Never more shall the Faerie-born walk this court
Never more shall they see our fair shore
No humans taken as husbands and wives
And Sinks will be no more.
When Amelia Watson looked back on it, she thought it started when she was about three months pregnant. Her magic started becoming erratic, at times working perfectly, at times somehow dim, and at other times it just wasn't there at all.
It was rather frightening, but the doctor had assured her that it was normal for pregnancy to interfere with magic (never mind that she hadn't had a single problem when she was carrying Harriet), so Amelia had gone home and tried not to worry about it. By the fifth month, when she was incapable of casting spells altogether, she went back, and was told the same thing.
Even after John was born, her spells were still erratic, sometimes taking and then vanishing, sometimes just never getting started in the first place. It was only when she'd set a batch of biscuits to cool with a little spell, then gone to bring two month old John in for his lunch and found the spell had died, that she realised what was going on.
Those times her spells just didn't take? That was when she'd tried to cast a spell with John in the room with her. When the spell started and then vanished? That was because she'd brought John into the room.
When John was around, magic simply...didn't work.
Amelia wanted to go to the doctor, but some gut instinct warned her against it. Instead, she and her husband began researching into Faerie and sorcerer lore.
It took them two weeks before they even found a reference. A tale from hundreds of years ago, as fanciful as Little Red Riding Hood, told back when having offspring with humans was considered taboo.
A legend that if a Faerie had a child with a human, it was not always powerful in the ways of magic – it didn't always have that slender connection to the Elements, through which their power was drawn.
Instead, it had a direct link to the Elements, a conduit so wide and vast that all magic vanished along it back to the natural Elements. This child would be a hole in the magic of the world, a drain through which power was poured and lost.
A Sink couldn't work magic, but no magic could ever be worked on them. Any spell that came into contact dissipated back into the Elements that had birthed it.
Except it wasn't just any spell that touched John – it was any spell around him as well. By the time he was three, John had to be out of the house entirely if Amelia wanted to teach Harriet some spells. And it was around that time that Amelia and Roy realised that John needed to learn how to limit himself – he couldn't go around disrupting people's spells every time he walked down the street.
Something in Amelia's gut told her to keep this a secret, so that was exactly what they did.
It took John two years before he could control himself enough not to drain any magic he came into contact with. It was like whatever made him a Sink – that hole in the magic of the world – was spread around him like a net, and he needed to pull it in, to hold it under his skin instead of all around him.
It was difficult at first, and he kept slipping up when he slept, but by the time he was eleven, John had come to think of it like learning to control your bowels. You had no control when you were baby, but as you matured you acquired enough autonomy to control yourself all the time, even when you were asleep.
But he could never stop himself from being a Sink, or from preventing magic that actually touched him dispersing like it had never existed in the first place.
He had a vague concept of what he was – Mum and Dad told him it was called a Sink – but it was only when he was fifteen, in a History lesson, that he finally absorbed just how a Sink was viewed in the magical community.
They'd been discussing the decline in Faerie-born that had taken place from about the tenth century until the sixteenth. Reasons for the decline were hotly debated, but it was generally held that the Faerie Lord had forbidden sexual congress with humans specifically to decrease the number of Faerie-born. Why he'd want to do that was still a mystery, the only reference some kind of legend about a Faerie-born that had no magic, but instead nullified it, and brought the Faerie court to its knees.
Which, of course, had prompted the Lord's decree.
Never more shall the Faerie-born walk this court
Never more shall they see our fair shore
No humans taken as husbands and wives
And Sinks will be no more.
Though it was generally held that this 'Sink' was a myth, a bogeyman used to frighten creatures that weren't scared of magic or monsters.
That hadn't really sat well with John – the idea that you were essentially the embodiment of a fairy tale monster didn't do wonders for your self-esteem. But in time, he'd come to think of it as the advantage it was – sure, it meant he could never be magically healed or protected, but it also meant that no offensive magic could hurt him either. Glamours never worked, compulsion never took...it was like having an invisible shield between him and the rest of the world.
And, like any shield, sometimes that was good, and sometimes it was just alienating.
In the army they called him NumbSkull. And Rubber, because nothing stuck, and just plain Lucky, because magic never seemed to touch him.
John had never told them what he was. Not so much because he was actively hiding it, but because it was hard to break such an ingrained habit, hard to get rid of the image of his mother's face telling him he mustn't tell anyone what he was, what he could do.
He'd assumed Sherlock had figured it out about the same time he'd stopped harping on about the talisman. After all, Sherlock knew he'd been completely unaware of the wards placed around their flat, knew that glamours and compulsions just slid off him – surely he'd realised?
Apparently not, if the confused, half-panicked (okay, maybe completely panicked) look on Sherlock's face was anything to go by. Mycroft, John had half-expected to just know – the man specialised in omniscience, after all – but it had never gone on any kind of record, which meant he was just as bewildered as his little brother.
Lestrade and the rest of the police had frozen, obviously recognising when someone was about to reveal a game-changer, and Moriarty...
Well, he was still gloating and triumphant, but John didn't think he was imagining the hint of unease in the man's expression.
"If anyone has expensive talismans on them, I'm very sorry," John offered.
And then he opened up his net, his hole in the world's magic, and flung it wide.
Every single spell vanished. The wards dissolved, the police shields disappeared – there wasn't even any sound, no hiss of pressure releasing or pop of magic dispelled. The spells were simply there one moment, and gone the next.
John ignored the gasps and murmurs of incredulity to lock eyes with Moriarty.
"Impossible," the Daemon breathed, panic starting to edge into his voice.
John thought Moriarty was the sort of person used to having contingency plans on top of contingency plans – there was no situation or scenario he hadn't thought up and already mapped out an escape route for.
And in the face of the unknown and the unplanned for, the mask of 'perfect consulting criminal' was cracking at the edges.
"If you have any kind of plan that doesn't rely on magic, now would be the time to use it," John offered.
He didn't think so though. He suspected Moriarty's plans had been to hold them with the wards and get out with a teleport spell – something only a full-blooded Daemon, Fey, Undine or Slyph could do.
At least, as long as they had access to magic, which wasn't happening with a Sink in the room.
"Sinks don't exist!" Moriarty screamed.
"And yet here I am," John said mildly. "Existing."
He was half-expecting Moriarty to regain his composure and produce a gun or snipers or something. But he turned and ran for the door.
The police surged forward, but John was closer. Moriarty didn't even make it four feet.
They'd given Sherlock a ridiculous orange blanket again. But this time, he thought he might keep it.
He was listening to Lestrade and Donovan questioning John, Mycroft talking to his assistant about taking custody of Moriarty, and every single one of them was carefully and obviously trying not to appear shocked. Except for John, of course.
"I'm the exact opposite of magical." And John had been speaking literally – the exact opposite of a positive wasn't zero, but a negative. That was why it was a bullet that had wounded him, rather than a spell and why no one had been able to magically heal the wound. That was the reason Sherlock's wards had never bothered him, why Sebastian's glamour hadn't touched him, why Sherlock's camouflage spell hadn't worked on him, why he'd been so opposed to Sherlock making him a talisman – he didn't need one.
John was a Sink.
Of course, he knew that story, concocted to explain why numbers of Faerie-born had dropped off in the Middle Ages, but no one took that seriously.
Except now Sherlock would have to.
And, given what he'd said before he made every spell within fifty metres vanish into the ether, he'd assumed Sherlock had known about it. Ridiculous, of course – what did he think that conversation about inherited resistances had been about, if not Sherlock trying to determine whether he could get close to John in a sexual way without hurting him?
But since John was a Sink, that wasn't an issue any more. Sherlock would never have to worry about losing control, because John neutralised any magic that came into contact with him.
At that thought, Sherlock stood up and made his way briskly over to John.
"And you've never told anyone?" Donovan was asking – apparently they'd moved on from the formal interrogation to satisfying her prurient curiosity.
John shook his head. "My parents kept it a secret when I was a kid, and the habit kind of stuck. I mean, you see how tough a time Faerie-born can have – picked on at school, offers from shady people if they've got especially unusual talents – and I guess they thought it would be much worse for me if word got around I was a Sink."
Lestrade chuckled, shaking his head. "And here I was actually worried about you running around with Sherlock – I kept expecting him to drag you into some kind of magical fire-fight you couldn't handle."
"Yeah, well, I'm usually pretty good against sorcerers," John said, his tone bland even as he grinned.
Lestrade smiled as well, a companionable sort of smile. "Bring them down to your level then kick their arse, right?"
John simply nodded. "It's saved my life more than a few times. Most moderately powerful sorcerers rely completely on magic, and once it's taken away..."
He shrugged, but his words had sent a chill through Sherlock. There were innumerable powerful people who would be vulnerable without magic, who never suspected it could be taken away. He remembered what John had said about his parents' concern, that people with interests to protect might seek to use him as a weapon or an insurance policy.
He raised his eyes to Mycroft's, to find exactly what he'd feared. His brother might have been talking with his assistant, but his gaze was locked onto John, and his expression was intrigued, speculative...almost hungry.
Sherlock deliberately intruded into Mycroft's line of sight, and held the stare his brother levelled on him. If Mycroft wanted to use John to do his dirty work, he'd have to go through Sherlock first.
Mycroft inclined his head, indicating the message had been received, but Sherlock didn't trust that placid smile and stalked closer.
"I mean it, Mycroft," he hissed, keeping his voice low – it wouldn't do to alarm John, after all. "Leave him alone. He is not your toy, or your weapon, and he won't be your lackey."
"He won't," Mycroft said, with an emphasis Sherlock found peculiar. "But come now, Sherlock – faced with such irrefutable proof that Sinks exist, surely you don't think John can be the only one?"
Sherlock hadn't even considered that – it just made sense for John to be as unique in this way as he was in so many others. But he was almost immediately relieved; even if the statistical likelihood of a Sink being born was something as infinitesimal as one in a billion, with a world population of close to seven billion and growing, there just had to be others.
And with John so adherent to his own moral code and so resistant to manipulation, Mycroft knew he had a better chance in finding one of the other Sinks than of convincing John to work with him. Perhaps it made Sherlock the sociopath he'd always claimed to be, but he couldn't feel any sympathy for those unknown, hidden Sinks Mycroft would be seeking.
As he turned away, a disquieting thought occurred to him – what if there weren't any more? Until now, the only reference or record of a Sink had been in that laughable story about the Faerie Lord's decree. But assuming that was true, and it certainly seemed likely, then that meant the last record of a Sink was over a thousand years ago. And nothing had been recorded since.
Even assuming Sinks were incredibly rare, that seemed unlikely. Someone, somewhere, had to have been noticed or revealed, the way John had revealed himself tonight. Either the occurrence had been dismissed, or it had been actively kept secret, or...
Was it possible John was only the second Sink to have ever existed?
Careful to ensure none of this thoughts showed on his face, Sherlock finally, finally, turned to John.
John looked up at him, and actually seemed nervous, which was ridiculous – what did John have to be nervous about? He'd clearly been unperturbed by Moriarty's fire wards from the beginning, but he supposed a Sink wouldn't feel threatened by a Daemon, unless...
Unless something else had happened. John had mentioned a gun in the beginning, and from what Sherlock understood, a Sink was just as vulnerable to a gun or knife or fists as an ordinary human. Had he done something to John before he put him in those wards? Something John wasn't telling anyone about?
He was actually running through the horrifying long list of things Moriarty could have done to John while still leaving him mobile and without serious injury when he realised that John was watching him a little too closely. He was snatching quick glances at Sherlock's face and shifting his weight, almost as though he believed Sherlock was angry at him for something.
Oh. But it couldn't be that, could it?
"You are aware," Sherlock began slowly, watching John's reaction. "That you being a Sink changes nothing about our arrangement? Well, a few things perhaps, but little of real importance."
The way John relaxed told Sherlock that yes, he'd been worried about exactly that. "But you said it would change a few things – what's it going to change?"
"When we get home, John."
John could admit he was nervous. He'd essentially outed himself as a Faerie tale monster to Sherlock, his brother, and several members of the MET, and some part of him had been nervous that as soon as he turned to them they'd shrink away.
No one embraced the bogeyman, after all.
But Lestrade and Donovan had joked with him, had actually seemed relieved that he had a way to protect himself. Mycroft had only paid him the bare minimum of attention, like normal really, and in truth he'd only really been worried about Sherlock. Lestrade and Donovan being uneasy around him he could...well, not like, but certainly learn to tolerate, but Sherlock?
John didn't think he could bear it if Sherlock had been afraid of him. If he'd told him that he didn't think their living arrangements could continue, that he couldn't live with someone who could disrupt his magical experiments just by touching them.
Sherlock had said that nothing would change, then amended it to say that some things would change, which had left John nervously fiddling with the cuffs of his jacket the whole way home. But really, how was he supposed to take that if not badly?
Sherlock seemed strangely tense as well, and said nothing on the journey, barely even looked at him
Back in their living room, John steeled himself for the inevitable conversation.
"Turn it on," Sherlock ordered, that strange tension John had noticed before their conversation about Moriarty back in full-force.
"Whatever you did at the pool, do it again."
John was wary, wondering if one of the things that would change would be Sherlock treating him like a research subject. But he had never been able to refuse Sherlock something he truly wanted, and he couldn't start now, not when Sherlock looked so...desperate for it.
He took a deep breath, and expanded his net a small way, just enough to cover the room – he didn't want to ruin any spells in the kitchen or Sherlock's room. "Done."
"That was quick," Sherlock muttered, looking around the room as though he expected something to have changed.
"It's not like a spell, Sherlock," John sighed. "It's who I am. I'm a constant conduit to the Elements – it's just an act of will to open that conduit wider."
Sherlock extended his hand, and looked pleased when there was no answering stir of air. "No magic. I can't even feel it – it's like it's just...gone."
"That's what a Sink does," John said grumpily, feeling more and more that this was going to turn into an experiment.
"Brilliant," Sherlock breathed.
Then he crossed the room in two strides, seized John by the shoulder and kissed him.
It was hot and deep and desperate and John was just starting to collect the scrambled remnants of his brain together enough to respond when Sherlock pulled back.
"Do you know how long I've wanted to do that?" he demanded, as if the fact that he hadn't done it was a personal failure on John's part.
He leaned in again, but John's brain was back on line and he put his hands on Sherlock's chest to stop him. "You wanted this?"
"It's present tense, not past, and of course I want this – pay attention!"
John knew that when something you'd wanted for close to two months practically threw itself into your arms you should take it and not ask questions...but he was too deeply involved to be casual about this. And some part of John was wondering why Sherlock had made a move now – had he noticed John's attraction weeks ago, but now it was only the novelty of sleeping with a Sink that appealed to him?
"Why now?" he asked quietly.
"Because now I know I won't hurt you."
Strangely, that was what convinced John. The expression on Sherlock's face was too intense, too raw, too honest to be a lie, and the idea that Sherlock might have wanted this but not enough to risk his safety explained...well, it explained a lot of things, actually.
So he stopped asking questions and dragged Sherlock into another kiss.
Lestrade knew he had to make the call – follow-up on witness statements and all, maybe ask Sherlock about why a government agent had showed up to take Moriarty off their hands – but he thought it could wait. At least until tomorrow morning.
He wasn't blind, after all – he'd seen the way Sherlock looked at John. Sherlock used to just turn up at the crime scene, give out information like machine-gun fire, and then disappear with some disparaging remarks about the intelligence of everyone in the room thrown in. But with John, he actually explained himself – when John asked how Sherlock knew something, Sherlock answered. And where before he'd never seemed to need anyone's approval but his own, now every explanation seemed almost like a calculated attempt to impress John. Sherlock actually listened to the man – not often, true, and not all the time, but it was still a lot more than most people managed.
Sherlock had looked so smitten at the end of that first day, when he'd been supposedly going to talk about the rent, that Lestrade wouldn't have been the least bit surprised if their next drugs bust found the two of them shagging on the kitchen table.
But then Donovan had told him that John wasn't in the least bit magical, and Lestrade had actually felt sorry for Sherlock. The man was Faerie-born, after all, which meant he couldn't roll around in the sack with ordinary human beings without serious risk to their health – people were trying to combat it, of course, with both magical and scientific devices, but as yet there was nothing they could do about it.
It was sad, but it happened; a Faerie-born fell in love with a human or a low-rank sorcerer, but couldn't ever consummate the relationship without putting the person they loved in danger. Many a famous song or story had been written about that particular agony.
But John being a Sink put a whole new spin on things.
So yes, he'd seen the way Sherlock looked at John. And now that he finally had permission to touch without consequence, without the risk of harming the doctor...
Well, he was going to wait until tomorrow to call them.
AN: Thanks to my marvellous beta ginbitch, who helped me out a lot with this story.
Also, themusecalliope has created a podfic for this story - if you want to download it, go to my profile to get the link!