"Dear God, Miss Adler, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful infant."
Irene searched the watery eyes of Mycroft Holmes as he rocked Hamish in his long, noodle-like arms. She wondered if he'd ever felt the joy of holding a child before, as the sentiment seemed to overrule him now, and she thought him in dire need of both oxygen and a tight hug.
"I never dreamt—" Mycroft was saying, a grin spreading across his often-dismal face as Hamish reached for his nose. "I never dreamt such stuff as this would come of Moriarty's return," he said, arresting one of the infant's hands in his own. The baby sneezed, and Mycroft almost laughed.
"But really, Mr. Holmes, did you expect anything less of Sherlock?" she asked, glancing at her husband who was still conversing with John and Mrs. Hudson at the other end of the cathedral.
"No . . . I suppose I didn't. One can never expect anything less than the extraordinary when it comes to Sherlock Holmes. Or you, I might add."
A small smile graced her face.
"I've done my best, Mr. Holmes. That's all I could have done," she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.
"And look at what it is you have done," Mycroft chirped. Irene looked up at him, almost afraid to hear his answer. But what he said put a bright glow in her cheeks.
"You've saved the whole of England from a catastrophic event, brought one of the most beautiful children I've ever seen into this world, and you've convinced me once and for all that my brother really does have a heart."
Irene and Mycroft both looked at Sherlock, who was now throwing Rosie up into the air and catching her. She giggled like a hyena each time he launched her into the air, and as she fell back down into his arms—blonde curls bouncing—he would laugh with everything in him.
"Does he not look like a man with a heart?" Mycroft asked, turning back toward the infant he was holding. "Additionally," he proceeded, "you've convinced me that I have one, too," he added, his grave features forming into a delicate display of contented amusement.
"I never doubted it," Irene mused, letting Hamish grab a hold of one of her fingers. "We all have one, really. Somewhere. All any of us needs is a bit of prodding and poking for it to come out. The only part we ever play in it is deciding whether or not to keep it beating."
"Yes . . ." Mycroft replied, his voice contemplative. He looked up at the tilework above them, and Irene followed his gaze. The mosaics of St. Paul's Cathedral never failed to impress.
"Christ and the disciples," Mycroft noted under his breath. "They've made this dome three hundred sixty-five feet high from floor to ceiling," he added.
"For each day of the year, I'd suppose," she said, letting her eyes rove over the ornate, gleaming tile figures of Christ, the apostles Peter, James, and John.
"Yes, but I believe it's also for the fact that the command to 'not be afraid' is said three hundred sixty-five times in that infamous book of antiquity, The Holy Bible," he admitted, almost loath to say it.
"One for each day. That's fascinating," Irene said, still feeling the smallness of her own being in the midst of the magnificence she stood beneath. Mycroft let out a soft hmm, still studying the golden mosaic hundreds of feet above their heads.
Hamish let out an infant cry of protest at the lack of attention he noticed, and it seemed to snap the two adults back into the present. Mycroft chuckled disconcertingly, and Irene offered to take the baby, which she gladly did.
"I've still no clue why Sherlock wanted the child baptized," Mycroft huffed, and Irene detected a hint of agitation in his voice. Her brother-in-law's tendency toward the non-religious was evident at first glance.
"You've got to admit, doing it here held some significance," Irene justified, trying to calm Hamish as he squirmed. His feet were kicking violently under his blankets, and she was struggling to contain his energy, if that were even possible to begin with.
"I suppose . . ." Mycroft went on.
"Weren't you and your siblings baptized as children?" Irene asked.
He scoffed. "Of course," he hastily confirmed. "But it's not like it meant anything," he continued. "I didn't think it would have continued on to any of our offspring, and yet . . . here we are." Mycroft's brow looked like it could use an iron to get out the wrinkles.
"I didn't even know he'd wanted his children baptized. Assuming he ever had any," Mycroft remarked cynically, his eyebrow curling in its signature expression of confusion.
"I don't think he had," Irene replied, watching her husband's delighted expression as he spun Rosie in circles, much to John's OCD protests to the contrary.
"Why do you think he's done it?" Mycroft asked suddenly, studying his brother across the room as though he held the answer somewhere in his aspect.
Irene thought a moment, heart full and head filled with memory. She watched Mycroft's skeptical face, she watched Hamish look up with a curious wonder, and she watched her husband, the imitable Sherlock Holmes, laughing with a child in his arms and willingly accepting the joy that had been put on his shoulders.
"I suspect it was for all the prayers," she finally answered, and Mycroft's brow furrowed even more.
"What prayers?" he asked in what sounded like a panic, clearing his throat and straightening his tie. Irene said nothing, still studying Sherlock and feeling Mycroft's full frightened gaze on her face.
"The desperate prayers," Irene replied, serenity gracing her words. She felt no fear in admitting herself. "The ones we prayed when we thought the world would fall out from under us. The ones I won't be ashamed to admit I screamed into the dark. The ones we swore we would never pray because there was no one to pray to."
"Oh . . . so there were prayers, then?"
"Yes. There were. But only ever those prayers."
"I suppose . . . you are alive, and that counts for something, doesn't it?" Mycroft tried, humorously asking if the prayers had done their magic.
Irene laughed. O ye of little faith immediately popped into her mind, and she wanted to whisper it to herself, staying silent only due to her own confused thoughts concerning . . . everything.
"Well, I've quite ruled out luck," she said, kissing Hamish's forehead as he finally began to settle down. Her arms tightened around the infant, never wanting to loosen her hold.
"But I asked God for mercy," Irene whispered, almost to herself. She wasn't really talking to Mycroft anymore. She was thinking aloud and forgotten he was there, listening.
"I asked God for mercy," she repeated. "I've never known mercy, but is it too much to suggest that . . . I know it now? Is this what mercy looks like?"
"This may be the closest we'll ever come," Mycroft replied, the edge fully gone from his voice. "This may be the closest we'll ever come to mercy in this lifetime," he finished.
And Sherlock turned to look at Irene, putting Rosie in the arms of her father. She smiled gloriously as he met her gaze, his hair disheveled. His eyes fixated on the son she held in her arms, and it sent a jolt of pride surging through the mother.
"Here, darling," she said with a laugh, holding out Hamish as he let out a hiccup. Sherlock gathered the infant into his arms with the eagerness of an honored father full of love and contentment for his child. He kissed his son, rocked him with the care of a mother hen, and hummed a song under his breath in the presence of his wife and elder brother. Seeing it put water in Irene's eyes.
And somewhere inside her, she knew Mycroft was right.
A/N: The Emotional Children is completed! Oh my word, thank you to everyone who has supported this work of mine. I'm so honored and humbled that it's received so much support from all of you and for finally being able to mark it as COMPLETE. Thank you thank you thank you to all of you so much! Please do head over to my blog (link in bio) to keep up with my future writing endeavors! I hope to get to know all of you and share my upcoming works of fiction (both fanfics and original) with you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this story with me! :)