Published: Jan. 17, 2021.
Da Vinci asks the impossible: resolve the problem between Moriarty and Holmes.
this was a gift fic for an exchange on twitter! it was intended for christmas, but i am horribly late bc hoo boy 2020 am i rite? this went kind of off from what i intended to write, but i did have a lot of fun with it!
title taken from everything everything's to the blade.
"Hmm? Hmm? Do you hear that, Master? It sounds like the inane nattering of some pest, going on and on in a grating voice no one but it wants to hear!"
"Ms. Mash, I loathe to ask you a favor such as this, but where you are a most capable and trustworthy young lady, I have the utmost faith in you. There is a certain piece of refuse tainting the air. Could you please remove it from the room? We would all find our moods much improved to see it gone."
Two disparate forces center you in their conflict, mutual temerity rivaling a planet's gravitational pull. Chaldeas pulses in the deep, gentle blue of a salvaged future, a none-too-subtle reminder of your achievement, but it does nothing to soothe or hearten you. No, jammed between two of the more infamous nemeses of English literature, you feel only a pounding headache coming on.
With a strangely protective and paternal hand on your shoulder, Moriarty tugs you in against his side. His smile strains against ire, a bulwark holding purely out of desire not to be bested. "Last I recall--and you do, as well, Master, I know you do. You are more than cunning enough--it was a very specific pest, one who should not be named lest that fuel its ego, who invited itself into your humble abode. Not a welcome offered, not a 'please do come and ruin any hopes of happiness via your mere presence.' This pest made itself into a criminal of the worst sort and must be punished."
The beginning of an interruption sounds from your mouth, only to be charged over by Holmes. So young, so innocent, your plea against nonsense dies bleeding out in the street.
"A load of rubbish from rubbish. Any fool might have predicted that, and yet"--Holmes rubs his temples and sighs--"we tolerate and permit it. Leonardo da Vinci, Mash Kyrielight, I plead our sole Master's precious time not be wasted. Sometimes, we must recognize unsuitable trash for what it is, and in my expert opinion, James Moriarty is that."
A lit match to kindling soaked in fuel, the naming sets off what can only be described as a squabble between two grown men. Moriarty, incited, drags you forward in a furious march while Holmes feigns nonchalance, all but smugly examining his nails. Pettier misery lurks on the horizon, vicious grey clouds cacophonous with non-specific insults pitched louder and louder and louder.
Da Vinci proves the ultimate heroine. She intervenes with a twist to Holmes' bony shoulder, shoving him back into a stumble, and ushers Moriarty (and, by extension, you) out into the hall. At her sharp look, Moriarty grumbles and distengles from you, giving you an apologetic pat.
"Time for the adults to talk," da Vinci says.
"Ah...haha...I can't say I see why Master would--"
"Children are leaving now! They're quietly walking elsewhere to think about what they've done!"
Moriarty prepares to protest, but something in da Vinci's smile must communicate a real fear of her putting a middle-aged man in timeout, and he shuffles off sans complaint.
Da Vinci pinches the bridge of her nose. "Mmm, this has gotten out of hand."
"Even if I ask him not to follow in…"
"Haaa, yep. Unless we dedicate a permanent babysitter to keep them apart, they'll bump into each other by accident, and no one will be there to put a cap on it. But, don't you worry! Your da Vinci-chan is on it and has a masterstroke of a plan to hit the root problem!"
Ever reliable, ever clever, da Vinci raises a problem and immediately guarantees a solution. You nod, eager for her to detail it.
"It's a last ditch effort, but…"
"I'll talk to Holmes, and you'll talk to Moriarty."
You blink, fearing you may have misheard. "You want to...talk to them?"
"Less talk, more threaten because if this fails, I have a Leonardo punch lined up until they knock it off."
False advertising has never felt so cruel.
Stripped of her boasts, da Vinci's incredible strategy amounts to a shrug. Resolve it somehow, she tells you. Throw whatever you have at the wall until something sticks, she tells you. Beat them with the camaraderie stick, she tells you. Like either man will bend about an enmity so deep it transcends one lifetime. Holmes might fake it and last all of a day before he trips himself, and you've pleaded exasperatedly with Moriarty for his cooperation and received a grand total of zilch.
If da Vinci has given up like this, you must be validated in joining her.
The thread of hopelessness pulls you to the cafeteria, and what better way to ponder the impossible than with a hot mug of tea. Your troubles must bleed into the air because Tamamo Cat pounces on you as you trudge in, pushing you to sit and promising you snacks to pair with the tea. She is not alone in noticing.
"Maaaster, what's got you so glum?" Astolfo slides in across from you, perching his chin on his palms. "Working so hard your head gets all fogged up is no good."
One knight entices others, difference in orders be damned, and your table fills. Gawain noses in after hearing Astolfo's laughter and thereby serves as an open invitation to his comrades. Tristan drifts in on Bedivere's heels, perhaps anticipating drama when Bedivere overreaches and attempts to quiet Astolfo. Lancelot scarcely sits before Tamamo Cat drafts him to carry over tea and snacks. He concedes, but there's a question in his eyes each time he returns to her of when he might be released and his hands free to fulfill his own dreams. (His plight seems doomed to permanency when Mordred joins the table, and Cat bemoans her bottomless stomach.)
Your da Vinci-assigned duty slips further and further away in the chaos. Even if you were keen to do the impossible, it isn't as if you would ask the bunch around you how to handle it. Ask Astolfo for advice, and you know you're off by a margin so wide it's time to pack in the entire operation. Really, it'd be best to ask someone who spends actual time around Moriarty, who knows him.
You unfocus, lost to however Astolfo unintentionally baited Bedivere into a debate, and there, between Gawain's head and Lancelot's shoulder, you spy that which you wish you did not. Mephistopheles lurks, a figment of nightmares for no reason other than he is likely bored. A smile spreads slow over his face, like he can hear your thoughts as you realize how often you've seen him around Moriarty, how he might be a good candidate to solicit from, how--
(Not today Satan in an almost literal sense.)
Quick, your soul at stake, you spin in your chair to grab at whoever might be closest for salvation.
"More popcorn, Kintoki?"
The consequences of a hasty retreat: Kintoki pressed to the side of your bed, you beside him with a full bowl on your lap, and a movie projected on the flat surface of the far wall. No doubt in mind, you definitely got off too light in dodging responsibilities. You'd groped at Kintoki's arm and grasped it with an initial look that provoked sufficient concern for him to be amenable when you dashed away with cursory goodbyes. He'd been too kind in letting his questions stretch and fail into an uncomfortable silence as you dodged them. At a loss, he'd suggested a workout; you compromised with a casual hang somewhere private (where da Vinci could not find you procrastinating).
Quality might be subjective, but you do wish you'd looked a little closer before selecting the first action flick you could scrape from your search of Chaldea's records. A low budget precludes it from being carried by spectacle, and you cannot stop wondering if the mismatched audio is a consequence of poor mixing or a strange secondary dub. Either way, someone on staff had a thing for trashy Italian zombie flicks from the eighties and uploaded their private collection.
Kintoki hisses through his teeth at a particularly violent moment, a woman failing to escape the ravenous horde.
"Oh, really, boy? Carnage fake as that makes you sympathetic? Maybe you've gotten too soft and need a reminder."
Light cuts a sharp line into the darkness of your room, and you and Kintoki both yelp as Shuten's silhouette cuts into it. You could have sworn you locked the door, but whatever, it's a question discarded to the graveyard of responsibility. (How little it matters, too, when you deal with creatures possessed of the supernatural. An oni like Shuten will do as she pleases.) Shuten cozies herself up to your free side and delights in making all too direct eye contact with Kintoki when she plucks a piece of popcorn to eat.
"S-so, Boss, what had ya so out of sorts earlier?"
Betrayal grips you, and you freeze with a fistful of popcorn partway to your mouth. (The sting of twenty-three trusted blades in your back. Et tu, Kintoki?)
Politely, you pass the popcorn bowl to Kintoki before slumping down in abject misery. On screen, a leg goes flying, wiggling like the cheap Halloween prop it is. "Moriarty and Holmes keep fighting."
"Y...you just realizin' that now, Master?"
"No, but it's getting to be a bigger problem. Moriarty hangs around a lot, and it's...I don't really have the heart to tell him to leave when we're discussing mission stuff." And like you somehow need to defend your pet criminal mastermind, you jolt up and glance rapidly between Kintoki and Shuten. "He has good observations! Better than da Vinci sometimes!"
"Mmhmm, mmhmm, sweetie." Shuten pats your head and eases you back down. "You certainly are loved."
"But, ugh, him and Holmes!" You scrub the heels of your hands over your eyes. "We have Berserkers with better self-control than them! Children even! I trust Jack to hold a stabbing better than I do Moriarty ignoring Holmes being an ass!"
"You tryin' to mend shit between them?"
"No, that's too much for a mere mortal. I'd like to just make them capable of bearing each other's presence for more than fifteen seconds. Da Vinci is fed up and said I had to talk to Moriarty, but how do you resolve this?"
Silence shrugs wide to embrace all three of you as zombies scream in a burst of gunfire. Wherever the film plot has gone, you haven't the slightest. The ".mkv" film in the database didn't come with a summary, and you and Kintoki had selected it based on the file name sounding like punches would be involved. You are adrift in things you cannot comprehend.
"Senpai! So, this is where you were!"
A second addition to the uninvited crowd breaches your sanctuary, but you can hardly be angry at Mash. Ibaraki creeping in at her heels, remarking on how she'd been searching for Shuten, however, is on thinner ice.
Fear is absolutely absent from your voice when you ask: "Were you looking for me?"
"For da Vinci?" Yes, certainly not a smidge of anxiety there.
"Oh, no, Senpai. I hadn't seen you in awhile and wanted to help if I could."
Your Mash, a most loyal girl. She is most welcome to kneel by your bed, and yes, you suppose Ibaraki can be tolerated, too, as she eyes your popcorn without a shred of shame. You consider letting her suffer, letting someone else taste a woe as deep as yours, but you sigh and pass the bowl over into her eagerly extended claws. Mash manages a few kernels before Ibaraki plunges full-handed into her conquest.
Forced screams and sprays of blood, Ibaraki is merry in her consumption.
"I don't even know where to start." Life is as forlorn as whatever apocalypse those Italian actors endure.
"Uh," Kintoki tries, "why do they hate each other so much? Can't say I ever got it."
Mash perks up, and it's an excited, though perhaps too detailed foray into the literary canon of Sherlock Holmes gifted to you all. (You shush any complaints. She deserves spare moments to be happy and indulge.)
Kintoki chews on it. "If it's part of their stuff, then, uh...even with your most golden effort, Boss…"
You sigh, loud, all your body's stress deflating from you.
"Mmm." Shuten hums to be noticed, leaning over to snatch a piece of popcorn. Ibaraki controls herself with the poise of a lady for a single, bare moment. "Do you truly think it's so impenetrable, Master?"
You are up and invading her space within a moment. "Why? What do you think? Tell me. I'll take any insight."
"Desperation isn't cute, sweetie." She pushes you back, gentle but firm, a smile curling on her lips. "Can you not sense it?"
She plays, and you inch ever closer to wasting a Command Spell on this nonsense.
"Impatience is even less cute," she complains, but her smile does not relent, and so casually, she states, "It's foreplay."
You blink. Kintoki goes tense, jaw working at rehinging itself. Ibaraki exists outside of reality, merry with her popcorn.
Mash furrows her brows. "The atmosphere can be tense, but I don't think they are that close to a physical altercation…"
"Think a little harder on it, honey. It is most certainly physical."
Arms crossed, Mash dedicates far too much effort to unraveling Shuten's perverse puzzle. You must intervene.
"It's okay, Mash. She's teasing."
Shuten's lips split into an even wider smile, teeth glimmering. "And this is also--"
You slap a palm over her mouth, fully prepared to deal with the potential consequence of her biting. She instead laughs and pulls back your arm; your strength nothing compared to hers, but she is gentle.
"If I'm not allowed to tease, Master, then neither are you, okay?" Shuten holds your wrist taut as she speaks. "Let's keep it fair lest one of us feel they can toe the line."
You all settle back in some type of conclusion, though Mash tilts her head in unaddressed confusion. Then--
"I don't know what this is about, but you should listen to Shuten," Ibraraki says, wholly unprompted. She nods sagely and stands. The bowl is empty. "Shuten is always right."
That's debatable. But, well.
It is something to go on.
You do not know how he tracked you here nor how long he may have laid in wait, but you make a sharp u-turn when you exit your room and see Mephistopheles down the hall.
You seek a second opinion.
"Umu, umu, I see." Nero nods as sagely as Ibaraki, fully and potentially misunderstanding the matter at hand. "Yes."
Elisabeth frowns. "Do you?"
"Of course! How long I have been to overlook it. I had merely dismissed it as an annoyance best avoided. Umu...going into the Command Room has been a troubled occurrence for many in Chaldea of late."
You laugh, awkward. (Maybe da Vinci had a point in finally saying enough.)
"Of course such passion was born from a perverted love! I have been on the other side of it many times myself, so I guarantee you, Master, it is no mere hate that drives those mortal enemies! Love, too, demands to be part of their union!"
"That is...a way to put it," you concede.
Elisabeth stifles a laugh from behind Nero, but she voices no disagreement.
A hate that is love. A love that is hate.
You know one individual best suited to answer questions of that sort. Such a fraught crossroads, yes, you can only ask Brynhildr. Never has there been a better example of how violent loathing can pair with dear, passionate love.
But, you do not consult her directly for her sake and your own. She accepts your seemingly unprompted hug with a bemused grace.
The more you ask, the longer you have for it to sink in--
Ibaraki may have one correct life philosophy: trusting in Shuten. Because, somehow, you do think she might be right. There is something to the tension shimmering between Moriarty and Holmes. You know how loving hate shivers through Brynhildr, how passionate destructive impulses can be, how the best emotions can manifest as the worst outcome.
You believe it. There is a layer to their relationship you have been oblivious to.
And, that leaves one question.
Why hasn't Moriarty told you? Maybe you expect too much, but you thought the bond you forged in Shinjuku went so deep as to affect his Spirit Origin, to transcend endings and beginnings. He answered your summons. He accepted your orders and closeness.
Regardless, it would be arrogance to assume he was the sole potential problem here. Perhaps the problem lies also with you.
You hadn't realized. You required a third party to enlighten you. You--
"So down, so down! What a frown, Master!"
A day of evasion, and Mephistopheles has finally caught you unawares, wandering the halls. Fate damns you.
You give him a look. "This isn't the best moment."
"Nor has it been all day."
You purse your lips, avert your gaze.
"Did you fail to think Mephy could help? He knows the one you must seek."
Under your breath: "I just didn't want to decode it all…"
"Ahh, ahh, Master wants it simple, wants it without riddles."
And, Mephistopheles drops his cheer so sudden, so abrupt you sense a shift in the space. Graveness overtakes his expression.
"I know what you fret over, Master. Did you ever consider that he worried over what you would think?"
A sucker punch to the gut, you freeze. A ticking timebomb thrown into a crowd, you do not blink as you look at the clown.
Then, you run. Because no, no, no. Of all conclusions, you will not have that one. Could he have thought you would judge? Could he have thought you would be disappointed? As if you would ever be. You are a certified veteran in dealing with off-beat dynamics at this point, and as if this would even register as odd to you, simply observe your myriad Servants. But, ah, no, this could have carried over as a perception from his native time, an assumption you would disdain a same-sex attraction mired in a tamer variant of Brynhildr's bloody obsession.
You must go to him. He must know the truth. You cannot permit him to suffer this any longer.
"Senpai! Where did you go? You wandered off in a daze and--is something wrong? Senpai?"
You grab Mash and pull her along, near jumping with the exhilaration of your revelation. "I can fix it! I can fix everything!"
She follows you in such confusion as you burst into the Command Room. It is unchanged from this morning, a less civilized time before you understood your grievous failure. Fortune favors you in that Moriarty is here (you wonder, belatedly, if da Vinci caught wind of you hiding and co-opted your role for Holmes amuses himself with a console), and you rush to him. You forgo a proper greeting to gather both of his hands in yours.
He is utterly baffled. Ah, he must have hoped you would never realize and loathe him for his feelings. What a pitiful denouement that would be.
"It's okay! I would never hate or look down on you for how you feel! It's natural, perfectly natural no matter what the sentiment might have been when you lived!" (And, oh, that's another question for another day, the real versus fiction debate that Holmes gleefully dances around.)
The room is quiet. All eyes center on your fervent declaration.
"I support you no matter what, Moriarty!"
He coughs, slightly flustered, then tugs a hand free to gently pet your head. "Oho, I can't say I'm not pleased you reached this conclusion, even if I question how you went about stating it. Now, about that bothersome detective--"
"Yes!" you cry. Tears might sparkle in your eyes, so moved at having made such a beautiful breakthrough with Moriarty. "However it must be, I will support your love of Sherlock Holmes!"
Da Vinci laughs for a good week, snorting into her coffee when she sees either victim of your assumptions. (You rather think Moriarty might be weaponizing this to an extent, waiting for Holmes to enter a room first, be embarrassed, and exit before coming in to ensure it is all clear.)
More than once, Holmes gives you a somber look from a distance, shaking his head. Your deductive capabilities leave something to be desired according to him.
Moriarty holds you ever as dear, but there is a small interruption of awkwardness. He interrogates you plenty as to how you achieved your conclusion.
Suspicions lurk in the back of your mind (really, you exclaim to Nero, there is absolutely a certain tension), but the job of restoring peace is temporarily done. You do make it so neither can meet the other's gaze long enough to spawn a spat.
The mission is a success by your standards.