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Ring of Fire

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She wakes to strangeness. Strange surroundings, strange sounds, strange smells, and when she opens her eyes, strange sights.

She is not home, and she is not comfortable. The sofa upon which she rests is ugly and uncomfortable, so she sits up and stretches, cracking her knuckles as she reaches for the ceiling.

There is noise to be heard through the windows on her right, entirely unlike the sounds she usually wakes to. This noise is not soothing; it it harsh and metallic and she does not like it. The light streaming through the sheers tells her it is mid-morning. She shouldn’t be awake yet, it had been a late night. A week of late nights, actually.

This room is cluttered, lived in. That she likes. It feels right. It smells familiar, as well.

Twisting her neck, she sighs in relief when it cracks, does the same when she cracks her back. She rises to her feet, stretching onto her tiptoes and feeling her muscles relax back into readiness, and moves to the window; she doesn’t recognize where she is immediately, but it’s clearly a city, and she sighs again, this time in frustration.

There comes a sound from behind her, feet descending steps, and she turns to look.

A man appears, feet first, then legs and torso and head.

He is a good man, she can see it immediately. His aura glows about him, calm and soothing shades of blue. There is steel in him, but softness as well, a vast well of love waiting to be given.

He says something in her general direction as he passes by. She doesn’t understand his words, and she makes a noise of frustration--this will make things more difficult. It is not, however, unexpected; rare is the human who can understand or be understood by her kind in this modern age. Calmly, she waits by the window, setting her hands on her hips. The man had clearly been too close still to sleep to recognize that she isn’t whoever he thinks she is.

He reappears a moment later, confusion written across his features.

She is pleased; he’s not reacting in fear or anger. That will ease the difficulty of interacting with him. She contemplates the idea of stealing him and keeping him for her own. He would taste delicious, and he would adapt well; an aura that bright would make her popular at court indeed, were she to capture it. Her family would be drawn to him like moths to flame, and she would keep his heat only for herself.

He speaks again, a questioning tone in his voice. It is a nice voice. Something about the way he speaks, his cadence and pronunciation, seems vaguely familiar, and she thinks, England. A dreary, wet, grey place, one she hasn’t visited in many years.

“I don’t understand you,” she tells him.

Her words are met with further confusion, on his face, in his posture. He doesn’t understand her either. Again: not unexpected. Just tedious. Boring. Irritating.

“Balls,” she murmurs.

He chuckles, says something else, shrugs. She gets a sense of understanding from him, not of her words but the sentiment behind them, and she smiles at him, careful not to show her teeth. Best not to alarm him yet.

He points at himself and speaks again. “John.”

This, at least, makes sense. He is giving her his name.

He should know better. Silly humans. Only a few more syllables, and it wouldn’t matter what he offers, she could take all, at any time she pleases.

“Ciara,” she replies. Her inflection is slightly off. There is no power in this name-giving (not that this is her full name, but neither is she an incautious woman). He won’t be able to use it.

He’s not a magic-user, anyway, he doesn’t smell right. He doesn’t smell familiar at all. He’s not the one she should recognize. There is someone else, in this dwelling, just not at this precise moment. She looks at him again; he could be a magic-user. The potential is there, and she considers waking it in him.

He’s already a healer, she can see that about him as well. He’s a care-taker, a protector. Magic would enhance those abilities; it wouldn’t burn him out, he definitely has the strength for it, of mind, heart, and body. Interesting. A rare sort, this man.

The man, John, makes a gesture for her to follow him. With a shrug, she does.

----

John is very nearly used to the random people who show up in the flat at even more random times of day, but this one is by far the oddest. Or at least the oddest in a while.

Her hair is blue and green, deep dark shades that are almost black. If she hadn’t been standing in the sunshine streaming through the window, he would’ve thought it was black. There are things braided into the long tresses, feathers and shells and he’s not going to look closely at the ones that are probably bone. She’s dressed like someone out of an extremely well-funded and well-costumed staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The layers of her loose-fitting dress are diaphanous and almost sheer, and he tries not to notice how they tease around her full breasts and curve around her hips and buttocks.

She smiles again when she catches him looking, wider this time, wild, feral. Her teeth are pointed, brilliant white. He blinks at her, and her smile disappears. She lifts one long-fingered hand to cover her mouth momentarily. Her nails are pointed like her teeth, tinged with grey at their tips. Looking down, he notices that her toes are the same; her pale skin edges to grey when he looks closely.

Her ears are slightly pointed where they poke through her waist-length hair; they too are tinged grey at the edges. Her eyes are, startlingly, almost the same color as Sherlock’s. They are icy and fey, lighter than his, deeper somehow. He’s careful not to look too long into her eyes; something tells him he shouldn’t.

She makes a comment while she wanders around the kitchen, looking into cupboards and the refrigerator. John nods but doesn’t respond. Her speech is lilting, musical. It reminds him of his Welsh cousins, and of the lilt of Gaelic, but there are definitely sounds in there that remind him of the Italian girl he’d dated in Uni, and others that remind him of the Pashto and Dari he’d heard when he was in Afghanistan. It’s strange and alien and utterly beautiful.

“I wouldn’t open anything in the fridge,” he says. She gives him a questioning look, but doesn’t answer.

John gets the tea out of its cupboard and takes down two mugs. He fills and turns on the kettle, and she crosses the room to stand next to him and watch it, head tilted to one side and a curious look on her face.

John picks up one of the mugs and mimes drinking. “Tea?”

Her strange eyes light up at that, and she nods.

----

Tea. That she understands. It’s one of the few words of actual English she does understand. When she used to take glamor to wander the human world with The Boy, they had sat with his mother to drink tea quite often.

His mother never saw her, of course. The glamor was a precaution, for those few who could see her, other than The Boy. His brother could, and would always give her the strangest looks, but neither of his parents ever did.

It’s been ages since she thought of him. How old must he be now? How long has passed here in the human world?

The man John makes tea. She watches him pour the boiling water over the tea bags and she stops him before he can adulterate the beverage. She does not care for human sweeteners; they taste harsh on her tongue, wrong.

He sits at the table and watches her pace. His tea has been adulterated and does not match hers; it looks unpleasant, but he seems to enjoy it, taking small sips to determine if the temperature is right.

She gulps hers quickly. The heat warms her for a few moments before fading. She is never truly warm.

“I’d like to keep you,” she tells John. “I could give you pleasures unlike any you’ve ever experienced.” She stalks around him, fingertips drifting across the warm skin on the back of his neck. “I could make you glorious, and you would make me warm.”

He shudders but doesn’t speak. He can neither consent nor deny in this state. She would have to seduce him fully, were she to decide to keep him, to take him home with her. “I would eat you up,” she continues.

Across the table from him, she leans over to look into his eyes. “Ah, but no. Alas, you belong to another. Pity.”

It’s clear now; she doesn’t know how she missed it before. That well of love within him, that which makes him burn so bright, so clear and true, isn’t waiting to be given. It’s waiting for acceptance.

“You’ll wither like this,” she adds, softly. “Then I could have you. I’d take you, even broken. I would delight in you broken.”

He looks up into her eyes, from where he was noticing her body again, admiring it, and for a brief moment she thinks he understood her.

There is a noise from downstairs, and they both look in that direction.

“John!” someone shouts as they start up the stairs.

“SHERLOCK!” John shouts in return.

For Ciara, the pieces fall into place, and she straightens for her first glimpse of the man her Boy has become. She hears the increased urgency in his gait, inspired by a simple shout from this man John. Interesting.

Sherlock, her Sherlock, not her Sherlock any longer, stops dead in the doorway, staring at her with his mouth hanging open.

“Hello, boy,” she says with a smile.

“Ciara,” he breathes.

----

“You know her?” John’s gaze swivels between his flatmate and the young woman. Creature. Whatever she is. She is smiling at Sherlock, grinning, her creepy pointy teeth fully on display, and Sherlock’s gaze is almost wistful in return.

“Yes, John.” He barely spares a glance for his flatmate and friend, his whole attention focused on the creature before him.

----

“It begins to make sense,” she says to her Boy. “Did you bring me here?”

“No,” he replies.

“Did this one? I could claim a forfeit of him, if he did.”

Sherlock looks to his John, sat in front of him, and back up to Ciara. “No, not him.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he growls.

“Pity.”

----

John looks up at Sherlock and back at the woman. He’s settled on ‘woman’ for now, because the alternative really is something out of Shakespeare--or worse--and he’s not sure he’s ready to accept that. Or even contemplate it. But of course--if she is, which she probably isn’t, just a lunatic of an extra dramatic flavor--it would figure that Sherlock would be friends of old with her. It. Would. Figure.

Sherlock’s hands are on John’s shoulders now, grip tight enough to make him wince, and she looks positively predatorial, like she can’t decide which of them she’s going to turn into an ass or devour first.

----

“You’re older,” Ciara says, crossing her arms, dropping the subject of the tasty-looking John for now. She doesn’t know why she’s here, or what she’s meant to do, but she suspects it has to do with these two men, and the tension of the unsaid that crackles between them. She doesn’t fail to notice the possessive way Sherlock’s hands grip John’s shoulders, or the way John’s expression changes at the contact. He winces, yes, but he relaxes as well, imperceptibly (to human eyes, anyway) leaning towards Sherlock, feeling safety within his grasp. Telling, that.

“You are too,” Sherlock replies.

She smiles at him. “Not really.”

“No, not really.” Sherlock returns her smile. He unwinds his scarf and drapes it around John’s neck. John hasn’t moved from the table, and she watches as he drops his head back to look up at Sherlock again.

Sherlock smiles down at him, a gentle smile that she’d never seen on her Boy’s face. Ah. There it is. This is why I can’t have him. Either of them. I’m not really a fairy godmother, you know, she thinks at whomever summoned her. And I’m really rather too hungover to manage subtlety today, you’ll just have to deal. Whoever you are.

She sighs and leaves the room, going back to the window in their lounge.

----

John follows Sherlock into the lounge after Ciara, looking back and forth between the two of them. She is busy gazing out the window at the traffic below, he assumes--do fairies understand what--oh for fuck’s sake she’s not a goddamn fairy, John--and Sherlock is watching her with his deduction face on.

Sherlock turns to look at John, and one of those silent conversations they’ve got quite good at happens in the space of a few shifting expressions.

John raises his eyebrows. She’s not, is she?

Sherlock smiles. Of course she is, John.

John rolls his eyes. Only you would have a fucking fairy for a friend, Sherlock.

Sherlock quirks an eyebrow. I can’t help if she was the only interesting person I knew as a child.

----

Ciara turns from the window and watches them converse silently. Their eye contact spins out, and she decides this is a show she could watch for ages at a time.

It’s a real pity she won’t be able to take them both home with her for entertainment.

----

One moment they’re conversing silently, standing close together, and the next, time has stretched out. John is standing in front of the fireplace with a fairy draped over him, and Sherlock is across the room, glaring at her.

Her hands are everywhere, and John shuts his eyes against the onslaught against his senses. She smells like snow, and her hands are cold, he can feel it through his jumper, and god, those are breasts and hips he can feel pressed against him, a long line of coolness all down his back. How does she stand being so cold?

She purrs something in his ear that he doesn’t understand, all breath and longing.

John starts. She chuckles, a low and sinister sound that makes him shiver.

“Stop it,” Sherlock orders from across the room. He sounds frustrated, angry. John can feel the weight of his gaze even with his eyes shut, the warmth of it, keeping him from losing himself entirely to her.

She says something to Sherlock, resting her chin on John’s shoulder.

“He is,” Sherlock actually growls at her in response. John has never heard Sherlock sound like that before.

She speaks again, and it sounds taunting even to John.

“I won’t let you,” Sherlock replies. Whatever it is, John doesn’t think she should press her luck, not when Sherlock sounds like that.

She seems to know it, because he can feel her shrug.

----

Oh, this is going swimmingly. This man John is so warm, he blazes with it, blazes with the fierceness of his love for her boy. It’s lovely to see, lovely to soak up even a little bit of his warmth.

And her boy blazes right back at him. Lovely, just lovely. Humans are such fun.

She’ll have to keep an eye on these two. If nothing else, it’ll be rather entertaining to watch, once they get to the really fun bits.

Which she thinks will be sooner rather than later.

She’s been rummaging about in his head for long minutes now, playing with the wiring. Human brains are so easy to tweak, so easy to switch things to the ‘on’ position, where the potential for magic is concerned, anyway.

----

‘Only your man here could befriend Unseelie Sidhe and somehow come out of it unscathed, you know,’ John hears.

Only he doesn’t hear it, not precisely.

What the fuck?

‘Oh, you are a delight, aren’t you, John?’

Ciara?

‘And smart, too. I can see why he loves you so desperately.’

He--? What--?

‘I’m trying to explain to you who I am, John. Please listen, and do endeavor not to be dull. You seemed so interesting when I couldn’t understand you, I’d hate to have that first impression dashed.’

Oh my god you’re talking to me telepathically.

‘Now we’re catching on. Now where was I?’

John’s eyes fly open. Sherlock is still watching him from across the room. Staring at him, eyes blazing.

‘Ah yes, my boy. The man you’re hopelessly in love with. Keep him. Protect him, John. Bind him to you, body and soul. Or you will wither and fade. And you’ll be lucky if it’s me who comes for you then. You glow, John. Use it well.’

When she speaks aloud, he still doesn’t understand her.

----

“Much as I’d like,” she says to Sherlock, resting her head against John’s. John, who still looks vaguely terrified, but is standing in parade rest, giving no outward physical sign other than his eyes of how he feels. “I have no claim on this one here, much as I’d like to snare him. You and I, my boy, are quits. There is no debt between us that I can call upon. We are, as you say, even. Keep him safe, Sherlock.”

She puts just enough inflection into his name that he feels it and shudders. She knows his full name, just as he knows hers. They have power over each other, enough to do damage. It is part of why they are always on even standing. It’s part of why she likes this human, and always has.

“Keep him safe,” she repeats, “because he glows, and he glows for you. There will be others now, and I’m sorry for it. You can call on me if you require my assistance.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Ciara,” Sherlock replies.

“Ah, you have done your research. It works that way between us, my boy. We are friends. Do you know what it means, to have Unseelie Sidhe consider you friend?”

Sherlock nods, once.

“You are the only human I ever encountered who simply befriended me, my boy, and at a time when I was so vulnerable. Because of you I was able to recover and go home and exact vengeance upon my enemies. You can call on me as you require as a friend.”

“Why are you here?”

“That I really have no answer for.”

Sherlock considers her, and she shrugs again.

“I’ll be going now. Heed me. Bind yourself to this man, Sherlock. Bind him to you.”

----

John starts again when she puts her hands over his eyes.

‘Time for you to see,’ she instructs, before removing them.

“Oh,” John breathes, when he opens his eyes again.

Sherlock glows. Glows like a candle, like embers, like phosphorescence. Like dawn, the moon, starlight alone on desert sands. Like flashes of lightning, like green clouds, like fairy-lights at the bottom of a meadow.

He doesn’t understand why. Sherlock is luminescent, incandescent. His skin is translucent and moon-bright, his irises twist and shift like quicksilver against impossibly bright whites.

While John stares, transfixed, at his flatmate, she moves in again behind him and murmurs in his ear, and this time he does understand her words.

“Keep him safe, John. Keep him.”

John can only nod.

----

Sherlock half expects her to disappear into thin air--that was how she used to appear and disappear all the time--but she waggles her fingers at him and grins lasciviously and walks out their door. He listens to her descend the steps and when she hits the last one he can move again, jumping across the room and grabbing John.

John, whose eyes are glowing.

----

John feels blissful warmth, like he’s spent the whole afternoon in front of a blazing fire or curled up in bed in a cozy cocoon of blankets. He can feel every spot that Sherlock touches, can hear Sherlock’s babbling, his stammered inquiries, his nervousness, his worry for John.

He can see it in Sherlock, a little blaze, secret and hidden. He wants to make it a conflagration.

He will make it a conflagration. They may burn, but they’ll burn together and it will be glorious.

“Sherlock,” he says, quiet and steady. But he knows Sherlock, knows how his name feels, has the measure of him.

He can feel Sherlock shudder and halt. Because John wanted him to.

“It’s ok,” John adds.

“John, what did she do to you?” Sherlock’s voice shakes with worry. John cannot help but love him more for it.

He smiles. “She made me see.”

And John kisses him.

Chapter Text

She takes glamor and wraps it around herself like a cloak as she stalks through the hallways towards her goal. They are long and hushed and luxurious, and she sneers at it all. Human wealth, human power, it’s all so ridiculous. It gives them airs. It makes them cocky.

It makes them feel like they can get away with summoning Unseelie Sidhe, summoning someone like her without being made to pay.

Silly humans.

The Ways had been closed to her, shrouded from her view, and she had known immediately why. Not a permanent barring, and the barrier had been clumsy, clearly not fae in origin, and it served only to piss her off. He thinks to keep her here, he thinks to direct her. He thinks she won’t retaliate because of who he is.

He is sorely mistaken.

He had summoned her. She should’ve known immediately; her boy had never been one for such things, even when he’d needed her. His independent streak runs deep and fast, it’s at once admirable and wholly stupid, and refreshingly human. Almost cute. The manner in which she’d been brought over to this side had been clumsy, lacking in finesse and style--it had exacerbated her hangover and that’s something no true fae would’ve done, even an enemy.

One thing her boy does not lack is style. He isn’t a magic-user, though, and never will be. She’d made sure he wouldn’t be able to successfully wield it, because she’d never come across another human so ill-equipped to deal with the wildness of magic; he would’ve burnt out on it, quickly become addicted and overdosed. Some aren’t meant to have that sort of temptation at their fingertips, and his temptations are too numerous already, had been even as a child, with his quick mind and curiosity and need to know.

She takes care of her friends. She has so few of them who can’t take care of themselves. Really, she has few friends at all.

Her boy will have need of her. Now that she’s back in this world the lines of Fate are becoming clearer. Her Sight isn’t fantastic, it’s never been one of her strongest Powers, but this much she can see. She suspects his man John will need her as well, though his path isn’t as clear to her just yet. He will need to learn to control the magic, if naught else.

Sooner will be the need, as opposed to later. Even with her limited foresight, she can see that. She’ll have to keep a weather eye out.

Her glamor cloaks her, makes her appear to be one of them, though an exceptional one. Always exceptional, only barely human-looking. Her blue-green hair darkens so it’s mistakable for black, her clothes wrap around her limbs and become a smart business suit, she even goes so far as to imagine shoes onto her feet.

They watch her, they all watch her as she stalks through the halls towards his office. No one tries to stop her; they simply stare with wide human eyes. Even with glamor making her look like one of them, most seem to know better than to approach her. Her aura washes over them, makes their skin crawl, in nearly all of them except the most dense, the least sensitive.

His assistant tries to stop her, but a moment’s thought and a flick of her fingers silences the young human.

He’s waiting for her, however. Of course he is.

He stands next to a small table, set with a tea tray, hands clasped behind his back, managing to appear confident. She can smell his nerves though, and she slinks right up to him and growls in his face. She barely has to look up to do so. He shrinks from her, just a tiny bit, before gathering himself and standing tall.

Well, he’s got balls, she’ll give him that. It’s going to get him killed, but at least it will be an honorable death. She takes a single step back, still standing well within his “personal space”, or whatever it is the humans call it.

“Ciara Winterborn,” he says, voice steady and respectful.

When she takes another step back, still glaring at him, he inclines his upper half in the barest hint of a bow.

Clever boy. They’ve both always been so clever. It’s one of her favorite things about Sherlock.

“Mycroft Holmes,” she replies, grudgingly.

“Would you care for tea? If I recall, Sherlock always said that Oolong was your favorite?”

She can’t help the laugh that escapes her, and his eyes widen. Oh, he’s far more delightful than she remembers him being. “Your accent is atrocious, Mycroft.”

He has the good grace to blush.

“You learned from a goblin, didn’t you? You speak my language like a goblin.”

Mycroft nods.

“Goblins aren’t good for anything except weaponry.”

“They make good spies, as well.”

Ciara inclines her head and shrugs. “I suppose. Perhaps for humans, anyway. We don’t generally have need of spies.”

“Perhaps you wouldn’t be dying out if you did,” he replies.

She narrows her eyes.

“Apolgoies. I over-step.” He holds his hands out in a conciliatory gesture.

“You do.” Ciara crosses her arms. OK, fine, so she isn’t going to kill him. More’s the pity.

“Please,” Mycroft continues, inclining his head. “Sit.”

Curious now, since she’s decided she’s not going to kill him just now after all (dammit), she takes a seat, and Mycroft follows suit, sitting across from her and pouring tea.

“Sugar?”

“No.”

He hands her the cup and saucer, and she takes a sip. It’s wonderfully hot, and she tries not to smile as she drinks down the cup of tea quickly, savoring the brief moment of warmth that spreads through her before dissipating again. Mycroft silently pours her a second cup before he finishes doctoring his own tea and taking a small sip, after blowing delicately on the surface of the liquid.

For a few minutes, they size each other up, before Ciara breaks the silence. “You brought me here. Why?”

Mycroft hesitates before speaking, gathering his thoughts, trying to figure out how much to tell her. “My sources indicate that there’s something coming.”

“Change in the wind,” she murmurs, nodding.

“Just so,” he agrees, before continuing. “I believe my brother will be involved, and I will do anything to keep him safe.”

“Including risking my wrath, it seems.”

Mycroft inclines his head again. “I had hoped that your relationship with him would stay your hand.”

“Your amusing cheek stays my hand, mostly.” She thinks about the omens that have been cropping up, back home. They’ve been increasing of late, none of them good. Some of them more not good than others. None of them have been specific, of course, in the way of omens, which is why she has rarely paid any of them heed in the past. But coupled with this, with the names and faces flitting through Mycroft’s thoughts from his own, far more mundane and yet no less pessimistic, no less not good, no less worrisome, and a pattern begins to emerge. Well.

He remains impassive, watching her. Watching her thinking, like he knows what she’s thinking about. It’s almost uncanny; it would be, if it weren’t for the fact that she is Unseelie Sidhe and nothing he could do could possibly be as uncanny as the mere fact of her existence. Fairies are, to borrow the vernacular, freaky.

“Are you going to tell me anything I don’t already know?” she asks, eventually.

“Probably not.”

“So this is merely your attempt to placate me so I don’t kill you?”

“For the most part. Is it working?”

She scowls. “Yes. Unfortunately. It’s too bad you’re so amusing, Mycroft Holmes, because I’d dearly love to kill you today.” Ciara puts just enough power into his name to make him shudder.

Mycroft goes just a touch paler, and she grins and rises, gulping down the rest of her second cup of tea and shivering in pleasure.

“Well, if that’s it, I’ll be off.”

“Will you help?” Mycroft asks, bland, as though he isn’t terrified of what he thinks is coming for his brother.

“Don’t ask me for things you can’t pay for, Mycroft.” She smiles at him, her feral smile. “And don’t block the Ways from me again; I’ll make sure you regret it.”

She drops her glamor before she disappears, and Mycroft waits until she’s gone before he allows the shudder crawling down his spine to affect him.

It’s two weeks before his PA’s voice returns.

Chapter Text

Sherlock’s heart is beating against his chest in nearly perfect time with John’s own, and his blood is singing in his veins.

Actually, John doesn’t think it’s Sherlock’s blood singing, sated and blissful, giddy and more content than ever in his life, but his entire body. Every single extraordinary cell that makes up Sherlock is singing in a crystal clear voice, and the tune is absolutely the most beautiful thing John has ever heard.

He can feel each tiny hair on the soft underside of Sherlock’s arm, where it’s draped across John’s chest so Sherlock’s clever long fingers can wrap around the nape of John’s neck, possessive and perfect; they each seem to sigh as he ruffles them, sliding his own fingers back and forth over the pale, fragile skin.

He can feel the tip of Sherlock’s nose where it’s pressed into his throat, each slow and even breath whooshing across his skin, over his pulse. He feels like he can absorb all of Sherlock’s secrets from his breath, through osmosis.

He can feel Sherlock’s lips when he sighs and murmurs, still swollen from not-nearly-enough-eternities of kissing, brushing against the skin of John’s neck.

John counts heartbeats, his own and Sherlock’s. Listens to breathing, his own and Sherlock’s. And he listens to the tunes, his own and Sherlock’s. They’re in harmony, and that feels right. He lets it sing him to sleep.

--

He wakes to fire.

The fire is under his skin, warm and bright.

Turning his thoughts to the man pressed against him, skin to skin, he looks for the fire in him, in his heart.

It’s bigger than before.

John smiles.

He had done that. Each touch a piece of kindling on the small, secret blaze, each kiss a new log, each whispered word, murmured plea for more, each gasp and sigh and shout, all fuel for that fire. That fire that belongs to him and to no one else.

John had done that. He had ignited that in Sherlock’s heart, then found it and danced around it, so glad to find a reflection of the fire that burns in him for Sherlock, and he would tend it and protect it and build it higher and keep it.

He’d meant to make it bigger. He wants it to rage out of control. If it consumes him, consumes them both, he’ll gladly burn up. He’ll keep feeding it as long as he gets to kiss and touch and sigh and murmur alongside Sherlock to do so. There’s time, so much time stretching out before them.

By hook or by crook, Sherlock is his now, as he has been Sherlock’s.

--

JOHN.

“Hm?” John comes back to reality and turns his gaze on Sherlock, still in his arms, pressed tight against him, skin to skin. His friend. His flatmate. His other half. His.

Sherlock almost jerks out of his arms when John meets his eye, and John’s arms tighten around him. Sherlock looks away, drops his gaze and then his head back onto John’s shoulder, turns his face back into John’s neck, breathes deep.

“Your eyes are glowing again.”

“Oh.” John has no clue how to make that stop. “Sorry.”

“I don’t like it.” Sherlock burrows closer, speaks directly against John’s pulse. John shudders.

“I don’t know how to make it stop, Sherlock.”

“It... frightens me.”

“I know, I can hear it.”

“Stay with me, John.”

“Where would I ever go without you?” John’s arms tighten again, against the thought, in reassurance to them both.

“No, I mean here. Now. Don’t go off in your head again. You were far away.”

He’s never heard Sherlock sound this way, this vulnerable. This honest, emotionally. The only time he’s ever come close, John doesn’t want to think about.

“Okay.” John gently tips Sherlock’s head up, kisses him: slow, deep, languid, as reassuring as he can make it.

“Better?” he asks eventually.

“Yes.”

--

“Stay.”

“Sherlock, I’m just going to the toilet.”

“Come back.”

John chuckles. “You’re in my bed, Sherlock.”

Sherlock scowls at him, flops over onto his back and drapes an arm across his eyes.

“Drama queen,” John accuses, affectionately.

She is leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs when he comes out of the bathroom; he’s yawning and stretching and glad the heat has been working because he’s completely starkers. John halts when he sees her.

Ciara grins at him, looking him up and down thoroughly. Lasciviously. Her grin widens, flashing those creepy pointy teeth at him.

John twitches in something other than embarrassment.

‘That took less time than I thought it would,’ she smirks. ‘What’s your secret against his stubbornness?’

John shrugs. Her voice in his head is doing things it really shouldn’t be doing.

‘You’ll have to make it permanent, so you can protect him.’ Her mental voice goes slow and sultry. She’s doing this on purpose.

John hesitates before answering. He refuses to be embarrassed. He listens for her tune; it sounds strange and alien in his head, a cacophony. But he tries to reply to her as she has been speaking to him. Except without the liquid sex in his mental voice.

‘What, I should marry him?’

She smiles. ‘You learn fast, John. No, nothing so human as that. You’ll need to be properly bound, though.’

John snorts, tries to ignore the reactions of his body. She’s doing this entirely on purpose, fucking with his body, he can hear it in the tune of her. ‘I’m going back to bed.’

‘You’ll see, John. You’ll both be safer if you do. Things are coming.’

‘He’s Sherlock Holmes, Ciara. “Things” are always coming.’

Her chuckle echoes in his head, slides down his body like a caress, as he brushes past her--the feel of her diaphanous dress, her silky hair echoing the chuckle physically, turning him on even further--and goes upstairs.

--

When Sherlock can move again, he stretches and turns over. John is still curled on his side, a smug smile playing at the corners of his lips. His eyes are gently shut, long lashes against his cheeks. It nearly stops Sherlock’s heart.

“Look at me,” Sherlock says softly.

John opens his eyes. The glow is fading, they are nearly back to normal. Sherlock supposes he’s going to have to get used to that, because he’s never letting this man go. Not ever. He doesn’t think he’ll be able to even if he wants to, and he knows that should scare him, but it absolutely does not. He should be running away, but all he wants to do is get closer and closer still.

“Did you just... magic me into my third orgasm in the last twelve hours?” He means it to be accusatory, because the magic does scare him. It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t logical, and he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t like it in John, even though he’s certain beyond all doubt that John will never turn it on him, not in anger. But his voice comes out teasing instead.

The smile turns into a grin. “Actually, no.”

He’s not lying. Sherlock can always tell. It nearly makes up for the fact John can always tell when he lies.

“Then what?”

“I was... listening... to what your body was telling me. I just listened, I didn’t do anything to you with it.” John shrugs. It’s a poor explanation, but he doesn’t have the proper language to describe the things he can hear now, the things he can see and taste and smell and touch.

Sherlock scowls. He can tell that this isn’t a full explanation, and it frustrates him, because he can also tell that John doesn’t have a better one right now.

“Should I not?”

“Didn’t say that.”

John smiles again, swipes his thumb across Sherlock’s cheekbone. Sherlock sighs into the contact.

“I suppose you give whole new meaning to the phrase ‘attentive lover’.”

“Damn straight I do.”

“I still don’t like this, John. Any of it.”

“I know. We’ll muddle through. We always do.”

“We usually go in guns blazing, John.”

“Too right.” John is fading into sleep. “That too.”

--

“She was here. I can smell her now.”

“She was outside the toilet when I went down there earlier.”

Sherlock licks a long stripe up John’s arm, across his neck, trying to get back to the essential John-ness under the smell of his Sidhe friend.

“What else did she do?” Because she almost always does something, and the way she looks at John makes Sherlock nervous and possessive. Well, more possessive.

“Generally or specifically?”

“John.”

“Well, she turned me on.”

“She what?!”

“Oh, not like that--well. Um.”

Sherlock bites him, right at the spot where his neck turns into his shoulder, and John writhes.

“Um,” he continues, breathlessly. “I meant before, the other day. She flipped a switch in my head, I think. That’s what it feels like. Now I can see. And hear. It’s beautiful, Sherlock--oh!”

“Mine,” Sherlock growls, biting him again, hands everywhere. Terrified. Possessive. Needy.

“I want to show you,” John forces out, voice going in and out. “You have no idea.”

Sherlock pauses. “It’s dangerous, John.”

John nips at his bottom lip. “You like dangerous.”

Sherlock growls again, returns his kiss with interest. “You like dangerous,” he retorts against John’s lips.

John chuckles, executes a move Sherlock is going to require lessons in, flipping them both over so Sherlock is pinned beneath him, grins down at him. “Well, now we’re both dangerous.”

Chapter Text

Sherlock observes. It’s what he’s good at. It is his forte. (If you were to tell John that Sherlock thinks this, that he reassures himself sometimes, yes, I am good at this, at observing, it is my forte, it is my metier, you’d get a ten minute lecture on how this is quite possibly the largest understatement in the entirety of the universe and by simply uttering it you’re in danger of creating some sort of singularity and falling over the event horizon post haste [because John does know about the universe, you see]. Then he would start in on how little Sherlock actually knows about the universe and yet how his ego approaches its reaches in size and the lecture would end in growling and throwing up of hands. And don’t you dare laugh at him, else you may end up on the floor with a bloody nose. Or these days, something far worse.)

Sherlock watches his flatmate--his boyfriend? that sounds weird--go about his daily business. Watches him make tea, watches him eat, watches him wander around the flat with an ear constantly cocked, listening to things that Sherlock himself cannot hear.

John is different now. They’re both different. Everything is different. We are different. Sherlock is not used to thinking of him-and-John as a ‘we’, yet he does. He thinks it all the time, and it sends shivers down his spine. He’s not used to it, but it sets warmth blazing in his chest. It makes him feel like he’s on fire, better than solving a puzzle, better than cocaine, and there’s nothing to extinguish the blaze. Not that he wants to. They’ve been Sherlock-and-John since John had killed a man for him, but now they’re a we, an us. Sherlock has never been part of a greater whole before.

Sherlock has cataloged and categorized all of John’s reactions to being observed over the time they’ve been flatmates. Sometimes, he would start to fidget, crossing and uncrossing his legs, folding his arms, tapping his head, scratching his nose. This particular reaction type mostly ceased within a few weeks of their moving in together, as John learned Sherlock’s habits and mannerisms and lack of manners and something of his methods. Sometimes he makes jokes. Awful jokes. This reaction type still occurs occasionally, when he’s feeling especially happy or is uncommonly well-rested and in a good mood with it. Rarely, he snaps at Sherlock. Tells Sherlock to go away, to stop looking at him. When Sherlock never complies, John will often get up and leave the room, occasionally the flat (depending on the extremeness of his reaction and his state of dress). This reaction type almost never occurs anymore, just as he rarely has nightmares anymore (Sherlock is nearly certain there’s a correlation there), and Sherlock feels sure this must’ve changed before they started sleeping together, but he hadn’t noticed it before.

He finds it hard to believe that there was something about John Watson that he hadn’t noticed before, but it appears to be true. How odd. How delightful. He wonders if there are other things he hasn’t noticed; he looks forward to finding them, cataloging and categorizing and keeping them.

Now though, in the last few weeks or so, since Ciara showed up in their lounge and did whatever it is she did to him, John has added a new reaction to being observed to his repertoire, and it’s the best one yet. Now, John watches him back.

John watches Sherlock watching him, and generally, a small smile plays at the corners of his lips. Sherlock can’t decipher that smile, what it means, what it portends. He wants to know, but he won’t ask, he’d much rather figure it out for himself, and he’s pretty sure John knows that.

John seems to know more now. He learned Sherlock remarkably well, remarkably fast, learned to decipher him, but now John hears things, all the time, that Sherlock doesn’t. He listens to things in a way that he never has before. If he listens long enough, which he often does, Sherlock watches as his deep blue eyes start to glow.

John is going through something, has access to things that Sherlock has never touched, never seen or heard, and Sherlock cannot go with him.

He hates it.

--

John sings in the shower. It’s altogether too endearing for words, which is why Sherlock had made a habit of sneering at him whenever he hears John do it.

So, basically every morning.

But John has started humming, in the last week, all throughout the day. None of what he hums seems to be an actual tune, not to Sherlock’s musician’s ear. None of what he hums makes any sense, musically. None whatsoever. He sits under Sherlock’s scrutiny, smiling that smile that reminds Sherlock chillingly of Ciara, and he starts to hum.

The lights start to flicker.

Sherlock watches while John hums and grins in delight, and the lights flicker.

Mrs Hudson comes up about ten minutes later, asking if Sherlock has been mucking about with the wiring again.

John stops humming, blushing furiously. The lights stop flickering. Mrs H chalks it up to old wiring and goes back to her stories downstairs.

John doesn’t hum anymore that day.

--

He shouldn’t find it a turn-on, the humming, the making the lights flicker or the microwave ding, making the tea hot without using the kettle.

But he does. Everything about John is a turn-on.

There is nothing about John that doesn’t make Sherlock want to strip him bare and suck him dry, in every sense of the word.

John hums, and he makes things happen, and he watches Sherlock watching him, and more often than not the past few days this ends with both of them naked and sweaty and shouting as they come.

--

Sherlock worries. It’s not something he likes to admit to doing, even to himself, just as he doesn’t like to admit to actual emotions, even to himself.

But he does it nonetheless. He worries about John.

John has magic now. He’s full of it, he sees it everywhere. Sherlock cannot follow him into the world of magic, and he worries that he’ll be left behind. He worries about what the magic will do to John. Will it hurt him? Will it change him? Make him not-John-anymore? Take him away? Will it kill him? Sherlock has heard of people burnt out by magic (rare, yes, but there would be more if magic use among humans were more common). He cannot stand the thought of losing John, not to magic, not to anything.

--

John rolls towards him when he gets out of the bed.

“Sh’lock?”

Sherlock leans over and presses a kiss to John’s forehead. “Just going to check on my experiment, John. Go back to sleep, I’ll be back soon.”

John smiles sleepily in the dim light. “Hurry.”

“I will, John.”

Sherlock pulls his dressing gown tight around his naked form and shuts the door to his room as he walks out into the kitchen. He does check on his experiment, even though it’s not required. He doesn’t like lying to John. But that’s not why he’d got up. With a glance over his shoulder, he goes into the lounge and sits in his chair.

“Ciara, if you would attend to me, I desire to speak with you,” he says quietly into the room, putting his intention and his desire to speak to her into his pronunciation of her name. It’s the closest thing to magic he can do, use her Name to ask for her presence. He’s never wanted to be able to do more than that.

Magic is terrifying.

She appears smile first, like the cheshire cat.

“Oh, still so formal, my boy.”

Sherlock smiles back, a little. “I felt it best to be... respectful.”

“You’ve never been respectful a day in your life.”

He shrugs. “Habit, then.”

“That I’ll buy.” She sits down in John’s chair. “You rang?”

Sherlock cocks his head. “You’ve been watching telly again.”

She shrugs, a strangely human gesture on her part. In his experience, the fae are far more still than humans. It’s part of what makes them so alien, so uncanny. They observe the way he does, motionless, absorbing everything about the people--or fae--around them. They have few tells.

“Well, I’m around.” She sounds supremely unconcerned, which generally means there is something on her mind that she isn’t about to share with him. He’d seen that often when he was a child, before she’d been able to go home, before she’d come back.

“Attempting to blend in with the puny mortals?”

“Something like that.”

She’s definitely not telling him everything, but he lets it pass. He rather likes that he’s unable to deduce the last twenty or so years of her life just by looking at her. He’s only ever been able to deduce what she allows; it’s part of why he likes her so much. Around her, he always felt normal, he felt like he wasn’t a monstrous freak. She had always delighted in his odd questions and odder interests, encouraged his more morbid desires and curiosities.

She’d got him into so much trouble as a child, simply by being as fascinated by the world as he was.

“Mycroft tells me you took his PA’s voice,” he says, after a few minutes of silence.

She grins, cheeky, feral, and polishes her nails on her diaphanous gown. She’s definitely been watching telly again. “Yes.”

“He said it took two weeks for it to come back.”

“I was enjoying it.”

“He sounded rather put out.” By this time, Sherlock is having a hard time containing his laughter. Mycroft had been carefully furious, but too fearful of incurring Ciara’s wrath to say much or do anything.

They share a giggle, and Sherlock is struck by the fact that Ciara is the only person other than John with whom he is comfortable laughing. Which brings him back around to his worries about John, and he sobers.

She watches him as his thoughts go to the man in his bed.

“You didn’t bring me here to congratulate me on pissing your brother off, or to berate me for not killing him for you,” she says.

“You were thinking about killing him?” Sherlock feels a sharp pang of what could almost be fear at that. Not that he particularly wants Mycroft alive, just that he doesn’t want his brother dead, either. The great, fat git.

“I ought to have, he’s the one who brought me here, and without so much as a by-your-leave. He’s a cheeky fucker, though. I ended up too amused to kill him.”

Sherlock sighs in what is most definitely not relief. Then he sits up. “He brought you here?”

“You didn’t know?”

“No. I will kill him.”

Ciara gives him a look.

Sherlock glares. “I suppose he thinks he did it to protect me?”

“He did do it to protect you, Sherlock.”

Sherlock snorts.

Ciara rolls her eyes. “Anyway, I didn’t kill him, and I would rather you didn’t either. He’s cheeky; I like it. And clever. You Holmes boys are so delightfully clever and deliciously other-moraled.”

Sherlock glares at her.

Its her turn to cock her head at him. “You want to talk about your John.”

“I--” He doesn’t know where to start.

She lets him squirm for a minute before taking pity on him. “You’re worried about him. He’ll be fine; he’s built for magic.”

“Why wasn’t he born with it then?”

She shrugs. “Because humans rarely are, I suppose. It’s not going to kill him, Sherlock, you don’t need to worry about losing him.”

“Not to death, perhaps.”

She gives him a scrutinizing look, deducing him, he can feel it, and for a moment he understands what most people feel like when he looks at them. He looks away from her, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms tight around them.

“You think this is going to change him.”

“It already has, Ciara.”

“You think he’ll leave you.”

“Everyone does,” he mutters.

She almost apologizes; he watches the words die on her lips. He can almost see her thinking, for a moment, thinking that he’d been able to understand when she had left for good. But he’d been a child, so alone, abandoned by his brother, ignored by his mother, and he’d heard her reasoning but he’d never understood why. She’d told him to call if he needed her, but he never had; he’d been too stubborn to admit he did need her. Even now, it’s difficult to admit that he and John might need her help.

“He won’t.”

“You cannot possibly know that,” he spits at her, glaring, retreating from emotion, from anything that could make him appear vulnerable, even to her, especially to her. Anger is far safer.

“I do have a bit of Sight, boy. Don’t pretend you know what I can and cannot know.”

Sherlock makes a face, vaguely chagrined. It’s as close to an apology as he will give her; they’ve never apologized to each other for anything. They’ve always understood each other this way.

“Your paths are entwined now.” She won’t say more. “Ask him, Sherlock. Ask him to show you what he feels for you. He will. And you won’t be able to doubt him after that.”

Sherlock jumps up and paces across the room.

“He’s already seen what you feel for him, he will reciprocate if you ask.”
When he turns around, she’s standing in his way. She reaches up and cups his cheek. “Ask him, boy. He won’t show you unless you want him to, he’s just as afraid of losing you as you are of losing him.”

Ciara presses a kiss to his other cheek; the twin points of cold seep into his blood and his whole body comes over in goosebumps, leaving him shivering where he stands when she steps back.

“If you would just do the binding, you wouldn’t have to worry. It’s going to make the both of you careless, Sherlock. Bind yourself to him, and him to you, and stop bloody worrying about each other and protect each other, for the love of all things uncanny.” She glares at him.

Sherlock glares back.

“Stupid, stubborn boy. Go back to your John and his warmth. If you don’t keep him, I’m going to start being tempted to take him again. I could break him. I could break you. I wouldn’t need be concerned about what’s coming if it were me.”

Her threats are just this side of empty, and Sherlock shudders again. “Fine. Fine, Ciara. You are the most annoying, unhelpful fairy I’ve ever met.”

She snorts, another strangely human gesture, and it’s this that reassures him. She’s definitely been spending a lot of time catching up on human culture. “Go. I’ll be back in a few days.”

Her smile, less cheshire-like now, but almost wistful, is the last of her to disappear. Sherlock puts her out of mind, puts her cryptic warnings out of mind, and goes back to his room.

John rolls into him when he crawls back into bed. “Cold.” More than half-asleep, John pulls the duvet up closer around both of them, wrapping himself around his tall lover. Sherlock snuggles as close as he can manage, reveling in John’s sleepy heat.

“It’s chilly in the flat,” he murmurs into John’s hair, which smells of his shampoo. He loves when John uses his shampoo, and wonders if he’s ever told John that.

“Liar,” John murmurs back. He doesn’t sound angry, or even particularly concerned, and Sherlock chuckles.

“Go back to sleep, John.”

“Mmm.” John’s breath soon evens out into the evenness of sleep.

Sherlock lays in his arms for a while, thinking, before allowing himself to drift into a doze, still turning over his worries and the pieces of the puzzle that is John Watson.