Rating: NC-17 for this bit, just to be on the safe side
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Slash, Sherlock/John.
Summary: HDM AU. In the aftermath of their confrontation with Moriarty, Sherlock and Raniel finally make their move...
(Title page by birddi )
Part One: The Architecture of Our Lives
Part Two: Stepping Stones
Part Three: Foundations
Part Four: Shadowed Archways
Part Five: Buried Labyrinths
Part Six: Crossing The River
Part Seven: Glimmers in Darkness
Part Eight: Perdition's Bridges
Building The Republic
“Sorry boys!” Moriarty called, laughter in every syllable. “I'm sooo changeable! It is a weakness with me, but to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness.”
Sherlock could see that John's fingers were resting in Amarisa's ruff, his hands steady and completely without any hint of a tremor. The wolfdog's neck bent to curve around Raniel's body, as though trying to hide him from Moriarty.
And as much as Sherlock thought, as much as he belaboured his mind, he couldn't see a way to save all of them. He couldn't even see how to save one of them.
“You can't be allowed to continue,” Moriarty drawled, and for the first time there was a touch of regret in his voice. “You just can't. I would try to convince you, but everything I have to say has already crossed your mind.”
Sherlock turned his head, just slightly, trying to ask a question without actually voicing it. All three – human and dæmons alike – nodded in response. Sherlock could see the answer in John's eyes as clearly as if he'd shouted it.
“Possibly my answer has crossed yours,” Sherlock replied, his voice deliberately even as he turned and aimed the gun at the bomb.
He wouldn't hesitate. He wouldn't, because if he did he'd think about John and Amarisa and everything they were to Raniel and himself and everything they weren't, everything they could have been but wouldn't.
Sherlock pulled the trigger and the bullet hit the jacket, sending it skidding across the tiles...
Moriarty laughed, clapping his hands. “Oh well done, well done! I can certainly see how you might be my downfall. But you see, Sherlock, you have to be careful when handling explosives – that bomb won't go off any old way.”
Of course, there was a trigger – one area of impact where the bullet would ignite the bomb, and nowhere else.
“And if you pull that trigger again,” Moriarty went on, his voice hard. “I'll get my darlings to put a hole in the mongrel.”
Sherlock glanced quickly over at Amarisa. Her teeth were bared, showing what she thought of that threat, and John's hand was still clenched in his dæmon's ruff. Raniel was on his hind legs, stretching as though to make himself taller, and the polecat was hissing with fury, long teeth exposed.
“They say you're going to be my doom,” Moriarty mused. “But I've never been able to resist playing with things I shouldn't.”
Sherlock didn't understand all these references to doom and downfall, but the grimness in John's face suggested he did. Amarisa was holding herself very still, like a wolf in hiding, just waiting for the rabbit to wander close enough.
He made himself look back at Moriarty – he couldn't indulge himself with staring at John and Amarisa, not now, not when their lives depended on him taking the measure of Moriarty and coming up with a plan to get them out of this.
Even if Amarisa's stillness and the set, determined expression on John's face were comforting in ways even he couldn't articulate.
With a flourish, as if making a particularly obscure joke, Moriarty produced an arrow. Sherlock was startled – he'd been expecting a gun. What was the man doing with an arrow?
“I'm supposed to stab you with this,” the criminal said, smiling as he moved closer.
Sherlock wanted very badly to shoot him – for all his talk of Mycroft being his nemesis, he'd never in his life hated someone as violently and as expansively as he hated Moriarty. He could put a bullet in this man's heart and celebrate it.
But with Moriarty's threat still fresh in his mind and laser sights still hovering over Amarisa, Sherlock couldn't do anything.
When Moriarty was within five feet of their position John suddenly twitched, a sharp ripple across his body as though a gust of cold wind had touched him.
Moriarty stopped, glancing down at the doctor and his dæmon. Sherlock tensed.
But Moriarty simply smirked, glancing up at Sherlock as though they were sharing a private joke. “Sensitive, isn't he?”
Sherlock had no idea what he was referring to, something that was becoming distressingly frequent. How could he get them out of this if he didn't know everything that was going on?
“Most people need to touch objects to detect a spell,” Moriarty went on. “In fact, every documented case of Stanislaus particle sensitivity needed touch. But not Johnny-boy – you can feel it from all the way over there, can't you?”
A slow, measured nod from John, and Sherlock frantically tried to remember everything he'd ever read about 'sensitives' – those people who were particularly attuned to Stanislaus particles and so could detect the presence of a witch's spell. There was a documented case of a woman who could even tell what type of spell had been cast, and all she needed was to remain in contact with the object for five minutes.
And that was the point. Sherlock realised every paper written on the subject had talked of the time-spans needed to detect the presence of a spell. There had never been any references to distance, because every single sensitive ever known had needed to touch the object first.
But that twitch...there was over a metre between him and Moriarty, yet John had felt that spell.
“I bet he can tell us what it is as well,” Moriarty enthused.
John's eyes were flat and his voice was a monotone when he replied, “It's a death-spell.”
That got Sherlock's attention.
Moriarty grinned and spun the arrow in his hand. “You've already survived two of these, Johnny-boy, want to go for the hat-trick?”
John didn't reply, but Sherlock could see that he'd shifted his position so he was ready to leap to his feet at a moment's notice.
Moriarty rolled the arrow between his fingers as though debating something, but eventually a set expression drifted over his face and Sherlock knew that whatever the question was, Moriarty had settled on his answer.
“But there's no need to rush,” he said at last, a sick pleasure lighting his eyes. “This is only the first date, after all...”
He was actually backing away, and Sherlock wondered (hoped) if Moriarty was just going to leave. It was far from ideal – there were still far too many unanswered questions for Sherlock's taste – but if it kept John and Amarisa safe...
Just before he left, Moriarty winked flirtatiously, clicking his tongue.
Apparently that had been a signal, because it was answered by a gunshot. The Semtex-laden vest exploded, the concussive blast knocking Sherlock to the ground.
Through the ringing in his ears, he thought dimly that the explosion had been out of proportion for the amount of Semtex on the vest. He'd been expecting the kind of inferno that ensured all that was left of them was charred bones, but that was just a small bang and a lot of smoke.
And Sherlock suspected that the smoke wasn't all from the explosion. It was thick and black, and each inhale tasted vaguely of chemicals that scoured his throat and made him cough and choke.
Where was Raniel? Where were John and Amarisa?
Sherlock's eyes were streaming and he couldn't see a thing beyond the cloying smoke, but he knew where'd he last seen them. He rolled over, ignoring the way his ribs twinged – probably bruised, he'd hit the tiles very hard – and groped through the darkness, following the tug of his bond with Raniel.
A hand grasped his and yanked him to his feet. In the smoke, any kind of movement was disorienting, and Sherlock reeled as he was dragged through the blackness. He couldn't see the person pulling him along, but the hand – the broad palm and dexterous fingers, calloused but gentle – told him who it was.
He still didn't know where Raniel was, only that the polecat couldn't possibly keep up with the pace John was demanding. With anyone else, Sherlock would have pulled himself free and scrambled to find his dæmon, but he trusted John.
Still, it didn't stop him from waiting for the twisting, wrenching pain that came from being pulled too far from your dæmon. But it never came. There was no painful stretch on their bond, and Sherlock couldn't feel any fear or pain from Raniel, only a strange feeling of relief and security, as though he knew he was safe.
He heard John throw open the door before he saw the glimmer of streetlights. John didn't stop, but kept running, dragging Sherlock down the street even as they both coughed and panted.
A single (blurry) glance to the side showed him why Raniel wasn't distressed. Amarisa was running perhaps two paces behind her human, with Sherlock's dæmon dangling from her mouth. She hadn't grabbed him by the scruff of his neck – she must have simply swept him off the floor, because her jaws were wrapped lightly around the polecat's chest.
It was a dangerous position – all Amarisa had to do was close her mouth to break ribs like brittle chalk – but Raniel was completely limp and trusting in her grip.
Sherlock had no idea how John determined what point was a safe distance away, but eventually the doctor stopped, releasing Sherlock's hand. Sherlock took the chance to catch his breath, and knew that for a few minutes he looked very undignified, coughing and gasping until his lungs were no longer screaming for air.
Of course, as soon as his breathing returned to something approaching normal, John insisted on checking for a concussion.
“I'm fine,” Sherlock tried to say, the words strangely muffled over his tinnitus.
John smiled wearily with a touch of incredulity in his expression, as though he still wasn't sure how they'd survived that. He glanced at his wolfdog, and the smile became softer, more obviously affectionate.
“You can put him down now, Amarisa,” he said gently.
Sherlock looked over – and it was a measure of his trust in John's dæmon that he'd felt no need to check on Raniel – to find his dæmon still dangling from Amarisa's jaws.
Looking flustered, Amarisa gently placed Raniel on the ground. The polecat shook himself, and she bent to lick his ruffled fur smooth.
Though he knew, logically, that the night was cold, each time Amarisa's tongue passed over Raniel's fur Sherlock felt a shiver of warmth. When she began to pull away, Raniel leaned up to lick and nuzzle at the ear Moriarty had abused. Amarisa sighed and closed her eyes beneath Raniel's ministrations, and a glance at John showed that his eyes were half-closed, as though he were sleepy, and the line of his shoulders was so relaxed it was practically slumped.
After a moment, the dæmons seemed to realise the effect they were having on their people and backed away from each other. Raniel climbed Sherlock's clothes to his shoulder and Amarisa went to John, nuzzling into his side as the doctor knelt and embraced her.
Sherlock watched John press his face into Amarisa's neck, cradling her head and rubbing gently across her ears, and wondered if they were still feeling the effects of Moriarty's manhandling. Wondered if there was anything he and Raniel could do even if they were.
In the end, both he and his dæmon did nothing but stand uselessly by while John and Amarisa whispered and crooned to each other. Eventually they drew away, though John's hand remained on Amarisa's ruff, his fingers gently curled in her fur.
“So, uh...” John gave a weak grin, nodding towards the black smoke billowing from the swimming pool two streets away. “Do we call the police or the fire department? Or both?”
John collapsed into his chair with a sigh, feeling his muscles unwind from their knots for the first time since Moriarty's goons had forced him and Amarisa into that van.
They'd given their statement to the police and been checked out by the paramedics. In spite of John's concerns about smoke inhalation, they all seemed to have escaped unscathed apart from some bumps and bruises. The ringing in their ears was even starting to fade.
Amarisa draped herself over him, and John hugged her close. Even though it had been two hours since Moriarty had touched her, the wrongness of it still lingered in their bones.
Sherlock and Raniel, meanwhile, were clattering around in the kitchen, in full brooding mode.
“His mother's a witch, by the way,” John said wearily. “Moriarty, I mean.”
He and Sherlock had given their statements separately, and considering how distracted Sherlock had looked John thought there was a good chance the other man hadn't overheard the information John had given to the police. The pause in the the noises of activity from the kitchen told him that Moriarty's maternity was new to both Sherlock and his dæmon.
“And he's obviously separated from his dæmon,” came Raniel's voice.
“Like Mycroft,” Amarisa recalled. “But you and Sherlock aren't, are you?”
“No we're not,” Sherlock said tightly.
He abandoned his rummaging in the kitchen in favour of throwing himself on the sofa and glaring up at the ceiling. Raniel curled up on the coffee table, and John wondered if the polecat's worried, sidelong glances were meant to be subtle.
“His mother was part of the clan that attacked me,” John went on, and now he definitely had Sherlock's attention – the detective was sitting up on the sofa and staring at him. “But he thinks the prophecy refers to you, not me.”
“He recited it for us,” Amarisa chimed in. “I made sure to memorise it.”
John felt a swell of pride for his dæmon – even after all that had happened to them, she'd ensured she brought Sherlock and Raniel important information. On impulse, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head and Amarisa gave a pleased whine.
“He will walk the fringes and his dæmon will set him apart,” the wolfdog recited. “He will find a home with the outcasts and his soul will be unique. A witch will raise him and the witches will protect him. He will forge his own path and he will answer his country's call. Loneliness will know him, death will touch him, he will see what others are blind to and he will know what others cannot see. And he will be our destruction. And he will be our downfall.”
Sherlock snorted. “Frankly, I think it's only his own arrogance that makes him believe that refers to me.”
“Why?” John asked. “You have to admit that it's-”
“When have we ever 'answered our country's call'?” Raniel interrupted.
Amarisa chuckled, and John was forced to admit that patriotism was definitely not one of Sherlock and Raniel's qualities.
“But he thinks it means you,” John couldn't help adding. “Which probably only exacerbated the whole...”
He waved his hand in an attempt to indicate the twisted game Moriarty had been playing. Sherlock frowned at the ceiling and Raniel suddenly began grooming himself frantically, as though trying to avoid Amarisa's gaze.
John wondered if they were now feeling uncomfortable about having enjoyed Moriarty's puzzles, considering the way they'd ended.
But Sherlock surprised him when he suddenly announced, “You can leave.”
John blinked in surprise.
“I beg your pardon?” Amarisa demanded. “Did you just say we could leave?”
Sherlock nodded jerkily, but neither he nor his dæmon looked at them. “Since it appears to be me Moriarty is obsessed with, there's a very good chance he won't bother you again if you leave now and...and don't contact us again.”
When he finished, he rested one hand on his dæmon – Raniel looked like he was trembling, but John couldn't understand why. Sherlock and the polecat couldn't possibly think he and Amarisa would take them up on their offer, could they? Did they really think John and his dæmon would turn their backs on them when they were in trouble, just because it might be a little risky?
“We're staying!” Amarisa snapped, just as irritated as John was.”Do you think we're going to leave just because it might be dangerous? Wasn't that what you used to attract us in the first place?”
“That's different!” Sherlock practically snarled, glaring at the wolfdog. “What he did to you...do you think he'll hesitate to do it again?”
John tried not to shudder at the reminder of Moriarty's touch, and his grip tightened on Amarisa. Then he made himself smile, and quip.
“Harry always said that when they were handing out common sense, we were standing in line for an extra helping of stubborn.”
The tense line of Sherlock's spine softened, Raniel actually let out a little sigh, and John and Amarisa both pretended not to notice how relieved their friends were.
“Besides,” Sherlock drawled, his voice brusque and unconcerned as if John and Amarisa's departure had never been in question. “Moriarty's smart enough that, sooner or later, he'll realise the prophecy refers to you.”
“I don't know,” John mused. “That bit about knowing what others can't see? You have to admit, that sounds a lot like you.”
Raniel scoffed. “What would you call your sensitivity to spells? Even Moriarty had to admit it was unusual.”
John pulled a face. “I doubt it's as special as he tried to make it out to be.”
“It is, John!” Sherlock snapped, seemingly irritated all over again. “Have you never read any of the papers on Stanislaus particle sensitivity?”
“Not particularly closely,” John admitted. “They were interesting, but not exactly medically relevant – no one's ever been hurt by it, after all.”
“Well if you had, you'd know that most sensitives – indeed, every subject ever studied – has needed physical contact in order to determine the presence of a spell on an object. Most of them need a few minutes of contact, in fact.”
John was surprised – a certain percentage of the population were sensitives, he knew that much, which was why he'd never though his and Amarisa's talent was anything particularly special. They didn't talk about, not because they wanted to hide it, but because it would have been like saying 'I have blonde hair'. Drawing attention to it just seemed silly, because it was nothing unusual or interesting.
And now Sherlock was telling them it was the exact opposite. John couldn't quite wrap his head around it. He knew for sure whether an object was spelled or not from within about twelve centimetres, but very strong spells – like that death-spell or Mycroft's umbrella – could often be felt much farther away. Because he usually needed to be so close, John hadn't thought he was particularly sensitive, and to learn every other sensitive ever studied needed to actually touch the object...
It wasn't bad, exactly, just strange. He'd thought he'd known his own talents and skills, and now he was being told that something he'd considered unremarkable was actually completely unique.
He sighed, and shook his head. “Sorry, but...that just seems so bizarre to me.”
Sherlock made the kind of sound that suggested he despaired of John's intellect, and the doctor couldn't help smiling. Amarisa huffed in amusement, but Raniel didn't seem similarly cheered.
“Are you all right?” John asked the dæmon.
The polecat looked up. “Me?”
“Yes, you,” John said, with just a touch of impatience. “You've been out of sorts ever since...well, ever since...”
“Ever since the pool,” Amarisa finished.
“Well, excuse us if we're not taking you being treated like a booby trap as well as you are,” Raniel hissed.
John shrugged. In truth, being bedecked with explosives was bothering him less than the...other things Moriarty had done.
“What were you thinking?” John blurted. “I'm sorry, but I have to ask – Moriarty didn't give me all the details, but he made it sound like you issued a challenge to him.”
“Not as such,” Sherlock said. “But I did choose the time and place of the meeting.”
“Then I repeat – what were you thinking? Organising a meeting with someone who's been shown to have no compunction about blowing people up? Without us?”
“We didn't think it was something you'd approve of,” Raniel offered.
John thought Amarisa's growl neatly summarised their thoughts on that.
“To hell with our approval!” John snapped. “If you're doing something that puts either of you at risk, you tell us about it, dammit!”
“We wanted to keep you safe!” the polecat snarled. “You were supposed to be at Sarah's, and we were supposed to meet up with the bomber in a nice, private location and then...”
“And then I stepped out,” John finished.
“Actually, we thought you were Moriarty at first,” Sherlock put in, as though thinking he should contribute to the conversation before it devolved into a discussion of feelings.
John laughed, but there wasn't much humour in it. “Well, at least he made me open the coat before you dragged me off to jail.”
“We wouldn't have done that,” Sherlock protested automatically. “We were thinking about how to cover up your connection to the bombings.”
John found it slightly disturbing that Sherlock was so calm and resolved about it.
“I'm not sure I like knowing that,” John mused. “That you'd cover up a crime if the person who committed it was interesting enough.”
“Wrong!” Raniel said loudly.
Amarisa cocked her head. “Why?”
“We'd never cover up a crime just because someone was interesting.”
“But you just said-”
“We'd cover it up if it was you.”
John wasn't entirely sure he wanted to examine the nuances of that statement.
“...bit not good,” he said weakly.
Sherlock's snort told them what he thought of that.
“We'll have to get access to the CCTV in Bart's,” he mused, and John wasn't really surprised to find that Sherlock's brain had already leapt miles beyond the conversation.
“Why do you need access to the cameras in Bart's?” Amarisa asked, leaping down from John's lap to stretch languidly.
“To identify Moriarty's dæmon, obviously,” Raniel sighed. “We weren't paying enough attention when they came in.”
“You weren't paying attention?” John repeated, feeling the beginnings of a smile twitch at the corners of his mouth. “Hang on, I think we need to record that somehow – just for posterity, you understand.”
Sherlock glared, looking very unamused. “We had other things on our mind.”
“Of course,” Amarisa agreed easily, grinning her dog-grin.
“We'll find him,” Raniel asserted, though it wasn't clear exactly who he was trying to reassure.
“Of course we will,” Sherlock affirmed. “We think the way he does, which means-”
“Only to a point,” John interrupted, feeling they should be very clear on that.
There was a pause. Then Sherlock spoke again, in a much softer voice, one that could almost be called tentative.
“You must admit the parallels are staggering.”
“Not so much, actually.”
“Oh, come on!” Sherlock spat. “We both have a witch for a mother, we both have a general contempt for society and the stupid people that inhabit it, we both-”
“You're nothing like Moriarty,” John said firmly.
“I thought we'd already had this discussion about making people into heroes-”
“I'm not making you into a hero,” John interrupted, resolutely keeping his voice calm and collected.
Sherlock and his dæmon still looked sceptical, so John decided to give them an example.
“Moriarty's separated from his dæmon, you aren't.”
“That's because it wouldn't be useful,” Raniel insisted.
“I doubt that very much,” John rebutted. “If you two were separated, you'd never have to worry about being pulled away from each other, for one. For another, Raniel's small enough to creep through air vents and pipes and the like – you could learn a lot just from sending him into a building on his own. But you didn't separate.”
“And this is supposed to prove something?” Sherlock asked archly.
“You didn't separate from Raniel because you were afraid of weakening the bond between you.”
Most of the time John had no idea of the motives behind most of Sherlock's behaviour, but right now, he was sure of himself. John could only imagine how much of an outcast Sherlock would have been as a child – at times his dæmon would undoubtedly have been the only ally he had, and he hadn't separated from Raniel because he'd been afraid he would somehow lose the only being who truly understood him.
Sherlock had turned his face away, but John could tell by Raniel's expression that what he'd said had made an impact.
“And you help the police,” Amarisa chimed in. “That's altruism, right there.”
“It's for the cases!” Sherlock hissed. “They're intriguing, and some of the good ones are a challenge – that's all!”
John shook his head. “You'll never convince me it's more difficult working with the police to catch a small subset of criminals than being a criminal and working against the police and essentially our entire society.”
Sherlock's expression was hovering dangerously close to a pout.
“Don't get me wrong,” John hastened to add. “Altruism is definitely not your primary motive, and you don't have much of it, but it's there.”
It seemed both Sherlock and Raniel didn't have anything to say to that. They were staring at John and his dæmon as though they'd never seen them before – a metaphor John had never thought would ever be able to apply to the hyper-observant Sherlock.
Sitting on the floor, Amarisa wagged her tail and whuffed softly in amusement.
John smirked. “I think it's time for some crap telly – Amarisa, would you bring me the remote?”
Part Nine: Building The Republic (contd.)
Part Ten: Lit From Within
Part Eleven: Structrual Integrity
Part Twelve: The Reader