Rating: Probably PG-13 for this bit
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Slash, mention of sex in this part
Summary: HDM AU. Two visitors calls on Baker Street and another aspect of John and Amarisa's sensitivity is revealed...
(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
Part Nine: Building The Republic
Part Ten: Lit From Within
Lit From Within (contd.)
Sherlock couldn't deny he'd been somewhat anxious – no, concerned – no, intrigued – over John's expectations. He and Raniel had woken at ten, and had lingered in the bed for several minutes, uncertain as to whether the doctor and his dæmon would feel they needed to wake up with them.
Eventually, Raniel had sighed and extracted himself from Amarisa's grip, scurrying across the blankets to climb onto his usual spot on Sherlock's shoulder.
“This is John and Amarisa,” the polecat whispered, as though trying to remind them both. “I think they know what to expect of us by now!”
But that was the problem – what if they didn't? They'd experienced partners who seemed to think they'd change after sex, suddenly expecting Sherlock to dote on them, Raniel to interact with their dæmons, and while the latter wasn't a consideration any more, Sherlock wondered if John was anticipating a similar personality change.
But then John and Amarisa came down and it was all right, because apparently John expected him to be exactly the same, just with kisses in the morning and occasional hugs. Sherlock had never really liked when his partners became clingy, but with John the affectionate gestures were...nice.
He also liked the way John was smiling, and the way Amarisa couldn't seem to stop touching Raniel. What he didn't like was the way John talked so blithely about the bomb jacket, dismissing the possibility of his and Amarisa's death as though it didn't warrant more than a footnote in their explanation.
It was times like this that Sherlock couldn't help but think that, for all John's honesty, he was one of the most deceptive people Sherlock had ever met. Everything about him told you to overlook him, dismiss him – even his dæmon could be mistaken for a dog – until he sensed a spell from five feet away or shot a murderer or talked about his death like it was nothing to get worked up about. He and Amarisa seemed so ordinary at first glance, yet everything about them was...incomparable. Unique.
John had been unconsciously rolling his shoulder as he ambled about the kitchen, getting the stiffness out of the tough scar tissue, something Sherlock had seen him doing virtually every morning since they'd taken the flat. But this time he knew what the scar looked like, what it felt like, what it tasted like.
The idea had left him feeling unaccountably smug.
Then, of course, Mycroft had to turn up and spoil the entire day. He wanted to submit a picture of John to the Asriel procedure to have an idea of his degree of Stanislaus particle sensitivity (and Sherlock refused to admit that might be a good idea).
And, of course, he also wanted to discuss Moriarty. Tedious.
“Well, what have you got?” Sherlock didn't bother with reiterating the information he and John had supplied the police with.
“Very little at this point,” Mycroft said, and it was only the flick of Tehayla's head that told Sherlock how unsettled she and her human were by that.
It unsettled Sherlock, come to that, and he hoped no one noticed the way Raniel had wormed closer to Amarisa. Mycroft had connections, and he worked people like Sherlock worked cases; England was his home territory and it shouldn't have been possible for someone to hide from Mycroft in England.
But apparently it was, because if Mycroft still had so little information on Moriarty he wouldn't bother discussing it, that meant he wasn't likely to learn any more. In the end, for all Mycroft's power and the games the man had played with Sherlock, it seemed John was the one who had learned the most about Moriarty.
Which Sherlock couldn't help but think was a poor trade for what John and his dæmon had endured.
The memory of Moriarty's hands on Amarisa made something in Sherlock clench and he dimly heard Raniel hiss softly, his dæmon sharing his distress.
But something else occurred to him. His own experience had proved that dæmon-touching wasn't one-sided – he'd gained pleasure from touching Amarisa, and John had clearly experienced the same when touching Raniel. Logically, touching John's dæmon couldn't have been a pleasant experience for Moriarty, so did he do it to make a point? Or did he just not care what he felt in those moments?
There was no hard evidence to back up his conclusion, but Sherlock couldn't help feeling that the latter was more likely.
“We have managed to determine the identity of his dæmon from security camera footage at St. Bart's hospital,” Mycroft went on. “A member of the genus Phoneutria, though the quality of the images means we are unable to narrow it down to the species level.”
Sherlock shared a glance with Raniel, filing that information away.
“What's that?” Amarisa asked, nudging the polecat to attract his attention.
In the kitchen, John's conversation on the phone faltered as his concentration became divided.
“Brazilian wandering spiders,” Raniel explained.
“Often considered the most dangerous spiders in the world,” Sherlock put in. “Their venom contained the potent neurotoxin known as PhTx3, which causes loss of muscle control and paralysis to the point of asphyxiation.”
“But the reason they're so dangerous to humans is because they don't build webs, but wander nocturnally,” Raniel chimed in. “They hide in dark, covered places during the daylight hours, which means it's very common for unwary people to stumble across them and get bitten.”
Amarisa snorted. “Appropriate then, isn't it?”
“Of course it's appropriate – it's his dæmon!”
There was a telling light of interest in Mycroft's eyes as he looked at the dæmons before continuing. “There are no records of Moriarty's birth or schooling, which makes it likely he was a clan child.”
“A clan child?” Amarisa echoed, and though it was Mycroft's statement that had prompted the question, it was Sherlock she looked at.
“A child birthed and raised completely within the witch clan,” Sherlock explained. “Often with no contact with the outside world until they were considered adults. It was common a hundred years or so ago, and is still practised in some parts of Africa, Asia, the Middle East – a whole host of countries, really. It usually depends on how women are treated in that society; if they aren't afforded equality, the young witches aren't exposed to that and are raised with their own clan.”
Amarisa's eyes scrunched in puzzlement. “So they never go to school? But didn't Moriarty say something about Carl laughing at him?”
At times, Sherlock adored the way Amarisa's and John's minds worked. They never saw or knew as much as Sherlock and Raniel did, obviously, but it meant that occasionally they could cut effortlessly through the extraneous details to get to what really mattered.
“He did,” Raniel breathed. “We assumed the connection was through school, but what if there was something else?”
“Some other kind of connection,” Sherlock finished. “But what kind?”
With no records, they could only speculate, but at least it was a possible avenue of investigation where they'd had none before.
John seemed to have finished his quick ring-around to assure people that they were still alive – redundant and unnecessary, as Mycroft had explained, but John got funny about these things sometimes – and collapsed into his chair with a sigh.
Amarisa moved smoothly to his side, allowing him to rub her ears. “Everyone okay?”
“More or less,” John said. “Lestrade was pretty pissed off, though. He said we should have called him as soon as we'd got out of the pool – that way he wouldn't have had to wait for someone to connect the name 'Moriarty' to the case he'd been working and dump the report on his desk.”
Sherlock could tell from John's tone that Lestrade had likely had some choice words about Sherlock arranging a meeting with a murderer, but was forgoing repeating them because he doubted it would do any good.
And it wouldn't. It felt vaguely repellent for Sherlock to think he and Raniel had 'learned their lesson', but there was really no other way to describe it. The next time they decided to meet with a psychopath, John and Amarisa were coming with them, so there would be no opportunity for said psychopath to abduct and torture them.
Looking back, it seemed ridiculous he and his dæmon hadn't predicted Moriarty taking John and Amarisa. It had been a game of escalation, each case gradually becoming more prominent and far-reaching – why hadn't they anticipated that Moriarty would raise the one stake they couldn't afford to lose? Perhaps because they'd expected Moriarty to think like them, at least on some level, and the thought of hurting John or Amarisa just...it had never entered their heads.
“Mummy wants you and John at dinner tomorrow night,” Mycroft announced. “Given Moriarty's connections, I think we can agree this is a matter for the clan as well.”
Much as it rankled to ask for help, Sherlock knew that in this, he was out of his depth. Witches tended to exist outside of human society, with their own rules and punishments, and if Moriarty had grown up in those circles, Sherlock needed people who understood them.
“That's good,” John replied absently, still caressing his dæmon. “It'll be nice to see Aeliana again. Will Tamsyn and Hasna be there?”
Mycroft smiled. “I believe you can ask them yourself, right about...now.”
As if on cue, there was a sharp tap at the kitchen window. Sherlock rolled his eyes – really, couldn't Mycroft go five minutes without needing to demonstrate his knowledge?
Looking suspicious, John rose and went to the kitchen, then suddenly threw open the window with an exclamation of joy.
A swan dæmon – Caedmon – swept inside, landing ungainly on the floor before it flapped awkwardly up onto the table. Sherlock identified it as a Bewick's Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii), but was more interested in the way John was clearly familiar with the bird.
He'd cleared a space on the table for the swan, and Amarisa had dashed into the kitchen as soon as her human had called the dæmon's name, blunt nails cluttering on the lino. The wolfdog stretched up to touch her nose to the tip of Caedmon's beak, a gesture Sherlock knew Amarisa only made with dæmons she was fond of.
Caedmon nudged the side of Amarisa's muzzle, just once, then suddenly turned away, as though embarrassed.
A small suspicion uncurled in the back of Sherlock's mind.
But that suspicion wasn't as important as the ease with which John filled a breakfast bowl with water at the sink and set it down in front of Caedmon. He was careful to ensure he didn't move too close to the dæmon, and the motions were too practised to be impulsive – this was something John and Caedmon had done before.
Not to mention the fact that most people were put off by talking to a dæmon without their human present – they either didn't look at the dæmon, as though trying to pretend they were having a 'normal' conversation with a human, or looked far too closely, with a kind of horrified fascination. John did neither; he treated Caedmon like...well, like a person.
No wonder he'd never minded Raniel speaking directly to him.
“You habitually entertain witches' dæmons,” Sherlock stated.
John blinked at him. “Of course. Mostly Caedmon here,” he smiled at the dæmon, not talking around him the way so many other people would have. “But Percila dropped by once.”
“Here?” Sherlock asked, surprised.
John nodded, his eyes full of tolerant amusement.
“How did we miss that?” Sherlock wondered, looking at Raniel.
“We've only had one visit here,” Amarisa said, her dog-grin clear. “And I think you were out at the time.”
John's attention turned back to the swan dæmon. “I take it you heard about what happened?”
Caedmon bobbed his head in affirmation. “Are you all right?”
He shuffled closer to John as he said it, peering at the doctor and Amarisa in obvious concern. The wolfdog wagged her tail and Caedmon rocked forward ever-so slightly, as though he wanted to reach out and touch Amarisa but stopped himself.
Sherlock's suspicion grew into a near-certainty. He recognised Caedmon's behaviour – he'd seen it before, in dæmons of people with infatuations they'd deemed hopeless.
Caedmon and his witch were in love with John and Amarisa. But it clearly hadn't come to anything; that stifled impulse was the gesture of a love denied and suppressed, not one given voice and rejected. John and Amarisa treated the dæmon as a friend – Caedmon and his witch had evidently realised their attachment wasn't reciprocated, and had never spoken of it.
Some witches killed when their love was turned aside. But most...most simply accepted it, and tried to move on.
“We're okay,” John assured Caedmon as the dæmon gave in and took a drink of the water the man had provided. “Just a few bumps and bruises – I've had worse after a rugby match.”
Not content to let John and this new dæmon have an interesting discussion while they were stuck with Mycroft, Sherlock and Raniel made their way into the kitchen. Mycroft could follow if he had anything useful to add, and if not, he could get out.
“You were with John in Afghanistan,” Raniel said, not bothering with introductions.
John bothered with them, of course, but Sherlock ignored the usual addresses in favour of laying his hand quite deliberately on John's shoulder.
He didn't really know why he was making this point. He didn't think he was jealous – to be jealous you had to feel threatened, and he certainly wasn't that. Caedmon had clearly never spoken of his affection, and the idea of someone as loyal as John being unfaithful was frankly laughable.
But he felt a strange need to ensure Caedmon understood that John was no longer available, understood what he and Sherlock were to each other.
John, for once apparently ignorant of the emotional undercurrents of a situation, looked up at Sherlock and smiled. It resembled the smile he'd been wearing when he came down from the bedroom – soft and satisfied and peaceful, as if he thought everything was right with the world.
It gave Sherlock a very strong urge to smile back, so he did.
Then Mycroft came in and spoiled the moment. But Caedmon had come to talk about Moriarty and the prophecy, which meant Mycroft was bound to poke his nose in it. Amarisa recited the cryptic statements again, which predictably alarmed both Sherlock's brother and the swan dæmon, to the extent that Caedmon wanted to look at John's gun to see if there was any way it could have a spell put on it to help him.
Sherlock knew John's gun was tucked away in his bedside table – he'd taken it off Sherlock and concealed it under his jacket before the police arrived – and went up with him to bring it down.
“She's infatuated with you,” he said bluntly as John took the gun from the drawer, automatically checking it to ensure it wasn't loaded.
“Who?” Amarisa asked.
“Whoever Caedmon's witch is,” Raniel answered, huffing.
John frowned. “Hasna isn't 'infatuated' with me – why on earth would she be?”
'Why indeed?' Sherlock thought sarcastically.
Why on earth would you become attached to a man who didn't treat you like a freak, who behaved as though your strange quirks were nothing unexpected? Sometimes, Sherlock wondered what had happened in John and Amarisa's life to give them such a skewed opinion of themselves.
In the end, the gun was far too processed to be of much use, though Mycroft seemed to think that replacing the grip with carved wood was an option. Caedmon wanted to create a talisman for John – an object that would be heavily spelled that John could carry with him for protection, like Mycroft's umbrella.
Sherlock could tell John liked the latter suggestion much better; the idea of someone altering his gun obviously didn't sit well with him.
Caedmon departed (with a last, lingering stare at Amarisa) a few minutes before Mycroft's assistant returned with a thin envelope tucked under one arm.
She passed it to Mycroft without a word. Knowing that it must be the photograph of John subjected to the Asriel procedure, Sherlock tried to surreptitiously slide closer as his brother pulled it out of the envelope.
A tremor went through Mycroft's wrist. He didn't drop the picture, but his eyes widened and Tehayla actually fluttered in shock. Sherlock didn't understand what was so surprising, until Mycroft flipped the photograph so he and Raniel could see it.
It was like looking at a photo of the sun. They could only dimly tell it was meant to be John by the outline – there were no facial features, no skin tone, no details of clothes...just bright golden light, so intense his eyes itched with the urge to squint even though it was only a photograph.
And John – humble, self-effacing John, who never thought he was anything special even when it was shoved in his face – took one look at it and frowned.
“What went wrong?”
AN: Thanks so much to my wonderful beta, ginbitch, who greatly improved this chapter!
Part Eleven: Structrual Integrity
Part Twelve: The Reader