Disclaimers:  I do not own Sherlock or any of its characters.  I am merely borrowing them for entertainment purposes.

Notes:  Another story in my series.  Follows "I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus," "For Auld Lang Syne," and "The Heart of
the Matter." Not exactly necessary to read them, but it would help.  John/Sherlock pairing.

Further Notes:  Sherlock is seven in this one.  And John is ten.  *shrug*  Their ages suited my needs this way.

Please be aware that I have absolutely no knowledge of how schools work in the UK.  I am only vaguely aware of how they do
in the US.  What I couldn't find out online, I improvised, so please don't be too upset if there are mistakes.

This story has absolutely nothing to do with Saint Patrick's Day, other than the fact that the story itself takes place in March
(though I never explicitly say it in the story itself) and a vague mention of luck.

Chance Encounters

Sherlock angrily wiped at his eye as he stalked across the school grounds toward a dense wooded area that bordered one edge
of the property.  This was the only side not surrounded by fencing and so was the most logical choice when it came to
sneaking off the grounds while classes were still in session.

During his very first day of school, Sherlock had seen that school was a waste of time and effort.  He could learn so much
more on his own or from his tutors.  The teachers here were all idiots and so were the students.  At seven years old, he was
thoroughly fed up with the education system.  How was he to learn anything when he was surrounded on all sides by
slow-witted neanderthals and whiny little girls who thought more of the state of their hair than of their classwork?

And these were supposed to be advanced classes.  He could almost laugh at that.  He had been pushed forward several years
when it had become apparent that he was far superior to children his own age.  The classwork itself was challenging enough to
keep his interest, but it was the other students he detested and the teachers who looked down on him as if he was just another
snot-nosed little boy who needed help with every little thing.

He recalled his first day with loathing.  Every one of his teachers had greeted him with an 'are you lost, love?' and patted him on
the head before trying to direct him to the primary school.  He'd put up with it in each class until the last one when he had
walked into the classroom, sat at a desk, and announced that his name was Sherlock Holmes and, yes, he WAS supposed to be
there.  The lack of proper organization in this school was appalling.  There should have been some sort of notification
beforehand to inform the teachers of his presence in their classrooms.  He was so much younger than his classmates that it
sometimes bordered on problematic.  He was seven.  They were in their teens.

He didn't care that the boys disliked him.  He wasn't going to school for the purpose of making friends.  He was there to learn.  
Something that was made infinitely more difficult when his schoolbook was stolen from him and dangled far above his head
while juvenile bullies taunted him with unimaginative insults.

When he hadn't reacted with crying or trying to jump and reach the book, things rapidly degraded.  They hadn't resorted to
striking him.  However, he had been shoved around.  One particularly harsh push had caused him to fall, scratching open his
knees and palms in the process.  Sherlock had simply gotten up and left after that, ignoring their taunts and jeers as he strode
away.  He'd had enough of this place and the mindless drivel it spewed on a daily basis.

He pulled off his tie with a grunt of irritation.  Balling it up angrily, he tossed it into the bushes, ignoring the twinges of pain in
his palms as the fabric came into contact with the minor oozing abrasions there.  He kept walking through the trees, heading
toward the increasing sounds of traffic ahead of him.  As he emerged from the trees, he removed his uniform blazer and
abandoned it on the ground just before the pavement started.

He approached the street and looked around.  He grimaced at the sheer number of stupid people milling about.  It was upsetting
to him that anyone would willingly subject themselves to the mundane existence that these people so blindly endured.

What was the appeal of being normal and fitting in?  That was one thing Sherlock just couldn't comprehend.  He'd gotten the
impression that the vast majority of the boys picking on him were merely following one or two people so as to make
themselves less of a threat, to keep themselves from becoming targets.  He'd gotten glimpses of teenage girls behaving in much
the same way, so it wasn't gender-focused.

He looked around again.

His first instinct was to hail a cab, as he had seen his mother and even Mycroft do on occassion and was raising his arm to do
so, when a bus pulled up to a nearby stop.  He came to a decision quickly and climbed on board.  He was somewhat dismayed
when the driver didn't question why a seven-year old was traveling alone when it was still early in a school day.  The man's
eyes did rake over Sherlock's bloodied knees.  But he said nothing and Sherlock walked to the furthest corner he could find.  
He had no idea where the bus was going and he really didn't care.  Public transportation would give him an opportunity to
watch the common populace, to evaluate their interactions with each other.  Maybe he would understand them better if he paid
more attention.  If he was honest with himself, he didn't really put much effort into socialization.  

He wiped at his eyes and was annoyed to find his cheeks still damp.  He didn't understand why he was crying.  The treatment
he had received at the hands of those empty-headed brutes was nothing new.  In fact, it was almost commonplace now.  He
snorted in derision as he remembered their supposedly biting insults.  "Honestly," he muttered to himself, staring down at his
bloodied hands. "You'd think older boys would have something more original than, 'freak'."

He clenched his fists and looked out the window at the passing streets.  He sniffed loudly and blinked rapidly, trying to pretend
that he wasn't crying again.


John ran into the house.  Tearing across the room, he dropped his schoolbag carelessly and went to his room, grabbing his
football.  A couple of his friends were waiting for him at the park for a kickabout.

"Mum, I'm going to the park!" he shouted as he ran for the door again.

"Change your clothes!" his mother shouted back from the kitchen.  "I don't want you ruining your school clothes."

John rolled his eyes, but didn't argue.  With a huff, he stomped back to his room and changed into an old pair of jeans and a
tee.  Once changed, he headed back to the door.

"Don't forget to bring a jumper.  It's still cold out and I won't have you catching a chill."

John groaned.  "But, Mum, they're waiting!"

John's mother appeared and held up a finger.  "Don't you, 'But, Mum' me, young man."  She motioned to the offending article
of clothing, which was on top a pile of freshly washed laundry.  "You can wear that old one that's almost too small on you.  
Lord knows you're growing faster than a bean sprout."  When John opened his mouth to object, she stopped the argument
before it began.  "You can wear it, or you can stay indoors.  Your choice."

John sighed and put the jumper on.  It still fit, but it was a little snug.  "May I go now?"  He rolled his eyes and kissed his
mother on the cheek when she bent down and tapped it as a signal, before he was finally able to head for the park.

"Have fun," she called as John flew out the door.

They were able to play for a good hour before Tommy's mother came and dragged him away by the ear.  Apparently, he'd
forgotten that he had a dentist's appointment.  After he left, the others trickled away one by one until John was left alone.  He
didn't mind though.  He'd had fun.

John plonked himself down in the grass under a tree, content to enjoy the cool afternoon for a bit before going home.  He
looked about, not for anything in particular, just as a way to pass the time.

The park was loaded with the usual sorts of people.  Joggers and people walking dogs.  Lots of kids.  Mothers, grandmothers
and even a few fathers.  But one person among the many caught his eye.

The boy was younger than him, though not by much.  Two, maybe three years.  He had a thick mop of curly dark hair and
oddly pale skin.  he was dressed a bit posh for an afternoon in the park, wearing a crisp white shirt and dark trousers.  John
noticed that the boy's knees were scuffed, his trousers torn and bloodied.

None of this was particularly fascinating though.  John probably never would have noticed him at all if it weren't for one simple
thing.  The place that the strange boy had chosen to sit was most commonly frequented by a group of older boys who liked
nothing more than pushing about anyone smaller than them.  They sat at that bench and smoked, laughing and joking amongst
themselves.  Local kids knew better than to sit there, or even walk too close by it.

A noise to his left drew John's attention away from the boy, only to see a pair of teens come around the bend in the path.  One
of them grinned maliciously and pointed at the kid on the bench.  John could only watch as they prowled closer, like wolves
stalking an unsuspecting rabbit.

John was too far away to hear what was going on, but he knew that the teens were taunting the boy.  However, the boy's
reactions were odd.  He didn't get up or shout, didn't run off either.  He looked up at the boys, almost haughtily, said something
with a cold unemotional expression on his face, then seemed to ignore them completely.  John was impressed.  Either he was
brave, or stupid.  Maybe crazy.  Perhaps some wierd combination of the three.

Things spiraled downward from there.  One of the teens grabbed the pale boy, bunching his fists in that pristine shirt and
hauling him up off the bench to dangle in the air.  John found himself rising to his feet and crossing the distance before he
realized what he was doing.  When he did realize, he berated himself for getting involved.  He had to be the mental one, rushing
in like this.

His thoughts raced almost as fast as his heart as he tried to think of some plan to get them both out of this with as few bruises
as possible.  Nothing came to him.  In desperation, he turned to the only thing he had on hand, and threw his football at the teen
who was manhandling the boy.

"Leave off," John shouted, doing his best to sound brave despite the fear freezing his veins.

The ball bounced off the teen's head with an audible smack.  The much taller brunette blinked, then narrowed his eyes at John.  
"He your girlfriend or something," he sneered.  Beside him, his friend laughed, as if it were the funniest thing in all the world.

"Drop him.  He wasn't doing anything to bother you."

The teen didn't listen.  Instead, he shook the strange boy who remained utterly silent throughout the incident, his eyes following
John despite the threat in front of him.

"You're certainly bothering me."

John eyed the bullies, ready to bolt if either made a move in his direction.  Bravery was one thing, but he wasn't stupid and he
wasn't about to get his nose flattened for some idiotic kid he didn't even know.  "Just let him go."

A cruel smirk twisted the older boy's lips.  "Fine," he said, and did just as John had told him to.  He dropped the boy, simply
releasing the hold he'd had on his shirt and allowing him to drop to the ground.

The boy landed hard, his feet slipping out from underneath him.  When he pushed himself up, John was dismayed to see blood
on his cheek.

"What's going on over there?" an unfamiliar voice bellowed.  John turned briefly to see a man approaching, a man wearing a
rather hideous track suit.

The smirking teen slapped his friend on the arm.  "Let's go," he said.  The two of them turned and hurried off.

"You two okay?" the jogger asked.

"You okay?" John asked, crouching down in front of the younger boy.

"I'm fine," the boy responded curtly, his hand pressed over his bleeding cheek.  He was looking at John with a piercing
intensity.  It almost felt as if he was trying to sift through his thoughts or something.

"We're fine, sir," John said belatedly, remembering the jogger who'd come to their aid.  "Thank you."

The man looked at them dubiously.  But he shook his head and jogged off anyway.

"Why did you help me?"

The question threw John and he blinked uncomprehendingly.  Wasn't it obvious?  He scrunched his eyebrows.  "Because you
needed it," he answered honestly.

The strange boy opened his mouth, but didn't get a chance to say anything as John spoke first.

"What's your name?"

"I'm Sher-"  He cleared his throat abruptly.  A strange look crossed his face.  "Sean.  My name is Sean."

John smiled warmly.  "It's nice to meet you, Sean.  I'm John."  He stood and helped the other boy up as well.  "You should get
home and get that taken care of."  He indicated the still oozing wound on Sean's face.  It was already swelling.

He turned and picked up his ball, then smiled at the younger boy again.  "Next time be more careful about where you sit."  His
smile started to slip as he regarded Sean.  It was getting late and he had to get home.  But should he leave Sean on his own?  
"Do you want me to walk you home?"

Sean blinked at him, evidently confused.  "Why would you do that?"

"Well, you're hurt.  What if you get dizzy?"  He shrugged.  "Wouldn't hurt to have me there to help explain to your mum."

"I think I am quite capable of sufficiently explaining my injuries."  His voice was cold.  Strange kid.

"Okay then," he said with a sigh.  It wasn't really any of his business.  "If you're sure you're okay?"

Sean nodded just once.

John smiled again and gave a short little wave.  "Guess I'll see you around."  He turned and walked away.  He couldn't help but
glance back every few steps, hoping he was doing the right thing by leaving him alone like this.

Every time he looked back, Sean was watching him, that same piercing gaze boring through him.


Sean?  Was that the best false name he could come up with?  Sherlock berated his lack of creativity.  However, he conceded
that he had been rushed and it was the first name he could think of.

He had come to this park to see whether or not being normal held any appeal.  His conclusion was, that being normal was
highly over-rated.  Even when doing absolutely nothing that could be construed as abnormal, he was pushed around.  He
gathered that he would be bullied no matter where he went, so he might as well stay with his own familiar surroundings.  Being
defended was a new and not altogether unpleasant experience though.

He watched the older boy slowly retreating farther away and wondered at the strange sensation he was feeling as a response to
John's actions.  It felt rather nice.  No one had ever stood up for him before, or risked themselves to step in and help him.  
Sherlock doubted he would ever experience anything like it again.  He'd never see John again, and that was that.  This park was
too far away from Sherlock's home for him to ever accidentally run into the other boy.

With that final thought in mind, Sherlock headed for the bus stop.  He knew where he was, and he knew how to get home.  He
sighed and did his best to ignore his injuries as he got on the bus.  At least this time, the driver noticed and enquired into his
welfare.  A quick and curt response halted any further conversation, though he was obliged to thank the man for the
handkerchief, which he pressed to his face in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

He got off the bus at the stop closest to his home and walked the rest of the way.  He felt a sense of well-being when he saw
the familiar house and trudged up the walkway.  He entered the house and blinked when he heard Mycroft's voice.  According
to Sherlock's calculations, his older brother still had about an hour left before his classes even let out.  He yawned as he
approached the teenager, who had his back to Sherlock.  He'd had a long day, most of it spent on varying buses as he'd
observed people going about their daily mundane lives.

"I don't care!  Leave no stone unturned.  He must be out there somewhere, and I want him found!"

Sherlock blinked.  He normally didn't interrupt when his brother was on the phone - Mummy scolded him for it - but this
sounded important.  "Who do you want found?  Can I help?  Maybe I can think of someplace this person is that no one else
thought of."  He swallowed when Mycroft stared at him in what could only be described as joy-filled awe.  "What?" Sherlock
asked, narrowing his eyes warily.

Mycroft opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before taking a deep breath and speaking over the phone.  His voice
was shaking when he did.  "Call off the search.  He's right here."  He hung up the phone and pulled Sherlock into a hug.

Sherlock was confused.  "You were looking for me?  Why?"

Mycroft let out a choked laugh and shook his head.  "They found your bloodied tie and school blazer by the main road of your
school almost six hours ago.  Mummy thinks you've been kidnapped.  She's been frantic!"  The fourteen-year-old reached a
hand up and cupped Sherlock's injured cheek, being careful to avoid actually touching the wound there.  "What happened?"

Sherlock winced at the gentle contact.  "It's nothing."

"This," Mycroft said slowly. "Is not nothing."

Sherlock stepped back, away from his brother's hand.  His cheek really did hurt quite a bit, but he wasn't about to admit it.  He
pouted and was about to argue some more when the door opened behind him.  Mummy's voice rang through the foyer.

"Mycroft, his school is run by imbeciles.  They gave excuses and no results came of my efforts there.  I'm going to go to the
police.  Perhaps they have more brains."  She froze when she saw Sherlock and he was struck by the sight of her.  In an
instant, he recognized the signs of her distraught emotions.  Her always immaculate attire and hair were in disarray.  Her
makeup, though delicate and only lightly applied, was smeared, obvious tracks running along her cheeks.  She had been crying.  
The knowledge that she had cried over something he had done made his chest hurt.  He didn't like it.

"Mummy," he whispered plaintively, his bottom lip trembling in guilt and upset.

"Sherlock!" she cried out.  Amanda Holmes ran to him and dropped to her knees to pull him close.  She hugged him until he
didn't think she'd ever let him go.  But then she did and held him at arms' length, her eyes running over every inch of her with a
scrutinizing look that said she was seeing everything.  "When they found your tie and blazer, I thought the worst!  Let me look
at you."  She frowned at his cheek, then touched it carefully, wincing in sympathy as he flinched away.  "That needs to be
looked after.  What happened?"

Sherlock bit his lip.  He considered lying, or perhaps not telling the full truth.  However, one look at Mummy's concerned face
took that option away.  She was so upset.  He had worried her.  "Some of the older students shoved me and I skinned my
hands and knees."  He showed her his palms, which she kissed delicately.  "I wanted to see what the big deal in being normal
was, so I got on a bus and rode around for a while then went to a park.  I wasn't doing anything, but I suspect I was sitting in
some designated place where older children loiter.  They did not approve of my presence and started taunting me.  One of them
grabbed me and picked me up.  I landed on my cheek when they dropped me after a boy a little older than me threw a football
at them."  He looked down.  "I'm sorry, Mummy.  I didn't think that I'd be gone long enough to be missed."

Mummy let out a pathetic chuckle as more tears trickled down her face.  "Oh, Sherlock.  You'd be missed if you were
someplace unknown for two minutes.  You're so precious to me."  She kissed his forehead.  "Come along.  I'm taking you to
hospital to get your cheek tended to.  If nothing else, it must hurt.  On the way there, you can tell me all about what
happened."  She got up and held out her hand to him.

Sherlock interlaced his fingers with hers without really thinking about it.  "But I already told you."  He frowned.

Mummy smiled, a very small smile.  "Well, then you can tell me all about this mysterious boy who came to your rescue."

Sherlock perked up at the sound of that.  "He was very nice."  he announced, barely noticing as he was led out of the house.  
Mycroft trailed along behind him.

The three of them got into the car.  "You were lucky he came along when he did.  Who knows what those boys would have
done to you," Mummy said, wrapping an arm around Sherlock.  She seemed afraid to let go of him.

Sherlock didn't wriggle away, or call attention to it.  He didn't want her to be upset.  Besides, he kind of liked it.  So he sat there
and allowed his mother to coddle him, thinking over her words.  He was lucky to have met John, even though they weren't
likely to ever see each other again.


"Tell me again why we're here?" John asked, rubbing an eye tiredly.

Sherlock let out an exasperated breath.  Why did he have to explain himself at every turn?  Was this lack of understanding due
to John's limited brain capacity?  Or did it have to do with the fact that Sherlock had almost literally dragged him out of bed
after only two hours of sleep?  They had been up until past dawn tracking down that witness.  Perhaps he should allow John to
keep a regular sleeping schedule if he was going to be asking stupid questions like this.

"This is the park where the victim was last seen alive.  The witness said she was standing just over there when he saw her," he
said in a bored tone.  He ignored John then, putting his focus back to the case at hand.

It was obvious that this park had seen better days.  The decline of conditions was most likely due to the criminal element in the
area.  Signs of drug transactions were everywhere, mostly centered around a bench partially obscured by the shadows of some
looming trees. Something nagged at him about this park, something familiar, but he brushed it aside.  Whatever it was must
have been unimportant to his work or he wouldn't have deleted it.

"Oi, you lot!  Leave off!"

Sherlock froze at the sound of John's voice.  He slowly turned to look at the other man, a spark of memory flickering briefly.  
Why had that sounded so familiar?

John was facing a pair of delinquents who were hassling a much smaller and obviously younger boy.  "What's it to you,
old-timer? You some pedophile or something?"  The pair of teenage thugs cackled.

John took a step towards them.  "What could he have possibly done to you?  Drop him, or I'll have the authorities on you."  
There was a pause, and then he growled.  "And when I say 'Drop him,' I meant put him down gently."

Sherlock blinked as things suddenly snapped into place and he nearly shouted in exaltation.  He remembered the park; not this
one, but one quite similar.  He remembered John, a much younger, yet still the same, John Watson who had come to his aide
when he'd needed it.

He felt his mouth turn up in a smile as the teenagers snorted in derision.  They did drop the boy, and stalk off into the
darkness.  Sherlock remained silent as John walked over to ask how the boy was.

Once the boy was on his way, John approached Sherlock.  He was shaking his head.  "Honestly.  Bullies never change."

Sherlock couldn't stop the amused chuckle, nor did he want to.  "Neither do you."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Always so brave, defending the helpless.  Although, you are more intimidating now than you were with the football.  However,
it did make an adequate distraction at the time."

John froze, a decidedly confused expression on his face.  For several long and ultimately boring seconds, Sherlock watched as
the pieces slowly clicked into place in John's mind.  He could see it in every twitch of his flat-mate's features, in the way his
eyes began to light up as the realization struck him.

"Oh, my God!  Sean?  That was you?"

Sherlock stepped closer to him and slid his hands into John's conveniently unfastened coat to settle them at John's hips.  He
smiled down at him.  "My hero," he murmured, placing a quick peck on John's lips.  He released John and felt another rush, an
altogether different sort of excitement.  "Of course!" he proclaimed, the reason for their coming here all too clear now.  He
darted off further into the park, leaving a bewildered, yet slightly amused John to follow him.

Even as he ran, his mother's words from long ago echoed in the back of his mind.  He was lucky to have met John Watson,
both as a child and now.  He didn't know where he'd be without the good doctor's presence in his life.

The End