"There's something peculiar about our new neighbour," said Sherlock, propped in the window seat with his head against the glass. Clyde moved along the windowsill with grim determination, homing in on the piece of popcorn ahead of him. When that was safely trapped in his beak, Sherlock carefully turned him 180 degrees, and put another popcorn at the other end of the sill. "I don't like him."
"Mr Muscovy?" said Joan. "He seems all right. A little fussy, maybe." She pulled on a sweater and checked her earbuds. "I'm going for a run."
"No, I don't like him at all." Sherlock licked the not-butter coating from his fingertips and squinted at the figure moving slowly but steadily past their window. "Or his dog."
Joan paused in the doorway. "What is wrong with his dog? Bear is adorable and friendly, and he seems to be really protective of Mr Muscovy. I think it's cute. He's a good dog."
"Exactly!" said Sherlock. "Exactly – why is he a good dog? Do you know what breed Bear is?"
Joan looked through the window at the man and his dog. "I don't know. Some kind of German Shepherd?"
"Belgian!" Sherlock said, loud enough that Mr Muscovy turned, stiff-shouldered and startled, to glance at their window. "The Malinois is a Belgian dog," he said, in a lower voice. "An remarkably active breed, used in military operations, and one that develops extremely bad behaviour if not exercised enough." He pointed to the back of Mr Muscovy's be-hatted form as he limped slowly along the sidewalk. "How do you explain the good behaviour of that dog, Watson?"
Joan shook her head and put in her earbuds. "Maybe he has a dog nanny," she said, and put on some music.
Sherlock turned Clyde around again, and settled in to watch Mr Muscovy disappear down the street.
Shaw leaned back in on her park bench, watching Joan Watson thump out the laps. "Is that all we are to you, Harold? Dog nannies?" Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Bear pouncing joyfully on a labradoodle in the dog park.
"I'm sure Bear wouldn't complain, Ms Shaw," said Harold. "But in this instance, you're providing useful surveillance of Ms Watson, and any threats to her person."
"So it's not Doctor Watson?" Shaw finished her hotdog and balled up the bag in her fist. "Wait, she totally killed a patient, didn't she? I know the type: high achiever, makes an error, totally self-destructs." She pitched the paper bag in the trash just as Joan passed her on the path.
Harold sounded irked. "I think Ms Watson would describe it as a reconstruction, actually. She has a successful career as a private investigator, and together with her remarkably annoying housemate, consults for the NYPD."
"Yeah, what is it with that creeper?" Shaw shoved her hands in her pockets and walked along behind Joan, who had a good pace going on. She ran with a steady determination. Shaw watched her legs move, until an odd movement at the edge of the park caught her attention. Someone else in a small crowd of tourists was showing undue interest in Joan Watson, someone holding their phone at a particular angle.
She kept walking past the little huddle of people taking selfies and then paused to check her phone. The man's face was sunk low in a pale blue hoodie, and he surreptitiously photographed Joan as she ran past.
"Hey, Harold, you know what? I'm not the only one checking out Ms Watson."
"Can you get me footage, Ms Shaw?"
Shaw strolled casually towards the bend in the path, eyes still fixed on her phone, watching over her shoulder with the camera. "Let me get a bit of cover first," she said, and walked swiftly towards some high hedges.
She turned the corner, and something caught her hard across the stomach. It was a baton, and it winded her briefly, but Shaw still got her fingers wrapped around it before the wielder, Joan Watson with a furious set to her chin, could draw it away for a blow across the back. She'd been taught well, but Shaw was faster. She twisted the baton out of Watson's grip and pulled it out of reach.
"Now that was just rude," she said, twirling the baton.
Watson seemed unruffled by the loss of her weapon, and pulled out her phone instead, snapping photos of Shaw. "Why are you following me?" she demanded, calmly. "And what's stopping me from texting these to the NYPD?"
Shaw had already tried cloning that phone, but obviously being a private investigator made you extra cautious, or extra paranoid. Maybe both.
"Text away. You're not the only one with NYPD contacts," said Shaw. "And I wasn't following you, I was following the guy who was following you."
She realised that didn't make sense, since she'd left the guy to find cover. "Damn it," she said, and turned to check the path behind her. The guy in the blue hoodie was gone. Shaw would have liked to tell Harold that her cover was blown, but Joan Watson gazed at her with narrowed eyes, and she didn't want to risk any further exposure.
"Just try and extract yourself gracefully, Ms Shaw," Harold said, in a weary voice.
"Hi," said Shaw, and stuck out her hand. "I'm Harold Muscovy's bodyguard." Harold should realise by now that she did everything gracefully.
It was only natural that they went out for coffee later; Joan Watson on the prowl for information about their new neighbour, and Shaw on the prowl for whatever came along.
Shaw decided she liked Joan, liked her decisiveness, liked her instincts: she chose the most secure table with the best aspect for watching people go past, she snapped lids on both of their cups and didn't take her eyes off them. They had an awkward moment as they both went for the seat against the wall, then Shaw stepped aside and let Joan take it. Joan hooked another chair with her foot and pulled it around to her side so they could both keep their backs to the wall of the café.
"Thanks," said Shaw, and sat. "So, are you seeing anyone right now?"
"That's what you open with?" Joan sipped her coffee with an amazed expression, but she didn't answer the question.
In Shaw's ear, Harold's voice was outraged. "I have to agree, Ms Shaw. Do you really think this is the time and the place?"
Shaw shrugged. "It's best to have all your ducks in a line," she said to both of them.
"Are you seeing anyone?" said Joan. "Since we're lining up ducks."
"I think so?" said Shaw.
Joan sipped her coffee. "You think so? You're not sure?"
Shaw shifted in her seat, uncomfortable with the sudden interrogation. "She's in Portugal at the moment," she said, then realised how sketchy that sounded. "That is, I mean, we haven't really, I don't know… We haven't locked down the borders." Damn it. She didn't know how to do that girl talk thing, not with any authenticity.
Joan stirred her coffee but she kept her opinions to herself. In Shaw's ear, Harold sensibly kept quiet.
"Are you really not worried about that guy photographing you?" Shaw asked, into the silence. "Is that just part of being a PI?"
"I'm not a PI," said Joan. "I'm a consulting detective. How long have you worked for Mr Muscovy?"
"You don't answer any questions at all, do you?" Shaw was impressed.
So, apparently was Joan. "It seems we have a lot in common."
Back in the brownstone, Sherlock was shirtless, with icepacks strapped to his shoulder while he used a soldering iron on some electronic device. "How was your date?"
"It wasn't a date," said Joan. She hurried across the room to examine his sudden injuries. "What happened to you? I was only gone for an hour. What can happen in an hour?" Bruises were already rising up on Sherlock's pasty skin: across his shoulder joint, a colourful ring circling his throat. Some very specific circular bruises on his torso that Joan knew were punches. "Did you invite a friend over to play?"
Sherlock propped the soldering iron and sat up straight, arching his back so that it crackled. "I paid an unscheduled visit to Mr Muscovy. It would seem that he has more than one bodyguard attending him." He leaned over the back of the chair to look up at her. "Maybe we should have gone on a double date, although I do hope yours wasn't as combative as mine."
"It wasn't a date!" Joan pushed the icepack back onto his shoulder. "Did you know there was a guy following me, taking photos? A man in a blue hoodie."
"Yes." Sherlock picked up his soldering iron and touched it to the circuit on his desk. "I first noticed him a year ago; I have good reason to believe he answers to Moriarty." He said it absently, as if knowing the source of Joan's stalker was secondary to his electronic dabbling.
"What?" Joan stopped messing with the icepack and stood up straight, appalled both at Sherlock's revelation, and at herself for being surprised. She should know better by now.
Sherlock picked up his soldering iron and touched it to the circuit on his desk. "There's no reason to worry about that person, Watson. He's been fully investigated. All he does is track your movements – your appointments, that sort of thing. Oh, and he takes the occasional photograph. Though what he does with those, I haven't been able to fathom. He certainly can't get them to Moriarty." He leaned back in his chair with a thoughtful expression. "I can't really imagine what Moriarty would do with your photographs, either, now I think of it."
Joan felt a clench of anger and frustration, a hot coil in the centre of her chest. "You did all that, and you didn't tell me anything?" Bent over to shout at him, the gunshot that whistled through the room missed her body, and impacted into the facing wall with a puff of plaster. A breath later, the windowpane crackled and mazed, as if hit by a sudden frost.
Sherlock slid suddenly from his chair, pulling Joan with him, so that they sat in a tangle of arms and legs on the floor. Joan gasped as she fell, confused. She put her hands on his face, cupped the back of his skull, then followed the line of his body front and back, all the way down expecting a warm pulse of blood or the jagged edge of broken bone. Behind them, glass tinkled to the floor as the window started to fall in.
"I'm not hit," Sherlock said, softly. He wove his fingers through hers between their two bodies, keeping them both below line of sight. "You?"
Joan shook her head. "No. What the hell was that?" She had a terrible urge to peep through the broken window.
"High powered rifle," said Sherlock. "Judging by the time between impact and sound, I'd say that they are on the roof opposite." He squinted at the hole in the wall facing the window. "And the angle would suggest that you were the target."
Joan was appalled. "Why, all of a sudden, would Moriarty want to kill me, when there's been all the time in the world to do it?"
Sherlock shook his head. "Watson, I'm not entirely sure that this is Moriarty's doing at all."
When Shaw got back to the brownstone, she saw a glint of light on the roof opposite and she pressed herself flat against the wall, out of line of sight. A man watched the row of buildings from across the street through a professional pair of binoculars. Multi-spectrum, Shaw thought. Nice.
The door opened a sliver, and Reese pulled her into the darkened hall. The drapes were closed, and the only light was from Harold's monitors.
"He showed up a hour ago," said Reese. His expression was grim, and he had a scratch down the side of his cheek.
Shaw gave the laceration a professional poke, ignoring his flinch and scowl. "Is this from the mook on the roof?"
Reese clammed his lips together and wrenched himself free, so Shaw went to the kitchen to investigate dinner. Chinese. Awesome.
"It was not from the unknown observer," Harold said, using precise diction as a weapon. "Our neighbour, Mr Holmes, was kind enough to pay us a visit this afternoon. There was an unpleasant altercation." Harold's posture at the keyboard was always upright by necessity, but now he sat icily rigid, shoulders set.
Shaw rolled her eyes and picked up a pair of chopsticks. This kind of bickering was why she tried to avoid working relationships all together.
Reese leaned on the doorframe. "What would you like me to do next time a stranger comes in the bathroom window, Finch? Pass them a towel?"
Oh yeah, Reese was definitely getting cabin fever, thought Shaw. She hoed through his abandoned take-out, and moved onto Harold's generous leftovers. Talk about a birdlike appetite. In the living room, Reese's voice was as elevated as it ever got as he argued with Harold, which is to say that Shaw could hear him clearly.
"I don't understand why we're even here, Finch! Why can't you work this on from the library?" Reese was never much for pacing, but Shaw knew the signs to look out for: the clenched fist in his pocket, the little vein in his temple.
Harold had a similarly stubborn set to his shoulders. "Because Mr Holmes is remarkably paranoid, and because that level of paranoia extends to his residential Wi-Fi network. He has had someone – not him, I'm certain of that – develop some innovative security structures. I need to be close if we're to adequately supervise and protect his partner."
Shaw held out the empty noodle box for Bear, and he obligingly licked the inside clean. She was happy enough with the level of protection she'd assumed over Joan Watson thus far.
"I don’t like the atmosphere in that place," said Reese. "I don't like that guy. He wouldn't have all that security if he didn't have something to hide."
This was enough to make Harold turn in his seat and give Reese an incredulous look. "Well, if you'd like a more convivial atmosphere, perhaps you should avoid beating up the neighbours."
"If he doesn't want to get hit, Finch, he should stay on his side of the wall. Besides, you heard him just then – he knew about the man following Joan Watson. I wouldn't be surprised if he's the threat we're looking for."
Harold turned back to his screen, shoulders raised. "That hardly justifies strangulation, Mr Reese. We'll be very lucky if he doesn't go on the alert now. I've only just been able to access his home network."
Shaw's phone beeped, and she picked it up. A text from Root.
Trouble in paradise? This was followed by a photo of some kind of amazing pastry.
Want to knock their heads together for srs. What is that it looks delicious.
Another photo came, this time with a neat, Root-sized bite out of the little tart. Pastéis de nata. And yes, extremely delicious. Tell Harold to watch out; Moriarty is kind of a scary big deal. I don't want to have to fly back there and save you.
"I didn't think there was computer security you couldn't evade," said Reese. "You have a revolving door into the NSA. You hacked the Shin Bet last week."
"Whoever set up that monitoring is extremely vigilant. I can evade it but why take the risk of setting off any alarms? It's just as easy to operate from close range, or it would be if you could stop fretting." Harold was never violent with his equipment, but there was a crispness to his typing right now.
Come rescue, bring pastries, said Shaw. She took her phone into the living room and held it up. "Guys, Root says Moriarty is a big deal. You think maybe they're responsible for the extra surveillance?"
Reese leaned a little to one side so he could peer at the debris on the kitchen table. "What happened to dinner, Shaw?"
Bear trotted past with a noodle box over his muzzle, and sat down at the computer, waiting politely until Harold gently removed it and cleaned the sauce from his nose with his handkerchief. Then there was a shot, distant but powerful, making the windows rattle. Reese made a spectacular dive that brought Harold down out of his chair with a gasp. Bear went low, and at Shaw's hand signal, dropped flat to the floor with his eyes on her for more orders.
It took less than a second for Shaw to triangulate the shot and the target. "It's next door," she said.
Harold chanced a glimpse at his monitor, rising up on his knees to peer at the desk. Startled, Reese reached for the tail of his waistcoat to pull him down, but Harold absently pushed him away.
"They're unhurt, as far as I can tell," Harold said, looking at the camera footage from next door. "They've both taken cover in the rear corner of the front room."
"Stay down!" Reese hissed at him, furious, and Harold settled back onto the floor with a wince. Reese had his gun out and Shaw could see him scoping out a path to the roof across the road.
Shaw drew her own weapon, and bellied across to the hall. "I'll be next door, making sure Joan doesn't end up full of holes."
Behind her, Harold sighed. "Please, both of you try not to get shot," he said, and pulled the keyboard down to prop across his knees. Bear settled beside him, his head on Harold's shoes.
Everyone knows where to go for a rescue, thought Shaw, and slipped out the back door.
In the brownstone, Shaw found Watson and her creepy housemate huddled in the corner as Harold had said. One wall of the lounge room was lined with screens, but they'd survived the sniper attack.
"Stay down," Shaw said to Joan. She crouched in the doorway, gun out but low. "My partner is tracking down the sniper right now."
"You seem exceptionally well prepared to deal with attacks, even for bodyguards." Sherlock's tone was affable, though his eyes were far away, gazing over the top of Shaw's head, through the broken glass of the window.
Shaw shrugged. "You don't really make it as a bodyguard if you're not ready for anything." Joan watched her without speaking, her mouth like a straight line. Shaw frowned; the atmosphere in this room was not what she expected from panicked civilians who had just been shot at.
"Still," said Sherlock. "I've worked with bodyguards, and to be honest, you seem more like the body-hurting kind of person." His shoulders twitched, and Shaw could tell he wanted to be up off the floor, to loom and pace and probably steeple his fingers. "For one thing, your partner, the thug in the suit, may as well have spec ops tattooed on his forehead: in the fight I've just seen on the roof across the street, I've seen him use at least three different fighting styles, all at an elite level. You seem similarly trained. I could tell simply from the callus on your right forefinger that you use a gun as easily as you use a knife and fork." He tilted his head, considering her. "Actually, the chilli sauce on your chin would indicate that you're perhaps not quite as adept with cutlery as you are with a gun."
Shaw swiped the sauce from her face and glanced down at her right hand: the forefinger rested comfortably against the body of her gun, ready to slide into the trigger. She wiggled it at Holmes, wishing she could give him the finger for real, but she didn't want to jeopardise her grip. "This doesn't mean anything. I could just keep in practice."
"Then you wouldn't need to be as defensive as this," said Joan. Shaw wondered how they had set up this good cop bad cop dynamic without Harold overhearing it.
"Listen," said Shaw. "Your pal here is buddying up to a crime lord. The guy with the camera? The sniper on the roof? They're working for someone called Moriarty."
"And how exactly do you know that name?" Joan said, her voice sharp. The two of them turned their eyes on Shaw, and she realised she'd been set up. She rocked back on her heels. It was actually impressive.
"Ha!" said Sherlock. "Mr Muscovy – I'm assuming he's your research guy? He's no assassin, at least – needs to update his data sources. That sniper currently suspended from the roof is not Moriarty's."
Harold made a short exhalation in her earpiece. "Please minimise the fallout from this," he said. "I'd rather maintain at least a little anonymity, if at all possible. You may move freely. John has secured the sniper and Mr Holmes is correct; the man is not in the employ of this Moriarty."
Shaw checked through the window, and stood up, thinking fast. She improvised. "We're private investigators," she said. "We picked up a rumour that Joan Watson was a… person of interest in a case."
Sherlock stood too, shaking his legs, pacing the room in long steps. "Well, this is nicely recursive," he said. "You're a investigator, investigating another investigator."
"Honestly, it's more of a protection deal than an investigation." Shaw sat on the sofa and picked up an abandoned bag of popcorn. "What's up with the turtle?" she said with her mouth full.
"Clyde is a tortoise," said Joan. "I'm still not sure how you knew there'd be a sniper."
"And what kind of protection unit feels the need to eavesdrop on their clients?" said Sherlock. He thrust his arm in Shaw's direction, and in the palm of his hand, she saw a collection of circuitry. Harold's bugs, she realised, and counted them. Most of Harold's bugs.
"You're counting," said Sherlock. "So I missed a few, did I? Very well." He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small black box.
"What does that do?" asked Shaw.
In her ear, Harold spoke urgently. "Ms Shaw, remove your earpiece now!"
Shaw grabbed for the earwig just as Sherlock pressed a button on the device. The earpiece gave an intensely high whistle, then died, emitting a puff of acrid smoke. All around the room, in the adjoining kitchen, and on the staircase, tiny clouds of smoke appeared. Even Sherlock seemed grudgingly impressed by the number of surveillance devices in his own home. Shaw was proud; Reese had been very thorough.
"Your explanation is no surprise; I have suspected for some time that your employer, the enigmatic Mr Muscovy, was a constructed identity," said Sherlock. "Granted, it is an excellent identity, very solid, very well fortified, something that takes considerable time and computer expertise. However, you can tell Mr Muscovy from me that you can form what seems to be an impenetrable cover, you can live in that man's shoes and even show up for work under that name, but there is always a certain… organic authenticity that evolves when one uses one's real name. And now, with the help of my own friends with their own computer expertise, we will discover exactly who this Mr Muscovy is." He reached into his pocket, and Shaw eased the safety off her gun, but what he withdrew was a remote control. The wall of monitors flickered into life.
Joan leaned forward in her chair. "What did you have to do to get this favour?" she said with interest.
Sherlock grimaced but held out his phone obligingly. "I believe the pertinent hashtag is #nutscapes," he said. The image was a panoramic view of New York City, somewhat obscured by something pink and blurry at the top of the frame.
Shaw leaned forward too. "Is that from the Empire State Building?"
"It is," said Sherlock. "The glass was remarkably cold, I might add."
"How did you not get arrested?" asked Joan. "No, don't tell me. You didn't get arrested, that's fantastic."
One by one, faces appeared in the screens, men and women, in various states of dress. Some of them blinked, as if daylight was not a thing they saw often. One of them was Root. She grinned, waved, and held up an egg tart. She had a tan, Shaw noticed. It had brought out freckles across her nose.
Sherlock waved to his friends then turned to Shaw. "I do not appreciate being spied on," he said. He waved his arms expansively at the wall of glass. "So, my friend and I are going to livestream a hack on your employer's identity."
In her little box, Root bit into her tart, and chewed delicately but appreciatively. When the pastry was completely done, she licked all of her fingers one by one, then put them on her keyboard.
All the people on the screens began in their own ways: some with keyboards balanced on their knees, others hunched over desktops with gargoyle-like posture. Shaw could see a balcony over Root's shoulder, with soft, filmy curtains that blew in the breeze. It looked nice, where she was.
"Oh, shit," said one of the hackers, and typed faster for a moment, then he threw his hands in the air. "Sorry, dude, I'm out." His image winked out.
A woman in an X-Men t-shirt shrieked, just as smoke started pouring from her terminal. The last they saw was her wielding a fire-extinguisher, then the screen went white.
"Too rich for my blood, " said another, and reached out to switch off his camera. Gone.
Another stared at their monitor then gasped. "Where did you find those? Okay, fine, whatever." Gone.
They vanished one at a time, all struck with tiny disasters, all leaving black screens behind them like missing teeth. Root was one of the last to go. She mimed a tear running down her cheek like a sad clown, then checked out. Shaw knew she had more of those pastries, and for a moment, wanted very much to be there in Portugal, in the room with the drifting curtains and Root's sticky fingers. She sighed.
"I don't understand," said Sherlock. "I literally exposed my most vulnerable parts to the city for this."
One at a time the monitors brightened back into life, in a measured pattern spreading from the top left corner downward. Piece by piece, like putting a puzzle together, Harold's face came into view across the spread of screens, his expression very much like a cranky teacher who had caught his students in a prank.
"That's enough," he said. "Mr Holmes, you may not have approved of my actions, but I assure you that I had only Ms Watson's safety in mind. I had no way to exclude you as the potential threat to her life – and I hope you can appreciate that I would exclude nobody when it comes to protecting your partner – hence the surveillance devices inside your home. Now, since my cover is blown, we can waste time escalating this rather petty war, or we can put our efforts together to determine what risk currently threatens Ms Watson. I'll leave you to make your decision. Ms Watson, Ms Shaw," Harold nodded politely, and the screens all blinked out simultaneously.
Sherlock pursed his lips thoughtfully.
"Are you seriously considering those options?" said Joan. "Don't be ridiculous. Call your contact on Moriarty's prison detail; I know you have one. If this is Moriarty's business, why don't we cut to the chase and ask her why?"
"Moriarty's a woman?" Shaw said. "So, you are seeing someone."
"It's not like that. She's a sociopath, and she's dangerous." Joan sat up very straight on her chair, with her shoulders determinedly not hunched. Shaw thought this was probably not the time to say that she herself was probably a sociopath and definitely dangerous.
"She is most certainly a sociopath," said Sherlock. "Also my ex-girlfriend. And she seems inexplicably fond of you, which is troubling." He considered his words as he dialled on his phone. "Not inexplicable that anyone would be fond of you, Watson – that's perfectly reasonable. Just not in Irene – Jamie's case. Yes, hello, this is Sherlock Holmes," he said into his phone, and he walked into to the kitchen to set up a meeting.
Joan looked very calm; Shaw knew by now that this was how she looked when she was extremely annoyed. "Excuse me," she said, and disappeared upstairs.
Everyone was really ruffled by this Moriarty person. Shaw picked up the tortoise and checked underneath it. "Lucky we didn't put a bug on you, huh, buddy?" She put it down on the floor and watched it trundle away.
"Oh, this dump," said Shaw, as the car brought them to the Brooklyn Naval yards. "Good place for a prison."
In her ear, Harold spoke. "I have nothing on this place except for rusting hulks and real estate developments. No networks here, no online activity. Very little surveillance at all." He sounded frustrated.
Beside her, Joan seemed happy to turn her back on the rusting ships and wooden boardwalks. "You've been here before," Joan said, and pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes, a rare gesture of annoyance and uncertainty.
"Job before this one," said Shaw. "There's a lot of hinky government stuff goes on here. Are you going to be okay seeing this woman? I've only been watching you for a couple of days but this is the first time I've seen you rattled."
Joan's expression wavered, between anger and resignation, then she laughed. "What is my life, that the people tailing me are offering insight into my emotional state?"
Shaw checked behind them for anyone following their car. "It's all part of the service, ma'am," she said.
If Sherlock hadn't mentioned Moriarty's fascination with Joan Watson, the larger-than-life portrait leaning against the wall would have been a giveaway. Shaw picked her way down the stairs ahead of Joan, scoping out the sparse living arrangements. Behind them both, the guard talked quietly into his radio, giving a steady report to his superiors.
In the warehouse cell, Moriarty curled in the corner of a sofa like a cat. She wasn't like Shaw had imagined - crime lord doesn't usually equate to someone huddled into a paint-flecked, oversized sweater – but when she stood to greet Joan, all of Shaw's senses prickled alive. Moriarty was hyper-aware: of Shaw's weapon, their height differential, the earpiece, relative positions in the room. Her awareness and assessment set off Shaw's own defences, and it was difficult to not to throw herself in front of Joan to protect her.
Moriarty laughed, and it was a horrible, melodic sound. "Look how I've ruffled your wolf, Joan. Hush now, pet, I don't mean her any harm. I would never let harm come to Joan." Shaw did not like the way she said Joan's name: reverent, fascinated, as if she were tasting it in her mouth.
"You've had me followed," said Joan. She stood a good two feet distant from Moriarty, her arms crossed. Shaw slipped into position behind her left shoulder, like a good bodyguard. Even if Moriarty's weapons were only verbal, it would help Joan to know her back was guarded. So much about Joan's body language made sense now: the best defence against people like Moriarty was to give nothing away, ever.
The moment Joan spoke, all of Moriarty's attention shifted, like a storm wind swinging around to the north. She took in every word of Joan's, every muscle movement and strand of hair, greedily. Shaw had seen that expression before, when Harold opened a new database or found the piece of information that brought a mystery together. Moriarty was absorbing data, processing it, deliberating over it lovingly. Creepy.
"I always have someone following you, Joan. It's to keep you safe. I told you; I would never let anything happen to you. You're important to me. And to Sherlock." The last was a concession, given up grudgingly. This was a messed up relationship, thought Shaw. Much more messed up than anything she had with Root, which was actually reassuring.
"I believe that some kind of gathering is occurring outside the brownstone," said Harold. "Mr Reese says to tell you they're heavily armed. I think it would be best if you and Ms Watson did not return until we can secure the area."
Shaw leaned close to Joan to whisper in her ear, just to make Moriarty's eyes narrow. "Harold says there's an ambush waiting for you at home."
Joan didn't relay this information to Moriarty. She simply watched her and waited. Moriarty reached out to touch Joan's cheek, but Shaw caught her wrist before she could make contact. She shook her hand free as if touching Shaw was distasteful.
"I don't know what to make of this retinue you've picked up, Joan." She sighed. "Very well, I do have certain business strategies coming into play very soon, and it's possible – likely, even – that this has attracted unwanted attention." She swung her gaze from Joan to Shaw. "Have people come to hurt her?"
"Apparently," said Shaw. She could hear Harold in the background over the earpiece, trying to talk John out of a full-scale attack.
Moriarty's attention was back on Joan, this time with a flirtatious little smile. "Isn't it interesting how when they want to hurt me, they threaten you? That's something we're going to have to address. In the future."
"Is that a threat?" said Joan.
"Oh, no. Not really. More like a proposal," Moriarty said, still with that smile curling around her lips. "And don't worry; when their forces reach a critical point, my people will act." She watched Shaw carefully, and Shaw realised she was waiting for intel.
Gunshots echoed through the earpiece, and Shaw instinctively put a finger to it. "We're all right, Ms Shaw," said Harold. "It would appear that two factions are now battling it out. We've called the police and we will remain in the building where we are safe." That last bit, said very sternly, was definitely not for Shaw's benefit.
"There we go," said Moriarty. "Things should resolve quite quickly now."
"You're cut off here," said Joan. "You have no digital contact, no outgoing contact at all – how are you co-ordinating your people to do all this?"
Moriarty went back to her sofa, and picked up her book. "Clockwork," she said. "Clockwork is an ancient mechanism, which, if well-cared for, will continue to function without interference, with excellent accuracy. I set the machinery going, my people oil the gears as instructed, and the game plays out. It is inevitable. The modern world is surprisingly vulnerable in its addiction to interconnectivity. I find it adds little to the quality of living, hence, here I thrive when I should dwindle." She waved her hands at the trappings of her warehouse cell.
"I most sincerely disagree," Harold said, quietly, in Shaw's earpiece. "We are, to a large extent, the matter of our connections with people, in whatever form those take."
Joan gave Moriarty a disbelieving gaze. "You expect me to believe you pre-arranged all of this in advance?"
The gunshots were becoming less and less frequent now, and over the earpiece, Shaw could hear sirens wailing into the street.
"It has been lovely to see you, Joan, but I believe the danger you faced has been adequately dealt with. Please don't hesitate to contact me, should you feel the need." Moriarty looked down at her book, and turned a page. It was as clear as dismissal as someone with no personal freedom could execute.
Joan didn't even bother to argue; she simply turned and left. Shaw gave Moriarty one last assessing glance, and then followed behind.
Later, several days later, Shaw lay on her stomach, dabbing up crumbs of pastry from the bed sheet. It wasn't that breezy room in Portugal, and they weren't eating Pastéis de nata, but Root was here, and food was here, and things were mostly pretty great.
"What's still bugging you?" Root sat astride Shaw's legs, her hands resting in the small of Shaw's back. "You should be as boneless as a jellyfish right now, but look at all this tension." She pressed her fingertips into the muscles around Shaw's vertebrae, and Shaw bucked, trying to throw her off.
"Quit that," she said. "Give me another Danish."
Root laughed, and stayed put, but passed another Danish across from the table beside the bed.
Shaw picked off flaked almonds, and ate them one by one. "I thought I'd be like her," she said. "Moriarty, I mean. Everyone was talking about how sociopathic she was, and I thought, well, that's me, right?"
"Sociopathy's a social construct," said Root. She shredded her own Danish, and Shaw felt the crumbs tickle the skin on her back.
"Maybe," said Shaw. She wriggled onto her back, still underneath Root, and looked up at her. "I just – it was weird, to know there's someone out there who feels less about things than I do."
Root held a piece of pastry out for Shaw to eat, and Shaw angled her neck upwards to catch it with her teeth. She laughed, and trailed her fingers across Shaw's throat. "You feel plenty, Sameen. I think maybe you just listen to your own propaganda too much."
Shaw reached up for the rest of the Danish, and Root took advantage of her hands being occupied. As they moved together, a mess of sticky crumbs and salty skin and rumpled sheets, Shaw pushed her fingers through Root's hair, and let go of Moriarty's image. We know where to go for our rescues, she thought, she and Root both.