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“John.”

The doctor blinks awake, stifling a yawn with a fist. Sherlock is kneeling in front of his armchair, hand on his shoulder, eyes tired but lit with quiet amusement.

“I’m up,” John insists, cursing the soreness in his neck as he shifts in the chair. The windows are dark, a muted rerun of Top Gear splashing fragments of color across the room, Sherlock’s experiments abandoned in the kitchen. “What time is it?”

“Just past midnight,” the detective replies, voice soft in the gloom. “Lestrade is here.”

“Oh.”

They’d only just solved the last case earlier that evening (correction: Sherlock solved it and John kept him from running off and getting himself shot.) Sherlock is still sporting dark bags under his eyes, though his clothes and hair are rumpled in a way that suggests the man managed to sleep for a few hours. John pushes himself up, turning his gaze to the door where the inspector leans against the wall, expression grim. Late night visits never boded well for any involved. Still, John has to ask: “Couldn’t wait until morning?”

“Afraid not,” Lestrade has the decency to look apologetic, and as tired as John feels.

For once, Sherlock isn’t bounding out of the flat at the mention of a new case. He trails behind John as the doctor gathers his shoes and coat, handing his dark-haired shadow his own when Sherlock makes no move to dress himself properly for the mid-November weather.

Unless Lestrade’s new case threatens queen and country, John resolves to telling Lestrade to bugger off, dragging Sherlock back to the flat, and drugging him – both of them, actually – in order to get some much needed rest.

They pile into the inspector’s car, John taking the back seat so that Sherlock can drill Lestrade on the crime scene before they get there. Body near the Thames, no prints on record, nothing in terms of identification whatsoever. Unusual wounds, multiple possible causes, none the cause of death.

John’s about to write this one off as typically atypical and call it a night, leave Lestrade and his team to earn their keep. But then they’re there, and Sherlock’s caught his second wind because he’s out of the car and ducking under the caution tape before John even has his door open.

It’s all he can do to sigh resignedly and follow the detective.

The body of a young man is lying on the pavement not a block away from the river, facedown and covered in dirt and blood. Sherlock is all but on the ground beside it, face disturbingly close to the corpse and expression betraying nothing of his thoughts.

“John, what do you think made these?” he calls, nodding towards the deep gashes in the man’s shoulders.

Moving to crouch beside Sherlock and the body, John considers for a moment as he absently checks for a pulse, finding none. “Sharp blade, larger than a knife, but not the likely cause of death, which occurred-“

“I’m not dead,” the corpse protests, tone politely insistent.

“-no more than three hours ago…”

John trails off, a small frown tugging at his lips as he gazes warily at the body at his feet. It hasn’t moved – there is no rise and fall of the chest, no telltale twitch, no sign that it made a sound at all. Because of course it didn’t because it isn’t possible for dead people to talk. Obviously.

I’m finally losing it, John marvels, looking away from the corpse and to the detective that still crouches next to it. Sherlock arches an eyebrow.

“John?”

He shakes his head, smiling ruefully. “Sorry – thirty-four hours without sleep is beginning to catch up with me,” he explains. Dark hair forms a halo around the corpse’s head and next to John’s shoe, one arm extended and bent at the elbow while the other is curled underneath the chest.

“What’s the cause of death, then?” Lestrade questions, coming up behind them. He folds his arms across his chest, shivering in the cold.

“Not these,” John says, gesturing to the bloody cuts along the shoulders. “And there don’t appear to be any other major injuries. He didn’t bleed out, that much is obvious. Poison is a possibility at this point, or strangulation though the neck seems largely intact.”

He looks to Sherlock for confirmation, but it’s the corpse that breezily responds, “Poison wouldn’t be a terrible guess if I were actually dead. And my neck is fine, thanks.”

John blinks. Looks down – but no, the man hasn’t moved, is still not breathing, is still dead as far as John’s concerned. He looks back at Lestrade, whose eyes are wide and dark in his suddenly white face.

Sherlock remains expressionless, save for the single quirked eyebrow in John’s direction. He’s calm. Unfazed. Or else not hearing anything.

I’ve lost it, John decides.

“Did you…?” Lestrade starts.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry?” Sherlock and the corpse chorus together, and John actually watches as the man’s lips don’t fucking move and yeah, he’s done.

“John?” Sherlock calls as the doctor stands rapidly and backs away. But John doesn’t hear him, transfixed as he is by the opening of dark green eyes and then – and then – the corpse winks at him.

It winks.

John Watson is being winked at by a dead man in the middle of the night on a London street.

There’s something unsettlingly wrong with that.

“Jesus!” Lestrade is backing up right alongside John now, expression frozen in horror. The corpse, at that point, foregoes all pretenses of actually being dead like it’s supposed to be and pushes itself up until it’s kneeling next to Sherlock.

The three – no, four – of them are attracting the attention of the other yarders milling about, who in turn break out into a range of exclamations, prayers, and confused questions.

Sherlock Holmes smirks.

The not-corpse (zombie? John knows for a fact that the man was dead two minutes ago, so the label seems fitting) mirrors the expression, lips pulled into a thin curve that sets off warning bells in John’s mind.

“I thought you’d said they were accustomed to dead bodies,” the zombie says.

The tone is playful, mocking. Sherlock drags his eyes from John, glancing to the side, acknowledging the zombie for the first time. “Ones that don’t reanimate themselves, yes.”

And okay, seriously? Sherlock’s acting friendly towards previously-dead victim number one?

John stops his retreat, looks askance at the detective still crouched on the ground. Cool blue eyes meet his.

He’s still confused and a small bit terrified, but now Sherlock has something to do with this whole situation and he’s still wearing that goddamn smirk and John is exhausted and not dealing with this.

“Sherlock? What’s going on?”

Detective and not-corpse exchange amused glances. “What do you mean?”

“Why is tall, dark, and dead not actually dead?”

“He did tell you he wasn’t, John. Try to keep up.”

“He didn’t have a pulse. He wasn’t breathing. He was dead.”

God,” not-corpse says, tone one of explanation rather than exclamation. His green eyes spark with thinly veiled mirth.

At this point, Lestrade creeps back to John’s side, looking haggard and defeated. “He’s alive,” he offers, looking around.

“Thank you, detective inspector.”

John wants to bury his head in his hands, curl into a ball, and pretend this isn’t happening at one in the morning after having been awake for a day and a half. At the same time, there isn’t much he’d rather do more than wipe the smirk off of Sherlock Holmes’ smirking face.

“What you’re telling me is that you dragged me out of the flat at one in the morning to play some stupid prank that involves a crime scene and some slight of hand from some magician you probably picked up off the street?”

Sherlock’s expression doesn’t change – his companion’s does, however. Face dark with a scowl, zombie-god-magician twists gracefully to his feet while his injuries mysteriously vanish. He suddenly looks a lot more imposing, towering over John while his eyes seem to glow green.

Street magician?” he hisses. “You think me some common illusionist who relies on the obliviousness of his audience to perform mediocre acts of dexterity?”

Yeah, his eyes are definitely glowing.

“I have mastered spells that would turn your entrails into snakes to slither out of every available orifice. Spells that could hold you at the brink of death for an eternity while flames licked at your flesh, that could make it so that-“

“Loki.”

He stops midsentence, lips pressing together and burning gaze never leaving John’s even as Sherlock stands and approaches, no longer smirking but not looking nearly as concerned as John would expect. The detective is the embodiment of nonchalance as he circles the two of them, coming to stop a few feet away.

“John, this is Loki, the Norse god of lies and mischief. It might be in your best interest to not insult him.”

He’s not sure if he’s buying into the whole deity thing, but John is willing to listen to his flatmate’s advice. God or not, he doesn’t know any street magician that can make their eyes glow that unearthly green while the air seems to spark with electricity.

“Loki, this is John Watson, my flatmate.”

“Charmed,” comes the scathing reply.

Sherlock turns then and offers an innocent grin to the still-pale Lestrade standing to the side, looking lost.

“It seems you no longer have a body to identify, inspector.”

It takes the man all of three seconds to spin on his heel and begin barking orders to his men to leave. John has little doubt that they’ll be visited sometime tomorrow by a very irate detective inspector demanding answers.

Hell, John wouldn’t mind some himself.

But before he can ask, Sherlock is ushering him away from the scene, towards the main road where they can hail a cab. Loki trails along behind them, scowl melting away easily to be replaced by an amused smirk. They make it ten feet past the yellow tape surrounding the area before Sherlock turns.

“Can you transport the both of us?”

His eyes are bright, and there’s a barely perceptible bounce to his step that John notes with a small amount of surprise. The detective regards the supposed god with an expression that would be more fitting on an eager five year old.

In response, Loki rolls his eyes and, before John can blink let alone brace himself, lays a hand on both their shoulders and suddenly John isn’t standing on a dark London street but rather in the doorway to his flat.

He’s back in his flat.

221B Baker Street.

He didn’t even move, and he’s standing in the doorway to his flat.

“Right.”

Because that’s a thing that can happen. Obviously.

“Sherlock.”

The detective glances at him from where he’s already extracted himself from the god’s grasp and is now rummaging through the various newspaper clippings littering the coffee table. At the expression on John’s face, he sighs and straightens.

“You want answers.”

John doesn’t bother rewarding that deductive reasoning with an answer. He raises an eyebrow.

“You’re familiar with Norse mythology?” Loki questions instead, smirk bordering on predatory.

“Some of it.”

“Surely you’ve heard of me then.”

John shakes his head. “You’re telling me you’re that Loki. The same Loki the vikings worshipped hundreds of years ago.”

“The same.”

“And you’re friends? With Sherlock?”

“Friends is an interesting word for it, but I suppose so, yes.”

“Why?”

Loki casts a quick, searching glance at the detective. “He’s not as boring as most of you mortals.”

Right. Boring.

John really needs some tea. Now.

Loki trails after him as he moves into the kitchen to put the kettle on, settling against the counter with arms crossed. The dark haired man appears too at home in John’s own home for comfort.

“How did we get back to the flat then?”

“Magic,” Loki shrugs, like it should be the most obvious thing in the universe. And maybe it is, the way John’s evening – or morning – is going.

“So you’re Loki, the Norse god of lies and mischief, who’s taken a liking to my flatmate because he’s not as boring as everyone else and the two of you decided it would be funny to play a prank on the New Scotland Yard in the middle of the night. Also, you’ve just teleported the three of us from a staged crime scene to my flat by means of magic. Have I missed anything?”

Loki grins, a flash of white in the dim light of the kitchen. “Nothing of note.”

Forget the tea. John needs a bed. Maybe when he wakes up from whatever sleep-deprived dream this is, everything will be back to normal. He can only hope.

“Tea’s in the cabinet,” he mutters as he shuffles his way past and into the hallway beyond the god. “Sherlock knows where it is, don’t let him tell you otherwise. It’s been a pleasure, Loki.”

He retreats into his room without so much as a backwards glance. In the morning, if their unusual guest is still there, he’ll deal with it then. When he’s not quite half-convinced he’s hallucinating.

Downstairs, Loki turns to the detective still standing in the living room, watching the retreating back of his flatmate climb the stairs. Blue eyes slide over to him, amused and alight with curiosity.

“What are you doing here, Loki?”

The echo of John's door shutting reaches them. And suddenly shoulders slump, regal demeanor falling away to be replaced by bone weariness.

“I need your help, Sherlock.”