Typically, just five minutes into the new school year Sherlock found himself already on his way up to the administration office to untangle yet another of their blunders. Redverse School for Boys prided itself on being an "elite" school, but Sherlock begged to differ. He saw nothing particularly elite about the inept teachers, the intolerable and boorish students, the textbooks which were some eight years out-of-date and the library which had a pitifully meagre selection of books on forensic science.
He rang the bell at the admin desk, unsurprised to find it unmanned. As usual. The receptionist always seemed to take her sweet time in responding.
"Just one moment, dear!" she sang from behind the screen.
Sherlock rolled his eyes. He glowered at the throng of freshly acquired grade eight students lurking by the doors. They were gaping at him and seemed to be entertaining some vain hope that one of them would pluck up the courage to ask him where the Orientation Day meeting was being held. He hoped that his expression made it quite clear that he had no intention of wasting precious oxygen by compensating for their inability to read a map.
Most of them were half-obscured under the mass of the monstrous school issued backpacks, which successfully crippled or mentally scarred most of the newcomers before they reached grade nine. It usually took the newcomers a few weeks to realise that carrying the entire volume of their texbooks in their bags was, at best, a bad idea.
The receptionist finally appeared, a pile of yellowing files pressed to the chest of her gaudy floral dress. "How can I hel-"
Her smile vanished when she saw him. Sherlock had become used to having that effect on people a long time ago.
"Mr. Holmes," she said flatly. "What a surprise."
She dropped into a seat behind the desk, dropping the files with a soft flump in front of her.
"Why have I been roomed with Marty Hester?" Sherlock demanded, ignoring her affectedly tired expression. "I specifically stated that I cannot share lodgings."
"No, this is how things are done here," the receptionist replied testily. "We can't pander to the every demand of every student, Mr. Holmes."
"I have a severe skin disorder which could seriously affect anyone who lives in close quarters with me," Sherlock said, prodding a finger into the centre of the desk in front of her face. "I will not be kept accountable for any court proceedings which arise as a result of your negligence."
"If you have a problem with your roommate, you can talk to your grade coordinator," she said, with a shrug, "but I doubt whether-"
"Look," Sherlock said coldly, "I know just as well as you do that Redverse values its top studentsvery highly. I think that Principal Harvey would be very displeased if he discovered that you were denying its top student this one very, very small request."
The receptionist froze in the motion of booting up her computer and finally looked up at him, her eyes filled with dislike. "Fine, Mr. Holmes," she said quietly. "I will have you moved to another room...again. Now can you let me get back to my work?"
Sherlock picked up his bag. "Thank you," he said shortly, turning on his heel.
"Maybe if you made an effort with people for once, you wouldn't have to keep changing rooms," she said loudly after him.
A few titters went around the grade eight students, but Sherlock didn't look back. He went straight to his room to pack up his things before Hester appeared.
John was roomed with Billy Pip this year. He was also on the school's football team. The school tended to room football players together, for whatever reason. Billy was large and blonde with a squashed nose and a square jaw. He was easily the tallest boy on the team, towering over all the others at about six foot. John couldn't help thinking that he wouldn't want to see Billy running down a pitch towards him, as he was roughly the girth of a small steam train.
John was easily the shortest on the team at a depressing five foot six. He was hoping that his body was going to compensate by granting him a late teenage growth spurt. Though he doubted it, by the look of his father.
"Hey, Johnny boy."
John turned to find Billy dragging his massive, battered duffel bag through the door. Their school uniform was comprised of grey socks, grey trousers and a grey jumper emblazoned with the school's logo. It was all trimmed with yellow and looked particularly unpleasant when stretched across Billy's liberal figure.
"Hey," John said, pausing in the middle of unpacking his neatly folded, carefully ironed school shirts. "Have a good summer?"
"Yeah," Billy said, collapsing onto his bed with the effect of a mild earthquake. "It was alright. Had to spend most of it at my dad's but can't complain." He grinned over at John. "We've got it in the bag this year though, aye? It's as good as ours."
"It always is," John replied dryly. He really didn't want to start talking about football this early into the school year.
Billy laughed his loud, guffawing laugh. "Yeah, those fuckers at St. Anthony's won't know what hit them," he grunted, and gave a wet belch. "Fags."
"Yeah," John said stiffly.
"Boys," the grade coordinator's face appeared at the door. "Orientation meeting in five minutes. Don't be late."
"Yes, Mr. Blake," John said, knowing that Billy wouldn't respond.
He disappeared and they heard him repeat his message to the boys in the next room.
"Fucking paedophile," Billy grunted. "Can't wait until this fucking year is over. One more year and we can finally get out of this shit hole."
John had to admit that he agreed wholeheartedly with that last statement.
Students were already drifting into the assembly hall when they arrived. There weren't many students at Redverse, maybe 500 or so in total and grade twelve was the smallest with only 82. John didn't mind the small classes, though it meant that things travelled around very quickly.
"Hey! Watch where you're going, freak!"
John jerked around just in time to see Billy slam his bag into the slender shoulder of Sherlock Holmes, his arms full of books. John winced as Holmes slammed into the cement, his bag flying off his shoulder.
Billy gave a grunt of laughter, glancing around at the sneering onlookers. He gave Sherlock's bag a nudge with his foot and walked into the hall, winking at John as he passed him.
John stared at the fallen boy, his stomach churning. Every fibre in his body was telling him to help Sherlock up, but he knew he wouldn't. He forced himself to turn and walk inside, leaving Holmes to pick himself up.
John felt a pang of guilt as he took his seat with the other footballers.
There were three sorts of boys at Redverse. There were the footballers. Working class boys from hard-working families who had got in purely on their sporting talent, there were the artistically or musically inclined boys who had gotten in on Arts Scholarships, and then there were the rich boys who had got in because daddy had connections with the school governors and a house in Mayfair. If you didn't fit into one of those three categories, you didn't belong at Redverse.
Sherlock Holmes had no category. Little was known about him, just that he was intelligent to the point of being threatening, that he noticed things that people just shouldn't notice, he knew things that people just shouldn't know. He was an outcast, a freak and the other boys made his life a living hell.
Holmes didn't seem to care. He continued to look at everyone around him as though he was looking right through them. That's certainly how John felt when Sherlock looked at him.
He passed John on his way down the stairs and glanced at him coolly over his shoulder, as though he were silently deriding him for being such a pathetic coward. John felt another sickly, guilty pang in his stomach. The tall, slim boy took a seat down the front where no one would disturb him.
Moments later, Principal Harvey appeared from the right wing of the stage. He walked primly across to the pulpit in the centre, clutching a plastic file in one hand and an extravagant gold pen in the other. He was a man of markedly old-fashioned habits. He wore a suit every day, kept a well-trimmed, comb-shaped moustache and always referred to the students as "boy" or "you, there" rather than ever bothering to learn their names. He seemed to linger from a past generation where the less contact made with the students the better.
He glanced up at them, waiting for silence to fall. He never raised his voice over them. He would just stand there, watching them in a quiet, beady manner until they eventually fell silent.
John watched him as his eyes swept the room, pausing on this boy or that and occasionally knitting his eyebrows when he noticed that a particular student was missing. A lot of the boys disappeared over the years, choosing to leave school to work a trade or to transfer schools or just because they couldn't take another moment of it.
The chatter gradually died down to a very slight murmur.
"Good morning, students," Harvey said finally, placing the file and pen carefully in front of him. "Welcome back to Redverse. I trust you all had a relaxing summer."
There was the usual chorus of 'yes, sir'.
He paused, smoothing his moustache in a considering manner. "As you well know, this year is the most important of your schooling. It is your final year, the year in which you will choose the path you will walk for the rest of your lives. Your teachers, your mentors and advisors will ensure that they help you in every way possible to prepare-"
There was a short, dubious laugh. Everyone jerked slightly in their seats, staring around to see who had dared to make the impertinent noise. John knew who had made it. He stared at the back of Sherlock's dark head.
"Mr. Holmes," Harvey said, frowning as he looked at him. "Do you have a comment to make?"
It was designed to embarrass him into silence but Sherlock Holmes was not a boy easily embarrassed.
"You say that we will be given everything needed to achieve excellent grades," he replied calmly, "but what about life outside Redverse' idyllic cloisters?"
"Mr. Holmes, if you have a question I suggest you remain afterwards to discuss it," Harvey said hurriedly, clearing his throat. "As I was-"
"I mean you teach us how to dissect frogs and how to apply Marxist literary criticism to Shakespeare, but you don't bother filling us in on the most important struggles of our age. Global warming, deforestation, rebel uprisings in the Middle East," Sherlock went on, as though he hadn't spoken. "You talk about the physical implications of STDs, but you never mention the social implications-"
"Hey! We don't all have AIDS like you, Holmes!" came a shout from the back, followed by a burst of gleeful laughter.
"That's enough!" snapped Harvey, his usually pasty face going faintly red. "Holmes, if you have something to say, wait until the appropriate time."
He glanced down at the papers in front of him, seeming to have been completely derailed by Sherlock's unexpected interruption.
John looked down at his lap. His palms were sweaty, his heart was pounding. He exhaled heavily, realising he seemed to have stopped breathing while Holmes had been speaking.
The rest of Harvey's introductory speech passed without incident but John could no longer concentrate and barely heard a word of it.
Sherlock hurried down the hallway towards his own room, ignoring the glances of the other boys and the sniggers as he passed. He was used to it, there was nothing they could say or do that he hadn't already experienced a hundred times over. It no longer hurt. If it ever had. He couldn't really remember ever feeling emotional pain.
He slammed the door behind him and rested against it, staring up at the ceiling and finally allowing himself to breathe. It was times like these that his solitude was even more important to him.
He was far too used to incidents like the one in the assembly hall to be offended or embarrassed. That wasn't it. It was John Watson again. John bloody Watson. He didn't know what came over him every time he was anywhere near him. It was like an illness. And the closer he got to John the worse it got.
There was something about him. He never joined in with the other boys' abuse. He didn't exactly try and stop it either, but Sherlock would look at him and see how his facial features tautened with unspoken disapproval and he knew that he didn't feel the way the other boys did about Sherlock. He was different. There was a softness and depth to him that the other footballers didn't have, that none of the boys at Redverse had. Those blue eyes, that smile did something to Sherlock.
Sherlock couldn't remember ever having 'crushes'. He had realised fairly early on that he liked boys and it hadn't particularly surprised or upset him. These days, he didn't really find it particularly important whether he abstained from sex with women or he abstained from sex with men. He never remembered physically yearning for someone else. "Attraction" seemed a laughably mild label for what Sherlock felt for John.
All the problems had started when John had come to the school the year before to play football. Sherlock's attraction had begun subtly, barely noticeable. A glance here, a thought there, an increasing appreciation of how he looked in his football uniform. And an even stronger appreciation of how he looked out of it.
Not that Sherlock had spied; it had been a fluke. He had walked into the toilets when John had been changing out of his uniform. For a moment Sherlock thought his limbs had forgotten how to function and he was going to go rigid where he was. Underneath the bulk of his football or school uniform, John's body was toned and firm and slim.
His only garment, a well-kept pair of boxer-briefs, clung to every line of his thighs and pelvis and made what was between his legs more than obvious. Sherlock might as well have walked in on him naked.
John had looked at him and smiled. Smiled. It had almost been too much. Sherlock had hastily used the urinal and got the hell out of there, his cheeks burning furiously and rapidly losing control of his lower-half.
From that day onwards John's body had haunted his mind and his presence had haunted his life. He was always around, smiling and laughing and being kind to everyone like some sort of council worker. Sherlock had never felt like this. And he hoped he never would again.
He went to his bed, dropping his bag and books onto the carpet and pulling his school jumper over his head. He flung it across to his chair, where all of his other clothes tended to stay until he could be bothered to take them to be washed, which could be a week or a month, depending on his mood.
He lay down on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, his mind brimming with John. Absently, he slid a hand down his stomach to the bulge between his legs. Through the soft material of his school trousers it was very obvious. He stroked it gently, rocking his hips a little against his hand and fighting the urge to wank off. He couldn't. Not again. He had to learn to control these emotions, these sensations.
He closed his eyes with a sigh. Saying that didn't stop him from getting himself off in the shower, or spending every torturous waking moment watching John from a distance and picturing him in the most obscene of circumstances.
He slid his hand into the band of his trousers, pressing the other hand to his mouth to stifle the strangled moan which was forced from his mouth. He rubbed his hand up and down himself, spreading his legs and cringing at how wet he was already.
If only he could do this to John.
He tilted his head back against the pillows with a gasp, grasping himself tightly and beginning to rub in violent spurts, hardly able to contain his breathing. He arched his back, his breaths shuddering out like an old car's engine.
"Fu-uck..." he moaned, bucking his hips weakly as he lost control.
He lay limp against the bed, not removing his hand from his trousers. He stared blankly at the ceiling, listening to the laughing and voices from the surrounding rooms, the thumping footsteps and slamming doors.
He sighed and turned onto his stomach, burying his face into his pillow.
End of Chapter One