Title: A Waste of Hard Drive Space
Characters: Sherlock, John, Maddie (kid!OC)
Warnings: Involves a child abduction
Spoilers: Heavy references to a line in Scandal, no plot spoilers
Summary: While Sherlock tries to keep a little girl suffering from hypothermia awake, he discovers some of the happier memories of his childhood aren't as deleted as he thought they were.
Author's notes:This is sort of an experiment in trying out Sherlock's interior monologue and playing around with his backstory. I also wanted to do something with his pirate obsession and write some kid!fic. So I've thrown them all together. Sherlock's POV to start, switches to John's later. Liberties taken with Sherlock's childhood. A bit fluffy.
Most people assume that Sherlock Holmes is the way he is because he had a horrible, traumatic childhood. In fact, Sherlock Holmes had a relatively satisfactory childhood, which is likely the reason he isn't far worse than he is.
He doesn't have a lot of memories of his childhood, not because they are too horrid to recall, but because they're of no use to him and he's deleted them. So when his mother says something like 'do you remember that time we went to the Riviera and you got that awful sunburn?' what comes to Sherlock's mind is not the awful sunburn, but that, generally speaking, dolphins can swim faster than sharks, the Latin word for shark is squalus and if you hit Mycroft in the face with a Frisbee, he gets very angry and it is hilarious. Because those are the things he had learned and retained that day.
He does have a very tiny, minuscule section of his hard drive devoted to admittedly useless memories. He remembers the first time he went to a library and the overwhelming desire to read every book and know every fact contained in it. He remembers the first time he'd heard a violin being played and declaring 'I want to do that too'. He remembers hunting for insects with his father in the back garden.
And he remembers how to be a pirate. Which, at this precise moment is coming in very handy.
Maddie Lennox is suffering from hypothermia. Not surprising, she's been locked in an unheated warehouse in February for several hours. Sherlock has rated her as being moderately hypothermic. Her hands, lips and ears are blue, the rest of her skin is pale. She's disorientated and lethargic. Sherlock has to keep her alert for, at the very least, thirty more minutes, and at the very most, sixty more minutes. Accounting for the various routes of travel and the traffic and other factors, that is the time period in which John and Lestrade will arrive.
Maddie is five-years old, the daughter of Stephen and Allison Lennox. She was abducted early that morning from her bedroom, while her parents were out at a charity function. The child minder failed to notice anything amiss until it was too late. Sherlock has been on the case for six hours and found her twenty minutes ago. He was by himself, having split off from the others to cover more ground. John was on the other side of the city and Lestrade was at New Scotland Yard, remaining with the parents (who were unreasonably hysterical and very little use) and trying to deal with the ransom aspect. Ransoms were boring; Sherlock had no interest in them.
There were two possible locations Maddie was being held, at opposite sides of the city. Sherlock chose the correct one and had texted Lestrade and John (who was investigating the other location) before entering the building. He had known that once in, he would be trapped until help came. His method of entry was through the roof of the building and it was impossible to use it as an exit, especially carrying a child. His mobile had lost service and he was on his own with a confused five-year old.
A confused five-year old who liked pirates.
Allison Lennox had informed him of this fact, but Sherlock had already known it by then. Aside from the Jolly Roger over her bed and the ship in a bottle on her dresser, she had obviously tried to prevent her abduction with a toy cutlass.
Once he'd found her and convinced her he was there to help, he'd tried to keep her alert by having her walk through the events of her abduction. She said she had been taken after bedtime, which she had stated as being 'two bells on the first watch'. He was surprised to find that his brain automatically translated this as 2100 hours. This was when he realized how much of his piracy knowledge he'd retained as an adult.
"Are you going to be the captain, or shall I?" he asks her, now, still trying to keep her alert. This is not his area of expertise. John handles the children. John is good with them. He doesn't make them cry. He listens and plays and gets information. Sherlock is playing the role of John, now, trying to assume that jovial big brother persona John uses when he interacts with children.
"Me, I'm the captain," she murmurs. She's wrapped up in his coat, her freezing cheek pressed into his neck and he's holding her in his lap. They are pressed into the far corner of the room, well out of sight of the kidnapper who is in the office, chain-smoking. Sherlock is cold, but not dangerously so. Help will come before he freezes. "You can be the first mate."
Sherlock doesn't like the idea of not being in charge, even in this hypothetical scenario. He seems to remember John accepting a demotion to lieutenant when interacting with a boy who was fond of toy soldiers, though, and decides that perhaps it's the accepted procedure with children.
"Very well. Where are we sailing to?" he asks.
Playing pretend is not a foreign concept to him. He may have stopped truly pretending at an early age, but all these characters he takes on to solve cases were a form of play-acting. A grieved widower, a yuppie fellow tenant, a confused tourist, and even now, a concerned protector, were all things he pretended to be. It required the same skills and imagination. A pirate wasn't that much of a stretch.
"West Indies," Maddie says.
She keeps reaching up to touch his hair. She's obviously delirious. Sherlock doesn't like anyone touching his hair. He's not even comfortable at the barber. He doesn't like physical contact in general, but recognizes the necessity of it now. He didn't take on this very boring case only to have her freeze to death. He only accepted the case because things had been so very boring lately that any excuse to put his mind to even a modicum of work was welcomed. Plus, John seemed determined to repeatedly state the obvious with phrases like 'she's just a little kid, Sherlock' and 'she needs your help'. It was impossible to have any peace if he was going to stand around and do that.
"Keep your hands warm," he orders, tucking her arm back into his coat. "West Indies, is it? Lots of yellow fever there."
"S'okay, we won't go ashore," she says. "We'll attack all the ships going in. You can look out from the crow's nest."
Another memory he wasn't aware he'd retained pops up now. A series of them, actually. The platform in the tree outside his bedroom window. Using a spy glass to look out for sails in the distance. Or at least the pretence of it. Really, it was mostly used to spy into Mycroft's room when he was home on school breaks. Nothing interesting ever happened. The most exciting thing his brother did was hide sweets under his bed. Except for one day, when he placed a message in flaghoist symbols in his window which translated to 'keep clear, you are standing into danger'. Sherlock had made his own symbol back, which simply read 'negative'.
"What's our plan of attack?" he asks, looking down at his watch. Still a while to go. He's not sure how long he can keep up the pretence of caring. He's already bored and uncomfortable.
"Grape shot to slow them down," she says. She's trying to touch his hair again. He takes hold of her wrist and wraps his coat more firmly around her. "Then chain shot to knock down the masts. Then we'll board her."
"Hot shot would be faster," Sherlock says. "Just burn it all. Wood and canvas burn fast."
He remembers his mother informing him that no, they didn't have a forge, no they could not build a forge, and no, if they had a forge he would still not be allowed to super heat his metal marbles to use as hot shot against Grandmother Holmes' Christmas jumpers.
"If she sinks, we can't get her cargo," Maddie argues. "Plus burning people is mean."
Sherlock snorts a laugh. "Pirates are mean," he says.
"We're nice pirates," Maddie says. "We get treasure, but we don't hurt people 'less they hurt us."
Sherlock thinks this is a ridiculous notion and is about to tell her so, when that stupid little voice in his brain that had started to speak since he met John Watson (and sounds a lot like John Watson) tells him perhaps it's not the best course of action. He dislikes this voice immensely and rarely listens to it, but sees the logic in remaining friendly in this situation. If she starts crying, it will be a long half hour until help arrives.
"You're the captain," he says, voicing his disapproval in his tone if not in his words.
She doesn't seem to notice. She's trying to touch his hair again. He's contemplating tying her into his coat by knotting the sleeves around her. It might damage the coat, though.
"Your eyes are pretty," she says. She's sounding fainter now, and he thinks she's slipping deeper into hypothermia.
"They're my eyes. They have a function. Their attractiveness is irrelevant," he says.
"You talk funny," she says, with a giggle.
He makes a face. "No I don't."
He brings her back to pirates and treasure maps. She keeps trying to sleep and he keeps shaking her awake, forcing her to talk to him. Knowledge of bowlines and spankbooms and fo'c'sles is accessed from a part of his brain he didn't even know possessed it. He finds he can remember some of the plot of Treasure Island, which his family took turns reading to him when he was incapacitated with a broken leg from falling out of a tree. He had been trying to peek inside an empty bird's nest when the branch gave way.
They're discussing the best method for raiding a British fort when there's a sudden noise from the office. Maddie tenses and whimpers in fear. Sherlock shushes her and holds himself ready for action. Until he hears the footsteps. Familiar tread, sharp military movements.
"It's okay, quiet yourself," he tells Maddie. "It's just John."
"Who's John?" she asks.
"He's...the ship's surgeon," he says. He recognizes the other footsteps. "And he's brought the bosun and the imbecilic bosun's mate with him."
John, Lestrade and Donovan enter the warehouse proper, torches flooding the room with sudden light. Sherlock attempts to stand, but his legs have gone to sleep under the weight of the child. He calls the others over.
"She's moderately hypothermic, elevated heartrate and respiration, confusion, delirium," he tells John, who is already switched over from military to doctor mode. "Otherwise uninjured and unmolested. You're early."
"Sorry, traffic was good," John says, with his customary sarcasm. "It's okay, sweetheart. I'm here to help. You're safe. We're going to get you to the hospital, all right? Your mummy and daddy will be there waiting. You've been very brave."
Sherlock sneers at this coddling and tries to disentangle himself from the girl. She grabbing at him, though, first his hair, then his jacket, then his hand. She's flailing and screaming and in the end, it's simpler to stay with her as they hurry her out to the ambulance.
"I don't want to go!" she screams, when they attempt to load her on the stretcher. "I have to stay with the ship!"
John gives Sherlock a look that says he expects him to do something about this. Sherlock has no intention of doing anything, but then she has a hold of his hair again and he's forced to act.
"Go with them," he says, sternly. "That's an order."
"You can't order me, I'm the captain," she says.
"I'm the first mate," Sherlock retorts. "And the captain is incapacitated. I'm taking over and ordering you to stand down for the good of the ship."
This calms her down a little, enough to load her into the ambulance.
"Thank you for finding me," she says, as the doors are about to close.
Sherlock nods, briefly. John gives him another look and he sighs. "Uh, fair winds and following seas," he says.
The doors close and she's gone.
As soon as the ambulance pulls away, Sherlock's caring, friendly demeanour disappears. His face drops into its default scowl and he shakes out the coat that had been wrapped around Maddie and pulls it on, popping the collar. John always gets a little disturbed at how quickly Sherlock switches in and out of his characters. He's afraid that one day, the 'default' Sherlock personality will go away and an entirely different, 'real' Sherlock will emerge.
"What was with all the captain and ship stuff?" John asks.
Sherlock shrugs. "I was on my own. I had to improvise. I deduced that she was interested in pirates and used my knowledge to keep her lucid."
John remembers what Mycroft told him about Sherlock's pirate ambitions. "You remember all that pirate stuff from when you were a kid?" he asks.
"Yes. So?" Sherlock says, defensively.
John grins. "That's sentiment, Sherlock," he points out. "Knowing about pirates can't possibly be useful in everyday life. You remember it because it means something to you."
"Nonsense," Sherlock declares, with a sniff. "It's just proven to be useful, John."
"Nope," John says. "Knowing about pirates is a waste of your hard drive space. It would be much more practical to know about the solar system or who the prime minister is, but you chose to fill it with pirate knowledge."
"You're making a fool of yourself, John, stop speaking," Sherlock orders. He stuffs his hands into his pockets and hunches up into his coat.
"Aye, aye, Captain," John says.
"Shut up, John."
"Fine...are you going to make me walk the plank?"
John laughs, but backs off. "You okay?" he asks. "You had to be cold in there."
"I'm fine," Sherlock says. "I saw a coffee shop on my way over. About a five-minute walk. I'll have a cup of tea and be fine. I hope you're satisfied, this was a complete waste of a day."
"You saved a little girl's life, Sherlock," John says.
"Boring," Sherlock says. He starts to walk, presumably in the direction of the coffee shop.
John rolls his eyes as he hurries to catch up with Sherlock's long strides. Lestrade makes a questioning gesture at him, which John replies with a shrug and a nod toward Sherlock. Lestrade waves them on. You can't stop Sherlock Holmes from leaving a crime scene once he decides he's going to go.
"After you get warmed up, we can go to the hospital if you want," John suggests.
Sherlock gives him a confused look. "Why would I want to do that?"
"To check on Maddie?" John says. The confused look stays in place. "You just spent almost seven hours on this case, Sherlock. You cradled her in your arms to keep her alive. You gave her your coat. You don't want to know how she is?"
Sherlock wrinkles his nose delicately and steps away from John like he might catch a disease from him. "The case is over, John. I found her. I solved it. What happens now is of no concern to me."
John nods an acceptance of this. Did he really expect anything else? It's nice to know that somewhere in there, Sherlock has a place for sentiment, though. Because no matter what he might say, the little boy who wanted to be a pirate is still there. So maybe Sherlock Holmes has a heart after all.