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Title: Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Sherlock - 3/4
Rating: PG
Pairing: Sherlock/John friendship
Word Count: 3,795
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to Auntie Beeb and Uncle Moff; Sherlock Holmes belongs to the world.
Crossover: Harry Potter
Warnings: none
Thanks: Many million thanks to my brilliant beta/Brit-pickers, [info]bethia, [info]ilovewales, and [info]katead - all lingering mistakes are just me being awkward.
Summary: The day after John recovers from Molly's de-aging potion, Sherlock decides to repeat the experiment on himself. Things do not go quite as planned.

Notes: This story is a continuation of sorts to [info]alice_day's marvellous fic When the Bough Breaks, which I liked so much that my muse decided I had to write a sequel.

Previous chapters here and here.

Personal Blog of Dr. John H. Watson

John leaned back in his chair, re-reading what he'd just written. Bit flowery in places…he didn't know why he'd used a word like "differential", other than he'd just heard Molly and Mycroft both use it earlier in the day. He wasn't going to post this of course, not in a million years, but it might be nice to have in his own private file. For when Sherlock was back to normal.

The Care and Feeding of Your Consulting Detective

1. Never let him get bored.
2. He likes to be held but not cuddled. Likes being tickled and having his back rubbed.
3. Oral fixations are normal at his age. If he wants to suck on something, let him. (Just don't put gin on it.)
4. He doesn't trust food. Eat some yourself first if you want him to take a bite. Spoon-feed him if you have to.
5. Natural fabrics only. Sinthetics will provoke a tantrum.
6. Try not to let him get frustrated. He's a super genius and a child all rolled up into one. His mind is light years ahead of his body, and the differentiale must be torture. Be patient.
7. Be patient.

John looked up. A noise from the sofa had caught his attention. He pulled his chair out, following the noise and peering over the back of the couch to see what was up.

Sherlock was. Or rather, he wasn't. John had left him there on the cushions, calmly reading bits of Primary Botany, Level One propped up on the sofa arm. But it was well past ten pm now, and the noise John had heard was the sound of Sherlock's curly little head bumping against the open book as he nodded sleepily, trying to stay awake.

"Oh, mate…sorry, the time got away from me." With a start, John realised that in all the confusion of the day, he hadn't even put Sherlock down for a nap. The poor kid must be exhausted.

He closed the book, lifting Sherlock up onto his hip. The toddler's fussy little squawk of protest was so much like the noise that any normal tired, cranky baby would have made that John knew Sherlock really must be sleepy. It was almost endearing. Later on, when the adult Sherlock stayed up for several nights running to solve a case, John would remember the drowsy little headful of curls nodding against the textbook.

"Shh-shh-shh-shh." John rubbed Sherlock's back, gliding effortlessly into the slow gentle rocking-a-baby-to-sleep dance that seemed to be instinctive to the species. Sherlock grumbled, but for once, did not scream. He frowned. The hazy, troubled look on his face suggested there was something important that he had forgotten.

"I'll tell you what you forgot, mate, you forgot to fall asleep. Your idiot flatmate didn't give you a nap today. Bad John. Silly John." He danced and shushed, turning in slow circles, gradually feeling the toddler grow heavier in his arms. A tiny sigh wisped through Sherlock's nose. It felt like the weight of the world escaping. Without thinking, John bent his head down and planted a kiss on top of the boy's curly head.

Sherlock looked up. He hadn't been expecting that. John stopped his rocking for a moment. For half a second, he wondered if Sherlock would remember this moment when he got back to normal…and suddenly felt thoroughly weird.

What a strange thought, though. Sherlock was clearly not "back to normal". He was a two-year-old baby. He had chosen to do this experiment because he wanted to know what it was like, and this was the kind of thing you did for babies. So John resumed his slow soothing dance, stroking Sherlock's back and humming a lullabye under his breath, and in a moment he felt the little head nodding back against his collarbone.

John chuckled to himself. Baby Sherlock had absolutely no problem with John wiping his arse during a nappy-change, but a kiss on the head was weird? How completely Sherlock. And how completely sad, in a way. John had never met Mummy Holmes, but given both her sons' discomfort at expressing their emotions, he somehow doubted she could have been an overflowing font of affection. The only other close family member in little Sherlock's life had been a brother who resented him and blamed him for their father's absence. And total strangers recoiled from him, like all the young mothers in the play park.

It was no wonder people thought Sherlock Holmes was a sociopath. The real wonder was that he hadn't actually become one.

When he was certain Sherlock was asleep, John carried him upstairs. He did not kiss him on the head again - more out of fear of waking him up than any lingering social discomfort, but still. He wondered at exactly what age it became socially illegal for blokes to show affection to each other…certainly before puberty. Once when passing by a primary school playground, John had heard a six-year-old child call another boy a faggot for giving him a hug. The whole thing made him feel tiredly sad.

He laid Sherlock down on the baby mattress next to his bed. No sense using a cot; no cozy wooden prison could hold London's only consulting detective if he decided he wanted out of it. John pulled the blanket up and tucked it around the sleeping toddler. Then he cocked his head. Asleep, little Sherlock Holmes looked as sweet, angelic, and normal as any other baby on the planet.

Oh, how looks could be deceiving.

John thought for a moment. Then he rummaged in the bedroom closet, pulling down a worn-looking teddy bear. He gazed seriously into its dark plastic eyes.

"Now then, Mister Buttons. I know it's been a while, but I've got a very important mission for you. I'm sure you're up to the job." And with that he nestled the ancient toy beside his sleeping flatmate. After a moment, Sherlock rolled over in his sleep and grabbed onto the bear's fuzzy ear.

Satisfied, John nodded. He went back downstairs to shut off his laptop and turn out the lights in the kitchen. Just before quitting his blog, he added one line to the current entry before saving the draft:

8. Make sure he gets his rest. Use extreme prejudice if necessary: sing him a lullabye and rock him to sleep.

John switched off the computer and went back upstairs to bed.


The next day got off to a promising start. Breakfast went off without a hitch: luckily for John, it was hard to overcook cold porridge. Sarah didn't sound too cross with him about missing more work, either. She even made a joke about him claiming temporary maternity leave.

The biggest success by far, though, was the fun fair. Inspired by the previous afternoon's revelation about what baby Sherlock Holmes considered fun - ie, something dangerous - John found a kid-friendly amusement park that allowed toddlers on the rides.

He could tell right away he was onto a winner. Sherlock leaned forward in his push-chair, big blue eyes taking in the rides and balloons and colourful candyfloss stands with keen interest. John was finally learning. Maybe two-year-old Sherlock didn't speak, but that didn't mean he didn't communicate.

Watching the tiny face and body language as they passed the gates, John could almost hear his flatmate's normal responses in the toddler's subtle shifts of posture and expression: The Baby Coaster? Boring. The Choo Choo Express? Dull. The Hanging Swings? …Interesting possibilities.

Sherlock held an arm out and looked back at the rides he wanted to go on again. John obliged, feeling proud of his growing vocabulary of Sherlock's toddler-ese. When John saw him staring at a stuffed gorilla hanging from the rafters of a milk-bottle game, he spent six pounds winning it for him. (His throwing arm wasn't what it used to be. Deep tissue damage will do that.) It wasn't until they were halfway home that John realised the stuffed gorilla, with its jug-handle ears and scruffy fur and oversized cream jumper (with the words "TUFF ENUFF" emblazoned on the front) bore more than a passing resemblance to certain ex-army doctors whose failing aim had just found it a new home.

He chuckled at Sherlock in the back of the cab. "Cheeky git." The dimples reappeared on either side of the dummy.

Back at 221b, though, things went rapidly downhill. Sherlock simply would not lie down for a nap. John put fresh linens on Sherlock's own bed, thinking a more familiar setting would lull him to sleep, but evidently the waking world was simply too interesting to miss out on today. So John hid some more of the Memory cards throughout the flat (as per Mycroft's instructions; the combined challenge of both Memory and Hide-and-Seek being more likely to appeal to Sherlock's restless intelligence) and left him to it for a while. Then he phoned Molly.

"Hi, it's me. How's the potion coming?"

"Not good, I'm afraid. I had to throw it out and start over; the mandrake root I had wasn't fresh enough. The new batch is coming along nicely, though."

"Jesus." John tried very hard to hide the alarm in his voice. "A completely new batch? So, how long d'you think - Sherlock, hush! How long d'you think - ? Just a second. Sherlock!" John strode over to the bookcase and the source of the ear-piercing shrieks. Little Sherlock was glaring black fiery death down at two of the white Memory cards in his hands. They were a matching pair, each showing a set of binoculars, but one of the cards had somehow gotten a smudge of red colouring smeared on it near the top.

"Oh. That's no problem, look." John tried to wipe the card clean with his jumper. The stain didn't budge. He tried again with a dampened cloth. Nothing. He handed the card back to Sherlock, trying to calm the boy's temper. "Well, don't worry, you still got it right. See? They're still a matching pair. Still the same."

But John could see from the set of Sherlock's eyebrows that it was absolutely, positively NOT the same. One card had a red stain on it. The other did not. They were different. John remembered Sherlock once telling him that the difference between an accurate observation and the right observation was the difference between life and death. In his world, tiny details mattered.

With absolutely no warning, Sherlock threw the card down and tried to stomp it in half with the heel of his shoe.

"Sherlock! Hey, don't do that." John tried to lure him away...and quick as a thought, Sherlock grabbed a picture frame from the bookshelf and brought it down on the offending card, trying to stab it with one of the frame's sharp corners.

"Sherlock!" Alarmed for his flatmate's safety now, John lifted the screaming toddler up and physically pulled him away. Sherlock bellowed and squirmed to be let down. To John's relief, he did not return to the bookshelf once his feet were on the ground, but stomped furiously into the kitchen instead.

He let out a breath. "Sorry about that," he told Molly. "Bit of a meltdown there. So, about the potion."

Molly sighed. "Another day or so. Don't really want to say any closer than that. These things are delicate, you know, the way the ingredients interact."

"Sure. Of course. Don't want to rush it." John rubbed his temples. He did want to rush it. He would do his absolute best to justify Sherlock's faith in him - you're the only one I trust - even if it killed them both, which was looking likelier by the minute. But he honestly did not know how much longer he could keep doing this.

"Okay then." Molly paused. "By the way, Doctor Watson…if you have any cotton wool earplugs, they really do help. Even without the muffling spell, I'm told. That and some very strong sedatives."

John chuckled tiredly. "For me or for him?" He was only half-joking. He thanked Molly and pocketed his mobile, leaning against the wall for almost a solid minute. It was the first time since Afghanistan that he felt like he might actually cry over something that wasn't a flashback or a nightmare.

A noise from the kitchen pulled him back to himself: a chair being dragged across the floor. Sherlock. John took a deep breath and rubbed his face, then wandered into the kitchen to see what new battle he would be facing next.

Sherlock stood on the chair, the first bottle of antidote clutched tight in his hand.

John gaped. He'd hidden that bottle up in the top cupboard once Molly had said it was no good, piling heavy cans of peaches and coffee tins in front of its hiding place to keep it safe until she could come back to dispose of it properly. He'd been absolutely certain that no two-year old would ever be able to find it, let alone shift it.

Somehow, Sherlock had.

John was across the kitchen in two short steps. For once he was grateful for the ever-present dummy, because if Sherlock hadn't had to pause for a vital split-second to remove it, he might have actually uncorked the vial and gotten some of the potion in his mouth.

John seized the beaker. Sherlock screamed and clung on. John managed to wrestle it away from him and tuck it behind the tea caddy. He grabbed the howling boy around the middle before he could fall off the chair, trying to keep him from retrieving the potion or twisting out of his grip.

Which was harder than it looked. If Sherlock's wrath at the stained Memory card had been a meltdown, then this was an atomic blast; a meteor strike; a supernova. He thrashed and kicked, pawing furiously for the potion, screaming with a ferocity John had never seen in him before, man or baby. Then suddenly Sherlock's whole body went rigid. He threw his head back and shrieked; the cords standing out tight on his neck; his tiny face scarlet with rage. For a terrifying split-second the posture almost worked and John nearly dropped him. Captain John Watson knew roughly a dozen different restraining holds; he just had to adapt them so they were safe enough to contain a two-year-old.

John felt a hot stinging warmth on his wrist as Sherlock clawed him. It drew blood. Sherlock wasn't kidding around. John moved an arm under the little boy's chin before Sherlock could try to bite him, then adjusted his grip again…then finally, thank God, found the right position to contain the raging baby.

"Sherlock, calm down." John's voice was impressively steady. His superiors always said that he was good under fire. "I'm trained to take down angry insurgents twice my size, mate; I think I can handle a two-year-old."

Angry insurgents, however, were not generally as favourably positioned for a lucky kick to the bollocks as a squirming toddler. John doubled over as the air went out of him, but, amazingly, kept his grip. Somehow he managed to reach Sherlock's bedroom and lower the boy onto the mattress, finally containing his tantrum by pinning him down with his own superior body weight.

John held his position. And waited.

It took about a dozen forevers, but eventually, the screaming subsided. Sherlock stopped fighting and lay still. John stayed where he was for a few more seconds to make sure it wasn't a trick, then slowly rose up off the mattress.

Sherlock rolled over and buried his face in the duvet. An odd, eerie noise had replaced his screams: a sinal whinge; with jagged hitching breaths rocking his tiny frame from shoulders to hips.

Finally…finally…Sherlock was crying. Just like a normal baby.

Well no, actually, nothing at all like a normal baby…it wasn't the way babies normally cried. It was a desolate, whispery sound; the kind of ghost-sobbing that happened when someone was too exhausted even to cry properly. It was the sound of a frighteningly adult despair. The silent tears shook the little boy so hard it looked like they would break him in half.

John stood still for a moment, uncertain what to do. He reached down to put a comforting hand on his flatmate's shoulder…and Sherlock jerked away as though John had struck him. John chewed his lip. Sherlock - his Sherlock, the adult Sherlock - would absolutely hate for anyone to see him like this. Slowly, John backed out of the room and pulled the door halfway to. Then he went back into the drawing room and sat down on the sofa, waiting for the storm to pass.


When Sherlock's misery had spent itself, John knocked on the door.


The little boy was curled up on the bed, face to the wall. For a moment, John had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing: it was such a perfect miniature portrait of the adult Sherlock-in-a-sulk - chin tucked down, knees to chest -  that John had to remind himself that this wasn't funny. Not at all.

He stepped inside the room. "I brought you some juice," he said, placing the freshly-filled sippy cup on the bedside table. Sherlock gave no answer.

Gently, John sat on the edge of the mattress. He wasn't quite sure what he meant to say. Searching for words, his gaze wandered back into the drawing room, to his walking stick propped up against the bookshelf. His leg had been bothering him a lot lately. He sighed and glanced back down at the exhausted baby on the bed.

No. This wasn't funny. Not remotely. The great Sherlock Holmes, who considered himself nothing but an intellect on legs, had been abruptly, brutally stripped of his entire sense of self: trapped in a body that would not work the way he wanted it to, with overwhelming emotions he could neither control nor understand.

John looked back at his walking stick...and knew exactly how Sherlock felt.

Finally, he cleared his throat. "Look, mate. Mycroft said you can understand what I'm saying, even if you don't answer. And I don't know if that's true, but…I'd like you to try to listen."

He took a deep breath, then slowly sighed it out again. "God knows this can't be easy for you. Your brain stuck in that body…it must be torture." John had spent so much time marvelling over Sherlock's intellect that he'd never once really considered what it must be like to live with it: to be trapped inside a mind so ferocious it needed constant feeding, constant stimulation, just to keep from eating itself alive. Unfed, it drove the adult Sherlock to shooting holes in the wall or shooting drugs up his arm. John had never considered what that kind of desperation would look like in a two-year-old baby.

Now he knew.

He went on. "We're all trying to get you back to normal. We all want to help. And I know we're not you, but Jesus Christ, Sherlock, you're not you either right now. I mean, look at you. It's not just your body that's a baby right now; it's your brain too. Believe me, I know. I was there first, remember?" The little boy gave no reply, but somehow John got the feeling that Sherlock was listening.

"I know you want this to be over. Me too. I…I miss you. The grownup you." He gave a bitter chuckle. "No one's told me I'm an idiot for at least two days; I don't know what to do with myself." He paused. "But that first antidote you tried to take…it could be dangerous. For all we know it could have turned into poison by now. Molly's brewing you a new one and she knows what she's doing. So you'll just have to try to be patient."

Still no answer. Somewhere out on the street below, a car backfired. John winced. He'd gotten a little better at dealing with sudden loud noises since he got back home, but they still made him tense. He swallowed and took a deep breath before continuing.

"Sherlock, I'm not going to let you hurt yourself. You told me once…you said I was the only one you trusted." John looked down at his fingertips, at the floor, anywhere but at his tiny flatmate. "I…that means a lot to me. A lot. I promised I'd look after you. And I will."

Slowly, he rose from the bed. His leg - not to mention his recently injured testicles - twinged painfully as he did so. "Oh, and drink that." He waved a hand at the juice on the table. "Doctor's orders. Otherwise you'll get dehydrated, and then you'll feel even worse than you do right now."

Sherlock didn't answer. But John knew he had heard.

Slowly, he turned and walked into the drawing room, leaving the tiny detective curled up on his bed.


"Is it…'Beam me up, Scotty'?"

Lights flashed; sirens blared. The obvious answer was always the wrong one in this game.

"Aw, you muppet," John chided the pixellated image of the panelist who'd given the answer. "Walked right into that one."

Sherlock didn't approve of John watching shows like QI. Gave the general public a false sense of their own intellect, he claimed. Fake intelligence, and fake secondhand intelligence at that. Plus most of their facts were wrong. He'd checked.

There was a noise behind him. John looked round. Over the back of the sofa, he saw a curly little head toddle in from Sherlock's bedroom. John craned his neck as the owner of the curls navigated his way around the sofa to gaze dispassionately at the telly screen.

John glanced at him expectantly. "What? I suppose you'd rather watch Mythbusters?"

Sherlock didn't answer. He merely held out his empty sippy-cup for John to take. When John had refilled it, Sherlock clambered up onto the sofa beside him. Without a word, the little boy nestled up against him, pulling John's left arm down from the rim of the sofa to rest on his back.

"Oh," John raised his eyebrows. "Sir wants His back rubbed. I see."

He obliged…and though not a word was spoken, John knew it was Sherlock's way of saying he was forgiven.

An hour later they were both asleep, magnetic blue light from the telly painting their faces with ghostly shadows as they slept.

on to part 4...



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2012 05:48 am (UTC)
God. That's ... not cute. Sherlock, feeling trapped and desperate and useless, unable to control his environment or himself. *shivers*
Mar. 12th, 2012 05:59 am (UTC)
*nods* Ever since I heard a child psychologist explain toddlers' meltdowns in those terms, I've had a lot more sympathy for them when they do actually have a tantrum. It must be absolutely terrifying to feel that you're not in control of anything at all, including your own emotions.
Mar. 12th, 2012 11:51 am (UTC)
Having walked through a shopping centre with a screaming toddler stuck under my arm, I have every sympathy with John.
Mar. 12th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
They are fearsome little bundles of noise when they take a mind to be, indeed.
Mar. 12th, 2012 01:05 pm (UTC)
I am very much in love with this story, and even more so for the realistic portrayal of a toddler (and dear gods, a toddler with Sherlock's brain, even in infant stage! No wonder John is reaching the end of his tether!)

Oh by the way, I found this today and thought of the teddy bear / stuffed gorilla.

Mar. 12th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Aw, sweet! Winnie-the-Pooh / Watson-the-John. :) I rather liked this one as well, when it came round on my dash a few days ago.

And I'm very glad to hear the toddler-ness rings true...it's been many long yonks since my babysitting days, plus I'm trying to give baby Sherlock a few Aspie traits as well to satisfy my own head!canon. Thankfully for poor John, there's only one more chapter to go...
Mar. 12th, 2012 01:12 pm (UTC)
Oh man, poor boys. But I did laugh at the end when Sherlock put John's arm on his back. My youngest does that!!
Mar. 12th, 2012 07:04 pm (UTC)
*nods* Anyone who thinks babies don't communicate just because they can't speak yet isn't listening properly.
Mar. 12th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy reading this and I have three of these at home, 2 year olds that is, and if you think one 2 year old having a tantrum is awful, 3 is just out of this world awful.
Eagerly awaiting the next bit.
Mar. 26th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
Eagerly awaiting chapter 4!
Apr. 22nd, 2012 12:53 am (UTC)
Eep! I posted chapter 4 a while ago, but forgot to link to it here. Fixed now - here's the link.

There's also a bonus epilogue that I wrote and forgot to post, which is linked at the end of part 4. Hope you enjoy it, and glad you enjoyed the rest!
Apr. 15th, 2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, I want more of this, now that I've found it. Quite brilliant.
Apr. 22nd, 2012 12:59 am (UTC)
Oops! I posted chapter 4 a while ago, but forgot to update the link here. Fixed now...here 'tis. There's also a bonus epilogue called The Care and Feeding of Your Consulting Detective, which is linked at the end of chapter 4. Sorry for the delay! Hope you enjoy the conclusion.

Btw, many thanks for the Shadow rec...it's really lovely and chuff-making to know you've written someone's comfort fic. :)
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
You thoroughly deserved that rec, and I was glad to make it.

And thanks for the link! I've read the end and now I'm going to go round and read the whole thing again!
Apr. 18th, 2012 12:52 pm (UTC)
This fic is awesome.I'm really looking forward to the next bit.
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:00 am (UTC)
Oops...chapter posted; link update failure due to idiot author. Fixed now!
May. 25th, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
this is lovely
May. 25th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )