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Title: Preconceived Notions
Fandom: BBC Sherlock AU
Characters: John Watson, Mycroft Holmes
Rating: PG
Length: 1,800 words
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for 'A Study in Pink'
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the BBC and Moffat.
Author's Notes: Thanks to my betas, swissmarg and luzula, and to yeomanrand for the original prompt. John is fae. Sherlock and Mycroft are not. This is a time stamp to A Story of Names. It can be read as a stand-alone, but is probably more enjoyable in the context of the original story.
Summary: The most dangerous man you've ever met.

I hobbled down Brixton High Street, heart racing, searching for a taxi. A púca knows what it is to hunt, and what it is to be hunted. What I sensed wasn’t the impersonal danger of an incoming artillery barrage. It was more like the threat of a sniper who had marked my position, and was patiently waiting for me to break cover and tend to the young soldier bleeding to death in the open. I was hounded down the road by ringing telephones and the blind eyes of CCTV cameras turning to watch my too-slow progress.

A black car pulled up beside me. Its rear door opened in a silent command.

I looked around. There were no police in sight. They were all at the crime scene at Lauriston Gardens, a few hundred metres away. There were plenty of people in the shops, walking along the pavement, enjoying the unseasonably warm evening. Businessmen. Couples. Families. If I tried to run, I wouldn’t get far. Decades as a man weren’t enough to wipe out the centuries of life on four legs that had my body convinced a shoulder wound must cause a limp. I’d be putting the civilians at risk with no real chance of escape.

I got in the car.

Inside, a pretty young woman introduced herself as Anthea. The word tasted of ash on my tongue, not a proper name at all. Her expensive lavender perfume nearly covered the scent of gun oil from a skin-warmed weapon.

The car eventually pulled to a stop in the middle of a huge, empty warehouse. I stepped out and limped towards the only light. There was a tall man standing there. Everything about him spoke of wealth and power, from the superior smirk to a waist-coat that would have pleased Queen Victoria. He leant on an umbrella and nodded me towards the lone chair in front of him.

Holmes had many enemies like this man. They appeared to the world a respected banker, a consummate diplomat, an esteemed professor. Holmes, through the power of his observations, was able to rip away the masks that protected those men and reveal the beasts snarling within.

I ignored the chair; refused the unspoken command, his assumption of control. I moved closer, into normal conversational distance. One more step, almost near enough that a lunge would –

He tapped a finger on the handle of his umbrella. In the shadows behind and to my left, I heard the unmistakable sound of a round being chambered. The ejected round hit the floor with a metallic ping.

“Close enough,” he warned.

I stood still, settling into the closest to parade rest that my leg would allow.

“What is your interest in Sherlock Holmes?” he demanded in a ridiculously plummy, public school voice. I certainly couldn’t out-posh him. So I went the other way.

“Well, he’s a right fit bloke, in’t he,” I said, letting it roll mockingly off my tongue like only a Lancashire boy could.

“I see,” he sneered. “So you met him yesterday, and were so overcome by his charms that you immediately moved in with him and now you’re solving crimes together. Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?”

I shrugged.

His face went blank as he assessed me, taking in every detail of my expression, my stance, my clothes, much as Sherlock had the day before. But this man looked at me like a bug about to be stepped on.

There was a good chance I wouldn’t make it out of this warehouse alive. Afghanistan had proven I wasn’t immune to a bullet. I should have yelled out in Brixton. Tried to run. Anything to leave some kind of trace, a trail for Sherlock to follow when I disappeared off the face of the earth. Something that would serve to warn him of the enemy closing in.

He took a small book out of his pocket and consulted it. “Post,” he read out loud. “Traumatic,” he enunciated as if being marked on his diction. “Amnesia?” he finished in a tone of polite inquiry.

I shifted uneasily. “Nope. Got a bum leg out of the war, but my memory’s fine.”

“I am, of course, not referring to Afghanistan, but to the fire,” he informed me, glancing down at the page again. “December 21, 1988. An abandoned house in Burnley, frequently inhabited by squatters, burns to the ground. There are no fatalities, and only one injured party. A young man.”

The house was a Yule fire, blazing into the longest night. The night when the cycle turns to rebirth and new beginnings.

“The young man was rescued by a fire fighter by the name of Jack Watson, and rushed to the Burnley General Hospital. He recovered quickly from smoke inhalation, but claimed to be unable to remember anything about himself or his background beyond his given name, ‘John.’ No family or friends reported him missing. Mister Watson and his wife adopted the boy later that year. The most interesting aspect of all this, is that there is absolutely no record of his existence before that night.”

Not in this century, anyway. “Perhaps you haven’t looked hard enough?”

His lips tightened. “Oh, that is most certainly not the case. Now, do you have any explanation to offer, ‘John Watson’?”

“Da always called it a Christmas miracle,” I said.

He let out a dry rasp of a chuckle. “I, on the other hand, would describe it as a remarkably clumsy way of inserting a foreign agent into the heart of Great Britain.”

I winced. It had been careless, yes. But taking the form of an infant would have been difficult. And I’d been impatient to earn my name and find my way back into Sherlock’s life.

The man picked up his umbrella and swung it in an arc through the air, eyes on it as he spoke. “The KGB was renowned for their use of baroque tradecraft such as sleeper agents, but my contacts in the Kremlin inform me that you are not one of theirs. So I have to wonder-” The umbrella came to a halt with its tip a few centimetres from my throat. “Who are you working for?”

The KGB? What? I knocked the umbrella away. “I’m not working for anyone.”

He gave a tiny sniff of disbelief. “Then I must return to my initial question – what is your interest in Sherlock Holmes? If your mission objective is to recruit him, please allow me to explain what a mistake that would be. Sherlock has certain gifts that might appear to make him a tremendous intelligence asset. Yet he fritters away his time and energy on pointless experiments and petty crime-solving.”

“Not pointless,” I protested. “Sherlock’s brilliant, and he’ll save lives by catching this murderer.”

The man ignored my interruption. “He is a sociopath, a narcissist, and a drug addict. Perhaps you believe those qualities make him vulnerable to a honeypot recruitment strategy, seduction by a …” He looked me up and down and shook his head in contempt. “A damaged little middle-aged man.”

I tightened my hand on the cane as I came to full attention, ignoring the twin aches it caused in my shoulder and my leg to glare at the wanker who had no clue what it meant to be wounded in service to Queen and Country. Wait - a drug addict? Oh, Sherlock. What have you been up to in the years I’ve been away?

“Let me assure you that Sherlock Holmes is incapable of responding to such a scenario. He is, furthermore, unreliable and completely uncontrollable, even by me,” the man snapped out, eyes blazing. He stepped back, huffed out a breath, and leant on his umbrella again. All emotion leached from his face. “No. I can see that recruitment is not, in fact, your objective. Could it be that this is an attempt to force some concession from me, by threatening him?” He ducked his head down and looked me in the eye. “If so, you and your masters have made a truly grievous error in judgement.”

My sense of danger spiked, sharp and hot. There was at least one shooter, probably more, with weapons trained on me. If I transformed, now, in an instant, the shock of it, together with my natural speed, might just give me enough time to get my teeth in the bastard’s throat before they killed me.

I tensed, and felt my leg tremble under the strain. My sense of smell heightened as I prepared to shift. Dust, metal, and machine oil from the warehouse floor. The man smelt of anger and sweat and fear, real fear under the cedar and citrus notes of his cologne. There was something about his natural scent. Something familiar.

I hunted back through my memories. One rainy afternoon, young Sherlock and I had hidden from his tutor in his brother’s closet. Sherlock had pulled a dozen coats and suits off their hangars to build us a nest, and they had smelt…

“Mycroft?” I asked, voice breaking. Sherlock’s brother. Christ. And I’d almost – what a bloody mess.

He smiled a tight, nasty little smile. “Excellent. We’ve completed the ‘feigning ignorance’ part of the programme, then? And it didn’t even require any specialized interrogation techniques.”

I took a steadying breath, still light-headed and loose-limbed from the sudden let down of adrenaline. “Mycroft Holmes,” I said firmly, naming and invoking the man who would do anything to protect his brother.

Mycroft straightened and nodded, acknowledging the call.

“I am Doctor John Watson, and I swear to you, on my name, that I am no threat to Sherlock Holmes.”

Mycroft tilted his head and inspected me once again, intrigued by my oath. It still made me feel like an insect. One that might merit the killing jar and a place pinned in his collection.

The text alert chimed on my phone. I fumbled it out of my pocket and smiled at a text from Sherlock summoning me to Baker Street.

“You, Doctor Watson,” Mycroft said pompously, “are not the man I believed you to be.”

I resisted the urge to giggle. “Could say the same about you.”

“The question remains, however,” he said. “Who and what are you? I will find out.”

It was quite friendly, as threats go. My phone chimed again. I read the text. Sherlock was already getting impatient. The git.

I grinned at Mycroft and waved my phone at him. “Another time? Sherlock’s looking for me.”

Mycroft waved his hand in a magnanimous dismissal. I limped back to the car. I really should pick up my gun on the way. This had been a false alarm, but I could still scent danger in the air, like cordite on a crisp desert night. The game was afoot.

Continued in The Story-Teller.