Title: A Genesis Story
Pairing: Sherlock and John (Gen)
Summary: They met long before A Study in Pink.
Word Count: ~3300
Warnings: mentions of violence and injury to a child ("offscreen" violent bullying)
Author's Notes: This is a pre-canon kid-fic written as a remix of "What Is To Come" by humantales for the Sherlock Remix. You don't need to have read that story to follow this one, but as it's a very good story and was the basis for this story, I'd recommend reading it. Much thanks to atlinmerrick and random_nexus for their beta-fu skills.
Sherlock Holmes was tall for his age. He was a tall, gangling package of pale skin and long bones. And one very smart brain with a mouth to match. The disdain he could muster as an adult was already very present in him as a youth. He was normally a quiet child, kept to himself, was perhaps even a bit sullen; that is until he could take it no longer. Until the ignorance, the obliviousness, the sheer idiocy of the world around him would finally reach some critical mass, and then he could no longer control it. Could no longer control the need to point out their stupidity, correct their ignorance, mock their tiny little minds.
"They" being anyone unfortunate enough to finally goad Sherlock to his cracking point. Sometimes it was the silly little girls in his class, sometimes the boys, sometimes even his mother. It could also be the doltish older boys in the form ahead of him or the even older boys who stood outside the gates of his school waiting to walk their silly little brothers and sisters home. Mycroft was almost always there to fetch him at the same time, but every once in awhile he was delayed. When that happened, it was never good. Those boys just couldn't help tossing out insults to the weird, little Holmes child. Most times he could ignore them, but a few times they found that final key that would unlock Sherlock's mouth. And mouthing off at those boys had earned him more than a few bruises and scrapes. But it was worth it. Usually.
Until that day the first week of August when Mummy had let him walk around the block to the library by himself while she got fitted for a new evening gown. On that day the group of boys who were sometimes outside his school were outside his library. On that day, Sherlock didn't go home with just a blue ring of bruises from a hand around his wrist or a scraped knee and palms from being shoved to the ground. In fact, on that day, Sherlock didn't go home at all. Because two black eyes, a busted lip, three lost teeth, a fractured rib, and a damaged spleen meant he went to A&E instead.
He was ten years old and the other boys were all about five years older. He hadn't really thought about it when he'd returned their first insult with one of his own, or when those insults had grown increasingly more cutting. If he had thought about it, he probably would have supposed the age difference would protect him. He'd have thought they'd never stoop to truly beating a child. However, he would've been wrong. As he so clearly discovered that August afternoon when he was pulled into the deserted toilet on the second floor of the library and given the beating of his life. He would've been very, very wrong.
It was one time his superior brain betrayed him. He'd been on the receiving end of enough bullying, seen enough fights between other children, that he should have realized that pushes could easily escalate into punches. He'd been rather naively believing his mother's reassurances that things would get better as everyone got older; hoping that, maybe with age, he would get more control of his mouth and the other boys would get better control of their hands. The latter clearly wasn't going to happen though, and, if he was very honest with himself, the former wasn't very likely either.
But there had to be a solution. He had no illusions that this beating hadn't been dangerously bad. He'd even had to have surgery to remove his spleen. He didn't really remember much that had happened afterward except riding in an ambulance and waking up from the surgery to his crying mother and a policeman asking him what he remembered about the attack. His father had stepped in at that point and put off any questioning until Sherlock was better.
He'd been moved to the children's ward after he'd recovered from the surgery. Daddy's money would normally have been enough to finagle him a private room, but there was a very nasty summer flu going around which had filled all of the private rooms with contagious patients who needed to be kept in isolation. So, in the ward he went. There were ten beds on a side with all boys in this wing. He was at least closest to the wall, meaning he only had one other boy to deal with.
He had very little to do to keep himself occupied other than think. His face was still a swollen mess, so reading was out. He could barely see shapes and movement, much less words on a page. He had to lay on his back because of his ribs and the stitches from his splenectomy, but the head of his bed had been lifted to an incline to help with the swelling on his face. So he just reclined as far back as he could and lay very, very still. He'd been given some painkillers, but they were wearing off. He was hurting quite badly, and all the medication seemed to be doing now was irritating him.
Dinner time came and went with no food for Sherlock who was getting his nutrients through a tube, though he'd been told he could have some clear liquids tomorrow. After dinner the one television was turned on for an hour or so until everyone seemed to be settling into their bedtime routine. Soon enough, the telly was off, the lights were dimmed for sleep, and they were asked to please keep it quiet. Sherlock found that request ridiculous. What with all the beeping machines and the nurses checking vitals and IV bags and giving medication every couple of hours, it was never going to be quiet in the ward. Still, he kept his eyes closed and was content to remain quiet himself.
However, the boy in the next bed was not so content. Sherlock heard him tossing and turning, fidgeting and sighing, so he prepared himself for what he knew was coming. The boy actually lasted longer than the ten minutes Sherlock had given him, but, twenty minutes later, Sherlock heard the inevitable whispered greeting, "I'm John, what's your name?"
He did his best not to sigh and hoped if he didn't move then the boy would just think he was asleep. His hope was soon dashed when he heard, "I know you're awake. C'mon, out with it. What's your name?"
This time Sherlock did sigh, but he didn't move or open his eyes. Just took a shallow breath, ever mindful of his ribs, and said, "Bill. My name is Bill." With his teeth knocked out "Sherlock" would only come out with a lisp. He'd only just gotten control of his actual lisp last year, and he wasn't too keen on spitting out "Therlock" to some strange boy right about now. But "Bill" he could say just fine, so "Bill" it was.
"Nice to meet you, Bill. Uhm, were you in some sort of accident?"
"Uhm, kind of," he echoed back in answer then tacked on, "How about you? What are you in for?"
He heard a quiet huff of laughter at his little joke, and then, "Appendix. Had it out yesterday. Should be going home tomorrow."
John seemed to be waiting for Sherlock to continue the conversation, but he didn't. He'd made the effort to be as polite as he could manage. It had been exhausting.
John however seemed eager to continue. "You don't look like you're going to be going home anytime soon, though. What kind of accident was it exactly?"
Sherlock heard the note of suspicion in John's voice. It irritated him because it meant John was curious and, therefore, probably wouldn't shut up anytime soon. But it also intrigued Sherlock. Suspicion meant John was thinking, and thinking was exceedingly rare in most boys around his age, or at least it seemed that way in Sherlock's experience.
"How old are you, John?" he asked.
"Oh, I'm fourteen. How about you?"
Sherlock finally turned his head a bit to look at John as well as he could. He couldn't see his face clearly, but the shape and size of his body was clear enough. Sherlock would've said he was twelve at the oldest. John was a bit small for his age.
About that time one of the nurses came to check on Sherlock's bandages. She checked his face and the stitches on the side of his torso. She shot a couple of vials of medication into his IV, probably more pain killers and an antibiotic. She stepped over and checked John for a brief moment, and then said, "Just remember to keep it down, boys." Sherlock guessed she probably had a kind face. If the way John's head turned to follow her walk back to the nurses' station was any indication, she probably had a pretty face, too.
Sherlock closed his eyes and waited for the pain medication to kick-in, hoping John would perhaps take the hint. He didn't.
"So, what kind of accident was it? Did you fall onto your face?"
Sherlock had really had enough, so he let some of his irritation leak into his voice. Maybe that would shut John up. "Got it in one," he drawled sarcastically. "I fell right onto my face. Over and over and over. Then landed hard on my side just for good measure so I could get rid of that bothersome spleen. Wouldn't want to give it the chance to turn on me like your appendix did on you." He'd forgotten all about his lisp in his irritation, his mouth the only thing faster than his brain, as per usual.
He only heard silence for several moments, until the unmistakable sound of quiet laughter drifted over from the next bed. John was laughing at him. Probably at his stupid, stupid lisp. How he hated it.
"God, you've got a mouth on you, don't you? So, it's what it looks like then? Somebody beat the crap out of you." Sherlock refused to acknowledge the little shiver of relief that passed through him at that. John wasn't laughing at his lisp, he was just brushing-off all the attitude with good humor. Then he realized what John had actually said. How had he figured that one out? He could've been in an auto accident for all John knew. He supposed his little display of snark might have been enough to push the older boy from guessing "accident" to "beating," but then John's second question echoed in his mind.
"And how would you know what it looks like when someone has had the crap beat out of him?"
More silence, but finally Sherlock heard a small voice respond, "I just do." All traces of laughter were gone from that answer.
Sherlock knew there was something there that he should be picking-up on, but his pain medication was starting to work, meddling with his thinking processes again. Which was probably why he admitted, "Yes. Someone beat the crap out of me. And, yes, it was because of my mouth. Well done you."
"I...I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to be mean or make fun of you. I really am sorry. No one should do that to you. No one should be allowed to lay their hands on anyone like that. It's not right."
And Sherlock could hear it in his voice that John really was sorry, but there was that undertone again. Sherlock could sense it, but his mind just couldn't work it out.
"It's all right. I just didn't expect them to be so vicious with someone so much younger. I should have known better."
"Well, a bully is a bully. There are plenty of people who'll use their fists on anyone who can't fight back."
"Clearly. Lesson learned, I guess."
"That lesson learned hasn't stopped your smart mouth, though." Sherlock could hear the humor back in John's tone.
"No. No, it hasn't. I've been trying to figure something out. I can't spend my life in hospital, but I don't think my mouth is able to stay shut for long. I've tried. It never lasts."
John laughed out loud at that. "Well, maybe if you can't learn to shut-up, you'll just have to learn to put-up."
"What? What does that mean?"
"It means that if you can't stop yourself from getting people’s backs up, then you need to learn to fight back. I'm the smallest boy in my class, I've gotten bullied plenty. I live with...well, I just know some people can't be talked out of being awful. And you can't always avoid those people. Sometimes all you can do is learn to defend yourself. Learn to stand-up to them in the only way they understand."
"You mean fight back? Like with my fists?"
"Yes, Bill, I mean like with your fists."
"But how? I'm ten. They were fifteen. And big."
"There are ways. I just told you, I'm the smallest boy in my class. If you know what you're doing, being big isn't everything."
"You mean like karate or something?"
"Maybe. I don't know much about that, but I started boxing. There's a gym in my neighborhood, so I started taking lessons. I only had to use what I learned once at school. Nobody's bothered me since."
Sherlock lay there in an increasingly blissful fog, thinking as hard as he could on John's words. And the more he thought about it, the more he realized John was right. It had just never occurred to Sherlock that he could fight back physically when he was no match to those boys in size or strength. But maybe if he could use his brain to learn to make the optimum use of his body... He felt a bubble of joyous laughter rising up in his chest until the pain from his ribs stopped it cold. But the joy was still there. He would've hugged John if he could; if that wouldn't have been weird or required him to actually touch someone else. Still, he was very, very pleased with his ward-mate right then.
"Boxing," he finally whispered, like it was some new, holy thing he'd only just discovered.
He lay there awhile, making plans as much as he could, and hoped he'd remember some of them in the morning. He would remember them, he decided. His brain would obey him in this. Finally, however, his medication began winning the battle, and Sherlock was soon really drifting into sleep. John must have realized, because the last thing Sherlock remembered hearing that night was a fond, "Goodnight Boxer Bill," whispered from the next bed.
When he finally came-to the next morning, he looked over to see if John was awake but saw only an empty bed.
His nurse noticed he had roused, and she came over to check on him. "Good morning, you! Well, afternoon actually. That's okay, though. You need your rest." She yammered on and on in the same vein as she gave him a quick exam and told him the doctor would be in later.
But her cheery chatter just washed over him. He couldn't hear her through the angry pounding in his ears. He was so furious, so disgusted with himself for sleeping through John's leaving. John had helped him, talked to him like he was a normal human being. He'd just laughed when Sherlock had gotten stroppy. He had been a better friend to Sherlock in ten minutes than anyone else had ever been in ten years. And Sherlock didn't even know what he looked like, hadn't even told him his own real name. He felt like screaming that it wasn't fair, demanding that they bring John back right now. But he knew that would be useless. A tantrum wouldn't fix this. He felt tears seeping into his eyes at the injustice of it all.
"Oh, dearest, don't cry. Here, we'll just get your medicine in you, and you'll feel better in two shakes," his nurse promised, not understanding the cause of his tears. She gave him another shot in his IV, and soon Sherlock felt the medicine tugging him under again. Which was all right since he didn't want to think right now – not about how he had let the one person he might have managed to befriend slip right through his fingers.
The rest of his days in the ward passed in a drug-induced and pain-filled blur until it was finally time for him to be released home. The young nurse who'd been in charge of his days during his stay was fussing around him, checking his bandages one last time, removing the IV needle from his hand, and helping him into the regular pyjamas his parents had brought yesterday.
He had been a model patient, really. He'd kept quiet and hadn't fought getting medicated, hadn't cried out in pain when his bandages were changed or when the doctor had to push on his face to do his exam. His nurse, Katie, thought he'd been a brave and lovely little boy. She felt sorry for Sherlock.
Which Sherlock was now well enough to use to his advantage. He knew good and well that she shouldn't tell him. That, when he asked, she should tell him that she wasn't allowed to give out that kind of information. But he also knew that what she should do was not what she would do. She would tell him. He knew if the first thing he asked for this whole time was the full name of the ever-so-nice boy who'd been in the next bed last week, then she'd be too soft-hearted to resist. So he sat up and did his best pitiful-little-boy act, which wasn't so hard in his condition, and she'd melted, just as he'd thought.
When his mother and father showed up to fetch him home, he settled into the back seat for the ride home flanked by either parent. He was tired and still hurt, but that would get better soon enough. The important thing now was for him to focus on the two tasks he had set for himself. First, he was going to learn how to box. He would learn how to defend himself so he never ended up a victim like this again. He was certain his father would agree to pay for lessons, eager to foster any interest Sherlock might show in something as normal as sport.
Second, he was going to find John. Oh, it wouldn't be easy. He was ten years old, he had no idea what John looked like, and he had no idea where he lived. He could have kicked himself for not paying closer attention to John while he'd had the chance. He promised himself then and there that would never happen again. From now on, he would observe everyone and everything much more keenly. He would never be left so frustrated, wondering and searching for someone or something with so little to go on, again.
But he at least had a name to start with now, thanks to Nurse Katie – John Watson. He'd almost laughed when he'd heard it. Of course it was something so common. Of course he was John Watson. Well, he supposed it was a bit better than John Smith, but he was too excited that he'd managed to get his name at all to be very disappointed for long. He would get home, put together every scrap of information he had about John, and work from there. It was exciting in a way. He would be like the detectives in all his favorite stories. He would get his little grey-cells working and solve this mystery. He would find John Watson. Someday. No matter how long it took.