Title: The Republic of Heaven
Rating: NC-17 for this bit
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Slash, sex in this first part.
Summary: HDM AU. John's sensitivity demonstrates a near-supernatural facet, which may be the reason he will be a witch clan's downfall.
(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
Part Eleven: Structural Integrity
Sherlock had never shared a bed while researching before. He and Raniel had researched in bed more than once, but never with someone else in it.
John and Amarisa had moved in their sleep. They'd sighed, moaned, mumbled, and at about three in the morning John had barked 'scalpel!' in such an authoritative tone that for a moment Sherlock could have sworn he'd woken up. By the time the rest of the household was stirring, John had migrated across the bed to Sherlock's side.
He wasn't exactly cuddling, but he was resting a hand on Sherlock's thigh, his thumb tucked into the waistband of his pants and resting on the crease of his hip. For all the connotations of the position, there was nothing about sex in the gesture and everything about comfort.
Sherlock had never cuddled with his previous partners. He'd never wanted to, and had in fact actively discouraged sentimentality and clinginess – they were there to give him an orgasm, not hug him.
But this was...nice. This was something he could get used to – he and Raniel on the computer while John and Amarisa slept nearby. And more than that, it occurred to him that he'd have the chance to get used to it, just as he'd got used to John trying to feed him up at every available opportunity, to the crashes and curses and utter chaos that resulted whenever John had to wash Amarisa in their tiny shower, to the nightmares that occasionally disturbed their sleep...
Even as he and Raniel watched, John and Amarisa were stirring. The wolfdog yawned widely, her tongue curling, while John's eyes opened and he blinked up at Sherlock, a contented smile stretching across his face.
Which swiftly degenerated into a sleepy look of concern. “What's that look for?”
Sherlock wasn't aware he had a 'look'. “What do you mean?”
“The look you get when you've got a new case,” Amarisa explained. “You know, the one that says you don't quite know what's going on yet, but look forward to figuring it out.”
Against his will, Sherlock's lips twitched, and he told himself it was ridiculous to be pleased that John and his dæmon categorised his facial expressions.
“It's new to us,” Raniel said softly, nuzzling into Amarisa's chest so he didn't have to look her in the eye. “This...this thing that we're doing. I mean, for you two it's probably par for the course-”
“Not so much,” John admitted, a touch sheepishly. “We've never got this attached so quickly.”
“Apparently we're a bit reserved,” Amarisa chimed in.
Looking at them – John's hand still resting on Sherlock's leg, Amarisa cuddled up to Raniel, waving her paws lazily in the air as though she just couldn't be bothered to get up – it was easy for Sherlock to doubt that statement. But then he remembered the way Amarisa didn't touch other dæmons, the way John preferred a certain distance between himself and people he was meeting for the first time, as though he was taking their measure.
The thought that he and Raniel might be as big an exception to John and Amarisa's usual behaviour as they were to them made Sherlock smile.
But it seemed a half-awake John was a verbose and surprisingly honest John, as he continued. “I mean, we need you in our life, god help us…but we also want you, you know?”
“And that's more important?” Raniel asked, forepaws braced on Amarisa's chest as he scrutinised both the wolfdog and her human.
“Well, we think so,” Amarisa grinned. “I mean, you can need a lot of things you don't really like. Take you two and eating, for instance. It’s like how we love you, but we also like you.”
Raniel made a curious grumbling sound, and Sherlock looked at John intently. “What do you mean?”
John looked away as his dæmon buried her nose in the crook of his elbow. His thumb rubbed over Sherlock's skin, and Sherlock felt a faint stirring of interest in his groin.
“Things were...difficult with my family when Risa settled,” John said quietly. “Still are, really.”
“They looked at me like I was wrong,” came Amarisa's muffled voice, smaller and more vulnerable than Sherlock could ever remember hearing it.
Something quite close to fury formed a hard knot in Sherlock's chest. Raniel hissed in anger even as he licked at the tip of Amarisa's ear, and Sherlock gave in to the impulse to card his fingers through John's short hair.
He was certain that here was the root of John and Amarisa's aversion to being considered unusual - and to anything which marked them out as different or special. There had probably been other factors in their life, but this was where it started.
Sherlock was gripped with the urge to track Mr and Mrs. Watson down and...well, not hurt them, exactly, because their DNA had combined to make John so they were clearly good for something, but somehow make them understand what utter idiots they'd been.
“We love them,” John went on. “Don't get us wrong, but...we don't like them much.”
“But we like you,” Amarisa added, rubbing her nose against Raniel's.
“We like you too,” the polecat whispered shyly.
Sherlock's cheeks burned. John was still rubbing slow circles into Sherlock's skin with his fingertips, so gently and absently he didn't think John was even aware he was doing it. Given that, it was really quite unfair that it was taking up so much of Sherlock's attention.
“Do you experience nocturnal penile tumescence?” he blurted.
There was a moment of silence. Then Amarisa let out a low-pitched giggle, short and hiccupy, as though she were trying not to make a sound. John had turned his face against Sherlock's knee but his ribs were trembling with suppressed laughter.
“What's so amusing?” Raniel asked indignantly, he and his human feeling something that was dangerously close to hurt.
John looked up at Sherlock and his dæmon, grinning that broad, welcoming smile of his that invited them in on the joke. “Nothing, it's just...well, usually people just call it morning wood.”
“Foolish and vague,” Sherlock muttered sulkily.
Another laugh from John and the wolfdog. “Are you asking in the interests of scientific inquiry, or is it a bit more personal?”
“I want to have sex.”
Rather blunt perhaps, but John and Amarisa seemed to prefer bluntness to hedging.
Amarisa giggled, and John appeared to ponder the matter. “Brief and to the point. Refreshing, really, that you didn't go for some weird euphemism.”
He was still grinning when he sat up and kissed Sherlock. The first press was brief and almost chaste, his lips dry and closed. It was a definite prelude to the kind of slow, steady kissing they'd indulged in during the trip here, but Sherlock was in no mood for slow and steady.
With a noise of frustration, he wrapped his hands around John's face, nudging at the hinge of his jaw with his thumbs and licking eagerly at the seam of his lips. John's mouth opened willingly, one hand coming up to rest on the back of Sherlock's neck, his fingers tracing circles around the nape. The other dropped to begin undoing the buttons on Sherlock's shirt – again, too slowly, and Sherlock batted John's fingers away to do it himself.
Amarisa still giggling, even as Raniel rubbed his nose along the top of her muzzle.
“Do you take anything seriously?” the polecat asked.
“We take lots of things seriously,” Amarisa rejoined. “Sex, however, should never be taken too seriously.”
“Why?” Sherlock asked, curious, drawing back from kissing John to yank impatiently at the tab on his pants.
“Well, from a strictly medical perspective, sex is a bit ridiculous,” John offered. “Heart rate and blood pressure go through the roof, neurons fire at random, muscles spasm and clench and just about every part of your body goes into overdrive – if it were a substance, it'd be illegal.”
“Except for protection and contraception and all that,” Amarisa added, their medical side obviously not willing to allow that statement to go unqualified. “You need to take that seriously. But the actual sex? Never.”
“You’re strange,” Raniel muttered.
“Like you can talk,” John snorted.
But he was still smiling, and when Sherlock slipped a hand into John's boxers he was definitely hard.
In John's experience, it usually took a few weeks of sex to get to the 'banter in bed' stage, when you weren't trying so hard to impress the other person and desperately hoping they'd want to sleep with you again. It usually came when you were relaxed with your partner, enough to joke and be silly without worrying that they'd never take you seriously again.
But then, John had never slept with someone who knew him as well and on so many levels as Sherlock did.
He sighed gustily into Sherlock's mouth when he felt those long fingers sliding down his belly, and hissed when they closed around his erection, partly in pleasure, partly in alarm.
“Your hands are freezing!” he blurted.
Sherlock looked offended, but he didn't move his hands. “I've been working – unlike some people I could name.”
A muffled giggle came from the direction of their dæmons, though John couldn't tell if it was Amarisa or Raniel who had snickered. Deciding to give Sherlock a taste of his own medicine, he took hold of Sherlock's cock, not bothering to warm his hands first.
Except that judging by the moan Sherlock let out, he wasn't in the least displeased. Obviously John's hands were warmer than Sherlock's – but then, he'd been under the blanket like a sensible person. He was fully prepared to lecture – loudly – on why chilled hands on body parts that often withered in the cold wasn't conducive to the kind of fun they had in mind, but then Sherlock moved his hand in a long, slow pull and the pleasure that shivered through him momentarily derailed John's thoughts.
It was hard to be mad in the face of that, so John applied himself to returning the favour.
You had to be very close to someone to trust them with their hands near your cock. You had to trust that they'd be careful, that they'd remember to be gentle even when approaching orgasm. Lips were very sensitive, and it was easy to be gentle with them, but with hands...all it took was too-sharp fingernails, pressure in the wrong place, and serious damage could be done.
But Sherlock's touch was gentle, just firm enough, and he seemed to be reading the tiniest gasps and moans John was making and tailoring his technique to provoke more of them. They were hardly kissing at all at this point, just sort of breathing messily into each other's mouths, and John tightened his grip on the back of Sherlock's neck, needing to hold onto something.
With a great effort of concentration, he managed to maintain his rhythm on Sherlock, crying out and accidentally digging his fingernails into Sherlock's neck when a particular twist of the wrist and flick of the thumb made him convulse. The blunt scrape of John's nails across Sherlock's vertebrae provoked a gratifying noise of pleasure, and he leaned in to nip lightly at Sherlock's earlobe.
Sherlock made a startled sound that was not quite a moan, but not quite a gasp, and it went straight to John's cock, making him throb against Sherlock's fingers. He ducked his head, licking and kissing and biting his way down Sherlock's neck, until he could purse his lips around a nipple and suck.
Sherlock cried out, his hips jerking so hard John nearly lost his grip. John kept sucking, using just a hint of teeth, listening to Sherlock getting steadily louder and more incoherent with a deep satisfaction that more than made up for the fact that Sherlock's attentions to John had become rather uncoordinated. He could practically feel Sherlock's body winding tighter and tighter, and kept up his ministrations, until he felt Sherlock's hand in his hair, tugging a bit harder than was comfortable.
“Get up here,” Sherlock demanded, his voice low and raspy and thick. “I want to be kissing you when-”
John didn't give him a chance to finish. He just slid his lips over Sherlock's, deep and dirty with wicked flickers of the tongue, as he tightened his grip and twisted his wrist deftly...
Sherlock came with a near-silent cry, as though all the air had been punched out him by the force of his orgasm.
He folded against John, his own hold on John's cock becoming loose and limp. John reached down and laid his fingers over Sherlock's own, weaving them together and moving their hands in unison over his cock.
He wasn't going to last long, and John actually felt a bit miffed about that – his stamina had been absolutely rotten with Sherlock thus far. Though in his defense, with Amarisa's pleasure shivering through him as well – she and Raniel were nipping and licking and rolling around like lazy cats that had just mated, and her pleasure was deeper and somehow steadier, like warm, glowing embers rather than a dancing, blazing fire – there was only so much John could take.
Sherlock's fingers were still limp beneath his own, but he stirred enough to trace his tongue over the corner of John's jaw, humming contently before sucking and scraping with just a hint of teeth.
John clenched his jaw in an effort not to scream as he climaxed.
As the white-hot sparks of pleasure faded from behind his eyes and the familiar lassitude swept his body, John maintained just enough presence of mind to ease himself and Sherlock back down to the bed instead of simply flopping backwards like landed fish.
John panted softly in an effort to get his breath back, one hand tracing Sherlock's spine and the other gripping Amarisa's scruff to anchor himself. His skin began to cool, and he was considering cleaning up and how much effort it would take when Sherlock stirred, kissing John beneath the chin before propping himself into a sitting position with his hands on John's chest.
“I checked medical records,” Sherlock announced, apropos of nothing. “School records – anything we could get our hands on.”
“How did you do that?” Amarisa asked, and John was grateful his dæmon could voice the question he was too out of breath to articulate. “Aren't they supposed to be private?”
Sherlock shrugged, and Amarisa giggled.
“Only technically,” Raniel muttered, curling into Amarisa's chest as though he was trying to burrow straight through her fur.
“We didn't find much,” Sherlock went on, reaching for the laptop he'd deposited on the bedside table. “But look at this.”
John looked. It a photograph of a school swimming team, and Sherlock tapped the face of a boy John assumed to be Carl Powers.
“What are we meant to be seeing?” John wondered, his voice pleasantly raspy.
“Oh, for – look at him! More than a passing resemblance to Moriarty, wouldn't you say?”
John squinted, feeling Amarisa wriggling around beside him to get a better view. Now that he was looking for it, he could see that Carl Powers had the same nose, the same basic facial structure, and the same smile, though it was unsettling to see it relaxed and content instead of maniacal.
“Family, then?” John's dæmon asked. “At least that would explain how they knew each other...”
Sherlock nodded. “But why would he have any contact with his family? Clan-raised children usually don't even know their father's name, let alone have contact with him.”
“You know your father,” Amarisa pointed out.
“We're not a clan child,” Raniel explained. “We lived in Father's house and we went to school – a clan child never does that. They travel with their mother, and only rarely have contact with humans.”
“So if Moriarty was a clan child, why would he know his father?” Sherlock reiterated.
John shrugged. “Search me. Do you think it's important?”
“We don't know,” Raniel hissed, obviously frustrated. “Carl Powers' family wasn't particularly important or influential, so they weren't trying to grub up connections for the planned takeover-”
The dæmon was interrupted by the ringtone of John's mobile.
Lestrade liked John, he really did – after all, the doctor was a genuinely likeable man who more often than not smoothed the feathers Sherlock had ruffled in a way Lestrade was usually too busy or exasperated to manage. And though Zarania's tall perch and fierce, ever-glaring eyes often intimidated most dæmons that came into his office, Amarisa always had a tail-wag and a word of greeting for the falcon dæmon.
It probably helped that Amarisa was as large as her human – maybe even larger, it was rather hard to tell. It was rare for a dæmon to get that big, and Lestrade had heard more than a few officers chuckling around the precinct about how Amarisa's abundance of size was making up for John's lack of it.
Except John wasn't actually small. It was more that he just seemed small, because you kept expecting him to be bigger than he actually was. After all, this was John Watson, who ran with Sherlock Holmes and actually seemed to moderate the man's behaviour somewhat, who'd joined the army and got shot in Afghanistan, who had a wolfdog for a dæmon, and surely he was six feet tall at least? Your mind kept expecting him to be a giant of a man, and when he wasn't, you found yourself thinking he was...well, short.
But ever since the incident with the dæmon-fighting ring, Lestrade has difficulty thinking of John without remembering that preternatural calm that had enveloped the man and his dæmon as soon as they realised a fight was going to break out. Most people got tense and nervous before a physical confrontation, even veteran police officers – one of the side-effects of adrenaline. Lestrade and Zarania were always tense and flighty after a close call.
But John and Amarisa had looked relaxed, at ease and calm in a way more reminiscent of a hunting tiger than a human being.
“They're a perfect match,” Zarania had said.
“How do you mean?” he'd asked, not quite understanding what his dæmon was saying.
“They're both crazy, but in opposite ways. Danger makes Sherlock and Raniel excited, but it makes John and Amarisa calm – they're just more subtle about it.”
Lestrade had been forced to agree.
Yes, John was crazy, but still the most likeable of the two, and if Lestrade wanted answers from one of them, it was most likely going to be John. So when he'd had a chance to read the report on their encounter with Moriarty more thoroughly and wanted to know any information Sherlock might have gleaned from the man, he rang John, not Sherlock.
Sherlock would probably acquiesce to a meeting John arranged, and anyway Lestrade doubted Sherlock would be going anywhere without John for the next two months. Maybe even three or four, if he was feeling especially paranoid.
Though he waited until a suitable hour, of course. Lestrade was a detective – he knew the tone of the recently-laid, and John's voice had been dripping it over the phone yesterday.
At least something good had come of that debacle.
“Hello?” John answered, his voice hoarse and slightly thick, as though it's most recent use hadn't been for producing words.
“It's Lestrade,” the detective said, grinning to Zarania, and the falcon spread her wings and gave a single, laughingly triumphant shriek.
“What was that?” John asked, sounding worried.
“Nothing – don't worry about it,” Lestrade said hastily. “I was wondering if I could come over and have a talk with the two of you.”
Sherlock was always more vocal and amenable (such as he ever was) in person than over the phone.
There was a short silence before John admitted, sounding reluctant, “We're not actually in London anymore.”
Lestrade was used to nasty surprises, so he was able to catch himself before he actually screamed 'WHAT?' down the phone. Zarania, feeling his frustration, clacked her beak in displeasure.
“Care to tell me why you're not in London anymore?” Lestrade asked, deceptively calmly. “Considering there's a psychopath out for your blood or Sherlock's attention, and frankly I don't know which is more worrying.”
“You wouldn't believe me if I told you,” John sighed.
He could hear John take a deep breath. “There's a prophecy that says Sherlock and I are going to be the destruction of the witch clan we think Moriarty's mother belongs to, which is why I was shot in Afghanistan, and they're probably trying to resurrect the Magesterium, though we can't be sure about that, so Sherlock's mother wanted to come to Sherlock's ancestral home or whatever this is so she and the rest of her clan can work out some kind of counter-attack.”
Lestrade's first impulse was to laugh. But John sounded so resigned and forlorn, as if even he couldn't quite believe this was going on, that all thoughts of this being some kind joke vanished before they'd even truly coalesced.
“You do realise if anyone else had told me that, I'd be ringing the ambulance and demanding to know what they'd taken?”
“I know, I know,” John groaned. “But I swear, we'll be back...sometime. I'm not too clear on what the schedule is here.”
Privately, Lestrade thought John would be safer with three witches looking out for him than the police protection of the MET, if only because they’d be prepared to meet spells with spells, but he wasn’t going to actually say that – it wouldn’t do to encourage this sort of behaviour.
“All right,” Lestrade sighed, one hand stroking Zarania’s chest feathers in an effort to calm both himself and his dæmon down. “But make sure you call me when you get back.”
“Of course,” John replied quickly, sounding grateful that Lestrade wasn’t about to demand their presence by tomorrow.
“Take care of yourself, all right?”
Lestrade hung up before John could answer.