AN: Hello all. OleanderHoney here. I have had this idea for a long time, and I wanted to explore this particular dynamic seeing as how I've looked, and haven't come across anything like this. I hope you all like it, and if any of you know me you know feedback is invaluable to me as a writer. This does talk a little about child abuse so if that is a trigger for you please be aware. There is no sexual abuse in this story however, because I am not very knowledgeable on the subject and I am trying to be as delicate as possible.

Usual disclaimers apply. I do not own Sherlock. The characters and basic plot lines belong to Moffat, Gatiss, and the BBC.

Not leaving: an act of trust and love,
often deciphered by children."
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief


Doctor John Watson hated house-calls.

Most of the time it was a couple of paranoid parents that read somewhere vaccinating their kids leads to autism or how hospitals can undoubtedly leave you exposed to more diseases than licking the turnstiles in the Underground, and that's why even though their child wasclearly dying of rubella, they couldn't take him/her/it/who-gives-a-shit in to be properly examined. And then proceeding to get angry at himfor wasting their time when, in fact, the diagnosis turned out to be nothing more than heat rash and irritation most likely caused from changing detergents.

The other fifty-percent of the time turned out to be cantankerous old people oddly surrounded by unidentifiable odours that usually had nothing to do with their ailments. He wasn't sure which was worse.

So, when Sarah asked him if he could drop in on one of their patients at the end of a very trying day filled with runny noses, an addict clearly doctor shopping, and at least one hypochondriac — No Mrs. Cartwright, you do not have prostate cancer. You actually need a prostate first. — he was less than thrilled to say the least.

"Jefferson Hope?" John says looking down at the patient print-out Sarah just handed him.

"Er, his son actually," Sarah says. "He was scheduled to come in tomorrow, but he requested that if at all possible he would prefer if someone would be willing to come out today and take a look at the little tyke's arm. Apparently it's a pretty nasty sprain."

"Well if it's just a sprain then is it completely necessary for me to make the trip to…" he glances down at the file, "Jesus, Greenwich?"

"I don't know what you're used to, Doctor Watson, but this is a private practice, and here we believe in providing the best for our patients," Sarah says sternly.

"No, no. It's fine. I just — it's fine," he says again trying to get back into her good graces. She had taken a risk in hiring him, invalided Army Doctor with PTSD and a psychosomatic limp like he was, and the last thing he wanted was to throw that back in her face. He tries to smile amicably, but he's not sure if he manages it. She seems to buy it however, and hands him the standard packet of papers that was protocol for house visits.

"Thank you," she says tersely, and leaves him standing in the middle of his office.

He clenches the handle of his cane and grits his teeth. Great. That was at least a forty minute Tube ride with two interchanges because god knows cab fare doesn't quite factor into his budget at the moment. He hated the Underground. Too much standing.

He sighs wearily, and grabs his bag and jacket. Treating colds and dealing with the grievances of London transportation: how was this his life now? When only six months prior he was patching gun-shot wounds in the midst of a fire fight?

His hand shakes as he reaches for his scarf.

Damn. What was the point anymore?


The house is part of a duplex, and is in an area in North Greenwich that is particularly worn down from the damp of the Thames and London weather. It's the kind of neighborhood that gets by mostly on nostalgia and twitchy old ladies peeping from behind their curtains. At first glance it's rather mundane, but under the façade John doesn't doubt it's the type of community that has its secrets. By all means, he shouldn't feel so paranoid but old habits die hard. After all, at the very worst he could get attacked by a lawn ornament, have to be vigilant.

He makes his way up the set of steps, juggling his bag and cane awkwardly, and jabs the buzzer.

He waits a few beats, shifting impatiently before he presses it again, holding for a bit longer. If he came all the way down here for bloodynothing he was going to —

The faint sound of a scraping deadbolt as it is turned from the other side of the door has John tilting his head expectantly. It is a slow process, careful and precise, followed by the deliberate turning of the door knob. Slowly, oh so slowly, the door opens, and John's eyes travel down to where a pale, anxious face peers out at him through the crack.

"Um, hello," John says.

The child, no more than five or six, blinks up at him from under his fringe of riotous black curls. The first thing John notices is just how big those eyes are — great blue orbs of innocence almost too big for his face that only grow wider when John kneels down in front of him. The little boy tracks his movement, flickering over his face and down to his hands before back up again, and John realises there is something else behind those eyes…the closest thing he can call it is knowing.

"Is your dad home?" John tries after a moment. Small lips press into a thin line, and the door opens just a little more as if deciding whether or not to close it.

"He's not my dad," comes the quiet reply. "And – and he's not here."

John frowns. "Someone called me to come and see you."

"I did," the little boy says a little louder. An expression of triumph crosses his face before he shutters it away almost as if ashamed. The alarm bells in John's head increase. There was something not right about this picture. He observes a little closer, and notices that yes, the child seems to be waiting to be reprimanded, subconsciously tucking his right arm against his chest like a broken wing.

John is angry now for an entirely different reason, and he works his hardest to swallow it down. He would have to be an idiot to ignore the signs. He makes his face as open and honest as he can, however, and offers a smile.

"My name is John Watson. What is yours?" he asks.

"Sherlock," the little boy says.

"Sherlock. I don't think I've ever heard that name before."

"It means bright hair," Sherlock pipes. "English in origin. But my hair is dark. It's a ox…oxy-mor-mon."

John smiles a little. "An oxymoron?"

"Yes," he says making a face. "Something that is the opposite of what it is."

"You are very smart, Sherlock. Can I come in?" John says.

Sherlock smiles fleetingly at the compliment. Then, incongruously he says, "I'm not allowed to let in strangers," and opens the door anyway.

"Too right. But I'm not a stranger," John says picking himself up and following the small child into the house.

"I know. You're a doctor," Sherlock says and leads them passed the crammed living quarters filled with bookshelves simply overflowing with books. It smells like cigar smoke and damp and there is a distinct, clammy chill in the air. Other than a stuffed bumble bee sitting on the sofa, there are no other indications that a child lives here.

"How old are you, Sherlock?" John says.

"I think I'm five and a half," Sherlock says thoughtfully, and with one hand pulls a dining chair up next to the counter. John, having been momentarily distracted with trying to gather more information based on the drab little flat, snaps his attention back to his little charge.

"What do you mean, you think?" John says, coming further into the dank kitchen.

With careful balance, Sherlock climbs dutifully onto the chair and sits on the work top. He shrugs, his ratty t-shirt slipping briefly over the crest of one shoulder exposing it to the chill of the draught whistling in from the window. He shivers unconsciously.

"That's how old I feel," he replies. "There are children that look like me in some of my books."

John comes over and sets his kit down, searching the boy's face. "Do you not know when your birthday is?"

"Birthday?" Sherlock says, tilting his head inquisitively. John reels at this, and a mixture of rage and sadness swells within him as the evidence before him confirms his worst fears. What child didn't know about birthdays? A neglected one, that's what.

"Sherlock…" he says trying to keep his voice steady. "Does your father know I'm here?"

Sherlock's eyes grow impossibly wide, and his lip trembles. "He's not my father," he says again, curling in on himself.

"Who do you live with?" John says pulling up a stool so he could sit a little more at eye-level with him.

"Mister Hope. He takes care of me when…when my father is away," Sherlock says, breath hitching.

"Is there a number for him that I can call —?" John starts.

"No! No you can't, please!" Sherlock suddenly cries out, terror filling his small face, and tears welling in his eyes. He goes to scramble off the counter, and John tries to stop him, but he drops to the floor, back pressing hard into the cabinets. "I shouldn't have called you. I'm sorry. I don't want to get in trouble."

"Hey, hey, it's all right," John says trying to soothe, crouching down again and clasping his thin shoulders. Sherlock shakes, terrified. "We don't have to call anyone."

"We don't?" Sherlock says warily, clutching his arm to him again.

"Of course not," John says. "You did the right thing calling me. Don't you forget that."

Sherlock still looks unsure, but after a moment he nods. He exhales on a sob, fat tears finally breaking free and rolling down his cheeks. "My arm — it really hurts."

"Let's see if I can do something about that. Sound good?" John says, and Sherlock nods again. John gingerly lifts the little boy up under his arms and sets him back on the counter noticing how frighteningly thin his is. "Is it this one?" he asks, gently drawing Sherlock's right arm away from him and supporting it with one hand. With his other, he lightly palpates the area of the forearm that is clearly swollen.

"Yes," Sherlock says biting his lip in pain. However, he watches John with growing fascination, tears drying on his cheeks.

"When did this happen?" John asks, keeping his voice neutral in case he upsets him again.

"On Monday. The last time Mister Hope was here," Sherlock says. John closes his eyes. It was Wednesday. Two days, Christ. Two days of being alone, scared, and in pain. Who ever this sick bastard was, he deserved to be run over twice by a bloody train.

"Sherlock. Did Mr. Hope do this to you?" John asks him carefully.

Sherlock's breathing accelerates again, and he screws his eyes up tight. "I can't tell you," he says.

"Yes you can. You can tell me," John says, but Sherlock isn't listening. He jerks his arm back in a move that has to hurt, but he doesn't cry out. Instead he tries to fold in on himself as far as he can, trying desperately not to make a sound as silent sobs wrack his frame. It's the picture of a child who is used to being punished for crying. John knows of this well.

"Sherlock. Sherlock, stay with me, okay?" John says trying to get him to look up. His breathing is becoming erratic, and the colour is steadily draining from his face. John tucks his fingers under his neck feeling for a pulse, and curses. It's fast and irregular. When was the last time he ate a proper meal? Far, far too long. He recognised an impending crash when he saw one.

Without thinking twice, John gathers the little boy up into his arms, not at all shocked when he clings to him like a little sea urchin, a wiry arm around the back of his neck and legs tight around his waist. The poor thing is obviously starved for affection, among other things, and is absolutely scared witless. He buries his face into John's jumper and continues to hold back tears as John shoulders his kit and makes his way out of the kitchen.

On his way out of the flat, he grabs the stuffed bumble bee sitting on the couch, and doesn't look back. The whole of him is filled with a protective rage that spurs him on with a single-mined purpose: get Sherlock to safety.

His strides are even and his hands are steady where they hold the small shaking body to his own.

His cane is left standing against the front door, completely forgotten.

"St. Bart's, please," John says slipping into the cab with his arms full of trembling child. "The quicker the better."

"You got it, mate," the cabbie says eyeing them closely, and pulls away from the kerb. After a moment, John sees the driver flick off the fare. He is immensely grateful, and makes a mental note to give him a healthy tip.

"Sherlock?" John says gently. Sherlock winces, and presses his face into John's collarbone hard enough to hurt. "It's all right. I'm just taking you to a friend of mine where he can look at your arm." This only makes the little boy shake harder, and John is rapidly running out of ways to keep him calm. He suddenly remembers the bumble bee, and grabs it from its place next to his med bag. "I've brought along someone. Can you tell me his name?"

At first John thinks Sherlock is too catatonic to register what's even going on, but after a moment, he feels him shift ever so slightly. John feels soft curls tickle his chin as Sherlock turns his head to peer out from his hiding place.

"There you are," John whispers encouragingly. Sherlock reaches out with his uninjured arm and wraps his fingers around one of the fuzzy antennae. He doesn't pull it to him at first, he merely rubs it between his fingertips in a soothing manner of some sort. Finally, as if unsure if he really was allowed to, he hugs it to him. After a minute, his shaking eases some, and John hears him murmur softly to the plush toy. Then, so quietly that John almost misses it, he says,

"Did someone hurt your arm too?"

"What do you mean?" John asks. Sherlock sits back in his lap so he could gaze up at him with his imploring blue eyes still bright with tears.

"Your arm," he repeats. "It hurts too."

Before John has a chance to wonder, Sherlock brings his hand up and places his palm over John's left shoulder — right where his old gunshot wound was.

"How do you know that?" John says mouth dropping open.

Sherlock jumps as if he's been slapped, a string of words falling from his lips rapid fire.

"You carried me but it hurt. You use your left hand for most things so you didn't notice, but I did. Every five steps you pulled me up higher because I kept slipping. Your hand shakes sometimes, too. Someone hurt you real bad like they did me because you're better but the hurt is still there. It was someone far away though," he says frowning.

"Far away?"

"Because of your hands," Sherlock says tracing a finger around the tan line around his wrist. "and your face," he touches the same finger to his cheek. "It's too many clouds in England. Where did you go when you got hurt?"

"I was in Afghanistan," John says, stunned.

"Were you fighting? Bad men?" Sherlock asks meekly.

"I was mostly helping the sick ones," John replies. Sherlock nods thoughtfully to himself, and John smiles sadly. He was such a serious child, but he was incredibly smart. He saw things most people would find inconsequential and pieced them together to form a whole picture as easy as breathing. John didn't know anyone that could do anything like that. All the more reason why it was a crime what had been done to him. How could anyone hurt a child as helpless and as innocent as he?

"Your leg is hurt too, but now it's better," Sherlock says breaking John's train of thought. He starts, suddenly realising he doesn't have his cane with him. "It's not the same hurt as this," he continues, the little hand resting back over his shoulder. "It only hurts you when you are sad."

"How could you possibly know that?" John says, completely bowled over. Sherlock mistakes his astonishment for something else, and he snatches his hand away, seeking his bumble bee that had momentarily fallen between them.

"I'm sorry!" he says, the word muffled through the stuffed toy as he brings it up to his face.

"Hey, now," John chides gently. "There's nothing to be sorry for. That was incredible."

Slowly, the furry mass of yellow and black lowers itself revealing those brilliant eyes once more. "Really?"

"Of course. It was extraordinary," John says, completely beside himself. "You are a very smart little boy."

Sherlock blinks owlishly at him, expression contorting in intense confusion. "That's not what people usually says," he whispers.

"What do people usually say?"

Instead of answering, Sherlock tucks his head back under John's chin, fingers absently playing with his scarf as he continues to shiver lightly. With one hand John rubs circles into his back, frowning when he can feel one too many vertebrae. He pulls his bag over and rummages around for something, and finds a packet of biscuits at the bottom.

"Are you hungry?" John asks, and Sherlock stiffens.

"No," is the muffled reply.

"You're allowed, it's okay," John tires again bringing the biscuits closer. Sherlock's breath hitches, and John puts them away. "All right. You don't have to." He resumes his stroking, and pulls out his mobile. He dials a number, and presses it to his ear, hoping that it won't go into voicemail. After the third ring, someone picks up.

"Dr. Stamford speaking."

"Hey, Mike. It's John Watson from Sawyer Private Practice."

"John, mate! It's been a while. What can I do for you?" Mike says cheerfully.

"Yeah, uh, are you at Bart's today?"

"No, but I can be. What's seems to be the problem?"

"I have someone I really need you to see. It's kind of an urgent case."

"Who's the patient?" Mike says, and John can hear rustling in the background as he grabs his things.

"Little boy between five and six. I'm not sure, but I think it's a greenstick fracture to his right radius."

"Oh…is that all?" Mike says, confused.

"No. No that's not all. I was wondering…does your wife still work for social services?" John says trying to keep his voice steady. There's a sharp intake of breath on the other end as his colleague fits the pieces together.

"Yeah she does. Do you want me to bring her with me?"

"I think you better, Mike. It's…it's really bad," John says lowering his tone.

"Jesus," he sighs resignedly, "All right, we're on our way. I'll call ahead so we can get you in right away. Just tell Jennifer who you are, and she'll show you back."

"Thanks, mate," John says. "Thank Michelle for me too, will you?"

"Of course," Mike says, and rings off.

John tucks his phone back into his coat pocket, and pinches the bridge of his nose. He tries to quell the nausea welling up inside of him. God, he fought a war against an enemy he was convinced was the scum of the earth only to come home to this? The cruelty of men really doesn't discriminate in the end. It was bloody sickening. John hated to think what else Sherlock might have been subjected to, and he has to stop his thoughts from spiraling down much darker avenues.

He glances down, and sees that Sherlock has fallen asleep, his tiny fist still clutched in the blue scarf around his neck as if afraid John would simply vanish. He cards his fingers through the baby soft hair, his throat searing with sudden emotion when Sherlock whimpers softly, trying to curl up in a ball.

"Shh, I've got you," John murmurs, and continues to rub his back. He finally settles down just as they approach the hospital, and John tries his hardest not to jostle him too much when he gets out of the cab.

Sherlock's eyes fly open, and there's a moment of panic as he cries out and frantically grabs onto the front of John's coat.

"Wh – where – where —?"

"We're at the hospital, remember? Going to see my friend so he can make your arm feel better," John says heading for the lifts.

"There's lots of people here," Sherlock says, voice hoarse. He squeezes his eyes shut a few times. "Lots of stories. Too many stories. Make my head hurt."

"You can close your eyes," John says, and Sherlock does what he's told, the intense shaking starting up again making his teeth chatter. "Hey, Sherlock?" John says as they wait for the lift to take them to paediatrics, "How high can you count?"

"I c – can count really high," Sherlock say against his chest. "Really high if I wanted. Prolly forever. Numbers don't run out."

"That's right they don't. Can you count to one hundred for me? By the time you finish, you can open your eyes."

"Okay…" he says, and starts counting in a steady rhythm.

The lift finally comes, and he goes in pressing the floor he wants, and waits for them to start going. After a few stops along the way, they finally make it to paeds, and John finds the correct suite for Stamford's office.

Sherlock is still counting by the time they make it back into the small exam room, and John waits for him to finish.

"…ninety-nine, one hundred," he says stilling, fist clenching anxiously in John's scarf again.

"Very good. You can open them now, I promise. It's just us here."

Sherlock makes a little whine in the back of his throat, but with a bit more encouragement from John finally opens his eyes. His lips part in astonishment as he looks around the colourful room with dancing teddy bears on the walls, and a shiny red fire truck table in the corner. He hugs his bumble bee to his chest, head on a constant swivel until it comes to rest on the plastic skeleton in the corner. He gasps a little, and John looks into his face for any signs of distress, but what he finds instead is bright curiosity.

"Bones," he mouths, eyes wide.

"That's right. Do you want to see?" John asks, and Sherlock nods vigourously. John gets closer to where Sherlock can touch if he wanted. He doesn't, but he gazes at the skeleton with rapt fascination.

"Maxilla," he whispers, looking back to John.


"Maxilla," he says a little louder and puts a finger to John's cheek again. The finger travels to the arch of his eyebrow. "Supra-or-bital process," he enunciates. John blinks in surprise.

"Very good. How do you know that?"

"I read it," Sherlock says and sighs. His small hand cups John's jaw. "Mandible." Down to his collar bone, "Clavicle." He turns to look at the skeleton again in contemplation. After a moment he asks in a hushed voice, "Is it real?"

"No. He's just pretend," John says. Sherlock sags in relief.


The sound of a knock alerts them, and John turns as Mike Stamford enters the room.

"Why hello there!" Mike says with a smile, and Sherlock tenses.

"It's all right, Sherlock. This is my friend, Dr. Stamford."

"Are you going to look at my arm?" Sherlock asks tremulously.

"If that's okay with you?" Mike says taking a few steps towards them. Sherlock thinks for a moment, looking back at John for guidance, and John nods.

"Doctors make people better," he says, seemingly steeling himself. He looks back to Stamford. "Okay."

"You're very courageous," Stamford says, and John sets him down on top of the exam table covered in paper. "Who's your friend?" Stamford asks, pointing to the stuffed bee in Sherlock's lap.

"His name is Geoffrey," Sherlock says playing with the floppy felt wings.

"Has Geoffrey ever been to the doctors?" Stamford says patting the bee on the head as if he were real.

"No," Sherlock says with a funny little frown.

"Oh well do you mind if I listen to his heart for a check up?" Stamford says playfully. He removes the stethoscope from around his neck.

"Geoffrey doesn't have a heart," Sherlock says. "He's full of stuffing."

Stamford blinks, and John laughs. "Good try, Mike. Can't pull one over on him, the clever little bugger," Sherlock's lips waver in an almost-smile for a moment, and John gets and idea. "You can have a listen to me though. I haven't been to the doctors in a while for my check up."

Stamford nods, grateful, and goes to put the stethoscope in his ears. He pauses, looking back to Sherlock. "Actually, would you like to listen to John's heart?"

Sherlock's eyes grow wide, and he looks between the two as if he can't believe what he's hearing. "Can I?"

"Of course," Stamford says and hands Sherlock the stethoscope, helping him position it correctly in his own ears. John takes off his coat and scarf, and pulls off his jumper to where only his undershirt remained. He hesitates for a moment before he takes that off too, and watches as those piercing eyes settle over the gnarled flesh of his scar.

Sherlock cocks his head to the side as he looks at it. Tentatively he reaches out and traces a finger over the starburst epicentre before trailing outwards to follow the arc lines shrapnel left in their wake. He finally meets John's gaze again, and in a low voice he says,

"Hurt real bad."

John regards the little boy for a moment and nods. "Yes it did. But it doesn't hurt too much now."

Sherlock considers this, his palm covering the old wound once more. After a minute he seems satisfied, and he looks up to Stamford.

"Wanna give it a listen?" he asks, and Sherlock nods. "All right then," he says and guides the stethoscope to rest directly in the centre of John's chest.

Sherlock's face practically lights up like a Christmas tree at this, and it's one of the best things John's seen in his entire life. He vows that Sherlock should look like that always — so full of wonder and curiosity — not this scared little waif of a thing.

"There are four chambers in the human heart," Sherlock says.

"That's correct," Stamford says. "Smart lad."

"Two ven...ven-tri-cles and two atriums," he recites, lowering the stethoscope.

"Fantastic," John says beaming at him, and he manages to pull out the faintest of smiles from Sherlock. "Do you think Dr. Mike can listen to you now?"

Sherlock looks down at the stethoscope in his hand for a moment before nodding.

"Okay," he says and hands it over. He grabs the hem of his oversized t-shirt with his uninjured hand, and goes to pull it over his head, but hesitates, his head shooting up in a panic.

"It's all right," John encourages. "Do you need help?"

Sherlock nods, blinking rapidly, the tears from pain or anxiety John doesn't know. Carefully, he reaches out, and lifts the shirt, being mindful of his right arm, and pulls it over his head.

What he sees makes him want to grab the side of the exam table for balance.

If John thought he was thin before, seeing him like this, he's nearly transparent. Every time Sherlock takes a breath, his narrow rib cage moves under the skin protruding in a way that makes him look unbearably fragile. There's also a large, yellowish bruise over his abdomen in the final stages of healing, as well as a few fresh ones dappling his upper arms. Fingertip bruises, he realises. He shares a knowing glance with Stamford.

"Okay, Sherlock," Stamford says huffing a warm breath onto the pad of the stethoscope. He places it on Sherlock's back. "Give us a deep breath."

Sherlock does what he is told beginning to shiver as the cool air of the room causes goose bumps to rise up on his skin. John places a warm hand over Sherlock's back as Stamford moves to the front and repeats the process.

"You did very good," he says looping the stethoscope back around his neck.

"Here," John says helping Sherlock into his plain white undershirt. There was no way he was going to let him wear that disgusting t-shirt again. He puts it over his head, and carefully guides his arms through the shirt sleeves before donning his own jumper. "Sherlock. I am going to ask you a question now, and I need you to do your very best to answer it. Can you do that?"

"I'll try," Sherlock answers bravely even though he continues to shake. John grabs his coat and drapes it over his shoulders.

"That's my Sherlock," John says. He swallows thickly, not sure if he wants to hear the answer to the question he knows he needs to ask. He takes a breath, nausea uncoiling in his gut, "Are you hurt anywhere else besides your arm? And I mean anywhere. You mustn't be afraid to tell me, it's very important."

Sherlock closes his eyes, his brow fretting in distress, and his mouth opening in a silent moue of a sob. He takes a stuttering gasp, and says, "My – my leg hurts too. It's a old hurt, but it's not getting better."

"Which one?" John says, and Sherlock bends forward so he could pull up his right trouser leg. John helps him tuck the baggy fabric over his knee, and gasps at the sight.

There, on the side of his calf, is a circular burn mark the size of a fifty pence piece. It's old, surely, but inflamed and leaking a bit of pus. It is clearly infected, and John grits his teeth in anger. It was clearly from a cigar.

"I'm sorry," Sherlock trembles, and John's eyes flash up.

"No, no, no, love. There's nothing for you to be sorry for. Absolutely nothing, do you understand?" John says earnestly cupping Sherlock's face between his palms. He wipes a tear away with his thumb. Sherlock looks at him in confusion, lip quivering. John feels as if his chest is breaking apart. "Now, after we get that fixed up, we are going to go with Dr. Mike so we can take a picture of your arm. Sound good?" He tries to give the most encouraging smile he can manage.

Sherlock nods minutely, and without thinking, John presses a light kiss on the crown of his head. He takes a few steps to the door, suddenly needing air feeling as if he's being crushed on all sides, his heart caving in.

"Don't!" Sherlock suddenly cries, and John rushes back to his side. "D-don't leave!"

"I'm just going to go get something to drink I'll be right back, okay?" John says. Sherlock doesn't believe him, and weakly fists his hand in John's jumper.

"Please, please," he mouths brokenly.

John grabs his blue scarf that was draped over the back of a chair. He tucks it around Sherlock's neck, and hunkers down so he is eye-level with him.

"You see this scarf? As long as you have it, I will always come back to you, all right? I'm not leaving. I won't ever leave you," John says.

Sherlock takes a hiccoughing gulp trying to will away his tears. "P-promise?"

"I promise. I'll be just out there, okay?"

"Okay," he whispers.

John doesn't look back as he leaves, desperately trying to keep it together. He makes it to the loo just in time, locking it soundly behind him. His leg twinges as he stands in front of the mirror, and he braces himself over the sink as his breathing becomes jagged and sharp. Memories he had locked away so long ago surge to the surface with a vengeance, bringing with them all the rage and pain he had experienced in his own childhood. He feels sick, and turns on the tap. He pats some of the cool water on his face and the back of his neck, washing away the clammy sweat, and with it all of the broken images of his past. After a moment the bursts of light in his vision fades, and he straightens his spine, nodding at himself in the reflection.

Never again.

He wasn't a little boy anymore. He was a soldier, a doctor. He had power now that he didn't have when he was the one under his own father's heel, and if there was anything, anything, he could do for Sherlock, he would.

Never again.