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Russian Roulette

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It was John’s fault in the first place. He was the one who’d picked up the fallen revolver. “You’re so fond of games,” he’d said, eyes burning, and spun the cylinder. Jim had felt his pupils blow wide at the ‘click’ of the hammer and Sherlock’s flinch.

They play the game rarely. Conditions have to be just right: only when they’ve got a good head of hate going and Sherlock’s come close enough to losing recently to feel the bite. When Jim has cracked him open and set him burning in the knowledge that all his intellectual superiority can’t shelter what he holds most dear. When nothing in the world sounds quite so appealing or worthwhile as pointing a gun at each other’s heads and taking a shot at ending it all right on the spot.

Every relationship needs its pressure valve.

They play a variant, because random chance isn’t very interesting. One bullet; one man holds the gun and another decides who to aim at. No one gets the gun pointed at him twice in a row. It’s playing the odds. It’s a mindfuck, that’s the point.

Sherlock holds the gun and John makes the call. “Moriarty.” It’s the only time he ever says the name with that kind of satisfaction. It puts a smile on Jim’s face that the click of the trigger can’t wipe off.

John’s fingers brush Sherlock’s as he takes the gun. Jim’s turn. “John.” It’s such a turn-on, the way John shuts down when he pulls that trigger, as emotionless a weapon as it is.

Click.

Jim takes the gun. Sherlock’s call. He makes it through bared teeth. “Moriarty.” Jim licks his lips as he pulls the trigger, just imagining. Sooner or later he’ll get to taste Sherlock’s blood.

Click.

There’s strategy to it, this way. It’s two against one. An observer might think those sound like bad odds, but count again: it makes Jim the only person here with nothing to lose. Every time he points that gun, he gets two for one. He can add, subtract, and divide these men.

Sherlock holds the gun. It’s Jim’s turn to decide, and he savors it like he’s holding the weapon himself. “Yourself.” The barrel sinks into those luxurious curls and Sherlock’s finger flexes.

Click.

John’s hand quivers with vicarious reaction as it wraps around the pistol. Sherlock’s call, and just watch his eyes flicker, calculations scattering like light in his eyes. He can aim at Jim or John (20%), and then John will aim at not-Sherlock (25%). But the numbers are parallactic. They’ve all got a 1 in 6 shot; they’re just better informed than when they started. So solve for the value of Sherlock’s finger on the trigger…so to speak. Two on one; not always in their favour.

Sherlock closes his eyes. “Yourself.”

Click.

John flips the gun and offers it grip-first to Jim, steady as a rock. “Yourself.”

Click.

It’s that personal touch that makes it so sexy. There’s nothing like bringing a man face to face with mortality to make him bare his soul for you. It’s better than Cinemax.

Another variant: flesh wounds are on the table. It adds a tactical element, though of course John’s the only one of the three of them who can guarantee he’ll hit just what he’s aiming at.

Jim has the gun. “Me,” John says. “Left shoulder.” When the trigger pulls, Jim can see the flashback go off behind his eyes.

Johnny-boy, oh! The look he gets when he’s facing the bad end of a firearm. Because of the three of them, he’s the one who knows what it is to be shot, to be pierced and rent and torn to pulp from the inside by an angry little lump of hot metal, and Jim can tell it’s even worse for him not knowing whether this is the time he’ll feel it again. For John, the bullet never needs to actually be there. He’s shot all over again every single time that hammer falls. Jim’s never met anyone he could kill so many times.

John takes the gun. Sherlock gets the choice. He wants to go for the head shot, but if it fails, it’s Jim’s turn next, and he gets to make Sherlock aim wherever he pleases. He watches the internal argument on Sherlock’s face and smiles. “Jim. Head.” Jim laughs.

The trigger clicks.

Sherlock takes the gun. Should Jim make him regret, or make him doubt? He’s spoilt for choice, really, it’s unfair. “Yourself. Head.” He can see Sherlock’s relief. John looks like he preferred the flashback.

The thing is, the thing is that John can pull that trigger with all the remorse of a rock, but Sherlock hasn’t got the killing instinct. When it comes to logic he’s cold-blooded as a snake, but he’s never caught the knack of willful murder. It means the pair of them lose even if they win, because one way or another both of them are pulling that trigger. But it’s the only way Jim will let them close enough to even try for him without racking up a body count that needs at least three hands to keep track of it.

And Jim won’t rig the game. He’d never risk spoiling this kind of fun.

Variant number three: forfeits. Any of them can end the game with a forfeit. The man calling the target gets to decide the price. Two on one; really not always in their favour. And oh, if Jim had to pick a favourite...

Sherlock is better at the fake emotionlessness than John. When he aims the gun at his friend, he looks just like the sociopath he pretends to be. It gets Jim so damn hard that all he can do is tangle his fingers in that inviting hair and yank his head back to bite his neck. Bonus points for the way it makes John’s hand shake. Not that quaint little PTSD tremor, no; this is him fighting not to break the rules and try putting a bullet right between Jim’s eyes. But he never quite dares. If he broke this little détente of theirs and that hammer fell on an empty chamber…Jim’s got a whole list of plans to choose from for what happens then. Different ones work best for different seasons. His favorite is November 5. They always play this game on Bonfire Night, just in case.

He wonders: if Sherlock really did shoot John Watson, would he become a sociopath in truth? One day they might find out. He’d look so good with elegant arcs of blood painted across that pale complexion. Black and white and red, a portrait in post-modern art nouveau. Jim wants to taste it on his skin. He loves the taste of blood; a far more satisfying ejaculate than semen, so much more intimate and vital.

Why go for the little death when you can have the big one, after all?

John gets the gun. Jim chooses. “Sherlock.”

The brave little soldier’s expression is so desperately stoic, Jim would have to be made of stone to resist licking it, in a broad wet stripe from his jugular to his lacrimal bone.

And then he’s being all but hurled backwards by long steel fingers on his neck. It’s like a gift to watch Sherlock snap and go all protective. “Declaring forfeit, darling? Well, if you’d prefer to finish the job...” He laughs in delight at the way their mouths firm up as their cute little faces turn to each other.

Jim is teasing Sherlock’s secrets from him, one shining thread at a time, with each snap of a hammer. He likes to wind them up around his fingers to show Sherlock how beautifully they catch the light. He plans to knit them into a lovely garrote.

Jim loves games he can’t lose.