"Your blood's as good an ink as any..."
Moriarty came in like a thief in the night, phone clutched to her ear and utterly disregarding the fact that Joan was apparently asleep once Joan shifted to unearth her head from the pillow and glare at the interruption of the silence.
She spoke in low, urgent tones and when Joan sleepily sat up, she seemed to start, before settling once more. A smile, one that didn't reach her eyes, drifted across her lips and she turned away, unlocking and sliding open the balcony door before stepping outside and out of earshot.
She'd been gone half the night.
Joan leaned over and turned on the bedside light, picking up her phone and scanning through Amazon coupons and a statement from the bank before clicking into an email with no subject from Sherlock. Inside there was a few lines of his indecipherable shorthand (she'd look at it later) and an attached photo. The photo was interesting, grainy, from a security camera. A man standing before a customs officer, handing over a fairly generic EU passport. He looked familiar, but Joan could not place his face.
She flopped back onto the pillows, one arm flung over her forehead and stared at the picture. Sherlock must have thought that it was important, but even the email did not indicate why. It seemed a foolish thing to do, but when Moriarty slipped back in the sliding balcony door some ten minutes later looking blank but grimly annoyed, Joan held out her phone. "Do you know who that is?" she asked.
Moriarty took the phone, eyebrows narrowing slightly in confusion, before her face was schooled perfectly neutral once more. "Roscoe cut his hair and shaved his beard," she commented. "I liked him better with a beard." She passed Joan back her phone.
Joan glanced down at the picture once more. "Really, that’s him? How can you tell?" She wondered if she would get a straight answer out of Moriarty. They were so hard to come by that it felt almost Sisyphean to attempt to discern where the lies ended and the truth began. She had to know, so much of this was predicated on lies.
"Regrettably, yes. The photos that Sherlock sent you in that dossier did not do him justice. Look at the eyes." Moriarty sat on the edge of Joan's bed, bending to begin to pull her shoes from her feet. High stilettos, the sort that Joan would only ever wear to a club or when she wanted to get laid. They made her seem bigger, somehow, and her removing them was a return to earth. The raw, red skin on the backs of her ankles was a reminder that this woman who fancied herself better than god was only human after all. “He was a lot younger when I last saw him.”
“So you haven’t seen him in a while?” Joan knew she was repeating the same questions as before Moriarty disappeared for half the night, dropping bombshells about her mother, about her upbringing onto Joan like it was a simple statement of fact.
"No, not recently."
Moriarty set her shoes down and leaned over, taking the phone from Joan's hand before the lock code could engage. She flipped her thumb back over to the email from Sherlock and read it quickly, eyes flicking back and forth as she took in Sherlock's indecipherable shorthand.
"He wants us to look into William’s visit to England?" It was a question that Joan didn't think Moriarty wanted her to answer.
"It would be pretty easy to find out of he'd been to the bank in the past few weeks, wouldn't it?" Joan's suggestion was couched in hesitance, but it did not feel hesitant at all. They were investigating, or so it seemed. Moriarty would disappear for long hours at nice, coming back on the phone and seeming harassed, threats and harsh words on her lips, promises of retribution that Joan pretended she couldn't here. "Or do you think this is about something else?"
Moriarty looked up at Joan with a baleful sort of look, heavy and incredulous. "The girl? Honestly Watson, I'm not going to break if you talk about her."
Joan puffed out her cheeks. "Fine. Yes. The girl that you've hidden away in another city somewhere far away from here and New York. Somewhere Roscoe won't find her."
"William doesn't kill children. Or women."
Joan closed her eyes, hating that there was no reluctance in Moriarty's offering of that detail. She did not want to know why Moriarty knew that, but the sick, anxious feeling that came with needing to know was enough to make her feel insane, torn between two impossibilities. "You're sure?"
"Then why send it at all?"
"Because he went to go see my father." There is no explanation given as to how Sherlock has discovered this detail, or how Moriarty has made this grand assumption; no detail is needed. Moriarty's jaw was set in a resolute line.
Joan took her phone from Moriarty and set it aside. She sat back on her pillows and let her hands trail by her sides. Picking idly at the duvet, she examined Moriarty. Really looked at her when she’d always felt afraid to take her in before.
She took in the dark circles under her eyes barely concealed with a heavy powder that sparkled in the low light of the bedside lamp. She saw that her hair was dirty, pinned back to disguise that it needed washing. She had seen Moriarty sleep a scant handful of hours since they'd arrived in Geneva. Joan was fighting off horrible jetlag, and yet Moriarty showed no signs of needing to sleep.
"You're exhausted." It wasn't a question.
Moriarty looked away, eyes fluttering closed. Her eyeliner was smudged. "I'll be alright."
Her fingers were twisted in the duvet and Joan bit back the urge to say more. Joan watched as Moriarty got wearily to her feet, bending to pick up her shoes. She set them on the low table where their case notes and purses spilled out the tangled web of their intersecting lives. There was a sag in her shoulders as she tugged off her jacket and slung it over the back of a chair, before moving to undo her blouse. She glanced over her shoulder then, one hand still moving expertly down the row of buttons. Her gaze locked with Joan's and an indulgent little grin flittered across her features, making her look young. "Watson," she said, her voice a heady drawl, "You're staring."
Joan looked away, cheeks flushing.
Moriarty continued to undress, speaking now in a friendly, almost flirtatious tone. Joan hated her. "I suppose that would explain a great deal about your romantic woes that Sherlock lamented to me, though, wouldn't it?"
Her face half buried under the blankets and her cheeks burning in shame and the confusing combination of want and revulsion at herself for wanting and for looking, Joan shook her head. "It wouldn't be any more of your business."
"Would it?" Moriarty tilted her head to one side, fingers curling around her bra strap. "I've never minded girls."
So she'd said.
Joan leaned over, fingers fumbling, leaden and blunt, with the light switch. She hit it, and Moriarty's eyes seemed to glow, piercing blue and predatory in the suddenly dark light. "Just... drop it, okay?"
Moriarty said nothing at all. She vanished into the bathroom for a few long moments of Joan trying to still her breathing, caught in a twisted spiral of self-loathing for looking and for wanting. The light clicked off and Joan heard the sound of rustling, steady breathing.
She closed her eyes and wished she was just a little bit weaker.
Maybe it would have been easier then.
The morning was hot, sticky and unpleasant. Joan stumbled into the bathroom to find Moriarty brushing her teeth wearing nothing but underwear and a tank top, one strap slipping down over her shoulder. It was an odd image, so utterly human compared to everything that Joan knew Moriarty to be. She stared at her, sleepy and without her glasses for a moment before Moriarty stepped slightly to the left to make room for Joan to wash her hands and put her contacts in.
Joan leaned forward, blinking in the first contact. There were scars on Moriarty’s back, and on her wrists. Joan knew where those came from, the jagged, raised lines from where she had nearly killed herself to save that girl. The ones on her back were older, fainter, silvery and without easy explanation. They transected the freckles on her back. The freckles that mirrored Joan’s own.
Moriarty turned her wrist over, and the mark faced the light, pink and ugly and still fading. Joan closed her other eye hurriedly and waited for her contact to settle. It was better than looking at that scar.
“Did you get any sleep?” she asked after Moriarty dipped her head to spit in the sink.
Joan sucked in a breath of air, and then tried again. “Do you ever really sleep?”
The weary eyes that met Joan’s sharpened almost instantly, the mask of Moriarty, alert and engaged, fell into place. “When I need to.” She brushed past Joan and out into the room, her fingers lingering for just a second on Joan’s shoulder before vanishing, a breath of cool skin on this sticky, hot morning.
“We need to go speak to Mr. Perrin.” Moriarty was standing at Joan’s shoulder. She was wearing a white dress with a black steak across the skirt today. Joan liked it on her, but bit back a compliment after the way that their conversation last night had gone. She didn't want to compliment Moriarty anyway, not right now with doubts and hesitance and worry wrapped around her like a shroud.
They were in line at a little cafe around the corner from their hotel. Moriarty had pointed it out the day before and Joan had been charmed by the spindly little chairs and tables on the sidewalk and the delicious smells of the patisserie inside. She wasn't hungry, but coffee was a necessity for Joan when she was jetlagged and she was still fighting off the effects of her sleep schedule being wildly thrown off by her suddenly relocation to Geneva.
Moriarty ordered an espresso shot in drawling French that marked her as English to the girl behind the counter. Joan ordered in English afterwards and earned herself a sympathetic smile and a whispered confession, as she took her coffee, that her friend's accent was horribly Parisian.
"They know you're not local," Joan said.
The pronouncement earned her a charming smile. "I know, darling, that's the charm of being-" her voice slipped then, low, American, Irene's but different, more polished. She'd been practicing "-good with accents."
"I wish you wouldn't do that."
"Talk like her."
Moriarty looked away, sipped her espresso and set the tiny cup back down on its saucer. "You said before that there was a lot of truth in Irene. You're right, of course." Her face shifted into a twisted mask of something darker, the blackness that always lurked there, just beyond the pretty veneer of Moriarty. "But I could never be so optimistic."
Joan closed her eyes and exhaled. The coffee was making her sweat. She didn't care.
"Even if you aren't, you shouldn't talk like her."
"Why?" Moriarty turned to face Joan again. "So you're not reminded of what I did to Sherlock? So you don't close your eyes and see him crumpling to his knees, the strongest person you know, reduced to nothing over the sight of a mere woman?" She leaned forward, fingers twisting around Joan's wrist, squeezing tight enough to make Joan want to tug her wrist away and run as fast and as far as her legs could carry her. "I thought you better than that Joan."
"I'm not--" Joan took a sip of coffee to hide her shaking hand. Moriarty's fingers were warm on her skin now, gentle, relaxing. The dichotomy of the two feelings was enough to make her mind spin and want to flee. "I could never forget what you did to him."
Moriarty let go. "Good."
Laramie Straus was quiet that morning. Joan was half a step behind Moriarty, and Moriarty's fingers lingered just half a second longer than was strictly necessary on the door, effectively holding it open for Joan. It was a strange feeling, like when Sherlock behaved like such a gentleman in physical manners around her during the first few weeks of their companionship. Joan was not sure how to react, stepping through and nodding her thanks.
Moriarty was all business-like as she stepped forward to speak to Mr. Perrin's secretary, accent from the cafe all but gone from her French as she inquired as to Mr. Perrin's availability.
Inside Joan's purse was the dossier on Roscoe, as well as the photo from the night before. Moriarty had forwarded it to herself before they left and when Joan had gotten out of the shower there was a glossy print out of it sitting on the bed next to her phone. Joan hadn't asked, and Moriarty hadn't offered an explanation.
There were details that were not adding up in this case. Joan was almost certain that Moriarty had orchestrated at least some part of the heist. It had gone all sideways, that much was obvious by how Moriarty was reacting to the developments in the case, but initially it had been her idea. It had to be.
The want to press for more details, to get Moriarty to spit out the truth that she kept so carefully closed off behind that bland smile was enough to make Joan want to scream.
Mr. Perrin came out to greet them and ushered them into his office without so much as a word of hello until the doors were shut tight and locked. Joan raised an eyebrow. Moriarty glanced down and shook her head almost imperceptivity. Not worth it, her body language said.
"Mr. Perrin, we were wondering if you stored your security footage," Joan explained. She sat opposite his desk while Moriarty stood by the window, quietly imposing. "I know that you mentioned that you didn't have any such security in the vault, but in the lobby?"
He nodded just once. "We store for three months on site, I'll get you the hard drives." He got to his feet. "Did you have a suspect?"
Joan nodded. She reached into her purse and produced the photo, knowing that without a decent mug shot the chances of Mr. Perrin recognizing William Roscoe were slim. He took it when she offered it to him, stared at the man for a long time before shaking his head.
"I haven't seen him." Mr. Perrin moved towards the door. "I'll go collect the hard drives. I'm afraid that bank policy will not allow me to let you leave the premises with these documents, as you are not here in an official investigatory capacity. The cantonal police--" he swallowed nervously, "have yet to be informed."
"And why is that, Mr. Perrin?" Moriarty asked, even though they all already knew the answer.
The bank would suffer greatly if any word of this got out. The police, Joan and Agent Matoo had already decided and confirmed with Sherlock through his Interpol contacts, would be notified once the case was air tight and there was no chance that anyone else could be implicated.
"You are not the police." He ducked from the room.
Joan turned to Moriarty, the picture of Roscoe still in her hands. "Can you tell me more about Roscoe?"
Moriarty shook her head, pointing to the camera in the corner with one sly finger. "Not here darling."
They were given a conference room and two laptops disconnected from any network. It was boring, dull work, spooling through hours upon hours of footage, looking for a needle in a haystack. By five o'clock the jet lag and exhaustion of their exceptionally boring task overwhelmed Joan. Even Moriarty was yawning, sleepily doodling on the corner of her notepad, a little sketch of a woman Joan recognized herself.
Joan got to her feet, stretching, leaning over to pause the video feed. Her stomach growled. Moriarty eyed her with sleepy, half-closed eyes. "I know a place," she said.
"If you were hungry, Watson, all you had to do was ask."
Asking was admitting weakness, and not something she wanted to show to Moriarty. Joan resolutely stuck her chin out and shook her head.
"Where are you in the footage?" Joan asked as they gathered their things. Everything would have to stay there, Mr. Perrin had insisted, and they could come back in the morning. This was going to be a thankless task.
Joan froze, remembering what had happened to her during those months. She was getting so good at ignoring the pangs of fear and the nightmares that sometimes cropped up. She did not mourn Mycroft, she'd never loved him, and after all the lies it was impossible to forgive him.
She stared at the lines of Moriarty's back, white cloth with a thick black streak across it. The scars on her back were gone but the freckles remained. Moriarty slipped her notes into her purse and turned to Joan. "I never apologized."
"For what?" Moriarty never apologized for anything.
"I discovered Mycroft Holmes' involvement with the Corsicans far too late in the game to act and spare you that ordeal."
"You were out then?" Agent Matoo had never shared specifics.
Moriarty snapped her purse shut and slung it over her shoulder. She shrugged. Joan supposed it didn't matter much anymore. "I am truly sorry that you got caught up in that conflict, Joan." A genuine expression of regret, at least as far as Joan thought Moriarty was capable of feeling the emotion, twisted at her eyes, softening them in the late afternoon sun.
Joan looked away. "Yeah," she said. "Me too."
They walked in silence to the little bistro that Moriarty knew. Joan was used to silence. Sherlock loved to talk, and Joan was fairly certain that Moriarty was in love with the sound of her own voice, but they both seemed to be plagued by the same need for silence that Joan had spent most of her adult life craving.
It wasn't until they were seated that Moriarty confessed loving this place, with its small tables and pristine white tablecloths. "I found it when I was just out of university, caught up in a moment of wanderlust."
"I didn't realize that rich English girls did the backpacking through Europe thing." Joan sipped the water she'd been provided with by a server who came and went so quickly that she’d scarcely noticed him filling their glasses.
"I went to the mountains in Pakistan, actually, took the Khyber railway when they opened it up to tourists again." Moriarty closed her eyes, as if remembering. "To see that mountain, a titan with a shadow that stretched over the horizon." She gave a little shake. "Some myths say the mountains are the sleeping gods of old."
"What do you think?"
"Plate tectonics aren't nearly as interesting, despite being far closer to the truth."
Joan let out a quiet snort of laughter that soon fell silent. The truth… speaking of the truth, she had a question to ask. The server came back with a wine list, and Moriarty ordered after a cursory glance. Joan wanted to say this now, before the wine came and she started to let her guard down.
"Who is Roscoe, really?"
Moriarty folded her hands in front of her primly, looking like the picture of all the innocence she did not possess. She answered as she had before: "Like I said, a contractor I've worked with before."
It took a second before Joan noticed the darkening of Moriarty’s features, how she seemed to grow feral-looking in the split second for the realization of what she planned to do to Roscoe to slam into Joan like a punch to the stomach. She sat back, her expression never changing, and inspected her fingernails. "I think you know."
Joan stared at her.
Moriarty’s eyes flicked from her fingernails to Joan. "Don't look at me that way. Surely you didn't think that I would be willing to let him live for betraying me when all I asked him to do was acquire information, did you Watson?" She shook her head. "And to go to my father of all people..."
Swallowing, Joan leaned forward, knowing that this conversation was in English, but this was a multi-lingual city and someone was bound to understand. "You're going to just kill him for that?" Even saying that hurt.
"I never said that, Watson." Moriarty leaned forward as well, her voice dropping low, conspiratorial. "People have accidents all the time."
Joan bristled, recoiled, and tried to pull herself away from Moriarty’s intense gaze. Moriarty laughed. "You're going to call me a monster, aren't you, Watson? For trying to keep that girl safe?"
"I don't know what you are any more."