A/N: This chapter owes its title to the brilliant suggest of bettyboop, although I'd bet good money she didn't expect me to use it this way.
:::::: insert evil laugh here, I have a sore throat again, so just use your vivid imaginations, 'kay? :::::::::
Also, once again, no real proofing. I'm having some migrainy / visiony issues, so I'm mostly keyboarding by touch and doing a weird, kind of Mad-Eye Moody impersonation while I try to proof. I promise I'll do a close review when my eyes are more rested.
FROM CHAPTER 7: BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW
Late that same night over in Surrey, furious bellows and ear-shattering shrieks of rage woke the neighbors and brought curious, malicious attention to the residents of #4 Privet Drive, home of the unpopular Dursley family. The cause of the twin tantrums was an equally irate Marge Dursley, who had just phoned her brother with the news that somehow, her confidential records on the puppy mill she ran as part-owner with Vernon had been stolen from within her own, locked safe, along with the property deed to #4 Privet Drive that showed the owner of the house to have been Lilly Alicia Evans. Marge had only discovered the theft because she had opened the safe to add in the falsified breeding and registration records of her latest bitch.
All she found in their place was an envelope of highest-quality linen, from which she drew a richly-embossed card with a few, finely-calligraphed words. The message was ominous, indeed.
"Merely the first of many bitter pills to swallow."
CHAPTER 8: THE OTHER WHITE MEAT
It started when the mutilated body in the park's flower bed turned out to be a second-generation milkman named Colin Creevey.
Although Mycroft's incredible information network would certainly have found the link, and possibly Scotland Yard's horde of Inspectors might have identified something "off" as well, and certainly Sherlock's unparalleled deductive capabilities would have led him in the right direction (particularly in light of his new perspective on the world), in the end, it was Harry who found the connection that solved the case.
Despite Harry's stubborn refusal to discuss his "freak-out" days earlier, he did agree to allow Sherlock and Mycroft the right to worry about him. Unaware of their meeting with his cousin, Harry was still the recipient of what he called 'gentlemanly stalking' by Mycroft and Sherlock. Considering Harry's unrelenting independence and consistent use of the phrase "I'm fine", even during instances when he had lost a limb or a godfather, the young wizard's grudging concession to the concern the Holmes's felt about him was earth-shattering. When word of it reached Hermione and the Weasleys via an exceptionally sneaky PA, the disbelieving silence that fell was only eclipsed by the party-like atmosphere that erupted shortly thereafter. Those who had been deeply worried that their friend would just be that much more solitary when surrounded by people who could not understand his history and his behavior were finally able to draw deep, relieved breaths and relax. In her gardens at Lovegood Farms, Luna smiled serenely at a tattletale hinkypunk and offered it dinner amidst the convoluted thoughts of her father as payment for her own little information network.
Naturally, Harry knew none of this. As far as he was concerned, his dividends for agreeing to allow Sherlock to keep the archway open were paid out through an awesome opportunity to ogle a truly fine specimen of human male genius in its natural environment. Although, that occurred to Harry only after he hissed something about "bloody annoying men sticking their big, unwanted noses in other people's business" before storming off into his bedroom to pout.
He saw later, when he wandered out to make some tea, that his attitude had no effect on the smug consulting detective who was clearly visible through the arched doorway, reclining on his own sofa with crime photos scattered around him while a befuddled John Watson wondered why his slightly-insane roommate kept smirking at the wall.
Eventually, Harry settled down and stopped glaring into Sherlock's living room every few minutes. Losing himself in the creation of a new song he was picking out on his godfather's guitar, it took a while before his eidetic hearing clicked in and his head popped up in surprise at what he had overheard. Without thinking, he quickly stood and almost ran through the archway into Sherlock's living room before shouting, "COLIN-BLOODY-CREEVEY?"
John nearly had a heart attack at Harry's sudden appearance in the room, and the wall above the fireplace would forevermore bear the stains of the Earl Grey he reflexively hurled at it. Fortunately, Sherlock was not in the path of the boiling liquid, although he did trace its flight with dispassionate interest. Even more fortunately, the archway was behind John's chair, or they would have been explaining why the new neighbor could walk through walls, rather than the dismissive, unsatisfying explanation he got from Sherlock about Harry obviously overhearing from the hallway ('honestly, John, don't be an idiot!') and using the key that Sherlock had supposedly given him.
Of course, the information was shared out reasonably soon anyway. Besides, later that night Sherlock did give Harry a key, so it wasn't really a lie.
Not that Sherlock would have cared if it was, of course.
Still and all, the important part of that afternoon was the fact that Colin Creevey, former occupant of the mutilated body that had further traumatized sweet old Mrs. Stapleton along with a lifetime's worth of unwilling victims of his overeager camera (including the new resident of 221C), turned out to be one of Harry Potter's old classmates from his exclusive boarding school in remotest Scotland. The nonverbal subtext of that information had Sherlock immediately texting Mycroft, who then texted Gregory LeStrade to meet him at Sherlock's flat immediately.
Within thirty minutes, John and Gregory were seated and staring in bewilderment at the mutinous look on Harry's face while Mycroft and Sherlock seemed to be trying to will the young man into saying … something. Based on the intensity of the glares shooting between them, it was something pretty damn important, too, and the three men clearly did not agree on how, or even if, it should be revealed. The real surprise to John and Gregory was the fact that phenomenal-secret-keeper Mycroft and taciturn Sherlock seemed to be the ones in favor of revealing whatever this was, and friendly, open-minded Harry was the one digging in his heels. Eventually, the tension in the room rose so much that the two not-daters were tightly not-holding-hands as they tried to disappear into the tea-stained wall rather than catch anyone's attention.
Because anyone who has ever watched a wildlife documentary knows that one should never get between predatory and prey…. even though the unwilling witnesses weren't entirely certain who, of the three men, was whom. The point was that they were each very, very intimidating at the moment, and neither the seasoned Detective Inspector who routinely handled violent people nor the ex-Army Doctor who had survived Hell in Afghanistan had any intention of drawing notice until this - whatever this was – was resolved. After all, they had plans later on today. Well, not-plans, anyway. ….Ahem!...
Locked in place beneath the blue-gray stares of two genius brothers who believed themselves capable of wordlessly 'persuading' Harry to their way of thinking, it was just the misfortune of the Holmes's that the person they were trying to intimidate was Harry James Potter, natural Lord of two Ancient and Noble Houses, ShadowLord of the entire magical world, Oath Lord of every noble House and Line in Wizarding Great Britain, otherwise known as the 'Vengeful Savior." Compared to him, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes were rank amateurs.
He caved within seven minutes.
"Why do I have to be the one to tell them? They barely even know me!" Harry whined petulantly, his pouty lower lip tormenting both men with sensual fantasies even as they focused on their argument. Mental multitasking: blessing and bane of sociopathic geniuses everywhere.
"Harry," Sherlock purred, leaning in to Harry's personal space and initiating a new game he and Mycroft had recently invented out of their private, non-verbal language and a mutual interest in tormenting their sexual innocent. "You must admit this is more your purview than ours. We would be much more likely to be convincing them of its opposite, you realize." He aimed a quick look at Mycroft: 'First shiver, mine.'
Mycroft leaned back in his chair, catching Harry's attention, and lightly caressed his umbrella as he watched his young man from beneath hooded eyes. "Furthermore, you are much better … equipped … to provide proof." A flicker of eyelash toward Sherlock: 'Dilated pupils, mine.'
Emerald eyes narrowed, and Harry seemed to be arguing with himself, before he abruptly spat out, "Look, I didn't want to do this to begin with. It goes against everything I was taught! Sherlock, you shouldn't even know about this, really!" He seemed oblivious to the fact that he had just reached out and grasped Sherlock's hand, stroking it absentmindedly as he worried. A blue-slate smirk to Mycroft: 'First touch, mine.'
Mycroft simply leaned forward this time, setting his umbrella to rest point-first between his feet as he stared into Harry's eyes. "Little Raven, I know this is hard, but we will back you up." His strong hands wrapped gently around the umbrella, twisting absentmindedly. Harry swallowed heavily, seemingly unable to pull his gaze off of Mycroft's umbrella. A slate-blue blink at Sherlock: 'First sexual thought, mine.'
Harry finally blinked, seeming a little dazed, before he caught their undivided attention with a single, wide-eyed look of worried innocence. Biting his pouty lower lip, he then gently licked it before he confessed softly, "It's not like I do this a lot, you know. In fact, I've never done this before. Maybe you two could at least show me what to do? I'll be very, very good about it next time, I promise. I'll just sit here patiently and learn how you go about this, okay? If you will, I'll let you watch me when I try for myself."
He looked blankly from Mycroft to Sherlock and back, taking in their suddenly darkened pupils, flushed faces and rapid breathing as they stared at him with suddenly predatory eyes. After a moment, he abruptly stood up with an obvious smirk and turned to leave, saying over his shoulder, "First double erections, mine. Amateurs!"
Gregory and John dissolved into helpless laughter at the mixed looks of shock, pride, and sexual frustration on the handsome faces of the Holmes brothers. Their laughter ended rather abruptly when they started to choke and panic at the sight of their new neighbor vanishing into John's living room wall, forcing Mycroft and Sherlock to aggressively subdue them and offer the explanations they had been trying to convince Harry to provide.
And that was how Harry Potter broke the news of a magical world to Gregory LeStrade and John Watson.
Once they were all on the same page regarding Colin Creevey and his magical/muggle background (and all of John and Gregory's hysterics had finally faded), Mycroft returned to his office, Gregory helped Harry prepare a late-afternoon tea, and Sherlock and John began the well-established routine that had led to several spectacularly-solved cases. Considering the victim's unusual background and abilities, the Consulting Detective and his blogger relied heavily on what information Harry was willing to provide, although it was made abundantly clear to both John and Gregory that their brand-new secrecy spells did not entitle them to most of the information known by Sherlock and Mycroft regarding WGB and Harry Potter.
Initially, John had annoyed Harry to death, asking for greater and greater demonstrations of magic. Quickly tiring of smaller forms of magical proof, Harry finally used the standard professor's tricks, and John was suitably impressed with the coffee table-turned-goat until the creature started to devour the crime scene photos. Lacking a housecat to enchant, an exasperated Harry made John fly around the room, and that was pretty much the end of John's requests for proof.
Gregory only needed to suddenly find himself clad in fuck-me pumps, shredded tights and a vinyl skirt before he hurriedly declared himself a believer and begged to be restored to his regular attire. He spent the next several hours avoiding John's heated stare and turning bright red every time he sat down on his cheap, vinyl-covered kitchen chairs.
It most emphatically did not help that Sherlock laughed so hard he collapsed to his knees, then dropped sideways to the floor like a log as he cackled uncontrollably. Unable (or possibly unwilling) to delete any of the details, the reaction was repeated every time Sherlock pictured LeStrade's expression of horrified mortification. He finally gained a modicum of control by placing a mental block/redirection program around that particular memory, enabling him to enjoy it only when it was appropriate and wouldn't irritate the hell out of everyone in the room.
Sometime in the midst of the investigation, which Harry emphatically refused to participate in apart from providing information when he deemed appropriate, Harry did offer them the use of his pensieve. THAT little bit of magic prompted Mycroft to leave his office in an actual hurry and rush to Baker Street, there to spend the next several hours playing with … err, analyzing … the fascinating object. Seeing his two whatever-they-were so enamored with the pensieve and its possibilities, Harry's natural generosity overrode his instinctive resistance to overmixing the magical and mundane worlds. Briefly going into the locked and warded small bedroom that he used as his office, he returned fifteen minutes later with a grin on his face and headed straight to the living room window, opening it wide and causing the screen to vanish into thin air. His withering glance at John's excited squeak made the good doctor flush in embarrassment. Shortly after Harry re-seated himself on the arm of the couch, a beautiful, pure-white owl soared in through the open window and caused Gregory to reflexively reach for his gun. He then found himself frozen both by magic and by the blazing, emerald glare of a furious Harry Potter, who was standing with the snowy owl on his forearm with his body placed protectively between LeStrade and their new guest.
Immediately, Mycroft and Sherlock were standing close to Harry, Mycroft's hands carding reassuringly through the ravel tresses as he smiled understandingly into eyes of heated green and said calmly, "Gregory was simply reacting to a perceived threat; he did not intend to threaten your owl, Harry. Is this Hedwig? I've heard a lot about her. She's somewhat well-known for her extraordinary abilities and the strength of her bond with you. Will you introduce us? First let LeStrade go, though, Harry. He will not hurt her; he wouldn't even think of it, you know that." At the same time, Sherlock was caressing and cooing to the beautiful owl, who returned his attention with interested, sharp amber eyes. Eventually, she turned her head sideways and nibbled gently on Harry's ear, catching his gaze and staring deeply into them, amber to emerald. Mycroft and Sherlock were enraptured by the first, visible example of the same type of communication the two brothers shared. With an abrupt gesture from Harry, LeStrade snapped from his rigid posture and collapsed back into his chair, gasping.
For the next few moments, John comforted LeStrade and Mycroft, Sherlock and Hedwig comforted Harry.
When they finally relaxed, with a shaken apology from LeStrade returned with Harry's stiff acceptance and awkward return apology, Harry finally got around to the reason for Hedwig's visit. Reaching down to the pouch with a gold "G" embossed on the front, Harry released the strap that bound the pouch to Hedwig's breast and gently tugged it away from his oldest friend. He rewarded her with a good, deep scratch, and grinned at the amused smiles of the others at Hedwig's growly-hiss of contentment. With a quick gesture that sent her back out the window and, according to Harry, up into the new rooftop garden, Harry glared warningly at John and Gregory and then reluctantly enlarged the pouch. Fortunately for Harry's nerves, the two newbies managed to control their rampant awe and simply watched.
Smiling at Mycroft and Sherlock, Harry reached into the briefcase-sized pouch and pulled out two, large, beautifully carved wooden boxes that should not have fit in the slim pouch. Ignoring that mystery, they each accepted one of the boxes Harry handed them and settled onto the couch, tugging Harry down between them. "Go ahead, open them!" Harry urged.
Carefully investigating the boxes, they found the hidden latch at the same time and exchanged small grins. With perfect timing, they opened the boxes and stared, awed, at the exquisite pensieves. Mycroft's was made of agate and mother-of-pearl, and seemed to glimmer independently within the velvet-lined box. Sherlock's was of topaz and tiger's-eye, and gleamed as if it were alive. They were exquisite.
Neither Holmes bothered with false protestations or elaborate expressions of gratitude. They knew Harry, and he knew them. He wouldn't want any of that, and they wouldn't have expressed such platitudes anyway. Rather, they ignored the wide-eyed shock of Gregory and John, and simply wrapped around their little love, each sharing a deep, loving, exploratory kiss with Harry while they held the smaller man between them.
As far as Harry was concerned, this was one of the increasingly frequent, perfect moments of his life. Odd, how many of them seemed to feature Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes.
Days later found all three men in a much darker frame of mind. The investigation of Colin Creevey's death had led in a most unexpected direction. They discovered just a little bit too late that the body did not belong to Colin Creevey; in fact, his brother Dennis was actually the unfortunate victim, not only of murder, but of mistaken identity. Dennis had lived his life fairly quietly, preferring a mostly-muggle lifestyle with only small bits here and there of magic to assist his aging father, a retired milkman. Although more and more people simply obtained their milk from stores, the Creevey family actually partnered with a small, organic dairy and personally distributed milk daily or weekly to their small group of customers. Dennis had taken over his father's responsibilities, including running the milk route and chatting with the customers.
Colin Creevey, on the other hand, continued to be the annoying photographer-stalker that Harry had known in school. He lived in a small, somewhat remote home set back into some rather uninviting woods, warded against muggles and pests and anything else Colin could think of that might signify another lawsuit in the works. Although Hermione had ensured that Colin did not retain possession – either mental or photographic – of any of the tens of thousands of photos the older Creevey had taken of the magical world and its residents (including nearly thirty-eight-thousand featuring a beleaguered Harry Potter), the wizard had kept up his annoying habit of capturing everyone and everything on his camera. For the most part, that led to a lot of annoyance and several small lawsuits, but several months ago, he had managed to capture dozens upon dozens of photographs of a certain infamous consulting criminal who was commonly believed to be dead.
His death, in fact, had been witnessed by Sherlock, and had precipitated three awful years during which Sherlock was also believed to be dead and was vilified in the media and by the very police he had aided over his career. LeStrade continued to carry a great burden of shame and regret over that incident. Sherlock had spent those three years systematically hunting down and exterminating the vermin that continued to serve Moriarty's postmortem orders. Only when the entire network had fallen beneath the combined efforts of Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes did Sherlock re-emerge and allow himself to be vindicated.
It had taken his loyal friend and blogger, Dr. John Watson, many months before he started to recover from the nightmares and the emotional trauma he endured while trying to manage joy, intense relief, and a furious sense of betrayal. Even though he was able to understand, intellectually, Sherlock's reasons for his actions and Mycroft's reasons for keeping Sherlock's survival a secret, emotionally, John Watson was in the same place as any other victim and survivor of a dark past. John was blessed with a remarkable spirit, however, and now boasted a friendship with both of the Holmes brothers that was made stronger by the whole ordeal, and a burgeoning relationship with Gregory that might not have happened had they not sought to comfort and console each other during the worst of their grief.
And all of it could be laid at the feet of James-fucking-Moriarty, megalomaniacal consulting criminal and all around genetic mistake. And there he was, smiling insanely with his cohorts on film for the always oblivious Colin Creevey.
Even worse than catching Moriarty on camera more than three years after his supposed suicide, was the fact that Colin had also captured evidence of the mastermind's most recent criminal activity and several of his associates and accomplices. Moriarty's criminal interests had ramped up from challenging Sherlock Holmes to – something much darker and more horrific. Rather than let the truth be known before he was ready, Moriarty sent every hound he had after Creevey. All unknowing, the rabid photographer had been the subject of a nationwide manhunt for over a month. Somehow, someone identified Dennis Creevey as matching the description provided, and within days, Dennis was yanked from his milk run, sent through the threshers on the adjoining farm that provided wheat for their cows, and then hurriedly tossed into a park's flower bed rather than be found in the Buick that had been hit by the slightly-drunk driver of an out-of-control red Fiat.
They would never even have known about poor Dennis, had Moriarty not demanded the body as proof of the hit before it was returned to the threshers.
Unfortunately, during the course of the investigation, Moriarty's people followed John and Sherlock into an abandoned building where one of Sherlock's less-reputable snitches often hung-out, and overheard John telling Sherlock that he was "going back to the Creevey's for more pictures." From this, they concluded that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes had viewed and probably possessed the photographic evidence against Moriarty, and promptly kidnapped them. (By the time they realized that John had been talking about taking photographs of the property and Dennis's milk run route, it was far too late to do anything but move forward with their activities.) Their plan was to find out where the photographs were through any means necessary, although torture was definitely the group favorite.
While Sherlock and John were unconscious, Mycroft texted Sherlock with a thankfully ambiguous John not answering cell. At Harry's? MH, and Moriarty, laughing insanely, teased John in his strange, high voice that it looked like they were going to have to bring John's sister Harry to the party, too, and wouldn't little Harry have fun entertaining all of his boys?
John's controlled anger nicely covered up Sherlock's immense, intense cold rage, which seemed to burn through the pathways of his own mind and extend urgently outward in different directions toward …. someone?…
21.6 kilometers away, in a luxurious, sleek black, private car, Mycroft Holmes jerked in shock as his entire body felt the impact of his incredible mind linking tightly with that of his brother's. Even as he reeled under the strain, he was talking to Anthea and giving voice to everything that he was suddenly seeing through his beloved brother's eyes.
Surrounded by a veritable horde of snipers and assassins, the truly deadly version of Mycroft Holmes sped to save Sherlock… and, of course, John. He had given orders for John's protection and survival; nevertheless, if it came down to one or the other, he would stand at Sherlock's side and support him through John's funeral.
James Moriarty was not just brilliant. He was FECKING brilliant, spelled with an "E" for extraordinary. He giggled maniacally at his own wit, and tightened the cuffs around Sherlock's legs. No sense letting his pet detective get loose, right? "Ha!" he cackled, his high, erratic voice echoing through the large, empty hangar, "I just called you my 'pet detective', Lockie! You'd suck at that; you haven't found any pussy in simply years!" He continued to giggle at his own cleverness, glaring around him until obedient chuckling came from his various sycophants and minions. He had decided when he died but didn't that he was genuinely evil, not just psychotic and insane, and that if he was evil, then that meant he didn't have associates. No, James Moriarty now was the proud owner of his very own minions. He just added 'sycophants' in to give the more talented among them a sense of rank.
And now, with Lockie and John-John, he was going to have his very own harem, too. Poor little John-John was going to be especially surprised, since he was so obviously straight. Not that it mattered, of course; he didn't have to be queer to stick his ass in the air and spread his cheeks for Moriarty's cock. Giggling again, he ran a caressing hand down John's chest and let it settle on the doctor's crotch. Beneath his touch, Watson froze in disgusted fear.
"Awwww, don't be like this, John-John," Moriarty moaned in John's ear. "I'm going to make you feel soooo good…. or maybe soooo baaad…. either way gets me off, John-John!" He started to giggle again, letting his breath catch in a deliberate simulation of sexual play, and actually felt an erection bloom when Watson shuddered violently.
Moriarty let his oddly-focused gaze move to Sherlock, who stared at him coldly, as if studying every aspect of his enemy's face. Moriarty paused for a moment, considering, and then mused aloud, "You know, Lockie, if I were to blog this like little John-John here, I would have you call me your 'nemesis.' But I just wanted to say that it looked like you were studying every aspect of my face, and I couldn't exactly say 'It looked to me like my Lockie was studying every aspect of his nemesis's face,' now could I? That just sounds stupid. 'Nemesis's'!" Moriarty snorted in laughter, jabbing at Sherlock to prompt him to join in. Not surprisingly, Sherlock was a buzzkill.
"It is not the word that sounds stupid; it is the narrator," Sherlock remarked disinterestedly, focusing his observations all around the warehouse as if documenting facts and faces. Knowing the conceited prick, he probably was. Without changing his delighted expression, Moriarty drew his arm back and swung, backhanding Sherlock with enough force to split the skin along those sharp, to-die-for cheekbones. 'Blood looks nice on my Lockie,' Moriarty mused, casually licking his hand before wiping it in John's hair.
Sherlock barely even blinked, sitting gracefully in the chair as if he were not bound tightly with cuffs, assorted spikes and knives arranged for optimum posture – no one likes a slouching cockwhore, after all! – and imprisoned by a man he had seen die.
"How does it feel, Lockie?" Moriarty crooned softly. "How does it feel to wake up in a masochist's wet dream, once again living in a world with your greatest nemesis? How does it feel to find out that your worst nightmare, the man you thought had died right in front of you, is suddenly alive again?" He stared hungrily at Sherlock, eager for the words that would confirm the horror the man must be feeling.
Sherlock glanced back casually, utterly unimpressed. "You tell me, James. You did it first." He smiled cruelly at Moriarty's flinch and added deliberately, "That really does just make you a copycat, now doesn't it, James? Not very original at all."
This time, the backhand sent him into unconsciousness, but Sherlock felt it entirely worth it. He hoped John would continue to endure until Mycroft arrived.
Sherlock had no doubt at all that his brother would come. Even without this intriguing method of communication that had sprung up between their minds with the urgency of the situation, even if there had never been a single clue or hint from anyone, Sherlock still knew that Mycroft would come.
And he was entirely right. The surprise, for everyone, is that Harry Potter came with him. A frightening, furious, powerful, deadly Harry Potter.
Harry was actually napping when the wards began to blare. Within seconds, he was fully awake, fully armed, and pulling information from the ley lines and the wards and the charms and every other conceivable magical means of gathering and conveying data.
He had placed aural tags on several people so far. Mrs. Hudson, his landlady, was the first to be tagged, closely followed by John, Gregory, Sherlock and Mycroft. Next was the veggie shopkeeper, and the flower vendor, and sweet Mrs. Stapleton. He had tagged people who were close to him physically or emotionally (and, in certain obvious cases, both), whose auras were clean and deserved a little extra protection, or who were simply in a position or location to help him pull in data when needed.
Sherlock and Mycroft also carried certain wards and protections on them, very special creations of Harry's own design and power signature. He hoped they didn't hate him for it, but the similarity in their aural signatures was so similar that he had set up a default protection spell in the event of an emergency, which seemed to be likely given the natures and professions of his men.
Pausing very briefly in his rapid preparations, Harry inspected and savored his choice of wording. 'His men.' …. Nodding decisively, he added a mental 'true enough' and flowed back into the familiar dance of summoning his inner 'Vengeful Savior.' Whoever had dared touch his people would suffer. That was a certainty. All that was to be decided was the degree.
Directing his actions back to the dance, he allowed the back of his mind to mull and reflect and consider, a trick he had developed once he finally managed to convince his stubborn, snarky, greasy-haired git Potions Professor that his mind really did operate differently than that of a standard Occlumens. Once Harry had lost all patience and simply bound the man, refusing to release him until the bastard calmed down and observed rather than seeing what he wanted to see, Snape had finally understood what Harry had been trying to tell him. It was not possible for a wizard of Harry's power to 'clear his mind' – the very thought worked against the theory and will of magic. Every ounce of power demanded attention, and the greater the power, the more one's mind had to be able to multitask. Consequently, the greater one's mind, the greater the power; and the greater the power, the greater the requirements on one's mind. It certainly had the capacity to drive a powerful wizard or witch insane (witness the unfortunate Tom Riddle, who Harry pitied greatly). But it also proved that Harry Potter was not the 'dunderhead' that Snape kept wanting him to be. Back then, Harry had not learned to manage all of the information he gathered and processed, and that was why he seemed forgetful, or stammered, or seemed to have great bursts of insight.
Once he accepted the truth of Harry Potter, Snape had settled down and helped him devise a way to keep his busy thoughts humming and connecting and mulling in the back of his head while he used his newly-partitioned higher intellect to the purposes he needed most. Which, in this case, was to use one section to gather specific data and process it, a second section to take him through the routines and protocols for battle-readiness, a third to move him through the real world and manage the actions and interactions that needed to happen to manage the emergency, and a fourth to assess the magical situation and act appropriately. Mentally, he was very busy at the moment.
It was an unpalatable truth for Severus Snape that, despite his usually unprepossessing demeanor, Harry Potter was a genius. In fact, Harry was as much of an intellectual giant as Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes, although his intellect was employed – and deployed – differently.
And that was why Harry saw the potential for an emergency mental link that existed between the two brothers. The moment he examined them, identified the food sensitivity and saw the reason behind it – the real reason, the one Ron shared with Mycroft and presumably with Sherlock – Harry saw that, although his cherished men were not magical, they had all of the potential of a high-level squib and all of the mental capacity of master mages. That meant that, if a situation occurred to trigger a huge adrenaline burst, both Holmes' had the potential to use that adrenaline to activate some of the genetic defaults of the human species. Harry had teased Mrs. Stapleton about throwing a car over her head, which was possible if the woman was a squib and briefly used adrenaline to activate the abilities she would have otherwise had if given more power. That would work for Sherlock and Mycroft, too, but to a much more dramatic degree. These men routinely used the areas of their brains generally used by master mages. They would not default to a low-level genetic fight-or-flight; in fact, given the right pathway – which Harry had thoughtfully provided, albeit without their knowledge or permission – the adrenaline rush would flow through the new path, light up the master mage portion of their brains like a Yule celebration, and activate the strongest of their magical potential.
In other words, Harry had provided them with surge protectors, which had redirected an unexpected burst of power and turned on another appliance. In this case, an enhanced mental link between Sherlock and Mycroft. Who would probably be really pissed at him when this was all resolved.
Harry was okay with that.
With one last, brief sweep of data, Harry had all of the information he needed. He knew that Mycroft was entering the Hangar from the northernmost corner, following the professionals who were clearing the way. Through the leylines, he saw the electrical charges and pulses that indicated traps and triplines, and identified three separate points which Mycroft's men were likely to fail in deactivating, considering the insane mount of backloops and knots that Moriarty himself must have installed in the system and, in some cases, the wires themselves. There was no possibility of anyone non-magically deactivating those points; they were kamikaze triggers. Tracing back along the aural shifts, Harry spotted several assassins and others who occupied covert positions throughout the building and external to the building to a rough estimate of 6 kilometers. Moriarty, then, had chosen a 'no one gets out alive' course of action. Studying the aural coronas, it was remarkably easy to separate Mycroft's people from Moriarty's – all of Mycroft's people had an organized core, probably having gone through the same training program which had clearly included logic and other academic training. Likewise, all of Mycroft's people radiated from a unified core of platinum – the color of purpose and intellect, united. White for purpose, charcoal for intellect, shined up to a pretty metallic finish through concentrated training and dedication.
By contrast, Moriarty's people were nauseating swirls and flashes of corrupted color – what should have been the ruby flare of violent defense was instead the brownish-red of old, infected blood. Gangrenous veins poisoned every other color, and there was not one person who served Moriarty who was not, in the end, an addict to corruption and chaos. Compared to some of the deaths Harry had caused, this would not be an execution; this would be an extermination.
In the center of the hangar, exactly like a badly-written script for an overblown evil villain, Moriarty paced and giggled, delivering his conceited monologue just like every other wannabe bad guy Harry had ever encountered. From Voldemort all the way down to Dolores Umbridge, every single one of them just had to ramble on and on about their own greatness and cleverness and power and glory and …. blah, blah, blah.
'So endlessly dull!' Harry flashed a grin, hearing Sherlock's distinctive voice within his mind and realizing that Sherlock and Mycroft were now fully-linked and had together found the segue that led them to Harry.
He felt, rather than heard, Mycroft's anger at his presence near the hangar and hurriedly interrupted the diatribe he sensed building up. 'Not now! Just look,' he pleaded mentally, showing the clearest rendition of a schematic he could create out of the bizarre information of leylines, auras, trips, triggers and hundreds of other data points. Winning their momentary silence as the two fine minds cast assessingly over the information he offered, Harry obligingly highlighted and zoomed in on the most urgent points. He felt Mycroft's alarm at the kamikaze-triggers, and mentally nodded in agreement. Then he drew their attention to the most frightening aspect – above and beyond Moriarty's overused move of multiple assassins aiming laser sites on Sherlock and John.
Harry winced at the horror that momentarily seized his two men, before their intellect and experience seized control of their innate emotional responses and wrestled them into compliance. 'Your two men?' came Mycroft's distinctively-flavored mental voice, taking a millisecond to brush approvingly along Harry's aural core. From elsewhere – beneath? above? around? It was impossible to quantify in a dimensional reality that existed only within intellect and magical perception – Sherlock swept through and left a quivering Harry with the impression he had just been expertly groped.
'Sherlock was so going to pay for that!' Harry pouted to himself. 'Later, beloved,' came Mycroft's commanding essence, and Harry immediately complied, though the lower part of his mind fairly purred with pleasure at the endearment – and the groping.
Snapping to full attention as the first of the kamikaze-triggers was approached, Harry showed Mycroft and Sherlock his intention. Barely waiting for the briefest sign of their agreement, he acted.
Staring greedily at the monitors in front of him, absently fondling himself as he leered over at John and Sherlock, Moriarty suddenly froze. Hand still gripping his own cock, he peered at the monitor and the sub-displays in confused denial. All of Mycroft Holmes's people were suddenly – not there. Not like they retreated or anything, they were just …. gone. Muttering wildly, the madman did not notice the smirk on Sherlock's battered but handsome face – but John did. John Watson had been watching Sherlock from the corner of his eye for several minutes now, hoping to see one of those barely-there signals that told him a plan had been formed and action was needed. John had faith in Sherlock, faith that had never proven to be misplaced. It was that faith which had earned John's immediate agreement the first time they were together in Moriarty's crazed sights, and had led to Sherlock shooting the explosives while John launched the two of them headfirst into the pool to avoid a rain of bullets. This felt a lot like that time, only right now John was one hundred percent certain that Sherlock knew a lot more than John did and whatever he knew was far, far from being 'bit not good.' Based on his experience with Sherlock's body language, both subtle and acute, John was certain that their salvation was near at hand – somehow. And given the recent revelations about Harry Potter, not to mention the obvious love triangle developing between Sherlock, Mycroft and Harry, John expected that both his mysterious new neighbor and Sherlock's admittedly terrifying older brother were 'coming soon to a maniac near you!' His semi-hysterical thoughts burst through in an unexpected little giggle that erupted from John's chest before he could stop it, earning the good doctor the immediate, quizzical attention of James Moriarty.
"John-John?" Moriarty purred dangerously, his high-pitched voice sounded eerie and bone-chillingly evil in the echoing Hangar, "care to share with the class? What do you know, little John-John? Where did all the good guys go?"
Moriarty pouted at John's obvious bewilderment. "Well, clearly, you don't know what's going on, do you, John-John? It isn't nice to pretend, you know. It makes me feel all disappointed in you, and earns you special punishments." He leaned over dangerously, trailing an invasive finger down John's chest and circling through the thin shirt over John's tightening nipple. "Ooooh, bad boy, John-John. You have special reactions for danger, don't you, baby?" His other hand began to trail up John's leg, only to pause at Sherlock's mocking voice.
"Once again, James, you are losing the plot right at the best part. Or did you forget about the fact that dozens of men with very big guns just disappeared off your radar? Of course, if you'd rather spend your last minutes pretending that a common physiological response to any stimuli at all is a sign of some deep well of hidden lust with your name on it, go right ahead. It is immensely helpful to his true love interest, so by all means, continue convincing John that he is strictly a one-man man. Please, be my guest." Moriarty actually cringed from the smooth, dark-chocolate baritone that poured acidic truth all over his happy moment.
Sometimes, James Moriarty really, really didn't like his Lockie.
There wasn't enough time for Moriarty to share this revelation, though. There was barely enough time for John to sigh in relief before, suddenly, there just wasn't any more time at all. Not for action, anyway. Now, for Moriarty, it was all about reaction.
One heartbeat, and all of the electronics froze.
Another heartbeat, and all of Moriarty's people froze.
Another heartbeat, and Sherlock and John vanished from their bindings, knives and shivs remaining mockingly in place around the forms that were no longer there.
Another heartbeat, and a somehow-silent crack of pressure on his eardrums, and suddenly Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and Mycroft Holmes appeared roughly ten feet in front of Moriarty, an odd, shimmering energy dancing around them in an entrancing play of static-made-light.
Another heartbeat, and this time Moriarty froze – not by the same means as his men and his electronics. No, James Moriarty froze himself through purest fear. Because suddenly, staring at him from a position between and slightly to the side of the other three 'good guys', was a being from legend.
He had to be. No one on this earth, not the real earth, the one that had fleas and bigotry and Paris Hilton in it, could ever be that beautiful, that cold, that powerful, that level of wet-your-pants-while-you-run-away terrifying. It just wasn't possible.
But, here he stood, staring at him from an emotionless face with eyes like emerald ice.
Moriarty tried; he really did. He managed to hit the 'panic button' he had programmed on his control desk. It was an actual big, red button, glowing light and everything. If ever Moriarty pushed it down, all of his men were supposed to rush to his side, firing weapons all-out at anything and everything that was not James Moriarty.
All that actually happened was a shockingly loud "AH-BDEAH-BDEAH-BDEAH, THAT'S ALL FOLKS!" and a priceless look of befuddlement on the face of this week's evil villain. Silence gave way to John's slightly-hysterical snort and Mycroft, who was pinching the bridge of his nose, muttering, "Harry, we must upgrade your sense of humor a bit, love." Sherlock simply smirked approvingly at the emerald-eyed creature.
It sounded to Moriarty's bewildered ears as if the petite demon-man snapped back, "Hello! Marauder!" but he couldn't be entirely sure.
He couldn't be entirely sure of anything.
It did seem as if, maybe, the two Holmes's and the demon-man were somehow communicating mentally, which was also not possible in the real world but seemed probable at the moment. Moriarty's suspicions firmed when Mycroft Holmes said, as if continuing a conversation, "Very well, Harry; my part is now concluded. I need nothing further. All of the data has been stored in a FailSafe drive. Sherlock, love, do remind me to have Anthea thank the senior Mr. Weasley personally for that device, won't you? I think she'd enjoy that."
Did Sherlock Holmes actually wink at his brother? Didn't they hate each other? What the fuck was going on?
Moriarty stood and stared at them. He didn't even realize that his failure to move was not a voluntary decision. This was so far beyond insane that even he couldn't keep up. What the fuck was going on? "What the fuck is going on?" It had sounded so good in his head he could not help but voice it aloud. To his everlasting surprise – which really only gave him another five minutes or so – he got an answer.
Sherlock Holmes spoke up – naturally. He couldn't get his bizarre explanation from the urbane British Government, who had declared himself done. Fuzzy-jumpers/adrenalin-junky John Watson was notably silent, probably having not forgiven Moriarty for his little bits of psychotic fondling earlier. He was actually okay about not hearing from the perfect demon-man. That left mouthy, sarcastic, superior, unfairly-sexy Sherlock-fucking-Holmes.
Actually, maybe he deserved to be called "fecking", too. He was extraordinary, even if Moriarty did hate him… and want him … and hate him.
It was confusing.
"It's like this, James. You should have been dead several years ago. Time's up."
Well, as far as lengthy explanations went, it made a great caption. Still, it was something. But obviously, these four assholes hadn't thought of everything. Moriarty started to giggle, watching his computer as all of the electronics sputtered back to life and his twenty-three assassins came back into view as beautiful, vivid dots scattered around the five men standing in the center of the hangar. Unfortunately, his giggling was fairly loud, and so Moriarty didn't hear what Mycroft Holmes murmured to the demon-man.
He did see the three invaders – because even though Moriarty had captured Sherlock and John, they had escaped and returned, breaking the rules; therefore, he decided they were invaders, too – he saw the three invaders in the back push their fingers into their ears, but didn't have time to react before the demon-man raised a hand and then jerked it back, as if forcefully plucking an apple from a tree.
The resulting sound of twenty-three machine guns firing was just as deafening as the three seemed to expect, although what actually left Moriarty gaping was the way all twenty-three lights blinked out on his computer at the very same time. His ears were ringing too loudly to hear the resounding thud of twenty-three bodies hitting the floor in unison, guns clattering on the concrete all over the hangar.
Farther away, Mycroft's team silently and efficiently captured all of the outposted members of Moriarty's gang, snapping off their life-alert signals one by one until Moriarty's screen, remote-site popups included, was just as silent and frozen as before.
The demon-man never flinched, not even once.
And the three invaders and the demon-man were still standing, untouched. What the fuck? "WHAT THE FUCK?"
Well, it had worked the first time.
This time, the demon-man just cocked his head, studying Moriarty like he was a bug. Even now, as he began to realize that he was physically frozen and unable to move - which he discovered only when his belated fight-or-flight reflex kicked in and he tried to run away – James found himself almost ensorcelled by the sheer beauty of the creature standing between the three invaders and himself. The man, if he was a man, was petite and lithe, with the kind of fuck-me-stupid body that James wanked to with every rape fantasy he had. Long, wild black hair seemed to move on its own, like it carried a breeze within it – although sometimes, it almost seemed like maybe Medusa was one of this guy's distant relatives. Frigid emerald eyes still managed to blaze forth from a porcelain complexion, and the guy's black eyebrows and curly lashes looked like they could have been painted onto his face by a talented artist. The picture was completed with a perfect, almost rosebud mouth that managed a sardonic twist despite its sheer – cuteness. But what really set the man apart, what made James Moriarty believe he spoke the truth when he called him a demon-man, was the nearly-visible, nearly-audible flaring snap and flash of static that the guy seemed to wear and breathe like it was his usual atmosphere.
As far as terrifying creatures went, Moriarty would definitely have given this guy the top spot. The Alien queen could go fuck herself – again.
Realizing that he was probably actually going to be dead soon – for real this time – Moriarty managed to pull one last smirk forth. He still knew something they didn't know. He was still going to win. It didn't matter that they didn't know the rules, or even what the game was – Moriarty was going to win.
The biotoxic bomb he had activated twenty-seven minutes ago assured it.
Feeling himself regain control over his body, Moriarty decided to make his execution memorable, rather than try to run away. He could probably make his escape, too, knowing all the little hidden passages he had built into this hangar, but why bother? He was dead anyway. They all were.
Smiling ecstatically, James Moriarty spread his arms wide, dramatically positioning himself to mimic his own crucifixion, and began to sing, "Blackbird singin' in the dead of night… spread these broken wings and learn to fly …"
His grand exit was ruined by Mycroft's painfully dry, "Spare us the dramatics, James. This will be an execution, not a rock opera. And just so you understand the extent of your failure, James, Harry has a little gift for you before you depart."
John Watson blinked and jumped right along with Moriarty, although the madman was far too shocked to notice, at the sudden crack that accompanied the broken remains of Moriarty's beautiful biotoxic bomb arriving at high speed out of thin air in a long, curving, screeching, skidding 7/10 split that would have done any bowler proud. What had once been a thing of apocalyptic beauty was now a melted, twisted hunk of metal, all the lovely crystal decanters bubbling with vaporous death now filled to the brim with some type of greenish-gray sludge that seemed to be consuming the contents.
Sherlock paced forward to stand next to Harry, quirking an inquiring brow down at the smaller man as he studied the sludge. He made a mental note to get some texts of magical creatures and such, when Harry just shrugged and offered, "Luna told me last year to keep some nargle-algae hybrids on hand for a rainy-day. Said they'll eat anything and turn it into awesome fertilizer that she can use on her farm. She was right." And, after a moment of thought, he added, "Remind me to stop eating Luna's lunches, okay?"
He was unsurprised at Mycroft's and Sherlock's solemn nods of agreement. John just stared; he was trying to act like he was in the loop, but all he really wanted was for someone to kill Moriarty and for them all to leave so he could find Gregory and inform the man that they were not 'nots' anymore. They were not not-dating. They were not not-flirting. They were not not-gay. They were not not-frotting.
Frankly, LeStrade had better just hope he was also not at work, because wherever John found him was where John Watson was going to snog Gregory senseless and declare that they were now officially gay men who were dating after a lot of flirting and frotting and would very soon be shagging!
Actually, he kind of hoped Gregory was at work. It would be worth it just to see Anderson's pinch-faced reaction. Besides, John had heard make-up sex was the best, and if he embarrassed Gregory enough, there would definitely be a need to make-up. After the angry sex, of course. Oh, god, he was so damn horny. Adrenaline really messed him up. Dropping his head in despair, John uttered a soft whimper at Mycroft's mocking but sympathetic pat on the shoulder.
Staring at the floor, John sensed Mycroft move past him and looked up to see the elder Holmes join Sherlock and Harry, who were now staring dispassionately at the weeping figure of James Moriarty, who was sitting on the floor cradling as best he could the twisted wreckage of his attempt at genocide.
Somehow, John still expected there to have been more of a build-up. He had expected a farewell speech from Sherlock, maybe, or some sort of grand magical display by Harry. Maybe even for Mycroft to summon a firing squad.
What actually happened was that Sherlock Holmes raised a .50 caliber Desert Eagle semi-automatic handgun and fired several bullets into the head and heart of James Moriarty, waiting long enough to ensure that the loss of blood, bone, flesh and brain was unquestionably adequate to ensure death this time, before tossing the gun into the midst of the greenish-gray sludge and watching as it was consumed. Watching the sludge spread, John was nauseatingly aware of the way in which the body would be disposed.
Sherlock and Mycroft then wrapped strong arms around the slowly-wilting figure of Harry and converged around their new but deeply treasured littlest love. Despite the fact that the youngest of the four had literally just executed at least two-dozen men, neither of the Holmes' seemed in any way inclined to treat Harry with less than warm concern and passion that was considerate only due to Harry's exhaustion, rather than to any trepidation on their part. Clearly, as far Sherlock and Mycroft were concerned, nothing had changed – and perhaps, considering how much more they knew about the young man's past than John did, nothing really had.
John felt very much like a voyeur, but could not seem to look away, especially as he watched Mycroft keep Harry pressed against him with one hand while sinking his other deep into chestnut curls and pulling Sherlock into a hard, almost desperate kiss, his hand gripping Sherlock's hair tightly as he plundered the willing, sensuous mouth beneath his own and reassured himself that his brother was alive, was safe, was here. Sherlock's hand rested on Mycroft's jaw, pressing hard against his brother's face, head slightly tilted as he accepted, and returned, their first real kiss.
And the only thing that shocked John - even a little bit - was the fact that he was not shocked at all – even a little bit.
Sandwiched comfortably between the two, Harry had wrapped fierce arms around Sherlock's waist and burrowed into the tall man's side, seeking comfort of his own in the surrounding embrace. Rather than be set apart by the fierce kiss the brothers were sharing, Harry seemed very much a vital, important part of the three-way embrace. Judging by the possessive hold both Sherlock and Mycroft kept on their little love, even as they kissed and caressed each other, the brothers clearly agreed.
John finally managed to look away, turning slightly and granting the three as much privacy as he could without walking away. He would have done the latter, if he could, simply to give them all the time and space they might need, but he was a survivor of what was mostly guerilla, urban warfare and knew full well that one never separated from their squad while in the field. Instead, he distanced himself emotionally and mentally, allowing his body language and directional positioning to relay his respect and reasoning, and simply waited. He occupied his thoughts with plans for Gregory, allowing himself to actually form the words they had been avoiding and cautiously letting his hope and happiness bubble up.
He was so lost in thought that he didn't notice when the three returned to themselves and noted his actions, easily reading his body language as he had known they would. His first return to the reality of the hangar where he and Sherlock had been imprisoned and tormented, and the bloody, crumpled body of James Moriarty huddled on the floor beneath a spreading, greenish-gray sludge, was when he became the startled recipient of a strong hug by one Harry James Potter. Looking down in surprise, briefly registering how very petite this man was if even John looked down to see him, John's medical training kicked in as he took in the young man's pale, trembling form and obvious exhaustion. Immediately wrapping a supportive arm around Harry's shoulders, John dropped a hand to Harry's throat and began automatically taking his pulse, counting respirations as he expertly assessed any other outward symptoms. Harry just leaned against him briefly, laughing quietly as he muttered sleepily, "I'm okay, John. Just used a ton of magic and am really tired. Probably sleep a couple days. Just – are you okay?" Weary, dull green eyes still showed a spark of vitality as Harry assessed John even as John assessed Harry.
The moment ended when Harry was lifted into Mycroft's arms and John found himself with the strong arm of his dearest friend wrapped around his shoulders as Sherlock forced John toward the door by dint of walking forward without releasing his grip. Stunned at the unexpected contact and support, John walked with Sherlock and, after a moment of indecision, allowed himself to relax slightly and sink into the reassuring warmth of his stronger and much taller friend. Confused but happy, John grinned slightly as Sherlock raised the hand from his shoulder and briefly ruffled John's hair, saying in that incomparable baritone, "You did well, John. Really, really well. LeStrade had better be in your bed tonight, beating back the nightmares and … other things one might beat in bed… or I will personally kick his ass for you. Perhaps tenderize it a bit." His smug grin at John's immediate, choked silence and bright red face was broad and unapologetic.
Just before they left the hangar building, John glanced back and saw that the bloodied form on the floor was now entirely obscured by the efficient, greenish-gray sludge that had consumed several vials of the most dangerous biotoxins known to mankind. Even now, poking up through the cracks and crevices that the close-impact bullets had made in the concrete floor, John could see green shoots and a couple of newly-budding wildflowers emerging. He thought perhaps it made a very poetic analogy for the symbolism of life from death, and a suitable triumph over the fear and darkness that had filled the room less than an hour ago. And although he did anticipate that one of them would make a fitting comment as the door closed on the horrifically hopeful scene, John did not expect Harry's irreverent summary.
"James Moriarty – the other white meat."
A/N: There it is. Yes, more is coming, but first I'm gonna move on to "Demon Team", "Did You Know", and "Bright New Day."… unless this one or "Schooled" demand my keyboard again. But fear not, I doubt there'll ever be more than a week or so between updates to "Food for Thought" or "Schooled."
Deepest, sincerest thanks to you incredible reviewers. You all deserve whatever I can offer, but the best I can do is just write some more, and hope it's adequate compensation for the happiness you give me. I'm grateful for all of the ready dismissal of the "clunky writing" comments. I owe certain people long notes, and I'll get them out soon – you know who you are, I've let you know the notes are coming. I'm just blurry-eyed and stupid-tired right now. I owe a very special thank you to many, many reviewers, but I want to send a special shout-out to mabidiso. I'd frame that if I could.
Blessed Be, y'all!