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Woe and Arachnids

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John doesn't usually seek out others like him, others who can cough flames or see the future or walk in dreams. Harry does but John's never felt the need to. He doesn't take delight in the darkness the way she does. He'd rather just be normal.

It's easy for him to forget, then, that he's not normal. He has the reactions down right. He knows what is and isn't all right. He's studied people for years. It's second nature to him by now. He has a job at a hospital, a blog, and friends he'd met doing normal, human things like playing rugby and putting his hands in other people's blood. Er, doctoring.

He is normal, mostly. More normal than Sherlock, at any rate.

So he isn't thinking about being different when he sees the biscuits at the table.

No, what he's thinking is that he just got home from work, he's tired, and the biscuits smell delicious. He thinks that Mrs. Hudson must have been baking and that it was very thoughtful of her to bring them a plate of the results.

So he takes one when he passes the plate on the table to get to the fridge, which holds leftovers from the night before. The biscuit's delicious, the sort he's had before but only ever homemade. It's warm and sweet and has just a hint of spice to it -- something that isn't cinnamon, and makes his mouth tingle pleasantly. It reminds him a little of sherbet.

He eats a few more with his dinner then sets the plate aside, knowing that if he doesn't he'll end up eating the rest before the night is through.

By the time Sherlock gets home and notices the missing biscuits, John is writing up several of the cases Sherlock's solved in the past couple weeks.

"John!" Sherlock shouts, and grabs him away from the desk rather rudely. He shakes John's shoulders. "The biscuits on the table! How many did you eat? How many did you eat, John?"

"What? Get off!" John shrugs off Sherlock's hands. "I only took a few. There's plenty left if you want them."

"Are you in pain? How do you feel? Have you vomited yet?" Sherlock's speech is quick, nearly frantic. "We need to get you to hospital right away."

"What are you talking about?" John asks again. Apparently Sherlock has gone even more mad than he already is. "I feel fine." A terrifying thought occurs to him -- because it's Sherlock, because of course he'd do something this fucking stupid. "You put something in the biscuits, didn't you? What did you put in them?"

"Arsenic," Sherlock says. He looks so distressed that John can't find it in himself to give Sherlock a proper thrashing for poisoning food and leaving it out for unsuspecting flatmates. "You need to vomit now and get as much of it out of your system as possible before you start to convulse. Quickly, John!"

It explains the spiciness, at least. He's had food with arsenic before, when he'd been a child -- sprinkled on top of a slice of toast or in the form of soft, chewy biscuits his mother had baked. Now that he thinks about it, that's what the ones on the table had tasted like. He hasn't had any in years, not since the last care package Aunt Morticia had sent him whilst he'd been in Afghanistan (though she tended more towards belladonna).

"You put poison in your biscuits?" John asks incredulously, because at least when he puts poisons in his food, he always takes special care not to let normal people get near them. And as far as Sherlock knows, John's perfectly normal. "Why would you do that?"

Sherlock calms slightly when he realizes John's not alarmed. "I needed to evaluate the effect baking had on different concentrations of arsenic for a case. How long has it been since you ate them?"

John checks his watch. "45 minutes to an hour? I ate them with dinner." His stomach feels a bit warm, but pleasantly so, like taking a shot of whiskey but longer-lasting and without any side effects. "I feel fine," he repeats. "Maybe I ate some that didn't have poison in them?"

"Impossible," Sherlock says, eying John narrowly as if he's expecting John to drop to the floor and start vomiting at any minute.

"I'll let you know if I start to feel ill, I promise. I think if I was really poisoned, I'd have noticed by now."

Sherlock watches him like a hawk for the rest of the night, and when nothing happens by the time John bids him goodnight, Sherlock finally gives up and says, "I don't know why you're not dead. But I'm glad you're not."

The next morning, the rest of the biscuits are in the bin. John's careful not to let on how much that fact disappoints him.

--

John doesn't expect the letter from his Aunt Morticia. He hears from her (and the rest of her family, by extension) sometimes, of course, but Harry's always been better at keeping in touch with family and they've never seemed to mind the lack of reply to their letters or his absences at family reunions.

Dear Cousin John, it begins, hand-written in an elegant, looping script on thick parchment. I've heard from Cousin Harriet about your return to London...

It's several pages long. When he finishes reading it, he goes back to the beginning and reads it again (the contents don't change, but he'd been half-expecting it to).

Oh, he thinks. Oh.

There are words on the page, and none of them are wrong. None of them are even hiding anything, but in the spaces between them, he's found the answer to something he'd wondered a long time ago. The Addams want to send his cousin Wednesday (niece now, because they'd been cousins when they'd been approximately the same age, but now he's closer in age to her parents, and that makes him her uncle) to London to stay with him. For just a week or two to learn more about how Londoners live.

Maybe it's Sherlock's detective skills rubbing off on him, or maybe it's something else.

Because Wednesday has been twelve for a long time and although she hasn't changed, the world has been changing around her. She'd met a boy once. He'd grown into a man while she had remained a girl.

"What are you going to do if you meet another one? One like that one?" John had asked her when she'd told him.

"I don't know," she had replied.

But some time in the last twenty years that must have changed. Something must have changed, because it sounds like Wednesday has just come to realize something John's known for ages -- things can't stay the same forever.

He fishes a sheet of paper out of the printer for his response and writes it with a ball-point pen he grabs from the top of the desk.

Having Wednesday come visit sounds lovely...

--

"Still twelve?" John asks when he meets Wednesday at the airport. Sherlock had been willing to put up with a house guest and when prodded, had even made some efforts to move the worst of his experiments to his bedroom instead of the kitchen. But he'd drawn the line at coming with John to pick up his niece.

She looks at him levelly. "I'm almost thirteen," she corrects. "In three months."

John feels his eyebrows raise. She'd been twelve as long as he'd known her, with no end in sight. "When did that happen?" he asks lightly, as they wait for her suitcase at the baggage claim. "Is Pugsley turning thirteen too?"

"No," she says shortly, and her gaze drops immediately to the ground. "Just me."

Her suitcase is black, like her dress (and her hair, and her shoes). But quite a few of the other cases are black; he figures out which one is hers by the massive tarantula standing on top of it. When it rolls into the carousel, distressed murmurs immediately start up. John grabs the suitcase; the tarantula skitters quickly up his arm. One woman lets out a small scream.

"His name is Horatio," Wednesday declares proudly. Horatio attaches himself to the soft wool of John's jumper and waves his front legs wildly in the air.

"Hello Horatio," John says pleasantly to the tarantula (it doesn't seem to understand him, but the idea that it might hadn't been outside the realm of possibility). It pokes at John's jaw with his front legs, and John blows lightly on it to make it go still.

"He likes you," Wednesday says. From the tone of her voice, John knows she hasn't decided yet whether that means she likes him too, or just the opposite.

--

The way Sherlock looks at Wednesday is a lot like the way a cat looks when its owner brings home a brand new kitten -- surprised and assessing, with just a little bit of but what about me?

"Wednesday, this is my flatmate, Sherlock Holmes. He's a detective. Sherlock, this is my niece, Wednesday Addams."

"Consulting detective," Sherlock corrects sharply. "There's an arachnid in your coat pocket, did you know? And she's not your niece. Your parents were both only children."

John shrugs. "Second or third cousin by blood. My mother's side."

"He's not just any arachnid. His name is Horatio," Wednesday proclaims gravely. She plucks Horatio out of John's pocket when said arachnid starts to crawl out. She cups his body in her hands and offers him to Sherlock. "He eats sparrows. And mice. Would you like to see?"

John knows she's trying to get a rise out of Sherlock -- she'd been the one to teach him how to unnerve people without doing anything obviously supernatural, when he and Harry had stayed in the States with Aunt Morticia and Uncle Gomez. But he trusts Sherlock to hold his own and he's not disappointed.

Sherlock grins genuinely at her. "I'd love to. I have several fetal mice in the fridge. We can warm them in the microwave for him. When did he last eat?"

Wednesday doesn't quite smile, but the corners of her mouth tilt upwards. "I don't know. My mom feeds him. But she doesn't feed him dead things."

"There's a shop a short trip away that sells feeder mice. We could purchase one for him. I don't have any live creatures in the flat at the moment," Sherlock says.

Wednesday breaks out into a grin.

John feels a distinct sense of dread.

--

When he'd been younger, he'd asked her outright -- "Do you even want to know what's normal?" while they were playing Cowboys and Indians (an American game that has something to do with running around a lot, but he'd suspected at the time that most Americans didn't use real bows and arrows).

She'd given him a bored look and said, "As far as I'm concerned, this is normal." Then she'd scalped him.

This time, he has more tact.

"Have you considered wearing something that isn't black?" He asks when he shows her to her room. She's got his room for the duration of her stay in London. He'll be sleeping on the sofa.

Her open suitcase reveals an awful lot of black and very little in the way of color, not counting the dried blood on the miniature battle ax.

"I like black," she says. She digs through her case to bring out a bottle of a dark amber liquid. There are a double-handful of black berries settled loosely at the bottom. She offers it to him. "Mother and father sent this. The berries are belladonna and the brandy's from the cellars next to the dungeon."

John takes it. He has no idea what to do with it, considering he tries not to do anything too abnormal around Sherlock and drinking brandy laced with deadly nightshade will probably reveal things he doesn't want to reveal. And it'd hardly be appropriate to give it to Harry. "Thanks," he says awkwardly. "I'll just... put that somewhere."

"Are you going to drink it?"

"I'll have a taste when Sherlock's not around," John says. Which, really, brings up a whole other issue. "You know Sherlock's not like us."

She nods. "He's like them. He doesn't know you're different."

"He doesn't," John agrees. "And you need to learn how to hide from people that you're different."

She gives him a scathing look. "I'm not stupid," she says. "Mother and father already told me that. I just don't know how."

So he teaches her, because when he'd visited her, he hadn't known how to be different.

She'd taught him how to trap wild boar to feed the cat and how to stare down hungry alligators. She'd shown him how to control his body while decapitated and how to frighten someone to the core without actually breaking any rules.

Now it's his turn, so while Sherlock's out, he sits her down and tells her the short version of what he knows about normal people -- about what they can and can't do, about the fine line between what will and won't be overlooked. Sometimes normal people are a little bit different -- Sherlock is a little bit different, but there is still a line that can't be crossed, the line between weird and impossible.

It's important not to cross that line. Most things she already knows. She stares him down patiently as he says them. It's not enough to never leave proof. It's important to deflect suspicion, because when people are suspicious, they look that much harder.

But she doesn't know the other things -- that sometimes she'll be asked questions, and no matter what anyone tells her, there are right and wrong answers. There are levels of abnormal, ranging from unique to damaged, and it's important to never come across as the latter. He teaches her the right answers, patiently, feeding her the lines he and Harry had figured out when they'd been children.

"It's fine if you slip up a few times," John says. "If you do something unusual, most people will make up a rational explanation for it. But you can't let them think there's something wrong with you, because if they think there's something wrong with you, they're not going to stop until they have proof."

"Most people are stupid," Wednesday dismisses. "What about Sherlock?" Her eyes don't leave the autopsy photographs on John's laptop. Naturally, she shows no indication of actually being surprised or disturbed by them, not even the more graphic ones. But then, she wouldn't be a proper Addams if she did.

"Sherlock -- Sherlock's not like other people. He does it too, sometimes. He plays at being like everyone else when it suits him, and calls himself a sociopath when it doesn't. He sees a lot of what other people don't but he hasn't found out about me yet. Try not to get caught by him, but even if you do, it's all right. Nothing bad will happen."

"Not like Great Aunt Hephaesta? Because when the Puritans found out she was a witch, her children were drowned and she was burned at the stake. I don't want to be burned at the stake. Or drowned."

"Not like Great Aunt Hephaesta. No one's going to get burned at the stake. Or drowned."

"Why not? Is he your boyfriend?"

"What? No, why does everyone -- No. He's not my boyfriend," John says firmly.

"Because it's okay to have a boyfriend if you're a boy. Or a girlfriend if you're a girl." Wednesday looks at him with all the wide-eyed innocence of a child who knows they're being deliberately obnoxious but has plausible deniability in the event that a punishment is meted out.

"I know it's okay. But Sherlock and I aren't -- we're not together like that. He's just a friend," John says. "A good friend. You can trust him."

--

It's not that John's never thought about Sherlock in that way, because he's comfortably bisexual and Sherlock is very attractive. But that's not enough, not really. Wanting isn't enough to risk their friendship, not when he's half-convinced Sherlock isn't interested (not in men, not in women, not in anything). There are things he's never told Sherlock -- things about himself, things about who he is and what he can do -- and that's fine for flat mates but not, he thinks, for lovers. Not for someone he'd be in love with.

He looks, still, because he'd have to be blind not to enjoy looking, but that's as far as it goes. That is the line drawn in the sand. This much, but no more. Sometimes, when Sherlock is relaxed and open and honest to him, close enough to touch (close enough to taste), John has to remind himself about the line.

He's not crossed it yet. He's not sure if he ever will.

--

John doesn't worry when he leaves Wednesday alone with Sherlock for several hours while he runs some errands. After all, he thinks, what's the worst that could happen? He knows for a fact that Wednesday is incredibly hard to kill and he expects even Sherlock will take some care when left to supervise a child.

Which, naturally, means that when he returns with the shopping, he hears not peace and quiet or the sounds of bad telly, but Sherlock's voice saying, "Keep your hand steady. Be careful only to add a small amount." John watches with a sort of horrified fascination as his twelve-year-old niece uses a pair of tongs to pour an Erlenmeyer flask of clear liquid into a beaker of something that immediately turns bright red and begins to bubble and smoke.

He's lived with Sherlock long enough to know better than to startle someone handling dangerous substances (the resultant burn mark is never coming out of the table), so he waits for Wednesday to place the flask back down on the table's surface before clearing his throat loudly. Wednesday startles; Sherlock doesn't.

"Back with the shopping and my dry cleaning, I see," Sherlock says. "Hmm, you brought biscuits. Two packages, one each of chocolate and plain." To Wednesday he adds, "But you don't eat store-bought biscuits, I see."

John rolls his eyes. "Stop showing off, Sherlock," he says and goes to put away the shopping. "Do I want to know what you two were doing?"

"He said the gas wouldn't be poisonous," Wednesday tells him; she drifts closer to watch him put things away. "It wasn't." She sounds disappointed. She probably is.

John slaps the back of Wednesday's hand when he opens the fridge and she reaches immediately for a Tupperware container holding a decomposing foot covered in small wriggly things that apparently weren't maggots. He'd called them maggots when he'd first seen them. Sherlock had tried to correct him until John had threatened to dump them on his bed. "Don't touch those."

"I just wanted to look," she mutters, but puts her hands behind her back obediently. "Are they eating it?"

"You don't need your hands to look," John says, but then Sherlock reaches around him to take the plastic box out of the fridge.

"This is part of a very delicate experiment," Sherlock says, "Regarding the effects of cold temperatures on tissue disposal." There are air holes poked into the lid. Dark, flying things flicker in and out of John's perception, circling around both the foot and Sherlock's hands. Not all of them are there. Some still cling to the contents of the fridge, but the bulk of the swarm gathers around the container.

It's really quite off-putting to take out a carton of milk and have to brush the things away, but John's given up on complaining about it to Sherlock. His flatmate just gives him a blank look and asks where else he should put his highly-important experiments, before reminding John that he's entitled to use half of the fridge as he sees fit.

It's occurred to John that he could just tell Sherlock about it, but he's not even entirely sure that would work. Actually, scratch that -- he's pretty sure that it wouldn't work one iota.

"What are you looking at?" Sherlock asks Wednesday curiously, because it's clear she's looking at something that Sherlock can't see. John has long since learned the art of looking at things that weren't quite real without being obvious about it. Wednesday has not.

She looks at Sherlock, then glances to John, then meets Sherlock's gaze calmly and says, "I don't know. Is that a human foot? Can you take off the lid?"

The look Sherlock levels at John makes it clear that a) he knows Wednesday is lying to him, b) he knows John knows why, and c) he intends to figure it out eventually. But, thankfully, he doesn't bring it up now.

Instead, he lifts a corner of the lid and angles the container downwards to let Wednesday get a good view of its contents.

--

"The sofa hurts your back," Sherlock says from the armchair, while John is trying unsuccessfully to convince himself that the sofa is more comfortable than it actually is. When John opens his eyes, he can see the dim glow of Sherlock's laptop illuminating the room. "You have trouble sleeping on it."

"It's not that bad," John replies. He stretches to ease some of the kinks in his back muscles, then pulls his blankets more tightly around himself. "I've slept on worse in Afghanistan. I just need to get used to it again."

"But until you get used to it, you'll be in physical discomfort." The laptop clicks shut. John hears the rustling of Sherlock rising to his feet.

"Not that much. I can take my sleeping bag out of the closet and sleep on the floor if this doesn't work."

"While you're sleeping here, I can't conduct my experiments."

"You can work on them tomorrow," John reminds Sherlock patiently. Sherlock doesn't sound as if he's complaining. Instead, he sounds like he's planning something, laying out each fact carefully and waiting for John to reach the expected conclusion. "You can't keep me up all night just because you want to mess about with science by yourself."

"Would it be different if you were invited to participate in the experiments with me?"

"No. I need sleep, Sherlock. And that's not what you're trying to tell me, anyway. I know when you're building up to something, so you can just spit it out now and I can go back to sleep."

"You weren't sleeping before."

"I was trying to sleep. That counts."

"Right. Well. Would you rather be in my bed?" There is a very tense moment of awkward silence, before Sherlock breaks it, his words tripping over themselves as he says, "That is to say -- I don't mean -- It's just that I'm not sleeping tonight and I know the sofa's not comfortable enough for you, and if you sleep in my bedroom, the bed will be better for your back. And then I'll be able to use the kitchen for my experiments, and turn on the lights without bothering you, and my bed's perfectly habitable except for the thing with the raw eggs, but I can move that. If you want."

"Oh. Um," John says intelligently. His cheeks burn.

"Sorry. I -- Friends do this, right? Offer use of their things when they're not using them?" Sherlock sounds confused now.

"Not generally bedding," John replies cautiously, but he doesn't want to discourage Sherlock from making an effort towards. And his back and neck will thank him for it in the morning. "But no, it's fine. It's great. If you don't mind, I'd be happy to trade you the sitting room for your bedroom, if you'd rather stay up."

"I would."

The bed smells like Sherlock even though John rarely sees him sleep in it. The bedclothes are soft against his skin -- softer than his own, and much more comfortable. He can see a line of light at the bottom of the door and hear the faint sound of Sherlock's movements in the other room.

He falls asleep within minutes.

--

"Lestrade called. They found a leg, but the body's missing. Coming?" Sherlock's already holding John's jacket loosely at his fingertips and when John looks over, he offers it to him

"I can't leave Wednesday alone in the flat. It's not --" John hesitates. Actually, it'd probably be perfectly safe. The flat is much safer than Wednesday's home in the States, even after taking into consideration John's medical kit and Sherlock's experiments. There isn't very much danger one 12-year-old girl can get up to in a few hours alone in a small London flat.

Still. "I'm not leaving her unsupervised in the flat for God knows how long it'd take."

Sherlock hesitates too now, lips pursing. He's probably remembering the way Wednesday had looked at his chemicals on the kitchen table, John thinks, and figuring out just how much damage they could do.

"I'm sure she'd be fine. She's hardly going to kill herself if left alone for a few hours," Sherlock says at last.

"It doesn't matter if she hurts herself or not," John says, even though he'll admit he's a little worried he'll come home to a flat in flames, or Mrs. Hudson in a panic (especially as Wednesday had let Horatio out in 221C to "make some friends" the other night). "I can't leave my niece home alone at nine at night in order to look at a dead body with you. It's not right."

"Leg. No body, just the leg," Sherlock corrects.

"I could come with you," Wednesday offers. "There's nothing else to do inside now. Sherlock says he'll know if I touch any of your things, and you took away your scalpels."

John had confiscated the scalpels because he'd caught her trying to eviscerate him with them. She'd wanted to see his appendix, during one of the rare hours in the middle of the night where Sherlock had actually gone to bed and John had been on the sofa. She hadn't gotten more than a few steps into the living room before John had woken up.

When she'd explained what she wanted to do, he'd brought her to the bathroom and taken care of the incisions himself, then sighed in resignation and helped her compare his organs to the photographs she'd downloaded onto his laptop. He'd firmly vetoed her suggestion of selling them on the black market even if he could grow them back.

"It's nine at night," John repeats. "Aren't twelve-year-olds supposed to be in bed by then?"

Sherlock shrugs. "I used to regularly stay up past midnight when I was her age."

"You didn't give me a bedtime before. And I'm on vacation, I'm allowed to stay up late. Please? I've never seen a fresh leg before!"

So somehow John finds himself following Sherlock into a crime scene trailed by his niece, her hand firmly grasped in his own to keep her from wandering off. Sherlock had given her some pointers in the cab on how to behave ("You're young still so if you widen your eyes and act frightened, the police will try to comfort you and you won't get in any trouble.").

John's still not sure how he feels about that, seeing as Wednesday had looked entirely too serious when she'd nodded.

The police officer who lets Sherlock past the police tape puts his hand out when John starts to duck under it. John recognizes his face, but doesn't remember his name. "It's a crime scene," the officer says in an undertone, and looks pointedly at Wednesday. "Look, I know you're with Holmes, but you can't bring her in here. It's not meant for children."

"But I want to see," Wednesday says calmly. "It's only a leg, isn't it? I've seen legs before."

"She's my niece," John explains with a tight smile when the police officer gives him a look. He squeezes Wednesday's hand warningly when she tries to wriggle free. "She's staying with us for a little while, and I couldn't leave her alone at the flat." When the officer hesitates, John presses, "Look, you blokes need Sherlock's help to solve this case, and to do that, Sherlock needs my help. You know I'm not trying to cause you any trouble."

The officer looks over his shoulder, towards the house, uncertainly. "I can let you inside the tape, but you can't go into the room with her. I don't want any traumatized kids on my watch," he says, and holds up the tape for them to duck under.

The first person he recognizes is Sally; she stares at him when he approaches her, trailing Wednesday.

"Sergeant Donovan," John greets, and gives her a smile.

Her returning smile is hesitant. "Doctor Watson." She nods at Wednesday. "Who's the girl and why are you bringing her to a crime scene? A crime scene, John."

"This is my niece, Wednesday Addams. She's visiting London and staying with me and Sherlock. Wednesday, this is Sergeant Donovan. She works with Scotland Yard. I'm sorry," John apologizes as an idea hits him. "I couldn't leave her alone in the flat; Sherlock's experiments are disasters just waiting to happen. Would it be possible for you to keep an eye on her while I pop in and look at the leg? Great, thanks!"

He lets go of Wednesday's hand, gives Donovan a bright, grateful smile, and makes himself scarce before she can get a word in edgewise.

Behind him, he hears Wednesday say, in a bright tone John's never heard before that sounds almost natural, "Hi, Sergeant Donovan. Do you have a gun? May I see it?"

Well. It could be worse.

--

Leg, no body. The victim was dead at the time of removal, and the body was stashed here temporarily (based on the long blond hairs Sherlock finds caught in a spot where the floorboards join together unevenly).

John recites his observations aloud, with the occasional correction from Sherlock ("No, someone else painted her toenails, look at the polish distribution. A man, judging from how sloppy it was, and he's never painted toenails before. A woman would have been more careful,") until Sherlock goes abruptly silent.

"--can't tell much else from the leg, really. Not until we can find the body it's -- Sherlock?"

"It looks kind of like the ones on TV," Wednesday says curiously from behind him. "Does it move?"

"No, rigor mortis has set in," John explains, and reminds himself once more that he's not being a terrible uncle and he's not mentally scarring a child. She'd been the one to teach him how to play Wake the Dead, and at least this leg didn't move. Well, not on its own, at any rate.

"Can I touch it?"

"No," John says firmly.

Sherlock looks at her strangely. "How did you sneak past the officer standing guard? He's right outside."

"He wasn't looking very hard," Wednesday says, which isn't, strictly speaking, the truth. There are a lot of shadows at night -- quiet, empty spaces where someone can move unobserved, bending reality just enough to travel through the unseen places like a ghost. John's never been able to figure out how to do it but Harry can and Wednesday too.

Wednesday's eyes track something that isn't there. John follows her gaze.

The things that hover around the severed leg on the bed leg are spiky and ugly, swarming around it with all the irritation of a disturbed hornet's nest. They avoid John and Wednesday but swoop near Sherlock sometimes, diving at him and not veering away until the last minute. As John watches, one of the things even collides with Sherlock's shoulder. It passes through with no loss of speed. Sherlock doesn't seem to notice.

"Is it always like that?" Wednesday asks John, suddenly right at his side. She's hidden herself partially behind him, putting him between her and the things. Her voice is mostly unemotional, but there is something about her that still seems off-kilter. "Like..." she makes a clawing motion with her hands.

Oh, right. Violent death makes the dark things agitated.

John's never figured out just what they were. He doesn't know if the violence creates or only attracts them. But they'd flown in massive swarms in Afghanistan, thick enough to block out the light when he looked in the right way.

They don't bother him anymore. He's used to them. But they bother Wednesday. She stands too close to him, hovering just inside his personal space. She's not actually afraid, he thinks, but she certainly doesn't like them. Perturbed, maybe.

He nods. "A bit, yeah. Do you want to go back outside?"

She rolls her eyes and doesn't move away, wincing a little when another of the creatures lands on Sherlock's shoulder. John notices when she turns off her vision because some of her nervousness fades and her eyes slide back to the leg. "No way. I can't tell Pugsley all about it if I run away. Are you done? How'd she die?"

"Murdered by a man -- possibly a lover, possibly a family member, someone who knew her well," Sherlock begins in a familiar tone. He crouches and angles the leg, giving Wednesday a clearer view of its painted toenails, before he realizes he's talking to a twelve-year-old about pieces from a corpse. He stands abruptly. "You don't need to know the details. I'm done here. John?"

"Likewise," John agrees.

The officer at the door does a double-take when they emerge from the house, Sherlock and John shoulder-to-shoulder with Wednesday tagging along at John's side. Lestrade is off at the edge of the taped-off crime scene, talking to a frantic-looking Sergeant Donovan. Their conversation dies abruptly when they catch sight of the three of them, and Sally steps in front of John while Sherlock goes to discuss his findings with the DI.

"Let me guess," John says knowingly before she can open her mouth. "You took your eyes off her for a second and she just disappeared?"

"So she was with you, then," Sally says, and lets out a breath, looking genuinely relieved. "I'm sorry, I --"

"It's fine," John interrupts, feeling a little guilty for setting her up in the first place. "I thought she might sneak away. She does that sometimes. It's not your fault, and Wednesday's fine. She just wanted to look at the leg with us." He nudges Wednesday with his elbow. "Apologize to Sergeant Donovan for worrying her."

"I'm sorry I worried you," Wednesday parrots obediently, managing to sound at once both grave and insincere.

"You let her look at it?"

"Of course not," John lies easily. "I heard her coming up behind me and stopped her before she could see anything that'd give her nightmares. We talked about getting ice cream later, while Sherlock examined where the leg was placed."

"John's going to buy me two scoops," Wednesday agrees.

"Were you actually planning on getting ice cream?" Sherlock asks when they duck under the police tape to join him. "I know a place that does good gelato."

"No, but I wouldn't mind going," John replies. "Wednesday?"

Wednesday shrugs. "I don't like ice cream from stores. It doesn't taste right. That's not how we eat it at home."

John knows what she's talking about -- a dish of ice cream with small crunchy things mixed into it and arsenic drizzled over the top like syrup. It'd been strangely appealing, but then, almost everything he'd eaten while living with the Addamses had been.

As a result, when he'd moved back to Britain for uni, everything had tasted -- not muted, exactly, but dull. Boring. It'd been three months before he could eat "normal' food again without comparing it unfavorably to what he'd gotten used to in the States.

"It's an acquired taste," John says. "You can have a bit of mine if you don't want your own."

"Ice cream is an acquired taste?" Sherlock asks him skeptically during the walk to the ice cream parlor, while Wednesday skips ahead. "I thought all children liked ice cream."

"Apparently not."

--

At night, after Wednesday has gone to bed, John joins Sherlock in his investigation into the Case of the Severed Leg (which, much to Sherlock's disappointment, might turn out be the Case of the Boring Murderer with a Foot Fetish). They're only doing some minor surveillance on the victim's last-known associates. John expects to get back home within a few hours.

Naturally, everything goes wrong.

Because Sherlock, damn him, is persistent and brilliant but most importantly, possessing of the self-preservation instincts of a depressed lemming. Because the leg turns out to be the first of many body parts about to be found over all of London. Because the briefcase with several of the murder weapons and the list of victims has just gone into the Thames.

Because Sherlock has just gone into the Thames after it.

John hesitates for nearly an entire second before shucking off his coat and leaping in after him.

He hits the water feet first but the impact still feels like a solid blow and he finds himself falling forward with surprise. It knocks the breath from his lungs. The water's cold, unpleasantly so, and his clothes are instantly waterlogged, tangling his limbs. It's too dark to see. The water pulls his head under its surface.

For a moment, he's almost frightened. His lungs are burning and his hands and feet are numb and the water's pulled him down. Except, John realizes abruptly, he feels fine.

He spends so much time trying to be normal that sometimes he forgets that he really isn't.

There's no one here to see him. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. The water rushes into his lungs, cold for a moment before he stops feeling the cold. He stops trying to swim and lets himself sink.

There shouldn't be enough light but he can still, somehow, make out Sherlock in the distance, several yards away. When John reaches him, he realizes two things. Firstly, Sherlock didn't manage to find the briefcase. Secondly, Sherlock's movements are becoming weaker by the second.

He drags Sherlock out of the water and throws him onto the bank. Sherlock's disoriented and uncoordinated enough that when John sits him down heavily, he stays there. The air's chilly but not freezing. John takes a moment to be profoundly grateful that it's not winter.

Then, John dives back into the Thames because there is a briefcase full of evidence to find and if he doesn't get his hands on it, more people will die and a murderer will go free. There is a part of him that's worried -- worried about Sherlock, worried that he's either in too bad shape to be left alone or that he's well enough to be suspicious of John going back into the water after dragging Sherlock out of it -- but he pushes that part of his thoughts firmly away. It's not important, right now.

He has to cheat to find the briefcase.

He talks to the things in the water -- the things that flicker in and out of his awareness and belong to the river. They don't like the unnatural taint he and his kind have brought into the water, killing it with pollution and plastics and chemicals. It takes a moment to make them listen to him, but once they realize he wants to take one of those things away, they are perfectly happy to direct him to where the briefcase has fallen, a random spot on the floor of the river completely indistinguishable from all the other ones.

He can feel them tugging at him. It's not a physical touch so much as a push, in his mind, making his hand reach out without conscious command from himself.

All told, it takes him nearly fifteen minutes to find the briefcase and get out.

He doesn't come up for air a single time.

--

When they get home, Wednesday comes out of her bedroom to meet them, small and sleepy in her black nightgown. Horatio perches in the crook of her arm, clutched to her chest like a teddy bear. She does not look especially surprised or bothered to see John dripping wet, but she stares at the way Sherlock shivers and his teeth chatter.

"What's wrong with him?" she asks, and Horatio's legs flail in the air when her grip tightens.

"He fell into the Thames. It's freezing even at this time of year," John explains as he herds Sherlock into the bathroom, stripping off his outer layers. "Go back to bed."

She ignores the command, following him as far as the door to the bathroom. "Is he going to be okay?"

"He'll be fine," John promises. "Go to sleep. He'll be better in the morning."

She hesitates. "Do you need any help?"

"A change of clothes from my dresser would be lovely," John says, to give her something to do, and she rushes off with all the enthusiastic determination of a child entrusted with an important mission.

Sherlock doesn't become properly responsive until after John's given him a lukewarm bath, helped him into dry clothes, and set him firmly in front of the fire with a blanket over his shoulders and a mug of tea in his hands.

"He's still shivering," Wednesday says to John, her mouth twisted into a confused, unhappy frown. John's made a mug of tea for her as well, but she hasn't touched it. "But isn't he warm now? Isn't he okay yet? Is he dying?"

Once, when they were children, John and Harry had grabbed Wednesday when she was half-asleep, gagged her and weighed her down with chains, then thrown her into the swamp. It had taken an hour for her to get back on dry land. When she finally had, she'd spat a mouthful of swamp water on Harry's skirt and pushed her into a nest of alligators.

They'd all been fine after a good wash and a change of clothes.

"He's fine. He just needs some time to get warm again. It takes a while for a human body to recover," John explains, realizing belatedly that she's probably never seen a normal person get hurt, not for real. He gives her a hug and she clings to his shirt, burying her face against his chest.

She doesn't protest when John lets go and tells her to keep an eye on Sherlock while he takes a hot shower.

Mostly for curiosity's sake, John checks his temperature before stepping into the hot spray. His hands are looking a bit pale and he isn't sure if he's cold. He probably ought to be, but he feels just fine.

He's at twenty-one degrees. Room temperature. Interesting.


Afterwards Sherlock, very haltingly, makes some vague motions with his hands. He nods at John and says uncomfortably, "You pulled me out of the Thames. And -- the evidence, you found it."

John seriously considers yelling at Sherlock some more about jumping into massive rivers in the middle of the night and being completely fucking inconsiderate by scaring the hell out of people who care about him. But he thinks Sherlock's learned his lesson from the guilty, uncomfortable looks he keeps shooting John at the way Wednesday is unwilling to let Sherlock out of her sight, shadowing him as if her presence can keep him from doing stupid things in the future.

"Don't mention it," John says, and when Sherlock opens his mouth, he says it again. "Seriously. Don't mention it. And don't ever do it again."

--

"His name was Joel. He was Jewish," Wednesday says out of the blue, during a quiet evening where Sherlock has gone to check on his homeless network.

John looks up from his laptop. Wednesday's on the sofa, one of John's medical textbooks open on her lap, but she's not looking at it. Instead, she's studying her hands. "The boy you met?" he asks cautiously.

She nods. "We had a nanny after Pubert was born. She tricked mom and dad into sending us to summer camp."

"And you met him there?" John does the math. He'd heard about the youngest addition to the Addams family around when he'd first started med school. This must have been nearly twenty years ago. "What happened?"

"Nothing. We -- I liked him. He made it more bearable. After it was over, he came to visit for Pubert's first birthday. He was older than me, and he kept getting older. But I didn't. Pugsley didn't want to." She shrugs, still staring at her fingernails. "Pugsley didn't like him much after that, and I couldn't explain why I still wasn't in high school or why I couldn't see him anymore or why I was still twelve, so we stopped talking. He probably doesn't remember me anymore."

"I'm sorry," John says.

"He's a lawyer now," Wednesday continues. "I looked him up. He's married. He has a kid. He's thirty. I'm just twelve." In a smaller voice, she adds, "I don't want to be twelve anymore."

"You don't have to be. That's why you're here, isn't it?"

She looks up at him then, and grins. "Yeah."

--

The last thing John teaches Wednesday, before she leaves, is pain. He shows her how to take a wound and make it real, how to shift the world until she follows its laws. He makes a shallow cut in his hand and lets the pain come. Blood comes to the surface slowly, fresh and brightly red. It hurts, but not very much.

"Now you," he says, and carefully slices the center of her palm with the knife.

She's had worse. Guillotines, spiked pits, and electric chairs had all been things she'd played with in the past. John knows from experience. This is different, only a small nick in the skin, but as soon as the bead of blood wells up, her face twists and she closes her hand into a fist, drawing it back to her chest.

"I don't like it," she says and shakes her head. "I don't want to do it."

"No one likes it," John says gently. "But sometimes, you'll have to let it happen. You can't let outsiders know you can't be hurt. If you do, they'll take you apart to find out what makes you different." Great Aunt Hephaesta, burned at the stake and her children drowned.

"I don't care. It hurts and my hand's leaking and it's gross. Is it always like that?"

John had been four years older than her when they'd first met. Now, he's more than old enough to be her father. He feels more than old enough to be her father. He barely remembers a time when he hadn't understood just how fragile people could be. How mortal he still is, because he sees the reminder of that every day when he steps out of the shower and catches sight of his scar in the mirror.

He strokes her hair and she makes an unhappy noise. Her thumb rubs firmly at her palm. She's making the wound larger, stretching out the edges of the cut and pressing against the nerve endings. But the pain's off now, so John doubts she even knows she's doing it.

"Normal people don't get a choice. They can't turn it off, not like you and I can." He turns her hand over and pinches the edges of the incision together. It's only a small cut and seals shut on its own.

"The games you play with Pugsley, you already know you can't play them with normal people," he says. "This is why. This is what it feels like for them when you do -- only worse, because that was nothing. The stuff you do -- vivisection, decapitation, poison, all those things are fatal, and normal people can't ever come back."

"I know that," she mutters, sullen.

"Do you?" he presses. He feels guilty over what he says next, but it has to be said. "This is what it's like for them. Always. If a normal person dies, you can't ever talk to them again. You can't talk to their ghost, because they won't leave one. You can't put them back in their bodies, because it doesn't work. If they're dead, they're gone forever."

"Even Sherlock?"

John's hesitation is answer enough.

--

At the airport, Wednesday releases Horatio just before going through airport security. "There's a flight to Brazil that leaves in three hours," she says. "It's time for him to go home and start a family."

John considers how much damage a possibly supernatural tarantula could do in an airport. If ignored? None. If anyone notices it? Well, that's another story. He scoops it up before anyone notices. "You probably shouldn't do that here," he says.

"Do you want him to die cold and alone?"

"No," John says patiently, and hands Horatio back to her. "But there are better ways of sending a tarantula to Brazil. Ones that don't involve scaring an airport's worth of people."

She takes Horatio back and looks around her at the people giving her and Horatio a wide berth. "What if I can get him on the plane without anyone seeing him? Is that okay?"

John thinks about it. "As long as you remember the first rule."

"Don't get caught?"

"Don't get caught."

--

After Wednesday's gone, John moves back into his bedroom. It's for the best really, because he'd been spending nearly half of his nights sleeping in Sherlock's bed while the man did whatever it is he did at three in the morning.

Read, probably.

He can't sleep, the first night. The bedclothes smell too freshly-laundered and they don't feel as soft against his skin as Sherlock's had. He'd never actually shared Sherlock's bed with him, just used it when he wasn't sleeping, so it doesn't make sense for him to feel lonely now that he's in his own bed again.

But it still takes him over an hour to fall asleep.

Sherlock brings it up the next morning ("You didn't have nightmares last night, but you still got less sleep than your usual"), but if he knows the reason why, he doesn't comment on it.

--

Sherlock spends some time observing John after Wednesday leaves. It feels a bit like being put under a microscope, every time he catches Sherlock at it. But aside from a single comment ("Did Wednesday seem a bit strange to you?", to which John had replied, "She's not a typical twelve-year-old girl, if that's what you mean"), Sherlock doesn't say anything about it, and life continues as usual.

Sherlock's not the sort of come to a conclusion without making a huge production of it, so John assumes he's more or less in the clear, as far as his paranormal tendencies are concerned.

Which is why John's so very annoyed at finding himself and Sherlock in a locked cage in the basement of an office building.

"They're going to shoot us when their leader arrives," John says. He tugs on one of the bars. Nothing happens. "Any plans for getting us out? Picking the lock, maybe?" They'd taken his gun, of course.

"They missed one of my knives," Sherlock replies. "But it's too large to fit int the mechanism. I need..." Sherlock looks around the room, before jumping up abruptly. "I need that, the pen on the ground, and the wire binding from one of the notebooks. Several, preferably."

He drops back to the floor, reaching his arm through the bars. His reach is too short by a good three or four feet, which only makes sense, really. Their captors must have known about Sherlock's skills (or they spent a lot of time locking up people who could pick locks). There are a few feet's worth of clearance all around the perimeter of the cage.

John drops to his knees and sticks his arm between the bars too. He can't fit his entire arm between the bars as Sherlock can, but he gets a little past his elbow before he gets stuck. All he gets for his troubles is a smear of dust on his palm.

His pockets are empty -- wallet, keys, and phone all taken. He spares a moment to be annoyed at possibly having to replace everything. Again. Assuming they live through this.

"We could tie our shoes together by the laces and use them to extend our reach," Sherlock says thoughtfully, but he doesn't sound too enthused about the idea. "Or tie our clothes into a rope. Or, we could tie our belts together and try that."

"I don't think that works outside of bad telly programmes," John points out. And even if it did, he's not entirely confident the added reach from a belt would be enough to catch onto and drag over what they need. He licks his lip, considering. "How big is that knife you have, exactly?"

"The blade's several inches long. I could probably hit anyone who opened the door, but then I wouldn't have a knife anymore and I doubt I'd be able to throw it with enough force to kill somebody before they pulled the trigger of a gun."

Well. There is another way. It'd be cheating, and then Sherlock would know, but John's okay with that, if it gets the two of them out of here. "There is one thing I could try," John says hesitantly. "Can I see the knife?"

Sherlock hands it to him. It's a pretty standard switchblade, and fits easily in his palm. When he opens the blade, it is, as Sherlock said, several inches long. He compares it to the thickness of his wrist thoughtfully, then to the width. Sherlock snatches the knife from his fingers.

"Hey! I was using that!" John protests.

Sherlock looks at him. He doesn't give back the knife. "What for? You looked like you were about to slit your wrists. We're not being monitored; if you were to hurt yourself in hopes of drawing our captors back into the room to treat you, I assure you, it wouldn't work."

"That's not what I was planning." Not exactly.

"What were you planning? Something you don't want to tell me, that you're -- not afraid, but uncomfortable, to say. Something to do with bringing a knife to your wrist, and I'm not stupid, I know you're not contemplating suicide right now. Something that will get us out. But how would you get out with only a knife? I've thought of all the possibilities already."

"Not all of them," John says uncomfortably. "I think I can get what you need. Just give me the knife. Do you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you," Sherlock replies. He looks suspicious but gives John back the knife.

"Just --" John grits his teeth. "Just don't say anything, and don't freak out, all right? Trust me. I'll be fine. It won't even hurt."

Sherlock opens his mouth, but before he can ask what won't hurt, John draws the blade smoothly but firmly through the layers of skin and muscle covering the underside of his right wrist, cutting straight to the bone. Sherlock immediately yanks the knife out of his hand, again.

"Damnit, Sherlock!" John snaps. "I told you to trust me. It's fine, look." He holds out his wrist.

The skin is parted cleanly, revealing sliced-through skin, fat, muscle, and the tiniest hints of bright, white bone underneath. It's not bleeding, even though the veins in his wrist are clearly severed. John can see the blood but it stays right where it belongs instead of leaking out. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't feel specially at all, really, except for maybe a little bit chilled from the air.

Sherlock stares, gone even more pale than his usual ghostly countenance. As John watches, he brings a tentative finger to the cut and when John doesn't object, touches it lightly. "Does it hurt?"

"No," John says, and takes back the knife without resistance. It's harder to cut through the joint, but eventually he manages it, though his wrist makes several sick snapping noises. The resultant split is jagged and rough, nothing at all like the smooth plane of Cousin Thing's stump. Still not bad for being the first time he's done it in years, and the first time ever that he's used a switchblade instead of a proper implement.

Sherlock looks distinctly green about the gills. He starts when John tries, and manages, to close his severed right hand into a fist. "That's impossible," he breathes.

"It can't be impossible," John says, and turns his hand over in an imitation of what he's seen Cousin Thing do. It's not as hard as he'd worried it'd be, and he's able to crawl his hand in a quick circle, then straight between the bars of the cage. "I'm doing it right now. What did you want, a pen and a couple of those notebooks?"

"That's not how the human body works," Sherlock complains, aggrieved, as if John's actively making an effort to offend his sensibilities. "The brain sends minute electrical signals to the muscles, which cause them to contract. But the signal can't pass through air, and the nerves and muscles in your hand aren't even connected to the rest of your body. And you're not bleeding, why aren't you bleeding?"

John grabs the pen between his ring and pinky fingers, then walks his hand to the box of notebooks Sherlock had been reaching for. "I don't know," he says absently. "I never really thought about it before."

"Why are you moving your arm? It doesn't make sense for your hand to be affected by the position of your arm if there's a dozen feet between them." Sherlock grabs John's forearm and holds it still.

"You're making it harder to turn," John complains.

"Am I? Fascinating." He lets go.

John uses his left hand (which is still connected to his body) to pick up the notebook with the pen tucked into its binding when he pushes them close enough to the bars of their cage with his other hand. He hands it to Sherlock. "Is this enough, or should I grab a second one?"

Sherlock stares at the stump at the end of John's forearm. John has to fight the urge to put it behind his back. "Three or four total would be ideal, and another pen if you can reach one."

John's able to get the remaining things Sherlock needs to rig up a set of lock picks capable of breaking them out of a prison cage, and soon the door is swinging open with a squeaky groan.

"What are you going to do about your hand? Can you just --" Sherlock mimes putting the two ends together.

Normally, maybe, but there's dirt caught in his wrist. He'll need to rinse it clean before he can reattach his hand. By the time John gets back home to do that, enough time will have passed that the ensuing join will need time to strengthen back to its previous levels.

"I'll probably need some stitches for a while," John admits. "For now, I'll have to just carry it with me."

Except that he doesn't have his jacket, and it feels much too strange when he slips it into the pocket of his trousers. He tries hooking his fingers into one of his belt loops, but that leaves him with a severed hand hanging from his belt, which looks... suspicious, to say the least.

"You don't have anywhere to carry it that will hide its existence," Sherlock says while John's still trying to think of an alternative. "You can hide your wrist by pulling down the sleeves of your jumper, which I see you've already done, but the hand itself will be more conspicuous. My coat pocket would probably be the best place for it."

"You don't mind? I know it's strange, and I don't want to --"

"I don't mind," Sherlock insists, but he still twitches when John slips his hand into Sherlock's inner coat pocket, and tenses each time John's hand bumps against his chest.

But shortly after that, Sherlock detects the footsteps of their captors coming back for them and it is time to run, so John stops thinking about it.

He doesn't think about his hand in Sherlock's coat at all, until they've escaped, contacted the authorities, and managed to find a taxi that will take them back to Baker Street. It's only then, in the taxi, that he realizes his right hand is pressed flat against Sherlock's chest, memorizing the steady rise and fall of his breath.

--

Sherlock insists on watching John stitch his hand back to its wrist. John's not sure how he feels about this. The need for secrecy runs deep. "Do you have to?" he asks.

Sherlock looks about two seconds from pouting at him. His previous horror as John's revelation seems to have mostly faded. "In the interests of science, yes. May I have a tissue sample?"

"No. No tissue samples and no cutting me apart, because I know you're thinking it," John says firmly, fishing about one-handed through his medical kit until his fingers close on the sutures and thread. "Here, I need my hand back."

Sherlock looks at him. "Should I just," he begins, and reaches tentatively into his coat pocket. He starts when their fingertips touch, then grabs John's right hand firmly and brings it out. Sherlock's palm is warm and dry against the back of his hand. His fingertips press into John's palm. John endeavors to keep his hand still. "It's warm."

"Body temperature," John agrees. "Are you -- are you all right with this? I imagine most people would have run away screaming by now."

"If I run away screaming, I won't be able to figure out how it works," Sherlock replies. He turns John's hand over and looks at the jagged part where John had had to hack away at the joints to split his hand from his wrist. "And you're not in pain?"

"No, but I'm rather fond of having two opposable thumbs, so if you could please? Just put it on the table, that's fine."

Sherlock does so and watches John swab the join site with an antiseptic wipe. "Do you have to worry about infection?" he asks curiously.

"No, but it itches if there's anything caught in the middle -- dirt or dust, mostly, and doesn't always stick." He braces his hand on the table then presses his wrist against it, twisting and adjusting minutely until the ends fit perfectly together. The first stitch goes in easily, neatly.

"How long have you been able to do this?"

"As long as I can remember." The next few stitches go just as easily in as the first.

"Harry knows, then." It's not a question. "Who else? Can she do it too?"

John looks at Sherlock, then, at the fascination in his face and the curiosity in his eyes. And he does trust Sherlock. He trusts Sherlock with his life. The question, though, is if he trusts Sherlock with his sister's life too. "You know you can't tell anyone about this. I mean it, Sherlock. If word gets out... I don't want to end up strapped to a lab table being cut open by scientists."

Sherlock looks at him blankly. "But it wouldn't hurt."

"Not the point," John says firmly, and then more uncertainly, "You do understand that, right? That if the wrong person finds out, I can end up an experiment in a government laboratory somewhere, where I'd never --"

"I know," Sherlock interrupts. "I'm not a child. I know what might happen to you if you're indiscreet, and I know there are people who would want to experiment on you without taking your well-being and happiness into account."

There's a 'but' hanging at the end of that sentence. "But?" John asks.

Sherlock, much to his surprise, flushes lightly. He drops his gaze to the ground, suddenly and uncharacteristically shy. "I'd take your well-being and happiness into account. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't do anything that would make you unhappy."

"You make me unhappy all the time," John says automatically, because it was not very long ago that they'd had a row over Sherlock's tendency to take and use John's things without asking, and that wasn't even taking into consideration the fact that John is the one who has to take out the rubbish and do all the shopping.

"But not like that," Sherlock says, and there's something different in his voice. It sounds like he's saying something else.

"No, not like that," John agrees, and his face prickles with heat even as he ties off the stitches and flexes his wrist. "I know."

--

"It's hereditary," John says. He's already cut the stitches from his wrist. He'd only kept them overnight, to ensure he'd healed correctly. His hand feels fine, and when he tugs on it, nothing happens.

"What is?" Sherlock lies on the sofa, fingers steepled over his chest. His eyes are closed and John spots several nicotine patches on the underside of his arm.

"The things I can do. Harry can, and so can my mum."

"And Wednesday too, I imagine," Sherlock says. He opens one eye to peek at John. "You took the stitches out. Don't need them anymore?"

"No, I just wanted to make sure my hand wouldn't fall off in the night, if I tossed and turned. And, yes. Wednesday, and her entire family too. They're -- well, they're a bit... strange. Even more than you are."

"Really? How so?" Sherlock props himself up on his elbows, eyes gleaming with interest.

"Cousin Thing is literally a severed hand, Cousin Fester spent twenty-five years in the Bermuda Triangle and can light light bulbs with his mouth, and Uncle Gomez drinks arsenic straight from the bottle. Well, everyone does that, I suppose. It's served at the family reunions."

Sherlock perks up in a way that make John very uncomfortable. "Family reunions?"

John thinks about Sherlock at one of the family reunions -- talking with Aunt Morticia about the many ways to kill someone, or meeting Lurch, or trying to deduce what's under Cousin It's hair. He shudders. "No. Absolutely not. Just, no."

"But --"

"No. Not on your life. Not on my life."

"But --"

"No."