He was a verrey parfit knight.
It was the worst kind of case, as child snatchings always were. For John, the inherent horror was made worse because it reminded him too much of another kidnapping, one that had been a part of all the dreadful things that had happened leading up to him standing on the sidewalk outside St. Barts. He hated that even after all this time the events of that day could still gut him.
This time a six-year-old girl had been snatched from her own home in the Shetlands. The horror grew when it became clear that a monster named Claude Bonet was undoubtedly the kidnapper and they all knew what had happened to his previous four victims.
Only Sherlock was convinced that Bonet had taken the little girl all the way back to London. So it was up to him and John, of course, to race back to the capital and track the man down. Which they did. For once, John did not argue that they should wait for back-up before going into the rundown bungalow in Watford.
Bonet tried to run, the fool, dragging the girl with him. John gave one warning before firing a single bullet. Bonet was dead before he hit the floor. Tossing the gun to Sherlock, John swept the girl into his arms and took her from the room, hitting the pavement just as Lestrade arrived, followed by an ambulance.
Leaving Sherlock behind to explain everything, John rode in the ambulance with the girl, whose name was Maggie. She seemed unwilling to relinquish her iron grip on John’s hand. It was going to take some time for her mother to reach London, so he decided to stay with her until then.
While the physical exam was finishing up [she seemed unharmed, thankfully], John sent a text to Sherlock.
//STILL AT HOSPITAL. WILL STAY WITH MAGGIE UNTIL HER MUM ARRIVES. J//
The reply was not long in coming.
//OF COURSE YOU WILL. ARE YOU ALL RIGHT? S//
John knew what Sherlock really meant. //Are you coping?// Not with the fact that he had killed a man. That was fine and they both knew it. But Sherlock wanted to know how he was dealing with all the events of the night. The detective was not susceptible himself [or at least he liked to believe he was not] but he knew very well that his husband could get too caught up in the emotions of a case and that could lead to a sudden depression.
//I’M FINE. REALLY. SEE YOU AT HOME. LOVE YOU. J//
//YES. TAKE CARE. S//
It was nearly two more hours before Maggie was settled into a private room and left alone, save for John sitting next to her bed. “Feeling okay now?” he asked softly.
Her blue eyes were wide, but she seemed calm as she nodded.
“Your mum will be here soon. I’ll keep you company while you wait, but you should try to sleep.”
She seemed to think about that. “I always get a story before bed.”
“Will you tell me one?”
John floundered a bit. “Not really my area,” he said. But she just looked at him with quiet confidence. He had saved her from the bad man; how hard could it be to tell a story? He sighed. “What kind of a story would you like?”
That required some additional thought.
“A dragon story,” she announced finally.
“Oh, right. Dragons. You like dragons, do you?”
“Yes, Dr. John.”
“Okay, but let me think for a minute.”
Grasping at what seemed a very feeble straw, he began with the only words he could be one hundred percent sure were right. “Once upon a time,” he said. And then he was in unknown territory. So he repeated himself and muddled on. “Once upon a time, there was a lonely dragon who lived all by himself on a mountain.”
She wasn’t sneering yet at least, so apparently the beginning of his story was acceptable. He relaxed a little into the chair and anticipated her next words. “The dragon’s name was…Hamish,” he said a little desperately.
She smiled, pleased.
“Hamish was a very good dragon. At least he tried always to be good. Once he was a proud member of the King’s Dragon Brigade.” He risked a glance at Maggie’s face, wondering if he had perhaps gone a bit over the top, but she only looked interested. Still okay, then. “He always served as best he could. But one day Hamish was hurt when a.…an ogre attacked. A fierce ogre. The King had no use for a lame dragon. In fact he soon learned that no one at all needed a lame dragon, so Hamish moved to the mountain and there he stayed, all alone.”
“Poor Hamish,” Maggie whispered. “That’s so sad.”
“Oh, yes. He was very sad. Every day he wondered why no one cared about him any more.” John leaned forward and smiled at her. “ But then one day Hamish had a big surprise.”
“A good surprise?”
“Oh, the best surprise.”
“What?” She leaned forward a little in the bed in anticipation.
“A brave and handsome knight turned up on his mountain.
Knights were good, it seemed. Although probably only the brave and handsome ones. Luckily, that was what they had on hand.
“Hamish and the knight walked and talked. It was very nice. But Hamish was afraid that the knight would soon grow tired of his company and make fun of him for being so useless. But he never did.”
“Hmm?” He was rather caught up in the story by now.
“What was the knight’s name?”
Oops. “Ahh, didn’t I say? Well, his name was Lock. Sir Lock.”
She giggled. “That’s a funny name.”
“Yes, it is funny, isn’t it? But he was a very good knight. And he didn’t laugh at Hamish. He talked to him and told him many wonderful things.”
“What happened next?”
A very good question. John killed some time by taking a drink from his water bottle.
“Well, Sir Lock was on a quest to defeat a scary troll. This troll frightened the people of the village and they had sent the bravest knight to deal with him. Hamish warned the knight that this troll was very clever and very bad, indeed. But Sir Lock was proud and said, ‘I can defeat him’ and off he ran on his own to do just that. Hamish was very worried for his friend.”
Maggie was hanging on his every word. “Oh, dear,” she said. “Did Sir Lock get into trouble?”
“You’re terribly clever, as well,” John said. “Yes, indeed he did get into trouble. The evil troll grabbed him and dangled him by his ankles over the very deep river. Sir Lock thought that surely the end was near for him! But what do you think happened next!”
“Hamish!” the little girl exclaimed loudly.
“Quite right. Hamish the dragon arrived just in time. He grabbed Sir Lock with both, uh, paws and held on tightly. Then he used his powerful tail to toss the troll into the water. Sir Lock was safe.”
Maggie clapped her hands together.
“Sir Lock was very grateful and he decided right then and there that he would always be Hamish’s best friend and take him along on quests. Hamish was very happy to have such a friend and glad that he was useful again.”
A soft sigh escaped from Maggie. “And so they lived happily ever after,” she summed up.
“So they did. Very happily ever after.” John looked up and saw the woman standing in the doorway. With the blonde hair and blue eyes, she had to be Maggie’s mother. There were tears rolling down her face. “Maggie, your Mum is here,” John said quietly.
After accepting a soft thank you from the woman, he left them to their reunion.
Once in the corridor, he paused to take a deep breath.
“Hamish the Useful Dragon?” said a very familiar deep voice from behind him.
John smiled as he turned to greet Sherlock. “What are you doing here?”
“I had no desire to go home alone, so I have been waiting for you. Not to mention being vastly entertained.”
John ducked his head, embarrassed. “She wanted a story. And no one was supposed to hear it but Maggie.”
Sherlock draped an arm across his shoulders, the closest he would come to a hug here. “It was nothing but the truth. Hamish slays the monsters on a regular basis. And keeps Sir Lock from disaster every day.”
“Well, he has to, doesn’t he? Poor Hamish loves the foolish knight to a ridiculous degree.”
Sherlock laughed softly.
Suddenly, the last few days caught up with John and he leaned into Sherlock. “Let’s go home,” he said. “I need a cuppa and bed.”
Sherlock hummed an agreement.
Neither of them spoke as they left the hospital or during the long cab ride home. Sherlock just pulled John down onto his lap and ran slow fingers through his hair until John fell asleep. He slept until the cab came to a stop. For once, Sherlock paid the fare as John managed to slide out and stumble to the door.
Once they were safely inside the walls of 221B, they immediately moved into a tight embrace. “Happily ever after,” Sherlock murmured into John’s ear.
There were times, like this very moment, when John could actually believe that.