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 part.
Summary: HDM AU. John and Amarisa put their command of the alethiometer to good use, and Sherlock and Raniel...worry.
(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
Part Twelve: The Reader
Part Thirteen: Spiraling Down
John decided that Sherlock had dictated the pace for long enough. He hooked an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders and a leg around his hip, and with a lithe twist he hadn’t been entirely sure he was still capable of, flipped them over until he was on top of Sherlock, pinning him to the mattress.
He hadn’t intended it to be enticing, but Sherlock’s pupils dilated even further, and his mouth opened.
“Most people don’t find that kind of thing arousing,” John pointed out, feeling mischievous.
“Most people are idiots.” Sherlock’s voice was hoarse and his eyes skimmed John’s body as John leaned back to straddle him.
John grinned and rocked on top of Sherlock, deliberately sliding their cocks together and sending hot pleasure crawling up his spine. He was half-tempted to just keep doing this until they both came, but it was only a vague impulse next to the burning need to be fucked.
He slid forward, reaching back to take hold of Sherlock’s cock, grinning when Sherlock took a slightly harder breath than usual, as though trying to control the urge to groan. Of course, then John just had to work his hand for a moment or two, just until Sherlock moaned and his hips jerked. Just until they’d established that Sherlock wasn’t the only one who could tease.
Sherlock scowled, and pinched one of John’s nipples in revenge. It made his cock twitch, but even the unexpected burst of pleasure couldn’t keep John from chuckling softly.
Confident he was still slick and open from Sherlock’s earlier attentions, John lined them up, steadied himself with a hand on Sherlock’s chest, and pressed down.
John spared a sliver of brain power to feel smug over the way Sherlock choked and spasmodically clutched at his hips, but he was mostly absorbed with the feeling of Sherlock filling him up, his own body stretching to accommodate. It ached, but it was a pleasant sort of ache, like walking home after a long run. He took several deep breaths to help himself adjust – and feeling Sherlock literally shaking beneath him with the effort to keep still wasn’t helping – then carefully rose up a few inches and dropped down.
The tip of Sherlock’s cock dragged across his prostate, making his muscles clench and pulling shivery sparks of pleasure through him. Sherlock’s hips twitched upward, too sharply to be strictly voluntary, and John would have laughed if he had the breath. As it was the sound he made was more like ‘oh Christ, yes’.
Sherlock’s eyes were closed, and he was muttering something in a low whisper, almost under his breath. John’s rhythm slowed automatically as he tried to catch it.
“Chlorine, argon, potassium-”
“Are you reciting the periodic table?” John asked.
Sherlock froze, but his eyes didn’t open. “Maybe.”
“It’s been proven that thinking of something mundane and monotonous can hold off orgasm,” Sherlock said, opening his eyes to give John his best ‘isn’t it obvious?’ expression.
John grinned, feeling a sneaking sense of flattery. “Don’t want this to end too soon, then?”
“You look like you’re enjoying yourself.” Sherlock’s voice was dry, but lacked any kind of bite.
At that, John finally did laugh, which turned almost instantly into a choking gasp that matched Sherlock’s as the spasms of his abdomen rocked Sherlock’s cock inside him. Already in a rather precarious position, the unexpected rush of pleasure overbalanced John, and only his quick reflexes allowed him to catch himself before Sherlock broke his nose against his collarbone.
His scarred shoulder protested, and John grimaced, holding his position until the ache eased.
“Note to self,” he muttered. “No more laughing during sex.”
He heard Amarisa and Raniel giggling, and glanced over to where they were sprawled on the bed, Raniel wound around Amarisa’s neck like a scarf.
“And you two can shut it,” he grumbled, trying to push himself back into his original position.
He placed his hands on the sheet on either side of Sherlock’s hips to brace himself, but his shoulder was still throbbing, and he knew it wasn’t up to taking his weight for a while yet.
“Fuck,” he muttered, without any real heat. “Hang on a minute, we’ll need to switch.”
“Your shoulder,” Sherlock stated.
Of course he knew what was wrong. He’d probably known John’s arm wouldn’t take the strain even before John had propped himself back up.
They both hissed as John shifted off Sherlock’s cock, and there followed a lot of wiggling and awkward shifting as they changed positions. John spread his legs to let Sherlock slide between them, feeling Sherlock’s gaze land on the scar tissue on his shoulder and trying not to squirm.
He found himself feeling almost embarrassed. Sherlock was the first person he’d had sex with since the injury, and even though he wasn’t self-conscious about it – he’d been shot with a barbed arrow, after all, and the scar wasn’t anything more than the side-effect of living through it – it was different when it cramped or twinged, when it hampered him…
Sherlock kept staring at him – probably knowing exactly what was running through his mind – and John was opening his mouth to ask if they could get back down to business when Sherlock moved.
He placed his hands on either side of John’s chest, leaned down, and kissed John’s shoulder, pressing his lips against the thick knot of tissue where the arrow had entered his flesh. It was quick and chaste – John had barely registered the kiss before it was over – and so unexpectedly tender that John was left gaping.
Sherlock scowled slightly at the flabbergasted expression on John’s face, like a poker player who’d tipped their hand. He grabbed hold of John’s leg, hoisting it up and sliding back into him in one long, smooth thrust that had John throwing his head back and choking on air, his flagging arousal coming back full-force.
If Sherlock had thought getting back to sex would derail John’s thoughts, then mission fucking accomplished.
Sherlock was moving faster and harder than John had, and John was barely able to catch his breath from one perfect jolt across his prostate before the next drove into him. He turned his head to the side, trying to catch his breath, and caught a glimpse of Raniel and Amarisa, entwined on the bed and doing what with humans would be called kissing – their noses were touching, both of them inhaling the others’ scent as their tongues kept darting out to touch and lick.
A breathy moan from Sherlock made John turn back, to find Sherlock staring down at him, mouth open, eyes bright and burning and desperate, and at that sight John simply had to reach down and stroke himself.
Something moved in the corner of his vision, and then Amarisa and Raniel were beside them, looking mischievous. John’s pleasure-hazed brain barely had time to wonder what they were doing before the dæmons moved, Raniel burrowing against the side of John’s neck and nipping the corner of his jaw as Amarisa nuzzled into the crook of Sherlock’s shoulder, licking across his throat.
Touching your lover’s dæmon was one thing. Touching your lover’s dæmon while you were in the middle of sex was something else entirely. John’s heart suddenly felt far too big for his chest, pleasure and love rising inside him like a tidal wave.
John hurtled into orgasm. He was dimly aware of Sherlock crying out and jerking above him, of himself clutching onto the back of Sherlock’s neck, but they weren’t given much of a chance to recover. Raniel and Amarisa kept licking and nuzzling through the aftershocks, even as Sherlock’s madly stuttering hips kept sending sparks of stimulation across wild nerves.
When the dæmons finally backed off, Sherlock was resting heavily against John’s chest, their legs tangled awkwardly and their hands clutching onto each other so hard John was sure they’d be wearing bruises in the morning. He felt empty and unpleasantly sticky, and usually at this point he’d be moving to clean himself up but he just felt…exhausted. Like a wrung-out sponge
He peeled his arms from around Sherlock, and they fell back against the bed like they were stuffed with straw. He felt Amarisa nuzzle his palm, nosing his left arm so it was in a better position for his shoulder, but she didn’t lie against him – not when they were both so overheated. Raniel had moved around John’s other side, and was nosing sweat-damp hair from Sherlock’s face.
“That…” John managed to pant out, glaring at the wolfdog. “Was a dirty trick.”
Amarisa grinned her wolf-grin and Raniel chittered softly, both dæmons obviously pleased with themselves.
Sherlock, of course, had a very different opinion to John. “That was fascinating! Our orgasms were nearly simultaneous, and with enough coordination it might be possible to get them to coincide precisely! Of course, we’d need to practice-”
“Now?” John asked, feeling a jolt of alarm. It had been fantastic and mind-blowing, yes – no one was disputing that – but touching each other’s dæmons during sex was so intense he didn’t think his heart could take it on a regular basis.
“Of course not,” Sherlock snorted. “Later though – possibly in the morning.”
John wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get it up for the rest of the week, and Sherlock was planning to do that again in a little over nine hours?
John did the only he thing he could do – he laughed, and gave Sherlock a sloppy, uncoordinated kiss on the lips.
Sherlock blinked. “What was that for?”
“You’re an absolute nutter,” John murmured.
“You love me in spite of it, though.” Sherlock said, sounding wonderfully confident of his pronouncement.
“It’s part of what I love about you,” John corrected, squeezing Sherlock’s hand. “You’re an utterly mad bastard, but god help me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sherlock – in a display of energy John found baffling – sat up and leaned over him, his expression wild and hungry and almost triumphant as he kissed him fiercely. John wasn’t really able to do much but lean up to him, one hand bracketing Sherlock’s jaw.
It was savage and possessive, the kind of kiss that said ‘you’re mine’, and that John might have resented if he hadn’t known it went both ways.
Sherlock slid off the bed – and John was pleased to see him stagger a little when his feet hit the floor – and moved into the bathroom. He heard the sound of a tap being turned on, and a few moments later a slightly-damp Sherlock came out with a washcloth.
“Aw, look at you being all considerate,” Amarisa cooed.
“You can make the trip to the bathroom next time,” Sherlock muttered, handing the wet cloth to John.
“I was shot with death-spells,” John mock-complained. “And I’m older than you, and feeble.”
Raniel burst into laughter. “Feeble?”
Amarisa nudged him sharply, rolling him onto his belly. “That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.”
John was busy cleaning himself up, so the brief touch to his scarred shoulder came as a surprise. He stilled, half-wondering if Sherlock was going to poke and prod, but he just traced the outline, so lightly it almost tickled.
“It hurts at times, but it doesn’t seem to restrict your movements,” Sherlock commented, fingers still wandering over the ridged tissue. “Unusual for a shoulder injury.”
John shrugged with the shoulder Sherlock wasn’t exploring. “I had so many healing spells laid on me I wouldn’t have been surprised if my appendix grew back.”
Sherlock showed no signs of stopping his examination, which might have been flattering under other circumstances, but John was exhausted and really wanted to sleep.
“Hang on a second,” he muttered, wiggling beneath the blanket and making himself comfortable. “All right, poke and prod all you want, but don't be surprised if I drift off.”
Amarisa laughed, which turned into a yawn as she stretched out beside him on the bed. John rubbed the ear closest to him, and left his hand on her head.
Now that he'd been given permission to explore, John half-expected Sherlock to get a bit rougher in his examination – to poke and prod, as John had offered. But the contact stayed light and tentative, all the way up to the moment when John drifted off to sleep.
Sherlock wasn't quite sure why he'd started tracing John's scar, but since he'd been given permission, he wasn't about to stop.
It wasn't as though the formation of John's scar was terribly unique, but Sherlock thought his own mixed reactions to it were rather fascinating. Often, the scar was almost appealing – it was physical proof that John had courage and strength to outlast even a death-spell, evidence that he was extraordinary enough that a clan of witches had reason to fear him, a relic of the events that had brought John back to London and thus into Sherlock's life. But on the other hand, it was a reminder that witches still sought his death, that he was in danger, and sometimes – like just now – it caused him pain.
The wound didn't seem to have restricted motion in John's shoulder overmuch, and Sherlock wasn't sure how much of that should be credited to his mother's healing spells and how much to the exercise routine John followed diligently every day to rebuild muscles and keep the join flexible.
Amarisa was staring at him, her golden eyes hazy and unfocused with her human's sleepiness, and Raniel butted her under the chin, rubbing himself against her like a cat. The wolfdog yawned, red tongue curling in on itself amidst sharp white teeth, and rested her head between her forepaws, careful not to dislodge the hand John had curled around her head.
John was already asleep – he could drop off remarkably quickly if he was truly exhausted, regardless of distractions, and Sherlock wondered if John was still feeling the effects of reading the alethiometer.
“What's it like?” he asked Amarisa.
She turned a tired, puzzled glance on him, clearly not understanding.
“Reading the alethiometer,” Raniel prompted, clarifying for his human. “It seemed to really tire you out.”
“I can't really explain it,” Amarisa sighed. “It's like when you concentrate on something for a long time, and you get tired, because your brains working so hard, you know? Well, you two probably don't know...”
She was cut off by another yawn.
“And you're always sure what it's saying?” Sherlock couldn't help asking. “Nothing ever seems hazy, or unclear?”
“If we know the answer, it gets a bit weird,” Amarisa admitted. “Like what we're expecting is muddying the waters or something. It works better when we have no idea what it's going to say, maybe because we're more...open to the answer that way, or something?”
She laughed – a soft, whuffing sound, almost a whisper so she wouldn't wake John. “It's kind of funny – this is probably what it's like for you two. It seems so obvious and easy to us, and no one else seems to get it.”
A pause, and the wolfdog nuzzled Raniel as though seeking reassurance.
“I wonder if this is why we're their destruction,” she mused quietly.
Her words made something unpleasantly close to fear coil through Sherlock's chest like barbed wire – cold and sharp. Raniel pressed closer to Amarisa, curling around her muzzle as though he could somehow defend her.
Logically, Sherlock knew it was exceedingly unlikely for Moriarty to have learned that John could read the alethiometer in so short a time, but it wasn't impossible, and the thought of Moriarty out there, knowing that John could do this...
With that in mind, Sherlock reached for his laptop.
“Morning,” John's voice was a sleepy rasp and Sherlock turned, just for the pleasure of seeing John's face wonderfully rumpled with fatigue, his eyes squinting and bleary.
“Morning,” Raniel practically chirped, nudging the still-dozing Amarisa sharply.
Sherlock could see John take in the laptop, his position against the headboard…
“Did you get any sleep at all?”
Raniel laughed. “I told you that would be the first thing he’d ask.”
“No, you said it would be the first thing he’d say,” Sherlock pointed out. “The first thing he said was ‘morning’.”
“It’s far too early for you two to debate technicalities,” Amarisa grumbled, her back arching as she stretched.
Raniel sniffed disdainfully. “We’re not debating technicalities, we’re merely-”
Amarisa growled in irritation, but the sound was soft and low and not nearly as threatening as it could have been.
“You’re slower in the mornings, aren’t you?” Sherlock observed. “Especially when you’ve just woken up.”
“Just because your brain works perfectly all the time doesn’t mean you have to show off,” John muttered, in what Sherlock suspected was meant to be a sour tone but was rather spoiled by the soft smile on his face.
He and Amarisa wandered into the bathroom – and wandered was really the best way to describe it, both of them taking hesitant steps as though unsure of the precise direction, sometimes veering slightly off course when they blinked or yawned. The soft click-clack of the wolfdog’s blunt nails on tiles was a familiar sound, as was the sight of John splashing water on his face, and nothing about the scene was particularly riveting except for the fact that John hadn’t paused to put on any clothes.
Sherlock was no stranger to nudity, true, but there was something fascinating about the way John moved when he was naked – or, more accurately, the way Sherlock could see him move when he was naked. The muscles on his back were particularly well-defined, and watching him stretch was like watching water running over stones.
Sometimes, Sherlock wanted to take skin scrapings and blood samples and peer at them under his microscope and analyse DNA until he located the genetic marker or cellular anomaly that made John…the way he was. Because there had to be something, didn’t there? Some hidden chemical or gene that explained why John had grabbed Sherlock’s attention and fascination even before he’d realized how unique John’s sensitivity was.
But Sherlock was self-aware enough to realize that people didn’t ask their lover for DNA samples – at least, not right away. Maybe for their anniversary…
It was a pity his dæmon wasn’t quite as controlled.
“Can we take some of your epithelial cells?” Raniel asked eagerly.
Sherlock barely had time to be horrified before John was turning around, his expression puzzled but not repulsed. Amarisa’s tongue was lolling out in her dog-grin, and while she wasn’t actually laughing she looked like she was close to it.
“If you like,” John said affably. “Any particular preference where they’re from, or would the traditional cotton swab on the inside of my cheek do?”
Perhaps someday John would stop surprising him. But Sherlock didn’t see that day coming anytime soon.
John had expected Mycroft to demand he use the alethiometer again, so he hadn’t been in the least surprised when the elder Holmes brother approached him after he’d finished breakfast. He was tempted to ask just how Mycroft had known he’d finished eating, but held himself back – he wanted to at least believe he wasn’t being monitored at all times.
This time though, he was tackling something of more substance than the prophecy; Mycroft wanted him to try to use the alethiometer to determine exactly which people in the government were helping Moriarty. It was slow work, largely because John had to flip through each person’s file until he knew enough about them to hold a clear picture of them in his mind and figure out which symbol could refer to them when he was asking the question.
John couldn’t deny that reading the alethiometer was wearying…but they did realize he could still hear them, didn’t they?
“If you even think about using John as one of your tools, Mycroft…” Sherlock hissed from the next room, his threat sounding as serious and vicious as the one he’d delivered to Moriarty.
John looked down at Amarisa. “Surely they realize that even if I didn’t hear them, you would?”
Amarisa’s tongue lolled and her eyes laughed, her dog-grin firmly in place.
“We don’t think very clearly when you’re being threatened,” Raniel remarked from his spot on the sofa arm.
And if Sherlock’s dæmon was still in the room with them, meaning that there wasn’t more than a few feet between him and Sherlock, surely that meant his human would know they’d be overheard?
“Is he trying to make some kind of point?” John asked, squinting at the closed door that was really doing very little to muffle the conversation.
“I know John,” Sherlock was saying, voice still strangely intense. “And he will wear himself out if he thinks it’s for a good cause-”
“He says that like it’s a bad thing,” John observed.
“It should be,” the polecat groused. “You’re far too willing to risk your life for a cause that’s even halfway good or noble…” The emphasis he gave to ‘good’ and ‘noble’ made them sound like synonyms for ‘disgusting’ and ‘horrifying’. “And sometimes it’s like you don’t even care if your idiotic bravery got you killed-”
“I wouldn’t say we don’t care,” Amarisa interrupted. “The thought of dying isn’t appealing to us.”
She glanced up at her human, and John nodded in agreement. “It’s more that we accept some things are more important than our life – that’s just the way the world works.”
Raniel looked irritated. “Clearly the proponents of the selfish gene theory have never met you.”
John had a few witty replies to that, but decided not to mention them – Sherlock and Raniel were awfully sensitive when it came to his and Amarisa’s safety. Amarisa nuzzled Raniel under the chin, trying to be comforting, and the polecat licked her nose.
“My trust in the alethiometer has not increased just because we’ve found a reader, Sherlock,” Mycroft was saying, and John tilted his head closer to the door, intrigued.
“I’m using John now, of course,” Mycroft went on, as though John was a handy tool he’d picked up in the garden shed. “But only because we’re feeling the press of time, and John gets us very rapid answers. I will be seeking far more solid proof before I make any moves of my own. The alethiometer is not to be trusted.”
John felt almost offended, but supposed his reading would look very strange to Mycroft and Sherlock. From their point of view, he twiddled a few dials, stared at the alethiometer for a few minutes, then announced what it had told him like he was pulling it out of thin air. They couldn’t feel the unquestioning certainty that he felt, the sure knowledge that this was right, this was truth, so they probably couldn’t help being skeptical.
“Do you think Moriarty knows?” he wondered aloud, staring down at the alethiometer.
“He can’t!” Raniel said, a little too hastily for John’s peace of mind.
“We know he has an alethiometer of his own,” John pointed out. “At least, I’m sure we can assume the alethiometer that whats-her-name, General Shan, was reading and that we never found is connected to Moriarty somehow. When Mycroft starts picking off his spies, he’s going to want to know how they were found out, and…”
He shrugged, hoping the gesture conveyed the inevitability of it all. It was really only a matter of time before Moriarty asked a question that had ‘John Watson can read the alethiometer’ as part of the answer. Moriarty would find out, the only question was when. And then what? John suspected the only reason he and Amarisa had escaped the pool alive was that Moriarty hadn’t thought them worth bothering about. If that changed, if he found that the prophecy referred to both him and Sherlock (and even in his head, that sounded strange, that a prophecy referred to him), John had a feeling the patronizing tolerance Moriarty had shown him would vanish.
Would he just try to kill them outright? Or would his goal be capture, to experiment and vivisect until he found out how John was doing this, until he found a way to stop him?
For some reason, John thought of the Maystadt Guillotine, and shivered.
AN: Thanks so much to ginbitch, my wonderful beta!
Part Fourteen: God Killer