Characters: John, Subira, Sherlock, Tzophiya
Warnings/Triggers: blood, brief swearing
Spoilers: Passing reference to The Hounds of Baskerville
Word Count 2,904
Summary: Really, John and Subira had decided, it just wasn't a good idea to leave London.
Author's notes: I suddenly got an urge to write daemon!fic, and so I did. Knowledge of His Dark Materials is not required. All that's necessary to know is that, in this world, humans' souls live outside of their bodies in the form of animals. There's an excellent primer here.
Less plotty than usual, even for me, because I wanted to get the feel of incorporating the daemons. I've done some hurt/comfort, as that's where I feel most comfortable.
For reference: Subira (a dwarf mongoose) and Tzophiya (a Grey Lourie)
A very big thanks to donutsweeper for inspiring me with her awesome HDM stories, and letting me ask lots of questions.
Really, John had decided, it just wasn't a good idea to leave London.
There was Baskerville, of course, which had been pretty bad. There had been that time in Penzance, which everyone involved refused to speak of again. And now there was this, which was not turning out great.
They were in a very small town in Somerset, working on a case that had the local constabulary baffled. John got the impression that this was the first murder case any of them had ever encountered, and none of them particularly knew what to do. Sherlock and John had arrived to find the town in an uproar, with the general opinion being that there was a madman on the loose.
It wasn't a madman, it was a husband. Jerry Walters, to be precise, who was the town's pride and joy, whose family owned the town, and who was best friends with the Chief Constable. No one was willing to accept that Walters might have killed his wife, which made it an uphill battle, to begin with, made harder by the refusal of the Chief Constable to take any action against Walters without undeniable proof.
So, they were in the middle of nowhere, solving a baffling murder with the whole town against them.
Oh, and John had fallen down a hole while searching for the murder weapon in the local forest. They'd found it, at least. After John's leg had been slashed open on a rock.
“You're bleeding again.”
Sherlock said this as though it were John's fault. Which it wasn't. Technically. Granted, he shouldn't have fallen down the ravine, but it's not as though Sherlock or Tzophiya had predicted the ledge would give way, either.
Subira leaped off John's shoulder and investigated the gash to his leg. It had bled badly and had taken ten minutes of pressure to get it to stop enough for John to even try to patch it up.
“The bottom's opened up again,” she reported. “We're out of steri-strips.”
“I know,” John said.
“There's a stump up ahead, sit down there and figure something out,” Sherlock ordered.
He deposited John on the trunk by simply letting go of his grip around his waist, making John collapse ungracefully. He righted himself and put his leg up beside him. The opened part of the wound wasn't too big, but he was out of ways to close it up.
Sherlock looked upwards and Tzophiya swooped down from the tree she was perched in and landed on a low branch. They conversed for a few moments.
"She can see the tree-line, but we're still a good twenty-minute walk considering your condition,” Sherlock reported. “Our best hope is finding a bar or two to ring for help.” He glanced down at his mobile and shook it with as sigh.
Subira licked at John's wound and he pressed on his popliteal artery to see if he could stem the bleeding a bit.
“You really should start to carry around bigger First Aid Kits,” she said.
John retrieved the little Altoid tin he kept a pocket kit in and checked again to see what he had left. He only had blister plasters, which were hardly big enough for the job.
“Here,” Sherlock said, thrusting a strip of torn fabric from his shirt at him.
John took it and tied it loosely around the wound. “Thanks.”
Sherlock nodded. “We need to get moving again, it'll be dark soon.”
“You should just go ahead,” John said. “Go and get help and bring it back. I'm slowing you down.”
“We're almost out now,” Sherlock said. “Take a break and we'll keep going. It will be harder to find you again the dark. If we find a path, I'll leave you there. I don't want to waste time trying to locate you in the trees. We have a killer to catch, and that imbecilic constable is going to ruin everything if we don't hurry. “ He made a loud groaning sound. “I hate the country!”
“Didn't you grow up in the country?” John asked.
“Our family has a house in the country,” Sherlock corrected. “We grew up in London. Well, we grew up at boarding school.”
“No issues there,” Subira muttered to John.
Tzophiya landed near Subira and gave John's leg a once over, cocking her head back and forth in curiosity.
“How far do we have to go until we get mobile service again?” John wondered.
“I don't know, I can't see mobile signals in the air,” Sherlock said, waving his hands around. “I imagine the closer we get to civilization, the better the reception. Not that that village can be counted a civilization. No wonder Walters murdered his wife. He must have been bored out of his mind.” Tzophiya's wings flapped in consternation and Subira tried patting her on the head.
“It's not that bad,” John said.
“You've been to Afghanistan, your perception is skewed,” Sherlock said.
Tzo swooped back up in the trees, leaving Subira behind to shake her head and shoot John a look of amusement that made him laugh. She scurried up onto his lap and he gave her a few pats of reassurance. They rested for another minute, then John stood up again. Sherlock put his arm around John's waist and John leaned his weight on him. It wasn't so much that it hurt to walk–though it didn't feel great–it was just that the more pressure he put on his leg, the more the wound opened and bled. He was doing his best to avoid bearing as much weight as possible.
“This'll make people talk,” John noted, as they limped along. “You hoisting me around like a bloody romance novel heroine.”
“I could carry you if you prefer,” Sherlock said.
“Yeah, 'cause that'll look better,” John said. “Besides, you couldn't carry me.”
“It would be easier than the reverse,” Sherlock replied. “My feet wouldn't even get off the ground if you tried to carry me.”
John glared at him, but Subira giggled at his feet and Tzophiya's amused 'gane gane' could be heard above them. “I've carried people bigger than you off battlefields,” he said. “I'm not a beanpole, I can actually bear weight without collapsing.”
“Can you? Shall I let go and you can show me?” Sherlock said.
John decided insulting the person responsible for keeping him on his feet wasn't the best move and fell silent. They limped onwards, Tzophiya circling above them on the lookout for anything of interest. Sherlock and Tzophiya had the longest range that John had ever seen between a human and a dæmon. They could be several yards apart without any apparent distress. It was especially remarkable to John, who preferred to keep Subira closer than most people. Ella said that was a sign of PTSD, and John agreed that they did stick closer to one another after Afghanistan than before.
“You're bleeding again,” Subira announced, after about ten minutes of walking.
"Hold up," John told Sherlock.
“Oh, for fuck's sake!” Sherlock growled.
It was one of the rare times John had heard him properly swear. He tended to favour a blistering tirade of very erudite insults when he got frustrated. He was obviously nearing the end of his patience.
“Sorry,” John said.
“It's not your fault,” Sherlock said, in a tone suggesting he was reminding himself of that fact, or perhaps Tzo was.
He deposited John on a large rock and fussed about with his mobile, striding around the area and looking for bars. Tzophiya landed on his shoulder, and they had a heated discussion.
“Why hasn't he left you yet?” Subira wondered.
“I have no idea,” John replied. "Maybe Tzo told him not to."
Subira looked at them suspiciously. “She can't be properly concerned, can she? Are you really that badly off?”
John tore off some of his shirt and added it to the mess of bandages on his leg to cover the newly opened area. The bit of Sherlock's shirt was already soaked through. John put his foot up against a tree, keeping the wound above his heart for a bit.
“I'm not great,” John admitted.
Sherlock and Tzophiya returned. “Still no signal, but Tzophiya's found the path,” Sherlock reported. “It's about two or three minutes that way. Can you get there?”
John nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so. Can you give me another minute?”
“Fine,” Sherlock said.
“I'm sorry, I haven't been any help on this case at all,” John said.
“You found the murder weapon,” Sherlock pointed out.
“I landed on it, it's not really an accomplishment,” John said. “And you would have seen it anyway, even if I hadn't fallen into that pit.”
Sherlock made an annoyed gesture. “Fine. Of course, I would have found it, and I cannot believe you fell into a giant hole as though it weren't even there, and yes, you're slowing me down, and I do not know what's wrong with your coagulation system. Is that better?”
Tzophiya pecked him in the side of the face. Sherlock swatted her off his shoulder.
John and Subira burst out laughing.
Sherlock looked confused. “What?”
“No, it's just...God, please, don't try to be nice if that's what you're doing,” John said. “It's frightening. I thought I was dying.”
Sherlock chuckled. “Fine. Come on, and stop being such a child. It's not that bad. Hurry up.”
John nodded, and Subira climbed up to his shoulder again. They set off toward the path, Tzophiya swooping ahead. John found himself feeling relieved when they made it out onto an open, wide path. It felt safer there. He didn't know why he felt unsafe before.
There was a fallen tree by the side of the path, and Sherlock set John down on it. He looked for a mobile signal again.
“I'm going to have to go ahead,” he said. “Will you be all right here? I'll come back once I summon help.”
“I'll be fine,” John said. He rubbed his hands together, trying to warm them up. “Why are you so fussed?”
“Because it's not cold,” Sherlock said.
John's hands stopped moving. He looked over to Subira, who was shivering. She looked back at him, surprised.
“How much blood have I lost?” John asked her.
“I don't know,” she said. “A lot, though.”
“Oh,” John said.
He was about to say that he'd know if he were going into shock, but he remembered the number of people he'd seen in Afghanistan who got up and walked back to safety with all manner of life-threatening wounds, daemons not even stumbling. He checked his pulse. It was fast. He realized that feeling anxious and unsafe could be a sign of shock as well.
“Maybe you should get in the shock position?” Subira suggested.
John had no greater objection to that other than 'I don't want to', so he complied. He lay down on the ground and put his feet up on the log. Subira crawled into his shirt to keep warm, her nose touching his chin. Sherlock shrugged his coat off, and then his jacket, putting the latter over John's legs.
“I'll be back,” he promised.
“I'm fine,” John said.
Sherlock ran, Tzophiya flying ahead of him.
No longer distracted by trying to keep going, John realized he felt a bit sleepy and woozy. Subira shivered in his shirt. Dæmons' behaviour was often far more indicative of what was happening in a person's body. They didn't hide it like humans did. John snuggled her in close.
“I don't feel very well,” she admitted, softly.
“I know,” John said. “Don't worry, it'll be fine.”
Sherlock returned within fifteen minutes. “I found mobile service down the road; I've called the constable,” he said. “Evidently it's bingo night, so everyone is conveniently at the town tall to muster. They said it would be about half-an-hour to get out here.”
Tzophiya landed next to John's shoulder and peered at Subira, her little crown of feathers up on end.
“I wonder if they even have an ambulance,” Sherlock said. He sat down on the ground near John, his back to a tree. Tzophiya hopped back over, apparently satisfied with Subira's condition.
“It's really not that bad,” John said. “It's Somerset, not the end of the world.”
“Please, some of them still believe the old woman with the female dæmon can see the future!” Sherlock said.
“No one knows why some people have same-sex dæmons,” John said, just to rile him. “Maybe she can.”
John could feel Subira's huff of laughter on his chin as Sherlock launched into a tirade about superstitions and genetic mutations, and how it was no weirder than someone having two different coloured eyes or being born without a spleen.
“No, no, don't get him going again,” Subira said, when John opened his mouth to keep up the argument. “You're being mean.”
Sherlock began to look at crime scene photos on his phone, apparently ranted out. Tzophiya sat on his shoulder, and their heads cocked to the side in unison. They muttered to one another. It became background noise to John. He and Subira dozed lightly, in between Sherlock tossing pebbles at them to make sure John wasn't unconscious.
Eventually, John could hear the sounds of a vehicle approaching and people running around. A Search and Rescue worker shone a torch over them. She had an albatross dæmon who looked over Subira while the worker talked to John. They were accompanied by a paramedic with a big, friendly-looking St-Bernard dæmon.
“There weren't enough space for the ambulance, so we've had to do a bit of rigging,” the paramedic said. “Hold tight, and we'll take you where the ambulance is to.”
John was moved onto a simple stretcher, which was then placed on a flatbed trailer attached to a tractor. Tzophiya perched on the railing on the side of the trailer to monitor the situation while Sherlock yelled at a constable nearby.
“What do you mean you let Walters out?” he demanded. “Why?” Tzophiya abandoned concern to fly back to Sherlock in consternation at this news.
“There wasn't any proof against him,” the constable replied. His dæmon–a giant turkey–made a loud squawk of agreement. “We had no cause to hold him.”
“You had–I spent–were you not–?” Sherlock sputtered. His mouth hung open, and it was the first time John had ever seen him at a genuine loss for words. He went very, very stoned-faced, and John hoped the constable was smart enough to keep his mouth shut. “All right. You are going to round up whatever you have that qualifies as a team, and we are going back to that ravine, and I will show you the murder weapon. You will test it--if you even have a forensics unit here--and you will see that everything I have told you is right.”
“S'dark!” the constable objected.
“Finally, you've noticed something!” Sherlock yelled. “I grant you we might have been able to wait until morning, but since you've let out the murderer, and this town is the size of a postage stamp, news of what's happened here is already being passed around, which means he knows we were where he disposed of the weapon and can now go and retrieve the weapon and re-dispose of it. We have to go now before he gets there. Do not even think about objecting. Do what I say. You have five minutes to prepare. If you refuse, do not think for a moment I won't ring my contacts in London and have you removed from your position.”
He turned on his heel and marched over to the trailer. “Congratulations, John,” he said. “Your falling on the murder weapon has been the single greatest act of detective work I've seen all week, apart from my own.”
“All right, calm down,” John said.
Sherlock and Tzophiya took deep breaths in unison. “Is it still illegal to hit a law enforcement official if he is being a complete moron?”
“Yeah, I think so,” John said. “And I'm not bailing you out again, so don't think about it.”
The tractor started up, and John had to fight hard not to laugh at how silly this all was.
“You'll have to step back, sir,” the paramedic said to Sherlock. “We'll be off now.”
“Good luck,” Sherlock said.
“You too,” John replied.
“Oh, and John? Next time I even contemplate leaving London, just shoot me in the face. It will be just as excruciating and save us a good deal of time.”