Sherlock the Demon Hunter
Sherlock was bored. Not as bored as he’d be if he’d given in to John’s whingeing and gone to the end reception of the forensics conference John was attending. Trying to be polite to hundreds of terminally dull people was beyond his capability. And whilst being impolite to those same hundreds would have been vastly more entertaining, John would sulk.
It bothered Sherlock that he was altering his behavior for John, but there it was. He kept trying not to do it, and then, there he’d be, taking John into account. It was one of the mysteries about the man that Sherlock had yet to unravel.
The hotel room had quickly lost its charm, and the inhabitants of the hotel bar were too vapid for words. It was probably a good thing John had insisted on leaving his gun in England, or Sherlock might be shooting up the lobby for entertainment.
He stood out on the curb in Lexington, Massachusetts, the city they’d been staying in for the last five days. John had mentioned something about its historical significance, but Sherlock had deleted it immediately.
Up until now, Sherlock had entertained himself by sneaking into many of the lectures of the conference and silently, for the most part, mocking the speakers. No wonder Anderson was such a git, if this was the best the world had to offer. Come evening, John had kept him company. Tonight was the first night Sherlock had been left to his own devices.
What Sherlock needed was a good juicy murder. In a world of Sherlock’s making, one of those boring professors, preferably one of whom John wasn’t particularly fond, would be found in his locked hotel room with his ring fingers cut off and gone missing, and some obscure mark sliced into his forehead.
John would not approve of Sherlock’s thoughts.
It was not as if Sherlock had any intention of committing the crime, but he did love to fantasize about it. Sometimes he wished he was a touch more psychotic versus sociopathic. He’d have been such an elegant serial killer. They’d have written books about him.
His phone chirped at him.
“Reception done. Off to bar. Sure you don’t want to come?” JW
“Boring.” Sherlock texted back.
“Try 2 stay out of trouble,” was the response.
Sherlock snorted, and glanced at his watch: just before midnight. With this being the last night, John had decided to go drinking with some of his mates. Sherlock frowned. He didn’t like sharing John. Another mystery.
A light in the distance caught his attention. Just a flash and it was gone. He saw it again. Curious, Sherlock moved silently in its direction. He didn’t see the flash of light again, but he had an unerring sense of direction and quietly made his way through some trees, over a fence, until he found himself in a cemetery.
Intrigued now, although he was half afraid he’d simply find two young lovers in the midst of a tryst, his eyes sought out a glimpse of the light. Instead, he heard a steady set of noises. Sherlock couldn’t immediately identify them. He stopped to listen intently. It took a minute for the sounds to mesh into something that made sense, and the thump, slide, thump, slide, thump noises eventually formed themselves into a picture of someone digging.
Someone digging in the middle of the night in a cemetery? How delightful. Sherlock continued his quiet walk toward the noise, passing tombstones on his right and left, his eyes unable to read much of the marble text in the limited light of the crescent moon.
He crouched behind a large stone when his quarry was before him. It was difficult to determine the man’s age from this distance, but there was no doubt he was digging up a grave. His rapid movements and economy of motion spoke of long experience in the process.
Sherlock was being eaten alive by his curiosity, so he stood up and strode over to the man. “Are you an actual grave robber?” This was brilliant. Sherlock had never had an opportunity to speak to a grave robber.
The man barely startled, something that impressed Sherlock. He found himself being assessed in a fashion similar to that which Sherlock engaged when meeting someone new. The man’s eyes flicked over him, assessed him, and then he had the temerity to roll his eyes and go back to his digging.
Sherlock frowned. He could only assume that the man’s assessment of him had determined him harmless. He let that insult go in order to move back to the topic at hand. “If you are not robbing this grave, why are you digging it up?”
“None of your fucking business.”
Many delicious choices ran through Sherlock’s brain. Necromancy, necrophilia, revenge. Hopefully nothing as plebian as a practical joke. “Is it a family member?”
The man snorted. “Yeah, my old granny.”
Sherlock took that for the sarcastic lie it was and moved closer to get a good look at the tombstone. It read:
Here lies Iphiginia Cloud
Beloved daughter, beloved wife, beloved mother
It dawned on Sherlock that he might be able to see the bones of a 160 year old corpse. He’d seen old skeletons, of course, but not in situ. Very exciting. “Need some help?”
The man sent him a look of incredulity, but then it quickly turned into a shrug, and a chin point to a second shovel. “Help yourself.”
“Excellent.” Sherlock shed his coat, counting on the exertion to keep him warm, and picked up the other shovel. He watched for a few moments, getting the rhythm of the other man’s efforts, before digging in, in counterpoint.
It took more exertion than Sherlock expected, his respect for grave diggers rising. “Do this a lot?”
“Does it pay well?”
A derisive laugh. And no answer.
“May I inquire as to your name?” Sherlock broached.
“Pleased to meet you Dean, I’m Sherlock.”
He got an amused look this time. “Did you get beat up all the time when you were a kid?”
“The potential was there, but I discouraged that sort of thing.”
“Black belt in Jujitsu. Plus a remarkable aptitude for the art of revenge.”
Dean snickered. “Where’re you from?”
“London. You? Are you from this area?”
“No. Don’t really have a home. Except her,” he added, jerking his head to indicate behind him where a long black car was parked.
“Remarkable.” Sherlock had spent some dodgy nights sleeping in less reputable areas of town when he’d been at the worst of his drug days, but he’d always had a roof over his head. “Do you like it? Not having a home?”
Dean focused on his digging and didn’t say a word.
Sherlock considered pushing, then decided being hit on the head with a shovel would hurt, and applied himself as well.
Between the two of them, they made good progress, and it was Sherlock’s shovel that hit the roof of the casket first. “Now what?” he asked.
“Clean the dirt off; I need to get it open.” Dean pulled himself out of the grave, and Sherlock could hear him rummage around. He looked up and saw Dean standing at the edge of the grave looking around attentively, in a way that clearly communicated the expectation of trouble.
“Not yet, but she will.”
“The bitch who’s buried here.”
That seemed oddly harsh for a twenty-eight year old who’d been buried over a century ago. “Do you have a reason to hate her?”
“She’s been killing people.”
“Ah,” said Sherlock. He hadn’t considered up to this point that Dean might be a nutter. “Who, exactly?”
“Is the dirt all cleared off?”
“Good. Smash open the lid.”
Sherlock could hardly stop now, so he did as told, and slammed the tip of the shovel into the wood. It easily splintered under the assault. It was the work of only a few moments to clear the wood away, revealing the skeleton buried within, wrapped in scraps of clothes that disintegrated at his touch. Sherlock crouched down to study her. He gently touched her hand, noting that she’d already started to develop arthritis. She was smaller than an average woman would be today, but that didn’t tell Sherlock much. She might just have been a small woman.
“Get out,” Dean directed him.
“I haven’t finished studying her.”
“You’ll be meeting her in a minute if you don’t get out of there so I can burn her bones.”
“What?” Sherlock burst out. “You can’t be serious. These bones should be studied.” He could study the rate of decay; do some carbon dating of his own, make deductions of her nutritional status based on bone composition.
Dean held up a can of gasoline. “I’m pouring in about five seconds, whether you’re in or out.”
Frustrated, Sherlock turned his body enough to hide from Dean the fact that he was taking the right proximal metacarpal that had been severed from the rest of the hand, probably due to the impact of the shovel. Surely his labors had been worth the price of a single bone. He quickly stood and accepted help from Dean to scramble out of the grave, slipping the bone into his pocket.
Rather than the gasoline, Dean sprinkled a white powder over the bones. Coarse and granular.
“Salt?” Sherlock inquired.
“You’re salting and burning the bones?” Sherlock was intrigued. “They used to salt the earth of an enemy’s land to cause it to turn fallow.”
“Uh huh,” Dean said. “Whatever.” He doused the skeleton with gasoline. “I just don’t want her to kill anyone else.”
“How does she kill people? She’s dead.” Sherlock said the last bit cautiously, just in case it jarred too unpleasantly with Dean’s current view of the world.
“Not completely.” The match dropped and the corpse burst into flame. “Adios, bitch,” Dean said. His shoulders had relaxed a bit, and there was a pleased look of satisfaction on his face.
Sherlock had started to cool after he’d stopped the shoveling, so he was grateful for the warmth coming from the grave. The gasoline burnt quickly, and the flames died down to a steady but low fire as the corpse continued to burn. He fingered the bone in his pocket. Shame, really. He’d have liked to study the entire corpse at length. It would have been something he and John could have done together, although John would no doubt have been squeamish about the grave robbing part.
A wind blew up from nowhere and Sherlock felt a prickle of primal dread crawl down his spine. He turned, fully anticipating finding some large, rabid, wild animal, intent on a kill, or armed thugs wanting whatever treasure they’d discovered.
There was nothing there.
“What the fuck?” Dean said. He glanced into the grave, then at the tombstone. “I know it was her.”
The wind whipped around them both this time, pushing Sherlock dangerously near the edge of the grave. Dean, in an astonishing and gratifyingly quick move, managed to get to Sherlock’s side and grab his arm, pulling him away from danger.
Sherlock spun around, trying to identify the source of the danger, because there certainly was danger; he’d been near it often enough to know what it felt like. His heart was racing, and he was having the time of his life. He thought about asking Dean what he should be on the lookout for, but it was much more fun to figure it out on his own.
John would not approve and would, no doubt, yell at him about this later. Sherlock grinned. Something to look forward to.
He was suddenly picked up like a rag doll by some unseen force and slammed into the nearest tree. Through the pain and momentary immobility, he could feel, honestly feel, a malevolent force. He managed to land on his feet, ignoring the throbbing ache in his back that would certainly be black and blue in the morning. Sherlock saw Dean holding a metal rod in front of him as something amorphous moved in his direction.
It slowly took on the shape of a woman, though her face was distorted by rage. The edges of her body shorted in and out, similar to a light bulb trying to blow or a stop motion film. Her teeth were sharp, like shark’s teeth; her hair was long and stringy as if not brushed after a restless night.
Sherlock took a step toward Dean, trying to understand what he was seeing. Had he hit his head hard enough to cause a hallucination? Dean let out an, “Eat this, bitch,” and began to swing the metal rod. She put her hand up and sent him flying much as she had Sherlock. He smacked into the marble wall of a mausoleum but, rather than fall to the ground, he hung on the wall, as if glued to the surface.
From one instant to the next, the creature was in front of Dean and he was groaning in pain. Sherlock couldn’t see what she was doing so he moved closer. “Tell me what to do,” he demanded. He tried to shove her away but ran right through her, staggering as he came out the other side.
That was when he saw that her hand was in Dean’s chest. But that couldn’t be right, because Dean was still alive.
Dean groaned. “Get the thing,” he gasped out.
The thing? “The thing?” Sherlock snapped out. “Some clarity would not go amiss at this particular point.” What was she?
“The crow bar,” Dean bit out through gritted teeth. He let out an anguished cry.
There was blood on his chest, but not as much as there would be if an actual woman had an actual fist in his chest. Sherlock was captivated. Crow bar, he thought to himself, half glancing at the ground, half unable to stop staring at this new phenomena. Ah. “This?” He held up the crow bar.
“Are you fucking retarded?” Dean yelled. “Hit her with it.”
“Yes, goddamn it! Now!”
Sherlock swung it right through her middle, again with too much force, and Dean’s arm unfortunately took much of the blow, even if her body seemed to entirely dissipate. Sherlock glanced at the crow bar in astonishment. “Why did that work?”
“Iron,” was all Dean said, as he slithered to the floor, his hand over his chest. “What took you so fucking long?”
Iron. Remarkable. This was all so different from anything Sherlock had ever experienced. In the last year, Sherlock could count on one hand, actually, on one finger, the things in his life that were truly different, and that was John. Well, and Moriarty, Sherlock had to concede, but he was dead, and he’d hurt John, so Sherlock hated to grant him the accolade of ‘different’.
“Watch out!” Dean told him, and Sherlock spun, swinging the crow bar through the creature again, watching as, again, she vanished like a wisp of smoke.
“I think you broke my fucking arm,” Dean complained.
“Nonsense,” Sherlock said. “I didn’t hit you that hard.” However, he took out his phone and texted John. “I need you in the cemetery across the street from the hotel. Come immediately.”
He scanned the area for the return of the creature, but all was still. His phone chirped. John’s response was short. “No.”
“Someone’s hurt. My fault.” Sherlock texted back.
“If you’ve dug up a grave, I will hurt you,” was John’s response.
Sherlock smiled and slid his phone back in his pocket. “My friend will be here soon. He’s a doctor.” He moved over to Dean and crouched down. “Are you badly hurt? What was she doing to you?”
“Trying to rip out my heart.”
“Your heart?” That was ridiculous. “Her hand was in your chest. If she was after your heart, she would have succeeded.”
“Right, because you’re such an expert on fighting angry spirits,” Dean said sarcastically.
“Sherlock?” came a distant holler from John.
“Over here,” Sherlock called back. He held up his phone and turned it on. “Do you see my phone?”
He could hear John mutter, and it made Sherlock smirk. He turned his attention back to Dean. “Explain this all to me.”
Dean just grunted as he tried to sit up.
“Sherlock, you did dig up a grave!” John yelled. “Christ. Is nothing sacred to you?”
“Your patient is over here,” Sherlock told him, ignoring his question.
John strode over to Sherlock and looked down at Dean. “Hello. You look dreadful.”
Dean snorted out a half-laugh. “Thanks. You really a doctor?”
John nodded, crouching down. “What are we dealing with here?” He reached for Dean’s arm. “Your arm’s bleeding.”
“Your idiot friend did that to me.”
“Why on earth did you hurt his arm?” John asked Sherlock, looking up at him in exasperation.
“It was an accident. I was aiming for the creature that had her fist in his chest.”
John blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“Angry spirit, apparently,” Sherlock said with glee, rocking onto his toes and back down. “John, it was brilliant. It threw me against that tree, and tossed Dean against this wall.”
“An angry spirit.”
“How did you make a spirit angry? I don’t suppose it was because you dug up her grave?”
John’s statement didn’t seem to profess any doubt that there could actually be an angry spirit, but more his belief that whatever had happened, had been Sherlock’s fault. Sherlock said indignantly, “I had nothing to do with it. I was merely assisting Dean.”
“Who just happened to be digging up a grave?”
“Exactly,” Sherlock said.
“And why were you digging up a grave?” John asked Dean in his best army-officer voice. “And let me see your chest. You’re bleeding there, too. In fact, take off your shirt.” He opened the small kit he had with him, something he was never without whenever he was on the move with Sherlock. Sherlock had been glad of it multiple times, even if John did have a tendency to fuss.
“Salt and burn,” Dean said, struggling to get off his shirt. John assisted him, gently pulling the sleeve of his Henley off over his sore arm. “She might come back.”
“How can she if you salted and burned her bones?”
“I don’t know,” Dean snapped out. “It was her. And she was supposed to be buried there. Maybe they buried the body in the wrong grave. Maybe the tombstones got switched.”
John put his hand on Dean’s chest to check out his wound. Sherlock frowned. Did Dean have to be so naked for this? He hovered behind John, supervising.
“Sherlock, do you have to stand so close?”
“There are angry spirits around,” Sherlock said, thinking that sounded quite plausible.
“So you both say,” John said. “Your arm needs stitches. We’ll probably get by with steri-strips for your chest. We’ll put some on your arm for the time being; it will make the stitching easier.” Putting words to action, he began to place steri-strips on the gash on Dean’s arm to hold the skin together.
“Why, exactly,” Sherlock said, putting his mind back on business, “are you not calling me a liar about the angry spirit?”
“You’re not one for pranks like this,” John said, pointing at the cemetery, and Dean’s wounds. “Digging up a body for the sake of experimentation, absolutely, but then lying about it and talking about supernatural sightings? Not really your thing.”
“No,” Sherlock admitted. “Not really. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that I’m in my right mind.”
“Do you want me to call you a liar?” John asked with a small grin. “This is an unusual wound.” He was taking a closer look at the circular wound on Dean’s chest.
“She had her fist in his chest,” Sherlock pointed out, somewhat put out that John was taking this all so well.
“Not a corporeal hand, though.”
“Obviously, but how do you know about these things?” Sherlock demanded, crouching down now to get a good look at John.
“There isn’t a square meter of land in Afghanistan where blood hasn’t been spilled a hundred fold. It’s filled with angry spirits, Sherlock. I sat vigil over enough dead bodies to see that.”
“Not everyone sees them,” Dean said.
The wind started to pick up again, and Sherlock glanced quickly around. “Can you see her?” he asked, grabbing for the crow bar.
Dean and John both twisted in the direction Sherlock was looking. “Fuck,” Dean said.
“Yes,” John said.
In seconds she was on Sherlock, before he had time to raise the bar to swing at her. The way she moved was unearthly, and Sherlock was not prepared for it. Her hands, her fingers more claws than fingernails, swiped at his face. He reared back and she wrenched the bar from his grasp, throwing it to the side. The spirit hissed at him, her teeth snapping. He felt a searing pain on one cheek as her claws made contact this time.
A part of him understood he was in deathly danger, but he couldn’t help but stare at her, trying to deduce what she was, what she’d been, how she could possibly exist.
“Sherlock!” John yelled, “Get down.”
Sherlock had enough faith in John to do as instructed. As he ducked there was a loud blast. He looked up to see John holding a shotgun that he ratcheted like it was all a part of his normal day, and then he shot again. The spirit screamed in fury at John but then vanished.
John, once again, had surprised him. Deeply. “John,” was all he could get out.
“Are you sure it was her?” John asked Dean.
“Yes,” Dean said, struggling to get to his feet, letting out a brief groan as he struggled to put his shirt on. Once that was accomplished, he rummaged through his bag and brought out another shotgun which he loaded, handing John two shells that he quickly inserted into the mechanism.
Watching John handle the shotgun was doing funny things to Sherlock’s insides.
“Either I completely fucked up my research, or there must have been something of hers I didn’t burn.”
John glanced around, then his eyes widened. “Sherlock, tell me you didn’t.”
Damn it. “Didn’t what?”
John put his hand out.
Sherlock put his hands behind his back. “I have no idea what you’re on about.”
“She’ll keep coming back, and we can’t keep watch indefinitely. How many people has she already killed?” John asked Dean.
“Twenty eight. She kills three people every ten years. She’d only gotten to one this year so far.”
“She could be out killing someone right now,” John said to Sherlock, hand out.
“It’s just one small bone,” he protested. “How could it possibly make a difference?”
“It doesn’t matter how,” John said. “All that matters is that she needs to be stopped.”
Sherlock frowned, glared at John, saw that he was entirely unmoved, sighed loudly, then reached into his pocket and pulled out the metacarpal, slapping it on John’s palm. “Happy?”
“Delirious,” John said, handing it to Dean.
Dean shot Sherlock a look that might have shaken a stronger man than Sherlock, although it was still impressive. Moving over to the grave, Dean dropped the bone in, covering the remains with another generous squirt of gasoline which made the hole in the ground brighten enough to make Sherlock shield his eyes. When it died down enough for Sherlock to drop his hand, he saw the apparition bearing down on them, but then she went up in a fiery shriek and was gone.
“I need explanations,” Sherlock demanded. “What is this all about? How do the two of you know what to do?” It was unthinkable that he was the weakest link here. He hadn’t been in that position for years.
“First I need to attend to your grave-digger friend, and then to your cheek,” John said in his don’t-cross-me voice. “John Watson, by the way.”
“Dean Winchester. You really a doctor?”
John nodded. “Was an army doctor for years.”
“Handy. Why do you hang out with this loser?” His chin pointed toward Sherlock.
“Oh, he’s not a loser,” John said with a grin. “Most dangerous man in London. Genius.”
“Idiot,” Dean corrected.
“I’ve been known to call him that once or twice.”
Sherlock frowned at them. John was supposed to be on his side. “This was all new to me, you know,” he said haughtily, “and I did dispel the spirit at least once, if not twice.”
“And took your fucking time to do it,” Dean said hotly. “She almost killed me while you stood there and stared.”
That was, unfortunately, true. “You’re right,” Sherlock admitted. “I must admit that the entire affair was so fascinating that I got caught up in my deductions at a time that begged more for a man of action. I shall amend my behavior moving forward. But you, John,” he said, beaming, “you were magnificent. A true man of action. I am quite impressed.”
“What do you mean, moving forward?” Dean asked suspiciously.
“We don’t have a car,” John said to Dean, “but we could get a taxi to take you to hospital.”
“No, no hospitals,” Dean argued. “I’ll be fine.”
“You need stitches.”
“I can do it.”
“You can sew your own stitches?” John asked, eyebrows up.
“Won’t be the first time.”
“Well, it won’t be this time,” John stated firmly. “I’ll need to get some suturing supplies.”
“I’ve got some back at my hotel,” Dean said.
“Well, come on then.” John helped Dean get to his feet, but then said, “Wait. Don’t we need to fill in the grave?”
Dean shrugged. “I don’t usually do it. Not like you can make it look like you didn’t dig it up.”
“It’s more of a respect thing,” John said.
“You sound like my brother,” Dean said, reaching down for a shovel.
“Not with that arm,” John told him. “Come on, Sherlock.”
Sherlock shot him a narrow-eyed glare and picked up a shovel. John grabbed the other one. They had it filled back in shortly, and then John helped Dean pack up his weapons. Sherlock still had hold of the crow bar and kept scanning the cemetery.
“She won’t come back,” Dean told him with a smirk.
“Another one might, though,” Sherlock said.
“Nah, you don’t usually run into two different angry spirits in one night.”
“How many angry spirits have you taken care of?”
“Too many to count.”
Sherlock let this percolate as he followed John and Dean down toward the street until they reached the big black car.
“This is my baby,” Dean said proudly.
Sherlock spared it a quick and dismissive glance. He opened the back door and slid inside.
“I was sure he’d claim shotgun,” Dean told John.
“Why would I claim the shotgun? It was obvious John knew what he was doing.”
“Is he a retard or something?” Dean asked John.
John shot amused eyes at Sherlock, but said, “No, he really is a genius. There are just some things he hasn’t bothered to learn.”
“Like how to talk like a normal person?”
“Boring,” Sherlock said from the back seat. There was a thick brown journal on the floor, and he bent down to pick it up. He opened it carefully so as not to scatter all the loose papers within. Once open, he flipped through it quickly, wanting to get a sense of it and, a few seconds later, he was lost in a world beyond his understanding. Women in white, wendigos, werewolves, spirits, demons, vampires.
He was barely conscious of a conversation going on between Dean and John.
“I’d offer to drive, mate, but I haven’t driven a car in years, and I don’t even have a license anymore, plus I’ve never driven on the right…”
“Shut the fuck up and get in on the other side. This is where I sit. I wasn’t asking you to drive.”
“Oh.” There were sounds of car doors opening and closing.
Then Dean said, “Hey, what are you doing?” His head was over the front seat glaring at him.
Sherlock put a hand up. “Be quiet.” He turned the next page, going through it slower this time.
“That’s mine.” Dean made a grab for it.
Sherlock moved it out of his reach. “You’re distracting me, stop it.”
“Just drive, Dean,” John said. “Your arm is bleeding.”
“Damn it.” An angry twist of a key in the ignition, then the car was moving.
Sherlock went back to the beginning. As he read more carefully, there was a litany of deduction going on in the back of his mind. Journal is about thirty years old, bought for something different, perhaps a scrap book as the first three pages are torn out, and there’s some glue residue on the inside cover, along with a few specks of glitter. The first handwriting is an adult, grieving, his wife killed by something supernatural.
Sherlock got caught up for a few minutes reading about Wendigos. Then he began to skip pages, trying to get a sense of a timeline: There were other entries, written by different people. Younger, and then younger still. Two of them. If it was Dean’s book now, this writing was his, and this was him when he was younger. And this writing was his while quite small. Hunting most of his life then.
The pages were worn through in some spots by what Sherlock suspected were actual blood, sweat and tears. Phrases jumped out at him: dead man’s blood, Christo, exorcisms, silver bullets, beheadings. And then there were pictures of runes, of pentagrams to contain, and later in the book, sigils to banish.
There was mention of a Sam. Brother, younger. Following the dates, he was gone for four years then started hunting again. Dean had possession of the book by then and was the principal historian, with occasional snippets from Sam. Then, Dean was gone, and Sam…
Sherlock read a few pages of Sam’s writings, ramblings, really, almost a document of someone going mad. Then Dean was back, his tone different, darker. Drunk, often. Angry. Talk of angels and devils, Lucifer, souls and torture. Has he gone mad? Sherlock wondered to himself. If you had hunted evil for most of your life, how could you not go mad? For a moment he wondered if he, himself, had gone mad. Angry spirits? Could such a thing be real?
The car pulled into a shabby, nondescript hotel, and was shut off. “Come on,” John said to Dean. “Sherlock.”
Tucking the book under his arm, knowing he had only done the shallowest of examinations, he opened the door.
“Give it back,” Dean said.
“I’m not finished with it,” Sherlock said. “I won’t do it any harm. Are there more books like this?”
Dean glared and then glanced at John, as if he might be the voice of reason. Which he would be, Sherlock knew, by insisting Dean go inside so he could attend to him. “Your book will be fine,” John said reliably. “I want to get you stitched up, or I’ll have to insist we go to hospital.”
Dean growled, but directed John to a door with a number 11 on it. Sherlock mused at John’s misleading appearance and personality, making one assume that he would be the one to submit. Instead, he was an intractable force that one succumbed to without being sure what had happened.
Sherlock was finding himself eating on a regular basis, as well as taking cat naps in the middle of cases. Unheard of.
“Go take a shower,” John said. “It’s the best way to clean those wounds out.” Once Dean was out of his shirt, John picked the steri-strips off his arm. “Be quick about it, though.”
Dean looked disgruntled, but he went.
Sherlock wondered if it was the power of John, or the fact that Dean wasn’t used to having anyone fuss over him that made him obey. Maybe both. After Dean was in the bathroom, Sherlock picked up the keys to the car, went back outside, and opened the boot. There had been no books in the back seat, so this was the logical place. He lifted the top cover and unearthed a huge supply of weapons and other sundry demon-and-spirit-hunting apparatus.
He’d have time for all of that later. Right now, he wanted books. They were scattered around on the bottom, tucked in wherever there was room. Sherlock began gathering them, noting two were in Latin, one in Spanish, one in Greek, and one in Russian. He found it very difficult to believe that Dean spoke all those languages. It was clear he was not a learned or formally educated man.
There were other books in English, all of them old. Fifteen in all, and he carried them inside, then went back out to shut the boot and lock it. Even Sherlock had seen that this car was one of Dean’s few prized possessions, and as Sherlock had need of Dean, it would be best not to incur his enmity by allowing something to happen to it.
He settled on one of the two beds, surrounded by books. John was picking through a much larger first-aid kit, looking impressed. He pulled out a suture package, a bottle of what looked to be Lidocaine, a couple of syringes, alcohol pads, and an ampule of some sort of narcotic.
“John, did you have to contend with angry spirits in Afghanistan? And why have we never spoken of this?”
“It’s not something you just bring up in a normal conversation. You can get carted away and locked up if the wrong people hear you talking about ghosts and such.” John walked over to him, putting his hand on Sherlock’s chin so he could take a better look at his cheek. Sherlock had forgotten all about it.
“When have we ever had a normal conversation?” Sherlock replied. “This is the most startling thing I have ever known, and I am not easily startled.”
“So, not bored?” John grinned at him. “No stitches for you. Some ice on that should take care of it.”
“Not bored.” Sherlock grinned back.
Dean came out, wearing sweats low on his hips, his hair towel-dried into a spiky mess. John patted the bed. Dean shot him a lewd look, a crooked smirk on his face.
John rolled his eyes. “That wasn’t an invitation. Sit, so I can get you sorted. This is an impressive kit. Where did you get the drugs?”
“Here and there,” Dean said evasively.
Stolen, Sherlock thought to himself. Given the cheap hotel room, Dean’s worn out clothing, old duffel bag, and minimal possessions, hunting supernatural creatures did not pay well.
“What’s this scar then?” John asked, pointing at an unmistakable mark of a handprint on the man’s shoulder.
“Long story,” Dean said shortly.
“Right,” John said, leaving the subject alone.
Sherlock found himself caught up in watching John’s capable hands draw up medicine, but he went back to his books when he started sticking needles in Dean. He picked up the book written in Russian. “Do you read Russian, Dean?”
“Nah. Sam could, though. At least enough to get by.”
“Sam?” John asked, as he drew out some suture attached to a small needle.
“Is he still alive?” Sherlock asked.
Sherlock waited for more, but Dean’s expression was shut down, so Sherlock went back to the book. It was a book of Russian folklore. “Are many fairytales actually based on truth?” he asked.
“Most of them. Believe it or not, we just worked a case that dealt with imps, fairies, and leprechauns.” Dean snorted. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. By the way? Fairies are assholes, and the leprechauns are worse.” To John, he added, “You’re good at this. Too bad you’re not always around. It doesn’t even hurt.”
“I just used some local anesthetic,” John told him. “And I am a doctor.”
“A good one, very good,” Sherlock said. “Or so I’ve been told by a reliable source.” He smiled for John’s benefit.
John chuckled. “I think you have enough first-hand evidence now, Sherlock. You hardly need to be quoting sources.”
“Quite true. And you are very good. I’d have been dead several times if not for you.”
“I could say the same,” John said in reply. He applied a dressing to the arm wound. “Now, let’s see to your chest, and then it’s to bed with you.”
Dean’s eyebrows went up.
“Do you take everything as sexual innuendo?” John asked Dean.
“Yup.” To Sherlock he said, “You read Russian?”
“Yes. And Greek, and Spanish.”
“And a handful of others, too,” John said proudly. “German, French, what else, Sherlock?”
“Enough to get by on,” Sherlock said, although he was warmed by John’s pride in him.
“As I said, no need for stitches here.” John put on another bandage after applying some antiseptic cream. “You’ll be right as rain in the morning.” He began to put things back into the kit. “Do you want some pain medication?”
There was a pause and Sherlock looked up to see Dean studying John. “Will you be here?” He doesn’t want to be alone. No, he can’t afford to be drugged if he is alone. And, he doesn’t want to be alone.
John glanced at Sherlock who nodded. He’d be up all night reading, so John could even sleep. “Yes. I’ll be here.”
“Then dope me up, Doc,” Dean said with a grin.
“We could all move to our hotel,” John offered. “It’s much nicer.”
“I’d rather not draw any attention to myself,” Dean said.
John snapped the ampule and pulled up its contents into a syringe. He wiped off a spot on Dean’s uninjured arm and injected the medicine. “There you go. I suspect you’ll be fast asleep in a few minutes.”
“You sure you can stay?”
“I said I would,” John said in his best you-can-trust-me voice, which was largely unnecessary as John was the most trustworthy person Sherlock had ever met.
“You can trust him,” Sherlock assured Dean.
Dean crawled into the bed, and John pulled the covers over him.
“Salt the window and door,” Dean said drowsily. He started to get up. “I should do it.”
“No, no,” John said, pushing him back down. “I’ll do it.”
Fascinated, Sherlock put the Russian folklore book down and watched John look through Dean’s supplies until he found a container of salt. John poured salt along the floor in front of the door, and then along the window sill.
“And this keeps out angry spirits?” Sherlock demanded, thinking how just a few short hours ago he’d have found this exercise ludicrous.
“Yeah. A couple of times these, um, well, roughly translated, they called them Killers of the Dead, made salt circles around the hospital tents, and told us not to come out.”
“John,” Sherlock said, shocked and annoyed, “I cannot believe you kept this from me.”
John looked entirely too pleased with himself. “I just assumed you’d already deduced it from my left earlobe, or the freckles on my arm, and thought it too dull to discuss.”
“Dull? I haven’t been this entertained in years.”
“Good for you.” John glanced around the room. “Where are we going to sleep?”
“You can sleep in this bed,” Sherlock said. “I’ll be up reading all night. I’ll be ready to defend against any creatures of the night should they attack. I won’t be found wanting again.”
“You’re allowed to be caught off guard the first time you see an angry spirit,” John told him.
Sherlock huffed in disgust. “I made a poor showing of myself. There’s no need to be kind.”
“First time for everything,” John said with a giggle.
Sherlock found himself snickering in response. John’s giggles were infectious. After the giggling died down, Sherlock shifted to the very end of the bed. “Come on. Get some sleep.”
John toed his shoes off, went briefly into the bathroom to take care of business, and then, with a sigh of relief, lay down on the bed. “Sherlock,” he began.
Sherlock shook his head. “Just sleep. I promise not to leave the room.”
“That wasn’t what I was going to say.”
“If you know, then why did you give me the wrong answer?” John asked, with a small grin on his face coupled with a look of expectation. “Come on then, tell me what I’m thinking.”
It pleased Sherlock no end that his deducing brought John such pleasure. A part of him kept waiting for John to sneer at him and tell him to ‘piss off’, but it never came. “You want to know why I’m sitting here reading these books.”
“True. That’s true. Why are you?”
“I just learned that I know considerably less than I thought; an uncomfortable sensation at best. I am remedying the situation.”
John gazed at him for a long moment, considering his words, and then yawned. “Okay. Good night then.” He closed his eyes and dropped off just that quickly. Another John Watson trait that fascinated Sherlock.
He stared at John sleeping, his eyes running over the man’s face and hair, watching his chest rise and fall with his breaths, the slight shifts of his legs. In time, though, he went back to his books.
It was coming on five in the morning when Dean awoke, got up, and staggered into the bathroom. As he was heading back to bed, his phone rang. “Yeah,” he grumbled into it. After a second he said, “I don’t know. Massachusetts, I think.”
“Lexington,” Sherlock provided.
“Right, Lexington,” Dean said. “Okay, okay, hang on.” He stumbled to the bedside table and squinted at a pad of paper there by the phone, aiming it to catch what little light there was. “Uh, Minutemen Inn on Main…”
A man suddenly appeared in front of Dean.
Sherlock almost dropped the book he was holding. Only good reflexes and excellent control kept his fingers gripped around it, and his mouth shut.
Dean disconnected his phone. “Hey, Cas. If it’s not an emergency, come back in a few hours. I need to sleep some more.” He sat on the bed and dropped back onto the pillows.
“Just some angry spirit. No big deal.”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“Cas, it’s no big deal. I’ve been hurt worse than this. You’ve hurt me worse than this.”
Cas looked unhappy at that. “Why are there two men in your hotel room?”
“I’m Sherlock Holmes,” Sherlock said quietly. “And the man in the other bed is Dr. John Watson. The more interesting question is who are you? And how did you manage to just appear from nowhere?”
Cas opened his mouth, but Dean stopped him from speaking. “Don’t. It doesn’t matter,” he told Sherlock.
“No, I must know,” Sherlock said. The man had simply materialized out of thin air. He must be some sort of supernatural being, but clearly an ally.
“Sucks to be you,” Dean said. To Cas, he added, “I really need to sleep. I’ve got a long drive ahead of me tomorrow.”
Sherlock’s eyebrows went up. He hadn’t realized Dean was going somewhere. Sherlock had so many questions; Dean’s leaving would not be convenient.
Cas put his hand out and made as if to touch Dean’s forehead. Before he actually made contact, Dean put his hand out to stop him. “What are you doing?”
“I simply want to heal you,” Cas said.
“Okay. But that’s all. I don’t need you to whammy me to sleep.”
There was a small smile on Cas’s face, and he touched Dean’s forehead. Dean shook out his arm. “Thanks.” He pulled the dressing off his arm and chest, and Sherlock could see that the wounds were gone. Extraordinary.
Dean crawled back under the covers, and Cas sat down on the edge next to him. “Why are these men here?”
“They helped me with a case last night. They’re okay, Cas. I’m okay.”
“I am sorry I must be away so much. I hope things will calm down soon.”
“I’ve hunted on my own before.”
“I know. But I also know you would rather not be alone. And with Sam gone…”
Dean’s eyes hardened. “I don’t want to talk about Sam.”
“Are you sure you do not want me to help you sleep?”
With a sigh, Dean capitulated. “Okay. But just this once.”
“Of course,” Cas said, although his smile told Sherlock that this was a familiar routine. Sherlock watched Cas touch Dean again, putting him instantly into a deep asleep.
Sherlock opened his mouth to ask some questions, but with a sound like the beating of wings, the man was gone, and Sherlock was left in the room with two sleeping men.
This many new things were unprecedented in a year, let alone the space of one evening. Sherlock found himself grinning. So much to learn, to comprehend, to simply accept as true. An entire new world order. He wondered if Mycroft knew of any of this. There must be supernatural beings in England.
He put down the book he’d been reading, and picked up another. This one was also leather-bound, with gold-leaf accents that were almost entirely flaked off. The books were clearly used for research, with no regard for their age or worth. There was a representation of a devil on the cover, and it was titled: Demons.
The inner pages were covered with post-it notes, doing further damage to the pages. All these books should be scanned and put in a computer database. It would be so much easier to find the reference material that was needed for any particular case. He wondered how many hunters there were; how many supernatural beings there were. Did Dean have a regular job? Maybe that was what he needed to get back to, much as John Watson attempted to have a normal job while working around the cases Sherlock took on. He glanced at Dean, and at his duffel bag, and around the room at his few meager possessions. No, no job. Or, rather, more correctly, this was his job.
And now there was Cas. Good and evil supernatural beings. How did one tell the difference? Cas had healed Dean with a touch. Appeared and disappeared like a magician. And yet had had to call Dean to find out where he was. And Dean had said that Cas had hurt him. Enemy and ally? An enemy who fights with him against a common enemy? Likely.
He sat there for several minutes watching Dean sleep. Age: early thirties. Very handsome and knows it, uses it to get what he wants which, no doubt, includes sex. He appreciates John’s skills of medicine and soldiering much more than Sherlock’s brain. Threatened by people cleverer than him?
Sherlock stopped. There were too many variables he knew nothing about, making his deductions questionable. All he could glean from the leather journal and the little he’d seen were broad sweeping conclusions that might or might not be true. It was frustrating to recognize the dearth of his knowledge base in this instance, and if John were not here, he’d be waking Dean to ask him questions.
Tempering his impatience, Sherlock went back to the book about demons. Slowly a vision was filling his mind. He needed more information, but here was a life filled with crimes the like of which he’d never seen, about which he knew nothing, something that could challenge him for years.
John woke up first. When he stretched, his foot pushed against Sherlock’s hip.
“Good morning,” Sherlock said.
“Oh! Sorry. Good morning.” There was more stretching, and a groan or two, and then John’s head poked out from under the covers, his hair all askew. “Everything okay?”
“Absolutely,” Sherlock said casually. “Some man dropped by in the middle of the night, healed Dean, put him to sleep, and then popped out. Without the use of door or window.”
John snorted. “Right. And was there a unicorn?”
“Go and look if you don’t believe me.”
John’s look was part wonder and part skepticism, but he got up, stretched again, and moved over to Dean. Dean was sleeping on his side, his previously hurt arm visible on top. The bandage was off, and the skin was clear of any wounds.
There was a long moment of stunned appreciation, and John ran his fingers over the now unmarked skin; even the stitches were gone. “Remarkable,” John finally said. “Who was it?”
“The more appropriate question would be what was it,” Sherlock said, “but neither of them was willing to appease my curiosity.”
John grinned at him. “How terrible for you.”
“Dean said much the same thing,” Sherlock said dryly.
“We should probably be getting back to our hotel. We need to pack. Our flight is in a few hours.” John entered the bathroom and washed his mouth out with some complimentary mouthwash, gargling and spitting.
“I have questions for Dean,” Sherlock said when John was done.
John’s hand fidgeted against his leg and he pursed his lips. Sherlock knew John knew him well enough to be justifiably anxious about whatever Sherlock was thinking. “Are we not going home today?”
“I suspect not.” There was a pause, then Sherlock smiled, his hands fisting in victory. “John, think of it. A veritable stream of serial killers. I’ll never be bored again.”
“We have a life back in London. I have a life back in London.”
“Ah,” Sherlock said. It was always something. He hadn’t considered that John might not want to stay and learn with him.
“Shut the fuck up,” growled Dean. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“Nonsense,” Sherlock said, “clearly you’re awake. Time for breakfast. Our treat.”
The lure of food was sufficient to get Dean out of bed and into the bathroom.
John looked deeply concerned, his forehead creased, and shoulders tight. “Sherlock…”
“What life, John?” Sherlock interrupted. “Lestrade might miss my talents, but he certainly won’t miss me. Your job bores you. Mrs. Hudson can easily replace us as tenants. What would we really be walking away from?”
“London. My home. My country. My friends.”
“I’m not asking you to become an American citizen. We’ll just stay long enough to learn what Dean can teach us, something that won’t take long, I’m sure.”
“Hey, fuck you, buddy,” Dean said, having exited the bathroom quietly enough for Sherlock not to notice. Impressive. “And I’m not training anyone, especially not you.”
Ignoring that, Sherlock asked, “How many of these angry spirits or demons are there?”
“Too many to count.”
“So there’s always another one to go after?” There was a bubble of excitement running under Sherlock’s skin. A never ending source of interesting things to do. It was truly like Christmas.
“Sometimes you have to look hard, but there’s always something going on that needs to be checked out.” Dean glared at Sherlock. “And hunters die. You’ll die if you do this long enough.”
“I hunt murderers at home; I’m routinely in danger.”
“People,” Dean scoffed disparagingly, as if that said it all.
To Sherlock it did. “Exactly!”
Dean looked momentarily disconcerted to find himself in agreement with Sherlock. “I’m still not teaching you. Besides, if you’re so sure I don’t have that much to teach, you can go fucking learn it yourself. And somewhere else. Go back to London and hunt demons there.”
“Don’t take offense,” Sherlock said airily. “No one really has much to teach me. I’ll catch on quickly.”
Dean looked at John. “Why do you hang out with this guy?”
“He makes life interesting.”
“How is it that you’re not dead,” Sherlock asked Dean, “considering how long you’ve been doing this?”
“What do you mean by that? You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know more than you think. I know you started this life when you were a young child after your mother was killed by a demon. I know your father chose a life of revenge and dragged you and your brother along with him.”
“Shut up,” Dean snapped at him. “How do you know that any of that?”
“That’s the genius part,” John said apologetically. “I think it’s brilliant, but I’ve been told it tends to piss people off.”
Cas was suddenly in their midst again. Ignoring Sherlock and John, he spoke directly to Dean. “Dean, I am glad I caught you before you left. You need to go to North Carolina.”
“Why? I thought I was going to Grand Junction.”
“How did you heal him?” John asked, moving into Cas’s line of sight.
Cas looked at John for a long time, long enough for Sherlock to believe that something was happening, and he was missing it. He moved closer to John, wanting to see Cas’s face. The man’s eyes were probing, as if discovering everything there was to know about John. At the end of it, he had a soft smile for John, as if pleased with what he found.
Dean tugged on Cas’s raincoat. “Focus. What’s in North Carolina?”
“There is an increase in demon activity in Asheville. They have sigils to keep me out.”
“Great,” Dean muttered.
“Just go and remove the sigils and I will join you.”
“Awesome. You always make it sound like it’s gonna be easy, and yet somehow it never is.”
“We can help,” Sherlock said, sensing an opportunity.
This time it was Sherlock who received a probing look from Cas. It was hard to stay still, to allow the perusal, but he stayed motionless, watching back, looking at Cas’s face for some indication of what he was thinking. But Cas’s face gave little away. Gesturing at John while his gaze stayed on Sherlock, Cas said, “The fate of your soul depends on this man.”
Sherlock thought it was a ridiculous thing for him to say, but it had a visceral and disconcerting feel of truth to it.
“Stay steadfast,” Cas said to John. “He walks a dangerous path between light and dark.”
To Dean he said, “You need help. Let them help.”
Dean scowled. “He’s an asshole.” Meaning Sherlock.
“You’ve said worse of me,” Cas said with a small affectionate smile.
“At least you help.”
“I haven’t agreed to any of this,” John protested, although Sherlock could see that Cas’s words had rattled him. “I can’t just go to North Carolina. We have plane tickets this afternoon to go home.” He punctuated home with a sharp look at Sherlock.’
“Take them with you,” Cas said again.
“You are not the boss of me,” Dean argued.
Cas moved closer to Dean, making it difficult for Sherlock to hear their conversation without a too obvious attempt at eavesdropping. He turned his attention to a more necessary one. “John.”
“Helping the coppers isn’t enough of a thrill?” John spit out angrily. “Now you want to go after angry spirits, and demons, and creatures that don’t have a shred of humanity left in them, whose only goal is to destroy, based on their own convoluted, confused concept of right and wrong and vengeance? Are you that ready to throw your life away? To throw mine away?”
His anger and questions startled a “No!” out of Sherlock. At least about throwing John’s life away. John wasn’t allowed to die. “Maybe you should go back to London. That might be best.” John could go back to a safe life, away from Sherlock. He ignored the part of him that was beating fists against a wall at the thought of a life without John Watson.
John had a mulish look on his face, apparently nowhere near convinced about staying or leaving.
“John, listen to me.”
John was still angry, oh, very angry, but he listened, teeth clenched, body poised as if under attack, as if trying to decide which way he’d have to move when the bullets started flying.
“I can’t…” Sherlock stopped, not sure where to go with his words. Living inside his head was torture so much of the time, interspersed with moments of intense pleasure when he was able to bring all his faculties to bear on a problem. But so little captured all of him, and he was left with a sense of uselessness. “Why have this skill, this mind, this intellect, if I can’t use it?”
“You do use it, you help catch criminals.”
“Which anyone can do.”
“Not like you,” John said.
“True, but some of the time they’ll get there in the end.”
“Do you really want me to go back to London on my own?”
“Of course not. Don’t be an idiot,” Sherlock snapped. “You just accused me of trying to throw your life away, and you’ll certainly be safer without me, here or in London.”
“Have I ever said I want a safe life?”
“Then why not this one?” Sherlock demanded.
“I never said I wanted a more dangerous one.”
“I can do this. We can do this. You’re already a natural, even Dean thought so. Together, John. We’ll be magnificent.” Oh, how Sherlock wanted this. The adrenaline was surging through him, just anticipating the novelty of this life. Something new every day. Unbelievable.
“Would you stay even if I said I wanted to go back?”
Sherlock was tempted to say no, because he knew it would make John feel better, and might convince him to be willing to give it a go. He was also tempted to say yes, because how could he walk away from this? But he didn’t want to do it without John. But he also knew London would seem so dull now, and while he might be able to start hunting spirits in London, he actually had no idea what to look for, no matter how humiliating that was to admit. For the life of him, he couldn’t come up with an answer.
John’s eyes narrowed and he studied Sherlock carefully. There was a sudden grin on his face. “I never expected to stun your brain with that question. I’m flattered you’re even thinking about it.”
“I want you with me, and I want us here.” That was the most honest answer.
“Two weeks,” John said. “We’ll go to wherever these demons are, and we help out. Then, we talk about it, and if either one of us almost dies, we go home.”
“Fine.” Sherlock would take what he could get. It would give him more time to talk John into staying longer. And, naturally, he’d make sure nothing happened to either him or John.
Dean and Cas seemed to end their conversation at the same time.
Dean said grudgingly, “You can come.”
At the same time, John said, “We’ll come with you.”
“Good,” Cas said, and he vanished.
Dean let out a curse. “I hate it when he does that.”
“What, exactly, is he?” Sherlock asked, hoping he might get an answer this time.
“Forget it. I said you could come, not that you could pry into my personal business. I’m gonna take a shower. Be back here in an hour.” With that Dean grabbed some clothes, stalked into the bathroom, and slammed the door shut.
Sherlock jumped up into the air, grinning madly. “Yes!”
Undeterred, still grinning madly, Sherlock said, “We have a lot to do in an hour. I suspect he’ll attempt to leave without us.”
“Are you sure about this?” John asked, a hint of plaintiveness in his voice.
“Demon hunters,” Sherlock exclaimed. “John, we’re going to be demon hunters!” He picked up the keys on the bureau.
“What are you doing with those?”
“Taking them. That way he can’t leave without us.”
“We’re about to be locked in a car with him for hours. Not sure if pissing him off is the best thing to do.”
“Good point. I’ll stay here. You go get our things.”
“Right,” John said, sitting down. “You go. Dean likes me. If he comes out and finds just you sitting here, you’ll both probably be dead by the time I get back.”
Sherlock frowned. “I don’t know where we are.” Not that he couldn’t work it out, eventually, but he’d scarcely had time, let alone the inclination, to memorize every street here.
“Oh my God, you’re entirely useless.” John flung the hotel door open. “If you are gone by the time I get back, I am flying back to London without you.”
Indignant, Sherlock said, “I just said I wanted you with me, didn’t I?” Sherlock couldn’t remember the last time he’d made such a personal declarative statement.
“And you’re sitting in the back seat.”
That was fine with Sherlock. He’d barely made a dent in the books. “Fine.”
“Fine.” And with that John was out the door.
Sherlock’s body was fizzing like an over-flowing flute of champagne. He could already see his new website: Sherlock Holmes: Demon Hunter. He let out a cry of sheer delight and then pulled out his phone. He had some texts to send. He pulled up Mycroft and typed in: Staying in America. Hunting demons.