When angels love it’s pure, simple, ethereal. When humans love it’s messy, complicated, and illogical. Perhaps that is what John wondered about the most. The differences between God’s two sentient creations. His fellow Guardian Angels all loved their charges, but like living, breathing pieces of art; ephemeral and fleeting, destined to a short life, some shorter than others. Some were beautiful and elegant, others ugly and twisted; all of them were flawed.
Their human’s choices were not judged, or if they were, certainly not publicly. That was neither a privilege nor a burden that angels had to carry. They guided their humans away from harm as best as they were able within the constraints of the Rules, gave them as many opportunities as possible to make good choices, but in the end they attended to their charges in an almost desultory fashion. Love without emotion, as cool and clinical as the edge of a knife.
John was for some reason becoming… different. He knew this, did his best to hide the fact, but it was clear to him that for some time now his caring for his charges was becoming less and less like an angel’s love and more and more like a human’s. Or at least, so he believed. He could never truly understand what it was to be ‘human’, he could only observe their actions and choices as he had for centuries upon centuries. But more and more often he found himself experiencing things that could only be called ‘emotions’ – anger, frustration, disappointment, protectiveness, loyalty, and, well, love. At least he was pretty sure it was love. It’s a hard thing to know when all your peers are nothing like you. Or, rather, you are suddenly nothing like the rest of your peers.
John wasn’t entirely sure how long this change in him had been growing. Perhaps it had been a century, perhaps only a few decades, slowly shifting, uncoiling, manifesting itself. Or maybe it was his current charge that had brought about this inexplicable difference in him. After all, his human was perhaps the most beautifully flawed human being to come into John’s care.
At the moment of pondering all of this, John was perched upon a ratty chair in the flat of his charge. Feet on the cushions of the seat, he sat along the back of it, wings slowly furling and unfurling as he studied the man lying on the couch before him, one arm flung dramatically over his eyes. Sunlight slid into the room sideways, catching upon motes of dust that swirled and floated lazily through the air, unaffected by the beating of John’s wings. In the world, but not of the world. In a moment irrational desire, he flexed his feathered appendages more fiercely, but the tiny specks of dust paid him not the slightest heed. With a soft sigh his eyes returned to his current charge.
Sherlock Holmes. Not only the world’s only consulting detective but something more and, just as equally, rare. An Adept.
Most humans these days were utterly unaware that the beings of myth and of old were not just fanciful beliefs of their ancient ancestors, but still existed, living below and above and around them. The birth of science, a wondrous utterly human thing, had shifted their focus in a different direction and slowly but surely they forgot how to see the magical forces surrounding them, how to use and shape them and recognize others who could do the same.
Sherlock once more distracted John from his thoughts as he sat up, running his long delicate fingers through his dark curls, pulling at the roots as he shifted restlessly. Equations, rituals, incantations, formulas, observations, information, deductions all jockeying and jostling for a place in his mind till it was fit to burst. Snapping up to his feet, Sherlock stomped over to the windows and harshly drew the blinds, as if the gentle sunlight were an anathema to him. The room was smothered in hazy darkness and with a frustrated groan, John’s human tossed himself back down on the couch, the coffee table before it shuddering slightly with the impact, the scientific equipment thereupon clinking softly in protest and causing John to softly smile for a moment.
That was what was probably the most remarkable thing about Sherlock Holmes; he embraced both worlds. He was as much a man of science as he was a man of magic. He performed experiments and spells with equal grace and ease and even, on occasion, combined these two supposedly opposing forces and crafted them into working in harmony with one another. Even now, beakers and Bunsen burners are surrounded by an elaborate containment circle and sitting next to a spell book. No other Adept has managed to merge magic and science except for Sherlock. He is, quite simply, brilliant.
Well, not so much at the moment. Right now Sherlock is preparing to give himself a hefty dose of morphine.
John watches helplessly as Sherlock draws out an all too familiar black wooden box and opens it, revealing his two drugs of choice and a plastic wrapped syringe within. John’s wings beat the air sharply and silently as slender fingers float over the two options. Bring the mind to focus or turn the mind off? He doesn’t even realize that he is holding his breath till Sherlock chooses the morphine and prepares the needle, plunging it into the bottle and drawing out the fluid within. Not that angels need to breathe.
“That’s too much, Sherlock. You know that’s too much,” John murmurs softly, but intently, as if he could will Sherlock into injecting some of the solution back into the bottle. He isn’t speaking to the man. For all his brilliance and talent, Sherlock is in some ways as blind as most humans. He cannot see John, cannot hear him. His Guardian Angel isn’t speaking so much to Sherlock as he is to a miniscule part of the man, well buried beneath layers of obsession, deduction, determination, and boredom. A small spark that often gutters like a flame in the face of a fierce wind, nearly going out. That tiny part of Sherlock that says ‘I want to live!’
Most humans have a rather high level of self-preservation. Sherlock has barely any. Being his Guardian Angel is a full time job and it is never, ever, boring.
Sherlock’s hands hesitate as he studies the fluid within the syringe in a way that is strangely both dispassionate and adoring. Mercurial silver eyes blink as he weighs the noise in his mind against the contents of the syringe. This last case was a brutal one, the sort that taxed Sherlock to his physical limits and exposed his mind to both situations and magic of the most brutal variety. He’s raw. He’s hurting. He just wants it to go away for a little while. And a tiny part of him rather wants it to go away… forever.
Taking a deep breath, Sherlock places the needle against his arm and slides it home with easy practice. Another breath and he’s pressing the plunger down, down, all the way down.
Bursting off the chair in a flurry of feathers, John barks out, “God damnit, Sherlock!” and just as suddenly becomes completely still and silent. Taking the Lord’s name in vain. That’s new.
He shivers, his body filled with the sort of energy he’s only felt in times of battle… not that he’s raised his sword against any demons in thousands upon thousands of years now. Not since the earth was new. But this is different. This… hurts. Angels don’t feel pain. Not when they are struck and injured in battle, not ever. But John feels what he can only guess is pain, surrounding where his heart would be if he were human. Sherlock is already gasping and wilting, unfolding his long frame down the length of the couch as the drug penetrates his system in a haze of deadly bliss.
Kneeling down next to him, John lifts his hand to stroke it through Sherlock’s hair gently, watching with a sense of sorrow as the drug courses through the human’s system, subsuming the man before him. Of course, there is no tangible connection. He can no more feel Sherlock than Sherlock can feel him. But by God, John feels for this man, whether he’s supposed to or not. And after a second he knows that if someone doesn’t find Sherlock, and soon, he might not make it this time.
He leans forward to press a kiss to Sherlock’s forehead before rising up, his wings snapping open once more. John thrusts up and out of the dingy little flat, soaring as he reaches out to touch the minds of those who might care enough to come to Sherlock’s aid. So few. So damn few.
His brother Mycroft is first, a thought carefully slipped into his many complicated and busy thoughts that it’s been awhile since he’s checked up on Sherlock and perhaps he should consider giving him a call? Or better yet, drop by and take him out for lunch? The poor boy has gotten so thin lately. Emaciated, really. Pity he’s so unreasonable, but Mycroft did promise Mummy he would look out for him.
John waits to see if the idea takes seed and grows, pacing the elegantly attired office where Mycroft sits studying files. A brief nod of acknowledgement is exchanged with the up-and-coming official’s own Guardian who is as calm and placid as his charge. They meet as rarely now as the two brothers do, which is to say, hardly ever. The man glances at his watch and sighs. It’s a packed day. Meetings and debriefings straight on till nightfall. And it’s not like Sherlock will welcome his presence or his interference in his life, no matter how benign and well-meaning the intention.
Tomorrow, he tells himself. He’ll go visit Sherlock tomorrow.
With a growl of unrecognized frustration, John takes flight once more to the other mind that might just care enough to do something.
Lestrade is likewise occupied, but his mind is in no small part fixed upon Sherlock as he goes over the case file before him, making small but crucial changes to the report that would otherwise get him thrown into the loony bin. Has to make it sound actually believable to those who are not in the know.
The Detective Inspector is almost as rare a human being as Sherlock is. He’s not an Adept or a Sensitive but he is far smarter than the consulting detective gives him credit for. However, more impressively, he is able to accept that when the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Even though he cannot see the demons and monsters and beings that inhabit this earth alongside humans, he can recognize that they exist. And, even more unusual, recognize when he is out of his depth and needs help. So in cases where the perpetrators of the crime seem to be beyond the bounds of human abilities, he swallows his pride and calls in Sherlock to unravel that improbable truth and then does his best to hide it once it’s been dealt with.
Nodding to Lestrade’s Guardian Angel in silent greeting, John strides through the small and simple office to reach the man’s side. Normally he would take the time to talk to Luthiel. He and his fellow angel have spent a great deal of time together in each other’s company since Lestrade and Sherlock started working together. But right now he has more pressing matters to attend to.
He reaches out a hand and lightly brushes his fingers over the Detective Inspector’s silvery hair in a gesture not unlike the one he gave Sherlock before he left. If John had to choose a human to protect other than the one he is bound to, it would be Lestrade. He is as good a man as any that John has encountered. One deserving of great care. He glances up toward Luthiel for moment, hesitating, but the silent nod of assent gives him all the permission he requires.
It’s so easy to slip the thought, the niggling concern, into Lestrade’s mind. The Inspector already carries a healthy dose of worry for Sherlock, knowing about his dependence on drugs to ease his abilities and his tendency to work himself to the edge of collapse. It’s almost obscene really, how easy it is to manipulate him. Once the seed of concern is planted, it quickly blooms into action. Picking up the report with a slight frown, Lestrade pushes back from his desk and taps it a few times against the wooden surface before reaching a decision.
He pulls his jacket from the coat rack and swings it over his shoulder on the way out of his office, Luthiel and John following behind. He pauses for a moment at his Sergeant’s desk noting, “Just going to pop out for a bit, go over a few last details with Sherlock before filing the report.” He doesn’t even wait for Sally’s look of disgust, that niggling hint of concern blossoming into outright worry as he heads to his car, his walking stride shifting into a quick jog.
John watches as the D.I. disappears into the lift before sighing softly in relief, wings flaring once more as he ascends up and out, winging his way back to Sherlock’s side to offer him what little comfort he can till Lestrade finds him.