Rating: Maybe PG-13? At least at the moment...
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, and am making no profit from their use, more's the pity.
Warnings: Eventual slash, Sherlock/John.
Summary: HDM AU. Sherlock and Raniel investigate what appear to be serial suicides, with John and Amarisa along for the ride.
(Title page by birddi )
Part One: The Architecture of Our Lives
Part Two: Stepping Stones
John and Amarisa didn't really know what to make of this 'Sherlock Holmes', or his dæmon. He was an attractive man, and if he was in Bart's laboratory then he was certainly intelligent, but exactly what his purpose in the laboratory had been John couldn't divine, and Stamford had been less than forthcoming. His dæmon was male and albino, and seemed to be a very large ferret-type creature.
The dæmon in question had spent the entire conversation staring fixedly at Amarisa, and while she and John were used to people and dæmons staring at her, it had still been rather disconcerting.
Not to mention the litany of facts the man had rattled off as though he'd had John followed by a private detective. It was rather eerie, and John felt at a distinct disadvantage, so as soon as he and Amarisa were back in their rooms he googled the man.
“The Science of Deduction,” Amarisa read aloud, resting her front paws on the desk beside John as she peered at the laptop screen. “Sounds kind of suspicious.”
“It does,” John agreed, leaning back in his chair as one hand reached out to fondle Amarisa's ears. “I mean, I'll buy that you can tell some things from looking at people, but surely not all this. I mean, an airline pilot by his thumb?”
Amarisa glanced up at him. “So, are we going to have a look at the flat or not?”
“Might as well,” John shrugged. “He probably won't be the strangest person we've ever met anyway.”
“No, I think that honour still goes to Ragnvald,” Amarisa agreed. “Even if Sherlock's dæmon seems a bit...intense.”
John shrugged again. “Maybe that's just how he is. Or maybe he just acts that way with people he's only met recently.”
John read a book for the rest of the afternoon while his dæmon napped on the bed, until it was time to make their way to Baker Street.
“I wish you'd take a cab,” Amarisa scolded John as he limped down the street. “It would be so much better for your leg...”
“I'm fine, Risa,” John muttered. “It's all in my head, anyway.”
Amarisa lightly nipped his fingers in remonstration. “You were shot with a death-spell, remember? It's not the kind of thing that just goes away. 'Try to think happy thoughts' indeed! Honestly – it makes war sound like a production of Peter Pan!”
“What else would you suggest?” John grumbled and predictably, Amarisa fell silent.
John immediately felt contrite. He knew she was only trying to cheer him up, and that at heart Amarisa felt as downtrodden as he did, so he scratched gently at the top of her head in silent apology.
They made good time, and Sherlock pulled up in a cab just as they reached the front door. The landlady, Mrs. Hudson, seemed nice (even if the story about her husband was a little bizarre), and her dæmon – a red squirrel who introduced himself as Kai to Amarisa – was friendly and welcoming without being fussy. John had been looking around, trying to get a better measure of Sherlock and his dæmon (who Kai had called Raniel), when they were interrupted by a man barging into the flat.
He seemed to be in his thirties, and his dæmon was a sharp-eyed falcon that rode on his shoulder, her piercing gaze snapping around the room. And though John wasn't completely certain, he also seemed to be a policeman.
It was clear that this man and Sherlock were acquainted, and that it seemed to be in a professional capacity, but how that worked John had no idea. Sherlock sped out the door like a hurricane, Raniel draped around his neck like a fur scarf, and John was left in the chair, unable to help feeling a stab of envy at his clear excitement, his purpose.
It had been a long time since he'd had anything resembling purpose.
His bitterness made him shout at Mrs. Hudson, which he was instantly sorry for, Amarisa licking at his hand in an effort to console him. He'd just glanced at the newspaper when a voice intruded on his thoughts.
“You're a doctor.”
John looked up, and Amarisa stood reflexively.
Sherlock was standing in the doorway, pulling on a pair of gloves.
“Matter of fact, you were an army doctor,” he went on, with the air of someone being deliberately casual.
Feeling the need to be on his feet for this conversation, John grasped his cane and pulled himself upright.
“Yes,” he said shortly.
“Any good?” Sherlock asked.
Taking affront, Amarisa bristled, but John's voice was calm. “Very good.”
It wasn't empty boasting, either – it was the truth; he knew he was a good doctor. Not the absolute top of his profession perhaps, but still a cut above the rest.
“Seen a lot of injuries, then? Violent deaths?” Sherlock's eyes were staring very intently into his.
Raniel was back to staring at Amarisa just as intently, but – as John knew she would – the wolfdog was simply taking it in stride, cocking her head as she stared right back at him.
“Yes,” was all John said.
Sherlock was approaching them slowly, and there was an air of restrained excitement about him. “Bit of trouble, too, I bet.”
“Of course, yes,” John replied, then felt the need to add. “Enough for a lifetime, far too much.”
He knew that was how he was supposed to feel about it. But John couldn't help it – he wanted purpose again, and he knew Amarisa felt the same.
But re-enlisting was out of the question with his leg the way it was, and Aeliana and the others wanted him in England until they figured out why a witch clan had tried to kill him (frankly, it was something John wondered about quite often himself). One would think that being hunted by witches would have spiced up his life, but England was as much a sanctuary as he'd been promised: he hadn't even been mugged.
So Sherlock's next words seemed like a godsend. “Want to see some more?”
“Oh, god, yes!” was out of John's mouth within an instant.
Amarisa yipped happily, and her tail was wagging furiously as they followed Sherlock out the door.
When Sherlock first met John Watson, he supposed he and Raniel could have done a lot worse in flatmates. The puzzle of Amarisa's form was a pleasant surprise (he still couldn't decide between an obscure species of wolf or an exotic breed of dog, and the rich black coat raised the possibility that she was a colour variant), and she and her human seemed relatively easy to live with, though Sherlock suspected John might attempt to insist on an annoying level of cleanliness in the living room and kitchen.
Several hours later, rifling through rubbish for a pink suitcase, Sherlock and Raniel were coming to the conclusion that it would have been hard to do better.
John Watson and Amarisa were interesting.
Instead of being unsettled or repelled by Sherlock's deductions, John seemed to honestly marvel at them, and he was so free with his praise Sherlock had at first wondered if he was somehow unaware he was verbalising his thoughts. While most dæmons would have been unsettled by Raniel's unwavering scrutiny as he tried to determine what Amarisa was, the canine dæmon took it in stride, seemingly not bothered in the slightest.
Watching Scotland Yard's reaction to them had been interesting, to say the least. Sally's wildcat-dæmon, Matriel, clearly hadn't thought much of Amarisa, turning his nose up as the dæmon went by. Lestrade and Zarania seemed to afford John and Amarisa a measure of respect, but the most interesting observation had been that Anderson's beagle-dæmon refused to meet Amarisa's eyes.
Dog dæmons usually got along relatively well, the pack mentality being what it was, so Izeah's uneasiness around Amarisa raised some very intriguing questions.
John had worked smoothly and efficiently, he and his dæmon moving in sync as though they'd examined a hundred bodies. And maybe they had – it wasn't entirely improbable.
John had investigated the woman's fingers as his dæmon bent her head to sniff at the corpse's lips. Sherlock had opened his mouth to ask her what scents she'd detected, wondering how her sense of smell measured up to Raniel's, when his own dæmon beat him to it.
“What do you smell?”
Sherlock had twisted to stare at Raniel where the polecat was crouched beside the body, and he'd known Lestrade and Zarania were similarly shocked. Raniel never spoke to other dæmons unless it was to tell them to shut up and stop talking to him, let alone to ask a question Sherlock would have been perfectly capable of asking himself.
John and Amarisa, of course, had no notion of how unprecedented it was, and Amarisa answered promptly.
“Perfume – that new Chanel one, and it's very strong,” Amarisa had reported, wrinkling her nose in distaste. “Her last meal was something spicy with chicken in it, but there's something else, something chalky and bitter...”
That had been the poisonous pill, of course, and moments later Sherlock had rushed out in search of a pink suitcase, sweeping up Raniel along the way.
“We probably shouldn't have left him there,” Raniel muttered as they peered into yet another rubbish bin.
This, too, was rather unprecedented. Raniel did display concern for some select people and dæmons, but they were usually Mummy and Father exclusively, not a potential flatmate they'd only met a few hours ago.
“He'll be fine,” Sherlock muttered.
It wasn't a dismissal – it was a fact. Most people seemed to think John relatively harmless, which was completely idiotic; you only had to look at Amarisa to know that. Wolf or dog, she was quite clearly a predator, and an intimidating one at that.
More than that, John was experienced. He was a man who had been through a war and had come out sane and relatively whole, psychosomatic limp notwithstanding.
If John could endure all that and still come out genial and good-natured, the streets of London weren't going to present a problem.
“Why are you so interested in them anyway?” Sherlock asked his dæmon, genuinely curious.
Because Raniel was more taken with a dæmon than Sherlock had seen in...ever. He supposed it could be the puzzle Amarisa presented, but he couldn't help but feel it was something more. Something new and different.
“I...like her...” Raniel announced slowly, as though he could barely believe it himself. “Amarisa, I mean. And John, too. I can't explain why, I just...like them.”
That was another first – Raniel had never taking a liking to another dæmon without a reason. He respected Zarania because even when she shouted at him she never expected him to reply, and he was fond of Kai for the same reasons; the squirrel didn't intrude on his space and never attempted to catch his attention.
But for Raniel to just 'like' a dæmon for no conceivable reason...that was new.
Sherlock was aware it was actually relatively common for dæmons to like or dislike each other on sight. Studies had been done on the phenomenon, colloquially known as the 'compatibility test', and they seemed to indicate that your dæmon's feelings about another dæmon usually indicated whether or not you would get along with their human. Many happily married couples (rare in his line of work) claimed that their dæmons had taken an instant, completely unprecedented liking to each other.
Of course, Sherlock was certain that wasn't what was happening here. Not that John Watson wasn't appealing, because he was, though in a surprising way – the quicksilver flash of attraction when he first saw him had actually caught Sherlock unaware. John wasn't particularly beautiful or striking, but there was something warm and steady and strong about him, like a rock in the centre of a maelstrom.
Sherlock shook the thought away – extraneous data, pointless to his search – and moved on to the next skip.
John wasn't sure what was going on, and the woman who'd given her name as Anthea refused to tell him.
She was tapping away at a Blackberry, her chameleon dæmon in her lap, one foreleg resting on her wrist. Amarisa was sitting at John's feet, braced against the slight rocking motion of the car, her muscles tense and ready to leap into action.
They didn't know what was going on, but they did know that people who interfered so casually and precisely with public phones and CCTV cameras were not people to be trifled with.
John supposed he should be more concerned at the fact he and Amarisa had essentially been abducted off the street, but all he felt was the strange calmness and clarity that had always descended when he was running into a battle in Ragnvald's wake.
The car pulled up in what appeared to be an empty parking garage. Well, empty except for a solitary chair and the man standing in front of it.
He was dressed in a business suit and was holding an umbrella in one hand. His dæmon – a raven – was perched on his shoulder, her eyes trained on John as he and Amarisa stepped out of the car.
It was probably meant to be intimidating, but...well, if John intimidated easily, he wouldn't have made friends with an armoured bear.
It was made apparent within moments that this man was interested in him for his connections to Sherlock, and John was swiftly coming to the conclusion that his potential flatmate led a very interesting life.
Amarisa stood close, close enough for her fur to brush the side of John's trousers, her muscles tense as though preparing to spring. The raven dæmon was looking down her beak at the wolfdog, and Amarisa's hackles were up, her lips pulled back ever-so slightly to show just the barest tips of her canines.
The rampant tension of the situation was what had made her so visibly hostile, but Amarisa was usually taciturn with strangers. It took her a while to warm up to people and dæmons, even though she seemed to have become fond of Raniel and Sherlock inordinately quickly. But then, Sherlock's dæmon was interesting (as was Sherlock himself), and John had heard stories of people's dæmons just clicking, so maybe that was what had happened there.
As the stranger in the business suit noted, they were becoming very loyal very quickly. Though he seemed to overlook the fact that John's refusal could have been based purely on common sense – when offered money to spy on someone who worked for the police by a man who claimed to be their enemy, it was probably better to refuse.
The raven clacked her beak, probably to sound menacing, as the man reached into his pocket and produced a small notebook once more.
“Trust issues, it says here,” he commented mildly, flipping it open.
A crawling sensation shivered up John's spine, and Amarisa gave a low, rumbling growl.
“What's that?” he asked, his voice tight.
The man continued as though John hadn't spoken. “Could it be you've decided to trust Sherlock Holmes, of all people?”
“Who says I trust him?” John shot back automatically.
“You don't seem the kind to make friends easily...”
John had never been good at letting someone else dissect and critique his life as if it was a poorly-shot movie. It was probably why therapy had never seemed to help him much.
“Are we done?”
The man looked directly at him, something close to a challenge in his eyes. “You tell me.”
John had never had much taste for these kind of pointless dramatics and turned away, determined to stride out of there...
“I imagine people have already warned you to stay away from him,” was called to his retreating back. “But I can tell from your dæmon and your left hand that's not going to happen.”
John whirled – he'd always been sensitive to comments about Amarisa.
“What do you mean?” he snapped, resting one hand on his dæmon's ruff as Amarisa snarled low in her throat.
The stranger smiled as though pleased at John's reaction, and his raven dæmon ruffled her feathers in a contented manner. “Most people blunder around this city and all they see are streets and shops and cars. When you walk with Sherlock Holmes you see the battlefield – you've seen it already haven't you?”
Amarisa had stopped snarling, but that didn't mean their anger and affront had in any way diminished – just that both she and John were now in better control.
“Do you have a particular point to make?” John asked, trying not to grit his teeth.
“You have an intermittent tremor in your left hand,” the man explained, voice steady and sure. “Your therapist think it's post traumatic stress disorder; she thinks you're haunted by memories of your military service...but then, she thinks your dæmon took the form of a wolfdog because you suffered some sort of abuse as an adolescent.”
In spite of himself, John was surprised. Apart from the information on his therapy (which John was pretty sure was confidential), most people never guessed Amarisa's form themselves. At first glance people took her for a dog, and it was only if they spent an extended amount of time around her and John that they started to think she was something more...and even then, they rarely got it right.
“Who the hell are you?” John asked, unable to help himself.
The stranger smiled, the kind of smile that said he wasn't going to answer, pointedly looking down at Amarisa. “No more slinking around trying to act like a dog to put people at ease, hmmm?”
Neither the wolfdog nor her human acknowledged the comment.
“You are haunted by memories, but it's not the memories she thinks,” the man went on, still sounding supremely satisfied with himself. “You're under stress right now and your hand is perfectly steady. You don't dream of bombs or gunfire or battles – after all, you were a soldier and these were your life...your nightmares are of what you felt when those witches shot you with their death-spells.”
John's leg twinged painfully at the reminder, and now he was truly uneasy – Aeliana and the others had tried to keep the exact nature of his injury under wraps until they knew more. The fact that this man knew said a lot of things about his reach, none of which John liked.
He tried for a calm voice when he spoke again. “Who told you that?”
“A concerned party.”
John hadn't paid too much attention after that, his mind too busy racing along to try to determine who might be able to tell people about his injury. He eliminated the witches and Ragnvald almost immediately – armoured bears weren't exactly known for being blabbermouths, and it had been the witches' idea to keep it a secret in the first place. He supposed it would have been on the discharge papers, and someone who had access to his therapist's notes would have been able to take a glance at those without a problem.
Eventually, the strange man left and John made sure to retrieve his gun before he and Amarisa went back to Baker Street.
Sherlock had located the pink suitcase, and John had been more than a little pissed off at the idea the other man had only called him back to send a text.
“Couldn't you have got him to do it?” he'd asked, nodding at Raniel, the polecat curled up on Sherlock's belly as he lay on the couch.
“No opposable thumbs,” the dæmon piped up. “I'm rubbish at keypads.”
It was unusual for dæmons to address another human directly unless they were especially close or the person was absent or indisposed, in the cases of witches or coma patients. But really, when compared to everything else that was unusual about Sherlock and Raniel, it wasn't anything to get excited about.
Sherlock had stared at his dæmon for a moment, looking almost surprised, as though Raniel was doing something out of the ordinary, but the expression had passed so quickly John wasn't sure it had ever been there in the first place.
John had done as ordered and sent the texts, and Sherlock – still apparently buzzing from the high of finding the suitcase – was busily snatching up his coat and scarf, when Raniel suddenly looked at John and Amarisa.
“Want to come along?” he asked, almost hopefully.
Amarisa wagged her tail beseechingly, and John glanced at Sherlock.
He saw again that strange expression on Sherlock's face, as though he were startled by what his dæmon had just done, before his eyes met John's and he shrugged.
“Well, you could just sit there and watch telly,” he said, as though watching telly was the most hideous thing anyone could ever do with their free time.
Sherlock and Raniel didn't seem to be the social types, so John felt the need to clarify. “You want us to come with you?”
“I think better when I talk aloud,” was all Sherlock said.
John was about to point out that a dæmon rather negated the need for company to talk aloud to, but Sherlock and Raniel were already gone.
“Well?” Amarisa asked impatiently, eyes shining.
John sighed. “We're crazy, you do realise that, don't you?”
Amarisa laughed. “But it's so much fun!”
It was difficult to argue with that, so John grabbed his cane and followed his dæmon down the stairs.
Part Three: Foundations (contd.)
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: Structrual Integrity
Part Twelve: The Reader