It took contacts on top of contacts, an endless chain of favors, to lead you back to Jim Moriarty.
Dear Jim, can you please fix it so I can disappear?
A man you were in prison with has a sister whose father-in-law once got Jim's help on a problem.
I can't get real work and I can't go back to prison, my family has enemies and there's a contract out on me.
The father-in-law gets you the name of a website, which gets you to a fence in Lambeth who agrees to give you an e-mail address in exchange for a few burglaries.
Two nights ago I killed a man for cheating me at cards, and it turns out his uncle is a big man in one of the city's top drug gangs.
Jim sits down next to you in the dockside pub where you've been hiding, and says, “You understand, if I save your life then it belongs to me.”
You understand the web of debts and favors that connects the underworld of London, you've been walking those strands since you were a boy. You're also desperate, and you did write for his help, so. “All right.”
Later, when you've slit the throat of the gang leader ear to ear, when you’re wiping the hunting knife clean on your jeans because your shirt is too soaked with blood, Jim looks at you with that sweet, mad gleam of approval in his eyes and laughs. That’s when you first feel what you'll eventually categorize as adoration.
“I want to be one of the snipers,” you say, and Jim shoots you a warning look.
“No,” he answers flatly, and you shut your mouth. He's not going to deem your petty rebellions adorable, not today. The time and resources he's poured into this operation are staggering, but Jim could give a fuck about that. He finds everything funny, normally. Clearly this is something altogether different. “I want you ready with the ambulance, on my signal. You must pick up the doctor before any of the real paramedics do, it's imperative.”
He reaches out to squeeze your arm and digs his thumb into the spot where he once cut his initials into your deltoid. “Trust me, pet.” In all my temptations, I place my trust in Thee, your brain regurgitates automatically. He hasn't cut you again because you haven't disobeyed again, but he often touches the scar, as if reminding you. You nod, and his face shifts, becoming affectionate instead of forbidding.
You understand the point of the bombs well enough, the terror and the puzzles. And now there'll be a final confrontation at this swimming pool. But that's when it gets murky, plans within plans, and honestly you don't understand why he doesn't just kill the detective and the doctor there. Jim says an explosion's too impersonal for that, which you get- you've always liked knives yourself- but the place is totally clear for hours yet, no reason the two of you couldn't take it slow. You don't see what the need is for all the rest of it.
When you were a kid, you'd listen to the priest and you'd ask but why and your mum would tell you it's a mystery, love.
Jim is like that: quite beyond you most of the time, so smart he's practically ineffable, and for that and several more pragmatic reasons you don't have the right to demand an explanation from him. So you don't.
This latest scheme has diminished his effusive energy to brooding efficiency. He gives orders, sets timetables, makes arrangements. Order these airline tickets. Bribe this emergency dispatcher. Find some leverage on these hospital employees. Assemble this much C4.
In all my weaknesses, I place my trust in Thee. So you do what you're told.
The thing is, Jim is rather better than religion, in your experience. Priests told you they understood your troubles, they promised you compassion and the grace of the Lord; but priests couldn't understand four younger kids to look after, two big sisters out of work and Thomas the oldest robbing toffs to get you all by, and the only thing they ever really gave you was a head full of Bible stories and a blessing over your dad's coffin. Jim, now, he's the opposite. He doesn't pretend to sympathize, but that doesn't matter because he'd taken one look at your ripped denims, your scuffed work boots, the clunky watch Thomas stole for you just before his first stint in prison, and known you from the bones out.
Jim's kept every promise he ever made, too- from making you disappear (not just your police record but NHS, birth certificate, you're pretty sure he even erased the library card you had in primary school) to warning you in time enough to get clear of Baker Street before the police arrive.
You go directly from the ugly flat to the airport where Jim is waiting on the chartered private jet with a pair of laptops arranged in front of him. One is showing the mad rush of cops and paramedics at the flat; the other is showing BBC coverage of an explosion at the hospital, on mute. “There was one showing Sherlock's reactions,” Jim says, pouting. “But that feed got a bit boring after the primary charges blew.”
You're sorry to have missed it. Jim indulgently pulls up the recording and shows you the last footage sent by the transmitter as the room around it crumpled: the bright orange-white of the initial explosion emerging from the vent behind the bed, the momentary dimming of light before the fire caught the bedding and the walls, and then the roar of flames and smoke rushing across the room, bright sparks dancing at the outer edges. Lovely. Too bad there wasn't a camera outside the building as well, that would have been fun to see.
“Go meet our guest,” Jim is saying, clicking back to the news feed. You nod and go back out to the tarmac. When the van pulls in and you slide the door open, however, Jim has emerged and is standing at your side. He rocks back and forth on his heels, beaming, while you lift Holmes out of the wheelchair inside the van. He does stoop to slide the van door shut, since your hands are occupied. He can be sweetly considerate that way, can Jim.
“Get rid of it, all of it,” Jim says in his hard voice, the one he uses with the lower level operatives. “Then get rid of yourself. Our business is done.” The man in the hospital scrubs nods almost frantically and scrambles back into the van, nearly peels out in his eagerness to obey. Jim laughs on the way into the plane, his high giggle a counterpoint to your deeper chuckle.
You take Holmes to the house outside Bern. You’ve only been there once before, on Jim’s orders, to build the walls that form the basement room and install the few pieces of furniture. You set up the control room with its bank of dedicated monitors, hooked up the computer that controls the dimmer switch on the light behind the fake, boarded-over window in the little cell. Anybody could have done the physical labor, but you worked as a framer on building sites, once, before they found out about your arrest record; and anyway, you like that for a change no one else was involved in setting up this game that you and Jim are going to play.
The two of you watch the tape of Holmes’ first waking over and over, Jim giggling quietly at his wild, panicked struggling and shouting. He fights the restraints until the cuffs at his wrists gleam wetly with blood and his knees are scraped to shit by the concrete floor and his voice gives out and he tumbles over onto his side and passes out. It is pretty funny the first few times, but then you're just bored. You keep your face deliberately bland, but Jim knows it. He always knows what you're thinking.
“Patience, pet,” he says lightly. “Didn't I promise you a new toy to play with? We don't want to break it before it's even out of the package, do we?”
“No,” you say. In all my trials, I place my trust in Thee.
Days, weeks, buggering months of nothing but watching Holmes sleeping and pissing himself on the monitors. You play online poker during your shifts because Jim’s forbidden you the real thing. You always end up putting one of the other players in hospital. (“So messy,” he says reprovingly. “If you want to hurt people, I can always find someone.”) The closest you get to playing with Holmes is on the odd occasions Jim sends you in with a syringe full of something or some antiseptic ointment. Every so often you unchain him and drag him upstairs to the loo, hose him down. He's like a doll, floppy and inanimate, and he's fucking boring is what. No reaction, no nothing. You knew there was a reason you had never played with dolls as a kid.
One time, early on, you forget about him when you hear the phone ring and leave him alone at the bottom of the tub, weak and white as a bundle of birch twigs. Jim is furious beyond all reason when he returns to the house and finds him. He holds your wrist in one hand and the crook of your elbow in the other, extending the arm before he smashes the point of your elbow onto the hardwood table. He pushes the aching joint down against the wood, his eyes hard and dark and glittering as he looks up at your face, and it's like your arm is being jabbed full of red-hot wire rods. You press your lips together and don’t move.
“Do not challenge me, Sebastian,” he says. “You need to learn some fucking self-control. Or else you can't play this game.”
He keeps the pressure on until he forces an involuntary whine of pain from you, and then he lets you stand up from your awkward, hunched over position.
“Now get up there,” he says, “and do it again properly. Prove that you can take care of the gifts I give you.”
You aren't a genius, and you've never had even a fraction of Jim's capacity to plan, it's why you had needed him in the first place. So it's not until the first time you have Holmes in your arms, one hand cradling the back of his head where he's leaning on your shoulder, his tears soaking through his blindfold and into your shirt, that you begin to see the shape of the game that Jim wants to play. A door in your mind snaps open; behind it is something you never realized you wanted and never knew you could have, and you think, oh!
You watch Jim on the monitor knocking Holmes to the ground, shoving him under the cold spray of the showerhead, and wish you could play too. You only withstand the longing to go join in because Jim’s told you this will only work if the two of you stick to clearly defined roles. And you want to play Jim’s game now; you want to feel it again, what you began to sense before, you're practically aching for it. Jim walks back out of the basement room, a swing in his step. “Your turn,” he says brightly, and you can tell he sees the gratitude written all over your face from the way he laughs. In all my work, I place my trust in Thee.
“Come on then, leannàn," you croon in Holmes' ear. Lover, sweetheart. And it's true, isn't it, because what you have is already more intimate than a fuck could ever be.
You find an easy balance. Jim the one to hurt, to punish, to tease, but it doesn't frustrate you any more because you see it's necessary and you trust him to always let you have your turn. You massage feeling back into sore muscles and whisper reassurances and it’s another sort of tease, the sort of pain that hooks itself into the mind rather than the body. It’s gorgeous, and no wonder Jim’s always preferred head games, because this is a million times better than anything you ever came up with on your own.
Jim keeps him awake for days on end, so high on drugs and sleep deprivation that he shakes and cries and hallucinates, and it's you that wraps him in a blanket at the end, holds him in your arms as he drops at last into exhausted sleep. Jim burns his chest with lit cigarettes, long rows of neat, round marks, and he breaks the pattern and insists you take a turn too. When you soothe the skin with ointment and press chaste kisses to Holmes' forehead and he quivers and drops his eyes and prettily whispers, Thank you, your body surges with excitement and pleasure and greed.
They shall lay their hands upon the sick: and they shall recover. You are Jim's tool in this, as in everything else.
The two of you watch together while he takes the clock apart- a particular pleasure for Jim, the slow unwinding of Holmes' mind- and he suddenly breaks, goes berserk, smashing it apart with his bare hands. Jim's peals of laughter are so loud it's a wonder Holmes can't hear it in there. When his rage is spent and he's rocking back and forth over his bleeding hands, Jim looks up at you and smiles. It's oddly soft, looking out of place beneath eyes that are still and always hard as obsidian.
“We're getting near the end now,” he says, and you trust he's right, as you always do, even though it seems to you Holmes is far from used up.
He lets you go into the room, and you cradle Holmes in your arms, tell him you're disappointed but you forgive him, whisper in his ear while he silently cries. You card your hand through his hair and think about how easy it would be to end him, his skin stretched thin over brittle bones, weak as a kitten or a baby bird still in its nest, and he must realize you're stronger. And yet he puts himself in your hands, eyes closed and all his weak points exposed, and you've never felt such power, it's practically orgasmic.
“I want to go out,” Holmes whispers to you, breathes it in your ear like the darkest secret, and cringes like he expects to be punished for it.
You smile at his innocence, at his apparent belief that there are any secrets here, and press a gentle kiss to the nest of curls on top of his head.
You get bored of watching him prise nails out of that damn board: it takes nearly two weeks, and it's terribly dull. You only get to visit him at the usual random intervals to take him food and water, and he folds his hands in his lap and pretends he hasn't been perched on a chair with his arm stretched up for hours on end. You badly want to hold him and massage the tensions out of those muscles. Your yearning for that rush is like the urgent push to keep buying in even when your hand is consistently shit and your chips are low. But no, Jim insists you maintain the illusion, pretend not to realize that the nails are disappearing from that board one by one. In every discouragement, I place my trust in Thee.
Jim watches constantly: when you leave on an errand, when you come back, when you go to sleep, when you wake up, he's always in the damn control room, watching with a peculiar little smile on his face. (He’s like a catechism class come to life: God is always watching you, even when you’re naked. Especially when you’re naked.) You bring him coffee and sandwiches and you don't ask questions.
You're out of the house when Holmes gets the board away from the wall at last; you see on the monitor that it's gaping open. He’s is curled up on the bed, facing the wall, silent. His ribs rise and fall with the regularity of sleep. Too bad, that might have been fun to watch. “Not now,” Jim says when you ask if you can see the tape. “Later.”
You wake on your knees, with legs like wet noodles barely propping you up, and it takes you more time than is really decent to recognize the feel of cuffs on your wrists, the push of a hand on the back of your neck. When you get your eyes open, it takes long minutes for your vision to swim into focus; everything is somehow off, the harsh reality of it blunted by whatever drug you've been given.
Jim is standing in front of you, well back, with one hand in the pocket of his impeccable suit. He's smiling gently, sad in a way that you have never seen him, because it actually reaches his eyes. Just a moment, so quick you might have imagined it, and then the gleam is back. Black volcanic glass.
Holmes is standing next to him and Jim presses the hilt of a knife- Ka-Bar straight edge combat knife, leather slip-resistant grip- into his hand, wraps his fingers around it. “Go on,” Jim murmurs, and Holmes looks at you, his eyes shining bright but somehow empty, and you think about weak-necked, gaping chicks growing into fledglings.
“Please, leannàn," you say to Holmes, "you don't have to.”
“You can do this,” Jim says, still smiling. Holmes nods sharply, but Jim turns his gaze back on you, and you know the words are meant for you both.
I humbly adore Thee
Holmes probes the back of your neck with his free hand, feeling for the right spot. His fingers are cold.
and thank Thee for having created me
The tip of the knife nicks you as Holmes settles it into place, but you barely feel it. You're watching Jim, playing his game by his rules, as you always have.
and for having redeemed me.
At the bottom of things, it doesn't surprise you at all, if you're honest. Jim has kept all his promises, and this is the first one he ever made you.
I beg for myself the grace never again to be separated from Thy love, but to love Thee forever.
You feel the long slide of the knife going in, and then you don't feel anything at all.