Title: The Novice God (4/?)
Rating: PG-13 (disturbing imagery warning)
Fandoms: BBC!Sherlock, The Dresden Files (TV), and Supernatural.
Characters: Castiel, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, a few others
Spoilers: The entire Dresden Files TV series. Takes place mid-season 7 of Supernatural, and post-series 1 of Sherlock.
Genre: drama, action, friendship, possibly angst or hurt/comfort in parts
Author's Note: Oh gosh, I worked so hard on this one. I'm very proud of it. I just....gaaaaaaaahhh. *happy squeaks*
Summary: A new god has risen, unpredictable and uncontrolled. Meanwhile, John tries to get Sherlock to talk about a matter of great importance, and a mysterious man hides in the violent wake of the new god's path.
( Chapter 1: A Doctor and a Detective Get Caught in the Rain )
( Chapter 2: A Wizard and a Ghost Find Themselves in the Eye of a Storm )
( Chapter 3: A Detective Gets Surprised and a Wizard Navigates a Difficult Situation )
* * *
On the tallest peak of the Sangre de Cristo mountains stands the once-angel Castiel, his coat thrashing in gale-force winds. Morning sunlight reddens the dry mountain, while storm clouds whisper across sand dunes in the distant, Colorado southwest. The chatter of panicking forest life is all around him, little darts of living things running for cover. His face stings where sand strikes him, but he does not blink. For the past hour, he has only stood here as the storm approaches, the blood of sinners flaking from his hands as they tremble in great pain.
Scales and blistering fire writhe inside of his chest, several million souls from Purgatory granting him the power of a god even as they rip his insides apart. They claw at his stomach, white-hot and sharp against Castiel's fragile, angelic Grace, and his organs quiver as they are shredded and healed in rapid succession. Red and black veins dance in his neck, twisting and bubbling and breaking his capillaries, leaving bruises under his skin that look like fingerprints. In reality, a soul is small, and many can fit into a small space. But each one is powerful, and a human body is not meant to hold so much. It is only a force of will that is keeping Castiel from being utterly consumed.
His clothes feel electrified from the dust of dead angels, and the three-inch, now invisible hole in his back where a friend had tried to kill him throbs hotly. He feels isolation like a band drawn tightly around his neck, the knot pulled ever tighter and no one to release it. He sways, his fists balled tightly at his sides as he recalls the last time an injury had caused him such agony. He'd been stabbed by a member of his own family, his Grace slipping through his fingers. Afraid, Castiel had gone to his then-ally, Bobby Singer, whose arms had caught him when he collapsed. In those fitful moments between consciousness and sleep, Castiel had felt nothing but the hunter's ragged, soft couch against his back as Bobby dabbed the blood from Castiel's lips, and the brush of a hand through Castiel's hair to calm him whenever he startled awake in fear, wondering if he were dead.
Castiel shuts his eyes to block the memory, realizing that it is no longer relevant to the life he now leads. As a god, he will never again require reassurance or comfort from others, only their respect and, when required, their fear. He can hear the chatter of Purgatory's souls grow louder at this thought, their voices expanding in the overheated shell of his body. Like thumbs squeezed into bullet wounds, the souls exert pain to force Castiel's Grace into an even smaller crease in his body, darkening its blue-white glow with an inky tar that pulses thickly through his struggling heart. He begins to feel cold, as though an icy water were rising in his feet and swelling upwards, and his mind lights up, overcome by purpose.
With effort, he pulls together the souls and their power, centralizing their energies so that they burn as a single, hot pulse inside his hand. Their voices, momentarily, hiss and go quiet, and it takes Castiel a moment to realize they have only done so because he is about to do what they want him to.
He stretches out his hand, searching the world until he comes across a city hundreds of miles away, balanced on the cusp of an ocean. The glass windows of its buildings cast huge shadows on the city, which is filled with unspeakable tragedy. Here, there is loss and pain, loneliness and rage, and the acts of violence often triggered by these negative emotions, no matter how carefully each individual has tried to stave off their pain. With a twitch of Castiel’s fingers, an underwater mountain springs up from beneath the city's waterside port, splintering waterlogged decks and tossing streamlined metal ships out of the water. Much larger than the pile of rocks Castiel rests his feet on, the new mountain hurls dirty brown waves into the streets, rushing to overpower this city that Castiel has deemed unworthy to exist.
Castiel hears the dying wails of the unrighteous in his mind’s eye, and watches with wide eyes as their homes crumble and break apart. The city's people run for higher ground that they will not find, dislodged boats slamming into buildings and raining glass down on them like jagged stars. Their fear is a tangible thing, flowing through the endless distance and straight to Castiel’s perch on his mountaintop, far removed from their deaths.
A second set of screams explodes in the backdrop of Castiel's mind, these voices originating from Heaven. Panicked forces are being gathered to try to stop Castiel from purifying the world, human and angel alike, but he knows their efforts do not pose any threat. Even if he is found, he could destroy anyone and anything with but a thought. He is, after all, the most powerful being in existence. Even so, their voices are loud...and they hurt.
Isn't this fun? a voice whispers from inside him, and he can't tell if it's his. His heart beats faster than it ever has before, whether in excitement or terror, he cannot tell. The feeling cuts raw through him, fluttering like the flight of birds, and even though there is an even more emphatic part of him that has begun to hyperventilate in horror, still his mouth stretches to the curl of an enormous smile.
Feeling that the city many hundreds of miles away has been properly cleansed, Castiel lifts out his hand and then lowers it, letting the new mountain fall back into the water. The waves drag objects and pieces of buildings down with them, the detritus creaking and banging against all that stands in its way, leaving a terrible stillness in its wake.
"I cannot be stopped," Castiel breathes, his voice carried on an unfamiliar, drawn-out, lilting rasp of a breath. The souls of Purgatory screech and rattle his ribs like a cage, cracking the bones with lightning-white bursts of pain. (What has he done?) Off balance, he takes a step backwards, only to quickly ground himself. (What is he doing?) He can feel the leather of his shoes molding to the red-lit ground beneath him, and he firms his jaw. (There is too much. There is too much, and he can't–)
No, he thinks. He is a god. A god's hand cannot be forced, not even by his own pain, surely. He will not be be overtaken. Besides, the good he can do with his power makes the pain all worth it. For...surely he has been doing good?
Aimless, he casts his gaze across the lives of those he has helped. There is a boy in Cambodia whose pet dog Castiel brought back to life, a woman in Peru whose violent husband Castiel had killed for her, and a once-barren crease in the Grand Canyon that Castiel has filled with every imaginable color of plant and insect life. Castiel’s head tilts when he reaches a young, once-blind girl in London whose eyesight he had restored for her. He notes, claustrophobic fury rooting in his chest, that her memory of what Castiel had done for her has been removed from her mind.
He quickly tries to find out why, his gaze dancing over the flow of his recent actions and their effects on the world. A pattern leaps into being: the presence of a dark-skinned man carrying a sword, his identity heavily shielded. This man had taken the girl’s memories from her. Castiel finds, intrigued, that this anonymous human has somehow been managing, for several days even, to cast Castiel’s gaze elsewhere in order to follow Castiel’s path throughout the world, unnoticed.
There is lightning splitting the mountain when Castiel slides his wings out from his back, twin lines of barely visible shadows that glimmer in the electric heat. The lightning imprints on Castiel’s retinas, turning the red world blue and making his hair stand tall. Falling into the quicksilver wings that rush around his shivering body, Castiel slides from one place to the next.
In the space where his body once was, the approaching desert storm is electric-fierce in its change, sparking in the red morning, but the worst is still on its way.
* * *
When the floor had rumbled violently underfoot nearly twenty minutes before, a clatter of objects raining down from every conceivable surface, John Watson had wasted no time diving under the kitchen table in his and Sherlock's shared flat. Sherlock, on the other hand, had only taken hold of the human skull he often used as a paperweight so that it wouldn't fall, and then continued running through the flat like a complete madman, staggering through the shaking room as if nothing were amiss.
Sherlock Holmes, John has begun to realize, is a man of incredibly disorganized priorities. Now that the world is no longer shaking like it's coming apart, John watches from the kitchen doorway as the detective bounds through the living room of their flat, prying boards from the floor with a letter opener and snapping at John to back off every time he approaches with an offer to help.
Finally, John simply retreats into the kitchen, Sherlock’s mobile balanced between his ear and shoulder as Lestrade’s incredulous voice speaks over the noise of things crashing and breaking in the other room. John’s hands, meanwhile, occupy themselves sorting through fallen cups for something clean to boil water in, and eventually have to settle for a dusty, ceramic cereal bowl that rolls between his ankles when he opens a low cupboard.
“So, that’s it, then?” the Detective Inspector says over the line, as John stands to rinse the bowl out. The two of them have already discussed the earthquake, which both of them had felt, and have since moved on to police business, “The little girl really doesn’t remember anything about her father being stabbed in front of her? At all? Maybe she just didn’t know how to describe it, for god’s sake. She was blind, you know.”
Carefully, John takes his bowl of water over to the microwave, mindful to remove the bowl of curly beard hair in peroxide that is already in there before he sets the timer to boil the water. “Well, I'm not quite sure what to say. That’s what Sherlock said, and he seemed insistent. To be honest, I think it freaked him out a little, how she was acting.”
“Sherlock?” Lestrade coughs, “the man has the constitution of a grumpy old man. Creepy children aren’t enough to scare him. Are you sure it's not something else that's bothering him?”
Before John can answer, Sherlock explodes into the kitchen, his arms piled high with small, wooden boxes. He climbs over the table, bypassing several chemistry sets with a harsh clattering of glass just before he throws the boxes down on the semi-uncluttered floor in front of the sink. “John!” he yells, barely an arm’s length from John’s leg as he falls to a cross-legged position. Sherlock’s voice is entirely too loud for being so close, and his elbow bumps into John’s calf as he scrambles through the boxes, which appear to be full of old newspaper articles. “Fetch me your laptop!”
“What – Sherlock, what are you…? I came in here to get away from you!”
Sherlock’ eyes dart up in a bewildered, confused sort of way that looks completely wrong on his face, then he settles with a frown. “The living room is a mess. I cannot work in there. This space is the only clear one left to stretch out in. Is there a problem?” John gapes a bit, and is about to say more when Sherlock interrupts, “The laptop, John. Quickly.”
Lestrade is actually laughing at him when John stumbles out of the living room, having to take great pains not to trip over what looks to be a completely ravaged floor. Splintered wood is all over the place, and John can’t help but crane his head around to watch Sherlock obsessing over his boxes of paper in the kitchen, wondering what on earth Sherlock must think is so private that it has to be stored inside the floor.
“I think I’m going to have to call you back,” John says, and hears a hum of agreement from Lestrade.
“You’re a better man than most of us, Doctor.”
John mounts the steps to the upstairs two at a time, a bitter laugh coming out of his mouth. “Well, there’s certainly never a dull moment around here, I will say that much.”
They end the call as John gathers his laptop from his bedroom and jogs down the stairs, which thankfully have survived the earthquake as well as Sherlock’s subsequent excavation of the flat. “Alright, Sherlock,” John hands – or, more accurately, more or less doesn’t drop the laptop when Sherlock yanks it prematurely from his arms, “I think you owe me an explanation.”
“That can wait.” Sherlock pries open the laptop and types in John’s password with a raised eyebrow pointed in John’s direction. “ ‘Hedgehog’? Really, John? You have been frequenting far too many of our fansites lately.”
“Oh, sod off.” John waves off Sherlock’s derision, to which Sherlock offers the briefest of smirks. John watches Sherlock’s shoulder blades shift under his shirt with dizzying speed as the detective simultaneously blazes through websites and sorts through newspaper clippings so quickly it’s a wonder none of his fingers start bleeding. John remembers his bowl of boiled water, and fetches it from the microwave. “I’m not playing though, Sherlock. What are those?”
Sherlock sighs, his entire ribcage expanding with the force of whatever frustration is boiling in him. His fingers click rapidly over the keyboard. Finally, he comes to the decision to answer. “Peculiar happenings.”
Dunking a teabag of Earl Grey into his bowl, John squints down at Sherlock’s hunched-over, bendy form. “Such as…?”
“Such as our experience in the hospital today. The shadow. Unusual cases without explanations. Well, that is, until the proper connections have been deduced. Often, what seems peculiar is simply what is not peculiar at all, merely well-disguised as such.”
“Wait,” John gestures over the pile of papers, as well as the shards of broken things John has done little more with yet than sweep to the side, “so you’re telling me…you hid these…because you couldn’t explain them.”
Sherlock’s eyes flicker upwards, and there’s something in their pale depths that may or may not be reflecting embarrassment. “Everything that exists can be explained. However, the nature of so-called supernatural occurrences is often to be completely absurd. Only once every so often can any one of them be taken with any grain of…” He freezes, his hand lifting an old police photograph, dated early 2009. “Oh!” he breathes, looking down at it.
The image is grainy, obviously captured at night, and details a woman dressed in white, lying on her back in the middle of a road. Police officers and their cars surround her body, and on both sides of her, the shapes of giant wings stretch out from her back. A circle of blood pierces her heart and stains her dress, and her eyes are shut in a morbid parody of peace.
“Look, John,” Sherlock says, his voice urgent, “do you see?”
In the backdrop of the image, a tall, dark-skinned man wearing a brown coat is visible. John squints at the man for a moment, taking in his features before recognition hits him. “Isn’t he the guy who wanted to talk to Donovan at the crime scene? He dropped my coat on the floor when I handed it to him.”
“Yes. He is not a member of our police force, though he is masquerading as one.”
“What?” John’s tea sloshes in his bowl as he startles. “Sherlock, why didn’t you say anything?”
Flippantly, Sherlock wedges John's laptop and a thick folder beneath his arm before standing up. He then exits the kitchen, navigating the broken floorboards with ease. “The man is harmless. As far as I can tell, he is an independent agent seeking to end these murders, same as I am about to.”
Something in Sherlock’s tone makes John pause before going to follow Sherlock. “Sherlock, wait, did you just decide for me that I'm not getting involved in this?”
Already halfway into his coat, Sherlock swirls around to face John, his expression surprised. “John,” he starts, only to have the wrist of his still-flapping sleeve snagged by John so that Sherlock can't get the rest of his arm through it.
“No, no, don’t ‘John’ me. You have been doing this more and more lately: pulling me into your cases, but then randomly shoving me back out without offering up any rhyme or reasoning for it. What is going on? And don't lie to me and tell me everything's fine, because we both know there's something going on in that head of yours. I'm concerned about you. Even Lestrade's noticed.”
The fabric of Sherlock’s coat tugs against John’s hold when Sherlock takes an involuntary step back, but he makes no further move to escape. The heat of their bodies travels between them, caught on Sherlock’s bated breath and John’s expectant gaze. Finally, Sherlock flattens the manila folder against John's chest and uses it to push him backwards.
"I will express this to you only once," Sherlock says, uncharacteristically level as he looks John in the eye. "This case has the potential to be quite dangerous." He waves his folder in the air. "If you had any idea what is in this – "
John knows an opportunity when he sees one. It's probably the reason he's managed to stay alive for so long, given the kind of life he leads. When he snatches the manila folder from Sherlock's hands and turns his back on him to read it in private, Sherlock's gasp of shock is a victory march all by itself.
"Give me that!" Sherlock's arms rope around John, reaching the long way around to his hands, but missing as John darts to the side.
"I don't think so, Sherlock." He cracks open the folder and begins to read its contents. "You're not leaving me in the dark about this."
"You are not getting involved in this ca-- "
John glares at Sherlock over his shoulder. "Seriously, you can just stop talking any second now." He goes back to his reading, dark ink getting all over his fingertips as he scans the headlines. Most of them are from American sources, but several are in other languages or are not even articles, merely surveillance photographs with little bits of Sherlock's handwriting on their backs. A disturbing trend seems to be evolving, and John swallows down a lump in his throat that feels like someone has just punched him with a brick.
"Um," John says, after a while. His neck feels flushed and his chest tingles with embarrassment. "Exactly how long have you been trying to prove that...God's...eh, angels...are psychotic killers?"
A sarcastic huff explodes from Sherlock's mouth. "About as long as they've been killing people." He tramples over the splintered floorboards and snatches his folder back from John. "Obviously, they are not actual angels, but rather very well-versed in pretending to be." He storms for the door, and John stumbles after him.
"I wish I could say I'm following you, Sherlock."
"Good," Sherlock says, flippantly. "That should save us both some trouble." He holds up the photograph of the dead woman in the white dress. "In the meanwhile, I suggest you call Lestrade and find out where this visiting consultant is." He taps the image of the man wearing a brown coat. "I believe the insight he might be able to offer regarding this case could be quite revealing."
- Mindset: accomplished