Chapter One: John, Don't Say Anything
Steeling himself, Lestrade made his way up the steps to the large, dark-looking building. He stopped just in front of the door and turned back to look at the two men following closely behind. He began talking to the taller one.
"Now, Sherlock, please try to remember –"
"Yes, yes, I know," Sherlock huffed, cutting him off. "No being rude to the employees, and no frightening the children; I've already been given this talk by John. Now can we please go in?"
The other man, John, rolled his eyes as the Detective Inspector continued through the large double doors into the orphanage.
Inside was dark, stuffy, and had the distinctive smell of must. The three men began walking down a long hallway, passing several large rooms along the way. Sherlock quickly peered into each one as they swiftly walked past. The men were quickly approaching several sets of desks at the end of the hall grey hall, Sherlock making assessments the whole way, but all three men thinking of the situation at hand.
Last week, Greg Lestrade had called Sherlock with a case; children were being abducted from orphanages all across England, but no bodies had been found, leading everyone to suspect the perpetrator was keeping the children. Sherlock agreed to help, and since he had, two more children had been abducted. This would mean five children had been taken, ages two, four, eight, ten, and twelve, in order of abduction.
And, as if the case wasn't disturbing enough on its own, as Sherlock, John, and Lestrade began visiting orphanages, they discovered most of them couldn't even give a description of the children that had been abducted, showing just how little care was put into these orphanages, thus making inferences on the abductions very difficult.
To John and Greg, this discovery was just disturbing and horribly sad, but to Sherlock it was a clue: The kidnapper is taking children from orphanages where he knows they will be easy to snatch away, and where they won't be easily missed... Has adequate information on where such places would be...+
The men were almost to the desks where several women sat playing with their phones. The sounds of children's voices could be heard in the distance.
As they passed the last room, Sherlock once again peered in. In the other rooms, there had been two things: either emptiness, or several children playing, talking, or walking around.
This last room, though, appeared empty, so Sherlock gave a slight nod of his head, and continued along. But just as he was about to walk up to John and Lestrade, a small sound caused him to turn back towards the supposedly empty room. This time, though, he walked in.
In a corner, which had been originally obscured from view, sat a very young, very small boy with dark auburn hair, which was wildly curly. He was sat on the ground, his chubby little legs splayed out in front of him. In front of him, resting on the filthy floor, was a piece of paper, onto which the young boy was haphazardly scribbling something with a broken, red crayon, which had created the noise Sherlock had heard. The boy's bottom lip protruded out slightly, and his eyebrows were drawn together; he looked to be concentrating on what he was scribbling on the paper between his legs. Sherlock guessed he couldn't have been more than 14 months old.
At the sound of Sherlock entering the room, though, the tiny boy quickly stopped what he was doing and looked up at the detective with huge, dark, green-blue eyes, which were oddly striking, he noted.
The two stared at each other for a moment, Sherlock peering at the young boy with a rather soft look on his face. He made a step towards the child. Eyes widening in fear, the little boy let out a small squeak, his eyes quickly filling with tears. His tiny chest heaving, the child turned around and desperately tried to crawl away from Sherlock, only to be met with a grey, dirty wall. Upon realizing there was now way out, the little boy began to panic, tears streaming streaming down his face as hurriedly tried to get away from the detective.
Sherlock had frozen immediately, as soon as the child had tried to scurry away from him. His eyebrows worriedly pulled together. When the the little boy started to cry, though, he became truly concerned, unsure of what he should do, but wanting to help in some way.
"Ssshh, shhh, it's all right, it's okay," he began whispering to the child, but to no avail. The small boy had now reached the wall, and was trying as hard as he could to stand up.
Though he knew it was going to upset the young boy more, with his lips turned into a sad frown, Sherlock walked towards the tiny figure, still whispering softly to him, and took note of the way the young boy flinched when he reached for him, plucking him from his position on the ground.
Initially, the boy desperately tried to protest by flailing his little limbs this way and that.
"Shh," Sherlock whispered, trying desperately to end the little boy's terror and show him he was safe. Almost instinctively, the detective clutched the boy to his chest, his large hand rubbing soothing circles on the child's back, hoping to soothe him.
And then, suddenly, as the little boy felt the Sherlock's comforting hand on his back, he stopped protesting. Tears still streaming down his face, the child paused, taking a moment to stare up at the detective. Chest still heaving, and with a new wave of tears filling his eyes, the little boy thrust his head into the crook of Sherlock's shoulder, sobs shaking his tiny body as tears began to stain the detective's jacket.
Though he would never admit it, Sherlock felt extremely shaken by what he had just witnessed. He held the little boy close to his chest, trying to calm him down. The detective's mind was thinking quickly about what he had just seen. He estimated the boy was probably fourteen to sixteen months old, if not younger. But judging by the fact that he was already beginning to draw, his motor skills were clearly advanced, especially for having grown up in the conditions of the orphanage. His clothes were dirty and tattered, face covered with dirt. Neglected because he's younger, and can't do these things for himself, Sherlock noted. Even though the child had a significant amount of baby fat, which made his face seem full, he was still painfully thin, making him look even more fragile than his already-tiny form would. Sherlock was also positive the crying boy in his arms had been abused, and rather badly judging by the reaction the child had had to him.
As he was thinking about this realization, anger boiled in Sherlock's veins, spreading throughout his body, and he subconsciously tightened his grip on the little boy. He couldn't explain why he was feeling this much anger about a tiny, little human that he didn't even know, but he felt oddly protective of the little boy whose sobbing had stopped and was now reduced to just little sniffles. His head was still snuggled tightly into the crook of Sherlock's neck, though and he was moaning quietly to himself, a tiny hand clutching the detective's shirt.
"Shh, see," Sherlock murmured, running a hand over the little boy's back. "It's all right… You're all right." He let go of the small boy's back ever so slightly as if to give him reassurance that it was okay to look up.
Cautiously, still with a little fear in his eyes, the auburn-haired boy pulled his tear-stained face away from the detective's soft coat. He looked up at the man with puffy eyes, sniffling sadly to himself.
Sherlock gave the little boy a warm smile in an attempt to reassure the child that he was not going to hurt him.
After staring up at the detective for several more moments, the small boy's eyelids began to droop. He pulled his chubby little arms away from his sides, releasing the grip he had on Sherlock's shirt, and tiredly reached them up towards the detective, placing one hand on his shoulder, the other just at the base of the detective's neck. His eyes slowly fluttered closed, and with a deep breath, he leaned into Sherlock, where he quickly fell asleep, his tiny body rising and falling with each deep breath.
Has not slept for a significant while, Sherlock thought.
The detective stared quietly down at the sleeping child in his arms, who now looked completely peaceful... And felt a strange fluttering in his chest...
John and Lestrade hadn't really noticed Sherlock's absence until they both noted that there hadn't been any insults made towards the women they had been talking to. John turned around and realized Sherlock was not there.
As if on cue, the consulting detective walked out of the room closest to Lestrade and John. The doctor was going to say something terribly sarcastic to his friend when he noticed the incredibly small being in his flat mate's arms. The doctor's mouth hung open.
"John, don't say anything," began Sherlock, "but I'm taking this child home with me today."