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Sherlock’s eyes narrowed between a squint and a glare as he strode down the hall. He refused to believe it was either irritation or pain—hospital lighting had certainly never bothered him before. And while he was never particularly fond of the scent of antiseptic—who was?—he was certainly no stranger to it. Though admittedly when he used St. Barts’ labs the smell never had time to linger.

He stopped in front of a wide observation window and quickly found his quarry. Patient 30475 was easily identified in the militarily executed columns and rows, despite the alarming numbers of similarly appointed bassinets. How on earth could anyone make sense of that much pink?

The hospital identification system was about the only thing in the nursery that did make sense. Nurses moved about, checking charts, diapers, blankets, all without any indication from the infants in their care. They couldn’t be reading differences in their charges, all with the same pink complexion, wrinkled noses, and pinched look on their faces. All wanting food, wanting warmth, wanting sleep. There was no differentiation between one and the next. But Sherlock knew if he observed long enough, if he caught the hints and clues, he could learn.

He could learn anything.

He turned his gaze back to his particular patient. After all, she was the one he would have the most occasion to study. She was the one whose care he would be responsible for, who would grow under his tutelage. Early assessment was key to determining where she stood developmentally, what areas she lacked in, areas where she may be delayed. Once assessed, appropriate steps could be taken, corrective exercises implemented.

She would want for nothing. He would ensure that. However simple such exercises may be.

Sherlock frowned. Not that any such assessments would be possible soon. His patient was capable of little more than crying and the most basic physical functions, at present.

A nurse stepped up to the glass, smile on her face. “Are you here to see a baby?”

“Patient 30475.”

The nurse’s smile faltered a bit before wheeling the bassinet over to the glass. Sherlock narrowed his eyes at her retreating back. He would never allow a detail about his patient to slip from the neutral tones and soft plush room already inhabiting his mind palace.

He considered his patient as she lay before him. He’s heard new patients exclaiming over how their child has one person’s eyes, or so-and-so’s chin. He can only assume they’re deluding themselves, seeing what they want to see in their child’s non-descript features. Even his patient boasted the same, blunt, wide-nostrilled nose, round cheeks, and puckered mouth. No wonder the majority of the world was so dreadfully dull, if its inhabitants all started out so terrifyingly boring.

Sherlock winced. Perhaps he was developing a sensitivity to fluorescent lighting. He could arrange an experiment to determine the severity of the condition, and ask John about suitable treatments. Of course, it may take John some time to review the problem with appropriate consideration, now.

Then again he may devise his own treatment.

His patient issued a ubiquitous coo, to Sherlock’s dismay. Surely exemplary parents would produce similarly extraordinary offspring?

Sherlock tamped down on a grimace. John and Mary had been smitten with the infant, even while she was still in-uetero. Mary chattered away incessantly about all the things the baby had to try and would love—Sherlock supposed there may be some genetic predisposition to sharing parental likes and tastes, but there was no way to be certain, and he had told her that; she had laughed every time. John had watched this interaction every time he was present with a besotted smile on his face. It had spurred Sherlock to research the effects of pregnancy hormones on males in close proximity to the carrying female, and he would never forgive John for the headache that had induced. Sympathetic pregnancy, indeed.

Sherlock dutifully observed the infant before him, searching the wrinkled pink face for any sign of distinction. He knew he would be asked what the infant looked like, who she took after.

Her face screwed up and Sherlock braced himself for a wail—an aspect of child rearing he had not been looking forward to—but instead she gave a hiccupping yawn.

All Sherlock could think of was Mary’s face as she drank the wine at the wedding.

Sherlock stared, looking for that same flash of recognition, for some clue about her in her physical appearance. There was nothing, not in the tuft of her hair or the slit of her eyes, the way her fingers curled to fists—

There, in the puckered corner of her mouth twitching upward, was the faintest hint of Mary’s smile.

She yawned again and Sherlock stared at the twitch of her nose, quick as a rabbit’s, before she settled again. There, in the flare of her nostrils as she breathed, John’s expressiveness.

Sherlock checked the impulse to reach out and touch baby-soft blonde hair. It was a ridiculous impulse that served no purpose. Sherlock felt John step up beside him and forced himself to look up at his best-friend.

“Mary’s settled and as comfortable as anyone can be in a hospital bed,” John said. He looked through the window at his daughter, then back to Sherlock, question in his face.

Sherlock nodded.

John’s face opened as he stared at his daughter, all guards stripped away. Sherlock could read his every thought, every emotion in that moment. His breath caught.

“She’s beautiful.”

It was a whisper of breath, but there is no way Sherlock could miss it, not with every line of John’s body screaming it for Sherlock to read.

Sherlock’s lips quirked up as he watched father and daughter. His vision swam with everything he was seeing in John for the first time. John’s daughter sneezed, her nose wriggling back and forth.

“Yes,” Sherlock agreed.