Title: The Newcomer
Pairing: James/John pre-slash
Warnings: Mentions of corporal punishment, James/John beginnings and me? O_o
Word Count: 3'005
A/N: This is all because of a single line in artaxastra's fic Nightingale. I was up until 2:30 writing this by hand because I was meant to be sleeping... *shrug* What can I say? James and John are too good to pass up for sleep.
Also, because my mind is ordering me to think that Nightingale is canon I'm afraid I lack the originality of suggesting a place for James and John to have attended.
And now, I'll leave you to the fic ah? :)
It's 7:09 and he's running late for morning class. Again. Maybe he should just miss it altogether, it's not like the punishment will be any worse than usual. Only it will be because this is the third lesson he's been late to this week and it's only Tuesday. Damned Perkins.
But he' too terrified of another reprimand for being late, moreso today than any other because there's a new student in attendance today. And the professors normally stock-pile punishments on days like these and he's got the type of luck that makes him the prime targetof every professor in the entire school. They tote up the punishments today in order to dole them out with extra malice tomorrow. They always do for him at least.
And it all started when he inadvertently embarrassed their chemistry professor not three weeks into his first year. He hadn't meant to upstage the man but he hadn't thought it wise for a professor to be teaching them the wrong thing about the wrong chemical.
He was still paying the price for his innocent observations a year later. But he'd come to accept that about people. Anything he did to that highlighted how blind, how stupid other people can be, and he singled himself out to ridicule and bullying from those who dislike being embarrassed by those who are smarter than them.
Story of his life really.
Mr Perkins isn't amused with him when he barrels through the classroom door, his worn and unpolished shoes slapping loudly on the stone-flooring of the English classroom. He forcibly stops himself from leaning against the nearest desk as he puffs out a pathetic apology for his tardiness.
Caruthers doesn't care for excuses, and he certainly doesn't care for them from tardy, twelve year old boys who seem to think they can get away with being late and disrespectful. And he can read all of that with but a single glance at Caruthers face.
"Sit down Watson! And be silent!" Caruthers almost snarls at him, contempt contorting his features, and James hurriedly stumbles over to the only free seat in the room, trying to fix his attire as he knows his tie is askew. Unfortunately for him the only free seat is the one no-one wants. Directly opposite Caruthers who already hates his disruptive presence and now he'll have to sit right in front of him and take every insult, every slur and slanderous comment that the professor deems appropriate for him to receive.
It was a well-known fact that Caruthers hated his own students but none more than James Watson. It seemed like the professors of each respective subject had discussed amongst themselves the problem of the Watson boy. If he were an actual troublemaker as they often suggested then perhaps he might have been proud of such discussions but all he wished to do was learn and help others.
He doesn't speak for the remainder of the hour-long lesson but he does wonder whether it would have been better for him to have hidden in the Chapel.
At eight o'clock sharp the first period of the day ends and they are permitted a minute, just a minute, to scurry from one class to the next. For James Watson and a number of his fellow classmates that next lesson is Chemistry with Dalton.
Caruthers dutifully dismisses them at 7:59 as he does every Tuesday morning and James is hopeful for a moment, just a brief, deluded moment, that he will escape Caruthers punishment for another day. But the sharp "Watson!" steals that hopefulness and replaces it with a dark desolation. He may as well hand the professor a sword and beg him to run him through with it.
Like the quiet and dutiful student that he is, James stands to the side of the door and stares at the floor, seeing the two dozen sets of black, polished shoes pass him by until it's only him and Caruthers.
"Come here boy!" Caruthers orders, his words clipped and filled with anger. He almost trips up over his own feet as he quickly moves to stand before Caruthers' desk, his eyes still fixed on the floor. "Look at me when I'm speaking to you boy!"
He snaps his eyes from the floor and affixes them to Caruthers puffed and red face. The man never looked good when he was relaxed and he looked even worse when angered. Almost as though he were having a reaction to a bee sting. "Sorry sir." James mutters quietly, his words wavering slightly as fear starts to make his legs shake.
"No you're not boy. But you will be." Caruthers counters darkly. "I will not tolerate tardiness Watson, yet you are consistently late." He leans down slightly, still towering over the twelve year old boy he seems intent on terrorising. "You barge into my class after lessons have begun and have the cheek to apologise so flippantly!"
James doesn't dare point out that his apology wasn't flippant, just pathetic. And he certainly doesn't dare explain why he was really late. Caruthers hates tardiness but one thing he hates even more is snitching. James wonders if there's something not being said about that with Caruthers but he doesn't dare ask that either.
"Detention; seven o'clock tonight boy. You will come straight to my office." Caruthers says finally after James has paled in anticipation of his punishment. There's a vindictive sort of pleasure in the professors eyes and James hates it, he hates that Caruthers finds joy in James' fear and terror. Vindictive bastard child of a whore.
"Yes sir." James intones dutifully, already knowing that, whilst most of the professors will wait until tomorrow to punish him, Caruthers isn't that kind. Caruthers likes to cause him pain on the same day that he's been disruptive.
"Go!" And he does.
He's late to Chemistry and Dalton hates him as much as Caruthers, maybe more, to give him another detention because having to stay behind for first period to collect his first detention isn't enough to dissuade Dalton from giving him another.
Lunch, when it finally comes around, reminds James that just as the professors dislike him, his fellow classmates hold no love for him either. Four separate detentions, two canings and a beating when in the toilets and he's so ravenous that he even considers throwing caution to the wind and joining the others in the queue for food.
But he daren't enter the lunch hall until the majority have dined. He doesn't wish to be beaten upon any more than he already has today.
So he waits, in the shadows of the archway at the end of the corridor the lunch hall connects to. He waits until the last twenty minutes of lunch before dashing inside and scrounging whatever he can from the kitchen staff.
They don't particularly care for him but they're the only ones in the entire establishment, that is laughingly called a school, who don't hate him outright. They see a waif of a boy, too small for his age and far too thin, looking desperately for something, anything, to sate his hunger in a way he can't his pain.
So they give him what is left and he is grateful when they avoid his eye as he takes the plate with shaking hands.
When dinner is served however, he has to attend. Not only because his presence would be noted and more punishment met-out, but because he has to placate his curiosity. He knows there's a new student in attendance and he knows that many of the sporting fellows like him for his sporting abilities. He's guessing cricket or polo judging by the fact that he attends such a prestigious school as Winchester.
He also knows that the new boys family is wealthy, they must be to afford this place, and influential too if he was permitted entry mid-way through the year.
What he doesn't know is how this new boy looks, or how he acts, or how he thinks because he hasn't seen him yet.
And that's why he's willingly attending dinner this evening.
The best look he manages to get of the newcomer is the back of his head as he's leaving the hall to attend his first detention with Caruthers.
He burns the image into his head and he makes a mental list of all the features he can see as Caruthers hits him again and again. His back is on fire but he focuses everything he has on the image in his head.
Brown hair... he's brunette and it's natural, obviously
Cut-short but still long enough to require a tie... quite fitting judging from the height of the newcomer
Strong, broad shoulders... still slender somehow
Tall frame... that much is obvious from how he towers over the others around him
It's all he can do to stay sane as he tries to deduce whatever he can from a single snapshot of the newcomer.
It's well past curfew by the time Caruthers is done with him and James has to use the wallto support himself as he staggers to his dormitory. He is lucky enough, ha, to avoid any prefects on his journey and is so caught up in the pain that he fails to register the presence of someone else in his, previously single, room.
It's only when, sprawled face-down on his covers, that he feels the lightest touch on his shoulder and he realises he's not alone. Surprised, and a little terrified, he instinctively bolts upright and half jerks away, half swings a wild, yet forceful, punch at whoever is near him.
His blow his parried expertly and his arm gripped tight enough to stop him from trying to swing again. James blinks and in the semi-illuminated darkness of the room, someone has lit one of his candles, he is aware enough to recognise the lose hair hanging over his intruders shoulder.
He's so surprised by the newcomer's presence in hisroom that he fails to realise that the newcomer's speaking until he's poked on the shoulder.
"You look like you could use a hand old chap."
A soft, but still deep, voice creeps around the room just loud enough for James to head and his pain-riddled mind picks up on the slight amusement in this newcomer's voice. It makes him feel strange. Confused. He doesn't know if it's a kind, friendly amusement, or the type of amusement he's used to hearing from other students after a public caning.
"No thank you." James manages to bite out in a vaguely polite tone. "I'm quite alright." But his tone is more pained and strained than it is polite. And the newcomer obviously doesn't care for James declarations.
"You are injured." The newcomer points out as though he were speaking to the mentally impaired and this time, this time, there's something else that colours the newcomer's words. James isn't sure but it sounds like concern to him. "You obviously are in need of assistance."
He wants to argue, wants to say 'No. You don't know me so why are you bothering to care?' but he doesn't have the strength or the will to say anything because he wants the help, he wants a friend. So he simply says. "If you must." And he's sure the newcomer can pick up on the relief, the surprise, the pain in his voice.
"Yes I must." The newcomer responds firmly but there's that amusement and concern again and James frowns at it. "Take off your shirt."
"What?" James exclaims as he blinks profusely, his voice louder than expected and the newcomer clamps a firm but smooth hand over his mouth.
"You are injured. It is your back that bares the injuries which are paining you. You must remove your shirt in order to allow me to treat your injuries." The newcomer explains quietly and James knows, of course he knows, it's obvious, but he didn't actually expect the newcomer to actually want to help.
He really should stop assuming things shouldn't he?
The newcomer removes his hand after James nods in understanding and waits for James to remove his shirt, which has partially stuck to his back because of the congealing blood.
He stifles a cry of pain and it takes him several, agonising minutes until he's free of the blasted shirt and in the end the cuts on his back are pouring blood anew.
The newcomer, who had watched his struggles unashamedly, swiftly moves over to the nightstand in the room and fills the washbowl with some of the water in the jug. He carries it over to the side cabinet between the two beds and places it down carefully before returning to the nightstand and collecting several of the towels, including one which must have been his own because James only had three towels.
James watches in silence as the newcomer returns to his side, and he's surprised when the newcomer moves so that he's sitting behind him on the bed. But he's even more surprised when he hears a little growl of anger from the newcomer who has just spied how much damage there is on his back.
"Hold still." The newcomer instructs quietly, his words soft but firm. "This will hurt." James nods and holds himself as still as possible and waits for the inevitable pain to come. "I have a small bar of antiseptic soap. I'm going to clean the blood and use it alright."
James doesn't respond but the newcomer obviously doesn't expect him to as he soaks one of the towels in the washbowl and wrings it out before lightly wiping the blood away from the cuts on his back. James hisses and snaps his eyes shut as the pain threatens to overwhelm him.
At some point the newcomer must have lit another candle because the room is brighter than it had been the last time James had closed his eyes from the pain. The newcomer has placed a hand on his shoulder and is leaning forward enough to see James' face. "So sorry."
James shakes his head and manages to bite out. "It's fine." Which is enough for the newcomer to continue cleaning off the blood. James steels himself and he knows that the worst is yet to come. Antiseptic soap.
The newcomer finishes wiping the blood off and he gets a clear look at the injuries James has sustained. Another strangled growl of anger reaches James ears but he doesn't ask why the newcomer would be so angered by his injuries. Instead he just allows himself to be carried away by the soft touches the newcomer uses as he checks his back for further injuries in the still dim light.
"I'm going to apply the antiseptic soap now. You may want to bite something to stifle your cries." The newcomer says softly. "It is most definitely going to be painful." Whilst James appreciates the thoughtfulness of the newcomer he doesn't appreciate the idea of the antiseptic soap.
"Just do it." He says, and then as an afterthought adds. "Please."
The newcomer nods to himself and quickly, almost expertly, dabs the cuts with the soap but the touches cause James so much pain that he can't help but cry out quietly. A pained whimper as he arches away and curls up on the bed.
"My apologies." The newcomer says quietly as James' ragged breathes echo around the small room. James manages to wave a hand at the newcomer as he forces himself to uncurl and sit up again.
"It's alright." James bites out, but they both know it's not and if he had turned around and looked at the newcomer's face he might have seen the anger welling in his eyes. As it was, he didn't turn around and he didn't see it.
After the last of James wounds had been treated with the dreaded antiseptic soap and the newcomer had dabbed at them until they ceased their bleeding, he helped James change into his sleepwear, and if James hadn't been so exhausted by that point he might have been embarrassed. Carefully the newcomer assisted him in climbing into bed and lying on his front so he wouldn't do anymore harm to his back.
It was just as he was beginning to drift that James realised he'd never asked the newcomer what his name was. The thought gave him enough incentive to force him to reach out and grip the newcomer's hand lightly.
Before he manages to ask though the newcomer seems to pre-empt him as he smiles lightly and says, in that soft but deep voice of his. "John Druitt. My name is John Druitt old chap."
"J'mes W'tson." James manages to slur slightly, giving the newcomer, John, a smile. He manages to focus on John's face long enough to see his smile widen.
"Pleasure James Watson." He intones and he pats James' hand with his own free one.
"Likewise J'hn Druitt." Is the last thing James manages to say before exhaustion takes him but his last conscious thought is that he may have just found in John Druitt a very good friend. He has the strange feeling that John Druitt will be one of the most important people in his life.
Note: Yes, I know antiseptic soap didn't exist when they were kids but I did write this at like three in the morning. My brain got confuzzled...