A/N Alright, so my excuse for this starts somewhere almost two years ago with tumblr user butthorn's post 15387980125. I saw it, thought it was adorable, decided to turn it into a short fic, and promptly forgot about it until a few weeks ago, when I finally managed to churn out the 10,000 words that would create "A Study in Tickle Me Pink." It's pretty shallow and silly, but I've had fun with it, so here's part one of five (others will be posted on Sundays for the next four weeks). Excuse any Americanisms, but I found myself far too lazy to actually look up whether a number of little words and behaviors were consistent across continents.
Rated K because it's a kindergarten AU, come on
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc; additionally, cover art isn't mine, and story idea is that of tumblr user butthorn.
John Watson's leg ached. Not with the simple misfortune of having tripped down the stairs or slipped on an icy sidewalk, but with a deeper throbbing, one that pierced past mere physical discomfort—he was upset, because the injury that glared up at him now, all too visible from where his leg lay extended on the grey plastic of his itchy cot, was far from accidental.
"I don't want to play with them anymore," the six-year-old declared, holding his trembling lip in place as the school nurse, a kind woman by the name of Ella, calmly ran a cool washcloth over the injured area. His torn skin was tender, and he winced as she cleaned away bits of dirt and crumbles from the blacktop, but he refused to let out any more tears; he didn't want to earn any sort of reputation as a crybaby. "He pushed me on purpose, I know he did."
"That's very possible," Ella agreed, her smooth chocolate-colored hand pressing against the whitened skin around the damaged area, sponging away the smallest bits of blood with the tip of the cloth. "And that's also one of the reasons that we're going to be asking you to switch classes, John."
"...What?" Switch classes? Yes, it was barely the beginning of the school year, but the idea was still alarming—he had barely gotten used to the one he has now; the last thing he wanted was to switch teachers and rooms! "I don't... I don't have to."
"Yes, you do." Her voice was still very steady, but he trusted her less now, and shot a glare in her direction as she folded the cloth and turned to deposit it in a wastebasket. She then moved in a rustle of pink fabric and light clinking from the necklaces of polished stones that she donned, settling behind her desk and folding her hands neatly on the surface as her dark eyes regarded him under a shock of short, neat black hair. "Bullying isn't tolerated here, and we'll make sure to see to it that those boys receive appropriate consequences, but we can't make them behave. We've talked with your parents, John, and we all agree—it's probably better for everyone that you move to room 221b."
"221b?" he echoed. It wasn't one that he'd heard of before, but was far enough from his own current room number, 105c, that he was sure it couldn't be anywhere he'd gone near before. Nervousness began to writhe inside of him, but he swallowed, refusing to let it show. They were doing this for his own good, or at least trying to. The best thing to do was stay quiet and listen to what Ella had to say, even as he started to feel sick due to an anxiety that couldn't be more attached from the motivations behind his leg injury.
"That's right. The teacher, Mrs. Hudson, is a very nice woman, and I think you'll find it to be perfectly suited to an intelligent young boy like you. It's a very smart class, and it might be more your speed—you do very well on your spelling tests, John; you've impressed all of us."
But this wasn't about spelling tests. He would do well on them either way, and it wasn't as if he needed competition in kindergarten. No; she was switching him out because of the bullying, and there was nothing she could say that would convince him not to be embarrassed about the situation. Still, there really was no way out of it—he certainly didn't want to participate in a dodgeball game that violent again, and he had no doubt that further injury would be inevitable with the classmates he had now.
"...Okay, I guess," he finally mumbled, his shoulders sagging. The clock ticked steadily away above Ella's desk. "I don't want to go quite yet, though, if that's okay."
"Of course; if you need a few more minutes to rest your leg, feel free to stay here. Besides, I believe Mrs. Hudson and the students are in the middle of a lesson right now, anyways. Afternoon recess is in half an hour—how about I send you out then?"
"Sure." He sighed and leaned against the wall; it was cold through his light T-shirt, but he didn't have the energy to pick up the zip-up jacket that lay discarded on the floor, which Ella had insisted he take off for the purpose of checking his arms for scrapes. They were perfectly clear, as it turned out—his only injury was the shallow gash on his leg, which really felt a lot better now that it had been wiped off. There wasn't much blood, he supposed, and the deeper injury was certainly to his pride. Transferred! To another class! Just because he was pushed around a bit on the playground! At least he hadn't made any real friends so far through the school year, so he wouldn't be leaving much behind, save brags on the lips of the stupid bullies.
The clock continued, now accompanied by the shuffle of papers from Ella's desk. He didn't know what time Mrs. Hudson's class had their afternoon recess, but hopefully it wouldn't be too far away—the tangy smell of disinfectant, heavy in the air of the nurse's office, was beginning to give him a headache, and he couldn't help but wonder how Ella put up with it all day long. He certainly wouldn't want to grow up to be a doctor, he decided with a frown.
After a while, apparently perceiving his gnawing boredom, Ella sighed and set down her papers, regarding him calmly with those steady dark eyes. "I really do think this will be good for you, John," she says again, her voice thankfully breaking through the monotonous tick of the clock. "All sorts of fun things will happen to you in Mrs. Hudson's room. In fact... here." Her desk drawer slid open with a creak, and then she was pulling out a notebook—a wide-ruled composition book with a black marbled cover, which she then carried over to him, her heels clicking on the floor.
He reached out curiously, and she slipped the notebook into his small hands; it was a third his size, and he had to adjust his arms quite a bit to wrap them securely around it. It was a good shape and weight, he decided. Still, he had no idea what she'd want him to use it for.
"This is a journal," Ella explained, crouching next to him. "You've been learning how to write in your old class, right?"
He nodded slightly, his fingers running along the edges of the thin paper bound into the book.
"Well, I want you to use this notebook to write about what happens to you. Record all the adventures that you have in Mrs. Hudson's class—I'm sure she'll be more than glad to help you with spelling or anything that you need—and at the end of the year, you can look back at all the fun that it turned out to be. Okay?"
It was a nice idea, he supposed, but there was one vital point that she was making. So he looked up and met her eyes, his small shoulders moving in a shrug as he explained the difficulty in a single quick sentence.
"Nothing happens to me."
"It's really important," Greg Lestrade was saying three halls away, sandy brows low over his large, dark eyes as he attempted to convey the importance of the situation to the rest of Mrs. Hudson's class, who were positioned around him in the usual cluster of afternoon circle time. "Three people have had to go home now, and it has to stop!"
Sally Donovan, sitting beside him with her curly, dark hair in twin pigtails and her arms folded over her overalls, enforced her friend's words with a firm nod, scowling around at the rest.
The hand of a skinny boy with glasses went up, quivering with curiosity.
"Yes, Peter?" Mrs. Hudson allowed. She was sitting in a chair rather than on the floor with the rest of them, for a reason that she only ever stated with the plain word 'joints;' Greg thought it was rather unfair that the rest of them were forced onto the scratchy carpet, but she was a nice enough teacher otherwise that he didn't object to the rule.
"How d'you know that there's a bad boy who's making them go home?" the skinny boy pointed out. "Maybe they're just getting sick because of... because of germs!"
Greg shook his head quickly. "No, it's a pattern." Mrs. Hudson had only just been teaching them about patterns during maths hour; maybe he would earn the respect of any doubters with his clearly intelligent observation. "Three people got sick, and all of them had pink in their throw-up! It has to be because of someone else."
Mrs. Hudson pressed her lips together, clearly displeased with the rather repulsive tone that Greg's words were taking; besides, it was time to move on. "Alright, Greg," she said, settling her hands onto her lap, "thank you for sharing. Now, why don't you let Sally have a turn?"
"It's okay," Sally exclaimed quickly. "This is really important."
"Yeah," Greg agreed, "everyone, please be careful! Sally'n I are gonna find the person who's doing this, we're already looking around a lot—"
"Wrong," a bored voice mumbled.
Greg frowned and peered across the circle in an attempt to identify the speaker. Mrs. Hudson forced on a smile and turned to the boy who had interrupted. "Is there something you'd like to say, Sherlock?" she asked in as cheery a manner as she could muster.
Sherlock Holmes was a thin, pale boy with sharp features and a spill of dark brunette curls over his light green-grey eyes, usually wearing dark clothes and more often than not sitting alone in a corner of the room with second or third-year math books that Mrs. Hudson had special permission to get him. The rumor was that he was smart, super smart, so smart that he might even go to a different, special school next year. Greg Lestrade, however, was unimpressed by these awed murmurs—to him, Sherlock was little more than a pigheaded nuisance, and he was grudging to accept the idea that he might actually prove useful for their investigation. Sally was of a similar mindset, but Mrs. Hudson, apparently, was far too keen to hear what Sherlock had to offer.
Luckily, he only shook his head at her prompt, his features slipping back into apathy.
Greg took a deep breath. "Sally and me—"
"Sally and I," Mrs. Hudson corrected gently.
"Sally and I are trying really hard to figure this out. We're maybe the smartest in this class—"
"Wrong," Sherlock sighed again, glancing up at the ceiling and shaking a stray curl out of his eyes.
"Ignore him!" Sally spoke up, a slight flush creeping up under the smooth curve of her dark caramel cheeks. Her pigtails practically seemed to bounce in indignation. "Don't listen to him, he's just a showoff!"
"Alright, boys and girls," Mrs. Hudson interceded, deciding that things were getting just a bit too heated for a healthy classroom atmosphere. "Greg, thank you for telling us about this. I'm sure we'll all be very careful not to eat anything pink in case it's poisonous, is that right?"
"Yes, and don't go anywhere alone, because—"
"Then is everyone ready to go outside? It's time for recess!"
The circle was immediately stirred up in excitement as the rest of the kids got to their feet, some running ahead to reach the playground first and get to the slide or monkey bars before a line formed. Greg folded his arms as he rose, taking his time—he had more important things to concern himself with.
"He should stop," Sally whined as the two of them started for the door, her eyes fixated on Sherlock's thin shoulders as he moved a bit ahead of them, somehow at the front of the small crowd despite the fact that he was displaying no apparent exertion. "It's not fair for him to interrupt."
"I asked him to stop, lots of times," Greg muttered back. "He just won't."
Though he feigned deafness towards them, Sherlock Holmes heard every word exchanged behind his back, and, as Mrs. Hudson's kids poured into the hallway, he couldn't help but smirk. His classmates were just so dull sometimes.