Harry bit down hard on a rolled up piece of cloth and screamed as John stood behind her, concentrating on the runes on her back. Sherlock was trying not to listen, because as soon as John was done with Harry, it would be his turn. Harry was kneeling on the ground with her hands clenched so tightly that her nails cut into her palms.
Sherlock could smell something burning, and he raised his arm to cover his nose and mouth, gagging.
"Almost done," John said reassuringly, although it sounded far less reassuring in his voice filled with hissing flames.
To take his mind off what was coming, Sherlock looked out the window, trying to see if he could see Mycroft's forces out there waiting to extract them. Sherlock was rather tired of needing Mycroft to come to the rescue. He was probably going to try and blame Sherlock for this entire mess, and would be insufferable to be around. He always was, but extra insufferable just because of this.
"Done," John said, and Sherlock tensed.
Harry slumped over on the floor, panting raggedly. She spat the piece of cloth out of her mouth and tried to stand, but her arms wobbled too much to push herself up.
Unable to help himself, Sherlock looked at her back.
The wound, which had been bloody and jagged, had been cauterized by the fire. It was burned a deep black, and the surrounding skin was red where the heat of the fire hadn't quite been contained. Sherlock felt a bit dizzy just looking at it, and for just a moment, he contemplated refusing to go along with it.
He had to. It was the only way to escape.
"Are you sure this is going to work?" John asked, examining Harry's back. "I can still see the runes."
"They're just markings now," Sherlock said, forcing himself to look at them. "The magic they contained has dissipated."
"Hurry up and do him," Harry said. "I don't want to stay here any longer."
Sherlock had to agree, in spite of his fear. It wouldn't do any good if he didn't let John destroy the runes, especially since Moriarty might do something even worse.
It would be a lot easier for everyone if all Moriarty wanted was power or money, but from what Sherlock could see, that wasn't the case.
He'd given Sherlock the chance to join him. Moriarty didn't just want to cause chaos, he wanted to do something interesting to occupy his mind. It just so happened that most of the things that would be interesting were also illegal.
Moriarty had reinvented blood magic. He hadn't just studied it, he wrote it himself, creating new spells and new ways of using blood magic. Sherlock was quite sure that the spell that had Summoned John in the first place had been one of Moriarty's creation rather than one Moriarty had discovered randomly.
Moriarty was interested in genius, and Sherlock fit the bill. However, Sherlock didn't follow orders and he wasn't interested in anybody else's mechanizations. If Sherlock were ever to become a criminal mastermind, it would be on his own terms. Not that Sherlock would, because solving the crimes of others was more interesting than actually committing it himself.
Sherlock knelt on the ground at John's feet, feeling a fine tremor running down his spine in anticipation of the pain. He didn't try and convince himself that he could withstand it enough to stay on his feet. He would rather he didn't fall over.
"I think I can go faster now that I've done it once," John said. "This should be quick."
Sherlock nodded and grit his teeth. He reached up and bit the sleeve of his mage robes.
John's hand was gentle on his back, spreading out across the runes engraved in his flesh. His skin stung angrily in warning, and Sherlock tensed.
At first, it was just warm.
For a few seconds, Sherlock hoped that maybe it wouldn't hurt as much as he was anticipating.
Then, the skin of his back erupted in agony as fire raced along the blood lines of the runes, burning the magic out of them. Sherlock could feel John's flames destroying the magic like it was destroying an infection, and the bonds that tied his magic in place weakened. It was a good feeling, because now that he could feel the restricting magic being lifted, he could tell how much it had been cramped by the runes.
Sherlock knew it was working, while at the same time, it was the worst pain he'd ever felt in his life. The fire burned its way through his blood and nerve endings, lighting his entire body up with agony.
Sherlock thought that the worst part was the pain, and that to survive this, all he had to do was get through it.
And then the runes on the walls flared to life around him, resonating with the incompletely destroyed markings on his back.
Moriarty flashed into being in the middle of the room and John faltered.
"John, keep going," Sherlock said, shocked at how raw his voice sounded.
"What have we here?" Moriarty asked, smiling madly. "Someone is trying to escape now, and I can't let them."
"Let them go, you maniac," John said angrily, still distracted from his task.
"John!" Sherlock said tightly, because the runes weren't destroyed yet.
"I know, let's demonstrate what happens to those who defy me. I think you'll like it, John Watson. We'll get you to cooperate yet."
And in the blink of an eye, Sherlock was whirling away, because the runes were only weakened and not destroyed. As he was yanked away from the office in London, he felt something seem to grasp at the runes on his back. It felt like something with claws was latching onto him by digging them into his shoulders. It got pulled along with him as he landed in the barren and freezing wasteland.
The cold hit Sherlock with the same shocking intensity it did every time, and he could only pray that Moriarty would bring him back before frostbite set in.
He was so cold that it ached down to his bones, and it took him several seconds to realize that his back still felt like it was on fire.
Sherlock's heart nearly stopped as he turned to find that John had been dragged along with him.
"Don't move," John gasped.
"John, what are you doing?" Sherlock asked, blinking at the ice coating his eyelashes.
"Getting it off you," John whispered.
"If you take it off, we won't be able to go back," Sherlock replied, teeth chattering so hard that he could barely talk.
"Needs to come off so you can use magic," John said, sounding extremely reasonable in spite of the biting cold.
John wasn't glowing like usual, instead he was in his normal, human shape and only his hand was glowing red with fire. Sherlock could only vaguely feel the pain beyond the numbness encompassing him.
"Done," John said, and then slumped against his back.
Sherlock turned slightly and tucked them together. They were hardly generating any heat, and pressing together didn't do much good for body heat conservation. He gathered John up in his arms anyway and held him tightly. It was so cold, and everything around him was beginning to fade.
"John," he whispered harshly. "John, you have to wake up. I can't do it, I don't have the power."
"Can't..." John whispered back.
Sherlock didn't have the power. He had the will and concentration to do many things that other mages found amazing, but the sheer amount of power required to transport them back to London was beyond him.
"Your magic is like a heartbeat," John said sleepily in his ear. "It's nice."
"John..." Sherlock said helplessly and tried desperately to think of something to do.
He had to wake John up. John's Berserker blood made him especially suseptible to cold, and this was the coldest region on Earth. He had to warm John up somehow, because otherwise they were going to die. Sherlock couldn't transport them far enough, and even if he could, he had no idea where they were. He could just as easily dump them both in the middle of the ocean or a desert as anywhere near home.
Sherlock did not want to accidentally land in the middle of the Antarctic Ocean.
He brought up a heat spell, the strongest one that he could, but even then, the temperature around them only rose enough that Sherlock could feel the cold rather than going numb.
They were going to die.
"I'm sorry, John," Sherlock whispered against John's frost-encrusted hair.
Without thinking, he pressed a kiss to John's temple.
John stirred, blinking up at him in confusion.
"What did you just do?" John asked, still sounding a bit dazed, but more awake than he was a moment ago. "Something just happened. It felt... warm."
"I kissed you," Sherlock said, eyes wide as he stared at John.
"What are you waiting for, do it again!" John said.
The words were hardly out of John's mouth when Sherlock wrapped him back up in his arms and pressed his mouth to John's. John's lips were cold against his, but in the space of a second, they warmed up and gave against his. Sherlock sank into the feeling, heart beating madly, as he forgot for one, shining moment, that they were about to freeze to death in the middle of Antarctica.
There was a swooping in his gut, and it took Sherlock a moment to realize that it wasn't just kissing John that was causing it, but John transporting them elsewhere.
And then Sherlock remembered, as the warmth returned to his body and brain: the link with Harry. John could transport himself directly to his sister because of their shared blood. They might survive this after all.
A moment later, they were dumped onto the floor of the office, and Sherlock was glad to be back for the few seconds it took to orientate himself. Then, he realized that someone was screaming, there was a battle being fought outside the window across the rooftop, and John was angry.
Thankfully, John was not angry at him.
Harry had been recaptured, although thankfully, it looked as if Moriarty hadn't carved any more runes into her skin. She was, however, being held in place in the middle of what looked like a ritual circle. Sherlock would be fascinated if this didn't mean that Harry was in great danger of being turned into a Berserker.
John set fire to the walls of the room, but the flames went nowhere near Harry or the hooded figures taking part in the ritual. A moment later, Sherlock felt a little sigh ripple through the room as the runes preventing him from using magic burned away.
"The oil!" John said. "You can't let them set her on fire."
Sherlock was about to say that John was more powerful than him, when he realized that John's fire would only accomplish their task faster than normal.
The oil, he had to get rid of the oil.
He held up his hands in front of him, his right held upright, his left held at a perpendicular angle with his left hand near his right elbow. He swirled his arms in a sweeping, circular motion so that both arms ended up crossed in front of him, hands twisted so that his palms faced each other, fingers flared wide.
Normally, if he were doing this spell, he would simply take the time to concentrate on his task, and accomplish the same spell with a swirl of a single finger rather than both arms. However, time was of the essense, and he had no time to waste.
The oil began to pick itself back up off the ground and uncoil, flowing backward toward the pot it had been contained in earlier, the spell unraveling like a loose thread.
As soon as the oil was away from Harry, John grinned sharply and said, "Perfect."
He leapt forward so that he was near Harry, and the next moment, there was a wall of flames rushing toward those taking part in the ritual. Sherlock threw his arms out on either side of him, palms out, and put up a hasty shield spell. John wasn't trying to hurt him, but the edges of the fire were still devouringly hot.
Sherlock scanned the area and couldn't help but notice that, once again, Moriarty was nowhere to be seen. Had he left somewhere beforehand, or had he escaped as soon as he and John reappeared?
He didn't have long to think of anything, because a moment later, the glass on the window shattered, and Mycroft's mages entered the room.
"Sweep the building!" one of them shouted. They turned to Sherlock and said, "We need to extract you and the Watsons. Please allow us to put a rappelling harness on you."
"I don't need a rappelling harness," Sherlock started to say, but two mages had already started putting one on him.
Before he could protest, they had manhandled him to the window, attached his harness to some sort of line that went off into the night, and pushed him out of the building. He looked around wildly, and it looked as if both Harry and John were attached as well.
The thrumming noise of helicopter blades became apparent, and Sherlock rolled his eyes. This was the second time in as many days that he'd ended up being rescued by helicopter, and it was a bit over-the-top if you asked him. Mycroft did like being dramatic.
"Are you both alright?" he yelled down the line.
"I'm fine," John shouted back up at him. "Harry?"
"Johnny boy, if we ever get out of this mess, you have a hell of a lot of explaining to do," Harry yelled.
"Will do," John said.
They ended up back at some government HQ, and were immediately hustled off to the medical bay to be checked over for any lasting damage. Sherlock scoffed at that, until they cleaned off the injury on his back and put antiseptic on it. He'd forgotten he had a burn, because almost immediately, he'd been frozen. They also treated them all for minor frostbite.
They had been bundled of so rapidly and with so much efficiency, that Sherlock hadn't had much of a chance to say anything to John since they'd been rescued. It was frustrating, now that so much had happened.
Sherlock could still feel the contours of John's mouth against his, and if he closed his eyes, he could imagine exactly how it felt. He wasn't sure that it was only because he'd never been kissed before that it was affecting him with so much intensity, but he had the feeling, it was all because of John.
They had all been told they were staying overnight for observation, even though all of them had protested that they were fine.
Sherlock couldn't say that he wasn't going to wake up sometimes in the night and think he was back in Antarctica, or be reminded of something damaging related to blood runes, but that wasn't going to be fixed by a night in a hospital bed. It wasn't really something one could fix. He wanted to be back home.
He had an extra room upstairs.
John was asleep in his bed when Sherlock snuck out of his own bed to come over and talk to him.
"John," he whispered. "John, wake up!"
John stirred sleepily, eyes blurry and asked, "What?"
"The place I live has an empty room," Sherlock said.
"What about it?" John asked.
"You need a place to stay. I have an empty room," Sherlock said, trying not to be impatient.
"Sherlock," John said, sitting up. "This is all a bit of a mess."
"Not anymore," Sherlock said. "Harry's rescued. Mycroft isn't afraid you're going to go on a rampage across London. You can't go back to Afghanistan."
"Why not?" John asked. "If this is all cleared up."
"Moriarty," Sherlock said with a grin. "Moriarty is still out there, and I may need help tracking him down. I might particularly need the help of someone who can be useful. You know, the type of person with a talent for burning down blood wards."
John smiled then. "I'll think about it."
"I play the violin," Sherlock said happily. "And sometimes I don't talk for days."
"Why are you telling me this?" John asked, but he sounded amused.
"Potential roommates should know the worst about each other, don't you think?" Sherlock asked.
"I may have a tendency of stomping off if I'm angry," John said. "Also, I have recently become aware of a strange medical condition in which I set things on fire when I need to eat."
"I think we can manage," Sherlock said.
They grinned at each other in the dark, and Sherlock felt something warm and melting coalescing in his gut.
"There's something else we should probably discuss," John said.
"What's that?" Sherlock asked, suddenly nervous again.
"Come closer," John said, leaning in.
Sherlock did so, shifting up so he was leaning over the bed, face close to John's. John took Sherlock's face gently in his hands, smoothing a curl of Sherlock's hair out of his eyes. Sherlock felt a rush of feeling sweep through him before John leaned forward and kissed him.
Sherlock sighed into the kiss, hands coming up to John's shoulders.
John kissed him gently, controlling the pace of the kiss, and not pushing it into anything more heated. Sherlock felt his heart doing its best to keep up with all of this sensation, and his lungs forgetting vital things like air as his brain filled itself with nothing but John, and the way he was carefully exploring Sherlock's mouth.
When they finally drew apart, Sherlock's mouth felt tingly and sensitive, and he raised his fingers to his mouth to feel it carefully, shivering at the intensity of it all.
He stared into John's eyes in fascination.
"Do you think this could work?" Sherlock asked anxiously. "I'm... not very good at being social. Or normal. People don't generally like me, you know."
"I'm not people," John said, grinning. "And you're a pretty amazing person."
Sherlock blushed hard, turning away. "Amazing is not something I'm often described as. Or ever."
"I'll have to change that," John said, lifting one of Sherlock's hands to his mouth and kissing the back of it. "Here, I'll budge over for you."
John moved to one side of the bed, and Sherlock shyly maneuvered himself next to John, not certain how much of John he was allowed to touch. This was all new for him, after all.
John held out an arm, and Sherlock moved underneath it, tucking his head under John's chin and curling up against him. John sighed and settled against him, relaxing and breathing slowly. In a few minutes, he was deeply asleep, and Sherlock watched, transfixed, as John fell asleep nestled in Sherlock's embrace.
Sherlock didn't know what to expect from all this.
They'd been thrown together by circumstance, and with all the adrenaline and other hormones running through their bodies, it didn't seem like much of a stretch to think that they would realize their mistake soon and come to their senses.
Sherlock should already have come to his, but he still felt overwhelmed with how much he wanted exactly this.
Sherlock would figure it out in the morning. Right now, everything was perfect.