Seishirou didn’t look good. Subaru had never seen him anything but unearthly chipper, let alone so unsettlingly pale. Sherlock, John, Moriarty -- Subaru simply couldn’t care less about any of them as long as Seishirou looked so unwell.
“You’re overreacting.” Seishirou had an amused twinkle in his eye, as though the outside world had taken a vacation. “It’s cute.”
Subaru wanted badly to tell him to go to hell. “You should lie down. Where are you staying, Seishirou-san?”
Seishirou arched an eyebrow. “So eager to get a room?”
Irrationally enough, Subaru’s hold on the man only tightened. “This isn’t funny.”
“I’m not laughing.” Seishirou stayed where he was, just looking at him.
Subaru didn’t give up. “Has your business with Moriarty been concluded yet?”
Seishirou shrugged one shoulder slightly. “I suppose it has been. By the way... I won.”
“How wonderful,” Subaru remarked sardonically.
“I always do.” Seishirou touched Subaru’s cheek tenderly. Subaru didn’t flinch away, frozen to the spot -- mesmerised.
“It has been a while,” Seishirou murmured, withdrawing his hand.
“So it has,” Subaru replied flatly. This was going nowhere, he thought. They wouldn’t fight, they had nothing to say to each other -- or rather, neither of them knew how to communicate.
“You haven’t changed,” was Seishirou’s next line.
It stung. “I didn’t know you had expectations of whether I would or would not.”
“It was merely an observation, Subaru-kun. You shouldn’t read too much into it,” Seishirou said dismissively.
“All you ever do is observe.” Subaru’s voice rose up in fruitless anger, his hand clenching at Seishirou’s trench coat. “Like a child playing with an ant line.”
“An apt comparison. Does this make you an ant, Subaru-kun?” Seishirou inquired with a hint of curiosity.
“I don’t know.” Subaru finally remembered himself and their distance and let go of Seishirou, stepping away.
“I do hate to let you down.” Seishirou’s eye glinted. “I suppose I should be a good boy and retire to my room now. Or do you think Sherlock would sic the police on me?”
“I’d be more worried about Moriarty. Are you or are you not staying here?”
“So intent to find out.” Seishirou clicked his tongue and turned away. He made for the elevators, his back straight and his steps as self-assured as ever.
Subaru tiredly watched him walk away. So there was that.
“Subaru-kun.” Seishirou stopped to cast a pointed look at Subaru over his shoulder. “I never did say you weren’t invited. It was your prize, after all. You did well breaking my spell, if not my illusion.”
Subaru’s mouth went dry, his heart beat speeding up and hands clenching into fists.
Seishirou chuckled. “Yes, it means what you think it means.”
Subaru willed his knees not to go weak and cheeks not to burn. “I never said I wanted to... accompany you.”
“Pardon me.” Seishirou turned to face Subaru, regarding him speculatively. “Whatever made me think otherwise?”
Subaru took a deep, calming breath. It did him little good. “I wouldn’t know.”
Seishirou let out a dark chuckle. “Stubborn. I won’t be making the offer twice.”
“And for the better,” Subaru replied acidly. “It was much too generous of you.”
Seishirou stepped back into Subaru’s personal space, his smile at the same time sardonic and warm.
Seishirou caught Subaru by his tie and pulled him closer, nearly choking him. Subaru should have done s omething, should have tried to fight it -- but he didn’t. Seishirou’s hand was at the back of Subaru’s head, holding him in place, and Seishirou tilted his head, his breath hot against Subaru’s mouth. Seishirou’s lips slid over Subaru’s, his kiss harsh and demanding. It struck Subaru with more force than the magical trap he’d been caught in.
Seishirou bit down on Subaru’s bottom lip before his tongue soothingly traced over the bite.
Subaru broke away, breathless and dazed. Seishirou’s eyes were laughing.
Subaru slapped him across the face, satisfaction rising at the sight of an angry red stamp forming on Seishirou’s cheek.
“I never said I wanted this,” Subaru repeated through his teeth.
Seishirou flashed him another gut-wrenchingly charming smile of his and continued his way, leaving Subaru no choice but to catch up with him, seized by trepidation/want/need for more.
Seishirou summoned the elevator and leaned against the mirrored wall as they ascended, his arms folded and his eye swirling with dark promises.
Subaru focused on watching the floor numbers tick past.
“I can hear your heartbeat, you know.” Seishirou rested his palm against Subaru’s chest. “What is it like, to be so nervous?” His tone was flippant.
Subaru shivered, tipping his head backwards a little and unconsciously leaning into the touch. “It’s awful.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Seishirou smirked and pulled Subaru closer by the lapels of his ( Sherlock’s ) jacket. “You should look at the bright side more often, Subaru-kun.”
“ Stop saying my name like that, ” Subaru demanded with desperation. He sometimes thought Seishirou could stop his heart by that alone.
“What is it like to be so hopeless, Subaru-kun ?” Seishirou murmured, his hands already under Subaru’s coat, travelling up and down his sides.
Hands that killed. The thought made him nauseous. He looked into one of the mirror panels and didn’t recognize the pair of strangers in them.
Hands that would kill me. Now this caused a thrill -- a promise of something in his life going right, for once.
The elevator made a ringing sound and its doors slid open.
“Let’s go, shall we.” Seishirou gave Subaru a slight push, practically walking him out.
Subaru closed his eyes, minding his breath, trying to get a grip on himself.
“There we are,” Seishirou whispered from behind him and kissed the nape of his neck, right between his hairline and the collar of his coat.
Subaru jerked away and stumbled right into the room.
John awoke with a start, squinting as his surroundings rolled back into the focus. Still the Ritz . Frowning, John sat up straight, and rubbed his eyes. Just when had he dozed off --?
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up. Immediately, the suspicions that he’d felt building up inside of him dispelled. “Sherlock. What happened? Are you alright-?” He wanted to sit up, but found himself pushed back down on the seat.
“Stay put,” Sherlock said, voice oddly strained, even though his face remained impassive. “No need to be all up and about.”
John frowned even more. “I’m not the one who is usually up and about -- Are you sure everything is fine?” This wasn’t like Sherlock. Sherlock didn’t usually act like … well, an actual human-being who cared about others. Not openly, and definitely not when it didn’t involve blackmailing someone for cigarettes. John squinted. “You’re hiding something from me.”
Sherlock was about to answer when a clapping sound interrupted him. He rolled his eyes, mumbling ‘how tedious’ and remained beside John who just set his jaw, equally annoyed.
“Enough of that,” Moriarty said, stepping out of the shadows. “I get that you two are practically married , but --” he rolled his eyes, and let out a dramatic huff, “it’s boooooring, kids. Terribly mundane.”
“I’m sorry that we’re not as entertaining to you as the hallucinations,” Sherlock simply replied, his eyes darkening, scooting just a bit closer to John.
Moriarty smiled -- nearly sweetly. “I’m glad you liked it. It was fuuun, wasn’t it?” He shifted on his feet, an oddly expectant look in his eyes. “Don’t you agree, Sherlock Holmes?”
During all this, John simply found himself gaping for a second, mind trying to grasp with with the word ‘hallucination’ ( what? how? why? ). His attention shifted from Moriarty to Sherlock.
Sherlock mouthed ‘it’s fine, John -- I’ll explain later’, and went back to looking irritated and something else -- something that looked like weariness. “I especially appreciated the first part -- the man certainly had an astounding talent for small details.”
Moriarty didn’t come any closer, just pushed his hands into his pockets, and let out a loud, dramatic sigh. Then he tilted his head to the side, and smiled -- not warmly, but a touch wistfully. “This was just a taste of things to come, boys. Just a little appetiser for the grand finale.”
“More hallucinations? Bombs? --” Sherlock asked, his tone betraying no emotion, but John could hear the anger behind it, “I can’t wait.”
The smile that passed over Moriarty’s face struck John as both creepy and unnerving - in fact, it chilled him to the core, and he felt a shudder running down his spine. “You’ll be surprised enough. In fact, I owe you a huge one -- I owe you .” And with that, he dug his fingers deeper into his pockets, turned around and then walked away.
Neither John nor Sherlock stopped him.
Seishirou unceremoniously stepped on Subaru’s bedsheet, derailing his escape to the bathroom. It fell away, revealing slender legs and yesterday’s bite marks
Looking wild and scandalised, with hair still sleep-tousled and pointing in every direction Subaru made an indignant noise that was a tad too low to be a proper yelp, his hands flying to cover the most important parts.
“Good morning, Subaru-kun.” Seishirou leaned against the wall, blocking Subaru’s way.
Subaru had no choice but to edge back, his eyes narrowing. “My clothes are gone. What have you done with them?”
“I took the liberty of sending your clothes for cleaning. I believe you wouldn’t want to return them to Sherlock in that shameful state, would you?”
“What am I going to wear?”
“How about this bed sheet?” Seishirou bent to pick it up. “I heard it’s the latest fashion in London.” He smirked and wrapped it around Subaru’s hips, not missing the chance to tap him on the... small of his back.
Subaru clenched his teeth.
“Actually, I’ve been to 221B Baker Street,” Seishirou announced, setting off for the adjoining room and gesturing at Subaru’s bag. “A quaint apartment. I liked the head in the fridge best -- it’s like visiting a museum.”
“Excuse me?” Subaru followed suit. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“A lovely lady, Mrs. Hudson. Offered me biscuits and called you a sweetheart, can you imagine?”
“What did you do to her?” Subaru ground out, as menacing to Seishirou as a... newborn puppy.
“Drank tea with her and gossiped about her tenants, perhaps?” Seishirou replied innocently. “Anyway, let’s not waste any more time and go on an excursion already. You clothes are in the wardrobe.”
“An excursion,” Subaru repeated numbly.
“Indeed. After we feed you, of course. You’re entirely too thin.”
Subaru groaned in frustration and muttered peevishly under his breath.
“And don’t worry about your plane, I’ve changed your tickets,” Seishirou supplied generously.
“I...” Subaru blinked. He’d forgotten about that entirely. “...thank you. I suppose.”
“You’re welcome!” Seishirou exclaimed cheerfully. “Be ready in fifteen minutes.”
Sherlock didn’t know why John kept going on about it being his fault that the bathtub was flooded. Under usual circumstances, he would have just channelled out the rant, but he’d come close to tasting what it meant to lose John, so that he didn’t just lock himself away into his mind palace this time, instead keeping some of his attention focused on John as he analysed the leg of the spider underneath the microscope (poisonous, only found in Africa, but could be bred here, if certain requirements were met --).
John was still talking. “Sherlock, I really don’t mind the sodding heads in the fridge by now,” he sighed, “-but please, try to keep the bathtub free from your experiments?”
“I told you I didn’t conduct any recent experiments in the bathroom,” Sherlock replied, not tearing his eyes away from the microscope, but then decided to look at John, after all.
John was squinting, and a tight line drawn around his mouth. “Then tell me who else did it? A magician?” That “I dare you to come up with a good excuse” crossed over his face.
A smile tugged at the corners of Sherlock’s mouth. “That might just have been the case.”
“Excuse me?” John looked like he wanted to say more, but then the phone rang (probably Harry, always called at this time of the day --). And Sherlock just shook his head. Finally he could focus on his experiment.
Seishirou’s idea of ‘excursion’, as Subaru discovered, varied from slipping into Buckingham Palace unnoticed to feeding the ducks in St. James’ Park. Seishirou had been particularly excited about the latter, for some reason. His steps were springy and his face lively, giving an impression of a child in candy store. Except children’s arms didn’t wander, as if by magic, to their companion’s waists.
“Why did you accept your last job?” Subaru asked quietly, quite indifferent to the idea of ducks at his current age. He was no longer an innocent 16-year-old who dreamed of becoming a zookeeper.
“Don’t worry, I made sure the Duke paid your clan for exorcising his grandfather first,” Seishirou replied, tossing another chunk of bread into the pond. It sunk unnoticed and Seishirou made a stricken expression at it.
Subaru was unimpressed.
“It’s not exactly wise of you to make inquiries about my work, Subaru-kun,” Seishirou pointed out.
Subaru turned away with a sigh. There was a pair of nicely dressed children playing with their dog and laughing happily. It made him smile.
“I often take jobs abroad,” Seishirou supplied. “I rather enjoy travelling.”
“Oh.” Subaru was at a loss of what to say to that.
“It’s your first time outside Japan, isn’t it?” Seishirou mused, looking at him intently. “How do you like London?”
“It’s....nice.” Subaru said, fidgeting awkwardly under Seishirou’s scrutiny.
Seishirou smiled mysteriously and leaned closer. Subaru flinched away. “We’re in public. There are children here.”
“Would you have them grow up as clueless as you were?” Seishirou inquired wryly.
Seishirou’d finally run out of bread, so Subaru prodded, “what are you planning now?”
“World’s End, Subaru-kun,” Seishirou proclaimed, taking off towards the park’s exit.
It was a district of Chelsea, London, lying at the western end of the King’s Road.
“It took its name from a pub,” Seishirou explained. “It has most interesting history.“
They rode subway to get there, Seishirou elbowing his way through myriads of unsuspecting Londoners and Subaru apologizing to whomever the man had just pushed out of his way. The underground changed little from country to country. It made Subaru think of their second meeting.
“They call it ‘the tube’ here,” Seishirou flaunted more of his erudition. Subaru could still remember being the rapturous adolescent who devoured his every word like it was ultimate wisdom. In retrospect, it was laughable.
It was only when they paused in front of a clothing store than Subaru finally began to panic.
“Not so fast, Subaru-kun.” Seishirou placed a firm hand on the small of Subaru’s back, herding him towards the entrance. “It isn’t a proper trip to London without purchasing a Westwood suit.”
It was going to be a long day.
“I came to remove the curse,” Subaru stated right from the doorstep, his eyes downcast. “I sincerely apologise for all the inconveniences caused to you, even if it’s worthless coming from me.”
John smiled. “Why don’t you come in first?” He moved to the side, no longer blocking the entrance to the apartment.
“Ah, yes.” Subaru entered and looked around. His face fell. “Oh. It’s the bathroom, isn’t it?”
“Actually,” John frowned, and took a deep breath, “it is.”
“Seishirou-san’s been to your apartment,“ Subaru explained, desperately apologetic as he rushed towards the bathroom. “Under the pretence of gathering my things. I figured he would do something unseemly. I will remove it right away.”
John just nodded, a puzzled expression on his face as he followed Subaru. This whole magic business, he felt, would never stop pegging him as slightly … suspicious.
Subaru located the curse and chanted a purification spell, swiftly disposing of Seishirou’s magic. Seishirou hadn’t even tried for anything other than minor annoyance. Could this be a red herring?
“I need to check the rest of the house. This might not be the only surprise he’s left.”
“Feel free to -- Sherlock has gone to St Bart’s,” John said, chuckling. “Though it’s not like he’d object.”
“Thank you.” Subaru nodded at him and started circling around the apartment. Wallpapers were clean of any hidden symbols or paper charms; investigation of the couch revealed a mouldy something that must at some point have been bread.
Subaru braced himself and opened the fridge, greeted by several pairs of expectant eyes. Seishirou’d placed another hex on the jar of eyeballs.
“This one was supposed to cause migraine, temporary sight loss and possibly hallucinations,” he told John and started chanting.
John frowned. “That was why Sherlock was always rubbing his eyes as of late.”
“Right. Well. All done.” Subaru turned to face him, smiling thinly. “I’d say not all magic users are as troublesome, but that would be wishful thinking.”
John smiled tentatively as he leaned against the wall. “I … don’t really understand of this still, but I don’t find you troublesome.” He shrugged his shoulders. “You’re a decent bloke.”
Subaru froze for a moment, startled, and broke into a genuine smile.
“Thank you, John. I’m happy to have made acquaintance with you,” he said warmly. “And I really liked London. I’m returning to Tokyo tomorrow.”
John smiled warmly. “With your lover, right? Ah --” he ran a hand through his hair, “I don’t mean to make assumptions, but you look ...happier.”
Subaru coloured up to the roots of his hair, suddenly finding the floor fascinating and twitching all over. “About that...” He coughed, remembering the ducks and Victoria sponge cakes. “It’s complicated. I have no idea what he’s thinking.”
“Ah, that’s usually the case in relationships … you rarely know what the other person is really thinking,” John said, a slightly wistful smile playing on his face. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth finding out.”
Subaru sighed longingly, lost in conflicting thoughts. “That’s right.... Oh! About the suit that I borrowed from Sherlock: it’s in dry-cleaning. I won’t be able to pick it up and bring back personally, but they will have it delivered.”
At that moment, Sherlock stormed in, the door thrown open with such force that John jumped -- even more when he saw that Sherlock was covered from head to toe in blood. He rolled his eyes. “You harpooned a dead pig again ?”
Sherlock just gritted his teeth. “No, I slashed a cow open. And the cabs still wouldn’t take me.”
Subaru couldn’t hide a wince. He’d grown used to many things, but cruelty to animals was something that still hit him hard.
“The cow was dead,” Sherlock replied nonchalantly, throwing the bloodied harpoon into a corner, where some boxes and dust-laden books lay. “And coming to say goodbye?”
“Yes. And I’d like to leave a... parting gift.” Subaru opened his bag and took out a small amulet made of red cloth, enclosing paper with prayer. “It’s called omamori and brings good fortune. I made it for the flat instead of individuals, so you can just hang it anywhere.”
“But please don’t open it,” he added, knowing a little about Sherlock’s habits by now. “Or it would lose its powers. It’s not possible to make all-purpose protective amulets, but it’s at least something.”
John took the gift, too well aware of the fact that leaving anything in Sherlock’s hands would just end in an experiment. “Thank you -- I’ll give it Mrs Hudson.” It would be safe in her hands, at least. Sherlock didn’t say anything, and John gave him a glare, at which Sherlock mumbled ‘thanks and see you’ before dashing off into the bathroom.
John let out a sigh, and let his face fall. “I’m sorry -- he’ll never change. But --” he reached for Subaru’s hand, “it was nice to meet you.”
Subaru shook John’s hand without reservation, smiling at him gently. “I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, John. And please send my regards to Mrs. Hudson.”
“I wish you all the best too,” John said as he lead Subaru to the door, smiling as he wished him another goodbye before Subaru hailed a cab. John lingered at the doorstep for a while, watching Subaru get in and drive away -- he stayed until the cab grew smaller and smaller until it finally disappeared from his sight entirely.
John chuckled. “Well, that was that with magicians. Now back to blogging about crime cases.” He opened the door again, and returned to the apartment, knowing that Sherlock would need him.
But John was fine with that -- even if he was dull and ordinary, he knew that 221B Baker Street (and Sherlock) wouldn’t be the same without him.