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Ties that Bind

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Ties That Bind

(Alternative Universe to Nightingale)

By: Lalaith Quetzalli

They were inexperienced and insecure and when they were found they ran, to another country, another family, new lives. Years later, everything's changed, they're older, wiser, stronger; and if found out, this time they won't run, this time they will fight, they will stand together, with magic and deductions.

Flight

We were threatened, afraid, but unwilling to surrender or separate, and so we ran.

It was the middle of the night. Some might argue it was actually close to dawn by then, but I'd gone to sleep late, after hours celebrating my recent graduation (with three associate degrees) in the way Aunt Kathryn and I preferred: which meant slices of my favorite chocolate cake and glasses of iced tea. I was excited to celebrate with dearest friend Luka (whom no one but I knew was, in fact, the Norse god Loki). We had such great plans for the upcoming Summer: Spain, France, Greece… They all went up in smoke in an instant.

At first I wasn't sure what exactly it was that woke me, and then I saw him, my best friend, standing beside my window, the last slivers of moonlight making his alabaster skin look even paler and giving his emerald eyes an almost eerie glow. It was the look in those eyes, the almost tangible defeat, that made me wake up completely and sit up in an instant.

"Maverick?" I asked quietly as I got on my feet, half-absently pulling on my robe. "Is everything alright?" It wasn't, and I knew that, yet I didn't know how to ask the right questions.

"They know about you…" He murmured quietly, almost too low for me to hear.

A part of me wanted to ask what 'they' he was talking about, exactly, but the other part knew exactly who he was talking about, and what that meant… it wasn't good.

"How soon?" I asked, voice hoarse with the fear that was creeping inside already.

"Soon, no more than three days, maybe even less." He answered, he sounded so broken.

That wasn't right, and I knew it. It's not like it was his fault, not at all. I was the one who wanted to befriend him, the one who researched his name, who kept asking all the questions, who could not let him go. If anyone was to blame for what was coming, it was me…

"You're wrong." I hadn't even realized I had said anything out-loud… and maybe I didn't, and he just knew, it certainly wouldn't be the first time. "If I had been thinking clearly I would have stayed away after that first time. I knew nothing would could come of it…"

"But something did, there's nothing wrong about our friendship." I insisted.

"Only that you'll be made to suffer for that very reason." He retorted. "And regardless of how much I might want for things to be different… there's nothing I can do. You're my best friend Nightingale, my only friend, and I cannot protect you. What kind of friend does that make me?!"

"It's not your fault." I assured him, placing a hand on his cheek. "It's not your duty to protect me, Maverick. And whatever might come, I will never regret our friendship."

"No, you won't." Bitterness filled his voice. "You just won't remember it, won't remember anything about me at all."

For a moment I knew not what to say, and then, an insane idea popped into my head.

"What if they couldn't find me?" I blurted out. "If they couldn't find us?"

"What…?" He obviously wasn't expecting that.

"They're coming for me, for my memories." I qualified. "What will happen if I'm not here when they come? Would they hurt Aunt Kathryn?"

"I doubt it, she doesn't know anything incriminating…" He broke off as he apparently realized what I meant exactly with that line of questioning. "Are you sure, Nightingale? If you do this… you will never be able to come back."

"But I will still have my memories and… I would like to think, I will still have you."

"Always." He assured me immediately. "I'll never leave you my Nightingale, never."

It was the first time he referred to me as his… I liked it.

We were gone the next morning. Or it would be more precise to say I was gone. Aunt Kathryn had left that morning after breakfast, she was attending a medical conference in Canada for a few days. I was supposed to leave for Europe just the day before she would be returning. It wasn't hard to convince her I was starting my trip early, wasn't like there was a reason to stay in the manor, alone. So I changed my plane ticket and by the afternoon was on my way to London.

We spent the whole summer traveling across the continent, sometimes by train, others by ship, always making sure not to call attention onto ourselves. Near the end of August we knew we needed to stop, we couldn't keep moving around the world the rest of our lives, it just wasn't plausible. And then something unexpected happened.

We were in the south of Italy at the time, had rented a small cottage near the sea. I was wearing a lilac semi-transparent tunic over my off-white two piece swimsuit, my feet bare as I enjoyed the feeling of the sand beneath. Loki, for his part was wearing a black swimsuit with green detailing and a loose green t-shirt; he'd changed himself to look like he was seventeen or eighteen (during the first weeks we'd noticed people would look oddly at us when he was in his true form, probably because I looked younger than I actually was, and with us so obviously not family… well, it wasn't hard to imagine what some people might think).

We'd been having fun all morning, and when the sun became too much Maverick had conjured a beautiful floppy straw hat with an off-white ribbon. Then he went to buy us some cold drinks (you couldn't conjure food). I was standing by the foot of a cliff (or, more like the rocks at the foot of said cliff) when I heard yelling in a mix of English and Italian, followed by the evident sounds of a physical fight. It wasn't good. Unable to help my curiosity, I climbed several of the rocks, I was light enough to be able to balance on them and managed to get high enough to see what was going on, on the other side. A tall, gangly, young man, probably in his late teens, with a mop of short black hair (the exact same shade as Maverick's riot of curls), in loose navy blue shorts and a half-open gray button up was trying to fight an older man, late twenties to early thirties in black shorts and a white polo. The key-word in all that was trying, as the teenager was too slight and obviously knew nothing about fighting, he also wasn't wearing any shoes, which gave him yet another disadvantage.

I was considering the best way to help when I saw my best friend approaching (from the other side of the cliff), accompanied by two more men in black shorts and white polo shirts. It was at that point that I realized they were policemen, or whatever passed by such in that Italian beach. At first I thought they would help the poor teen, who was already pretty bruised by that point. Though it was only after a moment that I realized that of course they would help one of their own, I knew there was something very wrong going on.

"Cuff him." The first officer snapped in Italian at the two newcomers. "Take the brat away. Stupid brat, thinking he can come steal on my beach…"

"Bastard!" The boy snarled at him in Italian. "You're the thief. Dirty cop, I know it was you."

I thought back on some of the yelling I'd heard. The boy had been calling the older man a thief, and he sounded quite confident and… and the officer had said something about no one ever believing a brat… I knew then I had to do something.

"The jewels are hidden in a knitted bag in between those rocks." The boy insisted, trying to convince the other officers. "I saw him put it there!"

"That's what you say." The oldest officer stated. "And what proof is there of any of it? You know where they are? You could very easily have been the one to put them there and now are trying to blame someone else. Cowardly brat that you are."

"Liar!" The teen hissed.

"It's your word against mine." The policeman reminded him. "Arrest him!"

I knew I had to do something, words were coming out of my mouth before I realized it.

"Pardon me gentlemen." I called in Italian, though being careful to take an English accent. "Shouldn't you look at all the evidence before doing any arrests?"

"Who are you miss?/Where did you come from?" The two younger officers asked in unison.

"This is none of your business, missy." The older officer said dismissively. "You shouldn't get involved in things you don't understand."

"Why?" I challenged him, his attitude making me angry. "Because then the good officers might realize who the true criminal is around here? And I am not 'missy', my name is Arianna Kinross, daughter of Aislinn Caoimhe Kinross, daughter of Alasdair Stewart Kinross, Lord Brechin and Navar, last descendant of the Duke of Ross."

The list of names and titles were enough to make everyone hesitate. I knew it was insane, and by the way my Maverick's eyes widened, he knew it too. But I just had to help the teen somehow.

"Now, this young man was making serious accusations." I went on, taking advantage of the shock that was keeping all three officers silent. "Instead of just trying to shut him up with insults and fists, why don't you all try listening to him? You might even learn something."

The young man in question was looking at me oddly, like he was trying to dissect me, or look through me or something. Like he couldn't understand why I was speaking up for him; like my actions didn't fit some idea he had of people, maybe even of the world, and that confused him. Still, he took my words for the invitation they were and began talking before anyone could stop him. What followed was an explanation like none I'd ever heard before. He described every detail of the crime committed (robbery of a collection of apparently highly priced jewels, which belonged to some old noble lady with an estate nearby, and stabbing of the security guard), explaining how the older officer had done it, why, and how exactly he'd managed. He finished his narrative repeating where the jewels were, before adding something else:

"If you look at the sand around the rocks, you'll see that the only recent footprints were made by booted feet, size 43." He stated in a no-nonsense tone. "I'm sure everyone can see that nor do I have any footwear, nor is that my size. However, if we look at the officer…"

The sarcasm was loud and clear to everyone present. I actually expected the man to deny it again. Instead, he did the one thing I never expected, he pulled out a knife and threw himself at the young teenager. I screamed a warning, even knowing they would never be able to react in time.

And yet someone else had noticed, and had acted in time: my Maverick.

"Luke!" I screamed in horror, practically slipping down the rocks as I tried to reach him, my hat blowing off my head at some point, though I neither noticed nor cared.

I reached him about the same time the two officers finally took down the older man. I didn't care about him. Fully focused on my best friend. I was about to go into full blown panic (he was bleeding too much) when the teenager dropped to his knees on his other side, using his own shirt to put pressure on the wound and stop the bleeding as best as he could.

"Thank you…" I murmured in a watery tone, not quite noticing that I was speaking in English.

"Thank you." He said in return in the same language. "No one other than my brother had ever spoken up for me."

"It was the right thing to do." I assured him, before belatedly remembering my manners. "Like you probably already know, I'm Arianna, pleasure to meet you."

I didn't offer him a hand, there was no point when both of his were missing (and I was keeping mine busy by running one through my Maverick's hair, and keeping the other on his chest, a reminder that he was still breathing… I'd been so scared), still, I bowed my head respectfully at him (and how could I not respect him after what he'd done and was still doing?).

"My name is Sherlock Holmes." Was his simple reply.

Thankfully, it didn't take long for the ambulance to arrive. We were taken directly to the hospital and I was just making plans on how to handle things. We were supposed to be 'in hiding', and while I doubted Odin and anyone else in Asgard knew enough of Earth to be able to track us down if I took money from my bank accounts, I'd kept from doing it for the whole summer, using money I'd taken before leaving America, though that probably wouldn't be enough. I was then interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a woman (probably in her late forties or something) announcing she would be paying. At first I wasn't sure if I should feel grateful or affronted, and then she gave me her name: Lady Marise Violet Holmes, née Vernet; she was a minor French noble, wife of a retired British Earl, and the most important part, the mother of the young man my Maverick had saved: William Sherlock Scott Holmes.

xXx

"You were bluffing."

Apparently my Maverick and I had so intrigued young Sherlock Holmes that he insisted on sticking around until my best friend was discharged (and with the doctors keeping such a close eye on him, and us unable to leave without calling way too much attention on us, he was left to heal at a human pace).

We'd learnt that Sherlock Holmes was seventeen years old, a genius in every possible way (except where it came to sentiment), the second son of the Earl of Crome (who'd mostly retired years earlier) and with an older brother (Mycroft, age 24) already working at Whitehall. He claimed to be a 'high-functioning sociopath', yet both Loki and I could see that he felt, a lot, he just didn't know how to express it. Also, his absolute bluntness and awful lack of tact when sharing his 'knowledge' made it so most people couldn't stand him. We didn't mind much, except for the part where he saw straight through our facades (both my Maverick and I were still much too nervous about the possibility of Asgard finding us to take any such thing lying down).

"All that thing about the barony and being a Lady…" He elaborated. "It was a lie."

"Not quite." I told him. "My maternal grandfather was, indeed, Lord Brechin and Navar, and the only descendant of the last Duke of Ross. However, my mother could never claim her own title. She might have, had she married someone with the 'right' titles, so-to-speak. But instead she chose to marry an architect from a house that lost its own titles over a century ago. Her younger sister never got it either, so Alasdair Kinross was, effectively, the last Lord in the Kinross family. Still, it was enough to make the officers take notice, and since that was all I intended…"

"Thank you." Sherlock murmured, not for the first time. "To both of you."

I waved my hand dismissively, having already told him time and again that there was no need to keep thanking us. He was such a fragile soul, Sherlock, I couldn't begin to imagine what he might have gone through already. It was obvious that he'd trouble connecting to people; the way he clung to both of us, to our acceptance. It made me want to cry even as I couldn't help but want to hold onto him just as tightly. I knew what it was like, to feel like you just don't fit. It hadn't been easy, getting to university at fourteen, especially having been to no actual school before then. And then if one added the fact that I'd been studying for three degrees at the same time, and had managed to finish all of them in record time and top marks… I'd never really had any friends in Norwich University, but at least I'd had Luka… Loki… it looked like Sherlock had never had anyone before. Even his brother, their difference in age was just too great for Mycroft to be there all the time.

A part of me really wanted to stay close. To help Sherlock, be there for him, like Loki had been there for me… but I had no idea how such a thing could be possible. My Maverick and I were pretty much on the run, and while we knew we couldn't keep running forever, I still had no idea how exactly we were expected to do that, and stay safe.

In the end the decision was taken out of our hands. It really wasn't that much of a surprise when Sherlock realized the two of us were 'in hiding' so-to-speak. He could have never deduced the whole truth, of course; though that was probably because he didn't know Norse gods existed. When the questions came I decided to trust my instincts and we told Sherlock the whole truth. We hadn't quite expected his reaction (beyond the shock that turned into denial, then confusion, the intrigue and eventually acceptance). Two weeks later my Maverick and I had a new family and a new home. And life moved on…

xXx 3 rd  Person POV xXx

Much changed in the years following the first meeting between William Sherlock Scott Holmes, Silbhé Arianna Kinross Salani and Luka Serrure Hvedrungr (who was, in fact, the Norse god of lies and mischief, Loki… and that was one thing the consulting detective probably would never be able to get over). Nearly thirteen years (more like twelve and a half…) had passed since that day and Sherlock could say that his life probably wasn't what he'd envisioned before that August, before meeting those two, but he had no doubt that it was much, much better.

John Watson… he was the newest piece in the puzzle that was the consulting detective's life and, if the Holmes was honest with himself, the former army captain intrigued him like nothing had since a certain pair had appeared that day on an Italian beach. The man was just such a contradiction. With the discipline and the strength of a soldier, yet also the serenity and the nerves of a practiced surgeon, and a level of kindness and patience that would probably rival a saint's. As hopeful as Sherlock might have (reluctantly) been when the blonde agreed to the flat-share, the detective didn't truly believe the arrangement would last for long. No one beyond his family had ever been able to stand him for more than a handful of days at a time.

Sherlock made sure he was close enough to see John's reaction when he first opened the fridge to find all the body parts that were stashed there (without making it obvious). He'd seen the shock in the doctor's face, followed by dismay, a tiny bit of horror, anger and then… then the man had taken a deep breath, shook his head with an almost rueful sigh and asked Sherlock if there was no milk. And that was it. No yelling, no wailing, no demands that he take out those body parts or cries about the younger man being a psychopath or something… No, in fact, all that had come of that, aside from John's complaining about lack of milk (which would happen every so often, especially when Sherlock used it for an experiment and did not warn John beforehand), all the former soldier really did about the matter was to ask his flatmate to keep all body parts and other experiments in the lower shelves of the fridge to make sure they wouldn't mix with the food, preferably in labeled containers. Sherlock was so absolutely ecstatic about the unexpected acceptance (though he carefully hid his glee behind a well practiced façade of stoicism) that he agreed easily enough to the compromise (it wasn't like he hadn't done such things in the past, he'd just stopped doing it when he got used to living alone).

It'd been almost a month to the day since their first meeting (in the basement lab at Bart's, of all places!) and Sherlock was beginning to feel hopeful that their little arrangement might be more permanent. He'd even been entertaining the idea of introducing John to his family… granted, the doctor already knew Mycroft, but that hadn't been under the best circumstances (the two of them never got along in public), and it's not like Mycroft was his only family…

The only hesitance had come a few days earlier, as they started the most recent case. Sherlock had been so eager as he introduced John as his friend to that idiot Sebastian Wilkes… only for John to correct him, calling himself a colleague. The detective spent the next several days half-focused on the case, half arguing with himself, wondering if he'd truly been so wrong at reading John, had he seen a tighter connection between them than there actually was? And then, that very day, just as they were about to enter the bank to report to Wilkes the resolution of the case, John had pulled him to a side for a moment, and said the last thing Sherlock could have ever expected:

"I'm sorry." The ex-soldier muttered gruffly.

"What…?" The detective honestly didn't know how to reply to that. "John…"

"About what I said before, to Wilkes…" The blonde scratched the back of his neck in what seemed like a self-conscious gesture. "Look… I swear I didn't mean anything by it, nothing negative I mean. I just…" He took a deep breath, as if bracing himself. "I may not have gone to the kind of schools the two of you obviously did, but I know bigotry when I see it. And… well, even if you weren't a genius I'm sure you can see the truth about me. You and I are so different Sherlock… and I don't mean just in the intellect. You come from a world of privilege and me… I barely have enough to pay my half of the rent and buy groceries, and I'm broken in more ways than just the physical. Much as you might have helped me, and still be helping me by allowing me to tag along… Ta for that, by the way." He shook his head. "I just didn't want to hear what Wilkes might have to say, if he thought you were friends with me. It was never about me, I promise. I do consider you a friend, my best friend even. But it didn't seem fair for you to have to endure the kind of bullshit Wilkes was sure to spew about that…"

"John…" Sherlock was absolutely stunned. "John, you seem to be under a misapprehension."

"Wha… if you don't actually consider me a friend…" The doctor seemed confused, and hurt.

"Not about that, I said you're my friend and I'm not taking that back. Now pay attention!" the detective snapped, probably more forcefully than entirely necessary. "It's true I come from privilege, I won't deny that. And so does Sebastian… but if you ever think I would ever choose him over you… well, that might just because you don't know Sebastian. He's a pompous git, and the worst kind of bastard, or, like someone once said 'cac ar oineach'…"

"Ca…" John didn't even try to pronounce the phrase. "What does that mean?"

"Literally? Shit on honor." Sherlock deadpanned. "According to Ari it's also how the Irish say 'scumbag'."

"Quite appropriate." John nodded, he wondered who Ari was exactly, but pushed that question aside for later as the beginnings of a smirk appeared in the corner of his mouth.

"Quite. Now, Sebastian is in no way my friend. We shared a dorm for a time, back in university, and there might have been a time when I… fancied there might one day be something. But that was just stupid, some people might tell you I did a lot of stupid things back then…" He shook his head. "In any case, you should pay no attention to whatever ignorance comes from Sebastian's mouth. We're here to take his money, and nothing else."

John nodded, not for the first time wondering if Sherlock had only taken Wilkes's case for the money he was offering. It could be no coincidence that John had mentioned his own lack of and the need to find a job that might contribute to his income (he was still working on that, and after what had (almost) happened to Sarah, he wasn't sure how that was going to work out).

The two split up once they were inside the bank, with John going to see Wilkes about the second half of the payment, while Sherlock approached Amanda with the news about the jade hairpin she was, even in that moment, wearing.

Thankfully it didn't take long for Wilkes to be satisfied with the report about the case and sign the check (though he still didn't seem to fully believe what John had told him about the Chinese circus and Sherlock climbing balconies). John was glad, he could hardly stand the scumbag (and he was really going to have to get Sherlock to teach him how to pronounce that phrase). He was just taking the envelope with the check when both he and Wilkes could hear a high-pitched feminine screech coming from outside the office:

"Nine million!"

John guessed Sherlock had just delivered the news. Amanda was probably ecstatic (and she wouldn't be the only one as, in the end, she would share the money with John and Sherlock a sort-of 'finder's fee', as a way to express her gratitude for their help). John couldn't help but smile as he left Wilkes's office and went looking for his friend. He was just about to reach him, when something totally unexpected happened: a 4ft. tall human-shaped missile dashed past several of the bankers and secretaries moving around before impacting straight against the consulting detective, who reacted automatically, taking hold of it.

Said missile, as it turned out, was a child, a little girl, not even ten years old (John would eventually learn she was a few weeks shy of her eighth birthday), with loose waves of mahogany hair that fell to her shoulders in a forest green long-sleeved dress and tights.

Then, as if the arrival of the girl, and the way she was holding onto the consulting detective weren't enough of a shock, the words that came out of her mouth, cinched it:

"Uncle Sher!" She cried out in absolute delight.

John froze, and he wasn't the only one, that girl had just called Sherlock uncle?!

"Rosie?!" A soft, female voice. "Rose, sweetheart?"

"Over here Ari," Sherlock called calmly. "The little nymph found me."

"I imagined she had." The female voice called, approaching.

John finally got a good look at her as she rounded the corner. Petite, barely above five feet in height, slim frame, light pink skin, hazel eyes and thick auburn curls to the middle of her back, she was wearing a brown long-sleeved top with pink and green triangles and a long light-washed denim-skirt with tanned-boots and a tanned-leather jacket. She was small, and looked so young…

"Mama!" The girl cried out at the young woman. "I found Uncle Sher!"

"I can see that, dear one." The woman nodded, in a slight Irish accent, before turning to the consulting detective. "I hope we're not interrupting anything, Sherlock?"

"Not at all, my business here is concluded." The detective stated. "There's someone I would like both you and Rosie to meet…"

John imagined Sherlock meant him; however, before he could get the chance to approach them, Sebastian was stepping out of his office, annoyed.

"What is all that racket?" He demanded angrily. "Don't you people have jobs to do? This is a bank, not a daycare and…"

"And a single child does not make a daycare, unless you're now hearing voices." The petite woman, Ari, interrupted in a chilling tone. "Maybe you're too tired to be working Sebastian… or perhaps it's the old age, and the old abuses that have finally caught up with you…?"

She stared straight at Sebastian Wilked, and while she was more than half a foot shorter than he was, there was something about her, her posture, her stance, that made it seem like she was the one looking down at the banker, and not the other way around.

"Who are you, girl?" Sebastian demanded, hotly.

"You haven't changed at all, have you Wilkes?" She asked, arching a brow. "Except, I think your memory might be worse than it was eight years ago. Have you really forgotten me so soon?"

John, and everyone else, noticed the moment his eyes came alight in recognition:

"Arianna Holmes." He addressed her. "I don't believe you have any business being in this bank."

"Not really, I like my bankers being a bit more… honest." She smiled in an almost predatory way. "You understand, I'm sure. The only reason I'm here is because… well, we happened to be in the neighborhood, Rose saw Sherlock and she wanted to say hello to her favorite uncle. We haven't seen each other since the holidays."

"If Mycroft hears you say that, he'll take offense." Sherlock pointed out.

"I like Uncle Myc too." The little one said with an enthusiastic nod. "He's really nice to me, gives me cookies and takes me to see the birds at the park!"

John couldn't, for the life of him, imagine Mycroft Holmes taking a hyperactive, bright little girl to the park… then again, he could have never imagined Sherlock Holmes carrying that same child in his arms, her hands around his neck, yet that was exactly what was happening in that moment. And the girl's mother was a Holmes too?!

A bell sounded right then, it came from Arianna's handbag.

"That's the alarm." She announced.

"You have somewhere to be." Sherlock guessed, it wasn't a question.

"Serrure is expecting us for dinner." Arianna explained with a shrug. "He had a case earlier, and we agreed to meet at that Italian place…"

"Angelo's?" John blurted out before he even knew he was talking.

"Come eat with us Uncle Sher!" Rose said at the same time.

"Yes, that." Arianna nodded at John half-absently, before she truly looked at the blonde. "Arianna Kinross-Holmes, pleasure to meet you. You must be Dr. Watson, Sherlock mentioned he'd a flatmate when we last talked."

"John Watson, and the pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Holmes." The blonde assured her. "I'm afraid to say I don't know much of you at all, though I would love to learn more about Sherlock's family."

"Call me Arianna. It's alright to say you didn't even know I existed before today." She assured him. "Sherlock can be over-protective like that. He's very much like Serrure in that aspect, which probably shouldn't be surprising…" She chuckled lightly. "You both should really come have dinner with us. It would be a good opportunity to get to know each other."

"Sure," John agreed easily enough before turning to his friend. "Sherlock?"

"The case is finished." Was the detective's answer.

And from him that was as good as an acceptance. In the time he had of knowing him John had already learnt the consulting detective did not eat while working on a case, and he hardly slept. But the case had been solved, which meant he was ready to eat, and would probably be sleeping for 18 hours straight, at least.

Just like that, Sebastian Wilkes was forgotten. None of them paid him any attention as the group left the bank, catching a taxi to Angelo's, where a tall man with short ink-blank hair, emerald eyes, in a black suit with a crisp white-shirt unbuttoned at the top and no tie, a long ashen-gray coat on top was waiting. He looked so much like Sherlock, at first sight at least, John had to blink a few times.

"Just what is going on here?" The doctor asked, confused.

"Right." Sherlock smiled. "You've met Ari and Rose Alfdis, however, Ari's not my sister, nor is she Mycroft's wife…"

Arianna's shivered dramatically at the suggestion, which made both Sherlock and his lookalike chuckle at the same time.

"John, meet Serrure Holmes, Ari's husband, Rose's papa… and my twin brother."

xXx

John learnt the 'public' version of the Holmes family story that night. How Serrure, back then going by Luke (his full name was actually Luka Serrure Kinross Holmes for, reasons). Sherlock himself, most people had still called him William back then, he'd only used his second name when working on a case; he'd fully adopted it when entering university after that summer.

John found it so interesting: the two friends hoping across Europe, trying to find a home, only to find it in the most unlikely of places. And then Mrs. Holmes had insisted on Luka being officially part of the family, and so Luka Serrure Hvedrungr had become Serrure Holmes. Arianna was introduced into the equation as Marise Holmes's goddaughter from Ireland who had gone to live with the family before attending university.

It was a good story, and it was real too, they just made sure to keep all mention of gods, Asgard and magic out of it. Arianna believed one day John would know, but he just wasn't ready, yet.

Meeting Serrure, Arianna and Rose also allowed John to see a different side of Mycroft Holmes; the man who slipped chocolate chip cookies to his niece and acted like it was some great secret (though the girl's parents obviously knew). He also learnt the truth about Anna Isobel Holmes, Mycroft's wife, who John had only known as the man's PA: Anthea.

John soon came to like every single member of the Holmes family. Serrure wasn't the same as Sherlock (and not only because they weren't really twins). Serrure was a solicitor, specializing in high-profile cases, also pretty ruthless (which probably was a requirement for anyone with the surname Holmes, by birth or adoption). At the same time he was very kind to his family and willing to accept anything and everything as long as there had been knowledge and consent. He also seemed to understand Sherlock in a way no one else (not even Mycroft) did. Arianna had specialized in International Relations while in university and had even worked as part-time Assistant Ambassador for several months while in her last year in the graduate program. She'd left all that after the birth of Rose and had later returned to help either as assistant or interpreter (she was certified in a dozen languages) when necessary; though for the most part she stayed at home. Rose of course was wonderful, probably the cutest child John had ever known.

John had heard stories, especially during the weekly dinners, about how they had all been during their late teens, the first years in Oxford. The 'twins' mentioned more than once how absolutely scary Arianna could be; and while the doctor had certainly seen her take down Wilkes, he just couldn't picture her like that, not until a certain day, in Baker Street…

Another case had just finished. It'd been a mix of private and public (a private client had actually been the one to hire the consulting detective, but New Scotland Yard had gotten involved eventually). John had ended completely drenched for one reason or another at some point and the younger man had suggested he go take a shower while Sherlock went to report the closing of the case to their client. John agreed.

He'd just stepped out of the shower when Arianna arrived with Rose. They were supposed to have dinner the day before, but with Sherlock in the climax of a case, he hadn't remembered it (which surprised no one at all), so they'd decided to go once it was all finished. John guessed Serrure must still be in the office or something. It was pretty normal for him to arrive directly to the restaurant. While the Kinross-Holmes family lived just a few blocks away, which allowed them to visit every so often.

"Uncle John!" Rose cried out in delight the moment she saw him, running for a hug.

John had tried to explain to her he wasn't her uncle, thinking it was just a child-thing, calling every adult she saw every so often 'uncle'. But she never called Angelo that, and she saw him often enough… he'd tried to talk to Arianna about it once, but she'd just smiled at him, a smile that held a thousand secrets and said, enigmatically:

"She knows family when she sees it." Like that explained anything at all!

That particular evening the two adults were drinking some tea while waiting for Sherlock to arrive (and probably shower too) before going to Angelo's when, rather unexpectedly, a bunch of people arrived, going straight for the living room.

"Mama!" Rose cried out running to the kitchen where they were.

Surprisingly enough (for anyone who did not know the girl, at least), she wasn't scared of all the unknown adults, not at all; no, she was angry.

"They're messing everything, mama." The child said accusingly to her mother. "Uncle Sher is not gonna like it."

"No, he won't." Arianna agreed, turning to look at John questioningly.

"It's not the first time they do this." John admitted with a resigned sigh.

"This?" Arianna's eyes narrowed.

"Drugs' bust." John clarified.

"Excuse me!" Her voice went higher, too high, enough to call the attention of at least a couple of people in the other room.

"Who are you?" The dark-skinned woman with black curls and dark eyes asked.

There was such an attitude to her, like she believed herself to be better than Arianna, than John… it rankled the hazel eyed woman. She hated that sort of people.

"Considering I'm a guest here, while you're nothing more than a trespasser, shouldn't you be the one introducing yourself first?" Arianna challenged.

"I am no trespasser, this is perfectly legal." The older woman replied, still not introducing herself.

"On whose authority?" Arianna insisted.

"On mine." A male voice called, approaching. "Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, New Scotland Yard. This is Sergeant Sally Donovan. This is a drugs' bust."

"So you say…" Arianna muttered, slowly getting on her feet.

John kept quiet. He'd been about to introduce Sally himself when Arianna first demanded to know who the woman was, but then Rose had climbed onto his lap, placing a small hand on his lips. Then she signaled to her mama. She wanted him to see something. It was obvious the girl somehow knew (or maybe she'd 'deduced'…) what was coming, and she didn't want John to interrupt, she just wanted him to see…

"Stop." Arianna ordered, in a perfectly even tone, and when that failed. "I said Stop Now."

Everyone did. No one so much as moved a muscle. Arianna hadn't yelled, yet somehow her voice had carried through to the living room just fine, and there was enough power behind it no one doubted on following her order in that moment.

"I want everything back in its proper place and every single one of you out of this flat in the next two minutes, have I made myself clear?" She stated, her tone perfectly calm, yet full of steel. "You better not have damaged anything."

"You have no right to demand that." A man, Anderson stated from the living room.

"You would think so, wouldn't you?" Arianna hissed quietly. "Yet, as it happens, the ones being in a place where they have no right to be, doing things they shouldn't be doing, are all of you!"

"Who are you?" Lestrade asked, confused.

"My name is Arianna Holmes." That was enough to throw everyone for a loop.

"The freak is married?!" Anderson and Donovan cried out in unison.

"Shut up!" The hazel-eyed shrieked, truly losing it, if only for a moment. "The next time I hear you calling Sherlock that awful word I will personally teach you to respect your betters. And I promise you, you won't like the way I conduct my lessons."

"Please." Anderson snorted. "You're just a girl."

"Just a girl?" Arianna smiled, it wasn't a nice smile. "Let me tell you who I am exactly, and it's not just 'a girl', I'm not 'just' anything. I am Arianna Kinross-Holmes. Sherlock is not my husband, he's my brother-in-law. I am married to his brother, Serrure."

Lestrade opened his mouth, probably to mention that Sherlock's only brother was Mycroft… it was what John himself had believed for a while.

"You probably know him better as Serrure Kinross, he's a solicitor." That shut everyone up.

Really, every single person in London probably knew who Serrure Kinross was. The man did not belong to any buffet, he worked alone; at the same time he'd had enough high-profile cases for his name to become well known. Some said he specialized in 'lost cases'; his most memorable one had been one where he'd defended a man convicted of murdering his own wife. His daughter insisted it hadn't been him, but she was so young no one believed her, no one except Serrure. He'd managed to prove that the crime had actually been committed by the woman's best-friend, who'd been obsessed with her since they were together in university. He'd killed her when she refused him one too many times, a crime on passion; then proceeded to frame her husband as his true vengeance. New Scotland Yard had refused to even contemplate the possibility of a mistake, even when Serrure pointed out the inconsistencies. So they'd all gone to trial, and the defendant had won, not only proving his client's innocence, but showing everyone who the true murderer was. It had been the worst kind of ridicule for SY.

"I see you know who I speak of." Arianna smirked. "I realize you probably didn't know he's a Holmes. Hardly anyone knows. It gets complicated, whenever they have to work together on a case, to have two Holmes. Or when he's at Whitehall for whatever the reason. So he chose to use my own name professionally."

"Your name?" Sally asked, probably still trying to wrap her head around the whole thing.

"Kinross." The auburn-haired explained. "I am actually Lady Navar, minor nobility from the House of Ross, the recognition of it made it necessary for me to keep my surname even after my marriage to Serrure."

It was true. Marise (Mrs. Holmes) had insisted, to keep consistency with what Arianna had said in Italy. She'd been considered a lady of minor nobility, until her marriage to a 'Scion of House Holmes', when she'd officially gained the title of Lady Navar. They were also informed that if a daughter of Siobhan Kinross (her mother's sister) married into a noble house, she would be able to claim the other half of the title (Lady Brechin), which was unlikely to happen; as far as Arianna knew both of her cousins were married already, though she'd never met their spouses.

"Anyway," The young woman shrugged. "The point remains. If you do as I instructed before we can put the matter to rest right now. Otherwise I will be forced to phone my husband."

"And what will you do then?" Donovan challenged.

"Charge you with breaking and entering, to start." Arianna retorted in the same tone.

"This is not breaking and entering, this is a drugs' bust, and perfectly legal." Donovan insisted.

"Show me proof then." Arianna demanded.

"What…?" Donovan obviously wasn't expecting that.

"A drugs' bust is, indeed, perfectly legal, under specific circumstances." Arianna elaborated. "In this case it would mean you having records of previous arrests of the owner of this flat, in this case Sherlock, with observations of possible relapse. It would also be necessary to prove that he's a danger, either to himself or others, or the drugs he's using are particularly dangerous, either to himself or others or, lacking that, object of some current investigation on your part." Her eyes were almost flashing as she finished her speech with the expected question. "Now, where is your proof to any of this?"

"You just made up all that!" Anderson practically whined.

"Did I?" Arianna asked testily. "Should I phone my husband and check." She turned to Lestrade. "Now, either show me your proof or get out of the flat this instant!"

"Us having no records doesn't mean the freak isn't a junkie, everyone knows!" Donovan hissed.

"Really? Like everyone knows you're a scarlet woman?" Arianna practically purred. "At least they're respectful enough not to say it. A courtesy you do not extend to my brother. Next time you use that insult against him, I really will slap you." She turned back to Lestrade, knowing he was the boss. "It's the same in the end, you have no proof, now get out of this flat or I really will file charges against all of you."

"We came to get whatever Sherlock might be keeping, related to the last case." Lestrade tried to explain. "He has the bad habit of keeping evidence from us."

"There are legal, polite ways of asking for things." Arianna stated coldly. "And while I know Sherlock tends to focus so much on the case itself he forgets protocols most of the time, that doesn't give you the right to invade his home whenever you feel like it. A home is a sanctuary, it's private; that's why it's a crime to invade it without invitation. And in any case, he was hired by a private citizen this time, so whatever he might have or not have, he doesn't owe you anything this time. Now Go!"

They finally did. Some of the muttering about the short woman who defended the consulting detective as if she were his own wife. They didn't understand how seriously Arianna took the matter of family, she would do anything for them, for every single member of them.

As the auburn-haired sat down again John couldn't help but notice her hands were shaking, just slightly, but it was still noticeable. Apparently she hadn't been as impassive as she'd appeared when doing verbal battle with Lestrade and the others.

"I think we need some more tea." He announced out-loud, as he got on his feet, carefully placing Rose on her mother's lap.

Arianna's reaction was automatic, her arms going around the child's form, embracing her. And Rose too seemed to know exactly what to do to help her mama calm down, letting her bury her face in the mahogany hair, while murmuring things in a different language in the older woman's ear. It was truly a touching moment.

So John prepared some more tea, and poured two cups. Seemingly satisfied that her mama would be alright, Rose went back to the living room and her drawings, leaving the two adults again alone in the kitchen. Silence lasted for a while, until the tea was almost fully gone. So much was going through John's mind but he didn't dare say a word. It was Arianna who spoke first:

"You have questions." It was a statement.

"You said Sherlock's not a junkie, and while I just cannot imagine him as one, the first time I was here for a drugs' bust, when I tried to deny it, well… he didn't." John couldn't find the right words to explain himself, but he'd a feeling the woman understood anyway.

"I said they had no proof, no records of prior arrests or anything of the like… I never actually said he'd never consumed drugs." Arianna clarified quietly.

"Should I ask, or should we forget I ever heard that?" John inquired bluntly.

Truth was, he was curious, but he also respected and appreciated Sherlock enough that he would back down if that was what was best. He wasn't about to risk the best friend he'd had in many years over mere curiosity.

"Usually I would say he should tell you himself, but I think we both know he won't." Arianna admitted with a low sigh. "Not because he doesn't trust you, but because he probably doesn't see why circumstances can make a difference on the way people react. As far as he's concerned, he was a junkie, you know that, and still tolerate him, there's no need to bring the topic up again."

"You think differently." John guessed.

"It's entirely different to know your flatmate, your friend does cocaine whenever he can get his hands on some… and knowing he made a mistake almost nine years ago, and hasn't repeated it since. And never will." The hazel-eyed clarified.

"Quite different, yes." The doctor agreed. "Will you tell me?"

"I was twenty, while Serrure and Sherlock were 22, the summer when we married." She began her tale. "The three of us had arrived to Oxford together, they shared a room in a men's only dorm, while I had a room all to myself in a girl's only one. It was good, each of us attended different classes, but still found the time to have meals together, take a walk, meet in the library, even go to the cinema every so often. It all changed that summer. We married in June, as wedding-present Mycroft gave us an all-expenses-paid trip through Europe. So we were away for the rest of the summer, whole months. Then, September came… Being married, Serrure and I moved to different accommodations, a flat outside campus but still within walking distance. Sherlock stayed in the dorm, and got another dorm-mate, his name was Victor Trevor."

John had known all along it wouldn't be a good story, in that moment he knew, without a doubt, that he really, really wasn't going to like it.

"At first it was good." Arianna went on. "Victor was nice, if a little introverted. I think he'd been in love with Sherlock even before the two became roommates. I don't actually know how far they took it, only Serrure knows that, and Sherlock himself of course. It should have stayed all fine… but then Sebastian Wilkes came into the picture. You know, I'm sure, that he's a bastard."

"Sherlock told me you call him something in Gaelic, which translates as scumbag." John stated.

"Ca car oineach, yes." Arianna nodded. "He probably deserves worse, but still. At first he wasn't like that, or we didn't know at least. He was the one to convince Sherlock and Victor to go public. They went on one date. Serrure and I weren't here when it happened. Actually I'd been feeling sick and ended in the hospital for a few days. By the time we were back it'd all gone to hell already, there was nothing we could do."

"What happened?" John was already fearing the answer.

"Someone took pictures, and sent them to Victor's family. Turns out they were homophobes of the worst kind. They went straight to Oxford, yelled at their son and Victor was weak, instead of standing up for himself, and for Sherlock, made it seem like it'd all been Sherlock's fault."

"As if Sherlock had forced him." John realized in horror.

"Victor left that same day, but the damage was done. By the time we went to visit Sherlock had hid himself behind a wall of indifference. He refused to tell either me or Serrure what had happened. Claimed it was nothing more than an experiment gone wrong." She shook her head. "He should have been in a room by himself for the rest of the semester at least; and even back then Serrure and I were already making plans, trying to find a way to help him. Meanwhile, Wilkes somehow managed to convince the people at the offices to move him in with Sherlock; claiming he was a friend and wanted to be there to help."

"What did he do?"

"He was the one who got Sherlock into cocaine. I don't know how he did it, or even why exactly. My health wasn't the best at the time, and with Serrure always by my side, we weren't there for Sherlock as much as we should have been. I regret that now, though there's nothing I can do about it. By the time we learnt of things, it had all gone so wrong… Sherlock was in the hospital, having almost died of overdose."

"What?!" John couldn't believe that, didn't want to.

"I think… no, I know he blames himself for what happened with Victor… right, I didn't tell you. Victor committed suicide shortly after he left. There were rumors that it was Sherlock's fault…"

"But it wasn't! It couldn't have!"

"No, it couldn't have. But young people, especially immature, jealous young people, can be cruel. I think Sherlock heard the same thing being said so many times he began to believe it himself. Just like he came to believe he was a sociopath, after the kids in high-school told him one too many times he had no heart…"

"That's… that's…" John couldn't even find the right words to express himself.

"I know. We… I felt so guilty, when we saw him there, in the hospital. They almost found him too late. And even when he woke up, it was like he no longer cared. No matter what Mycroft said, or their parents, or even Serrure and I… nothing worked. He implied, more than once, that he would go back to the drugs the moment he left the hospital. He didn't care about his studies or even his life anymore. And then… It was my last card, the only thing I had left." She took a deep breath. "I told him I wouldn't allow drugs anywhere near my baby."

"You were pregnant."

"That's why I kept ending in the hospital. You see John, I had cancer when I was younger, it got pretty bad, I almost died; and I never fully recovered. I got pregnant near the end of the summer, it was a high risk pregnancy, more than one doctor recommended a termination, for my own safety. But I refused. Still, it wasn't easy." No, it hadn't been, and if it weren't for her match's energy, for their bonds, she probably wouldn't have made it, neither of them would have. "I don't know if you're aware of this, but Sherlock loves children, he simply adores them; their innocence and their absolute lack of prejudice. Children do not judge you, they do not see others as more, or less, not unless you teach them to. I knew, even before Rose was born, that he would adore her. So I used that, I used my own unborn child to push Sherlock into giving up the drugs."

John didn't even have to ask if it had worked, it was obvious enough.

"At the end of the semester we convinced Sherlock to leave the dorms, he moved in with us. We used the excuse that it was so there could be someone with me, when Serrure was away for work, as he'd begun his internship as a paralegal. In the end it was a good thing, really good. You see, Rose was born early, almost too early. When labor began I thought they were Braxton-Hicks contractions, I'd had them before. By the time I realized I was truly about to give birth I could hardly move anymore. I told Sherlock to call an ambulance, he made some calculations, decided an ambulance would take too long, then proceeded to pretty much carry me all the way to the hospital (several blocks away). I don't know what would have happened if he hadn't been there. It's why we named him Rose's godfather."

"Rose truly loves him."

"Yeah, she does."

That was the end of the conversation that day. Sherlock arrived not long afterwards, he took a shower and then they were all walking to Angelo's. And while no questions were ever asked about what had been said that afternoon, it wouldn't have surprised John if Sherlock had just known. In the end all he could do was not treat Sherlock any different. He had had rough times, had made mistakes, yes, but that was all in the past. Sherlock was a good man, John would never doubt that, no matter what anyone else did or said.

xXx Nightingale's POV xXx

There was an enveloping warmth, and the scent of roses in full bloom… a second later I was waking up. For a second I couldn't help but remember the last time I'd woken in such a way, seconds before Serrure's mobile rang, Mycroft, to inform us Sherlock was on an ambulance en-route to the hospital, he'd just been found in his dorm, unconscious, ODed. I blinked, a light touch on my arm pulling me back to the present. Rose was standing beside my bed.

It was probably a good thing we didn't sleep naked. It was something my love and I'd done for a while, right after getting married. Well, he in fact had taken to sleeping naked (or almost) back in Asgard (their ideas of nudity much different than ours). However, when Rose became old enough for her own bed, and to move on her own, we realized the last thing we wanted was to risk Rose going looking for us only to find us naked.

"Mama, Uncle Sher and Uncle John need us." She said softly.

I turned to look at the mobile on my night-table, there were no missed-calls. I also half-absently noticed that it was barely past midnight.

"Wha… what's happened?" My Maverick asked, yawning a bit as he sat up.

"Mama, Papa, Uncle Sher and Uncle John need us." Rose insisted, her voice gaining a tone that showed she was about to go into a temper tantrum, which was completely unlike her.

"Are they in danger?" My love asked, fully waking up as he processed our daughter's words.

"The Troll is gone, but he's not yet stone, the Knight is angry but the Wizard might lose himself in the worry…" Rose mumbled.

Both of us stiffened at her words. We knew perfectly well what it meant when Rose began using metaphors and titles, and the different cadence in her voice, almost as if she were singing… those were the giveaways of prophecies, or Seers… We'd known for a while that our daughter was gifted in a way that very few individuals in the history of the Realms had been, like the elven prophetesses of Alfheim, or Lady Frigg in Asgard. Rose was a precog, had been since she was very young, but while most of the time that gift manifested in her simply knowing things (like she'd known her Uncle was inside the bank, or when exactly he was finished and we could go see him…), there were times when she saw things, either in dreams or visions; and that seemed to be one such occasion. She'd seen something, something bad.

It took no effort to realize Sherlock was meant to be the wizard, and John the knight; we had no idea who the troll was, but it couldn't be good, especially if he hadn't turned to stone (which meant he hadn't been defeated). We needed to find Sherlock and John.

Rose's words had left both of us so shaken that my Maverick didn't even think about it, as soon as all three of us were dressed he was teleporting us straight into 221B Baker Street. My match didn't even try to look ahead before he fully materialized, which probably explained why we were all taken so completely by surprise. Not just us either, Sherlock and John too… as we found them snogging on the living room couch.

Rose let out a wordless cry of delight as she ran to her 'uncles'. I couldn't help but myself. I could sense the bonds tying the consulting detective and the doctor together, and I was quite sure my love could see them. The two pulled apart instantly the moment they became aware of our presence, though they didn't actually get off the couch and after a few seconds with no rebuke or criticism John seemed to feel confident enough to take Sherlock's hand in his. I couldn't help but smile widely at it all (There had been times, after the drugs, Sebastian, Victor… when I'd feared Sherlock might never find his match; or worse, that he might hide so far behind the face of 'high-functioning sociopath' that they would miss each other; I was so happy to have been wrong!).

"What are you doing here?" Sherlock blurted, more self-conscious than truly annoyed.

"I didn't hear the door open, didn't hear any footsteps on the stairs for that matter." John said almost absently at the same time.

My Maverick and I turned to look at each other for a moment and then nodded; words weren't necessary, not even in the link that connected our minds, we were completely in agreement: the time had come.

In the next few minutes John and Sherlock explained what had happened in the last week, everything about the bips, the hostages, the explosives; and then the events of that same night, from the moment John decided to go for a walk to cool his temper, only to be abducted, and then the showdown in the pool. My husband and I had only known the very basics of the case that was going on, since Sherlock had explicitly asked us to stay away, for safety (neither of us had wanted one of us, or Rose, to end up as the next hostage). Still, I knew my love felt bad that he hadn't been there to help them, to help his brother, I felt the same.

I didn't like the feeling. It was the same thing I'd felt three years before, when Sherlock had decided to move out (even after we all graduated from Oxford he'd continued living with the three of us, we loved having him there). There had been a case, one of his first official ones with New Scotland Yard (he'd done some things, hired by private citizens, before that, but nothing properly official). A serial killer, of women, Sherlock had given all the information to the Yard and waited for them to arrest him; only to have him flee before they could cuff him, leading them on a wild chase through several neighborhoods which had ended when he opened fire in Regent's Park, there had been several wounded, mostly as people threw themselves and their families to the ground to keep them safe, though one mother had ended with a bullet in her arm and another with a graze to her hip.

I'd been in the park that day with Rose, it was part of our routine. We never knew for sure if there had been a reason for the murderer's actions, or if he just wanted to 'go out with a bang'. Still, Sherlock got it into his head that we had been the targets and it was all his fault. He'd moved out the next week. It was then that he'd built his sociopathic façade back up and stronger than ever before; in his mind, if he didn't have loved ones, they couldn't be targeted. He had been so affected by the shooting I'd agreed to keep our meetings private, to never go looking for him, or even approach him if I happened to see him nearby. Deep down I always hoped the day would come when he would change his mind, when he would meet someone who would be able to tear down his walls. And then John Watson arrived…

"You should have just shot the bloody bomb." My Maverick's gruff comment pulled me back to the present abruptly.

"That would have ended with both of us dead." John pointed out with a eerie calm, before adding. "If Sherlock would have listened to me and left when I told him to, I would have made sure there was nothing left."

"No!" The consulting detective snarled, holding onto John tightly enough he'd probably leave bruises on the smaller man.

"I wasn't talking about anyone dying." My love stated, very seriously, before they could keep misunderstanding his statement; he looked straight at his 'twin' as he added. "It would have protected him too."

"What…?" It looked like neither of the men in the sofa understood what my husband meant, though Sherlock at least had a vague idea.

"How could that be?" The consulting detective asked, very quietly.

"Because the two of you are bound together." I said instead. "You are a match."

Sherlock let out a breath rather sharply, shock threatening to overtake him. John just looked at him in confusion, obviously trying and failing to understand what we were talking about; and then Rose clarified it:

"Soulmates! She cried out in delight. "Uncle Sherlock and Uncle John are soulmates!"

John was the one left breathless at that. I imagined it couldn't be easy. Going from kissing the other man for the first time to learning they were meant to be together, if he even believed we were telling the truth. He'd spent month saying they were just friends… then again, Loki and I'd been just friends for years, until we were ready to give the next step.

"She's known all along, hasn't she?" My brother-in-law murmured, looking at his goddaughter.

I nodded. He obviously thought Rose had known from the moment she began calling the blonde: Uncle John, about three months before, and that was alright, he didn't need to know that she'd probably known long before that, possibly even from the very first time she'd met John, she'd just waited two months for the man to be ready for it.

"I still don't understand." John said seriously. "The things you're talking about, protection from explosions, bonds, soulmates? All those things are impossible."

"Not impossible, just improbable." The Holmes twins recited at the same time.

"Anything is possible when you have two of the greatest forces of the universe on your side, John." I added with a small smile.

"And what forces are those?" John's eyes narrowed.

"Love… and Magic."

xXx 3 rd  Person POV xXx

For whatever the reason, it was easier to convince John that night of the truth of all of them, than it had been to convince Sherlock back in Italy all those years earlier. Arianna had a feeling he'd have even been willing to believe that Sherlock himself was a Norse god, that was how highly he held the consulting detective. By the next week Serrure had finishing weaving a very complex net of protective spells into John's watch, the same way he'd done with Sherlock's scarf shortly after they joined the Holmes family (there was a reason he never went anywhere without it). That way they knew that no matter where they might be, whether together or apart, the two of them would always be safe (or as safe as we could make them. Arianna still had my nightingale pendant, with even more protective spells, while Rose had a pretty little bracelet her big sister, Lady Hel, had sent her from Helheim and which her Papa had expanded on.

And so, life went on. Sherlock and John were together, though they only demonstrated it in the privacy of their flat, or while surrounded by those they trusted completely (like the family, Mrs. Hudson, or Angelo). He was still too afraid of putting those close to him in danger, but was relaxing ever so slowly. Which was probably the only reason why John even agreed with his plan; which had Sherlock continue acting as a sociopath most of the time, and John having a seemingly neverending string of girlfriends. Truth was he never did more than go for coffee or dinner with any of them; and when eventually they began growing clingy, wanting more, he would dump them. He wasn't being cruel, from the start he would always tell them he was just looking for someone to be with for a while, no-strings-attached, and they agreed; but either they grew attached at some point, or they just thought they could change him… Sometimes John didn't actually have to dump them; enough times of him running out on a 'date' or standing them up because of Sherlock and they would handle that all on their own (which actually made things easier for them all). John hoped one day they wouldn't need to hide anymore.

Some things had changed already though, particularly with NSY. Donovan rarely called Sherlock 'freak' anymore, and whenever she did, she would flinch and look around, almost like a part of her expected Arianna to step out of the nearest shadow to berate her again. Lestrade was authoritative when dealing with the consulting detective, but still more polite than he'd been in the past; asking for the pieces of evidence, and listening when Sherlock asked for something. Anderson simply chose to stay away. And there hadn't been any more drugs' busts since.

Arianna knew in every universe things happened a bit differently, every single decision made changed the course of history. She was a fierce believer in the theory of the multiverse (at least since she met Loki); she believed there must be a universe where Asgard didn't find out about her and she went on to doing her graduate studies in Norwich, where she didn't have to leave her aunt to nothing but a Polaroid taken in the garden of Salani manor in Wales before she and her Maverick officially went to ground, where she never met the Holmeses and probably never had to learn through an obituary in an American newspaper that her Aunt Kathryn was among the doctors lost to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, where she had a completely different life. She also believed it likely that in some other universe she ended in Asgard somehow; in some other the cancer did kill her when she was fourteen, and many other possibilities. The one thing she couldn't believe possible, in any universe, was for her to have never met her match, it was just unthinkable.

In any case, she wondered what might have happened to her beloved brother, Sherlock, and his John, in some other world where the young Holmes never met her and her beloved that sunny afternoon in an Italian beach. Did he go to Mycroft for help? Did he try to fight the spirits-forsaken troll (ever since Rose named him that, it's become habit for all of them to use the same word) on his own? Did he die…? She didn't know, and she never wanted to find out. She will never forget the day Rose went to her, carrying what looked like a page from a torn children's picture-book, with the letter written in thick crimson crayon all across the page. And then, the words that sealed it all:

"The Mother, the Knight and the Nymph… the Troll will make them fall if the Wizard does not."

For a couple of seconds Arianna was completely breathless, mind working a mile a minute as she tried to understand the meaning of what her daughter had just prophesized, and then it clicked in her mind, and she let out a wordless scream terrible enough her husband materialized in the room just a heartbeat later, armor on, knives in hand and ready to do battle.

"Nightingale!" He cried out in full alert.

It was a name he hadn't called her outside of their most private moments in years, out of hear of it being picked up by 'other-wordly ears' and used against them.

"We need to go to Sherlock, right now." His beloved wife told him, absolutely serious. "We need to get to him right now."

"Why?" For probably the first time ever, Loki did not understand.

"Because if we don't, he's going to die." She answered quietly.

She had no doubt about that. Sherlock would never allow anything to happen to Mrs. Hudson, John and Rose, no matter what the price might be. And there was always the chance that even all the spells in that scarf would not be enough…

Arianna and Serrure knew something was going on, something big, ever since the man called Jim Moriarty had orchestrated all those 'daylight crimes' nearly three months earlier. Serrure had been part of that case, working with the lead prosecutor, for a change (usually he worked on defense, rather than the other way around, but still). Sherlock and John had been there too, as the key witnesses against the man. Even all their efforts put together hadn't been enough, somehow Moriarty (the Troll) had gone free, and that was just the beginning.

"Lestrade phoned me a few minutes ago." The god-turned-solicitor stated quietly. "He warned me Sherlock would need a lawyer, and a very good one. NSY is beginning to consider him suspect of the recent crimes."

"But we all know Moriarty did that!" Arianna cried out in disbelief. "Or at least engineered it."

"Do we know it?" Serrure asked in turn. "I'm not doubting it, no. But we cannot confuse faith with evidence. Truth is, there is no concise proof of anything right now. Not even that James Moriarty even exists at all. Sherlock has tried to keep us away from what's going on, and it might just have turned against him, because now he was no alibi for a lot of the stuff going on, except John, and no jury will ever believe John Watson to be unbiased and objective. My… our brother has effectively put himself between a sharp rock and a very hard place."

"He was just trying to protect us…" Arianna murmured, dismayed.

"He was." Her husband agreed. "And now it's our turn."

She agreed whole-heartedly with that sentiment. The Troll would be finding out how huge a mistake he made, messing with the Maverick and his Nightingale…

xXx

Two days later Arianna and Serrure woke to a tingling warmth, the smell of roses and their daughter's tiger-stone (orange-red-black) eyes (they looked chocolate brown most of the time, except when she was using her gifts). A moment later Serrure's mobile pinged, a single text:

Lazarus is a go.

It had started. The plan had been set in motion. The two parents slipped out of bed silently, a shower, clothes and breakfast, they would need to be ready, they all had their parts to play.

The call came almost an hour later. DI Lestrade refused to explain things over the phone, just asked them to meet him at St. Bart's. Once there they were informed, by both him and a doctor on guard, that Serrure's brother: Sherlock Holmes, had just committed suicide. The twin froze in shock, his wife dropping to a chair seemingly distressed, while the nine-year-old began shrieking her denial, calling for her uncle at the top of her lungs. Until john Watson appeared, his face pale, except for the redness around his eyes; he picked up Rose, holding her tightly against his chest, whispering sweet nothings in her ear, and the girl stopped screaming and began hiccupping into his neck, every so often calling John's name.

The rest of the day was an exercise in patience, and acting. As Arianna would switch between looking completely burdened with grief and berating anyone and everyone for ever believing that her dear brother was a fraud. Serrure quite calmly announced he would be personally looking into things, and whoever was responsible for pushing his brother to that point would pay, dearly. John for his part, didn't say a word, he just held tightly onto Rose, as if getting some kind of comfort from her, and the girl did the same (either looking for the same, or she knew she was helping just by being there).

Eventually night came, interrogations ended, and they were all free to go home. It hadn't been as bad as they'd feared. After the first time someone tried to pry John and Rose apart, and ended with a nine-year-old shrieking like a banshee, no one tried it again. Most people were so horribly uncomfortable with a little girl grieving like that, that they didn't approach the pair for the most part. Serrure too was intimidating enough that the authorities didn't keep him for more than absolutely necessary, and after Arianna let out a string of curses, switching languages every third word (which meant that no one understood more than half a dozen words in all) after Donovan dared suggest that it was all Sherlock's own fault, they tried to stay mostly clear from her too.

Sherlock had committed suicide, no one contested that. Lestrade notified Mycroft too, but he refused the chance to identify the body, leaving the task to John and Serrure; while Anna handled the preparations for the funeral. No one seemed surprised, those two Holmes had never seemed particularly close…

They ended at Serrure's place that evening. A car sent by Mycroft had taken all three members of the small family and John there; while Mycroft himself and Anna had arrived in another not long afterwards. They sat in the living room there, curtains closed, waiting for the final two guests to arrive, it wouldn't be long.

It wasn't a well-known fact, but a number of the houses on that block had once been a single townhouse. They actually all still belonged to the same family: the Holmes family. Serrure had taken one for himself, and they leased the others to a number of families as needed. And while the original house had been properly divided for the most part, there was a single exception: the basement. It remained a single basement, it was also connected to only two of the houses: Serrure's and one they kept empty and ready to be used as a safe-house (and with an entrance that faced the opposite street).

Less than half an hour after the rest of them had arrived the door leading into said basement opened, allowing the entrance to the two people missing in that meeting: Molly Hooper and Sherlock Holmes.

John reacted the moment he laid eyes on Sherlock, running straight to him, embracing him tightly and kissing him with enough intensity to make everyone look away. They broke away eventually, clasping their left hands together and there, at the base of their fourth fingers was a particular tattoo, only two other people had the same design: Nightingale and Loki.

It was the one things John had asked for two days earlier, after they had a plan for dealing with Moriarty and everything he'd already set in motion. He'd asked Sherlock to marry him. They both knew they couldn't do anything official, legal, because then Moriarty would know. But Sherlock remembered well enough the ceremony his brother and sister had used to marry (aside from the signing of the marriage license), he also remembered what both of them had told him, about magic and bonds. John had loved the idea when it was shared with him. And so the two men had stood in the living room of 221B and recited the Ancient Vows, with Arianna, Serrure and Rose as witnesses, before privately consummating the union later that night. The tattoo had been a little something extra John had proposed; they couldn't use rings for the same reason they couldn't marry legally, and a band like that would have been impractical for someone who did as many experiments as Sherlock did, so they'd chosen the tattoos instead.

"Thank you Molly." John whispered, going to hug the mortician next.

"I'm just glad I could be of help." The woman said shyly.

"You were invaluable." Sherlock assured her, a hand on her shoulder.

Molly couldn't help but blush brightly. She was one of the few who'd known John and Sherlock were together; it'd been obvious to her even before they'd said anything.

They were interrupted by Anna's approach, she pulled a manila envelope out of her suit-jacket, which she offered to Molly, who took it immediately.

"All arrangements have been made." She said simply.

The arrangements were extensive and quite careful: new identity and all the papers needed to make it legal, airplane tickets to Switzerland (she'd been given a choice), where she would begin a new life. Sherlock and John had promised to stay in touch, at least until she felt comfortable with her new life. Truth was it was simply too dangerous for Molly to stay, if anyone were to ever suspect what she'd done, not just with Sherlock's fake death, but she'd also been the one to receive Moriarty's body and confirm his death.

They knew the 'Troll' wasn't alone, it was why they were keeping his death a secret until they could handle his web. Molly's safety was a priority. While everyone else would be working on taking the criminal web down, Molly wasn't a soldier, or a fighter in any way. And she deserved to be able to live her life in peace… They'd made sure she'd have that.

"Thank you." Molly smiled shyly, hugging everyone one more time before taking her leave, her involvement had ended, and there was a car waiting to take her straight to the airport (all her things had been packed already).

"Everything went perfect today, but this is not the end." Mycroft stated seriously. "This is but the start. And we, none of us, will be able to rest until the last thread in this web has been burnt."

"Lets get started then." John declared, an almost predatory smile on his face. "The sooner we do this, the sooner I can go on my honeymoon."

The sly look he directed at Sherlock was telling, it made the consulting detective blush, which surprised many of them, Anna laughed, while Mycroft just looked uncomfortable (which was an added bonus, as far as most of those present were concerned.

"Lets go hunting." Serrure, Anthea and Arianna agreed.

And so the hunt began.