Title: The Mind Can Make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven
Summary: "Eternity is really rather boring, John. Mortal life seemed as though it would be far more interesting."
Sherlock is actually secretly the Devil, but he decided to live as a mortal because ruling Hell was boring.
Notes: If you're wondering why I never post fic here anymore, it's because I've migrated to AO3.
The Mind Can Make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven
A long time ago, Lucifer had rebelled against the Heavenly Host, led his like-minded brethren in revolt, and ended up setting up his own realm to reign over.
It had all been very new and exciting at the time. No one had ever rebelled before, no one had ever warred before, and certainly no one had ever had the audacity and ambition to set themselves up as the ruler of their own realm.
Nothing had changed. Lucifer was still the Prince of Hell, still ruling over his infernal subjects. His subjects were still evil, and treacherous, and predictably ambitious and grasping. They were still locked in an eternal cold war with Heaven, and Lucifer spent all his time telling them what to do and fending of their constant bleating for instructions and generally doing all the same tedious things he'd been doing for the last few thousand years.
Frankly, Lucifer was bored.
He couldn't possibly ever regret rebelling, had never regretted creating Hell, but the fact was that however interesting things might have been in the beginning, ruling Hell had become monotonous and dull.
Things had become predictable enough that Lucifer had even idly considered allowing one of Hell's periodic uprisings against him to actually succeed, just to see what would happen, except that it would mean (temporarily) losing control which would be insufferable and would, of course, tarnish his reputation, so that was no good.
What he needed was something exciting, something new. Something that would actually hold his attention and drive away the relentless ennui.
Incarnating himself as a mortal was the perfect solution. It was a wonder he had never thought of it before.
He didn't tell any of his demons what he was planning to do. After all, had any of them known that he was planning to enter into a vulnerable state some of them undoubtedly would have been stupid enough to try and take advantage of it, never mind that his time as a mortal would only be temporary and afterwards he would be exactly the same fallen archangel he had been before, only very likely angrier. No. Better to leave them in the dark, even if that left them stumbling around helplessly without his guidance.
Instead, Lucifer went about formulating his plans in secrecy, making all the necessary arrangements. He could have been born, he supposed, but that would have been involved being small and helpless and assumed to be stupid for an intolerable amount of time, no to mention obliged to follow the orders of other people (Lucifer hated being obliged to do anything, for any reason) so that was a no.
The most logical option, he decided, was to take on mortal form and lock himself into it, cutting off all access to his abilities until the end of his mortal life. Not that being separated from his powers was necessary, as such, but, well, what was the point of being human if he was tempted to cheat all the time? What was the challenge, if he could simply use his powers any time he wanted?
So, Lucifer spent some time creating a mortal life for himself, and everything it entailed – documentation, bank accounts, somewhere to live, possessions, and so forth.
The act of becoming mortal itself was comparatively simple. Lucifer went through precisely the usual process for taking on a mortal guise, except that this time, he went further, made it real.
And when he was done, he was a tall, thin man standing on a street corner, heart beating in his chest like a wild thing, brand new human eyes peering around, pale and bright – doubtless it was vanity, but his eyes were still the same – and as human as anyone else.
Not Lucifer. Sherlock Holmes.
Human life, Sherlock decided, was confusing, frustrating, and altogether wonderful.
Learning to navigate the human world was an experience like no other. There were so many different requirements that had to be followed – Earth was even more bureaucratic than Heaven – different for each person, most of them a tacit assumption that went unspoken but was no less binding for that.
Sherlock soon grasped the basic legal rules – stealing was illegal, property damage was illegal, wearing clothing in public was mandatory and not a personal preference, etc – and learned the basic rules of interaction, although he considered these to be more like guidelines and felt perfectly free to ignore them if he couldn't be bothered.
The more subtle rules governing human behaviour eluded him, however. It was exasperating. The rules by which people operated seemed to change all the time based on meaningless little cues and yet everyone was aware of them, and anyone who failed to comprehend them was mocked or disliked or ostracised (and in some cases, all three.)
After a while Sherlock came to the conclusion that trying to follow them was simply not worth his time and effort, as he never succeeded, anyway. But that was fine. The world that humanity had created for themselves was enthralling. Sherlock had never intended this to happen – honestly, the whole incident with the Serpent in the Garden had mostly been the result of a fit of pique and the fact that he was bored – but he found himself glad that it had.
And then, just when he'd gotten himself nearly settled, Michael had to go and ruin it.
Sherlock came home one afternoon to find what seemed to be a middle-aged man in a three-piece suit sitting in one of his armchairs.
Unlike Sherlock, the other archangel had merely taken on a human guise, a superficial change of appearance only in order to blend in, leaving all of his angelic powers intact.
But even if he hadn't, even if he had been as mortal as Sherlock now was, the air of smugness mingled with irritated condescension would have given away his identity instantly.
"What are you doing here?" Sherlock demanded.
"You've taken mortal form, I see, Lucifer," Michael observed, ignoring Sherlock's question. "How very interesting."
"Sherlock," Sherlock corrected, scowling ferociously.
"Yes, of course," Michael agreed. "And I am Mycroft Holmes, long-suffering elder brother to Sherlock, keeping a protective and watchful eye over him – both for his sake, and for that of the poor unfortunates of London," Michael finished dryly.
Sherlock spluttered with fury.
"What? But your responsibilities–"
"I've taken over the command of all the Earth-based garrisons," Michael interrupted placidly. "That way I can still do my duty, and ensure that you don't get into too much trouble."
"You complete bastard," Sherlock said, white with rage. "Get out."
"Very well. I will, of course, be placing you under surveillance–"
At this point Lucifer would usually haven begun smiting indiscriminately, but as this option was now lost to him, Sherlock began throwing things at his brother instead.
Mycroft left in a dignified but speedy fashion, and four of Sherlock's brand-new tea cups smashed on the doorframe and the front door as it closed behind him.
"I hate him, hate him, hate him," Sherlock hissed, bouncing around in a fit of juvenile rage. He kicked the armchair Mycroft had been sitting in angrily, which hurt his toes but (probably fortunately) did absolutely nothing to the chair.
Sherlock's mood did not improve.
Over the next few years Sherlock experimented with myriad different ways to entertain himself. He attempted to learn to play the piano, but it proved dull. He learned to play the violin instead; he liked the sweeping, gesturing movements, and the instrument was perfect for conveying his mood, especially when Mycroft stopped by.
He attended university, and learned innumerable interesting things, and learnt not to delete the uninteresting ones from his memory until after the exams. He kept failing his subjects until he finally deigned to record his reasoning along with the correct answers when completing assignments or exams, at which point he shot to the top of all his classes. (Assignments. So insipid.)
He also met a lot of boring people, but that was nothing new.
Drugs turned out to be a fascinating experience. They affected his perceptions and altered his mental processes in a way that simply wasn't possible for an angel, under the usual circumstances. Sherlock was delighted by the fact that humans had found a way to change their personal reality without, in fact, changing reality at all.
He woke one afternoon to find Mycroft standing there, staring down at him.
Mycroft was standing straight, not a hair out of place, and was leaning on his umbrella with a complete stillness that suggested that he had perhaps been standing there for days, simply waiting for Sherlock to regain his faculties. Sherlock, knowing the kind of patience his brother possessed when he chose to, wondered if he in fact had been standing there for days, just to make sure that he was there the moment that Sherlock wended his way back to full awareness.
"Occasionally I wonder what in Heaven's name is wrong with you," was Mycroft's opening greeting.
"Only occasionally?" Sherlock wished his head would stop spinning. Ah. That would be the dehydration, then.
Mycroft shot him a look.
"Really, Sherlock, this goes beyond mere foible. Do you have any idea what might have happened to you, while you lay insensate in this appalling violation of every building code in existence?"
"Yes, several. I'm sure they would all have been very interesting."
Mycroft's response to this was to jab Sherlock hard in the ribs with the tip of his umbrella.
"Ah! Mycroft!" Sherlock yelled, trying to roll away from the umbrella and curl into a ball at the same time, so that he ended up lying on his face in a pathetic heap.
"You're a disgrace," Mycroft said coldly. "To think you were once the brightest of us all, and here you are now, living the life of a graceless junkie."
"I was bored," Sherlock said into the floor. It came out rather muffled. "It was boring. You're boring. All of you. Now go away."
Sherlock heard Mycroft let out an exasperated huff.
"This isn't the last time we'll speak of this, Sherlock," he warned, preparing to leave, finally. "I assure you, we will discuss this issue again, and again, until you give up this foolhardy pursuit."
Sherlock held up two fingers just as the sound of wings unfolding filled the room.
A moment later, Mycroft was gone.
"Git," Sherlock muttered.
Sherlock did eventually give up the drugs six months later, but not because of Michael's harassment. Instead, it was because the opportunity for something new beckoned, and for the first time Sherlock found himself with an occupation that actually tended to occupy his intellect to something vaguely approaching near-capacity: consulting detective.
It was mad, it was dangerous, it was thrilling, and it was one of the two best decisions of Sherlock's mortal life.
The other was taking John Watson on as a flatmate.
Sherlock hadn't been expecting John.
That was hardly surprising; John was a bundle of contradictions and interesting facts, someone who should have been ordinary but wasn't, a unique individual no one else had the wit to truly notice.
He was easygoing and friendly and took things in stride; wasn't brilliant, but certainly wasn't stupid, either. and could be unexpectedly perceptive at times; empathetic and moral and close to incorruptible (he would sometimes stretch his principles, but never outright break them), yet capable of shooting a man dead without a qualm; and instead of being unnerved by or resentful towards Sherlock he was drawn to him, fascinated, and seemed to actually like him.
John was also genuinely, emphatically good. For all his petty flaws, he was still a shining example of a remarkably pure-hearted soul, a rarity among humans. It was amazing that after everything he had seen and done any taint of darkness simply rolled off him, touching him yet never changing him, but there it was.
John was unique, and a marvel, and the rest of the world were idiots not to see it.
Mycroft had to be a prat about it, of course.
"It's so nice to see you getting along with someone, Sherlock," Mycroft said serenely. "I must say, I didn't know it was still possible for you to care about another being. It's very encouraging."
"Now, don't be like that," Mycroft chided. "This is a good thing."
"I should do something truly awful to spite you," said Sherlock sulkily. "Go away, and stop breaking into my flat."
Mycroft looked superior. It wasn't very different from his usual expression.
"Well," he said archly, "if you would simply let me in when I visit, and not run away every time you suspect I'm going to be here–"
"Not that it works, you just follow me."
Mycroft examined his umbrella.
"I do, after all, have a duty, Sherlock. One day you'll cease this childish feud with Father and I and return, but until then I am obliged to keep an eye on you."
Sherlock went for the violin, and made it screech and yowl until Mycroft left.
John didn't seem to have many limits – Sherlock had tested this hypothesis carefully – but apparently the sanctity of the teapot was one of them.
"The teapot, Sherlock." He brandished it in Sherlock's face. "The teapot is filled with mould. Why is the teapot filled with mould?"
"Why is it an experiment?" John was shouting, now. "I don't care if you leave experiments all over the kitchen cupboards, I can live with you filling the fridge with body parts. Not the teapot, alright? I actually use the teapot, Sherlock, I use the teapot to make tea. The teapot is off-limits."
"Fine." Sherlock was willing to concede the point. "Empty it down the sink."
"No," said John. "No, I am not using the teapot that's had mould in it. I am getting a new teapot, and you're not going to touch it."
"Does that mean I can keep using this one, then?" Sherlock asked.
John stared at him, clearly contemplating the idea of flinging the kettle and its contents in Sherlock's face. Sherlock wondered curiously if he'd actually do it.
"Why not? If you're going to buy a new one, I don't see why I can't keep using the old one for experiments."
"Because you shouldn't have used this one in the first place," John argued. "Promise me, Sherlock. No using the teapot for anything but tea. Actually, no, promise you won't use the teapot at all. I don't trust you with it."
Sherlock let out a huge sigh, and rolled his eyes, but agreed.
"Very well, I won't use the teapot."
John grabbed his coat and wallet, no doubt to go out and buy a new teapot at once. Heaven forbid he actually be forced to delay his next round of tea-drinking.
Sherlock supposed he should have known that the teapot was crossing a line that wasn't to be crossed – John seemed to spend half his life making tea, after all. He probably wouldn't know what to do with himself if his endless cycle of making and drinking tea was broken.
There was a man standing on the street corner, shouting to uninterested passersby about how the end was nigh and that sinners should repent before it was too late.
Sherlock rolled his eyes and would have strode past, ignoring the religious maniac – honestly, people had been going on about the apocalypse for a good millennia now, you'd think they would have learnt better than to jump to conclusions based on a few coincidental minor omens – except that the man grabbed hold of Sherlock's arm as he went past.
"Repent, for the end of the Earth is at hand!" the melodramatic fool told him.
"No it isn't. Let go."
"The end of days approaches," the deluded idiot continued to yell in Sherlock's face. John was remonstrating with the man, trying to convince him to leave Sherlock alone, but the man was having none of it. "Your sins–"
"My sins are none of your concern," Sherlock sneered, glaring into the street preacher's eyes with a look that made him recoil. This time, it was Sherlock who held on and refused to let go. "I delight in my trespasses, commit acts of wickedness with great satisfaction, and would rather be anywhere but Heaven."
Sherlock thrust the idiot away from him and stormed off.
John caught up with him again after a few strides.
"Bit harsh, don't you think?" he asked Sherlock, his tone carefully mild.
"I can't abide stupidity."
John gave Sherlock a look that said he was well-aware of that, thank you.
"Why is it perfectly acceptable for others to force their religious views on me, manhandle me, and yet I'm not supposed to respond?" Sherlock demanded.
"I'm not saying–"
"Boring," Sherlock said, walking faster.
He felt a surge of malicious satisfaction when John was forced to jog in order to catch up.
"You're a bit of a berk, you know that?" John asked him.
Sherlock felt a curling smile at the corner of his mouth.
"You might have mentioned it. Honestly, John, don't get me started on religion. Now hurry up."
John sighed, but let the subject drop.
Sherlock had become quite accustomed to John – accustomed, no matter what Mycroft insinuated – and as a result it was quite a shock (not that Sherlock would ever admit it) to return home to find that John had been kidnapped.
Walking past all the signs of forced abduction near the front door and up the stairs, Sherlock came to a stop in front of the door to 221B. There was a note pinned to the door, threatening Dr Watson's health if Sherlock didn't abandon his current case.
Sherlock stared at the note.
While he would be the first to acknowledge that John could be rather dim at times, and complained a great deal about perfectly harmless things like body parts in the fridge, John was nonetheless his flatmate, and Sherlock found him tolerable enough. Someone, knowing this, had then had the temerity to abduct him.
Sherlock noted distantly that there was a kind of ringing in his ears, but dismissed it immediately as irrelevant.
The first thing he did was pull out his phone.
John has been kidnapped. SH he sent.
I see. MH
I will do whatever is necessary to find him, so I suggest you help. SH
Really, Sherlock, I don't have time for these games. MH
This isn't a game. Not this time. SH
Ah. This is a new development. I'll put a search out for him. MH
Priority, of course. The last time something like this happened you burnt down half of London. MH
They deserved it. SH
Sherlock stuck his phone back in his pocket before Mycroft could send a retort about people with overactive grudges against simple bakers, and thought.
Before, when he was still in his true form, Sherlock could have found John and dealt with his abductors in an instant. Now, however, he was trapped in mortal form, unable to access any of his abilities.
Still. That didn't make him powerless. For all he was currently a mortal, that didn't change who Sherlock was.
Focusing his anger, Sherlock reached for the connection that still existed inside of him, deep down, to the three Archdukes of Hell that Sherlock knew with absolute certainty were loyal to him.
A moment later Azrael, Astoreth and Belial stood in front of him.
None of them seemed particularly surprised to find that their missing Lord was currently a mortal. At this point, they had more or less ceased to be surprised by anything he chose to do.
"We have been searching for your whereabouts for some time," Belial informed Sherlock dryly. "Perhaps next time you could tell us, before you mysteriously vanish."
Sherlock had no time for pleasantries.
"Shut up," he snarled. "John Hamish Watson. Earlier this evening he was kidnapped. This is unacceptable. He is being held somewhere in London, most likely in an abandoned building. I want him found. Mobilise whoever is necessary, but find him."
Astoreth's eyebrows rose.
"What percentage of the London population should I assign to this, Lord?"
"All of them," declared Sherlock grimly. "Every single demon in London. I don't care if we need to turn this city upside down. Do it."
The three Archdukes exchanged eloquent glances.
"As you will, Lord."
Sherlock whirled away from them and stormed into the flat.
Sherlock hadn't felt this angry in a long time. Mostly he was too bored to be truly angry – all the petty squabbles in Hell, the backstabbing and power-grabbing, all the trouble Mycroft and the rest of the Host gave him – irritating though it was, it was predictable and therefore dull, dull, dull.
But Sherlock's temper was a fearsome thing when truly roused – cities had been levelled and thousands extinguished in the blaze of his wrath, in the past. And now someone had dared touch the first person who had really mattered since his Fall.
Sheer, murderous rage burned in him with ferocity to equal that of the sun, sweeping away everything else.
Someone had taken John from him – him – and for that, they would suffer.
If John proved harmed in any way, he would ensure that they wished that they had never been born.
Sherlock stalked around the rather over-full flat, shouting orders at his personal guard while Astoreth, Azrael and Belial came and went, co-ordinating the search for John.
The presence of Sherlock's personal guard wasn't entirely necessary, but they were loyal and useful and gave him something to shout at.
Mycroft's CCTV had shown John being grabbed and dragged into a van, but the van had been impossible to trace beyond the East end of London. Most of London's demons had immediately been told to concentrate their search on that area, and to leave no stone unturned.
Sherlock was tearing at his hair and about to do something unpleasant to a minion who had accidentally stood on his foot when another minion popped into relay the news that John had been found.
He was being held in an empty warehouse and unharmed at present, although he was tied to a chair and being held at gunpoint. The demon who had found him was still there, unseen, ready to intervene if any of the kidnappers looked about to hurt John.
No one wanted to tempt Sherlock's fury. Most of Hell was still unaware of their ruler's current mortal condition, and Sherlock was well-known for smiting anyone who displeased him.
"Take me there," Sherlock ordered Astoreth, Belial, and Azrael. "The rest of you – get out of my flat! And put the bloody skull back on the shelf, you clumsy oaf!" he called to one of the demons, right before they vanished.
A moment later, Sherlock was elsewhere.
"Deal with them," he ordered the Archdukes, and stalked forward to free John without paying any attention to the startled men aiming their weapons.
Sherlock ignored the screams and the blaze of hellfire behind him, focusing instead on untying John, who was staring over Sherlock's shoulder in wide-eyed shock.
"W-what," John tried, but gave up, his mouth falling open as he continued to stare.
"Are you hurt?" Sherlock demanded. John didn't respond, so Sherlock grasped his shoulders and shook him slightly. "John! Are you hurt?"
John tore his eyes from whatever Sherlock's minions were doing – something exquisitely painful, from the sound of it; Sherlock thoroughly approved – and focused his gaze on Sherlock.
"I'm fine," John said, his eyes widening at whatever he found in Sherlock's expression. "Sherlock, I'm fine."
"Good," said Sherlock.
John's eyes slid back to the Archdukes as they approached.
"Anything else, Lord?" Azrael asked delicately, trying to hide his curiosity as he looked at John.
"Nothing. I have no further need of you. Go."
Used to Sherlock's dismissals, the demons vanished without another word.
John took a deep breath.
"What – what were they?"
"Three Archdukes of Hell, and various lesser demons," Sherlock replied matter-of-factly.
"They called you Lord."
"Eternity is really rather boring, John. Mortal life seemed as though it would be far more interesting."
"Oh my God." John just stared at him dazedly. "You're – you're the Devil."
"I prefer Lucifer, actually," Sherlock replied.
"Lucifer. The Devil. Satan," John insisted, staring at him in horror.
Sherlock glared at his flatmate impatiently.
"Yes. Do keep up. The concept really isn't that difficult to grasp."
John stared at him, then gave a breathy, half-hysterical giggle.
"Of course you're the Devil. That makes so much sense. Who's Mycroft, then?"
"Michael," he said, with heavy disdain. "He decided to keep an eye on me, make sure I wasn't up to any evil deeds, and so forth."
John put his head in his hands and laughed uncontrollably.
Sherlock just watched, waiting until the guffaws died down.
John shook his head, still giggling helplessly, but met Sherlock's eyes steadily.
"This is completely mental, you know that? You're mental. And God knows what I am, my best friend is Satan."
Sherlock felt a warm bloom of emotion in his chest at the phrase 'best friend' and cursed himself.
Mycroft was right, he was developing feelings.
"A redeeming influence, apparently," Sherlock responded darkly. "Mycroft's been insufferable."
John thought about that for a minute.
He grinned at Sherlock.
"Oh, shut up," Sherlock sneered, rolling his eyes. "Don't look so smug, I didn't say he was right."
"But he is, isn't he?" John asked, still grinning. Then his grin faded. "I'm having trouble getting my head around the fact that you're – well."
"Don't be tiresome, John. I'm still me."
"Yeah, but it turns out that you is Lucifer, ex-archangel and ruler of Hell."
"Strike the 'ex' thank you," Sherlock said testily. "Just because I decided to rebel doesn't mean I stopped being an archangel."
"Oh, right. Sorry, rebellious archangel, then."
Sherlock frowned at him. John's tone suggested that he thought that Sherlock was quibbling over unimportant details and possibly being a little ridiculous about it.
John's expression suddenly changed again, and he snickered.
"What?" Sherlock asked.
"Just – Sergeant Donovan and Anderson's reactions if they knew you really are the Devil," John explained, with obvious mirth.
Sherlock grinned a little himself. John smiled back at him, companionable.
"Blimey, this is going to take a bit of getting used to."
"You're taking it rather well," Sherlock observed. "Considering my reputation. Why?"
"I know you," John said reasonably. "So you can't be as bad as all that, obviously."
This latest piece of evidence of John's totally unfounded faith in him made Sherlock's breath catch. He stared at John, but John just looked back, unaware of saying anything that was entirely deluded.
"Your ceaseless conviction that I am a good person is severely misplaced," Sherlock said finally. "I am not a nice person, John, and certainly not a good one."
John, irritatingly, just shrugged. And curse him, when he treated Sherlock like that Sherlock didn't want to be anything but a good person. It was highly annoying.
This was precisely what Mycroft had been referring to.
John looked around, oblivious to Sherlock's ire and internal conflict.
"So… why don't we leave the creepy abandoned warehouse?" he suggested.
"An excellent idea," he agreed, and herded John from the building to forestall any further discussion of Sherlock's essential nature.
He had quite enough of that from Mycroft without John starting in on him.
To Sherlock's surprise, things didn't change all that much after the revelation of his identity.
For the next few days John kept giving Sherlock strange looks, clearly trying to reconcile millennia-worth of mythology and pop-culture with the reality living in their flat, but otherwise, Sherlock and John's relationship remained much the same.
Two days after Sherlock had rescued him John came home a little later than usual and in a bad mood.
"Mycroft have anything interesting to say?" Sherlock called from the couch, without opening his eyes.
"Not really," John grumbled. "I told him that he might be an angel, but I still think he's a twat."
John's unexpected response surprised a laugh out of Sherlock. He opened his eyes and glanced over to see John grinning at him, all fond affection. He wondered if John had any idea how openly he wore his heart on his sleeve. Probably not.
Sherlock closed his eyes again and smiled, as John made his way into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
"Has he always been such a berk?" John called back through the doorway.
"Always," Sherlock confirmed. "It comes of being in charge. He's never understood the concept of autonomy. He's convinced I'll return to the fold sooner or later."
"Will you?" John asked curiously.
"Of course not," Sherlock told him. "I have no interest in following orders like a good little drone. Dull."
"You're not a bad person, though," John insisted.
"Don't start that again."
"No, really," John said, his voice all soft and serious. Without opening his eyes Sherlock could picture his earnest expression. "I think, you wanted to be different badly enough that you did the worst thing you could think of to prove you were, and they thought that if you were different it automatically meant you were evil, like goodness and conformity are the same things. They're not."
Sherlock opened his eyes and stared at John in astonishment.
"Even Mycroft doesn't get it," John continued. "He knows you're not evil, so he thinks that means you'll go back to being like all the others. None of them understand that it's fine to be different, to want to live your own life and make your own decisions, and that's why you left. I'm right, aren't I?"
Sherlock closed his eyes again.
"Yes," he agreed quietly.
John's startling level of insight left him feeling fragile and vulnerable inside all of a suddenly, shocked by how well John had explained his situation.
How was it that the entire Host of angels could fail to grasp the concept after thousands of years of exposure, and one human who'd known him for the blink of an eye, relatively speaking, could so succinctly sum it up in only a few sentences?
"I've tried to tell them, again, and again, especially Mycroft, but they never understand," Sherlock confessed unhappily. It hurt to admit it.
There was a supportive silence. John was good at those.
"Well," John said at last, "I think it's fine."
Sherlock breathed out, long and slow, and didn't answer.
John finished making the tea, and brought a cup out to Sherlock, who sat up and accepted it.
"Has it occurred to you," Sherlock murmured, "that the only reason you believe that I'm a good person is that I'm more inclined to pretend to be one around you?"
John pondered that for a moment. Sherlock could almost see his thoughts ticking over.
Then he shrugged.
"Well, that's something, isn't it?" John asked honestly.
He went to drink his own cup of tea, and Sherlock glared pensively into his cup.
He hated it when Mycroft was right.
"So," John asked at random one day, in the way that meant he'd actually been thinking about this for some time but had decided to only spring the issue on Sherlock now, "You're Lucifer."
"We have established that, yes," Sherlock agreed.
John glared at Sherlock for a moment in response to the undertone of obvious in his voice.
"Anyway," John continued, "what does – I mean, what do you look like?" You don't really look like this, do you?"
Sherlock thought of six black-and-umber wings unfolded in their full majesty, of shining like the sun and of speaking in a voice that made the Earth tremble.
"Not really," he replied.
"What, then? Can I see?"
Sherlock shut the book he had been reading and sat up.
"No. I chose to lock away all my abilities when I took on mortal form. I'm stuck like this, essentially human, until something happens to kill this fragile shell. Then I'll be myself again."
Sherlock watched John turn that over. He could almost see John's train of thought unfolding in front of him, but for some reason he found it interesting, unlike the rest of humanity.
How dull of him. John was making him dull.
"Did you really leave Hell because you were bored?" John wanted to know.
"Because demons are even more boring than humans, and far more stupid. Telling them what to do. Seeing them do the same thing over and over. Rebelling and setting up my own realm was all very interesting in the beginning when it was all new, but after a while the novelty palled. Monotony has never agreed with me."
"And you thought that running around like one of us was going to help?" John looked and sounded amused. "Did it work?"
"Mostly," said Sherlock. "No always. Even this world can't engage my intellect all of the time."
"Goodness, no," John agreed. "What could possibly entertain the magnificent intellect of the great Sherlock Holmes at all times?"
Sherlock felt the corners of his mouth turn up.
"Exactly," he said with dignity, while John made disbelieving faces in his direction.
A week later, though, and it wasn't a joke anymore.
"I'm unspeakably bored," Sherlock declared; he'd spent the last half hour trying to gauge the correct angle and amount of force necessary to throw peanuts at the lamp if he wanted them to bounce off and land directly in the nearest wastepaper basket.
Sherlock wasn't exactly sure why they had wastepaper baskets. They were one of the things John had insisted on filling the flat with, like the plant in the bathroom. Sherlock mostly used the wastepaper baskets to conduct experiments in.
"You know," said John, "that's even more terrifying now I know you're Satan."
Sherlock threw a peanut at him. It bounced off John's forehead in a satisfying manner.
"Come on, then," John decided, unperturbed by the assault. "Let's go out somewhere."
"And do what?" Sherlock asked sulkily, but willing to be entertained.
John just stood there with his eyebrows raised.
Sherlock sighed and rolled his eyes, but pulled himself up and went to collect his coat.
"This had better be interesting," he told John, as they left the apartment.
"You know, nowhere in the Bible does it mention that you whine," John remarked as they stepped out into the open air.
"I don't whine."
He whines, John mouthed at the nearest CCTV camera.
"I don't know why I put up with you," said Sherlock.
And he's lost touch with reality, John added silently to the camera.
"Don't be a prat," Sherlock told him.
"I'd tell you not to be one, only I'm pretty sure this is about as close as you get."
Sherlock sent him a disgusted glare, but continued to walk alongside him.
The CCTV cameras turned to follow them as they went, and Sherlock gestured rudely in their direction without looking.
"Where are we going?" Sherlock wanted to know.
"To the park."
"You're bored and the fresh air will do you good," John replied pragmatically. "You've been cooped up in that flat for days, brooding in your dressing-gown–"
"I wasn't brooding," Sherlock informed him.
"Brooding around in your dressing-gown," John repeated, a little more loudly, "and it isn't healthy for either of us, so we're going to the park. We can watch the ducks and you can sit and deduce things."
"Boring," Sherlock accused.
"Shut up, I don't care," John argued. "We're going to the park, so deal with it."
Sherlock maintained a sulky silence all the way to the park, although he was slightly cheered by speculating how John would react if Sherlock pushed him into the duck pond.
Better not, he decided, although the scenario was an amusing one. John would undoubtedly be cross. Perhaps the opportunity to try it on Anderson would eventuate some day.
The park appeared as boring as Sherlock had expected, but he sat next to John on the bench anyway. While John sat calmly, Sherlock's attention was drawn to a couple of men feeding the ducks nearby. The pair would have been quite unremarkable but for the fact that one of them was a demon and the other was an angel – they shouldn't have even existed in the same vicinity peacefully, and yet here they were, feeding the ducks together.
The demon was pelting bits of bread at the ducks in a rather violent manner and causing any duck that actually ate the bread to sink, while his angelic companion objected; Sherlock found the spectacle entertaining enough that he decided to overlook this particular case of fraternisation with the enemy.
He glanced around to see John watching him with a thoughtful expression.
"You seem less bored," John offered.
"There's a demon sinking all the ducks in the pond while his angel friend tries to stop him," Sherlock explained. "I find the pair intriguing."
"Wait, really?" John looked suddenly interested. "Where?"
Sherlock looked back at the pair just in time to see the demon, with a distinctly unholy gleam in its eye, propel his companion into the pond.
The angel surfaced, spluttering with surprised fury, while the demon took off, sniggering.
Sherlock found himself smiling as the irate angel waded out of the pond, dripping water and pond weed.
"You're right," he told John. "I'm no longer bored."
John gave Sherlock a content smile in return, as though he couldn't conceive of anything more enjoyable that sitting with Sherlock in the park, watching ducks being fed and angels pushed into duck-ponds.
For once, Sherlock understood the sentiment.