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Baker Street Imp (7/7)

BBC Sherlock

Rating: PG (implied slash)

Summary: Immy Parmar may have left 221B, but that's not the end of the story...

Part 6
 


It was just after five that John received a text from Harry's mobile, and he groaned. He'd threatened Harry with prison for child neglect if she started drinking while the Parmars were still around, but she'd probably been making up for it ever since. Then he read the text:

At home so boring Told mum ihave dire rear and locked mMyself in loo ask shirlok where to hide small things please IMP

He checked the number again, begging himself to be wrong, but he wasn't.

"Sherlock!" he shouted across the room, "Immy's nicked Harry's phone."

Sherlock opened his eyes, from where he was lounging on the sofa. The marine sergeant hadn't been very interesting after all.

"That was very...remiss of Immy," he replied, sounding just a little too unimpressed. What was it Sherlock had said to her just before he left this morning, thought John.  Something like "Remember what I told you about Harry"? Oh God, no, surely not even Sherlock...

"Did you put her up to this?" John said, and it came out as a croak. "Because if you did, I will..." He stopped, because he honestly couldn't think what he'd do.

Sherlock was clearly eyeing up his self-defence options as he answered: "Immy asked me how to take Harry's phone, and if it was OK, and I said it was OK to borrow it for a few days till Harry noticed it was missing, but she'd have to return it then."

"Do you have no moral sense at all? Anything else you told Immy? That arson, blackmail, murder are all fine?"

"I told her that it might take Harry a while to realise she'd lost the phone, because alcoholics are often careless with their possessions."

John found himself sitting down, because his leg was just about to buckle. "You told a seven-year old that my sister's an alcoholic?"

"Immy's nearly seven and a half, and she'd already heard the word. From you, I believe, John."

"Oh God, yes. The night Harry passed out, I let something slip." His head dropped into his hands.

"It's just as well you did," said Sherlock. "Don't be ridiculous. Immy knew there was something seriously wrong with Harry, how could she not after what had happened? She just didn't know what. But because she's heard the word from you, she could ask me what it meant, and I could explain it to her properly, rather than have you or Clara or her mother be embarrassed and try and change the subject. Immy wanted the facts about it, John, just like about everything else."

"The facts about addiction and blackouts and sickness and possible death?"

"The fact that even if you've been an addict you can get clean if you choose to, when you're ready to. That you can overcome drink and drugs. And I told her about people I'd known who had."

"You didn't...you didn't tell her about you using cocaine, did you?"

"No, I told her about Mycroft beating his addiction to prescription painkillers."

John's brain was getting so scrambled that it took him a moment to work that one out.

"Mycroft? Painkillers? He wouldn't...Sherlock, you made that up, didn't you? You told Immy some claptrap about Mycroft. You lied to her, you bastard!"

"Yes, but I'm confident that she won't spot the weak points of my story for several years. And I thought the emphasis on the redeeming power of brotherly love as a help to recovery was a rather nice touch. Now pass me your phone, because even Annie Parmar's going to get suspicious if Immy's in the toilet for too long."

***

"I shouldn't have let you do that," John said, as they sat eating that evening. "I should not have let you send secret messages to a seven-year old on a stolen phone."

"It's only for a week or so, then she can discover that she 'accidentally' put it in her pocket when she was playing in Harry's flat."

"It's still wrong! We're turning Immy into a criminal mastermind before she's left primary school."

"She's bored and lonely, and she needs someone to talk to. Besides, I have to get her into training," Sherlock announced. "You know, I used to imagine how handy it would be to have a gang of young informants as my eyes and ears in the city. Children of ten, eleven, twelve, John, they can go anywhere: no-one notices them, unless they're noisy, but they notice everything. A whole army of irregulars to help me – but of course, it didn't occur to me before that girls are so much more observant and sneakier than boys."

John could feel the anger coiling up inside him. "Sherlock, you are not using Immy as an underage lookout. I will get you sent to prison rather than that! " As he glared across at Sherlock, he suddenly noticed the detective's twitching lips. "Oh God, you're winding me up, aren't you?"

"You're not normally quite such an easy target," said Sherlock, his smile broadening. "But to reassure you, Immy does not want to be my assistant at any time in the future, because it would interfere with her astronaut training. Even when I offered her a weekend-only apprenticeship, so she could become the world's first consulting detective in space."

John concentrated on his pasta for a moment, and said nothing. Sometimes, it was better not to.

"You can vet the texts I send to Immy if you like," Sherlock went on, after a pause. "I won't encourage her to do anything you disapprove of, or that'll get her into trouble. Well, not more trouble than she could get into entirely on her own accord."

"One week, two at the maximum," said John. "Just because...she's going to be so bored in Oxfordshire, even back with her friends."

"Of course. Which is why she's going to be very pleased when you write to her."

"What?"

"You're right, John, I can't keep in contact with Immy, but you can. You're her Uncle John, after all."

"I'm not her uncle, I'm just her aunt's partner's brother. Her aunt's ex-partner's brother. If she's coming to stay in London again in the autumn half-term, Clara has to tell Annie that it really is over between her and Harry."

"Of course," said Sherlock. "Which is why, if you, we, are going to spend time with Immy then, as we want to and as Immy does, you need to establish a relationship with her that doesn't just depend on being Harry's brother. Therefore you need to start writing to Immy and do it soon, so Mrs Parmar gets used to the idea."

"I can't keep on writing to a seven-year old girl, it's creepy."

"You're not writing to a random seven-year old. You're writing to Immy Parmar, who is a sweet, bright, and lonely girl who you obviously already have paternal feelings towards, and who shares your love of science. Mrs Parmar doesn't think you're creepy, John, does she?"

"No, but she thinks I have lousy taste in T-shirts."

"You have an instinctively correct taste in T-shirts," Sherlock said cheerfully. "I'd have gone overboard and got her something with sharks on, and Annie Parmar wouldn't have let her wear it. A tree frog is just cute enough to pass off as the gift of a kindly and conscientious, if slightly clueless uncle."

"Sherlock," John replied wearily, "are you trying to insult me or compliment me?"

"I'm trying to say, John, that you're conventional enough not to worry Mrs Parmar, and unconventional enough not to bore Immy. And concerned enough to stay in touch with a girl who's obviously in need of a father figure."

"I'm not marrying Mrs Parmar," John announced. "Not even for Immy's sake."

"Mrs Parmar doesn't want your attention, John, which is probably just as well, because some of the rest of us definitely do. Like Immy. So, tomorrow morning, you need to write to her."

"Have we got her e-mail address?"

"A handwritten letter. All your letters to Immy are going to be handwritten."

"I haven't written a letter by hand in years," said John. "And it's harder to read."

"Exactly," Sherlock replied. "Which will discourage Mrs Parmar from doing more than skimming through them, if that. Very handy if you, we, need to discuss things with Immy that we'd prefer her mother not to read."

"Yes, but if Mrs Parmar finds my handwriting hard to read, so will Immy...Oh God." It suddenly came back to John. "Forensic document examination. You said Immy had to learn to recognise different styles of handwriting, tell which of us had written a note.  You trained her to be able to read our writing, haven't you? You were planning this back then. You are a complete and absolute bastard."

"And you are more gullible even than Immy, sometimes, my dear John, and I wouldn't have you any other way," Sherlock replied. "Now, if you're finished your pasta, maybe we should see what state your bedroom is in."

***

 Dear Imogen, John wrote the next day, I hope your spots are all gone now and that you have remembered not to scratch the scabs. It's very quiet in 221B now you're not here. Harry and Clara miss you as well. We still don't know whether Harry will get your chicken pox, because the incubation period can be up to 21 days. Clara wonders if by any chance one of their phones accidentally got left in your suitcase when she was packing it. I'm sure you're looking forward to school, especially since you said you might be going to do a project on rainforests.

He stopped. This was no good. This was...a boring letter. He wanted to tell Immy that even though she had a selfish mother, and a hopeless father, and an aunt who folded under pressure, and an alcoholic ex-aunt-in-law, she was still clever and talented and funny and wonderful, and there was nothing in the world that could stop her if she put her mind to it. But he couldn't let Mrs Parmar read that, and besides, Immy was only seven and a half, and she didn't like sentiment, she liked facts. She liked facts...

He began to write again:

Do you remember your friend Sherlock from next door? He wanted me to tell you that he'd just read an article about the giant bamboo rats of Sumatra. They're about 50 cm long, with a 20 cm tail, and they can weigh up to 4 kg. They've got grey fur, and they live underground in burrows, and they feed on bamboo, but the roots of it, not the stems, like pandas...

He signed the letter 'Uncle John' and read it through. It was kindly, it was informative, it was not completely boring, at least by Immy's distinctive standards. It was a letter that breathed 'mildly eccentric but fundamentally reliable uncle'. It had hurt his wrist a hell of a lot to write.

He finished addressing the envelope and then hesitated. He could keep on sending letters to Immy, he was conscientious about things like that. But if he wrote from duty, or because Sherlock wanted him to, Immy would realise it. Maybe not now, but eventually. And she wouldn't enjoy letters written because he felt he must write.

But no, he thought, as he picked up the letter and headed out to the post-box. This wasn't really about duty. Because occasionally you met someone who was clever and talented and funny and wonderful, like...Immy. Someone who could do anything they wanted if they put their mind to it, and didn't run off the rails. Learnt to use their abilities, their charm, to good effect, not to hurt people. And someone like that, with so much potential and so little common sense, needed someone reliable, practical, boring, to keep an eye on them, look after them, care for them. Even when they were no longer seven and a half.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
lady_carfax
Jan. 27th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
I really rather enjoyed this. Warming without making it to saccharine; thanks for a lovely read.
meredydd
Jan. 28th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
This was so sweet and lovely without being "too". :) I loved it!
lawless523
Jan. 28th, 2011 01:16 am (UTC)
This was lovely, wonderful, and funny. It's odd; you'd think Sherlock would be horrible with children, with his lack of a filter for what he says and his impatience, but he's very much like a great big kid himself.
innie_darling
Jan. 28th, 2011 07:36 pm (UTC)
Well, clearly Sherlock rushes in where angels fear to tread, but paternal John is lovely to see.
nathcoelho
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:30 am (UTC)
lovely and sweet fic! i love it! =D
zevbaldwin
Aug. 7th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
Wonderful story! Еspecially the last paragraph.
lindentreeisle
Aug. 28th, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)
That was delightful, I've no idea why I didn't read it sooner. :D
marysutherland
Aug. 31st, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it - it was fun to write, mainly because I know some rather enterprising small girls.
bookstorequeer
Jan. 11th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
This is adorable and smart and wonderful. I really enjoyed it! I almost can't wait to re-read it. Great job.
marysutherland
Jan. 14th, 2012 08:07 am (UTC)
Thank you very much - it's fun to write about bright small girls, because they are an amazing, if sometimes terrifying phenomenon. (The fic was inspired by my daughter and some of her friends and is only slightly exaggerated from them).
mariole
Jan. 15th, 2012 06:04 am (UTC)
This was completely charming. I loved the boys falling in love with little Immy. Great story.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )