“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for staying ashore.”
– Vincent Van Gogh
“Sherlock, come on, I’m freezing!”
“Can you not just use Mrs. Hudson’s?”
“She’s away and I’m not going to break into her flat because you won’t let me use our bathroom!”
“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”
John, leaning against the door, took a deep breath and started counting to ten. He hadn’t had as much money in his wallet as he had thought, and had had to walk home from the surgery. Which would have been fine, had the heavens not decided to open. Which was why he was dripping wet, cold and growing steadily more irritated. All he wanted was a nice, hot bath followed by a cup of tea and Sherlock was ruining it.
“How long have you been in there?”
“I’ve only just gotten in. If I recall correctly, which I nearly always do, you did say that you were fine with this.”
“I never said you could hog the bath,” John muttered before raising his voice again, “Sherlock, I’m cold, I’m tired, will you please just let me use the bath? Can you not put off your, Mer-ness, until later?”
A muffled sigh, then, “I’ve already put it off enough this week, I don’t think I can.” He paused. “If you’re that desperate, we can share I suppose.”
Of all things, that was not the reply John was expecting. “You must be joking.”
“I’m not. I’m hardly going to tell anyone, and it would save water.”
I can’t believe I’m considering this. “Is it big enough?”
The sound of water sloshing around drifted through the door, then Sherlock said, “It should be.”
“Right, well, just, em, just stay put.”
He rooted around in his chest of drawers for a pair of swimming trunks, if he was sharing a bath with Sherlock, Sherlock of all people, he was not doing it naked. As he did so, John seriously questioned his sanity. If anyone knew…then he snorted. If anyone knew, they’d have to know why Sherlock was refusing to give up the bath in the first place, and he highly doubted that was something Sherlock was going to tell anyone.
Sherlock hadn’t bothered to lock the door, so John awkwardly let himself in and dumped his clothes and towel on top of Sherlock’s. “Right, budge over.” Sherlock tried to make some room for him and John gingerly sat in to the bath. He sighed with relief at the heat of it, so far it was completely worth it.
John nodded, shut his eyes and tried to slip further down without touching Sherlock unnecessarily. Sherlock moved his tail out of the way, accidentally brushing John’s shoulder and causing him to start.
“You’re so jumpy, how on earth did you manage living in barracks?”
“Because I never had to share a small bath with any of them, and no-one thought I was in a relationship with any of them.” John moved Sherlock’s fin off his shoulder and inspected it, running his fingers absent mindedly over the rays that supported it. The shape reminded him of a dolphin’s tail fluke, now that he thought of it.
“We are in a relationship of sorts, I know it’s not what everyone assumes, you know it’s not what they think it is, so I don’t see what the problem is.”
He had a point. “I just don’t usually share baths with people.” John said.
“Neither do I. I don’t normally allow people to play with my tail either.”
John blushed. “I’m a doctor, I was examining it, not playing with it.”
Sherlock grinned “Of course you were.” Nevertheless, he didn’t pull his fin free. John found himself relaxing at last. It was kind of nice really, just to sit in companionable silence with Sherlock.
“Does it hurt? Transforming?” John said suddenly.
Sherlock shook his head “It tingles a little.”
John gave the join between skin and scales at Sherlock’s hips a sideways look, it was amazing to see how seamless the division was. As if being able to fuse one’s legs into one limb painlessly wasn’t amazing enough.
“Scales are derived from bone and keratin, and are actually quite similar in structure to hair and teeth, so they’re not a completely alien substance for a mammal to have. However, pangolins are the only mammals accepted by science that have scales.”
John shook his head fondly at Sherlock’s ability to effectively read his mind. “So I suppose Mer produce live young then,” John mused.“I’d hardly know, would I? I have mammary glands, so I presume so.”
John shot a quick look down and then up again, hoping that Sherlock didn’t notice. But of course he did. “My anatomy seems similar to a whale or dolphin when I’m like this, all reproductive organs are inside my body when not in use, to keep my form streamlined.”
John groaned. “I didn’t really need to know that Sherlock.”
“It’s just biology. And you looked.”
“I wasn’t looking!”
“Yes you were.”
“Fine, I looked once.”
Sherlock shrugged, completely unabashed. “It’s understandable I suppose, how an unknown organism reproduces is a question most scientifically trained people would ask themselves on learning of said organism’s existence.”
John groaned again and pinched the bridge of his nose. Okay, it was something that he was slightly curious about but Sherlock spent most of his time in human form and he already knew how that worked and then adding Sherlock into the mix…
“Surprisingly, sex isn’t a topic I really want to discuss with you when we’re both sitting in the same bath and--“ John’s eyes fell on their pile of clothes “Are you naked?”
Sherlock gave him a long look. “Yes, scales remember? So it doesn’t count.”
John sighed. He couldn’t argue with that anyway. They sat in silence for a few more minutes, Sherlock’s eyes slowly starting to slip closed until he blinked and slipped downwards with a groan.
“What’s the matter with you now?”
“What about him?”
“How…” Sherlock didn’t have a phone on him, and John was almost positive the doorbell didn’t ring. “I can’t hear anything.”
“That’s because there is nothing for you to hear. He’s not even here yet.”
Sherlock groaned again, but John got the sense that it wasn’t because of him. “You know how fish have lateral line systems to sense what’s around them? Allows them to move in sync as a shoal? What biologist don’t know is that there’s also a mental link there, to enable them to pass information such as good feeding sites among them. Mer have that too.”
“You can read Mycroft’s mind?”
“Yes. No. Sort of. It only works in relatively close proximity and it’s only a sense of his emotions and intents. He’s almost here now.”
John dragged his mind away from dwelling on that new piece of information to focus on the last part. And on his current position. “Shit.” He said as he tried to stand up and get out of the bath as quickly as possible without slipping. Sherlock, in contrast, stayed exactly where he was.
“Funnily enough, I don’t particularly want your brother to see us in the same bath.” John pulled his towel around him and was about to make a break for it just as Mycroft stepped in to the bathroom.
“Hello brother mine, John.” He politely inclined his head in John’s direction, who managed to give a flustered one in reply. Sherlock slipped even further into the water, it now came up to his nose. He looked, John thought randomly, like an annoyed seal.
“Doing your bit for water conservation I see?” Mycroft said with a raised eyebrow. John spluttered wordlessly as he tried to pull the towel around him while Sherlock re-surfaced enough to say, “What do you want Mycroft?”
“I was passing so I thought I’d drop off those files you wanted,” Mycroft indicated the brown folder under his arm, “But you seem to be busy, so I’ll show myself out.”
“That would be marvellous.”
Sherlock closed his eyes again. Mycroft let out a clearly audible sigh and turned to John. “A word, if you don’t mind.”
John found that he did mind, but Mycroft’s tone brooked no argument, so he followed him, still with his towel around is shoulders, into the sitting room.
“I was drenched on the way home from work, so Sherlock let me share the bath so I could warm up.”
“That’s not any of my concern, what I do want to know is when Sherlock decided to tell you about our family tree.”
John had been expecting this.
“A few days ago.”
“And I trust you will be keeping it to yourself?”
It wasn’t so much of a question as a demand.
“Good, it seems we understand each other. However,” Mycroft’s gaze, if possible, grew even more intense. “If you let slip of this to anyone without the permission of Sherlock or myself you will wish that you had never been born.”
There was a steely glint in Mycroft’s eyes that seemed just a little bit inhuman, and John felt some kind of primal fear stir inside him, a fear that inspired visions of dark, cold, suffocating water and a glimpse, just a tiny glimpse, into the truth of the stories of vengeful sea-folk. Of the rage and the ruthlessness and the ability to make one’s life a living Hell. And none of those ancient avengers had had the full power of the British Government and who knows what else behind them.
John swallowed, but refused to break eye contact.
“I trust that you do.” Mycroft’s demeanour returned to normal and the atmosphere shifted to what it generally always was with Mycroft, that of a cold lake rather than hypothermia-inducing seas. The archaic fear and the ideas it evoked returned to their dark, almost forgotten corner in the back of John’s mind, who succeeded in not shivering.
“Understand that I’m just trying to protect Sherlock and myself, there are people in this world that would be more than happy to take advantage of our…unique…heritage.” Mycroft went on. John nodded, shuddering internally at the thought of Sherlock lifeless on a dissecting table or trapped in a tank for people to goggle at, “people” in this case been Anderson and Donovan sniggering and trying to come up with synonyms of “freak” that they hadn’t used already.
Mycroft turned to leave. “Dr. Watson, you are the only person outside of our family to know of this. Do not betray the trust Sherlock has placed in you.”
It was only when he left that the unsettling feeling of been submerged in cool water evaporated. John had often put that down to Mycroft just being intimidating, but now he wasn’t so sure. Realising that he was still in nothing but swim wear and a towel, John retreated to the comparative warmth of the bathroom.
“What did Mycroft threaten you with?” Sherlock was now standing with a towel around his waist.
“That my life wouldn’t be worth living if I told anyone about you two.”
“The usual then. Not that you would of course.”
Was it John’s imagination, or was the tiniest bit of uncertainty is Sherlock’s voice?
“Of course not.”
Sherlock relaxed minutely. “I wouldn’t let him anyway, make your life a living Hell.”
Sherlock didn’t reply, just went to his room. John started to go to his own, then remembered Mycroft’s warning, and shivered, now that he was alone. It was a reminder that for all of Sherlock’s casualness towards it, he and Mycroft were capable of far more than John knew. Sherlock had made John’s comment about drowning into a joke, but that didn’t mean that he was incapable of doing it. Not to John, obviously, but the ability was there. Although he could probably do that even if he was fully human.
John had never thought about it like that.