|How to Build a Heart out of Ashes
Author: Teumessian PM
In an AU where a small number of the population become Changelings at a young age, at 17 John Watson believes he's destined for Normal life but then the Change takes him and he is sent to the Baker Institute. There he meets Sherlock Holmes. John/SherlockRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Mystery - John W. & Sherlock H. - Chapters: 19 - Words: 96,748 - Reviews: 359 - Favs: 490 - Follows: 762 - Updated: 06-09-12 - Published: 02-07-12 - id: 7814514
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Notes:This will be a full length AU fic and will be posted up here as I finish and my lovely, amazing beta, kathecello, cleans them up! Warnings for the whole story: general adult themes, swearing, mentions of child abuse, drug use/abuse, graphic sex, and violence. Rating has gone up.
Hello! This chapter is rated high teen I think. Oh, and I now have an Ao3 account (same penname/username). For those of you who are a fan of my post-Reichenbach fic, it is now posted completely there so you can download it. Ashes is also posted there through 16 and I will be posting new chapters there a few days after I do here, again for those who want to download onto e-readers. As always, I hope to keep hearing from you all as you read! R&R and Enjoy =]
How to Build a Heart out of Ashes: Veils
Jim apparently had to work late. He was going to meet Molly, Greg, Sherlock and John at the pub, so Molly said.
John and Greg both ordered a pint of beer. Molly sipped on a pinkish drink that John wasn't sure contained any alcohol at all. Sherlock hadn't ordered anything and his focus skipped around the room. John thought he was fighting fatal boredom by deducing the lives of each bar patron.
To be honest, Greg didn't look particularly thrilled to be in the pub either. A girl at the bar had obviously flirted with him and he hadn't even seemed to notice. This left John and Molly to discuss the animal physiology course they were both trying to get into next term.
Most medical schools had many veterinary programs and most students were smart enough to take advantage of this. It was difficult, if not impossible, to get a job in most medical fields without at least very basic veterinary skills, and if you wanted to work in emergency care it was of paramount importance to have staff capable of treating shifted Changelings.
John was at the bottom of his first pint and Greg was half way through his second when Molly perked up, gaze locking onto the door. She hopped off her tall chair and walked over to meet at man in the tightest pair of jeans John had probably ever seen. He was older than the young Changelings in the bar, most likely in his early twenties and he was wearing a v-neck tee shirt and an easy smile on his face.
Molly led him over to the table, pointing at each of her friends in turn, introducing them. She stopped when she reached the small group.
"Everyone," she said, looking more sure of herself than usual, "This is Jim."
"Hello, I've heard so much about you—all of you," Jim said, pausing strangely in the middle of his sentence, as if he hadn't originally intended for it to be plural.
He smiled amicably, though, and John doubted he deserved the cold reception he was about to receive. Sherlock's gaze flicked over Jim for just a second and then back to a couple holed up in a booth, who he was trying to decide were getting back together for the third or fourth time. Greg just took a heavy swig of his beer. Jim's smile faltered and his gaze settled on Sherlock's complete dismissal.
"Ah… they mean hello," John said, a little irritated at his friends' lack of courtesy.
Then the man's eyes flashed up towards John and for a second he thought there was something there that made his blood run cold, but then John must have been imagining it because the smile and nod he received were warm and clean. John mentally shook his himself and returned the gesture with a tight smile. Jim's gaze lingered for a moment before he turned to Molly with a tender expression.
"I'm sorry, Molls," he said. "I still wanted to stop by to meet your friends, but a bunch of the campus servers are down so I can't stay."
Molly's face fell.
"Wow, dedicated—working on a Friday night," Greg commented, pint in hand, making John want to kick him under the table, but it was a tall table and it would have been completely obvious.
Thankfully, Jim seemed to ignore the comment as he bent to give Molly a goodbye kiss on the cheek, making her blush viciously.
"It was nice meeting you all," Jim said, and then leaned in to shake each of their hands.
Greg shook his hand apathetically but Jim was completely ignored when he reached across the table for Sherlock's. John quickly intervened and grasped Jim's hand solidly. He leaned in for just a second, as if giving another nod of thanks, and then turned to go.
Weird bloke, John thought, but he seemed to make Molly happy.
Once Jim was out the door, Molly turned to the boys with a splitting smile on her face.
"Well, what do you all think of Jim?" Molly asked.
John opened his mouth to give the most positive review he could but he was completely beaten to the punch.
Strange how a single word from Sherlock Holmes had the ability to throw a whole group into chaos.
"What?" Molly squeaked.
"What!" John echoed forcefully.
Greg just choked on his beer.
Sherlock merely continued to focus on the off-and-on couple.
"Jim from IT is homosexual," he confirmed his meaning.
The color drained out of Molly's face.
"He's not," she denied.
"How could you possibly know that?" John asked.
It probably wasn't the right thing to say but he had to know.
Sherlock tore his gaze away from what he obviously thought was a much more interesting puzzle. He rolled his eyes.
"Did none of you see his exposed, designer underwear? The chain around his neck? The product in his hair!" Sherlock said dramatically. "Jimmy is gay!"
Greg's eyebrows were threatening to disappear into his hairline.
"That does not mean he's—" John started to protest.
"Oh, also, supported by the fact that he managed to slip his number into John's jacket pocket," Sherlock dropped the final bombshell.
"Yes!" the word slipped gleefully out of Greg's mouth before he caught himself.
It was lost in the chaos as John confirmed Sherlock's statement by removing a slip of paper from his pocket. There was a set of written numbers breaking up the white surface. John felt the beginning of a headache at the base of his skull.
"I told you," Sherlock said.
When John finally looked up, there were tears shining in Molly's eyes and the two regular teenage boys began to justifiably panic. Sherlock just sighed heavily, as if this was far more than he should be expected to put up with.
"Y-y-you're just—sometimes you're … just horrible," Molly said passionately, then turned her anger on her appropriately mortified friends. "All of you…!"
A little sob escaped her and her face crumpled before she turned to storm out of the pub, hair swinging angrily and glowing orange under the amber bar lights.
Greg was too shell-shocked to say anything but John turned to Sherlock.
"Sherlock, how could you say all that!" John asked angrily.
"What? It's better that she not know and it ends with her finding him with another man?" Sherlock asked. "I was doing Molly a favour."
John leaned back in his chair, frustrated.
"Fine, but you could have been a lot gentler," John tried to explain. "You really upset her!"
Obviously Sherlock wasn't really listening anymore, as he glanced at the couple's booth once more and finally muttered 'four' and moved his eyes to the next table.
"Oh, Molly's going to be fine," Sherlock drawled. "Greg is going to ask her out."
John's eyes snapped wide and Greg spat half his mouthful of ale back into his pint. John turned to his silver haired friend.
"You're asking Molly out?" John asked first and then remembered to take another step back. "No… wait, you fancy Molly?"
Greg looked like a deer in the headlights.
"I—well, I… um, I—" Greg stumbled into complete incoherency.
Sherlock was leaning on his hand with his elbow on the table as he watched an exchange between a spectacled patron and the bartender.
"Oh, do give him a minute, John. This is all very new for dear Greg," Sherlock said. "He only realized his interest in our Molly when he found out she was taken, and only decided to ask her out a few minutes ago when he realized she would no longer be otherwise committed."
Sherlock finished with less inflection than one would use relating what they had for breakfast. John and Greg momentarily lapsed into awed silence.
Finally Greg spoke.
"Well, I better go find Molly," he said, pulling his coat off the back of his chair.
John nodded at the loose salute Greg gave him as a goodbye.
"Good luck, mate," John said, and Greg nodded once before starting to make his way towards the door and the chilly, night air, leaving John and Sherlock alone at the table.
John sighed and let himself relax a bit, taking a drink of his beer and feeling the carbonation pop on his tongue.
"You know, you could stand to be more delicate," John chided, knowing it wouldn't do any good, but feeling like he was obliged to say it anyway.
True to character, Sherlock only curled his lip up in disgust, eyes still trained on the bar.
John leaned his weight on the hard wood table and followed his gaze.
"So," John said, giving in, "Is the one with the glasses sleeping with the bartender?"
Sherlock smirked, obviously pleased at John's own observations as well as his own.
"Yes… but he hasn't told her he's married yet," Sherlock smiled, glancing sidelong at John.
John giggled and brought his pint to his lips.
. . .
John was studying on his bed. Cold, winter sunlight filtered through the sixth floor windows. The text book was heavy in John's lap.
There was the click of a turning doorknob. John looked up when his door opened without a knock. It was Sherlock—of course it was.
He strode purposefully into the room. John was well used to such entrances.
"Can I help you with something?" John asked, looking back down at his text.
"I need help with an experiment," Sherlock stated as he moved through the room, voice low.
"Yeah? What kind of experime—" John started but the words died in his throat as he glanced up.
He'd heard Sherlock's footsteps, but he hadn't realized just how close he'd gotten, and he definitely hadn't noticed the searing intensity in his blue eyes. There was the familiar dash of uncertainty that Sherlock had only ever shown John, but over that was determination and something… melting, dripping hot.
"Sh-Sherlock?" John stuttered as Sherlock pulled the text book out of his hands and dropped it unceremoniously on the floor.
"I need to do an experiment on the fluxuation of cognitive ability under specific stimuli," Sherlock said, voice completely unlike his usual clipped tone.
John's stomach then swooped violently as the bed dipped under the new weight of Sherlock's knee. The support allowed the pale-skinned teen to move his body right over John's, hovering just a few centimeters above his face—eye to eye. John's heart began to pound.
With each beat John's world quickly shrunk to the sky blue orbs and the body they resided in. He wanted to ask what was going on, but he was completely speechless up until the moment Sherlock's lips finally covered his own.
They were soft, and warmer than John expected. Part of John was in shock, but the much bigger part crackled with heat and it was entirely out of his range of abilities to hold himself still when Sherlock's mouth began to work over his.
John parted his lips and, under whose power he didn't know, their tongues met and his hand shot up to cup Sherlock's neck, thumb tracing along his jaw. Sherlock tasted like tea, but stronger and sweeter, along with something else entirely.
John hummed deeply when their tongues intertwined completely, and Sherlock's hands grasped his shoulders. Long, thin fingers pressed into his skin through his stripy, blue jumper.
When Sherlock pulled away, to John's less than silent protests, John had a tiny flash of clarity that allowed him to wonder, just for a second, what the fuck was going on but then Sherlock's clever tongue traced his jugular vein and all coherent thought was abandoned as that mouth moved over his skin. John couldn't help but use his hands to urge him on, palms pressing into fabric, fingers tracing bones. It just felt too good and the scent of Sherlock was saturating his head as his dark, curly hair was close enough to brush against John's cheek. It was the same smell that John caught on his sheets the nights after Sherlock couldn't sleep and they woke up tangled together, and on the days later when John shifted and lay his lupine head down and the fading scent would just drift in, leading him away.
"Sherlock…" he whispered.
John grasped helplessly at the young genius, hands fisting in his white school shirt to pull Sherlock's lips back up to his own. He outright moaned at the recovered contact and inhaled sharply when Sherlock's hand found its way under John's jumper. He arched into the contact and tried to drag Sherlock even closer. All of John's blood was rushing down to his groin and his head felt like it was filled with helium. He wanted this more than he'd ever wanted anything for himself in his whole life.
"Mmmn… Sherlock," John murmured as teeth sank into John's bottom lip.
John's fingers buried themselves firmly in silky hair and the slide of a violinist's hand from ribs over taught stomach muscles, the way they might play over tuned strings, was the only warning John received before the heel of Sherlock's palm slid unyieldingly over the growing bulge in his jeans.
Surprised, John couldn't restrain himself and bucked up into Sherlock's hand.
"Sherlock!" John nearly shouted as their lips parted with a distinct pop and John gasped wildly as a spike of pleasure shot through his system, and then John woke with a start.
It was barely dawn and John was alone in his room. His heart thundered in his chest and a thin sheen of sweat rested on his brow. His chest rose and fell quickly as he tried to reorganize his flailing mind—images fresh and burned into place.
Sick with dread, John lifted his duvet and groaned at the undeniable evidence poorly concealed by his pajama trousers. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back onto his pillow.
"Oh… this is not good…" John moaned, trying to forget the way Sherlock's name had sprung from his lips as he woke.
. . .
Since Sammi's disappearance, Sherlock had decided to focus their effort away from the mastermind himself and instead try to fill in a couple of the other blanks on his web.
"They all go willingly, John," a low voice sounded a few centimeters above his shoulder as John was walking down the corridor between classes with Molly.
It was like someone electrocuted him. John sprung away so quickly and violently his shoulder and backpack slammed against the wall he'd forgotten was so close beside him. Boll Molly and Sherlock were looking at him like he was crazy—which he was considering himself as a serious possibility to be honest.
"Jesus Christ! You scared the piss out of me," John said as he tried to regain some dignity, determinedly looking anywhere but at the tall, dark haired boy with questions in his eyes.
"As I was saying, they most likely are achieving the lack resistance by blackmail and threats, and for that—"
"You'd need an informant on the inside to get to know the victims," John finished huffily. "I know. You told me last night."
John had strategically made sure Molly was in between him and Sherlock when they started walking again so now Sherlock was trying to talk around her.
"Well, I wasn't sure if you heard me. You got upset and started throwing your possessions at me until I left. I thought it might be valuable to reiterate," Sherlock said accusingly.
Molly shot him another confused look that he deftly ignored.
"I was asleep," John grumbled.
It wasn't his fault that damn dream was throwing him into a mad sexual identity crisis as well as inspiring a number of other unwelcome side effects that certain did not cohabitate well with Sherlock showing up next to his bed in the middle of the night when his guard was down.
It wasn't as if Sherlock had been having one of his bad nights—he didn't have that face on. John always knew that face. Thank god it occurred infrequently now. John didn't know if he could handle Sherlock actually in his bed right now. No, he was sure he couldn't.
No, last night there weren't any nightmares. Instead Sherlock had come to tell John some small realization that full well could have waited until morning and oh, also to dismantle John's entire self image—with those damn cheekbones and sparkling eyes that brought up far too many unbidden mental pictures. He told himself they were just flashbacks to the dream, and he flat out refused to see them as independent observations.
Because everything about this was just crazy—and not in the good way.
The morning after the dream, John came up with several compelling reasons why the only option was to pack the dream away and forget about it, discount it as one of those nightmarish, hormone saturated teenaged dreams. John hadn't had more than a drop of luck in that area since he'd come to the Baker Institute. He'd had so many other things to worry about and they were all certainly worth it, really, but the fact still remained that John hadn't even kissed someone in nearly a year now. He'd just been so busy. Plus, he spent so much time with Sherlock that he had probably just managed to accidentally work his way into the wrong dream. It was just a fluke.
"Anyway…" Sherlock began, drawing John back into the present. "I am going to begin cross-referencing the Wanderings at Baker to look for a common denominator. Ask around in your classes to see if Sammi was spending any time with any new people in the weeks before she Wandered."
John sighed, knowing it was going to be impossible to gain such information without sounding like a nutter. Oh well, half the Institute already thought he was crazy for the company he kept.
"Right…" John said wearily as they passed the administrative offices.
"Good," Sherlock said, and then took a sharp right into the student records office and John silently prayed that he wouldn't do something to get him kicked out of school.
John and Molly continued in silence for a moment or so but he didn't miss the sidelong glanced she was shooting in his direction and he had no hope that the silence would last. Already his mind was on overdrive to produce an adequate response to whatever question she was going to ask.
"So, did you two have a spat or something?" she asked timidly.
"I'm straight," John blurted before he could stop himself.
He quickly realized he had been the one to edit 'spat' into 'lover's spat' in his head. His face burned with shame but it was too late. Molly's eyes were trained on him and she was more perceptive than anyone gave her credit for. She was going to see right through him, but when she spoke it was far from what John expected to hear.
"How do you know?" Molly asked.
John's eyebrows shot upwards.
"I'm sorry, what?" he said flatly.
Molly blushed and looked at the ground, stopping in front of her classroom, so traffic began to flow around them.
"I—I just meant, I don't know exactly what's bothering you, but I can guess… and I just thought… can any of us know that completely yet? It's… isn't university supposed to be when most of us finally find all that out?" Molly said softly. "I just mean, I don't think it's something to get worked up over when you're still young enough that you could easily find out something new about yourself."
Molly usually stumbled when she spoke, and usually it came out all wrong, but once in a blue moon Molly spoke some of the most profound, insightful commentaries John had ever heard.
This was one of those moments. John could only blink owlishly at her a few times before she mumbled a hasty goodbye and something that sounded like good luck before disappearing into the open door.
John sighed heavily and ran a tired hand over his face. Well, now he just had no idea where he stood.
. . .
In the end, Molly's words were not wasted on John—maybe he was a little less straight than he thought and that was fine. He was able to calm down from his complete identity crisis, but it still didn't change the fact that at the heart of all this strife was Sherlock Holmes, and that brought on a whole set of its own problems.
First, and most important, was the fact that Sherlock was his best friend and John knew about his past. For all John knew, even thinking about him that way could violate all the trust that Sherlock had in him.
And even if Sherlock wouldn't be completely betrayed then that still left the glaring and impassable fact that this was Sherlock Holmes—a person who ate out of only absolute necessity, slept when his body dropped, and thought breathing was boring. John was fairly sure he would have a whole speech about the endeavors of the mind overshadowing trite hormonal needs. John had never seen him so much as show a passing interest in a girl or boy for that matter—which he guessed should be a key part of this assessment. The fact was that the idea of Sherlock in a relationship as the most preposterous thing that John had ever heard.
So John decided his best option was to pack it up in a little box and let it gather dust in the attic of his mind.
It seemed like a sustainable idea at the time.
Well, it worked for a little while.
John was in a study hall, waiting until he had to go out and shift for his speech class when Sherlock was suddenly hovering over him, palms on the table top, with a fierce look in his eyes. John turned to the next page in his book.
"Sherlock," John greeted neutrally.
He used to respond to this level of excitement, but Sherlock often got this excited about pond scum, so over time John had habituated.
"I found the common denominator," Sherlock said, voice sharp.
That got John's attention. He leaned back in his chair and looked up at his friend, whose curls hung wildly over his forehead.
"What?" John prompted.
"I found the informant, John, the one person who had contact with each of the false Wanderer's before they disappeared," Sherlock said.
John clearly saw the red line branching out from the center of the web on Sherlock's wall, out to the neatly written 'informant' in his mind.
"Who?" John asked.
Sherlock hesitated for only half a second before his eyes flashed bright with excitement.
According to Sherlock Irene Adler had been seeing Hannah Chamberlin as well as Sammi Knight in the month or so before each of them disappeared. She had at least shared a class or had some other connection to each of the other false Wanderers in Baker. John had no trouble believing Sherlock when he said it was Adler.
They finally found the woman in the Grand Entryway of Baker Hall. She sat in one of the plush armchairs that helped make the building look as posh as it did. She helped the image, too. Irene held a silver compact mirror in her palm and a blood red tube of lipstick in her other hand.
John's mood dropped at the mere sight of her. It could have been anyone, but no, it had to be Irene.
"Sherlock Holmes," she purred as they approached. "What brings you to see me?"
John sighed and readied himself to be ignored for most of the conversation.
"Oh, nothing much," Sherlock said archly. "I was just wondering how your job is going? Does it pay well?"
Her eyes widened in surprise for just a moment before her expression shifted into a sure smile.
"Well, bravo, Sherlock," she said smoothly. "It took you a while to figure it out but you got there in the end."
He compact snapped shut and she slipped it into her black handbag. John was just shocked that she wasn't even denying it. Sherlock, however, didn't seem surprised at all.
"Who is it? Who is your boss?" Sherlock cut straight to the quick.
Irene appeared unruffled as she delicately crossed one leg over the other and leaned back in the armchair, folding her hands over her knee.
"Oh, Sherlock you must know there is no way you can make me tell you that," she cooed with mock disappointment. "Or really anything for that matter. You have no evidence against me, no leverage. You should know better than to face me so unprepared."
Sherlock narrowed his eyes at the woman, but John was furious.
"How can you even—how could you do this in the first place! Help these people do—"
"I have no idea what happens to the ones they tell me to watch. I collect information. I go places where others cannot and then I get paid," Irene cut him off. "I am sorry, John Watson, but such is the way of the world."
John's mouth opened and closed, too angry for words. Sherlock spoke before John could recover.
"You haven't even met him, have you?" Sherlock stated, barely a question.
"Oh, darling, of course not. He's far smarter than that," she said, voice like red velvet. "And he's had his eye on you right for the beginning, you know."
John saw Sherlock still at this and his own stomach dropped uncomfortably. Irene leaned forward onto her elbows.
"You know what he calls you…? The virgin," she said with a quite amusement and Sherlock gaze rose to a glare. "That's what the Autumn Ball was all about. He wanted to see if you could be… broken."
The smile on Irene's face made John want to punch her. He had more than an inkling of what being broken by Irene Adler would have entailed. Too bad John was raised not to hit women, or he would be seriously considering wiping the grin off her face.
"Well, sorry to disappoint," Sherlock said with a sneer.
That was right, John remembered. Sherlock had left the dance that night, left Irene alone in the auditorium.
But then Irene laughed once more and John's small bubble of satisfaction deflated.
"Oh, don't sell yourself short, Sherlock. The night wasn't wasted. You were already half way there, without my help," Irene grinned, and then for the first time in the conversation she actually looked at John, which was unnerving in itself.
Sherlock actually flinched and John felt the tension curling away from him. He locked eyes with Irene and what seemed to John like a silent battle of wills rose between them. After what seemed like an eternity, Sherlock scoffed and broke his glare away from her, turning on his heel.
"Come on, John," he hissed. "She won't tell us a thing."
With one last glance at Irene, who obviously knew she'd won the first round, John spun to follow Sherlock, who was already half way across the hall of milling people.
John only caught up to Sherlock once they were outside, crossing the commons towards A Wing. The grass was wet with dew and John's breath lightly fogged in the late winter air. He matched his stride to Sherlock's and opened his mouth to ask what the hell Irene had been talking about but then he was blindsided as a set of words beat his into the open air.
"I'm not a virgin," Sherlock stated, simply as he corrected any false statement.
John almost tripped and fell on his face. Of all the things John could imagine Sherlock saying in this moment, well he hadn't even bothered to put it on the list.
"I—I'm sorry, what!" John said.
He'd probably misheard.
"Despite my past belief that sexual activities and pursuits are unnecessary activities that pale in comparison to the exploits of the mind, a few years ago an opportunity presented itself and I decided to take advantage—for the sake of scientific curiosity and data," Sherlock tacked quickly onto the end with a sidelong glance at John.
John was currently blinking at him like an idiot. He heard the words. They just didn't completely make any sense yet.
"No… you!" John asked—because he needed complete confirmation.
Sherlock's head snapped towards John and his eyes narrowed into a glare.
"Just because I have a certain history as well as a general belief that the needs of the mind are far more important than those of the body, does not mean I'm incapable of performing or partaking in acts of sexual intercourse, John," Sherlock spat and sped his pace.
With wide eyes watching his friend walk away, John realized he'd offended Sherlock. He immediately felt guilty as well as rather amused, however conflicting those feelings were, because not even in his craziest dreams—and he'd had some crazy ones lately—had John ever thought those words would come, in that order, out of Sherlock's mouth.
John jogged a couple steps to catch up.
"Sherlock! Sherlock, look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply that…" John said, unsure what exactly he wanted to apologize for. "Who-um-who was she?"
John couldn't help asking, though he ignored why that was. If it was Irene though, John might have to strangle something.
Sherlock didn't pause, or slow, but he did answer, which John hoped mean he accepted his apology.
"Victor," Sherlock said. "His name was Victor."
John tripped over his own feet, and that box he'd stored in the dark corner of his mind sprung right open, spilling its contents absolutely everywhere.