Sherlock knew himself to be a man of little imagination. One did not need something like imagination when one had access to logic and knowledge. Imagination was something stupid, ordinary people used because they weren't smart enough to have access to deduction, like the way John insisted to add all that useless glamour to their cases just because he couldn't fully understand the existing value of it all.
There was, in his entire life, only one occurrence when he had obviously imagined something. Or so he had always been told. He had been rather young at the time, and still believed that Mycroft and their parents knew better than him, so when they had told him what he had lived had been impossible, he had believed them, deemed the memory irrelevant and deleted it.
Or so he had thought.
Interesting how a single name could have him reminisce in such a way.
He had been five, and Mycroft had dragged him in a shopping center. His elder brother had been supposed to babysit him for the afternoon, but had then been called by a friend. Or an informant, more likely. Even at twelve, Mycroft had always done his best to know everything that was going on everywhere. It had taken Sherlock no more than fourteen minutes to escape him. It had been almost too easy, with so many people around. He could have done anything, gone anywhere.
It had been so easy it had become boring.
He had been about to go back to Mycroft to discreetly spy on him, when he had spotted a strange man. Even a less intelligent child could only have noticed the man in a suit that was searching the decorative bushes of the shopping center. But it wasn't just that, there was something about the way he moved, the way he looked at things. Something not normal. Something not human, Sherlock had thought, but he had been reading quite a few sci-fi novels at the time. As far as he was concerned then, there were aliens everywhere.
He had stared at the man for a while, until the man noticed him and started staring back, like it was the funniest thing in the world. Which wasn't something grownups did. At least not the ones Sherlock knew. So he had to be an aliens. Because aliens looked like normal people, but they acted all wrong. He had seen it on TV.
If he could catch an alien, everyone would have to admit how great and clever he was. He would have liked that. So he walked straight to the man, looking as serious as he could when he was in fact more excited than the time he'd proved that it was Mycroft who kept eating the biscuits, not him. He had grabbed the man's wrist, because that was the best way to capture him, really, and almost let out a cry.
A double heartbeat.
He could feel two hearts beating somewhere in that tall and weirdly dress figure. And he knew he wasn't mistaken, because taking everyone's pulse at home had been his favourite game since the day Mycroft had showed him how to do it.
“You're an alien!” He had cried in surprised. “You're an outspacer, with two hearts!”
The man had looked just as surprised as Sherlock. But it was a good sort of surprise, he had been pretty sure of it. And then, he had smiled.
“And you are a very clever little boy. Now tell me, have you seen a creature about that high, looking like a monkey with a parrot's beak, sort of green and blue and bits of yellow?”
Sherlock had shaken his head without a word. He was talking to an alien. An alien with a parrot lost somewhere. An alien pirate from outer space. This was brilliant.
“Ah, well, they're rather shy, so I'm not surprised. I'll have to keep looking. But if you see him, tell him I'm looking for him, and everything's going to be fine. Or just come and tell me. Not sure they understand human language. Not very fond of humans, the tyoetfae.”
And with that, the man had been about to leave, but Sherlock had quickly grabbed his coat to stop him. The alien pirate was his prisoner. He wasn't allowed to leave, because Sherlock had to show him off to the world and explain how he had captured him and then dissect him and then go with him all around the universe to capture more aliens.
The man had looked surprised, then had started laughing.
“Ah, well. Not the best moment to dissect me, I'm a bit busy. But you can come along and help, and then we'll see. You seem like a bright boy. Think you can help me?”
Sherlock had nodded. He really had wanted to dissect his alien, and so couldn't afford to let him leave his sight. And anyway he rather liked it when people noticed he was clever. People needed to notice it more
What had happened after that point was a bit of a blur. He remembered a lot of running, and a impressively huge amount of laughing, much more than had been usual, and then, that amazing moment when he had been face to face with a beautiful creature with green and blue fur and a sharp orange beak. It had taken his breath away. He had had many books about all sorts of strange animals at home, but he had never seen anything like it before or since. That... thing had been unique. Just like his alien pirate.
And it had turned out his alien wasn't just a pirate. He was very good at many things. He could run very fast. He could be very funny. He could open any door, like a wizard. And he spoke the language of the blue creature, which was a very pretty language, almost like whistling. Sherlock had decided after the dissection, he would ask his alien to teach him that.
But then he had forgotten about that plan, because the alien man had motioned him to move closer to the creature.
“Go on, you can touch her. She says you smell nice and she likes you.”
“Very nice creatures the tyoetfae. Their fur is one of the softest things in the universe, but they only let a few people touch it. People they trust. And she trusts me of course, and since you've helped me find her, she trusts you as well now. So go on, touch her. Gently, yeah, that's it. Good boy!”
It had been very soft.
And whenever Sherlock later thought again about this, about whether this was real or not, it was always the memory of that moment that decided it. Nothing could ever be so soft. It had felt like touching the first warm ray of sun of a beautiful Spring morning. Or so he would have thought, had he been of a more lyrical nature.
“That's it, you're doing just fine,” his alien had said. “She likes you a lot. She says you're very delicate, very good at this. Oh, she wants to know your name.”
“Sh'lock,” he had mumbled, too impressed by the surreal softness of the fur to speak properly.
“Nice name. I'm the Doctor. And I'm really sorry, because clearly the two of you are having some sort of a moment, but I'll need to take her back to her family.”
“Well, they miss her. She got lost, you see, but it's time for her to go back. But don't worry, if you want, I'll make sure you see her again. Would you like that? Meeting her family?”
Sherlock had nodded eagerly.
“Well, that's a deal then,” the Doctor had said with a smile. “Now, just wait here for a bit, I'll take her back, ask them if they mind meeting you -and they won't, awfully nice creatures they are- and then you'll see them all. The adults are much more colourful, you'll see! And I'll show you the Tardis, you'll love it. It's my ship. It's the best ship you've ever seen. Looks like just a... well, let's say a blue wooden box. But it's so much more and oh, you're going to love it.”
Sherlock has just smiled his biggest smile. He was going to meet even more aliens. That was the best day ever.
He had watched as the Doctor and the blue creature had left. And he had waited.
Until Mycroft found him, and scolded him for running away that way. Sherlock, of course, had tried to explain what had happened, the wonderful things he'd seen and done, and how he had found an alien and was soon going to meet even more of them, but his brother had just rolled his eyes.
“That's it, I'm telling mummy that you shouldn't read all those terrible novels. Aliens aren't real, Sherlock. Don't you think if they were, we wouldn't know?”
“You wouldn't. Aliens only like nice people.”
Mycroft had refused to dignified such a petty insult with an answer. He had just grabbed Sherlock's hand, and taken him away. The younger boy had fought back, kicked, screamed, bitten him even, to no avail. Mycroft was taller, bigger, stronger than him.
Once they had been home, Sherlock had tried once again to explain what had happened, but no one believed him. At first they had said he was cute. Then that he had played for long enough. By the end of the day, they were calling him a liar, and had taken away all his novels about pirates and aliens and “all such nonsense” as his father had called it. Sherlock had been bitter and disappointed at first, but with time, he had forgotten about it. Everything logical and sensible he had read afterward had told him aliens weren't real, that only the weak of minds and the superstitious could believe in them.
The Doctor, miss Barrowman had said.
An alien, she had said.
Hundreds of years old, and powerful, terrifying, she had said.
Also the kindest person one could ever meet, she had said.
Travels in a blue box that's bigger on the inside, she had said.
And miss Noble had given him a picture of him, several pictures of him in fact, from different moments of his timeline, and she had shown them to Sherlock, and there was no mistake possible.
The most recent one looked exactly like his alien had.