Disclaimer: in no way am I affiliated to the BBC-Sherlock series other than being a massive fan. The title is lend from the beautiful song "Boats and Birds" by Gregory and the Hawk with no intention of copy right infringement.
It is my first fanfiction I ever published and I'm grateful for everyone who decides to give it a try or even gets through till the end. Any tips to improve or corrections are welcomed with warm gratitude!
Greg still could remember the day he and Katie begun their work on his ship. It had been a sunny day on the adventure park and packed with children playing on the swings, screaming gleefully on their little makeshift boats of lilos and floating tires, or playing tag on the seemingly endless lawns. He could remember noticing her because, except for John Watson, the quiet guy from his neighbourhood, she was the only one who seemed his age and enjoyed herself while getting some hammers and nails in the joineries part of the park. Her blue eyes met his and he grinned goofily, waving from the wooden bench he was sitting on and sanding a plank for his to-be ship.
"Hi." she said, coming closer and giving him a lopsided smirk. "I don't think we've met. What are you working on?"
Greg felt the corners of his mouth turn up in response and he lifted the wood. "Another plank for my ship. I'm Greg, nice to meet you." Katie had smiled, given him his name and sat down next to him.
"A ship, huh? You don't look much like a sailor." She remarked teasingly, watching him as he continued sanding the wood. He scowled at the plank, but refused to let her distract him from work. "You'll see, I'm the greatest pirate in the world." he assured her determinedly and blew off the dust. She chuckled and stretched out on the bank, watching him work.
"A pirate? You don't look much like you have an awesome crew behind you, sitting here working alone. You need a first mate?"
Greg shot her a pointed look. "First, a true captain cherishes his solitude, second, women bring ill luck on sea!"
"Not true, I've always been a great lucky charm! Come on, I'll help you work on your ship and you'll let me be your mate! It'll be fun!"
He still didn't know how she'd managed to convince him so easily after he'd turned down the other children's request one by one – they all were just too lazy to build their own ships, after all! – But there was this twinkle in her eye, and the way one corner of her mouth quirked up when she looked at him, and after all, working together really was more fun than working alone the whole time.
The first weeks went by quickly and Greg realised how much he'd longed for a friend to play and build his ship with. Sure, there were other children on the building playground, but despite their age difference – he was at least five years older than most of them –, there had been various reasons he didn't do much with them. Sherlock Holmes, for example, had denied him any friendly contact after he'd heard Greg wanted to be a pirate too, and declared war on him as soon as their ships were ready. Mildly amused, he'd taken the insults of the little boy with a mop of dark, unruly hair and accepted the challenge.
Jim Moriarty, another dark haired, quiet boy with almost unsettling dark eyes, seemed to always tag along where Sherlock was playing, but Greg had never seen them actually play together. Instead, little Jim seemed content with just watching the other boy from afar, a bigger boy with sandy blonde hair always looming over his shoulder and scaring away every child that was brave enough to ask him to play.
Then there was little Molly who lived opposite Greg's house, but Greg couldn't remember ever talking to her. They went to the same school, but different classes, and although they had the same route to take, she always silently trailed behind him, sparing him the embarrassment to be seen walking with a girl much younger than him. He didn't know what she was doing on the joinery part of the park, but she was always very concentrated, her bright brown eyes fixed on the work at hand. Once, Greg had tried to guess what she was building, but the form of the wood didn't give him a single clue and when she'd noticed him watching her, she paled, clutching the woods and hurried off to somewhere farer from him. Shaking his head, Greg had gone back to work.
Katie was a patient worker, spending hours on sanding and sawing the wooden planks until they fit each other, while he tacked them down to a slightly round rear. They spent hours arguing about the form, whether it should look like a big sailing ship or much more like a little pirate sprinter – Greg wanted it huge, Katie wanted it to be practical since they were a two-men-crew – and laughing when their work came down after two hours after pounding nails in it. Alone, the pirate-to-be mused, he would have been furious. With Katie, the accident was hilarious and they spent minutes laughing.
He genuinely believed it would be always like this, the two of them together and working on their ship. Greg was content with being patient and hardworking until they could finally play and seek adventures on their ship, battle Sherlock 'the almighty pirate' Holmes and his new companion, John Watson. But three weeks later, Katie began to be less enthusiastic with carrying new woods and sawing them in form, leaving them lying around half-arsed and unfinished in favour of actually playing around the little lake in the park.
"We'll never finish if you don't help me.", Greg mumbled when she sat down on their bench, licking ice cream and watching him raise a contemporary mast, shooting her a pointed glance which she countered with another lopsided smile. "You're not a very good first mate if you don't help me, don't you think?"
Katie rolled her eyes and continued to lick her ice cream. "Come on, Greg, pirates ought to have fun now and then, we're not hardworking marines!" his first mate countered, mirth sparkling in her blue eyes. Greg stayed silent, looking down on her from his newly built deck. "But we're almost done!" he contradicted her and pointed at the mast.
"Yes, doesn't that entitle us for a little break and some real fun?" Katie asked and rolled her shoulders, finishing her ice cream and giving him another smirk. "Come on, let's play something different this time. I'm tired of sawing and sanding all the time, it takes ages to cure these blisters!"
Greg stood there motionless for some seconds, trying his best to not show his hurt, before he gently shook his head.
"No, I'm actually having fun right here." he said and waved her off, putting great effort in keeping his voice even. "You can go elsewhere if you don't enjoy it anymore."
Katie rolled her eyes and lifted her shoulders. "Come on, Greg, don't pout! It's just boring always playing the same game on our own, right? It's not a big deal, we can finish this another time."
But Greg just shook his head again and continued to stabilise the mast that had gathered quite a looming imbalance during their little discussion, so Katie shrugged and walked off, waving at another boy near the lake who seemed to be awaiting her. Her behaviour stung Greg and he sighed heavily, trying his best not to think of it as betrayal. Maybe she was right and always doing the same every free afternoon was boring. But – to him, it wasn't. He enjoyed working with wood and nails, crafting something new that even looked remotely like what he'd imagined it to be, and he was filled with pride when he realised he could finish his little boat by the next day. Katie, meanwhile, seemed to have perfect fun with chasing around that other boy around the lake, both screaming and laughing while they splashed water in each other's face or tackling the other from the springboard.
Katie still came to see him from time to time, but she never stayed long. Someone had dug a little hole in Greg's – no, their – boat. Nothing impossible to fix, but it kept Greg busy for another few afternoons with Katie watching him and leaving exasperated after a while. Watching her go, he wondered briefly whether letting her be his first mate had been a bad idea since her enthusiasm was so short-lived. But he hadn't known and she still stuck around from time to time, so he let her have fun with the others at the lake and settled on finishing building his boat.
Katie's visits on their ship – by now, Greg was almost ready to call it 'his' ship again – became shorter with each time, and they started working out a pattern. A few captain-first-mate-jokes in the beginning, then arguing whether they should play something different than building a boat – "It can't even swim! It's just a sad replica stuck on the ground!" Katie repeated exasperated many times – which always resulted in her leaving. Greg found that while the thought of her abandoning him still hurt, he really didn't mind seeing her leaving anymore. So when she stopped coming altogether, only seven weeks after their friendship had begun, and he watched her jump in the lake from afar, he shrugged the uneasy feeling that he might have done something to prevent this from happening off and concentrated on his work to finish the boat.
He didn't know Katie's and his parting had been observed by bright, brown eyes and a sloppy side-pigtail. Though when one day, little Molly Hooper quietly sat down on his bench and watched him make sail, Greg appreciated the little audience for finishing his long-time project.
"What do you think?" the boy asked proudly and patted the railing, a wide grin spreading on his mouth.
Molly looked up in surprise when she heard him talk to her, but sheepishly smiled in response and nodded her approval. "It's really pretty."
"Pretty?" Greg frowned. He'd thought of many things – awesome, cool, well done – but pretty hadn't been one of them. Still, Molly's awe seemed to be genuine and he smiled, tapping his forehead. "Ta."
Molly blushed and quickly mumbled "T-ta!" before she dashed off, leaving him confused and a bit lonely on his ship.
Sherlock sometimes came by, challenging him to watch out, he'd be working on his boat all the same, but Greg could see the appreciation of his hard work on his very bright, piercing eyes and John complimented him quite a lot on it. He felt accomplished, lying on deck with his feet propped up on the railing, watching the clouds pass by in the blue sky with an ice cream in his own hands.
But, pride and all that aside, playing on his own wasn't as much fun as it had been when Katie had been with him, and she didn't even spare him another glance now when he passed her by on the way to the joinery park. One time, he'd seen her hold that boy's hand, but he dismissed the quiet sting of jealousy, telling himself that he at least had enough patience and endurance to finish a project he'd had begun.
Molly Hooper still lingered around the joinery, quietly working on whatever she was actually working on, but always quickly nodding a hello at him when he passed her by. Watching her work, calm and reserved, Greg grew really curious what she was doing, but whenever he or another person tried to find out, Molly was quick to hide away her work and avoid every question. She was such a strange little girl, but she'd been watching him work all the time and applauded him when he had finished his boat, so… Greg decided to at least offer her to enter his ship, though he had no idea how he should do this.
The opportunity presented itself on a bright summer day, one of the last before autumn would take over and colour the sky grey and the leaves golden. Greg was currently pretending he was on his ship during a storm, trying his best to keep it from getting in imbalance, but soon realised the feeling was a bit off when there was no-one to actually shout orders to and the sun shone down on him warmly.
Sighing, he leaned over the railing, watching Sherlock Holmes from afar yelling at Jim Moriarty, who looked very smug, while John and the boy who always was with Jim tried who could throw stones farer.
"They're fighting the whole day already." a voice suddenly piped up and he jumped, looking down to see Molly standing in front of his boat, looking in the same direction. Her small hands clutched something behind her back, but he couldn't make out what it was or why she seemed so nervous.
"Heard that Jim-boy is a right brat." Greg retorted and grinned down at her. Molly met his eyes and smiled softly in response, tightening her grip on the mysterious thing she held behind her back. He stilled, flicking his eyes up and down her, scratching his dishevelled hair from where his big captain-hat had been. "Uh, you… you want something?"
Molly's eyes widened and she paled a little, but she nodded quickly. Greg wondered briefly how one little girl could be so shy and quiet, but the way she looked up at him from big bright eyes with two braids hanging down from her head, she looked especially adorable and he didn't mind the company.
"Can I… uhm, can I come on board?" the little girl finally asked and bit her lip, her whole body tensing as though she had just said something outrageous. Greg quirked up an eyebrow in surprise before he grinned at her.
"Well, I'm in the middle of the sea, Molly, you can't just knock and ask if I can open the door!" he retorted, grinning widely.
Molly's eyes widened shortly, before she nodded enthusiastically. "That makes sense! Oh, but I don't have another ship so… I know, wait!"
Greg watched in confusion as she gently placed a small box – apparently what she'd been holding the whole time – on the bench next to his ship and ran to the pile of wooden planks he'd dismissed after finishing the boat. Picking some, she carried them with a huff towards his boat and dropped them in front of it.
"If I'm cast away, you wouldn't just pass by without helping me, right? So here I am, asking for help, can you please help me out?"
Greg looked down at her, taken aback by the quick idea she'd had, before he nodded quickly. "Sure thing, mate, wait, I'll get the rope ladder!" he shouted back, hurrying towards where he'd kept the ladder and the floating tire, taking both and throwing it towards her.
Within few seconds, Molly, clutching the little box with one hand, climbed up and entered his ships, giving him a look so full of relief and gratefulness, he could almost believe he really had saved her from drowning or worse, being eaten by sharks.
"What are you doing so far from shore, then? Your boat wasn't big enough for that kind of waves!"
Molly sighed, nodding and sinking down on the deck, resting her back against the railing. "I know, I didn't mean to get so far." she answered. "But… there was something I wanted to do."
Greg's curiosity was piqued and he sat down in front of her, pointing at the box. "And what? Something to do with that box?", he asked and, remembering he was a pirate and not a helpful, altruistic marine, added: "Something valuable inside?"
"No, sir, nothing of interest for you." Molly silently answered, setting the box on the deck, and glanced up at him. "Maybe, now that I'm not alone, maybe you could help me do it?"
Greg raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "Of course I can, I'm Captain Greg Jack-of-all-trades Lestrade! What's inside then?"
Molly blushed and swallowed, before she silently answered.
He stared at her, taken aback by her answer, and eyed the box suspiciously. Now that she'd mentioned it, the box vaguely looked like a coffin and it made him feel a bit uneasy. What was that little girl thinking?
"It's… It's just a bird.", Molly assured him quietly, dropping the game and looked down on her hands. "It lied back there, in the woods, and no-one cared about it, so I… built a coffin and wanted to put it to rest."
Greg stared at her, his uneasiness even increasing. He vaguely remembered hearing something about Molly's father being very ill, so he wasn't really sure what to make out of this.
"You… built a coffin for a dead bird?" he asked and couldn't prevent himself from shuddering.
Molly bit her lip and looked down, suddenly a very sad expression plastered on her soft features. "Yes. I'm… I'm sorry no-one cares about the dead animals here. So I thought… Maybe I could put them to rest. And I haven't done a burial at sea, but when I saw your boat, it… you don't need to."
Greg stared at her, that little girl, seven years younger than him, with such a big, caring heart that she even learned how to build a coffin for some dead birds that occasionally lay around there, and his heart clenched. At least, today he would be doing something very special then, right? Helping out a little girl with her wish to bury a dead animal, and to do honour to said little bird.
"No, it's fine. That little one shall have a proper sea burial!" Greg decided and gave her a smile, reaching forward to pat her forehead. Her big brown eyes shimmered with unadulterated joy and she nodded happily.
They quickly improvised on anything that lacked Greg's boat to perform a honourable burial. Greg picked a plank from the sea underneath to use it as a springboard from their ship, and Molly dug out some flowers from her pockets to lay them down on the coffin. When the coffin was ready, Greg cleared his throat and spoke some serious words about how that bird surely had a accomplished life but left behind sad members of its family, hopefully to meet them again in birdy heaven. Molly nodded gravely and serious, before she sung 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor' as it was the only song she knew that had remotely to do something with boats and the sea. While she continued singing "Hooray and up she rises!" in a little strained, bright voice, Greg pushed the box over the edge of the railing, watching it fall and land on the ground with a soft noise. Molly had put several nails in it to avoid it from opening and with a quick glance he made sure the box hadn't opened.
The older boy raised his hat in one last greeting, before he put an arm around Molly's slim shoulders. "Come, my comrade, a proper burial requires some rum and I know just the place to go!"
Molly looked up at him and waited patiently for him to lead the boat back to shore and put the ladder out. Taking her to the little kiosk by the entrance of the playground, he saw Katie screaming excitedly while she swam away from a boy setting after her, dipping under water sometimes. He looked down on Molly's soft face, a vague hint of sadness in her features evident, and smiled. Giving burial to a bird on his ship had been much more interesting than simply paddling around in the lake or pushing someone else into the water and he didn't miss Katie anymore.
Buying to pieces of ice cream after he had made sure Molly had thoroughly washed her hands, he handed her hers and smiled.
"Next time you find a dead bird, tell me right away, right? No need for you to do that all alone!"
Molly beamed at him and nodded excitedly. When she smiled so brightly, there was no hint of sadness in her face to be found and Greg decided, he liked to see his new friend better this way. He'd give his best to make her smile more and maybe make her pick some less morbid games from time to time.
"So, I know, women bring ill luck and all that to men on sea... But I was wondering if you would, maybe, like to try another time with a first mate?" Molly asked timidly, looking up from her ice cream to Greg who once again laid flat on the deck, feet resting against the railing, watching the sky. He turned his head to meet her gaze and grinned.
"Can't think of a better first mate, little one!"