A/N: Written for the Holmes_Big_Bang over on livejournal. This story was in my head since the first time I saw pics of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and it's been in my head ever since.

I hope you like it!

ETA: As of 12/29/12 this story is being completely overhauled and re-posted on AO3 under the same name.


John Watson was a Shire Hobbit, born and bred, and he was terrible at it.

His mother was a Took, and that family's legendary sense of curiosity had led young John up a tree, while had gravity led him back down again. John damaged his leg in the fall and the half-drunk healer who was too accustomed to fixing stubbed toes and hangovers had set the bone wrong, leaving little John to spend his life with a limp.

(The other Hobbits liked to whisper that all John's oddness had started there.)

John had been so bothered over his leg that as soon as he was able, he'd limped straight to the old witch woman who lived in the ratty house halfway between Bree and Buckland and insisted that she teach him how the useless healer should've done things. After than John had hobbled out to her house day after day for weeks and demanded that she teach him everything she knew about medicine so that the next time one of his fellow Hobbits needed healing they'd have someone around who knew how to tend to them properly. When the witch woman declared that she had nothing more to teach him, John went on and demanded the same teaching from every other healer in the Shire.

There was quiet gossip amongst the other Hobbits about how all that learning was unnatural, but for the most part everyone wrote it off as one of those phases young people were so prone to go through. It was the general assumption that sweet John Watson would soon find a lovely Hobbit girl who would cure him of all these silly notions about medicine and he'd settle back into the family business with the whole affair forgotten.

However, the day John started roaming into Bree to consult with a human healer, his fellow Hobbits decided that things had gone too far. They sat him down for a good meal (for all weighty Hobbit conversations must be conducted on a full stomach) and John was scolded by his parents, then his sister, then his neighbours, then the nosy widow down the street, then the head of the Took family, and finally the healer who'd crippled him in the first place. (Needless to say, that last confrontation hadn't gone particularly well.)

John had ignored them all and when he finished his meal he stomped home and found Stamford the Dwarf waiting in the small herb garden to the front of John's house. Apparently the doctor over in Bree had said there was nothing he could do for Stamford's troubles but there was a Hobbit who he thought ought to be able to help. For all his irritation at his fellow Hobbits, John was grateful that at least the humans thought he wasn't an idiot.

Tending to patients was always the best thing to calm John down, and he'd seen to Stamford straight away. (Digestive problems, all the Dwarf needed was peppermint tea, brewed strong, and drunk with his meals for the next few weeks.) Afterwards John had walked the rather genial Dwarf to his front door, only to see a Wizard standing at the end of the walk drawing long puffs on his pipe and staring at them both with a smile in his eyes.

Mind you, John hadn't known the rather intense, grey-cloaked human was a wizard at the time, he'd just assumed that one of the more eccentric travellers through Bree had come over to see him at his Hobbithole in the Shire. It wasn't until Stamford sobered and dipped his head in respect that John thought anything might be odd. "Gandalf, it's an honour to greet you." the dwarf said, elbowing John in the side to make him to genuflect in whatever way suited a Hobbit, but John merely raised an eyebrow at Stamford like it was a ridiculous suggestion.

"I am Stamford son of Stamfred of the Grey Mountains, and this is John Watson."

The Wizard gave John a long and appraising look, and the Hobbit merely gave a polite nod in reply. Gandalf grinned at John as though he'd passed some test by not puffing out his chest and pretending he was above the outlander staring at him. "I've heard a great deal about you Doctor Watson."

John snorted, "All of it distasteful, I'm sure. And I doubt any of them called me 'Doctor'."

"We cannot control the foolish decisions of others, and any who does not recognize your gift is nothing less than a fool." The wizard said with a very determined puff on his pipe.

John scoffed at the Wizard's fine words and asked, "How can I help you, sir?"

Gandalf smirked at John, knowing from the slight blush to his cheeks that John knew full well he was a talented doctor, but that didn't make it any less lovely to have someone actually say it. "Truthfully, I thought I might be able to help you, Master Doctor."

John folded his arms across his chest, adopting a defensive position and ignoring the way Stamford glowered at him for doing anything that might be considered an affront to the wizard. "Really, and what might that be?"

Gandalf chuckled again and leaned on his staff as he strode up the walk and settled himself down on the Hobbit-sized bench in John's garden. "I'm on my way to Rivendell, to the house of Master Elrond, the great Elven healer." John froze, willing himself not to leap to any conclusions about the conversation. "I thought you might like to come along with me."

John tamped down his flair of excitement and asked, "Sorry, why would you be willing to take me with you?"

"I've spent the last month travelling around the Shire, and you're the only interesting thing I've found since I've been here."

"Oh now, that's a bit harsh."

"I admit, your pipe weed is lovely," he gestured with the pipe between his lips as though that would make it more true, "and your ale isn't bad, but the whole of the Shire is so petrified of the outside world that they panicked at the mere thought of men coming to visit you, even here on the edge of Buckland. They live in hiding, ignoring the realities of life in this world. All of them… except for you. You go seeking it. And from the whispers I've heard, you were preparing to move to Bree anyway, so why not go somewhere where they've still got something still to teach you?"

John stopped himself from accepting the plan quite so easily, "Why would an Elf be willing to share the secrets of their healing with a Hobbit?"

"Because a wizard asks them to! Now tell me child, are you going to keep on questioning your turn of fortune or are you going to accept it for the luck it is?"

"Do you always insist that people make life-changing decisions at the drop of a hat?"

"You know your answer already, John Watson. It's a waste of my time and yours to pretend otherwise." The small Hobbit and the elderly wizard stared at one another for several long moments, Gandalf trying to goad John into going while John was busy trying to get the measure of this man sitting on his little wooden bench and offering to whisk him away like a dream come to life.

John said yes, just as the wizard knew he would, and took an hour to pack up a few of his journals, some extra clothes, and got himself stopped by Harry on the way out the door. There had been yelling (by John), throwing of things (by Harry), and eventual storming out (by John). He ignored the shouting and threatening to see him disowned and walked on to Bree with the wizard and the Dwarf by his side.

They'd made their way to the town with no fuss over the course of the next few days, with Stamford telling raucous stories and John pestering Gandalf to learn anything the wizard might be in the mood to teach. John had really been quite pleased with the trip, even when they reached the end and he'd been left at a tavern to watch Stamford get increasingly inebriated while the Dwarf attempted to drink various human patrons under the table.

John rather enjoyed watching Stamford go so far past the deep end of drunk that he started singing songs in Dwarfish and didn't quite realize that no one could understand him well enough to join in. But the best part of it all was the stories the humans would tell when they lost hold of their own tongues and forget that they all pretended they weren't impressed by the other peoples of this world.

He was mostly amused by the ramblings, but when one of the men started in on how someone reputable had seen Elves in the forest nearby, John couldn't help put pay attention. Apparently the apothecary had had an Elf in his shop just yesterday and had been spreading the news around. Now, there were humans either avoiding the woods entirely, or sneaking out at night in the vain hope that they'd catch sight of the Elves traveling past. When the drunken ramblings turned in a direction that made John's stomach churn, he stepped away from the conversation to chat with one of his patients who'd come in to say hello.

The night dragged on and the whispers of Elves continued until finally John couldn't take his curiosity anymore. Stamford was just drunk enough that he didn't quite remember the particulars of his promise to Gandalf to stay with the Hobbit and John managed to convince Stamford that he ought to stay and defend the tavern rather than traipse through the woods with John, which Stamford was more than keen to do.

The Hobbit ducked out the tavern door and took off for the town's gate at a lopsided dash. The moon was high, covering the already dirty town in long shadows and making it appear just as ominous as the foul men back at the tavern.

For the most part John enjoyed tracking down all the excitement he could find, since it didn't occur naturally in the Shire. He liked the adrenaline that came with the bustle of a day where he actually did something. That rush was easier to find in Bree, but there were still those moments when all John wanted was a moment to himself, a moment to let his imagination run off into the quiet.

John strolled slowly through the trees outside the town's wall, less concerned about seeing the Elves now that he was away from the heat and crass conversation of the tavern. He looked up and saw the stars through the branches above him, taking some solace he didn't want to admit to in the fact they were the same here as they were those few miles away at home.

John thought for a moment that this whole plan was ludicrous. After all, he was still close enough to the Shire that he could walk home and Harry would be so happy to have him back that they'd write off the whole matter as a misunderstanding. He could go back to his sane little life, settle down with one of the more spirited Hobbit lasses, and maybe find a way to pretend he was normal.

John had himself partly convinced when a scream cut through the silence of the woods and John went running towards it. He followed the faint thumps of a fight deeper into the forest and found himself stumbling to a stop at the top of a rise, looking down through trees at a scene that made his blood boil.

Several of the drunken fools from the tavern had made their way into the woods, obviously trying to track down the Elves that everyone was whispering about. John was sure the men were too stupid to have found any signs of Elves on their own, so it had to be a case of dumb luck that had led them into a collision with an Elf maiden out for a midnight stroll.

The maiden was shorter than John had expected, but still lean and lovely, and managing to look poised despite the circle of four human men who'd crept in on her to leer at her. One of the humans took a staggering step towards her and something in John's mind snapped. He released a great bellow and barrelled down the hill, sparing a thought that this was absolutely insane just before he slammed his slight frame into the man's vulnerable knees.

The human hadn't even turned to look at the Hobbit dashing towards him, which meant John was unheeded as the man dropped to the ground with a pained scream. The other men were too shocked to respond, leaving John free to jump on one of the others and use his medical knowledge to pop out the man's kneecap. The maid was quicker on the uptake than the two remaining men; she reached into the folds of her dress, pulled out a long, curved knife and had it to the throat of the first man to react, stopping him as he tried to dive for John.

The man froze, then shifted his weight to go after the Elf, obviously thinking that she didn't know what to do with the knife she was wielding. The maiden flicked her wrist and sliced the man across his cheek, stopping him in his tracks. The last man standing dove forward to protect his friend and John darted forward and crashed into him, forcing him backwards but not stopping him. The man cursed in a way that John found entirely inappropriate in front of the lady and grabbed for John's shoulders, but the little Hobbit dropped out of range and rolled out of the way. The man was too drunk to easily follow the darting Hobbit and by the time he finally straightened up to lurch after John, the Hobbit had a thick branch in his hand and he struck the man across the face and sent him dropping to the ground.

John turned back to aide the maiden, and found his presence was now unnecessary. Every man left conscious was cowering on the ground before a furious Elf who had stormed upon the scene. He'd swung the maiden around behind him to protect her and had a long, curved sword in his hand, held with the point down but the tense line of the Elf's muscles made him look ready to slice any of them in two.

"Leave now and I'll let you drunken fools go back to your village." One of the men sputtered and the Elf flicked his sword so the point was directed at the man, "You get drunk to the point of oblivion every night and you won't remember a bit of this until someone tells you what happened to your knee. You," he pointed the sword to another, "are a sheep and an idiot who will get yourself killed if you continue to spend your time with these men, and you," the Elf pointed his sword directly between the last man's eyes. "are a blight on the name of man and I would be doing your species a favour if I put you down." The Elf paused for a moment and let that truth hang in the air before he finished, "Leave now and I'll let you all continue to be a waste. I'm not in the mood to dissect one of your species."

The men limped to their feet and hefted their stunned companion up behind them and stumbled out of the forest. "You..." the Elf turned his blade on John and announced, "are interesting."

"Are you a seer?" John asked in confusion, dropping his branch when he realized he still had it hefted to swing.

"No, just observant." He sheathed the sword and turned to check on the maiden who had moved to the side of the clearing and now stood peacefully beside a tree. The Elf strode back to her and glanced over her with those observant eyes to be sure she was well.

John did his best not to stare at them both, but he couldn't help himself. The moonlight slanted through the trees and cast them both in a bright, unearthly glow, exactly the way Elves were always pictured in story books. The maiden was beautiful, of course, with her loose blonde hair tumbling down her back, and her white dress set alight. But the man... he was perfect. His black hair didn't hang straight like the books said an Elf's should, instead untamed curls tumbled down his forehead and into his knowing gray eyes, every inch of him lit up in the pale moonlight like a fallen star.

The moment was over almost before it began and the Elf stepped back over to John, giving him a quick look over before asking, "Rivendell or Rhovanion?"

"Sorry, what?"

"Are you trying to make your way to Rivendell, or to Rhovanion?"

"Rivendell. Sorry, how did you-"

"You're obviously not suited to be spending much time in Bree."

"And what makes you so sure of that?"

Before he could say anything further the maiden stepped forward and placed a hand on the Elf's shoulder, trying to pull his attention back to her, but whatever she was about to say was drowned out by white light from Gandalf's staff at the top of the rise. "Ahh, here you are, John. I thought that something less than fortunate had happened to you, especially since I told you to wait for me at the inn."

John had the grace to flush before replying, "Actually, you told Stamford to stay with me but didn't specify that we were supposed to be stay at the inn."

Gandalf just snorted then stepped forward to meet them with his own circle of light. He took a good look at the Elves before him and offered them a bright smile. "Master Sherlock, it is a pleasure to see you again... and you as well Lady Molly." It sounded like Gandalf tacked her name on as an afterthought, and judging by the tight-lipped hello she gave the wizard, she knew it was meant to be.

"Gandalf," Sherlock replied in a warm tone, "It's good to see you as well, it has been too long since you've graced our people with your company."

Gandalf laughed, "Graced you? Sherlock the last time we spoke to one another you called me a dunder-headed waste of an education."

Sherlock rolled his eyes at the wizard like he was ridiculous to still be harping on about that. "You were being a fool at the time, while at this moment you seem to have taken charge of one of the more interesting creatures I've come across in the last several hundred years, so you must be going through one of your less ridiculous phases."

"Wizards never have unintelligent phases, Sherlock. We may go through periods of foolishness but that never makes us less than brilliant."

Sherlock looked like he could argue the point, but instead scoffed and headed deeper into the woods. John stared after him, some part of him shouting at him to follow the Elf, despite the glower that the maiden had turned on John for his interest. The Hobbit even took half a step after the Elf before Sherlock stuck his head back around one of the trees and declared, "Are you coming?"

"We have things to collect at the inn, you know." Gandalf replied easily.

Sherlock scoffed, "Boring" and headed back into the woods.

Gandalf gave a gentle smile, as though he'd long passed the point where he got frustrated with Sherlock's behaviour. The wizard waived John to follow after Sherlock and said he'd gather their things from the inn and give their farewells to Stamford before he caught up. John paused and very nearly declared that he should go back with the wizard, at least to say goodbye to Stamford, but Gandalf leaned forward and whispered, "If you leave him now there's a good chance that he'll have roamed off entirely by the time we catch up to their party." John tried to shrug, like the thought of not seeing Sherlock again didn't tear up something inside of him but Gandalf gave an understanding smile and pushed John off to follow the Elf.

Sherlock went through the forest at a quick walk, just fast enough that John's short legs had to dash to keep up with him. John caught up to Sherlock quickly enough, while Molly trailed behind, trying to look ethereal and looking constipated instead. John didn't have to look at her more than once to know that she was unhappy with this arrangement and for a moment John suspected that she'd arranged to stumble upon the men, just so Sherlock could rescue her, but John brushed the idea off as mad.

"How did you know?" John asked as they darted around a tree.

"I pay attention."

"Yes, you explained that part, but how did you know?"

The Elf tilted his head ever so slightly and stared at John for a moment like he'd just done something odd. Sherlock turned his attention back to bounding through the trees and replied, "The cut of your coat means you came out of the Shire rather than one of the rougher Hobbit settlements. You were roaming in the open air of the forest rather than staying in the safety of town, despite being a new place, which implies you were so unhappy there you left. And you got involved with big people business."

"How did my doing the right thing tell you that I was going somewhere?"

Molly raised a displeased eyebrow at the Hobbit who dared question her companion while Sherlock replied, "Your 'right thing' meant running into a fight against armed men three times your size. That makes you reckless with a thirst for adventure, and that means you could never have been comfortable in the Shire. Meaning you're leaving for someplace where you might fit in."

"You got all that from me going on a walk?" Sherlock shrugged like it wasn't that impressive and John replied, "That was brilliant."

Sherlock stopped and stared at John like it was the first time in years that he'd been startled by something. "Really," John shrugged and stepped past Sherlock and further into the forest.

Sherlock stayed standing in stunned quiet and replied, "That's not what people normally say."

John looked over his shoulder, "What do they normally say?"

"Antolle ulua sulrim."

John smirked, "And what does that mean?"

"In Common? Piss off."

John laughed at the dirty words coming from the posh Elf and both of them pressed on into the forest, this time walking side by side.

#######

Sherlock strode into the Elvish camp without so much as a pause and went straight to his own packs. Molly tramped past John at the edge of their camp just short of an angry stomp and bumped him out of the way. The Elves took in the disdain in her action and only one of them had the gumption to gently ask, "Mani marte?" [What happened?]

Molly gracefully slumped down beside that Elf and looked ready to tell them all in very dramatic fashion but Sherlock beat her to it. "Amin nowa naaya lad. Atani cronhe." [I should think it would be obvious. The men attacked her.]

"Ar'sut lye tatsinte tanya?" The Elf asked. [And how we were to know that?]

"John," Sherlock whirled around from his bag and tossed John a packet of something and asked, "If you hear a woman screaming in a dark wood in the middle of the night, what is probably going on?"

John stiffened at the frustrated attention the bundle of Elves was starting to pay to him and replied, "Probably that something had gone wrong and she was in danger."

"Why John, such a strange notion." Sherlock replied sarcastically.

John smirked at Sherlock's feigned astonishment and opened the little packet Sherlock had tossed him. It looked to be nothing more than flatbread, but when he stared at it a little too long Sherlock interrupted, "You're supposed to eat it."

"Yeah, I got that part, but..."

Sherlock rolled his eyes in frustration and waived John over to his corner of the camp. "It's waybread, specially baked for traveling."

"And it's special because...?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes and said, "You were too excited and then too disgusted to eat properly at the inn this evening so you're starving. Now take a bite of the bread and see."

John sighed at Sherlock's impatience and took a large and obvious bite just to placate him, and stared when halfway through the bite he was full. "Well that's brilliant." he muttered. Sherock grinned unexpectedly at John's reply and the Elves seemed thrown by Sherlock's show of approval.

"Mani naa lle umien?" the boldest of the Elves asked Sherlock, who only replied with a sneer. [What are you doing?]

John stopped his munching to look at the Elves around him, all of whom seemed terribly uncomfortable with his presence. "Look, I can catch up to-"

"No." Sherlock cut him off and spat at the other Elves, "Ro tampuva sinome." [He is staying here.]

Lle lakwenien? Mankoi? [Are you joking? Why?]

Sherlock shrugged, "Ro muata amin." [He interests me.]

"Nan'kai muata lle." Molly stammered. [But nothing interests you.]

Sherlock fixed a stare at Molly that declared that was the most ridiculous statement he'd ever heard. John watched the silent conversation between Sherlock and the rest of the Elves and did his best to ignore all the whispers that sprang up as Sherlock sat beside him.

"So, do you enjoy pissing the rest of them off?"

"Them? No."

"But you enjoy pissing off others?"

"Obviously." Sherlock declared before he tossed out a blanket beside John and sprawled rather inelegantly on top of it.

"But not these, then?"

"Of course not. They're too dull to respond in any way that's remotely useful."

"Sherlock!" John hissed, "They can hear you."

Sherlock rolled his eyes, "They've heard me say far worse about them, John."

"Doesn't mean you should be saying it. And if you find them all so terribly dull then why did you go after miss Molly?"

Sherlock huffed something under his breath in Elvish and John stretched out his tiny leg to poke Sherlock in the side with his foot and said with a grin, "Sorry, what was that? I don't speak Elvish."

"I thought that perhaps the experience might be interesting." Sherlock retorted before flipping over to his side and pointed ignoring John's grin.

"Did not you great softie."

Sherlock popped up and sputtered in indignation while John continued, "You went after her because it was the right thing to do. Now tell me Master Sherlock, what does that say about you?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

John just laughed at him, with no malice to the sound. Sherlock was so stunned by the experience that he gave John an actual grin and from behind them Gandalf declared, "I leave you alone for half an hour and I find you've broken Sherlock."

"I'm still cleverer than you, you doddering old fool." Sherlock retorted.

Gandalf snorted and sat on the other side of John with a devious smile of his own. "A doddering old fool who brought you a mellon." [Friend]

"Mellonea ilante." [Friends are unnecessary]

"Uma, that's tea mankoi lle lole lle elendili ilya ilmen quena a Periannath n'lembe tar Bree n'ala a're. [Yes, that's exactly why you've been ignoring your companions all night to speak with a Hobbit who's never been beyond Bree before this day.]

"Chaps, "John interrupted, "I have no idea what you're saying but I can tell it's about me. Now stop it."

Sherlock huffed a sigh at John but continued the conversation in common, and purposely ignored the smug grin Gandalf wore.

#######

After a whole day in Sherlock's presence John began to suspect that spending too much time with Sherlock might eventually drive him mad, but John didn't seem to mind. Their party rode on Elvish horses, which sent them all along at a stunningly quick pace, but quick wasn't good enough for Sherlock, he had to be frantic. Every morning Sherlock pulled John up on to his own horse (an arrangement that John had balked at at first, but after spending a ride cradled up against Sherlock John got over his objections). Together they would ride out ahead of the party, roaming off on side journeys, Sherlock taking John to half forgotten ruins and telling him all there was to know about them, deducing things about the people they rode past from the way they parted their hair or the cut of their coat. And every time John was astounded.

Gandalf had asked that they return to camp every night, just so he wouldn't worry, and only out of respect for the wizard did they bother. Every night they come back to the group, flushed and excited from their day ranging about in freedom, and were greeted by the whispers of Elves. Sherlock would reply in Elvish with something John couldn't translate but he still knew was cutting and the Elves would all turn to Gandalf, silently demanding that the wizard step in and make Sherlock behave. But each night Gandalf would just take a long draw on his pipe and smirk at them all like he knew something they didn't.

Near the end of their journey Sherlock nudged his horse further out in front of the rest of the party once again. He'd spent the whole of the day before barely restraining himself from galloping off and just getting to Rivendell already. Normally Sherlock might have showed a little more restraint, but John's excitement was spurring him on to push even faster. Of course the little Hobbit was excited to see Rivendell, who wouldn't be? But the thing that had the other Elves in a fit was that Sherlock was excited for John to see it. Not out loud of course, but in those quiet ways like urging his horse faster, and not interrupting when his companions told Elven stories that Sherlock had declared tiresome since he knew how to speak.

After little more than half a day of badly restrained riding Sherlock pulled his horse to a stop at the edge of a long canyon and pointed to a large and graceful manor nestled in the trees at the very deepest part of the canyon. "Welcome, Master Doctor, to the House of Elrond."

John's breath caught at Sherlock's lips ghosting over his ear and he replied, "It's beautiful."

Sherlock snorted, "Of course it's beautiful, it was crafted by Elves."

John patted Sherlock's arm in an apology for having the gall to suggest the building was lovely and kept his smile to himself. Sherlock knew he was being mocked and kicked his horse into a gallop in retaliation. John shrieked and leaned back into Sherlock's body, trying to reach behind himself to cling to Sherlock as they rode down the steep and narrow trail to the house.

Sherlock guided the horse so expertly that John calmed after a minute and started to laugh with excitement. The horse carried them deftly all the way to the house, through the front gate, and then Sherlock stopped suddenly at the sight before them. The front courtyard of Rivendell was filled with glowering Elves being shouted at by irate humans. Sherlock hopped from his horse and strode into the center of the suddenly silenced melee. He ignored all of them and went straight to the grim-faced Elf who had apparently given up on trying to mediate. "Why is it all the interesting things happen when I'm gone?"

From safely behind his companions one of the humans shouted, "It's not interesting, it's horrible!"

Sherlock fixed the man with a glare that John thought might melt his face and stated, "It had to be something dramatic for the humans to willingly fight with Elves rather than defer like your species normally does."

"We do not defer!" The man snapped, and Sherlock merely quirked an eyebrow as the man stopped talking at Sherlock's sneer.

One of the other men, obviously the leader, laid a calming hand on the disgruntled man's shoulder and told him to shut up if he wasn't going to help the situation. The man turned to Sherlock and gave a stiff but still polite nod and said, "I'm Lestrade, and one of my men was murdered last night."

"Here?" Sherlock demanded. "No wait, it would have to be here, and you think an Elf did it."

"He spent the night with one of your Elves and ended up dead, so it's a pretty decent assumption." Lestrade snapped, and Sherlock seemed hard pressed not to deride him for the leap in logic.

Another of the Elves interjected, "One could argue that an Elf who was willing to demean himself by lying with a human would be too sentimental to kill one of you."

The humans looked ready to snap back, but Sherlock silenced the whole crowd with a raise of his hand. "The men believe an Elf killed their companion and the Elves believe he died of ... self defense."

The mouthy Elf who had the bad opinion of men tried to interject, but Sherlock fixed him with a glare, and then turned back to the humans. "The body."

"The what?" Lestrade asked.

"None of you has any idea what you're talking about, so I've got to examine the body myself."

"We're not letting your kind anywhere near him!" the irate human shouted.

Lestrade gripped his man by the scruff of his neck and hauled him to edge of the courtyard, snapping under his breath, "Get yourself sorted someplace that's not here. You're making this whole damn situation even worse Anderson, so stay away until you can do or say something that's not going to get us all shot."

Anderson huffed and stomped away from the group while Lestrade turned back to them all and said, "Dimmock was his friend. A friend to all of us, actually."

"Dimmock?" The mouthy Elf inquired.

"The victim." Sherlock replied in the same way that someone else would say, 'you idiot.' "Now, the body." Sherlock nearly bounded out of the courtyard and down a hall, off to wherever he thought the body would be kept, not needing anyone to tell him where.

John watched the whole company dash off after Sherlock, all of them trying to keep track of him, while John was stuck in the saddle of Sherlock's frightfully tall horse. One of the Elves emerged from the shadows and deftly lifted John from Sherlock's mount, while another appeared and led the animal away through a delicately arched doorway and off towards the stables.

"If you will follow me, Master Halfling, I will show you to your accommodations, for you must be weary after such a journey."

The Elf gave a sweeping gesture and tried to lead John off in the opposite direction from Sherlock. "No, sorry, I'd like to go see what Sherlock's up to." If the Elf was perturbed by this change in the norm, he didn't show it and left John to dash off and follow Sherlock's trail.

John found them all in a large room around several corners and up a flight of stairs. There were books and maps everywhere, with a thickset wooden table that John assumed was more often used for study then for autopsy. There was an Elf already there when they'd arrived, and judging by the nervous glances both men and elves kept shooting his way, it seemed this was Lord Elrond, the master of the house, and the one who had thrown them all out of the room and told them to conduct their yelling match elsewhere.

Sherlock was roaming in deliberate circles around the body, occasionally stopping to stare through his small magnifying glass at the shoes, or the hands, or the knees. Once he'd made a complete tour of the body the mouthy Elf demanded, "Well? What have you learned?"

Elrond very obviously stifled a sigh at the impatience of his younger counterpart and knew the behavior would only incite Sherlock. Sherlock popped his head up from looking at the state of the victim's ears and glanced around the room until his eyes lit upon John. "Doctor Watson! Come here and tell me what you think of the body."

John flushed under the scrutiny of the Men and Elves and tried to defer, but Sherlock waived him over once again and said, "Come along John, show them exactly what they missed."

There were more than a few glowers from both sides of the aisle as John shuffled over to the table at the centre of the room. Sherlock lifted John up to the tabletop so he could examine the body himself. John didn't walk around the edge of the body like Sherlock had done, he simply ran his small hands over the man's arms and stared for a minute more than he was comfortable with at the gaping knife wound in his throat.

Sherlock gave his the time to examine unhindered and then quirked an eyebrow in question. "So?"

"He didn't fight before he died."

"What?" one of the Elves snapped.

"You can see it on his arms and hands," John pointed out. "When you get in a fist fight you bruise your knuckles striking the other person, and when you defend yourself you get bruises up and down your arms. He doesn't have any of that, in fact, there's no sign anywhere on him that he's been fighting."

"But the room was a mess, and Irene was so shaken."

"I can't speak as to the state of the room; I can only tell you what I see on the body." John deferred.

Sherlock had a smug smirk and asked, "What do you notice about the knife wound, John?"

"Looks to be a standard slice. Like the person doing the hitting had the knife point facing out, and they swung without planning to connect with someplace specific."

"Are you sure, John?"

"As sure as I can..." John turned to look at the wound once more and trailed off as he examined it closer. "No, wait. The wound's not bloody enough."

"We cleaned it." Another Elf interrupted.

"It's not a matter of cleaning the surface of the wound, it's a matter of the blood pooled in the wound because it's got no place else to go. But this, it's like there wasn't any blood there in the first place."

Elrond stepped up to the table and everyone went silent to let him do the questioning. "What does that mean, Doctor?"

"It means that it looks like he was, well, bled, Sir."

"Bled?"

"All the blood was drained from his body before this wound was made."

The Elf leaned over John's shoulder and studied the wound, obviously wanting more of an explanation. "You see here, there's puckering around the original wound, puckering that comes from suction. The blood was important enough that your killer stuck a tube or something in the artery and drained the blood by sucking it out, preserving as much blood as possible rather than just cutting."

John looked up from his explanation to see Sherlock bestowing him with a smug grin, and a few humans echoing the pleased smile. He flushed and smoothed down the front of his ruffled and dirty shirt and looked back to Elrond and finished, "And, there you have it."

There was no reaction from Elrond beyond a flick of his wrist at one of the guards standing beside the door, probably to go and make sure the murderer was still in custody. Sherlock interrupted the appraising look Elrond was giving John to declare, "It's obvious Irene killed him because she's been in contract with Moriarty." One of the Elves legitimately squeaked at the mention of that name and Sherlock rolled his eyes in disdain.

"What? How? The last we heard Moriarty was clear on the other side of Middle Earth, why would he be back around now?" another Elf asked.

Sherlock glowered at his fellow Elf for having the indecency to contaminate the rest of the species with his stupidity. "What other logical reason do you have for well-behaved Irene draining a human of their blood and then trying to make it look like an assault? That doesn't strike you as odd?"

"You mean to tell me that the only possible explanation is Moriarty?"

"The only one that addresses all the facts." Sherlock snapped.

"But," John interrupted, sticking his chin out and carrying on when all the big people turned their stares on him. "It's taking another life, Sherlock. When is that ever logical?"

Against all odds Sherlock's glare devolved into something warm, as though he forgave him for not quite understanding how the world really worked. "Everything is cause and reaction, John. Everyone has a reason for their actions, no matter how ridiculous those reasons may be."

"I'm sorry," Lestrade interrupted, "As glad as I am that all of you have gotten on board and realized that our friend was murdered, I still don't know what in the world is going on."

"Of course you wouldn't, not with a brain like that."

"Sherlock." John scolded and the Elf moved right along to the real conversation. "Moriarty was an Elf."

"Was an Elf?" John asked. "It was my understanding that being an Elf wasn't really a condition you could change."

"Well technically," Sherlock started, but when Elrond glowered Sherlock moved right along. "Sauron got to him. He was brilliant and beautiful, and then Sauron tortured him until his mind snapped."

Sherlock stopped as though that was enough information to put it together so John asked, "And now he's using other Elves to kill humans in exceptionally strange ways?"

Sherlock grumbled something about their idiocy and answered, "Don't you know what human blood can be used for?"

John quirked an eyebrow, "Powering humans?"

"Honestly, John, aren't you supposed to be a doctor?"

"Sherlock. Usually I spend my time keeping blood inside people rather than experimenting with it when it gets out."

Sherlock grumbled about that being terribly dull, but he continued, "Human blood can be used as a stabilizing agent in certain arts. It can make unstable compounds bind with one another when chemistry says they shouldn't."

"I thought Elves didn't hold with that sort of darkness," Lestrade interrupted suspiciously.

"Most of us have no desire to get involved with it; however Sherlock has always been unique," the mouthy Elf explained.

Sherlock snorted, "By unique he means that I was never content to sit in Rivendell and sing, unlike my brethren." Before anyone could properly reply Sherlock lifted John from the table and swept for the exit.

"Hey!" Lestrade interrupted, "Irene's coming in for questioning; don't you want to be here?"

"I've already told you what happened, what more information could she offer?" Sherlock responded with a confused look.

"Maybe how your Moriarty fellow got in contact with her?"

"Immaterial. Whatever method he used will be useless to us."

"Useless? She's the last person to have dealt with your big, bad, insane Elf! She might know what he wanted the damn blood for!"

"Irene will be able to tell you he was handsome, and that he paid attention to her in a way that no other Elf has done in decades. Anything other than that will be only what he adopted for dealing with her."

Lestrade gaped at Sherlock open-mouthed and from the doorway Gandalf replied, "Yes, he's always like this."

"Mithrandir!" Lestrade replied with a bright grin.

"Captain Lestrade, it's nice to see you alive."

Lestrade just snorted at what was obviously a conversation they'd had plenty of times before. Sherlock had already twisted and started for the exit once again when Lestrade shouted, "Oiye! Sherlock!"

The Elf turned back around with a look of vague surprise at being addressed in such a manner. "Are you really just going to let this go?"

"There's nothing to let go, Lestrade. This victim was chosen for his proximity to Irene and not for any inherent characteristics of his own. There's nothing more to learn from him."

"What do you mean?"

Sherlock grumbled under his breath and pointed to Dimmock's throat, "Look at the striations on the cut on the throat." He looked around at them all staring at him. "Just look at it! Honestly, that means that there were two cuts, not one!"

"But there's only one wound," one of the men interjected snidely.

Before Sherlock could snap something unfortunate John interrupted, "It means the knife was placed at the already open wound and the killer sliced across from there, then went back to the wound and cut the other direction, trying to make it look like the throat was slashed in one stroke."

"Exactly, John. Goodness, you've all been outshone by a Halfling." Lestrade looked at John as though he was waiting for him to shout something back, but John just shrugged, having adjusted to Sherlock's fickle temper. "That means," Sherlock said, drawing attention back to himself, "That this was a calculated crime, not one of passion."

"But-"

Sherlock threw up a hand to silence the human and continued, "Your Dimmock was chosen, not because he fits a certain type of victim, but because he does not. The only trait in common between the previous victims has been that they're human."

"Wait, so you've had a spree of dead humans here?"

Sherlock huffed, "Didn't I just say the only thing in common is their species? That means where they've been murdered is entirely different as well."

"So it's all completely random?"

Sherlock glowered at him and snapped, "What is like in your tiny, little brains! Absolutely not!"

"But you just said-"

"I said that despite the repetition there is only one trait in common amongst all the bodies, that necessarily means that it was. not. random!"

Even Lestrade looked ready to snap back when Elrond held up a hand and silenced the room. "Sherlock, perhaps you could explain your logic?"

Sherlock huffed like the whole thing was beneath him but still replied, "Truly random occurrences have some measure of repetition to them. If all of us were to silently choose a number in our minds from one to ten, at least one of the numbers chosen would be repeated. In a truly random sequence there is repetition."

"Always?"

Sherlock rolled his eyes, "Of course not always, but often enough that when it doesn't occur it's an anomaly. Each human was missing his blood and had no other significant similarities to the other victims. That makes them chosen for a purpose."

"But..." John was the one asking the question this time, which apparently made Sherlock much more willing to listen. "If they were chosen for a purpose, can't we look at the victims to figure out what that purpose is?"

"He doesn't know what he wants yet." Sherlock explained.

"What?"

"He's experimenting with the blood. Using it as a stabilizing force for whatever foul craft he's tampering with. But he hasn't determined the sort of human blood he needs to accomplish his goal."

"How will we know when he has?"

Sherlock gave Lestrade a long look before he replied, "When he starts bleeding a whole village."

"So what do we plan on doing about this?"

"We?" Sherlock asked in disbelief.

"He's one of my men, I plan to help you catch his killer."

Sherlock snorted, "If you are the best the people of Gondor have to offer I fear for your continued survival."

"Yeah, well, most of the things I hunt don't run around deducing me, so I think we'll be alright."

John smirked at the announcement and Sherlock paused long enough to raise a questioning eyebrow at Lestrade that demanded he explain himself. Lestrade squared his shoulders and said, "Do you really plan on sitting on your hands until he kills again?"

"Would it really strike you as odd if I did? After all, you believe that my people couldn't care less about yours." Lestrade moved to snap back and Sherlock said, "It's incredibly stupid to deny things that I know are true."

"Look, I've had less than good experiences with your kind, you can't fault me for being cautious."

John knew from the twist of Sherlock's lip that he was about to say something terrible, so he snapped, "Sherlock!" and with an eye roll the Elf declared, "Yes, that must be terrible for you. What's your point?"

Lestrade bit his tongue and calmly replied, "Dimmock was one of my people. He may not have been the best of chaps, but he was in my company, and he didn't deserve to die as part of some bloody experiment when he was supposed to be safe. My point is: whatever you're going to do about it, I want to help."

"What makes you so sure that I plan of doing anything about it?"

"Him." Lestrade nodded to John. "He wouldn't be wasting his time on you if there wasn't something about you that he thinks is worth his attention."

Sherlock looked ready to spout something about how that was pure conjecture and based on no facts at all, but John looked quite pleased that Lestrade thought he was a high quality sort of Hobbit, so Sherlock let it slide. He sighed, "Fine, you can come along then, but do attempt to stay out of my way." With that Sherlock abruptly turned his back on Lestrade and announced to John, "We'll want to have dinner early before most of the house descends on the hall. Once they all get there the singing starts, then the stories, and the poetry, and we'll be trapped there all night."

John fixed Sherlock with a look that said he thought the whole thing sounded delightful and Sherlock heaved a put upon sigh and pouted, "Honestly? But if you stay then I can't show you the rest of the house."

"You can show me the rest tomorrow, Sherlock."

Sherlock grumbled, and John just rolled his eyes at the dramatic Elf.

#######

Elrond stood on his balcony, watching Sherlock show off for his Hobbit by deducting things about the people walking past as they made their way to dinner. Sherlock displayed an evenness of temper that Elrond had never before seen in the notoriously difficult Elf. Gandalf came to stand beside him with a sure smile on his face and Elrond asked, "What do you know?"

"Know? Nothing yet. But I have suspicions."

"What sort of suspicions?"

Gandalf closed his eyes and tilted his face up to the sun, soaking in its warmth and tilting his head to the side. "Can't you hear it, Elrond?"

"The breeze? Or the laughter?"

"I admit, Sherlock's laughter was a sound I thought I might never hear again, but it's more than that. Music trails around Sherlock, Elrond. Life and music that I never thought I'd hear from him. Sherlock's soul is singing, and that song will bring to him life that none of us thought possible."

#######

Sherlock's attempt to avoid dealing with the other Elves failed spectacularly. He and John made it to the great hall where meals were served and found most of the Elves of Rivendell already there. Molly came from nowhere and firmly guided Sherlock to a clump of Elves at the far corner. Sherlock was too thrown by the gesture to respond, leaving John standing alone in the doorway. He stood there, alone and ignored, then shuffled his way over to the small clump of humans skulking in the other corner.

Lestrade pushed over his men so John could pull up a spot next to him. Lestrade motioned for Anderson to go and fetch John a plate of his own. Lestrade knew John needed a moment to think, so he left the Hobbit to his silence while he explained to his company that he planned on following Sherlock, bound to find whoever it was that had been killing their human brethren.

Unfortunately Lestrade's men didn't show the same restraint towards John that their commander did.

A woman named Donovan leaned over and muttered in John's ear, "You should watch out for him."

"Sorry, what?" John replied, not bothering to maintain the same hush.

"We've heard stories about that one, and he's dangerous. Even the Elves think so. You stay with him and you'll end up dead and he won't even care."

"What makes you think all that?"

"You heard him. He didn't care at all that our mate was murdered, to him the only thing that mattered is the case. Doesn't matter who dies, if it did he would've stopped the killer before now."

Lestrade reached around Donovan and smacked her upside the head and hissed, "Leave the lad alone."

"He should know what he's getting into, Sir. "

"He's no fool, Donovan, I'm sure he knows damn well what he's getting into."

"He can't possibly, otherwise he wouldn't be having a thing to do with this nutter!"

Lestrade stiffened and waived her down, trying to get her to keep quiet before they got beaten by a pissed off Elf. "He's not a nutter." John replied in a quiet and determined voice. "He's brilliant, and if you can't see that then you have my pity."

Donovan leaned down to John and got her face unbearably close to John's to snipe, "He'll abandon you little Halfling. Elves don't know how to be fond of mortals, not like you are of him. He'll walk away and forget all about you while you spend the rest of your life missing him."

"Donovan!" Lestrade snapped. "Get yourself someplace that's not here."

The woman stomped off and John muttered, "She hates him."

"She hates all Elves, and Dimmock's death hasn't made it better." Lestrade explained.

"Why?"

"We tell stories in Gondor, about men who fell in love with Elves, gave them years of their short lives and then they were forgotten."

"They're just stories."

"Yeah, but they're old stories, the kind of thing human children have heard about since the beginning, and since most humans only see an Elf in passing they never have the chance to get the misconception fixed."

"And Donovan is one of those humans?"

"It doesn't help that Dimmock went to bed with an Elf and woke up dead in the morning."

John nodded his understanding, if not his agreement. "Tell me about this Dimmock."

"He was a good lad, young and impressionable, but he wanted to do right by his company."

"Was it a surprise when Irene paid him attention?"

"I think 'surprise' doesn't quite cover it. We were all shocked, and more than a few of the boys thought Dimmock was making the whole thing up."

"Not exactly a hit with the ladies, then?"

"Not exactly a hit with anyone. He was a good lad, but he wanted to be more than he was. Not so different from most other lads, but this boy had a bit of the Numenor to him, and that went to his head."

"A bit of the what?"

"Numenor. The land of kings, a bloodline all but wiped out now. He doesn't have a claim to the throne or any of that nonsense, but somewhere back there he's got a titch of Numenor to him."

"Just enough to make him difficult?" John grinned.

"Na, not difficult, just... young."

"Aye, that sounds about right. My sister, love her though I do, has the same trouble."

Lestrade reached out and snagged John another flagon and said, "Tell me all about it, master Hobbit."

"Our grandfather is the Thain of the Tooks. Doesn't mean much to you big folk, but it's a rather important position amongst Hobbits. I never paid it much attention, but to Harry it meant she had to act a certain way, live to other folk's expectations. By the time we were grown everything about being around her was difficult, especially since I wasn't ever much of a Took."

"She can't have taken kindly to you coming here."

John gave a sad smile, "No, she didn't. We had quite the row when she caught me packing to come along with Gandalf." He recalled to himself the way his sister had shouted at him, and though he'd tried his best to explain it to her, Harry just hadn't been willing to listen.

Lestrade gave a gentle squeeze to the back of John's neck and said, "I'm sorry, lad."

John cleared his throat, "Thanks for that. Though it's obvious Took doesn't mean quite the same thing as this Numenor business."

"Numenor?" Sherlock half-asked. John and Lestrade looked up to see the Elf standing before them, listening to the end of their conversation. "Why Numenor?"

"We were having a chat about Dimmock." Lestrade explained. "I was telling John that he was a good lad, just a bit difficult because he had a pinch of the Numenor to him."

"Numenor..." Sherlock muttered, his mind a million miles away, then his face cleared and he gave an awed whispered of "Numenor!" and ran from the room. John and Lestrade dropped their plates to the side and went after him, thankfully only having a short distance to travel or they might have lost him on his run. They caught up to Sherlock back in the study where Dimmock had been laid earlier, and Sherlock was up on a rolling ladder at one of the bookshelves, flipping through books and then carelessly tossing them to the now clear table behind him.

"Sherlock, is there a reason you're destroying someone else's property?" John asked.

Sherlock didn't even bother turning around as he tossed a book so fervently that it flew past the table. "Numenor matters," John muttered to himself in a half question. Sherlock didn't tell him that was ridiculous, so John assumed he wasn't too terribly far off the mark. "For Numenor to matter, it has to mean that he's broken his pattern of supposedly random killings. It means that Numenor had to have come up before."

"The fourth victim," Sherlock explained from his place on the ladder, still focused on the books. "He was killed just outside of Rohan, a family with scant traces of Numenor."

"None of the other victims share it?"

Sherlock flipped through another book, "None. The first traces were so slight that it barely even mattered, and the victims since have had no claim to such ancestry."

Lestrade moved to the table, trying to decipher the common theme in the books that Sherlock was casting aside. John questioned, "Then what are you looking for?"

"There has to be something that made him come back to Numenor. Something from one of the other victims that pointed him back to that."

"And one of these books will have that?"

"Somewhere in here Elrond has a record of the genealogy of your species. There's got to be something linking the later victims with Dimmock. Something about their blood that wasn't quite as effective and led him back to Numenor." Sherlock's eyes lit and he dashed to the table, a thin, leatherback sketchbook in hand. He thumbed through pages, coming to a stop on a branching chart full of names.

John propped himself up on the table to read under Sherlock's shoulder and after a moment of watching Sherlock trace his long finger across the Elvish words he prodded, "So, what does it say?"

"There!" Sherlock pointed to a delicate line of script and said, "They're all cousins."

John stared up at him, "You don't meant that in the traditional way, right?"

"No, because I would have missed that all the victims were related." Sherlock replied snottily. John just rolled his eyes and Sherlock continued, "The house of Numenor has interbred with almost all the sons of men. It's slight enough that it doesn't get recounted in their histories, but the houses that could claim such an alliance have all had victims. The blood wasn't enough to go down on the records, but it was enough to have the sort of chemical reaction he needed."

John stared at the tangled tree of names and said, "So he's been experimenting on members of that family tree trying to figure out the bloodline he needed set all this up?"

"It appears so."

"And what he needs is straight Numenor with no dilutions?"

"Exactly." Sherlock left the book as it was and darted out the door shouting, "Come on John! We need to get to Gondor!"

#######

Much to the irritation of every Elf in Rivendell and Lestrade's own men, Sherlock was packed and ready to ride less than an hour later. Sherlock picked a different horse from the stables, put John on the back and tried not to appear quite as frustrated as he actually was when Lestrade was ready to go with them. They rode for days, going quickly on their way to Minas Tirith, the most likely place for Moriarty to strike next.

After a few days of hard riding with none of Sherlock's usual tangents Sherlock called them to a halt a few minutes before sunset and across the valley from one of the larger cities of Middle Earth. The long days were wearing on all of them and it showed when Lestrade snapped, "Is there a reason we're not riding the extra hour so we can actually sleep in the safety of a city?" Sherlock didn't notice things like sore legs from endless riding, and quickly dismounted his own horse and stared off into the distance looking for something. Lestrade helped John down off the horse and steadied the Hobbit when he stumbled.

"Seriously Sherlock, is there a reason we're sleeping in the middle of a plain once again when we could be in the city? And don't tell me it's that you don't like Rohan. They're honest lads, free with the beer, and good to guests."

"Sounds brilliant," John muttered as he stretched out the kinks in his back.

"See, even the Hobbit agrees with me, so why are we out here?"

Sherlock was stiff and awkward when he sharply replied, "We are to the west of the city."

"That doesn't explain things."

Sherlock huffed out a put upon sigh and gestured sharply at the city that was little more than a blob on a hill at the far side of the valley. "The Golden Hall of Medolas sits atop a hill in the center of that city. We are to the west, with the sun setting behind us and the Golden Hall in a direct line of the light."

"I'm assuming the Golden Hall is actually golden?" John asked.

Sherlock hissed in irritation and waived at the hill again, "Just look."

The sun dipped low in the sky behind them and the red light of sunset came at the roof of the Golden Hall and made it look aflame. As the sun dipped into its perfect position the burning light from the roof reflected further, casting a warm glow over the whole city and John couldn't stop his gasp. They stood in silence watching the red sun sink below the mountain line until the roof stopped burning. Lestrade broke the spell by turning to Sherlock and smirking, "You great softie."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." Sherlock huffed. "We can proceed on to the city if you still insist."

Lestrade ignored the option and kept smirking at Sherlock. "Oh shut it!" the Elf snapped, which was enough to bring John back from his staring and interrupt, "Sherlock, that was… that was beautiful!"

Sherlock replied with a smug expression and Lestrade gave a bemused grin to them both. John looked back and forth, wondering what had them both giving off such grins, but he brushed it off to say, "I think we'd be better off sleeping here. I don't think I could take much more riding."

Lestrade's grin turned positively evil and Sherlock blushed in reply. "Sherlock," John asked, "are you alright?"

"Of course," Sherlock answered before he started to unstrap the bedrolls and to unsaddle his horse. John took it for the brush off it was and worked on building up the fire. Sherlock huffed at the perceived uselessness but John answered, "I like having the light." Sherlock rolled his eyes, but let the Hobbit be.

Elvish bread, some fruit, and a long drink of water later John found himself wrapped in a thin Elvish blanket that felt like a downy quilt and staring up at the stars. The blanket was far too big for John's slight stature, so Sherlock had wrapped it around him several times, effectively swaddling the little Hobbit and then setting him down in between the Elf and the fire.

John looked up at him with a raised eyebrow and said, "You do know you're fussing, don't you?"

"I am doing no such thing. You said you liked the light, that implies you dislike the dark, which means you're less than comfortable in this situation and would prefer an added measure of safety."

"And the being wrapped up in a blanket is an added measure of safety is it?"

"Obviously."

Lestrade snickered again, but John just snuggled into the exceptionally comfortable blanket and accepted the gesture for the kindness it was, and devoutly ignored the inner warmth it brought him. They all settled in for the night, John tucked between Sherlock and the fire, with Lestrade on the other side of the flame. They sunk into the stillness of the night, lulled away by the sound of crickets and quiet brushes of the evening breeze. Stillness had never been Sherlock's forte and he whispered, "John, are you asleep?"

John grunted, "How can I with you flopping about over there?"

Sherlock quieted and stared motionless up at the sky, trying to give John enough quiet so he could sleep properly. After a few minutes of Sherlock's unnatural stillness John flopped over on his side and said, "Well now I'm awake."

"I was being quiet!"

"Yeah, yeah. What are you looking at?"

"The stars, John. The stars."

John looked over at Sherlock, watching him watch the stars and quietly asked, "Which one's your favorite?"

Sherlock quirked an eyebrow and turned to John, realizing that in all his twisting and turning he'd brought himself terribly close to John, and the Hobbit's face was only inches from his. "What do you mean?"

"You know, your favorite. Star, constellation, thing to look at up there."

Sherlock furrowed his brow, "I've never thought about it in those terms."

"Elves don't have favorite constellations?"

"Not usually, no. They're there for direction and light in the sky, not for favorites." John turned back to look at the stars, and Sherlock knew he'd done something wrong. He waited a moment, staring at John's profile, taking in the strong lines of the small face and the softness of his eyes as they caught the stars. "Do you have a favorite?" Sherlock asked.

John tried to shrug it off, but Sherlock whispered, "Please."

John shimmied to get his arm out from the blanket and traced out a pattern in the stars. "The shoulders there, the belt, and the legs. We call him The Hunter."

"An odd choice for a Hobbit."

"I could see him straight out my window the spring I was laid up when I hurt my leg. I hated him a little bit, free up there like he was, but then I started having dreams that he'd come and run off with me, someplace where I got to have adventures."

Sherlock reached out and ran a soothing hand through John's hair and said, "I'm sorry you were damaged."

"It's alright. Made me the man I am and all. Never would've thought about being a doctor if it hadn't happened."

Sherlock paused, too unsure of himself to respond how he wanted to and say that he couldn't bring himself to be displeased since all those actions had brought John to him. "We call him Menelmacar, The Swordsman of the Sky."

"Menelmacar. I quite like that. Tell me about him."

Something in Sherlock clenched at the sound of Elvish words spilling from John's lips and Sherlock had to draw a few deep breaths before he could speak again. Sherlock told John the story of the Swordsman, and that's how the little Hobbit fell asleep, just close enough to feel Sherlock's warmth, listening to the musical tenor of his Elven voice weave stories just for John through the night.

#######

The journey from Rivendell to Gondor was... uneventful. John longed to call it quiet, but Sherlock hadn't stopped his excited chattering since they'd started on their ride just outside of Rohan. Sherlock had been recounting the whole history of the Elves from Manwe right down to Arwen, and as he chattered he pushed his horse on faster and faster.

Sherlock had wrapped up the little Hobbit in his blanket and tucked the edges of his cloak around him and bid John sleep while Sherlock kept riding through the nights as well. John tried to protest, insisting that the Elf needed sleep too, and Lestrade most certainly needed some, but Sherlock just raised an eyebrow and between Sherlock's warmth and the rocking of the horse John had fallen asleep.

John woke to the sudden stop of the horse and Sherlock trying to direct his attention to something rising up from the far off valley floor. John shifted up in his seat and stared, trying to figure out what it was, and then sputtered, "Is that a city?"

"Minas Tirath." Sherlock replied, far too smug at John's disbelief than he had a right to be. "The White City of Gondor."

"It's cut into the mountain!"

"Of course it is," Sherlock huffed, "where else would they put it?"

John tried to be frustrated with Sherlock's condescending tone, but it was terribly hard to do when John was so stunned by what he saw. Though truthfully, the gently amused tone Sherlock was sporting stopped any of the potential hurt. Sherlock was so proud of himself for showing all this to John that the Hobbit couldn't summon up the will to tease him back for being so smug.

Sherlock gave his horse a quick kick and suddenly they were belting down the hill again, with Sherlock telling John what everything was in the city and why they'd gone to all the trouble to build something that looked like a seven layer cake. Sherlock rambled the rest of the way to the city and through the open gates. The soldiers on the door looked as though they probably had orders to stop everyone entering the city, but at Lestrade's nod they let the Elf through without questioning. Lestrade and Sherlock exchanged a few quick words about the man about needing to catch up with what had gone on in the city while he had been away and then Sherlock was off once again.

The Elf rode his horse straight to the city's morgue and then all but jumped from his horse in excitement. Sherlock made it halfway to the entrance of the building before he turned on his heel to come back and lower John to the ground. The Hobbit had been practicing getting on and off Sherlock's horse, but he still wasn't to the point where he could easily follow a dashing Sherlock.

Sherlock bounded straight up to the front desk and demanded of the poor girl sorting paperwork, "Where are your corpses?"

She gaped at Sherlock, mouth moving open and closed though no words were coming out and Sherlock rolled his eyes before moving to step around the desk and go look for them on his own. John grabbed Sherlock by the back of the shirt before he could go off and disrupt the whole building. Sherlock huffed in annoyance but still pulled a chair over for John to stand on and look over the counter at the secretary.

John had meant to soothe her with the thought of talking to anyone who wasn't Sherlock looming in his billowing cloak, but the sight of a Hobbit popping up over the counter was apparently too much for her. She started to sputter uncontrollably, looking back and forth between them like she had to be hallucinating and John stretched out one of his small hands and put it on top of one of her fluttering ones. "What he means is, 'Hello, he's Sherlock, I'm John, and we need a list of the people who've died in the last few weeks and their causes of death'." Sherlock snorted but John simply kicked out his leg, catching the Elf in the knee and silencing him rather effectively. "Sherlock would also appreciate the chance to examine the corpses you have here presently, as part of our investigation."

"Into recent deaths?" She gaped. "Why?"

John was about to tell her the truth when Sherlock stepped in, all traces of intimidation gone as he answered, "I received word that a friend of mine was dead, but I've been unable to locate him thus far. I was hoping you could help."

Sherlock turned his smile innocent and pleading and John had to fight back his eye roll at the bright blush that flared across the girl's cheeks. "Of course, sir. Come right this way."

Sherlock gave John a smug smile but the Hobbit was more concerned with the pretty little human who was tripping over herself to ask Sherlock about his fallen comrade. The Elf lied his way through a story of a generations-long friendship and a promise to the man's mother to find out what had happened to her son. The girl looked moved while John felt a little ill at how she was half in love with Sherlock already. Once they made it to the morgue Sherlock ignored the girl completely as he went over the few bodies laid out on tables, leaving John to ask the questions.

"W-what's he doing?"

"Ah, he's looking for his friend, of course."

Sherlock flicked the cover off one of the bodies, exposing the whole of him to Sherlock's gaze rather than just the face. "But he doesn't need to do that to identify his friend."

"He likes to be sure he's got all the facts of a situation." John replied in a sturdy tone.

"But-"

"He doesn't know what contributed to his friend's death so he's finding out absolutely everything he can right now, so when he does find something about the death he won't have to come back here and see if it's related somehow." John gave her a kindly smile, "He's trying to make sure he won't have to be a bother again."

Sherlock chose that moment to sweep through a beam of light cutting across the far side of the room, making him glow with the light and the girl muttered, "He's not a bother at all."

John rolled his eyes and watched as Sherlock pulled the blanket back over the last body and shifted into his false personable persona and asked the girl, "He's not here. Would you mind terribly bringing me your records of everyone who has died in the past few weeks?"

She flushed again, "There's only been two deaths, both of them quite old men. It was their time."

"I'm sure, but it would ease my mind to see for myself." Sherlock reached out and gently took her hand, feigning comradery, "Surely you understand."

The girl flushed again and all but giggled, "Of course, Sir."

She stumbled out of the room to get Sherlock records for the deaths and John fixed Sherlock with a glare that the Elf didn't seem to understand. "What?"

"Don't you feel bad for making that girl pine for you?"

"She's seen me for all of two minutes John, that's hardly enough time for more than a little attraction."

"A little attraction? You know full well what you look like Sherlock."

"She's helping us solve a murder! Isn't that worth more than anything else?"

John bit back his reply when the girl came back in with the stacks of paper that Sherlock was looking for. He slipped them from her hands with a distracted smile and flipped through the pages, briefly scanning over the cause of death and the men's bloodlines before he handed them back to her without so much as a glance. Sherlock swept from the room leaving John to offer their thanks before he followed after him.

"You could at least have told her thank you, Sherlock."

"Why would I do that? She offered nothing useful to the case."

"She told you that he hasn't killed here yet, which means we might be able to save the next fellow's life." When Sherlock didn't answer John asked, "What's wrong? You should be excited, there's more data."

"The next step is determining who is the next probable victim, and that will be difficult."

"Why?"

From behind them a voice announced, "The record keeper of Gondor is less than pleased with my brother. Which will make researching the bloodlines difficult while you're here." Sherlock slammed to a stop and turned with a sneer to face the golden Elf who had appeared behind them.

"What are you doing here, Mycroft?"

"Our Lady of the Golden Wood had a vision that you required my help. Rather than leave you to struggle on your own as you would no doubt leave me to do, I thought I might come to your aide."

"I don't need your help!"

"And yet, her visions are never wrong. So here I shall stay, for when you find yourself in need of my help."

Sherlock stormed down the hall, leaving John to awkwardly stretch out his hand and say, "Hello, I'm-"

"Doctor Watson, former resident of Buckland, The Shire."

"Sorry, how did you know that?"

"I make it my business to know all things that involve my brother, Master Hobbit."

"So, you really are his brother then?"

"Of course. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I mean, you look absolutely nothing alike."

"Sherlock and I share a mother but not our fathers. I was fully grown and away from her when she decided to bed Sherlock's father."

"Bed him?" John squeaked.

"Ahh, no one has told you Sherlock's sorted history then?"

John stiffened, "Most people probably thought it was impolite."

Mycroft gave him the sort of indulgent smile you'd give a dog and replied, "Elves don't generally care for polite or not. If you were left unwarned it was because Elrond indulges my brother's whims terribly. Sherlock is a favorite of Elrond's only daughter, and as such he's practically allowed to get away with murder."

John snorted, "If you're trying to be subtle about implying something you'd be better off being less heavy handed about it."

"I wasn't implying a thing, I was simply stating a fact. Most Elves give Sherlock a wide berth. Even among our people he's brilliant, and the lengths to which our mother went to to create his brilliance make most Elves uncomfortable."

Despite all the trouble it got him into, John was naturally inquisitive, and he couldn't stop the flicker of interest in his eyes, or the smug expression Mycroft adopted when he did. "If you are going to spend any significant amount of time with my brother Dr. Watson, then you ought to know his faults. That way you can make a fully informed decision about your association with him."

"I don't need to know a single thing you've got to say about your brother."

"That is a very bold assertion for a Hobbit who had never been further than Bree when my brother swept in and carried you off."

"He didn't carry me anywhere. I rode off of my own free will and choice."

Mycroft smirked, "Of course you did. Sherlock does have a gift for making people think his choices are their own."

"What do you mean by that?"

"You thought it was your decision, just like that lovely young woman at the morgue thought it was her own decision to let Sherlock desecrate the dead."

"He wasn't desecrating anybody!"

Mycroft cocked his head to the side and stared at John the way Sherlock did when he was deducing what they'd had for breakfast, and John found he didn't like anyone looking at him that way who wasn't Sherlock. "You know next to nothing about Gondor or their practices and yet you're positive that Sherlock was doing no wrong. You seem quite smitten with him."

John knew that Mycroft was just glibly tossing off the word, but he couldn't stop the blush that rushed to his cheeks. He turned to walk away, but the Elf had already bit back on a gasp that let John know the blush hadn't gone unnoticed. John kept walking, ignoring the way that Mycroft was staring at the back of his head, silently demanding that John turn around and explain himself.

#######

Mycroft had done something to John, that was the only reason Sherlock could determine for John to claim he was tired and retreat to the room laid out for him. (Sherlock devoutly ignored the part of his mind that pointed out that John was a rather small Hobbit who probably was quite exhausted from their mad dash to Gondor.) John had shut the door in Sherlock's face, actually quite frustrated with Sherlock's declaration that of course John would rather be with him then sleeping, and Sherlock had gone straight to where Mycroft would be.

Sherlock tossed open the delicately carved doors that held the series of rooms where visiting Elves always stayed when they came to the White City. He stormed into the main sitting room and Sherlock could see Mycroft stifle a sigh that almost pleaded with him to hold this conversation off until there were no witnesses, but Sherlock gave a glower in reply that meant if Mycroft wanted this to stay private then he should've been waiting somewhere else.

"What did you do to him!"

Every Elf in the room froze, staring at Sherlock like they couldn't believe he had the gall to shout at Mycroft. Sherlock, however, didn't care about what they thought and stood alone in the center of the room as he stared down his brother. "He and I had a conversation about your propensity to defy the rules." Mycroft responded delicately.

Sherlock smirked, "You didn't get what you wanted."

Molly looked up from her sprawl beside Mycroft and asked, "How can you be sure?"

"Because he doesn't look satisfied." Sherlock paused and examined Mycroft properly before asking, "What do you know?"

"What are you talking about?" Molly demanded, trying to call the attention to her instead.

"He knows something." Sherlock snapped. "He wasn't expecting it and he's upset about what he's learned."

Mycroft narrowed his eyes at Sherlock, silently demanding that he leave it alone but Sherlock rolled his eyes like the suggestion was ridiculous and stared at his brother, running through all the options to decide what had him surprised. It had to be John, something unexpected about John, but everything about John was unexpected, so that didn't narrow it down. And all those unexpected things were wonderful, so it had to be something Sherlock didn't know. Sherlock panicked for a moment and asked in all sincerity, "Is something wrong?"

Mycroft paused for a moment, turning Sherlock's stare back on him. He paused a moment before he leapt into Sherlock's space and demanded, "Are you out of your mind!"

Sherlock raised an eyebrow in confusion and Mycroft grabbed Sherlock by the shirt front and hauled him from the room in a fit of violence neither one had indulged in since they were children. Mycroft slammed the door shut behind them and ignored the way Molly tried to follow after them and listen in. The moment the door closed Sherlock wheeled around and demanded, "What are you talking about?"

"This is absurd, even for you!"

"Mycroft, I can't tell you you're an idiot if you don't tell me what you're talking about!"

Mycroft calmed himself with a long breath and tried to reassemble some of his standing cool. When he did he hissed out, "You want the Hobbit."

Sherlock had enough control over himself to stare at Mycroft like he wasn't making sense, but Mycroft knew his brother better than anyone alive, even though the Hobbit might quickly be encroaching on that claim. Mycroft stayed between Sherlock and the door, watching as his brother paced with frantic energy, torn between wanting to tell Mycroft he was wrong and knowing that Mycroft had never been wrong before.

Mycroft gave him a moment and then started coolly listing the facts. "You insisted that he travel with you to Rivendell."

"He was interesting!" Sherlock snapped.

"That you find him interesting at all should have been a sign to you, Sherlock. You barely parted company with him on the journey, then you practically fled Elrond's house with him."

"There was a case!"

"Which you brought him on!"

Sherlock stopped for a moment then snapped, "How do you know all this?"

"Molly has been very forthcoming."

Sherlock snorted, "Forthcoming? You mean a gossiping wench."

"She was concerned about you."

"How you can you even pretend to say that with a straight face?"

"She was."

"She was concerned that I'd ruin my reputation before she could trick me into a wedding."

"Marriage wouldn't hurt you, you know. You could do with some stability."

Sherlock flushed and Mycroft tossed his hands into the air, "Oh, of course! You've refused every Elven maiden of age only to elope with a male Halfling."

Sherlock sprawled on a chair and muttered, "There are worse things."

"There are- no Sherlock, there are few things in this world that could possibly be worse. You're an Elf, an elder of the species, and it's bad enough that you've been frittering away your time on these little cases, now you've taken up with a Hobbit!"

"Taken up with? Mycroft you sound like one of these stuffy humans."

"Perhaps it is time I take a page out of their book and attempt to incite some responsible behavior from you."

Sherlock snorted at the very notion and didn't bother to reply. "I know you find him interesting now-"

"Always, Mycroft. I will always find him interesting."

Mycroft slumped into a chair of his own, "In goodness name, why? He's just a Hobbit."

Sherlock threw a pillow at Mycroft's head and shouted, "He's John! That's all that matters!"

Mycroft slouched in the chair in a terribly human gesture and sighed, "You dote on him."

"Must you choose such effeminate descriptions?"

"They are apt. Effeminate or not." They sat in silence for a moment, calming down, and Mycroft muttered, "You want to keep him."

Sherlock shuffled in his seat and replied, "Forever, actually."

Mycroft groaned and massaged his temples, "Yes, that's what I thought you'd say. You do recall, however, that Hobbits do not live forever?"

Sherlock fixed his brother with a look that held none of their usual enmity and Mycroft closed his eyes in pain. "You mean to stay with him. To trade your immortality to follow him into the human heaven."

"I mean to try."

"You must be aware that I intend to stop you from making such a ridiculous decision."

Sherlock smirked, "You won't stop me, brother."

Mycroft sighed, "Perhaps, but at the very least my attempts should protect me from Mummy."

#######

John's latest attempt at reading was interrupted late that night by furious knocking on his bedroom door. From across the room John shouted, "I told you I was taking the night off, Sherlock."

"Not Sherlock" Lestrade grunted from the other side.

John dashed to the door and threw off the lock, tossing the door back to find an exhausted Lestrade standing there. "You know, I thought Sherlock was joking when he said he had a list of things to do before he'd deign to see me again." Lestrade sighed.

"I'm pretty sure Sherlock doesn't quite know how to joke."

"Doesn't make me feel better about getting ignored in my own city."

John smirked, "You get used to it."

Lestrade grinned and stepped in the room, shutting the door behind him while he muttered, "That doesn't surprise me."

John climbed up to the overstuffed chair he'd been on before, leaving room for Lestrade to sit down on the end of the bed that John was fairly sure he'd have to scale like a mountain when it came time to sleep. Rather than sit, Lestrade gave John a long look before asking, "You want to tell me what's happened?"

John raised an innocent eyebrow, "Found out that he hasn't killed his next victim yet, and unlike some people I require sleep so I turned in for the night."

Lestrade gave a pointed look to the untouched sheets atop the bed and replied, "Yeah, it looks to be a restful night."

"I consider any point where I'm not dashing like a madman after Sherlock to be restful."

Lestrade grinned, "Yeah, I suppose it would get that way. But that still doesn't mean you're not hiding in here."

John slouched back, "And what is it you think happened?"

"One of the Elves got huffy with you, of course."

John snorted, "Are you still on that? You ought to get over your Elvish prejudice, Captain."

Lestrade grinned at John's playful tone but didn't let the topic slide. "You're upset about something."

"Had a bit of a row with Sherlock's brother, if you must know."

"Good heavens, Sherlock's got a brother? Are they just alike?

John laughed, "Absolutely not. If anything exact opposites. Except for the clever bit, still half mad and obscenely clever."

"And he turned that cleverness on you I take it?"

"Something like that, yeah. Why did you think I'd been dealing with an Elf?"

"Just 'cause Sherlock is Sherlock, mate."

"So you were using 'Elf" as a euphemism for Sherlock?"

"No, they're just... territorial over him."

"What do you mean?"

"Sherlock's mum was something fancy, even for an Elf, they're touchy over that sort of thing."

"And as her kid Sherlock is something fancy too."

"Exactly. Only, apparently Sherlock is getting on in years, for an Elf anyway, and he's a bit famous among all the peoples of Middle Earth what with the running about with Gandalf and the solving murders. I've heard gossip that says he's basically the most eligible bachelor Elvish kind has. Apparently more than a few of them want the honor of being his mate. And having all that cleverness in their own children."

"So, basically you're telling me that half the race fancies the arrogant sod."

Lestrade grinned, "Might be why he's so arrogant now that I think about it."

John gave a pained chuckle and sunk deep into his chair. "So you thought one of them gave me a lecture on how I'm busy wasting the attention of one of their best minds?"

"Or telling you that there's no point in making friends with him when he's just going to spend the rest of his life in one of the Elvish kingdoms and you're going to die like every other mortal." Lestrade chuckled like it was a conversation he'd had with Elves before but stopped when John didn't join in. "John, what's wrong?"

"It's the truth though, isn't it?"

Warning lights started to go off in Lestrade's mind, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, he's an Elf."

"Yeah, but you knew that when you started talking to him."

"But he's an Elf. He's important, and infamous, and he's going to live for bloody ever while I... I get forgotten. He's changed my whole life Lestrade, and I won't even be a blip in his."

"Now, John, I didn't mean that, and you know it!"

"But it's the truth, Lestrade! He's Sherlock. Apparently everyone knows his name, and I'm just a Shire Hobbit."

"So? I never took you for too scared to try anyway, John."

"It's not that I'm not willing to try, Lestrade. It's... he deserves so much Lestrade. He deserves to be brilliant."

"And you don't?"

"I'm a Hobbit! We don't do things like..."

"Like fall in love with an Elf?" Lestrade asked gently.

"Oh, sod off."

"Can't mate, a lad should always have a friend to drink with when he's pining uselessly about the bloke he wants."

John gave a small grin, "Yeah, I could do with some drinking right now."

Lestrade laughed and gave the Hobbit a pat on the shoulder and announced, "Give me a moment to track down a bottle of the good stuff and I'll be right back."

#######

John woke to pounding in his head and Sherlock shouting through the door demanding that John answer. John could hear Sherlock's picks scraping along the lock, so he rolled out of bed and flung the door open to insist Sherlock go back to bed and let him have a hangover in peace. Sherlock swept through the open door and pulled John off the floor and into a hug. John got lost for a moment in all the angles and planes that made up Sherlock before he realized what the Elf was saying.

Sherlock muttered over and over again under his breath, "You're alright. You're alright."

John patted Sherlock's back and said, "Sherlock, what are you talking about? Of course I'm alright."

That was enough to bring the Elf back to himself and he awkwardly set John back down on the floor. Sherlock straightened his sleeves and cleared his throat, "Yes, well, that's good."

"What made you think I wasn't?"

Sherlock tensed now that he remembered what he'd come here for and John was nervous at the sight of Sherlock uncomfortable about anything. "You spent the night with Lestrade."

"Getting drunk, yes. Which is why I've got a bugger of a headache this morning, so unless you've actually got something to tell-"

"Lestrade is dead."

"That's not- he can't- how?"

"Donovan found him in his bed this morning."

"But, we talked to him about the connection to Numenor! Why didn't he tell us?"

"Because he has none."

"... none?"

"Not a drop anywhere in his ancestry as far as he knew, as far as anyone knew."

"So why in the bloody hell would Moriarty go after him!"

Sherlock looked at the floor and muttered, "While I have no evidence to support my theory..."

"Lestrade was killed to tell you to piss off."

"That would be my-"

"Where is he?" John demanded, interrupting whatever deductions Sherlock was trying to make.

"He's in the morgue."

John ran past Sherlock and out the door, going as fast as his small legs would let him. John was too preoccupied with his run to bother looking behind him and see the pained look on Sherlock's face.

Gondorians jumped out of John's way and let him go unimpeded to the morgue where they'd been looking at bodies just yesterday. One of the guardsmen tried to stop John at the door, but he was too small for the man to get a proper grip on and John slipped past into the room.

Lestrade was laid out for examination on one of the stone tables, still close enough to life that John would've thought he was only sleeping. The doctor standing over the body started at the sudden interruption and said, "You shouldn't be in here."

"No, sorry, I just, he was with me most of last night, we were getting drunk. Did that..."

The doctor's face was hard as he replied, "I don't know enough about his manner of death to affirmatively state whether or not being sober would've helped him."

"Right, of course." John stared at the body of his friend and stepped slowly towards the table to look at him properly. The doctor set down his tools and stepped around the table to usher John out of his space when Sherlock swept through the door looking like he owned the place.

"Doctor, you will give us a moment."

"Like hell I will! He was a man of Gondor, not one to be subject to one of your experiments."

"And yet, your authorities have given me permission to study his body before you perform your autopsy."

"And why would they do that?"

Sherlock's voice sunk low and cold, "Because Lestrade was murdered, and none of your people are in a position to catch the killer. I, however, can bring your man of Gondor justice." The doctor gave an unwilling nod and a threat about damage to the body before he strode from the room, not nearly as effective in dominating the space as Sherlock had been.

While the big folk had been having their argument John had tugged a chair over to the table and was standing on it to peer down at Lestrade's body. John forced his eyes to stay off the man's face, only examining the wounds. Sherlock stood quietly off to the side of the table, letting John do his work uninterrupted. "There aren't any signs of defensive wounds, so his attacker probably put him unconscious first, like with the others."

John ran a small and gentle hand over the wound in Lestrade's elbow, the only wound marring his otherwise healthy flesh. "The bastard bled him dry."

"He slept through it," Sherlock interrupted, "It would've been painless."

"Small mercy I suppose."

Sherlock took John's response for a good sign and continued, "The question becomes, then, who would Lestrade let get close enough to him to render him unconscious."

"He was a Captain of Gondor, sworn to serve and protect, he'd let anybody by him if they came asking for help."

"But he wasn't in his uniform last night."

"So?"

"So, you rarely ask a random stranger for help, meaning that whoever stopped to ask him would've know he was a Captain before they asked, meaning they were from Gondor."

"Yeah, or they had someone point Lestrade out to them."

"Statistically unlikely, though I can inquire if anyone has been asking questions." Sherlock dashed for the door, some new evidence just making itself clear to him and demanding he follow it.

"What? What have you figured out Sherlock?" John demanded.

The Elf turned on his heel and said, "Don't you see, John? It's someone in the city, it's got to be. And they're still here!"

"Sorry, what?"

"For the killer to not rouse suspicion it had to be both someone who knew Lestrade well enough to get away without asking questions about him, and for Lestrade not to be on his guard. Lestrade is vigilant everywhere, even more so in the city he's sworn to protect. But it's their city too! Do you see?"

"No, what should I see?"

Sherlock huffed out and impatient breath, "The killer is still here. Lestrade's body was discovered too quickly, the whole guard is already on alert and they're out for the blood of whoever did this. The killer is hiding out in the city until they can safely make their way to Moriarty and deliver the blood. They're still here! We can find them!"

Sherlock bounded for the door, and it looked to John like he didn't feel the death at all. The Hobbit turned back to the body, willing himself to finally look up at Lestrade's face and give him the respect he was due, when Sherlock's hand rested on his shoulder. John flinched at the unexpected contact but prided himself on not jumping off the chair. "Will you be here when I get back?" Sherlock asked hesitantly.

John furrowed his brow in confusion, "I didn't plan on spending the day in the morgue, no."

"I mean, will you still be in the city, speaking to me?"

Suddenly Sherlock's concern clicked, "You daft idiot, you did. not. kill. him. I came running to see him because he's my friend, not because you did anything wrong."

Sherlock gave him a brief smile before turning for the door. He stopped for a moment and replied in certain tones, "You didn't kill him either."

John snorted, "He might've been able to fight back if he hadn't been drinking with me."

"John," Sherlock insisted, "Moriarty has seen to the deaths of men better trained than Lestrade. There was nothing you could have changed about your behavior to fix it, and I of all people would tell you if it could."#######

Sherlock spent the next few hours dashing over the whole of the White City, checking in every nook and cranny he knew of to try and find a place suitable for storage or disposal of Lestrade's blood. Eventually he made his way to a small study on the upper levels of the city that he always appropriated when he came to town. Sherlock was not at all surprised to see Mycroft there, but for some reason he had been expecting someone to show John the way.

Mycroft looked up from an ancient manuscript and raised his eyebrow at Sherlock's look around the room. "He's not here."

"Of course he's not. He's off doing, things."

"My, how wonderfully descriptive." Sherlock huffed and Mycroft just sighed, "You left the Hobbit to fend for himself while you chased down your supposed lead, didn't you?"

"He's not a child, Mycroft!"

"No, of course not, he's merely a stranger in a new land where everything is too big for him to properly use. I can't imagine why I might be concerned for him."

"Do be quiet Mycroft. What in the world are you doing here?"

Mycroft raised an eyebrow that begged to say, 'do you wish me to be quiet or to answer the question?' but he refrained and replied, "I was fully informed of your situation and I thought I might be of service."

"You mean you might follow me around and make sure I didn't run off and marry John in a fit of human sentimentality."

"Given that neither of you are human I fail to see how that could be a concern."

"Mycroft..." Sherlock hissed and his brother scolded, "Do stop growling at me Sherlock, I'm here to help you."

"How?"

"It seems an odd choice to me, Sherlock, if Moriarty truly intended to send a message to you. Wouldn't John be a more appropriate choice?" Sherlock rolled his eyes and Mycroft continued, "Don't look at me like that, everyone in the city knows of your attachment to him, even the humans are gossiping about it."

"So why make his point with Lestrade?" Sherlock hummed. "I'm missing something, and until I get it straightened out John is still in danger!" Sherlock turned to his brother with a plaintive look on his face and asked, "Mycroft will you-"

"See to it that Molly keeps him company? Yes I shall."

Sherlock puckered his nose, "Molly?"

"Yes Sherlock, irritating though you may find her the woman can be positively feral when she feels she's defending something worth her effort. And, the only person better to have in your debt than you is me, which will ensure her belief that John is entirely worth her effort."

#######

John had never been the indoor sort of Hobbit, and now, finding himself stuck not only indoors but also crammed in with quite possibly the slimiest Elf he'd ever meet, John found that it strained on his nerves. John had been irritated when Molly turned up at his door and announced that Mycroft had insisted she keep him company and look after him until Sherlock could contain the situation. John had handled the news badly, trying to storm past her and get out the door, but she'd been a little too excited to follow Mycroft's orders and forced him back inside the room. Since then they'd been wrapped in tense quiet only broken by her occasional inane comments about how wonderfully Sherlock seemed to be doing. She was trying to get a rise out of him, John knew that, but it was still difficult to bite his tongue and smile graciously whenever she implied that John was keeping Sherlock from being with his people, where he belonged.

The conversation might have gotten to him a day earlier, but now, all John could think about was Lestrade's teasing smile as he told John that love was always worth it, no matter how uncomfortable. John found Molly loud, and brash, though he supposed she had to be cleverer than she seemed or Sherlock wouldn't have even made a pretense of accepting her presence.

"So, what's it like to work a case with Sherlock?"

It was a direct question, so John couldn't just ignore her, and though she sounded bored, John knew there was point to it. "I'm never bored."

Molly gave him a small smile, as though she was in on the true meaning of those words and John would never know. "I was under the impression that you were his new partner in crime?"

"I was under the impression that I was his first partner in crime."

"I wouldn't go quite that far, after all, Sherlock has been alive considerably longer than you have. Perhaps he's had partners he's never told you about." Molly put just the slightest emphasis on 'partner' to make John's spine stiffen at the thought but he replied, "That's life Molly.

"No little one, that's life for an Elf."

John was about to raise his fists against a woman for the first time in his life (Harry didn't count) when Sherlock slamming through the door interrupted them. He looked back and forth between the two and automatically knew they'd been fighting. Sherlock held the door open and insisted to Molly, "Leave. Now."

She rolled her eyes at him like he was being completely ridiculous and draped herself over one of the chairs in defiance. Sherlock didn't even wait a beat and grabbed John's hand, pulling the Hobbit out the door behind him. Molly sputtered as Sherlock swung the door closed in her face but Sherlock kept his long stride down the hall, not all concerned for her. John knew that he probably ought to scold Sherlock for it but he couldn't get the giddy grin off his face.

Sherlock looked as irritated as John had ever seen him as he insisted, "You'll sleep in my rooms tonight where none of them and their stupidity can bother us."

"Us? You actually plan to sleep then?"

Sherlock muttered something under his breath and when John asked him to repeat it he snapped, "Mycroft sent me to my room! He says that if I'm missing things I need sleep."

"Good." Sherlock stiffened at the thought that John was about to pronounce Mycroft right and instead John said, "He's finally behaving like an elder brother ought to."

Sherlock looked smug, "He does have an unnatural fascination with interfering in my life."

"Harry has the same problem." John confided, soothing the last of Sherlock's stiffness. "Am I sleeping on your sofa then?"

"Nonsense John, you'll be in the bed."

"W-what?" John croaked, hoping that Sherlock didn't notice the way his voice cracked.

Sherlock did, obviously, and quirked an eyebrow but didn't ask any questions. "I said Mycroft sent me to my room, not to bed. He knows perfectly well that I cannot sleep during a case, he merely intends to force me to quiet my mind for several hours by putting you in my care while you sleep."

"That's absurd Sherlock, I don't need looking after. You can go and chase criminals all you want, no one has to be there to take care of me."

"That was precisely the argument I made to Mycroft, however, he made an observation that I had missed, which led to Molly getting inflicted upon you and me getting sent to my room."

John smirked at Sherlock's petulant tone and couldn't help but ask, "And what was that?"

"If Moriarty had truly intended to send me a message he would've done damage to you." John stopped and Sherlock misinterpreted this as concern and explained, "He won't actually, I'll stop him first, but no matter how decent a human Lestrade was, it doesn't make sense that Moriarty would completely ignore my connection to you."

"Maybe he didn't know about it?" John forced himself to ask.

"That's highly unlikely, Mycroft informs me that I've been so obvious that even the humans know how fond I am of you."

"Fond?" John stuttered to himself while Sherlock ushered John into his room. The space was, obviously, larger than John's own rooms, and rather far away from the place where John had been told that Elves usually made camp within the White City. John took in the clean white lines of the space and the high set fluffy bed and didn't even notice that Sherlock was stripping off his outer cloak.

"S-Sherlock, what are you doing?"

Sherlock didn't bother stopping as he toed off his shoes and started rolling up his sleeves. "I had assumed that you've already eaten, despite Molly's unappetizing presence."

"Well, yeah, but-"

"And given the behavioral patterns I've observed you have no set nightly absolutions that you must see to before sleeping."

"No, but-"

"Then why aren't you getting in bed?"

John looked up at Sherlock, all lean lines and black curls tumbling into grey eyes and he stumbled out, "I can't... think... of a reason."

"Excellent." Sherlock plucked John off the ground and set him on the edge of the bed, easily plucking off John's vest and starting on his shirt buttons before he could react. John clutched the edges of his shirt and pulled them back together with a yelp, "Sherlock, what are you doing!"

Sherlock rolled his eyes at him like John was being difficult on purpose and declared, "I'm undressing you, obviously."

"Yeah, got that, but why?" John pleaded, as though Sherlock was taunting the Hobbit with his obtuseness.

"Because you prefer to sleep in as little clothing as you can get away with. If you weren't a doctor who might be called upon in the middle of the night you probably would sleep in the nude."

"Sherlock!" John hissed as though he was saying a dirty word.

"That damn human influence on your species." Sherlock scoffed. "It's fine, John. Elves have no such compunctions."

"Excuse me, but I don't think I've ever seen an Elf running around starkers."

"Of course not. But there's a difference between being 'starkers' and going without your shirt and shoes under the covers of your own bed."

The rebellious part of John wanted to declare, 'But it's your bed, and that makes all the difference,' but he refrained. He kept his shirt clutched closed and hedged, "I just don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight, Sherlock."

"Because you're upset over Lestrade, I understand. And I've taken precautions."

"You've what?"

"Please John, just get into bed." Sherlock had such a look of pleading that John couldn't stop himself from sliding under the covers. Sherlock gave him a pointed look and from the safety of the sheets John shucked off his shirt and tossed it to the side of the bed. Sherlock gave a pleased nod and stepped to a black case he had resting on the table and pulled out a violin.

He gave it a brisk tune while he explained, "My own instrument is in Rivendell and, as it was made by Elves, is superior in craftsmanship. However, these humans make an acceptable alternative."

John smirked at the strange times that Sherlock decided to declare his cultural superiority. Sherlock gave a flick of his bow and then started in on a long, low note. John leaned back into the pile of pillows behind him and watched as Sherlock played. The Elf swayed with the song, twisting with the notes and nearly dancing to the rhythm he was playing. Before he sunk too deep in the music to properly think John decided that he'd ask Sherlock to play something fast for him tomorrow, because John had the suspicion that if the tune was right Sherlock would dance while he played.

#######

The city had fallen silent to the echoing sound of Sherlock playing the violin. The lifeblood in the tune was strong enough that it carried far further than it should have out his open window, filling the city with his pain and his sudden springing of hope. The humans all stopped their work and stared into nothingness while those who were asleep had beautiful dreams. The men were all creatures of never ending faith so they knew the song's meaning, even without understanding it.

The Elves, however, were having a much more difficult time. Mycroft sat out on a balcony, listening to the sound of his brother's song echo through the White City and fill them all with the tender spirit he kept hidden. Most of the Elves were too shocked at the sound of one of their people playing so freely outside their own sacred halls to truly appreciate the beauty, but those that did were crying with strength of Sherlock's song and what he was asking for.

But of course, there were those who didn't grasp the true beauty of what they were being shown. Molly floated through the room, moving with enough grace to at least avoid stomping, and came to Mycroft in a fury. "You cannot let him do this!" she hissed.

"I think you'll find that it's been centuries since anyone let Sherlock do anything."

"You are his brother and the eldest of us here, it is your responsibility to stop him from doing things that. are. insane!"

One of the younger Elves standing beside the door looked as though he wished to ask Mycroft what Molly was talking about, but he couldn't bring himself to interrupt the music. Mycroft was feeling genial at the first time he'd been allowed to hear his brother play in several decades and explained, "Sherlock abhors singing." The Elf looked so startled he nearly spoke again, but Mycroft went on, "Not in others, just in himself. He has a perfectly lovely voice, but he longs to do things with it that a voice is just not capable of, and so he prefers instruments." Sherlock chose that moment to play out a string of complicated notes and then one high, clear note that rose above the clouds and made the heart ache, and Mycroft finished, "Of course, he prefers the violin."

Through clenched teeth Molly hissed, "If you don't stop him, I will."

She whirled around to storm off the balcony and Mycroft chuckled, "You cannot stop what has already begun." She froze and Mycroft said, "Gandalf informed me that he's been hearing this song trail around Sherlock since the moment John crossed his path. Sherlock has been praying to be allowed to keep the Hobbit with every breath he's taken since they met."

The young Elf raised an eyebrow and Mycroft shuddered at what they were teaching young people these days if he didn't know what was going on. "My dear boy, we were all born out of the song of Illuvatar. He, with his angels, sang us into being. It is why we Elves sing and play, we are praying to him, sharing with him the gift of the song he has given us. This playing is merely Sherlock begging the same thing his soul has been asking for for days.

"He's..." the young Elf gasped in awe.

"Yes, Sherlock is asking to keep John, in whatever way Illuvatar chooses to keep them together."

"But he might become mortal. Illuvatar might make Sherlock a human."

Sherlock wound the notes higher and tighter, lost and alone as they sought for something to make them whole and Mycroft said, "I do not think Sherlock would mind."

#######

John woke the next morning to Sherlock looking down at him with a gentle smile as the Elf straightened his shirt. "Slept well, then?" he asked with a genuine grin.

"How could I not?" John replied, and Sherlock's grin brightened while he tossed on his jacket. John leaned up from his cocoon of pillows and blankets to ask, "You'll play for me again, won't you?"

Sherlock paused and smirked at John like he wanted to call him a silly Hobbit, but instead dropped a kiss on John's forehead and headed for the door as she said over his shoulder, "Always."

He had played for John, and John had adored it. That would have been enough to put Sherlock in a brilliant mood, but it got better. He'd felt the stirring in the air, the promise in the prayer of his music, and Sherlock knew that he and John belonged together in every way they could find, now Sherlock just had to wait for Illuvatar to carry it out. And not even the presence of Mycroft in his favorite library could dampen Sherlock's mood.

Mycroft gave him a long look and said, "I am unsure whether to be pleased for you or to curse that you have accomplished this endeavor."

"Why would you be upset?"

"We may not speak for decades at a time, but I do take comfort from the fact that you're still breathing."

"You are the one who said there is no point in living forever if you intend to spend it alone."

"At that point I had hoped to prod you in Molly's general direction." Sherlock scoffed and Mycroft added, "Though now that I see you with John I find myself grateful that all my attempts failed. I would've hated to be complicit in helping you get a divorce." Sherlock actually smirked at that and Mycroft reveled in the simple joy behind the motion.

Sherlock obviously realized that he was showing an emotion other than irritation to his brother and brought himself back to the norm by asking, "Did you laze about while I was seeing to John or did you actually do something useful?"

Mycroft just smirked at Sherlock and a moment later there was a knock on the door. Sherlock rolled his eyes at Mycroft for the dramatic move he would've done himself. Sherlock swung the door open and sighed at Donovan standing on the other side. He looked over at Mycroft and asked, "I presume she has a purpose here other than sniping at me."

Donovan shouldered past him and muttered, "Sod off. I'm here because I know every damn thing there is to know about Lestrade. Your fellow here asked me about Lestrade's family."

Sherlock rolled his eyes but closed the door and stood out of the way while Mycroft asked the questions. Mycroft gave her a long stare where he debated with himself the merits of offering her tea to soften her up, but based off the glare she was giving him in return he decided to go straight to the matter at hand. "Humans with a specific genetic background are being hunted for certain scientific properties in their blood."

"What?" Donovan snapped.

Mycroft raised a placating hand and explained, "The motivation behind the killer's actions is not something to be discussed here, but in short, he was searching for a specific trait that fulfilled the end of his experiment. Sherlock and I thought we had determined the ancestry that the killer had settled on as what he was seeking, however, Lestrade's death deviated from that pattern."

"You know why it deviated?" Sally snapped. "Because Sherlock's a nutter and he was probably the one doing the killing anyway!"

Sherlock leaned over the chair and met her stare for stare and hissed, "I respected Lestrade. Almost everyone in this world is a useless fool, and Lestrade was not. He was worth more than the end he met."

Donovan stared back at Sherlock, and though she believed him completely capable of the murder, she at least believed Sherlock hadn't been the one to do it this time. "So what is it you need to know?"

Sherlock stepped away from her and returned to his corner leaving Mycroft to ask, "Did Lestrade have any Numenorean ancestry that you were aware of?"

Donovan gave an unhappy snort and replied, "You've got to be kidding me."

"I assure you miss, we are not."

"No, you don't understand. Usually the Captain of Gondor is someone who's at least got some sort of claim to Numenor, and there was a big hubbub when Lestrade didn't have any. Eventually the Steward put a historian on it and he came up with something to pacify the people causing problems."

Sherlock tensed beside the wall but still left Mycroft to do the talking so she didn't clam up in favor of shouting at him.

"If I may ask, what did that historian find?"

"It doesn't matter, Lestrade always thought it had been made up."

"Please, it might be important."

Donovan closed her eyes and tried to call back a memory she'd considered useless. "It wasn't Numenorean. It was, some bloke from before Numenor. Hywen, I think it was."

Mycroft stiffened in his seat and Sherlock forgot all common sense for dealing with Donovan and surged back into her space. "Hywen, did you say Lestrade was descended from Hywen Farstrider?"

Donovan backed up in discomfort, "Yeah, that was it."

Sherlock whirled around and stared at Mycroft in disbelief. "He thought Numenor could provide the stabilization, but it didn't. He needed an older bloodline, something that predates Numenor but the Numenoreans were probably descendants which was what gave him any positive result at all."

Donovan joined them on their feet and shouted, "What are you talking about!"

"Most of the house of Numenor descended from the Farstrider!"

"But why does that matter?"

"Don't you see!" Sherlock snapped. "We know what he's looking for now! Which means he'll go to a city with the highest concentration of the Hywen bloodline. We can catch him!"

Sherlock made to bound out of the door and Mycroft grabbed him by the back of his shirt. Sherlock stopped at the sickly pale pallor to his brother's face and asked, "What's wrong?"

"Sherlock, John is a Took."

"So?"

"Tooks are taller than other Hobbits because the first Took daughter fell in love with a human man."

"One of the Hywen sons." Sherlock breathed out in disbelief.

"The youngest."

"And John's a Took."

"Favorite grandson to the Thain."

Sherlock ran out the door before Mycroft could suggest that they call backup to help with the situation.

Donovan latched on to Mycroft and insisted he explain, not all of them were capable of Sherlock's leaps in logic. "A Took daughter married a Hywen son, and together they had children who grew down to be the Took family of Hobbits. John's family has the most undiluted strain of Hywen Farstrider's blood on the planet, and that's what the killer is looking for."

Sally released her grip on him instantly, and said, "I'll rally the guards, you go after Sherlock."

Mycroft went tearing down the hallway after his brother, hoping that their luck would hold. He ignored the stares the humans were giving him as he dashed and disregarded the impulse to pause and collect himself before he stepped through the door to see Sherlock standing alone in the middle of his untouched bedroom. "Perhaps-"

"No. He promised he'd stay here today. He wouldn't break his word." Sherlock replied in a monotone.

Myrcroft's presence triggered something in Sherlock and he stopped staring at the nothingness to survey the room and look for clues. Mycroft stepped past Sherlock and went into the small bathroom where he found unconscious on the floor the guard he'd left on the door. He was the young Elf from last night, the one who had been so enthralled by Sherlock's behavior that he insisted on protecting the little Hobbit who was the object of devotion. Mycroft checked that the boy was still breathing and turned to find Sherlock standing behind him in the door.

"There are marks where his feet were dragged across the floor. They dispensed of him first and probably played on John's doctor sensibilities to get him to open the door and help his guard."

"The boy could only be ambushed by another Elf." Mycroft added.

"Not ambush. John would've heard the sounds of fighting and come to check. They wanted in and the boy refused. That's when they rendered him unconscious, probably with a blow to the back of the head, and they knocked on the door pretending that the boy had fainted." Sherlock pointed to the slightest of depressions in the carpet and explained, "They laid him there and John knelt beside the boy to check him, leaving himself exposed to attack."

Mycroft took in the tracks Sherlock was seeing on the carpet and interjected, "There are no other footprints, how did she get John out of here?"

"John is small and lean, it wouldn't be too difficult to carry him from the room."

"She couldn't have taken him far."

Sherlock paused at Mycroft's switch from 'they' to 'her' and asked, "You believe it was Molly?"

"As do you, little brother."

Agony flitted across Sherlock's features and he said, "She did it because-"

"Her motivations are irrelevant Sherlock. When we find John you'll have a lifetime to make it up to him."

Sherlock was only paying Mycroft half an ear of attention, his gaze too focused on the rumpled sheets of his bed to pay him actual attention. Donovan arrived at the door with a group of guardsman at her back and Mycroft left Sherlock in peace and issued orders to spread out and search the city for John, starting from this point and moving out in a grid pattern from there.

The guardsmen went out in a fury, each of them fighting to stop the one who'd killed their Captain and had now taken the little Hobbit who had so gently tended to his body. Mycroft stepped back to Sherlock and rested a hand on his shoulder. "A lifetime?"

"Or as long as he can stand you." Mycroft smirked.

#######

John woke to a pounding headache and a spinning world. The floor underneath him was cold rock. He pushed himself awkwardly to his hands and knees and felt the work worn smoothness underneath him. There was none of the tile work or the finished slabs that made up almost every indoor hallway in Gondor. That texture gave John pause and he reached out to the side and found an edge that opened into air. It was a table then, and John traced around the edge and figured that the table was large enough for one of the humans to lay out on it without any trouble.

John slid off the edge and dropped down the floor and then started walking in what he hoped was a straight line. He held his hands up and after crossing the open space his hands ran into another table. John started to piece together where he might be when the light from a torch filled the space.

John blinked in the sudden brightness and turned to see a specter standing at the door. The man was shorter than Sherlock, with the fine features of his Elven brethren twisted over on themselves in unnatural ways. His skin was a sickly green, and his nose was bloated and bulbous to the point it looked broken and swollen, with a hash of scars running down his nose and across his cheeks. The cartilage of his gently pointed ears had been beaten flat and now rippled over in a clotted mess.

He was ghastly.

John gathered his courage and said, "So you'd be Moriarty, then?"

He swept into a deep bow and mocked, "I would indeed, Doctor Watson. And we're going to have so much fun."

John snorted and asked, "What did you offer Molly?"

"Just getting you out of the way. She's always thought that she'd get Sherlock eventually, you just happened to throw a wrench in her dripping water approach to him."

John raised an eyebrow and Moriarty giggled, "Oh come on John, surely even you can figure out what it means. The steady drip, drip, drip, of water on rock will win out eventually, no matter how stubborn the rock."

John actually laughed at that one replied, "He'll hunt you down for this, and there won't be any time for Molly."

"True. Or maybe, maybe we're made for each other, Sherlock and I."

"He's nothing like you." John spat.

"Oh, we're wonderfully close, John. And you know it. We could spend forever he and I, spreading chaos wherever we go, and there wouldn't be a person alive who could stop us. The only problem little Hobbit, is you. Not that you'd ever be able to really stop me," Moriarty scoffed, "but you do put the plan off schedule a little bit."

"Oh really? And what was the plan?"

"How melodramatic Johnny boy. You want me to sit here and ramble my grand plan for you so Sherlock will have time to find you and save you. But he won't though. He'll try and he'll try, but it won't get here in time to stop me."

"He will find me."

Moriarty giggled, "Such a fine distinction that, between save you and find you. And he will find you, just when I want him to. I know him, John. Better than you ever could. And I know the precise moment he'll walk through those doors and come to share with you your dying breaths. And they'll drive him insane."

"Like you, then?"

"Precisely. Really, I should thank you Johnny boy, I thought I'd have to wait a few hundred years more before Sherlock got bored enough with life to start listening to me. If I let you run free, spending the next few decades beside Sherlock he might never have forgotten you, never gotten as bored as I needed him to be. But now, now he's got a heart." Moriarty shuddered, "He's all human, and squishy, and grotesque. And if I take you away from him, I'll break something that can't be fixed."

Moriarty bounced on the balls of his feet, very nearly clapping his hands in glee at thought of what John's death might do to Sherlock. "He'll hate me, and he'll chase me, and all his lovely attention will be on me like it should be."

"You are warped."

"Yes, my dear. And you're dead."

#######

Mycroft rolled out a detailed map of the city and stepped back to stand with Sherlock and try to figure out where they'd stash John if they planned to kill him with everyone looking for them. Both Elves were absolutely silent as they studied the map, minds too clever for either the guards or the other Elves watching to truly understand how they were debating.

Mycroft would nod towards a place on the map and Sherlock would cut down the logic of the location with a snort, then Sherlock would point to a place and Mycroft would reject it with a raise of his eyebrow, then they'd repeat. They went on this way, overhearing guard reports to Donovan going on at the back of the room, until Sherlock starting bouncing and proclaimed, "That's it! It's too elegant not to be!"

Sherlock pointed to the morgue and Mycroft sighed, "Yes, that's it. No one would notice him conducting an experiment and everyone would write off the appearance of another body."

The Elves were off at a run, with Donovan scrambling behind them and shouting to send more of the Guard along to help.

#######

Moriarty had tackled John and with several dozen lifetime's worth of being a sneaky bastard he maneuvered John back up onto the table and strapped him down. He strolled around the table staring down and John while the Hobbit did his best not to flinch every time Moriarty sniffed him or trailed his fingers along John's skin. "It's such a pity that Sherlock is so frightfully clever. I'd love the chance to play with you properly."

Moriarty pulled a knife from his sheath and ran the tip along John's arm, nicking the point he would insert the draining tube over and over again as he passed it. "It's just so boring to have to kill you so quickly, but I suppose I'll find some pleasure in draining all your little Hobbit companions."

John stiffened at that, and suddenly the cold reality of it crashed down on him. Moriarty wasn't going to take the time to drain his blood like he'd done to all the others. Sherlock would be relying on that extra time, basing all his calculations off how long it would take John to slowly bleed to death, and it would all be wrong. Moriarty was going to make a waste of John's life, just because he could. John started to thrash, fighting against the ropes that were binding him to the table and shouting at Moriarty through the gag.

"Tut tut, John." Moriarty scolded, "You really shouldn't do that, you might cut-" Moriarty ripped the knife through the bend at John's elbow, "yourself." John keened at the pain and Moriarty ran a pseudo-soothing hand through John's sweaty hair and leaned down to whisper in his ear, "You know how I like my toys pretty. And Sherlock, Johnny boy, he'll be so pretty. So pretty when I break him, when I drive him insane. When I use all that pretty Hobbit blood of yours to make him like me."

John pulled back and used the give in the ropes to bash his head forward, crashing into Moriarty's nose and make him bleed. Moriarty stumbled back in shock, then started to giggle at the sight of his own green blood. To keep such a thing from happening again Moriarty shifted the knife to John's throat then leaned over and licked the rim of John's ear before he sighed, "Sometimes I wish Sherlock wasn't quite so clever, but I suppose that's just the way life goes. You have to trade tasty things," he paused to lick across John's cheek, "For delicious things."

Moriarty started to dig in the knife point, dripping blood off his face to splash onto John's cheek, staining him. "It'll be a clean slice, John, straight through your common carotid artery. Well," he giggled, "not straight. You'd go too quickly. I'd like to just nick it, give you some time to die, perhaps have your eyes still open when Sherlock comes for you. But with all that delightful pressure from your heart, it's just so difficult to tell how long it will take when you're panicking like this."

John dearly would've loved to be able to say that he wasn't flinching away from knife, his eyes locked on the door as he silently begged for Sherlock to come. Moriarty sighed and dropped a kiss to John's forehead. "You've been an absolute treat John." He leaned forward and hissed in his ear, "I'll be sure to think of you when I lie with him John, when I take everything you might have been together and I make him mine." The movement was swift and simple, Sherlock too close to finding them for Moriarty to drag out the torture. Moriarty whipped the knife across John's throat, spilling out his blood and one sharp red spurt, then licking his fingers while he walked away.

All the while John's eyes never moved from the door.

#######

Sherlock stopped his mad dash in the doorway to the morgue, and Mycroft knew everything had gone wrong.

Mycroft slumped back against the wall, he could smell the blood from here, and every drop of John would've had to be spilled out in that room, wasted, to make such an overpowering scent. Very slowly Sherlock stepped over the threshold and stretched out his hand to run his fingertips along John's still warm face, brushing over lips that Sherlock had though he'd soon get to touch.

Mycroft forced himself into the room, to follow his brother to wherever this terrible moment would take him. They stood there for long moments, staring at the small, broken body before them and Mycroft, who always fixed things for his baby brother stuttered out, "You might still be together..."

It was a sign of how far gone Sherlock was that he didn't even bother to snort at the suggestion. "You mean after the end of the world I might see him again. Is that really all I have to look forward to?"

"You felt it in the music, Sherlock. We all did. Every creature in this city felt Illuvatar answer your promise and promise you'd be with him."

Sherlock crawled up onto the table beside John, gathering the Hobbit into his arms, running a shaking hand through the dirty blonde hair. "I promised you I'd play for you again, John. You can't leave me before I've played for you. I won't break my promise."

Mycroft tried to edge forward, to pull Sherlock away from the body, to stop whatever half mad ramble he had started before it spiraled too far to control. Sherlock shrugged off his brother's touch, keeping himself wrapped around the still body, pleading with him to wake.

Mycroft thought that the situation couldn't possibly get any worse, when he looked up to see the foul thing that Moriarty had become standing at the other of the room, giggling. "Dear Sherlock, you know death can't be undone. And his death was done very thoroughly, I made sure of it. Just for you."

Sherlock didn't look up from John so Moriarty prodded, "He waited for you, darling. Kept telling me you'd save him. You should've been here for when he realized that you wouldn't make it, that moment when I cut him open. Mmmm, it was delicious."

"He's not gone." Sherlock replied, his eyes still focused on John.

Moriarty mocked, "Really? Is he all around us and you'll keep him forever in your heart?"

"How dreadfully boring." Sherlock replied. "I played for him."

Moriarty snorted, "You must have been terrible at it if he died anyway."

"You're too clever to miss the facts right in front of you." Sherlock smiled, still looking to John.

Enraged that Sherlock wasn't paying him any attention Moriarty snapped, "The facts are that he's dead and I killed him!"

"No." Sherlock unsheathed his own dagger and his two observers tensed at the motion. "You made the pathway clear for me to keep him, and you can't even see it."

Light glinted off the blade as Sherlock brought it down, both Moriarty and Mycroft bolting forward to stop Sherlock before the knife struck true and Sherlock followed after John into death. Sherlock grunted as the blade made contact and Moriarty reached him first. Mycroft saw red and twisted over the table to rip the abomination away from his brother. Mycroft lashed out with the cane he always carried and broke it against Moriarty's skull, sending him to the ground unconscious and then drove the splintered shard into his exposed neck, bleeding him out just the way his victims had died.

Mycroft turned back to try and still Sherlock's wounds in the desperate hope that at least he'd be able to say goodbye, but he stopped at Sherlock's smile. And then Mycroft saw, John was breathing.

"H-how...?"

"I made a trade."

Mycroft lurched forward and took in John's undamaged neck and realized that John was no longer a Hobbit. In the moments Mycroft had had his back turned, John had become human. Then suddenly, Mycroft understood. "You gave up your immortality. You traded a thousand lifetimes to give him one more."

Sherlock nodded and ran his hand through the same dirty blonde hair as before. "Precisely."

"But, that should be impossible."

"Illuvatar promised I could keep him. Moriarty took away what time we would've had if left to ourselves, so it had to be rectified. I'm mortal now, practically human, and John, lovely obliging John, met me in the middle.

#######

John stretched out in the downy sheets of the soft bed and burrowed his face into the warm chest below him, breathing in the sharp scent of Sherlock that he'd grown so used to over these last weeks. Sherlock ran his fingers through John's hair in reply, and that gave John pause. He popped up and took in the sight of the Elf below him and jumped back when it finally processed that the hand in his hair couldn't palm his entire head, and the body below him was now much closer to his own size, still taller and leaner, but not so terribly different. John twisted to look at the room around them to discover that it was his size that was different, not Sherlock's.

"Sorry, wait, I- Moriarty- what happened?"

Sherlock just smirked at him, looking warm and rumpled in the sheets where John had left him and John couldn't help his blush. "Moriarty killed you. Mycroft killed him. I brought you back. As a human though, I hope you don't mind."

"H-Human? How?"

"Terribly complicated bit of deus ex machina." John just stared at him until Sherlock gave him more and the Elf huffed out, "The deities of this world aren't particularly fond of interfering in our lives until we've done everything we can do for ourselves. I played for you, and then offered up my own life in exchange. They made a compromise."

John pressed a now human-sized hand to his temple and muttered, "Compromise. They, they made me human-"

"And me mortal."

"And you..." John softened, "you're mortal?"

Sherlock reached out and tugged the unresisting human back against his chest, pulling the blankets back around them, tutting about how dying made John need body heat. John glared at Sherlock until he replied, "Mortal. To live and die and never be parted from you."

John looked up at him with gentle eyes and very slowly leaned forward to press his lips against Sherlock's. Against Sherlock's lips John murmured, "I love you, you know."

Sherlock smirked, "I should certainly hope so. I don't die for just anyone you know." John pulled back to reply and Sherlock rolled them so John was underneath him. Sherlock gave him a fierce and demanding kiss, licking his way past John's lips and into his mouth, pressing up against this new body of John's. Sherlock pulled back when John's human lungs demanded breath and Sherlock whispered, "Only for the man I love."

John smiled brightly, and Sherlock gave an impish grin before he dropped back down to show John the perks of being human.