When people see Kaliope, they tend to smile, because they think they've got him all sorted out. A husky, the smiles say, You must be loyal, obedient and easy to lead.
He smiles back, because he and Kali both think it's funny.
When Sherlock sees Kali, he looks at John, then back at Kali, before simply saying, "Hmm. Interesting. Almost misleading, given the stereotype. A working dog known for its independence and need for stimulation. What happens when you get bored?"
"I read a book," John replies, even though it's not true.
They'd fought a war.
Sherlock has never been one to follow social norms, but something in John still recoils when Sherlock comes up behind his kidnapper's daemon and presses the barrel of a gun flush against the python's emerald-green head. He's not touching her, but that looks to be more incidental than deliberate.
"I'll kill her," he says coldly to the man (serial murderer, rapes the women while his daemon kills theirs, has a thing for women with rabbit daemons), who pauses in his carving of parallel lines into the back of John's arm.
Wrapped in the snake's coils, Kali is struggling for breath, her breath coming in shallow pants. John can barely breathe through their terror, their surety that they were going to die, and unpleasantly at that. He has no idea how Sherlock found them.
"You're lying," says Eric Marwick, who is only brave enough to kill women when they can't fight back, and jerks his knife towards the general vicinity of John's throat. But the knife in his hand is shaking, and after a long, tense moment, the python begins to slowly uncoil.
As soon as she can move her limbs, Kaliope struggles free and leaps to the chair John's tied to, paws and nose and tongue anxiously examining him, licking the cuts on his arm, and nuzzling the soon-to-be horrific bruising on his face. "I thought we were going to die," she whimpers, and John nods, whispers,
The python's recoiling anxiously now, because Sherlock is using his body as a weapon, following her head with the gun, advancing closer until they're nearly touching. His boots bump against her sides, making everyone cringe. Everyone but Sherlock, who seems to barely notice.
"Stop it!" Their murderer shouts, cracking. "Don't hurt her! Leave her alone!"
"Drop the knife. Kick it here."
He does, and Sherlock trains the gun on him instead.
"Were you really going to shoot her?" John asks after the hospital releases him, still twitchy with nerves. He has fifteen stitches in his right arm. Kaliope has not left his side yet. She is a comforting weight against his legs.
"If she didn't release your daemon? Certainly. Probably not in the head, however. The police do frown so heavily on murder." Sherlock cranes his neck to look at John from his reclined position on the couch.
John pushes Sherlock's legs out of the way so he can sit down. "Mycroft wants to know if you're alright, by the way. He sent me a text while I was at the hospital."
"Yes, I know. I sent him a response already. He's so disappointingly predictable."
"I wonder what his daemon is," Kaliope says, when they're in bed waiting to fall asleep. Her fur tickles John's bare shoulder, but not enough to make it itch. His arm doesn't ache anymore, thanks to the painkillers. "Do you think she doesn't like us?"
"She's never met us."
"She's never talked to me, even though we live together."
"He's protective of her."
"Donovan's Armesse says Sherlock hasn't got one."
But that's ridiculous - everyone has a daemon; it materializes shortly after the baby is born. The only time a daemon is gone is when the person's gone (or separation, but as Sherlock's still capable of getting up in the morning, he finds it highly unlikely). Even when a man's heart stops beating, the daemon doesn't fully fade away until there's no possibility of revival.
Even if he's never seen her, that doesn't mean she doesn't exist – he'd dated a woman with a ladybug daemon once, and wouldn't have known for weeks, if she hadn't introduced him. He still had no idea how she managed; if Kali had been so small, he'd have worried constantly about her getting crushed.
"Maybe," Kali says, but she doesn't sound sure.
There's no polite way to bring it up, so in the end, John has to settle for being rude. "How come I never see you talk to your daemon?"
"Why would you?" Sherlock asks. His eyes don't leave the screen of his laptop – at least he's using his own this time.
"I don't know. It just seems strange, I guess. To have been living here for so long, and never met your daemon. I've never met someone as protective of theirs as you. It's kind of... weird." Not that Sherlock isn't plenty weird, considering the last time he'd opened the microwave he'd seen a bowl of human fingers immersed in blue liquid.
"I... I don't know. I was just wondering, I guess. If I was ever going to meet her."
Sherlock meets his eyes then, gaze piercing. A shiver goes down John's spine, and it's not the usual shiver, the relaxed "oh right, this is a man I would not mind in my bed" sensation that strikes him all the time around Sherlock, but something different.
Sherlock looks away, but only to do the same to Kali, staring at her with the same intimate intensity that he'd given John. He feels naked under that gaze, like Sherlock's stripping him bare to look at all his secrets. They say a man's daemon is his soul, and John's not sure he wants to know just how much Sherlock can find out about him, by looking at his soul.
Kali meets his gaze for about two seconds, then turns around and leaves the room; she stops just inside the hallway.
Sherlock's eyes flick back to the laptop. "No."
John tries very hard not to feel rejected.
"Sherlock doesn't want me to see his daemon."
"I see. Do you have any idea why?" his therapist asks. Her spider monkey daemon is trying to sit near Kali, but every time he gets too close, she stands up and walks away, putting John's chair between them. It is disgustingly symbolic.
Maybe he doesn't trust us. Maybe he doesn't have a daemon. "No," John replies. He looks at her notepad. "You just wrote that I have trust issues again."
"You're lying to me about your flatmate, John. You do have trust issues." She raises an eyebrow, challenging him to deny it. He changes the subject.
"Is it possible to not have a daemon?" So much for that change of subject.
"Not and still be functional. Is this about Sherlock? You'd rather think he doesn't have a daemon than that he doesn't trust you enough to let you see her?"
"No," he lies, and this time she blocks his view with her hand when she writes, but he catches a glimpse of them afterwards, when she has forgotten they are meant to be a secret.
Dangerous obsession with flatmate. Refuses to acknowledge latent homosexual tendencies.
"Do we really have to meet in an abandoned warehouse?" John asks when he finally makes out Mycroft's figure in the shadows. Kali sits at John's side, but her ears are perked and she's searching the darkness. "You know where we live, and I know who you are. You don't intimidate me anymore."
"Possibly not, Doctor Watson. But appearances are key," replies Mycroft. Kali shakes her head finally, and presses her nose against John's palm. Mycroft hides his daemon too. Maybe it's a family thing. "You've been ignoring my text messages and my emails."
"Sherlock's not interested in helping you spy on people. He told me to tell you 'murders only', and to stop wasting his time."
"Yes, I expected he would. Tell me, how is he doing?"
"He's doing fine." John's too wary of this man, Sherlock's brother and self-declared arch-nemesis, to give him many (any) details. "The police have him on a triple homicide right now, but I'm sure you know that already."
"How are you dealing with Sherlock? I've been told that people often find him difficult to get along with."
"It's also fine. I'm sorry, do you have to be asking me this? You already know I won't tell you anything further. Why do you bother?"
"I don't need you to tell me things before I can read the answers on your face. In that respect, Sherlock and I are similar. You've also probably noticed that my brother does not get along terribly well with other people. You are, in fact, the longest flatmate he's ever had. Do you consider him to be your friend?"
"I'm sorry, what? Is that a trick question?"
"I'll take that as a 'yes', then," Mycroft says knowingly, and smiles at him. It looks surprisingly genuine. "It gratifies me to hear that, Doctor. He thinks highly of you. I hope you look after him." He turns around. "The car will take you to the scene of the crime - your triple homicide has become a quadruple."
"Wait," John says, putting his arm out to catch the car door before Mycroft can close it. "Tell me one thing. What form does his daemon take?"
Mycroft is still laughing when the car pulls away. Kali licks his cheek. "It was worth a try."
As promised, he's dropped off at the crime scene - he can see the body face-down on the sidewalk in a small pool of blood, Sherlock a lone figure kneeling over her. A German Shepherd daemon starts to block John as he steps over the police tape, his officer breaking off a conversation to grab for her badge and head over, but Lestrade waves he and Kali through.
"Fascinating," Sherlock says to John when he joins him at the body. "It's connected to the other three."
"Mycroft said that too," John agrees, which draws Sherlock's attention.
The detective looks him up and down, then does the same to Kali. "He dragged you out to ask about me again. You asked him about my daemon, but he laughed at you. Which did you ask: location or form?"
John is struck once again with the surprised awe he feels when Sherlock figures everything out so quickly. "Okay, I'll bite. How did you know that?"
"You admitted yourself that you were speaking with Mycroft, and you were dropped here by one of his men, which means you met him in person instead of speaking to him on the phone. When I looked at you, you only met my eyes for a brief moment, which means you're feeling guilty about something, which means you're hiding something from me, something about the conversation.
"Kaliope won't meet my eyes, which means it's something your daemon feels guilty about, which means it's not another offer to spy on me, because she thinks you should accept and split the fee with me too. Since she feels guilty about it, it must be something you brought up.
"You're fascinated with my daemon, and he's my brother, which means that he'd be the best source for you to get your information, especially since you'd be too polite to ask him over a text or email, because even if you began to, you'd delete the question before sending it. Now, which was it: location or form?"
"Form," John admits, and quashes the urge to praise Sherlock. "How do you know he laughed at me?"
"He always laughs at that question," Sherlock says, attention already sliding back to the corpse. He looks at it for another minute, completely silent, before rising abruptly. "I need a map of all the delis in London, and one of all the Tube stations. And hurry!"
John knows that he watches Sherlock a bit more than he ought to. More than can be explained by the concern of a colleague, or the friendship of a flatmate, but even though he's certain Sherlock knows, he never brings it up.
It confuses he and Kali to no end, the fact that they can't tell Sherlock's opinion of the matter. There is no daemon at Sherlock's side for Kali to ask questions of, no betrayal of his true feelings. John never realized how much he'd relied on that before Sherlock – the flirtatious flutter of Kali with her head against that of his partner's daemon, the two of them whispering together, Kali's calm eyes saying alright then to him before he asks a woman out.
A man's daemon betrays his true feelings; they are notoriously poor at deception. Maybe that's why Sherlock is so strange – he's harder to read.
The first thing people do when they see Sherlock is look for his daemon, because even people with insect or bird daemons can't usually go more than an hour without some form of contact. When that contact doesn't happen, that's when the rumours start.
Freak, Donovan had said when she'd first met John, He doesn't have a daemon, you know. People say he killed her.
John didn't believe her then, but he thinks he might believe her now. Well, the not-having-a-daemon part, at any rate. That should bother him, but it doesn't. He's bothered about not being bothered, though.
"It doesn't matter," Kali murmurs to him at night, her nose snuffling his hair. "I still like him. There's something bright about him. Like he doesn't need one."
Sometimes, he thinks that Sherlock watches him too.
"Do you ever feel like maybe you ought to call the police instead of confronting a serial killer yourself?" John asks, because they once again have a gun pointed on them by a madman, and it's really become a disappointingly familiar feeling. Kali stands in front of him, head down, tail stiff behind her.
"You called them before you followed me."
"I said 'instead', Sherlock. As in, 'tell the police and go home, rather than follow the murderer to his hotel room'."
"The police wouldn't have arrived here on time. His flight leaves in half an hour, which means he would have been out the door and on his way out of the country about... twenty, no, thirty minutes ago. You hate being late, don't you Mr. Travers? Especially considering what they've promised you."
"They took her," the man says, and he sounds like he's being torn apart. "They took her and they have her and they're hurting her. But she's on the plane now, she's waiting for me."
"They were lying to you. They'll never give her back. And even if they did, it'd never be the same. The bond's broken, permanently. She's not even on the plane, so this is all just a colossal waste of your, and everyone else's time," Sherlock says in a bored, matter-of-fact tone, and suddenly John knows what they're talking about, and he feels sick with horror.
Because there are three men here, and only one daemon in the room.
And then the man pulls the trigger and things happen very quickly from there.
When John was ten, just old enough to come up with dumb ideas, but still too young to know better than to actually do them, he and Kali tested how far they could go from each other. They'd gotten nearly fifteen feet, before the pain had become unbearable and they'd given up.
Their range is further now, but not significantly.
After training, John had been approached once, just once, by an officer with no rank – special forces, of the highly confidential kind that doesn't officially exist. Ten years service, the man offered, and when he was done, they'd set him up for life – anywhere, anything, whatever he wanted. No questions asked.
The catch? 750 meters of distance training between he and Kali. He'd said no, but one man in their batch had accepted. John had still been deployed when he'd gotten the funeral invite. Suicide.
Real separation took miles.
Most of the time, when people think of separation, they think of the survivors – the listless, empty individuals who get through life just barely, looking as if even killing themselves is too much for them to do.
But John's seen the other kind too, recovered from battlefields still frantic and struggling to get free. That's the first stage, before the victims understand that their daemon's never coming back and they're never going to be whole again.
He wakes up in the hospital room, mouth dry. Kali licks his face and neck to wipe away the fuzziness in his thoughts, and pushes the button to summon someone for him. "They took him, John. They took Sherlock, and I can't find him."
He can feel the knot of worry in their chests, but it's not terror. "What happened? Where's Sherlock? There were gunshots."
"Travers tried to shoot you but Sherlock pushed you out of the way. You hit your head; the doctors say you have a concussion. Travers is dead; he killed himself. We're fine, but Sherlock was hit; they put you in the same ambulance when the police came, but Sherlock passed out, and when we got here, someone took him away. I don't think he's here anymore, John. They won't tell me," she says, and makes a miserable whining sound that expresses exactly how he feels.
The doctors won't tell him anything either, and it's not until he's checking out (Sherlock's clearly not here, which means there's no point in him staying either, concussion or no concussion) that he sees someone he recognizes – Mycroft's assistant, Anthea, typing into her phone while the parakeet on her shoulder keeps a lookout.
He spots John and takes flight, Anthea following him without taking eyes off her screen, until he lands on Kali's shoulder. She, to her credit, immediately begins to interrogate him in a low, private tone.
"John Watson," Anthea says, and smiles at him. She knows his name this time.
"Come with me." She whirls, and her daemon leaps off of Kali's shoulder to land on hers, instead. She starts walking without looking back at him.
"They'll bring us to Sherlock," Kali tells him, so they follow.
"Is your name still Anthea?" He asks once they are in the black car. He tries to memorize the turns, but he's still feeling dizzy from the concussion, and he gives up after the fourth.
John does not know where he is (Medea does not come with him) when he is dropped off in front of the nondescript building that practically screams Government, but evidently people are expecting him.
When he comes to the front desk and says he is looking for Sherlock Holmes, they examine his driving license, record his fingerprints, and take photographs of both he and Kali, separately and together. The secretary's daemon is a black panther.
John feels distinctly unnerved.
He is led to a private room where Sherlock is recovering, and is surprised to see Mycroft there, holding one of Sherlock's hands in both of his, head bowed and lips moving. John can't hear them, but he can read lips just enough to make out bits and pieces of what Mycroft is saying.
"...be okay, Sherlock," and then, "a lot of blood, but..." A soft chuckle, face gentling, followed by "What would Mummy think," before Mycroft notices him. His lips stop moving immediately, and he lets go of Sherlock's hand, wiping his own self-consciously on his trousers.
"John," Mycroft says, the picture of polite detachment, and steps around the bed to shake John's hand. It is warm, and just a little bit damp; Sherlock's hands are never sweaty, so Mycroft must be more anxious than he lets on. "How's the head?"
"Fine, thank you. How's Sherlock?"
"He'll wake within the hour, and be released within the next 72. You may sit with him if you'd like. You have one hour." Mycroft makes to leave, then, but John stops him.
"You brought him here because you didn't want the hospitals to know he doesn't have a daemon," he guesses, and Mycroft's eyes widen momentarily before an amused smile lights on his features.
"What makes you say that?" he asks, but it's not a denial.
"It's true, isn't it? That's why I've never seen her. That's why he never talks to her. Something happened, didn't it?" He can feel the knowledge just out of reach, like he's missing a vital piece of a puzzle, one that will make everything fall into place. He's almost right, but not quite, but throwing out wrong guesses helps, because Mycroft's reaction helps him figure out what's wrong.
"I can see why he likes you. However, this is a matter between he and you. Good day, Doctor Watson."
When Mycroft leaves, John puts his hand over Sherlock's and sits in the chair next to his bed to wait.
At minute 36, Sherlock's fingers twitch, and his hand turns over so that their palms are touching. "Mycroft?" He mouths, then frowns. He brushes his thumb against John's fingertips. "John," Sherlock declares, and he opens his eyes. He takes in his surroundings in an instant. "I wasn't expecting to see you here. Mycroft's doing, I imagine. How interfering."
"He had me brought from the hospital when I woke up. He says you'll be out of here in a few days. You need to stop letting madmen shoot at you, Sherlock."
"Hmm. It was an accident. He was less stable than I expected." Sherlock's examining their joined hands, and it is almost reminiscent of the time Mycroft did the same, when they'd first met.
"Yes, well. Losing a daemon is a highly traumatic experience."
Sherlock doesn't look as if he agrees, but they've gone over why Sherlock's opinion of lasting trauma is wrong in regards to the Study in Pink stillborn baby incident, so he'll just have to take John's word for it. "Is talking to Mycroft a highly traumatic experience as well?"
"His assistant's changed her name again. Also, she knew my name. That's... Yeah, a bit traumatic, actually."
They talk for a few more minutes, about Mycroft and the case and what, exactly, John should be telling Lestrade and taunting Anderson with, until his time runs out and a stern-looking doctor (white tiger daemon, not terribly doctor-like) orders him out.
"So, your brother. What shape is his daemon?" John asks as he leaves. It's a rather rude question, but he's curious and Sherlock's never been concerned about etiquette before.
But this time, Sherlock just laughs.
Kali likes Sherlock a lot more than she'd liked Sarah (she hadn't liked Sarah very much at all, in fact). This is unusual, because Kali's never liked anyone John's been attracted to in the past. The best he'd ever gotten before had been a sort of amused acceptance of John's silly urge to spend time with women who weren't interesting enough for them.
Well, at least Sherlock's interesting.
John expects that the first time he kisses Sherlock will be shortly after they get away from some life-threatening situation, while he is so keyed up with adrenaline that his common sense flies out the door, and they will agree later that it never happened.
Or maybe he'll be drunk, and Sherlock will help him to his room, and he'll turn at just the wrong (right) time, and their mouths will brush together, and they will agree that it was an accident. Or there will be a case, where they have to pretend to be lovers, and they will have to put on an act for whoever they're trying to convince, and afterwards they will agree that it meant nothing.
Kali tells him he's overthinking the matter.
In reality, it goes something like this:
It is a Sunday morning two days after their last case – theft of a diamond necklace involving the sale of poorly-made replicas contaminated with contact poisons. He steps out of the shower, towel wrapped around his waist, to see Sherlock leaning against the wall, eyes still half-lidded with sleepiness, hair mussed.
He is looking fondly at Kali, who is lying next to the door, waiting for John. When Sherlock sees John, his eyes dart up and down his body, and something like appreciation flickers in them. He smiles, and it is genuine and relaxed.
"Good morning," Sherlock says, and it feels only natural for John to close the distance between them and press his mouth familiarly to Sherlock's. His lips are warm, dry, and exceptionally soft. Sherlock goes still against him, and does not kiss him back. John jerks away, blushing hard.
"Sorry, I – sorry. I wasn't thinking, I know you said you weren't interested, I didn't – I just – you looked so -"
Sherlock kisses him.
Sherlock kisses like he does everything else – thoroughly, like he needs to absorb as much information as he can, all at once. It's more than a little erotic, being the subject of such focused attention. When they part for air John's breathing heavily and has somehow unbuttoned Sherlock's shirt. He runs his hands over the smooth planes of muscle, and drags his mouth over the pulse point on Sherlock's throat.
Sherlock grabs his wrists when John starts to undo Sherlock's belt. "Wait," he says quickly. "Stop."
John stops, but Sherlock is still relaxed and inviting against him, so he stops fighting the urge he's had for a long time and rubs his face against Sherlock's neck. The skin feels as soft and smells as nice as he's imagined. Sherlock makes a pleased sort of hum, and his thumbs rub small circles on the inside of John's wrists.
"Sorry," John says. "Too fast?"
"Too fast," Kali agrees, and nips at John's bare ankle. "Go get dressed."
John goes to his room, tailed by Kali and Sherlock, and when Sherlock stops just outside the door, Kali does too. "Close the door," she orders. "We want to talk."
With some amount of nervousness, he does.
When he opens the door again, Sherlock is sitting on the floor and chuckling. Kali's head is on his knee and he's scratching behind one of her ears. His breath catches, because oh. Her happiness is a warm thrum of contentment just at the edge of his senses, and there is none of the overpowering sense of invasion he'd felt in the past, the one time someone else had touched her.
It's just nice, and he wouldn't mind it happening more often.
He thinks he might be in love.
Sherlock springs to his feet, and puts his hands behind his back. He looks distinctly ill at ease. "John, I-"
"Do you want to come in?" John interrupts, stepping away from the door, and when Sherlock hesitates, Kali nudges Sherlock's knee with her nose.
They sit next to each other on the bed.
"So, change your mind and decide you're not interested, then?" John says, trying to sound light-hearted about it.
"There's no need for false levity. You're a terrible actor," Sherlock replies, then licks his lips. John can practically see the thoughts racing in his mind as he tries to find the right words. Naturally, interpersonal relationships would be the one thing that strikes Sherlock silent, especially when they involve himself.
"I care about you deeply, but there are things you don't know," Sherlock begins. He presses his hands together, fingers splayed, and stares fixedly at the far wall. "About me."
"Yes," John agrees patiently.
"It is somewhat complicated," he continues.
"Are you going to tell me what it is?"
"Then it doesn't matter much, does it?" John points out reasonably and pulls Sherlock's face close to kiss him. Sherlock returns the kiss, then nips John's lower lip. "Hey!"
"I wasn't done talking. I am also... unsure at the moment, as to how far I would like our physical relationship to proceed. There are things I need to consider, and it is possible that there will be certain acts I am unwilling to perform, up to and including intercourse."
John laughs, because that's the last thing he's expecting to hear. Kali bites his calf viciously, hard enough that he wants to check if she's broken the skin, and that's when he realizes Sherlock was being serious. Shit.
"He didn't mean that," Kali says immediately. She lays her head on Sherlock's thigh. "He says stupid things sometimes. We're sorry." Sherlock cups her chin in his hand, and John shivers a little at the intimacy of it all.
"That's fine. It's fine. Whatever you want to do, it's fine. We can take things as quickly or as slowly as you want," John promises.
"Fascinating. I think you actually mean it," Sherlock says, and kisses him.
-- Epilogue --
20th September 2010, 4:18 AM
Seem to be sexually attracted to John Watson.
20th September 2010, 4:23 AM
Repeat of third year at university?
If so, terminate immediately.
20th September 2010, 3:46 PM
No. May possibly have feelings as well.
24th September 2010, 12:05 AM
Attraction still present?
24th September 2010, 2:33 AM
Confirmed. Also, am in romantic
relationship with him.
24th September 2010, 7:02 AM
As of the 19th September, yes.
Does he know?
24th September 2010, 6:29 PM
No. Should he?
24th September 2010, 8:04 PM
Don't tell him. Intercourse?
24th September 2010, 8:21 PM
Affirmative. Not yet. Opinion?
24th September 2010, 10:19 PM
25th September 2010, 3:14 PM
Pick up your phone.
26th September 2010, 9:27 AM
When your phone rings, please
27th September 2010, 2:28 AM
Car will pick you up at 5 PM outside
flat, this afternoon. Please confirm
appointment, or Mummy will be
notified of the matter and given
27th September 2010, 4:59 PM