A/N Finally, I've found the time to start posting this. This story is the sequel to "When We Start Killing," a Wholock story that I finished posting a while back, so if you haven't read that one, go and do so now, or you will be immensely confused. As usual, I have actually finished this entire story, and I'm rather happy with it; it's twenty chapters long, plus a prologue and epilogue, and I'll be posting a chapter a week. Like the previous installation, this story contains a number of slash, femslash, and het ships as it develops, so be prepared for that. Also, I don't own the cover image used.
Rated T for violence, character death, torture, and language
Disclaimer I don't own Doctor Who/Torchwood/Sherlock/Supernatural or any associated characters, events, etc.
The slim man looks out of place on the abandoned country road, standing with his head high and his shoulders back, starkly outlined against the deep indigo-blue of the starry night sky. Everything about him—sleek suit, finely cropped hair, stern expression—suggests him to be the finest of English gentlemen, in no way the sort to be standing in the middle of a long track of dusty, gravel-laced dirt, waving off a few clouds of lightly humming mosquitoes as he reaches into the pocket of his waistcoat and pulls out a gleaming silver pocket watch. Its chain glitters in the moonlight, long and fine, and the man's icy features draw into a scowl as he observes its soft ticking. The sound is backed up by a chorus of cricket chirps from the long grasses that sway in the night breeze, whispering a song that no human could ever understand.
Another full minute passes by, the moon moving an infinitesimal distance across the silken expanse of darkness that hangs over the scene. The man stays as still as though he's carved from ice, his pose meticulously proper save one polished shoe, which inches forward to kick a bit more earth over a recently turned-up patch in the road. A small spade sits beside it, its dirt-encrusted metal glinting dully.
Slowly, a hiss of frustration seeps out from between his tightly gritted teeth. After one more swift glance at the watch, he turns briskly on his heel, and takes exactly one step away before there's another person standing in front of him.
"Thought I wouldn't come?" Crowley chuckles.
Mycroft's eyes flicker momentarily, but their pale grey shade remains as impassive as always. "It certainly seemed so," he murmurs, his gaze combing the demon's portly figure; "I did bury the box ten minutes ago."
"Apologies. I was cleaning up another deal, and it was rather… intensive business." He lifts one sleeve and purposefully drags it over his smirking lips, his stare darkly humorous.
"If you expect me to be either impressed or intimidated by your method of transaction, you will find yourself disappointed on both accounts."
A wide shrug. "All the better, then, eh? I'm looking forward to this one, I have to say. A powerful soul, yours is. More so than your brother's… it'll be an easy trade."
"Good. Then you'll be willing to give me a reasonable number of years?"
"Years?" Crowley begins to pace around him, slowly, each foot purposefully placed so that it raises a light cloud of gravel dust. "Well, I wouldn't say years. In fact… let's say I'm not giving you anything but the soul of your brother. We won't even have to call up those nasty hellhounds—just a flicker and you'll be gone. Good?"
"No." Mycroft's tone is stony, resolute. "I refuse to bargain with you if you're only going to twist everything to your absolute advantage. If you desire the ownership of my soul, then you're going to have to return Sherlock, and allow us an allotted amount of time together. It is vital."
"What, so you can warn him about Lucifer?" Crowley scoffs. "He'll figure out on his own. He's a smart one, that Sherlock. More than you give him credit for. And I'm sure he'll be able to cope perfectly well on his own, what with all the… friends he's managed to make over all this time."
"It isn't about coping. It's about winning. You understand, I know you do. You're aware of what will happen if Lucifer triumphs. Do you not wish to assist me in preventing him from doing so?"
Crowley's eyes darken so suddenly and notably, it's as if storm clouds have flown across them, obscuring their usual easy shade with a snarling, venomous fury. "I'm hundreds of years older than you, Mr. Holmes," he spits, his not-quite-identifiable accent thickening along with his temper. "I think you'll find that I know a good deal more about what I'm doing than you do. So until you're absolutely positive that you're on the right side, or that your oh-so-carefully chosen path of duty is the bloody right one, I'd advise that you don't even think about telling me what my role in this is."
A rabbit scampers across the road at lightning speed, startled by the demon's outburst. Its wide black eyes reflect the light, silvery and desperate, before it vanishes into the sea of grass on the other side.
"Allow me to phrase it in a different way," Mycroft begins delicately. His fingers run over the polished handle of the umbrella tucked close to his side, but he keeps its tip still, resting on top of the gravel. "You and I, we are both leaders, of two of the most powerful armies that any universe has to offer. You have demons. I have people."
"And what's so special about people, pray tell?"
"They're ambitious." His words clip the very air, sharpening and frosting its edges. "They're stupid, and they're angry, and they're blind. Much like your own… subjects."
"Is that so?" A sneer splits the demon's face, his eyes still narrow but no longer blazing.
"It is. You are an intelligent man, taking into account what I've heard from the other demons. You understand that this is what must happen. We will defy the apocalypse, and we can do it together, presiding over Hell and Earth. I have utter confidence that you will prove an immensely useful ally."
"Well, as flattering as that may be, it doesn't seem all that relevant to what we've been discussing," Crowley drawls. "If I remember right, you're here to bring your darling brother back. Wouldn't it be more… prudent, perhaps, to just leave him where he is? If you're trying to prevent the Apocalypse, then why bring out a tool that could be so useful to Lucifer?"
"Because Sherlock Holmes is more than just the Devil's weapon. He is one of the most intelligent humans on the whole of Earth, and we need him just as much as Lucifer does. It will be dangerous, no doubt, but he is superior to the majority of this race. He will be able to repay the cost of his service effortlessly."
"And if you're so determined to get him, it seems we're back to square one." This time, Crowley's eyes don't flash, but they gleam, a dark, threatening shift of the shadows in their deepest recesses. "You can either switch places with Sherlock now—no years, no stretching, just him alive and you dead—or you can stay here, plan things out with me, and your little brother stays deep in the flames. I have to say, it's quite a bit toastier down there, he probably doesn't mind." As if to emphasize his sarcastic, half-joking statement, a whip of cold air dashes across the two men's faces, stinging their ears and noses with its frosted bite. Mycroft's pale cheeks are beginning to show a light rosy tinge from the nippy temperature, but he doesn't make any move to so much as pull his coat tighter, only stares straight into the demon's sardonic eyes.
"I haven't got all day, you know. Or all night, whichever you please. Make your decision, Mr. Holmes. It's now or never."
"Sherlock needs to be alive," Mycroft murmurs, almost to himself. "That is utterly essential. If he dies… if he dies, then there will be no chance of us winning."
"And you still haven't explicitly said what's so damn important about sweet little Sherly." Despite his singsong tone, Crowley seems genuinely frustrated by his lack of knowledge, and it shows in the way that he pushes the words over the edges of his teeth, their tone almost too honeyed. "It's not just that he's clever…"
"No, it's not. But you have your secrets, and I have mine. If we're unable to form a steady alliance, I'll do my best to keep my knowledge to myself. It only seems prudent, after all, wouldn't you say so?"
The corner of Crowley's mouth twitches up in a semblance of a smirk, something almost approving, in a carefully measured sort of way. "You're quick, Mycroft Holmes," he muses. "You'll be a fine addition to the ranks of Hell."
"Who's to say that I'm joining?"
"You are. In a matter of seconds, unless this exchange is going to be even more tedious than it already is. And, no offense, but I have to hope that's not going to be the case."
Mycroft's teeth worry his lower lip for a moment, and the emotions under the surface of his carefully shielded face play out in a sequence that's all too predictable to any demon who's gathered their share of souls over the centuries. Indecision, doubtful uncertainty, desperation, resolve, regret, love. Even the last one is there, faint but clear. There's no one on this night road to know or care about the sort of things that would be meaningful to Mycroft Holmes, but there are a number of them—the precise shape of sunrise hitting the London skyline, the taste of fine wine after a long day of tiresome business, the smooth smile of a dark-haired personal assistant. Small things, but that's all a life is really composed of, in the end; Death himself would say so. Just a handful of moments, glittering like shattered glass fragments, all too ready to drift away on the waves.
Crowley's half-smirk slowly morphs into a full grin, and his teeth shine in the darkness. "Ready?" he asks. "Might want to take a breath of air. Savor the coolness…"
Mycroft barely has the time to suck in a final gasp before Crowley collides with him, reaching up and tilting the taller man's neck down with a single hand so that their lips can touch, brushing slightly before the demon attacks with a deep, indulgent kiss. He savors every moment, a smoky chuckle leaking up from his lungs, and Mycroft endures, unsureness spinning through his highly capable mind at a thousand miles an hour.
The chuckle expands into a full-grown laugh as the demon withdraws. "Enjoy Hell," he purrs, locking eyes with Mycroft for the briefest moment before the government official freezes where he stands, as if struck. His pale eyes seem to focus on a point impossibly far in the distance, and his jaw drops just the merest fraction of a centimeter, a mixture of childlike wonder and absolute terror crossing his face. His slim shoulders spasm once, and then his legs fold. He collapses like a puppet with its strings cut, dropping almost soundlessly to the ground.
A flash of tawny fur stirs in the grasses, and then a second wide-eyed rabbit sprints across the path. Moving in the blink of an eye, Crowley lunges forward, snagging the creature by its hind leg and dragging it in closer.
"Hello, beautiful." He straightens up, staring into its inky eyes, which bulge so wide that they seem ready to pop from its skull. Its whiskers tremble, fragile and innocent. "You'd better learn how to move faster, because you and everyone else on Earth are soon to be in a whole lot of danger, you know that?"
It huffs out air, a tiny squeak hissing from its mouth. He drops it suddenly, as though it caught fire, and it darts away, its feet blurring in their rapidness. Wind whistles across the moonlit countryside once more, twirling the high plant stalks and raising more dust from the road. Some of this settles over Mycroft's stone-still form, staining his formerly pristine black outfit silver-grey.
"A whole lot of danger," Crowley repeats almost thoughtfully, gazing at the corpse for several seconds before his face settles into a contented grin. He turns briefly towards the pitch-dark horizon. "One hell of a storm's coming," he comments, muted, to himself. Then, without so much as a flicker, he's simply gone, leaving the quiet little dirt path abandoned save the corpse of one of the most influential men on the planet.
Worlds away, in a distant star system unfamiliar to any human, a pale hand claws its way out of the ground.