The sea rolled under the house in Cornwall with a roar. Sherlock loved their summer house by the sea.
Every year since she was born, Mummy would bring them to Cornwall in June and they would stay until September.
Mummy would spend hours painting in the wide main room with its tall glass walls.
Mycroft bundled up in mounds of blankets would sit on the upper balcony reading.
Sherlock explored. She learned to swim in the sea water pool on the cliff that looked like it blended into the ocean itself. She ran along the beach below where the seals would lug themselves onto the shore. She wasn't supposed to bother them and she wasn't supposed to go into the blue green bay that foamed against the pale yellow sand. There were sharks in the bay, because of the seals.
She'd take off her shoes and let the cold water lap at her feet, full of longing. The cold never bothered her.
Each year, the first day they arrived, Mycroft always took her out along the dock that jutted out from the steps below the house into the bay and they counted sharks. Sherlock believed what she could see with her own eyes.
Mycroft was only her half-brother, but he was fully annoying like that.
Mummy was an artist, a free spirit with a Bohemian soul. She didn't believe in bonding with Alphas or taking a Beta. She believed in experiencing the world. She'd been at an Ashram in Northern India when she'd gone into heat. That's where Mycroft came from.
When Mycroft asked about his Father, she'd say, "The temple bells were ringing when she came into my room and we pinned on the wooden floor. The shadows through the window lattice cast patterns of light on her face as our souls passed like galleon ships."
This was not helpful. Based on physiological characteristics, Mycroft and Sherlock decided that Mycroft's father had most likely been Norwegian. The 23&Me DNA kit results backed this up.
When Sherlock asked about her Father, Mummy would turn and look at the sea. Mycroft would answer. "We were here. He came up from the beach. Caucasian male. 6'2, 240 pounds. Black hair. Green eyes. Eclectic mix of clothing. New hiking boots with spray pattern consistent with hiking near the water. Old jeans. No shirt. A fur coat of black seal skin. Mummy invited him to stay with us." Mycroft didn't say that Mummy'd had sex with the stranger in and out of heat all summer long. It was implied.
By the time Sherlock was nine, she well knew Mummy's habits. She also knew that Mummy still loved Sherlock's father. It's why they came back every year to this house with no electricity and no heat. Just wide glass walls, a wood burning stove and the sea roaring under the house.
Sherlock's 23&Me results were inconclusive. If she had been male, she'd have been able to learn about her Father. As it was, she only learned about her Mummy's ancestors, which was boring. Although, she did have to send it in three times as their labs kept messing up the lab sample and getting animal particulates mixed in.
The year she was nine was the last year they went to the house. She was exploring as she always explored. She was finally able to pick the lock into the attic. It was full of dusty treasures and boxes. There was a wooden mannequin Mermaid with pale blue eyes. There was a box full of fish scales and one full of coins from all of over the world. She spent hours sorting those coins.
But the real find was the box with the fur coat. It was exactly her size and reversible. One side was thick black seal fur and the other was hand stitched leather. She loved it immediately. She put it on so the fur turned inward to her skin. She loved the feeling of the fur. She ran through the house spinning and feeling the fur against her skin.
That's what she was doing when Mummy saw her.
Mummy yelled, "Sherlock, no!" and ripped it off of her. She followed her sobbing as Mummy raced down the stairs and out onto the dock. Mummy threw the wonderful coat into the water and it sank beneath the waves as dark shapes swam in the water below. Mummy said, "We're leaving."
Mummy yelled at Mycroft the entire drive back to London. It was his job to watch out for Sherlock and he'd failed.
Somewhat to Sherlock's disgruntlement, Mycroft took that to heart. Mycroft was very present. All the time.
It made Sherlock all the more determined to get away.
Mummy didn't take them to the sea again. She didn't want Sherlock to have anything to do with the sea.
Naturally, she obsessed with the sea. All the land of the earth was boring. People were boring. The stars were unreachable. The sea was full of mystery.
When she thought about the ocean's depths, she didn't think about how much the world hurt simply by being. The stink of cities. The way they surrounded her. Full of horrible things and horrible people who only wanted to lie, but couldn't when she watched them. Like an animal gnawing at leg in a trap, she wanted to be away from them.
Now Sherlock knew she was beautiful. She presented as an Alpha like Mycroft, but Mycroft wasn't beautiful. Not like Sherlock. Beauty was useful. When she was cruel, Omegas forgave her. They both lent her money and drugs, and those were good. They held off the way the city stank and the pain of the cold iron lacing the buildings and the people crowding with all their differences pushing in on her as they marched along like ants.
She only had to walk down a street from the time she was fourteen and Omegas, most often much older, older was better, they said they'd take care of birth control, were always watching her. She'd pretend to be like them. She'd pretend to be something other than a barely functioning sociopath, and they'd want to spend their heats with her. It was such a rush. To be high and pinning some Omega. Empty houses and grand hotels and Sherlock didn't care. She needed to forget the world.
They'd rake their fingers through her hair and breathe deeply at her neck, "You're scent is like nothing else."
Betas were different. They didn't trust her. They'd glare with dull suspicious eyes and on some instinct they couldn't have explained, pulled the children into another room if she came into it.
School was hell.
Her teens were spent in a haze interspersed with Mycroft yelling at her for being reckless. It hurt so much, just existing.
That didn't really stop. She simply became better at dealing.
She scuba certified. The sea helped. She dragged herself through a degree in marine biology – people were such idiots – and sank beneath the waves.
Her Doctoral thesis was on marine communication. There were dozens of examples of mammals communicating complex concepts. Such as a pod of killer whales off of Northern California successfully hunting a great white shark as a team, and a completely different pod applying the same technique later that year in Baja. It was simply a matter of studying the patterns.
She achieved some success with communicating with Spinner Dolphins. Although, the voices that piped out of her ear bud seemed to be primarily interested in fish and sex.
She herself stopped engaging in sex because she stopped seeing the point. She stopped the drugs because she almost died. Sherlock believed in what she herself experienced.
When she was able to guide a wild Spinner dolphin through a complex series of tests that was something she believed in.
She developed a skin so thick that nothing could pierce it. She knew exactly what people thought of her. Cold bitch mostly. So, what if she was cold. Most of the interesting creatures on earth had cold blood. She herself never felt it.
She treated her body like transport. Sleep was irrelevant. Food was irrelevant. Illness was irrelevant.
This proved to be faulty reasoning. One day she found herself in the hospital with Mycroft disapproving at the side of her hospital bed. He said, "Sherlock, this cannot go on. You have bronchitis that could develop into pneumonia. You don't sleep or eat. You need to rest."
Sherlock sniffed, because how could she rest. She'd rest when she was dead.
Mycroft rolled his eyes and handed her a key. She knew what it was as soon as she saw it. She remembered that gold coloured key with the shell keychain. "You want to send a sick woman to a house with no heat." At least it was near the sea.
"I want to send my sister to rest somewhere that she'll stay, and I know you always loved that house." Mycroft held out the key.
She took it. "I thought Mummy sold it."
Mycroft sighed. He'd been responsible for sorting through Mummy's papers. Sherlock certainly wasn't going to do it. "She could never sell that house."
Mycroft drove Sherlock out to the house himself. He didn't stay. Things to do. Countries to manage, but he arranged for food in the kitchen and a car to be delivered. The place had electricity now.
Sherlock shuffled through the rooms. She hadn't realized how low she'd been. She felt empty, but when she closed her eyes and listened to the sea, it was lovely.
She was walking along the beach for her morning shuffle, when she found the merman washed up and bleeding from a sharp bite on his smooth finned lower torso.
Presumably he was male. Although, lack of mammary tissue in a non-mammal was not proof of anything. He was cold, but then he was definitely cold blooded. His hair made her think of yellow tendrils on a jelly fish, but not poisonous, she was happy to ascertain.
He was breathing through his nose, but he had gills as well on the sides of his chest. They were pale pink in the air.
When faced with the impossible, then what she saw, what she experienced was true. What a lovely mystery for the sea to give her when she needed it.
Sherlock ran for the garage and its wheel barrow, and rolled the merman into it. He was still unconscious when she dragged him up the beach steps to the top of the cliff and carefully rolled him into the empty pool. She stitched his flesh together and packed the wound. He wasn't even her first marine surgery. She ran the pump to fill the pool with sea water.
He lay at the bottom of the water, his chest moving and the long gills dragging water in and out.
Sherlock bundled up on a beach chair and fiddled with her translation equipment. She came to herself when he splashed her. He was glaring at her through the water. She dropped a microphone in the water and said into her own headset, "There are three species of sharks in the bay. Based on bite pattern I believe you were bitten by a Shortfin Mako." She held up a book with a photo and pointed to the Mako, repeating the name.
The merman blinked at her with pale blue eyes under a nictating membrane. His mouth was full of sharp teeth. He sang something back. She noted the string of sounds. More data was needed.
They spent the morning like that.
The alarm went off inside. Time for lunch. She was on a feeding schedule. She went inside to get fish for John and her boring sandwich. John appeared to find the smoked salmon odd, but he certainly ate all of it. Swimming slowly, favouring his injury.
That night, Sherlock slept in her room. She could hear the waves and woke sometime in the night with a full moon shining down and John singing below the water. She went downstairs, because she wasn't tired. She listened to him for awhile and got out her violin. She played in the moonlight. She added some words to the lexicon.
She called him John, although that wasn't the sound that came out of the microphone in the water. John didn't call her Sherlock for that matter.
She drove into town for supplies. A great deal of fish and books. John would need protein. She would need pictures. She spent the rest of the day by the pool. She slept downstairs that night.
They had progressed from nouns and verbs to more complex ideas. Amazement. John was amazed by her, which was odd given the context.
With the weather so fair, she slept by the pool, listening to the waves and John splashing in the water.
She talked to John about her work. The work that was allowing them to speak at all. John talked about the sea. He asked, "Is this where you live?"
She considered how to answer that given the words available to be translated into his language. "When I was a child, we spent the summers here." She shuffled through the flash cards she'd assembled from library books. Sherlock flipped to a series of images of children at various stages of development. He returned her words for concepts. She held up her black wool Belstaff coat for illustrative purposes and described the last time she was here, because it was a story to tell. John was very good at listening. Talking added words. The more they spoke, the more they could speak.
His eyes grew very wide. "That is very not good."
"I thought so at the time," she smiled ruefully.
"You need it," said John. "I'll get it for you." Sherlock thought that didn't seem likely, but didn't say so.
Within a week, John was asking her to swim with him, which seemed a bad idea. The water was cool and inviting. John had a great deal of teeth.
She peeled off her clothes and jumped in naked. John didn't kill her. He shifted his long sleek body around her. She shivered at the touch. Although she wasn't cold. She was never cold. She was very warm. John commented on that.
She explored the delicate texture of his fins. "I'm an Alpha. We typically have higher core body temperatures."
John looked puzzled. Which required a great deal of explanation and images from a book on human sexuality, and resulted in a horrified, "That's very not good," from John. Sherlock asked questions about John's reproductive system. John possessed a clasper fin. Definitely male. Although, he had a sibling who had produced viable eggs without fertilization.
They were not species compatible. This did not mean that John didn't enjoy touching Sherlock or being examined by Sherlock. Rather to the contrary. If they had been species compatible, and Sherlock an Omega, she'd have well fertilized. As it happened, John was quite adept with his clasper fins, once he understood Sherlock's anatomy. Although, he was particularly fascinated by Sherlock's hair. Both the hair on her head and the hair in her genital area. Then again, John was not a mammal. He used his "hair" for sensory data.
Days passed. Weeks. John's injury healed. Sherlock carefully removed the stitches and John did not bleed out in the pool.
John was looking longingly at the waves.
Sherlock steeled herself for what she had to do. She put John in the wheelbarrow and bumped him down the stairs and out onto the dock. She tipped him into the sea.
John shouted with joy and swam around. He laughed. She didn't feel like laughing. He said, "I'm going to find the coat your mother threw away," which she thought highly unlikely, but he was gone before she could say anything more.
She went back to the house, but it horrible and empty.
She emptied the pool. She threw out the dead fish John hadn't had a chance to eat. She waited a week and went back to work.
Mycroft knew something had happened, but if he hadn't thought to put surveillance in the house, she certainly wasn't going to tell him.
It was not as if her work was not closely related to John. Although, some part of her felt tender at the idea of publishing. Still, a lexicon was a lexicon.
She was able to converse with another mer off the Hebrides. This one was a female. The Woman mer was much less friendly than John. Or rather she was friendlier, but her definition of an invitation to dinner was to dine upon Sherlock, not with her. Those teeth made a certain sense.
Sherlock was participating in a longer term research project into marine mammalian communication with a pod of dolphins near Inverness when she finally saw John again.
He floated on a wave and warbled her name. "Sherlock. Sherlock."
He was holding something. He held it out to her. She waded into the water, uncaring of the cold sea, the cold never bothered her and plucked it out of his hands. It was a hand stitched seal skin coat in her size. She laughed to see it.
John said, "I found your coat. A sea hag had it and was using it for mischief, but now you have it."
She shook her head. "John, this can't possibly be the same coat. That coat was for a child." John kept looking at her. She examined the coat closer. There was the same whorls in the leather. The same thick and thin spots. The same patterns to the fur. It wasn't possible, but when everything had been eliminated, all else that remained was the truth.
She put on the coat. This time with the fur out.
In that she became a seal was not entirely expected, but not as surprising as it might have been. She swam with John in the water. He trailed his fingers through her thick fur and that felt good. Better than good.
They still weren't species compatible, or for that matter gender compatible. Then again, John didn’t transform into a form with neither hands or opposable thumbs. They made it work.
Scuba diving as a seal, once she'd designed the gear, was better than she might have thought.
Certainly the sea had enough treasures to pay for its construction.
She sank beneath the waves. They had adventures in the sea. She saw amazing sights. She explored the mysteries of the deep. John was always with her.
It was good.