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Feeling His Way Through the Dark

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Henry, John and Sherlock made their way back towards Baskerville, their rented rover silent inside. John thought at this point he would be nervous, but he was quite calm. He could see his flatmate working on his ‘whatever remains however improbable’ issue of the past three days as it had culminated finally. Or perhaps he should have been shaken by the Shifter who’d just blown himself up in a minefield, but that was just more of the horrors he’d seen plenty of in Afghanistan.

John was, unfortunately, the only one really available to drive at this time… so the drive back was slow and jerky.

“Quite anticlimactic.” Sherlock mumbled in the passenger seat as John stalled the rover for the second time. John just grinned.

“So that was…” Henry stumbled on his tongue as he asked, color just beginning to seep back into his face.

John waited, but Sherlock was still in his own head. Not his mind palace, likely, but on the surface while he worked it out. “Yeah.” John answered in his place.

“I guess… at least I’m not crazy.”

“You could look at it like that.” John offered, grinding the gear shift but managing to continue down the dark country road.

“Or all of us are.” Henry said, mostly to himself, as his face drooped more than normal.

“Doubtful.” Sherlock finally interjected. His gaze was harshly trained on the compound ahead of them, which the headlights had just illuminated.

John stalled again, and just shut off the engine. He left the lights on.

“Sherlock…” John stared ahead. “What is this?”

The detective didn’t answer. He stepped out of the rover and left the door open as he walked forwards and ran his gloved hand over the empty poles sticking out of the earth, fingers skipping over the holes where the tin sign used to rest.

Baskerville had been stripped, in the few hours they’d been gone. The tire tracks around the yard told him intimately how the equipment had come and gone, large heavy trucks, cement mixers, two semis as well. He read the ground like a school-child’s book as his heart pumped his head, pounded in it. John was already inspecting the fence at the front, a simple chain and lock on it now, even the motors that opened the gate at the guard post were gone.

“Don’t bother, John.” Sherlock called, as quietly as he could while being heard. “They’ve filled it. Everything underground.”

John looked back toward the sign,and to the rover where Henry was still sitting, head in his hands. “That’s not…” He turned back to the lock and jiggled it.

“Possible? Are you really in a position to say that?” Sherlock sighed and walked swiftly over. He pulled a pin from his coat and made quick work of the simple lock. He pushed it open. It didn’t squeak. “If you’re so keen on seeing for yourself…” He made a gentleman’s gesture and John gave him an odd look. But he had to see.

John walked up, kept himself from jogging, to the building where they’d taken the lift underground. The security system had been removed, all that remained were the holes that fed wires to the card readers. Nothing was locked, security doors completely gone. And the outer lift doors were open, lift itself gone or... Dusty boot prints littered the area, not military but still professional. He sat on his haunches beside the open doors and put one finger to the grey grit settling there. It was still wet, wet enough for him to write his initials or a heart or whatever else people wrote in wet cement. His heart thumped and his brain turned over itself. This is what happened, when they’d finally found the proof. It was gone. They’d done what they could to save a life, even after John was exposed. But they’d lost the bigger battle; military experimentation on Shifters. Now they had…

“Nothing.”

John turned, seeing Sherlock at the door, leaning against the frame as he lifted his gaze from the side (to be aloof, to ‘look cool’) up to John’s face. He wore his careful, neutral expression but his eyes were compassionate. So many people mistook the icy blue for cold (and it sometimes… often… was. But not always).

“Yeah…” John licked his lips thoughtfully, troubled. “Nothing is all we have. Sherlock…” He stood, the twinge in his leg back for a split second. He opened his mouth to say something else, to ask… but he stopped. Sherlock was staring at him, carefully and curiously. He waited for John to speak. After a tick, John awkwardly cleared his throat and shifted his weight. That look, when it was entirely focused on one thing, was often awe-inspiring. When it was focused entirely on him however… “Sherlock….” He began, but stumbled.

“John.”

John huffed a little and narrowed his eyes only slightly. He shifted again, this time in agitation. “Sherlock, you’ve got to say something, something.”

Sherlock let his head tilt just slightly and he cocked a brow. He didn’t speak.

John wrankled, fisting and unfisting his left hand. “Sherlock.” He said, in his commanding, military tone. The irony of their setting was not lost. Sherlock smirked.

“Captain John Watson.” For half a tick, John thought he would have to just leave it and huff off. “Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. Army doctor.” He raised both brows, looking proud. Of himself, or of John, the man opposite couldn’t tell. “Doctor Captain, or Captain Doctor… hard, with all those titles. To decide on one. Now, at least to some, there’s another. What is it?”

John’s face softened, and aged a little. He lost his command and looked just… tired. “Shifter. It’s what we call ourselves, to one another.” He could read the curiosity on his friend’s face. “Not many of us, not that I know of. No society I’m aware of or anything, no signals other than… scent, really.”

Sherlock looked quite interested at that. “But that’s…” he read the nervous agitation on John’s face, “not what you want me to say. Not… what you’d prefer to discuss.”

John was a little surprised at his self control. Here was a sublime mystery, totally new and relevant information… and he managed to put that aside. Not permanently, he was totally sure of that. But just for now was enough. “Yes.”

Sherlock waited a moment, then frowned. “What, you want me to guess?”

“No.” John huffed, shifting once more. “No, it’s just… difficult.” He maintained eye contact, though he wanted terribly to look away. He was lying, they both knew. He wanted Sherlock to deduce it out, to shorten the conversation to another quickly spouted rant that he could just be impressed by and leave it at that.

Sherlock’s eyes squinted a second, then he folded his hands behind his back and stood a little straighter. “‘Shifter’ then. Yes. Not just ‘werewolves’, though that’s what you are. A warrah. Falkland Islands wolf, Antarctic wolf, dusicyon australis. An animal researched by Charles Darwin preceding its extinction in the late 1800s. I doubt you’ve been around that long, so it’s not directly related to the species itself. And Dr Frankland... he was a larger variety, grey wolf, canis lupus. Black, though. Ironically. He spent most of his time in a half shifted form while wandering the mist, meaning you don’t need to or perhaps not all can become fully shifted. As you can. The formation of…” He stopped, looking at the expression on John’s face and scrunching his brow. “John.” He wasn’t impressed, relieved, annoyed. He still looked tired, very tired, and had basically stopped listening. “Did I get it wrong? No. That’s not…”

Running a palm over his face, John sighed. “No, you’re spot on.”

“But… there’s something I’m missing.”

“No. Yes. Sherlock it’s.. I know it’s not your area, I just… right now…. Usually I get it, it’s endearing almost. But…”

“But…” Sherlock knew he needed to finish the thought, that John couldn’t. But he was correct, this was not his area. He would try. “But it’s important that I… don’t say anything? John, they may have covered everything up, but they have the tapes of you in the lab.”

“No…”

Sherlock changed rails, prodding for the answer. Why couldn’t John just say it? “But you worry I won’t bring you with me on cases anymore.”

“Y-no, no, Sherlock just…” He huffed. All that genius and he couldn’t understand. So many things, though, so many that John couldn’t say because to Sherlock the work came first and nothing came after it. This was home now; with Sherlock, running through London or the moors or wherever else there was something interesting going on… but it had been Sherlock’s home much longer, and it was his gate to keep. He took a deep breath and pressed his face into his hand, the cool air pushing into the small hallway making him feel just a bit better. “Sherlock.” He shouldn’t have said the name first, that made it harder. “I worry that you won’t take me anywhere anymore, I blew the case and I’m a huge liability and I intentionally lied and covered up something that could have cost you your life, nearly did in fact. That-”

“John.”

John started as he moved his hand at the soft voice he realized was directly above him. Sherlock stared down with a mute expression and his sharp, raptorial eyes. Neither moved.

“John.” He repeated. They stared at one another, John in fear and Sherlock in a painted mask of calm that broke into a warm, clever grin. “You’d be better disposed worrying I’ll run a myriad of experiments on you.”

It took a second, but John let out a relieved puff and broke into the same sort of giggles he’d done on the second night he’d known the impossible man in front of him. Sherlock joined in just a touch.

“Come now, John, you think I’d let something this interesting take away my friend?” He quipped with his silly grinch-like curling smile. “I’ve only got the one.”

Then there was a loud bang from outside that made them both start, their faces losing all mirth.

“Henry.” John said in alarm, and they both raced out of the abandoned military base and towards the rover. In the distance, they saw the struggling of three or four dark figures and the erratic light from several torches dancing along with them. Henry’s muffled cries barely made it to them through the thick, not quite fog in the field. “Henry!”

They both raced toward the gate, halfway opposite the way the intruders were dragging Henry to what they could barely make out as a black sedan with the headlights off. Unless Henry could break free, they’d never make it in time.

“Bugger this…” John mumbled under his breath. He set his face and threw off his coat, letting it flutter behind him.

Sherlock pushed himself harder and yelled as he realized what John was doing. “John NO!”

But the hair on John’s head was darkening into a thick auburn, his ears pushing up on his skull. He didn’t break stride for more than a second to kick off his shoes and shake off his clothes as they loosened on his changing frame. The tail finished sprouting, the tip a shimmering white that caught Sherlock’s shrewd gaze as the clouds shifted enough to let the moonlight cast down on them, if only for just a few seconds. He tried his best to keep his breath in him at the sight of it, now ahead by several meters. He pushed harder, but he knew he wouldn’t catch up. He had to distract him, get his attention-which at the moment was laser focused on what John Watson did best; saving the life.

“John stop!” He roared, but keeping air in his lungs and pumping his legs AND keeping his brain going all at once was hindering all those things. He allowed an exhale to curse and stopped, doubling back just a few feet to the rover. Henry’s passenger door had the window smashed out, likely the sound they heard. Sherlock didn’t bother shutting doors, though, he just twisted the key John had left to keep the headlights on and shifted, turning the wheel at the same time. As he lurched forwards, petal on the mat, the light that came with him caught the moment John lunged at the closest man. Henry yelled, muffled by the bag over his head, as he was jostled to the ground. The hand holding him had been ripped off as John tackled one of the dark figures to the ground. He didn’t bite into flesh, just kicked off at the next. By using the fallen figure’s abdomen as a launching pad, he knocked the air out of him.

There was an echoing bang, and Sherlock’s rental vehicle tilted sharply left as that front wheel was shot out. He tried to correct but at that speed and on that terrain, the rover rolled.

John looked up in alarm, and a tinny yelp escaped him. While he’d been distracted, out of sight came another shot, and John felt the needled head dig into his pelt. Panic flooded him as he watched the vehicle rock and finally stop only about ten yards away from him. He could smell the blood, the familiar blood of Sherlock Holmes.

Behind him was a din of voices, but he didn’t pay them any attention. His mind started to fog and he ripped away from grabbing hands, nipping, drawing blood and curses. He was dully aware of Henry being pushed down into the mud beside him and away from the sedan, then… his mind flooded with fear as someone, he couldn’t see his vision was black, someone snapped a muzzle on him. He howled in terror, trying to yell for Sherlock, to find if Sherlock was safe, but as a full wolf he didn’t have the vocal cords to do much but yelp desperately.

The last thing he knew, Sherlock’s blood was in his nose and rough hands were in his scruff, pulling, pulling.