Characters: John, Sherlock, Abby, Harry, Sarah, Gladstone
Warnings/Triggers: background of a murder (no details), references to alcoholism
Word Count 4,119
Summary: Sherlock learns what John does in a day, John learns how to make bunches, Abby learns how to form a hypothesis, and a stupid amount of fairy cakes are made.
Author's notes: Set in the Abby 'verse.
I think the only excuse I can offer for this is I was listening to Rumpole while playing Papa's Cupcakeria, and my brain seemed to think Sherlock + fairy cakes was a good plan.
Basically pure domestic fluff. I'm sorry.
Once a week, Sarah had to go to work early for a staff meeting before the surgery opened. This meant it was up to John to get Abby up and ready for the day. Her schedule was very loose, as some days John was able to stay home and mind her and some days he was with Sherlock and so she went off to the child-minder’s. Sarah and John had received a lot of flack about this, with the insistence that children needed firm schedules and all this up in the air business would make her anxious and uncertain.
Abby asked each morning what was happening and if she was home with Daddy, she was happy, and if she was going to Sanita's, then she was less happy, but not upset about it. Most of the time. She was three, so she was sometimes indignant just for the sake of it and tried to charm John into staying home with her.
Today was both a Daddy day and a Staff Meeting day, which meant John was currently struggling through getting Abby's hair brushed and put in some sort of style. She'd chosen her outfit for the day: her pyjama bottoms with the cherry print on them, a polka dot vest, her Wellies, and her safety goggles.
John's suggestion that she probably didn't need the safety goggles had been met with the same reaction as if he'd suggested she didn't need her head.
She also wanted her hair in bunches, which was not John's speciality. Brushing her hair was hard enough; he hated pulling on the knots and making her cry. Trying to get her hair to look nice afterwards was nigh on impossible. He had big hands and she had a small head.
“Daddy, you're pulling!” she complained.
“I'm almost done,” John said. “I think.” He flubbed around with the bobbin and finally managed to get it around the hair. “There. Sort of.”
Abby stood up and turned around to give him a kiss. “You're nice,” she said.
“Thank you,” he said.
The doorbell rang. Abby ran to answer it, John overtaking her in the hallway. He opened the door a crack and found Sherlock and Gladstone on the other side. Sherlock had arms full of grocery bags.
“Hello,” he said. “I need to make a vast quantity of fairy cakes. May I use your kitchen?”
John stared bewildered as Sherlock began to unpack his bags on the kitchen table. Flour, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, soured cream, sunflower oil, and six bags of chocolate chips. Also, a jewellery box and several bun trays.
Abby was delighted. She climbed up on a chair to take a look. “You playing science, Sherlock?” she asked, eagerly.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “I see you're prepared to assist.” He tapped his face to indicate the goggles on her own.
“Sherlock,” John said, in his most reasonable voice. “What's going on?”
“It's for a case,” Sherlock explained. “There were fairy cakes baking in the oven at the time of the...” he glanced down to Abby, “bad thing... that resulted in...not being alive any more. He was going to propose. The ring was in a fairy cake. The cakes were all burned beyond recognition by the time he was found, and I need to know the precise time the batter was solid enough to hold the ring. He'd tried several times, judging by the state of the ring box. If I can determine when the ring was inserted and left in, I can tell when the...bad thing, was done. The heat of the oven in the kitchen affected the rigor mortis, and the TOD is too great a window to be of any use.”
John so admired Sherlock's ability to explain things in such a way that, no matter what they were, they seemed perfectly reasonable. “Why my kitchen?”
“It's bigger, I need space to work,” Sherlock said. “And it's a similar size to the one the victim was in. Your oven is a closer model than the one at Baker Street. It's more modern.”
“Yeah, that one remembers the war,” John agreed.
“Now, of course, there will be variables I can't control, such as differences in your oven's temperatures and his and whether he followed the recipe exactly or if he eyeballed his measurements, but, if I can find a mean time, I should have a much smaller window."
“Can I play science with Sherlock?” Abby asked.
“May I,” Sherlock corrected. “And you may, actually.”
Abby clapped her hands and jumped down off her chair, running from the kitchen. “I be back,” she called.
“Why didn't you ring me?” John asked. “About the case?”
“You were three days with me on our previous case,” Sherlock said. “You'd already broken your own rule about not spending more than forty-eight hours away from your family. The call came fifteen minutes after you left for home. I assumed you wouldn't want to come back, and I was waiting until you were in flight hours, so to speak, again.”
“Oh,” John said. “I didn't realize you knew about my rule.”
“Surely by now you've come to realize that I know everything,” Sherlock said.
“Who's the current Prime Minister?” John asked.
“Do you have a bowl mixer?” Sherlock replied, turning away from him to look.
John smirked to himself.
Abby returned, wearing the doctor's coat Mrs Hudson had given her for her birthday. “I'm ready for science,” she announced, climbing back up in her chair.
Sherlock's amused grin split his face. He didn't even try to hide it. “Excellent,” he said. “Let's get started.”
Since Sherlock had taken a greater shine to Abby, she had been spending more time with him. John wasn't as reluctant to bring her to Baker Street if he had her with him and was stopping in for half an hour. Sherlock wasn't always pleased to see her, but John felt as though she'd finally solidified herself in his mind palace and wasn't just a Thing that Belongs to John, but a person in her own right, who was included under the umbrella of family, and who would be protected and loved by him. The title of Uncle, which had always been used sarcastically, was actually more apt than before.
He'd begun to teach her various skills which he deemed important, but of which a three-year old had no need. Abby enjoyed it, though, and Sherlock was, much to John's surprise, a pretty good teacher. He wasn't patient, but he was enthusiastic, and Abby was too, so he found a willing pupil. And Sherlock loved a good audience.
“It's important to be accurate when we measure,” he explained to Abby, as he added some flour to a bowl. “Some people measure by approximation, but if you're trying to prove a theory, accuracy is key. It's also important to make notes. Nothing can be proven without notes.” He jotted something down on a piece of paper. “You can't write yet, so I'll make an allowance in your scientific process for now. Once you learn your alphabet, you'll have to start making lab notes.”
Abby was already covered in flour, and they were only five minutes into the experiment. John had put some surgical drapes around where they were working, in hopes of having a quicker clean-up. They were from the surgery, left over from when they'd painted Abby's room, and John was grateful they'd kept them. This was going to get messy. Gladstone lay on one, hoping for scraps from the table.
“I need two eggs,” Sherlock said.
Abby carefully selected an egg and handed it to him. “Gently,” she warned. “Eggs break.”
“Yes, thank you,” Sherlock said. “I wouldn't have known that otherwise.”
Abby beamed. Sarcasm was completely lost on her, which was probably why she could put up with Sherlock for longer than anyone else.
“Your ponytails are askew,” Sherlock said. “I thought it was just the angle I was looking at you from, but straight on, they are different heights. John must have done them.”
“Hey,” John said. “They aren't that bad.”
“One is at least two inches higher than the other,” Sherlock said.
“It's not easy,” John said.
“It's not rocket science, either,” Sherlock said. “Or brain surgery—and you can do that.” He held the egg over the bowl and positioned it a few times, but didn't crack it. “I think I've deleted how to do this...”
John took the egg, tapped it and dumped its contents into the bowl. “That's not brain surgery either,” he said. “Or rocket science. And you can do that.”
Sherlock made an attempt at the second egg himself and only got a few pieces of shell into the bowl. He fished them out with a spoon.
“What recipe are you using?” John asked.
“The one that was on his tablet,” Sherlock said. “Which is from the BBC Foods website. 'Easy Chocolate Cupcakes'. When I woke the tablet up, it was what on the screen. Clearly, that's the one he was using.” He turned to Abby. “That's how we make deductions.”
“Yay!” Abby said.
Sherlock chuckled. “Vanilla, next."
Abby hunted around on the table, her brow furrowed. “I don't know,” she said, apologetically.
“Vanilla comes in a bottle,” Sherlock said. “It's the only ingredient that does. Use process of elimination.”
Abby's face lit up with understanding and she grabbed the bottle. “'Nilla."
“Good job,” Sherlock said.
“Yay, Abby!” Abby said, doing a little happy dance on her chair.
John gave her a thumb's up. “Who taught you to deduce?” he asked Sherlock.
“My grandmother,” Sherlock said. “She was very observant. And then Mycroft, I suppose. Why?”
“Just wondering,” John said. “Don't turn Abby into a machine, okay? I don't want her to be—”
“A freak?” Sherlock asked.
“You're not a freak,” John said, quickly. “I just mean that I don't want her to be as consumed by it. Let her be able to turn it off.”
“Understood,” Sherlock said. “We're quite fine here, you know. We don't need minding.”
John disagreed on this point and waited until the first batch of fairy cakes was in the oven before leaving. He wanted to establish that Sherlock recognized that knives were sharp and ovens were hot, and Abby shouldn't be working with either. Sherlock was quick to notice things, but not when he was distracted by an experiment.
“I'll do this part,” Sherlock said, holding a ring in his hand. “I have the better dexterity. We should form a hypothesis. How long do you think it will take before the ring won't sink down in the batter? The recipe says they will take twenty minutes to cook. I predict ten minutes. What do you think?”
“Chocolate is yummy,” Abby said.
“Well, that's a hypothesis of sorts,” Sherlock said. “I predict ten minutes. You predict that the chocolate will be yummy. It's a bit subjective, but we all have to start somewhere.”
John did have a list of things to be getting on with, and he started on them, coming in and out the kitchen to make sure safety protocols were being observed. He emptied all the laundry hampers and sorted through the clothes, separated the whites and colours, and put a load of whites into the washer in the kitchen. He folded up the load already in the dryer and put it away. He let Gladstone out when he asked and let him back in when he asked. He did some banking on his laptop in the dining room, where he could keep an eye on the kitchen. He rang the GP to make Abby an appointment for her DtaP/IPV jab.
Then it was time for lunch.
“I'm busy,” Abby declared.
“No, we're not getting into a habit of not eating because of science,” John said. “That is a very bad habit that Uncle Sherlock has. You come to the dining room and eat.”
“No, I don't want it,” Abby insisted.
“It's fine,” Sherlock said. “I want to let the oven cool off. An already warmed oven will affect the results.”
“You come and eat then, too,” John said.
“I'm busy,” Sherlock said.
“Set an example, please,” John said.
“Fine,” Sherlock said. He wrinkled his nose at the plate he was handed. “What is this?”
“Rice cakes with cream cheese and jam,” John said.
“That sounds disgusting,” Sherlock said, interested. He took a bite.
John corralled Abby into the dining room and set her up with her food. Sherlock wandered out and sat down with his notes, leaving his food untouched.
Sarah usually rang on her lunch break, and John left the children at the table to answer the phone.
“What's new and exciting?” she asked.
“Science!” John said.
“Oh, dear,” Sarah said. “Is Abby with Sanita, then?”
“Nope, we're all at home,” John said. “Making scientific fairy cakes to solve a murder.”
“Wh—no, I'm not going to ask,” Sarah said. “You can fill me in later. I'm thinking I should probably bring dinner?”
John looked into the kitchen, which had very rapidly turned into the one at Baker Street. “Yeah, probably a good idea."
“I'll right, I'll stop on my way home,” Sarah said.
“Thanks,” John said. “And Sarah? No dessert.”
After lunch, it was back to fairy cake making. John removed the cooked ones from the trays and set them on a plate, leaving the ones with the rings in them out. No point in letting good food go to waste. Abby would be a hit at Sanita's the next time she went.
“Now, this morning our experiments were carefully measured,” Sherlock said. “Which is the proper way to do things. However, since it's possible our victim wasn't as diligent, we're going to eyeball the next few batches, to allow for all possibilities.”
“Two eggs,” Abby said.
“Not quite yet, but well-remembered,” Sherlock said.
John did some writing in the afternoon, as his next deadline was approaching. He'd been suffering from a bout of writer's block and putting off working on it. Gladstone curled up on his feet, having come to the conclusion that table scraps were unlikely.
“Daddy is writing a story,” Abby told Sherlock.
“Yes, I can see that,” Sherlock replied.
“Him writes grown-up stories,” Abby said. “Not Abby stories.”
“Someday you'll read them,” Sherlock said. “And you'll see how much fun we have.”
“I have fun with you,” Abby said.
Sherlock cleared his throat. “Yes, well, good,” he said. “Two eggs.”
John's writing was interrupted by a call from Harry. His stomach still plunged each time he saw her name pop up on his phone, even though she hadn't caused problems in months. He still expected it to be bad news. She was in a bit of a state, but not the usual kind. She'd had to pay a plumber this month, and she was low on funds.
“I swear, the money went to my sink,” she said.
“I believe you,” John said. “No worries. Don't get yourself panicked. We all have unexpected things crop up. How much do you need?”
“Ten quid,” she said.
“Ten quid,” he echoed.
“Yeah, s'just to cover the rent,” she said. “I'm ten quid short. I'm really sorry. Pay day is on Friday, so I can pay you back within the week.”
John laughed. “God, Harry, ten quid,” he said. “Yeah, I think I can handle a tenner. When do you need it?”
“Monday,” she said.
“Okay, I'll drop by when I'm out and about,” John said. “You'll have it.”
“Thanks, Johnny,” she said. “I'm really sorry.”
John bit down the retort on his tongue, which was that he'd given her about ten thousand quid over all the years she'd been drunk and ten quid while she was sober wasn't going to break the bank. Sarah would label that as 'hostile'. “Don't get upset,” he said. “It's fine.”
“All right, thanks,” Harry said.
“No worries. Seriously, I'm not angry,” John said.
He managed to calm her down and decided getting the money to her promptly would be better than having her fuss. He rang Sarah, and she agreed to stop on her way home.
He moved the load of wet laundry into the dryer and put the dark load in. Then he went back to work on his column until Abby dropped an egg in the kitchen, and, despite Sherlock being very understanding about it, burst into tears.
“JOHN!” Sherlock called, immediately.
John came and helped her calm herself down. Which was when he noticed one of her bunches had been adjusted to match the other.
“Really?” he said to Sherlock. “You think Mycroft is OCD?”
“It was distracting,” Sherlock said. “And, as you can see, it was not hard to fix. You have no excuses as to why they were mismatched in the first place. I hope you don't take her out in public like this. Especially in that outfit...”
Abby's sniffles were over, but she looked very tired. John suggested that she perhaps go and play by herself for a bit, to have some quiet time. She was past naps, but still got cross in the late afternoons, and today had been full of excitement.
“I'm helping Sherlock,” she said.
“And you've been really great,” John said. “You're a very good scientist. But I think he'll be okay on his own. Why don't you take Gladstone and watch some telly until Mummy comes home? I'll help Sherlock if he needs it. That's my job, I'm very good at it.”
“Okay?” she asked Sherlock.
“I think I can struggle through,” Sherlock said.
“Thank you for playing with me,” she said.
Sherlock smiled. “Thank you for your help,” he said. “You have the makings of an excellent detective.”
Abby grinned. John sent her to wash her hands and then settled her in to watch Mister Maker on the telly in the guest room. Gladstone trotted in and waited for her to decide how she was going to sit, before curling up around her.
“I didn't mean to upset her,” Sherlock said, when John returned.
“It's not your fault,” John said. “She's a bit of a perfectionist; she doesn't like it when she makes mistakes. You were fine with her. Really great, actually. She had a lot of fun today.”
Sherlock shrugged. “A sound basis in science will help her when she starts school."
“Yeah, I hear preschool is tough,” John said. “They start you right off in the lab.”
“Being facetious is not an attractive quality,” Sherlock replied.
“I'm married, I don't need to be attractive any more,” John said. He helped Sherlock spoon some batter in the fairy cake cases that were next to go in. “How many more of these do you have to do?”
“Two,” Sherlock said. “This tray and one more. That will give me an excellent set of data to work with.”
“Yeah, and me with 110 fairy cakes,” John said, looking around at the mess. “I wonder if we could donate them somewhere. Maybe a soup kitchen. Or a homeless shelter?”
“I hadn't really thought that far ahead,” Sherlock said. “Can't you eat them?”
“Not 110 of them, no,” John said.
“Oh,” Sherlock said. “Yes, I suppose that's a bit of overkill for a family of three.” He placed the tray in the oven and stood back to watch. “John?”
“Mmm?” John said.
“What you did today,” Sherlock said. “Is that what you do in a day?”
“Well, I was a bit unoccupied today because of Abs being busy, normally I'd get more done,” John said.
“No, I didn't mean it like that,” Sherlock said. “It's plenty. A lot, in fact. I suppose I didn't realize that you...do things when I'm not around.”
“Did you think I just sat around waiting for you to ring?” John said.
“Yes,” Sherlock admitted.
John laughed. “Does it bother you that I don't?”
Sherlock considered this, head cocking back and forth. “No,” he decided, in the end. He added, “you seem quite good at it. Whatever it is. Being domestic.”
“S'not that hard,” John said.
“I couldn't do it,” Sherlock said.
“I can't solve crimes,” John said, with a shrug.
“Or make bunches,” Sherlock added.
“And yet, somehow, I've made it to forty-three,” John said. “Go figure, huh?”
When John went in to check on Abby, he found both her and Gladstone asleep on the floor together, curled up around each other. Abby still had her goggles on and the flap of her doctor's coat was fallen over Gladstone's back. John took a photo and left her to rest for a bit.
He woke her up just before Sarah was due home. Sherlock was now letting the last batch of fairy cakes burn to see how long they might have been sitting at the crime scene before the body was found.
“No more science, Sherlock?” Abby asked, rubbing a sleepy eye.
“Not today,” Sherlock said. “But I can show you how to find an average if you'd like. Come here.”
Abby hopped up into his lap, which, judging by the expression on Sherlock's face, was a little more here to have come than he was intending. He talked her through his notes and how he was adding the numbers up. Abby nodded very sagely.
“Oh my God, what's on fire?” Sarah called from the hallway.
“Nothing, yet,” John said.
“It's intentional,” Sherlock added.
Sarah arrived in the kitchen with her nose wrinkled. “That's awful,” she said. “Ugh.”
“S'not that bad,” John said.
“You lived at 221B, you don't have any olfactory receptors left,” Sarah said.
“Mummy!” Abby said. She pushed her way off Sherlock's lap to fling herself at Sarah. “Look at my science.”
“I see your science,” Sarah said. “All of it. Really, quite a massive amount of science. Hey, Sherlock.”
“Mmm,” Sherlock said, waving his pen at her absently.
John took the take away bags from Sarah. “Did you get to Harry's?” he asked.
“Yep, all sorted,” Sarah said. “She apologized about a hundred times. I did a little snooping, and I couldn't see anything alcoholic around, but that doesn't mean anything. She definitely wasn't tipsy, and she still looks good. I think the story is legitimate.”
“All right, thanks,” John said.
“You staying for supper, Sherlock?” Sarah asked.
“I'm only here until the fairy cakes burn sufficiently,” Sherlock said. “Which may include supper.”
Sarah sniffed and wrinkled her nose again. “We're going to have to eat outside,” she said. “It's making me ill in here.”
The Sawyer-Watsons headed out to the patio set in the very tiny back garden. Sherlock stayed in to watch his fairy cakes. Abby could barely eat for telling Sarah about the very exciting day she'd had with Uncle Sherlock.
“I measured,” she said. “And I gived eggs. I helped. Sherlock is fun.”
“Yes, Uncle Sherlock is very fun,” Sarah said. “Too much fun, sometimes.”
Sherlock stuck his head out of the house during dessert. Everyone had a fairy cake. Three down, 107 to go.
“I'm done,” he reported. “I've re-engaged the smoke alarm and opened all your windows. The smell should be gone within the next half hour. I suggest staying out here if you find it bothersome.”
“Thanks, Sherlock,” Sarah said.
“What's the conclusion?” John said.
“11 minutes, 35 seconds,” Sherlock said. “On average. So, that narrows time of death down from between 1pm and 6pm to between 4:15 pm to 4:45pm. The fairy cakes took one hour and 15 minutes to burn to the same extent. This eliminates six suspects and leaves with me two. Well worth the effort. I'm off to see what Lestrade has come up with. Probably nothing, but you never know.”
“Do you want me to come with?” John asked.
“No, I've started, I'll finish,” Sherlock said. “I'd rather have you on the next one.”
“All right,” John said, surprised at the logic there. Sherlock was growing up, finally. “Have fun.”
“Thank you,” Sherlock said.
“Say goodbye to Uncle Sherlock, Abs, he's going,” Sarah said.
“Oh, no!” Abby said, stricken.
Abby got out of her chair and ran over to the door, beckoning Sherlock downwards. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he waited awkwardly for her to let go. She offered him the rest of her fairy cake.
“You stay and eat,” she said. “Don't go.”
“Thank you,” he said. “But I don't like to eat when I'm working, and I have to go.”
“Chocolate is yummy,” Abby said, as though trying to entice him.
He smiled. “Congratulations,” he said. “You've proven your first hypothesis.”