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Golden Cage

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John Watson was a cheap man. He preferred factory bulk chocolates over rich cocoa imported from India. He bought most of his clothes at discount stores, his philosophy being if it was clean, it was fine. He never wore cologne unless he was on a date, he always bought his DVDs pre-owned and he knew the phone number of the pizza delivery by heart.

So when the plate of grain-fed, Idaho-bred beef was placed down in front of him, he felt no real urge to eat.

Even if he was hungry, he wouldn’t dare touch it. It could be poisoned or drugged. On another plate there sat bread pudding and to his right, a waiter poured him a glass of red wine.

John stared intently at the carving knife, trying to think how fast it would take him to grab it and shove it into Moriarty’s smug face.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” Moriarty pouted like a child, even as he took a long swing of wine.

“I’m not hungry.”

“You could at least try.”

“No thanks.”

Moriarty sighed. “Your loss,” he pulled out his silk (who the hell used silk?) napkin, draped it across his lap. “My cook is going to be very upset.”

This was the only time of the day John ever saw Moriarty. John supposed being a high functioning sociopath with an extensive crime syndication behind him must eat up a lot of time. But every evening at seven, John would be summoned down from his room to have dinner with him.

Thankfully Moriarty never tried to starve John into eating dinner with him. There was breakfast, there was lunch, there was even afternoon tea. John was allowed to roam the mansion (yes, mansion. Where in fuckin’ England was he?) and enter the gardens occasionally.

He had tried to escape a few times. His first attempt failed miserably when he realized a second too late the fence was electrical. His second attempt ended with a tranquilizer dart in his thigh.

His third and most recent escape plan involved one of the cleaning maids who had grown quite fond of John. The day after Mariam agreed to help John, her body was found in one of the water closets. Apparently she slipped on a bottle of cleaning solvent and broke her neck. After that, the rest of the crew kept their distance.

John lifted his eyes from the knife and glared sourly at the man across the table. “Exactly how long do you plan to keep this up?”

Moriarty took another bite of beef and said simply, “As long as it takes.”

“Does Sherlock even know I’m alive?”

The sociopath smiled. “He doesn’t even know I have you.”

John stiffened. “What?”

“Oh, I’m sure he had an idea,” he waved his hand absently. “But I’ve never left a clue, a message, nothing really that pointed to me. Truth be told, for the first two days you were missing, he thought you were at Sarah’s.”

“So what is this then?” A sick feeling was settling in John’s stomach. “A much more elaborate game for Sherlock?”

Moriarty wiped his lips and a sickening smile spread over his face. It reminded John of the Grinch, how the longer the smile got, the more distorted the features became. “A game, yes. But this has nothing to do with Sherlock.”

“Then who? Mycroft?”

“No silly. You.”

John’s head jerked a little at that, only because it bewildered him than anything else. He wasn’t like Sherlock or Mycroft. He can’t look at a person and tell their entire life story from one glance. Hell, John was bad at games- just ask Harry. She often lorded over him when he lost at board games and technically, he still owed her ‘a million-trillion pounds’ from the last time they played checkers.

There was no way in hell could Moriarty find any entertainment in him. “You’re kidding.”

“Why would I kid about something like this?” He sounded truly intrigued. “I’ll admit, the very first time I laid eyes on you I thought you were nothing more than Sherlock’s plaything; a toy that’ll amuse him for a month or two. It has happen before; Sherlock has gone through seventeen flatmates since he turned thirty.

“But you, Dr. John Watson! You’ve stayed longer than any of those idiots. You have captured the attention of one of the smartest men in the world and you have kept it. Needless to say, I was curious.”

Was John supposed to feel flattered by this? “I don’t understand. Why-“

“How many men have died on you?”

John’s jaw stiffened. “That’s none of your business.”

“Officially twenty-two,” Moriarty mused as if John had told him. “Unusual high number, but I suppose when you’re in a war zone, trying to patch up a man who had his guts ripped open with gauze and a couple of shots of morphine is next to impossible.”

John tried not to look down at his plate of meat.

“But what about unofficially, Dr. Watson? The civilians in the crossfire, POWs you’ve tried to help, and the men you shot-“

“Stop it,” John hissed. “What’s your point?”

“A realization, really,” Moriarty ran his finger over the mouth of his wine glass slowly. “Despite all the gruesome crime scenes Sherlock has gone to, you have seen more bodies-“

“I’m a doctor, of course I have.”

“Your hands have been bathed in gallons of blood-“

“Once again, doctor.”

“You’ve killed a man for Sherlock.”

“So have you.”

Moriarty threw his head back and laughed. “Oh, oh so clever, John!” He giggled. “It’s one of the things I learned to like about you. You’re quick on your feet.” He looked down at John’s knife. “And I know you’ve been contemplating cutting my throat this whole time.”

John tightened his fist. “Then do you know why I haven’t tried yet?”

“Because you’re afraid what I’ll do in retaliation if you failed. Oh, not to you; we both know hurting you is pointless. I’m sure there’s a maid or two around here who is bound to fall down a flight a stairs.”

The face of Mariam popped into John’s head. She liked John. He reminded her of her oldest son.

“No, you’re not like Sherlock,” Moriarty continued after reaching over blatantly and plucking the knife out of John’s reach. He twisted it so it gleamed in the light. “But you are smart. Quick. And more damaged than you realize.”

John turned his head away. He knew better than take the ramblings of a sociopath serious. This was all an elaborate game designed to mess with his head. He had to be careful- he was in real danger of losing his mind.

“I wouldn’t want that,” Moriarty frowned as if he heard John’s thoughts. “Insane people are boring. And they like to pee on themselves.”

“Whatever it is you’re trying to do here, I’m not falling for it.”

That seemed to be the end of Moriarty’s patience. The pleasant smile he had on slowly melted away, replaced it with something dark and ugly. He stopped twisting John’s knife in his fingers and held it tightly in a fist.

Without warning Moriarty grabbed the edge of the table and shoved it violently to the side. Food and cutlery scattered across the floor. John stood up quickly, his chair clattering loudly behind him.

Moriarty paused, his face frozen and his arm still in the same position. For a long moment, he just sat there while John shot looks over his shoulders towards the doors. The guards don’t appear to be bothered by their boss’ sudden attitude change.

Then Moriarty sighed. “Oh John,” he chastised lightly. “Look what you made me do. That beef wasn’t cheap, you know.”

With a regretted shake of his head, Moriarty stood up and left the room.

()

There are three cameras in his room. They were placed in glaringly obvious spots as if Moriarty was saying to John, I can seeeee you!

The cameras were position way too high for John to reach, even if he stood on a chair with a dictionary underneath. There were four windows, all over fifteen feet tall with large red velvet curtains to match. The windows overlooked the gardens and somewhere hidden in the thorny rose maze held the infamous electric fence.

John’s original room was on the first floor and he could open the windows at will. When he tried to climb out, he woke up three hours later with a fantastic headache and a bruise on his thigh the size of his fist. After that incident, John’s room was relocated to the second floor and with windows that don’t open.

Honestly, he didn’t know why Moriarty placed him rooms with so many exits. Was it because the sociopath was testing him, silently observing him to see how he’ll react to a given situation?

“Don’t abuse the privileges, John,” Moriarty had said to him after that night.

Is that what it was? John broke the ‘rules’ and therefore had his privilege of an open window taken away? That can’t be it.

There were other ‘privileges’ that stayed, though. A scotch that tasted older than time itself. A plethora of books raging from Shakespeare to Harry Potter. Cigars and even marijuana.

No telly. That made John suspicious.

Despite all the comforts, John never allowed himself to relax. He studied the bed sheets (soft but too weak to create a fabric ladder) he knocked on the walls (not soundproof, but thick nonetheless) and during the day he would wander around the mansion, memorizing the layout.

He wondered if Sherlock would be proud of him of how studious he was being. He also wondered if Sherlock would be disappointed in him because it was taking him so long.

()

There’s a sickening sensation in John’s stomach when he wonders if anybody would be punished for his repeated escape attempts. Mariam only died because she tried to help him, so it was slightly relieving to know no other was being tortured or killed because of him.

Still, they were bad people. John shouldn’t worry about them for what he was about to do.

The cameras were still watching his every move. John knew he had to do this fast otherwise he would find another dart in his thigh. He was unsure if Moriarty was the one watching him or just his henchmen. John hoped it was the henchmen, or else Moriarty could see through his actions easily.

He took one of the cigars and lit it, casually taking a few puffs. John has smoked a few cigars in his days, but it’s not one of his vices. He’d seen enough lungs riddled with tar to last him a lifetime.

It was easy to find a handkerchief. John did not want to rip a piece of fabric openly. It would be too suspicious of a move. Instead, he kept the handkerchief in his front pocket the whole day.

With the lit cigar in his mouth, he poured himself a glass of brandy. He turned and deliberately caught his foot on the carpet so he may stumble and spill his drink.

He cursed, shook his hand of drips, hoping it looked natural. When nobody came in, he supposed it did. Instead of getting a towel from the bathroom to clean it up, he dapped the spill with a nearby curtain. Most of it he left on the floor.

He knew the next move could cost him everything. Not just his own life, but if he failed, it could be the last escape attempt Moriarty would allow. Too much of an annoyance to let live.

John moved quickly. He took the handkerchief out of his pocket, shoved it into the neck of the brandy bottle. He twisted the bottle curtly, dousing the fabric.

At this point, the men watching the cameras have caught on to his little scheme and immediately burst into his room. They are too late as John stuck the lit cigar to the fabric, lighting it. He threw the bottle.

The immediate heat nearly made John throw his hands up in the air to protect himself. His bed, the books, and the far wall were engulfed in flames. And like John predicted, the guards were simply that: guards. They were not firemen and they panicked.

One guard tried to slap the flames by using the curtain John had spilled brandy on earlier. He screamed as the curtain and his arm caught fire. Instead of stopping, dropping, and rolling, the man runs, ignoring the help his friends are trying to offer and yet screaming for them at the same time.

John was all but forgotten.

He runs. There were one or two guards who grabbed at him, tried to subdue him. John simply pointed to the fire, told them he was getting an extinguisher.

They let him go. Definitely not firemen. By the time John hits the bottom floor, somebody had the sense enough to hit the fire alarm, and the overhead sprinklers came on.

John had been to enough arson crime scenes with Sherlock to have picked up a few tricks. He knew once a fire has truly started, it’s nearly impossible to douse until there’s nothing to burn. It’ll take a lot more than water from the sprinklers to make a real difference. That means either call a fire department, or have the whole damn house burn down.

Not everyone tried to help. There were plenty who only thought of their own lives and ran from the flames. It was here, in this mass confusion, John kept his head low and followed the panicked employees flee from the house, flee from the property, by walking right out of the front gate.

()

Truth be told… John never really thought this far ahead. His first thoughts were to escape, worry about the rest later. But ‘later’ was now and he had no idea what to do.

John was fairly confident in his abilities, and used every tracking trick in the book to throw off any potential pursuers. He avoided the main roads, ducked every time he saw headlights and left incriminating material to confuse those following him.

Despite all this, the odds were still stacked against him. Moriarty was a goddamn genius after all and could probably look through all his tricks easily. John himself hadn’t eaten in nearly ten hours, he was not wearing the proper shoes for such an adventure and to top it off, he had no bloody idea where he was.

High up north, maybe, judging from the plants and position of the stars.

He’d better start walking.

()

He was tempted, so very tempted to just step out onto the street and flag down a car. He does try a few times but the thought of Moriarty possibly directing the driver behind the wheel stops him.

He knew it was impossible for Moriarty to have control over so many. Still, fear and suspicion kept John from making a phone call at the first gas shop he came across. He skipped the second store and the third.

By the seventh hour of walking, John was very tired, hungry and dehydrated. He had escaped from Moriarty’s mansion around eleven-thirty at the night. Off in the distance, sun rays were coming over the horizon.

There was no way John was going to be able to travel to London like this. Eventually he’ll come across someone and it was best he do it now, not later when he is too hungry and stupid to respond.

He hoped at this point Moriarty would think of him too boring, too annoying to be bothered with.

John stepped out into the road after spending a minute or two adjusting his clothes. He didn’t want to flag down a car looking like a serial killer. There was still a lot of mud on his pants and a great deal of sweat was drying on his shirt.

As expected, the first car that passed didn’t even bother to slow down.

The second car looked promising and it slowed enough for John to approach. But just as he was about to talk to the driver, the car took off with everyone inside laughing loudly.

It took three more cars passing him before one finally slowed and actually stopped. John approached eagerly.

“You need a lift?” Asked the driver, who looked so gentle he could be Father Christmas. He even had a white beard and bright pink cheeks.

“Yes, thank you,” John sighed gratefully, getting into the passenger seat. “I’m John Watson.”

“Chuck,” he reached over and shook John’s hand. “Where you going?”

“As far as you can take me.” John bit back a groan. His feet were hurting a lot more than he realized. “Do you have a mobile I can use?”

“Sorry,” Chuck mumbled. “Technology and I do not mix.”

The news doesn’t depress him as much as he thought it would. He was too damn relieved to be out of Moriarty’s hands, to be on his way back home. He felt a weight lift off his shoulders and he sagged visibly.

“Are you okay, Dr. Watson?” Chuck asked, eyeing the way John slumped tiredly against the seat.

“I’m fine,” John sighed. “I’m-“

Renewed fear slapped him so hard in the face, John almost choked on his own spit. He kept himself still, trying at the same time not to look like he was keeping himself still. He licked his lips and said slowly, “Actually, I’m feeling a bit sick. Do you mind pulling over so I can get some air?”

John hoped he was wrong. That perhaps because of dehydration he’d forgotten he had told Chuck he was a doctor.

But then he noticed the way Chuck shifted uncomfortably, frowning, maybe coming to the realization what he had said. He opened his mouth to maybe say something reassuring, but by then, John had already flung open his door and thrown himself out.

He landed half in the road, half in the countryside. The mud doesn’t cushion as much as he thought it would as he rolls to a complete stop. Nothing’s broken, though his arms hurts like hell and he knew his jeans have split opened and his knee was bleeding profusely.

Chuck has already slammed on the breaks. He was only about fifty feet away as the car door opened and he emerged, tranquilizer gun in hand.

John got up. He momentarily fell back down when his leg throbbed painfully- not psychosomatic, he probably tore a muscle in that fall. He forced himself to his feet and ran.

He zig-zagged the best he could, his leg forcing to him to do an awkward run-hop momentum. “Dr. Watson!” Chuck cried from behind. “Please, don’t do this! He’ll kill me!”

Chuck may be unable to take a shot now, but John was running on his last reserves. Chuck wasn’t that far behind him and John was bleeding too much to successfully hide. It was like leaving a trail of goddamn bread crumbs.

John slowed, knowing defeat when he saw it. He leaned against a tree, taking a moment to see to his injuries.

Fucking, damn, shit. If he’d known he was going to give up, he wouldn’t have thrown himself out the damn car. It wasn’t just his leg, he’d broken his foot. He practically scrapped all the skin off his hands and he knew he was bleeding from his forehead.

Chuck comes up behind him, gun trained on him. “Dr. Watson, please come back to the car. Don’t make me shoot you.”

John turned to him. “Would Moriarty really kill you if I got away?”

“The state I’m returning you in, he might just kill me anyways.” He then promptly shot John in the leg.

()

Being tranquilized was a lot different than being sedated. Waking from sedation was like waking from a deep sleep. Groggy, tired, but able to pull oneself from unconsciousness with relative ease.

John learned waking from tranquilization was like reemerging from the dead. He could barely open his eyes, move his arms or legs, and forming coherent thoughts took more effort than he was willing to give. He could not go back to sleep because he was not tired. He could not wake because his body wouldn’t let him.

“I was willing to give you anything.”

John willed his eyes to open. Moriarty stood over him, tall and foreboding. He kind of reminded John of Batman, if Batman was a skinny English gay man.

“And I do mean that, John. I will admit it was foolish of me to believe I could keep you chained. But what I hate-“ his hand was suddenly on John’s bad shoulder, pressing down hard. John hissed. “-is that you never once stopped to think, really think what this was all about.”

He pulled back, releasing the pain. John gasped, still unable to move, to shift. He could clench his fingers, curl his toes but that was about the extent of his dexterity.

“If for one second you had entertained the notion of what I felt for you to be true, would you have run away from me? Would you try to leave?”

“I-“ John coughed. His tongue felt too big for his mouth. “I don’t know what… you’re talking about.”

There was a long moment of silence. It lasted for so long, John thought he left. All he could hear was the steady rhythm of his own heart monitor.

Beep… beep… beep…

“Actions speak louder than words,” Moriarty said quietly. There was a shushing sound and John jerked as hands cupped his face. “Maybe I’ve been using the wrong actions.”

Suddenly there were lips upon his, sucking and licking and biting. John could not turn his head, could not raise his arms to push him back. Another man was kissing him; Moriarty was kissing him and all John could do was wait till it was over.

Moriarty eventually did stop, licking John’s mouth one last time before pulling back. “Do what you want,” he sneered. “I don’t care anymore.”

The weight and hands were suddenly gone. John never heard him leave.

End.