Sherlock/Legend of Korra fic: A Study in Earthbending (1/2)
current mood: accomplished
Title: A Study in Earthbending (1/2)
Fandom: Sherlock/Legend of Korra
Characters/Pairings: Sherlock, John, Lestrade, Mycroft
Rating/Warnings: Rated T. Spoilers for ASiP and spoilers for the setting of Legend of Korra (no spoilers for the plot/characters itself)
Length: 12,927 words total
Summary: John is an earthbender who was sent back to Republic City after being invalided home from the army. There he meets Sherlock Holmes, a consulting detective and one of the most powerful benders in the city, who appears to have left both a riding crop and a fire ferret in the mortuary. Sherlock fusion with Legend of Korra (which is a spinoff of Avatar the Last Airbender).
Author's note: This is a fusion with the Legend of Korra/Avatar the Last Airbender. You don’t need to have seen the show to read this, all you need to know is that it takes place in a steampunkish universe where there are people who are able to “bend”, or kinetically manipulate, the elements using various styles of martial arts. There are earthbenders, firebenders, waterbenders, and airbenders. Thanks to Brandon for looking this over for me.
John’s eyes never drifted from the rock in front of him, never strayed from their target as he widened his stance, deepened his breathing, closed his eyes, struggled to maintain his connection with the earth. The coarse ground beneath his bare feet was meant to stabilize him, support John’s idiotic leg even when he couldn’t. In order to move a rock, you must be as enduring and unyielding as the rock itself: this was what all earthbenders knew. Even so, John’s leg trembled in protest at the weight of his body. John gritted his teeth and took a quick breath before throwing his arm forward in a powerful jab that left his fist just centimeters from the boulder, and—
Nothing. The rock didn't moved an inch.
John cursed, but settled back into his stance, cursing again when his leg upgraded from trembling to full-on shaking, threatening to betray him. John breathed deeply, sweat shining on his forehead just from the effort of keeping himself upright. His hands clenched into unsteady fists and he angrily thrust his arms forward, only to have his leg finally collapse under the strain, felling John like a tree.
For a moment John just lay there, eyes closed as he tried to ignore the throbbing ache in his leg and shoulder. Swallowing heavily, he cracked an eye open only to find the rock had remained stationary despite John’s best efforts, mocking him with its stillness. Sighing, John pushed himself to his feet, grabbed for the cane he’d kept in arm’s reach, and walked stiffly out of the gym. Well, it’d been worth a shot.
When John was a kid, he’d had the ability to bend entire boulders with nothing but a solid stance and a bit of patience. He’d lift his hands up in the air – watching with satisfaction as a rock one hundred paces away hovered obligingly – and then threw it aside with a boyish rush of adrenaline. Earthbending was as integral a part of him as his hands or feet – hell, it was part of the reason John had joined the army, so he could learn from the great generals at the front and use his skills to help people.
Well, not that John was doing much of that anymore. He couldn’t move so much as a pebble these days, and without his bending, Republic City had a lackluster look to it, its gleaming lights only imitations of what they used to be in John’s memory, its thousands of inhabitants only serving to cram John in and make him feel claustrophobic, accentuate how bloody alone and dull he’d become.
John shook his head and kept walking, reminding himself he got enough pity at his therapist’s office -- he didn’t need to start pitying himself too.
“John! John Watson!”
John blinked in surprise upon seeing Mike Stamford walking over to him, seeming as jocular and oblivious as ever. Automatically he presented his hand, grasping Mike’s firmly in his own. “Mike, hello,” he said politely. “A surprise seeing you here.”
“I’ll say,” Mike said with a laugh. “Here I was thinking you were in some far off colony getting shot at by firebenders or equalists, or whoever’s stirring up trouble these days. What brings you back to Republic City?”
John smiled tightly. “I got shot.”
Mike had a special talent for gracefully smoothing over awkward silences, so thankfully the one that followed was brief and soon forgotten. Within minutes and without John quite noticing how, Mike had them both sat down with a cup of leechi juice, chatting it up about the good old days. John’s end of the conversation was slightly more stilled, probably because all he really wanted to do was get back to his tiny flat in the backend of the city.
“So,” Mike said, still chuckling at the rehashed memory of an old school prank, “you planning on staying in Republic City?”
John laughed, unable to help the tinge of bitterness that accompanied it. “No way I can afford Republic City on an army pension.”
“And you couldn’t bear to live anywhere else.” When Mike chuckled again John felt far less affable to it than he had before. “Bloody stubborn earthbenders.”
Mike hadn’t meant anything by it, but a grimace automatically spread itself across John’s face, his grip on his cane tightened. John took a deep breath, slowly feeling the sensation of the earth beneath his feet and the grain of the wooden cane in his hand before smiling weakly at Mike.
“Couldn’t Harry help?” Mike said, thankfully sensing a touchy subject and steering around it.
John snorted. His sister, one of the drunkest, most miserable people in all of Republic City? John wouldn’t survive a day in her house before going mad.
“How about a flatmate?” Mike shrugged.
John fought the urge to roll his eyes. “Who’d want to share a flat with me?” he asked distractedly. Feeling the sudden strength of Mike’s stare, John looked at him quizzically. “What?”
“Well, it’s just, you’re not the first person to ask me that today.”
John’s interest was piqued despite himself. “And who was the first?”
The first thing that drew John’s attention in the lab was how much it had changed: the pace of technological advancement had rushed forward in John’s absence, leaving polished, finely tuned scopes and magnifying glasses, strange electrical machines that sat on the counter – John hadn’t a clue what purpose they served --, and even a bloody telephone!
The second thing that drew John’s attention, only seconds after the first, was the incredibly odd – odd even for the lot that hung around Republic City -- man who stood completely motionless at one end of the lab, studying carefully crafted glasses of different colored liquids. His hair stood in all different directions – one lock of it actually looked singed – and his skin was pale to the point of looking pasty. The man was dressed in the richly colored, silken clothes only the rich entrepreneurs of the City seemed to be able to afford, and it made John very conscious of the simple, green and grey clothing he’d managed to scrounge up from his own wardrobe. John coughed into his hand, about to introduce himself, when the man interrupted his unspoken words.
“Mike, can I borrow your pen? I need to send out a message and I haven’t anything to write with,” he said, his voice a tightly controlled baritone.
“Sorry,” Mike said, sounding unapologetic – John could guess that this was a common request from the man – “I don’t have one on me. Why can’t you use the telephone?
The man’s mouth twisted in distaste. “I’m not fond of them, they involve people being able to talk back. Messages as a form of communication are delightfully one-way: I give the message to one of my people, they deliver it, and I don’t have to answer stupid questions.”
John laughed under his breath, acknowledging that he was a bit taken aback by this strange man. And maybe that’s why, even though John’s one nice possession was his pen because he was as poor as shit, and he didn’t even know this weird man who hung out in a mortuary, John heard himself say, “Here, I have a one.”
“One of my old school mates, John Watson,” Mike supplied.
The brunt of the stranger’s attention was suddenly focused on John, the man’s colorless, calculating eyes zeroing in on him, analyzing him. John blinked, cocking his head slightly but offered the man his pen, which he quickly used to scrawl out a message.
“Yu Dao or the Hu Xin Provinces?”
John started. “Pardon?”
The man sighed, as if he was being done a great injustice by being forced to repeat himself. “Which was it, Yu Dao, or the Hu Xin Provinces?” he repeated, handing John back his pen.
“Yu Dao,” John said slowly, the words barely out of his mouth before a mousy girl walked in and brought some tea to the man. The man had carelessly dismissed her and had returned to studying his vials before John could quite process what was going on.
“I play the erhu when I’m thinking,” the man said. “Would that bother you? Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end, and just in case you’re opposed to such things – which I know you’re not, given that you’re one too – I am a bender.” Upon seeing the look of confusion on John’s face, he continued, “Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other,” as if that explained anything at all. The man gave a strange sort of smile before returning to his work.
“Mike, did you tell him about me?” John said helplessly.
Mike shook his head. “Not a word.”
“Then who said I wanted a flatmate? Or that I’m a bender, or that I was in Yu Dao?” John said, exhaustion from the day’s events just about to catch up with him. But at the same time, there was a small spark of excitement, a touch of something new to this strange person, and it was enough to keep John from walking out that door.
“I was just telling Mike this morning that I needed a flatmate and now he shows up with an earthbender clearly just back from military service in Yu Dao? No difficult leap,” the man said breezily, putting on a silk blue scarf and long, dark jacket. “There’s a place in central Republic City that we can afford together, we’ll meet there tomorrow evening. Sorry, must dash, I think I left my riding crop in the mortuary. And possibly a fire ferret,” he said, frowning slightly.
“Wait, so all of a sudden we’re just going to move in together?” John sputtered.
“Problem?” the man said with a devastating raise of an eyebrow. John swallowed.
“We know nothing about each other,” John said, his feet planted firmly and adamantly, good old fashioned earthbender that he was. “I don’t know where this flat is, and I don’t even know who you are.”
The man’s eyes did that thing again, where they bored into John as if he were underneath a magnifying glass, where they looked at him in such a way that John could practically feel the man’s gaze on his skin. John shifted, but didn’t look away. The man began speaking, talking so fast that his words should theoretically be stumbling over themselves in order to be vocalized, but instead arriving gracefully out of his mouth.
“I know that you’re an earthbender, mostly self-taught despite your military service, and that you were invalided out of Yu Dao. Not only that, but you were a doctor in the army. I know you have a brother, likely a non-bender who lives in the city, but you won’t go to him for temporary boarding, probably because he’s an alcoholic, or because he walked out on his wife,” the man looked at John hard for a second, “probably both. Your therapist thinks your limp and your difficulty bending are both psychosomatic, and I’m afraid she’s quite correct. That’s enough to be going on with, don’t you think?” The man moved toward the door as he spoke, and now that John was looking he could see it, how the man’s graceful movements spoke of a trained bender.
Before walking out the door, the man turned to John and said, “The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street.” Then, honest to God, the man – Sherlock – winked before walking out the door, leaving John bemused, annoyed, and maybe a little bit thrilled.
John spent the majority of that evening and the following day most definitely not thinking about earthbending, and definitely thinking quite a bit about this strange Sherlock Holmes character. He was a madman, that much was certain, and beyond madness John had no idea what to expect from this flat.
Madness did sum up 221B Baker Street quite nicely though. The flat could be called charming, if one was feeling generous, though to be honest, it just looked like a bit of a dump. Scrolls and books were everywhere, there was some sort of scientific apparatus in the kitchen, a skull was on the mantel piece, and burn marks were on the wall (though to be fair, Sherlock did warn John that he was a bender). In one chair lounged a fire ferret, which Sherlock seemed to be resolutely ignoring.
“Is it yours?” John asked, pointing his cane to the creature, remembering Sherlock saying something about a fire ferret yesterday. The ferret looked at John with a sort of pompous disinteret that John was already to be recognizing as Sherlockian.
“Hmm? Oh no,” Sherlock said dismissively. “Or technically yes, he was a gift from a client, I just haven’t managed to get rid of him yet. He keeps following me around,” Sherlock said, looking distrustfully at the ferret only to find his glare returned.
John had the sudden mental image of these two staring at each other in disgust for hours on end. “Does he have a name?”
Sherlock looked at John blankly before his gaze was drawn away by his landlady as she came in and scolded Sherlock for the mess. Sherlock rolled his eyes, but did so good naturedly, not in the callous manner he seemed so accustomed to. In return, the landlady – Mrs. Hudson – seemed to dot on him, tidying up around the flat as she lectured him. At this rate, it looked like John was getting a ferret and a surrogate mother along with a flatmate. John sat down heavily in the chair opposite the ferret, ignoring it as it tried to stare him down.
“Did you hear about those Triad murders, Sherlock?” Mrs. Hudson said. “Sounds right up your alley.”
“Triad murders, gang violence,” Sherlock said hatefully. “It’s boring, not worth my time. Even Lestrade can handle those.”
“So you are a consulting detective,” John said. Sherlock’s eyes snapped to him quickly enough to make John pause. “I asked around about you last night,” John explained. “Seemed like a good idea to make sure you weren’t a complete nutter before I moved in.”
Sherlock smirked in a way that was somehow both appreciative and condescending. “No doubt you wasted a few rubles for your trouble. Well, what did you find out?”
To be honest, John hadn’t heard much in the way of concrete fact in his investigation. Only that Sherlock had apparently come to Republic City years ago from a family of minor Fire Nation nobles, and that he currently worked as a consulting detective. John heard far more in the way of opinions on Sherlock, which everyone seemed to have. Consulting detective was by far one of the kinder descriptions given to Sherlock, and John was having trouble formulating words for everything he’d heard about the mad genius Holmes. “That you’re a complete nutter,” John finally said, a smile appearing on his face when Sherlock barked a short laugh.
Sherlock suddenly stilled by the window, his smile creeping into an unsettling grin. “Mrs. Hudson, I do believe you’re right about those Triad murders after all. I’ll be investigating them shortly, how interesting.”
Footsteps thundered up the stairs and John was shocked to see a Republic City police officer enter the living room. He wore the light, grey body armor that constituted the uniform of the metalbending police officers -- the earthbenders in the police force who also knew how to bend metal.
“There’s been a fourth,” Sherlock said. “A fourth murder, but you’ve realized that these aren’t just ordinary Triad murders, so you’ve come to me, is that correct?”
The officer sighed. “Will you come?” he asked, running a hand through his silvered hair.
Sherlock nodded. “I’ll be there shortly, Lestrade, though not in your Satomobile,” he said, referring to the police issued motor vehicle Lestrade had driven there. “I’ll be right behind.”
Lestrade sighed, but left the flat, nodding to John and Mrs. Hudson on his way out. Sherlock seemed to restrain himself until Lestrade left, but soon he was jumping up and down around the flat like a mad man – or a complete nutter. Before John could say so much as a word, Sherlock was gone, off to solve some Triad murder spree. Mrs. Hudson tittered about before going downstairs, leaving John to stare at the fire ferret across from him. The fire ferret narrowed its eyes at John and chittered.
“What?” John asked, trying to avoid the feeling of absurdity he felt talking to a ferret, especially one that seemed to get a certain amount of pleasure in staring people down. Though, in all honesty, the feeling of absurdity only increased when Sherlock Holmes came back in and, with a few rapid-fire words and a mention of danger, swept John off to the other side of the city to investigate a Triad murder. Because that was something John did now, apparently.
“You have questions,” Sherlock said indulgently, after they’d slid into the public Satomobile. “I already know your first one: ‘where are we going?’ Easy, crime scene. Your second one is one even you know the answer to, I’m surprised you have to ask: ‘who are you, what do you do?’ You know my name’s Sherlock Holmes and you know I’m a consulting detective, what you don’t know is what that means. Well, when the police are out their depth, which is always, they consult me. Really, John, you do need to come up with some more original questions,” he said in one big rush.
John blinked, his mouth parted slightly. “I haven’t said anything yet.”
“Not out loud,” Sherlock said, doing that annoying little smirk again.
John sighed, already becoming accustomed to Sherlock’s smartass attitude, and asked, “When we first met, you knew I was an earthbender in the army.”
“I didn’t know, I saw,” Sherlock interrupted.
“Okay,” John said, “but how?”
Sherlock smiled thinly and began speaking, his words coming out even faster than they had when they’d first met in the lab. “It’s easy to tell what kind of bender a person is if you really look. Now you, you’re especially easy, typical earthbender, enduring and patient. Your feet are always planted firmly, and just look at the way you walk. Carefully absorbing the ground’s impact, not even thinking about it, even with that cane in your hand? No fire or waterbender walks like that, no non-bender is aware enough of the earth beneath them to give it that kind of attention. Plus, the way you were standing, at attention, firm stance, not backing down. A stance of both an earthbender and a trained officer. However, you’re likely a self-taught bender, given that you can’t bend metal – if you could you’d be carrying a metal cane, not a wooden one – and that you were a doctor instead of a soldier. Easy to see you’re a doctor, Mike mentioned you were old school mates. You have a tan identical to that of one who wears a standard army officer’s uniform. Listing all places currently in enough conflict to warrant military presence but also near enough to the equator for a tan, that leaves the Hu Xin Provinces or Yu Dao being the most likely, both of them struggling with poverty and nationalistic differences despite years of co-existence.”
“What about…you knew what my therapist said about my limp. And my bending,” John said, trying not to be embarrassed, knowing that this man probably didn’t even know the meaning of the word.
Sherlock sighed, as if the question was disappointingly easy. “Like I said, your stance was steady. A steady stance and a cane? Likely a psychosomatic injury. As for the bending, earthbending is heavily based in the legs, it relies on lower body contact with the earth, something a limp complicates.”
“And then there’s the matter of your brother,” Sherlock continued, before John could even quite catch up with the whole “I can tell what kind of bender you are by how you walk” thing. “Your pen is definitely not within your price range, it has a fine nib, an engraving. Not something you’d buy yourself, likely a gift. No offense, but you’re seeking a flatshare so you obviously don’t have a significant other to give this to you. A family member then, probably a brother, given the quality of the gift and the engraving. Engraving shows Clara once loved Harry, but seeing as the pen is in your hands and not his, that relationship didn’t last. You’re not close with Harry, he’s probably a non-bender, as while the alcoholism and the wife account for your dislike for him, there’s likely another factor at play as well. Bending and non-bending siblings do have difficulty getting along, mostly because of jealousy. Now as for the alcoholism, the pen has multiple dents in it, not by your hand, you would never be so careless. No one is enough of an idiot to drop a pen that many times, so he’s likely a drunk, keeps picking it up to write it and dropping it when he doesn’t have the coordination to use it. How did I do?” he finished, looking out the window as John gaped at him in amazement.
“That…was amazing,” John said.
Sherlock looked surprised, or as surprised as he ever seemed to look. He looked at John calculatingly. “You really think so?”
“Yes, that was extraordinary,” John said honestly.
Sherlock smirked. “That’s not what people normally say.”
“What do they normally say?”
“Piss off,” Sherlock said. “Or, alternatively, ‘why don’t you go say that to an angry platypus bear?’”
John found himself laughing with this man, this madman Sherlock Holmes who could deduce his bending and drag him to crime scenes as easy as if it were breathing.
After correcting Sherlock that Harry was his sister (“Sister! There’s always something.”), John found himself in the stadium where pro-bending tournaments were held.
One of the largest buildings in the city and John was somehow standing at its very center, a place where only the privileged few had been, on the suspended platform where benders battled for sport in front of thousands. Of course, the place was completely deserted at that moment, the seats empty and barren, leaving only a few police officers standing in the ring along with himself, Sherlock, and a very dead body. John looked down, his eyes widening at the pool of water a hundred meters below. Well, this wasn’t how John had been planning on spending his day. He smiled to himself for a moment before schooling his features and turning back to the crime scene.
The officer named Lestrade nodded at them. “I need anything you’ve got, Sherlock.”
“What do you have so far?” Sherlock said, carefully eyeing the body. “No doubt you still suspect gang violence.
Lestrade sighed. “Yes, we still think it’s gang violence. All evidence points to this being Triple Threat Triad murders. The only problem is, the victim didn’t have any Triad connections whatsoever.”
“And neither did any of the other victims,” Sherlock said confidently.
Lestrade, who was obviously used to Sherlock’s deductions, nodded. “None of them were members, none of them had any shady dealings; hell, it doesn’t look like any of them had ever even met a Triad member.”
“So the question becomes, why did they die?” Sherlock murmured.
“If none of them had any Triad connections, what makes you say it’s gang violence?” John asked. Lestrade looked at John and opened his mouth as if to protest a civilian’s presence here, but after a moment seemed to think that, like most Sherlock-related annoyances, it wasn’t worth the effort complaining.
“All the victims lived near Triad territory, or as near as you can get without being in the gang or under its thumb.” Lestrade said. “We have reports saying that gang members had been in those areas the nights the victims died. Plus, they leave a calling card. It’s either the Triad, or someone who really wants to look like them. And if it’s the second, there’s no way they would’ve lasted this long on the streets.”
John nodded. Even having just returned from war, he knew as well as anyone else how dangerous the Triad was. His eyes were drawn to the body, where an intricate design had been branded onto the floor. Definitely gang related.
“John, come look at the body, you’re a man of healing,” Sherlock said, kneeling down next to the body, his eyes flitting around as he examined it.
“Sherlock,” Lestrade said, exasperated, finally bringing himself to address John’s presence. “You can’t bring friends to a crime scene, it’s bad enough I let you in here. Chief Beifong barely tolerates you as it is.”
“Yes, I’m well aware of what Beifong thinks of me,” Sherlock said absently, leaning in close to the body in his observation before glancing back at John. “Well, are you going to look or not?”
John looked at Lestrade, deferring to him. The officer seemed to appreciate it, and only sighed slightly before saying, “Go ahead, look all you want.”
With some maneuvering of his leg, John managed to kneel next to the body alongside Sherlock. He studied the woman lying on the ground, her outlandish pink clothing instantly marking her as one of the wealthy patrons of the business district. “Someone used chi blocking on her,” John said with some surprise, feeling her pressure points. “Probably to subdue her – they attack her pressure points to block her chi so she can’t fight back with bending and she falls like a rock. Then they killed her, likely with some sort of poison.”
“Chi blocking,” Lestrade groaned. “Please tell me these aren’t crazy Equalist killings,” he said, referring to the group of anti-bending fanatics who preferred to fight by blocking the chi of others through specialized hits and punches.
“Of course not,” Sherlock said, rolling his eyes. “She’s a non-bender, why would she be a target? Plus, there’s still the matter of the burnt insignia on the ground, which the Equalists would hardly have bothered with.”
“How do you know she’s a non-bender?” John asked.
Sherlock sighed deeply, closing his eyes for a moment as if to curse the spirits for forcing him to interact with such imbeciles. “Look where we are, John, we’re in a pro-bending arena. There are rock disks here to bend with, there is water here to bend with, and yet the two remain untouched? There was a struggle here, you can tell that by the wear of the ground, but she didn’t try to bend her way out.”
“What about firebending?” Lestrade pressed.
“Scorch marks, Lestrade, do you see any? No, ergo, not a firebender, ergo not a bender of any kind, ergo, the chi blocking was simply used to keep her from fighting back when they gave her the poison,” Sherlock rattled off.
“That’s fantastic,” John said, still amazed despite the fact that he’d already seen Sherlock’s deductions in action that day.
“Do you know you say that out loud?” Sherlock muttered, nonetheless looking very pleased with himself.
“So she wasn’t a bender and she wasn’t a Triad member,” Lestrade sighed. “This doesn’t make sense. Why execute a textbook Triad murder of someone who has never been involved with the Triad? It’s just plain random.”
“Not random,” Sherlock said, his eyes bright, his grin practically manic. “Random implies no discernible pattern. You see no pattern here because the one that’s there doesn’t meet your expectations.” When Lestrade and John looked at him blankly, Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Oh really, you two, use your brains. You said it yourself, Lestrade, none of them had any dealings with the Triad. Seems a bit suspicious, doesn’t it, that every one of these Triad murders seemingly has nothing to do with the Triad?”
“But what’s the point of gang violence if it achieves nothing?” Lestrade asked. “Killing these people didn’t get the Triad anything.”
Sherlock’s smile widened. “Oh yes it did, Lestrade. It got my attention.” Sherlock stood up and walked away from the body, striding toward where the end of the ring was attached to the bridge that led it to the rest of the stadium.
‘Wait, Sherlock, what do you mean it got your attention? Why are they doing this?” Lestrade shouted after him.
“How else would one acquire the attention of a consulting detective except to provide them with an impossible crime scene, a crime with no motives?” Sherlock said, the grin evident in his voice even as he walked farther away. “It means that you’re about to get your man, Lestrade. I’ll send you a wire with the details once I have them.”
Lestrade looked as if he wanted to metalbend some handcuffs onto Sherlock and interrogate an explanation out of him, but knew that it wouldn’t do any good. The detective pinched the edge of his nose. “Okay, boys, let’s wrap this up,” he said to his team.
John was wondering how it could possibly be worth it to work with a man like that when, because apparently John had stumbled into a universe where everyone could read his mind, Lestrade said, “He’s a great man.” The detective signed. “He’d probably be a good one too if he could stop being such a lemur’s arsehole.”
John nodded absently, watching as Sherlock walked by the remaining metalbending officers, not even sparing them a glance as they automatically gave the consulting detective a wide berth. “A firebending consulting detective, how on Earth did that happen?” John mused aloud as Sherlock closed the door to the arena, leaving John and Lestrade alone with the other officers circulating the crime scene.
Lestrade looked at him carefully, clearly assessing him, as if John hadn’t had enough of that for one day. “You really haven’t known him long, have you?”
John shook his head. Lestrade sighed. “Well, I suppose this will be the last time I’ll be seeing you then. He has a habit of chasing people away.”
“Not you though,” John noted.
Lestrade laughed. “Only cause I need him too damn much. I’ve known him five years and I still don’t know what goes on in his funny little brain.” With that, he turned away from John to wrap up his crime scene. John sighed and limped out of the arena, taking care not to look down at the water churning tens of meters below him.
Of course, John left the arena to find that Sherlock had well and truly ditched him, which should have surprised John, but really didn’t. John merely sighed and began walking back to his flat, trying to mull over the day’s events.
With everything that had happened that day, it was easy to see why John didn’t think much of it when a messenger hawk flew above him. He looked at it curiously, though his curiosity quickly turned to unease and he hurried his pace, unnerved by the strange creature. When a second messenger hawk joined the first, well, it was pretty easy to cling to the idea that it wasn’t for him. John was fairly sure nobody even used messenger hawks anymore, and these ones were probably just domestic creatures. There wasn’t anyone who’d want to send John a message anyway.
When two hawks became three, however, it became difficult to stay in denial, and John sighed and held out his arm for the hawk to perch. The two others joined the first hawk on John’s arm, which was getting John a lot of strange looks from the people on the street. John sighed and took the message, ignoring the hawk’s beady stare.
Look around you, the first message said. John did and he finally noticed what had been niggling at the back of his mind for quite awhile: there were people watching him. Subtly watching, nothing anyone normal would notice, but well, John wasn’t exact normal, was he?
John sent the first hawk away and took the message from the second. Now look above. John’s eyes slid upwards with a sickening feeling in his stomach, one of too much adrenaline with nowhere to go. On the rooftops there were a few people watching, just barely visible. John saw no weapons, but he was pretty sure that they were implied by now. John swallowed heavily and took the third message, reading it with a steady hand. Get into the Satomobile, Dr. Watson. I’d make some kind of threat, but I believe that’d be overkill by this point
John almost laughed. Sending three messenger hawks and an entire team to follow him and this person thought threatening him was overkill? A Satomobile pulled up next to him and with a grimace, John saw no choice but to get inside, releasing the two hawks before he did so.
After a stilled and very one-sided conversation with the beautiful woman in the vehicle, John found himself in an abandoned factory lot, one where they’d used to make the old Satomobile prototypes. All the local kids were creeped out by this place, telling anyone who would listen that it was haunted, and at the moment, John was inclined to agree.
There was a chair in the middle of the room, illuminated by a wide circle of torches that lined the walls, old fashioned torches lit with fire. Standing next the chair was a man. He was tall, held a simple umbrella, and smiled in a way that was practically predatory. The way that he looked at John was even worse than the messenger hawks, all of his focus resting on John, appraising him, studying him as though he were an insect beneath a microscope.
“Please sit down,” the man said in a facsimile of politeness. “Your leg must be hurting you.”
John limped toward the man, resolutely ignoring the chair in front of him. “You know, it’s very clever and all that, but if you wanted to arrange a meeting, you could have sent me a wire. You know, instead of sending me the three messenger hawks,” he said pointedly. “Do people honestly use messenger hawks anymore? Seems a bit outdated.”
The man studied his umbrella unapologetically. “When one wants to avoid the attention of Sherlock Holmes, one must be discreet,” he said, as if sending someone a series of messenger hawks on an open street was something subtle. “Sometimes that means avoiding modern technology that is easily traceable. It’s also the reason we’re meeting in this place,” he said gesturing to the empty factory.
“Yes, real spooky, real discreet,” John said impatiently. “Now what do you want?”
The man’s eyes seemed to dissect him again, and John was really getting tired of everybody he’d met today with their damn piercing-through-metal stares. “You don’t seem very afraid,” the man said calculatingly.
“Yeah, well I’m not very frightened by abandoned factories or by mysterious power plays,” John said curtly.
The man laughed. “Ah, the bravery of the soldier, and of the earthbender. Bravery is so such a kind word for stupidity, isn’t it? What is your connection to Sherlock Holmes?”
John blinked. “I…don’t have one. I met him yesterday, I know almost nothing about him.”
“And yet you both seem as happy as can be, running around crime scenes together. Sharing a flat,” the man said, lip curled in interest.
“I didn’t say I was sharing a flat with anyone. And who are you?” John asked, suitably annoyed now.
“An interested party,” the man said. “Someone interested in keeping an eye out for Sherlock Holmes, since he doesn’t seem capable of doing so for himself.”
“A friend?” John remarked skeptically, eyes not leaving the man.
The man raised an eyebrow, smiling as if John’s ignorance was something quite amusing to him. “Do you really think Sherlock has any friends?” he said quietly, and John thought a great man, but not a good one. “I’m more of a…an archenemy I suppose,” the man said finally. “According to him. Always one for the dramatics, Sherlock.”
John smiled tightly. “Thank God you’re above all that,” he said, still a bit put out by the messenger hawk thing. As if reading his thoughts, another hawk swept through the interior of the factory, letting out a piercing cry before settling on John’s shoulder.
“Oh honestly,” John said, eyebrows furrowed. “I’m already here, you don’t need to send me another one.”
The man eyed the hawk with interest, his eyes gleaming. “That one’s mine, but I didn’t send it. It would seem Sherlock is onto me. And has acquired one of my hawks,” the man lamented.
John glanced sharply at the man before carefully retrieving the message from the hawk’s leg pouch. Come at once if convenient. SH. John turned the message over and smiled at the message on the back of the paper. If inconvenient come anyway. SH.
The man was still watching John when the messenger hawk left. “What news does Sherlock bring?” he asked casually, and John glared at him.
“I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s any of your business,” John said tightly.
‘It could be,” the man said. “I’m willing to pay you a considerable amount if you were to give me information on Sherlock. Just what he’s up to, what crimes he’s solving. How he’s been wasting his mind and his bending abilities. Nothing indiscreet.”
“Sorry, I don’t think so,” John said firmly. He knew it gave him away, that it was his battle stance, but his feet automatically planted themselves on the ground as if he were preparing himself to earthbend, as if he had to make himself unbreakable.
The man obviously saw this and his eyes narrowed. “You’re very loyal, very quickly, even despite your…’trust issues’ did your therapist say?” The man pulled a notebook from his jacket. John was sweating, far too warm, and looking at the torches lining the walls he saw that they was flicking slightly too violently for a normal flames. His eyes darted back over to this man who smiled as if pleased to see that John had finally observed the obvious, had finally picked up on the fact that this man was a firebender. A firebender who was more subtle in his threats than John had initially thought.
“Your therapist thinks you’re haunted by the war, she thinks your limp, your intermittent tremor, even your bending difficulties are all due to post traumatic stress disorder,” the man said, reading from the notebook before glancing sharply at John. “However you know as well as I do that she’s wrong. You’re not haunted by the war, John, you miss it.”
John swallowed heavily, trying to control his breathing, to keep his senses open in case this man decided to attack him right here. “Who the hell are you?” John asked. “And how did you know all that?”
“You should fire her, Dr. Watson,” the man said, closing the notebook and putting it back into his pocket. “Look at your hand now,” he mused. “You’ve been kidnapped and threatened by a firebender with enough power to take you from right under the nose of Sherlock Holmes, and there’s not a tremor to be found. I suppose I can see why you’ve come to like Sherlock. If there’s anything to be said for him, it’s that he knows where to find the battlefield underneath the lights and Satomobiles of Republic City.”
The man walked away, effectively dismissing John, whose head was still spinning from the sudden turns of this conversation. “This is a new kind of war, Dr. Watson,” called he man, “one not caused by bending or nationalistic differences. I do believe it’s time for you to choose a side.”
The man shrank into the shadows and the torch lights went out in a puff of smoke, leaving John alone in an abandoned factory lit only by cracks of moonlight, wondering what the hell was happening with his life.
“Who the hell has archenemies?” John wondered, stabbing a piece of eel on his plate. “Especially ones who kidnap innocent bystanders off the street?”
Sherlock glanced at John before returning his gaze to the restaurant window. “Technically you’re neither innocent nor a bystander, considering your stint in the army and continued association with me,” Sherlock said. Catching John’s glare, Sherlock added, “Though of course, the kidnapping was completely unexpected. I’ll have a word with him the next time we talk.”
“You have regular conversations with your archenemy?” John asked, incredulous.
“Unfortunately,” Sherlock muttered under his breath. “He’s my brother.” Sherlock’s fire ferret sat lazily on his shoulder, glancing between John and Sherlock with only mild interest at their conversation. Sherlock scowled, still put-out that his pet had managed to follow them here.
John’s mouth dropped open of its own accord. “Your brother? That insane, firebending, omnipresent stalker was your brother?”
“He is not omnipresent, he just likes to think he is. And, yes, John, he’s my brother, haven’t you been listening?” Sherlock said, seeming irritated at having to repeat himself.
John really didn’t know how to respond to that, but luckily he didn’t have to say a word, as Sherlock bolted out of his seat and lunged toward the door. “John, he’s here! Quickly!”
They had been sitting in Angelo’s -- a restaurant smack dab in the middle of Triad territory – for ages waiting for a member to appear so they could…well, to be honest, John wasn’t quite sure what Sherlock wanted with the gang member. But as soon as Sherlock ran out the door, he slammed into a Satomobile, the fire ferret screeching in alarm before running off. John ran after Sherlock, managing to keep pace with the wiry detective.
The Triad member spotted Sherlock – hard not to spot the lunatic in a dark coat chasing after you – and pealed away, sliding into the back of a Satomobile and driving away.
“How are we going to get him now?” John asked, panting as Sherlock screeched to a halt. Sherlock only smiled, closing his eyes for a brief second before snapping them open and running off. John sighed, but ran after him, feeling a smile creep across his lips.
Sherlock led them through alleyways, down every backstreet John had been told to avoid as a teen, and finally up onto the rooftops. Sherlock seemed to pull momentum out of nowhere, leaping across the buildings with enough ease to make John wonder if the consulting detective was secretly an airbender. Sherlock jumped across a particularly wide gap, barely making it, and John froze at the edge of the roof, unable to move.
“Come along, John!” came Sherlock’s impatient, fading voice.
John’s eyebrows knitted and without really thinking about it he tightened his stance, spread out his legs, and threw his fists down, the concrete beneath his feet lifting up and propelling John across the gap, his momentum almost carrying him too far, landing him right on the edge of the next rooftop. John had been silent in astonishment in the air but barked out a laugh as soon as his feet hit the ground. “Oh my God,” he said, giggling. “Oh my God.”
He was startled from his celebration by the petulant, “John, if you’re quite done rediscovering your earthbending, could you hurry up?” that could be heard a few buildings over, so with a grin, John propelled himself upward again, using the concrete beneath him to earthbend across the rooftops. And all without his cane. God damn it if he didn’t feel better than he had in a long, long time.
Soon Sherlock had himself and John on the ground again and, much to John’s exasperation, threw himself on the fleeing Satomobile to make it stop. John bended the earth around the vehicle to surround the tires, stopping the automobile in its tracks. “Get out of the Satomobile,” he said calmly, his hand steadier than ever.
Sherlock smiled, carefully watching the Triad member and his driver get out of the automobile. The driver had a pouch of water at his disposal and the Triad member instantly had flames in his hands. Benders obviously, but Sherlock was smug enough to want to take them on. “How about you take the firebender, John,” he said conversationally. “I’ll take the waterbender, then perhaps we can continue our dinner.”
“You think you’re good enough to take on members of the Triple Threat?” the firebender laughed. “You’re going to pay for making that assumption.”
“And you’ll ‘pay’ for assuming you can take out a trained solider with your mediocre firebending,” Sherlock said before turning his attention to the waterbender. John left him to it, narrowing his vision to his own battle, widening his stance as the firebender sneered at him.
John took a deep breath as the firebender struck, the world slowing down for him as it always did when he fought. John slid to the side, dodging the fireball and ducking under the one that came right after it. Classic firebending fighting style, overwhelm the opponent with offensive moves, attacking directly. Much like the stereotyped personality of most firebenders, John thought, casting a glance at Sherlock, who was smirking as he evaded the waterbender’s attacks.
“You’re going to have to make a move eventually,” the firebender growled, letting loose a ferocious punch that sent a constant stream of fire toward John. John turned his attention back toward his own fight and planted his feet, done with dodging, bringing up a column of earth to shield him from the flames. John grimaced, the heat licking through his defenses as he waited for a halt in the attack. It wasn’t long before the firebender tired, ending the flame attack, and John shot forth the column at the bender.
The firebender jumped up, dodging the attack, but when his feet met the ground, John grinned. “Gotcha,” he said, bringing up earth to cover the bender’s feet. The firebender grunted and fell over, and as soon as his hands hit the ground, John trapped them within the earth too, leaving the man immobile and unable to bend.
John released a deep breath and looked over to where Sherlock was fighting. The match was clearly almost over, Sherlock easily bobbing and weaving around his opponent, not even firing a shot, just letting the bender use up all his energy before grabbing one of his punches and throwing him to the ground.
Sherlock wiped his hands on his trousers before smiling at John. “Well done, John. “
John nodded. “Same to you. Wow, I knew you were trained, but I didn’t know you were that good. Did you even have to firebend to win that fight?”
Sherlock raised his eyebrows and then smirked. “Of course not. It was child’s play. Now, let’s see what we can find out from these Triad members. Perhaps they can lead us to the real culprit here,” he said, studying them closely.
“No need for that,” a voice from the rooftop said. “I’m right here.”
Sherlock and John looked up, but this new addition to the fight leapt down and quickly jabbed Sherlock several times in succession, leaving the unsuspecting consulting detective to fall to the ground, motionless. “You,” Sherlock rasped. “You’re the chi blocker.”
John had his guard up, whirling around to face the opponent, but someone swept his legs out from under him, forcing him to hit the ground hard. A series of punches to his pressure points left John rigid and unable to bend. “Sherlock!” he cried, still trying to find this chi blocker, figuring maybe he try and get him without bending, could at least knock him down and run.
“That’s enough of that,” the voice said as a large weight crashed into John’s skull, sending him hurtling toward unconsciousness.