Sherlock took the back way out of the cemetery. The opposite of the way John had taken. He had to hop a fence. But he couldn’t run into John. Seeing his friend say goodbye was harder than he had expected.
He reached the main road and hailed down a cab that was puttering past. The driver stopped and he got in the back seat.
Sherlock was still thinking about John, the militaristic nature of those final moments by his graveside. It was his coping mechanism, reverting back to his army training....
He hardly noticed when the cab stopped at a corner, until the door opposite was opened and a dark haired man in a sharp suit slipped in. But before Sherlock could object, the cab took off again. And when the man tuned his head to face him, he no longer felt the need to.
“Afternoon, Sherlock.” Moriarty greeted with a grin.
“What...?” Sherlock responded stuntedly.
“How have you been, dear?” Jim turned his entire body to face the detective bringing his leg up to rest on the seat.
“I’ve been better.”
“I’m sure you have. Seeing John?”
“Your not going to kill them all now?”
“Erm...no. I mean that was only to get you to jump. I thought you might have worked that out.” Jim said looking a bit disappointed.
“Well, I didn’t realize you were alive...”
“I knew you wouldn’t check.” Jim grinned and then he was serious again.
“Why don’t you tell me what all that spectacle was for then?”
“You’re not suggesting I was being insincere in the roof now, are you?”
Sherlock made a face.
“I could never lie to you about that, Sherlock. You certainly surpassed all my expectations. I am grateful, truly.” Jim admitted bluntly, holding the detective’s suspicious gaze.
“Well, then?” Sherlock made a slightly impatient gesture.
“Don’t you see, love, that now we can be together? That now there’s nothing to stop us from working together. Well, ruling the world together.”
“That was your plan all along.” The detective leaned back against the seat, processing.
“Light dawns on marblehead.” Jim was grinning good naturedly when Sherlock looked at him again. Sherlock found it a bit unsettling.
“Why didn’t you just ask when you came for tea? Or at the pool?”
“Ha, because, do you know how you’re when you have to worry what John will say? What Mrs. Hudson will think? If Lestrade will let you on to a crime scene? It's banal.”
Sherlock pursed his lips at the mention of his friends.
“Oh, come now, your only on the side of the angels for connivence and we both know it. Well, until you found John.” Jim amended with a face.
“So, you had to get me away from him.”
“I already told you, love, we’re made for each other. You said you were me. Think of how much we could accomplish. How much fun we could have.”
Sherlock’s face was impassive now. He was thinking, always thinking; his fingers tapping the armrest. Jim sat patiently as he could. Watching the detective think, it was distracting. But he couldn’t think about that now, no. Was it taking too long for Sherlock to figure all this out? Too long. Was there a flaw in his plan? No, the plan was sound. The plan was perfect. Did the Fall affect the man’s brain somehow? Honestly, how long could it take to piece this all together? But this was exactly everything Moriarty had ever wanted in the world. Everything he worked for. Maybe even his life goal? To find his equal. It was shit luck that he found him on the opposite side, but he wasn’t going to complain. Not after looking for so long- always wondering if that one kid who questioned the death of Carl Powers was his match. No, no, if being quiet for five minutes was what it took for Sherlock Holmes to switch to Jim’s team then (on top of all the work he’d put into to getting the detective here, couldn’t forget that now could he?), five minutes was worth the silence. He was certain.
“So, what do you say?”
It was true. Everything Jim and he had said, from the roof to now. Those people. His friends, they were always the hands that kept him on the side of the angels. It had all been for connivence and then expectation. John, good old John. Couldn’t stand to disappoint John.
But with Jim. For once, it would be easier to not do it by the books. There would never have to be that forced civility. They wouldn’t have to worry about the police or silly things like laws. And they would be free. That’s what this was, the Fall, the suicides. It was so they- the two of them- could be reborn and rise again. Above the ashes, stronger; phoenixes. Free. That’s what Moriarty was offering him. Freedom. On a scale he’d never considered possible. And they wouldn’t be bored, no. This was Jim Moriarty he was talking about. No, they would be free of boredom as well.
And John, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, and Molly; they could all live like they had before this detective had come in telling them all the points and evidence they had missed. And they’d all be alive and living and well. And it be fine. And he could go with Jim. With no regrets. Because of the death of Sherlock Holmes offered everyone a fresh start.
“How long would this ‘partnership’ last?”
“What? You imagine you’d get bored with me, do you?”
At that the detective’s lips quirked upward and Moriarty’s grin broadened.
The cab went to Heathrow after all, except not the main terminal. Jim and Sherlock got out in front of one of the little outlying buildings for the check ins of private jets. Naturally, Jim had his hands in this line of work. They went straight through the building, leaving the details to be handled by the cab driver, who had followed them in and proceeded to chat up the receptionist like they were old pals. Jim didn’t spare the man a glance.
When they were outside again standing on the tarmac in front of a small plane, Jim turned to Sherlock with a considering expression.
Jim hadn’t said anything since Sherlock agreed in so many words to go with the criminal. Which was odd. Sherlock knew Jim only as a man who spoke him mind. In fact, he talked too much, probably. But then, what was it Sherlock had said in the court room? They had only been in the same room for a total of five minutes? Now, it was like thirty, tops; what with the Fall, the Richard Brook fiasco, the tea party, and the time in court where Jim merely made interesting facial expressions. Still Sherlock, notes the difference in demeanor. In the car, Jim would smile at the detective, if Sherlock caught him staring. It was serene smile that Sherlock had never seen. Nothing lewd about it, almost childlike. It was an odd turn.
Regardless, the silence let Sherlock process, evaluate, and deduct. He was fairly certain he would miss John the most out of all of England. There was his favorite park, the laboratory in the kitchen, Mrs. Hudson’s motherly tendencies, even the bluddenering nature of Lestrade, all of which had wormed their way into his heart somehow. But it would John, he knew, that he would miss John the most. Sherlock was concerned. He knows that his ‘death’ hit John hard. But better depressed for a while and later be able to move on with his life than dead, Sherlock figures. And since Sherlock is not dead, he might as well not be bored. He knows that Jim will distract him. The guarantee of a thrill. Well, more than one. It’s the reason he tells himself that he’s able to go along with it. His going has nothing to do with the fact that there’s something about Jim, he can’t put his finger on. It’s the first time anyone’s ever stimulated his mind for more that a few minutes at a time consistently. He could consider Jim for days and still not really have him pinned. The constant change and lilt. The fluidness of his emotions, it was something very foreign to Sherlock, who kept most of his mood shifts under tight wraps. Jim allowed himself complete freedom to express any emotion he desired, until it would interfere with his plans then he sobered up, usually.
Jim kept his clever cattiness silent for the rest of the journey. He didn’t want to scare Sherlock off, not when he could still run away. Which was incessantly silly. There was nowhere to run to. Moriarty had effectively destroyed Sherlock’s entire reputation. And what would he do without Jim? Knowing that the criminal was alive causing havoc somewhere and not being a part of it; only being able to admire the work of such a beautiful mind from afar, when he could have been essentially on top of it? No. There was absolutely no way. And there was the boredom. With Jim, that problem was solved. So, he started talking again.
“Look, I know that you don’t have anything... at all, but don’t worry about it. We’ll get some stuff tomorrow or the next day. And, sweet, anything you want, just say the word.”
Sherlock nodded. And Jim leads the way on to the jet with his hand in his pocket. Sherlock follows.
The plane is empty, save for the white leather and the lacquered oak.
They sit opposite of each other.
“You still haven’t told me where we are going?”
Jim chuckled, but granted Sherlock an answer.
“I have another base in California and a prospective client in Los Angeles. He wants this conference of people dead, I figured why not.” Jim shrugged, unimpressed with the job, clearly. “Got to get you out of the country anyway.”
Sherlock nodded. He had never been to California. But why would he have needed to?
They lapsed into companionable silence, listening to the pilot run cross-checks, until the cabbie boarded the plane. He looked at Jim slightly annoyed.
“I told you it would be best if I checked that the plane was clear before you got on.”
“Yes, you did. But we weren’t going to wait around for you to do your job while you chatted up miss daisy.” Jim nodded fractiously. “Besides, do you think I have no skill with one of these?” As he produced a gun from the pocket of his overcoat. The cab driver shook his head.
“Jim, I’d really love it if you let me do all of the things my job entails.” Jim smirked at the man.
“Sherlock, I’d like to introduce you formally to Colonel Sebastian Moran.” Sherlock nodded to the man. He had assumed as much. This was the man that had his rifle sights trained on them in the pool, probably one of the gunmen for the Fall too, probably the one for John. Jim would have liked the irony of a former soldier killing a former soldier. The man was tall, sandy brown hair. He held himself with a militaristic rigor and had an air of earned entitlement.
“Nice to finally meet the great Sherlock Holmes, Jim can’t shut up about you.”
“Uhhhh, Sebastian...” Jim cocked his gun, leveling it at the disgraced colonel.
“So, I’ll just be over here then.” Moran hedged as he backed into the steward’s part of the cabin, leaving Jim with an expression of distaste. Jim turned back to the detective.
“That’s Sebastian for you.” He explained setting the gun down and smoothing out the wrinkles of his suit.
“Exactly how shall we entertain ourselves on this long journey over the Atlantic?”
“I thought I might see if you could solve a few, of what the London police deemed, ‘cold cases.’ What do you say, Shelock? Think you can do it?”
“These wouldn’t happen to be cases you had a hand in, would they?”
Jim’s face slide from teasing to that of a cat who drank all the cream. The detective had his answer.
The flight across the Atlantic was really quite fun, Jim would be lying to himself if he said it wasn’t. Although, Sherlock did sleep through a majority of it, but that was expected, he’d been living with his homeless network for the past week. Not in places conducive to getting a peaceful, not paranoid night’s sleep. Which was fine, Jim had to take care of some conference calls and review the security arrangements in California with Moran.
However, during the time that Sherlock was awake, Jim posed some pretty provocative topics for debate and then there was his challenge for Sherlock to solving his past consulting crimes. The detective had a distinct feeling this would become their favorite pastime. Jim giggled and ogled every time he gave Sherlock a particularly obscure case, that momentary stumped the detective. Watching the Sherlock’s mind whir and whiz, cross referencing the information in his brain. His voice, as he extrapolated the evidence he had stored in his cranium, made Jim want to keep him talking forever. Which wasn’t hard as Moriarty knew how much Sherlock, loved to show off; they were the same in that way after all. Discourse with the detective, it was certainly better than any other times he’d made the trip.
They stopped twice, changing planes once. Never can be too careful, Jim had quipped. Sherlock is fairly certain with technology nowadays, it didn’t matter how many stops they made; if someone wanted to find them they’d be able to. Meaning Mycroft could find them. Sherlock asks Jim what he thinks of this problem.
“Your brother...will probably know within the next forty-eight hours, wouldn’t you estimate?” They were in the back of a company car, with Moran driving again. The orange lights of the California freeway flood the backseat, putting the consultants in silhouette.
“Yes, I suppose.”
“I just don’t think it can be helped. I mean, anywhere I go with you, he’ll send spies to follow. It’s impossible to escape it. Hazard of family, I suppose.” Jim paused. “It might eventually impede our work, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it, right?”
It was hardly reassuring but, at least, Jim didn’t underestimate his brother’s capabilities.
“Do you have family?” Sherlock was genuinely curious.
Jim looked over at him.
“...Not really, actually. Not in the sense you mean.”
“Well, in what sense would you?”
“Well, people I respect. But that’s just you....”
“What about me?” Moran interjected, sounding slightly curious.
“What about you?” Jim asked, genuinely confused.
“I will kill you in your sleep.” The sniper grumbled at the wheel.
“But I don’t sleep.” Jim answered nonplussed.
Jim’s ‘L.A. Base’ is a house in the nice part of Los Angeles. The really nice part. Up on the hill, right behind UCLA. Ironically, near Westwood. The place has a huge yard, tons of space between the criminal mastermind and prying neighbors. And the house, which was decorated in the old Spanish mission style, was more apt to be called a mansion. Ostentatious.
When Sherlock says as much. Jim just grinned and said its really the only way to go in California. That Sherlock should have seen his flat in London. Minimalistic, all open and full of clean lines. Except for his desk, where the trappings for a bomb were all laid out. Then he giggled.
The lights are all on, even though no one had been there. Must be on a timer, Sherlock mused. Moran was turning off the alarm, as Jim and Sherlock wondered in. As expected, the place was lofty with vaulted ceilings and cement floors. The house is built more like a maze. Hallways curved around the main rooms and then dead ended. In the living room, Sherlock sees an ornate chess set and makes mental note to challenge Jim later.
“Do you want a tour or do you want to figure it out for yourself?”
Sherlock shrugs, indifferent. He has the sudden urge to play the violin. It’s not an urge he gets too often but on occasion it does happen and it also works to clear his mind, as well as he could hope for anyway. And though Jim has certainly given him time to process all that he’d put before him, Sherlock still needs a little familiarity. He’s pretty sure that Jim knows this, given Mycroft’s briefing on him.
“Hurm, well your quarters are this way. If you don’t like them...” Jim gestures empathically. “There are plenty others to choose from.”
“I’ve thought of something that I require.” As Jim leads the way, with Sherlock trailing behind still absorbing all the details of this new space. He takes Sherlock through the hallway on the right.
“I’m surprised it took you this long to think of something. Well, let’s hear it.”
“A violin. A decent violin.”
Jim had been expecting this. He originally thought that it would be oh so clever if he just stole Sherlock’s from 221B, but then that would upset John, which would annoy Sherlock and that would be boring, because he wouldn’t want to play, so no stealing Sherlock’s own violin for him. He just did a little research. What make and year was Sherlock’s violin? Who else had one that was comparable? It was really child’s play from there. He and Moran broke into this unfortunate man’s house and stole it lickety-split. And then, of course, not being a total idiot; Jim had an expert tunist come and make sure the violin wasn’t some god awful piece of shit. It wasn’t, that was nice.
The hallway was dark. Jim stopped abruptly at a closed door, turning around to grin up at Sherlock, who had almost ran into him.
“Done.” He said, grinning ear to ear. “I took the liberty of finding one for you. Hope you don’t mind.”
“Okay, stealing,” Jim corrected himself as he opened the door. “Bedroom, bathroom, study. And a violin.” Hardly sparing a glance for the rest of the rooms, Sherlock walked over to the closed case that rested on the bed. He flipped the latches and open the cover. The violin that rested in the velvet bore a striking resemblance to the one he had owned previously. He picked it up, feeling the wood, fingers trailing the strings.
“This isn’t?” A note of alarm in his voice.
“No, that would be very hard on him.” Sherlock nodded vaguely, checking the tuning. Jim’s attention to detail was unnerving, but he’d expect no less, simply because with the criminal he didn’t know what to expect. He picked up the bow and turning to Jim, asked:
“Partita number one?”
The first thing Jim says the next morning to Sherlock is:
“We’re going to the tailor today.”
It was sunny and absurdly bright. Jim was sitting at the breakfast table near the kitchen, examining the daily newspapers, having toast and coffee. The situation was made more bizarre, not by the fact that he was wearing pajamas bottoms and a navy tee-shirt, maybe a little by the silk bathrobe but mostly by the way Jim’s hair was standing up on end. On all ends. He looked every bit the ragged, eccentric, old, college professor that was so stereotypical for today’s media.
“Yes, you don’t have any other clothes. Those are quite dirty. And I much prefer you to look suave.”
“What are your thoughts on the debate between the merits of silk rope versus nylon?”
“Diversions won’t help you,” Jim chuckled and said whether he liked it or not they were going and getting suits on Wilshire. The detective got himself an apple and a cup of coffee from the kitchen and sat down at the table, still wondering exactly what was going with Jim’s hair. Honestly, it had the potential to create the biggest misconception about the man; it made Jim look harmless. It was truly ridiculous.
“Your hair is ridiculous.”
“Glad, you like it, dear.” Jim said in a distracted manor looking intently at the paper in front of him. Then he giggled and looked up at Sherlock, grinning like a little kid. “I was wondering what you would think.”
“If your underlings saw you like this, you’re empire would crumble and fall.”’
“Yes, well, you don’t think any less of me for it?”
“Hard to say, honestly.”
Jim pulled a face:
“I’m in habit of killing those who mock me, sweet.”
“Yes, but wouldn’t kill me now.”
“Oh, wouldn’t I?”
“No, not when you have me right where you want me. Here.”
Jim’s lips formed a thin line, registering points won on Sherlock’s side.
“Tell me you like it and all will be forgiven,” Jim replied airily and turned his attention back to the paper.
Sherlock was disinclined to play that game. He picked up the local section and took a bite of his apple. Jim sipped his coffee. This went on.
Sherlock was not reading. He was pretending to read. He was really watching the criminal, who he was fairly certain, was feigning engrossment with the world section. Jim was an extraordinary actor but Sherlock was made for observation. Jim didn’t so much as glance at Sherlock once. He was reading and drinking his coffee. He took a bite of his toast, over the plate.
Jim didn’t appear to be willing to give up playing this game anytime soon, even though it was extremely silly. Sherlock reexamined the criminal’s hair. It was ridiculous. But at least you could see it was clean. Maybe it was a little... endearing.
“Jim?” Sherlock tested.
“Hurm?” The criminal did not look up from the Times. Sherlock sighed, internally. Petulance.
“Your ridiculous hair is very ...becoming on you,” he paused briefly. “If you want to look like an ineffectual ordinary person.”
That got Jim to look up. He looked thoughtful, considering, dangerous. He opened his mouth to reply, when the vocal stylings of the Bee Gees interrupted.
“Oh.” He pulled a face, as he reached for his phone. Sherlock had to admit that he too was a little let down, he would have liked to have known Jim’s response.
“Yes?” Was Moriarty’s curt greeting.
“And? What do you want me to do about it?” Irritability seeping into his voice. Then his face dropped. “No, I don’t think you understand the parameters of our business relationship, Mr. Harrow. I tell you what to do and you do it. That’s it. And only when you have held up your end of the bargain, do you get paid.” A pause. Jim was beginning to speak with his hands, gesturing for an unseen lackey on the other end of the line “If I take care of this mess you’ve created myself, there is absolutely no reason why I should pay you at all, in fact, there is no reason for you to be in my employment anymore and since you know my organization, there is no reason for you to be alive, either. Would you like to die, Mr. Harrow?”
“Well, then sort it out within the next twenty-four hours or I’ll have your bones for my new chess set.” He promptly hung up. Jim sighed setting the phone down and rubbing his face, then took a sip of coffee. He looked up at Sherlock, who was still watching him.
“Would you like a chess set?” Jim fixed him with a tired smile.
Luckily for Sherlock, Moran chose this moment to walk in.
They end up stopping on Melrose because Jim has to go to the Vivienne Westwood store. They look around there and ironically Jim doesn’t find anything he wants. He complains that she keeps all the good designs in London, although the Japan stores have some decent, albeit odd stuff. So, he has Sebastian drive them to this little hole in the wall, hidden on the backroads of downtown L.A. This place is cramped but had the air of experience.
Jim greets the older tailor with some exuberance that Sherlock cringes at. The criminal explains the situation to the man. Sherlock needs an entire new wardrobe. They will take his measurements, pick designs and fabrics, and he will need one to walk out with today. The rest they can pick up whenever, preferably tomorrow or the day after. Wink-wink. The man waves off Jim’s suggestion that the suits need to be ready within two days.
“I’m used to impossible deadlines, Mr. Moriarty.” Sherlock is rather surprised Jim uses his real name, but then the man turns to him. “Right this way Mr.-?”
“Holmes, right. This way sir.”
The fitting would be preverbal hell if Jim were not there to entertain Sherlock. They played the cold case game again and Jim makes barely veiled flirty remarks, which Sherlock bats away like flies. Jim watches Sherlock like a hawk from his seat against the wall, simply because he could. And why wouldn’t he take advantage of a view like that. Jim can certainly admire Sherlock’s frame or maybe its just the knowledge that Sherlock’s mind resides in that body that gets Jim.
He asks the detective, what exactly he loves about chemistry so much?
Oh, Jim understands the criterion of the field and its uses, but wouldn’t Sherlock much prefer maths?
“So, you like maths?” Jim stares and then chuckles, yes, yes he does. “I could ask you the same exact question.”
“Oh, come now, math can explain everything!”
“Everything?” Sherlock asks flatly.
“What? You don’t think so?” Sherlock shrugs.
“Most things. Not everything, certainly not humans.”
Over the next few days, Jim is preoccupied with the planning for the doomed conference. Which means, Sherlock sits and watches the criminal plot. On occasion, Jim will solicit his opinion. But in all honesty there weren’t many complexities to work out. Jim had decided that he would make it look like a terrorist attack, which it is, and use nerve gas.
“What kind of gas will you use?” Sherlock wondered, when Jim explained this.
“Oh, a little formula I got from a Russian a while back.” He seemed to be laughing. Sherlock paused, interesting.
“You’re talking about a Novichok agent, aren’t you?”
“Goooood, very good!” Jim was grinning nefariously. “Won’t it be wonderful?”
The gas kills the conference. Wonderful is not the word Sherlock would use to describe the display. Interesting, maybe. Jim said the person that commissioned the crime had suggested a blood agent, but the criminal had ignored them as it was so much more stimulating to use this ‘mystery’ gas that only a handful of people would understand. Sherlock agrees with him on that point; practically nobody would get it.
Time progresses and Jim takes new cases. But Sherlock still only observes. Jim won’t pressure him. That would be pointless and defeat the purpose entirely. Sherlock always must come with Jim willingly. It’s no fun otherwise, no fun at all. So he waits, Jim figures when the right case comes a long, Sherlock will jump in. Maybe it’ll never happen, but at least he has the detective here with him, in the mean time. The detective is entertaining. The detective is him.
Sherlock finds he likes Jim’s presence, much more than he thought he would. As the detective had assumed, in the days following the pool incident, Jim was gobby. He rarely stopped talking. Not to say he couldn’t do it, being quiet; but from what Sherlock could see the criminal attempted to shut out the stupidity of the world by vocalizing his own thoughts. Sometimes, he and Sherlock would be sitting in the living room or in Jim’s study and the criminal would would hold entire discourses without Sherlock ever giving a viable contribution, beyond a ‘really?’ or a noise of agreement. But what Sherlock found, perhaps almost horrifying, was that he didn’t really mind. Jim was intelligent enough that his theories, mostly maths and astronomy or occasional sociology, were not nonsense or drivel. And while subject matter was all well and good, what Sherlock really listened for was the criminal's voice. It was like a melody. It would lilt up and then loftily float back down. Or it would be quick and harsh and violently passionate. But almost every progression of thought he followed would would experience an eclectic range, a certain cadence. Sherlock could become so distracted by it. It’s Jim’s voice. He wants to make a study out of it.
But that’s only when Sherlock doesn’t feel like challenging Jim. Which he does often.
Conversations with Jim were sparkling, although at times very narcissistic. But that was expected between the two of them. And then Jim would always add in these little innuendoes. Sexy, love, darling, my dear, honey, sweetheart, the list went on. All directed at Sherlock. But oddly enough again the detective did not mind. It was just the criminal’s way of speaking to him. As Sherlock, observed Jim’s interactions with his staff, the occasional client, or Moran, he didn’t use any of that...well, for lack of a better word, flirty terminology. It was always straight business and hard.
Which was interesting.
Jim’s mood swings are something, though. They could be quite rapid. Within the span of not even thirty seconds, he could go from pleasant to deadly. But there were certain things that Sherlock soon found out he could say that would reel the criminal back in; calm him down, make him laugh. If he wanted to, that was. And sometimes he didn’t.
However, Jim could see that Sherlock had not yet gasped the totality of how their merging would effect their lives. He noted with some disappointment that Sherlock rarely took the necessary time to look at the big picture. He didn’t do it in the Fall, not till it had been too late, and he hadn’t understood at the pool either. Always with the key code or the missile plans; haha, Sherlock, no. WRONG! He couldn’t see then, that all along Sherlock was the goal Jim was working towards; and he couldn’t see now, the end goal Jim was still working towards.
John has been better. Things aren’t really going. Sure, he goes to work. Lots of surgeries, all very successful; full recovery expected, no complications, saving lots of lives. Sort of ironic, that he can’t seem to fix his own.
But then again, this broken bit of him is not physiological. Some people that he’d usually see with Sherlock, for whatever reason, now give him strange looks; like they can’t exactly place a finger on what’s different with the man. It’s usually halfway through the conversation, when they figure it out. Oh, the snarky, arrogant shadow is missing.
If either of us were a shadow, it was me, John thinks bitterly. But then he remembers, that Sherlock would tell him to forget them. And so he does. Its easier than he would have thought. What’s not easy is forgetting Sherlock.
The man had, unbeknownst to John, wormed his way in to every faction of his life. He couldn’t make a cup of tea without remembering Sherlock examining deadly microbes under his microscope, inches away from their food; that John had to buy. He can’t sit in his chair and drink the tea without spacing out; thinking of Sherlock playing his violin or complaining about the lack of excitement. He can’t take a cab. He can’t visit with Molly; the lab feels awkward and empty without Sherlock’s intense presence. In fact, everywhere feels awkward and empty without Sherlock. He feels awkward and empty without Sherlock.
And its just hard. Everything is stagnant. Barely creeps by.
He and Lestrade go to the pub several times. The conversations start out about football, how Greg’s kids were doing in school, John’s exciting surgery of the day, but somehow they always end up talking about Lestrade’s most recent case and its intricacies. The inspector had not been officially demoted or anything, but he may as well have been. All he got now were shite cases, ones that were in the part of town none of the other detectives wanted to go; certainly no more Tower of London business.
It was hard but Lestrade seemed to be getting on fine. But then John would like to think that’s how he portrayed himself too.
But John has a theory. It helps him get though the day. It is this. That Sherlock is not dead.
He has no basis for this theory other than faith. Faith that his friend had not been walled into a corner by some genius lunatic. That Sherlock Holmes, who always had a plan, who was always steps ahead of everyone had won that game, had beaten Moriarty and had lived.
The only problem with this, admittedly brilliant hypothesis, was the question of why Sherlock was in hiding with Moriarty now dead?
And that was where his faith always seemed to falter a step.
The first time Sherlock offers more than a passing opinion on a crime is about a month into their partnering up. Jim and Sherlock had gone to meet clients, which was something that Jim rarely ever did. He’d use a face or contact through phone. Meeting with clients added unnecessary danger, for them.
Sherlock could not even count on his two hands how many times in the last month Jim had threatened to kill any number of clients. And knowing Jim’s changeability, had they been in front of him, there was nothing that could guarantee the clients would have been dead. He’d have told one of his snipers to kill them. Sherlock didn’t think he’d actually do it, probably. All the same, it was better for business, if he and Moriarty stayed out of the meet and greet aspect. Not to say that they really cared about the empire. No, it was just the challenge, always the challenge. There was no point otherwise. They proved that in the Game, after all.
These clients they had gone to meet, weren’t new. There would be no way the consultants would ever risk that; there was pretty big line between exciting danger and stupidity, which they never crossed. So, these guys had been soliciting Jim’s help for a couple months through one of his faces, minor jobs mostly but now wanted to meet the mastermind personally, to discuss a big job. That implied challenge which equaled interest on both Jim and Sherlock’s part. So they went. It turned out to be a trap that had be ‘masterfully’ organized by a local crime boss, who didn’t like being told what to do. Well, they barely got out of there alive. In fact, if Moran had not yanked Sherlock to the ground at the right moment, he would have gotten shot in the head by a lackey.
It was this that had set Moriarty off like nothing else. Not only had these people tried to kill him and failed, they tried to kill Sherlock. And thank god they failed. But that certainly didn’t mean they wouldn’t get fucked over any less because of it. No, no trying to pull the wool of Jim Moriarty’s clever eyes was a foolish move, but it was an entire other thing to attempt to take what he had worked so hard to find and then to get the detective to realize exactly what they had together. Sherlock was the only one who could decide when he would die, Jim would ensure that.
“I will kiiiiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllll those-” He exhaled and laughed disbelieving. “I can’t-” Sherlock stared at him, Jim was normally so articulate. This particular rage was eating up his talented tongue. First time for everything. But Sherlock had to agree the stupidity was speech depriving.
“Do you want me to do something about it?”
Jim stopped his pacing to send Sherlock a look of absolute delight.
“Honey, would you please?”
From that point forward, it was all hands on. Sherlock had unleashed his taste for crime to Jim’s encouragement. He could be so creative. And match Jim in intricacies. Sherlock had gone out that night for a couple hours and come back with a cryogenically sealed canister. He had stolen it from UCLA’s medicinal chemistry lab that was a couple blocks away on the university campus. He had said it was a nasty form of some disease Jim had only heard of in passing, which he had manipulated; accelerated.
That same Friday, the crime boss was throwing a birthday party for his son, convenient. What’s more it was exceptionally odd that over 85 percent of the guests in attendance were puking their stomachs out, literally within eight hours of the party. That they were dead within thirty-six. Police reported that although, investigations were still underway the cause appeared to be a contaminated shipment of beer. Customers should be aware that Coors was currently in the process of pulling all canned product from store shelves.
It was really a beautiful thing.
They traverse all over the pacific. A job in New Zealand, a client in Japan. They topple governments in Asia and assassinate dictators in South America. Sherlock certainly isn’t bored and Jim, he gets this look in his eye whenever Sherlock suggests his own version for a plan of attack. It’s like he doesn’t know what to do with this incarnation of brilliance sitting in front of him, or at least that what Sherlock thinks the look means. It’s certainly become one of Jim’s favorite hobbies, sitting back and watching Sherlock create calculated chaos. The fact of the matter is he does it exquisitely.
And Sherlock likes working with Jim. However, there are caveats to partnering with the criminal.
Sherlock finds out that Jim has a very limited understanding of personal space, at least when it comes to the detective. Sherlock could be going over information that he will later use to assist a diplomat; who’s been swindling the local government he is suppose to be helping out of all their relief money; to fake his suicide and escape to a tropical island in the Caribbean. The detective will be just sitting on the couch in the living room, minding his own business. And Jim will come and sit right next to him. No, practically on top of him.
It strange because Jim is warm. Sherlock assumes that he, like anybody else, would think that Jim would be cold, but no he is warm and human. Very human. At first, the detective was sure that it was all a psychological game and well sometimes it is; but sometimes, it’s just an expression of Jim’s childish excitement over things that no child should ever get excited over. And other times, Jim will lean on Sherlock in the car, if Moran’s driving, and it’s the body language equivalent of ‘I’m bored.’ But there’s something else there. It’s this kind of comfort in each other’s presence.
Or when Jim is reading on the couch, feet on the coffee table, and Sherlock slumps down, because his most recent experiment just blew up the lab room, again. Jim will, without taking his eyes off the pages, catch his fingers on the detective’s sleeve and begin to pull. He will continue until he can hook his hand around Sherlock’s arm and drag him closer. Eventually, Sherlock’s head will be on the criminal’s stomach and Jim’s fingers will be in his hair. He’ll still be reading. And Sherlock will be identifying how the experiment exploded on him, the exact reaction.
Jim being overly handsy is one thing.
Sherlock letting him is something else entirely.
But Jim’s interactions with him seemed so natural, so easy, so inherent. It’s something he’d never really experienced before. (He knows that Jim hasn’t either.) He never thought he could tolerate prolonged contact with another person, if he ever had to that’s all it was, toleration. With Jim, there was always this initial urge to shy away from the criminal’s touch, but for whatever reason he doesn’t. And when, the detective doesn’t pull away, Jim will remain leaning on him until duty calls him away; they need to get out off the car or there’s a conference call he needs to attend to. (It’s like he’s making up for all twenty years of not touching Sherlock.) And Sherlock will just let Jim lean against him or let his fingers card through the detective’s hair. He allows this and it’s oddly not boring in the slightest.
To prevent himself from getting too bored, Jim will, just like Sherlock, throw himself into a study in the field of his choice, maths. He’s always had skill with numbers, it had always just come naturally to him. He was all through the basics and working on advanced calculus before he was out of secondary school; on advanced theories that most professors wouldn’t touch, or at least get right if they did, by the end of his senior year. Now well past all that basic stuff, Jim expands on the master mathematicians half-finished conjectures for fun and establishes his own quandaries.
Some days Sherlock will come out of his room in the morning to find Jim’s already been up for hours, perhaps hadn’t even slept; that he’d taken a china pencil to the windows and scribbled out his ideas. Jim would work along the panes of floor to ceiling glass, starting on the windows just outside his study, writing down the hallway, a pause as he hit the corner only to abscond with the glass in the living room as well.
His theorems and formulas would cover the windows that encircled the courtyard and he’d be standing there, black pencil behind one ear, red in his hand while pouring over papers. Jim would be cross-referencing his notes which would follow him out of the office and into the living room, papers reverentially placed in stacks on the couch, coffee table, mantel of the fireplace and various other horizontal surfaces. Which contrasted with the crumpled balls that held failed notions, no longer viable and thus discarded on the floor, forgotten.
Sherlock would gently shift a pile or two in order to seat himself and watch Jim, as he mumbled aloud, as he stared at the glass, as the red pencil flicked through the air following the formulas written there. Jim’s hair would be ruffled from the number of times he’d run his fingers through in thought and his button down’s sleeves would be rolled up, exposing his deceptively thin arms. The detective would just watch Jim expound numbers.
If there is one thing that Jim never does, it’s ignore Sherlock. He never visibly puts business before the detective. Not that it’s ever been engrossing enough; not like the detective. Sherlock will always take precedence for Jim. And he doesn’t want the detective missing John. The good doctor had always been there the last few years to boost his boy’s ego. And after years of being called nothing but a freak, well, he’s sure that praise is somewhat like a drug. And everyone, anyone who knows anything, knows that Sherlock Holmes has an addictive personality.
So even if Jim is in the midst of his one of his maths immersions, he will glance up briefly at Sherlock and smile.
When finished the criminal would examine his work, checking it, then copy it down in a bound notebook. He kept these notebooks on a bookcase in his study. They were just sitting there, collecting dust. They had never even been read by another person, but Sherlock knew that every single number was correct.
Once the detective had asked the criminal, if he ever intended to publish his theories. In response Jim queried Sherlock, what would he achieve by that? Other than notoriety and harassment by people who couldn’t even understand what he had just spelt out. Sherlock supposes that’s true. But then he knows that, if those formulas and theories were put to proper use they could illuminate the world and offer solutions to problems ordinary people struggled with daily. He could understand Jim’s disinclination to publishing though because he’d be the one forced to explain the use and application again and again and again. And that, that would be boring.
Sherlock must have still looked like he was considering the idea because Jim expression turns sheepish.
“Well, I know exactly what I am talking about. I already have published a dissertation of theorems.” He paused. “It was a bloody mess, just like you’d assume. Oh, it was so tedious. Over and over, I had to refute their arguments, see I was at uni then, I’d have to prove them wrong, the various professors and fellows, as they tried to find fault in my work. Well, they all hated me.” He grinned, as he explained: “I was tearing apart the most basic principles of one of their beloved mentors. They just couldn’t cope with someone so young being more brilliant then they had ever been in their entire lives.”
“Oh, well, I had in the previous month thought to run a little experiment. And, of course, to do so, I required a bit of a certain chemical that they don’t just release to the hands of the public. Instead of going through the normal channels to get something like that, I decided that it would save me tons of time and money, if I just stole some of the university’s supply. The heist itself went perfectly, I mean I planned it perfectly. The actual crime went off without an hitch. But what I had not accounted for was a random room search, that took place next day. Living on campus, the university likes to exercise their ability to regulate what you keep in their rooms. They come into to mine checking for drugs or hoards of hard liquor, instead they find the full-fledged makings for a illegal experiment. Top that off with stolen chemicals and the combustable nature of the reactions I planned to induce, I was already under review.
“So given my...transgression and the ruckus I was causing with the fellows. They felt it would be best if I no longer attended their college.”
He ended the story quietly, like he was telling a secret, and with a somber smile on his face. The detective made a slightly incredulous noise.
“They expelled you for being brilliant?”
Sherlock allows a knowing bitter sort of curl to come into his lips; he’s experienced that sort thing one too many times for it to be funny.
Mycroft had seen John passing from Sherlock’s grave the day they put ‘him’ in the ground. He had been cold, still bitter about the elder Holmes letting everything Sherlock related slip to Moriarty, effectively causing his brother’s ruin. It was a completely justified reaction, but it was still annoying. John just nodded deferentially as he passed. Mycroft didn’t know what to say. What could be said. Even if Sherlock wasn’t dead, he wasn’t, the idea of Sherlock Holmes was. And it was essentially his fault. What could he say?
It’s two months till Mycroft sees John again. He calls John on his mobile instead of just randomly picking him up. He asks John when he’ll be free? Is dinner tonight alright?
The doctor didn’t have plans. And he’s pretty sure that Mycroft knew that. And just to spite him, John was of half a mind to say he couldn’t go, because the man was almost as much to blame for Sherlock’s death as Moriarty, if not more. But then this was Mycroft making an attempt at being polite, he supposed. And John would much rather know when he’ll be whisked away to some undisclosed location than be caught off guard as per usual. He’d always figured it had something to do with security. But if Sherlock’s daily habits were of national importance....he thought mildly.
“I thought you always kidnapped me to keep secret matters of national importance,” John said by way of greeting, as he was ushered into the study of Mycroft’s flat.
“My brother is only of national importance because there is very little I would not do to get him back,” he paused as if hesitating to follow such a statement with his next words. “Well, that and the fact that he could probably be on the world’s most dangerous criminals list if he wanted. Please sit,” Mycroft indicated vaguely in the direction of the two chairs as he tinkered around the liquor trolly. “Can I get you anything?”
“Scotch, please,” John seated himself in the chair that gave him a view of Mycroft fixing the drinks.
The elder Holmes knows that John has no idea that Moriarty is still alive. He knows that John hopes, and only hopes, that Sherlock is still alive. He knows that John would never think that Sherlock would go with Moriarty freely, not without significant coercion on the criminal’s part, and then that would certainly no longer be freely. So, he knows that John would never suspect that the current instability in Southeast Asia is actually brother dearest and his lover- well, as far as Mycroft is concerned the intellectual stimulation they receive off of one another, would be the equivalent of sexual stimulation for a normal person, so they are lovers. Whether they consummate this relationship physically or not, is completely irrelevant.
He knows that John is quite astute, even if he doesn’t get the level of connection between Sherlock and James Moriarty. Jim, ha.
It had been a long eight weeks. First there was the whispers, that Moriarty was dead, not dead, more of a ghost than he was before. Mycroft eventually sifted through enough back noise to determine that Jim Moriarty was indeed alive and killing. That was easy compared to what he went through searching for Sherlock, assuming Sherlock was still alive. In fact, the only reason it took him as long as it did to know whether the consulting criminal was still consulting was because he was distracted with trying to get information about Sherlock. It was all terribly unprofessional but... But when he found out that Sherlock and Jim Moriarty were working together, well he should have been less surprised than he was. He would always be a bit irritated with himself for not seeing it sooner. It was so simple. He would have admired it, had it not been for the fact that they were toppling government sanctioned dictatorships; authoritarian and ‘democratic’ alike. And that was when they wanted to be predictable, there was the Chilean ambassador incident, the apparent ‘earthquake’ in New Zealand- he was still wondering exactly how they pulled that one off-, there was the passing of that one U.S. bill that allowed... well, it would be best to not talk about that.... And a multitude of creative deaths for rather boring people. Regardless, every odd crime or so would have their stamp of approval on it. He could only imagine how much ‘fun’ Sherlock was having, trailing along after the most dangerous criminal mastermind the world had ever seen, to be melodramatic. An absolute ball, no doubt. Either way it was a comfort to know that his brother was alive. That a simple thing like a fall didn’t break the man.
The real question he had to consider, was if John could handle this information without making a mess of everything. Being told that not only had your best friend faked his suicide and not said a word to you about it; but for that best friend to now be off desecrating things with the very man who caused the ruination of his reputation; it might be a bit much. He could always lie.
“So, why did you want to see me?” John asked, as Mycroft handed him the tumbler of amber liquid.
“To see how you are.” John scoffed. As Mycroft took the seat opposite. “I heard from a little bird that you thought that Sherlock was not dead.”
“Who told you that?”
“A little bird.”
“Oh, right of course, and you’ve called me here to make fun of me, is that right?”
“Don’t be silly, doctor. I think that you are right.”
“I have reliable sources that tell me that theres a man in the United States causing quite a stir.”
“Only the best.” Mycroft said with a small smile. He lets John process this. Sips his scotch. Watches the man muddle this through.
“Well, are you going to do anything about it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you going to go and get him or-?”
“If he wanted my help, he would have come to me.” Mycroft paused. “Likewise, he would have come to you.”
“Why did you tell me he was still alive, if you weren’t going to let me do anything about it?”
“I bet if I tried to leave the country, right now I’d find I’m on the government’s travel watch.”
“I suppose you would.” Mycroft conceded.
“So, why did you feel the need to tell me?”
“What if I said that Jim Moriarty was still alive?”
“I’d say you were bluffing. He shot his brains clean out on the hospital roof.”
“And Sherlock Holmes jumped to his death, off of that same roof.”
“Okay, so what if he faked it too? What are you trying to say here?”
“Moriarty is also in the States.”
“Moriarty is also in the States, where there have been sightings of Sherlock.”
Mycroft paused. John stared. John didn’t know what to say to that. As if there would be some immediate connection between the two. Like just because they both pretended to be dead, Sherlock would be hanging out with Moriarty, whilst John was... It was ridiculous. But then Mycroft was mentioning it...
“There have been sightings of Sherlock and Moriarty together.”
“Sorry? Why would they be together? What-?”
This was taking too long.
“Because he switched sides.” John didn’t say anything. He just stared. Mycroft hammered on. “He’s partnered up with Moriarty and they are beginning to wreck havoc all over the Pacific.”
John bit back a protest. No....Sherlock wouldn’t do that. That wasn’t right. But then that was exactly right, because John knew that he could. And apparently had, with Moriarty. Of course, with his life’s work in the bin and he goes gallivanting off with the man who put it there. For fun. Because he can’t stand boredom, because normal people don’t count, because Jim Moriarty offered him a chance to eradicate the monotony of day to day life. Which was more than John could ever do...clearly.
Mycroft looked at John quizzically.
“Oh, I see.” Mycroft smiled thinly, as if he were just getting a poorly made joke. “You’re still upset that he left you.”
“Left me?” John stuttered. “No, no, that he jumped off the building in the first place. That he gave up everything he ever worked for to satisfy the demands of a psychopath...Leaving me, that doesn’t even come into what I-You’re the British government. You could just send a team to locate and retrieve them. Or work with the American government.” He paused, taking a breath but clearly not finished. “So, again, what do you want me to do? This is Moriarty, the man hailed to be the most dangerous man in London. And Sherlock- the only one who could take him down. Teamed up? What do you expect I could do? ”
“Solve the crimes like you would with Sherlock. You worked on all of his most recent cases. You know how he thinks. I just need you to approach the cases like Sherlock would if he were detectiving them and not the perpetrator.”
John saw that the logic here was rather flimsy. Mycroft didn’t really need him at all. He knew his brother well enough. There was some other reason Mycroft wanted him here. But, this was the only way for John to see what Sherlock was up to. And so:
“What was the first crime committed?”
The call Jim gets brings foreboding news.
Jim has spies, just like Mycroft has spies. He likes to think he has eyes and ears everywhere, and if he doesn’t well he can buy them. So he knows within the day, that Mycroft has procured a new chess piece and this time its a rook. A white rook in the form of an army doctor.
Jim does not like this. Not at all. The pet was supposed to be out of the equation now that he had Sherlock. This was just Mycroft trying to annoy him. No doubt. He wanted to see if he or the detective rose to the bait. See exactly how limited Sherlock’s access to information was.
Jim had taken it on faith that Mycroft would know that Sherlock was not obliged to go with the criminal. That he went because he wanted to; not that the criminal had kidnapped him or otherwise. The man was the British government, Jim would be sorely disappointed that with all Mycroft’s infinite knowledge he failed to see this curiosity so innate in his younger brother.
Jim likes to play the long game. As when he plays chess, he’ll plan his moves out well in advance, with contingency plans and possible altercations if his opponent make the proper mistake or a damned good attempt to thwart him; something unexpected. And he’s been playing against Mycroft Holmes almost as long as he’s been playing against Sherlock. No, well before the pips and Semtex, no, no, he’d been playing against Sherlock since Carl Powers, he just hadn’t realized it at the time. And now he hoped they were playing the same team, like a game of Bughouse chess. After all, Sherlock had already been playing against Mycroft too, just not to the same extent as Jim had.
So the elder Holmes had brought back the sturdy rook of an army doctor, that complicated things too much for Jim’s liking. Jim knows that he is a very jealous person with respect to the detective. The idea of Sherlock preferring to be with anyone else is abhorrent. Bringing John back in to the picture will only serve to remind the detective of his former life, of the first real friend the man ever had, a genuine brother, never a rival. Well, Jim had to admit it was a brilliant move.
But now...what? He’d have to tell Sherlock. He’d be deliberately hiding it otherwise and then, then it wouldn’t be as fun, because Sherlock would not have all the information. He would not know the positions of the all players and he could not honestly choose to stay with Jim and call it an informed decision. No, no, he’d have to tell him.
Jim was not made for dealing politely with lower-level spooks and lackeys, who could barely grasp what he was working towards. (Normally, he didn’t. But in this instance, he needed the report out the particular fly who was on the wall.) He has no patience for stupidity, not even in the slightest. So frustrating, he almost wishes that he could do all his research himself. Then he would not have to worry about important details getting left out, because the agent didn’t think it would negatively affect the operation if left unmentioned. It was never their jobs to think. He paying them to gather ALL of the information. NOT what looked good at the time. Considering the magnitude of this information, having to receive it from a barely competent drone was not pleasant. And then there was the news itself, not favorable.
There were so many different ways to fight the Ice Man, who was not really all ice, ha-ha. No, indeed not, when Mycroft let one too many stories about dear Sherlock out, Jim knew that underneath all their supposed rivalry, the elder Holmes loved his brother. Caring is not an advantage? He knows that no one is above sentiment. Not Mycroft, not Sherlock, not Sebastian, not John, certainly not John and not even himself, which was the funniest bit of all really.
It was time for the next step of the plan: destroy Mycroft Holmes by ruining England. He could say it was because the Ice Man was trying to ruin his operation, and in effect him. Always standing in the criminal’s way. Jim didn’t really care about his operation, but he could still use it as an excuse. It would be what people concerned would think anyway, but it wouldn’t be true. It wasn’t the time for the truth yet. Regardless, this was a means to an end.
The elder Holmes was already in a precarious position with the loss of his brother. Jim had really just killed two birds with one stone there. Because establishing the detective’s genius was one thing, getting him to join him was another; but fucking with Mycroft in doing so was something completely different. It just so happened that the Holmes brothers were the only people in London worth sparring with.
This move with John was mere proof of that. Mycroft knew what he was doing. Using the former pet; hoping he picked up some of the detective’s tricks to try to develop a pattern in the cases Jim took or the way Sherlock chose to execute them. To try to stop them. All the same the Ice Man was using him. It would be funny if it didn’t have the potential to upset the detective.
And that was what annoyed Jim beyond reason. He would find the detective now, he thought.
Sherlock often thinks of Jim as a vibrating entity, that sometimes has so much energy and nothing to do with it, that he’ll have to randomly start moving or he’ll combust. This movement has the potential for destruction, but it is not a stipulation. The man has been called insane but Sherlock is apt to disagree on that count. Jim may have violently abrupt mood swings and be cavalier with life, but he’s not insane. Quite the opposite, if you ask the detective. Jim is too sane. Too in touch with reality. Can’t escape it. His saving grace is his creativity. The slight degree of optimism that comes with his changeability. And, of course, that changeability helps too. It’s just sometimes, with Jim, his frustration with the way of things or the dullness of people will over-boil. He’ll lash out; shouting curses. That was one side. He could also get really quiet and even more apathetic.
Clatter in the kitchen broke Sherlock out of his thoughts.
Moran was standing at the sink; the water running. Shirtless. Sherlock was just about to demand to know why the colonel was not wearing a shirt, when Moran turned; giving the detective a view of four scars the size of his arm across Moran’s back.
“How’d you get those?” Sebastian looked up, considering.
“Yeah, quite the shocker or so I’m told,” he comes into the living room; expression that of a man with story he knows is good. “They were given to me by a tiger.” Moran leans over the back of the armchair opposite the detective.
“Pakistan border. We were in the Punjab province. Stationed near this one tiny town on the edge of India. We weren’t supposed to be there, duh but there we were. And these Pakistanis came to us, asking us to do something about this man-eater that was terrorizing the village. See, Pakistan is just outside of where the current population of tigers live, their current natural habitat being Nepal or the Ganges. So, she was stretching it by wandering up so far. The fact of the matter was she had turned to humans because there was no other prey in the area. I volunteered. Which is to say, I gave my men their standing orders and went on the hunt for her with just my rifle, my knife and my Sig, fuck food.”
“She caught on real quick that someone was tailing her. Moved away from the village before the day was out and didn’t ever go back, I chased her further and further south. The most fantastic prey I’ve ever had the pleasure of hunting. And was it a hunt. God, she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Killing her was probably the best and worst thing I ever did. When I got back to the base, I told everyone that shot her from a tree at 150 and she crawled, wounded, into a storm-drain that was dried up from the lack of rain-fall. That I followed her in and took her down there, gutted her right down the center. Which is true, well, except for the fact I left off; that I was staring into her eyes as she died. Watching the life go out of a beast like that, knowing that you put an end to this beauty of a killer, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. Swirl of incomprehensible emotions; regret, pride, loss, but what I remember most was kinship. That at least I ended her, from one hunter to another. Never told anyone but Jim that.”
“That will be all, Sebastian,” Jim’s edict, sweeping into the room. Moran nodded drifting out of the living room. He knew Moriarty why wanted to talk with the detective. The the spook first reported to him before, Moran had ordered that the be delivered message to Moriarty personally.
Sherlock normally did not play chess. He and his brother had been trained, had excelled, at the game when they were young; could have been chess prodigies. They were chess prodigies. They just never played competitively. Mycroft and Sherlock stopped playing each other when Sherlock got into drugs. And after that Sherlock really never played. Baring the fact that very few people could challenge him, he just wasn’t interested in the game. But would make an exception for Jim. Because Jim liked chess.
“Would you like to play a game?” Sherlock asked as Jim moved to sit across from the detective.
“I thought you didn’t like chess? ‘For the scheming mind’ and all that?” Jim asked, unbuttoning his suit jacket as he sat. Sherlock, as white, made the first move; the standard English opening. Pawn to c-4.
“I’m certainly scheming now, aren’t I?” Jim conceded the point. He moved his knight.
“There’s been some news,” Sherlock took his next move. “Mycroft is now meddling with John,” Jim was thumbing his lip, as he scrutinized the detective.
Sherlock stiffened slightly at the mention of his friend. That was concerning, troubling, and expected. Mycroft. What was not expected was the mood that was coming off of the criminal at this moment. His entire demeanor was exuding this sort of anxiety...? Sherlock didn't understand it.
“You seem a bit perturbed by this development. Why? You don’t care what happens to John.”
“Me not care about Johnny-boy? How could you suggest it?” Jim pulls an injured face. Sherlock shrugs. The criminal breaks his gaze away to move a pawn. “Well, as I’m sure you guessed, Mycroft and I are having a little game of our own.”
“Yes, well, the re-introduction of a certain army doctor was an ingenious move on your brother’s part,” Jim paused, no longer looking at the board, his gaze roaming the rafters of the room. “It certainly showed how much of a loss you were to him.”
“You mean to say that me here now was all to spite Mycroft?” The detective frowns. And Jim’s gaze snaps back to Sherlock’s eyes, black and calculating as always.
“Don’t be injured, dear. It’s not like I wouldn’t have made the extra effort if you weren’t so dear to him. I’ve been looking for you longer than I ever started trying to take down the Ice Man.” At this the criminal gives a little smile and captures Sherlock’s white bishop. They play in silence, until it becomes clear to the detective that Jim is not just going to answer his question.
“That still doesn’t explain your concern,” Choice word, Sherlock had debated if it was the right one but then Jim sighs theatrically and moves a rook across the board.
“Doesn’t it upset you?” Jim again conceding with a rhetorical question. Sherlock makes a face, because obviously.
“Well, there you go.” Ah.
“You’re not afraid I’d go off and do something about it?” Sherlock takes one of Jim’s pieces.
“Afraid?” Jim giggles at the absurdity.
“You know what I mean.”
“Darling, I don’t think I do,” The criminal muttered, as he pretended to be preoccupied with moving his knight. Sherlock huffed out an annoyed breath. “I was wondering if you’d like to help me take him down.”
“He is the British Government, after all. Could be fun, right?”
Sherlock agrees, yes it could be very fun.
“What about John?” Jim’s face rearranges it's self several times before deciding on confused.
“What do you mean, specifically?” The criminal was worried that the detective would not want to proceed with John playing for Mycroft.
“I mean, how exactly is my brother using him?”
“Oh,” Jim took his next move. “He’s doing what you trained him to do.”
“Me? I never-”
“The detectiving. Mycroft has given all of the crimes we have committed in the past two months, that he knows about,” there was that killer smile. “He’s taken all of them and dumped them on your pet to solve, like you were doing for me.”
Sherlock considered this. He’d known that this was the likely cause as to why Mycroft would continue to interact with John. John was brilliant but...he was still ordinary. Mycroft could employ any number of other methods that would be more effective, if he only wanted to accomplish that task. In fact he probably was, just in case John missed something or was taking too long. This move by Mycroft was very calculated indeed.
“John will move very slowly on them.”
Silence falls again as they move through the game.
“It was never my intention to have John reintroduced in to the game.” Sherlock doesn’t say anything. “I know how touchy you are about him. Rightly so, I suppose. But if it were up to me he’d still be at the hospital.” It was hardly a consolation and Jim knew it.
“Now he knows everything.”
“Yes,” Jim confirmed. Sherlock knew exactly how John would have reacted to the news that the detective was now perpetrating the crimes instead of solving them and it made his face twitch.
“It’s a pity your brilliant Fall was foiled,” there was a tinge of lament in the detective’s tone.
Jim doesn’t say anything.
The game progressed. The criminal was surprised that Sherlock was as good as he was, without practicing in the recent years. Jim was fairly certain the detective will loose, though. About eighty-five percent certain, because with Sherlock Holmes...better to have a margin for error.
Sherlock, when he had decided to go with Jim, had not considered what would happen if John ever found out he was still alive. John had always put him on this pedestal, like the detective could do no wrong. ‘Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist and if they did I wouldn’t be one of them.’ But did John listen, no...John. Now he would see. All the dirty little things that lurked in the detective’s brain that could be reversed and implemented in crimes. John would become so familiar with how wrong he was on that one count. Sherlock wasn’t sure he liked that.
“So, you and Moran seem relatively close.”
“Was that a question?”
“Yes.” Jim smirked.
“He’s not my John if that’s what you are asking.” Sherlock scrunched up his face at the analogy. “We’ve talked a couple of times, I suppose, but you’ve got to keep in mind who you are talking to here. Me?”
“He said he told you something he never told anyone else.”
“I’m a compelling person,” Jim shrugged off the importance of such a thing, eyes alight with amusement. “There’s something that hunters all innately grasp. The recognition of kindred souls. It’s so rare to find a reflection of yourself; but they can just immediately latch on to the understanding. Especially, if they’re actually on the hunt when it happens. It’s to do with the eyes, I think. That moment was defining in the colonel’s life.”
“He’s not a colonel now.”
“He should be.”
“Then he wouldn’t be in your employ.”
“Incompetent sods. He’s the best sniper they ever had.”
“How’d did you acquire his services?”
Jim gave a laugh at the memory.
“I had been on the look-out for a someone to handle the more physical aspects of my business, for quite a while. Clearly, this person needed a certain set of expertise, so military. There had always been these rumors of the colonel. His ruthlessness. Precision. And then when I saw it first hand, I knew I had to have him.
“This was less than three months after his dishonorable discharge and he was itching for a fight. Well, I needed to see if the rumors were true, so I arranged for one. I paid these terribly low-level lackeys to try and hold him up as was walking home from a night at the pub. It was pure poetry. Five on one and he still killed them all, initially unarmed and slightly inebriated. And these guys weren’t push-overs. That wouldn’t have been any fun.
“So, the next day I offered him the job and he asked me what I was doing in his living room. He’s been working for me ever since.”
“Hurm,” Sherlock was deciding his next move. Jim’s net was tightening so to say, on the board.
“He is so loyal,” Jim mused.
“Not just to the paycheck.” The criminal’s eyes flicked back to the detective’s smile gone from his face.
“No. I can give him something he won’t be able to get many other places.”
“Not only that, but I utilize his talents in ways others just don’t think of. In ways they need to be utilized. His nature is so very like our own, in that he rusts if he’s not in use,” Jim’s fingers were talking now.
“Yes, and in a glorious fashion, I might add. He’s a hunter, Sherlock. That’s what they do.”
The endgame was approaching. Jim had to know.
“Will this be a problem?”
“No,” Sherlock was looking at the board.
“Are you certain?”
“Mycroft has it coming.”
“That’s not what I asked,” the criminal’s voice was airy but with an edge.
“I know,” Sherlock paused. “But it’s...it will have to do.”
Jim didn’t like that, but Sherlock was still here, after all.
John takes off the entire next week from the hospital to give the cases his full attention.
Ironically, his boss is relieved he’s finally taking some time off; even with John was being absurdly helpful, picking up extra surgeries and all. John hedges on the duration of time he will be gone; he may need a week maybe longer, but again the man is surprisingly agreeable; encouraging John to take as much time as he might need.
The first time John opens one of the files he is sitting in the 221B living room at his desk. He had just eaten his morning toast and was finishing off his tea, when he read the first headline. CONFERENCE MURDERED FROM UNKNOWN CHEMICAL WEAPON. The second headline of the same case: BIO-TERRORISTS ATTACK LA CONFERENCE. The third headline: 320 KILLED FROM TERRORIST ATTACK.
John takes a deep breath.
Starts to read the first article. Unknown nerve agent. A fine powder. Respiratory and cardiac arrest then death.
He feels a little sick. Like he might throw up his toast.
Three-hundred and twenty.
Again, he was tempted to call up Mycroft and tell him he was a ruddy liar; that Sherlock would not have done this.
The conference was held only a week and a half after Sherlock’s ‘death.’ From what Mycroft had said, it appeared that Moriarty and Sherlock didn’t even meet up until around then. Apart from that, the man hadn’t really said much. He’d just pointed to a pile of file folders, telling John he should just look over them at home and they’d meet up again after he had time to examine them all with due course.
John would hazard that the conference was mostly, if not entirely, to blame on Moriarty. Sherlock was brilliant, but one does not just create a chemical weapon attack out of nowhere.
John sets that file aside and takes a breath before opening the next.
The kidnapping of a influential oil man’s wife. American. Ransom fifty million. Amount paid. Wife returned, relatively unharmed.
Next case: assassination. Foreign dignitary from Turkey visiting Japan. Cell phone bomb. John had never heard of such a thing. He knew of a cell phone triggered bomb. But a bomb in a cell phone...nope. Killed four people, dignitary included.
Next case: rigged elections in Indonesia.
Next case: cafe bomb. Target/motive unknown. Eight dead, ten injured. Cafe destroyed. It appeared to have been an ordinary cafe in Arizona, no one notable among the casualties. Total mystery.
Next case: Paraguay military coup.
Next case: ratification of a U.S. bill.
Next case: another assassination. California C.E.O. Hit and Run.
Next case: the sex scandal of the Chilean ambassador to the U.K. There was extensive proof to anyone who knew him and his character that he was completely faithful to his wife and yet...
Next case: dead dog found in beach side sewer drain. ...okay.
Next case: a suicide.
Next case: an isolated outbreak of a disease. Birthday-party guests dead. Shipments of beer recalled. What?
Next case: earthquake in New Zealand. John did a double take on that one. He’d read about that in the papers. How would that even be possible?
John wonders how he is supposed to be able to tell when Sherlock started helping Moriarty, which case is it? He wonders if the crime would look any different if Sherlock did it versus if Moriarty did. Upon reflection, he rather doubts it. There was a reason why Sherlock was able to keep up with Moriarty in the first place. As much as he hates to admit it; like minds think alike. The ingenuity Moriarty displayed in the committing the crimes, was the same ingenuity it took for Sherlock to solve them. Given the vast cliental Moriarty seemed to attract, the array of potential methods to committing the crimes; it left John with too many possibilities and questions.
This seemed like an impossible task.
Mostly because although he liked to think that he knew Sherlock, he knew next to nothing about Moriarty. Mycroft hadn’t seen fit to give him the file containing what information the British government had on the criminal.
He took out a pad of paper to list what he knew of Moriarty. When he was done, it wasn’t much.
Jim Moriarty: self-proclaimed consulting criminal, psychopath, obsessed with Sherlock, absent respect for human life, plus thirty million disposable income, master manipulator- he got Mycroft after all, good actor, liked expensive suits, at the head of a world-wide criminal conspiracy, consulting criminal conspiracy. He was patient, there was the thing with Carl Powers and holding on to those shoes all those years. He also had something over Sherlock that could force the man to fake his death and allow the destruction of his reputation, something Sherlock valued immensely. So, Moriarty had something that Sherlock was willing to give up his reputation for, presumably the man still had it, whatever it is, since Sherlock was still with him?
Sherlock was likely just bored. But one could hope.
Regardless, John did not have all the information he needed to make anything of these cases. Information Mycroft had.
John was not surprised that when he picked up his phone to call the elder Holmes, the clock said it was three o’clock in the afternoon. He’d begun at nine.
It’s only later that Sherlock realizes he told Moran: no, he did not want to get high off of pain meds.
It was something that he hadn’t thought much about at the time but later realized how ridiculous it was. The reaction had been automatic. His brother had trained him well. He let out a huff of air that could have been considered a laugh. All those many times, Mycroft would come and find him in the gutter or in some run-down drug house. The various rehabs he was subsequently sent to. The silent contests they would hold when Mycroft would visit. The unexplained vigils when he ended up in the hospital from a bad dose. Manipulative. The temptation will always be there. He knows this. But recently, amidst all the excitement, he hasn’t really paid attention to it. It was dormant in the back of his mind, sleeping.
From the first time he shot up heroin, he’d been hooked. Everything became clearer and yet everything was slowed down. His mind went on, still plodding but operating at a pace of a normal person that had slightly-above average-intelligence. He’d live in this state of exhilaration for hours. This lofty awareness that just let him float from thought to thought. The allure to go back was always there. He could achieve a much, much less intense version of this with nicotine. Smoking or the patches, but that could never compare to the intensity of the high that heroin gave him and the ensuing relaxation. It was stimulation, that then allowed his mind to slow down.
Jim is writing on the windows again. Sherlock gets himself some tea and then sits and voices what he’d been considering since he got up that morning.
“You said that anything I wanted, we could get,” he pauses, for dramatic affect. “What if I wanted drugs?”
Jim stops in the middle of writing the number four. He stops and comes over to Sherlock.
“I see,” Jim grins. Sherlock wants to see what Jim will do. Ha, clever. “What did you have in mind?”
“Oh, heroin has always been pretty good for me.”
Sherlock wondered if Jim had ever been involved with drugs.
“Have you ever done anything?”
“I tried some junk when I was in uni but it never really captured my attention.”
“Why do you think that is? That it got mine and not your’s?”
“I’m a control freak, simple as that,” Jim states, as he picks up the detective’s tea and takes a sip. Explaining, as he sets the cup back in the saucer. “Unlike you, dear, I do not like the idea of relinquishing control of my faculties for hours on end. Even if it was in a state of perpetual bliss.”
“You weren’t the head of an international consulting firm then, though. What use could you possibly have for those faculties?”
“Now, I know that our adolescence differed in that I was at university and you were in the back-allies of London but you must remember that people don’t like us.” Jim sat back on his heels, eyeing the detective. Sherlock understood what Jim was insinuating. One could only allow so many transgressions against oneself by others before something had to be done. Bullies, but Jim’s answer would be violent and unexpected for the silly scholars who normally harassed mousy geeks. And if Sherlock were to bet on it, he’d say that whatever edification Jim doled out did not allow those old boys to ruminate on the fact they had fucked with the wrong person. Death, no doubt.
Sherlock wondered exactly where Jim went to university. If there was an unusually high suicide rate those years or...a campus wide drug habit that ended in a great many overdoses or something even more creative. He’d love to see Jim’s work as it progressed. There was Carl Powers, then a great gap of time in which Sherlock had no idea what Jim had been up to, this stopped when he’d been detectiving long enough to hear whispers of Moriarty.
“Where’d you go to uni?” The criminal smirked. He wasn’t going to say, that would be too obvious; no fun.
“When do you want the heroin?” Jim called the detective’s bluff.
“How about I let you know? In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind having some nicotine patches.” Jim stood up and walked back over to the window, not exactly hiding his grin. He took the china pencil out from behind his ear.
“I actually told Sebastian to pick some up. I believe that he put them somewhere in the kitchen.”
Jim wanted to go to the beach.
It was a nice sunny day in California. They had no cases to attend to. And Jim had a desire to swim in the Pacific. He saw no excuse not to indulge.
“Would you like to go to the beach, darling?” Jim asked turning to the detective, who was sipping his coffee. Sherlock gave him a harried look.
“What would I want to do at the beach?” He was completely confused. Jim could see the man was missing the point, he set down his morning paper.
“It’ll be fun.”
“We could have a picnic.” Sherlock’s eyebrows proceeded to rise even higher, as if he could not believe the words Jim was saying.
“Yes. Have you ever even been in the Pacific, Sherlock?”
“No.” Sherlock had to think of a way out this; the beach? Seriously? Didn’t they have some more useful employment? “Besides, even if I wanted to, I don’t have any swim trunks.” Ah-ha.
“Oh, that would be a problem,” Jim appeared to consider and Sherlock hoped that would be the end of it. But this was Jim, of course, it wasn’t. The man was grinning a mischievous smile and Sherlock was definitely not cringing, when the criminal said: “Except, I had the tailor make you a pair. So, what do you want for lunch? I always like sandwiches for the beach but if you want something else, Moran will have no qualms getting-”
Just then the colonel came in. Sherlock was still in no way convinced that he wanted to go on this ‘picnic.’
“Sebastian, today we are picnicking on the beach.”
“Oh?” The man hummed in mild disinterest.
“You’re coming too.”
“Go change and then get the lunch. Sherlock is deciding what we’re having. We’ll be ready to go by the time you get back.” Sebastian rested his elbows on the backs of one of the dinning chairs.
“I’ll get the food and take you. But I am not changing.”
“And why not?”
“Jim, where am I gonna put my gun?” Jim frowns at the colonel, only to roll his eyes.
“Your loss.” Sebastian doesn’t say anything. He is fairly certain that Jim wouldn’t let him go swimming, even if he did play along. A bodyguard must guard, Sebastian. I don’t pay you to slack off. Right.
“What do you want?” The colonel turned to Sherlock. Jim was sipping his coffee, observing the detective.
“Surprise me.” Moran nodded, straightening up.
“Oh and Sebastian? Make sure you put all the beach stuff in the car. You know, the towels and the chairs. The umbrella.”
“Do you actually have all this stuff?” Sherlock is almost surprised.
“Oh, we have it alright. I still remember the day when he picked it all out. Wouldn’t shut up about how funny it was doing something soooooooooooooooooooo ordinary as buying a beach kit. And then he had to go down to the water with it all. Only it wasn’t ordinary because he had me carry everything!” Jim only rolls his eyes at the colonel’s outburst.
“Don’t be over-dramatic, Sebastian,” Jim took another sip. “I carried the towels. Oh, and pick up some Limonada.”
“Yeah, sure.” Moran grumbles as he leaves for the garage.
Sherlock really didn’t know what to make of the relationship between the sniper and the criminal. There was a level of rapport between them that the detective was surprised to find. Jim never let anyone get the better of him in conversation. He always came out on top. Always got what he wanted. There was no question of that still being true between the colonel and Jim; it was just that Jim let Sebastian bemoan the task or hummed out these slightly jagged remarks. Moran was the only person who the detective had seen get away with it. Of course then, Sherlock had never seen anyone else dare.
Jim was right when he said that Moran was not his John. Sherlock had never heard the colonel complement the criminal, not once. Jim was very abusive at times and Moran just stuck it out. Sherlock thought it was bizarre.
After a bit of less than gentle prodding, Sherlock had been persuaded to change and get into the car. Jim turned to the detective. He explained that Sebastian was driving them to a place called Zuma. It was very strange to see the criminal in shorts. He was wearing this navy t-shirt which matched the navy in his floral patterned trunks. Of course. And then flip-flops.
Jim eyed Sherlock eying him over his big sunglasses.
“This is weird.” Sherlock complained. The criminal sighed and sat back, leg beginning to bounce seemingly of its own accord.
“Well, just wait till we’re actually there to see if you like it,” Jim turned to the detective again, this time with that innocent sort of smile. “The water is really quite refreshing.”
Sherlock felt uncomfortable. He could not see how this could ever become enjoyable. It was warm outside but in the car it was cool with only trunks and a short-selve shirt. He hadn’t been to the beach since he was a child back in England. He hadn’t enjoyed it then either.
When they reached their destination, Jim was suddenly excited. He tapped Sherlock’s leg and got out of the car, grabbed his beach towel, and waltzed off in the direction of the water. Sherlock turned to the colonel, who was opening up the trunk. He shook his head and handed the detective his towel. The sand up by the parking lot was hot. And Sherlock took long quick strides, that never seemed to be fast enough with the hot sand around his toes. When he caught up to where Jim was standing, the sand was cool.
Jim arbitrarily picked a spot along the vacant beach. The detective had anticipated a great deal more people here on a sunny day like this. But then Sherlock had to remind himself it was a week day; that a lot of people were at work. He was loosing track of time being in Jim’s world. Not that he had ever been that on top of it back on Baker Street but....
The colonel brought the chairs out first, leaving them in a pile to trudge back to get the rest of the supplies. Jim sighed dramatically but set up his own beach chair and collapsed in it, languid. Sherlock followed suit. He dug his toes into the sand. He didn’t see anything that fantastic about the beach yet. This ocean was no different from the Atlantic. Jim seemed to know what he was thinking.
“Just try and enjoy it.” The detective knew Jim was being placating but it only irritated Sherlock more. The criminal was the one who wanted to come here. Sherlock did not have to try to enjoy anything. Sherlock crossed his arms and slumped down in his chair.
“If you’re going to be like that,” Jim stated capriciously, getting up and stripping his shirt and shades before running the short ways down to the water. Sherlock watched Jim wade out to the first surf break. Moran had come back and set about putting up the umbrella.
“You should join him.”
Sherlock refused to dignify the colonel with a response. Jim was swimming now, getting further and further from the shore. This was boring. At least, if he went in the water he’d be doing something. Sherlock huffed in annoyance, before taking off his shirt and stocking down to the water.
He stopped just before it and a wave brought the water to his feet. There was no discernible difference between the temperature of the water or the air. He walked into the ocean. This was an interesting sensation. When it reached his waist, Sherlock ducked under a wave. It was cool and the force of the water pushed his hair flat on his head. He stood up out of the water and took a deep breath. That was nice. Another wave was coming, he ducked down again. He liked the feeling of the water surging past him on all sides and pushing him back slightly. This was nice.
By the time Jim swam back, Sherlock’s fingers were pruned. The criminal was grinning at him and he looked a little tired, but all he asked was if the detective was hungry? Sherlock really wasn’t but he wanted his fingers back to normal, so he followed the criminal as he trudged out the water.
Moran had set up a beach chair a few paces behind theirs and was sitting there rather awkwardly; watching.
It was strange the feeling of salt water as he climbed out of the ocean; it dripped off slowly and his trunks were sopping, again uncomfortable. But as he pulled the oversized towel around himself and sat down, he had to note; Jim was right, the water was refreshing.
Jim made a fuss with Moran, what was the lunch he got them? Where was it? The colonel told him to see for himself, that it was in the cooler. Jim leaned over and rustling through it, pulling out sodas and grinning when he found Sebastian had purchased sandwiches. He passed one of each over to the detective and cracked open his Limonada.
As they stared out at sea, this sort of pleasant calm enveloped the party. Sherlock decided he didn’t mind the beach.
Trigger warning for some gore.
Sherlock needs a corpse.
For an experiment, of course. But when he tells Jim that he’s taking a taxi to the county morgue, the criminal is appalled.
“Sweet, I said I could get you anything you needed,” Jim explains earnestly, his intense gaze scrutinizing the detective. “I meant anything.”
He asks what age, gender, and cause of death would work best for the detective’s study. Sherlock shrugs, he would prefer a male between the ages of 25-35. Cause of death: killer’s choice, but no burns and no touching the torso.
The criminal had a man in mind that would work out nicely, given Sherlock’s requirements.
They had caught one of Mycroft’s spies.
Being relatively new to Moriarty’s organization, the infiltrator did not grasp the extent Jim kept an eye on his pawns. It was kind of hard to miss regular calls at a pay phone to a redacted number and the tell-tale paranoia that had the spook covertly looking over his shoulder every few minutes. Okay, maybe the man wasn’t that obvious; maybe Moriarty was just that perceptive but really Mycroft could do better. This was sad.
Jim will get Sherlock the dead body. Actually, it was all a little too convenient. Almost boring.
Sebastian calls Mycroft’s man to the base for a briefing on a job, except there is no job. Just Jim and his dead eyes.
They take the man to the basement, which is an interrogation room or rather a run-of-the-mill torture chamber. Because sometimes Jim needs information and Sebastian will get it for him, but they don’t need the neighbors hearing strange noises.
Jim doesn’t need information this time. This would just be too messy anywhere else.
So Sebastian tie the man to a chair. The colonel takes the hunting knife from his boot. And with no pretense, delay, or explanation of any kind; Sebastian standing behind the chair, brings the board stainless steel knife to the seam of the man’s neck and presses in, deeply. As he drags the knife across the man’s throat, blood seeps between his fingers; pumping out in gushes from the spook’s arteries. The man didn’t scream, to his credit, but couldn’t stop the gargling sounds as blood began to clog the man’s severed windpipe.
It was quick and messy; not really the colonel's style but the detective wanted a relatively unharmed body, so...
“Why didn’t you just shoot the man?” Jim is standing on the other side of the room, glaring the colonel.
Moran shrugs, as if response. The criminal exhales in disgust and tells the colonel to clean up the dead man so the detective can do his experiment with clean corpse.
When Sherlock comes in to the kitchen, Jim tells him there is a dead body waiting for him in the basement. The detective asks the lounging criminal if he has any latex gloves. Jim’s eyes flick up from his phone, expression completely flat. Sherlock continues wondering if Jim is at all worried about blood-borne pathogens.
“Have a bad experience, love?” Sherlock bristles at the allusion. Back when he was a junkie, clean needles weren’t always available when a hit was and when you wanted a hit....consequences be damned.
“Luckily no, but you can never be too careful when it comes to those types of things.”
“Well, there is a body and gloves waiting the basement for you then,” The criminal sounded bored, but he still followed the detective down.
Like Sherlock watching the criminal work out his theorems, Jim sits on the table, legs swinging, watching as the detective dissects the body.
He watches Sherlock make confident incisions with a scalpel, after beating the chest to the point of crack. Leaning over the body, totally engrossed by the task he set before himself; Sherlock had made some dismissive explanation as to what he was testing. Something having to do with how the same angle blow with two items of different density would shatter the rib bones and the difference in the damage the shards would cause to the thoracic cavity. Then Sherlock said he was just double checking a hypothesis he had.
Jim’s fine just watching the man’s astute eyes pick out the important details for the mess of mangled insides. He is fascinated, eyes never leaving the man. But it’s when the detective is examining the second set of blows, that Sherlock looks up at Jim. He looks up from across the body and asks Jim if he’d ever seen anything like this before?
“A man with a kicked-in stomach?” Jim doesn’t pause for long before he answers, sardonic. “Of course...”
“No, I mean, the inside, with the skin pulled back?”
“Would you like to see, then?”
Jim hops off the table eager to examine the detective’s work at a closer angle.
During the first week he was at Jim’s California ‘base’, Sherlock had thoroughly explored the house. It was rather sparse. Jim explained that he hadn’t used it, really. Especially, not in recent years; with his web tightening around the detective and war beginning with the British government.
Sherlock had gone into the other guest rooms. They were all quite nice. But the one Jim picked out for him, definitely most suited his tastes. The color of the wallpaper and the furniture all seemed to fit his personality. It made Sherlock wonder if Jim had redecorated it for the detective. After the violin, he would not have been surprised.
Sherlock had gone into Moran’s rooms. They were keeping with the traditional Spanish mission style with white wash walls. Big windows. The rifle, the colonel had been cleaning before he was called away, was laid out with a precise neatness. But the rest of the room was a mess; bed was unmade and there was yesterday’s clothes on the floor.
Jim’s rooms were of the few that were dark inside. All of the furniture was black wood, the walls were a deep spacey-navy. The bedroom was mostly bare; side tables, king-sized bed with Egyptian silk sheets, but no trinkets. The most notable feature was the huge walk-in closet. Full, of course. Row after row of suits and button-ups all on neat hangers, of all different colors and patterns; all tailored exactly to fit Jim’s frame. Save for this the room could be mistaken for a hotel.
But Sherlock understood that Jim spent most of his time either in the living room or his study.
Jim’s office was dark, too. The same black wood. The detective did find some odd things on the shelves of Jim’s study. A miniature model of the solar system. Archaic devices to measure the stars. And then, there were seemingly random rocks. Given Jim’s interest in space they were probably from the moon; Sherlock picked them all up in turn examining the specimens. There was a map of the world that took up the whole of the other wall. Jim wasn’t foolish enough to put any kind of mark on the map that might giveaway his involvement or that he had any kind of connection to the region. It was probably just decoration.
On the desk sat Jim’s laptop and external hard drive, along with a large computer monitor. It was easier to type on a real keyboard and see the codes on a big screen, just in case the criminal needed to really work on something; something he couldn’t just hand off to one of his lackeys or if he was just bored and wanted to cause havoc. But Sherlock surmised that Jim consulted on that kind of job enough to make it an important tool.
The living room was where his record player and albums were. Jim had a considerable collection, the detective noted. There was a couple best-of albums of bands popular during the 1970s. But those took up less than half of the criminal’s collection. The rest were a vast array of classical pieces; Brahms, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Rossini, Pärt, and Scelsi. All of which would occasionally be blasted out of the speakers at foundation shaking volumes.
It was odd for the detective to wake up second. John could always be depended on to get a decent night’s sleep and although he did get up at a reasonable hour, it had never compared to Sherlock’s restlessness. But since moving in with Jim, Sherlock could only count on one hand the number of times Jim had slept later than him. He seemed to never sleep. However, when Sherlock would come to breakfast in morning Jim usually had his hair mussed, all crazy like the first breakfast they ate together; which was still a right laugh to the detective. Still ridiculous. Even with all his restlessness and changeability, Jim was generally considerate with noise during what could be considered sleeping hours, except when he wasn’t.
On more than one occasion, Sherlock had been awoken by the Thieving Magpie.
He’d come out of his room, still slightly groggy, and find the criminal mastermind dancing.
Eventually, Jim would rope Moran into becoming his less than willing partner. He’d take them around the living room and would miraculously step in time to Rossini’s piece. Sherlock had never really paused to consider if Jim had dancing skills. But then the detective was sure that would not have stopped the man if he didn’t. Still, it was rather comic to watch Jim, much shorter than the colonel, try and lead the man who refused to shake off his military stiffness.
Jim might admonish him saying “Loosen up, Sebastian. Don’t you know how to dance?” And then attempt to twirl Moran. This only enhanced the comedy of the situation. Sherlock bet that Sebastian knew that if he did not fully participate in Jim’s game, the criminal would bore and try his other source of entertainment.
It would be after a few turns with Moran that Jim would dismiss the colonel and pull Sherlock in to step with him. He’d lead them counterclockwise around the living room. There would still be a height difference in respect to who was leading, though not as absurd, but again this did not seem to perturb the criminal. Of course, what would annoy Jim was that Sherlock, who had never really danced and had especially never been led, held himself with a similar rigor to the colonel. Jim would pull the detective closer, slightly shaking him in the process as if to rid him of his reserve. He’d lean in to Sherlock’s ear and whisper:
“Dear, you’re not being any fun.”
Jim’s random bursts of un-calculated silliness were strange enough, but when thrown against his usual employment it created a cacophony that Sherlock could not decipher; however much he wanted to. The detective was unaccustomed to being expected to engage in pointless jubilance; his attitude was never inclined to doing things others wanted, save on the rare occasion he too wanted to do those things; people generally recognized this and backed off. Jim, on the other hand, would push. He would push and push the detective to get what he wanted. Sherlock could either give in or push back. And he could be just as capricious as Jim.
Today he attempted to be fluid; follow the criminal as he led them in a morning dance. Other times he would make Jim do all the work until he got bored and gave up.
“Such aimless silly acts,” Jim explained when the detective asked what the point of this exercise was, “never needed to be justified. They existed for the sake of existing.”
Sherlock did not agree with this logic. The dancing was silly, yes. But it existed because Jim wanted it to. And it needed to be justified, if only by the reasoning that Jim desired it.
Jim grimaced, pressing his hand a little firmer on the detective’s hip and he stepped forward, forcing Sherlock to take reciprocating steps back.
“You make it sound like there’s something wrong with dancing to Rossini.” Sherlock sighed at the petulance in Jim’s voice. “Not everything has to be clever, you know.” Jim’s eyes narrowing up at the detective.
“I didn’t say that.”
“Indeed, not. If you want to dance, you should dance. No questions. But defend the action with a real reason. Your desires certainly qualify as such.”
“You think so?” The detective sighed dramatically. The criminal just wanted him to say it out loud. Confirmation that Sherlock had just said Jim’s desires should be acted on. That they were validated merely because Jim wanted them. Sherlock wouldn’t say that. It was a trap after all. Regardless how true the detective considered it, it was still a trap. But then the criminal didn’t need any more confirmation than he already had.
Jim’s eyes were dancing in amusement too. He carried on with their waltz until the end of the movement.
John does not know if he could continue to do this. It’s been four days. Mycroft couldn’t see him for four days. That entire time John has been staring at the files. The things he’s seen, yes in Afghanistan, were horrifying. They could always be claimed to be justifiable, as they were done in wartime, under the duress of war. But this, what Sherlock and Moriarty were doing...there was no excuse. No way to even remotely justify.
And this was his friend, his best friend.
So far, if John’s tally was correct; which it wasn’t he knew because there had to be other cases that slipped past Mycroft’s spies; Moriarty and Sherlock had killed close to three hundred and thirty-five thousand people. Thousand. In two and a half months. If they kept going at this rate...well...he didn’t want to think about that.
That was the point, he didn’t want to think about this. But that was exactly what Mycroft wanted him to do.
He could not see a way in which he could continue to just sit back and solve the cases, so much slower without the detective’s brilliance. He doesn’t know how much longer he can sit idly by and...do what? What was he really doing? They already knew Moriarty and Sherlock were the ones committing these crimes. He tells Mycroft this over dinner.
“Then you should look at the cases as having connections-”
“Oh! And that’s the other thing. I need more information about Moriarty. I mean, I know Sherlock well enough, but I have no idea about Moriarty.”
“You’ve met him.”
“He tried to blow me up. I was a bit distracted at the time, I’ll say,” John paused, taking a sip of water. “Don’t think I didn’t try, though. I made a list of things I knew. It was short and not helpful.”
“You want Her Majesty’s file on him?”
“Sure and your file too.”
“Listen, you either want me to do this or not. And I’m fine with not doing it. So, you either get me the files or I’m done.”
“I can’t just let you take sensitive documents like that-”
“Alright,” John half stood to leave. “I’ll see you around, then”
“Sit down!” Mycroft snapped. “I can’t let you just take those documents. You can however view them in a secure location.” John met the elder Holmes annoyed gaze. The doctor hadn’t really expected Mycroft to let him see the files, after all his purpose in this ‘investigation’ seemed inanely superfluous.
“Well, I’m going to the country tomorrow. So, no.” John frowned. The country? Now? “You would have to wait until Monday. That is, unless, you would want to come too.”
“What do you mean?”
“If you come to my family estate this weekend, I’ll have the files with me. You can review them there. Or you can wait until I get back. Monday.”
“Where is it you’re going?” Mycroft sighed, twisting his fork into the food remaining on his plate.
“I imagine Sherlock never told you but our family is from Suffolk. We have an estate near Aldeburgh.”
“Beautiful country out there.”
“Indeed.” The elder Holmes set down his fork. Silence, stretched as John considered. This would be where Sherlock spent his childhood; not that he ever talked about it; like it had any affect on him. Still, it would be fascinating to see. And when else would he get an opportunity like this. He already had the weekend off. There was really no question.
“Sure, I’ll go to Suffolk. Review the files.”
“Excellent. I’ll send a car tomorrow afternoon. Around 3?”
“We’re not riding out together?” The doctor was mildly confused. That would be wasteful. They were going to the same place after all.
“I have things I need to take care of, John.”
Moriarty had been approached for a particular job. It was a bit of corporate espionage. An emerging front-runner in the field of green energy was to very soon be audited by the government. A long established but slightly fading rival firm wanted the emerging company to be found lacking ‘internal control’ in several departments, as the client put it. Which in Jim’s frank clarification meant, they wanted the criminal to go in dirty up the front-runner’s books then clumsily cover it up. It was a relatively simple plan; the fledging corporation would end up owing the government money that not only did they not have but had already paid. However, to do this the long-standing company needed a skilled hacker, who could alter the books without even setting foot on site.
Contrary to popular belief, Jim does not limit himself to thievery, bribery, smuggling, and murder. He is quite skilled with computers, very good at hacking. Perhaps that went hand and hand with the math bit, but Jim could churn out all sorts of code; be it the illegal transfer of funds to the remote access of a network and reorganization of files. He had corrupted websites. He had adjusted the national records too many times to count. He had killed the power to half of Bristol one summer out of pure boredom. He had even designed an iPhone app, which he’d use to call his minions into action when he was breaking into the Tower. Like you could get that kind of thing at the app store. Ha.
So, when this energy company wants to tank their rival they come to Jim, who accepts.
“That looks like utter gibberish,” Sherlock states irritably, from somewhere behind the criminal in the study. Jim’s fingers are tapping keys in some non-stop arrhythmic pace. He is already past the second firewall. It’s the night before the scheduled audit. Everything is going swimmingly. The detective has begun to pace. Though Sherlock has his own blog categorizing the distinctive features of two hundred and forty-three kinds of tobacco ash, he never bothered to learn a programming language.
“Just because you can’t follow along, does not mean it’s non-sense,” Jim says, voice quiet and distracted as he works. The criminal’s lips quirk up when he hears a huff of annoyance from behind him. “I’ll narrate what I’m doing for you, how about that?” Jim doesn’t wait for a reply, if he gets one it’s not verbal and he sure as fuck isn’t turning around now. Very delicate business here.
“I’ve just passed their second firewall,” His voice still distracted, lyricism toned down a hundred fold but still there somewhere. “And am working on the final one.”
“How are you going to make so it doesn’t look like this was all done in one night by one person?”
“Well...” Jim sat back and turned to the detective. “That’s the beauty of it. Once it says I’m through, we’ll adjust the information. Simple. Then as we leave we change the records that say when certain IP addresses log in to the network and what network files they access.”
“Effectively pinning it all on their employees.” Jim watched Sherlock, as he waited for the network to allow him admittance. “And you’ll delete the record of yourself naturally.”
“Naturally,” Jim grinned. Sherlock smiled back, then something caught his attention behind Jim. He gestured to the screen, the criminal turned his chair and placed his fingers on the keys again. “We’re in.”
“How much time do you have?” Sherlock asked. Jim shrugged.
“I wouldn’t want to be here for more than an hour and a half. They may have more security programs that will sweep the network periodically to detect hacks, though I rather doubt it.”
“It’s a company that’s pioneering the green energy field. It has very lucrative prospects. Why wouldn’t they extend every precaution?”
“They only had three firewalls. And they don’t have a network analyzer. Actually, I’m rather disappointed they don’t. It’s at least somewhat of a challenge when companies do.”
Sherlock was not going to even bother asking what a network analyzer is. He was pacing, again. Jim sat back in his swivel chair, again.
“Okay, here, pick some files from this list I’ve pulled.” The detective leaned on the back of Jim’s chair as he looked over the criminal’s shoulder. Sherlock scanned file names. Financial breakdown of 2010, Financial breakdown of 2011, Estimated Budget for 2010-2015...yes, yes. He leaned down, closer to Jim, stretching out his right arm to point to the names of the soon to be altered files.
“This one and this one and this one and...” The detective trailed off, smirking.
Jim grinned, turning his head to Sherlock’s, right next to his.
“How in the red do you want to leave them?”
“You just have to brag about it don’t you?”
“Darling, do you know me at all?” Jim was grinning like a maniac. “Of course, I do.”
He and Sherlock were sitting in a downtown L.A. restaurant. They had been playing a game. In the middle of this high class swanky dinning locale, they were observing and deducing intimate details of boring people’s lives. It was mildly entertaining. The last round went as follows: the couple seated two tables away were middle age, well dressed, and appeared to have low rapport with each other. Jim would say they were married. Sherlock would agree. Jim would say that the way the wife’s eyes would hover just above the man’s left shoulder, indicated she had cheated on him. Sherlock would say she still was. Jim would say the husband knew. Sherlock would disagree.
It didn’t seem like much of a game. That is it didn’t until they would go and check the facts themselves. Literally, get up from their table and interrogate the other customers. The game was much more fun than a five course meal.
Jim had been right. The man had known that his wife was cheating on him with her tennis coach. There was absolutely no shock when confronted with it.
As they sat back down at their table, Jim asked how the detective could make such a glaring oversight? Gloating. But it wasn’t like Sherlock hadn’t done that same thing after the first two rounds. This had been going on since the proposal of the game about an hour and half ago. They had barely even touched their food. Most of the time they would tie; both be wrong or both agree; but it was the few times one of them was correct that put Sherlock in the lead, though not by much. They moved on to the next set.
The four tables across was a woman wearing a god-awful wig. Jim said cancer. Sherlock testing the criminal
asked what kind?
“Well, its past the point where there is any hope. Otherwise, if she were still on chemo, she couldn’t risk going to any public places.”
“Not answering the question.” Honestly, Jim didn’t really know enough about various cancers and their proper treatment, but he could guess.
“On what basis?”
“Absolutely none. It was a complete guess,” Jim admitted, swirling his wine. “What kind do you think she has?”
“A brain tumor. They mostly removed it, but they couldn’t get all of it because part was inoperable; too deep or ingrained in some piece of the mind too important cut out; and that’s what’s killing her.” Jim nodded, that was logical.
“Is that a guess too?” The criminal was sardonic. Sherlock smirks but says nothing, standing. They walk over to the woman with the wig.
“Hello, I’m Jim and this is my associate Sherlock and we were wondering why you have no hair.”
The wig-woman look taken aback for several seconds before her face goes icy.
“It is cancer?”
“Fuck off. That’s none of your goddamn business,” the wig-woman’s voice is flat, if a tad loud. Some other customers glance over, but not really caring, they go back to their food.
Jim frowns. This may be a personal matter, this may be offensive behavior, but he doesn’t really care. He was getting this information. He leans over her, one hand on the table the other on her chair. He leans in and gets close to her face, the wig-woman recoils, but Jim just follows her.
“I don’t care if you think this is my business or not, you are going to tell me.” Jim’s voice, hushed at the beginning of the sentence, arcs up at the end in a sing-songy fashion. The wig-woman, though weary, still looks defiant; so Jim leans into to her ear, whispered tones not quite making it to the detective's ears. The criminal straightens looking down in expectation.
The wig-woman is all wide eyed and rapid breath now, all dull and boring. And she chokes a little before she says: “It’s colon cancer. I lost my hair from the chemo.”
“Thank you,” Sherlock speaks for the first time, before physically pulling a morose Moriarty by the arm back to their table. He was sad his guess was wrong.
It’s after this last questioning session that, the maître d’ comes over to ask the consultants to leave, on the grounds they were upsetting the other guests. Jim rolled his eyes and paid the man off. They were allowed to stay until closing. The restaurant lost a great deal of goodwill and service while they were there but Jim’s bribe was more than enough to compensate.
“What am I doing here?” John asked himself, as he got out the government car. The Holmes country estate was very quaint and picturesque. The plot of land was set on the very edge of the Aldeburgh township and abutted a nature reserve to the North. Suffolk county was generally flat wetlands and the Holmes house was set on the rarity of a slight knoll, that was within a long-range view of the North Sea. But the old stones it was constructed from were weather-worn; as brine air eventually eats everything along the sea.
John took a deep breath and it was strange to have the ocean air fill his lungs. So crisp, so not London. He took that breath and reminded himself of what he decided during the drive. He was here to see what Mycroft’s plan was. The man had to have a plan. He had to. Sherlock and Moriarty, together causing all this strife, all this death. It had to be stopped. And Mycroft would have a plan, no doubt one that involved the safe return of Sherlock and the incarceration of Moriarty. John was eager to hear the specifics. Realistically, he didn’t expect Mycroft to divulge much at all. Nevertheless, that was his goal in coming to Suffolk.
The government driver took his bags just to the stoop of the house, rung the bell, got back in the vehicle and drove off. John let his eyes wonder the plains, the large patches of wheat grass intermingled with streams of various sizes. The sea off in the distance, a hint of a breeze. This was nice. But he supposed he better go inside. The doctor turned around to find the elder Holmes standing in the open doorway.
“It was, yes,” John picked up his bags and followed the man inside. “You?”
“Oh, yes. Very productive,” Mycroft turned around in the semi-light foyer, examining the doctor, who put down his bags and looked flatly back at the elder Holmes.
“Would you like to meet Mother?”
“Here?” John was taken aback.
“Yes. She’s not well, you see. Mummy always did enjoy high society, but since the turn her health took she’s resided here.”
“When did that happen? You know Sherlock never mentioned her being sick,” John paused. “Actually, he never talked about his parents at all.”
“Yes, well that’s Sherlock.” The doctor detected a degree of bitterness on that note.
“Do you know what it is?” Mycroft looked down at his shoes, a little sigh, before his eyes met John’s again.
“When was it diagnosed?”
“About seven months ago.”
“Oh,” John went quiet. Though John was by no means an oncologist, he knew the basics. With pancreatic cancer, seven months was an achievement, but it was also courting death. Most patients with this cancer died within ten. John saw with a distinct clarity why Mycroft would be coming to the country whilst all this ‘excitement’ was going on.
“Lead the way.” Mycroft’s lips quirked up at John’s willingness. The elder Holmes turned and gestured for John to follow him through the house, till they came to a closed door. He knocked then opened the door, peeking his head through the frame, before opening it fully and allowing John in. There by the window was a woman sitting in a large armchair reading a book. She had more salt than pepper hair, which was cut shorter and it curled; it had very clearly thinned a great deal. With her long face and piercing eyes, framed by glasses, one could see clear similarities to the detective. Mycroft must look more like the father, then. She put down her book.
“Mother, this Doctor John Watson. Sherlock’s friend.”
“Doctor Watson, it is indeed a pleasure,” the Holmes matriarch had a deeper, rather melodic voice that seemed to carry itself over the vast room. “Forgive me for not standing.”
“Not at all. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Holmes,” John stepped forward, moving to shake the matriarch’s hand.
“Oh, please don’t call me that! Even now, I look around for my mother-in-law whenever I hear that name.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t actually know your first name.” John admitted. The matriarch gave a huff of a laugh. He couldn’t tell if there was any humor in it or not.
Mycroft took a seat on the couch that was next to the arm of the matriarch.
“Please sit, doctor,” She looked at her son. “I was just going to call June for the tea service.” John took a seat further down on the couch. Annora picked up the phone that was on the side table and asked politely for the afternoon tea. Then she turned her gaze to the doctor. Glasses slipping down her nose, she looked over them and asked:
“So what’s happening in you and my youngest son’s most recent detectiving case?”
John almost did a double-take. What? This had to be a joke. Didn’t she think Sherlock was dead? Even if she thought he was still alive, wouldn’t she know he wasn’t in London? She had to be kidding. But John met her eyes, they seemed earnest. Wearily, he turned to Mycroft. The man was looking at him imploringly, practically willing the doctor to go along with whatever this was. John turned back to Annora.
“Our latest case? We were looking for two kidnapped children.”
“Fascinating. Did you find them?” She sounded genuinely interested.
“Oh, yeah. Got them safely back to their mother,” the door opened. “.... relatively unharmed.” Tea was here. A middle-aged lady, who John assumed was June set the service on the coffee table and left. Annora began to sit up, but Mycroft made a placating motion and began fixing everyone’s teas.
“So,” Annora fixed her icy blue eyes back on John. “How long did it take him to solve it?”
“Uhh, I’m not sure the exact time...”
“The reason I ask is when Sherlock was younger, he used to boast to me how quickly he’d deduced whatever case or mystery. He’d compete against his previous times when cases had similar qualifications. He loved to tell me when he had bested himself,” she smiled at the memory. John wondered when was the last time the matriarch had spoken to Sherlock. It was two and a half months since the his faked his death, but John knew having been so busy with cases and then Moriarty’s trial Sherlock would not have made time for family, it must have been much longer. Mycroft handed John his tea.
“You know I’ve heard quite a lot about you,” Annora continued, still speaking to John over her teacup. “Sherlock’s friend. That’s a feat admittedly, no? How ever did Mycroft convince him to let you out of his sights for a weekend?” She smiled and it reached her eyes.
He had no response to this. If Sherlock were at 221B, there was no foreseeable way he would be sitting here. John shrugged.
“I have no idea. You’ll have to ask him.” The matriarch turned to the elder Holmes, who smiled sweetly. Annora scoffed.
“I guess, I’ll never know,” she sipped her tea. “What are you doing out here though, John?”
“John is providing some insight on a project I have, Mummy,” Mycroft supplied.
“Really?” Annora asked flatly. “Well, I will be expecting him to come and visit me when he is not in your consul,” she set her tea in its saucer. “It can get awfully lonely out here, doctor, and certainly rather dull,” the matriarch admitted mournfully.
“I’d love to,” John grinned.
“Well, then. If you boys don’t mind, I really would love to finish this book before dinner.”
Once they stepped into the hallway and out of sight of the Annora, John grabbed Mycroft’s sleeve.
“Are you out of your mind?” John was outraged, but spoke in hushed tones. “You didn’t tell her that Sherlock faked his death? That he’s not even in England?”
“She’s in a very delicate state of health, doctor. I thought you might understand how tenuous her grip on life is.”
John set his jaw. Though the Holmes matriarch appeared quite well, he knew that this was probably not the case a majority of her days. That it was probably a lot of the Holmes’ bravado and she was not likely to be reading as she said but napping; completely exhausted from the front she put on for John and her son.
“So, what happens when she’s her deathbed and wants to see her other son?”
“Clearly, she won’t be able to,” Mycroft answered flatly, his face had done that same thing Sherlock’s would do if John would push him too hard in a direction of human emotion, empathy; it got cold, icy, and locked him out.
Mycroft turned and began to walk down the dark hallway.
“Wait. You mean to say that, you are not planning on giving Sherlock and your mother a final goodbye?”
“Give them?” Mycroft rounded on John, expression hard. “How does it fall to my responsibility that Sherlock has run off with that psychopath? He knew she was sick when he left.”
“I meant that you have the means. You could get him back in time.” Mycroft’s eyes got big as he raised his eyebrows, proceeding to look down his nose at the doctor.
“Could I?” John was not stupid, he could hear the derision. But his point was valid.
“Yes, and get rid of the Moriarty problem once and for all.” Mycroft chuckled, the laugh had a hard edge to it.
“I don’t think you can see what’s really happening here, doctor,” Mycroft paused and his expression changed, a slight sadness fell in. “Yes, of course, I could get him out. If he wanted out. But he doesn’t John.”
“What are you doing?”
“Making a bomb. Thought that was obvious.” It wasn’t even eight in the morning and Jim already had plans. Of course.
“I meant for what?” Sherlock’s question took on a slightly clipped tone in reaction to Jim’s derisive lilt.
“Oh!” the criminal sighed dopily, like he hadn’t known what the detective had meant with to begin with, like it was a silly misunderstanding and not a game. Then he giggled and dropped the façade entirely. “This bad boy is going to take down a certain gentleman’s club,” Jim wrapped the copper ends of a wire on to the timer.
Red. Green. Sherlock eyed the trappings for Jim’s bomb which were laid out over the living room coffee table, with the criminal sitting cross-legged underneath it. Yellow. White. A gentleman’s club.
“Oh.” Jim was going to blow up the Diogenes Club. “I rather like that place.” It was his next move against the Ice Man. Very nice, clever. Mycroft cared a great deal for the club. He was one of its founders after all. And then there were all the various statesmen who frequented it. Loosing them would create a great deal of chaos.
“Yes, well, we are still on with the whole destroying Mycroft gambit?” Jim didn’t really need to ask and Sherlock didn’t deign him with an answer. It was just a subtle reminder that concessions had to be made to win a war.
“How are you going to get it in?”
“I have a man....”
“Oh, of course, you do.” Jim grinned, but turned his attention back to the task in front of him.
“Where will you have him put it?”
“The floor plans right over there and I have the location marked.” Sherlock leaned over the papers.
“Do you think it will kill-” Sherlock breaks off and Jim appraises the detective over the tweezers he’s picked up.
“He won’t be anywhere near the blast radius.” Sherlock’s eyes flick back catching the criminal’s gaze, which Jim holds before turning back to his work, saying before the detective asks. “He’s in Suffolk.”
Visiting your mum. Jim didn’t need to say it.
“Oh,” Sherlock intoned. Sherlock certainly hadn’t forgotten that his mum was dying, no. He was just distracted. With other things. With Jim. With chaos. And mother dying, that was a great deal less exciting. It was all rather boring, actually. Dying. That’s what people do? Right. Still, he had done such a good job of putting the knowledge away, in a box, out of sight, in the back of his mind. And now Jim had gone and brought it out. Not like it was his fault...but still. Still. She was his mother. But they weren’t, had never been, close enough for it to really affect him. But still.
“I was thinking, when I’m done with this we could go-”
“Mmmm,” Jim scrunched up his face, looking down at his work. “About five minutes.”
“I’ll get dressed, then.”
Sherlock needed to move. He needed to go out. He needed to walk. It was ironic how he always took for granted being able to be in the city. To feel the city. It breathing all around him. Always moving. Something always happening somewhere. He hadn’t realized how much he missed having it at his fingertips, within a few steps from his chemistry lab. Granted walking around Los Angeles could in no way compare to London, but it would have to do.
Jim puts the final touches on his bomb and texts Moran the specifics for the man in London. He tells the colonel that he and the detective are going out. Only contact him if it was an absolute emergency, otherwise Jim was going to have a new belt made out of a rare and endangered species of disgraced colonel.
As Sherlock leads them down one street and up another, Jim doesn’t say much. An idle comment here, a sarcastic remark about some observation there, but mostly Jim was just shadowing Sherlock around. He seemed to understand on some level that Sherlock needed this. Jim seemed to be fine experiencing the city with him. He’d certainly never done this in L.A. before. So, it was a totally new experience, he walked around Florence like this once. Of course, his walk ended in a crime of opportunity...He stole a two-hundred year old painting.
They turn a corner and its a street of outdoor cafes and bustling shops and Jim suggests that they do that cause some trouble.
He asks Sherlock to think of something they can do, something clever. Looking up at the detective with those eyes that in the California sun have gone a dark honey. It’s a dare. A challenge.
Sherlock looks at Jim for half a second. And Jim can see him considering saying, no. That no, that’s not why he wanted to go for a walk. Jim can see this and is almost disappointed. He dearly loves to push people, Sherlock in particular. But if the detective doesn’t play along-
Then Sherlock is grinning.
By lunch the next day, something’s different about Mycroft. He appeared... distraught? John doesn’t know what to make of it. The man was fine at breakfast, his usual self at least. They ate and then Mycroft took John to the study to look at the files.
Which John did. The information the the crown has on James Moriarty was not much. Mycroft’s file was not much better, although his was titled Jim Moriarty. John did not see the importance of distinction but there was one all the same. The mark of a true clueless report was lack of redacted blocks of blacked-out text. John found only one in the entirety of the crown’s file. And it was only to protect an informant’s name. Really though, it only took him the short hours till lunch to purouse both sets of data. They didn’t provide much more of a picture about the criminal than what John had seen first hand. Which was terribly disappointing; he had been hoping for something else...
He wondered why Mycroft had even brought him out here for this. Clearly, the man knew that the files would not help in the slightest. Well, John supposed Mycroft did try to warn him, maybe the elder Holmes knew that John would not have let go to the issue until he was able to see the absence of information himself.
So, the doctor came out to lunch rather disappointed but fully prepared to demand of Mycroft why he couldn’t just come out with the real reason he had John doing this detectiving. Except here was the elder Holmes acting off.
“Did something happen?” John hazards. He’d been a little too wrapped up in the files to get online and check the latest news feeds.
For all their disagreements and Mycroft’s divulging of Sherlock’s secrets to a dangerous psychopath, John certainly doesn’t hate the man. Even if he hasn’t exactly let that one particular transgression go, he still likes the elder Holmes well enough. Mycroft is very much Holmes’ brother, difficult to work against- or even with- and widely misunderstood. A man, though not without his own devices, loved his brother; but John could see, even John could see, that for the game he was playing Mycroft didn’t hide that fact as well as he should. Case and point proven with Jim Moriarty.
John also knows that very little could ruffle the feathers of the elder Holmes, so what is it?
“Yes.” Mycroft straightens himself and looks John in the eye like he tends to do. “They blew up my club.”
“Sherlock and Moriarty blew up the Diogenes Club,” Mycroft elaborated.
“How many were injured?”
“A lot,” Mycroft sighs. John figures the many dead statesmen were probably the goal. Or was there even a goal? But then again Mycroft was there quite a bit...
“What if you had been there?”
“I’m not sure that would have mattered, but there’s no real way of knowing without asking them, is there?”
“Maybe you should,” John suggests and the look Mycroft is sending him causes him to amend with: “At least, ask Sherlock.”
“To what point?” Mycroft was speaking slowly, considering. He sounds a bit like he did when he asked John to convey an apology to Sherlock. “It’s not like Sherlock will give me a straight answer anyways.”
“I don’t think you are giving him enough credit,” John says, clipped. “You should at least try.”
“Oh, John. So touchingly loyal to my brother aren’t you?” Mycroft is musing now. John continues to stare at the elder Holmes. “You think I can just convince him to stop? Convince them to stop?”
John rolls his eyes.
“You have to do something. This is getting ridiculous. They’re on a killing spree. What more evidence do you need? Find a way to put an end to this madness!”
Mycroft says nothing and John can’t take it anymore. He gets up and stocks out. Because how many lives will it take for Mycroft to do something.
Mycroft knew a great deal more about Jim than what was in the report he gave to John. It wasn’t that he was deliberately hiding the information from the doctor, he simply had never written those things down and never would.
For this information told a history he would rather forget he initiated. The course of events that led to his brother’s fall; a story that left his nation in ashes and him holding the match. A history he was ashamed of. Because as much as Mycroft loved his brother, he loved his country more. And now England was in jeopardy. He had assumed that his protective nature over Sherlock might get him into hot water, naturally something he could get out of. But this mess, this he had never anticipated.
For the longest time Mycroft had been concerned that one day he might end up on a different side than his brother. That Sherlock would step over a line somewhere and continue walking. His brother hadn’t felt a duty to country like the elder Holmes had. Hadn’t felt a particular allegiance to England or any to other government. Thought the whole lot was a waste of time. Uninteresting and unimportant. So it had always been a danger that Sherlock might go off somewhere Mycroft could not follow. The younger Holmes had always been kidding himself when he said they were on different sides. On some things, yes. But never on things that really counted.
Never until now.
There had always been the danger of it though. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been shocking to find that one of the more notable instances involved Moriarty, well Jim before he was Jim Moriarty. Many years ago, Jim had gone looking for the boy who wouldn’t shut up about those bloody shoes. Carl Powers’ tennies. Looking for Sherlock. Mycroft had been younger, brasher, and less experienced. Cocky, maybe, a little. He had taken a cursory glance at Jim, at what he appeared to be, and decided that he was no good for his brother. No good at all. But Mycroft didn’t realize what Jim was hiding under his many masks; the thing he had lurking under his skin.
Mycroft had seen a barely-twenty-know-it-all; finger nails metaphorically dirty and knuckles run red, from pulling himself to university by scholarship. Jim was seen an individual utterly consumed by the idea of success, condemning himself to failure through recklessness. The boy was arrogant, like his brother in too many ways. He had been kicked out of his university and stranded aimless in London, Jim started poking around. Mycroft saw trouble. Sherlock, already into the drugs, already spinning off his axis, didn’t need this loose canon of a fuck-up interfering; god knew how he heard of Carl Powers’ death or why he was looking for the boy who doubted it’s accidental nature. Mycroft could only control so many variables in his brother’s precarious world. Allowing Jim to find his brother would just have led to a wasted expenditure of time regulating their interactions; time that the elder Holmes needed to get Sherlock clean, to get him a purpose, an occupation. He didn’t need yet another anchor dragging him down.
Mycroft seeing only this, executed moves to keep them apart. He put Sherlock in rehab, again; sent misdirections Jim’s way and when the boy kept looking, started cutting his connections. A cold war; he never met Jim but he had to get rid of this nuisance, who’s orbit was steadily getting closer to his brother. Nothing permeant, of course. At the time, Mycroft hadn’t really understood the uses of death. And even if he had, of what he’d seen of James Moriarty, the elder Holmes wouldn’t have thought it necessary. Later, he would cringe at how naive he’d been.
He orchestrated for Jim’s appointment to station master of a train stop far from London. Far from Sherlock. At the time Mycroft actually thought he was being generous. Jim was beginning to melt into the underbelly of London; if Mycroft didn’t deal with this now, he foresaw Jim had the potential to lure Sherlock further into the dark. Combine macabre murders, drugs, and genius, and one got an irresistible combination he knew would draw his brother down the rabbit hole he would die in. So, the elder Holmes, who’s name even in the early days had considerable reach, dangled the train job in front of the failed student, to keep him out of crime and away from his brother.
Any normal person in Jim’s position would have been grateful for the security offered by the career. But Jim was not ordinary. He had more than begun to bleed into the underworld. In a few more years, he would be the London underworld. Not even twelve months later authorities were beginning to see trends correlating rises in crime and the rail systems of Britain. Ironic, Mycroft didn’t connect the dots.
The elder Holmes thought that Jim had gone away for good. Had even been foolish enough to forget about him. And that was how this whole mess started. He hadn’t been tidy about it; hadn’t bothered to cover up his interferences. Never thought anyone would care to look. He’d underestimated Jim though. Hadn’t looked at him hard enough. But Jim had looked for Mycroft and found his intent; nefarious. There was no greater transgression for Jim than standing between him and his goal. How could Mycroft have known that this seemingly insignificant boy would grow into the greatest threat ever posed against Sherlock since heroin; against Britain since the Soviet Russia?
Jim came back and this time Mycroft saw him for what he really was, too late, saw him in all his twisted depraved brilliance as Jim Moriarty, and now it was not just war on Mycroft but war on Britain as well. As a lesson, as a reminder for Mycroft to mind his own business; Jim Moriarty would take Mycroft’s love, his country, he’d take it with that infernal smirk in his eyes, not on his lips, he’d take and set it on fire right in front of Mycroft, because he could. Because Mycroft was in his way. Had always stood in his way and because Jim Moriarty did not forgive. He did not forget. He planned, destroyed.
This was always the story between the two of them. The elder Holmes misjudged Jim and the criminal would hit him; hard. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Jim was made of something that even Mycroft couldn’t break. Or rather couldn’t decipher. Something that Sherlock thought he could. Mycroft knew he was wrong, though. But he also knew that his brother would never know his folly. Because Jim liked the detective, but they would both burn out soon. It had always been the elder Holmes self-appointed charge to keep his younger brother alive as long as possible. It was why he sent Jim away to begin with. Why he spent nights by his brother’s hospital bed. Why he worried, constantly.
Sitting alone at the dinning table, he had come up with a metaphor he thought was very apt.
Mycroft had given himself the arduous task of rolling his considerably large boulder of a brother up the metaphorical mountain of integration with society. No one else was willing to haul Sherlock up, attempt to give him some normalization; Mycroft was the only one. Up, up, up, up the hill. It was a battle every step. Mycroft was determined, though on occasion he’d forget why he was taking the trouble with such a thankless task. He’d often remember quickly and always continued pushing. He was making progress. The appearance of a certain army doctor, who’s form could be likened to solid stone ground; made it easier for Mycroft to drive Sherlock, he no longer got stuck in the grass or mud. And with the doctor’s help he was almost to his goal; Sherlock was operating within various spheres of society autonomously. He had a purpose, gained a friend. And then Jim came. Jim was a rainstorm, he made the stone Mycroft was standing on slick and the elder Holmes lost his footing, slipped up; lost his grip on his brother. And in that moment the rain rushed Sherlock away, all the way back down the hill. And Mycroft sprawled on high, stared down in abject horror.
This was where the elder Holmes was, right then. Utterly exhausted from this decades long uphill battle, only to have victory stolen from him in the near final moments by a charlatan. Even if he could make it down the hill, did he posses the strength to begin the exercise again. He was unsure. He doubted. Sherlock had never tasted a drug quite like this one before. Mycroft had thought the heroin was a trial; but to ween him off of this? Mycroft doubted. This business with the club put it all into perspective. Sherlock was really at the bottom of the hill. All that prodding, he had tried to keep Sherlock from straying for so many years, close to fifteen years work. Then Jim Moriarty sweeps though and ruins all that effort; effort not only to keep Sherlock alive, in more ways than one, but to keep him from falling off the edge.
But then that was what Jim was. Ruin personified.
Mycroft was resigned.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It was under the pretense of work that the criminal had convinced the detective into a tux. Under the promise of some excitement, they were going to the opera.
Jim had arranged to sell some stolen files at a performance of La bohème.
In the back of the car on the way to the Segerstrom Concert Hal, the criminal turns to Sherlock. “This man we’re meeting tonight has tried to double-cross me previously.” Sherlock finds it odd that the man is still alive. “Okay, well, he’s never actually tried yet,” Jim amends. “He had a plan once, but called it off.”
“You kept him around because he was useful.”
“And he’s going to try again?”
“Probably,” Jim looked out the window. “Probably tonight.”
“Right. I assume you’re not walking to this blind?”
“Oh, I have something planned,” Jim’s lip quirked up, but that was it. He kept watching the buildings pass. “An example must be made, after all...but only if he tries something...” Musing, he turned back to Sherlock, “If inspiration strikes, feel free to jump in.”
Sherlock nodded absently. He wasn’t really in the mood for that now, besides Jim’s work was exquisite all by it’s self.
Standing in the lobby of the concert hall, they were waiting for the appearance of a Steve Warner. A middle man from the Milenio Cartel come to the golden state in search of information on the regulation and search of shipping tankers in the northern port cities of the United States and Canada; information he hired Moriarty to collect. Clearly, the drug smugglers were going to try a new route into the viable markets of the Northwest. Formerly, it had been in the cartel’s best interest to keep Jim alive. But they changed their minds when he started seriously putting effort into building his criminal empire, rather than only taking consulting jobs that interested him.
Next to the detective, Jim was making these little tweaks, constantly moving. It was a thing he did whenever there was the possibility of danger and excitement. Adjustment of posture, rocking on his heels. But you’d have to really be looking at him to know he was moving at all. Still, the detective noticed.
This was going to be fun.
Jim places his hand on the crook of the detective’s elbow.
“Would you look at this,” he says lowly, directing Sherlock’s attention toward two men approaching them. “He brought a friend. Excellent.”
“Ah, Mr. Moriarty,” The rounder man greeted, reaching out a to hand shake.
“Mr. Warner,” Jim slips on this Detroit accent, Americanizing his words and emphasizing the ‘uh’ in Warner. Months ago the first time this had happened, the detective had to do a double take. The criminal was pitch perfect. On the rarer occasions that they met clients, Jim liked to play at being from anywhere. One day he was from Glasgow, the next Bristol. He did a fine Russian, had convincingly pulled off Australian despite his deathly pallor, and there was, of course, that Newport Harbor incident. South African and he decided to bring a machete to complete the effect. (A prop they laughed about later, like Jim would actually get his hands dirty when he could delegate the task. It was really funny.) So, having seen this before, it was not unexpected but still uncanny. Shifting accents and personas was just something Jim did. He certainly was not lying when he said he was the storyteller.
“This is my associate Mr. Valencia.”
“Brother of the-”
“You are well informed, Mr. Moriarty,” Valencia cut in.
“I wasn’t aware you’d be joining us.”
“Well, Mr. Valencia was just checking up on some business at my office earlier today. He’s here for the weekend, you see, and well, I thought, ‘why not show him a good time and get some work done too?’”
“Kill two birds with one stone or something like that?” Jim, mysteriously pleasant.
“Yes. I was hoping that we could settle this business before the performance, if you wouldn’t mind?”
“Of course,” the criminal leads the cartel men from the lobby, through the lounge, and into a private salon. In the center of the small room, was a rectangular table; at which Moriarty and Valencia sat at the heads. And the plethora of security filed in along the edges, standing somewhat awkwardly. When Sherlock sat down at the table to the left of the criminal, Warner asked:
“Oh, how inconsiderate of me. This is my associate, Mr. Holmes.”
“Right.” Sherlock knew it was unlikely that these men had heard the commotion in the English media about Richard Brook and the Fall of the great Sherlock Holmes, not that it would have mattered much if they had. He got the feeling Jim was being facetious, but he couldn’t tell with him hidden, wearing the skin of this Detroit native. Getting right to business, each party took out their respective sets of paper, the files and the money. The criminal passed his report to Warner, who handed it to Valencia. The drug dealer proceeded to flip through the first pages of the stack, nodding and looking generally pleased.
“This will be instrumental in the furthering of our operation,” Valencia stated diplomatically. “We greatly appreciate your effort.”
“It was no problem at all,” Jim answered, holding up a bundle of hundreds to count. For show, Sherlock noted. “No problem at all.”
“But, now, I’m afraid you’ll have to go with Ruben here.”
“Why?” Pretending to be witless, Sherlock was mildly impressed. But then the audience wasn’t exactly the most discerning, so anything would have done, really. But this was Jim, so it was convincing.
“He is going to drive to the middle of the desert and there he is going to kill you. I hope you understand how saddened I am by having to do this, Mr. Moriarty. You were such a helpful asset to our operation. But now you are becoming a problem.” The criminal makes a production of taking a deep breath; of slipping on this ‘oh, I’m about to die’ act. He takes another.
“Could I make a last request?” Valencia made an imploring gesture. “One last drink?” The criminal added a scoff of a pathetic, semi-pleading laugh.
“What a fine idea,” he half-laughs. “In fact, let us all have a drink,” Valencia called over a waiter and ordered a round of ...he looked at the consultant, who supplied: whiskey. They sat in awkward silence till the waiter came back; Sherlock’s suspicions were confirmed that this was a man he’d seen reporting to Jim previously. He placed the shots in front of each man respectively.
“A toast to the end of your budding empire, Mr. Moriarty.” Sherlock raised an eyebrow. Budding? This guy didn’t know anything.
“Indeed,” the criminal agreed, stiffly. They threw the alcohol back. A round of wincing ensued.
And then Steve Warner began to cough. Sherlock noticed how he tried, initially, to hold it in; to not make a scene. Probably didn’t want to upset the effect Valencia had created. But after about thirty seconds, he had to let it out. He coughed violently, attempting to rid himself of whatever was tickling his throat quickly. But he kept coughing. He couldn’t stop. At first, Valencia looked annoyed, but then it when it became apparent that this was much more than a simple clearing of the throat, a stroke of concern appeared. Moriarty’s face was completely impassive to the scene unfolding, but Valencia wasn’t at a moment of suspicion yet. He wasn’t looking at the criminal now.
Then it came. Warner coughed up a handful of blood in to his fingers. Valencia recoiled, aghast. He yelled in Spanish to his bodyguards to get a doctor. Nobody moved. Warner continued coughing, as again Valencia tried to order his men to get help; to do something. The commands grew more biting with threats and scathing insults, but still his security remained stoic. Warner collapsed on the table, coughs still wracking his body. Out of his gaping mouth, spilled gargling red, which then began to seep into the white of table cloth.
Only then did Valencia think to look at Moriarty. No doubt, he was expecting the consultant to be in a state of horrified silence, staring at the dying man, mouth slightly ajar. Instead, he found the criminal's face completely blank and a look in his eyes that left little doubt as to how Warner came to be choking on blood. In seeing that look, Valencia gave this involuntary shutter. Clearly, this man had ordered the original hit on Moriarty as he was the current head of the cartel, he was the person this example was meant to benefit. He would see first hand, and live to tell the tale; because what was the point of making an example if no one could spread the word, the warning, the fear?
“It would be wise for you to stop trying to kill me.”
Moriarty gave a slight nod of the head and suddenly a red dot of a sniper rifle flickered onto Valencia’s heart. The price you pay for not checking the rafters.
“I hope you understand how saddened I am by having to do this, Mr. Valencia. We had such a mutually beneficial relationship,” The criminal threw it back into the man’s face, mocking in a slow and measured Michigander cadence. The red dot held steady on the drug runner’s chest.
“Your cartel is now my cartel. Your men are mine. You will cooperate with me and stay out of my way OR,” Moriarty tipped his to the side, but maintained eye contact. “Or, well, I’m sure you can figure it out. But let me clarify the particulars,” his empty eyes cutting into the drug runner. “Not only will I kill you, your wife, and your kids. I’m thinking immolation,” he gives a little shrug. “Not only will they die, painfully, of course, but I will kill your brother also.” The criminal doesn’t really pause to give the man time to think. “No, not the brother in Sing-Sing. No, no, your youngest brother, the one who’s at Yale right now. Yes, of course, I know about him. Please, it wasn’t like you were exactly trying hard to cover the family ties,” Moriarty sighs exacerbated, it was too easy, leaning back somewhat. “Are we clear?”
“ARE WE CLEAR!?” The criminal shouts leaning across the short table.
“Yes,” the drug dealer chokes out.
Moriarty’s lip curls in distain, as he stands up from the table, and turning his head back to the drug dealer.
“I advise you to move forward with the new mode of transport for the drugs. Oh and buy Chinese tankers,” he turns to one of the guards. “Got the time?”
“8:10.” Jim shoulders deflate and he sighs dramatically. He turned to Sherlock, still refusing to drop the pretense of being a Detroit native.
“We’re late,” and proceeded to waltz out of the salon without a second glance backwards. Sherlock followed suit. He found Jim standing in the empty lobby.
Before they got to the concert hall, Jim had been bragging how he had secured front-row seats on the floor. Literally in the action, he had enthused. Sherlock would be lying if he said he was not excited to see this opera.
“Do you still want to watch this?” Jim turns to Sherlock, clearly hoping the detective would say yes.
“Of course,” Sherlock grinned.
Notice: I would just like to reiterate for those who have not seen the note on my profile. The reason I have not been posting this month is because I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel. Typing as well as writing with old school pen and ink is a great deal more painful than it should be. It had been coming on for a bit, but at the end of last month; it just got exponentially worst. So, I am continuing to work on the story. And unless I die, there will be an ending. It may take a while to get there. Bare with me.
It was from behind the winning hand, that the colonel watched the criminal and the detective try and read each other’s tells.
It was a right laugh, actually.
They were, of course, fantastic liars. Jim, the storyteller, practically did it for a living and Sherlock, well, he was just as good. But Sebastian knew that there was more to cards than brilliant poker faces. Not only did you have to know how to read people, but you also had to keep yourself in check. Realize when you were giving something away and cover it up; hiding weaknesses that revealed themselves without your knowledge.
The colonel was a smart man, though that fact was frequently overlooked because he was always standing behind the most brilliant man in the room, in any room; he in no way could ever compare to the consultants’ levels of intelligence. Counting cards and cheating, while still appearing to be legitimate was, however, a study that Sebastian had invested in from a young age. More the inadvertent result of boredom than anything else; it was the reason he could hold his own against the consultants if they played and, on occasion, even win. There had been plenty of time to improve his skills in the dusty desert, waiting, waiting, waiting for something to kill. Then the tiger and more waiting. All that time improving a skill he had since secondary school and the hallowed halls of Eton. The smell of old stone, musty books, the sunlight catching on dust as it fell through the window panes, and plenty of rich young men with no young women to chase. Fuckin’ clichés. Naturally, the old boys turned to cards to fill their time and Sebastian got good. Real good and he ended up swindling them all out of a large portion of their allowances. It was different kind of boredom than he’d seen Jim experience.
Even after all these years of playing each other, the colonel knew barely a handful of Jim’s tells. The sneaky bastard reviewed his actions constantly, adjusted them accordingly or left the little ticks; that he very well could have put there in the first place, to later use against the colonel, when convenient. But that was only if Jim played as himself. Sometimes the criminal would adopt another personality, these fully-fleshed out characters- people- with varying degrees of skill bluffing or cards in general. He’d put up fake fronts and randomly switch between them without any discernible pattern. He’d switch after a hand, a game, sometimes not even returning to himself till hours after they finished. A chatty-cathy socialite, a drunken business man, a school teacher, a fisherman, their maid. One time he even pretended to be Sebastian; mirrored his every tell. It was the best play, the colonel didn’t realize what Jim was doing till half way though the second hand. When he did, it threw him so far off, he lost count. And afterward, that knife smile. Jim was the most unnerving thing.
It was safe to say that the criminal didn’t mind cards, which probably had to do with the undeniable fact that he was good. So, every once in a while Sebastian had been able to convince Jim to play a round or twelve against him. Poker, usually. But they were playing Bullshit now, because it was harder to count. Not impossible, but a great deal more difficult with lying built in as a part of the game. Actually, it was Bullshit now because the detective couldn’t count cards and Jim didn’t want some excuse like cheating later when he won, or so he said.
The colonel placed two kings on the discard pile and said as much.
Jim acted ever so slightly different around the detective. It would be an imperceptible difference to anyone who didn’t know the criminal. But Sebastian did and he saw it quite clearly.
Baring the fact that no one else had ever been this close to Jim, he’d never seen the criminal make concessions for anyone. He did for Sherlock. Never to his face, no, of course, no, they were made covertly. Worn on his many facades, as if these new rules had always been in place.
Seb, no smoking.
Before the Fall, Sebastian could smoke when and where he wanted. Just so long as the ash didn’t get on things or interfere with his work. It didn’t. Ever. But still, Jim threw it out the window, as a curtesy to the detective. And it wasn’t just the cigarettes.
Before the Fall, the criminal wouldn’t shut up about Watson. Always complaining, bemoaning the man’s existence or raging to Sebastian of his influence on the detective. But when Sherlock came with them to L.A., this came to a full stop. He rarely ever even mentioned the doctor’s name, let alone go on the rants he did formerly. Which made sense, Jim didn’t want the detective getting homesick, but that didn’t make it any less weird. At the end of the day, Sebastian wondered why he was even attempting to typify the criminal’s behavior.
And last night, when they were driving to the opera, Jim had given Sherlock free reign to alter his evening’s plans. Jim giving permission for someone to change his plans, without first conferring with him? Unheard of. He’d seen Jim kill people for deviation from his plan; for something as small as forgetting to cross a t or dot an i.
But the biggest thing, was these times when Jim would put Sherlock before himself. Never in all his employment with the criminal had Sebastian seen the man place anyone before himself. But there he went doing it for the detective; who, the colonel was pretty sure, didn’t even realize. It was possibly funny. The detective had taken his turn and was now watching Jim closely.
“Three twos,” the criminal placed the cards on the pile.
“Bullshit,” the colonel called. Jim petulantly turned to Sebastian, giving the man a dead look, as he picked up the whole discard pile. The colonel just grinned and played his turn. Then Sherlock recklessly played his four hand, which Jim called him on and the detective picked up the few cards in the pile.
From all the surveillance that Jim had Sebastian do on the inhabitants of 221b Baker Street, the colonel noticed something different about the detective’s behavior too. When Holmes was around his doctor, the inspector, the brother, even their landlady, he was obstinate. Usually looking to pick a fight because, as Jim would say, he was bored out of his mind. This isn’t to say that he didn’t do that now, because he certainly did on occasions. But where formerly at Baker Street, Sherlock was always restless to some degree, save when he was on an investigation; here that was severely less so. By simply being around Jim, Sherlock reached the level of calm and clarity he’d achieve on a case; because the criminal challenged him almost constantly. He’d watch Jim. Actually, they’d both watch each other, when they thought - or rather- when they were sure the other would not notice or say anything of it. Sherlock seemed to be trying, still trying to figure Jim out, even after whatever understanding they had reached on the roof. Always observing.
Another thing, he’d never snipe at Jim. Sebastian could not have counted, if he tried, the number of times the detective had insulted the intelligence of any of his supposed friends and acquaintances. The detective’s lack of disparaging remarks was towards Jim was nothing less than an act of god. Well, no that wasn’t entirely true, there was a couple times where the detective insulted Jim’s plan. Never Jim himself though and certainly never his intelligence. And, of course, other times he would go along with Jim’s plans, sometimes not even questioning them in the slightest. In his many months of reconnaissance, never had the colonel seen such a display of....respect?....fuck, even agreement from the detective. Not once. But here he was doing it for Jim.
This respect was mutual, their fascination with each other was mutual. Something that, to the colonel’s knowledge, had never been extended to another human being. That had to count for something, perhaps it was part of what balanced out their relationship. But the fact that this dynamic was all new to the consultants made Sebastian weary of an explosion. Then again months had passed and they were still getting on fine.
Two turns later and Sebastian only had one card. As he passed turn after turn, he was fairly certain the Jim knew what card he was holding. Sebastian had to be careful, he might seem to be victor but the game wasn’t over yet. Jim could easily flip the tables and reverse their positions in a few deft moves. One slip up and he’d loose. Moran didn’t really care for loosing. So, he waited for the opportunity to play the card properly.
“What card do you think that is?” Sherlock poses Jim suddenly. Ready to take in the criminal’s analysis of Sebastian’s hand and then double-analyze Jim’s answer for implications that would hopefully reveal the criminal himself. He might be banking on Jim turning the tables as much as Sebastian was. He probably had a plan of his own.
“It’s the queen of spades,” Jim states, sounding bored, not even flicking a glance to the colonel, as he lays down the last card on the discard pile face-up. Queen of Spades. Jim sets down his hand and picks up his drink taking a sip. He’s still watching the detective, even with the game over. No, watching was not the right word for it. Dissecting might be more appropriate. And it would be creepy if Sherlock wasn’t doing exactly the same thing back. Gaze not wavering; not breaking to see the big reveal wasted, Jim being right wasted, all because they were too busy watching each other. Yep, this game was not the point here. Once, Jim had told Sebastian in annoyed pedantic, that the Game was never the point. That it was more than just a game, not just an alleviation from daily tedium. That it was just a means to an end, albeit an entertaining means, a means no less. When Sebastian had then asked ‘to what end?’ Jim had hung up on him. It was the equivalent of him saying: Sebastian you never cease to disappoint me. Well, Jim’s goal was clear now.
Sebastian wondered when, if ever, the consultants would act on the seething erotism that exponentiated between them. This was not the first time the colonel had been struck by this thought. Actually, he was surprised they hadn’t jumped each other yet.
John leaves the house. He follows this little path that winds down to the sand.
He needs a breath from Annora. It’s nothing to do with the fact that she will die very soon. No, John is doctor, a professional. It’s nothing to do with that. It’s the stories she tells about Sherlock.
He doesn’t want to hear them.
But he can’t tell her that. She thinks that the detective and him are thick as thieves. That it is all very entertaining to hear about the one time Sherlock ‘accidentally’ fed the dog some chemicals from his laboratory kit. About what a fuss it had caused when they thought the animal was dead for an hour, only to be startled when it suddenly awoke from its paralysis and walked off.
He sits down in the sand, facing the sea. The calming sea. What’s best about the spot he picks is that there’s nobody really about for 250 meters either direction. However, if he wants to see people he can just walk north and he’ll run into the town and all the little children playing in the sand. Yesterday, after the argument with Mycroft, he had gone for a walk along the shore. It got him out of his anger and allowed him space to think. He could just come down and watch the waves or the kids building castles and the parents sunbathing and it was tranquil.
A break from all the assassinations and the robberies and the plots and the games and all of Moriarty’s designs and Sherlock’s brilliance but at ill use. Corrupted with lack of regulation. If only the detective had someone there to tell him-If John were there to tell him: ‘No.’ John, who expected him to- no, who Sherlock respected enough to not to want to disappoint. And he would not. But that wasn’t it either. Sherlock didn’t mind disappointing John. And wasn’t that disappointing?
He’d love to give the detective the benefit of a doubt. After all, he’d had briefly considered that maybe Mycroft made the whole thing up. That Sherlock was dead. That Moriarty was dead. And that John just needed something to do. Something to take his mind off the loss and give him a purpose, again. Well, that argument was refuted by the photographs of a still very alive Sherlock with the criminal in Mycroft’s Moriarty file. Clearly, recently shot and in California climate.
The doctor ponders what he’d been wondering since last week and the files of crimes. He wonders what was real. Never thought he would actually ever do that. Not when it came to Sherlock. Not with the Richard Brook fiasco. He wonders just how much Sherlock knew before he jumped off that roof? Did he know that Moriarty would still be alive? Did he know that the criminal would seek him out? Had they planned this from the moment John left the lab before the Fall?
He’d sworn to himself in those days before Sherlock’s jump that he would never doubt the man, but now?
He was swimming in doubt.
John wants to beat some sense into Sherlock. The man clearly needed it. But, if they were to meet again, John is fairly certain he would be able restrain himself for long enough to let Sherlock try to explain himself. Maybe, maybe Sherlock is deep undercover. Maybe he is working with Moriarty to know how to better take him down and destroy his empire. Yes, surely that was this all was. He hopes that was all this was...but John also has a distinct feeling that contradicts this most likely false hope. It’s odd and cold and a bit sharp, and it’s that he will not see Sherlock again. It’s just a feeling that hedges on thought in the back of his mind.
John definitely is thinking that he probably shouldn’t have taken the week off. Shouldn’t have fallen for whatever play Mycroft was trying to get out of having him here. Sure, of course, John would prefer to imagine the elder Holmes, wanted someone to play houseguest for his mother or if he really needed an analyst for the cases, but this was Mycroft and he never would use John solely for those things. There was some other motive here. Probably to get a rise out of Sherlock. Provocation of outrage that his brother was trifling with his friend or some such. Except that was a flawed assumption on Mycroft’s part. Clearly Sherlock didn’t care about John in the slightest or he wouldn’t have gone skipping off to kill people with a fucking insane person.
John could never condone these crimes. Done out of boredom and skill. And with him. Sherlock would know that.
Yes, John knew that Sherlock had always been capable of terrible things. He’d always been flirting with a fascination of the grotesque; his interests always hanging off the edge of amorality. Eccentricities which eventually taught John that, no he did not want to know how Sherlock got those eyeballs he had for that experiment. John’s not above understanding a little contradiction. After all, his best friend could balance that out with his occasional acts of heroism. And he’d pulled the doctor out of a rather dark time. Out of a rut of disappointment and isolation. Brought him back to life with his adventures. Gave him a sense of purpose with his investigations. For that he couldn’t begrudge the man too much; everyone had their demons. But this was....Sherlock indulging himself, no more than that, worse than that. He had become a different person from the friend John knew. Brainwashed by Moriarty, he had to be. Yep. That was it.
If Sherlock cared about John, like Mycroft seemed to believe, like John had come to believe, then he would not have crossed the line of killing people for sport.
Because John’s rather staunch moral sensibilities aside, the thing that haunted the doctor most when he came back from Afghanistan was not the danger of being blown to smithereens every time he stepped out the humvee or the danger of a sniper in a tower or those suicide bombers. No, those weren’t the images he relived when he closed his eyes. Those images were reserved for the lives he could not save. The Afghan boy who would have lived had they been able to call in a medevac. The corporal who rode in the humvee behind him that took two in the chest and forty-five minutes to die and the fact that they were out of morphine again and how John couldn’t do a damn thing to ease the boy’s pain, let alone get the bullets out. These faces that would never leave him; these people he would always carry with him. That was what PTSD meant for John Watson. That was why the deaths of these innocent people pushed him over the edge and negated his otherwise unhindered ability to brush off a person’s eccentrics, even if they had been his best friend.
John stands up, brushing the sand off his pants and taking one last glance at the crashing waves before turning and taking his time walking back to the house.
It’s Sunday afternoon and he will be leaving Aldeburgh soon. In his visits with Annora John had learned some interesting things about Sherlock’s childhood; things he didn’t really need to know. It turned out Sherlock’s father had died when the detective was in his early twenties. That it had been sudden, a stroke, sure he’d been stressed during the months leading up but no one thought-
And then there was the matriarch. She’s delightful conversation. John did like her. But there were little things that didn’t add up about her. Annora had been the perfect example of what not to do as a mother. She held parties, hosted luncheons, chaired committees, was the perfect socialite. But spent only cursory hours with her children. Of course she still talked about them like she knew them. Mycroft let her keep her delusions. What was the point of correcting her? He had asked. What was the point of opening her eyes to such disappointment?
John thought that was cold, even for the elder Holmes. But then, it was after that John realized that Mycroft must actually be referring to himself as well as Sherlock. Acknowledging that he had failed as well. Mycroft was indeed to blame for a great deal of it too. Still, Sherlock’s free will shouldn’t be taken out of the equation. Mycroft’s reaction had been paralyzation; it upset John almost more. Sherlock by nature was prone to these things, but when had Mycroft ever been indecisive? The man seemed to be pandering to his brother’s whims, while people died...It was a transgression John would not take part in.
It’s twelve days to three months from when Sherlock faked his death. And yes, John was keeping track. No, he didn’t care if that was unhealthy. But he had made a decision.
When John says goodbye to Mycroft in the driveway of the estate, he tells him flat out that he will be going back to work at the hospital for a few weeks. Tells him that he needs distance, that time will give him fresh eyes. But he means he won’t be picking up a file on Moriarty or Sherlock again.
He just wants some normalcy. He was not getting that by hanging around the Holmes.
Sherlock and Jim were on a rooftop again. Only this time they weren’t alone. Sebastian was there with his rifle. It wasn’t a hospital roof either. They were on top of the Bank of Montreal, offices not the museum. Better vantage point. Moran had in his sights the three sets of double-doors that formed the front entrance of the Basilique Notre-Dame.
They were waiting for the morning service to finish. Then the colonel would take the hit as the target, a visiting Spanish cardinal, came out the church doors. Jim didn’t tell Sherlock the reason for the hit. Maybe there was no reason. But it was likely a consulting job and Jim being Jim loved the idea of a priest dying in front of a church.
So here they were. Sherlock pacing and Jim sitting on a vent, flipping through a tourist’s guide book for Quebec.
“Oooo, Sherlock! We should go to the Chalet du Mont Royal once we’ve killed the cardinal.”
“We?” Sebastian quipped, from behind the scope of his rifle. Jim continued on as if Moran hadn’t spoken, smirking.
“It says: ‘the Kondiaronk scenic lookout in front of the chalet offers a striking view of the downtown area and the St. Lawrence River.’ Doesn’t that sound nice.”
“Probably even better at night,” Sherlock noted.
“Well, the guide book says the ruddy place closes at four pm. Hurm,” Jim made a face. Sherlock shrugged.
“Like that’s ever stopped either of you,” The colonel muttered, chewing on a toothpick. He was itching for a cigarette and when he needed a smoke... If only Jim hadn’t told, ordered, him not to smoke around Sherlock....
“Do you want to go up there around nine, then?” Jim asked. The detective shrugged again. They still had nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon. “What else can we do?” Jim flipped the page, eyes scanning. “It says there are some lovely cemeteries near the lookout point.”
Sherlock sighed. Staring at headstones was boring. At least if they were looking at the city there was some degree of movement, traffic and lights. So, unless they were going to dig up the bodies, that was out.
“Have you ever killed a cardinal before?”
“What do you think?” Jim’s nose still buried in the book.
Probably, the church held power over people just like any government and because of that there were people who would pay to mold it to their own designs. A cardinal could carry a great deal of weight in the Vatican. Naturally, Jim had knocked a few off over the years....
“Were you ever religious?” The criminal looks up from the guide book with a considering expression. Sherlock knew Jim’s disposition certainly was not conducive to any organized religion, but as a young child the story might have been a bit different if Jim’s parents were Catholic.
“Because there’s such a high level of practicing Catholics in Ireland, I would just have to’ve been affected at one point?” Jim was sardonic, but Sherlock was serious. Unlike Jim, who knew so much about Sherlock’s past, the detective knew only had scant details of the criminal’s; and only from anecdotes Jim might have shared or on the rare, rare, rare occasion let slip. He did know that Jim was originally from Dublin. It was very likely that his parents were to some degree Catholic. So as a child Jim might have gone to Sunday school or mass, at least for a while. But these were all conjectures. Really, he just wanted a fuller picture of Jim Moriarty.
Sherlock waits, Jim usually doesn’t rise when baited about his past. Ironic given his gibberjacky-ness, but he doesn’t talk much of his formative years. Theories, thoughts about things in the present or near past, and plans, of course, but never his childhood and never when he began assembling his empire. That one story of how he got kicked out of uni was an oddity. Sherlock would press Jim for information and the slippery bastard would giggle and claim that it was too easy to just tell him. So this time, Sherlock waited.
“Not really myself. No, but my parents were, when it suited them,” Jim granted. “I went through the rhetoric but it never resonated in the ...proper fashion. I blame the mathematics. ”
“He went to catholic school till he moved to Brighton, you know,” Moran threw in.
“Aren’t you supposed to be watching for Oria?” Jim frowned, head snapping to where Moran was watching near the edge.
“My eyes never left the scope.” At this Jim jumped up off the vent, guide book thrown down, and in two leaps he landed, crouched down next to Moran’s head. Jim stared intently at the colonel, as if daring Moran to look anywhere but the double doors. When the colonel remained perfectly still, Jim all but growled:
“Right,” emphasizing the ‘t’ at the of end the word.
This still didn’t tell Sherlock anything he couldn’t deduce already. What were the things that put Jim where he was now? The detective didn’t know. Reminiscent of the Woman being a mystery; Jim was equally an enigma. Not because he couldn’t see the details, but because Jim was always wearing some degree of a disguise. He was such a chameleon that he could pass any facade off as his own. All the things Sherlock could infer were put there with deliberate intent.
Jim had deceived the detective in Molly’s lab because Sherlock had been distracted by the Game. After the pool, Sherlock had seen his folly. He decided to watch Jim Moriarty like a hawk. He did. The key code: a ploy. The gun in mouth: total surprise. Jim not being dead:...well this was becoming ridiculous. Sherlock prided himself on being able to read people. For all he was able to read Jim, the criminal always kept his changeability.
It was coming on three months since the Fall, a majority of that time was spent in each other’s presence; and for all their time together, Sherlock still didn’t have a steady read on Jim and he was getting the feeling that he might never. But, he resolved, that certainly didn’t mean he would not try.
“The service is over,” Sherlock noted, as patrons began spilling out the double doors. The criminal came to stand next to the detective, who’s pacing had ended near the edge. Sherlock saw he was doing his twitchy-always-moving thing. “In a few minutes....”
“...Oria should be out,” Jim finished.
“You know what you two should do?” Jim turned back to the colonel. Sebastian sometimes had interesting suggestions.
“A pub crawl,” the colonel answered.
“You’re only saying that because you want to do one,” the detective pointed out.
“Yeah,” Moran said flatly. “But you got to admit, it’s a good idea.”
“Do I?” Jim placed a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder, calling the detective’s attention to the steps of the church. A priest with a red cardinal’s sash had meandered out of the leftist set of doors, chatting idly with some congregants.
“Montreal’s pubs scene is actually quite good. Not as good as Belfast, but...” Moran lined Oria up in the crosshairs of the rifle. “Don’t try and tell me that the lights of the city won’t infinitely better plastered.”
The criminal turned to Sherlock, who shrugged his shoulders. It was an idea. He’d like to see Jim drunk, though he knew the man would not allow for such a loss of faculties without some convincing. But Sherlock could be quite persuasive. Jim shrugged in reply, thinking how funny Sherlock would be if the criminal got him utterly pissed. Jim grinned, suddenly utterly devious.
“Pull the trigger, Seb. We got some bars to hit up.”
The colonel squeezes the trigger and a millisecond later a cardinal dropped dead on the steps of the church.
John was finally back in London. It’s not exactly the same as when he left it. Something after the smoothness of the country and the quiet of the ocean, really put him in a different mood. But, to be quite honest, he is enjoying this jolt of life, real life, that the city gives him. And the hospital is just the same, he steps through those double-wide sliding doors and all it’s hectic gloriousness consumes him. But not in a mind-numbing vacant way it had a week and a half ago and the months before that. He was there. Really there.
Coming out of his second surgery, the doctor runs into a man he would rather not.
“John! Just the person I wanted to see,” Mike Stamford is grinning, in his miss-matched tie and button-down, hands in the pockets of his white doctor’s coat. Oh, god. John nods but continues walking, however the man rushes to match the doctor’s strides. “I know things have not been the best lately, saw you took a week off there,” Mike paused, and John internally groaned, wondering where the man could possibly be going with this. “So, I had this idea that might cheer you up. I know a woman who-”
“Mike, I’m not dating-” John begins to cut the man off.
“It won’t be a formal date or anything. Just coffee,” Mike assured him. John was very reluctant. “Listen, it’s just a chance to meet someone new,” John remained, unconvinced. “Come on, you need to go out and be with people. She’s a great girl. Hey! When have I steered you wrong in the past?”
“Fine,” John conceded. “Text me the time and place.”
Which was how John came to be sitting in a cafe, asking himself why he’d ever thought this had been a good idea. It was just one minute to the appointed meeting. The doctor thinks that if she doesn’t show on time, that’d be a great excuse to just leave and avoid the whole mess. This train of thought is completely derailed when an intensely beautiful woman with long black hair opens the cafe door. The light filtering through the windows in the back of cafe silhouette her figure. And John is staring. She looked like that actress from that Charlie’s Angel’s movie he finally got around to seeing a couple weeks ago. She stands near the cashier’s table and scans the booths, searching for someone. Her eyes stop when they hit John and then she bee-lines directly to him, with this wry sort of smile on her face.
“John,” the look-a-like greeted, thrusting her hand out. John noted her voice, it was vibrant.
“Gemma,” he greeted as he let go of her hand. “Could a get you a coffee?”
“That’d be lovely,” Gemma said, as she settled in opposite John, shrugging out of her coat. John signaled the waitress. Once settled, Gemma asked:
“So, you work at St. Bart’s with Mike then?”
“Yeah,” John confirmed as their waitress set down a mug and filled it with coffee. “How do you know Mike?”
“I met him at a holiday mixer for the company I work for. He’s engaged to one our secretaries.”
“Oh? Where do you work?”
“I am an ad exec for Pierce and Pierce here at the London branch,” pouring only cream in her coffee.
“Wow...Must be hectic. Do you enjoy it?”
“Yeah, it is. But I really do like it. How do you like being a doctor?”
“It’s a privilege. Treating people, Helping people. Although, lately I haven’t been interacting with patients as much as I would like. Mostly sticking to surgeries.”
“What a rush though. Saving people’s lives. That’s a lot of pressure,” she noted with a twist of the lips.
“I got a lot of practice handling high-presure situations when I was in combat.” John sipped his coffee. “Mike did mention that?”
“Yeah, he said.”
“Well, he gave me next to no details about you. Just that you were great. So, tell me a little about yourself.”
“I have a dog, named Gladstone. Who I inherited from my brother when moved back to China last fall. My parents moved us all here when I was four. Business venture. ...I work at Pierce and Pierce... I run...well, I used to run for school, but now it’s pure recreation, when I actually get around to pulling on my tennies. I live alone in a two story in Bromley. Don’t look so shocked, darling, I’m in advertising, remember.”
“I suppose, yeah. Is that too much information?” She paused, looking at John quizzically. “I have a rather frank disposition, I’m afraid. How old are you Dr. Watson?”
“Well, I’m 40. You?”
“41. I think, especially at our age, it’s to our advantage to dispense with superfluities. To be honest and cut to the heart of the situation.”
“Could we get on?”
“Ah.” John sat back. “So, you’re searching for the one.” Gemma smiled, somewhat of accent but with caveats.
“Well, I don’t really believe in soul-mates. I just think that certain people’s dispositions go better with some than other’s.
The more a person shares about them selves with the person they are interested in, the sooner they will be able to see if they are compatible. If it’s clear that the two people won’t work well together, why waste any more time?”
“That’s somewhat singleminded.”
“It’s practical,” she paused, with John still giving her a rather dubious look. “Yes, well, you can see how well it’s worked for me, still single and all,” Gemma laughed. John notes that though she made a joke of past, she was genuinely humored by it. “You don’t see the value of bonding over the little things you do everyday?
“No, I do, but...” John paused, adjusting his coffee cup looking over at her, from his considered position.
“Those aren’t enough to build a life around?” Gemma finished for him, John nodded. “I agree. The biggest thing I look for is truth. If you are honest, that’s actually half the battle in any relationship right there. Are you honest?”
“I’m terribly straight forward. So much so, sometimes I end up saying things probably I should not, yes,” a smiled tugged at both of their lips.
“So, Details about yourself, John Watson. I must know!”
“Okay, I got my degree from the University of London, I met Mike there actually. After I graduated, I joined the army. Served for two and half years, then the invasion. I went on three tours, before I was wounded while on the fourth in Afghanistan and sent back to the U.K. That’s when I met Sherlock...” Gemma gestured for more. “Let’s see, I was married once before-”
“Really? What happened?...Oh, I don’t want to pressure you too much upon first meeting....”
“No, no, her name was Mary. We met at the University of London, too. She wanted to become a school teacher. We were quite young. I was just in my residency when we met. We got married but two years later she was hit by a drunk driver and she died.” Gemma gave him a sad smile ...“How about you? Ever married?”
“I was almost married once, but then I found out he was cheating. You can imagine how that went...”
“How could anyone cheat on you?”
“He wanted to escape, I think,” she explained. “Oh, I have issues. Believe me.”
“Please, everyone has issues. What could be so terrible that this person felt the need to sleep around?”
“Well, for one, I work a lot. A lot. But I also hold very high-expectations for myself. And can...well, have become a bit depressed when I don’t meet them. If that wasn’t enough, sometimes I can extend these high expectations to my partner. It’s unfair and I know it...Especially, because I know it. I also have some unresolved ...discussions with my parents. But who doesn’t?” John could see how someone would want to avoid a person coping with depression, but that still did not justify infidelity. “What about you, doctor? What are your faults?”
That was a question that brought back memories. Talking about what people considered their faults just after introductions.... “The things I’ve seen.”
“Why do you say that?” She appeared to be carefully restraining any possible contrary judgement, wanting to hear out his reasoning.
“Have you ever heard the phrase ‘war is a drug?” She nodded. “I believe that’s true. The adrenaline, the high that I got off of it...well, once you’ve had that....” He shrugged. “So... and then there’s all the people I couldn’t save.”
That made sense. She brushed a strand of loose hair behind her ear then took a sip of coffee, as if working up to asking something. John was curious what that could be, given what they already had discussed....
“So, on to the big elephant in the room,” Gemma paused. “How are you doing?”
“Life without the detective.”
“Oh, you know about that?” Bitter sort twist took root in the corner of the doctor’s mouth.
“Yeah. When Mike told me your name, I knew it sounded familiar, ‘Bachelor John Watson’...So?”
“As well as could be expected. He was my best friend.”
“I’m sorry,” Gemma said.
“Mike was right I need to move on. Meet new people. It’s not like he’s gonna be coming back or anything so...I’m really glad I came here today. I had been reluctant, to say the least, after everything that’s happened I didn’t think I’d want to meet someone but...your candor is very refreshing.”
“Well, I like you too, John Watson.”
“I would like to see you again. Would that be alright?” She nodded, smile spreading across her face. “Are you free tomorrow night?”
“I went to an alehouse I used to frequent
And I told the landlady my money was spent
I asked her for credit she answered me ‘Nay!
Such a custom as your's I could have any day!’
And it’s no, nay, never...
No, nay, never, no more”
“Wait! Wait!” Sherlock stopped walking and turned to Jim, swaying slightly into and then away from the criminal, who reached a steadying hand to the detective’s shoulder. “You’re not clapping in time.”
Jim frowned. “You’re not supposed to clap in time. It’s a drinking song. The people who sing it are drunk. They can’t clap in time. Where did you learn your drinking songs from?” Jim looking up at Sherlock, who seemed to be composing a response. “Oh, forget it,” the criminal exhaled as he slung an arm around the detective’s shoulders, continuing to walk. They stumbled along the path that led to the chalet, arms draped awkwardly over each other’s shoulders, which given their height difference proceeded to only further throw off their already hindered ability to walk straight.
After they killed the cardinal, Sebastian took them to the first pub he saw, as per orders. It was a cinch getting away from the square that was now in panic and Jim had already disrupted the cameras that could have caught them in the act.
“Are you ready to get thoroughly sloshed?” Sebastian asks the consultants as they stepped through the door. The couple patrons that were there, drunks and retired regulars, looked at these oddities who just walked into a bar with the mid-morning intention of getting plastered, dubiously.
Jim saddles up to the bar and requests three pints of the finest lager. When Sebastian looks at him funny, Jim makes a face back at him, telling Sherlock that they should at least work their way up to the hard stuff. Besides, the ground-rules have to be laid. Once their pints are in front of them, Jim turns to the detective:
“If we’re doing this, I insist that we match each other drink for drink.” Hurm....Sherlock considers. He would have to say yes...Jim wouldn’t play otherwise. Which would be boring and pointless and then what would they do with their afternoon. So he agrees. Besides, he’s fairly assured of his tendency to be a recognizant drunk.
It was four pints in that Sherlock had a brilliant idea. Well, he always has brilliant ideas, but this one....he nudges Jim, who is watching the little bubbles rise to join the foam that was at the top of the mug.
“Have you ever had a death spasm?”
“I’m assuming you mean the drink?”
“Yes, that is the kind I’m talking about.”
“Well, I haven’t had either,” he lamented, then: “You should order two, for us.”
Sherlock hails the bartender and leans over the counter in collusion, asking if he happens to have some black absinthe. The older gentleman shakes his head, no. “But if you are really desperate for some, there’s this guy who moonshines it himself. He came in here a couple times, trying to sell me some of it,” the bartender threw the towel he used to wipe down the bar over his shoulder. “Didn’t buy it, never tried it. Can never be too sure with moonshine. But a couple of my patrons did. Seemed to be the real deal by the way they were going off.”
“Do you know where we can find this gentleman?” Jim asked the barkeep.
“I don’t, boys, sorry.”
“I do,” a man at the end of the bar volunteered.
The drunk told them that ‘Noshy,’ as the moonshiner was called, frequented this underground fighting ring. A lot of transactions of questionable nature went down in that place, the least of which was illegal liquor sales, let me tell you, the drunk continued despite Jim’s evident suspect. And where was this fight? Well, the organizers moved it around a lot as not to get caught, but today, he believed it was in part of the underground city that was under-construction.
Once they’re on the Green line in the direction of Agrignon, the train which will take them directly to where the fight was allegedly being held, Moran asks the consultants:
“Now I know you’ll have thought of this-”
“You can bet on that,” Jim mutters under his breath.
“-But you probably shouldn’t drink all that on empty stomachs.”
So Moran remembered that nobody ate breakfast and now it was lunchtime....well, science said he was right about lack of of food and copious amounts of alcohol. Eating was boring, though.
He was met with dead looks from both parties. “We’re not hungry.” To which the colonel raised a solitary eyebrow.
“Well, what do you expect us to eat then?”
“Oh, Sherlock, I bet the fight will be serving peanuts!” That was sarcasm and Moran rolled his eyes.
“You know I can get you something.”
“You don’t say?”
“Well, what do you want?”
So they’re at the fight. Like the drunk had said it was held in a now abandoned part of the underground city, where a new department store in the works. Building materials were everywhere; wet paint and plaster dust littered the un-used space. All darkened corners and plastic sheets hanging from the ceiling. There were two fights going when the consultants arrived. Married men who had told their wives they’d gone to church; promised them they would not go to the tavern. Well, this certainly did not count for that. Sebastian had, disappearing for ten minutes then reappearing, somehow managed to acquire them a loaf of bread. Sourdough at Jim’s request.
After asking around it seemed that this Noshy fellow wouldn’t show up for a bit, so they were forced to wait around; standing, watching the fights, eating their bread. Luckily, the organizers had the foresight to provide alcohol, for price of course. Got to make a profit. Bookies only took a certain percent for keeping bets. The air was was high, dank and dusty. Adrenaline and alcohol were flowing freely through the veins of the fighting men and spectators alike. There was no seating, the fight’s audience crowded the brawl in circle like fashion, inhibiting movement; getting off on the proximity to the action, without actually being in the fight itself.
It’s after a few more pints and at least a half hour of Moran bemoaning the quality of the fighters, that the colonel rewards Sherlock’s goading and Jim’s chagrin by finally putting his name in the queue for next to round. Sebastian, having not followed the drink for drink challenge was a few shots ahead of the consultants and he was more than slightly inebriated.
Finally, Noshy decided to grace the meet with an appearance. They spot him as he’s setting up shop in un-lit corner. Few dared to even approach the moonshiner, who was touting his wares to any daring enough to try the green fairy, which was all he laid out was on the table. What the consultants were looking for was a bottle of black. The criminal negotiates the transaction in French with a Québécois accent, which given length of the their haggling, it was quite the thing to convince the moonshiner out of. However, the man finally assents when Jim shows him the money. As the moonshiner reaches into his bag for the bottle Jim is winks at Sherlock; he drops the bills and takes the black absinthe.
As they walk away, Sherlock’s giggling into Jim’s ear. He says they should take the absinthe and leave, that this fight is boring. Well, Moran’s stepped in the ring and the consultants think it would be hilarious if they gave the colonel the slip.
“Don’t you want to see if your dog wins?” Sherlock asks, testing Jim. Testing Jim and his loyalties and since when did Jim Moriarty let Sherlock Holmes down.
“Not really. I didn’t place any money.” As if that were the real reason.
“Not a betting man?” Sherlock smirks, meeting the criminal’s eyes and Jim’s looking back at him with that black intensity. Their gaze is always like down power cables jumping with loose electricity. It was as if the two ends for those cables had suddenly become magnetized and lashed and danced and CRACK snapped together. Energy; electricity pouring through the connection. They were already into the absinthe before even stepping out the door.
From that point on, they hit every bar they came across, often getting kicked out within ten minutes of arrival. They had dropped the idea of making death spasms. Thoughts prompted questions: Is it too much effort at this point to get fresh squid ink or is it too much effort? They’d have to find a fish market after all...or go to chinatown. Either way... too much work. They got the absinthe and that was all that really mattered anyway.
It was at some point in the late evening that Jim remembered that they wanted to see the city from on high. And that was how the consultants came to be drunkenly roaming the grounds, looking for the scenic viewpoint.
Of all the realities, in all the universes, he had to be stuck in one where his equal was sequestered away with a man who was stiff in morals as a sheet. Boring beyond belief. Scratch that, one where his equal was sequestered away with someone who was not him. But all that is behind them now...Sherlock’s here with Jim....inevitably leads to the criminal wondering if this was a permanent state of affairs. Sherlock might get bored. The detective always did love the boring doctor. Jim will always resent John getting to the detective first. But he can still respect the man to a limited degree, a very limited degree. And Jim knows that the detective will always hold John in a special place, just like he holds Jim in a special place. The doctor was an important milestone in the detective’s life. Very important, one he won’t forget, one he’ll want to go back to, he’ll get bored and- He might go back....
Jim stopped the train of thought right there. Must think of something else. The criminal glanced around and....
It started with: “Oh! Look at those stars! Sherlock!”
“Did you know that the scientific community cannot explain black-holes?” He scoffs. “It’s so obvious, though. Have you-have you looked at any of their equations? Seriously.....”
And Jim is rambling. They’ve been wandering around this park for...how long? Jim won’t stop talking and Sherlock has always loved the criminal’s lilting cadence and now he’s on about something even the detective is having trouble keeping up with. Sherlock’s getting hot. It’s because of Jim’s voice and just the ingenious of his mind. Jim needs to stop talking. The detective wanted, needed, Jim to be quiet. His brain was swimming in absinthe and Jim was talking over the two fingers Sherlock had put over the criminal’s mouth and he was grinning and it was annoying and he was going to get the man to be quiet and he was going to win this and he thought it was so clever and he leaned down and pushed his lips over Jim’s. Effectively shutting the criminal up. But in his drunken state, Sherlock’s momentum continued to carry him forward, pushing Jim backwards. Reflexively, in an attempt not to fall, he grabs on to the lapels of the detective’s coat. And they stay there even as he pushes Sherlock’s face off his, swaying back and forth.
It wasn’t a kiss, so much a meeting of their lips; unlike a meeting of their minds, it was closed off and chaste. Not pervasive in any sense. Jim levered himself all the way off Sherlock, but he didn’t go far, just inches away, still hovering.
Sherlock didn’t say anything.
But Jim is looking at the detective now with this strange expression, that in his state, Sherlock can only begin to categorize as considering, calculating, and it’s odd; it’s the first time in a long time that the detective doesn’t like the feeling of being examined; being studied this closely, at least by the criminal. Because no one is quite as perceptive as Jim and Jim is looking at only Sherlock now. Any other time he’d love it but now....he’s not exactly sure why he did that.
He doesn’t know why, but he knows it’s something that had been hanging over them from day one and good god, now he was second guessing himself and muddling through all this alcohol and fuck Jim with his huge amber eyes now black in the darkness of the sporadic lamp-posts. His rationale, which at the time of action seemed quite sound, was now flimsy. Uncomfortable, with this inquisitive gaze he attempted to stop it:
“You wouldn’t shut up.”
Was that all the explanation he felt the need to provide, really? Faulty logic, Sherlock, you love hearing me speak, and Jim cocks his head to the side, even more curious. Looking even harder. Suddenly though, he giggles and turns, dragging Sherlock by the arm towards a building, behind which will be the lookout. But then they are traipsing over a patch of grass and Sherlock stumbles, falls, feet over head or head over feet and everything is moving and he doesn’t know what way is up till he stopped and is face first in the slightly dewy grass.
“Nice slip, that was,” Jim notes, still somehow not pulled down by the toppled detective. Sherlock through great effort flips over in order to fix Jim with a probing expression. But instead of asking how the criminal’s not fallen, he queries:
“Another shot?” And Jim’s all grins and slight sways. He reaches into his overcoat pocket, pulling out a half empty bottle of vodka. They’d picked it up sometime in the hours after the bottle of absinthe but to be fair a great deal of it was on the concrete of the street. The criminal takes a long swig before stooping to give Sherlock the bottle. They kept up the drink for drink. Every swig was matched and with equal strength.
“The stars are brilliant from this height.”
“Well, yes. But the lights of the city do interfere....” Jim trails off in distaste, as he tosses Sherlock the cap and glances around. “You want to be on then?”
“Nope,” Sherlock’s screwing the cap on the vodka and lets the bottle roll out of his hands.
“We are so close,” Jim leans down, supplying a hand in hopes to pull the detective to his feet.
“Not gonna happen.”
“Please. You. Are. Lazy. Just stand, sweet, the look-out is right over there,” the criminal pointed vaguely off somewhere behind him to the left.
“I can’t get up,” Sherlock practically whines and Jim stares down at the man, all calculation and devious befuddlement. He watches the detective stare up at the stars seconds longer before he acts, movements lacking precision and barely achieving their goals. He stands over Sherlock, leg on either side, before he sits squarely on the detective’s waist. Querying:
“How about now? Can you get up?”
“Now, I definitely can’t,” and there’s a laugh spilling from the detective’s lips.
“Your eyes are reflecting the stars.”
Jim leans closer, but he must have lost his balance because he kept coming. Their foreheads clacked together like magnets. And Jim’s eyes are all black and Sherlock’s falling up in them because he is getting closer and closer. And then they’re kissing. Really kissing and Sherlock knows that Jim didn’t just loose his balance. Because this, this was deliberate.
It’s almost like Jim knows what he is doing too. But it only seems that way because Sherlock has no idea himself and the criminal’s boldness makes up for a majority of the fumbling.
Jim starts, or at least he tries to start by kissing the detective’s top lip, that is until their noses clash together. Sherlock nearly pushed him off, because that was painful even through the alcohol.
It’s not tender, not really. But Jim is undaunted by such a minor snafu. He continues moving his lips over the detective’s, pushing slightly.
It’s not rushed either.
And when Jim slips his tongue into Sherlock’s mouth, it’s exploratory. And he is warm and it’s not probing, not really.
It is invasive.
He swirls and encourages Sherlock to join in a dance.
So, Sherlock decides he’ll follow Jim’s lead. But it’s a stilted dance. Not the well oiled mechanics the detective strives for.
It’s messy and awkward, And Sherlock really doesn’t know what to do with his tongue, his lips, and his nose is still sort of in the way and so is Jim’s. And he’s so far out of his element that, he kind of wants to push Jim off again.
He will not deny that he has thought of doing this with Jim before. At times even wanted to act on said desire, but ...a great deal of what stopped him was this ineptitude. It’s obvious the criminal has never done this before. Well, neither has Sherlock. But then again, who else would they even think about doing this with anyway?
And Jim and Jim and Jim....
Jim finally pulls off Sherlock. He needs to breathe, for christ’s sake. That was distracting. He wants to keep trying. He wants to get this right.
Sherlock liked it. That’s what’s confusing him. He liked it a lot. He didn’t think he’d like it, all the fumbling and inexperience. And Jim’s staring at him like he does. Staring at him like he knows what the detective is thinking. And any other time Sherlock would like that too. He’d get off on it. But not now. Not now because his mind’s all a jumbled mess. Because he wants to both stop everything to think and also just keep kissing Jim. His thoughts are not eloquent and he’d do anything in his power, anything at all, to impress clear ones on the criminal, but this haze, this fog; which may also be attributed to the immense amount of alcohol they ingested; was not making that easy.
And as they begin again. All active participation; hands digging into to jackets, hair, gripping arms; it’s like electricity. It’s like how he felt at the pool, but everything’s fuzzier, hazy. It reminds him of the first time he smoked. That heady vertigo. It was in no way perfect. Still awkward but they’re trying. All the same they will be embarrassed looking back on it. If It was profane, that was based solely on the fact that this was their first ever kiss.
It was over to quickly, though. Ended by a light shining in their eyes. A guard was approaching, calling out in French then English. Asking exactly what they thought they were doing. The park was closed. And well that was fun while it lasted, but something in Jim’s expression tells the detective that their night was not over quite yet. As they untangle themselves to get up, Jim’s voice is in Sherlock’s ear: “Follow my lead.” And since when has Jim Moriarty ever gone to prison if he didn’t want to be there?
The next day, Jim’s lounging diagonally across the aisle from the detective. He’s been asking him, since they roused sometime over the rockies exactly how he felt their first kiss went. Sherlock had made a noncommittal noise as he filled in the cross-word, clearly not wanting to chit-chat about it. Jim didn’t really seem to care whether Sherlock shrugged it off out of embarrassment or uncertainly, because from that point onward he refused to drop the subject.
After last night’s run-in with the grounds patrol, the consultants had been vindicated by not being carted off to a Quebec police station. But their victory soon died when they realized that all the bars and stores that sold alcohol were closed. So, Jim rang up a cab and they went back to the jet. They had dozed off while sharing a night cap on the couch and ended up sleeping practically on top of each other. Didn’t even roll over when the plane took off.
Moran greeted them gruffly, the fact that he was thoroughly hung-over and half of his face looked like it had been slammed against some concrete repeatedly, did nothing to improve his already moody disposition due to that fact they had ditched him last night. It was a miracle Moran had graced them with his presence at all. The colonel begrudging fetched them Pellegrinos and aspirins, only to disappeared again.
But count on the criminal to push Sherlock. Finally, the detective denotes that if the last night’s impromptu make out session was lacking in any department, it was all to blame on the absinthe and then the vodka, and was in no way at all related to their lack of ‘experience.’ And Jim is sniggering and Sherlock is biting back a laugh himself as he throws a well aimed paper ball at the criminal. Jim then asks if he wants to test that hypothesis out. And well, Sherlock didn’t care about the cross-word to begin with.
John gets a call at two-thirty am. Groggily, he picks up the phone, not bothering to check the caller-id.
“Hey, what’s up?” John instantly wakes up at the tone of Mycroft’s voice.
“I hope this is not an inconvenient time, but I felt that you should know....” He sounds not so much stressed as bone tired. And suddenly John thinks the worst. Moriarty’s killed Sherlock. Or they’ll all dead after some deal went wrong, that some other criminal beat them at their own clever game. God, he knew this was going to happen....
“Know what?” He breathes.
“Oh,” OH. And John has to take a moment to readjust his mindset. Right. The matriarch. Of course. Right.
He can hear the deep breath that the elder Holmes takes on the other end of the line.
“I’m so sorry for your loss. I-” He pauses, rethinking, wondering what exactly Mycroft needs to hear from him. Probably not that. He decides on: “Is there anything you want me to do?”
“I appreciate the offer. In fact, if you are not too busy, there is a couple things that I would ask you to do.”
The elder Holmes is quietly pleased as he ends the conversation with John; though it’s going on 3:00 am.
There were restrictions that tied Mycroft’s hands, so to say, when it came to dealing with Jim Moriarty. Jim had powerful friends. Well, friends was not the right word. Associates. People who could pull strings for him when they needed to be pulled or when Moriarty said. Because of things he had over them. Or he’s offered them money. Or it was the money and then the money over them. Regardless, there were reasons beyond Mycroft’s control that Moriarty was released from Baskerville. Sherlock often joked in earnest that Mycroft was the British government. Well, that wasn’t quite true. And the criminal knew it, used it to his advantage, always.
But Jim is a threat. A threat the elder Holmes has attempted to nullify in the past; these times with death in mind. Of course, he’d never say that on record or in the light of day, but all the same attempts have been made. Mycroft has sent assassins after Jim.
So, why isn’t Jim dead?
There are many reasons. One he is too protected. Always the unseen teams of snipers and bodyguards, led, of course, by Sebastian Moran. There were certainly reasons other than man’s titled heritage that allowed him to reach the rank he had. Moran alone could ward of droves of hit men. Few compared to the disgraced colonel’s ability. It’s not to say that Mycroft doesn’t have anyone as good as Moran. Naturally, he does. But they are as good. He needs someone better. Because, he has tried this before, and everyone as good as Moran is taken down by Moran. He needed someone better who would be able to eliminate the colonel and then proceed on to Jim. In all previous attempts, though the men have incapacitated the Moran, none were of health to go after the criminal, who was certainly not without his own faculties.
There are other much less obvious reasons. Jim knows Mycroft’s weakness. He knows Sherlock’s too. Hell, he could know anyone’s and everyone’s, that who the criminal was, but the knowledge that was imparted in the depths of the Baskerville interrogation rooms was more revealing of Mycroft- the Ice Man, the untouchable, than it was of the detective who Moriarty was obsessed with and thus already understood. And the criminal would use those revelations against him. Because Jim is just the sort of man to have a dead-man’s trigger. Kill Moriarty and down goes Sherlock? Possibly. Or maybe it went, kill Moriarty and down goes Britain. Either way, Mycroft didn’t like the odds.
And now that Jim had Sherlock, that was it. Half of Mycroft’s battle was lost. Technically. Mycroft was only appeased by the fact that Sherlock was not yet dead. Of course, he had been thinking to let Sherlock have his little bonfire with Moriarty, burning down the far-side of the world. That little slice of what he prayed to god was actual happiness for all the death and destruction they’d caused. He thought he’d let Sherlock have it. Because he wanted Sherlock to be happy. Because he cared. Because they weren’t hurting the Empire yet.
The elder Holmes had been prepared to severe his losses and focus his remaining energies on the protection of his nation. But then Annora died. This offered Mycroft the chance to change the tides in his favor with the Sherlock situation. He hoped Sherlock was not completely lost yet. There was still some small chance that he could be spirited back. It was a small chance because once Sherlock made his mind up about something, he was hard pressed to be convinced otherwise...unless he was clearly wrong and you had irrefutable proof.
If any proof of this error in judgement on his brother’s part were to be presented to the man, it would be through John.
If Sherlock did come to the funeral, Mycroft would use John one last time. The doctor was the only leverage that the elder Holmes could see to use on his wayward brother. John had come into Sherlock’s life and provided the detective with the right stability and encouraged him to engage in society. For some reason, Sherlock had felt a need to TRY when it came to the doctor.
On the phone, John had agreed to assist in any way necessary. Right.
So, Mycroft will try one last time with Sherlock. One last appeal for his brother to stop this. He will try to reason with him at the funeral. Through John, of course. Still not the time for family reconciliation. Mycroft knew that time would never come.
The date for the funeral is set.
The invitations had been sent. And one, in particular, was on it’s way to California.
It’s been three months since Sherlock ‘died.’ Mycroft thinks it’s time for the detective to come home.
The news that Sherlock’s mother died comes in the form a funeral invitation the day after they get back from Montreal. Jim plucks it out of Moran’s hands, waving the man away. Needing to think, alone. He feels the weight of the paper. He doesn’t need to open it to know the call home it held.
Jim had doubts. Or rather a doubt. All his life he’s been made to deal with disappointment. Sherlock had nearly been just another body to add to that pile. In fact, Jim turned the envelope in his hands as he slowly walked to the detective’s laboratory, in fact, Sherlock still had the opportunity to do so.
There was a possibility, however slight, that the detective might leave. This invitation could be that catalyst.
Jim will admit, privately, that he’d been worried this day would come. He would never keep Sherlock with him by force. That was so menial, so base, so boring. No, of course, if Sherlock wanted to leave, Jim would always let him. The criminal worked in a solitary loophole, a caveat, to their games that would afford Sherlock an escape route, should he ever want one.
So far the detective had never disappointed him by taking it. But Jim still made them for the one man who got to him; the only person in the world worth shaking hands with.
And, of course, because of this, there was no way to say that Sherlock might not take that caveat in the future, or in five minutes when Jim hands him the card. Because Sherlock would feel obliged to go to the funeral. He would go and there John would be.
The criminal had been waiting for disappointment to come. Fairytales don’t exist.
Sherlock’ll read of the death and it will remind him of all those people he’s missing. He’ll no doubt want to return to a life of domesticity, away from all the death and mayhem. Back to a life with John.
It angers Jim. Really it does. But some part of him knew this was coming. He’s calmer than he would have expected. The magnitude. Nearly twenty years, a life long obsession, so close to being wasted. No, not wasted; everything had come to together so beautifully over the last several months. It was the culmination of his life’s work, yes; not wasted, every second he spent with the detective could never be a waste. But to come to a conclusion and so soon. Three months. Twenty years in exchange for three months, it was ...not what he had expected.
Sure, maybe his rational self didn’t actually think that the detective would leave. Maybe, he’s not being logical right now, but what? He can see it happening so clearly, in his mind. Sherlock will want to shake Jim’s hand before he leaves, probably thank him; what a sick mirror image that would make. The detective will walk out the front door, not taking a single thing; not the violin Jim procured for him. The heart they stuffed in the jar together still sitting on the corner of the coffee table. He’ll leave and never come back. Oh, he’ll try in a year or two. But by then...well, it didn’t matter.
Jim would kill the doctor for taking Sherlock away from him if it wouldn’t result in the criminal simply becoming a filler for the dead doctor’s shoes. A replacement John. Well, he’s nothing like John. Not ordinary. No, he needs to have Sherlock in his own right. And at this moment he does. He needs to relate to Sherlock on their own plane. And they do. It’s only them. Alone in their world. And, of course, Jim realizes that even if Sherlock were to leave, he would still own those pieces of the detective. His mind burned into the Sherlock’s; of course, but that would only be consolation, nothing compared to having the whole detective.
Their own world. It’s the only place Jim wants to be. But the real question is: is it the only place Sherlock wants to be?
Jim prepares for disappointment. Everything and everyone always fails to meet his expectations. And though he’d love it if Sherlock could continue to be the criminal’s one saving grace in the world....he prepares for the worst. The answer to why Jim would ever doubt Sherlock is always, now at least after the Fall, John. John knows everything now. Sherlock had opted to stay even with his perfect cover blown, hadn’t left to placate the dear old doctor. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t planning to; that didn’t really mean anything.
This irrational worry comes, the criminal knows, because he does not fully understand the detective’s bond with the doctor. Sherlock had been so bored; continuously frustrated with ineptitude of the ordinary people and the obvious cases and carefully staying this side of the law. Could John’s friendship be worth more to Sherlock than what he has with Jim? The criminal would say no, but then he has never had a friend. Never had a John. He’s never wanted one, actually. Jim does not consider Sebastian his friend. Quite simply he is entertainment, help, and a weapon. A weapon the criminal puts to good use, nothing more. Not really anyway. Jim doesn’t understand the intricacies of this idea, friendship. Loyalty to another person....well, he has that with Sherlock. But Sherlock was not a friend; he was more than what the connotations of that word could imply; Sherlock was an extension of himself. Actually, Jim honestly cannot fathom how what he and Sherlock had could ever be trumped by friendship with an ordinary army doctor. He doesn’t believe that could ever be possible. But Jim’s never had a friend before. Maybe it would. Maybe it did.
It seems the detective already found which compound would provide the fastest death, at least that was what he was looking for last time Jim bopped his head in. Or perhaps he was taking a rare break, unlikely. Could be boredom. Or maybe, it was just Jim. They had that innate sense of each other’s presence. All the same Sherlock was looking up at Jim who had been standing in the doorway for... he supposed a few minutes now.
“What’s that?” Sherlock asked indicating the envelope. His genuine curiosity no doubt to do with the fact that the criminal had dazed off. And Jim can’t not give it to him. He won’t have Sherlock beside him without all the details or under false pretenses. That was beneath them.
“It’s for you,” and Jim’s stepping across the threshold, around the table, dropping it in Sherlock’s hands, offering no possibility of fingers brushing, and then he’s back at the door. It looks like Jim is going to leave again and that’s odd. If the criminal had time to hand deliver his mail but not want to stay...that was a sign that something was...off.
“Wait!” Jim had made it a habit to be within touching distance of the detective whenever possible. The fact that he’s not exercising this opportunity to do the hovering over the shoulder thing he was so accomplished at, was another indication of strangeness afoot. Jim was watching. Always watching. Eyes black. And that’s another clue. “Don’t you want to see what it is?”
“I know what it is,” Jim pauses, looking Sherlock over again before he turns. “I’ll be back.” He’s smirking, but it’s hollow.
Sherlock eyes him for the moment longer he’s in view and then Jim’s out of sight, the detective flips the letter around to see the sender address. It’s recipient is indeed the younger Holmes and the sender is the elder, right. He fairly confident he knows what this is. Hurm. He opens the black envelope, noting the expert calligraphy and it’s almost sick how much it looks and reads like a wedding invitation. ‘It is with our greatest regret that we invite you to the funeral and wake of-” Oh.
Sherlock sighs and sets the letter on the table, steepling his fingers, swivel chair swishing back and forth as he thinks. This coupled with the change in Jim’s voice tells Sherlock what he’s really dealing with.
Since the Fall, Jim had seemed to have found a voice. Or rather his voice, a voice he had lost. It was one of the reasons why he was always stealing other’s, always playing pretend and putting on affects. Results of his changeability; his weakness.
For all the thirty minutes they talked before the Fall, it was clear Jim had no centralized voice. He had slipped in and out of accents, ran through emotions and inflections so fast that Sherlock could barely keep track what or who Jim was at whatever moment. The thing was there were so many factions of who he could be, he didn’t know which voice was actually his. He had lost it over the years of being a non-human entity, a spider at the center of a web. A man with no voice of his own. However, when Sherlock acknowledged their similarities, when he told Jim that he was not alone in the universe, that his life’s work was not wasted, that he was in fact his equal. Jim had finally decided on what his voice was. It gradually appeared more and more, as the months passed. When they were alone together, he slipped into it. It was like a home-base to return to at the end of the day. Something Jim never had all of his adult life.
It wasn’t a whole voice, with the criminal there was no way it could be. He was forever dancing on edges of slipping on different person all together. That was just Jim and honestly, Sherlock wouldn’t have it any other way. But what Jim choose was an undercurrent. It became the beams, the garters of the criminal’s voice, this certain curve his words took. It was the bones and Jim could dress them up however he wanted. All the guts would just fall in; his emotions were the sinews and muscle, his inflection the blood. It appeared when the criminal was livid. It was in his passion and his boredom. His centralized voice was like a mooring line, that allowed Jim Moriarty, to solidify in to a single being. Not captured, not trapped, but controlled. But open to the one person who mattered. Those beams were like a buoy for Sherlock to latch on to, to become intimately familiar with.
Which is how from those last words out of the criminal’s mouth, the detective saw that Jim was already rebuilding his defenses. Slipping back to the cover of change, as if it would protect him. Preparing for loss. Well, there was only one thing that mattered to Jim: Sherlock. The loss of Sherlock? And so in anticipation of this loss, he was shut Sherlock out. Jim dropped his voice. It was gone, replaced not by a mask, but nothing. A dead voice. Sherlock cringes as he realizes.
Will Jim ever trust him? He thought they had come so far. They had come far...
Jim doubted Sherlock and it’s tearing him in half. If there is one thing that Sherlock will NOT do, it’s let Jim down. And the fact that the criminal would even think that he would leave is so...The problem was that Sherlock had been certain that Jim knew he was with him by choice. That he would stay. Apparently not. Which...well, quite frankly baffled the detective.
Jim had given Sherlock the excuse to do something fun. It was the perfect alibi. Him, being dead. No, ties, no expectations. Given that this was all mostly destroyed by his meddling brother but the effect was the same. Freedom. And Sherlock thought that the criminal had known this. In fact, the detective had thought that Jim had centered the entire Game around this solitary goal: Sherlock uninhibited.
Yes, Sherlock did miss John, but- Never so much to the point he considered leaving everything Jim had worked, engineered, constructed so cleverly, not once.
It was odd to have the criminal so many steps behind him, since usually it was the opposite with the detective tripping up, following Jim. But Jim was obsessive about Sherlock. The detective had no misunderstandings there.
Sherlock stands and walks to Moran’s rooms. The colonel is sitting at his desk sharpening a rather frightening knife. The detective knocks; no point in getting shot for not being cautious. Sebastian turns and nods to the detective.
“Could I possibly nick one of your cigarettes?” Moran’s eyes narrow. The colonel had, no doubt, thought he had been subtle. That Sherlock hadn’t seen him out behind the garage. Well, the detective had. Killing, Sherlock thought, was the only thing Moran had ever achieved subtly in; and only if Jim wanted it that way.
Moran sighed. If the detective knew, so did the criminal. Jim probably thought it was a right laugh, even though the colonel was directly disobeying his orders. But he knew better than to smoke in front of Sherlock. Jim didn’t want to rub it in the detective’s face all the time. So, Sebastian had tried to hide it. To no avail, apparently.
Before he even moved to pull them out the colonel, asked if the detective was sure. He’d tried quitting before, it was no picnic. There was no hesitation in the detective’s yes. Jeez, what happened?
“My mother died,” Sherlock shot off, rapid-fire, and there was a beat before: “You didn’t happen to catch Jim before he left?”
“I was taking a shower,” The colonel said flatly, frankly he didn’t even know the criminal was out.
“Ah...” Sherlock silently reprimanded himself for being so distracted that though he saw the man’s damp hair, the humid air coming from the bathroom, the wet towel on the floor, and not put these signs together into a cohesive deduction. He watched intently as the colonel fished out a pack from the breast pocket of the khaki jacket that was hanging on the chair back. He handed the detective one and tossed Sherlock his zippo, as he stuck another in his mouth. The detective ignites the flame and holds it to end of the cigarette, inhaling deeply. He gives the lighter back Moran and takes a couple long drags before he feels the nicotine beginning to take effect. Delicious.
Moran puffed on his cigarette and looked appraisingly at the detective. That aura of cool the detective usually permeated was currently missing. Likely to do with the death in the family, but then Jim had certainly seen that funeral announcement, snatched it right out of Sebastian’s hands. He had known what that was and had still left. At the obvious gathering of Moran’s brow, Sherlock decided to fill the colonel in.
“My brother sent me an invitation to the funeral. Jim, though he didn’t say much... of anything actually, was thinking that if we went back to London, that I would go back to living with John. Being the consulting detective,” Sherlock paused. “I think....he’s been worried about this possibility for a while now.”
“Well, Jim’s always been a bit paranoid when it came to things to do with you,” Moran explained sagely, breathing the smoke. The detective nodded.
“He didn’t explode or yell or any of that. He didn’t- he just left.”
“Hurm,” Sebastian took a drag. “He wasn’t angry?” Sherlock shook his head. “Well, I think I know where he went.”
“How do you figure?”
“I mean it’s Jim, right? But I have a good idea of where he’d go. I can take you there and you can explain to him- hopefully he’ll be willing to listen, but we have to move quickly.”
“Save some lives?” Sherlock had been joking but Sebastian stood up, taking full advantage of his slight height difference, looking down at Sherlock with even more gravity than he emitted normally.
“A life. I realize that you may not have really seen this in your interactions with Jim, but he can get severely depressed. Really, really depressed. Everything is just so easy for him. There’s no real challenge anywhere, except with you... Hasn’t he told you you’re his favorite distraction? If he thought you were gonna leave...what’s the point?”
“You’re not worried about if he will hurt other people, you’re worried he’ll hurt himself.” Sebastian grimaced.
“It’s my job to keep the silly bastard alive. Believe me, this is a legitimate concern. Let’s go.”
The colonel first takes Sherlock to a bar in Malibu. However, after seeing five police cars and an ambulance outside, he continues driving. And since Moran had not received a call from the local booking station, it was safe to assume Jim is not in custody. The colonel attested that the next place Jim would be is this one state beach; specifically a bluff over looking a stretch of the Pacific. So Moran parks the car in the lot and gives Sherlock the final directions to take on foot. He says he’ll wait. The sun has mostly set by the time Sherlock gets to the appointed location. Half of him doesn’t expect to find Jim here either. But as he rounds a bush and the clearing of the bluff is laid out, the detective sees the criminal’s, sitting on top of a picnic table with his back to the path. The detective approaches slowly, not wanting to startle. Only when he’s standing next to the table, does he say:
“Moran said that you would be here.”
Jim doesn’t turn to Sherlock. His entire demeanor is quiet. Jim’s face is drawn, the bags under his eyes amplified by this pallor that’s overtaken him. He just throws the grass he’d been ripping apart back on the ground and continues to stare out at sea. Sherlock tries for jovial:
“Was it you who caused the fabulous distress at that bar off PCH?” The detective sits down on the table; not next to the criminal but still near him, as he continues to stare at the water. Jim ignores the play at nicety and addresses the elephant directly.
“So, are you going then?”
And wasn’t that an ambiguous trap of a question. Jim finally turns to Sherlock. And the detective has had time to think about how he would answer this question, so it’s no time before he says, watching Jim’s every tick:
“Yes, I will be going,” And the detective pauses, his sentence unfinished, because he needs this is to be confirmed, really confirmed. The particular phrasing of the words and it’s like a time bomb had just been placed in the between them. Tension so high it’s as if a countdown sequence had been initiated and Jim’s eyes...there it is. A flicker of what he’d seen on the rooftop before he said what he meant. When Jim thought he was an ordinary person, a disappointment. And it almost hurts the detective now to see how little faith Jim has in him. Jim’s just sitting there, a sick sort of grimace beginning to pull at his features and Sherlock has a feeling, thinks that Jim is probably going to start laughing at himself. For believing that they could carry on like they had, for the fact that he had trusted Sherlock at all, that he had let Sherlock get to him and now....now the detective would be leaving.
Because that’s all this boiled down to. Sherlock leaving Jim alone in the world again. And who did Jim think Sherlock would leave him for? John. Jim had always been jealous of John. The criminal had always been ill-versed in terms of emotions. This jealousy of his and John’s friendship; a thing Jim never had and did not understand. This FEAR of loosing Sherlock; who was his only distraction, his only pleasure in life, his only equal. THAT FEAR of loss had eaten the criminal alive. Sherlock saw it now, it had devoured Jim. Fear was not something Jim handled well, if ever.
Jim wasn’t fooling Sherlock with that self-depreciation which might or might not be real. He could see past that dead-eyed mask. And all that was there was anguish. He had to put a stop to that. The detective had to finish his sentence before that bomb went off. Now.
“Jim, will you come with me?”
The criminal blinks.
“What?” the noise that comes out is guttural, it’s neither Jim nor any other human. And Sherlock jerks a little at that changeability the criminal will never shake.
“I want you to come with me.”
Jim swallows hard and blinks again.
“I told you I won’t disappoint you.” And Jim’s nodding. He’s nodding and he’s hopped off the table and he’s climbing up the detective. Pulling him close, flush, no space between them and he kisses Sherlock on the cheek, on the forehead, on the mouth and it’s as close to an apology as he will give.
After a few minutes he sits back, fingers slipping out of the dark curls, brushing Sherlock’s cheeks.
“Do you really want me at your mum’s funeral?” He pauses briefly, and the criminal better not think Sherlock missed him staring at his lips, that way he licked his own at the same time. Sherlock’s about to protest when Jim amends. “Do you really want me to be socializing with those people?”
“I’ll be there to make sure things don’t get too violent. What’s there to be worried about?”
“Don’t get too violent? Aren’t you trying to convince me to go to this thing?” He’s teasing but the humor is forced. Jim’s eyes boring into his now. “You know that if you go; you will have to answer to your brother. And. The doctor.”
“I know.” The detective does, even if he hasn’t really thought about what he would say to either of them.
“And if I go with you-”
“It’ll be that much harder?” Sherlock’s tone is suddenly ironic. “Please, if you don’t go with me you’ll be so worried I’m being corrupted by their moral sensibilities that you’ll burn down half of London.”
Finally, a smile quirks the edges of Jim’s mouth.
“I suppose your right there,” He says softly. Sherlock is bolstered by this little progress.
“It’ll be like a vacation. After talking with them and the wake, we can-” Jim scoffs a laugh.
“If you really want me to come, I’ll come.” Because if the detective asked Jim to something for him, the criminal would do it. The reverse is applicable too. So, did Sherlock really want to go to the funeral? And the detective’s smiling and that’s a yes. And Sherlock pulls him closer again and Jim’s feigned grumblings about how he expects new suits are in order are silenced as their lips meet.
They say time heals all things. Sherlock hopes that’s true, because he can think of no other way Jim will see the he has no intention of leaving him. It’s just the detective’s afraid that time is the one thing they don’t have.
The consultants leave California less than two days later. Given the date of the funeral is Saturday, Jim has decided that with the extra day, allotted for time zone acclimation, they will go to the tailors. Saying that something good should come of all this. Sherlock perhaps is not perturbed enough by the fact that the criminal is treating his mother’s death more like an inconvenience than a tragedy.
Jim is not known for his consistency, so the abrupt uprooting of of his entire operation headquarters to move back to the U.K. is not a concern. It’s also not a surprise.
It was good to be back in London. This city was home to Sherlock in ways no other place had. He knew every street. The masses crowding into the tube as they went from place to place; anonymity offered by the sheer volume of people. All the stories. All the different and yet same stories. All the boring lives he could read at a glance. But the city it’s self....was glorious.
“You know what’s nice about being back in London?” Jim comments as they’re driven through the streets. Sherlock hums, staring at the passing city lights. “I have my telescope here.”
“You didn’t see enough stars in Montreal?”
“Who said it was the stars I want to look at?” he paused, scrutinizing the detective. “Besides, your eyes weren’t exactly the best viewing instrument...”
It’s no question that they would be staying in Jim’s London flat. They pull up to a seemingly older, but respected hotel in Bloomsbury, not too far from the British Museum. The doorman nods to Moriarty before moving to assist Moran with the bags. Jim and Sherlock sweep inside. Sherlock has never been in this hotel before but the words: old money, burlesque, red-light district, and decrepitude come to mind. Lavish colors thrown everywhere, covering the cream paint of the walls and the big glass lights with patina bases; feathers and silks competed with intricate oriental rugs, atop imported marble, all of it clambering for the guests attention.
Jim doesn’t appear to notice any of this. But as they take the elevator to the penthouse, the criminal said that he wanted it to look like the former owners had run whores out of the place. Of course, there were no former owners. But this was a honest and legitimately profitable business, run on the side of his criminal empire, so, of course, Sherlock had to give Jim a hard time. The criminal had to turn a key and enter a code to access the top rooms.
The facade of the first fifteen floors stopped immediately once they stepped off the elevator. All of the intricacies of the decor was stripped away, leaving the bones of the building. The grey concrete floor, the beams in the ceiling, panes of glass; broke with the lower floors’ design scheme. It was cold, austere, and empty. Tall ceilings made the space echoey. The place managed to contrast between a lived-in feel and an abandoned warehouse.
“You’ll have to forgive me for making the living room my office. I don’t really entertain, here.” Which clearly was the understatement of the year. Sherlock makes himself at home though, taking off his coat and poking about Jim’s stuff.
The most east wall of the living room, which took up a majority of the floor, was this built-in floor to ceiling bookcase, the rest was windows. Sherlock examined the deep shelves, which held numerous math and astronomy textbooks, and there were rolled up maps and parchment. There were, again, Jim’s black note books. On the coffee table, was a half finished game of chess. Baskets with rolled up constellation maps were in the corners of the room, where ordinary people might keep plants and vegetation.
Over the fireplace, which was sandwiched between two bedroom doors, was a magnetic board that Jim could clip up his star maps. His desk, which had clearly been brought in as an afterthought, faced away from the south windows and the view of the city. Right outside those windows, some of which still had Jim’s scribblings on them, was a balcony. True to his word, Jim’s desk had all the trappings for a bomb neatly laid out, save the C-4.
“Lucky for me, you felt your desk was better suited out here. Why’d you make it a two bedroom flat anyway?” The detective asks as he sits on the sofa, eyes trained on the criminal, who’s messing about at his desk.
“There’s other rooms through the kitchen, they’re just empty. And I only needed a room for my bed and another for my study. But when I got everything in there set up” he was gesturing past the detective to the other room. “...it was just not conducive.”
“So, where’s Moran stay?” At that Jim froze, eyes flicking to Sherlock, like he didn’t quite hear that correctly. Finally, he spits out:
“You thought he lived with me?” Jim scoffs, giving Sherlock a dirty look. “Don’t be stupid. No, he lives in Kensington,” with a tone finality that Sherlock cannot mistake. “Doesn’t even have a fucking key,” the criminal is muttering, ill-tempered and tossing things around on the desk as he rummages through his bomb supplies. Sherlock bet the colonel had not been to that top floor of Jim’s hotel. Sherlock would also bet that no one else had either. That was till the detective himself. It was a bit revealing but it’s not like they didn’t already know. Jim had no qualms with telling Sherlock what he thought of him in comparison to every other person in the world.
“Don’t need a bodyguard in London?”
“No, I don’t,” Jim sits leaning back, exuding confidence and apathy. “I own this city.”
“But you don’t own L.A.” And that might be a jab, but then again...
“Nope. Could if I wanted to. Don’t really see the point though,” the criminal shrugged.
“Alight then, come on,” the detective said standing, picking his coat up. He wanted to walk around. Sherlock couldn’t resist the city at night.
It was obvious that the detective was excited to be back in London. Jim had to admit that it was nice. Sherlock takes them West, toward Hyde Park. They end up leaning over the railing of the Serpentine bridge, looking over the black water.
“Is your telescope really the only thing you like about this city?” An off-the-cuff question posed by Sherlock. Something he’d been turning over in his mind, because Jim will always be a puzzle.
“That sounds like a trick question...”
“In the past my favorite thing about this city, was not a thing at all but a person...”
“I’m being serious.” Sherlock sighs, catching Jim’s drift.
“Well, so am I,” Jim makes a put-out face.
“I love London.”
“It’s great,” Jim, flat.
“I can sense your enthusiasm,” Sherlock, sarcasm.
“Look, as I’m sure you guessed, I’ve been all over,” Jim’s face was distorting in a sort of disgust. “Everywhere’s the same though; stagnant. It’s always the same people. The same boring problems. I don’t really see much of a difference.”
“What about aesthetically?”
“Is that what you meant?” He paused, as if considering. “I always like Geneva.”
In other words, the peace capital of the world.
“That’s a bit ironic.”
“I’m a man of contradictions,” Jim shrugs.
“Besides, cause an international incident what do you even do there?”
“Feed pigeons. Look at the lake.” Sherlock’s glaring. He wants a straight answer because he thinks that Jim is joking. “I think,” Jim chuckles, observing: “You know this city like the back of your hand.”
“No. Why would I?” He paused briefly before continuing. “Your brother has this rather warped perception of you. He thinks you have no loyalty to this country. But it’s quite the contrary. You love this territory; it’s every alleyway, corner, street ordinance is burned into your brain. For how many years did you just walk the city?” Sherlock shrugged, a lot; he didn’t have a specific number, because he’d never stopped really; but Jim seemed keen on it being high. The detective did so in the spirit of the city, out of loyalty to the land; not to the government. Not to Britain.
Sherlock’s real question is why is Jim thinking of Mycroft now?
As they make their way back, Sherlock’s still deciding the path. He’s clearly walked this route many times in the past, and Jim is kind of laughing to himself because Sherlock is on autopilot. They’ve ended up standing across Baker street in front 221.
“Oh,” the detective sighed, staring up at the well-lit windows of the second floor flat. He seemed genuinely shocked at where he’s feet had taken them. His home. His former home.
“He appears to be in. Do you want to say hi?” Jim asks after a minute and a half of standing.
“I’ll see him at the funeral,” the detective’s still looking up wearily. “I didn’t realize you lived so close.” That hotel was built years ago. Jim owned it the entire time.
“All that time.”
“Right under your nose.” Flaunting the obvious. Right, why was he surprised? It was just like the criminal to be hiding in plain sight, Sherlock thinks on the short walk back to Jim’s. As they are going up in the elevator, the detective leans against the wall asking:
“Do I get a key?”
And Jim’s lips are quirking upward as he slides his own in the penthouse keyhole. Turning he asks:
“Do you want one?”
“Of course,” because why wouldn’t he? “We’ll come back here after the funeral, right? No, over seas cases at the moment.”
He’s right, they don’t have any. And Jim would ask the detective if that means he wants to live here. Like residence, live here. Like house a home, live here. But, why would he ask that?
“Sure, we can do whatever you like,” and the elevator doors are opening and Jim’s turned into the abandoned kitchen. “I only have two keys to that elevator, so don’t inconvenience me by loosing it,” Jim fractiously routing through a drawer, but Sherlock’s grinning as he takes it.
“Like I need a key to get in here.” And Jim’s swallowing a smirk.
“Then why am I giving you one?”
“Symbolism,” Sherlock explains. You always did like that.
They’re half way through game of chess, when Sherlock decides he is tired and since they will be doing something tomorrow, that he should sleep. He says as much to criminal’s mild look of disbelief, after refusing to make another move. Jim frumped over to his computer as Sherlock went to check out the extra room, which was supposedly his. He actually hadn’t even peeked in earlier. But he comes back seconds later with a confused look on his face. Oops. Slight detail, Jim remembered, knowing the problem before the detective even opens his mouth.
“There is no bed in there.”
“No?” The criminal hazards innocently. And the detective is petulant, wondering exactly how this could be retaliation for the unfinished chess match.
“Just use my room,” Jim glances, over at Sherlock’s raised eyebrows. “I wasn’t planning on sleeping tonight anyway,” the criminal turned away, back to clicking things on the screen.
“Fine. Don’t break too many laws without me.”
Jim’s standing in front of the mirror of the bathroom deciding what tie to wear.
There was no food in the flat. It didn’t matter anyway, Jim wanted to take Sherlock to waffles. If he did...would the detective eat ...today was a Friday, it was a possibility but not a guarantee. It’s morning; before their appointment with the tailor and Sherlock’s leaning against the slightly more than out of place claw-foot tub, reseting his wristwatch to Greenwich Mean Time. He hadn’t remembered last night when they got in.
Without turning Jim asks Sherlock exactly what he plans to tell all the old fogies and ordinary people, who will ask how he is still alive, at Annora’s funeral. The detective lets out a little scoff as he puts his watch back on. Jim’s eyes glance up in the mirror to asses the detective, tying his tie.
“These are the newspaper reading sort. Gossip rags too.”
“I won’t say anything,” the detective says simply.
“Right, the great Sherlock Holmes turned fraud has risen from the dead to attend the funeral of his mother: no comment.”
“Fairytales?” Sherlock dismisses. Jim grins.
“Do you really think no one’s going to ask?”
“I’m a confirmed killer.” There he had a point. Who would want to approach him?
This fiasco would be mostly painless if their appearance didn’t stir up a fuss. Jim is endeavoring to make it go as seamlessly as possible; so Sherlock gets his closure. So Jim can push players into motion. But all that is easier if they don’t have to deal with ordinary people and their incessant whining about their own incomprehension. If the main problem with going, was the possibility of the wake getting crashed by police. Guests calling the sightings in; the animated corpses of a mass-murdering fraud and his two-bit actor accomplice. Jim giggles a little. It was an easy fix.
“I’ll block cell-phone coverage and cut the land lines. Sound good?” The criminal asks coming to stand in front of Sherlock, dusting off his dark suit.
Sherlock is laying on the couch smoking a cigarette. Because it’s the night before the funeral and tomorrow he will see John.
The detective had been thinking about what he will say to the doctor. He decided that it would be best if he just answers any questions John has and then tell him he will not be coming back. He’ll say it and that will be it. John, I’m not coming back. He’ll tell the doctor that but he knows for all it’s simplicity John will not accept it.
Jim had been afraid he would go back; he shouldn’t have been.
Jim had given the detective something, no one else even considered he might need. The criminal saw at a glance what was imperative to his survival and strove to give it to him.
Then there was John.
John had always there to catch him if he stepped out of line in daily life. A bit not good. Not enough compassion here, to much of a show-off there. And Mycroft was there to stop him if he stepped out on the bigger stuff. Drugs. Death. They thought he simply wanted it and sought to curb his desire. But it was an innate portion of his being, one that would not easily be eradicated. He would always be a fringe member of society, no matter if he solved the crimes or committed them. It was the work. All his life they had acted as restrictors and they would still see themselves as such; which was why neither the doctor nor his brother would be willing to accept his decision.
Sure they meant well, but they were attempting to contain the detective's nature. Jim would never do that. He facilitated it.
And Sherlock loved him for it.
Think of the criminal and he shall appear. Jim stepped off the elevator. He’d left having to pick up the package of new lenses he’d ordered for his telescope at the front desk. Sherlock tracks Jim as he moves about the flat. He’s wearing one of the suits they picked out earlier; the pin-stripes. Small ones, though not big. Large pin-stripes, Jim had said, were for gangster mob bosses from Hollywood. And that simply would not do.
The criminal ends his circuit of the apartment, having set down the box of lenses and striped his suit jacket, next to Sherlock, looking down at him. Then he climbs on top of the detective, so he’s just lying on him. Belly of his slighter frame stretched out over the detective’s own. This seems to be happening quite a bit lately, or at least since they got back from Montreal; there were several ways this had gone.
Jim might initiate a kiss. Passionate or meandering. He might kiss the detective for a few minutes or not even at all. A couple times, Jim had just laid on top of Sherlock. He would not talk. He would be listening, clearly for the detective’s heartbeat. He seemed to be doing that now.
Sometimes, he’d ask Sherlock something. Something he knows would get the detective talking. And Jim would just have his head on Sherlock’s chest, absorbing the vibrations of the detective’s voice.
If the detective does not push him off....He’s of half a mind to now. Sherlock imagines, this is what having a cat is like....It should be noted: he never intends to own a cat.
“I’m thinking,” A level of irritability creeping on the edge of his voice.
“Well, so am I,” the criminal’s response is comfortable, too comfortable.
“Do you really need to do it on top of me? Now?” He takes a drag. “I’m trying to figure out exactly what I want to say to John.”
“And you can’t do that with me just lying here?”
“Your weight is oppressive.”
“You should be used to it by now.”
There’s a lull. And Sherlock’s too close to the end of this smoke for how immobile Jim has decided to be.
“If you’re insisting on laying here, I’m going to need another cigarette.”
Jim sighs, a short laugh. If that was all...
“Here,” he said, fishing a fresh pack and a lighter our of his pocket. “Saw you were running out. Bopped into the lobby store while I was downstairs. Thought you might want another. ”
Sherlock is fairly certain he’s figured out why Jim is always touching him. The criminal needs confirmation that Sherlock is real. He spent all his life alone. Mostly desiring to be isolated from the world’s stupidity; he achieved that. But isolation bred something else and Sherlock could see how on some subconscious level Jim may feel the need to make sure he didn’t make the detective up out of loneliness. He could hardly blame the criminal for that.
However, Jim’s reaching out was also the physical manifestation their connection. Which is why sometimes they just happened to be touching by the end of a trip in the car, when upon getting in they were clearly not. And why Sherlock frequently finds himself enabling the criminal by standing next to him or sitting too close, as if they were magnets. Touch was not something they had exactly encouraged with others before....Jim built his life to avoid coming in contact with ordinary minds and the everything attached to them and Sherlock had frowned on it always. So this between the consultants it was odd, but nice.
But the criminal laying on top of him did remind Sherlock of something...Jim’s bed was pleasant. He is decidedly not thinking that had anything to do with the prevailing smell of Jim and entirely to do with the fact that it’s a California king. (The criminal will only settle for the best.) Last night’s rest was infinitely better than what passed as sleep on the jet. In fact he wouldn’t mind sleeping there tonight. However, even if Jim did not sleep regularly, he still did sleep, and would likely need to be doing so tonight.
“You’re not going fall asleep on me?”
“Would that really be a problem?”
“Just curious, you still only have one bed in here.”
“Thank you, captain obvious.”
“Well...there are two of us.”
“Again, what’s your point?”
“Where did you sleep last night?”
“I didn’t. I distinctly remember going over this.” Jim slapped his hand on the detective’s forehead. “Are you feeling okay?”
“So, you’ll be sleeping tonight?”
“Hurm, you do feel a little warm.”
“And I want to sleep tonight.”
“Where should I sleep tonight?” Sherlock talking over the criminal.
“There are three choices, that I can see.” Jim paused. “I’m sure you’ve thought of them. So this little round-about is all to achieve something else. Now, what could that be?”
“Just to compare notes: what three options do you see me having?”
“Well, there is the couch. You are sampling the fare at this very moment. Leather and with your temperature, you might stick. Eek. Maybe avoid that choice.”
“Go down to the lobby. I’ll phone them and you will be given a room. Of course, we are fully booked this evening and they will be forced to kick a guest out. Not that I mind. It’s just a lot of effort. Might take a long time too. And I don’t really want to talk to any ordinary people now...”
“So, the last option?”
“Right.” And that was what the detective was looking for after all, was it not? “....Made up your mind yet?” Jim, needles as he sits up, staring down quizzically at Sherlock, who is being equivocatory. “I’m not suggesting anything lewd. I swear I’ll be good.”
“There was no doubt in my mind that sleep was all you were offering.”
“Good, because I am not that easy,” the criminal gets off of Sherlock, tugging off his tie as disappears into his room.
He doesn’t need ask Sherlock where he will be sleeping.
The next day starts tense and continues so. It’s a two and a half hour drive to get from Bloomsbury to the Holmes estate in Adleburgh. With Sebastian driving, the criminal and the detective sit in the back seat, not talking. It seems longer and Jim’s half a mind to start complaining just to have something to do. But he doesn’t want to aggravate the detective.
It’s nerves. Jim had tried earlier that morning to make a joke, but it fell flat. Sherlock had given him a pained, will you kindly shut up face. So, the criminal let’s him have his silence to think, to plan out his defenses, exactly what he wants to say to the doctor and his brother. Not that he hadn’t also been doing that last night; Jim would know. Sherlock had followed the criminal to the bedroom, brushed his teeth, laid down and proceeded to stare at the ceiling till four when he finally dozed off.
Actually, Jim can do something. The criminal places a hand on the detective’s knee. It’s as much a comfort to himself as it is to the detective. Sherlock took this gesture to mean that though Jim may not fully understand why he insisted they come, Jim was still here for him, should the detective need back-up when he talks to John or more likely his brother.
The long gravel road that leads to the house, is packed with cars. Sebastian is lucky to find an open spot as far away from the house as he did. The car stops and they don’t move. Like a moment of rubicon, it’s a bit strange. With the engines of the car shut off and the quiet of the seaside only amplified by the somber nature of the event they are about to attend. Jim seems to be waiting for Sherlock to make the first move. Sherlock on other hand, could really use a cigarette.
“Alright,” the detective sits up, only to fish out the pack of smokes Jim gave him last night. Sherlock lights up and inhales. He turns to the criminal, who gives him this little quirk of his lips. Sherlock will forever be gratified that Jim will never wear a look of disapproval when he acts on his impulses. “Right. Let’s go.”
“Sit tight, Seb,” the criminal taps the colonel’s chair as he gets out. “I doubt we’ll be needing your services here...”
It’s a typical overcast mid-morning for the coast, though the forecast said the clouds would likely not burn off. The detective is taking long drags, needing the nicotine now.
“You’ll have to show me all the nooks and crannies out here, love,” Jim attempts, he’s bouncing on his feet as they walk the measured and slow pace set by the detective. He’s twitching Sherlock notes. And that would be interesting, if Sherlock didn’t already know that Jim was slightly worried about how he would hold up to the doctor. Sherlock himself was slightly worried; well, now, faced with the near immediate prospect.
“I’m sure you’ve heard all the interesting stories.” The roof of the house was visible over the hedge now. “Watch Mycroft will be standing out front.”
“Undoubtably.....but oh, that’s no fun,” Jim pouts, getting back to his point. “I want your versions. The Ice Man’s had no fervour. They would have been dreadfully boring if they were about anyone else. As they were, my attention had been drifting.”
If it were any other time, Sherlock would suggest that they trade. An adolescent story for an adolescent story. But it’s too late for that now; no time for negotiations. Mycroft would be around the next bend of the drive- Wait, attention drifting?
“As if!” Sherlock scoffs, pushing Jim into the wall of laurel bordering the drive. Jim’s laughing as he pulls himself out of the brush; only to frown, realizing the mess that was all over his suit. Sherlock glances back and Jim’s pouting again. Rolling his eyes, the detective slips the cigarette between his lips to hold, steps back, and begins dusting the criminal off.
“Okay, but you could see how Mycroft telling the story it could seem a little....”
Jim’s face morphs into a ‘well yes’ expression. He’s staring up at him, as Sherlock pulls one final leaf from the criminal’s hair.
“Ready?” Jim’s asks, eyes dancing as he takes a drag from the smoke he stole off the detective moments ago.
“I already know that.” He tossed the butt down and ground it into the gravel. “I mean are you ready?”
“Sod off!” Sherlock bumps into Jim again as they continue on. Jim returns in kind and they end up with their arms hanging off each other. Just before they round the corner, Jim pulls off Sherlock giving him a wink. And then there’s the house. Sherlock was right, Mycroft was waiting out in front. Currently receiving condolences from guests. Then he glances up and sees them both. And that fake smile drops from his face so fast, Sherlock couldn’t help scoffing a little. He sobers up though when Mycroft is stalking over to them. And the first words out of the his mouth are all hushed tones, all for maintaining facades of civility, of course, as always. Some things never change.
“What is he doing here?”
“You invited me. You knew exactly where I was and who I was with. What were you expecting?”
Same old Sherlock. Mycroft tries a different tactic and turns to Jim. “Why are you here?”
“Quite a few of my clients are in attendance. I thought I’d save on travel meet with them all here.”
“He’s here because I asked him to come,” Sherlock’s distain is dripping.
Mycroft sighed. Of course this was always a possibility, he had just been hoping Sherlock would have had the good sense not to bring a mass-murdering criminal for hire to his mother’s funeral. But given his lack of consideration for anyone but himself, it was not a complete surprise.
“Do try not to kill any of the guests.”
“We wouldn’t dream of it, brother dear.”
“Dream of it?” Jim protests and Sherlock meets his mischievous eyes
“Well, we won’t act on it then,” his brother emends with guile.
The elder Holmes is looking at two smirking faces. What was he supposed to do with these two? Convincing Sherlock would be all the harder now...And it seemed that his brother was in rare form today. If Mycroft didn’t watch himself his irritation with Sherlock might get the better of him. His brother had a specially developed talent in perturbing people like few others. Which reminded the elder Holmes of there other people here. Mycroft wonders what exactly the other guests might do to Sherlock given his now slandered name. He turns to see if any of them have noticed the consultant’s arrival and in glancing around sees John, frozen, gaping. Well, this had the potential for disaster....
Before anything can happen, Mycroft stalked off toward the house, caught John’s arm and has pulled him back inside.
John figured he must have been inside when they arrived. He had gone in to show one of the guests where to put this platter of biscuits they had brought. He’d gone to show this woman the kitchen and he comes out looking for Mycroft to make some silly remark about the quality of the caterer or something. He doesn’t even remember what it is now. It was probably something funny. But he comes out the front to where Mycroft was greeting the guests. He comes out of the front of the house and sees them.
John knew that Mycroft had invited Sherlock. Hell, he’d seen the envelope inscribed with the detective’s name. But this was Sherlock and when did he ever care about sentiment? It was like what the elder Holmes had said: the detective had known she was sick when he left. So, John hadn’t really expected him to come. Least of all bring the criminal with him.
Standing on the stoop, the doctor can see the two of them talking with Mycroft. Moriarty has this little smirk on his face, as he says something. Sherlock, annoyed with his brother, cuts in with something else. Assumably, Mycroft is pissed, but from this angle it’s hard to tell. John sees this. He sees this and attempts to register it. Sherlock is, in fact, alive. Sure, he knew that already, but it’s one thing to see a photograph and another see the person. Standing there. Next to him. He brought him? To his mother’s funeral?
The doctor has barely grasped this before, Sherlock and Moriarty are laughing at something and Mycroft looks around in a fit of exasperation. His eyes land on John, who’s still staring at Sherlock. The elder Holmes excuses himself and Sherlock’s eyes flit around and meet John’s. They are still blue. The humor that was in them moments ago, dies. And then Mycroft’s hands are on his upper arms corralling him back in the house, pulling him backwards and turning his body to walk straight, but John’s eyes are still locked with Sherlock’s. And he thought that this moment would mean something. That it would bring Sherlock to his senses or clarify that he was no longer the Sherlock John knew. But the look they shared did none of that. It proved that Sherlock was still Sherlock. The detective’s eyes held no explanations or indication of regret. Then they are through the front door and the detective is out of John’s line of sight.
Mycroft leads them to this little alcove near the closet in the dark of the foyer, away from all the bustling feet. The ambient noises are deafened, at least a little. John turns to the elder Holmes who, is trying to gauge the doctor’s reaction to this development, but mostly blocking his path back outside. He didn’t need to worry about that; at this precise moment John wanted answers.
“What is he doing here?”
“Sherlock...apparently asked him to come.”
“To his mother’s funeral?” John leaned back against the wall. Mycroft shoved his hands into his trouser pockets.
“John, I would like you to do something.”
“After the funeral, during the wake, I want you to talk to him.”
“Sherlock? With him standing-”
“And what should we talk about?”
“What do you think? Try and get him to come back.” John’s expression is dead. “John, you know I would ask him myself but he’s not about to listen to me now, is he? ...But you? You’re the best hope we have to try and salvage this ...situation. As I’m sure you’ll agree.”
John doesn’t say anything. That was a lot of responsibility. And it practically forced John’s hand.
“Just try. I know you want to anyway. So do it,” he pauses, considering. “He’s more likely to talk to you.”
“Okay, I’ll try,” John concedes. Mycroft nods.
“Well, the service doesn’t start for another twenty minutes. Why don’t you...”
“Yeah,” John stated a bit distractedly. “I’m going for a walk.”
Mycroft nodded. John goes out the front door and takes off down the long driveway.
“Well, he was rather feisty wasn’t he?” The criminal watched Mycroft disappear into the house, doctor in tow. Sherlock was still staring at the door. It was expected that the detective would be shaken by the meeting of eyes with the doctor. This was the first time they’d looked in each other’s eyes in three months and after all that had transpired. Even so, it fell to Jim to pull him out this funk.
“Why did I come again...?” Sherlock trails off, and internally Jim is frowning. That doctor...always so disapproving.
“It is your mum’s funeral. Closure? Closure is good,” Jim places a reassuring hand on the detective’s forearm, peering up at him, eyes bemused but also something else.
“Right,” Sherlock says, taking the criminal’s hand in his own. “And you’re here.”
“I am,” Jim grinned. “Now, are you going to give me tour of this place or what? The family estate of Sherlock Holmes.”
“Oh, I think you should give me tour,” Jim already knew an inordinate amount of information about him. This was an opportunity for the criminal to show that off and for the detective see exactly what details criminal had. Not to mention this would be an entertaining diversion till the service started.
“But I’ve never been here before. You grew up here.”
“But you know me,” Sherlock says and there’s a challenge written there.
“Yes,” the criminal agreed letting his delight at this development fill his voice.
“So lead on.”
“Let’s start with the grounds. You said you didn’t like the beach.”
“As a child, I didn’t.”
“But that doesn’t mean you had any resentments towards the marshes, which, clearly, surround this place,” Jim guided Sherlock to the edge of the driveway, surveying the roll of the land. Or rather lack there of. “You wanted to be a pirate when you were young.” It wasn’t a question. “So, you and your merry band of invisible friends would go exploring in the grasslands and streams, looking for buried treasure.”
“Did I ever find anything?”
“Of course, but there was only one thing ever worth mentioning.”
“And that was?”
“The hull of an old ship.”
“Oh, really,” Sherlock was admittedly surprised, that didn’t seem like the sort of thing that Mycroft could have mentioned. On the other hand, this was Jim and, actually, it was insulting to insinuate that he would need Mycroft’s help to deduce facts about the detective. “Why would you say that?”
“March 11, 1940. The Halifax, fishing trawler, hit a mine off the Suffolk coast. It was never found. Given the natural current of the North Sea, the wreckage could viably have drifted into the surrounding marsh land,” Jim rattled off like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Sherlock was speechless. How...?
“Well, that and the fact that you kept a little souvenir in your flat. The fog bell?”
“Oh,” And Sherlock was laughing, because the fog bell that was engraved and that was an oversight on his part and Jim. “Right....wait, that was in my bedroom. When-?”
“What? You think I broke in just the once?” Referencing the vlog, he posted on the doctor’s website. “Please, I am intimately familiar with your flat.”
“Apparently, also intimately familiar with my bedroom...” To which, Jim just chuckled darkly and pulled Sherlock toward the house.
“Time for the inside,” he announced as they stepped in the foyer. The criminal takes the space in at a glance, thinking he has never seen a house of this stature have such an oppressively under-lit entryway. Sherlock notes that the place hasn’t changed since his boyhood. The door at the other end of the hallway, which served as the thoroughfare of the house, was open and displayed the back yard, beyond which was the location Annora had requested her grave be dug. The place was brimming with mourners. Something the detective would prefer to avoid for as long as possible. Jim, still engrossed in their little game, catches on Sherlock’s gaze, his train of thought, obliges by asking:
“Your bedroom was upstairs?” Sherlock nods and the criminal is suddenly bounding up the staircase. Once at the top, he pauses, not soliciting any help from the detective, who is waiting on the landing.
“Where will the tour guide lead me next?” Sherlock niggles.
“To your room, of course,” Jim strides confidently toward the door of a room on the East side of the house; thus one facing the sea. He tries the door handle but it doesn’t catch. “Oop, it’s locked,” he says with a funny face. “Key?” making a demanding gesture with his hand and Sherlock fishes out his set of keys, singling out the one that would open the door.
“Do you really carry it on you all the time like that?” As he hands them over, Sherlock’s expression turns little sour at the laugh not disguised in Jim’s voice.
“I never know when I might come out here and if I were to hide it in the house, Mycroft would find it.”
“Can he really not pick a lock?” Jim asked disapprovingly. Sherlock shrugged. The criminal turned the key and pushed the door open. The room was dark with the curtains drawn and there was sheets draped over the furniture. Jim enters making ghost noises, dancing into the room from foot to foot acting like he’s afraid to actually step on the dark floorboards.
“So, how’d you figure it was this room?” If Sherlock’s sounding bored, it’s to do with Jim’s antics. But the criminal had dropped that and was now peeking behind the seam of the curtains, examining the view out the window.
“Easily, really. Mycroft, seven years your senior and already devoted to his country, had originally been given this room. But as it faces the sea and away from all that he loved, always disliked it. So before you were born, he made your parents give him the room across the hall, which faces the empire. And you, captain, grew up staring out at sea,” He tore his eyes from the marshland, fingers dropping the curtain to grin at Sherlock.
He was right again.
“Is there anything here still of worth to you?” A question asked out of random curiosity. Sherlock spares a cursory glance, for all he can’t see covered by the white cloth, and shakes his head. All he deemed of any value had gone with him to Baker Street, and even then it was just the violin and the bare essentials. He had never been long for possessions in this life.
Jim loops a lazily circle around the detective, examining the room, before stopping in front of him. There’s an impish hue to the criminal’s eyes that, along with his impressive deductions, makes Sherlock want to push him against the wall and kiss him.
Jim raises an eyebrow. Why don’t you do it then?
So Sherlock does. Seconds later the detective has Jim flush against the green wallpaper, between the bed and the closet. He has his hands gripping the criminal’s hips, pinning him to the wall. Jim’s hands are in Sherlock‘s hair. Their lips melding into each other. They’re still not very good. But a week has allowed for vast improvement.
When they break for breath, Jim whispers:
“And in your mother’s house, Sherlock...tsk tsk tsk.”
“Shut up,” the detective chuckles, catching Jim’s lips again. And this was delicious. But Jim has to remind himself of why they are here. They can’t get carried away. They can’t get lost in each other, not here or at least not now.
“Are you going to let me see the rest of the house?” Jim asks archly, when they break again. “The kitchens are sure to have refreshments.”
“The kitchens are sure to have people,” Sherlock hushed into Jim’s ear. The kiss Sherlock plants at the seam of the criminal’s neck says ‘I just want you’ and the criminal could not agree more. Then Sherlock moves down a little bit, so he’s mouthing the side of Jim’s neck. And this is new. They’d done light kisses on the neck before, but sucking with intention....However, the criminal knew that Sherlock giving him a hickey was not without purpose; the detective did so to throw it in Mycroft’s face. And what a neat mess that would make. Jim didn’t mind in the slightest. Jim let him because it helped with his plan. And you were helping. Sherlock always helped. He loved digging his own grave.
“Don’t you want one of those little mints they serve at these things?” The criminal asks when the skin under Sherlock’s lips starts to tingle and bruise.
“You’re trying to lurer me downstairs, where there are people, with sweets?”
“I’ve lured you elsewhere with sweets.”
“That was on a case!” Sherlock’s hands are tracking up his sides, ruffling up Jim’s dress shirt. He’d love to let this go on for longer, but if they didn’t leave soon they’d be late. That would not make the coming conversations any easier.
“The tour,” Jim says as he catches the detective’s hands. “Mr. Holmes, is over,” And did Sherlock really just mewl? “It’s less than two minutes till the service starts.” Jim pushes Sherlock off him. Yep, he was definitely whining. “Come on, I’ll protect you from the evil old ladies...” Taking the detective’s hand. Sherlock does not fix his hair. Sherlock does not smooth his suit. Sherlock stays messy and well, that’s not for the criminal’s lack of trying; the detective batting away Jim’s tidying hands. But Jim can handle the fallout of Sherlock’s recklessness for the both of them. His plan relied on it anyway.
John thinks that a calming walk by the sea is in order. He greets the straggling guests solemnly on the steps out of the house and continues on. All these empty cars...she really did have a lot of friends.
He heads in the direction of the water. Everyone was back at the house.
No, that wasn’t true. There in the distance was a man. A smartly dressed man standing out in the marsh, smoking. John can’t see him fitting as one of Annora’s set but also none of them really seemed to be the type to employ chauffeurs. The man was a tall blonde. As he got closer, John wondered why the man looked vaguely familiar.
“Oh, it’s you.”
The colonel doesn’t say anything. He just takes a drag on his cigarette. His quick eyes assessing the doctor.
“I thought you were one of the old lady’s driver,” John stated awkwardly. John wasn’t expecting this and though he’d love to the doctor cannot fight the colonel. Well, he could try and get a couple of crack hits in too, if he didn’t mind tutting his own horn, but he’d loose and badly. Moran was bigger and had spent a considerably longer amount of time killing, maiming, and beating people than John had ever thought or wanted. Not to mention, he was still in practice, whereas John attempted to avoid violence in civilian life; a decision he was currently regretting. He’d have to extract himself from this situation without his temper escaping his control.
“Nope,” Moran answered dryly.
“Why are you not with Moriarty?”
“Is he really in danger from a bunch of old hags, doctor?” Moran chuckled. “I have my orders.”
“What? To stand in a marsh?” The colonel shrugs, smirking. “Of course,” John let his distain more than color his voice. The doctor knows he should be weary, after all, Moran has a history of brutal violence and complete disrespect of social boundaries. There were the stories; how the colonel would sit cool as a cucumber, all his quiet manor, and he’d sit there; and you could push and push and push and the man wouldn’t budge. Until he did and when that happened. Well, the stories he’d heard from the men who served under him, it was a full on snap. The mostly likely cause of the man’s dishonorable discharged, but the entire affair was clouded in speculation and rumor, regardless. Even knowing all this, John can’t help being smart towards him. “Your orders which you follow to a T, even when it’s killing innocent people and causing absolute mayhem why? I always wondered why.”
“Why do you think?” The colonel throws back. John shakes his head, lost.
“Bloodlust.” It was all he could think of, actually.
“Nope, not that. Not exactly.”
“Not entirely you mean.”
“Sure.” But that didn’t mean John was right, just that Moran didn’t feel the need to correct him.
“Well, what’s the rest then? Money?” Moran just smiled and took another drag and that was not an answer. “Right, a mystery. Fantastic.”
“You could ask the detective, if you were really curious. Or Jim even,”
“You mistake my level of interest in you.”
“I doubt that.”’
“Anyway, he’s not a detective any more,” John quibbled. Moran laughed out-right, it was breathy and acerbic.
“Try telling him that.” John says nothing. The colonel’s next question comes out as if it’d just popped into his head, but cut like it was calculated to do so: “Have you even talked to him since-”
“Maybe you should,” he takes a drag. “Might give you some resolution.”
“Why would you care?” and the colonel was laughing again.
“Just a friendly suggestion.” John hrumghed, so Sebastian continued: “Well, doctor, if my understanding of the situation is correct, you mostly likely won’t ever get another chance to talk with him. So, why not do it now?”
“You’re awfully confident he will leave today with Moriarty.”
“You’ve seen how they are together,” Moran glanced down as he flicked some ash off his cigarette.
“Uh...I was a bit distracted at the pool, as I’m sure you saw.” Moran nodded. “And I never did really see them interact after that, so no, I haven’t.”
“Well, use your imagination. The last three months have been like the pool on crack.”
“And with more deaths.”
“Oh don’t throw that shit at me. Those people would have died without their games, all the same.”
“No. No, I don’t think so...” Sebastian threw the but of his cigarette on the grass, before stubbing it out with his boot and lighting up another.
“Listen, doctor Watson, I’m fairly confident in my boy’s ability to retain Holmes’ interest.”
“And if his staying doesn’t depend solely on Sherlock’s interest?”
“Keep him here by force?” John inclined his head.
“If not for his own good, then to benefit the rest of humanity.”
“And how do you intend to do that exactly?” John began to open his mouth, but Moran just kept talking, gesturing like some theoretical philosopher with his smoking hand between puffs. “Because, whatever plan you and the Ice Man cooked up, and that’s assuming you have one, it won’t work. But let’s say that you could keep him against his will. If you did, you wouldn’t really be getting what you want anyway.”
And what can John say to that?
“Is he happy?” John asks, not because it will change anything, not because it’ll make all the death and disappointment go away. He asks because he can’t seem to stop caring about Sherlock; however much he wants to ands knows he should. The colonel frowns, then he nods. John looks down at the grass, it’s unkempt and rippling in the wind.
“We were happy. He was happy and everything at Baker street. I don’t understand why he...”
“His choice doesn’t invalidate the time you had together.” Moran’s frown seemed to have made a permeant residence on the man’s forehead.
“No buts, it doesn’t. That was true. But change, progress...growth, doctor.”
“Not when people are dying because they are bored.” But Moran’s looking at him like he’s missing the point.
“It still needs to be his choice, John. I think you know that.”
And the doctor heaves a sort of defeated sigh, because what did he really expect talking with a mercenary. Moran has shifted so he’s looking at the calm water again. He’s done talking. John couldn’t see the point in continuing interrogating the colonel anyway. But Moran still throws over his shoulder:
“You should head back now. The service should be beginning soon.”
The burial was a wash. Unaffected, Sherlock saw people he hadn’t encountered in years, people he’d never cared for, reduced to blubbering messes, as they put the matriarch in the ground. Actually, the detective was more disquieted by the way both Mycroft, but mostly John, were looking at him as he stood next to Jim. Disapproving was putting it mildly. The only thing that made it at all bearable were the occasional moments when the criminal would rise on his toes to whisper something in the detective’s ear. The comments, mainly jocular, forced Sherlock to struggle with keeping his face straight. Something he certainly did not maintain, could never maintain, given Jim’s keen eye and sharp wit. And this inappropriate laughter at Jim’s lips only perpetuated the awkwardness, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, they were standing in front, right next to the casket. And the guests were murmuring. Isn’t that Sherlock? Annora’s wee lad? He was the one who faked being a genius. He was the one who killed all of those people. Didn’t he kill himself? I read he killed himself. What right does he have to come here? All he brought was disgrace and slander to the Holmes name. But how is he alive?
Sherlock doesn’t really care about them. They don’t know the half of it. And even if they did, they wouldn’t understand. But this is the first time he’s come into contact with people who knew who he was and what he’d supposedly done. Jim did say this would happen. And he was ready for it. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are wrong and he was right and they think he was wrong. They think he was a liar and a fake and a murderer and not great enough to be able to deduce things that he did but he was. HE IS. And they don’t know and he can’t tell them. He’s had to deal with these whispers all his life. They never believed even when he did tell them differently; why should it matter now?
As they are stepping away from the grave, Jim puts his hand on the detective’s back. It means ‘ignore them.’ And he will because Sherlock does know that their time together has a price, has always had a price, will always have a price, and he will gladly pay it. Every time.
Regardless of the reasoning behind not saying anything contrary to these people, it is still difficult for the detective to stomach. That on top of the coming conversations, Sherlock thinks that Jim has the right idea when he steers them to the bar.
Jim surveys the selection. All wines, no champagne. Which is a shame. But champagne is for celebrating...have to order a bottle when they get back. But was this really all the selection Mycroft could offer...
“Do you have any hard stuff?” He asks the barkeep.
“Of course, scotch, bourbon, vodka, rum-”
“Two double shots of rum.”
“You know some the other guests have been talking about you two.”
“Oh, really?” Jim leans in. “And what have they been saying, pray tell?”
“Well, that you were both dead,” the boy’s all hushed, low, like it’s a secret.
“Is that all?” Jim asked rolling his eyes and taking the two tumblers.
“Feeling piratic?” The criminal hands over the detective’s glass. Sherlock nods his thanks. The consultants move to an abandoned patch of grass away from the refreshment tent and the unfriendly grazes. Jim’s looking out over the marsh, so he’s missing the approach of two elderly women and a stern looking man, likely there as back up if things got, god forbid, violent.
“I think you might want to slip on a façade...” Sherlock notes under his breath.
“Oh?” Jim asks, back still to the party.
“This should be entertaining.” It was always amazing to watch Jim become someone else. It’s never just his manor of speaking, he physically inhabits their body. The way he holds himself changes; adaptation of nuances and ticks. Richard Brook is a stark contrast to Jim Moriarty; Moriarty has this tightly wound aura of threat and danger to him, whereas Brook is loose and innocuous.
“You’re Richard Brook, right?” His eyes are wild when he turns to face the group because after all these months he is still skittish. And with good reason, if what these people thought was going on here, was actually happening (i.e. Sherlock forced Richard to fake his death and then kidnapped him), that would be cause for Brook to be terrified.
“Yes.” Tentative, frightened and he pulled that off so well.
“We’re fans of your show...” she paused, trying to come up with the most delicate phrasing.
“Oh were you? That’s so great to hear! I love meeting fans,” he enthused and it looks like he’s trying to smile but...then the woman starts:
“We were wondering if we could help you at all.”
“Help with...?” Richard looks slightly confused, but also nervous. Then woman is jerking her head towards the detective, who has taken on an affronted expression but is scanning the crowd, decidedly not paying attention to Richard- and Jim thinks that’s a little obvious, but the people don’t seem to catch on; and then Richard gets it. “Oh god, would you? Please?” He lowers his voice, surreptitiously glancing over at Sherlock every few seconds. “He took my phone...I haven’t been able to call my friends or family and they....they think I’m dead and ......”
“It’s alright now,” the first women is side-eyeing the detective and she turns to her husband. “Harold call the police.”
“Please, call for help.” Richard is imploring.
“My cell seems to have dropped coverage.”
“Of all the times, Harold. I told you we should have switched providers.”
“I’ll call,” the other women pulled her mobile. But that wasn’t working either.
“Isn’t there a house phone? I’ll be fine, if you could just....” Richard is asking, pleading....And there’s the ‘we’ll be back, sweetie.’ And are they seriously stupid enough to just leave him with the man they supposedly rescued him from? Yup, they’re rushing inside, perhaps with all the people around they thought nothing bad could happen...?
Moriarty turns to the detective. Richard’s gone and Jim is back. He and Sherlock are sharing a look of ‘what idiots’ because that was pretty funny.
“Didn’t they see me whispering to you during the service? I mean....” But the scoffs of disbelief and hilarity of the moment soon wear off.
They sink into silence as they are wait for the inevitable. Someone will want to have The Talk. It’s either going to be John or Mycroft. And they both know that it will be John. That Mycroft nominated John, but the doctor would have done it anyways. They aren’t talking about it because they don’t need to talk about it.
Sherlock sips his rum, scanning the crowd for Mycroft. Jim however is watching as the doctor begins his approach. He looks determined. The criminal nudges the detective. Sherlock turns, John is coming. When he arrives, he stands there for a few quite awkward seconds before:
“Can I talk to you?”
“S-” and Sherlock does have to clear his throat. “Sure, of course.” Then John clarifies:
“Alone.” It’s clipped but controlled.
Right and here it goes. Sherlock turns to Jim, because what exactly is the criminal going to do with himself. This could take a while. He’s less concerned and more curious; but still not expecting a legitimate answer. And Jim can’t help himself because this is John and well, he’s won this war already. To be honest, he won it before he even picked up a weapon. (Well, he never really picked one up when he was stealing the detective, but...) He replies:
“Don’t worry, sweet. I can entertain my self.” And the criminal knows that did two things because John is frowning and there it is, that little smirk, the detective’s lips do so well. But it’s off his face as soon as Jim sees it. Sherlock is rolling his eyes and Jim’s eyes are grinning.
“Right,” and that’s dubious, sarcastic, mostly but not entirely because of dear John.
The doctor is eyeing him hard, as the criminal just glances about innocently. Then Sherlock and the doctor are heading in the house, in order to have their little chat behind closed doors.
“So, how have you been?” Sherlock asked, off-handedly as he strolled through the door to a small sitting room just off the main study.
“Let’s not, shall we?” John said closing the door behind them, the detective sitting already. The doctor moved to the empty chair. He saw how the criminal was whispering in Sherlock’s ear at the service. The way the detective could not help but laugh. John had never expected much from Sherlock when it came to understanding social etiquette but the criminal knew what he was doing. And if Sherlock could laugh so easily as they placed his mother in the ground, why exactly had he come? Still John had told Mycroft he would try. He would try.
“How do you think I’ve been?” The detective decides perhaps that was not the best lead. “Really, Sherlock? What about the months when you were alive and I thought you were dead? Were you curious how I was doing then? No, you were off killing people with that-”
“John,” the detective interrupts, because he had not come here to be lectured (Although, he knew it would happen regardless). John tries a new topic:
“Mycroft tells me that you and Moriarty are working together. Consulting on crimes.” Sherlock is wondering what exactly John was trying to get at. Mycroft’s files would have proved that irrefutably. “Just letting him kill people for money. Having fun, no other purpose?”
Oh, so John was hoping that Sherlock was only working Moriarty to understand how his empire worked; in an effort to better destroy it. Hurm.
Aside from enjoying himself too much in Jim’s company, the main reason the detective had not gone rushing back to placate John, once he heard Mycroft told the doctor everything; was that Sherlock knew going back to Baker Street would have been utterly pointless. Once John found out about Sherlock and Jim’s transgressions, there was no going back. The doctor would never forgive him for killing people for fun, boredom, because they could, and because they clever enough. That crossed a line that even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t even hope to rescind. Then there was the fact that he did it with him.
It really was a pity that Sherlock’s relationships with John and Jim could not exist simultaneously in his life. But John would never stand for it. He wasn’t standing for it now. It was part of what made John, John. The doctor was his best friend. Sherlock still thought of him that way after these months apart; John, no doubt after seeing Mycroft’s files, viewed the detective differently. He would never be trusted again even if he apologized, which he didn’t intend to. He wasn’t sorry not for the deaths, no. For loosing John in the process, yes. He’s known that their friendship was lost; or if at all salvageable, could never possibly hope to be the same.
No, Sherlock knew the irreversibility in his action when he got on the plane with Jim. Or rather when he spiked the beer at that party. So he came to the funeral with the intention to be honest and let John move on with his life. He couldn’t have the doctor thinking that he didn’t want this. Sherlock makes his best, that’s interesting but wrong face and asks:
“What other purpose could there be?”
He watches as John twitches. Perhaps the doctor is beginning to realize what a stonewall the detective intends to be. Sherlock doesn’t like it but it’s the right thing to do.
“I guess I was just hoping that those people died for a reason other than to satisfy your addiction to the high you get off a clever crime,” John’s getting worked up. “Sherlock, do you even- You’re killing innocent people-” Sherlock begins to protest that a lot of them are hardly innocent, but John continues without pause. “You have become exactly what Donovan said you would and it’s-” he breaks off. “...and it’s horrible.”
Sherlock doesn’t bristle, he just throws a retort back at John in a biting manor.
“What you’re doing for Mycroft? You realize he’s using you to get to me?”
“Good. I hope it’s working,” John’s tone is controlled, but there’s that anger bubbling underneath, that always appeared if the detective did something improper. Sherlock rolls his eyes, otherwise he is visibly impassive. This was completely conscious. He could not let John see how difficult this conversation was for him; it would only encourage the doctor’s attempts at persuasion. Which were ineffective, annoying, and painful. A development he considered odd. All past run-ins with the doctor’s disappointment had been acknowledged indifferently. Perhaps this time it was unique because Sherlock knew he would not have an opportunity to earn back those good graces. That John would not grin at him again. The doctor just sighs, asking quietly: “What are you doing with him Sherlock?”
“What do you think? He is a challenge. The best I’ve encountered.” Which is the simple answer, the obvious answer.
“Are you going to stop this?”
“Then there’s really nothing left to say, Sherlock,” John says, plainly exhausted with this whole mess.
“What do you mean?” Sherlock hadn’t expected their conversation to be this short. He had anticipated some line of inquiry as to how he wasn’t dead and how he came to be working with Jim.
“I-I... I can’t deal with this- THIS anymore,” he swallows. “I’m moving on. Clearly, - I appreciate our time together but what you have become and your lack of ...remorse...”
“I’ve met someone.”
“You’ve met someone?” There’s a tone of disbelief.
“Don’t look so shocked,” John scoffs.
“Well, given your track record.....”
“That was no thanks to you...”
“Sure, right. Okay, I told myself that if you DID come, I would at least hear your side of things before I beat the crap out of you-”
“Oh, well if I have that to look forward to...”
“So, out with it. What happened?” John didn’t wait long before continuing, quickly shifting back to scathing. “Did you and him talk about it? Plan it all out? When I left to go help Mrs. Hudson? Who was not shot by the way, as I’m sure you knew. Did he set that up too? Thought you were both so clever before you jumped, didn’t you? You have a big laugh afterwards?”
“Fine. Just, what happened?”
“He was going to kill you. Lestrade. Mrs. Hudson. If I didn’t kill myself. He had three of his gunmen in position if I didn’t jump, he would have killed all of you. But I had him, John. He slipped up. I had won. I could have-” Sherlock breaks off, not really wanting to think of the things he might have done to get Jim to talk. Because he could have. He would have. “I had him and then he shot himself. I thought he was really dead. Honestly, I did,” Sherlock sighed, his mind inadvertently flashing back to the dead smile painted on Jim’s face, blood pooling out of his brain, the days that followed. The detective knows he will never be able to fully explain it to John or anyone if he tried; but when he thought that Jim was dead, really dead, and when he was truly alone in the world, something clicked in the detective’s mind. “You saw it in the papers. He was dead. And with him went any chance I had for calling off the gunmen. So, I went through with my original plan.”
“Which was to fake your death?”
“I knew he was going to maneuver me into a corner and so with Molly, I-”
“Oh, oh! She was in on it?”
“So I planned with Molly a way to make it look I died.” A pause.
“Go on. Then what? You supposedly didn’t know he was alive.”
“Right, so. How did we get here? Like this?”
“I was coming out of the cemetery after my funeral and-”
“Wait. You were at the graveyard? You were there?”
“Yes, John, I was. And I had gotten a cab-”
“Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Why couldn’t you have just popped by and filled us in on your ‘brilliant’ plan? We were all there. Mrs. Hudson. Lestrade. Mycroft,” he pauses thinking. “Or was he in on your ‘brilliant plan’ too?”
“No, please.” Like Sherlock needed Mycroft’s help to fake his death.
“Of course, fine. Then why couldn’t you have just come and given us friendly ‘Hello, hey, I’m not dead. Sorry for all the distress I’ve caused.’”
“To put it very mildly. Yes, Sherlock, distress.”
“At my death?”
“Sherlock, we do care about you.” Another pause. “So, you were willing to kill your reputation to protect us.”
“Wow. Am I supposed to be impressed that you did all that and then conveniently forgot to tell your only friends that you were in fact alive?”
“I thought he’d still have people watching you. To make sure I was really dead. Watching Baker Street. Watching the Yard. Watching Bart’s. I thought that if I tried to make contact you- or even get a message through, his orders would have killed you all. So, I was leaving. The temptation to talk to you, to reassure you, was too great. I had the country. You could not be put in danger in longer. I came out of the cemetery and he hopped into my cab at a corner.”
“And then what?”
“He asked me if I wanted to join him in his endeavors.”
“And you said ‘yes.’”
“Of course. Jim is fascinating.” John scoffs at ‘Jim,’ but Sherlock continues on. “I am never bored. Well, I say never-”
“Sherlock, he is insane. He kills people for money. No, for fun. He kills people for fun.” The detective just looks at John over his steepled fingers, so the doctor continues: “All to win a ‘Game.’”
“It was never about winning the Game for him. He didn’t even want to win. He wanted to loose.”
“Loose? And what would that accomplish?”
“In loosing, he found someone who could navigate the intricacies of his plan and come out on top; proof that he was not alone in the world.”
“For all the people he killed, you’d think he wanted to be the only one.”
“No, he wanted to find his equal.”
“And that would be you?”
“Yes. He wanted to form a connection. With me.”
“What? Make friends? With you?” John was incredulous. “And he did.” At this Sherlock pauses, he had never thought of it like that before. Friends? He supposed, but that really wasn’t the right word... there was no right word, actually.
John lets the silence drag and is disappointed at the lack of contradiction he receives given his choice word. Friend.
“You became friends with the psychopath.” Sherlock wanted to correct John on the title he had apparently bestowed on Jim. It’s not accurate. But he’s fairly certain that John doesn’t want to hear the slight, but critical differences in definition between psychopath and sociopath. He bites his tongue.
John wondered how Sherlock could allow his himself to rise above such distinctions. How he could be both John’s best friend during their time at Baker street and then be perfectly accepting of this killer. The doctor supposed Sherlock had always held that contradiction in him. Even now, when it was plain that the detective was lost, John could still see these flashes of the man he knew.
That smirk might play at his lips, always inappropriate to the situation. There was the way his eyes would flick over John taking him in at a glance. And, of course, the condescension when he deigned to reveal all the mysterious details he picked up, the bits no one else saw; how he was never quite as harsh to John for not seeing them as he was to everyone else. John was special. Just not special enough.
It’s too much deja vu for the doctor, because that’s just not who they are anymore. Their camaraderie was shattered. Sherlock shattered it. The trust was all gone. John’s faith in Sherlock Holmes is gone. John wants it back. He wants Sherlock back. He knows that and in a moment he’s lying to himself; he could trust the detective. If he would just-
“Just, stop. All of it. You can stop it. You- just come back. Please.”
“Why not? Mycroft can help you.”
“Accepting his assistance would hardly be the crime of the century,” John objects, trying to find any other reasoning for Sherlock’s answer.
“That’s not why,” Sherlock made a face.
“Then why?” John bite out, jaw locked.
“I don’t think you see how... amazing it is for me to have found Jim.”
John can’t speak.
“He’s just like me. We think-”
Seriously? He’s not even hearing Sherlock’s words anymore, the detective is rambling on about how he and this murderer are the same? It was one thing to be taken in by the allure of the Game, the plots, and murder. But to honestly believe that he and Moriarty were fundamentally the same person, was entirely wrong. He’d seen Sherlock’s capacity for good. John didn’t believe Moriarty even had the ability let alone the inclination. And that was just one glaring difference he could point out to the detective, if he asked. But he wasn’t asking because he had already made up his mind.
John’s solidly ignoring the increasingly loud humming of resentment that is filling the back of his mind. Sherlock valued the friendship of this insane criminal mastermind over John’s, assuming the maniac was even capable of that. He placed this one killer above the lives of every single other person on the planet; John was seeing it all too clearly; that Sherlock probably would always do so.
“You’re deluded,” He stated. “You’ve been brainwashed into believing lies.”
“John, don’t be absurd,” Sherlock protested to deaf ears.
John wanted to tear something apart. Namely Jim Moriarty.
He stands up, leaving the room despite Sherlock’s protests, with every intention of finding the bastard.
Mycroft had been watching the criminal and the detective out of the corner of his eye. All through the service, Moriarty had been trying to make Sherlock laugh. It was unseemly. And why exactly was Sherlock’s hair a mess? How did that happen? Neither of them had looked quite that disheveled when they came on the property.
After the burial, John stands next Mycroft, just biding his time till he is ready to talk to the detective. John hadn’t commented on the consultant’s rifled appearance. Mycroft doesn’t think the doctor would be a good sounding board for speculation on this curiosity; probably assumed the consultants fought. Mycroft doubted that could be the whole of the story.
Whatever did happen, it was a miracle that Sherlock decided to come. His brother had never been close to Annora. It was strange he felt the need to make the effort, given the circumstances. The elder Holmes watched over the chattering of the guests as John, having finally worked up the courage, went over to them and persuaded Sherlock to talk privately, in the library no doubt. Good place to have a word.
The criminal stood alone; looking up at the sky for a few seconds then glancing around, all and all looking unimpressed. He dropped his drink off at the bar, proceeded to survey the refreshments offered: cookies, grapes, bread and humus. He picked up a biscuit. The guests gave the criminal a wide berth; aside from the Mullans, who were always a particularly interfering lot, even for mummy’s set (Mycroft was not smirking at all when they went scurrying inside for the house phone). Disgraced actor or not, the man still was keeping the company of an alleged killer. Well, that and he was supposed to be dead.
The elder Holmes didn’t understand why Moriarty would come just at the simple request of his brother. Even if that was the sole reason, why would the criminal risk it? There was danger here for him that Sherlock could avoid. Mycroft would not do anything too severe to his brother and would offer him asylum if law enforcement happened to be hailed. But Jim? The elder Holmes held no sentiment for the criminal that could protect him from arrest. (Not that a prison could hold the man. But it seemed to be a needless hassle.)
It could not simply be to flaunt that he’d won over Sherlock. That was too big of risk for such a small menial reward.
Though, after that display with the jewels and throwing the jury, many would say that was Moriarty’s goal; but Mycroft knew better. That had just been good storytelling.
There had to be something else. Some other motive.
The criminal popped a grape in his mouth before glancing around surreptitiously and slipping inside the house. Mycroft would follow him. Of course, Mycroft would follow him. The elder Holmes wished the reason was because he was worried the criminal would nick their oldest bottle of wine. No, they needed have a little chat and Moriarty slipping away to lurk after his brother was as good a time as any.
Jim’s pacing the library. He can hear the slightly raised voices coming from the sitting room next door. This was the hardest part. This was the hardest part. But it’s important that Jim doesn’t smother Sherlock here. No, no, must allow the detective and Johnny-boy to air their dirty laundry under the semblance of privacy, if only to make John easier to work with. He’d hope the detective would assume he’d be listening, like come on, why wouldn’t he?
Now John’s yelling. Jim knows from all his surveillance of 221b that the doctor has a quiet but frank anger, which comes out when he’s been pushed for too long without being able to blow off steam; preferably via walking, occasionally inclined to violence, rarely acted on. John has ways to deal with his anger, but you had to let him; Sherlock had to let him.
Why the detective would elect to come and be exposed to this kind of criticism, when he actually cared about the opinions those critics had of him; entirely baffled Jim. Silly, really. This situation could have been neatly avoided by ignoring the whole event.
Jim’s pacing because he can’t do anything else. The doctor and Sherlock are trading comments which are muffled but clipped. He wants this to be over with. He wants to take Sherlock away from these prying eyes, who ‘cared about him.’ Well, they had a funny way of showing it. Sherlock wants to be with the criminal, committing these crimes, on his most basic level and then every level after that, so why can’t they just respect him choice? Of course, the age old, boring, boring, BORING arguments: the loss of life, the waste of a good mind, needless negative effect on society blahbablahbablahbablah. Oh, oh, oh, not the innocent people, no don’t kill them! It wasn’t like any of it really mattered. Insufferable shites.
There was a cacophony of chattering guests as the door opened and Mycroft slipped inside. Jim’s paused in his pacing to inspect at the older man. The Ice Man’s expression was invariable; if he was surprised by running into the criminal here, he didn’t show it.
The conflict between Mycroft and the detective was not insubstantial. But it was also something that could be reconciled. Perhaps should be reconciled, as Sherlock’s entire childhood was poisoned by retrospective. Life in Aldeburgh was not this onerous despotic thing; the frame through which Sherlock saw his older brother had done that. Mycroft had never been very open, never been warm, never been good at hiding his affection for Sherlock. And the detective, had never been good at recognizing emotions resident in others, once he had a particular lens he saw them through. Was it odd that after roughly twenty-five years their opinions of each other hadn’t changed? Jim noted that was not a question he could answer; he was guilty of the same issue in his framing of the detective.
All the same, the foundation of the Holmes brother’s relationship could be set right, though not easily, and only with the stipulation that both parties give the proper effort. But Sherlock didn’t want to change the opinion he had of his brother and Mycroft had given up trying years ago. Of course, Sherlock might be willing hear Jim’s perspective on the matter but the criminal is disinclined to encourage reconciliation. It would interfere with his plans....
Speaking of which: the way the elder Holmes is looking at him, Jim can tell he’s not where he needs to be. That Mycroft doesn’t get it yet. He will just have to work on that, won’t he? Jim looks toward the door the detective and the doctor are behind, exaggerating the movement, in the process giving the elder Holmes a long clear shot of the side of his neck.
“What happened to your neck?” Mycroft asks after a delay, sounding perplexed. And the criminal acts, his gaze snapping back to the elder Holmes, who is looking at him like he’s not seeing something right. Good.
Jim opens his mouth, feigning confusion, hand reaching up as if thinking of ‘what on earth are you talking about?’ Fingers brush across the delicate skin and his mouth forms a sheepish ‘oh.’
Before anything else is said, John’s angry voice rings out.
“Where do you think I’m going, Sherlock?!” He bursts through the door of the study followed by the detective, who to Jim’s expectation and dismay looks harried. The doctor pauses momentarily taken aback by the scene in front of him, glancing at Mycroft and then zeroing in on Jim. He’s so angry that he completely disregards any hesitancies that might have naturally cropped up in his mind about approaching the criminal. But then there are no snipers here, no menacing red dots to keep him in place, so John ignores less than subtle warnings his brain gives him.
“YOU DID THIS! THIS IS YOUR FAULT!” John shouts, storming at Moriarty. He swings his fist, hitting the criminal in the abdomen. Then, as Jim’s doubled over, John takes a second punch which lands solidly against Jim’s nose. Sherlock yanks John back before he can do anything else. The doctor shakes him off, pushing the detective away as he moves around the space confined by furniture.
“John,” Mycroft cautions, speaking for the first time since their dramatic entrance, but the doctor shakes his head as he shakes out his hand:
Jim doesn’t make any move to perpetuate a fist-fight. He just grins insanely at the army doctor, from his slightly bent position. Because this is Jim. He doesn’t care if he were beaten to a bloody pulp or tortured. He doesn’t do anything because he’s won this.
“No, no. It was him. It was ALL him.”
The criminal knows that John doesn’t get it; won’t get it, because he’s saying that like it was a bad thing...and wasn’t that just hilarious.
“Oh Jawn,” Jim drawled. “You’d love to think that, wouldn’t you?”
John nodded vehemently, glaring at Moriarty.
“Well, it’s true,”Jim’s matter-of-fact demeanor shifted into something reptilian as he rolled his shoulders, like he was shrugging on a coat. “It was all me. It was always me. My first crime was the inspiration for his life’s work. But see the thing is he noticed me first. So, it was always him as well.”
The criminal is boring into the doctor with his empty eyes.
“Care to even hazard a guess how many of the crimes he’s consulted on over the years were orchestrated by me? Not to bore with specifics, but I assure you the number is staggering. In fact, you’ll remember this. There was that stretch of about six weeks when Sherlock was mad with boredom; his restlessness when no clever crime to be found anywhere. Of course. It could hardly be a coincidence that I happened to be held up by the good old Ice Man in his Baskerville stronghold at that very same time. The dates almost exactly elapse, because once I was out: excitement. He was back to his tricks, with my mind to distract him again. Why? Because we are the same.”
“Yes. I bet you couldn’t tell the difference between his crimes and mine? Assuming there actually is a difference.”
“Until you came along he would not have-”
“No, John. He’s right,” Sherlock cuts the doctor off.
John, aghast, turned at Mycroft, begging for some form of intervention. The elder Holmes’ expression was frosty, but he made not indications. So even now Mycroft was still not going to act. John had to get out of here, with all the passive condonation of mass-murder and brainwashing. John glances at Sherlock, just to check one last time that he was- Yep. He believed it. And John can feel this fury rise up in him, like never before. This was singlehandedly worse than the lack of empathy, the sugar in the coffee, the fake death, all the needless murders that followed for sport and profit. This mistaken bit of propaganda; John could see it as a lie, but Sherlock had taken as truth. He’d swallowed it whole without pause or question. This poison idea that he was the same as Moriarty; and thus should behave like Moriarty. It cut John deep, but at the same time set him on fire. He had to get away from this toxicity.
Without another word, John walked out.
“Maybe you should go after him?” Mycroft suggests vainly.
“No, running off like that is Johnny’s way of anger management. You wouldn’t be able to get anything out of him until he’s cooled off. He’ll come back when he has,” Jim pulled a white handkerchief out of his breast pocket and began dabbing at the red that was now dripping.
“Are you alright?” Sherlock steps in front of Jim, stooping to see the injury sustained to his nose.
“You’ve done more damage any number of times, darling. I’m fine, really.”
“You sure?” the detective looked dubious.
“Well, he has a pretty mean left hook. Irene said you-”
“Let me see,” Sherlock made remove the white cloth.
“No, it’s fine,” Jim ducking out of Sherlock’s reach.
“Just let me see. Jiiiimmm.” The criminal turned, as if to walk away but Sherlock pounced on him from behind. He poked his head over Jim’s shoulder to try and see but was forced to angle and re-angle every time the criminal twisted.
“Love, stop badgering me.”
“I just want to look,” Sherlock pouted, stilling momentarily.
“No, you want to figure out precisely what velocity his knuckles collided with my nose.”
“Well, duh. What else were you expecting?” Sherlock riposted, dry. Jim chortled.
“Get off. I’m not letting you see,” the criminal started squirming again, nearly managing out of the detective’s grasp.
“Boys!” Mycroft interceded. “Since you’re here, I’d like to talk to you both. If you don’t mind?”
“We do, actually.” Sherlock straightened, fixing Mycroft with an annoyed glare.
“Well, I wasn’t really asking. Sit down, Sherlock,” Mycroft sits and there was that little smile that only saw the light day when he was dealing with his brother. Ah, the little tells, Jim noted. Open like a book. The elder Holmes nods for them to sit on the sofa behind them.
The criminal throws himself against the couch, sprawled out like he owns the place, and decidedly silent to any pain John may have caused him.
Mycroft watches as Sherlock sits next to Jim. Too close for such a wide couch to seem like a natural distance.
He sees this. This interaction, the display that he had just interrupted, the playfulness of it, the fact that Sherlock asked Moriarty to come and the criminal CAME, the hickey, and suddenly it dawns on him.
No...it couldn’t be....
Because coming here was stupid. But Jim is not stupid. He still came.
Lover was not a strong enough word. No lover didn’t cover it at all. Intellectual fucking was one thing, it could be done without emotions. And Mycroft knows, he knows better than anyone, that Sherlock would love to keep it that way, always aspiring to be a machine. But could they keep it that way? No. Jim’s obsession had brought on an unexpected attachment to the detective. That was the shocking part. He knew Sherlock, despite what he had tried to prove true for years, was not immune to emotions. But Moriarty....caring, was a surprise. There could be no other reason why he would come despite the risk. The criminal saw the risk and it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the detective, who he was here to support.
Danger, all at Sherlock’s bequest. It was not recklessness. It was not coincidence either. This was Jim Moriarty’s weakness: Sherlock Holmes. And this flaw, in the design of Moriarty’s perfect antagonistic force, could be used to stop him. A plan begins to form in the elder Holmes’ mind. Mycroft had one last option that he had not even considered before. Ironic that sentiment, the only flaw that could be found in the Ice Man (and Irene Adler too), was also the one flaw that could be found the criminal. It was only fitting that the elder Holmes use it against him.
If anything will stop Jim from destroying everything Mycroft loves, it will be this. This one move. The elder Holmes has no qualms with going there. Using that to get what he wants, because if this doesn’t stop the criminal nothing will.
Mycroft knows the risks.
What happens if it comes to that and he has to pull the trigger, if he presses that button, if he says take the hit; and he’s wrong. The gamble fails. There will be nothing left to stop the madman from destroying the world.
And Mycroft will be left with nothing but guilt.
However, on the flip side to that, if he doesn’t loose everything here, then he will loose everything anyway. This was the only move he could see. It was also the only move. Everything else was inaction. And that ended with ashes as well. Mycroft was ill-versed in passive compliance, despite what John thinks. He will take this move. But first he has to try Sherlock without leverage:
“Is there anything I can say to convince you that this offensive is a terrible idea?”
“No, of course not,” Mycroft already knew the answer. “Well, it’s nice that you came,” he pauses. “Why did you come?”
“Closure.” Mycroft’s face shifts into something like understanding, maybe he’s a little surprised; impressed. “Will you tell John I said goodbye?”
“How could I not?” Mycroft shrugs, hollow, and Sherlock jumps out of his seat, eager to leave. Jim rises, buttoning his waistcoat still languid. Sherlock’s standing at the door and Mycroft takes this moment to act. Because why not? This is the last chance. Because it’s all a gamble anyway. Because this is the one thing that might save this hopeless situation. This one last move, a chance, to ensure that his country not be destroyed. The elder Holmes stands and leans over Jim, fingers applying needless weight on the criminal’s forearm, just to keep him from walking out, to keep him from leaving just yet. And Mycroft’s lips are in Jim’s ear and he whispers it to him. He gives Jim this ultimatum. It takes a moment, visibly, for Jim to register. Then he yanks his arm away, he turns staring blackly, searching the elder Holmes’ practically smirking visage.
Jim doesn’t take his eyes off of Mycroft, watching the man almost as if he might do something.
“That’ll be your one warning, Mr. Moriarty,” Mycroft explains. But the criminal says nothing, backing out of the room, and pulling the now befuddled detective after him. Mycroft sinks back down in his seat.
He’s not sure if threatening Jim was the smartest move, but it was the only one that gave England a chance of survival.
Once Jim’s hand dropped from his arm, Sherlock stalled. The study door shut with a snap and Jim kept walking. But Sherlock had stalled. He needed to know what Mycroft just said and all those people that the criminal was heading towards did not need to hear this.
“What did my brother say?” Jim turns impatient, when he realizes the detective was no longer following him.
“Nothing,” his smaller frame is practically vibrating with tension at complete odds with how relaxed he was moments before. Before Mycroft’s whispers.
“Clearly it was som-”
“I’ll tell you later,” the criminal emphasizes dramatically as his eyes flick around the corridor in a paranoid fashion. Sherlock supposes he had better wait. “Are you done here?”
The detective nods.
“Then can we go?”
“Good,” Jim states brusquely, but he looks as if he wants to drag the detective out of the house. The criminal sorts their way through the maze of halls to the foyer like he’s lived there for years, only to practically run down the front steps outside, still looking furtive as they move down the drive.
Moran is laying on the hood of the car, forearm shielding his eyes from the light. When they are within ten feet and passed most of the cars on the gravel drive, Jim calls out:
“Sebastian! Wake the hell up! We’re going!”
They’re on the road back sitting in the silent hum of the car. It’s taking a majority of Sherlock’s functions to not ask Jim what Mycroft said. He doesn’t. Partly because patience. But also partly because, once they got in the car, the criminal’s entire demeanor had shifted. He no longer looked worried, not even in the slightest. Which set the detective’s brain abuzz with possibilities.
Jim was, foremost, a performer. It was suspect that he dropped whatever anxiety his brother had supposedly caused him the moment they couldn’t be seen from the house. That worry he displayed could have been a rouse. But that still brought the detective back to the same question: what had Mycroft hissed in Jim’s ear? Whatever it was he appeared to have put it out of his mind for the moment, because the criminal asks the detective:
“How are you doing?”
“Fine,” Sherlock dismisses. Just forty minutes of my wondering what Mycroft could have said to you.
“Right,” Jim intones quiet, not sarcastic. He doesn’t want to start a fight. He’ll let Sherlock stew.
It’s not enough because Sherlock does want to fight. He’s just let John go (his best FRIEND) and he wants something more from Jim than silence and the criminal sitting next to him. He wants a fight.
But fight about what?
He can’t say you shouldn’t have said that to John. What Jim had said was true. Of course, it was true. And now the criminal is looking at him like he knows that he is thinking. He does know but won’t refute it because Sherlock knows the truth and there was nothing to fight about. Because what? If he were to reenact the last five hours, the last five months, a million times Sherlock would change nothing. So what? So what. He still lost John. He still had to deal with Mycroft. He wished now was the later Jim had referred.
“You saw. You HEARD.”
“As if you didn’t know I would eavesdrop,” Jim’s face morphs into a comic scoff.
“Of course I did, but you know...You already know,” Sherlock can’t seemed to be bothered to form his ideas into understandable sentences. Jim nodded all the same, prompting:
“Have you ever heard that it’s cathartic to say it out loud?”
“There’s nothing to say. I knew what I needed to do. I did it. That doesn’t mean I need to be happy about it.”
Jim does not say he should be. Jim does not say anything.
Sherlock sighs; the criminal was clearly unwilling to pick a fight at the moment.
Talking with John, then dealing with his brother, had left the detective exhausted. He was tired. He wanted to know what Mycroft said; he was fed up with his meddling. He wanted to play his violin. Well, he didn’t have a bed or his instrument. He did, however, have Jim. Maybe if he irked the criminal a little more he might play.
In one movement, Sherlock’s head was in Jim’s lap. Blue eyes meeting black, as he lights up and takes a drag; holding the smoke, only to blow it into Jim’s face. The criminal blinks a couple of times as the cloud dissipates, but continues staring down at the detective, unimpressed and unflappable.
Jim knows Sherlock is trying for a row and, if they were anywhere else, he would humor him; he knows Sherlock needed to blow off some steam. But, as they were stuck in the car with another hour and forty minutes, the criminal would not strike the match the detective handed him.
They speak more through gaze than words until Sherlock asks:
“Dear Jim, please will you tell me story?”
There’s a long silence. He’s caught the criminal off-guard. (Point.) So, Sherlock asks again.
“Alight,” the criminal is still quiet, clearly thinking. “Alright. This is the story of Sir-Boast-A-Lot.”
“I’ve heard this story before,” Sherlock interrupts.
“Not like this,” Jim reassures, continuing. “Sir-Boast-A-Lot was the bravest and cleverest knight at the round table, but soon the other knights began to grow tired of his stories of how brave he was and how many dragons he’d slain. And so Sir-Boast-A-Lot decided to leave Camelot with the Bard.”
“Why don’t you get a silly name?” the detective complained.
“Hush, love,” Jim breezed over Sherlock’s protest. “This Bard and Sir-Boast-A-Lot had a great many things in common, in fact the two considered themselves to be essentially the same. And they had a marvelous time causing trouble all over the world and going on daring adventures with each other. One day, the two decided that together they would bring down Camelot and they began to set about the planning of how they would do so.
“But soon the other knights of Camelot grew jealous of the Sir-Boast-A-Lot and the Bard. Not only had they had heard the rumors of the two from their friends throughout the rest of world but they had also found the plans for the destruction of Camelot. They were angry that Sir-Boast-A-Lot wanted to betray them like that. But they still loved their former brother-in-arms, so they blamed it all on the Bard, thinking he was the catalyst.
“When the two had to return to Camelot to bury a member of Sir-Boast-A-Lot’s family, Sir Frigid-Fingers took the Bard aside and threatened him.”
“He said that though he loved Sir-Boast-A-Lot, Sir Frigid-Fingers would do anything to protect Camelot. Anything to to ensure it’s safety. Sir Frigid-Fingers, a self-confident man, had devised a weakness in the Bard would exploit it in an attempt to save his fiefdom.
“What did he threaten you with?” Sherlock was not expecting an answer, but it didn’t hurt to ask.
Jim just smiled plaintively. And that didn’t sit well on the detective’s stomach but he had to ask:
“Do you like cliff-hangers or something?” And Jim’s rolling his eyes to look out the window, swallowing a smile.
Dusk had fallen by the time John came back to the house. He’d gone down to the water. (In the opposite direction of where he’d run into the colonel and this time definitely away from everyone.)
He came back calmer. Anger having burned it’s self out. Leaving only, what he now knows to be, expected defeat. He was not surprised by Sherlock’s stubborn refusal to see the truth. After all, Moriarty had convinced that entire world that Brook and the detective had been great friends for years. The criminal was a master of deception and when it came to this sort of thing Sherlock hardly needed persuasion. John wondered, not for the first time, if Sherlock would not have been better off really killing himself; so twisted and corrupted his character had evolved under Moriarty’s spell.
But John had to make a deliberate choice not to dwell on it. He had to move on; stay positive. He was looking forward to seeing Gemma tomorrow evening. He’d leave Aldeburgh for the last time in the morning, as it was a little late to be trying to make it back to London tonight. He’d leave and wash his hands of the Holmes name once and for-all. (At least, as much as he could. There was no forgetting the detective.)
John finds Mycroft in the study where he left him. Except now he was sitting. Just sitting there.
“Oh, it’s you.”
“Yeah,” John sits in the chair opposite.
He hears the click of the gun without even seeing it in the dim of the room.
“If I didn’t have two of the most dangerous men in the world in this room only hours before, I might have shot you,” the elder Holmes pulls an old revolver he’d been holding from the bowls of his chair. John eyed the weapon, as it was set on the table side.
“Sure,” John shrugged. After the day he had....
“Help yourself,” Mycroft gestured vaguely to the liquor cabinet. The doctor rolled his eyes, but stood all the same. “They left by the way. They drove off after I...haha. After I threatened Jim,” he sniggers. “Jim....”
“....You threatened Moriarty?”
“With the only weakness I know he has,” Mycroft answered as John sat back down with a full tumbler and the good sense to bring the rest of the decanter back with him.
“But the real question is...is will he stop? Or will he call my bluff? Will he adhere my warning? If I kill....I will loose everything ...if I’m wrong. And I will be wrong, won’t I John? Always wrong when it matters. Always wrong when it comes to Jiiiiiiiimmmmmmm.”
“You are drunk.”
“I am, indeed.”
“I met Moran.”
“Oh, did you? I was wondering if he would show up...”
“Yep, out in the marsh. He seemed...tolerable.”
“Well, so do you. You should see his other side.” John frowned, brushing off whatever that was supposed to have meant.
“The result of it, yes. Rather brutal but that’s what you’d expect.”
“I don’t get him.”’
“Oh, and you get everybody else?” Snark, shinning through Mycroft’s voice; liquor negating his careful tongue.
“No, it’s just he could work for anyone he wants. Why would he choose to work with-”
“Really, John, I thought you’d understand,” the elder Holmes looked meaningfully at the doctor, only take another large sip of scotch.
“Why’s that?” John asks wryly. But Mycroft’s moved on.
“You know we picked him up, back when Moriarty had just started to use him regularly for jobs; I thought we might be able to woo him back to the crown, maybe fix his records or some to get him help us. I thought we might have finally found an in to the upper-echelon of Moriarty’s empire. But when we picked him up to try turn him and offered him the world in exchange for Moriarty’s corpse; he wouldn’t do it. I asked him why...but he was oddly unforthcoming.”
“That was silly of him,” John observed. “It’s not like Moriarty would extend the same courtesy. He doesn’t care about one of his snipers.... or a single other person alive.”
“You’re wrong there. He cares about one single person.”
“You think he’s capable?”
“I don’t need to think about it, John. I saw the proof here this evening. I saw the proof in those pictures of California. I saw the proof in his twenty year obsession with my brother. And I saw it from the beginning.... And I only realized it today.....There are only two people in Moriarty’s world: Jim and Sherlock. Everyone else are just pawns. Puppets.”
There’s a lull in the conversation. Mycroft continues sipping the fresh glass he poured himself. John chooses not to speculate on the drinking habits of the elder Holmes. But he’s in for one hell of a hang-over tomorrow.
“We’ll still be friends won’t we, John?”
“...Of course,” the doctor’s stilted answer is based in confusion. What an odd turn in conversation. Best not to offend, but he wonders how Mycroft could ever have considered them friends in the first place. John wonders how many people Mycroft thought of as friends and how many of those people, like himself, had no idea.
“I may be more than slightly inebriated but I can still tell when you’re lying. It’s okay. I already knew that was the answer anyway. ...You need to move on with your life, John. Besides, you won’t want to be anywhere near me when things start happening...” He took another swig.
John doesn’t ask the elder Holmes what things are coming. Nor why he’s dreading them. The doctor’s decided that a drunk Mycroft was no more free with his information than a sober one; he certainly wasn’t any less perplexing, more so even. But John thinks maybe (probably) the Holmes brother’s cold war might be heating up, it certainly had the potential to with Moriarty in the mix.
Mycroft was not wallowing in consternation, because Holmes do not wallow, but he was apprehensive about the repercussions of his move; how Jim would react under the terms of Mycroft’s ultimatum, if he would tell Sherlock, what Sherlock would do, if they would call him on it, just for spite. He was praying the threat would be enough to keep the consultants in place. But, somehow knowing it wouldn’t. He was damned.
Mycroft and John sink into to a sort of companionable silence, each lost in their own glasses and thoughts.
Author’s Note: Be forewarned this chapter contains suicide ideation, discussions of suicide, and mentions repercussions of past drug abuse, of triggers, and ptsd. Trigger warning should be applied.
“You want a drink?” Jim asked once they came off the elevator, his first words since his half story on the way back from Aldeburgh.
“Do I need one?” Sherlock sent an appraising look to the criminal, as he striped his overcoat, laying it over the back of a chair. The detective perched on the sofa and watched Jim walk over to the liquor trolley to fix up the drinks. When the criminal was done, he handed one to the detective, saying:
“I said I’d tell you what your brother whispered in my ear...” Jim sat, pulling off his shoes only to toss them through the open bedroom door, without any real malice. Sherlock wasn’t interested in alcohol, he set the glass on the coffee table. The criminal settled back into the armchair, continuing: “I could never have you doubting me.” Sherlock steepled his fingers. He could do without all this melodrama to be quite honest but he’d still play along:
“I don’t doubt you...”
“Good,” Jim sighed. “Because if you ask, I’ll tell you and then you’ll know and,” the criminal paused, not having touched his drink either. His hands came up to rub his eyes, too hard. “And we....you can decide how we’ll proceed,” he exhaled. Jim was making this sound really bad. “So?”
“Jim, what did my brother say to you?”
“He said-” But then the criminal does this little half scoff half disbelieving laugh and the detective still remembers the first and only time he heard it; back all those months ago when his life had been threatened (well, line of fire threatened; Jim liked to stand far enough back that usually such danger was severely less). That laugh was after one of the few times they had gone into the field themselves, after someone had tried to kill Sherlock. Suddenly, it comes into focus and even before Jim speaks, Sherlock knows. Mycroft was a slimly fuck.
“He gave me an ultimatum,” Jim stops rubbing his eyes to bore into Sherlock. “Either we stop trying to burn England or he will kill you.”
It’s still a shock to hear it confirmed, his guess; that his brother would threaten to kill him. Well, Mycroft had always put queen and country first. Actually, Sherlock didn’t even know why he was surprised. The Ice Man, right.
The detective wasn’t interested so much in what pushed the elder Holmes to cross that line (he already knew), but how the threat would limit his and Jim’s operation (i.e. their fun). When Mycroft resorted to ultimatums, he meant them. And this was one that he could execute (pun intended) quite effortlessly. Sherlock focuses back on the criminal, who’s been watching him think, staring. Strange, Jim did not look worried. Again, not anymore. What could possibly account for that? Simple: Jim had a plan. The obvious and mostly likely correct answer. But what could it be?
“You don’t seem...” the detective observed to Jim’s now inquisitive stare. “As perturbed by this as I would have thought you’d be.”
“You knew Mycroft would threaten my life.”
“Did I?” Jim sounds dubious, exaggerating a frown.
“Clever you.” A beat, Jim smiled. “Of course, I did. But why would I let it happen?”
“You wanted time,” then is clicks. Sherlock tips his head to the side in realization. “But you still want an ending. You still needed a solution to our problem,” the detective paused, reveling in the labyrinth of Jim’s plan. “You knew from the beginning...”
“That’s a lot of credit. I didn’t get the plan fully fleshed out till after the nasty business with Irene.”
“The Baskerville interrogations.”
“Always with the final problem in mind,” Sherlock deciding to show-off. He knew how much Jim liked it when he proved he could trace out the criminal’s plans. “Two-fold in goal. One: to form a connection. Proof that you were not alone in the world. Two: death for us both.”
“So, neither would have to face the world without a distraction.” Without the other.
“You knew I wouldn’t be able to resist your offer to take down Mycroft.”
“But time. I wanted time.”
“You could only have it if you got me away from my friends. The Fall. Destroy my relationships with them.”
“Was I wrong to?” That was not a question.
“But?” Jim spelt out what was hanging just off the edge of Sherlock’s sentence.
“Awfully presumptuous of you.” Jim does not say: you let me. Jim does not say: you came with me. Jim does not say: everything we do has a price. Instead:
“For time. Time you wanted. For us.”
“Time with an expiration date.”
“You didn’t really think we could do this forever, my dear,” Jim scoffed. “Surely, it must have crossed your mind that this will eventually get boring.”
Sherlock doesn’t say anything because Jim would ridicule him for being naive or worst not looking at the bigger picture. Jim was thinking into the future; anticipating a time when their games would no longer be distracting enough, when they could no longer challenge each other. He saw them figure each other out and loose interest. That would be a tragedy, so he constructed a more permanent solution; a preemptive counter-action.
“Life is static. However, enjoyable it is to bear with you. It is still bearing. Living is still boring. This is a state of limbo,” Jim gestured around them. “I knew we’d have to deal with the dear old Ice Man sometime and you’d want to see your useless mother off. So, I laid the explosives and waited. A nice ticking time-bomb. The countdown. So what do you think? Isn’t it beautiful?”
Sherlock sat back thinking.
“Did you see in the study? The moment when it all clicked for him,” Jim chuckled. “You were talking to John when he saw the hickey. Nice job, by the way. That was priceless,” Jim’s grinning but Sherlock was still slightly unnerved by the sheer scope of the criminal’s planning.
“There were so many moving parts. They all came together just right.”
“Well, clearly if you had failed any aspect of this; gone back to John, for example. It wouldn’t have mattered, would it?”
“No, I suppose not,” Sherlock shrugged, but then rather miffed: “You could have just told me.”
“Wasn’t that fun though?” Jim enthused. The detective’s dead look didn’t shift. “Come on, it’s not like I’ll just let him kill you,” the criminal suddenly annoyed.
“You don’t think he could do it?
“He can’t even kill me.”
“But now an enemy knows your weakness.”
“True,” Jim granted. “Who would he tell that to, though? Really? He would never risk your safety useless it was him pulling the strings. Besides, he’s been trying to kill me for a long time and the one thing he can use against me, happens to be his own brother.”
“Who he threatened to kill.”
“Do I really have to explain why he did that?”
“No,” Sherlock, affronted.
“Are you sure? Because using that as an argument is-” Jim’s voice is singing up in provocation, so Sherlock bites.
“Fine. He threatened my life because he saw that I was the only thing that he could put at risk that might get you to stop. However, in lording the prospect of my death over you, he proved his misunderstanding of our dynamic. He’s wrong in assuming you have all the power and will make the final call of whether we attack England. Not because I have the power, but because we share it equally.”
Jim was nodding looking pleased. Sherlock continued because he was no where near done.
“Still, he could only use your displeasure at the idea of my death as a deterrent. He doesn’t actually think he will have to follow through; you’ll stop to preserve my life. It’s a last ditch effort and a gamble. But if we do continue and burn Britain, the fact is, he might as well destroy the only thing you care about. As he’s already lost me as a brother, clearly illustrated in my ability to attack something he cares deeply for with such caprice. He might as well. If he’s going to loose the only two things in the world that he truly cares for, so should you.”
Jim was grinning by the time the detective had finished pontificating. “You realize how brilliant a move he thinks this is?...How astute the assumption that I would only stop if your life was threatened? How misguided he is to think that I would rather live out the rest of my days quietly with you than destroy him.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Jim smiles but it reveals nothing.
“Mycroft’s mistake is assuming I want to live forever. Foolish, that assumption. I would never want to live forever. Just thinking of it-” he bristled, before continuing on a slightly different track. “He thinks that my life will become meaningless and empty without you,” Jim scrutinized the detective: “You realize that he is...right, after all?” Sherlock takes a deep breath. Yes, Mycroft was right on that count and the reverse is true as well...
“So much for no one ever getting to you,” Sherlock quipped, attempting levity. Jim shrugged.
“You know, I don’t mind as much as I thought I might have.” Sherlock examined the criminal as he shifted further down into the chair. He’d gone to staring at the ceiling. “With this, as in practically every instance, you are my exception.”
The success of the Jim’s planning fell solely of Sherlock’s shoulders. If Sherlock was not having fun, the plan was a failure. If Sherlock was not excited, it was a failure. If Sherlock didn’t play along, it was a failure. Jim liked watching Sherlock dance. But the criminal orchestrated these games with more than entertainment in mind.
Jim’s architecture fooled Mycroft into believing the rouse of his consulting criminal’s façade, a simple power-hungry villain. Involving Mycroft insisted that Sherlock take Jim’s demand for an ending seriously; though he could have accomplished the same message without the elder Holmes (Jim had claimed this way was more fun). Walking the Ice Man into his trap was merely an added bonus.
They had entered a state limbo (actually, they had been in it since the Fall, but Sherlock was only understanding now). Free to do whatever they wanted for a price. (Well, Sherlock had already paid.) It was worth every penny, but the criminal wanted off the ride before it stopped.
So, far life had not turned into this monotonous torture the criminal anticipated. Sherlock was grateful for that. But he was also a great deal more optimistic about their situation than the criminal. Yes, existence was tedious. But severely less so with the presence of Moriarty. (He knew Jim felt the same about him.) This was just a proactive measure, certainly. (The detective was not certain.)
“How sure are you that will be necessary?” Sherlock queried.
“You know how I feel about endings.”
“And you give me no other option?”
“I have always given you another option,” Jim glares, with a note low disappointment.
“I know that.”
“Good,” Jim, still annoyed.
“I meant here.”
“Not one that you’d take,” Jim’s eyes were still sharp, only to amend with: “Really, this time.”
“So, you’ll let Mycroft kill me and then you’re just-”
“Didn’t I say I wouldn’t let him kill you? No, his threat...it’s a reminder. That I want an ending,” he blinks, rolling his eyes at the same time. “You know that.”
“I really don’t care if we burn England. You still want to, we can,” he nods diplomatically. “But you have to understand that we won’t be able to do this forever. I can’t do this forever,” he shudders again, like the mere idea of living forever- for even much longer, bugs him so far out he’s twitching. Like it’s actually painful.
Sherlock doesn’t know exactly what to say to that.
But Jim takes his silence for insult.
“Don’t look at me like that. You know I’d give you whatever else you asked for,” he pauses. “To be quite honest, I’m giving it to you now.”
“How so?” Sherlock plays into Jim’s prompt. He won’t pass up a revelation of these so often hidden and guarded thoughts, if Jim’s willing to share. It’s not that Sherlock can’t deduce them himself, just it’s nice to have confirmation that he’s reading the criminal right (sometimes).
“Time for our games,” Jim’s smile is somber. “You know my original plan was to just end it all at the rooftop? End with the Fall. Stop at the peak. Perfect ending, you know?” The criminal pauses. “...But I was selfish. The temptation to be with you was too great. So here we are.”
Sherlock sits back. It’s been three months since the Fall. Three months of his life he would not trade for anything. Three months he might have never had. The detective knows exactly where he’d be, if Jim had really pulled the trigger (...or pulled the trigger on a real gun? Or....Jim never told him how he faked his death actually....not the time to be considering this). Sherlock knew where he would be and it was not pretty.
“Wait, do you mean...you would have REALLY killed yourself then?” Because that clarification was imperative.
Jim raised his eyebrows, quirking his lips. Obviously, darling, don’t be simple.
“Is existence really that tedious?” Tedium to the point of pain?
Jim’s eyes go sharp. And they’re cutting into Sherlock. Wrong question, wrong phrasing, incomplete sentence. Jim’s lips twist into a disappointed line and he’s up out of his chair and walking past Sherlock to his room. The detective tries to grab his arm but Jim just shakes him off. So, Sherlock follows him, saying: “Jim. Jim, wait.” But the criminal’s shut the door in Sherlock’s face, locked.
“Jim...” the detective taps on it gently.
“If you don’t understand, Sherlock...I- I can’t right now. Go have a fucking cigarette and walk your city,” exasperation seething and Sherlock can feel it rolling off the criminal even through the door. Frustration because if anyone were to get this, it would be Sherlock...
“Jim....” the detective needs to be absolutely clear on this, because the thing is he does understand. Really, he does. And he could prove it too, if Jim would open this damned door. “Open the door or I’ll pick the lock....”
“Was that supposed to be incentive?” Jim’s acrimony arching through his voice.
“You can’t hide forever.”
“I beg to differ. You won’t be able to pick that lock.”
And wasn’t this childish, but Sherlock won’t let Jim mistake him. The criminal doesn’t open the door, so the detective begins on the lock, which proved more difficult than he initially thought. He tries for a half hour before Jim’s stopped making noises and has turned off the light. The detective thinks he went to sleep. Right. Regardless, he was going to get passed this door.
So, what, if it was one am, when he’s finally standing in the bedroom? So, maybe it was cheating that he climbed in through the bathroom window from the balcony. The room was quiet except for the hum of the air conditioner and the steady breathing of the curled lump of a consulting criminal on the far side of the bed. (Jim was, in fact, asleep.) Sherlock pulls on his pajama bottoms and a tee shirt and crawls in to bed next to Jim. It had been a long day. They could talk after some sleep.
The next morning, Jim was still lying next to Sherlock when he wakes up. The criminal wasn’t asleep. Jim was looking at Sherlock’s forearms, which were lying exposed between them. Looking at the scars on them.
The detective usually had so much in his head that he didn’t think of them. They were relatively easy to forget, if something exciting was happening. And a lot of exciting things had been going on since Jim Moriarty started making appearances in his life. But the scars were still there. Just like the urge to use was still there. Or the distaste for boredom which lurked about every corner.
The scars were the traditional needle pricks of a junkie. Tracks. White with age, old; you wouldn’t see them unless you were looking, but still they popped out against his skin in the right light.
Jim was looking at them but not touching.
The detective could see the criminal thinking. Sherlock did know the tedium of existence. Of course he did and he had tried to escape through a needle. But now that he had found a distraction he felt was worth living for...It was a shame that Jim could not agree. Because he did enjoy Sherlock’s presence, his company, his mind; but what they had was not sustainable. Eventually it would no longer be enough. And he thinks that this is the only time in all of his life that he has ever felt genuine regret. He wants to give Sherlock that reason to live, entertainment for as long as the detective wanted....but it was not possible.
“I never asked you,” Sherlock began; the criminal did not startle at his voice. He must have noticed the change in the detective’s breathing. Jim’s seemingly black irises snap up to meet Sherlock’s. “What would you have done if I had really killed myself jumping off the roof?”
“If you had really died?” Jim breaks the contact, as if uncomfortable with the thought. Instead, he scanned the space between them (Sherlock’s arms) again. “I think you know.”
“I have an idea, but...”
“You are the only thing of interest to me,” Jim’s eyes flick back to bore into Sherlock. But you know that.
“That’s not really an answer.”
“Yes, it is,” His lips quirked; a little smile.
Jim leaned forward, resting his forehead on the detective’s. His eyes fall shut and Sherlock’s reminded of the rooftop. Of the trust. Of Jim drinking in that moment. Of those twenty-seven seconds of connection before he shot himself. Sherlock flinched internally at the memory. He had really thought Jim was dead. And that had scared him more than anything. To have finally found his equal and then to have lost him....it was deeply sobering.
The Fall had been a hard restart to the detective’s brain. Before, he had never pondered long on who Moriarty was; (What was Moriarty’s life outside his work? What were his hobbies and interests outside the Game? Were their people in his life?) but since he first heard the whispers, Sherlock had hoped.
During the Game, Sherlock had been eager to get closer to this person who so clearly had his same interests. Who could so elegantly dispatch intricacies to entertain the detective. Who was also so bored. He couldn’t help hoping for an equal (even while he expected disappointment). When they met at the pool, it was plain to Sherlock that Jim was the embodiment of everything he strove to be, just in reverse. A machine of devise to his machine of deduction.
The detective was in awe of what Moriarty appeared to be. Sherlock prided himself on primarily being an analyst divorced from his feelings. But his attempts at this paled in comparison to the criminal, who seemed to have achieved the machine-like state of thinking that Sherlock so wished he could evolve to. Pesky sentiment. He thought Moriarty didn’t have any.
(In retrospect, clearly that wasn’t true.)
Sherlock strove to join the criminal in his complete detachment; focusing all his attention on the Game. But in doing so, he missed Jim’s so obvious sentiment towards Sherlock. He missed all the clues that gave it away completely (the puzzles, the call with the clue, the names, the debt) that was until the recall code. Within the context of their Game, having a recall code made no sense. Even if Jim had been bluffing (Sherlock doubted it) the intent was still the same. Jim wanted to loose at this Game he created and pulled the strings in. At the time, Sherlock had wondered: why?
Then their handshake and the detective finally saw Jim. (Again, he hadn’t really understood at the time.) But he knew that they were the same.
I am you. You’re me.
That meant so much more than just the extent they were prepared to go or the way their minds worked or that the detective knew he wasn’t going to heaven. It meant that if Sherlock shared all the cold and detached qualities of the criminal; so must Jim have Sherlock’s capacity to care. That he could relate to another person. That he wasn’t too clever to exist.
And then Jim shot himself.
In the days following the rooftop, when Sherlock genuinely believed Jim to be dead, he replayed the scenes over and over and over. Yes, Jim had really gotten him. (Of course, it had crossed the detective’s mind that Jim was not dead; this was Jim Moriarty. Once he was in the morgue. Once he was out on the streets. After Moriarty’s body had been taken away and burned. But even as the detective sent inquiries out through his homeless network, he doubted it. Everything came back empty or that yes, the man was dead, anyway.) Sherlock gained perspective in those days.
He had started to think, to really think about what the death of James Moriarty meant, for him. Later as they had played their cold case game, the criminal had affirmed something Sherlock had suspected; that a great many of the cases he found interesting had come from Jim’s brilliant mind. That was why he saw Jim’s face in the fog at Dartmoor. Moriarty was the man behind the curtain for practically every other crime he’d consulted on, why not this one too? It was so engrained in his subconscious that he saw the impossible (that and the drug, of course). It was proven Moriarty was not to behind the case, but it didn’t negate his presence in a vast majority of them. With the criminal’s scheming mind no longer for hire, what did that mean for Sherlock?
Back on the roof: The honest gratitude and appreciation and...what? Then he’d killed himself. Sherlock had given Jim a way out of loosing, offered him the game for life, and still Jim had killed himself. With his equal dead by his own hand, Sherlock’s arrogance was taken down a notch or twelve and he began to question how he had not noticed the immense loneliness and isolation that permeated from the criminal.
Thank you, Sherlock Holmes. Thank you. Bless you.
Sherlock had built the criminal into something he was not. Something that was infallible. Some thing. In doing so he failed to comprehend his so obvious folly. Jim was not a spider. Jim was human. Jim had emotions other than boredom; other than delight Sherlock could solve his puzzle. Jim could die. They would not be playing this game forever. Sherlock could be reduced back to the lonely man desperate to show off with no one worth flaunting to.
Coping with the knowledge that he was alone in his brilliance in the world; the one person he knew he could smirk in collusion with was gone was devastating enough that when Jim revealed he was alive there was no possibility that Sherlock could have lost that understanding and put Jim back on the shelf of unfeeling non-entities. No way he might have deleted it. (He could not even if he wanted to; so vivid and jarring was Sherlock’s memory of Jim shooting his brains out not even a foot from his face.) And now living with the criminal, Jim’s humanity was constantly hitting him in the face.
Yes, Sherlock had gotten in to drugs to escape the dreary monotony of life, but now life wasn’t so dreary. And that was thanks to the criminal. But the criminal wanted to leave. Even if he took Jim’s escape route and went back to being a detective, Sherlock would never really be satisfied by the sub-standard level of crime committed. It could never sustain him after Jim’s games.
Not to mention the ties he severed with the people he cared about. They made ordinary life before bearable. Without them....he wasn’t sure he’d like to even try. He burned his bridges. The only way left was forward.
Sherlock had never thought he could want to live forever till he met Jim. In their games, he could loose himself. They were perfection. And these last few months were an elaboration and extension of that...but there was a ticking clock for people like them. Sherlock had always known he would die young. He thrived off danger, after all. Jim just didn’t want him to forget:
We have an expiration date. It’s coming sooner than you would have liked.
Sherlock saw Jim’s plan now in it’s entirety. The criminal had known the detective would fake the jump. He sought to take advantage of it. Enjoy their games a little longer. But he still wanted an ending. One in which they died together.
Jim won’t force Sherlock’s hand because it goes against them. He gave the detective the final say on when they will go and merely suggested the sooner the better. Sherlock though wanted to stave off that time for as long as possible. However, the fact of the matter remained, Sherlock owed Jim too and he would settled that debt.
Jim delegated the planning of their deaths to the detective. He knows what he has to do.
“So?” Jim opened his eyes. He didn’t know why they were playing this charade; they both knew what the detective’s answer would be.
“A compromise.” Sherlock was resolved. “We wait, burn England, and....then we go.”
It gave Sherlock time and Jim his ending.
It would have to be good enough.
Jim nodded. (He knew Sherlock would take advantage and wait for as long as possible.) That was kind of the point.
“I’ve been so close to death all these years. Practically begging for it, sometimes quite literally. And now that it’s near, I don’t want to go.”
“You won’t be going alone.”
Sherlock closes the gap between them to kiss Jim, thinking: that’s what I should be saying to you.
“I have something special for you,” Jim lilts as he comes into the spare room, having just finished with a series of conference calls. As a rule, Sherlock never sits in on these meetings. They were boring, long, and tedious. Frankly, he’s surprised Jim could get through them. During this particular set, the criminal had multitasked the fielding of various concerns of his subordinates and contractors with cutting the power to the six hundred block of Baltimore from his computer.
Sherlock had been tuning his violin, thinking, but he sets it down when he sees the look on Jim’s face.
“There’s been a slew of serial deaths in Glasgow. We’ve been asked to find who’s responsible and get rid of them.”
“That’s new,” Sherlock notes. Jim nods. Usually, it was the killers wanting to be relocated or busted out of prison. Quite boring after a while. (Or was just boring and predictable to begin with?) This, though, had potential. “Did they say how they wanted him dead?”
“Something long and painful,” Jim’s expression was completely apathetic. “They want a recording of it, actually. Some sort of personal vendetta.”
“Maybe I’ll delegate that bit to one of your clients.”
“I have plenty who’d be up to the task,” the criminal agreed.
“To start, I think we should see what the Glasgow PD have on file.” Normally, the detective liked to make his own through interviews of witnesses and the officers assigned to the case, but since he had no friends on the force, the reports would be the closest they would get to what the crime scenes looked like when the bodies were first discovered.
“Already ahead of you. Just printed them out,” Jim grinned and pulled a thick stack of files out from behind his back. The detective raised his eyebrows. “What? The Baltimore thing took less than an hour. I had to have something to fill my time.”
Sherlock threw a barely cursory glance at them, before he stood explaining that they were going to Glasgow. He preferred to be in the spaces where these people died to get a full picture of the act and if Jim thought the case was interesting enough to take on, well he trusted the criminal’s judgement. Jim had an even lower tolerance for obvious boredoms than the detective.
On the plane ride up to Scotland, Sherlock reviews the files. They plainly state the Glasgow PD thought the deaths were natural. (The media came up with the conspiracy theory, only to get slammed for inciting a civil panic based on hearsay and rumor.) The inspector put on the cases, told reporters that though the all victims had heart attacks within days of each other, there was no evidence to prove any connection between them or their deaths, other than they all died in their cars. (Yes, they agreed that was suspicious but they had no proof the deaths were unnatural.) It was not the police force’s fault that some citizens had a hard time believing that an eighteen year old, perfectly healthy track star could all of a sudden die of a heart attack.
Sherlock, of course, did not trust ordinary people’s observations. These files were most likely missing at least half of the important facts. But as some of deaths were days old; likely, the crime scenes had been tampered with beyond proper deduction. So, he still needed first-on-scene accounts.
Once they touch down in Glasgow, the rest of day is absconded with touring the various locations where the dead were found. Or rather, since all the victims died in their cars, hopping the fence at the county impound lot and breaking into each’s respectively.
Perpetrating crimes was fun, but solving them was Sherlock’s true talent. He thrived on taking the bits and pieces others ignored and putting them together to make a cohesive picture. The chase was even more fun with Jim by his side (The detective would never say it out loud; the criminal would abhor the implied comparison to John. Even if that was not what he meant. To be honest, Sherlock didn’t feel good about making it himself, though for different reasons.) It was just different. Easier.
They don’t end up speaking more than necessary. That’s the benefit of having two geniuses. When they are locked on to the same train of thought, which happens quite often, they don’t NEED to speak. If they do talk, it’s to finish each other sentences. Rarely, in Sherlock’s life has he not been asked to slow down and explain the steps he took to reach his conclusions. It’s a relief that he doesn’t need to do that with Jim; because however, much of a show-off he is, having to do so was tedious. Sherlock relishes this change in pace.
They’re at the impound lot till dark. The criminal was only able to convince the detective to check into a hotel under the persuasion that the morgue would be more of a challenge to get into during the day. They rent a suite of rooms and Sherlock spends the evening doing additional research on the victims (with Jim’s help hacking into their online credit card records and email accounts). The detective found only one thing of note: they all went to the same auto repair shop within the last month.
The next day Sherlock sweet talked their way into the morgue at the Royal Glasgow Infirmary to Moriarty’s delight. (An admittedly harder feat, when the morgue attendant did not have a crush on him, but the detective was not without his own faculties.) They’ve arrived in time for the latest victim’s autopsy and a cross-examination the on-staff pathologist. There was something about this case which felt familiar. Clever. Something that Sherlock saw so rarely in his detectiving without also hearing whispers of the name Moriarty.
After they’ve poked around the bodies, Sherlock needed a microscope to analyze his findings. It’s Jim’s turn to get them into a lab. So, they go up a few floors to the research department. The criminal walks into one of the labs like he owns the place, putting on the face of Dr. Moriarty, an elusive professor who just returned from research trip and was showing a colleague he had worked with on said project around the facilities. The students eye them a little wearily.
Moriarty zeroes in on researcher, who is appearing to have a problem: “May I take a peak?” He inquires leaning over the graduate’s work, inspecting their calculations for a couple of seconds, before immediately suggesting a more efficient route. The student does a double-take but doggedly runs Moriarty’s adjustments in their work. The professor stands silently till the graduate student sits back, coming to the same conclusion, grateful and astonished how they did not think of that before.
From that point on, the student researchers compete for the professor’s attention, requesting feedback on their projects. Professor Moriarty is oddly patient; he listens and gives them measured direction. He banters drily with the graduate students as they dedicatedly mark down his suggestions in their notes.
He’s such a success that the students completely forget their initial purpose for visiting the lab and Sherlock is left to his devices. (A calculated distraction, indeed.) The detective compares the residue they found in the cars to that which was in the victims lungs. They are the same. But it’s weird because Sherlock knows he’s seen this compound somewhere before. It’s not but a minute before he realizes where he knows it from.
About a year ago, Sherlock had been messing around in his kitchen laboratory, when he created a compound that was a bit more potent than he intended. He found that if ingested or inhaled the compound caused mass thrombosis thus disturbing oxygen flow to the heart, resulted in a myocardial infraction. John had asked in passing what he was doing, and Sherlock, unsuspecting of the reaction, told him he had essentially just created a biological weapon.
John had, of course, thrown a fit and demanded that Sherlock get rid of it before he killed them, despite Sherlock’s adamant protests that it wouldn’t harm them by sitting in beakers and petri dishes. So, he safely disposed of the compound but kept his notes; which provided a record of the steps he took to make it and also marked that it would be perfectly weaponized in aerosol form. Given the residual dusting of each car’s interior and the state of the victim’s lungs vaporization was how this compound got in their systems.
Sherlock looks up from his borrowed microscope and the case has just been solved. Now, the researchers are offering to take Dr. Moriarty out to lunch in return for all his help. The professor reminds them of his friend and neatly dodges the affair entirely with the mention of a meeting with the department head. Filling him in on their research and all. When the professor finally extracts himself from his new-found admirers, Sherlock notes:
“This is a particular compound.”
Hard not to. Particularly hard not for Sherlock as he was the one who created it.
The detective remains looking at Jim with an expression of expectation. Now was the time for the criminal to own up to his puppeteering.
“You are intimately familiar with my flat,” the detective stated.
“Yes,” Jim conceded, grinning conspiratorially. “But this was more fun, right?”
Sherlock’s lips quirk in nod to the criminal.
“So, the man we’re looking for works at that auto garage on Gallowgate. All four victims had just picked up their cars from service inspections or repairs. He could have easily slipped the compound in the air compressor of the vehicle’s air conditioning. It wouldn’t start to be circulated until they turned on the AC; which was why nobody thought to look at the auto shop.” If all those people died conveniently meters from the station, it would hardly have been a mystery. “Why those four?”
“I couldn’t leave you bored, now could I?” So, even Jim didn’t know why the man he’d given the compound to had picked those people nor did he care. “We could ask him.” At that, Sherlock’s reminded of the original mission of this ‘case.’
“So, there was no client that wanted revenge?” Jim grinned and shook his head no, saying:
“I’m sure someone somewhere wants retribution, but they didn’t come to me.”
“So, we don’t have to torture this guy?”
“Only if you want to.”
“Okay,” Jim pulled out his phone; mystery solved, loose murderer still on the streets forgotten. “There’s a diplomatic meeting at Mar Hall set for tomorrow. Do you want to cause some more trouble?”
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Finding the flat. Setting the lease. Saying goodbye to Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson. He promises to visit. The doctor means to, really. But she still looks slightly dubious at his words. Gemma insists he will prove her wrong. But right now, they are just laying in their bed. Their bed. The only thing that they had bothered to unpack and properly set up.
It’s a lazy Saturday. Which the doctor thinks is odd because by all rights shouldn’t be. Based mainly on the fact that most of their stuff is still in the boxes that litter every imaginable surface in the, now their, almost too spacious flat. But this is the first time they’ve done this; just being in each other’s presence in the morning. Not having to get up and rush back to their own flats to dress in a fresh set of clothes only to rush on to work. Sure, there had been weekends where they laid in bed, but over those always hung the thought that sooner or later one of them would have to rouse themselves and return to their respective place.
Well, they wouldn’t have to deal with that anymore.
“It’s nice that you know how to be in a day-to-day relationship,” she pauses, choosing her words. “It’s something that most people don’t think of when they’re starting to be with someone, but it’s those little things you deal with daily that make a life.” John smiles at this, running a hand down the naked of her back.
“Well, I’ve been out of practice but-”
“No, you haven’t.”
His hand stills. The detective, John’s mind supplies immediately. And it does hurt. Still. But. Then Gemma, warm Gemma, kind Gemma. Gemma is kissing his neck, her small breaths tickling the skin beneath his ear. And the pain is lessened, the distance from that time of solace and loss is lengthened, if only by a little. He won’t forget Sherlock. He’s come to terms with that knowledge. How could you forget a man like that? His former best friend Sherlock Holmes. But the detective turned down a darkened alley with a spring in his step that John would never hope to follow. And he’s not settling, no. And Sherlock made his choice, his stupid choice, but it was importantly his choice. And he will have to live with that for the rest of his life. And right now it does hurt. But John can see a time in the future where it won’t. He can see a life where he’s moved on, and it’s a good life.
“....I suppose you’re right.”
It’s dawn when Sherlock wakes. Jim is still sleeping (a thing that will never cease to surprise). There’s light filtering in through the curtains they hadn’t bothered to open yesterday and the sheets are warm with the criminal between them. Sherlock thinks that maybe he could get them some tea and when Jim wakes up, they could just sit in bed and ....he doesn’t exactly know and it’s not quite them but it’s a nice image and he thinks it could be fun, maybe. He’s not too sure why, but all the same he slips out of their tangle of limbs, neglecting his robe for once. (He was just making tea, after all.)
The detective comes out of the bedroom, going for the little kitchenette and the kettle, but someone else is already in the living room. There, sitting on the expensive but dilapidated hotel sofa, was Mycroft.
Great. He was in such a good mood too.
Sherlock frankly did not care if he happened to look into their bedroom. If the elder Holmes had seen him and Jim sharing the same bed. There was nothing to say he hadn’t. There was no telling how long Mycroft had been sitting out there. (Why he had decided to call so early in the morning; Sherlock had numerous theories, but most likely was the elder Holmes was to attend the meeting at Mar Hall.) Either way, it wasn’t his brother’s place to pass judgment on him (it was obnoxious and something the detective abhorred having to sit through). Sherlock already said everything he needed to with the hickey.
Hoping that his brother would leave sooner rather than later, Sherlock deigns to ask the elder Holmes how he got in, cutting straight to the point, as always.
“What do you want?” the detective demanded as he moved to make tea for himself and Jim (but not Mycroft).
“To talk to you,” Mycroft was as cool and smooth as ever, so not earth-shattering news/case/whatever. “What else?”
Sherlock rolls his eyes. He could think of plenty else:
“You came all the way up here just to talk to me? Should I be honored?”
“It’s only a four hour train ride. Don’t flatter yourself, Sherlock. It’s unbecoming,” Mycroft reprimanded, glancing around at the hotel’s decor, expression that of a scolding parent; his eyes scanning the walls before finally coming back to the detective, explaining: “I had business in Glasgow anyway.”
To which, Sherlock sniggers. Right, Mycroft thinks. The meeting he’s headed for will be more trouble than it’s worth if these two have interfered. Which they plainly had, if his brother’s smirk spoke volumes. (It did.)
“So, not important then?” Sherlock feigns injury, putting the kettle on.
“I made the trip here, didn’t I?” The detective sits opposite his brother.
“Couldn’t it have waited?” Sherlock was keen on that tea in bed and Jim was still sleeping, maybe if Mycroft said what he he’d came to, he’d leave.
“Heard you’d be leaving the country any day now.”
Sherlock is not surprised that Mycroft knows of their travel plans. Jim could have let that information slip out with purpose. Even if he didn’t, it’s nothing to worry about; Mycroft having spies in Jim’s organization. After all, Jim has spies in Mycroft’s offices. In the roust with his little birds, as Mycroft liked to call them.
“Right. What did you want to talk about? I have things to do.”
Mycroft brushed Sherlock’s impatience away:
“I assume he told you.”
Sherlock’s face morphed, darkening.
“Of course,” And there’s derision. A sardonic note: What do you think we are? And bitterness. Betrayal. Good, the elder Holmes thinks.
“Right. You know I don’t make threats idly,” Mycroft was ice. “I suggest you drop your crusade. I would hate to have to order your death.”
“But you still would,” Sherlock sneered.
Mycroft’s eyes narrowed, lips twisting down.
“You could always come back-”
But Sherlock cut him off with:
“I’m not coming back. From the moment you told John about all that I’ve been up to, you ruined whatever chances there might have been for me to ‘come back.’ You do realize that?”
Of course, Sherlock had never really intended to come back, but Mycroft doesn’t need to know that. The elder Holmes, if he really wanted his brother to return, had made a mistake. He didn’t know John as well as Sherlock and in his clumsy attempts to coax the detective back to Baker Street had burned Sherlock’s friendship with the doctor. So, if Mycroft was going to break into their hotel room and ruin his otherwise brilliant morning, Sherlock was going to point out his folly. Viciously.
Mycroft doesn’t say anything, won’t say anything, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
It’s this moment, Jim chose to come in. He’s wearing a blue silk robe over rumpled underclothes; a robe that looks like it could be something of Sherlock’s. He sits by the former detective, hair at odds with gravity and Mycroft might have scoffed had it not been for his brother’s biting comments.
The criminal is quiet for once, black eyes on the elder Holmes, but not always. As this was a private conversation, Jim should not be here, but Mycroft doesn’t really care (not that he has a choice). The information would be shared regardless if every party was present. Jim would just know.
Anyway, he’s not done quite yet. If Sherlock insists on this path, Mycroft will to make it as painful as possible.
“John has moved out of Baker street.”
Sherlock’s surprised. Jim though, the elder Holmes notes, is unmoved. Which could be because he doesn’t care, but Mycroft knows the criminal enough to say that was not the case. Jim had kept his surveillance on John when they went to California; he still got reports on Baker Street. He knew John had moved on, but Sherlock did not. And his brother would have suspected the criminal had spy reports on the doctor sent to him but he still had not asked for them. Mycroft sighs internally. The fact that Sherlock never asked after John, albeit most likely some form of coping strategy, was not a good sign.
“Mrs. Hudson is anxious to rent the flat out again. She wants to know what’s to be done with all your belongings.” Sherlock frowned as Mycroft continued: “Well, I told her I’d hang on to them.”
“Where’d he move to?”
“Moved in with his fiancé, actually. They are quite happy or so I’m told.”
The detective nods, processing. It’s not even a minute before:
“Was there anything else? I need to get on with my day.”
“Of course,” Mycroft stood, fiddling with his umbrella. “No, that was all. I would not hate to impose on your war-mongering.”
He keeps any defeat out of his walk down the short hallway to the door but just before he closes the door, the elder Holmes hears the rustle of fabric and his brother’s name in subdued lilt.
Mycroft shuts the door with a snap.
Author’s Note: Be forewarned this chapter contains multiple counts of terrorism, cartel violence, kidnapping, civil disobedience, non-normative forms of depression, ptsd, and more suicide ideation. Applicable trigger warnings apply.
Jim tastes like a chase. And it’s not recklessness, but calculated risk. And Sherlock revels in it. Because the criminal has just lit his mind on fire, again, and it still feels as good as the first time he heard the name Moriarty.
Crimes pop up all over the place and the detective scurries about, seeing Jim pulling the strings for each and being right. And it’s like their cold case game only present tense; on a rolling basis. Sherlock gets really excited if the criminal disappears into his office for a couple hours, even more if it’s a couple of days. While it’s not the best for business, that has never been their main concern. (It’s not like Sherlock’s handing his findings over to the authorities anyway.)
There are the cases that he and Sherlock work on together and then there are the cases that he designs alone for the detective to solve. It keeps him occupied and Sherlock entertained, most of the time. It’s fun and Jim still likes to watch the detective dance.
Jim tastes like ink. The theories that he has never mistaken and the tomes his name will never be printed in. The dry academics that have never accepted him. After days of pouring over his notations and when he’s written on the windows again and added another notebook to his shelf; Jim tastes like rejection. Not rejection of Sherlock, but rejection of society. And there’s commiseration there.
One day, Jim spends an hour on the balcony talking to a ‘bird trainer.’ That was all the detective caught of the conversation before the criminal slipped outside. When Sherlock tries to inquire further, Jim innocently feigns confusion.
A week later five locations (which have metal detectors and security, mind you) in greater Los Angeles are bombed. It’s a mystery how the terrorists got the explosives in. That is till the injured wake up in hospital care, describing how birds were the bearers of the of destruction.
The newspapers catch on with that one: BIRDS WITH BOMBS! The sub-headline reads: An tragedy after Alfred Hitchcock’s heart.
Jim sniffs over the declarations; lips curling in disgust as he groused how he hated that monstrosity of a film over their breakfast and Sherlock’s sniggers.
Jim tastes like the sea. Salty, refreshed, and loose-limbed, because he swims so far from shore. And he’s telling Sherlock that the water’s warmer than last time because of the - El Niño, yes, the detective supplies. The criminal’s grinning: Then come on. Luring the detective with him as he goes back to the water.
Sherlock is taking a bath. Earlier the criminal had shooed him off. (“Avert your eyes!” Jim’s voice rose in tone of scandal, when Sherlock neared his desk. Clearly, he was working on a crime for the detective to solve and he demanded that Sherlock make himself scarce.)
So, the detective was taking the afternoon to sit in the water and smoke. He doesn’t often take a bath, but it promised the relaxation he needed; because it’s not like he’s not happy Jim’s planning some entertainment, but it’s just so boring having to wait for it. (Sherlock wonders what it will be this time. He thinks back to his brief glance of Jim’s desk and tries to remember just what those papers said. He’d been standing at a terrible angle to do any real recognizance, but he couldn’t help that now. Still he turns over in his mind what the criminal’s next mystery could be.) The time Jim takes was necessary to properly make the crime intricate enough, but everything was so dull in the mean time.
He’s smoking and thinking (pointedly of other things).
Sherlock frowns when Jim wanders in and fusses, spreading the soap suds. The criminal leans on the edge of the tub, offering the detective the box of Lemon-heads he’s holding. Sherlock, waves it away in dismissal. Jim’s shrug says: your loss.
“All set then?”
“I’m fairly pleased with one. It’s clean,” Jim decides, still sucking on his candy. That sounded like a promise of a challenge. But Sherlock’s thoughts were no longer plagued in wonder of criminal’s conniving. Instead:
“How did we not meet sooner?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know...” And he’s walking two fingers along the edge of Sherlock’s bath, with a goofy grin on his face. Sherlock catches those fingers in his own, forcing Jim’s gaze, which instantly becomes calculating. And he can read it in Jim’s eyes: What an interesting move.
But he never elaborates. Always slips out of reach. Sherlock keeps looking.
Some things will always be shrouded in mystery.
Jim tastes like nectarines. And the California air, the groves of decade old fruit trees, and the exhaust of the cars on the open highway up to Sonoma.
They stay in London for a while, but this is supposed to be freedom. Jim actually likes being a transitory phantom that disappears with the wind. All his whispers, smoke. So, they travel.
They walk through the Tate, the Lourve, the Gemaldiegalerie, the Guggenheim in Bilboa admiring the works. Discussing which displays were the real deal and which were replicas. (One time, Jim stage-whispered a detailed plan to steal this work they were admiring, when security were conveniently standing within earshot. Well, they legged it out of there so fast and had a good laugh about it later.)
They take more jobs. A year passes. More crimes and they are everywhere; murders in Milan, smuggling in Maine, a heist at the Cape of Good Hope, and somehow they are back in California. Then they are no where. Because Jim got this look in his eye; Sherlock would describe it as being along the lines of ‘I want to fall into you and never get out’ and well Sherlock wouldn’t mind getting lost in the criminal either.
They decide that they will take a road trip and drop off the map for a bit. Jim threw his record player and half the collection of 45s in the back seat next to Sherlock’s violin. They head up the coast in the criminal’s charcoal Bentley convertible.
The consultants take the driving in turns, even though the roads are littered with day time drivers, idiots, and ordinary people. There’s a reason why Jim normally hires a driver. Where Sherlock is quite meticulous in signaling, allowing the proper space between cars and always keeps his eyes on the road; the criminal drives like a maniac.
Jim refuses to stay within the lanes, let alone the speed limit. He swerves, cuts in front of other cars without notice, tailgates, and frequently stares into Sherlock’s eyes. Of course, none of this leads the detective to worry for his safety. He’s fully aware the criminal has it under control, for all his theatrics.
For every gas stop they need to make, Jim will go into the service station to pay with cash and come out bearing snacks but mostly candy. When they’re back on the road, he’ll talk around a mouthful of sour gummy worms as he says from the passenger seat: “I spied with my little eye something that begins with a S.” He means the Santa Monica pier they passed about an hour ago. That was the most obvious one so far. All the little details Sherlock absorbed like a sponge whizzing past at high speeds was good, but the added challenge of having to keep all those features for hours on end? That spin made the game oh so much more fun.
And perhaps Jim’s silliness brings out Sherlock’s own because just outside of San Luis Obispo, the detective takes it upon himself to light them both cigarettes. A nice gesture, except he was driving at the time. Sherlock removes both hands from the wheel to go rooting around in the glove compartment. (His knees keeping the steering steady, he’s not completely without sense.) Once the detective lit them between his lips, he passes one over to the criminal who accepts it; taking a drag as he leans his head back only to exhale in one long blow, watching as the smoke is carried off by the air speeding above.
They’re just having some fun. It’s a miracle they make it to the Bay area in one piece and with only one speeding ticket. (Tickets for other offenses, however, were unaccounted for.) Sherlock isn’t sure how Jim came up with the birthplace of American vinting, as the criminal rarely drank the stuff, but it was a good choice.
Jim tastes like wine. His mouth is full of the age found in wine country and he’s drunk and looking for something harder, thank you, please...
Sonoma is lovely this time of year and that’s a lie. It’s off-season and nobody else was staying at the winery they are. Apparently, a drought was underway.
In the evening, Jim sets up his record player. They listen to Pärt’s Tabula Rasa. They speak of tintinnabuli, the minimalist compositional style created by the composer. Jim positively gushes at the intrinsic math that plays puppeteer to the flow of the notes. Sherlock agrees that it is a fascinating style, but then couldn’t Jim find numbers in most compositions. True he can and has, the criminal grants. But he prefers the so called holy minimalism. Cleaner. Less notes. And oh, Sherlock gets it.
Their conversation naturally shifts into a discussion of Baroque works; of which as it so happens Jim knows a shocking amount, despite having never played an instrument. They talk about music into the early hours of the morning and then some.
After a few days on the vineyard, Jim wants to go into to town. They tour the shops and it’s a tourist trap to the nth degree, but then they are tourists. Nothing was of any real interest until Jim drags the detective into a boutique toy shop.
Sherlock doesn’t expect to be there long so he lingers near the front of the store, while the criminal wanders off. The detective pokes at the specialty hand-carved animals and the boxes of play sets for the would-be doctor, police man, or chemist.
“How much do you want for this?” Jim comes from the back of the store carrying an oversized box that advertised a build-it-yourself remote-control operated model airplane.
“It should have a tag on it,” the clerk explained. The criminal turned the box over, looking, and then over again. “On the bottom?” Jim lifted it above his head, peering.
“I don’t see any,” he set it on the counter and considered the clerk, who was clearly the store-owner. “How about this: we flip for it.” The criminal reached into his pocket, producing a shiny quarter and placed it on the counter between them. “Heads: I pay double whatever you say the price is. Tails: it’s free.”
The owner looked mildly amused:
“Now, why would I want to do that?”
“This is the slow season,” Jim quirked a collusive smile. “You could do some excitement.”
Sherlock stifles a sigh; the criminal was flirting. But apparently the clerk liked it, agreeing to the bet with a nod of the head.
The consultants walk out of the shop having paid for a three-hundred and sixty dollar toy plane.
Jim puts the plane together while Sherlock is composing a piece on his violin.
As he lets the glue dry, Jim’ll listen to Sherlock compose and give him suggestions till the detective’s irritated with him. He lets the paint dry. No rush.
When it’s done, the criminal takes it out flying. He does approximately two fly-byes before he’s back inside on his laptop making improvements on the schematics.
“Testing aerodynamics?” The detective asks between recording the notes on his music sheet. Jim makes a possibly face.
They get drunk and snog. (Practice, explore, improve.) As they get better, the more they want to take five-minutes (which becomes ten, fifteen, twenty) aside for a little make-out session. Which is weird and it pushes at their boundaries but in a good way.
But then nothing compares to a dialogue or an occasional discussion (conversations only qualified as such if they actually disagreed on something, and those instances were often far between). Sherlock can start sentences and Jim will finish them. Entire conversations fly between them with just a few words; that’s mostly work and planning. Their conversation’s word count increases with other specific topics.
It’s sooner rather than later when things get too quiet for the consultants. The time in Sonoma was nice but they wanted the excitement of a chase again. Jim’s dancing around because he has something in his brain that he thinks might stump the detective. Sherlock is determined to beat his record for solving one of the criminal’s puzzles. Regardless, they are both eager to get back.
In the morning before they drive back, Jim flies his contraption out over the dry vines one last time. He’s made some adjustments, on top of the adjustments he already made. Sherlock watches, standing next to the criminal as he handles the controls. It’s hanging low over the rows of grapes, heavy with the load the criminal had rigged to it. He asks Sherlock what he thinks.
The detective makes a noncommittal noise; Jim would have known the plane wouldn’t reach optimal height with whatever he put on it. So the criminal had some other purpose in mind, Sherlock would withhold judgement, thanks. Jim obliges, making the plane swerve down abruptly. He crashes it, and well it just so happens to burst into flames, that quickly spread through the parched landscape. He started a wildfire.
Just causing trouble.
Jim tastes like the night air. And there’s a ring of indent around his eye from his telescope and there’s the stars in their eyes again and the grit of decaying stone railing rubbed into his pants from where Sherlock pushed him against it, just like he pushed their lips together.
They’re in the middle of the outback. New South Wales. Not a light on for miles and the stars are brighter than Sherlock has ever seen them.
Jim dragged them here to see the hyper-nova of a star and the birth of a black hole. When the criminal told him about this expedition, the detective noted that the Kielder Observatory said that would happen next year at the earliest.
“Well, they’re wrong,” Jim says, disinterested amidst his calculations. Sherlock has long since abandoned asking Jim why he won’t share his genius with others.
Jim had planned to stop all work to devote his full attention to what was happening thirteen billion light-years away, but then Sherlock said he needed something to do while the criminal was puttering away on his astronomy. Of course, Sherlock had no intention of working on crimes when the star imploded. He was going to have Jim explain everything to him.
He knows Jim’s eager to share his passion for the stars with him if he’s really interested. And the detective is interested because Jim is interested. The criminal’s study of the universe was one of the few things that Jim seemed to find any enjoyment in outside of work. Sherlock wanted to share in that with him.
So, they in the middle of the outback, with all of Jim’s stargazing equipment laid out and properly set. He’s set to record the event. While they’re waiting for the hyper-nova to begin, Sherlock turns to the criminal:
“What’s that there?” Sherlock’s pointing to a slightly reddish cloud of dots. Jim looks to where the detective’s pointed.
“Oh, that?” He asks as he turns back to Sherlock’s curious expression, grinning. “That is Cygnus.”
“Like the swan?”
“Uh-huh. Named after the a Greek myth. It’s about four-thousand light-years away from us.”
“What about that one?” Sherlock pointed again.
Jim tastes like sweat. And the criminal doesn’t like to get his hands dirty. So he doesn’t. But they can dance over keys just fine.
One time, when the criminal is listless, sitting on the couch repeatedly tapping a pen against the coffee-table; his mind wrapped around nothing and yet thinking non-stop all the same; Sherlock tells Jim he should learn the piano. The detective dances him around in an argument till he’s convinced Jim that he doesn’t believe the criminal could do it. (He can.)
Well, Jim takes that bet and he’s playing Alkan before the month is out.
“Thought you didn’t like melodies with too many notes?” Sherlock asks when he sees the music sheets.
“Oh, I picked this piece for you.”
The detective’s not sure if that was meant as a cut. But then the criminal starts to play.
Though Sherlock had appreciated the pianist’s compositions before, he had never seen one preformed first hand. The concerto Jim had chosen, like a majority of Alkan’s work, was manic in its pacing. The physicality that the piece required of the performer was exhausting. But like everything else the criminal did, he committed to the piece one-hundred percent.
There’s perspiration dotting his brow by the end of the first movement; his features half strained with effort as he works up the frenzy of notes. And it’s rare Sherlock’s been so entranced by a song.
Jim tastes like coffee. And the tap of computer keys, the forty-nine hours he hasn’t slept, and the arid air conditioning of his study. And down goes Facebook, the powers out in Phoenix, and the vaults are open in Zurich. He tastes like electricity.
It’s winter in London.
“I keep having this dream.”
“Humm,” Jim encouraged, brushing back his hair. They’re standing in the bathroom, Jim forever putting the final touches on today’s ensemble. Sherlock always sitting on the edge of the bathtub watching the end of his primping.
“I wake up in our bed. But you’re not there.”
Jim glances over at the detective, because: how exactly is this different from most nights?
“That’s what I think in the dream but then I remember why you’re not there.”
“I’m dead,” Jim guesses.
“Do you remember how?”
“You don’t think it’s prophetic?”
“Just curious,” the criminal gives a light scoff.
“Of course,” Jim shrugs it off, pulling on his suit jacket. Sherlock watches the criminal, un-affected, smooth out the absent creases. But Jim knows the thought is still troubling the detective, he turns round, saying in what could only be considered a note above scolding reprimand: “I am not the flight risk as Sebastian would lead you to believe,” Jim moves into the sphere of Sherlock’s space, hovering just within reach, completely sober.
Sherlock keeps his hands on the lip of the tub. The detective knew that. Just offing himself in some London flat wasn’t going to cut it; Jim’s death needed to mean something to him. Sherlock knew all too well the number of times Jim probably thought to just end it. But he had waited, and Sherlock knew with the bile at the back of his throat that he felt gratitude for that restraint.
He believed Jim. And it’s hard not to, when he’s staring into those amber eyes that hold such conviction; but in the end it didn’t really matter if the detective believed him. Sherlock subconscious still replayed Jim sticking the barrel of a gun in his mouth, the feeling of his hand being ripped from the detective’s, his blood pooling on the concrete. Sherlock is haunted by these images.
Jim tastes like tea. And they’ve just finished with after-noon service and he’s back to making the final adjustments to a semtex packed vest. There’s the monitor feeding them live footage of a man nervously biting his nails in the room four doors down. And in a hour there’s going to be a big boom in Marienplatz.
If anyone was doubting that Jim Moriarty could talk someone into to killing themselves to send a message and have them actually do it (precisely no one was wondering that), this was that case. The commission for a dozen suicide bombers in crowded locations across Europe. The art of the case was the persuasion of the bombers.
Later, after the message was delivered, they’re sitting in this dumpy bar in Berlin (a safe distance away from mayhem); Jim watching the detective as he deduced facts and backstories about the other patrons.
“You see that lady in the corner?” Sherlock’s voice was low, even though the hum of the lounge was not conducive to hushed conversations. He could have just raised his voice over the lull, instead the detective was leaned over the gap between them in their corner booth, hand resting on Jim’s leg for balance and voice in his ear. “She is a regular here. And the bartender thinks he’s in love with her. But he’s never asked her out and- Why are you smiling?”
“Nothing,” Jim’s eyes still only on the detective, nursing his second kamikaze.
“Sure,” Sherlock remained leaning, dubiously studying the criminal’s peering visage. Sherlock could not read him. (Jim made certain of that.) But it was more fun to leave him guessing. The detective liked it better anyway.
“Fine, don’t tell me,” Sherlock sat back, with a subtle smile on his lips. “I’ll figure it out eventually.” The detective swirled his drink and watched the people, changing the topic: “You know, those train bombings in 2008?” Jim nodded, of course he did. They’d never talked about it previously but he’d been commissioned for that. “I knew that was you...Okay, I didn’t know it was you at the time but, later, after the pool.....”
“What makes you so certain that was my brain behind that architecture?” Jim scooted closer to the detective, setting his chin on the man’s shoulder, exhaled words brushing Sherlock’s ear in a bored drawl.
Sherlock began listing off every impressive aspect of the case in answer to Jim’s query.
“Did you really think they were that spectacular? By the time they figured out what actually happened, I thought the whole affair was rather expected,” Jim was morose at the prospect of his work being foreseeable.
“The orchestration was ingenious....though I do prefer your more recent work.”
“I suppose I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Sherlock didn’t even consider:
“You should. Absolutely.”
Jim tastes like biscuits. It’s mid-morning and they’re in the park. And no, those are not the same ones they are feeding the pigeons. They are just causing trouble for the hell of it and oh, look the pigeons are dead.
It’s spring and the consultants are feeding birds.
They’re not in Geneva, but Como. And Jim’s on a low.
They’re supposed to be supervising the theft of a yacht but the criminal is just sitting on a stone wall overlooking the lake, throwing crumbs half-heartedly.
“We should go,” Jim didn’t mean leave Italy.
Sherlock took a breath and held it, as he sat next to Jim.
“We can do anything we want,” the detective’s tone was at once beseeching and yet completely understanding.
“That’s what I was suggesting,” Jim rolled his eyes.
“I don’t to rush into it.”
“Sure,” Jim’s lips thin into a line. He tries another route. “And your brother?” The criminal asks this like they haven’t been over it before. Like they would’t go over this again.
“My brother can wait. I want more time.” Jim nods. Of course you do.
“Death offers nothing but time.”
Sherlock watches the crease in the criminal’s ease leaving a serene expression. He must be thinking of it (what comes after his end) and Sherlock doesn’t (does) want to pull him out of that but he will; answering:
“Death offers no certainty either. And we can have time here. Now.”
Jim’s back to frowning at the birds. The detective reaches into his coat pocket, pulling out a package of skittles. He puts them in the criminal’s hand.
Jim stares at the package for a second before his lips turn in a grimace; as if candy would liven his mood.
“You want the red ones?” he asks as he rips it open and begins picking through, sorting them. “I never eat them.”
Jim tastes like mint. It’s the gum he’s chewing on the way to a meet. And he’s all nerves. Controlled, excited, buzzing, leg-bouncing of it’s own accord nerves. Dauntless.
It’s summer and they’re back in LA.
The meet had been set for 5:30. Sherlock is standing over a boiling beaker. Boring. But then so is what Jim is doing. The detective’s seen Valencia’s men. He’s heard Jim’s Detroit. He’s been to a trade off. He’s seen all of that and he’s not going, the detective tells the criminal for the second and the last time. And maybe it’s the Detroit skin the criminal’s slipped on (again) but Sherlock has a funny feeling about this.
And this meet couldn’t have lasted more than a half hour and the detective still didn’t get why Jim felt the need to go HIMSELF. But he should have been back by now and what? Sherlock was done with the experiment. He’s calling Jim. Because he knows Jim won’t mind. And really, where is he?
Jim tastes like metal. Like grease, like gunpowder, like high-carbon steel. Like a gun had been shoved in his mouth, because it had. And blood. And it’s Jim’s blood. And that wasn’t supposed to happen. And he tastes like he might actually care if he had almost been killed by Mexican drug runners.
On the third ring, Jim picks up and Sherlock’s all ready with this rather droll anecdote and- that’s not Jim. It’s Valencia on Jim’s phone and he’s talking, triumphant and quick (he doesn’t want to be tracked, which means they are still near L.A.), in half english, half spanish. And the detective doesn’t speak Spanish; he’s only getting every other word. But he only needs every other.
Valencia’s not giving any demands to be met to ensure Moriarty’s safe return or return at all. Nope, he just wants the criminal dead; his empire in pieces is an added bonus.
“It’s a very good thing you called, Mr. Holmes. This is Mr. Holmes, the man we had drinks with the day of Mr. Warner’s untimely demise, is it not?”
“Yes,” Sherlock swallowed.
“You are to receive a great windfall due to the passing of Mr. Moriarty here,” there was a dark laugh. “He and I were just having a nice little chat and he told me so much about your organization.”
Sherlock bites back an: I severely doubt that. Jim doesn’t speak under torture. Instead, he says: “Oh, really?” Trying for ironic and barely hitting the mark.
The drug runner is talking too much. Rambling his mouth off like one of those stupid soap characters on John’s telle. He’s giving the detective all these important details. But just before he hangs up, Valencia answers the question Sherlock does not ask (because he knows the answer).
“No, it will not be quickly. It will be a slow and painful death. You have seen the chainsaw beheadings?” Valencia asks, “That was child’s play compared to what I’m going to do to him.” Sherlock can hear the sick man’s grin over the phone and acid at the back of his throat.
He doesn’t take a moment, not a single moment to dwell on the actual implications of this. The possibility of loosing Jim, again. No. He can’t. He calls up Moran and with in two minutes they’re out the door, they’ve got a lot of guns, and they’re gone. They need to find where Valencia is keeping Jim and move as fast as humanly possible to get him back.
Sherlock thinks that their best bet for getting this information is using Jim’s connections in the Korean mafia. If he speaks to the Los Angeles kkangpae, the detective knows he can spin this into a mess, not about Moriarty, but the Mexican cartel.
In the car he talks to Jim’s contact in the tong and it takes a little bit to set up a meet. When he’s finally seated with someone who knows the scope of the cartel’s reach, Sherlock explains the threat of the cartel, what he needs and offers compensation for any specific information they might have (i.e. the location of M). Jim’s contact takes one look at Sherlock, sees the value of what the detective’s proposing, see he will get this done; (because this is Jim and Sherlock wants him back, now, and Sherlock is prepared to carry out any threats he makes himself) and well, they never liked the idea of the Mexican cartels crossing stateside quite so pervasively (sticking their fingers in what had traditionally been the tong’s business; trying to eek them out).
Actually, they had been watching the cartel’s expansion of power closely. They tell Sherlock what they know, where they think Valencia would probably be keeping Jim, who’s Moriarty now. (But it doesn’t really matter what Sherlock calls him; it’s in his eyes.) They tell him because they’ve been itching to take the Millenio out, they just didn’t want to risk an all out war with the other cartels they were allied with.
If the result of taking out the Millenio is war, it will be on Moriarty’s enterprise, not their own. Perfect opportunity.
Moran sends out Moriarty’s local lackeys to scope out this place the kkangpae tells them the Millenio’s men have been frequenting. The tip is good. And the only return they demanded was that they crush them thoroughly and completely.
Well, there’s no way Sherlock would not.
Jim tastes like cigarette smoke. And that part, at least, is Sherlock’s fault, he’ll admit.
“I wasn’t worried,” Jim pauses, voice not at all hoarse. Sherlock’s face is awash with relief. Jim doesn’t look at him though, instead he’s addressing the extremely dubious glare Moran is giving him; across the room cleaning Valencia’s blood off his knife with the drug runner’s jacket. “He didn’t even know when his men were his men. How could he know how to properly hide a drug warehouse?”
Sherlock gives a laugh-that’s-not-really-a-laugh when he sees that Valencia had put a nail through Jim’s right hand. He can brush it off as disbelief at the drug runner’s stupidity because Jim is left handed after all, but that’s not what it was.
The detective takes in the angle of the nail, so he can pull it out without inflicting more damage. And when he yanks the metal out of the table and Jim’s hand, the criminal grimaces but he doesn’t make a sound. He just holds his hand up making a mildly concerned face while looking through the hole in the center of it.
Sherlock lights another cigarette and Jim’s still not looking at him.
The detective can’t remember the last time he smoked so much in evening. When he does kiss Jim, that’s all he can taste.
But it feels perfunctory on the criminal’s part and it’s over before it started. They’re in the car and they don’t say anything. Moran doesn’t say anything either. He just drives them to a doctor.
Jim tastes like fear. And he’s never tasted like that before. And he tastes like frail possibility of a life complete, a quite fleeting reverie that Sherlock almost lost. But the detective was fast enough. He was better and Jim is still here. That was all the that mattered.
Once they’re home. Once Jim’s taken a shower. Once he’s sitting cross-legged on his bed, aimlessly flicking through his phone; Sherlock hovers at the door, watching the criminal.
“Would you mind opening those?” Jim asks, tilting his head towards the child-proof bottles of prescription pills. Sherlock realizes the silliness of situation; Jim can’t even open the pills that are supposed to ease he’s pain because of his injury. He wouldn’t need any now, the detective had watched him down enough under the doctor’s watchful eye, but later as the first-batch began to wear off he’d need them. Sherlock acquiesces, before sitting down on the bed, not quite knowing what to say.
“How’s your hand?”
“I can barely feel it,” Jim admits, tossing his phone out of reach. Sherlock scoots closer.
Jim rests his forehead on Sherlock’s. He’s looking at Sherlock now, really looking. The detective can’t quite bring himself to relax enough to let his eyes fall shut (he’s still riding out the adrenaline, the nicotine is wearing off, and the panic he had suppressed earlier was surfacing). Jim’s fingers are gripping the detective’s shoulders tight, like a reaffirmation.
And it’s part apology, for going to the meet, for getting captured, for almost dying, for almost leaving Sherlock alone.
The criminal pushes their lips together for a second, two; before Sherlock’s pushed him back on the bed and has pressed his ear against the criminal’s chest. Jim intertwines his fingers with Sherlock’s right hand, feeling his pulse ebb. Sherlock listens to the criminal’s heartbeat.
Jim is alive. Jim is here. Jim is alive.
It’s all Sherlock can do to gasp the shakiest, stuttering breath he’s ever taken.
Jim tastes like Sherlock. And the sucking, sucking heat.
After that night, they fly back to London. It’s not a retreat, because they won. But it is all the same.
If word spread around, it didn’t matter, really. Valencia may have kidnapped a person with the name Moriarty, but in return the criminal’s men desecrated the cartel. If anything, it served as a warning. And, of course, Moriarty never needed to be in a city for it to feel his presence.
Sherlock never really cared for L.A. anyway.
Jim tastes like chlorine. And no, they were most certainly not feeling nostalgic. No, absolutely not.
They don’t speak about it. Or rather they don’t need to speak about it. This is the first time in forever that Jim can remember not wanting to be in the ground. Be in the infinite space of nothing. To be dead. The first time in a so very long time. He knows it’s not quite the same for Sherlock; the man was ...content with the doctor. Jim imagines the detective would have been content living out his days solving the mysterious M’s crime, always getting closer but never meeting, and having tea and scones with the dear old doctor. Content, they were well beyond that now.
It’s the best decision either one of them has ever made.
Jim tastes like all of these things. And all of these things taste like Jim. But they are not Jim. Not exactly. Jim can be any of these things and he might be none of them. Because these are all disguises, masks, and reflections of the criminal, the storyteller, Moriarty, or Jim (sometimes it is Jim). But Jim is really something else entirely.
The more time Sherlock and Jim spend time together, the more details the detective learns about the criminal. They are never details that Jim himself did not lay out for Sherlock to find, but they are often enlightening.
Sometimes, though, Jim may not challenge Sherlock. He won’t put up five different fronts. He won’t set a maze of intrigue in his mind for the detective to wander through. He may sit back and watch. He may be open as any book. He might drops his masks; readable on the surface as an ordinary person.
And this was not what Sherlock signed up for on the rooftop. He had wanted a sparing partner for life; constant challenge, constant change. Jim does constantly change but he can’t always be scheming, even if he often is. Because, of course, Jim is human.
Sherlock knows that if he saw this side of the criminal before the Fall, he would not have appreciated it. He had only wanted the Game. He hadn’t realized how close Jim was to stepping off the edge himself. Sherlock hadn’t understood that the Game was merely a means to an end; an instrument to a larger purpose.
But when Sherlock tasted a life without the criminal, if only for a brief time, the detective was given a new appreciation of the criminal in his life. The fact of the matter is even when Jim isn’t being deliberating clever, Sherlock still enjoys his company.
That wasn’t a surprise. But their dynamic existing outside their Games was. It’s only strange that they fell into this so easily when Sherlock thinks of it, because it was one of the easiest things in the world.
Jim tastes like Jim. And this is not something to mourn. Because nobody else in the world has ever or will ever see him. The criminal allows only Sherlock this privilege and it is a privilege. Jim is beautifully intricate, even at his most readable.
Sherlock can get restless. He frequently has in the past and though it has become a less common occurrence since the Fall; it still happens and Jim is there to pull him out of it. But Sherlock’s agitation with boredom is not as big of a problem for them as Jim’s depression in the face of boredom.
Despite the criminal’s worry that they will figure each other out, it’s Jim’s despondency, Sherlock knows, that is really fueling his desire for the end. (But the two problems are tangled. The challenge that constantly rises between them; in which they always must exceed each other’s expectations is the one thing that is sure to pull Jim out his despair; stems solely off the fact that they haven’t yet figured the other out.)
The outside world creeps into their space; always without their permission; it muddies everything up and disappoints. It can’t be helped.
It’s not a big deal, until it is. Often enough, Jim’s changeability plays a part in bringing it to the surface. A seemingly insignificant note in their morning paper could set him on a low. Though usually it’s when he’s done something clever and nobody seems to get it. The police are digging in the wrong trench and Sherlock’s the only one who can see all the moving parts. Normally, the detective seeing is enough, but sometimes it just frustrates Jim. It’s too easy, thus boring. The effort of fighting against the boredom wears on Jim and sometimes he can’t.
On a low, he’ll still work on cases but, ironically, at an almost lightening speed and with no enjoyment. When he finishes, Jim will sit, quiet and staring at nothing in particular, exhausted and ill-humored. He’ll sit listless and Sherlock can see the cogs turning. He knows Jim, like himself, cannot shut off his mind. But it’ll be for naught.
The detective wanted time. (The criminal wanted it too.) Time was expensive for Jim. With it came having to endure the tedium of existence. In his life, there were only two sure-fire ways he knew how to eradicate that boredom. One was interesting cases. The other was playing with the detective. (Often they went hand in hand. But Sherlock was an infinitely better distraction.)
During the times when even a clever crime is not enough to cheer Jim up; when even his distractions don’t distract; Sherlock takes it upon himself to challenge Jim. (Perhaps, the one the thing the criminal ever got any comfort from.) Sometimes it’s easy to pull him back. A distraction could be as simple as a game of chess, with a few unexpected moves thrown in by the detective. That could break Jim out of his mood.
Other times, he required a more calculated diversion. Sherlock has to be creative. He tries a variety of things till he finds that one thing that pulls Jim out of his funk. The detective just has to poses a challenge for the criminal and Jim will shift and react. Jim is still changeable. Mostly because Jim finds the most pleasure from Sherlock confirming to him that he is not alone. His best distraction, so when the detective puts an effort in to the divert the criminal, it generally works for the time.
Ultimately, Jim’s boredom is beyond Sherlock’s help. Staying alive is just staying. And even running with Sherlock Holmes can’t change that by a large margin. The odd thing is the criminal tries to hide it from Sherlock. (As if it’s a part of that time he’s giving the detective and their compromise.) But the detective can see it sometimes. It hedges on the corners of Jim’s being most days and the longer Sherlock waits, the more time he takes from Jim, the boredom seeps deeper. It’s not like Jim hadn’t dealt with this all his life. But there are times now, when it’s worst that it was before, because Jim really wasn’t kidding when he said that he had initially planned to die on the roof.
Because nothing. Nothing, not even Sherlock Holmes is ever going to be enough for Jim. Sherlock doesn’t need to ask. And Jim doesn’t need to tell him not to take it personally.
You’ve come the closest.
And before the Fall, the detective would have resented it and well, he still does, but not for the same reasons. (He knows that this is not something Jim is doing to him; it has nothing to do with Sherlock. This is something that is happening to the criminal. Something he should not have to deal with; but the despair at tedium comes as a side effect to his brilliance.)
Even if being someone’s best distraction is a lot of responsibility, Sherlock is glad he can be there for Jim. (The criminal has never had someone to look out for him before.) It also didn’t hurt that the detective loved challenging the criminal’s expectations of him. Jim appreciates the detective’s effort and it generally has the desired effect; but they both know that Jim will be back on a low in another month or three, if they are lucky.
Jim tastes like a debt. One that neither will ever be able to pay off. But they will try.
They’re changing. Have changed. Become closer than they were before. Helped each other through more boredoms than they could count and Sherlock privately dreams of a different end. That they later buy some plot of land in Sussex where he might take up bee-keeping and Jim would write. Maybe take holidays in Geneva and London (alternating, of course). And every weekend they’d go into town and cause a little trouble.
He doesn’t really want that. Not really. It would be too quiet. But with Jim, with Jim it would be enough.
Other times he entertains the notion of the two of them moving on to college property. Jim would take on the Dr. Moriarty persona again and he’d mentor post-graduates. The detective doesn’t know what he would teach. But it doesn’t matter because Jim would never go for it. He won’t even print his own books, for god’s-sake. The criminal could manipulate the media to make them best-sellers, but he doesn’t. Jim doesn’t want it.
He sees it every time he looks into the criminal’s tired eyes and those undisclosed desires, fall like the tissue paper in the rain. They would never make it there if Jim had a say in it. And he does. Of course he does, despite giving Sherlock the final say on when they leave, Jim still has as much sway in the decision as Sherlock. Because the detective doesn’t like it when Jim’s in one of his moods, it kills him to see the most brilliant man he’s ever known reduced to such despair. And the longer Sherlock waits the more frequent his bouts with boredom are and the less likely he will be able to pull the criminal out unscathed.
And before Sherlock knows it, they’ve been gone two years. Time has never passed like that for him before, save for his drug addled days and the doped up asylums.
Then three years.
And now it’s five. The best five years of their lives, frankly.
Are they ever going to burn England? The detective knows that Jim is waiting for Sherlock’s green light.
Sherlock wants to. He’s feels slightly complacent, not lighting that match he’s been holding all this time. And really, Mycroft deserves it.
But he also wants to be here. Laying next to Jim as the sun begins to peak over the edge of the horizon barely casting light into their shadow filled bedroom. With Jim’s arm draped over his chest and their feet tangled together. The criminal’s sleeping (probably) face is turned toward him. Their world.
And he’s selfish. Sherlock has always been selfish. He wants to keep on with this racket forever.
But five years is enough. They’re forty now. An age Jim had never thought he’d live to. And Sherlock feels it coming. The criminal is twitching now at times he’s so tired of living. He’s getting progressively worse at hiding it. He tries (most of the time), but Sherlock can see through. He’s restless. But Jim waits. He can wait for Sherlock. (He just doesn’t like to.) And he’s given Sherlock time and now, now it’s the detective’s turn to give the criminal death.
The next morning Sherlock’s taken over the dining room table with plans and maps and an intention to bring down a country.
Everything is set.
It took no more time then was necessary to plan how they would turn England into wreckage.
And, no doubt, Mycroft was certain his ploy worked.
Well, it hadn’t.
The day arrives and they drag themselves out of bed and fly to Geneva in time for a United Nations conference. (The perfect place to knock over the first domino.) They watch, initially, as the chaos takes hold, but then they leave.
The consultants’ plan was a clock work. All intricate layering of gears on top of cogs on top of spinning wheels and springs. It might be the most complicated thing Jim has ever set up. And once wound, it would tick down to the end of Britain. This time there are no recall codes. No ways out. No, there really is no stopping it now.
Sherlock thought briefly about sitting and observing the destruction, watching Mycroft sweat, but as much as they liked causing trouble; the planning and organization was the fun part. The result, which in this case was guaranteed, was of little interest. So, accordingly:
Clients contracted. Confirmations confirmed. And back-up redundancies were put in place. The consultants had accounted for all possible mishaps and altercations. Jim’s accounts would systematically get lower and lower as his clients follow their orders; each never playing too big a role, so that if they were taken out of the equation the plan would not fail. It was guerrilla warfare with blinds and double blinds, but they would delegate the salting of the earth.
They didn’t need to watch the dominos fall.
Sherlock takes them East across Switzerland. It’s a quiet three hour drive to the canton of Bern and then into the hills as far as the road would take them.
They had talked about how they might want to end it, but had never settled on which form their solution would take. Jim did not really care, to be honest. Ending together would be enough. Sherlock had taken it on saying that Jim had already dedicated enough time to contemplating the Final Problem. Of course, the detective was fully capable of designing their deaths. They park on the side of the road and Sherlock saying:
“Thought this would be a fitting place to end.”
Jim just rolls his eyes, smirking. The last hour of the drive confirmed the criminal’s suspicions of where the detective was taking them. The Reichenbach Falls. Everything’s clever.
“It’s a bit of a hike...” Sherlock explained.
Jim nodded, walking around the car. He’s giggly and if the detective didn’t know better he’d blame it on the thin mountain air. Sherlock caught Jim’s coat, dragging him close for one last kiss. However excited Jim is to stop, he’ll enjoy this moment with the detective, take it slow and languid. In the five years they’ve been causing trouble together, the consultants had long since improved their kissing to the point to perfection. And this last kiss; with every flick of the tongue and every movement of their lips was tinged with all that they say every time they touched.
They follow the railroad tracks that a hydro-electric company laid for ease of harvesting the power of the roaring falls; climbing to the highest peak the criminal slipped into an almost preternatural calm. The black rocks surrounding where the water poured off the mountain were slick with spray. Mist billowed up in clouds shrouding the shallow waters below.
The detective points to a spot along the side of the cliff that, according to his calculation for the most natural arc of their descent, should be neatly met with rocks at the bottom. Jim steps to the edge and Sherlock’s right beside him, peering over. It’s a long way down. The detective had checked the details; at ninety meters the height was heady. Jim dangles a foot over the empty space, seemingly testing the air, excited. Sherlock can tell Jim approves of his choice ending. He inhales deeply. This had been a long time coming.
Mutual death is the only solution to our game.
As they stand on the edge, Jim holds out his hand for Sherlock, who takes it gladly without hesitation. And it’s just them. It’s just Jim’s amber eyes absorbing all the sunlight and Sherlock’s icy blue basking in shadow. It’s their always heated gaze meeting equally and without desistance. Twenty-seven seconds, then together they jump.
Chapter 54: Epilogue: The Ice War
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It’s been a while. The elder Holmes never talked with his younger brother again after that morning in Glasgow.
He walked out of the hotel thinking he’d damned the world. But then time passed and the consultants didn’t attack Britain. They even kicked around London for a few more weeks before going back to California; busying themselves with clever crimes and puzzles he did not look at. Five years passed and Mycroft was almost lulled in the belief he had stopped them.
Foolish. That was not possible.
He was in Geneva the day they lit the fuse. Out of the corner of his eye, there were those proud cheekbones standing beside those black eyes and the elder Holmes could smell it in the air. The promise of a mess. Of a disaster. He thought they were consulting on just another case. Little did he realize, that was the beginning of the end.
The United Nations General Assembly was the first time their meddling had obstructed Britain’s safety. Mycroft was definitely not thinking about what he might have to do. (That he might have to execute his threat.) He was too busy trying to sort the fiasco out. It’s days before the indistinguishable power company, siphoning energy off the Rychenbach River, realizes something is (or rather some bodies are) blocking the water flow to their underwater turbines. He’s still in Geneva, still attempting clean up their little mess (little was an understatement and the effort was useless, even the elder Holmes thought all placating action was irremediable), when he gets the call, only hours after workers fished the corpses out.
He is wanted to identify the bodies. At first, he’s not quite sure he believes it. But they were found at the base of the Reichenbach Falls and wasn’t that too much of a coincidence to be a fake. Too clever an ending not to end. Mycroft still goes to check. Always to double check.
He’s in the morgue, their bodies lying on the metal tables; water-logged and disgusting. It’s true. And Mycroft would know (for the both of them, ironically). Scars, DNA, and dental work all check out. This time he is certain. Absolutely.
He does not cry.
The most dangerous criminal mind in the world is dead. And his brother too. He had his people hush it up, of course. His subordinates whisper their conspiracy theories when he is out of earshot. Sherlock was deep under-cover. He pushed Moriarty off the falls and was pulled into the water inadvertently. The man was a hero. Mycroft knows better. He knows all too well. The little birds are wrong and so was he.
He can’t be sure if it was Sherlock’s idea or Jim’s. It didn’t really matter. (They would still be dead.) But it was likely that threatening Moriarty with death was like threatening to give a drug addict more drugs. (Never the power hungry villain, always the bored genius with a taste for trouble and where was that line that separated the criminal from his brother?) And to Sherlock, Moriarty was a drug. They went together.
They skipped out early; so confident in their plan not even bothering to see it to the end. Slipped out the backdoor of the theater before the credits rolled. Slipped away like no one would notice. Well, maybe they wouldn’t. People won’t know why their world is falling apart. Won’t know the names of the demons who caused this ruination and destruction, but they’ll feel it. They’ll live it. The chaos that’s coming. They might not know who was behind it, but Mycroft does.
Just because he didn’t issue the order, did not mean his hand wasn’t bloody all the same.
Maybe if he hadn’t threatened Moriarty, the criminal might not have decided to show him up by doing something he both could not do (delivering Jim dead) and what he did not want to do (killing Sherlock). It was a thought that didn’t matter. Moriarty might as well have ordered the colonel put a gun to the elder Holmes’ head for all that he had left Mycroft.
Jim was two steps in front of him. Moriarty always won. (Even in a seeming loss.)
It didn’t matter now though.
The final move had been made in this game he had not been playing.
England was burning already.
Mycroft will try to put out the fire. He will try at this impossible task. There was something to be said about defending a thing without a prospect of saving it. There was something to be said for soldiering on when all hope was lost.
He will fight for Britain till he is dead.
He does not cry.
Everything’s numb. He thinks he should be used to the feeling of resignation by now, but it doesn’t fit him right. Could never fit right on a Holmes. A thought that also no longer matters; he is the last Holmes.
He will fight for Britain till he is dead.
Jim is always two steps ahead of him, even in death.
It’s cold like it’s always been. (How he likes, but now it’s off.) And there’s metaphorical blood on his hands, like there’s always been. (It’s his brother’s. It’s Moriarty’s. It’s England’s.) And Mycroft Holmes is fighting a war he’s already lost.
In this war, he is fighting against ghosts. They will burn him up.
I would like to thank everyone who read this story and particularly the people who reviewed. I really appreciated it and they definitely encouraged me on. I loved hearing what everyone thought as the story progressed and the feedback was fantastic. Thanks to all. Please continue to let me know what you thought:)
I noticed that there was unusually high traffic on chapter 31. If anyone has any insights as to why that is, please fill me in. I am very curious.
What’s next: I have a couple au’s in the works. (Perhaps more space and I want to do something fluffy.)
Chapter 55: The Dead Dog
Deleted Scene: For your reading pleasure and to satisfy the curiosity of those who asked, I will now tell you the story of how there came to be a dead dog in the storm drain. This is set sometime in the three months before Annora’s death.
Trigger warning for animal cruelty.
Sherlock had been trying to sleep for the last two and a half hours. He actually wanted to sleep. This was a rare evening where he would welcome it. However, there was a dog. A dog outside barking.
It was loud enough to be heard from deep inside the California mansion and to ruin his ability to concentrate on anything of value; but no one else seemed to be disturbed by it. Apparently, the owners were just letting it bark and none of the other neighbors had demanded it be shut up. To make matters worse, the house was quite. It seemed that neither Jim nor Moran were being kept from sleep like he was.
Time to play the violin. Sherlock did not care if he woke up the rest of the house. The criminal had done the same to him numerous times and would fully understand (though he may be displeased). Then the detective would no longer be the only one kept up by that obnoxious beast wandering the streets.
It was two in the morning. Jim wanted some ice cream.
The thing was they didn’t have any in the house. He’d already checked the freezer and there was no ice cream. (Annoying, because it wasn’t like he didn’t distinctly remember telling Moran to pick some up with the other groceries.) Well, he’d just have to go get some himself. But where to go this late at night. Even though L.A. was a huge city, the chances of an ice cream parlor still being open were slim. Well, there was always a connivence store, he supposed.
Perhaps, Sherlock would like to come. But the house was quiet; the detective was most likely either working on something or sleeping, either way the criminal doubts he could to be torn away for a mere ice cream run. (No matter how delicious it promised to be.) Sherlock certainly did not have Jim’s sweet tooth.
The criminal is just about to slip out, when he hears the shrill pull of Sherlock’s bow on the strings of his violin. So, not in the middle of something. Quite the opposite, Sherlock was restless.
Jim knocks on the detective’s door and then ducks his head into the room.
“I’m going out to get some ice cream.” Sherlock fixes the criminal with an appraising expression. “Want to come?”
Sherlock shrugs and putting down his violin.
“Let me get dressed.”
Jim is scrolling through his phone when the detective joins him in the living room. Sherlock sees the out of place mechanics, one of Moran’s guns on one of the living room side-tables, immediately; odd because the colonel generally kept his firearms out of sight. His glance stays on it a moment too long, considering.
“There’s a convenience store down the hill,” Jim explained, slipping his phone in his pocket with an excited smile. He started for the door: “You don’t mind walking?”
Of course not. Sherlock’s about to follow when he hears the blasted dog again, and that decides it; he pockets the weapon without second thought and adds a spring to his step to catch up with the criminal.
The clerk, who glanced up at the sound of the door registering customers passing through it then he went back to his magazine, ignoring the two well dressed men looking for ice cream at three in morning. Apparently, this sort of thing had more common in Bel Air than one would think.
Jim stops short at the ice cream freezer. When the carving came upon him, Jim had wanted the a rich spicy-chocolate. But then they didn’t have any of that at the house and it was a specialty flavor, so he had to think of something readily available at a store. By the time they got down the hill, the criminal wanted something fruity. There wasn’t much debate as to which kinds they wanted. Jim ended up choosing a rainbow sherbet push-up and Sherlock quickly snatched up an Oreo cookie ice cream sandwich, which caused the criminal to question his assumption of Sherlock’s disinterest in sweets.
After paying for the treats, the consultants sit on the newspaper stands outside enjoying the warm night air.
“This is fun,” the criminal was glad the detective came, which reminded him how close he had been to leaving without Sherlock. He could see that the man was tired and yet there he was angrily playing the violin: “What was troubling you?”
Sherlock said he could not sleep. There was this yapping dog. He waited hours for it to shut up, but it never did. Said he was more than half a mind to shoot it. Then the detective asked if the criminal heard it; which upon recollection Jim supposed he had vaguely in the distance, but he was on the phone.
“Maybe it will have quieted by the time we get back.”
“And if not, you’ll keep me company.”
“Oh?” But Jim’s smirking.
Walking back Jim relayed the conversation that he’d had earlier that night when taking business calls. A prisoner had gotten in touch with him for advice. Not on how to arrange an escape or hire protection for the inside; but for Jim’s suggestions on ways to improve the crime he was caught committing and was now serving a sentence for.
Sherlock scoffed, sometimes the clients Jim attracted were hardly worth the effort. They were crossing a small bridge over the ravine just near the house, when Sherlock looks over at Jim, but instead sees something just past the criminal. It moves. Sherlock sees a dog. That had to be the dog.
“And that’s not even the funniest bit! Wait, till you hear what he was arrested for-” the criminal pauses, glancing around. The detective’s about ten paces behind him staring at some dark moving shape on the other side of the street. “Sherlock, are you listening?”
The shape yelped.
“That’s not-” Jim starts and Sherlock’s nodding his head, still staring at the shape. The detective has this very determined look in his eye, like he might do something about. Jim rolls his eyes. Time to be getting back.
It howled again; voice hoarse and the same one that had been plaguing Sherlock all night. It had to go. The detective reaches into his pocket for the sig. There would be no more yapping. The detective was doing the public a service.
“Maybe we should-” Jim starts, but Sherlock, before he’s even finished his thought; Sherlock takes out a gun. And Jim can hardly believe it. The detective takes three steps closer to the dog before he starts firing. And he doesn’t stop, advancing on the injured thing until he’s unloaded half the clip into it.
Sherlock squints at it, before kneeling down to make sure it’s really dead. He turns back to Jim, who’s looking at him slightly confused.
“Since when do you carry a gun?” the criminal asked sardonically.
“Here, help me out,” Sherlock said as he examined the now lifeless furry being, deciding the best way for them to pick it up.
Even from across the street, the criminal could see it was scraggly and most likely infested with flees. Like hell, Jim would touch it.
When the criminal does not move to assist him, Sherlock looks up to Jim staring down at him with an expression of distaste: seriously. Sherlock straightens, huffing in exasperation. Fixing Jim with a look of expectation, to which he receives a shaking head.
“No,” the criminal was adamant. “You killed it; you get rid of it.”
“Oh, good grief,” the detective grumbled, as he picked up the carcass walking it over the railing, only to throw over the edge of the bridge. There’s the expected splash of body on water and then he hears something else. Choked sounds. He turns around to find the criminal stifling laughter.
“You’ve just polluted a water source.” Jim barely gets through a fit of giggles.
“Oh, no!” The detective’s sarcasm voiced his irritability. “Now, I’ve got dog guts all over me!”
“And who’s fault is that?”
“Your’s, clearly,” still short, but then Sherlock gets this glint in his eye, Jim can see the detective thinks he’s had the perfect idea. He starts walking towards Jim with his arms stretched out as if to embrace someone; namely Jim. It’s two seconds before the criminal’s eyes go wide.
“Jim,” Sherlock keeps walking towards him. “Can I have a hug?” The criminal raises an eyebrow. It’s not even two seconds of consideration before there’s a flash of a knife smile:
“Only if you can catch me,” which wasn’t the outright ‘no’ the detective had been expecting. Then criminal turns on his heel and bolts.
Sherlock knew from experience that Jim is fast and could outrun him.
The detective still gives chase.