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Greg was cold. So very cold that he felt he might shatter, turning to face the speaker.

Still the boy’s face, rounded edges and thin lips, blue-black now. Silver eyes, all through. Delicate white lashes framing them, almost invisible but for the shadows they threw. White hair, wet and shining, white skin. So very white, especially where it met scales, silver and the strange grey-green of some deepwater fish, scattered on its neck and shoulders.

Growing together, below that. Long, scaled arms, ending in vicious claws. The torso bent up, propped up, darker scales all below the collarbone. Suggestion of fins, but Greg’s gaze was caught from that when the monster smiled: long, thin, needle-shaped teeth, in shades of ivory and green.

“I made it for you,” it said, voice still low and breathy. Like a hiss. If he hadn’t been braced against the window sill already, Greg would have retreated far at the sound. As it was, he dropped the lantern and barely heard it thump and roll. “My pretty little doll should have a pretty little house.”

“No,” he said, but it was less than a whisper. His vision was tunneling. Dear god, those teeth--

“You don’t like it,” it said, tilting its head. Parody of concern. “Oh my poor dear. Perhaps you’d rather go home.”

Greg swallowed. His hands dug into the wooden window sill; slivers breaking off and embedding themselves beneath his fingernails. The pain focused him. Kept him sane.

“Tell me what you want,” it whispered, voice washing over his ears. Greg gagged hard and shuddered. “Sweetheart.”

“Mycroft,” Greg rasped, and felt the cold burn of his silver ring.

The monster’s voice was loud and snarling. “None of that,” it spat, and moved--hauling itself across the floor with its arms, claws digging into the wood. Hauling along its scaled, slimy, slapping tail, leaving a trail of gleaming water and something thick and dark--

He tried to run. To get around it, to go for the door. Slipped on his third step and fell hard on his knee, pain shooting up and down his leg, knocking him sideways. Caught himself on one scratched, raw hand and pushed up, only to have his ankle snatched in a wet, clawed grip.

“Mine, now,” it snarled, voice thick with moisture, as if it were speaking through phlegm or through blood. Greg looked over his shoulder, met its eyes--dark now, a green so dark it was nearly black filling both sockets. Scales scattered up to its cheekbones now, mouth gaping open. Black tongue, green teeth. Clawed hand pulling him, pulling him back.

Bright, searing, screaming pain as his nails, digging into the wooden floor, ripped away. Pulled back, the heavy, wet, alien body squirming up over his own, Greg screaming now in wretched, helpless terror. Claws catching his jaw, slamming it shut and pulling his head back. Blood trickled thickly from where he’d bitten his lip; from where claws had caught on his chin.

“You’re mine,” it hissed, and bit his ear. Piercing it, turning to spit the blood on the floor. Diluted in yellowed saliva. Greg choked on another scream, eyes rolling wildly. “Come now. Give over, give yourself to me, and I’ll let your precious Mycroft go.”

Water, bubbling from between the floorboards. Greg tried to kick; another sharp, terrible, stinging bite, on his shoulder now.

“I’m stronger than he thinks. Oh, yes. Been here ages, waking and sleeping, dreaming of something pretty, something lovely, something walking the city that grew over my bones.” It chuckled, the sound deep and rumbling, shaking it and Greg with it. “Dreaming of you for such a short time. So sweet; so bright.”

Sucking in air as the water rose, covering his wrists. Holding himself up.

“Just give over, just give up--”

Felt the lantern against his wrist and grabbed it, falling hard into its grasp, claws catching and ripping at his throat. Dropped into the water, halfway up his forearm now. Held the lantern tight and half-turned, swung--

The monster gave a garbled shriek and rolled off of him as he slammed the lantern into its teeth. Fantastic sound as teeth and glass shattered, blue light flying out in a liquid arc, landing on the water. Floating on it, like oil.

He scrambled, knee up and under him, stretching into a run. Caught again, tumbled sideways. Landing hard on his back, so hard the breath was knocked from his lungs. In slow motion, he saw water splash up, saw the monster heave itself over him. Black blood dripping from its broken teeth.

Saw Mycroft loom up behind it, silver knife held in both hands. Saw him bring it down; a beautiful, flashing arc.

Did not see the knife bury itself in the monster’s back, but felt the shock that rolled through it. Saw its eyes widen; its mouth widen and blood fall black, black as ink onto his soaked shirt, over his chest.

Claws sank into his sides; confusion writ itself on increasingly inhuman features. Greg choked out something--not words, he couldn’t make words yet, but a sound--and tried to push it away as it collapsed. Huge, gaping mouth landing on his bitten shoulder, aggravating the wound.

Great black flowers bloomed in his vision. Greg blinked, hard. Tried to focus. He didn’t know how long it was until the rushing in his ears changed, became a voice. A word. “Gregory!”

The shadows in his vision clearing. Mycroft, calling him. Holding him, holding him out of the water, arm around his shoulders. Free hand carding through his hair.

Greg focused on his face, on his serious eyes. Got his hand up and touched Mycroft’s face. Mycroft gave a quick flash of a smile and kissed his palm. “I’m so sorry, darling, but we have to leave.”

“What?” Greg asked weakly, and then heard the burbling noises. Got his hand around Mycroft’s tie and looked over, at the pathetic hunched figure, curled up into a ball. The knife gleaming in its back.

“Up,” Mycroft said, and carefully helped him to his feet. The noises were getting softer. Wet, rattling breaths, coming at a slower pace. Greg half-fell into Mycroft’s arms, tucking his face into Mycroft’s neck. Breathed deep the smells of ozone, of a brisk Arctic wind.

The water at his feet sank further, until he couldn’t feel it anymore. It grew darker, but no colder. Soon, it was entirely dark, but for a faint blue glow.


He opened his eyes. The world was gone. All around them, a blank darkness. Nothing in it. Nothing but them, and the leaking, shattered remains of a lantern, resting on the last thing, the dirt road.

Greg stepped away enough that Mycroft could kneel, could pick up the larger end of the lantern. As he held it up, they could see a bit more of the road.

“Straight ahead,” Greg murmured.

“Of course,” Mycroft said, his arm finding its way around Greg again. His shoulder ached, but he ignored it, relishing Mycroft’s touch. “And, as is good advice in things of this nature, don’t look back.”

“Have no reason to,” Greg said, and let his arm rest around Mycroft’s waist.

They began to walk.