Original Story Title: Four quarters 2: In which names have power
Original Story Link: http://f-m-r-l.livejournal.com/22269.html
Original Story Pairings: None
Original Story Rating: G
Original Story Warnings/Content Notes: None
Remix Author: cleflink
Remix Story Title: On the Naming of Things
Remix Story Pairings: None
Remix Story Rating: PG
Remix Story Warnings/Content Notes: Serial killer related violence; angel!John
Remix Story Beta: oddishly
Remix Story Britpicker: oddishly
Summary: Sherlock may not be one of the angels, but he's got one on his side all the same.
Once, about a hundred years after he'd Fallen, John had stared into the bleak reality of an eternity spent in the mortal realm and wondered how he was ever meant to survive it. What interest could mankind possibly hold for someone who'd once belonged to the light of Heaven?
It had been a foolish fear, John could admit now. True, there were times when he found mankind far too much trouble to be worth bothering with - he'd skipped most of the 14th century, for example. But, oh, some people were so magnificent as to make a single moment in their company worth all the rest of John's long slog towards the End of Days.
Sherlock Holmes was one of those people. Was, perhaps, the most magnificent one of them all. If it had been within his power to make it so, John would happily have spent the rest of eternity at Sherlock's side.
It was almost a shame that Sherlock didn't believe in angels. Although that made John's life interesting too, in its own way.
A black car rolled to a stop against the kerb at the precise moment that John stepped out of the surgery. John stifled a sigh.
The window rolled down.
"You'll want to get in," Mycroft's assistant said, not looking up from her mobile.
"Will I?" John asked. "And here I thought I would want to go home and have a bit of a kip before Sherlock spends the evening dragging me around the city looking for a serial killer."
She didn't appear to be paying him the slightest bit of attention, but John could feel her faint irritation curl through the window towards him, along with the faint smell of sulfur. They stayed locked in a silent tableau for a moment before John heaved another, more deliberate, sigh and climbed in.
The inside of the car was thick with the unholy tang of earth and ozone; against his spine, locked under his skin, John's wings twitched in distaste.
"So, Anthea," John said, knowing full well that her name was no more Anthea than his was John. "What does your boss want from me this time?"
She didn't answer, a marble statue of dark hair and violent indifference, and John had to marvel yet again at the fact that Sherlock didn't believe in the supernatural when his brother had a demon on retainer.
John spent the next few minutes staring fixedly at Anthea, just to watch her aura curl defensively inwards around the edges. She and John had got over any real antagonism in the first few months of John's acquaintance with Sherlock, once she'd given up on trying to learn his full name and John had determined that she probably wasn't going to try and kill him the moment he turned his back. Which didn't mean that John didn't still enjoy irritating her, but he was an angel, not a saint.
The car took him to yet another empty parking garage - how did Mycroft ever manage to find quiet parking garages in central London? - where Mycroft was waiting with his characteristic smug solicitousness and a pot of tea.
Mycroft inclined his head. "How nice to see you again, John. I do hope that you are doing well. Cup of tea?"
"I'm fine, and no. What do you want?"
Mycroft tsked. "I really had hoped that prolonged exposure to Sherlock might increase your patience."
"You don't deserve my patience, Mycroft," John said, putting just enough of his will into the name to watch Mycroft's face pale. Behind him, John could feel Anthea go immediately on alert, ready to defend her contract keeper.
"I have an interest in Sherlock's current case," Mycroft said, with impressive aplomb.
"Serial killers seem like something the British government might want to pay attention to, yeah."
Mycroft ignored him. "The culprit is a man named William Carter. Sherlock should have no trouble finding the evidence he needs at Carter's work establishment."
"Uh huh. And why, dare I ask, did you abduct me off the streets to tell me something Sherlock probably already knows? Besides the fact that Sherlock would tell you to get stuffed if you tried it on him?"
"Because we have reason to believe that Carter's not working alone," he said, which, in Mycroft-speak, meant that something Otherworldly was going to try and kill them if they got involved. John straightened in surprise and Mycroft smiled thinly. "And you do know how I worry."
"What is he working with, then? And don't try to tell me that you don't know," John added, before Mycroft could speak. "You've got the Secret Service and demons on retainer, for God's sake."
"Blasphemy, John," Mycroft said mildly.
John glared at him.
"The prevailing theory is a vampire."
John made a face. As soon as there was missing blood involved, humans always started in on the exsanguinators. Never mind the conspicuous lack of puncture holes and the wasteful brutality with which the bodies had been torn apart.
"My sentiments precisely," Mycroft said. "I hope you'll have more success in getting to the heart of this matter."
"Is this you asking for my help?" John asked him.
Mycroft's not-smile made another appearance. "Merely a mutually beneficial sharing of resources."
"You'd have to actually share something for that to work you know," John said, but he was already sighing in defeat ever as he said it. "Carter, you said?"
"William Carter," Mycroft confirmed, and John could at least be glad that Mycroft wasn't the type to rub it in. "Good hunting, John. And do be careful."
John waved a dismissive hand. "Don't worry. I'll make sure that nothing eats your brother."
"I'm delighted to hear it."
People gave away their names so easily these days.
"Bill Carter," their suspect said freely, setting aside the glass he was cleaning to shake John's hand. John felt the name slide under his ribs and rest there, true and almost complete. How foolish these mortals were.
Time was, people had known better than to be so open with so dangerous a thing. The ancient Romans had shared their few names so diversely that it was all but impossible to target one Lucius Marcellus out of the crowd. In the Dark Ages, names had been offered only in drips and drabs, and only to those whom a person utterly trusted - or those who gave them no choice in the matter. Names were not to be handed over lightly.
In this modern era, though, name-sharing was customary, expected. A person's name spoken from their own lips was perhaps the most dangerous thing that they could ever utter and yet they were handed out with no more regard than the morning newspaper.
Carter was waiting, hand and smile outstretched and John reached to return both.
"John Watson," he said, because not even he could avoid the realities of human niceties. The syllables resonated briefly in the air, powerful because no one else would ever say his name quite the way he did. It wasn't John's True Name, of course, but it was a name he had claimed as his own, which meant that it could have power enough in the wrong hands.
Not that John tended to give them much to work with. Thanks to its numerous derivatives, John was quite possibly the most common name in human history, and Watson, while not nearly that generic, was nonetheless more than adequately unremarkable. John had avoided sharing his middle name - and had ignored his third name altogether - for as long as he'd been John Watson, which had been quite a while indeed. The most current iteration of his birth certificate labeled him simply as John H. Watson. It irritated Mycroft's assistant to no end.
But this Bill Carter was too much a fool to know what great power he'd just handed John or what slight power John had offered in return. If he did have an Otherworldly ally, the creature was either too stupid to think to warn him or else too disinterested in Carter's safety to bother.
Considering the state of the bodies that Carter had been leaving in his wake, John was laying about even odds on each option.
He'd been making small talk with Carter in between the man serving the pub's sparse crowd - no real surprise when the most recent murder had taken place not three streets over - for upwards of half an hour when someone loomed in the corner of his vision, and John was already turning when Sherlock started speaking.
"John," Sherlock said, in his 'bow to my whim' voice, and John felt the instinctive shiver down his spine that always accompanied that tone. Even without any real power of his own, Sherlock's force of command was a weapon all its own. "We're leaving."
John arched an eyebrow at him, because it was expected. "Are we indeed."
"Yes." Sherlock flounced off like the drama queen that he was, and John offered Carter a shrug.
"Duty calls," he said, pushing his stool away from the bar and standing. "Evening." Then he turned and followed Sherlock out into the night.
"It's him," Sherlock said as they went, flush with the triumph of another mystery solved. "The footprints on the back stairs clearly indicate that a person with size thirteen shoes and a propensity for cricket has recently-"
John tuned out most of what Sherlock was saying, which wasn't his usual reaction to Sherlock's deductions, but he had better things to worry about. Carter clearly hadn't a clue about how to protect himself against the Other, which made John wonder what this mysterious companion was, or whether they even was one at all.
"Come along, John!" Sherlock said, finished monologuing for the time being. "Time to see Lestrade!"
"This is all circumstantial, you know," John pointed out. "Even Lestrade won't bring someone in for questioning just on your say-so."
"Who said anything about bringing him in?" Sherlock flashed him the shark's smile that would probably have sent saner men stumbling away to find somewhere safer to be. Luckily, John wasn't that attached to his sanity. "We're going to catch him in the act."
Sherlock's predication was a bit more accurate than either of them would have preferred. Because the next victim was dead long before they got there.
The next time that John saw Bill Carter, he was in a dingy alleyway hacking violently at the supine body of a plump blond woman. Blood gleamed thickly on the ground in an ever-expanding sea and John could see the way her limp body jolted with the force of Carter's blows. It twisted his stomach with something very like anger.
For all of his savagery, Carter wielded the knife with the precision of a master, and John had to bite back a curse when Sherlock, with characteristic disregard for anything even remotely resembling common sense, charged right in.
Carter whirled to his feet in a scatter of blood drops, teeth bared in a rictus of delight. The knife flashed in the dark and Sherlock grunted, reeling back from a solid swipe to the meat of his arm. John's hand darted towards his gun, but they were too close for him to get a clear shot.
Sherlock struck back with what John knew to be a devastating right hook but Carter didn't appear to notice the pain. He darted in close, too close for John's comfort, and John did the only thing he could do to stop the knife angling directly for Sherlock's heart.
"Bill Carter," he barked, putting the full force of his will behind the precisely-shaped syllables. John still didn't have his middle name, but he hardly needed it on a man like this. "Stop."
Carter froze as though he'd been turned to stone, unable even to widen his eyes in shock.
Thrown off balance from anticipating a blow that didn't land, Sherlock wobbled dangerously.
John was there immediately to steady him. "Easy," he said, wrapping an arm around Sherlock's waist before he could fall over.
"John," Sherlock said, sounding dumbfounded in a way he almost never did. John supposed he was allowed it in this situation. Sherlock's face was pale with the shock of the wound and his eyes were almost fever-bright as they traded off between staring at John's face and the frozen figure of Carter suspended before them. "What did you do?"
John smiled. "Sherlock Holmes," he said, fonder than he'd meant to but still just as powerful. "Forget that happened. And rest for a bit until the police get here."
Sherlock sagged immediately in his arms, heavier than he looked. John grunted a little under his deadweight, guiding him gently to the floor. A quick look at the gash in his arm showed that it wasn't anything to be too worried over, so John wrapped it in a makeshift bandage until it could be dealt with properly.
And then it was Carter's turn.
The man made a strangled whimpering sound when John rose abruptly and rounded on him. There was sweat rolling down Carter's face and his eyes were watering with the need to blink.
"The monster," John said without preamble, and he could feel the sudden spike of Carter's panic. "Where is it?"
Carter's eyes flicked once to the left before jerking hurriedly back to John's face. It was too late by that point, of course, but John had already known that he wasn't bright.
"That's all I wanted to know, ta." John's voice firmed. "Now forget everything after the murder of that woman. And sleep."
Carter collapsed in a crumpled heap, smacking his head against the ground with a crack. John didn't pay him any mind.
He turned towards the end of the alley that Carter had indicated, allowing the cold iron knife up his sleeve to drop into his left hand. John had never made a particularly good smith, but this blade was one of his better works. And more than capable of dispatching most of the Otherworldly creatures that John couldn't manage with his own abilities.
Nothing moved in the dark and John focused on smoothing out his breathing and slowing his heartbeat, blotting out his presence until he might as well have been one of the shadows himself. He didn't want to go too long without getting Sherlock's arm looked at but, thankfully, it took less than ten minutes for his patience to pay off.
A flash of colour caught John's eye and he watched with a surprise that melted almost immediately into comprehension when a small, misshapen figure crept out of the shadows towards the still-spreading pool of blood around the dead woman. It pulled off its hat and then bent low to dip it into the mess, soaking the crimson fabric an even darker red.
John had to rein in a sigh. He should have known it would be a Red Cap. Vicious, blood-obsessed little blighters. "What a cock-up," he said, vanishing his knife with a thought.
This shouldn't have been John's job. Any idiot with a Bible could take care of a Red Cap, but Mycroft's people had been too busy looking for vampires to realize that not all monsters drank the blood they harvested. John would have at least thought the demon would know better.
John stepped forward, making no attempt to conceal his approach.
The Red Cap jumped to immediate attention. Its face curled into a gruesome snarl as it raised its pikestaff against John.
"Tunc dicet et his qui a sinistris erunt discedite a me maledicti in ignem aeternum qui paratus est diabolo et angelis eius," John said crisply, and watched with vague satisfaction as the Red Cap screeched and was unmade, rippling out of existence between one heartbeat and the next. It was hard to be properly intimidated by a creature that couldn't survive a few lines of scripture.
"Well," John said to himself. "That's that, I suppose." And he reached for his mobile to call Lestrade and start cleaning this mess up. At his feet, Sherlock slept on, oblivious. John had to smile.
And to think he'd ever worried that life on Earth would be dull.
A/N: The line of verse John is quoting is Matthew 25:41: Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
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