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I Am Clever

alec_towser


A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...


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UNIT!100 - 028. Children.
I Am Clever
alec_towser
Title: Perchance to Meet
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: John Benton, Mike Yates, Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart
Prompt: 028. Children.
Word Count: 2040
Rating: K
Summary: Set pre-series. Family trips just hadn't been the same since John Benton's father died; that is, until he made a new friend.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my own OCs, should I create any for these stories.
Author’s Note: See the post about my UNIT head-canon regarding ages of characters if things are confusing at all. That should hopefully clear things up.

Also, the book John is reading is Adventure Stories For Boys, a book my dad received when he was young (I’ve moved the publication date back a few years to fit with this story), and subsequently got me reading when I was 11-12 or so. The specific story he is reading is called High Quest, one of my personal favourites.


———

August 1957

Eleven-year old John Benton sighed. Family trips just hadn’t been the same since Da had died. His mother tried to act like nothing had changed and still made the annual trips to the seaside in the summer; to put up a brave front for Mavis so she wouldn’t grow up feeling deprived, but John could tell that things were different. Thankfully Mavis was only four and didn’t know any better.

He was brought back to the present by his mother giving him one of her Looks. “John Benton, have you been paying attention to a word I’ve said?”

“Sorry, Mum,” he apologized. “Was just thinking, is all.”

His mother raised an eyebrow, saying, “Well, when you’ve finished daydreaming, would you mind taking Mavis to the beach for a little while? I need a rest for a bit, as she’s worn me out with her games all this morning.”

He groaned inwardly. Watch Mavis? That meant he wouldn’t be able to do anything but hang about and make sure she didn’t run off or get in trouble. But he also knew that his mother did need a break once in a while, and being the ‘man of the house’ now, as well as all she had left, he knew it was his responsibility.

He sighed. “Yes, Mum.”

She smiled and reached out to ruffle his hair. “That’s a good lad. I appreciate it, John.”

———

He’d ended up bringing a book of adventure stories with him; he’d figured if he wasn’t going to be able to do much but watch Mavis running around playing in the sand, he might as well bring something to keep him occupied. He’d only just gotten to an exciting segment in the story he was currently reading, where the main character was hanging off the side of the Henker, not knowing if he was going to live or die:

John Killick looked up now, in agony, and saw the man on the ledge, the knife in his hand, the murder in the eyes. And though the man was different, the murder was the same, because the jealous ghost of Albert Blythe still possessed the big, friendly body of the army sergeant.

Killick knew that, horribly, when he shouted from a bone-dry throat: “Blythe, help me! Help me!” And Blythe only grinned down at him from the ledge and made a crude sawing motion with the knife two inches from the rope and laughed exultantly…


Just then, he was interrupted by a small hand pulling on his shorts. He looked down to see Mavis tugging at him, imploring “Come make san’cassle wif me, Johnny!”

He agreed with a smile, never really able to say no to Mavis when she wanted his help. John Killick’s demise would have to wait for another time. He marked his place, then let Mavis lead him over to the area she had selected as her construction ground. She’d already scattered their small collection of spades and buckets, ready to build. He grinned. “You ready to make the best sandcastle Southampton has ever seen?” She nodded excitedly. “Yeah!”

“Well then, we’d better get started before the tide comes in,” he continued, grabbing a spade and bucket, starting to scoop sand inside.

———

Twenty minutes later, they were well in the midst of creating a decent (if slightly lopsided) castle when they were interrupted by the sounds of shouts and jeers. John looked up to see a group of larger boys harassing another, smaller boy; shoving him around and laughing that he was too small to fight back. Now, John had only recently just started to hit a growth spurt, but he knew all too well what it was like to be smaller and weaker. It wasn’t fair.

With that thought, he told Mavis to wait there by the castle and walked over to the group of boys, hoping he looked a lot more confident than he felt. “Hey!” he called. “Leave him alone!”

One of the larger boys turned to look at John. “Oh yeh? And what’ll you do if we don’t?” He sneered. “ ‘Sides, this here’s a toff - spoiled little rich brat who thinks ‘e’s better than us. What’s ‘e mean to you, then?”

John licked his lips nervously. All the boys were staring at him now, waiting to see how he would answer. Finally, he decided to just be honest; he’d never been very good at coming up with cover stories on the fly, anyway. “I don’t know him. I’ve never met him before in my life.” One of the other boys started to say something, but John cut him off, continuing: “But that doesn’t mean I want to see him get jumped for something he had no control over. It’s not like he asked to be born to an upper-class family. So leave off!”

Nobody said anything for a moment. Then the biggest boy laughed nastily again. “Do you really think I care about what ‘e wants or doesn’t want?” He gave John a shove, saying “Next time, mind your own business.”

John stumbled back and nearly fell over, but was caught by someone behind him. He turned and saw it was an older man - not too old, but then again, John couldn’t tell adults’ ages exactly. He was old enough to have a proper moustache, though. But what really mattered was that he was an adult, taking notice of this situation. John started to explain what had happened, but the man gently cut him off: “No need to explain - I’ve seen everything that’s happened here.”

Then he addressed the boys: “Now, do I need to tell your parents what you’ve been up to; bullying others that aren’t in a position to fight back?”

At the sight of an adult, most of the boys’ courage seemed to flee, and they took off. The largest boy, however, didn’t seem cowed. “And who are you to tell me what to do? You’re not my Da’.”

The man’s face darkened. “No, I’m not. But I am in a position to tell others - not just your parents - what you’ve been up to today. And it’s not just about the bullying; I saw you going through some peoples’ belongings earlier. Now, do you leave now and promise to never do it again, or do I need to speak with your parents?”

Face paling at that declaration, he boy didn’t need to be told twice. He ran off quickly, tripping once or twice as he looked behind him to make sure the man wasn’t following him.

Once the boys had gone, John went over to the smaller boy, asking if he was okay, to which he had gotten a shy nod. Then he had looked up to see the man looking down at him with a small smile. “You did a brave thing today, lad. Standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves, even when the odds are sorely against you? That is a trait that more men ought to have.”

John’s ears went red with the unexpected praise, and he ducked his head self-consciously. “Just doing what my Da’ told me was right,” he said quietly.

“Then your father’s a good man,” the stranger said gently, crouching. “England needs more men like him.”

Was a good man,” John corrected. “He died four years ago, in the war.”

“I see.” The man seemed suitably contrite. “I’m very sorry to hear that, then. I’m sure he was a brave man.”

John nodded. “He was. I want to be just like him when I get older.”

The man smiled again. “Good show. I’m sure you’ll do well.” He then looked at his watch. “I’m sorry to just leave you like this,” he said apologetically, “But I must be going. I have an appointment to keep. You’ll be fine from here?” The last part was directed towards the smaller boy, who nodded again.

Just before the man left, John realized something. “Mister! I never got your name.”

The man gave another one of his small smiles. Once he’d heard it, John was sure he’d never be able to remember such a long mouthful (Stewart-Bridge, or something?), but he just smiled and waved at the man as he walked off before turning to the smaller boy. “You here with anyone?”

The boy shrugged. “I was here with my older brother George, but I think he ran off to see a girl.” The last part was said with disgust, and John noted that the boy did indeed sound very posh, which explained the bullies' attitudes towards him. Then the boy explained: “We’re here with my father. He’s a famous surgeon, and sometimes gets to travel around. This time, he took Geo and I with him for a trip.”

“That sounds exciting,” John said, awed. “Wish I was able to travel around. I’ve lived down here all my life.”

The boy shrugged. “It’s not that exciting. It means he’s not always around a lot, and my brothers are all older, so I’m basically left on my own.”

“Oh.” John didn’t know how to respond to that. Then he remembered - Mavis! He frantically looked over, and there she was, collecting a big bucket of seashells for the castle. He sighed in relief. “Well, anyway, I ought to go,” he rubbed at his neck sheepishly. “Got to look after my sister, you know.”

The boy looked crestfallen. “Oh. Alright then.”

He looked so unhappy, John felt horrible just leaving him there to his own devices. He looked back at Mavis, then back at the boy. “Well, there is room for one more person to help build our sandcastle,” he offered. “That is, if you want to.”

The boy’s eyes lit up. “Yeah!”

“I should probably introduce myself,” John added. “My name’s John. What’s yours?”

“Michael, but my mum calls me Mikey,” the boy grinned.

“Well, then, shall we go help finish this castle?” John offered Michael a hand up.

“Let’s!” And with that, the two boys ran back over to where Mavis was now adorning the castle.

———

By the end of the afternoon, they’d had so much fun, both building a second castle, then playing knights to defend it, it seemed a disappointment when an older boy came along calling for Michael. “That’s probably Geo,” Michael sighed, as he helped John gather up the spades and buckets again. “Wish we didn’t have to go. We’re leaving for home tomorrow.”

“And whereabouts is your home?” John knew that his mother had told him it wasn’t always polite to just ask people where they lived, but right now, he didn’t care.

Michael’s face looked sad. “We live up in Scotland, so we never get to come visit this far south all that much. It was good to meet you, though - I had a lot of fun today.”

“So did I,” John nodded, secretly disappointed at the loss of a potential friend. “Hopefully we’ll meet again someday. Who knows; it could happen.”

“I hope so.” Michael smiled wanly, as he was led away by his brother.

———

Fourteen years later, and John Benton still remembered that day, and that boy he’d met on his summer hols at the beach. He hadn’t yet found Michael, as he had no idea what he would look like now, or what he was up to. Probably became a doctor or something, like his Da’, he figured.

He then noticed Captain Yates coming up to stand next to him, holding out a mug of coffee. “Penny for your thoughts, Sergeant.”

He accepted the mug, and gratefully drank the hot beverage. “Thanks, Sir. It was just a memory, that’s all.”

“What of, if you don’t mind my asking?” Yates looked curious.

“Just of summer holidays as a boy, Sir. Nothing of consequence.” The tall Sergeant looked sheepish.

“Pleasant memories, I hope?”

“Yes, Sir. Some of my best. Helps stave off the boredom when doing late-night patrol shifts like this one.”

The young Captain nodded in understanding. “I know the feeling. Just be sure you don’t drift off and lose focus, though.” He then clapped Benton on the shoulder as he took the now-empty mug. “I’ll see you in the morning, then, Sergeant.”

“Yessir. Goodnight.”

As the Captain walked off, Benton’s mind couldn’t help but wonder again what had become of his short-lived childhood friend. Maybe they would still meet again someday…


X-posted to FF.net, Teaspoon, AO3, and unit_family.