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Baker Street Imp (5/7)

BBC Sherlock

Rating PG (implicit slash)

Part 4
 

Summary: Sherlock and John have survived looking after a seven-year old girl for a week, but there are still mysteries about her to be solved...



John hoped that Clara would keep quiet when Mrs Parmar arrived, and not reveal anything alarming. 11 am, 11.05, 11.10 and here was Annie Parmar at last. Early thirties, wavy blonde hair like Clara, but slightly overweight, rather than Clara's waiflike figure. Smartly dressed, although her scarf was hideous – a cat design, of course. John wished he was Sherlock and could deduce her entire personal history from her outfit. He did spot the ring on her finger, and wondered again about the absent Mr Parmar. Mrs Parmar's smiling embrace of Immy was a little too bright, but so was Immy's response. John made an offer of coffee, to prove respectability, which was accepted, to prove graciousness. He braced himself to play this right.

"It was so kind of you to help look after Imogen, Dr Watson," Mrs Parmar said, smiling. "I really feel Clara was imposing on you a little."

"It was fine, just fine. You have a very...charming daughter, Mrs Parmar. Very bright and well-informed as well." A mild pleasantry was called for now, he thought. "She's told me a lot of very interesting facts about sharks."

"Imogen's very fond of animals," Mrs Parmar replied, "but she can be a little...headstrong."

"It's very hard for any child to be cooped up in quarantine for so long. Immy, Imogen's done remarkably well."

"You live here alone, Dr Watson?"

"Temporary flat share, while I get sorted out after Afghanistan." He gave her a look that said 'modest war hero', and hoped Immy wouldn't start laughing.

"John's been wonderful," said Clara. "Harry and I couldn't have managed without him."

"My pleasure," he replied. "Imogen, have you got all your things?"

"Yes, Uncle John," Immy replied, somehow managing to sound like the world's most obedient child.

"Uncle John?" asked Mrs Parmar.

"Well, what am I supposed to say, Mum? 'Yes, Dr Watson? No, Dr Watson?' That would be so uncool. And he's not really that boring."

John's laugh was the first genuine emotion he'd expressed in the whole meeting. A few more pleasantries to get through, and then Mrs Parmar asked:

"Whose T-shirt is that, by the way? The one Imogen has on."

"Oh, that's my gift to her," he replied. "I was doing a wash and there was an accident with one of her T-shirts, the one with the rabbit on, so I got her that one as a replacement."

"It's from the Natural History Museum," Immy said. "Uncle John said that since I couldn't go there this time, at least I could have this to remind me about it. Isn't it amazing?"

The T-shirt was white, and had a large picture of an orange tree frog on the front. It'd taken John a lot of time to find the right one, but it had been worth it for Immy's smile when she'd unwrapped it last night.

"It was very kind of Dr Watson, John, to give it to you," said Mrs Parmar. "It's very...colourful." Her tone hinted that John might be a war hero, but he had appalling taste in T-shirts. She added: "I hope you haven't bought her anything else. I mean, really, I ought to be giving you something for all your hard work."

She hadn't, however, done so, John noted. He felt slightly less guilty at misleading her so much.

"Clara's given me a white rabbit," Immy announced.

"A rabbit?"

"Not a real one, it's for putting your pyjamas in, but it's in the shape of a fluffy white rabbit."

"That's very kind of you, Clara," said Mrs Parmar, more warmly. Clara muttered something disjointed.

Got past that one, thought John. The pyjama case was Sherlock's present, and when Immy had unwrapped it last night, she'd almost thumped Sherlock in fury.

"Whatever you do," Sherlock had said, "don't unzip it before you get home, Immy."

"Why not?"

"It's full of contraband."

"Really?" Immy's hand went to the zip.

"I said, don't open it. Code books, Top Trumps Dinosaurs, jelly snakes, a bag of plastic insects and a marked pack of cards. Might even find some Cheesy Wotsits, if you're lucky."

Immy had hugged Sherlock with absolute delight. And then tried, very incompetently, to pick his pocket.

Mustn't think about that now, John reminded himself. He had to wrap this up before Clara lost her nerve. He offered Immy a chocolate biscuit, which had the advantage of making Mrs Parmar decide they had to go because it was nearly lunchtime, and the disadvantage of nearly making Immy lose her cool, despite the fact that Sherlock had carefully preloaded her with sugar before disappearing.

Hold on, Immy, thought John, and bent down and gave her his warmest possible warning smile.

"It's been lovely having you to stay," he said, "but you need to remember not to scratch your scabs."

"There's a little scar on the bridge of her nose, I noticed it right away," said Mrs Parmar. "Will that fade?"

"I...we'll have to see. But the rest of her skin will be fine, I'm sure. You just need to have lots of rest, Imogen, and enjoy being back at home."

"Goodbye, Uncle John," Immy said, hugging him, "and thank you for the T-shirt and everything."

She wasn't at all tearful at this parting, which was...probably better. As Immy and the others went downstairs, he could hear her say cheerfully: "Can we just please go and say goodbye to Auntie Harry, so I can tell her about sharks? Because she might not have been to the London Aquarium and she really ought to know about it."

He smiled because, despite the added risk, there was something wonderful about the resilience of a seven-year old, and then went to retrieve Sherlock's skull from its hiding place.

***

It was suddenly terribly quiet in the flat with both Sherlock and Immy gone. John stripped his bed: there were a lot of biscuit crumbs he would have to clean out before he slept there tonight. No other trace of Immy now, except the ruined T-shirt, the white rabbit on the front now overlaid with pale blue stains. That had been Sherlock's fault, of course. If he hadn't identified the plants they'd found on Wednesday as woad, they wouldn't have ended up trying to extract the dye. And if he had kept a better eye on Immy at a crucial moment of the process, while John was trying to find a saucepan they no longer needed, Immy wouldn't have seized the chance to test the pigment on her own clothes. He wondered for a moment whether he should keep the T-shirt, but then put it firmly in the bin. He wasn't one for souvenirs, and it would be hard to explain.

The quiet weighed down on him, made him feel as if he'd abruptly gone deaf, and if Sherlock was out on a new case,  today might be quite...boring. Then there was a sudden scramble of footsteps on the stairs outside, and Sherlock burst into the room.

"Right, John, that can wait, whatever it is, we need to compare case notes."

"What?"

"On our current case," said Sherlock, beaming. "The mystery of the Parmars."

***

Ten minutes later John was thinking longingly of a quiet, deserted flat, as Sherlock paced up and down past him, groaning loudly at the inadequacies of John's statements. It was almost like having Immy back, except Sherlock had a wider vocabulary of indignation.

"John, there is seeing and not observing and there's simply not seeing. Your descriptions of female clothing are entirely inadequate, and  you're remarkably blank on many of the other key details about Mrs Parmar."

"I'm sorry, I was distracted by co-ordinating three bogus alibis, not to mention worrying about the Trojan Rabbit," John replied. "But I take it you've been tailing Annie Parmar anyhow, so you don't actually need me to tell you what she looked like."

"I followed them to Harry's flat, but I knew Immy had spotted me by then, and I was worried she might start giggling, so I gave up at that point."

"So what did I miss?" said John. "Smartly dressed, apart from her appalling taste in scarves. What is it about her and cats?"

"Exactly," said Sherlock. "We conclude from her clothes that she's respectable, sentimental and fundamentally selfish."

"Respectable and sentimental from the suit and the scarf," John said, leaning back and looking up at Sherlock. "Selfish, yes, but how do you deduce that from the clothes?"

"Her suit is good quality, and it's a designer scarf, hideous, but not cheap. Yet Immy's going round in clothes from Tesco."

"Maybe Mrs Parmar thinks it's a waste of time getting Immy expensive clothes, because she'll just ruin them," John said. "And she's almost certainly right about that."

"Yes, but if she cared about what Immy wanted to wear, there'd be fewer kittens, and if she cared about her comfort, Immy'd have a decent quality mac, not one that leaked, and if she cared about Immy's well-being, we wouldn't have been looking after her for the last week, however much Annie Parmar might have needed a break."

"She's not really neglecting her," said John. "You know that. Immy's well-fed, she has books, toys-"

"I know. Mrs Parmar likes being the mother of a seven-year old girl. She's not so keen on the specifics of being Immy's mother. And, of course, she's more concerned with appearances than substance. She spotted the chicken pox scar on Immy's nose, I take it?"

"Yes. I did try and stop her scratching that-"

"But not the knife cuts on her hand?"

"No, thank God." After all they'd been through, it had been John's fault that Immy had got hurt. If only he hadn't given into the temptation not to be boring, by showing her the old sleeve dagger that a friend from Special Ops had given him. Or at least he'd made sure that Immy didn't get within three feet of it...

"You're wallowing in unnecessary remorse again." Sherlock's voice broke into his thoughts. "Immy's hand is almost healed, there'll barely be a scar. Surely Harry did worse things to herself as a child?"

"She broke her arm trying to cycle with no hands. And, and she sprained her ankle parachuting off a wall, when she was five and I was seven. I thought she'd realised we were just pretending to be parachutists, and our coats wouldn't really hold us up if we jumped."

"Remind me to tell you some time about Mycroft and the nettle bed," said Sherlock. "Maybe we should have explained to Immy that there are some advantages to being an only child. Anyhow, back to Mrs Parmar."

"You said more concerned with style than substance," said John, slowly. "You mean, she notices the mark on Immy's face, but not what's potentially a more serious injury, to Immy's hand?"

"Exactly," Sherlock replied. "And similarly, chooses cheap T-shirts for Immy with pictures she finds appealing. And that of course, is one clue to the central mystery."

"You mean-"

"The absent Mr Parmar."

 Part 6

 


Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
kalypso_v
Jan. 22nd, 2011 11:50 am (UTC)
The pyjama case was Sherlock's present, and when Clara had unwrapped it last night

Should that be Immy?

To demonstrate I'm still reading, and enjoying it, though I haven't had anything in particular to say recently.
marysutherland
Jan. 22nd, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out - now corrected. Good job someone's keeping track of what's going on.
fengirl88
Jan. 22nd, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
approving of the Trojan Rabbit - Sherlock clearly has good ideas about presents when he feels like it.
marysutherland
Jan. 22nd, 2011 06:53 pm (UTC)
Sherlock is still close enough to his inner 7-year old to know what one might like - I suspect it's why he and Immy get on so well together. (I suppose one should be grateful he didn't try and put anything alive in the rabbit). John's the one stuck with having to try and buy T-shirts that don't alarm Mrs Parmar too much, which is a trickier balancing act.
shrewreader
Jan. 22nd, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
The Trojan Rabbit is fabulous (and, well, filthy on this side of the Atlantic - Trojan is our major condom manufacturer, and rabbit is a favorite sex toy model....)

And I'd love to hear about Mycroft and the nettle bed! Bed (in bedroom) filled with nettles? Bed of nettles that had to be crossed tracking Sherlock? An explanation for the loathing of legwork? Inquiring minds want to know!
marysutherland
Jan. 22nd, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
I hadn't realised that was filthy to US ears - this is an almost entirely clean fic. Although acknowledging the basic truth that the only problem small children have with gay marriage is that it doubles the number of the classmates they have to consider as future partners. (I remember two of the girls who were the inspiration for Immy having a brief discussion about men marrying men at age 5).

As for the nettle bed, any house with a large garden in the countryside (where I imagine the Holmeses growing up), will have at least one substantial patch of nettles, and at some point in their childhood one or both of them are going to end up falling into this. It is left to the reader's imagination which one and why. Basic knowledge of older/younger child psychology, however, suggests that if it was Sherlock who fell in, it would have been his own fault and Mycroft would have nevertheless got the blame. And that if it had been Mycroft falling in, it would also have been Sherlock's fault, but he wouldn't have been blamed for it. Sometimes older brothers just can't win.
shrewreader
Jan. 23rd, 2011 12:30 am (UTC)
Well, apparently it's just me - Housemate said 'Monty Python' when I repeated the name, (that was my 2nd thought, btw).

So I'll just be over here getting my mind out of the gutter.

Apparently it's blocking the Housemate's periscope view.
nathcoelho
Jan. 29th, 2011 02:49 am (UTC)
very well done, Sherlock!
*Going to next part*
very curious about whats going on!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )