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Baker Street Imp (4/7)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: PG (implicit slash)

Summary: John and Sherlock now have a precocious seven-year old staying with them at 221B. A precocious seven-year old with chicken pox.

Part 3
 

John didn't know how he would have got through the following week without Sherlock. Immy was quite easy to care for physically, even if he did have to remind her at least every twenty minutes not to scratch her spots. Keeping her entertained, however, was well beyond his capacity. Sherlock, however, to John's amazement, seemed delighted rather than deterred by someone with a mind just as enquiring as his, an even lower threshold of boredom, and a more effective sulking technique. He claimed he was simply gathering data, of course, and it was probably true that no-one had allowed him such extended access to a seven-year old before, but it was more than that. John wondered what Sherlock had been like at that age, and thought that one day, he would have to ask Mycroft. For now it was enough that Sherlock could find all sorts of entertaining things for Immy to do in the flat. Some of them were even suitable for repeating to Mrs Parmar.

Teaching Immy card tricks and how to play chess, for example, verged on the normal, as did Sherlock's recital of endless jokes and poems - obviously he'd been less discriminating about filling up his mental hard drive as a young child. And there were things that could be made to sound normal if you didn't go into the full details. Playing with a remote control robot, for example, sounded quite ordinary, if you didn't mention that it was a life-sized replica of Sherlock. Though Immy had been very disappointed that Billy could neither talk nor dance. ("He stands by the window and stares out," John explained, "or he sits and looks at a laptop, or he lies on the sofa and thinks. You can mimic about 80% of Sherlock's activity in the flat on some days with those three positions alone.") A game where you created funny faces also sounded unremarkable, as long as you kept quiet about it being done with an old-fashioned photofit kit that Sherlock had 'borrowed' from Scotland Yard. And then there was learning Morse code...

***

Most people, if they decided to teach a child Morse code, wouldn't encourage them to practice sending messages at mealtimes by banging their cutlery. John put a stop to that after ten painfully loud minutes, and realised shortly afterwards, from the sudden quiet, and the intent look on Immy's face, that she was trying to blink in Morse. He suspected, from Sherlock's puzzled expression, that she wasn't getting the distinction between long and short blinks right. Then he noticed that Immy was staring at the now slightly fading spots on her arm...

"Immy," he announced hurriedly, "if you try and write Morse code using your spots and a felt-tip pen, you will be watching nothing but CBeebies for the rest of the week. Do you understand?"

"You are boring, Uncle John. Why are you so boring?"

***

That hadn't been Immy's only complaint, of course.

"Why won't you teach me unarmed combat?" she had asked on Thursday.

"Because Sherlock's going to do that, but only if you promise not to tell your mother."

"Sherlock says you're better than him, coz of having been in the army, and you're nearer my size than he is."

"Well, certainly not tonight, Immy. I'm going over to Clara's, to make sure she phones your mother." He didn't add that he was also going to check on Harry. He wasn't sure he could put into words why it suddenly mattered to him so much that she sorted herself out, if she did really mean it this time. Perhaps his mind was going back thirty years to another sparky and funny, if not quite so bright, small girl. Blonde and blue-eyed, and not prepared to take orders from her big brother.

"Can you tell Mum that I can't talk to her because the spots in my ear make it hard to hold the phone?"

"I'll think of something," said John. Somehow, it hadn't yet registered with Mrs Parmar that she talked each evening to John and either Immy or Clara, but never all three. Three more days to go. They'd get through it yet.

***

And then suddenly there were only two many days to go, no, one and a half, because Annie Parmar was arriving on Sunday morning. John needed to go out for more supplies on Friday evening, but he lingered for a few minutes in the living room, watching Immy and Sherlock play Black Jack. It was an oddly domestic scene. If he'd ended up with Sarah, or Ruth, or one of the other women he'd dated over the years, it might have been him there, playing with his daughter. Of course, he wouldn't have been manipulating the game in quite the ruthless way Sherlock was. Why did Sherlock feel the need to win any game he played? And was he really able to win quite that easily every time?

Then Immy accused Sherlock of cheating, and he replied that she'd taken far too long to notice, and why hadn't she heard before about marked cards? And she'd giggled and said that she'd worked out he must be cheating by looking at the reflection of his cards in the darkened window.

No, if he had ended up with a seven-year old, she wouldn't have been like Immy. She was a random fluke, or perhaps the product of heredity. John found himself wondering again what else apart from her looks she'd inherited from the father she never mentioned...and whom Annie Parmar also never mentioned. Then he got up and hurried out, because the list of supplies was quite complicated, and if he'd didn't get them all, there'd be trouble.

He got sodium bicarbonate and vinegar (for foaming monsters), origami paper (for model dinosaurs and Sherlock's amazing flapping Pegasus), borax (for slime), and extra long rubber bands (he dreaded to think). Immy had put "African land snails" on the list again, which he found funny by now, and "Salt Peter", which he still didn't. She'd also put "Goodbye card x 2". It took a surprisingly long time to find ones that were not sentimental, but funny and clean, and that had absolutely no kittens or puppies or rabbits on.

***

There was a note propped up on the kitchen table when he got home. "Expedition tomorrow along Regent's Canal toepath. Leave at 5 am sharp. Camoflag may be needed." He groaned. The early morning expeditions had been Sherlock's idea, of course. Immy had to get some fresh air and exercise, he'd pointed out, so it was logical to choose times and places when there was no-one around: "Or at least only people with more to worry about than catching chicken pox. Don't worry, John, I knew some very secluded parts of London."

The thought of Sherlock and Immy in mostly deserted parts of London in the early hours of the morning had alarmed John enough to ensure that he went along too. And though it was often exhausting, and invariably grubby, they'd had fun as well. Seeing the sun rise on Parliament Hill, panning for gold in St James' Park, and walking across to Chiswick Eyot at low tide (though that had reminded John that Sherlock and tide-tables were not a reliable combination, especially if you didn't have legs as long as Sherlock's).

***  

It was mid-morning on Saturday before they'd got themselves out of Regent's Canal and back home, and John had also managed to wash all their clothes sufficiently to dilute their smell to manageable proportions. By then, Immy was bored with paper dinosaurs, and was starting to complain about Sherlock and John's inadequate answers to her questions on black holes.

"I've sorted out this afternoon," Sherlock announced. "Georgio from Speedy's Sandwiches keeps geckoes and he's bringing them round."

"No animals!" John protested, and got a barrage of 'hurrs' from Immy. "Mrs Hudson will go spare."

"She's out at a matinee and Georgio swears on his mother's grave he had chicken pox aged four and the geckoes are house-trained."

"Geckoes are really fun, and I'm so bored, and it's my last day-" Immy began. John sighed.

"OK, Immy," he said, "you and Sherlock google 'cross-species transmission of varicella' and if there's no mention of reptiles, tell Georgio he can come."

***

It was the last video evening, so even Sherlock accepted that Immy got to choose what they watched.

"But remember the ground rules," John said. "U or PG certificate only, and nothing with Humphrey Bogart in it."

"Do you know how to whistle, Uncle John?" Immy smiled up at him. "You just put your lips together and blow."

"I know how to whistle, Immy, you don't. If you don't make up your mind soon, I'll choose."

"Ben Hur."

"Too long."

"We can fast forward to the chariot race," said Sherlock.

"Not suitable for discussing in phone calls to your mother," John said firmly.

"Tell her you watched a film about Jesus," said Sherlock. "What's wrong, Immy?"

"There isn't going to be another phone call, is there?" Immy was suddenly wailing. "Mum's going to collect me tomorrow morning!"

"Yes," said Sherlock, "but tonight there is chariot racing, and you need to learn how to cheat at that as well. So pass the DVD over, John, and I'll find us the right place."

***

Sunday morning brought more trauma.

"Can't we at least go out to the park?" Immy asked plaintively after breakfast. "I'm not in quarantine anymore, and it's hours till Mum gets here, and I'm bored!"

"And the park is muddy," John pointed out.

"Which means Sherlock can show me about footmarks properly, not just with talc on the bathroom floor."

"Sherlock's not back from Smithfield Market yet," John said, "and no, you should not have gone and helped him buy his hearts, because if I accidentally turn you into a vegetarian, your mother would not forgive me. And even when Sherlock gets back, he has to go again by 10 am, so that we've got an hour to tidy the flat. Yes, I know that's boring. But if your mother realises that Sherlock's been here all the time, and not Clara we will be in really deep...giraffe dung."

***

"9.57. I'd better go, Immy," said Sherlock, abruptly ending a monologue on termites, and levering himself up from the sofa. "Give me a hug, but try not to crease my shirt."

"I don't want you to go!" Immy said, bounding up from her position on the floor, and clinging onto Sherlock. After a minute, he detached himself from her embrace.

"I've got a new case, Immy, can't stay around any longer. Take care, and remember what I told you about Auntie Harry."

"All right. Goodbye...Sherlock." Immy's tone ought to break even a sociopath's heart, thought John, but Sherlock just smiled, and then left the flat without a backwards glance.

"That wasn't very cool of me, was it, Uncle John?" said Immy, once Sherlock was gone, rubbing her eyes.

"It was Sherlock's fault for being a pain," said John, stroking her hair, as she curled herself around him on his chair, like a small animal that was definitely not a kitten. "He is sometimes, you know that."

"Are you and Sherlock married?" Immy suddenly asked, looking up at him intently. He should have guessed he couldn't fool her, John thought.

"No."

"Are you going to get married?"

"Maybe, sometime. But I'm not sure if Sherlock wants to marry anybody."

"Well I think if he does, he'll want to marry you, not me. But that's OK," said Immy, who seemed to be recovering rapidly. "I can marry Vicky or Tom from my class, I'm just not sure which one. Because Vicky is my best friend, but Tom has a pet rat."

"Go for Vicky," John said firmly. "Friends last a lot longer than pet rats."

"But suppose it was a pet elephant? They live for years and years."

"You shouldn't keep elephants as pets."

"But what if someone did have one, because they'd rescued it from the circus and it was too tame now to go back to the wild? Would you rather marry someone who was your best friend or had a pet elephant in that case?"

"Tricky," said John, smiling, "It'd probably depend on how friendly the elephant was."

"You're being silly, Uncle John," Immy said firmly. "It's a perfectly sensible question."

"Yes, but we haven't got time to discuss it now," John replied. "Because here comes Clara, and you can remember better than I can all the things she needs to be briefed on. And we need to hide Billy, and the slime, and Sherlock's collection of scabs."

Part 5

 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
nathcoelho
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
hauhaauhuahuhuhauhuhhauhuahauha
i want to stay with uncle sherlock and uncle john too!
omfg
so adorable!
<3
and i want them married too! good girl!! \o nice touch!
angstybiscuit
Mar. 18th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
I love this fic! I can't figure out the note, though... is Immy very good at spelling, or is Sherlock very bad at it? xD
marysutherland
Mar. 18th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
I imagined the note as written by Immy, but I suppose it's possible that she had Sherlock helping her. That's help, as in when Sherlock gets asked how to spell a word, he rattles out the letters at his normal speed of speaking and presumes that people will be able to follow that.
angstybiscuit
Mar. 20th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
Awww bless. I love Immy. Too many writers either have child OCs as ridiculously self-reliant supersleuths or as naive wide-eyed idiots. You've struck a great balance, and as a result Immy is the best Sherlock OC I think I've ever read.
marysutherland
Mar. 20th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
There's an amazing and terrifying mix of brightness and sophistication and bravery and childishness about some seven-year olds. Immy borrows heavily from my daughter and another of her friends, who are both about this age. My daughter wants to combine being an astronaut and running a livery stable. She reads 'New Scientist' magazine, but also wants us to pretend to be magical animals. Her friend once walked up a hill in Scotland chanting 'bored, biscuit time', and explained to my daughter at age five that two men could get married. She will attempt almost anything except eating nutritionally sound food.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )