AN: I tried to get this to you guys as quick as I was able. It looks like the updates aren't as fast as I would like them to be, but I can promise you that I won't ever abandon this story until it's finished because I just can't get away from bby!Sherlock and Papa!John. You all have been so encouraging with NL and I just can't get over how much you all mean to me. B/C of you guys this story as flourished. I hope this chapter lives up to your expectations!


Sherlock can't help but notice everything whether he wants to or not. When he was younger than he is now, it was all just a jumble of faces and sounds and smells and colour that didn't make any sense, and gave him a headache. He remembers crying a lot from it, and the only reason he remembers this is because he had to learn to stop his crying or else he would get hit and that would make it all the worser.

But then he got a little bit older and the swirling mishmash of it all settled a bit, and he could kind of make sense of the things he saw, if only a little.

Like what it means when a man smells like lady's perfume, or when someone wears long sleeves when it's warm outside, or when a person smiles with their mouth, but their eyes tell a different story. Some of the stuff he still doesn't know what to make of, but regardless, it's always there waiting to be put together like the pieces of a puzzle.

Sherlock likes puzzles for the most part. When he lived with Mister Hope, he found one in the space under the stairs where he spent most of his time keeping away from the angry man. It was dusty in there, and packed with boxes that smelled like mildew and were chewed at the corners by mice, and in one of them there was a stack of old board games. On the bottom of the stack was a jig-saw puzzle with a picture of a cottage on the front. It was cheery, and the windows of the cottage were lit up a happy orange colour, and more than anything Sherlock wanted to put it together, spreading it out on the floor so he could admire it and pretend he was somewhere else if only for a little while.

The puzzle said it had five hundred pieces in it, but as he put it together Sherlock realised the number was actually closer to two hundred in the end. When he was finished, and there were no more pieces to be found, the cottage scene was hardly recognisable — gaps where the windows and bright red door should have been, holes in the brook meandering idyllically next to the patchy willow tree. It wasn't complete, but Sherlock loved it, and he took it apart immediately only to fit it all back together again.

Because, really, as long as you knew what it was supposed to look like, it wasn't that hard to fill in the spaces. That's what it's like in Sherlock's head most of the time. He's given some of the pieces, and it's only when he fits them in place that he can see the big picture.

That's why when the jogger with the white and blue trainers runs past him for the third time, and the sleek black car pulls up along the kerb, Sherlock jumps off the slight ledge he was standing on and into the pond.

Because the man that's been sitting on the bench across from him is like that puzzle. He's missing pieces, but he keeps staring at Sherlock for a long time now, his fingers tugging at the cuffs of his shirt and checking his phone, but not actually waiting for someone to meet him. And when John goes to go get drinks with his back turned, the man stands up and it's like the picture comes into view. And the picture saysDANGER in bright red, enormous letters.

So Sherlock times it, and jumps.

The water is really cold, and the geese shoot up into the air honking and squawking angrily, scaring him, and he doesn't have enough time to take a very big breath before his head slips under the water.

In hindsight the pond didn't look that deep, and he thought — he thought he could just push off the bottom, but the pond is really deep and his clothes gets all waterlogged making it hard to kick his feet. He gets water in his nose and mouth, and it burns making him panic, which causes him to inhale. Which was really bad, and a mistake because it tastes horrible, and he can't reach the surface, and it's like the dream with the swimming pool all over again.

His head breaks the surface for a moment, and he splutters, drawing a lungful of air.

"Joh —!" he tries, but is pulled back under again, arms and legs flailing.

Before he can inhale another lungful of the awful pond water, a firm arm wraps itself around his waist and drags him to the surface, and at first he struggles thinking it was all for nothing and the man on the bench got to him anyway.

"Hey there! Stop fightin' me, champ. I've got you, you're all right now," comes a kind voice, and Sherlock is suddenly being buoyed against a strong chest as he is carted through the water in an even keel. The sun is really bright as he looks upwards into the grey sky, and he shuts his eyes with a whimper, impossibly disorientated.

"Christ! Sherlock!" John's voice rings out, frantic, and suddenly he is being lifted from one set of arms into another, and hauled over John's shoulder to be pounded ruthlessly between the shoulder blades.

A gurgling cough scrapes up his throat, and John immediately flips him so he is stomach first over one of John's knees so the slew of scummy water can drain out of his nose and mouth.

"There you go," John says, a little relief seeping into his voice. The hand is still roughly patting his back, but it is less hard than before. Sherlock retches all the same, however, his eyes stinging. "That's right. Get it all out, Bones."

Sherlock takes a shuddering gasp of cold air, and continues to cough wetly. The shock starts to catch up with him, and hot tears streak down his face unbidden as if the pond water was trying to escape from there too.

"John!" he says once he can take a decent breath, and John strips him out of his soaked coat before unzipping his own jacket and shoving Sherlock inside. "There was a man, John. A man," he mumbles into the thick cable-knit wool of John's jumper as the jacket is being wrapped firmly around him.

"God," John says, not having heard Sherlock, and he only grips him tighter to his chest. He falls backwards out of his kneeling crouch onto the ground, simply clutching Sherlock to him as if he would vanish. "God, Sherlock. You scared me."

"M'sorry," he says, beginning to shake.

"Do I need to call an ambulance?" a woman with bright red hair says, and Sherlock peers out warily from John's collar. He notices there is a small crowd of people around them, all with anxious faces and mobile phones, but there is no sign of the man on the bench, and for that Sherlock breathes a sigh of relief.

"No, that's all right. I'm a doctor," John says.

"Is he okay?" A boy with a mop of drenched blond curls asks, his brow furrowing. Sherlock realises this is the jogger with the blue and white trainers who saved him from drowning in the pond.

"Yes. Because of you, he should be fine. God," he says again, and pulls Sherlock away from him so he could look into his face one more time. He grips Sherlock's chin and tilts his head from side to side, face pale and deeply lined with concern. He brushes some of Sherlock's fringe back, and Sherlock feels his jaw tremble with shame at making John worry so much. But there was a bad man coming to get him and he didn't have a choice. If only he was smarter then maybe —

"Hey, hey," John soothes, gathering him against his chest again and into the warmth under his jacket. He didn't realise he was cold until now, and the tremors wrack his frame. "It's all right. I've got you now." He turns to the boy, "I just need to get him home; get him warmed up."

"Yeah," the boy says, and helps John to his feet.

"What's your name?" John asks. "You ought to get out of this cold, too."

"Name's Carl, sir. Carl Powers," the boy says, handing Sherlock's discarded jacket to John. "I'll be all right. A good cool down for me," he jokes.

"Well, Carl. I am awfully grateful. If you hadn't stepped in when you did…"

"No worries, mate. I'm training to be a lifeguard, so it was good to know I can keep me head in a crisis, if you know what I mean."

"Too right. Listen, I don't have a car or I would give you a lift, but the least I can do is pay for cab fare where ever you're headed."

"Not necessary, sir. I'm just glad the little bugger's all right," Carl says. "I'm staying with me aunt, and she don't live far."

"Okay, well thank you again, Carl." He shakes his hand. "Truly."

"You're very welcome," Carl says, and he smiles at Sherlock before ruffling his hair. "You be careful in the future, all right?"

"Th-thank you," Sherlock says, trying to return his smile. He shivers again, and John presses him even harder to his chest as he sets off at a brisk pace. Sherlock watches Carl from over John's shoulder as the boy sets about putting on his trainers. When he straightens, he waves at Sherlock before breaking out in a jog once more, and Sherlock waves back. He pulls his arm back into the cocoon of John's embrace as the frigid air makes him shudder all over.

Sherlock was starting to get really, really cold. More cold than he's ever been before, and it kind of started to hurt a little bit. He buries his face into the curve of John's neck, trying to smother a whimper.

"I know, Sherlock," John murmurs, his hand coming up to cradle the back of his head. A moment later he calls out, "Taxi!" only to have the black cab speed past them. John mutters a curse under his breath, and tries again, sticking his hand in the air to no avail.

Sherlock closes his eyes as he begins to shiver even harder. "C-cold."

"Shit. I know," John says. Another cab cruises around the corner, but doesn't slow regardless of John's frantic waving. "Oh come on! I've got a child here! Wanker!"

John grumbles angrily, and hefts Sherlock up into his arms a little more so he could keep him as snug as possible. He sets off walking at a brisk pace, and Sherlock shuts his eyes trying not to think about how frozen he is. He feels John tense slightly and pick up the pace, and when he looks up from his shelter under John's chin, he sees a shiny black car following them. The window rolls down, and he catches a glimpse of a man in a nice suit, before he turns his face into John's neck again.

"Doctor Watson!"

"You can piss right off, you bastard," John says, walking even faster.

"Do be reasonable," the man from the car says. He voice is like melted butter, and he's smiling at Sherlock. "It's at least another fifteen minutes back to Baker Street. Think of Sherlock."

Sherlock looks up at John startled that this man knew his name. John stops mid-stride, a muscle in his jaw jumping. Sherlock would rather not get in the car with the man, but before he can voice this opinion, he trembles involuntarily again. John makes up his mind and slips them both into the car, the door shutting and sealing them in a pocket of heat away from the autumn air. It stings Sherlock's cheeks, but he feels immediately better.

"That wasn't so hard, was it?" the man says, too-wide smile curving beneath his hooked nose. He looks at Sherlock like a hawk would, and Sherlock anxiously fists a hand in John's jumper. "There are wool blankets under the seat, Doctor Watson."

John lets out a tight sigh, and pulls one out from underneath them. He takes Sherlock out from under his jacket, and pulls the sodden jumper Sherlock was wearing over his head before swiftly bundling him up in the orange blanket. It's scratchy against his skin, but it's warm so he snuggles into it even deeper when John folds him securely in his arms again.

Sherlock peers out at the man, brushing his lips over the blanket's hem in thought.

"You're quite welcome," the man says, a bit uncharitably. "It was no trouble."

John gives another sigh that sounds more like a growl deep in his chest, and he grits out a strained, "Thank you," the contempt evident in his tone. It's clear he doesn't like the man, and so Sherlock decides he doesn't either, his eyes narrowing suspiciously of their own accord.

The man notices this, and his smile turns a half a shade colder than it was before.

"My, my. He does seem very loyal, very quickly. Of course, anyone can brainwash a child."

"Would you get over yourself, Mycroft? He doesn't even know who you are, Christ," John snaps. "I'm not about to fill his head with preconceived notions when he is perfectly capable of forming his own opinions."

Sherlock doesn't know what's going on really, but he knows he likes the man named Mycroft even less now.

"You haven't told him about me?" Mycroft says, arching a thin eyebrow. Sherlock frowns and looks up at John.

"We've been a little busy," John says tersely, glancing down at him for a moment.

Mycroft smirks bitterly and leans back in his seat. "Of course you have. All in due time, I suppose."

"What are you even doing here?" John bites, nearing the end of his patience.

"Are you suggesting my services are unwarranted? Because to some that would seem ungrateful," he says placidly.

"You call spying a service?" John says.

"When I am dealing with an incompetent, I do," says Mycroft, something flashing dangerously in his eyes for a moment before he resumes his neutral mask of indifference.

"Unbelievable," John scoffs.

"Tell me, is leaving four-year-old alone next to a sizable body of water a special form of idiocy, or do you lack all forms of common sense?"

John stiffens, and Sherlock holds his breath. He can practically feel the anger thrumming through him, and for a second he feels bad for the man sitting across from them. But only for a second.

John laughs a laugh without humour which is somehow scarier than any yelling he could have been. "No. I see what you're doing, and it won't work."

"Oh?" says Mycroft.

"After all you've done — bribes and your cars and CCTV — what makes you think I will respond any differently to your threats? If anything it just solidifies my decision; you are absolutely the last person Sherlock needs in his life."

Sherlock frowns again, and looks at Mycroft in confusion. Who was this man? And why were they arguing about him?

"Yes, well. You may think that, but there may not be people who agree with you when this is all said and done," Mycroft says, and pulls out a silver briefcase from the floor. He sets it on his lap, and snicks open the latches in one swift motion. He takes out a pristine manila envelope, and hands it to John with a snap of his wrist.

"What is this?" John says taking the envelope.

"That means you have just been officially served, Doctor Watson," he says, fishing his pocket watch out of his waistcoat. He eyes it, and clicks it shut, the glint of the metal shining as cold as his eyes.

"Served?" John says incredulously, his voice cutting with anger.

"A contention of custody, to be precise."

"You are your own solicitor, then?" John says bitterly. The car rolls to a stop next to the kerb, and Sherlock can see the door to their flat. He doesn't want anything more than to get out of this car and away from this man in the expensive suit, but John remains where he is, the arm around his waist tightening slightly.

"One does try to economise," says Mycroft. "In there you will find the carbon copy of the petition I have requested as well as any and all relevant documentation I have deemed fit."

"Why are you giving it to me?"

"So you can see what you are up against. And to remind you that there is an easier and more peaceful solution if you would only accept what is, and concede."

"Anything worth fighting for is never given up so freely in the face of an opposing force."

"Spoken like a true soldier," Mycroft says, sneering a little. Sherlock decides he doesn't like his face.

"Are we free to leave, now?" John snaps.

Mycroft regards him with a calculating look before those sharp eyes light on Sherlock. The intensity of his gaze makes Sherlock's shivers start up again, and he trains his eyes on the floor.

"Until next time, Doctor Watson," comes the reply, followed by the sound of an electric door lock.

John doesn't say anything else. He just hefts Sherlock closer to him and climbs out of the car.

He gets one last glimpse of the strange man staring at him before the automatic window rolls back up, and the car and the street disappear behind the familiar black door of 221B.

John locks the deadbolt with a snap, staring down at his fingers still on the brass lock, a hard look in his eye. It is a fearsome look, and Sherlock can't help the sinking sensation in his gut. It was John's Angry Look, he knew, but Sherlock has never seen him look this angry before. He shouldn't have jumped in the lake. He made everything worser by doing so, and he should have just been smart enough to come up with a different solution.

Not knowing how to fix it, Sherlock tentatively calls John's name, but his apology dries up in his throat when John closes his eyes for a moment as if in pain. He bites his lip as another shudder rolls through him.

"Right. Oh…I'm sorry Sherlock, let's get you warmed up," John says, snapping back from where ever he went inside his head. His face remains haunted, though, and it just makes Sherlock's tummy feel all swimmy again. He blames himself for putting that look on John's face.

They ascend the steps in silence, John still stony and deep in thought.

Sherlock doesn't even ask for bubbles for his bath because he doesn't deserve them, and he doesn't ask for his toys to play with either. He just sits quietly in the warm water as John rubs shampoo that smells like blueberries into his hair, single-minded in his task. It isn't until John is cupping his chin to hold his head back as he rinses out the suds that he finally breaks the silence.

"Sherlock? Love, are you still cold? You're shaking," he says, concern etching his face even deeper. He tilts Sherlock's head to get a good look into his eyes, and Sherlock doesn't want to look at him anymore, so he tucks his chin back under and covers his face with his hands.

"I'm sorry, John," he says, voice muffled. "I shouldn't have — but there was a man, and you weren't looking and I didn't know what else to do and —"

"Sherlock, hey. Look at me." Sherlock lifts his head, eyes prickling with tears. "What man? What are you talking about?"

"The man," he says, a sob escaping. "The man at the park." He wills himself to stop crying, and he bites his lip again. "I got scared."

John frowns, and brushes Sherlock's fringe back before pulling the stopper out of the tub. He gets Sherlock to stand, and dries him off with a big fluffy towel. He wraps it around him snugly, and lifts Sherlock up into his arms, fingers combing back through his hair as he sighs long and weary. Sherlock pretends it's almost like forgiveness and buries his face in the side of John's neck as they make their way up the stairs.

His room is cold and remote, and he doesn't like staying in here by himself, so when John goes to set him on the bed, Sherlock only clings to him harder.

"Sherlock," John whispers patiently. "Come on, sweetheart, we've got to get you dressed."

"I don't want to go to sleep," Sherlock murmurs, still hiding himself under John's jaw.

"It's getting late. You know bedtime is at eight, and we've passed that already. It's been a rough day, yeah?" he asks, coaxing Sherlock to look at him, warm fingers guiding his chin upwards so he could see. Sherlock blinks at him, lids heavy despite himself. "There you are." John rewards him with a sad, small smile, and goes about gathering his pyjamas with one hand as he continues to hold Sherlock securely against him.

He does set Sherlock down then, removing the towel and having him step first into a pair of clean underwear, and then next into a pair of his fuzzy footsie pyjamas. They have rocketships and planets on them, and feel really nice against his skin, and when John zips them up he feels warm and content and suddenly, very tired.

He yawns, and presses a palm into his eye, rubbing it absently before holding up both arms in a silent plea to be held again.

John gently gathers him up in his arms, planting a kiss on the top of his head as he lays it against John's chest.

"Don't wanna go asleep, John," he mumbles.

"I know," John says. He goes over to the bed and grabs Geoffrey from atop the pillow. Sherlock takes the bumblebee from him, and presses his furry head to his face. He's yellow fur is starting to smell like John and the flat, the stale cigar smell finally fading into tea and honey and lavender.

John sets him down in the red armchair, a warm hand lingering on his head before he goes into the kitchen.

Sherlock hugs Geoffrey to him, drawing his knees up to his chest as he listens to John turn on the stove with a click. He lays his cheek against his kneecaps, and blinks drowsily into the fireplace where a small fire flickers behind the protective grate. He doesn't even realise he's closed his eyes until John picks him up and settles him in his lap, and Sherlock yawns again, pressing his ear to John's chest so he could hear his steady heartbeat.

They sit there for a minute, John sipping his tea and Sherlock counting the strong thump-thump beneath the soft clean jumper John must have changed into. Finally, John sets his mug on the table next to them and clears his throat.

"Sherlock," he starts, and Sherlock stiffens. "I need you to tell me why you jumped in the lake. Don't leave anything out; I won't be angry."

Sherlock takes a big breath. "I got scared…" he says.

"What were you scared of, love?"

"The – the man. He was there across from us on the bench. He kept looking over at us and checking his watch."

"What did he look like?"

"Um…he was tall? And wore nice clothes. He had a mean face, and when you went to go get drinks his face got even meaner and he started walking towards me and I got scared," he says again, voice quavering.

"But why did you jump?" John asks, but it isn't condescending.

"Because of the boy."

"The boy? Carl?" John leads.

"Yes. I could tell he was a good swimmer because his jumper said Swim Capitan, and so I waited for him to get close so he could see me when I jumped."

"You wanted to warn the man off. And you did that by drawing as much attention to yourself as you could," John says with a little laugh.

Sherlock nods, uncertain. "Was that bad?"

"No. That was incredibly smart of you," John says quietly, and something warm blooms in Sherlock's chest. "I — I'm sorry, Sherlock. You shouldn't have had to do that. I should have been there…should have been looking out for you."

Sherlock looks up at John, astonished. John's not looking at him, though. He's looking past him, and his eyes look so sad. He puts his hands on John's stubbly cheeks, and moves his face so he's not staring into nothing anymore.

"You do," he insists. "Always you do, John. You look out for me."

John gives him another sad smile, and Sherlock doesn't like it. It's different than the sunny ones that always look at home on John's face. He wraps his arms around John's neck and hugs him because he doesn't know what else to do in order to make the sad smile go away.

"Sherlock…" John whispers, and Sherlock waits holding his breath. "If you could be happier living with someone else — if you could be happier than you ever could living with me — would you want to?"

Sherlock tightens his grip. "No."

"But if there was someone else that could keep you safe —"

"No. No," Sherlock says again, shaking his head fiercely. "No one else, John. Please don't send me away."

John sighs, and the stiff arms that were holding him finally relax, and he cards a hand through Sherlock curls once more. "Never. I will never send you away. All right? As long as you want to be here. I promise, I will look after you."

"For always?" Sherlock asks, pulling away and putting his hands back on John's cheeks. John smiles again, but this time it looks more like his usual smiles.

"For always and ever," he says. And Sherlock believes him.

BY THE WAY. There is the beginnings of a podfic of this story done by the lovely AliceLikeFireflies (check her out she is awesome) and you can find it under Not Leaving - A Kid!lock Sherlock Fanfiction Part 1 on youtube.