the sharp lines of her face were emerging from the baby fat, so she resembled Sherlock more strongly. Strands of long brown hair flew free from her tangled braids. She wore a dark plaid dress, thick black tights, riding boots, and a wool coat, all expensive, but covered in dirt.

"How did you get here?" John asked. He slid out of bed. "Is Mycroft here?"

"I climbed up the sign painter's ladder and into your window. I ran away because I'm bored. My medicine stopped working again and everything is boring."

"I'm sorry," John said. He opened his arms, offering a hug, but Easter wrinkled her nose and stepped back. "Well, I have to call your mum and let her know you're all right."

"Fine," Easter sighed. "I hate being a child." She turned and left his room. John followed her down the stairs, wondering if she was going to run out the door and make him chase her down the street in his dressing gown and no trousers, but she stopped in the sitting room and looked at Sherlock's framed insect collection. She dropped her coat on the floor.

John found his phone and rang Mrs. Holmes. Hennimore, the butler, answered. "Holmes Manor."

"Hi, this is John Watson. Easter is here with us. She said she ran away."

"Yes, sir. I'll inform the mistress."

"Right. Thanks." John hung up. "I'll make you some breakfast, Easter. What do you like?"

She looked down from the insects. "I'm bored with everything. I want something new."

"Okay." John opened the fridge and pushed aside the containers marked "TOXIC," "DEADLY," and "PARALYTIC." "We have chicken korma."

"Boring."

"Cheese and chutney sandwich?"

"Hm." Easter thought it over. "That's very common. I'll have that."

Common. Someone certainly taught the Holmes children airs. He didn't think it was Mycroft, and he didn't think it was Tammy; he had real doubts about the Holmes paterfamilias and all those nannies, though. John pulled the chutney from the door. "After breakfast we'll get you cleaned up. Your hair is a state."

"I'm going to cut it off and pretend to be a boy," Easter informed him. She pulled the ottoman over and stood on it, examining Sherlock's skull.

"Why? It seems to me like being a girl is more fun. You can do anything a boy can do, but you get to wear pretty dresses while you do it."

"I hate pretty dresses. I want to have adventures." Easter stared wide-eyed into the skull's sockets.

"Alice in Wonderland had an adventure in a pretty dress."

Easter looked at him like he'd just told her "She's fictional."

John set the sandwich on the only clear surface in the flat, the desk. "There's milk or tea."

"I'm not allowed to have tea," Easter said. She climbed down from the ottoman. "So I want tea. No, I want coffee."

"We're out of coffee. Why aren't you allowed tea?" John went back in the kitchen and checked the kettle.

"Mummy says it will stunt my growth. I think I want to be a dwarf. I think it would be interesting."

"I'm short and it's a pain in the arse. Being tall makes you imposing." John took three mugs down. Where was Sherlock, anyway? John texted him "WAKE UP."

Easter took a huge bite of sandwich. "My entire family is tall. It's boring," she said through the bread.

The kettle boiled and John took out one tea bag, made sure Easter couldn't see his hands, and poured the hot water over the bag. He immediately removed it, leaving just enough for a taste of tea, and set the bag in his own mug to steep properly. "Sugar?" he asked Easter.

"No. And no milk."

"I have to put in milk or it's too hot and you can't drink it for ages."

Easter heaved a huge sigh. "FINE. Milk."

John brought in her tea-flavored milk. "I'm going to find your brother. Don't go anywhere."

"He's in his room on the floor. He might be unconscious or dead. If he's dead, can I live here?"

"No." John walked upstairs with his tea and opened Sherlock's door. He found Sherlock on the floor with his head pillowed on his coat. His bed was full of papers pinned to the sheets.

John shook Sherlock's foot, and when that didn't rouse him, he pinched his ear. That worked. Sherlock slitted his eye open and glared. "What?"

"Your sister's here."

Sherlock sat bolt upright.

"The little one," John clarified.

"Oh." Sherlock relaxed. "Did she run away from home?" He got to his feet and brushed the carpet lint out of his hair.

"Yes. She informed me that everything is boring, she wants to be a boy, and she wants to be short. And that her medicine stopped working again."

"Mm. She's looking for a new hobby, then, and has taken up bothering me in the meantime." Sherlock held John's wrist and took a long swig from his tea.

"Does she do this a lot?"

"I did it to my brothers. Family tradition." Sherlock stripped off yesterday's clothes and put on fresh.

John watched with interest. He'd never seen Sherlock entirely naked before, only bits and pieces. "Do you regret that tattoo?" he asked.

Sherlock looked at the equation drawn on his thigh. "It was that or pulling my fingernails out, so no."

"Razor and ink?"

"I drew it with pen, cut with the razor, and then drenched it with ink to make it permanent."

"I've seen worse."

Sherlock pulled his trousers on. "As have I. Easter!" He didn't bother with socks, but ran out barefoot. John followed.

"Can I keep that?" Sherlock asked.

"Yes," Easter said. "I don't need it."

John came down the stairs and yelped, "Oh, Christ!" Easter stood in the middle of the sitting room with one of her braids unevenly chopped off. She started on the other as John watched. "Your mum is going to kill me."

"No she isn't," Sherlock said. "Mummy doesn't care about things like haircuts. If Easter wants to be bald, she can be bald."

John sighed and hoped that was right. He didn't want to be on Tammy's bad side. He had a feeling it wasn't good for his health. "Did you like breakfast?" he asked Easter.

"Yes. Nanny makes me eat muesli. It's boring. Everything is boring. I want to do something interesting, Sherlock!"

"Today I'm investigating a robbery. You can come if you behave."

"Sherlock..." John said. "We can't take a child on a case."

Easter scowled horribly. Sherlock looked at him as if he were Anderson. "Can. She's my sister. I have every right."

"She's eight!"

"So?"

"Don't be tiresome," Easter said.

John gave up. "I'll see if Mrs. Hudson can fix your hair."

"I see you got here in the back of a lorry," he heard Sherlock say as he descended the stairs. John didn't want to hear any more. He'd just have nightmares about little girls coming to bad ends.

He knocked on Mrs. Hudson's door and she answered fully dressed. "Yes, dear?"

"Sherlock's baby sister is here. I need some help."

"Oh!" Mrs. Hudson clasped her hands. "What's her name? How old is she?"

John smiled in relief and led her upstairs.

*

Mrs. Hudson not only turned Easter's crop into an actual haircut, but found her fresh underthings to wear.

And now they were off to investigate a crime. "I can't see anything," Easter complained.

"Danger of being short," John said.

Sherlock hoisted her up onto his hip, to John's surprise and possibly Easter's as well.

Donovan came in behind them with a coffee and a sandwich. She stopped, dumbstruck, at the sight of them. "You don't have a daughter," she said.

"Good morning, Sergeant Donovan. In fact I have a sister. She's looking for a purpose in life and I thought the police station was a good place to start."

Donovan said, "We're full up on Holmeses. Try next door."

"You're not very nice," Easter said.

"I'm not your nanny," Donovan said.

"Lestrade wants to see us," John cut in. He took Sherlock's shoulder and they proceeded up to Lestrade's office.

Everyone familiar with Sherlock did a double-take at Easter. Sherlock swept by them too fast for comment.

"Why are they staring? Do they all think I'm your daughter?" Easter asked.

"Many of them. No doubt a few think you're my clone."

"That's silly. Daddy is trying to clone Mycroft, not you."

"Does he have a viable embryo yet?"

"No. Daddy said he needs better facilities and a better sample. He won't say what samples he wants, though. Do you know?"

"No. I have no interest in Father's work."

"Does Mycroft want to be cloned?" John asked.

They both looked at him.

"Right, Daddy didn't ask," John said.

Dimmock turned a corner, stopped, and stared. "Sister?"

"No, I'm his clone," Easter said.

"Easter. Musn't toy with the police."

Easter sighed and rested her head on Sherlock's shoulder. "Yes, I'm his sister. When do we do something fun?"

Dimmock snorted. "Lestrade is in the main conference room." He offered Easter his hand. "My name's Leo. Are you here on a school trip or something?"

Easter shook hands with him. "My name is Easter. I ran away to see Sherlock because I'm full of ennui."

John saw Dimmock bite his lower lip, probably to keep from smiling. "Sounds awful," he said. "Is Sherlock helping?"

"No. He's my least boring brother, but we haven't done anything fun yet."

Sherlock scoffed and started walking again. Dimmock kept up. "How many brothers do you have, Easter?"

"Four."

"Four!"

"Mycroft, Elliston, Sherlock, and Darwin. But Darwin is like a baby. He can't even do as much as I can."

Sherlock abruptly dumped her off his hip and leaned over her. "How dare you speak about your brother that way?"

"Because it's true. He's a great big baby and he won't be anything else until he dies." She stared back up at him defiantly.

"You're quite wrong. You'll learn when you're older if you have half the brain you should," Sherlock said. "If you saw as much as Darwin sees, you'd never be bored." And Sherlock turned and swept along the corridor toward the conference room.

Easter frowned up at John. She held her arms up.

"Yes, fine. I'm used to being the Holmes pack horse." John knelt and gestured her onto his back.

Dimmock remained, obviously fascinated. "Do you have any sisters, or only brothers, Easter?"

"I have two sisters. Wollstonecraft is evil and Lovelace is just a baby so I don't like them much."

"An actual baby, unlike Darwin, who's autistic," John explained to Dimmock. "I like Darwin, Easter. He's not stupid."

"He's useless. He can't even play properly."

"Why is Wollstonecraft evil?" Dimmock asked.

"Nanny says she wasn't allowed a pony because she would kill it," Easter said. She thumped John with her heels. "Hurry! Sherlock is probably doing something fun without us!"

Dimmock looked at John for confirmation. John ran to catch up with Sherlock.

They found Sherlock with Lestrade in the floor's conference room as indicated. Lestrade looked up and a huge smile broke over his face. "Who's this?"

"My sister. I'm starting to regret bringing her. It seems to send the place mad."

"I didn't know you'd be so cute as a little girl!" Lestrade beamed. He reached out to pinch Easter's cheek, but she ducked away behind John's head.

"I don't look like Sherlock! His eyes are blue and mine are green. He has a snub nose and I have a roman nose. And he's ginger! You must be blind," Easter said.

"Easter! That was rude," John said.

"I'm not ginger. My hair is auburn," Sherlock said.

"It was bright red when you were little! I'm bored. I want to go look at criminals."

Lestrade stood back with his hands on his hips. "Striking family resemblance."

"Easter," Sherlock said. "Come tell me what's wrong with this picture."

John set her down and they both looked. It was a photograph of a bedroom.

"The salient context is that they've been gone for a week and they don't have a maid," Sherlock said.

John looked over the photos. Plain white walls, wood floor, signs of a break in. Rifled drawers and jewelry box. Then he saw what Sherlock saw--or hoped he did--and got excited.

"The calendar is on this month," Easter said, "but it's only the third."

"And there's a safe behind the calendar," John said. Sherlock shot him a sidelong but genuine smile.

"Yes," Sherlock said.

"There's no safe," Lestrade said.

"They told you there was no safe. Therefore, there's something interesting in the safe."

"And whoever wrote in that calendar is left-handed but using their right," John said.

Sherlock smiled again. "Now you're just showing off." He pulled his phone out of his pocket; it was vibrating. To John's surprise, he answered. "Hello, Mummy."

"How can you see that?" Easter asked.

"Yes, Mummy," Sherlock said.

"Because it's smeary ink and the writing looked like someone using their off hand, but the ink isn't smeared."

"All right," Sherlock said.

"Oh," Easter said. "Can I see a criminal now?"

"Yes, Mummy." Sherlock hung up. "We have her until tomorrow when Mummy gets back from America. Do you have any interesting criminals, Lestrade?"

Lestrade crossed his arms and looked between them. "If you can help Donovan with her case without insulting her, I'll take you down to lockup."

"And let him out after?" John asked.

Lestrade grinned. "On my honour."

"Does Donovan need help because she's black?" Easter asked.

Lestrade's smile disappeared.

"No," Sherlock said. "In fact, she's rather smarter than average. Just not as smart as I am."

"Where did that come from?" Lestrade demanded.

"Daddy said--" Easter repeated something in Esperanto that John couldn't follow.

"Father is wrong."

"But he's the smartest man in the world."

"No, in fact, he's not. Mycroft is."

Easter planted herself firmly in the middle of the room. "Why would Daddy say it if it's not true?"

"Because Daddy has closed his mind to the possibility that he might be wrong about anything. He also believes that the Loch Ness Monster is real, that Pons and Fleischman really had something with that cold fusion process, that Mummy has never had plastic surgery, and that Ell--" Sherlock stopped. He shut his mouth and breathed through his nose.

"Elliston?" Easter asked.

"Daddy is tremendously racist and he's wrong about that too."

"What were you going to say about Elliston?"

"Not a single word."

"Wollstonecraft is right! You did something to him!"

Sherlock lifted his chin. His lips were pressed white.

"Who's Elliston?" Lestrade asked.

"Sherlock's second oldest brother. I don't know a thing apart from that."

"Wollstonecraft said you murdered him and buried him in the rose garden!" Easter shouted. "I went digging there and found bones!"

"Not human. That's where Daddy buries his research monkeys. Wollstonecraft likes to tell stories about me and you know that, so don't be naughty." Sherlock reached out to take her hand.

Easter kicked him in the shin. Sherlock stumbled back against the wall and hissed.

"You killed Elliston!" she shrieked. "And I never even met him!"

"Be glad!" Sherlock shouted back.

"You're horrible!"

"So are you!" Sherlock sat down and rolled up his trouser leg. He was bleeding from the sharp edge of Easter's little boot. "My trousers are ruined."

John found a plaster in his coat pocket and bent over the small wound. Behind him, Easter sniffed loudly.

"I want to go home with you," Easter said to Lestrade. "My family is mean and I'm afraid I'll disappear." She ran to Lestrade and threw her arms around his waist, sobbing. John wasn't sure if it was real. Sherlock and Wollstonecraft could cry on cue, but Easter was only eight...

"She's shamming," Sherlock said. "She doesn't actually believe a word of it." Easter cried louder. Lestrade looked stricken.

"He said I was bad! He's going to bury me in the garden!" Easter cried. She broke out in freshly hysterical tears.

"Sherlock, what the hell is going on?" Lestrade asked. Easter clasped his hand to her cheek.

"Normal family relations for us. I suppose I should call Mycroft. She likes him better."

"Mycroft helped you kill Elliston! I'm not going with either of you!" Easter wailed. Sherlock sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Come on, love, let's go into my office. I'll get you some milk and a biscuit," Lestrade said. He led Easter out of the conference room.

John stood over Sherlock. "Sherlock."

"What?"

"What are you going to do?"

"Let Lestrade give her a biscuit."

"And then?"

"It depends on what else she accuses me of and how seriously Lestrade takes her. When I was her age, I accused Mycroft of all sorts. I was never believed because it was never true. But that was Mummy. Lestrade is more gullible."

"But you didn't accuse Mycroft of murder, surely."

"I did. And of molesting me, and of stealing Mummy's jewels. That last was my doing, actually."

"You accused Mycroft--!" John turned his back. "You utter bastard!"

"I wouldn't do it now."

"God! So you think your sister is in there telling Lestrade you're Caligula and you're just going to do nothing?"

"If I upset her further, she'll embroider the lie further. So I'm waiting."

John leaned against the table and crossed his arms. He looked at Sherlock's clenched hands and kept his own counsel.

Sherlock leaned his head on his hand. They both waited for Lestrade.

It took Lestrade around fifteen minutes to return. "I'll need a few questions answered," he said.

"Ah. She didn't get too florid, then."

"She stopped pretending to be afraid of you when she discovered the X-rays on my desk. Now she's fascinated and wants to keep them. She can't, by the way."

"That's fine. I have some at the flat."

"For the record: Did you kill Elliston Holmes?" Lestrade asked.

"No," Sherlock said. "Can I take my sister home now?"

"Yeah," Lestrade said.

*

In the taxi, Sherlock gave the directions to the British Museum instead of Baker Street. "We'll have lunch there and then see the skeletons. If you can stop telling stories about me, Easter."

"Yes, I will," Easter said.

John was amazed by how readily Sherlock let it go. It really was their version of normal, he supposed.

They started in the hall of ancient man. The bullet holes were patched over. Probably nobody but Sherlock and himself could see them. But Soo Lin... So many cases since then, and he regretted as sharply as the day it happened that he couldn't save her.

But he shoved that down and watched Easter experiencing the exhibits. Children were hope, right? The future and all that.

The future of humanity was pulling her dress up. "Easter!" Sherlock scolded. "Manners!"

"I want to see how the ribs move! I haven't paid enough attention to ribs!" She fought with her brother.

"Children are such nudists," a motherly woman remarked to him. "I can't keep the clothes on mine either."

Marvelous. Now people not only thought he and Sherlock were a couple, they thought they were married with children. John gave her a tight smile and went over to take Sherlock's side. "Here, you can see my ribs," John said. He pulled his shirt up to nipple height. "Sternum. Floating ribs. The diaphragm attaches here."

He got fond smiles from the passing ladies as Easter touched his side and compared his bones to the skeleton's. He saw Sherlock's eyes flicker hungrily over his exposed skin. Sherlock always wanted more of him.

"That's enough. I'm cold and I'm starting to feel funny," John told Easter. He smoothed his shirt back into place.

"I want my own skeleton now!" Easter whined.

"Would plastic do?" Sherlock asked.

"No!"

"Then you have to wait."

"I hate waiting!"

"The alternative is unearthing a dead body and boiling the flesh off it, which smells ghastly. Let's see if they have any interesting books."

Easter disdained the children's section of the gift shop with a brief sniff. She went straight to the thick books with leering white skulls. "John, see if you can find a reasonably accurate plastic skeleton," Sherlock asked.

"Righto."

He failed. Apparently the model makers of Britain thought human wrists were comprised of one massive bone and the lower mandible was fused to the skull inside the zygomatic arch. When he found Sherlock, he and Easter were seated cross-legged beside each other on the floor, reading with identical expressions of concentration. John took out his cell phone and snapped a picture.

Sherlock looked up, frowning. "Face it, Sherlock, you're photogenic," John said. He looked down at the pile of books between them. "I suppose Muggins gets to reshelve all these?"

"Oh no," Sherlock said. "Those are the ones we're buying."

*

"Get a Kindle next time," John groused. He set the bag of books down and rubbed his back. "Light a fire. I'm aching." He collapsed into his favorite chair, Union Jack pillow tucked into the curve of his spine.

"How much does Sherlock pay you to live with him?" Easter asked.

John frowned. "Nothing. We both pay half the rent."

"Nothing! You work for Sherlock and he doesn't pay you? That doesn't make any sense. Sherlock!"

Sherlock got a long match down to light the gas fire. "John lives with me because he wants to live with me. He doesn't work for me. It's called having a friend."

"What!" Easter's mouth dropped open. "Never!"

"Yes."

"But Mummy pays Olivia! And Mycroft pays Priscilla! And Daddy pays Devi! Why would anyone be around us without being paid?"

"Mycroft offered me money, actually, but I refused," John said. "I like being with Sherlock." Possibly the wrong phrasing, because it made Sherlock cast a look at him through his eyelashes.

Easter frowned and stepped closer to Sherlock. She examined him. "What makes you so pleasant, then?"

"He's brilliant," John offered.

"I'm useful," Sherlock said.

"Wollstonecraft only has people around her when she's having sex with them. Mummy explained sex to me but it sounds horrid," Easter said.

"I don't have sex with John."

"I shall have to study you," Easter said. She crossed her arms.

Sherlock stood and looked down at her. "Before or after you study anatomy?"

"Same time! I can do both!"

"Best to master one subject at a time, I find."

"Anatomy then."

Sherlock fetched down his skull and a file folder that proved full of x-rays. "Don't break Victor. I've had him since I was in college."

"Is he really named Victor or is that a story?" Easter asked.

"Victor Trevor, born 1852, died 1870. See the unerupted wisdom teeth." Sherlock pointed them out.

"You stole him from a cemetery?" John asked.

Sherlock smiled at him. "Liberated. He's only eighteen years old. Surely he doesn't want to stay cooped up in a marble box."

John put the kettle on. "I want some tea!" Easter yelled from the sofa. She was holding the skull in both hands, looking into his eyes.

"You still want to be short?"

"Wollstonecraft is tall and she's horrible. I don't want to be like her. Can I be short and work with bones?"

"Yes," Sherlock said. "Molly is only 155 centimeters."

"What does she do?"

"Medical examiner."

"Does she get to look at bones or just dead people?"

"Ah, quite right. Dead people. For bones, forensic anthropology."

"Will Daddy buy me a skeleton if I ask him?"

"Probably. Good skeletons are very expensive."

"Excellent." Easter turned Victor over and examined the sinuses. John made her another cup of extremely weak tea and then some proper tea for Sherlock and himself.

"Is there a bone in the back of the eye socket?" Easter asked. John handled that question, and what seemed like a thousand more, until they wore her out and she fell asleep on the sofa clutching Victor like a teddy bear. Sherlock carried her into his room to sleep.

"Come to bed with me," John said. Sherlock looked at him oddly. "When you sleep on the sofa, you wake up with a headache. Come sleep in my bed. We need to talk anyway."

"All right," Sherlock said.

They changed into pajamas and lay down together. "So tell me," John said, barely above a breath.

He could see Sherlock turn to look at him, outlined against the street light shining through the thin curtains. "What?"

"Why you killed your brother."

Sherlock's breath ghosted across his cheek. "I'm not usually so transparent."

"I've been studying you," John said.

"Elliston went by an alias. St. George Black. I suspect you've heard of him."

Oh.

John looked at the ceiling and saw nail bombs, burned out buildings, and terror. "I have."

"We excel at whatever we do," Sherlock said. His voice was very low. "I confirmed his body count as 197. He didn't give a damn about Northern Ireland. He just wanted to watch people burn."

John shivered. "Sherlock, you would tell me if you were related to Moriarty?"

"I'm not. I checked."

"So," John said. "Why do you feel guilty about the death of your brother the terrorist?"

"I turned in the evidence."

"Don't lie to me, please," John asked. "Not to me."

"John." Sherlock sighed and took John's hand on top of the blankets. "I created the evidence against my brother."

"Oh." His breath ghosted across Sherlock's cheek.

"Elliston was far too intelligent to get caught. He left nothing for anyone to find. His explosives were untraceable. He had no confederates. The police couldn't even trace his alias. They had no DNA, no prints. I had to drop a trail of breadcrumbs to his flat, then drug him so he didn't smell police and run, then plant explosives so they would have something to charge him with. But--"

"Instead he blew himself up." He knew the story from an old army mate, a man with half an ear and a faded dent in his cheek courtesy of St. George Black.

"With the explosives I planted. I'm directly responsible. I'm not sorry, but I am responsible. If I hadn't drugged him, he might have thought more clearly and survived."

John sighed and leaned his forehead against Sherlock's. "How did you drug him?"

"He kept trying to recruit me. I let him try one more time."

"To be sure," John said.

"Yes."

"How old were you?"

"Fifteen." Sherlock turned his head away. "He was my favorite brother before I found out."

John rubbed his thumb over Sherlock's hand. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not. Now I prefer Darwin, who literally cannot hurt a fly. He thinks they're too interesting. All that movement. He loves Olivia's bees. He'll watch them for hours." Sherlock shifted and ran his free hand through his hair. John smelled the faint trace of Sherlock's sweat. He hadn't washed that day, but it wasn't unpleasant. He liked the way Sherlock smelled. "Elliston said I was empty. He said that his work would fill me up. But I'm not empty, I'm full of me."

"Overflowing with personality," John said.

"Wollstonecraft is hollow. She's never content just to be. She has to run around filling herself with men."

"I maintain an active sex life is nothing to be ashamed of."

"Not the way Wollstonecraft does it."

John elbowed him. "Go to sleep and stop obsessing over your sister. That's Mycroft's job."

Sherlock scoffed. But he rolled onto his side and tucked his forehead against John's cheek.

*

In the morning, Easter examined all the take-out menus in the flat and declared they were having Korean for breakfast.

Now, John supported her over the kitchen sink as she washed her mouth out with water.

"Easter," Sherlock said. John glared at him. This was not the time for Sherlock to gloat over how he'd told her the kim chee was too hot. But Sherlock said, "Use milk. The fat molecules will bind to the capsaicin."

John took the milk from him and helped Easter wash her mouth out. Finally, he leaned back against him, sniffling and wiping her eyes. John stroked her hair. "I'm not crying," Easter said. "The chili is making my eyes water."

"Are you all right?" John asked.

"Yes. Can I have eggs instead?"

"Sure."

Sherlock ate Easter's bi bim bap while John made her scrambled eggs and toast. After breakfast, John took Sherlock's shirt off him and used him as an anatomical model. Sherlock grimaced when John prodded him with the pointer, but didn't otherwise argue.

While Easter watched John make lunch--

"Why is the broccoli greener now?"

"I don't know," John said.

"Why can't we eat grass?"

"I don't know," John said.

"Don't you know anything?"

--Sherlock rigged a metal detector. He ran it over John's side and smiled in satisfaction when it beeped at John's shoulder. "Surgical pins," Sherlock said.

"Holding my collarbone on," John said.

"Can I see? Do you have an x-ray? Can we go get an x-ray? I can't see anything with all this stupid scarring!" Easter said.

"No, no, and no," John said.

"Knock knock! How's the little angel?" Mrs. Hudson appeared at the kitchen door. "Oh, what are we doing, then?"

Sherlock listened to the whine of the metal detector over John's shoulder, looking oddly pleased. He didn't answer. "Teaching anatomy," John said. "Taking a look at my scars and such."

"Ooh, then look at my hip! It's a beauty," she said. She rolled the waistband of her skirt down, showing... a shark bite mark. Easter gasped and goggled.

"Bloody hell," John said. "No wonder that hurts."

"Oh, just some pangs, now and then." She didn't have chunks missing, as far as John could see, but she had massive triangular gouges across her upper hip and side. "He just had a bit of a nibble! I suppose I wasn't to his taste."

"Her husband's preferred method of disposal," Sherlock murmured to John. "I pulled her out of the water in time."

"You really must tell me the full story some time," John said.

"Did it hurt? Was it big? Was it like a movie shark? I think those aren't real. Did you punch it in the eye? Were you scared?" Easter asked.

"Gracious! Well, it was a bull shark, imported from Australia and kept on an electronic leash via a chip in is head," Mrs. Hudson said. John looked at Sherlock, asking with his eyes if this was true or a story for Easter. Sherlock raised his eyebrows and inclined his head. True.

"And the nasty man dangled me in a net behind the boat like chum! But Sherlock had been hiding in the equipment locker, you see, and he popped up and saved me!"

"It was great fun," Sherlock said.

"And he winched me up before the shark could get more than a taste. You could have been faster, my boy!" She slapped his shoulder.

"My apologies. My leg had fallen asleep in the bin." Sherlock kissed her cheek.

"All's well that ends well. I'll bring you up some scones."

"Lovely," Sherlock said.

"Did you punch the shark?" Easter asked Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson pottered downstairs.

"No," Sherlock said. "The shark was a victim. I let it go."

"The shark was a victim!" Easter cried, incredulous. "It was a shark!"

"An animal acting according to its nature isn't criminal."

"Oh." Easter frowned. "But Daddy says the lower classes act according to their natures and they are criminals."

"Father's a very stupid man in some very important areas."

"This isn't fair! You and Daddy should say the same things!"

"But I'm smarter than Father," Sherlock said. "Believe me and hold what he says in reserve until you consult me." Sherlock looked at the ceiling. "Or... I suppose... consult with Mycroft."

Easter scowled. Sherlock's phone rang and he looked relieved. "Hello, Mummy."

Easter looked at John, then took Sherlock's hand and leaned against his arm as he talked to their mother. She sighed hugely.

"Yes, Mummy." Sherlock hung up. "Mummy's landed at Heathrow. She's on her way with the car."

Easter rested her cheek on Sherlock's sleeve and said, "I want to stay here with you."

John smiled, touched, but Sherlock didn't. "No. We don't have room or time. You can't run from boredom. You have to overcome it."

Easter grabbed Sherlock's shirt and tugged, shouting, "No! It's horrible! There's never enough to do!" She yanked on his shirt hard enough that John heard stitches pop.

Sherlock seized her wrists in his hands. "Don't ruin my wardrobe just because you can't cope with life." Easter screamed wordlessly and kicked at him, hanging off Sherlock's grip. "You're doing better, at least. You used to be much worse," Sherlock said.

Easter twisted and bit him, making Sherlock wrinkle his nose. John lurched in and grabbed her around the torso to pull her away from him. "Hey! You're a Holmes, not a bull terrier," John said, which just made Easter bite him too. He dropped her.

"I hate you! I hate everyone!" Easter screamed. She ducked past John and raced up the stairs. John rubbed his hand; she hadn't drawn blood, but it damn well hurt.

"Are you all right?" John asked Sherlock.

"Yes. But--John, she's going for the roof!" Sherlock whipped past him as well, eating up the floor in a few quick strides. John ran after him hot on his heels. Sherlock dashed into the hall and nearly caught his sister's boot as she wriggled up into the attic crawl space. Sherlock jumped, caught the brim of the square hole in the ceiling, and squirreled up after her.

Tactics. John raced back down the stairs, out the front door, and grabbed the ladder away from the sign painter next door. "Oi!" the painter yelled, and then "Oh, fucking hell," as he saw Easter sitting on the roof tiles. John clambered up the ladder. He saw Sherlock straddling the peak of the roof.

"Easter, however dire things seem, they'll be that much worse with a head injury," Sherlock said.

"If I had a head injury, you'd like me the way you like Darwin!" Easter stamped her feet. She was just sitting on the slates, her slight body held up by friction. If Sherlock went after her, they'd both topple. If she climbed back up, she might fall. If she slid back towards John, she might knock over the ladder. Damn children anyway.

"Easter," John called up. "I like you regardless."

"But I can't live here!"

"You can visit, but only if you don't fall."

Easter stomped wordlessly.

"Easter! Mummy is going to be furious."

"Good!"

"We're not going anywhere until you come down," John said.

"I'm going to live up here! I'll drink rain and eat pigeons!"

It would be funny if she weren't in such danger. John could hear someone, probably the sign painter, on the phone with 999. "--a little girl on a roof. Next door to 223 Baker Street." He heard traffic slowing and people talking.

Then a woman's voice, cutting easily through the murmurs with her Texas twang. "Is that Easter up there?" It was Mrs. Holmes. Mummy. Tammy.

"Yes ma'am!" John called back.

"Baby girl! That is enough."

Easter turned over reluctantly. She crawled back up the roof on hands and knees. She didn't fall.

"I have her!" Sherlock called down. The people at the bottom of the ladder applauded. John climbed back down and shook hands with the sign painter. Mrs. Holmes took his arm and kissed his cheek.

"I'm terribly sorry. She just--" John started.

"Oh, I know, sugar." Mrs. Holmes squeezed his elbow. She'd arrived in a limousine, John saw, parked on Baker Street--how had she ever found a parking space? Olivia stood beside it. A stern-faced woman was driving. "Sherlock did the same thing when he was little, except he fell off." Mrs. Holmes swept him inside, past Mrs. Hudson, who looked ashen, and up the stairs.

Sherlock held Easter in his arms, possibly against her will. Easter was swinging her feet fretfully. "I'm not sorry," Easter said.

"No, but you're on punishment for two weeks," Mrs. Holmes said. "One for running off and one for scaring your brother."

"He's not scared! He hates me!"

"I don't," Sherlock said. He and Easter looked at each other impassively.

"Now get whatever's coming home with us. We can't delay dinner," Mrs. Holmes said.

"Just these. I'll carry them down." John picked up the bag of books.

Mrs. Hudson climbed the stairs behind them. :"Oh, my stars! What a naughty girl!"

"Mrs. Hudson, this is Tammy Holmes," John said hastily.

"Oh, Sherlock's housekeeper! Take good care of my boy." Mrs. Holmes shook Mrs. Hudson's hand. Her diamond bracelet glittered in the hall light. Mrs. Hudson looked frail next to Mrs. Holmes's buxom curves.

"She does," John said.

Mrs. Holmes held out her hand. Sherlock set Easter down and Easter went to her mother. John escorted them downstairs with the books. The crowd had dissipated by the time they got to the road. Nothing more to see. Mrs. Holmes tucked Easter into the car with Olivia, then turned to John.

"Now. I'm glad my boy has a good, strong man like you to love him, but he just doesn't know what's good for him." She leaned in. "Give him a little brandy and show him, eh?" Mrs. Holmes kissed his cheek again, pinched his--what! Pinched his nipple!--and got in the limo.

John returned upstairs with spinning head and throbbing nipple. Mad, all the Holmeses, absolutely mad. Sherlock took one look at him and retreated behind a chair. "Did my mother tell you to get me drunk and molest me?" Sherlock asked.

John nodded.

"Please don't," Sherlock said. He stood behind the armchair as if John were going to shuck his trousers and chase him around the room.

"Do I really have to assure you that I'm not about to take you against your will?"

"Things have a way of changing once Mummy says the word," Sherlock said, but he relaxed slightly.

"I'm not the Manchurian Candidate just yet."

But Sherlock just looked at him. "She told you about the time I climbed the barn and broke my leg, didn't she?"

John nodded.

"I wanted to go to school with Elliston. I wanted to be like him."

"You're not."

"Of course I'm not." Sherlock flung himself into the armchair he'd been hiding behind. He drew his knees up into brooding position.

John let his breath out, finally. "Cup of tea?"

"Desperate for one."

Mrs. Hudson started up the stairs. "Well, boys, wasn't that lovely? Doesn't it make you want one of your own?"

"No," John and Sherlock said together.

the end.
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