The agent flattens himself against the crumbling wall. His target is in his sights. He raises the rifle and prepares to fire. The device in his ear buzzes with an incoming transmission.
“Agent 3 Continents, this is GreyFoxCommand. Target in sight?”
“Roger that, Commander. On standby to execute.”
The agent squeezes on the trigger. Before the shot fires, his world becomes a mess of rubble and flame and noise.
The hospital room is plain, but well-furnished. The agent stares at the ceiling. The door creaks open, but he takes his time in looking forward. He knows who it is, anyway.
“Commander.” He says.
“Agent 3 Continents. How are you feeling?”
“Am I really still Agent 3 Continents?”
“I..no, I suppose not. How are you feeling, soldier?”
“Oh, just dandy, Commander.”
His commander sighs and slumps into the chair at John's bedside. He runs a hand through his prematurely grey hair.
“Who am I now?” the agent asks. “If I'm not 3 Continents, who am I? Is the name on my birth certificate still valid?”
“We'll...we'll find you a new identity. I'm working on it. I'm going to set you up with a new life. You'll be comfortable. I can even set you up with a family, if you like.”
The agent snorts.
“A family. Yeah, because my last one worked out so well. That's not standard procedure, is it? And I'll have to be under surveillance constantly. I know too much.”
“It's not standard, but you're one of my best men. I'm not letting them just dump you. And you're used to the surveillance.”
“God, can't they just give me an injection and be done with it?”
“Don't talk like that. You'll be fine. I will personally see to it that you get a good job.”
The agent rolls over, away from his commander. He ignores the other man for a few minutes, and then feigns sleep. The commander knows that it is a ruse, of course, but the agent hears him stand and leave. He's glad that his training has given him the emotional control to stop the tears. He'd never gotten the hang of lucid dreaming, however.
He hates himself for being in a bar. It reminds him of his family. His real family, the one he was supposed to forget about. The sister that had died of drink. He'd pretended not to be close to her so that he could pass the exams. By the time she'd died, he'd eradicated all feelings of guilt. They seemed to come flooding back now, and all he could do was take sip after sip of whatever drink was placed in front of him. He isn't drunk yet tonight, but he is well on his way to getting there.
“Martini. Shaken, not stirred.” he grumbles at the bartender. When the drink is presented to him, it's held in a finely manicured hand. The nails are painted a plum purple that reminds him of bruises. He looks up at the face of an attractive young woman. Professional, but sexy. Some sort of personal assistant, then. She smiles a fake smile.
“Agent 3 Continents?” she whispers. He chuckles and takes the drink from her.
“Not anymore. So who do you work for?”
“Oh, he occupies a minor position in the British government.” The agent snorts. He knows what that means.
“Fuck, what'd I do? I didn't tell any sort of state secret, did I?”
“I think you should come with me, Doctor. My employer wants a chat.” She pries the drink from his hands and tosses some money on the bar. He follows her out.
“How'd you know I'm a medical agent?” She doesn't answer, just opens the door of the sleek black car waiting outside. He slips in after her. She immediately begins to text on her Blackberry.
“So where are we going?” She smiles at him again. That fake smile. Her fingers never stop moving on the tiny keys. He nods. Okay, no answers from her.
“What's your name then, if you know so much about me?”
“Is that your real name?” It's a stupid question and he knows it. In this world, there are no real names. She raises her eyebrows at him. He looks out the window to try and get an idea of where he's going, but it's too dark out to tell. He hasn't lived in London for years anyway. The car stops outside an old warehouse, clearly abandoned. He can't help but think how cliché it is. “Hera” gets out and opens his door for him.
“Go on.” she says, nodding towards the open door of the warehouse. “He's waiting for you.” The agent nods to her and goes in. He sort of wishes that he wasn't excited about this. It feels like being back. He hates how much he loves uncertainty.
There's a man in a well-tailored suit leaning on a black umbrella. There are two armchairs to his left. The agent takes quick note of his surroundings, well aware that cameras and snipers could be trained on him. And god, doesn't it make him feel alive.
“Have a seat, John.” the man says, posh-as-can-be. He points at one of the armchairs with his umbrella. He hesitates. He hasn't heard anyone address him with that name in years. In fact, he'd thought that name was permanently removed from his records. He doesn't sit. He wants to test the waters. The man smiles. Very condescending.
“We need to have a little chat. If you would be more comfortable, you are welcome to stand, but with your leg-”
The man looks pointedly at the can the agent's been using. He knows that the limp is psychosomatic, but what the hell can he do?
“I'd prefer to stand, if it's all the same to you.” he says, emotionless. The man shrugs.
“Of course you're wondering why you're here.”
“Do you know who I am?”
“I've got a few ideas. SIS?”
“Naturally. You figured that out from my PA. Hera, today, isn't it?”
“Yeah. She change it every day?”
“Now now, she's not important to what we have to discuss. So you have a few ideas as to who I am?”
“Yes.” Never give out more information than necessary. The agent keeps his jaw clenched.
“You didn't ask how I knew your name.” It's clear that he wants to be asked. John obliges.
“I know all about you. Of course, it's more due to my position than my intellectual merits, considerable though they are. John Watson, medical agent, no family, wounded in action, trust issues. The list goes on, but you hardly need your own file read to you.”
“Who the hell are you?” He doesn't mean to snap like that. It's dangerous to give in to an emotional outburst, especially one in shock or anger. The man grins.
“Out of practice, are we? Well, no matter. The task at hand doesn't require much emotional suppression. And you've never been good at it anyway.” John resents this but says nothing. “Won't you have a seat?” John looks again at the armchair. Well, it can't be booby-trapped; he might as well. He sits down. The man's smile turns a little more genuine. He sits down as well, tapping the umbrella on the side of the chair.
“What task could you possibly need me for?”
“A personal matter.” He's thrown for a loop. There's a very shrewd idea of who this man really is floating around in John's head. A personal matter from the big guy? Surely not.
“Why me? I'm out of action.”
“That's exactly why. This matter is personal, and I simply can't spare any active agents to do the job. I think your credentials qualify you for this job just fine.”
“Are you going to tell me what the job is?”
“Straight to the point. I like that. Of course I am. There is a man that I need kept safe.”
“Essentially. Undercover. Even the man himself cannot know.”
“Playing nanny, am I?”
“Once you meet him, you'll think otherwise.”
“And if I refuse?”
“You can return to your more or less civilian life and the bottle.”
“Come now, you don't really care about that. Not that I won't make it worth your while. I rather think I have enough to keep you happy.” It's true that he doesn't give two shits about money. He's already made his decision, but wants to draw it out a bit. The man stands.
“I'm glad we have an agreement, Doctor.” John stands as well.
“So who's this bloke need protection from?” The man grins.
“Oh, everything. A criminal organisation that isn't large enough for the SIS to do anything about, petty crooks, himself. Especially himself.” The man holds out a hand.
“You miss the battlefield. You can deny it, but that doesn't make it less true. Take this job, and you will see the battlefield everywhere.” John takes the offered hand. “Welcome back.”
His name is John Watson again. It's a normal name. No-one will suspect that name, because no-one knows that John Watson, many years ago, shed the name to shoot people for a living.
He meets another agent outside of Bart's Hospital. The pudgy man introduces himself as Mike Stamford. They went to school together, here at Bart's. Mike's a teacher now. They played football together. He's known the target for about a year, thanks to his employer's planning. John knows that the target is an eccentric bloke. He's been briefed plenty. He's still not entirely prepared when he enters the room to find a tall man in a suit carefully mixing chemicals. Alien beauty in that face. Black curls spilling around his ears and forehead. Something about his presence throws John off. He doesn't know what he expected, but it wasn't this. If he's thrown now, it's nothing to when the man starts speaking.
“Mike, can I borrow your phone? No signal on mine.” John contains a smile. All according to plan, then.
“What's wrong with the landline?”
“I prefer to text.”
“Sorry, it's in my coat.”
“Here, use mine.” John holds out the phone that's been provided. He'd been a little upset that they'd used his actual sister's name on it, but of course said nothing. The best way to tell a lie is to keep it mostly truth, just change the context. The man looks surprised to see John. He prides himself a bit in how effectively he can go unnoticed. It's one of the traits that helped him on his initial exams.
“Oh. Thank you.” The man takes the phone.
“Afghanistan or Iraq?”
He's obvious when he shoots the cabbie. He has to gain Sherlock Holmes' trust, and what better way than to save his life by shooting a serial killer down? It's easier to giggle about the cabbie being bloody awful when you know you've got a license to kill in your back pocket. He genuinely did not know that his employer was his charge's brother. It's not that surprising, considering how much effort he's putting in to keep Sherlock safe. All in all, it's a good night. He's gotten to shoot someone, learnt something about his boss, and no longer has a limp. Admittedly, it is a bit strange to see his old command officer working as a detective inspector. He doesn't get time to talk to “Lestrade”, and doubts if any meaningful conversation would be permitted anyway.
As he and Sherlock leave the scene of the crime, Sherlock says a name. Rather sooner than John had been warned.
No, you really don't.
John had thought Chinese mafia operations the work of film directors. Of course he'd encountered smuggling rings and the like, but a circus? Really? Even in his line of work, that was a bit flashy. Thinking back, John doesn't like how that case went. Sure, he'd scored a girl. About time, too. Aren't all secret agents supposed to be irresistible? But he'd nearly failed his task. Sherlock walked out of Soo Lin Yao's flat, his voice croaky and hoarse. He'd thought his scarf covered the angry red marks on his neck.
John is frustrated by how the confrontation with Shan went. He could have escaped his bonds at any moment, of course, but he was supposed to be incompetent. Sherlock was bright, he would of course notice that the escape methods were not those taught in the British Army. He hadn't wanted Sarah to get hurt, but her death would be better than failing his mission. He'd had to rely on luck. He hated that. In his report to M, he mentions Moriarty's involvement, and Sherlock's ignorance
John has altogether too much fun following Sherlock around while he plays Moriarty's little game. He genuinely doesn't know what the answers are. John likes Sherlock. Genuinely. It's dangerous, of course, but he does it anyway. M did say that repressing emotions wasn't the most important trait for this mission anyway. But Sherlock is magnetic, mysterious, brilliant. If he hadn't had such a privileged childhood, he'd have been wonderful for the SIS. He could have been a double-O.
John does a bit of setup himself when it comes to the Bruce-Partington plans, as per M's orders. He needs that memory stick. Of course Sherlock isn't going to give it back to his brother. John leaves the flat on the pretense of seeing Sarah. He checks Sherlock's website from his business phone. He waits around to get kidnapped.
He struggles like the fictional John Watson would. He gets a kick in the ribs and a blindfold. He feels them strap the bombs around him and cover the vest with a thick coat. He asks where they are going, what they are doing. He's good at faking panic.
Moriarty is his kind of villain. Of course he hates him, but he's the fun kind of bad guy that does things just because he can, just because he enjoys inflicting pain. He's completely, fantastically unpredictable. When he returns to the pool, proclaiming his one weakness, John isn't sure if he should feel giddy or angry. He wants to shout at Sherlock when he raises the gun, but can't. He has to stay funny little Doctor Watson; it's the number one rule, aside from keeping the man safe at all costs. The prime directive, to Star Trek fans. The red marks on their chests and heads are of course not from the snipers. The real snipers have perfect aim and would not resort to letting themselves be seen. John takes a quick glance around. He marks the best vantage point to shoot from, and then the second best. They wouldn't be obvious enough to shoot from the best. He prepares himself to leap. Of course the bomb is fake; he's dealt with bombs before. Moriarty's counting on him to be ignorant of the finer details of SemTex, and he's counting on himself to do the same. The snipers are very real, however. Being submerged in water will protect them from the rifles, so jumping in the pool it is. If only he could convince Sherlock to shoot Jim.
“Sh-Sherlock...” he says, slowly and carefully. Sherlock spares him a quick glance, then returns to staring down his nemesis.
“Sherlock, give me the gun.”
“I can handle this, John. This is my battle.” John holds in his scoff.
battle, is it? Don't mind me while I save your skin more times than I can count because I knew about all of this.
“Sherlock. Give me. The gun.” He holds out a hand. Jim laughs.
“Have you forgotten your manners, Johnny-boy? Maybe if you say please he'll let you play with the big boys.”
John really can't contain his smirk. Sherlock's eyes go a little wide when he sees. John can't blame him; jumper wearing, tea loving, kind-hearted Doctor Watson is smirking at the most dangerous man in London. But it gets results. Sherlock slowly hands the gun over.
“Get in the water, Sherlock.”
“Get in the bloody water!” He doesn't wait for Sherlock to respond. He shoves himself sideways into the taller man, taking aim as he goes. Three shots before they hit the water. A cacophony of them after they are submerged. Sherlock doesn't fight him. John isn't sure if it's out of sense or shock. He knows that the snipers will still be there after they resurface, but it's their only option. He fights his way back up, Sherlock tucked to his side under an arm. There is a body on the far end of the pool, clad in a blood-soaked Westwood suit. There are fresh holes in the tile and walls, but no more shooting.
Not very clever
Must be under orders to retreat if Jim's killed.
“John.” Sherlock says, coughing a little.
“Come on, let's get out of here. I'm sure your brother will have something to say about this.”
“John.” he says again while letting himself be pulled out of the water. His eyes are wide, but his mind looks delightfully occupied with a problem.
“Let's go.” John claps him on the shoulder and starts to push him towards the exit. He tenses at the familiar touch.
“John.” John sighs. “Yes, that's my name. Are you all right?” Sherlock stands completely still, staring down at his friend.
“Is it really your name?”
“What? Of course it is. Does your head hurt at all?”
“No, I didn't hit the bottom. You made sure of that.”
“Well good. Now really, let's get out of here. We don't want to be found standing over Moriarty's body holding the gun that shot him, do we?”
Sherlock spares a glance for the dead man. He shakes his head. He lets John lead him out of the pool area, through the showers, and outside into the dark.
“We should wait here.” John says, leaning against the side of the building.
“Why? Expecting someone?”
“I said your brother would have something to say about this, didn't I? He'll be here soon.”
Sherlock's looking at John as though he's never seen him before, and finds him endlessly fascinating. It's a kind of attention that John likes. It comes so rarely to the living.
“John, who are you?”
“Surely a detective like you can figure it out?” He taps Sherlock's shoulder with his fist and grins. “As I recall, you told me my life story the day we met.”
“How much of that was real?” John can't answer the question. Not because he's sworn to secrecy; it's obvious that that part of the mission is a failure. It's because his mouth is rather occupied, in two senses, by Sherlock's. It should stop. Right now. Now.
His mind screams the word, over and over. It starts to lose its meaning until all he can associate it with is the removal of clothing. Now.
He's not happy to hear M's short cough, but he is relieved. Sherlock clearly doesn't want to break away, but he does reluctantly. John slides out from between Sherlock and the wall to regard his employer.
“Glad to see that you're getting along so well.”
“What now, Mycroft? I failed. He knows.” Sherlock looks between the two men closest to him. One could just
the cogs turning, the connections being made.
“Well I rather think he took it better than I'd expected.”
“You expected? You knew...actually, that's a stupid question. Brain like his, it was only a matter of time, wasn't it?”
“John, we're going home now.” Sherlock says. He grips John by the upper arm and starts to drag him away. He lets himself be pulled. He calls back to M as they leave.
“Body's by the pool. Am I still getting paid?” Mycroft only chuckles in answer. John can't bring himself to care at the moment. He has Sherlock's fingers moving from his arm to his back to his arse to think about.
Sherlock isn't happy with Mycroft, of course. He's too proud of his own ability to survive to be all right with the idea of a bodyguard. He is happy with John, however. At least, that is the impression that he gives when they lie in bed, curled up into each other, his face pressed into John's shoulder.